Monday, September 30, 2013

Remembering L.C. Greenwood - From Canton to Canton

"There’s a great spirit gone!" - Antony and Cleopatra, Act 1, scene 2

The great and proud Pittsburgh Steelers organization has lost yet another member of its family when Mr. L.C. Henderson Greenwood 'shuffled off this mortal coil' on Sunday, September 29, 2013. He was 67 years old. -

I'm not afraid to say that I shed a tear when I heard the news about the man known as "Hollywood Bags." L.C., the multiple All-Pro, Pro Bowl and Super Bowl player, just hit me in a different spot.

Maybe it was because L.C. was from Canton, Mississippi and that I'm from Greenville, MS. Maybe it's because his birthday was September 8th (1946) and my birthday (though I don't celebrate them) is on the 9th of September.

Or, to borrow a line from Mars Blackmon, 'maybe it's the shoes.'

L.C. was known for his golden shoes when he played. It was part of his flashy style. But, according to his website, it came about by accident.

"In 1973, L.C. Greenwood was diagnosed by his team doctor with a severe ankle injury. The doctor suggested that if he wanted to play in Sunday’s game, he would have to wear high top shoes. Tony Parisi was one of the Steelers trainers and he had a friend who owned a shoe store in the Strip District. At the shoe store Tony was given a couple of pairs of black Riddell high tops. Back in the locker room, Tony asked L.C. to try them on and they fit perfectly. L.C. said, “Tony, I can’t wear these shoes, they are too ugly!” So Tony offered to paint them white. L.C. did not like that idea because Joe Namath wore white high tops, so Tony offered to paint them gold. L.C. agreed. When the gold shoes appeared in his locker L.C. hesitantly put them on and wore them on game day, and the Steelers won. On the following Sunday, L.C. wore them once more, and the Steelers won again. However, the next game, L.C.’s ankle was on the mend so he wore his regular shoes…The Steelers lost. Suddenly, fan mail started to pour in for L.C. begging him to wear the gold shoes because when he did, the Steelers won. They had become a good luck charm. Always a fan pleaser, L.C. adorned the gold shoes for many of the games." -

Per, the Steelers "were fined for a uniform violation every game L.C. played. While his teammates wore the standard black shoes that went with the uniform, Greenwood's were always a shiny gold. ... The Steelers never complained about the fines, L.C. was worth it."

And accident or not, it is a style that went along with his nickname.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ray Fittipaldo from "Steelers Years", L.C. "was called 'Hollywood Bags' because he claimed he kept his bags packed and ready so he could leave for Hollywood at a moment's notice."

It may sound funny, but, according to his official website, L.C. was a member of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. Though, he didn't appear in anything of note outside of NFL Films or cameo parts where he portrayed himself.

On the field, however, L.C. was always a star. A nightmare for quarterbacks, he used his height and reflexes to bat down numerous balls throughout his career. In Super Bowl IX, he smashed down two of Fran Tarkenton's pass attempts.

Quite the athlete, he had great speed (4.7/40) and unusual quickness for a man who was 6'6" 245 pounds. He was remarkably consistent and effective - in his 13 seasons he recorded 73.5 sacks and 14 fumble recoveries.

Recording five sacks in his four Super Bowl victories, L.C. had his best performance when the Steelers won Super Bowl X by sacking Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach four times in the 21-17 victory.

That touches on a particular, and particularly sore, subject. Despite all his credentials - six-time Pro Bowler, five-time All-AFC, two-time All-Pro and four-time World champion - he isn't in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

"The saddest thing is," said Steelers Dan Rooney, "he never got into the Hall of Fame,"

L.C. was a finalist for the Hall of Fame in 2005 and 2006, but was not elected. In recent years, however, there has been some clamor to get him into the Hall of Fame through the seniors committee.

Unfortunately now, though, it will be a posthumous induction when it happens. With there being several NFL players in the Hall of Fame with comparable numbers, it shouldn't have taken as long as it has in the first place.

L.C. Henderson Greenwood was born in Canton, Mississippi.

L.C. "Hollywood Bags" Greenwood deserves to live on forever in Canton, Ohio.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Steelers Defense Unravels, Sends Team To 0-4 In Loss To Vikings

If this keeps up we may just start referring you to previous articles since we end up saying the same things about the same reasons for losses. That said...these are not your father's Pittsburgh Steelers.

For that matter...or as the cockney across the pond would say, come to that, they aren't even y'r older brub's Steelers.

At home, on the road or even in another country, the Steelers lost yet again. The beneficiaries of the latest gift were the Minnesota Vikings as they defeated the lowly Steelers 34-27 at Wembley Stadium.

The Steelers were the forced to endure the longest flight home ever - 45 years. Not that the plane that the team would take from London to Pittsburgh would have a Flux Capacitor, but in that the last time they saw 0-4 was in 1968. They're now 8-13 over their last 21 regular and postseason games.

And you can bet your bottom dollar that they'll feel every mile of the silent trip.

"Right now, you could say we're the worst team in the league. That hurts." - Ben Roethlisberger after the Steelers fell to 0-4

Let's set aside for a moment the fact that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was responsible for both of the team's turnovers, his sixth in the last two games, the second ending a rally at the end.

Let's also set aside that Markus Wheaton isn't being used enough, maybe even replacing Felix Jones as the kickoff returner, and that Mike Adams is frighteningly bad - hands, feet, technique, pick - at left tackle.

This defeat was on the defense.

The Dick LeBeau unit that has been a rock for a decade has looked brittle and porous of late. The two main tenets are to tackle the catch and not to allow the big play. Poor positioning and poorer tackling have all but eliminated that. 

The Steelers defense was so pedestrian and lethargic that it looked like a promo for The Walking Dead.

They have allowed 74 points and four plays of over 50 yards in the last two games - a low not seen since 1999. They have only have four sacks (six individual players have that many or more) and no takeaways - the only with none. The Steelers as a team are now -11 in turnover differential.

Not only are there just four sacks, but neither Jason Worilds nor first-round draft pick Jarvis Jones have any between them. Jones, who looked early on to have a nose for the ball, hasn't even sniffed a quarterback yet.

Reigning NFL MVP Adrian Peterson was held to 69 yards on 18 carries in the previous meeting between the two teams. Sunday, AP (or AD or ADP) 60 yards on one touchdown run alone as he rode roughshod over the Steelers defense for 140 yards total on 23 carries.

The team's tackling didn't make it through customs. Case in point were two plays: cornerback Ike Taylor's complete whiff of AP and fellow cornerback Cortez Allen's terrible angle on wide receiver Greg Jennings' 70-yard touchdown catch.

But, what might just have been a microcosm for the Steelers' black cat-crossed fortuity on defense was the strip-sack by LaMarr Woodley that should have been their first turnover of the season. Instead, it slipped through Jones' hands and the Vikings recovered for a first down.

With the offense finally showing signs of life, the wheels are coming off a once proud and stifling defense. Remember, this was Matt Cassel, not Matt Ryan or Matthew Stafford.

And they remembered it also...every single mile home.


TIDBITS: "I'll look at the tape," head coach Mike Tomlin said following the game when asked if he received what he was looking for out of Le'Veon Bell in Bell's debut. "Obviously, I thought he gave us a good effort from a conditioning standpoint. For a guy who hadn't played a lot of football, to absorb the number of snaps that he did was positive, but in terms of evaluating his play with a fine-tooth comb, I'll do that at the appropriate time."

Bell scored two rushing touchdowns in the game which were the Steelers' first two for the season.


