Daily Archives: July 8, 2012
In mostly every corner of the country, the date July 8 has little significance. In Pittsburgh, it should rival the National Holiday that falls four days earlier. As pointed out by the folks at BehindTheSteelCurtain.com, the Steelers were founded on July 8, 1933. That makes them 79 years old, as of today. Actually, they were…
Growing up in the 80's, I was pretty envious of older Steelers fans who got to witness, first hand, the awesome decade of the Super 70's. I believe I made a similar comment on BTSC when I first joined a couple of years ago, and someone said, "Youth is wasted on the young."
Fair enough. I guess I REALLY wouldn't want to be older just so I could say that I witnessed those epic seasons of the 70's. But when you don't get to see something unfold before your very eyes, something that you find downright fascinating, you do become sort of jealous that you weren't old enough to remember those awesome times.
As a kid, I would listen to adults go on and on about Hall of Fame players such as Mean Joe and Bradshaw, and when I would mention players of the 80's like Louis Lipps and Mike Merriweather, my elders would snicker.
The more I heard about the "Super 70's," the more I wanted to witness a Super Steelers Era of my own.
Finally, after many years of wondering what it would be like, the Steelers won Super Bowl XL following the 2005 season, and that was a dream come true and enough to sustain this life-long fan for many years. However, they then won Super Bowl XLIII just a few years later, and made it back to Super Bowl XLV two seasons after that.
Three Super Bowls and two titles in six years might not quite be on par with four championships in six seasons, but it's not chopped liver. Furthermore, I can safely say that I'm now currently witnessing the second "Golden Age" in team history.
In quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, I've seen this generation's Terry Bradshaw. Like Bradshaw, Roethlisberger is an elite quarterback with all the talent in the world. You can probably debate for hours about who is better, but there is no debating how important an elite quarterback is for winning Super Bowls. To quote Bradshaw: "You can lose with me, but you'll never win without me."
In safety Troy Polamalu, I've witnessed this generation's Mel Blount. Yes, different positions, but both equally disruptive to opposing offenses. In his prime, Blount was such a dominant and physical corner, the NFL outlawed Bump 'n Run coverage and unofficially called it "The Mel Blount rule." They have yet to name any rules after Polamalu, but he's such a game-changer, he's the central focus of an opponent's game plan each and every week. And lastly, Blount and Polamalu each have the honor of being named the "NFL Defensive Player of the Year."
In guard Alan Faneca, I may have seen this era's Mike Webster. Again, different positions. But much like Webster, who dominated the center position for most of his career, Faneca was considered by many to be the best guard in the league during his prime.
In wide receiver Hines Ward, I've witnessed this generation's...........oh, who am I kidding? They broke the mold when they made Hines Ward. He has all the receiving records, so it would be easy to compare him to Swann or Stallworth, but there was only one Hines Ward. He may be the only receiver in history to be known as much for his blocking and physical style of play as he is for his receiving. I suppose you could compare him to a player from the 70's, but it would most likely be a linebacker, and probably Jack Lambert.
But since there is only one Hines, I can say that the Lambert comparison is best reserved for linebacker James Harrison. Much like Lambert was back in the day, Harrison is an intense competitor who is difficult to deal with and has been known to play on the fringes from time-to-time. And like Lambert, Harrison is always the most focused man on the football field. I have a copy of the team's 2008 highlight video, and during a game in Cleveland, one of the Browns' offensive linemen says, "Number 92 is bringing it on every play."
In defensive lineman Aaron Smith, I was fortunate enough to witness maybe this generation's Mean Joe Greene. No, Smith wasn't as dominate as Greene was during the 70's, but he was arguably the most important component of Dick Lebeau's 3/4 defense. And much like Mean Joe, Aaron Smith garnered more respect in the Steelers locker room than maybe any other player.
I suppose I could go on forever with these comparisons, but you get my point. I've seen some extraordinary football and some awesome players over the better part of a decade. Maybe not four Super Bowls and nine future Hall of Famers, but when this new era finally does come to an end, the numbers in both categories might be more comparable than we think.
I had visions of the 70's being one huge party in the City of Pittsburgh with the Steelers as the guests of honor. This is an educated guess, but the 70's probably weren't one huge football celebration, and the Steelers weren't on everyone's minds, 24/7. People still had to get up for work everyday, and there were thousands of couldn't even do that after the collapse of the steel industry. Steelers fans of the 70's had the same struggles as people from any era. The only difference was that they were able to witness the first "Golden Age" of Steelers football, and this brought them unspeakable joy and gave them memories that lasted a lifetime.
