Different Steelers, same Roethlisberger

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Ben Roethlisberger

These are not the Steelers you’re used to. But it’s still the same Ben Roethlisberger, which means they’re always going to have a chance.

With a system, he’s still coming to grips with, a supposed lack of running game and lack of protection, and too many balls on the ground, the Steelers quarterback was undeterred,leading his team to a 24-17 win over the Bengals.

Roethlisberger finished 27-of-37 for 278 yards and a touchdown.

Those numbers would have been a lot better if not for some problems by his teammates (keep reading), but they were still enough.

You can tell Roethlisberger and offensive coordinator Todd Haley are still learning to dance together. Toes are still being stepped on, between getting the steps just right often enough.

He can still move the pocket to buy time, and he can still gun the ball (as he proved on his touchdown to Heath Miller just before halftime).

But all told, his is a game that is generally greater than the sum of its parts. And for a team in a bit of a transition, that’s something they need to count on.

Here are five more things we learned during Sunday Night Football:

1. If the Steelers have been good at anything over the years, it’s been replacing guys well, and at just the right times.

But there are certain guys they have a hard time doing without.

Without safety Troy Polamalu, their defense lacks any kind of dynamic element. Outside linebacker James Harrison is back in body, but doesn’t appear to be making much of an impact. And their line borders on solid, but can’t change a game.

Where they’ve excelled at filling gaps is on the offensive line. While their blocking has been suspect in the past, they were playing without a pair of starters (inactive center Maurkice Pouncey and right tackle Marcus Gilbert) and kept it going. They protected well, and paved the way for more than enough running, even without their top two running backs (inactives Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman). Read more…

 

NFL Game Changers: AFC North


Join us as TTR Game Changers takes a tour through all 32 teams, identifying one player from every squad that I believe has a great chance of being a game changer in 2012.  To see the full series click here.

Baltimore Ravens – The Ravens are poised for another late season run, but injuries are threatening their season before it even begins.  If the Ravens defense is able to overcome the loss of Terrell Suggs it will be surprising to me.  So that is why I think the offense will really need to step up in a big way in 2012.  I believe that second year receiver Torrey Smith will make big strides again this year as he leads the team in receiving, but I think the team will be pleasantly surprised with the play of Ed Dickson.  The third year receiver has yet to have the impact that they envisioned from the young tight end, but I think he makes a splash in 2012.  Dickson caught 54 receptions for 528 yards and 5 touchdowns last season.  This year I think he could be in the 65-75 ball range with around 8 touchdowns.  His emergence this year will add a new element to Baltimore’s passing game that it has lacked since the early part of Todd Heap’s career.
Pittsburgh Steelers –  Pittsburgh is going to have a rough season this year, and I actually think that the Bengals could surpass them now.  The offensive line is in shambles.  Mendenhall is still injured.  Roethlisberger is already injured and the season is just starting.  James Harrison isn’t healthy yet.  They are running a brand new offense under Todd Haley and their best offensive weapon, Mike Wallace, just ended his lengthy holdout.      I have always said that I don’t trust players coming off a holdout, there are too many examples of players that only end up hurting themselves and their teams by holding out.  I love Wallace’s game breaking ability, but I just can’t trust him this season.  With that being said, I expect Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders to get even more work this year.  And I expect both to play well, but the Steelers reigning team MVP will lead this team once again in 2012.  Read more…

Family First: Roethlisberger’s decision causes riff

Ben Roethlisberger, Ashley Harlan

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s wife is pregnant, and he says that if she goes into labor on a game day, he’s missing the game.

Roethlisberger said in an interview on Wednesday, and reiterated in a post on his personal website on Thursday, that if he is forced to choose, he will choose being there for the birth of his son over being with the Steelers.

“I’m not missing the birth of my child,” Roethlisberger told Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “There’s no chance. I know some fans probably don’t want to hear that, but there’s no chance.”

If Roethlisberger chooses to miss a game for the birth of his child, he won’t be the first NFL player to do so. In 1993, Houston Oilers offensive tackle David Williams skipped a Sunday game because his wife gave birth the night before, and the Oilers were furious: They docked him his game check, and Oilers offensive line coach Bob Young said that he had personally skipped the birth of his own child for a football game and was outraged that Williams wouldn’t do the same, saying of Williams, “He let the guys down, and he let hundreds of thousands of fans down.”

