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Thread: Ed: The State of the Steelers Ground Game

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    Ed: The State of the Steelers Ground Game

    Ed: The State of the Steelers Ground Game

    FRIDAY, 17 AUGUST 2012 WRITTEN BY ED BOUCHETTE

    Good morning,

    With all the injuries, what kind of running game might the Steelers have this season? Todd Haley has been charged with improving it, but how do you improve that phase of the offense when most of those who will carry the ball have not been carrying it in training camp because of injuries?

    Rashard Mendenhall will open the season on the PUP, thatís been determined. They are not going to rush him back, even with the injuries to others. Fullback David Johnson and halfback John Clay are finished for 2012 because of injuries.

    That leaves Isaac Redman, Jonathan Dwyer, Byron Batch, rookie Chris Rainey and fullback Will Johnson. Rainey is the highest draft pick of them all. The Steelers took him in the fifth round this year.

    Where they were drafted, however, wonít matter. How they perform will. Thereís not a lot to go on in their resumes, and there will be no help coming unless someone releases a back the Steelers like.

    So that will be the Steelers backfield in 2012 Ė barring additional injuries. And here is what Ben Roethlisberger told me about having a backfield of those young runners.

    ďI think it will be great. Iíve watched these guys and Iíve seen how hard they work. I donít think people give Isaac Redman enough credit. Heís a great back and heís slimmed down. Heís a powerful guy, heís really smart back there, he can block. He can do it all. The young guys are exciting. Itís exciting to see Baron Batch back healthy, Jonathan Dwyer, the young guy what he can do.Ē

    Their coach, Kirby Wilson, has made a remarkable recovery from that January fire at his home that severely burned him. He has been on the field nearly all the time this summer, and spotted running on occasion.

    ďI think theyíre inspired by having coach Kirby out here,íí Roethlisberger said.

    ďNot having Mendenhall, people say ĎOh, what are we going to do now?í I think itís under their skin a little bit. I think itís good, itís motivating them to, you know what, ĎWeíre going to prove to everybody we can do it.í

    ďTheyíll be ready I know it.Ē

    Onto some stuff:

    --- Spotted some fans at training camp wearing the new Bumble Bee Steelers replica jerseys for this season (they were ugly in 1934 and that hasnít changed in 2012). However, Nike has not officially released the jersey for sale and you cannot buy one in legitimate stores. The knockoffs have made it through the black market place before the legit jerseys. Capitalism is great, huh? Except Iím told the knockoffs come from China.

    --- The crowds watching practices Ė the final one is today at 3 p.m. -- at Saint Vincent College have been way down just about all observers feel. One exception was the Friday night practice at the high school stadium, their largest ever with roughly 12,000 watching. You can see a lot of grass, however, in the hill surrounding practices this year. Was it Bucco fever that kept them away? Maybe. Since there is no admission, it doesnít cost anyone up front but bigger crowds usually mean bigger sales at the Steelers merchandise tent.

    --- I was told by someone who should know that former Steelers first-round pick, tackle Jamain Stephens, turned out for one of the first practices of camp and tried to get word to Kevin Colbert that he was in great shape and ready to resume his career. Stephens is 38.

    He joined them in 1996 (North Carolina A&T) and was a bust, but stuck around for three seasons. After he famously could not finish the run test on the first day of amp in 1999, Bill Cowher cut him that night. Somehow, he stuck around with the Bengals for the next four seasons. If indeed that was him on the sideline begging for another chance, it is sad.

    --- After today, Mike Wallace officially held out of the entire training camp. I canít say for sure the last player who did that but it might have been Eric Green, who did not sign his rookie contract until after camp in 1990.

    --- YOU: I'm looking at going to the Monday Nighter against the Chiefs mid November. Your colleague Mike Fuoco announced that metal detectors will be used. I had a hip replacement with a metal (alumina ceramic) implant. He said to go to Steelers.com. They didn't have anything about the metal detectors that I could find. I responded to Mike and he responded that he didn't know. Will I require documentation? This is new to me.

    ME: I don't think you will have a problem. It's not the TSA doing these things. What they're looking for is weapons, not metal hips.

    --- YOU: Did John Clay clear waivers, and do you know if the Steelers put him on IR?

