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Pittsburgh Steelers 2009 Season Preview

August 29, 2009 By: Admin Category: Uncategorized

Recently, the Cleveland Browns’ blog No Logo Needed asked blogger from all 32 NFL teams to write a season preview for their respective teams.  I was asked to write the preview for the Pittsburgh Steelers.   Here is the article that I submitted.  I hope that I made Steeler Nation proud.

Team:  Pittsburgh Steelers

Head Coach:  Mike Tomlin (3 years)

2008 regular season record: 12-4 (AFC North Champs)

Key players lost:  CB Bryant McFadden, WR Nate Washington, ILB Larry Foote, QB Byron Leftwich, S Anthony Smith.

Despite the losses, the Steelers should actually emerge as a better team than they were in 2008.  Byron Leftwich and Anthony Smith were both backups.  Bryant McFadden and Larry Foote were both splitting playing time with players of equal or greater talent.  Nate Washington was the Steelers’ #3 receiver, so he won’t be as difficult to replace as Hines Ward or Santonio Holmes would have been.

Key players acquired in free agency:  CB Keiwan Ratliff, WR Shaun McDonald, RB Stefan Logan.
As usual, the Steelers didn’t really participate in the free agent market.  Instead, they let other teams battle for the overpriced free agents, and then pick and choose from the leftovers to find potential contributors at a bargain price.

Top storylines in 2009:  Just like in 2008, and 2007, and ….oh nevermind….. the top story in 2009 is the offensive line.  The Steelers have one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL.  Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been sacked over 100 times over the past 2 years.  They may be the only team in NFL history to win the Super Bowl despite having one of the worst o-lines in the league.  Will the offensive line be able to keep Big Ben alive, or will Roethlisberger be carried off the field in a body bag?

Key strengths on offense:  Despite being a run-oriented team, the Steelers actually have some of the best passing weapons in the NFL.  Big Ben is an elite quarterback.  Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes make up a tandem of wide receivers who have both been Super Bowl MVPs.  And tight end Heath Miller is one of the best (and most under-utilized) in the NFL.

Key weaknesses on offense:  The offensive line.  Duh!

Key strengths on defense:  Ummmm, the Steelers have had the top defense in the NFL since………forever.  They have NOTHING BUT strengths.

Key weaknesses on defense:  You’re kidding, right?

Expectations for 2009:  The Steelers should be an even better team in 2009 than in 2008.  Their defense should be even better with the insertion of LB Lawrence Timmons in place of Larry Foote.  Their punting game will be better with the return of Dan Sepulveda.  The Steelers’ kickoff and punt return also looks to be heading in a better direction.  The strong just got stronger.

Prediction for 2009:  Super Bowl champs again.  In Pittsburgh, any other result is a disappointment.

So, that’s what I wrote for his blog.  Do you Steelers fans agree or disagree?

Also, I read the introduction that Don Delco, the writer for No Logo Needed wrote for my piece.  I got a laugh out of the comment that a Cleveland Browns fan yelled to the Browns’ defensive linemen at training camp about beating the Steelers.  I suggest that you go to his blog and read it.  It is definitely worth seeing how Browns fans feel about us.

Also, if you read the comments that were left about the article, one Browns fan says that Browns fans feel the same way about beating the Steelers as Ohio State fans feel about beating Michigan; even if they have a losing season, beating the Steelers makes all of the other losses acceptable (It’s too bad the Browns haven’t beaten the Steelers since the 60′s….Or maybe it just seems like it’s been that long).

Let’s show this Browns blog the power of Steeler Nation.  Let’s go over there and take over his blog the same way that Steelers fans take over opponent’s stadiums.  Let’s leave some “Here we go Steelers” comments to let them know that Steeler Nation is in the house.

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Pittsburgh Steelers training camp day #4

August 04, 2009 By: Admin Category: training camp

August 3, 2009
By Donald Starver

Today marked the fourth day of the Steelers 2009 training camp.  The crowd was blessed with great weather, and things are starting to get heated on the field.

The competition between the offense and the defense is starting to show, and several fights broke out today.  There was also some non-fight related contact that was harder than necessary.

