Daily Archives: December 8, 2011

Steelers vs. Browns: Look for Troy Polamalu to Have Big Impact Against Offensively Challenged Cleveland Squad


We’re about an hour and a half away from kickoff between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns, two historic rivals who always play hard against each other even if the Steelers have dominated the series in recent history. A quick post about the player I like to make a big impact on the game. Last week my selection was Rashard Mendenhall because of his propensity to find the end zone against the Bengals. This week I’m going with Troy Polamalu for similar reasons.

Polamalu has 27 career interceptions, nearly one-fifth of which have come against against the Browns (5). That’s the most picks he’s had against any team in his illustrious career. I think the Browns’ offensive struggles should play into Polamalu’s hands nicely. With little threat of Colt McCoy burning the Steelers secondary deep, Polamalu should be free to play closer to the line of scrimmage against both the run and the pass. His anticipation skills and ability to make plays in traffic can be better utilized against an offense like this compared to, say, the Bengals last week who are a threat to stretch the field vertically with their talented rookie wide receiver, A.J. Green.

So, in addition to making his usual sound plays bringing guys down in the open field, expect Polamalu to finally register his first interception of the 2011 season.

Go Steelers!

Source: Behind the Steel Curtain

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Browns at Steelers Wednesday Injury Report


Out: LB Quinton Spears (hamstring), S T.J. Ward (foot)

Questionable: S Mike Adams (shoulder), RB Peyton Hillis (hamstring), T Tony Pashos (ankle)

Probable: LB Chris Gocong (oblique/hip), RB Montario Hardesty (calf), QB Colt McCoy (right knee), DE Jayme Mitchell (ankle)


Out: WR Arnaz Battle (hamstring), LB Chris Carter (hamstring), RB Jonathan Dwyer (foot), NT Chris Hoke (neck), WR Emmanuel Sanders (foot)

Doubtful: LB LaMarr Woodley (hamstring)

Probable: S Ryan Clark (shoulder), WR Jerricho Cotchery (knee), LB James Farrior (thumb), LB Larry Foote (hamstring), G Ramon Foster (ankle), LB James Harrison (back), RB Rashard Mendenhall (back), TE Heath Miller (ankle), RB Mewelde Moore (hamstring), S Ryan Mundy (neck), S Troy Polamalu (knee), C Maurkice Pouncey (ankle), RB Isaac Redman (ankle), QB Ben Roethlisberger (right thumb), LB Stevenson Sylvester (knee)

Source: Steelers Gab

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Steelers vs. Browns

When the Browns have the ball: The offense doesn’t have a playmaker, and RB Peyton Hillis has missed half the season with injuries. Yet he still leads the team with 321 yards rushing. Without a running game and no reliable receiving threats, QB Colt McCoy has still passed for 2,524 yards and 14 touchdowns, but has taken a pounding behind an offensive line that is weak on the right side.

Source: post-gazette.com – Steelers/NFL

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Sacks of trouble for Big Ben

Ben Roethlisberger is on pace to be the most-sacked QB in history, but the record’s likelihood and ramifications do not seem to faze him.

Source: post-gazette.com – Steelers/NFL

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Foster in, Woodley, Sanders out for Steelers

Ramon Foster, who sprained his ankle, practiced both days, and he is listed as probable for when the Steelers and Browns meet for the first time this season.

Source: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

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Tomlin on the Browns

Coach Mike Tomlin takes a look at this week’s opponent – the Cleveland Browns.Q. As you studied the Browns, what did second-year quarterback Colt McCoy show you?A. He’s still continuing to be inclu…

Source: Pittsburgh Steelers : News

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Jim Wexell’s Piece on Chris Hoke a Must-Read for Steeler Fans


One of the things I admire most about Jim Wexell is his ability to blend great football analysis with a keen eye for telling stories. I loved the approach of his most recent book Steeler Nation, and how he focused not on the games of the 2007 season, but the families, friends and other relevant figures in the lives of the players we cheer for on Sundays. As Wexell mentioned on Terrible Towel Talk, Episode 13 in early November, a new book project about Troy Polamalu is in the works. To state the obvious, I can’t wait for more details and for Jim to finish the project.

On Wednesday, Wexell wrote a moving piece about Chris Hoke, the Steelers veteran defensive tackle that was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday. Like his fellow veteran defensive lineman, Aaron Smith, Hoke underwent successful ‘neck fusion’ surgery this week. That’s the good news. The bad news is the injury could spell the end of Hoke’s wildly successful eight-year career as a key role player on defense. If eight years doesn’t sound like the shelf life of a reserve defensive player with limited injury history, don’t forget that Hoke went on a two-year mission to Belgium and France in the middle of his collegiate career at BYU.

Wexell’s tribute was outstanding, but he largely left the talking to the player that Hoke has apparently been mentoring rigorously and devotedly this past three years — Steve McLendon.

“When I say ‘work things out,’ I’m not just talking about the season, but life. Period,” McLendon said. “He’s helped me with a bunch of things off the field also. This is going to go way past football. He’s a family man and he’d help me with stuff with my family, like trips to take with the family, a lot of little things. But he’s going to help me a lot. I told him we need to talk every day, because some things I can’t break down like Hoke can. He’s been helping me, so I don’t want to change that. Like I told him, we’ll talk every day. He told me we could talk every day. He’ll be around. This is pretty tough for me.”

Do read the piece. It’s fantastic. I know of at least one of you here that considers Chris Hoke to be their favorite player, or at least one of them. For all of us though, the gregarious and selfless backup to Casey Hampton will always be remembered fondly. And thankfully, based on what we know about how the Steelers organization operates, we’ll be seeing plenty more of Hoke for years to come, even if it’s not on Sundays with him donning the black-and-gold.

