Tag Archives: James Harrison

The Journey to Seven Lombardis: Part 1

By Ivan Cole

If you are interested enough, the entire football year can be endlessly intriguing. As we move into the second week of OTAs it is still far too early to make much sense of where the Steelers stand in relation to securing that seventh championship this season, but enough of the puzzle pieces are in place to allow for some educated speculation.

Injuries and other handicaps

In past seasons the team often struggled with a high volume of injuries. As Head Coach Mike Tomlin has said, the injury rate in the National Football League is 100 percent, therefore it has been tempting to throw one’s hands in the air and declare that it is all just a matter of luck as to how things work out.

A few years ago, Art Rooney II threw the gauntlet down and declared the organization’s intention to get a better handle on the situation. It sounded at the time like Owner Speak, putting an optimistic face on a problem that was really beyond the capacity to influence.

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A Couple of Snarky Questions on the Pittsburgh Steelers: Free Agency Edition

Matt Freed/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

As noted in the premier post in this series (“premier” in the sense of first, not the sense of good…) this feature is a placeholder for the 5 Smoldering Questions. So let’s get to it, since it’s already late.

1. Most everyone seems to think Lawrence Timmons will be a cap casualty with the Dolphins. His stat line last year was nothing to write home about. Part of this is because he bizarrely missed the first walk-through of the season for the Week 2 game, the first for the Phins because of the hurricane, thus being suspended for the first two games. It was the first time since 2009 he missed a game.

But some might say that, in terms of inside linebackers, beggars can’t be choosers, and the Steelers, due to Ryan Shazier’s health and their cap constraints, are definitely beggars. If you were the Steelers brain trust, would you try to bring the 32-year-old Timmons back for another year in the Black and Gold?

2. James Harrison recently showed up, rather to most people’s surprise, to Brett Keisel’s “Shear Da Beard” event. Arthur Moats said they had “talked out their differences.” Whether Steeler Nation will ever again take him back to their collective bosoms is another matter. But my question concerns Harrison’s stated desire to play next season. What’s your guess? Did you see enough from him in a different scheme to think another team will take him on?

That’s all for now. This is plenty to deal with in the offseason, right in the middle of the Olympics. And speaking of the Olympics, here’s a bonus for you. One of my son-in-laws is a police officer, and this was recently published in the department newsletter. Names are changed to protect the guilty:

  • PO Jim Smith at 7 PM: “Oh…Figure skating?”
  • PO Jim Smith at 10 PM: “If they nail this triple twist they’ve got at least 40 in the technical category.”

Stay warm, y’all.

Pittsburgh Steelers Fourth Quarter Report, Part 1

E07A5A20-E908-4AEC-BE40-8DADA9353D3BPhoto via Steelers.com

By Ivan Cole

A different approach

Of course, the great news is that though the regular season is concluded, this is not the end. This is the key objective and measure of success for every professional football franchise. The team met, indeed, exceeded comfortably the standard that allows for participation in overtime—the fifth quarter playoffs–the penultimate goal for the Pittsburgh organization.

Nonetheless, I believe this to be the proper time to assess this team’s journey. I feel this approach is merited for three reasons:

While the ultimate goal is to win the Super Bowl, realistically, success in the regular season is the variable over which you can exercise the most control in preparation and performance. Failure in this area renders playoff concerns irrelevant. Plus, there are factors in the playoff equation that often defy common assumptions from the beginning of the team building process. For example, who would have asserted six months ago that it would be Jacksonville, as opposed to Houston, who would be breathing down the Steelers’ neck in the playoff chase?

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The Return of the Hombre: 5 Smoldering Questions on the Pittsburgh Steelers

FD31B63C-9465-422A-8750-E29B80695AE1By Hombre de Acero

After getting humiliated at home by the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Pittsburgh Steelers waltzed into the living room of the Kansas City Chiefs and promptly proceeded to thoroughly dominate the NFL’s hottest team, best quarterback and top rusher for 3 and a half quarters. The Steelers of course defeated the Kansas City Chiefs, improving to 4-2 and they head back home to face the Cincinnati Bengals. But before this corner of Steelers Nation can focus on this latest AFC North show down, we first must answer these 5 Smoldering Question on the Steelers.

1. Carlos, an Argentine Steelers fan who lives above, commented to me that the NFL is so unpredictable that he’s stopped betting on games (and believe me, Carlos not betting is a big deal.) Six games into 2017, the Steelers are far from the only team to appear schizophrenic. To what do you attribute the NFL’s flirtation with manic depression, and is what’s happening in Pittsburgh just an extension of the general trend or is there something unique in the Steel City?

