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January 17, 2017
by Joe Rutter


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Rutter: Only one winner in Facebook Live snafu — and it’s not Antonio Brown

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If it’s true that, as the Wall Street Journal reported in a July story, Antonio Brown is getting paid $244,000 by Facebook Live to create video content, then show me the money.
Not in the Jerry Maguire sense. I mean to me, as in give me a chunk of the proceeds. Shouldn’t I get a small cut? I made a two-second cameo (see the above screen shot, I’m the dude in the upper right corner) in Brown’s 17-minute, 32-second live feed after the Steelers’ 18-16 win over the Chiefs on Sunday.
I think I’m at least entitled to about $2.44 considering the sum the All-Pro receiver is receiving from Facebook Live.
Seriously, if there is one winner in this VideoGate fiasco — and it’s not the guy primping for the camera incessantly throughout — it is Facebook Live.
The publicity the company is receiving from this incident is incalculable. It’s safe to say that of the $50 million the company is paying celebrities and media companies to produce content, nobody has brought in the return on investment like Brown.
Anyone remember anything interesting from, say, Michael Phelps or Russell Wilson on Facebook Live? Anyone even know they were posting live videos? That’s what I thought.
Brown can’t be considered a winner because he stands to lose much more than the $244,000 Facebook Live is paying him in future NFL earnings and endorsements.
Considering the language he showed being used in the video, and I don’t just mean from his head coach. For all of the “God is the greatest” references Brown made in the video, he threw in a few sexually explicit references to the male anatomy — sometimes in the same sentence. That kind of garbage tends to turn off endorsers — no matter how many times you flash your teeth for the camera.
Coach Mike Tomlin hinted Tuesday that Brown’s future with the Steelers could be in jeopardy if such shenanigans continue.
“I think that’s often time why you see great players move around from team to team,” Tomlin said at his weekly press conference. “I definitely don’t want that to be his story. I’m sure he doesn’t want that to be his story.”
In other words, Tomlin doesn’t want Brown to become the next Terrell Owens, a supremely talented wide receiver whose pain-in-the-butt antics are one reason he shuffled from San Francisco to Philadelphia to Dallas to Buffalo to Cincinnati in his career.
Brown arguably is the best receiver in the NFL and one of the two best players on the Steelers. But his contract expires after the 2017 season.
The Steelers have put off renegotiating a new deal until a star player has one year left on his contract because they don’t want to start a precedent. Brown has gotten advances on his salary the past two offseasons, but this is the winter/spring/summer he truly can cash in on a big payday.
Brown’s video may not keep the Steelers from extending an offer to their star receiver. But it could cause them to lessen their offer — or decide to let Brown play out his final season before slapping him with a franchise tag, negotiating a long-term deal before free agency or letting him walk away.
Brown will turn 29 in the summer, not old by wide receiver standards, but not young, either. As he enters a new contract, Brown will be 30 with his best years likely behind him.
Will the Steelers be committed to paying up? Nobody knows at this juncture.
Only one this is certain: Facebook Live will not be. Reports surfaced this week that the company will no longer be paying celebrities for live video content.

Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach at jrutter@tribweb.com or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.

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January 14, 2017
by Chris Adamski


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Adamski: Rather than sulk, Jarvis Jones admirably sought out new role with Steelers

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Jarvis

Jarvis Jones has taken a few hits to his ego this year. He’ making the most of the situation, though. (Chaz Palla/Triblive photo)

 

 

 

THIRTY THOUSAND FEET OVER AMERICA’S HEARTLAND – When the Steelers drafted Jarvis Jones, they surely hoped he would their version of, say, a Justin Houston.

 

 

Jones did a fine Houston impersonation this week. However, it really wasn’t what he had in mind.

 

 

A first-round pick four years ago, Jones found himself on the scout team this week in advance of the Steelers’ divisional round playoff game against Houston and the Kansas City Chiefs. It’s far from ideal, a proud man who was a great player in college at Georgia who has started 35 games in the NFL and surely will get a chance to start again in the future. But instead of sulk of complain or become insubordinate about his current role, Jones has admirably embraced it,

 

 

“I’m in it to win it,” Jones said after a practice this week. “It’s about putting your hands in the pile and doing what you can do to help this team be great, you know? That’s where I’m with it. These are my brothers, they need me in certain roles now, and I need to perform in whatever role I’m asked that will help.”

