Saturday, May 25, 2013
by Jayden and Jason
With the first session of OTAs behind us, there were a few things and players that stood out and are worth noting. The schemes being run and players we've brought to your attention before made themselves more manifest this week. While they provide a glimpse into the near future, they're still not completely indicative of the how the season will go or of the 2013 Pittsburgh Steelers roster. After all, as head coach Mike Tomlin says, it is just "football in shorts."
One of the things that became evident during the OTAs was that the Pittsburgh Steelers absolutely will be running a zone-blocking scheme in 2013. If It Ain't Steel will cover the offensive line and some of its linemen in our next article, but, as we wrote in a previous post, they have always used various inside zone, lead draw, some toss and power schemes. They're just adding the outside zone to the mix. - http://ifitaintsteel.blogspot.com/2013/05/youth-versatility-define-kelvin-beachum.html
In that article, we pointed out that Kelvin Beachum would have his playing time increased and that he would substitute at key positions, something which he proved at OTAs by working at second-team center and even at center with the first team.
As for the scheme and its implementation, the Steelers new offensive line coach Jack Bicknell, jr. is on record as saying that his players should be "athletic enough and be able to move" in order to adequately run his system. The off tackle power was their fundamental run play, but the outside zone and the stretch plays will be new and will require the aforementioned athleticism. A newness that was on display at OTAs and that left guard Ramon Foster said they're "embracing."
“It’s going to be new, but we’re embracing it,” Foster said. “If you look at our run tape last year, teams stacked the box on us. We were running inside zone, inside zone, inside zone, and we never really had an outside threat. But Coach [Todd] Haley’s stressing it this year; Coach Bicknell is stressing it. That’s something we want to do: soften the defense up and be able to run it outside just as well as we do inside.”
Running back Isaac Redman put it more succinctly when he said, "We are going to be dedicated to the zone."
Speaking of Redman, he's another who made his presence known. According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Mark Kaboly, Redman lost 10 pounds this offseason, his playing weight was listed as 230 pounds, and is hoping to lose five more by the start of Training Camp.
Cornerback Isaiah Green made his presence felt as well. We said recently that the 23-year old, 5'10", 180-pound second-year man wants to be more than just a Training Camp body. Green has a nose for the ball, is athletic and runs a 4.29/40. Simply put, he has all the requisite physical skills to continue to make his presence felt.
Will Johnson did his best to show why he should remain the team's starting fullback, defensive tackle Al Woods played well, though he has little competition and should make the team by default, and If It Ain't Steel favorite outside linebacker Adrian Robinson picked up where he left off last preseason in his bid to speed rush his way onto the 53-man roster this season.
There were several other names and stories that brought headlines this past week, but the one that caught our attention the most was Troy Polamalu supposedly being in his 'best shape since college', and that he's been fighting a calf injury for four years.
Ok, so maybe he isn't exactly at his college fighting weight, he still showed up in pretty good shape for the first OTA session. When interviewed, however, Polamalu was asked if there is anything that he can do for the calf injury moving forward. His response was textbook bland.
"Yeah, I've done quite a few different things this off-season," said Polamalu. "So, yeah, for sure there is. A lot of different rehab and training."
When he was pushed for a further explanation, it was then that the veteran safety revealed that the calf has bothered him for years.
"When you have an injury that's bothered you for the last four years, there gets to be just so much scar tissue in there," he said. "If you don't attack the problem scar tissue, then you're just going to continue to have problems. So this year I really focused on that and found a great physical therapist and obliviously continue to keep working with my trainer. So everything has evolved there and evolved nicely."
Polamalu then explained his kinesiological and rehabilitation process.
"Not to get too deep into muscular biomechanics, you can break down scar tissue, but the problem is your body has to continue to learn how to readapt with broken scar tissue," Polamalu said. "These are all things that I've learned. So hopefully all of this make these problems obsolete."
What's next for Polamalu and his injury?
"Listen, if I knew the future, I would be playing that Powerball," he joked. "Only time will tell."
Only time will tell for the rest of the Steelers offseason regimen as well.
TIDBITS: Heath Miller spoke with the media when showing up at OTAs. He spoke on his injury, saying that he's improving, but is still cautious.
"I'm just trying to get better every day, and I'm doing what I've been asked to do," Miller said Wednesday. "And I'm listening to my body, so I'll just progress that way."
Miller tore his anterior cruciate ligament, injured the medial collateral ligament and also the posterior collateral ligament.
