Tag Archives: Steelers

COLUMN: Signing Tomlin A Winning Move

Say what you will about Mike Tomlin. All the dude does in win. In fact, in his ten seasons as the head coach in the organization, Tomlin has never had a losing season. He has had two 8-8 seasons and one 9-7 season. All seven others have been 10 or more. That is the definition of success.

Personally, I can say that I have stood by Tomlin for as long as he has been here. I did, however, turn against him during the losing skid last year. I had wanted him fired for the sole reason that, in a year where the Steelers were built to contend, they had fallen to 4-5 and seemingly had their playoff hopes crushed. Obviously, they did not lose a game the rest of the way.

Friday afternoon, the Steelers announced that they had given Tomlin an extension through the 2020 season.

As the news emerged, fans began voicing their opinion on the move throughout the social media waves. Many were in favor of the move. Others were mildly disgusted.

Tomlin can easily be ranked as one of the top five most polarizing figures in Pittsburgh sports today. Not that that’s something sports figures enjoy, but Tomlin isn’t one to listen to the outside noise. That is something that separates Tomlin from other coaches and players around the league.

Tomlin was well aware of his team’s first half underachieving in 2016. He didn’t need to check his Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook to know it. He surely wasn’t going to take it from the media members.

He had lost Cameron Heyward very early on due to injury. He was without Ben Roethlisberger for one of the most important regular season games of the year against New England. He had to take a 4-5 team and right the ship and somehow carry his team to the playoffs. He had to trust his quarterback to find the right player to stretch a touchdown across the goal line in some crazy Christmas miracle.

He took this 4-5 team and turned it into a team that headed back to New England for the AFC Championship and simply got outcoached by one of the best to ever wear a headset.

Despite this, people forget that Tomlin was not only the youngest head coach to reach the Super Bowl, but also the youngest to win it. He is also only the eighth head coach to reach 100 wins in his first ten seasons. That means only seven other coaches in NFL history had averaged 10 wins in their first ten seasons. The Steelers are the only franchise to have three.

But people still want more, right?

One argument I’ve seen used over the years is that Tomlin has underachieved. He’s always had a Hall of Fame quarterback. He’s always had a very good running game to complement. While the defense hasn’t always been spectacular, the offense could’ve made up for it. So, is that on Tomlin?

I’ve always thought that Tomlin was good at in-game adjustments and had always risen to the occasion when the Steelers needed a big win. Whether regular season or a long playoff run, the Steelers’ head coach since 2007 has always stepped up.

Another knock on Tomlin, though, are his unimpressive numbers against sub-.500 opponents. He is well below the .500 mark in those. It’s said that he doesn’t get his team up for these games and always overlooks opponents.

Last season, they were shredded by a rookie quarterback, Carson Wentz, against Philadelphia in week three. He put up 34 points. They lost to the Miami Dolphins in week six by a 30-15 score. They allowed 422 yards, including an ungodly 204 yards to running back Jay Ajayi, which were the highest numbers allowed all season in both overall and rushing yards allowed.

How did Tomlin respond to his critics? By burying the Dolphins in the AFC Wild Card round. By beating the Kansas City Chiefs relying on Chris Boswell to nail six field goals in an 18-16 victory and losing to Bill Belichick and Tom Brady in the AFC Championship game like previously mentioned.

Which brings me to my next point.

Belichick and Brady might be the league’s best quarterback-coach tandem in NFL history. Both have won five Super Bowl’s in their Patriots tenure. How can one possibly argue against someone who has constantly fallen to the two guys who make a case to be the best EVER at their respective jobs?

The Steelers are the best franchise in NFL history and that is backed up by the fact that they have won more Super Bowls than any other franchise in league history while putting themselves in a position to win another every year. They didn’t do it by hiring bad head coaches. Ask the Steelers what they thought about Chuck Noll (four Super Bowl’s) and Bill Cowher (one Super Bowl) and compare Tomlin likewise. It’s not even close. Mike Tomlin is an elite active NFL coach.

