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June 21, 2016
by Chris Adamski


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Adamski: Daryl Richardson seeks chance, because anything can happen – and has with the Steelers at running back in recent years

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Richardson

 

While the competition for the third- or fourth-string running back might not rank very highly on the list of Steelers storylines or position battles to watch during training camp, you only have to look at last season to see an example of what it can mean.

 

The Steelers entered the calendar year with their fourth and fifth featured backs of the season in Ben Tate and Josh Harris. As you might recall, that didn’t go too well with those two as their co-starters for a playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens.

 

Counting those two and roster holdovers Le’Veon Bell and Dri Archer, the Steelers shuttled 14** running backs in and out during 2015.

 

And it was the 12th such man – Fitzgerald Toussaint – who was their featured back in the postseason.

 

In other words, anything can happen – and for the Steelers, HAS happened.

 

This is all just a longwindedly nice way of saying that despite his status as roster afterthought and buried deep down the running back depth chart, who knows what could happen in a Steelers uniform for Daryl Richardson?

 

“You’ve got to make that first impression, let them know that you want to be here, that you take it seriously,” Richardson said in the Steelers locker room after a minicamp practice last week. “It’s a blessing to be here, so just try to take advantage of it each day.

 

“You gottta be ready whenever they call your name and tell you to be ready. That’s what I’m preparing myself for now, so I can be ready when that day comes.”

 

Richardson has beaten long odds before in the NFL. In 2012, he was a seventh-round selection of the St. Louis Rams out of tiny Abilene Christian. Taken 202 picks prior to Richardson in that same draft by the same team was a player from a BCS conference who’d recently been named MVP of the Senior Bowl (Isaiah Pead).

 

Richardson won the No. 2 runner’s job behind future Hall of Famer Steven Jackson, by far out-producing Pead.

 

Pead, incidentally, was one of those 14 running backs the Steelers had last season. He didn’t last long, and wasn’t brought back – but here Richardson is on the roster with training camp five weeks away.

 

The Steelers had brought Richardson in late last season for a workout, and the team intended to sign him. But an injury at another position that ensuing Sunday forced their hand in a roster move, and the trickle-down effect left them with no room for Richardson. Still, the organization let Richardson know it liked him and that they would have a spot for him at some point.

 

Screenshot_2016-06-21-13-24-44-2

Richardson’s career NFL statistics (screenshot from NFL.com — note “LA” was “St. Louis then)

“I ended up going to the Cleveland Browns (before Week 14) to finish the season there,” Richardson said. “And I didn’t want to sign back with Cleveland, and (the Steelers) were men of their word and they brought me back.

 

“This was a team that I wanted to go to; I heard a lot of great things about this organization. I’m just blessed to be here.”

 

Richardson doesn’t have an NFL carry since 2013 and doesn’t have an NFL touchdown. He’s shown an ability to catch balls out of the backfield having 38 receptions on 4 targets over 24 games and limited snaps.

 

“You’ve got to do it all – you’ve got to catch balls, block, all-around,” Richardson said.

 

Richardson, who had speed tested in the mid 4.4s when he was coming out of college four years ago, will need to find a niche if he’s going to stick around long.

 

“I’d do anything they tell me to do,” he said, ‘But right now my key thing is probably special teams right now.”

 

With Le’Veon Bell, DeAngelo Williams and Toussaint clearly ahead of him – and Cameron Stingily (who was impressing the Steelers in camp last season before a significant injury) and rookie Brandon Brown-Dukes also to contend with – the odds are against Richardson, of course.

 

But they were against him, too, as a rookie in St. Louis four years ago. And they were against the likes of Toussaint and Harris to be thrust into big roles at important times in recent years for the Steelers.

 

“All I can do is play fast, play like I can play,” Richardson said. “If I let them know I’m serious and let them know that I want to be here and let them know I’ll do whatever it takes, that’s all I can do.”

 

 

**- List of running backs on the Steelers roster during calendar 2015: Holdovers Le’Veon Bell, Dri Archer, Josh Harris, Ben Tate (who was not retained), and newcomers DeAngelo Williams, Ross Scheuerman, Cameron Stingily, Jawon Chisholm, Braylon Heard, Jordan Todman, Dominique Brown, Fitzgerald Toussaint, Isaiah Pead and Rajion Neal

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June 14, 2016
by Chris Adamski


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Adamski: James Harrison won’t let his son play tackle football ‘unless I can be there everyday’

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James Harrison can be prickly at times when talking to the media. But others, he’s warm and gracious – at least, when it’s regarding a question he respects. And he’s always honest and not afraid to speak his mind, of course.

92

Before the Steelers’ first practice of their three-day minicamp Tuesday, Harrison was in one of his relaxed and gregarious moods. As such, he opened up in a number of topics.

 

 

Let’s start with his son, with whom he’s created headlines in the past for his parenting techniques. Tuesday, Harrison was asked if James III was playing midget football. We’ll pick up the conversation there:

“He’s playing flag football.”

 

Is he allowed to play tackle football?

“If he wants to play, he can play. Only thing I want him to do is bring me home Straight A’s.”

 

Is he doing that?

“They ain’t getting grades yet! Isn’t that crazy?!”

 

What do you mean?

“They don’t get grades until third grade at Winchester Thurston.”

 

Do they give trophies?

“No. they do the standardized testing stuff, all that, and he tested gifted in a couple things, so I’ll say it’s money well-spent (at private school Winchester Thurston).”

 

Will your son play tackle or flag football?

