Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Catching Up With Steelers Training Camp Roster And Schedule

It's been a very difficult two weeks for us here at If It Ain't Steel and, therefore, there was a drop off in the writing and posting of blogs. I lost a friend to death, I had personal problems in between, I then lost an uncle to death and my partner-in-crime lost an uncle to death as well. So, writing about sports hasn't been foremost on our minds. For those who were aware, by the way, we appreciate the well-wishes received.

In one sense, it was fortunate that little truly went on during this time. It wasn't as if much was truly happening that required immediate attention. Plus, there are plenty of good blog sites we endorse here at If It Ain't Steel, as well as terrible sites and reports which assuredly wrote at least one article on the '10 Best Places To Piss At PNC Park', to go to for speculation and minutiae. That being said, let's catch up by going over the only three things that were worth blogging about in the first place. 

There has been some talk about whether it's more important that Steeler head coach Mike Tomlin should be signed to a new contract before Mike Wallace is signed to his. Personally, I don't believe one is any more or less important than the other long-term. The success of one, or lack thereof, could very easily be directly affected by the other. i.e. Tomlin is a natural leader who knows how to get inside a player's mind and get the best out of him. Let's say Tomlin continues to prod Wallace to become more than a "one-trick pony", Wallace responds positively and that leads to any and all game plans working flawlessly. Game plans run flawlessly and that leads to double-digit wins. Double-digit wins leads to the playoffs and the confidence and swagger to perform their best in the Super Bowl. Ok, now this is starting to sound like a reverse Direct TV commercial ("Keep calling Wallace a 'one-trick pony!'). Seriously though, you get the point. 

The other side of this is that Wallace's amazing natural talent and drive to be the best is enough to make something out of nothing in given situations. Since we all know that Tomlin has been questionable in his clock management and end of half strategies, a more mature Wallace could be the determining factor in turning nothing into something. This not only brings wins, but allows Tomlin and the team to look and be better overall. So, to bottom-line it: Get. Both. Signed. 


On Monday, June 25th the Steelers announced that they had released veteran quarterback and former Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith from the roster.

I know, I was shocked too. 

I mean, this was a man who couldn't even start for the Omaha Nighthawks of the UFL, who decided to go with that household name Jeremiah Masoli because he had been with the team longer, when an injury opened the door for him. Did anyone REALLY think Smith would make it to the preseason games?

The Steelers simply were not going to carry five quarterbacks to Camp, and Jerrod Johnson is eligible for the practice squad, Smith isn't. Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review added this wonderful little revelation about him: "Troy Smith had a cannon for an arm, but unfortunately, he couldn't hit the broad side of a barn and he showed that during OTAs and minicamp." 'Nuff said.

Smith's release ensures that Uncle Charlie Batch and Byron "Don't Hurt Me" Leftwich will make the team. So, the only chance Jerrod Johnson has is by way of an injury. Which, when you consider the history of the aforementioned Leftwich, is definitely possible. In fact, the possibility of an injury to BLove is like a no-hitter in baseball: don't say anything or you'll jinx it. Who knows? I may already have. 


The 2012 Training Camp schedule came out on June 18th and told us that players will report on Wednesday, July 25 and the that the first practice open to the public will be on Friday, July 27. All practices will begin at 3 p.m., except for the annual Friday Night Lights practice which is scheduled for 7 p.m., Friday, Aug. 3 at Latrobe Stadium.

Thanks to 93.7 The Fan, @937theFan on Twitter, here is a complete schedule:

Friday, July 27 – (helmets and shorts)
Saturday, July 28
Sunday, July 29
Monday, July 30 – Campus closed
Tuesday, July 31
Wednesday, Aug. 1
Thursday, Aug. 2
Friday, Aug. 3 – Night practice at Latrobe Stadium, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 4
Sunday, Aug. 5
Monday, Aug. 6 – Campus closed
Tuesday, Aug. 7
Wednesday, Aug. 8-Friday, Aug. 10 – Campus closed
Saturday, Aug. 11
Sunday, Aug. 12
Monday, Aug. 13 – Campus closed
Tuesday, Aug. 14
Wednesday, Aug. 15
Thursday, Aug. 16
Friday, Aug. 17

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Quarterbacks: AFC North

The time of year has come for lots of talk about quarterbacks.  I have decided to do a series on the quarterbacks of the AFC.  I am going to start this off with my favorite division, the AFC NORTH.  This division sent three teams to the playoffs last season and is considered one of the toughest divisions in the NFL.  They are known for their tough defensive play for the most part.  But in here we're going to take a look at and list the quarterbacks.

1.  Ben Roethlisberger:   I am putting Big Ben at the top of this list because frankly he deserves to be there.  Big Ben has gone to three Super Bowls, winning two of them.  Big Ben has been the most consistent quarterback in the AFC North, only missing the playoffs in two of his 8 seasons thus far.  He has only lost one AFC Championship, and that was in his rookie year, the other three he appeared in he led the Steelers to the Super Bowl.  A lot has been said about Big Ben’s play in the Super Bowls but, personally, I do not judge a quarterback strictly on that.  I look at the overall play that got them there in the first place. Even if you consider the two early exits the Steelers suffered since Big Ben has been there, he did everything he could to get the win.   

I look for much of the same from Big Ben next year. There has been a lot of talk that the Steelers will take a step back, including Ben, due to the fact they have a new offensive coordinator in Todd Haley. I, for one, do not believe everything I read.  Big Ben has too much desire to win to allow that to happen.  Big Ben has been branded one of the toughest quarterbacks in the NFL, and with good reason. He has played with some sort of an injury pretty much every season, but it does not seem to slow him down.  Big Ben not only has a new OC, but he also has the most dynamic set of wide receivers he's ever had in the Black and Gold. Not to mention the fact that the Steelers also addressed the offensive line this offseason.  Big Ben recently has come out and said he is not going to change the way he plays.  I like this because letting Ben be Ben is what got them where they are, which is two Lombardi trophies heavier. Now that they're giving him the protection he needs, this could be a big season for him and the Steelers offense. 