2. After standing on the sidelines for much of the season—on the Sundays he was lucky enough to dress—James Harrison entered the game on the final drive, and dropped Alex Smith on the penultimate play.

While T.J. Watt has done everything you could ask of a rookie, do you think James Harrison has done enough to warrant more playing time at Watt’s expense?

3. So Martavis Bryant requested a trade two weeks ago, as various outlets have confirmed, only to have Bryant face the cameras and tell us how happy he is in Pittsburgh. It says here that Bryant isn’t going anywhere, but if you’re Kevin Colbert, what offer tempts you?

4. The Pittsburgh defense currently leads the league in pass defense. This is partially due to the defensive line, but is certainly also due to the defensive backs. Curiously, the coaches haven’t changed and the scheme hasn’t changed—Pittsburgh still plays less man coverage than any team in the league, as per Pro Football Focus, in an article published yesterday. So why this sudden competence?

5. Count yours truly as one who openly suggested that Ben Roethlisberger was too dependent on Antonio Brown, so much that the analogy of Neil O’Donnell to Eric Green was rumbling around my head (oh how I date myself.) Makes sense.

Six weeks into the season Ben + Brown is the offense’s only consistent element.

That’s a common perception in Steelers Nation, but the numbers tell an interesting story.

Thus far this year, Brown has been Ben’s target 33% of the time, caught 35% of his passes, accounted for 46% of the team’s receiving yards and has 64.9% catch rate.

In 2015, when he was competing with Heath Miller, Markus Wheaton, Darrius Heyward Bey and Bryant, Brown was the Steeler’s quarterback’s target 33% of the time, caught 34% of the team’s receptions and accounted for 38% of the team’s receiving yards with a 70.5% catch rate.


…Is the Steelers offense, or perhaps Pittsburgh’s passing game, too dependent on Ben getting the ball to Brown?

On Second Thought: Steelers @ Chiefs

ADF16C1C-D644-44AA-A82F-8E129B64D3C6Photo via Steelers.com

Usually after a win like Sunday’s beatdown of the Chiefs everybody is lined up with game recaps, grades, and so on . But Ivan Cole is a DNP for the last two weeks with carpal tunnel and Homer is off gadding about, so you’re just going to have to put up with me this week.

In my first effusions over the game I pretty much skipped over the less perfect aspects of it, and honestly I think this is appropriate in many ways. Part of the excitement of a live performance, whether given by a rock band, a professional chamber choir such as I conducted for many years, a symphony orchestra, a production of Hamlet, or, yes, a football game, is that anything can happen at any given moment, and a great many of the things which can happen are, shall we say, less than optimal.

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Steelers @ Chiefs: the Acceptable, the Objectionable, and the Appalling

Phot via Steelers.com

This post should really be called The Return of the Native, or some equally classy literary name, because the big news is:

  • 1: The Chiefs are no longer undefeated.
  • 2: James Harrison is BACCKK!

It is possible that No. 2 had something to do with No. 1.

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5 Smoldering Questions on the Pittsburgh Steelers, Week 6

photo via Steelers.com

Hombre de Acero is still wandering the world, so you all are going to have to make do with more Spluttering Questions this week. Not but what the questions would be fairly spluttery anyhow after the Massacre at Heinz Field. So without further ado:

1. Anybody with a smartphone and the ability to look up a few stats was aware that the Jaguars, while possessing what Ike Taylor declared two weeks ago was the best corner tandem in the league, were not very impressive against the run. That would lead simple folk like some of us to think the Steelers would, well, run the ball. Le’Veon Bell had fifteen carries. Why do you think this is? No profanity, please…

2. James Harrison was a supposedly unhealthy scratch in Baltimore. He was a healthy scratch in Pittsburgh. How soon do you expect to see him on the field, and how mad do you think he will be?

3. Mike Tomlin is not known for wasting challenges. When he does challenge a play he usually wins. Neither challenge last Sunday looked at all promising, and indeed all he did was lose 1/3 of his timeouts. Why do you think he challenged those plays, particularly the second one? Was it sheer desperation, or something more rational?

4. Time to look ahead to next Sunday, when a brighter day will dawn. Except for the fact that the Steelers have to travel to the noisiest stadium in the NFL and play the only remaining undefeated team, on national television. Is there anything you can think of which gives you any hope for a happier outcome than last week?

