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The Pittsburgh Steelers have made the decision to start Dennis Dixon at quarterback at least until Ben Roethlisberger returns from suspension, but his role won’t be as big as Roethlisberger’s typically is.
“We’re not asking Dennis to go out there and win the game,” Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward told radio show 790 The Zone in Atlanta. “We’re just asking him to go out there and manage the game. So, if he goes out there and converts on third downs, not try to force things and not turn the ball over, we’ll be fine.”
Ward also sees “a lot of Kordell Stewart” in Dixon’s game, which many Steelers fans will either love or hate.
“One thing I think Dennis brings to the table that’s different from the other quarterbacks is he makes plays with his legs. You can see a lot of Kordell Stewart in him as far as making plays outside of the pocket. He has that capability to take it to the house at any time. But at the same time, he’s still an accurate quarterback. It’s just a matter of getting experience. At some point, a quarterback’s got to be able to get in there and see if he can play, and he’s getting his opportunity this Sunday.”
Sunday can’t come soon enough.
Less than a week ago, it was presumed that Byron Leftwich had the upper hand in the competition for the starting quarterback job of the Pittsburgh Steelers while Ben Roethlisberger served his four-game suspension to start the season. Then, in the second quarter of Pittsburgh’s final preseason game, Leftwich’s hopes were dashed when he injured the MCL in his right knee.
Now, in the aftermath of the unfortunate injury, Leftwich is understandably disappointed and left to wonder what could have been.
“You ask any player and you hate that. You hate being in the training room, especially when you have the chance to miss the game,” said Leftwich. “We do all this work in the offseason. Everything we do is for Sunday, and to know there is a chance you can’t play, it’s a tough thing to think about. There are only so many opportunities. To not have that opportunity is what makes it tough.”
“It’s disappointing because there is a chance I might miss this one. See how I left myself a chance,” said a smiling Leftwich. “What we do for a living sometimes these things happen. It happened to me in that game. It’s something I will deal with, get better from and heal as fast as possible.”
Despite understanding the reality of his situation, Leftwich isn’t entirely downtrodden, and hopes he still has some bright days in Pittsburgh or elsewhere in the NFL still ahead.
“It’s moving better than I thought it would,” said Leftwich “I never hurt my knee before so I didn’t know what to expect. I am confident I can get back.”
Amidst all the unsettling news surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers this offeason, one constant looks to be more steady and reliable than ever: tight end Heath Miller. The Virginia product set career highs in receptions (76) and receiving yards (789) a year ago, and though Steeler Nation didn’t hear his name called too often this preseason, it’s a safe bet that Miller will again be one of the Steelers’ quarterbacks favorite targets. For now, that’s Dennis Dixon, and when Ben Roethlisberger returns, I’d imagine that his production will spike upward sooner rather than later.
Regardless of his statistical output, Miller will go about his business like the consummate professional that he is. In fact, his quiet demeanor and steady production are traits that his teammates admire in the hulking tight end:
“You have a better chance of the sun dying out before seeing Heath do an end zone dance,” Steelers left tackle Max Starks said.
Miller, of course, is flattered by the accolades but isn't letting it get to his head:
“These guys may be a little biased,” Miller recently said of his teammates, “but I don’t really play to be labeled as the best tight end in the league. I have areas that I can improve on, and I’m trying to be the best end I can be.”
The Pittsburgh Steelers recently named Dennis Dixon their starting quarterback while Ben Roethlisberger serves his suspension, but could he keep the job once Roethlisberger returns?
According to an interview with Steelers coach Mike Tomlin on Sirius Radio, Roethlisberger isn’t guaranteed to be the team’s starter once he’s eligible to return.
When asked if Roethlisberger would regain his starting job upon his return, Tomlin told Sirius NFL Radio: “I’m going to dodge that one and not artfully,” according to USA Today. “I’m not going to back myself in a corner.”
There probably isn’t much need to read too far into these comments, but it is interesting that Tomlin wouldn’t clarify that Roethlisberger is definitely his starter.
Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin announced recently that backup bruiser Issac Redman would open the season as the team’s short-yardage specialist.
Pittsburgh was one of the worst short-yardage teams last year, failing to convert in critical situations and all too often marching down the field, only to sputter in the red zone and settle for a field goal.
My take on the Steelers’ short-yardage impotence has long been that lead back Rashard Mendenhall was not the problem. Although he occasionally dances too much at the hole and relies too heavily on his spin move, Mendenhall proved decisive enough in situations that called for it last season.
Instead, the issue was lack of adequate lanes in obvious running situations — and occasionally dubious play-calling.
Even still, if “Redzone” Redman proves even just as effective as Mendenhall in short-yardage situations, this could be a good move, simply in the spirit of keeping Mendenhall, who could be more of the offense’s bread and butter, fresh and rested.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have decided on Dennis Dixon as their Week 1 starter, according to the NFL Network's Jason La Canfora.
With Byron Leftwich's recent injury and Ben Roethlisberger suspended for the first four games of the season, the starting quarterback competition until Roethlisberger returned was between Dixon and the 35-year-old Charlie Batch.
Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette is reporting that the Steelers are likely to start Charlie Batch at QB for the team's September 12 matchup with the Atlanta Falcons. If this report holds true, then it will mark a bewildering end to one of the most unorthodox quarterback controversies in the history of the NFL.
Though Batch has been an incredibly reliable backup for the Steelers (3-1 as a starter), it seemed likely that he would be cut until Byron Leftwich sprained his MCL in Pittsburgh's preseason contest against the Carolina Panthers. In a matter of days, Batch has gone from a near certain roster casualty to the probable starter in the team's opener.
This is bad news for the young and talented Dennis Dixon, who is likely to be utilized only in situational packages.
Similar to the news surrounding Kraig Urbik’s reported release from the Pittsburgh Steelers, this one also has yet to be confirmed officially by the organization. But word from running back Frank Summers’ agent is that the bruising back has also been released on Friday by the Steelers.
Summers has been released to the practice squad, but according to a source close to Summers, “several teams have already shown significant interest”, the source said.
