Who are the SteezBros?

Welcome to SteezBros! SteezBros is a Steeler Blog run by three brothers who are all huge Steeler fans. If the true definition of fan is fanatic, we fit the bill. We were born into Steeler fandom. Love of the Steelers goes back many generations in our family. It's in our blood. You can read our "Welcome to SteezBros" post in the archive if you are interested in more information about us and the blog. Thanks for reading and check back often!


Monday, August 31, 2009

Soon We Must all Face the Choice Between What is Right and What is Easy

I'm channeling my inner Harry Potter with the title, but the fact remains the Steelers have some tough choices ahead regarding who will make this years squad. One of the toughest will be whether Stefan Logan, the CFL import who has looked electric returning the football makes the 53 man roster. A serviceable return man is one luxury the Steelers have not had since the departure of Antwann Randle-El after Superbowl 40. After the last two pre-season games it appears they may have found an answer for that problem in Stefan Logan (click for an article about Stefan from the PG). Stefan Logan has averaged 15.8 yards per punt return this preseason. The number one returner last season averaged 15.3 yards per return. Finally, an answer to our prayers.

There is just one problem. He needs to make the roster. Which means there needs to be room on the roster for him. The fact that the Steelers return 20 of 22 starters from last years Superbowl winning squad is great. We should be as good if not better than last season. The Steez also have the luxury of backups like Keyron Fox who could start on alot of teams. However, with so many starters and backups from last year still on the team, there is not a lot of room for untested and project players to make the roster. There also is not alot of room for players that can only fill one role. At first glance, Logan may fall into that group but I think the Steelers could find other uses for Logan if they keep him on the roster. If the Steelers O-Coordinator was smart, he would create some plays to get Logan open in space and just let him make something happen. That is what he is best at. How about a screen play? Maybe then Ben wouldn't get hit so much. Screens, if run well prevent the D from pinning their ears back and attacking the QB. The screen game has been non-existent the past few seasons.

I personally think Logan has the team made after the game against the Bills. As long as nothing goes terribly wrong (drops a couple kicks, fumbles, gets injured) in the last pre-season game, I think Logan will be a Steeler on opening night vs. the Titans. If he does make the team, it will be the second major improvement to our special teams from last year. The first was punter Daniel Sepulveda's return from a torn ACL in his non-kicking leg. If you though our D was awesome last season, just wait and see what they can do when oppenents have much worse starting field position all season. The second will be Logan. Our returns last year were awful. I can only remember one good return and it was Santonio in the playoffs vs. SD. I am sure there may have been a couple others but they were few and far between. Our offense could benefit greatly from more advantageous starting field position and it would lessen the chance Santonio gets injured returning kicks. I hope the Steelers make the right call on this one and keep him on the roster. They obviously signed him for a reason. Let's hope they go with the same instincts that made them sign him in the first place.

Here is another article from the PG discussing the difficulties of the upcoming roster cuts:


Darnell Stapleton Placed on IR

Breaking news from the Post Gazette, Superbowl starting right guard Darnell Stapleton has been placed on injured reserve ending his season. First, this means Trai Essex will most likely start in his place. Second, this could open the door for a lineman on the bubble to make the team. Not sure which lineman this will be but it could be Ramon Foster who has been very impressive in the preseason. Also, it could mean a stay of execution for Tony Hills or Jeremy Paraquet. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out when cuts come down.

Speaking of cuts, the Steelers released four players today: : center Alex Stepanovich, wide receivers Martin Nance and Steven Black and safety Derrick Richardson.

Keisel Signed to Extensions

Let the extension season continue. Recently, the Steez locked up Heath Miller with an extension. Now they have locked up Brett Keisel. According to the Post-Gazette, Keisel signed a 5 year extension. Keisel is currently 30 so this should keep Keisel in Black and Gold for most if not all of his remaining career. No word on financials yet but I look for this to be a reasonable deal for someone who has been fairly productive and is also Ben's best friend on the team. You have to keep your superstars happy. This is one way to do it. I like the signing, especially with the prospect of losing Hampton next season when his deal is up. This keeps the book ends of our D line in tact for the near future. Keisel's starts may not stand out but he is very valuable to the Defense. He normally gets a good push at the line and no doubt occupies blockers that could be used to help contain James Harrison. As the PG said, this will most likely be the last signing until after the season.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

What I saw in the 3rd Preseason Game

The game wasn't carried in the Denver market. Blasted cable providers. I'll TiVo the NFL Network re-broadcast and get back to you with what the 17-0 win over the Bills means for the defending Super Bowl champions.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

If the Steelers were a girl, what kind of girl would she be?

That's the question posed by the crew at nfltouchdown.com.

Ms. Steeler is the cute girl who, when you first see, you think you’ll be the only one who finds her really attractive. But you eventually find out that just about everyone has deciphered this very same thing, thus making her a full-fledged diamond out of the rough. There’s a captivating ordinariness about Ms. Steeler’s beauty, augmented by some random characteristic like a really cute dimple or her sexiness in glasses. She’s a jock, but not the gross kind. Ms. Steeler is smart, fun-loving and comes from a good home. And she leads a refreshingly grounded life.

Sounds like exactly the kind of girl I would like. Then again, I'd date just about any girl wearing a Troy Polamalu jersey.

Check out what they have to say about other teams

Remembering the Chief

As I wrote last week, just about any article about the Rooneys will get a link from this blog. Steeler blog Behind the Steel Curtain wrote an outstanding piece remembering the founder of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Art Rooney AKA "The Chief." I was younger than 5 years old when The Chief died, but his importance to the Steelers and the city of Pittsburgh is known to me and younger generations. For those from the Pittsburgh area, The Chief is a legend. A cross between Paul Bunyan and Hercules, with a heart of gold. It's nice to see that the stories of his life are still being written.
Social status and standing in life meant nothing to the Chief... He once made sure that his son Dan saved a Super Bowl ticket for the mailman. He treated everyone as if he or she was the most important person in the world, and people loved him for that. Once a member of the grounds crew needed to ask the Rooneys a question before a game, so he went to the press box. The Chief introduced the guy to dignitaries as "a member of our organization." The worker was so startled, feeling 10 feet tall, he forgot what his question was.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Keeping up with the Rooks

After training camp and two preseason games, the coaches should be well on their way to deciding the final 53 man roster. The Steelers have 20 of 22 starters returning and didn't lose much depth, which makes it hard for unproven rookies to make the team. But unlike years past, this class of rookies seems to be drawing raves from coaches, players, and onlookers.

I'm stuck in the Rocky Mountains, so I don't have any information other than the preseason games and what I've read in articles, blogs, and camp reports. But that won't stop me from analyzing each rookie and their shot of making the squad.

Ziggy Hood
Ziggy Hood has performed like the Steelers front office hoped he would. In addition to his talent, the front office loved his work ethic and attitude. Hood moved to Pittsburgh prior to signing a contract so he could adapt to his new home prior to training camp. He signed a contract early and has drawn nothing but praise from everyone that's worked with him. He recorded a sack in the first preseason game and applied pressure on a play that resulted in an interception. He was credited with two sacks in the second preseason game. Granted, he's learning a completely new system and probably has less pressure and a more limited role- back up defensive end and spot duty on passing downs -than any other 2009 first round pick because of the pedigree of the players in front of him. Nonetheless, the following comments are exactly what you want to hear about your first round pick.

"He's ahead of anybody I've seen coming in," said Aaron Smith. "He's a talented kid. He's a smart kid. He understands it more than the rest of us did as a rookie. I would have cut me my rookie year." Then Smith added, "There's a reason he's a first-rounder. Usually, a first-rounder is the complete package. He's a big, strong kid who works hard. He is the complete package.

"He's progressed faster than anybody I've ever seen do it before," Smith said. "He's still got a ways to go, but as far as a rookie in camp, he's progressed much faster than I've ever seen."
Smith said Hood has done so well through the first half of training camp that he expects the former Missouri star to make an impact this season even though the Steelers are deep at defensive end. He's going to be a really good player for a really long time," Smith said. "He gets it. He's a smart kid and works hard."

