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Archive for August, 2011

Steelers win, but lose Leftwich

August 28, 2011 By: Admin Category: Post-Game Reports

There’s a line in the movie “White Men Can’t Jump” that says “Sometimes when you win, you really lose”.  Well, that’s what happened to the Steelers last night.  They won the preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons by a score of 34-16, but they lost backup quarterback Byron Leftwich for the season.

Leftwich had been scheduled to be the #2 quarterback on the Steelers’ roster this year.  He was having a good preseason, and the only question the Steelers had at quarterback was whether Dennis Dixon or Charlie Batch would win the #3 quarterback position.  But that question became moot when Leftwich broke his arm when he fell awkwardly on it last night.

Byron Leftwich injures arm.

Despite the loss of Leftwich, the Steelers turned in a very good performance last night.

The sign outside of Heinz Field didn’t say “Welcome to the Antonio Brown Show”, but it probably should have.  Brown, a second year receiver, probably solidified his position as the Steelers’ #3 wide receiver with another solid preseason performance.  He caught 4 passes for 137 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Last season, fellow rookie receiver Emmanuel Sanders outperformed Brown, and secured the #3 receiver position, while Brown was relegated to being the #4 receiver.   But Sanders has been out of action this preseason nursing a foot injury, and Brown has taken full advantage of Sander’s injury.

Several other Steelers turned in solid performances in last night’s game as well.  Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had another outstanding performance.  He completed 11 of 16 passes for 214 yards and 2 touchdowns.  He also finished with a QB rating of 151.0.

Cornerback Crezdon Butler also had a solid game.  He came into the game after Keenan Lewis left with a knee injury.  Butler took advantage of the opportunity when he intercepted a Falcons pass and returned it 95 yards for a touchdown.  Butler also had 2 passes defensed, and was the Steelers’ leading tackler in the game with 9 tackles.

Linebacker Lawrence Timmons showed why the Steelers signed him to a new contract.  He intercepted a pass and returned it 44 yards.  He almost scored on the play, but he was caught from behind just short of the goal line.

Despite the win, the Steelers still have a few areas of concern.  The Falcons attempted to take advantage of the Steelers’ cornerbacks, just like teams did last season.  Matt Ryan attempted 42 passes, and passed for 220 yards and 1 touchdown in just 2 quarters of play.  He would have had a second TD, but one of his receivers dropped a pass in the endzone.  Starting cornerbacks William Gay and Keenan Lewis didn’t look particularly impressive as Ryan picked them apart.

The Steelers’ offensive line also has room for improvement.  They allowed Big Ben to be sacked twice, and they didn’t dominate the line of scrimmage.

But overall, the Steelers have to be happy with their performance.  They came away with a win over a very good Falcons team that had a 13-3 record last season.

Despite the loss of Leftwich, the Steelers look good heading into their final preseason game.

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Steelers extend Timmons

August 23, 2011 By: Admin Category: Draft/Free Agency, Players

The Pittsburgh Steelers have two important players who will become free agents at the end of this season; Troy Polamalu and Lawrence Timmons.  After signing Willie Colon, Ike Taylor, and LaMarr Woodley, the Steelers didn’t have enough money left to sign both of them.  I thought it was obvious which of them the Steelers should sign, and it looks like the Steelers agreed with me.

The Steelers chose to sign Lawrence Timmons to a new six-year, $50 million contract.

Don’t get me wrong.  Troy is a crucial part in the Steelers’ defensive machine.  He’s the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year.  He can do things that few other players in the NFL can do.  But despite that, signing Timmons was more important.

Troy Polamalu is the past, and the present.  Lawrence Timmons is the future.

We all know that despite Polamalu’s amazing talent, he has had a hard time staying healthy in recent years.  Troy is 30 years old, and his best years may be behind him.

Lawrence Timmons, on the other hand, is only 25 years old, and his best years are ahead of him.

Steelers LB Lawrence Timmons

Timmons led the Steelers in tackles in 2010 with 135.  That’s more than double Troy Polamalu’s 63 tackles.  Timmons also had more sacks, more forced fumbles, and more fumble recoveries than Polamalu.  In fact, the only key category that Polamalu led Timmons in was interceptions.  Polamalu had 7, while Timmons only had 2.