2.  Joe Flacco:   Joe Flacco gets my number two nod for many of the same reasons for which Ben got my number one nod, outside of Flacco not having played as long.  Flacco's numbers are not as good as Big Ben's, but he has been consistent in the win column.  Flacco took a step forward last season with his play in the AFC Championship game, even though the Ravens lost.  They did not lose because of Flacco.  He did everything he had to do to win.  I personally believe that if Lee Evans would have caught that pass in the end zone,   then the Ravens would have gone to the Super Bowl, and people who know me know that it stung me to say that.  But we are not known to stay inside the box when putting out our blogs.  We give credit where credit is due.

 This season Flacco will have to step up even more if the Ravens plan on being successful.  In the past they have depended on their defense, and for good reason, but they are going to be missing their defensive player of the year, Terrell Suggs, and, let’s face it, Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are no spring chickens.  It showed in the championship game in which Suggs was a non-factor to begin with.  Personally, I don't think they addressed the offensive issues that needed to be addressed either.  Yes, they will still have Rice, because they will get a deal done before the season starts, but what else do they have?  Yes, Torrey Smith proved to be a speedster and improved as the season progressed, but they don't have much else.  They drafted Tommy Streeter, an unproven rookie, and they still have Bolden, but outside of that I don’t see much improvement. The Ravens also have the third toughest schedule this year.  They are going to have their hands full on their road back to the playoffs.  This is going to be the tale of the tape as to whether Flacco is truly their franchise quarterback or not.  He is in the last year of his contract and has asked for top tier money.  This will be the season he will have to prove he is worth that kind of money.

3:  Andy Dalton:  Dalton was the rookie in the AFC North last season.  No one, including myself, gave the Bengals nor Dalton much of a chance to have a winning season, let alone make the playoffs.  This kid, though, went out, with the help of rookie wide receiver A.J. Green, and proved everyone wrong.  Dalton should have gotten more of a consideration for Offensive Rookie of the Year.  He led the Bengals to a 9-7 record and a wild-card bid in the AFC.  This kid also showed something else.  He has no fear.  He stayed in the pocket, even with the likes of Harrison and Woodley, and Suggs and Ngata coming at him.    That is something you most usually do not see out of rookies.   Despite defenses catching up with him toward the end of the season, I believe he will only improve this season and push the top dogs of the AFC North.  The Bengals had a successful draft in addressing problems spots on their roster and signed some key pieces via free agency.   This team is only going to improve with the youth on offense and the play of a very good defense.  

4:  Colt McCoy/ Brandon Weeden:  There isn’t much I can say about the Browns situation at QB.  We do not know for sure who is going to be the starter.  All signs are pointing towards rookie Weeden, but who knows?   So, that is the reason for the low ranking.   They have not been consistent at QB for some time now.   I don’t look for that to change this season. But, hey, I was wrong about Dalton.   If it is Weeden, then all I can say is don’t look to put up 40 points a game like you did with Oklahoma State.  These are not the same defenses that you played in the Big 12.  The Browns added rookie RB Trent Richardson, but did not address much else on offense. Still, they should be a little better overall.  Their line allowed their quarterback  to be sacked A LOT, and that does need addressing.   So time will tell with this team if Weeden can step up and be their quarterback of the future. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Happy Father's Day

I know that, when I was a little girl growing up, I learned at an early age to love the Steelers.  I learned this from my daddy.  From the time I could walk and hold a terrible towel, he had one in my hand.  He taught me my first words and  those were "Here we go, Steelers".  He instilled in me the things that I know today and those are my knowledge of  not only the Steelers,  but football in general.  He raised me to be a Black and Gold bleeding, die hard Steeler fan like himself.   So for that I say "Thank you, dad."

So that gets me to the point of my blog, I want to say Happy Father's Day to not only own dad, but to the best dads in the world, STEELER DADS!!!   A dad is someone we as kids look up to, they are our heroes in fact.  They are our all and everything.  They are our protectors from all things bad.  No one in our eyes is as great as our dad.  

But Steeler Dads are not only dads,  they are the ones that set the foundation of future Steeler fans.  Yes, I know moms have a hand in it as well, but dad is the one that really teaches you what it means to be a Steeler fan.  It is not all about sitting on the couch and watching games on Sunday.  When you are not sure about something about the Steelers, you go ask dad, he will know.  They teach us about the Draft and all things football.   That is why Steelers fans and especially Steeler Ladies are known to be the most knowledgeable fans in the world.  Ask most and I bet they will tell you that they learned it from their dad.

They teach us at an early age what football is all about.  The rules, the calls, anything that will make you understand the game.  A Steeler Dad will tell you the history of the game.  They make sure we know all about the Steelers from the beginning, not just the Steelers of today.  We know all about the rivalry's , that the Steelers have had.  Because of dad we know that there is more to the Steelers than just six rings.   

They wear their Black and Gold with pride, they root for their team no matter what.  They live by the motto, "Win, Lose, or Tie, I'm a Steelers fan until I die".  They also instill that into their kids.  When you see most pics of kids of Steeler Dads they have something with it representing their team.   I know I had my first Steeler jersey and Terrible Towel at a young age.  

Steeler Dads have their own Steelers rooms, all decked out in Black and Gold, with their Steeler memoribilla and things.  Most of them have a Steelers sticker on their vehicles or  have something Steeler-related in their vehicles.   Some even name their animals after Steeler players.

So I will end this in saying, Happy Father's Day not only to my own Steeler Dad but to all the Steeler Dads and Steeler Dads-to-be.  You guys are not just dads but the BEST DADS IN THE WORLD.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Mr. Goodell, Even NFL Chickens Always Come Home To Roost

The hits just keep coming...