"Hood, the Steelers' top draft pick, has the look of a future star - or at least as much of a star as defensive linemen can be in this defense." - Jim Wexell

Likelihood of making team: 100%

Kraig Urbik
Of any player the Steelers drafted in the 2009 draft, Kraig Urbik was expected to have the greatest chance of becoming a starter. Darnell Stapleton struggled in spots during 2008 season and was expected to be pushed by the rookie guard from Wisconsin. As predicted, Stapleton will likely lose the starting job, but it will be to Trai Essex and not Kraig Urbik. Urbik has been the most disappointing of all the rookies. He has lacked power against the defensive lineman and generally looks lost. Early on in camp, he became Tomlin's "whipping boy" after making repeated mistakes. In the first preseason game, he failed generate much push off the line against Arizona's third team. His play against Washington wasn't much better.
"Ramon Foster is a better player than Kraig urbik. Urbik, frankly, is too soft. And I'm stunned" - Jim Wexell

"The second practice — when we started doing one-on-ones — that was a huge, rude awakening," said Urbik, one of three third-round picks the Steelers made in the NFL draft at the end of April. "You have to have perfect technique every time. I did bad on it, so it's really an eye-opener that you really have to hone your technique."

Likelihood of making team: 70%
The Steelers will give Urbik a chance to improve. It would be awfully rare for the front office to cut its second pick in the draft without giving him at least a year to develop.

Mike Wallace
No one in the rookie class - maybe no one on the team - has drawn as many raves as Mike Wallace. The receiver out of Ole Miss ran the second fastest 40 time at the combine -a wicked fast 4.33 - that was only surpassed by Darrius Heyward-Bey. He was drafted to provide depth at wide receiver and to take the top off opposing defenses. Well if anyone was worried that Wallace's speed wouldn't transfer from the track to the football field, worry no more. Nearly every time he's mentioned it's followed by "really fast," "visibly fast," "fastest Steeler," "Damn he's fast," or "nice mohawk." The speed isn't surprising, but his abilities to run routes has been. He's been running a variety of routes, including going over the middle to take some hits by overzealous DBs, with precision. And nearly every day there is a report that he caught a deep TD pass or that he was open and the QB underthrew him. If not for the development of Limas Sweed, Wallace would have the inside track at the #3 wide receiver spot. Not to mention, he also will provide speed at kick returner, where the Steelers will be happy not to have short yardage backs returning kicks.

The only critique on Wallace is his tendency to drop a pass every now and then - a trait shared by many Steeler wide receivers. Wallace had a nice first preseason game with 2 catches for 35 yards and a 35 yard return. He also got open deep, but Dennis Dixon underthrew him. He was also solid against Washington.


"He's one of fastest I've ever run against," said cornerback Ike Taylor, generally acknowledged by his teammates as the fastest Steelers player. "Nobody's really running like him right now."

"He's one of those guys who will go in what I call the combat zone -- inside those numbers, between the hashes," said offensive coordinator Bruce Arians. "He's not afraid to go in the combat zone. It takes special cats to go in there. A lot of guys like to play out there by those numbers, especially those fast guys, and he hasn't shied away at all."

Rookie Mike Wallace continues to impress at training camp, showing off great hands in addition to great speed. - Jim Wexell

"Wallace just ran a reverse and all I can say is I cant wait till the season. O, and there's a screen to him. Wow" - Jim Wexell

"Four things stood out about rookie receiver Mike Wallace in the early days of training camp: He has a Mohawk haircut, he has speed, he has a tattoo of the New Orleans Saints on his neck, and he dropped his share of passes."

Likelihood of making team: 100%

Keenan Lewis & Joe Burnett

It's rare to read about one without reading about the other so I'll lump these two cornerbacks together.

Keenan Lewis - Mike Wallace's high school teammate has received positive remarks in training camp for his ball skills and positioning. Lewis is a big cornerback, 6'1" and 210 lbs, who is expected to provide physical, bump-and-run type coverage for the team. He's been compared to Ike Taylor in build and style of play. Other than generic praise for Lewis, I haven't seen much written about him. Dick Lebeau seems to have positive remarks. That's good enough for me. Lewis has been quiet in both preseason games, but, as a cornerback, that's not always a bad thing.

Joe Burnett - After watching the preseason games, my one thought about Burnett - man is he small. But there are successful corners in the NFL the same size as Burnett, 5'10" and 190 lbs. The cornerback out of Southern Florida confirmed his reputation as a playmaker by intercepting multiple passes at training camp and picking a pass against the Cardinals. Thought t have potential to make the team as a returner, Burnett has fumbled two punt returns in the preseason - a quick way to get relegated to Ricardo Colcough-style hatred in the burgh.


"You would probably compare [Lewis] to Ike," DB coach Ray Horton told reporters. "He's 6-foot, 200 pounds and runs a 4.55 (40-yard dash). He'll be able to run up the field with men just like Ike. You have to stop the run and make (teams) throw the ball and he is a big, physical corner, a la Ike."

"I'm going to the Super Bowl," said Lewis, a cornerback from Oregon State who was drafted in the third round. "I'll find anyway I can, even if it's on special teams. That's my goal -- to help this team get back to the Super Bowl. Whatever I can do to enhance the situation, I'm going to do."

Q:Do you think Keenan Lewis makes the team??
Ed Bouchette: Yes, he's looked very good in training camp. I don't see how he doesn't make it.

Rookie cornerback Keenan Lewis is setting his goals high. “Definitely (NFL Defensive) Rookie of the Year and I want to go to the Pro Bowl,” he said. “If I can’t do that, I fail.” Strong words for a third-round draft pick who isn’t even a starter. So why would he put his goals so high? “I feel I’m ready,” he said. “I don’t know if I’ll have the opportunity to start (this year), but I feel I will have the opportunity to play. Special teams, anything. Hopefully, I’ll get in on defense.”

"But, all in all, Burnett looks like not only a keeper but a potentially dynamic player for the Steelers."

"Anatomically speaking, they're different," said defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. "But they're both quality corners. Both have been very impressive in balls drills and passing drills and being able to relate to the ball in the air and make some plays with the ball in the air.
"That has been the single-most pleasing factor -- they don't tense up with the ball in the air and they both make plays on the ball."

"They are right where they should be, right where we expected them to be," said secondary coach Ray Horton. "We couldn't be more pleased with them."

Likelihood of making team:

Lewis - 70%
Burnett - 40%

These numbers are just a guess, but I think Lewis and Ratliff beat Burnett for the final corner spots and Stefan Logan takes the punt return duties. Lewis has the edge over Burnett due to his size.

Frank Summers
Frank "the Tank" quickly became a fan favorite because his size and power provided Pittsburgh with its next big running back. However, Summers has received very few reps at running back. The coaches seem to think he is better suited for fullback, which is probably not a good development for the Tank. He'll be battling coach favorite Carey Davis and TE-FB hybrids Sean McHugh and David Johnson. Summers provided several nice blocks on touchdowns against the Cardinals, but I don't remember seeing him against the Redskins. The real potential for Summers to make the team is through his special teams play.

Steelers RB Frank "The Tank" Summers has been working at fullback, but incumbent Carey Davis is a better blocker and special teams player. Summers has struggled learning the offense and may end up on the practice squad. - CBS

dmsteel: Gene do you see Frank Summers making the Team?
Gene Collier: They don't like to cut draft picks, but Frank would be a longshot at this point. He hasn't wowed anybody.

"I love special teams. It's a time for me to really hit somebody without carrying the ball, just to run 60 or 50 yards downfield like a crazy man. I love to play the sport of football. Special teams is my favorite part of the game; anytime people were punting or kicking off, that was my favorite part." -Frank Summers

Likelihood of making team: 35%

Sonny Harris
Keeping in line with the Steelers draft persona, the team selected defensive tackle Sonny Harris in the sixth round of the draft. He was injured early on in training camp, so there hasn't been much buzz about Sonny. But Harris played very well against the Cardinals. He had a tackle, half a sack, a quarterback hit, and brought consistent pressure. I don't think he is much more than a practice squad player at this point, but John Mitchell may be able to make a man out of him in the future.

