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Sports Illustrated: ‘If There Was a year Pittsburgh Might Take a Step Back, It Would Be This One

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Source: Behind the Steel Curtain

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There are ALWAYS questions entering a new Steelers’ season.


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Fans of every sport go through it. It’s that period of time just before your favorite teams’ season is about to begin. There’s the feeling of potential success. Is this my team’s year? Will we finally be able to stay healthy? Can our superstars produce in the clutch?
These are few of the dozens of questions asked by fans of the other 31 NFL teams and certainly of our Pittsburgh Steelers as well.
Who will start at the other corner? Who will be the back up QBs? Will Dick LeBeau be more aggressive this year? How will Todd Haley and Ben Roethlisberger do together? Can Emmanuel Sanders stay healthy? When will Mike Wallace sign?
Yes there are more questions. Will Larry Foote get the job done? Will Lawrence Timmons have a better season? Is Troy Polamalu at the end of his career? Who will be the kicker? Who will be the punter?
Who will spell Isaac Redman? How will the rookies do?
Of course there are more important questions as well such as….. Just how bad will ...

Source: Yardbarker: Pittsburgh Steelers

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Ike Taylor Says Tuesday: “Mike Wallace Is Going To Be There For Training Camp”


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On Tuesday Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor said for the second time in less than a week that he thinks restricted free agent wide receiver Mike Wallace will be in training camp at some point with a new contract.

"Mike's going to be there," said Taylor on Trib Live Radio. "I'm sticking my neck out, but heck, I'm going to go on and say it, Mike Wallace is going to be there for training camp."

Taylor, who appears every Tuesday on The Ike Taylor Show hosted by John Harris, also added, "I think Mike is finally seeing the business side of this football and I know for sure they're going Read more [...]

Source: Yardbarker: Pittsburgh Steelers

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Steelers’ Emmanuel Sanders: There Is Still Work To Do

PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) – Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver and friend of The Fan Morning Show, Emmanuel Sanders spoke to the Fan Morning Show’s Jim Colony after the first mini camp practice yesterday.

Sanders admits that they are still learning this offense and there is still work to do, but after running the plays over the past four weeks, it’s coming together. He knows one thing for sure is that they have the weapons to get it done this year either running or throwing the football.

He also says that fellow wide receiver Mike Wallace is falling behind, but is smart enough to figure it out.

Listen to the Full interview here:

Filed under: Football, Heard on The Fan, Sports, Steelers, Syndicated Sports, Watch + Listen Tagged: Emmanuel Sanders, Pittsburgh Steelers, The Fan Morning Show

Source: CBS Pittsburgh » Steelers

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New News That There Is No New News With Mike Wallace


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Adam Schefter of ESPN reported today that there was no news to report on Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace, who continues to refuse to sign his restricted free agent tender until he has to. Schefter said Tuesday on NFL Livethat it "may be awhile" before the Steelers see Wallace at the team facility, and that Wallace won’t sign the tender "until he absolutely has to."

If you are shocked by any of this then you likely missed my post last week in which I stated that you likely will not see Wallace taking part in any of the OTA or mini-camp sessions this summer as he continues Read more [...]

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Money(Foot)ball: Are There Wide Receiver Bargains in the NFL Draft?

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Here is the promised continuation of my previous post, "Mike Wallace, Man of Mystery," in which I compared Mike Wallace’s stats in his first three years to a number of receivers drafted after 1995 who had similar early success. The original intention for this post was to try to project Wallace's value over the next few years.

However, there have been at least several thousand words written about the Mike Wallace situation by various of the other writers on this fine blog since that first article was published. As a result I decided to make this follow-up a more general look at the career trajectory for receivers taken at various levels in the draft.

For the original post I chose 100 receivers drafted or signed as a UDFA between 1994 and 2009, out of around 520 drafted during that time. Most of the receivers I chose had early success in the NFL. Out of those 100 I looked at 27 players whose initial three years resembled Mike Wallace’s the most closely, and added in Hines Ward for interest.

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The Top Four Picks line is a result of averaging the career results for eight receivers, Braylon Edwards, Kevin Dyson, Ike Hilliard, Plaxico Burress, Johnnie Morton, David Boston, Javon Walker, and Santana Moss. (For the purposes of comparison I assumed the two years Plaxico Burress was, shall we say, otherwise engaged didn’t occur, and moved his 2011 numbers back to 2009.)

