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Ravens on AB, Christmas TD, Ben and more

Steelers.com News - Thu, 09/28/2017 - 7:30am
Find out what the Ravens said about Antonio Brown, his touchdown on Christmas Day, and much more.

Poll: Americans split on NFL player protests

post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL - Thu, 09/28/2017 - 6:45am

WASHINGTON — A new poll shows Americans are almost evenly split on whether it is appropriate for NFL players to kneel during the national anthem to protest racial discrimination.

Steelers Injury Report: Trio of starters set to return vs. the Ravens

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 09/28/2017 - 6:39am

The Steelers received some good news, and bad news, on the injury front heading into Week 4.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were back to work, and back to football, hoping to put their Week 3 debacle behind them and turn their attention to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 4. With it being Wednesday, it meant the team was back to practice, and their first injury report was released to the public.

For the Steelers, they had some good news, as well as some bad news. The good news was Stephon Tuitt (biceps), T.J. Watt (groin) and Marcus Gilbert (hamstring) were all back to full participation at practice. Barring a setback between now and Sunday, those three starters are set to be back in the lineup vs. Baltimore.

Now, for the bad news.

The Steelers had their starting safety tandem, Sean Davis and Mike Mitchell, both watching practice on Wednesday. It doesn’t mean the two won’t play Sunday, but they will have to get back on the practice field to do so. Despite the Ravens lackluster offense, I am not sure fans would be comfortable with J.J. Wilcox and Robert Golden as their starting safeties in a huge road AFC North game in Week 4.

Other than the safeties, Ben Roethlisberger and Le’Veon Bell were given days off, while Martavis Bryant was sick and Ramon Foster sat out with the thumb injury which kept him off the field in Week 3.

Take a look at the entire Steelers and Ravens injury report below:

Pittsburgh

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
RB Le'Veon Bell (Not Injury Related)
WR Martavis Bryant (Illness)
S Sean Davis (Ankle)
G Ramon Foster (Thumb)
S Mike Mitchell (Hamstring)
QB Ben Roethlisberger (Not Injury Related)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
LB Bud Dupree (Shoulder)
TE Jesse James (Shoulder)

FULL PARTICIPATION
T Marcus Gilbert (Hamstring)
DE Stephon Tuitt (Biceps)
LB T.J. Watt (Groin)

Baltimore

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
CB Jaylen Hill (Thigh)
TE Benjamin Watson (Calf)
DT Brandon Williams (Foot)
TE Maxx Williams (Ankle)

Ranking the most catastrophic mistakes the Steelers made in their loss to the Bears

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 09/28/2017 - 5:42am

We rank the 10 wackiest plays from one of the strangest games in recent memory

“Catastrophic mistakes.” That’s how Mike Tomlin characterized the non-linear series of events that ultimately led to his team’s demise at the hands of the Chicago Bears who, bless their hearts, tried their absolute best to gift the Steelers a victory. In honor of Tomlin’s proclivity for hyperbole, we’re outlining the 10 most ruinous happenings from Pittsburgh’s 23-17 loss last Sunday:

Calamity No. 10: The Steelers lose the overtime coin toss

Ben Roethlisberger, a believer in schoolyard principles, selected “tails” for the overtime coin toss, presumably because it never fails. The coin rebuked Roethlisberger’s demands, landing heads-up and granting Chicago the first – and ultimately only – possession of the overtime period. Perhaps if Roethlisberger had done some in-depth research on coin-flip probabilities, the Steelers would be 3-0. Let me explain.

According to a group of researchers from Stanford University (very prestigious), coins flips are not 50/50—in fact, the actual odds are slightly in favor of the side that was facing up prior to the toss. Therefore, Roethlisberger should have made his decision based on this statistical rationale, not the “tails never fails” philosophy.

(Unless, of course, the coin was tails-side-up, in which case you can probably disregard this entire paragraph. If the Steelers need a pseudo-statistician who’s good at reading academic papers written by smart people, hit me up.)

Calamity No. 9: Ben Roethlisberger is sacked, fumbles the ball

On their second offensive drive of the game, the Steelers were operating in Chicago territory, just on the precipice of Chris Boswell’s field goal range. On 3rd-and-8 from the Bears’ 38 yard-line, Roethlisberger dropped back to pass and was promptly obliterated by Bryce Callahan. The ensuing fumble was recovered by Akeem Hicks, ending what was a very promising drive for the Steelers.

Allowing a sack in this situation was an unfortunate circumstance in and of itself, as it not only knocked the Steelers out of field goal range, but also rendered them incapable of attempting a play on fourth down. Had Roethlisberger not fumbled, though, Pittsburgh would have had the opportunity to punt and pin the Bears inside their own 10-yard line. Fortunately, Chicago was unable to translate this takeaway to points.