 

 

Jones was talking not long after peeling off a green pinney with Houston’s No. 50 on it following a midweek practice. But truth be told, even after first losing his starting job at right outside linebacker to James Harrison and ultimately being all but entirely removed from the defensive gameplan, Jones’ present value is far more than a scout-team body.

 

 

Not only is he a valuable insurance (how many teams have a 27-year-old, 3 1/2-year starter with first-round pedigree on their bench?) in case something should happen to the 38-year-old Harrison or starting left outside linebacker Bud Dupree – both have injury red flags – Jones also showed some value when he made a tackle on a kickoff return during last week’s wild-card win against Miami.

 

 

There was Jones, a college star and first-round pick who’d never played any more than a bit role on special teams in his life, out there playing special -teams snaps during an NFL playing game.

 

 

And here’s the thing: it was Jones’ idea.

 

 

Jones approached coaches about joining some ‘teams units.

 

“For me to just sit on the sideline and just collect a check, that… is so unprofessional for me,” Jones said. “Knowing I can put my hand in the pile somewhere – if the defense is set, the defense is set – but, (man), there’s a lot of positions on special teams. Let me help out. I want to put my hand in the pile. I don’t want to sit on the sideline.”

 

 

For a player who’d not only been demoted from his defensive role but also, you’ll recall, was passed over for a fifth-year contract option by the Steelers last spring, seeking and embracing a new role wasn’t necessarily something Jones had to do. Let’s face it: the reality is that Jones likely won’t be here come fall. He’ll become a free agent in March, and – while he’ll never be an All Pro, as some hope of first-round picks – he’s proven he’s a capable starter in the league.

 

 

It’s not a completely apt comparison because Jones is younger and has more of a recent track record. But Jones has a role model a few lockers down from him in the Steelers’ facility in Darrius Heyward-Bey, a former top-10 draft pick who’s become a favorite among coaches and teammates for his attitude in embracing a role as a special-teams standout.

 

 

Jones is also well-liked among teammates. Especially with the stakes so high now in the postseason, his selflessness won’t go unnoticed.

 

 

“Jarvis is a great teammates, a great guy; his ego, he checks that at the door,” Heyward-Bey said. “(But) I don’t think we should praise a guy for deciding he should take team first. That should be the norm, you know?

“Because it’s bigger than me; we’ve got young kids watching us, and you want to go out there and help your teammates win. I believe this organization, they give people opportunities to be successful. And you try to take advantage of that, and sometimes things don’t work out for you the way you want to work out. But for a guy to go in and be like, ‘Hey, I’m going to put team first?’ Great job. Now let’s go to work.

“At the end of the day, It’s still football. Yeah he’s not a starter, yeah he’s not getting a bunch of sacks that everybody thought he would do – but he’s blowing stuff up in special teams.”

 

 

“What happened, happened,” Jones said. “I’ve got a new role on the team; I’m playing special teams right now. So I’m doing my job, man. I want it just as much as those guys do, and I know that regardless if I’m on the field playing defensive snaps or special teams snaps it’s going to take all of us to win it, and me getting an opportunity on special teams, just another way I can show I can put my hand in the pile.

“I’m in it to win it. I think we’ve got a great team, if we do the things we need to do. So everybody’s got to put their hands in the pile, and that’s my job right now. I think our defense has been playing great – and I’m playing special teams roles right now, so I am going to continue to do that. I’m going to take advantage of them.”

 

 

 

 

Enjoy Sunday’s game.  Avoid the ice.

 

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January 9, 2017
by Chris Adamski


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Adamski: Somehow, Le’Veon Bell’s big day gets somewhat buried. Let’s appreciate it.

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Bell

Le’Veon Bell spent much of Sunday running away from the Dolphins’ vaunted front seven. Why aren’t we talking about that more? (Christopher Horner/Tribune-Review photo)

 

 

 

SOUTH HILLS (blatantly stealing that blog dateline now that it’s no longer being used anymore) –

Including a video story and, well, let’s just say an off-the-field piece from later Sunday evening, the TribLive.com Steelers page had no fewer than 11 fresh stories posted in the aftermath of the Steelers’ playoff-opening 30-12 win against Miami.

 

 

Just one-half of one was specifically devoted to the Sunday exploits of Le’Veon Bell.

 

 

The same Bell who set the Steelers record for rushing yards in a playoff game. Yes, the Steelers of more playoff wins than any NFL team. The Steelers of the NFL-record six Super Bowl wins. The Steelers of the three Hall of Fame running backs.

