Daily Archives: June 5, 2012

15 Months After Back Surgery, James Harrison Still Limited In OTA Sessions

Ah, don't you just love the smell of overreaction and speculation in June? It must mean that training camp is getting even closer for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The team has been conducting their 2012 OTA sessions the last three weeks and it was reported today by Mark Kaboly of Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that outside linebacker James Harrison has worked out, but has not practiced since the first week of organized team activities.

While it is way too early to run to your closest bridge to prepare for your jump because the 34-year old linebacker is not playing football in shorts in early June, it Read more [...]

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Ravens DE Terrell Suggs Misses Two Championship Opportunities in Three Months

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Looks like there were two end-of-the-year championships Ravens LB Terrell Suggs couldn't play in in the last five months.

Suggs, the reigning defensive player of the year, was injured during a basketball tournament in Phoenix, according to the weekend tournament's director.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Suggs' injury occurred before the league's championship game, something Suggs has disputed since the news of his ruptured Achilles broke in late April.

"He got hurt Sunday prior to the (basketball tournament) championship game," said Herman (Sonny) Hoffman, the director of the Akchin Gymnasium in Maricopa, Ariz., where the tournament was held.

No word on whether his team went on to win the championship (his teams usually lose before the championship game), or if any player bricked a bunny with the game on the line. Schefter did not confirm a rumor that Suggs' small forward let an outlet pass under that same hoop get stripped away by a defender no one's ever heard of.

Suggs' account differs greatly from Hoffman's account, per Schefter.

When told Tuesday of the comments by staff members at the basketball tournament, Suggs told ESPN through his agent, Joel Segal: "Simply not true. I hurt myself doing my conditioning test."

One could classify pick-up basketball as a "conditioning test." But it does seem strange a man with the nickname "Sonny" or his Weekend Warrior League henchmen would bother lying to the extent Schefter quoted him as suggesting.

Then again, Hoffman may still have a few softball leagues he needs to fill, and it's fair to assume his advertising budget falls short in comparison to the movie "Prometheus."



Source: Behind the Steel Curtain

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Antonio Brown 6/5

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Pope brings familiarity with offense to Steelers

Leonard Pope smiled, shook his head and rolled his eyes incredulously. Then he politely answered the question.

Pope was the only unrestricted free agent the Steelers signed in the offseason, and questions for the 6-foot-8 tight end keep coming back again and again to one subject.

Not the 102 receptions or nine touchdowns he has totaled in his six-year NFL career, and not his appearance in the 2009 Super Bowl. Not even his nickname, ''Champ'' - or the fact he saved a 6-year-old boy from drowning in a swimming pool last summer.

All anyone wants to talk to Pope about is his familiarity with Todd Haley's offense. Haley was hired in February as the Steelers first new offensive coordinator in five years. No surprise, Pope arrived in Pittsburgh weeks later.

Wherever Haley has been the past six years - from Arizona to Kansas City and now Pittsburgh - he's taken Pope with him.

With the Steelers feverishly studying to master the new offense, Pope is a man everybody wants to speak with about it.

''Every day - all day, every day,'' Pope said with a chuckle. ''And I give the same answer: I'm here learning the new playbook just like the rest of the players are. So my story ain't gonna change.''

A story Pope is much more eager to tell is how he potentially saved the life of the young child of a friend at a party in his hometown of Americus, Ga., last June.

The only person at the party who knew how to swim, a fully-clothed Pope jumped into the pool, grabbed the boy, Bryson Moore, by the waist and pulled him out of the water to safety.

''It was an act born out of the fact of me being a father and having kids,'' said Pope, who recently threw a pizza party for the boy's class. ''Like I told people, I would want someone doing the same for my child.''

That story has made its way among his new teammates.

''I guess you can check the `Performs Under Pressure' box for that,'' fellow tight end Heath Miller said.