Though I have not yet been able to confirm this with multiple sources, it appears as if 2008 third-round draft pick Kraig Urbik was also cut by the Pittsburgh Steelers on Friday. From a recent tweet by InsidePittsburghSports:
Kraig Urbik’s agent has confirmed that his client was informed this afternoon he has been released.
Very disappointing if true. Urbik was the team’s first of three third-round draft picks in 2009. He will be apparently be leaving Pittsburgh having made next to no contributions to the black and gold.
The Pittsburgh Steelers made a big step towards finalizing who will constitute their 53-man roster for the start of the 2010 NFL season when they cut 10 players on Friday.
The players released were tight end Eugene Bright, guard Dorian Brooks, tackle Kyle Jolly, wide receiver Brandon London, tight end Sean McHugh, defensive tackle Scott Paxson, long snapper Matt Stewart, safety Justin Thornton, running back Justin Vincent and linebacker Renauld Williams.
After meeting with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Friday morning, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger received a reduced suspension of four games following a second consecutive offseason marred by rape allegations.
Here's Goodell in the league's official statement on the matter:
You have told me and the Steelers that you committed to making better decisions. Your actions over the past several months have been consistent with that promise, and you must continue to honor that commitment.
This means the star quarterback, who has looked pretty terrific on the field in preseason action, will return to the team following its Week 5 bye, when the Steelers take on the Cleveland Browns.
In related news, Byron Leftwich, who sustained a knee injury in last night's preseason game, will likely miss the season opener, according to ESPN. The Tribune-Review is reporting that Leftwich is out indefinitely. It will be interesting to see how this new development affects the forthcoming roster cuts, as head coach Mike Tomlin and his staff trim the roster to its final form.
I can't imagine Leftwich won't get cut at this point. The team could place him on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, but then he would have to sit out for the first six weeks of the regular season. The Steelers probably can't afford to use four roster spots on quarterbacks, and they can't go into the season with Antwaan Randle El as their backup. So the way I see it, Leftwich will get cut, Dennis Dixon will start, and Charlie Batch will back him up.
Ben Roethlisberger and Roger Goodell plan to meet Friday to decide how many weeks the quarterback will miss due to suspension, though at least one former quarterback is hoping that Roethlisberger is forced to endure the full six-week suspension.
Terry Bradshaw, a two-time Super Bowl MVP and NFL Hall of Famer, told a group of people attending the AdvoCare Independence Bowl Kickoff Luncheon at Shreveport Country Club in Louisiana that he prays Roethlisberger isn’t given any leeway.
“Going to bars — treating women like that; oh my God,” Bradshaw said. “I pray they don’t cut (his NFL suspension) to four games. I hope they leave it at six. There is no excuse for that. The egos get out of hand.”
Bradshaw has a bit of a history going on record regarding Roethlisberger, but he seemed to be grinding an axe with all current NFL players at this meeting rather than focusing on Roethlisberger as he also brought up Peyton Manning, Brett Favre and Adam “Pacman” Jones during the luncheon.
The Pittsburgh Steelers will likely find out Friday just how many games starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is going to miss due to suspension to begin the season, but the team has yet to name a starter to play Roethliserger’s minutes in the meantime.
If former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach and current Monday Night Football Analyst Jon Gruden had his say, he would place Dennis Dixon ahead of Byron Leftwich on the Steelers’ early-season depth chart.
“The Steelers are a team that really relies on Ben Roethlisberger’s improvisation,’’ Gruden said Wednesday during a Monday Night Football conference call which was transcribed by USA Today. "I’ve never seen a guy create more offense on his own. He gets out of some of the most incredible situations where he makes plays where they have him sacked twice and he still completes a pass.
“The guy who fits them the best right now, the guy I would go with is Dixon.’’
Even though Dixon hasn’t looked great in the preseason, Gruden believes that the quarterback could help the Steelers win games the way they won during Roethlisberger’s rookie season.
“All they have to do is win like they won in Ben’s rookie year, run the ball, play good defense — don’t turn it over and make some timely plays in the passing game,” Gruden says.
“Dixon has mobility, he’s been there in that system,’’ Gruden said. “I realize he threw a couple of interceptions against Denver … I just think his escapability, his ability to run for two first downs, create another two first downs scrambling out of trouble, checking it down, or finding a big play down the field gives him the edge over these other two quarterbacks.”
Between Dixon, Leftwich and Charlie Batch, the competition should remain interesting.
Rejoice ice cream lovers in the western Pennsylvanian area, a new Pittsburgh Steelers themed ice cream is set to hit the shelves just in time for the 2010 NFL regular season.
TurkeyHill, Pennsylvania’s number one ice cream brand, is introducing a new flavor called “Blitzburgh Crunch.”
The new flavor has premium golden sweet cream vanilla ice cream, with chocolate fudge swirl and chocolate cake crunchies.
In yet another attempt at getting folks in the seats at Heinz Field during the preseason, all in attendance during Thursday night’s preseason finale will get a free sample. For those with no plans on attending the Steelers exhibition against the Carolina Panthers tomorrow night, you’ll just have to wait a few weeks until it’s stocked in grocery stores around the area.
Ben Roethlisberger and Roger Goodell will meet Friday to discuss a reduction to the Steelers’ quarterback’s current six-game suspension.
While it was earlier reported that the suspension could be reduced to no less than four games, Roethlisberger plans to ask for “at least” a reduction of three games according to a report from ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio.
In Friday’s meeting with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, Ben Roethlisberger’s representatives plan to ask the commissioner to reduce the six-game suspension by at least three games, bringing along team president Arthur J. Rooney II to the New York meeting to support the quarterback’s case, sources with knowledge of upcoming proceedings told ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio.
According to ESPN’s report, Rooney released a statement at the time of the suspension agreeing with and supporting the Goodell’s ruling. It’s not known what role Rooney will play during Friday’s meeting between the commissioner and Roethlisberger.