Quotables: “Yeah, Sonny’s played real well,” said Aaron Smith, the veteran defensive end. “To me, he’s the biggest surprise."

Jim Wexell reported that Sonny Harris scored out very well in the first preseason game.
Likelihood of making team: 20%

AQ Shipley
The winner of college football's best center award fell to the 7th round of the draft due to concerns about his size and short arms. Pittsburgh was happy to grab the Penn State lineman and Pittsburgh native and the fans seemed pleased about the pick as well. After an initial surge of excitement, there hasn't been much mentioned about Shipley. He's currently behind starter Justin Hartwig and backup Doug Legursky, which means his chance of making the squad this year is virtually nil. Still, he is a nice developmental prospect on the practice squad.

Likelihood of making team: 10%

David Johnson
David Johnson was a relatively unknown TE/FB hybrid out of football powerhouse Arkansas State. When drafted, he seemed like nothing more than camp fodder to provide competition with Sean McHugh. But, coaches and reporters are raving about Johnson's blocking ability. So much so, that he may have the inside track for the third tight end spot and may start as a fullback (in the few instances Arians uses one). He provided key blocks on both of Isaac Redman's touchdown runs against the Cardinals.

"He's the first guy I've ever seen knock James Harrison an inch backward," said offensive coordinator Bruce Arians. "Not a foot, but an inch, anyway. He's just so powerful when we put him up against linebackers. And against our defensive ends, he really stood out. You talk to those guys, they say, 'Man, this kid's got some punch.' And he can run and catch.

"If he continues to come around, we might have found a jewel because that's the guy who can also play fullback," Arians said.

“He’s good. He’s got a lot of potential,” said Heath Miller. “He’s big but he’s not that tall, so he’s got a lot of leverage on people. He’s explosive, too. But he looked good in the spring and he’s definitely looked pretty good here in camp.

Steelers rookie David Johnson has the edge over Sean McHugh for the third TE spot. Johnson is a powerful blocker and has decent hands. He's also versatile, having lined up at fullback in goal-line situations. - CBS Camp Reports
Likelihood of making team: 50%

Ramon Foster
Nearly every year an undrafted rookie makes the final roster for the Steelers. Ramon Foster will be that guy. His draft stock plummeted after a terrible workout, but the former Tennessee Volunteer has proved his worth in camp. He's played well enough at left guard that the team has started giving him reps at left tackle as well. A clear sign that coaches want him to develop position flexibility, a necessity for back up lineman that make the roster.

While Harris seems destined for the practice squad, the other No. 73 [Ramon Foster] has become a roster lock. Foster, the undrafted rookie out of Tennessee, had the best second quarter of any of the Steelers’ second-teamers Thursday night. The staff likes him so much that they’ve moved him to tackle this week in the hope he can become a game-day swing player off the bench.

“He gives us that big guy in there who can move a bit,” said line coach Larry Zierlein, who knew coming into camp that Foster would challenge for a roster spot. Yeah, there were some expectations for him, but he’s given us a tad more than what I thought he might. It’s early. It remains to be seen whether he can be consistent, but I think he’s got a future.”

"Chris Kemoeatu out. Hope that means Ramon Foster starts. May be best run blocker on team." - Jim Wexell

Likelihood of making team: 80%

Isaac Redman
The little known running back from Bowie State made headway in Steelers camp when he scored twice in the goal line drill. He made national (and fantasy football) news when he scored twice from the goal line in the first preseason game. That earned him a promotion to play with the big boys. Going against the Steelers first team defense, Redman scored three times in the goal line drill. A showing good enough that Tomlin used him in all 7 goal line attempts. He scored on five of them. It appears that Redman is battling Frank Summers and Stefan Logan for the fifth running back spot, behind Parker, Mendenhall, Moore, and, inexplicably, Carey Davis. Redman will need to continue his stellar goal line play and show something in special teams to make the squad.
-Steelers RB Isaac Redman has been the unquestioned surprise of camp. The undrafted Bowie State product is ahead of RB Frank "The Tank" Summers for the final backfield spot. - CBS Rapid reports
"You guys saw what I saw, he got in the end zone a bunch," Tomlin said. "He's still got a ways to go. That's the process. No question he represented himself pretty well."

The Steelers have a new folk hero on their hands, an undrafted, mostly unwanted rookie who has become one of the remarkable stories of this training camp." - Ed Bouchette

"Hopefully we will get some more looks at him against some varsity guys, if you will," Tomlin said of Redman after the game. "He did a nice job with what he was faced in front of tonight. We are not going to make too much out of it."
Likelihood of making team: 50%

Monday, August 24, 2009

Tomlin: "I study the '75 Steelers"

Those that love our coach Mike Tomlin should watch this interview with Deion Sanders. Tomlin pontificates on repeating as Super Bowl Champs, his relationship with Dan Rooney, distractions, thoughts on Mike Vick, and Willie Parker's contract situation.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Preseason Game #2: Lesson in ZZZZZZZ

I'm a day late with my post, but I just finished watching the TiVo'd game. The last five minutes were cut off so if I missed anything big, let me know in the comments section.

Here are my thoughts:
  • It's a good thing this was a preseason game, because the most memorable part of the game was the number of penalties. (Which tells you the level of excitement of the game). The Steelers didn't look like a disciplined team, but Tomlin should iron this out. The refs were in preseason form as well. Although the highlight was seeing two "Willie Colons" - a lineman not lining up on the line of scrimmage - in the game. Funny enough, neither was on Colon. But it's good to know that Tony Hills has been studying the all-pro, because he was flagged for one.
  • The starting offensive line was pushed around by the Redskins defensive front. It's once again tough to judge as this was Hartwig's first game back from injury and Doug Legursky started in place of Kemo. It's not surprising the Legursky vs. Albert Haynesworth didn't go too well for the Steelers. Nonetheless, I'm expecting another year of frustrating times for the o-line.
  • Charlie Batch looked hesitant in the first couple drives, but started to make plays after a couple series. I'd like to see him get more work than Dennis Dixon, who flashed potential but is still a year away from taking the primary back up roll.
  • The biggest winner of the night was Stefan Logan. He looked absolutely electric as a kick and punt returner. If the decision was based solely on return duties, Logan would be a lock to make the team (especially after Joe Burnett fumbled another punt return, which led to the Redskins winning score), but Logan doesn't bring anything to the table on coverage teams and the team is already deep at running back. Where does that leave us? I'm not sure. But if Allen Rossum can take a roster spot as a pure returner, Logan may be in better shape than originally thought.
  • Limas Sweed had an unsettling drop, but returned to make a couple nice catches. Mike Wallace had another nice game. From the looks of it, he will play situational football and have the opportunity to run some reverses and maybe a screen pass.
  • The screen pass game still looks horrendous.
  • Joe Burnett may have secured himself a spot on the practice squad. Keiwan Ratliff had a nice interception and provides veteran experience as the fourth or fifth cornerback. Burnett's best shot to make the team was through his versatility as a returner and corner. The shot at returner should be in danger, with two fumbles in two games.
  • Ziggy Hood - two games, two sacks.
  • I was disappointed Isaac Redman didn't get an opportunity at the goal line. Willie Parker did a nice job on the two yard touchdown run, but we know what we have in Willie. Redman is more of a question mark. And as a brief aside, I think the run outside at the goal line will be a bigger part of the offense this year. We know we can't run inside in short yardage situations.
  • Mendenhall had a couple nice runs, but he struggles in pass protection. I'm underwhelmed by his development.
  • Biggest takeaway - no injuries.
Oh yeah, the Redskins won 17-13.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Ben Injured at Practice

Ben was hurt yesterday during practice in Latrobe when left tackle, Max Starks stepped on his foot. You would think that after the Steelers made Starks our highest paid o-lineman he would not want to injure our star QB. Instead, he should focus on driving the defender away from the QB however accidents do happen. All the reports and comments that have been coming from Latrobe indicate the injury is not serious. ESPN is reporting that the injury is to Ben's achilles tendon. If it had torn, we would have had a Tom Brady situation from last season on our hands. Imagine if we had signed Vick and Ben went down for the season. Or imagine if Charlie Batch and/or Denis Dixon had to takeover the team for the season. Or consider if Vick was still unsigned and Ben went down for the season. Anyone think the Steelers would have signed him then? Thankfully, it does not appear that the injury will be season threatening, although Ben most likely won't play tomorrow night vs. the 'Skins.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

"Give Me Rooneys, You Take the Rest"

Any article about the Rooneys is likely to get a link from this blog (evidence). Terence Moore at NFL Fanhouse wrote a great piece about the beloved Steeler owners. Here are some highlights.

