Play Fantasy Use your Fantasy skills to win Cash Prizes. Join or start a league today. Play Now
 
Tag:Troy Polamalu
Posted on: September 10, 2011 10:38 am
 

7-Point Preview: Steelers vs. Ravens



Posted by Ryan Wilson


1. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-0) vs. Baltimore Ravens (0-0)
The Ravens will begin the 2011 season the same way they ended 2010: facing the Steelers. Not only are they AFC North rivals, but there's a good argument that this matchup is annually the NFL's fiercest. At least in terms of physicality; as for the results, Pittsburgh has the edge, especially when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is under center. In fact, Big Ben is undefeated against the Ravens in his last seven starts, something that leaves defensive end Terrell Suggs a little queasy.

"They spoiled our Super Bowl dreams for the last two out of three years," Suggs said. "We have to switch that, you know? It's sickening. It ends our season every year we lose to our division rival. I'm sick of it. I'm disgusted. I'm tired of having a sick feeling in my stomach for a whole year."

But the Ravens have their own franchise quarterback in Joe Flacco, who has helped his team to the postseason his first three years in the league, and has yet to miss a start during that time. Still, the playoff wins on the road against the Patriots in '09, or the '08 AFC Championship Game appearance don't mean much unless the conversation ends with "and the Ravens won the Super Bowl." Exacerbating matters: Flacco is 2-6 against the Steelers in his career and he has yet to beat Roethlisberger. (The two wins came against a Roethlisberger-less Pittsburgh team -- Dennis Dixon started late in the '09 season, and Charlie Batch was under center during Week 4 of the 2010 campaign.)

The Rivalry

2. What the Degenerate Gamblers and Eggheads Are Saying:
"You can throw the records out the window" is a cliche, yes, but in this case it's also fitting. While the Steelers hold the win-loss edge, these matchup are invariably close, usually coming down to a huge fourth-quarter play. That, their similarly bruising styles, and the game being in Baltimore means the Steelers are just one-point favorites, according to Bodog.com.

As for the pocket-protector set, our good friends at Football Outsiders have the Steelers atop their preseason rankings (2nd in defense, 5th in offense, 5th in special teams), and the Ravens are sixth (9th in defense, 8th in offense, 3rd in special teams).

The CBSSports.com experts are split: three like the Steelers, two favor the Ravens.

3. Key Matchup to Watch
For the first time in his career, Flacco finally has a legitimate deep threat. The Ravens traded for wide receiver Lee Evans after rookie Torrey Smith's unimpressive showing during the first week of the preseason. (To be fair, Smith didn't have a chance; the second-round pick out of Maryland missed OTAs and minicamp because of the lockout, and had just a few weeks to transition to NFL.)

Evans will play opposite Anquan Boldin, but Flacco's two go-to targets -- Derrick Mason and Todd Heap -- are no longer with the team. Mason signed with the Jets and Baltimore released Heap, who is now in Arizona. Second-year players Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta will replace Heap although it may take time for Flacco to develop a rapport with them that he shared with Heap.

The Steelers will try to stop the Ravens' passing attack with what many experts consider its weakest link: the cornerbacks. Ike Taylor broke a finger during the preseason but will be on the field Sunday. And, frankly, the cast he'll be wearing won't have much bearing on his performance. He's a solid cover cornerback who's been known to drop an interception or 12. As long as his legs work, he'll be fine. The other corner, Bryant McFadden, is another story. He's battled a hamstring injury for all of training camp and if 2011 is anything like 2010, offenses will target him all day.

Safety Troy Polamalu, the 2010 Defensive Player of the Year, can mitigate many of the secondary's shortcomings, particularly when he's at full strength. And to hear him tell it, his Achilles injury, which bothered him late last season all the way through the Super Bowl, is healed and he feels as good as ever.

The Steelers' defensive backs might have more critics but the Ravens' secondary is young and inexperienced, the two things you absolutely don't want to be when facing the likes of Mike Wallace, Hines Ward, Emmanuel Sanders, Antonio Brown and Heath Miller, and with Roethlisberger throwing them the ball.

Rookie first-rounder, cornerback Jimmy Smith, will start, as will Cary Williams, who spent much of his NFL career on the practice squad. But future Hall of Famer Ed Reed will be on the field, too, which means that a turnover is always just a play away. Still, Reed understands what his guys are up against.

“We have to do our job, and that job is to slow those guys down, keep them out of the end zone, and cover them," he said, according to the Baltimore Sun. We’ve got fast guys around here, too. The only disadvantage for the defense is, for the secondary guys, we’re moving backwards at the start. But it’s part of the game. We knew that. We signed up for it. And we’re definitely ready for the mission.”

Whether Baltimore's offensive line, currently held together by duct tape, feels the same way is another story. Recent free-agent additions Bryant McKinnie and Andre Gurode join a group that has been reshuffled due to injuries and inconsistencies. It's one thing to make these changes months before the season; it's something else entirely to try to pull it off in just a few weeks after a lockout against a front seven that led the NFL in sacks a season ago.