In an article by Pro Football Talk Thursday, Terry Bradshaw was quoted as saying he doesn't think NFL truly cares about former players. This is hardly the first time that the NFL has been accused of such things, as "more than 80 concussion-related suits have been filed against the NFL by more than 2,000 former players." -

This blog has touched quite a bit on the Saints Bountygate scandal and the involvement of the players, coaches and administration. This blog also blatantly accused Roger Goodell and the NFL last season of hypocrisy. So it's no wonder that former players like Bradshaw have said the things they have. The NFL has a terrible track record for taking care of its former, and in some cases current, players.

I'm not going to dwell to much on this because PFT's article itself is so well written. But I did want to briefly speak on something else Bradshaw said that was first said by former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner.

“If I had a son today...I would not let him play football,” Terry Bradshaw told Jay Leno on The Tonight Show." Bradshaw also went so far as to say that football will "phase" out over the next decade.

The notion that football could be gone within the next years isn't what he's saying here, though I have heard certain detractors suggest that very thing. But he is saying that the game we know and love today may be vastly different.

I'm a firm believer in the notion of "they know what they signed up for." A woman who poses nude for a living doesn't have the right to complain when men (and sometimes other women) look at her only as a sex symbol. You don't want to objectified? Keep your clothes on. Similarly, if a man doesn't want to be a piece of meat in another since, keep studying and be a doctor. The point is that neither went into either situation blindly.

NFL players play the game because they want to and know of all the horror stories of retired players long before their first professional down. Stories of those who have to suck their dinner through a straw at age 50 or, worse yet, are already dead at that age. So I'm afraid I can't exactly empathize when I hear the various complaints.

As a form of proof to this sentiment, when Bradshaw was asked if he'd do it all again knowing what he knows, he said he'd "absolutely" do so. For the rest of Bradshaw's comments and the entirety of the article, follow this link:

...And The Horse You Rode In On

I have to get something off of my chest.

I love football. I possibly love my Steelers even more. I've been following them since 1982 and 1983 respectively. In '82 I was given a pro football almanac by my older cousin, whom I've actually mentioned in a previous blog, that started my being a student of the game. I know football. I possibly know my Steelers even more.

These blogs are a reflection of that. I write because I have an opinion, an opinion that people seem to appreciate. But all I have is those stats, memories and opinions. And I proudly share them in this blog. I am not, though, the only writer. I've even written about that other author on occasion.

When accusations come my way regarding things that are written in this blog, I could let them go if I were the only scribe. Let's be realistic, as bloggers we all get the same information from the same sources and, therefore, are going to have similar pieces. Especially if ones have similar writing styles. Period. Especially if ones have similar writing styles.

But I get it, some bloggers have a large website and staff of writers to compensate for other issues. No problem. As I said before, if it were just about me, I'd laugh it off because I know who I am and am slowly letting that be seen. But because of the other aforementioned author to this blog, I don't let it go easily. I take complete offense, in fact. Neither of us needs your blog and both of us are more than intelligent enough to govern ourselves. And since I know this will get back to you, let UTFO tell you what you can do with any part of this blog post:

After that, please follow Megadeath's advice:

Steelers Pass The Test As Minicamp Ends

I guess minicamp is a little like mid-terms: you're tested, in a manner of speaking, on how well you'll stack up against your competition and then you're let out early.

That was the scene Thursday at the final day of minicamp as Head Coach Mike Tomlin and the Pittsburgh Steelers wrapped up their final mandatory minicamp practice of the 2012 off-season. To add to the above analogy, they also have some time off now, over a month, before finals: Training Camp and roster cut-downs.

But one thing is certain about the past few days of minicamp, the Steelers as a whole passed one major test: Staying Injury Free 101.

Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review said that, "All Steelers rookies attended Mike Tomlin's Camp at Brashear today." Not only did they all attend, but they all stayed upright. Many impressed as well. Sean Spence is wowing, Chris Rainey is a blur and Kelvin Beachum is proving himself. Our previous blog post even had the article link that Jim Wexell of Steel City Insider wrote on him.

The drafted rookies aren't the only ones impressing. Adrian Robinson is a defensive end out of Temple university who went undrafted this year, but has caught the attention of Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler. Robinson will look to make the transition to standing up as an outside linebacker in the Steelers' 3-4 system, which is always a tough adjustment for the "tweeners" (think Alonzo Jackson), ones who are physically between a defensive end and an outside linebacker. So, 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. Butler has said, though, that Carter is coming along well, so it'll be tough for my namesake regardless.

Brandon Hicks is another linebacker to garner some attention through OTAs and minicamp. Hicks played both inside and outside at Florida and went undrafted in 2011. He was in the Buffalo Bills Training Camp last year. He'll get mainly inside work with the Steelers, but he is a long shot to make the roster with Spence causing Butler and the other coaches to salivate. Although Butler praised Hicks, he still has to know that the practice squad is his ultimate destination this season. Robinson, therefore, is likely the one with the best shot of the two of earning a roster spot because of his playing the outside spot. He, though, would have to push Mortty Ivy and Carter in Training Camp.

Another undrafted rookie who has been impressing is Terry Carter. On Twitter, Mark Kaboly said about him, "Keep an eye on #Steelers rookie CB Terry Carter. Coaching staff really high on him." According to Neal Coolong, also on Twitter at @NealCoolong, of the website Behind the Steel Curtain, Terry Carter is 5'11" 190 pound cornerback out of Louisiana Tech.

As with any and all of the undrafted rookies, the coaching staff speaking highly of them, unsolicited appraisals no less, says a lot. Not to say that any of them actually even make the initial 53-man roster or practice squad. But I said "initial" for a reason. Things happen throughout the course of a season, be it injuries or players claimed off of waivers, the Steelers will need reliable players they can call to fill spots and even put onto the 53.

It wasn't just rookies impressing and staying injury free. Veterans made their voices heard as well, so to speak. Curtis Brown, James Harrison, Jason Worilds, Stevenson Sylvester, Weslye Saunders, Ramon Foster and a few others did miss a few practices here and there, but no knew injuries occurred and everyone should be near 100% by the time Camp rolls around next month.

There were others who fell into that category as well. Emmanuel Sanders is one of them. He's of particular concern since he had feet and knee problems the last two seasons, and did miss part of minicamp due to some minor knee issues (swelling?). He did, though, say he feels he is "100%" after having surgery on both feet last offseason.

