Tag:Pittsburgh Steelers
Posted on: December 20, 2011 10:58 am

Coach Killers, Week 15: Max meets Aldon

Coach Killers is your weekly look around the league at those performances, decisions and "Wait, what did he just do?!" moments that put the guy in charge squarely on the ol' hot seat.

By Ryan Wilson

Max Starks - Steelers

To be fair to Max, the Steelers cut him during the summer, something about him being out of shape. And then, a month into the season, after it was abundantly clear that Jonathan Scott wasn't a capable NFL starting left tackle, Pittsburgh re-signed Starks, promptly inserted him into the lineup, and the offensive line immediately improved.

And given how well the Steelers had been playing in the two and a half months since Starks returned to the team, it's hard to quibble with one performance. But hey, that's what we do here.

Rookie Aldon Smith, a situational pass rusher at this stage of his career, treated Starks like a 350-pound rag doll Monday night. Any shortcomings along the offensive line are usually mitigated by Ben Roethlisberger's mobility in the pocket, but the Steelers quarterback was playing on bum ankle that so hobble him that we're pretty sure Tommy Maddox could've beat him in a foot race.

Aldon Smith puts on a clinic as he takes down Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger on 2.5 sacks Monday night, setting the 49ers' rookie record at 13 with two games left in the season.

Starks held his own in the first half, primarily because the close score meant that Pittsburgh's rushing attack was still part of the game plan. But after the 49ers went up 13-3 in the second half it was, as they say, on like Donkey Kong. To paraphrase Jon Gruden on Monday Night Football, if the game had gone on much longer, Smith would've earned a trip to Canton on that singular performance. (The only thing missing: the wind spring sack dance.)

A healthy Big Ben and a soft schedule over the final two weeks (Rams, at Browns) should mean more consistent play throughout the offense. Also not hurting: getting Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey back. He missed the 49ers game with a high-ankle sprain of his own.

Cary Williams, Jimmy Smith - Ravens

Heading into the season, the Ravens secondary -- particularly cornerback -- was thought to be a liability. Former practice-squad player Cary Williams has started 14 games this season and for the most part he's been solid. Against the Chargers, he spent the evening chasing after whichever target Philip Rivers just found wide open streaking across the field.

And you could argue Jimmy Smith's night was worse. Chargers head coach Norv Turner identified the rookie first-round pick as a target and Norv was true to his word. Rivers ended the night completing 74 percent of his throws for 270 yards and a touchdown. More than that: he wasn't touched all game. That's right, the team with more offensive line issues than the Steelers, and who were working on their third left tackle of the season, kept Rivers clean against one of the NFL's most ferocious pass rushes.

Put differently: Baltimore's shortcomings don't all fall to Williams and Smith. The front seven didn't do their job and if we really want to point fingers, Joe Flacco played like, well, crap. The lesson: don't take Tim Tebow's name in vain. Nothing good will come of it.

Stanford Routt, Rolando McClain, Raiders

Obviously, this honor should go to head coach Hue Jackson for his inexplicable decision to not triple and quadruple-team Calvin Johnson during the last drive of Sunday's game, one that proved to be the difference. (But this is 'Coach Killers.' Presumably, Jackson's into self-preservation even if his coaching decisions scream otherwise.) Instead, Jackson blamed execution not play-calling for Johnson getting open, even though one play call had linebacker Rolando McClain responsible for covering Johnson 40 yards down the field.

“Yeah, that’s called the Tampa-2," Jackson said. "That’s what the middle linebacker does — he runs right down the middle of the field. They made the play and we didn’t.”

We don't know much about football strategizing, but that seems like a recipe for losing.

Oakland likes to play a lot of man-to-man and cornerback Stanford Routt was burdened with covering Johnson for most of the game. He had a costly pass interference penalty that gave Detroit the ball at the Raiders six-yard line with 48 seconds to go. Wondering how that ended? Yep, a Matthew Stafford-to-Calvin Johnson touchdown pass in the back of the end zone. The goal post was the closet object in coverage on the play.

See how Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson led the Lions on a seven-play, 98-yard drive to defeat the Raiders in Oakland.

“It isn’t a scheme issue. The ball’s laying up in the air. You gotta go make that play. Their guy made it and we didn’t. So they won the game." Jackson said, according to CBSSports.com Rapid Reporter Eric Gilmore.

Well, it is a scheme issue when the scheme doesn't have anyone in Johnson's vicinity.

Santonio Holmes - Jets

You have to wonder what goes through a player's mind when he makes the conscious decision to do something stupid. The Bills' Stevie Johnson had to know that as soon as he went to the ground during his "I shot myself in the leg" homage to Plaxico Burress touchdown dance in Week 12 that he was going to get a 15-yard excessive celebration penalty.

