Daily Archives: June 25, 2012

Steelers Cut Ties with Former Ohio State QB Troy Smith

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Sounds like it was short and probably not so sweet of a time for former Heisman winner and Ravens QB Troy Smith with the Steelers, as Adam Caplan just tweeted that he’s been let go from the club.

Smith signed with the Steelers back in late January, and inked a “future/reserves” contract. At the time, he was playing in the UFL with the Omaha Nighthawks.

Source: Steelers Gab

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Steelers Release Quarterback Troy Smith

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The Steelers released veteran quarterback Troy Smith, the team announced today.   Smith signed a Reserve/Future contract with the Steelers on January 20, 2012. Prior to joining the Steelers, Smith ...

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Steelers release Heisman winner Troy Smith

The Pittsburgh Steelers have released veteran quarterback Troy Smith, a former Ohio State star who won the 2006 Heisman Trophy.

Smith signed with the Steelers earlier this year. He has also spent time with the Omaha Nighthawks (2011) of the United Football League, the San Francisco 49ers (2010) and the Baltimore Ravens (2007-2009). The Ravens drafted him in the fifth round (174th overall) of the 2007 draft.

Smith played in 20 NFL games with eight career starts.

He led Ohio State to a 12-0 record and the No. 1 ranking in 2006 before the Buckeyes were beaten 41-14 by Florida in the Bowl Championship Series title game in Glendale, Ariz. Smith threw 54 TD passes in his career, third best at Ohio State.

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What Steeler Nation Can Learn From the Triumph of LeBron James


My interest in the NBA reached its nadir during 2011-12. From the days in the late 1970s and 80s when I wouldn't miss a game of the Julius Erving Philadelphia 76ers to this season was a matter of night and day. After the frustrations of the NFL lockout, I had no patience with basketball's labor difficulties. And like many people I was pretty disgusted with the entire spectacle of LeBron and the Big Three. I began tuning into the latter stages of the playoffs probably more out a sense of boredom than anything. But then I became fascinated with what I saw.

Most people I knew weren't rooting so much for any particular team as they were rooting against LeBron and the Heat. I could sympathize, but I had another problem. The Heat were playing the Boston Celtics in the conference finals. Let's see, I was a big Sixers fan in the 80s and a Steelers fan; for some mysterious reason I have an issue with Boston teams (Steelers/Ravens had nothing on Sixers/Celtics in its heyday). So I found myself taking up the cause of Miami and was rather pleased that they prevailed. I also couldn't help but notice how they won. LeBron had changed in a very positive sense.

Things were a little different in the Finals. Like most I believed that the Thunder would win, but soon I found myself rooting hard for the Heat for two reasons. First, it was now obvious to me that James was not just playing well, it was also clear that he had changed and grown as both a player and a man. He was displaying mature leadership, heart and clutch performances, sometimes under personal duress. Second, I was experiencing a backlash against all the haters among both the critics and the general population. I no longer saw them as expressing righteous outrage over the real indiscretions committed by James in the recent past, but as an ignorant and insensitive mob that refused to acknowledge and respect redemption.

Our relationships with celebrities can be weird and a little sick at times. We seem to vacillate from giving them far too much slack to going to the opposite extreme and according them none at all. For many the final word was in on LeBron James; he was a choke artist as a player and a jerk as a human being. Consequently, the critics were surprised, and dare I say somewhat disappointed that James had moved beyond his earlier limitations. There seemed to be some problems with many in fully celebrating LeBron's achievement which went beyond the mere mechanics of winning a championship, perhaps because the outcome of the process left them looking a bit like jerks themselves.

I have not lived a perfect life, nowhere near close to having done so. And please forgive me if I assume that most of those who are reading these words haven't done so either. We have had the advantage of having made our mistakes in relative anonymity. While we envy the fact that the triumphs of the LeBron James' of the world are played out on large stages with the attendant perks, the downside is that their failings are as well. In all too many cases when confronted with their shortcomings these celebrities make a show of contrition and then hope or assume that we all will have short memories and that everything will eventually blow over. James (and teammates Wade and Bosh) were embarrassed by last year's events on and off the court. But, instead of brushing it off and ‘moving on', they, as Tomlin is fond of saying, embraced that embarrassment, owned it and made significant changes in their conduct. My guess is that it wasn't easy.

