Friday, November 30, 2012

Steelers Look To Get Even With Ravens At Baltimore

It's official: Steelers' Roethlisberger ruled out:

Now that that is out of the way...

The Pittsburgh Steelers invade M&T Bank Stadium to play the Baltimore Ravens this Sunday afternoon. The Steelers are healing from some of their injuries, but will be without their offensive leader, Ben Roethlisberger.

The Ravens haven't lost at home this season. They're perfect there in their last 15 regular season games in fact. Their last loss in the friendly confines? December 5, 2010 to the Steelers. However, that was with Big Ben. The Steelers are 0-5 against Baltimore and have lost the last three overall.

We had a feeling Big Ben wouldn't play this week, and were fairly sure that Antonio Brown and Troy Polamalu would. The Steelers' question mark this week is with left guard Willie Colon.

Per Steelers beat and Beaver County Times writer Mike Bires: "Left guard Willie Colon practiced. Unless he has any setbacks from today's workout, he'll play in Baltimore. We'll see how he feels tomorrow."

If Colon plays, then no major shuffling will have to occur on the offensive line. If he doesn't play, then Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey will play left guard, and backup Doug Legursky will fill in at center. As was brought out in the previous article, Pouncey last played guard in his freshman year at Florida.

As for who actually is starting on the offensive line this week, all eyes are on Kelvin Beachum. It also sets up the eight things that must take place if the Steelers expect to leave with another win in Baltimore.

Beachum, the Steelers seventh-round draft pick out of SMU, will have his hand full Sunday as he will see quite a bit of Paul Kruger, the Ravens outside linebacker. Kruger gave fellow Steelers rookie Mike Adams all he could handle in the game at Heinz Field. In that game Kruger had two sacks and three quarterback hits.

To his credit, in the two games he's been in this season, Beachum hasn't allowed a sack and has only allowed one quarterback hit. As we mentioned in the last article, though, Beachum has had two holding penalties against him in his 27 total snaps.

One of those was last week against the Browns, when he was flagged for holding on Jabaal Sheard, negating a big pass completion from quarterback Charlie Batch to Heath Miller.

Such plays are the very lost or 'hidden yardage' plays that the coaches have talked about in the past. Such mental errors can end up being very costly, and Beachum needs to be able hold down that side without actually holding.

We've said before that to get him help the Steelers could employ some 12-personnel and use the fullback (as in 21-personnel) to chip block. Lance Williams of Steel Curtain Radio breaks this down even further here:

Allow me to let you in on (not) a secret: the Ravens have trouble stopping the run. They're 21st in the NFL against the run, allowing over 128 yards per game and four yards per carry. They've gotten better over the last four games in how many yards have been allowed, but are worse in the average yards per carry.

The Steelers ran the ball 27 times for 134 yards (5.0 YPC) in their first meeting, with newly instituted starter Jonathan Dwyer rushing the ball for 55 yards on 12 carries.

As we'd alluded to before, the Steelers needed to get away from the running back-by-committee thing and settle on one runner so that he could get into a rhythm with the offensive line. Dwyer now has the opportunity to do so. Plus, there are three other healthy backs behind him. A strong dose of smash mouth to tire out the Ravens defense and to give them fewer opportunities to score will be crucial. -

Third down has been atrocious since Big Ben went down. This must change. One way to do it is to be more effective on first downs.

Ideally, you want to gain your yardage on approximately a 50/40/10 percentage clip. Charlie Batch only has a 48% completion rate on 3rd down with the Steelers. So, the fewer yards he has to convert, the better.

As many third and shorts (four yards or less) as possible will help to extend drives and keep the Ravens defense on the field.

Todd Haley HAS to stop being so conservative.

What was a strong and consistent winning unit has become inept. Haley's comfort level with Big Ben has become an albatross around the neck of the offense. His play calling has just been bad since Big Ben has been out.

Uncle Charlie's comfort level with the offense matters too, but Haley needs to revert back to what he had them doing when No. 7 was in there: pass on first down, more short and medium passes, run the ball to set up the play action. Get creative with it, also, now that Antonio Brown is back. -

The NFL is a game of inches and Ray Rice gained a first down by only one on a controversial 4th and 29 play against the San Diego Chargers. That was a microcosm of what Rice is capable of as a running back and offensive player. Larry Foote, James Harrison and the rest of the unit of linebackers must stop Rice once again. -

Not much else needs to said on this. Faithful readers to this blog know that we preach gap control. Maintaining gap containment on Rice keeps the Steelers solidly in this game. Period.

"I think it means a lot, getting leadership and stability out there again....Let's face it, when you can have him on the field it's a plus for us." Defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau on Troy Polamalu.

There have been comments made that Troy shouldn't be brought back in, that the defense is playing well together and they shouldn't mess with that.

Stop it. Just...just stop.

As LeBeau said, "He makes plays only he can make." Will Allen has been playing well, yes. But, it's absolutely ludicrous and asinine to suggest to keep one of the (still) best defenders in the game on the bench if he is available.

Continuity that Allen has developed over five or six games pales in comparison to the Ryan Clark has with Troy over the LAST FEW YEARS. They have nearly a telepathic relationship together and, even if Troy does only play on a limited basis, it will be good to see the hair back. -

John Steigerwald tweeted from his personal Twitter (@Steigerworld) account that, "Since 1978 when the Steelers win the turnover battle, they are 229-31."

When the Steelers sack Joe Flacco four times or more, they are 4-2 against the Ravens.

Getting splash plays on defense, turnovers and sacks, is essential for the Steelers. That can't be stressed enough. There can be no, NO, hangover from last week's disgusting display. NONE.

If you've ever had an actual or cyber conversation with me, you've probably heard me criticize Mike Tomlin for his questionable timeout and game management. There are several examples of it over the last few years, including the last time the two teams met.

He used two timeouts at non-crucial points in the game which eliminates the ability to stop the clock when needed.

The forced fumble by Foote against the Browns was missed by the officials. But because the Steelers had no timeouts left, they couldn't challenge. It may not have led to a comeback win, but it doesn't matter because they didn't even have the ability to challenge it. (Which is one of the worst rules in the game, by the way. They have all this technology that can show definitively that it was a fumble, but they can't do anything about it??? *spread cheeks, remove head*)

If the Steelers can do most of those things, they might actually be able to pull off a hard-fought and close victory in Baltimore. Might.


TIDBITS: Practice/Injury Report - Steelers: DNP: Mike Adams (out), Willie Colon (questionable), LaMarr Woodley (out), Casey Hampton (probable), Byron Leftwich (out); LIMITED: Ben Roethlisberger and Cotchery (out); FULL: Antonio Brown, Troy Polamalu and Max Starks.

Ravens: CB Jimmy Smith (sports hernia surgery) is OUT; TE Ed Dickson (knee) is DOUBTFUL; LB Dannell Ellerbe (ankle/foot/thumbs), CB Chris Johnson (hamstring), DE Pernell McPhee (thigh/knee) are QUESTIONABLE.


Ray Rice on Steelers and Terrible Towel-gate via

On Ravens maybe surpassing Steelers: "I wouldnt call it a tide turn. I don't think the tide will change until we win our Super Bowls. Any time you are trying to get where the top dog of the division, is you are going to build a team around how to beat those guys. You have to be a team that can compete with the Steelers. I think we've done that over the past few years, done pretty well at it.

"This rivalry has never been soft. I don't buy into the whole thing that you shouldn't be cool after the game. We went to war with each other. We're hitting each other like car crashes, so why not embrace the moment after? 'Hey, man, what's goin on? I wish you well. And stay healthy.' When the game is over, you aren't going to go around and hate a person just because he was a Pittsburgh Steeler."

"You aren't going to catch me out there burning the (Terrible Towel) or doing anything to disrespect their organization. I am a respectful guy. When my child gets older, I will get to show her. She will ask, 'Daddy, who is that?' I will say, 'It's the Pittsburgh Steelers.'"


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Ravens To Test Steelers Depth Perception

Didn't we just see these guys?

This Sunday at 4:25 p.m. EST the Pittsburgh Steelers travel to M&T Bank Stadium to play the division leading Baltimore Ravens (9-2) where they haven't lost since December 5, the Steelers.

That's one of the few things we can be completely sure of at this point. A lot has happened in the four days since the debacle that was the Cleveland Browns loss.

As reported by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Steelers beat writer Ed Bouchette on Tuesday, former starting running back Rashard Mendenhall was demoted to third on the depth chart.

"Rashard Mendenhall is dead man walking," Bouchette wrote, "as far as being a member of the Steelers in 2013 and Mike Tomlin made that pretty clear by busting him down to third string on Tuesday."

A more surprising change in the Steelers depth chart, however, was head coach Mike Tomlin listing Mike Wallace OR Emmanuel Sanders. Bouchette said that it's the first time that has happened.

