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Steelers get ugly win over Ravens

December 28, 2009 By: Admin Category: Post-Game Reports

It wasn’t pretty, but a win is still a win.  That’s the way most of Steeler Nation must have been feeling after watching the Steelers defeat the Baltimore Ravens 23-20.

Following a 5-game losing streak, the Steelers have won two consecutive games to keep their playoff hopes alive.  Both wins have been narrow wins, but we’ll take wins of any type at this point.

Santonio Holmes runs for TD

There were quite a few positive aspect to the game.  Probably the most important is that the Steelers defense did not allow a single point during the fourth quarter.  When was the last time we were able to say that?

Not only did the defense not allow the Ravens to score in the fourth quarter, but they also made key defensive plays in the 4th quarter to stop the Ravens.  That has been one of the primary differences between the 2008 Steelers defense and the 2009 edition.  The 2008 unit made plays when the team needed them, while the 2009 unit doesn’t.  At least they didn’t until this game.

On the Ravens final possession of the game, the Ravens were driving when LaMarr Woodley sacked Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco on 2 consecutive plays.  On the second sack, Woodley also forced a fumble which was recovered by rookie Ziggy Hood.  That pretty much sealed the victory for the Steelers.

Other positives for the Steelers included Rashard Mendenhall surpassing 1,000 yards rushing for the season.  That is a first for Mendenhall.  Hopefully, it will be the first of many for the talented young rusher.

RB Rashard Mendenhall

Another milestone was Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger becoming the first Steelers quarterback to pass for over 4,000 yards.  As Big Ben is so fond of reminding us, the Steelers are now a pass-first team.  His new Steelers passing record just proves that point.

Despite the win and the many positive performances on the Steelers side of the ball, the game was not a total masterpiece.   The Steelers allowed the Ravens to rush for 175 yards.  Ray Rice accounted for 141 of those yards.  I don’t know about the rest of you, but I am really starting to hate that guy.

Besides the rushing yards allowed, the Steelers also got some lucky breaks due to penalties by the Ravens.  The Ravens had two touchdowns called back due to penalties.  They had a third touchdown dropped in the endzone by Derrick Mason, who is usually their most dependable receiver.

So just as the Steelers have often left games this season feeling that they beat themselves, the Ravens probably felt the same way.  But who cares how the Ravens feel?  This win keeps our playoff hopes alive, and so we’ll happily accept it.

Playoff picture:

The NFC playoff teams are set.  The only thing that has to be resolved is the playoff seeding.

In the AFC, on the other hand, things are as clear as mud.  Seven teams have a chance to win the two remaining wildcard playoff positions.  Five of the teams have an 8-7 record going into the last week of the season, and two teams have a 7-8 record.  Tie breakers are certain to be needed to determine which teams will ultimately make the playoffs.

The only thing that we know for certain is that the Steelers have to win their final game.  If they don’t do that, all other discussion becomes moot.


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Steelers vs. Chargers: Key match-ups

October 04, 2009 By: Admin Category: Pre-Game Analyses

Note:  If you haven’t already read our Pittsburgh Steelers vs. San Diego Chargers Preview, please click here.

This week the San Diego Chargers invade Heinz Field to battle the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

Each week we look at the key match-ups that may impact the outcome of Sunday’s game.  Here are this week’s key match-ups.

C Justin Hartwig vs. NT Ogemdi Nwagbuo
Ordinarily teams facing the Chargers have to deal with NT Jamal Williams.  Unfortunately, the 350 pound Williams is on  injured reserve, so instead the Steelers will have to face his replacement Ogemdi Nwagbuo.  Nwagbuo is 50 pounds lighter than Williams, and spent last season on the Chargers’ practice squad.  I’m sure that Steelers center Justin Hartwig is very happy to be facing the really fat replacement rather than the extraordinarily fat injured starter.  Advantage:  Steelers.

S Tyrone Carter vs. TE Antonio Gates
Even when Troy Polamalu is healthy, Chargers TE Antonio Gates is a difficult match-up.  Gates is tall (6’4″), and has great hands.  With Polamalu out with an injury, the responsibility of stopping Gates falls to Tyrone Carter.  Carter gives up 8 inches and 65 pounds to the much bigger Gates.  Needless to say, that’s not a good thing.  Sorry Tyrone, but it’s going to be a very loooooooong day for you.  Advantage:  Chargers

CB Ike Taylor vs. WR Vincent Jackson
Jackson is tall (6’5″) and fast, but Taylor is also tall (6’2″) and faster.  It will take a lot to shut down QB Philip Rivers’ favorite target, but Ike Taylor should be up to the challenge.  This should be one of the most exciting match-ups of the game.  Advantage:  Neither.

LBs James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley vs. Philip Rivers
Chargers QB Philip leads the NFL in passing.  He is a brash young quarterback who can pick teams apart if given time.  The only way to stop Rivers is to apply pressure and force him to hurry his passes.  That challenge will fall to linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley.  So far this season, Harrison has only 1 sack and Woodley has none.  That will have to change, or the Steelers could be in for a long day. Advantage:  Neither 

LaMarr Woodley

LaMarr Woodley

Rashard Mendenhall vs. his playbook
Last week Mendenhall was benched by coach Mike Tomlin because he did not know his playbook.  One week later, Willie Parker is likely to be out due to turf toe, and Mendenhall may get the start.  Is it realistic to believe that Mendenhall could successfully learn the plays in one week?  After all, this is Mendenhall’s second season with the Steelers.  If he couldn’t learn the plays during the course of 2 training camps and a full season, why should we believe that he can learn them in one week?  I remember watching Mendenhall run into Ben Roethlisberger during a game earlier this season.  Hopefully, we won’t see any more mental gaffes from Mendy.  Advantage: Playbook.


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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.

Today’s Featured Item:  Steelers Training Camp T-Shirt

Buy the best Steelers gear right here at Steelers Today.  Don’t head to Latrobe without your own 2009 training camp t-shirt.  Click below to purchase.

Training camp shirtClick here to buy

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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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LaMarr Woodley slams Philip Rivers (video)

January 12, 2009 By: Admin Category: Uncategorized

I hate to emphasize violence in the NFL.  I don’t think it is right to show devastating hits over and over again.  Afterall, there is more to football than the big hit.

Who am I kidding?  I LOVE the big hit.  I LOVE violence in the NFL.  And most importantly, I love big hits on players that I don’t like.  Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers falls into that category.  I don’t like him.  He talks too much trash.  He’s never won anything, but he acts like he’s All-World.

So I just couldn’t resist posting LaMarr Woodley’s slam of Philip Rivers.  I could watch this over and over again.  Great play LaMarr!!!


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