    ME: Iíve heard nothing about anyone having claimed him so I would say, yes, he cleared waivers. I also do not know if Clayís quad injury was determined to be season-ending. If not, they could negotiate a settlement with him instead of putting him on injured reserve. If they do negotiate a settlement, he would become a free agent and could play for another team this season.

    http://plus.sites.post-gazette.com/i...rs-ground-game

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    Ed Bouchette's Steelers chat transcript: 8.14.12

    TUESDAY, 14 AUGUST 2012 WRITTEN BY ED BOUCHETTE


    Ed Bouchette: Good afternoon from greater Latrobe, Pa. Let's begin.

    T22POST: Ed, update on Wallace, will we see him shortly, I never trust ESPN

    Ed Bouchette: Several players have told us Wallace will report "soon.'' Nobody has yet to define what "soon" is. I would guess not before camp breaks Friday.

    kjacksonpgh: Ed: I know it is only preseason, but do you think that playing the Colts this Sunday that it could be a bit more than just a preseason game for Bruce Arians and the Steelers? I mean he did (Retire/ Fired/ Contract not Renewed) when he left. You get the picture.

    Ed Bouchette: I think Bruce might have an extra hop in his step but that's about it. You also will see Ben Roethlisberger give him a big hug, I would suspect.

    War18: Ed, best time of the week is here! I saw Ike and Antonio Brown seemed to make up on twitter, is there anything we should take away from their fights at camp?

    Ed Bouchette: This has been a real feisty camp, more so than most I've seen. I don't know what to make of it.

    kjacksonpgh: Ed: There are rumors and reports recently that Mike Wallace could report before Week 1 of the season. Even with him studying the play book wouldn't you think he would need to come to camp earlier to get some practice reps in Haley's new offense?

    Ed Bouchette: Well, yes, to understand it fully but here is what Todd Haley will tell Wallace to do before that first game if he hasn't been with them long: "Run fast and run deep and we'll explain the details later.''

    Stush: Of course its only preseason, but just as a fan of the game of football are you interested to Andrew Luck?

    Ed Bouchette: Sure. Saw John Elway make his debut in Pittsburgh, why not the next Peyton Manning?

    kjacksonpgh: Ed: Mike Tomlin seemed to be more that annoyed when asked about the fights between Ike and Antonio during camp. Any reason why? It is news of course as the coach he would be asked about it right?

    Ed Bouchette: Mike seems more annoyed with questions from reporters every summer.

    War18: Ed, How do you think this offense will be affected if they do not have Mike Wallace in camp soon? I think he will be affected unless he gets into camp ASAP. What do you think?

    Ed Bouchette: As long as he's here by the start of the regular season, they will find ways to send him deep. And that will loosen things up for the fellows running shorter routes.

    T22POST: Ed, with FB Johnson blowing out his knee do you see us picking up another Full Back to compete for the job?

    Ed Bouchette: They really only have one fullback, Will Johnson, and while they like him, he was out of football last year and really has not played that position. None of the tight ends they have can either. Let's see what happens as Johnson gets his chances and as other teams cut rosters.

    Rick in LA: Ed, I see Adams is out for "two weeks", but i did not see an announcement about what the injury was? Bruise, sprain?

    Ed Bouchette: Mike Tomlin has declined to divulge the injury. I wrote that it is a mild sprain of the MCL.

    BleedBlkNGld: With John Clay being slighlty injured do you see Baron Batch making the team this year? Also should we expect Kapinos being the punter opening up the season or does the new guy have a shot at it?

    Ed Bouchette: Clay's injury may be more than minor. I don't know that someone needs to get hurt for Batch to make the team. Kapinos needs to get out there and punt or the new guy will be the only guy.

    Calm Kiler: Ed, Do you know anything about the new FB the steelers signed? Jay Ford (Illinois). Who will they release to make room?

    Ed Bouchette: Apparently just happened while we are chatting.

    Ed Bouchette: Steelers just announced the signing and that John Clay was waived injured.

    T22POST: Ed, is Mundy getting as many snaps with the first team as Clark to prepare for Week 1.

    Ed Bouchette: No, I haven't seen it.

    War18: Ed, are you as excited about Chris Rainey as I am, I think he can be a real game changer in this offense. Even his impression as a poor man's Darren Sproles should make a difference

    Ed Bouchette: I know the Steelers coaching staff is very excited.

    Sean Coffee: Ed, now that camp is winding down and we've seen more of them, still impressed with the O Line?