Providing depth to Pittsburgh's tight end corps isn't a life-or-death issue. But with David Johnson having been moved to fullback and Weslye Saunders suspended for the season's first four games due to a violation of the NFL's performance-enhancing drugs policy, the 272-pound Pope will likely see plenty of reps this season for the Steelers.

''He's a big boy,'' tackle Marcus Gilbert said. ''He's aggressive, he's bright-eyed, he just loves to come in and stick his hand in the pile and try to help us win.''

A third-round pick by the Cardinals in 2006, Pope clearly has the size to help in the blocking game - a trait the Steelers have sought in their tight ends in recent years.

He also has shown an ability to be a weapon in the passing game, evidenced by the five touchdown receptions he had during his second year with Arizona or the career-high 24 catches he had last season with Kansas City.

''I try to tell people, `Please don't sleep on me. When you sleep on me, that's when I get you,''' Pope said. ''You think I'm going to block all day, then I'll run a route past you. You think I'm going to catch all day, I'll block.''

Pope said his grandfathers and father used to argue about who deserves credit for bestowing the nickname ''Champ,'' given to him as an overly active and rambunctious boy.

Pope even dubbed his foundation aimed at disadvantaged families that emphasizes physical fitness, C.H.A.M.P. (Creating Hope And Making Progress).

But one thing Pope is not yet is a Super Bowl champ. He was with the Cardinals when they lost to Pittsburgh in the 2009 Super Bowl.

''I want to be on the other side to not have that feeling again,'' Pope said.

Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin cited the hunger Pope has after being ''on the wrong side of the confetti'' that February night in Tampa three years ago. Tomlin mentioned that when asked about Pope before he mentioned the player's history with Haley.

That's the way Pope would prefer it. Contrary to conventional opinion, Pope did not sign with the Steelers just because of Haley.

''I came here because I had a job opportunity,'' he said.

Haley was the offensive coordinator in Arizona for Pope's final two years there, including the NFC championship season. When Haley was hired as head coach of the Chiefs, Pope was signed soon thereafter.

Haley was fired by Kansas City late last season, and the Steelers hired him to replace Bruce Arians less than three months later. Pope was signed in April.

Haley's fiery sideline demeanor, combined with the fact the affable Arians had a warm relationship with most of his players, have led to much discussion in Pittsburgh about Haley and the offense.

Pope might not be willing to speak too much on Haley's Xs and Os, but he will endorse Haley the person.

''I love Todd,'' Pope said. ''He's a great coach, and hopefully the guys are starting to see that right now.

''I know a lot of people see the negative picture of him yelling on the sidelines and all that kind of stuff, but he's a real humble person and has a great passion for what he does.''

Source: Yardbarker: Pittsburgh Steelers


Talks Between NFL and NFL Referees Association Stall, Replacement Officials Being Trained

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The NFL has seen replacement players before, but replacement referees appear to be in line for the 2012 season.

A players strike in 1987 led to athletes crossing the picket line to play during the season, but the league hasn't used replacement (or "scab," depending on which side of the argument you're on) before.

Talks between the two sides broke down Monday, leading to the NFL walking away from the table after federal mediation failed to bring the sides together for a deal.

The NFL has said it will begin training and hiring replacement officials from wherever, outside of college football's BCS. Those officials cover both NFL and NCAA games, and the NFL doesn't want to put those officials in "an awkward situation."

As if a newly hired official standing-toe-to-toe with Steelers coach Mike Tomlin over a disputed pass interference call won't be awkward enough.

The amount of newly emphasized regulation in the NFL has led to officials having to watch for considerably more possible infractions - up to, and particularly, issues pertaining to player safety.

As we've seen far too many times this past season, officials simply cannot be the on-field deliverers of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's safety agenda. It's difficult to watch Steelers OLB James Harrison jamming a shiv into the side of whichever quarterback the Steelers are playing, all the while making sure the baton FS Ryan Clark uses to bludgeon receivers upside the head isn't being used.

