Play Fantasy Use your Fantasy skills to win Cash Prizes. Join or start a league today. Play Now
 
Tag:Lawrence Timmons
Posted on: February 23, 2012 5:09 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2012 9:19 pm
 

Report: Big Ben restructures contract for PIT

It's not ideal, but the Steelers can survive in a Wallace-less offense. (US PRESSWIRE)
By Josh Katzowitz

Since it now seems that the most important thing in the world for the Steelers to do this offseason is keep Mike Wallace in the organization -- clearly the franchise is being truthful when it says it wants the receiver to spend his entire career in Pittsburgh -- even Ben Roethlisberger is willing to sacrifice.

According to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Roethlisberger has restructured his contract so the Steelers can save about $8 million in cap space for 2012. Reporter Ed Bouchette writes that the cap space saved by the Roethlisberger restructuring will put the Steelers at about the cap limit of $120 million (the deadline is March 13).

Roethlisberger signed an eight-year, $102 million deal in 2008, and though he was originally supposed to make $11.6 million in 2012, Pittsburgh has taken $10.7 million of that and converted it into a signing bonus. As Mac’s Football Blog points out, the signing bonus will then add $2.675 million to the Steelers salary cap from 2013-2015. Roethlisberger, who now has restructured his deal for the second time in six months, will make at least $11.6 million per year in those three seasons.

Pittsburgh clearly wants to keep Wallace, a restricted free agent this offseason, for the long term, and in order to do that, the Steelers will have to sign him to a long, rich contract. Or they could franchise tag him, which would cost the team about $9.5 million for 2012. Even with Roethlisberger’s restructuring -- and he's not the only one, as the team has reworked the contracts of Lawrence Timmons, LaMarr Woodley and Ike Taylor -- reaching that mark probably will be tough.

And at this point, Wallace isn’t sure he’ll return to his team.

"(Pittsburgh is) where I would like to be, but we all know that it is a business and you have certain things you have to handle," Wallace told Sirius XM NFL radio on Wednesday. "So if I have to go elsewhere, you know Pittsburgh will always be in my heart, but I have to do what I have to do.

"Yeah, we are talking, but I don`t know how far they are going to get right now because of the situation. I know that they are working hard trying to take care of it, but I don`t know. We`ll see.”

Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert is a bit more optimistic, saying Thursdasy (via the AP), "I'm confident Mike wants to finish his career with the Steelers."

Most likely, the Steelers will place a first-round tender on Wallace, but a team that needs receiver help and that has plenty of space under its respective salary cap (and can let go of a first-round pick) might have a better chance of making an offer to Wallace the Steelers simply can’t match. Then, it won’t matter what Roethlisberger has sacrificed, because one of his top targets will be gone.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: January 6, 2012 9:32 am
 

Film Room: Broncos vs. Steelers wild-card preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit


It hardly seems fair that a 12-win team has to go on the road to face an eight-win team, but the NFL’s playoff seeding system is designed to reward division champions. That includes the rare division champion that enters the postseason on a three-game losing streak.

Here’s a breakdown of what many expect to be a massacre.


1. Broncos offense has no prayer
We covered everything there is to know about the Broncos’ offense last week in preparation for their Week 17 bout with the Chiefs. Nothing has changed. It’s clear that press-man coverage can overwhelm Denver’s passing attack, as the receivers don’t have the quickness to separate and Tim Tebow doesn’t have the mechanics, timing or confidence to fit balls into tight windows.

It’s rare to see the zone-based Steelers play press-man coverage, though they did so with great success against the Patriots in Week 8. Usually, shutdown corner Ike Taylor (yes, SHUTDOWN corner) plays press coverage against the opposing team’s top wideout (in this case, Demaryius Thomas), while William Gay, Keenan Lewis and/or Bryant McFadden play a variation of zone on the other side.

If Dick LeBeau wants to bait Tebow into interceptions, the Steelers may still stick with their traditional approach:

This shot from Super Bowl XLV illustrates the Steelers’ traditional approach to coverage: Ike Taylor playing press-man against the opposing team’s top receiver (Greg Jennings) on one side, with the rest of the secondary playing zone on the other (you can tell it’s zone by how cornerback Bryant McFadden is lined up off the line and with his body open slightly towards the inside).