“Whatever he wants to play. He wants to start playing tackle, but to be honest I’m not comfortable with it unless I can be there every day, so once it gets to a point where I can be there everyday I’ll let him play some tackle football.”

 

Just because of technique?

“I want him to learn it properly; I don’t want him to go to a program where they just got the kids doing Oklahoma drills and stuff like that… banging their heads for no reason.”

 

 

 

Another interesting back-and-forth with media concerned Harrison’s thoughts on the NFL’s drug-testing policy. Again, I’ll just provide the conversation, beginning with his general thoughts about the testing he and his colleagues endure:

“I like it. I think they need to be doing more of it. I just think they need to take blood – they’re doing that, too, they’re taking blood. They’re doing all that; I like that.”

 

Do you feel they are targeting you with frequent tests?

“They can test you up to 20 or 30 times in an offseason. I just find it funny… the timing.”

 

What if you’re on vacation?

“They come to you. They come to you. I was at my Hall of Fame induction for college, they came there. (Shoot), they came to my mom’s house; they’ll come to wherever you’re at.”

 

On if the NFL discussed or investigated anything with him concerning (or as a result from) a since-(somewhat) discredited December report from Al Jazeera:

“I give that no play. Next.”

 

 

 

 

Other tidbits from Harrison, in addition to above and what was in our print product today:

 

—Defensive teammates Ryan Shazier, Mike Mitchell, Stephon Tuitt and Robert Golden joined him for his annual winter workouts in Arizona.

 

—Told that there have been linebackers who played into their 40s in the NFL, the 38-year-old said, “I don’t know if I want to go that far – even though it’s only a couple years away. I don’t know. I can’t answer those questions right now because I feel good.”

 

—On if there’s any statistical milestones he’d like to hit: “I need another ring, that’s about it. That’s the only number I care about.”

 

 

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June 9, 2016
by Chris Adamski


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Adamski: Carnell Lake downplays – but doesn’t back off – his comments on Brandon Boykin

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Brandon Boykin can’t get a job in the NFL, and he’s blaming his former position coach.

 

For the first time Thursday, Carnell Lake gave some on-the-record comments to the media on the matter.

 BB

Lake, the Steelers’ secondary coach, was taking part in the Steelers’ fantasy camp at St. Vincent College last week when he told some of the camp’s participants that Boykin has a degenerative hip condition that has apparently resulted in a rapid stalling of his career.

 

Boykin, who was cut by the Carolina Panthers last month not long after settling for a one-year, minimum-salary deal from them, had workouts with the Atlanta Falcons and Dallas Cowboys since. After the latter, he indicated to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that Lake is spreading “rumors.”

 

Lake was asked to respond today: “Well, I’m going to leave it like I left it. I’m going to leave all that at the Fantasy football camp and you guys can take it and go with it and do what you want with it. But it was what it was.”

 CL

If that seems like a polite deferral to Boykin – but not anything close to a denial of what he said – from Lake, that’s the way I took it, too.

 

Asked again about it later, Lake took a similar tact: “I made some comments that I had at fantasy camp and I’m not going to go back on that. I wish Boykin all the best; he helped us when we needed him, and I wish him the best in his career.”

 

 

 

 

Because of, well, some other sports-related things going on around town this week , space is limited in the print edition for such trivialities such as OTAs news.

 

But that’s why we have The Steel Mill. As such, here are some other nuggets from Lake’s media scrum following the final session of offseason team activities:

 

 

*On if the secondary will be improved this year: “We’re counting on that.”

Why? “One, we need to be. We want to keep improving on the foundation that we’ve laid. We’ve had some guys who were helping us early last year, guys like Ross Cockrell who have a second year with us and they had some good experience playing. We’re going to need that. They’ve got to help bring along the younger guys that are coming in, Artie Burns and Sean Davis, and so that’s why I am counting on us having a better year.”

 

*On Shamarko Thomas: “I think he’s improving; I really do. I think he’s improving form the neck up. He’s more comfortable after another year under his belt and learning the system. And if you guys are watching today, he made some play out here today, and that’s a good sign. To me, it shows that he’s growing and developing as a player.”

 

*On giving rookie safety Sean Davis reps at the nickel cornerback position: “I like having Sean work at the nickel because the nickel in our defense does a lot of very similar things to what a strong safety does, and he’s just really doing a safety work-slash-corner work on third down and so the more he understands that in-the-box, nickel concept, the more it’s going to help him at safety.”

 

 

And this from outside linebackers coach Joey Porter

 

* On 38-year-old James Harrison coming back for another season: “Having James is always good having him in the room because he’s such a veteran, showing the young guys what we expect and how we play ball around here. So whenever we have a guy like this who has put in a lot of work for Pittsburgh it’s a good thing.”

 

* On the progress of last year’s first-round pick, Bud Dupree: “it’s funny because I catch him out there helping the young guys and new guys to out defense and he was like, ‘Man,. I never thought I’d be able to help somebody.’ But that should tell you how far he’s come with the defense that he feels comfortable enough to get the other guys some knowledge of the game and that’s a beautiful thing that shows his growth.”