"That's the big thing now, the main thing, because after surgery you lose a lot of strength," Miller said. "And then there's some atrophy. So, I want to get it back to where it's as strong as my other leg." - http://tinyurl.com/ocs4rmb
“I think pretty much all of the veteran guys understand that there is gonna be a point in time when we’re gonna have to rely on these young guys....They are gonna have to step up ASAP.” - Ike Taylor
Per Mark Kaboly: “From what I've observed over the first 3 days of #Steelers OTAs, Reggie Dunn catches a punt just fine.” (As we've said, Dunn makes the team.)
“Shamarko (Thomas) is gonna be a good one. Will do well in special teams immediately.” (Keeping a promise to his dearly departed mother.)
“Nik Emberate has potential. Need to see him up at camp before willing to say he has legit chance.” (For an undrafted free agent, that still sounds pretty good.)
Monday, May 20, 2013
In the 2013 version of its annual NFL Top 100 Players, the NFL Network listed Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger at No. 61. The same signal caller was at No. 30 last season. Since he's obviously in decline, it's time to trade him while he still has value.
You read that correctly. Trade Ben Roethlisberger. The time couldn't be better. The talking heads have spoken. Why keep a player past the point of his usefulness when his skills must so obviously be eroding? They must be eroding or else the man wouldn't be plummeting down NFL Network's list. In fact, check again to see if he's fallen any further. No? Ok, then we'll go ahead and continue with this piece.
But really, though, we should've seen this coming. Wasn't it just back in February that future first-ballot Hall of Famer and erudite Donovan McNabb rated Big Ben as only the eighth best quarterback in the NFL? Wasn't that even generous on his part considering his choice at No. 9 beat Big Ben in 2012? - http://tinyurl.com/a4fwzk8
After all, what has he done anyway? In the first nine games of the season before his injury, he only led the Steelers to 6-3 record. Who cares that his offense was one of the most efficient in the league by a large margin, leading the NFL in third-down conversions and time of possession? Or that Big Ben was leading the NFL in third-down passing and was on pace for having one of the best seasons of his career.
And it wasn't as if he did anything before that. He only has a paltry .690 winning percentage, which isn't even best in the league. He's second for goodness sake! He's also second among active quarterbacks in playoff victories with 10, second in Super Bowl appearances with three, and second in Super Bowl wins with two. And as we all know, second is just the first loser. And the Steelers don't like losers!
Besides, the NFL Network says he's in the lower half of the NFL, so it must be true. Their polls are absolutely and completely scientific, therefore infallible. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette agrees and explains the process involved.
"Pay no attention to these rankings," wrote Bouchette. "They're silly, a gimmick and merely to help the NFL Network boost some of its meager off-season ratings. They also don't really poll that many players because players won't take the time to do it."
Sounds like solid empirical data to me! Bouchette drives the nail further into Big Ben's proverbial coffin when comparing other such polls.
"Sports Illustrated does its 'player' polls too. I saw how they do it. They'd send an intern to Steelers camp and she would interview a dozen or so of their players, many of them undrafted rookies who would never play in the league and ask questions like 'Who is the worst ref in the NFL?'" - http://tinyurl.com/kawrf3l
Doesn't seem like anything more is needed. With evidence obviously showing that Big Ben has been on a precipitous decline the last few years, the NFL Network conducting an objectively precise poll and Bouchette verifying their methodical approach, what else is there to say?
It's time to trade Big Ben now while the Steelers can still get value for him, even if it only nets a seventh rounder (7 for 7?), and usher in the John Parker Wilson era.
(For those who haven't yet realized it, this is satire. which we thought was abundantly evident. C'mon, people! If nothing else alerted you..."the John Parker Wilson era"??? smdh)
Sunday, May 19, 2013
"History has demonstrated that the most notable winners usually encountered heartbreaking obstacles before they triumphed. They won because they refused to become discouraged by their defeats." - B. C. Forbes (Yes, that Forbes.)
The Pittsburgh Steelers 2012 season ended abruptly at home at the hands of one of their division rivals, the Cincinnati Bengals. Something that absolutely chafed the Steelers leaders, one in particular speaking out about it.
“It‘s amazing to me how much little things really matter, the personnel and the personality of the team, how much all that matters in camp and what you put in in the offseason,” Polamalu said, adding, “(It‘s) how you treat your teammates in the offseason, how you prepare them.”
Fast forward to the 2013 post-draft offseason and, according to another Steelers veteran leader, inside linebacker Larry Foote, in an interview with GoBlueWolverine.com on Wednesday, the Steelers are still a chafed bunch who are now chomping at the bit.
“We’re pissed off we didn’t make the playoffs. On top of that, our rival won the Super Bowl. I know guys are taking it personally. It’s just a whole different mindset to the off-season. I know guys are ready to get back where we need to be.”