Daily Thoughts: Camp Edition

Noticed at camp

Justin Hunter is a solid depth player for the Steelers. He has been strong all camp and today was no different. He’s tall and uses it to his advantage. Hunter has showed great abilities even against first string talent. So we shall see where he goes from here but I’m very impressed.

Artie Burns also stood out to me. He matched up against Antonio Brown all day. He not only handled himself but took each rep as a new memory was implanted into his head. He had good coverage on close to every snap he played.

Senquez Golson is the Beau Benett of the Steelers. He again was carted off the fields of Latrobe and that’s never a good sign. Hopefully it’s nothing major but we all know he doesn’t drink his milk. James Conner got his shoulder banged up during practice today. He was pictured with a sling post practice. Hopefully it’s just a minor injury and he can come back very soon.

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COLUMN: The Window is Closing on Stairway to Seven

The Pittsburgh Steelers are the most successful franchise since the 1970 AFL/NFL merger, winning six Super Bowls; more than any other franchise. Steeler Nation, and rightfully so, is quite proud of that accomplishment. It ties into why Pittsburgh is called the City of Champions.

The 1970’s were the glory days of the Steelers, winning four Super Bowls in six years. Many from those 70’s teams are enshrined in Canton, Ohio’s Pro Football Hall of Fame. They boasted the most dominant defense of all time in the Steel Curtain, a hall-of-fame quarterback, two hall-of-fame receivers, and Franco Harris, who not only is also a hall-of-famer, but is responsible for one of the most iconic plays in the history of the NFL.

Yeah, those were the good days.

The 2000’s brought some glory back to the Black and Gold. After drafting their first franchise quarterback since Terry Bradshaw, Ben Roethlisberger helped lead the Steelers back to that winning championship tradition, winning Super Bowls in 2005 and 2008, the latter being a superb performance.

This decade looked to be promising, when the Steelers appeared in Super Bowl XLV in 2010, but lost to Green Bay. Big Ben was still in his prime, the defense was older, but still solid, and Mike Tomlin looked like he was going to become an all-time great at the pace he was going at for such a young coach.

Seven years later, we still don’t have that seventh trophy.

Now, most other franchises and their fans would criticize us for being so selfish. None of them, however, would be singing a different tune if it was their team. Most teams, when going through a rebuild of any kind, will tear everything down and start from scratch.

Not the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Rooney’s are always trying to win. That’s what makes them the most successful franchise. You get to the top by sacrificing everything, taking risks, and sometimes having a little bit of luck, but you can get rewarded if you put all your cards on the table.

That’s what the Steelers do. They’ve had to rebuild the defense, and that is a process that is still going on. The offense has become explosive, all being built through the draft. GM Kevin Colbert and coach Tomlin deserve praise for that.

But this past offseason should have been an awakening for them, the players, and the fans.

With Big Ben now going on a year-by-year basis of whether or not he will continue playing, the Steelers’ window for getting that seventh Lombardi is closing. Le’Veon Bell‘s future with the team is up in the air. He wants to stay a Steeler, but wants to be paid, and rightfully so. He’s grown into arguably the best running back in the league. Outside of Antonio Brown, the receiving corps is possibly really solid, especially with the return of Martavis Bryant, but his inconsistency on and off the field leaves just a little doubt that it’s not as dangerous of a group as it should be. The defense, despite the front-seven getting better and better every year, is still not a defense you can say is a “Super Bowl” defense. It has potential, and that may even come to fruition this season.

But let’s face it: you can’t win a Super Bowl without a franchise quarterback. The only teams to have done it are teams that had all-time defenses (i.e. the 2005 Baltimore Ravens).

And we can easily take for granted the fact that the Steelers have had a hall-of-fame quarterback for the last 13 seasons. He may not be the best of his generation, but he is up there as one of the best, and for sure is one of the main reasons the Steelers have had so much success during his career. Just take a moment and think of where the Steelers would be without him or any other franchise quarterback. The 90’s ring a bell?

