Day Two of NFL Free Agency was even more wild than Day One. At some point the NFL really should consider televising these things since it makes for great theater. Just gather all the big name free agents in a room and have them pick the hat of the team they decided to sign with like high school kids making their college commitment. It’d be a lot more interesting than listening to talking heads on the NFL Network or spamming the F5 button while visiting Profootballtalk.
For the Pittsburgh Steelers, Day Two saw them lose a pair of starters. To nobody’s chagrin, former first round pick Rashard Mendenhall signed elsewhere, joining head coach Bruce Arians in the deserts of Arizona. Looks like Arizona will continue to act as Pittsburgh West for discarded Steelers despite the departure of Ken Whisenhunt. I wonder if Rashard has a compass so he can be sure to face Mecca during his daily prayers to Allah? Also, it’s kinda ironic that the coach who brought the Flying Circus here to Pittsburgh made his first big free agent acquisition a running back.
The Steelers also cut overpaid fatass Willie Colon. Thus ends one of the most mind-boggling signings in team history. Colon was a 2006 fourth round draft pick out of Hofstra who unseated Max Starks for the starting RT job when Big Max found himself in the dog house following the team’s disappointing post-Super Bowl XL campaign. Colon served on a series of lines that surrendered an insane amount of sacks although he was the starting RT when they won Super Bowl XLIII. Colon was, at best, an average tackle playing a position so easy undrafted rookie Kelvin Beachum handled it fine when pressed into duty last season.
Despite being stunningly mediocre and missing the entire 2010 season due to an off-season injury, the Steelers saw fit to gift Colon a five year $29 million contract the following spring. He repaid their generosity by tearing his triceps in week 1 and sitting out the rest of the 2011 season. The Steelers moved Colon to guard last year and while he proved to be a pretty nasty run blocker he also served as a flag magnet. This time he lasted twelve whole games before blowing out his knee. By cutting Colon, the Steelers lop a whopping $5.5 million dollars off their cap.
Between Colon’s departure and reworking the contract of another lazy fatso, LaMarr Woodley, the Steelers finally have some room under the salary cap. They still have to keep a chunk open for the draft and to sign their RFAs but at least they can now afford to bring in a cheap veteran or two to help fill in some of their numerous holes.
One area they finally addressed is the back-up quarterback. Ben Roethlisberger is a tough man but his sandlot style of play and advancing age make it nearly certain that he’ll miss a game or two every season. The past couple seasons the team put their faith in
China Doll Byron Leftwich who has the unfortunate habit of getting injured tying his shoes in pre-game warm-ups. It was absolutely imperative they sign a dependable back-up.
And they’ve finally done so by bringing hometown boy Bruce Gradkowski back to the ‘Burgh. Gradkowski, who grew up in Dormont and played for Seton-LaSalle, signed a three year deal which may finally signal the end for another local product, Charlie Batch. Gradkowski has bounced around the league, playing for five different teams in his seven year career. He’s fluctuated between starter and back-up, starting three games against the Steelers during that time. His most notable career start came against the Steelers as he was the quarterback who engineered the Raiders memorable upset of the defending Super Bowl champs during the Hangover season of 2009. Gradkowski is the ideal back-up, a durable dependable guy who can come in and win a game for you if need be.
He’s also a yinzer which will probably lessen the blow should the Steelers finally decide to part ways with Batch. It’s no secret the Steelers have been trying to rid themselves of Chaz for a couple years now only for those plans to be undone by Leftwich’s brittleness and Dennis Dixon’s abject stupidity. With Gradkowski slotting nicely into a #2 role, the team can either draft a developmental QB or sign a young guy off another team’s practice squad. Although let’s hope all those high draft picks they’ve invested in their offensive line pay some dividends in the form of a nice healthy Big Ben.
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The Pittsburgh Steelers FINALLY get some good news on the injury front.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, the extent Ben Roethlisberger practiced later in the afternoon would determine whether there was a realistic shot at him returning against San Diego. Well, the tough sumbitch went out and practiced normally meaning he’s on track to return this Sunday. Head coach Mike Tomlin, normally as tight-lipped as the gestapo when it comes to injury updates, later told reporters “I saw him make the necessary throws.” Actually, he said more than that but as usual it was just Tomlin using a bunch of words to say what could be said in five. The bottom line is the concern over whether Ben had regained enough arm strength to run the offense seems moot.