Hiring inexperienced officials at the onset of a labor strife between the league and its officials will only be more gasoline on an already raging inferno. We often rip officiating, sometimes rightly so, but top to bottom, they get the call right 98 percent of the time. If that number drops, and with the newly selected officials far more likely to follow the safety script to the letter, players are going to have to prepare themselves to adjust very quickly to the way a game is being officiated.



Source: Behind the Steel Curtain

David DeCastro, Mike Adams & Alameda Ta’amu Will All Be At Mini-camp Next Week

We finally have some clarification on the mini-camp status of rookies David DeCastro, Mike Adams and Alameda Ta'amu, all of whom have been forced to miss the first three OTA sessions of the 2012 season because of college graduation requirements. Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports via Twitter on Tuesday that all three of the Steelers draft picks will be at the mandatory mini-camp next week that gets underway next Tuesday in Pittsburgh.

David DeCastro, Alameda Ta'amu and Mike Adams WILL be at minicamp next week. It's confirmed.— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly_Trib) June 5, 2012

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Source: Yardbarker: Pittsburgh Steelers


List of ‘Not My Favorite Steelers’ Includes Limas Sweed, Bruce Arians

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Another good talker, changed the headline but nothing else. My only commentary is making sure to point out "Neal" is not the same as "Neil," and for those who wonder why I get upset when the spellings are confused, I tell them to watch Super Bowl XXX. And interestingly, Kris Brown would rank very highly on my list as well. I tried to put a volleyball through the TV I watched that game on in 2001. It was my roommates' first experience with me during a Steelers game. Needless to say, I was dubbed "Wilson" for a little while. - nc

This is meant to be a fun post part two. There is no offense meant by it. It is my hope that all of the players that made this list are happy and healthy and enjoying their successful lives...somewhere other than Pittsburgh. If you are easily offended by someone else's view of Steelers history or a snide remark cast at somebody that once wore black and gold please turn away now...The post is inspired by reports of Limas Sweed attempting a comeback with the Cincinnati Bengals and an array of other NFL teams hoping to cash in on his tremendous potential. You see to me, Limas is a player that I just never saw anything in other than potential and he almost always made me angry when he was on the field. Had I been Coach he would have been cut sooner. So here is my list of other players I would have cut sooner. Least Favorite Steelers...Please add your non favorites or feel free to defend these guys listed. And like the Steelers under Kent Graham, no offense. It's all opinion anyway!

· Neil O'Donnell; I love big game players and Neil is my least favorite Steeler of all time. In my opinion he was a decent enough QB but he lacked intestinal fortitude. That is something that is a HUGE asset if you have it and a HUGE detriment if you don't. Neil always seemed to complete 75% of his passes during the regular season and then become a deer in the headlights during post season. The resume...1992 O'Donnell (after beating out Bubby Brister...one of my favorite Steelers...for the starting QB spot) has home field throughout the playoffs thanks to Bubby winning 2 of the seasons last 3 for an injured O'Donnell. After a bye he puts up 7 points against Buffalo in a 24-7 home loss to the Bills. He doesn't even attempt to throw one pass into the end zone in that game. 1993 O'Donnell again ousted in round 1 of the wild card round albeit to Joe Montana at KC. 1994...The AFCCG debacle at 3 Rivers. Only 13 points by the offense in a home Championship game against a HUGE underdog despite throwing for 349? The pass to Barry Foster at the 1 yard line on 4th and goal from the 3 that fell incomplete? Just like the first 3 downs at goal to go. And then XXX in 1995/1996. 3 picks. 2 of them with no Steeler receiver within 10 yards. Those that argue that O'Donnell's receivers ran the wrong route...twice...can have that argument. It works during the regular season but not deep in the post season. My rule; In the 4th quarter of the Super Bowl with under 6 minutes to go, you better damn well know which way your receiver is cutting BEFORE you throw the ball. As stated lack of intestinal fortitude is a HUGE detriment.

