Last week, I wrote about growing discontent amongst the Pittsburgh Steelers. Naturally, I’ll begin this week writing about growing discontent amongst the Pittsburgh Steelers. What? You thought I’d do five hundred words on some college kid’s 40 time at the Combine?
When last we left this ridiculous controversy, an unnamed player called linebacker LaMarr Woodley a fatass. Regardless of his off-season workout regiment, there’s absolutely no denying Woodley has been an injury prone disappointment since signing his big money contract extension a couple seasons back. These unattributed comments riled up team leader/annoying loudmouth Ryan Clark, who was offended someone would break the code of locker room omerta. Shockingly, Clark did make one valid observation; that the team had a clear leadership vacuum in the wake of last season’s purge of veterans.
Since no controversy is complete until we hear from the wide receivers, not one but two Steelers wide outs chimed in on this issue. First there was Antonio Brown, wearing the swankiest pimp hat this side of the Godfather. He appeared on ESPN’s First Take but since I try to avoid ESPN and I especially try to avoid First Take, I only caught his comments when they were uploaded to their website. In between his various assaults on the English language, AB managed to reveal the Steelers had a “fractured” locker room with guys more worried about their stats and impending free agency than winning football games.
In other words, Mike Wallace and Rashard Mendenhall were the bad guys. Shocking, I know. And convenient. Since both of those goofs are long gone, it very nicely puts all questions about a divided locker room to rest. At least until the team loses two in a row to bottom feeders they should’ve crushed.
Hines Ward, who is no longer a Steeler although for some reason the media runs to get his opinion on every move they make, went on the NFL Network to weigh in on this controversy. Hines reiterated Clark’s point about losing veteran leaders and talked about the team losing track of the Steeler Way. He also provided every headline writer their money quote by saying the backbiting was a sign the team was in “total disarray.” Impressive insight for a man who spent most of last season in Los Angeles preparing sweet and sour spare ribs for Guy Fieri and Rachel Ray.
Look, the Steelers definitely have a problem. When they cut Hines and James Farrior, yinzers called local sports talk shows worried about leadership and were dismissed by hosts who (rightfully) pointed out teams don’t have to like each other or be compromised of good guys to win. Now that the players themselves are pointing out the problems in the locker room, those same hosts are all over this topic. This is why I started this blog, the reporters and sports personalities in this town suck.
You don’t need a team full of choir boys or a team wide lovefest to win. However, the good guys need to outnumber the bad guys. The Steelers have had idiots on the team before but with Hines or the Bus leading the locker room and a hard-ass head coach in Bill Cowher, the Steeler Way prevailed. In recent years, the guys who were all about winning have faded away and a bunch of chest-thumping me-firsters have taken their place. And instead of the head coach reining them in, we have hear-no-evil see-no-evil Mike Tomlin. There is a systematic flaw within this team. Unfortunately, a flaw I don’t see being corrected any time soon.
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Well, at least that makes things a lot simpler…
The Pittsburgh Steelers lost their second straight, fourth of the last five, with a soul-crushing 27-24 loss in overtime to the Dallas Cowboys. I feel kinda dumb even talking about the playoffs considering the way this team is playing, they’re just going to be one-and-done anyway but the loss does clarify things quite a bit. The margin for error is now officially zero. The Steelers must win their last two games against the Bengals and Browns. If they lose either game, they’re out.
Yesterday’s loss was yet another miserable performance aided and abetted by the Black and Gold’s annoying habit of shooting themselves in the foot. When it’s not turnovers, it’s penalties. When it’s not penalties, it’s stupid mistakes. Worse yet, every week brings us a new goat.
This week’s wearer of the horns is Antonio Brown. AB had what may have been the worst game by a wide receiver since the glory days of Limas Sweed. Steeler Nation has been brutal towards Mike Wallace, with good reason. However, they really need to start looking at the other members of Young Money, a group of arrogant little pricks who are fast revealing the fact their actual skills aren’t nearly as high as their opinions of themselves.
AB got paid this off-season, mostly because Wallace turned down a reasonable contract due to delusions of grandeur. Brown has definitely been the team’s best WR this season but that didn’t stop him from almost single-handedly costing us the game yesterday. With the Steelers up 7 and about 8 minutes left in the game, the defense forced a punt. AB reversed field and broke off a huge return which would’ve set the Steelers up at mid-field except he forgot one thing: how to secure the football. A Dallas player who wasn’t even in position to make a tackle reached out and grabbed Brown’s arm like one might stop a passerby at the supermarket to ask where they keep the peanut oil and that jarring impact knocked the ball loose.
