Tag:Emmanuel Sanders
Posted on: February 2, 2011 6:31 pm
Edited on: February 3, 2011 3:17 pm
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Matchup breakdown: Steelers O vs. Packers D

R. Mendenhall (US Presswire)

Posted by Andy Benoit

In the AFC Championship, the Steelers surprised everyone by coming out running against the Jets. On paper, Pittsburgh’s banged-up offensive line was overmatched against New York’s third-ranked run defense. But on the field, the opposite proved true.

With Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey possibly out this Sunday (ankle/foot), one might think Pittsburgh would be inclined to come out throwing. After all, backup Doug Legursky has a noticeable lack of power, while Green Bay’s nose tackle B.J. Raji has a noticeable abundance of it.
 
But despite the Legursky-Raji mismatch, don’t be surprised if the Steelers once again rely on Rashard Mendenhall early on. Running the ball shortens the game and keeps Aaron Rodgers off the field. More than that, it decreases the number of times lumbering right tackle Flozell Adams has to fend off lightning pass-rusher Clay Matthews (Adams vs. Matthews is a mismatch that makes every member of the Steeler organization shudder; it’s hard to imagine the Steelers won’t concoct some form of tight end help for Adams.)

Early in the season, the Steeler offensive line and third down back Mewelde Moore struggled mightily with blitz identification. They got the pass-blocking issues in order down the stretch, but with two weeks to prepare, you have to figure Dom Capers will design at least a few new complicated zone exchanges and delayed A-gap blitzes.

What’s more, whether he’s blitzing or feigning a blitz, slot cornerback/rover Charles Woodson is the key to Green Bay’s pressure schemes. If it’s Woodson vs. Ben Roethlisberger in a presnap chess match, Steelers lose.

Super Bowl experience will have a pretty huge impact on this game as well. Here's Hines Ward on that subject:


Running the ball would ameliorate those unfavorable passing game matchups for the Steelers. But more than that, the Steelers may very well feel that they have an advantage against the Packer run defense anyway. Yes, Doug Legursky, left tackle Jonathan Scott and right guard Ramon Foster all lack the power necessary to generate downhill movement as run-blockers. But left guard Chris Kemoeatu doesn’t.

Kemoeatu is one of the most mobile blockers in football. When he gets to the second level and faces linebackers, he’s frighteningly nasty .The Packer defense did an excellent job at keeping inside linebackers Desmond Bishop and A.J. Hawk clean from blockers this season. (Why do you think the inexperienced Bishop and resoundingly average Hawk were the only two Packers to record 100-plus tackles?)

But the Steelers, who run two-tight end base personnel, could give those inside linebackers problems by shifting to three-receiver personnel (which would involve replacing Matt Spaeth with wideout Emmanuel Sanders). The Packers almost always use a 2-4-5 alignment in nickel defense. With only two downlinemen, Kemoeatu would have a clear path to Bishop or Hawk (and remember, in nickel, one of those inside ‘backers will be off the field). In that case, Mendenhall could run inside, or, if he’s lucky, get isolated on the edges against outside linebacker Erik Walden (an impressive athlete but very callow run-stopper).

Roethlisberger is Pittsburgh’s best playmaker, but the run game could very well be Pittsburgh’s best chance at a seventh Lombardi trophy.

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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: January 28, 2011 11:27 pm
 

Eric Smith fined $10K for hit on Emmanuel Sanders

Posted by Will Brinson

Jets safety Eric Smith did a pretty good job filling in for Jim Leonhard after Leonhard's season-ending injury. But it also ending him costing him, financially, as the safety was reportedly hit with a $10,000 fine for his hit on Emmanuel Sanders in the second quarter of the AFC Championship game.

That's according to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, and it's not the first time Smith's been fined this season -- he got nailed $7,500 for crushing Wes Welker earlier in the year.

Smith also got nailed for a $50,000 fine against Anquan Boldin back in 2008 to the tune of $50,000, so this isn't his first run-in with the law, needless to say.

Given the warning the NFL handed out before the divisional playoff games, it's no surprise to see them hand out fines now, even if the amounts (like the $10,000 Julius Peppers was fined for his hit in the NFC Championship game) might seem a little low.

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Posted on: January 24, 2011 12:27 am
Edited on: January 24, 2011 3:00 pm
 

10 Super Bowl stories you'll get sick of hearing

Posted by Andy Benoit

Because the Super Bowl is outlandishly over-covered, offering readers 10 Super Bowl stories worth their attention seems redundant if not fruitless. With two weeks until, as your local furniture store calls it, The Big Game!!!, every possible Packers-Steelers storyline is about to be utterly exhausted. And then retold.

You can thank all the “casual fans” who suddenly get interested in the NFL this time of year for this. Somebody has to bring those people up to speed, which means somebody has to retell all the stories true football fans got sick of months ago. You best get used to it now.

