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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.”




September 29, 2015
by Chris Adamski

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Adamski: Ben-less Steelers face Ravens often — and usually, don’t leave with wins




Charlie Batch embraces Ben Roethlisberger after leading the Steelers to a rare Ben-less win against the Ravens.




Steelers-Ravens conjures up plenty of individual comparisons.


Ray Lewis-Joey Porter.






Except, that last one doesn’t happen as often as you’d think.


The Ravens’ Joe Flacco hasn’t missed a start since being drafted in 2008. But his Steelers’ counterpart, Ben Roethlisberger, has had some bad luck when it comes to facing his team’s fiercest rival.


Until he played in consecutive full 16-game seasons for the first time in his career the past two years, Roethlisberger had missed at least one start against the Ravens six times over his first nine seasons in the league.


The most recent game Big Ben has missed? It was against the Ravens (Dec. 2, 2012).


The team Ben’s missed the most starts against? The Ravens.


Thursday will be the 17th start Roethlisberger has missed since taking over the job following making his NFL debut – against the Ravens, no less – after a Tommy Maddox in Week 2 of 2014.


Seven of the first 17 games Roethlisberger has missed will have been against the Ravens.


Put another way, Thursday is the Steelers’ 23rd regular-season game vs. Baltimore since they drafted Roethlisberger. While Ben has started 15 of them, here are the other Steelers QB’s to have started against the Ravens since 2004:


Tommy Maddox (twice)

Charlie Batch (three times)

Dennis Dixon

Byron Leftwich

Michael Vick (Thursday)


Maddox is 0-2, Batch has lost two of his three starts against Baltimore and Dixon and Leftwich both lost theirs. In other words, the Steelers are 1-6 against the Ravens when Roethlisberger is unavailable since he entered the league in ’04 (four were due to injury, one to suspension, one because it was a meaningless season finale and the 2004 Maddox start before a then-22-year-old Roethlisberger had earned the starting job). Ironically, the Steelers are 9-2 since 2004 when Ben hasn’t started against any team that is NOT the Ravens.


When Ben has been available to start against the Ravens during the regular season, the Steelers are 9-6 (11-7, including playoffs).


When Ben starts, the Steelers’ offense averages 18 points. When he doesn’t, they average 13.5 points.


Two of the Steelers’ five losses to the Ravens without Ben since he became their starter were in overtime – all were one-possession games, and four were by a field goal.


Interestingly, the Ben-less Ravens games have featured Dixon’s first NFL start, and the final NFL start for all three Maddox, Batch and Leftwich.


The good news? The lone win against the Ravens for a backup of Ben’s came in the most recent shot at it. Batch – a local boy who spent 12 seasons with the franchise and who knew, with his 38th birthday just days away, that it was likely his final NFL action – led the Steelers to a 23-20 win in Baltimore that kept them in the AFC North race. As time ticked off, Batch was visibly emotional.


At 35 years old himself and on his third team in three seasons and having remained a free agent until the final two weeks of training camp, Vick might be facing a similar end of the line. Who knows – an injury to him Thursday might mean it is his final NFL start, too.





September 23, 2015
by Chris Adamski

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Adamski: Steelers offensive stars offer support to Martavis Bryant



CLICK HERE TO LISTEN to the weekly Steelers Roundtable program on TribLive Radio, featuring the wit and wisdom of Ralph Paulk and Chris Adamski live in studio, and the insight and expertise of Mark Kaboly from the Steelers’ facility on the South Side.



SOUTH SIDE – Martavis Bryant, of course, is not practicing with the Steelers or even around the team while he serves a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.


Two of the young receiver’s most prominent teammates said Wednesday that they have talked to Bryant, offering support to the Steelers’ budding star.




Running back Le’Veon Bell (himself just back from a two-game suspension):

“I’ve talked to (Bryant) a little bit. Obviously I know how tough it is for him, but I told him it’ll go by pretty quick. It (stinks) having to watch and not being able to practice with your team, but it’ll go by pretty quick. And once you get back you can put it all behind you and just try to make yourself into a positive role model like you once were. Obviously, people are going to hate him for a little minute and give him a little beef and things like that. But once you get back on the field and start making some plays and as time goes on, things will get better. That’s kind of what happened for me. I’m happy to be back out here, and I’ll help Martavis when I can.”




Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger:

“I talk to (Bryant) every day, whether it’s a text or calls. He’s upbeat. He’s ready to get back and help this team, help this city and get back to us, his family, where he belongs. I’m encouraged by what he’s doing and the work he’s doing, because I told him, getting yourself right as a man is more important than football. He’s doing that and taking great pride in it, just like he does with football. We are excited for him.”




As it stands now, Bryant is eligible to re-join the Steelers on Oct. 2, the day after they host the Baltimore Ravens in their fourth game of the season.




