Friday, April 10, 2015

Troy Polamalu: One of the Greatest Steelers Ever...and a Greater Man Still


“When the time comes to leave, just walk away quietly and don’t make any fuss.” - Banksy, Wall and Piece

Thursday night, after an already full day of activity, yet more news surfaced regarding the Pittsburgh Steelers. News regarding quite possibly the greatest Steelers safety, and one of the best strong safeties to lace up a pair of cleats: Troy Aumua Polamalu has retired. 

Make no mistake, it was time for the former USC graduate to walk away. Jim Wexell of Steel City Insider, who first broke the news of Polamalu's decision, wrote that it came after a good deal of contemplation saying that he "started to debate whether [he] should come back or should [he] play....”, but that family was the main reason. - http://tinyurl.com/ph2ssll

And from a logical standpoint, one can truly breathe a sigh of relief as the team can now look firmly to the future, get younger on defense and focus on forming a strong defense again. 

But this isn't about logic or about the X's and O's of a team yet to be assembled. This is purely about emotion, the emotion engendered by a man who was gracious, yet relenting; tempered, yet tenacious; benevolent, yet beguiling and God fearing, yet fearsome and fearless.

Polamalu's legacy isn't simply about numbers - though he retires with 770 career tackles, his 32 interceptions aren't even among the top 150 of NFL players for a career. But every INT, every forced fumble and every fumble recovery he made simply seemed to be just what the Steelers needed at the time. Or to be a spectacular "Did you see that?!" moment. And often, it was both.

As the Steelers’ first-round draft pick in 2003, one for whom they traded up, Polamalu was considered a bust in his rookie season. But it wasn't long before he came to be known for uncanny instincts and an athletic prowess that was coupled with fearful physicality. It was that player who found his way into the hearts of fans and the sleepless nights of foes and offensive coordinators alike, and many of whom are lining up to praise him. - http://t.co/7K5mnrr3dm/s/Tcuo 

Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review once asked arch-rival Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh about Polamalu and Harbaugh said: "You had to account for him at all times. We had times when we didn't account for him, and I was like, 'He is wearing No. 43 and he has hair down to his shoulders. There's no way we should miss the guy, right? Block him. Block him, please.'" - http://tinyurl.com/lsqwbcc

At his best he was a safety whom you could deploy virtually anywhere on the field - he had the speed to cover deep, as was memorably evidenced by his one-handed interception in 2009 against Kenny Britt and the Tennessee Titans, by his pick six off of Joe Flacco over the middle-left in the 2008 AFC Championship game or the numerous times he perfectly timed the snap count and caught the quarterback or running back before a second or third step could be taken. 

Polamalu will certainly be remembered as a safety who transformed the position in the NFL. My most endearing memory, though, isn't a game-winning INT or a pick six or even a vicious hit he levied against a ball carrier. 

My greatest memory might just be the scene that unfolded after he had made a mistake on a play that could've resulted badly for the Steelers. Troy recognized his mistake and walked off the field with his head down and headed straight for his defensive coordinator - "Coach Dad" - Dick LeBeau. 

LeBeau hugged him while taking his helmeted head in hand and consoled him. Troy's approach and demeanor was that of a child in his father's embrace. Troy just stood there listening to Coach Dad's sage words. 

The relatively short time the camera captured the two seemed more like several minutes - time wrapped its heavy hands around each second and brought us all into that embrace with them because we had all already been in that position. 

That's who Troy was. He was a humble, soft-spoken, everyday man whom you could be proud to let your sons emulate or to let your daughters swoon over. He was the player whose jersey you were never ashamed to wear. He was the player you knew one day you'd see giving a dignified and deflective Hall of Fame speech. 

One day he'll do just that. Until then, though, you won't hear from him. He won't seek out fanfare or a self-aggrandizing press conference. He'll relax with his family until it's time for his luxurious and curly locks to adorn his bronzed bust in Canton. 

