Tag Archives: Ryan Shazier

A Few Random Thoughts on Steelers v. Bengals

Photo via Steelers.com/Karl Rosen

These thoughts are not deep. That would be difficult, being as I couldn’t actually watch the game. They were garnered as I watched the highlight reel a couple of times.

There is one small factor which makes them slightly more valuable than my thoughts for many weeks previous—I can now actually see reasonably well out of both my eyes. It seems to me this ups the validity of my musings at least a little. (In case you’re wondering, I had cataract surgery on Tuesday. I have what they call “young person’s cataracts,” which is a nice way of saying “you’re old but not quite ancient.”)

So here they are, in no particular order:

  • Vance MacDonald has a lot of competition, but he may be my new favorite Steeler. How fitting it was that the first guy he took out on his little 29-yard scamper would be Vontaze Burfict. Another contender for my favorite, James Conner, put some hurt on Burfict himself, or he perhaps would have lost his place in line this week.
  • Why would any defensive coach in his right mind leave AB uncovered? Not that I’m complaining.
  • In his post-game conference, Ben said “What a great game!” about James Conner, and went on to say “I know it’s his last game, with Le’Veon coming back and all,” and that it was nice for James to have a game like this as his last one. The assembled media got a good laugh out of that. But it made me think how lucky the Steelers are that such statements are jokes—that the team isn’t hanging on desperately to hope that Le’Veon really will return this week. (No one, as far as I know, really knows when or if he will come back, perhaps even including Le’Veon.)
  • A bull in a china shop is a scary image. A bull in a china closet is just weird. Sometimes the broadcasters should think before they speak…
  • I didn’t know that volleyball was approved by the NFL, but there it was, two Bengals defenders batting the ball right to Ben, who said “Thank you very much” and took it across the line of scrimmage. Very entertaining.
  • What was with the Dr. Jeckell/Mr. Hyde special teams? Last week they were awesome; this week they sucked. A “foolish consistency” may be the “hobgoblin of small minds,” (an appropriate thought as Hallowe’en approaches) but I happily agree to be considered small-minded if special teams will agree to be consistent. Preferably consistently good.
  • Another Steelers/Bengals game, another cheap shot by Vontaze Burfict. As one of the local writers put it, if T.J. Watt was fined $20,000 for his “hit” on Matt Ryan’s “knee,” (emphasis mine), Burfict should be fined approximately $7,000,000,000 for his after-the-whistle elbow-to-the-head on AB. Personally, I think Burfict needs to be protected from himself. A nice long suspension—say 15 years—ought to do it.
  • I did follow the last three minutes or so of the game on the NFL site, and was tempted to repine when the Bengals scored. However, several things gave me hope: 1) the Steelers had all of their time outs, 2) there was still more than a minute, and 3) Cato, the fair-weather Steelers fan who leaves the room when the Steelers are losing too badly, came and sat on my lap for the final minute of the game. Phew!

Well, folks, I’m getting the other eye done in a week and a half, so for the first game after the bye I should be seeing on all cylinders, to coin a not-very-useful phrase. Hopefully I can actually watch the whole thing. That would be a treat. In the meantime, do check out the video on Steelers.com of Ryan Shazier visiting the hospital he was taken to last December. It is very touching. And it is way more important than football.

The Case for the 2018 Pittsburgh Steelers

Karl Rosen photo/ Steelers.com

By Ivan Cole

I begin with my usual disclaimer that I focus on potentialities rather than predictions. Many things can and will happen between now and February that impact outcomes. I will address some of these shortly. That being said, it’s not going out on a limb to assert that the 2018 Pittsburgh Steelers are legitimate Super Bowl Champion contenders as measured by the accumulated talent, organizational leadership and support. Unfortunately, there is more involved. What follows are the four horsemen of the Apocalypse that alone or in tandem can undermine a season.

