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September 30, 2016
by Chris Adamski


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Adamski: Travis Feeney joining DeAngelo Williams in the pink hair club

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Travis Feeney

Rookie practice squad linebacker Travis Feeney (above) is taking a page out of the DeAngelo Williams (below) hair-color book. (AP Photos)

 

DeAngelo

 

 

 

Move over DeAngelo Williams. There’s a new Steeler who has dyed part of his hair pink.

 

Rookie sixth-round pick Travis Feeney showed up to practice this week with a ribbon cut elaborately into the hair on back of his head. The speedy outside linebacker, who’s currently on the practice squad, planned on dying it pink in time for Sunday’s game – the first the Steelers will play during October, which is breast cancer awareness month.

 

“My mom’s best friend passed a couple years ago, so I have been doing it ever since then, every October,” said Feeney, who played at the University of Washington. “And my dad lost an aunt and lost a cousin. And I have a real tight friend (of) the family, she has cancer and she has been battling (but) she’s in remission.

 

“I did it for all them, to show support for them. Wearing this, it just makes it for a day of remembrance.”

 

Feeney said he got the cut done back in Seattle because he didn’t want to trust a new, unknown stylist. As far as the dye, again, he doesn’t have the female friend around who dyed his hair in the past at Washington. So he went to Williams for a referral.

 

Williams lost his mother to breast cancer in 2014 and dyed tips of his dreadlocks (and painted his toes) pink as a tribute.

 

Last season, Williams petitioned to the NFL to allow him to wear pink equipment accessories all season long and not only during the league-approved October window.

 

It was denied.

 

 

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September 23, 2016
by Joe Rutter


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The old, new guy

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This is my first post on the Steel Mill blog, so I figured I would introduce myself. I’m the old, new guy on the Steelers beat, I guess you could say.

I’m old because I’ve been at the Trib for 26 years, yet I’m new because this will be my first full-length exposure to the Steelers and the NFL. For those familiar with my work, I spent 13 years covering the Pirates. Those years spanned 1993-2005. Yes, the first 13 years of the Pirates’ string of 20 consecutive losing seasons. I like to say I saw more losing games by the team I covered in those 13 seasons than any sports writer in the world.

After 10 years as an assistant sports editor, I’m excited to get back to working a beat, joining Chris Adamski and Ralph N. Paulk on our coverage team.

The Steelers aren’t totally unfamiliar to me. Our family has had season tickets since 1970, and I was eight years old when I watched Franco Harris make the Immaculate Reception. I traveled to the first four Super Bowl sites (yet only saw 3 of the title games, which is another story for another time) and such experiences likely helped steer me toward a career in sports writing.

I covered the 2006 training camp after one of our writers left the paper. I also was part of our coverage team for Super Bowl XL in Detroit. And, as an editor, I coordinated coverage of the Super Bowls in Tampa and Dallas.

And now I’m back. I’m excited to be able to provide Steelers coverage to its rabid fan base and Trib readers. It’s going to take some time to get acclimated, so all I ask is not to be too harsh on me in the beginning.

I will take my responsibilities as a beat writer seriously, although I also like to have fun and be light-hearted in some areas of coverage. That’s evidenced by the accompanying photo, which my wife Lori took as I was preparing to leave for my first day of school, er, coverage.

I thank you for reading this far and look forward to your input as I grow into my new role.

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September 19, 2016
by Chris Adamski


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Adamski: Steelers reverse trend of early losses to Bengals, Ravens – plus, SNAP COUNTS

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Steel

The Steelers FINALLY upended an AFC North contender in their first crack at it. (Chaz Palla photo)

 

 

I wanted to more visually describe what I wrote about in the game story for Sunday’s 24-16 Steelers win against the Cincinnati Bengals because what I found surprised me: the Steelers have repeatedly dug themselves early holes over the past seven years – even when they had good teams.

 

Tossing aside the Cleveland Browns (they’re not really a threat – ever, it seems), the Steelers before Sunday had lost six of their past seven non-Cleveland AFC North openers. That played a big part in an early-season division deficit each time.

 

Put simply, this season the Steelers – at least so far (as it is still absurdly early, prior to Week 3) – won’t be chasing in 2016 as they so often have had to do in the past.