The Broncos don’t have a threatening tight end, so Tebow would be throwing into heavy zones against athletic corners. If LeBeau wants to pressure Tebow with James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley and bait him into the usual slew of incompletions, he can play man-to-man. Whatever LeBeau chooses will work; we’re talking about the league’s top-ranked pass defense against the league’s most inept passing quarterback.

Lately, Denver’s read-option run game has still produced yardage, though only because of the high volume of carries. If the Broncos couldn’t muster more than three points by running against Kansas City’s 3-4, they can’t be expected to muster ANY points running against Pittsburgh’s.

A key to Denver’s run game is getting offensive linemen clean to inside linebackers. No three-man defensive line does a better job at protecting its inside linebackers than Pittsburgh’s. That’s why Lawrence Timmons and James Farrior are able to play with their ears pinned back.

2. A roll of the dice
Because it feels a little too simplistic to declare the Broncos’ chances at moving the ball to be zero (even if they are), we’ll use this section to present creative ideas for how the Broncos might – MIGHT – manage to muster a semblance of offense on Sunday.

The first idea is to just throw deep and hope luck tilts your way (a cornerback falls down, a ref calls pass interference, two Steelers collide while going after the same easy interception, etc.). Don’t count on Denver doing this, though. It goes against everything John Fox has stood for since turning to Tebow, and it also requires that, you know, Tebow actually throw downfield accurately.

Another idea is to draw up trick plays. Lots of trick plays. Problem is, a defense as experienced and disciplined as Pittsburgh’s is not going to bite. You might make chance-taker Troy Polamalu pay for a gamble once or twice, but more likely he’ll make YOU pay even more for YOUR gamble.

A third (and stronger) idea is to run the ball outside. In the past, outside running was guaranteed to fail against the Steelers. This season, however, Timmons and Farrior have not been as sharp in lateral run defense. That’s why Pittsburgh has struggled a bit against zone teams. The Broncos no longer have a zone run game (it left shortly after Shanahan departed), but it might not be crazy to hastily install one given that their usual approach will not work anyway.

Denver’s lack of running back speed is an issue here, but again: their usual approach will not work anyway!

3. Pittsburgh’s passing attack
As lopsided as this matchup seems, the final score could be tight given that Pittsburgh’s offense might have trouble against John Fox’s and Dennis Allen’s defense. Don’t be surprised if the Steelers come out throwing in an effort to build a quick lead that forces the Broncos to go to the air early.
 
Against the Browns last week, offensive coordinator Bruce Arians chose to spread the field with 3 x 2 empty backfield sets on passing downs. This may have been to get the ball out quickly so that Ben Roethlisberger would not have to make plays on his bum ankle. Though Roethlisberger has gotten much better in his presnap reads and sudden decision making, his natural inclination is still to extend the play. Thus, Big Ben still held the ball plenty long last week.

He won’t be able to do that this week, though – not under the same gameplan, anyway. Offensive tackles Max Starks and Marcus Gilbert may have been be able to handle Browns defensive ends Jayme Mitchell and Jabaal Sheard on an island (Sheard just barely, actually), but they won’t have a snowball’s chance against Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller.

If Roethlisberger is to buy time for his receivers downfield, his offensive tackles will need running backs and tight ends to chip-block, if not stay in completely and double-team. Something else to keep in mind: Miller, D.J. Williams and Brian Dawkins all excel as inside blitzers. Blitz pickup is an area in which the Steelers interior line, particularly left guard Chris Kemoeatu, struggles.

Brown's emerged as one of Pittsburgh's best receiving options. (Getty Images)

4. The passing matchups
Even though protection could be a problem, it’s possible the Steelers will still spread the field and let Roethlisberger run around and make plays. We’ve seen them before give up piles of sacks this way but make up for it with big plays.

The Broncos have a good secondary now that undrafted rookie Chris Harris has blossomed at nickel corner, but they’re thin and inexperienced at safety and vulnerable with Jonathan Wilhite at dime corner.

