Daily Archives: July 1, 2012
There’s been a lot of speculation around Pittsburgh that the Steelers will sign tackle Max Starks once he’s recovered enough from his torn ACL to get back on the field. According to Starks, that day is getting closer. He tweeted a photo of himself doing a pass blocking drill on Friday and one of his…
On Thursday, it was announced that Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins agreed to a 12 year, $ 104.4 million contract extension that will keep the star hockey player in Pittsburgh until the year 2025.
It is a whopper of a deal, but it's no surprise since Crosby is still only 24, hasn't reached his prime years yet, and is already considered by many to be the best player in the NHL. But if you listened to a lot of sports talk radio over the past few days, you'd think that the Penguins got one heck of a bargain and that Crosby made a huge sacrifice by signing this deal. The $ 8.7 million that the contract will average annually will be the same as Crosby's current deal.
Considering Crosby's status as the hockey's best player, many thought it was admirable that he didn't try to go for the maximum NHL annual salary of $ 14 million.
Yes, Crosby may have cost himself upwards of around $ 60 million over the next 12 seasons by making this huge "sacrifice," but I find it hard to feel any sorrow for the lad. He's already a millionaire 100 times over, and he is going to collect another $ 104.4 million by the time he's in his late 30's. I'm guessing he's going to be OK; I don't think there will be any food drives for him anytime soon.
Don't get me wrong. I understand that, in the world of sports where most athletes keep score with their bank accounts and will sign just about anywhere that pays them top dollar, what Crosby is doing may be considered a sacrifice. What he did helped his team a great deal. It frees up cap space for the Penguins and enables them to go after some top free agent talent. And in the end, this might actually make them a better team if they can sign a winger such as Zach Parise.
But it does get a little annoying when I hear about the great "sacrifice" because when it comes to stuff like that, I really feel a disconnect with the professional athlete.
Even with the Steelers, it irks me when I hear that so and so decided to be a real team player by restructuring his contract so the team could make more room under the salary cap. In most cases, when a football player restructures his contract, the only thing that happens is the language is altered so that how and when the player gets paid changes. It doesn't really hurt the player, and it's not as much of a sacrifice as people make it out to be. Maybe some players get screwed over by this, but usually, the ones who are asked to restructure their deals are among the highest paid players on the team, and therefore probably already have a few million stashed away in the bank.
Alright, that was the "sacrifice" portion of this piece.
What makes me even more irritated is when I hear about professional athletes who had to endure the "pain" and "anguish" of a contract negotiation. You see this every season in every sport. Often, the player will be interviewed about his contract situation, and he'll say something like, "It's been difficult. All I want is to be treated fairly. The sooner this gets done, the sooner I'll be able to put it all behind me and get on with my life."
That isn't an exact quote from any particular athlete, but I'm sure I've read it word-for-word a thousand times over.
Speaking of difficult ordeals, last season, former Browns running back Peyton Hillis was going through so much "hell" over his contract status with his old team, it hurt his ability to function the way he did the year before.
Hillis was only making $ 600,000 in the last year of his rookie contract, and I guess the thoughts of poverty and being treated "unfairly" by his employers were just too much for him.
Hillis signed a one-year deal with the Chiefs for the upcoming 2012 season, and I don't know how much his new contract will pay him, but because of his hellish 2011 campaign, I'm pretty sure it's around the same as what the Browns were paying him. If that's the case, I hope poor Peyton can find a way to get through another "hellish" season of only making a six-figure salary.
If he can endure that and perform like he did two seasons ago, he'll probably be able to sign a multi-year contract worth seven-figures a season. If that happens, Hillis can then put that whole "$ 600,000" ordeal behind him.
I get that professional athletes are just like everyone else, and in their world, maybe turning down millions to stay with their current team is a sacrifice. And, maybe, the prospect of getting a new contract done might be a daunting and stressful process.
But, when you look at the big picture..........I will gladly pay these professional athletes Tuesday for some perspective today.