Friday, September 27, 2013

London Calling - It's Time For The Steelers To Put Up Or...

After Pittsburgh Steelers head coach said that "we're going to roll our sleeves up and keep our mouths shut", Steelers players did just what you'd expect them to do - they started talking.

Some of it was basically benign, as when safety Ryan Clark said that he'd retire rather than play for a London team if and when the NFL expanded there. -

UM...RC25, you will be - the NFL won't be expanding there for 10 years.

Did Troy Polamalu really call someone a yinzer?

Isaac Redman caused a bit of a stir when said that he had a concussion against the Cincinnati Bengals, but lied about it. He said he "was pretty much out of it the rest of the game. I had a concussion. I said I was all right." -

The NFL has said it is satisfied with the Steelers' explanation of the incident, but why say anything in the first place?

The one, however, that has caused the biggest stir and that has polarized Steelers fans is the comments made by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The man-child quarterback, when asked, said of the Steelers second-round draft pick, Le'Veon Bell, that he had "no idea" about whether Bell will contribute or not.

“Honestly, I have no idea with him,” Roethlisberger said. “You can’t get a read on him. One day, he’s practicing, one day, he’s not; one day, he’s going hard, the next day, he’s not. I wish I could. If he was a guy like Heath Miller that you knew was busting his butt every day to get back there … Le’Veon is a rookie, I don’t know him quite well enough yet. But if he can come back and help us, we’ll take him.”

First of all, though I personally have no problem with what he said, it isn't exactly a vote of confidence nonetheless. Big Ben is right - we don't what Bell will bring. He could be the next Franco Harris or the next Tim Worley.

What is a problem is the fact that a player who is directly responsible for all three losses this season and who has been nothing more than an average quarterback over his last seven games is seemingly calling someone the media.

Remember back in 1983 when former San Francisco 49ers QB Joe Montana called out rookie running back Roger Craig?

Neither do I.

Big Ben has since said that he was complimenting Heath Miller more so than he was insulting Bell (with which I agree), but the damage was done. Whether perceived or actual.

The time has come to shut up and play football. As the old saying goes, "He who thinks by the inch and talks by the yard will be kicked by the foot." And the Steelers can ill-afford to another foot kick them in the a...well, they can ill-afford another loss.

They face a Minnesota Vikings team led by 2012 NFL MVP and 2,000-yard rusher Adrian Peterson. He alone is enough to keep a defensive coordinator up at night. For a week of nights. Dick LeBeau may not be worried about jet lag, but he is about AP-lag.

"I don't think anybody has stopped him too well for six or seven years....but we recognize he is probably the best there is in the business. To beat that team, we've got to hold him down." -

Holding him down will be a Herculean task for this Steelers defense. When they faced him back in 2009, a Steelers victory, he was held to 69 yards on 18 carries. He is still, though, a tough man to bring down.

Just ask William Gay.

Nonetheless, his presence will be felt in the passing game as well. As LeBeau pointed out, if even one player bites or is out of position on the play-action pass, the results could be disastrous. The Vikings passing game, led by QB Christian Ponder and wide receivers Greg Jennings and Jerome Simpson, definitely has the ability to capitalize. *

However, they have some of the same problems as the Steelers in that they've turned the ball over 10 times this season. The Steelers themselves have nine turnovers. The difference is that the Vikings have forced 10 turnovers while the Steelers have none.

Therein lies the fulcrum on which the game may hinge.

In each of the three games this season, there were one or two key moments that led to the team's losing - all being from turnovers. To that end, offensive coordinator Todd Haley knows they and Big Ben especially cannot surrender the ball.

"...We're all pretty clear on why we're not winning," Haley said, "it's because of turnovers."

We've talked about that as staff," Haley further said when asked about Ben in particular, "and have talked with him and really tried to look at it, and it does not appear that anything is happening because he's trying to do too much....It comes down to protecting the football at all costs." -

Yet, protecting the ball is something Big Ben hasn't done. With eight interceptions in his past seven games and more than 10 total turnovers in that stretch, he is the catalyst in avoiding having to provide excuses for why they lost yet another game.

The way he goes is virtually the way the Steelers will go. Protect him, protect the ball and protect international relations when Big Ben strikes 6 p.m. London time.

addendum -  I know some of you don't like this cut, but the last time I ended an article with it the Steelers won. So, again, two words: Taylor Gang! -

*UPDATE: Christian Ponder has been ruled out and the starting QB will be Matt Cassell. The only thing that this will change is that Cassel isn't a running QB and more of a pocket passer.

TIDBITS: Steelers Thursday Practice Report:  Cortez Allen, Le'Veon Bell, Brett Keisel and Steve McLendon were full participants. Heath Miller was limited.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Steelers Look To Discover First Victory In London


That was the last time the Pittsburgh Steelers started a season 0-4. The coach at the time was Bill Austin, and their final record that year (2-11-1) was Austin's final record as he is a historical footnote as being the last head coach fired by the Rooneys. He paved the way for a certain Hall of Fame head coach you may remember.

The 2013 version of the Steelers looks to avoid any such record starting Sunday in London as Big Ben look to meet Big Ben. As they do so, they will do something different this week as they prepare for the game - the cable television network The Discovery Channel will follow them around and film them this week.

Appropriate considering their looking to discover their first victory.

The franchise that hasn’t had a player to run for more than 56 yards in the last nine games hopes that new surroundings will help get them untracked. 

“Maybe it’s just the change we need,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said on 93.7 The Fan. “There are genuine football and Steelers fans over there. To me, it was a great experience to go over there and bring that back to the guys and say, ‘It’s more than just a money thing for the NFL. We actually have a lot of fans over there.’ Which is crazy. It is neat that we’re going to go over there and show these fans what Steeler football is all about.”

Let's hope he is right and that the team can build on what the offense accomplished against the Bears. While still not rushing for 100 yards, Felix Jones found several holes early en route to a 4.9 yards per carry average. Then Jonathan Dwyer incurred the wrath of PETA when he finished of a 25-yard run by bulldozing one of the Bears.

More impressive was the play of wide receiver Antonio Brown who had career highs of nine receptions (tie) and 196 yards with two touchdowns. His one-hand catch-and-score topped ESPN's Top Ten plays for week three. 

AB has really taken the leader's role among the wide receivers. He is the unquestioned No. 1 guy in the Steel City and says he is ready to handle the extra attention from opposing defenses.

He's walking the talk: AB leads the AFC in receiving yards (324), leads AFC receivers with 16 receptions for first downs and is the fourth leading receiver in entire NFL. The kind of production even his current rivals expected.

In the offseason, Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh told CBS that the Ravens "thought the world" of Brown in the 2010 NFL Draft and were "going through the process of getting to know him."

While AB is a legitimate threat, he needs help to bring the offense up. Not just from Emmanuel Sanders and the rest of the receiving corps, but from Heath Miller and the running game as well. 

Per ESPN Stats and Information, no player had more targets (14) and touchdowns (7) inside the 10-yard line in 2012 than Heath Miller. To say that Miller's presence has been missed is an understatement. 

But just as important may be the running game and the debut of Le'Veon Bell. 

“I won’t dress him to stand on the sideline next to me,” Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said during his weekly appearance on Sirius/XM.

The question, though, concerns how effective Bell will be. If It Ain't Steel has said from jump that he wouldn't be ready until after the bye, now ESPN's Merril Hoge has eschewed the notion that Bell will be overly effective right away. 