 

 

 

Their early-season holes dug since last winning the Super Bowl after the 2008 campaign:

Year                 1st Cin/Balt game result*             Division GB after 4 games

 

2009                23-20 loss at Bengals, Week 3             1 GB (plus tiebreak)

2010                17-14 loss to Ravens week 4                   (Tied, but down a tiebreak to Balt)

2011                35-7 loss at Ravens Week 1                     1 GB (plus tiebreak)

2012                (DNP Balt/Cin until Week 7)                 1 ½ GB

2013                20-10 loss at Bengals Week 2                 2 GB

2014                26-6 loss at Ravens Week 2                    1 ½ GB

2015                23-20 OT loss to Ravens Week 4           1 ½ GB

 

 

“Always chasing,” is how Ramon Foster put it.

This year, that isn’t the case (at least not yet). And of all the seasons listed above, the only division titles the Steelers won were in 2010 (the only time they weren’t facing an AFC North deficit in that span) and in 2014, when it took two December wins against Cincinnati to get it done.

 

 

 

Anyway, here are some notable snap counts from Sunday’s game:

OFFENSE (of 74)

(Note: OL, Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown played every snap)

  • TE Jesse James, 74 (100%)
  • RB DeAngelo Williams, 66 (89%)
  • WR Eli Rogers, 41 (55%)
  • WR Sammie Coates, 35 (47%)
  • WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, 26 (35%)
  • TE David Johnson, 26 (35%)
  • TE Xaiver Grimble, 17 (23%)
  • RB Fitzgerald Toussaint, 7 (9%)
  • RB Daryl Richardson, 1 (1%)

Analysis: Jesse James, the new Heath. … A relatively almost-equitable split of reps at wide receiver (after Antonio Brown, of course). … Good thing Mike Tomlin doesn’t have to worry about riding DeAneglo Williams until the proverbial wheels fall off – he only needs one more week until Le’Veon Bell returms.

 

 

 

DEFENSE (of 76)

  • S Robert Golden, 76 (100%)
  • CB William Gay, 76 (100%)
  • CB Ross Cockrell, 74 (97%)
  • S Mike Mitchell, 72 (95%)
  • DB Sean Davis, 64 (84%)
  • CB Artie Burns, 32 (42%)
  • S Shamarko Thomas, 4 (5%)

 

  • DE Stephon Tuitt, 70 (92%)
  • DE Cameron Heyward, 64 (84%)
  • DL Ricardo Mathews, 14 (18%)
  • DT Javon Hargrave, 11 (14%)
  • DT Daniel McCullers, 5 (7%)

 

  • ILB Ryan Shazier, 76 (100%)
  • ILB Lawrence Timmons, 46 (61%)
  • ILB L.J. Fort, 1 (1%)

 

  • OLB Vince Williams, 0 (0%)
  • OLB Jarvis Jones, 57 (75%)
  • OLB James Harrison, 38 (50%)
  • OLB Arthur Moats, 37 (49%)
  • OLB Anthony Chickillo, 19 (25%)

 

Analysis: Lots to digest here. Start with the secondary – lots of nickel and (especially) dime. The Steelers have found ways to get Burns onto the field. They trust each of their top two draft picks (Burns and Davis) in an increasingly obvious way. Small nugget: Thomas is still above Jordan Dangerfield on the safety depth chart, if that was a question. … At outside linebacker, Moats and Harrison each played half the game while Jones was “the chosen one” to play three-quarters of the drives – allowing Chickillo to be eased in in a limited role with Bud Dupree out. … Timmons continues to have his role reduced – in effect, coaches have decided that they’d rather have Burns on the field than him. Yes, much of the defensive personnel is dictated by what the offense is doing. But in the past, Timmons would never leave the field – and the Steelers went through a long stretch of never going dime. … With so much nickel and dime, the defensive tackles aren’t asked to play much – which is why the Steelers probably won’t ever draft one any higher than the third round (Hargrave). McCullers is seemingly becoming obsolete. … At inside linebacker, again, it’s a ridiculously small one-snap sample size – but Fort again got the call over Williams, which is curious.

 

 

 

 

 

Recap of Tribune-Review Steelers coverage for Week 2:

 

 

 

Until we chat again…

 

 

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September 14, 2016
by Chris Adamski


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Adamski: Wheaton ‘hopeful’ to return Sunday — but to what role?