The window the Steelers have to win a Super Bowl with this group intact is closing. Ben’s time is coming to an end sooner rather than later. It could be after the upcoming season, or it could be five more years. I’d seriously bet closer to the former than the latter. It took the Steelers over two decades to get another franchise quarterback after Bradshaw; who knows how long it could be before the Steelers get another one after Ben hangs it up. Maybe the Steelers strike gold in the draft and it’s not long. Or, it could be another two decades. Steelers fans who remember the 80’s don’t want to relive it.


In Pittsburgh, we’re passionate about our teams. We expect the very best out of them every time they suit up for a game. There’s a reason why Pittsburgh is called the City of Champions. That’s the standard. Anything short of that is considered failure in our eyes. While I, nor the Steelers, can guarantee a Super Bowl this year, I will say this will be a fun year for the Steelers and the fans.

There is serious promise with this group. The offense is elite and the defense is getting closer and closer to being Super Bowl ready. It’s an exciting time to be a Steelers fan. They came up one game shy of the goal last season. 2017 is another shot at the elusive seventh Lombardi.

Training Camp Preview: Wide Open Competition 

As training camp rolls around, the Steelers go to Saint Vincent College with a lot of receivers. Not only do they have quantity, but also quality players in that position. They’ll be a very interesting group to watch during camp, how it plays out there as we go into the season. Expect a lot of great battles during camp and push guys to grow. With Darrius Heyward-Bey, Justin Hunter, Demarcus Ayers, Sammie Coates, Cobi Hamilton, and maybe a few others rounding out the receivers group, there is going to be tough cuts. The player with the best ability on special teams will make the final spot or two.

News broke today that Coates got a scope done and will miss some of camp. That already puts him behind the eight ball. His entire career as a Steeler has been injuries, and when he isn’t injured, his past injuries affect his play. He still has a catching issue which will need to be shown as fixed during camp. Coates could be a surprise cut if he doesn’t play much this camp and preseason. If he can stay healthy and learn to catch the ball more consistently, he could develop into a solid player.

Players that’ll be lower on the depth chart like Ayers, DHB, Hunter, and Hamilton, will fight for one or maybe two spots max on the final roster. There’s a lot to like about Ayers and what he showed and could provide special teams ability if needed. DHB has made his special teams play known around the league and continues to show his speed on offense. Hunter and Hamilton are similar. They both have size and can make contributions on offense, but you could question if either could be talented enough to make this roster. Popular expectations is for DHB to make this roster and Ayers could make it as well. If he doesn’t make the final roster, then hopefully he will be picked up on the practice squad.

The starters are all locks and so is JuJu Smith-Schuster. It’s a waste of time talking about Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant as your one-two punch. Eli Rogers is coming off of a solid season as well, so that’s four making your final 53. But the question is which is going to start in the slot for you? It’ll be a good battle between Rogers and JuJu. Rogers showed good promise last year and looks to be a speed slot receiver, where JuJu shows to be a strong possession receiver. No matter who wins, the 4th receiver will get a lot of snaps. Expect a lot of four-receiver sets.

The biggest question is if the Steelers want to keep five or six receivers on the final roster. Maybe they keep seven if someone blows them away on special teams. It’ll be exciting to watch this battle, and expectations are most, if not all of these guys, will have jobs during this season. No matter if it’s with the Steelers or not. Either way, feeling confident in the depth at receiver is a understatement. It’ll be interesting in how it checks out through this year’s competition.


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Steelers Fantasy Football Outlook

Football season is inching closer and closer, and many are preparing their fantasy draft boards, participating in mock drafts, trying to put themselves in best position to win that elusive prize at the end of the season, whether it be a trophy, wrestling belt, or just cold hard cash. Not to toot my own horn, but after two successive seasons of leading my fantasy league in scoring, I shall bestow my fantasy wisdom upon you when it comes to drafting your Steelers; who to draft and when, who NOT to draft and why, sleepers, busts, everything you need to break your homer goggles and draft your Steelers players smartly.

