Daily Archives: December 13, 2011

Carnell Lake Gets Personal with the Steelers’ Secondary

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Steve Breaston, left, is pushed out of bounds by Pittsburgh Steelers defensive back Keenan Lewis (23) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2011, in Kansas City, Mo. The pass was ruled incomplete as the Steelers won 13-9. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

This is the third and final post about my experiences at the Dean’s Dairy Woman’s 202 Steelers Event that I attended on December 2nd. [The first installment can be found here, the second here.] In this final installment you get to hear what Carnell Lake had to say about some of the plays from the Kansas City game when he broke down the film with us. I found it absolutely fascinating.

But first he talked about his coaching philosophy. It was pretty simple. He told us what he asks the guys to bring to the table:

1. Be Prepared

2. Give Good Effort

3. Have a Great Attitude

Here’s what he tells them he can help them with:

1. Assignment (knowing what you are supposed to do)

2. Alignment (knowing where you are supposed to be)

3. Technique (knowing how to defend the area or person you are charged with defending)

There is nothing revolutionary about any of this. He is telling them that there are things he can teach them if they are willing to learn. But the initial desire and work has to come from them.

So what has made the big difference? Perhaps Carnell Lake is a genius at teaching. Perhaps William Gay, Keenan Lewis, and the young’uns just happened to be poised to jump to the next level. Or perhaps it is a phenomenon that one often sees in teaching and, I assume, coaching— someone saying the same things, but in a sufficiently different way, helps the message to get through more effectively. That probably accounts for a lot of the improvement. But having said that, I suspect that Lake is an excellent teacher. The fact that he cares enough to take the extra time to work with Keenan Lewis or to help William Gay to be more confident (see the previous article) speaks volumes about him as a coach.

And I got something of a confirmation of this when listening to today’s Steelers Live at 4. The trivia question for the day was “What was the last time the Steelers lost at home on Thursday night?” The answer was to the Bengals, in October of 1995. That was Carnell Lake’s first game at cornerback, and Lake told us the story about that game which I related in the previous post.

This started Tunch and Mike Prisuta talking about what a good coach Lake is, and they said two things that particularly struck me. The first was they mentioned that he is very good in working with different guys in different ways, according to their personality and needs. The other was a comment about talking to William Gay after his first interception. Mike Prisuta said that previously when you talked to Gay about something he did well, he would basically say “I’m just doing what Coach LeBeau says.” This time, he said “I’m just doing what Coach Lake says.” That speaks volumes about what respect the guys have for Lake in this short amount of time.

Carnell Lake told us that what he actually does most of the time is watch film and make Powerpoint slides. For example, when preparing for the Kansas City game he broke down every offensive player on the Chiefs, looking for tendencies and quirks that would help the DBs to understand what they were likely to do.

He began with Tyler Palko. He’s left-handed, which is a bit harder to defend. He has good mobility, a fast release, likes to pump fake, uses play-action, and so on. He will perhaps have some snippets of film showing examples of these things and how they look.

He then continues through the offense. For example, he showed us the film of one of the receivers who is good at putting a little Z move on the defender to break free, and explained that it generally happened about 10 yards down the field.

He said “In the National Football League you can’t be just fast, or you can’t be just quick, or you can’t be just strong. Things happen so fast that you need an edge. The edge is here—this kind of information. Now the DBs have a chance. They know that if this guy starts to do a little move about 10 yards out, not to be too aggressive in biting on it, or else the receiver might get behind him.”

He went on to say that he diagrams to sort of routes that the opposing team likes to run, and what implications each one has for each defender, depending on the package they put on the field. He showed us a diagram of the dime package and where the nickel corner would go on a particular route that Kansas City might run. “And that’s only one play. We have a thick book [full of plays.] These guys are on it—they have to know their stuff.”

He then gave us an example of a player who didn’t. He was drafted by the Steelers the same year that Lake was, as a free safety. After the first practice of training camp Lake suggested to this guy that they meet to study the playbook. The other guy agreed, suggesting that they meet after dinner in the pool room and use the billiard balls to map out the plays. But, as Lake said, “Nico liked the ladies.” Lake went to the pool table and waited and waited. Finally, Nico showed up, with a newly acquired girlfriend. He was cut at the end of that week.

