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Check Out The Steelers Gab Community On Facebook!

Hey Steelers Gab fans, if you haven’t already, check out the official Steelers Gab on FACEBOOK!!! Click HERE to check it out – a super interactive group of close to 1300 Steeler fans that keep the page busy with comments, debates, and more! Don’t miss out – become a fan of Steelers Gab on Facebook […]…

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Check Out The Steelers Gab Community On Facebook!

Hey Steelers Gab fans, if you haven’t already, check out the official Steelers Gab on FACEBOOK!!! Click HERE to check it out – a super interactive group of close to 1200 Steeler fans that keep the page busy with comments, debates, and more! Don’t miss out – become a fan of Steelers Gab on Facebook […]…

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Saints starting to check out secondary options

The Saints slow approach to free agency seems to be picking up a bit. Their first priority, it seems, is addressing the secondary of the worst defense (statistically) in league history. According to Larry Holder of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the Saints will have Jaguars cornerback Derek Cox in for a visit tomorrow. But he…ProFootballTalk » Pittsburgh Steelers

Weekend Check Down: the top stories of the week

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Steelers overcome NFL Officials, Giants, and themselves in gut check win 24-20

We’ve been saying all week that this was the biggest game of the year; a litmus test for a team trying to find itself and get back on track in the AFC North. With the Ravens winning today against the Browns, and the Bengals losing, Pittsburgh had to keep pace in the division and find a way to win in New York. After fighting through so much advers…

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Weekend Check Down: The Top Stories of the Week

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Weekend Check Down: The Top Stories of the Week

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Weekend Check Down: The Top Stories of the Week (Training Camp Edition)

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Weekend Check Down: The Top Stories of the Week

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Ladies and gentlemen, our journey through football Hell continues. Weeks ago I likened trying to provide interesting content at this time of the year to trying to serve a banquet with the key ingredients being a can of sardines and some crackers. Well, we’re fresh out of sardines.

This being a holiday week we sort of hit bottom on the news front. The main question going forward in these final weeks before camp is whether there will be a bounce back up, or if we start digging toward new depths.

If you are into Pittsburgh sports generally it hasn’t been a bad week at all. Sidney Crosby re-upped with the Pens and will be around when your first grader goes off to college. They have also been quite busy in the free agent market. Last I checked the Pirates were eight games above .500 for the first time since Honus Wagner played (or so it seems).

True story: I checked out the Post-Gazette website the other day and found a freshly published piece on Steelers notes that got me fairly excited, until I started reading. The headline was about the unveiling of the new uniforms by Nike. Wait a minute. Are they so bored at league headquarters that they’re unveiling the uniforms again? Then I checked out the date of the piece; April 4th. Someone messed up and reposted an old article; that’s what it has come to. Even the soft human interest stories have dried up.

But in spite of my whining there is news of a football nature and most of it rather interesting, at least to me.

Jonathan Dwyer

The Trib did a profile of the third year running back highlighting his continuing struggles with his conditioning and his weight that has cost him both in his position in the 2010 draft and his status and role on the team. Dwyer is currently in Florida working out at a performance enhancement facility and promises to report to camp in the best shape in his life.

The light has apparently flickered on for Dwyer. For his sake (and ours as fans) I certainly hope so. There seems to be no question that he possesses the necessary talent to have a very successful career in this league and be an asset to the Steelers. But talent absent discipline is useless at this level. More important is that he has an opportunity- and a danger- this season that is unlikely to present itself again. With Mendenhall likely to be out for a portion of the season Isaac Redman and the team need Dwyer to step up in the supporting role of the number two back. If he is unable to either recognize or respond to the situation then you have to wonder what value his presence has for the team regardless of his potential. And there are three very talented backs, Clay, Batch and Rainey, nipping at his heels and more than happy to provide the team with the rationale to kick him to the curb.

2012 Steelers Outlook

Chris Burke of Sports Illustrated did a piece on the Steelers 2012 prospects as part of a series of off season profiles. The piece was a fair and (from an outsider’s perspective) understandable analysis of the issues facing the team in a transitional year. Three areas were identified as areas of concern: leadership, with the loss of some many key veterans such as Hines Ward and James Farrior; the situation at running back and the necessity of having to integrate so many rookies into important roles.