A field goal at that point probably locks up the game. Instead, Dallas got the ball right back and scored the game-tying TD. But Brown wasn’t done. With less than two minutes left, the Steelers D again forced a punt. Dallas kicked from their own 20 so even with a good punt you’d expect the Steelers to get the ball somewhere around the 35-40 yard line leaving them in decent position to drive for a late game-winning FG. Instead, Brown, bonehead that he is, let the ball bounce and roll all the way to the 20 for a whopping 59 yard punt.
What was he doing? Did he not know what do? Or was that the doing of Amos Jones, Mike Tomlin’s handpicked – and stunningly inept – special teams coach?
Brown did end up leading the team with 8 catches, including a nice lunging TD which put the Steelers ahead for the first time all afternoon. Mike Wallace had a typical Mike Wallace game, only catching 4 of the 10 passes thrown his way (although to be fair only two of those were CLANGS) but one of the four was a deep bomb (pretty much the only route he’s good at running) that went for 60 yards. Manny Sanders came in for one play, caught a deep pass over the middle and shades of the Baltimore game, fumbled it away. The refs bailed him out by claiming he didn’t “complete the catch” but whatever, that’s the last we saw of him and it’s the last I hope to see of him until he LEARNS TO CATCH THE FREAKIN’ BALL.
And don’t give me any bullshit about “his shoulder is hurt so he can’t secure the football.” Dez Bryant played the entire game with a broken finger. He missed some catches because of the finger but he sure as hell didn’t fumble the ones he did make either. Sanders is putz, just like the rest of
Young Money Cash Droppahs. But make sure you get up and pose and thump your chest when you do make a catch, guys.
What I wouldn’t give to have Hines Ward back. I don’t even care if he can’t get open. At least Hines didn’t act like a big shot and then go out on the field and accomplish nothing.
Speaking of guys we want back, while Bruce Arians is in discussion for Coach of the Year (yes, really), we’re stuck with Todd Haley and his anemic offense. Ben Roethlisberger continues to be a big baby about it, complaining to reporters after the game that the team didn’t run enough no-huddle (where he gets to call plays). Of course, the team did run no-huddle once, in overtime, two plays into which Ben threw a terrible pass behind Wallace and was picked to basically end the game.
Along with the realization that Young Money isn’t worth ten cents on a dollar, it may be time we start re-evaluating the whole “Big Ben is the best clutch QB in football!” meme. Once again, Ben was handed the ball with the game on the line and once again he failed. Not once, but twice. Despite AB’s boner, the team completed a couple passes with time winding down in regulation to get near mid-field. Then Ben took two consecutive sacks to force a punt. One of the sacks was on David DeCastro, who blocked the wrong man because the coaching on this team also sucks. However, at some point Ben has to learn to get rid of the ball.
Yes, the scrambling TD to Heath Miller was one of the most awesome plays you’ll ever see. Yes, Ben is a great QB and definitely the team’s best offensive player. So what? For years we’ve argued that stats aren’t the be-all, end-all, it’s the Ws that count. Ben isn’t pulling out these close games anymore, he’s actually gift-wrapping them to the opponent. That has to stop.
There was a lot more wrong yesterday I don’t really feel like belaboring. Once again, the running game was a non-factor. I don’t like Rashard Mendenhall but Jonathan Dwyer isn’t looking like the answer. The defense wasn’t good, giving up a whopping 415 total yards, although they practically defined bend-but-don’t-break. One long Dallas drive ended in a FG, another ended on a fumble caused by James Harrison. They still don’t generate enough splash plays but only an insane Ben apologist like Mark Madden would seriously argue the defense cost us this game.
Nope, that dubious honor would fall to the $100 million quarterback and $50 million dollar wide receiver. Let’s hope they get their act together in time for this weekend’s pivotal match-up with Cincinnati. If they do, well, I’m sure another goat will emerge anyway. It’s just that kind of year.
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Mike Tomlin held his weekly press conference yesterday afternoon. As I’ve mentioned about a billion times, I tend to ignore what he says because when he’s not lying, he’s using a bunch of words to say nothing. Well, surprise of all surprises, he actually used the time productively yesterday. It looks like there’s a whole bunch of changes in store for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
First, we have the state of the offensive line. I already talked about this quite a bit yesterday but it appears I was in error. I thought for sure they’d re-arrange things however they could to avoid starting rookie RT Kelvin Beachum. Tomlin says Beachum will start against the Baltimore Ravens with Mike Adams nursing a high ankle sprain and Marcus Gilbert out for the year. Of course, the plan is subject to change since there are still a bunch of question marks regarding who’s healthy and who’s not.