Calamity No. 8: Jordan Howard scores a 19-yard touchdown, ending the game in the process

This particular play, which was Chicago’s fourth offensive play of the overtime period, is ranked so low because it was such a predictable conclusion. Behold:

Your browser does not support HTML5 video.

A lot to unpack here. First, we have the Bears running yet another stretch play—a concept that they ran to perfection for the duration of Sunday’s contest. Next, feast on the cavernous aperture that appears between Adam Sheehan (No. 87) and Charles Leno (No. 72). You could drive a tank through it. Seeing this hole, Howard took the misdirection snap and reached the second level untouched, at which point Mike Mitchell, a cruise missile with legs, attempted to make a tackle. Howard, whose posture while running is so pristine that even the most callous of Catholic nuns would beam with pride, altered his path to the end zone ever-so-slightly, effectively taking Mitchell, whose tackling path was strangely parabolic, out of the play. At Chicago’s eight-yard line, cornerback Artie Burns is seemingly being held by Deonte Thompson; though, given Burns’ tackling issues up to this point, it is unlikely that he would have made a game-saving stop, anyway.

The abridged version: the guy who handled 90 percent of Chicago’s touches was allowed to score an uncontested game-winning touchdown.

Calamity No. 7: Mike Mitchell drops a late interception

With 1:23 left in the fourth quarter, Mitchell got his mitts on a characteristically-awful Mike Glennon pass, but failed to secure the catch. Had Mitchell nabbed this interception, the Steelers would have regained possession with 80 seconds on the clock and permitted Roethlisberger, who has the 10th-most fourth-quarter comebacks in NFL history, with an opportunity to win the game in regulation.

Calamity No. 6: The Steelers fail to score a touchdown following J.J. Wilcox’s interception

Unlike Mitchell, Wilcox did record an interception, which allowed the Steelers to tie the game at 17-all with eight minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Being that the game ended in the aforementioned deadlock, a touchdown here would have been significant. The fact that the Steelers were forced to kick a field goal underscores their generally bad third-down offense (they converted only four of their 11 third-down attempts against Chicago) as well as their generally mediocre red-zone offense (the Steelers are currently ranked 14th in the NFL in red-zone touchdown percentage).

Calamity No. 5: The offensive line allows a sack at the end of regulation, sending the game to overtime

If only Vontaze Burfict and Pacman Jones played for the Bears. Sigh.

Calamity No. 4: Eli Rogers muffed a punt, leading to Chicago points

I don’t want to come off as too acrimonious, because in terms of adorable fumbles, this one easily ranks among the top five. In a vacuum, muffed punts aren’t a huge deal, and they’re certainly not insurmountable. Nonetheless, the series off events that followed Rogers’ fumble kind of exacerbated its significance. We Steelers fans are an especially notable breed of inveterate pessimists, so it’s safe to assume that we’ll be collectively holding our breath for the remainder of Rogers’ punt-handling career.

Calamity No. 3: Ben Roethlisberger overthrows a wide-open Martavis Bryant by several millimeters

On the very first play of the game, Bryant managed to gain about five yards of separation from Marcus Cooper. Recognizing this, Roethlisberger flicked his wrist and sent a gorgeous, arching pass in Bryant’s direction. What happened next was, retrospectively, pretty controversial. On one hand, it could be argued that Bryant, as he is wont to do, slightly decelerated near the top of his route as he was tracking the ball. It could also be argued, however, that Roethlisberger put just a wee bit too much mustard on his throw. Regardless, the ball ended up on the ground and the Steelers punted the ball away two plays later.

Calamity No. 2: Tarik Cohen ends the game, is screwed over by the call on the field

Standard stuff, here: Chicago ran a stretch play (this time with the offensive line shifting left), the running back fielded a misdirection snap, and found the second level by attacking a gaping maw off-tackle. Let’s break it down:

-Roughly four seconds into the video, look at the middle of your screen: that sure looks like Josh Bellamy holding Joe Haden. It also appears that had he not been held, Haden could’ve made a play on Cohen. If nothing else, Haden was in a good spot to impede Cohen’s motion (I called this particular hold “irrelevant” in my stock report article, but I’m having second thoughts).

-Seven seconds in, it becomes clear that Wilcox is a disciple of “The Mike Mitchell School of Bad Tackling Angles.” Everyone at that school failed geometry.

-At the 10-second mark, Superintendent Mitchell takes his shot at Cohen near the sideline. Cohen, a wizard, orchestrated a nifty little back-juke, causing Mitchell to tackle a patch of oxygen.

