Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Emotion's Journey

Watching you, vigorous desire in full measure;
Emotions...awash in a sea of pleasure.
Your form orgasmic, covered in pure fashion;
It attacks my senses and awakens passion.
A feast to my eyes that feeds my heart,
Come in, Imzadi, let your fear depart.
Be transported by love, brim with excitement;
Fall into my arms, succumb to contentment.
Let my love unite us and warm our embrace;
Allow our arms to tie us in ribbon-like grace.
My princess will be my queen-I, her king;
Mother of my children in unending Spring.
Summer's ardor will set ablaze your senses, 
While Autumn's love remembers no offenses.
Our Winter? Snow cools not our love;
This furnace will still burn like heaven's eye above.
Touching, kissing, feeling, soaring, flying...
Shall I take more? Eternally, never dying. 

"You are altogether beautiful, O girl companion of mine, and there is no defect in you." - The Song of Solomon 4:7

It's Been A Long Time: Mike Wallace, James Harrison and Jason Worilds Are Back

"Follow procedures, the crowd couldn't wait to see this.
Nobody been this long awaited since Jesus...." - Rakim ~ "It's Been A Long Time"

"@Wallace17_daKid: Sorry for the wait!! #Steelernation"

That was the tweet sent out by Mike Wallace shortly after arriving at the Steelers south side facility on Tuesday. He spoke to the media Tuesday afternoon after arriving earlier in the day and clarified some things and was unapologetic about others. It wasn't that media we at If It Ain't Steel are going to focus on, though.

Social media was all a twitter (pun intended) with the news of the return of the speedy wide receiver. As good as the news is for the Steelers on the field, there were still mixed reactions from fans. 

“@pghsteelersgrl: For the record, Mike Wallace is still on my sh** list, and will remain there unless he has an amazing season.” 

“@PghGurl: I know this isn't a popular opinion, but I am SO FREAKING EXCITED that Mike Wallace is back & I welcome him back with open arms.”

"@HoffDwight: It's a shame that greed has become the root of all evil for Mike Wallace not just him all NFL Players it really makes me sick"

“@SportsChick24_7: I didn't think I was getting paid enough, so I told my boss I was holding out... I'm now unemployed.”  

Patty Cain Biondillo on Facebook: "WALLACE AT SOUTHSIDE FACILITY. PRESS CONFERENCE AT 1:30!!!!! :)"

I think Patty's excited...

Wallace has rubbed many the wrong way this offseason with how he's handled his contract situation. As was said in a previous blog post, because there has been a perceived Divo attitude, he could've gone a long way in correcting that and assuaged a lot of acrimony by saying SOMETHING definitive.

As long as there's no actual Divo attitude, though, let's just get to work. 

All through this ordeal and holdout, we've expressed the Steelers' need of Mike Wallace. The benefits of the only receiver in the NFL with more than 1,000 receiving yards as well as a better than 16.0 yard per average in each of the last two seasons. The speed, the explosion, the decoy factor and the fear factor. 

We have also criticized where appropriate. Despite the above numbers, we've spoken also of the drop off in the second half of the season. More than the drop off is the appearance of being disenchanted if not involved early in the game. Also, there were the decisions he's made and the comments in an early offseason interview. Despite these, though, we've never overtly bashed him.

That said, then, two of the above quotes stood out to us and we wanted to touch on them quickly. Bear in mind, we follow and, in a couple of cases, even befriend the people quoted above, so we're only using their posts because we respect their opinions, knowledge, rationale and/or ardor. First, therefore, being the words, "greed has become the root of all evil for Mike Wallace." 

Though valid, our response to that would be, "When did he actually say he wanted all that (Larry Fitzgerald) money? Show me the actual quote." We don't know his actual demands. We only have nebulous reports. No, Wallace hasn't handled this the best, but we would contend that it was more about the threat (fear?) of injury than him doing his best Dr. Evil impression and demanding ONE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS!  

Look, I'm not stupid, I know he wants to get paid. But, just because there was a holdout doesn't mean he wanted $120 million with he and the Steelers being $70 million at that point. They could very easily only have been an approximate $8 million (which I believe is the actual case) apart. 

Next was the posting that suggested that we'd be unemployed if we common folk tried to "hold out" for more money at our jobs. A common notion, if not incorrect. 

Incorrect in that, in a sense, Wallace already was unemployed. He hadn't signed his tender yet. So, even though the Steelers held his rights, he wasn't on TE payroll. That's not where I want to focus, though. What the focus will be is his being in a specialized profession. 

If you're an hourly wage worker, this doesn't necessarily apply to you. If you're a doctor, a lawyer, highly successful in sales or something of the like, you're in a specialized profession that is in demand and you damn well better believe you can "hold out" if you don't like what may be going on around you or if you believe you can get more or better elsewhere. 

You also absolutely could use that as leverage if offered or seeking more or better, causing the employer who currently carries your contract to up the ante if they don't want you to leave. To quote the movie Goodfellas, at that point it's "Fu** you! Pay me!" 

So, yes, this does happen in "real life" as it's been referred to before. While we've been miffed at him before too, we still won't hold it against him. Wallace and every other NFL player, relatively speaking, has a short career. They get 10 years, more if they're fortunate, and the second contract is the most important. 

So, while we at If It Ain't Steel may not be welcoming him back "with open arms," we aren't putting him on any list unless he has a great season, either. We simply expect Wallace to prove himself by getting into the playbook and then into, as his personal Twitter page says, "somebody's end zone."


Bob Labriola posted to his Twitter account Tuesday that, "Harrison and Worilds come off PUP. This means both will be on the season-opening 53-man roster come Friday, and not the reserve/PUP list."

More good news for the Steelers, though it is tempered with a touch of speculation considering both players have had difficult offseasons. Each is coming off of offseason surgery, knee surgery for Harrison and wrist for Worilds. 

The Silverback hasn't practiced since the Steelers first OTAs, as he had both left knee and back problems. He had the surgery done almost two weeks ago and said Tuesday in an interview that he is feeling a lot better now. Deebo did still refer to himself, though, as "day-to-day." 

Worilds missed all of the OTAs, minicamps and now Training Camp after having his wrist surgery. 

Neither player will play in the final preseason game Thursday against the Carolina Panthers, and there is question as to whether either will play much in the season opener in Denver. Nevertheless, both players will now go through the three-day acclimation period per the new CBA, which means only walk-throughs until Monday, September 3rd.

Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler has expressed concern over both, about which this blog has written before. Though veterans, especially in the case of Harrison, they still need practice time to get themselves into football conditioning and back up to game speed. Again, don't expect either to see a lot of action against the Broncos. Rather, barring setbacks, expect each to be brought along slowly until after the bye, while relying more heavily on LaMarr Woodley and Chris Carter in the interim. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

2012 Steelers Roster Projection (incl. injuries update)

It's time for our look at the projected Pittsburgh Steelers 2012 roster, and, with the surgeries in the offseason, injuries in Training Camp and in the preseason games, it hasn't been easy. In fact, I have personally never had a harder time projecting a final roster. Lots of initial scenarios, to be blunt, have simply been flushed.

We've had to figure out some ways to free up some roster spots because the list of injured players makes it so that the roster we'll see week one won't be the roster we'll see week five after the bye. I've thought of the Steelers possibly keeping five running backs, four wide receivers or eight offensive linemen as ways to squeeze in that extra player in order to complete an initial 53-man roster. Per the league, teams must reduce rosters to 75 players on the Active List prior to 4:00 p.m. EST on the 27th and to 53 on the 31st.

Injuries are the biggest issue, especially at linebacker. James Harrison, Jason Worilds and Stevenson Sylvester are all injured, with Worilds still actually being on the PUP list. How does that affect how many linebackers are initially kept on the roster? The Steelers always keep eight and sometimes nine. I lean toward nine as you'll see. 

The other injury issues exist on the offensive line with Steelers first round draft pick David DeCastro going down to a knee (MCL, dislocated patella & ruptured patellar tendon) injury. I expect him to be put on Injured Reserve (UPDATE: DeCastro was not put on IR) and for Ramon Foster to resume his right guard position. Which might mean that Trai Essex finds his way to a position again. 

The only other thing that's up in the air is the wide receiver position. No, not...him. I mean the possibility of only keeping four wides because of no one definitively separating himself from the pack. First Marquis Maze was a possibility, then David Gilreath and then Derrick Williams had a good game against the Buffalo Bills in the third preseason game. Sadly, Toney Clemons has never shown being worthy of a seventh round draft pick. Will one of these be a fifth or sent to the practice squad?

Keep in mind that these names can and will change some after the bye week or, at the latest, when Worilds comes off the PUP. But, without further ado, let's look at the initial roster according to If It Ain't Steel:


Ben Roethlisberger- 7 for #7? We're in the Todd Haley era, but it seemed more like Ben being Ben on the 98 yard drive to end the half vs. the Bills. Bottom line-he's ready; Byron Leftwich- Often fragile, but often wins. His performance in Buffalo only proves that; Charlie Batch- so Uncle Charlie will be out there with his walker and hearing aid again, huh? Batch knows Ben well, is a quarterback coach on sidelines for him, plus he knows the position inside and out and he wins.

Running Backs:
Rashard Mendenhall- his healing ACL will keep him out until after the bye in week five; Isaac Redman- runs with authority whenever he has the ball in his hands; Jonathan Dwyer- steadily making great progress and looks more and more like what was expected out of college; Baron Batch and Chris Rainey (with Will Johnson at fullback)- Rainey is ELECTRIC and is the flash to Batch's substance and blocking ability. This was one of the trouble areas-how to list Rainey, where to play Rainey, how to best use Batch...they can be more of a compliment than originally thought and I believe they both make it and with Johnson blocking for them all.