And this is where the most important cog in Baltimore's offense comes in. Ray Rice is one of the most dangerous players in the league, a sure-handed running back who is both powerful and elusive and also serves as a genuine pass-catching threat. If he's running the ball effectively, Flacco's job is made markedly easier. The problem, of course, is that the Steelers stop the run better than any defense in the league.

4. Potentially Relevant YouTube
Apparently, these two teams play a physical brand of football.


5. The Steelers win if…
The defensive front seven creates confusion for the Ravens offensive line and forces Flacco into mistakes. If Big Ben and his stable of big-play pass-catchers take advantage of a young Baltimore secondary, the game might not be close.

6. The Ravens win if…
The offensive line holds up and gives Flacco an opportunity to exploit McFadden (particularly if he's covering Evans), which should also allow Rice more room to make plays. Defensively, Haloti Ngata, Ray Lewis and Suggs will have to help their young secondary by getting consistent pressure on Roethlisberger.

7. Prediction: Steelers 24 Ravens 20

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter and subscribe to 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.
Posted on: August 26, 2011 8:50 am
 

Podcast: Newton vs. Dalton, Fouts on young QBs

Posted by Will Brinson & Ryan Wilson

Dan Fouts joins the show to talk about today's young quarterbacks -- Cam Newton, Tim Tebow, Terrelle Pryor -- as well as concussions and the new kickoff rule.

Will and Ryan also break down Thursday night's preseason action, discussing whether Newton looked good enough to take the starting gig in Carolina, and if Andy Dalton is improving as fast as it appeared -- or he just looked like it relative to Newton. (CBSSports.com's Clark Judge was at the game and he's not sure Newton's ready for what he's about to face.)

Then there's the ongoning Chris Johnson saga in Tennessee, the quarterback competion between Rex Grossman and John Beck in DC, whether the Ravens' offensive line can keep Joe Flacco upright, if the Steelers did the right thing in signing Lawrence Timmons before Troy Polamalu and much, much more.

Conversatin' starts … now (and while we have you, remember to subscribe to the podcast via iTunes). If you can't listen to the podcast below, download it here. And if you'd like to keep working while listening in your browser, pop that puppy out in a new tab here.



For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: August 24, 2011 1:39 pm
Edited on: August 24, 2011 2:00 pm
 

Wilson returns to practice, hopes to play Week 1

Posted by Ryan Wilson

It's been more than two weeks since Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson suffered a torn bicep muscle. At the time, the hope was that he'd be ready for the start of regular season on September 11.

For the first time since the August 6 injury, Wilson was in shoulder pads and a helmet, taking part in non-contact drills during Tuesday's practice.

"No, it's all good," Wilson said, according to the Arizona Republic's Kent Somers. "Just getting some rust off. We'll see where I'm at in September. Hopefully there are no setbacks. Everything is on the up and up."

The goal remains Week 1, now 18 days away.

"Training camp is such a grind, and whenever you have an injury, it kind of takes a toll on you," he said. "The guys are very excited, and I'm very excited as well."

And there's plenty to be excited about. Arizona appears to have found their replacement for Kurt Warner in Kevin Kolb (in related news, team released second-year quarterback Max Hall, who started three games for the Cards last season). They also locked wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald up for another eight years.

As for Wilson, he's clearly an integral part of Arizona's defense, but ESPN.com blogger Mike Sando makes a good point: assuming Wilson's back for the season opener against the Panthers, what happens the first time he tries to deflect a pass or make a tackle?

We've seen the effect injuries can have on safeties who make their living dishing out licks and disrupting the passing game. Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu, two of the best safeties in NFL history, not only haven't been effective when on the field at less than full strength, they've been targeted by opposing offenses. We saw it most recently during the Steelers' 2011 postseason. The question then becomes whether the injured superstar is better than the No. 2 guy on the depth chart.

And in most cases, they are. Which is why we'll probably see Wilson to open the season.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: August 10, 2011 4:25 pm
 

Hot Routes 8.10.11: Ron Rivera says he owes fans



Posted by Ryan Wilson
  • It's with a heavy heart that Steelers Lounge suggests the team should extend linebacker Lawrence Timmons' contract now and wait until after the 2011 season to revisit safety Troy Polamalu.
  • Colts blog 18to88.com busts out the abacus to support the notion that Randy Moss was, in fact, The Quarterback Maker. (And no, this doesn't mean that Moss might be headed to Indy. We think.)
  • PFT's Michael David Smith, Lions fan and friend of the Eye-on-Sports blog, must be having flashbacks: Detroit is bringing in Matt Millen's son-in-law for a workout.
  • Related: just in case it wasn't obvious, new Panthers head coach Ron Rivera has a message for you, Carolina supporters: “Our fans, we owe them after being 2-14 last season which was not acceptable.”
  • More evidence that the NFL and Arena League are completely different games (in case you couldn't make that out by the shorter field, padded sidelines, and funny-looking football): video of an Arena League fan keeping a player from returning a kick and then getting high-fives from the other team. James Harrison body slams these people.
  • Shutdown Corner's Chris Chase pretty much captures the essence of this story with the very first sentence of his post: "Dallas Cowboys rookie Phillip Tanner is trying to make the leap from the concession stand to the locker room."
For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: August 10, 2011 2:59 pm
 

