Sunday, December 30, 2012

Steelers Begin Offseason On "Positive Note"; Adrian Peterson Never Close To Record

There was talk all week about the firing of a coach after Sunday's game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns. It turns out to be true.

That talk, however, was amongst Steelers fans who want heads on a platter. The real head to be served up will be the head coach of the Browns as they will reportedly will fire Pat Shurmur as well as general manager Tom Heckert, come Black Monday.

As for the Steelers, there are definite uncertainties as the offseason is now upon us. Questions abound regarding who'll stay and who'll be gone when the 2013 version of the Steelers steps on the field. -

The Steelers 24-10 win, preventing their first losing season since 2003, was led by linebacker Lawrence Timmons' two sacks, cornerback Cortez Allen's two forced turnovers and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's three touchdown passes. -

Allen's forced fumbles, against Josh Gordon and Travis Benjamin, set up two of Big Ben's three touchdown passes. The first being a 1-yarder to Leonard Pope and the second being a 12-yard touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress. Timmons' two sacks sealed the game and earned him the Steelers Digest Player of the Week honors. -

Speaking of Burress, Plax is one of the ones who could be back next season. When Mike Wallace leaves there will be need of another receiver for the Steelers anyway, principally one who stretches the field. They'll also do well to have a true veteran presence. Could that be Plax? "We'll see how it goes. I'm pretty sure I'll sit down with Kevin [Colbert] and Coach [Tomlin], and we'll see what happens," he said. "I'm going to keep working hard and preparing as if I'll be back." -

The other star of the game, though, was linebacker James Harrison. The Silverback had 11 tackles, one sack and a Roughing the Passer penalty. Sounds like the old Deebo. The problem is that it may have been his last performance in Black and Gold.

There has been talk, including from If It Ain't Steel before the season started, that Deebo might be knockin' fools the fu** out somewhere else next season. Because of his knee and back issues, he wasn't the same player for most of the season, and he'll be 35 next season. Those two things don't add up.

Then there is the fact that he is due to make $6.57 million next season and will count just over $10 million against the salary cap. The Steelers don't put money into an aging player whose best years may be past him. See Gregg Lloyd, Jason Gildon and Joey Porter (though he had good years left) for references.

If this is the end, all in Steeler Nation owe a lot of thanks for great memories, especially ones in/against Cleveland, the Silverback has provided.

Another defensive player who may not be back is defensive end Brett Keisel. He spoke to Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reporter Ken Laird about upcoming changes in the roster saying, "There's always changes....We'll have a new team next year. Who knows if I'll even be here."

Other current Steelers who may not be back with the team next season will be discussed in future articles. However, two more men, Casey Hampton and Larry Foote, spoke to Laird also that possibility. -

With all of this in front of the team, head coach Mike Tomlin said that for some individuals, hopefully this game is something on which to build, saying it's good to finish on "positive note." -

As a friend of the site, Marc Uhlmann (@SteelDad on Twitter) said, every team has ifs and buts after an incomplete season. These are the Steelers', many if which will be tackled soon enough:

It may have ended on a "positive note," but it still ended sooner than many expected and that many more would have liked. So much of Sunday's game could be considered a microcosm of the Steelers this season, other parts of could be bullet points for other topics and reasons.

Bottom line: the Steelers underachieved and missed the playoffs - an actual three-year rotation of not making the playoffs since 2000 (2003, 2006, 2009 and 2012). Steelers fans must now suffer the 'what ifs' of a playoffs where they aren't represented. Then? The April NFL Draft have the Steelers will be picking at No. 17 where they'll select...

UPDATE: Pat Shurmur was indeed fired Monday.

"Just want to say that Adrian [Peterson] is a Great player & if my record had to fall. I would like it to go to a player like AP!" - Eric Dickerson from his personal Twitter (@EricDickerson) account.

Adrian Peterson came within nine yards of the "NFL all-time rushing record" held by Eric Dickerson. There's one problem: it isn't really the record. Hear me out.

When the 2,000 yard mark was originally crossed in 1973, the NFL schedule was 14 games. That means that Simpson's 2,003 mark was accomplished by his rushing for 143 yards (143.071429 yards to be exact) per game. That being the case, the record wasn't truly broken back in 1984.

For the record to actually have been broken, Dickerson, and anyone else who had designs on the record in a 16-game season, would have to have gained 2,004 yards by the 14th game or 2,289 yards by season's end.

And don't come back with the same old tired 'O.J.'s more concerned with his criminal record' jokes. This is purely about when he was "The Juice."

So, as much as we love ALL DAY, all that he accomplished, especially after a coming back from devastating knee injury, and believe he should be the 2012 NFL MVP (though, The Sheriff will have a say in that and/or the Comeback Player of the Year award), AP wasn't even close to the true record.


TIDBITS: The full NFL playoff schedule is now set. Pro Football Talk has it right here:


As initially reported by Bob Labriola, Kelvin Beachum was evaluated for symptoms of a concussion caused by a blindside hit from DT Phil Taylor. A play that raised the ire of a former Steelers player.

Chris Hoke tweeted from his personal Twitter (@hokiebro76) account how he felt about it: "I have never seen a cheaper hit than the one Phil Taylor just put on Kelvin Beachum. Fine him a game check. #nfl #nflcommissioner"

Are you listening, Roger?


Ryan Clark let us know after the game that he's down for a while. From his personal Twitter (@RealRClark25) account he tweeted this: "Figures [I'd] put myself in the hospital after the last game! Poor @WriteHereYONKee (his wife) but she rides with me!”

He then followed that up and posted a photo for us: "Told y'all!! My outfit game stays on point!"

Reports from the Tomlin season-endind press conference was that it was a deep-thigh bruise. Feel better soon, brotha. #SteelerFam

Friday, December 28, 2012

Steelers' Pride Will Prevent Them From "Tanking It" vs. Browns

"Thankfully, perseverance is a good substitute for talent." - Steve Martin

That may be the Pittsburgh Steelers season in a nutshell. The lack of talent behind the starters, as well as the underachieving, has been evident. To a man, however, the Steelers are persevering and intend to go out on Sunday and win.

Ben Roethlisberger said that Sunday's game is important for the 7-8 Steelers because "one of my goals coming in was to never be below .500." -

Honorable. Let's be real about this, Ben wants to play entire game Sunday. He should. He should want to lead his team to victory and avoid a losing record, something has never experienced as a professional. Neither he nor the rest of the rest of the Steelers care about draft positioning right, just a win Sunday against their longtime rivals, the Cleveland Browns. -

I've read various media articles and a smattering of posts and comments on social media that have suggested the Steelers should tank the last game for a better draft pick. Things like "#TankForTeo" and other such posts and suggestions are prevalent, but unnecessary.

Sure, this is the time when there are concerns about Pro Bowl snubs -- Lawrence Timmons, Ryan Clark (who were selected as alternates) and Larry Foote all had seasons that could be considered Pro Bowl-esque -- as well as concerns about futures. - -

For the moment, though, these are men who are solely concerned about one thing, beating the Browns and salvaging their season.

Additionally, per Tom Bradley, @TomScrapBradley on Twitter, Steelers Broadcast Network and Clear Channel radio analyst, the "Steelers have not lost four at home since 2003, have not lost four in a row since 2009 and have not been swept by the Browns since 1988."

Those are not records the team wants to match or break this Sunday. According to Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley, also, they look to even use it as a "springboard."

"I think a win in the last game or the last two games," Haley said, "whatever opportunity you have has a springboard effect for you. That's what we need to do, get this going in a positive direction to finish the season." -

To do that, the Steelers will want to prevent some other things from being matched as well. In the last three games against the Browns, the Steelers have scored just 41 points (14, 13 and 14).

A feat that will be even more difficult now that both wide receiver Mike Wallace and tight end and team MVP Heath Miller have been placed on Injured Reserve. Fans will likely see a version of the Steelers offense on Sunday that will be seen again at the start of next season.

If the Steelers offense does stall again on Sunday, they'll have to hope their defense is able to offer a rude welcome to the Browns starting, ladies and gentlemen, I have to check...oh, here it is, Thaddeus Lewis.

A rude awakening from a defense that unfortunately has blown six 4th-quarter leads this season, four of them resulting in losses. A fact of which defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is well aware.

"Well, the truth of the matter is we didn't get off to a really good start on defense," LeBeau said. "I don't think it was ever quite as bad as it was perceived to be but we weren't playing the way we wanted to play."

Part of the reason for this is that splash plays were at a minimum all season. Safety Ryan Clark said that was one thing that was absent all year. The making of key plays to turn the tide.

