TribLIVE
Blogs | Sports | News
The Steel Mill

December 15, 2015
by Chris Adamski


No comments yet - you should start the discussion!

Adamski: William Gay’s Steelers interception streak, broken down

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

 

A familiar sight the past 25 months anytime William Gay catches a ball in play.

 

 

As you probably know by now, William Gay set an NFL record for consecutive interceptions returned for a touchdown when he took his fifth back Sunday at Cincinnati. The five interceptions came over a span of 35 games covering parts of three seasons.

 

While Gay refuses to expound upon plays he makes to the media, several teammates gushed over the veteran’s football intelligence and tireless film study in how that aids in creating turnovers.

 

“He’s a guy who studies, he’s a guy who always knows what’s coming and he’s a guy who prepares the right way,” cornerback Brandon Boykin said, “so it’s no surprise that when he  makes the plays they’re big plays that he makes.”

 

Veteran Steelers safety Will Allen noted that Gay often doesn’t get the recognition of being a top cornerback (he’s earning the 72nd-highest salary in the NFL this season among cornerbacks; Pro Football Focus rates him 43rd-best at the position). But yet somehow, year in and year out, Gay never misses a game (in his whole career) and he’s always one of the top three cornerbacks on what have been, typically, some very good defenses.

 

“People don’t rate him high, but if you look at his stats, he don’t give up big plays and he makes his tackles,” Allen said. “And I don’t know one corner in the league that has five straight interceptions for five touchdowns. He’s just a student of the game and he knows when to ‘shoot’ — and he knows when not to.”

 

Gay’s past five interceptions have illustrated that. In preparation for the highly-anticipated (um, maybe) weekly Film Session feature we do, I went back to breakdown all five of Gay’s record-breaking touchdown returns on interceptions. Space meant it didn’t make the paper or main website (frankly, I decided there were more pressing current issues to highlight anyway), so here it is on the blog. An examination of Gay’s past five interceptions shows the diversified ways in which he outsmarts opponents:

 

 

GayCle

(X) At Cleveland on Nov. 24, 2013, Gay was lined up over the slot wide receiver; quarterback Brandon Weeden saw tight end Jordan Cameron running freely across the middle in front of Lawrence Timmons – but Troy Polamalu took Gay’s receiver and Gay jumped the route in front of Cameron for an easy return.

 

 

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Pittsburgh Steelers

(x) Last season at Heinz Field against the Colts, Gay was outside and isolated one-on-one with Hakeem Nicks, showing an eight-yard cushion and baiting Andrew Luck into throwing to Nicks on a comeback route before stepping in front of Nicks for an easy catch-and-run for a score.

 

 

GayTenn

(x) Three weeks later was probably the “pick 6” of the streak most attributable to a less-than-ideal NFL throw (by Tennessee’s Zach Mettenberger) and not-exactly-crisp route-running (by Justin Hunter).

 

 

GayFalcons

(x) The touchdown a year and a day ago at Atlanta was the most athletically impressive return – 52 yards after a leaping catch, weaving in and out of defenders. The cerebral part of the play was, in man-to-man, giving Harry Douglas a cushion of more than 11 yards on the outside and appearing to recognize his route – not buying a move to the outside; seemingly anticipating a cut toward the middle of the field before Douglas had even made his move himself.

 

 

GaySun

(x) That brings us to Sunday, when Gay stayed on the right side of the field in a nickel package while in zone, even as the Bengals shifted six players in different directions across the line. This time, instead of giving a cushion, Gay showed press coverage on A.J. Green – but instead allowed Green to release, fooling young Cincinnati quarterback A.J. McCarron into tossing a bubble screen to Mohamed Sanu. Gay caught the ball in front of Sanu in stride, sprinting into the end zone…

 

…and into the NFL record books.

 

 

 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

December 8, 2015
by Chris Adamski


16 comments so far - add yours!

Adamski: James Harrison, 37, on retirement – ‘I still got another year on my contract’

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

 

(courtesy Trib Total Media's Chaz Palla)

Can Harrison jump into 2016 as an effective player, too?

 

 

James Harrison was in one of those playful moods he’s always in after he has a good game and the Steelers win.

 

The 37-year-old outside linebacker had just had three sacks and a forced fumble – all in the fourth quarter – of a 45-10 victory against Indianapolis that, once again, solidified the Steelers as a dangerous team in the AFC. But did it also help solidify Harrison’s argument that he is the franchise’s all-time greatest pass-rusher?

