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February 21, 2015
by Mark Kaboly


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Kaboly: Q&A with Pitt OL T.J. Clemmings

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clm-thumb--nfl_large_580_1000INDIANAPOLOLIS — Pitt offensive linemen T.J. Clemmings talked to the media at the NFL Scouting Combine. Here’s the full transcript:

 

(How did it go?)

“It was a good day. I wanted to run a little bit better. So, I probably will give that another shot at my Pro Day.”

 

(Did you balk at when Pitt wanted you to move to OL?)

“When I finally moved to the offensive side of the ball. At that time, it felt right. I am not sure why, but something inside felt right and I am glad I made the decision.”

 

(Where you fine with it at first?)

“When Paul Chryst asked me for the first time, I didn’t resist it at all. I said OK coach.”

 

(Why were you so successful in that transition?)

“I would see the time I put in and my position coach pushing me the way he did and my mentor and technique coach Jay Caldwell  worked with me on the weekends and anytime I was able to come home. He definitely helped me with the mental and the physical as well.”

 

(You are RT or LT)

“It doesn’t matter to me. I am prepared to work and play both sides. Whatever the team wants me to do, I will be prepared.”

 

(Any consistency to the type of questions asked in interviews)

“They definitely asked me if I was willing to play both sides. I only played right side in college. They just wanted to see what my responses were in playing the left side.”

 

(What techniques were most difficult to transition?)

“All the techniques were difficult at first. It was more the terminology and learning the plays. Once I got that down, I focused a lot more on techniques and get those down as well.”

 

(why did it feel right?)

“At the time I wasn’t having the success I wanted on defense and offensive line was literally my last option. I wanted to get back on the field. I wanted to start again. Just thinking about being on the field again – wherever that was it made it feel right.”

 

(How do you feel when people use the word raw about you?)

“It doesn’t bother me. If that is what they feel then that’s fine. I only had two years on the offensive line under my belt and that’s not going to change from now to the draft. I need some work in some things and I am not afraid of that. I am ready to work on things that people feel I need to work on.”

 

(What did you weigh?)

309, 6-4½

 

(Do you want to get bigger?)

“Definitely I want to get a little more girth and a little more weight. I feel good where I am at.”

 

(At point where you thought your future was done if transition to OL didn’t work?)

“If I didn’t switch over to offensive line that might have been it for me as far as playing football in college. I definitely wanted to play again. It was a no-brainer.”

 

(Played hoops)

“I played all the way from 8 years old through my senior year of high school. It was an amazing time and I had fun. Honestly, some of the athletscim from basketball transferred over to football and definitely helped me.”

 

(College interested in you from hoops?)

“Yeah, at one point I had three offers. Rutgers, Seton Hall and Providence.”

 

(Footwork translates between the offensive line and playing basketball?)

“Definitely. Just being able to change directions and constant running, it all helped to switch over football”

 

(Position?)

“Forward”

 

(Learn from Senior Bowl week?)

“Senior Bowl week was definitely a learning experience for me. I have learned a lot about myself as a player. How to deal with situations where you don’t always know exactly what is going on. I struggled a little bit throughout the week knowing that when it was game time that I went into the game and just relaxed myself and started to have fun again.”

 

(You practice on left at senior bowl?)

“I did. I played both left and right. I struggled on one-on-ones. It was the first time I played the left side.”

 

(Feel you are good at learning on the fly)

“It is not an easy transition to make. I had a spring ball and a camp to be ready to play in 2013 at right tackle. That’s all the time I had. I was learning each week as each week passed.”

 

(What you think about being projected as first rounder?)

“As of right now, it is all talk. I don’t get into what the media says and people think because things change on draft day a lot. I know the work that I’ve put in and I am trusting that everything will work out.”

 

(How did you perform in agility drills today?)

“I think I did well. I feel I did well. I might look at them again at my Pro Day. If I feel that I can get better times, I definitely will.”

 

(How do you feel representing the Patterson Catholic legacy?)

“I was part of the last class that graduated from Patterson Catholic. Just to be here in front of all you guys is a blessing. It is truly an honor to represent Patterson Catholic and the University of Pittsburgh.”