 

 

Bell stands alone above them all – at least, as measured by single-game postseason rushing is concerned. (Then again, Bell also just four weeks prior set the team’s single-game regular-season rushing record, too!).

 

 

Sure, Bell’s big day was referenced not only in the aforementioned dual running-game piece I wrote but also the Joe Rutter game story, of course.

 

 

But on a day in which the Steelers advanced to the second round in frigid weather in which there arose questions about the health of Ben Roethlisberger and the opposing team’s QB was subjected to a brutal hit and 38-year-old James Harrison had a big day and superstar Antonio Brown had a big day and, and… and…

 

 

Well, somehow, Bell SETTING THE STEELERS PLAYOFF-GAME RUSHING RECORD somehow got lost in the proverbial shuffle.

 

 

Not by his teammates. A sampling of their impressions of Bell:

 

Coach Mike Tomlin: “He’s a man for all situations or circumstances. Whether it’s inside run, whether it’s perimeter run, whether it’s the passing game, he’s just good, has a good skillset. He does a lot of things well. And so, he adds value to us in that way.”

 

Roethlisberger: “He brings a little bit of everything to the table… If he gets one-on-one with a guy in the hole or just beyond, I get the best view in the house. I’ll never forget when Charlie Batch was here, he used to always tell me about how he would hand off and just watch Barry Sanders. I am not trying to put Le’Veon with Barry Sanders yet, you know that is an awesome honor. But, it is fun to sit and watch and just see what he is going to do because he is incredibly talented.”

 

Center Maurkice Pouncey: “He runs through tackles, he’s a really aggressive player. It’s good to have (him) on the team.”

 

Guard Ramon Foster: “Somebody (this week in Miami) said they were going to be able to stop him, and he said, ‘It’s crazy if they’re able to do that.’ and I just love that (Bell said it to the media). I was just hyped that he acknowledged that ‘Man, I’m that guy.’ And what better running back is there?”

 

 

Some superlatives–

 

  • Bell’s carries, chronologically by yardage: 11, -2, 7, 2, 8, 5, 5, 15, 6, 5, 8, 25, 0, 1, 1, 0, 2, 15, 8, 26, 0, 2, 2, 2, 3, 8, 4, -4, 2
  • That’s nine carries of at least 8 yards, 14 carries of at least 5 yards and four of 11-plus yards
  • His 57 rushing yards in the first quarter were the second-most in Steelers playoff game (1 yard short of Kordell Stewart in a Jan. 3, 1998, game against New England)
  • Bell (60) had more total yards than the Dolphins in the first quarter (55)
  • Bell’s 99 first-half rushing yards tied the team postseason record held by Barry Foster (Jan. 7, 1995 vs. Cleveland)
  • In his postseason debut, Bell became the ninth Steeler (17th occurrence) to have a 100-yard rushing game in the postseason. The most recent to do it? The immortal Isaac Redman (in “The Tebow Game” Jan. 8, 2012 at Denver)
  • It also took all of one postseason game for Bell to become the 11th Steeler (14th occurrence) to have two or more rushing touchdowns in a playoff game (the most recent had been Rashard Mendenhall vs. Baltimore on Jan. 15, 2011)

 

 

Kansas City in six days. Enjoy your week.

 

 

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January 6, 2017
by Chris Adamski


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Adamski: Mitchell says Steelers ‘have got to smash the run’ of Dolphins, Ajayi

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The news coming out of Miami on Thursday was that Matt Moore officially will start Sunday’s wild card playoff game at Heinz Field against the Steelers.

 

 

 

 

But Mike Mitchell didn’t want to talk about Moore.

 

 

 

 

“You take all that passing stuff out the window – we’ve got to smash the run,” the Steelers safety said after practice. “We went down there (to Miami on Oct. 16) and gave up (222) yards rushing. We just got beat in a very physical manner.”

 

 

 

 

To hear a Steelers defensive player admit that — “We just got beat in a very physical manner” – might as well be akin to walking through a vat of battery acid. Among other things, the Steelers (their defense, in particular) takes a particular pride in always being the more physical team. This dates back well into the Farrior/Hampton/Polamalu/Porter defenses of the previous decade, and truth be told, surely reaches back much further, way back to the Steel Curtain of the 70s.

 

 

 

 

JayA

The Steelers were “just beat in a very physical nature” by Jay Ajayi and the Dolphins in Week 6. (Chaz Palla, Tribune-Review photo)

Even though he’s only in his third season with the Steelers, Mitchell is as prideful as they come in regards to upholding the Steelers defense’s reputation and standards. So while getting beat is one thing – getting beat by way of the other team out-physicalling you? It had to pain Mitchell to admit that (and he did so no fewer than four times Thursday).