The culture of the NFL and of American society has changed enough in two decades that Roethlisberger probably won’t face such a harsh denunciation if he does miss a game. But Roethlisberger said he and his wife — who have declined to reveal publicly when she’s due — are going to attempt to make it work so that she doesn’t give birth on a day the Steelers are playing. Read more…

Fantasy Football Week 1: Sleeper picks

2012 fantasy football

Russell Wilson could be on the verge of duplicating Cam Newton’s historical rookie season (seriously).

During the 2012 Fantasy Football season we will be bringing you rankings, predictions, weekly updates and of course, sleeper picks. I think we can all agree that everyone who plays fantasy football thinks that their team is the best team in their respective leagues, right now. Well, while I don’t want to take that feeling away from anyone I do want to let you know that it’s likely that even if your team is the best right now, it likely won’t remain that way unless you make some key additions.

The following is our fantasy football sleeper picks for week one of the NFL. While we are recommending these players for the first week of the season, you may want to consider adding these guys to your season roster(s) and use for the remainder of the season; either as potential starters or bye-week fill-ins.

All projected scores are based on ESPN’s standard scoring system and projections.

Quarterback: Russell Wilson, SEA

When Pete Carroll named Wilson the week one starter I think he immediately went on fantasy football players’ radars. However, Wilson is only owned in about 38.5 percent of ESPN leagues and I’ve seen his salary quite low on several weekly fantasy football sites.

If you’re a believer, unlike the ESPN “experts” who have him ranked as the 20th overall quarterback in week one, then don’t be shy and take a chance on the rookie.

ESPN: 9, ME: 15

Running Back: Jonathan Dwyer, PIT – 4

Currently ranked as the 39th back for week one, Dwyer is a true crapshoot. Isaac Redman, a sleeper in his own right, is a bit banged up still and while a solid option for the Steelers, I think Dwyer will get plenty of reps.

I suspect Dwyer will get the goal-line carries and even have the chance to rack up some nice yardage on the ground.

ESPN: 4, ME: 10

Read more…

AFC preseason power rankings

Doug Benc / Getty Images

Ben Roethlisberger

As the end of the NFL preseason is quickly approaching, so is the beginning of the 2012 NFL regular season. As there is one week left of preseason football, we are less than 10 days away from the start of the 2012 NFL season. I like to name this period “Week Zero”, as these power rankings are a basic opinion of how I believe the 2012 NFL season will pan out.

In the AFC, many familiar faces and teams will be in the postseason talks once again. The AFC, which is noticeably weaker than the rival NFC, have many teams loaded with potential, but just are not quite there yet. Here are the Week Zero AFC Power Rankings.

16. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

A new head coach (Mike Mularkey), a quarterback still going through growing pains (Blaine Gabbert), a defense on the decline, and one of the best playmakers in the NFL (Maurice Jones-Drew) is holding out for a new contract…yea, 2012 will not be very kind to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Projection: 4-12

15. CLEVELAND BROWNS

The Browns have some bright spots in wide receiver Greg Little, All-Pro offensive tackle Joe Thomas, a defensive line loaded with under-the-radar talent, and two of the most efficient defensive players in the game in linebacker D’Qwell Jackson and cornerback Joe Haden, the problem though? Too young, not ready to compete for a playoff spot yet.

Projection: 4-12

14. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

New Colts franchise quarterback Andrew Luck doesn’t play like an ordinary NFL rookie, but fellow rookies Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen, and T.Y. Hilton certainly look the part, as the Colts are starting over with new head coach Chuck Pagano and look to be heading in the right direction.

Projection: 5-11

13. MIAMI DOLPHINS

The Dolphins made significant moves in the offseason, trading away star wide receiver Brandon Marshall, cutting former starting quarterback Chad Henne, signing Chad Johnson, cutting Chad Johnson, and trading away cornerback Vontae Davis…the Dolphins will have difficulty finding any kind of identity in 2012.

Projection: 6-10  Read More…

James Harrison has knee scoped

James Harrison

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

On Tuesday night, Steelers linebacker James Harrison’s agent said that Harrison might need to have arthroscopic surgery on his ailing left knee before the start of the season.

That surgery has happened a bit quicker than expected. Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported on Wednesday morning that Harrison was in Pittsburgh to have the knee evaluated and then came back in the afternoon with a report that the scopehad been performed. Per Bouchette, the scope “went well” although there’s no word on what that means in terms of recovery time.  Read more…

Roethlisberger injures ankle

Todd Haley, Ben Roethlisberger

We’d hate to see how many injuries Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger would have if he weren’t wearing a red jersey in practice.