 

(Would you change anything?)

“No man. Everything works out like it is supposed. I wouldn’t change anything.”

 

(Pros you like to watch?)

“Jason Peters, Tyron Smith and Duane Brown are three of my favorites to watch. I definitely like to watch them.”

 

 

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February 20, 2015
by Mark Kaboly


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Kaboly: Why not a tight end in the 1st round for the Steelers?

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INDIANAPOLIS – Conventional wisdom says that the Steelers will either take a cornerback or an outside linebacker in the first round of the NFL Draft come the end of April.

Yeah, I know, I’m not really breaking any news with that statement.

If you even follow the Steelers a little bit (and I assume you do since you are reading this) you know that the secondary doesn’t have much in the way of talent, young talent, experience and depth. That typically makes that a hot target position for a team in the draft.

Same goes with outside linebackers.

Now, free agency in less than a month can either make that a pretty solid position (if they re-sign Jason Worilds and/or Arthur Moats to pair with Jarvis Jones) or it can be ranked up right up there with cornerbacks as the greatest need Part 1B.

So, it’s going to be either a cornerback or an outside rush linebacker, right?

What about this?

What if the high-end cornerbacks and the stud rush linebackers are gone by the time the Steelers’ pick comes around at 22?

It can happen. It might happen. It actually likely will happen.

According to CBSSports, only Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes is a solid first-rounder with four others – Marcus Peters, Quiten Rollins, P.J. Williams and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu as borderline first-rounders.

As for the rush linebackers? Randy Gregory, Shane Ray and Dante Fowler will be gone and Vic Beasley very well could drop out of the first round

Then what? What do you do if you are the Steelers?

Don’t discount the tight end.

It’s very possible.

It would fill a need – Heath Miller is the only experienced tight end on the roster and he’s 32 with his best days behind him. Now, he can still be a productive tight end, but I call him a catch-and-tackle guy. He catches the ball and gets tackled.

Don’t undersell how much the Steelers are enamored with their offense, and rightfully so.

Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said the other day: “If there’s a great offensive player who can make us average 27 points instead of the 24 we averaged last year, maybe we don’t have to be as good on defense. We always want to be open to making sure we are taking good players at any position.”

Here at the NFL Scouting Combine, the Steelers are thinking the same thing. They have used a handful of their priceless 60 15-minute interview sessions with tight ends.

They used one of those on the top tight end in the draft – 20-year-old Maxx Williams, whose father, Brian, was a former center for the Giants and a Mt. Lebanon graduate.

Williams left Minnesota after his redshirt sophomore year, but is still considered the best tight end at the Combine by a wide margin.

It wouldn’t be a bad pick. The Steelers used the 30th overall pick in 2005 on Miller and that turned out well.

Imagine the possibilities – Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and Maxx Williams.

Doesn’t sound bad at all.

And don’t discount it, because it could happen.

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February 19, 2015
by Mark Kaboly


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Kaboly: Plum’s Pat McAfee and why some pro athletes hate the media

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7774352INDIANAPOLIS — Marshawn Lynch doesn’t like the media. You know, he’s “just here so he doesn’t get fined.”

Kevin Durant doesn’t like the media, either. Who can forget “you guys don’t know (expletive)?”

Russell Westbrook doesn’t like the media. Remember the “what?” interview?

Pat McAfee … well, he is the polar opposite of the ever growing trend of professional athletes disliking the media.

McAfee loves the media – dealing with them and being a part of them.

The Colts punter and Plum native was strolling through the concourse at Lucas Oil Stadium during the NFL Scouting Combine after, ironically, cutting a workout short so he could jump on the radio with some of his media friends.

So, what better time to ask him what he thinks about the media, professional athletes and the perceived deteriorating relationship between them?

McAfee shared what he’s heard from some of his player friends.

“You are ready to write your story even before you get my quote,” McAfee said. “Not me, I am really the bottom of the barrel when it comes to that. With some of the big time guy, you already have your story and are just looking for quotes. A lot of guys have that kind of mindset.”