"If you look at our years when we went 12-4 and went to Super Bowls, we didn't blow people out," said Clark. "But, in these types of games, we find ways to make plays in the fourth quarter. That was the story all year. We find a way, defensively, offensively, or on special teams not to make a play."

That being the case, it might not be a bad idea to play more of the younger talent that ones were so high on. Talent that for some reason only saw limited action.

To be specific, Cameron Heyward who only saw approximately 200 snaps on defense and Steve McLendon who saw even fewer. To listen to John Mitchell, regarding McLendon at least, you would've thought that they should've had more than that. It isn't troubling McLendon, though, as he believes his time will come. -

Let's hope that time is now. Through pride and perseverance, let's go out winning and let other issues work themselves out in April.


TIDBITS: INJURY/PRACTICE Report: Steelers - OUT: T Mike Adams (ankle/IR), CB Curtis Brown (ankle/IR), LB Marshall McFadden (abdomen), WR Mike Wallace (hip/IR)
PROBABLE: G David DeCastro (hamstring), CB Keenan Lewis (knee), S Troy Polamalu


Oh, Norman... Mark Kaboly says Boomer Esiason is way out of line with these comments about Ben Roethlisberger:


Steelers signed wide receiver David Gilreath and nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu from the practice squad, placed Mike Wallace, Curtis Brown and Mike Adams on IR.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The 2012 Steelers - All The King's Horses..., pt. 1

They had a great fall...
The 2012 Pittsburgh Steelers players have missed an approximate total of 110 games due to injury this season. While teams are expected to weather the injury storm front, these came in torrents.

The Steelers, in fact, had their injuries to come in groups of positions. Before the season even began, they were struck at linebacker and on the offensive line, then there were issues at running back, then (again) on the offensive line, then at wide receiver, then at quarterback, then at defensive back and then again (again) on the offensive line.

It was monsoon season in the Steel City that ended with eight players on Injured Reserve. Yet, despite all of the Ace bandages and surgical tape, this team did show flashes of elite ability on offense and had the number one ranked unit on defense.

To begin with the offense, it did actually work at times. Its failings were directly associated with the aforementioned injuries, especially on the offensive line, a limited running game, dropped passes, fumbles and interceptions and the stubborn refusal of one individual to adapt and change.

With two offseason issues staring the Steelers offense in the face - the holdout of the No. 1 wide receiver and the introduction of a new offensive coordinator - before Training Camp ever started, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger could have taken the bull by the horns and kept loose ends from unravelling.

A new offensive coordinator does not guarantee immediate success, especially when your speedy wide receiver isn't in Camp, but buying into it would at least help to more smoothly transition the offense into place. Big Ben is the leader of the offense and the players look to him as such.

Let's look at it this way and assume for a minute that half of Steeler Nation will get what they want and offensive coordinator Todd Haley is also allowed to "retire?" Think about it: What if Big Ben doesn't like the next new offense, either? Does he continue to whine and pout his way to another 8-8 season?

Big Ben is and always was the lynch pin. The success or failure of this offense begins and ends with him. He is the leader and could have provided the proverbial ounce of prevention. Instead, there are pounds of cure needed to remedy this situation, without new OC Haley once retaliating in kind to Big Ben's quips.

As even he himself admitted, Big Ben deserves the brunt of the blame for what transpired this season. He believes, though, that the offensive problems and the late-season collapse are not signs of things to come. -

If It Ain't Steel has always defended Big Ben in the past, and, though we aren't going to castigate him now, we realize it is definitely time for him to truly mature and to accept the change in surroundings. Though he by no means shoulders all the blame, again, the Steelers success still begins and ends with him. -

Now, we all know Big Ben isn't going anywhere, but (sorry to disappoint many of you) neither is Haley. To even suggest such a thing is incredibly premature and unwarranted. As we've written before, not one coach fumbled, dropped a pass or threw an interception. But that doesn't mean they escape with impunity.

The offense was at times brilliant and at time putrid. Unfortunately, sometimes in the same game. This is where the coaching staff receives a failing grade. What did Haley say last Thursday before the Cincinnati Bengals game regarding how their season is measured?

"What we are about is wins and losses," he said in Coordinator's Corner. "That is how you are measured. How many wins do you have? Are you in the playoffs? That's what we are shooting for, to play the game in New Orleans. That is our only goal."

If that is your only goal as a coaching staff, you failed. And even if turnovers were directly associated with the three-game losing streak, the coaching staff still shares the blame. Here's how.

Big Ben's propensity for success on third down prior to his injury and in recent years is well publicized, including right here in this blog. In his first eight and a half games this season, he had over a 66% completion rate on third downs, including seven touchdown passes and no interceptions.

In his three post-injury games, though, Big Ben has less than a 41% completion rate on third down and has thrown only one touchdown and has thrown one interception.

He spoke last week about feeling the offense needed to stretch the field more as defenses had adjusted to their short passing game and had been doing a better job at disguising pressure and coverages.

We preach that players must execute and that pinpoint execution trumps predictability every single time. The problem is that Haley never really adjusted the offense to offset what the defenses were doing and therefore put his offense in a position to execute cleanly.

Whether it's a spread look, zero formations, flood routes or slant routes to combat this and give the receivers space to gain separation, it wasn't done. Nor were the running backs used out of the backfield enough.

It affected the Steelers offensive line as well. In the three games since Big Ben has been back, he's suffered 10 sacks, and even more hits, for an average of over 3.3 per game. In the games prior, he was only sacked an average of 2.12 times per game.

Instead of orchestrated rhythm, there was cacophony.

Another issue is identity. Art Rooney II had said after the firing of former offensive coordinator Bruce Arians that he simply wanted to see things "tweaked" a little bit.

Well, (work with me here) why not simply "encourage" your existing OC to adjust his offense to include more fullback/H-back play, a more effective run game and more three and five-step drops? Especially since you claim you mainly want to extend the life of your franchise quarterback.

If It Ain't Steel suggested after the Arians firing that it might have been a premature move because of that still-maturing offense. With still very young wide receivers, a running back that wouldn't be starting the season healthy leaving two young runners to carry the rock and with potentially three new offensive linemen (one simply in a different position) in your lineup, that may not have been a time to rock the boat. -

Rooney II had also wanted more effective running of the ball. Last year, the Steelers ran the ball 43% of the time. This year, roughly 41% of the time, the lowest percentage in many years.

Steelers have started seven different offensive line combinations this season, with one game to go. They started 10 different combinations last season. So, with neither a consistent nor effective run blocking line, or a steady running back, we're saddled with these results.

And now Willie Colon is hurt again. What will happen with him now? Free agents and salary cap issues will be discussed in future articles.

So much, however, went into the great fall of the Pittsburgh Steelers: Divo wide receivers, entitled quarterbacks and stubbornly rigid offensive coordinators. It will certainly take all of the king's horses to put this back together again.

...and somewhere Bruce Arians is smiling.


TIDBITS: Only once in Dick LeBeau's 11 years as Steelers defensive coordinator has the team ranked worse than 5th (9th) in total defense. Fives times in last nine years they've been number one. LeBeau said Thursday, "I love Pittsburgh," tells players he'll be back next season. Here's what LeBeau said about his return to the Steelers and some decisions Tomlin must make about his staff:


Casey Hampton won The Chief Award for cooperation with the media, Mike Adams was voted the teams Rookie of the Year and Heath Miller was voted the team MVP.

Steelers have two Pro Bowl players for 2012: C Maurkice Pouncey and TE Heath Miller. Pouncey is the first center ever to be selected to a Pro Bowl in each of his first three seasons.

Steelers alternates: Roethlisberger, Clark, Suisham and Timmons.


STEELERS PRACTICE/INJURY Report - DeCastro (hamstring) full practice for Steelers; LB Marshall McFadden(abs) limited; Troy, Adams (ankle), C. Brown (ankle), K. Lewis (knee) and Wallace (hip) DNP

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Steelers' Inept Play Ruins Anniversary Ceremony, Playoff Hopes in 13-10 Loss

What's an antonym for "immaculate?" Dirty? Filthy? Foul? Tainted? Unclean? Unsterile? Well, pick one, because they all fit the Pittsburgh Steelers overall performance against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday in a 13-10 loss. Here are the highlights from the game:

That's it. After that, then the opening kick, it got really ugly.

For Ben Roethlisberger and the offense, it was an utterly pathetic showing. Granted, Big Ben was 'almost dead' five weeks much did that affect his arm strength? That can't be quantified accurately, but he wasn't the Ben we know for more than a handful of plays.