 

Harrison’s five sacks and two forced fumbles each tie him for the 2015 team’s lead – again, at age 37 and while playing less than half the season’s snaps. His 74 ½ career sacks are 2 ½ off the franchise all-time leader (Jason Gildon), and his 18th multi-sack game moved him into sole possession of first place on the career list. Harrison’s 30 career forced fumbles are second only to Greg Lloyd in Steelers’ history.

 

Harrison also had seven tackles (six solo) Sunday – both ranking second on the team.

 

Harrison might not have turned back the clock to 2008 – when he was the NFL’s defensive player of the year – but he did, in one way, turn it back to 2011 – which was the most recent time he’d had a three-sack game.

 

“That’s James,” said safety Will Allen, who at 33 is the Steelers’ defense’s second oldest player but is a full four years younger than Harrison. “He takes care of his body; his body is his temple and that’s what he does. He invests a lot into it, and he’s sharp above the neck. So he exposed (the Colts’ offensive) line today and got some sacks. That’s who he is.”

 

After the game, Steelers captain Cam Heyward joked that Harrison should buy Colts (backup) left tackle Joe Reitz dinner. Harrison himself joked that he intentionally dropped a late interception so that he would have the chance for his third sack. He also compared the sight of turning the corner on a pass-rush and seeing an unsuspecting quarterback faced the other way and holding the ball out for the taking (as Matt Hasselbeck had on his strip-sack) to “that hot-doughnut light at Krispy Kreme.”

 

But Harrison also had more serious, introspective moments when speaking with the media.

 

“I’m just happy where I’m at and just thankful I got the opportunity to keep playing,” he said at one point – spoken like a man who was essentially forced into retirement after being released twice within a 370-day span in 2013-14.

 

Truthfully, Harrison hasn’t consistently been anywhere near his 2007-11 form, when he was one of the league’s most feared edge rushers – but who, at 37, is (physically) what they were in their late 20’s?

 

And while his 10 ½ sacks in 22 games since coming out of retirement in September 2014 is laudable, the consistency isn’t there in his late 30’s. In only six of those 22 games has he recorded a sack. In five of 11 games this season, he’s had one or fewer overall tackles, and a knee injury caused him to miss the Browns game altogether.

 

Still, on whole, as a situational part-time edge rusher, it’s fair to say Harrison has been worth the $1.25 million the Steelers committed to him for this season via a contract signed March 22.

 

About that contract, for what it’s worth (not much in NFL-contract parlance), it was a TWO-year deal that would pay him a total of $1.5 million in 2016. Still, at the time he signed the deal, most believed 2015 would be the final season for Harrison.

 

But what does Harrison say – especially after one of his best games in a long time?

 

“You know, I still got another year on the contract,” Harrison said. “So we will play this year out; I’m not even thinking about that at this point to be honest with you. I can’t think any further ahead than the next game. We’re right now in a situation where we have to.”

 

 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

December 2, 2015
by Chris Adamski


No comments yet - you should start the discussion!

Adamski: Stephon Tuitt ‘beats’ Richard Sherman deep… What?

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

 

The play didn’t work, and it occurred during a loss. So the Steelers were somewhat hesitant to make light of the failed fake field goal attempt they ran on the first play of the second quarter of Sunday’s game in Seattle.

 

Still, that didn’t mean some players weren’t able to look back on it with a bit of a chuckle.

 

Stephon Tuitt, the 303-pound defensive end who was sent on a “go” route down the sideline during the play, joyfully pointed out that the man covering him was three-time All Pro cornerback Richard Sherman.

 

“Oh yeah, I was open,” Tuitt said after practice Wednesday. “I woulda caught it – I had one of the best DBs on me; I woulda had to…. I had a couple yards, some separation!”

 

Another 300ish-pound defensive end, Cam Heyward, also went out on a deep route as an eligible receiver on the play. Asked whether he was open, Heyward laughed at first, “Uh, yeah.” But then quickly apparently realized he did not want to have too much over a play that might have affected the outcome of a 39-30 loss.

 

“It didn’t work out,” Heyward said, turning serious. “So we move on.”

 

It didn’t work out in the way of a Jeremy Lane interception of a Landry Jones pass intended for offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva. Lane returned it 54 yards to set up the Seahawks’ first touchdown.

 

The fact it was Jones (the backup quarterback) throwing the pass and not regular placekick holder Jordan Berry is part of what the Seahawks said tipped them off it was a fake.