Already suffering (so he claims) from a partially torn rotator cuff in his shoulder, Roethlisberger sprained his left ankle at practice on Saturday after being stepped on by a defensive lineman, according to USAToday.com.

It’s the same ankle he injured during the 2011 season against the Browns.

Roethlisberger limped off the field.  He later had it wrapped in an icepack.

The quarterback also addressed his relationship with offensive coordinator Todd Haley, which has yet to turn frosty.

“We’re just kind of waiting for it,” Roethlisberger said regarding a potential explosion from the former Chiefs head coach and Cardinals offensive coordinator.  “Todd’s the only guy to ever make Kurt Warner cuss.”

Roethlisberger and Haley seem to be working well together, so far. Read more here…

Ben Roethlisberger hopes rotator cuff doesn’t tear all the way

Ben Roethlisberger

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s ankle injury was common knowledge at the end of last season, but his shoulder never showed up on any injury reports.

It probably should have since Roethlisberger told Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he’s been dealing with a tear in his right rotator cuff since last November. Roethlisberger downplayed the seriousness of the injury when asked about how his arm is feeling after a few days of training camp.

“I’m good. It’s OK, just sore. I have a little torn rotator cuff. That doesn’t heal. We just have to hope it doesn’t tear the rest of the way, according to Doc,” Roethlisberger said. “It actually feels great. I don’t have any pains anymore. Let’s just hope it doesn’t get any worse.”

There’s not really much to add to what Roethlisberger said. If the injury doesn’t get worse, Roethlisberger should be fine. Any problems he had near the end of last season had to do with a lack of mobility because of the ankle and not his ability to throw the balls where he needed to throw them. A complete tear of the rotator cuff, on the other hand, would obviously put the Steelers in a tough spot this season.

If Roethlisberger’s arm does continue to hold up, he’d like to use it to throw passes to Mike Wallace. Roethlisberger told Bouchette that he’s spoken to Wallace and that he thinks it shouldn’t be too much longer until he’s able to have a conversation with him in person instead of over the phone. Read more here…

Todd Haley bringing the running game back in Pittsburgh

rashard-mendenhall

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Todd Haley grew up working as a water boy at the Pittsburgh Steelers training camp, looking up to stars such as Joe Greene.

But as different as they are, they share a philosophy on how to improve the Steelers offense, according to Ed Bouchette of thePittsburgh Post-Gazette.

This offseason, the legendary defensive lineman revealed the unhappiness with the way former offensive coordinator Bruce Arians treated the run game.

“You have to practice it, that’s the thing,” Greene said. “There is always a weakness in a defense for the run, but you have to be able to look for it. You don’t just call the run because you get tired of throwing it or because someone wants you to.”

So when Haley came in to put his stamp on the offense, it’s no accident someone who grew up on the Steelers of the 70s (his father was a personnel man who helped build those teams) had a similar blueprint.  Read More…

Casey Hampton insists it isn’t over in Pittsburgh

Casey Hampton, Alameda Ta'ammu

Casey Hampton is, at age 35, the second-oldest Steeler. And at well over 300 pounds and coming off a torn ACL, he may be the slowest Steeler as well. But he insists that it’s not over.

“They’ve been saying that for how long?” Hampton said, via the Associated Press. “They’ve been saying, ‘You’re getting old,’ and all that for years, and year in and year out we do our thing. So I don’t see it being any different this year.”

The Steelers aren’t as old as they used to be, with aging veterans James Farrior,Aaron Smith, Chris Hoke and Hines Ward retiring this offseason. Hampton said the Steelers have the right players in place to replace those longtime teammates. Read more here…

NFL Saturday one-liners

David DeCastro

New York Jets rookie WR Stephen Hill is drawing praise for doing a lot of what he likely will be doing this year: blocking.

Pats WR Donte’ Stallworth returns to New England having “matured as a player, matured as a person.” (Killing a guy while driving a car under the influence tends to do that.)

The goal for getting a new lease in place for the Bills officially has been moved to the end of the year.

When it comes to hairstyles, Dolphins rookies are sporting the modified Cruella deVille.