McAfee isn’t one of them.

McAfee feels that the media plays an important role in the success and popularity of the NFL.

“Actually, the media is the reason why the NFL has grown so much,” he said. “That’s a 100 percent true story and I am not exaggerating or lying about that. The media is the reason why the game has become such a focal point in our society and our culture. It is covered more than anything in the world.”

McAfee is coming off his best season that landed him in the Pro Bowl. Ranked third in the NFL in net punting average and, first in kickoff touchbacks

“Every year you dream about making the Pro Bowl,” McAfee said. “I’ve dreamed about making the Pro Bowl ever since my days at Holiday Park in Plum. I finally got a chance to make it. You never want to play in the Pro Bowl. I’ve learned that since I’ve made it to the NFL. You never want to play in the Pro Bowl. You want to get selected to the Pro Bowl.”

Even though McAfee calls Indianapolis home now (his parents have since moved from Plum to Indy), he still considers himself a Pittsburgher.

“I love Pittsburgh,” McAfee said. “Huge Penguins fan still to this day. I like the Pirates as well. I did grow up during a bad era of Pittsburgh Pirates baseball. Now they are turning it around so it is excellent news.”

 

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February 12, 2015
by Mark Kaboly


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Kaboly: Colbert ‘not really interested’ in NFL Veteran Combine

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Photo by Chaz Palla

Photo by Chaz Palla

NFL personnel people rarely pass up a chance to evaluate talent.

General managers and scouts flock to events like the East-West Shrine game, the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine to get an up-close look at players that can potentially help their team.

Now there’s another – the NFL Veterans Combine is set for March 22 in Phoenix. It will be open to veteran free agents who will participate in position-specific drills, timing and testing, and other customary combine activities.

The invitation only event will bring 100 players from all ages and experiences. The only requirement other than an invitation is that the player was with an NFL team at one point.

And it’s something that doesn’t excite Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert even the slightest.

“I’m not really interested in it to be honest,” Colbert said. “Personally what they do once they get into the league on film, we already know big and fast they are. To me they’re not going to get any faster. I think you’re naive to think that a player that ran a 4.4 three years later is still going to run a 4.4. You better base it on what he did in the league.”

Colbert said that the NFL Combine evaluating college players, which is set to start Wednesday in Indianapolis, is much more valuable because you are dealing with potential. With veterans, Colbert said he is much more interested in what they’ve done on the field rather than their workout numbers.

“Most of these guys that go to the veteran combine have been in at camp,” Colbert said. “They’ve been veterans. They’ve been practice squad players or they’ve been active players. So what they do in a workout I’m not really interested in. I just want to see what they did when they did have their chance to be NFL players.”

In the past, most veteran free agents would have to wait for a team to call for a workout or a visit. Some veterans have been included in the NFL’s regional combines held for draft-eligible players, too. The Veteran Combine will streamline that into one time and one location.

Also, the league scheduled the Veteran Combine to coincide with the owner’s meetings so that it would make it easier for organizations to be on hand.

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January 15, 2015
by Chris Adamski


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Adamski: ‘Grinder’ Blake happy to have ‘shown his worth’ as a corner for Steelers

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Through a quarter of the Steelers’ Sept. 21 night game at Carolina, Antwon Blake hadn’t been on the field for the defense for a snap yet this season.

 

Further, according to Pro Football Focus, prior to this season Blake had been on the field for just nine defensive NFL snaps  — four with Jacksonville after being an undrafted rookie in 2012; five with the Steelers last season – and never more than two in any given game.

 

But then Ike Taylor sustained a gruesome broken forearm when he was accidentally run into by a teammate. Without much of a choice that night in Charlotte, the Steelers turned to Blake.

 

A few weeks later, the team had seen enough of Cortez Allen at cornerback. Again without much of a choice, the Steelers turned to Blake.

 

This time, it stuck.

 

Throughout the remainder of the season, Blake played a regular role on a defense that seemed to hit its stride down the stretch. Over the final eight games of the regular season, Blake played 247 of the Steelers’ 557 defensive snaps (per Pro Football Focus) – or 43 percent.