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Wheat

Is Markus Wheaton’s starting role slipping through his fingertips? (Chaz Palla/Tribune-Review photo)

 

 

Doing so for the first time in almost three years, Markus Wheaton wasn’t used to the feeling of sitting out – and therefore being a mere spectator for – a regular-season game.

 

“Very anxious watching,” Wheaton said of his experience during the Steelers’ 38-16 Monday Night Football win at Washington. “I get so excited watching those guys, I was more nervous watching them than I am playing. I had a hard time watching.

“I can’t wait to get out there again, so hopefully it’s this weekend.”

 

Wheaton was a limited participant in practice Wednesday, which is an upgrade from the total lack of practicing he did last week. That gives reason for hope he’ll play in Sunday’s early-season AFC North showdown with the Cincinnati Bengals at Heinz Field.

 

But what might not be as optimistic regarding Wheaton is his both his role with the team and his future on it. In his absence Monday, Eli Rogers showed in his NFL regular-season debut that his strong training camp translated to when the games matter. He had six catches for 59 yards and a touchdown. Sammie Coates likewise was solid, tripling his NFL regular-season career catch total with two receptions, including a 42-yard grab.

 

In short, it’s going to be tough to deny Rogers and Coates snaps – particularly Rogers, who’s so adept in the slot (where Wheaton in prior years was being groomed for playing). Colleague Ralph Paulk and I talked about this on this week’s Steelers Roundtable show on TribLive Radio. Click on this paragraph to listen.

 

“I loved it, man,” Wheaton said of Rogers’ breakout. “That was a huge game for him, being his first time out, he got his first touchdown – in a weird way – but it’s a touchdown nonetheless. So I’m proud of him.”

 

Wheaton had most recently missed a game because of injury (finger) midway through his rookie 2013 season. He surely won’t be completely “Wally Pipped” – he’s too good a receiver for that (97 catches for 1,393 yards and seven touchdowns the past two seasons). But if Rogers (47 of 68 offensive snaps played Monday) continues to emerge and Coates (44 snaps) stays on track, those two would figure to be fixtures among a wide receivers corps that, of course, includes superstar Antonio Brown and welcomes back suspended wunderkind Martavis Bryant next year (to say nothing of veteran Darrius Heyward-Bey, who was signed to a three-year deal this past spring; he played 15 snaps at the Redskins).

 

All that means that the odds are slim of Wheaton being brought back once he hits unrestricted free agency this spring. Where is he playing now that Rogers and Coates have proved NFL-capable?

 

Then again, there’s still a long way to go in 2016, and plenty can happen over the next 15-plus games that can change circumstances. The outlook might be completely different come December.

 

Regardless, of most immediate importance is Wheaton returning to the field. He said Wednesday he “feels a lot better than last week.”

 

“I wanted to go last weekend, I expected to go, but I wasn’t able to. I hope I can this weekend.”

 

 

 

Another shameless plug for the TribLive Radio Steelers Roundtable for this week. Click here.

 

 

 

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September 5, 2016
by Chris Adamski


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Adamski: Golson off his scooter, into a boot, optimistic of his eventual return

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Golson

Senquez Golson, the playmaker the Steelers can’t wait… and wait… and wait to see play. (Chaz Palla/Tribune-Review photo)

 

Senquez Golson was in a good mood Monday. And not because it was Labor Day.

 

“I had a great doctor’s visit,” the Steelers’ second-year cornerback said while in the locker room after practice.

 

Golson was not, as some had expected, placed on injured reserve when the Steelers trimmed their roster to 53 over the weekend. Golson has not practiced since the first week of training camp because of a Lisfranc injury in his right foot that is expected to keep him out for roughly half of the regular season.

 

Although it’s still relatively early, Golson’s condition has progressed well. He was happy to say he’s no longer using a scooter to get around, having moved on to a boot that is due to come off in about two weeks.

 

“At this point I’m just trying to get myself ready,” Golson said.

 

As far as him not being placed on IR, Golson didn’t want to look too much into that. Many from the outside had assumed he would be – with the possibility that he could be the designated player that could come off the list midway through the season.