With WR Antonio Brown and not WR Mike Wallace getting a new contract from the Steelers, Snoop Dogg may need an explanation.

Browns DT Ahtyba Rubin is recovering from a procedure to repair a slight pelvic tear.

Bengals LB Brandon Joiner is on the reserve/did not report list for a good reason; he’s serving a three-year prison sentence in Texas. (Shouldn’t they have traded him to the Lions by now?)

Is Michael Oher finally ready to play left tackle? (With Bryant McKinnieAWOL, it may not matter.)

The Jaguars have released FB Naufahu Tahi. (Brad Childress wants to know why they didn’t they just make him the extra man on the roster.) Read More….

Avoid drafting these 10 potential Fantasy Football busts

Photo: Marc Serota/Getty Images

1. Reggie Bush-RB- Dolphins- Whenever his name comes up, not long after, the word ‘injury’ undoubtedly follows. Although last season was an anomaly for Bush, he did manage to miss 20 games over the 2010 and 2009 seasons. He rushed for 1086 yards and 6 TDs last season but can you sleep at night without wondering if or when another injury could impede his season? Is his 6 TD’s worth that kind of worry?

2. Rashard Mendenhall-RB-Steelers- My rule of thumb when it comes to running backs coming off of ACL or MCL or any major injury is “let the buyer beware.” Mendenhall is such a back. He tore his right ACL in week 17 and more than likely will begin the season on the PUP list. He wasn’t having a great season before his injury and without knowing how viable a RB he’ll be this year, try to avoid drafting the sexy name, and seek another option instead.

3. Josh Freeman-QB-Buccaneers- Freeman and the next potential bust, Vincent Jackson almost go hand in hand. Mark Sanchez wasn’t the only QB to regress last year. Freeman managed to finish the season with the league’s second most picks, 22 against 16 TDs. Rookie sensation Doug Martin, (one of our Rookie’s to consider this season), will be making up the majority of an already lackluster offense in Tampa Bay; taking some of the pressure off of Freeman. Unfortunately when games get out of hand, he’ll be forced to air it out and that’s when INT’s begin to mount up. Stay clear.

Read the rest of the list here…

AFC North: 2012 NFL season preview

The AFC North established itself as one of the powerhouse divisions of football during the 2011 season. The Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers continued their normally strong play, each going 12-4 behind a strong defensive approach and team football. Even the Cincinnati Bengals got in on the action, posting a surprising 9-7 record. Let’s take a look at how each team will measure up during the 2012 season, which is now just a few short months away from kickoff.

Baltimore is the team that will be on everybody’s radar, and rightfully so. Thanks to a third-ranked defense that featured a handful of players who are All-Pro talent, Baltimore stormed its way to a 12-win season and a berth in the AFC Championship Game last season. While they fell short to a feisty Patriots team led by Tom Brady’s stellar play, they still managed to show the world that they are a contender.

Obviously the big question for Baltimore heading into 2012 is how the team will fare without linebacker Terrell Suggs, last season’s AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Many will recall that Suggs suffered a season-ending ACL injury during the offseason. Although he initially tried to claim that the injury occurred during authorized team workouts, several sources have stated that he actually suffered the injury during a recreational game of basketball. Read more here…

Antonio Brown will handle his contract situation differently than Mike Wallace

Philadelphia Eagles v Pittsburgh SteelersThe Steelers have a restricted free agent wide receiver this year in Mike Wallace, and they’re scheduled to have a restricted free agent wide receiver next year in Antonio Brown

Asked on NBC SportsTalk about Wallace’s continuing contract negotiations and about Brown’s own status as a player heading into the final year of his contract, Brown said he thinks he’s going to go about things differently next year than Wallace has this year.

“I want to finish out my contract this year and hopefully next year will take care of itself, but I definitely plan on being here and going about things, maybe in a different aspect because I respect the organization and the program that I’m in,” Brown said.

Brown said he anticipates being able to get a deal done early next offseason and participating in Organized Team Activities in 2013. Read more here…

Graduation rule affects Steelers offensive line plans

David DeCastroFor all the attention paid to Andrew Luck missing time in Indianapolis, perhaps no team lost more to the league’s quarter-system rule than the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Their top two picks, first-round guard David DeCastro (Stanford) and second-round tackle Michael Adams (Ohio State) had on-field debuts delayed until Tuesday because of the rule that prevents rookies from joining teams until their college class graduates.  Read More…