It's ego. It's jealousy. It's a little of both, or maybe folks just aren't paying attention. Whatever the case, all owners in professional sports should swallow their pride, study the Pittsburgh Steelers over the past four decades and implement the ways of the Rooneys.

Said Art Rooney II, relaxing in his office at Heinz Field, which is home to the Steelers, the defending Super Bowl champs for a record sixth time: "My grandfather always recognized that it's about the players. It's not about the owners. It's not really about the coaches. The game on the field is the most important thing we have, and that's something that my father felt, and he carried on that tradition and, certainly, that is the way I hope we will continue to look at things."

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Ravens Will Win the AFC North

Or so says ESPN analyst Chris Mortensen. Mort is touring the country visiting training camps across the NFL. During his visit to Baltimore, Mort did an interview with the Baltimore Sun in which he weighs in on a long list of questions about the Ravens. Included was this gem:

Where will the Ravens finish?
Mortensen: The Ravens are going to win the AFC North. Then I put them in the pool of four or five teams that can win the Super Bowl. But every time I pick the Super Bowl, I get it wrong. I know this much – two months ago when anybody asked me, I said the Patriots and the Eagles, instinctively. I think the Ravens will be right there with the Patriots, I really do.

It probably doesn't bode well for the Ravens, Patriots, or Eagles that Mort admits that every time he picks the Super Bowl he gets it wrong. But does Mort have a point?

It seems like most analysts are underrating the Ravens even though they made it to the AFC Championship last year with a rookie quarterback. The last team to do that was the Pittsburgh Steelers. The following year the Steelers won the Super Bowl. There is a similarity between those teams, because the Steelers were a team that won with good defense, a good running game, and timely play at the quarterback position. The exact formula the Ravens used last years. Ultimately, I believe Big Ben's play (not to mention a 15-0 record) was more impressive than Flacco's run, but that doesn't mean the Ravens should be taken lightly.

One consideration to take into account is the recent history of the Ravens. They haven't made it to the playoffs in consecutive years since 2000-2001. Unlike the Steelers, Patriots, and Colts, the Ravens have not been consistent contenders. Some may argue that's because of the lack of a star quarterback or the coaching of Brian Billick. I agree with both of these points. The coaching of John Harbaugh and the advancement of Joe Flacco should help the team to build on its success in 2008.

This also isn't like last year when the chic pick to win the AFC North was the Cleveland Browns coming off of their non-playoff 10-6 season. The Ravens are for real.

But, do I believe the Ravens will win the AFC North? In a word, no.

The Steelers will win the AFC North.

It's not that I'm a raging homer (really). It's two things.

One - The Steelers are more talented offensively and defensively. Big Ben is way better than Flacco. Sure, the Ravens have a better running game, but they don't have playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. The Ravens and Steelers defenses were the best in the league last year. But, the Steelers were better. They still are. By a bigger margin.

And don't forget about Coach Tomlin.

Two - The Steelers schedule. The Ravens and Steelers will play the same exact schedule except for two games. The Steelers play the Titans and Dolphins. The Ravens play the Colts and the Patriots. The Titans and Dolphins may have won their respective divisions last season, but who would you rather play? Those two, or the two most successful franchises this decade (outside of Pittsburgh of course). Kerry Collins and Chad Pennington, or Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. That's what I thought.

These two games will provide the margin of victory in the division.

However, let's not forget. After the Steelers 15-1 season in 2004, the team lost the division to the Cincinnati Bengals and barely made the playoffs as the #6 seed. Was it a regular season let down after the highs of 15-1? Sure.

But, it wasn't the regular season title we were after. It was the One for the Thumb.

Baltimore, you can have the AFC North title this year. As long as Pittsburgh is rocking in Seventh Heaven.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Armpit of Pennsylvania

In case any of you out there don’t already know, ( I don’t know how you couldn’t ), I absolutely hate the Philadelphia Eagles. I hate the team, I hate the city, other than cheesesteaks, the University of Pennsylvania, and Ben Franklin, I hate their fans, I don’t like their coaches, and I don’t like their players. Two recent additions to the organization, if you want to call it one, help me to hate them even more. These two people are Mike Vick and Greg Lloyd. At one point in my life I once cheered for and liked both of these guys as players for the Falcons and Steelers respectively. With these two additions the Eagles have taken one giant leap towards becoming the Bungals. These two guys both are terrible moral characters. Let’s take a look at Vick first.

Michael Vick: I started watching Vick at VT, torturing the Big East. I then cheered for him throughout his career with the Falcons. He was the most electrifying player I had and may ever seen. Vick and the other Birds were always my hope to win the Super Bowl if the Steelers weren’t playing in it and also to beat the Eagles. He failed me pretty badly. And he somehow played the games of his life every time he played the Steelers. This was just the beginning of his slide towards hatred. Then came the dog fighting scandal. First of all he lied through his teeth to everyone he possibly could, including the law, his owner, team and the commissioner and still claimed his innocence. I freaking hate liars. Only after several of his murdering friends narked him out and he knew there was no chance of getting out of it did he plead guilty to try to ease up his Federal prison sentence. The details of what he did and financed other to do is disgusting it almost makes me want to vomit. Vick participated in not only fighting dogs which is sick enough, but for dogs who lost or refused to fight in these rings they would be beaten, electrocuted, drowned, slammed off the ground to death, and the lucky ones got shot. He is severely mentally sick. After only nearly two years of confinement he has been released and he faces essentially only a 4 game suspension( I believe) but he can still practice and play in the last two preseason games. Merely a slap on the wrist from the league after Adam Jones was suspended for an entire season just for facing criminal charges that he only ended up with a misdemeanor disorderly conduct on his record. I have a disorderly conduct on my record, not a big deal at all seeing that I’ve been hired for three different jobs in the past four months and not one has even mentioned it to me. I began to prepare myself to have to cheer for Vick when the Steelers were rumored to be the favorite to sign him. This was going to split my heart in the middle. I love the Steelers and I love animals. Could I cheer for a Steeler that brutally murdered pets? This rumor was ridiculous to begin with and when I found out he signed with Philly I was relieved. Now I can hate him with my animal side and my fandom side! After I watched the interview on 60 Minutes, I hated Vick more. He seemed very smug throughout the interview, and while he said obviously rehearsed answers to very predictable questions he still did not seem genuinely sorry for what he did. He is only saying he is because it’s the only way he can get himself back in the league and out of extreme debt. I can only hope that as the Eagles once again sign a moral issue player that this blows up in the face.

Now to Greg Lloyd, a new fellowship coach for the Eagles. Greg Lloyd is a Steelers great and one of the earlier players I remember from my childhood. He was beastly on the field and also in Tecmo Bowl. I also got his autograph at the DuBois Mall. But then I learned of a couple incidents that I cannot believe a person could actually do, much like Mike Vick. Greg Lloyd was a crazy mo fo which helped on the football field but you have to have a on/off switch for the gridiron and actual life. When Lloyd’s middle school aged son had received some poor grades, the father put a Glock in his mouth and according to the son said “you’re wasting your life away and if you want to ruin it, I can end it right now.” I thought my mom was a little extreme about grades when I would get the TV and video games or my car revoked until they were brought up to par but a gun in my mouth? I wasn’t even allowed to have a cap gun growing up. Then to make matters worse Greg also held a gun to his wife’s head a few years later.