After giving an assessment of how he felt the secondary was doing at that point in the season, Lake went on to break down some film with us. I was pretty excited about this. After all, when something goes badly, inquiring minds want to know who is at fault. Was it poor play-calling, poor execution, or just one of those things?

If it is an offensive play, it’s simple—the presumption among many around here seems to be that it is Bruce Arian’s fault. [I will just say that I don’t agree with that approach.] When it is a defensive play, the blame assessment seems to be more difficult. First there is the fact checking—is there any possible way it can be blamed on [William Gay’s supposed ineptitude, James Farrior’s alleged age and slowness, or insert current BTSC goat of the week.] Here and there a voice cries in the wilderness that Dick LeBeau is clearly past it, but the crushing weight of evidence and/or opinions to the contrary ensures that this viewpoint is shouted down quickly. And I for one am glad. Is Dick LeBeau perfect? Well, he’s human, which answers that question, but he is a legend who seems to keep adding to the story.

So you can imagine my excitement when I realized that Carnell Lake was going to provide us with actual information on specific plays. So that you can see more or less what we saw, I’m providing stills from some of the examples he gave. The following are some hand-selected plays.

First, an example of a play that worked, and who was responsible for it:


The play was 1st and 10 at the KC 43 yard line, 13:28 in the 1st quarter. The Chiefs came right out in no huddle and ran twice for a first down, ran once and threw for another, and then lined up to run. Troy was tired of first downs, so he lined up next to Jason Worilds‘ spot. (Worilds just barely got into position when the ball was snapped, because Palko was lining them up so fast.) Troy is engaged with a blocker, as you can see in this shot, and manages to get one arem free and take down Jackie Battle with it, who was held to a one yard gain.

Lake commented “The strong safety really does have to be strong, because he has to take on some heavyweight people and still be able to make the tackle.” He went on to say “It’s a rough day for Troy when the game’s over. That guy is all over the place.”

When Lake first introduced his players to us, he said that some of them didn’t need any coaching—”they are just that good.” Obviously our DPOY from last season is one of those, and although he gets fooled sometimes, this was an example of Troy reading the play and blowing it up, despite the best efforts of the opposition.

The next example is “not using the techniques that we want to use when we’re covering. This is how fast it happens when you’re off just a little bit in your technique.”


This play came just about a minute after the play above. Lake explained that this is a problem of ‘alignment.’ Ike “mentally slipped on this play and let the guy inside, and just that quick, BANG, they got 20 yards.” Ike bit on a little move that Steve Breaston made, and actually he got 25 yards. Bummer.

He next showed Polamalu getting knocked out, and explained that the problem there was that Troy had to take the guy down, but he outweighed him by a good 100 pounds. Lake didn’t have any suggestions about what Troy could have done differently—maybe there isn’t anything. In the New England game he jumped on Rob Gronkowski and ended up going for a piggyback ride for about 10 more yards, IIRC.

Next was the Taylor interception. After explaining that corners are all frustrated receivers, he said that they do a lot of catching drills, the same sort as the receivers do, so that when the ball does come their way they can catch it. And lo and behold, Ike did.

He also showed us the Ryan Mundy interception, which he called “taking a gift when they give it to us.” (Ironically, the sportcasters had just been talking about Palko’s mistakes thus far in the game, and said “you can’t give the ball away.” Palko must have misheard, because he threw it directly to Mundy. Lake then said that he gives the front seven credit, because without the pressure they were getting that flushed Palko out of the pocket that play doesn’t happen.


Harrison was at the point you see him well under two seconds after the snap. Keisel was next to him immediately after he threw. That would put anybody off…

The next play he showed was what he called “bumper cars.” Lake explained that “as Coach LeBeau says, if you don’t use your two biggest weapons, which are your arms, when you make a tackle, it will be just like bumper cars out there. You’ll bump right into them and they’ll just keep going.” He then showed the play where Ryan Clark bumped the guy, and the guy just kept going and picked up another five or ten yards before he was stopped. Lake said “these are the sorts of things we work on in practice. Nine times out of ten Ryan is going to get the guy on the ground.”

He showed two examples of the DB correctly reading a route and making a play on the ball. In the first example, Ryan Mundy stopped the receiver and knocked the ball out; in the second Ike Taylor got in front of the receiver and batted the ball down. He then showed the play where William Gay jumped just a split second too soon and couldn’t make the play. He had correctly diagnosed the route and was in position—his timing was just a split second off.