That's the man he is. He knew it was time to leave, and so he just walked away quietly and didn't make any fuss.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Bell Suspended, DeCastro Extended, Steelers Scheduled Presented and CBs Visited

Thursday proved to be a busy day for the Pittsburgh Steelers. There was good news, there was bad news and there was Hall of Fame news. Well, sort of...

Early this morning, ESPN's Adam Schefter tweeted that Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell has been suspended by the NFL for the first three games of the season: "@AdamSchefter: Pitt RB LeVeon Bell suspended 3 games, fined additional game check for violating substance abuse policy, per league sources. He is appealing."

As NFL.com reporter Gregg Rosenthal posted regarding the August 20, 2014 incident, "Detective Brian Kohlhepp of the Ross Township, Pennsylvania Police Department confirmed to NFL Media that running backs Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount were pulled over Wednesday around 1:30 p.m. ET. They, along with an unidentified female passenger in the backseat, were taken into custody and admitted to marijuana possession." The arresting officer had found a "20 gram bag of marijuana inside the car."

Regarding the appeal, Steelers beat writer for ESPN Scott Brown doesn't believe the suspension stays at three games saying, "...there is no way the three-game suspension sticks. The collective bargaining agreement -- not to mention common sense -- won't allow it." - http://tinyurl.com/jww9jwv

Regardless, as it is that the Chong to Bell's Cheech, erstwhile teammate and current New England Patriots RB LeGarrette Blount, was also suspended (one game) for his part in the incident, the NFL will likely no longer pair the two teams on its opening weekend Thursday Night Football kickoff as both teams will be without two of their stars.

Next came word Thursday that Steelers exercised the extension on right guard David DeCastro. Picking up DDC's option means he'll make the average of the salaries for the "3rd-25th highest paid" OG's in NFL, per Pro Football Talk. Being that the option is for injury only, and that he is set to receive a salary of $8,070,000 in 2016, a longterm deal is likely imminent.

Signing him to a new deal would seem especially prudent considering that DDC truly established himself this past season and should've been a Pro Bowl participant. The last thing the Steelers want is for the player many are calling 'the next Alan Faneca" to become...the next Alan Faneca.

Embedded image permalink"Steelers Live" announced the team's preseason schedule at 4 pm EST and probably drew a greater audience than whatever baseball game was on at the time. The only date known at present "obviously" is the Hall of Fame game on August 9, 2015. -
~

TIDBITS:
Ohio State cornerback Doran Grant had already visited the Steelers, then Thursday saw more CBs making trips to the Southside. As first reported by Steelers Digest's Bob Labriola, Stanford's Alex Carter, Washington's troubled-yet-mega-talented CB Marcus Peters and Virginia linebacker Max Valles made visits.

Though we believe Carter is a potential Steelers 2nd-round selection, the focus was definitely on Peters. Even though he was kicked off of his college team, Peters is considered by many as the best CB in the NFL Draft and that he would be a good fit with the Steelers. Interestingly, in addition to Thursday's visit, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin met with Peters at the NFL Combine. Further still, defensive backs coach Carnell Lake and former Steelers tight end and current scout Mark Bruener were at Washington's Pro Day.

If It Ain't Steel's preference may be Wake Forest CB Kevin Johnson in the first round, but we wouldn't be in any way hurt over Peters' being selected instead. Just sayin'...

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The 2015 Steelers 1st-Round NFL Draft Possibles, Alternates and the Borgias.

Approximately a month ago we were asked to post our thoughts on whom the Pittsburgh Steelers might and/or should take in the first round of April's 2015 NFL Draft. Well, going over each of the players we believe would be viable choices for the Steelers turned out to take longer than expected as well as causing data to accumulate. In doing so, either we needed empirical data to back up what we already believed, or we needed to masticate on whether a potential draftee was deserving of his post-NFL Combine and pre-Draft rise. We may not have been writing under the If It Ain't Steel Blog umbrella, but it didn't mean that the work wasn't going into the evaluations. So, barring a trade down, and without further ado, here are the 10 men we feel may hear their names called in association with the team in Steel Town, USA.