That "whole different mindset" likely also reflects Polamalu's calling it "a humbling process" for many players on the team. However, Polamalu and Foote were by no means the only players who were unhappy. Wide receiver Antonio Brown has also spoken up about leadership and responsibility this offseason and what it will take in Training Camp and beyond to make this a winning team again.
“We gotta do what we gotta do,” Brown told KDKA-TV Sports back before the NFL Draft. “Guys like myself gotta step up.”
The point of convergence here, though, is how the other players, principally the other receivers and running backs, will "step up" in Camp and after to make up the five or six WRs, the three or four tight ends (depending on Heath Miller's status) and the four or five running backs (including a fullback).
In the battle for the available WRs spots, the chance for there to be six this season may begin higher than some think. The WRs currently on the Steelers' roster, after Brown, are Emmanuel Sanders, Jerricho Cotchery, Plaxico Burress, Markus Wheaton, Justin Brown, Reggie Dunn, David Gilreath, Derek Moye and Kashif Moore. So, assuming the first four spots are set, the last two could easily be Wheaton and, not Justin Brown but, Dunn.
First off, let's just forward the résumé's of Moore and Moye to MetLife Insurance and the Cedar Rapids Titans respectively, and then concentrate on those who actually have a chance at making the team. With that done, we then face the fact that Gilreath has little chance of making the list of 53. Unless Justin Brown falls flat on his face, Gilreath is headed for the practice squad. If that.
That leaves Markus Wheaton to battle for the fifth spot in the rotation. In truth, he has the requisite talent, speed and "position flexibility" to move quickly up the depth chart with a strong Camp. If he's as good as we believe him to be, he could even challenge Cotchery for the third spot. With Cotch and Plax being on the wrong side of 30, Wheaton could eventually be used interchangeably this season with Sanders in the slot and outside positions.
Then Dunn gets our nod for a sixth spot courtesy of a correspondence between Behind The Steel Curtain. Dunn was a brilliant, if not scary, kick returner at Utah. We wrote recently about his prowess, but acknowledged that his chances were affected by only excelling at one thing. That's now changed.
In an article written last week, BTSC caught up with Utah University's Block U website on the attributes of one Reggie Dunn, and whether he can be used at WR also. The answers were very encouraging. - http://tinyurl.com/c84s245
"Dunn is a talent and, with a competent offense and quarterback, I anticipate he can be utilized." Considering the sixth WR spot would mainly just be special teams anyway, the chances for him making the roster just jumped.
Plus, considering the speed of the other WRs - AB: 4.5; Manny: 4.41; MW: a "disappointing" 4.44; and Dunn: 4.22 - a 4.62 Justin Brown is probably headed for the practice squad his first season, only to take over the spot of the red zone target next season from a then-retired Plax.
The tight end position rests upon the rehabilitation of Miller. If he's ready at season's beginning, he would lead David Paulson and Matt Spaeth as the three ends. If he isn't ready and is PUP Listed, the Steelers might keep David Johnson as effectively the fourth tight end until Miller is removed from the PUP.
The other possibility is to combine his worth with the fullback spot as the H-Back. That move is not popular with If It Ain't Steel as we're not overly fond of DJ and it would mean losing Will Johnson who proved to be a very good fullback. It would also, though, mean having keeping just four running backs. Outside of Le'Veon Bell, the next three are uncertain considering that one, likely Jonathan Dwyer, might be traded before the season begins.
If so, your four RBs would then be Bell, Isaac Redman, LaRod Stephens-Howling and Baron Batch. It would be a sensible stable of RBs with Bell being the feature back, Redman being the short-yardage and red zone option, LSH being the receiver out of the backfield and third-down option and Baron Batch receiving a hat on game day to carry out the latter two sets of duties.
And since last season's running game SNAFU begs to be remedied, that, along with the other ills of the offense, would seemingly be enough of 'history demonstrating heartbreaking obstacles'. Now, triumph, in position battles and into the season, must come by 'refusing to become discouraged by those defeats'.
Friday, May 17, 2013
Winners, I am convinced, imagine their dreams first. They want it with all their heart and expect it to come true. - Joe Montana
The draft class has now experienced their first minicamp and are now starting to be signed. Shamarko Thomas signed his four-year deal and we can project that the Steelers will start to sign more of the lower-round picks soon. With the $5.5 million Salary Cap space freed up by the release of Willie Colon set to kick in June 2nd, the Steelers will need about $1.63 million in Cap space to sign them.
There are players already on the team, though, that will need to state their cases very loudly at Latrobe in late July. Both the offense and defense carry several players who will make for a competitive Training Camp. And competition breeds contempt - just ask Antonio Brown and Ike Taylor.