As Big Ben accurately stated, "We should be (going to the playoffs) if it wasn't for me." -

As Dejan Kovacevic, sports columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, tweeted on his official Twitter (@Dejan_Kovacevic) account, and with which we agree: "I love Ben, always have and have always defended him...BUT he should take a lot of the blame...not all, but A LOT." -

Was he actually still ailing? Let's hope it's nothing else. Regardless, Big Ben deserves the brunt of the blame for the last two losses. Ben just hasn't been Ben since coming back from his injury and the difference is staggeringly obvious.

BIG BEN pre-injury:

209 - 316 passes
66.1% completion
17 TD passes
4 interceptions
QB Rating of over 100.0 and 121.1 on 3rd down with the team just under 50% on 3rd.
3 game-winning drives.

BIG BEN post-injury:

60 - 110 passes
54.5% completion
6 TD passes
4 interceptions (half of season total)
QB Rating in the 80.0's (58.6 on Sunday) and the team converting only 2 of 14 3rd downs.
3 blown chances at comebacks or game-winning drives.

The offense as a whole wet the bed and wasted a nearly brilliant defensive performance in which Cortez Allen, the Steelers Digest Player of the Week, had two interceptions and a forced fumble, the Steelers first multi-interception game in over a year (their first since Cleveland last December).

It was also a game in which the defense recorded six sacks, their most in one game all season, and where an unusually animated Troy Polamalu had his first sack since September of 2011 in a 24-0 victory over the Seattle Seahawks.

But their performance couldn't offset the inept play of the offense. An offense that had actually been the ones carrying the defense in recent weeks. And as has been the case too many times this season, one wasn't enough. -

The offense had far too few bright moments, Sunday and all season, and turned it over far too many times. That's a failure for both the players and the coaching staff.

No, the coaches don't throw interceptions, fumble or drop passes, but they are ultimately responsible for repetitive problems and continued insanity (insanity: doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result).

One dropped pass is a mistake, two fumbles is a pattern, and three interceptions is a habit. Or, in this case, a problem. A problem If It Ain't Steel said was needed to be avoided in our pre-game article. -

The players, for the little good it meant, recognized it also. "I'm not surprised at all," said running back Isaac Redman. "Turnovers at key moments of games have just crushed us all year long."

(Getty Images)
The final crushing blow was dealt once again by quarterback Big Ben who threw two interceptions in the game, the first being returned for a touchdown. For the second straight game, Big Ben threw a costly interception that led to a loss when Reggie Nelson picked him off with 14 seconds remaining and the score tied.

The Bengals (9-6) then only needed a 21-yard completion to A.J. Green to set up the game-winning field goal. This is the first time since 1981-82 that the Bengals have reached the playoffs in consecutive seasons. -

Though he also threw a touchdown pass when he and wide receiver Antonio Brown made it rain on Adam "Pacman" Jones for a 60-yard score, the Steelers (7-8) lost for the fifth time in six games. This will be the first season since 2006 that the Steelers will enter the regular season finale with no chance of making the playoffs.

According to Steelers left tackle Max Starks, though, they'll be ready: "There won't be any quitting going into next week," he said after the game.

Next week will be it for this season, however. Time to start taking a serious look at everything and everyone. Injuries decimated this team from virtually day one, yes. But there were obvious inherent problems that need addressing.

"We have to do a better job as players of playing," said Steelers linebacker James Harrison, "and a better job as coaches of coaching."

One thing they have to absolutely do better is block. Finding a number one running back would help and they had injuries at all positions but one. But the offensive line was never completely consistent in its blocking and got progressively worse as the season went along.

In fact, we warned how bad it could get with defensive tackle Geno Atkins in town. It was expected that Ramon Foster would see him, instead he lines up over rookie David DeCastro most of the day. Atkins feasted on the youngling, having 2.5 sacks for a total of 13 this season.

The problems that need to be addressed will be discussed at length in future articles, as we have a long offseason to address them. All that is left is to salvage the season and avoid being the first losing year since 2003.

It won't take an immaculate performance against fellow cellar dwellers, the Cleveland Browns, just one that isn't the same inept showing seen lately. The standard should be a higher one.


TIDBITS: In Mike Tomlin's post-game press conference, he announced that Baron Batch broke his arm and that Heath Miller suffered a PCL and MCL injury. Injured reserve for both for a certainty.

Curtis Brown (Achilles), Mike Wallace (hamstring), and center Maurkice Pouncey (knee-MCL) all dinged up, but status unknown. -


After his suspension, Rashard Mendenhall returns to have 11 carries for 50 yards. He returns to the scene of the crime (sort of) next week against the Browns. -


Steelers 2013 opponents now set following loss to Bengals:

Friday, December 21, 2012

For The Steelers, The Playoffs Begin Sunday Against Bengals

"What we are about is wins and losses. That is how you are measured. How many wins do you have? Are you in the playoffs? That's what we are shooting for..." - Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley when asked about Ben Roethlisberger's numbers being better this year with him as the OC.

It is a valid question after all. Despite missing three (really 3.5) games, Big Ben has 22 touchdown passes, six interceptions and has suffered 24 sacks. Compare that to 21 TD passes, 14 interceptions and 40 sacks endured in 2011. That, by the way, was with 115 more pass attempts than he has at present. So the question is rightly asked.

Going by the criteria laid out by Haley, though, the season to this point would be a failure. Thankfully, they have two weeks to change that. Well, really only one.

This Sunday is the season for the Steelers. This one game. "That's it, that's the list" as Mr. Tony Kornheiser would say. It's win or go home starting this week. It begins with Big Ben and Haley being on the same page and guiding the Steelers successfully.

"Yeah, we've been on the same page. Our focus this week is on the Cincinnati Bengals," said Haley.

"Ben and I, I've felt, have been on the same page throughout the year," he continued. "as much as a quarterback and coordinator can be. There [are] going to be ups and downs and frustrations, but it's never been an issue of being on the same page."

Big Ben spoke similarly to ESPN's Josina Anderson (@JosinaAnderson on Twitter) Thursday in a locker interview. He spoke of being comfortable with Haley's offense and what's needed as their playoffs do indeed begin Sunday. -

In that interview the subject of the "comfort level" of Big Ben and the players in this offense was broached. Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review touched on this topic earlier this week.

Kaboly pointed out how Big Ben used to be a "one-read quarterback his first couple years in the league," but that he made himself into one of the best 2nd, 3rd and 4th-read quarterbacks in the league.

Over the last five years, Big Ben has nearly mastered his progressions. Like Kaboly said, he's become "one of the best" at it.

Over the last 2 weeks, though, Big Ben has struggled in that department. Could be because he isn't totally comfortable with Haley's offense yet? Possible, though it could just as easily be that the Tin Man still needs his oil can lubricating his joints as he works his way back from injury.

If it's the former reason, Big Ben said on Wednesday what he thinks are possible ways to help rectify that. Big Ben said he felt that they need to push the depth of routes more, that teams have picked up on their short passing game.

"They're definitely keeping on eye on our short passes, quick game as we call it. Because we've done a lot of that," Big Ben said. "That's kind of how we started the year, been pretty successful doing that stuff."

"They have sat on a lot of short routes," he went on, "which means we need to take advantage of that and double move and push the depth a little more."

He has a point. The "quick game" has accounted for 62% of the passes thrown by Big Ben having traveled nine yards or less, up from almost 56% last season.

The Steelers need the splash, or explosive, plays in their offense, I like and understand Haley's offense, I just think it needs to allow for more of "Ben being Ben." Or, wasn't that obvious in the touchdown pass to Heath Miller in the first half against the Cowboys? -

What is also obvious is that Big Ben's improvisation will be needed again as the musical chairs-like offensive line will be facing a man whom the website Pro Football Focus calls the "best defensive tackle in the game in the NFL in 2012: the Cincinnati Bengals' Geno Atkins.

This week, Steelers left guard Ramon Foster will see a lot of the man listed as having 69 quarterback disruptions and who already has the Bengals record for sacks by an interior lineman with 10.5, topping Dan Wilkinson's 1995 mark.

"He’s a good D-lineman, man," Foster said this week. "I think he’s one of the best if not the best D-lineman in the game right now. You’ve got to respect that guy, and you’ve got to really study that guy."

Atkins did have a sack in the teams' first meeting, but erstwhile left guard Willie Colon kept him in check most of the game. Foster knows he'll have his hands full come Sunday.

"You can’t go into the game thinking that you’re going to take a play off, it’s just not possible," Foster continued. "He has a great motor, he’s a strong guy with good leverage. You can’t be slow to take off on this guy he’ll definitely come around and embarrass you. He’s coming right off the snap."

What's his advantage? What makes him so good?

"His leverage, he’s down the middle of most guys’ chests. Most guards in this league are tall and he’s right there with the leverage," Foster revealed. "You’ve got to be really balanced with your base in this type of game."

