Tuning into local sports talk the day after the Pittsburgh Steelers dropped to 0-3 for the first time in 27 years, I expected to hear plenty of complaints. Ben Roethlisberger making like Santa and gift-wrapping touchdowns to our opponents. The running game failing to produce a 100 yard rusher for the 85th straight week. A defense which hasn’t forced a turnover since Dick LeBeau‘s hair was chestnut brown.
And what was one of the burning topics on the minds of yinzers?
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlinis the newest member of the NFL’s prestigious Competition Committee. No, this isn’t some extremely late April Fool’s joke. The man in charge of one of the league’s most notoriously lawless teams has thrown in with the people responsible for making the rules his players are routinely fined for breaking. Talk about sleeping with the enemy.
When this story first broke, I saw some Steelers fans on Twitter all excited about the prospect of Coach T lending a Black and Gold perspective to the committee. Fools. That committee exists solely to rubber stamp the mandates put forth by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. What the Ginger Dictator wants, the Ginger Dictator gets.
And what he wants is a kinder, more gentle game. I know that seems contradictory to the inherent nature of football but with our increased awareness of the danger of concussions (and the huge ass lawsuit still pending from former players), there’s no going back now. Ginger wants to take the violent hits and hellacious collisions out of the game and no “recommendations” from the Competition Committee are going to change that.
The only thing having Tomlin on the Committee will change is how the Steelers play football. James Harrison and Ryan Clark, among others, have notoriously refused to alter their playing styles despite whatever rule changes were enacted. With Tomlin on the Committee making those rules, it’ll be harder if not downright impossible for his team to openly flout the edicts their own head coach had a hand in making.
Of course, that predisposes Tomlin has some measure of control over his players. If anything has become sadly apparent over the past couple seasons, it’s that Tomlin’s long boring speeches ring as hollow to the guys in the locker room as they do to the media in post-game press conferences.
When the season ended for the Pittsburgh Steelers a couple months back, I wrote that it appeared we were in for an off-season filled with upheaval. I said that because with something like a dozen unrestricted free agents, a half dozen restricted free agents and a number of overpaid veterans, it seemed a pretty safe bet the roster was going to see significant changes. I never thought those changes would extend to the coaching staff as well. Looking back, change was probably inevitable coming off such a massively disappointing season.
We knew the Steelers were losing offensive line coach Sean Kugler since he announced during the season he was leaving to become head coach at his alma mater (UTEP) at year’s end. Kugler might be the most significant loss as he’s done a tremendous job with the Black and Gold’s offensive line since replacing the awful Larry Zierlein in 2010. Every year we talk about the team’s “new look” line and every year one player goes down almost immediately with several more falling as the campaign marches on. Last year, the team used a different starting O-line combination nearly every week. The line didn’t exactly remain steady no matter who they plugged in – the run blocking, for example, fell apart when Willie Colon was lost – but the fact they could throw an untested undrafted rookie like Kelvin Beachum out there and watch him hold his own speaks well of Kugler’s coaching ability.
Kugler is being replaced by Jack Bicknell Jr. That name probably means more to college football fans than those of us who follow the NFL. Bicknell is the son of longtime Boston College head coach Jack Bicknell. Bicknell Jr. was a starting O-lineman for his dad during the Doug Flutie years before moving into coaching himself. He’s been a career OL coach with the exception of a seven year head coaching stint at Terry Bradshaw‘s alma mater, Louisiana Tech. In recent years, Bicknell Jr. was an assistant OL coach for the Giants for a few seasons before moving on to the Chiefs last season. I don’t pay attention to KC but the G-Men have had some really good lines so let’s hope he was a big part of that.
The Steelers most recent loss was wide receivers coach Scottie Montgomery. The official story is Montgomery left to become offensive coordinator at Duke. However, Uncle Eddy Bouchette at the P-G in his role of unofficial PR man has floated the story (no doubt fed to him by team officials) that the team actually booted him out the door. It sounds a lot like the Bruce Arians story where instead of straight out firing BA, they encouraged him to “retire.” And like the Arians situation, word is the reason Montgomery fell out of favor with Steelers brass as they saw him as too buddy-buddy with the Young Money crew. I’m not enamored with Art Rooney II‘s idea that coaches should be hard on their players but those idiots definitely need someone who will put boots to asses.
The new WR coach is Aliquippa native Richard Mann. Mann is a 30 year veteran of the NFL coaching ranks although he has been out of the league the past three years, working as a consultant who prepares college guys for the draft. Mann prior job was as the WR coach/assistant head coach for the Tampa Bay Bucs under Raheem Morris. Mann spent 8 seasons in Tampa, several of which saw him coaching on the same staff as Mike Tomlin. During his tenure, the Bucs won a Super Bowl and had at least one 1,000 yard receiver every year except the last. He’s known as a very detail oriented guy so let’s hope he can bring some discipline to that group of underachievers.