This is what the Eagles are bringing into to help their organization and especially their younger players as role models. You would think after bringing in known team cancer TO into a locker room and watching him rip it apart they would have learned their lesson in bringing in bad moral characters into a locker room, but this season they have brought in at least two. Here’s to hoping this year’s additions finish like the TO trial without the Super Bowl appearance. Although it was nice watching them lose on the biggest stage on Earth, I don’t like the idea that if the other team screws up they get handed a Super Bowl and I also don’t have to listen to them boast about being in the Super Bowl forever.

PS All readers are encouraged to leave comments and their thoughts, advice, and suggestions in the comment section. Please give us your feedback and when you do we would appreciate that you enter your name and not leave it as anonymous. This will help us identify you and if we know you see your point of view.


All three SteezBros are heading to the season opener! Two will be coming from Denver, while the other hosts in Pittsburgh. Given the right motivation, cross country trips are easy to plan.

Many thanks to Amanda for getting the tickets.

See you at Heinz Field on September 10. Hit us up if you are going to the game.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Jersey Purchase Rules

Steeler Nation is one of the best, if not the best when it comes to wearing our teams jerseys in support of our squad. You cannot walk down the street in Pittsburgh without seeing someone wearing a Steeler's jersey, even in the middle of summer. A jersey purchase decision is not something one should take likely. Behind the Steel Curtain has come up with some rules to consider when purchasing jerseys. The rules are so on the money that I am posting the entire article below:

I've gotta buy a new Steelers jersey. This has kept me up nights, and any die-hard fan in the same situation should treat this monumentous decision the same way.

See, there's far more that goes into a fan's jersey selection than most think. It's a commentary of that fan's ownership of the team. It's a proud statement that shows the devotion and loyalty to America's greatest team.

Is it your favorite player? Is it a tribute to the olden days of the team? Is it commemorating one of our two recent Super Bowls? These are all factors, but the "coolness" of that player or the uniqueness and rareity of that jersey is also very important. Longevity and likelihood of that player's continued employment by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

One of the big reasons the Steelers achieve success year in and year out is due to their ability to maintain their group of core players. Every successful team in today's NFL focuses on three major tenets of management: Get a franchise quarterback, give long-term extensions to 12 or 13 franchise players and replace outside of those 12 or 13 via the draft or inexpensive free agents.

This plays into jersey selection because the fan is ultimately looking for the highest rate of return possible. That means the selection should be made based on either that player's inclusion in that group of core players, or the likelihood of that player being a core player in the near future.

Here are the main rules behind the purchase of a new jersey.


The Oversaturation Rule (Ben Polamalu Clause): "While allowable, it is discouraged to buy the jersey(s) of the most popular player(s)."

With all due respect to Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu, those two are without question the most popular on the team (add Hines Ward to this as well). While I cannot fault the logic of selecting their jerseys based on the fact both of them are under contract for a long time, and both will continue to provide plenty of value, they represent the Oversaturation Rule. One of of every two jerseys you see are of either Roethlisberger or Polamalu. Try to be a bit more unique.

The Bandwagon Rule (Silverback Clause): "A breakout Steelers player will emerge every year. Be careful not to join the masses in buying his jersey a year too late. Find the breakout player before he breaks out."

An often controversial clause, you'll see exactly what I mean by Week 2. Everyone will be wearing a James Harrison jersey. What's been great about Harrison from a fan's perspective is he's been roughly off the radar since he became a starter. He was only known to die-hard fans before 2007. I called him out in 2004, not long before his body-slamming of that moron Browns fan. At that point, I strongly considered getting a No. 92 Harrison jersey. I've had a Hines Ward jersey since 2001 (right before he broke onto the national scene), and I've vowed to keep it until he reitres.

Just like Ward in 2003, Harrison is about to enter the Oversaturation level. Get the trendy player's jersey before he becomes a trend. Uniqueness and rareity are essential.

The Committment Rule (Dermontti Dawson Clause): "A player has to be assured of being on the team for at least another few years."

If the player has at least three years remaining on his contract, for what we know, that player will be on the team for a long time. Failure to know the remaining legnth of the player's contact is unacceptable. Wearing jerseys of players who are no longer on the team but is still in the leauge (i.e. Alan Faneca) is a sin, and should be punished thusly. I understand it's expensive to change out your jersey each year, but that's exactly why a fan must pay attention to these things. The second he's not on the team, you have to get another one, and retire your old one. That's just the law, I'm sorry.

The Throwback Rule (The Steel Curtain Clause): "A former player reaches Throwback Status when he has been retired from the league for five years, or has been off the team for three years, played somewhere else and has just retired (aka the Rod Woodson Clause)." A colloary to this is Recyclization, which is continuing to wear the jersey of a player before the five-year mark, and claiming it's a Throwback.

Any authentic jersey from the Steel Curtain years is phenominal. It's a great tribute, attention-grabbing and very cool. Keep in mind, though, you are in violation of Recyclization if you are currently wearing a Plaxico Burress, Antwaan Randle-El or, now, Larry Foote. You must upgrade immediately.

The biggest violation of Recyclization is the Bus. Jerome Bettis has not yet achieved this status. All that means is you kept wearing your Bettis jersey and chose not to upgrade to a current player, or a qualifying Throwback.

The Wary Rookie Rule (Troy Edwards Clause): "Caveat Emptor (buyer beware) in purchasing a rookie's jersey - in particular, the first-round choice. While it does fit the Committment Rule, and the Steelers are known for an excellent track record selecting in the first round,it will likely border on Oversaturation. I'm loving what I'm hearing about Ziggy Hood, but it's not quite enough to make the bold statement that he's a core player.

It's named after Troy Edwards, because he's a sad reminder of what can happen when rookies flat-out don't make it. Too many people bought his jersey right away, and there hasn't been a bigger Steelers first-round flop in the last 20 years. Be wary! However, if you've got the guts, get a rookie's jersey from the second round, or even the second day of the draft. That's a sharp way to build street cred, assuming your prediction that player will be huge his rookie year is valid (Mike Wallace is tempting right now).

The Double-Entendre Rule (William Gay Clause): "If the player's last name is awkward, or suggests something else, it's probably better to just leave it alone."

It's named after William Gay. That pretty much explains it. It's unfortunate, because Big Play Willie Gay is going to be an excellent player. But...yeah. Truthfully, though, this used to be called the Miroslav Satan Clause, because I knew people who purposefully bought his jersey so they could wear something with "Satan" on the back (even though it's pronounced sha-TAN). This also includes the purchase of any No. 69 jersey.

Don't be That Guy. You're not wearing a jersey for comedic value. You're showing your membership in Steeler Nation.

The Pirates Rule (Dress the Part Clause): "The cheaper alternative is rarely the better alternative. Buy the real thing."

The Pittsburgh Pirates are mired as also-rans not only in their sport, but in their hometown because they have dedicated their franchise to not spending money. Wearing the knock-off jersey-shirts purchased at your local Giant Eagle makes you look like a bandwagon fan. If you're a die-hard, spend an extra $50 and get a replica. I'm talking about the $80 screen-printed ones, mind you, the rules do not require a hand-stitched, $275 jersey. If that's your thing, then more power to you, just wear the officially licensed apparel.

The Pirates Rule brings me to today.

My wife and I were married this past June, and we've been together since 2006. When my father, perhaps the most generous man alive, felt bad for her showing up at the Steelers bar not wearing a jersey, he decided to buy her one.

He travels internationally, and a trip to Korea brought him to some street vendor. He bought my then-girlfriend a Polamalu jersey, and the only accurate parts of the jersey are the number 43, the spelling of his last name and the fact the Steelers wear black, gold and white. Other than that, it looks as if someone created it despite never having seen a real one before.