That said, Foster doesn't expect the Steelers to use double-team strategies or chip him the entire game Sunday. "No, because we get paid in this league too," said Foster.

If that's the case, the Steelers will need to use the run game better to help offset his effectiveness. The last 2 weeks the Steelers have passed 72% of the time vs. the run (though, it was high against the Chargers for obvious reasons), and it's something the running backs have been vocal about this week as well. -

Getting Jonathan Dwyer the ball more is important, yes, but Big Ben in the interview alluded to what might be the team's biggest problem: turnovers, 27 of them to be exact. Of the 291 points allowed this year, 107 of them have come off of turnovers.

Haley doesn't fumble or throw interceptions, so the players need to execute and be held accountable when they don't. -

Through 14 games, the Steelers defense ranks first in yards allowed per game, passing yards allowed per game, and first downs allowed per game. They also rank second in yards allowed per play and passing yards allowed per play, and fourth in rushing yards allowed per game.

They have even allowed a league low 29 splash plays (plays of 20 yards or more). But the lack of sacks and turnovers, the two are usually indelibly linked, keeps this unit from being truly scary. The players know this and are sending a clear message regarding Sunday.

"The Bengals have to come in here and be ready to get hit in the mouth and stand in the middle of the field and slug it out," Steelers free safety Ryan Clark vowed.

Despite his injuries, Keenan Lewis also said he'd be ready, saying he will follow A.J. Green around on Sunday: "I am sure I will be ready to go 100% by Sunday."

Not backing down, he reiterated: "I'm playing, no matter what."

Green, who leads the AFC North with seven dropped passes (Mike Wallace is second with six), would have a field day against the combination of Curtis Brown, Josh Victorian and Robert Golden. Lewis is desperately needed Sunday so that Green doesn't set NFL records.

In "Coordinator's Corner," defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau spoke on all of these things, but cited what might be most important.

"It's important to get the guy on the ground every game," LeBeau said. Dallas quarterback, Tony Romo, was only sacked once last week. Tackling the passer and getting him on the ground is paramount.

"People know that we are a pressure defense, and the league has gone to a very quick release passing game," LeBeau continued. "They don't hold the ball very much. I have said this many times. If you look at the passing numbers that we have, there's got to be pressure on the quarterback."

Is there a solution? This deep into the season, "no" seems to be the answer. But LeBeau was accurate in one assessment in particular: "Our pressure has been consistent. Do we need more sacks? Absolutely..."

If the Steelers don't get constant pressure on Bengals QB Andy Dalton, he has the ability to pick them apart. The front seven of the Steelers defense needs to protect the inexperienced and injury-depleted secondary. -

The bad thing about the Bengals having played last Thursday night is the extra time they had to prepare. The good news is that all of the Bengals points were scored off of turnovers.

They were lackluster. They committed stupid penalties. They couldn't protect their quarterback and, when they did, he wasn't exactly good. He was sacked six times and he compounded that by fumbling twice. Fortunately for them, Philadelphia was worse.

The Eagles committed four turnovers in a brutally bad and hard-to-watch seven-minute span of the second half. All told, the Eagles turned it over five times and even had a punt blocked. They were more turkey than eagle and Cincinnati capitalized.

Recipe for success: play a clean game and they can be beaten. Remember the turnover stats given earlier? This is vital for victory. A victory needed to get into the post-season.

A post season that starts Sunday.


TIDBITS: FRIDAY PRACTICE/INJURY REPORT: Steelers - James Harrison and Maurkice Pouncey were limited because of illness; Keenan Lewis returned on a limited basis after missing on Thursday; Cortez Allen (groin), Troy Polamalu and Emmanuel Sanders (rib) were all full participants during Friday's practice. All Steelers listed as PROBABLE for Sunday except for CB Ike Taylor (out) and OT Mike Adams (doubtful). Most important that means CBs Cortez Allen/Keenan Lewis/Curtis Brown and WR Sanders will play.

Bengals - Adam Jones surfaces as questionable on Friday injury report. He was limited in Friday practice. Not on report prior this week. If Jones can't go, Nate Clements will play CB and Brandon Tate would return punts.


Bradshaw will be at the Immaculate Reception game after all. Well, a Bradshaw will anyway. While former Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw won't be at Sunday's 40th Anniversary of the Immaculate Reception, the Bradshaw Family will be represented by Terry's daughter, Rachel, a 25 year-old actor and country music singer who will sing the National Anthem before Sunday's game.


The book "Steeler Nation" by Jim Wexell will help to explain why we Steelers fans are everywhere:


My Brother's Keeper featuring Maurkice and Mike Pouncey:


This week, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk included Mike Tomlin in his list of head coaches whom he believes may potentially be on hot seat. Allow me to rebut the notion this way:


Steelers CB DeMarcus Van Dyke, an exclusive rights free agents at the end of the season, is set to have surgery on Wednesday to repair his injured right shoulder.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Immaculate Controversy Solved?; Roethlisberger Apologizes

(by Jayden Matthews and Jason Robinson)

December 23, 1972, the day the Pittsburgh Steelers were born.

Of course we know the Steelers, originally the Pirates, were actually founded on July 8, 1933. As was the practice back then, Art Rooney, The Chief, took the team's original name from the baseball team of the same name (thus Chris Berman's endless bad imitation of NFL Films' John Facenda saying "the New York Football Giants").

But, for all intents and purposes, the Steelers were born when quarterback Terry Bradshaw, running back Frenchy Fuqua, the Oakland Raiders safety Jack Tatum and running back Franco Harris combined on what is now forever known as the "Immaculate Reception."

Sunday marks 40 years to the day of all holy days for Steelers fans, and the Steelers will celebrate the two score anniversary with a slew of events that culminate with the team's game against the Cincinnati Bengals. -

The day is not without its controversy, though.

When Bradshaw threw a ball that looks to have been touched first by Tatum and not by Fuqua, and that Harris caught in stride before running to the end zone. -

The Steelers won the game after referee Fred Swearingen called the press box to speak to NFL supervisor of officials Art McNally.

Supposedly, Swearingen was fearful of his own safety amid a mob of Steelers fans who would not have reacted well, he and his fellow officials allegedly were informed that they'd only have four policemen at their disposal, to the news that a former rule regarding the initial touching of a pass by an offensive player had wiped out the playoff victory. -

NFL Films’ A Football Life series (aired Wednesday December 19th at 8:00 EST) focuses on the play that gradually and, from the perspective of the Steelers’ organization, reluctantly came to be known as the Immaculate Reception.

Former Raiders coach John Madden refused to be interviewed for the documentary. He is still bitter over what he has suggested was an outcome that was determined by unauthorized use of replay review.

As one would expect, all associated with the silver and black deny it having been legal. All loyal to the Black and Gold believe it did. But watching the A Football Life episode, there seems to be clear evidence that the ball hit Tatum, making it a legal play.

The shot to look for showed up later in the episode, but it was there. Hopefully, this will end the controversy.



Have you ever stopped and considered how bad it would have been if the Cleveland Browns had picked Ben Roethlisberger with the 6th pick of the 2004 NFL Draft instead of Kellen Winslow?

Not that we're trying to give you cold sweat-inducing nightmares here, but then-Steelers head coach Bill Cowher had wanted them to pick an offensive tackle also. Thankfully, Dan Rooney insisted on a quarterback. Cowher didn't think had seen enough of Tommy Maddox. Rooney won.

Thank you, Uncle Dan.

The presence of a true and immaculate franchise quarterback was the last link Cowher needed to get over the AFC Championship game hump as the bridesmaid finally got the chance to toss the bouquet in 2005.

After Cowher's departure, current head coach Mike Tomlin has been to two more with the Steelers and Big Ben at the helm. On-the-field success has been the norm for No. 7, but such was not always the case off of it.

The Steelers have been up hill and down dale at times with the once troubled quarterback. He has been petulant, obnoxious, arrogant and overgrown frat boy. His legal troubles even put him in the NFL's and the Steelers' dog house.

The 2010 season began with Big Ben sitting and watching the first four games. He was serving a suspension that handed down by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Though there was never adequate evidence to bring charges to Big Ben, an example was made of him that was seemingly encouraged by the Rooneys to send a message.

Message received. Since then, he's also been endearing, open, honest and repentant. He's also settled down, graduated from college and has shown actual maturity. Traits that have been very overtly evident this week.

In his weekly press conference, Tomlin said that Big Ben said that he was still on board with offensive coordinator Todd Haley, whom he'd previously thrown under the bus, saying that he blamed heat of the moment. -

Further than that, Big Ben went in and apologized to Haley and the Rooney family on Monday, citing "frustration" as the culprit. Bringing plaudits from those who have covered the Steelers for years:

It's a sign of real maturity and a good start to the practice week for the Steelers who don't need any further distractions as they attempt to salvage their season. -

Hopefully, this will end the negative publicity that still attaches itself to the new daddy on occasion.



