View Full Version : Time to face a familiar QB

09-19-2012, 12:56 AM
Steelers notebook: Time to face a familiar QB

By Alan Robinson

Published: Tuesday, September 18, 2012,

The Steelers meet up with a familiar opponent Sunday in Oakland Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer, whose 670 yards passing are the third most in the NFL.

The Raiders have run for only 68 yards, thus putting more pressure on Palmer to sustain the offense with his throwing.

This will be the 13th career game against the Steelers for Palmer, whose career was disrupted by the knee injury sustained on a hit by Kimo von Oelhoffen in a 2005 season playoff game in Cincinnati.

“He is very familiar with us and how we attack people,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said of the former Bengals star. “He probably has as much experience facing our defense and our pre-snap looks and blitz packages as any quarterback in football.”

e_SBltThe Steelers have more defensive wrinkles in addition to the Big Nickel 4-5-2 alignment that features four large linemen and no outside linebackers. Tomlin said it wasn’t designed to discourage Jets quarterback Tim Tebow from running. “We tend to lean on it from time to time because it provides versatility for us. It allows us to match, from a personnel standpoint, in the secondary with skill but also maintain our big body presence in the run game,” Tomlin said. “Another answer that we have is a personnel group where we use three corners and one safety with a base defense. It’s really a different way of addressing the same issue.”

• Cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke, used mostly on special teams, will oppose the Raiders team that cut him two weeks ago. Van Dyke has been timed at 4.28 seconds in the 40-yard dash, or faster than the NFL Scouting Combine time of Mike Wallace (4.33). “We thought that he was a long, fast kid with man coverage ability,” Tomlin said. “He’s in that [2011] draft class with Cortez [Allen] and Curtis Brown, and we’re thankful to have three young corners that are working to improve on a daily basis.” Van Dyke was a surprise third-round pick last year, but the Raiders have since cut all of their cornerbacks from last season.

• Players and coaches around the league are becoming increasingly critical with the NFL replacement officials, citing a myriad of errors that range from a misapplication of rules to the incorrect spotting of the ball. But while there were some curious calls in the Jets-Steelers game, including an apparently phantom pass interference penalty on cornerback Ike Taylor, Tomlin once again refused to criticize them. A week ago, he joked he wasn’t talking because he didn’t want to be fined. “[It’s] not in my wheelhouse,” Tomlin said. “I’m going to evaluate the people that I’m paid to evaluate, our team.”

• Steve Sabol, the innovative chief of NFL Films who passed away Tuesday, was a “genius” and “a dear friend” of the Rooney family, Steelers president Art Rooney II said. Sabol once said he considered the Steelers teams of the mid-1970s to be the best in NFL history.

• The Steelers are last in the AFC in yards per play on first down at 3.37, or less than half of the 7.28 yards the Ravens are averaging. Only the Bears (2.73) and Seahawks (3.35) are worse in the league.

• Ben Roethlisberger leads the NFL in third-down passing, going 19 of 25 for 76 percent (251 yards, 3 touchdowns, 0 interceptions). For comparison’s sake, Peyton Manning is 6 of 12 for 59 yards; Tom Brady is 5 of 14 for 63 yards.

• LaMarr Woodley needs one more sack for 50 in his career.

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09-19-2012, 01:01 AM
Steelers caution against opportunistic Raiders

By Alan Robinson

Published: Wednesday, September 19, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Updated 12 minutes ago

If there’s a Steelers theme for the week, it’s this: Beware the Black Hole.

No, not the one that seemingly swallowed up their running game.

The Oakland Raiders (0-2) would appear to be just the floundering opponent a banged-up team wishes for at this stage of the season, especially with the chance to heal during an upcoming bye week.

The Raiders haven’t finished above .500 in 10 years. They’re off to their usual poor start. A bad long snapper and some ill-timed penalties cost them in a 22-14 loss to San Diego, and they were blown out Sunday by one of the NFL’s worst teams, losing 35-13 to the Miami Dolphins.

New coach, new season, same old Raiders. And that might be the Steelers’ biggest worry as they head to timeworn Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum — the last remaining multipurpose stadium to house an NFL and Major League Baseball team — on Sunday.

Twice in the past six years, Steelers teams coming off Super Bowl victories were tripped up by terrible Raiders teams, perhaps a forewarning as the Steelers (1-1) prepare for the only game in the first half of the season in which they will be heavily favored to win.

During their last visit to the so-called Black Hole in 2006, Ben Roethlisberger threw four interceptions only a week after receiving a concussion in Atlanta. The Raiders returned two for touchdowns, including a 100-yarder by Chris Carr, and upset the Steelers 20-13 — the last time that 2-14 team won all season.

“In my wildest dreams, I didn’t think I would be playing this badly,” Roethlisberger said then.

Under the NFL’s current concussion standards, he probably wouldn’t have played at all.

Roethlisberger also was getting over a concussion three years later when the Steelers were upset by the Raiders again, a last-minute 27-24 loss at Heinz Field on Dec. 6, 2009.