From the outsider’s point of view Mendenhall’s absence would appear to be a cause for greater concern than for those who have watched the progress of the remaining backs more closely. There is no denying the fact that, in spite of some impressive performances in spot duty, the resumes for Redman and our other backs is thin in terms of consistent game experience. So the questions that have been raised are valid. Also the concerns about leadership are reasonable, especially if one is not closely acquainted with the Steelers team culture. The most on point issue is that concerning the rookies. Even if the projections of their potential are on target, the likelihood that, like Maurkice Pouncey, they will immediately step in and provide peak performance would have to be viewed as a bit fanciful. How those growing pains play out will have a lot to say about how far the team goes this year.

These things being said, the outlook was largely an optimistic one, with the projection being that Pittsburgh had the likely potential of being in the thick of the playoff race. A caution was sounded that if there was a time that a step back would occur, this season would be it.

Steelers Draft Analysis

Over at ESPN Jamison Hensley provided an analysis of the Steelers 2009 draft. The grade given was a B-, with the chief success being 3rd round pick Mike Wallace and the chief failure being 3rd round lineman Kraig Urbik. The question was raised, given his subsequent success with Buffalo, if the Steelers were premature in cutting ties with Urbik. If the topic were brought up prior to this year’s draft it might a focal point of some intense and perhaps bitter discussion. Today it’s just an interesting what if.

The role of travel as it effects competitiveness

I’ve become a fan of the Grantland.com website. I became aware of them earlier this year as the concussion issue was just beginning to gain some serious traction in discussions concerning the short and long term future of the NFL. The analysis that they published seemed to have more depth and nuance than other sites. Bill Barnwell did a piece this week on the impact of long distance travel upon team competitiveness with a particular emphasis on its impact on the west coast teams.

There has been some discussion over the last week linking the Steelers with the Seattle Seahawks, and coincidentally, Barnwell cites a comparison between the ’08 Steelers and Seahawks to make many of the points in his analysis.

I remember when following the Pirates when I was a kid much was made of the difficulty of the road trips to the west coast. The fact that the Giants and Dodgers were really good at that time certainly had something to do with their struggles; but it was also clear that the challenges of cross country travel alone also had an impact.

Given the scheduling structure of the NFL, traveling west to east presents special challenges. While a 1pm start in Seattle or San Diego simply amounts to the equivalent to a 4pm start for the body clocks of eastern teams, a 1pm start in New York for a west coast team translates to 10am with game preparation commencing around 6am for their body clocks. Data is presented that demonstrates that this is not just perception. Nor is east coast travel the only problem facing the western teams.

The geographical and the structural realities of the NFL also present difficulties even within the divisions of these teams. Both the AFC and NFC West have teams in three time zones (Pacific, Mountain and Central). Travel for divisional games involves thousands of miles and many hours of flight time. By contrast the Steelers and the Eagles can and do travel to some of their divisional opponents using either buses or trains in two hours or less. When they fly for divisional games the Steelers will be in the air for an hour or less one way (None of their divisional opponents are more than 300 miles away). So, if the team has a 1pm game at Cincinnati they can expect to be back in their homes for dinner and the night game. The situation for NFC North opponents can be even chummier.

Bounty Gate

Goodell rejected the appeals of players Jonathan Vilma, Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith and Scott Fujita who have been suspended in the Bounty gate situation. The NFLPA has filed suit on behalf of the players in response. And blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Sorry for being a little flip here, but this is clearly going to drag on for quite some time and if you want to know all the details you can get it from a variety of sources. There isn’t much in way of competing stories at this time.

Drew Brees

The Saints remain in the news as Drew Brees won his arbitration dispute over his franchise tag designation. This provides the New Orleans quarterback with valuable leverage in his contract negotiations.

Sean Payton

And continuing the Saints coverage on a sad note, the head coach and his wife have commenced divorce proceedings in Texas.

Eagles owner Jeff Lurie and his wife are also filing for divorce as well.

Ben Davidson

Speaking of sad news, 1960s era defensive lineman for the Oakland Raiders and television pitchman Ben Davidson passed away this week at the age of 72. Davidson was considered one of the faces of that team.

Kiante Tripp

Concluding our bad news/sad news segment, the Browns reserve defensive lineman was arrested in Atlanta for burglary. The prediction here is that this incident will not materially affect Cleveland’s effort to fulfill their destiny this year (whatever that may be).

Source: Behind the Steel Curtain

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Weekend Check Down: The Top Stories of the Week


Let’s start this week with a huge thank you to the BTSC community. First to Steel Spike for starting the ball rolling on the get to know you thread, and for everyone in the community who took the time to share a bit of themselves with the rest of us. For someone who feels fortunate to be able to make regular contributions here and often wonders who, beyond the folks who regularly comment and post, is actually reading this stuff, it has been an invaluable, eye opening, humbling and encouraging exercise. If you haven’t done so, I would urge you to visit that thread, add your two cents if you are so inspired and get some insight as to who your neighbors are in this particular corner of Steeler Nation.