Then he gave us an example of a play that could have hurt a lot. It was the 4th quarter, 13:22, the score was 13 to 6, and “we have to make a stop.” The Chiefs were backed up by a good punt to the 8-yard line. Duane Bowe caught a very short pass and made it to the 1st down marker before being pushed out of bounds, or so they thought. But the DBs charged with that didn’t actually push him all the way out and he got another eight yards. It was fortunate that he didn’t make it to the end zone—Ike was the last defender alive.

On the next play they redeemed themselves—when the back took the handoff all eleven guys converged to take him down for a one-yard gain. “What you want to see from a great defense is effort from everyone. Great job there.”

Now it is 13-9, as the Chiefs scored a field goal on the previous drive, and once again the Chiefs have the ball. It is the last four minutes of the game. The Chiefs are moving downfield at a glacial pace, clearly not wanting to leave any time for a patented Roethlisberger comeback. A touchdown will win the game.

Lake said “I’m not on the field. I’m up in the box, and I’m sweating bullets. You don’t want to know what I’m saying. As corners we know that guys are going to catch balls—you can’t always help that, it’s just part of playing the game. What we really don’t want is for them to get yards after the catch. Our coverage needs to be right now, as soon as he catches it.” Jon Baldwin converted a 3rd and 4 on a short screen, but Taylor stopped it immediately and kept him in bounds.

After a four yard run just before the 2 minute warning, Palko gears up to throw on 2nd and 6, and sends it deep right to Steve Breaston. Keenan Lewis was on Breaston, and although he caught a back-shoulder fade Lewis knocked the ball enough that he didn’t have possession before he ran out of bounds.

So now it is 3rd and 6. Palko throws another screen to Duane Bowe, but William Gay is in the backfield to take him down for a one yard loss. Of course, the Chiefs have no option but to go for it. Even if they were in field goal range (which they weren’t, being on the wrong side of mid-field,) a field goal does them no good. So they line up for 4th and 7. A stop here means a Steelers victory. And what happens? (Many of us commented at this point that reliving this was almost as bad as watching it the first time. Lake said “I know, I’m there too!”) Palko hurries the guys to the line to force the same coverage. Keenan Lewis takes just a little bit too long to cover his man, and isn’t quite in the right place, and isn’t looking in the right place. Lake is in the booth, saying “Keenan, what are you doing???!!!” only not as politely as that. Here’s the picture right before the snap:


The Chiefs convert, because Lewis was a step late. Two plays later, Harrison got to Palko almost immediately, but Palko managed to flip the ball away. The receiver was Ryan Mundy’s guy, and he missed. Brett Keisel saved his bacon by making the stop. (Lake was seriously impressed with Keisel’s speed and effort.) But now it’s 3rd and 4 on the PIT 46 yard line. Somebody bit on a little move by Breaston (Lake didn’t say who, and I couldn’t see the backfield on the film.) Once again they converted, and it is now 1st and 10 on the PIT 32. A false start penalty moved the Chiefs back to the 37 yard line with 38 seconds left in the game, and then comes this:


And that, friends, is the sweet smell of redemption. Keenan Lewis reads the play, grabs the ball, game over.

Source: Behind the Steel Curtain

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Steelers center Pouncey: Ben and I are ‘fine’

Like QB Ben Roethlisberger, center Maurkice Pouncey sustained a high-ankle sprain in the Steelers’ win over the Browns at Heinz.

Source: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Talking Steelers Football – 12/13

Bob Labriola and Mike Prisuta host Talkin’ Steelers Football.

Source: Pittsburgh Steelers : Audio

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Steelers’ Harrison Suspended For 1 Game

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The Pittsburgh Steelers say linebacker James Harrison has been suspended for one game following his hit on Cleveland Browns quarterback Colt McCoy last Thursday night.

This morning, the Steelers released a statement that said: ”We have been advised that James Harrison has been suspended for one game.”

Reports swirled over the weekend that the NFL was considering a suspension for the linebacker.

The hit drew a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty.

However, Harrison said after practice on Monday that he didn’t think the hit deserved a suspension.

Meanwhile, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said during his weekly press conference today that the team accepts the league’s ruling. He said he talked to the linebacker briefly on the phone.

Tomlin said during his press conference: “We’re disappointed for James because we know quite frankly how hard he’s worked to play within the rules. Obviously, he hit him. He hit him illegally and he has to suffer the consequences.”