Wide Receivers:
Mike Wallace- I know he's caused friction, mainly among fans, but the Steelers are better with him. Period.; Antonio Brown- he's like the energizer bunny, he just keeps going and going and going...; Emmanuel Sanders- the agony of da feet? Maybe, but the outlook is getting more and more optimistic...and he's the best all-around WR on the team; Jerricho Cotchery- he's a poor man's Hines Ward and is deadly in the red zone-over half of his NFL touchdowns have come inside the 20 yard line; David Gilreath- special teams ability and looks to have sure hands if the Steelers go Zero Formation.

Tight Ends
Heath Miller- incredibly underrated TE who may career numbers in new offense; Leonard Pope- better at receiving than at blocking, but he's a very big red zone target; David Paulson- but only until Weslye Saunders comes back after his three-game suspension.

Offensive Line:
Max Starks- blindside, reliable, dependable, smart; Willie Colon- he's been mauling guys across from him in preseason-I've said for a while he could play guard and he could be Pro Bowl caliber if he wants to be; Maurkice Pouncey- the anchor; Ramon Foster- back at the position because of DeCastro's injury and is solid at right guard, especially in the run; Marcus Gilbert- solid first season and, if he stays at RT, should only get better; Doug Legursky- The Big Legursky; Mike Adams- coming along slowly after having real problems in the first two preseason games, and may start by the end of the season if that learning curve continues; Trai Essex- Y'all remember him, right? He's the jack of all line positions, master of none and has found his way onto the roster yet again.


Defensive Line:
Evander Hood- with the unsung hero gone, Ziggy has to take control; Casey Hampton- won't start the season, but will contribute in what should be his final season; Brett Keisel- the Pro Bowler had another solid season last year; Steve McLendon- Will be the starter and will have fans forgetting Big Snack by the end of the year; Cam Heyward- a real mean streak...just needs to use it on the opposing team more; Alameda Ta'amu and Al Woods- Woods is veteran player who can play either side if needed and Ta'amu was supposed to be the future until Training Camp showed that the future isn't now.

Lamarr Woodley- I expect bigger things this year from Woodley-he has to step up and be the leader of the linebackers; Larry Foote- the Buck stops here as Foote takes over for Potsie; Lawrence Timmons- the mind boggles at what he could accomplish this year...if left in his natural Mack position; James Harrison- back and knee problems will affect him in what should be his last season in Pittsburgh, but he's still Deebo and "you got knocked the fu** out, man!; Sylvester Stevenson- will miss the first four weeks, but should come back strong; - his swan song with the Steelers; Jason Worilds- make or break season for Worilds that may start on the PUP list; Chris Carter, Sean Spence and Brandon Johnson- all make it because of the injuries in the linebacker corps, and should all stick. Johnson has the needed experience, Spence has the hybrid quickness, speed and ability to stay with TEs and I'm not saying Carter is a beast just yet, but I've seen the fangs.

Defensive Backs
Ike Taylor- Face me, Ike! Swag wants to make everyone forget Denver, starting in Denver; Keenan Lewis- has finally earned a starting spot and will have to be pushed out of the starting position; Cortez Allen- nickel specialist who wants to push Lewis out of the starting position; Curtis Brown- could see the field more this year between special teams and Dime and select nickel packages; Ryan Clark- led the Steelers in tackles last year; Troy Polamalu- I hear this guy's good...though, we may see him start to decline this year; Ryan Mundy- knows the defense well and will start in Denver; Da'mon Cromartie-Smith- the extra safety because of Clark's absence in Denver, may be replaced on roster by cornerback Terrence Frederick or safety Robert Golden after; Will Allen- still a valuable backup safety and special teams guy.

Special Teams:
Shaun Suisham (K)- honestly it could just as easily be Danny HrappmanDrew Butler(P)- he's beaten out Kapinos who has back problems; Greg Warren(LS)- he wears no. 60 and you'd be surprised at how many downfield plays he actually makes.

Practice Squad
LB Adrian Robinson- I wanted SO BADLY to put him on the team, but the special teams aspect of it won it for Johnson. But AR is a player who could make the roster of virtually any other NFL team, but these are the Pittsburgh Steelers, aka "Linebacker, Inc"
G Kelvin Beachum- A guard who is very smart and will only benefit from being placed here in order to learn from OL coach Sean Kugler. 
WR Tyler Beiler- Over Toney Clemons? Yes, because Beiler has the edge in blocking. Clemons simply couldn't catch anything either.
TE Jamie McCoy- Had too many other TEs in front of him, so it's back to PS.
C/G John Malecki- Showed himself well in Camp again, just not quite well enough.
G Ryan Lee- He really needs another year to maturate.
DT Corbin Bryant- Was a force in Camp and in preseason, made people take notice again. Could it be him instead of Woods?
CB Terrence Frederick- He is very raw and needs time to hone his skills.
ADJUSTED 8-man Practice Squad projection: LB M.McFadden, WR/KR Gilreath, DL C.Bryant, OL R.Lee, CB T.Frederick, S D.Cromartie-Smith, RB J.Harris & OL J.Malecki

Friday, August 24, 2012

Isaac Redman, Max Starks And Players To Watch

"I wasn't sure how my body would react, but I don't feel anything right now. Kind of feel like I never really injured it."

Those words were spoken by the Pittsburgh Steelers running back Isaac Redman after practice on Thursday as he prepared for the third preseason game against the Buffalo Bills. Regarding the game itself, he said further, "I'm anxious to get out there. I want to get out there and play and give it my all."

Redman had to sit out the Steelers second preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts because of a hip injury. Since Redman's health status was unclear and Rashard Mendenhall, who was just removed from the Active PUP list, certainly won't be ready, until now we'd had Dwyer as the starter not only in Buffalo, but in Denver on September 9th also. Looks like that might not be the case after all.

Nonetheless, Redman has seen little action this preseason. He was in for 11 plays in the first preseason game against the Eagles and carried the ball just five times for 14 yards. He also caught a pass for five yards on the first play of the game.

So, Redman will play Saturday night in Buffalo, but what's unknown is how much. Tomlin has stated that the starters will play at least the first half, maybe more. Since Jason Ford, who has a hamstring strain, won't make the trip, the carries will be divided between Redman, Jonathan Dwyer, Baron Batch and Chris Rainey. 

Per Mike Tomlin on Thursday, the inactive list for Saturday will consist of Ford, James Harrison, Mendenhall and Stevenson Sylvester. Hampton is traveling with the team, but is unlikely to play. None of the others will even make the trip. As a matter of fact, Mendenhall says he has no timetable at all yet on his eventual return.

“To be real, I don’t know when I’ll be ready to play,” said the running back who injured his right ACL in the 2011 regular-season finale at Cleveland. “I’m just working with the training staff and doing what I can to get on the field.”

Unlike most recovering from ACL injuries, Mendy downplays the mental hurdles involved: "Theres a physical difference, and once that's gone, I'll be able to play."

Regardless, that timetable he doesn't know about? Don't expect him back before the bye.

Max Starks will also start against Buffalo. Whether he plays for a quarter or a half is unknown, since he nor the coaches wants to overdue it. Tomlin, expressively forthcoming as always simply said, "Our intentions are to let him play."

Tomlin also said it's unlikely that fourth-string quarterback Jerrod Johnson, who seemed a little more comfortable his second time out, will play against the Bills. Though, Tomlin didn't make a determination who the 2nd QB is yet, I would expect to see Byron Leftwich before Charlie Batch this time. 


PLAYERS TO WATCH in Saturday's preseason game against the Bills: 

DAVID GILREATH is consistently good in short area quickness and burst. He's still trying to earn a spot on this roster, but should be considered the frontrunner for the fifth wide receiver spot.

CHRIS CARTER is taking advantage of a golden opportunity and is "improving daily." With Harrison still ailing, look for him to stake a claim for the starting right outside linebacker position (with a solid performance over Cordy Glenn Saturday) against the Broncos to start the season.

JUSTIN PEELLE is a tight end who has played fullback and was brought in to replace the Steelers' David Johnson who was a tight end who had played fullback. Someone needs to be able backup WVU product Will Johnson and still play TE as well. 

MORTTY IVY, another WVU product, may just find a way onto the roster this year considering all the injuries to the position. If he has another solid game and can hold off Adrian Robinson, he just might do it this time. Though, both could make the initial 53-man roster with the aforementioned injuries being an issue. 

AL WOODS and CORBIN BRYANT are battling for the same position and one has to go. Woods had the big interception that he took about 50 yards into the red zone. It must've taken a lot out of him because Bryant received the majority of the snaps in the second game. Who'll step up Saturday?

Skip Bayless Wrong In Vilifying Ryan Clark For Ravens Comments; Steelers Make Special Change

"Genius doesn't work on an assembly line basis. You can't simply say, 'Today I will be brilliant.'"

Few sports broadcasters today exemplify that quote more than ESPN personality Skip Bayless. His comments on Thursday's episode of First Take regarding Ryan Clark's interview on the NFL Network this week prove that statement yet again. 

Clark, the starting free safety of the Pittsburgh Steelers, answered questions regarding the rival Baltimore Ravens. As expected, Clark spoke on the games themselves and how last year's games affected him.

"I will say this about the Ravens: Playing that first game last year and watching them dance on the field, seeing them fake an extra point while up 27 [points] already, it allowed me to understand how much they actually dislike us as an organization," Clark said. 

He admitted that seeing them do that left an impression: "It brewed and stirred up a little hate in me, also for me to understand how I have to approach playing them and how I have to look at them."

Clark rightly felt incensed at such a junior varsity move. There was a bit of poetic justice, though, as the Ravens promptly went out the next week and were beaten by the Tennessee Titans, 26-13. They had obviously put too much emphasis on beating the Steelers. Not once, but twice. 

After the week eight 23-20 win over the Steelers, the Ravens players gave their head coach, John Harbaugh, a Gatorade bath. Well, they blew their wad again and Joe Flaccid and co. went limp into the Seattle Seahawks game and lost 22-17. Clark referenced that also, noting a difference with the Steelers' team and organization.