Clay Matthews played with stress fracture in shin

Posted by Ryan Wilson

It's yet more proof that Packers linebacker Clay Matthews should've won NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors over Troy Polamalu last season*. According to the Green Bay Press-Gazette's Rob Demovsky, Matthews, who missed all four 2010 preseason games with a balky hammy, played the second half of the year with a stress fracture in his lower leg.

"That would explain why Matthews was listed on every injury report from Week 9 through the NFC championship game as probable with a shin injury," Demovsky wrote Wednesday.

It may also explain why Matthews' only registered four sacks in the final eight games after racking up 10 the first half of the season (another explanation: offenses started double-teaming him in passing situations). Either way, Matthews looked plenty healthy in the Super Bowl (he wasn't listed on the injury report), and he caused a key second-half Rashard Mendenhall fumble to stall a Steelers drive.

“I don’t make a big deal of it,” Matthews told the Press-Gazette Tuesday. “(It happened) some time in the middle of the season. You can’t do anything about it. I was just taking practices off and showing up on game day and giving it my all.”

Demovsky points out that Matthews only mentioned the injury because he was asked about the loss of defensive end Cullen Jenkins, who signed with the Eagles this offseason. In 2010, Matthews had 14 sacks in the 15 games Cullen played. In the five games Cullen missed, Matthews managed just three sacks.

“I also had a stress fracture in four of those games,” Matthews said. “But nobody knows that. I had a stress fracture in my leg. A sore shin as you guys call it, but that’s all right. Obviously, I’m not making excuses. Cullen is a terrific athlete, and we’re definitely going to take a hit in our defensive line, but at the same time I think they have confidence in the guys coming up.”

Whether Matthews has two good wheels or has to peg-leg his way to a quarterback sack, we don't expect much to change. He seems unaffected by pain, which can only mean one thing: Matthews' strength comes from his hair.

* We're kidding -- both Matthew and Polamalu were worthy of the award, and both players, it turns out, were injured for stretches last season.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: August 8, 2011 10:30 pm
 

VIDEO: Steelers on set of next Batman movie

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Taking a break from sweating in the hot sun in western Pennsylvania while at training camp, about 12 Steelers spent last Saturday morning at Heinz Field spending time under the hot lights of Hollywood and pretending to play football.

As the Pittsburgh Tribune Review writes, Ben Roethlisberger, S Troy Polamalu, WR Hines Ward, LB James Farrior, C Maurkice Pouncey, TE Heath Miller, DE Brett Keisel* and S Ryan Clark all participated in the shooting for “The Dark Knight Rises,” the new Batman movie scheduled to drop next summer.

*Yes, but what about Keisel’s beard?

“You put the uniform on, you sit around a long time, guys with the cameras come and get you and you go on the field and do our little part," said defensive end Aaron Smith, who, with his teammates, played for a club called the Gotham Rogues. "Batman was not on site when I was there. Saw a bunch of football guys."

It’s unfortunate that Batman was not at Heinz Field that day (perhaps, Christian Bale was indulging in some Primanti Bros.?), but to ease that pain, there is video of part of the day’s events (though if you can tell what’s going on in the shot, you’re a better person than me).

So, why did producers set up Pittsburgh for the shot and, specifically, use the Steelers as the Rogues? According to the AP, the executive producer, Thomas Tull, is a member of the team’s ownership group. See? It's always about who you know.


H/T to Yahoo! Sports’ Shutdown Corner.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: July 27, 2011 12:05 am
 

Ike Taylor to return to Steelers

Taylor

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

For those teams looking for a CB who was a talent level below Nnamdi Asomugha but also would be much less expensive, the multiple reports that have surfaced about free agent Ike Taylor re-signing with the Steelers for a four-year deal is not welcome news.

All along, we thought a team could get much better values in CBs like Taylor and Cincinnati’s Johnathan Joseph, rather than pay $18 million a year for Asomugha (who likely will have to take less than that anyway).

Instead, Taylor is now off the board and returns to a top-notch defense that includes LB James Harrison, LB LaMarr Woodley, DE Brett Keisel, S Troy Polamalu, etc.

He’s always been a good fit for the Steelers, and it’s no surprise that he returned (even if he is, by chance, making less money than he could get on the open market).

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl 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