Tag:Aaron Smith
Posted on: March 2, 2012 10:48 am
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Farrior's time with Steelers comes to a close

After a decade in Pittsburgh, Farrior will be released. (US Presswire)
By Josh Katzowitz

Yet another longtime Steelers player is done in Pittsburgh. That’s the word from agent Ralph Cindrich, who tweeted Friday morning that his client, linebacker James Farrior, will not be back with the Steelers in 2012.

“#JamesFarrior has been a rock for the #Steelers but the #Turk takes no prisoners -- he's gone,” wrote Cindrich.

The move to release the 15-year veteran who spent the past 10 years in Pittsburgh (he started his career with the Jets in 1997) is only the latest Steelers casualty as the team tries to get under the salary cap so it, we assume, can sign receiver Mike Wallace to a deal.

Already, Pittsburgh has released defensive end Aaron Smith and cleared the roster spot formerly taken by receiver Hines Ward, and as CBSSports.com’s Ryan Wilson points out, linebacker Larry Foote and nose tackle Casey Hampton also are on the potential chopping block.

Since he landed in Pittsburgh in 2002, Farrior has been a consistent force, recording at least 100 tackles in nine of the next 10 seasons. But his production fell off a bit last year, and at the age of 37, he clearly is slowing down. Farrior was due $2.825 million in 2012, the last year of his contract.

And at this point, you have to wonder if Farrior is done altogether from the game.  

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Posted on: March 1, 2012 5:08 pm
 

Report: Steelers to release DE Aaron Smith

Ward and Smith were the two remaining players the organization had drafted in the 1990s. (US PRESSWIRE)

By Ryan Wilson

The Steelers' veteran purge continues: a day after Pittsburgh announced that they would release wide receiver Hines Ward, defensive end Aaron Smith is next in line, according to NFL Network's Jason La Canfora.

NFL News, Notes
Smith, like Ward, was drafted in the 1990s, and was an integral part to the team's success for much of the 2000s. But after starting every game but one from 2000-2006, Smith missed five games in 2007, and played in just 15 games from 2009-11 while he recovered from an assortment of injuries. In Dick LeBeau's 3-4 scheme, the defensive ends aren't pass-rushing specialists; instead, they're responsible for taking on blocks (and often double-teams) while the linebackers behind them make the tackles.

At the height of his career, Smith was considered the prototypical 3-4 end. And while he wasn't a household name, his talents didn't go unnoticed; Patriots head coach Bill Belichick once singled him out as one if his favorite players to watch. But that was before injuries and age caught up to him.

Now 35, Smith's fate doesn't come as a surprise. In four games in 2011, he wasn't nearly the player the Steelers had watched for more than a decade. And with the organization's current salary-cap situation, there were going to be some roster casualties. On Wednesday, it was Ward, one of the best players in team history. Thursday it appears to be Smith. And in the coming weeks and months, linebackers James Farrior and Larry Foote, and nose tackle Casey Hampton could also see their careers in Pittsburgh come to an end.

But the Steelers have been preparing for this day; they drafted defensive linemen Ziggy Hood in 2009 and Cameron Heyward in 2011. Hood started nine games in 2010 and 14 games last season, while Heyward saw action in 16 games as a rookie.

Every offseason comes with player turnover, but the Steelers roster could look much different in 2012, especially if Mike Wallace ends up elsewhere.

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Posted on: November 23, 2011 11:07 pm
 

Film Room: Steelers vs. Chiefs preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit



Let’s be honest: Chiefs-Steelers is not a great matchup. It’s the Sunday night game because this week’s great matchups all fall on Turkey Day. A straight-up breakdown of this game would yield predictable analysis, with a “take your pick” list of reasons why the Steelers can be expected to cruise to victory (the most obvious being, Tyler Palko’s tendency to pat the ball and re-hitch in the pocket; if the Patriots D generated sacks and interceptions off that weakness, what will the Steelers D do?).

But this matchup is certainly not worthless. Analyzing its contrasts and comparisons gives us a chance to examine some of the broader pictures of today’s NFL. Here are five of them.


1. Valuing an offensive line
As passing games have evolved rapidly in recent years, we’ve started to change our outlook on offensive lines. These days every lineman weighs north of 300, and a lot of them move pretty well. What separates good and bad lines is the mental approach. The aggressiveness and versatility of blitzing defenses has put a premium on blockers’ intelligence.