September 17, 2015
by Chris Adamski

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Quantifying how much Sunday’s early-season game means to the Steelers’ playoff/Super Bowl hopes



It’s a non-conference game against a team that isn’t widely expected to be a Super Bowl contender. It’s only Week 2 of the season, and other than it being the home opener, there’s little about Sunday’s matchup against the 49ers that carries much significance.


Don’t tell that to the stat-crunchers at, though.


As Mark Kaboly, Ralph Paulk and Chris Adamski discussed on their weekly Steelers Roundtable Show on TribLive Radio, Sunday’s game at Heinz Field has the feel of a game that, as far as Week 2 contests go, is one the Steelers have to win.


Intuitively and anecdotally, the Steelers need to win the games they’re favored in considering they are playing the NFL’s toughest schedule. They also need to win as many home games as possible, and they of course would like to avoid going 0-2.


Quantitatively, the good folks at NumberFire can put some tangible measure to how much the 49ers game means to the Steelers. The site uses its internal efficiency metrics to simulate the season tens of thousands of times to determine the most probable outcome for how the season will play out.


Here is what NumberFire concluded would be the Steelers’ chances at a playoff berth, AFC North title or Super Bowl win come Sunday night, pending a win or loss against San Francisco:


 *   With Win: 26.36%
 *   With Loss: 15.08%

 *   With Win: 20.28%
 *   With Loss: 11.92%

Super Bowl-
 *   With Win: 1.52%
 *   With Loss: 0.82%
In other words, the Steelers, mathematically, are almost twice as likely to win their division by improving to 1-1 than they are if they fall to 0-2. They’re also almost twice as likely to win the Super Bowl, and about 43 percent more likely to make the playoffs with a victory Sunday vs. a defeat.



Incidentally, I’m sure many Steelers fans will take umbrage with what seem to be low figures in all the above scenarios. If so, you probably will like the following even less. Below are NumberFire’s projections for the Steelers as of this moment after Week 1:



Projected Record: 7.27 – 8.73
Playoffs: 19.96%
Division: 15.88%
Conference Championship: 2.34%
Super Bowl: 1%



Remember, these are cold, objective, quantitative data projections. Also, please, don’t shoot the messenger; I’m just passing them along. Finally, perhaps this is a reminder that some in the outside world aren’t as sold on the Steelers as maybe some in Pittsburgh are.


(Then again, some others are much more bullish on the Steelers).



Regardless, another reminder to CLICK HERE to listen to the weekly Steelers Roundtable Show – starring Kaboly, Paulk and Adamski – on TribLive Radio. Enjoy.




September 14, 2015
by Chris Adamski

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Adamski: Scobee moves on after taking a mulligan on his introduction to the Steelers

Scobee's field goal swing

Which form looks better — Josh Scobee’s placekicking, or his 5-wood?

Scobee golf


A scratch golfer, it’s no surprise that when new Steelers kicker Josh Scobee discusses his placekicking mechanics it sounds as if he’s comparing it to his golf swing.


The same, the 12-year NFL veteran said Monday, can be said about the mental part of the two athletic acts he’s most proficient at.


“Oh yeah, absolutely – there are very many similarities,” Scobee said of golfing and kicking in football. “Both physical and the mental part of the game. So that’s why I try to using both of them to my advantage.”


Scobee, long considered one of the NFL’s strongest legs, missed his first two kicks for the Steelers in the season opener Thursday – 10 days after being acquired in a trade from Jacksonville.


The reasons he missed the kicks, Scobee said, are physical. The reason he was able to bounce back – and isn’t fretting over the less-than-ideal start with a new team going forward – are mental.


“I’ve had many bad games; I’ve had many bad kicks,” said Scobee, who missed field goals from 44 and 46 yards out during the first half of Thursday’s 28-21 loss at New England. “But you can’t let it bother you because then you’re not putting yourself in a great position for the next one.”


Scobee made field goals from 44 and 24 yards later on during Thursday’s game. He also boomed three of four kickoffs thereafter for touchdbacks.


“In this profession, you really have to be able to have good self-talk,” Scobee said. “Instead of hearing your mind wandering and going in negative places, you have to be able to tell yourself the right thing – and that’s what I was trying to do.


“Obviously, new team, new situation, first game of the year, there’s a little bit of anxiety that you want to get off to a good start. So when I didn’t, I was little anxious about that, so that’s why I was excited about getting some more kicks there.”


As for the WHY he missed the two initial kicks (which were from medium-long-range), Scobee relayed that the first kick was, to paraphrase, a slice hit off the heel of his driver – er, foot. The second was more of a miscalculation based off of the wind that was present during pregame warm-ups.


“The first one, the ball shot off to the right really awkwardly,” Scobee explained, “and the only times that ever happens are if you catch one a little closer to your ankle, and the ball will just kind of shoot off the like that – or (it was) a sudden wind gust. But that one was more of a case of catching it toward my ankle a little bit. I’ll take that one on me.