"I definitely feel like I have something to prove. I haven't finished an entire seasons yet....I want to go for a thousand yards, everything that big-time receivers do I want to do that," Sanders said.

Good news from the Steelers best route-running and best blocking wide receiver on the roster. As was said in a recent If It Ain't Steel blog post, he has the requisite tools to be a No. 1 receiver.

Others of interest injury-wise were Rashard Mendenhall and Casey Hampton. Mendenhall continues to rehab from his knee surgery and is going to be on the Active PUP list to start Camp. All signs point to him starting the season on the Reserve PUP list also. He seems confidant he'll be ready week No. 7 rather than 12, but time will tell and he's not one I'd want to see rushed. Hampton on the other hand says he'll be ready by opening day.

"I’m planning on coming back for the season," Hampton said Wednesday. "That’s what I’m looking at. That’s realistic for me. I don’t know about anybody else."

When they report to Camp in late July, the Steelers will have the same PUP list options with Big Snack. What does he think of those options?

"Nah, I can’t see that happening," he said. "I feel like I’m ready to go."

Hampton isn't the only one who has shown optimism. Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert back in February said, "The one edge Casey will have on anybody is that he's been through this twice. He knows what to expect. He knows how to do this. He knows how much work he has to do and he knows how he feels."

If Hampton isn't ready, though, the Steelers will confidently go with backup Steve McLendon.

Two other players coming off of injury are also claiming and looking to be willing, ready and able to participate. Brett Keisel, who suffered a groin injury in January's AFC Wild Card game, took his normal reps and should also be ready for Camp, and Maurkice Pouncey says he feels "awesome."

The ankle Pouncey sprained in the AFC Championship Game against the Jets in 2010 never really healed during that offseason, leading to a painful and sub-standard year for Pouncey that ended with him missing the playoff loss to the Broncos this year completely.

“I came back and it wasn’t healthy,” Pouncey told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I played through it. At the end of the season last year it got too weak and I needed the surgery.”

Having surgery didn’t keep Pouncey from taking part in the offseason sessions with the team, though. In fact, the Steelers feel the operation didn't just repair the problem, but that it will also make Pouncey less likely to sprain it going forward as well.

Mission accomplished. Class dismissed.


TIDBITS:  Former Bengals linebacker Brandon Johnson signed with the Steelers.


Steelers running backs coach Kirby Wilson makes triumphant return 


Mike Prisuta: It was Funny Hat Day on the South Side, started in '07 by Hines Ward, not that anyone was on the field for very long


In a lighter moment, Mark Kaboly reported that Byron Leftwich threw 71 yards Thursday to beat Troy Smith. He said he could throw 80 yards in his younger days. Leftwich then said about the throwing contest, "Had no choice. Tomlin Don Kinged it. He signed me up for the fight and I didn't know i was up for the fight."

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

No Change With Mike Wallace, Ben Roethlisberger Won't Change

Ike Taylor said it last week, football doesn't need Mike Wallace, but Mike Wallace needs football. Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney II feels the same way.

"He should be here," Rooney said Wednesday after the team concluded its morning workout, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. -

It's obvious that Rooney II isn't pleased with the situation at hand. And rightly so from the standpoint that the Steelers historically don't negotiate deals if a player isn't in Camp. Basically, if the player isn't working, neither are they. And Wallace could come into Camp and put on the red shirt/jersey so that he has much less of a chance of being hit/hurt. So Rooney's stance on this is expected.

Others on the team, though, are more optimistic about Wallace Watch.

"I do anticipate him being here for training camp and looking forward to it," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said.

Though he did acknowledge that he doesn't have any inside information: "I don’t know anything. I’m not behind the scenes," he said. "I do talk to Mike. I know Mike wants to be here bad."

"I know Mike will be here. It’s just a matter of when," Big Ben said. "We keep in contact with Mike. We love Mike. We want him here and we need him here. And we’ll get him here. But the guys that are here are doing a great job."

The Steelers could play hard ball and reduce Wallace's salary to 110% of last year's salary, but the word is that they won't do it.

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin chimed in and was even somewhat optimistic in his comments. "Mike has always been guy who's in tip-top condition over a 12-month calendar since we had him," Tomlin said. "He's a sharp guy. I'm sure he's working at the learning element of it. But there's no substitute for being here and being around your teammates and learning the nuances and learning from other people's mistakes."

Bottom line for me is that Wallace should be in Camp. As I said earlier, come on in and wear the red shirt/jersey so that you aren't touched. But you at least get to learn the new offense in a team setting. As I said in a previous blog, Bus Cook is not doing him favors right now.


Ben Roethlisberger spoke to the media Wednesday and made a startling revelation. Ok, maybe not.

"I'm not going to change my game," said Roethlisberger.

Stop the press! (I've always wanted to say that.) Despite Rooney II's statement that the franchise quarterback needs to "tweak" his game, Big Ben has said point blank that he doesn't even know how to do that.

"Coach can do what he wants to add protection and do things like that, but I'm going to play the game the way I know how," Bog Ben said. "It's worked OK for me so far."

Six playoff appearances, three Super Bowls, two Super Bowl rings and a partridge in a pear tree. Yeah, it has worked so far.

He was asked specifically if there was anything that he can do this year to stay healthier, Big Ben said, "Nah, I haven't even thought about that yet. I don't think there's this big revelation like I need to do this, or do that. It's just, don't take hits, but I don't know how not to do that."

When asked If anyone regularly tells him he needs to throw it away or run out of bounds, Big Ben said, "Yeah, all the time. My mom, my wife, my grandma."

Ben, gonna share these words my moms and grandmama used to say to me, "Mama know, baby. Mama know."


TIDBITS: Antonio Brown was given some rather large shoes on Tuesday. Size 86 to be exact.

The 2011 Steelers MVP Antonio Brown has Hines Ward's old locker, and he is well aware of the significance of it: "It's something special. I feel like there's no other place I want to be but right there."