Willie Colon is expected back at LG although they probably won’t be sure until an hour before game time. If Colon can’t play, my best guess (and I’ve been misfiring on my predictions more often than Bob Kudzma so take it for what it’s worth) is Doug Legursky would be first man off the bench. First round pick David DeCastro is cleared to return but I have to think if he was 100% healthy and ready to play, he’d be starting. That means we’re looking at either Starks-Colon-Pouncey-Foster-Beachum or Starks-Legursky-Pouncey-Foster-Beachum as your starting line. If there is another injury, DeCastro would probably be pressed into service at RG with Ramon Foster sliding out to tackle. I can’t imagine they’d play recently signed T Tony Moeki unless he was the last man standing.
The line will be blocking for starting running back Jonathan Dwyer. It only took Tomlin and offensive coordinator Todd Haley twelve weeks to realize this committee approach where each back gets 3-4 carries doesn’t work. The only time they’ve gotten good results from the running game is when they’ve started one back and stuck with him to the tune of 15-20 carries. Dwyer, who’s been the team’s most effective back, will start with Isaac Redman serving as the back-up. No word whether Rashard Mendenhall is planning a jihad on the coaching staff for busting him all the way down to third string.
Ben Roethlisberger has began throwing and ESPN is saying there’s a “50-50 chance” he makes the superhero comeback this Sunday. Tomlin said he’s proceeding with Charlie Batch as the starter so I wouldn’t get my hopes up for a Big Ben miracle. I haven’t parsed out all the playoff scenarios but barring a massive collapse, the Ravens have firm control of the AFC North whether they win this week or not. I’d rather Ben avoid the beating Baltimore is sure to dish out and be ready for the final three game stretch run against three very beatable teams than rush him back for one game which potentially won’t matter anyway.
Batch will have one important weapon back this week in Antonio Brown. Brown is by far the team’s best receiver so having him back will be huge for whoever plays QB. Tomlin also decided to play some mind games with the receivers, listing Mike Wallace and Emannuel Sanders (who has played very well in AB’s absence) as co-starters opposite Brown. I don’t think Tomlin has the stones to actually start Sanders ahead of Wallace but for those who thought I’ve been too hard on Wallace, clearly the coaching staff isn’t happy with his play either. We can worry about repercussions after the season ends, I’ll just say the team’s treatment of Wallace and Mendy doesn’t exactly bode well for their future here in Pittsburgh.
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Perhaps the most shocking information to emerge in the wake of Sunday’s debacle against Cleveland is the fact that if the season were to end today, the Pittsburgh Steelers would still be in the playoffs. Despite losing two straight games in ugly fashion and being hampered by injuries and miscues, the Steelers are still holding on to the AFC’s second Wild Card spot. Of course, that’s only because they beat the Bengals in their lone match-up this season so if Cincy were to even the score a few weeks from now, the Bungles would leapfrog us by virtue of a superior conference record. While it’s hard to quibble with a playoff berth, I think our current ranking speaks more to the relative mediocrity of the AFC than the strength of the conference.
Later this afternoon, Mike Tomlin will conduct his weekly misinformation session where he answers a bunch of questions with empty platitudes while saying nothing of substance. An ESPN report saying Ben Roethlisberger may return this Sunday in time for a huge showdown with Baltimore Ravens will surely be addressed. I have a feeling we’re not going to like the answer but I’ll wait until tomorrow to address that.
While the sinking Steelers prepare for a head-on collision with the Iceberg Baltimore, they’ve already started re-arranging some of the deck chairs. First round pick RG David DeCastro has been activated off the injured reserve as it appears he’ll be making his first NFL start on Sunday. The offensive line wasn’t good against the Browns with Doug Legursky playing absolutely retched in place of Willie Colon. I never much liked Colon but the move to LG has been nothing short of a career changer as he’s an absolute beast at run blocking. His absence was a big factor in our pitiful run game in Cleveland.