I’m not so sure that I’m ready to include myself in this list, but there’s a number of folks who are becoming more vocal about Charlie Batch being the best bet at quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers while Ben Roethlisberger serves his suspension to begin the year. Yesterday on Behind the Steel Curtain, a fan made the case for the veteran Batch. Now, today on ESPN Radio in Pittsburgh, ESPN analyst and former Steelers great Merrill Hoge made the case for Batch.
Here’s Hoge’s reasoning:
Charlie Batch gives you your best option to execute what you need to do. Do you have some deficiencies up front? You sure do. That’s why some people though, ‘well use Dixon’. Well, at the end of the day, I’ve never been in a meeting where we talked about ‘listen, let’s snap it to our quarterback and now you run around and just make something happen’. This game is about structure, discipline and fundamentals. That’s what every play is about. And once you break that, and you get outside those realms, usually bad things happen.
The media people go ‘well, he doesn’t stay healthy’. You need him for four games. I believe it’s going to be four games; you’re going to need him for four games. And I think Charlie is the guy who is best suited to do that, to calm you down. And I believe the players believe in him the most too. I think you have to have that temperature of your team. I really sense that Mike Tomlin has a good sense of that. So I would not be surprised if it was Charlie Batch. I believe watching what I’ve seen, if you need some stability, that’s where you would find it in Charlie Batch.
So much for the six-time Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers not getting any respect from the national media. Peter King – famous of course for his Monday Morning Quarterback column on SI.com – picked the Steelers to go the distance and capture their seventh Lombardi Trophy in 2010. No link here. You’ll have to wait until Sports Illustrated’s 2010 NFL preview issue hits newsstands tomorrow to believe me. But that’s what King is picking according to Chris Mahr, publicist for SI, who emailed me and others the news this morning.
Here’s a snippet of his reasoning:
“The Steelers’ MVP might be Roger Goodell. At press time it appeared likely the commissioner would reduce Roethlisberger’s suspension from six games to four for good behavior-Roethlisberger spent the summer kissing babies and signing every autograph within miles at training camp. Byron Leftwich and/or Dennis Dixon should be able to navigate a friendly first-month schedule (Atlanta, at Tennessee, at Tampa Bay, Baltimore) and hand Roethlisberger a 3-1 team when he returns. A six-game suspension? That would be trouble, obviously.”
Whether it’s a four- or six-game suspension, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will be in the city of Pittsburgh working out and preparing to return to action when his suspension is ultimately lifted. Big Ben of course is barred from participating in any of the Steelers’ practices during the suspension, meaning he’ll have to look elsewhere for practice partners while the Steelers embark on the first part of their 2010 regular season. His choice? George Whitfield Jr., a veteran QB coach who has worked with Roethlisberger before and will be flying in from California to do so once again.
In addition to bringing in the California-based Whitfield — the two have worked together during past offseasons — Roethlisberger said he will train with wide receivers that have been cut by NFL teams and want to stay in football shape.
“I am going to be doing a lot of drills, a lot of drops,” Roethlisberger said. “I will do everything humanly possible that I can do to stay as sharp as I can with the things I am allowed to do.”
One of the very best amateur NFL writers out there has weighed in on the possibility of the NFL expanding its regular season schedule to 18 games. That would be Tim Gleason, better known as maryrose, on SB Nation’s Pittsburgh Steelers site, Behind the Steel Curtain.
The commissioner’s second argument is that the fans are not getting their money’s worth, paying full price for two preseason games. That argument is cosmetic and can be remedied by simple math. The Steelers and every other team can simply cut the price of the preseason games in half and add 12 percent to each regular-season game. The total invoice would be the same for the same inventory. I would bet the farm that no one would care (I would not, and I am one of the season-ticket holders that Mr. Goodell is supposedly thinking about). How would his argument fly then?…
There are at least two current problems within the NFL which will be exacerbated by the commissioner’s decree. The first is the injury situation. Due to today’s weight training and nutrition, players are bigger, stronger and faster than ever. Body collisions are more impactful and more stressful. We might be asking too much for players to be smacking each other for 16 days. Now we ask two more? The league recently went on a chivalrous campaign to reduce and treat concussions, and now it wants the players to bang heads a couple more times?
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will meet with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell this Friday to talk about the length of his suspension:
“We are looking forward to hearing from the commissioner, but we will not have any further information or comment until after they speak,” Steelers president Art Rooney II said in a statement.
Goodell said in early August that he was pleased with how Roethlisberger was adhering to the terms of his punishment, which included behavioral counseling and a mandate to make better decisions.
It sounds like we should know soon whether Roethlisberger’s suspension will be four games or six.
As expected, the Steelers have cut several players in order to trim their roster to 75 players. Four of the departed (guard Adrian Jones, linebacker Brandon Renkart, cornerback David Pittman and fullback Dwayne Wright) did not play for the Steelers last season. In addition, the Steelers released linebacker Andre Frazier, who had been on the injured reserve list, and placed offensive lineman Chris Scott on the injured reserve/PUP list.
Maurkice Pouncey, the Pittsburgh Steelers 2010 first round draft pick this past April, has looked even better than advertised thus far during training camp and the preseason schedule. This spring, it was thought that Pouncey would start at right guard in 2010, while veteran Justin Hartwig played out the final year of his contract as the team’s starting center. Then in 2011 (assuming there was football), Pouncey would slide over to center with a year of experience under his belt.
Not so fast.
Pouncey may be on the inside track to unseating Hartwig as early as Week 1 of the 2010 season. There have been numerous articles written in the past week or so about Hartwig’s future in Pittsburgh. He’s been the consummate professional answering all the speculative questions about what he thinks may happen to him if Pouncey were in fact to win the starting job at center.
Saturday night’s preseason game against the Denver Broncos may go a long way towards determining the final outcome of the competition. Pouncey will get a chance to square off against one of the preeminent nose tackles in the league, Jamal Williams.
Steelers Digest, an outstanding print publication with loads of experienced writers and inside access, had this to say about the competition in a recent tweet (not sure who manages their account):
If Maurkice Pouncey plays well against NT Jamal Williams in Denver on Sunday night, he’ll be the starting center on Sept. 12 vs. Atlanta.