 

So why wasn’t Berry entrusted to execute the pass? Maybe because he’s an Australian who didn’t grow up throwing an American football around and hasn’t done it too much since coming to the U.S.

 

“Yeah I don’t think I could even throw that far – let alone throw it accurately that far,” Berry said. “I did a couple in college, but those were all like 5-yard throws, jump-ball sort of things, nothing special.”

 

Tight end Heath Miller was the only true offensive skill position player who was on a pass route for the play, but Tuitt said it was designed to go to Villanueva, who was on the right side and cleared through as if he was “pulling” but kept going on something of a wheel route to the left side.

 

As far as the fifth eligible receiver on the play? Kicker Chris Boswell. By the time the ball was snapped, he was in position as a sidecar running back. Before clearing out to the side in the flat, Boswell attempted a chip block on 325-pound Ahtyba Rubin.

 

“I don’t know if you’d call it a block,” Boswell deadpanned Wednesday.

 

While some fans are blaming coach Mike Tomlin for calling for the fake, count Tuitt among those who wants to run it again sometime.

 

“I would love to,” he said, “with me being the No. 1 guy (receiving option).”

 

 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

November 27, 2015
by Chris Adamski


No comments yet - you should start the discussion!

Adamski: Was DeAngelo Williams the best offseason running back free agent bargain?

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

DeAngelo

 

 

 

Sunday will be the sixth game this season that DeAngelo Williams will be the Steelers’ featured back. He might just be, at the moment, the Steelers’ most indispensable player: With him staying healthy and productive, they can harbor hopes of being a darkhorse AFC title contender. Without him… well… no offense to Jordan Todman or Fitzgerald Toussaint, but how do you feel about them getting 30 touches a game?

 

Williams signed with the Steelers this spring for two-years and $4 million (with the compensation split evenly between both seasons once the signing bonus is factored in), tied for the ninth-biggest contract (in terms of total value) given to a running back during the free agent period. He’s mostly exceeded expectations, and he’s been well worth the investment – even before Le’Veon Bell’s season-ending injury pressed him into full-time featured back duty.

 

Comparing how Williams has fared compared to the other running backs available this past offseason is far from a cut-and-dried exercise. There are way too many variables: A team’s offensive line and its other weapons, to name just two.

 

Most important, though, is opportunity. Is it fair to judge C.J. Spiller’s dearth of production when he’s only been given 56 touches this season? Is it fair to Roy Helu (12 carries, 31 yards this season) to note that the Raiders gave him virtually the same exact contract that the Steelers gave Williams three days later – when Helu has had injuries and when the Raiders aren’t even bothering to activate him anymore? Is it fair to any of the players who signed for more than Williams was only expected have to be used extensively for 2-3 games only to be relied on much more because of the injury to Bell?

 

In short, the below chart is an oversimplification of the situation. Still, it’s difficult to argue that, for the money they paid, the Steelers did as well as could have possibly been reasonably expected in acquiring a No. 2 running back this past offseason.

 

 

FREE AGENT RUNNING BACKS SIGNING THE MOST-LUCRATIVE CONTRACTS IN 2015
Running back              age*    team    contract           starts   touches            yds/scrimmage
DeMarco Murray        27        PHI       5 yrs/$42M     8          194                  840
Mark Ingram               25        NO       4yrs/$16M      8          185                  998
C.J. Spiller                   27        NO       4 yrs/$16M     2          56                    318
Shane Vereen              26        NYG     3 yrs/$12.4M  0          81                    509
Frank Gore                  32        IND      3 yrs/$12M     10        187                  814
Ryan Mathews            27        PHI       3 yrs/$11.5M  2          89                    546
Justin Forsett               29        BAL      3 yrs/$9M       10        182                  794
Darren McFadden       27        DAL      2 yrs/$5.9M    5          200                  891
Roy Helu                      26        OAK     2 yrs/$4M       0          18                    68
DeAngelo Williams     31        PIT       2 yrs/$4 M      4          120                  671

 

*-at time of signing

 

 

There aren’t many names listed above Williams that you’d rather have, straight up – let alone when the respective cap hits are factored in.

 

 

 

 

Enjoy the rest of your holiday weekend.

If you have a chance, listen to the most recent Steelers Roundtable Show Podcast, in which Mark Kaboly, Ralph Paulk and I preview the Seahawks game and talk all other things Steelers on TribLive Radio. Click on this paragraph to listen.