Barring any late week set backs, the Steelers should have their starting quarterback back. In the meantime, ageless warrior Charlie Batch will keep sharp as the team’s primary back-up. Useless Byron Leftwich has been cleared to practice but between evaluating Ben and keeping Chaz ready just in case, there aren’t enough snaps to go around. Which is for the best since every rep Byron gets at practice is just wasted on a guy who’ll be hurt as soon as he bends over to tie his shoelaces anyway. Charlie Batch turns 38 today and he’s still one of the five or six best back-up QBs in the league.
Happy birthday, Chuck.
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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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Yes, it’s come to this. I’ve been pushed so far over the edge, I’ve resorted to quoting Chris Berman.
Anybody still wanna argue whether Ben Roethlisberger should be MVP? If so, last night’s game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens provided more convincing evidence than any stats-filled post ever could.
What if I told you the Steelers defense wouldn’t allow a single offensive touchdown? What if I said the Steelers running game would chew up over 150 yards on the ground? Going into Sunday night, I’m sure most members of Steeler Nation would’ve taken that scenario in a heartbeat. It sounds like a surefire recipe for success regardless of who’s behind center.
And yet, it wasn’t enough and the Black and Gold went down to defeat, 13-10.
I’ll spare my dear readers the usual long-winded blow-by-blow account of the game. It was nationally televised so I’m sure most of you saw for yourself anyway. Instead I’m going to skip directly to the root of the problem, quarterback Byron Leftwich. Thanks to a pass interference call on a deep bomb on the first play of the game, Lefty led the team 80 yards for a TD on their opening drive. From that point on, it was a whole bunch of nothin’.
Did Leftwich hurt himself on the 30 yard TD scramble? And if he did, THAT is the guy Mike Tomlin, Kevin Colbert and the Steelers trust with leading the team in Ben’s absence? I’ve seen a lot of football in my life, I’ve seen strange injuries but tripping over your own feet and injuring your ribs and throwing shoulder is a new level of absurdity. I don’t know that Lefty was hurt. Tomlin and his cloak of lies and deception will never admit the truth in any case. All I know is what I could see.
And what I saw was a quarterback missing throws a kid at Alquippa High could make. Lefty finished 18-39 for 201 yards and a pick for a QB rating of 51.3. He definitely wasn’t helped by his receivers. Jerricho Cotchery dropped a couple big conversions and Mike Wallace, who proves week in and week out that if only his actual talent matched his opinion of himself, fumbled deep in their own zone and later failed to come down with a TD pass in the corner of the end zone. However, at the end of the day, your QB has to keep putting the ball in the right spot and hope the guys make plays. More often than not, Leftwich was slow to deliver the ball and inaccurate when he did.
The shame of the whole thing is Baltimore’s offense wasn’t much better. Joe Flacco and Ray Rice were held in check by a magnificent performance from Dick LeBeau‘s crew. We can argue about splash plays and whether a well-timed INT would be more valuable than holding one of the best backs in the league to 40 yards or holding an opposing QB under 175 yds passing. Setting up a bumbling offense with a short field would definitely be helpful but I don’t know how you can possibly find fault with a defense not allowing a single TD a week after the Ratbirds scored a franchise record 55 points.
As soon as Jacoby Jones returned that punt for Baltimore’s lone TD of the evening, I knew it would come back to haunt us. Even when Ben was in there, the Steelers have spent this season walking a thin line between victory and defeat. With Leftwich and the offense stalling, it had to be a top priority not to surrender any cheap points. The defense did their job, even after Wallace’s fumble set Flacco and company up inside the red zone. Jonathan Dwyer did his job, rumbling for 55 yards on only 12 carries and providing the team with an offensive spark in the second half. Leftwich and the passing game simply didn’t do theirs.
Every year, it seems like the division title comes down to a tie break between us and the Ratbirds. If it happens again this season, we won’t have far to look for a game we should have won yet didn’t. I think that’s the worst part of last night’s loss. If you start your back-up and get blown out, it’s almost like you just shrug your shoulders and think, “Whatever.” But starting your back-up, giving him an excellent running game and a defense which doesn’t surrender a TD and still losing? That’d hurt if it were against Jacksonville Jaguars never mind the Baltimore Ravens.
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Every hero needs a villain. Batman has the Joker. Steve Austin had Vince McMahon. Optimus Prime has Megatron.