EDGE RUSHERS -
ALVIN "BUD" DUPREE: 6'4" 269 LBs, 4.56/40, 42" Vertical -
Many of you whom we have interacted with on social media are probably thinking we must've been drinking the Kool-Aid regarding this one. Bear with us, though, there is something that puts him over the edge. Our original thoughts were that the game film dictated his being better with his hand on the ground than he is standing up. Also, that he's an inconsistent pass rusher who doesn’t always exhibit good hand use, his speed rush can be a little out of control, he doesn't have a good amount of pass rushes in his repertoire even causing him to being pancaked a couple of times (from the right side) and has trouble anchoring against the run.

BUT....Dupree has an excellent and explosive first step, his speed rush has at times forced tackles to cheat their kick-slide which allowed them to be beaten inside, he also has explosive speed, his long arms cover over other ills in his run defense, and we fully admit to loving his motor and hustle.

Unfortunately, we saw a player who we felt translated better to an NFL 4-3 DE than to a 3-4 OLB because of his being so very raw. What pushed us, though, over from the Con to the Pro side is something his bio at NFL.com said. And we quote, "He must continue to improve as a pass rusher, but his traits are undeniable. Difference between being good and great might be his coordinator." Sage words that could be prophetically descriptive of defensive line coach John Mitchell, outside linebackers coach Joey Porter and defensive coordinator (and former linebackers coach) Keith Butler. All of that and his being an underclassman, something the Steelers love, he is slightly ahead of the other edge rushers.

OWAMAGHBE ODIGHIZUWA: 6'3" 267 LBs, 4.62/40, 39 Vert., 25 reps Bench Press -
Personal choice. A huge and ripped Zulu Warrior-built weapon who can get off the ball and convert speed to power. He has huge (11") hands making him very strong at the point of attack, especially against the run. He is relentless and versatile, but he has one definite downside in that he isn't really a pass rusher. That, also, could be what very well keeps the Steelers from drafting him.

PRESTON SMITH: 6'5" 271 LBs, 4.74/40, 34" Vert. -
Certain pundits and mocks have chosen defensive end Nate Orchard as a possible pick here, presumably if the other edge rushers are gone. We prefer, though, to go farther south to get DE/OLB Preston Smith in such a "best player available" eventuality. Why? He's bigger and faster than Orchard, and he uses that power and speed well. He comes off the edge with the intent to do harm and looks like he's always in a bad mood on the field. He can even slide inside to the one-technique and attack the A-gap. And while he has the quickness to do so, he still doesn't have the quickness of some, say like that of the aforementioned Orchard. He also has the tendency to give up on a play that goes away from him. This one is possible, but not necessarily probable.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES/NOSE TACKLES -
DANNY SHELTON: 6'2" 340 LBs, 5.64/40, 34 reps Bench Press -
Look, we don't expect Shelton to fall to no. 22 to begin with, but the idea has been tossed around that a run on other positions, like edge rusher, cornerback and/or offensive lineman, could push him down the line. In such a scenario, he'd likely be the best athlete available and could fall to the Steelers. Now, we don't believe this is overly likely as we are not down on current Steelers NT Steve McLendon as others are. But the best player available is the best player available. Especially one who is a bona fide run stuffer, often faced and handled double teams, plays the requisite gaps and techniques and even got to the quarterback (9 sacks in 2014).

EDDIE GOLDMAN: 6'4" 336 LBs, 5.27/40, 26" Vert. -
Take every argument and superlative just said about Shelton and apply it to Goldman. Then add that he's actually much more explosive than Shelton, but take away from him the fact that he's nowhere near as polished, nor is he as mighty a pass rusher. But, his raw qualities make him enough of a tabula rasa that he could be molded into exactly what would be desired. You have to have at least one out-of-the-box pick in any mock or breakdown and this is ours. (What? Did you think Mike Tomlin was at Florida State's Pro Day just for cornerbacks Ron Darby and P.J. "Joyride" Williams???)