IMMACULATE TIDBITS: Cam Heyward and Troy Polamalu both missed Steelers practice for non-injury reasons. Ike (ankle), Al Woods (illness) missed practice also; Cortez Allen (groin) was a full participant in practice; Manny Sanders (rib), Mike Adams (ankle) and Keenan Lewis were limited. But Lewis said: "I'm playing, no matter what."


"I think it was a mistake, but it was a long time coming. When your star quarterback and offensive coordinator were really close and ownership felt that (Ben Roethlisberger) wasn't getting enough discipline. It wasn't a one-year thing. Since Ben wasn't getting the discipline, they also felt that (Steelers former offensive coordinator Bruce Arians) was giving in to what Ben wanted to do as opposed to the philosophy of the Steelers, which has always been running the football first. When he (Arians) got away from running the football it created a problem in the mindset of the offense and became public enemy number one. I think the Steelers needed to see what kind of team did they have? Not a team that can run the ball 40 times and win. Now with (Todd) Haley, they don't have the personnel to do that and they're not winning." - Jerome Bettis said when he appeared on Fox Sports 1360 (Cincinnati) with Andy Furman and Artrell Hawkins.


Official word from Rashard Mendenhall on why he was a no-show for the Chargers game: "I'm not going into that."

Well...ok, then.


The Steelers have signed cornerback and local product Justin King. King played three games with the Colts this season before getting cut. He was a fourth-round pick of the Rams in 2009 and played with them for three years.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Rob Parker Was "Kind Of Black", But Really Racist

(Editor's Note: The events that transpired on Friday and over the weekend delayed the writing of this article. May Jah be with the families and friends of those senselessly killed in Newtown, Ct, Memphis, Tn and Las Vegas, Nv.)

I've often joked with new friends and acquaintances about my origins. Las Vegas has the stigma that 'no one is from here,' so the question of where someone is from is inevitable. When asked, I often reply by saying it's the only thing Steve Martin and I have in common, that I too was born a poor Black child in Mississippi. -

So, growing up in the deep South, I had the chance to see just how prejudiced and racist this world can be. Under race/ethnicity on my birth certificate it actually even reads "Negro." I kid you not. That was 1971.

I grew up in an area where, sadly enough, there was a commonly accepted and well-circulated saying: "If you're white, you're all right; if you're brown, stay around; but if you're Black, get back." It was basically a way of keeping us 'in our place', so to speak.

There was also still the idea that, not only were Blacks inferior, but that features typical of Blacks were less attractive or desirable than those of whites. Imagine how damaging that can be to the psyche of your young son or daughter.

Now extend it to the entirety of a race.

As you can imagine, therefore, I have very little tolerance for prejudice and/or racism of any sort. Especially not for the sort of racist idiocy and blind ignorance regurgitated by former ESPN "personality", Rob Parker. A form of what is known as "internalized racism."

It's hard enough to weather the now more subtle racism that can be seen in everyday life and in the media without having to suffer such slings and arrows from those of my own race.

Allow me to take a step back and lay down what happened in case the other events of the weekend drowned out the white noise that came from the four-letter network.

Last Thursday morning on ESPN's First Take, Rob Parker responded to Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III's saying in a recent interview that he didn’t want to be defined as a Black quarterback. A subject about which If It Ain't Steel recently wrote in agreement. -

Parker said that, as a Black man himself, he has a lot of questions about Robert Griffin III.

“My question is, and it’s just a straight, honest question: Is he a brother, or is he a cornball brother?,” Parker said. “He’s not really. He’s Black, he does his thing, but he’s not really down with the cause. He’s not one of us. He’s kind of black, but he’s not really like the kind of guy you really want to hang out with.”

Parker was just getting rolling, because he went on to say that he wanted to know more about his personal life before accepting RGIII as a real brother.

“I want to find about him,” Parker continued. “I don’t know because I keep hearing these things. We all know he has a white fiancee. Then there was all this talk about he’s a Republican, which there’s no information at all. I’m just trying to dig deeper into why he has an issue. Because we did find out with Tiger Woods, Tiger Woods was like, ‘I’ve got black skin, but don’t call me Black.’ So people wondered about Tiger Woods.”

Tiger? That Asian golfer? Why bring him into this?

Seriously, though, Woods is more Asian than Black, so the comparison is inaccurate. Parker, though, is referring to Woods labeling (for lack of a better word) himself a "Cablinasian" (an abbreviation he came up with from Caucasian, Black, American Indian, and Asian).

To the point, how, in 2012, can a Black commentator go all Uncle Tom's Cabin on another Black man, claiming that he's selling out or not living up to a tired stereotype? Really?

I know my people, and I know we sometimes feel indirectly responsible for our brothers and sisters. Be it flaw or strength, I've seen it for many years. I still ask why should any of it even matter to him? Why should it matter to anyone, for that matter? RGIII's political leanings are his own. The statement regarding the "talk about he's a Republican" perpetuates a further stereotype, that all Black people are Democrats. Parkers' presenting it as if it's a personal affront only makes him look foolish. Foolishness that got him suspended. -

But what raises my ire the most is Parker's bringing RGIII's fiancé into it because she's white. Being that the woman whom I hope marry is a white woman, I take personal offense to that aspect of Parker's commentary. (Like Woods, she's actually mixed, but she's "Brattyasian.")

Am I not "really" Black because the woman with whom I fell in love is a white woman? Am I suddenly Carlton and should I join the Tom Jones fan club? It is a very singular irritant to me when my "Blackness", or that of any of my brothers and sisters, is questioned because of preferences or choices made. I love whom I choose to love, as does RGIII and anyone else.

Nor do I have to drink a forty dog and smoke a blunt while my hat is turned back with my corn rows braided and wearing my pants around my knees while sportin' phat kicks with big, loose laces sayin' "Yo, yo, yo, my ni**a!" every other sentence to be Black!

Hey, I'm gonna let all y'all in on a secret. You want to know a great way to really piss off a Black person? Find the right one and tell him/her that they "talk white." Trust me, it won't be a pleasant conversation. If all you get in return is, "How the hell is someone going to "talk white?!" White is a color! No, b**ch, I speak correct English", consider yourself fortunate. (Don't send me any doctor's bills if it winds up being worse than that.)

Did you see what I did there? I played on another stereotype, that of the 'angry Black man/woman', to make a point while attempting to incur a jocular reaction.

Amongst friends, in locker rooms, for standup comedians, etc...these things may be considered as having their place. But certainly not in a venue that supposedly is designed to inform. A point which Stephen A. Smith made abundantly clear.

“First of all, let me say this: I’m uncomfortable with where we just went,” Smith said when he was asked to respond to Parker. “RGIII, the ethnicity or the color of his fiancé is none of our business, it’s irrelevant, he can live his life in whatever way he chooses. The braids that he has in his hair, that’s his business, that’s his life, he can live his life. I don’t judge someone’s blackness based on those kinds of things. I just don’t do that. I’m not that kind of guy.”

With the Mayan calendar ending, Smith's being the voice of reason is daunting. That notwithstanding, I'm not that kind of guy, either. Because remember, Black is just a color too.

Whether one is "high yella" (think Smokey Robinson or Nicole Ari Parker-Kodjoe) or an "ebony prince/princess" (think Djimon Hounsou or Serena Williams), we're of the Black race. And, as John Sweat Rock is credited as saying, "black is beautiful."

Further still, it is ultimately the makeup of one's being that defines a person. Or, as someone once put it, "the content of their character." -

To keep that dream from turning into too much of a nightmare, we as a people need to remember that despite all our struggles, hardships and all that we've overcome, we're still all of the same race -- the human race.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Cowboys Capitalize On Steelers Miscues, Win 27-24 In OT

This one hurts.

Personally, there is no team that stirs emotions like those stirred by the Dallas Cowboys.

But, congratulations, to the Cowboys. They deserved the win Sunday. They outplayed the Steelers in every facet of the game, handing the Steelers their fourth three-point loss of the season, 27-24 in overtime. The first ever overtime game between the two teams in their 31 all-time meetings. -

It was a loss that handed the Baltimore Ravens a playoff berth and damaged the Steelers' chances, though not ruined, for taking the division and for making the playoffs period.

Now the Steelers playoff season starts earlier than expected. For all intents and purposes, they open their playoff run with the Bengals at home on December 23, of all days, at 1:00 EST.

If the Steelers can't find it within them to celebrate with a win the birth of their franchise's taking over the NFL, what will?