And if you think I’m referring to Calvin Johnson and Richard Sherman, you really watch too much football.
The Pittsburgh Steelers represent everything good about the NFL. The most successful franchise with the most loyal fanbase. Their greatest nemesis is clearly the Baltimore Ravens, a gang of thugs and cowards who are detested by anybody outside their own filthy crime-ridden city.
Ratbird Week is usually a fun time for me because there’s normally a lot of trash talking from both sides. Most of the time, “rivalries” are more a thing that fans create than something the players actually embrace. Not so with the Steelers and Ravens. The players have made it very clear on many occasions that they really do hate each other.
Unfortunately, a lot of the fun has been sucked out of this particular Ratbird Week. First, a lot of the guys who fueled the fire are gone. Hines Ward has retired while Ray Lewis is out for the season, possibly never to return. Meanwhile, the Steelers are dealing with injuries to almost half their starting line-up, led by this fella you may of heard of by the name of Ben Roethlisberger.
It’ll read Steelers versus Ravens on the marquee Sunday night and while the hate will still be real the teams taking the field may only be mere hollow echoes of what they once were.
STEELERS DEFENSE vs RAVENS OFFENSE
Joe Flacco. He’s lucky he plays for a relatively low profile team otherwise his name would be debated on the Four Letter every ten minutes like the names Mark Sanchez or Tony Romo. Flacco is in that nebulous second tier of quarterbacks who argue they’re elite and fans of their team think of as elite but don’t have the results to earn that designation. Win a Super Bowl, even get to one, and then you can start using the E-word.
Until then, you’re just another QB.
The dirty little secret is the Ratbirds seem to be hedging their bets on Bert, as well. He’s in the final year of his contract and over the off-season the two sides couldn’t reach an agreement on an extension because Flacco wanted elite QB money while Baltimore management argued he wasn’t quite at that level. Flacco is having a pretty typical season for him, a 60-40 TD/INT ratio (13 TDs against 7 INTs) and he’s on pace for about 3,500 yards (2,300 going into Sunday) which is right around his career high. They Ravens have tried everything from trading for name wide receivers to letting Bert grow a pornstache in hopes he can hit another level.
At this point, I think it’s safe to say he is what he is and nothing can change that.
It certainly would help any QB to have a weapon like Ray Rice in the backfield. As usual, Rice is a tremendous dual threat, leading the team in rushing while being Captain Checkdown’s third favorite target. Rice has averaged over 1,200 yards rushing and 500 yards receiving the past three years and is well on pace to make it four in a row. Needless to say, if the Steelers have any hope of winning Sunday, they have to find a way to contain this serial Stiller Killer.
Outside Rice, the Ravens offensive weapons aren’t nearly as scary as some of the other teams we’ve faced this season. Torrey Smith, who memorably caught the game winning touchdown in our last meeting, is their nominal #1 wide out. He’s pretty much a deep threat, though, averaging 17 yard per reception. A few years ago they spent big money to bring in Anquan Boldin but he’s been more or less a bust. The Ravens parted ways with another longtime irritant, TE Todd Heap, a couple seasons ago and it appears they’ve finally found another short yardage possession threat for Flacco to dump off to in TE Dennis Pitta.
The Steelers defense needs a helluva better performance this week if they don’t want embarrassed on national tv. After getting the run D straightened out, KC gashed them repeatedly until Dick LeBeau figured out Ziggy Hood was a liability and started moving him around. LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison were MIA and that simply can’t happen two weeks in a row. There will be even more pressure on the inside backers to support the run D and take away the middle of the field for those short throws Flacco lives for.
Ryan Clark passed all his concussion tests and will play on Sunday. He’ll be easy to spot as he’s resorted to wearing that extra thick Great Gazoo helmet. Clark has been the team’s defensive MVP this year so hopefully he’s able to stay on the field this week. If the Steelers have any hope of pulling out a victory, they’ll need every healthy defensive player not only on the field but playing their best possible game.
STEELERS OFFENSE vs RAVENS DEFENSE
Maybe the Ravens should change their symbol back to the horseshoe a team from Baltimore wore once upon a time. They certainly have a lot of luck. The Ratbirds have beaten the Steelers twice since 2008 when Ben Roethlisberger started at QB. They’ve won three other times, however, when Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch have started in Ben’s place.