My main priority in our first Steelers season post-wedding was to get her a real jersey. I appreciate it, Dad, but she's not wearing that anymore.

Applying the rules to my current situation, who am I getting?

She's only been a fan of the team since 2006, so a throwback is a bit out-of-place. It's definitely not Troy, Silverback, Hines or Ben. I'm not big on the rookie jersey (although getting on the Keenan Lewis, Mike Wallace or Frank The Tank bandwagon is very tempting), and it'll be someone who's going to be on this team for at least the next three years. Someone whom the entire league will be talking about this year, or, someone who Steelers fans are buzzing about, but of whom the rest of the league is more or less unaware. Someone who's proven something in the league, that level varies though.

Just missing the cut: Casey Hampton, Brett Keisel, Ryan Clark (contract status), Willie Parker (oversaturation, contract), Willie Colon (contract, borderline Double Entendre), Limas Sweed and Rashard Mendenhall (both need another year).

The Short List: Heath Miller, James Farrior, Lawrence Timmons, LaMarr Woodley, Ike Taylor and Aaron Smith.

I really want to put Ryan Clark on here, and if he gets an extension tomorrow, I'd likely get his. Without one, though, I can't take the chance. Aaron Smith is referred to as underrated so often, he's borderline Oversaturation. That's his jersey's only flaw, though. I see Heath Miller as 2009's Bandwagon Rule (like Harrison in 2008). My wife can't stand Ike Taylor's "Swaggin'" comment in his game intro, so I have to drop him for that.

It comes down to the two best players the Steelers have drafted since 2004. But considering there is only one player in NFL history to log multiple sacks in four consecutive playoff games, and he was the guy who forced the game-ending fumble in Super Bowl XLIII, my choice...the third-year outside linebacker out of Michigan, 6-foot-2, 265 pounds, number 56, LaMarr Woodley.

The jersey is on the way, ready to be unveiled before the Aug. 14 game against Arizona.

We can apply these rules to the jersey choices I made before last season. I purchased a Lamarr Woodley and a Limas Sweed. Woodley was coming of a pretty decent rookie year with a very positive outlook for the upcoming season. Sweed had just been drafted in the second round of the draft. Many pundits had him as the steal of the draft.

Let's take a look at how each met the rules above and how each turned out so far.

-was not the most popular player, was not oversaturated because he was not a break out star yet; had a solid season with decent expectations
-may become oversaturated after the outstanding season he had last year but I seemed to be ahead of the curve on this purchase and avoided the bandwagon rule
-also Woodley will be on the team for a few more seasons at the least
-all in all a great purchase at the time. I wore it most of last season and for the entire playoff run

-most definitely not the most popular player or oversaturated; he was a rookie, only expectations existed and he did not get much playing time last year; when he did get in it didn't go well
-will need to put up a big season this year if he wants to have a chance to become oversaturated after the season
-I fell into the trap of the Wary Rookie Rule by jumping the gun and grabbing Sweed shortly after we drafted him. It could turn out to be great or it could turn out to be a dust rag. This season will tell.
-If he turns out to be decent, he will be on the team for a decent amount of time so it has decent upside potential, but potential it remains.

Overall, I made one really good decision and one that is still to be determined. The decision to buy a jersey is a pressure packed one, especially if you are only getting one. The more you get the more room for error you have. You can get 1 like most people or you can go for the law of large numbers and get 4 like someone I know just did.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Could you cheer for Vick?

Now that Mike Vick has signed with the Eagles, the ridiculous speculation that he may end up on the Steelers can stop. Anyone that has been a Steeler fan for any length of time knew that there was no chance Vick would be wearing black and gold. It is the exact kind of signing the Steelers never make. However, the speculation got me thinking whether I could bring myself to cheer for Vick if the Steelers had signed him.

Here are various reactions from facebook statuses from my Eagle fan friends:

-"is not happy to be an Eagles fan right now! Vick is a P.O.S.!!!!!!!!!"
Vick What???? Eagles?? This could definitely be an interesting season."
how fitting that Vick would go to the Eagles..."

And a quote from my roommate, who is a die hard Eagles fan from Philly, responding to my question:
"Hell yeah, I will root for him, I am willing to look past his former mistakes and give him a chance to prove himself" -Dave Higham, life long eagles fan.

Seems to be a mixed reaction from the Birds faithful. As I sat here watching my roommate field many calls and texts and discuss his reactions with other fans, I felt myself wondering how I would have reacted had Vick signed with the Steelers. Normally, I blindly root for the Steelers, regardless of who is on the team and what they have done in the past. Two recent examples are James Harrison and Santonio Homes. Harrison got into a domestic dispute with his girlfriend/baby momma if you remember, yet I still cheer for him and even considered getting his jersey. Santonio had numerous run ins with the law soon after being drafted and recently was busted with blunts in his vehicle, yet I was going crazy when he scored the first TD in the AFC championship game and I was jumping with pure glee when he caught the winning score in the Superbowl. What Vick did seems somehow different than from the other crimes.

The question I was asking myself was, "would I root for Vick once he put on the black and gold?" I can't really come up with an answer that satisfies me. Once he started making awesome plays and helping the Steelers win, I probably would root for him, even though morally I don't want to. I have had pets including dogs my entire life. What was done to those animals in VA was beyond terrible. Then Vick lied to try to cover it up. As fellow Steezbro Josh put it, "it all comes down to genuine remorse." So is Vick truly sorry for what he did or is he just sorry he got caught? If he is truly sorry, I could root for him. Everyone makes mistakes. Otherwise, I could not.

When he first was arrested, I believe that Vick was only sorry he got caught. He lied to everyone he could, including Commisioner Goodell, until it was patently obvious that he had committed the crimes, and only then did he apologize. Now, after serving his debt to society by spending two years in federal prison, I believe that Vick may truly have realized the severity of his acts. He has taken many steps to express his regret and to volunteer his time to prevent these types of atrocities from occurring again. I believe people deserve second chances and I believe in forgiveness. I think Vick deserves the chance he has received from the NFL and the Eagles. Hopefully, he makes the best of it. But for some reason I am still glad I don't have to root for him.

Thoughts from the Crowd

Some tickets to the preseason opener fell into my lap this week and I took the opportunity to take someone who has never been to a Steez game. This was very rewarding to see the excitement of his Steelers "cherry getting popped". He was really taking in everything he possibly could. To me one of the most exciting parts of the night other than my friends excitement was getting to see the family of hardware pictured above. If you multiply the Eagles Super Bowls by infinity it would still be six less than the Steelers. If you add up the Super Bowl titles from Carolina, Houston, Jacksonville, New Orleans, Cleveland, Detroit, Arizona, Minnesota, Cincinnati, Buffalo, San Diego, Atlanta, Tennessee, Philly, Seattle, Tampa, Baltimore, St Louis, Chicago, Kansas City, and the Jets you would get 6. Thats right 21 teams add up to just that of the Steelers.

Being that I was decently intoxicated there's not too much to write about the actual game. Things I went into the game wanting to see were Limas, Mike Wallace, Hood, Mendenhall, and Sepelvuda. I gave a pass to the o-line because they were missing 40% of it.

1) I thought Limas played really well except the drop on the Arizona sideline (may have been Wallace, sorry if I'm mistaken) I am really excited for Limas to be a real contributor to this team.
2) I thought Mike Wallace also looked pretty good. His speed was noticeable and if Dixon would have had some better balls he may have made some explosive plays.
3) I didn't notice Ziggy Hood at all from the crowd. I also did not see 'Tone at all.
4)Mendy had a so so night. I expected more but I saw that he may be alright too. He had a nice run to the outside that I liked how he bounced.
5)It feels really nice not having a handicapped punter. Thank you Danny

Sorry for not the best recap and I will return early next week with a post proclaiming footballs long awaited return to our lives.