-At the 11-second mark, we see Vince Williams, who is showing appreciable hustle, make his attempt to tackle Cohen. To escape this, Cohen did this crazy high-step thing, causing Williams to fall forward sans Cohen while simultaneously tripping Wilcox, who had inexplicably re-entered the fray.

-At the 15-second mark, Artie Burns throws his hat in the ring. Foolishly, he tried to attack Cohen head-on, which allowed Cohen to execute yet another flawless juke. Bewildered and with his ankles miraculously still intact, Burns fell to the turf, utterly defeated.

Of course, the officials ruined this ridiculous, game-ending touchdown run by ruling Cohen out-of-bounds at Pittsburgh’s 37 yard-line. Although the play was upheld by a booth review, it is pretty clear that it would have stood if refs had simply awarded the touchdown in the first place. By this point, the game definitely felt over, and Howard’s touchdown run two plays later cemented this outcome.

Calamity No. 1: Marcus Cooper becomes an instant laughingstock, still gets the last laugh

I’m sorry, but I will trade a Steelers win for the following footage 100 times out of 100. I mean, seriously:

You’ll notice that Xavier Grimble (who is the leftmost player on the field goal unit) did not even make contact with Sherrick McManis, who blocked the kick. Permitting a special teams gunner a free path to the kicker is not ideal.

This was a very critical mistake on the part of Pittsburgh’s special teams unit. If Vance McDonald did not momentarily transform into an actual superhero, the Steelers would have entered halftime down 14 points. This, too, is not ideal.

On the bright side, the Steelers lost a game that, frankly, most of us expected they would lose, so at least they’re on the right track. All we need now is a home loss to New England and the No. 3 seed in the AFC and it’ll be business as usual.

Steelers Podcast: Is Ben Roethlisberger still ‘the guy’ for the black-and-gold?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 09/28/2017 - 5:00am

The Pittsburgh Steelers are 3-1, but the offense hasn’t yet approached its full potential. Take a listen to the latest show which asks the question, “Is Big Ben still the guy?!”

The Pittsburgh Steelers are heading into Week 4, and what better way to get prepared for the Bears than spending some time with Jeff and Lance, co-hosts of the BTSC flagship podcast “The Standard is the Standard”.

There was plenty to discuss in the latest episode of the 2017 season, but the following were the main talking points for your listening pleasure:

  • Reflection on the National Anthem fiasco
  • Observations from the Chicago Bears Week-3 game
  • Game balls from the overtime loss
  • Black-and-gold news
  • Is Ben Roethlisberger still “the guy”?
  • Previewing the Baltimore Ravens game
  • and MUCH MORE!!

If you missed the live show, you can access it via podcast in a number of ways — Our BlogTalkRadio page, on iTunes by searching “The Standard is the Standard”, on various podcast apps for android users, and in the player at the top of the page.

NEW to the show is its live recording on YouTube. You can actually watch the latest podcast and subscribe to our YouTube channel to get updated on just what’s going on with “The Standard is the Standard”.

Check out the channel by clicking HERE.

...

The show is sponsored by Frank Walker Law, the top criminal defense firm to call in western Pennsylvania and West Virginia and home to one of the nation's top-100 ranked trial attorneys in Frank Walker. For his PA office, call 412-212-3878 or to reach his WV office call 304-712-2089. You should also checkout his website frankwalkerlaw.com to see how he can help you in your time of need. Frank Walker Law: Real Talk, Real Experience, Real Results.

Asked and Answered: Sept. 28

Steelers.com News - Thu, 09/28/2017 - 5:00am
Another installment of Bob Labriola answering your questions about the Steelers and the NFL.

Gerry Dulac's 2017 NFL picks: Week 4

post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL - Thu, 09/28/2017 - 5:00am

GERRY DULAC’S NFL FORECAST

Steelers News: Pittsburgh will try to win in Baltimore for the first time since 2012

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 09/28/2017 - 4:19am

The Pittsburgh Steelers haven’t won at M&T Bank Stadium since 2012. Will they reverse that trend?

The last time the Pittsburgh Steelers won in Baltimore was in 2012. Who was the quarterback of that team? Not Ben Roethlisberger, but Charlie Batch. Fans will never forget that game, with Heath Miller’s tremendous stretch to hit the pylon for the game-winning touchdown, but when will the Steelers finally break the current dry spell?

The team aims to do just that in Week 4 when they make their annual visit to M&T Bank Stadium.

Time to check on Steelers news outside the walls of BTSC...

As if the Steelers didn't have enough to be concerned about in the wake of the national anthem controversy, they are just days away from venturing into a venue where their last victory was five years ago.