"I still feel like, this organization, we worry about winning championships. We don't focus on beating one team," Clark pointed out. "It won't be Gatorade baths because we beat the Ravens. It won't be parties, it won't be bottles popping and confetti. It will be one game on our journey to win the Super Bowl and I always look at that."

The reason this is being written, though, is because of the usual crack analysis by ESPN's Skip Bayless. And by crack I mean he must be smoking it, because he took issue with what Clark initially had said during that interview. Clark was asked about his personal feelings of the Ravens and responded positively. 

"I get that question a lot and I don't really hate them," Clark told them. "I was working out with Terrell Suggs this summer before his injury and he's a really cool dude. He said it himself that people don't understand that we only hate you two or three weeks out of the year." 

Skip Bayless took exception with this.

Speaking to guest analyst former NFL player Marcellus Wiley, @marcelluswiley on Twitter, Bayless asked, "You bridged the gap between the old NFL and new NFL, what happened to the old NFL that I grew up loving? What happened to the man's game? What happened to blood and guts, and Steelers hating Ravens, hating Steelers, and Cowboys hating Redskins, Redskins hating Cowboys?" 

"This just turns my stomach to see a Raven and Steeler, both of them decent guys, but suddenly it's all peace and love because they worked out in Arizona in the offseason....If you're a Steeler, you don't associate with the Ravens because it can creep into your psyche that you kind of like the Ravens." 

Huh? "Like the Ravens?" We're talking on the field here. "Like?" Like them? Sorry, not on the field. After Stephen A. Smith told him that he was ridiculous, Bayless got a very poignant response from Wiley when he spoke about rivals. 

"Do you know that the best underlying emotion, when you're talking about competition, is love, not hate? Think about sibling rivalry: when you go against your brother, you want to go after your brother much harder than you want to go against a guy who was drafted to another team," said Wiley.

Wiley is not only right, but this is by no means anything new. Players, even of rival teams, often actually befriend one another. They text, call, hang out, golf and apparently work out together in the offseason and have for years. 

As Wiley referenced, Magic Johnson and Isaiah Thomas were very close all during their playing career, even famously giving each other a quick peck on the cheek at the tip-off of games. They also gave us some historic performances against each other and even almost got into fights and had to be separated a couple of times.

Bayless, though, didn't respond to a basketball example. So, I'll provide a reminder that Reggie White used to gather players from both teams to pray after the game. After the battle, they left it on the field. 

Another example is a little closer to home. After Ben Roethlisberger faced and was eventually absolved of sexual assault allegations, it was Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis who reached out to the maligned quarterback. Big Ben has even been quoted as saying that they text and or call each other regularly in the offseason. 

More impressive than reaching out to Big Ben was what he did before the 2010 Ravens-Steelers game at M&T Bank Stadium. Lewis took stadium security with him before the game and had all 'Ben is a rapist' type signs taken down and removed. A class act move and something that should be respected. 

So, what's Bayless' problem? Where was the vitriol regarding Lewis and Big Ben? This is a career for the players, this is their job. They know how keep it in perspective after the game is done, how, again, to leave it on the field. Wiley pointed that fact out also. 

"The fans are the ones who are supporting this mythology that we hate everyone on the other team."

Ryan Clark is boisterous, but he isn't belligerent. He expresses his opinion, but he isn't contemptible. He interacts with Steelers fans on Twitter and is always personable. Skip Bayless, despite having various valid points when you listen to the entire podcast on ESPN, was wrong overall in his assessment of Clark's sentiments and of the NFL.

I understand that Bayless is paid to cause controversy, to create headlines and to stir contentions among fans. The latter simply won't happen with this fan. Ryan Clark's respect for his enemy, per se, is commendable and he doesn't have to hate the Raven's players or team. 

Besides, I hate them enough for both of us.


Before a completely asinine Mike Wallace-to-Colts trade rumor on Thursday, some real news was released. Al Everest, the now former Steelers special teams coach was fired. 

The first alerts that came down to me were by Mark Kaboly and Jay Glazer. Kaboly tweeted that "Steelers special teams coach Al Everest just walked out the team facility with a handful of his belongings."

Jay Glazer tweeted this from his account "@JayGlazer: Steelers have parted ways with special teams coach Al Everest."

Shocking news. You don't see this type of thing happen two weeks before the start of the regular season. Like Kaboly said shortly after it happened, it's "hard to believe that Steelers ST coach Al Everest was fired for the play on the field. Had to be philosophical differences."

Amos Jones, who was the assistant special teams coach, along with Jerry Oslavsky and Ray Jackson, and reportedly in charge of a lot of what the special teams did anyway, has been promoted to fill the position. He is the third special teams coach under Mike Tomlin - Bob Ligashesky and then Everest.

Mike Tomlin had been disappointed with special teams efforts against the Colts. He said, "I didn't like our return game. [The play] was below the line." The Steelers special teams hadn't had a great preseason to the point of Everest's firing, but it was horrible either.

Tomlin released a brief statement, as can be found on the Steelers website, regarding the move: "We are continually evaluating our coaching staff and support staff, and we have decided to go in a different direction with respect to the coaching of our special teams. I want to thank Al for his contributions and efforts, and I wish him well in the future."

Everest had been an NFL special teams coach for 16 seasons and was starting his third season running the Steelers’ squad, and has since admitted his firing was a "shock" and said there were "professional differences." - http://t.co/zJ32YuFF 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Are We Seeing The Same Old Steelers?

When first considering the newest version of the Pittsburgh Steelers to this point in the preseason, some have scoffed and said that nothing has changed. The 'same old Steeler' complaints have rained down. "They're not throwing it deep!" "The offensive line sucks!" The secondary can't cover anyone!" Unfortunately, those people would be correct.

Fortunately, those people are also wrong. 

The thing to remember first and foremost is that this is still the preseason. The second game of the preseason. This is mainly a time for evaluation as you have 90 men vying for 53 roster spots. In truth, you have about 44 men battling for approximately seven spots, or around 15 when you include the practice squad players. So, don't look at the final scores. Ever.

That said, there are still chinks in the armor to be sure. Mike Wallace has yet to report to the team and sign his tender (though, as of the last posting, he may be set to do so), which affects the deep throws. The tackle positions are still up for grabs because of inexperience and injury. On top of that, the defense has its own injuries and seems like it might have some issues as it's allowed teams back into the two games. Jim Wexell discusses those injuries and the overall health of the Steelers here: http://t.co/ckRPzrc1

It would seem then that there is a long way to go before seeing a viable playoff team hit the field. That is nothing at this point to be overly concerned about, though, and will be addressed as we continue in this discussion.

In the game Sunday night against the Colts, it was obvious that the Steelers were looking to emphasize the run, as they ran the ball on the first five plays of the game. 

Jonathan Dwyer, who'll be the starting running back September 9th in Denver, has probably made the Steelers feel pretty good with him as their backup after the way he played against the Colts. He showed the ability I initially expected from him out of college. He broke a couple of tackles on his first run and then actually threw a good block on Chris Rainey's gain on that drive. Considering he'd shown little desire or ability to block in the past, that's a good sign. 

I think it's clear to this point that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, though he didn't look sharp last Sunday, feels most comfortable throwing to Antonio Brown. Five of his pass attempts, were to AB, who took a short pass and then played ping pong with the Colts secondary.

Brown became a favorite target of Big Ben in 2011 when Wallace, who began the season with three consecutive 100-yard games, experienced a second-half slump. Brown had 51 of his 69 receptions in the final 10 games, a time during which Wallace had only one 100-yard game.

Make no mistake, though, Wallace is needed. Those five aforementioned pass attempts were also Big Ben's only passes to wide receivers. That's where the lack of another true threat affects what we've been shown from this offense. Notice, now, I said another "true" threat. Mike Wallace isn't the only speedster on the team. As we've written before, Emmanuel Sanders is a 4.41/40 runner. 

The difference is that Sanders has had feet (both) surgeries and knee problems. So, he isn't feared the way Wallace is. There's isn't the amount of game film on Sanders that there is on Wallace. What cornerbacks see on film causes them to tell their wives and girlfriends to just go to the mall that Sunday to avoid embarrassment. 

Wallace's ability is known, Sanders not so much so. Sanders is probably the most well-rounded receiver the Steelers have, when you include his route running, hands and blocking prowess. Add both of those men to the lineup and the complexion of the offense could change overnight. They would greatly affect a starting offense that was only able to score once in four drives, which came off of a 7-to-84 wide receiver 57-yard touchdown scoring screen. 

The offensive line is showing some growing pains with the insertion of youth it picked up in April's NFL Draft. David DeCastro has been the plug-and-play guy we thought he'd be and will be an integral part of the new Steelers line, along with Pouncey and Colon on the other side, for years to come. Backup guards and center Ryan Lee, Kelvin Beachum, who to this point looks overwhelmed, Ramon Foster and Doug Legursky complete a solid, sometimes formidable interior. 

The problem is on the outside-the tackles. The other early draft pick, Mike Adams, isn't fairing as well. I commented on what I saw from Adams after the first preseason game in an interview with http://steelcurtainradio.com/ hosted by Lance Williams. I said that I felt it was more of a mental issue than a physical one. Though I still contend that it is, I see the physical issues better now also. 

Adams doesn't have physical issues in the sense that he's being overpowered, rather with regard to his footwork and his stance, his leanings. You simply can't give away the outside shoulder on an edge rush. You just can't. He also has to learn to trust the guard on his hip. Those are as much mental issues as they are physical and can be corrected with the guidance of coach Sean Kugler.

Speaking of Lance Williams, as he pointed out in his latest podcast, what's worse than what's mentioned above is Adams' body language when he does something wrong. I can accept if you do something wrong, just learn from your mistakes. Like Williams said, the dropping of the shoulders posture isn't encouraging and Adams looks to be a project. The link to that podcast where Williams, aka Big Swa, talks about this and other musings is on the front page of the blog you're currently reading. 