On Sunday, with the Jets trailing 28-9, Holmes finally held onto the ball long enough to get into the end zone (he already had a fumble and caused an interception by misplaying a Mark Sanchez pass).

Hand the ball to the official, head to the sidelines and try to figure out how get back in this game.

That should've been the thought that ran through Holmes' mind. Nope. Instead, he put the ball on the ground, stepped on it, and pretended to fly. Like an eagle. Um, yeah, using the ball as a prop? That's a 15-yard penalty.

Good news: Holmes scores. Bad news: he gets a stupid celebration penalty.

In the scheme of things it didn't matter; the Eagles blew the doors off the Jets and 15 yards here or there wasn't going to be the difference. But the penalty is symptomatic of something larger: Rex Ryan's inability to control his locker room. Holmes is a six-year veteran and a team captain. He's also one of New York's best players. But there's a chance he will be one of New York's best players sitting on the couch in January.

Ryan, for his part, nailed the role of the enabling parent.

“He apologized for that to me but I’ll say this about Santonio and every other player on this team: They have my 100 percent support and we’re in this thing together. … Are we perfect? No. None of us are perfect, but I'm just saying that you wish that thing never happened," Ryan said. "I don't think it will happen again, but again, I have his back, he has mine and this whole team is that way. We just have to come out and fight for each other, we know it was a mistake and we'll learn from it."

In two weeks, the Jets might have plenty of time to replay all the mistakes from the past season.

Marc Mariani - Titans

We were all set to blame Chris Johnson for the Titans' loss to the Colts, but pointing the finger at one of the league's worst running backs has become unoriginal 15 weeks into the season. And while Mariani had very little to do with Tennessee getting steamrolled by an 0-13 team, this play perfectly embodies the Titans' Sunday afternoon experience at Lucas Oil Stadium.

With the Colts leading 17-6, Mariani, Tennessee's return man, misplayed a kickoff in the end zone. No big deal -- it happens all the time … except that Mariani accidentally drop-kicked the ball out of bounds at about the six-inch line.

“I botched my responsibility,” Mariani said. “Their kicker (Pat McAfee) line-drived that one and I was trying to make a play, but it was all over the place and took an unbelievable bounce.”

The miscue proved to be harmless; the Titans gained a few first downs before eventually punting.

As for the real culprits Sunday, take your pick: Johnson (15 rushes, 55 yards); Matt Hasselbeck (a pick-six -- including the first interception by a Colts cornerback all season -- and another pick in the Colts end zone); Jared Cook (huge fumble in Indy territory); and the entire Titans defense for getting Donald Brown'd in the fourth quarter with Indy leading just 20-13. And perhaps more embarrassingly, giving Dan Orlovsky his first career victory. (Orolovsky had been 0-7 with the 2008 Lions and 0-2 with the Colts in 2011.)

Tennessee goes tackling-optional on Brown's 80-yard TD run.

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Posted on: December 20, 2011 1:00 am

Aldon Smith makes Defensive ROY case Monday

Aldon Smith picks up one of his record-breaking sacks of Ben Roethlisberger. (AP)
By Will Brinson

A blown transformer caused a power outage on Monday night in San Francisco. Or maybe 49ers rookie linebacker Aldon Smith just snuck out back of the stadium and swallowed that bad boy whole before the 49ers handed Pittsburgh a 20-3 loss in Candlestick Park.

Because, my goodness, Smith was off the charts, dominating the Steelers offensive line en route to recording 2.5 sacks and a pile of hurries and hits on a hobble Ben Roethlisberger. Smith's sacks were notable for more than just his performance Monday, though, as he broke Charles Haley's record for sacks in a season (12.5) by a 49ers rookie.

"The biggest thing with him is when there's a guy there ready to block he can just turn his hips, get skinny and get through there and still pressure on the quarterback," defensive tackle Justin Smith said afterward when asked about Aldon. "He's done it all year, he did it a bunch tonight and he's one of the reason we're where we're at."

Where they're at is the No. 2 seed in the NFC, a spot they'll lock down if they can beat the Seahawks and the Rams on the road over the next few weeks.

And where Smith should be is near the top of Defensive Rookie of the Year ballots. His 13 sacks are the best by any rookie in 2011, and even the other guy who might win the award, Von Miller, knows how good Smith is -- he told me before the season Smith would win the award.

If Smith plays the last two games like he did on Monday night, Miller might be right, at his own expense.

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Posted on: December 19, 2011 10:13 pm
Edited on: December 19, 2011 11:08 pm

What happens if Steelers-49ers game is suspended?

