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Steelers dominate Bills

August 30, 2009 By: Admin Category: Post-Game Reports

August 30, 2009
By Donald Starver

Typically, the third preseason game of each season is the final tune-up for most of the Steelers’ starters.  The 4th and final preseason game is reserved for the players still struggling to make the 53-man roster.  They will be given the majority of the playing time in order to try to convince the Steelers’ coaches that they deserve to be on the team. Thus, the Steelers hoped to see a solid performance from all components of their starting team last night, and that is exactly what they got.

The Steelers dominated the Buffalo Bills in all phases of the game. They got scores from the offense, the defense, and the kicking game.

The offense looked crisp and efficient. Big Ben showed no signs of his recent ankle injury, as he completed 15 of 19 passes for 168 yards in two quarters of play.

In particular, Roethlisberger and Hines Ward looked to be in mid-season form. Big Ben connected with Ward 5 times for 74 yards. Roethlisberger also connected with Limas Sweed 4 times for 34 yards.

With Willie Parker out for the game with a slight hamstring injury, Rashard Mendenhall got the starting nod. Mendenhall answered the call by rushing for 48 yards and a touchdown. This was probably Mendenhall’s most impressive outing since joining the Steelers, despite the fact that he did lose a fumble.

On defense, the Steelers completely stifled the Bills’ offensive attack. They allowed only 135 total yard of offense, and kept the Bills off the scoreboard.

In the first half, when the Steelers’ starting defense was in the game, the domination was especially pronounced. The first unit allowed only 3 first downs and 50 yards of offense.

The defense also got into the endzone when linebacker James Farrior intercepted a Bills’ pass and ran it back for a touchdown. Farrior played like the Pro Bowl player that he is. He led the team in tackles with 4, he got a sack, forced a fumble, defensed 2 passes, and returned an interception for a touchdown.

The Steelers dominated time of possession holding the ball for an astounding 41:15, compared to only 18:45 for the Bills.

Even the kicking game joined the party.  Kicker Piotr Czech, who started for Jeff Reed who is nursing a minor injury, added 5 points.  He made both of his extra point attempts and added a 34 yard field goal for good measures.

Even the special teams players looked impressive.  Keyaron Fox played like a man possessed.  He excelled on both special teams and as a backup linebacker.  Stefan Logans had another nice night returning punts.  He averaged 15.8 yards on 4 returns.  He returned his longest one 27 yards.  And Mike Wallace averaged 24 yards on kickoff returns.


James Farrior - If I didn’t know better, I would have sworn that Farrior was wearing a red cape last night.  He certainly played like Superman.

Ben Roethlisberger - Forget any thoughts about his injury being a problem.

Limas Sweed - Played with confidence and made some big catches.

Rashard Mendenhall - Lost a fumble, but still had a good night.

Keyaron Fox - Fox played like he is not satisfied to only be a special teams player.

Joe Burnett - He seems to have already lost the punt returner battle to Stefan Logans.  However, the Steelers’ coaches must have noticed Burnett’s block of a Bills’ field goal attempt.


Bruce Davis - Davis has done little to show that he deserves to be on the team.  He didn’t make his presence known on special teams or as a backup linebacker.  The Steelers are always slow to release high draft picks, but Donovan Woods, Patrick Bailey, Arnold Harrison, and Andre Frazier all seem to want this more than Davis.

Frank “the tank” Summers - It’s probably not fair to call Summers a dud.  After all, he didn’t even play last night.  However, Isaac Redman did play, and he played well.  As unfair as it may sound, Summers may lose his competition with Redman simply by not being in the fight.


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Steelers Training Camp Preview: Linebackers

July 26, 2009 By: Admin Category: Draft/Free Agency, Players

July 25, 2009
By Donald Starver

This is part 2 in a series.  In part 1 of our Pittsburgh Steelers 2009 Training Camp Preview, we took a look at the defensive line.  We looked at all of the defensive linemen who will be in camp, and gave our picks of who would make the final roster.

In this installment, we are going to take a look at one of the most important positions in Dick LeBeau’s 3-4 defense; the linebackers.