Timmons was Mike Tomlin’s first draft pick when he took over as Steelers head coach.  Tomlin took Timmons in the first round in 2007.  The San Francisco 49er’s Patrick Willis was the only linebacker taken ahead of Timmons that year.

Timmons didn’t break into the Steelers’ starting lineup until his 3rd season, and many fans were disappointed by that.  But since being moved to the inside and becoming a starter, Timmons has been an unheralded star.

Timmons is the fastest of the Steelers’ linebackers.  Moreover, if you ask the team, they’ll tell you that Timmons is the hardest hitting.  That’s high praise when you consider that the Steelers include James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley among their linebackers.

As an inside linebacker, Timmons doesn’t accumulate as many sacks as his outside counterparts Harrison and Woodley.  And in the world of linebackers, sacks are the sexy statistic.  It’s the statistic that everyone talks about.  But Timmons had almost 3 times as many tackles as Woodley.  That’s critical to the team’s success, even if it’s not sexy.

With his new contract, Timmons is now locked up through the 2016 season.  That’s good for Timmons, and good for the Steelers.

Congratulations, Lawrence.  You’ve earned the new contract.

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Steelers defeat Philly “Dream Team”

August 19, 2011 By: Admin Category: Post-Game Reports, training camp

During the off-season, the Philadelphia Eagles made some high profile free agent signings.  Nnamabamdi Asomuga (or however you spell the all-world cornerback’s name), Vince Young, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and Jason Babin were added to an Eagles team that had already won the NFC East a year ago.  This prompted Vince Young to label them as a “Dream Team”.

Unfortunately, the dream turned into a nightmare when the Eagles rode into Heinz Field last night.

The Steelers defeated the Eagles 24-14 in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score would indicate.  The Steelers led the Eagles 24-0 before the Eagles scored two late touchdowns on the Steelers’ 5th string players who have absolutely no chance of actually making the roster.

Steelers starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger looked sharp as he passed for 125 yards and two touchdowns during limited action.

When Roethlisberger went to the bench, Byron Leftwich came in and threw for another touchdown, hitting the newly acquired Jericho Cotchery for a touchdown.

Not wanting to be left out of the fun, Dennis Dixon came into the game and threw for another 90 yards, but was unable to get the ball into the endzone.

The 3 Steelers quarterbacks made the Eagles’ backfield look like a bunch of high school players.  Asante Samuel, Nnababmi Ashugmo (you know who I mean), and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie were supposed to be the best cornerback combo in the NFL, but I guess the Steelers destroyed that fantasy.

Not only did the Steelers pass all over the Eagles’ defense, but they also ran right through them.  The Steelers rushed for 144 yards, led by overweight and out-of-shape running back Jonathan Dwyer, who ran (rolled?) for 44 yards.

Despite the impressive offensive output, it was the Steelers’ defense that was the real star of the game.  The Steelers held the Eagles to under 100 rushing yards while intercepting the Eagles’ passers 4 times.

Ryan Clark, Troy Polamalu, Larry Foote, and Keenan Lewis (yeah, I can’t believe it either) all intercepted passes in the Steelers victory.

It’s too early to get excited about what we’re seeing from the Steelers.  However, it was great to see a good outing by the team following the terrible showing they had against the Washington Redskins.

As for the Eagles, well they still need a bit more work before they can live up to their “Dream Team” billing.  If you don’t believe me, just ask Nnabdi Ashkomghmo.

Steelers training camp update

August 06, 2011 By: Admin Category: Draft/Free Agency, training camp

I haven’t been writing as much as I usually do during Steelers Training Camp because for the first time in 4 years, I am not at training camp.  Ordinarily, I would be at St. Vincent College giving daily updates on who looks good and who looks bad.  But with the uncertainty due to the lockout, I didn’t make plans to attend training camp this year.

I will be at Training Camp next week, so I’ll be providing more detailed updates then.  But in the meantime, it’s time to update what’s happened so far, and provide my thoughts on each move.

Key Signings

The two biggest signings that the Steelers have made have been Ike Taylor and LaMarr Woodley.