“It’s very tough to do that,” Hoge said. “I’ve seen very few players who can come in and not miss too much after being out a long time....That’s very hard for a lot of athletes. In training camp, you get into a groove and a certain role and certain rhythm, it’s very difficult to quit all that and then try to play (later) at the same speed everyone else is playing." 

Considering the running game and the success of the offense in general requires a working offensive line, Tomlin stated in his weekly press conference that he will continue to look at the three-man combination at offensive tackle. More importantly, he met with guard Ramon Foster about leading the OLine. -

Tomlin said that there was "confusion" from an assignment standpoint against Chicago. There was also a confusion from tackling, or lack thereof, standpoint. That can't happen against the Vikings considering they will bring a similar team to London. 

But, there is one thing in particular that can alleviate confusion.

"Frustration doesn't solve the issues, work does....We're going to roll our sleeves up and keep our mouths shut."

Good. Because no one wants history to repeat itself.


TIDBITS: The Steelers requested waivers on guard Justin Cheadle from the Reserve/Injured list. Cheadle was waived injured in August.


 NFL fines Steelers' Brown after Bears game - 


DNP: Keisel (hamstring)
FULL: Allen (ankle), Bell (foot) and McLendon (hamstring)

The Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

                        by Jayden Matthews (@JadyGirl7)

Wow! It amazes me that some people still have the audacity to blame Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley after what happened Sunday night in their 40-23 loss.

Just to clarify: HALEY IS NOT THE QUARTERBACK WHO COMMITTED FOUR TURNOVERS ALL BY HIMSELF. Nor is he the running back that coughed the ball up early in the second half. 

But, before I go any further, I want something clearly understood: anyone that follows If It Ain't Steel and reads us regularly knows that we love Ben Roethlisberger and have defended him a lot. But the big guy is making that hard right now with how he has been playing of late. 

Instead of looking like the elite quarterback we know him to be, Sunday night Big Ben was a turnover machine boarding on Jamarcus Russell status. Is it the offensive lines fault? Somewhat, but not completely.  

So, for Big Ben as well as the rest of the Steelers "performance" Sunday night, here is what we are going to call the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

The Good:

Big Ben threw for 406 yards and two touchdowns and was mainly responsible for the Steelers having a total of 11 splash/explosive plays (20 yards or more) Sunday night. They accounted for 271 of Big Ben's total passing yards.  

Jonathan Dwyer and Felix Jones brought some life back to the running game. The sad thing is that we have seen so little of it that when Jones broke for a 10-yard gain for a first down, the cheer from the crowd was so loud you would have thought they scored a touchdown. 

The player of the game was wide receiver Antonio Brown. He showed Sunday night that he may just be a No. 1 receiver after all. He showed he can come up in the clutch by making a leaping catch in double coverage in the back of the end zone, and then a one-handed grab which was his second touchdown of the night. AB had Steelers fans dancing with him as he showed that the Steelers do have a deep threat. 

Though, fans are still saying the team still needs erstwhile receiver Mike Wallace. Really? We maintain, as we always have, that they don’t and that the touchdowns will come for AB, and they sure did Sunday night. He finished the night with 9 catches for 196 yards and 2 touchdowns. AB leads the AFC in receiving yards (324), leads AFC receivers with 16 receptions for first downs and is the fourth leading receiver in entire NFL. 

Jerricho Cotchrey had a good game as well, bouncing back from last week. His main highlight being his fight for a first down.  

Heath Miller, Big Ben's safety valve and last season' steam MVP, made Ben and the other tight ends look better. Heath also got the loudest ovation of the night when his name was announced at the start of the game. 

The offensive line, or as I call them, "The Boobs", did have their moments. Right tackle Marcus Gilbert  did not play as badly as it first seemed, it's hard to believe that Fernando Velasco was on the scrap heap just three weeks ago and Kelvin Beachum continued his valuable play.

The defense played solidly overall. After the 55-yard run by Matt Forte early in the game, the defense held him 32 yards the rest of the game. The defensive line played very well yet again, including getting a sack from Brett Keisel. LaMarr Woodley also got a sack (2/54) putting him ahead of Greg Lloyd (53.5) for seventh all-time on the Steelers sack list. 

The Bad and The Ugly:

Big Ben had four turnovers as was said earlier. They weren't pretty, either. Listen, I know Big Ben hasn’t had the best protection, but he needs to realize that sometimes it is better to take the sack then to turn the ball over when in scoring position. He simply needs to protect the ball better. It could even be said that Ben hasn't been the same since his return from his injury last season. 
For instance, the interception last year at Dallas that put the Cowboys in scoring position, leading to their win. The pick six against the Cincinnati Bengals that cost them a trip to the playoffs. He had one against the Browns as well, though that one ended up not mattering. In total, he alone has committed more than 10 turnovers in his last seven games, including eight interceptions.

The sloppy play has spilled over into this season. Big Ben has had at least one INT in every game they have played so far, all of which changed the momentum of the game. Clean that up and they very well could be at 3-0 vs. 0-3. 

I know I'm not the only one who realizes this. But, hey, let’s ignore the facts and just blame Haley. 
The running backs couldn’t help with blocks and Jones coughed the ball up. They need to protect the ball better, and, along with that, help protect Big Ben by picking up the blitzes. 

Emmanuel Sanders has missed some key catches, though he has been overthrown also. The Ben-to-Manny deep-pass project needs to be shelved for right now. They have yet to connect as, again, Ben has often overthrown him. But even if Ben had hit him, Manny can’t seem to get separation. 

Keep in mind also that if Manny catches that first long pass against the Titans, the injury to Maurkice Pouncey may have been averted, because the chain of events that followed it would've changed.  

Uglier still, Markus Wheaton saw approximately 10 snaps the entire game. 

Heath Miller clearly isn't 100% yet.

The Boobs weren't very perky overall. There were lineup changes and on-the-fly experiments that didn't settle matters. They just looked bad as an entire unit at times, as well as individually. Only the Cleveland Browns (11-44) have a worse third-down conversion rate than the Steelers (10-36).  

Mike Adams in particular was bad, really bad. Overpowered at times, clueless at others. So clueless that if he went bobbin' in a barrel of boobs, he'd still come out suckin' his thumb.

The defense can't tackle well right now. That's basic fundamentals and can be rectified. But Ryan Clark isn't playing like a team captain and Jarvis Jones can't seem to get to the quarterback. 

But, I'm sure that's Haley's fault too. 

The ugliest, though, was Isaac Redman. He missed key blocks Sunday night, one of which caused a turnover. 

Redman needs to go. His time is up in the Steel City. Dwyer proved that they cut the wrong guy in the first place. He is a waste of roster space and, with the return of second-round draft pick Le'Veon Bell set for the trip to London, Redman is expendable. 

But, all this having been considered, determining what's wrong with Big Ben and eliminating the turnovers is paramount. So much hinges on his ability to weather the storm in front of him. But, his and the team's turnovers simply must stop.  

Not one of which, by the way, being committed by Haley. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Steelers Need To Be Prepared In All Phases To Beat Bears

"If you're failing to prepare, you're preparing to fail."

The Chicago Bears come into Pittsburgh Sunday night to face a Steelers team that has yet to win a game. The Steelers offense has been anemic the first two weeks and the defense, while solid, hasn't been the top three unit Steelers fans are used to seeing. As well, special teams will be sorely tested.

After facing Chris Johnson and a Titans team that ran the ball 42 times and a Bengals team that ran it 34 times for a combined 239 yards, that defense is going to be tested yet again by a Bears team led by Matt Forte who averaged 4.4 yards per carry last week against the Minnesota Vikings.