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Steelers Training Camp: Friday Night Lights

img_2710It was with great anticipation that my lovely niece Laura and I headed for Latrobe Memorial Stadium and Friday Night Lights. I have never been to this event, and Laura has never been to any sort of football practice. (She will perhaps, like me, learn the error of her ways in later life.)

But it was not only the practice and the atmosphere I was anticipating, because we were meeting up with Greg (of the late lamented Weiner’s Circle,) Homer J., and Ivan. They arrived considerably earlier than we did and grabbed seats on the 40 yard line. It was then only a matter of catching up as we waited for the yellow school busses to arrive from St. Vincent’s. (Yes, the players are brought in yellow school busses. I don’t believe they are specially kitted out yellow school busses either. Mike Tomlin likes to keep the guys uncomfortable and humble during camp.)

I don’t have a single note on my yellow pad from Friday night, because as great as the 40 yard line seats on the 2nd row appeared to be, in fact the majority of the reps took place in the red zone, one way and another, and it was difficult to see too much. (This explains in part why I so seldom go to games. You can actually see much better on the TV, and are more comfortable besides. If this makes me a bad fan, well, I think there are an awful lot of bad fans.)

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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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Three Quick Reactions to the Steelers’ First Round Draft Day

photo via Steelers.com

I said yesterday I wasn’t going to write any more about the draft until we came back from our anniversary trip, but we don’t leave until tomorrow, and I just have to take a few minutes out from packing and such to comment on last night.

What a day for Pittsburgh sports! The Penguins beat the Capitals in the first game of the second round, in Washington, but considering that Washington has been their traditional second-round opponent every time they’ve won the cup, perhaps it isn’t surprising. It is a bit more surprising that they did it without Carl Hagelin and Evgeni Malkin, but there you are.

Then comes the news that Jung Ho Gung, the Korean player the Pirates had presumably given up on ever seeing again, finally got a visa. It’s been a year and a half, at least. There are plenty who would say the Pirates should turn their back on him, and there’s no doubt he screwed up royally. Nor does anyone know whether he’s still good at baseball. But I’m hoping this is the chance he needs to turn his life around. How quick we are as a society to turn on celebrities. Perhaps it makes us feel better about ourselves. I’m personally a big fan of second (or in his case, rather more than second) chances. It’s certainly his last one.

And speaking of second (and third) chances, the thing that Kevin Colbert swore wasn’t going to happen happened yesterday—the Steelers traded Martavis Bryant to the Raiders for a third-round pick. I think it is excellent for everyone. The Steelers get a pick back for the fourth-rounder they traded to the 49ers for Vance McDonald, but a much better one—middle of the 3rd round. They can pick up another big receiver, probably in the 2nd or 3rd round, and hopefully everyone is happy. Bryant gets a fresh start and the Steelers get to move on from a question mark.

After all, there are three possible scenarios for this coming season with Bryant on the roster. 1) He has a monster season and then parlays that into a huge contract with another team. Great for 2018, not so great ongoing. 2) He has an up-and-down season like last year and frustrates everyone, including himself, because he stops getting “mines.” Bad for the team, bad for the locker room, I’m guessing. Or the worst scenario—3) he isn’t doing well or getting enough balls, gets depressed, smokes some weed, and bang, he’s out of football, maybe forever. I’m guessing he’ll be a focus of the offense in Oakland, at least unless he proves himself unworthy of it, and he can blossom. Hopefully he won’t do so the week we have to play the Raiders, in Oakland, but that’s the breaks…

And then there was the surprise announcer of the Steelers’ pick. Ryan Shazier walked to the podium with his fiancee to make the pick. If you haven’t seen the video, check it out. It’s front and center on Steelers.com. If you can watch it and not tear up, you’re a hard-hearted person, is all I can say.

And of course many are tearing up, in a different sense, over the pick itself. It absolutely came out of nowhere—rather like the Ryan Shazier pick, actually. But even more so. Most don’t have anything against Terrell Edmunds, only that they felt he should have been taken in the third round. The Steelers, obviously, didn’t feel that way, nor, apparently, did they feel comfortable trading down and taking a chance on him being gone. (Or perhaps they couldn’t find any trade partners.)

