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January 4, 2015
by Mark Kaboly


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Kaboly: Mitchell said he’s going go for the knees from now on

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Mike Mitchell is going to go for the knees from here on out.

Mitchell was penalized for unnecessary roughness on Baltimore receiver Jacoby Jones late in the first quarter of Saturday’s 30-17 AFC wild-card loss for hitting him in the head with his helmet.

Mitchell was not happy with the call.

“I don’t know what they want us to do, man,” Mitchell said. “I am going to hit every single guy in the knee from here on out. I am getting tired of it. It’s ridiculous. You can’t change where you are aiming on a guy once you shot your shot. If you look at that play, the dude is trying to go down as the ball is coming. I can’t re-aim my body. This is full speed, tackle football. I will hit everybody in the knee from here on out to avoid that.”

The penalty helped Baltimore score its first touchdown of the game – a 5-yard touchdown run by Bernard Pierce.

 

 

 

 

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January 2, 2015
by Mark Kaboly


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Kaboly: Heinz Field, defensive touchdowns, special teams touchdowns … OH MY!

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07 - 2008 AFC - Ravens @ SteelersHeinz Field will play host to its 11th playoff game in its existence on Saturday when the Steelers host the Ravens in an AFC wild-card game.

Sure, the Steelers are 7-3 in those games, including 3-0 against the Ravens, but there is a trend with playoff games at Heinz Field that is impossible to ignore.

In all 10 playoff games played at Heinz Field, there has been either a defensive touchdown or a special teams touchdown scored.

Yes, 10 games and every single one had one. Even two games had two.

Now, there is no correlation between that and winning and losing, but it is quite an amazing fact.

Here’s the proof:

2001 – AFC divisional against the Ravens – Jermaine Lewis returned a punt 88 yards for a touchdown.

2001 – AFC championship against the Patriots – Troy Brown returned a punt 55 yards and Antwan Harris returned a blocked field goal from 49 yards out.

2002 – AFC wild card against the Browns – Antwaan Randle El returned a punt 66 yards for a score.

2004 – AFC divisional against the Jets – Santana Moss went 75 yards with a punt and Reggie Tongue picked off Ben Roethlisberger and returned it 86 yards.

2004 – AFC championship against the Patriots – Rodney Harrison returned an interception 87 yards for a game-clinching touchdown.

2007 – AFC wildcard against the Jaguars – Rashean Mathis took back an interception 63 yards for a score.

2008 – AFC divisional against the Chargers – Santonio Holmes returned a punt 67 yards for a touchdown.

2008 – AFC championship against the Ravens – Troy Polamalu sealed a trip to Super Bowl XLIII with a late 40-yard interception return.

2010 – AFC divisional against the Ravens – Corey Redding returned a first-half fumble 13 yards.

2010 – AFC championship against the Jets – William Gay scooped up a fumble and scored for 19 yards away.

 

* While you are at it, take a listen to Friday’s podcast of the Steelers Roundtable featuring Mark Kaboly, Ralph Paulk and Chris Adamski.

 

 

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December 18, 2014
by Mark Kaboly


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Kaboly: Steelers Roundtable Podcast now available

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The Steelers Roundtable on TribLive Radio featuring Mark Kaboly, Ralph Paulk and Chris Adamski is now available on podcast.

This week’s episode,we take a look back at last week’s 27-20 win over Atlanta and push it forward to Sunday’s important home game against Kansas City.

Topics include:

  • Who is the Steelers team MVP?
  • How good is this offense?
  • Are the playoffs a certainty now?
  • Arrows up, arrows down.

Take a listen. Everybody else is.

The Steelers Roundtable is the most downloaded podcast in TribLive Radio history.

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December 3, 2014
by Mark Kaboly


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Kaboly: Roethlisberger says ‘something is wrong with you’ if you need motivation

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Ben RoethlisbergerBen Roethlisberger stood in the middle of the locker room and said that the Steelers had to win their final five games.

That was last week.

And that was before the Steelers lost to the Saints to fall ever further behind the first-place Bengals.

This week isn’t a must-win either (mathematically), but it sure would help separate the Steelers from the other six teams fighting for the last wild card spot with 7-5 records.

“It’s all about us now and the mentality,” Roethlisberger said.

Historically, the Steelers have played well when they have had their backs against the wall, but Roethlisberger isn’t about to say that the gravity of the situation will make them play better Sunday in Cincinnati.

“I think if you need something like that to pump you up knowing that you have four games left in your season and that you control destiny and it’s a division opponent something is wrong with you,” Roethlisberger said. “I’ve been here a long time and so it’s easy for me to know what this game means and what this part of the season means. We’ll keep an eye on the young guys and make sure that they understand the importance of it as well.”

