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August 18, 2015
by Mark Kaboly

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Kaboly: Steelers will go for 2 more often this year … I think



It was really a simple question directed to Mike Tomlin by myself following the Jacksonville game.

“Coach,” I said, “obviously, the 2-point attempt was planned. Was that just because you have been working on it so much during camp?”

What I was expecting as a response was something along the lines of “we have put time into it” or “I wanted to see how it works” or something about wanting to be thoughtfully non-rhythmic.

Instead, I got a response, and I am paraphrasing now, “none of your business.”

OK, I wasn’t expecting that.

But after a little thinking, maybe there is a lot in what Tomlin didn’t say to my 2-point conversion question.

To me, I truly believe the Steelers are going to go for 2-points more often than first suspected, and it has nothing to do with Shaun Suisham’s injury or the extra point being moved back.

If you don’t remember, the NFL amended its extra point rule earlier in the year that pushed the ball back 13 yards making the attempt after touchdowns a 33-yard kick instead of 20 yards, which was converted a more than 99 percent last year.

While the numbers doesn’t suggest that there will be much of a difference in conversion percentage with the change in distance (kickers made 32 of 33 field goals from exactly 33-yards out last year), Tomlin appears to be more than contemplating attempting more 2-point conversions.

Tomlin has been quite successful with 2-point conversions over his eight years as Steelers coach. The Steelers are 10 of 13 converting 2-point conversions under Tomlin including converting all four attempts last year.

And if you see how successful the first-team offense has been during training camp while practicing 2-points, I’d consider going for it more often as well.

“You’d have to ask Coach about that,” Darrius Heyward-Bey told me the other day.

I tried, DHB, and Tomlin said he wasn’t going to divulge his “strategy.”

I don’t know, maybe I am reading too much into this, but I don’t think I am.

The Steelers are going to go for 2-points more this year, especially early in games and I am all for it.


As always, check out the Kaboly Show Podcast —–>


August 18, 2015
by Chris Adamski

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Adamski: Cam Thomas much more ‘comfortable’ in Year 2 with Steelers



In a tacit acknowledgment of what was, to put it politely, not the best season of Cam Thomas’ career, the sixth-year defensive lineman couldn’t withhold an uneasy chuckle when asked if 2014 was wrought with frustration.


“It was. Pretty much…. Yeah, it was.”


In the very (VERY) early going of 2015, though, things are looking much better for Thomas, who became a lightning rod for Steelers fans, who themselves were frustrated having watched their long-dominant defense turn into one of the shakiest in the league.


Look, ask Mark Kaboly what he thinks of Pro Football Focus – or at least, of its limitations or of the idea of relying on it as a foolproof, unalienable truth when it comes to evaluating players.


Also, we all recognize it’s only been two preseason games. And roughly half of preseason practice before the real games begin — a laughably early and small sample size.


WITH THAT ALL SAID… Thomas has enjoyed a total reversal of fortune so far from 2014 (his first with the Steelers after four seasons with the Chargers) to 2015. In 2014, Pro Football Focus not only rated him the worst player on the Steelers defense, it also judged him to be the worst qualifying defensive end in the NFL.


Now, through two preseason games, Thomas is not only the highest-rated Steelers defensive player, he’s rated as the NFL’s second-best nose tackle through this (very) early juncture of the preseason.


Beyond PFF — and perhaps more importantly — Thomas is passing the “eye test” in practice: pushing centers into the backfield, rarely appearing to get “beat” for a play.


“It’s been a pretty good so far, but I never try to be too excited with one thing,” Thomas said Monday. “I just try to be consistent with it and keep it going.”


Thomas expounded on why things have gone much more smoothly – so far – in Year 2 with the Steelers.


“Just more understanding of the plays and stuff, a better understanding of what’s going on, an understanding of what’s going on around me and an understanding of what other guys around me are doing to make my job easier,” Thomas said. “Just understanding the whole scheme of things.”


Thomas, who signed a two-year, $4 million contract in 2014 and is set to make $2 million this season, was thought by some to be a prime candidate to be released over the offseason. Conventional wisdom, even as recently as the start of this camp, said that his roster spot was by no means 100 percent secure.


That’s seemingly changed in a big way. Clifton Geathers –  his primary competition as a top backup on the defensive line – was placed on injured reserve Aug. 7. Less-major injuries, at times and to varying degrees, to Steve McLendon, Daniel McCullers and Stephon Tuitt have thrust Thomas into more reps and more game action. His versatility – Thomas can play end or nose tackle – has shined through.


“Basically, (defensive line coach John Mitchell) always says, ‘Be ready – you never know where you might be needed,’” Thomas said. “…I feel real comfortable at both positions. I just know to be ready when your number is called.”