Now, I’ve saved the best for last. The Steelers special teams were an absolute joke last season yet ST coach Amos Jones was inexplicably brought to Arizona by his old buddy Bruce Arians as the ST coordinator down there. I don’t think a single member of Steeler Nation lost sleep over that development. After reaching out to a number of candidates, the Black and Gold finally hired Washington Redskins ST coach Danny Smith. Smith, who started his coaching career at Central Catholic, has bounced around the league since then, coaching ST for the Eagles, Bills and Skins while also enjoying short stints as TE coach for the Lions and DB coach for Philly.
Interestingly, Smith was the team’s first choice back in 2010 but Washington wouldn’t let him go so we ultimately settled on Al Everest. Also, as this comprehensive look at Smith’s eight year stint in Washington mentions, he was the man in charge when Shaun Suisham endured one of his notable meltdowns. Suisham has revitalized his career here in Pittsburgh so it’ll be interesting to see if his resurgence continues under the man who oversaw one of his biggest failures. To be honest, I’d almost be willing to trade a slight drop-off in accuracy if it means a kickoff unit that doesn’t get flagged for holding on every return.
Why don’t the Arizona Cardinals just change their colors to Gold and Black and be done with it?
Former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator and Indianapolis Colts interim head coach Bruce Arians has been named the new head coach of the Cardinals. He replaces another ex-Steelers OC, Ken Whisenhunt, who was fired despite being the most successful coach in Arizona history. Arians beat out several other candidates for the job including current Steelers OC Todd Haley and former Steelers secondary coach/current Arizona DC Ray Horton.
The bottom line here is Bruce Arians is now an NFL head coach. This culminates a strange odyssey which began over a year ago when he was happily entrenched as our OC despite constantly drawing the ire of loudmouth yinzers who blame every setback on playcalling. BA was extremely close with QB Ben Roethlisberger and their buddy-buddy relationship was seen as a main reason the Steelers’ offense became more and more pass heavy in recent years. Steelers President Art Rooney II didn’t like this situation and went over head coach Mike Tomlin‘s head to engineer Arians’ firing shortly after the Steelers got Tebow’d out of last year’s playoffs.
Note I said Arians was “fired.” At the time, the dishonest Steelers front office told reporters that Arians was actually retiring. Of course, his “retirement” lasted all of two weeks as he soon accepted a job as OC for the Indianapolis Colts. I don’t mean this to sound callous so please understand when I say with the utmost sympathy and respect that hooking on with the Colts turned out to be an extremely fortuitous move for BA. Indy head coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia which left Arians the interim head coach for the bulk of the season. By leading a team full of young players one year removed from the worst record in football to a 9-3 mark and playoff berth, Arians emerged as a hot head coaching candidate.
Arians certainly has his work cut out for him in Arizona. I had my issues with his Flying Circus style of playcalling but he was never as bad as Steeler fans made him out to be. As we saw with Haley this past season, OCs are only as smart as their players execute. You can’t run unless you have a good line and good backs and you can’t score points if your receivers can’t catch the ball.
What Arians is undoubtedly good at is working with quarterbacks. He was the OC in Cleveland when they made the playoffs with the likes of Kelly Holcomb and Tim Couch. He was Ben’s QB guru from the moment he set foot in Pittsburgh. Last season, he did a masterful job with first overall pick Andrew Luck. The QB position was an absolute disaster for Arizona this year so in many ways the choice of Arians would seem a perfect fit.
I think I speak for all of Steeler Nation when I say we wish him well.
And so is Dan Rooney. Less than a month after stepping down as Ambassador to Ireland, the patriarch of the Pittsburgh Steelershas resumed his role as team chairman. Perhaps not coincidentally, the first major incident to occur since his return was met with swift and decisive action. Perhaps the culture of arrogance and assholery which has festered under the reign of his son, Art Rooney II, is finally going to be addressed.
Running back Chris Rainey was arrested yesterday morning after pimp slapping his girlfriend in front of witnesses. Later that very same afternoon, the Steelers announced they cut the promising rookie. I realize no NFL team is going to be made up of 53 choir boys. However, it’s nice to see the Steelers brass paying a little more attention to weeding out the bad apples instead of worrying about firing offensive coordinators.
Rainey f-ing up isn’t exactly shocking. While in college, he was suspended for several games after threatening to kill an ex-girlfriend via text message. Earlier this season, he got into a scuffle at a casino. The only reason the Steelers drafted this headcase was because he lived with the Pouncey family during high school and Maurkice vouched for him. Considering Pouncey is one of the more arrogant and self-absorbed members of the team, it’s not surprising he’s a lousy judge of character.