These rankings are based on standard scoring, non-PPR leagues on ESPN. There are previews for players only in the Top 200 Rankings, or at least one Steelers player in each position.

Quarterback:

Ben Roethlisberger

LTS Positional Ranking: 10th
ESPN Positional Ranking: 11th

Outlook: While Ben Roethlisberger‘s numbers took a small dip last year, he remains a top-10 option at quarterback in fantasy football. He has the capability of being right up there with the league’s top QB’s, especially with Martavis Bryant making his return, Big Ben will have all possible options at his disposal, barring any injuries (or suspensions). Le’Veon Bell will get plenty of carries, so Ben may have the occasional game where he doesn’t quite put up the numbers you’d like from a QB1, but he can have a game or three where he goes off and puts up one of the top fantasy outings of the year. His fantasy play is a bit inconsistent, but not terrible where you should steer clear. He is a small injury threat, so if you take him, make sure you have a decent QB2.

If you have an option of a top-5 QB in the 3rd round, take one then, but if not, wait until the 4th or 5th round if your eyes are set on Ben. It’s much more vital to stock up on RB’s and WR’s before you’d spend a high pick on Ben. Personally, I don’t like to take a QB early (earliest I usually draft is the 4th round). Ben has been my quarterback more than once, and he’s contributed well.

Running Back:

Le’Veon Bell

LTS Positional Ranking: 1st
ESPN Positional Ranking: 1st

Outlook: He’s the top fantasy back. It’s not much of a debate. Sure, you can make an argument for David Johnson or Ezekiel Elliot, but neither match Bell’s dual-threat ability at both rushing and receiving.

Last year, Bell averaged the most yards-from-scrimmage per game, which is a key factor in why he’s the top-ranked RB. There’s really only two worries with Bell: 1) He’s had injury and off-field issues. The off-field issues seem (and hope) to be resolved, but his health is something to consider. He has yet to go a season in his NFL career without a semi-major injury. Two of them didn’t affect his regular season output, but it’s still something to keep an eye out for, and 2) the Steelers have a lot of weapons on offense, which may take away some touchdowns from Bell’s output.

All of this said, if you have the number one overall pick, take him without hesitation. If not and someone passes on him, take him without hesitation. Do NOT pass on him. You’ll regret it. He’s playing on a franchise tag and wants to get paid. Bell is number one across the board. Hands down.

 

Wide Receiver:

Antonio Brown

LTS Positional Ranking: 1st
ESPN Positional Ranking: 1st

Outlook: Along with Bell at his position, Antonio Brown should be the top WR in most, if not all draft boards. He’s led all receivers in fantasy points for three consecutive seasons, despite last year being a bit of a letdown based on his two previous seasons. With Martavis Bryant back in the fold, Brown shouldn’t see nearly as many double- or triple-teams. When it comes to this ranking, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. AB has been the top WR for three seasons, no reason to think that’s going to change any time soon.

Brown is a first-round draft pick, and in most leagues, will be a top-5 pick. If you’re sitting 4th, 5th, or 6th and he’s available, you shouldn’t pass on him. There are few receivers that are fantasy juggernauts, and he’s one of them.

Martavis Bryant

LTS Positional Ranking: 25th
ESPN Positional Ranking: 24th

Outlook: Nobody can deny Bryant’s raw talent. Put that together with his 6-foot-4 frame and blazing speed, he’s got the potential to be a top-10 fantasy scorer. There are two things that may hold him back in terms of fantasy output: 1) There’s guys like AB and Bell who will get their fair share of touches. 2) Bryant is coming off of a year-long suspension and there’s a huge cloud of uncertainty there. Before his suspension, Bryant was a productive, yet inconsistent fantasy receiver. That tends to be the case with deep threats, but if Bryant can avoid going into hiding like he has before and be a force on the gridiron for majority of the game next to AB, we could see a huge breakout from him.

Despite the uncertainty that surrounds Bryant, he’s still a solid find as a WR2. He shouldn’t be your first option there, as there are other proven, consistent producers as a WR2 like Doug Baldwin or Emmanuel Sanders, but if you want to go with upside and take a little risk, Bryant could be your WR2. If you get him as your WR3, your either really deep at receiver or made some bad choices at WR1 and WR2.