This may be a blasphemous thing to say, but the Steelers’ 2008 linebackers may have been the best in team history.  My apologies to Jack Ham, Jack Lambert, Andy Russell, Greg Lloyd, Kevin Greene, Levon Kirkland, Mike Merriweather, Jason Gildon, and Joey Porter.  They were all great in their time with the Steelers.  But in what they did both collectively and individually, the 2008 linebackers reigns supreme.

As good as the 2008 linebackers were, the 2009 version may be even better.  Larry Foote is gone, and his starting position will be filled by the younger, faster Lawrence Timmons.  Pro Bowler James Farrior remains ageless,  Lamar Woodley is an emerging superstar, and James Harrison is NFL Defensive Player of the Year.  Did I mention that these guys are pretty good?

So, how do you improve upon perfection?  The answer is, “you don’t”.  As the saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.  That’s pretty much the approach that the Steelers took this off-season.  They didn’t draft any linebackers this year, and they only signed 2 undrafted free agent linebackers.  They’re pretty much going with the same guys they had last year.  Probably not a bad strategy.

In the two years that Mike Tomlin has been coach of the Steelers, he has always carried 9 linebackers on the roster.  Therefore, it is pretty likely that he is going to come out of training camp with 9 linebackers.  Let’s see if we can figure out who they’re going to be.

James Harrison - What more can we say about James Harrison?  101 tackles.  16 sacks.  NFL Defensive Player of the Year.  Could have easily been MVP of the Super Bowl after his 100 yard interception return.  I don’t think anyone is taking his job.  Do you?


LaMarr Woodley - In his second season in the NFL, and his first as a starter, LaMarr Woodley blossomed into an emerging star.  Not many first-time starters get 11.5 sacks.  But that is exactly what LaMarr Woodley did.  Yeah, I think his job is safe too.

James Farrior - Another Pro Bowl season for the ageless wonder.  Aside from being the defensive captain, he had an amazing 133 tackles.  Other players get older.  Farrior gets better.  I think it’s safe to say that he is going to make the team.

Lawrence Timmons - It isn’t very often that a substitute player records more tackles and more sacks than the starter that he is substituting for.    But that’s exactly what Lawrence Timmons did last year.  He recorded 65 tackles versus Larry Foote’s 63, and 5 sacks versus 1.5 for Foote.  Timmons should record even better numbers as a starter.  Yup, his roster spot is safe too.


Keyaron Fox - Fox was a special teams ace last season.  With Mike Tomlin’s emphasis on special teams, that is enough to assure Fox’s roster spot.  But with Lawrence Timmons becoming a starter, Fox will also emerge as the top substitute at inside linebacker.

Patrick Bailey - Another special teams ace, Bailey beat out Rashard Mendenhall, Bruce Davis, Limas Sweed, Tony Hills, and the rest of the 2008 rookies for Rookie of the Year honors.  That accomplishment alone should secure his roster spot.

Bruce Davis - I was a big fan of Bruce Davis when he came out of UCLA.  Unfortunately, he was slow making the transition from defensive end to linebacker.  Moreover, he didn’t show a passion for special teams, and made almost no impact there either.  He is a big, strong kid who really is very good at getting to the passer.  If he can show the Steelers’ coaches the player that I saw in college, he could emerge as the top back-up at outside linebacker.  I think his roster spot is safe.

Andre Frazier - The biggest of the Steelers inside linebackers, he has yet to truly distinguish himself as a playmaker.  He should be able to hold onto his roster spot, because other players are a bit more vulnerable.  However, it would be great to see Frazier make his presence known this season.

Arnold Harrison - After injuring his ACL, Harrison ended the season on injured reserve.  It is unclear how well his recovery from ACL surgery will go.  He is probably the most vulnerable of last year’s linebackers due to the injury.  Additionally, he is primarily an outside linebacker where he will have lots of competition.  I don’t expect Harrison to make the team.

Donovan Woods - The second year player was activated a few times last year due to injury.  But for the most part, we got to see very little of him.  He will be helped by the fact that he is primarily an inside linebacker, where there is less competition.

Tom Korte - The odds of a 5’11″ linebacker from tiny Hillsdale college making the roster of the reigning world champions are infinitesimal.  Sure, James Harrison is essentially the same height as Korte, but Harrison is from the planet Krypton.  Keep as many training camp souvenirs as you can Tom.  Otherwise your friends will never believe that, for a brief time, you were a Pittsburgh Steeler.

