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Tag:Trai Essex
Posted on: December 10, 2011 9:44 pm
Edited on: December 17, 2011 4:09 pm
 

Should Steelers sit Big Ben for next few games?

Big Ben limps down the steps to the locker room after Pittsburgh beat Cleveland last Thursday. (AP)

By Ryan Wilson

The Steelers became the first AFC team to 10 wins when they defeated the Browns Thursday night. But it came at a price: quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and center Maurkice Pouncey suffered high-ankle sprains, and it's unclear if either will play nine days from now when Pittsburgh plays San Francisco on Monday Night Football.

For now, the win moves the Steelers to the top of the AFC North, a half-game ahead of Baltimore, at least until Sunday afternoon when the Ravens faces the winless Colts. And it's the remaining schedules for both teams that could determine how Pittsburgh proceeds with Roethlisberger.

Assuming Baltimore beats Indy (yes, we know, the Raven's three losses are against the likes of the Titans, Jaguars and Seahawks but we're giving them the benefit of the doubt against the 0-12 Colts), they will be 10-3, the No. 1 team in the division and the No. 2 team in the AFC. The Steelers, meanwhile, will be the No. 5 team, and at 10-3, they're pretty much locked into that position. (The 7-5 Bengals are currently the sixth seed, but the Titans, Raiders and Jets are also 7-5 and vying for the last wild-card spot.)


With games remaining against the 49ers, Rams and Browns, the Steelers' schedule ranks as the second-easiest in the league. The easiest? That honor goes to the Ravens, who face the Colts, Chargers, Browns and Bengals.

If Thursday night's game was any indication, Roethlisberger will try to play against San Francisco. But whether he takes the field could be determined by what the Ravens do the day before. If they beat the Colts (and they should), the Steelers could choose to give backup Charlie Batch the start and let Big Ben have another five days to rehab.

Batch has a long, successful history of replacing Roethlisberger in the lineup. Big Ben had knee surgery in 2005 and Batch went 2-0 in his absence. He also won the 2006 opener against the Dolphins while Roethlisberger recovered from an emergency appendectomy. Batch lost to the Ravens during a meaningless Week 17 game in 2007, and was 1-1 in 2010 while Roethlisberger served a four-game suspension to start the season.

If the Chargers somehow find a way to beat the Ravens, then we should expect to see Big Ben take the field in San Francisco. Because a victory there, followed by wins against the Rams and Browns, would mean that the Steelers would be no worse than the No. 2 seed in the AFC and get a much-needed bye week during the first round of the playoffs. But again, we can't envision a scenario where Indy pulls off the upset.

A bigger concern for Pittsburgh: Pouncey's health. If there's a silver lining to his latest high-ankle sprain it's this, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Gerry Dulac: "Doctors always have maintained that players who have a second high-ankle sprain heal faster and return quicker than players who have suffered one for the first time."

The dark cloud, again via Dulac: "The Steelers think it might be harder for Pouncey to play against the 49ers because he needs his ankle for leverage in run-blocking and pass protection. Pouncey injured his left ankle against the Browns, and it is the same one he injured in the AFC championship game that kept him out of Super Bowl XLV. Pouncey said after the game Thursday night that he will play in San Francisco. Of course, he said much the same thing before the Super Bowl, too, even though the Steelers knew all along he wasn't going to play."

Doug Legursky filled in capably for Pouncey in the Super Bowl and again Thursday. The problem, however, is that he's the starting left guard. Which means that when he moves to center, Chris Kemoeatu comes into the game. Kemoeatu, who has 52 career starts with the team, lost his job in recent weeks for, as Mike Tomlin likes to say, playing below the line.

In two quarters against the Browns Thursday, Kemoeatu had three penalties, two of which came on third downs that the Steelers had converted. He has played so poorly this season that he'll likely be replaced by career backup Trai Essex going forward.

The upheaval along the o-line is another reason not to rush Big Ben back in the lineup; why let him play, risk further injury, and jeopardize the rest of the season? 

In one sense, Roethlisberger's high-ankle sprain could be a blessing. It will allow him a few weeks off, and some much-need time to get healthy. That said, after watching his peg-legged performance against the Browns Thursday, we suspect he thinks getting healthy is overrated.