There are a whole bushel full of lessons that we can take away from this as fans about what the crucible of high level, high stakes competition provides in terms of opportunities and challenges for both the participants and the observers.

I found myself making comparisons between LeBron and Ben Roethlisberger. Many in Steeler Nation made the final judgment concerning Ben in the spring of 2010; he was a bum, and we would be better off without him. I suspect that the Steelers and the league colluded in saddling Ben with a punishment that probably exceeded the true extent of the crime. No criminal charges were filed and if being a jerk earns you four game suspensions then our major sports leagues might have difficulty fielding teams on any given week. But it served as a wakeup call and started an arc of redemption that resulted, on the field, with a third Super Bowl appearance (albeit a losing one) and the heroic return to field in the second half of the Cleveland game this past season. Off the field by all accounts Ben has become a better teammate and appears a domestic paragon given his marriage and impending fatherhood.

Of course, there are those who believe that Ben is just engaged in a very effective exercise in public relations, and they may be right. But, like the critics of LeBron, their cynicism may be more grounded in their desire for self-justification, which would occur if they could successfully label Ben as both a jerk and a phony, instead of someone experiencing a very public process of maturation and growth.

I have been on record for a while concerning what I believe to be our overemphasis on talent and ‘measurables' as the key elements of competitive success. It's certainly an easy enough mistake to make for both players and fans. You need prodigious talent to even be part of the discussion in the major professional sports. But there is a difference between the acknowledgement that talent is a prerequisite of being part of the process on one hand, and it being the most determinant factor in being successful on the other.

I can appreciate the skepticism, disorientation and disbelief an athlete might experience after he has risen to the penultimate level on the strength of superior talent, then being told that it is not enough. Also the incomprehension of fans who have difficulty imagining what comprises ‘enough' at the elite level and must be dependent on the judgment of ‘experts' who constantly let them down because they (the experts) are in service to entertainment demands rather than the competition demands of the sport.

What the sport(s) demands is that while you can easily compete on talent alone, individuals, teams and organizations must actually learn how to win. This explains how some teams consistently compete successfully at the highest levels regardless of the variations of talent on both their and their opponents teams.

For example, Ben and Eli Manning are usually not the first guys mentioned when the discussion begins about the best quarterbacks in the game.

In spite winning and being named MVP of the Super Bowl for the second time, Eli Manning ranks third in terms of media attention in the Big Apple. The current obsession is with Jets' quarterbacks Mark Sanchez and Tim Tabor.

Yet over the past seven years the two quarterbacks account for five Super Bowl appearances and a combined four championships. Neither quarterback made it within the top 25 players in the league on the NFL Networks Top 100 program.

The time it has taken James to win a championship isn't all that unusual. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird won championships relatively early in their careers (as did Ben), but in all cases, including Ben, they did so with franchises with a lot of institutional experience competing for championships. Perhaps more typical was the number of attempts it took Isaiah Thomas and the Detroit Pistons to figure out how to get past the Lakers, and then the multiple attempts it took Michael Jordan and the Bulls to get past the Pistons. Thomas and Jordan were older when they started and had the benefit of coming from big time college programs under Bobby Knight at Indiana and Dean Smith at North Carolina respectively. James entered into the NBA straight from high school.

When you think about it, unless it's directly on the heels of a championship (like this year for New York) the Steelers and the Giants tend to be overlooked in the discussions about the best teams in the league. This suggests the standard of evaluation in these matters is a little off.

The 70s Steelers took three years under Chuck Noll to become playoff caliber, and then another three years to get over the final hurdle to a championship. Much is made of the fact that the team drafted four eventual Hall Of Famers that year. But some feel that the '72 team would have gone to the Super Bowl were it not for a blown special teams play in the AFCCG. And only one of those four draftees actually started (Lambert) in '74.