If the Broncos decide to eliminate Antonio Brown (Pittsburgh’s new No. 1 receiver) with Champ Bailey, there will be big-play opportunities for Mike Wallace against the limited-ranged safeties. If Bailey defends Wallace, Andre Goodman can spar with Brown but probably not for as long as Roethlisberger can extend the play. Chris Harris will be tested by Emmanuel Sanders’ speed, and Wilhite will have fits trying to defend Jerricho Cotchery underneath.

As much as the Broncos might like their secondary, they can’t expect it to be the league’s first unit that sustains coverage against the Steelers’ prolonged improvisational plays. Thus, when the Broncos do blitz, don’t be surprised if they bring the kitchen sink to ensure that Roethlisberger goes down or throws hot.

5. Steelers run game
Rashard Mendenhall will be missed, but the Steelers can tread water with Isaac Redman. The third-year running back doesn’t have Mendenhall’s corner-turning speed and acceleration, but in confined areas he shows looser hips than you’d guess. Where Pittsburgh’s backfield woes will really show up is in the pass game. Mewelde Moore’s absence (foot injury) leaves them without a prominent openfield dumpoff receiver.

But this is a relatively minor issue. The primary job of the Steelers’ backfield is to pound the rock when called upon, which Redman and straight-line back John Clay are capable of doing. Also, Pittsburgh’s offensive line, especially with the superb pull-blocking skills of Kemoeatu, is capable of moving the pile down the stretch.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all the wild-card games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: December 14, 2011 1:06 pm
 

Film Room: 49ers vs. Steelers preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit


At 10-3, the San Francisco 49ers are fighting for the No. 2 seed in the NFC. With two losses in their last three outings, questions are starting to lurk. Are the Niners indeed a top-tier club with a powerhouse defense and limited-but-fundamentally sound offense? Or are they, like the ’08 Dolphins or 08 Titans, just another middle-tier team that happened to rack up a lot of wins thanks to the good fortunes of turnover differential? (The Niners are currently first in the league at +21).

San Fran’s recent two losses have been to quality 3-4 defenses (Baltimore and Arizona). The Monday night matchup against Pittsburgh could provide the “moment of truth” for Jim Harbaugh’s club.


1. Niners’ protection woes
The Cardinals defense, led by former Steelers assistant Ray Horton, came after Alex Smith & Co. with fervidity and dimension. Horton’s panoply of blitzes brought rushers from all four linebacking spots and, on a few occasions, the secondary. San Francisco’s offensive line, particularly inside with LG Mike Iupati, C Jonathan Goodwin and RG Adam Snyder, floundered in their identification and reaction speed. Two weeks before, those three linemen, along with backup guard Chilo Rachal, were physically manhandled by Haloti Ngata and the tough Ravens front three.

The Niners spend most of their time in base offensive personnel, which has them line up against base defensive personnel. The Steelers are less aggressive than the Cardinals when it comes to blitzing out of base personnel (most of Dick LeBeau’s blitzes come from nickel and dime packages). And, physically, the Steelers defensive front three is not as powerful as the Ravens’.

That said, the trenches mismatch will still be glaring and hard for the Niners to avoid (see items 2 and 3).

2. Niners run game
Jim Harbaugh’s is a run-oriented offense in the purist form. On first and second downs, the 49ers align almost exclusively in 21 or 22 personnel (i.e. two backs and one or two tight ends). The Steelers, at times, even in their base defense with vociferous nose tackle Casey Hampton, have uncharacteristically struggled in run defense this season. But those struggles have come against zone-blocking teams like the Texans, Ravens or Bengals.

The 49ers are a power-blocking team. Their ground game is predicated on size and force, double-teams and interior pulls (Iupati is very mobile; Snyder is often ineffective off movement but can at least physically execute the plays). Power-blocking is not a good formula when facing the Steelers. Their defensive line cannot be consistently driven, and inside linebackers Lawrence Timmons and James Farrior play too fast for slow developing pull blocks to work.

3. Niners pass game
If the Niners do try to stick with their power ground game, they’ll inevitably face a handful of third-and-long situations. That will compel Harbaugh to spread into three-receiver sets. That’s when LeBeau will take advantage of San Francisco’s interior pass protection issues.