PS- I was really preparing myself to tolerate Vick and now that he has signed with the Fags and I can fully hate him like I wanted to. Here's to hoping that the Vick experiment fails miserably and he wrecks the team. I dont think this will happen and Philly could be really tough this year

Steelers Beat Cardinals Again

In a snoozefest of a first preseason game, the Steelers beat the Cardinals 20-10 based primarily on the play of the 3rd stringers. The first team offense looked out of sync and the first team defense let up some significant yardage from Kurt Warner. But I'm not worried about the first team . In 2005, the first team offense didn't score a touchdown the entire preseason and things turned out alright. Rather, let's focus on some individual performances from new faces.

The Good
Isaac Redman - You heard it here first. Isaac Redman = The Bus. Just playing. But the undrafted rookie scored the Steelers only two touchdowns and was a perfect 2 for 2 on goal line runs. The hype should start soon. Pittsburgh falls in love with one rookie FA running back each year. When that back is also the size of Jerome Bettis, things could get crazy. He's no longer a long shot to make the team, but as the preseason progresses watch to see Redman get goal line touches with the starters.

Sonny Harris - The 6th round pick out of Oregon hasn't done much in training camp due to injury, but played well with the 3rd team. He collapsed the pocket nicely a couple times and stood out among the third teamers.

Dan Sepulveda - I'm not looking at the stat sheet, but I think all but one of his punts traveled more than 50 yards. Almost enough to make me forget about Mitch Berger.

The Receivers - Limas Sweed, Mike Wallace, and Shaun McDonald all had nice nights. Sweed made a great catch in traffic and followed it up with a long bomb from Charlie Batch. It's going to be hard to keep him from the #3 spot if he keeps playing this way. Mike Wallace made several nice catches and got in position for a long touchdown reception, but Dennis Dixon threw the ball too late. Shaun McDonald looked like a real threat underneath as he made catch after catch from Dixon. I feel much better about the WR position than I did in the offseason.

Joe Burnett - Although he looked tiny out there, Burnett showed his ball skills in a near pick 6 off of former Steelers QB Brian St. Pinch (Pierre). But Burnett has much to learn about returning kicks for the Steelers. Lesson 1: Hold onto the damn ball.

Arnold Harrison - The back up linebacker looked big and fast. He generated pressure from the edge. Between the other Harrison, Fox, and Frazier, the linebacking corps has solid depth.

The Bad

Willie Colon - Can someone please teach this man to line up on the line of scrimmage?
Starting O-line - Not much running room for Mendy and a couple miscommunications. Granted Legursky was the starting center and Essex is new at right guard. Not worried yet, but not hopeful either.

Anthony Madison - Matt Leinart repeatedly picked on Madison. With competition from Burnett, Lewis, and Ratliff, Madison will have to hope his reputation as a special teams ace saves his roster spot.

Justin Vincent - No real chance to make this squad.


Return teams - I was excited to watch Wallace at KR and Burnett at PR, but neither had a chance to shine. Arizona only kicked off twice and one was a touchback. Burnett fielded several punts, but most were deep in the zone. The fumble on his first return may provide an opportunity for Stefan Logan in the next game.

Mendenhall - He didn't look spectacular, but rarely had running room behind the offensive line. Although, he should probably get used to it.

Ziggy Hood - He made a few positive plays, including a sack. But nothing spectacular from Hood who played in the third team defense for most of the game. For the first preseason game, it was fine.

Bruce Davis - I wanted to include him in the bad, but he ended up with a sack, an interception, and a great stop on a screen play. Maybe he should be in the good section, but in the one area he should excel, getting pressure from the outside, he did very little.

Dennis Dixon - Dixon got the majority of the playing time and made a couple great throws. He's an athletic guy, but he isn't an athlete playing quarterback. He's a quarterback with athleticism. Did a nice job later on throwing underneath, but was late on several deep throws. Positive development for Dixon who could turn into a great back up. Nonetheless, I think Batch holds him off for one more year.

O-Line Depth - It's tough to get a read in just one game, but the rookies in the middle (Foster, Shipley, Urbik) seemed to do well out there. Tony Hills wasn't embarassed. Neither was Parquett or Capizzi. The back ups provided nice room for Redman to score a TD. These guys aren't studs, but they held their own against other 2nd and 3rd teamers.

Frank the Tank - Played more at fullback than I expected. Not sure why Justin Vincent was getting more carries than the tank. We'll see how this develops.

Overall, it was a good game. A lot of players got some work, the team won, and no major injuries. Let's hope the rest of the preseason is the same.

Any thoughts out there?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Scouting the Cards - Not!

Even though preseason games don't matter, I think we should take a look back at the last time we played the Cardinals. You know, for scouting purposes.

And just for fun, some of our other favorites from February.

Preseason Game # 1

Football returns to the city of champions tonight with the Steelers' first preseason game of the year in a rematch of the Superbowl against the Arizona Cardinals. The game will be on ESPN at 8 PM EST, but if you are tuning in to see the stars play, plan on watching from 8 till about 8:15. After that the first teamers won't be seeing the field. Although Ben, Hines, Troy and Deebo won't be on the field very long, there are some other good reasons to watch tonight. This will be the first time alot of Steeler Nation will get to witness many of the camp battles playing out. It will also be the first time we get to see the new draftees on the field and observe how injured players who missed most of the season last year are recovering from their injuries. Some stuff to watch for tonight:

1) Third wide receiver battle.
The battle for the third wide receiver spot is shaping up to be one of the most competitive at camp. Limas Sweed, last years' second round pick that many thought to be the steal of the draft should be the odds on favorite to win the job. However, mixed reviews have been emanating from Latrobe on Sweed. Combine that with the increased competition for the spot with the addition of Shaun McDonald through free agency and Mike Wallace via a third round draft choice and it is not so clear any longer that Sweed will win this job.

Shaun McDonald has been likened to a poor man's Wes Welker on some Steeler blogs. In 2007, for the Lions mind you, he put up 79 catches for 943 yards and 6 TD's. Reports have indicated that he is having a solid camp. If he can play the slot at anywhere near the level of Welker, he will be an amazing signing and a great additional option for Ben. I would love to see the Steelers add more quick slants to their offense to cut down on the blitzing and the hits that Ben takes and take some defenders out of the box to create more lanes for our running backs. Even if McDonald does not win the third receiver job, I still thinks he makes it as either the 4th or 5th receiver and lines up in the slot. The Steelers normally use the third wide out to stretch the field running deep routes like Nate did for us last year. Limas and Mike Wallace seem to fit that role better than McDonald. Speaking of Wallace...

The Steelers drafted Wallace in the third round of this year's draft. Everyone that has seen him practice has been blown away with his speed. It would surprise me if he wins the job outright but it won't surprise me to see him on the field alot this season. I can't wait to see him tonight blowing by people.

Other guys to watch for are Dallas Baker, who has been on the practice sqaud for a few years, and Tyler Grisham out of Clemson, who was signed as an undrafted free agent and has been turning some heads at practice. For another look at our potential wide outs, check out Post Game Heroes, here.

2) O-Line.
With Darnell Stapleton going down with an injury, the battle to back him up/replace him is heating up. Surprisingly, Trai Essex seems to be having an outstanding camp so far and could beat out Stapleton. Rookie Kraig Urbik has not lived up to expectations so far and has been consistently getting dominated by the Steelers D in practice. Other things to watch for tonight and throughout the preseason are the backup battles. AQ Shipley and Legursky are battling to backup Hartwig at Center and with him out with injury they should be seeing alot of playing time. Also, undrafted free agent signing Ramon Foster has been getting alot of positive press. Perpetual project Tony Hills needs to impress if he wants to stay on the squad.
Finally, watch Willie Colon and decide for yourself whether he is one of the best or one of the worst tackles in the league.