"It's feeling pretty good. Of course, I'll take these next five or six weeks that we have off, do another strength program for knee." - Baron Batch


Rookies DeCastro, Adams busy as minicamp begins per Will Graves of the Associated Press:


Kevin Beachum has been moved to guard. No surprise there. Jim Wexell talks about him here: With all eyes on DeCastro, Adams, Steelers' other rookie lineman impressing: 


The second day of minicamp had the Steelers down three linebackers (Harrison, Worilds, and Sylvester) and one wide receiver (Sanders).


Dwyer, Clay hope to seize opportunity

Steelers Veterans Taking The Lead At Minicamp

Tuesday brought us a lot of good information from the first day of minicamp, with the most important of which being this: no one got hurt. There were a few players who sat out, namely James Harrison, whose injury we already knew about, and Curtis Brown, during the a.m. session of minicamp. But no new injuries being reported.

That no new injuries have been experienced is good, but the veterans, specifically a still-injured one, taking the lead while injured is even better. That still-injured player is Casey Hampton.

Pittsburgh area Associated Press writer Will Graves, @WillGravesAP on Twitter, tweeted that Big Snack is being looked at as Big Coach here early on: "Highlight of #Steelers avail this AM: Somebody put a "Coach Hampton" sign over Casey's locker. He's all for it 'if they add it to my salary.'"

There's a video recap of the first day of mini-camp on that shows Big Coach instructing rookie Alameda Ta'amu Tuesday's practice. This is a just another example of how Steelers veterans take the lead in helping young players and nurturing them. More proof that this is a family-like organization. -Day 1 Recap

Ben Roethlisberger has also been taking the lead with the new offense. Even if that just means not speaking ill of it anymore. Though, he did explain himself regarding that. Big Ben said that he didn't like the idea of bringing in Todd Haley and a new offense at first, but that it just forces him to work harder.

“That was it early on,” Big Ben said. “I felt like I was really starting…I was hopefully going to be coming into the prime of my career and [not] starting all over with an offense.”

Granted, most quarterbacks really hit their stride and even become elite in their early 30's. Big Ben is 30.

He went on to say, “You know what, it kind of put a little extra on me and the rest of the guys to learn the offense and learn something new."

Add to that, he's still newly married, newly graduated college, and even is now a soon-to-be daddy. He and his wife, Ashley, are expecting their first child. A lot on his plate, but he seems to be handling all of it well. When asked about how the due date may affect any games, he said: "Possibly, but, as Coach always says, we will cross that bridge when we come to it."

Here's my prediction: No. 7 will get a 7lb. 7oz. baby boy in approximately 7 months which will inspire him to bring a 7th Ring to the Steel City. Sound good?

Back to the topic of the offense briefly, even Brett Keisel commented on Big Ben's grasp of the offense: "I am very impressed on how Ben has grasped this offense....we are only going to go as far as he can take us." 'Nuff said.

Willie Colon has taken the lead too. Sort of. His welcome to the rookies, "In the huddle I said, 'It smells like baby powder and pampers in here.'"

Oh well, each of us has different motivational and teaching methods.

Friday, June 8, 2012

OTAs To Minicamps: Steelers Offseason Bus Rolls On

As the final session of the OTAs ended Thursday we received a few comments from the various coaches as well clarification on some injury questions. Some of which was very needed information as we head into mandatory minicamps next week.

Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported that "Wes Saunders has been dealing with leg issues." He has a protective boot on his leg. Though which leg wasn't specified, Saunders' limitations may be worth noting considering because, per Jim Wexell of Steelers Digest and Steel City Insider, he has been a bit of a pill during OTAs because of always being in the training room with some form of boo boo. (Cue the Bill Parcells "she" reference.)

Let's hope, though, this isn't a serious or lingering issue. His suspension appeal has more weight now that Ebenezer Samuel, NFL writer for the NY Daily News, reported that "Giants tailback Andre Brown had his suspension lifted after hearing." Brown's suspension was also for Adderall.

Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert was on with Pat Kirwan and Tim Ryan of SiriusXM NFL for about 20 minutes Thursday and had a few things to say about, well, a few different things.
Colbert said that David DeCastro was "sheer luck" at No. 24. Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good.

Sean Spence, Colbert said, definitely has skills and will be good, but he "still has a long time to go until he is ready for prime-time." He said he likes Willie Colon at left guard and that now the left side is a power side, especially when DeCastro pulls from the right guard spot.

Colbert also said three things that weren't any surprise at all. On the whole, he mentioned that Steve McLendon has been a pleasant surprise, that Rashard Mendenhall is still likely to start season on the reserve PUP list, and that he's confident Mike Wallace will have a long term deal for 2012 season and that he stopped by for playbook. It's good news to hear that the GM is confident about one of the team's star players. I know I've been hard on him at times, but Wallace just wants what we all want: to get paid what he thinks he's worth. My real problem is with the advice seemingly being given him by his agent Bus Cook. So, we'll see if Colbert turns out to be a prognosticator.

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger wore No. 78 on the last day of OTAs. When Mike Prisuta of the DVE Morning Show asked him why, he said it for Max Starks. Big Ben said, "The question is, is he healthy? I think he is, so I do think he will be a guy that, if we need to, we can get him back."

What was more encouraging, if not intriguing, was what Ben said of the offense: "I'm not saying I could call a game myself right now, but when (Haley) calls a play I know what's going on for the most part." Neither referring to it as the "Rosetta Stone" nor giving it a backhand compliment, but actually giving it an endorsement, is downright fanfare at this point from the not-so-punky QB known as Big Ben.

Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler had the line of the day when he responded to why he turned down the defensive coordinator job elsewhere: "Mike's got pictures of me"

He wasn't done there. Butler also said he didn't go to Indy, in part, because they didn't have an established QB, because "that's the way coaches lose jobs." Can't argue that.