They must be prepared for more of the same until they prove they can stop it.

"He is an experienced, talented back and he can do everything. He can block, he can run, he can catch passes...", defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said in Coordinator's Corner on Thursday. "He's one of those backs you have to stop. He's really an excellent player, maybe an underrated player."

Forte's 138 rushing yards in two games are just part of the deal the Steelers will get Sunday night. As LeBeau alluded to, Forte has also caught 14 passes so far this season. 

Forte makes quarterback Jay Cutler that much better, also. Because when Forte is collecting yards it keeps defenders off of Cutler and he then can be more effective. When he is, his favorite target is 6'4" 230-pound wide receiver Brandon Marshall who already has 15 catches for 217 yards and a 14.5 yards per catch average.

Cutler is a tough quarterback who does have his Big Ben-lite moments. The difference being that if you hit Cutler enough, he will start to force throws and make mistakes.

The secondary must also be prepared to contain Marshall, an assignment that will fall mainly on the shoulders of Ike Taylor. Marshall simply can’t be allowed to make multiple catches down field. The last time Marshall faced Taylor, he was held to five catches for 57 yards when the Steelers beat the Miami Dolphins 23-22. The Bears' playmaker remembers and he is preparing for the rematch.

"He's one of the best in the business," Marshall said. "It seems like he's getting better as he ages. I remember a few years ago playing against him in Miami. I disrespected him a little bit. I didn't do my film study and I got out there and he did some things that really put me in a tough spot. So I've been...watching a lot of film because I have a lot of respect for this guy and no longer will I overlook him." -

But, just containing players when they're on offense isn't enough. As LeBeau said, "we definitely have to get the ball turned over for our guys." -

While turnovers on defense are important, preventing them on offense is paramount. Like If It Ain't Steel has said many times as well as in our last article, execution is of primary concern. Preparation is important there too.

"Football is pretty simple...", offensive coordinator Todd Haley said, "protect the football and don't turn it over."

But, it has been anything but "simple." The 88 yards that Forte ran for last week was more than the Steelers have run for as a team this season. They have also turned the ball over too often, including in drive-killing situations that essentially took points off of the board.

It's a trend that has quarterback Ben Roethlisberger frustrated.

"Very frustrating," Roethlisberger said. "We've got a long way to go. We're going to...let this sink in for a day or two, then get ready for Chicago."

Get ready is right. With the offensive line and turnover problems the team has been having, facing a defense with that front four and that is known for turning the ball over is daunting to say the least. A defense led by Charles "Peanut" Tillman.

At this point, Tillman is questionable and a game-time decision. If he is available to the Bears, here's what he brings to the table: for his career, Tillman owns most of the Bears' defensive back records; he is the career leader in defensive touchdowns (9), pass deflections (126) and forced fumbles (37), third in interceptions (33) and fourth in tackles. He has averaged 3.3 interceptions a year, 3.7 forced fumbles a year (including 10 in 2012), 12.6 pass deflections a season and 70.4 tackles a year.

Yet, the x-factor in all of this may be return man Devin Hester who compiled 249 return yards, including an 80 yarder, against the Vikings. Hester needs no fact, just watch (I recommend sitting down first):

Failing to prepare for him is most certainly preparing to fail.

As we said in our last article which covered the seven keys needed for a win and for a turnaround for the season, unleashing Markus Wheaton and Antonio Brown in a quick-strike no-huddle offense and the return of Heath Miller will go a long way towards a win. -

Bottom line: stop Forte, hit Cutler (a lot), contain Marshall, force turnovers, prevent offensive turnovers, contain Hester (not that anyone ever has) and just execute.

Sounds "simple," doesn't it? If they prepare accordingly, it could be.


TIDBITS: Steelers practice/injury report: CB Cortez Allen is out; RB Le'Veon Bell is questionable (he won't play). All others, including TE Heath Miller, are probable.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Rebuilding Mode: What Seven Factors Can Fix The Steelers? (None are "Fire Haley")

Usually, when Steeler Nation makes a 'stairway to seven' reference, it is for another desired Super Bowl win. Unfortunately, though, with the season starting the way it has, it now more accurately applies to the things needed to get out of the rut they're in currently. 

The Pittsburgh Steelers find themselves in a real quandary. It's obvious that this team has many issues and that they are in a rebuilding transition. Basically, they're in a fix.

The problems that plagued the second half of the 2012 season have crept into the 2013 season as well. Injuries, miscues, turnovers and lack of turnovers on defense are ubiquitous. Players simply aren't making plays when they absolutely need to make them, and, worse yet, they're pressing to try to make them.

"I think you heard that a lot on the sidelines, 'Let's go make a play'" said safety Ryan Clark. "When it used to be, 'Let's just go play. We can't start pressing to do things because of what's on the scoreboard." 

Such "pressing" has been seen on both sides of the ball. Maybe most evident being the interception thrown by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. When trying to make a play downfield, his pass to wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery was high and behind him. It was essentially what iced the game for the Bengals.

What the Steelers wanted to do on offense was seemingly at odds with the play-calling, personnel and/or formations, also, though. To say they were out of sync offensively is blatantly stating the obvious. But something else stands out.

Over the course of his career, Big Ben has proven to be very good on third down, but not so far this season. Especially when facing third downs of over nine yards (9.08 to be exact) on average needed amongst the 12 third downs Monday night. Could that be related to sub-par play on first and second downs?

"Easily. Easily that’s scenario," said head coach Mike Tomlin "If you just took a snap shot of the third down opportunities in the game, third-and-eight, third-and-nine, third-and-10, globally speaking, you’re not going to convert a lot of those or not going to convert those at the type of rate that’s going to allow you to be successful." 

With all of this said, we have touched on most all of the seven things necessary to turn the team around enough to salvage the season. Let's begin with...


The big uglies (which is a much nicer epithet than the "boobs" as Jayden calls them) actually played better Monday night. 

Right tackle Marcus Gilbert allowed an early sack, then allowed only one more quarterback pressure the entire game. Left tackle Mike Adams, though he allowed five QB pressures, didn't give up a sack. 

Fernando Velasco played at high level despite having one week of practice to get to know the terminology. Continue on this continuity curve and they could just be a formidable unit in weeks to come. 


This is basically self explanatory. The defense played well Monday, but not well enough. Sacks and turnovers continue to elude this team. 

LaMarr Woodley was fairly disruptive, Lawrence Timmons was Lawrence Timmons, Ziggy Hood, Steve McLendon and Cameron Heyward played strongly and Jarvis Jones had double the snaps of Jason Worilds. Jones is proving, via defense as well as special teams, that he should be on the field most of the time.

Despite this, more is needed. The defensive line had the majority of the QB pressures for the second time. There was pressure, but none turned into sacks. There was a strip-sack/forced fumble that was called an incomplete pass (another call the referees missed), but it wasn't challenged by the coaching staff. 

These need to be turned around in order to get off the field more often and into the hands of Big Ben so that he can run...


Now, I realize that you can't run it all the time because the no-huddle playbook is limited right now. But, once more of their key personnel are available they'll be able to open things up more. This is where Big Ben can be...well, Big Ben.

Big Ben loves the no-huddle and the offense has looked better this season when running it. While it was supposed to be highly utilized last season and wasn't, this year the Steelers actually look like an NFL team when running it.

Against the Tennessee Titans, the Steelers scored their only touchdown from the no-huddle, and sustained three drives Monday night when in fastbreak mode. Since Big Ben is the best player on the Steelers offense, the ball should be in his hands as much as possible. i.e. the no-huddle offense. Employing it should be coupled with...