 

But although Golson being spared from IR could be interpreted as a positive sign, it also – in theory – could be viewed from the opposite perspective: Bud Dupree’s sports hernia is what forced the Steelers’ hand to put Dupree on IR with the idea he’d be ready to return in the rough 6-8 week window. One could look at it that the Steelers felt more confident about Dupree’s ability to return for the season’s stretch run than they did about Golson. In that hypothetical scenario, Golson could be in danger of heading to (season-ending) IR if the Steelers became desperate enough for a roster spot. Once the season begins, a player placed on IR is not eligible to come off it.

 

But judging by Golson’s mannerism and spirits Monday, that didn’t seem to be the case. Avoiding the IR, it seems, is a positive sign. And after missing all of last season (on IR) because of a shoulder injury, Golson is eager to play any way he can.

 

The Steelers secondary – and their defense as a whole – figure to be much better with Golson.

 

“It’s about me getting out there with the guys and working to where I’m practicing,” he said.

“I’m just doing whatever, whatever they need me to do. I’m just trying to get myself ready.”

 

 

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September 1, 2016
by Mark Kaboly


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Kaboly: Cutting down to 53

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Steelers coach Mike Tomlin -- Photo by Chaz Palla

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin
– Photo by Chaz Palla

CHARLOTTE, N.C – This is the time of the year that you hear NFL coaches talk about how some cutting their roster to 53 was quite a difficult things to do.

For the Steelers’ Mike Tomlin, you shouldn’t hear him say that because about the only choice he has to make from now and until the 53-man roster needs to be in place by Saturday at 4 p.m is whether or not he’s going to keep 11 linebackers or six cornerbacks.

So, without any fanfare, here’s my 53-man roster that initially will be in place (there will be an addition or two, like tight end and corner, after the rest of the league’s cuts circle through.) By the way, there is a misnomer that a team HAS to keep 10 offensive linemen or 10 linebackers. As long as they feel they can get their guys on the practice squad, there is no use in forcing them on the 53-man roster.

QB (3) – Ben Roethlisberger, Landry Jones, Zach Mettenberger

RB (4) – DeAngelo Williams, Fitz Toussaint, Daryl Richardson, Roosevelt Nix (Le’Veon Bell goes on suspended list)

WR (5) – Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Eli Rogers, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Sammie Coates.

TE (3) – Jesse James, Xavier Grimble, David Johnson (Could bring in a free agent tight end)

OL (8) – Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Ramon Foster, Alejandro Villanueva, Marcus Gilbert, Ryan Harris, Cody Wallace, Chris Hubbard.

DL (7) – Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Ricardo Mathews, L.T. Walton, Daniel McCullers, Javon Hargrave, Lavon Hooks

OLB (5) – James Harrison, Jarvis Jones, Arthur Moats, Bud Dupree, Anthony Chickillo

ILB (5) – Lawrence Timmons, Ryan Shazier, Vince Williams, Steven Johnson, L.J. Fort

CB (6) – William Gay, Ross Cockrell, Artie Burns, Doran Grant, Donald Washington, Montell Garner (Could bring in a free agent cornerback).

S (4) – Mike Mitchell, Robert Golden, Shamarko Thomas, Sean Davis

PK (1) – Chris Boswell

P (1) – Jordan Berry (Could bring in a free agent punter)

LS (1) – Greg Warren

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August 31, 2016
by Chris Adamski


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Adamski: Javon Hargrave’s new nickname

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JWobble

A good angle for a pic of Javon Hargrave — not the best angle to understand why he got his new nickname. (Chaz Palla/Trib Total Media photo)

 

 

We all get nicknames. Some we love. Some we hate. And usually it’s the latter that your friends good-naturedly stick with for you.

 

Such seems to be the case for Steelers rookie defensive tackle Javon Hargrave. Hargrave, for what should be obvious reasons, has been known in some circles as “Gravedigger.” (Although ESPN reported that it was given to him by a coach at South Carolina State because of his violent sacks) Apparently, teammate Cameron Heyward wanted a better name for him, though.

 

So he began calling him something. And telling others to call him that.

 

And, of course, the next logical step in the progression is to… Tape a makeshift nameplate above the individual’s locker with it on it???

 

Heyward has taken to referring to Hargrave as “J Wobble” for reasons that should be obvious only if you’ve seen Hargrave in person. From behind. While staring at his derriere.

 

You see, Hargrave – at 6 feet 2, 305 pounds – has a very large behind. One that Heyward believes appears as if it, well, wobbles.

 

I will give a hat tip to Jacob Klinger, who’s the brightest young reporter on the Steelers beat and has done a fine job in his 16 months on it.

