Daily Archives: June 22, 2012
Former NFL offensive lineman Ralph Wenzel, whose battle with dementia pushed him to the fore of the current player safety debate, died Monday. The 69-year-old Wenzel died from complications of dementia, according to his wife, Dr. Eleanor Perfetto, via the New York Times. Only in recent years has the NFL been willing to admit the possibility…
PITTSBURGH (93-7 THE FAN) — Jason La Canfora has joined CBS Sports and CBSSports.com as their new NFL Insider. He was a guest Friday on The Fan Morning Show.
La Canfora says the Steelers love wide receiver Mike Wallace; and he wants to be here and he expects a deal to be done.
He said he thinks Wallace might be able to get a $ 10 million a year deal, and he should take that and run with it because he is not going to get the $ 15 million per year he wants.
“There comes a point where you have taken it as far as you can before it hurts you. He is at that point,” La Canfora said when discussing Wallace’s decision to continue to hold out.
So what about that new Steelers offense?
He expects some growing pains with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Todd Haley in this first year of the new Steelers offense, but in year or two, “there is an ample possibility that this could be an even more explosive offense,” La Canfora said.
He expects that Roethlisberger and Haley need to meet each other halfway to make this happen.
You can listen to the full interview here:
Source: CBS Pittsburgh » Steelers
That’s right the round up is back! It feels good to have to time to do this again. I know I’ve missed so much since my last round up! So, let’s dive right in.
James Harrison hasn’t changed one bit since my one. The NFL has all kinds of crazy things going on now with the bounties and the referees association filing unfair labor practices against the NFL. Harrison claims on his Facebook page that the Steelers knew what was up with the NFL which is why they didn’t ratify the new CBA:
@RealRClark25 Now their starting to see why we didn’t vote for the CBA, and it wasn’t, as some ppl suggested, because I had a large influence on the decision!
Charlie Batch has been making some of his teammates and coaches take pictures with him in his new signature pose.
LaMarr Woodley was busy this week being on MTV2′s Hip Hop Squares:
Gonna be 1 of the squares on MTV2′s Hip Hop Squares 2mrw night at 11pm… tune in and lemme kno wh…
Source: Yardbarker: Pittsburgh Steelers
The hot topics around the NFL these days don’t center around position battles, coaching changes, offensive or defensive philosophies near as much as they do when it comes to concussions. Head injuries and player safety in general have turned the national Football League into an ongoing litigation battle league with current and former players. It’s as much of a political grandstanding stage of self serving agenda’s as it is a professional sports league . To be fair it’s not just Commissioner Roger Goodell but is it coincidence that all of the current court cases against the league are under his tenure? Ok don’t get me started on that rant, lets get back on track here.
One of the topics in relation to concussions and the violence of football is whether the coming generations of athletes will even be allowed to play. Concerned parents of young kids just starting out, both everyday people and NFL players alike have differing views.
Troy Polamalu talked rece…
Source: Yardbarker: Pittsburgh Steelers
ITEM: McKinnie addresses his weightBaltimore Ravens offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie, who was held out of the team’s minicamp so he could focus on conditioning, has vowed he will hit his target wei…
Source: Pittsburgh Steelers : News
This is the fifth and probably final article in the series about players who will help define the 2012 season. The fourth, on DE Ziggy Hood, is here. The third, on CB Keenan Lewis, can be found here. The second, on RB Isaac Redman, resides here. The first, on SS Troy Polamalu, resides here.
Ben Roethlisberger. There may not be another name in the NFL who inspires quite such a range of reactions, even if you’re only talking about his on-the-field persona. Despite his winning ways, there are even those in Steeler Nation who think the team would be better off without Ben. Those would be fans with short memories, however. Anyone who lived through the championship drought between Terry Bradshaw and Ben Roethlisberger just wasn’t paying attention if they think the team would be better off without Roethlisberger.