The verbal and written jabs the team has received from angry fans this week parallel the physical beatings the Steelers have taken from the Baltimore Ravens in recent games played at M&T Bank Stadium.

The AFC North rivalry renews on Sunday in the Charm City, which has been anything but charming to the Steelers since they played in the Super Bowl following the 2010 season.

The Steelers have lost five of the past six meetings in Baltimore, including four in a row.

“They are as tough as it gets,” tight end Jesse James said Wednesday. “We obviously have our work cut out for us.”

That's particularly true of an offense that ranks No. 22 in yards per game and is tied for 16th in points despite entering the season with high expectations due to having receiver Martavis Bryant rejoin quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back Le'Veon Bell and wideout Antonio Brown.

The Steelers were held to a season-low 17 points last week in an overtime loss to the Chicago Bears, and the offense hasn't produced a 3-touchdown game yet this season. Brown is the only member of the star quartet playing to a lofty standard.

“I don't think we're that far off,” Roethlisberger said, and then added, “The unfortunate part is we're playing a really good defense this week.”

The Ravens held the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns to a combined 10 points in winning their first two games. But while the Steelers were losing to the previously winless Bears amid the anthem flap at Soldier Field, the Ravens were flying back from London trying to make sense of a 44-7 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

If history is any indication, the Steelers won't get their offense back on track Sunday. In the past five losses in Baltimore, the Steelers have averaged just 13 points.

Roethlisberger has thrown four touchdown passes against seven interceptions and 11 sacks in those games, with only a 69.2 passer rating.

The only time the Steelers won in Baltimore this decade was in 2012 when the quarterback was Charlie Batch, starting for the final time in his NFL career as his 38th birthday approached. Batch improbably rallied the Steelers from a fourth-quarter deficit, leading touchdown and field-goal drives in the final eight minutes for a 23-20 win.

Roethlisberger has lost his past five starts in Baltimore, including last season when he returned to the lineup 20 days after undergoing knee surgery.

“I wish we could say we can go in there and get blowouts,” center Maurkice Pouncey said, “but it's always a hard-fought game.”

The Steelers can't seem to win in Baltimore, but Ravens coach John Harbaugh doesn't have an answer for his team's success on its home field.

“The common denominators are they're all great games,” Harbaugh said. “They are all played similarly and the same style of football, and they all come down to the wire, it seems like.”

The 2016 matchup, a 21-14 loss, was an exception. Pouncey left in the first quarter with a finger injury, and the Steelers had difficulty using a silent count with backup center B.J. Finney.

Until early in the fourth quarter, when the Steelers trailed by 21 points, they had only 76 yards of offense and two first downs.

“It's a tough environment,” Roethlisberger said. “The crowd is loud, and they really feed off that. They can really get off the snap of the ball, create some issues, get you behind the chains, force you to pass and then throw some different blitzes at you with their rushers and cover guys.

“It creates a lot of tough situations for you.”

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is done talking about the national anthem controversy from last weekend, but he said Wednesday it’s a chance for the Steelers to learn from adversity.

“You will either be divided or brought together,” Roethlisberger said. “This is a group that is a very close-knit group, and I feel strongly that we will be stronger than ever.”

A couple Steelers players, Roethlisberger included, said distractions from the team's national anthem stance contributed to a 23-17 overtime loss to the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. The players, with the exception of left tackle and former combat veteran Alejandro Villanueva, remained inside a tunnel while the national anthem played as a way to protest President Donald Trump's criticism of players who kneel for the anthem.

The Steelers play the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium in a matchup of 2-1 teams with first place in the AFC North at stake.

Tight end Jesse James said the Steelers can't afford to have distractions disrupt preparations for the game in Baltimore.

“If you let it, you have to toughen up mentally,” he said. “You can't let things going on in the outside world affect how you play the game.”

James said the Steelers have an opportunity to show their mettle against the Ravens.

“We have to come back from where we were last week and we've got to grow,” he said.

Throughout Ben Roethlisberger's career, the Steelers have often fallen back on their ability to run the ball to open up opportunities for the passing game. Their offensive line has slowly improved each week this season, but still hasn’t been winning at the right spots to give Le'Veon Bell the space to do what he does best.

Overall, the offense that was widely expected to produce 30 points per game now ranks 16th in the NFL at 21.3.

While many have speculated the reason Bell has yet to rush for more than 100 yards is that he lacks his standard burst, I see the problem as the offensive line. Bell is at his best when he has space to make the lightning-fast calls and cuts with his feet. What each of the Steelers' first three opponents has been able to do is maintain the line of scrimmage and infiltrate the backfield to clog up any space Bell might have.

Back to Sunday in Chicago ...

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