Tag:Ben Roethlisberger
Posted on: March 20, 2011 2:59 pm
Edited on: March 20, 2011 3:32 pm
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Offseason Checkup: Pittsburgh Steelers

Posted by Andy Benoit

 

Eye on Football's playing doctor for every NFL team with our Offseason Check-ups. Also, check out our checkup podcast:





If you’d told the Steelers at some point during last fall that Ben Roethlisberger would get the ball with 2:07 remaining down six in Super Bowl XLV, they probably would have taken it. That final drive was about the only thing that did not go Roethlisberger’s way in 2010 (suspension aside, of course).

The Steelers, despite a depleted offensive line, got within arms’ reach of a Lombardi Trophy thanks to the emergence of young playmakers Rashard Mendenhall, Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown.

And, of course, thanks to their perennially staunch defense. Troy Polamalu took home Defensive Player of the Year honors (no matter what the humble safety says, the award was well-deserved) while the star-studded linebacking corps welcomed a new sensation: inside ‘backer Lawrence Timmons.



NFL Offseason

Don’t be shocked if Emmanuel Sanders supplants Hines Ward in the starting lineup sooner than later. This is more about Sanders than Ward. The second-year wideout is already Ben Roethlisberger’s go-to target in spread formations (granted, in part because Roethlisberger prefers to work the slot from four-and five-wide sets). Sanders has the quickness and tempo change to beat man coverage, and he showed marked improvements in understanding the offense as his rookie season wore on.

These days, Ward, 35, runs like he’s playing in sand. But he can still produce. His 59 catches for 755 yards last season were a drop below the back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons he had coming into the year, but his famous (notorious?) blocking remains sharp.



1. Offensive Tackle 1
After watching him lumber through last season, it seems like RT Flozell Adams is nearing that age where Tuesday afternoons and Saturday nights start feeling the same and relatives start dropping subtle hints about the dangers of driving after dark. No way the Steelers pay Adams the $5 million he’s due in 2011. The Steelers can go for the best OT available overall given that LT Max Starks is coming back from injury and could move over to the more-fitting right side.

2. Right Guard
Ramon Foster is not the answer. A simple review of last year’s front line personnel changes reveals that coaches will do just about anything to keep the undrafted utility man out of the starting lineup. Backup G/C Doug Legursky has better mobility than people think, but it’s not enough to make up for his lack of phone booth power.

3. Defensive End
Aaron Smith turns 35 in April and has missed all but 11 games over the past two years. Ziggy Hood was supposed to be primed to start by now, but the ’09 first-round pick does not have the power to be a true anchor outside. Hood must develop the type of agility that’s made Brett Keisel a force; it’s a tossup whether he will. Keisel will be 33 in September but shows no sign of decline. However, the Steelers like to draft players two years out, so finding at least one understudy still makes sense.



A run at a record seventh Lombardi Trophy is clearly not out of the question, though the Steelers won just 17 games combined in the seasons following their last two Super Bowl appearances. The defense is aging but not aged. The offense should only be better.

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Posted on: February 10, 2011 11:49 am
 

Hot Routes 2.10.11: Panthers the new Chargers?

Posted by Will Brinson



Got a link for the Hot Routes? Hit us up on Twitter (@CBSSportsNFL).
  • Doug Farrar of Yahoo! Sports is whipping through a Top-40 list of NFL Draft prospects. Ryan Mallett (who checks in at No. 37) is at one point called a "statue with a cannon attached," if that makes you feel good about your team maybe drafting him. It shouldn't.
Posted on: February 7, 2011 12:24 am
Edited on: February 7, 2011 2:23 am
 

Turnovers tell the tale of Steelers struggles

Posted by Will Brinson



DALLAS -- How many times over the past week was this phrase -- the team who wins the turnover battle will win the game -- used to analyze Super Bowl XLV? My best guess is right around 5,345,042 times. That's hyperbole, of course, but there's a reason why lines like that are such go-to cliches for people who analyze sports: they're true.

While the Pittsburgh Steelers aren't immune to turning the ball over, you'll almost never see them fire a couple of rounds into their own feet. But they did just that on Sunday en route to their first Super Bowl loss in the Ben Roethlisberger era.

Mistake-laden football isn't not a common sight because Pittsburgh's a well-coached team that's sustained success by making big plays on the defensive end and letting other teams force their own errors. But the script was flipped Sunday, and it led to the aforementioned typical results.

"Usually when you lose it's because of penalties and turnovers," Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said.

Covered that already.

"When you turn the ball over like we did, you put yourself in a bad position to win the game," running back Rashard Mendenhall said.

And he's one of the guys who coughed the ball up.

"You can't turn the ball over and win football games in the NFL," center Doug Legursky said. "That's just Day 1 stuff."

Even a last-minute replacement knows that.