But even the biggest Ben boosters are frustrated at times by his seeming inability to consider the old axiom: “He who fights and runs away lives to fight another day.” There were more than a few moments last season in which it was not entirely clear he would be back another day, at least in the 2011 season. (See Game 13 vs. Cleveland, for example.) And then there were moments in which it seemed as if the team would have been better off if he hadn’t taken the field at all. (See Game 14 at San Francisco.)
But the thing about a player like Ben is, what you see is what you get. Or, perhaps, he is what he is. Which made the firing of the Offensive Coordinator Ben loves, Bruce Arians, in tandem with Art Rooney II’s comment “Ben needs to tweak his game,” seem odd at best. Top this by hiring a fiery, in-your-face OC to replace Arians and it wouldn’t be surprising if Roethlisberger felt as if a gauntlet had been thrown at his feet.
But perhaps the biggest non-story of the offseason has been the drama between Ben Roethlisberger and Todd Haley. Haley came in with his own terminology and the offense has had to learn a new language. Ben said it was difficult to do this. But in the end, whatever Ben has said to the press, here’s the reality, courtesy of Dejan Kovacevic:
Actual visible, audible signs of friction between Roethlisberger and Haley these past three weeks: Zero.
Roethlisberger has never been one to hide his pain behind an impassive exterior. During his rookie season Roethlisberger excused some poor play in the AFC Championship game by stating he played the second half on two broken toes. Cowher denied this, saying Ben was “exaggerating.” Such stories have surfaced from time to time during Ben’s tenure, culminating in Hines Ward effectively questioning his toughness when Ben sat out a game with exertion headaches after a concussion during 2009. He told Bob Costas on a “Football Night in America” broadcast:
“It’s almost like a 50-50 toss-up in the locker room: Should he play? Shouldn’t he play? It’s really hard to say. I’ve been out there dinged up; the following week, got right back out there,” Ward said to Costas. “Ben practiced all week. He split time with Dennis Dixon.
This was a fascinating little scenario, for a couple of reasons. First, it highlighted the unease in the locker room during the very disappointing 2009 season. But more to the point, can you imagine a player saying these words publicly, not quite three years later? (Except perhaps James Harrison, who is clearly going to go on saying whatever he wants until the day people stop shoving microphones in his face.) If nothing else it shows how much progress has been made in the understanding of head injuries.
If anyone even secretly still questioned Roethlisberger’s toughness, the 2011 season put paid to the notion. No one who watched the Cleveland game, saw his leg bent into a pretzel, saw him limping off the field, and then saw him limp back on to play the second half could doubt he is one tough dude. He is focused on winning, and he will do whatever it takes to help his team win. The only problem is, sometimes “doing whatever it takes” might mean sitting out and letting someone else play, and it is almost impossible for someone of Ben’s mental makeup to assume anyone else could be of more use than he in any given situation. This is one of Ben’s greatest strengths, and greatest weaknesses.
Which might explain the Todd Haley hiring. I’m quite sure Bruce Arians wasn’t going to tell Ben to sit. Todd Haley might just be able to. But more importantly, a more diverse and less predictable offense might reduce the necessity for such decisions. I went back and looked at the play in which he was injured, and seven seconds had elapsed from the snap to the moment he was swarmed by Paxson and Schaefering.
Roethlisberger has repeatedly stated he isn’t changing his game, and we’re always going to see plays extended beyond where any sensible QB will have just gone down. It’s a big part of what makes Ben Ben. But I’m really hoping a greater variety of plays, more convincing play-action, and a wider variety of offensive weapons will make these extended plays less frequent. Because although I feel the offensive line is, barring a great many injuries, going to be substantially better than what we’ve seen in the past few years, nonetheless even the best line can’t hold rushers off for seven seconds.
There are still a few mystifying things about the Haley hiring. For one thing, why was the hiring done in such a way as to seemingly deliberately annoy your franchise quarterback? Why ask an entire offense to learn a new set of terminology, rather than ask Todd Haley to rework his playbook to reflect the customary Steelers usage? And for that matter, why take on a coach whose style is so completely at odds with the majority of the Pittsburgh staff?