Competition also will help the cream to rise to the top. This Training Camp will provide many such opportunities as there are several players who will be battling for positions. Primarily positions at linebacker and in the defensive backfield.
One name that is resurfacing this offseason is that of Adrian Robinson. The 6'1", 250-pound defensive end-turned-outside linebacker out of Temple University, who went undrafted last year, caught the attention of Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler last offseason. We said of him then that he would look to make the transition to standing up as an outside linebacker in the Steelers' 3-4 system, which is always a tough adjustment - learning the technique and learning to play the position without his hand(s) on the ground.
So, what applied then applies now, for Robinson to make the 53-man roster he would have to outplay Chris Carter on special teams and show that he has more long-term upside than Carter as an outside linebacker.
Three qualities, however, that Robinson has in favor are his motor, his desire to compete and is character. Just what his college head coach at Temple, Steve Addazio, said about him last year.
"Adrian plays relentless," Addazio said. "He flushes the quarterback out of the pocket and chases him around like a crazy man....Without a doubt, Adrian Robinson is truly one of the finest young men I have ever had the pleasure to coach. Adrian has been the quintessential role model for our program and has set the standard for which all players should follow." - http://tinyurl.com/cx6ysb5
Simply put, the qualities of a winner. Qualities that could very well earn him a roster spot this August.
As for the others on the roster who will be fighting for spots, there are Sean Spence, Stevenson Sylvester, Marshall McFadden, Kion Wilson and Brian Rolle, with only Sylvester and Rolle having real game experience. Although, McFadden has a good chance to make the roster because he can play either the Buck or the Mack position.
The Spence situation is a curious one to figure out, though, because of his injury. The latest word on his rehabilitation was delivered by Steelers GM Kevin Colbert.
"Sean is progressing. When you have as serious a knee injury as he unfortunately had, it sometimes is a very long process. Sometimes it takes over a year to fully rehabilitate," Colbert said. "But the good thing is we are seeing signs of progress, albeit small steps. But it is progress. Sean's attitude is off the charts. He wants to rehab. He wants to be a great player. He is working hard to get there. He is making small progress, and as long as he is making progress, we will be patient with him and hopefully get him back at full speed at some point."
As for Sylvester, he should not only have pushed incumbent starter Larry Foote for the position, but should actually be the one who starts next season. As is stands, newly drafted Vince Williams has already shown that he will be pushing both Sylvester and Foote. In fact, Williams could push Sylvester right out of town.
The defensive backs competition is also going to be interesting. Shamarko Thomas could very well quickly pass Robert Golden and Da'Mon Cromartie-Smith as the first safety off of the bench. That's almost a given, though. The real competition is among the cornerbacks.
The last three cornerback positions, if the Steelers do decide to keep six, will undoubtedly be a heated battle. With Ike Taylor and Cortez Allen slotted as your starters and William Gay as the Nickel/slot guy, Curtis Brown would seem to lead the list of those who will be the Big Nickel and Dime positions.
In a previous blog, we focused attention on Isaiah Green and his desire to secure a roster spot. There are also Justin King and Ross Ventrone who are currently on the roster, but those two are just camp bodies. Terry Hawthorne is most likely your fourth cornerback and one of the next two should fill the last cornerback spots.
DeMarcus Van Dyke was drafted in 2011 by the Oakland Raiders and waived by them in 2012, and at that point came to the Steelers just before the season started. Head coach Mike Tomlin said when he was signed that he had been on their radar and that he has real potential.
"He’s got big-time upside, he’s an extremely fast guy," Tomlin said. "It was an opportunity for us to put a young cornerback in the mix and continue to work with him and develop his skill and see if maybe he can help us at some point."
Hopefully, for his sake, that is this season. He may have great speed (4.28/40), but he must eliminate the mistakes. On five occasions last season he was flagged for holding and for running out of bounds while covering punts. If he cleans that up, he may have a chance to make the final 53. If not, he would be on the street without any longer having practice squad eligibility.
The other is Josh Victorian, whom Steelers defensive backs coach Carnell Lake spoke highly of at his press conference to introduce draft pick Illinois cornerback Terry Hawthorne. Lake's attention turned briefly to Victorian in describing how he came to be with the team.
"Josh really was a surprise for us," Lake said. "We needed some bodies really to work the look team for our offense and we brought Josh in specifically for that. He was on a developmental team and because of the amount of injuries we had, Josh was it. He was our starter by default.