I can say this because I've witnessed the second "Golden Age" of Steelers football, and it really hasn't changed my life. I still have the same problems that I had pre-2005. I still have to get up for work everyday, and I still worry about paying bills and other personal issues. But witnessing this new Super era of Steelers football has certainly brought me unspeakable joy and given me memories that will last a lifetime.
"Golden Ages" are pretty awesome.
Source: Behind the Steel Curtain
According to SB Nation's Ryan Van Bibber, the Steelers have the best safety combination of the league.
As is common with these kinds of lists, it's really open to interpretation, but San Francisco's top mark won't be disputed by too many. Between Baltimore and Pittsburgh, arguments could be made for either of them being at No. 1, 2 or 3.
(Warning: You're reading a Pittsburgh Steelers web site, what follows may be considered slanted toward the Steelers).
You can make those arguments if you'd like, and they can be lucid and well-defended. That doesn't change the fact the Steelers have a stronger linebacking group than the Ravens do. A healthy LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison is still the best pair of outside linebackers in football, Lawrence Timmons is a solid player now, and is already better than Jameel McClain will ever be. Between those three players alone, it's the only group that rivals the skill of the guys San Francisco has.
The Washington Redskins are fourth, Dallas Cowboys fifth and Kansas City Chiefs sixth. The Denver Broncos are seventh, the Jacksonville Jaguars eighth and the Houston Texans ninth. The Chicago Bears round it out at 10th.
Source: Behind the Steel Curtain
After a couple of poorly written posts I have decided to go back to what I consider my bread and butter, the offensive line. My first thought was to rank the entire league by their projected offensive line but I decided to shrink the scope of the topic to provide more analysis of each individual unit. That thought process brought me to the teams I am the most familiar with, the AFC North. Every team in the AFC North has had some changes to their offensive line. These changes are important to understand because in this division if you can control the trenches you can control the division. Along with the rankings I will give a brief analysis of the unit, as well as the lines' best player, worst player and player on the rise. The Ranking will begin after the jump...
#4- The Cleveland Browns:
Best Player- Joe Thomas
Worst Player- Jason Pinkston
Player on the Rise- Alex Mack
It will come to no surprise to fans of the AFC North that the Cleveland Browns are once again at the bottom of the list in the division. This unit is fairly average as a group but it does have a couple of very good individual at their positions. Joe Thomas is arguably the best LT in NFL but does need to improve in the running game where he rates just average. Alex Mack is a rising player at center. He is quick and strong at the point of attack but lacks consistency and took at step back last year in reading protections. Regardless Mack is becoming a top ten center in this league. Jason Pinkston struggled last year as a rookie but will make some strides. 2012 draft pick Schwartz should fit well as a RT but going against Woodley twice, potentially Terrell Suggs once and of coarse the talented pass rushers in the AFC East this year. This unit has a sort of scrappy nature to them and I expect them to have their ups and downs while finishing middle of the road in the NFL.
#3- Cincinnati Bengals:
Best Player- Andrew Whitworth
Worst Player- Kyle Cook
Player on the Rise- Andre Smith
The Cincinnati Bengals lost both of their starting guards to free agency. They replaced them with a road grading Travel Wharton who is nothing special just and average player and 2012 first round pick Kevin Zeitler. The Bengals unit is one of the biggest in the league and they fit very well into the power zone scheme that they run. Andrew Whitworth is a very under rated left tackle especially since he has only been playing/starting at LT since 2009. Whitworth finish 2010 with five perfect pass blocking games and his size helps him play just as well in the run game. Andre Smith despite weight issue is coming into his own at RT. His size and power makes him dominant in the running game but he needs to improve his pass protection. The combination of Whitworth and Smith is currently the best tackle combination in the AFC North. Kyle Cook the Bengals center is the weak link. Not quick, big or strong it seems Cooks only role in the offense is to snap the ball and hold his ground. While he does this job adequately Cook himself is in the bottom half of the league when it comes to centers. Kevin Zeitler the projected starting right guard will forever be tied to David DeCastro who the Bengals passed up despite DeCastro being the better player. Zeitler should however fit very well into the Bengals scheme and should come into his own for the Bengals. This unit has good depth behind them but lacks elite talent and continuity needed to be tops in the division. If I were raking the teams by depth the Bengals would be at the top.