Having wide receivers like Antonio "The Energizer Bunny" Brown and Emmanuel Sanders, dictates that you mix up the patterns to match their skill sets. Either can play outside or in the slot. Both are fast - 4.5/40 and 4.4/40 respectively - and both are small-ish at around only six feet tall. 

A short, quick passing game within the no-huddle simply works to their advantage. They have shown that they can make plays underneath and in crossing patterns, and are at their best after the catch. Once they do that, they should then...


Markus Wheaton is fast. He can also play outside or in the slot, and his quickness is sudden and blatant. We saw flashes of it in the preseason and that skill set, that approach to danger, is one of the things missing from the offense right now. 

His speed (officially 4.45/40, but also ran an unofficial 4.34/40) isn't quite that of another MW of note, but he still has speed to burn. A track star in high school, he won 400- and 800-meter races at junior national track meets before also performing well in state high school meets.

Wheaton may not duplicate 39 passes for 756 yards and six touchdowns, but his ability to stretch the field has already been seen and Big Ben (and Tomlin) has said that we'll "start to see him getting in more this week." That element would then allow them to...


There's an old NFL saying, "the run sets up the pass." But, I'll never forget an NFL Films program where an NFL old-timer who was being interviewed about the early days of 'the forward pass' quipped with a smile, "the run sets up the pass? Bull(BLEEP)! The pass sets up the run!"

He was essentially correct, and it's a notion the Steelers should employ. As they use the no-huddle and a short, quick passing game, it would open up running lanes because of defenders being spread out more. 

Add to that the fact that Felix Jones is more of a cutback, in space runner, and you have a fairly good formula. Plus, Le'Veon Bell, whence he returns, was used to running behind bad offensive lines at Michigan State.

None of this means anything, though, without...


The latest version of the unsung hero is desperately needed. Heath Miller led the Steelers last season with 71 receptions (in 15 games) for 816 yards. David Paulson and David Johnson have four catches for 50 yards between them. 

However, what is more important is his blocking ability. He is one of the most complete tight ends in the NFL and remains very underrated. Tomlin said in his weekly press conference that they aren't "expecting Heath to step out of a phone booth with a cape on", but he would heal a lot of ills. Big Ben has already said that Heath "should run for president", so why shouldn't he put on a cape too? 


TIDBITS: Much ado about nothing - Antonio Brown got into a "heated" discussion with offensive coordinator Todd Haley over his lack of touches. As Tomlin pointed out, the limited touches could be mostly attributed to the Steelers running only 55 plays compared to 79 for the Bengals. 

“We’re just not getting enough snaps,” Tomlin said. 

It didn't stop Brown from voicing his dislike. Water under the bridge, though, as Brown has come out and said that he and Haley are "good." -


Cortez Allen and Brett Keisel (calf) missed practice Wednesday. Le'Veon Bell, Jarvis Jones (heel) were limited.

Heath Miller was a full participant in practice Wednesday and it is a possibility he starts Sunday barring any setbacks.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger Share Much Blame For Cincinnati Loss

 by Jayden Matthews (@JadyGirl7)

Well, here we are. Who would have thought that the Pittsburgh Steelers would be sitting at 0-2, yet one game down in their division? I know I didn’t.  But, again, here we are. 

I've seen a lot of blame being placed where it doesn't belong. I am sure 93.7 The Fan’s phone lines were lit up again Tuesday with the masses blaming offensive coordinator Todd Haley and head coach Mike Tomlin for this 20-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. I am sure these are the same fans that wanted Bruce Arians gone as well. To those who are playing the blame game, again you would be wrong and obviously don’t know a lot about football. 

From what I saw Monday night there is some blame to be placed on Haley's doorstep, yes. But, a lot of the blame is to be placed on our 10-year veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. 

Yes, you read that correctly. I am not afraid to say it because I place the blame where it should be. Sure, like most fans I was scratching my head when we ran three straight times in the first series. But, Big Ben audibled a lot Monday night and the no-huddle offense is strictly on him. He isn't infallible and he proved it Monday night. 

Big Ben completed 20 of 37 passes for 251 yards with a touchdown and a interception for only a 73.1 QB rating. According to ESPN Stats and Information, though, Big Ben overthrew his receivers a record nine times Monday night. Some of the overthrows were to wide open receivers that would have extended drives or could have had game-changing results. Like he said, "the quarterback's got to play better." -

Don’t get me wrong, I love Big Ben, and I know that this team will only go as far as Ben takes them. But there is much more blame to go around than just that laid at the feet of Haley. It has become painfully obvious that this Steelers team isn't good enough to overcome mistakes. Maybe not even one. 

There were two turnovers, including the aforementioned interception, that cut drives short, and would have resulted in difference-making scores. One was on tight end David Paulson, which wouldn't have happened if he simply had secured the ball. Big Ben's interception was high and behind Jerricho Cotchery, killing the drive deep in Bengals' territory. 

But that is Haley’s fault, right? 

There was some good in the game as well. The signing of Fernando Velasco looks to be solid. He came in and started with only a week of practice and did well. I know the OLine still has some work to do, but they looked better than they did week one and in my opinion will only get better as the season moves along. 

The receivers are showing when they get the ball in their hands they can do something with it. Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders can make plays in space and combined on 11 catches for 135 yards. Cotchery had his moments also, even though he had a few balls that were overthrown as stated before. Paulson, minus the fumble, also looked solid, including in his blocking.

Felix Jones was doing well, having six rushes for 26 yards early (finishing with 10 carries for 37 yards), and may get the nod Sunday night against the Chicago Bears. The Steelers had trouble producing a solid run game otherwise, though, compiling only 44 yards. Having an NFL-low 1.0 yards per carry before contact is possibly the biggest problem. It is more (lack of) execution and personnel than anything. -

All of this just shows us that one thing that everyone "obviously" knows: we miss Heath Miller and need him back on the field. But, don't listen to Tomlin - Miller's presence would cure a few problems. -

During the game, ESPN showed a stat chart of what happens he and Big Ben connect. The stats were good, but they still didn't show what last year’s Steelers MVP actually does for the team. Heath Miller is arguably the most underrated tight end in the NFL for all he does for the Steelers. He is not only Big Ben’s security blanket, but he also is one of the best blocking TE’s in the NFL, and that will also help the OLine in the running schemes. 

I know that almost no one is thinking along these lines, but the Steelers are not out of this by any means, even if the mainstream media wants everyone to believe they are. But, there is hope.

The division is a mess right now with no one team standing out. The Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals are in a two-way tie at the top with 1-1 records. They also, though, have the Houston Texans and Green Bay Packers respectively this week, so that could change again. The Steelers have the Bears coming to town, so this could be an interesting week once again in the AFC North.

Could the division see a three-way tie at 1-2? Possibly. The Bears have shown signs that they can be beaten, and if the Steelers can contain Adrian Peterson they can defeat the Minnesota Vikings. So, it isn't all gloom and doom yet. 

But go ahead and blame just one person for the woes so far. Who knows? Maybe he'll be fired by Art Rooney uh...maybe he'll retire. That hasn't happened before...has it?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Steelers Must Overcome Deficiencies Monday Night vs. Bengals

It is a bit of Pittsburgh Steelers lore that when newly hired head coach Chuck Noll addressed his team for the first time back in 1969, he told them he would be watching tapes of their play and would get back to them as to why they were mired in losing. What was the answer he was said to have given them? 

"Most of you just can't play football."