 

Tight End:

Jesse James

LTS Positional Ranking: 25th
ESPN Positional Ranking: 25th

Outlook: When it comes to Jesse James, he’s just not much of a threat in fantasy. He’s a TE2 at best, and really, should only be that in case there are a few injured tight ends. He won’t get enough targets to produce enough points because of guys like Xavier Grimble and Bell, AB, and Bryant getting so many receptions. James’s specialty will be getting crucial third down catches and maybe a few key redzone targets. This doesn’t warrant a pick in a standard 15-round draft. Look for him as an option if you encounter injuries with your tight ends.

Defense/Special Teams:

LTS Positional Ranking: 13th
ESPN Positional Ranking: 5th

Outlook: There’s good reason to like the direction the Steelers’ defense is going, but there are still some really young players in key spots. The defensive line is stout with Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, and Javon Hargrave. The linebacker corps has a star-in-the-making in Ryan Shazier. Bud Dupree has decent chance to break out, but there is still some question to the other outside and inside linebacker spots and how productive they can be. The secondary is getting younger, but it doesn’t bode well for fantasy. They could give up a lot of yards, especially if the front-seven can’t get to the quarterback consistently.

The Steelers’ defense may be a good D/ST2 option for your team if you are the type to dedicate two roster spots to defenses.

Kicker:

Chris Boswell

LTS Positional Ranking: 8th
ESPN Positional Ranking: 9th

Outlook: Chris Boswell is a solid, consistent kicker. There are a few options that are no-doubters above him like Stephen Gostkowski, Justin Tucker, or Dan Bailey, but if you can’t get any of those guys, getting Boswell isn’t reaching too far. He’s very accurate, and if the offense struggles to score in the redzone, like they did last year, he’ll get plenty of opportunities to rack up three points here, four points there.

Possible Sleepers

WR – JuJu Smith Schuster

He’s a guy that could possibly win the 3rd receiving spot in the Steelers’ depth chart, which could give him some nice looks in games. However, with AB getting 100+ catches, Bell getting 70+ catches, and Bryant getting 60+ ctaches, there’s only so many targets he can get. He might be a nice steal as your WR5, especially if AB or Bryant go down with an injury (God forbid). You shouldn’t take him any higher than that, but he could be a nice late-round steal.

Do Not Draft List

These are guys that are not worth the precious draft pick. You can rely on waivers for them in case of injuries to your team, or to the Steelers, but these guys should not be taken on draft night. It’s not that I don’t like them. You only get so many roster spots. Choose them wisely. You could find some reason to like any of these guys, but the stars have to align for some of them:

RB – James Conner
RB – Knile Davis
WR – Eli Rogers
WR – Sammie Coates
WR – Darrius Heyward-Bey
TE – Jesse James

Final Thoughts

It’s fun for Steelers fans to have guys being drafted in the first round, or that are ranked first overall. Just remember: not all of these guys are fantasy godsends. Do your homework, make your picks wisely, and have fun winning.

 

Who’s The Steelers Second Most Important Player?

It’s pretty apparent that the most important player on every roster usually ends up being the quarterback. When your quarterback struggles, your team usually suffers the consequences. When your quarterback is an elite quarterback, your team usually makes a deep playoff run.

The Steelers have Ben Roethlisberger, so until he’s done, they don’t have much of a problem in that regard.

KDKA sports anchor Bob Pompeani posed a great question a few days back on his weekly segment on 93.7 The Fan Pittsburgh. He asked who the Steelers second most important player behind Roethlisberger was.

Some people said wide receiver Antonio Brown. Others took the obvious with Le’Veon Bell.

However, no one mentioned my choice for second most important which happens to be linebacker Ryan Shazier.

The impact Shazier has on the field is impeccable. He is one of the league’s premier playmaking linebackers and is the fastest linebacker in the NFL.