Did Wallace get demoted too? Was it praise for Manny? Was a message being sent to Wallace? Or was it some sort of motivation for a "frustrated" Wallace, as Tomlin referred to it at his press conference Tuesday? -

It was a curious move nonetheless. Because, while Wallace has his issues, a demotion would be an uncalled for move. -

But, back to Wallace in a minute. Because along with the depth chart moves were the releases and additions with regard to the roster and practice squad.

In part, right tackle Marcus Gilbert was placed on IR and rookie right guard David DeCastro and offensive lineman John Malecki were added to the 53-man roster.

With rookie tackle Mike Adams out for the next few weeks, the Steelers will use rookie Kelvin Beachum at right tackle and will have Ramon Foster, and possibly Malecki, back him up. Expect the fullback and running backs to chip and for Todd Haley to employ 12-personnel packages to help in blocking considering that Haloti Ngata and Paul Kruger are on that side.

Coming back to the running back situation briefly, the fumbling issues are what put Mendenhall on the bench. And as Tomlin said, fumbles are unacceptable. Mendy fumbled twice in four carries against the Browns and only had three yards. Mendy also has one more fumble than Dwyer in about a third as many carries (34 to 98).

Per Steelers beat writer Mark Kaboly, Mendy has fumbled nine times in 847 carries (incl. three times in his last 28 carries), or one every 94 carries. As a point of comparison, Hall of Fame runner Curtis Martin fumbled just 29 times in his 11-year career, or once every 121 carries.

Dwyer is also averaging 4.4 yards per carry while Mendy is only averaging slightly more than three yards per carry. In the Ravens game, Dwyer carried the ball 12 times for 55 yards, a 4.6 YPC average. So, without a doubt, the move of Dwyer into the number one spot was the right call.

As for Wallace, I'm hoping that this is just Tomlin giving him a nudge, another "one-trick pony" type of motivation. Tomlin generally knows how to reach his players and how to get the most out of them. Not always, but better than most. My main concern is Wallace's reacting in kind.

If Wallace does use this as proper motivation, great. Despite what many in Steeler Nation are saying, we need him. Even when not catching a pass, as long as the play is executed properly, his being a decoy opens the middle of the field so that Heath Miller and Manny are able to get open.

Does Wallace have his faults? Of course. Among other things, Wallace has to do a better job of getting open on routes, especially his short routes. He is great as a deep threat, but still not much else. And when he has been open in those situations, he's dropped several (I believe he's credited with seven drops), including also a fumble against the Ravens.

That's more than disappointing, it's disturbing. At the same time, though, it is not his fault when balls are thrown off target or way behind him as they were against the Browns. Such as the deep pass that was picked off was under-thrown. That wasn't his fault and he did make an attempt to fight off the defenders and prevent the interception.

The pass on the underneath route that hit his hip was behind him and not his fault. Could a greater effort have been made? Yes, but if that pass is thrown even just a foot more in front of him, he gets a first down or more. Maybe even a repeat of the Giants game. The flack he's taking for his few faults is out of proportion.

Yes, I have my issues with him too. The deep or streak routes are fine, but right now that seems to be the only route where he can get open on a consistent basis. With his speed and the compliment of receivers he has around him, he should be running those routes more regularly. Part of that is him, but Haley is to be blamed for not scheming these for him as well.

The coaches have to make the calls necessary to put the players in the best positions to succeed, and need to take responsibility when they don't do so.

There's no question that Wallace needs to work harder getting open on his route running and on catching with his hands instead of letting it hit his body first. Those were two of the knocks on him coming out of Ole Miss.

Despite, though, what has been deemed a "demotion" for him also, Wallace doesn't seemed phased by the move. "If I do, I'll give everything I have. If not, I'll cheer whoever starts. It really doesn't matter...I'm still gonna be in the game." - /

Fellow wide receiver Antonio Brown said that Wallace should look at the demotion as a wake-up call: "It should be. It will give him a spark. Make him come back hungry to respond."

This is the perfect week for him "to respond" as the Ravens will be without starting cornerback Jimmie Smith. He has already been ruled out of the game because of an abdominal injury.

The Ravens, however, do have a 12-game division winning streak and would love nothing more than to get a baker's dozen against their arch rivals. -

They will be going against a Steelers team led by veteran quarterback Charlie Batch. Batch started in place of backup Byron Leftwich last week who started in place of some guy who wears No. 7. It didn't turn out so well.

Per ESPN Stats and Info, Batch completed 2-of-11 (18.2 percent) passes with two interceptions on throws of more than 10 yards downfield. He threw three INTs overall.

Uncle Charlie, whose record with the Steelers fell to 5-3 with that loss, was frank about his poor performance last week: "I have to play better, figure out a way to help get us in the endzone." -

Don't expect any change, though, because Tomlin is sticking with the 38-year old, that's 266 in dog years, quarterback and says "his body of work" makes him a "capable, veteran guy" who can provide "winning-type performance.''

Let's hope so. The Ravens are perfect at home of late and there will be no John Wayne riding into town this time.

Speaking of Big Ben, Tomlin said he will judge him with his own eyes. He said that he must prove in practice that "he's capable."

Tomlin said on Sirius XM on Tuesday that Big Ben only threw short and intermediate passes on Monday, and it was reported that he went through a "very" light practice on Wednesday.

Tomlin says that they hope to be able to "raise the bar" as week progresses, but reiterated that Uncle Charlie is the guy.

Despite Tomlin's public approval of Uncle Charlie, I honestly don't think I would keep him over Brian Hoyer when everyone is healthy. The Steelers need youth ans value at the position. Brian Hoyer, 27; Uncle Charlie, 46 (he's getting older even as I write this).

So, for the Steelers to expect to win Sunday, they're going to need to win the old fashioned way, running the ball and with defense.

With those two elements, and a splash of speed, the Steelers dominated a Giants team, in their stadium, that last week dominated a strong 49ers team. Things can change just that quickly. Injuries are a big part of it. Injuries that are slowly turning back in the Steelers favor.

The Steelers look to possibly have All-Pro strong safety Troy Polamalu at their disposal again. Troy is now doing what the Steelers were hoping he could do in advance of the previous Ravens game. It smacks at how tough the recovery from a torn calf muscle can be.

Troy practiced fully on Wednesday for the first time since October 5th. Antonio Brown practiced fully on Wednesday also. Both of them practicing is serious reason to believe they'll play Sunday, assuming no setbacks of course.

As pointed out earlier, rookie offensive lineman Kelvin Beachum will be the starting right tackle against the Ravens. Beachum has been a part of 27 snaps this year and has two holding penalties to show for it. He got work at both right and left tackle Wednesday and Ramon Foster took some snaps at right tackle as well.

Maurkice Pouncey says he will play left guard if starting left guard Willie Colon can't go. Not a problem. Pouncey played (right) guard almost his entire freshman year at Florida and Legursky is no stranger to the center position. -

So, your starting offensive line Sunday could be (L to R): Starks, Pouncey, Legursky, Foster and Beachum.

Nonetheless, the Steelers are still a threat to take the crown if these injuries are healed in enough time to make a run. Thanks to a pummeling defense, a revamped "dink and dunk" offense (including a newly found power running game) with yet untapped potential, they can play big boy football against anyone. -

Therefore, this Sunday's game won't just be a test of the Steelers depth, but also of how they perceive and utilize that depth.


TIDBITS: Ryan Clark said that the Pittsburgh Steelers are a 'spoiled bunch.' That after a loss, specifically in this case after the Browns loss, that the sky is falling. He says this is a must-win game, but, he says, that should always be their outlook. -

Nothing at all wrong with what RC said. In fact, the "spoiled" part applies to most of the fan base too.


Offensive guard Ryan Lee was released from the practice squad to make room and was claimed by the New Orleans Saints.

Wide receiver David Gilreath was waived to make room for the promotion of offensive lineman John Malecki, but was subsequently claimed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Toney Clemons was signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars off of the practice squad.


Signed to the Practice Squad:

Former Florida State wide receiver Bert Reed. Originally signed by Cleveland as an unrestricted free agent. Reed spent time this season on the Buccaneers and Broncos practice squads. Reed is 5'10", 183 pounds and ran a 4.46/40 at his Pro Day. -

Offensive guard Justin Cheadle is 6'3", 295 lbs. Mainly played right guard. Has an uncle John Tarver who played four years in the NFL. -

Offensive tackle Joe Long is a rookie out of Wayne State. He is 6'6", 308 lbs. Younger brother of Dolphins' Pro Bowl OT Jake Long. He was in Training Camp with the Rams after going undrafted. -

To make room for the three signed to the practice squad, the Steelers released cornerback Josh Victorian. (Don't feel bad if you don't know who he is, cuz he doesn't even know.)