Hard to say if that’s conjecture or based on inside knowledge of the coaching staff’s feelings heading into the game. We’ll find out soon enough, I suppose!
Surprise, surprise. Bleacher Report’s initial article stating that Rashard Mendenhall had broken his arm was confirmed to be untrue recently by none other than Mendenhall’s agent. While it is true that Mendenhall underwent some tests on his arm, it’s wholly unfounded that his arm is broken. In fact, Mendenhall is scheduled to play tomorrow night in Denver.
Leave it to good old Bleacher Report to incorrectly ‘report’ that Rashard Mendenhall had broken his arm on Friday.
As it turns out, the Pittsburgh Steelers star running back did not break his arm. The rumors are untrue according to Jason LaCanfora and others. More on this bizarre series of developments as they become available, but for now, take a big sigh of relief, remember not to trust BR for anything, and expect to see Mendenhall at least make an appearance in Saturday night’s tilt against the Denver Broncos.
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin addressed the media following Thursday’s practice sessions. A video of the chat has been posted on Steelers.com. In it, Tomlin talks about a number of interesting topics – including, of course, the quarterback situation. There’s other tidbits worth listening to as well, including Jonathan Dwyer’s shoulder, and how he’ll manage playing time this coming weekend when the Steelers travel to Denver to play the Broncos in their third preseason game.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have yet to name a starter at quarterback for the first week of the regular season, but it doesn’t look like the player they start week three will be in the mix.
While most teams are looking to give their week one starters their last meaningful playing time this week, the Steelers plan to start suspended quarterback Ben Roethlisberger according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Roethlisberger might not be in as long as most starters, though, because second-year pro Dennis Dixon has been impressive in practice.
“I intend to give Dennis Dixon some looks with the first group against some good people,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “I think he’s earned that likewise. And that’s what this preseason is all about.”
This doesn’t mean that Dixon will be the week one starter over Byron Leftwich, but it does seem to indicate that the starting battle is rather close right now.
All World safety Troy Polamalu may just be the most valuable player on either side of the ball for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Steeler Nation definitely got a taste of what life is like without him last year when he was shelved for 11 of the team’s 16 games. The Steelers went 4-1 with Polamlau and 5-6 without him. Enough said really.
On Wednesday, Polamalu joined the Mike & Mike Show on ESPN Radio to talk about returning from injury, what happened last year with the Steelers defense, how he thinks the defense is looking this year, his famous hair, and what he thinks of the offseasons had by the other AFC North teams.
SB Nation’s Pittsburgh Steelers site, Behind the Steel Curtain, just posted an interview with new defensive assistant coach Jerry Olsavsky. A former player for the black and gold, Olsavsky was named a defensive quality control coach this past offseason. What that means, I’m not sure. But Olsavsky always was a scrapper on the field, a player who got more out of his talent than he probably should have. He’ll now get a chance to learn from defensive guru Dick LeBeau. Great stuff and congratulations to him on this new chapter in his football life.
Below are a few snippets of the interesting conversation.
BTSC: Jerry, the Steelers’ administration has undergone many changes since you were here as a player. There’s a new Rooney in charge and now there are several investors in the picture. How have things changed from your perspective?
Olsavsky: Nothing whatsoever has changed. The organization has refined itself, but the management style has remained the same. This is still very much a family-style organization. Mr. Rooney (Art II) was a great lawyer before taking over the team, so he knows what he is doing. He hasn’t changed what his grandfather and father built.
BTSC: The Steelers have two all-world players at outside linebacker, yet they drafted that position in both the second and fourth rounds. Did that surprise you?
Olsavsky: Not at all. Woodley and Harrison practically played every snap last year. You need depth. You need to give those a guys a break so they will be stronger at the ends of games. In addition, both Worilds and Gibson are really superb athletes. They are light on their feet and have tremendous skill-sets. That translates into special teams contributors as well. We’ve upgraded our special teams significantly during this offseason.
Remember last season when it was ultimately decided that safety Ryan Clark would sit during the Steelers road contest against the Denver Broncos? In case you forgot, Clark was sat down by Coach Tomlin because the high elevation poses a risk to his health due to not having a spleen. The science/medicine is beyond me, but suffice it to say, if Clark isn’t going to suit up for a big primetime showdown with the Broncos during the regular season, he sure as heck isn’t going to risk playing during the preseason. So, Clark will have the night off this coming weekend when the Steelers play their third preseason game at Invesco Filed at Mile High.
“I still want to play but I understand if I’m not going to play a Monday night game, I’m definitely not worried about this one,” Clark said. “We’ll still go through the same process. I’m glad it’s not as big an ordeal as it was last year.”
In a minor move today, the Steelers have re-signed linebacker Matt Stewart, who was released earlier this summer. Stewart is also a long snapper and could be an insurance policy in case something happens to long snapper Greg Warren, who has missed lots of time in the past two years. The Steelers also released wideout Isaiah Williams, who they’d signed in May.
Warren is supposed to be healthy, but they might be signing another long snapper so that they don’t have to turn to James Harrison again if Warren hurts himself. Stewart could play on special teams as well.
According to reports coming out of Pittsburgh, Mike Tomlin and his staff are not yet sold on offensive tackle Flozell Adams as the right guy for the job at right tackle this upcoming season. This week, Coach Tomlin said that Flozell Adams would start on Saturday night against the New York Giants, but that he would replaced early so that fellow free agent acquisition Jonathan Scott would have an opportunity to work some with the ‘ones’.
Some believe that may suggest that Scott may be able to win the starting job over Adams if he performs well. Scott after all, is quite a bit younger and perhaps a better long-term solution for the roster than the aged former Cowboys tackle.
“Everybody with a helmet on is in the mix,” Tomlin said when asked if Scott, who started eight games last season for the Buffalo Bills, is battling Adams for that position. “We just want to see Jonathan Scott.”