DEFENSIVE BACKS -
KEVIN JOHNSON: 6'0" 188 LBs, 4.52/40, 41.5" Vert., 6.79 3-Cone Drill -
Pardon me while I wipe the drool away...
Personal choice to say the least. We love Johnson. Great feet, is great at flipping his hips, is smooth with great balance, squares up greatly, has a great backpedal...aww, hell, he's just great. Yes, we know that Trae Waynes is the consensus top cornerback, and for good reason, but there are three CBs who are just head-and-shoulders above the rest. Johnson fits the Steelers' mold, though: he uses great technique, he likes to throw his body into ball carriers, and he is a natural athlete - maybe the best athlete at the position. There are only two knocks to him and his game - he has a bit of a thin frame for an NFL CB, especially in the legs, and while he played both man and off coverage, he had the tendency to be too aggressive resulting in pass interference calls. - http://draftbreakdown.com/players/kevin-johnson/

MARCUS PETERS: 6'0" 197 LBs,4.53/40, 37.5" Vert. -
If not for being kicked off of his college team, amongst other run-ins, Peters would be ahead of Waynes as the top CB pick in 2015. Pure talent. Prototype body. As fluid and as natural a pair of hips as you will find. An intimidator. Virtual textbook man-cover corner. Tracks and high-points the ball with the best of them allowing him to come away with the interception. Honestly, not too much negative can be said of him. Though, maybe, his long speed isn't the best, and he actually is a bit handsy at times when in tight spaces, but that's about it. If Peters drops to, or past, the Steelers, it's purely because of his behavioral/emotional issues.

ALTERNATES -
T.J. CLEMMINGS: 6'5" 309 LBs, 5.14/40, 22 reps Bench Press -
Local kid, long and athletic, versatile- can play 3 positions, has a fluid kick-slide and has the strength to make virtually any block ... yeah, we could see it. After all, the Steelers are known to stay close to the ball in there first pick. Check their last 15 first rounders.

SHAQ THOMPSON: 6'0" 228 LBs, 4.64/40, 20 reps Bench Press, 6.99 3-Cone Drill -
The limb will probably break beneath us, but we're out here nonetheless. Thompson is talented, athletic and relentless. His biggest impact in pass coverage rather than as a pass rusher. He'll also be better in pursuit (including backside pursuit) as a run defender. Bulk up and play inside/middle linebacker? Slim down even more and stay light and quick? How about stay where you are and be the hybrid defender that the NFL is going to anyway? He could be the right team's X-factor. But if you're going to be a 6'0" 228-pound hard-hitting safety type, then why not just take...

LANDON COLLINS: 6'0" 228 LBs, 4.53/40, 35" Vert., 16 reps Bench Press -
Easily the best safety in a year wanting of safeties. Plays down in the box a lot, but can cover with good speed. Lacks recovery speed, though, and has hands of stone - good for Roberto Duran, bad for a defensive back (just ask Ike Taylor). But Collins has a definite career on Sundays. Will it be with the Steelers? That depends on Shamarko Thomas' hamstrings.

There you have it, the players we feel are amongst those on the Steelers board. If you were looking for particular names that weren't here, there was likely good reason. Names such as the aforementioned Waynes (gone), Vic Beasley (gone), Shane Ray (gone), Eli Harold (2nd rounder) or Maxx Williams (LOL). But, depending on the reception this receives, a follow-up piece covering rounds two and three might just cover them as well. Stay tuned.


Friday, June 13, 2014

Chuck Noll - The Immaculate Coach

updated 6/14/14
Never has Friday the 13th had such significance or weighed so heavily, for a member of the family has died. 

"I could not have had a better coach as a young beat guy covering the #Steelers than Chuck Noll. I learned football & much more from him." - @EdBouchette via Twitter

"If you're picking the greatest coach/manager in Pittsburgh sports history, Chuck Noll should be at the top of the list." - Alan Robinson (@arobinson_Trib) via Twitter

It was announced Friday night that the architect of the 1970's dynasty, Charles Henry Noll has passed away. He was 82.