"Like I said before, I had probably two weeks with him to get him ready and his first start was against Dallas in Dallas. I have to give my hat off to him for coming in and really concentrating and getting ready specifically because we didn’t have much time with him before that."
Victorian has an honest chance at making the Steelers 53-man roster out of training camp this year. If not, he, unlike DVD, still has practice squad eligibility.
While the competition doesn't necessarily mean we'll see fights in Training Camp like we did last year (twice) between AB and Ike, we can safely say that those who make the final cuts will have run the gauntlet and will have proven that they want to be winners.
TIDBITS: The 2013 version of the NFL Network's annual Top 100 Players revealed that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger wound up all the way down at No. 61 spot this year. He was No. 30 last year. A joke both times.
The offseason program that officially began on April 15th set the stage for the OTAs, the dates of which are: May 21-23, May 28-30 and June 3-6. Minicamp will be held on June 11-13, and after that the dates for Training Camp will announced.
The $5.5 million Willie Colon money will be freed June 1st and officially available June 2nd. I have a feeling I know how the Steelers will use some of that money: OL depth.
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
(Disclaimer: If It Ain't Steel waited to pay homage to Mean Joe Greene because the general thought last week was that he was referring to an erstwhile Steelers wide receiver when he spoke of an "attitude change" that he didn't like. We will not be pointing fingers anyone's way, though, but will rather simply wish the best for any and all who have left.)
Charles Edward "Joe" Greene was born on September 24, 1946.
"Mean Joe" Greene, and ostensibly the Pittsburgh Steelers, was born on January 28, 1969.
A week ago, Tuesday, May 7, 2013, after 27 years with the organization as a player, assistant coach and special scout, Joe Greene retired. He was the single greatest player in the history of the Steelers, was rated the No. 13th greatest player in NFL history by NFL.com, a five-time first-team All Pro, two-time Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Year, a 1987 Hall of Fame inductee and t.v. commercial legend.
Mean Joe was born in Elgin, Texas, and raised in Temple, Texas. His mother Cleo Thomas was his only family as his father abandoned the family when he was young.
Mean Joe was always big, even in high school. At segregated Dunbar High where he started his life in football, he was already a man among boys at 6’3”, 225 pounds before he graduated. He would go on to attend the University of North Texas, (then North Texas State University), home of the "Mean Green" defense where his nickname originated. Though, entirely by mistake.
The Pittsburgh fan base assumed that the team nickname of "Mean Green" was Joe Greene's nickname; however, it was actually North Texas' head coach Rod Rust's wife who wanted to give a nickname to the team's outstanding defense. A defense that, per one source, "held the opposition to 2,507 yards gained on 1,276 rushes." Since green is the school's main color, she gave the defense the name "Mean Green". Though, the North Texan Online gives a slightly different version of it: http://www.unt.edu/northtexan/archives/w04/mean.htm
But it stuck nonetheless...especially considering he lived up to it. After the 1968 consensus All-American was drafted, the headline in Pittsburgh the next day read, "JOE WHO?" The Steel City soon found out. If you listen to former Steelers linebacker Andy Russell, Mean Joe was a fight waiting to happen.
Russell, in his fondness for storytelling, has oft related, as has been chronicled by NFL Films, that Mean Joe once took Dick Butkus by the face mask and spit in his face...without retaliation from the Chicago son. Russell also has related a story about a Philadelphia game where he angrily threw an Eagles' helmet into the stands (which I swear that I remember seeing happen on an NFL Films presentation).
But a verifiable and detailed quote from Andy Russell about Mean Joe can be found in The Steelers Reader. Of a 1970 Eagles game, Russell related the following:
"Our offense had played very well with Frenchy Fuqua about to set the Steeler all-time rushing record for a single game, 218 yards. Despite his success running the ball, our defense, except for Joe who had four sacks, had played terribly and the Eagles were up by a couple of touchdowns and were about to score another when I heard Joe, in his deep, resonant baritone calmly tell the man playing across from him, "Man, if you hold me one more time, I'm going to have to hurt you."
Well, he made the courageous choice and chose to hold Joe. I heard a loud thump and a whooshing noise, as the guard lost all the air from his lungs. The player was lying there on the ground, writhing in pain with Joe, standing above him, quietly telling him, "Man, I told you not to hold me again."
The officials, missing the infraction, had a stretcher brought on the field to carry the injured player off. Moments later, the Eagles put in his backup, a third-year man, not exactly relishing his "opportunity." Before the first play, I heard Joe again explain the consequences of holding.
The backup, apparently deciding he'd rather be hurt than humiliated, also chose to grab Joe. Again I heard the cry of pain and there he was, lying on the field, clutching his stomach. Soon the second teamer also had been helped off the field and they sent in a rookie, also not particularly thrilled by his big chance to show his stuff.