PRACTICE REPORT: Max Starks (back) took advantage of veteran Wednesday and didn't practice. Neither Mike Adams, Willie Colon, Byron Leftwich nor LaMarr Woodley practiced Wednesday. Big Ben and Cotch were limited.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

True Poetry

I have written a thousand poems to you in my heart, but there they shall remain. My heart will not allow my tongue to speak them aloud, because in no way could it form the words to do you justice. The look in your eyes and the purity of your countenance discourses more and evermore. My heart could never allow you to be dishonored in that way. You are more poetry than I could write, and woman evermore.

If I could write your beauty true, then let the stars give up their light in homage to my love. But never shall they even wink, as I am an honest man, for neither do my tongue nor my pen even know such words. In fact, should my pen even attempt such verse, I would retire it that very hour.

My only request is to be the Sun in your life, the warmth against your face and the comfort for your soul. What has nature produced that approaches your aspect? Or, if nature had feelings, would it not be jealous over your beauty? Oh, to be able to control time in order to linger in a single moment, seeking the answers to these questions...

If ever you desire to know if my love is true, simply speak my name in your heart. If Alexander himself were raised, he could ne'er muster the army to keep me from your presence. What is this mortal coil? What is the firmament? I would move heaven and earth to show what is truly creation's strongest force: my embrace.


dedicated to


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Steelers' Turnovers Result In 20-14 Loss To Browns; Good News On Big Ben

The Pittsburgh Steelers looked as if they were celebrating the worldly Jewish holiday of Hanukkah a couple of weeks early Sunday as they gave eight gifts to the Cleveland Browns.

In a 20-14 loss in Cleveland, the Steelers turned the ball over eight times (5 fumbles and 3 interceptions), and the Browns capitalized by scoring 17 of their 20 points. The last time that we can remember this many turnovers committed by the Steelers was in 1989...against the Browns.

The Browns' 20 points against the Steelers are their most in a game against them since November of 2007, a 31-28 Steelers win.

Turnovers, however, weren't the only reason the Steelers lost this game. There were essentially three things that can be pointed to as reasons for the loss. The first has been touched on already, and we'll elaborate now.

TURNOVERS: You turn the ball over eight times, especially on the road, and you don't deserve to win. The Steelers division hopes slipped away as easily as did the football did on Sunday. They went into the game having lost seven fumbles this season. They lost five Sunday.

Last week, various Steelers fans blamed the Ravens loss on the Mike Wallace fumble. I'm on record as stating that if a turnover that early in the game is the reason you lose, you're just not a good team. You must overcome adversity. That was just one turnover (of two on the night) and other elements played into that defeat.

This week, however, was different. This was inexcusable. All four running backs fumbled, with Rashard Mendenhall giving it up twice.

Mendenhall had this to say about his fumbles: "That's tough to deal with. Easy at that point to start shadowboxing yourself, I don't really get into that."

It may be tough to deal with, but we've seen it too often now. I've been a supporter of him in the past, but no more. He needs to go. His contract is up at the end of the year as it is. Just wash hands of him and send him on his way.

Although Chris Rainey fumbled also, his went out of bounds and wasn't a turnover. Isaac Redman has shown himself to be charitable during his brief career as well. He needs to truly redeem himself, as does Jonathan Dwyer.

If It Ain't Steel said in the Browns pre-game blog that the running back-by-committee has to end, and it does. Give the ball to one, preferably Dwyer, and ride that one out. How can a player gain confidence and get hot if he constantly is being shuffled around back there? But, they weren't the only culprits.

Charlie Batch threw three interceptions to take it to a total of eight. He looked every bit of 38 years old (actually a week or so short of) from the first snap. He was 20-34 for 199 yards and threw three INTs. Despite a certain amount of clamoring Steeler Nation to put him in ahead of Byron Leftwich last week, Uncle Charlie showed why he was the Steelers third-stringer.

In truth, from turnovers alone it could've been much worse. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, obviously upset at the post-game press conference, said almost as much.

"I'm surprised it was that close given the turnover situation," he said. "We were highly penalized, we turned the ball over, and when you do those things, you are going to lose. I don't care who is playing quarterback." -

With the offense playing the way they did Sunday, that may be true. Though the Steelers starting quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, may not have thrown the INTs that Uncle Charlie threw, there were still the fumbles by the running backs and Emmanuel Sanders, who had the fifth and final one.

Speaking of the injured quarterback, that brings us to the second piece of the pie as to why the Steelers lost.

THIRD DOWN: The Steelers were one for nine on third-down conversions Sunday. What was a plus for the Steelers with Big Ben has become a lost cause. One of three specific stats that we covered thoroughly in our 'Big Ben for MVP' blog. -

The Steelers as a team were just over 50% going into the Chiefs game. Before the injury, Big Ben had an NFL QBR of 121.2 on that down. After the injury, the Steelers are only 6-26 on third-down conversions. The two quarterbacks' QBR's on that down? Not worth mentioning.

In the 29 drives the Steelers offense has had without Big Ben, only two have resulted in touchdowns, both being set up by pass interference calls.

There was some good news to come down the pike, however, regarding Ben, Sr.

ESPN's Chris Mortensen relayed encouraging information for Steelers fans everywhere:

"The Steelers QB will begin soft-tossing the football early in the week to test his range of motion and work through the pain of his rare rib and shoulder injury, according to team sources," said Mortensen.

"Roethlisberger slept much better this week, a source said, even with newborn son 'Little Ben' in the house, and doctors have determined his rib has healed enough that he doesn't risk further damage," he continued. "Roethlisberger's pain tolerance and range of motion could determine whether he plays next week."

It's hard to type with fingers crossed...

Tomlin alluded to the third reason the Steelers lost Sunday.

PENALTIES: This has been a problem all season, but this was a day when the Steelers could ill-afford to shoot themselves in the foot.

The team committed nine infractions for 68 yards. The mental errors are ridiculous. Penalties while trying to make a play are easier to excuse, but pre- and post-snap penalties can make the vein in your forehead to become prominent to point of bursting.

Yes, there were ticky-tack and even bad calls again in this game, but you can't blame a loss on those. They happen every week to every team. Control your own mental errors and execute. The Steelers didn't do that Sunday.

Though many Steelers fan are jumping off of the bandwagon, the Steelers players remain optimistic that they can right the ship.

"We're gonna be all right, man. We're mentally tough. Everybody in this room. We gonna be together, we gonna fight for each other," Hampton emphatically stated. "Just like their defense got all the turnovers they got, we gotta do a better job of getting turnovers also."

He continued, "Guys will get healthy, but even if they don't get healthy, we've gotta find a way to win. No question about that."

He's right about that. They have to find a way. Without Big Ben, Antonio Brown and Troy Polamalu, all of whom could be back next week, it will be very difficult.

Difficult isn't impossible, though. As was related at the beginning, you must overcome adversity and that seems to be their mentality.

It needs to be the mentality of Steelers fans also.

As Larry S., a fellow Steelers fan and friend, said, "I learned never to give up after 2005. Look at all the teams who got on a roll late with a low seed in recent years. We did in 2005. The Giants did twice. The Packers did. Even the Colts had to win 3 AFC games. I never give up because if we get Ben back by San Diego, we can win the rest of our games. All you need to do is get in the playoffs these days. It's about who is healthy and hot. I don't like to get too high or low."

Well said. Because, is the season over? No. Steelers hold the last wild card spot over the Bengals, Dolphins and the Chargers. Get Big Ben, Troy and AB back and there is plenty of football left.


TIDBITS: Ankles injuries on Mike Adams and LaMarr Woodley is all that Tomlin said regarding injuries. Woodley said he got rolled up on by an offensive lineman, hence the ankle injury. But he said, "I'll be back next week."


NFL Network - Steelers-Browns Highlights:

ESPN Sunday Blitz Recap:


Brandon Weeden suffered a concussion against the Steelers. -


Trent Richardson: "That's the best defense I've played against since I've been in the NFL, hands down. Probably the hardest-hitting team too."

Friday, November 23, 2012

Browns Present "Great Challenge" For Steelers; Injuries & Predictions

"It starts with [Jabaal] Sheard....He is a high-motor guy [who] is relentless....They've got the rest of the front four, which is a quality front four." - Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley

The front four and player in question belong to this week's opponent and oldest AFC rival, the Cleveland Browns. Haley is giving due praise to a defensive unit that accounted for seven sacks last Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys. The Browns may only be 2-8, but they're no lame duck. -

The Steelers know that their longtime foes will be ready for them. They've been competitive in every game this season and five of their losses have come by seven points or less. The offensive line, responsible for protecting veteran quarterback Charlie Batch, knows this.

Steelers left guard Willie Colon was quoted this week as saying, "We understand this is going to be a tough outfit. The Browns are kind of like [Kansas City] in that their record really doesn' where they're at as a defense. They're playing at a high level." -

"Where they're at" is in the bottom half of the NFL on defense, but numbers can be deceiving.

Jabaal Shear, mentioned at the outset by Haley, is a 6'2" 255-pound 2nd-year defensive end who is a long and powerful bull rusher who has counter moves and can wreak havoc. He's recorded 32 tackles, three sacks this year and many pressures. He must be accounted for and there will probably be extra protection to his side.

