Tag:Mike Tomlin
Posted on: August 19, 2011 9:15 am
Edited on: August 19, 2011 4:10 pm
 

PIT LTs should be fine after injuries against PHI

Posted by Ryan Wilson

The Steelers lost their starting left tackle, Jonathan Scott, one play into Thursday night's preseason game against the Eagles. They lost Scott's backup, rookie Marcus Gilbert, two series later. This had the makings of a big deal because Pittsburgh's quarterback is Ben Roethlisberger and his game is built around holding the ball, shedding would-be tacklers and making big plays down the field. As a consequence of this style, Roethlisberger also takes a ton of hits.

But before you have a panic attack, there's some good news, via CBSSports.com's Rapid Reporter Chris Adamski: after the game, head coach Mike Tomlin said both Scott and Gilbert had hyperextended knees and should be okay.

"I have that inner feeling that everything's going to be all right," Scott added, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "Just my inner Godly feeling that says I'll be OK. That's the initial thinking, but of course I'm not the experts. In the meantime, I'm just going to stay off of it and let the healing process take place. I'm resilient. I'll be ready to play next time."

Disaster averted, although when talking about Pittsburgh's o-line, it's all relative.

While Scott will never be mistaken for a Pro Bowl left tackle, he's the best the Steelers have, and he has experience playing in their system. He also plays a position with little depth and less room for error, and if Scott or Gilbert are lost for any appreciable time, Pittsburgh's postseason hopes could be in real jeopardy.

That may sound like an overreaction, but that's how tenuous the Steelers' offensive line situation is. A year ago, the team lost starting right tackle Willie Colon and had to hastily reshuffle the unit. The Steelers were fortunate to find Flozell Adams out of work, and he stepped in and played well in Colon's absence. And while Adams is again a free agent, and presumably still interested in working, he's no longer an NFL-caliber left tackle.

Fans and media annually lament the organization's refusal to draft offensive linemen early and often, although they've had to soften that stance in recent years; Maurkice Pouncey was the team's first-round pick in 2010 and he became a Pro Bowler as a rookie. And the Steelers drafted Gilbert in the second round in April.

But the perceived lack of urgency to protect Roethlisberger with the best o-line available goes back to something Tomlin said several years ago. We're paraphrasing, but he explained that there are two ways to protect a quarterback: with the offensive line and with dangerous playmakers.

The Steelers are improving on the former, but are already well stocked on the latter. Mike Wallace is the best deep threat in football. Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders are second-year wideouts who create matchup problems for defenses. Then there's Hines Ward, Jerricho Cotchery and Heath Miller -- zone-busting, down-the-seam pass-catchers and great blockers. Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman are both hard runners and underrated in the passing game.

It also helps to have a quarterback who can take a beating. For now, it appears that those backfield beatings will be minimized. But this is football. Injuries happen. It's just a question of when.

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Posted on: July 31, 2011 10:01 am
 

Burress finds new home with NYJ

BurressPosted by Josh Katzowitz

He spent most of the day Saturday at Steelers camp, eating breakfast with coach Mike Tomlin and meeting with the front office, and by the end of it, free agent WR Plaxico Burress seemed to have a real shot at landing a spot with his old team.

Instead, as CBSSports.com’s Mike Freeman writes Sunday morning, Burress has a new destination in mind -- the New York Jets.

Freeman writes Burress has accepted a one-year deal with the Jets -- it’s worth, according to ESPN, $3.017 million -- even though he had flown west to meet with the 49ers.

Burress told the Newark Star Ledger on Saturday that he had been invited to visit the Jets but that he wasn’t sure he would make it. Instead, it appears he accepted the job without going for an interview.

“I know they have a good team and everybody knows Rex (Ryan), so …” Burress told the Star-Ledger on Saturday, before making his decision. “I think (Ryan) is great. He stands behind his players, I think his players have a lot of respect for him and they play hard for him. … He’s a great coach, great personality. He seems like he’s always upbeat.”

Burress -- fresh off his 19-month prison stint -- gives the Jets another big-name WR signing after they rewarded Santonio Holmes with a five-year, $50 million deal earlier this week. While it seems unlikely that Burress will be good enough to become a star again, he could fill Braylon Edwards’ old role as the No. 2 receiver.

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Posted on: July 30, 2011 11:05 am
Edited on: July 30, 2011 1:22 pm
 

Plaxico breakfasts with Steelers

BurressPosted by Josh Katzowitz

Since free agent Plaxico Burress was released from prison, there has been no shortage of rumors of where the 34-year-old ultimately could resume his career.