The other elements in the OLine equation are Marcus Gilbert and Max Starks. Gilbert is a locked in at right tackle, no question. He played well last season and should only get better. The problem is that Starks isn't completely healed quite yet and most likely won't be ready week one. Since Adams won't be either, my expectation of a Steelers opening day OLine of Starks-Colon-Pouncey-DeCastro-Gilbert isn't likely to happen. We may see a pre-bye lineup instead of Gilbert-Colon-Pouncey-DeCastro-Foster(?). Nonetheless, Starks is working with the first team and remains optimistic. - http://t.co/zS8p79Wv

As far as the defense is concerned, Ike Taylor worked a lot to improve his hands this offseason, he even said that this Training Camp was the most intense of his career. Well, it paid off Sunday night when he jumped the route and took an interception (if you didn't see the game, that is not a typo) 49 yards down the sideline for a touchdown in the first quarter. 

Swag also made Cortez Allen look good. A seeming miscommunication with Troy Polamalu almost allowed Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton to catch a big pass, but he bobbled the pass and it was intercepted by Tez Allen. Curtis Brown should also see action on special teams and in Dime packages. 

The thing to remember here is that the Steelers defense led the NFL last year against the pass. So, the problem wasn't in the secondary, it was the poor run defense that gave up almost 100 yards (99.8) per game. Injuries aside, the lack of penetration and gap play by the defensive line allowed runners to get to the second level too often. It also disallowed the linebackers to get adequate and consistent pressure on the quarterback. 

Lack of gap control and lack of pressure resulted in a lot fewer sacks. The Steelers had averaged 48.67 sacks from 2008-10, but only reached the quarterback 35 times in 2011. The lack of pressure not only leads to fewer sacks but can also lead to fewer mistakes. In 2010 the Steelers intercepted opposing passers 21 times, but only had 11 in '11. The 2010 defense also forced 24 fumbles and had a total of 25 recoveries. Last season saw fewer than half of those recorded with only 12 forced fumbles and 10 fumble recoveries. 

It's evident then that the key is the splash plays - sacks and turnovers - which are caused by gap control and pressure. As we've written before, that means Ziggy Hood has to step forward and be counted. His offseason regimen has been well-publicized, including on this blog, and all of Steeler Nation is expecting more from him and the rest of the defensive line. - http://ifitaintsteel.blogspot.com/2012/06/steelers-defensive-ends-star-in.html 

Being that the first team defensive line has looked good, even very good at times, that is at least promising. They haven't given up any leads, either-those were given up by the second, third and fourth string players. Truthfully, Steve McLendon has come in as advertised and has been beating centers like they stole from him. Cameron Heyward was involved in two fights in Training Camp and I'm wanting to see that physicality and fire unleashed on an opponent.

Beyond that is the linebacking corps. Outside, Chris Carter and Adrian Robinson aren't LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison, but they're linebackers whom I'd want with me in battle. Both explode to the ball and just make plays. Period. 

The one who is an enigma at this point in the preseason is Jason Worilds who's still recovering from wrist surgery. If he can recover and get back on the field it would make for a deep set of linebackers. - http://t.co/ojl4jOdC

Inside the veteran Larry Foote calls the defense from the Buck spot with Lawrence Timmons waiting to fall back into his natural Mack position. 

Behind them are rookie Sean Spence whom head coach Mike Tomlin says has very good "see-to-do," and Stevenson Sylvester who will sit the first four weeks with a knee injury. - http://www.timesonline.com/sports/local_sports/steelers-insider-injuries-mount-at-lb/article_6236d8e5-3b20-5e33-b7ba-2c9f2af58c63.html?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

"I'm always optimistic. That doesn't necessarily mean he's going to be ready. We're just taking it day to day and we're going to let his recuperation dictate how we proceed. He's always been a fast healer and we'll keep that attitude." - Mike Tomlin on James Harrison's knee surgery. 

With Stevenson Sylvester already down for at least the first three games of the season with his own knee injury, Harrison's situation looms larger. Harrison is as hard-nosed as they come, so much so that he had to actually be pulled out of a game in which he suffered a BROKEN SKULL (fractured orbital bone). Deebo is the real deal. A workout warrior. But, it's because of this that Ed Bouchette is very plain in saying that this will really affect The Silverback and that he won't come back healthy too quickly.  - http://t.co/UciT4sQ7

Even with the various issues the Steelers have shown thus far, the upside is still tremendous. Try to remember that, despite a quick exit from the playoffs, this was a 12-4 team last season.

Once all of these above-mentioned components come back from injury, suspension or holdout and have a chance to mesh and form themselves into a cohesive unit, this has the potential to be a dangerous team. 

So, don't put too much stock in what's being shown in the games thus far. Haley, LeBeau and Tomlin aren't going to show their hand this early. Even though it's entirely possible that this team won't begin to truly hit its stride until after the bye week, make no mistake that these are your same ol' Steelers, and they will be there in the end. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Mike Wallace Sighting, David Gilreath Looks Inviting

Stop me if you've heard this one.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette beat reporter Ed Bouchette and Beaver County Times reporter Mike Bires wrote Tuesday that the Steelers expect wide receiver Mike Wallace is in town and is expected to sign his tender soon. Possibly after the Steelers play the Buffalo Bills in Saturday's third preseason game.

If so, Wallace would have two weeks of practice before the Steelers play the Broncos in the Sunday night season opener, and it has people talking. - http://espn.go.com/blog/afcnorth/post/_/id/53068/video-discussing-wallaces-return-to-steelers?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

Note, though, that I wrote "if."

Until Wallace joins the team, Wallace hasn't joined the team. It is, though, good news if true.

While it would avail Wallace of some action in the team's last preseason game on August 30th at the Carolina Panthers, more importantly it would give Wallace and the Steelers time to resume negotiations for a long-term contract. As we've written before, the Steelers don't negotiate unless a player with the team.

Then again...

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review beat reporter Mark Kaboly posted to Twitter some time after that: "For what it is worth, Ike says Mike Wallace isn't in town."

It's appropriate that all of this is happening in the month of Elvis' death because only he's had more unconfirmed sightings than Wallace.

Per CBS Sports, Mike Tomlin echoes that sentiment saying on: "Like I said from day one (when) I reported to training camp, I'll see him when he arrives."

Mark Kaboly came back again with a reassuring vote of...confidence(?) from Ike Taylor, saying: "We are going to shoot to Davios as soon as he touches down and I'm going to tweet you as soon as they give us our tab."

Bottom line: when Mike Wallace gets here is when he'll get here. Until then, what's a Zoltan?


This was my reply to a Steelers fan and gentleman who goes by @ScottsdaleSteve on Twitter when he suggested that Jason Ford and David Gilreath, among others were doing very well and would all make the team: "Gilreath and Ford are camp bodies only. Dwyer and Rainey may cause Batch to be on the practice squad, though." 

As Lee Corso would say, not so fast, my friend. It looks like I was wrong about one of those. 

Wide receiver David Gilreath, who's 5’10" and 170 pounds soaking wet and carrying a brick, is a product out of Wisconsin who's been on the practice squads of three teams, Indianapolis, Buffalo and St. Louis. He may have done enough against the Colts to move himself into candidacy for the fifth WR spot. He's a special teams guy as well and could easily round out the receiver corps. - http://blogs.sites.post-gazette.com/index.php/sports/blog-n-gold/35115-gilreath-makes-case-for-final-wr-spot?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

Neal Coolong of BehindTheSteelCurtain.com agrees and tweeted this on his personal Twitter account: "We've officially got our Training Camp Darling...congratulations David Gilreath. You are the front-runner for the 5WR position.” 

So, that may create a solution for figuring out the 53-man roster. With Gilreath emerging, that means listing Chris Rainey as a running back, though it might be at the expense of Baron Batch. 

Listing Rainey as a PR/KR for specials teams would, yes, still allow him to be used in different spots of the offense, but the same could be said of listing him as a RB. He can easily line in the slot as well.

We at If It Ain't Steel had suggested a few times he be used not only as a receiver, but listed as one also. Coolong, though, made a good point about that in a discussion we had recently. He pointed out that since "RBs can't go on the [line of scrimmage] and WRs can't line up in the backfield w/o reporting as eligible." 

Very true. A great offensive coordinator, though, can scheme ways to get Rainey his touches. Just, as Coolong, "don't get cute and list him as something he isn't. He'll def play in the slot, but you want him out backfield too” 

Fair enough. Maybe not the listing, but definitely the utilization. Remember those Bugs Bunny cartoons where Bugs played all the positions on the baseball field? "Bugs Bunny, shortstop. Bugs Bunny, left field. Bugs Bunny, centerfield. Bugs Bunny, right field...." That'll be Chris Rainey. He just can't get knocked out by a wide receiver on kick returns like in his first return of the game. He needs to remember the words of ol' crackhead Ezal from the movie Friday, "You shoulda been bobbin' and weavin'!"

Friday, August 17, 2012

Mendenhall and Hampton Activated Off Of PUP-How Does It Affect Roster?

So, Jonathan Dwyer and Mike Adams come back to practice on this last day of the Steelers 2012 Training Camp, but Isaac Redman is still not practicing. Still, it's good news that...

We interrupt this regularly scheduled blog for a special announcement: the Pittsburgh Steelers have activated running back Rashard Mendenhall and veteran nose tackle Casey Hampton from the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list.

Good news for the Steelers to be sure. To start, being able to have experience and depth along the defensive line, specifically at nose tackle, is invaluable. Alameda Ta'amu has not exactly caused the coaches to gush and fawn over him. Having Big Snack back sooner than later only helps.

There's no doubt that Steve McLendon has been displaying beast-like tendencies in Training Camp and against the Eagles in the first preseason game. Unfortunately, though, there was no real confidence behind him. So, an earlier return of Hampton will bridge the gap and allow Ta'amu time to continue to progress.