Source: Behind the Steel Curtain
Maurkice Pouncey has been an All-Pro and Pro-Bowler in his first two seasons of the NFL. However, during the 2010 AFC Championship game against the New York Jets Pouncey would injury his ankle. That ankle injury caused him to miss the Super Bowl against the Green Bay Packers. During the 2011 season ContinueThe post Pouncey Could be Even Better in 2012 appeared first on SteelBlitz.
Source: Yardbarker: Pittsburgh Steelers
As Big Ben goes so goes the Steelers.
For the Pittsburgh Steelers 2011 was a season that started with plenty of promise but after injuries ravaged the team of some of its most talented players, it came to an abrupt end much sooner than expected as Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos ended the Steelers Super Bowl run in the wild card round with a 29-23 upset.
The image everyone takes away from that game is Demaryius Thomas taking catching a pass from Tim Tebow and sprinting through the Steeler defense all the way to end zone, ending the game and the Steelers hopes for a seventh Super Bowl title in one fell swoop.
However, 2012 is almost upon us which means it’s a new year in the Steel City and despite some changes to the coaching staff and personnel, the Steelers seem set to once again challenge for the Lombardi Trophy.
The Steelers did say goodbye this offseason to long-time contributors Hines Ward, Aaron Smith and James Farrior but that’s life in the NFL and even with thos...
Source: Yardbarker: Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers have been one of the most consistent teams in the NFL over the years and they seemingly always have a team that can win the Super Bowl. The 2012 version is once again well equipped with a strong defense and a core of veterans, but they will have a much tougher time finding success on the field this year.
The latest odds posted by Just Bet have the Pittsburgh Steelers at 20-to-1 to win the Super Bowl and 10-to-1 to win the tough AFC, this is a sign that the oddsmakers have lost faith in the Steelers this year.
Steelers will struggle in 2012
In the Super bowl preview, the Steelers were overlooked as potential winners, and in a over/under preview of all teams in the NFL, the Steelers were forecasted to go under.
The Steelers will have their hands full with a changing offense and a demanding schedule.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is the one mainstay on offense that is the heartbeat of the team. After the seemingly forced retirement of Hines Ward th...
Source: Yardbarker: Pittsburgh Steelers
Zachary Beard visited BTSC on Monday to give us the opportunity to "Ask a Ravens’ Fan" about their team, their offseason roster moves, and so on. Pixburgh Arn attempted to wangle some pictures of their cheerleading recruits, but the Baltimore Beatdown guys didn’t fall for that old canard.
Reading the BTSC questions and Zachary and AV23’s responses was really interesting, and gave me the idea for a series comparing players in the AFC North. As I’m fully prepared to admit, it’s likely my Steeler-colored glasses will bias me a bit toward the guys in Black and Gold, but I’m going to attempt to be as neutral as possible. I will compile data from the major sites and try to keep my own opinion out of it until the end of the article. Since each team will be likely to have 2012 draftees as starters in at least a few positions, I’ll use their college stats to compare them to the veterans. I’ll also give my ranking of the four teams based upon the information I’ve dug up. It’s probably baseless speculation, but after all that’s pretty much all we’ve got in the long, long days of June and most of July.
So let’s get started with arguably the most critical player on any team—the quarterback. We have two veteran QBs and two newbies in the AFC North, so the comparisons are tricky, but we’ll soldier on. And in case you're wondering about the picture heading the article, I decided to let the youngster take precedence over the grizzled vets, just this once.
One could well ask how meaningful comparisons between, say, Andy Dalton’s first season numbers and Ben Roethlisberger’s first season numbers would be. There was a big argument over that very sort of thing in the latest Mike Wallace article, "The Business End of an NFL Contract: Is Wallace Worth It?" The author’s argument for the value of Mike Wallace was based upon a comparison of Mike Wallace, Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson’s numbers from their first three years. Wallace, of course, compared very favorably. The difficulty with this sort of exercise, though, is this: nobody really knows what’s going to happen next season. This is certainly true of our QBs, but in the end it's all we've got if we're going to try to make any sort of projections.