In subsequent years the genius of the franchise is how it has adapted to evaluating, selecting and integrating new personnel, new rules, especially those specifically designed to blunt the team's success (the Mel Blount rule; more recently Hines Ward) and providing consistent high quality leadership on the field and in the front office. They also have been very patient with the development of players and relatively wise with when and how they part ways with their employees.

Many fans were not happy when they allowed Plaxico Burress to leave via free agency and traded Santonio Holmes. Not unreasonable given the fact that each player has caught a last second, game winning catch in a Super Bowl. But whatever their strengths each player has issues with the exercise of judgment that has hurt their respective teams. Burress went to jail and Holmes now has the reputation of being a locker room cancer. You have to go back to the 90s to find situations where they allowed a player to get away for whatever reason that there was later regret (Rod Woodson and Mike Vrabel). The team learned and evolved.

Undoubtedly, one of the things that LeBron and company learned in a particularly humiliating manner is that talent alone was not enough. Humbled, they learned how to play together and how to exercise the type of leadership that enhanced their own efforts and that of their teammates. However, don't expect to hear much of anything about this, except from a few isolated voices during the extended post mortems following the playoffs. For now the best entertainment purposes are served by kissing rather than kicking LeBron so there will be some sucking up. So the opportunity for us to get the benefit of the higher lessons will likely be lost or obscured. Nonetheless, there are some things we can glean from LeBron's triumph that we can relate to the Steelers' prospects for the 2012 season.

Mike Tomlin is a very talented head coach, but he is also learning how to win as much as anyone. Some have been impatient or suspicious as he has labored to master his craft. For example, there are those who argue that Tomlin's early success was predicated on his inheriting Bill Cowher's team, a point I have serious disagreements with. But even if you accept the position on its face it does not explain why he was able to get Cowher's team to the Super Bowl twice while Cowher only managed to do so once.

If you are into patterns then Tomlin's tenure has something in common with the Star Trek movies. The odd numbered years haven't been bad, but the even numbered ones have been off the charts (two Super Bowls). This is year number six. In addition to what he is learning, he also has more control. His staff was as much a carryover from previous regimes as anything. Those that remain, mostly the defensive staff (LeBeau, Mitchell and Butler) are all top shelf. And his additions, (Everest, Montgomery, Kugler, Lake) all have been improvements. I'll take it on faith that he knows what he's doing with Haley. Time will tell. Also these are largely his players now as well.

Because of past successes all but the second year players and the rookies know what it takes to get to at least the championship game. Even free agent newcomer Leonard Pope has Super Bowl experience. There are a lot of reasons that we can get excited about the draft. The most important is not so much that they have the potential to be quality players; more often than not that is case of those selected by the front office. It's that so many in this year's group may be able to contribute at a high level very quickly.

There are no guarantees here other than the likelihood that this is a team that is ready to compete and has the tools to prevail. When the team won in '08 Tomlin made the point that it is not what a team is capable of doing, but what it is willing to do. LeBron has clearly been capable. This year he was also willing. We'll see how willing the Steelers are this fall.

Source: Behind the Steel Curtain

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Video: Love to #92 – James Harrison

Just something to get those that are out of the loop ready for 2012!

Source: Steelers Gab

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The Steelers 2012 Running Game – Who Gets the Ball Opening Day?

2012 is fast approaching. The Steelers have a new OC, and with it, an idea they are going to run the football more to try and protect their biggest investment – Ben Roethlisberger.

Ok, that’s all fine and good, and I understand what the team is thinking in that department. Problem is, when you try and break down how this team is going to run, it starts with one thing – WHO is going to run?

Rashard Mendnhall to me is no way going to be ready for 2012. He’s going to start the year on the PUP list, and there’s a shot he won’t see the field in 2012 at all if he doesn’t make progress throughout the rest of the summer.

So when the Steelers line up opening night against the Broncos, who gets the ball first? And will that person be good enough to lift an offense that has good wide outs and a Pro Bowl QB?