If Colon is healthy, DeCastro will start at RG (where he was expected to play all season) while current RG Ramon Foster can slide over to tackle if RT Mike Adams can’t play due to the high ankle sprain which knocked him out of Sunday’s game. If Colon can’t play, I expect Foster to move to LG while DeCastro stays slotted on the right side. However, if Adams is hurt, I think they’d rather play Legursky at LG and go ahead with moving Foster to RT instead of playing rookie Kelvin Beachum. We know Marcus Gilbert won’t be in the mix because he’s been placed on IR, ending his season. To think, the Steelers braintrust actually went into this year thinking that scrub would be the team’s starting left tackle.
Thank goodness for Max Starks.
Perhaps learning from past mistakes, the Steelers will actually carry eight o-lineman this weekend instead of the usual seven. The team optioned WR David Gilreath back to the practice squad so they could activate T John Malecki. This is also a good sign for Antonio Brown. Unless they plan on using Chris Rainey or Heath Miller as a wide out, the Steelers need at least four active WRs which they wouldn’t have if AB were expected to miss another game with the bum ankle. Ditching Gilreath reunites the Young Money trio with Plaxico Burress assuming the veteran fourth receiver role previously held by the Jerricho Cotchery.
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Today in “Least Surprising News Ever…”
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Byron Leftwich busted his ribs in Sunday night’s loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Gee, you don’t say? I wonder what gave it away. Was it the obnoxious NBC commentators zooming in on his pained expression after every play? Or was it the way he kept missing wide open receivers on throws even Tino Sunseri could make?
The only person at Heinz Field who didn’t realize Lefty was hurt was Mike Tomlin.
Leftwich will almost certainly join Ben Roethlisberger on the sideline as the team once again turns to Charlie Batch in this weekend’s match-up against the feisty Cleveland Browns. If Tomlin had turned to Batch at halftime on Sunday, we probably would be talking about the Black and Gold’s rousing victory. I’m on record as saying Chaz should have been starting all along. He’s a steady competent signal caller which is really all you want in a back-up.
Plus he won’t get hurt the first time he’s asked to scramble away from pressure.
The Leftwich debacle is the latest incident on the growing ledger against the idea of Tomlin as some brilliant coach. Who thought he was a legitimate back-up quarterback? Since being cut by the Jacksonville Jaguars, Leftwich has been plagued by a constant parade of injuries to the point he probably shouldn’t even be in the league. It’s pretty embarrassing when a supposed Super Bowl contender puts their faith in a guy who severely injures himself tripping over his own feet.
What’s even more embarrassing is Tomlin’s refusal to pull him when he was obviously hurt and ineffective. Tomlin continues to be one of the worst in-game managers in the league. What’s more, his parade of lies and deceptions are starting to finally catch up to him. I’ve been pointing out what a habitual liar he was going back to when I wrote for NPC but when a clueless rah-rah cheerleader like Bob Smizik realizes your press conferences are full of B.S. you’ve really been exposed.
Anyway, with Lefty down and out and Ben still on the mend, the Steeler need to bring in a back-up back-up quarterback. Jason La Canfora at NFL.com is reporting the team invited former OSU and Patriots back-up Brian Hoyer and former Eagle Mike Kafka to work out tomorrow and will sign one of them. What, Tomlin couldn’t find another injury prone African American QB to bring in? David Garrard is right there!
In other depressing news, Jerricho Cotchery also appears to have suffered a serious rib injury from that hit that laid him out toward the end of Sunday’s game. That by itself is bad news as the Cotch Rocket is a pretty damn good receiver who would be one of the top three for most teams. But what makes the news utterly miserable are reports the Steelers are looking to bring in another receiver to take his place.
Ordinarily, losing Cotchery wouldn’t necessitate adding another wide out because the team could just play David Gilreath. However, with Gilreath already active, bringing in another wide out means that Antonio Brown isn’t coming back anytime soon. Yes, that simple seemingly innocuous looking ankle roll two weeks ago probably is going to sideline AB this weekend and perhaps even longer. He might have a broken foot for all we know although getting truthful injury updates from Tomlin is harder than getting secrets out of the CIA.
Maybe the P-G needs to hire a really attractive brunette beat reporter to write a biography…
Our old friend Plaxico Burress is coming to town for a physical and work out tomorrow. If he hasn’t gotten fat and lazy when nobody wanted him over the off-season, all indicators are the Steelers will sign him. I like Plax, I advocated bringing him back a couple season ago when he was first sprung from the clink. At this point, I’m not sure what he can bring to the table. With the Jets, he wasn’t much of a open field threat, having lost much of his speed and quickness. He still has the size so he’ll be a good red zone threat and Todd Haley‘s West Coast style offense is probably the ideal situation for him so it wouldn’t be the worst signing. It’s still not going not be enough if AB misses significant time, though.