Let’s take Ben Roethlisberger first. He is generally considered to be entering the prime of his career. Interestingly, this isn’t quite what his numbers seem to show. If you look strictly at the figures, he’s been rather streaky. Only once has he bested the 66.4% completion rate of his rookie year. That year was, ironically, 2009, the year the Steelers missed the playoffs after a five-game losing streak, during which they lost to such powerhouses as Oakland, Kansas City, and Cleveland. His 104.1 QB rating in 2007 is by far his best. Only in 2009 did he even break 100 again.
In 2006, his third year in the league, he was frankly not very good, throwing five more interceptions than touchdowns. But perhaps it looks a bit different when one recalls he was in a motorcycle accident and had an emergency appendectomy in the off-season. This proves a point—the numbers don’t tell the whole story. He followed 2006 with a career year in 2007, had a down year in 2008, an excellent year in 2009, and, looking strictly at the numbers, hasn’t been as good since.
Have a look at the trends. Everything is calculated so that higher is better. Thus I’ve calculated Attempts/INT rather than the more natural INT/Attempts. Also, I have extrapolated the figures into the same range for purposes of comparison. So, for instance, in 2007 about 8% of Roethlisberger’s attempts were touchdowns. The actual figures are in the table below the graph.
Looking at these figures, it is reasonable to ask whether Roethlisberger’s best days are behind him. I don’t believe they are, but only time will tell. The more important question for this exercise is how he compares to the other quarterbacks in the AFC North. Here are the stats for the other veteran QB, Joe Flacco of the Baltimore Ravens:
Clearly, Flacco isn’t nearly as veteran as Roethlisberger, having been in the league half as long. But it is really striking how consistent he is compared to Ben. Of course, his numbers are for the most part not as good as Ben’s. (Note the top line on the chart is 800 for Ben, 600 for Joe.) Comparing him to Roethlisberger’s first four seasons, his best QB rating, 93.6 in 2010, is better than Roethlisberger’s 2006 QB rating of 75.4, but as mentioned that was the year Roethlisberger wasn’t playing with a full deck, so to speak. In the other three years, the closest Flacco comes is 10 points below Ben’s numbers.
Comparing their two charts, the stat which stands out the most to me is touchdowns per attempt. Even Flacco’s best figure doesn’t match Roethlisberger’s worst. However, Flacco actually had more touchdowns than Roethlisberger in both his second and third year, so in the end it doesn’t matter how efficiently he did it.
After a 2010 season in which he improved in every category, 2011 was presumably a bit of a disappointment for Ravens fans hoping to see Flacco finally take his place as an elite quarterback. Here are the numbers:
Next up, Andy Dalton of the Bengals. Since he only has one season on the books, we can’t look at trends. But here are his numbers:
Since it is easier to look at a comparison, here are the same figures charted for Roethlisberger’s and Flacco’s rookie seasons. I’ve added one more—the QB Rating:
I don’t have the number on the charts, but both Flacco and Dalton had considerably more attempts than Roethlisberger— 428 and 516 respectively, compared to Roethlisberger’s 295. (However, both played 16 games to Ben’s 14, which is why I think percentages are more revealing than straight numbers.) Dalton threw three more TDs than Ben—20—and Flacco threw three less—14. Of the three players, Joe Flacco was the most careful with the ball and the least productive with it, if I may characterize it thus. Once again, numbers such as the completion percentage are extrapolated to make the difference easier to see. Here are the actual figures:
I thought it would also be interesting to see how some of the analysis sites rated our three QBs. Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to just line everything up, since each site has their own method, so here they are individually.
First, Pro Football Focus. Their ratings only go back to 2008, so it wasn’t possible to compare by career years, as I’ve done with the other stats. But it is still interesting to see what they came up with. They use a very complicated formula to assign a value to players at each position. In their system a zero means average play at the given position, so consequently a lot of players end up with negative numbers. Here’s how the players ranked for 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011. (Naturally, Dalton is only ranked for last season.)