Andrew Schantz - I have never seen the rookie from Portland State play.  However, Portland State is a quality program that has placed a linebacker in the NFL each of the past 2 years.  Schantz was the MVP of the Portland State squad, as well as second team All-Big Sky Conference.  If he plays well in camp, particularly on special teams, Schantz could battle  Donovan Woods, and Arnold Harrison for the final roster spot among the linebackers.

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The 3-4 and the Steelers’ draft (part 4)

March 31, 2009 By: Admin Category: Draft/Free Agency

March 31, 2009
By Donald Starver

Note:  This is part 4 in a series.  If you haven’t already read the previous chapters, please click the appropriate link below:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

In part 3 of our series on the 3-4 defense and how it affects the Steelers’ draft, we talked about the defensive end.  Now it’s time to break down the glamor position on any 3-4 defense; the linebackers.

The 4 in the title “3-4 defense” represents the fact that there are 4 linebackers in a 3-4.  Unlike the 4-3, where there are two outside linebackers (the Sam and the Will linebackers) and a middle linebacker (the Mike linebacker), in the 3-4 defense, there are two outside linebackers and two inside linebackers.  In the Steelers’ case, LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison are the outside linebackers, while James Farrior and Lawrence Timmons are the inside linebackers (notice how I subtly promoted Lawrence Timmons to starter).

While pressure in a 4-3 defense come from the four down linemen, in a 3-4 defense, the pressure comes from the linebackers.  At least one of the outside linebackers will be rushing the quarterback on almost every play.  Unlike the down linemen, the OLB’s rush from a 2 point stance, so they’re standing up.  The outside linebackers will almost always lead a 3-4 team in quarterback sacks.

The linebacker is probably the most flexible position on the field, and can be used in a myriad of ways.  Linebackers may blitz, they may stay in their area and protect a zone, or they may drop into coverage and guard a tight end or even a running back going out for a pass.

Because of the wide variety of things that linebackers are asked to do, linebackers come in many sizes.  Typically, linebackers will range from 225 pounds to 270 pounds, depending on their specialty.  However, former Steelers linebacker Levon Kirkland often played at a weight of nearly 300 lbs.  Moreover, Kirkland was surprisingly fast and was reasonably good at dropping into coverage.

The two inside linebackers typically weigh around 240 lbs., and are expected to be quite athletic.  They must be able to chase down extremely fast running backs who penetrate the defensive line.

The two outside linebackers will typically be bigger than the two inside linebackers, since they have to face massive offensive tackles on a regular basis.  Outside linebackers in a 3-4 will generally weigh between 255 - 270 pounds and be quite fast.  Many 3-4 linebackers were actually defensive ends in college.  However, they may have been either too small to play DE in the NFL, or they may be able to play both DE or OLB depending on which type of defense their team runs.  The Steelers’ LaMarr Woodley was a defensive end at Michigan.

The Steelers don’t have a grave need at linebacker.  In addition to last year’s starters, Lawrence Timmons is poised to break into the starting lineup, Arnold Harrison was re-signed, Keyaron Fox is a solid backup, and Bruce Davis will have a year of experience under his belt.  However, you can never have too many linebackers in a 3-4 defense.  I won’t be surprised if the Steelers select at least one linebacker in this draft.

This year’s draft class is loaded with talented linebackers and “tweener” defensive ends who will be moved to OLB in a 3-4 system.

The top two inside linebackers in this year’s draft are Rey Maualuga of USC and James Laurinaitis of Ohio State.

Rey Maualuga is 6’2″ and weighs 254 pounds.  He is strong and extremely physical.  He can deliver punishing blows at the point of attack.  His best position will be the “Mike” in a 4-3 defense.

James Laurinaitis is a 6’2″ 240 linebacker from Ohio State.  He is a 3 time All-American, a very intelligent player, and some consider him to be the safest pick of this year’s linebackers. 

The best of the outside linebackers include Aaron Curry, Brian Cushing, Clint Sintim, and Clay Matthews.

Aaron Curry (6’2″, 246 lbs.) is viewed by many as the elite linebacker in this draft.  He has a rare combination of size, strength, and speed.  He is equally good dropping into coverage as he is in run support.  He is the most versatile linebacker in the draft, and will probably be the first linebacker selected.