· Cliff Stoudt; Cliff had the misfortune of following Terry Bradshaw. He sat on the bench and held a clip board charting plays in Bradshaw's last couple seasons. This was good enough for a couple Super Bowl rings. When Bradshaw called an audible on the front office and went to the back woods of Louisiana for a botched elbow surgery, Stoudt became the starting QB. The Steelers defense in 1983 was stifling. The Steelers surged to a 9-2 record on the backs of the Steel Curtain's last ride. Opposing offensive coordinators looking to avoid the Steel Heat went ultra conservative. They realized a punt on 4th down was better than a sack fumble or interception on 3rd down. As the games became close and the Steelers needed their QB to win games a losing streak entailed. Cliff Stoudt became a turn over machine. The Steelers coronation to the AFC Championship suddenly became rocky. The Steelers were staring at 9-5 and missing the playoffs. Bradshaw returned one last time, fittingly in Flushing. He showed the Steeler Nation the offense was not impotent just manned by the wrong conductor. Bradshaw effortlessly drove the Steelers down the field twice for TDs before leaving forever, grimacing and holding his elbow but elevating the Steelers into the playoffs. There, Stoudt hit Wayne Capers on a first series bomb setting up a 3-0 Steelers lead. The Raiders won 38-10. Stoudt was forever castigated as third rate. Cliff the Stiff and Stiff Drought would be his monikers. In an epilogue to his career Stoudt became a QB in the USFL and returned to Pittsburgh as a Birmingham Stallion. 50,000 crazed Steeler fans jammed into Three Rivers Stadium and pelted Cliff with snowballs for 4 quarters of a Stallion win. Some of them with better arms than Cliff.

· Kris Brown; Kris-Miss. Chrissie Brown. All those yards against Houston one Sunday and still a loss. All those missed field goals week in and week out when it mattered most. Especially at Heinz Field. I cringed every time they sent him on the field...kind of like Suisham. I didn't like the guy we got after Brown either. But that disaster named Peterson led us to Jeff Reed. We were blessed with Gary Anderson for a decade. Jeff Reed was also a blessing we found in a tryout until his success got the better of him. I wonder if Skippy has sobered up and lost some weight. We could use him.

· DeWayne Washington; The free agent DB we got from the Vikings actually performed OK his first couple years. But later in his career as a starter he was outclassed by every receiver. After being regularly burned deep for several years Washington got near enough to Titan kicker Joe Nedney that Nedney was able to fake a running into the kicker penalty after an OT playoff miss. That Washington playoff gaffe allowed Nedney to kick from 5 yards closer and put the nail in the Steelers and Tommy Maddox heroic 2002 season.

· Harvey Clayton; Clayton was an undersized DB with the Steelers in the mid 80s during the dark ages after the 70s Title Run and before Cowher Power. It wasn't his fault that he was so over matched. It was the front offices fault for not finding a better DB...What he lacked in size he made up for in slow footedness. His nickname was "Toast"