 

 

 

 

“I don’t really know that it’s something you admit; you just have to watch the tape,” Mitchell said. “I’m a big guy that the tape tells a story – and if you watched it, you know. Any time (the opponent) runs for more than 200 yards, you weren’t more physical than them, that’s for sure.”

 

 

 

 

Led by Jay Ajayi’s 204 yards, the Dolphins rushed for 222 yards in a 30-15 win for Miami on Oct. 16. That’s the most the Steelers allowed this season during a game in which all their starters played (in other words, any game except last week’s meaningless finale against Cleveland) by a wide margin. The 140 yards New England put up the following week is the second-most against the Steelers this season.

 

 

Only three times since Mitchell arrived in 2014 has an opponent rushed for even within 50 yards of the 222 the Dolphins put up 12 weeks ago.

 

 

We’re not the same team we were back then – I don’t think they are either – but we spent the early parts of this week and since that game correcting those issues and trying to get those corralled in,” Mitchell said. “But that being said, it’s a very physical football team; they’re going to come in and try to play exactly the same way they played in the first game. And we have to try to answer accordingly.”

 

 

Does the memory of that game mean the Steelers’ defense is compelled to declare that it won’t happen again like that this time?

 

 

“It needs to be,” Mitchell said. “But everything we say is irrelevant – it’s about what we do on Sunday.”

 

 

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January 4, 2017
by Chris Adamski


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Adamski: Artie Burns – created by God – believes he can, in fact, cover Jarvis Landry

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NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Miami Dolphins

Jarvis Landry — shown here making a catch in front of Artie Burns — on if there’s a DB who can stop him: “I have not found one yet and probably never will find one in my career.” (Photo courtesy USA Today)

 

 

 

SOUTH SIDE – On the seventh day, God rested. The NFL, however, plays on Sundays. So Jarvis Landry wonders why God didn’t spend at least part of that day creating the world’s perfect cornerback.

 

 

Because if He did, according Landry, someone – finally – might be able to cover him.

 

 

Landry is the leading receiver for the Miami Dolphins, who of course are in Pittsburgh this Sunday to play the Steelers in an AFC wild-card game.

 

 

Last week, The Ringer’s Kevin Clark asked Landry what defensive back can stop him. Landry replied, “I have not found one yet and probably never will find one in my career.”

 

 

This exchange ensued:

 

Why?

“God hasn’t made one. He can’t and he won’t.”

There must be someone, right? Seattle’s Richard Sherman?

“One-on-one? No.”

Arizona’s Patrick Peterson?

“No.”

New England’s Malcolm Butler?

“No.”

Kansas City’s Marcus Peters?

“No.”

He volunteers a name:

“Deion Sanders? No.”

 

 

The Steelers’ Ross Cockrell and Artie Burns weren’t even under consideration, of course – which is understandable considering the duo combines for just 32 career starts. And Landry also had a good-but-not-remarkable day when he faced the Steelers in South Florida on Oct. 16: In only three games this season did Jarvis Landry have more catches than he had against the Steelers (seven). In only four games did he attain more yardage (91).

 

 

Burns was asked Wednesday morning what he thought about Landry’s comments:

“I mean, that’s his opinion, that’s his motto, that’s the way he thinks. Every man has to have a high opinion of themselves and has got to boost their confidence and stuff like that, you know? That’s just the way thinks.

“I don’t know him on a personal level – I’ve seen him play, I respect his game and he’s a real good receiver.”

 

 

Burns was asked if he has the same “no-one-can-beat-me” mentality as a cornerback:

“Most definitely. That’s the nature of ‘ball; you gotta have that ego about yourself. You can’t just go out there and be like, ‘Oh this guy is real good – he might beat me,’ or something like that.”

 

 

Burns was not a starter for that 30-15 loss to the Dolphins; he became one two weeks later. Now, he rarely leaves the field for the Steelers’ defense. Safe to say, we’l learn Sunday whether Burns is an earthly human being capable of limiting Landry.

 

 

(Then again, no confirmation is available on the carbon-based life flesh-and-blood composition of the DB’s for the Jets or 49ers, who this season during games held Landry to 33 and 28 receiving yards, respectively).