As a team, the Browns have recorded 27 sacks, 61 passes defended and 10 interceptions - all more than the Steelers (18, 57 & 5). They also have 21 tackles for a loss. As Colon stated in the lockerroom interview, the Steelers must "control the line of scrimmage."

With a 38-year old quarterback under center Sunday, this is paramount. In a recent blog I pointed how good Ben Roethlisberger is when under pressure. Uncle Charlie, however, isn't Big Ben and needs better protection than Byron Leftwich received last week against the Ravens.

In the 13-10 loss last Sunday, Leftwich was under duress, hit or sacked on 14 of 43 dropbacks, 32.6% or once every three dropbacks, and averaged less than two yards per attempt per attempt. The offensive line simply has to do better.

One way to keep Uncle Charlie upright is to run the ball effectively. Jonathan Dwyer should be the main man this week. Period. The "hot hand" mentality needs to end, especially considering Dwyer consistently shows he's the one who has it anyway. Running the ball as much if not more than passing it and controlling the line of scrimmage are absolutely necessary. -

The short passing game is going to be essential as well. Uncle Charlie is suited for that and has a "new old toy" to help in that category, and might have another one return.

Antonio Brown made good strides this week and had a good practice Friday. Regarding playing Sunday, he said, "If coach Tomlin let's me. It's his decision."

AB might have to campaign hard to Tomlin in order to play on Sunday. Coach is being rightly cautious with his best wide receiver.

His wide receiver teammates voiced their feelings and thoughts on the aforementioned short passing game. Emmanuel Sanders, for one, talked about his confidence in Uncle Charlie and the quarterback's approach to this week.

“He’s very smart; he takes pride in the details,” said Sanders. “He’s done it in previous seasons, and I expect him to do it this week also.” -

Mike Wallace chimed in on Plaxico Burress and whether or not that toy would really be used a lot: "Definitely. We want to see what our new toy looks like. Our new old toy."

There is one place where that toy can step right in and help, despite cornerback Joe Haden playing or not. -

Last season with the New York Jets, Burress caught 10 red zone passes and seven were for touchdowns. So he can be a benefit in that aspect at least because of his hands and height.

By contrast, Steelers tight end Heath Miller is leading the team in red zone touchdown receptions this season with six, and Mike Wallace is second on the team with two red zone touchdowns.

No other Steelers player even has more than two red zone receptions this season. So, this is one area where Plax can help right away. -

The defense also knows all-to-well that the Browns record isn't a true reflection of their capability.

"Ever since I have been here, every time we go there it's been a fourth quarter game," said Steelers linebacker Larry Foote. "Their record at this point doesn't mean anything to us. We have to get a win and we know it's going to be a battle. We are going to get their best shot."

He wasn't the only player who knows to expect a battle.

This is a division game," safety Ryan Mundy said. "The last five games they have been in every game, very competitive in each game. They are a play here and a play there away from winning those games. This game will be no different. We expect a great challenge from them. They have a lot of young talent and they are coming together. Their record doesn't indicate how good they are."

Being that the Steelers' offense will certainly run into some problems without Big Ben, the NFL's top-rated defense (yielding only 259.1 yards per game) must continue to play at a high level. -

With James Harrison not being what he was, expect Browns left tackle Joe Thomas to be able to keep him in check. Despite his less-than-dominant play, Harrison insists he isn't frustrated.

"It's not frustrating," Harrison said. "I know what I'm capable of doing. I'm going to run hard and hit hard. But I know how my body is going to react. I'm going to give it my all, but I'm limited by what my body lets me do."

That leaves the other side of the line to be watched closely with LaMarr Woodley going against exceptional rookie Mitchell Schwartz. We could see more of Cam Heyward on the left side as well.

The pass rush needs to be better, yes, but the secondary simply needs to maintain. Ike Taylor and Keenan Lewis comprise a very good defensive backfield. Here is a brilliant breakdown of their play by

The safeties are solid as well. Ryan Clark is having another Pro Bowl season, and there was a Troy Polamalu sighting at practice Friday. Will Allen, who has played surprisingly well in his four games, wasn't exactly reticent on his feelings regarding having Troy back on the practice field: "It was a Thanksgiving Christmas gift. It was great to see him out there."

Troy practiced Friday and wasn't listed on the final practice report as "out" for first time since October 5th. He was listed "doubtful" after being limited in practice on Friday.

With rookie Brandon Weeden at quarterback, the Steelers will try to apply as much pressure as possible. Josh Gordon and Greg Little are definite weapons for the first-year quarterback. It is here that the Steelers need to lock down on the Browns and be as opportunistic as possible, as Weeden's number aren't exactly All-Pro caliber.

The Steelers have, as mentioned earlier, very few turnovers and sacks, splash plays, this season. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau knows they need more, they just need to keep at it.

"We like to take it away, we're just not getting enough of them," LeBeau said before the Chiefs game. "We need to do better there. We have gotten a couple turnovers the last couple games. We need to do more, that's for sure." So far, not so good. The defense needs to take advantage of the rookie Sunday.

Another rookie and the fourth pick in April's NFL Draft is Trent Richardson. He is a highly productive running back who has rushed 180 times for 670 yards and has another 289 yards from receptions this season. Containing him is important, to say the least.

But the key to not being dead indians again in this cowboy movie is Joshua Cribbs.

“Josh Cribbs has made a living hurting people,” Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said of the Browns’ return man. "Obviously, it’s going to be an element of preparation for us.”

The Steelers can't afford another special teams night like they had against the Ravens. Jacoby Jones' touchdown return was a backbreaker last Sunday night and can't be repeated.

The Ravens double-covered the gunners, Curtis Brown and Cortez Allen, on that return, and there was a seal block on Ryan Mundy, and Jones then outran the rest of the Steelers special teams unit. A repeat performance of such inept play could mean no playoffs for the Steelers.

Cribbs is one of the best returners in the NFL with 852 kick return yards and another 330 punt return yards. He is specifically responsible for the Browns being 9th in the NFL in kick returns and 3rd in punt returns. -

If he isn't contained, it will be a long afternoon for the Steelers. If he is, the Steelers should be able put together a win that is somewhere in the 20-16 range.


TIDBITS: Steelers injury/practice report: M. Gilbert, J. Cotchery, Big Ben, B. Leftwich, out; Troy, doubtful. A. Brown, questionable; W. Allen, W. Colon, Z. Hood, I. Redman, S. Sylvester, probable.

Browns injury/practice report: Dimitri Patterson (ankle) and Raymond Ventrone (calf), out; Jordan Cameron (groin), Josh Cooper (knee), Joshua Cribbs (back), Joe Haden (oblique), Juqua Parker (tibia), Trent Richardson (chest/ribs), Ahtyba Rubin (calf, back), Frostee Rucker (shoulder), Jarrod Shaw (illness), Buster Skrine (head), and T.J. Ward (knee, ankle), all probable.


Ben Roethlisberger is expected to return to action in Week 13, according to CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora. We'll see...


Indianapolis Colts interim head coach Bruce Arians was open this week about what he feels his blessings are. For what was he thankful? "I'm thankful for the Pittsburgh Steelers letting me go to be here."

As Steelers beat writer Ed Bouchette wrote recently, Hines Ward had some good insight into why Art Rooney wanted Bruce Arians out as Steelers offensive coordinator:


The Steelers will re-sod Heinz Field following Saturday's Pitt/Rutgers game.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Steelers Face Old Foe In Cleveland Sunday; Injury Updates

As far back as I can remember I always wanted to be a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. To me that was better than being a fan of the Browns. To be a Steelers fan was to own the NFL.

You know, we always called each other a family, goodfellas. Like, you'd say to somebody: "You're gonna like this guy, he's all right. He's a Steelers fan. He's one of us." You understand? We were Steelers fans, wise guys...

The Pittsburgh Steelers will face their oldest AFC rivals again Sunday at the Mistake by the Lake as they look to keep division and playoff hopes alive. In the last nine years, since 2004, the Steelers have won all but one game (2009) in Cleveland Browns Stadium.

The Steelers have, in fact, have won a total of 15 out of the last 16 meetings during that time and look to maintain their success this Sunday. If they do, they will increase their series lead on the Browns (2-8) to an all-time record of 63-56 since the rivalry began in 1950.

The soft and chewy Brownies are still my favorite rivalry. I hate the Baltimore Ravens more (especially because they took my original Browns from me), but, as far back as I can remember, the Browns were always there.

I remember them going an initial 0-16 at Three Rivers Stadium.

I remember Browns personnel sneaking dirt from Cleveland and sprinkling it onto sideline of Three Rivers trying to mojo a no avail.

I remember the 51-0 blowout loss in 1988. In fact, I will never forget it.

I remember the 43-0 drubbing of the new and unimproved Browns in 1999.