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With less than four minutes left in yesterday’s game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders, Mike Tomlin elected to go for it on 4th down. The ball was on our 30 yard line, failing to convert would’ve almost certainly handed the Raiders the go-ahead field goal while we burned our last two time outs so we could get the ball back with somewhere around two or two and half minutes left. And that’s the best case scenario. So why would Tomlin take such a risky gamble?
Coach T’s answer: “we hadn’t stopped anybody.” Oof.
This is what Stiller Football has become in 2012. The Steel Curtain is made of tissue paper. Blitzburgh has been replaced by Snoozeburgh (as in, quarterbacks can now take a nap in the pocket without fear of being disturbed). The “old, slow and done” guys are all gone so DO NOT blame this on age. High draft picks abound on this defense and not a damn one of them is any good.
Larry Foote and Ryan Clark are the only two guys who earned the right to leave Oakland with their heads held high. As much as I find his personality irritating, I have to admit Clark has established himself as the team’s third best defensive player after Harrison and Polamalu. For the second game in a row he made an early impact, intercepting Carson Palmer’s first pass of the afternoon to set up the Steelers first TD. Foote had 7 tackles and really stepped up in terms of run defense after Darren McFadden ran by half the team for a 64 yard TD.
The rest of the team? Ryan Mundy is an absolute embarrassment. Commentator Dan Fouts claimed the Steelers coaches considered Mundy “a fifth starter” in the secondary which, if true, means those coaches are absolute idiots. He can’t cover anybody and instead of tackling, all he does is run around trying to behead people. Mundy knocked Oakland WR Darrius Heyward-Bey out of the game on a scary helmet-to-helmet collision in the end zone which, while unintentional, should net him a hefty fine. I’m actually hoping the Ginger Dictator suspends him so I don’t see him on the field any more.
Mundy might be the highest profile stiff but he’s far from the only one. Lawrence Timmons made exactly one play all afternoon. That’s $55 million well spent. He was one of the guys along with Keenan Lewis who got wiped out on McFadden’s long TD run, by the way. Speaking of which, why is Lewis still starting? If the real refs ever come backs, he’ll get flagged on every play because unless he’s jumping on receivers’ back, they’re wide open. Not that fellow rookie Cortez Allen has been any great shakes either.
Of course, the secondary has long been a Steelers weakness. What covered for them was the fact they were good at pressuring the quarterback. Guess what? NOBODY IS PRESSURING THE QUARTERBACK. First rounders Ziggy Hood and Cam Heyward barely show up on the stat sheet. Big Snack can’t move any more. How about our other highly paid LB, LaMarr Woodley? He had an early sack then disappeared the rest of the game. He should give half his pay to Deebo because it’s obvious at this point that Harrison made him by drawing all those double teams. Chris Carter and second rounder Jason Worilds are useless. The only way Worilds will ever sniff a quarterback is if Tom Brady sends him a pair of his used Uggs.
Get well soon, James and Troy. Our defense is absolute garbage without you.
The only reason the Steelers managed to hold on to a lead until the very end was the Raiders seemingly tried to prove they could play even less defense than we did. Take nothing away from Ben Roethlisberger, who was once again magnificent. Ben had one of the great passing performances in recent memory, completing 36/49 for 384 yards and 4 TDs. Todd Haley has finally realized he has to put the ball in the hands of his best players because the team came out throwing and kept on chucking all afternoon. They mixed in a running play here and there but, as usual, the running game was a complete waste of time.
Heath Miller caught 8 passes, including two of Ben’s four touchdowns. Mike Wallace also caught 8 balls, piling up 123 yards and a touchdown. That TD, shown above, was a crazy play where Wallace did everything short of send up a signal flare to show he was wide open. Ben scrambled away from danger while the man covering Wallace cramped up and fell down, leading to him being about as wide open as you’ll ever see. Antonio Brown chipped in with 7 catches for 87 yards but had two fumbles, one of which he got back but the other was extremely costly.
Besides the putrid D, the Steelers biggest downfall on Sunday was all the mistakes. They dominated the first half but came away with only a three point lead because of penalties and turnovers. Besides McFadden’s long TD run, the Raiders other TD was set up by a Jon Dwyer fumble. The offense blew through time outs in the 1st quarter so they had none left when they were driving at the end of the half and had to settle for a FG. Brown’s second fumble set up the game-tying FG. Then we have special teams, where AB had two big kick returns (one for a TD) called back because of penalty. Meanwhile, Mike Goodson’s 51 yard punt return directly led to another of Oakland’s touchdowns.