On Sunday, they’ll get their first taste of Byron Leftwich. I’m already on record about thinking Leftwich is a poor fit for the Todd Haley offense but I guess we’ll see. Boss Todd has said he’s tailoring things to better suit Lefty. In other words, he’s quick passing timing based offense needs to account for a guy with a longer wind-up than AJ Burnett.
Rashard Mendenhall is expected to make his return. I wasn’t too enthused about Mendy’s return but after iRed and Dwyer played miserably against the Chiefs, it certainly can’t hurt. If the Steelers have one chance offensively, it’ll be on the ground. The Ravens run D has been absolutely atrocious, even worse than our run D. They’re currently averaging 132 yards against per game. Yes, 132!
While the Steelers have battled injury, the Ravens have had more than their fair share as well. NT Haloti Ngata has been playing hurt and it shows. He’s not nearly as stout at the nose as usual. Lewis was useless in pass coverage although he did a good job against the run. And Terrell Suggs may have made an admirable return from off-season ACL surgery but he’s clearly not himself. Much like James Harrison has been a step behind all year, Suggs just can’t get his body to do what it’s accustomed to doing.
The Ravens have also been hit in the secondary with the loss of top corner Lardarius Webb. Much like their run D, their secondary has been giving up huge chunks of yardage all season. Safeties Bernard Pollard and Ed Reed are strong but corners Cary Williams and Paul Kruger can be exploited. If Ben were healthy, I could foresee something of a shoot-out. Whether Leftwich can make some plays in the passing game remains to be seen. Antonio Brown hasn’t practiced this week although he’s been telling reporters he’s going to give it a shot this afternoon. Getting him back on the field would be a huge boon to whoever plays QB.
I know I make every game out to be a make or break week. In this case, the hyperbole is actually appropriate. As usual, the AFC North is coming down to Ravens and Steelers. And, as usual, the eventual champion may very well be decided by tie breaks. It’s going to be an uphill battle for sure but why not shock the world and demoralize the Ravens in the process by pulling out a game with our back-up QB on national TV?
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Day Two of every Steeler fan’s nightmare brought some answers and several more questions.
The Pittsburgh Steelers still haven’t released a definitive diagnoses of Ben Roethlisberger‘s injury. All coach Mike Tomlin would confirm in yesterday’s press conference was that Byron Leftwich is starting Sunday night against the Ravens. When asked if the injury would sideline Ben for multiple weeks, Tomlin ignored the question with his typical measure of arrogance and platitudes: “I live in the present. He is out this week.”
Ben also spoke to the media and was a bit more forthcoming. Yesterday, I made a quick mention of “bruised ribs” which he suffered in addition to the shoulder separation. I only did that because Tomlin barely acknowledged them himself in his initial discussion of Roethlisberger’s injury. Now it appears the rib injury may be the most serious obstacle to his returning to the field.
Those “bruised ribs” was actually a dislocation of the first rib according to Big Ben. The danger there is if the rib were to fully separate and poke inward, it could puncture his aorta. Yep, that dreaded aorta puncture again. When asked about it, Tomlin appeared befuddled, trying to argue that the dislocated rib was simply an extension of the SC separation I discussed yesterday.
Let me break something down for Mike Tomlin: SC stands for sternoclavical meaning sternum (your breast bone) and clavical (collarbone). Your rib is located, surprisingly enough, in your rib cage. I’m not a doctor but it seems pretty self evident those are two clear and distinct injuries.
Ben told reporters he couldn’t play until the rib thing was healed up, as he seems far more concerned with that than the shoulder separation. As anybody who ever bruised a rib (me!) can attest, those hurt like a motherf*cker. Every movement, even laying down or breathing causes pain. While Ben has a Terminator-like pain threshold, I imagine even he would have trouble playing through something like that.
In the meantime, we can turn our attention to the dawn of the Leftwich era. There has been heated debate on sports radio the past couple days as to whether Lefty is the best choice to start on Sunday. As we saw during his brief disastrous stint Monday, there is question over whether he can effectively run the Todd Haley offense. Even though Charlie Batch is a thousand years old, he may be the better fit.