· Limas Sweed; I have to put Limas on this list because of all the grief I have taken on the BTSC pages for my lack of "Limas Love." I never disliked Limas enough to put him on a list until I was chastised (IMO unfairly) for "defaming" a guy who played for the beloved Steelers and dropped crucial passes in 2 playoff games. IMO, the Steelers live and die by the draft. I'm not a NCAA regular. When the Steelers drafted Limas Sweed I didn't know who he was. I never saw him do anything at Latrobe and yet people seemed to be in love with his size, speed and soft hands....which I could understand at first. At a Los Angeles Lakers game at Staples Center one evening, my friend Michael Bean sang the praises of fellow Texans Limas Sweed and Tony Hills. MB is usually pretty spot on and I was rooting for both of them. Once the season started and he stopped feeling home sick Sweed caught 6 passes. In the biggest of playoff games on the biggest of stages Sweed dropped a sure TD against San Diego. Watch the tape. Then, the next week in the AFCCG with other WRs on the roster and deserving of playing time, the Steelers coaches had Sweed in the game again. He was running free in the Baltimore secondary again. Ben put the ball right in his hands again. Sweed dropped the ball...again. As he lay on the field agonizing over a dropped pass the Steelers were penalized. Had Flacco not thrown that pick to Troy late in the 4th quarter and instead led the Ravens to victory (like he did twice since 2008) Sweed would have been Bill Buckner & Neil O'Donnell all rolled into one. He dropped a pass during the regular season that would have beaten Cincinnati and put Pittsburgh in the playoffs in his second season just to convince the coaches to play another deserving athlete. Just because you are big and fast and a second round pick doesn't mean you can play in the NFL. No matter how "good a kid" someone is and no matter how hard they try, at some point you have to let another deserving athlete have a chance to play....like a 6th round pick named Antonio. On a team where draft picks are the heart beat of the franchise Sweed was a wasted 2nd round pick.

· Aaron Jones; The only thing worse than a second round bust is a first round bust. This D lineman was a definite first round bust. He had a sack once in a playoff game and we all joked that he must have still been coming from the play before.

· Huey Richardson; Front Office...How could you whiff so horribly in round 1? I don't think he made it out of Latrobe? At least Limas Sweed and Aaron Jones sniffed the field.

· Shaun Suisham; All right. So I don't like kickers and I don't like offensive coordinators. Sue me. I am happy to be wrong about this guy so far. As I stated before the 2011 season "Shaun Suisham will cost the Steelers a game in 2011 and I hope it is not in the playoffs." I was wrong in 2011 but 2012 is a new year.

· Gene Mingo; I didn't really get to see Mingo play for the Steelers. I am too young. But I remember hating the kicking combo of Gerela/Walden growing up. I was told the tale of the Steelers kicker who struggled with extra points as opposed to our "extra point kicker" who struggles with field goals. JW 900 of the Crew thought Mingo's first name was "Effing" until he was 10 years old because every time Mingo trotted out onto the field his dear old dad screamed "Effing Mingo!"

COACHES CORNER;

· Bruce Arians; He was a Cleveland Brown's OC that somehow could not figure out how to run clock with a 24-7 lead late in the 3rd quarter of a playoff game. Looking to throw deep on every down Arians left too much time on the clock for journeyman Tommy Maddox who rallied the Steelers to a 36-33 win. I will never forget Chris Fu'amatu Ma'afala taking it in for a TD on his 4th and 3 as opposed to O'Donnell and his 4th and 3. As I stated...intestinal fortitude is a HUGE asset. Hired at Pittsburgh as a WR coach he ascended to OC through attrition. Arians then proceeded to produce game plan after game plan of hazy offensive scheming with no rhyme or reason or adjustments. Starting with the 2nd and 3rd down calls against Jacksonville in the 2007 playoff game continuing with hand-offs to Hines Ward at the goal line on 4th and short and ending with the lack of a potent red zone offense for all his years at Pittsburgh, Arians career at Pittsburgh rode Ben Roethlisberger's coattails. He never seemed to make Ben or those around him better like some of the coaches on my favorite Steelers coaches list.

· Kevin Gilbride; I always liked Ron Erhardt and was disappointed to see Cowher let him go. Before Arians, Gilbride earned my wrath weekly. When fellow coach Buddy Ryan punched him on the sideline during a game I could totally understand Buddy's frustration.



Source: Behind the Steel Curtain


People Underestimate Ziggy Hood’s Importance in the Steelers Defense


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Steelers Defensive End takes a lot of heat for his performance in the Steelers defense.  He gets compared to Aaron Smith and no one likes the fact that he does not put up the numbers that Smith put up.  Hood is not Smith and nor will he ever be.  Smith was the perfect 5 tech defensive end.  He ate up blockers and still made his way to the QB.  The man had an outstanding all around game.  He is a once in a generation player.  Smith is the best 3-4 defensive end of his era.  You can not be mad at Hood for not being that guy.
While Hood is not Smith he has played above average as defensive end.  He is just now finishing his third year in the position.  He had to transition to the position and we have all heard over and over how people need 3  years to be comfortable.  Hood seemed to get comfortable this season.  He may have made fewer plays for the team but he also took up more blockers.  He made holes for his teammates and gave them the ability to make plays.  He opened up to the fact...