Actions speak louder than words. We all have heard that a million times. And it’s true, particularly in the case of franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and how he goes about his business not only in the upcoming weeks and months, but for the remainder of his career and even beyond. People will notice Roethlisberger’s behavior, not remember what he had to say on the air to the media during the early stages of his process of rebuilding his tarnished image. For now though, part of that process is making more media appearances and interacting with the fans more – both things he didn’t do much prior to his fallout earlier this offseason.
On Thursday, Roethlisberger joined The Stan & Guy show on 1250 ESPN in Pittsburgh to talk about a host of topics relating to his suspension, the changes he’s trying to make in his life, and what he’s trying to focus on during his limited time with his teammates this preseason before having to sit out the first quarter of the 2010 season. Here’s a few choice quotes from the interview.
On how he’s feeling about how the fans have received him and his return back into the fold with his teammates:
“Well I feel great. Obviously getting on the football field was first and foremost because it was getting back out there with the guys, and getting back doing what I love to do which is playing football. So it was great, the fans were awesome. Yesterday was the last day and there were tons of fans getting autographs, so I thought that was really good.”
On getting caught up in the Big Ben persona:
“Well I think when people keep telling you how good you are, you start to believe it, you know? It’s just something like I said, it’s in my past and it’s something to move forward from.”
On if he thinks he’s a different person since last January:
“I don’t know if I’m a different person. I’m still me. It’s just, I understand myself maybe a little bit better.”
Ben Roethlisberger will play in the Steelers’ second preseason game on Saturday, the Post-Gazette reports, although Mike Tomlin has not said whether Roethlisberger will start or how much he will play. The article also reports that Maurkice Pouncey and Jonathan Scott will see time with the first team. The decision to play Scott with the first team suggests that the Steelers may not be set on Flozell Adams at right tackle.
Veteran beat reporter Dale Lolley is as good as there is in the business. He’s usually in the right place at the right time, he tells it like he sees it, and his writing and analysis is always succinct and accessible. His Wednesday afternoon notes on his blog are no exception.
In them, Lolley talks about how the Steelers continue to fly under the radar while divisional rivals Baltimore and Cincinnati are heeded more attention by the national media. He also talks about Big Ben’s solid job doing and saying all the right things this past three weeks. Thankfully, Lolley also notes that the special teams look much better thus far in Latrobe under the direction of new ST coach Al Averest. All very encouraging stuff. Check his column out for more.
A back injury derailed rookie cornerback Keenan Lewis for most of the 2009 season. However, he's healthy again and working hard to make the strides demanded of a second-year Steelers player. It's conceivable that the youngster could push Bryant McFadden -- who returned from a one-year stint with the Arizona Cardinals after the William Gay Experiment went awry -- for a spot opposite Ike Taylor. Here's Lewis, in his own words:
I am coming out here to be the best, not the No. 2. I got guys in front of me right now, but I plan on coming out here every day and work[ing] on something from my game to help me get better.
Well, he's certainly saying the right things. Steelers fans have to love hearing that kind of confidence and dedication from an up-and-comer.
Lewis looked pretty good in preseason action against a tough assignment, Calvin Johnson -- the
man beast they call "Megatron." Although Johnson eventually beat Lewis on a timing route for a score, it was preceded by Lewis deflecting a pass in the end zone against Johnson in man coverage.
McFadden has been lining up with the first team in camp, but the coaching staff isn't ruling out siding with the younger, speedier Lewis. Look for him to lineup in the nickel spot in 2010.
Head Coach Mike Tomlin will try rookie wide receiver Antonio Brown out as a kick and punt returner this weekend in preseason action against the New York Giants. Brown had a strong performance on Saturday, recording three catches for 84 yards in his debut against the Detroit Lions.
It's obvious the Pittsburgh Steelers will give Brown every opportunity to earn a roster spot, perhaps ahead of a wideout they selected before him, third-rounder Emmanuel Sanders, who has also garnered rave reviews for his progress in training camp.
However, with Hines Ward and Mike Wallace cemented as the starters, Arnaz Battle performing well in the preseason and expected to improve Pittsburgh's disastrous kickoff coverage, Randle El working the slot, and the two rookies showing promise, it's possible that the Steelers could eventually roster six wide receivers.
This would likely end return specialist Stefan Logan's tenure with the Black & Gold. Stay tuned.
It's looking more and more like first-round selection Maurkice Pouncey, who played center at the University of Florida, will become the first Pittsburgh Steelers rookie since tight end Heath Miller in 2005 to crack the starting lineup.
Typically, Steelers rookies serve one "red shirt" year, so to speak, and come in only to spell veteran players.
But Pouncey is currently getting first-team reps after a strong showing in the team's first preseason contest this past Saturday. The offense sputtered during their first two series, managing only 16 yards on 12 plays. However, the unit visibly improved with Pouncey in the lineup.
The highlight of Pouncey's performance was a true hustle play on an Issac Redman run. The rookie moved downfield with impressive speed and athleticism for a man his size, blocking linebackers and safeties, and paving the way for a 31-yard gain.
Pouncey's reps on Monday were mostly at center, suggesting that Justin Hartwig -- who might very well be a salary cap casualty if, you know, there was a cap this year -- could be out of a job. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger even stopped the rookie after camp to practice the center-quarterback exchange.
So the competition seems to have shifted to Justin Hartwig (center) versus Trai Essex (right guard), as Tomlin and company will likely start Pouncey at whichever spot appears weaker.
Even though all signs have pointed towards Mike Tomlin naming Byron Leftwich the starting quarterback when the Pittsburgh Steelers start the 2010 regular season, there’s still plenty of room for Dennis Dixon to convince Tomlin that he should be the guy that lines up under center against the Atlanta Falcons at Heinz Field. Tomlin said as much to the NFL Network early this week:
“He’s got to take the job if he’s going to take it,” Tomlin told NFL Network. “He’s doing a nice job thus far, and we’re going to continue to give him opportunities to do that.”
Dixon certainly made a nice early case for himself on Saturday night during the Steelers’ preseason debut against the Lions. The former Oregon Ducks great completed 6-of-7 passes for 128 passing yards and a TD pass. He also ran for 31 yards during Pittsburgh’s 23-7 victory. Stay tuned to see how the two do on Saturday against the Giants, as well as to see how Ben Roethlisberger looks in what will be his first and perhaps only preseason snaps of the year.