Leftwich no doubt has better physical tools than Charlie. He also has a longer wind up than AJ Burnett. Boss Todd’s offense relies on quick accurate throws, the words quick and accurate not being things Lefty is known for. In a standard offense, yes, you want a quarterback with a strong arm who can make every throw. In Haley’s dink and dunk, not so much. Yeah, maybe Batch can’t throw the ball more than 10 yards but he is a much better field general than Leftwich and doesn’t make as many mistakes.
I guess we’ll see on Sunday night.
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Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is hurt. He’s hurt bad. And he’s hurt one week before the Black and Gold face the most crucial part of their schedule. Football sucks.
Mike Tomlin was his usual evasive self during yesterday afternoon’s press conference. He did drop a great line which is sure to join his catalog of oft-repeated Tomlinisms: “We just focus on the healthy guys. We’re not looking to make excuses. Excuses are the tools of the incompetent.”
Beyond that, Tomlin didn’t offer much more than we knew last night. Ben suffered a a sprained sternoclavicular (SC) joint, which is a fancy way of saying he hurt his shoulder. Although make no mistake, a SC injury is a lot more complicated than a simple shoulder injury. Last night, Ben’s agent would only describe the diagnoses as “unusual” and a SC sprain would fall under that category.
What makes an SC sprain unusual is it can be extremely dangerous, depending on the severity of separation. Rams receiver Danny Amendola had a SC sprain earlier this season and the separation was such that doctors later said his condition could have potentially been life threatening. How? Put your hand on your breast bone and trace up and towards the right (or left) toward your neck until you feel your collar bone. Now imagine of that becomes separated and starts poking back in towards throat. If the separation is severe enough, the bone could actually puncture your wind pipe or even your aorta (artery in your neck).
Of course, we still haven’t heard exactly how serious Ben’s injury was. Tomlin is calling him “questionable” but we all know Tomlin would rather climb a mountain to tell a lie than sit in a chair and tell the truth. There are several different degrees of separation, the simplest heals in 7-10 days while the worst would knock him out for the rest of the season. As if this potentially life-threatening SC deal wasn’t bad enough, Ben also bruised his ribs when he fell so even if the shoulder sprain is the mildest form he may still need a few weeks off to heal up.
The bottom line is I don’t see Ben starting Sunday night against the Ravens. I also don’t see him starting the week after against the Browns because even if he’s cleared, I can see the Steelers thinking/hoping they can get by the Browns with Byron Leftwich while Ben rests up. That’s best case scenario, though. Amendola had a pretty significant SC sprain and ended up missing a month of action. Then again, Bret Favre also had an SC sprain and only missed one week. So really at this point there’s a pretty wide range of possible outcomes.
Let’s hope for the best.
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Fans of horror movies know that the end is never really the end. Usually the baddie will look like a goner only to pop back up and scare the bejeezus out of you several times before the film actually ends. No matter what you throw at them, Jason and Freddy keep coming back for more.
Add Charlie Batch to that list.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have tried to put ‘ol Chaz out to pasture for years now. They drafted guys like Dennis Dixon and Brian St. Pierre hoping to eventually groom them as the top backup. They’re all gone. They brought in a veteran like Byron Leftwich to unseat him. Lefty still hasn’t started a single game for the Black and Gold. Batch has started three since he arrived, coming within two botched Jeff Reed field goals of going 3-0 over that span.
Not even the NFL can stop Charlie Batch.
There was some talk that time had finally run out on Charlie because of the NFL’s new rules regarding back-up quarterbacks. If you were watching on Friday as teams cut players in order to get down to their final 53 man roster, you may have noticed an interesting trend. Many teams, such as the Patriots and Bears, cut their third string QB and are carrying only two QBs on the roster. Rumor had it the Steelers were going to do likewise.
As usual, the NFL’s desire to fix something by changing a rule ended up only making it worse. Before last season, teams had to designate an “Emergency” third string QB who could only come into the game in the fourth quarter or if the first two QBs were hurt. If he came in before the fourth, the other two QBs could not return. What the NFL discovered was a lot of 2nd string QBs absolutely suck. Unfortunately, teams couldn’t switch to their 3rd option until the last minute because of those goofy rules.
This all came to a head during the NFC Championship game between the Bears and Packers where Chicago was pressed into using their back-up only to discover his attempts at playing quarterback were more comical than Tino Sunseri‘s. They were forced to play their 3rd string guy before the fourth quarter, thus setting into motion what ended up being a farce of a championship game.