Just so you can be on guard, here is an overview of the 10 Super Bowl storylines you’ll get sick of hearing between now and February 6 They’re ranked in order from overhyped to way overhyped, and they don’t even include the non-game related economic stories (you know the ones about how expensive the advertising spots cost, how magnificent the host venue, Cowboys Stadium, is, how bad the CBA talks are going or how many bags of chips are consumed by Americans on Super Bowl Sunday).


10. Wide receivers

The Packers and Steelers receiving units almost mirror one another. Both have a sage veteran (Donald Driver, Hines Ward). Both have a dynamic young big-play weapon (Greg Jennings, Mike Wallace). And both have dangerous but not entirely trD. Driver (US Presswire)usted backups (James Jones and Jordy Nelson; Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown). Here are the predictable cliff notes for the stories involving these guys:

Driver: tough childhood in Houston, first chance at a ring

Ward: borderline “dirty player” who is also proud of Korean heritage

Jennings: NOT a diva, but has still emerged as a No. 1

Wallace: averaging 93 yards per catch this season (or something like that)

Jones: talented but dropped balls; his quarterback trusts him

Nelson: talented but a few fumbles; his quarterback trusts him

Sanders: talented but untested; his quarterback trusts him

Brown: big catches late in games but still raw; his quarterback trusts him

9. Hometown Players

On every Super Bowl team, there are a few players who happen to be from the town in which the game is being played. Thus, you get the homecoming story. This story is only interesting to the dozens of their family and friends who will be in the stands watching on Sunday (because, you know, the player bought dozens of tickets for family and friends!), but that doesn’t stop hard-hitting journalists from writing about it. Or from focusing on how the odds were really stacked against the kid from (insert name of Texas town), as no one ever thought he’d be playing on football’s biggest stage.

So who will the hometown stars be this year? A quick search on PlayersFrom.com (a website that sorts all professional athletes by home state) reveals that the following Packer players were born in Texas: K Mason Crosby, TE Jermichael Finley, QB Matt Flynn, C Scott Wells, WR Donald Driver. The Steelers born in Texas are DE Ziggy Hood, P Daniel Sepulveda, OT Tony Hills, OT Jonathan Scott and NT Casey Hampton.

8. Overcoming adversity

Both teams will talk all week about how they have overcome a lot of adversity this season. Good for them. We can sort of believe the Packers when they trumpet adversity because they led the NFC in injuries (in terms of games missed by starters). But the Steelers? It will be tougher for them to play this card considering they’re littered with stars on defense and have the richest winning tradition in the NFL. But they’ll still find a way to play the adversity card (probably by making veiled references to Ben Roethlisberger’s suspension).


7. Tomlin
M. Tomlin (US Presswire)
You might not get sick of this story because it’s hard to get sick of this man, but you’re going to be hearing it plenty of times: Mike Tomlin is now the only coach in NFL history to reach the Super Bowl twice before the age of 40. He’s already the youngest head coach to hoist a Lombardi Trophy.

This probably won’t be that obnoxious of a storyline. After all, it will probably include plenty about the Steeler modus operandi (which is fascinating), plus Tomlin is about as real as they come. He knows how to give a quote that is just good enough. Which is to say he knows how to say just enough to keep reporters happy but not quite enough to galvanize his opponent.


6. The defensive coordinators

Dick LeBeau is the master behind Pittsburgh’s 3-4 scheme. Dom Capers is the master behind Green Bay’s 3-4. Both are innovative and perhaps deserving of the majority of credit for their team’s success. LeBeau’s recent Hall of Fame induction ruined the hard-hitting THIS MAN SHOULD BE IN CANTON! angle that most writers had for his story, so expect most of the attention to shift towards Capers and whether he deserves a shot at being a head coach for a non-expansion franchise.

There will be plenty of crossover angles here, too, given that Capers coordinated Pittsburgh's D before LeBeau, and both men are pioneers of many 3-4 zone blitz packages.

A dark horse sub storyline here: Kevin Greene, the Packers’ excellent linebackers coach, who was a long-time Steeler.


5. Hair

You just know some idiot is going to do an entertainment feature comparing Troy Polamalu to Clay Matthews.


4. James Starks

Every Super Bowl needs an unlikely breakout star. The Steelers will unofficially nominate sixth-round rookie wideout Antonio Brown for this role, but expect the media to flock to Green Bay’s sixth-round rookie running back James Starks. The Eddie George-like upright runner from Buffalo has rushed for 263 yards since being inserted into the starting lineup for the postseason. Starks is clearly the team’s most explosive runner, but he does not offer star traits. That doeJ. Harrison (US Presswire)sn’t mean the media can’t tell you he’s a burgeoning young star, though.


3. Illegal hits (James Harrison)

Non-football media outlets have been sitting on their stories about how dangerous the sport is for several months, waiting to release them Super Bowl week. Last year, TIME magazine got this ball rolling with its cover piece titled “The Problem with Football: How to Make It Safer”. With Harrison, the poster child for illegal hits, going up against Aaron Rodgers, who suffered two concussions during the regular season, expect another slew of important but boring as hell articles about brain trauma.



2. Aaron Rodgers

Rodgers’ meteoric rise this postseason has been even louder than Drew Brees’ last season. Thank the Brett Favre drama for setting the backdrop for the first-round pick’s career. From day one we’ve admired Rodgers’ class and poise. Since finally taking the field three years ago, we’ve also added arm strength, accuracy and athleticism to his list of admirable traits. Factor in the female celebrities this guy has been linked to (Gossip Girl’s Jessica Szohr, Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott, ESPN’s Erin Andrews) and, oh yeah, his insanely impressive performance in five consecutive “must win” games for the Packers (which includes Sunday’s game at Chicago, where Rodgers was much better than his numbers suggest) and we have a first-class superstar on our hands.


1. Ben Roethlisberger

B. Roethlisberger (US Presswire)
As great as a quarterback’s coming out party is, it doesn’t compare to another quarterback’s redemption story. Why? Because a redemption story gives everyone a chance to rehash the drama. The only thing more interesting than Rodgers dating celebrities is Roethlisberger getting accused of mistreating college girls. Sorry, but sexual assault allegations are just too salacious for the media (and public) to ignore.

You know the background here: Nevada and Georgia, no charges filed, six game suspension reduced to four. The Super Bowl week storylines will center around whether Roethlisberger is a changed man and how jovial and humble he has become. The popular caveat will be something along the lines of “only time will tell if these changes stick”. At some point, someone will point out that Big Ben recently got engaged to Pennsylvania native Ashley Harlan. And if that isn’t proof that this one-time frat boy is settling down, what is?


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Posted on: January 23, 2011 10:05 am
 

Revis makes Big Ben cautious

B. Roethlisberger will take note of D. Revis (US Presswire). Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger had some candid comments for the Beaver County Times when he was asked about facing Jets CB Darrelle Revis in today's AFC championship game. Basically, Roethlisberger doesn’t seem all that interested in challenging one of the two best cornerbacks in the game.*

*Now that I’m thinking about it, maybe Nnamdi Asomugha needs a new PR team. Revis gets all of the headlines, and it’s assumed that he is the best CB in the game, maybe because his name constantly is out there. Meanwhile, Asomugha quietly goes about his business, and nobody throws any passes his way.

“As a competitor, you don’t want to ever say you are scared of anybody or you don’t want to go after someone,” Roethlisberger told the paper. “But you’ve got to use your head. Being a competitor is being smart as well. Knowing how good he is and with all those other guys they have over there, you can’t just be like, ‘Forget that, I’m a competitor. I’m going after him. I don’t care what happens.’ You have got to be able to use your head and know when to attack and when not to.”

Of course, if Roethlisberger declines to attack Revis’ side of the field, he knows he’s got another problem.

“Then you get in trouble because you go to the other side and there’s (Antonio) Cromartie,” Roethlisberger said. “That’s why I say this whole defense is so good. It’s hard to single out one guy to stay away from because they have 10 other guys, and sometimes it seems like 15 other guys out there that you have to deal with. But to answer your question, absolutely, Revis is a stopper.”

It’s assumed that Revis will face off against Steelers WR Hines Ward today, because Revis blanketed Ward the last time they played. But remember, Ward is a slot receiver who isn’t really a game-changer any more. It might make more sense to move Revis to the outside and place him on somebody like Emmanuel Sanders (it makes more sense to keep Cromartie on Mike Wallace because Cromartie can match Wallace’s size and speed).

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Posted on: January 8, 2011 5:30 pm
 

Steelers prepping their young wideouts

Posted by Andy Benoit

For as much as Hines Ward smiles, doesn’t he just seem like one of those guys you wouldn’t want to have in your ear, riding you all afternoon? That’s ostensibly what the Steelers’ young trio of wide receivers – Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown – had to deal with in practice all week.

“This week is young guys emphasis week,” Ward told Scott Brown of the Pittsburgh Tribune. “They’re getting a lot of reps.” Ward knows what the young guys don’t: playoff football is different from regular season football.

“They don’t have a clue, what they’re about to step into,” he said. “They only know what the veterans tell them.

“We don’t have series like hockey and baseball and basketball where you lose a game and you’ve got a chance the next day. That’s why every play is magnified. If you drop a crucial third-down (pass) you never know, that might be the difference between winning or losing that game.”

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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