I’ve read a bit of the analysis, and here’s what stood out to me:

Edmunds is a hybrid safety who can play at the line of scrimmage and can play some man coverage.

He is in the super high character mold of recent drafts. The man he and his brother Trumaine (who was taken by the Bills at Pick 16,) trained with the same guy, and according to Mike Mayock said that the two young men were the politest and nicest young men he’d ever worked with. With any luck this means that Edmunds will say “I’m sorry” when he’s forced to snatch a ball away from an opposing receiver.

Because yes, he has ball skills. Not so much last year as in 2016. But it turns out there’s a reason—he was playing with an injured shoulder for the whole season, until he finally had to give up and have the surgery. Kevin Colbert said they were impressed by this, and I assume they are thinking his 2016 tape is more realistic, assuming Edmunds is healthy.

And this also demonstrates his commitment to the team—that he would continue to play, knowing he couldn’t play as well, and that it was going to hurt his draft stock.

And finally, he was responsible for lining up the defense, and apparently was very good at it. His plus communication skills were undoubtedly one of the things that attracted Tomlin and Colbert to him.

Well, there’s no telling whether he will turn out to be a Jarvis Jones or a (hopefully luckier) Ryan Shazier. You could pretty much say that about anybody they took. But hopefully a similar scenario will play out to Shazier’s draft year, in that many thought the Steelers might take Stephon Tuitt in the first round and were outraged at the pick. And instead the Steelers got both men*. I’m hopeful that someone they had highly graded will fall to them in the second round.

We will see. In the meantime, it’s going to be hard to top last night, in terms of sheer Pittsburgh sports drama.

And now I really am shutting this down. Unless, of course, the Steelers’ next three picks all come from my mock drafts. Who knows what I would do then?

*They still have Shazier. He of course will not be able to play this season. And very possibly not ever. Coming back from an injury like that when you’re a player whose game is predicated on blazing speed is extremely difficult, in terms of whether you can ever be the same player. One can’t help but think of Sean Spence. If I were Shazier’s fiancee I would be praying every chance I got that he never walks onto another football field, at least in a uniform. But watching his indomitable spirit is inspiring for everyone, and the Steelers seem determined to involve and utilize him as much as possible.

The Real Issues Facing the 2018 Pittsburgh Steelers

By Ivan Cole

I have written previously about the ‘fake news’ that rises this time of the year concerning the Steelers and the rest of the NFL. We are still some distance from clarity as to all the operative narratives that will fully describe the 2018 season, but some of the potentialities are obvious even as the off-season conditioning effort is just commencing, and we are still weeks away from the draft.

Whither Shazier?

Ryan Shazier will not play for the Steelers in 2018, but the trajectory of his life and NFL career may well impact this season and the organization for years to come. If you are young or otherwise not much up on the history of the franchise you might be surprised to learn that this isn’t the first time that a player and the organization faced a verdict of ‘may never play again’. Taking a look at the two most notable examples we learn something uplifting and important about the human spirit and how two men and the leadership of the Steelers organization responded to these challenges.

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What Killed the Pittsburgh Steelers 2017 Season?

By Ivan Cole

As has been noted in these spaces before, the off season can evolve its own strains of hysteria concerning the state of a team. I think Art Rooney II got it right when evaluating the season—he pointed out that a 13-3 record signifies a very good year. For a fan base that measures success in Lombardi Trophies it is easy to dismiss the regular season as meaningless. But as Rooney noted, few teams can point to many instances when they have done that well. I would add that nearly a third of the schedule was played against eventual playoff teams, so the record was not a cheap or inflated achievement.

This highlights a disquieting, even disturbing truth about the game: Ultimate success often hinges not upon big problems. As often as not, one event, a game, even just a play or two can determine the outcome of entire seasons. What follows is one person’s opinion of what derailed the Steelers’ run to the Super Bowl in 2017.

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