Would it be his old team, the Giants? Apparently, they’re interested. The Bears? Not so much. The Eagles? Michael Vick certainly wouldn’t mind that. The Jets? Sounds like they might take a shot at him.

Well, what about the Steelers? If Burress’ eating habits are any indication, it sounds like Pittsburgh is a real player to land Burress.

According to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette’s Ed Bouchette, Burress had breakfast with Steelers coach Mike Tomlin on Saturday morning. Burress also met with team president Art Rooney and GM Kevin Colbert, who drafted Burress in 2000 (in case you forgot, Burress played his first five seasons in the league with the Steelers).

Said Colbert to reporters: “Obviously he's interested. His agent is interested and we're interested, so where it goes we'll find out.”

Colbert said he didn’t know how much money Burress would command, but if his expectations aren’t too high -- and coming off his prison stint, I don’t know why they would be -- Burress could be a nice fit to build some depth at the WR position.

All of this depends on how much solid football Burress actually has left in his body. Which, of course, nobody knows at this point.

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Posted on: June 28, 2011 7:28 pm
Edited on: June 28, 2011 7:38 pm
 

Ike Taylor to the Cardinals would be a long shot

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Here's a headline that should surprise absolutely no one: "Arizona Cardinals could be interested in Ike Taylor."

A lot has to happen for the Cardinals to land the soon-to-be free agent cornerback who spent the first eight years of his career with the Steelers, but since Ken Whisenhunt became coach in 2007, the Pittsburgh-to-Arizona player pipeline has flowed freely.

Before getting the head coaching gig with the Cards, Whisenhunt was the Steelers offensive coordinator. In the four years since he arrived in Arizona, the Cardinals have signed Joey Porter, Sean Morey, Alan Faneca, Jerame Tuman, Bryant McFadden, Brian St. Pierre, and Dan Kreider -- all former Steelers. And there's Whisenhunt's staff: Russ Grimm (an assistant under Bill Cowher) is the Cardinals assistant head coach, Ray Horton (an assistant under Mike Tomlin) is the new defensive coordinator, and Deshea Townsend (a Steelers cornerback from 1998-2009) is the new defensive backs coach. (We won't even mention the Steelers-Cards ball boy connection.)

Ike Taylor's immediate future is contingent on many things, chief among them: the owners and players settling on a new collective bargaining agreement. Beyond that, it will come down to demand and, of course, money. At various stages of the offseason Taylor has hinted that he wanted to stay in Pittsburgh but that he wasn't interested in giving any hometown discounts to do so.

We suppose there's a chance Taylor lands in Arizona (affectionately known as Pittsburgh West), but a lot will have to happen before it gets to that point. Sports 620 KTAR radio's Ron Wolfley (who also calls Cardinals' games, and whose brother, Craig, is a sideline reporter for the Steelers radio network) breaks out the hypotheticals:

"Let's say they deal [Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie] and bring in Kevin Kolb as their quarterback," Wolfley said, according to ArizonaSports.com. "Does Ike Taylor make sense at the corner opposite of Patrick Peterson? I can tell you it makes perfect sense for so many different reasons. Number one, we're talking about a grizzled veteran. A guy who is a true players pro. He's a professional. A guy that would mentor a young Patrick Peterson. A guy that has been in the league nine years and he's been durable as well. He's missed three games in nine years.

"This is a guy who would be a perfect fit because he already knows Ray Horton's defense. He'd have to be brought up to speed on the terminology but playing corner is not exactly the same as playing quarterback in the National Football League if you get my drift. Ike Taylor could do it. You could bring him in. He'd be the perfect guy in this system."

But Taylor wouldn't come cheap (not to mention DRC for Kolb isn't likely). He'll be one of the most sought-after cornerbacks in free agency after Nnamdi Asomugha. And then there's this: recent history suggests that 31-year-old cornerbacks, even those coming off solid seasons, usually see their productivity drop off a cliff in subsequent seasons.

That's not a guarantee that a similar fate awaits Taylor. (Champ Bailey and Charles Woodson have defied the odds. Of course, Taylor was at no point in his career as good as either Bailey or Woodson, so that's worth keeping in mind, too.) But it's a lot of money to spend on a cornerback with his best days likely behind him. Even if he's expected to mentor rookie Patrick Peterson.