One of the hallmark blitzes in LeBeau’s portfolio is the Fire-X, which is when both inside linebackers crisscross and attack the A-gaps. The Steelers execute Fire-X’s better than any team in football. James Farrior is brilliant in timing his blitzes and setting up pass-rushing lanes for teammates. Lawrence Timmons is more explosive than Acetone Peroxide when firing downhill.

What’s more, Troy Polamalu’s versatility becomes more pronounced in passing situations. That’s problematic given how much trouble Adrian Wilson (a poor man’s Polamalu) gave the Niners last week.

Because rushing yards could be tough to come by, it’s very likely that the Niners will throw on early downs out of base personnel (they had success with this formula against the Giants a few weeks ago). To help Alex Smith thrive in these scenarios, Harbaugh has implemented several changes this season – such as using play-action and specific route designs that allow for one-read throws, eliminating sight adjustment routes to ensure that the receivers and quarterback are always on the same page and being very judicious in calling “shot plays” downfield.

But in most games, there are points when a quarterback and his receivers simply have to make things happen. Smith doesn’t have the dynamic tools to consistently do that against a D like Pittsburgh’s. His primary wide receivers don’t have the speed and quickness to regularly separate outside (especially against a star cornerback like Ike Taylor). And, most concerning, his offensive tackles, particularly lackluster second-year pro Anthony Davis, are not formidable enough in pass protection to stave off LaMarr Woodley or even Jason Worilds.

4. Niners defensive line vs. Steelers O-line
The good news for Harbaugh is his defense is capable of posing nearly just as many problems for the Steelers offense. Obviously, Ben Roethlisberger’s health will have a significant impact on this game. You already know the advantages Big Ben gives the Steelers.

Almost as important is the health of center Maurkice Pouncey. Like Roethlisberger, he’s battling a Grade 1 high ankle sprain. Pouncey could not finish the game against Cleveland but says he’ll play Monday night. That’s huge. Without Pouncey, the Steelers would have to slide Doug Legursky from left guard to center, which poses a substantial drop-off in mobility and strength (even if Legursky has been somewhat of an overachiever the last year).

What’s more, Chris Kemoeatu would be forced back into the lineup at left guard. Kemoeatu has been a top ten player at his position the past few years. But for whatever reason, he’s fallen flat on his face this season – mainly in pass protection, where he’s shown poor lateral agility and a proclivity for holding.

Even at full strength, the Steelers offensive line is average and, thus, incapable of completely neutralizing the 49ers front line over four quarters. Left end Justin Smith is as good as they get. Nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga has blossomed into a plugger who’s mobile enough to make plays anywhere in the box.

Right end Ray McDonald is healthy again and flashing uncommon initial quickness. And on passing downs, Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith are lightning fast, supple edge-rushers with versatile short-area explosiveness. It’s highly doubtful the Steeler tackles can contain them one-on-one.

5. San Francisco’s defensive back seven
Even if Patrick Willis’ hamstring keeps him out a third-straight game, the Niners have enough speed and burst with NaVorro Bowman and strong safety Donte Whitner to answer Pittsburgh’s methodical rushing attack. The key will be whether San Francisco can hold up in pass defense. The Niners like to play zone in base D and man in nickel or dime.

Without Willis, San Francisco’s zones become somewhat vulnerable inside (we saw this on Early Doucet’s 60-yard touchdown last week). In man, Carlos Rogers, Tarell Brown and Chris Culliver are all capable of hanging with Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders and Mike Wallace, but not if Roethlisberger is able to extend the play (Brown is simply too good at making late adjustments to his route, Sanders is similar and Wallace obviously has lethal speed if he can get downfield).

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Week 15 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: November 1, 2011 2:02 pm
 

Report: LaMarr Woodley to miss Ravens game

Woodley has been a one-man sacking crew for the Steelers the last month of the season. (US PRESSWIRE)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley will not play Sunday night against the Ravens, a source tells the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Gerry Dulac. Woodley injured his hamstring in the third quarter of Sunday's win over the Patriots. Until his departure, he had harassed New England quarterback Tom Brady all afternoon, sacking him twice.