So the NFL changed the rule last season. The “Emergency” third string QB could come in at any time and without preventing the return of the other guys. This also helped teams who ran the WildCat because now they could keep a running QB on the roster for their gimmick offense while also having a more traditional back-up. The thought was teams would now be able to carry three QBs with all three dressed and ready to play come game day.
What ended up happening was this. Teams figured out that since you didn’t have to designate an “Emergency” QB who had to sit on the bench until the fourth quarter, anybody could be your third stringer. If disaster struck and you lost your first two signal callers, chances are the game was out of hand anyway so who cares who takes snaps at that point? Teams began going with only two QBs on game day with a position player serving as the disaster option.
The Steelers carried three QBs last year but only dressed two for the majority of the games. That’s why Dixon, who was on the 53 man all season but was only active for a handful of Sundays, was able to be signed to the Ratbirds’ practice squad. It surely wasn’t because he could give them some inside info on the Steelers. Everybody knows he only learned a half-dozen plays the four years he was here.
So the thought was the Steelers would forgo the formality of keeping three QBs and cut Charlie Batch. But as he always does, Chaz survived. And when Leftwich blows out his ACL taking a knee during garbage time in week 4, he’ll be Ben’s back-up once again. It’s fate and you simply can’t fight fate.
The rest of cutdown day was pretty uneventful. The only surprising cut made by the Steelers was releasing OL Trai Essex. Essex is mediocre but he’s that rare super-sub capable of playing all three OL positions. Rumor is the Steelers plan to re-sign him once they sort out whether DeCastro should go on permanent or 8 week IR (plus if they wait until after week 1, his 2012 salary is not guaranteed, gotta save those pennies!). There weren’t any other notable names among the cuts with the team keeping all their 2012 draft picks except 7th rounder CB Terence Fredrick, who was beaten out by undrafted free agent Josh Victorian. 7th rounder WR Toney Clemons, who was cut along with every other WR outside of Young Money & the Cotch Rocket, was signed to the practice squad along with speedster David Gilreath. Also of note is the Steelers’ revolving door at punter continues this season with rookie Drew Butler winning the job by default as incumbent Jeremy Kapinos never recovered from back surgery.
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If the Mayans were correct about the world ending, we can all rest easy knowing the only things that will survive are cockroaches, Ookla the Mok, and Charlie Batch.
For those who haven’t heard, the Pittsburgh Steelers yesterday signed Chaz to what has to be his tenth one year contract in a row. He’ll go into training camp as an afterthought and he’ll outplay the other quarterbacks they bring in to camp. And he’ll once again serve as Ben Roethlisberger‘s primary back-up because that’s just what he does. Age may have crippled Aaron Smith and age may have laid Hines Ward out but age ain’t nothin’ but a number to Charlie Batch.
What about the team’s other quarterbacking options? Well, Byron Leftwich, who many thought would take Batch’s mantle as best back-up in the NFL, is evidently being courted by the Indianapolis Colts. Their new offensive coordinator, Bruce Arians, evidently believes Lefty will serve as a good teacher for young Andrew Luck while he stands on the sidelines struggling not to hurt himself holding a clip board. Meanwhile, the guy the Steelers wasted a draft pick on, Dennis Dixon, has talked with a handful of teams although he remains unsigned. It’s highly unlikely he’d return here, though, as at the very least he wants to be somebody’s top back-up which isn’t going to happen in Pittsburgh. Considering Mike Tomlin and company were extremely disappointed with his inability to grasp the offense after spending four years studying the playbook, it’s probably best the class dunce heads elsewhere.
This leaves former Heisman Trophy winner and Baltimore Raven Troy Smith as the only other quarterback currently on the roster. While Batch and Smith won’t exactly strike fear into the hearts of opponents should tragedy befall Big Ben, they’re better looking options than Curtis Painter or Tyler Palko. The team could also invest a draft pick in a young quarterback to groom although we saw how well that worked out with Dixon and Brian St. Pierre before him. And, while I’d love for the Black and Gold to shore up their quarterbacking position, they can’t really afford to spend a second or third round pick on a quality QB prospect when the team has so many other holes to fill.
Besides, I’m good with Chaz. Every year people want to write him off and every year he lives to fight another day. Batch put on a brilliant performance against the St. Louis Rams last season and, yeah, it was the Rams but I didn’t see young Dixon out there. Always remember age and guile beats youth, exuberance, and a bad haircut.