Harrison was fined $ 125,000 last season for illegal hits.

As a result of the suspension, Harrison is not allowed to practice with the team this week. He is appealing the decision.

Stay with KDKA for the latest on this developing story.

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Source: CBS Pittsburgh » Steelers

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Harrison suspended for hit on McCoy

Steelers linebacker James Harrison was suspended today by the NFL for Monday’s game at San Francisco, according to a league spokesman.

Source: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

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Harrison hints that he may not appeal his suspension

Steelers linebacker James Harrison has the ability to obtain an expedited appeal of his one-game suspension, if he so chooses. He may not so choose. “Thank you to all my fans and supporters, I’m just going to move on from here and get ready for my next game,” Harrison said on Twitter. That seems to…

Source: ProFootballTalk » Pittsburgh Steelers

Harrison to Find Out Soon if a Suspension is Coming

If the NFL decides to suspend Steelers OLB James Harrison for his hit on Browns QB Colt McCoy in Thursday night’s 14-3 win in Pittsburgh, it will not be a decision that the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year agrees with.

“I don’t think a suspension is worthy,” Harrison said Monday. “I don’t think it’s worthy of anything, but that’s just my own personal thoughts.”

Harrison should find out soon if he’ll get suspended and/or fined for his helmet-to-helmet roughing the passer hit, one that sent the QB to the bench with what now is being called a concussion in the Steelers 11-point win.

Harrison says rightly so that McCoy left the pocket, rendering him fair game as a ballcarrier. McCoy actually stopped to pass the ball on the play.

“Well, he took off running with it, and at the last second he, like, chucked and ducked,” Harrison said.

McCoy briefly left the game, a controversy in itself as his father felt the Browns neglected to properly assess him for a concussion. The team said symptoms didn’t manifest themselves until the game was over.

As for Harrison, he’s use to seeing his pocket book get slapped for hits. Last season he drew $ 100,000 worth of fines for hits during the regular season.

“I feel like he’s trying to put people out of the game,” Browns WR/KR Josh Cribbs, a teammate of Harrison’s at Kent State, said Monday. “As a linebacker, that’s what his job is. That’s how he’s been in college, he tried to put me out of the game when I was on his team, with a red jersey on. That’s why he’s been so successful in this league. That’s also why he’s been highly fined in this league as well, but also successful.”

Source: Steelers Gab

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Pouncey Says He & Roethlisberger Will Be Fine

PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) — Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey left little doubt about his status and that of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger after Monday’s practice.

With uncertainty swirling around both players after suffering high-ankle sprains in a 14-3 win against Cleveland Thursday night, Pouncey adamantly declared himself and Roethlisberger good to go for this week’s Monday night game at San Francisco.

“I am fine. We’re both fine,” Pouncey said, according to the Steelers official website. “We’ll be alright to go on Monday Night Football. We are both fine. We are going day-by-day and taking precautions. We will be fine.”

Pouncey’s injury is the same one that kept him out of Super Bowl XLV last season. He was unable to return to the game after hurting his ankle Thursday night, but he said he’s been resting it ever since and there’s been considerable improvement.

Roethlisberger was able to return Thursday night and threw a 79-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Antonio Brown to ice the game. He did not speak to the media Monday, but Pouncey and others said they’re confident he’ll be under center Monday night.

“He is a tough dude and it’s a big time game,” tackle Max Starks said. “It wouldn’t surprise me.”

Backup quarterback Charlie Batch is expected to take extra snaps this week in case Roethlisberger can’t play.

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Filed under: Football, Sports, Steelers Tagged: Ben Roethlisberger, High Ankle Sprain, Injury Report, Maurkice Pouncey, Max Starks, Pittsburgh Steelers

Source: CBS Pittsburgh » Steelers

Steelers Survive Thursday Night Test against Rival Browns:10 Observations from Heinz Field


We’re on to a new week and a fresh cycle of news, but in case any of you missed this recap of the Steelers’ Week 14 win over the Browns last Thursday night. -Michael B.-


My top 10 observations about the Steelers 14-3 win over the Browns from Heinz Field on Thursday. Apologies for redundant items you have already discussed at length.

  1. This game was one of the weirdest games I have ever attended. The Steelers score touchdowns the first and last time they touch the ball, and never in between. Both teams have touchdowns taken off the board. Both teams have their quarterbacks knocked out of the game, only to return, but they may still be injured enough not to play their next game. The crowd was nervous and relatively quiet the whole game, just weird stuff. More as we go.