A couple of players are starting to stand out to me.  They are:

Mike Wallace - This kid is a player.  He has caught passes along the sideline, made sliding catches, and beaten everybody deep (more than once).  Unless the sun explodes, he is going to make the team.  He may even shock the world and win the #3 receiver position.

Keenan Lewis - He has made nice plays everyday.  He always seems to be near the ball.  He has made a few interceptions, and deflected quite a few passes.

Tyler Grisham - I was the first one to write about this kid.  He probably won’t make the team, but if he keeps playing like he is, he may be kept on the practice squad.

#19 rookie WR Tyler Grisham

#19 rookie WR Tyler Grisham

David Johnson - Can’t catch very well, but he seems to be the most powerful blocker  among the tight ends.

Guys who have played poorly so far include:

Martin Nance - Drops too many passes.  He is in last place among the wide receivers.

Tony Hills - It’s hard to believe that this guy was an All-American in college.  He gets dominated far too often.  My new name for him is “Neo”.  You’ll see why later.

Joe Burnett - He is going to have to show something as a punt returner, because he keeps getting beat and dropping interceptions as a cornerback.

With that said, here are my notes from today’s practice.

-Hines Ward is in street clothes again.

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-Team is doing casual drills in their respective units.

3:20PM - Horn sounds and the whole team comes together for team stretching and running.

-Casey Hampton walks through all of the running drills.  He takes a knee and talks during the stretches.  He doesn’t even get down with the other players and pretend to be stretching.  He just sat on his knees talking to the coaches.  I think he was afraid that if he layed down to stretch, he wouldn’t be able to get back up.

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Don't work too hard, big fella.

-Big Snack is not the only one who coasts during running and stretching drills.  Big Ben also walks while the other players are running/jogging.  However, he starts before the whistle blows each time, so he always finishes first.

3:31PM - Horn blows.  Team breaks up into offense and defense.  All units split up to work on drills.

-Quarterbacks and wide receivers have been working on LOTS of short outlet passes.  I think they are going to be a much more important part of the offense this year.  They’ve worked on them everyday so far.

-Dennis Dixon and Mike Reilly both have a very nice spin on their passes.  They throw a tight spiral.

-Big Ben actually throws the wobbliest spiral of any of the quarterbacks.  It’s a good thing he has a strong arm.

-Stefan Logan had been on the PUP list, but he is out there practicing today.

-Martin Nance drops his first pass.

-Once again, I’m impressed by WR Steven Black.  He has good size and good hands.

3:52PM - Defense and offense come together again.

-Dallas Baker beats William Gay for a nice reception across the middle.

-Mike Wallace beats Ike Taylor for a 20 yard reception and the crowd cheers.

-Tyler Grisham beats Ryan Mundy for a catch along the sideline.

-Shaun McDonald beats Ike Taylor across the middle, and Taylor pushes him to the ground HARD.  I don’t think Taylor liked getting beat.

-Mike Wallace beats Roy Lewis and Joe Burnett for a long pass.  He has 4 steps on both of them, and he would have had more if the ball hadn’t been under-thrown.

-Mike Reilly over-throws Limas Sweed on a long pass.  Limas could have had it, but he didn’t even put his hands up.

-Another wide open catch by Mike Wallace.  Is he THAT fast, or are the DBs that slow?

-Limas Sweed catches a pass from Big Ben and the crowd breathes a sigh of relief.

4:02 PM - Horn blows and offense & defense meet at the 20 yard line.

-1st team offense and 1st team defense take the field.

-Limas Sweed catches first pass.  A short out pass outlet pass from Big Ben.

-Dezmond Sherrod dives for a pass but drops it.

-Big Ben throws a pass that is almost intercepted by Anthony Madison.  The WR must have run the wrong route, because there was no WR in the area.

-Charlie Batch takes over and completes first pass to Martin Nance.

-Brandon Williams catches a short pass, but then puts a nice spin move on Joe Burnett that gains him an extra 10 yards.

-Keenan Lewis deflects a pass along the sidelines.

-Mike Wallace makes a nice sliding catch.

-Ryan Clark intercepts Charlie Batch’s pass across the middle.

-The Horn blows.

-Keiwan Ratliff, Joe Burnett, Shaun McDonald, Stefan Logan, Mewelde Moore and Santonio Holmes field punts.

