Monthly Archives: July 2016

A Blast from the Past: First Round, Part 2

Don Wright, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

In 2011 the Steelers went with defense for the first pick, and chose a seemingly solid and safe pick, DE Cameron Heyward. It was, of course, the next to last pick of the first round, and various of the players they might have taken (or people wished they would have taken) were gone. That said, however Steeler Nation may have felt about the pick (and the reviews were definitely mixed) the Steelers, as they did this year with Artie Burns, didn’t hesitate an instant before handing over their pick. So they were pleased, anyhow.

But as the previous description indicates, this wasn’t a sexy pick. The presumption was that Heyward would be fine, and given that Aaron Smith was nearing the end of his career, with Brett Keisel not too far behind, the Steelers definitely had some shoes to fill. Here are the sorts of things which were being said at the time:

Adam Kaplan, Fox Sports: Read more

Training Camp, Day 1

Camp Day 1Well, folks, football is back, and it was a welcome sight! I should say “sights,” as it was the usual problem of one set of eyes and many places to look. But I did my best. Here’s what I saw, and heard. I apologize if it seems disjointed, but I’m giving it to you more or less as I experienced it, with a few clarifications due to later information.

Practice began with receiver drills, and a #83 was throwing some really sweet passes. It wasn’t Canaan Severin, though, it was Ben, who wore Heath’s number for the first part of practice to honor him. He said after practice that it was a shock to look out and see #83 and have it not be Heath, and that he kept wishing Heath would show up and play a little bit. Heath’s departure seems to have hit him harder than any of the other players who have retired, which makes sense…

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Meet the New Steeler: Marcus Tucker

tempimg_5248-nfl_mezz_1280_10245’10” tall. 190 pounds. Played at an unheralded school in Michigan. Best 40 time is 4.47. Wide receiver. Whatever.

This is most likely what many people said when the Steelers used an actual draft pick on a small Central Michigan wide receiver seven years ago. And now, of course, that undersized guy from Central Michigan is either the best or the next best wide receiver in the NFL, depending on who you talk to. Pro Football Focus would tell you he was the best last season. Only Julio Jones was even very close, by their reckoning.

So is Marcus Tucker the next 5’10” 190 pound Michigan receiver to wow the NFL? Probably not. The chances against this happening twice are pretty high. But is there even a chance of it? Of course. There’s always a chance, because Tucker has earned that chance.

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Training Camp for Fans, Part 7: Fandom At The End of an Era?

AP photo

by Ivan Cole

The Second Dynastic Period may be called, if you prefer, the Era of Ben Roethlisberger. It began in 2004 and is ongoing. This period includes the final three years of Bill Cowher’s leadership and the entirety of Mike Tomlin’s command. There have been no losing seasons, and three Super Bowl appearances have culminated with two championships.

While the common belief has been that unless the team manages at least one or more additional championships this period falls short of the first dynasty, I believe the opposite may well be true. What colors our perceptions is the difference in the myth making and fan expectations about what the 70s were about, and what the 21st Century rendition of the Black and Gold has produced.

A Blast from the Past: First Round Picks, Part 1

 

Charles LeClaire, USA Today Sports

Strictly speaking this should actually be Part 2, because I jumped the gun last week and spent a fair bit of time reviewing the Jarvis Jones pick. We will now return to chronological order and consider the 2010 first round pick, Maurkice Pouncey.

This is, in retrospect, a difficult pick to categorize. Want to call Pouncey a bust because of all the time he’s missed due to injuries? Well, what about his Pro Bowl level play when he is in the lineup? All you have to do is compare it to that of his predecessor, Justin Hartwig, to remember why it was that pretty much everybody was mocking Pouncey to the Steelers.

Want to say the Steelers hit a home run with this pick? Well, what about all the games he’s missed due to injury? It doesn’t do you much good to have a Pro Bowl center if he spends all his time in the training room.

Obviously the truth more nuanced. Here’s the history:

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Meet the New Steeler: Mandel Dixon

Tom Gilbert/Tulsa World

I checked the Steelers official website for the list of rookies, since various transactions seem to have taken place since the Steelers signed their UDFA class. Dixon caught my eye because he is apparently ageless, All the other players had an age listed next to their name, except him. Let’s see if we can figure out why.