After not making an appearance in the Pittsburgh Steelers first preseason game of the 2010 season, suspended quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is scheduled to see at least some action on Saturday night when the six-time Super Bowl champs take on the New York Giants. Don’t be surprised if Big Ben handles a series or two in the team’s third preseason game as well. But for now, be excited about Roethlisberger lining up under center for the first time in 2010 against someone other than his teammates.
Another season ending injury for a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Willie Colon and Limas Sweed were already lost for the year this offseason with Achilles heel injuries. Add reserve linebacker Andre Frazier to the list, who suffered a knee injury that will sideline him for the entire 2010 campaign. Frazier was placed on Injured Reserve.
Frazier has played 29 games for the Steelers the past two seasons on defense and as a special teams contributor. To replace him, the Steelers signed Brandon Renkart, who has been on the practice squad of the Jets, Cardinals and Colts since 2008. In all actuality though, the unfortunate injury to Frazier means rookie linebackers Jason Worilds and Thaddeus Gibson might have a very solid shot at dressing and contributing this season.
Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t know if he’ll play in the Steelers’ first preseason game against the Lions on Friday, but he’d love to:
Regardless of who starts at quarterback, Tomlin said he will use his starters for eight to 12 plays against the Lions.
“If he says I’m not going to play, that’s his call,” Roethlisberger said after practice Thursday afternoon.
Asked if it mattered if he played with the second-team offense — something Tomlin suggested as “theoretically” possible — Roethlisberger said, “Nope.”
It sounds like we’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see how this story ends.
Mike Tomlin isn’t saying who will start at quarterback in the Steelers’ first preseason game on Saturday against the Lions:
“We’re going to make you come to the stadium to find out,” Tomlin said.
In a morning news conference at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Tomlin said the starter will play anywhere from eight to 12 snaps against the Lions, but he would not reveal whether Roethlisberger, Byron Leftwich or Dennis Dixon would be the starting quarterback.
The article also notes that second-round pick Jason Worilds might not play, due to his hamstring troubles.
Gerry Dulac reports that rookie linebacker Jason Worilds is struggling to keep up:
Like all rookies, he is trying to absorb as much as he can of LeBeau’s intricate defense, no matter how fast the schemes are being tossed at him.
But, complicating matters is that Worilds hasn’t been on the practice field enough to demonstrate what he has been able to learn. He aggravated a hamstring injury that forced him to miss most of the first week of training camp and has spent the past couple days trying to be careful to not damage it further.
“The installment time is about 10 minutes,” said Worilds, a defensive end at Virginia Tech who has been converted to outside linebacker. “They put in all the plays in about 10 minutes, you watch a little film and now you have to go on the field and run it. It’s crazy.”
Anyone’s who’s ever taken a new job can relate to what he must be feeling. Add to that his hamstring problem, which is preventing him from really implementing everything he’s learned, and it must be a struggle out there.
When right tackle Willie Colon went down for the year with an Achilles heel injury, it appeared that several reserve offensive linemen had an opportunity to make a name for themselves and perhaps jumpstart their NFL careers. Tony Hills, a 2008 draft pick, fits the bill. Hills had earned a helmet several weeks but did not see the field any during his first two NFL seasons.
Even though the Steelers signed veteran Flozell Adams last week, Hills was still very much in the mix to earn a starting job, or perhaps more realistically, the top reserve spot behind Adams and Max Starks on the depth chart. On Monday, Hills suffered an ankle injury that could really cripple his chances at ever cashing in on a break like the one presented to him this offseason. Veteran beat reporter Dale Lolley had this to say about the injury:
Hills, a fourth-round pick in 2008, has shown flashes of finally getting it, but not a lot of consistency.
And with some of the free agent signings/other young guys on this roster, he needed to be on the field every day to improve and make a positive impression.
But with Doug Legursky, Ramon Foster and Dorian Brooks pushing for roster spots, Hills may find himself on the outside looking in.
The Trib reports that Byron Leftwich took a day off in camp on Monday, and Ben Roethlisberger got most of the first-team reps. Charlie Batch also took a couple dozen snaps, which constitute the most action he’s seen so far in camp. Overall, the reps have been split about evenly among Roethlisberger, Leftwich and Dennis Dixon. Dixon, the youngest quarterback of the bunch, isn’t expected to get any days off.
It’s been a tough camp so far for Steelers rookies. On top of Jonathan Dwyer’s rough first week, Gerry Dulac writes that Jason Worilds and Thaddeus Gibson are having a tough time, too:
The coaches aren’t getting much of a look at two rookies brought in to help improve depth at outside linebacker. Jason Worilds aggravated his hamstring in his first practice back after a week-long absence. Thaddeus Gibson has been able to practice but is trying to learn the defense after missing all of spring practices because classes were not finished at Ohio State. Worilds has taken part in only two full practices in camp, but he did participate on a limited basis in the afternoon session. The coaches do want to make sure his hamstring is fully healed so they can get a better look at him in preseason games.
Pat Kirwan also writes that Worilds is trying to adjust to the talent level of the offensive linemen he’s up against. Kirwan has good things to say, however, about first-rounder Maurkice Pouncey, who has “has impressed the coaches with his ability to bounce back from bad plays,” and third-rounder Emmanuel Sanders, who has run routes well so far.
John Harris of the Trib reports on rookie running back Jonathan Dwyer’s miserable first week at camp.
First, Dwyer aggravated his hamstring injury during the second practice on the first day of his first NFL training camp.
So much for making a good first impression. That immediately put Dwyer on the wrong side of the coaching staff.
For five days, Dwyer worked frantically to get back on the field. For a sixth-round draft pick like Dwyer, a debilitating injury can be the kiss of death.
During Friday night’s practice at Latrobe Memorial Stadium, Dwyer was finally healthy enough to return to the field — but immediately wished he wasn’t.