 

 

 

 

 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

November 18, 2015
by Chris Adamski


2 comments so far - add yours!

Adamski: ‘DJ Gay,’ remote-controlled cars allow Steelers to ‘just kind of let that pressure off’

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Daniel McCullers working on one-handed catches?

 

Landry Jones running routes?

 

William Gay as “DJ Gay?”

 

Cody Wallace – among others – directing zooming radio-controlled cars zigzagging between position groups and amongst their drills?

 

The announcement of starting lineups for the daily “Seven Shots” drill?

 

 

Must be the final practice before the off week.

 

Must be a loose football team feeling good about itself.

 

 

Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight” was just one example of the backdrop to Wednesday’s Steelers practice on the South Side. DJ Gay (cornerback William Gay) was playing music throughout what was an abbreviated session – a glorified walkthrough with “Seven Shots” (a series of plays run from the 2 in 11-on-11, competitive fashion) serving as the finale. (“Seven Shots” traditionally marks the BEGINNING of the actual practice).

 

“It was a lot of fun out there kind of messing around,” guard David DeCatsro said. “It’s been a while since we’ve been able to do that – it’s just been going, going, going for a long time. It’s the latest bye week in the league – just kind of let that pressure off and go into the bye week refreshed.”

 

The Steelers, with all they’ve been through (three starting quarterbacks, four kickers, the loss for the season of two All Pros and another player at an important position, two suspensions and two home losses to division rivals), still can feel pretty good about themselves at 6-4 and leading the AFC Wild Card race as they head into their bye week.

 

“We like the intros from the DJ’s the most,” said linebacker Arthur Moats, referring to Gay announcing the defensive starters and DeAngelo Williams the guys on offense. “And, of course, ‘DJ Will Gay’ out there.”

 

Moats said that coach Mike Tomlin didn’t preside over such a lighthearted practice leading into the bye last season, when the Steelers similarly had a week-before-Thanksgiving off week and the team was similarly 7-4. The 2014 Steelers had a regular, padded practice.

 

They thought they were this year, too. Moats also said that the fun practice was a surprise for the players.

 

“We came in and the board (at the locker room entrance) said, ‘Pads,’” Moats said. “And we were like ‘Dang, pads!? It’s the last day (before the break) – what are we doing here?’

 

“It was a good surprise, I will say that. But even though it was a lighthearted practice in the sense of the warm-ups and stuff, I felt like when the ‘Seven Shots’ started, it got competitive.”

 

Seven Shots almost always does – the drill appealing to the competitive nature of the offense and defense, while building camaraderie (with the added benefit of making the Steelers the NFL’s 2-point conversion darlings).

 

The use of multiple surprisingly-speedy and nimble radio-controlled cars added to the vibe on what was an unseasonably warm day. Their use spilled out into the parking lot after practice by some players.

 

“(Wallace) had some good moves, especially going through other people’s legs and stuff,” DeCastro said.

 

“It was fun; it was a good day today, a good environment.”

 

 

 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

November 11, 2015
by Chris Adamski


10 comments so far - add yours!

Adamski: Former Army Ranger Villanueva says Veteran’s Day ‘just another day for me’

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

alejandro_villanueva_050514

 

 

 

While former Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva expressed gratitude toward the appreciation shown to him and others who have served this country, Villanueva downplayed the significance of Veteran’s Day to himself personally.

 

“This day is just another day for me,” the Steelers left tackle said after Wednesday’s practice. “I think about the military all the time; I’ve got a lot of friends who are still in the service, a lot of friends who are overseas. This day doesn’t mean more than any other day.”

 

A West Point alum, Villanueva served three tours in Afghanistan with the U.S. Army. To say his service was decorated is an understatement – here are some of the honors given to Villanueva: the Bronze Star Medal for Valor, the Ranger Tab, the Parachutist Badge, the Bronze Star Medal for overseas service, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, Global War on Terrorism Service Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, NATO Medal, Combat Infantryman’s Badge and Expert Infantryman’s Badge.

 

But Villanueva is quick to point out that none of that means he can handle an All Pro pass-rusher or run-block effectively for DeAngelo Williams.

 

“I think the military made me a good leader and I was privileged to have the opportunity to lead men in combat,” Villanueva said. “But, no, I wasn’t doing pass (protection) sets.”