I heard Joe say, "Hey, Home. Good to see you, man. How you been?"
Realizing the rookie was from North Texas State, Joe's alma mater, where they had been teammates together, I listened as Joe continued, "Now, don't you be holding me like those other dudes. You know how I hate that."
Almost from the moment the 6-4, 275-pounder stepped on the field in Black and Gold, he exhibited the talents that would establish him as one of the best all time. He was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1969 when he received the first of his 10 Pro Bowl invitations.
He had a career-high 11 sacks in 1972, the year the Steelers began recording sacks as a stat - 10 years before the NFL would officially do so, when he was named the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year, his first of two.
It was also the year the Steelers reached the playoffs for only the second time ever (first being in 1947). In a must-win game against the Houston Oilers, Mean Joe recorded five sacks (a Steelers record) and a fumble recovery that effectively sealed the victory. The legend was born.
A defining year for Mean Joe and the Steelers was 1974. He has said his most memorable moment with the Steelers came when they beat the Raiders in Oakland in the AFC championship game that year to advance to their first Super Bowl.
"That was always the highlight for me, going from 1-13 my rookie season to all the years we worked hard and really didn't get to the game ... That was just the best moment, and then we kept stacking moments on top of that, but that was the one for me.
"Winning the Super bowl was obviously a great one but the joy I felt of going to the Super Bowl, it was what I felt about the Pittsburgh Steelers and where we came from, the history of us to that point." - http://tinyurl.com/adwrbcm
Also that season, Mean Joe "developed the new tactic of lining up at a sharp angle between the guard and center to disrupt the opposition's blocking assignments. Against both Oakland in the AFC title game and Minnesota in Super Bowl IX, Greene was virtually unstoppable."
In NFL Network's America's Game series, the 1974 team is highlighted, and in it there is one excerpt of Mean Joe talking about "The Zone." It is presented here in six parts, but it is worth another look: http://tinyurl.com/bcn4526 \ http://tinyurl.com/a5spqcl \ http://tinyurl.com/afuts2d \ http://tinyurl.com/azcjbru \ http://tinyurl.com/an5dlsr
From 1969 to 1979, Mean Joe was either an All Pro, earned All-Conference recognition and/or was elected to the Pro Bowl. He would record 78.5 sacks in his playing career, second all time for the Steelers (Jason Gildon leads with 80). He retired in 1981 being the bearer of four Super Bowl rings.
Football may have been Mean Joe’s life, but he also made several TV and movie appearances. But his most famous thespian excursion aired in October of 1979. - http://youtu.be/xffOCZYX6F8
That Coca-Cola commercial, in which a child gives him a Coke and in response “Mean Joe" smiles and gives the kid his game jersey, became so popular that it spawned a 1981 t.v. movie called "The Steeler and the Pittsburgh Kid," starring Mean Joe and teammate Franco Harris as themselves, the Dallas Cowboys' Harvey Martin and Henry Thomas, of E.T.: the Extra Terrestrial "Eliot" fame, as "the kid." It also became a part of pop culture.
After some time away from football, he returned to the team in 1987 as the defensive line coach under Chuck Noll and stayed at the position for five years. Mean Joe would go on to have stints with the Miami Dolphins (1992-95) and Arizona Cardinals (1996-2003) and briefly as an analyst for CBS Sports. He would return in 2004 when Steelers' general manager Kevin Colbert hired him as his special assistant for player personnel. In Mean Joe's 27 years working for the Steelers, he earned six Super Bowl rings, second most of any coach or front office person.
We will miss you, Mean Joe. We will always remember that you fondly and will never forget that you were the cornerstone of the bulwark known as the Steel Curtain, and of the dynasty known as the Pittsburgh Steelers. Thanks, Mean Joe.
(Sources: The Steelers Reader, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pro Football Hall of Fame and Janelle R. Smolko)
Saturday, May 11, 2013
As the 2013 offseason progresses and more information about the Pittsburgh Steelers and their draft class is disseminated, two things come into focus fairly quickly: the defense will be younger and the draft class has, well, class.
Despite many fans being up in arms over the re-signing of Buck linebacker Larry Foote to a three-year contract (only two of which he'll see), or the keeping of oft-injured Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Mark Kaboly pointed out that the age of the Steelers defense is steadily dropping.
"[T]he Steelers have progressively gotten younger while keeping the core of their No. 1-ranked defense intact," Kaboly wrote, "which isn’t very easy to do."