Next is Pro Football Reference. They assign something they call Average Value to each player for each season. Many players will receive a zero. For purposes of comparison, in 2004, Peyton Manning’s top-ranked year, he received a 21.
Finally, Football Outsiders. The ranking assigned is for all players at the position who had more than a baseline number of snaps. A lower number is better in this case, with #1 being who they consider the best player in the league. In I’ve given the numbers for Roethlisberger in 2004 - 2007, Flacco 2008 - 2011, and Dalton for 2011. (In case you’re wondering, Peyton Manning is #1 for 2004, Ben's first season. Drew Brees is #1 for 2008, Joe Flacco's first season, and Drew Brees is also #1 for 2011, Andy Dalton's first season.) The last column is the ranking for all three men last season.
Now, the wild card—the Cleveland Browns. I could give the numbers for Colt McCoy, but it seems Brandon Weeden is going to be the starting quarterback. Unless he isn’t. To be a bit less disingenuous, there will be a camp competition for the starting spot, but the strong expectation is, Weeden will win it. So the best I can do is a quick comparison of his college numbers with our other three starters. Here they are, year by year:
I tried making these into charts, but I think it’s actually easier to just look at the numbers in this case. Weeden didn’t get any appreciable amount of playing time until his third year, but once he did, his numbers look good. In fact, they probably look more like Ben Roethlisberger’s numbers than either of the others.
As we all know, it’s hard to say how college numbers will translate to the NFL. And for quarterbacks (as for most rookies) there is a pretty sharp learning curve. But Weeden also has career experience in professional baseball—he was a second-round pick for the Yankees. He never made it past a Class-A club, though (the High Desert Mavericks of the California League.) But at any rate, it might be harder to throw him a curve ball in the NFL. (Thank you very much—I'll be here all week...)
I thought about comparing the back-up QBs as well, but since we won’t know for sure who those are until after camp in most cases, and since it would be a whole lot of trouble, I decided not to bother. So, as usual, everything could end up looking completely different if one of the QBs sustains a significant injury. Unless that quarterback is Ben Roethlisberger, in which case he will probably play anyway. ("It’s only a flesh wound...") But, like last season, his numbers will probably tank, so let us fervently hope for better things.
Here’s my predictions, for what they are worth. (Remember, you get what you pay for.) I think Ben Roethlisberger will stay reasonably healthy behind his new improved offensive line and put up excellent numbers, possibly even as good as his 2007 or 2009 seasons. I think Joe Flacco will play well, especially with the new confidence he gained by helping get his team to the playoffs and almost to the Super Bowl. But I also don’t see his upside to be as high as the other QBs in the AFC North. I believe Andy Dalton will continue to show the Bengals got a steal in Round Two of the 2011 draft, and he will improve significantly, just as he did between his first and second year of college. This is partly because of his history and partly because he has more than just A. J. Green to throw to this season. Brandon Weeden is a big question mark, and will probably struggle. Not necessarily because he isn’t up to the job, but because the Browns haven’t addressed the WR issue. Since he only managed a single rushing TD in his entire college career, and since he's an old guy, relatively speaking, he’s probably not going to be able to pull a Tebow and just take the ball in himself on a regular basis.
Given all that, here is my entirely speculative and possibly homeristic ranking of the AFC North offense, based only on the quarterback position:
3. Baltimore Ravens
4. Cleveland Browns
This may well change as we look at other positions, or if, heaven forfend, one of our starting QBs has a season-ending injury getting out of bed, desecrating a Terrible Towel, or whatever else these guys do during the offseason. Stay tuned for Parts Two through Twenty or so of the series, as I address each position. The series will probably be complete by this time next summer, if it continues at the rate it is going thus far.
Source: Behind the Steel Curtain
The only particularly interesting takeaway from the NFL's recent decision to move kickoff times of the "late" games (as opposed to "early" and "primetime") from 4:15 p.m. ET to 4:25 p.m. ET is why they didn't do it sooner.