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Posted on: October 4, 2011 10:02 am
Edited on: October 4, 2011 4:35 pm
 

Coach Killers, Week 4: Big Ben needs body armor

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. (Getty Images)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Steelers offensive line. Head coach Mike Tomlin was asked about the offensive line three years ago, shortly after the team selected running back Rashard Mendenhall and wide receiver Limas Sweed with their first two picks in the 2008 draft, and his response was: there's more than one way to protect the quarterback -- with pass blockers or with a gaggle of phenomenal skill positions players.

To their credit, Pittsburgh has used high picks on o-linemen in recent drafts (center Maurkice Pouncey in '10 and tackle Marcus Gilbert this past April), but the fact remains that the unit is, to borrow a Tomlininsm, consistently "below the line" in terms of production. This is what happens when Jonathan Scott, the starting left tackle, generates absolutely zero interest on the free-agent market and ends up re-signing with the team for roughly $900,000.

In general, six figures is a nice little haul for a day's work. But Scott is one of the lowest paid left tackles in football who, by the way, is charged with protecting Pittsburgh's $100 million franchise quarterback. It gets worse: Scott was injured in Week 3 against the Colts and didn't play Sunday against the Texans. Which meant that Trai Essex, unemployed as recently as August and who admitted that he was afraid he had eaten himself out of the league, was the guy tasked with blocking Mario Williams.

It's a wonder Ben Roethlisberger made it out of Houston with just a sprained ankle. No one would've been surprised if the jaws of life were needed to un-embed him from the Reliant Stadium turf.

Week 4 Recap

To be fair, Pittsburgh's o-line has been victimized by injuries. In addition to Scott, who should be back in a week or two, right tackle Willie Colon was lost for the season after the Week 1 drubbing by the Ravens. It's the second time in as many seasons that Colon's has health kept him on the sidelines. Right guard Doug Legursky also missed the Texans game with an injury, and left guard Chris Kemoeatu has been battling knee issues through the offseason.

But, hey, it's football -- there isn't a completely healthy team in the NFL. It's just that the five guys charged with protecting Big Ben at the beginning of the season were considered an average unit at best. Now that they're down to backups at three of the five positions, it's more like a train wreck, one that usually meets in the backfield, on Big Ben, about 15 times a game. This could end badly.

Eagles defense. There were a lot of double-takes when Andy Reid announced that he had filled the defensive coordinator job with Juan Castillo. Not because of Castillo's awesome wig, but because he had been an offensive assistant in Philly since arriving in 1995. So it was something of a surprise when he replaced Sean McDermott in February.

Through four weeks, the Eagles' D looks, well, a lot like the Eagles' D we're used to seeing: soft, no-tackling units that lose the battle in the trenches and appear uninterested in stopping the run. This time, however, the problem is exacerbated by the all the offseason additions and the media running with Vince Young's throwaway "Dream Team" comment.

Two weeks ago, the Giants manhandled the Eagles and the 49ers (!) put on an encore performance Sunday. It's also worth pointing out that both games were at the Linc; if Philly can't win at home, not only will they be in danger of missing the playoffs, they might not be a .500 team.

Castillo isn't deserving of all the blame (for starters, we're guessing he doesn't teach his players how to miss tackles), and at least publicly, he has the support of head coach Andy Reid. When asked about the job Castillo's done through four weeks, Reid said "I think Juan's doing some good things. If you ask me the same question about myself or the other coaches and players, there's some good things we're all doing and there a lot of things we need to work on. So that's what we're doing. I'm telling you it's not one person, it's all of us pulling this thing together and doing our jobs a little bit better."

Reid's right. Which brings us to one play that might be worth taking out of the playbook forever: having running back Ronnie Brown throw a backward pass while getting tackled at the opponent's goal line.

"It was a designed play," Brown said. "I've just got to make a better decision with the ball. No matter if it's a pass or a run, I've just got to make a better decision. I was trying to out-think myself a little bit. It was a pass play and I was thinking, once the guy slipped off, just try to throw the ball away and give us another chance for fourth down - not take a loss where we can go for it on fourth down, if possible. I've just got to make a better decision with the ball."

Oh my.