The name that really caught my eye was Mendenhall's. Just seven months after his ACL surgery and he's off the PUP. Curious. I hadn't thought it possible, I admit. Because of knowing the body as I do, and because of knowing the history of the healing time for such injuries, I didn't expect him back before October.

Maybe more definitive than that was the fact that Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert has said more than once that, because of the nature of the position and all the moves the running back makes, he didn't expect Mendy back before that timeframe either.

As Steelers beat writer Ed Bouchette pointed out not long after the announcement, Colbert told 93.7 The Fan on 8/6/12 that "if [Mendenhall] doesn't open on PUP for the first six weeks, I'd be surprised." Bouchette even suggested that activating Mendenhall is a desperation move by Steelers. - http://t.co/eqNOQyuf

I don't know if I'd go so far as to say it's an act of desperation, but it is curious. With the running backs thinning out, the timing was just a little curious. More to the point of what I'm getting to on that in a minute.

Colbert was on 93.7 The Fan again on Friday after the announcement and he talked about the Mendenhall activation.

"As (Mendenhall) continued to work with the trainers and the strength staff, he felt and they felt that he was ready to take the next step, which is being able to work with the team and seeing where he is from a contact standpoint," said Colbert.

He said further, "You have to go through a three-day acclimation period, which began today, so he'll really join in the more active practices after Monday when we get back on Tuesday. So...the training staff felt he was ready, Rashard felt he was ready, and we'll see where it goes."

This, though, was the key statement: "Who knows at what point that he'll be able to help us, but it's time for him and Casey (Hampton) to take the next step and see where they are in their rehab."

If you don't know when he'll be able to help you, why not leave him on longer?

I'm not going to do a lot of speculation here. For now we know he won't be used, neither of them will be used, right away. We also know that there have been injuries to the running backs, so this will help to shore up that corps. There is an X-factor in this, though.

Because of the fact that none of the young wide receivers has separated himself, there is the possibility that Chris Rainey could be listed as such. He could be uses in a variety of ways and is someone who needs to get involved in games. I suggested as far back as the end of April that Rainey could be listed that way, especially since the fifth and/or sixth wide receivers will be on special teams anyway.

Bring back Mendy now and you have him, Redman, Dwyer and Batch as your running backs. Then, assuming Mike Wallace (y'all knew he'd be mentioned eventually) comes back by the end of Training Camp, you'd have him Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Jerricho Cotchery and maybe Rainey here or maybe a Toney Clemons as your fifth (as I don't any longer believe Marquis Mays nor Tyler Beiler makes the team...though, that could change) and Rainey as your sixth. Maybe.

It's definitely something to consider, though. That said, we now return you to you regularly scheduled blog already in progress.


...both rookie tackle Mike Adams and running back Jonathan Dwyer were both in pads and back practicing. Adams wore a brace on his injured knee and practiced with the second unit. 

Isaac Redman took part in individual drills during practice Wednesday but wasn't able to finish, coming up lame during a workout midway through. Redman has not been in pads since. Redman said he hopes to be back next week from what turned out to be a hip injury: http://t.co/WDscU0ah  

Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review said that Dwyer looked "thinner, quicker and crisp." Very encouraging considering he'd seemingly had a love affair with more than one woman lately. Namely Little Debbie, Wendy's and the Dairy Queen. So, those words were definitely great to read.

Two things to look for in the second preseason game against the Colts: Willie Colon in his first game action at guard, and Adrian Robinson at linebacker. 

I'm expecting big things from him as amongst friends for about years now I've been saying he's more suites for guard. Looking forward to it. Also, I would say Robinson has a good chance to make the roster because of his ability to play special teams and the uncertainties right now at the position. He can solidify that starting Sunday. 

I'm going to end this now with just two words: Taylor Gang. - 

With Harrison's Uncertainty Is LaMarr Woodley Ready To Take A Leadership Role?

By now most everyone has had time to digest the James Harrison news. 

There was the passing of information that he was training and/or practicing by himself indoors away from the others on the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list. There had been pictures floating around also of him wearing a mask that was supposedly to help get a higher amount of oxygen into his bloodstream. This was being done to avoid what eventually became inevitable, which was left knee surgery. By now you also know that it went well. Good news. 

The surgery ended up mainly being a scope procedure where only a small incision is made allowing the surgeon to trim away whatever is causing the pain or debilitation. Further good news is that it seems not to have been soft tissue/ligament related (some have speculated that it was a bone spur behind his left knee). If it had been soft tissue related it might have been a different issue. 

Trust me, I've had two soft tissue knee surgeries, I know whereof I speak. The doctor or surgeon in each case, meniscus repair and a bursectomy, even told me that bones heal faster. Again, therefore, essentially good news for Harrison. 

Even though the good news is that the downtime is likely only two or three more weeks, the bad news is that the downtime is still two or three more weeks. That means that the Silverback will miss the rest of Training Camp and preseason. Those essential practices that will at least get him ready for game speed will all be missed. 

Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler even said, as reported by Alan Robinson of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on his Twitter account, “@arobinson_Trib: #Steelers LB coach Keith Butler on Harrison having no spring, no camp to date: 'He’s a guy who needs reps. It's going to be tough for him.'"

Not exactly encouraging from Butler, but not exactly new, either. Deebo went into the beginning of last season after the two back surgeries, that we spoke of in previous blogs, and wasn't game ready. He showed the effects of the lack of a true offseason, and we could very well see a repeat of it this year. 

Harrison's knee has bothered him since spring workouts, actually. In fact, the five-time Pro Bowler hasn't practiced since then. What prompted the decision to wait until now is unknown. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, though, doesn't appear too worried. 

“Shouldn't be too long,” Tomlin said. “We'll see when we get him back out here and start the process of working him back."

"We just address things as they arise,” Tomlin continued. “We felt like the procedure was necessary at this time, so we had it.”

"When [they] get him back" is the key part of that. Until then, as Tomlin would certainly say, the standard is the standard. Who, in that case, takes Harrison's place? Because this isn't just about a pass rush, it's also about leadership. 

The expected name to be tossed out would be Jason Worilds, but that won't be happening. Keith Butler spoke openly on him as reported again by Robinson.

“Steelers LB coach Keith Butler says there's a chance Jason Worilds, who hasn't practiced in camp, might miss preseason. Best case: 1 game.”

“Keith Butler on Worilds: 'Hopefully we can get him back for the last preseason game, but that may not be the case.'"

So, he's still in the same boat as Harrison, as we at If It Ain't Steel have brought to you before. He still isn't healed completely from his wrist surgery, at least not to the satisfaction of the trainers and coaches. So, that's two linebackers, your first and second stringers, who will miss the rest of the preseason and may miss the first game of the season. 

To that end, Chris Carter has spoken openly about wanting to step up and fill Harrison's void. 

"I have a lot to live up to. I am going to try my best and hopefully get to where James is at." 

Carter, listed at 6'1", 248 pounds, but reportedly is closer to about 253 pounds now, isn't concerned that there may be questions about his size or only being a speed rusher. He's having a very good Training Camp and is by no means going unnoticed. - http://blog.steelers.com/2012/08/15/carter-ready-if-harrison-isnt/

Carter being ready to stand up and be counted is exactly what we as Steelers fans want to hear. At this point, though, he cannot replace Deebo, he can only succeed him. The key element in this is the leadership factor. 

It has become evident that LaMarr Woodley is very close to being the elder statesman of the outside linebackers. As we've written before, this could very well be the Silverback's last year in a Steelers uniform. If so, Woodley must become not only "elite," but also must take on the leadership mantle. 

Woodley says that he doesn't need to "set personal goals," but that may change. Soon. Butler recently called Woodley out for coming into "Camp weighing 290 [pounds]." That was a reference to last year's Camp. Woodley responded this Training Camp and came in closer to his playing weight, but has still had a nagging groin issue that has slowed him. 

Despite the minor tweaks of the groin muscles, Woodley remains vigilant and seems ready to do what's necessary to get back that "elite status." He says that sacks are a big part of that goal-for himself and the team. - tinyurl.com/9jjfyb7 

Woodley has taken his shots in the past, being referred to as Robin to Harrison's Batman, being criticized for slow starts and even being lambasted in various newspaper articles and blogs. Some of it ridiculous rhetoric and some of it unfortunately warranted. 

Woodley showed last season what he could do without Batman on the other side of the field over a four-game stretch, but does Robin become Nightwing and take over the city? If the Dark Knight isn't able to rise again, then it's absolutely time that his ward don the cape and cowl.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Steelers In Flux Again As They Waive David Johnson; Antonio Brown vs. Ike Taylor

"@MarkKaboly_Trib: When exactly did David Johnson become this amazing blocker? Average at best as a lead blocker; below average at end-of-the-line blocking."

From your lips to the football god's ears. That was the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review beat writer's query and assessment of the Pittsburgh Steelers injured tight end/fullback/H-back. 

We at If It Ain't Steel have been honest about DJ's blocking as well, specifically his average-at-best blocking in the Super Bowl. One blocking faux pas in particular that led to a turnover.

That said, he's a versatile player who head coach Mike Tomlin likes. Tomlin likes those types who have "position flexibility." So, it was no surprise when it was announced that the Steelers added tight end Justin Peelle to take his place on the 90-man roster.

Peelle has played for the San Diego Chargers, the Miami Dolphins, the Atlanta Falcons and last season Peelle played with the San Francisco 49ers. He is listed at 6'4" 250 pounds and also has experience as a fullback. Position flexibility. -http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2012/08/13/steelers-add-veteran-tight-end-justin-peele/

Another reason it wasn't a surprise is because West Virginia product Will Johnson is the only fullback on the roster. Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote about this recently. -http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/sports/steelers/will-johnson-finds-way-to-play-at-friends-expense-648625/ 

Johnson will likely be placed on the Steelers injured reserve list after he clears waivers. He signed a one-year, $1.26 million restricted tender this offseason, and then promptly tore both his ACL and MCL against the Philadelphia Eagles in the first preseason game.