Through the first four weeks of the season, Woodley had just 1.5 sacks but has been on a tear since. He's registered 7.5 sacks the last month, which coincides with how long linebacker James Harrison has been sidelined with an eye injury. Unfortunately for the Steelers, Harrison probably won't return to face the Ravens. He tweeted Monday that "Saw the doctor today. Looks like I won't be playing this weekend but at least I'm cleared for practice."

Exacerbating things for Pittsburgh: inside linebacker James Farrior could be out until mid-December with a calf injury, and Harrison's backup, Jason Worilds, has missed time with a quadriceps injury.

Woodley said after the Pats victory that he would play against Baltimore but that appears to have changed. While a source tell the Post-Gazette that Woodley's hamstring is "not good," he doesn't sound like a guy who will be sidelined for a while.


"Everybody counting me out," Woodley said from the training room Tuesday. "Don't count me out yet."

During his Tuesday press conference, head coach Mike Tomlin said that Woodley's status will be determined by how much he's able to practice this week.

There's a chance the Steelers could start rookie Chris Carter, second-year player Stevenson Sylvester and veterans Larry Foote and Lawrence Timmons. Timmons' natural position is inside, but he has replaced Harrison on the outside the last four games.  Not exactly the lineup you'd choose to face Baltimore, but if it's good enough for the Pats then it might be good enough for the Ravens, too.

The Steelers could also be without wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who Tomlin said Tuesday will need his knee examined. Sanders' knee is nothing next to the news he tweeted Tuesday morning: his mother had passed away.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're at it, add our 
RSS Feed.
Posted on: October 30, 2011 10:44 am
 

Hines Ward, James Farrior out against Patriots

Pittsburgh will be without veterans Ward and Farrior when the Steelers face the Patriots Sunday. (US PRESSWIRE)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

After being listed as questionable heading into the weekend, Pittsburgh will be without veteran wide receiver Hines Ward and inside linebacker James Farrior Sunday afternoon when the Steelers host the Patriots.

In previous years, the loss of Ward would be a concern, but the Steelers have one of the deepest wide receiver corps in the league, and Mike Wallace has redefined what it means to be a deep threat in his two-and-a-half-year NFL career. In addition to Wallace, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has emerging talents in Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown, and free-agent acquisition Jerricho Cotchery can handle Ward's role of underneath zone buster. Then there's tight end Heath Miller, who is as good a receiver as he is a blocker.

Farrior's absence, however, is troubling. Partly because he sets the defense from play to play, but also because the Steelers are already without James Harrison and his backup, Jason Worilds. Lawrence Timmons, for the fourth straight week, will replace Harrison on the outside. Farrior will be replaced by second-year linebacker, Stevenson Sylvester, who has made a name for himself on special teams but has very little NFL experience at inside linebacker.  Practice squad linebacker Mortty Ivy has been signed to the 53-man roster to add depth.

But the Steelers may try to game-plan around Sylvester. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau could chose to play more nickel and dime schemes to limit Sylvester's snaps, but more importantly, to encourage the Patriots to run the ball.

Ultimately, Pittsburgh's best chance to win rests with their offense. Not just Roethlisberger, who needs to play well, but also the running game. If Rashard Mendenhall can get going, that means longer drives and fewer snaps for Brady.

Fun starts at 4:00 p.m. ET.


The New England Patriots will travel to Heinz Field to square off against Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. Jason Horowitz and NFL.com's Pat Kirwan to preview this intense showdown. Watch the game on CBS at 4:15 PM ET.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're at it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: October 5, 2011 2:37 pm
Edited on: October 6, 2011 4:52 pm
 

Film Room: Steelers vs. Titans preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit


The Tennessee Titans are off to a 3-1 start under first-time head coach Mike Munchak. Are they for real? The Titans have had the good fortune of facing the Jaguars, Broncos and Browns this season – all teams that run a bland 4-3 and suffer from a dire lack of weapons in the passing game. The Titans did, however, defeat a Ravens team that humiliated the Steelers in Week 1.

Which brings us to the next question: how are the Steelers right now? They’re 2-2 but have looked hardly “Steeler-like”. Ben Roethlisberger (sprained foot) is expected to play Sunday, but James Harrison (fractured orbital bone) is out. How serious of a test do the Steelers pose to this minimally tested Titans club?