It doesn’t matter how well a lineman moves his feet if those feet are taking him to the wrong assignment. With the league-wide increase in Byzantine defenses and quick, timing-based passes, for an offensive lineman, recognizing an assignment is often more challenging and important than executing an assignment.

The Steelers offensive line, battling countless injuries and personnel changeability the past few seasons, has struggled mightily at times in recognizing pass-blocking assignments. This is a window into another revelation. The idea that you need a great offensive line to protect your quarterback is becoming less and less valid. The reality is you need a great quarterback to protect your offensive line.

Now, don’t take this too far. Of course you need to protect your quarterback. But in today’s pass-oriented league, one superstar quarterback can compensate for five “not-so-superstar” offensive linemen. Most superstar quarterbacks do it through presnap reads (see Brees, Drew or Manning, Peyton -- two guys who have played behind arguably the worst offensive tackle combinations of their respective conferences the past few years). Ben Roethlisberger does it through incredible postsnap improvisational abilities.

No one can argue that the Steelers have had anything more than an average offensive line the past five seasons. But no one can argue that the Steelers offense has not been still been successful. It’s when your quarterback is, say a 28-year-old left-handed fringe backup, that your offensive line woes become problematic.

2. 3-4 defensive ends
A leading ingredient to the Steelers’ defensive success has been the outstanding play of their ends. This ingredient was secret until just recently, when Brett Keisel finally went to the Pro Bowl and casual observers finally appreciated Aaron Smith after injuries took him out of the lineup. The value of great 3-4 ends is that they can attract forms of double teams.

(We say forms of double-teams because there’s a misguided belief that a double-team is one player needing to be blocked by two blockers for an entire play; in reality, for an end, attracting a double-team simply means forcing a guard or tight end to make some sort of contact with you in a manner that prevents them from being able to get out in front and block an inside linebacker. Making that contact last the first 1.5 to 2 seconds of a play is all it takes. For many intents and purposes, a 3-4 end is actually more of a blocker than a pulling guard.)

The Steelers scheme calls for the ends to disrupt through motion more than power. Lateral mobility is a key trait. If both ends are destructive along the line of scrimmage, Pittsburgh’s three defensive linemen will stalemate the opposing team’s five offensive linemen, leaving room for the four linebackers to make plays. Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert recognizes the value of this; he invested his ‘09 first-round pick on Ziggy Hood and his ’11 first-rounder on Cameron Heyward.

Scott Pioli also recognized this value when he became the Chiefs general manager in 2009. He converted defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, the No. 5 overall pick in ’08, to end and spent his No. 3 overall pick in ’09 on LSU’s Tyson Jackson. The results, however, have been disappointing. Dorsey and Jackson are both movement-oriented players. Problem is, Kansas City’s scheme is more like New England’s old 3-4, where the ends cause disruption not through motion but through sheer power.

Consequently, neither Dorsey nor Jackson have been worthy of consistent double teams. That was painfully apparent watching the Broncos-Chiefs film from Week 10. The Broncos didn’t win that game because Tim Tebow mastered the read option -- they won because their tackles manhandled the Chiefs ends one-on-one, allowing the guards to easily get a body on inside linebackers Derrick Johnson and Javon Belcher.

3. Chiefs Injuries impact -- tight end versatility
You could argue that Kansas City’s season ended when tight end Tony Moeaki tore his ACL in August. Moeaki was not just a flexible receiver who could work off the line of scrimmage or out of the slot -- he was also a versatile run-blocker. His ability to operate out of shifts and motions brought potency to the play-action game and allowed the Chiefs to disguise a lot of their run concepts.

In this sense, Moeaki was very similar to Heath Miller, Pittsburgh’s steady, soft-handed, fundamentally fine-tuned X-factor. In today’s NFL, where every play is preceded by a chess match at the line of scrimmage, a tight end who is versatile in the run AND pass game is invaluable.

4. Chiefs injury impact -- safety versatility
Same concept as tight end, just different side of the ball. The loss of Eric Berry (ACL Week 1) not only took away Kansas City’s rangiest pass defender, it also took away Romeo Crennel’s third-level blitzes, which previously had given opponents fits. Berry’s speed and open-field hitting made him an easily disguisable weapon. With him out, the Chiefs don’t just lose his big plays, they also lose the indecisiveness that his presence naturally instills in opponents.

As far as a parallel to this in the Steelers defense ... you can probably figure it out on your own

5. Understanding the value of a playmaker
On a similar note, let’s take this opportunity to grasp the full value of a playmaker like Jamaal Charles (lost for the season with an ACL in Week 2). As with Berry, when a weapon like Charles goes out, you don’t just lose explosive plays, you lose the threat of explosive plays. Charles was Kansas City’s only true playmaker (that is, a guy who can regularly create his own opportunities with the ball in his hands; the Steelers have two players like this: Roethlisberger and Mike Wallace).