Shazier can be blitzing the quarterback one play and then dropping into coverage to help cover receivers on another.

One of his weaknesses, though, is his size.

Shazier stands at 6’1″, 230 lbs. But he doesn’t look like the prototypical linebacker when you see him. Don’t let that mistake you.

The Steelers weren’t at all concerned when they took Shazier with the 15th overall pick in 2014. Only Khalil Mack and Anthony Barr were taken ahead of the Ohio State product.

Shazier has often had troubles staying on the field due to injuries. But when he is on the field, nothing seems to be able to stop him.

In only his second career game, week 2 of 2014 against Baltimore, Shazier had 15 tackles (11 solo) despite a losing 20-6 effort. It was then that the Steelers knew they had an impactful player on the rise.

2016 was Shazier’s coming out party.

In the season opener against Washington, he had two pass deflections, forced a fumble, and picked off Kirk Cousins in a lopsided Steelers victory.

Despite missing 3 weeks due to a knee injury, Shazier finished the season with 87 combined tackles, 9 pass deflections, 3.5 sacks, and 3 interceptions. He started 13 games. He also intercepted Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore in the Steelers Wildcard victory.

Just this past week, NFL analyst Pete Prisco released his list of the most overrated and underrated players on every team. While Ramon Foster was deemed the most underrated player on the Steelers’ roster, Shazier was considered by Prisco to be the team’s most overrated player.

Prisco sighted Shazier’s lack of durability to be a huge issue and that he is totally useless when injured, which is true.

But, injuries are part of the game. Shazier’s impact when he’s on the field is bigger than anyone on the Steelers’ defense. His fast and physical presence makes it tough for anyone to run on the edge without being caught. Nothing can replace his speed.

Shazier will play his fourth season in the NFL in 2017 and he’ll again be a very important piece if the Steelers want to make a run at their seventh Lombardi Trophy in honor of the late, great Dan Rooney.

What’s In Store For James Conner

The Steelers have a situation on their hands with the Le’Veon Bell situation that is currently happening. They decided to let DeAngelo Williams walk in free agency this offseason due to his age. They wanted to get younger at the running back position and they did just that.

They drafted James Conner with their fourth round compensation pick.

Conner is the former Pitt Panthers running back who battled through more adversity than most players ever see by the age of 25.

Conner tore his MCL in the season opening game against Youngstown State in 2015. It caused him to miss the entire season.

Then, something even worse happened to him.

Conner got a call on Thanksgiving morning that he had been diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma, the same disease that slowed Penguins great Mario Lemieux.

This all on the shoulders of a college kid.

Conner was cured in time to play when the 2016 season opened. He had three touchdowns against Villanova in the opener and was well on his way to getting drafted.

Now, Conner will play his home games in the same stadium he played at the past four seasons in college for Pitt.

The Steelers have expressed the idea of giving Bell more of a break in the backfield due to his extensive touches last season. His injury against New England in the AFC Championship game has many believing it was attributed to being the workhorse for the team in their first two playoff games. Conner will allow for the Steelers to do that.

It may seem that Conner being drafted by the Steelers was done just for the story. It’s more than that.

The adversity that he’s faced throughout his young years is unmatched. It shows his toughness and his commitment to football as a whole.

The Steelers haven’t been able to rely on Bell to stay on the field due to off the field issues and injuries. He wants $15+ million after turning down a long term deal that would’ve given him $12+ million.

This is where Conner comes into play.

Over the past few years, the Steelers have employed guys such as Williams, Fitzgerald Touissant, and more as their back up running backs. Conner is going to be an unreal change of pace from Bell.

Bell’s shifty and quick feet type of play is hard to stop. Couple that with Conner’s bruising up the middle type of running and it’ll be tough to stop.

Conner also has a bit of speed if he gets an open late or gets the corner. He is someone who will greatly benefit the Steelers this season.

Conner will serve as the perfect third down running back to be able to spell Bell for a down or so.

This was for more than just the story. This is the prototypical Pittsburgh Steelers running back.