 

 

And from defensive coordinator Keith Butler (via the lovely Mark Kaboly)

* Defensive coordinator Keith Butler didn’t have his starting secondary on the field for hardly practices or preseason games leading up to the season opener and complained about it daily.
He’s hoping he doesn’t have to go down that road again this year.
“Last year I probably whined or bellyached too much of not getting our guys until the first game,” Butler said. “I don’t want that to happen again. We need them to practice together.”
Well, it has happened so far through three weeks of OTAs. Mike Mitchell is nursing a shoulder injury and Senquez Golson suffered a lower body injury during the first week of spring ball.
Butler is hoping to have the two healthy and on the field when the Steelers report to training camp at the end of July.
“We need to see what Senquez can do,” Butler said. “I don’t know what he can do. We need to see what Senquez can do; we need Mike Mitchell on the grass and we think he will be. For him to take that next step to become one of the elite safeties he needs to be on the field.”
* Butler still believes in linebacker Jarvis Jones, but needs to see more out of the first-round linebacker than he did his first three years in the league.
“We hope he can, we hope that he will,” Butler said.
The Steelers did not pick up Jones’ fifth-year option on his rookie deal in early May that will make him an unrestricted free agent following the season. It was the first time the Steeler didn’t pick up the option since the CBA implemented the option clause.
“I like the fact that there is some pressure on him,” Butler said. “He needs to perform. If he doesn’t want to play hard in the first place there is nothing that we are going to give him to make him play hard. I think he knows the situation is big for him. This is a year that he has to have.”
* Dan McCullers is big, strong and disruptive. But he needs to get a little meaner.
The Steelers let Steve McLendon leave via free agency thus handing the nose tackle position over to McCullers.
“I wouldn’t want to block that big rascal, I’ll tell you that,” Butler said. “When he gets one-on-one, we want him to crush the pocket. We think he is capable of doing that. We need him to grow up a little bit and be a little more aggressive.”

 

 

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June 8, 2016
by Chris Adamski


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Adamski: Steelers safety Ventrone to world premiere newest Penguins pump-up video Thursday morning

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The Stanley Cup will be in town Thursday night. Penguins mania has gripped the city and its residents. Several Steelers, too.

 

 

None likely moreso, though, than Ross Ventrone.

 

 

Ventrone, a Steelers special teams standout, is a native of the area (a Chartiers Valley High School grad who walked on and spent two years at Pitt) who, predictably, is a Penguins fan.

 

 

“Oh definitely,” Ventrone said after an organized team activity session next week. “Pittsburgh everything, so…”

 

 

Ventrone put his money (or, at least, his time and an Instagram account) where his mouth was over the past month when he posted a series of humorous Penguins pump-up videos that received some national attention:

 

Game 7 tomorrow @penguins

A video posted by Ross Ventrone (@rustybenson) on May 25, 2016 at 4:14pm PDT

 

#StanleyCup

A video posted by Ross Ventrone (@rustybenson) on May 30, 2016 at 7:23am PDT

 

 

#StanleyCup Game 3

A video posted by Ross Ventrone (@rustybenson) on Jun 3, 2016 at 1:52pm PDT

(You have to watch them to appreciate them).

 

 

All were edited and applied to music.

 

 

I complimented Ventrone on the “production values” of the posts (as well as lamented the generational divide of a man in his mid-30s not being able to fully appreciate or understand Instagram), but Ventrone downplayed the complexity of putting them together.

 

 

“I just think up an idea, and then we go execute it,” Ventrone said. “They kinda just come to me. “It doesn’t take too much time. Go out there once I know what I’m doing, it takes a couple minutes. And then it’s boom-boom, and that’s it.”

 

 

Ventrone credited childhood buddies Mike Walsh, Brian Braithwaite, Andrew Fiorilli for helping with the posts (and presumably co-starring in the third one).

 

 

The next post – set to make its world premiere Thursday, the day the Penguins have a chance to claim the Stanley Cup at home for the first time – has more of a celebrity videographer.

 

 

“The one I’m dropping (Thursday) morning, Game 5 – hopefully the close-out game – Landry Jones filmed that one,” Ventrone said, referring to the Steelers backup quarterback.

 

“He did a (heck) of a job. Great camera work,” Ventrone deadpanned. “So that will drop, probably (Thursday) around 10, right before practice starts. We’ve got to get the views up before the game. So we can’t wait too long.”

 

 

By “practice,” Ventrone presumably meant the Steelers’ final OTA session Thursday – but, coincidentally, the Penguins begin what could be their final morning skate of the season at that exact same time.

 

 

Ventrone, who did not give any details as to the content of Thursday’s video, said that although he’s attended several Penguins games over the years that he’s only made it to one playoff game this spring. With tickets to Thursday’s game running well into the four digits, Ventrone better have a good hook-up.

 

 

“I might end up showing up (Thursday) at the game with my rollerblades on and my helmet with a sign that says, ‘I Need Tickets,’” he said. “So if you see me down there and want to show me love with a ticket, that’s fine.”

 

 

 

 

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June 6, 2016
by Chris Adamski


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Adamski: Slimmer Chickillo more comfortable in Year 2 at OLB, with Steelers

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Chick

 

 

 

 

When the Steelers drafted Anthony Chickillo out of the University of Miami 13 months ago, he was listed as a 282-pound defensive end with a mane of wavy flowing hair that would creep out of the bottom of his helmet.

 

Today, the locks are gone – and so are about 30 pounds.

 

Both were of Chickillo’s preference. So was a move to outside linebacker.

 

“I felt like I should have been playing this position all along; I felt like I should have played it in college,” Chickillo said after an offseason team activity session last week.

 

His second NFL training camp just seven weeks away, Chickillo this time around feels much more comfortable.

 

With the playbook.

 

With his coaches.

 

With a confidence he fits in in the NFL.

 

With his body type and size.

 

And at his new, more natural (he says) position.

 

“Oh, I feel a lot better all the way around,” Chickillo said. “Just knowledge-wise of the system and what we do and how we do it around here, I feel a lot better.