Maybe Tomlin shouldn’t have forced Al Everest out so he could hire his buddy, eh?
Of course, Tomlin has much bigger worries on his plate. The Steelers are 1-2 and haven’t really played anybody decent yet. Scarier yet, the defense is an absolute mess and their only hope for salvation lies in a 32 year old guy with a bum back and knee and an All-Pro safety who plays like a kamikaze and has the career expectancy of one. The good news is we get a bye week where we can hopefully get some players back. The bad news is it’s a long season after that. A long season which will get even longer if some things don’t start to improve.
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*wipes tear from eye*
I’m sorry. Even though this blog isn’t exactly Sports Illustrated or the Wall Street Journal, I try to present thoughtful opinions and reasoned analysis in between the dorky pop culture references and blatant homerism. But Code Red literally shot from my nostrils when I heard this latest development involving the Pittsburgh Steelers. Since then, I can’t stop laughing.
Can’t. Stop. Laughing.
The Steelers have signed wide receiver Antonio Brown to a five year $42.5 million contract extension. Antonio Brown. Not Mike Wallace, the delusional putz who thinks he’s worth Larry Fitzgerald money. Not Mike Wallace, the restricted free agent who spends all day butchering the English language on Twitter because he refuses to sign his tender and report to training camp.
Shhh… If you listen real carefully, you might be able to hear every glass in the Wallace house being thrown against a wall. I bet his aim isn’t as good as Santonio Holmes‘. ‘Tone could part a sister’s weave with a shot glass from twenty feet away.
Brown had a break out season in 2011, becoming the first player in Steelers history to amass 1,000 receiving yards and 1,000 return yards in the same year. In only his second season, he made the Pro Bowl and was voted the team MVP by his peers. The MVP honor was particularly well-deserved as to a man Steeler coaches and players have said AB is one of the hardest workers on the team. He was slated to become a restricted free agent next year but instead will enjoy a new contract which calls for a signing bonus of $8.5 million on top of a base salary of $540,000. Next year he gets a $2.5 million roster bonus and a $2 million base salary with the roster bonus dropping off after that but his base going up to $6 million in 2014 and 2015, $8.25 million in 2016 and $8.71 million in 2017.
The Steelers lock up a promising young wide out until 2017. Brown gets long term security and $42.5 million dollars. A fair deal for both parties. See how easy it is to get a contract done when one of the people involved ISN’T AN ARROGANT DELUSIONAL JACKASS?
I, of course, speak of Mike Wallace. I have no doubt the Steelers offered this deal or one similar to it to Wallace. Or they would have if he hadn’t decided to play the “I’m an obnoxious asshole” card and held out. Handing Brown a shiny new deal while Wallace sits home playing Call Of Duty on his XBox is a giant flashing, “Screw You, Wallace!” from Steelers management.
Then again, maybe they did offer this deal to Wallace first. Perhaps he rebuffed their advances because the money was less than he desired. $42.5 million is a ton of cash to you and I but it wasn’t the “Larry Fitzgerald money” to which Wallace feels he’s entitled. For the record, LarryFitz money is 8 years $120 million.
Well, I have bad news for Mike Wallace. The Rooneys will never pay a wide receiver $15 million per year. Yancey Thigpen, Plaxico Burress, Santonio Holmes, they wanted big money, the Steelers told them to go elsewhere to get it. Dan Rooney would sooner spend $15 million on hand woven spider silk suspenders than give it to a wide receiver. Art Rooney II would sooner spend $15 million on lap dances at Blush (and that’s not easy given the quality of talent they have there) than give it to a wide receiver. The Steelers have never paid a receiver more than they paid their star quarterback or star linebacker and they NEVER EVER WILL.
Wide receivers simply aren’t worth it.
Not that anybody will ever be able to convince that raging egomaniac otherwise. Stay firm and stick to your guns, Mike! I’m sure the Steelers are hard at work scraping together that LarryFitz money you’re waiting for! Don’t worry about showing up to camp, we’ll call you when we need you!
In the meantime, Kevin Colbert and the Rooneys will be busy rewarding the guy who truly wants to wear the Black and Gold.