Thomas probably can breathe a little easier that his number will likely be called when the Steelers finalize their 53-man roster in 2 1/2 weeks.



August 13, 2015
by Chris Adamski

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Adamski: ‘They’re going to be some headhunters’ — Steelers teammate on rookie OLBs



After two episodes broadcast from the hillside overlooking Chuck Noll Field at St. Vincent College, the weekly TribLive Radio Steelers Roundtable Show made it back to Pittsburgh this week. It also included all three of myself, Mark Kaboly and Ralph Paulk for the first time this preseason.


Among the myriad of topics covered were Antonio Brown’s agent desiring a new contract, the status of Landry Jones and the other backup quarterbacks, the sudden depth the Steelers possess at cornerback and the present and future composition of the offensive line.


Also mentioned were the youngest players at a position that long has been a prominent one for the Steelers, outside linebacker. The team spent two picks over the first six rounds of the May draft there: Bud Dupree and Anthony Chickillo.


I mentioned that, for being a first-round pick, there is not an intense amount of pressure on Dupree to perform in Year One — the Steelers have depth at the position, and Dupree’s profile suggests he wouldn’t peak for another year or two.


Chickillo received the dreaded “Arrow Down” from Kaboly on this week’s show — not so much because he’s been that bad but because he was the early darling of camp the first week and since has plateaued.


What are the people closest to Dupree and Chickillo — their OLB teammates and position coach — saying about them?



Jarvis Jones: “They’re going to be some headhunters. They’ve got professional type bodies, they’re very smart and Coach Porter is doing a great job of implementing the system to them. And mentally because they got the physical attributes.”


Arthur Moats: “They’re not making any mental errors. They’re definitely working on things and getting better everyday. They’re getting off the ball fast and making sure their games are well-rounded.”


OLB coach Joey Porter: “I don’t put pressure on them because I know what they are – they’re rookies. Now what they did in college  and what we are going to ask you do to here is totally different; it’s going to be greatly different. What you did in college was good, because it was college. But this is you’re playing for your livelihood now; you’re playing for a whole different reason – we’re chasing world championships here. And they’re going to be scrutinized enough by the media to where I don’t have to. They’ll know where they fit by how they play. And they know the legacy (of Steelers’ outside linebackers) they came into. And they know what the job they signed up for is. And the pressure that you guys put on them is going to be enough; I don’t have to add no extra pressure to them. I just try to tell them, ‘Just play football and play it hard.”



Make sure you listen to the Steelers Roundtable (if you haven’t already) by clinking here.


Kaboly is with the team in Jacksonville this weekend. Plenty to watch for in Preseason Game No. 2. Take care for now.




August 6, 2015
by Mark Kaboly

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Kaboly: AB, Boykin and the Candy bar incident


Snickers-brokenAntonio Brown referred to Brandon Boykin as a candy bar.

Brandon Boykin responded with an elbow.

Now, the two are teammates and friends.

The Steelers traded a conditional fifth-round pick for Boykin on Saturday and the two had a good laugh about the candy bar comment of three years ago.

“We were talking about that when we first got here,” Boykin said. “My rookie year he talked to me about that candy bar situation. He said ‘Man, I don’t even remember who told me to say that.’ Somebody was calling me that something like the offensive coordinator. He said I was a little mad about that because I bowed him during the game. Yeah, I had to get him back.”

Rewind to Boykin’s rookie year in 2012 and the Steelers were set to host the Eagles in a Week 5 game. Brown predicted that the Young Money Crew of Brown, Mike Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders were going to take advantage of Boykin so he referred to him as a candy bar.

Boykin allowed only 3 receptions for 39 yards in the game that included just one catch by Brown.

The Steelers won the game, 16-14.

“He is a really cool guy and we already linked up and he’s helping me with my transition,” Boykin said.


August 4, 2015
by Mark Kaboly

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Kaboly: Steelers LB Jarvis Jones puts on some weight

-- Photo by Chaz Palla Jarvis Jones celebrates his sacks against the Giants on Saturday.

— Photo by Chaz Palla
Jarvis Jones celebrates his sacks against the Giants on Saturday.

You can call Steelers linebacker Jarvis Jones a lot of things, but you can’t call him too small anymore.

Jones sheepishly told me on Monday that he us up about 15 pounds from last year to 258 putting him closer to the weight the Steelers typically like to have their outside linebackers.

Jones didn’t want to reveal his increased size because “people will make a big deal of it.”

Jones, the Steelers first-round pick in 2013, has always balked at the idea of needing to add weight citing that he never has been put on his back by a lineman before.

Jones spent a portion of his offseason in Arizona working out with teammates James Harrison, Vince Williams, Sean Spence and others.

The Steelers are counting on Jones to take over the full-time role as right outside linebacker even though Harrison was re-signed in the offseason.