Fast forward to 2013 and we could be seeing a bit of déjà vu. -

At the close of the 2012 season, If It Ain't Steel posted several articles exploring the problems facing the Steelers as a football team and an organization. Problems that have seemed to transfer right on into 2013. 

Just one game into the season and the Steelers lose their Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey, starting Buck linebacker Larry Foote and change-up running back LaRod Stephens-Howling. A bleak beginning to say the least. 

Now the Steelers have the daunting task of not only facing a division foe, but facing them with one further depleted their ranks. One who also has inside knowledge of the team. 

When the Steelers play the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football, they will face former All-Pro linebacker and teammate James Harrison. Harrison and the Steelers were unable to come to a contractual agreement, causing the Silverback to eventually take less to sign with the Bengals. 

Now Harrison will be doing all he can to pay back the Steelers and help his new team get on the winning track. What are the ways in which he can help and can the Bengals win? 

Head coach Mike Tomlin said in his weekly press conference that the team was one or two “explosive” plays away from possibly winning the game. This is actually fairly true. But, it is difficult to do so when your "explosive" play guys are minimal to begin with, and too few of those types of plays are called the entire game.

The Steelers do have some talent, they aren't bereft of it as the team was in 1969, and can perform when they execute. Unfortunately, the key word there is "when."

Over the last nine games the Steelers are -10 in turnover ratio, have allowed 24 sacks and have not had a player run for more than 56 yards in a single game. So the first order of business is the OFFENSIVE LINE.

The acquisition of Fernando Velasco would seem to aid the Steelers in that department as Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review stated recently from his Twitter (@MarkKaboly_Trib) account, "I haven't heard a bad word about #Steelers center Fernando Velasco yet. Makes me wonder why the Titans cut him?"

One man's (or team's) trash...

Once the OLine decides it wants to block, it is then on the RUNNING BACKS the Steelers do have to actually grind out some yards. As offensive coordinator Todd Haley said, "We need Isaac (Redman) to bounce back and play a better game."

Whomever is the primary ball carrier, he needs to put forth an above-his-pay-grade effort because 32 yards simply won't cut it against Harrison, Michael Johnson (4.5 sacks in last five games against Steelers) and the man who may have been the defensive player of the year were it not for J.J. Watt, Geno Atkins (three sacks and a forced fumble last season vs. Steelers). 

If they're able to weather that storm, then they still must TAKE CARE OF THE BALL. As Tomlin brought out at his presser, cornerback Leon Hall intercepted a pass from Ben Roethlisberger and returned it 17 yards to score the Bengals lone touchdown in their second matchup last season. 

"We can't turn the football over and expect to win," Haley said. Protecting the football has to be a priority for anybody touching it." -

The defensive side of the equation is slightly different. Though the offense largely dictates whether or not the Steelers will win, the defense has to still be able to check the Bengals two-tight end sets, wide receiver A.J. Green and the Bengals. 

"They have two really talented guys there," Dick LeBeau said. "I would rather have three real good tight ends and no A.J. Green. I'll put it that way. It gives them a good combination."

But, A.J. Green they do have, and he torched the Steelers with 10 catches for 116 yards in their last meeting with Ike Taylor sidelined. This time Cortez Allen will be the one sidelined, so the intrepid Taylor will be needed to follow Green all night. It will also assure that Shamarko Thomas will be seen in the Nickel and possibly Robert Golden as well for a Big Nickel 4-Safety look.

Getting to quarterback Andy Dalton is imperative. Containing BenJarvus Green-Ellis is also very important. Slow the running game and force them to be one-dimensional. If the defense can do that, it will go a long way toward securing a victory. 

After all, despite the overall inept play last week, the Steelers still gave up only 229 yards of total offense in Week 1 - the third fewest in the entire NFL. Plus, Big Ben is 13-5 all-time against the Bengals. Not to mention that the Steelers are 40-23 all-time on Monday night and Tomlin is 7-1 himself. 

It may sound like a reach to refer to history to find solace in the season so far, but there may not be much else to grasp onto. Much depends on the OLine growing up fast. Then we would see the offensive restraints lessened and the offense opened up. 

But this is more than a one-game fix, and the Steelers have many deficiencies to overcome. A Bengals win, therefore, is certainly in the realm of possibility. 


TIDBITS: Steelers injury report: CAllen, LBell, HMiller are out; Curtis Brown (illness) is doubtful.

Bengals injury report: CB Ghee, G Pollack are out; S Miles is doubtful; T Whitworth is questionable.


Jerricho Cotchery needs 5 receptions to reach 400 for his career and 10 receiving yards for 5,000 yards.


LaMarr Woodley has 53 career sacks. He needs one more to pass Greg Lloyd (53.5) for seventh-most sacks for a Steeler.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Jarvis Jones To Help Steelers Renew Monday Night Rivalry With Bengals

It was nearly 43 years ago on November 2, 1970 when the Monday Night rivalry between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers began. It was the first ever contest between the two teams on what would arguably become the NFL's second-biggest stage. 

The Steelers won the seventh-ever Monday Night Football game 21-10. 

The stars of the game were Dick Hoak, long-time Steelers running back and running backs coach, and quarterback Terry Hanratty. There was another Terry also, though, who made his Monday Night debut as rookie Terry Bradshaw went 4-12 for 40 yards. Bradshaw would go on to usurp the reins from Hanratty en route to a Hall of Fame career. 

Fast forward to this coming Monday and not only is the rivalry renewed, but another budding young star will see his time on stage. The nation's eyes will be focused on the increased snaps, and possibly even the start of rookie linebacker Jarvis Jones

The first-round draft pick was expected to learn the position, as played by the Steelers in their 3-4 defense coached by Dick LeBeau, behind the heir apparent Jason Worilds. As If It Ain't Steel wrote and as was generally well known, no rookie (especially no rookie linebacker) had ever started in a LeBeau-coached defense. Without going deeply into it, the complexity of the schemes dictated that it wouldn't happen. 

That may change come Monday night. 

"That's the way it is right now," Jones said Wednesday after practice where he confirmed he ran with the first-team defense after being promoted to co-starter. "As long as I continue to keep doing what I'm doing, I hope it stays like that."

Technically, LeBeau's record is still intact. Jason Worilds started the Titans' game and played the majority of the snaps, approximately 46 to Jones' 28 snaps. But, not only has Worilds done his best to move the middle of the class, Jones has done that rare thing of living up to the hype that surrounded him. 

Maybe we will still see both men on more even rotation Monday and for weeks to come. The way things look at present, though, is that Jones' machinations are radioactive whereas Worlids may have reached his half-life.

Each man had sights, starting in Training Camp, of taking over as the heir apparent for former Steelers linebacker, Defensive Player of the Year and enforcer James Harrison. A man they will see when the Bengals are on defense Monday night. 

Make no mistake, Worilds was never going to make people forget Harrison, but he at least had a chance to be a serviceable run stopper and rusher. Still, it was his job to lose.

He likely has. 

The hard-hitting turnover machine that is Jones is becoming the anti-Harrison. Where Harrison was the Silverback - so powerful and disruptive, Jones is the Black Panther - so sleek and sudden. Where Harrison was the massive Deebo from the movie Friday, Jones is stout but more angular Dillon from Predator. 

And maybe with the long dreadlocks, "the Predator" is an apt nickname. Maybe we'll also see him completely usurp the reins from Worilds en route to his own Hall of Fame career. Maybe this will begin where it all began 43 years ago - on Monday night. 