Because of a lack of practice time that probably contributed to him not executing properly, Dwyer was ordered to perform a blocking drill against rookie linebacker Thaddeus Gibson four consecutive times — which may be a first under Tomlin.
The article notes that Dwyer looks sluggish and out of shape. That could be a result of the hamstring problems, but the hamstring problems themselves could be an indication that Dwyer is out of shape. It would be a shame for the Steelers if he doesn’t turn things around – Dwyer has a bunch more upside than the usual sixth-round pick, and the Steelers’ depth chart behind Rashard Mendenhall at running back is uncertain. Mewelde Moore, Justin Vincent and Isaac Redman are all competing for time.
Daniel Sepulveda might provide us with a legitimate options there. I liked his placement of the ball, I liked his hang time. He’s worked a lot at it. He didn’t have any exposure in that area prior to getting here. That just speaks to what he is – he’s always willing to do whatever for us.
We'll see if anything comes of this. Pittsburgh has experimented with using Sepulveda on kickoffs in prior training camps, but it's never amounted to anything during the regular season.
He certainly has the leg for it. To me, if his placement and hang time are even 80 percent as good as kicker Jeff Reed's, you've got to put him out there. The Steelers' coverage unit gave up four touchdown returns last year and on many of them, Reed -- who's supposed to be the last line of defense -- looked completely unable to even stand in the opponent's way. By contrast, Sepulveda is basically another linebacker.
The Steelers worked on their hurry-up offense in camp yesterday to see how a slight new rule change might affect their timing:
A new NFL rule will position the umpire behind the offensive backfield — moving him from his old spot behind or sometimes next to the inside linebackers — for safety reasons ….
“We worked the five-minute, hurry-up offense as if we were down two scores,” Tomlin said. “Just wanted to see logistically how the positioning of the umpire was going to affect the game in those situations.”
“The reality is you’re going to lose some plays. The spotting of the ball isn’t going to be as quick as it would be [previously] on balls that are 10, 20 yards downfield in the middle of the field and you do not utilize a timeout.”
The Steelers will practice at 7:00 PM tonight.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will talk to Ben Roethlisberger today, and there’s a strong chance he could reduce Roethlisberger’s suspension:
Goodell, who is visiting Steelers training camp, again praised the progress Roethlisberger since he punished the latter for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.
He is expected to talk to Roethlisberger today before leaving St. Vincent College. Goodell also said he will meet with Roethlisberger in New York before making a decision on the length of the suspension that Roethlisberger will serve at the start of the season.
“I’m very encouraged by what he’s doing but I’ll take the period I have before I make a decision and make it probably right before the regular season,” Goodell said.
It sounds unlikely Roethlisberger’s suspension could end up being fewer than four games, the Post-Gazette reports:
When asked if there was any chance Roethlisberger’s suspension could be reduced to fewer than four games, Goodell responded: “I’ll make that decision later this month, but that’s the way it was designed. We’ll evaluate all of that at the end of the month.”
When he was asked to clarify whether the suspension could be fewer than four games, Goodell was vague: “No, we’ll make that decision on what the suspension is going to be at the end of the month.”
Washington Observer-Reporter beat writer Dale Lolley answers some camp questions over at Behind the Steel Curtain. He writes that Flozell Adams is a big, big man:
Flozell Adams looks a lot less sloppy than I thought he’d be. In fact, he’s an impressive mass of humanity. He’s listed as being shorter than Max Starks, but looks to be even an inch or two taller than Starks, who’s listed at 6-8. I don’t know that he’s a shoe-in – Starks is – but he’s certainly got the inside track. They’ll have to make a decision about whether they think Adams is the answer quickly. If he’s on the 53-man roster, his money is guaranteed this year. But by all accounts right now, he’s been good.
Reports surfaced recently that the entire Pittsburgh Steelers squad would be making the trip to Canton, Ohio to support Dick LeBeau during his induction into the Professional Football Hall of Fame on Saturday.
On Wednesday, we got some quotes from Coach Tomlin and several players that explain just why the man they call ‘Coach Dad’ is so widely loved and respected in the organization.
First up Coach Tomlin:
“What a great opportunity to have a field trip for a team,” says coach Mike Tomlin. “It’s a guy we all love and admire. It’s a very special day for him, and, by no means, do we intend to miss it.”
Veteran defensive end Brett Keisel then chimed in:
“Obviously, he’s my favorite guy ever. … I love the guy to death,” says Brett Keisel, who as an end in LeBeau’s defense occasionally drops in pass coverage.
And finally, a nice gem from behemoth nose tackle Casey Hampton:
Steelers NT Casey Hampton, who said the Hall of Fame induction “couldn’t happen to a better guy,” says he still marvels at how LeBeau still does push-up before practice.
“He stays in shape. … He coaches like he played football,” says Hampton. “A lot of coaches these days act like they never played and they never made mistakes. He’s the type of guy that lets you know that everybody makes mistakes, just don’t do it again. … You’ve got to respect that.”
Roger Goodell is likely to meet with Ben Roethlisberger tomorrow, the Post-Gazette reports:
Roethlisberger will begin serving a suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy when the preseason is over. Goodell has said he will consider reducing the suspension to four games if Roethlisberger meets all the requirements of his punishment and exhibits good behavior.
“I assume I will, but it’s not scheduled that I know of,” Roethlisberger said today of a meeting with Goodell. “It could be a last-minute thing. I’m not really sure.”
It’s possible that Goodell could decide to reduce Roethlisberger’s suspension from six games to four. Goodell’s comments suggest that he’s at least moderately likely to do that – he praises Roethlisberger’s understanding of the “seriousness” of the trouble he finds himself in.
A few notes from the Pittsburgh Steelers training camp practice sessions on Monday:
“Backs on ’backers” is one of coach Mike Tomlin’s favorite drills. Tomlin wanted to see how much his rookie linebackers enjoyed the drill, too.
Jason Worilds and Thaddeus Gibson took a hefty number of reps during the drill, winning much more than they lost.