Chuck Noll won more Super Bowls than any other head coach in NFL history, winning four titles in six years (1974-1980). He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993. 

Noll is not as highly recognized a sports figure as many because of his humility. He deflected attention and praise, giving his players platforms instead. In actuality, he made good players great and great players iconic. 

He is on the Mt. Rushmore of coaches and should be readily mentioned with George Halas, Don Shula, and Vince Lombardi. - http://t.co/9eCWM9HXQB/s/fB2r

Chuck Noll took over a team that had played in one playoff game by their 40th year and turned them into a juggernaut that won four Super Bowls in the 1970s, barely missing out on a fifth. He is, in fact, the first and only coach to win four Super Bowls. 

From 0 and 40 (years) to 4 and 0 in championships. 

The story I remember most about Coach Noll was when he was hired to turn the team around. He assembled all of the players from the team (1968 roster) on Friday and told them he was going to go over all of their game film and get back to them on Monday as to what was wrong. 

When they re-assembled after the weekend, he revealed the problem: "Half of you just can't play football."

Noll began to remedy that immediately. He was hired on January 27th, 1969 and drafted "Mean" Joe Greene on January 28th.

The cornerstone had been laid. The next year, 1970, brought Terry Bradshaw and Mel Blount. Then 1971 brought Gerry Mullins, Larry Brown, Mike Wagner, Ernie Holmes, Dwight White and Jack Ham - maybe the second greatest draft in NFL history. Franco Harris then arrived in 1972, but it was 1974 that solidified the dynasty. 

And solidified his legacy. 

Not only did he draft well, but he taught the game. He was a great coach, yes, but he was a great teacher as well. One that many feel was incredibly under-recognized.

In fact, as the Tribune Review's Alan Robinson again states, "There was not one subject you could ask Chuck Noll about and he wouldn't have some knowledge. Brilliantly smart."

Even coaches from other sports greatly respect the man. 

"Although I never met Chuck Noll," Indian Hoosiers head coach Tom Crea (@TomCrean) tweeted, "he set a standard for all coaches at teaching technique and the details of fundamentals. The total teacher."

Noll had great players and made them even better. He helped transform the Steelers from dead to deadly, from a travesty to a dreadnought. 

Maybe the late broadcasting icon Myron Cope was right when dubbing him "The Emperor." But, for a certainty, Hamlet's words ring appropriate and true regarding Coach Noll. 

"He was a man. Take him for all and all. I shall not look upon his like again." - Hamlet, Act 1, scene 2

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Time For The Landry Jones Era To Begin; The Devil Went Down To...

by Jayden Matthews

Now that the Pittsburgh Steelers have signed most of their draft picks and have also now signed center Maurkice Pouncey to an extension, they're faced with a bit of a dilemma. That being the getting of their franchise QB Ben Roethlisberger extended. 

With the contracts for quarterbacks skyrocketing here lately at a fierce pace, should the Steelers pay big money to Big Ben in order to keep him? I say...no.

If Big Ben wants to play hardball and demand all that money that Colin Kaepernick, Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan and others have gotten, then let Big Ben ride the big bench and ring in the Landry Jones era. 

Many thought the Steelers wasted a draft pick on selecting Landry Jones, but I say it's time to see what this kid's got. Why not just throw him in the fire and see if the barbecue smokes?

Move over bacon, there's somethin' meatier!

If Ben wants to be overpaid like the rest of these guys, show him who the boss is!

I mean, it isn’t like that last season Ben really did anything to help the Steelers. He had a horrendous start where he himself had nine of the team's 20 turnovers before the bye. Sure, he ended with a QB Rating of 92.0, 28 touchdown passes, 4,261 passing yards and a completion percentage of 64.2%, but he had nowhere to go but UP! 

Plus, who in tarnation who wants a QB who plays every snap, sets records for completions in a season (375) and had a 2-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio while becoming the franchise's career leader in TD passes (219)? Why would we pay this guy??? Let him be a Divo!