Source: Behind the Steel Curtain

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Steelers Nation south of border creating interest

Die-hard Steelers fans from Mexico have been making the trek to Pittsburgh to share in both the fanfare of football and the region’s business opportunities.

Source: post-gazette.com – Steelers/NFL

Pregame Zone Blitz: Steelers Take On Browns in Week 14 Primetime Game


It’s a short week, so we’ve got a short-themed, short PZB.

Pittsburgh’s opponent who has a powerful rush defensive end who isn’t aware he’s too short to be a defensive end. They’ve got a short quarterback who throws short because he mostly has short receivers. They have a strong running back who excels at picking up short yardage.

Here’s the shorter way to say it; Cleveland is not a good team. They weren’t a good team in 2009, either. Short weeks mess with the rhythm players have during the week, particularly this late in the season. Teams are used to a schedule. Variation to that can be refreshing, but also disruptive.

PZB’s biggest fear is it has all the makings of a 16-9 snoozer. But it’s the Short Season (Weeks 12-Playoffs), any win is as good as any other.

NFL Analyst Mike Mayock says Browns QB Colt McCoy is doomed to only throw short passes.

Dawgs By Nature’s Chris Pokorny highlights Browns defensive coordinator Dick Jauron‘s press conference.

Browns RB Peyton Hillis will play tonight.

Last Game

PZB’s mantra has been about the short season for champions. It’s not as much Weeks 1-11 as it is Weeks 12-Playoffs. Week 14 throws a bit of a change-up at both Pittsburgh and Cleveland, both teams hoping to not whiff the way the Bengals did.

Another aspect of a championship team; it wins games with all three phases. Pittsburgh won largely due to the momentum caused by its special teams. WR Antonio Brown (a short receiver) was named Special Teams Player of the Week but that’s really more of a team reward than anything. RB Rashard Mendenhall ran for two (short) touchdowns, and WR Mike Wallace took a (short) Ben Roethlisberger pass in for a red zone touchdown.

Running the ball should be made a priority tonight. Cincinnati stops the run well. Cleveland does not. Pittsburgh showed it could pick up rushing yards against a good run defense, and it’s about time it shows its future opponents this is one of the most multi-dimensional offenses its had in years.

Us Against The World

How utterly ridiculous is it that James Harrison makes a football act and gets fined $ 75,000, and Richard Seymour, despite whatever happened to provoke him, slugs a player on national TV in full view of the cameras and knocks him to the ground — and gets fined $ 25,000. Weak. Very weak.

Peter King

Browns VP of…whatever, Mike Holmgren, sure is a classy guy. I would hope the multiple Steelers players who were on the roster for their 21-10 win over Holmgren’s Seahawks in Super Bowl XL remember this quote.

“We knew it was going to be tough going up against the Pittsburgh Steelers. I didn’t know we were going to have to play the guys in the striped shirts as well.”

Opponent Spotlight: DE Jabaal Sheard

It was a great 2011 Draft for Cleveland. After mining almost all of Atlanta’s top picks for this season and next, it drafted Baylor NT Phil Taylor. Not long after that, it selected Pitt’s motor rusher Sheard.

Taylor may not quite be “there” yet, but Sheard sure is. One of the most active linemen in the game, he simply does not stop in pursuit.

Steelers RT Marcus Gilbert better have eaten his Wheaties this morning because Sheard is all about energy and effort. His technique will be enough for most pass rushers, but there are times he bull-rushes the tackle well into the backfield, usually in an effort to catch him off-guard.

Sheard is a (short) Tweener kind of defensive end – the latest-but-backward version of LaMarr Woodley. It was said Woodley was too short to play defensive end, and fell to the second round mostly because of his lack of experience playing outside linebacker. The Browns kept Sheard at defensive end, and it’s paying big dividends in an otherwise dull season in Cleveland.

Steelers Spotlight: RB Rashard Mendenhall

He’s been quietly camping on around 16 carries a game, with a mediocre 3.9 yards per carry average in that time (161 yards on 41 carries and four touchdowns in his last three games).

But he’s warming up. He had 44 yards in Week 10, 57 yards in Week 12 and 60 yards in Week 13. And this is easily the worst run defense he’s faced in Pittsburgh’s last four games.

Mendenhall looks fresh. He’s attacking north-to-south, and the offense is giving him more downhill runs to utilize his strength. Baltimore’s game plan against Cleveland was Ray Rice left, right and center. Don’t expect Pittsburgh to play it that conservatively, but 35 carries between Mendenhall – who will get the lion’s share – and Isaac Redman seems to be a winning formula.

I See You

I see you, Chris Hoke. I see you not because of what you did last week, but what you have done for this franchise throughout your career. You won’t find many with this stat: 15-1 as a starter over the past 10 years. The development you’ve helped with in that time is nothing short of admirable.

If this really is the end of your career, Hokey, we’re going to really miss you. Wear those rings proudly, you earned them and you deserve them. We may see another guy wearing No. 76, but we’ll always think of you.

Writer’s Note

This will be the last Pregame Zone Blitz. Starting quickly into Week 15, we’ve decided to break it up, and splice pieces of it as individual posts throughout the week. We’ll still have individual player spotlights, and rest assured, any Us Against The World moments will be written. We’re likely going to fill the Friday morning spot with a package of opponent analysis, so look forward to some more fun pictures-with-crude-circles posts.

PZB was started in 2009, and it was nothing but a dream and a dumb name. It’s expanded to reality with a dumb name. I’m looking forward to re-branding our pre-game analysis here on BTSC, and hoping Mike takes over the naming convention from now on.

Source: Behind the Steel Curtain

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Former Pitt standout has Tomlin’s attention

Browns rookie DE Jabbal Sheard has put up some impressive numbers this season, including a league-leading five forced fumbles.

Source: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

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