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As the Pittsburgh Steelers wrap up part one of their two week (they reconvene next Tuesday) off-season workout, they were greeted with a surprise visitor at OTAs. No, not disgruntled wide receiver Mike Wallace. He’s still laboring under the delusion that holding out will magically grant the Steelers salary cap space they don’t have to sign him to a long term big money deal. Nor was it rookie David DeCastro, who is still over at Stanford working on becoming the scariest looking bachelor of science and engineering in history.
It was Troy Polamalu who showed up at Steelers HQ this week. Since his early years in the Black and Gold, Troy has become the football version of Punxsutawney Phil, disappearing once the season ends and only appearing to signal six more weeks of training camp. Which isn’t to say Troy doesn’t work out during the off-season, he just prefers to do so with his own personal trainers and the occasional group of current players at his alma mater, USC. Considering his long history of excellence, whatever he does clearly works for him.
So why mess with his usual routine? Well, Troy told reporters that with the loss of veteran leaders like Hines Ward, Aaron Smith and James Farrior, he felt the team could use a veteran presence on the sidelines. This is why Troy is one of the best Steelers of all time. It’s not just his play on the field, it’s not just his charitable works and Christian values, it’s that he gets it. Troy gets that doing the minimum is fine if you want to be an average player on an average team; if you want to be a champion, you have to always do a little bit more.
Speaking of doing a little bit more, reporters were tweeting that after practice ended yesterday, Antonio Brown and Leonard Pope stayed on the field to practice catching balls from the JUGS machine (which is not a vending machine you’d find at Blush). We always wondered who’d be the heir apparent when Hines finally retired. First we thought it’d be Santonio Holmes, who turned out to be a pothead me-firster. Then we had Wallace, who has turned out to be an overrated me-firster. It looks like of all the receivers who’ve passed through Heinz (or is it Hines’) Field in recent years, it’s AB who’ll carry on the tradition of doing things the Steeler Way.
A few final notes from week one of OTAs. With Willie Gay gone to Pittsburgh West, we wondered what the new look secondary might look like. Keenan Lewis has been starting at corner opposite Ike Taylor with second year man Cortez Allen playing the nickel. I’ll admit I’m not sold on Lewis. He didn’t exactly blow me away last year as the nickelback. I believe he was victimized on the go-ahead touchdown pass in the second Baltimore game and I recall him getting burned in the second Cincy game as well. Fans weren’t exactly high on Gay, I didn’t particularly care for him either, but he had a solid season last year. I know the team was really high on Allen last year so I imagine if Lewis struggles in the early going, they won’t hesitate to flip the two.
In more positive news, our long national nightmare may be over. Todd Haley likes having a fullback, an actual fullback, not a mediocre TE pretending to be a fullback, in his offense. As such, FB/TE David Johnson now has one fewer position to suck at. Haley told DJ that going forward he’ll strictly play fullback since the team already has a plethora of talented tight ends. Johnson will have to compete with former WVU Mountaineer Will Johnson, who has reportedly looked very good in camp. Although as an undrafted free agent who spent 2011 out of football, I have to imagine Johnson needs to badly outplay Johnson to make the team. Admittedly, that’s not very hard.
Finally, while it’s too early to declare training camp “battles,” there are a few positions to keep an eye on. First we have offensive line, which will be in flux until our top two draft picks get into camp. Max Starks was seen working out at the facilities, trying to rehab after off-season surgery, so he may be in the mix at some point. With Willie Colon moving to guard, Marcus Gilbert has evidently been told to concentrate on right tackle. He was supposedly in the mix to take over LT which made no sense after a disastrous stint there last year. Speaking of disasters at LT, this probably means Jonathan Scott heads into camp as the de facto starting LT with rookie Mike Adams being given every chance to beat him out.
And finally, there appears to be a running back battle brewing as well. The team has six backs on the roster although Rashard Mendenhall will be out until October/November. I don’t see the team keeping five active backs on the 53 man so it would appear there’s gonna be a three way dance between John Clay, Baron Batch and Jonathan Dwyer for two of those four spots. Clay was undrafted and we know how Kevin Colbert loves to hold on to his picks even when they’re clearly no good (see Sepulveda, Daniel or Sweed, Limas) but he had a couple nice runs last year while Dwyer has shown next to nothing. Batch is coming off a knee injury but he’s really the only back on the roster who can play a third down role similar to the departed Mewelde Moore.