    Ed Bouchette: It's really way too early to tell. I think they have the foundation for a good line. With Adams hurt and he and DeCastro with one game played, it's hard to see at the moment.

    War18: Ed, I say that Mike Wallace had some pretty bad numbers after Oct 23rd last year. He really slowed down and I can't remember the exact numbers but I think it was one TD and 1 100 yard game. Any chance he is slightly overrated by Steeler Nation?

    Ed Bouchette: You mean Steelers fans getting too worked up regarding their team? Never.

    trinisteel: If John Clay is lost for the seanson do we get another RB?

    Ed Bouchette: There's really no room for one. One had to go anyway.

    Ed Bouchette: Plus, Will Johnson can run.

    DiamondSteel: Why so many AC/MCL injuries today? Didn't seem that huge of issue years ago.

    Ed Bouchette: I agree. Years ago, it was really a big deal when someone's ACL was torn. The Steelers have had four in their past three games -- Starks, Hampton, Mendenhall and D Johnson.

    Mike-EE: Ed, no one is talking about our linebackers as a potential weakness this year because of injuries. What do you think?

    Ed Bouchette: I don't see any serious injuries that might prompt someone to think their linebackers might be a weakness.

    T22POST: Ed, Will we see James Harrison this week or is he still in a holding pattern?

    Ed Bouchette: Not this week. If it's me, I let him play perhaps in the final preseason game, if that.

    War18: Ed, I think we are going to end up seeing more of Max Starks this year then Mike Adams especially with the injury and the fact that he is Ben's buddy. What are your thoughts on this?

    Ed Bouchette: All of the offensive linemen are Ben's buddies. Don't write off Adams just yet.

    tennbob: Do you have to waive every player now to put them on IR? Clay could be claimed.

    Ed Bouchette: Clay COULD be claimed. He also could have been drafted but was not. He hardly played his rookie season and now he has a serious injury. I doubt any team will claim him. He, like David Johnson, will be back on Steelers IR this week.

    SLCSteelersfan: Ed, does is look maybe Mclendon and not Ta'Amu could be the heir apparent to Hampton?

    Ed Bouchette: McLendon has looked very good. Ta'amu not as much.

    Calm Kiler: Ed, didnt you just have a birthday? if so happy birthday. mine is tomorrow.

    Ed Bouchette: Today. Are you stalking me?

    War18: Ed, the screen pass really!! That is Haley's big plan? Looks like a lot of dink and dunk stuff which if it happens the Steeler's fans will be all over Haley don't you think?

    Ed Bouchette: You must have missed my story the other day in which I wrote that's what they wanted to work on in the first preseason game. They will not abandon the deep ball.

    OKieSteelerfan: How much does McClendon really weigh? he is listed at 280..no way

    Ed Bouchette: I believe it's 325.

    War18: Ed, isn't it about time we look for a TE to groom behind Heath?

    Ed Bouchette: Yes, maybe groom one at Pets 'R Us; I hear they do good work.

    War18: Ed, having a chat on your birthday has to be the best present ever right? Also Happy birthday and sorry I don't know the b-days of my favorite sports writers, I apologize

    Ed Bouchette: My birthday present will arrive in about 2 minutes.

    Andy: How has Troy looked during camp, have not heard much about him?

    Ed Bouchette: Neither me nor too many others concern ourselves about how Troy Polamalu looks in camp. As long as he's healthy, he's good to go.

    T22POST: Ed, Tomlin always preaches "The Standard is the Standard" .......... from what you have seen can this team make a run at the Super Bowl

    Ed Bouchette: Of course. Doesn't mean they will do so, but this is still a very good football team.

    Ed Bouchette: Ok, those two minutes are up. Thanks all and wish Tim Tebow a happy birthday.

    http://plus.sites.post-gazette.com/i...anscript-81412

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    Quote Originally Posted by hawaiiansteel View Post
    Ed: The State of the Steelers Ground Game

    FRIDAY, 17 AUGUST 2012 WRITTEN BY ED BOUCHETTE

    ......
    Rashard Mendenhall will open the season on the PUP, thatís been determined. They are not going to rush him back, even with the injuries to others. Fullback David Johnson and halfback John Clay are finished for 2012 because of injuries.