TIDBITS: Steelers practice report - DNP: Cortez Allen (ankle), Le'Veon Bell (foot) and Curtis Brown (illness).
LIMITED: Steve McLendon (hamstring), Heath Miller (knee) and Shaun Suisham (hamstring/plant leg). 

Neither Le'Veon Bell nor Heath Miller will play this week. Won't return until at least the Vikings' game in London. 


"I think a consistent running game is really important, not only to be good offensively, but to strike a balance." - Mike Tomlin

Jonathan Dwyer says the release and return changed him. He's more focused. "I definitely have a chip on my shoulder." He was told to be ready to play in whatever capacity, and ran w/ #Steelers 1st team today. Issac Redman said Dwyer's release-return "is going to help him tremendously. You'll see that chip."


Per Capologist Ian Whetstone (@IanWhetstone on Twitter), whom you've known us to quote many times, the "2013 adjusted {Salary} Cap for Steelers is $124,899,811, with them being $1,385,253 under the Cap. I have them with 40 players signed at about $127.2M (for the 2014 season)." (brackets ours)


Matt Spaeth has been without crutches since Saturday and is walking freely with boot. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Steelers Sign Center, Bring Back Dwyer - Is It Enough?

The news came through early Monday morning from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette. His simple tweet read, "#Steelers will re-sign RB Jonathan Dwyer." A move expected by many. A move that was to be followed by two more later on in the day. 

The Pittsburgh Steelers also brought in veteran kicker Shayne Graham to kick in place of Shaun Suisham who suffered a hamstring injury before the game and possibly hurt his toe with a misstep (resultant of the hamstring?) on the opening kickoff Sunday. Sushi is out 2-3 weeks. 

The move, though, that is of greatest interest deal with their offensive line. Veteran center/guard Fernando Velasco was signed to replace center Maurkice Pouncey who was placed on IR along with linebacker Larry Foote and running back LaRod Stephens-Howling. 

Velasco agreed to terms on a one-year deal with the Steelers. He started 16 games last season for the Tennessee Titans, and graded out as the 11th ranked center last year by Pro Football Focus. A solid player who is likely going to step right in and be the Steelers starting center if he can make the calls. Definitely a solid move for the Steelers. 

Steel City Insider's Jim Wexell tweeted that he "watched new Steelers OL Fernando Velasco this preseason and (was) surprised he was available. Strong, some mobility. Quality pick-up."

Good. Because this team needs help on the offensive line, especially in pass blocking. The prime years of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger could be wasted if matters aren't rectified quickly. The signing of Velasco aids that.

As for the OLine woes in general, this is a problem that has been going in for years now. Yes, this is a young line that is still gelling as a unit, but their learning curve must be shortened greatly if the season, and Big Ben's career, can be salvaged. 

Big Ben actually looked good at timed, despite five sacks. Like Bouchette said in a column on Monday, though, it isn't a trend the team needs to see develop.

"That absolutely cannot continue. If they have to chuck the whole zone blocking scheme and re-sign Max Starks, something’s got to be done before this thing really goes into the dumpster." -

The Steelers offensive line woes in the last few years have become almost as legendary as the offensive line dominance that the team had since Ray Mansfield anchored the "big uglies." 

For decades the Steelers OLine punished defensive lines opening holes for the likes of Franco Harris, Rocky Bleier, Barry Foster and Jerome Bettis. Even during the years of lesser known running backs like Ernest Jackson, Walter Abercrombie, Frank Pollard, Merril Hoge and something called a Rich Erenberg, there was room to run. And run they did- the Steelers still lead the NFL in rushing yards gained since the 1970 NFL/AFL merger.

Those Steelers lines also provided time for the quarterbacks to throw the ball. They threw it proficiently, even dynamically. Simply put, the Steelers OLine was stout for the better part of 35 years.

Lately, though, the line is less Achilles and more achilles heel. Yes, the Steelers did go to three Super Bowls in six years, winning two of them. But it could be argued that the OLines that went to and won those Super Bowls were the worst to ever do so. It seems they have done just enough, along with having a tough-as-nails quarterback to absorb some of the blows, to consistently win.

To repeat Bouchette, "that absolutely cannot continue."

The only lanes the running backs see opened up to them on a regular basis are those they see when the team plane touches down in opposing team's cities. For Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall to be 1,000-yard rushers behind those OLines was nothing short of amazing.

The Steelers mentality under GM Kevin Colbert and head coach Mike Tomlin has seemingly been to simply develop lower-round offensive linemen, yet not to go after bigger names in the NFL Draft. Granted, that changed recently with the drafting of four OLinemen in the first or second rounds in the last three NFL Drafts. But, is it too little, too late for Big Ben? If so, might that signify being the same for those in charge of the draft also?

At a post-draft press conference in 2008, a question was posed to Colbert and Tomlin regarding the Steelers issues on the offensive line. Tomlin provided a seemingly acceptable answer by saying that 'one way to aid the passing game and the getting of the ball out of the quarterback's hand quicker is to provide him multiple targets', or words to that effect. 

Ok, that seemed fair enough at the time - a team does need to be versatile and even explosive. But, what have those weapons reaped recently? 

As Terry Silver told Danny LaRusso in The Karate Kid III, "A man can't stand, he can't fight." Well, if Ben can't stay upright, he can't fight to get his receivers the ball. It isn't just Big Ben, either. 

There are few holes through which the running backs can even run. And when there are no holes, when the pocket breaks down before it even forms, when there is immediate penetration from the defense, the weapons simply don't matter. 

The aforementioned Steelers running back and current ESPN analyst Merril Hoge, when speaking of the 2011 Steelers-Colts Sunday Night Football game, said, "Penetration is the number-one killer of a running game: it neutralizes the point of attack, it deters your instincts as a runner, it dictates where you're going to go and it destroys you as a runner." 

Few running backs can thrive in that environment. It has also affected Big Ben. Look at Tom Brady Sunday against the Buffalo Bills. He had clean pockets all day. They scored 24 points. Aaron Rodgers? Under some duress, but it was manageable. They lost, but scored 28 points. Peyton Manning? Yeah... 

At the risk of going to the well once too often, "that absolutely cannot continue."

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Steelers Find No Safety At Home, Lose 16-9 To Titans

The Pittsburgh Steelers got off to a great start Sunday when Darius Reynaud of the Tennessee Titans took the opening kickoff back a step into the end zone to kneel the ball which resulted in a safety. The Steelers led 2-0 with just three seconds off of the clock. The fastest score in the history of the NFL. 

Squeamish and/or bandwagon pom-pom waving fans should stop reading now. 

When the ensuing kickoff was taken by Antonio Brown for 16 yards to the 41-yard line, it officially ended the highlights on the day for the Steelers as they, aside from a garbage-time touchdown, did little else en route to a 16-9 loss. 

What happened next was a comedy of errors rivaling anything ever written by Shakespeare. They're the 2012 Steelers in a form of déjà vu. -

All the problems that plagued the team last season reared their ugly heads again on Sunday. The offensive line was porous (five sacks, 32 yards and zero first down rushing), offense stalled from dropped passes, turnovers (fumbles and an interception), lack of its own pass rush (one sack and minimal pressure), lack of forced turnovers and too many injuries. 

The last one being in the forms of Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey (ACL & MCL) and Larry Foote being done for the season. The Steelers had several other injuries as well. LaRod Stephens-Howling (knee) needing surgery and likely gone for the season also, Cortez Allen (ankle), Shaun Suisham (toe/hamstring and could be out 2-3 weeks) and Ryan Clark (knee?) all went down at one point in the game.