 

“And there’s something into that, getting comfortable with your body weight and playing at the same weight for a longer period of time (rather than) getting there and having to adjust to it while you’re doing it. I feel good at my weight, I’m adjusted to it. I feel good.”

 

Chickillo gradually became one of the Steelers’ most relied-upon special teams players last season – the 70 percent of special teams snaps he played in the playoff loss at Denver trailed only Terence Garvin and Shamarko Thomas. With Garvin gone this season (he left as a free agent), opportunity exists for Chickillo – who earned his special-teams stripes with two tackles and a forced fumble during the regular-season finale at Cleveland – to seize an even more valuable role.

 

A highly-coveted recruit, Chickillo never played special teams in college. But by the end of his rookie NFL season he was on several units for the Steelers – and he came to enjoy it.

 

“It was a lot of fun,” Chickillo said. “Danny Smith, to me, is the best special teams coach there is in the NFL. I really love playing for him. He makes things (fun). He’s taught me how to play special teams in the NFL.”

 

Making an impact on defense is a tougher nut to crack. Buried as no better than fifth on the OLB positional depth chart, Chickillo played 22 defensive snaps last season – all coming in a 30-9 win against Johnny Manziel’s Browns Nov. 15 at Heinz Field when James Harrison was inactive because of a knee injury.

 

The trial didn’t have the best results – no tackles, two times flagged for penalties. But it was a taste for both Chickillo and for the Steelers to see what he can do.

 

Though the outside linebacker depth chart remains crowded (Harrison, Jarvis Jones, Arthur Moats and Bud Dupree split the position last season, and all return), in the not-too-distant future opportunity exists for someone.

 

Harrison is 38 and in the final year of his contract. Jones is likewise set to be a free agent this winter, and the Steelers declined a 2017 option on him. The only reinforcement brought in was Travis Feeney, a sixth-round pick who, while he has intriguing potential, likely isn’t ready to contribute immediately.

 

That means Chickillo could be an injury away from a defined role on defense. Or, if he impresses in camp and during practice and preseason games, perhaps the Steelers feel more comfortable letting Harrison and/or Jones go in 2017.

 

It’s still a longshot. But Chickillo showed flashes last season during training camp. He spent about a week as the proverbial talk of Saint Vincent College.

 

Just don’t expect Chickillo to discuss his feelings about the potential opportunities available for a Steelers outside linebacker.

 

“I don’t pay attention to that – I really am a day-by-day guy,” he said. “Just take it day-by-day and just use each day to get better.”

 

 

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June 2, 2016
by Chris Adamski


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Adamski: Antonio Brown ‘starstruck’ by Sidney Crosby

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Post prologue: Listen to Mark Kaboly, Ralph Paulk and I on an OTAs edition of TribLive Radio’s Steelers Roundtable show from this morning. Click here to hear talk about DeAngelo Williams’ proclamations, Antonio-vs.-Ben, whether Will Allen is for sure done and much, much more.

 

 

AB Pens

 

 

Antonio Brown is one of Pittsburgh’s most recognizable and well-known athletes. But, in his mind, there’s at least one pro in town who easily trumps him.

 

“Sidney Crosby is the best that’s ever done it,” Brown said after a Steelers organized team activities session Thursday. “He’s a professional player, plays the game at a high level, been doing it a long time.

 

“It’s an honor to watch him play. And I have his jersey, too.”

 

Crosby, who’s helped lead the Penguins to within two games of claiming the Stanley Cup, has become quite the Steelers fan since arriving in Pittsburgh 11 years ago.

 

Brown was told that Crosby was a big fan of Brown’s and was asked if the Penguins’ captain was starstruck of Brown when he ran into him.

 

“I’m a huge fan of Sid – (so) I probably was the one who was starstruck,” Brown said.

 

“Sidney Crosby, man, has lost teeth, battled concussions – and he just always seems to overcome and continue to play. And it’s exciting to watch him play, man.”

 

Brown was one of several Steelers players who attended Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday at Consol Energy Center. Ryan Shazier, Cameron Heyward and (former Steeler) Brett Keisel also were shown on the big video screen. Other Steelers accompanied some of them. Coach Mike Tomlin was there for Game 1. Many others have showed up at games.

 

“I’ve been getting more into hockey the last year three years I’ve been here,” Shazier said. “It’s really exciting; I really like it a lot.

 

“It’s just surprising how well they can control the puck and some of their shots and actually how fast they are out there. It’s amazing to me.”

 

Senquez Golson, Anthony Chickillo and Dan McCullers are among the myriad of other Steelers who have talked during OTAs about getting into the Penguins’ Cup run.

 

“I enjoy being a fan – I’m one of those teams who go to the game and you see the team win, you start to think, ‘Man, was it because of me they won?’” Brown said. “Just like any other fan.

 

“I’m just excited to be here in Pittsburgh enjoying the championship environment. The Penguins are getting the whole city excited; I’m excited and I’m honored to support everything they do.”

 

Just don’t expect Brown to take up ice hockey himself.

 

“I don’t know how my feet would do in the skates,” he said. “Probably burn by bottom on the floor. I’m not a good skater, so it would be tough for me. I might have to work on that (skating).

 

“It’s amazing what those guys do on skates,” Brown said of NHL players. “How they pound guys against the wall, how they can move, the agility and being able to control the puck is really special. It’s an honor to watch, it’s amazing.”

 

“I love everything about hockey: the physicality, the agility, the passion, the hunger to score the goal.”