Our first item this week is related to the general topic of getting to know Steeler Nation.Steelers.com reported on the Steelers fan camps conducted last weekend in Mexico City. There were two events, an adult session on day one and a camp for kids on the second day. Representing the Steelers were Brett Keisel, James Harrison, Emmanuel Sanders, Charlie Batch, Ryan Mundy,Tunch Illkin and Craig Wolfley. They were clearly stunned by the size and enthusiasm of the people who greeted them in Mexico. Attendance at the adult event was nearly 600, while the youth camp drew nearly 300.

The piece on Steelers.com not only includes an account of the weekend but a photo slideshow and a video. I highly recommend the video because it shows something that you just don’t see every day. Knowledgeable fans are aware that Troy Polamalu has participated in crowd surfing from time to time. Well, have you ever seen Deebo crowd surf? It’s different. As are most things involving Harrison, a bit frightening. When he dives onto the crowd it just sort of sags at first and…trust me, you have to see it. There is also this part of the piece where he’s wearing a sombrero.

From the player and alumni comments it is fair to say that they were surprised by what greeted them in Mexico City. At first blush this thing feels a little counter intuitive. Pushing past the fact that there is this level of intense interest in a foreign country, one could certainly understand if they were pumped up for, say, the Dallas Cowboys given the geographic realities. But the Steelers? As I read the stories of how many of the participants of BTSC came to be part of Steeler Nation I gained a better understanding of the tale behind this particular story.

As a Pittsburgh native and of a, um, more mature generation, I am a product of a time when the Steelers were a team, especially pre-Noll, that probably only folks with some sort of ties to the Pittsburgh area could love. The fact that there are now Steelers fans spread out over the country and beyond is a reflection of the fact that some of the cultural realities of western Pennsylvania (the qualities that made it a great place to raise a family made it less than ideal for many young people seeking to grow personally and professionally) and the economic holocaust that laid waste to much of the rust belt had scattered much of the area’s population to the four winds, though they maintained their sports loyalties in the Diaspora. While that still defines a huge portion of Steeler Nation it by no means provides a complete picture.

It is now also clear that a consequence of the team’s sustained excellence is it has crossed over into the rarified environment of being a national (or should I say international, more on that in a moment) brand. Teams like the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Cowboys have fan bases that transcend geographic loyalties, and the Steelers are clearly now in that category. How many of us on this site chose this team because it represented a standard of excellence in the sport; the perfect example being this site’s founder? Because of deliberate efforts by the league, and the fact that this is an increasingly global culture, appreciation of the game has spilled beyond our national borders, including not just those from the Pittsburgh area and the US whose lives have taken them around the world, but also within the indigenous populations of many countries, like Mexico or Ireland (the subject of one of last week’s stories).

A third factor is technological. One of the challenges I faced in following the team from afar in the 1970s was having adequate opportunities to actually see the team play. One peculiarity of the story of the Immaculate Reception is the fact that most people who lived in Pittsburgh did not see the game due to the blackout rules in existence at the time. It’s hard to generate sustained enthusiasm for a team that you don’t actually see perform. The fact that many gravitate to teams like the Steelers, Yankees or Lakers cannot just be attributed to a bandwagon effect, it is also because the quality of their play lands them on the larger stages more frequently. Then, of course, as they gain more fans, they find themselves on the bigger stages for economic reasons alone (people tune in to see them play). The Steelers attract huge ratings when they are on a national platform which incentivizes the league and the networks to put them on that stage as often as is reasonable. But satellite technology and the internet makes even the most mundane matchups just as accessible if you are in Peru, India or Northern Virginia as in Pittsburgh (except for maybe the preseason games). The Pittsburgh Sports Daily Bulletin, a great site to keep up with sports news in the Burgh is not headquartered in Pittsburgh. All of this to say that the Nation is not just growing; it is growing more diverse as well.