And I remember the three wins by three points each in 2002 culminating in Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala's go-ahead touchdown and subsequent two-point conversion to secure the playoff win.

I simply love to hate the Browns. Even with the lopsided streak of late, I still look to the season schedule as soon as it's released and seek out the Browns games first.

This version of Paul Brown's progeny might just also be another challenge for the Steelers. The Browns always play division opponents tough and always give the Steelers all they have.

With the Steelers as banged up as they are, the Browns, who've played the Ravens closely and even beaten the Cincinnati Bengals, can't be overlooked at all.

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin agrees. Even though he always makes the next opponent sound like a Super Bowl team, some of the points he made regarding them were accurate. One player in particular elicited this week's Tomlinism.

To be specific, the Browns feature a very talented and dangerous rookie running back in Trent Richardson. During the post-NFL Draft summer, a name from the Browns past, legendary running back Jim Brown, called Richardson "ordinary." He has been anything but that to Tomlin's chagrin. -

Speaking of names from the past, the Steelers looked to their past to help aid their present. It was announced late Tuesday afternoon that they had signed wide receiver Plaxico Burress to a 1-year, $925,000 contract to supplement the receiving corps.

"He's in really good physical condition based on the workout that I just saw," said Tomlin. "And obviously he's no stranger to football."

When on Sirius XM radio, Tomlin also said that Plax worked his camp with him this past offseason. Additionally, he's been working out in Florida, as Mike Wallace did during his holdout.

I'm looking forward to seeing what he can still do because, taking into account his height and his hands, he's a very good red zone target and the Steelers are already working on just such packages for him. -

He also sounds less like the Divo he was when he was in Pittsburgh before and in his first few years in New York. He sounds more mature and eager to contribute. Like a good fella.

"Feels great to be back, comfort level here with a lot of the guys, I'm anxious to get back to playing football," Plax said.

He also said that he doesn't think he's "been around a collection of better receivers and that says a lot....Knock some dust off the old No. 80 jerseys and let's go to work!" -

His new and old teammates are buying into it as well.

"He's a great asset," Emmanuel Sanders pointed out. "He can stretch the field vertically and be a big red zone threat for us."

Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton also said of Plax: "He's a good locker room guy, a good guy to have around. I think he's always been misunderstood by people."

Plax will have another good locker room guy throwing the ball to him as Godfather Charlie Batch will be starting against Cleveland Sunday.

But with the loss of 2nd-string Byron Leftwich for the next few weeks, the Steelers went out and signed quarterback Brian Hoyer to provide a back up. Hoyer addressed the media before Wednesday's practice at the South Side facility. -

Hoyer was brought in because of his football smarts and because he can pick things up quickly on limited reps, according to Tomlin. A solid signing, even if he is only going to be in Pittsburgh for about four weeks.

Without getting into too deep of an analysis, this should be another good Steelers-Browns game. They'll be ready for their longest standing rival. Save their three-year hiatus (1996-98), Steelers-Browns is also the oldest AFC rivalry.

Years ago, they were one of the best teams in the NFL. Spit-shined and polished NFL Trophies sit in their facilities. But that was before the AFL-NFL merger. In the Super Bowl era, they have no Rings.

Win or lose, though, I know I'll remember this game.

Now, go home, Cleveland, and get your fu**ing shine box.


TIDBITS: INJURIES - Big Ben was re-examined and is improving. Was not wearing a sling on Wednesday and was even seen holding a cup of coffee in his right hand as well as talking on the phone. -


Isaac Redman has been progressing through concussion tests, and one more is scheduled for Thursday.


Antonio Brown and Marcus Gilbert will start individual work this week. Troy is progressing, but is still questionable at this point. None will play Sunday.


David DeCastro, on IR-designated to return, practiced Wednesday for the first time since injuring his knee.

Per the Steelers, they have 21 days from Wednesday, Nov. 21, to put DeCastro on the active roster or he has to be placed on season-ending IR. They can, however, activate him at any point during the next three weeks. -


Byron Leftwich believes he hurt ribs on the Paul Kruger "last sack", per a story in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Per Tomlin, he "didn't see anything" in Leftwich's performance, coupled with sideline talks, to pull him from game.

Really? Not under thrown balls? Not inaccurate balls? Not overthrown balls? Not grabbing his shoulder/rib area after virtually every throw? -


Marshall McFadden and Baron Batch get cut and then added to practice squad after clearing waivers. Jamie McCoy and Ryan Lee were released.


Larry Foote was on 93.7 The Fan and took umbrage with LaMarr Woodley's tweet about signing Donovan McNabb: "(He) needs to shut up and play football." -


Speaking of Woodley... We've all seen Ray Rice waving and then wearing a Terrible Towel as he left Heinz Field Sunday. It not only upset Steeler Nation, but it upset LaMarr Woodley as well. -

Ray Rice, however, says he meant no disrespect and explains the Terrible Towel issue. -

We don't care, RR, you shouldn't even be touching one.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Steelers' Lose Another Quarterback; Is Plax Back?

...and then there was one.

The hits just keep on coming for the NFL team that could fill an episode of The Walking Dead with players from its roster.'s Jason La Canfora reported Monday that the Pittsburgh Steelers are concerned that Byron Leftwich may be "out for a while" because of rib and shoulder injuries he suffered in Sunday night's 13-10 loss to Baltimore Ravens.

ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported that second-string quarterback Byron Leftwich sustained fractured ribs.

That means that Uncle Charlie Batch will get up off of his rocking chair, make sure his Medicare coverage is up-to-date and start at quarterback Sunday against the Cleveland Browns. -

However, as Steelers beat writer Mark Kaboly said: "I guarantee that no team in the NFL has a quality third-string backup like the Steelers do with Charlie Batch." Can he right the ship? -

The Steelers are expected to work out quarterbacks this week, according to La Canfora, as Uncle Charlie is the only quarterback left currently on the roster. -

Names thrown around have been Brian Hoyer, Tyler Palko, Jerrod Johnson, Mike Kafka and, by LaMarr Woodley only, Donovan McNabb. -

Leftwich was hurt on the first series of the game Sunday night when he scored the touchdown on a 31-yard run, and he could be headed to the injured reserve list (IR) if it is deemed a 3-4 week injury as has been suggested.

If that happens, it will have been the third time in five years that his season would be ended by injury and it's time to seriously start questioning his actual value. Yes, he's a good veteran backup, but he's made of more glass than Brock Lesnar's chin.

A roll into the end zone resulted in adversely affected play. He was obviously hurt, but wasn't pulled because of what Tomlin called a "gritty" (not "great", as some have transcribed) effort. In that gritty effort, according to ESPN Stats & Information, however, Leftwich completed just 5 of 16 passes that were thrown longer than 10 yards downfield. Four incompletions of which were underthrown and three were overthrown.

His ineffectiveness was a major component in the Steelers loss. Now, not only do the Steelers have to look for a backup, and possibly third-strong, quarterback, but for a wide receiver as well.

It sounds like Jerricho Cotchery is likely to miss some time, because ESPN's Adam Schefter reported on Monday that the Steelers will take a shot in the dark (pun intended) at former Steelers wide receiver Plaxico Burress. Plax is being brought in for a physical and, if he passes, is expected to sign.

Per Schefter: "Feeling always has been that the Steelers wouldn't bring WR Plaxico Burress to Pittsburgh if the team didn't intend to sign him." Is it the right move? -

Steelers need roster spots, so expect a busy transaction list on Tuesday. There will be more athletes going in and out the Steelers doors than at a Kardashian's house.


TIDBITS: ESPN reported Sunday morning that Steelers doctors believe starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will miss three weeks with his ribs and shoulder injuries, although the team hasn't given up hope that he could sit out just two games.

The team, though, still holds out hope that he could sit for just two games. If so, Big Ben could suit up against the Baltimore Ravens when the teams meet again in Week 13.

Dr. Clark Fuller, the director of Thoracic Surgery at St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California, told Sports Illustrated's Peter King that a premature return would put Big Ben at risk of nerve damage along with previously reported threats to the aorta. -

If that is the case and Big Ben risks nerve damage, why is he even on the field and not in bed, or at least out of harm's way, in the first place? Ask Sean Payton what can happen on an NFL sideline. As my partner-in-crime would say, I'm just sayin...


Quick bios on the leading candidates: Brian Hoyer in three years with the New England Patriots was 27 of 43 for 286 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

Mike Kafka spent his two seasons in the league with the Philadelphia Eagles, but only saw playing time last season and completed 11 of 16 passes for 107 yards with two interceptions. -

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Without Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers Fall Again to Ravens, 13-10

The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated...or something like that. Thanks to Jayden for holding down the fort while I was...incapacitated last week. Without her, this blog wouldn't survive. Now, on to the game...

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens have played some epic battles over the years. This, though, wasn't one of them...

In ugly fashion, the Steelers lose their 3rd in a row to Ravens and 4th in the past six regular-season match ups against them, 13-10.

