Tag:James Farrior
Posted on: February 5, 2011 1:54 pm
Edited on: February 5, 2011 2:00 pm
 

Josh Freeman makes a great point about Steelers

Posted by Andy Benoit

DALLAS -- Had a chance to chat with Josh Freeman on Friday (he was making the media rounds as part of the Gatorade Sports Science Institute lab that is stationed upstairs from radio row). The conversation centered largely around the lessons he’s learned in his first two years in the NFL. Freeman said that facing more frequent and complex A-gap blitzes was the toughest on-field tactic that he had to learn.

The Steelers just so happen to be one of, if not THE, best fire-X blitzing team in football (fire X is an A-gap blitz in which the inside linebackers crisscross on their way to the quarterback). Freeman offered one of the shrewdest yet simplest observations that has been made this week in Dallas: the Steelers front seven is extra difficult to figure out because the linebackers mix their 90s and 50s jersey numbers.

Normally, defensive linemen are the ones who wear numbers in the 90s. But Steelers outside linebacker James Harrisons is No. 92. And inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons is No. 94. (The other starters, James Farrior and LaMarr Woodley, are 51 and 56.)

Obviously, it’s easy to tell the difference between all four Steelers linebackers. But when you’re on the field and have a million things going on, it’s a little harder. If your first point of reference is normally a jersey number, and linebackers wearing numbers in the 90s are roving around, those linebackers are going to blend in for a split second. Split seconds are a significant chunk of time in football.

If a media type or outside observer had made this point about jersey numbers, it probably wouldn’t be worth a second thought. Jersey numbers? Really? But when a quarterback who has faced the Steelers brings it up on his own, there’s something to it.

[More Super Bowl coverage]

CBSSports.com's Jason Horowitz also caught up with Freeman:





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Posted on: February 2, 2011 1:11 am
Edited on: February 6, 2011 2:53 am
 

Pittsburgh Steelers defensive 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
Ziggy Hood
DE 
Drafted 32nd overall, 1st Round 2009 
First-round pick in ’09 has not shown drastic progress with playing time. Plays too tall to generate anchoring power; must get more physical in traffic.
Casey Hampton
NT
Drafted 19th overall, 1st Round 2001
The key to Pittsburgh’s vaunted run defense. A “325-pounder” who simply can’t be dislodged. Nimble lateral agility and surprising initial quickness give him playmaking prowess, too.
Brett Keisel
DE
Drafted 242nd overall, 7th round 2002
Long-deserved Pro Bowl honors were finally recognized this season. Far and away the most athletic 3-4 defensive end in football.
Aaron Smith
DL
Drafted 109th, 5th Round 1999
Venerated 12-year veteran hopes to play for the first time since tearing his triceps in October. If he can’t go, the forceful but somewhat sluggish Nick Eaton will continue to see action.
LaMarr Woodley
LOLB
Drafted 46th overall, 2nd Round 2007
His first and second steps are as effective as all but maybe six or seven pass-rushers in the NFL. Exerts tremendous strength whether he’s making a tackle or shedding a block.
James Farrior
LILB
8th overall, 1st Round 1997 NYJ; FA 2002
A 36-year-old whose downhill quickness suggests he’s 26. Instincts against the run are superb.
Lawrence Timmons
RILB
Drafted 15th overall, 1st Round 2007
Whoever's the 2nd most athletic ILB in football is barely a speck in this man’s rearview mirror. Instincts have improved precipitously. In short, he’s already a superstar (and maybe Pittsburgh’s best player on D).
James Harrison
ROLB
UDFA 2002 PIT; FA PIT 2004 Known for four or five illegal hits, but the thousands of legal ones he’s delivered have been just as punishing.
Larry Foote
5 LB
Drafted 128th overall, 4th Round PIT; FA, 2010
This defense does not skip a beat when he gives Farrior a breather. Is fantastic at blowing up the opponents’ lead-blocker.
Ike Taylor
CB
Drafted 125th overall, 4th Round 2003
Lanky cover artist who can operate in man or zone. If not for so many dropped interceptions over the years, he’d be regarded by many as a top 10 corner.
Troy Polamalu
SS
Drafted 16th overall, 1st round 2003
Llike the Steelers have a 12 on 11 advantage when he’s out there. The difference between him and other star defenders? 2 things: his calves (which give him NBA-caliber vertical leap and incredible closing explosiveness) and unwavering trust in his instincts.
Ryan Clark
FS UDFA, 2002, WAS; FA 2006
Hard-hitting, intelligent veteran leader who has decent range in coverage.
Bryant McFadden
CB
Drafted 62nd overall, 2nd Round 2005
If this defense has a weak spot, he’d be it. And that’s NOT to say he isn’t solid.
William Gay
NB
Drafted 170th overall, 5th round, 2007
OK when he can be a playmaker, but struggles when he has to be a play-stopper.
Ryan Mundy
SS Drafted 194th overall, 6th Round, 2008
Still learning. Didn’t make the costly mistakes this season that hounded him in ’09.