 

“I already felt like I had a home here last year, just from the way they welcomed me in and the way the program was set up,” Blake said. “But I was able to come in and prove some things and show my worth a little bit to the team, so I definitely feel like this is my home now.”

 

Blake, 24, has quite an offseason planned. He intends on working on finishing course work at UTEP to earn his degree. Football-wise, he’s excited to improve further and continue to work his way into the Steelers’ plans in a more prominent role.

 

“I’m a grinder, so I’m going to be grinding regardless,” Blake said. “I’m gonna be back home working out everyday and just working on every little thing, just watching film and trying to do everything I can to get better.”

 

The 5-foot-9, 198-pound Houston native showed this season that his value to an NFL team goes beyond that of just being a special-teamer. Although it seems unlikely Blake will ever become a Pro Bowler – or even, maybe, a starter or every-down player in the NFL – his efficient work when called upon in 2014 suggests he could be at least a part of the answer going forward for a Steelers team that appears to be perhaps its weakest at cornerback.

 

With Taylor appearing headed for retirement, Brice McCain a free agent, Allen coming off a dreadful year and B.W. Webb not having played appreciably on defense at the NFL level, Blake, in effect, is No. 2 on the Steelers’ depth chart at cornerback (at the moment) behind veteran William Gay. Of course, Allen (and his $26 million contract) will likely be given a chance to regain his form, and McCain might be re-signed. Still, can Blake be a permanent part of the Steelers’ plans at corner?

 

“I’m not really concerned with that,” Blake said. “We’ll see how that goes whenever we start OTAs because ultimately, things change week-to-week in the NFL, so you can’t really harp on that too much.”

 

As Blake found out this past season.

 

“You never know, you know?” he said. “People get hurt all the time. The biggest thing is just being ready and being prepared. It’s one thing not to be ready when you get your opportunity, so you just have to focus on things because you don’t know when your name is going to be called. But when it is, you have to make sure you go out there and do whatever you can for your team.”

 

Blake isn’t big – but he has shown a propensity for the big play. At UTEP, he forced two fumbles as a junior and blocked two kicks as a senior. His forced fumble late in the de facto AFC North championship game Dec. 28, it could be argued, singlehandedly swung the game in the Steelers’ favor.

 

It was another example of Blake proving to himself (and others) that he can be a regular NFL cornerback. He made his case this past season.

 

“I feel like the biggest thing is just confidence-wise,” Blake said, “and getting that experience, because you could be an All Pro in practice – but the game and practice are two different things. Once you get that game experience, then you get to get a little more comfortable and you start playing a lot better. And that’s how I feel.”

 

 

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January 13, 2015
by Chris Adamski


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Adamski: Jonathan Scott and Guy Whimper no more… Illustrating the long-sought continuity on the Steelers OL

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MY BREAKFAST TABLE — I spent more time than any human ever should researching recent Steelers’ offensive line starting lineups in reporting today’s print Trib article (Steelers’ steady offensive line paid dividends this season). I went all the way back to 2005 (the Steelers’ first Super Bowl-winning season of the Roethlisberger Era) to identify trends for a franchise that, on face value, seems to have bucked the conventional you-must-be-good-in-the-trenches-to-win-a-Super-Bowl trend since that season.

 

I found there are many “cut offs” I could have used in terms of a season that the Steelers went from their long-lost reputation of stability and strength on its offensive line to what they’ve been — again, in terms of reputation — in recent years: A revolving door of personnel, mediocre results.

 

Turns out that — despite my unquenched desire to type the words “Flozell Adams” and “Justin Hartwig” into a story during the year 2015 — in actuality, 2011 made the most logical place to start the analysis. (This still allowed references to Jonathan Scott and Trai Essex!).