 

 

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December 29, 2016
by Chris Adamski


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Adamski: Another Browns season finale? Reliving the, um, classic QBs from ones of the recent past

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BG

Impress your friends by identifying each of the six less-than-heralded QBs who have started for the Browns in season finales against Mike Tomlin Steelers teams! (AP photos) (Answers, clockwise from above: Bruce Gradkowski, Austin Davis, Jason Campbell, Seneca Wallace, :::Inserted Robert Griffin II/Cody Kessler photo for the Jan. 1, 2017 game:::, Colt McCoy, Thaddeus Lewis).

AD JC TL SW CM

CKRG3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If it’s the final game of the regular season for the Steelers of recent vintage, it must be Cleveland on the other side.

 

And the Browns must be starting a journeyman quarterback.

 

For the seventh time in Mike Tomlin’s 10-year tenure, the Steelers will end their regular season with a game against the Browns. Considering Cleveland is 38-105 since Tomlin’s first season-ending meeting with the Browns in 2008, it should come as no surprise that these Cleveland teams facing the Steelers haven’t been of the best quality (.278 average winning percentage).

 

Tomlin’s Steelers have won all six of  these prior meetings, outscoring the Browns 157-47 (average of 26.2-7.8).

 

But with the Browns always having been eliminated (of course), that’s helped contribute – along with some other unfortunate factors – to some less-than-heralded quarterbacks lining up to face the Steelers in these late December/early January, er, showdowns.

 

Of the seven prior Browns quarterbacks to start against the Steelers in season finales, three had fewer than 10 career starts heading into the game (including one making his NFL debut), three had their FINAL game they started and finished in the NFL and another was making his first start in more than two years.

 

In other words, the Steelers haven’t traditionally been facing the Browns *starters* in these games. (Insert punchline here about that being a good thing in light of their starters in this time period being the likes of Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden and Johnny Manziel).

 

The six men who have started for the Browns at QB in Week 17 against Mike Tomlin’s Steelers have combined to post a passer rating of 50.6 in these games, ranging from the relatively-impressive 83.3 by the immortal Thaddeus Lewis in his NFL debut Dec. 30, 2012 — to the 1.0 rating that poor future Steeler (and Seton-LaSalle alum) Bruce Gradkowski put up in a 31-0 loss on Dec. 28, 2008.

 

 

Season Result              Browns QB      Stats (com-att, yds, TD-INT (rtg)         Cle QB history

2008    31-0 Pit W       Bruce Gradkowski       5- 16, 18 yds, 0-2 (1.0)            1st start in 2+ years

2010    41-9 Pit W       Colt McCoy                 20- 41, 241 yds, 1-3 (71.2)      8th career start

2011    13-9 Pit W       Seneca Wallace          16- 41, 177 yds, 0-1 (42.4)      Final start he finished

2012    24-10 Pit W     Thaddeus Lewis           22- 32, 204 yds, 1-1 (83.3)      1st career NFL game

2013    20-7 Pit W       Jason Campbell           23- 41, 240 yds, 1-1 (71.2)      Final NFL start

2015    28-12 Pit W     Austin Davis                24- 46, 240 yds, 0-2 (49.2)      10th start, final game

2016    ??

TOTALS            PIT 6-0, 157-47 score              110-for-217 (50.7 %), 1,088 yards, 3 TDs, 10 INTs

 

 

 

This year, we get the added bonus of adding Landry Jones to this list of QBs who have started in this season-finale series – albeit, him for the Steelers.

 

Enjoy the game Sunday. And Happy New Year.

 

 

 

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December 22, 2016
by Chris Adamski


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Adamski – Mike Wallace: Brown, Sanders and I “would be the best” WR corps in NFL now

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Young Money

They spent three seasons together. They’ve combined for more than 20,000 career receiving yards.

 

 

MY LIVING ROOM – It was 2009 all over again for Mike Wallace.

 

He might be fresh into his 30s, he might even (barely/reluctantly/but-not-really) acknowledge he’s not as fast as he once was. But when Wallace joined a conference call early Wednesday afternoon, he was a rookie 23-year-old all over again: boastful, charismatic, gregarious and full of confidence in speaking with Pittsburgh media.

 

It’s been almost four years since Wallace last wore a Steelers uniform. But he hasn’t lost his playful cockiness.

 

“If you watch me, I still run away from anybody,” Wallace said when someone suggested he wasn’t as fast as he was in his Pittsburgh days. “I’m still a world-class sprinter. I might have lost half a step – but that’s still a step faster than anyone else.”