*Scouting smarts credited to Benoit. HTML and research credited to Brinson.
Posted on: January 31, 2011 9:18 pm
Edited on: January 31, 2011 11:45 pm
 

Steelers dispel notion they don't have Ben's back

Posted by Will Brinson

UPDATE 11:37 p.m. EST: Peter King has issued a clarification on Goodell's lightning quote about how not one of "two dozen" Steeler players came to Roethlisberger's defense. Goodell was referring to two dozen NFL players in general, not two dozen Steelers.

----------

FORT WORTH, TX -- Following Ben Roethlisberger's suspension to start the season, there was plenty of speculation that he wasn't the most popular person in the Steelers locker room.

On Monday, Peter King of Sports Illustrated posted in his weekly Monday Morning Quarterback column a quote from Roger Goodell that emphasized just how little the Steelers had Ben's back.

"Not one, not a single player, went to his defense," Goodell said after revealing he talked to "two dozen" Steelers players. "It wasn't personal in a sense, but all kinds of stories like, 'He won't sign my jersey.'"

Roethlisberger, asked Monday about the report, didn't necessarily dispel the notion.

"I'm not sure," Roethlisberger said. "I wasn't there. I don't know exactly what was said, so it's hard to say."

The report obviously stings for Ben, but it's far more indicative of how Steelers players perceive their quarterback, making their responses far more interesting.

However, most of the players asked seemed to indicate they felt differently than King reported, including wideout Hines Ward.



Ward wasn't the only one, though.

"I was highly upset by this whole situation," linebacker James Farrior said. "When Roger Goodell came to us in teh preseason, I think I was the guy who asked him a lot of the questions about Ben. I was pretty upset about it.

I really didn't get any answers from him that I was looking for, but I was definitely disappointed in what the verdict was and how they proceeded."

Brett Keisel, he of the most amazing beard in the world, was even more emphatic with his defense of Roethlisberger.

"I've always had Ben's back," Keisel said. "Even when everything was going on, Ben and I have had a very good relationship.

We're close friends on and off the field. I think everyone was behind him. Everyone just didn't know how to respond to all the questions and all the scrutiny."

So maybe that's the answer -- no one knew how to respond. And that's logical, too, because of the situation with which they were approached.

Goodell was asking them to provide input on a player in a very sticky situation, involving an alleged act that was so squeamish it wasn't easy to broach in the media, much less in a one-on-one conversation with the man in charge of disciplining the entire NFL.

Or maybe the members of the Steelers didn't have Ben's back when they were asked before the season. That's acceptable, even if it's a little awkward.

Because at the end of the day, he's helped the team get a shot at their third Super Bowl ring since he took over as quarterback. And that means that -- all issues of personal redemption aside -- he's rehabilitated himself as a teammate and member of the Steelers workforce.

For a team charged with winning football games, there's not much more they can really hope to expect.

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Posted on: December 8, 2010 6:42 pm
 

Harrison thinks he was victim of cheap-shot

J. Harrison feels like he was cheap-shooted during last Sunday's game with Baltimore (US Presswire). Posted by Josh Katzowitz

For once, Steelers LB James Harrison is playing the victim card, and he might have a point.

As the Pittsburgh Post Gazette writes, his teammates think Ravens G Chris Chester – a guy not known as an especially dirty player – tried to cheap-shot Harrison during last Sunday’s Baltimore win.

During an extra point attempt, the Ravens were flagged for a false start, but Chester fired on Harrison anyway, leading to both teams pushing and shoving each other (Harrison wisely backed away from the tussle).

From the story:

"Of course it was deliberate," Harrison said today in the Steelers locker room. "There's no way that happens on an extra point because [offensive linemen] don't shoot out. It's obvious it was blatant. It was on purpose."

Asked if it was a cheap shot, Harrison said, "Yeah it's cheap, but when it comes down to it, it's only a 5-yard penalty, they move back to the 7 and re-kick. It's not going to hurt them."

"It was a dirty play," said inside linebacker James Farrior.


Chester Chester might have been upset, because Harrison ran him over earlier in the game. though it sounds like the Steelers think this was planned-out on the Ravens side. After the near brouhaha, Harrison said he later ran over Chester again.

One interesting part of this equation is the fundamentals involved. Offensive lineman are taught not to fire out on extra points and field goals, because it leaves gaps in the blocking wall that could allow a defender to sneak through and block the kick.

So, maybe Chester forgot that he wasn’t supposed to do that. Or he wanted to teach Harrison a lesson. Or he’s got a nasty twitch.

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Posted on: September 17, 2010 7:29 pm
 

Chris Johnson vs. the Steelers front seven

C. Johnson hasn't had great success in the past against Pittsburgh (Getty). Posted by Josh Katzowitz

I wondered if Andy, in his weekly key matchup feature, would look at how the Steelers front seven would try to shut down Titans RB Chris Johnson.

Andy went with Michael Vick vs. the Lions defense (read it; it’s a fascinating look), so that leaves me to make sense of the Tennessee-Pittsburgh game.

Johnson, as you know, has 12-straight games where he’s rushed for at least 100 yards. That’s two off Barry Sanders’ all-time record. But remember, the Steelers are traditionally pretty good at stopping the run – in the past 35 games, an opponent has reached the century mark in rushing only once (Baltimore’s Ray Rice).

So, what will happen Sunday? Well, if the past is any indication, it could be a long day for Johnson. Last year, in the season opener, he gained 57 yards on 15 carries, and the season before, he was held to 69 yards.

But the past two seasons, Johnson – no matter what Adrian Peterson thinks – has been the best RB in the league. Yet the Steelers have their gameplan.

"It's a big priority,” OLB LaMarr Woodley told the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. "You stop the run, you force a team to go to its passing game, which allows us to bring a little heat and get to the quarterback.

"We hit him as a team (the past two seasons). We constantly got to him. When running backs are taking hits after hits from big guys, they slow down a little bit."

True, but not every team can boast the tackling skills of Woodley, James Farrior and James Harrison. This week, though, Johnson might catch a break because starting NT Casey Hampton is out for the game.

Most important for the Steelers is for the defense to maintain gap control.

"He's not real heavy but he's so fast and strong," NT Chris Hoke told the paper. "He jump-cuts on a dime, he's very quick at making his reads. You have to make sure you're gap-sound on every play because he gets a little crack and he's gone.

"It's easy for a guy like that, to get everybody a little over-excited – you want to make sure he doesn't make a big play so maybe you get out of your gap a little bit and you run to the ball and he cuts back when you're running to the ball. You have to make sure you stay square to the line of scrimmage so there is no cutback lane."

And what does Johnson – and his teammates – have to do in order to get that 100-yard game? The Titans offensive line has to work harder than the Steelers.

"One thing they do a lot of times is just outwork guys," Titans guard Leroy Harris told the Tennessean. "Every guy is working to the whistle, no matter what. Their technique is sound. They hold responsibility. They do their job. They outwork guys and they keep running to the ball.

"You can’t let the other guy outwork you. You don’t let the other guy make the play. We’ll do that. We also make sure we see the different looks they have and the blitzes they have. We get bodies on guys."

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Posted on: August 30, 2010 12:08 am
Edited on: August 30, 2010 12:15 am
 

Burning questions revisited

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

D. Dixon didn't do himself any favors Sunday night (US Presswire). Earlier this evening, we presented three burning questions the Steelers and the Broncos would face when they met at Invesco Field. After Denver finished off a 34-17 win, we have a few more answers (which are in bold).

Steelers

1. What the heck is going on with the starting QB spot? This has been one of my favorite questions all preseason, because much of what the Steelers coaching staff has done hasn’t made sense to me. Like tonight, for example. Byron Leftwich most likely will be the starter once the season begins, but he probably won’t play tonight until the second half when the second-team is going, after Ben Roethlisberger – who, of course, won’t be playing the season-opener – and Dennis Dixon, who should be the starter in place of Roethlisberger, takes their reps. A bonus question: why? I still don’t know the answer, but I’ll tell you this: Dixon lost any chance he had to be a starter by tossing two interceptions and showing his inexperience and poor decision-making.

2. How will C Maurkice Pouncey perform against a first-team defensive line? Earlier this week, Pouncey surpassed Justin Hartwig as the starting center, and tonight, he’ll test his wares against a very good nose tackle in Jamal Williams. He had some good moments against Williams and some bad moments where he allowed the Broncos to penetrate the backfield and get pressure on Dixon. But overall, this is a move that should work out well for Pittsburgh.

3. What’s up with RB Rashard Mendenhall? There have been rumors that Mendenhall suffered a broken arm in practice, but those talks have been debunked by reporters who actually are in the know. He is expected to start tonight. Of course, he played. No surprise there. He was workmanlike with 28 yards on five carries before calling it a night. But the breakout RB belonged to Steelers rookie Jonathan Dwyer, who recorded 89 yards and a score on just 13 carries while looking strong on one play and fast on the next.

Broncos

1. Will the run defense stop anybody? Last year, the Broncos ranked 26th in the NFL by allowing 128.7 rushing yards per game. So, after signing a plethora of defensive linemen in the offseason, where has that gotten the Broncos? Dead last in the preseason stats with 171 rushing yards per game. Tonight, Mendenhall will provide the next test for the Broncos defense to pass. Dwyer was awesome tonight, though it came mostly against second and third-stringers. Still, the Broncos allowed 175 rushing yards on the night. Obviously, that’s not what Denver’s coaches wanted.

2. Can RB Knowshon Moreno play tonight? It doesn’t sound like it. As the Denver Post reports, Moreno doesn’t look anywhere close to returning, as he’s taking his cuts rather gingerly. The Broncos need him to return to the starting lineup, but it most likely won’t be tonight’s starting lineup. No, he didn’t play. Instead, we saw the return of LenDale White, who actually looked pretty good. He had 34 yards and a score on 12 yards, and if he didn’t have to sit out a four-game suspension to open the season, he’d have a better chance of making the squad.

3. Will Tim Tebow return? Of course, we have to ask this question, no matter how dirty it makes us feel. Pregame reports are saying he was throwing during warmups, so it sounds like he might dress. And if he dresses, there’s a decent chance he plays. He played, and he threw a god-awful interception. But he also showed a nice touch and good awareness on his 3-yard TD pass to Eric Decker. Either way, he looked more competent than Brady Quinn.

A few more observations:

-There was plenty of talk about how punter Daniel Sepulveda would take Jeff Reed’s job as the kickoff specialist. Well, Sepulveda booted the game-opening kickoff out of bounds for a penalty. One word: ugh.

-James Farrior did his best Eli Manning impression with that cut on his head.

-There was a scary moment for Broncos fans when Kyle Orton tried to deliver a hit on Steelers LB James Harrison after he picked up and ran with an alleged fumble. We’ll say this: it didn’t end well for Orton, who briefly left the game following his tackle. Like I said on Twitter, you don’t want Orton anywhere near Harrison when the latter is returning a possible fumble.

-The Steelers accumulated four personal foul penalties in the first half. That’s pretty ridiculous. Not the sign of a real disciplined team.

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Posted on: July 23, 2010 1:08 pm
 

Dennis Dixon's agent makes some noise

D. Dixon during Pittsburgh's offseason workouts I’m not sure how much help Dennis Dixon’s agent is providing him when he complains about the amount of first-team reps Dixon received in the offseason.

Jeff Sperbeck told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review he doesn’t understand why Dixon didn’t get more work with the first-team offense in order for the coaching staff to analyze his development. Sperbeck also isn’t sure why veteran Byron Leftwich is ahead of Dixon on the depth chart to compete for the No. 1 spot in lieu of the suspended Ben Roethlisberger.

In reality, Sperbeck comes across like an unruly – and unreasonable – father bitching at the peewee coach and asking why his son isn’t playing.

"I think Dennis should be given an opportunity to start," Sperbeck told columnist John Harris. "He's been there going on three years. He knows the offense. He's familiar with his teammates. He's ready to go. I don't understand why after Byron's been gone a year, they would bring him back and start him ahead of Dennis. To me, it should have been Dennis' job as the No. 1. He was No. 2 last year. Byron was not even in the picture."

Leftwich played only three games last year, leading the Buccaneers to an 0-3 record. The year before, he backed up Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh. Dixon, meanwhile, started an important game against the Ravens with major postseason implications and was fairly efficient though the Steelers took a 20-17 overtime loss.

Dixon also has won the support of his teammates, like third-string QB Charlie Batch and LB James Farrior. But I don’t think an agent whining does him much good.

--Josh Katzowitz

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