Wednesday, June 19, 2013
If the Lombardi Trophy were a 'she', the Pittsburgh Steelers might have been singing Bill Withers' “Ain't No Sunshine” after their .500 season in 2012.
Consecutive seasons of missing the playoffs would cause a major Earth event...at least that's the way many fans have reacted. The Steelers' players and coaches, however, are "made of sterner stuff." Challenged to prove themselves, the Steelers have spent the offseason breaking down the pillar of success and rebuilding it one block at a time. Infusing new blood as mortar to the bricks of veterans has been proving to pay off. If there is any team more determined to get back into the hunt in 2013, it's the Steelers.
Steelers quarterback Big Ben Roethlisberger put it plainly, “When it's not you, you never like it.” Big Ben said that the end result last season was, “just motivation to be better this year.”
During minicamps and OTAs, the Steelers have made some interesting discoveries regardless of the doomsday predictions of NFL pundits. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley has become more respected, especially by Big Ben, and a little less prickly around the edges. A new zone blocking scheme for the offensive line has allowed young linemen to jump in and learn the system at a quicker pace. Veterans have been mentoring rookies with results that have been positive.
Defensive lineman Brett Keisel doesn't just believe in the team this season, he has been making a point to prove it. “People can say and believe what they want to believe [about this team],” Keisel shared with Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “In this locker room, we feel we have the team and the talent to get back...our first goal is to get back and win our division.” And what are Keisel's opinions about the doom and gloom and sad songs being broadcast? “Good things have happened around here when we won our division...that's our mentality.” Keisel may just be channeling a little Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, because he senses that the Steelers are absorbing the good vibrations.
Regardless of the success of AFC North rivals Baltimore (Ravens) in 2012 and the trending hot-talk being spread about the Cincinnati Bengals by those sing-song NFL 'experts', the Steelers have never been a team to get kicked in the teeth and not fight back. The Steelers shouldn't be considered a 'surprise' team in 2013. They should be considered potential champions. Their new rallying cry could be words right out of a song by 'The Script' and find themselves standing in the spotlight once again and the world knowing their name.
TIDBITS: First off, thanks to Christina Rivers for being a guest writer for If It Ain't Steel. We're in transition with some things and haven't been able or available lately. But like General Douglas McArthur, we shall return.
Speaking of veterans mentoring rookies, both of the Steelers starting safeties, Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark, have taken rookie Shamarko Thomas under their wings to share their insight and experience.
“I have always been willing to teach anybody if they are willing to learn,” Polamalu said. “But a lot of times I pour out too much too soon to a lot of players. It is trying to teach algebra to basic math.”
Polamalu has Clark to help in the tutoring.
“Troy and I have asked for years for a guy to mentor,” Clark said. “Some players feel like they can play forever. We understand it is not going to be that way. We want to see somebody take it over and do well.” - http://triblive.com/sports/steelers/4198554-74/thomas-clark-polamalu#axzz2WhH3a1gr
"Our goals have been simple and they are to lay a foundation for our football team here in 2013," said Tomlin. "Obviously, our goals are what they are and that is to be World Champions. I think we've done a nice job in terms of laying a foundation, individually and collectively, towards that goal."
"We could trick ourselves into believing something that would be untrue," said Tomlin. "Football is a game that's played in pads, so I'm not going to rush to judge or search for things to grasp onto at this time of year. They come here, they work hard and they're legitimately humble. They're taking the information being given to them from coaches and guys that have been a part of this thing. That's a great place to begin." - Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin on what has been seen thus far and on being realistic about preparation for the 2013 season.
Pedigree can be a proliferous advantage for NFL players. Many fathers and sons and uncles and nephews (not to mention numerous brothers and cousins) over the years have graced the professional gridiron. So, considering that Mike Golic, jr. wasn't drafted but picked up as an undrafted by the Steelers, was poppa Golic disappointed?
"He was very proud," said Golic of his dad's reaction to his signing. "He knows what a great organization this is and what a great tradition they have here. He is proud to see me get one step closer to hopefully accomplishing a dream, making this team and becoming a Pittsburgh Steeler."
"He told me to do all the little things," said Golic. "That starts with going in after practice and taking care of your body every day, getting ready for the next practice. He told me always have your nose in the playbook, not to be afraid to watch extra film and do all of the little things day-to-day that are going to build great habits and great play." - http://tinyurl.com/lb8a2pj
Saturday, June 1, 2013
Bob Pompeani of KDKA TV in Pittsburgh reported this Saturday morning that Pittsburgh Steelers second-year tackle was involved in a stabbing early today on the South Side. Per his Twitter (@KDPomp) account: "Adams was an apparent victim of a robbery attempt. Stabbed in stomach and arm as my sources tell me. It happened 3 AM on Carson and 17th."
NFL Network's Aditi Kinkhabwala also further tweeted: "Mike Adams came out of surgery at about 8am and agent Eric Metz says Steelers security told him all considered, OT "was very lucky."”
“Agent Eric Metz says Mike Adams was stabbed in the stomach and though he had surgery, no vital organs were affected. Thank goodness."
All signs point toward a fairly quick recovery for Adams who has been through a lot already in his short time with the Steelers. And as Metz further told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "He's worked too hard to let a few morons screw it up for him."
According to Kinkhabwala again, the "Stabber(s) [were] apparently trying to steal Mike Adams' truck. Agent said he asked Adams why he didn't just let robbers have keys!” Good question.
Team General Manager Kevin Colbert released a brief statement regarding the incident and Adams' condition.