 

Wallace is on his third team in four seasons since he was allowed to walk as a free agent when the Steelers refused to acquiesce to his contract demands – and instead gave that money to a younger precocious receiver that you might have heard of.

 

Anyway… speaking of Antonio Brown… Wallace and he were not only once teammates – they had a “third wheel” of sorts in Emmanuel Sanders. Wallace was a Steelers’ third round pick in 2009, and the following year the team took Sanders in Round 3 and Brown in Round 6. How many teams over the past, oh, quarter-century or so, assembled a trio that good over a span of two drafts – let alone without using a first- or second-round pick to do so?

 

In their younger days, Wallace, Brown and Sanders called themselves “The Young Money Crew” (with Hines Ward the supplementary “Old Money”). Wallace was asked Wednesday how that trio would be regarded among NFL receiving corps if they’d stayed on the same team together for all these years.

 

“We would be the best,” Wallace said (because of course). “We would be the best. We wouldn’t be ‘Young Money’ anymore; we’d be ‘New Money.’”

 

It’s quite the hypothetical because no way the Steelers (or, likely, ANY team) would have paid all three on second, lucrative contracts (for example, the combined guarantees in the three’s respective biggest contracts – so far – is more than $65 million). Plus, there’s the ego factor – one of them would have been relegated to a No. 3 role.

 

But just for fun, imagine a team with all three. They’ve combined for 1,516 catches for 21,126 yards and 133 receiving touchdowns – and that doesn’t even counting rushing (Wallace has 237 yards), playoffs (Sanders has 36 catches in eight postseason games) or punt/kickoff returns (Brown has almost 3,000 yards and five touchdowns returning).

 

Sunday, Brown’s Steelers face Wallace’s Ravens with the AFC North title largely at stake. (Sanders is in his third season with Denver).

 

“New Money” all over again.

 

 

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December 12, 2016
by Chris Adamski


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Adamski: “These guys are busting their butts” – Steelers undermanned DL getting job done

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Stephon Tuitt was as happy and fired up after Sunday’s game as he was during it. (AP photo)

 

 

 

NORTHEAST AMERICA’S SNOW BELT – Amongst the bustle of a jovial visitor’s locker room at New Era Field late Sunday afternoon, Cameron Heyward took a moment to bask in the glow of a victory.

 

“Very proud,” Heyward said, beaming, when asked what he thought of the performance of the shorthanded and undermanned Steelers defensive line that he’s been relegated into being a well-paid cheerleader and virtual assistant coach for.

 

“What they did out there, every play, I just thought they had a good rotation with the guys they did have,” Heyward said of the four men who handled the entirety of Sunday’s win against the Bills. “And you appreciate it. It speaks to their level of conditioning.”

 

It speaks to that – and so much more. Playing a run-first team, in a snow-storm, without two of its starters and down, in total resources, a third of its manpower from just a few weeks ago, the Steelers’ defensive line had one of its best outings of the season.

 

Heyward, of course, was ruled out for the season a month ago because of a pectoral injury. This week, Javon Hargrave was unavailable because he remains in the NFL’s concussion protocol.

 

That left just four men — with standout Stephon Tuitt the last starter standing – to go against the league’s No. 1 rushing attack Sunday. In addition to Tuitt were veteran journeyman Ricardo Mathews, second-year sixth-round pick L.T. Walton and backup nose tackle “Big” Dan McCullers to handle all 52 defensive snaps Buffalo’s offense took.

 

The results? LeSean McCoy averaged just 2.3 yards per carry after entering the game at 5.5. Tyrod Taylor was sacked five times and hit on eight occasions. The Bills were limited to 275 yards.

 

“I’m so impressed with our defensive line, it’s crazy,” Tuitt said. “We had Cam who went down, and to have these guys to come up and show up and play hard, man, you can’t do it by yourself. When you’ve got a defensive line that cares and does everything it’s supposed to and works hard, you can only get better.”

 

Tuitt, just 23 and in his third season, has taken over the mantle of the Steelers’ defensive line’s on-field leader. He played every snap Sunday.

 

Typically, the Steelers (like most NFL and college teams) rely on a rotation of bodies on the defensive line to keep players fresh. The Steelers regularly have five defensive linemen in uniform on gamedays, and sometimes even six.

 

Not Sunday. Not in the snow and not against McCoy and the Bills’ above-average offensive line. The Steelers only had Mathews (largely phased out of the defense at midseason), McCullers (one career start prior to Sunday) and Walton (79 career defensive snaps prior to Sunday) to supplement Tuitt.