Per Bouchette, Kaboly, and ESPN's David Todd, ones who'd actually know what they're talking about, the move allows the Steelers to bring a body into Training Camp, Peelle, right now instead of having to wait until September 3rd. He was going to be an unrestricted free agent next year anyway. Now they can immediately fill his roster spot. So, the bottom line is that this is not a bad thing for DJ, his injury settlement will be the full amount of his salary, $1.26 million. 

All of this being said, how does it affect the team and other parts of the offense? Believe it or not, it affects three elements of the offense. Obviously the fullback and tight end positions, but also the offensive line. 

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said recently that Ramon Foster and Trai Essex were having great Training Camps. Well, that will be put to the test, and will be more on display, in the final three preseason games. With Mike Adams and Max Starks injured, the mettle of Foster and Essex will be tested. Especially in a new offense where offensive line coach Sean Kugler and offensive coordinator Todd Haley were going to focus on improving the running game and protecting Big Ben. 

With that goal in mind, Kugler went with his "best five" in practice the last couple of days with Adams out, which was Marcus Gilbert at left tackle, Willie Colon at left guard, Maurkice Pouncey at center, DeCastro at right guard and Foster at right tackle. 

DeCastro is your plug-and-play starter at right guard and Colon is ready to maul people at left guard (by the way, Colon was not moved to left guard because of short arms-he has 34" arms), but Foster is a guy who can play both guards and is now being thrown out there with the first team at right tackle. He may not end up as a starter, but he's invaluable to this offensive line. 

Essex has also seen time at tackle, both left as well as right tackle, in drills. Essex is the ultimate jack of all trades...and master of none. He's played all five positions on the line at some point in his career with the Steelers, but doesn't excel at any of them. Along with that, the weight lost by Essex over the summer doesn't instill confidence that he could considered a starter at any position. 

So, with all the information we have on the offensive line and again with Adams out for another week and a half and Max Starks predicting he wouldn't be able to play before "the end of August," that creates a need when using particular packages. 

For instance, when using 13-personnel and 22-personnel packages, the tight ends are extra linemen. So, when you're already down linemen, tight ends and a fullback you're going to have to do different things to compensate. To exemplify this, against the Eagles last week DJ was used six times in 15 plays on the opening Steelers drive. His loss absolutely needed to be addressed. 

I touched on some of this in the following interview with Lance Williams of SteelCurtainRadio.com and @SteelRadio on Twitter. -http://steelcurtainradio.com/?p=241 DJ may not be the second coming of Larry Brown, who played tight end and right tackle for the Steelers Super Bowl teams of the '70s, but he is serviceable enough to be missed this season. I'm sure Will Johnson and Peelle have heard by now that the standard is the standard. Here's to hoping that one of them exceeds it.


And in this corner...

Ok, so it's now seven Steelers fights in 13 practices. To the point where Ike Taylor and Antonio Brown went a few rounds. My response? Punching a helmet isn't bright. Outside of that, like Mike Tomlin said, it's just emotional men playing an emotional game. 

It's neither a lack of discipline issue, nor is it a lack of leadership issue. If you're a man with brothers or simply know how men/brothers are, the players are personifying that very thing. We piss each other off, yell at each other, throw a couple of punches and an hour later are buying each other a drink or two. Don't believe me? Listen to Ike and AB, then.

On their personal Twitter accounts, both Ike and AB apologized to Steeler Nation for the fisticuffs. Ike wrote: "@Ike_SwagginU: Me and @AntonioBrown84 we GOOD sometimes FAMILY members get into it
We got it off our chest SHOOK hands AFTER

AB, just honest, wrote: "@AntonioBrown84: Please forgive me and my brother @Ike_SwagginU for the frustration in camp we love each other sincerely! Meet us on Carson at Cafe Davio"

Look, the fights are a non-story. Period. Yes, there have been a high number, but this is nothing new. The only reason we know about them and are able to track them in the first place is that double-edged sword known as social media. That's it, that's the list, as Mr. Tony would say. How many of you would've been calling for Ernie Holmes' head had you known he virtually threatened Dwight White in Holmes' first Training Camp and had been shooting at police helicopters?

Besides, I like the fire. Also, according to Ken Laird, Casey Hampton (a veteran leader) instigated part of it. Plus, If it was an actual problem with 'lack of leadership' the true leaders, Tomlin or the Rooneys as Bill said, would step in and quash it. Tomlin has them practicing in the heat of the day and players are battling for position or to get better-tempers are GOING to flare. 

So, just enjoy the few remaining days of Camp and remember: keep your chin tucked low and your gloves up high.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

BREAKING NEWS: Mike Wallace Still Not In Training Camp (A Love Story)

I didn't know if I was going to address this or not. I didn't know if I could stand if it wasn't true. I mean, why get hopes up for no reason? Right? Why put myself through this again? The long nights waiting for a sign, a call, a contract... 

So that I don't remain cryptic, I'll put it out plainly--Alan Robinson, Pittsburgh Steelers beat writer for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review said on Friday afternoon that he was "going to have some Mike Wallace news...in a few minutes. Stay tuned.”

Could it be? Could Wallace have realized how much I love...er uh...we love him and had signed? Had all my, I mean Steeler Nation's, tweets and Facebook posts finally had an effect? I know he marked all my letters "return to sender," but the restraining order is a bit much. It didn't matter anymore, though, Wallace was back!

That was when I read the next words from Robinson: "Talked to conditioning coach Tom Shaw, who also works with Tom Brady. He expects Wallace to report to camp "pretty soon."

"Pretty soon?" Sooo...he ISN'T in Camp? I got my jersey and black and yellow kicks out for no reason? It isn't even a sighting, just a "pretty soon." Ok, I just was thinking we meant more to one another is all. But, I understand. He doesn't know if he loves...us that way or that much. 

Robinson did have some promising things to say, but the promises of yesterday are the taxes of today. And it taxes my...yinzer's hearts to no end as waiting to hear something definitive. 

Robinson said that Wallace is training extensively in Florida and likely will report to the Steelers training camp in the near future, according to the conditioning coach, Shaw. Camp ends on Friday the 17th. 

“It has got to be pretty soon,” said conditioning coach Tom Shaw, as quoted by Robinson. “(The Steelers) aren’t just going to let him sit out there.”

Shaw told the Trib on Friday that Wallace knows “it’s not a good thing to be out of camp....The Steelers want him to come to camp. They’re a great organization.”

Sure, the Steelers are great, but what about me, er uh, us? We, the fans. We sit here with our smartphones and laptops waiting 24/7 for a website post, status update, a tweet... A subtweet, maybe? We're loyal to you. :(

That's when Robinson wrote that Wallace isn’t here and talking to the media because he feels he's being misrepresented.

“He gets mad when people write things that are totally false,” Shaw said. “He doesn’t want a $100 million contract, a $50 million contract. He’s never told anybody that. He knows the Steelers aren’t talking, and he’s not talking, so it gets him upset and he doesn’t want to talk (publicly).”

So, it isn't me, I mean, us? You do care about...us? I don't know what to say. No news really is good news, I guess. I better go get ready in case it's soon. Sixteen jerseys and not a thing to wear...

Friday, August 10, 2012

New Steelers Offense Starts To Come Into Focus; Injuries Hit Early

Going into the Pittsburgh Steelers first preseason game of the 2012 NFL season, there were three main things for which I was looking forward to watching: DeCastro, Adams and the offensive line, Cortez Allen and the defensive backs, and the tight ends and fullback battles. 

The fifth and sixth wide receivers battle was of interest also, but knowing Big Ben Roethlisberger, and even to some degree Byron Leftwich, wouldn't be in long, watching that battle can wait.

Before going any further, though, I want to comment on what I've been reading on the social media websites. Some of the different reactions from fans are extremely unrealistic and, honestly, pathetic. It was ONE PRESEASON GAME. Not the fourth game of the regular season, not the 12, not a playoff game...ONE preseason game. Back away from the ledge, people. Like one person said, "teams NEVER show what they're going to do during the regular season [in] the preseason. They'll try [things] out here and there, but they will NEVER completely...give away what they intend to do during the regular season."

To place this in a bit of perspective, the Washington Redskins went 0-4 in the 1991 preseason, and looked fairly pedestrian in doing so, only to go on to win the Super Bowl that year (the Dallas Cowboys I do believe did the same in 1992). Conversely, the Detroit Lions went 4-0 in the 2008 preseason and went 0-16 when the games counted. Calm down, people. Calm down. 

That being said, we saw the aforementioned battles played out to some degree and one definitively settled...just not the way one would hope. 

For some reason I read a few somewhat negative reviews on rookie offensive guard David DeCastro's preseason debut. They're all wrong. Great start for DeCastro. Looks like he may have won a starting job Thursday night. Though, DDC did figure in on one of the seven sacks. 

On the other hand, rookie left tackle Mike Adams had a rough night. He allowed 2 1/2 sacks in around 10 plays before leaving with a knee injury, which he hurt recovering a fumble. More will come regarding that subject. 

In his defense, Adams wasn't the only tackle to have trouble with the Philadelphia Eagles pass rush, as Marcus Gilbert, Trai Essex and Kelvin Beachum all struggled on the edge.

We were able to get overall glimpses of what we should see come the regular season. I liked what I saw from Todd Haley's offense in the first game. Long, sustained drives with a good mix of runs, shorts throws and some deep passing routes. I'd mentioned in a previous blog that Haley's offense would require Big Ben to get the ball out of his hands quicker and to drop off to the running backs. The first play of the game was a screen to the running back. 

Speaking of running backs, I am declaring my man-crush on Chris Rainey. Speed kills. 