 

Anyway, as so often happens, space restrictions in the print edition did not allow for the below stats/lists/compilations to appear. Luckily, we have The Steel Mill to act as the perfect depository for such information…

 

 

 

SHIFT TO CONTINUITY

 

A year-by-year breakdown showing the in-flux nature of Steelers’ offensive lines of the recent past, compared to the relative harmony of 2014

(Note:  all “players used” references are to starting lineup only)

 

 

2011

9 OL combinations used, 9 OL-men used, no players made 16 starts at one position

Team allowed 42 sacks, ranked 14th in NFL in rushing, was No. 18 in Pro Football Focus pass-block ratings, 10th in run-block ratings

 

2012

7 OL combinations used , 9 OL-men used, 1 player made 16 starts at one position

Team allowed 37 sacks, ranked 26th in NFL in rushing, was No. 21 in Pro Football Focus pass-block ratings, 31st in run-block ratings

 

2013

7 OL combinations used, 9 OL-men used, 1 players made 16 starts at one position

Team allowed 43 sacks, ranked 27th in NFL in rushing, was No. 14 in Pro Football Focus pass-block ratings, 20th in run-block ratings

 

 

Totals ’11-‘13

23 OL combinations used, 15 OL-men used, 2 players made 16 starts at one position

Team allowed an average of 40.7 sacks, ranked an average of 22nd in NFL in rushing, average rankings by Pro Football Focus were 18th (pass blocking) and 20th (run blocking)

 

 

2014

3 OL combinations used, 7 OL-men used, 3 players made 16 starts at one position

Team allowed 33 sacks, ranked 16th in NFL in rushing, was No. 5 in Pro Football Focus pass-block ratings, ninth in run-block ratings

 

 

 

 

QUITE A LIST

 

Offensive linemen who started for the Steelers from 2011-13

(*-Denotes player who started for 2014 Steelers)

 

*-Mike Adams

*-Kelvin Beachum

Willie Colon

*-David DeCastro

Trai Essex

*-Ramon Foster

*-Marcus Gilbert

Chris Kemoeatu

Doug Legursky

*-Maurkice Pouncey

Jonathan Scott

Max Starks

Fernando Velasco

*-Cody Wallace

Guy Whimper

 

 

YEAR-BY-YEAR STARTERS

 

Listed in order from left tackle rightward to right tackle, a list of all the different starting combinations the Steelers have used on their offensive line in recent years

 

2014

Beachum=Foster=Pouncey=DeCastro=Gilbert

Beachum=Wallace=Pouncey=DeCastro=Gilbert

Beachum=Foster=Pouncey=DeCastro=Adams

 

 

2013

Adams=Foster=Pouncey=DeCastro=Gilbert

Adams=Foster=Velasco=DeCastro=Gilbert

Beachum=Foster=Velasco=DeCastro=Gilbert

Beachum=Foster=Velasco=Whimper=Gilbert

Beachum=Whimper=Velasco=DeCastro=Gilbert

Adams=Foster=Wallace=DeCastro=Gilbert

Beachum=Foster=Wallace=DeCastro=Gilbert

 

2012

Starks=Colon=Pouncey=Foster=Gilbert

Starks=Colon=Legursky=Foster=Adams

Starks=Colon=Pouncey=Foster=Adams

Starks=Legursky=Pouncey=Foster=Adams

Starks=Pouncey=Legursky=Foster=Beachum

Starks=Colon=Pouncey=Foster=Beachum

Starks=Foster=Pouncey=DeCastro=Beachum

 

2011

J. Scott=Kemoeatu=Pouncey=Legursky=Colon

J. Scott=Foster=Pouncey=Legursky=Gilbert

J. Scott=Kemoeatu=Pouncey=Legursky=Gilbert

Essex=Kemoeatu=Pouncey=Foster=Gilbert

Starks=Legursky=Pouncey=Foster=Gilbert

Starks=Legursky=Pouncey=Foster=J. Scott

Starks=Kemoeatu=Pouncey=Foster=Gilbert

Starks=Essex=Legursky=Foster=Gilbert

Starks=Essex=Legursky=Foster=J. Scott

 

 

 

Keep warm.

Follow Mark Kaboly for the latest Steelers offseason news.