By the way, by most accounts, Peterson is a high-character guy who doesn't seem to need much in the way of mentoring. (And if he does, Townsend would be perfectly suited for that role.) Using that logic, Taylor would make perfect sense in Baltimore. But we're pretty sure that ain't happening.

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Posted on: June 20, 2011 5:30 pm
Edited on: June 20, 2011 5:46 pm
 

Why Tiki to the Steelers doesn't make sense



Posted by Ryan Wilson

The three most talked about players in recent weeks -- Terrelle Pryor, Plaxico Burress and now Tiki Barber -- combined for exactly zero yards, zero touchdowns and zero games played last NFL season. Or the one before that. In fact, only Burress has seen an NFL field at all since 2007; Barber retired in 2006, and Pryor was in college until he had a sudden change of heart earlier this month.

All three are looking to get (back) into the league, and all appear to face long odds. To varying degrees, they come with baggage, and Burress and Barber are on the wrong side of 30. Our focus here is on Barber since Sports Illustrated's Peter King mentioned him in his latest Monday Morning Quarterback column.

Specifically, King spins the Wheel of Educated Guesses on possible Barber landing spots this summer, and it came up Pittsburgh.

Let's breakdown King's reasoning line by line:

"The Steelers have a head coach the Barber family knows well -- Mike Tomlin is close to twin Ronde Barber after coaching him in Tampa from 2001 to 2005 and also knows Tiki."

Tomlin also knows Michael Vick well; they both grew up in Newport News, Va. And you know what? When Vick was released from prison and was mounting a return to the NFL, the media connected the dots, and rumors of a Tomlin-Vick reunion followed. Vick eventually signed with the Eagles.

In August 2009, Tomlin told NFL Network's Deion Sanders why the Steelers didn't pursue Vick.

"I spent some time with Mike this summer. Mike's from my hometown, I've known Mike a long time," Tomlin said. "It was bigger than business for me. There were gangs and so forth when I grew up there, but when you played ball, you played ball. It was different. They respected what you did, and you kept it moving.

"Where we're from now gangsters play ball," he continued. "I believe that his redemption and his second opportunity is pivotal for those young guys from my area to see a guy come through the other side and make it right.

"In terms of [the Steelers being interested in Vick], to be quite honest with you, our quarterback is going through some things of his own right now, and he needs my complete support and undivided attention. So it just wasn't the appropriate time for us to consider something of that nature."

At the time, there were plenty of skeptics; Vick had been an inconsistent quarterback before the stint in Leavenworth, and the thinking went that his best chance at NFL redemption might come with a position change -- maybe running back, wide receiver or wildcat specialist.

Instead, Vick waited his turn and when he finally got on the field, he seized the opportunity, played out of his mind and led the Eagles to the playoffs. But Vick was also just 30 last season; he still possessed the physical skills that made him one of the NFL's most dangerous quarterbacks before dogs and the legal system led to his downfall.

"Tomlin wouldn't be afraid of the sideshow Tiki Barber might create, nor would he be shy about pulling the plug if the 36-year-old back couldn't beat out the likes of Mewelde Moore."

That's exactly what Tomlin would be afraid of. Referring again to Tomlin's 2009 conversation with Sanders about Vick: "…[T]o be quite honest with you, our quarterback is going through some things of his own right now, and he needs my complete support and undivided attention." It sounds like there's only so much "support and undivided attention" to go around.

And while the Steelers have had their share of distractions in recent years -- from Ben Roethlisberger twice being accused of sexual assault to James Harrison's $100,000 in fines last season to the more benign Jeff Reed duking it out with a Sheetz bathroom towel dispenser -- that doesn't mean the organization welcomes it. It's hard to tell sometimes, but they're not running a halfway house.

(Remember: Santonio Holmes -- the Super Bowl XLIII MVP -- was shipped out of town for several drug-related incidents, including an impending four-game suspension. No one thought the fifth-round pick the Steelers got from the Jets for Holmes was fair value, but the organization had run out of patience with the mercurial wide receiver.)

Putting aside the media circus Barber would bring with him to Latrobe, Pa., there's a bigger concern: He's 36. When Barber called it quits after the 2006 season, he was one of the best running backs in the league. But as we've written several times lately, running backs are among the easiest positions to replace. There's no reason to spend large chunks of the salary cap (or use high draft picks) to get a back when equivalent talent can usually be found on the cheap.