"No excuses," Roethlisberger said. "Regardless of the situation, you just can't turn the ball over."

Not if you plan on winning. Want me to keep going with these? Because I can -- every single Steelers' player who spoke with the media mentioned the turnovers and they know that despite being outplayed by the Packers, they didn't exactly help their own cause.

Just look at the final game stats: The Steelers finished with 19 first downs (to Green Bay's 15), they held the ball for 33:25 (to Green Bay's 26:35), they converted 54 percent of their third downs (to Green Bay's 46 percent), they piled up 387 net yards (to Green Bay's 338).

In other words, the either dominated the Packers or at least broke even with them on the stat sheet … with two major exceptions: Pittsburgh turned the ball over three times (to Green Bay's none) and committed seven penalties for 67 yards (to Green Bay's six for 55).

The penalties came at inopportune times (illegal block to set up Ben's pick six, and terribly-timed holding calls) for sure, but the turnovers were particularly brutal.

That was patently obvious to everyone, including the guys who made the biggest mistakes. Asked about his own game-changing fumble to start the fourth quarter, Mendenhall didn't make any excuses.

"I just got hit and the ball came out," Mendenhall said. "It just happened and it should not have happened."

This particular instance isn't exactly indicative of poor preparation, but the vibe around the Steelers after the game seemed to be one of stunned shock at their poor performance.

"I don't know, I had some opportunities to make some plays," Troy Polamalu said. "I was just a step off here or there."

He wasn't exactly alone, though, considering that the entire Steelers team spent 28 minutes of the first half doing their best impression of Robert Downey, Jr., at a wine-tasting, looking wobbly as hell, out of synch, and doing things the Steelers don't usually do.

Roethlisberger looked off most -- if not all -- of the game, repeatedly over-throwing receivers en route to racking up an embarrassingly bad 16.7 passer rating in the first half. It was the type of performance that will have people wondering what the hell Ben did in Dallas all week, his tradition of taking linemen out to karaoke bar to sing Billy Joel tunes notwithstanding.

Green Bay, on the other hand, looked as prepared as you can possibly ask a team to be. Even when they lost their defensive MVP Charles Woodson and saw Pittsburgh rally to within four points at 21-17, the defense managed to capitalize on a mistake by the Steelers as Clay Matthews tattooed Mendenhall in the backfield for a fumble that Desmond Bishop recovered.

"It's really film work and preparation," Matthews said. "I had a good feeling that play was going to come."



Could the Steelers really have been that predictable? Losing by just six and scoring 25 against a very good defense doesn't seem to indicate as much, but Packers safety Nick Collins -- a former high-school running back who scampered his way into the end zone for an early backbreaker of a pick six -- and his take on the play might show that they were after all.

"I was just reading [Ben Roethlisberger's] eyes," Collins said about the interception. "I was able to get a nice jump on the ball and when I saw it floating up there, I just wanted to make sure that I caught it."

Those eyes told a MUCH different tale after the game -- Roethlisberger limped around the locker room with red, puffy eyes that showed some an overwhelming amount of emotion even for a guy who's had his share of troubles this season and probably thought things would end better once he got this far.

They obviously didn't, but unfortunately, neither he nor anyone else in Pittsburgh's locker room has anyone but themselves to blame for walking off without a championship this time around.

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Posted on: February 6, 2011 10:51 pm
Edited on: February 6, 2011 11:30 pm
 

Five keys from Super Bowl XLV

Posted by Andy Benoit

1. Rodgers making the most of his time

We speculated before the game that Dick LeBeau would elect to drop back and play coverage against Aaron Rodgers. After all, when the Steelers blitzed Rodgers in the 2009 regular season matchup, they got tA. Rodgers (US Presswire)orched for 36 points.

Well, that speculation was prescient. Just as he did in the Super Bowl two years ago, LeBeau often kept safety Troy Polamalu in deep coverage. LeBeau’s bet was that outside linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley could abuse Green Bay’s edge pass-blockers. But with the exception of one James Harrison sack, that was not the case. Give a world of credit to Chad Clifton and Bryan Bulaga.

Polamalu played closer to the line of scrimmage in the second (including as a slot corner), but that did not disrupt Rodgers’ rhythm. As has been the case all postseason, Rodgers was terrific in his presnap diagnostics. And with solid protection, he was able to buy time in the pocket and work through his progressions. His poise allowed him to finish 24 of 39 (with six drops, no less) for 304 yards and three touchdowns.

2. Effective running

The Packers did not make the run a staple of their offensive gameplan (again, no surprise – they were facing the third best run defense in NFL history), but they made the absolute most of the rushing attempts they did have. James Starks finished with 52 yards, 37 of them coming in the first half. He had crucial gains of 8 yards, 7 yards, 12 yards and, most notably, in the fourth quarter, 14 yards.
 