 

 

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January 11, 2015
by Mark Kaboly


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Kaboly: For one reason or another, Tomlin continues to zip through assistants

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Mike Tomlin isn’t afraid to get rid of a coach or two, that’s for sure.tomlin2

Tomlin just finished his eighth year as Steelers head coach and started into his ninth by letting veteran defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau go.

The Steelers and the LeBeau are calling it a resignation, but we all know what that means – he was forced out.

You can argue whether that was the right move or not.

What you can’t argue is that Tomlin continues to zip through assistant coaches at a exorbitant rate.

Figure this: during Tomlin’s first three seasons (2007-09), he didn’t make a single coaching change.

The same group he brought on as a rookie coach was the same unit he would have until after the playoff-less 2009 season.

Since then, 14 coaches walked out the door in some for one reason or another.

Now, not all of them were fired.

Actually, if you believe the Steelers, few of them were.

Still, there have been tremendous turnover for one reason or another.

The most have come with special teams and the offensive line.

Bob Ligashesky, Al Everest and Amos Jones on special teams and Larry Zierlein, Sean Kugler and Jack Bicknell all left. You can safely say five of those were fired while Kugler left to become head coach at UTEP.

You had coordinators Bruce Arians “retiring” and LeBeau “resigning.”

You had defensive backs coach Ray Horton getting a coordinator job with the Cardinals; offensive assistant Harold Goodwin getting a promotion to offensive line coach with the Colts; and defensive assistant Lou Spanos getting the linebacker coaching job with the Redskins.

Quarterback coach Ken Anderson retired and then you had curious lateral moves by wide receiver coach Scottie Montgomery going back to his alma mater as associate head coach and running back coach Kirby Wilson taking the same position with the Vikings.

Whatever it is, as stable as the first three Tomlin years were is as unstable as the last few have been.

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January 10, 2015
by Mike Palm


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Reaction to Dick LeBeau’s resignation as Steelers defensive coordinator

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Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau announced Saturday that he would be resigning his position with the team. Here’s some reaction to the move from around Twitter.

Former Steelers safety Ryan Clark

Former Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward

Former Steelers defensive lineman Chris Hoke

Former Steelers defensive back Mike Logan

Former Steelers offensive tackle Max Starks

Current Steelers wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey

Former Steelers running back Merril Hoge

Jason La Canfora, NFL Insider for CBS

 

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January 6, 2015
by Chris Adamski


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Adamski: Four Hall of Famers talk about The (retirement) Decision

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Since the Steelers were eliminated in the AFC Wild Card game Saturday, much of the post-mortem conversation has centered around the statuses of four of their defense’s best players over the past decade-plus.

 

Will Troy Polamalu, James Harrison, Brett Keisel and Ike Taylor retire? If they play next season, will it be for the Steelers? Will the Steelers want them back if they want to?

 

Each individual case is different — age, wear-and-tear, the 2014 season he had, the degree of decline in his play since his prime, injury statuses, family situations, the Steelers’ depth chart at each respective position…

 

But before any other question can be answered, the most fundamental one to examine first is: Does the player want to keep playing, or does he want to retire?  It’s a question all athletes eventually must face. It’s a fascinating one for us, as outsiders and non-professional athletes, to ponder.

 

It’s a topic I explored some in a story that ran in Saturday’s Trib. With the exception of the affable Taylor, the players who are facing this decision head-on weren’t eager to discuss it. That’s understandable, what with a game (and, they hoped, a few more games) to be played still at that point. So I tried to do the next-best thing and interview some former greats.

 

I was thrilled that Super Steelers Franco Harris and Jack Ham opened up on the topic, as did the face of the franchise for about a 10-year stretch beginning in the mid-90s, Jerome Bettis. And for a non-Steelers perspective, former Aliquippa and Pitt star and Bears Super Bowl-winning coach and now ESPN analyst Mike Ditka was gracious enough, too, to talk. That’s three Hall of Famers and a fourth, Bettis, who will almost assuredly – and deservedly – make it to Canton some day.