It would take 10,000 words to explain, but in short, in watching film, it’s apparent that the difference between the way defenses attack an offense that has a truly explosive weapon versus the way a defense attacks an offense that don’t have one is staggering.

That likely stems from the difference in preparation during the week. Think about it. How much practice time does a defense devote specifically to “not getting killed” by Charles? With him gone, that’s how much practice time the defense now has to devote towards creating unique ways to attack.

A business analogy: as a defense, prepping for Charles is like sitting around the boardroom talking about covering your bases so you don’t get sued; prepping for “no Charles” is like sitting around the boardroom brainstorming the next big idea. Which meeting will ultimately lead to more sales?

What’s more, for an offense, when it becomes apparent that your gameplan is not working, a true playmaker still offers the hope and possibility of success. (And all the players know this.) Without a true playmaker, a staggering offense often hopes to simply control the damage by waiting for a lucky break. When that’s reflected in the play-calling, the entire team becomes reactionary.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Week 12 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: September 16, 2011 2:58 pm
 

Ward doesn't see how Steelers are old

WardPosted by Josh Katzowitz

While many have wondered how the Steelers will deal with some older players not performing well, especially in the wake of their four-touchdown loss to the Ravens last week, Warren Sapp had no problem giving his honest opinion.

And now that Steelers receiver Hines Ward has had a chance to respond, Ward decided he wouldn’t respond to Sapp in such harsh tones.

On Showtime’s “Inside the NFL” this week, Sapp said, “The Pittsburgh Steelers. I have three things: old, slow and it’s over. It’s just that simple. James Harrison told us that he was 70-to-75 percent. It looked more like 40 percent to me if you are looking at the ballgame I was looking at. And Hines Ward, Mercedes Sapp can cover Hines Ward right now. You have to be kidding me ... Mercedes is my 13-year-old daughter. She will cover Hines Ward in a heartbeat.

"And Troy Polamalu, Ed Dixon runs this crossing route. Troy Polamalu is trying to grab him to have a pass interference and he can’t even get close enough to grab him. [It] looked like he was dragging a wagon behind him. Touchdown Baltimore. Pittsburgh Steelers done."

Mr. Ward, your retort, please?

Ward's Getting Old?
“I don’t have a reaction to that,” Ward told 93.7 The Fan in Pittsbrugh, via sportsradiointerviews.com. "He can bring his 13-year old daughter out there and see if she can cover me if she wants to. I don’t have a reaction to that. People are always going to say something. As far as the team being old? I don’t see how the team is old. I think I am the oldest guy on the offensive side. Ben Roethlisberger is the second oldest guy on the offensive side. Defensively? You got Aaron Smith, James Farrior and Brett Keisel. We just re-signed some of our youngest guys. If you look at our team, we are not as old as people want to portray us. What does that matter anyway?

“I love Warren. He was my ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ guy before me. It’s his opinion. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and it is not going to change. There are guys older than me like Brian Dawkins. Donald Driver is older than me. Age doesn’t matter. Age is something for somebody to put out there just to make an excuse.”

Ward also realizes that he's open to criticism, and at this point in his career, he has to be used to it. Even if a former star player is the one making it.

“That’s your job,” Ward said. “That’s what makes news. Your job is to criticize and make stuff. As players we hear it, but it doesn’t validate anything. The Steelers are not going to keep me around if they do not think I am productive. We don’t just keep guys around to just keep guys around. That’s just an excuse when people start looking at the age and that stuff. If you look at our young guys…look at our wide receivers? I’m out there with second and third year guys all the time. Our whole offensive line…we are really not old up front. Rashard Mendenhall is still young and in his prime. When people say stuff like that I just laugh because when they were old one day, somebody said that about them. But now they are in a position to say that. I don’t get caught up in it.”

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Posted on: September 15, 2011 7:32 pm
 

Steelers accuse Ravens of playing dirty

Baltimore and Pittsburgh did not get along during their first meeting of the season (Getty).Posted by Josh Katzowitz

When people talk about the dirtiest players in the NFL, Steelers receiver Hines Ward is usually somewhere in the conversation. This might be one reason why. As is Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison -- who can’t seem to go more than a dozen games without some kind of big fine because of an illegal hit.

