Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-06-28

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Can a Weakness Become a Strength?

You can ask anyone.  Go ahead, ask them.  “What was the Steelers’ weakest area last season?”  Or how about, “When push comes to shove, who was more likely to be on the ground?”
You got it – the Pittsburgh offensive line.  Opposing defenses would run around them, through them, between them and over them.  If things got much worse, third-and-one would have become a punting situation.  Fourth and goal-to-go?  Tomlin never did give up on that, no matter how many three pointers it cost them.
So there it is, can the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive line change in one offseason from a weakness to a strength?  I say, “Why not?”  Now hear me out on this because it might be a stretch.  But just suppose …
Max Starks will begin the season as the starter at left tackle.  He was just rewarded with a new contract and I think he’ll be better, more motivated.  He seems like the type who’ll want to prove he deserves that money and who’ll appreciate the new confidence (no, not desparation but Confidence!) the Steelers exhibited via the extension.  No longer a backup or a right tackle, he’ll have from last season until the next to work on his game on the left side.
And speaking of the left side, let’s move a bit to the right and talk about Chris Kemoeatu.  It’s never easy to replace a perennial pro bowl player, just ask Kemo.  People were underwhelmed by his performance, calling him sloth-footed, indecisive and any manner of other things behind his back.  Consider though, that Kemo was a first-year starter who may show some modicum of improvement with a season under his belt.  That experience coupled with the certainty that the same two men will be blocking to either side, yes, I’m talking about continuity here, that fact alone should lend itself to visible improvement from the left guard.
The man-in-the-middle was servicable last season.  Let us assume that he will at least remain so.  And let’s go ahead and give the benefit of the doubt, the he, too will improve with the season past in the books.  Now he’s more familiar with Bruce Arians’ arcane and (some say) unknowable schemes.  Next season he’ll spend less time thinking and more time reacting, doing, blocking – not getting pushed back into Big Ben’s lap (one hopes).
Our left-most right-side man is the guard, Darnell Stapleton or rookie Kraig Urbik.  Who will it be?  Just the competition alone seemingly guarantees an upgrade here.  Last season Stapleton was competing against himself, essenitally.  After Simmons went on IR, who else was next?  Sure, some say Colon should have been there at his natural position, but the coaches like him at tackle; what can you do?  So now Stapleton will have to win the job over Urbik during camp.  If he does, great.  Either way, I feel this position will start 2009 in a better place than in 2008.
So far we’re four-for-four.  Imagine that, at this point we have 100% improvement from left to right, back and forth, top to bottom, etc.  But why stop here?  We can’t.  I’ve heard people call Willie Colon the “human mudslide” and frankly, it always gets a chuckle.
So, what if Colon does nothing more than stay the same?  We’ve already seen improvement on a scale that few would admit possible so why get greedy?  We’ll say that Colon does a “workman-like” job and add ‘er all up, the whole shebang.
We have a line that played together for the majority of the season in 2008 and won a Superbowl.  They could run block in spurts and protect Ben for 2, 3 and sometimes even 4 seconds.  But in 2009 the guys will know one another, they’ll be a year better and a year smarter in the scheme.
I’ll make a bold prediction now and set the over/under for sacks at 40 and figure the top two backs for a healthy 4.3 ypc.  Furthermore, Tomlin will be rewarded more often than not when he keeps Jeff Reed on the sideline for those fourth and goal-to-go’s.  The third-and-one will no longer be considered a punting down.  You know where I’m going.
Yes!  A weakness can become a strength.

You can ask anyone.  Go ahead, ask them.  “What was the Steelers’ weakest area last season?”  Or how about, “When push comes to shove, who was more likely to be on the ground?”

You got it – the Pittsburgh offensive line.  Opposing defenses would run around them, through them, between them and over them.  If things got much worse, third-and-one would have become a punting situation.  Fourth-and-goal-to-go?  Tomlin never did give up on that, no matter how many three pointers it cost them.

So there it is, can the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive line change in one offseason from a weakness to a strength?  I say, “Why not?”  Now hear me out on this because it might be a stretch.

But just suppose …

Max Starks will begin the season as the starter at left tackle.  He was rewarded with a new contract and I think he’ll be better, more motivated.  He seems like the type who’ll want to prove he deserves that money and who’ll appreciate the new confidence (no, not desparation but Confidence!) the Steelers exhibited via the extension.  No longer a backup or a right tackle, he’ll have from last season until the next to improve his game on the left side.

And speaking of the left side, let’s move a bit to the right and talk about Chris Kemoeatu.  It’s never easy to replace a perennial pro bowl player, just ask Kemo.  People were underwhelmed by his performance, calling him sloth-footed, indecisive and any manner of other things behind his back.  Consider though, that Kemo was a first-year starter who may show some modicum of improvement with a season under his belt.  That experience coupled with the certainty that the same two men will be blocking to either side; yes, I’m talking about continuity here; that fact alone should lend itself to visible improvement from the left guard.

The man-in-the-middle, Justin Hartwig, was servicable last season.  Let us assume that he will at least remain so.  And let’s go ahead and give the benefit of the doubt, the he, too, will improve with the ’08 season in the books.  Now he’s more familiar with Bruce Arians’ arcane and (some say) unknowable schemes.  Next season he’ll spend less time thinking and more time reacting, doing, blocking – not getting pushed back into Big Ben’s lap (one hopes).