"In fact," he continued, "the 'old' Steelers defense has been able to knock off a year every season and, if projections hold true for this year and into next, the Steelers will have gone from 31.1 years of age to 28.2 within a span of three offseasons without any glaring holes in the lineup and reduce their 30-year-olds on defense to as few as two in 2014 … or even less." - http://tinyurl.com/d9xs8kh
One of the younger members of the defense who has been vilified by many over the last year or so because of his weight issues and work ethic is LaMarr Woodley. After being injured and out of shape much of the last two seasons, he has been called out by his position coach -- "Don’t come to camp weighing 290" -- and by an anonymous teammate -- "He was awful. He tells us he works out, but we didn't see it. He wasn't in shape. That has to be a reason why he was always hurt."
But just a few weeks ago, Woodley let his critics know that he is ready to "get after it," saying that his "offseason is going great."
"I'm looking forward to getting back with the team in a few weeks," Woodley said per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "I've been training since the middle of February ...It was a disappointing season being 8-8 and not making the playoffs. It was disappointing at the end of the day....I said this offseason I'd be determined to get after it."
Others who look to be determined are cornerbacks Ike Taylor and Cortez Allen who, as If It Ain't Steel related a couple of weeks ago, are working together with To Shaw down at Wide World of Sports complex in Florida. Per the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Allen has had some praiseworthy words for Taylor who is becoming a mentor.
"Ike is one of the hardest workers I've met," said Allen. "Seeing the way he does things is something that I would one day like to model. I'm getting a close-up view of what it takes to play 10 years in this league."
"We know what's required in the scheme of what we do," he continued. "We know how to push one another. We have to coach each other. We're making one another and the team better as a whole."
With Allen slated to get his chance to start next season opposite Taylor, joining him in this training and mentoring is ideal for 'making one another...better.'
Another who is actually in battle for a roster spot is inside linebacker Marshall McFadden, about whom Mark Kaboly effervesced when speaking of his "power and potential." Because of some CBA technicality, 2012 wasn't an accrued season for McFadden, so he was given with an opportunity to participate in the team's rookie Minicamp, which he called a "refresher."
"When I came in last year during rookie minicamp I was struggling to understand things because it was all so new to me," said McFadden. "Coming in this year and taking that step again, it was an introduction again. It was great for me because I got a better understanding because I had a year to develop. My mind is clear enough to understand it this year. It was a great refresher for me."
"I am classified as someone that has to take a big step this year," McFadden continued. "Once the OTAs start, it can do nothing but help me by knowing what to do, playing faster, knowing where to be, where to go. This was perfect for it."
McFadden, who led the Steelers last preseason in total tackles, spent most of the 2012 on the practice squad, although he did see time on the active roster late in the year due to injuries. Don't count him out for 2013.
Then there is 23-year old, 5'10", 180-pound cornerback Isaiah Green, the second-year man out of Fresno State. Per Behind The Steel Curtain, he wants to be more than just a Training Camp body. In the article they wrote about him, and according to his Fresno State bio, Green has a "nose for the ball" all the requisite physical skills, making him another to watch in Latrobe:
"...a fast and athletic player who will is expected to see action in the secondary and on special teams ... penciled in as a starting cornerback heading into fall camp ... one of the fastest players on the team with a 4.29 40-yard dash." - http://tinyurl.com/d795cnq
Last but not least there is outside linebacker Adrian Robinson, the speed rusher from last season. We'll be focising on him in an upcoming piece.
As for the rookies, it's easy to get excited about this year's draft class. Not only because of what they will bring to the field, but also because they seem to exude what the 2012 class was bereft of: common sense and maturity.
First, there is Jarvis Jones, the southern gentleman. Shamarko Thomas, as we told you recently, will 'work hard until his hands and his feet fall off.' Plus, two others who could end up being steals and contributors this season: the Black Cat and The Destroyer.
When Steelers defensive backs coach Carnell Lake speaks of rookie Terry Hawthorne, he tends to mention one thing fairly often: "He is fast." 4.31/40 fast.
"What I like about Terry," Lake said, "is that he has a lot of upside potential that I see in him. I think he has all the physical tools. He is big. He is fast. He doesn't mind tackling, and he can play press coverage well, kind of in the same way as an Ike Taylor."
Hawthorne himself is saying all the right things, such as his proclamation that he'll 'do whatever he can to help the team' and to turn the corner.
"I'm just trying to get my technique down," Hawthorne said. "They've been correcting me on my technique. I had bad technique. As I'm getting my technique better, they're starting to get a little more comfortable with me....It gives me a great advantage for them to correct my technique now." - http://t.co/goD1wdnudG
Another to keep your eye on is inside linebacker Vince Williams. When Steelers Digest's Bob Labriola was on the Steelers Live show this past Tuesday and was asked if any other player had caught his eye over the minicamp weekend, Williams was his focus.