"We are aware of the situation regarding Mike Adams being stabbed earlier this morning," Colbert said. "We are in direct communication with both Mike and his family. Mike is expected to make a full recovery."
Little information has been released regarding the identity of the assailant or assailants, but the incident happened in front of his house and a cell phone believed to belong to one of the assailants has allegedly been recovered at the scene.
Adams is likely to be a full-time starter this season at right tackle, though he would've had a chance at left tackle. Likely Kelvin Beachum, whom we've highlighted before in a previous post as looking better on the right side, and Guy Whimper will rotate in on the right side at the next OTAs on June 3-6 and at the mandatory minicamp June 11th - 13th.
The stabbing incident once again brings up the problem of depth on the offensive line. With $5.5 million being available to the Steelers now via the release of guard/tackle Willie Colon and the June 1st designation, the signing of another player seems imminent.
Offensive tackles still available are Eric Winston, the best remaining right tackle left out there, Demetress Bell, the 29-year old former starter on the left side, former Baltimore Raven and 27-year old Jared Gaither (who has experience on both sides), Winston Justice, Barry Richardson and Sean Locklear.
Aside from the emergence of Roethlisberger-Haley 2013, what else did the second set of OTAs bring to light? Let's go over a few story lines that caught the attention of If It Ain't Steel.
Third-year man Marcus Gilbert seems to be penciled in as the left tackle and second-year man Mike Adams as the right tackle. Big Ben is going to face constant pressure from the edge because teams will be testing those young tackles. And he knows this.
Regarding the topic, he said of Gilbert playing left tackle: "I told him, 'I'm going to stay on you and I'm gonna push you, because I know what you're capable of.'"
Head coach Mike Tomlin has said that "both of those young men are capable of playing both spots," so expect Adams at some point to get snaps on the left side. Though, it should be remembered that he seemed better on the right once he settled down and got comfortable overall.
The Steelers absolutely will be switching to the zone-blocking scheme in 2013 with new offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. The linemen seem to be falling right in line with it also.
“We did it at Stanford, and we were a big gap team like the Steelers are,” right guard David DeCastro said. “We’ve got the guys to do it. It just takes practice like anything else. We’ll be good.”
"Especially with us this year trying to go to the outside zone scheme with the Pittsburgh Steelers. I think we got the offensive line to do it this year and we really plan on attacking it at these OTAs," said Pouncey. "I think it’s easy for me and especially the older guys we got,” Pouncey said. “We all are trying to win out here and going 8-8 last year sticks on us really, really hard. I think it brings a lot of good things to the offensive line and I think we need it.”
While Ramon Foster isn’t a Pro Bowl run blocker, he still is very solid and has very good and clean technique. Foster controls his man, turns him and generally creates holes for the running back. Ramon Foster is a big, strong and only wants to get better so as to adapt to the zone-blocking scheme.
"I am really fit, I changed a lot of stuff around. My body fat is a whole lot better. I’m running better. I’ve been stressing to become more athletic. I don’t want to be a weak link of any type on this offensive line."
As an addendum, rookie running back Le’Veon Bell's college team, Michigan State, ran the ZBS in college. Bell rushed for 33 touchdowns in 40 career games and averaged 4.7 yards per carry in 2012. Bicknell comes from a Kansas City Chiefs team that averaged 4.8 yards a carry in 2012.
Robert Golden is stepping in at safety and is showing himself to being accepting of the position. Something his teammates have recognized.
"He’s a guy who jumps off the film talent-wise, speed-wise," fellow safety Ryan Clark said. "What Rob has to do is show the jump as far as knowledge, dependability, durability. That’s how the game works. When you draft a guy, you want to see him play, so Rob has to show them that he belongs out there.”
Golden's play in OTAs is reflecting that acclimation, though he rightly remains cautious in his assessment of his abilities.
“I felt as a rookie that I played very well," Golden stated. We ran a lot of similar things at Arizona, just different terminology, so I was able to pick up the playbook very well. Now it’s just a matter of going out there and executing the plays and knowing what to do and be able to make plays.” - http://pit.scout.com/2/1295452.html
The real question is whether or not Robert is The Golden Child or merely pyrite. (I'll have many more of these throughout the year.)
Though the oldest starter on the defensive line, defensive end Brett Keisel was also the best. But with third-year DE Cameron Heyward chomping at the bit, his playing time might drop off, but his leadership ability won't.
Then there is the emergence of DE Al Woods whom the team gave him second-team reps at nose tackle. If this surprises you because you expected Hebron Fangupo or Alameda Ta'amu to be the backup to NT Steve McLendon. This leaves Fangupo and Ta'amu battling each other for the backup NT position, but also battling Woods.
As for Ziggy Hood, the Steelers are working with him on his technique. We wrote last offseason about Hood's inadequacies (http://tinyurl.com/mgbx2cy), now the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Mark Kaboly concedes that there are still times "when Hood resembles a rookie still trying to grasp the basics of transitioning to a 3-4 defensive end in the NFL." - http://tinyurl.com/kvu9mrl
There are definitely other plots and subplots that could be found around minicamp, such as Jarvis Jones' taking some first team snaps, Cortez Allen's transition to starter, William Gay getting snaps at safety (no surprise), LaRod Stephens-Howling bringing a change-up to the Steelers backfield and fullback Will Johnson making strides to to expand his worth.
But the main things to be taken from round two are the emphasis on competition, on not forgetting the sting of an 8-8 season and on coming together as a solid unit.