And finally, with apologies to Hombre:

5. You get a phone call with a 412 area code. You pick it up and are asked to hold for Coach Tomlin. He says hello and then gives you 60 seconds to tell him one thing you would do to improve the offense. He notes that just saying “run the damn ball” is not helpful. Could you give him one specific tweak, either in personnel or scheme, which doesn’t involve anyone not currently on the team or staff?

I completely understand if you’re too depressed to answer these. As you can tell, I’m not over that game either. But if you can bring yourself to pick up your No. 2 pencil, I would be very interested to hear what you have to say. Otherwise, class dismissed…

On Second Thought: Homer’s Game Notes and Grades

photo via Steelers.com.

As I noted in yesterday’s post, nobody is in a big rush to write up an embarrassing loss. But Homer J bit the bullet, and here are his thoughts:

Last week we beat the jagoffs, now we have to beat the Jaguars. No hat again for Deebo. Maybe he should change uniform numbers to 37. We still don’t know who these teams are, from week to week, but this will be a step towards defining the Steelers. (In retrospect we can only hope this was a non-defining anomaly…)

Steelers kick off. Touchback. (I’m warning you, reader, there’s not a lot more good news. Most of it came in the early going, such as this:)

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Pittsburgh Steelers 2017 First Quarter Report

photo via Steelers.com

By Ivan Cole

Twenty five percent of the 2017 season is in the books, and now is a good time to take stock and see what we have learned and can look forward to as we move into October. Let me caution you at the outset to be careful about drawing broad conclusions from what has transpired. Despite the apocalyptic pronouncements coming from the football media and elsewhere, the general outcomes of this season are still far from being settled, no matter how promising or dire it appears for individual teams. It is quite possible that teams that seem Super Bowl bound won’t even make the playoffs, and I would remind you that a few years ago the Steelers, like the present-day New York Giants, began the season at 0-4 and missed the playoffs on the last play of the last game.

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5 Smoldering Questions on the Pittsburgh Steelers: Week 3

photo via Steelers.com

By Hombre de Acero

The Pittsburgh’s 2017 home opener saw the Steelers dismantle the Vikings to the tune of 26-9. Yet despite the 2-0 record, much of Steelers Nation is wanting more, particularly from the offense. This week’s opponent brings the men in Black and Gold to Chicago, where they’ve only won once in 13 tries.

But before we can see whether the Steelers can improve on their fortunes in the Windy City, this corner of Steelers Nation must resolve these 5 Smoldering Questions on the Steelers.

1. You could argue the point, but the Steelers post-Super Bowl XLV rebuilding effort hit rock bottom on September 29th in London against the Minnesota Vikings in a loss that dropped them to 0-4.

In looking at all that’s happened since then, the changes on both sides of the ball appear to be mirror images of each other.

There were only three or four of the starters on offense from that dreadful day in London at Heinz Field last Sunday, while only 3 players on defense from the ’13 team remained for Sunday’s “Rematch.”

Which changes do you feel have made the most impact in altering the trajectory of the team between then, now and looking forward to the future?

2. When T.J. Watt went out, Anthony Chickillo stayed in while James Harrison sat on the bench. Mike Tomlin explained the move by wishing to stay with a “hot hand.” What do you think of this decision and do you think it is appropriate to read anything into it?

3. FOX’s commentating team pointed out that Antonio Brown has never had a 100 yard game against a Mike Zimmer-coached defense, a period which covers Steelers offenses of varying potencies.

Again against the Vikings, Antonio Brown was held below the century mark.

What’s going on?

4. Danny Smith has taken a lot of heat in recent years, some of it fair and some of it unfair. In the first two weeks of the season, his special teams have come up with big plays in the form of a blocked punt and a successful stop of a fake punt attempt.

Yet against the Vikings the penalties cost the special teams a shot at a 2 point conversion and turned a field goal situation into a punt (which Danny Smith’s teams downed at the one – something we’ve not seen a lot of.)

So, with 1/8th of the season complete, is your Steelers Special Teams cup half full or half empty?

5. As Homer observed in his game analysis of the Vikings win:

“We are so damned spoiled that the Steelers can win by 17 points against a very good team with one of the best defenses in the game, and we still carp and moan like the worst bunch of yinzers.”

While yours truly agrees with Homer’s criticism of the much of the fan base, the Steelers offense has seemed to be stuck in a low gear, given the talent (and salary cap space) the team has invested in it.

What type of effort against Chicago will be necessary to stop the carping?

You know the drill. Use only Number 2 dark pencils, and we strongly caution against using Faber Castels. You must show work to get full credit, and looking at your neighbor’s paper is strongly encouraged.

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