The Round One and Two line is an average of the career results for Peerless Price, Eric Moulds, Reggie Wayne, Roddy White, Chad Ochocinco, Chris Chambers, Bobby Engram, and Vincent Jackson. The Rounds Three - UFDA line is an average of the career results for Hines Ward, Steve L. Smith, Terrell Owens, Marty Booker, Laveranues Coles, Antonio Freeman, Jerricho Cotchery, Donald Hayes, Az-Zahir Hakim, T. J. Houshmandzadeh, Wes Welker, and Rod Smith.

Now let’s turn it upside down, as it were, and look at these same receivers, except this time we will look at their Approximate Value (hereafter AV) as per Pro-Football-Reference. (You can find an explanation of the Approximate Value on their website.) It’s upside down because in the NFL stats low is better, but for the PFR stats high is better.

Av_comp_medium

The PFR plots are less "noisy" because they have constrained the numbers a good bit. A banner year for a receiver would give him an AV of +10, and the highest number I saw for anyone was less than 20. The NFL rankings go up to about 170 or so, depending on the year.

If you look at either chart, though, it looks as if the best long-term results were actually with the lower-round picks. But I also realized I was very much cherry-picking in the low rounds in particular. So I went back to the spreadsheets and entered the data for all receivers drafted between 1998 and 2007. (I stopped at 2007 to give everyone at least five years in the league before looking at their numbers, and I stopped at 1998 because I was going nuts...)

I decided to stick with the PFR numbers, and entered those for everyone drafted between 1998 and 2007. I then went through the lists for each year and removed the names of the guys who just didn’t work out. I took their name off the list if they both had a WCAV of less than five and they had a career of three seasons or less. (By way of comparison, Hines Ward’s AV just for 2011, one of his worst seasons, was 3.) I figure that anybody whose accumulated AV career score is less than five, and yet still persuade a team to sign them for additional years, must have something going for them that isn’t showing up in the rankings.

Before we look at the results, let’s look at some overall information.

The total number of players drafted between 1998 and 2007, including any UDFAs who stuck in the league long enough to generate some stats, was 349. That’s an average of almost 35 players per year.

The total number of players I removed for non-performance, if you will, was 136, or 39% of the total, leaving an average of 61% of players who pan out to some extent. The best percentage for any season was in 2003, at 67% retained. The worst two were 1998 and 2006, when only 56% of the players worked out well for the team drafting them.

So now let’s run the above chart again, but this time with only the lowest performers removed. This gives us about 2/3 of the total players to look at, as opposed to about 1/5 in the chart above.

All_receivers_medium

The results now look a lot like you would expect during the first several years, when the mediocre players drag down the averages for Round 3 - UFDA in particular.

The first few years really reinforces the Advanced NFL Stats guys contention about the difference between top-four picks and everyone else. But an interesting thing happens around Year Seven. The receivers who are still playing at this point have evened out to a great extent. I’m not sure the curves at the very end of the graph are all that meaningful, because by that point only a few players are creating the stats.

Which brings to mind another interesting question—what is the average career, and does it vary by my somewhat arbitrary divisions? I don’t know. And to find out in a meaningful way I have to add the bottom third of low or non-performers back into the equation. So this may take a minute...

Here’s what I found. For this chart I divided the receivers a bit further, this time strictly by pick number, and the rest of the charts in this post will be divided this way. I kept the top four as Group 1. The next group are the fifth through tenth receivers picked in their draft. Group 3 is the eleventh through the eighteenth picks, and the last group is everyone else, minus the UDFAs. (Since the UDFAs that have a good career are outliers, for this purpose I’ve removed them from the equation, since it’s pretty well impossible to get information on the offsetting UFDA receivers who didn’t pan out.)

Avg_career_length_medium

Once again, as you might expect the higher picks are likely to stay in the league longer. With the new CBA rules it seems to me the years of maximum interest to a front office are going to be the first four or five. So once again let’s see what the numbers look like, but this time with everyone.

The next chart is the average PFR Approximate Value, averaged by draft segment, for all the receivers chosen between 1998 and 2006, 2006 being the last year a receiver could have theoretically played six years.