No one not privy to the actual events will probably ever be able to answer those questions, but I have some guesses. My first guess as to “why Haley?” would be because there would be no doubt as to who is running things. I won’t be surprised if Haley and Roethlisberger butt heads sooner or later, and I think Haley will win, because I expect part of what he was brought in to do was to help Ben make some adjustments to the way he thinks and reacts, for his own good.
And as strange as it seemed to me at the time, I suspect this is why the change in terminology. If you aren’t fluent in French, say, the automatic words you might have said to someone in English aren’t going to flow in quite the same way, and it causes you to change your habits and think about what you are saying a bit more. Speaking a new language, Ben may not be quite so quick to make calls he would have done under Arians’ tutelage. Obviously this can be a disadvantage, and a tremendous one, if everyone hasn’t become sufficiently fluent in the new language to act as opposed to think. But on the other hand it creates a window of opportunity for the coordinator to make slight changes during the learning process without being quite so obvious about it. While I certainly hope the language is becoming second nature, or will be by the end of camp, there’s a lot of interesting things which can happen during the assimilation process.
As to why the hiring was handled the way it was, who knows? But apparently Art Rooney correctly banked on Ben’s professionalism and will to win. So what if he whines to the media about the playbook? In my opinion, it is just Ben’s way of giving himself a cover story in case it turns out to create some initial difficulties in the early days of the season. Rather like the broken toes, it’s a way of shifting blame onto something outside of his control. I would guess he has already decided he’s unlikely to need the excuse, and he’s quite excited about the possibilities of the new offense. Hence, as Kovacevic said, “over the three weeks of OTAs and minicamp…[h]e pouted less with each passing day about Todd Haley’s playbook.”
But what about Ben himself? So far I’ve pretty much talked around him. He’s turning 30 this season, and he, as well as many of the media pundits, feel he is probably entering his prime. While he may have lost some of the easy mobility allowing him to excel at sandlot ball in his early years, this loss is more than offset by his greatly increased abilities to read defenses and make [mostly] good decisions. So, since I love numbers, let’s look at Ben’s numbers over the past eight seasons.
First, a career comparison of his percentage of sacks, touchdowns, and interceptions per pass attempt:
2007 was a banner year for Roethlisberger, as we all know, including, interestingly, sacks (in a bad way.) He’s never again sniffed the stellar number of touchdowns, either overall (32) or as compared to attempts (an average of one touchdown in less than 13 attempts.) The closest year overall was, surprisingly, 2009, when he threw 26 touchdowns. However, the high number of attempts (506) brings the average down to one touchdown in close to 20 attempts.
2010 wasn’t one of his best years by any means, but the interceptions per attempted pass is amazing. This is not only because of the smallest number of attempts in any year, because of the suspension—he only threw five interceptions for the whole season.
2011 also wasn’t one of his best years, although I suspect if one extrapolated the numbers from the first 12 games through 16 games it would be a good bit better.
Next, completions compared to attempts and average yards per game:
Again, we see that surprisingly 2009 was a peak for both completions and average yards per game. Which just goes to show it isn’t entirely the quarterback performance which determines the success or failure of a team.
But the quarterback’s performance is pretty critical, and certainly this coming season the Steelers are depending on Roethlisberger to step up to the plate, both in terms of his on-field performance (which hopefully includes keeping the defense off the field for considerable portions of games) and his in-the-lockerromm leadership. They have provided him with what is perhaps the most exciting group of wide receivers in the NFL. They have given him several running backs, mostly unproven but with intriguing potential and one who knows how to get it done. Honestly, if this isn’t a huge year for Roethlisberger (barring, God forfend, some other hideous injury,) then one has to start questioning whether he is in fact moving into the prime of his career, as he and many other people believe, or his prime has passed him by.
I believe the former until given evidence to the contrary, and I can’t wait to see Ben use all his shiny new toys in his confusing (hopefully only for the opposition!) new offense. And, like Ben, I am looking forward to him standing with his baby son under the confetti next February.
Source: Behind the Steel Curtain
In Part I, we go over the general unknowns of a transformed offense along with the lack of turnovers and sacks from a defense that, just two years ago, thrived on them.