 

Along with being one of the very best players in the world at their respective sports, Brown and Crosby share something else in common – their work ethic. Arguably, each has earned a reputation as being the hardest-working guy on his respective team — if not league.

 

“People don’t know what kind of work goes into being who he is,” Brown said of Crosby, acknowledging a kinship with the former “Sid the Kid” that was born 11 months before — and about 2,000 miles north up the Atlantic coast from — him.

 

“If you wanna be the best you gotta work at it. The small minute things like watching film to taking care of your body to training at a high level, those are the moments and those are the things that make him a complete player.”

 

One of the best in the world. Just like his “big fan,” Brown.

 

 

 

 

 

One last plug for the Steelers Roundtable show on TribLive Radio. Click here.

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May 24, 2016
by Chris Adamski


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Adamski: More from Le’Veon Bell on the Bengals, dirty play and his rehab from knee injury

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922bell

 

The first day of organized team activities, by its very nature, is always packed storylines – if for no other reason than the vast majority of the players haven’t talked to the media for a few months. Tied to that is the progress that any injured players who might have been injured made in their rehab over the prior 4-5 months.

 

Tuesday was no different. Ben Roethlisberger held court with the media. Maurkice Pouncey was back to work and even dropped a “I don’t know what that was for, no chance at all” when it was noted that he was placed on an IR list that could have allowed him to return last season. Alan Faneca was there. James Harrison wore a full sweatsuit on a day when the temperature approached 80 (as always).

 

Then there was Le’Veon Bell. He was back at practice, as expected, after missing the final eight games (plus playoffs) of last season. This was expected. Us media spoke to him, as expected, afterward. He said he felt good. Also expected. He said he intends to play in the season opener. Not unexpected. He said he wasn’t cleared for contact yet just as a precaution but that he “for sure” will be cleared by training camp.

 

All pretty much standard stuff.

 

But, that’s not all Bell said. Multiple times, he implied – heck, not even implied; he actually said – that some teams/players (cough, cough, Bengals/Burfict) try to take him out of the game. Injure him. And injure the other Steelers’ stars. Much of that is in the handy link you’ll go to by clicking on (touching) this paragraph.

 

But that is only part of what Bell said. The Bengals/intent-to-injure/I-have-learned-to-protect-myself stuff overshadowed his thoughts on other things, in particular his recovery from injury and his contract status. Here is more of his nine-minute session with the media after the first OTA on Tuesday—

 

 

On what it felt like to be back in a practice-like setting: “It felt amazing to just be back out here with my teammates, just being out here in practice, in the huddle. I felt good. I’m just glad to be back out here, for real.”

 

On if he was given any physical limitations by the medical staff: “No. right now I’m just doing what the coaches tell me to do. They’re trying to protect me from myself. So I’m just trying to listen to those people who are telling me what to do and taking care of my body and doing what I can.”

 

On if there is a timetable for when he can cut loose: “No, not really; just getting me back into it slowly. Right now, I feel like I can do everything. But obviously they are going to protect me from myself and really take it slow with me.”

 

On how his rehab from right knee surgery (MCL tear) was handled: “I had to take steps, a little process, throughout the course of the offseason, rather than me doing everything at once, I had to take steps, at first I had to start running, and then I started doing a little cutting, then I started doing other things like and make sure I go to rehab everyday. So it’s been a little different, but I feel like this is the strongest I have been in my lower body just because I had to do all the extra things in my legs. And I feel good.”

 

On if the fact that each of his three NFL seasons has featured a significant lower-body injury implies that he is injury-prone: “Some people are going to look at it like I’m injury-prone or whatever. (But) it’s not like I’m out here tweaking my hamstrings or spraining my ankles or stuff like that. Obviously it was just two nasty tackle that I had and even when I hurt my foot my rookie year, I felt it was just unfortunate injuries because before these last three years I never been injured in football so I feel like my luck probably – hopefully – should change this year and I’ll be on the field. Obviously nothing freaky, and I take care of my body and do the little things right and I feel like I will be OK.”

 

On if he will be cleared for contact in time for training camp: “For sure. Yes, for sure.”

 

On if notoriously-protective coach Mike Tomlin will let him partake in the contact drills: (laughs) “W e will see. Coach Tomlin is always saying he just wants to get me ready for in the stadiums when they count. So I’m pretty sure I will do some stuff with contact just so I can get hit and things like that. We will see.”

 

On a percentage he projects himself playing at for the season opener Sept. 12 at the Redskins: “I think I’ll be 100 percent. That’s what I’m anticipating, that’s my goal, so we will see where it goes.”

 

On if he will be back to his old self this time because last season following an injury-recovery he acknowledged he wasn’t: “I definitely think so. The last injury I didn’t have surgery so I just feel like.. and I didn’t rehab either, I just kind of let it happen and let it go how it went. But this year I had the surgery, I obviously had the rehab, I have been doing a lot of things so I feel like once it is actually time to go I will be 100 percent; I feel great, I’m out here with no knee brace on or anything, I’m out here with no knee sleeves and I have just been training my knee for everything it is about to go through, so when September actually gets here I will be even better than I am now. It’s kind of crazy to even think about it. I’m excited.”

 

On if there was a “turning point” in his rehab: “I think maybe about a month ago. I felt like when I was training in Miami… it used to take me a real long time when I had to get warmed  up with my knee – and then there was a point in time I felt like when I went out there for warm-ups, I just felt normal one day and I wasn’t even thinking about, ‘oh, can I do this or can I do that?’I think that’s when I just started feeling like myself and now it’s really just taking care of it and make sure I do all the little things, make sure I keep getting stronger and things like that. So I feel great.”