-Isaac Redman wrestles Lawrence Timmons to the ground in a blocking drill.

-Andrew Schantz gets beat badly on a special teams blocking drill and gets yelled at by coaches.

-Tyler Grisham delivers a hard blow on Roy Lewis in a blocking drill.  Lewis meets him after the play and pats him on the butt.

-4:25 PM - 1st team offense and defense take the field again.

-James Farrior is in Ben Roethlisberger‘s face in a nanosecond.  If this were full contact, it would have been a sack.

-Willie Parker beats Lawrence Timmons on an out pattern and actually catches the ball.  The crowd goes wild.  (Note to those of you who are unaware: Willie Parker can’t catch).

-Rashard Mendenhall breaks a long run and the crowd cheers.

-Rookie safety Derrick Richardson dives to break up a pass to Martin Nance.  The crowd cheers.

-Dennis Dixon goes right back to Nance for a completion.

-Martin Nance drops a short pass from Dixon.

4:33 PM -  Horn blows.  Field goal team practices hurry-up drills.

-Jeff Reed boots a 48 yard field goal in 8-second drill.

-Reed boots a 56 yard field goal right throught the uprights.

4:40 PM - Offense and defense take the field again.

-Ben completes passes to Sweed, Holmes, and Mendenhall.

-Dallas Baker misses a long sideline pass from Roethlisberger.

-Joe Burnett makes a beautiful juggling interception off of Roethlisberger.  I believe that is Burnett’s first interception of training camp.

-Shaun McDonald beats Joe Burnett for a short reception.

-Chris Hoke has Tony Hills bent back so far in a blocking drill that it looks like Hills is doing the limbo dance.  The technique is actually effective.  Hoke is so surprised to be dominating a blocker this badly that he falls down.  Coaches take Hills aside and talk to him.

Tony Hill's blocking technique.

Tony Hills' blocking technique.

Or perhaps Hills was practicing his bullet dodging technique like Neo in The Matrix.

Tony Hills dodges Chris Hoke.

Tony Hills dodges Chris Hoke.

-Tyrone Carter puts a hard hit on rookie WR Mike Wallace, but Wallace holds onto the ball and the crowd cheers.

4:51 PM - Dennis Dixon takes over.  Dixon completes first pass to Tyler Grisham.  Dixon and Grisham are becoming quite a duo.

-Mike Reilly throws 2 incomplete passes.  He is 0-2.

4:54 PM - Offense and defense take field for 11-on-11 drills.

-Charlie Batch over-throws Shaun McDonald on a long pass.

-Tony Hills gets into a fight with a defender.  I can’t see who it is.  Mr. Smith maybe?

I'll get you Tony Hills!!

I'll get you, Tony Hills!!

-Charlie Batch over-throws Brandon Williams on a long pass.

That is pretty much all that happened in camp today.  If you want to hear about a particular player, leave a comment and let me know.

If you haven’t read my recap of Day 2 click here.

If you haven’t read my recap of Day 3 click here.

See you guys tomorrow.

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Fans flock to Steelers training camp

August 02, 2009 By: Admin Category: training camp

August 1, 2009

Saturday marked the Steelers’ first open practice of the 2009 training camp.  Hoping to get a look at the Super Bowl champions, fans turned out in large numbers.

While I don’t believe the Steelers attempt to count the number of people who attend the open practices, it is safe to say that Saturday’s crowd was pretty big.  According to Chris Kimmel, supervisor of the Saint Vincent Dining Services, Saturday was the busiest day he can recall for beverage sales at the concession stands.

Michele Fulmer, Bob Fulmer, and Cindy Gallaher, drove all the way from Cleveland to attend their first Steelers training camp.  The Fulmers are die-hard Steelers fans who host Steelers parties at their home every weekend during the NFL season.  They said that lots of friends show up to root for the Steelers right there in the middle of Cleveland Browns territory.

Michele Fulmer, Cindy Gallaher, & Bob Fulmer

Michele Fulmer, Cindy Gallaher, & Bob Fulmer

Closer to home, Brian Risko brought his dad Fran Risko to training camp for a bit of father/son bonding.  Brian has been to Steelers training camp each of the past 5 years in a row.  However, his dad Fran was making his first trip to Steelers training camp.