Butler, though, had a much more poignant comment regarding James Farrior: "I won't ever feel good about not having James Farrior. A guy with that leadership type of quality, and knowing the defense the way he knows it, it was easy for him to set the defense. Stuff that comes up -- and it always does -- on the field that you haven't covered as a coach, he can take care of." ~

I've blogged before that you can't draft leadership. Replacing a player isn't the same as plugging another person into his spot. So much more goes into what that departed player brought to the field than just 235 pounds of muscle. If drafting players purely for speed or measurements was a viable solution, the Oakland Raiders would dominate the NFL. So while succeeding a player is easy, replacing him is not.

We know why Jason Worilds had the cast on his wrist. He said it was wrist surgery and that it was just "a cleanup" and that he'll be out another month. Not sure as to whether he opens camp on the active PUP list or not.

Mark Kaboly wrote regarding the injury: "For you scoring at home, LB Jason Worilds injury is called "Scapholunate Diastasis. Or in layman's terms: Worilds had a ligament tear between two bones inside the wrist. Surgery was required to reconstruct the ligament."

Kaboly also informed us why Deebo has been missing OTAs: "Harrison has been dealing with an inflamed knee. Expected to take part in minicamp, though." I knew I was right in refusing to speculate.

Steelers defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau is confident in the defense's young players. Look, Coach Dad has been in the NFL longer than I've been alive, so I'll just let him talk: "We have some great competition back there at left cornerback. It's gonna be younger....I like our young corners that we picked up last year and this year, it's gonna be interesting." ~

Though Antonio Brown busted out in his sophomore year with 2,048 all-purpose yards, wide receivers coach Scottie Montgomery said this past week that Brown still has a problem: he needs to rest.

Montgomery, in a one-on-one interview with Bob Labriola on Steelers Live at 4, heaped a ton of praise on AB when asked to talk about each of the receivers. "I don't doubt any day when Antonio Brown wakes up that he's not trying to be the best in the world," said Montgomery. "That's exactly when he wakes up, he is trying to be the number one player in the world."

Montgomery went on to say that AB just needs to back off a little bit and rest. "For one, 84, or Antonio, as most people would know him as, sometimes you just have to work on him backing off a little bit, because he is a guy that wakes up at 6 am and starts working out, and doesn't stop working out until about 10 p.m.," said Montgomery. "So what he needs to understand, is from a professional standpoint, professional development sometimes happens through rest."

He can rest all he wants the end zone after he's scored on Ratbirds.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Steelers Offensive Line Coach Not Afraid To Start Two Rookies; Harrison Not Practicing.

Rookies David DeCastro and Mike Adams have both missed all of the OTAs this offseason because of certain NCAA and university requirements. Per Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, "Official rule for college players is that they are allowed to attend OTAs once individual classwork/tests are complete,not when school's out." 

Well, it was reported recently, again by Kaboly, that both will be present for mini-camp: "David DeCastro, Alameda Ta'amu and Mike Adams WILL be at minicamp next week. It's confirmed." This is good news because both DeCastro and Adams need as much time and reps as they can get if they're going to be part of the Steelers starting five offensive linemen Week 1. 

Per Scott Brown, also of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line coach Sean Kugler said that he wouldn't have a problem starting two rookies "if they can earn the jobs." He said further that he'd like to "have a starting five in place by start of training camp."

I wrote once before that I didn't remember the Steelers ever starting two rookies on the OLine opening day (not that I personally remember at least), and that research revealed that they hadn't done so in over 40 years (1968, if I remember correctly). That notwithstanding, Kugler is ready and willing if they are able.

The two rookies will be running with the first offense next week's mandatory mini-camp as well: "@ScottBrown_Trib: Kugler says DeCastro will work with first and second teams at mini camp as will Adams at left tackle." 

To this point, Marcus Gilbert, Jonathan Scott...AARGH!!! (sorry, I still have flashbacks... Can I finally just say goodbye to him and the over $2 million he's set to be paid this year??? That money could be used on someone who could actually block! But, I digress...), and Trai Essex have all had first team reps at left tackle. Gilbert has said not to count him out for the position, though. He says the left tackle spot is his natural and "dream" position. His dream is better than the nightmare that Jonathan Scott was, I admit. But he still has more experience, college and pro, at right tackle, and has reportedly seen most of his snaps on that side during OTAs.

Ramon Foster is speculated to be the backup at this point at right guard, the position he held last season, and has taken most of the first team snaps so far during the OTA sessions. DeCastro is a definite upgrade over Foster, but I'm on record as saying that he and Gilbert formed a good run blocking duo last year. He has his limitations, but he should continue to improve and be a good backup.

A little over two weeks ago I blogged that it was reported that outside linebacker James Harrison had looked fine at the beginning of that OTA session. Well, it was reported Tuesday by Mark Kaboly that Deebo "has worked out, but has not practiced since the first week of OTAs."

We haven't been given a reason as to why, but his back problems are well-documented.

Harrison was first diagnosed with a herniated disc in his lower back in October of 2010 and was presented then with the option of surgery, which would've caused him to miss the rest of the 2010 season, or play through it and put off surgery until after the season. The Silverback took the second option and ended up having two total back surgeries, the initial and the follow-up, within two weeks of each other after the Super Bowl loss.

Honestly, I refuse to speculate about anything going forward. Despite games missed due to injury and Goodell's hard-on for wielding his authority over Harrison, he still had 23.5 sacks over the last two years. Let's wait until Training Camp to see whether he's at full speed or not. He could be pacing himself and making sure his strength and conditioning are ready for the start of the 2012 season. It's early June, not late December, and too early to be concerned with Deebo missing games this year because of his back. 

I will comment, though, on how much work linebacker Jason Worilds needs behind the Silverback during Camp and the preseason. It's his third season, the year when ones are expected to fully come into their own. Harrison's back problems notwithstanding, more needs to be seen from Worilds. His Twitter handle is @WorildsGreatest-it's time to live up to his name.