By Will Brinson

Follow the action live:  Gametracker | What happens if game's suspended? | SF Rapid Reports
                                       Big Ben Active | PIT Rapid Reports | Playoff Race | Expert Picks

As you may have noticed, there's some issue with the power at Candlestick Park in San Francisco during the Steelers-49ers game. (The Niners currently lead 6-0.)

Twice thus far, there's been a delay because of a power outage and there are some obvious concerns about whether or not the game will actually be finished. (Not to mention what that means for your fantasy football team, ammright?) So what would happen if the game were suspended?

According to Mike Tirico on Monday Night Football, the teams and league will attempt to stay at Candlestick as long as possible to finish the game, provided it doesn't become "a public safety hazard."

In that event, the game could be suspended and finished on Tuesday afternoon. After all, unlike baseball, the game can't be "complete" until it's actually complete, meaning the whole game must be played.

"If the game were to get suspended it would resume at some point at the exact point it was suspended," Mike Pereira, former NFL VP of Officiating and now a Fox Sports analyst, tweeted Monday. "Stats and scores would remain."

Pereira also noted that the referee involved can "only temporarily suspend" as it's the NFL's decision as to whether they should suspend until a later date.

The logistics behind suspending the game -- and presumably resuming it on Tuesday -- are a disaster, considering that everyone's already scheduled to play again on Saturday. Not to mention Ben Roethlisberger's already dealing with an injured ankle, and playing in game action two days in a row doesn't really seem plausible the way he's looked on Monday.

From a fantasy perspective, you'd just sit on your points until the game was finished. I have no clue, at this point, how Vegas would handle the game. My best guess is there would be an option to get no action from certain casinos.

That's a tremendous disadvantage for the Steelers, who have to travel back home before playing on Christmas Eve against the Rams.

The 49ers wouldn't exactly be helped, as they've got to play a white-hot Seahawks team in Seattle on Saturday as well.

But if for some reason the game can't continue tonight, it could conceivably be played Tuesday, and given the problems with the power in Candlestick on Monday night, playing it during the day wouldn't exactly be a terrible idea either.

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Posted on: December 19, 2011 8:49 pm
Edited on: December 19, 2011 10:36 pm

49ers-Steelers delayed (again) by power outage

By Will Brinson

Follow the action live:  Gametracker | What happens if game's suspended? | SF Rapid Reports
                                       Big Ben Active | PIT Rapid Reports | Playoff Race | Expert Picks

UPDATE (9:45 p.m. ET): Another power outage! The power's out again at Candlestick Park with San Francisco leading Pittsburgh 6-0. There's really no telling how long this will last, but hopefully it's no more than 20 minutes or so. Stick here for updates.

And the tweet of the year just rolled across from suspended Steelers linebacker James Harrison:

"If I cant play then can't nobody play... Lights out!"

Just when the world was ready for some football, a transformer near Candlestick Park exploded and shut the power down in San Francisco prior to the Monday night game against the Steelers and delaying the start time of the game.

As former 49er and broadcaster Steve Young noted, "it does feel very lonely" in the belly of Candlestick and the routine of both teams is now officially shook up.

There was no sense of panic and/or disruption with the fans when the power went out, which is good news. We'll update you here as we find out more about the timeframe for the game to begin, but it appears the game should be ready to roll soon.

The lights are back on at Candlestick and the players are on the field, but pregame introductions and the like still need to take place.

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Posted on: December 19, 2011 8:10 pm

Ben Roethlisberger active Monday night

Ben Roethlisberger is offically active for Monday night. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

We mentioned first thing Monday morning that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger would start on Monday night in San Francisco. There was some concern that Ben would be a game-time decision throughout the day, but he's officially active for Pittsburgh now.

It was widely assumed that Roethlisberger would start once Baltimore lost to San Diego on Monday; a win on Monday against the 49ers would give the Steelers a serious leg up on chasing the No. 1 seed in the AFC and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.

But it remains to be seen if Ben can be effective on the field. Expect the Steelers to play ball control and try to move the rock on the ground in order for Roethlisberger to minimize any hits.

The Pittsburgh Steelers will travel to Candlestick Park to take on the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night. Join James Brown, Dan Marino, Bill Cowher, Shannon Sharpe and Boomer Esiason as they break down this upcoming matchup.

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Posted on: December 19, 2011 6:27 pm

VIDEO: Hines Ward in 'Dark Knight Rises' trailer

And people say Hines Ward has lost a step. (YouTube.com)
By Will Brinson

"Dark Knight Rises," the latest in the line of Batman movies from Christopher Nolan, is slated to hit theaters in July of 2012. But the full trailer hit the Internets over the weekend and guess who makes a cameo: Hines Ward!