"The one guy that I kind of noticed was Vince Williams," Labriola said. "He would be the second pick in the sixth round, an inside linebacker from Florida State. Vince Williams, a couple of the things that I liked about him, were first of all, it wasn't very long into the on field sessions when Vince Williams was instructing teammates about where they needed to be, and shifting and those kind of things.
"Vince Williams did a lot of the defensive play calling during his college career and it seems like he has a very high football IQ and it seemed to me," he continued, "watching from the side, that that was a little bit on display right from the beginning."
Labriola continued by expounding on the main factor that's going to get him a spot on this roster, that "he's going to make special teams coordinator Danny Smith a very happy person."
"One of the main concepts, basic concepts of playing special teams, covering kicks, is find the guy with the ball, get the guy with the ball on the ground....This is a guy who will be able to find the guy with the ball and get him on the ground on special teams plays, and that alone could make him a very valuable part of the 2013 Steelers."
Despite head coach Mike Tomlin's disputing linebacker coach Keith Butler regarding Sean Spence as to whether he'll ever return or not, between McFadden and Williams, the question as to Spence's replacement may have been answered.
TIDBITS: This doesn't feel right as a "tidbit," but Jack Butler, the great NFL Hall of Famer and former Pittsburgh Steeler, died Saturday morning. He was 85. Here is the statement by the Steelers: http://www.steelers.com/news/article-1/Steelers-statement-on-passing-of-Jack-Butler/93753b20-7311-4cb8-ad60-9f339e6e6bd8
Butler was just inducted into the Hall of Fame back in August and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette said that he had never seen him so happy. About a year before he was finally recognized by the Hall, If It Ain't Steel had written about the travesty of not having this great man donning a mustard-colored jacket. We leave you with the piece written at that time as it chronicles all of his accomplishments. RIP, Mr. Butler. - http://ifitaintsteel.blogspot.com/2011/08/jack-butler-should-be-in-hall-of-fame.html
Steelers hire two in the family as scouts -- Dan Colbert, Kevin's son, and Mike Butler, son of deceased HOFer Jack Butler.
The Steelers also promote Phil Kreidler to college scouting coordinator to replace Ron Highes, who stays as an adviser. Mark Bruener was also promoted and had been a BLESTO scout for a couple of years.
Offense isn't the only area where the Pittsburgh Steelers had trouble scoring last season. Special teams wasn't exactly special, plus, now two of the three men who have been the Steelers kick and punt returners, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders, are the No. 1 and No. 2 receivers. Then, the third, Chris Rainey decided he liked gambling more than playing football. So, there is a vacuum at the position. But football, like nature, abhors a vacuum and an undrafted player could end up being the true steal of the draft: Reggie Dunn.
In a previous blog we told you the two rules associated with Reggie Dunn. The first rule is you don't kick it to Reggie Dunn. The second rule is you do NOT kick it to Reggie Dunn. (Word of caution: don't blink when watching his video highlights or you will miss him.) - http://youtu.be/nPBCPxYjgrI
The 5'10, 180 pounder may strictly be a special teams ace, but it's hard to ignore a 4.22 time in the 40-yard dash. As are the four touchdown returns of 100 yards or more...in only 10 attempts.
Iowa State was the first to learn the two rules back in 2010 as he returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown and averaged 29.6 yards per return. He didn't house anyone in 2011, but he still averaged 23.6 yards per return.
The All-Pac 12 first teamer had everyone exactly where he wanted them.
After nearly every opposing special teams coach on the early part of Utah's schedule instructed their teams to...well, to adhere to the two rules, the University of Cal decided to tempt the hand of fate. Bad idea. He housed them twice...each for 100 yards or more.
Then a week after returning those two touchdowns against Cal in the eighth game of the season, he had a 100-yard kickoff return against Washington State, and then had another 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Colorado.
Dunn also holds the NCAA record for 100+ yard kickoff returns for touchdowns in a career with five, and had a gaudy 30.875 yards per return average for his career. He is a special player who is more than just speed. He flows like water through would-be tacklers and often looks like a human joystick out there. But Dunn is an Xbox 360 and all other are just Atari. - http://youtu.be/uUKjg7lTi6c
Tomlin likes players who are "position flexible," but, again, it's hard to ignore "Oh, sh*t" speed. Because, to paraphrase The Greatest, 'your feet can't catch what your eyes can't see'. Come September, it may just be the Steelers sideline where you'll hear, "Who they came to see?!?"