Avg

Notice once again if a low pick (19 or lower) sticks long enough things even out a great deal. But nonetheless there is no getting around the facts—if you want a receiver to give you an immediate impact you generally have to take them at the very top of the draft, or spend a lot of money in free agency. Neither of these are preferred tactics for the recent Steelers organization. The other option is to get lucky.

If I was looking to get lucky I think I would take a chance on some of the guys picked as the eighth to the fifteeth receiver in a draft. You are always going to have the outliers in the lowest rounds and undrafted, like Antonio Brown or Wes Welker, but you have a good chance of getting a serviceable receiver in the eight to fifteen range, and maybe better than serviceable. Mike Wallace was the 11th pick in the 2009 draft. Hines Ward was the 14th pick in the 1998 draft. Both of them are clearly outliers—they have performed at far above their expected value.

And out of curiosity, how did the Steelers do at picking receivers during the time period we've been discussing—1998 - 2006? The Steelers made a lot more top-four picks than I would have guessed: three, in fact, Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress, and Troy Edwards. (That is three out of the 36 top four receivers during the nine-year period, or over 8%. Pittsburgh represents 3% of the league.) They also made three 2nd-tier picks, D’Wayne Bates, Antwaan Randle El, and Willie Reid. They made four 3rd-tier picks, and struck black and gold on Hines Ward, in addition to Fred Gibson, Malcolm Johnson, and Danny Farmer. Finally, there were only two end of the draft picks, both pretty much total busts: Lee Mays and Chris Taylor. Nate Washington was a UDFA who made things look much better in that category. I probably shouldn’t have included him, but the bottom line is too depressing otherwise...

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Pit_vs_nfl_2_medium

The Steelers look slightly better than the rest of the league, but given the number of high picks they should look better than this. However, things have changed for the better since 2006. Santonio Holmes had his flaws, but he was a great receiver, and the Steelers got great value out of him for three years. Since 2009 they have found three bargain-barrel receivers who make up one of the most exciting receiving corps in the league. For the moment, anyhow.

Finally, to return to the original Mike Wallace question for a moment, how have similar receivers turned out as they continued beyond the third year of their career? Quite well, in fact, although interestingly there tends to be a slight dip in production after the third season. Have a look at the final chart, I promise. It's pretty "noisy" but you get the general idea:

Another_6_yr_medium

There is good reason to believe that, barring some unfortunate occurrence, Mike Wallace should continue to produce at a high level. But the fact is, there isn't really enough data to come to a firm conclusion, because what Mike has done in his first three years is quite unusual.

The Moneyball way to deal with this? The Steelers squeeze the value out of Wallace this year and let him walk next year. I don't think that's what the Front Office is hoping to do. That may be what happens, though, because they don't have a choice. But it has been a great three years. I'm hoping there will be more.



Source: Behind the Steel Curtain

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The Pittsburgh Power Storm Back to Defeat the Orlando Predators for the Biggest Comeback in Arena Football League History, and I was There to See it

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The Pittsburgh Power knocked off the Orlando Predators, 57-54, last night before a crowd of just over 4400 at the Consol Energy Center. I was one of the 4400-plus in attendance, and I got to witness the biggest comeback in Arena Football League history, as the Power stormed back from a 31-point second half deficit to win in overtime.

You might be thinking, "Well, what does this have to do with the Steelers, Tony?" Well, first of all, Lynn Swann and Mike Logan, two former Steelers, were both there. At least there's some Steelers connection.

Also, I just broke up with my girlfriend, and I need this writing release, damn it!

Sorry, I got emotional. That's what happens at times like these. Your emotions are just all over the place. I must control them in-order to finish this post. I'll try.

I digress.

The reason why Mike Logan was there is because he's the new color analyst for the Pittsburgh Power radio broadcasts. I was in line to buy a ticket for the game, and I happened to look over to see him talking to a woman. I said to myself, "That's Mike Logan! I'm going to go get his autograph!" After I bought my ticket, I started to approach him to maybe ask for an autograph, but I couldn't decide. Before I could make up my mind, he turned toward me to walk to wherever he was going, and I almost bumped into him. At least that was something.