Our left-most right-side man is the guard, Darnell Stapleton or rookie Kraig Urbik.  Who will it be?  The competition alone seemingly guarantees an upgrade here.  Last season Stapleton was competing against himself, essenitally.  After Simmons went on IR, who else was next?  Sure, some say Colon should have been there at his natural position, but the coaches like him at tackle; what can you do?  So now Stapleton will have to win the job over Urbik during camp.  If he does, great.  Either way, I feel this position will start ’09 in a better place than any point in ’08.

So far we’re four-for-four.  Imagine that, at this point we have 100% improvement from left to right, back and forth, top to bottom, etc.  But why stop here?  We can’t.  I’ve heard people call Willie Colon the “human mudslide” and frankly, it always gets a chuckle.

So, what if Colon does nothing more than stay the same?  We’ve already seen improvement on a scale that few would admit possible so why get greedy?  We’ll say that Colon does a “workman-like” job and add ‘er all up, the whole she-bang.

We have a line that played together for the majority of the season in ’08 and won a Superbowl.  They could run block in spurts and protect Ben for 2, 3 and sometimes even 4 seconds.  But in ’09 the guys will know one another, they’ll be a year better and a year smarter in the scheme.

I’ll make a bold prediction now and set the over/under for sacks at 40 and figure the top two backs for a healthy 4.3 ypc.  Furthermore, Tomlin will be rewarded more often than not when he keeps Jeff Reed on the sideline for those fourth-and-goal-to-go’s while third-and-one will no longer be considered a punting down.  You know where I’m going.

Yes!  A weakness can become a strength.

Max Starks Extended

Big Max Starks finally came to terms with the Steelers on a new contract, inking a four year $26.3M deal featuring a $10M signing bonus.

Big Max Starks

Seems like a good deal for the Steelers when one considers they were on the hook for over $8M next season, now they can spread the wealth and address extensions for players such as Heath Miller and Casey Hampton, among others. Perhaps Max was desirous of a short contract and a double-digit bonus, can’t really figure where the sticking point could have been.

Good job, Omar and congratulations to Max!

Mission #1 for Starks?  No sacks of Big Ben from the blind side.  Mission #2?  Get that running game back on the rails.  Is it too much to ask for two 1000+ yard backs?  Gotta keep Fast Willie and Mendenhall fresh for the playoffs.

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-06-21

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Big Ben Shoots 81

Challenge Met

Ben Roethlisberger played Bethpage Black with a foursome featuring two other celebrities and a contest winner.  Ben managed a respectable score of 81 to win among his group which included Michael Jordan who shot an 86, Justin Timberlake (88) and regular guy Larry Giebelhausen (101).

Ben golfs, greets baby

Ben golfs, greets baby

While Roethlisberger managed birdies on holes 10 and 15 one figures the Super Bowl winning QB knows where his meal ticket lies.  And, according to the Post Gazette, after disproving Tiger Woods’ prediction of a 100+ round, he pocketed some walking around money.  “I got to collect from Tiger,” Roethlisberger said. “And I got to collect from Mike for the birdies.”

Three Draftees Sign

The Steelers reached contract agreements with one of their third rounders and both fifth rounders over the weekend.  Third round cornerback Keenan Lewis of Oregan State inked his deal, joined by fellow pass defender Joe Burnett of Central Florida.  Fifth round UNLV running back Frank “The Tank” Summers who punched his ticket to training camp, signed on the dotted line Friday.

Most of the 2009 draft picks remain unsigned but don’t worry fellow Steelers fans, the front office will take care of business.

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-06-14

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Bling Thing XLIII

Less than 100 people on the planet have a ring that looks like this. A bit over half that number earned it on the playing field this past February. Fewer still is the number who also have the companion bling from Superbowl XL.

Nevertheless, the Pittsburgh Steelers received their Superbowl XLIII prizes last evening. In a suprising ceremony, Mr. Rooney himself handed out dozens of uncharacteristically heavy Cracker Jack boxes.

Ha! Wouldn’t that be a hoot? Please remind me of that next time I own an NFL team that wins the Lombardi!

Superbowl XLIII Ring (a)

Note the 6 large diamonds.

Superbowl XLIII Ring (b)

Note the hypocycloid

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-06-07

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A Bit of News For You

Big Ben is Back

Ben Roethlisberger returned to practice today after limping off the field Wednesday. Apparently the QB bumped knees with teammate “Fast” Willie Parker.

The Post Gazette
reports of Parker, “Actually, me and him bumped knees on a certain play, but he’s definitely all right and he’s a competitor. I guess he just likes a lot of attention sometimes and he likes being the little baby, but Ben is definitely a warrior.”

Sort of a backhanded comment, Willie. But it’s likely something many think but few say. What do I care, though? Far as I’m concerned, Big Ben walks on water and wins Super Bowls. Keep ‘em coming, ya big baby.

And now to the Golf section …

Big Ben hopes to break 100 at Bethpage Black, site of the 2009 US Open. “Tiger tells me I can shoot 87.” Have fun, Ben, then get back to work. Repeats don’t happen by themselves and there’s a “Team of the Decade” issue to settle.

Ben watches his drive

Ben watches his drive

Training Camp is around the corner.

The Steelers head to training camp which begins on July 31 at Saint Vincent College. According to the Tribune Review, The Steelers will break camp before the second of their four exhibition games, shifting practice to their Pittsburgh training complex following their Aug. 22 game at Washington.

Training camp warm up

Training camp warm up

Make a wish …

Casey “Big Snack” Hampton makes a wish come true. It seems the big fellow has time for his fans, especially those in need. The Tribune Review states that An excited Heather Miller of Bedford got a chance Wednesday to meet her favorite football player, Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton, as part of her Make-a-Wish Foundation request.

That’s all for now, folks, check back soon.