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Ah, the good old days…
The NFL announced their Pro Bowl rosters yesterday afternoon. And if anybody needs proof these ain’t your daddy’s Pittsburgh Steelers, look no further. Granted being named to the team is a little like winning an Academy Award, reputation often trumps actual accomplishment and guys are often judged more on how much publicity their team receives than playing ability. Still, when several longtime mainstays fail to make the cut while a handful of new faces will be joining the NFL’s elite, it’s a sign the times, they are a-changin’.
The AFC’s defense was once pretty much a mash-up between the Steelers and Baltimore Ravens. The Ratbirds are still well-represented with four defensive starters. I know, I know, it’s an absolute joke that Ray Lewis made the team when he’s spent the year alternating between the injury report and doing his best impersonation of the Invisible Man. His days of knifing through the line of scrimmage like he’s at a night club in Atlanta have long passed. His making the team is a Lifetime Achievement award on par with giving Robert DeNiro a best actor Oscar for Meet The Fockers 6.
Meanwhile, the vaunted Steeler defense has only one representative, Troy Polamalu. James Harrison is a first alternate (meaning he goes if somebody is injured) which is also ridiculous since Silverback has been absolutely dominant when healthy. Methinks the Ginger Dictator pulled a little hanging chad action to make sure his mortal enemy didn’t get named a starter. If Stabby McStabberson makes it even though he’s missed a good chunk of time with injury, I don’t see how Deebo doesn’t merit the same consideration.
Regardless, Harrison is really the only defensive starter one might argue got robbed out of making the team. LaMarr Woodley and Ryan Clark were both listed as second alternates although I honestly don’t think either has done enough this season to merit a Pro Bowl appearance. About a month ago, I would’ve said Ike Taylor is a shoo-in but he’s had a couple rough games as of late and doesn’t make enough splash plays to get noticed. Brett Keisel is having a helluva season but suffers from what I’ll call Aaron Smith Syndrome where Dick LeBeau’s defensive scheme which doesn’t allow for d-lineman to pile up sacks ends up working against him. Multiple time Pro Bowler Casey Hampton has basically become a two down player so his absence is completely justified.
“Wait,” I can hear you saying, “I thought you said five Steelers made the team?” Ah, yes, and that goes back to my original statement about the changing face of the Black and Gold. Three years ago, if I said five Steelers made the Pro Bowl, most of Steeler Nation would figure that meant four defensive guys and a running back. Here in the waning days of 2011, it should come as no surprise to hear four of the Steelers’ five Pro Bowlers line up on offense.
Ben Roethlisberger and Maurkice Pouncey earned their second Pro Bowl appearances after getting screwed in previous seasons. Big Ben was snubbed in 2009 when he threw for 4,000 yards and 26 TDs yet was only named first alternate while Pouncer made the team last year but only as a back-up when he clearly should have been the starter. Joining them for the first time will be 2/3 of the Young Money crew, Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown. Wallace is currently the second leading receiver in the AFC and has shot to the head of many people’s lists of best big-play threat in football. AB, who set a Steelers team record for most all-purpose yardage on Sunday, was named as a kick returner although I get the impression his selection took into account all facets of his game.
No running back. No Hines Ward. Just our quarterback and a couple of his receivers. What are we, the Patriots? While I’m happy for all our players named to the team, especially the young guys, I hope none of them get to actually play in the game because they’re resting up for the Super Bowl. Given the kind of men that they are, I have no doubt they’re wishing for the exact same thing.
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There’s an old joke about being as useful as a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest. Perhaps that saying needs to be updated in light of last night’s game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns. Yesterday, the Browns got their asses kicked by a quarterback playing on one leg.
The Steelers 14-3 victory may not sound particularly exciting but, at the risk of hyperbole, it’ll be a game forever remembered in Pittsburgh lore. And that’s entirely due to the almost superhuman courage displayed by Ben Roethlisberger. When Ben had his ankle rolled up from behind mid-way through the second quarter, a hush fell over the Heinz Field. After hobbling off the field, then literally being carted from room to room in the back, it appeared Ben was not only lost for this game, but perhaps the rest of the regular season.
As halftime came to a close, however, there was Big Ben, still in full uniform rather than crutches or sweatpants, taking snaps like he intended to return. And return he did, despite playing with a horrific limp and making a majority of his throws flat-footed. It was an epic display of toughness by a player whose career is marked by them. Partially due to his off-field situations and partially due to his style of play, Ben has always been an underrated and slightly polarizing figure among NFL fans in general and Steeler Nation in particular. If last night didn’t finally establish once and for all that Ben is one of the toughest and most courageous players to ever lace up the cleats, I can’t help you.