Overall, it was a success for Haley's new offense. It may have been "vanilla" because of being the first preseason game, but he looked to accomplished what he set out to do. The players agreed. 

As brought to us by Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Antonio Brown said, "We came out, executed, got our looks, executed our new offense, got an opportunity to get a look at a defense opposite of ours."

Big Ben was more concise about it: "We just wanted to come out and be physical and see how we could match up."

On defense, the players who stood out to me overall were the linebackers. Namely Adrian Robinson, who provided very good pressure once he entered the game late, Brandon Johnson, who was responsible for the pressure that led to Al Woods' interception, Sean Spence and Stevenson Sylvester. All had good games.

Starting nose tackle Steve McLendon, though, was the Steelers Digest player of the game and for good reason. He was virtually unblockable Thursday. The third play of the game saw McLendon snag Michael Vick and put him on the ground. He played one-gap and two-gap, had three tackles and the sack just mentioned. Unblockable. 

Also having a good game was the man I was looking for to separate himself, cornerback Cortez Allen. He was the one cornerback to now expect to be the leader in the clubhouse. When Curtis Brown was in, the drop off could be seen. He gave up a big play in the second half and looks as if he's better suited for the slot/nickel position.

That brings us to the final players and position I focused on during the game Thursday: the tight ends and fullbacks.

David Johnson had been the coaches' darling and the star of Friday Night Lights. Tomlin had said that DJ would play both tight end and fullback, which was basically the H-back position he played last year. That's not going to happen anymore as DJ suffered an ACL tear and is done for the season. 

Will Johnson, the West Virginia product, is now your fullback, the only one on the roster. The Steelers will probably sign another one now because of that fact. As far as tight end, after Heath Miller and Leonard Pope, you have Wes Saunders. Very possible that those are your three tight ends. Period. And since Pope can't block, Saunders may be the number two.

This new offense that Haley has installed could very well bring career numbers for Heath Miller in catches, yards and or touchdowns. Especially in the red zone. Under Bruce Arians, Heath Miller was targeted just seven times inside the red zone in 2011 and had only three catches for 27 yards with two touchdowns. In 2010, Miller was targeted only eight times inside the red zone resulting in four catches for 29 yards and two touchdowns. Look for those numbers to increase.

Last point I want to touch on is the other injury. Mark Kaboly reported Friday that running back Jonathan Dwyer suffered a injury to the left AC (acromioclavicular) joint Thursday night. 

The left shoulder sprain is not considered serious, according to head coach Mike Tomlin, Kaboly reported that Dwyer will undergo treatment and won't be out very long.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Ben Roethlisberger Doesn't Always Win Pretty, But He Wins.

Ladies and gentlemen, it's that time of year again: FOOTBALL IS BACK:

We at If It Ain’t Steel are doing our annual defense of our elite, Hall of Fame-bound-when-he-hangs-up-his-cleats quarterback. Yes, I said Hall of Fame bound, haters. Anyone would be foolish to think otherwise. And I have every intention of being in Canton in my Big Ben No. 7 jersey and with my Terrible Towel in hand, watching in five years after he retires, being inducted. He's goin', haters, get over it. He may not always be pretty, but he gets it done.

I say that because there have been a lot of questions raised this offseason about Big Ben, namely his Hall of Fame credentials, his relationship with new offensive coordinator Todd Haley and his age and health\durability. To all of the that I say HOGWASH. (I'm from West Virginia and my partner is from Mississippi, I'll say "hogwash" if I want to say it.) Big Ben has proven time and time again that he is the toughest quarterback playing today. How many other quarterbacks have played with and through injuries like Big Ben has? He has always played the John Wayne role ("John Wayne with a football" as I like to say it): he takes a pounding, but routinely has "dead indians in his cowboy movie" as head coach Mike Tomlin has said. Big Ben’s toughness has never been an issue, even though he will play up the drama now and then.

There is the also the hullabaloo that he is getting older and has seen better days because he takes a lot of hits. Yes, he has taken a lot of hits, some of which, though, even he admits are his own doing. The Steelers addressed that this offseason in part by drafting two offensive linemen in David DeCastro and Mike Adams. Injuries, age and a certain lack of talent have plagued the offensive line for the past few seasons, so adding more youth and pedigree to the OLine will hopefully plug those holes and eventually return it to a unit worthy of past Steelers lines.

There was also the media-induced issue of Big Ben and Todd Haley not being able to coexist. Again, hogwash. Big Ben and Haley are adults and, no, may not always agree or get along. But why do people think this anyway? It's because of Haley's history of being a hardcase and his rocky reputation with wide receivers and quarterbacks. Why, though? Let's have Mike Prisuta answer that. He offered this on the most recent edition of "Agree to Disagree" on Steelers.com. When Haley joined the New York Jets in 1997, they had gone 1-15 the year before. When Haley joined the Chicago Bears in 2001, the year before that they'd gone 5-11. In 2007 when Haley joined the Arizona Cardinals, they had also gone 5-11. And in 2009 when Haley joined the Kansas City Chiefs, they had gone 2-14 the year before. Like Prisuta asked, "Do you think maybe he was a hard guy and he was in people's faces BECAUSE THEY NEEDED TO BE YELLED AT, 'CAUSE THEY WEREN'T DOING IT RIGHT?!" Hmm...could be!

At that the end of the day they both have a common drive: to win. As far as I'm concerned, this is a marriage made in football heaven. A top tier OC and top tier QB uniting for one common goal: the Lombardi Trophy. Since Big Ben ripped one out of Haley's grasp a few years ago, you know he has extra incentive to get back to the Super Bowl to get one of his own.

We also have had to endure the talk of Big Ben not being elite or Hall of Fame worthy. Same *ahem* stuff, different offseason. I am here to rectify that little miscarriage of football justice and enlighten the masses who seem to love to trash my quarterback (I'm just not gonna cry like Terrell Owens).

Ben has been one of the most consistent quarterbacks in the NFL and is one of only three quarterbacks to have been to and won the Super Bowls multiple times in the last decade. Joe Flacco hasn't done it. Peyton Manning hasn't even done it. Philip Rivers can't even spell Super Bowl. So, how is Big Ben not elite again?

Big Ben's playoff record is impeccable, second only to Tom Brady who has three rings. His record is also better than Eli Manning's, the quarterback who has been the darling of ESPN and the NFL Network of late. Eli may also have two Rings, but Big Ben has appeared in more playoff games and has won more than Eli.

Here are the playoff numbers for the only current multiple Super Bowl winning quarterbacks:

Ben Roethlisberger Playoff record: 10-4
Home playoff record: 5-2; Road playoff record: 3-1; Non-wild card playoff record: 9-2; Playoff points per game average: 26.5; Super Bowl appearances: 3; Super Bowl rings: 2

Eli Manning Playoff record: 8-3
Home playoff record: 1-2; Road playoff record: 5-1; Non-wild card playoff record: 6-1; Playoff points per game average: 19.82; Super Bowl appearances: 2; Super Bowl rings: 2

Tom Brady Playoff record: 16-6
Home playoff record: 10-2; Road playoff record: 3-2; Non-wild card playoff record: 14-5; Playoff points per game average: 24.55; Super Bowl appearances: 5; Super Bowl rings: 3

I found this very interesting because Big Ben is not being considered elite or Hall of Fame worthy, yet Eli is. His numbers are comparable or better across the board, yet Eli is a Hall of Famer and Big Ben isn't? We all know Tom Brady punched his ticket to Canton a long time ago, I admit, but I think it's funny how none of the media or so-called experts want to point out that Big Ben and his offense have scored more points on the average than Brady. I will, though.

People want to downplay Big Ben’s play in the Super Bowl’s in which he's appeared. No, his first Super Bowl performance was hardly, well, super. The second time, though, was very good as he orchestrated arguably the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history. I choose to look also at his play in the playoffs overall. His play was stellar in those playoff games and it is that play that got them to the Super Bowls. His play in 2005 was some of the best that I have seen. If it wasn't for his excellent play in those playoffs the Steelers never would have made it to Detroit that year.

Big Ben’s record during the regular season is 80-33 (.708), that is second in the NFL among active starting QBs. Not too shabby for a QB who some say is not elite and is "done." I look at Ben like fine wine, he gets better with age. I look to imbibe a little bit more this season too.

Big Ben does not actually have to prove anything to anyone, his records speak for themselves. At the same time, Ben does not care about records-all he cares about is winning and winning Super Bowls. He was recently a guest on the Vinnie and Cook Show on Sports radio 93.7 The Fan, and this is what he said about stats and getting older:

"The only stats that matter to me are wins and losses and that usually correlates into Super Bowls. I don’t know how much longer I have left, but I’d like to think that I’m entering into the prime of my career, and that’s obviously why I was a little frustrated early on with the new offense because you feel like you’re just getting ready to go and then they change it on you. But I just feel like we took a quick step back but now we’re moving full steam ahead and I’m just really excited. I hope my best football is yet to come, and I hope that leads to more Super Bowls."

Wins and SBs are a big part of what define a QB, not just stats. So many, though, lose sight of that with fantasy points and the rest of that nonsense. I mean, yes, Drew Brees and Aaron Rogers are great fantasy guys, but fantasy numbers alone don't mean SB wins. Ask Rivers.

Eli deserves the credit that he's getting, yes, but it's mainly because he won the MVP in both SBs. One could argue that the reason for that was because he did not have any marquee talent around him and was the only real choice, where one could also say that Big Ben deserved to be MVP in SB 43. Not taking anything away from Santonio Holmes, but it was No. 7 who was more consistent throughout that game.

Former NFL quarterback and current ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski had this to say in his top QB list regarding Big Ben and his not getting enough credit. He called him "the strongest QB in the NFL. He not only extends plays with movement out of the pocket, but also with his natural strength in the pocket. He's 'barn strong.'"