 

You see, I walked over to Hargrave today, curious to find out why the nameplate above his locker said “J WOBBLE 79” instead of, you know, “HARGRAVE 79,” which is what every other player has above is (well, they all don’t say, literally, ‘Hargrave,’ as they each have the player’s last name followed by his individual number… but you know what I meant). Klinger was chatting with Stephon Tuitt about the nickname – and the name plate – at Tuitt’s spot a couple lockers over. He got much more detail and had a much more humorous conversation, of which I imagine he will relate at some point.

 

We are not allowed to snap photos in the locker room, otherwise I’d be happy to show the “J WOBBLE” nameplate. It is handwritten – though that is not notable because the rookies and first-year players and others who have not yet made the 53-man roster as holdovers all have handwritten nameplates. (Some even have temporary lockers set up in the middle of the floor space).

 

 

 

Anyway, Hargrave went public (via the miracle of social media) with a reference to his longstanding (former?) nickname:

 

https://twitter.com/Jay_MostWanted/status/770767148369207296

 

 

Heyward, of course, being the savvy veteran he is, wasn’t taking the bait:

 

 

That led to…

 

 

Heyward suggested a democracy:

 

 

I have a feeling we all know what will win…

 

 

Regardless, watch Hargrave in action again Thursday at Carolina. Mark Kaboly will be there to cover the fourth and final preseason game. The kid is the real deal – and he could even start the regular-season opener.

 

Til then…

 

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August 27, 2016
by Chris Adamski


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Adamski: Numbers game might finally be opening up for hard-hitting Dangerfield at safety

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This is where I’m supposed to make a “searching for respect” pun about Jordan Dangerfield. But I won’t stoop to that level. (Photo courtesy Steelers.com)

 

 

No one on the Steelers, it seems, enjoys laying a good hit more – nor does it more often – than Mike Mitchell.

 

And make no mistake, few who saw Jordan Dangerfield’s hit on the Saints’ Marcus Murphy delivered late in Friday night’s preseason win in New Orleans enjoyed it more than Mitchell.

 

“If ‘Danger’ gets an opportunity to lay you out,” Mitchell said, almost beaming, “that is one thing he is going to do, no question.”

 

Thing is, Mitchell sees a little of himself in Dangerfield, who’s entering his fourth autumn in the employ of an NFL team – thereby, by definition, making him a professional football player – but has yet to spend time on an NFL team’s 53-man roster nor, of course, play in a regular-season game.

 

That – potentially – could finally end this season.

 

“Danger is one of my favorite guys,” Mitchell said early last week. “He’s a guy literally who shows up everyday; he’s happy to be here, he’s an extremely hard worker, If you’re a football purist, you root for guys such as Jordan Dangerfield to make the team and you root for them to be successful.”

 

It’s hard to imagine that anyone has appeared in an official transaction for the Steelers more often than Dangerfield has over the past 32 months.

 

Counting practice-squad transactions, he’s been signed on six different occasions by the Steelers in that time span. Of course, that also implies that he’s been released almost just as often. And that doesn’t even count being let go by the Buffalo Bills after they signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Towson, an FCS school.

 

Getting cut so often can’t be easy. But the gregarious Dangerfield flips it – he’s also been SIGNED six times by the Steelers, right? How many people can say that?

 

“It shows how much they see in me — or how much potential they see I have,” Dangerfield said. “So I am just trying to show them that I can contribute to the team any way they want me to.”

 

But how can you stay positive after being let go so many times?

 

“I just look at it, everything happens for a reason,” Dangerfield said. “It’s a business more than anything, the numbers and all that. I could use James Harrison as a prime example, he was cut a handful of times and he was patient, obviously, with it — and he became defensive player of the year, All Pro and all that. So I look at him for some motivation, and God-willing, just when my time comes I’m ready and can show them what I’ve got.”

 

As it has been during each of his previous three training camps – and as it is for all of the other rookie and first-year players on the 90-man camp roster – Dangerfield’s goal is to make the 53-man roster when the regular season begins in two weeks.

 

He acknowledges, via “the numbers” he alluded to earlier, that this might be his best chance.