Rob Ryan, Cowboys defensive coordinator. Perhaps in an effort to motivate his team, Ryan implied last week that Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson -- one of the best players in the league -- would be the No. 3 wideout in Dallas. "We work against better receivers with Miles Austin and Dez Bryant,” Ryan said, presumably while fighting back a "yeah, I'm BS-ing ya" grin.

Ryan also indicated that the Cowboys' defensive strategy wouldn't change for one player, and that they wouldn't double-cover Johnson. We give Ryan credit for keeping his word, because Dallas lined up cornerback Terence Newman -- all by himself -- across from Johnson on the game's most important play, a fourth-quarter, goal-line situation in which the Lions needed to score a touchdown. Predictbably, quarterback Matt Stafford threw a jump-ball to Johnson who out-leapt Newman for it. Game over.

It gets better: after the game, Lions coach Jim Scwhartz, made with the funny and he did it without cracking a smile.

"I'm glad the third best wide reciever on the Cowboys is on our team," he said.

Johnson, as usual, seemed unfazed by the off-field gum-flapping.

“I don’t pay attention really, I hear about it from other people,’’ he said. “It doesn’t phase me, I just go out there and do what I have to do.’’

(Which, incidentally, is also Tony Romo's philosophy, except you're never quite certain which Romo is going to show up.)

Mark Sanchez, Jets QB. If you need more proof for just how good Ben Roethlisberger is, re-watch the Jets-Ravens game. New York's offensive line, usually a pretty good group, had some injuries and Baltimore exploited the mismatches all night long, usually while knocking Sanchez silly in the process. The difference between that matchup and your typical Steelers game, is that Roethlisberger is not only accustomed to the weekly beatings, he seems to welcome them.

It was clear early on that Sanchez doesn't like all the contact, as was evidenced by his chuck-and-duck approach to the passing game. By the way, when NBC color analyst Cris Collinsworth says -- in the second quarter -- that "Sanchez has had enough" that's a euphemism for "Your QB is uninterested in continuing because the Ravens are beating the crap out of him."

We get that -- Baltimore was teeing off on Sanchez. But that's not a guy who will lead you to a Super Bowl. It's also the latest evidence that Sanchez, at least at this stage of his career, isn't Captain Comeback. He needs the defense and the running game to build a lead, and then the Jets' short, efficient passing game can take care of the rest.

Which brings us to offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who has faced criticism in the past for complicating what should be pretty simple: use the run to set up the pass. On Monday, head coach Rex Ryan didn't mince words.  "We've got to get a heck of a lot better here," he said. "We're a team that prides itself on running the football, being able to run and we haven't been successful so far."

As Grantland.com's Bill Barnwell observed on Twitter, "The Jets are really going to a run-happy offense before they play the Patriots? With that secondary? OK."

Whatever you do, DON'T kick to Devin Hester. Duh. (US PRESSWIRE)
Panthers special teams. Did we learn nothing from Mike Shanahan, or Tony Dungy or, more generally speaking, Tom Coughlin and Matt Dodge?

Evidently, not in Carolina, because the Panthers played well enough to beat the Bears in Chicago … if not for two bone-headed special teams miscues that involved kicking or punting the ball right to Hester. It doesn't take any talent to kick (hey, having Chicago start at the 40 is better than the alternative) or punt the ball out of bounds. Even Jimmy Clausen could do that (too much? Sorry Jimbo, force of habit). The thought, it seems, never occurred to Panthers special teams coach Brian Murphy.

Then again, it may not have been Murphy's call. First year head coach Ron Rivera defended the decision to kick to Hester (which is sorta like trying to defend the decision to put Terence Newman in single coverage opposite Calvin Johnson).

"I am [concerned about the coverage teams] to a degree. The bad thing about it is, again, on the punt return for a touchdown, we had guys in position to make tackles. And we didn't do it, unfortunately," Rivera said. "But we have to do it and we're going to find guys that are going to do it."

Or, you know, just kick it out of bounds.

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Posted on: September 12, 2011 7:04 pm
 

Steelers RT Willie Colon could be lost for season

The Steelers could be without RT Willie Colon for the rest of the season. (Getty Images)
Posted by Ryan Wilson

If there was a bright spot for the Steelers following their Week 1 whupping at the hands of the Ravens, it was that they emerged from the game embarrassed but injury free. A day later, they couldn't even manage that; according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette, right tackle Willie Colon could be done for the year.

