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November 18, 2015
by Chris Adamski

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


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.”





November 11, 2015
by Chris Adamski

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






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.”




November 6, 2015
by Chris Adamski

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


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.






October 31, 2015
by Chris Adamski

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






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.”





October 22, 2015
by Chris Adamski

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





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.




October 20, 2015
by Mark Kaboly

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Kaboly: Heyward, eye black and Go Fund Me


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.


October 17, 2015
by Chris Adamski

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Adamski: Cardinals’ “Pittsburgh West” nickname is well-earned


Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians is far from the only member of the organization with ties to the Steelers.






The past two head coaches of the Arizona Cardinals happen to be the past two offensive coordinators for the Steelers.


In reverse, it just so happens the current offensive coordinator of the Steelers is a past offensive coordinator of the Cardinals.


Those are just a couple examples of the manner in which the two franchises – who rarely play, but will do so Sunday at Heinz Field – have been so intertwined over the past decade.


There are 20 players who previously played for the Steelers who joined the Cardinals between 2007 until now. Plus more than a handful of coaches who made the same leap.


The Super Bowl after the 2008 season not only was the Cardinals’ lone appearance in the Big Game – it also represents the Steelers’ NFL record-setting sixth Super Bowl win.


That 2008 Arizona team had a pair each of ex-Steelers (Clark Haggans,  Jerame Tuman) and future Steelers (Leonard Pope and Levi Brown) – not to mention an ex-Pitt star (Larry Fitzgerald) and a pair of ex-Pittsburgh area high school standouts (Steve Breaston, Reggie Wells).


OLB coach Joey Porter and cornerback William Gay are two current members of the Steelers who have two stints with the team sandwiched around a short (1-2 year) stay in the desert.


Chukky Okobi, Keydrick Vincent, Bryany McFadden, Dan Kreider, Sean Morey, Brian St. Pierre, Alan Faneca,  Crezdon Butler, Nick Eason, Rashard Mendenhall, Alameda Ta’Amu, Larry Foote, Jonathan Dwyer, Lamarr Woodley, Josh Mauro, A.Q. Shipley, Haggans, Tuman, Porter, Gay are players who previously played for the Steelers who then played for the Cardinals since 2007 (the Whisenhunt and Arians eras).


Not to mention coaches such as Ray Horton, Amos Jones, Tom Moore and Larry Zierlein.



A list of the current members of the Cardinals organization who previously were part of the Steelers (courtesy of the Cardinals):


  • Cardinals Assistant Head Coach/Offense Tom Moore (a Steelers assistant from 1977-89, coaching WRs from 77-82 and offensive coordinator/QBs coach from 83-89, winning two Super Bowl rings and coaching five Hall of Famers).
  •  Cardinals Offensive Coordinator Harold Goodwin (an offensive assistant with the Steelers from 2007-11).
  •  Cardinals Special Teams Coordinator Amos Jones (was special teams coach with the Steelers from 2007- 12).
  •  Cardinals O-Line coach Larry Zierlein (held the same position with the Steelers from 2007-09).
  •  Cardinals ILBs coach Larry Foote (played for the Steelers from 2002-08 and 2010-13, helping the Steelers win Super Bowl XL and XLIII – the latter over the Cardinals).
  •  Cardinals D-Line coach Brentson Buckner (played for the Steelers from 1994-96, including as part of the team that went to Super Bowl XXX; also was a training camp coaching intern for the Steelers from 2010-12).
  •  Cardinals LB LaMarr Woodley (played for the Steelers from 2007-13).
  •  Cardinals P Drew Butler (the Steelers punter as a rookie in 2012).
  •  Cardinals DE Josh Mauro (on the Steelers practice squad in 2014).
  •  Cardinals C/G A.Q. Shipley (a Moon native who played at Penn State and spent 2009 on the Steelers practice squad)
  • Cardinals Video Director Rob Brakel (worked in the Steelers video department for nine years).



Enjoy the game Sunday




October 12, 2015
by Chris Adamski

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Adamski: Steelers results on the West Coast over the past 30 years



I wrote the other day about the Steelers’ struggles in the Pacific time zone throughout their history. They’re 18-37 all-time in California or Seattle (including 1-3 in the playoffs) and have lost five consecutive, having not won on the West Coast in more than a decade (10 years and 2 days, to be exact since a 24-22 win at San Diego).


To think, coach Mike Tomlin has never celebrated a victory  west of the Rockies.


As you can read in the piece for the print edition, Steelers players — and of course, Tomlin — deny that the trip or the timezone change or anything like that has anything to do with it.


“I think if you’re a mentally strong team and a good group and you’re prepared, it makes no difference,” safety Mike Mitchell said.


Still, you can’t argue with results — some of which against bad teams.


Anyway, the chart below was omitted from the story for space reasons. So we’ll post it here.