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Steelers Troy Polamalu Picks Off Joe Flacco, Seals AFC Championship Win

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If someone approached you in a bar and said, "give me your 10 best Steelers highlights of all time," you'd probably sit for a second in thought, order another beer and list off a few dozen qualifiers.

Then you'd spend half the night debating which one was the best.

Items making a great highlight include magnitude of the moment, skill of the player, elegance on the field and historical worthiness.

For me, the best Steelers highlight to encapsulate all of those things was SS Troy Polamalu's interception of Ravens QB Joe Flacco in the 2008 AFC Championship game, and subsequent touchdown return, sealing the trip to Super Bowl XLIII.

Rarely do we see such a great play made in such a huge moment by such an incredible player. And I don't think I've ever gone as crazy as I did when it happened.

Baltimore had the ball at their 29-yard line, down 16-14, with 4:42 remaining in the game. Steelers OLB LaMarr Woodley had just picked up his second sack of the game, forcing the third-and-long situation.

I can still hear Jim Nantz's voice as if it had just happened.

"Third and thirteen...gotta make it to the 42 for a first....PICKED off POLAMALU...Polamalu going right! The field is open! Aaron Smith shields FLACCO-POLAMALU TAKES IT HOME! SUPER BOWL FORTY THREE, Pittsburgh might be bound for that thanks to number forty three!"

One great thing about this highlight is how truly team-oriented it was. The Steelers had two down linemen, and at the snap, OLB James Harrison stunted to the offensive left side. He makes contact with LT Jared Gaither (who gave up Woodley's sack the play before), pushing him off-balance to the outside. Harrison comes inside, and is hitting Flacco just as he's throwing.

For as great a play it is by Polamalu, it doesn't happen without Harrison.

After Polamalu's catch, immediately, FS Ryan Clark hustles ahead to block TE Todd Heap. As Polamalu reverses his field back to his right, CB William Gay blocks WR Mark Clayton. Shortly after that, CB Ike Taylor blocks RB Willis McGahee, springing Polamalu down the sideline.

Aaron Smith, hustling the entire way, gets to Flacco, who forced Polamalu to come back inside. Polamalu slipped right off Smith's block, and into the end zone.

Absolute bedlam.

Polamalu Interception vs. Flacco and the Ravens 1-18-09 (via 55Porter)

This night was particularly special for me. Probably the best football game I've ever seen. Plus, the NHL All Star game was in Montreal that weekend, so the Los Angeles Kings, who had a game with the Wild scheduled that following Tuesday, made the trip to St. Paul instead of heading back to Los Angeles for the break.

Our Steelers bar, McGoverns, is across the street from XCel Energy Center, and with nothing but time on their hands, they found their way into the Steelers party.

After the win, and for most of the night, we stayed up with the likely 2012 Stanley Cup Champions, drinking, uh, water and Tang, celebrating the win (I don't think Anze Kopitar knew what football was, but he was having fun).

When I think of Steelers memories, I think of that game. When I think of great Steelers highlights, of the myriad amount there are, this one is No. 1 for me. Of course, some will disagree, and while I have my list of honorable mentions, let the community know which ones you feel are the most memorable and why.



Source: Behind the Steel Curtain

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AFC North Notes: Ravens lose another OLB

ITEM: Another Ravens OLB tears AchillesAccording to a report in the Carroll County Times, Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Mike McAdoo tore an Achilles tendon during organized team activities on...

Source: Pittsburgh Steelers : News

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