 

On if there’s any apprehension on his part that his repaired knee won’t be able to handle its workload: “Not really, obviously when I come back out here my first time cutting and my first time doing things you kind of think about it, it’s more mental because I know my knee is strong enough to do everything, it’s kind of mental because I haven’t done it in a long time and things like that. So I think once I get over that mental part I will be just fine. But first it is just all mental.”

 

On if there was any movement to extend his contract, which expires after the coming season ends: “We (Bell, his agent, nor the Steelers) haven’t had that discussion or anything yet. I will kind of let that thing take care of itself and see where it goes from there.”

 

On how good the Steelers offense can be this year after it led the AFC in yardage and was second in points last season (largely) without him: “I think we should be even better this year. Obviously we got playmakers all over the field and we should continue to get better. We use OTAs as a leverage point; we know where we were last year so right now we have to pick up from what we did last year and get better. Obviously, we know we’re a good offense but we have got to continue to get better – teams are going to pick up on things we do, so we’ve got to continue to detail everything.”

 

On if he has any lingering ill will over the tackle — or the reaction afterwards — by Vontaze Burfict that ended Bell’s 2015 season: “When I looked at it, it obviously looked like they were happy about it. But I obviously know teams are out to… I take the liberty that everyone just plays football just to love the game, but there are people out here who are not playing like that. People out here trying to really take people out, so obviously I know that now. I wish I wasn’t ignorant to the fact of it before, but now I just know I have to take extra precaution of, you know, getting down or protecting myself because people are (out to) take me out of the game. I’ll just make sure I take care of myself.”

 

On if the Bengals are doing these kinds of things more than other teams: “Not just Cincinnati, I’ll be aware of everybody. I feel like I have got to protect myself. I feel like a lot of teams will feel like it’s easier to take me out or AB or Ben, whatever, so we obviously have to be precautious. I didn’t think people played football like that – but it’s real. I guess people really do. So obviously have to take care of myself.”

 

 

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May 13, 2016
by Chris Adamski


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Adamski: WR Severin goes from ‘How did I not (get drafted)?’ to relishing chance to ‘prove to people’ he can excel for Steelers

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CS

Canaan Severin has already scored a touchdown at Heinz Field.

 

 

 

He stands 6 feet 2 and weighs 205 pounds. He runs a 40 in less than 4.6 seconds, was a second-team all-conference honoree in a Power 5 league after a productive, highlight-reel like season, and he has impeccable character and leadership bona fides.

 

Sounds like quite the NFL draft prospect. Unless you’re Canaan Severin – then, you fly off all the draftniks radars and find yourself without a team after the seven rounds were complete late last month.

 

“For me, 11 catches for (153 yards) against Notre Dame, three touchdowns against Louisville, a one-handed catch against Miami. Go down and play Florida State, (top-five draft pick cornerback Jalen) Ramsey’s guarding me the whole game, five catches for (56) yards and a touchdown there,” Severin said, listing his résumé after a Steelers rookie minicamp practice session last week.

 

“And you sit there saying, ‘How do you not (get drafted)?’ But there was not really a buzz about me. So I just took that and was like, ‘All right,’ and I looked at the worst-case scenario and then realized, ‘OK, I can pick my options.’ So everything works out the way it’s supposed to in my eyes.”

 

By “picking his options,” Severin was realizing he could sign with any team that wanted him of his choosing if he wasn’t  going to get drafted. This is the primary reason why, in some ways, going undrafted is almost preferred to being a seventh-round pick.

 

The Steelers are hoping to reap the benefits. Although they are, at first glance, very strong at wide receiver, the future at the position is murky. After All-world Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant is suspended at least for 2016 for repeated violations of the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Then, Markus Wheaton is a pending unrestricted free agent after the coming season. Next on the depth chart is Sammie Coates – a player who has shown immense promise, but still as of yet just one with a mere one career regular-season catch. After Coates is a player about to hit his 30s who’s better known for his special-teams prowess (Darrius Heyward-Bey) and then just players who have no professional regular-season experience.

 

What that means is that there’s a potential opening for a wide receiver – if not in 2016, then much more likely so in 2017 and ’18. Severin is just one candidate to help solve these future questions, but he’s an intriguing one.

 

Aside from the impressive height/weight and decent (for the aforementioned size) speed measurables that could raise an eyebrow is good production (96 catches, 1,337 yards, 13 touchdowns over his final two seasons) and a pair of widely-respected hands (sometimes, “hand,” as in singular) as part of a package that includes a player who needed just 3 ½ years to graduate from a good school and leadership skills that had him as a senior captain.

 

“I kind of feel prepared coming from pro-style offenses,” Severin said. “I’ve had two NFL coordinators – Steve Fairchild (Virginia’s coordinator from 2013-15, who previously worked for the Chargers) and  Bill Lazor (at Virginia in 2012, the Dolphins’ coordinator 2014-15 and now the Bengals QB coach). So it’s all just the terminology is just a little different but it’s the same concept coming from a pro-style offense though. So yeah, just go catch the ball.”

 

Severin has the same agent as former Steelers safety Ryan Clark – and that’s not a coincidence. The two also share the sickle-cell trait that can fatigue athletes more quickly and can even become life-threatening if not managed properly.

 

Clark, of course, had a long and productive NFL career and was one of the leaders on some of the best NFL defenses of the past two decades (the Steelers of 2008-2010 vintage). Severin has a long way to go to get there, but he’s got a path that began as being arguably the most prominent Steelers undrafted free agent.

