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Thread: Steelers begin long off-season

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    Steelers begin long off-season

    [URL][/URL] Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITIONSteelers begin long off-season with plenty of questions after second-half fade
    By: Will Graves, The Associated Press

    Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin disagrees with a pass interference call during the second quarter of an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012.

    PITTSBURGH, Pa. - The Pittsburgh Steelers spent all fall claiming the chatter generated by various off-the-field issues was only so much background noise.
    Through Mike Wallace's contract status to the relationship between quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Todd Haley to the injury problems that kept bold-faced players out of the lineup for long stretches, the Steelers insisted they were focused.

    Standing in the corner of a quiet locker room after an 8-8 season ended with a 24-10 win over rudderless Cleveland, wide receiver Antonio Brown begged to differ.

    "We wasted a lot of energy worrying about things that were out of our control, pointing a finger here, pointing a finger there," Brown said. "People mad here. People mad there. And as a team collectively you can't have that."
    And the Steelers know they can't have another season like 2012, one that included flashes of brilliance but also too many times where they shrank from the task. Pittsburgh lost five games by a field goal, most of them the result of uncharacteristic mistakes in critical situations by players used to the guys in the other uniform being the ones who fail to deliver in the clutch.
    "The good teams, the dominant teams, aren't necessarily dominant inside stadiums but they are dominant largely in moments, and they do what is required to get out of stadiums with victories," coach Mike Tomlin said. "We didn't do that consistently enough."

    The revamped offence brought in by Haley designed to take some of the pressure off Roethlisberger operated in fits and starts over the second half of the season. Having the franchise quarterback miss three games with a sprained shoulder and dislocated rib didn't help. Neither did injuries along the offensive line that made getting any sort of rhythm in the running game impossible.

    Still, Tomlin refused to place blame in any one specific place, be it the relationship between Roethlisberger and Haley or the running back rotation that failed to produce consistently. Taken as a whole, it just wasn't enough. The Steelers finished 21st in total offence — down from 12th in 2011 — and averaged 21 points a game, less than a point more than the year before.
    "Offensively I thought we started off on the right foot in terms of dominating time of possession and converting third downs," Tomlin said. "We did what was required in those areas to possess the ball and win football games. Obviously we didn't ascend in the second half of the season in those areas. It was an Achilles' heel for us."

    The defence finished No. 1 overall for the fifth time in the last decade but had issues generating turnovers. Pittsburgh's 10 interceptions were tied for the second fewest in franchise history and the Steelers needed seven takeaways in the final two games to reach 20 on the season.

    Safety Troy Polamalu, linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley and cornerback Ike Taylor — fixtures on a team that's made two Super Bowl appearances in the last five seasons — all missed extended time with injuries and the backups were disciplined but not exactly dynamic. The lack of playmakers enabled opponents to take advantage late in games, namely road losses to woeful Oakland and Tennessee that put Pittsburgh in an early 2-3 hole.

    "It was a really good defence in the latter portions of season, particularly in those settings," Tomlin said. "I think the statistics show that. But again, not enough significant plays in those moments at the early portion of the season that produced wins."

    Even so, don't expect 75-year-old defensive co-ordinator Dick LeBeau to go anywhere. LeBeau pledged to return in 2013, a decision Tomlin endorsed on Monday.

    "He's a special guy, a special man and a special coach," Tomlin said.
    He's also one of the reasons Pittsburgh remains a sea of calm in a constantly evolving league. Pittsburgh is perhaps the best team in the NFL in providing continuity, there is a sense significant change is coming.

    Fixtures like nose tackle Casey Hampton, linebacker Larry Foote and running back Rashard Mendenhall will become unrestricted free agents. So will Wallace and cornerback Keenan Lewis.

    Wallace pledged Sunday he would love to return, though the math could make that impossible. The Steelers will have to get creative to get under the salary cap next year, and Wallace is expected to be in high demand on the open market.

    "It's a business, but at the end of the day this is all I've known," Wallace said. "I want to be here."