Some people are crying hypocrisy over the team releasing Rainey after his first offense. Well, I’m sure there was a secret deal between the Steelers and Rainey much like the one they made with Mike Adams on draft day. Adams, you may recall, got popped for drug use at the combine which led to most teams, including the Steelers, taking him off their draft boards. Adams sent a heartfelt letter to the Rooneys apologizing for the mistake and vowing to walk the straight and narrow. After taking him in the second round, Steelers GM Kevin Colbert made it clear that Adams was in a strict one strike and you’re out situation.
Now, it is hard to justify cutting Rainey when the team still has NT Alameda Ta’amu on the roster. Ta’amu went on a drunken rampage through the South Side which resulted in 18 separate charges, several of which are listed as felonies. If you or I did what Ta’amu did, we’d still be sitting in jail or the hospital after the cops went all Rodney King on our ass. Oh the Steelers released the moron after the incident but quietly re-signed him the practice squad a week later then just as quietly re-signed him to the main roster when the season ended.
At the same time, it’s hard to argue Rainey was released because he was less important than Ta’amu. While Ta’amu plays NT, a much harder position to fill than RB, there has been zero evidence that he has any future here. He didn’t play at all last season so penciling him in to replace Casey Hampton is premature at best. Meanwhile, Rainey saw quite a bit of action, returning 39 kickoffs for 1,035 yards while rushing for 102 yards and catching another 60 worth of passes.
What’s more, Rainey was the only running back currently under contract for next season. Issac Redman, Jonathan Dwyer and Rashard Mendenhall are all free agents. While it was pretty clear that Rainey was way too tiny to be a featured back, he did show promise as a returner and third down threat out of the backfield. Considering the Steelers have had four backs see significant playing time the past couple seasons, it looks like the backfield is in for a pretty big overhaul with at least two new faces added to the mix.
We knew this off-season was going to be one of upheaval. Of course, I didn’t expect it to begin with the elimination of every running back on our roster. Although in this case I have to commend the Steelers for doing the right thing. Let’s hope this zero tolerance policy becomes the norm rather than the exception.
Apologies for being late to the party with this but I’ve been battling a hellacious cold this week.
On Tuesday afternoon, it was announced the Pittsburgh Steelerswill play in London next season. You lucky bastards with season tickets need not worry, the game is being considered a home game for their opponent, the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikes, in case you’ve forgotten the roof-collapsing debacle a couple winters ago, hate their home stadium and will do anything to avoid playing there. Even fleeing to other countries, apparently.
When this news was announced, I saw a bunch of Steeler fans on twitter bitching about how unfair it was to ask our boys to travel all the way to England right smack in the middle of the season. If the Steelers go on a four game losing skid after coming home, I’m sure those cries will only increase. The Patriots are playing in London this year so we’ll see how a good team handles the trip. Personally, I don’t see it as that much different than having to travel out to California or Seattle.
Besides, if you wan to blame anybody for the Steelers being chosen for this “honor,” blame Dan Rooney. The Ambassador to Ireland has stated on several occasions one of his dreams is to see his team play in his home land. When reporters questioned him, he quickly backed down by saying he meant an “exhibition” game but let’s be real. The NFL isn’t exporting an exhibition game, if they send the Steelers overseas, it’ll be for a game that counts.
The NFL’s attempt to teach Europeans that football means a manly game full of exciting action and not a sissy sport where dudes in short shorts fall on the ground pretending to be hurt every two minutes have thus far fallen flat. The World League has long since folded and the annual London game has struggled to sell tickets. What’s more, the crowds that have shown up have been largely apathetic.
If you’ve ever watched World Cup soccer, you know soccer fans are among the rowdiest crowds in sports. For those of you who don’t keep abreast of your international politics, the Irish and English don’t particularly like each other. The violence has mostly subsided but they still love to beat the shit out of each other in athletic contests.
No doubt the Steelers were chosen with the hope they bring their Irish connection to the game. Steeler Nation is the most passionate fan base in sports but if that happens, you’ll see things taken to whole new level.
And we’ll also be treated to roughly 532 “Big Ben” jokes in the week leading up to the game. My only regret is the game won’t be carried by ESPN. Resident clown Chris Berman’s head would likely explode from all the lame puns he could belch forth. And if that happened, well, I’d almost be willing to trade some jet lag for the chance to get that goof off the air.