Even if he did lead his team to three Super Bowls while winning two of them, that still doesn’t warrant a big contract, does it? 

If I've got a guy like Landry Jones on the bench that could potentially step right in and take over, why wouldn't I use him? I mean, we are in rebuild mode anyway. So why not? 

When Landry was at Oklahoma, he accounted for...well, he threw for...uh, he won...well, he did a lot! This guy really brings something to the table! He could be the next Bobby Douglas or Craig Morton for all we know, so we have to give him a shot!

Why are we even thinking about giving Big Ben an extension when we have this guy on the roster already and have him for the next three years?  

Let's not even bother getting a deal done fo...oh, forget it. I can't do this anymore... My eyes hurt from reading this hogwash. To everyone that made it this far without busting their computer and cussing us to no end, enough with the foolishness. 

Anyone who thought for one second that If It Ain’t Steel would actually entertain the thought of sitting our beloved Big Ben for one snap, unless it was due to injury, for Landry Jones must be so dumb that if you went bobbin' in a barrel of boobs, you'd still come up suckin' your thumb. This obvious SATIRE!

Y'all know we have to do this every once in a while to keep you on your toes. By the way, we said his whole name, Landry Jones, each time because they will have the only times you'll hear it all season. ;-)

~

"THE DEVIL WENT DOWN TO...PITTSBURGH"

The devil went down to Pittsburgh, he was lookin' for a soul to steal. 
He was in a bind 'cause he was way behind. He was willing to make a deal
When he came across this young scribe writin' down her latest thoughts
And the Devil sidled up next to her and said "Girl, let me tell you what."

"I guess you didn't know it, but I'm a writer, too.
And if you'd care to take a dare I'll make a bet with you.
Now you write a pretty good blog, girl, but give the Devil his due.
I'll bet a Mont Blanc of gold against your soul 'cause I think I'm better than you."

The scribe said, "My name's Jayden, and it might be a sin,
But I'll take your bet; and you're gonna regret 'cause I'm the best there's ever been."

The Devil opened up his case and he said, "I'll start this off."
And fire flew from his fingertips as he brushed his shoulders off.
And he started crackin' his knuckles and flexin' his wrists.
And a band of demons joined in and it sounded something like this.

"As I reported earlier...I'm the devil incarnate,
To overload with meaningless stats, I stay up late,
No sleep do I need, just Xanex and weed, 
And on a coffee IV will I feed. 
In eight short bars I'll prove I'm the best, no reason
To question. I'm all you need all through football season. 
I'm the best, and if you ever challenge me, bright eyes, 
I'll stomp and scream and claim you plagiarize."

When the Devil finished, Jayden said, "You ain't even pretty good ol' son,
So just sit down in that chair right there and let me show you how it's done."

"I'm a lyrical miracle, you can call me the pinnacle
Proper breathing is critical, take a breath and now here I go! 
I could fly the TARDIS like The Doctor all through time
And never find anything weaker than that so-called rhyme.
Battling you, son, ain't even worth the hassle
When ya think your filet mignon but ya ain't even White Castle.  
Now lemme put it so you understand - I'm LeGarrette Blount: I rumble!
You're Rashard Mendenhall...fumble.

...now, retire."

The Devil bowed his head because he knew that he'd been beat.
And he laid that gold Mont Blanc on the ground at Jayden's feet.
Jayden said, "Devil, just come on back if you ever wanna try again,
I done told you once—you son of a bitch—I'm the best that's ever been."

And she played:

"Fire on the Mountain." Run, boys, run!
The Devil's in the house of the rising sun;
The chicken's in the bread pan picking out dough.
Granny, will your dog bite? No, child, no."
...
original lyrics by Charlie Daniels

This wasn't *ahem* about anyone. It was purely *cough* a fictitious event. Any representation of resemblance of anyone, dead, alive or who subsists on Xanex and coffee, is purely coincidental.  