At some point it has to be considered more than just being "snake bit." But, ultimately the team has no one to blame but themselves. -

“That was the problem, we did it late and we couldn’t do it early enough,’’ Ben Roethlisberger said. “It was just little things here and little things there.’’ -

Big Ben connected on 21 of 33 passes for 191 yards, one touchdown and an interception for the Steelers, who came in with 10 straight victories in home openers, the longest active streak in the league. 

Last season Big Ben headed into the Titans' game poised to surpass Steelers Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw as the team's all-time leading passer. He went into Sunday's game ready to pass 30,000 yards for his career. Neither milestone was accompanied by a win. Both losses were because of lack of execution and mistakes.

"The first [fumble] was a [bad] quarterback-to-running back exchange. I never had it. Ben said he got it out slow because he was working with a new center," said Isaac Redman per Ken Laird. "We were supposed to have two tailbacks in the game. I looked up to see if we could flag Felix (Jones) on the field. They put DJ (David Johnson) at tailback." -

While it is true that that the exchange wasn't clean, this sounds more like an excuse than a reason. Absent is the "it's my fault and I'll make it right next time" tone. He would fumble again only to recover the second one. Was the running game affected by Pouncey going out?

"We didn't execute. They did. They had a nice plan. Our plan could've been better under the circumstances." -

The loss of Pouncey, which Marcus Gilbert referred to as "freak play" and "no one's fault", is unmistakably a major one. He was one of the team captains and a three-time Pro bowl center. This loss is dangerous to a team who's offensive line is already held together with spit and chicken wire. 

It doesn’t get any easier for the Steelers, either, as they travel to Cincinnati Monday Night Football. Some pick the Bengals the best team in the AFC North, and if the Steelers struggled at home against Tennessee, how will they fair against a motivated James Harrison, Geno Atkins and the rest of the Bengals?

Regardless, regardless of how utterly pathetic, inept and putrid they looked, it is human nature to still try and find bright spots. 

Bad week one to be certain, but there were some positives: Troy looked like Troy, Jarvis Jones and LaMarr Woodley made some plays and the rest of AFC North lost. 

Also, the 1989 Steelers lost to the Cleveland Browns (51-0) and Bengals (41-10) by a combined 92-10. They came back to finish 9-7 and make the playoffs. They even won their wild card playoff game. Who'd they defeat? The Houston Oilers - what the Titans used to be known as. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Ben Roethlisberger Key In Titans' And Season's Predictions

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2013 season is upon us and, in all truthfulness, there is much about which we still have questions. Questions that will begin to be answered Sunday versus the Tennessee Titans. Questions that may all have one answer: seven.

Make no mistake, Pittsburgh is a tough place to play. If the Steelers get down, they don't usually stay down long. In fact, they have never lost at Heinz Field in September under head coach Mike Tomlin. But, the uncertainties make this more of an intriguing matchup that maybe it should be.

As they prepare for the Titans, the Steelers are looking to capitalize on the advantages they believe they have - a strong-looking and chip-on-it's-shoulder defense, a seemingly healthy Troy Polamalu and, as Jerricho Cotchery expresses, their ready and able wide receivers. -

The OFFENSIVE LINE, though, which has been an issue since 2008, is now one of the youngest and most inexperienced the Steelers have had in decades. That alone could be the determining factor for a successful Steelers season. 

The interior of the line - center Maurkice Pouncey, left guard Ramon Foster and right guard David DeCastro - has a chance to be very good. It's the tackles - left tackle Mike Adams and right tackle Marcus Gilbert who are troubling. Adams has trouble keeping feet set properly and Gilbert, about whom If It Ain't Steel has said many times, is a better guard, has trouble with hand placement and has been flagged because of it. 

That said, this game could set itself up as a template for the season. Will the OLine be able to settle themselves and gel enough to protect BEN ROETHLISBERGER?

An upright and clicking Big Ben has the ability to heal a number of ills. Though the Titans are young with a lot of recent turnover, they brought in 17 free agents and eight draft picks because of missing the playoffs four straight years, they still won't make it easy with the array of blitzes

The Steelers would be in good shape if this can be accomplished. They'll be in even better shape if the OLine can provide running lanes for Isaac Redman, Felix Jones and the Steelers' RUNNING GAME

As offensive coordinator Todd Haley said in his Coordinator's Corner interview on Thursday, he's waiting for someone "to take the bull by the horns" and "showcase how much they want the job." -

As we also suggested in our previous post, the Steelers could employ a "thunder and lightning" approach. "Jones' speed and cutting ability would complement Redman's pounding, and would well when the zone-blocking scheme is utilized." -

It something that we could see not only now, but also until Le'Veon Bell returns. 

As for the defensive side of the ball, the Steelers will look to capitalize on Titans' quarterback Jake Locker's accuracy issues (55% in college) and how he reacts to new and unexpected circumstances. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, while praising Locker for his running and "bootleg" ability and ability to throw on the run, has an ace in the hole with a TROY POLAMALU who appears to be healthier than he has been in several seasons. 

Though, he says he doesn't actually have many plays designed specifically for him. 

"Well, really, believe it or not, we only have a few defenses that are what I could call 'Troy' defenses, said LeBeau. "It's just the defense that we call, but they are a little bit better when Troy is in there. I'd like to say that we do some kind of mastermind scheme but it's just Troy's presence."

In other words, he basically just says, "Troy, sick 'em!"

While it may be their job to confuse and confound Locker, it is the defensive line's and outside linebacker's jobs to CONTAIN CHRIS JOHNSON. Along with newcomer Shonn Greene, the mercurial Johnson gives the Titans a formidable running attack. 

The defensive ends and outside linebackers must hold the edge and handle the tackles and tight ends. Whereas Chris Johnson is patient and wants to find the crease to get into the open field, Greene can run between the tackles and in the gaps. If the Titans run effectively they can build play-action off of that and Locker could fall into a very good comfort zone. That is something that must be avoided. 

If the Steelers are able to accomplish these tasks, along with Ike Taylor avoiding returning to the scene of the proverbial crime, they have a good chance to defeat the Titans with an approximate score of 20-16.

As for the entirely of the season, this and more must continue throughout each game. But it still falls down to keeping Big Ben upright. 

Only five quarterbacks in NFL history have thrown for 30,000 or more yards and have also won two or more Super Bowls - Joe Montana, Troy Aikman, Tom Brady, John Elway and Eli Manning. Big Ben will be the sixth this season as he only needs 156 yards to reach the mark. 

Big Ben has the well-earned reputation for extending plays beyond what the average quarterback would be willing or able to do. Just as it can result in him taking yet another unnecessary hit, it can also result in a big gain down the field, as a defensive back can only hold a receiver for just so long before something breaks down. That's when Big Ben has been lethal. 

If the Steelers offensive line can gel into a singular unit, Big Ben can do the rest. With the offense being catered to him, new weapons and players out the first part of the season, his experience and leadership will be paramount. While it may be rougher early on, he and they can be the catalyst to a 9-7, at best a 10-6, season. 


TIDBITS: Injury Report - Steelers: Le'Veon Bell (foot) out; Heath Miller (knee) doubtful; Jarvis Jones (chest) and Will Johnson (hamstring) probable

Titans: WRs Kenny Britt (knee), Kendall Wright (knee): probable. FB Quinn Johnson placed on IR, FB Collin Mooney promoted from PS to roster. Starting OT David Stewart missed practice Thursday and Friday with a calf injury. He is questionable for Sunday.