We already knew that a slew of Steelers players were playing roles in the movie as members of the Gotham Rogues, whose home field is set at Heinz Field, but not until my younger brother chatted me on Sunday did I realize that Ward was actually in the preview.

You can check out Ward's appearance at the 1:15 mark below as he runs from not just defenders, but a slew of explosions set by Bane, the movie's villain, who's basically like an evil version of Rob Gronkowski, who is also hell-bent on blowing up Heinz Field (only metaphorically) and quite clearly a efficient killing machine created by scientists.

The trailer is absolutely badass, but, just as an FYI, it's R-rated and slightly scarier than James Harrison.

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Posted on: December 19, 2011 10:48 am
Edited on: December 19, 2011 10:50 am

Pick-6 Podcast: Recapping Ravens, previewing MNF

By Will Brinson & Ryan Wilson

The Ravens blew it. They had a chance to wrap up the AFC North, and maybe even the No. 1 seed in the conference and all they had to do was beat the Chargers in San Diego. It seemed eminently possible since San Diego had lost six games in a row after starting the season 4-1, and Baltimore was considered one of the NFL's best teams.

Instead, the Ravens' inability to beat lesser opponents on the road haunted them once again and now it could mean the difference between a first-round bye and traveling to Denver as a wild-card team.

So we talk about that, as well as what the win means for the 7-7 Chargers. Do they still have a chance at the postseason? (No way, right? Right?!)

In addition to San Diego's surprising win, Week 15 was chocked full of upsets and we discuss those, too: from Romeo Crennel and the Chiefs upending the previously undefeated Packers, to the Colts finally getting a win (thanks, Tennessee!), to the Panthers thoroughly outplaying the Texans, as well as the ever-evolving playoff landscape

Finally, we preview a suddenly important Steelers-49ers Monday Night Football matchup.

Did we mention that you should subscribe to the podcast via iTunes?

If you can't listen to the podcast below, download it here. And if you'd like to keep working while listening in your browser, pop that puppy out in a new tab here.

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Posted on: December 19, 2011 8:46 am

Roethlisberger expected to start vs. 49ers

Baltimore's loss to San Diego means Pittsburgh could end up with the No. 1 seed in the AFC. (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

It is, as they say, go time. For the Steelers, that means quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is set to start Monday night versus the 49ers even though he suffered a high-ankle sprain against the Browns 11 days ago. Several teammates suggested as much to CBSSports.com Rapid Reporter Dale Grdnic Saturday, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette'd Gerry Dulac tweeted similar news Sunday evening.

There was some speculation leading up to the game that Big Ben might sit this week, get healthy, and prepare for the playoffs. Pittsburgh clinched a spot in the postseason with Tennessee's loss to Indianapolis Sunday, and since the Steelers trailed the Ravens in the division, it appeared that their road back to the Super Bowl would have to come on the road as a wild-card team.

But that all changed Sunday night after the Chargers dismantled the Ravens on national television, and in the process changed the balance of power in the AFC North. As of Monday morning, the Steelers were atop the division, and if they beat the 49ers and win their remaining regular-season games against the Rams and Browns, they would also be the AFC's No. 1 seed. That's how good the top of the conference has been this season; a win or a loss could be the difference between a No. 5 seed and a No. 1 seed (and the difference between a first-round bye and facing the Broncos in a wild-card matchup).

The Pittsburgh Steelers will travel to Candlestick Park to take on the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night. Join James Brown, Dan Marino, Bill Cowher, Shannon Sharpe and Boomer Esiason as they break down this upcoming matchup.

Baltimore has beaten Pittsburgh twice this season but their inexplicable road collapses against lesser opponents have been their demise. The Ravens' four losses have come courtesy of the Titans, Jaguars, Seahawks and Chargers -- teams that are a combined 25-31 (and none have a winning record).

Roethlisberger was injured during the second quarter of the Steelers' Week 14 game against the Browns. At the time, he thought his "leg was broken," and spent most of the next week and a half in a walking boot. But Big Ben is known for his resiliency; his eight-year career has been highlighted by amazing plays unparalleled toughness. From a Haloti Ngata paw to the face to what he managed to do a week and a half ago on one good wheel, Roethlisberger's tolerance for pain exceeds that of a normal human.

So it's not surprising that he'll be on the field against San Francisco. Just how effective he will be, however, could determine if the Ravens' fall from grace is a 24-hour thing or if it means, in the words of linebacker Terrell Suggs, "We still can get our first-round bye and play at home but we need a little help now. We have to go the long way. Yeah, it's a reality check. We got our ass kicked, and now it's back to the drawing board."

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com