“And the second one, I just started a little too far right because all pregame, the wind was bringing the ball right to left. So this one I started out outside the upright… and it never moved. So when I hit it I’m looking like, ‘Yeah it’s gonna be good’ – and it just stayed there.


“So obviously, it’s frustrating. I hate missing one kick, let alone two. Good thing I got a couple after that – and made them – so now I can build off that. And I’m not the type of person who dwells on bad kicks or bad games because if you do, then you’re not putting in a good position for the next kick. Because I can’t control the distance of kicks, or how many kicks I get; I just have to control the next kick, and my mindset is to be ready for that next one.”


The next one figures to come at Heinz Field on Sunday in his home Steelers regular-season debut.




September 10, 2015
by Chris Adamski

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Steelers “fired up” for opener; Steelers Roundtable panel not quite as enthusiastic, but entertaining/informative nonetheless



Here’s what Steelers cornerback Cortez Allen says about Thursday night’s NFL season-opening game in New England:  “Fired up. Everybody is just fired up and excited, especially playing these guys just because they provide so much of a challenge as far as the things they run in terms of schemes and things that. We like these types of challenges because we like to test ourselves.”


Here’s what defensive end Cameron Heyward has to say about opening a season against the Patriots: “What better way to do it than on a Thursday night. I think everybody appreciates being in the kickoff game… with everyone watching. We want to start off fast; we wanna run out of these gates.”




Mark Kaboly, Ralph Paulk and Chris Adamski won’t be running out of gates – literally, at least. Figuratively? Perhaps. I don’t know how “fired up” this group is, either. But they pledge to give the best regular-season Steelers coverage possible.




Along those lines, LISTEN HERE to the regular season-opening edition of TribLive Radio’s Steelers Roundtable Show to get you ready for kickoff. Please.




Enjoy the day. And the season.




September 9, 2015
by Chris Adamski

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Adamski: Can the highly-decorated Barrett Jones help the Steelers at some point down the line?




The good part of Barrett Jones’ resume is very, very good:



The other parts of Barrett Jones’ resume are, well, not-so-good:

  • -Fell to the fourth round of the 2013 draft
  • -Appeared in only 10 games his first two NFL seasons, starting none and taking just 23 regular-season snaps on offense
  • -Lost out in a three-way battle for the Rams’ starting center job this summer, and the players he lost out to are a journeyman fifth-year player who has four career starts (Tim Barnes) and a seventh-round pick from last season who spent all of his rookie year on injured reserve so, of course, has zero NFL experience (Demetrius Rhaney)
  • -Was given up on already by the Rams, who released him last week




The Steelers signed Jones to their practice squad Monday, apparently hoping that respected offensive line coach Mike Munchak can work some magic with a player that was so highly-regarded in high school and college but has struggled over 28 months in the pros.


Even though Jones wasn’t ever considered to be a first-round pick because of limited athleticism, he still just two years ago was thought to be a longterm NFL starting-caliber player.


That never worked out, for a variety of reasons – injury chief among them (Jones had foot surgery in 2013 and back surgery in 2014). He also wasn’t seen as athletic enough to thrive in a zone blocking scheme and there were also questions about his overall strength in run-blocking.


“I was in the running to start… and I guess they decided the other guy won it, and they liked another guy better as a swing inside guy, so they cut me,” Jones said. “So that’s the way it is, and there’s no use pouting about it; you’ve just got to come to work and work hard everyday. That’s all I can do – just focus on learning this offense and, obviously try to make it on the active roster, here or somewhere else.”


Jones practiced at guard immediately with the Steelers, but he projects most as a center in the NFL and said he’s most comfortable there (he played right guard, left tackle and center on national championship-winning Crimson Tide teams). Obviously, he’s never going to beat out Maurkice Pouncey at center, but if he proves he can be adequate at guard, Jones is a candidate to be the “swing” interior backup in the future.


Right now, that is manned by Chris Hubbard, who did not have the best camp, and Doug Legursky, who was signed off the street late in camp. Of course, the position is Cody Wallace’s but Wallace is starting at center until midseason while Pouncey nurses back to health a broken fibula.


Look, there’s a reason Jones got cut, and he’s only on the practice squad. So it’d be foolish to expect anything at all significant to come out of him being here. But he’s intriguing because of his pedigree, because of the reputation of Munchak and because of the fact he hasn’t been fully healthy yet as a pro after being very durable at a high level in college.


“Getting cut is obviously something you never want, especially when it was a little bit of a surprise,” Jones said. “But you just kind of have to take some deep breaths and sort of reevaluate what’s going on. It’s definitely a crazy time, but I think that God has a plan for my life and right now it’s being in Pittsburgh with a great organization like the Steelers.”



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