As Dan Gigler of the Post-Gazette wrote, "According to an NFL release, the later kickoff time will reduce the likelihood of fans missing the finish of a 1 p.m. telecast because TV contract rules require the networks to broadcast the opening kickoff of every home-market team's late-afternoon games."
Obviously this differs from market to market, but Steelers fans in a non-primary or secondary Steelers market are at the mercy of a local team playing at 1 p.m., and that game going into overtime. The other channel (in this example, CBS) cannot air the late game until the early game is over.
So yeah, in that case, why not bump the time back a few minutes? Granted, it makes the league appear to be run more on the schedule of Amtrak, but of the three, it's the most flexible time slot.
Another 10 minutes can be torturous, because it gives talking heads another 10 minutes to Sports Shout about whatever the latest trendy topic is, but if it means those of us in non-primary Steelers markets (particularly those of us in the primary markets of AFC teams, like Denver or Kansas City) don't have to miss kickoff, then I'm all for it.
The Steelers have five games affected by this: Their home-opener (Week 2 Sept. 16) vs. the Jets, Week 3 (Sept. 23) at Oakland, Week 9 (Nov. 4) at the Giants, Week 13 (Dec. 2) at Baltimore and Week 15 (Dec. 16) at Dallas.
Source: Behind the Steel Curtain
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley today married long-time girlfriend Jordan Vinson, who is also from Saginaw, Michigan. The two have a daughter together named Gabrielle, who was born in January of 2008.
We knew a wedding day was close as Woodley reportedly had his bachelor party in Las Vegas several weeks ago. During his time out in Vegas he was pranked by fiends with a fake bachelor party that included a fake mentalist, a large snake, and an even larger stripper, who faked being pushed down by Woodley while giving him a lap dance.
Woodley, who signed a long-term Read more [...]
Source: Yardbarker: Pittsburgh Steelers
Now it's time for the larger horses to bump noses.
Jonathan Dwyer, listed at 229 (some say that's a bit light) and John Clay, listed at 248, both got carries last year. Dwyer's highlight being a 79-yarder he broke off against Tennessee, and Clay's being a solid 10-carry effort against St. Louis. They stand apart due to that experience, even for as slight as it may be in comparison to the two prize guys, Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman.
The issue is weight.
Dwyer's been ripped for his apparent weight issues, even admitting he "messed up" when speaking to Time-Online reporter Mike Bires in August, 2011.
But the expectations for Dwyer have been high, which is perhaps why he's dedicating himself more to getting into shape.
Clay didn't look as big as he is when he was running last season, which is a good sign. He's as green as Batch and Rainey, though, and wouldn't have played last season if not for an injury to Mewelde Moore. Then Mendenhall. Eventually Dwyer went down as well.
The paradox with the group is their size, without question. However, the main issue with back-up running backs is how they define themselves as blockers. Sub package backs not only need to be willing to block, but must be able. It's not all about size, and it's not all about a guy's desire to get in there and lower the boom on a blitzer.
Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley's past suggests the running backs should all prepared to be as versatile as possible if they want to make the roster; carrying, running, cutting, catching and blocking. For Clay and Dwyer, they've shown at least some ability to carry the ball successfully at this level. To round out the unit as a whole, they have to set themselves apart as pass catchers and blockers.
It looks like there are six running backs competing for four positions. Mendenhall and Redman are locks, so the remaining four will fight for the remaining two spots. Each of them have something making them unique. Dwyer has experience, Clay has size, Rainey has special teams ability and Batch has skill and desire to block. Not that any of them don't possess any other traits, but heading into training camp, those are the attributes defining them.
Dwyer must come into camp in tip-top shape. Clay will have to improve his all around game. This is mostly because of the versatility Batch and Rainey have.
Dwyer is also the one without any practice squad eligibility. That is something that could end up playing in his favor.
We could mix the four of these guys backward and forward, and come up with a different decision.
Source: Behind the Steel Curtain