Going further Jaworski commented on Big Ben's "ability to make throws consistently from the pocket. I charted all 60 of his 20-plus yard completions in 2011. Only five came outside the pocket. In fact, time and time again he showed one of the most central attributes necessary to play at a high level in the NFL: the willingness to look down the gun barrel and deliver the football."

Is it just me or did he just describe the final drive of SB 43?

I will just end this by saying, talk all you want, mainstream media and so-called experts. Because at the end of the day, your talking doesn’t mean a whole lot when John Wayne and the Steelers will leave dead indians in their wake AGAIN. He and Haley will coexist and will make it work, the Steelers offense will click on all cylinders they will get another one or maybe even two SBs wins before all is said and done. Maybe he won't be pretty doing it, but he'll do it. What will you say then? Will you give him his due? I doubt it.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

"Inconsistent" Receivers Show Mike Wallace Is Still Needed

"They've been inconsistent largely. We've seen some things that could get us excited, we've also seen some things that are disturbing." Those words were spoken by Mike Tomlin at his weekly press conference Tuesday when asked about the wide receivers after Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery. - Mike Tomlin Press Conference Video http://t.co/7tyQCCe1 

One thing is for certain, while the second through fourth wide receiver spots are set and regardless of what the depth chart shows, the only certainties at this point at receiver are those three. Here is how the depth chart looks at this point, along with the inclusion of Mike Wallace: http://t.co/2KleewfN

That said, and with the Mike Wallace holdout at two weeks now, a somewhat rhetorical and somewhat literal question needs to be asked: Does anyone even want the fifth and sixth wide receiver spots?

As Tomlin pointed out, they didn't exactly set the Chuck Noll field at Latrobe ablaze with an array of fingertip catches. Granted, catching the ball isn't the only thing a receiver does, but it's still kind of important. I mean, I was so frustrated by all the reports that I thought I should get ready to suit up. Don't laugh, either. I've been practicing, I'm around (1)4.5 in the 40 yard dash now.

Seriously, though, the players in question are the 7th round draft pick Toney Clemons, undrafted free agents Paul Cox (6'4" 205 lbs. 4.55/40), Marquis Maze (5'8" 186 lbs.), Jimmy Young (6'0" 205 lbs), Tyler Beiler (6'0" 190 lbs) & offseason pickup Derrick Williams (5'11" 197 lbs. 4.68/40 who played a lot of special teams for Detroit Lions in 2009-2010).

Toney Clemons has good size (6'2" 210 lbs.) and very good speed (4.43/40 at Pro Day and a reported 4.38/40 top speed), to be sure. He has been able to get open with pretty good route-running ability and his speed. He made some tough catches, including a couple where he used his size and outreached the cornerbacks for the ball.

Clemons' hands have let him down more often than not, though, as he's consistently dropped balls in practice. That's too bad because he does have a nice burst and is an aggressive pass catcher. Still, he epitomizes what Tomlin said about being "inconsistent" even more so because of being an actual draft pick. 

The preseason games, which start Thursday at the Philadelphia Eagles, will give Clemons the opportunity to rid himself of a reputation he never should've gained in the first place. A reputation which caused someone (I can't remember whom) to say that he may as well 'drop the "e" in his first name because he's dropped everything else.' Ouch!

Of the other receivers in Training Camp, the two who have the only real opportunity to make it are Tyler Beiler and Marquis Maze. 

Beiler is the bigger of the two, but Maze has attributes and abilities Beiler doesn't. The former national champion was the Crimson Tide's leading receiver last season is also an adept returner. The issue, as was said, is his size-he'd be the smallest receiver on the team. If it comes down to that, Maze being a sixth wide receiver, which is how many the Steelers generally keep, his future with the Steelers is on special teams. 

The thing about that is, though, the Steelers already have a smallish playmaker who could fill that role. I suggested that about a month ago, that Chris Rainey could be listed as a wide receiver, mainly because of the logjam at running back. Nonetheless, it's a feasible idea, one that was even suggested on the 8/6/12 edition of Talkin' Steelers Football. 

Rainey isn't an NFL established receiver, though. So, considering all that's been said, the luxury that is Mike Wallace becomes more apparent. 

Even though I refer to him again as a "luxury," that luxury affects the offense in more ways than just great speed and catching passes. A weapon such as Wallace has the ability to dictate coverage by drawing double-teams and shifting coverage by the safety to his side. It can also disallow the safety to jump routes as he has to respect the "Oh, sh**!" speed that Wallace has. 

He will do so in a Steelers uniform this year as well. Kevin Colbert said in no uncertain terms that Wallace will be in Black and Gold, that he will not be traded.

"Mike’s not available," Colbert told 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh. "We have as big a need for a big-play receiver as anybody. We want him to be here and Mike wants to be here long term. So he’s not available.” An update to that sentiment can be found here: http://t.co/XEqdr9ou 

Don't misunderstand, it isn't as if the Steelers don't have speed at wide receiver, as Sanders is an official 4.41/40, Brown is 4.5/40 and Cotchery is no slouch. But even just the THREAT of 4.33/40 (or better) can cover over the 'inconsistency' of what else may be going on, or whatever else may be lacking on in the receiver corps.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Dermontti Dawson And Jack Butler: Hall Of Famers Defining Greatness

Historian and writer H.G. Wells once said that a man's greatness could be measured by 'what he leaves to grow, and whether he started others to think along fresh lines' with a "vigor that persisted after" him.

Certain men in the history of the NFL (players, coaches and owners) have done just that: some with pomp and braggadocio, and others with much quiet humility. Either way, their greatness couldn't be denied. For Dermontti Dawson and Jack Butler, Saturday it no longer was.

Dermontti Dawson was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers out of the University of Kentucky in the second round of the 1988 NFL Draft. Before taking over at center, Dawson actually played next to Mike Webster, a Steeler legend at center, starting five games at guard his rookie season. 

Drafted in 1974, Iron Mike anchored the Steelers offensive line, "Webster's Warriors", from 1976-1988, succeeding Ray Mansfield who had the job from 1966 until Webster took over. So, Dawson had big shoes to fill. Multiple big shoes. He would succeed in grand fashion.

Referring to the opening quote from Wells, Dawson would go on to succeed in just that way: leaving a vigor that persisted after him in the form of a plethora of linemen and coaches who emulate and praise him. 

“I think for us as offensive linemen we have an appreciation when you see someone that was special at that position," said Steelers offensive tackle Max Starks. "Dermontti was the greatest center I ever watched play. There were a lot of great centers that came through the Steelers organization and played in the NFL, but for us he was our standard for what offensive linemen, especially the center position, should be. He did what was unheard of at the time. He had a special ability, a unique ability. He was a big, strong guy but was so quick and could do things that now every offensive lineman is expected to do."

He added, “I think a lot of younger kids are looking at the type of player he was and you are seeing a lot more athletic centers in this league, pulling on screens and getting out and being a lead blocker. There are characteristics that Maurkice [Pouncey] has that Dermontti had." 

You simply never had a center pull like was referred to by Starks, until Dawson. Plainly put, he caused ones to "think along fresh lines" and changed how teams ran the football in the NFL. You can read of other linemen who extolled Dawson as well in an article posted back in February when the announcement of his enshrinement announcement was first made. - http://www.steelers.com/news/article-1/Linemen-respect-and-admire-Dawson/1c8b76dd-30d7-4f92-acaa-dd99114dce26/ 

Ask also his former coaches about him and they are not at all reticent with regard their plaudits. 

Former Steelers head coach Bill Cowher often sang Dawson's praises, but a different perspective comes from a Steelers defensive coach. Dick LeBeau, Pittsburgh’s living legend of a defensive coordinator, shared this perspective with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

“He’s the first center I ever saw pulling and leading sweeps. They would lead Dermontti on what we called the ‘plus nose tackle,’ the guy who sat outside his shoulder with the play going to that side. His blocking assignment was to cut that guy out of that onside gap, almost impossible. But Dermontti could do it because of his quickness.”

Great Xs and Os type of assessment from a defensive coach. His first head coach also, though, spoke highly of him. The man who coached Webster through four Super Bowls.

“Dermontti is a much better athlete (than Webster)," Chuck Knoll said in a 1996 interview. "Mike had great strength and power. Dermontti has it all: smarts, strength, quickness and speed.” 

Finally, though, what vigor persisted after Dawson with his opponents? How your enemies respect you may be even more telling of you and your mettle than how those who love you revere you. 

Current New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick used to face Dawson and the Steelers twice a year when he manned the helm for the rival Cleveland Browns (1991-95). BB had this to say about DD: "He was one of the best players that we have ever played against at that position. He had exceptional quickness. I think that really the measure of a center is his ability to play against powerful guys that are lined up over him and try to bull-rush the pocket and collapse it in the middle so that the quarterback can't step up. Dawson had great leverage and quickness with his hands and his feet where he did a great job of keeping that pocket clean for...those [quarterbacks] who played behind him."

Dawson accepted his selection to be inducted with the same quiet humility spoken of at the outset of this article. He knows his legacy, but he never blew a horn ahead of himself. The ferocity with which he played is a juxtaposition to the docile and appreciative demeanor that makes the man and that was on display Saturday:  http://t.co/GkEl9QY2


Jack Butler played defensive back for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1951-59. Years ago I didn't even know that. Three years ago that was all I knew. Not long after that I started voicing my opinion that he deserved to have his bust in the Hall of Fame. 

Last year, I put it down on paper, sort of, that Butler's absence from the Hall was a travesty that needed to be rectified. All that I truly have to say about him, therefore, I said here: http://ifitaintsteel.blogspot.com/2011/08/jack-butler-should-be-in-hall-of-fame.html?spref=tw

Between his playing days and BLESTO, Butler exemplified his career in the NFL with panache. Since Butler was short and sweet with his speech, despite all that he's done with and for the NFL, I will do likewise here and allow the presentation speech and then his speech close this out. - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OK5DdtJYWSc&feature=youtube_gdata_player