1. Isaac Redmen – I love what Redmen did in the last game of the season against the Broncos, and take away a couple times he put the ball on the ground in Cleveland, and he had a solid game in backup of Mendenhall, who was hurt in that game. He seems to keep his legs moving at all times, and you can tell he’s hungry. To me, unless one of these guys below totally blows up – Redmen should be the starter.

2. Jonathan Dwyer – You remember this guy – right? Well, Dwyer had a memorable play in 2011, rushing for 76 yards in a carry against the Titans, putting up 107 yards on 11 carries that day. A foot injury landed him again out of the ability to play, but he should be the main backup for Redmen when the season kicks off. I’d love to see more of him and what he can do in 2012.

3. John Clay - Another interesting prospect who has spent time on the teams practice squad. He played in two games last year when Dwyer went down, and had 10 carries for 41 yards and a touchdown. He’s also a big guy, coming in at 6’1, 248 pounds, and can punish opponents when the game is on the line and the team needs a yard. Could be an interesting summer for Clay.

4. Chris Rainey – I can see this 5th round pick being a HUGE player for this team in a variety of roles in 2012. Reports say he’s been impressive in camp and OTAs to this point, and will be a great situational player for the Steelers offense. He can catch the ball, and he will take the role of Mewelde Moore, who left the Steelers this offseason to go to the Colts. I can’t wait to see what this kid can do with the ball in his hands.

5. Baron Batch – A 2001 7th round pick who was hurt last season, he tore his ACL and will need to have a good camp just to make this team IMO. He should get a spot if he plays as well as last season, as he was rolling before he got hurt.

Source: Steelers Gab

Steelers’ 2011 Big Money Guys: LB Lawrence Timmons Asked To Do a Lot

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The Pittsburgh Steelers announced a contract extension was signed by LB Lawrence Timmons on Aug. 23, 2011, a deal over five years reportedly paying him $ 50 million.

No one probably saw this as a premonition, but former Steelers LB James Farrior said, at the time, "They paid him a boatload of money. He's definitely going to be asked to do a lot of things he wouldn't normally be asked."

Like playing outside linebacker, for example. That happened four times in 2012 - Weeks 4-8.

The results weren't exactly worthy of a contract of that size.

Clearly, Timmons is not a suitable option outside for the Steelers in their current defense. Giving up quite a bit in terms of size compared with regular starters, James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley, Timmons disappeared often off the edge, and while the Steelers won all four of those games, their pass rush was virtually non-existent on his side of the ball (he played on Harrison's right side in his absence due to a broken orbital bone in his eye).

When playing inside, Timmons showed his value throughout most of the season. He played the second-most snaps 1,050 to CB Ike Taylor's 1,065) of all Steelers defenders last year, and led the linebackers by almost 300 (Farrior played 779).

It may not have been Timmons' best overall year, but his consistency, as well as the fact he turned 26 in May and already has six seasons under his belt, has to leave the Steelers excited about the kid who's now an experienced veteran.

If anything, they'd have to be excited about this. In a Pittsburgh Magazine article dated October, 2011, a phenomenal story about Timmons' high school days paints the portrait of a fierce competitor. One who could have been called a Steelers kind of player even when he was 18.

Timmons was supposed to block a puny cornerback, bow his head and accept defeat. Instead, he turned his sights to the opposition's star linebacker, churned his legs like a runaway locomotive and single-handedly crashed the victory party.

"I cleaned the guy's clock," Timmons deadpans.

"It was one of the hardest hits I've ever witnessed," says Wilson High coach Darryl Page. "Lawrence knocked the guy's cleats over his helmet."

The air went out of the stadium. The woozy linebacker uprooted himself from the sod and stood up, flailing like a dancing balloon on a used car lot. One step, two step ... drop. He made a snow angel in the mud as time expired.

Source: Behind the Steel Curtain

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The Business End of an NFL Contract: Is Wallace Worth it?