I asked Fran what he was most looking forward to seeing when he came to training camp.  He told me that he was looking forward to seeing Big Ben.  After seeing him, Fran was even more impressed.  “I didn’t think Ben was THAT big”, said Risko.  “He’s a big boy!”

Fran Risko and Brian Risko

Fran Risko and Brian Risko

Even kids got into the action.  Six year old Olivia Poleski and her brother, 8 year old Grady Poleski, were both excited about attending their first Steelers training camp.  Based on the #86 jersey that Olivia was wearing, I assume she is a Hines Ward fan.  Good choice, Olivia.

Olivia and Grady Poleski

Olivia and Grady Poleski

But Olivia and Grady weren’t the youngest Steelers fans at training camp.  There were plenty of fans even younger than them at practice on Saturday.

The Steelers organization does an excellent job of making sure there are plenty of fun activities for the kids to take advantage of.

I think I heard this young Steelers fan yell “here we go Steelers” a few time.  I don’t know who his parents are, but they are definitely winners in my book.  Seeing budding Steelers fans like this just brings a tear to my eyes.

"Here we go Steelers, here we go!"

"Here we go Steelers, here we go!"

If you’ve never been to Steelers training camp, you should make a point to change that this year.  It’s a great outing for the whole family, and it’s probably your best opportunity to get an autograph from your favorite Steelers player.

If you haven’t read our other Day 2 coverage, be sure to read the following articles:

Notes from Steelers training camp: Day 2

Steelers training camp Day 2 photo gallery

Today’s Featured Item:  Steelers Logo Wire Earrings

Buy the best Steelers gear right here at Steelers Today.  Check out these great Steelers earrings.  Look feminine and beautiful while also supporting the Steelers.  Click below to purchase.


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Steelers Training Camp Day 2 Photo Gallery

August 02, 2009 By: Admin Category: training camp

August 1, 2009

Today marked the second day of Steelers 2009 training camp, and the first practice that was open to the public.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a bunch of pictures must be worth billions of words.   Rather than try to write billions of words, Steelers Today presents the Steelers’ practice in pictures.  Enjoy.

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If you haven’t read our other Day 2 coverage, be sure to read the following articles:

Notes from Steelers training camp: Day 2

Fans flock to Steelers training camp

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Steelers Training Camp Preview: Quarterback

July 31, 2009 By: Admin Category: Draft/Free Agency, Players

July 31, 2009
By Donald Starver

This is Part 5 in a series.  If you haven’t read the previous installments, please click below:

Part 1:  Defensive linemen

Part 2:  Linebackers

Part 3:  Safeties

Part 4: Cornerbacks

Now That we’ve finished discussing the defense, it’s time to turn our attenti0n to the offense.  The first position that we are going to preview is quarterback.

Most Steelers fans are aware that the team always carries 3 quarterbacks on the roster.  2009 will be no different.

Let’s look at the quarterbacks who will battle to make the Steelers’ 2009 roster.

Ben Roethlisberger - In his first 5 years in the NFL, Ben Roethlisberger has quarterbacked the Steelers to 2 Super Bowl championships.  That means he has delivered championships 40% of the time.  If he continues at that pace, and has a 10-15 year career, is is guaranteed to be make the NFL Hall of Fame.  Moreover, he will surpass Terry Bradshaw as the greatest Steelers quarterback of all time.

The Steelers acknowledged Big Ben’s potential in 2008 when they signed him to an 8-year extension that will pay him $102 billion (or was that $102 million?  I’m not sure, but I know it was a lot).

Big Ben has now entered the rarefied air previously reserved for Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.  He is an elite franchise quarterback that teams have to game plan for.  Moreover, in 2008 he was the single highest paid player in the NFL.


Big Ben is going to be the Steelers’ starting quarterback for a long time, provided he stays healthy (and his health is not a given, considering how often he gets sacked).  Is there really any question whether Ben will make the roster and be the starter in 2009?  I thought not.

Andrea McNulty is far more likely to knock Ben out of his starting job than Charlie Batch or Dennis Dixon are.

Charlie Batch - The Steelers have enjoyed having the dependable Batch waiting in the wings for a long time now.  Batch is an experienced, dependable veteran who is not likely to lose the game for the team if called upon to play.