 

The realities of modern newsprint (to say nothing of the realities of the modern American attention span) left my story much too short to dive too deep into the issue. So, this blog is the next best thing. Some more thoughts on retirement from the Hall of Fame quartet…

 

 

 

 

JACK HAM

How his retirement came about–

“In my 10th year I ended up dislocating my foot, and I came back from that injury and that’s the injury I had when I did not play in the Super Bowl. And I played two years after that…

You watch tape. You know. I got to the point I didn’t want to have some kind of injuries or whatever late in my career, and I just felt like 12 years was long enough and I could see with the injuries the burst you normally have as a linebacker – or any position, for that matter – (was missing). It was more difficult getting off the blocks… The tape doesn’t lie. And I think I’m my own worst critic kind of thing, so I think… it wasn’t a decision that I was racking my brain going back and forth with. I knew that it was time for me to retire.

I wasn’t effective enough; the caliber of play for me my last two years was not the same as my first 10. And that was something you could see; I made more big plays, more interceptions in those first 10 years than I did the last two. It just, you see it. At least I did. You see it. It’s time, you realize it. It’s a short-lived career in pro football and 12 years is probably, I don’t know what the percentage is out there of guys who played that long – probably a very, very small percentage — just the tape and how I felt, it’s a game, the injuries have kind of a cumulative effect. But really the dislocating the foot in my 10th year that really, after coming back from that, I really was not the same player.”

 

 

On if coach Chuck Noll tried to talk him out of it–

“No, there was no discussion like that. Chuck was very, ‘If a guy wants to retire and feels like he should, then that’s the decision, no other decision needs to be made,’ because he feels like if the individual player feels that way, there won’t be any discussion about trying to talk him out of retirement. At least with me anyway; I just came in and I was done. It was nothing earth-shaking; just the fact I just said so. Chuck thanked me for all the years and we had a nice discussion, nice last-meeting kind of thing. There was no dialogue back and forth about playing another year. There wasn’t going to be one – I just knew. I knew that I wasn’t going to be out there for my 13th year.”

 

 

 

 

FRANCO HARRIS

On the differences of retirement today than when he played–

“I think today it’s a lot tougher today because of the money that players make. It wasn’t as difficult back in the 60s and 70s because the money was totally different. But today there’s no doubt that players would like to play as long as they can.

I guess (teams) have to look at situations to see with where that player is at their stage right now. (Age) 32, 33, whatever, do they have backup players that can go in and be as equal or better than them where they’re at at that stage or at that age. And also do they have a young promising player who has that potential to develop into this type of player if he has more playing time. So there’s a number of different factors. And just like anything, people age differently. What has been the injury factor with that person, is that injury factor now evident in their play and in the things that they can do. And also I’m sure they look at and teams look at salary caps and things like that now, too. And so there’s a lot of different factors that enter into it and is it one thing that comes forward or multiple things that come forward that make that choice. And then as we know, some ballplayers will say, ‘Hey, it’s time for me to hang it up. I don’t feel I can be productive anymore and I don’t have that burning desire anymore,’ and so you do see times when ballplayers hang it up.”

 

 

On coming to that conclusion that your career is over–

“Those are always tough choices in sports, and especially if someone played on one team for a long time, it does make it tougher on that one team with those choices at times. There’s no doubt about that. But everybody knows that their career’s coming to an end, and I knew that that was going to be my last year, so that wasn’t the issue. And everybody comes to that realization eventually that, ‘This is it,’ you know what I mean?

But you know what, it’s something that you shouldn’t approach like, ‘Oh man, this is terrible. Oh no,’ If you’re lucky enough to play for over a decade in the NFL, you’re very blessed. And so to me there shouldn’t be those type of hard feelings this, hard feelings that – sometimes other things get in the way, but to play that long in the NFL, you’re pretty lucky and you’re pretty blessed.”

 

 

 

 

MIKE DITKA

On when the “right” time is to proverbially hang ‘em up—

“You try to play as long as you can. But I think you can’t fool yourself. You look at the film from the games, and you know you aren’t the same player you were five years before that. And if you’re not, there’s not much point in hanging in there. I probably could have played a couple more years but they wouldn’t have been the best years. So to me, I did the right thing when I retired.”