"Whatever it is they have designed for me to do I'm going to do it and do it to the best of my abilities." - Antonio Brown

"We're in week four. It's definitely starting to click and the light bulb is starting to come on. Everyone is getting more comfortable with it. You're starting to see guys playing faster because we're not thinking as much." - Emmanuel Sanders

The Steelers will hold their 10th and final OTA session at Heinz Field on Thursday. 

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Haley when asked how long it'll take Wallace to pick up offense: "He has to pick it up, so he will."


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Steelers Defensive Ends Star in Transformers 4

The core of every NFL team is it's offensive and defensive lines. No exception. If your core isn't strong, your team will suffer. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. Still, both lines for the Steelers have needed a transformation in order to be that necessary solid core. We know of the offensive line's recent history, but I'm going to focus here on a defensive line that gave up an unheard of 100 yards per game (99.8 ypg to be exact).  

Though, much has been written about the inconsistency, injuries and age of the Steelers defensive line, those issues are seemingly being transformed right in front of our eyes.

And if the ends on that defensive line were to star in a movie, the obvious title would be "Transformers 4."

OPTIMUS PRIME: Brett Keisel, with Casey Hampton being on the PUP list to start the season due to an injury suffered in January's playoff game against the Broncos, is the elder statesman and unquestioned leader of the defensive line. The 33-year old Keisel, who suffered a severe groin injury in the same playoff game, was able to avoid offseason surgery and appears to be ready for his 11th year.

Keisel was interviewed by Jim Wexell of Steel City Insider a couple of weeks ago and credited Steelers strength and conditioning coach Garrett Giemont for helping him rehab and that he feels ready to get back out on the field. Keisel told Wexell that his age is not a factor and that he feels like he has gotten better as he has gotten older. He also said he is not concerned at all about his ability to be able to go out and perform. Without Aaron Smith on the other side anymore, his performance will be important.

IRONHIDE: Ziggy Hood has seemingly had a fire lit underneath him and looks to be the big bruiser expected from the beginning. I blogged a few days ago about a weighted vest he's been wearing at the OTAs, but more information has come out since then about his offseason regimen. He has taken up training with Outer Limits Sports and has truly transformed his body.

A tweet to Jim Wexell from Outer Limits tells the story: “@outerlim: @jimwexell Ziggy Hood's transformation 2012. Photos taken 29 days apart.  Bodyfat:18% (from 24%) Wt: 305 lb to 307 lb. "

It was also noted that Ziggy lost 18 lbs. of fat and gained 20 lbs. of muscle. The photo attached shows how he's transformed his body already, and this is just phase one. I look forward to seeing the next phase(s). There are video clips of his workouts on the site also. Give them a look at

As I've written before, strength is one thing but his gap and technique deficiency is another. Much is expected this year from him as he has another level to go before being the dominant presence that Aaron Smith was.

RATCHET: Cameron Heyward will have to wait before making his first NFL start, especially if the transformation Ziggy is making translates to the practice/playing field. That's not to say, though, that Heyward won't get a lot of snaps in his second season and be the main reason Keisel stays healthy all season.

Heyward was asked on 93.7 The Fan last week just how comfortable he is now and how much of a jump he expects to make this upcoming season. Heyward replied, "Oh, I feel a lot more comfortable. My confidence has rose, just because I feel comfortable in the defense and I'm expecting a better result. You know, I'm going into this season with high hopes and just get out there and prove myself and just go from there."

That comfort level may just allow him to get several snaps at both end positions in 2012, spelling Keisel, as well as Ziggy, throughout the season. Keisel even said himself last week that he will probably need to be spelled more this year. Keisel said in his interview on 105 The X last week, "He's got to be ready be to go. He's got to be the guy that's versatile, that can play all three positions - knows all the nickel and dime - he's got to be that guy you know. I'm getting older. I'm going to need a few spells during the game. He's got be that guy that can come in and be reliable and be accountable."

Heyward says he's ready, though: "I haven't even worried about that, I'm just trying to get better out here. I'll let my play show it off and continue to improve." He also said how important the OTA sessions are to him this year, "I think it's vital for me to take-in the playbook a lot more and learn from my mistakes and take time to shine up and oil up and learn my technique and get better at it."

Well said, Heyward. Though, I prefer not to even picture the "oil up" part. Leave that to your lady. (Is her name "Arcee", by chance? I digress...)

BUMBLEBEE: Steve McLendon has played defensive end before as well, but will be mainly responsible for anchoring the line. A protector of sorts.

McLendon's solid weight gain (from about 290 lbs when signed in 2009, to 305 lbs at the start of last year and to a reported 325 lbs now) and work ethic have caused the Steelers to have enough confidence in him that he will be the starting nose tackle Week 1.

"Everybody wants to discard McLendon. Let me tell you this, hold your opinion until the season is over," Steelers defensive line coach John Mitchell said at April's NFL Draft. "I'm just saying keep your opinion until after the season, [then] you make the decision."

Undrafted out of Troy in 2009, the 6'4" McLendon spent his first season on the Steelers' practice squad before appearing in 21 games over the past two seasons. He has 15 tackles and one sack in fewer than 200 total plays.

McLendon pinpointed his opportunity to earn a starting job: "That comes from trust," McLendon said. "That trust comes from doing everything right. You are not going to be perfect, but [Coach John Mitchell] saw that I came in day in and day out with my lunch pail and I was ready to work. Coach Mitch knows that I know my stuff."

The coaches know all their "stuff." They know who their players are and of what those players are capable. Despite so many in the media saying their age and injuries are a reason to overlook them, the coaches know that there's more than meets the eye.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Hybrid Players, Antonio Brown Won't Hold Out Next Year, And Another Episode Of "BEN Being BEN"

As the offseason and OTAs roll along, we get lots of TMZ, yellow journalism and "As The World Turns" type news thrown our way, even amongst the local writers at times. What do you expect, though? This is the offseason and it isn't as if there's game preparation, strategies and injuries about which to write. But there is still good reporting and still good articles being disseminated to us.

Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review wrote a column Thursday regarding the role of hybrid players in the Steelers new offense. He focused on Baron Batch and Chris Rainey in particular.