Ike Taylor has embarrassed the Pittsburgh Steelers yet again. When we last saw Face Me Ike, he was trying to find his jock after Denver’s Demaryius Thomas ran him all over the field. This coming on the heels on January’s Wild Card playoff game in Denver where Thomas burnt him like a redhead in Acapulco. Ike’s performance led ESPN loudmouth Stephen A. Smith to say, “I didn’t know he was allowed back in the NFL after how he performed against the Broncos.” Ike took offense to these comments and a semi-illiterate twitter war broke out between the two.
Loathe as I am to agree with Screamin’ A, Ike’s showing was easily the worst game I’ve ever seen from a cornerback. And I’ve seen Tim McKyer play.
Fresh off polluting the field with his wretched play, Ike has moved on to polluting our ears with his wretched music. Yesterday a rap song surfaced featuring the musical stylings of some wanna-be gangsta chick (she’s from CANADA, for cryin’ out loud) named Jenna Garcia and the Black and Gold’s own Shoeless Ike Taylor. A 90 second preview of the song was uploaded to youtube although you can buy the full torturous three and a half minute version from iTunes if you feel like flushing .99 down the toilet. Personally, I’d rather spend the money on something more worthwhile, like one of those crusty bear claws you get out of a vending machine.
I led off with Ike and Ambassador Dan Rooney kickin’ it old-skool instead of the clip of the song because I know some of you click on videos before reading my wonderful text. The song begins with Jenna singing, backed by a generic club music auto-beat although admittedly her voice is kinda sexy. About 40 seconds in, Ike arrives to rap some lyrics which sound as if they were lifted from a porno movie. Seriously, his first line concerns Jenna’s vajayjay and how he hopes it feels like a sauna.
Swampy lady parts aren’t high on my dating criteria but, hey, I’m not a graduate of Swaggin’ U.
He proceeds to ask for oral sex, drop a couple F-bombs and brag about the size of his dick. Maybe that’s what he tripped over when Thomas beat him for that 71 yard touchdown. I wonder what Santonio Holmes thinks of his boast.
Anyway, suffice to say this song is very NSFW:
Look, don’t get me wrong, I’m proud to be a Steeler fan but things like this make me wonder if my Black and Gold colored glasses are blinding me to the fact my team really isn’t that different from the circuses we see in Dallas or New York.
Hours after the Denver playoff loss, Maurkice Pouncey pimped some idiotic rap song on his twitter account. When fans rightly questioned whether he should be shilling things so soon after a big loss, he went with the always mature “I’m rich. I’m better than you.” response. Ryan Clark is always shooting his mouth off over twitter or on ESPN. He even challenged a beat writer to a fight last season over some perceived slight. I’m not even going to get into Mike Wallace.
Don’t misunderstand, there are a lot of really good guys on the Steelers. Brett Keisel, Troy Polamalu, hell even James Harrisonrecently donated $100,000 to his alma mater. Okay that might not cancel out smacking around your baby mama but work with me. I realize they’re football players, not choir boys, but the Rooney family used to have a very low tolerance for idiots. Today’s team seems to feature more idiots than any in memory. Part of the blame goes to the Rooneys, who’ve seemingly relaxed their standards. Part goes to Mike Tomlin, who is by far the least discipline oriented coach we’ve ever had.
I will always love the Steelers. Being proud of the guys who represent my team? Not so much.
Hines Ward has been released by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Despite the outpouring of sadness across Steeler Nation, it isn’t quite the bombshell it would have been even a season ago. In fact, everybody from Hines on down have acknowledged if he were to return next year, it would be under a reworked contract and in a reduced role. Nevertheless, just because we knew this was coming doesn’t make it any easier.
Unlike the last great Steeler to retire, the end for Hines comes not with a bang but with a whimper. Our final memory of Jerome Bettis is him announcing his retirement while holding the Lombardi Trophy aloft. Our final memory of Hines will be those annoying shots of him sitting glumly on the bench while the Steelers’ offense tried time and time again to get something going against the stubborn Denver Broncos. While the Bus didn’t exactly set the world on fire his last year, he still contributed 9 touchdowns and 26 heart attacks when he fumbled the ball in Indianapolis. Hines had a totally forgettable season, barely seeing the field for long stretches of time. Even what should have been his signature moment, his 1,000th career reception, was somewhat anticlimactic when it was force-fed to him on a little shovel pass which lost five yards.
But let’s not dwell on the sad ending. It’s far better to Hines for what he was, the greatest wide receiver in Steelers history. Not bad for a third round draft choice out of Georgia. He came to Pittsburgh with little fanfare and spent most the majority of his first three years playing special teams and serving as a third receiver behind Plaxico Burress and epic first-round bust Troy Edwards (what the hell were they thinking when they drafted him?). When he finally became a full-time starter in 2001, he ripped off the first of four consecutive 1,000 yard seasons and Pro Bowl appearances. From that point on, Hines Ward and the Steelers became synonymous. Continue reading »