Though congratulations goes to the Ravens, a lot of blame must go around for this loss. Penalties, turnovers, poor clock management, wasted timeouts, and outmatched special teams all contributed.

The backbreaker was a Jacoby Jones 63-yard punt return for a touchdown. It was the difference in points and the only touchdown the Ravens scored. It was his third in five weeks. Jones is also the first Ravens player to post three combined return touchdowns in a season. -

For the first time all season I actually have to question Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley's play calling. Why was he throwing so much with an injured quarterback when Jonathan Dwyer was running so well? When a running back is averaging 4.6 yards per carry (12 carries for 55 yards), don't try to outthink the room. Feed the hot hand!

But an obviously hurt Leftwich kept throwing and despite it being apparent that he needed to pull himself or that he needed to be pulled. Maybe you can blame Tomlin for keeping him in, because those hits added up to being too much on BLeft and he just couldn't throw after awhile. But Mike Tomlin said he wasn't close to putting in Charlie Batch. -

Nonetheless, with the win, the Ravens (8-2) took control of the AFC North, moving two games ahead of the Steelers (6-4). The win was Baltimore's 12th straight win in the division, which ties for the longest such streak in the league since division realignment in 2002. The Steelers had won seven straight games at Heinz Field. -

After giving up a touchdown 43 seconds into the game, the Steelers were held to a field goal the rest of the way by a Ravens defense without key players. The Ravens flustered a hurting Leftwich into 17-of-38 passing for 201 yards and an interception. The Ravens forced two turnovers, leading to six points. -

The other turnover was by wide receiver Mike Wallace. Wallace wants a high-end contract at the end of the season, but hasn't shown ample reason to receive it. He has already had a problem with dropped passes, but Sunday night he didn't exactly show great hands after the catch, either when he was stripped of the ball by Chris Johnson, a player who had only been signed by the Ravens this week.

In his post-game press conference, Tomlin said the Steelers didn't have signature plays in key moments. In fact, they only had one.

Not known for his mobility, in truth he looks like one of Jerry's Kids when he runs, BLeft ran for a 31-yard touchdown on the third snap of the game. He outran Terrell Suggs, broke a Bernard Pollard arm tackle and fell into the end zone hurting his throwing shoulder.

It was this very play, in fact, that defines why the Steelers lost. As good as he can be, BLeft simply isn't Ben Roethlisberger.

Big Ben has a 47% conversion rate on third-down throws this season, which is second best in the NFL behind only Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. The Steelers were only 5-17 on third down Sunday night.

Before the Monday Night Football game, Big Ben had the fifth-best quarterback rating in the red zone. He hadn't been intercepted in the red zone this season, either.

The difference between BLeft and Big Ben in this aspect is noticeable on two plays.

Monday night, Big Ben's 7-yard fade pass to Mike Wallace in the second quarter was his 13th red zone touchdown toss of the season.

Sunday night, down 13-7 in the third quarter, the Steelers drove to the Ravens' 4-yard line where BLeft made a throw to the right side of the end zone. Wallace was led too far and didn't get both feet down inbounds. Instead of going ahead, the Steelers had to settle for a field goal to make it 13-10.

Outside the pocket is where Big Ben tends to work his best magic, when he is scrambling around, extending plays and doing his Houdini routine. Again before Monday night, he had the seventh-best quarterback rating on passes outside the pocket. He had completed 63.6 percent of his passes and averaged 7.7 yards per completion.

When flushed from the pocket Sunday, aside from the touchdown run, BLeft had passes tipped or had his arm hit and was fairly discombobulated.

No disrespect toward BLeft, but he simply isn't Big Ben.

The Steelers are now 0-5 against the Ravens when Big Ben doesn't start. If he is indeed sidelined for the second Ravens bout, the Steelers playoff hopes may be sidelined with him.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Steelers Ravens Week: Still Going to be a Good Game

Yes, the week that most Steelers and Ravens fans have been waiting for is upon us: Steelers-Ravens week!

As always, the AFC North is up for grabs with the Ravens on top right now with a record of 7-2 and the Steelers in second-place, being one game back with a 6-3 record. But, this year the game that is arguably the best in the NFL bar none has lost some of its luster. The Steelers and Ravens have had their fair share of injuries this year.

The Steelers are going into this game without two of their biggest stars: Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu. Big Ben is sidelined with an SC sprain and rib injury and it is still up in the air as to when he will return. Troy is still dealing with a calf injury that has had him sidelined for several games. The Steelers are dealing with other injuries as well.

The Ravens aren't quite the MASH unit the Steelers are, but they are dinged up as well. They will be without, among others, their leader and biggest star, Ray Lewis. They also have some of their other big stars playing injured. While the Steelers are hurting all over, the Ravens are hurting mainly on the defensive side of the ball.

This will mark the first time since Big Ben was drafted that the best game in football will be without him, Lewis, Troy and Hines Ward, who retired during the offseason. But, the show must go on and so will this blog. So, let’s get to the matchup, shall we?

First up, the Steelers will be starting veteran back-up quarterback Byron Leftwich, who hasn’t started/won a game with the Steelers. He went into the game Monday night after Big Ben went down and got the win (if this were baseball, we'd say he got the save) for the Steelers. A lot of people think that with Leftwich starting, the Steelers are at a disadvantage. I beg to differ, however, and think offensive coordinator Todd Haley will cater to his quarterback's strentghs. So, BLeft (BLove, Lefty...pick a nickname) will be well prepared for Sunday night.

The Ravens may be sitting at 7-2, but they are hardly the Ravens of old. Granted, the Steelers have had their struggles as well, but the Ravens defense, which is usually ranked in the top five every year, is sitting at No. 28 in the NFL. Their run defense has struggled, No. 26 in the league, which is not Ravens football, and their pass rush has basically been non-existent. They received a boost to their pass rush with the return of Terrell Suggs, but it still has not gotten it going like I know John Harbaugh would like and is used to seeing. Haloti Ngata, the anchor of the defensive line, is also playing hurt with a knee and shoulder injury.

Their secondary has been banged up all season. They first lost arguably their best cornerback Lardarius Webb for the season, and now they have lost his counterpart, Jimmy Smith, for some time due to a groin injury. Ed Reed, who is arguably the NFL's best free safety, is playing through a shoulder issue that has causing his play to be diminished.

The offense has been the star this season, but it has had its issues as well. Joe Flacco has played lights out at home with a passer rating of 108.3. He is 115/173 for 1,612 yards and a completion percentage of 66.5, averaging 9.32 yards and has 10 TDs to just three interceptions. This game is played at Heinz Field, though, not at M&T Bank Stadium, and Flacco’s numbers drop off in key categories on the road. He is 71/136 for 719 yards with a completion percentage of 52.2 and is averaging 5.29 yards and a quarterback rating of 62.7. He has thrown three TDs on the road to four interceptions. At home he has only been sacked eight times compared to 11 times on the road. Flacco also has two rushing TDs, but those are at home as well. He will also be facing the No. 1 pass defense and No. 1 overall defense in the NFL in the Pittsburgh Steelers.

So, this will be the tale of the tape for Flacco on how the Ravens season is going to go. They have what could be considered a murderer's row of a schedule left in front of them, with most of those games being on the road. This game could set the tone for them moving forward.

The Ravens are stocked at the wide receiver position with Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones and Anquan Boldin. These guys can really hurt you if given space. Then you have to account for Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson. Pitta ranks second on the team with 37 receptions, third with 376 receiving yards and second with three touchdown catches. Dickson has added 12 receptions for 144 yards.

They also have one of the best running backs in the NFL in Ray Rice, though he has been underutilized to this point in the season. He is also very dangerous in the passing game if given the chance. But I look for that to change. I look for Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron to try to give the Steelers a healthy dose of Rice, who has the best average on the ground against the Steelers, to open up the pass attack. So they have an offense that can put points up, but they haven’t done that so far on the road this year. Not saying that won’t change, though, because I look for Flacco to come out with all guns blazing and to try to test the Steelers defense early.

The experts are already giving this game to the Ravens, but they say it will be a close game, and we believe it will be as well. The Steelers are riding a 4-game winning streak, but that was with Big Ben. Big Ben has been ruled out, so now Byron Leftwich gets the nod. We don’t really have the big stats for Leftwich like we do Flacco, because he hasn’t played. Still, what can be said is that people are making a big deal about his windup, the fact that he hasn’t played for a long time and that he had issues in Jacksonville and Tampa Bay.

Looking at the bigger picture of his time in Tampa Bay, though, he did not have the weapons around him like he does in Pittsburgh. So, that can be pushed to the side. There has also been talk about him not knowing Todd Haley’s offense, but, even though he hasn't played, he has been practicing and studying this offense. Letwich is a very savvy veteran and there is a reason the Steelers have kept him around. Leftwich still has a very strong arm that can hurt you if he gets a receiver open. He'll be ready and the Steelers trust in BLeft is warranted. We Steelers fans have been giving him our full support because it has been the “Next Man Up” all season, so we are used to it.