 

With the injury to Senquez Golson (and, to a lesser extent, the less-serious injury to Artie Burns), the trickle-down effect in the Steelers’ secondary (re: rookie Sean Davis moved from safety to slot cornerback) has left the team perilously thin at safety. After starters Mitchell and Robert Golden, the only player with any NFL experience is Shamarko Thomas, who played just 20 defensive snaps last season.

 

That means, there’s a roster spot there for the taking. And barring an acquisition from outside the organization, no one is in a more prime position to take it than Dangerfield. (Neither Jacob Hagen nor Ray Vinopal has distinguished himself – cornerback Doran Grant’s sometimes-on-again-off-again move to safety notwithstanding).

 

In Friday’s preseason win at New Orleans, Davis was the only defensive player who logged more snaps than Dangerfield — a potential sign that the organization wanted to get a good long look at him in advance of the first cuts, and wants to get Dangerfield as many game reps as possible.

 

Three years into the Steelers’ playbook, Dangerfield says he can play either free or strong safety, having mastered the subtle details of each. He also, of course, is eager to play special teams – which is, of course, the gateway for players onto the roster to make a mark, particularly at the safety position, where the body type and skill set is often perfect for special teams.

 

“I’m going to just try to put it all on the field and show them what I have,” Dangerfield said.

“You gotta just be patient, keep faith in God and I’m just taking advantage of each opportunity I get to play this game that I love.”

 

An outgoing type, Dangerfield has at least one teammate rooting for him.

 

“We appreciate everything he brings to us, from his mentality, to his approach to work,” Mitchell said. “He’s one of those guys who’s a small-school guy like me. He comes out here, he wants to prove it every single day.

“He’s a little quieter than me. But… he kind of has that little chip on his shoulder, and I love that.”

 

 

 

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August 23, 2016
by Chris Adamski


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Adamski: Pitt, Woody High alum Mosley-Smith out to complete unprecedented Pittsburgh football trifecta

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KK

Khaynin “K.K.” Mosley-Smith has been in uniform for Woodland Hills, Pitt and now the Steelers (Photo by Chaz Palla/Tribune-Review)

 

 

Barely visible on his lower arm when he wears longsleeves, Khaynin Mosley-Smith has a tattoo of a simple “P” in the familiar stylized font immediately recognizable: The Pirates logo.

 

“Pittsburgh, of course,” Mosley-Smith was saying in the Steelers locker room the other day. “Cumon!”

 

Mosley-Smith is a Pittsburgher through and through. And he’s hoping to pull off an unprecedented Pittsburgh football trifecta.

 

A defensive tackle signed early last week, Mosley-Smith isn’t the first Woodland Hills High School graduate to hold a spot on the Steelers’ roster. And he certainly isn’t the first Pitt alumnus to do so, either. Of course, scores of Pitt players have made it to the NFL – and it isn’t a stretch to say that Woodland Hills is one of the preeminent producers of pro football talent in the nation.

 

But if Mosley-Smith could work his way onto the in-season practice squad, then 53-man and then gameday roster, he’d become the first player to play for what has been Pittsburgh’s highest-profile* football high school, college and pro programs.

 

“I’m excited just thinking about that,” Mosley-Smith said. “That’s great for me, a great story, just to have the opportunity.

 

“It’s a blessing, man, to grow up here and go to the university here – one of the best universities out there – and then coming from a high school like Woodland Hills and being right next door is like… I mean, my (journey), so far, is right up there. The great line of a trio.”

 

Mosley-Smith, of course, has plenty of work to do before he attains the status of appearing in a regular-season game for the Steelers. For now, he’d likely be elated to make the practice squad once the preseason ends – and that would be quite an accomplishment for the 6-foot, 305-pounder who was a two-year starter at Pitt.

 

Known as “K.K.,” Mosley-Smith was selected first team All-State Class AAAA by the Pennsylvania Sports Writers and was a Tribune-Review “Terrific 25″ after being only two-way starter for Woodland Hills’ 2009 WPIAL Class AAAA champion team.

 

After a prep-school pit stop, a productive career at Pitt followed  – one in which Mosley-Smith spent countless hours in the very same South Side building he’s working out in now with the Steelers.

 

After Pitt’s loss to Navy in the Military Bowl last December, Mosley-Smith embarked on training for his NFL shot. He told me he lost about 15 pounds since the end of last season. After not being drafted or signing a contract with an NFL team, the Steelers invited Mosley-Smith to their rookie minicamp in May as a tryout.