So far the mysteries are only deepening. Dixon played two years for Pitt before transferring to the University of Tulsa. That would be Pittsburg State University, residing in Pittsburg, Kansas. It is a four-year school, and they play in Division II. Their team is called the Gorillas. Who wouldn’t want to be there?

Apparently Mr. Dixon. He was a fullback and running back at Pittsburg State, but was listed as a TE at Tulsa. The Tulsa Golden Hurricanes play in Division I, and Golden Hurricanes is a pretty awesome team name, too, so I guess I can see why Dixon would leave.

The University of Tulsa Athletics page was full of information about Dixon. Much of this information, however, merely deepens the mystery about this young man. (At least I assume he’s young. There’s surely some sort of age limit for college athletics.) Read more

Training Camp for Fans Part 6: The Emergence of Steeler Nation

1934 Pittsburgh [Football] Pirates Team Photo

by Ivan Cole

As noted in his previous post, this series is a continuation of Ivan’s “Training Camp for Fans” series which ran last August. Those links can be accessed below. Back to Ivan…

  1. B. C. (Before Chuck)

You could also, if you choose, refer to this period as B.M.J. (Before Mean Joe) or B.D.R. (Before Dan Rooney). This represents a clear demarcation between the approximate first half of the Steelers’ franchise existence, which was characterized by a losing culture, and the soaring success of the more recent past.

Those like myself who claim this period as our initiation into the Nation share the characteristic of being well grounded—in part, because if you have any memory at all of this period, you are pretty old (hate admitting that). But also because you had to withstand the trials of being immersed within a losing culture. Because of that, and the fact that the NFL and sports generally did not have the reach or popularity that they enjoy today, a fan in this era (no term as fanciful as “Steeler Nation” existed at that time)  was almost certainly indigenous.

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The Final (for now, anyhow) Sunday Football-Related Music Post

via Baltimore Sun

As fans we’ve been hanging on by our fingernails until training camp begins, and the wait is just about over. The players report to camp on Thursday and public practices begin the following week. The long drought is almost over.

As a result, I’m going to end this series, at least until next off-season. And even then it will probably be a sporadic feature, as I’ve used up a great deal of the supply of NFL players involved in any sort of rigorous fashion with music.

I suppose I should have saved the Renegade post for this week, but that ship has sailed. Instead I will leave you with one final music post, featuring—a Baltimore Raven.

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Meet the New Steeler: Brandon Brown-Dukes

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Erie Times-News/Jack Hanrahan photo

I’ve always felt that having a hyphen in your name makes you just that little bit more special, so rookie running back Brown-Dukes (hopefully soon to be known as BD, which is easier to type] is next up. (According to Jim Wexell, Mike Tomlin calls him “Mercyhurst.” I still prefer “BD”)

Like so many of the UFDAs, BD comes from a small college, but few of them have his distinction of coming from a Western PA college—Mercyhurst College in Erie, PA. Excuse me, Mercyhurst University. But that’s a rant for another day… He was a late signing, as the Steelers called him to fill a spot in the rookie mini-camp when it was already underway. When he talked to the Steelers, he was about to head to Rochester for a job with a tire distributor.*

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A Tribute To Bill Cardille

image

 

by Homer J.

It was the summer of 1974. I was between jobs and hanging out on a Saturday night over at Channel 11 with a friend who was working there. This was the summer of the first NFLPA strike, and we were watching a Steelers pre-season game, where Joe Gilliam, Lynn Swann, and John Stallworth were about to run and pass all over some hapless opponent.

In the studio, they began pre-taping the inserts for Chiller Theater.

“How ‘bout those Steelers?” was Bill Cardille’s opening line.
“How ‘bout those Steelers?” was the response, shouted by someone off camera.
“Yeah, how ‘bout those Steelers?” Chilly Billy laughed.

The joke was on everybody, because the game had just started and no one knew the outcome. I’d seen a similar opening a week earlier, after another Saturday night pre-season game, and had no idea it had been pre-recorded. How ‘bout those Steelers, indeed.

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