    .....

    http://plus.sites.post-gazette.com/i...rs-ground-game
    Wow Ed, your sources appear to be as clueless as you............

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    Quote Originally Posted by NorthCoast View Post
    Wow Ed, your sources appear to be as clueless as you............
    by Ed Bouchette:

    August 18, 2012

    Has desperation at running back prompted the Steelers to use Rashard Mendenhall faster than they had planned?

    Mendenhall, who had surgery to repair a torn ACL seven months ago, was removed from the physically unable to perform list and will be able to join the Steelers in practices in pads as soon as Tuesday.

    The move was made just days after a source told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he did not expect him to be available until midseason and would not be rushed back into play because they did not want to jeopardize his health....

    The moves came several hours after coach Mike Tomlinís weekly pregame press conference, in which he did not mention the possibility

    http://plus.sites.post-gazette.com/i...-after-surgery

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    From my understanding of the rules (thanks Ruthless!!) the Steelers can give Spindy some work and if his progress is unsufficient, place him back on PUP before the beginning of the season. I wouldnt call it desperate, just exploring options. Maybe he is ready.
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    Panic Room: Mendenhall Activated. Are Steelers Panicking Over RB Roster?

    Aug 18th, 2012 by CraigSteelers



    As the Steelers entered training camp a few weeks ago, GM Kevin Colbert told the press that Rashard Mendenhall would start the season on the PUP list. That guaranteed that Mendenhall would sit out the first six weeks of the regular season and Isaac Redman would begin to carry the load of the running game. As of Friday afternoon, that certainty vanished when the Steelers removed Mendenhall from the PUP list and activated him. Why the sudden change?

    A mysterious groin injury that turned into a mysterious hip injury after an MRI this week is keeping Redman out of Sundayís game against the Colts. The extent of the injury is unknown, but ESPNís Adam Schefter speculates that Redman could be back to practice sometime next week. Thatís not really a big deal. With two preseason games left following Sundayís bout with the Colts, Redman has plenty of time to heal and get reps in before Week 1 Ė unless the injury is more serious than the Steelers are letting on.

    The rest of the running back roster is a bit banged up, and perhaps that is why the Steelers were so quick to change Mendenhallís status. Redman, Dwyer, and Clay (who is gone for the season) have either sat out or continue to sit out of practices due to injury. That leaves only second year man Baron Batch (though really heís still a rookie) and rookie Chris Rainey. Batch turned heads last season before his ACL tear but hasnít really made waves since returning. Chris Rainey has impressed thus far and could be an option.

    The Steelers canít keep all of these running backs when they gut the roster to 53. Perhaps that is why the Steelers feel that had to activate Mendenhall. Should Redman be out right away or within the six weeks of Mendenhallís previously slated PUP ride, there would only be a man or two ready to go Ė and they may not be the best options for the Steelers. But is this move a bit premature? And what will be the long term effects of a move like this?

    I for one was happy to know that we wouldnít be seeing Mendenhall dancing his way along the line of scrimmage for a 2-yard gain (and thatís if he fell forward) for at least six weeks if not for the entire season. Iíve been smitten with Redmanís opportunity to become the featured running back for the Steelers. If Mendenhall becomes available after Week 1, will the Steelers try and shoehorn the two backs into sharing snaps during a game? Iím concerned over that kind of scenario and hope that Redman does not lose a chance to improve by losing reps over the course weekly preparation and game day. Were Mendenhall to remain on the PUP list and Redman crap the bed or become injured, then I would have been happy to see Rainey or Batch take over for a while.

    Maybe Iím just panicking over what I thought was an ideal situation for a team to lose some baggage that always made the running game feel lackluster last season. Maybe Mendenhallís return will only stoke a fire under Redman because of the potential of losing his starting job quickly were he to fall short of expectations. Maybe Mendenhallís return would at least ensure that a seasoned back is ready to step up if Redman falls (although, something tells me offensive coordinator Todd Haley does not have any plays in the book of a pitch left that involves only dancing lateral movement and not forward progress). Who knows, maybe Mendenhall watched a lot of game film of himself while healing up and saw how much of a different back he was from the 2010 season to the 2011 season.