 

“Not being drafted definitely puts a chip on my shoulder,” Severin said, “so I’ve just got to work to improve my whole game and prove to people that I can play in this league and make plays in this league.”

 

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May 4, 2016
by Chris Adamski


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Adamski: Getting to know the Steelers undrafted free agents (Part II)

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(Post prologue:  Check out Mark Kaboly, Ralph Paulk and I in Thursday’s episode of the Steelers Roundtable on TribLive Radio. Listen via the TribLive Radio app or by, more simply and directly, by clicking on this link. We review and breakdown the Steelers’ draft).

 

 

 

If you saw the wildly popular Part I looking at half of the 10 undrafted free agents the Steelers signed in the hours after the draft ended Saturday, here are small breakdowns of the other half.

 

Looking at the past, you can expect maybe 2-3 of these 10 to appear in an NFL regular-season game, with maybe one sticking as a significant contributor. Not everyone is a James Harrison or a Willie Parker – but that doesn’t mean there can’t be a couple camp darlings who work their way into a regular-season role at some point.

 

 

DAVID REEVES, TE, Duke

What to know: Fifth-year senior made 35 starts in 53 games, catching 47 passes with seven touchdowns. Never had more than three receptions in a game, but at 6-5, 255, has NFL size.

Quotable from scouting report: “He does a better job blocking from the tight end position than from lining up at receiver.” – thedraftster.com

Chances of making the team: It’s a whole new (post-Heath Miller) world for the Steelers at tight end – but there’s enough in front of Reeves on the depth chart (Ladarius Green, Jesse James, Matt Spaeth and the intriguing Xavier Grimble) that the practice squad is his ceiling in 2016.

 

 

JAY ROME, TE, Georgia

What to know: Rome’s so good, he was signed by TWO teams! Anyway, he was a highly-coveted prospect coming out of high school who – production-wise – underachieved at Georgia (five starts, 38 catches in four seasons).

Quotable from scouting report: “Rome’s career has not met expectations… However, his NFL frame (6-6, 250) and athleticism are obvious, as he is a mismatch nightmare when he escapes down the seam, and he also has the short-area quickness to exploit second-level defenses.” – NFL.com

Chances of making the team: Barring injury, it’s likely the best Rome and Reeves can hope for this year is to scale Grimble on the depth chart and make it onto the practice squad. Rome and Grimble, at face value, appear to be clones.

 

 

QUINTON SCHOOLEY, C, North Carolina State

What to know: Schooley was a three-year starter for the Wolf Pack after spending a year in junior college. The numbers he reportedly posted in drills at his Pro Day weren’t out of line with what the interior linemen invited to the combine showed in Indianapolis.

Quotable from scouting report: “He’s been real tough… leader by example at center. He’s a guy who handles himself very professionally off the field… a father.” — N.C. State coach Dave Doeren (OK, not a scout, but the best I could find)

Chances of making the team: B.J. Finney was the only of a host of guards and centers the Steelers brought in last summer who stuck with the team. Like Finney last year, Schooley would be happy to stick on the practice squad.

 

 

CANAAN SEVERIN, WR, Virginia

What to know: Severin has good size (6-2, 205) and his reported 40 times (in the 4.5-4.6 range) aren’t terrible for a man his size. He also
CSwas productive in college (second-team all-ACC as a senior) with 95 catches for 1,325 yards and 13 touchdowns over his final 24 games.

Quotable from scouting report: “He’s super intriguing, a big body WR with good hands and he dominates the catch point.” –Draftbreakdown.com

Chances of making the team: Severin might be the most highly-regarded of all the Steelers’ undrafted free agents, having been seen by many as a legitimate “sleeper” who could have been taken on Day 3 of the draft. With Demarcus Ayers viewed more as a pure returner (at least initially), Severin will join Eli Rogers and Shakim Phillips as those jockeying to be the No. 5 receiver option – a spot that likely carries with it a practice squad designation (assuming an Ayers or a Levi Norwood makes the team as a return specialist).

 

 

DEVAUNTE SIGLER, DL, Jacksonville State

What to know: A transfer from Auburn after being kicked off the team, Sigler (6-3, 290) was the Ohio Valley Conference’s defensive player of the year in 2014. But injuries marred most of last season.

Quotable from scouting report: “Sigler couldn’t stay on the field due to various injuries the past two seasons and although he put impressive flashes on tape, he wasn’t a consistent playmaker – projects as a potential NFL back-up who can round out a rotation.” –CBS’ NFLdaftscout

Chances of making the team: A lot was made about the lack of depth along the Steelers’ defensive line last season. Like all of his undrafted rookie brethren, Sigler faces long odds. But if L.T. Walton and Caushaud Lyons don’t show they made progress heading into their second years, who knows?

 

 

 

 

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May 4, 2016
by Chris Adamski


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Adamski: Getting to know the Steelers undrafted free agents (Part I)

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Foster

Ramon Foster, the Steelers’ best undrafted free agent of the Tomlin tenure

 

 

The jury remains out on whether B.J. Finney or Eli Rogers can carve out an NFL career for himself… but barring that, the past two crops of Steelers undrafted free agents has largely been a dud.

 

Of the 22 players the Steelers signed immediately after the drafts in 2014 and 2015, none have appeared in an NFL regular-season game for the Steelers. Just Finney, a guard, and Rogers, a wide receiver, remain property of the Steelers. (Though one could argue that receiver Shakim Phillips also qualifies – his signing was announced 10 days following the completion of the draft last season).