Maurkice Pouncey Leads List Of Steelers Signings - Was It The Right Move?

Contracts are being signed on the South Side. 

On Monday, June 9, fourth-round draft pick Martavis Bryant signed his rookie contract - a four-year deal worth $2,659,220, with a signing bonus of $109,805. 

The 6'4", 211-pound Clemson product "appeared in 37 games with 13 starts" in college, "registering 61 receptions for 1,354 yards with 13 receiving touchdowns. Bryant’s career 22.2 yards per reception average is an NCAA FBS record, an ACC record and a school record, and his 13 receiving touchdowns are the 10th-best total in school history." - http://tinyurl.com/ln44ry2

ESPN's Field Yates has now also reported that the Pittsburgh Steelers have signed 3rd-round running back Dri Archer, though terms have yet to be disclosed. At the time of writing this, Stephon Tuitt remains the only draft pick left unsigned. 

But the news that has social media buzzing is the signing of former All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey. 

Per Steelers beat writer Ed Bouchette, Pouncey's new deal, a 5-year, $44 million extension at its base, is a "6-yr, $48 M deal" that "includes total bonuses of $20.25 M, $13 M for signing..."

At the Steelers press conference announcing the extension, Pouncey said "It seems like five years all over again...I'm excited for this new adventure."

As mentioned, the deal pays Pouncey a signing bonus of $13 million. That’s more than the signing bonus paid last week to San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The guaranteed money is about half of what Cleveland Browns center Alex Mack (5 years, $42, $26M reportedly guaranteed) received, but the new money he’s receiving makes him the highest paid center at $8.8 million per year (Mack is at $8.4M). - http://t.co/XFb0Acn2ZI/s/j4lm 

The real money in the contract is three years and a total of $26.5 million. Pouncey will also get $17.75M next year and $23M in 2016 per whatever provisos are set forth in the terms. 

Bouchette also said that the Salary Cap hit would be $3.6M, but OverTheCap.com has it at $5.514M. If Over The Cap is correct, the Steelers sit at $6.36M under their Cap with regard to the Rule of 51 numbers. 

Regardless of the particulars, Pouncey is very happy with his new deal. He said that free agency was "never on my mind." Especially after his injury last season, walking was his main priority. - http://tinyurl.com/oys5nyw

"It's really unbelievable. I'm so thankful for this moment right now," said a Pouncey when speaking on the loyalty the organization showed him after being injured again last season. "I am so thankful for this moment right now. It's really awesome....I'm just glad to be a Pittsburgh Steeler."

Loyalty that is well deserved. 

Despite what I may have said on social media Thursday morning, or how I may have been misconstrued, the signing of Pouncey was a must. It was the right move. Once I saw the real numbers also, after having flashes of LaMarr Woodley go through my head, I was completely in agreement with the contract. 

If you just go by statistics and listen to the "he's always injured" crowd, it could be easy to knock Pouncey. The truth is that Pouncey was on the field more than any other offensive lineman. 

Per a stat offered up by the Tribune-Review's Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly_Trib), "Pouncey played in 86% Steelers snaps first 3 yrs (not counting freak injury last yr). To compare, next highest OL is Foster at 77% over 4 yrs."

Pouncey is just 24-years old and was an All-Pro and a Pro Bowler in his first three NFL seasons. Though he has never been higher than 12th in Pro Football Focus' center grades, the game isn't played on paper. 

Pouncey is strong and very athletic for his size. Though he has been handled at times by a couple of the behemoth-like nose tackles in the league, he still holds his in that instance. But, to be blunt, he would be pretty damn good in the outside zone and the other things OLine coach Mike Munchak has in store. 

Feisty, mobile and respected, he's a true leader to his peers - his teammates named him an offensive captain at just 24 years old. 

Respected by teammates as well as ownership. A teary-eyed Pouncey hugged Dan Rooney after the brief press conference.

"There's a lot of love here." 