    If Wallace does come back, he won't holdout as he did during training camp, the start of a season-long list of distractions that led to four months where things never really fell into place.
    If he bolts, the Steelers believe they have the parts in place to return to their usual spot in the post-season. Starting in 2000, the Steelers have missed the playoffs every three years — 2003, 2006, 2009 and 2012. If the pattern holds, they'll be playing into January next year, hopefully a wiser group than the one that let this season slip away.
    "The best team that I've been on is when a group is collectively a team, people not playing for money or playing for (themselves)," Brown said. "A collective effort for the team and that's the mentality we've got to carry around next year."
    Last edited by fordfixer; 01-01-2013 at 10:25 PM.

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    End of the road: 2012 Pittsburgh Steelers

    By Ryan Wilson | Blogger
    December 27, 2012

    As each NFL team is officially eliminated from postseason contention, the Eye on Football crew will whip up a review of that team's 2012 season. Today, we look at the Steelers. For more of our End of the Road series, click here.

    What went wrong

    Early in the season, it was the defense, then it was injuries and finally, it was the franchise quarterback.

    Losses to the Raiders and Titans had almost everything to do with a defense that suddenly couldn't stop anybody. It led to the annual "yep, too old" platitudes, which held some truth but didn't tell the whole story.

    Lawrence Timmons is quietly becoming one of the NFL's best inside linebackers and cornerback Keenan Lewis emerged as a legit playmaker opposite Ike Taylor. Then there's defensive end Ziggy Hood, outside linebacker Jason Worilds and nickel cornerback Cortez Allen who all played well in spot duty.

    By the time the defense rounded into form, the Steelers were 6-3. Then Ben Roethlisberger went down with a shoulder and rib injury. Teammates followed like dominoes -- left guard Willie Colon, right tackle Marcus Gilbert, backup right tackle Mike Adams, wideout Antonio Brown, backup quarterback Byron Leftwich and so on. And this list doesn't include Troy Polamalu and rookie first-round right guard David DeCastro, both of whom missed most of the first two-thirds of the season with injuries of their own.

    By the time Roethlisberger returned to the lineup, Pittsburgh was 7-5. The team hasn't won since, and the last two games directly resulted in losses because of crucial Big Ben interceptions. Now at 7-8, the Steelers will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

    What went right

    Despite the undercurrent of issues between the franchise QB and the volatile offensive coordinator, Todd Haley's "dink and dunk" (but in a good way!) offense not only kept Big Ben upright (he was sacked just 13 times through the first 10 games) but also had people talking about him as a possible MVP candidate. Then Roethlisberger was injured, the sacks and interceptions started piling up, and those earlier conversations seemed like a distant memory.

    When Haley arrived in the spring, one of the first things he said he wanted to do was get tight end Heath Miller more involved in the offense. Through 15 games, Miller leads the teams in receptions (71) and is tied for first in touchdowns. And on Wednesday, a day after he was placed on injured reserve after tearing up his knee in Sunday's loss to the Bengals, Miller was named to his first Pro Bowl.

    The offensive line, when healthy (which was rare), did an adequate job of protecting Roethlisberger. Center Maurkice Pouncey also earned a Pro Bowl nod and Colon transitioned smoothly to left guard after six years at right tackle.


    The team suspended running back Rashard Mendenhall in Week 15 for conduct detrimental to the team, but he was active against the Bengals and there's even a chance he returns to Pittsburgh next season. That can't be said for Mike Wallace, who didn't show up for offseason workouts or training camp and went on to have a mediocre year. The Steelers won't use the franchise tag on him, and if Wallace insists on being paid more than $10 million a year, he'll be playing elsewhere in 2013. The organization will also have to decide what to do with 35-year-old nose tackle Casey Hampton, not to mention 34-year-old outside linebacker James Harrison, who was sidelined early in 2012 with a knee injury.