 

THAT SAID… the Steelers under Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin have a rich history of collecting talent immediately after the draft ends. Colbert signed an eventual starter among five of his first six drafts in Dan Kreider (2000), Chris Hoke (2001), James Harrison (2002), Willie Parker (2004) and Nate Washington (2005) – something of a remarkable achievement.

 

Since Tomlin arrived in 2007, the Steelers have unearthed seven starting-caliber players (of varying degrees) as rookies after the draft ended: Darnell Stapleton (OK, it wasn’t even a full season he started… but it was for a Super Bowl-winning team he was starting), Doug Legursky, Ramon Foster, Steve McLendon, Isaac Redman, Corbin Bryant (although not for the Steelers; Bryant started 10 games for Buffalo last season) and Robert Golden (pegged to start at strong safety in 2016).

 

Over the seven (after-)drafts of 2007-13, the Steelers found 15 players who contributed in some way to their team (OK, OK, I went back and forth on whether to include John Clay and his 10 carries in 2011… fine – make it 14 players. Still, that’s an average of two per year): RB Gary Russel, LS Jared Retskofsky, LB Patrick Bailey (the 2008 Steelers rookie of the year), TE Weslye Saunders, P Drew Butler, LB Adrian Robinson, G Chris Hubbard and the seven listed above.

 

Three players signed by the Steelers undrafted free agents were starters last season (McLendon, Harrison and Foster), and three project to be this season (Harrison, Foster and Golden).

 

This all brings us to the current crop of undrafted free agents the Steelers signed Saturday night following the completion of Round 7. In that group of 10 players are three defensive linemen and two players from Duke. A quick look half of at the newest Steelers (five undrafted free agents profiled today, the other five tomorrow), and their potential impacts:

 

 

JOHNNY MAXEY, DL, Mars Hill Univ.

What to know: Maxey was listed at 305 pounds by Mars Hill (but this is also the sports information department that announced he signed with the “Pittsburg” Steelers, so take their words with a grain of proverbial salt; the Steelers list him at 283) – and he reportedly has 4.9 speed in the 40.

Quotable from scouting report: “Johnny has the size, talent, and work ethic to be successful at the next level.” – Mars Hill coach Tim Clifton (OK, he’s not a scout… but it’s hard to find info on this guy he’s so far off the radar)

Chances of making the team: He has the size, and there’s a roster spot to be made by SOMEBODY on the defensive line… but, at very best, Maxey is probably more of a project whose best chance to make the 53-man roster is in 2017. Or 2018. Or never.

 

 

TYRIQ MCCORD, OLB, Miami (Fla.)

What to know: The Steelers love to stockpile edge rushers, and McCord is a high-pedigree athlete (four-star recruit) who has plenty of experience (appeared in 51 games over four years) at a big-time program. He posted 3-4 sacks each season.

Quotable from scouting report: “McCord’s stats dropped from his junior year to his senior year but he still made the big plays on tape. McCord is a durable player who has flexibility in regard to his position.” – NFLmocks.com

Chances of making the team: From the mostly-forgettable likes of Howard Jones and Shawn Lemon in recent years to the success story of Harrison in the past, the Steelers seem to always have an outside linebacker on their practice squad – although this year, that would figure to be sixth-round pick Travis Feeney’s domain.

 

 

WILL MONDAY, P, Duke

What to know: Monday was  first-, second- or third-team ACC during all four of his seasons with the Blue Devils, averaging 43.5 yards on 260 punts in 53 games. None were blocked, and 34 percent resulted in the opponent taking over inside its 20.

Quotable from scouting report: “Long­-limbed punter who showed off more consistent power in his foot earlier in his career than later. Monday can get the ball out quickly and has improved with consistency of his hang time.” – NFL.com

Chances of making the team: Normally, I’d say that incumbent Jordan Berry’s job is relatively safe… but the Tomlin’s cursed history at the position makes you wonder if the revolving door of punters continues. Monday was considered one of the top five punters in this draft class, so he presumably has a shot at making a roster.

 

 

GIORGIO NEWBERRY, DL, Florida State

What to know: It wasn’t until his fourth year on campus that the former four-star recruit made any impact on the Seminoles’ defensive line (a redshirt, a year spent at tight end and strong competition stood in his way). He never started a game on defense – but his length and pure athleticism are of NFL quality.

Quotable from scouting report: “Gives up leverage off the snap with high pads and doesn’t understand how to use his hands to shed or free himself from blockers – long-term NFL project.” – CBS’ NFLdraftscout.com

Chances of making the team: John Mitchell has his work cut out for him, but the veteran respected defensive line coach has what Tomlin would call “good clay to work with.” Newberry will need to impress just to be a practice-squad candidate.

 

 

CHRISTIAN POWELL, FB, Colorado

Christian PowellWhat to know: Recruited as a fullback, Powell three times led the Buffaloes in rushing as its featured ballcarrier… but his production slipped during each of his four seasons.

Quotable from scouting report: “Coming straight from fullback, that’s all you know to do is run downhill. I can’t let that leave my game, but at the same time trying to learn different fundamentals as a running back and develop a little more. It’s just a different game to learn, from being a blocker to being a ball carrier. Each and every year I’ve been able to develop.” – Powell on himself, courtesy of the Denver Post

Chances of making the team: The Steelers always have a fullback – and they’re never players they draft. And with Will Johnson a free agency departure, at first glance Powell has a chance to succeed him. But there’s The Roosevelt Nix Phenomenon standing in his way, making it seem to be a longshot.

 

 

We’ll break down the other five undrafted free agents tomorrow…

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