The Steelers found themselves in a similar situation during Roethlisberger’s second year. The Steelers lost a home game to fall to 7-5 and needed to win out to make the playoffs.

The Steelers proceeded to beat Chicago, Minnesota, Cleveland and Detroit before rolling through playoffs to win the Super Bowl as a No. 6 seed.

Is there another possible run like that in the works?

“We haven’t made a run yet so we’ll see what happens,” Roethlisberger said. “We just have to come out and play good football.”

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November 13, 2014
by Mark Kaboly


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Kaboly: View From the Sidelines — Q&A with C.J. Goodwin

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CHThis is the second in a series of “5 Questions” with guys on the Steelers roster that are either on the practice squad, injured reserve or who haven’t contributed much in the way of on-the-field play this year.

This installment: Practice squad wide receiver C.J. Goodwin (6-3, 190).

Everybody remembers in the spring when Steelers Hall of Fame cornerback Mel Blount put a call into general manager Kevin Colbert to see if he would take a look at a young and raw receiver who barely played (11 receptions) his senior year at Division II California (Pa.).

Colbert obliged and a few days later, the Steelers signed Goodwin to the 90-man off-season roster. Although Goodwin was cut during training camp, he was able to catch on with the Steelers 10-man practice squad.

 

Question #1: How beneficial has it been for you to be able to spend a year with an organization on the practice squad compared to working out on your own?

“Everybody has been very helpful – the older guys, the vets have been helpful. They give you anything you need. I have been able to learn whatever I have needed to learn. Playing against the ones just makes you a much better player.”

 

Question #2: What do you try to get accomplished during a practice week? Do you try to get the starters a good look or try to work on your game?

“First and foremost, I try to give them a good look. Secondly, I am trying to get better as a football player and a wide receiver. Coach Tomlin tells us all the time to go hard and tell us to improve. That’s my job and what I am going to do.”

 

Question #3: You really haven’t played much football, how much improvement have you been able to make over the past couple months?

“We will see when the offseason comes. We will see next season how good I got and see if I can stay around. If you know my story, I am just happy to be here. Of course, you want to get better and want to be on the field but I understand what is going on.”

 

Question #4: Do you feel that you showed enough during your time here that they will ask you back next year?

“They say that I am very raw. They say that I am athletic. But I don’t want that to be my story. I want to be good. I want to be great. I like the story of what Mel Blount did for me, it’s a good story. I appreciate what he did for me but I want to be a good player other than a raw athlete that got help from Mel Blount. This offseason is huge for me. I have to make it through this first, but the offseason is huge. I can’t wait for that just to see how much better I can get.”

 

Question #5: You ever look out there on the field and soak it in and say wow, I am on the same football field as Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown especially knowing where you came from?

“When I first got here I was. Ben talks to me and everybody is just so cool with me. They are accepting.”

 

TRIBLIVE RADIO STEELERS PODCASTS

MARK KABOLY SHOW (Monday’s from 2-3 p.m.)

STEELERS ROUNDTABLE with Alan Robinson, Ralph Paulk and Mark Kaboly (Thursday’s from 9-10 a.m.)

 

 

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November 12, 2014
by Mark Kaboly


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Kaboly: View From the Sidelines — Q&A with Bruce Gradkowski

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GradkowskiThis is the first in a series of “5 Questions” with players on the Steelers roster that are either on the practice squad, injured reserve or who haven’t contributed much in the way of on-the-field play this year.

This installment: Backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski.

Gradkowski has yet to take a regular-season snap with the Steelers since he signed before the start of the 2013 season. After starting 20 games over the first five years of his career, Gradkowski has come to understand the backup role. He started 11 games in his 2006 rookie season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and then eight in a two-season span with the Oakland Raiders from 2009-10.

Gradkowski has not gained much experience the past three seasons. He played in four games with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2011 and 2012 before signing with the Steelers last year.

Gradkowski, the local product of out Seton-LaSalle, has to be ready at a drop of a hat to perform at a high level.

 

Question #1: What do you do on a weekly basis to prepare to play? Even though Ben Roethlisberger hasn’t missed a snap since you got here, you need to be ready at a moment’s notice?

“Being a backup is always tough. You have to mentally try to prepare yourself and nothing is better than getting reps. If you are the starter, you are getting all the reps – that’s how this game works. No matter what position you are, you need all the reps going into the week. I continue to try to be ready and do whatever I can to help this team win now and prepare our defense and prepare the young guys and help them out with things and continue to support Ben. I think he is doing a great job. I have to be physically and mentally prepared if my time comes. When you don’t get all the reps in practice you have to study the plays even more.”