Here are five keys of the matchup.

Run powers struggling
1. Titans run offense
The natural assumption is that Chris Johnson held out for virtually all of training camp and has therefore been rusty early in the season. An examination of the film reveals that ... this is exactly the case.

Johnson has not shown his usual initial quickness or burst out of the backfield. He’s had a tendency to stop his feet at the first sign of trouble, which is why he’s not creating his own space. These issues were apparent even in his 101-yard performance against the Browns last week.

The fourth-year running back is not the lone culprit for Tennessee’s anemic ground game. Interior linemen Eugene Amano, Leroy Harris and Jake Scott have been inconsistent at times, and right tackle David Stewart seems to have lost a bit of the power that once backed-up his nastiness.

Also, fullback Quinn Johnson is no Ahmard Hall. Hall’s return from suspension this week will be most welcomed – he has great feel and recognition in this Titans offense.

2. Steelers run defense
It ranks 22nd and has looked downright feeble in both losses this season (Week 1 at Baltimore, Week 4 at Houston). The Ravens and Texans both feature a stretch zone rushing attack, which the Steelers have been uncharacteristically poor at defending. James Harrison, coming off back surgery, has not played with the same physicality as past years.

He’s out this game; replacement Lawrence Timmons has superb athleticism but, as a run defender, he’s better equipped for his customary inside position, where he can chase down ball-carriers in either direction. This week, Timmons will have to be an edge-setting outside ‘backer, and against arguably the game’s steadiest left tackle in Michael Roos.

There’s too much history of success to think the Steelers run defense will continue to struggle (though the film through four weeks has often supported the wide-held notion that the Steelers are getting old fast). They have the ultimate X-factor in Troy Polamalu, but the real key to turning things around is at defensive end.

The Steelers’ secret to success is that they’ve always had incredibly active ends who can create chaos in the trenches and allow the linebackers to play downhill. But those ends – Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel, who’s been out the past two weeks with a strained PCL – along with stalwart nose tackle Casey Hampton are also well into their thirties.

Creating big plays: natural vs. manufactured
3. Steelers passing offense (natural)
The Steelers are a pass-first team. It’s been that way for several years now. And it will remain that way as long as Mike Wallace is around. The third-year sensation is the most lethal big-play receiving threat in the game today. He’s DeSean Jackson only with a longer stride.

The Steelers have done an excellent job of designing their route combinations around Wallace. His lifting of the safety is often what allows Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown to get open in the 18-25-yard range. But not everything about Pittsburgh’s passing attack is done through design.

There’s a lot of natural talent driving the force. Much of the production comes from Ben Roethlisberger’s incredible ability to not only extend the play, but make accurate throws downfield off that extension (there isn’t a better off-balance, improvisational passer in all of football).

The key to stymying Big Ben’s improve is to get to him with multiple pass-rushers. It’s hard enough getting just one pass-rusher to a quarterback, but the Steelers’ offensive line is porous right now. The Texans swarmed Roethlisberger by blitzing inside, which crowded his sight lines (thus making him break down earlier than usual) and forced shaky offensive tackles Trai Essex and Marcus Gilbert to work one-on-one.

4. Titans passing offense (manufactured)
A bulk of Matt Hasselbeck’s passing yards have stemmed from big plays that were well-crafted and called against the perfect defensive look (the best of many examples: receiver Damian Williams setting a pick against Cleveland’s man coverage that left Nate Washington wide open for a 57-yard game).

These kinds of plays are fine – it’s what good coaching and preparation are all about – but they can only carry you so far. At some point, you need a threat like Mike Wallace to build around. The Titans had such a threat before Kenny Britt tore his ACL.

5. Injuries impacting outcome
If the Titans can’t find their run game, they’re in trouble. The Steelers, even without James Harrison, have a far stronger pass-rush than the Jaguars, Broncos or Browns. The Titans handled the Ravens’ potent pass-rush well in Week 2, but they were able to build their aerial attack around Britt. Britt’s replacement, Nate Washington, isn’t that type of receiver – especially against a top-tier cover corner like Ike Taylor.