 

Nowadays, Villanueva wants to be known for executing his pass sets well than he is for being a former 2nd Lieutenant. Sunday’s game against Cleveland will be his fourth NFL start.

 

Asked if he felt like a football player or an ex-military member, Villanueva said, “I feel like a football player, 100 percent.

 

“It was awesome what I did, and I’d be willing to do it again if my country needs me to do it, but right now I’m focused on the Cleveland Browns. I’m very thankful to be part of this locker room.”

 

Similarly, Villanueva wants to be known for earning a spot in the NFL – after numerous position changes and his sabbatical from football when he was overseas – rather than merely being something of a veteran charity case.

 

“I hope not — I think when I was in Philadelphia it might have been one the reasons I was in; it got me a foot in the door,” Villanueva said. “But I don’t want to think that when it comes to the Steelers that I’m here because of (my service).”

 

Villanueva praised the Steelers organization for their contributions to veterans and the military, and he expressed appreciation that his teammates will show their gratitude toward him for his service.

 

“He’s the type of man who provides our freedom for us,” quarterback Landry Jones said. “He’s an awesome guy, hard worker. I wish nothing but the best for him and his family and I’m excited for him to get this opportunity. It’s just an honor to know him and be a part of the same team.”

 

Villanueva does his best to downplay his past, and he doesn’t want to take attention away from his new job and his teammates.

 

Asked when he made the conversion from military personnel to football player, he said, “As soon as I got out of the service and I was no longer in the uniform anymore.”

 

Asked if he was perturbed by clichés commonly used in football such as “go to war” or “in the trenches,” Villanueva shrugged it off and said, “It’s just common speech; I used it before I got into the military, as well.”

 

Of the first 10 questions he fielded from reporters on Veteran’s Day, Villanueva gave one of his longest answers to one of the two that was not about the holiday or his service. Villanueva was asked what he learned from allowing the sack that resulted in an injury to starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

 

“You gotta be more physical; it was one of those things where… it’s happened (allowing late sacks) to me a couple times now,” Villanueva said. “You’ve got to be able to finish games and be more consistent toward the end.”

 

Still, as high-profile as Villanueva’s current job is, it’s his past duty for the country that routinely earns him more admiration from others.

 

“In the United States there’s a huge appreciation for the military, and that makes you feel really good about what you’re doing,” he said.

 

“It’s neat when you go overseas and you come back and you see the appreciation from the community.

 

“It’s a real honor to serve this country.”

 

 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

November 6, 2015
by Chris Adamski


43 comments so far - add yours!

Adamski: Dri Archer, quite simply, didn’t work out in Pittsburgh

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Pittsburgh Steelers v New York Giants

 

Twenty games.

Ten carries.

Seven catches.

Sixty-three yards from scrimmage.

Fifty-three offensive snaps.

 

One lamentable use of a third-round pick.

 

That’s Dri Archer’s legacy in Pittsburgh after he was released by the Steelers Thursday less than 18 months after they’d drafted him in the third round.

 

It’s easy to see why Archer was drafted – that world-class speed. Archer had been timed at an absurd 4.16 seconds in the 40-yard dash by one reputable hand-held device. His official combine time was 4.26 – the fastest for any player at any position since Chris Johnson’s 4.24 in 2008 (including 2015’s participants). Size (5-8, 173) be damned – that speed can do some damage.

 

But, of course, for whatever reason it never translated for the Steelers. The numbers above suggest – no, SCREAM – as much. It was becoming increasingly apparent that Archer’s days were numbered, as I was saying during Thursday morning’s broadcast of the Steelers Roundtable Show on TribLive Radio (podcast link available by clicking here).

 

Archer had appeared in 3.2 percent of the Steelers’ offensive snaps during his time with the team – including just three snaps this season. (None since getting those three in the opener at New England).

 

How few is that? Lawrence Timmons has as many offensive snaps as Archer.

 

(The Pro Bowl linebacker is a regular part of the Steelers’ “victory formation”).

 

And it wasn’t as if the Steelers weren’t given ample opportunity to use Archer over the past season and a half, either. Listed as a RB/WR, Archer, one would think, would have at least filled in if players at those positions went down.

 

It didn’t work out that way. The Steelers had one running back all but quit on them (LeGarrette Blount) and their star starting running back TWICE have season-ending injuries (Le’Veon Bell).

 

Not even counting experienced veteran DeAngelo Williams – who was a legitimate offseason multiyear signing – the Steelers have gone out and signed three “street” free agent running backs who were unemployed rather than utilize Acher (Ben Tate, Jordan Todman, Isaiah Pead).