  2. Nine penalties in the second half is simply unacceptable, though some were bogus.

  3. Speaking of which, Ed Hochuli and his crew had their worst game ever, and I rarely get on officials. Offensive pass interference was blatantly missed against Massaquoi shoving William Gay early in the game…Antonio Brown absolutely catches a ball that Hochuli incredibly overturns…Keisel was called for a neutral zone that caused the offense to move. It was Harrison who flinched, but stayed on-side, causing 81 to move illegally which in turn caused Keisel to wisely jump, horrible call…Farrior lifts his hands to cushion soft contact with McCoy out-of-bounds and actually tries to hold McCoy up. McCoy instead turns into a Hollywood stunt man taking a dive and the officials buy it…Hochuli actually once said “the result is a better result”…He also declared that there was no grounding, then called grounding on McCoy, when actually McCoy’s knee was down before either the grounding or no grounding. It was wrong on top of wrong on top of wrong…The holding on Gay in the last minute was horrible…All in all, a shameful effort worse than any high school officiating effort.

  • Some idiot Browns fan decided to taunt 85 Steeler fans in a restroom. I asked the guy if he ever heard of General Custer before I advised a cop that he had 30 seconds to prevent a bludgeoning. I go annually to the Steelers game in Cleveland, and there is no amount of alcohol that could make me that stupid.

  • Being a good Christian that I try to be, I would wait until the day after Christmas before I told Kemo to clean out his locker. Enough is enough.

  • If I were a betting man I would be rich right now. 14 points? The last time the Browns gave a lackluster effort against Pittsburgh, their coach was fired within 24 hours. There was no way that team was not going to be fired up on national television. They cashed every check.

  • Jason Worilds had the two most unique and meaningless sacks in NFL history. He sacked McCoy on the last play of the first half and last play of the second half during meaningless Hail Mary situations. Another weird, by the way.

  • Those who think that the Steelers offense was inept should consider that Kapinos punted exactly one time in the game when Big Ben was quarterback (three more times with Batch). That one time occurred when Brown dropped a pass in the red zone, which would have eliminated the lone Kapinos punt (with Ben). More weird.

  • Deebo is going to pay a steep price for going helmet to helmet. Yes, he has a legitimate argument that McCoy turned into a running back and previously scrambled the exact same way for a touchdown (though overturned). And yes, you can’t slow up if a guy at the last split second tosses the ball, turning himself back into a quarterback (the old QB-RB-QB switcheroo), but the helmet to helmet thing will cost him. Interesting that Hochuli blew it again by calling roughing the QB when it was more accurate to say helmet -to-helmet on a defenseless player without the ball. In any case, Harrison’s history will work against him, especially in this day of player safety and concussion madness. Players will learn the hard way, sooner or later, to tackle with arms and shoulders instead of head and shoulders.

  • Speaking of trouble on the horizon, Browns fans like to call Harrison an outlaw and insist on punishment. How about an organization that puts a concussed man back into the game? McCoy cannot remember returning and the PR staff ordered lights to be turned off during his press conference. How many times have the Steelers held out players when there is any doubt? Cleveland, meanwhile, re-inserts a man who later told his father he didn’t remember anything. Pat Shurmur insists the Browns did due diligence, but I watched McCoy the entire time. All they looked at and worked on was his hand. That organization should be sanctioned a hundred times worse than Harrison. There’s no excuse for what the Browns did.

  • Source: Behind the Steel Curtain

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    Steelers LB James Harrison Doesn’t Think He Will Be Suspended For Colt McCoy Hit

    Gerry Dulac reported today via Twitter that Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison said today that he doesn’t think he will be suspended by NFL for his helmet-to-helmet hit Thursday night on Cleveland Browns quarterback Colt McCoy. Dulac quoted Harrison as saying, “I don’t think I have anything to worry about.” According to Dulac, Harrison continued on to say, “Not going to go with ifs. I don’t have to worry about that. We’ll see what happens.” There have been several reports speculating since the game ended Thursday night that Harrison will likely be fined six figures for the fourth Read more […]Steelers LB James Harrison Doesn’t Think He Will Be Suspended For Colt McCoy Hit is a post from: Steelers Depot

    Source: Yardbarker: Pittsburgh Steelers

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