My ticket was in section 106, row z seat 8. It was right in front of one of the reserved areas, and as I was searching for my seat, right in front of me was Steelers Hall of Fame receiver, and hero of Super Bowl X, Lynn Swann. Why was Swanny there, you may be thinking to yourself? Well, he's part owner of the team, and he can do whatever he wants. I was instantly star-struck. I don't think I've ever been that close to a Hall of Famer. Again, I wanted to ask for an autograph or whatever, but instead, I blurted out, "Am I in the right section?" Why did I say that? I don't know. Like Lynn Swann had time to help me find my seat. That's why he pays ushers. Anyway, Swann didn't even hear me (at least I hope he didn't), because he walked away without saying a word.

I don't know why I had such trouble talking to those guys. But I'm going through a breakup, and sometimes, it's not easy approaching former Steelers when you're hurting and vulnerable.

I found my seat soon enough, but I discovered that I was sitting right in the middle of a bunch of kids and their parents. And that meant that I couldn't swear the whole game. But that was OK, because I didn't know many of the players names anyway. It also meant that I couldn't spend too much time ogling the Pittsburgh Power cheerleaders--the Sparks.

Another reason why it's alright to talk about an arena football game on BTSC is because Antonio Brown was there for some pre-game festivity, and he got a pretty loud ovation.

As for the game itself, you can find a thorough summary of the game-action right here. I would do it, but again, I don't know many of the names. That would require me to constantly reference the Pittsburgh Power game day program.

The first half was pretty boring, as the Predators jumped out to a 41-17 lead, and I almost left at halftime. Fortunately, I decided to stay, mainly because I wanted to scope out the women-folk beings that I'm newly single--I know, too soon, but you have to start sometime.

I didn't approach any lovely ladies, but I did buy a beer and decided to order some chicken fried rice. That's right, you read that correctly. They were serving Chinese food at a football game. It was great, and just like any other Chinese restaurant, they gave me huge portions.

When I was walking back to my seat with my food and drink, I didn't think there would be any way I would be able to finish all of the fried rice. Fortunately, my breakup has left me without much of an appetite, and I haven't eaten much food in recent days. Therefore, I ate my food like there was no tomorrow.

I was so busy filling my face with food and drowning my sorrows with Pabst Blue Light, I didn't look up to see any of the second half action until about halfway through the 3rd quarter. By then, Orlando had built their lead to 48-17, and I didn't think there was any way Pittsburgh could come back.

The Power's offense looked awful as it was, and besides, even if they did start to come back, it's pretty hard to keep a team from scoring in arena football. What were the odds of the Predators failing to score another touchdown the rest of the way? Well, as it turned out, the odds were pretty good, and Orlando could only must another three points in regulation.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh took advantage of a quarterback change--I don't remember the guy's name, someone called number 15 or whatever--as well as some turnovers by Orlando, and they were able to storm all the way back to tie the score with less than a minute remaining.

Orlando had a chance to win it at the end of regulation, but their kicker missed a long field goal as time expired, and the game went into overtime tied at 51.

In fairness to the Predators, they probably should have won the game in regulation. Late in the contest, a Predator defensive back picked off a pass in the end zone and had full possession with both feet down. Touchback, right? Wrong. A Power player stripped him of the football and Pittsburgh recovered for a touchdown. That didn't seem like the right call, but it's arena football. Nobody will notice.

The arena football overtime rules state that each team gets a possession. If the game is still tied after each team has a possession, sudden death rules apply, and the first team to score after that wins.

Orlando did manage to kick a field goal on their first possession to take a 54-51 lead.

However, Pittsburgh had great field position after nearly taking the kickoff the distance, and a few plays later, the Power scored a touchdown to win the game and complete the epic comeback.

I know that minutes from now, there won't be too many people who remember the biggest comeback in Arena Football League history, but I'm happy to say that I was there to see it in person. Heck, it might have been the biggest football comeback of any kind in Pittsburgh history.

Besides, maybe it's a metaphor for my situation. If the Pittsburgh Power can make the biggest comeback in Arena League history, maybe I can make the biggest comeback in break-up history and date Jennifer Aniston. Or at least one of the Pittsburgh Sparks.



Source: Behind the Steel Curtain

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