Perhaps Batch’s most important characteristic is his apparent comfort with the idea of being a back-up.  This characteristic is what was missing in Byron Leftwich, and is the reason why Leftwich is not with the Steelers today.  Leftwich saw himself as a starter.  He was never going to be comfortable with being relegated to a backup role.  Charlie Batch has no such problem.

Eagles Steelers Football

Both fans and coaches are extremely comfortable with Charlie Batch.  That is why most fans have already penciled Batch in as the #2 quarterback in 2009.  I am not so quick to anoint Batch to the #2 spot.  While Batch is admittedly competent and dependable, he has a few glaring flaws.

  1. Batch will be 35 years old this season.  His best days are clearly behind him.
  2. Batch has a career QB rating of only 77.9.  While he probably won’t lose many games for the Steelers, he also can’t be expected to carry the team on his back and win many games either.
  3. Batch has a history of injuries.  This was most recently evident in 2008 when he missed most of the season with a shoulder injury.

Rather than hand the #2 quarterback role to Batch, I’d much rather see another player win the spot in training camp.  That player is……..

Dennis Dixon -  Prior to injuring his ACL during his last year in college, Dennis Dixon was leading Oregon to a potential national championship.  Moreover, he was the front-runner for the Heisman trophy.  The kid was a star, and NFL scouts were drooling over him.

I read many of the Steelers websites and forums, and there is a piece of false information that I find repeated over and over again.  Many fans say that “Dennis Dixon is just an athlete who would rather run than throw the ball.  He is just another Michael Vick or Vince Young”.  Sure, all three are black quarterbacks, and all three are athletic, but the comparisons end there.

Dennis Dixon was an accomplished quarterback at Oregon.  He has a powerful arm, and can make all of the throws.  In fact, prior to his injury, he was viewed as a better prospect than last years’ NFL freshmen sensations Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco.

All three quarterbacks came out of college the same year.  That year, Dennis Dixon had a QB rating of 161.19.  Joe Flacco’s QB rating was 144.91, and Matt Ryan’s was 127.04.  Advantage: Dixon.

Dennis Dixon’s pass completion percentage was 67.7%.  Joe Flacco’s was 63.5%, and Matt Ryan’s was 59.3%.  Advantage: Dixon.

Dennis Dixon threw 4 interceptions.  Joe Flacco threw 5, and Matt Ryan threw a whopping 19.  Advantage: Dixon.

Most impressive of all, Dixon averaged 8.4 yards per pass.  Joe Flacco averaged 8.2, and Matt Ryan averaged 6.9.  So not only was Dixon a more accurate passer than Flacco or Ryan, but he also tended to make longer passes than them.   Advantage:  Dixon.

Eagles Steelers Football

Both Flacco and Ryan did very well in their first year in the NFL.  So why are Steelers fans so concerned that Dixon is only going to be useful as a wildcat quarterback?  Moreover, why have some Steelers fans called for Dixon to be placed in a “slash” role and to only be used for gimmick plays?  I’ve even heard Steelers fans suggest that Dixon be converted to a wide receiver.  Dixon has never played receiver.  Why try to turn him into one?

I don’t want to offend any readers, but many of the comments that I have read about Dixon verge on being racist stereotypes.

Dennis Dixon is NOT an athlete pretending to be a quarterback.  He is an accomplished quarterback who needs to learn the Steelers playbook so he can show fans and coaches just what he is capable of doing.

Dennis Dixon is younger than Charlie Batch, taller than Charlie Batch, faster than Charlie Batch, and he has a stronger arm than Charlie Batch.  If he can master the playbook, I believe he will emerge from Steelers training camp as the #2 quarterback.

Mike Reilly - After redshirting his freshman year at Washington State, Reilly transferred to Central Washington.  He ended his career at Central Washington as the third leading passer in Division II history with 12,448 passing yards.

Reilly impressed scouts with his confidence at the NFL Scouting Combine, but many were turned off by the lack of arm strength that he displayed at the East-West Shrine Game.

Reilly is a gutsy player who has to be commended for making it to an NFL training camp from a Division II school.  However, making the roster of the reigning NFL champions may be too much to ask of him.

If he plays reasonably well in camp, Reilly is likely to be placed on the practice squad.

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