That loss to a 5-11 Raiders team, and another five days later to a 5-11 Browns team, ultimately cost them any chance of repeating as Super Bowl champions.

Former Seton-La Salle quarterback Bruce Gradkowski threw three touchdown passes in the final 8˝ minutes for Oakland; an 11-yard game-winner to Louis Murphy with nine seconds remaining came with backup safety Ryan Mundy in coverage because Troy Polamalu was injured.

Polamalu (strained calf) might not play in this one, either. Coach Mike Tomlin didn’t sound optimistic Tuesday, saying Polamalu and linebacker James Harrison (knee) still aren’t ready to practice.

Harrison hasn’t played since last season; Polamalu sat out the 27-10 win over the Jets on Sunday.

“We are going to work day to day and look at how their body responds to work,” Tomlin said.

“We’ll start with informal workouts and work up to practice at some point and see where it all leads us.”

Also limited when practice resumes Wednesday will be running back Jonathan Dwyer (turf toe), right tackle Marcus Gilbert (groin) and tight end Heath Miller (rib cartilage separation), although none of those injuries appear to be serious.

Then again, Tomlin didn’t think a week ago that Polamalu’s calf injury would keep him out of the Jets game.

As Tomlin cautioned about the dangers of the Raiders, who have lost six of seven dating to last season in part because they can’t run the ball, he emphasized the importance of getting his own running game going.

The run game has matched its worst start in 22 years by gaining only 141 yards in two games, and Tomlin said even the game-clinching, 14-play drive Sunday in which the Steelers ran for 31 yards on eight carries was substandard.

“I’m looking for more than that, obviously,” Tomlin said. “I’m actually looking for better than that.”

Isaac Redman finished that drive with a 2-yard touchdown run but is averaging only 2 yards per carry on a team that is 30th in rushing yards and yards per attempt and 29th in total yards per play.

Maybe the Raiders will provide a helping hand; they’ve allowed 295 yards rushing, the fourth most in the league.

“We haven’t run the ball as well as we have liked,” Tomlin said. “I’m not interested in assigning blame in that regard. … We need to tighten up our menu and lean on the things we are doing well. We need to block better and put the ball where it needs to be on a more consistent basis.”

Some help might be on the way: Rashard Mendenhall, the two-time 1,000-yard rusher recovering from a torn ACL that occurred in the final regular season game last season, is ready for full practice.

“We will thud him up a little bit on a day we are allowed to carry our pads and see if he can respond positively to it,” Tomlin said.

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09-19-2012, 01:02 AM
Steelers notebook: Versatility is key for safety Mundy

By Alan Robinson

Published: Monday, September 17, 2012, 7:38 p.m.
Updated 11 hours ago

The Steelers still haven’t paired starting safeties Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark since their regular season-ending game against St. Louis last season.

Ryan Mundy fills in whenever one is out; Clark missed the two games in Denver because of his sickle cell trait and Polamalu was out Sunday against the Jets with a strained calf.

“When I play with Troy, he primarily plays in the box,” Mundy said Monday. “Sometimes, we will switch it up just to give the quarterback a different look. When I’m playing with Ryan, I can be playing in the box one play, and he can be playing in the box another play. I just like to be flexible ... whatever position they want to play on a particular play, I play off them.”

Calming influence

Clark said Polamalu talked with him between possessions to pass on what he saw in the Jets’ offense.

“It really made me feel like he was kind of out there with me,” said Clark, who ended with a team-high eight tackles in his first game since last season. “That’s how I’m used to playing. Once I got talking to him, and settled down, it was just business as usual.”

Clark couldn’t play in either the playoff game in Denver to end last season or the return trip there to begin this season.

Time for a change

Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau showed off yet another wrinkle, a 4-2-5 configuration in which outside linebackers LaMarr Woodley and Chris Carter came off the field. Yes, it was a four-man line for the Steelers.

“Something new, something new,” Woodley said. “It worked the few plays I saw it.”

Trap game?

Oakland has been one of the NFL’s worst teams over the last 10 seasons, never finishing better than 8-8.

But they beat the Steelers, 27-24, during a 5-11 season in 2009 as Seton-La Salle’s Bruce Gradkowski threw three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter at Heinz Field and 20-13 in Oakland in 2006, when the Raiders finished 2-14.

The 2009 loss eventually kept the Steelers (9-7) out of the playoffs.

Odds and ends

The Steelers will have their bye week after playing in Oakland; they haven’t been off this early in the season since 2006. ... The team picture was taken over the weekend, with the players wearing the throwback uniforms — replete with bumble-bee stripes on the jerseys and socks — they will wear against Baltimore and Washington. ... Ben Roethlisberger’s 125.1 quarterback rating was the highest against the Jets since Tom Brady’s 148.9 on Dec. 6, 2010. ... Roethlisberger completed passes to 10 of 12 eligible receivers.

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