Enjoy the game tonight…







2013=Raiders=21-18 Loss

2012=Raiders=34-31 Loss

2011=49ers=20-3 Loss

2006=Raiders=20-13 Loss

2006=**Chargers**=23-13 Loss

2005=**Chargers**=24-22 WIN

2003=49ers=30-14 Loss

2003=Seahawks=23-16 Loss

2000=**Chargers**=34-21 WIN

1999=49ers=27-6 WIN (but lost their next six)

1995=Raiders=29-10 WIN

1994=**Chargers**=37-34 Loss

1994=Raiders=21-3 WIN

1994=Seahawks=30-13 Loss

1993=Seahawks=16-6 Loss

1993=Rams=27-0 Loss

1992=**Chargers**=23-6 WIN

1990=49ers=27-7 Loss

1990=Raiders=20-3 Loss

1988=**Chargers**=20-14 Loss

1987=**Chargers**=20-16 WIN

1987=Rams=31-21 Loss

1986=Seahawks=30-0 Loss

1985=**Chargers**=54-44 Loss




October 8, 2015
by Chris Adamski

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Adamski: Vick returns to where it all (almost) started



During his 13 seasons in the NFL, Mike Vick has started at quarterback against (or for) 27 of the 31 teams that existed when he entered the league in 2001. He’ll get to cross one of the four remaining off the list Sunday when he leads the Steelers into Qualcomm Stadium to face the San Diego Chargers.


This particular opponent, though, is an interesting one for Vick because it was the team where his career was supposed to begin.


The Chargers had the No. 1 pick of the 2001 draft, and for months most assumed it was a shoo-in they’d take Vick. Well, Vick did go No. 1 – but it was to the Atlanta Falcons, after the teams engineered a draft-eve swap (the Falcons sent second- and third-round picks, plus receiver Tim Dwight, to San Diego, for the right to move up four spots from No. 5*).


All of a sudden, instead of the dynamic young player tasked with being the face of turning around Southern California’s NFL franchise, Vick became the dynamic young player tasked with being the face of turning around the South’s NFL franchise.


Vick has started 113 NFL games for four teams since – the first 67 of which for the Falcons. He’s started at QB on the road against every other NFL team except for New England, Tennessee, Oakland, Houston, the New York Jets and San Diego. The Jets he started three games FOR last year, and the Houston Texans had not begun play yet when Vick entered the league… which everyone had assumed would be for the Chargers.


Now, 14 ½ years after he was supposed to be THE quarterback in San Diego, Vick finally gets to be one there.







*-As an aside, the deal turned out to be a good one for the Chargers, who took RB LaDainian Tomlinson with that No. 5 overall pick and got their quarterback in the second round — a guy named Drew Brees. Both are almost assuredly headed to the Hall of Fame.



October 5, 2015
by Chris Adamski

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Adamski: Steelers show their early faith in Dupree when it matters most




Ironic that James Harrison, the man who caused a training camp stir with his decree against participation trophies, plays a position that the Steelers have decided to use an “everybody plays equally” mentality.


Until late Thursday night, that is, when the Steelers’ defensive coaches might have showed where their true feelings lie.


The Steelers starters at outside linebacker are Arthur Moats and Jarvis Jones. But playing the first snap of the game doesn’t mean they’ll play the last. The duo of 37-year-old James Harrison and rookie Bud Dupree have been rotating series with the Moats-Jones pairing.


It hasn’t been a strict rotation, either. Many times, if a possession lasts too long, substitutions will be made. On occasion over the first four weeks, the rotation has been disrupted slightly.  There have even been some plays in which, say, Harrison and Moats, or Dupree and Moats are on the field together.


That all said, when it came time for the highest-leverage, most-meaningful defensive possessions of the young season so far, the Steelers might have spoken with their actions.


Come overtime against the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday, despite the fact it was Jones’ “turn” to play, Dupree and Harrison were utilized on the Steelers’ first defensive series.


And then when it came time for the second defensive series, it was Dupree and Harrison again.


While Harrison is a former NFL defensive player of the year and his snap count is in part more of a function of his age than it is performance, the fact the Steelers coaches called upon Dupree is a tacit endorsement of how far the rookie has come so fast.


“I’m just trying to make them have faith in me each and every play,” Dupree said in the locker room Monday. “Just being on the field, having my presence out there (in overtime) felt good.”


Dupree noted that he was tasked with rushing the passer more in overtime than he did in regulation – both of which, again, highlight the coaches’ faith in him. For one, trusting Dupree in pass coverage (as he was often earlier during Thursday’s game) prove that he’s not viewed merely as a “one-trick pony” at his young age. There’s a school of thought from the outside that Dupree is just, as a rookie, an athletic but raw pure pass-rusher. The Steelers’ coaches are showing they already see him as much more.


“I always want to be a complete player, so being in coverage I can showcase my versatility,” Dupree said. “Anything things I can do for my team – it’s not all about me, it’s really the team. What do I need to do to win? I just wanna win.”


The coaches, of course, want to win too. So it was telling then that with the game so much on the line in overtime, they looked to Dupree.


Dupree had a sack on his first NFL play and another sack in his second NFL game. He’s has five tackles in the two games since.


Still, he’s showing progress. Obvious mental errors have been absent. According to Pro Football Focus, roughly a fifth of the 78 snaps he’s been on the field in which the opponent ran a passing play, Dupree has been asked to go into pass coverage. The rest, he’s been rushing the quarterback.


“I’m starting to think a little less now,” Dupree said, “but it’s still a learning curve. It’s not so much the plays; it’s more the concepts and formations and stuff like that. Different things teams do out of the same formations. They’re not running the same plays every week, like college. So that’s the biggest takeaway and biggest thing in terms of getting better each week.”



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