 

In lieu of increasing Archer’s role after Blount’s release, the Steelers instead promoted Josh Harris from the practice squad.

 

In lieu of increasing Archer’s role after Bell was put in IR Monday, the Steelers instead signed Pead.

 

OK, how about Archer as a wide receiver?

Consider that the Steelers – down a receiver to suspension and another to injury at one point earlier this season – instead chose to use an undrafted rookie converted quarterback (Tyler Murphy) at receiver rather than even give Archer so much as a snap there.

 

OK, how about Archer as a punt returner?

He has had one return (for 2 yards) in his career.

 

OK, how about Archer as a kickoff returner?

He was given the primary gig this season. He’s averaged 25.3 yards on 14 opportunities – not bad. But none were longer than 38 yards. And after his worst performance (tackled at the 10 and 16 after catching kickoffs in the end zone during the first half this past Sunday against Cincinnati), the Steelers coaches showed what kind of confidence they had in him by instructing him to kneel on any kick he received in the end zone when there was 1:47 left in regulation and the Steelers down by six.

 

That about said it all – the can-take-any-play-to-the-house Archer was neutered by his own coach in a situation in which the team was desperate for a big play.

 

What went wrong? I’m not going to speculate. I’m no scout by any means, so I hate to offer observations on what I see in camp or at practice, but I will say this: He didn’t “look” as fast as he is.

 

His diminutive size is obvious, but I was disappointed when I watched him because, at 4.2, I had assumed his speed would be absolutely breathtaking to watch in person. It never once blew me away personally.

 

All this isn’t to pass any judgment on Archer the player; of course, we wish him the best of luck. Maybe some other team/coordinator will crack the code to unleashing the potential that that kind of speed titillates with.

 

It also isn’t meant to deride the Steelers’ coaches or, specifically, offensive coordinator Todd Haley. It’s simple: They didn’t think he was their best option; they felt they had better players to make plays.

 

It isn’t even meant to denigrate the drafting of Archer. Obviously, it didn’t work out. (As a bonus kick in the teeth, a running back taken six picks after Archer, Devonta Freeman, is the NFL’s rushing leader in his second season).

 

Oh well. The Steelers’ 2014 draft, as soon as it was completed, always was going to be a boom-or-bust kind of draft. Be it their intention or mindset going in, or merely just a coincidence, up and down their draft board were players who seemed to have high ceilings but also a risk factor of some kind attached.

 

So, the tiny third rounder didn’t work out. Fine. It happens.

 

What about the fourth-rounder who had his own question marks (Martavis Bryant)? Or the second-rounder with injury concerns (Stephon Tuitt)? Or the sixth-rounder with questions about his weight (Daniel McCullers)? All are looking pretty good right now, as is the first-round pick, Ryan Shazier – when he’s healthy, at least.

 

People are saying The Dri Archer Experiment didn’t work. Truth is, it never even got to the point where it would have had a chance to.

 

 

HEAR RALPH PAULK GOAD ME INTO AN IMPASSIONED, TABLE-POUNDING SPEECH ABOUT ARCHER JUST HOURS PRIOR TO HIM BEING CUT… LISTEN TO THE STEELERS ROUNDTABLE SHOW ON TRIBLIVE RADIO BY CLIKING ON THIS LINK.

 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

October 31, 2015
by Chris Adamski


6 comments so far - add yours!

Adamski: Are tight ends hurting the Steelers more than most teams?

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

 

 

(BEFORE GETTING TO THIS POST, A REMINDER TO LISTEN TO THE STEELERS ROUNDTABLE SHOW ON TRIBLIVE RADIO, SIMPLY BY CLICKING ANYWHERE ON THIS PARAGRAPH. MARK KABOLY, RALPH PAULK AND I TALK EVERYTHING BLACK-AND-GOLD FOR A FULL HOUR)

 

During Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler’s weekly session with the media Thursday, he faced 14 questions. Almost half (six) had to do with defending tight ends.

 

The Steelers this season have developed a reputation for failing to be able to cover tight ends effectively – but how much do they deserve it?

 

Yes, visions of Rob Gronkowski running free and wild through the secondary, and of the Antonio Gates/Ladarius Green duo stacking catches – and even of Travis Kelce making crucial receptions last week – are fixtures in the heads of Steelers fans. And I’m just as guilty as anyone in openly questioning if the Steelers can capably contain good receiving tight ends. With Tyler Eifert’s Bengals coming to town Sunday, that doesn’t bode well, no?