 

 

On if he grappled at all with his decision to retire—

“I didn’t think too much about it. We won the (NFL championship) the year before I retired and the year I retired we got beat in the championship game in Dallas. I was in business down there and I had taken enough; my body was ready to retire. It wasn’t like… They weren’t losing a great player, believe me, they were losing just another player.”

 

 

On his perspective as a coach of noticing when a player needs to retire—

“There’s no question, the hardest thing is, when it’s time, the coach has to tell him. You’re with these guys everyday during the season, you’re with them a lot and you form great relationships and friendships – but there’s a time. And when the time comes, you’ve got to be able to tell them. I wasn’t good at that – I wasn’t good at cutting people, but you just have to do it, that’s part of the job, so you have to make a decision on what’s best for the team and sometimes, it’s tough.”

 

 

 

 

JEROME BETTIS

On coming to grips with retiring and if knowing he had a job (in broadcasting) lined up helped him come to it—

“I knew when physically my body didn’t respond in terms of the time it took for me to get healthy from one game to the next…

“I came back for another year; I had job opportunities (before) that year, so I came back because I wanted to still play. If I wanted to play one more year, that job opportunity I felt would have been there again. It was never a situation where I felt that there wasn’t time or that I had to rush away from football because of a job opportunity; I felt as though the job opportunities would be there whenever I decided to leave. So I didn’t base my decision on after football; it was about me not being able to do the things I was used to doing and being effective. I felt there was no need to be out there taking up a place when a younger player can help the football team a lot better.”

 

 

 

 

And with that, I’ll turn the reins of this blog back over to The Great Mark Kaboly (#StickToThePrintProductKaboly?). Enjoy your day.

 

 

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January 5, 2015
by Mark Kaboly


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Kaboly: The Steelers and The Curse of the Unhealthy Running Back

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ic998Just call it the Curse of the Unhealthy Running Back.

The Steelers latest playoff defeat – Saturday in the AFC wild-card game against the Ravens – marked a continuing trend (disturbing if you are a Steelers fan) of the playoff, the Steelers’ success and having a healthy running back.

Typically, they’ve worked hand-in-hand when it comes to the Steelers winning or losing in the postseason.

Since 1972, when playing with a healthy primary ball carrier, the Steelers are 31-13 in the postseason with six Super Bowl titles and eight Super Bowl appearances.

When playing without their leading rusher (or if their leading rusher played while on the injury report, like Jerome Bettis in the 2001 AFC title game, for instance), the Steelers are 2-8 all-time in the postseason.

Here are the playoff seasons and results when the Steelers didn’t have a healthy backfield:

1976 – 0-1

1993 – 0-1

1996 – 0-1

2001 – 1-1

2004 – 1-1

2007 – 0-1

2011 – 0-1

2014 – 0-1

And, here is the breakdown of the injuries:

1976: Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier both were injured in the divisional round in Baltimore. The Steelers lose in the AFC title game next week in Oakland, 24-7.

1993: Barry Foster got hurt during a Monday Night Football game in November and never played the rest of the season. The Steelers lose in the wild-card game to Kansas City with Leroy Thompson as the primary running back.

1996: Bettis was injured in the wild-card game against Indianapolis. He played sparingly the next week in the fog in New England and the Steelers lost.

2001: Bettis got hurt against the Vikings on Dec. 2, but tried to play in the AFC championship game against New England. Bettis rushed 8 times for 9 yards in a loss.

2004: Duce Staley was hurt on Halloween in New England and playing sparingly down the stretch and was ineffective in the AFC title game loss to the Patriots.

2007: Willie Parker broke his ankle in mid-December in St. Louis and the Steelers lost in the wild-card round against the Jaguars.

2011: Rashard Mendenhall suffered a torn ACL in the regular season finale in Cleveland and the Steelers fall to Denver the next week in the wild card game.

2014: Le’Veon Bell hyperextends his knee in the final against the Bengals and can’t play in the wild-card game against the Ravens. The Steelers lose, 30-17.

So, there you have it.

While you are at it, take a listen to the Kaboly Show podcast from Monday.

 

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