Worilds beat each one of the most frequently used backs in the drill at least once in Justin Vincent, Isaac Redman and Demetrius Taylor. Tight end David Johnson got the best of Worilds once.
At one point, Tomlin yelled out “Let’s see if anybody can block 97.”
Gibson was just as intense. He was successful against Johnson, Rashard Mendenall and Frank Summers, while he was stood up once by Redman.
“If you are a linebacker and you are shy, you usually have a problem, and I don’t think he has that problem,” Tomlin said of Gibson.
Read on for other tidbits about Ben Roethlisberger’s solid performance, Byron Leftwich’s not-so-stellar day, and other developments on the practice fields of St. Vincent’s College in Latrobe, PA.
In a sign of support for the man they call Coach Dad, the Pittsburgh Steelers roster will be traveling to Canton, Ohio to take in the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies for defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise though. Remember how a number of LeBeau’s defensive players wore retro Detroit Lions jerseys a few years ago when they played in the Hall of Fame Game in Canton as a subtle hint that they felt LeBeau belonged in the Hall for his underrated playing career?
This is the kind of stuff that builds chemistry and cohesiveness inside the locker room. Steeler Nation would love to see LeBeau’s unit return to its 2008 form this coming season after last year’s inconsistent campaign. A team trip like this to support the man that puts so much into helping them succeed could go a long ways towards making that happen.
The Pittsburgh Steelers made a minor roster move on Monday at the fullback position. The Steelers cut Demetrius Taylor, a defensive tackle in college that had been converted to FB during spring practices. The Steelers replaced Taylor with Dwayne Wright, who they claimed off waivers from the Philadelphia Eagles. A few notes on Wright:
Wright (6-0, 234) was drafted by Buffalo in the fourth round in 2007 from Fresno State. He appeared in 15 games with the Bills, who released him before the 2008 season. He has been with the Giants in training camp in 2009 and then the Eagles signed him the past January.
Steelers kicker Jeff Reed arrived at camp upset about his contract:
“I’m not going to point anyone out or any statement out, but, yeah, I was told one thing and another thing happened,” Reed said Saturday after practice at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe. “I understand business moves, but I’m not a big fan of lying”…
Part of the problem is that the Steelers had to sign tackle Flozell Adams to a two-year, $7.5 million contract after the season-ending injury to right tackle Willie Colon.
When the Steelers made Reed their franchise player back in February, they suggested they’d like to sign him to a long-term deal. Now team president Art Rooney II says that isn’t going to happen, at least not this season.
Welcome Back Almost All Yunz Stillers
Ben Roethlisberger should get used to seeing messages like this one that appeared on the marquee of a local business just outside of St. Vincent College in Latrobe, where the Steelers reported for training camp on Friday.
It's no surprise that many fans feel the Steelers should have parted ways with Roethlisberger prior to the NFL Draft. After all, they dumped former Super Bowl hero Santonio Holmes due to substance abuse issues, and for a mere fifth-round pick.
If fans are genuinely convinced that the repeated allegations of rape directed at Roethlisberger are true, it's no wonder they feel disgusted with the quarterback they once viewed as a franchise godsend.
It will be interesting to see how Roethlisberger is received at the Steelers' first preseason game at Heinz Field on August 14th. He already said in an interview on Friday that he is worried that many among the Steelers faithful will greet him with boos.
It looks like he should be.
The Post-Gazette reports that Ben Roethlisberger led the first-team offense at the Steelers’ first practice at training camp this morning. The newly-acquired Flozell Adams played with the first team as well.
Max Starks had some choice words for the Bengals’ Chad Ochocinco at camp yesterday, the Trib reports:
Starks said Ochocinco aroused his ire during a recent episode of the latter’s reality TV show, “Ochocinco: The Ultimate Catch.”
“As I was walking past the room (in his house), the TV was on, and I think (Ochocinco) made the statement: ‘The last time we’ve seen this many girls on the field was the last time we played the Steelers,’ " the normally mild-mannered Starks recalled. "I wish I played defense at that moment.
“Chad is who he is, but some things you don’t say. Yes, you’re trying to get TV ratings and trying to further your career, and I applaud that. But don’t talk about the other team, especially if you know you’re going to see them twice in a year, and you haven’t had the best success in your entire career against that team.”
Yeah, maybe you shouldn’t say things like that, but Ochocinco’s comment is pretty mild by his standards. And, actually, so lame that it hardly required a response from Starks or anybody else. Come on, Chad, you’re shooting a reality show, and that’s the material you use?
Here’s a long interview with Ben Roethlisberger, just in case you care to rehash everything he allegedly did this offseason.
The Post Gazette’s Ed Bouchette caught up with some players who are arriving today, and Max Starks says he’ll stay at left tackle, with newly-acquired Flozell Adams moving from left tackle to right:
Adams, 35, is due in camp today after singing [sic] with the Steelers as a free agent Thursday. In addition, Trai Essex said he will remain at right guard. Essex started at right guard last season but there was speculation he might move back to right tackle after Willie Colon was lost for the season with an Achilles tendon injury.
Starks said Sean Kugler, the Steelers’ new offensive line coach, told him he preferred to keep players in their previous positions rather than move them around. Starks started at right tackle in 2005 and 2006 before moving to left tackle, where he started the past two seasons.
Not exactly a news update, but a reader on the Pittsburgh Steelers blog I run wrote an informative and entertaining piece about his trip to Latrobe in 2008. It’s got some handy information about how and where to look for autographs, the normal flow of the day, and the general atmosphere of the experience.
Take a read here if you’re planning a trip to camp this year and are unsure of what to expect.
Saturday, July 31 - Thursday, August 5: Open practices at 2:55 p.m.
Friday, August 6 - Open night practice, 7:00 p.m.
Sunday, August 8 - Thursday, August 12: Open practice, 2:55 p.m.
Saturday, August 14 - The Steelers play the Detroit Lions, 7:30 p.m.
Monday, August 16 - Wednesday, August 18: Open practice, 2:55 p.m.
You can check out more details at the Steelers' site.
Here's our list of top training camp battles to watch. Check back to this thread for updates throughout camp.
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