    I just hope that the Steelers donít pull back on Redmanís leash too quickly and dig themselves into an unproductive running game by placing Mendenhall in unnecessarily early.

    http://nicepickcowher.com/2012/08/18...ver-rb-roster/

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    Im starting to like this website more. Offers a good analysis of the Spindenhall scenario. I guess they figured thay might as well activate him since its a given he will make the final roster. Also clears up my misconception that a player can be placed back on PUP at the beginning of the regular season.

    http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com...ll-baron-batch

    Tribune-Review reporter Alan Robinson astutely points out Friday players who come off the preseason PUP list cannot be placed back on PUP for the regular season.
    That means RB Rashard Mendenhall (as well as LT Max Starks, NT Casey Hampton and OLBs James Harrison and Jason Worilds) will be active to start the season, or he'll be placed on injured reserve.
    Barring any further injuries, Mendenhall will start the year on the roster, but the question is whether he'll be activated for the first game.
    If he's not, the fact he's on the roster means there will be less running backs from which to choose.

    Let's say Mendenhall doesn't dress for Pittsburgh's Week 1 game at Denver. Incidentally, the Steelers' depth at running back probably still be deeper than it was for their 29-23 overtime loss that ended their 2011 season. Without Mendenhall, who tore his ACL the previous week, RB Isaac Redman rushed for 121 yards in the loss, and he was backed up by John Clay. Mewelde Moore was out for that game, and Jonathan Dwyer had been placed on the IR. They signed RB Chad Spann from the practice squad and dressed him for that game.
    Clay was the only other running back to get a carry in the loss.
    The fact the Steelers chose to take him off the PUP is really more of a "put-up-or-shut-up" statement. They must feel, at worst, comfortable with Mendenhall taking a roster spot even if he may not be ready for the first few games.
    It's likely the Steelers keep four running backs and one fullback. The second fullback would come in the form of a backup tight end, keeping three tight ends and five total running backs.
    Judging the limited action so far, it would appear those four would be Mendenhall, Redman, Dwyer and Chris Rainey along with fullback Will Johnson (leaving practice squad eligible Baron Batch off the final roster).
    It is possible - albeit unlikely - the Steelers use one of the tight ends in camp as their starting fullback, much like their plan was with David Johnson before a torn ACL ended his season. Johnson's ability to start at fullback and serve as the third tight end gave the Steelers the ability to keep five running backs and no pure fullbacks. They currently have veteran Justin Peelle, Leonard Pope, Jamie McCoy and rookie David Paulson battling for the third tight end spot with the 2TE spot open for the first games as Weslye Saunders serves a four-game suspension.
    McCoy is said to be getting reps at fullback. He's played tight end primarily so far in his time in Steelers camp. Getting low is difficult when you stand at 6-foot-5 and taller, like the current Steelers' tight ends are.
    They'll likely experiment a bit with that fullback role in Sunday's game against Indianapolis, but Mendenhall's return very well may have sealed the Week 1 roster. Whether Mendenhall will be able to play in that game remains to be seen.
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    These articles miss the fact that the Steelers have moved to a 'running back by committe' whether they admit it or not. We don't have a feature back ala Ray Rice that will account for 30% of the offense. I don't see that player on the roster. So the Steelers will simply plug in available bodies as they are ready. Based on preseason injuries, I don't see a single RB playing a full 16 games this season anyway.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NorthCoast View Post
    These articles miss the fact that the Steelers have moved to a 'running back by committe' whether they admit it or not. We don't have a feature back ala Ray Rice that will account for 30% of the offense. I don't see that player on the roster. So the Steelers will simply plug in available bodies as they are ready. Based on preseason injuries, I don't see a single RB playing a full 16 games this season anyway.
    That doesn't sound like a re-committment to the running game. RBs need carries, they thrive on rhythm. Giving a bunch of guys spot carries is just hoping for one of them to pop one, amidst a bunch of rhythm-less one-yard carries into the stack.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Shoe View Post
    That doesn't sound like a re-committment to the running game. RBs need carries, they thrive on rhythm. Giving a bunch of guys spot carries is just hoping for one of them to pop one, amidst a bunch of rhythm-less one-yard carries into the stack.
    I disagree.

    Giving a bunch of guys carries is keeping legs fresh, reducing the likelihood of injury and putting each RB in situations where their strengths are used best...putting them in situations to succeed....

    Look at the number of 300 carry RBs in the NFL over the last five years...the number is dwindling...

    And the ones that do carry the rock 300 times? On teams that aren't so good...

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