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The reason for this post is in regards to Mike Wallace and whether or not he deserves a contract equal to that of Larry Fitzgerald or Calvin Johnson. The majority of people I have spoken with or have read posts about say he's not worth that kind of money and he's nothing more than a "One Trick Pony'. I however, want to play the Devil's Advocate here because where I don't feel 100% that he is worthy of that kind of money, I do feel he certainly is close to it and if not for the fact that the Steelers had Antonio Brown to fall back on in the second half of last years season, he certainly had a chance at breaking Jerry Rice's single season yardage record, which he claimed he was going to do before the season started.

Larry Fitzgerald's rookie year had him with 58 receptions for 780 yards and 8 touchdowns. In his second year, he had 103 receptions for 1409 yards and 10 touchdowns. Year three he had 69 receptions for 946 yards and 6 touchdowns. Also note that he only played 13 games in his third year year.

Calvin Johnson's rookie year had him with 48 receptions with 756 yards and 4 touchdowns. In his second year he had 78 receptions with 1331 yards and 12 touchdowns. Year three he had 67 receptions with 984 yards and 5 touchdowns. Also note that he only played in 15 games in his rookie year and 14 games in his third year.

Mike Wallace's rookie year had him with 39 receptions for 756 yards and 6 touchdowns. In his second year he had 60 receptions for 1257 yards and 10 touchdowns. Year three he had 72 receptions for 1193 yards and 8 touchdowns.

So let's look at the totals:

Larry Fitzgerald - 230 Receptions, 3135 Yards, 24 Touchdowns, 45 Games Played

Calvin Johnson - 193 Receptions, 3071 Yards, 21 Touchdowns, 45 Games Played

Mike Wallace - 171 Receptions, 3206 Yards, 24 Touchdowns, 48 Games Played

In every stat shown, the only number that Wallace fails to compare to is the amount of touches he received and that is simply due to his yard per catch total in his first two years. He is equal to or better than both Johnson and Fitzgerald in touchdowns and has more yards than both of them through their first three years. Plus let's not forget that Wallace has played in every game since being drafted which says a lot about his durability.

Now back to the point of this post. If Antonio Brown was not as good as he is, then Ben Roethlisberger is forced to continue to throw the majority of his passes to his primary receiver, Mike Wallace. Just take a look at the first half of last year compared to the second half in regards to Mike Wallace. In his first 8 games, he has 43 receptions for 800 yards. In his last 8 games he has 29 receptions for 393 yards. It is my opinion that due to Mike Wallace being in his final year of his contract, that he was targeted less times to intentionally keep his numbers down so they could use that to say he isn't as good as those other players that have received monster contracts. Yes, I have heard all the arguments as to Mike Wallace drawing double coverage and the like but that is not entirely true as this wasn't his first trip to the rodeo. Opposing teams knew all about Mike Wallace and his speed and he drew double coverage in the first half as much as he did in the second half. So why else would they stop throwing the ball his way if not to intentionally keep his numbers down?

Neither Fitzgerald nor Johnson had two 1000+ yards in their first three seasons, Mike Wallace has. If not for the combination of Ward and Holmes in Wallace's first year, I strongly believe that Wallace would have had back to back to back seasons of 1000+ yards and if not for them targeting receivers who were not Mike Wallace in the second half of last year, I strongly believe he would have finished the year with 1500+ yards and at least another 5 touchdowns.

So before anyone makes another statement about how Mike Wallace isn't worth the money that Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson are making, you might want to ask yourself whether they themselves are worth the money they are currently getting since Mike Wallace has proven with his stats that he is currently better than they both were in their first three years. Barring injury, he is only going to get better, and as for him being a "One Trick Pony", I agree, but being better than the two highest paid receivers in the NFL is one hell of a trick!

Source: Behind the Steel Curtain

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Rainey, Spence: Steelers Wildcards?

The Steelers drafted Chris Rainey and Sean Spence in the 2012 NFL Draft. Rainey, an explosive offensive threat, and Spence, an instinctual inside linebacker, both are poised to help the team as rookies.
Spence will likely be used on special teams and in coverage packages on defense. The Steelers in ContinueThe post Rainey, Spence: Steelers Wildcards? appeared first on SteelBlitz.

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