 

The proverbial “division of labor” was simple: McCullers and Walton at nose and end, respectively, when the Steelers were in “base” defense (when the Bills showed “run” or “bigger” personnel). Mathews opposite Tuitt in the nickel (in mostly pass-heavy situations).

 

It worked.

 

“These guys are busting their butts,” Tuitt said. “It doesn’t matter if none of us get any media attention or not – it’s just in general we are doing what we are supposed to do with our details.

 

“We love each other and will continue to fight for each other across the game.

 

“Big Dan, LT, Ricardo Mathews, when Javon get back – just in general, those guys including myself we are leaning getting better week in and week out – and this is the best time to get better in December football when we have a chance to get a playoff spot and if we do what we’re supposed to do, we’ll get in the playoffs and make a lot of noise.”

 

If the Steelers indeed do get into the playoffs and make a lot of noise when they do, the play of the sans-Heyward defensive line will likely be a reason why.

 

 

 

 

 

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December 5, 2016
by Chris Adamski


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Adamski: Bell piles up yards, AB/Ben tie Terry/Lynn, snap counts, MORE!

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Bell

Mike Tomlin seems to be riding Le’Veon Bell until his wheels fall off? (Tribune-Review photos from Chaz Palla and Chris Horner)

 

 

 

From the proverbial cutting room floor of a writer who unleashes his own form of, um, heck in December….

 

 

**Another 100 for Bell**

Le’Veon Bell continues to pile up yardage.

 

He had 118 rushing yards on 29 carries, meaning he eclipsed 100 rushing yards for the three consecutive games for the first time in his career.

 

Bell – who had 146 and 120 yards, respectively, in wins at Cleveland and Indianapolis late last month – added six catches for 64 yards to give him 1,318 yards from scrimmage in nine games this season.

 

Despite missing the first three games of the season because of suspension, Bell is fifth in the NFL in yards from scrimmage (he’s first in yards per game at 146.4). Incidentally, he’s also 10th in the AFC in receptions – despite playing only nine games and despite, of course, being a RUNNING back.

 

Bell’s three-game 100-yard rushing streak is the first for a Steeler since Willie Parker had four consecutive such games in 2006-07.

 

 

**Safety dance**

For the first time in more than 25 months, the Steelers were credited with a safety.

 

Twelve minutes into the game, Giants tackle Ereck Flowers was flagged for holding James Harrison in the end zone. By rule, the infraction automatically awarded the Steelers two points, accounting for their first safety since an Oct. 26, 2014 home win against Indianapolis.

 

 

**Brown/Ben tie Terry/Lynn**

All 49 of Antonio Brown’s touchdown catches have come off passes from Ben Roethlisberger. That ties the Terry Bradshaw-Lynn Swann duo for the most by a quarterback/receiver combination in Steelers’ history.AB

 

Brown has six touchdowns in his past five games and now has his second-most in a season with 11. Brown had 13 receiving touchdowns in 2014.

 

Brown is still in search of his first return touchdown of 2016 (he’s had 10 punt returns in addition to his first kickoff return since 2013). Brown had one punt return touchdown in each of the prior three seasons and has had at least one special-teams return TD in five of the six seasons he’s played.

 

 

**Grimble healthy but inactive**

In addition to kicker Chris Boswell, also inactive for the Steelers were quarterback Zach Mettenberger, running backs DeAngelo Williams (knee) and Daryl Richardson, tackle Brian Mihalik, tight end Xavier Grimble and wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (foot).

 

It was the first healthy scratch for Grimble this season; he’d missed the previous two game because of a quadriceps injury but was given a green light to play after practicing fully all last week.

 

 

**OLB rotation**

James Harrison and Anthony Chickillo were on the field for the Steelers’ first defensive snap Sunday. Bud Dupree  played the second series across from Harrison.
Jarvis Jones and Arthur Moats? They were fighting for scraps.

 

During the second quarter, Moats became the fourth outside linebacker to play for the Steelers. It wasn’t until after halftime that the Steelers’ first-round pick outside linebacker from 3 ½ years ago,  Jones, was given playing time on defense.