Yes, granted his windup could set him up for more sacks, because let’s face it, Suggs is in this game and he always brings the heat, the offensive line is going to have to account for him. Period. Then it gets me to the weapons we have on offense. Mike Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders will be taking the field for the Steelers as Antonio Brown is most likely to miss his second straight game with an ankle injury. Jerricho Cotchery will be filling in as third receiver. These three have been quite effective on the field as of late because you never know which one is going to get open and break for that big play and Leftwich has an arm that can get the ball to them. Wallace has had some issues with dropped passes this season but that could change at any time.

The Steelers may be getting a boost to their run game this week with the possible return of Mendenhall, but if Mendy is unable to go, and then we will see the twosome of Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman, who have proven they can pound the rock in his absence. The Ravens are also going to have to make account for Redman in the pass game as well as he has shown as of late he can be just as dangerous as Rice. Then you have what is arguably the most underrated tight end in football in Heath Miller, who is having a great season. The offensive line has been playing better than they showed Monday night, and I look for them to get it back together for this Sunday. They have been run blocking well all season.

The key to this game in our opinion is 'Who is going to hiccup and hurt their team?' It is a known fact, injured or not, the Ravens defense is going to be as ready for us as we are for them. I do not look for this to be a high scoring game. I look for this to actually be the Ravens-Steelers matchup we are used to seeing: an ugly, defensive battle. Both teams are coming in to this game with 19 sacks and both teams are looking to add to those numbers. Paul Kruger in Sunday’s game had two sacks against the Raiders, and Brett Keisel had two sacks in the game against the Chiefs. That is something both teams have not been doing a good job of as of late is getting pressure on the quarterbacks. Look for that to be one of the keys Sunday.

Our prediction on this game is that if both defenses show up and play like we know they can play, this game could very well come down to the last minutes as is usual. With the AFC North up for grabs, expect both defenses to play hard and for it to be very close. If the Steelers get pressure on Flacco and get him confused, Steelers can win. If the Ravens get pressure on Leftwich and get in his head, they could win this.

Going to be a good game regardless of who is on the field, starters or backups.


TIDBIT: I know this is not the usually stat laden blog our loyal readers are used to, but my partner in crime is in the hospital. I know he would want something put out there given that it is Ravens week. It's been a rough week for us at If It Ain’t Steel and I ask that all our readers please keep Jason in your prayers.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Update On Roethlisberger Injury, What It Means; Ravens Message

"Man, I just came up with one heck of a saying by accident: "I don't determine what is news. News determines what news is." - Steelers beat writer Mark Kaboly from his Twitter (@MarkKaboly_Trib) account.

With regards to the Pittsburgh Steelers, that may never be more true than right now. Because we had a completely different schedule of topics set for you heading into Ravens week.

In his weekly Tomlin Tuesday press conference, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin confirmed that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger does in fact have an SC (sternoclavicular) sprain as we stated in the post-game blog:

The SC sprain that Big Ben sustained, according to Tomlin, “puts his participation into the questionable category this week.” -

In brief, the injury is a stretching or tearing of the ligament connecting the sternum (origin) to the clavicle (insertion). It’s called an "uncommon" injury, and the expected recovery time depends on the severity.

Though Tomlin said he had no knowledge, as Big Ben still has another MRI to undergo, on the degree of the injury, the injury does carry at least an automatic 2-3 week recovery timeframe with it. -

To verify this, we did some research to get the particulars as to what the injury is and what to expect.

Firstly, I personally turned to Dr. Melanie F., @GirlSurgeon on Twitter, who tweeted this information:

“@Girlsurgeon: Per my sports medicine ortho guy, Ben probably out 2-3 weeks. Good chance to see him play against #Ravens @ BMore. Lucky it's not AC joint.”

Potentially good news as to length and severity. From a sports standpoint, the Steelers are 9-5 all-time when Big Ben doesn't start. Unfortunately, that includes an 0-4 against the Ravens.

Alan Robinson of Total Trib Media in Pittsburgh later tweeted that there was a parallel that fans could look to as a reference:

"@arobinson_Trib: Rams WR Danny Amendola was out 5 weeks this season with SC joint fracture. Just returned Sunday. #steelers"

Dr. Melanie then tweeted this as clarification: "Ben's injury is different from Danny Amendola's. WR had posterior dislocation. Sounds like Ben has sprain, maybe had anterior subluxation.”

It seems more so to be the same injury that forced Brett Favre to end his consecutive games streak before his (final) retirement. Favre returned after missing one game in that situation.

However, to clarify Dr. Melanie's comments even further, below is an in depth description of the injury from ESPN injury expert Stephania Bell, and attached is a medical link for any who want to delve even deeper:

"This joint is reinforced by ligaments. A bony injury to either the sternum or clavicle (anything ranging from a bruise to a break) would make the joint painful. Likewise, ligaments can tear, resulting in a subluxation (slip or partial dislocation) of the sternoclavicular joint, also quite painful. Injuries to this area are often a result of high-speed motor vehicle accidents where the seatbelt restraint creates stress across the joint, or, if you happen to play football, high-impact collisions to the front of the chest or the shoulder can do the same.

"The injury here is compounded by the fact that it is nearly impossible to immobilize the SC joint directly; the best solution is to limit shoulder motion on the same side, via sling, to keep arm movements from affecting the joint." -

Regardless, this is just more bad news for a Steelers team already playing without Antonio Brown, Rashard Mendenhall and Marcus Gilbert on offense. Not to mention first-round draft pick David DeCastro. Not counting DeCastro, that's one-third of the first-team offense.

It raises the question as to whether the Steelers' playoff chances are too greatly affected as well. Several media sources and fans are already throwing dirt on the Steelers season with the approximate four weeks the team will be without its two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback. -

If Big Ben is out for an extended period, Byron Leftwich would be the interim starter.

Leftwich has taken 50 snaps in 45 games since returning to the Steelers in 2010, with 32 of them coming in the Monday night game against the Chiefs. He has played in one game, Monday, in 22 months and has one other start in the last three years.


On a lighter note...

The Baltimore Ravens, the Steelers' hated rival and next opponent, re-signed former Oregon Ducks quarterback Dennis Dixon. (He may have worn the Black and Gold, but he went from Heaven straight to Hell-timore and is therefore dead to me. Thus, he is only the former Oregon Duck quarterback.)

When the Ravens saw what happened to Big Ben they obviously said, "Aaargh! Call Dennis and sign him back!"

So, to the Ravens I simply say, in the immortal words of Ice Cube, "You scared! You scared! You scared, mutha f@&%#er! You scared!" -

Ravens' week. 'Nuff said.

Steelers Ben Roethlisberger Injured, Overshadows Victory

"The armies separated; and, it is said, Pyrrhus replied to one that gave him joy of his victory that one more such victory would utterly undo him. For he had lost a great part of the forces he brought with him...." - Plutarch

Do you know what a Pyrrhic victory is? A Pyrrhic victory is a victory with such a devastating cost that the heavy toll negates any sense of gain or profit.

Both Ben Roethlisberger and Ryan Clark, the Steelers offensive and defensive MVPs in the first half of the season, went down with injuries in the Steelers 16-13 overtime win on Monday Night Football.

Ryan Clark seems to have a concussion. He may miss the Ravens game next Sunday night. Big Ben may be more serious.

Big Ben left the game in the third quarter after being sacked by Kansas City Chiefs defenders Justin Houston and Tamba Hali. He was taken to the locker room and then to hospital for further evaluation.

Adam Schefter tweeted from his Twitter (@AdamSchefter) account that the "Steelers officials have not been told anything about Ben Roethlisberger having a separated shoulder. They have been told it is sprained."

"Ben Roethlisberger at hospital. Maybe shoulder will turn out to be separated. But all Steelers have been told so far is it is sprained."

Tomlin confirmed that Big Ben left the stadium and was evaluated at a nearby hospital, but didn't speculate on Big Ben until more is known. He said he doesn't "live in the hypothetical world." He simply said they did enough to win. -

There is no official word at present, however there is speculation that Big Ben suffered a shoulder sprain. No word as to what grade it is or whether it's an acromioclavicular joint sprain or sternoclavicular sprain.

Cliff notes version is that in Grades I or II sprains, the injury is treated with what we in the industry (I've revealed in previous blogs that I studied and worked in E.M.S. and Massage Therapy) PRICE: Pressure, Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. Anti-inflammatories, or NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), such as naproxen sodium (Aleve) or ibuprofen (Motrin amongst others) are used. This is a two to three week situation.

If it's a Grade III sprain, where major tearing of the connective tissue is involved, surgery may be required. But, either way, IF this is the situation, no Big Ben for the Ravens games. -

With Big Ben missing most of the second half with a right shoulder injury, overtime was needed and Lawrence Timmons’ interception on the second play of the 5th period set up Shaun Suisham’s 23-yard field goal to beat the Kansas City Chiefs 16-13 in overtime over on Monday night.