Since the NFL-AFL Merger in 1970, the Steelers have an NFL best 403-256-3 record. They have an NFL best six Super Bowl wins. They are tied with these Dallas Cowboys for the most Super Bowl appearances (8). They are also tied with the Cowboys for the most playoff wins (33).

None of that matters now.

The Steelers could’ve moved to within a game of the first-place Ravens with a victory. Instead, they’re looking up at the Bengals and Colts as they fight for a wildcard spot. At 7-7, the Steelers are now two games behind Indianapolis and one behind AFC North rival Cincinnati. Not a good place to be with two games left.

That said, they still have a chance. In a 3-way division tie at 9-7, the Steelers would have a 3-1 head-to-head record among the Ravens and the Bengals with Baltimore at 2-2 and Cincinnati with a 1-3 record. In that case, the Steelers would win the tiebreak.

Not necessarily probable, but possible.

But that's of little concern tight mow. The only goal for the team right now is to win the next game. Then make playoffs. After that, if their talent can show itself and they can get relatively healthy, they still are a dangerous team. -


For two weeks now, though, the Steelers have been outplayed. Once again, they also were bereft of a running game. Aside from a 22-yard gain by Isaac Redman, the Steelers gained just 47 yards on 16 carries.

Mainly, though, it was senseless miscues and numerous mental errors that sealed the Steelers' fate. It was a truly pathetic showing at times. Nonetheless, believe it or not, they still control their own destiny. Next week is a must win.

As far as Sunday this loss is concerned, it was the secondary and special teams that killed the Steelers.

The Steelers defense got virtually no pressure on Tony Romo. As a result, Romo was the first quarterback this season to throw for over 300 yards against the Steelers. What's worse is that the Steelers gave up approximately half of his 341 passing yards after the catch. That's not 'tackling the catch.'

Mike Tomlin said in his post-game press conference that he thought his young secondary competed, but that they they just did not make enough plays critical plays. -

The secondary doesn't get a pass. Mental errors and miscues did the Steelers in and Dallas took advantage as much as they could.

With the Steelers leading 24-17, Cowboys linebacker Victor Butler stripped Antonio Brown on a potential, game-breaking punt return midway through the fourth quarter with tight end John Phillips recovering the fumble at the Pittsburgh 44-yard line. DeMarco Murray tied the game with a touchdown run seven plays later.

If Brown doesn't fumble, the Steelers probably clinch the game. Brown knows that and was remorseful in his comments after the game.

"We definitely have to be better and that starts with myself," Brown said afterwards. "I can’t put the ball on the ground. It was just careless. You have to protect the ball in the open field. I’ve got to a better job of protecting the ball. It was definitely my fault.” -

The special teams almost allowed a win in regulation when the Cowboys' Dwayne Harris returned a punt 39 yards with 47 seconds remaining. It gave the Cowboys a shot, but the Steelers forced a punt.

But what ultimately ended the night was the Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger interception on the second play of overtime. Big Ben threw a lazy pass too far inside, well behind Mike Wallace, and in a place where really only the Cowboys Brandon Carr could catch it.

Carr snatched up a diving interception and returned it 36 yards to set up the game-winning, 21-yard field goal.

Big Ben had some Houdini-like big plays in the game, including a remarkable touchdown-pass play to Heath Miller, the Steelers Digest Player of the Week, before the half that had enough pump fakes and spins to give defenders Vertigo. -

Unfortunately, the interception was the mistake he couldn’t afford to make.

Big Ben complained after the game about not going to the no-huddle more often. Because he took the blame for the interception, I don't have a problem with his complaint. He's the team leader and should be able to have a say in what they call. -

Would the no-huddle have won it for them. Hard to didn't in overtime. But maybe it keeps the defense on its heels.

The Steelers had the ball with 6:48 and 1:47 left in regulation and with three timeouts, so I'm sure those are situations to which Big Ben was referring. After keeping Ben upright most of the game, the offensive line allowed both of those drives to be killed by sacks.

Then the aforementioned miscues and final turnover were the proverbial nails. Not in the season, though. There is still time to salvage it. And like Steelers linebacker Larry Foote said, they just have to keep fighting "until they say, ‘don’t play no more.'"


TIDBITS: STEELERS INJURIES: starting cornerback Keenan Lewis suffered a groin injury in the second half (how many of those this year???); backup cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke - separated shoulder early in the game; wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders - rib injury.


Steelers average starting field position was last week was their own 19-yard line. Sunday it was their own 24-yard line. The best starting field position was at the 49-yard line.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Steelers Road To Playoffs Goes Through Dallas

We saw stunts into the "A" gap and crossfire blitzes seemingly all day with barely a tipping of the hand as to who was actually coming. It's something that Pittsburgh Steelers fans are used to seeing when their team plays.

It's just that this time, it was the Steelers who were on the receiving end of those blitzes.

The Steelers had a taste of some of their own medicine. More than once this year, Mike Tomlin and his staff have been out-coached by the competition, as was particularly evident against the Chargers last week.

This has to stop if the Steelers are to pave a road to the playoffs. Period.

The Steelers have had problems with teams .500 and below for the last 10+ years. Per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Bob Smizik, Tomlin is .354 (11 losses) and former Steelers head coach Bill Cowher was .225 (7 losses) in his last 93 games. -

At least the Dallas Cowboys have a winning record. And one of the ways the Steelers can attack them is through ball control, especially on the right side.

The Steelers tried going deep a little too often last week, whether out of design or necessity. Shortening the game with both an array short passes, including slants and screens, and effective ball control would be the beginning of getting a win Sunday and going forward.

Look at it big picture for a minute. If, IF, the Steelers are to make a long run in the playoffs, an effective run game and short passing game is the best defense against a Peyton Manning and/or a Tom Brady, i.e. keep it out of their hands. Getting back to ball control is only advantageous for the Steelers.

To start, especially on first and second downs, shorter passes will help the Steelers offensive line when dealing with the likes of DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer. Left tackle Max Starks, whom offensive coordinator Todd Haley says not to jinx, had relative success against Ware in their last meeting, holding Ware to four tackles and only one sack.

Don't misunderstand, though, a few well-thrown deep balls for the receivers to convert (ahem) will make sure to take advantage as well, even if concussed cornerback Morris Claiborne plays.

Heath Miller was having a great season before the injury to Ben Roethlisberger. Since then, he’s been missing too much, including early against San Diego. Miller creates a mismatch because it's difficult to cover him adequately while also covering the receiving corps. A few passes to him clears space for the receivers. -

Speaking of receivers, this might be a game to use more of Plaxico Burress, who saw all of approximately seven snaps against the Chargers.

Reliability and hunger might just be a good mix for the Steelers passing game.

The Cowboys are also a team that can be run on from the middle-to-right side of the field. In their last four games, they've given up an average of 149 yards on the ground with 58% of those yards running between the center and the right end.

Hopefully, the Steelers can do that with two rookies manning the right side and center Maurkice Pouncey coming off his worst game of the season. Points which Haley addressed Thursday. -

"For several years now, he has been one of the better pass rushers in the NFL," said defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau of LaMarr Woodley. "When he is in there, you are going to pick up the rush."

The Steelers catch a break with LaMarr Woodley coming back this week. If It Ain't Steel has recounted his limitations in the past, but he is still good to have around when considering the defense's two main priorities: Tony Romo and Jason Witten.

Tony Romo is tough and elusive. If he is allowed to be mobile, he can be dangerous. Keep him in the pocket and his effectiveness is lessened. Dallas' offensive line has its issues...but so did San Diego's. Nonetheless, hitting and pressuring Romo into quick throws is key. -

The lack of pressure on Rivers allowed him to complete 18 of 31 passes for 132 yards on throws of 10 yards or less beyond the line of scrimmage. Tony Romo isn't that patient, especially not when being harassed. This will be important for a turnover-prone quarterback.

Speaking of catching a break, Blogging The Boys had some very telling things to say about the Cowboys' right tackle Doug Free's deficiencies. Something Woodley and Jason Worilds can hopefully take advantage of Sunday.

"Break is what a lot of fans probably did while watching Doug Free's blocking attempts on the Eagles Wide 9," said the article. "He was routinely beaten; relinquishing sacks, holds, embarrassment, frustration and curse words." -

The lack of pressure hurt the Steelers last week. It can't be allowed to happen vs. Dallas. That becomes even more evident when considering the tight end on the other side of the field.

Jason Witten is just as important to Dallas as Miller is to the Steelers. He’s Tony Romo’s hot read, a load to bring down and must be nullified. With a healthy Troy Polamalu back on the field, he must be used to keep Witten in check.

If Dallas' Dez Bryant is hindered, that leaves Romo to force things to Witten and Miles Austin. That is much easier to defend. The longer you make Romo go though his progressions, the easier it could be to get to him.