"Steelers Willie Colon has torn triceps, will have surgery Tuesday, per agent Joe Linta to PG. Likely to go on IR," Bouchette tweeted Monday. "Willie is obviously devastated," Linta added. "But he vows to be back and give the Steelers more good years." 

It's amazing how quickly perceptions can change. Two days ago, coming off a spiffy preseason, the Steelers looked like one of the best teams in the league. After a 35-7 drubbing that including seven turnovers against the Ravens, they suddenly look old, vulnerable and middle-of-the-pack. And now it appears that they've lost their starting right tackle, who also missed the 2010 season with an Achilles injury.



Colon entered the offseason as a free agent and there was speculation that he wouldn't return to Pittsburgh. But the team ended up signing him to a five-year, $29 million deal.

As for what this means going forward, well, not much. The Steelers' offensive line has long been a weak link, and losing Colon, while clearly bad news, doesn't automatically doom their playoff hopes. The front office has several options: they can move rookie second-rounder Marcus Gilbert to right tackle (he played there and on the left side during the preseason), give the job to veteran Trai Essex, or get Flozell Adams, who manned the position capably last season, on the horn and gauge his interest in returning to Pittsburgh.

It's not exactly the start the Steelers were looking for, but they're also quite familiar with winning football games with an o-line held together by duct tape. The biggest issue will be if Ben Roethlisberger can withstand the weekly beatings coming his way.

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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.

----------

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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Posted on: February 2, 2011 12:28 am
Edited on: February 3, 2011 8:46 am
 

Pittsburgh Steelers offensive roster breakdown

Posted by Will Brinson & Andy Benoit

Perhaps the most fascinating thing if you look (at a glance anyway) at Pittsburgh and Green Bay is that they've built their teams "properly." (AKA "the opposite of Dan Snyder.) They draft smart, and they sign smarter. At least that's what we're lead to believe, right?

Andy and I set out to check the roster breakdown for both teams. En route, we* managed to figure out not only where they're coming from, but what they'll do for their respective teams in the Super Bowl.

Name POS Acquired Scouting Report
Ben Roethlisberger
QB
Drafted 11th overall, 1st Round 2004
The most physically gifted quarterback in all of football (including Mr. Vick). Sandlot style makes him nearly impossible to gameplan against.
Rashard Mendenhall
RB 
Drafted 23rd overall, 1st Round 2008
Can immediately regain his balance and accelerate after bouncing off a defender. That’s a big reason why he’s developed into one of the best fourth quarter closers in the game.
Mewelde Moore
RB2
Drafted 119th overall, 4th Round MIN; FA, 2008
Struggled in pass protection early but settled down late. Good dumpoff target who can eat up ground if given room to generate speed. However, doesn’t have the initial quickness to create his own space.
Jonathan Scott
LT
Drafted 141st overall, 5th Round, DET; FA, 2010
Offers very little power for a man of 6’6”, 318-pound size.
Chris Kemoeatu
LG
Drafted 204th overall, 6th Round 2005
Steelers’ best lineman. Nasty out-in-front blocker who gets to the linebacker level with ease.
Doug Legursky
C
UDFA, 2009
Iffy strength is a major concern given Green Bay’s ravenous defensive linemen.
Ramon Foster
RG
UDFA, 2009
Not powerful enough to move people in the run game, but at least gets OK placement on his blocks.
Flozell Adams
RT
Drafted 28th overall, 2nd Round DAL; FA 2010
At 35, it’s almost painful watching him try to move. But even more painful is watching a helpless defender try to unshackle from his grasp.
Trai Essex
OL
Drafted 93rd overall, 3rd Round 2005
Has monstrous size and is versatile enough to play inside or outside. But doesn’t it tell you something that he’s still coming off the bench despite all the injuries up front?
Mike Wallace
WR
Drafted 84th overall, 3rd Round 2009
The most lethal big-play weapon at wideout in today’s NFL. The difference between DeSean Jackson and him is his acceleration is augmented by an extremely long stride.
Hines Ward
WR
Drafted 93rd overall, Round 1998
These days, runs like he’s wearing boots. But, somehow, he still manages to get open. Everything they say about his blocking is true, by the way.
Emmanuel Sanders
WR
Drafted 82nd overall, 3rd Round 2010
It’s just a matter of time before the third-round rookie takes over as the No. 2 target. Roethlisberger loves to look for him whenever he aligns in the slot of a five-receiver set.
Antonio Brown
WR
Drafted 164th overall, 6th Round 2010
Sixth-round rookie has shown a penchant for big plays.
Heath Miller
TE
Drafted 30th overall, 1st Round 2005
Not the god that Steeler fans insist he is, but soft hands and technically sound blocking are certainly valuable.
Matt Spaeth
TE
Drafted 77th overall, 3rd Round 2007
Heath Miller only with less skill and more size.

*Scouting smarts credited to Benoit. HTML and research credited to Brinson.
Posted on: February 1, 2011 8:37 am
 

Steelers honor Flozell Adams

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

FORT WORTH, Texas – When Steelers right offensive tackle Flozell Adams arrived at the airport Monday morning to depart from Pittsburgh to travel to the Super Bowl, he looked at his fellow offensive linemen, and he was shocked by what he saw.

They were all wearing Michigan State No. 76 jerseys – the same that Adams wore - and the idea was to honor Adams and to show him exactly what he means to the team.

“I don’t know where they got them from, but it was quite surprising,” said Adams, who wore that jersey himself during Monday’s media availability. “It was special for them to bring back the throwbacks and they’re all still walking around here with them on. I’m grateful for it. They probably were planning this for at least a couple of weeks, and I had no idea.”

Backup guard Trai Essex was the one to give Adams his jersey, and Adams was appreciative. Much of the questions aimed at him Monday were about Adams and his Dallas homecoming. He spent a more than a decade in a Cowboys uniform, but the fact he’s playing in a Super Bowl with the Steelers in Jerry Jones’ backyard doesn’t feel a bit strange.

“I lived here for 12 years and it feels like you’re at home,” he said.

But now he feels the same way about Pittsburgh, because of the way his teammates (as seen by the Michigan State jersey tribute) and the way his fans welcomed him after starting Pittsburgh right tackle Willie Colon suffered a season-ending injury. And now that he’s had a season to adjust, he also feels the same way about playing right tackle after spending his career playing on the left side for the Cowboys. He feels at home.

The same he’ll feel Sunday when he plays once again in Dallas.

And man, would his teammates and coaches like to win the Super Bowl for him.

“Flozell is a joy to be around,” coach Mike Tomlin said. “It might sound funny, but he doesn’t always have a great disposition, but we enjoy that about him too. The thing that is probably most impressive about Flozell is that his intentions have been so pure since the day that he joined our football team. Here is a guy who’s made some money in this league, who has garnered some personal accolades in this league, a five or six-time Pro Bowler, what have you. This guy just wants to win. He’s brought that mentality and that approach since day one.
 
“He is a veteran player. He doesn’t ask out of anything. He works extremely hard. He has a ‘can-do’ attitude. All of those things endear him to his teammates, and there is a lot to respect there. He’s a big reason why we are here, those guys felt that it was necessary to honor him, and I’m just glad that they did.”



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Posted on: December 22, 2010 11:57 pm
 

Hot Routes 12.22.10: Pro Bowl spite voting!

Posted by Andy Benoit



Got a link for the Hot Routes? Hit us up on Twitter (@CBSSportsNFL).
  • Michael Strahan bashed his former team after it surrendered a 21-point lead in less than half a quarter Sunday.
Posted on: December 6, 2010 9:26 am
 

Surgery for Roethlisberger; other Steelers hurt

Posted by Andy Benoit

That broken nose Ben Roethlisberger suffered (the one the Steelers said was NOT broken) will require surgery.

Ed Bouchette and Jerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report that Roethlisberger will have a procedure done Monday. Roethlisberger’s nose was broken when he took an inadvertent shot to the face from Ravens beast Haloti Ngata (as Steeler fans are still crying, the play did not draw the mandatory flag).

Big Ben wasn’t the only Steeler hurt Sunday night. Tight end Heath Miller took a nasty (and illegal) shot to the head. His status will be determined later in the week. Same goes for right tackle Flozell Adams, who suffered a high ankle sprain (the guess here is Adams will sit considering backup Trai Essex has starting offensive tackle experience).

Finally, punter Daniel Sepulveda tore his right ACL, the second time in three years he has suffered such an injury.

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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