So, for the Steelers to accuse another team of playing dirty, it’s akin to William Henry Harrison admonishing you for not wearing a coat when it’s cold and rainy outside (what? too soon?).

But dirty is exactly how Pittsburgh believes the Ravens played last Sunday during Baltimore’s four-touchdown embarrassment of the Steelers. And they point to the Ravens offensive linemen as the main culprits.

“You can get hurt from an illegal chop block, but I guess it isn't an illegal chop block if they don't call it," nose tackle Casey Hampton said, via the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.

Added nose tackle Chris Hoke: "Some of the things they were doing were questionable rules-wise and dangerous.”

In particular, Hampton pointed at Baltimore guard Marshal Yanda as one who continuously tried to cut-block Hampton. That includes the first play of the game when Hampton said he was blatantly chopped by Yanda, which helped set up a 36-yard run by Ravens running back Ray Rice. In all, Hampton said his legs were targeted on Baltimore’s first four running plays.

"There is really nothing you can do when you are engaged and fighting with a guy and they come chopping at your legs," Hampton said. "If it keeps happening, something is going to have to happen. I can't keep getting chopped up like that when I am engaged."

Yet, the Steelers go on to admit that they have plays in their offensive arsenal in which part of the goal is to cut at an opponent’s legs. "Not to the extent that (the Ravens) did," Pittsburgh defensive end Aaron Smith said.

Obviously, cut-blocking is dangerous and somewhat cowardly. But this is not a new problem. As the Steelers say, every team does it (I remember that the Broncos offensive line for years was accused of dirty play and cut-blocks). That doesn’t make it right, obviously. But you can’t be vigorously against cut-blocking when it’s targeting you and be totally cool with it when you use it against an opponent.

Otherwise, your claims of the other team being dirty don’t make very much sense. And don’t elicit much sympathy.

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Posted on: March 20, 2011 2:59 pm
Edited on: March 20, 2011 3:32 pm
 

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 4, 2011 6:00 pm
 

The Super Bowl injury report

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

The last one of the entire season.

PITTSBURGH Steelers

Status Report

OUT

C Maurkice Pouncey (ankle), DE Aaron Smith (triceps)

Practice Report

DID NOT PARTICIPATE IN PRACTICE

Wednesday

C Maurkice Pouncey (ankle)

Thursday

C Maurkice Pouncey (ankle)

Friday

C Maurkice Pouncey (ankle)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION IN PRACTICE

Wednesday

DE Aaron Smith (triceps)

Thursday

DE Aaron Smith (triceps)

Friday

DE Aaron Smith (triceps)

GREEN BAY Packers

Status Report


QUESTIONABLE

LB Erik Walden (ankle)

PROBABLE

T Chad Clifton (knees), WR Donald Driver (quadricep), C Jason Spitz (calf), LB Frank Zombo (knee)

Practice Report


LIMITED PARTICIPATION IN PRACTICE

Wednesday

T Chad Clifton (knees), C Jason Spitz (calf), LB Erik Walden (ankle)

Thursday

T Chad Clifton (knees), WR Donald Driver (quadricep), C Jason Spitz (calf), LB Erik Walden (ankle)

Friday

WR Donald Driver (quadricep), LB Erik Walden (ankle)

FULL PARTICIPATION IN PRACTICE

Wednesday

LB Frank Zombo (knee)

Thursday

LB Frank Zombo (knee)

Friday

T Chad Clifton (knees), C Jason Spitz (calf), LB Frank Zombo (knee)

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Posted on: February 1, 2011 1:07 am
 

Report: DE Smith out, will have MRI

Posted by Will Brinson

Aaron Smith's been less mentioned name amongst the two much-needed Steelers unlikely to play in the Super Bowl (center Maurkice Pouncey, using crutches and a golf cart to get around, is the other).

And it looks more and more like Smith won't play. In fact, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported on Monday afternoon, shortly after the Steelers landed in Dallas, that Smith (and Pouncey) would miss the Super Bowl.

Gerry Dulac cites a source who says that despite the Steelers holding an open roster spot for Smith, he won't play on Sunday because of triceps tear he sustained in Week 6.

Additionally, Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that Smith will undergo an MRI before Wednesday in order to solidify his status. Smith's currently listed as questionable on the injury report, along with Pouncey.

If Dulac's report is correct, the MRI isn't even necessary and Smith will miss the game regardless. But provided that Schefter's correct, it appears the Steelers may not know for certain whether or not Smith can suit up, although it seems that a determination will be made in time for the Packers to prepare in late-week practice.

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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