Being that the Steelers will be down two cornerbacks Sunday, as both Ike Taylor and Cortez Allen sidelined with injuries, the Nickel and Dime packages are up for grabs.

Both Curtis Brown and Josh Victorian are should see time in Taylor's spot, and undrafted rookie safety Robert Golden is expected to line up in the Nickel.

But Golden, a good tackler and ball hawk, has only been in on two plays this season. So, as LeBeau pointed out Thursday, the Steelers will need all hands on deck.

The Steelers best defense going forward may just be a good, ball-control offense. If they can do that and also generate enough pressure on Romo, they can circumvent their first roadblock to the playoffs.


TIDBITS: INJURY/PRACTICE REPORT: Steelers - Mike Adams, Willie Colon and Ike Taylor are out; Cortez Allen is doubtful; Everybody else is probable.

Dallas - NT Ratliff is out. WR Bryant, CB Claiborne, G Livings, OLB Ware all questionable. Ware (elbow) didn't practice all week.

Josh Victorian, DeMarcus VanDyke and Robert Golden all saw reps in Nickel.

Per Bob Labriola: "Flu bug hitting the Steelers. This week, Harrison, ABrown, Sylvester, Warren all miss practice because of illness."

LS Greg Warren, LB Stevenon Sylvester, WR Antonio Brown all missed Friday's practice due to the virus.


With the debut of David DeCastro, the Steelers will start their 22nd different offensive line configuration in Sean Kugler's 46 regular-season games on Sunday.


The Steelers defense has played so softly, the NFL doesn't even fine them anymore. Ed Bouchette explains why:


Is the Steelers offense part of the reason the defense isn't getting turnovers? ESPN's David Todd says it might be one of them:


Mike Tomlin's statement on Rashard Mendenhall:
"Obviously, last Sunday he was not at the game and I deem those actions a detriment to our efforts. I stated as such when I met with him and that there were going to be repercussions of it. He accepted it. He looks forward to coming back and re-joining this team and being a positive contribution to our efforts the rest of the way. Obviously there is frustration with this situation, understandably, but we all have a job to do. I require all guys to remain professional regardless of personal circumstances. He didn't meet the standard in that regard and accepted the consequences of it. So hopefully this will be a lesson learned not only for him but for everyone and we will be able to move on from it. Right now, our focus is the guys who are here and their preparation in an effort to pursue victory this weekend."

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Steelers vs. Cowboys - Historic Rivalry Renewed

The Dallas Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Does anymore really need to be said? This is NFL history. This is NFL greatness.

Big D. Cowboys Stadium and the Ring of Honor.
The Confluence of Three Rivers. Heinz Field. The Blast Furnace.

The star on the helmet.
The hypocycloid symbol of steel on the helmet.

The Hat. The Hair. Jerry Jones.
Noll. Cowher Power. The Coolest Coach in the NFL. The Rooneys.

Eight Super Bowls. Five wins.
Eight Super Bowls. Six wins.

Team of the 90's.
Team of the 70's.

15-15 in all-time head-to-head meetings.

The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.
...ok, ya got us there.

Sunday will see two of the most storied NFL franchises butt heads again when the Steelers travel to Arlington, Texas to face the Cowboys.

The teams that boast 35 (primary) Hall of Famers and 11 Super Bowl rings renew what is quite possibly the best rivalry in the NFL. All respect due to the Bears and Packers, the Raiders and Chargers, the Cowboys and Redskins and the Steelers and Browns, this is as good as it gets because three of those meeting have been for NFL supremacy.

Each Super Bowl battle was historic unto itself. Each had all the pomp and circumstance befitting royalty and all the bad blood befitting the Hatfields and the McCoys.

In Steelers-Cowboys I, there was the 64-yard touchdown pass by Terry Bradshaw, a split-second before Cowboys defensive tackle Larry Cole buried him, to wide receiver Lynn Swann that sealed the win. It is still considered one of the greatest passes in NFL playoffs history. -

There was Jack Lambert treating Cliff Harris like his son. I will never get tired of watching that. Never. -

They had their share of comedy too.

Before Super Bowl XIII, Steelers-Cowboys II, who could forget Cowboys linebacker Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson famously calling Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw so dumb that he couldn't "spell 'cat' if you spotted him the C and the T?" I know our dearly departed friend Michele couldn't.

Bradshaw got his revenge by torching the Cowboys, going 17 for 30 for a then-record 318 yards, his first 300-passing game, and four touchdowns in a 35-31 win. Bradshaw, Michele's favorite player, won the Most Valuable Player award. -

After the game when Henderson was asked about his comments, he said that he said Bradshaw was dumb, not that he couldn't play.

Play he did, saving his best performances for the big games. Bradshaw passed for more than 300 yards in a game only seven times, but three of those came in the post-season, and two of those in Super Bowls.

In four career Super Bowl appearances, he passed for 932 yards and 9 touchdowns, both Super Bowl records at the time of his retirement. In 19 postseason games, he completed 261 passes for 3,833 yards.

His counterpart during that time was Roger Staubach. An All-American and Heisman Trophy winner (1963), Roger the Dodger was a true leader, guiding the Cowboys to four Super Bowls and nine consecutive winning seasons. Also known as "Captain Comeback," he was once described by long-time Cowboys head coach Tom Landry as "possibly the best combination of a passer, an athlete and a leader to ever play in the NFL."

Both teams were known just as much for their defenses, though. The "Doomsday Defense" in Dallas and the "Steel Curtain" in Pittsburgh terrorized offenses.

Men like Bob Lilly, Ed "Too Tall" Jones and the only two defensive players to win Super Bowl co-MVP honors: defensive tackle Randy "Manster" White and defensive end Harvey Martin.

Names like "Mean" Joe Greene, "Captain" Jack Lambert, and NFL-rules changer, Mel Blount. The only three men to win consecutive NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards (1974-1976).

While each team took a step back in the 1980s, only two conference championship games between them, each saw a resurgence of their prominence and their rivalry in the 1990s.

The Cowboys became dominant first when oil magnate Jerry Jones purchased the Cowboys from H.R. Bright. Soon after, Jones fired the legendary Landry, to that point the only coach in the team's history, in favor of his former Arkansas Razorback teammate, Jimmy Johnson. He then forced out longtime general manager Tex Schramm, and assumed complete control.

Johnson had an ability to find talent in the draft and to make savvy trades. Specifically, he orchestrated maybe the greatest (or worst, depending on which side you were on) trade ever with the trade of Herschel Walker. The trade yielded six high draft picks and a number of players, 11 players in all, from the Minnesota Vikings.

That trade gave birth to "triplets", quarterback Troy Aikman, running back Emmitt Smith and a reunion with Miami Hurricanes wide receiver Michael Irvin. The boys were back.

The Steelers resurrection wasn't the hostile takeover that was seen in Dallas. The Rooneys never lost control of the Steelers and Chuck Noll bowed out gracefully. In came "The Chin," Bill Cowher.

Cowher started to win right away. He still had Noll's players, but he infused new life into the team and into the franchise.

In his first four years, Cowher went 43-21 and captained his '95 team to a spot in Super Bowl XXX against (who else?) the Cowboys. Steelers-Cowboys III was a loss, but it had it's moments as well.

Steelers linebacker and resident enforcer Greg Lloyd announced on national television that he and his teammates needed to go down to Arizona and get...well, listen for yourself:

Then, there was Cowboy's gun-for-hire Deion "Primetime" Sanders who said that he wouldn't be shown up by Steelers wide receiver/quarterback/half back Kordell Stewart. He jokingly said that he wanted to do everything "Slash" did. "If he punts," Primetime said, "I want to punt."

After falling behind early in what looked to be another NFC Super Bowl blowout, the Steelers started to establish their ground game and come back.

Rod Woodson had already informed Michael Irvin that he was there to play, and Emmitt Smith had half of his 49 rushing yards on one play. Now Bam Morris was starting to run roughshod over them, pulling the Steelers to 20-17.

Then the unthinkable happened, providing the most lasting memory by a certain quarterback who inexplicably...he...I'm sorry, I just can't. Watch for yourself what happened for SECOND time in the game in the SAME way in the SAME area of the field to the SAME player:

After that "MVP" performance, Larry Brown left the Cowboys and went into the NFL's version of the Witness Protection Program at the time, the Oakland Raiders. As alluded to, he was never heard from again.

I'm over it, though. Mainly because I killed the quarterback in question in January of 2006 to memorialize the event.

The rivalry was renewed after seven years apart in 2004 with the Steelers completing that comeback, 24-20.

Though the names have changed, the mystique and pomp haven't. Nor has the bad blood...or the desire for bragging rights.