 

Although he wasn’t signed then, he was three months later on Aug. 14.

 

“I did my rookie minicamp tryout and did what I had to do there,” Mosley-Smith said. “Guess I made an impression on these guys and that was my plan, got the call, came in, and I’ve just been grateful ever since for the opportunity.”

 

“I was just grateful to get that call back.”

 

Although, as such a late undrafted signee, Mosley-Smith faces long odds to continue his association with the team beyond these next two weeks, he did make an appearance in the Steelers’ most recent preaseason game, which was just four days after he’d signed. And there isn’t much experience among the depth of the Steelers defensive line, so who knows?

 

Mosley-Smith is a lot like former Pitt teammate Ray Vinopal – just happy to have the opportunity to make an impression. At very worst, it’ll be a few weeks as an NFL player that he won’t forget – and that he can take as a learning experience for another chance down the line.

 

“The level of competition is definitely a step up (from college),” Mosley-Smith said. “Guys are better and more (physically) mature… I’m just learning how the game works and how this league works. That’s all it is.”

 

 

 

 

*-While labeling Woodland Hills the “highest profile” local prep program is certainly arguable and subjective, for these purposes, it’ll be recognized as the high school that has produced by far the most NFL players over the past generation. (translation: I don’t want angry emails from outposts such as Aliquippa, Clairton, Jeannette, Wexford, Oakland, Monroeville, Jefferson Hills, etc. etc.).

 

 

 

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August 16, 2016
by Chris Adamski


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Adamski: One man’s (assuredly wrong) Steelers 53-man roster projection

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Post prologue: Check out TribLive Radio’s Steelers Roundtable show from this week. Kaboly, Paulk and Adamski talk James Harrison and all other team issues. One-click listening here.

 

TM

Tyler Matakevich (46) is fighting to be the 52nd or 53rd member of the Steelers’ active roster. (Photo by Chaz Palla of Trib Total Media)

 

The internet is littered with Steelers sites and blogs making their projections for the team’s 53-man roster come the second week of September. I didn’t say this would be original – but I will say that it is one man’s (assuredly not-100 percent-correct) opinion of what the team’s composition should be come kickoff Sept. 12 at Fed Ex Field. What better time than the close of training camp at St. Vincent College to unveil it…

 

QUARTERBACKS (3)

Ben Roethlisberger

Landry Jones

Dustin Vaughan

Pretty straightforward here in light of the continuing injury issues for Bruce Gradkowski. The Steelers under Tomlin/Colbert have always chosen to keep three quarterbacks on the roster; never was that more evident than last season when Mike Vick hung around despite the clearly losing all confidence in his ability to start.

 

RUNNING BACKS (3)

DeAngelo Williams

Fitzgerald Toussaint

Daryl Richardson

I’m going to assume that Le’Veon Bell begins the season serving a suspension. If that’s so, it would seem these three are in pretty good shape to earn roster spots (Williams, of course, is a given). None of the other younger challengers has stood out enough to make a compelling case over Toussaint and Richardson.

 

 

FULLBACK (1)

Roosevelt Nix

While listed as a fullback, expect Nix to play some more tight end/H-back on offense this season – and of course, continue to be a special-teams dynamo.

 

 

WIDE RECEIVERS (5)

Antonio Brown

Markus Wheaton

Sammie Coates

Darrius Heyward-Bey

Eli Rogers

Rogers has impressed enough that his roster spot, barring a major decline over the next three weeks, looks safe. The other four are cemented in. Rookie Demarcus Ayers will probably have to raise eyebrows on punt returns to have a shot at making the active roster – failing that, he should make a solid practice-squad player.

 

 

TIGHT ENDS (3)

Jesse James

David Johnson

Xavier Grimble

We’re going to assume, for these purposes, that Ladarius Green is not healthy enough to start the season on the 53-man roster (I “project” him below as remaining on the physically unable to perform list, but regardless, one way or another, as we sit here 27 days before the season starts, it’s tough to envision him making enough progress that quickly). Grimble has enough potential to warrant a look as a “Ladarius, Jr.” but will someone else be brought aboard for blocking purposes?