 

Question #2:  How much are you helping in the quarterback room pointing out things to Ben and suggest things. Is there a lot of back-and-forth in the room with you and the other quarterbacks.

“We have a lot of great, open communication in our room. All of us in there led by Randy (Fichtner), we always communicate and talk over things. It is cool to see. The thing I have been impressed with Ben has been his poise. He always stays even keel whether he is throwing six touchdowns or throwing interceptions, he is always the same guy. It’s a complement to him. He continues to work hard and get the guys ready to play. Anything I can do to help. If I see something then I will try to tell him. The biggest thing I can say is when you are out there on the field you have to trust what you see because you are seeing it through your eyes.”

 

Question #3: During the game, does Ben ever ask you to keep an eye out for something so you can help him?

“There will be different things we talk about on the sidelines that we look out for and communicate about the previous plays. It is constant communication and I think quarterback is hard enough and anytime you can get more help or have more eyes it helps.”

 

Question #4: Charlie Batch pops his head in the locker room from time-to-time. He was one of the best of being ready at a moment’s notice. Have you ever had a chance to pick his brain about being a backup?

“I’ve known Charlie for a while and when I was in Cincinnati, I kind of reached out to him and picked his brain a little bit. Charlie is a true pro. He was ready when he had to be. There was a reason why he played so many years especially keeping his body in shape to play that many years. He is a great guy and it is great when he comes around and stick his hand and say what’s up.”

 

Question #5: What is you theory on why Martavis Bryant has been so successful early in his career?

“He is a gifted athlete. He is a big, strong guy. You continue to get better as a young guy. You are coming in and everything is going so fast and you are trying to learn the offense and trying to get comfortable out there. As the season progresses and he continued to get reps with the scout team, he was able to watch and learn and continue to grow every week. He made plays in practice and gave everybody confidence in giving him a shot in the game. It’s a complement with him. I have been most impressed on how he has handled himself each week. He is knowing what to do and lining up quick and fast. He’s taking it serious and acting like a pro.”

 

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November 6, 2014
by Mark Kaboly


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Kaboly: Steelers WR C.J. Goodwin stunned about Cal U football incident

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CHC.J. Goodwin might have played football at California (Pa.) last year, but the Steelers practice squad receiver refuses to recognize that was the case – especially after what transpired last week just off campus that’s located 35 miles south of the Steelers practice facility.

That’s where six Cal U football players severely beat a man to the point that he suffered life-threatening injuries after police said he stepped in to defend his girlfriend, who is a student at the university, outside a bar.

Goodwin, who played only one semester at Cal, said that he can distance himself from the university since he was there for only a couple months.

“I graduated from Fairmont State so I am going to stick with that,” Goodwin said.

Goodwin played only 11 games and spent around six months at the school. He got on the field sparingly and caught only 11 passes before eventually getting a tryout with the Steelers on the recommendation of Hall of Famer Mel Blount.

Goodwin made the Steelers 90-man offseason roster after the tryout and was able to catch on with the practice squad after being released in August.

Goodwin admitted things got “wild and crazy” at Cal when he was there because “there was nothing to do up there.”

“But geez, we never did anything like that,” Goodwin said. “That’s just not right. That’s ridiculous. I am actually glad that they cancelled that game.”

Cal decided to forfeit last week’s home game against Gannon despite being ranked 19th by D2Football.com. Cal will resume play Saturday at Mercyhurst.

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October 30, 2014
by Alan Robinson


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Robinson: Steelers’ 2nd Half Projections … and More

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Here’s a link to the latest Steelers Roundtable podcast with Alan Robinson, Ralph N. Paulk and Mark Kaboly.

Lots of inside the locker room talk, including:

— What the offensive linemen are saying about Big Ben’s big game?

— What should you expect in the Ravens-Steelers game Sunday?

— What are the surprises and disappointments of the Steelers season to date, and how will the AFC North race shake out over the second half of the season?

— Should Mike Adams remain the starter at right tackle Sunday, or should Marcus Gilbert go right back in after being out a week with a concussion?

— Who gets Mike Tomlin’s “arrow up” and “arrow down” for the week?

 

 

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October 29, 2014
by Mark Kaboly


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Kaboly: The fall of Cortez Allen continues

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(Chaz Palla/Tribune-Review)

(Chaz Palla/Tribune-Review)

Cortez Allen was benched once.

Now, it appears that the $26 million man is being benched again – this time for real.