Jones appeared to be well on his way of having a solid second year in the league a season ago. Jones had two sacks in 56 pass rushes and also forced a fumble before dislocating his wrist on possibly his most disruptive play of his career.

Jones sacked Carolina quarterback Cam Newton and forced a fumble early in the third quarter of a 9-3 game. The Steelers turned it into a touchdown and went on to a 37-19 road win.

Jones spent the next 10 weeks on the injured reserve/designated to return list before coming back for a Week 14 game against the Bengals, where he split snaps with Arthur Moats.

After Harrison returned in Week 16, Jones rarely got on the field. Jones played 16 snaps over the final three games to cap a second unproductive season.


August 2, 2015
by Chris Adamski

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Adamski: Who’s an unlikely mentor for first-round pick Dupree?



Le’Veon Bell: AFC’s leading rusher, Steelers’ record-breaking receiver out of the backfield – and 23-year-old well-respected mentor…


…for linebackers?


“I’ve kind of taken him by my side… to make sure he’s taking care of his body,” Bell said Saturday, referring to first-round pick Bud Dupree.


“He’s the kind of guy who’d come around if he’d see me in a cold tub and ask ‘How long you in here?’ I’d tell him 25 minutes or whatever it may be… I remember my rookie year, my guy was Jerricho Cotchery; he was a guy I looked up to. Now it’s my third year in the league, I’m kind of helping the younger guys out a little bit.”


Bell likes to wear his shirt up, exposing his washboard abs. That, and his production (a team record 2,115 yards from scrimmage last season) are proof that if you’re new to the NFL, Bell is someone worth listening to when it comes to fitness and conditioning.


“If he can take care of his body that way and play like he plays, I want to do the same thing,” Dupree said. “He’s someone who knows how important taking care of your body is… He was in the same boat I was in – a heavier guy who had to drop weight (when entering the NFL), too. We had to do the same thing, and the things he does off the field after practice have helped him recover for the next day and helped him become a better player.”


An All Pro player helping out a highly-regarded rookie teammate? Commendable, but not too uncommon in the NFL. But when that “veteran” is not even a year older than the rookie and plays a position that is as disparate as running back is to outside linebacker – a little bit strange, no?


“Not at all in our (Steelers) culture,” coach Mike Tomlin said. “It’s about guys who know what to do helping guys that don’t. And obviously, if you look at Le’Veon from a physical-conditioning standpoint, he knows what to do, so it’s his job to grab younger guys in the system with that, just like guys were assisting him in his effort (when he was a rookie).”


One of the most impressionable lessons that Dupree has taken from Bell is use of the cold tub after workouts to help in body recovery and preservation. It was something Dupree needed to adjust to.


“Sometimes, he’s struggling,” Bell said with a chuckle. “I kind of see him shaking a little.


“But he’s sticking in there, and as a rookie, it’s hard to do that.”


Said Dupree with a smile while referring to the cold tub, “Some things you don’t wanna do. But then after you get done you go ‘Ah, I need to do this more to help myself out in long run.’”



Another chance to listen to the weekly Steelers Roundtable show on TribLive Radio with myself and co-hosts Ken Laird and Mark Kaboly.



And also check out our thrice-daily video updates from training camp at the Trib Sports YouTube page:



July 30, 2015
by Chris Adamski

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Who’s the key to the defense? Whose stock is up/down? LISTEN to TribLive Radio Steelers Roundtable



LATROBE — Over the past 6 1/2 months, the Steelers Roundtable show on TribLive Radio has been (for the most part*) on hiatus. It’s back!


Although it wasn’t the same with Ralph Paulk enjoying a day off back home (he’s missing the best weather day of camp so far at St. Vincent),  Mark Kaboly and I joined host Ken Laird for the first Steelers Roundtable episode of the 2015 season Thursday morning from high atop Chuck Noll Field in Latrobe.


Give it a listen by clicking on this.




And while you’re at it, enjoy the latest Steelers Trib One-Minute Update from camp (check out all the updates via Trib Total Media’s Sports YouTube page):



*-In the spring, we had two episodes previewing and reviewing the draft.



July 28, 2015
by Mark Kaboly

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Kaboly: Who called Antwon Blake a “freakish athlete?”

Antwon Blake (right) Chaz Palla Photo

Antwon Blake (right)
Chaz Palla Photo

Terrell Buckely, Ty Law, Sam Madison, Deion Sanders, Aeneas Williams … and Antwon Blake?

Well, that’s how renowned training guru Tom Shaw sees it.

While appearing on TribLive Radio on Tuesday, Shaw called Blake – the Steelers third cornerback – “probably one of the freakiest athletes that we have had at our facility.”