Brian Cushing (6’3″, 243 lbs.) played DE, OLB and MLB in college.  Probably best suited to play strong side linebacker.  A sure top 20 pick.

Clint Sintim (6’3″, 249 lbs) is a strong, fast pass rusher.  He is a bit stiff, and struggles in coverage.  He was once thought of as a potential first round selection, but poor performances in Senior Bowl practices and a sub-par pro day have dropped him to the second or third round.  He probably won’t excel in a 4-3, but he would be a good pick as a rush linebacker in a 3-4.

Clay Matthews (6’3″, 246) is the third USC linebacker who might get selected in the first round.  Matthews played both LB and DE at USC.  He lacks the size to play DE at the next level, and will move exclusively to LB.  His size and skill set probably makes him best suited to play ILB in a 3-4 system.

In part 3 of our series, we outlined several college defensive ends who could potentially make the change to OLB in the NFL.  Here are two additional college defensive ends who will probably be best suited to play OLB at the next level.

Aaron Maybin (6’4″, 248 lbs.) is a unique player.    He is very experienced at dropping into zone coverage.  He is tall and has a tremendous burst as a pass rusher or in chasing down ball carriers.  However, Maybin is lacking in the strength department.  He has no bull rush, and struggles to disengage from blockers.  This probably eliminates him from consideration as a 4-3 DE.  His best option is as a 3-4 OLB.  However, he will need to spend lots of time with the strength coach at the next level.

Larry English (6’2″, 254 lbs.) played defensive end at Norther Illinois.  However, he lacks the bulk to play that position at the next level.  He has no experience dropping into coverage, so teams will be evaluating his potential to do so.  However, his overall speed and athleticism appears to translate well to the 3-4 OLB position.

 Because of the large number of linebacker candidates available in this draft, several quality linebackers will be available when the Steelers draft at #32, and a few may even be available at #64.  However, since LB is not a glaring need for the Steelers, they are much more likely to pick up a LB later in the draft.

To read the other installments in this series, click below:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

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Steelers vs. Redskins Quiz

November 05, 2008 By: Admin Category: Post-Game Reports

Note:  Before taking this quiz, you may want to read our Steelers-Redskins Review found here.

Okay, we know that you watched the game, but now it’s time to find out if you REALLY watched the game. Here is this week’s post-game quiz. Good luck.

1. Who recovered Andre Frazier’s blocked punt?

A. Deshea Townsend

B. Lawrence Timmons

C. Mewelde Moore

D. William Gay

2. What is backup quarterback Byron Leftwich’s jersey number?

A. 4

B. 8

C. 12

D. 13

3. What was Ben Roethlisberger’s passer rating for the game?

A. -57.0

B. 15.1

C. 49.7

D. 78.3

4. Who was the primary punt returner for the Steelers?

A. Najeh Davenport

B. Mewelde Moore

C. Hines Ward

D. Santonio Holmes

5. Attempting an on-side kick on the opening kickoff was:

A. Stupid

B. Very stupid

C. Immeasurably stupid

D. All of the above

6. Which of the following players did not participate in a sack of Jason Campbell?

A. Lawrence Timmons

B. Brett Keisel

C. Nick Eason

D. Aaron Smith

7. The Steelers’ defense held Clinton Portis to how many yards rushing?

A. 22

B. 39

C. 51

D. 74

8. What was Byron Leftwich’s passer rating for the game?

A. 63.7

B. 84.9

C. 124.6

D. 145.8

9. LaMarr Woodley vs. Jason Campbell was reminiscent of:

A. Germany vs. France

B. Joe “Turkey” Jones vs. Terry Bradshaw

C. Ike Turner vs. Tina Turner

D. All of the above

10. Who was the leading tackler for the Steelers?

A. Troy Polamalu

B. James Farrior

C. James Harrison

D. LaMarr Woodley


1. (D) William Gay

2. (A) 4

3. (B) 15.1

4. (D) Santonio Holmes

5. (D) All of the above.

6. (B) Brett Keisel

7. (C) 51

8. (D) 145.8

9. (D) All of the above.

10. (B) James Farrrior

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