The common thread on all these plays was that Green Bay attacked running. The Packers knew they didn’t have the oxen to move nose tackle Casey Hampton, so they attacked the edges. Brilliantly, they used slow developing runs to do this. This caused the aggressiveness of the outside linebackers to work against the Steelers. It probably wouldn’t have worked if Polamalu had lined up in the box.

3. The mismatch

For the past two years, the weak link of the Steelers’ secondary has been cornerback William Gay. The Packers sought out Gay early and often Sunday. Jordy Nelson beat him on a fade route on the opening touchdown (this would be a harbinger for the rest of the game, as Nelson finished with nine catches for 140 yards and was targeted 15 times). When Gay lined up inside, the Packers were able to exploit him with crossing patterns.

To be fair, Gay was not the only Steelers defensive back who struggled. Troy Polamalu took a few bad angles in coverage (including in the red zone) and Ike Taylor gave up a crucial 31-yard completion on third-and-10 to Greg Jennings in the fourth quarter.

4. Packers front seven (or eight) stepped up

The Packers were without athletic outside linebacker Erik Walden (high ankle sprain) this game. But replacement Frank Zombo stepped up big. He took on blocks extremely well and – for the most part – held the edge against the run. He also sacked Ben Roethlisberger in the third quarter.

A bigger injury was the loss of roving defensive back Charles Woodson. His absence was felt when Pittsburgh came out and completed crossing patterns passes and moved the chains on off-tackle runs early in the third quarter. Dom Capers was tempted to get conservative and utilize more traditional 3-4 fronts, but ultimately he tapped Jarrett Bush to play the joker role and stuck with the 2-4-5 that, all season long, has brought Green Bay magnificent success. Bush responded well (the design of the scheme gave him a clear pass-rushing lane or two) and the Packers defense avoided sliding down the sliJ. Bush (US Presswire)ppery slope they had found themselves on.

5. Pass-rush forced turnovers

Roethlisberger’s two first half interceptions that led to 14 Packers points were the product of bad decisions by the quarterback. But those bad decisions were the product of pass-rush pressure. Massive defensive lineman Howard Green ran into Roethlisberger on the first interception (the Nick Collins pick six). On the second pick, Roethlisberger felt his pocket collapsing and, uncharacteristically, floated the ball around A.J. Hawk and into double coverage.

Clay Matthews did not have a dominant game, but he got inside the Steelers’ heads somewhat by delaying his blitzes. Capers had Matthews line up as a quasi-inside linebacker early on. It looked like Matthews was spying Roethlisberger, but you don’t spy a non-Michael Vick quarterback with your superstar pass-rusher. Really what Matthews was doing was waiting for the Steelers offensive line to commit itself to a pass protection maneuver, then attacking. It was a shrewd concept given that the Steelers have struggled with pass protection communication at times this season, and given that they were without center Maurkice Pouncey.

Pass-rush pressure is about more than sacks. Green Bay’s front seven attacks disrupted the Steelers in subtle but costly ways.

[More Super Bowl coverage]

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Posted on: February 6, 2011 10:12 pm
Edited on: February 7, 2011 2:22 am
 

Rodgers leads Packers to Super Bowl win

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

DALLAS – The Super Bowl experience of the Steelers didn’t matter a bit to the Packers. Neither did Ben Roethlisberger’s toughness, the Pittsburgh defense’s resolve or Brett Keisel’s beard.

Green Bay wasn’t fazed by its youth, its receivers’ inability to make relatively easy catches, or the fact EVERYBODY seemed to pick the Packers to win this game (usually meaning the Steelers would run right over Green Bay). Hell, Green Bay wasn’t even fazed by the furious comeback(s) by Pittsburgh after the Packers took an 18-point lead in the second quarter.

None of it mattered.

Not when Aaron Rodgers, playing in the biggest game of his life, refused to be intimidated by a Steelers offense that never stopped scoring points and narrowing the lead he had built in the first half. Not when he led Green Bay to a 31-25 win.



The biggest drive in the biggest game of his life came after the Steelers cut the lead to 28-25 with 7:34 to play. He was sacked on first down, and on third down, LG Daryn Colledge was called for a false start penalty to make it third and 10. Rodgers’ response: a 31-yard laser to Greg Jennings for the first down to keep the clock running.

Later in the drive, he hit James Jones for a 21-yard pass, and the Packers eventually kicked the field goal. It wasn’t exactly what Rodgers (who finished 24 of 39 for 304 yards and three touchdowns) wanted, but it gave Green Bay some breathing room. Which, it turned out, was all they needed.

Despite an iffy second half on offense and despite the fact the Packers defense clearly was impacted by the loss of CB Charles Woodson, who suffered a shoulder injury in the first half, Green Bay managed to win its first Super Bowl since the 1996 season, returning the Lombardi Trophy to the town that Lombardi put on the map.