In danger of losing to a team that hadn’t led in regulation all season, receiving their first lead Monday night, the Steelers were able to pull out the victory. A victory that many, including yours truly, said should've been easy.

“We made it hard on ourselves,” linebacker Larry Foote said. “We never make it easy.”

Though, again, the Steelers haven't yet revealed the severity of Big Ben's injury or how long he'll be out. The players are naturally concerned over their leader. Some didn't at all hold back their feelings on the matter.

“It scares you,” said offensive lineman Willie Colon. “Hopefully it’s not as bad as they’re saying.” -

Hopefully, Willie. Hopefully.

Without Big Ben, the Steelers turned to Byron Leftwich for their fourth straight victory.

Leftwich hadn't played in almost two years. It showed as he was very rusty at first, before hitting Emmanuel Sanders on a 31-yard pass that set up one of Sushi's three field goals.

Whether or not Big Ben had played the entire game, the Steelers didn't look ready for this game from the beginning. It isn't unusual for the defense this season to start slowly, but the offense usually generates early points.

Steelers offensive players said all week that they wanted to win this one for Haley. They did. Barely.

The normally on-point Steelers quarterback was just average in the first half. He was just 9-18 for 84 yards and a touchdown when he left the game.

The defense picked it up and kept the Chiefs scoreless most of the second half after being gashed early on the ground, but the offense never did come around.

Jamaal Charles put the Chiefs up, 7-0, with a 12-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and an Isaac Redman fumble gave the ball back to the Chiefs at the Steelers’ 10-yard line, but they weren’t able to punch it in and had to settle for a 22-yard Ryan Succop field goal to take a 10-0 lead.

A Sushi field goal gave the Steelers three points before Mike Wallace made a circus catch off of a Roethlisberger seven-yard pass in the end zone to even the game at 10-10 late in the second quarter. Wallace somehow kept the ball off the turf by holding it between his knees and securing it before rolling out of bounds.

Many of the details of the second half are all a blur for most Steelers fans as the only thing that really matters is that the Steelers mid-season defensive MVP and franchise quarterback are down and their status is uncertain at present.

If the injuries end up being relatively minor, we'll look back at a game that should have been won by a lot more than three points.

If the injuries are as feared, the victory could be a meaningless one. A Pyrrhic victory.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

All Eyes On Steelers To Make Statement Against Chiefs

Todd Haley and the Pittsburgh Steelers will feel like Tupac Shakur, all eyes on me, when they take on the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday Night Football this week. -

The Steelers offensive coordinator is preparing his current team, which hasn't lost at home on Monday night since 1991, to go against his former team, which hasn't won much of anything this season.

The hapless Chiefs (1-7) haven't had a lead in regulation all season. Their only win saw them finally beating the New Orleans Saints in overtime. In fact, the Chiefs are the first team in more than 50 years not to hold a lead during a game through eight games. Even the 2008 winless Detroit Lions at least did that much.

In his weekly press conference, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin is known for making the next weeks' opponent sound like Super Bowl champs. But, trust me, Tomlin was not describing the same Chiefs team I, or anyone else, have seen play this season. -

Tomlin said that the Chiefs are 1-7 because of turnovers, and there is truth in that. The Chiefs have turned the ball over 29 times already this season, resulting in 104 points scored. Still, this assessment isn't exactly the rain water Tomlin wants you to believe it is.

The Chiefs rank 30th in the NFL in defensive points allowed, surrendering 30 per game. This is by no means only because of turnovers. They're 23rd in the league in run defense, giving up 126 yards per game at over six yards per carry (YPC).

This is good news for a Steelers team that has rediscovered its running game of late with Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman. Rashard Mendenhall got the ball rolling when he averaged over 5.2 YPC against the Eagles. But it's been Dwyer and Redman who've caused memories of Black-Italian Army riding a Bus to the promised land to resurface. -

It hasn't just been a resurgent run game, but a punishing one. Against the Redskins, Dwyer carried 17 times for 107 yards, with 68 coming after first contact. Plus, 114 of his 122 yards came after contact in the win over the Bengals. That’s 71% of his yards coming after contact (YAC).

Redman also had a 100-yard rushing game, against the Giants, as well as a 100-yard receiving game in last two starts. Add Redman's YAC to the equation and that's over 77.5% of the Steelers rushing yards over past three weeks coming after contact. -

So, Haley isn't any longer concerned with unproductive running backs as he was early in season, but rather figuring out who will be good against that week's opponent.

The two of them may just be best together for now in a two-back rotation. Many teams around the league have done it effectively for years now. It's something the Steelers running backs don't seem to mind, either.

"I think it's good to rotate. Everybody gets a feel for it and everybody gets a role." -

Dwyer also had specific praise for his fullback. He said that Will Johnson is playing "lights out" football right now. Will it continue? - ~

Still, it's the dynamic duo of Haley and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger who've kept the team above water overall. Big Ben's play has been stellar all season which has been due to Haley's diverse play calling. -

Plus, this is Monday Night Football, and Big Ben has loved the big stage. As an undefeated starter on Monday night at Heinz Field, he's 182-292 for 2,017 yards, 14 touchdowns and 13 completions of more than 25 yards (splash plays). -

So, despite the stage, the Chiefs ineptitude and considering the hated rival Baltimore Ravens follow, is Big Ben concerned about this being a letdown or his teammates looking ahead?

"I hate that whole 'letdown game' thing because everyone knows that any week in this league, any team...can be bad and anybody can win."

That, then, requires he, Tomlin and Haley to have the team prepared regardless. According to Brett Keisel and LaMarr Woodley, they are. Woodley posted on Twitter earlier in the week that the team is preparing for the Chiefs as if they were an 8-0 team. He repeated it to reporters in the locker room on Friday:

Keisel also said this week that the team was reminded of the Steelers 2009 upset loss to a bad (2-7) Chiefs team in a morning meeting. He said they know the entire nation will be watching only them and they're "excited to play in front of our home fans." -

Mike Tomlin, known for his 'Tomlin-speak' catch phrases, called the Chiefs' Dwayne Bowe one of best "combat/catch" guys in league. He will test the cornerback put on him, most likely Ike Taylor.

Lance Williams of Steel Curtain Radio brought up some good stats regarding Bowe and the other two players whom the Steelers must watch. He said that of the 553 total plays by the Chiefs offense, Jamaal Charles, Dexter McCluster or Bowe were either targeted or ran it 293 times, or 53% of the time. So, containing them is key. -

Another key for the Steelers is maintaining a high level of physicality and continuing their propensity for splash/explosive plays. We've already pointed out that KC will turn the ball over, so be prepared for the gifts they're sure to the Steelers way. Then capitalize and create splash plays of their own.

As for the physicality, the Chiefs are expecting it.

"When you play the Steelers," said Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel, "you've got to be ready for a really tough, physical football game."

So, then, don't disappoint him. The defense has been more physical lately and recently has even been reminiscent of seasons past. -

There's no real reason to go into great detail about the Chiefs offense because the containing of Charles, McCluster and Bowe is all that needs to be said. They're a deflated team. Hit them in the mouth early and they'll wilt. That's they're m.o. lately. Step on their throat and make a statement. -

The bottom line is that the Chiefs aren't giving anyone much completion lately and shouldn't Monday night, either. The nations eyes will be on them and their former coach's new team pummel them into submission. A 30-10 score is completely possible.

Kansas City, here we come:


TIDBITS: Final Injury Report for Chiefs game: Troy Polamalu (calf), Antonio Brown (high-ankle sprain, out for a few weeks), Marcus Gilbert and Stevenson Sylvester are out; Mendenhall is doubtful; Chris Carter is questionable; Chris Rainey, Dwyer and Suisham are probable.

Chris Rainey told Steelers beat reporter Mike Bires that he is playing Monday vs. Chiefs as long as he can run.

The Chiefs report that both DE Glenn Dorsey (calf) and QB Brady Quinn (head) are out for MNF. -


Emmanuel Sanders will mostly play his normal slot position in 3-wide receiver sets when Jerricho Cotchery is on field. Sanders takes Antonio Brown's spot in 2-wide receiver sets.


Mike Tomlin hinted this week that Troy Polamalu might play against the Ravens. But Polamalu still hasn't practiced since Oct. 5th. The defense has been playing very well lately and is in a groove. Is it time for youth to be served? Should Polamalu get his starting job back? -


New practice squad addition and Penn St. grad Derek Moye grew up a Steelers fan living outside of Pittsburgh in Rochester. -


Steelers rookie Alameda Ta'amu apologizes for his arrest after court appearance


David DeCastro is working out and does run-throughs as far as practice is concerned. He should return to practice in December, but won't play unless there's an emergency.


Steelers have 2nd easiest second-half schedule in NFL.


Ryan Clark leads all NFL safeties with 30 tackles on run plays.