photo: Rebecca Mehling/Steelers.com
by Ivan Cole
As Rebecca has already mentioned, life has slowed both of us down a bit but that should not be construed to mean that interest has been lost in the fortunes of the Steelers. For me it represents an opportunity to approach the upcoming season in a manner opposite from that which has been the case since I have been privileged to communicate with you concerning the fortunes of what I believe to be a model of what a first class organization, in sports or any endeavor is, as it strives to reach its goals.
photo via Steelers.com
2018 third-round draft pick OT Chuks Okafor seemed like a luxury pick when he was selected. Or perhaps not so much a luxury as a “Haven’t dem Stillers noticed that the problem last season was the durn defense?!!!” pick. But with the (temporary) demise of third-year tackle Jerald Hawkins during OTA (torn quad) it started to look a good deal smarter.
And now G Ramon Foster, who is entering his 10th season in the NFL, is out, at least for the nonce. In Foster’s case the news is considerably better than first feared when he was taken off the field with a knee injury during the Steelers’ first padded practice on Saturday, It turns out he has a hyper-extended knee with no ligament damage, which is projected to keep him out for 4-5 weeks. Fortunately the heir apparent, YouTube star* B.J. Finney, has had a considerable number of game reps by now coming in for injured players—mainly Foster, but he also played some center last season, with mixed results.
Hang in there, everyone—just a few more hours before something actually football-related begins! (The picture is a screenshot from NFL.com, taken right before I posted this. It will be much closer by the time most of you read this.) I’ll finish up with some 7th round possibilities, drawn mainly from the guys the Steelers took an extra look at. Here goes:
One position that hasn’t been addressed at all in my mocks is a development project for the offensive line. I haven’t checked out the rugby player yet, but I’m really hoping he’ll make the cut. My Welsh son-in-law is obsessed with the idea of seeing American football players play rugby, so at least he can see it the other way around. So let’s begin with him:
Photo via Steelers.com. Can you tell I’m loving the color rush unis?
The title of the article pretty much sums up the feel of this game. Many of the Titans coaches have played or worked for the Steelers at one time, including Mike Mularky, Deshea Townsend, and of course Dick LeBeau. It goes the other way, too. Starting corner Coty Sensabaugh was drafted by the Titans. But perhaps the big name here is Offensive Line coach Mike Munchak, who played for the Titans, coached in a variety of capacities for them, and was their head coach for three years. Bob Labriola of Steelers.com pointed out that there are more Steelers/Titans connections than there are between the Steelers and the Cardinals, and that’s saying something.
But once the “hail fellow well met” greetings are over on the sidelines, the battle lines are drawn up, and what we have is a game between a 7-2 and a 6-3 club. Both would very much like to win it. For the Titans, it would represent a sweep of the AFC North, as they’ve already beaten the other three teams (barely.) And they would naturally like to hold on to their lead in the AFC South. For the Black and Gold, it would represent another step towards a bye week and home field advantage in the playoffs. Read more
Peter Diana, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
As you can probably ascertain, I’m inaugurating a new series in which we** examine what we believe to be key elements in the team’s hope of playing next year in February. I’ve chosen Mike Munchak to start for various reasons, but mainly because it seems pretty clear that a healthy Ben Roethlisberger is going to be one of the primary components in making it to Minneapolis. And an awesome offensive line is one of the primary components of a healthy Ben Roethlisberger.
I have already written about Mike Munchak, but it has been almost two years. And that article, although it did go into the improvement in the o-line during Munchak’s tenure, was really more a comparison of his and Keith Butler’s coaching styles. This time I’m going to focus on Munchak. Read more
There was a lot to be nervous about for this game. The Jets front four has a fearsome reputation, and when you pair that with the Steelers’ right tackle, Chris Hubbard, getting his first NFL start after looking more like a revolving door than an impediment in the preseason, and with Ramon Foster back but still a bit fragile, it didn’t seem like a recipe for a good game.
And while the Jets offense will probably not be mistaken for The Greatest Show on Turf anytime soon, the Steelers’ defense was missing several important players, and lost another during the game. Had I told you beforehand that Cameron Heyward would be out partway into the game you might feel the game would be a shootout, because despite Ryan Fitzpatrick’s predilection for throwing to the guys in the wrong-colored jersey recently, there was no reason to think any of the Steelers’ DBs would manage to hold onto one if Fitzpatrick threw it to him.
by Homer J.
It is with a heavy heart that I give you the following. I will have more to say tomorrow, but for now I’m going to post this and go watch Downton Abbey. As usual I will give you a smattering of Homer’s game notes and his report card.
And I want to second Homer’s comment—I am so proud of this team. Has any team ever gone into a playoff game missing both their starting (or even backup starting) running back and their best wide receiver, with their quarterback hurt, and made a game of it? The Steelers did. This was a game they very plausibly could have won, against the top defense in the league. It’s hard to accept that they lost, but also difficult to do anything but admire them for the way they did it.
Madjack58 put it best….the only thing fully functioning on this team is heart and guts.
The question in our hearts is whether it’s time for the clock to strike midnight, or whether heart and guts and magic dust will keep it all going.
I’ve really enjoyed the feature “Asked and Answered” on steelers.com. In it Bob Labriola fields an astonishing variety of questions. This question from October 29th got the normally phlegmatic Labriola a little fired up:
PAUL CUZ FROM FRANKLIN SQUARE, N.Y.:
Bill Cowher won with average quarterbacks. Mike Tomlin has a franchise quarterback. Tomlin is a defensive coach like Cowher and the Steelers defense is below average. Do you think Tomlin deserved a contract extension?
[Bob Labriola answers:]
I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess you don’t believe Mike Tomlin deserved a contract extension, but let me ask you a few things: Exactly what did Bill Cowher win with an average quarterback? Not the Super Bowl, because the Lombardi Trophy won during his tenure came after Ben Roethlisberger was drafted. Certainly not the AFC Championship games – at home – in 1994, 1997, and 2001. And let me take this discussion in a different direction and ask you: What did Bill Belichick ever win, either in Cleveland or in New England, without Tom Brady? What did Chuck Noll ever win without Terry Bradshaw? Tom Landry never won anything until the Cowboys went with Roger Staubach. Read more