One thing Kaboly wrote was that "only a fraction of Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley’s system has been installed through the first two weeks of organized team activities."

He went on to say, "Even so, one critical concept has become quite clear — a player who can line up as a running back, motion out of the backfield and set up at the slot receiver position is going to be extremely valuable."

When asked about his role and whatever that "hybrid" role may be, Batch said, "Wherever they need me, whatever I can do. I've always been type of player that is unselfish and willing to do a lot of things....Special teams is definitely something that I feel I would be able to contribute on, I really feel like I could help on offense."

Chris Rainey, the other side of the focus of the article, is just the type of player you want if your definition of hybrid is "scary." You know that dream that most of us have had where you realize too late that you went to school, work or church naked? (I apologize to any former catholic altar boys for any repressed memories I've caused to surface.) Well, that's what Chris Rainey is: so fast, so elusive and so quick that most defenders are left feeling exposed, naked and stripped of their dignity. That's something that the offense could definitely use.

Speaking of skills that can definitely be used, I segue from the offensive to the defensive side of the ball. Because this concept of the hybrid applies to defense too.

The Steelers third round pick Sean Spence may be the perfect example of that on the defensive side of the ball. Though I personally was looking for a Buck linebacker in the draft, I can't deny the athleticism that I see when I watch the various clips of his play. Coach Mike Tomlin refers to him as having very good "see-to-do", and that, coupled with the aforementioned athleticism, is going to be needed when dealing with those pass catching tight ends.

Spence has safety-like abilities in that linebacker body and will be used a lot in coverage. Once he gets involved with the Steelers training system he'll gain about five pounds or so of muscle and will be played in the box as much because his sideline-to-sideline prowess can't be denied. What's Spence looking to do in the meantime to get playing time? "My head is all the way in the playbook and also on special teams. I just want to get better each and every day." Good to hear, Spence.


With all the talk of Mike Wallace's OTA holdout, one of the things I've said for some time now was that I truly didn't think that Antonio Brown (nor Emmanuel Sanders, for that matter) would be the type to do the same next year. Well, he's come out and confirmed my beliefs.
In an article by Ed Bouchette, Brown was quoted as saying, "It's definitely a learning process for me, being that I could be faced with the same circumstances next year. I tend to learn from it, take notes."

Brown, the sixth round pick out of Central Michigan, went on to say, "Whatever the case may be, I plan on being here." Thank you, AB, for making me look good (because that was obviously the reason you said it in the first place).


Ben Roethlisberger never met a microphone he didn't like. And (un)fortunately there was another in his face this past Wednesday after the team wrapped up practice of their second offseason OTAs. Once again he made a few Ben-like comments that some having interpreted as a shot to the fans as well as Todd Haley.

Roethlisberger was asked by Joe Starkey if it was just a matter of getting on-board with Haley after he seemingly didn't like the change of coordinators this past offseason to which Big Ben replied, "Yeah, absolutely. You have no choice and like I said we're coming along and everyday it's getting a little bit better and we're learning and we'll be running the ball a lot this year, so fans should be happy."

To confirm what he'd just heard, Starkey asked Big Ben if indeed the Steelers will be running a lot this season. "I think so", said Big Ben. He added, "That's the way it seems. So we've got some good ball carriers and I know Red (Isaac Redman) is excited for the opportunity, and I know the fans want it, so it looks like they'll be getting their wish."

In the same interview Big Ben reiterated what he's said in past interviews, that learning the new offense is uncomfortable as it includes change. He also said that he and Haley are still learning each other as well as the offense.

Was this just yet another case of Ben being Ben, or is it a valid complaint? I'll keep this short for you: it's Ben being Ben.

I see it as Big Ben, yes, doing a little purposeful pouting and whining. Because if it doesn't work out, he then will have the opportunity/ability to say that it was new offense and that he just didn't get quite comfortable enough. At the same time, though, with what I've been able to glean, it's also smoke and mirrors. I believe there will be more balance overall. There will naturally be more running at the beginning of the year as they're all still getting used to the timing of the new offense. Pass blocking, routes and timing with the receivers doesn't come as easily as run blocking, punching the defensive lineman in the nose and the running back's stepping on his neck as he's busting through the hole. The run will set up the pass, especially early on. But Haley also wants to use his weapons and he knows that he has two Pro Bowl wide receivers, an underrated tight end and a two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback who knows the art of play action. Thus, smoke and mirrors.

Look, it's very obvious that Big Ben reads the papers and listens to talk radio, but not all of the fan base wants to run 40 times a game. Most realize that the NFL is now a passing league and that you need to be able to spread teams out at least somewhat. You don't, though, need to lead the league in rushing to win or compete for a Super Bowl. To that point, the Steelers passed the ball 57.2% of the time last year, 52.6% in 2010, and 54.7% in 2008. When they do run, though, they need to be effective and balanced. Having only 28% of your offensive production coming from the run game is unacceptable and unSteeler-like.

So, expect more of the occasional passive-aggressive blustering from employee No. 7...As The Burgh Turns.

 Aside: I must correct some figures I threw out on at least one other blog when I wrote that the Steelers ran the ball only 32% of the time last year. I was wrong in two ways. They actually ran the ball 43% of the time (42.8% to be exact). Where I further erred was that the percentage of offense from the run was not 32%, but 28%. I don't know how I could have erred so egregiously, but I do apologize to all who follow my blog and possibly depend on stats that I provide.


One last thing: Some fans are still clamoring for the Steelers to go out and get a "traditional" fullback. Stop it. It will not happen. The league has shifted away from the traditional fullback now. Period. Even Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler said as much after the draft when he said, "Everybody is using tight ends as fullbacks and sometimes they use them when trying to lead and sometimes they don’t. A lot of stuff today is mis-direction and trying to fool you or out-number you one way and then give you a different look coming back the other way."

The fullback position is not the fullback position of 10 years ago, just like the tight end position has started to become more of a hybrid position. (There's that word again.) So don't expect it, even though the position, whether called H-back or fullback, will be utilized.