Signing Ike was absolutely necessary.  We all saw what happened in Super Bowl XLV.  Aaron Rodgers picked the Steelers’ secondary apart.  And Rodgers wasn’t the first quarterback to do it.  The Steelers’ cornerbacks got picked on all year.  Bryant McFadden was a liability, and opposing quarterbacks knew that.  William Gay wasn’t much better.  Ike Taylor was really the only dependable cornerback the Steelers had.  So had the Steelers let him get away, Bryant McFadden and William Gay would have been at the top of the Steelers’ cornerback depth chart.  If that duo had been the starters, the Steelers probably would have lost most of their games by 40 points, and opposing quarterbacks would have averaged 400 yards passing per game.

Surprisingly, the response on our Facebook page to the Ike Taylor signing was overwhelmingly negative.  Fans didn’t seem to be happy to have Ike back.  Frankly, I don’t understand that reaction.  Ike has been our best cornerback for years, and he’ll likely be the best this year.  Without him, the Steelers would have been in trouble.

LaMarr Woodley’s signing was a no-brainer.  “Wood” outplayed his rookie contract.  He has been one of the  best bargains in the NFL since he became a starter.  He’s had double digit sacks for each of the last 3 years.  Woodley and James Harrison make up the best linebacker duo in the NFL.  So I had no doubt that Woodley was going to be signed to a long-term contract.

Other signings

Aside from the two key defensive signings, the Steelers also made several other signings.

Willie Colon was signed.  The Steelers have often said that Willie Colon was their best offensive lineman (prior to the addition of Maurkice Pouncey).  I’ve never agreed with that.  Colon has been too prone to mental errors in my opinion.  Frankly, I thought that Flozell Adams played just as well as Willie Colon while Colon was out with his injury.

Chris Hoke was also resigned to a 1-year deal.  Hoke has quietly been a very dependable back-up nose tackle for years now.  I’m glad that Hoke is back, but I hope to see the young undrafted nose tackle that the Steelers have in camp give Hoke some competition.  In fact, the Steelers need to get younger, so I hope he wins the position from Hoke.

Mewelde Moore was also signed.  Like Hoke, I hope Moore loses his job.  Baron Batch has been making some noise in training camp, and it would be great to see the young guy beat out the veteran.

Dennis Dixon also signed after announcing that he wanted to be traded.  Bad move.  Dennis is going to have to have a great camp.  He isn’t good enough to endure being in Mike Tomlin’s doghouse.

I was surprised to see the Steelers sign Dan Sepulveda to a new deal.  Sepulveda has been injury prone, and I didn’t think the Steelers would give him another chance.  However, when Sepulveda is healthy, he is a very accurate punter.  He can get it inside the 10 yard line almost any time he wants to.

Notable departures

I was surprised to see the Steelers release tackles Flozell Adams and Max Starks.  That’s a lot of beef.

Starks was said to be out of shape, and Adams refused to accept a smaller contract, so he was released for salary cap reasons.  Rumor has it that the Steelers would like to bring Adams back if he’ll accept a reduced contract.

Players on the hot seat

There are a few guys who find themselves on the hot seat at training camp.  No, I’m not talking about William Gay and Bryant McFadden.  Despite their shortcomings, both of their positions are probably secure.

Several players need to make an impact in training camp, or their time with the Steelers may be up.  The first is Limas Sweed.  Sweed is supposed to be healthy and in a good state mentally.  He’d better show something, or his days are numbered.

Tony Hills is also in a make-or-break situation.  How often do you hear Hills’ name mentioned?  That’s a problem for a guy who has been on the team for as long as Hills has.  The Steelers have some young offensive linemen who are likely to supplant Hills on the depth chart.

Sunny Harris is the defensive version of Tony Hills.  Need I say more?

Sadly, I also have to add Keenan Lewis to this list.  I love Lewis’ size and athleticism, but he just hasn’t been able to put it all together.  We’ve already talked about how badly Gay and McFadden have played at times.  Yet, Lewis hasn’t beaten either of them out for playing time.  That’ a problem.

Even though this is only his second year, Jonathan Dwyer is also on the hot seat.  Dwyer came into camp fat and out of shape.  I’ve heard that he looks like his off-season workout consisted of eating donuts and drinking beer.  Moreover, I’ve heard that he doesn’t look like he’s giving a solid effort in camp.  I liked what Dwyer showed in preseason last year, but there’s no excuse for being out of shape.  Unless something changes, Dwyer’s days are likely numbered.

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