 

But, let’s not forget, it’s not a stretch to say that Gronkowski and Gates are two of the best receiving tight ends in NFL history (the latter definitely is; the former is too young to heap that praise upon him yet but he certainly is well on his way). They tend to pile up catches and yards and touchdowns no matter whom they’re playing.

 

Butler was asked if the Steelers’ struggles with tight ends is “somewhat circumstantial.”

 

I think it is a little bit,” he said. “Some of it’s that and some if it is that they’re good. We’ve faced some good tight ends. When you look at who we’ve played, they’ve had some pretty good tight ends. If we concentrate too much on tight ends, then we will miss a wide receiver. They have a good wide receiver this week, so we’re going to try to do the best we can at covering those guys. We have to limit them as much as we can, enough to win anyway.”

 

 

I did some research and made a chart. It remains crude in nature despite way too much time coming up with it. It’s the Steelers’ performance against a team’s best tight end  this season as compared to that individual’s average output for the season.

 

Then, at the bottom, are the total tight end stats allowed by the Steelers this season (and the average per their seven games) for ALL tight ends (not just the “top guy” listed above), and that compared to the NFL average for tight end production in a game.

 

Make sense? Anyway, for the Ravens, Crockett Gillmore missed the Steelers game because of injury, so I had to sub in backup Maxx Williams. For the Rams and Cardinals, their top two guys are so statistically interchangeable that I just combined then for the purposes of this graph.

 

Week    Opponent           Top tight end                     Catches/Yards/TDs          Average output

1              Patriots                 Rob Gronkowski               5/94/3                                   5.7/92.3/1

2              49ers                     Vernon Davis                     5/62/0                                   2.4/34/0

3              Rams                     Cook/Kendricks                 3/19/0                                   5.7/45.5/0.17

4              Ravens                 Maxx Williams**              2/17/0                                   2/18/0

5              Chargers              Antonio Gates                   9/92/2                                   9/93.5/1

6              Cardinals              Fells/Gresham                  1/9/0                                     2.5/37/0.29

7              Chiefs                   Travis Kelce                        6/63/0                                   4.9/69/0.29

TOTALS VS. STEELERS     45/455/6      game avgs:  6.4/65.0/0.86        NFL avgs: 4.6/49.7/0.39

 

 

A lot of variables there that make this analysis less-than-perfect (the lack of Gillmore, the fact two teams don’t have a single biggest TE threat, the 3-TD game of Gronkowski – while alarming – being more of a statistical fluke, etc.), including the relatively small sample size of less than a half a season.

 

But if you look at the numbers, the Steelers are allowing, what, maybe two extra catches and 15 additional yards per game to tight ends than the league average.

 

But will those numbers increase further this year with the dangerous Eifert?

 

“He having a pretty good year,” Eifert’s former college teammate, Steelers defensive end Stephon Tuitt, said. “I already knew he was talented by being able to practice with him. He’s going to be a tough person to stop, but I think we can do a good job.

 

“He’s a tight end, obviously, but he’s like a receiver at tight end – stupid athletic, and he’s got a great set of hands.”

 

 

 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

October 22, 2015
by Chris Adamski


13 comments so far - add yours!

Adamski: ‘The situation is what it is’ for Cortez Allen

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

 

Tez

 

You can ask anyone who’s been covering the Steelers for any length of time – Cortez Allen is a well-spoken, pleasant, respectful individual.

 

Right now, it could be interpreted that he perhaps has the sounds of one who sounds as if he’s not 100 percent certain why he’s not playing.

 

During the weekly Steelers Roundtable Show on Triblive Radio, Mark Kaboly, Ralph Paulk and I discussed a myriad of issues – CLICK ON ANY OF THIS PARAGRAPH TO LISTEN TO THE PODCAST – including the plight of Allen.

 

Is Allen, in the coaching staff’s eyes, still a relevant member of the Steelers’ roster? Is a lingering knee injury all that is kept him out of game action since Week 1?

 

Here is what we know: After Thursday’s practice on the South Side, there had been 17 days in which the Steelers were required to report their players’ practice participation publicly.

 

Of those 17, Allen has been listed as taking part in all but two of them – the first one after the Week 1 loss at New England, and then on a report that did not actually correspond to an actual practice on Sept. 28 (the Steelers played on a Thursday that week and the NFL requires three practice reports – therefore, one is more theoretical… hey, I don’t make these rules up).