After grabbing a 21-3 lead in the second quarter following a Jordy Nelson touchdown catch, a Nick Collins 37-yard interception return and a Jennings touchdown pass, the Packers seemed in control of the game. No, it didn’t just seem like it. The Packers WERE in control of the game.

But the Steelers made an important score late in the second quarter when WR Hines Ward caught an eight-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to cut the lead to 11 before halftime.

Despite an extra-long halftime – an intermission show, mind you, that not even Slash could save – Green Bay couldn’t retake the game’s momentum.

The Steelers forced Green Bay to punt on the first drive of the second half, and five plays later, Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall completed the five-play, 50-yard drive with an eight-yard scoring run. The fact Green Bay didn’t gain a first down in the third quarter and the fact the Packers receivers couldn’t handle Rodgers’ passes didn’t bode well going into the last 15 minutes.

Until the beginning of the fourth quarter, that is, when Clay Matthews and Ryan Pickett forced a fumble from Mendenhall to take possession at the Packers 45-yard line. And despite another terrible drop from Nelson, he redeemed himself with a 38-yard catch on a third down to keep the drive going.

After a Rodgers sack, he found Jennings, who had dominated Troy Polamalu on the route, in the corner of the end zone for the eight-yard score and the 11-point lead.

Rodgers, entering the postseason, had never won a playoff game. Now he’s won a Super Bowl. He might not be the best quarterback in the league. But he’s pretty damn close. And now he’s an NFL champion.

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Posted on: February 6, 2011 8:26 pm
 

Super Bowl XLV halftime analysis

B. Roethlisberger throws an interception in the first quarter of Super Bowl XLV (US Presswire).

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

DALLAS – Through the first 25 minutes, it seemed like the Packers were going to walk out of Cowboys Stadium and Super Bowl XLV with an easy – and surprising – blowout win against the Steelers.

Considering Green Bay had only been a slight favorite and considering people had been talking about how this easily was a game that could go into overtime, this was a relatively stunning turn of events.

That, of course, is what happens when Green Bay strode to a 21-3 lead, based on Aaron Rodgers’ brilliance (11 of 16 for 137 yards, two touchdowns and a passer rating of 134.6), a little dose of RB James Starks (seven carries for 37 yards) and a tough defense that has forced two turnovers while scoring a touchdown of its own.

But Pittsburgh has a reason to hope now – thanks to a seven-play, 77-yard drive late in the second quarter that ended with an eight-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to WR Hines Ward.

Now, it’s a 21-10 game, and though the Packers get the ball to open the second half, the Steelers have a little momentum.

We still might get that close game just about everybody originally expected after all.

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Posted on: February 6, 2011 8:00 pm
Edited on: February 6, 2011 8:46 pm
 

Woodson injures shoulder, won't return

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

UPDATE (8:29 p.m.): OK, here's where we stand with the injuries.

Packers CB Charles Woodson has a collarbone injury, and he's out for the game.

CB Sam Shields, Woodson's backup, will return though he has a shoulder injury. Donald Driver (ankle) is supposed to return, but he wasn't on the field for the Packers first drive of the second half. FS Nick Collins returned to the locker room just before halftime to receive IV fluids.

For the Steelers, WR Emmanuel Sanders, bothered by a foot injury, is out for the game, though that loss doesn't hurt nearly as bad as the loss of Woodson.

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DALLAS – Now, it’s 2-2.

The Steelers have lost two players so far today (though Flozell Adams’ shoulder injury was temporary), and after standout Packers CB Charles Woodson returned to the locker room late in the second half, Green Bay is missing a pair of players as well.

Woodson injured himself while covering Mike Wallace on a sideline route. Woodson looked good, running step-for-step with the speedy Wallace, but as he dove to try to break up the Ben Roethlisberger pass, he landed hard on his left shoulder.

The Packers had to call time out, and soon after, Woodson walked up the ramp to the locker room.

UPDATE (7:58 p.m.):
Packers S Nick Collins also has gone back to the locker room early before halftime.

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Posted on: February 6, 2011 7:18 pm
Edited on: February 6, 2011 7:23 pm
 

Flozell Adams injured; questionable to return

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

UPDATE (7:21 p.m.):
Early in the second quarter, Adams returned to the game.

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DALLAS – Late in the first quarter, the Steelers got a double dose of bad news.

One play after Packers WR Jordy Nelson caught a 29-yard touchdown pass, Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger was pick-sixed by Nick Collins to give Green Bay a 14-0 lead.

But perhaps even worse, Steelers RT Flozell Adams was injured near the goal line on the interception return, and he’s out of the game for now. He’s questionable to return with a left shoulder injury.

He’s been replaced by backup Trai Essex.

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