Not to continue playing the part of the wet blanket, but there are a few more ways the Steelers could see something of a drop from 2011 to 2012.
Injuries to Ben Roethlisberger
Granted, this one is a bit too much on the nose – if Green Bay or New England or the Giants lost their quarterback, their team just wouldn’t be the same, either. Likely back-up Byron Leftwich has done alright as a spot-starter in his time in Pittsburgh, but with a pretty strong AFC North, could the Steelers keep pace with him under center? He hasn’t played since Gary Russell was on the roster. That’s a lot of downs to watch in the honorary Duce Staley Sweatpants.
More than anything, it’s about the lack of Roethlisberger on the field. He’s the field general. It’s hard to adjust to a new signal caller, invariably that new quarterback reads the field pre-snap differently. Try as they would to get on the same page before the game, when the rubber meets the road, it only takes one play where the team isn’t in the same mindset as the quarterback for things to go tragically wrong. And with an AFC looking as competitive as it is, one play could cost a team one game, which could cost a team a playoff spot or worse.
History Not Repeating Itself
I’ve raved about the Peter Principle, usually in reference to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, but it can apply to football players as well. The famous creed of the Steelers is “Next Man Up.” If the Steelers reload rather than rebuild, it suggests they constantly bring in starting-caliber players to fill back-up roles. It’s a great vision for any organization.
At some point, that will run out. Some could point to Jason Worilds last season. No one asked him to be LaMarr Woodley or James Harrison, but that’s exactly the point. If either of those two, or any other key player, is that good, eventually, Peter’s Principle says at some point the person filling in will be over-promoted.
Seems like there’s a lot of potential to see that this year. How will Steve McLendon adopt to the starting position for what appears to be at least the first six games (If/when NT Casey Hampton is put on the PUP list to start the year)? Willie Colon is a talented offensive lineman, will he be able to transition to a new position on the opposite side of where he’s played throughout his career? Will Larry Foote be able to handle what appears to be a full slate of snaps for the first time since 2009 when he was in Detroit?
Or, are any of those guys simply asked to do more than they’re capable of doing? It’s a fair question.
It’s Not Improving, It’s Leapfrogging
Looking back on it, the Steelers were a very good football team in 2011. They obviously were in 2010 as well. If you look at it objectively, there are a few reasons you can see why 2010 had more success than 2011, but how big were those differences, really? If an injured quarterback (who still played, mind you) was the difference between having the ball down six on the last possession of the Super Bowl and not winning a playoff game, that margin between champion and also-ran is far slimmer than we’re making it.
Enter in the Baltimore Ravens of 2010 and 2011. The difference in those two seasons, simply, as WR Torrey Smith caught a touchdown pass to beat the Steelers and eventually win the division (as well as a playoff game). In 2010, Anquan Boldin dropped a touchdown pass in the end zone, forcing the Ravens to settle for three points, and give the ball back to Pittsburgh in the playoffs.
Obviously that’s not the concrete reason, but the point is the Ravens didn’t overtake the Steelers because they suddenly because that much better of a team. The talent levels of both teams was outstanding, but the Ravens leapfrogged the Steelers in 2011.
Every contending team in the NFL will have improved in some way from 2011 to 2012. That doesn’t eliminate the logjam of talent that presently exists. The Steelers will have to leapfrog a few other teams, based solely on last year’s results. That is done during games more so than it’s done during the offseason.
FS Ryan Clark needs to recognize the window Flacco is aiming for on Smith, and he needs to get over to make the play. LB Lawrence Timmons needs to recognize the stretch run and not allow himself to get caught in the wash at the middle of the field, and pursue the ball carrier.
Those are just two examples, and they don’t tell a whole season (both players did far more good things than bad) but speaking on the team top to bottom, they need to beat the best if they want to be the best.
That isn’t easy to do. Doesn’t mean they can’t or won’t, but it’s worth talking about, even for the most optimistic of us.
Source: Behind the Steel Curtain