Running the ball could be equally important for the Steelers. With Roethlisberger less than 100 percent and the front five hurting, Pittsburgh’s best bet might be to challenge the Titans inside. Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey has been outstanding against the run, but center Maurkice Pouncey has the technical aptitude to temper Casey’s raw power. On Pouncey’s left, guard Chris Kemoeatu is arguably the best pulling blocker in the game. The Steelers should relish opportunities to get him on finesse middle linebacker Barrett Ruud.

Of course, putting a dent in Pittsburgh’s ground game is the fact that Rashard Mendenhall left last week’s contest with a hamstring injury. Isaac Redman, the spotlight could be on you.

So who will win? Check our NFL Week 5 expert picks for all the games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: October 4, 2011 12:30 pm
Edited on: October 4, 2011 12:55 pm
 

Harrison out with orbital injury, Ben might play

James Harrison won't play against the Titans, and he may be out for a while. (US PRESSWIRE)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin gets points for honesty. During his weekly Tuesday press conference, he pretty much laid it out there: "We're gonna need the support of our fans."

He mentioned this in reference to the team's slow start, but also fresh off the news that the Steelers will be without outside linebacker James Harrison, who suffered a right orbital fracture around his eye socket in the loss to the Texans (it may have happened on the play in the video below), for "a number of weeks." It gets worse: Harrison's backup, 2010 second-round pick Jason Worilds, is listed as doubtful with a quadriceps injury.

So the plan, at least for now, is to move inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons into Harrison's position and have veteran Larry Foote start inside next to James Farrior. Tomlin also said that rookie Chris Carter and second-year linebacker Stevenson Sylvester could also see time. 

We've previously documented that the offensive line is in shambles, so much so that last Sunday quarterback Ben Roethlisberger left Reliant Stadium in a walking boot and on crutches. If there's a silver lining, it's that X-rays on Roethlisberger's foot showed that it wasn't broken, just sprained.

"It may limit him early in the week but we expect him participate in this football game," Tomlin said.


Given how the first month of the season has unfolded, and under the current circumstances, having Roethlisberger on the field might be the Steelers' best chance at winning, even at Heinz Field. The problem, of course, is that if the offensive line goes pass-blocking optional, Big Ben might leave the game in pieces.

If the Titans are one of the early surprises of the 2011 season, the Steelers are certainly one of the most disappointing, and some of that can be traced to injuries. But as Lou Holtz once said, "Don't tell people your problems -- half of them don't care and the other half are glad you got 'em."

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: September 7, 2011 9:27 am
 

Steelers pushing for late deal with Troy Polamalu

Posted by Will Brinson

When the Steelers decided to hand 25-year-old linebacker Lawrence Timmons a six-year, $50 million extension a few weeks ago as well as give LaMarr Woodley a six-year, $51.5 million extension off his franchise-tagging, it was believed that any sort of deal for safety Troy Polamalu was probably off the table. In fact, our own Ryan Wilson first noted that the logical move would be franchising Polamalu, perhaps until he retired.

But Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports Wednesday morning that the Steelers are engaging in "an 11th-hour attempt" to sign the reigning Defensive Player of the Year before the season begins.

In fact, the deal would need to be done within the next 30 (or so) hours, as the Steelers do not negotiate contract extensions during the season except in the rarest of cases. Because Polamalu and the Steelers aren't particularly close on a deal, it was just assumed that the two sides would hold off on talks until after 2011.

However, Art Rooney, according to Bouchette, had a "change of heart" last week and decided that the team should make a play for getting Polamalu locked into a deal for the remainder of his career.

It's an interesting situation because the Steelers are always careful about the long-term deals they hand out -- you'll noticed, as with the Timmons and Woodley extensions, that Polamalu's contract brought him to the age of 31. Signing the incredibly talented but oftentimes injured (just one full season since 2006) safety to an additional long-term deal at the age of 31 might seem dangerous.

Polamalu, however, embodies the Steelers organization and the difference he makes when on the field in Dick LeBeau's defense has been obvious for years.

The issue may simply be time, though, because unless the two sides are particularly close right now, it seems unlikely that they could close a deal before Week 1's action kicks off.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com