~

TIDBITS: Steelers using Ryan Shazier all over the field - http://t.co/y1Z2yasXVz/s/8icA 

~

"@MarkKaboly_Trib: #Steelers' Will Johnson is working at fullback and at tight end. Tomlin said he is goes to both RB & TE meetings" - #WVU

~

"@MarkKaboly_Trib: #Steelers fans are going to have to get used to a lot of inside handoffs to Dri Archer from the shotgun in the red zone."

Friday, June 6, 2014

LeGarrette Blount's Presence Will Help Steelers Pass Game Too

It was a balmy Miami night in November of 1996 when the Pittsburgh Steelers visited the Dolphins on Monday Night Football. Jerome Bettis was the star that night as he rushed for 119 yards on 27 carries. 

There is a visual that stands out most memorable in my mind from that night - as Mike Tomczak led the offense down the field for the game-winning touchdown, "The Bus" just kept battering the Dolphins defense causing the defensive backs especially to get slower and slower after tackling him. 

On the deciding play, Tomczak perfectly executed the play action, the defense bit and wide receiver Ernie Mills caught the 20-yard touchdown pass. Steelers win: 24 - 17.

The defense bit so hard that Tomczak stood back there for what seemed like minutes and Mills was so open that he had time to tie his shoes before catching the ball. 

The object lesson here: sometimes the best defense is a good offense. 

The Steelers have had their problems over the last few years with holding leads. Obviously, the majority of that is directly on the defense itself. But, not all. Allow me to explain. 

Granted, giving up leads is giving up leads. That is solely a defensive deficiency, one which has also been addressed in the draft and free agency. 

But not being able to hold on to the ball once you get it back means the defense gets little rest. A tired defense gives up big plays and surrenders more points. 

Whether via the play action or in the no-huddle, keeping them off of the field keeps them fresh. Their being fresh means their being alert enough mentally and physically to stop the opponent. Tight end Heath Miller understands this as well. 

"[The no-huddle] is good," Miller said in an interview with Dale Lolley. "We're getting a lot of work with it. We're going to continue with it. The last period is good for it. We're tired and we can take the defense and make them tired. It can be a weapon for us." (Brackets and italics ours) -  http://tinyurl.com/kgl4n3r

Blount could weigh heavily, no pun intended, in this, both in play action and in the no-huddle offense.

By all means, Bell aids in this also. But where Bell can definitely punch it up the middle, he can bounce it outside just as well. Blount, on the other hand, just pounds and pounds. 

...and pounds. 

“That's my running style,” Blount said. “That's how I run the football, and I feel that Le'Veon is a big, tough running back, too. This is how this team is run with a physical run game, and that's what we are trying to get back to.” -  http://tinyurl.com/p7lwgcy

To get back to controlling the clock.

The Tribune-Review article linked above points out that eliminating negative plays is paramount in this. It brought out that it "was most notable in short-yardage situations last year where they ranked 21st in power ranking (percentage of runs on third or fourth down with 2 yards or less to go, that achieved a first down or touchdown), according to Football Outsiders. They were only successful on 60 percent of such plays."

Can't control the line of scrimmage, can't control the clock.

That's where Blount has excelled in his career, in using "his big frame to his advantage as 65 percent of his career yards have come after contact," partly from averaging 5.47 yards per carry on first and ten alone, and a career 4.7 YPC average. 

That kind of production would aid Big Ben in the play action as well, considering that no QB used play action less than he did in 2013, utilizing it just 11.6% of the time, per Pro Football Focus. 

Blount may only receive "six to eight carries a game," but his presence and potential threat may just get an opposing defense to bite on the play action in 2014, also, allowing Big Ben to cleanly hit one of his receivers for a game winner.

~

TIDBITS: Via Mark Kaboly: Steelers OTA 6 -- tight end goal line drills where I almost get run over - http://t.co/hKH4bH99pI

Steelers OTA 6 -- What a catch by Lance Moore - http://t.co/f0j0RCjKaD 

Steelers OTA 6 -- OL drills with a Sushi kick - http://t.co/S2qlcwjXxM