And that facility – located at the Disney Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando – has seen the likes of 11 Super Bowl MVPs, 10 No. 1 draft picks and 145 first-round picks.

Blake ranks up with all of them, according to Shaw.

“He can do everything you dream of doing on the football field,” Shaw said. “He is that guy. He is going to be a star. He has work ethic and dedication and those are two key opponents. And when you have speed and agility like the way he gets in and out of breaks and move and change direction … he is a freak of nature.”

The Steelers likely feel the same way, too.

They didn’t do much in the offseason to help out the maligned secondary immediately. That might be because of what they think Blake can do.

Blake is currently slotted at left cornerback when the Steelers go to their nickel package. William Gay and Cortez Allen are the starters.

It has been a quick ascent for Blake.

After getting released by the Jaguars in 2013 after playing four snaps as an undrafted rookie free agent, Blake was claimed by the Steelers, where he played four snaps.

Blake finally got his opportunity Week 9 last year against the Colts when he replaced a benched Allen and played in the nickel package the rest of the season.

Blake allowed only one touchdown the entire season and finished with five pass defenses, an interceptions and a key forced fumble and fumble recovery in the season finale against the Bengals.


*Take a listen to the Kaboly Show Podcast on TribLive Radio. It’s just a click away —à



July 28, 2015
by Chris Adamski

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Adamski: Who is/are the Steelers’ defense’s new leaders now that Troy, Ike and Keisel are gone?



A heavy storyline in the early stages of Steelers training camp is the defense – more specifically, “Whose defense is this?”


There’s a new coordinator (Keith Butler in for Dick LeBeau), and three beloved veterans with a combined 37 years of playing experience have also retired since the end of last season. So, without Troy Polamalu, Brett Keisel and Ike Taylor – who combined to account for at least a share of the Steelers’ defensive captaincy over the past three seasons – who will step up now?


It takes a… village?


For my money, there are three primary candidates to be the Steelers’ captain(s) on defense this year. So, let’s just ask them where the leadership will come from…



  • CB William Gay: “I think collectively. It’s not by one person stepping up and being a leader; it’s about the whole team just coming together and being a family, and that’s what we plan on doing. We don’t really care who’s the leader because at the end of the day it’s not about what we say – it’s about what we do… There’s a lot of leaders on the team – we don’t need one player to step up and be the voice of the Steelers. We don’t need to do that, we just need to let our play do the talking.”
  • DE Cameron Heyward: “A lot of guys lead in different ways. It doesn’t fall on one guy’s shoulders. I think that’s the way we like it because we can keep each other accountable and focused on the task at hand.”
  • LB Lawrence Timmons: “We’ve got a lot of guys ready to step in there to do the role… We’re the type of team that we all play our roles – whatever our role, all our guys fulfill that role, and that’s what makes us better as a team… I try to be a leader now that I’m the older guy, trying to set the example for how we play or whatever. But the thing about me, I’ve seen that from the guys who did it in the past, so I know the recipe starting with Coach LeBeau and with Coach Butler now, so I know the winning recipe and I’m just ready to do the job.”



So there you have it. Heyward? Timmons? Gay? James Harrison? Will Allen?? Mike Mitchell?!


There’s no sense trying to figure out who the leader of the Steelers’ defense will be. After all, even when Polamalu, Keisel, Taylor, James Farrior, Aaron Smith, Casey Hampton and Ryan Clark were all still around, they shared the leadership mantle among them. No reason to believe these new Steelers on defense won’t do the same.




July 26, 2015
by Mark Kaboly

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Kaboly: Steelers blitzing team or coverage team? Even the players don’t know


The question on the minds of everybody as the Steelers open up training camp here at St. Vincent College with new defensive coordinator Keith Butler running things is what kind of stamp will he put on the unit.

Butler, who replaced Hall of Famer Dick LeBeau in January, already alluded to having defensive ends Cam Heyward and Stephon Tuitt do more than just occupy blocks. He wants them to make plays. That’s a good first step, that’s for sure.

However, other than that, we all really don’t know what Butler will do to get back to being one of the top-ranked defenses in the NFL – something they haven’t been over the past two years.

When I say nobody, I mean nobody.

“In OTAs, you know what it is like with the installation process,” linebacker Arthur Moats said. “Whatever we install that day we are going to run 100 times. One day, we are like, ‘Oh man, we are a blitzing team.’ The next day it is ‘We are just a coverage team.”

Now that the Steelers are at training camp, that identity will likely come into focus a little more.

“During camp we are going to definitely lock in to what our identity will be,” Moats said.

For Butler, his biggest adjustment is going to be game day plays calls – something he has never done.

What’s he going to dial up on a 3rd-and-5 at midfield? What personnel is he going to use? Will he play more bump coverage? Will he blitz corners and safeties?

Only Butler knows.

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