 

Allen has even been a FULL participant in practice three times over these past six weeks, including two consecutive days two weeks ago. (He’d be limited on Saturday and, of course, not play that Monday in San Diego).

 

He has been “limited” in participation for all 12 others.

 

Allen’s recent history had him being demoted and then benched last season – one in which he signed a four-year, $26 million contract extension on the eve of. Ultimately, last season he was placed on injured reserve after undergoing thumb surgery.

 

This season, Allen and William Gay entered camp as the only cornerbacks the Steelers had that were proven commodities. But the team did draft two of the position over the first four rounds, it traded for Brandon Boykin a week into training camp and added Ross Cockrell off waivers a week before the season began.

 

Allen was the No. 3 cornerback for the opener at New England. Since, Cockrell has clearly caught the eye of the coaches and has grabbed hold of the No. 3 spot, with Antwon Blake and Gay playing almost every snap of the season.

 

Boykin has barely played, and Allen continues to be part of each game’s deactives lists.

 

 

 

Two other reporters and I talked to Allen after Wednesday’s practice. Here is a verbatim transcript. Read it for yourself, and read into it what you will:

 

Are you getting closer to being cleared to play?

“That’s a Coach Tomlin question.”

 

It’s been so long for you; has it just been a long stretch to get over the injury?

(5-second pause) Ummmm, the situation is what it is. And… (4-second pause)… that’s just probably a question better answered by Coach Tomlin.

 

Are you frustrated?

I try to keep a level, positive head at all times. Yes, I have my feelings about, um, you know, not being able to do but I have to stay mentally in it so I can help as best I can any way and in any way.

 

What are your chances of playing (Sunday)?

Coach Tomlin question again. If you have any questions about health and me physically, that’s Coach Tomlin.

 

What is your frustration level?

Frustration level? On a scale of what? (Smiles)

I try to stay positive all the time. You’ll never really see me mad because I’m a big-picture guy, so if I can’t do something here, there’s somewhere else I can help or some thing I can do to help us be successful. And I’ll find that.

You obviously have you feel like you’re capable to do the job they ask you to – whatever it is they ask you to – without putting the team in jeopardy and without being selfish. So that goes into a lot of it. Work closely with the staff and … getting into the best shape as possible to do whatever.

 

 

 

With Blake’s status for this week’s game at Kansas City in doubt, maybe we’ll learn more about Allen’s plight — and perhaps even see him in uniform — Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.

 

Another reminder to listen to the TribLive Radio Steelers Roundtable Show.

 

 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

October 20, 2015
by Mark Kaboly


11 comments so far - add yours!

Kaboly: Heyward, eye black and Go Fund Me

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

IronSteelers fans are passionate.

But don’t confuse passion with crazy.

The show of support to Cam Heyward’s battle with the NFL over wearing eye black with the words ‘Iron’ and ‘Head’ for his late father Craig ‘Ironhead’ Heyward’ has been overwhelming. Craig Heyward, who played at Pitt and in the NFL for 11 years, died in 2006 from bone cancer

Heyward was fined nearly $6,000 last week for what the league called a uniform violation. Heyward wore the eye black again Sunday and is expected to be fined double that this week.

Heyward said the attention he’s been getting even surprised him.

He’s been getting so much support that even fans are trying to rally to help Heyward pay the fines.

At the time I am writing this, there are no fewer than 11 ‘Go Fund Me’ pages set up by Steelers fans seeking donations to help pay for Heyward’s fine ranging from California to New York to Illinois to Arizona to Altoona.

Like I said, Steelers fans are passionate, but not crazy.

Heyward signed a $60 million contract in July.

As for those 11 ‘Go Fund Me’ pages, there has been one donation for a total of $25.

Bless your heart, Jeff Lenz of Altoona.

You want to contribute, here is the link

Check out the Kaboly Show Podcast where you can hear from Antonio Brown, Kelvin Beachum and Alejandro Villanueva.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
 
Other blogs
Sports:Steel Mill | Chipped Ice | Bucco Blog | iPreps | Pitt Locker Room | Penn State Sports
News: Backstory | Doug Oster on Gardening | Off-Road Politics | Flowback | ICycle  


» Top TribLIVE.com Sports
» Top TribLIVE.com News
» Top TribLIVE.com Breaking News