Steelers quarterback Big Ben Roethlisberger, who is re-writing the Steelers record book, said Wednesday that "if the Cowboys are 'America's Team' then the Steelers are 'The World's Team'."

Then James Harrison, Steelers latest scary linebacker, accused Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who's done some erasing of his own to Dallas' record book, of mocking the Steelers four years ago in the Steelers 20-13 win in 2008. -

Yes, it's still the Cowboys and Steelers. 'Nuff said.

Rest In Peace, Michele...You Will Be Truly Missed.

A gold sky on my drive home made sense this evening - a whole bunch of terrible towels waving you home - words from Lauren Hyde Sayre.

Today at If It Ain’t Steel we were given the very sad news that one of our beloved and loyal supporters had passed away. Michele A. Rockstroh Ogrzewalski left us today and I know things happen for a reason, but it still does not take the sting away from this loss. She was loved by many that got to know her.

First off, I want to send out heartfelt condolences to her family and to Leah Griffin who was Michele’s best friend. Words cannot even begin to express what you all must be feeling over this loss. Michele touched so many who had the privilege of getting to know her.

Anyone who knew Michele knew she was a die hard, Black and Gold bleeding, Steelers fan. She was very passionate about her team and she wasn't afraid to let you know it, either. Her favorite player was Terry Bradshaw, so some us find irony in the date of her passing: 12-12-12. That was the number Bradshaw wore for the, maybe it is actually kind of appropriate.

Michele also was a loyal supporter of this blog. When we first started our blog, we tagged friends on Facebook and it helped us grow. When a new post came out Michele was always the first one to comment on it and if we didn't get her tagged in one, she let us know. But she always gave us love for remembering her.

When she talked to people she always made sure you knew she loved them. She was never afraid to show that emotion to anyone. She had her problems, like many do, but instead of wallowing in them she used laughter as a way of dealing with them. I know from personal experience that when I was feeling blue, all I had to do was go to contact Michele or go to her Wall on Facebook and I was no longer blue. She always had me smiling. I know she did that for a lot of people on there as well. Just last week, Michele, another mutual friend Larry Sayre and I were joking and laughing together. That is how I am going to choose to remember Michele, for the laughter and joy she brought to my life and the lives of so many others with her charm.

If you get on Facebook tonight you will find endless posts about our dear friend. I guarantee, knowing Michele, that if you listen closely you can still hear her leading the “Here We Go, Steelers!” chant. So it was only fitting that we write a tribute blog to our dear friend, knowing how many lives she had touched in Steeler Nation and beyond that.

Rest in Peace my beautiful sister, one day we will meet again and have more laughs. My tears are flowing because I am missing you, but I can still smile knowing that we will meet again. - Acts 24:15

It saddens me to know that this will be the last blog in which you will be tagged. I love you, Michele, and will miss you terribly.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Tomlin Misses On Two Opportunities To Explain Two; Mendenhall Suspended

"First rule of coaching: Never admit you made the wrong call." - Ed Bouchette

Second rule of coaching: "NEVER admit you made the wrong call!"

That's the path that Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin is taking, anyway, as he went 0-for-2 in two-point conversion excuses. At the post-game press conference Sunday, Tomlin said he wanted to save plays for later (in game or in season). Weak, but at least he was consistent.

Tomlin compounded that error Tuesday by saying he thought they had a better chance to "sneak back" into the game by not scoring the two-point conversion. -


BUZZ!!! Aww...sorry. The correct answer was, "We got it wrong." Thanks for playing, though.

Tomlin should have just said, "I messed up by not going for two." But, evidently, he must have thought he could "sneak back" into the game since the Chargers were up by so many points that they wouldn't bother looking at the scoreboard.

Tomlin got this wrong. Period. Going for two and succeeding gets you to 16 points down with 6:07 remaining. Six minutes is a lot of time.

Teams have come back many times in the fourth quarter under similar circumstances. In 1985, the Minnesota Vikings were down 23-0 in the fourth to the Philadelphia Eagles. The Vikings won 28-23.

Want a more recent example? These very same San Diego Chargers blew a 24-point lead earlier this year.

To further the thought, if they had gone for two after the last two touchdowns and had been successful each time, it could have been an 8-point game which would have permitted an onside kick chance with 0:58 remaining.

Later, Tomlin admitted his failure to go for two was because "it was bleak at that point.''

Um...ok. If it was so "bleak" why keep Big Ben (SC joint) and Troy (calf/achilles) in the game? Essentially, mixed signals being sent by a coach who comes off tersely and with an H.N.I.C. demeanor more often than some would like.

Tomlin also again used his "We don't live in our fears, we live in our hopes" line. As Mark Kaboly of the Tribune-Review said, "If Tomlin doesn't live in his fears, why is he afraid to admit that he made a mistake by not going for 2?" Touché.

Further than that, Tomlin agreed with Keisel, among others, that the Steelers 'possibly weren't ready' Sunday. He doesn't mind players speaking "the truth," he said. Fine, but that's something they should own.

As Bob Labriola of Steelers Digest accurately stated on "Talking Steelers Football" on Monday, "these are professionals." This isn't college football, they shouldn't need to be rah, rah, sis boom bah'd or 'Gippered' into having an "urgency" about playing on Sunday. -

That said, it's something that Tomlin needs to own as well. As was pointed out by Bob Smizik in his blog in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, losing "to bad teams is a direct reflection on coach Mike Tomlin, though he hardly is the only person who must take blame. A five-loss team, which the Steelers were, should have entered the game against San Diego yesterday with a greater sense or urgency." -

Now, before the Tomlin detractors who love to say "Bring back Cowher!" jump on their soap boxes and try to use this as ammunition for the "fire Tomlin" canon, please remember a couple of things.

You say Tomlin is only 'winning with Cowher's players?' Well, Cowher won initially with Noll's players too. There are subtle differences, but that's the basic truth. In fact, every new coach initially wins or loses with the former coach's players. The key lies in what the new coach does once his or her players start filtering into the team.

With that in mind, what did Cowher do once the players Chuck Noll had drafted retire or move on to other teams? He had two losing seasons, ('98 & '99) and three consecutive seasons of nine or fewer wins.

Plus, Cowher was constantly being outcoached in the big games, specifically the AFC Championship games. So, don't tweak any neck muscles looking behind, the past isn't always as good as you remember.

All-in-all, though, Tomlin hasn't exactly had the best year. Can he salvage it to some degree? Yes. Three wins would help, though a mea culpa on Tuesday would have been a nice start. But, that isn't all.

His in-game management skills are lacking and this has been evident for a couple of years now. Granted, half the coaches in the NFL mismanage their timeouts, challenges and whatnot, it's just that one would expect there to be an appreciable increase in success in these areas.

His game planning for specific teams, though usually solid, has been up and down this year. In part, that is because the "next man up" has more often this season been an inexperienced player.

When that happens, it is ultimately on his shoulders to make the necessary adjustments to put that player in the best position possible. That isn't always the case, and there needs to be more consistency in that.

Of course, at least he was consistent on Tuesday...


"Understand Rashard Mendenhall tried to "sneak" back into game Sunday disguised as a 2-point conversion. Tomlin didn't go for it. #steelers" - Alan Robinson (@arobinson_Trib on Twitter) of Trib Total Media

Thank you for the segue, Mr. Namesake.

Tuesday, Mendenhall was suspended for one game for "conduct detrimental to the team." As Ed Bouchette reported, Mendy did not show up for the Chargers game after being told he would not dress. Mendy will lose $41,176 for missing one game, one week of his $700,000 salary.

Baron Batch was activated from the practice squad.

Need any fresher ink on that ticket Mendenhall signed for his way out of town this offseason?

It wasn't all bad, though. Mendy did have 3,309 total rushing yards and 29 touchdowns from 2009-2011, despite not being used as much by Bruce Arians as he could have been.

But, Mendy thinks he's still in the Steelers plans:


TIDBITS: Tomlin confirmed that left guard Willie Colon underwent knee surgery Monday and will miss several games; rookie David DeCastro is healthy enough to play and will likely to start at right guard with Ramon Foster moving to the left guard spot; and Mike Adams out again.

Ike Taylor is out again, there is good news:

Byron Leftwich and LaMarr Woodley should be back on practice field. Cortez Allen and Keenan Lewis both limited early in week. No setbacks with Troy Polamalu.


Curtis Brown allowed six receptions for 84 yards and a touchdown. Five of those six were on 3rd downs and they all resulted in 1st downs.

Cortez Allen allowed six receptions for 86 yards on Sunday. Three of those six catches were on 3rd downs and all three resulted in 1st downs also.

Get well soon, Ike, these youngins need your presence and tutelage.


Bad, bad trend for the Steelers: