Tag:Emmanuel Sanders
Posted on: September 28, 2011 4:30 pm
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NFL fines Steelers WR Brown $7.5K for low block

Second-year WR Antonio Brown is now $7,500 lighter in the wallet. (US PRESSWIRE)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

This is, well, interesting. The NFL has fined Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown $7,500 for a low block. Not a horse-collar tackle, or an illegal chop block or unsportsmanlike conduct, but going low to block an opponent.

The act in question happened just before halftime of Sunday night's Steelers-Colts game. Indianapolis safety Joe Lefeged intercepted Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger near midfield, and during the return, Brown went low to take out a Colts defender, which is illegal (low blocks are prohibited during a change of possession). We just didn't know that the league was now fining people for it.

You can see it below, near the end of Lefeged's runback.


Brown told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that he was trying to protect himself. "I just took him out before he got me," he said.

Whatever he was doing, he's now out $7,500. The Steelers' 2010 sixth-round pick is making $405,000 this year, so the league has his attention. "That's a lot of money," Brown said. "I can't be giving that away."

In related news, the NFL still appears to be arbitrarily meting out punishments, which only makes it more difficult for players to know what they should be doing.

By the way, if we're Brown, we're making fellow second-year wideout Emmanuel Sanders pay half the fine. If Sanders had touched Lefeged down while he was on the turf just after the interception (instead of going out of his way to avoid Lefeged), there wouldn't have been a runback.

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Posted on: August 28, 2011 5:39 pm
 

Big Ben, Steelers' O more dangerous than ever



Posted by Ryan Wilson

The Steelers may have annual issues along its offensive line, but the passing game has been among the NFL's best during the Ben Roethlisberger era. Since drafting him 11th overall in 2004, Pittsburgh has ranked no worse than ninth in passing efficiency in six of seven seasons (as determined by the friendly eggheads at FootballOusiders.com).

But the outfit historically known for the three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust approach to matriculating the ball down the field has been a mediocre running team over that time (their average rushing efficiency rank since '04: 14th in the NFL). If the first three weeks of the preseason is any indication, there's a great chance both units will improve in 2011, which is scary news for the rest of the AFC.

Roethlisberger has been near-flawless in three games that have no bearing on the standings but provide a glimpse of what's to come once the final scores count. He's 21 of 31 (67.7%) for 361 yards and four touchdowns, hasn't come close to throwing an interception, and his passer rating is an otherworldly 146.6. And while Ben's accustomed to showing well in the preseason, and having it carry over to the regular season (notable exceptions: offseasons involving near-death motorcycle accidents and league-sanctioned four-game suspensions), 2011 could be the year he unanimously joins the conversation as one of the NFL's best quarterbacks.


PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 27: Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates his touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons during a pre-season game on August 27, 2011 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Part of it will be because he's healthier than he was a year ago when the Steelers went 12-4 and lost to the Packers in the Super Bowl. But he also seems to be making better reads, throwing more accurately and playing with more poise. Oh, and not only is this the best group of pass-catchers Roethlisberger's ever seen in Pittsburgh, but arguably the most complete wide receivers corps in the league. (In regards to the former, the bar isn't particularly high -- this is a man whose three best wideouts during the 2005 Super Bowl season included Hines Ward, Cedrick Wilson and Antwaan Randle El. The latter claim requires some justification, however, and that's what we aim to do.)

Roethlisberger still has Ward, but there's also the most explosive deep threat in the game, Mike Wallace; two young players who came out of nowhere to add depth as rookies last season in Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown; and recently signed Jerricho Cotchery.

A year ago, Wallace had 60 catches for 1,275 yards (a mind-blowing 21.0-yards-per-catch average) and 10 touchdowns. And while defenses would love to double- and triple-team him this season, they'll do so at their own risk because Brown has emerged as Wallace 2.0, but possibly more dynamic. He showed glimpses of talent during the second half of 2010, no play more memorable than his catch during the AFC Divisional Game against the Ravens, a 58-yarder on third and forever that sealed Baltimore's fate and Pittsburgh's place in the conference finals.

Heading into last offseason, Sanders was ahead of Brown on the depth chart. For the season, Sanders had 28 catches for 376 yards and two touchdowns, and played well enough to take the No. 3 WR job from Randle El. But a broken foot suffered during the Super Bowl, and a stress fracture in his other foot that required surgery earlier this month, has kept Sanders on the sidelines while Brown has played like a Pro Bowler -- he has nine receptions for 230 yards (a 25.6 YPC average) and three touchdowns in the preseason, and he also ripped off a 51-yard kickoff return to start Saturday's game against the Falcons. Brown finished the evening with four catches for 137 yards, including a pair of touchdown grabs, one for 77 yards, the other for 44 yards.

More Steelers News

Three years ago, shortly after the Steelers used their first two draft picks on running back Rashard Mendenhall and wide receiver Limas Sweed, head coach Mike Tomlin was asked why the team chose not to bolster the offensive line to protect Roethlisberger. At the time, his response might've sounded flippant, but in retrospect, the man knew what he was talking about.

“There are two schools of thought to protect a quarterback,” Tomlin said at the time. ”You can get linemen or you can get him weapons — people that people have to account for. Obviously with [the Mendenhall] pick, we’ve gotten a weapon. So what he is able to do on a football field will help our quarterback and our football team.”

The Steelers have drafted offensive linemen in early rounds since -- center Maurkice Pouncey made the Pro Bowl as a rookie last year, and because of injuries, rookie tackle Marcus Gilbert has seen time with the first team this preseason.

But Tomlin's larger point remains: defenses can choose to blitz Roethlisberger silly because of Pittsburgh's unexceptional offensive line, but it'll come at a cost in the form of big plays. On the other hand, defenses can choose to crowd the line of scrimmage in the hopes that the Steelers run, something they did with alarming frequency on first downs during the first half of 2010 (some of that can be attributed to a Roethlisberger-less offense during the first month of the season). But the Steelers now have the weapons to do something other than run Mendenhall into an eight-man wall.

But the running game, which has lagged behind the passing game in recent years, could also be effective this season. Part of the reason is that Mendenhall and Isaac Redman continue to get better. But it's also because defenses can't just load up the box to stop the run, and double-team Wallace because Ward and Randle El couldn't beat a linebacker in a foot race.

The emergence of Brown and Sanders, to go along with zone-busters Ward and Cotchery, create the sort of mismatches that lead to a lot of big plays and a ton of points. It will also open up running lanes for Mendenhall and Redman.

Teams will continue to blitz Roethlisberger, at least early in the season, just because he welcomes contact and the line continues to be the offense's weakest link. But at some point in the coming months, defenses might have to rethink that strategy. Eight-man fronts and constant pressure could be a thing of the past, which is what happens when, as Tomlin pointed out back in 2008, you surround your quarterback with a bunch of weapons.

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Posted on: June 22, 2011 9:24 am
Edited on: June 22, 2011 9:27 am
 

Big Ben backs Plax return to Steelers

On Tuesday, my colleague Ryan Wilson wondered whether or not Plaxico Burress could end up back with his original team, the Pittsburgh Steelers. As Ryan noted, there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical about the possibility.

Apparently not one of them, though: Ben Roethlisberger's support. That's because Ben apparently is down with bringing Plax back to Pittsburgh.

"I've talked to Plax a number of times in the last couple of weeks," Roethlisberger said, per Scott Brown of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "I told him, 'Hey, if you came back here that would be awesome, but I'm just happy to see you playing again' because he's a good guy."

As Wilson pointed out, there are a number of problems with bringing Burress back to Pittsburgh. Namely, are there even enough footballs to go around in order to find out if Plaxico's still got it after 20 months in the hole?

Right now, the Steelers are staring at a wide receiver corps that features Mike Wallace, Hines Ward, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown. (Presumably, Antwaan Randle El would be the casualty of a Burress signing.)

But maybe -- as we've noted in previous discussions tying Plax to Philly -- that's the best possible situation for the former first-rounder. After all, if he can step in as a big end-zone target, he'll only help to diversify an already stout group of wideouts.

And as far as public relations go, well, it's not as if dealing with off-field issues would be something new for the 2011 Steelers either.

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Posted on: June 21, 2011 4:31 pm
Edited on: June 21, 2011 4:43 pm
 

Hot Routes 6.21.11: ATL to outscore everybody?



Posted by Ryan Wilson
  • Wideout Roddy White says the Falcons are "[G]oing to outscore everybody … Green Bay’s got, what, four or five guys out there who can make plays? We’re going to be Green Bay South.”
  • You know the lockout has dragged on for far too long when the NFL Network will air two CFL games a week. If this doesn't motivate NFL owners and players, then we're in deep trouble.
  • For three months, we've only heard about the downside of a lockout. For older players like Cowboys wide receiver Roy Williams, there's an upside, too -- namely, the length of the labor impasse likely means Williams won't get cut.
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Posted on: June 21, 2011 11:09 am
Edited on: June 21, 2011 11:30 am
 

Could Plaxico Burress end up back in Pittsburgh?

Posted by Ryan Wilson

We spent a lot of time Monday explaining why the Steelers should pass on 36-year-old running back Tiki Barber (you'd think the phrase "36-year-old running back" would suffice in scaring off potential suitors; apparently not). But Barber's not the only former NFL player on the wrong side of 30 looking for gainful employment.

Plaxico Burress, fresh out of prison and more than two years removed from his last NFL game, wants to get back in the league. Interest has been lukewarm, although that may change once the lockout ends and free agency begins.

For now, though, Sports Illustrated's Peter King is "mind-boggled" by the tepid interest in Burress. King writes: "Just stupid. In the right offense he'll be the big target many teams lack, and, if healthy, he'll catch 60-plus balls and be a good deep threat. At worst? He's not going to cost much. What's the downside? Rams, Browns? Tell me. I'm dying to know."

Well, one team that appears to be interested also drafted Burress in 2000. Yep, the Steelers.

Twitastic details via Pittsburgh Post-Gazette beat reporter Gerry Dulac.

"Steelers coaches are interested in Burress but depends on price. They would release Randle El to make room."

We have little trouble believing the Steelers would release Antwaan Randle El. By the end of the season, he had lost his job to rookies Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown. And while Randle El is a valuable locker room presence, he doesn't have much left as a player.

Whether that means Burress could replace him is another conversation. Ben Roethlisberger has long supported Burress and lobbied the organization to keep Burress when his contract expired after the 2004 season.

Roethlisberger has also said previously that he likes throwing to tall targets, even though, on average, height doesn't have any bearing on a wide receiver's effectiveness. For recent proof, just look at Limas Sweed. Of course, if Dulac is right, Steelers coaches might consider Burress the type of player they were hoping Sweed would grow into.

In the end, we remain skeptical about Burress returning to Pittsburgh. The Steelers have Mike Wallace, Hines Ward and Sanders at the top of the depth chart, and Brown will likely be the No. 4 wide receiver. We're not sure there are enough snaps to go around. Or more importantly: what type of player Burress will be after spending more than 20 months in prison.

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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 9, 2011 1:25 pm
 

Surgery for Steelers receivers

Posted by Andy Benoit

Turns out the injury Emmanuel Sanders suffered in Pittsburgh’s Super Bowl loss was very serious. The rookie wide receiver will have surgery this week to repair his broken foot. H. Ward (US Presswire)

Sanders isn’t the only wideout going under the knife. Hines Ward will have surgery on his left knee (which is already deprived of an ACL), as well as his left thumb. Presumably, the surgeries will take place at separate times. (If it were his right thumb, perhaps simultaneous surgeries would work. But figure with two left side issues, things would get too crowded for the doctors standing around the operating table…right?)

For the knee, Ward is addressing cartilage damage that has been bothersome since training camp. For the thumb, he’s correcting a torn ligament suffered in Week 2 against the Titans. Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says Ward’s thumb can bend all the way back past his wrist (which is why he wore a protective cast on it this season).

Bouchette points out that team doctors around the league, including Pittsburgh’s James Bradley, will be especially busy this month, as players scramble to get operated on before their insurance disappears as part of the looming March 4 lockout.

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Posted on: February 6, 2011 7:37 pm
 

Steelers, Packers lose WRs

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

DALLAS – Steelers WR Emmanuel Sanders has been taken to the locker room on a cart after injuring his foot early in the second quarter, and he’s questionable to return. Meanwhile, on the other side of the field, Packers WR Donald Driver has limped to the locker room with a knee injury.

So far, Sanders is the leading receiver for Pittsburgh with two catches for 17 yards, and he’s had to limp to the sideline at least twice because of his foot. Driver has two catches for 28 yards.

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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