Any team willing to give Barber a shot would probably give him a contract offering the league minimum. But at 36, Barber has, what, a year, maybe two years left? That means clearing a spot on the 53-man roster, one previously occupied by a young, low-cost back being groomed for a larger role down the road. Instead, the Steelers get Barber, who's closer to 40 than 30, and hasn't played a meaningful game in nearly five years. It doesn't make sense.

For fun, we looked back the past 15 years at the RBs who were at least 35 years old and played in the NFL.



Not surprisingly, it's populated with fullbacks who made their living as glorified offensive lineman and weren't relied on to actually carry the ball. Of the 12 players listed, none cracked 1,000 rushing yards for a season, and when we look only at true running backs, we're left with five names: Emmitt Smith, Marcus Allen, Earnest Byner, Larry Centers and Hershel Walker.

Of these, only Allen was productive after the age of 35. (In fact, from age 35 to 37, Allen was a top-5 back, according to Football Outsiders. That's mind-blowing, frankly.)

In 2004, Smith ran for 937 yards, but compared to the other RBs in the league, he was well below average. Football Outsiders ranked him next to last among all RBs that season, ahead of the Bears' Anthony Thomas.

So even if Tomlin has a relationship with Barber and thinks he can handle the media scrutiny, the bottom line (because the NFL is a business, after all) remains the same: can Tiki produce?

History says no, unless you think Barber is the next coming of Marcus Allen. We do not.

The Steelers have a core of veteran stars; Tiki Barber would fit right in. The Steelers have a good back, Rashard Mendenhall, but no back-of-the-future type who Barber would be robbing playing time from. And one NFL source tells me Barber really wants a shot to play in Pittsburgh.

We have no doubt that Barber wants to play in Pittsburgh. NFL Network's Albert Breer hears that Barber wouldn't mind suiting it up in New England, either.

Regarding Pittsburgh's "core of veteran stars," why would Tiki "fit right in," as King suggests? Here's what CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman wrote last month, after Barber compared himself to Anne Frank:

"I covered Barber for most of his career and he remains one of the most versatile backs I've seen. He was also among the most arrogant. Most Giants players hated Barber. I mean, hated him. They thought he was a pompous putz on a lifelong journey to show the world he was smarter than most of his football peers."

The Patriots have a history of taking flyers on guys with character concerns (Corey Dillon and Randy Moss immediately come to mind), but that's not the Steelers' M.O.

But maybe this time is different. Maybe Tomlin makes an exception for Barber, who admitted that depression led him back to football after he couldn't deal with losing his $2 million-a-year gig with NBC. Now, he wants another shot at NFL glory.

Still, we can't get past Barber sounding as if he's coming out of retirement for all the wrong reasons. And even though he's not the type of player the organization usually pursues in free agency, perhaps the Rooneys will have a sudden change of heart. We just wouldn't count on it. Since, you know, the Steelers said months ago that they weren't interested.

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Posted on: June 20, 2011 9:20 am
Edited on: June 20, 2011 9:32 am
 

Report: Steelers could want Tiki Barber

T. Barber wants to start, and he might want to try it in Pittsburgh (Getty).Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Tiki Barber – the formerly depressed, formerly pretty darn good Giants RB – wants to return to football after a four-year absence -- and according to Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, Barber doesn’t want to be an afterthought. He wants to start.

King writes that he has a feeling that Barber will end up with the Steelers, in part because Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin is a family friend. But unless Barber somehow figures out a way to halt the aging process, it seems rather unlikely that he would beat out Rashard Mendenhall for the starting spot.

"I crafted this career, right?" Barber told HBO’s Real Sports in an interview that will air Tuesday. "And I had gotten to the point where I was right where I wanted to be and then I failed. It's hard to deal with. … [But] I need to prove to myself that I can be successful at something. I know I'm going to be successful as a football player. I don't know why. The odds say 'No.' I'm 36 and I haven't played in four years. But I just know."

Lest you forget, Barber had an impressive run of success when he decided to retire from football. In six of his final seven years before leaving the game after the 2006 season, he rushed for at least 1,000 yards (and at least 1,500 in his last three years; he also led the league in yards from scrimmage in 2004 and 2005). But that was, in NFL terms, a very long time ago.

There’s only a slim chance that Barber could be anywhere near that successful – and make near that much money, which seems to be the point of this entire exercise – once he returns.