Allen went from an owner of a new multi-million dollar contract the day before the start of the season to being pushed out of his starting position by Brice McCain and now to the bench by Antwon Blake.

Let that sink in for a minute – Cortez Allen lost his starting job to Brice McCain and now forced to the bench by Antwon Blake.

It hasn’t been a particularly good couple months for what the Steelers thought was their shutdown cornerback of the future.

Allen now will likely be relegated to standing on the sidelines come Sunday against Baltimore. William Gay will start at right corner and Brice McCain at left corner. When the Steelers go to their nickel package, Blake will take McCain’s spot and McCain will move to the slot corner.

“From the looks of things right now that’s how it is going to be,” Blake said following practice on Wednesday. “Things change during the week so we see how it goes.”

Blake replaced Allen in the nickel on the final series of last week’s game against the Colts. Blake intercepted Colts quarterback Andrew Luck in the end zone late in the fourth quarter for his first career pick.

Mike Tomlin said at the time that he made the switch because he felt it was necessary for them to win the game. Tomlin also has maintained his confidence in Allen, but knows that Allen’s recent play has forced an alternative plan to be put into action.

Allen has allowed 34 receptions and NFL-high five touchdowns including two last week against the Colts. He’s been called for a league-high nine penalties as well.

“He’s just got to fight through it,” Ike Taylor said. “That’s the life of a cornerback. Everybody goes through it. I went through it. Deucey (No. 22, William Gay) went through it. Now, he’s going through it. He’s got to fight his way out. Playing corner, we’ve all got the physical attributes. But he’s got to be mentally tough. That’s the only way that you’re going to fight yourself out of that. So, he’s got to show that.”

Taylor was benched by Bill Cowher in 2006 with six regular season games remaining. He eventually got his starting job back for the season finale against Cincinnati.

“He’s got to show, week in and week out, practice after practice,” Taylor said. “What I always tell my guys at corner is that you’ve got to be honest with yourself. There is no gray area when you play corner. Either you’re getting the job done or you’re not. So, once you establish that, everything else comes easy.”

Until then, it’s Blake’s chance, and it couldn’t come at a more critical and difficult time. The Steelers play the Ravens on Sunday, who feature receivers Torrey Smith and Steve Smith Sr.

“We are going to basically stay on our sides,” Blake said. “Whoever comes to my side is who I am going to get. I am going to have to bring everything out of the toolbox and be very technical this game. Anytime you get your number called you want to make a play for your team. You thank God you are put in position to do so.”

And as always, check out the Kaboly Show Podcast. Great Steelers talk …

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October 23, 2014
by Mark Kaboly


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Kaboly: Polamalu disappointed that it’s not going to be a family affair now

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(Chaz Palla -- Tribune-Review)

(Chaz Palla — Tribune-Review)

If you know anything about Troy Polamalu, you know family matters.

It matters more than football.

However, for the first time in his professional career, Polamalu was going to finally have the best of both worlds – football and family – when the Steelers play Indianapolis on Sunday at Heinz Field.

That’s because Polamalu was going to get a chance to compete against family.

Polamalu’s brother-in-law, Khaled Holmes, is a center for the Colts.

“It would’ve been weird,” Polamalu said. “It would’ve been exciting and fun though. He just told me that it was weird watching me on film.”

Yes, Polamalu said ‘would’ve’ because it’s unlikely to happen now.

Holmes started the season as the Colts’ starting center, but a high ankle sprain during the first series of the preseason opener forced him to the sidelines.

Even though he’s healthy now, Holmes is behind undrafted rookie Jonotthan Harrison and former Steeler and Moon graduate A.Q. Shipley.

Holmes, a fourth-round pick in 2013, has been a game day inactive all seven weeks despite  being looked at as the center of the future for the Colts during the offseason.

“It is disappointing that he lost his starting spot,” Polamalu said. “I was looking forward to it.”

Polamalu is nine years older than Holmes so the two never played against each other before. In fact, when Polamalu first met his wife, Theodora, at USC, Holmes wasn’t even 10 years-old yet.

“It’s crazy because I remember in the offseason going back and taking him to basketball practices when I trained in California,” Polamalu said. “Who knows, maybe it will make room for him coming here one day.”

Polamalu has another brother-in-law, Alex Holmes. Alex Holmes played with Polamalu at USC before having a short stint in the NFL with the Dolphins and Rams.

The two never played against each other professional, either.

 

As always, check out the podcast of the Mark Kaboly Show.

 

And while you are at it, check out the Steelers Roundtable with Alan Robinson,  Ralph Paulk and me.

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