Troy Smith

Those hoping to see a different configuration of the depth chart at quarterback will likely be disappointed. Heisman Trophy winner and former Ravens quarterback Troy Smith was released by the team this week. This means that barring injury or some other unforeseen development, the likely quarterbacks on this year’s roster will be Ben, Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch. This development should really not come as much of a surprise. There are constant, ongoing concerns about the fragility of both Leftwich and Batch, as well as Charlie’s age (an overblown concern in my opinion given the fact that quarterbacks are not linebackers, many do quite well at more ‘advanced’ ages). But Smith couldn’t match either player in areas that are particularly important factors for this year’s team; experience and leadership. With the much documented loss of so much veteran leadership, and the instillation of a new offense, that sense of stability in the quarterback room looks very attractive right about now. And the same improvements that we are hoping will preserve Ben’s health should also be beneficial to the other two players at that position as well.

In other moves the team signed undrafted free agent linebacker Ryan Baker from LSU and cut Brandon Lindsey from Pitt and Aliquippa. It’s been tough times for players with local ties trying to make this team (Duquesne WR Connor Dixon was waived last week). There has been some speculation that these moves, in addition to the acquisition of Brandon Johnson last week, are an indication of concern about the depth or stability at the OLB positions, inviting concerns about the health of James Harrison and the viability of Jason Worilds and Chris Carter as able replacements. These are certainly possibilities. But a more benign explanation is the trend to create intense internal competitions (the multiple dogs, one bone theory) that appears to be defining the development culture under Tomlin. The injuries to Harrison and Worilds may not be long term concerns, but it would be crazy to rush either into a training situation that might aggravate their conditions before the season. However, their absence at this stage thins the competition and development opportunities for others on the roster. Given the high standards associated with the position, maintaining a high level of competition would be an especially important priority. Also given the satisfactory state of the competitions at other positions, it is area that the team can afford to place more focus upon. Whether it speaks to longer term problems remains to be seen.

Myron Rolle

It should come as no surprise that this player would be the subject of a profile on Steelers.com. For those of you who don’t know, Rolle, who comes from a family with a strong NFL pedigree, graduated from Florida State in two and half years, was selected for a Rhodes Scholarship and received a master’s degree in medical anthropology at Oxford.

Being away from the game for a year is cited as a possible reason why he wasn’t able to stick with the Tennessee Titans who released him from their practice squad. He is currently involved in a position battle (the details of which have been highlighted this week on the Steelers Depot site) for one or perhaps two roster spots playing behind likely locks Troy, Ryan Clark and Ryan Mundy. The other competitors are veterans Will Allen and Damon Cromartie-Smith, plus UDFA rookie Robert Golden.

As we wait for the competition to resume at training camp, Rolle has been shadowing Steelers neurosurgeon Joseph Maroon. Rolle’s career goal after football is to serve as a philanthropic neurosurgeon, traveling in underdeveloped countries providing services to those in need.

Coach John Thompson (the elder) used to keep a deflated basketball on the desk in his office at Georgetown as a reminder to his players that the games eventually go away and that they should prepare themselves for that. This doesn’t seem to be a problem for Rolle. And it seems safe to say that unlike most that come into the NFL that when he leaves the game he will be moving on to bigger and more important things. So that while I can’t exactly feel sorry if he doesn’t make it, I find myself rooting hard for Myron because he would be such a great addition for both the team and the game.

Rookie Symposium

The Steelers rookies have joined their AFC counterparts in the NFL’s Rookie Symposium, taking place in Ohio from Thursday through Saturday (the NFC rookies attended earlier in the week). When Steelers.com published a piece highlighting the rookies taking a tour of the Pro Football Hall of Fame I assumed that the trip was connected with the Symposium. But as the article pointed out Pittsburgh pioneered this orientation activity which the NFL has adopted for the rookies of all of its teams. Just another example of the understated leadership and innovation that characterizes the Steelers organization.

Rod Woodson

Speaking of the Hall of Fame, Rod Woodson was recently honored in his hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana as part of an initiative by the HOF to honor Hometown Hall Of Famers. So far the program has facilitated the recognition of 50 HOFers in their hometowns.

Scheduling Updates

The NFL has announced that it has moved the starting times of many of its doubleheader games in order to reduce overlap with the conclusions of its 1pm games. The late games will begin ten minutes later (4:25pm as opposed to the old 4:15pm start time). Five Steelers games will be affected: the September 16th home game against the Jets and four road games against the Raiders (Sept. 23rd), Giants (November 4th), Ravens (December 2nd) and Cowboys (Dec. 16th).

Pro Football Weekly

They conducted a poll that resulted in the Seattle Seahawks being named as having the best defense in professional football. I was going to write some more about it, but this is clearly absurd. And we’re not that hard up for news. Next week will be the 4th of July and probably really slow. Maybe then.

Source: Behind the Steel Curtain

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