 

 

Rather than re-type these in paragraph form, I’ll take the easy way out and just copy-and-paste my tweets on the OLB snap counts and all other things playing time…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also from Sunday:

 

Joe Rutter’s game story: The Steelers opened December with the kind of signature win that could make them a force to be reckoned with in January

 

Kevin Gorman’s column: ‘Old guys’ Harrison and Timmons lead Steelers defense’s resurgence

 

My piece of Ladarius Green’s emergence into the offense

 

The notes that did NOT get cut, from myself and Trib Executive Sports Editor Kevin Smith

 

The Gameday Grades for the Steelers in the win

 

 

 

Remember to check out PghTrib.com!

 

 

Have a good day.

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December 1, 2016
by Chris Adamski


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Adamski: Rookie WR Ayers getting 1st-team reps, returning punts in practice

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Ayers

Demarcus Ayers, shown here during training camp, which for him was hindered by an ankle injury. (Chaz Palla/Tribune-Review photo)

 

 

When DeMarcus Ayers had what he called “a high and low ankle sprain” during the second week of his inaugural NFL training camp, the Steelers could have placed him on season-ending injured reserve.

 

 

Worst yet, the team could have released him via an injury settlement.

 

 

But, in a sign both of the faith the team had in him and in the rookie’s perseverance, Ayers toughed it out throughout the preseason, was placed on the practice squad and – slowly throughout the past three months – gradually worked himself back to full health.

 

 

Is he, at long last, about to be rewarded for it?

 

 

“Hopefully, I’m active this week and I get the opportunity to go out there,” Ayers said after Wednesday’s practice. “Whether it’s blocking or returning punts, whatever they need me to do, I’ll be up to the task.”

 

 

As colleague Joe Rutter reported, Ayers has been getting reps in practice with the first-team offense this week and has been told by coaches to prepare for a promotion to the 53-man roster. Wednesday, Ayers was in star Antonio Brown’s usual (split end) spot. But on days in which  Brown was not being given a “Veteran’s Day Off ,” Ayers had been practicing mostly at the other two WR spots – at least, when he wasn’t on scout team, which was most of the time.

 

Not this week. As the injuries have piled up to the Steelers’ receiving corps all season long, Ayers has finally worked his way into what could be a contributing role.

 

Of the five wide receivers on the Steelers’ 53-man roster at the moment, one is out with an injury for what appears to be (at very least) a few more weeks (Darrius Heyward-Bey, who’s still getting around gingerly) and another might not get back to 100 percent health all season (Sammie Coates and his broken fingers). That leaves just Brown, first-year Eli Rogers and journeyman Cobi Hamilton at wideout.

 

Screenshot_2016-11-30-23-31-38-1

Ayers (5-9, 182), who was extremely productive in college at Houston (98 catches for 1,222 yards last season), might be on the verge of getting his shot.

 

Screenshot_2016-11-30-23-31-58-1

Ayers statistics in college at Houston on offense (above) and on special teams. (Courtesy www.sports-reference.com)

“In the meetings all year, they have just been telling me, ‘Hey we will need you at some point,’” Ayers said. “I have been growing every week and it’s been impressive to see and I actually feel good about getting better, and just keep getting better.

 

“And to get a chance to go with Ben helps me understand how he goes through his calls on the field and in game situations. The pace is also good for me, so when I get out there practice will be much harder than the game. So it’s good to get good feedback from him and all the other guys.”

 

Where Ayers’ immediate impact could potentially be most felt perhaps is as a returner. He was a two-time All-AAC return man. Ayers said he has been returning punts in practice recently, and he’s been part of kickoff return teams with the Steelers in practice too.

 

But it wasn’t until this week that Ayers was given work on offense commensurate with a player who has the apparent look of one who could make his NFL regular-season debut. “A great feeling,” Ayers said.

 

“These guys are starting to trust me, and I’m learning the playbook more and more and starting to get a lot of reps now. So whenever my number is called I will be ready.”

 

We probably won’t find out Ayers is promoted until Saturday afternoon. To make room, maybe Heyward-Bey goes to IR, maybe RB Daryl Richardson or CB Al-Hajj Shabazz is sent back down to the practice squad, maybe L.J. Fort is released. Ayers insists, if a move is made, he won’t know until after the final practice of the week at the earliest.

 

“Normally, the way they do stuff around here we find out later in the week,” Ayers said. “But it’s always a good sign when you’re running with the ‘1’s,’ because a lot of the guys who have stepped into those roles throughout their week have normally got rewarded. It’s kind of like an interview to see if you’re prepared for the week, and then Saturday when we come in … we’re kind of told what’s going on.”

 

The Sunday roster must be set by 4 p.m. Saturday.

 

 

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