#2- Pittsburgh Steelers:
Best Player- Maurkice Pouncey
Worst Player- Mike Adams
Player on the Rise- Marcus Gilbert
Over the last three years the Steelers have had one of the worst offensive lines in the league. This off-season the Steelers look to change that trend. Gone from the team is Chris Kemoeatu, one of the worst graded pass blockers in the NFL. Johnathan Scott, Ramon Foster and Doug Legursky were removed from the starting line and will instead fight for back up roles. In terms of potential the Steelers have one of the top units in the league. Not only does this line have potential it is also very young. However youth and position switches provide a bunch of questions for this group. The best player on the Steelers' line is Maurkice Pouncey. Pouncey took a step back last year in his pass protection and biltz recongition and was still dealing with a lingering injury to his ankle. However Pouncey is still young and growing into his own. Claiming to be healthy and with better play next to him Pouncey should finally cement his place as one of the top centers in the league. Marcus Gilbert last year as a rookie was arguably the second best player on this unit if not the best. He showed the skills to hold up as a great RT in the passing game and showed some ability in the running game. He will need to get lower in the run game and work on making his feet quicker to handle all types of NFL edge players. Consistency will also be key for Gilbert but I am looking for a big jump from the young Gilbert. Willie Colon might be the biggest question mark on the line. As a healthy RT two years ago he was one of the best in the league. After two years on the IR, Colon hopes to bring his former nasty self to the interior. David DeCastro the 2012 first round pick is expected to come in a play solid right away. This leaves Mike Adams as of right now as the weakest link on the line. He will have is bumps this year but will definitely be better than last year's opening day starter Johnathan Scott. Another huge concern is depth in this unit because their is quite frankly none. The Steelers' offensive line is young with the 29 year old Colon as the oldest on the unit. This age will cause some ups and downs but look for the Steelers line to be in the top half of the league by the end of the year and possibly the NFL's best unit in 2013 and beyond.
#1- Baltimore Ravens:
Best Player- Marshal Yanda
Worst Player- Kelechi Osemele
Player on the Rise- Marshal Yanda
The Ravens starting line is the best in the AFC North because if its experience and continuity which put them above the other starting lines in the AFC. The Ravens also have a well coached line that use veteran moves to gain the advantage. Marshall Yanda a Pro Bowler and All-Pro is the best player on the unit and yet is also still improving. He will go into his second full year starting at RG and I believe his play will be even better. Starting center Matt Birk has started to lose some athleticism but he is still a very consistent player and some analysts believe that makes him the best center in the AFC North. (PFF) Birk and Yanda team together to open holes in the interior of the line for Ray Rice. Michael Oher has been over rated and under achieving and is still waiting to show his talent. Oher has slow feet and poor recognition. He plays to high and is own by LaMarr Woodley regularly. If Oher can step up this unit grows dramatically. Bryant McKinnie is declining as a LT but when in decent shape he can still be an above average LT in this league. McKinnie's best ability is his size in the running game. He was able to neutralize James Harrison impact in the running game which was no small feat. However that same size makes him vulnerable in the passing game and a healthy Harrison was able to dominate him for three sack in the second match up. McKinnie is in the last year of his ontract and should play to earn what may be his last NFL contract next year. The Ravens need to be concerned about depth because of their aging pieces. The strength of this offensive line is the run game and Ray Rice wouldn't have it any other way. Look for more of a pounding to open up the play action game for Flacco and co. With key positions of the Ravens' line starting to decline I expect by the end of 2012 they will not be at the top of the AFC North but as of right now the continuity this unit has with each other as well as experience put them at the top. In 2013 though I expect a huge decline of this unit unless addressed in the draft.
Source: Behind the Steel Curtain
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch (16) and receiver Mike Wallace (17) celebrate a touchdown on December 24, 2011 (Credit: REUTERS/Jason Cohn)
The Steelers and receiver Mike Wallace remain at impasse.
Len Pasquarelli of the Sports Xchange reports that “there has been no progress, and, in fact, very little negotiation” between the team and the player, who is a restricted free agent.
Unlike franchise players, who have a July 16 deadline for signing multi-year deals with their current teams, the Steelers and Wallace can work out a long-term contract at any time before the Tuesday after Week 10 of the regular season. And if Wallace signs his one-year RFA tender before that in-season deadline, a multi-year deal can be done at any time thereafter.
Not signing the one-year tender gives Wallace the only leverage for achieving a long-term deal. But the Steelers have yet to show that they want to spend the money Wallace is demanding.
Wallace reportedly will sign the tender when he “has to.” The question remains when he believes he has to. Technically, he can hold out of training camp and the preseason and still get the full $ 2.77 million for 2012. But if he does that, he will be woefully unprepared to function in a new offense led by former Chiefs coach Todd Haley.
But once Wallace signs the one-year tender, his leverage for a multi-year contract disappears.
And while the Steelers didn’t use their own hammer on June 15, the day on which they could have cut his offer by more than $ 2 million, don’t look for the Steelers to blink. They know Wallace will want to have a big year as he approaches unrestricted free agency or the franchise tender. If they sit tight, he’ll likely eventually take the money early enough before the September 9 trip to Denver.
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Source: Yardbarker: Pittsburgh Steelers