 

 

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

Maurkice Pouncey

David DeCastro

Ramon Foster

Marcus Gilbert

Alejandro Villanueva

Cody Wallace

Ryan Harris

Chris Hubbard

Jerald Hawkins

From right tackle to left guard, the starting foursome might just be the best in the league. Left tackle, however, is a question mark. Whoever doesn’t start between Villanueva and Harris could begin as the “swing” backup tackle – though don’t discount the possibility that player sits on Sundays with Hubbard the emergency backup. Wallace is the main backup at the interior spots, with Hawkins having too much potential to expose to waivers on his way to the practice squad. Poor B.J. Finney is the odd man out.

 

 

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (6)

Cameron Heyward

Stephon Tuitt

Daniel McCullers

Ricardo Mathews

Javon Hargrave

L.T. Walton

Finally, some depth – six players capable of playing a quantity and quality of snaps. Mathews is a serious upgrade as the top veteran backup, and Hargrave is good enough to push McCullers. The combined talent level should be more than enough to man the nose tackle spot – Hargrave has had the look of someone who can already help in the nickel on passing downs, too. None of the crop of very-talented-but-flawed rookie and first-year defensive linemen brought in have done anything to distinguish themselves.

 

 

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (5)

Jarvis Jones

Bud Dupree

James Harrison

Arthur Moats

Anthony Chickillo

Pretty much all “chalk” here with the same five guys who finished last season (indeed, played virtually all of last season – at least after which Chickillo earned a regular proverbial “hat” on gamedays). Rookie Travis Feeney could use a year on the practice squad to bulk up and learn – his chances of making a run at the 53-man evaporated with camp injury.

 

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (6)

Lawrence Timmons

Ryan Shazier

Vince Williams

Steven Johnson

LJ Fort

Tyler Matakevich

Keeping both Fort and Matakevich is a stretch, but with Ross Ventrone injured, an extra linebacker can serve in the “exclusive special-teamer” role that both Fort and Matakevich figure to excel at. So ILB becomes like Little League – “no cuts.”

 

 

CORNERBACKS (4)

William Gay

Ross Cockrell

Artie Burns

Doran Grant (Safety?)

This could be an area ripe for a veteran addition via trade, the waiver wire or a street free agent, because this is perilously thin to go into a season. Burns, of course, has to be on the 53 as a first-round pick, but he hasn’t necessarily shown he’s ready to play and has been banged up. It should be noted that if the season began today, for all intents and purposes, Sean Davis would be a “CB” – if only because there aren’t any other obvious options. (We likewise could consider Doran Grant a safety — Grant has been better this camp than last, but now there’s even question what his position is?). Someone else can – and should – be on this list at this position. But unless, say, a Montell Garner or an Al-Hajj Shabazz makes a late camp run at it, it might not be someone currently on the 90-man camp roster.

 

SAFETIES (5)

Mike Mitchell

Robert Golden

Sean Davis (CB?)

Shamarko Thomas

Jordan Dangerfield

Almost as cloudy as cornerback is safety, where Golden can seemingly rest easy he’s got a starting job locked up, and Thomas hasn’t been pushed much for a roster spot, either.  Dangerfield was No. 53 on this fictional roster – in his fourth season associated with the NFL, he finally makes an active roster to be a special-teamer and an extra body in the secondary. Depending on the level of faith the Steelers have in Grant as a safety, though, he could be jettisoned as soon as Bell returns.

 

 

SPECIALISTS (3)

Chris Boswell (K)

Jordan Berry (P)

Greg Warren (LS)

This one’s easy – Boswell and Warren have no in-camp competition, and Berry has visibly out-performed the rookie challenger to his job, Will Monday. Warren has held the job (aside from injury) for 12 seasons, but Boswell is less than 10 months into his tenure and Berry just one season.

 

PUP LIST (1)

Ladarius Green

 

SUSPENDED (2)

Le’Veon Bell

Martavis Bryant

 

INJURED RESERVE (1)

Senquez Golson

 

One final parting shot: There will be at least one player (in the secondary or at tight end being the logical guesses as to where) who will be on the season-opening roster who is not on the 90-man camp roster right now (be it a street free agent or a waiver-wire or trade pick-up from another organization).

 

 

 

This roster is not completely conventional, and I’m sure many can (and will) nitpick it. But just one man’s quick opinion on how it should go — admittedly a man who is neither an NFL general manager nor has the aptitude to be one!

 

 

Next time we chat, it won’t be from a dorm room but will be from the South Side.

Til then…

 

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