3) Players returning from injury.
The two most important are punter Daniel Sepulveda returning from an ACL tear on his non-kicking leg and Rashard Mendenhall returning from a broken shoulder suffered at the hands of Ray Lewis. Anyone who watched us last year knows our punting was awful and Sepulveda will be a much needed improvement. He has been booming them in practice. Imagine how great our D could be with great field position. As PFT points out, Mendenhall is still an enigma. How he plays this season will go a long way in determining whether Willie Parker is signed after the season.

4) The return man battle.
Our return game has been terrible ever since Antwann Randle-El left us for the Redskins. Rookies Joe Burnett and Mike Wallace look to add a much needed spark to the returns and hopefully can provide us with decent starting field position. Read this Post Gazette article for more.

5) Backup QB
Batch is the crowd favorite but take a good look at Dennis Dixon tonight. He should be getting alot of time on the field. Don't forget he was a serious contender for the Heisman and would have got drafted a lot higher if he didn't get injured in Oregon's bowl game.

I am excited to be getting back into football. Go Steez.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Willie Colon: Bum or All Pro?

I need to get this off my chest. I have nothing against Willie Colon as a person. In fact, for someone I don't know, I like him more than most. He seems to be a good guy and provides nice quotes to the media. His story is inspiring. He attended a school not well-known for producing NFL stars (Hofstra) and was a long shot to make it far in the league given his status as a 4th round pick. Yet, he's started for two years and won a Super Bowl. So let me say this, "Willie, I'm pulling for you."

Now that that's off my chest, I can get back to ripping on Willie Colon.

Steeler fans repeatedly singled out Colon as a primary reason that the performance of offensive line the last two years was, to put it nicely, sub par. Colon's played so poorly that many have suggested that he is playing out of position and is better suited to play guard. In his last two years starting at right tackle, we witnessed him repeatedly beat by speed rushers, being stacked at the line of scrimmage, commit at least one holding penalty a game, and even receive three penalties for not lining up on the line of scrimmage - a seemingly important detail when you play offensive line.

But early in the 2009 season, the media started cranking out articles about Colon as if he was the next Jackie Slater. The Post Gazette wrote an article claiming that Colon would be more expensive to sign than either of the contracts signed by Max Starks or Chris Kemoeatu. The article also included these eye opening quotes from some of the Steelers coaches:

The coaches not only think Colon, 26, was the team's best offensive lineman last season; they think he is one of the best at his position in the National Football League.

"I think Willie Colon is as good a right tackle as there is in this league," said offensive coordinator Bruce Arians.

"He's as good a run-blocking right tackle as there is in the league," said offensive line coach Larry Zierlein. "He's an excellent drive blocker and his pass protection has improved tremendously. He's a lot better pass blocker than people want to give him credit for."
Excuse me? For being such a great run blocker, why were the Steelers so poor at running the ball last year? As if I needed more reasons to doubt Arians and Zierlein.

But all sarcasm aside, it's unsurprising that coaches have positive comments about their own players. After all, Arians and Zierlein (with Tomlin's approval) are the ones that decided to start Colon over a clearly superior player, Max Starks. By making comments like the ones above, they are protecting their own images and validating their decisions. And we all know Arians is the biggest defender of his offensive line.

However, it's not just the Post Gazette and Steeler coaches raving about Colon. John Harris from the Tribune Review wrote an article today intimating that Colon will be receiving a big payday. National Columnist for CNNSI and former Offensive Lineman Ross Tucker states that, "Colon, in particular, is the typical ornery right tackle, and vastly underrated." Steelers beat writer Jim Wexell got this interesting quote from Steelers rookie defensive lineman Ziggy Hood:

He was an eye opener for me, something I had to go in the film room and watch.
It was rough out there. The first practice was going fine until he came along,
and that really opened me up because he came right at me like a raging bull.
There was nothing I could do about it.
Last year, before playing New England, Bill Belichick had this to say about Colon:
The offensive line is good, the right tackle, [Willie] Colon, is an excellent player. He’s been a real good addition to their offensive line. I think he’s one of the better tackles that we’ve seen this year, especially in the running game."
At the time, I thought Belichick was joking. Maybe he was serious.

Is it possible that Steeler Nation has been so focused on Colon's mistakes from 2007 and the bitterness of watching Colon start over Max Starks that it missed the fact that Colon is a solid player? Or is this a case where the media is sick of discussing the bad offensive line and prefers to institute a contrarian approach in hopes of attracting readers?

It's probably a little of both.

Offensive line play is extremely difficult to judge, because it is rarely featured on replays and so much depends on assignments that are unknown to the common fan. Thus, judging the play of an O-lineman is subjective. Although I've tried to focus more attention on the play of the line, I can hardly describe myself as an expert. I never played football and couldn't diagram the proper technique for a right guard. Mostly I trust what I see. This can be problematic, because if Colon is dominating his man, but Stapleton misses his, I often ignore Colon's great play because the play resulted in a 3 yard loss. In other words, it's easy to miss good plays by O-lineman because they often go unrewarded. Thus, in some ways, I have to trust quotes and assessments, like the ones above, that judge Colon as a solid player.

But in other ways, I watch a lot of football. A LOT of football. And I seek out writers like JJ Cooper that write articles focusing exclusively on the offensive line. That doesn't make me an expert, but I feel pretty knowledgable about the performance of the O-line. I've seen the Steelers surrender nearly 50 sacks a season. I've seen Colon struggle to block defenders. And it's hard to miss penalties when the officials say, "holding #74." So I can't help but be skeptical about the quotes praising Colon.

I'm not the only one doubting his abilities. Judging from Steelers media and blogs, I'm in the majority with my belief that Colon is a below average right tackle. It's also interesting that if the coaches believe Colon is the best offensive lineman, more emphasis wasn't put into signing him to a long term deal.
It's also important to note that Football Outsiders, a website that tracks statistics on offensive line play, named Willie Colon to its All-Keep Chopping Wood team, a sort of anti-pro bowl list, that would indicate they believe Colon is one of the worst, if not, the worst right tackle in football. Despite Colon's purported abilities to run block, the Steelers were dead last in runs to the right. And, depending on who you trust, Colon allowed between 5.5 and 7 sacks last year (a stat that would rank him in the middle of the pack for right tackles). FO wrote this about Colon prior to the Super Bowl:

Right tackle: Willie Colon, PIT
This is likely the first time a lineman on the All-KCW team will play in the Super Bowl, but Colon's appearance is well-justified. The Steelers were dead last in runs to right tackle, 19th to right end. Colon committed 11 penalties and allowed 5.5 sacks.
As we enter the 2009 season, I'm thoroughly confused about Willie Colon. Is he a Pro Bowler or a bum? Will the Steelers dominate rushing to the right side or should they try more runs behind Starks and Kemo? I'm entering the season cautiously optimistic in this area, but I suppose I would just be happy with small improvements.

That said, I reserve the right to restart my "replace Willie Colon" campaign on September 10.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

First Major Injury of Training Camp

The first major training camp injury goes to Darnell Stapleton. Stapleton has been held out of practice the for the week with swelling in his knee. It's unclear when he suffered the injury and Coach Tomlin would not reveal the extent of it until today. Stapleton's knee is getting scoped and he is out indefinitely.

Gerry Dulac reports:
Guard Darnell Stapleton, who has been bothered by an undisclosed left knee injury, will have arthroscopic surgery Friday morning and will be sidelined for an indefinite period.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin would not say how long Stapleton, who is also the backup center, will be sidelined, but such procedures are usually two to four weeks.

"We will have more information after [the surgery] is completed," Tomlin said.
Steeler nation expected a training camp battle for the right guard position due to Stapleton's shaky play in the post season, notably the Super Bowl. I expected rookie Kraig Urbik to fight for the position, but, from most accounts, it sounds like Trai Essex was the favorite to overtake Stapleton for the privilege of being pancaked between Willie Colon and Justin Hartwig.

Losing Stapleton hurts the O-line. Even if he lost the starting job, he provides experience as a back up center and guard. All teams hope to escape preseason with few injuries, especially to starters, but if this is the worst injury of the preseason, the team will be in good shape.