    There has also been speculation that Haley could be the favorite to replace Ken Whisenhunt in Arizona. The two worked together there during the Cardinals' Super Bowl run following the '08 season. If that happens, we think the Steelers should give serious consideration to hiring Whisenhunt as the offensive coordinator, a job he had under Bill Cowher in 2005 and 2006. More likely, however, coach Mike Tomlin would elevate running backs coach Kirby Wilson, who was in line for the job last offseason before he was seriously injured in a house fire.

    Draft outlook

    Despite their record, the Steelers don't have a ton of needs. Adding depth on defense could be a priority, especially with Taylor, Polamalu, and safety Ryan Clark all in their 30s. Inside linebacker Larry Foote is also long in the tooth but he's fared well as James Farrior's replacement. Plus, youngsters Stevenson Sylvester and Sean Spence are already on the roster.'s Rob Rang has the Steelers taking defensive tackle Jesse Williams (Alabama) with the 17th pick, while Dane Brugler likes cornerback Johnathan Banks (Mississippi State).

    2013 will be ...

    ... Another year in which the Steelers are preseason favorites to make a playoff run. If Haley returns, the offense should be more efficient, and if the team can avoid a bevy of injuries, they have the depth to compete for the division title. Even if Wallace walks, Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders and Miller provide Roethlisberger with plenty of big-play options. The running game, however, needs to improve, whether it's Mendenhall, Jonathan Dwyer, Isaac Redman or a yet-to-be-identified dark horse candidate.

    Last edited by hawaiiansteel; 01-01-2013 at 11:25 PM.

  3. #3

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    Monday, Dec. 31, 2012, on the South Side. Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review


    Tomlin: Stilted offense was Steelers’ ‘Achilles’ heel’

    By Alan Robinson
    Sports Reporter

    Published: Monday, December 31, 2012, 1:14 p.m.
    Updated 4 hours ago

    On a day coach Mike Tomlin spent considerable time discussing the myriad injuries that helped wreck the Steelers‘ once-promising season, he disclosed a previously unrevealed malady.

    Offense: Achilles‘ heel, out for the season.

    Tomlin didn‘t blame the offense‘s second-half stagnation for short-circuiting the season, but he said Monday that the lack of progress was significant as the Steelers (8- lost five of their last seven. Not coincidentally, those were three games Ben Roethlisberger missed with a major injury, and the four in which he struggled to return to playing the way he did pre-injury.

    “I thought we started out on the right foot in terms of dominating time of possession and converting third downs,” Tomlin said. “We did what was required to possess the ball and win football games. Obviously we didn‘t ascend in the second half of the season in those areas. It was an Achilles‘ heel for us.”

    Or, perhaps more specifically, it was a shoulder and a rib that effectively doomed a season in which the Steelers (8- appeared to be peaking, with four straight wins, before the quarterback was hurt Nov. 12 against Kansas City.

    At the time. Roethlisberger was on pace for his best season statistically; afterward, his numbers dipped.

    “I felt like early on in the year, in the Oakland game (Sept. 23), we were coming on the sidelines and looking at the (scouting) pictures and it was like, ‘We‘ve got everything we want,‘ ” wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery said Monday. “We were moving the ball so well, and I felt like we were growing. All of a sudden, Ben gets hurt and that slows the progression. … Once Ben got back in, we were just trying to recapture what we had early on in the year, but it just didn‘t take place.”

    Because the offense was so effective early on, Cotchery doesn‘t doubt Haley and Roethlisberger can work well together.

    “I think this year guys did a good job of welcoming change and just trying to get better in the offense, and I think it will be better going forward,” Cotchery said.

    Cotchery said the potential was there for much more.

    “You look at the Oakland game, you look at the Tennessee game, games pretty much that you had in control, and for some reason they slipped away; the Browns game,” Cotchery said. “You (beat yourself) up the entire night, the entire offseason looking back at those games.”

    And now they‘ll have nine months to do it.

    Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at [email][/email].

    Molon labe

    People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf. George Orwell

    American metal pimped by asiansteel
    Only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you 1. Jesus Christ, 2.The American G.I., One died for your soul, the other for your freedom.


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