And if for some shocking reason, Barber’s comeback doesn’t work out the way he wants it, he’ll go away quietly and not compare himself again to Anne Frank. Because the last time he chose that comparison, that didn’t work out well for anybody.

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Posted on: June 19, 2011 9:00 pm
Edited on: June 19, 2011 10:13 pm
 

Hot Routes 6.19.11: One way to end Jags blackouts



Posted by Ryan Wilson
  • Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is giving 225 kids the chance to attend football camp -- for free. There's no truth to the rumors that the Bengals will be in attendance, even though owner Mike Brown says "the price is right." (He didn't really say that, but it wouldn't be much of a stretch if he did.)
  • Add it to the list (via the StarTribune.com): "After months of getting rained on, pounded with packed snow and flattened by heavy equipment used to fix the roof, the Metrodome's artificial turf may have to be replaced before the Vikings resume play there in August, Dome officials said Friday." We're blaming Brett Favre.
  • Good news: Aqib Talib's attorney doesn't expect there to be a quick resolution to his client's felony firearm case. In fact, it could drag on beyond the 2011 season. Bad news: Talib will likely still face disciplinary action from the NFL, and you know Roger Goodell can't wait for the lockout to end so he can't get back to randomly handing out punishments.
  • It will probably take three or four years before we know if the Falcons were right to bet the metaphorical farm on Julio Jones, but early returns are encouraging. According to reports, Jones is "way ahead of his game" at informal workouts. It's not much, but it's something.
  • Titans owner Bud Adams parted ways with Jeff Fisher in January, but Fisher says he won't think about returning to the sidelines until after the 2011 season. Hopefully, he can make that $4 million buyout he received from Tennessee stretch for another six months.
  • More former Titans news: One-time Tennessee tight end Erron Kinney is a captain with the St. Andrews Fire Department in Charleston, S.C.
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Posted on: June 19, 2011 11:29 am
Edited on: June 19, 2011 5:30 pm
 

Depression led Tiki Barber to NFL comeback

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Sometimes it's hard to believe that Ronde and Tiki Barber are twin brothers. Ronde, a cornerback with the Buccaneers for 14 seasons, has quietly plodded along, often playing at a Pro Bowl level. Tiki's 10-year career with the Giants, on the other hand, was as much about him letting you know he was the smartest guy in the room as it was about his on-field production.

Tiki retired in 2006 to take a job with NBC, where he appeared to be on the fast track to the Today Show. He wasted little time taking shots at his former team, which became all the more ironic when the Giants won the Super Bowl a year after Tiki retired.

But it wasn't long before Tiki's world began to crumble around him. In April 2010, he left his eight-months-pregnant wife for a 20-something former NBC intern, and a few months later NBC decided not to renew his Football Night in America contract.

Then, in March 2011, Tiki announced he was un-retiring from football, which given the way he left the game, made everyone think he probably needed the money.

Well, it turns out that recent events in Barber's life have left him battling depression, and he needs football to lift him out of the doldrums. According to the Associated Press, Barber said he was unable to deal with losing his $2 million per year job with NBC.

In an interview with HBO set to air Tuesday, Barber says, "I remember there were days where I would literally wake up, have coffee, get something to eat and sit on the couch and do nothing for 10 hours. I started to shrivel. I didn't have that confidence. I didn't have the, that aura anymore."

Barber also speaks publicly about his marriage, saying that, "It was in trouble for a long time. And we decided to get separated. But (former wife) Ginny got pregnant in the middle of it. And a lot of people think children save marriages; sometimes it makes it worse. And we split soon after she was pregnant."

It didn't help that he immediately started dating Traci Johnson, who was 23 at the time. Six months after Barber left his wife Johnson wrote on crushable.com: "I knew that Tiki didn't leave Ginny when she was eight months pregnant for me. I knew that his relationship had deteriorated before my relationship with him was even a thought in his mind."

In the court of public opinion, none of that mattered. The New York tabloids killed Barber, which was made easier since he didn't do much to endear himself to the media during his playing days. Also not helping: recent comments comparing himself to Anne Frank.

Now Tiki is looking for football, the sport he left while in his prime, to fill the void created by subsequent failures, both personally and professionally.

"I crafted this career, right?" he said. "And I had gotten to the point where I was right where I wanted to be and then I failed. It's hard to deal with. … [But] I need to prove to myself that I can be successful at something. I know I'm going to be successful as a football player. I don't know why. The odds say 'No.' I'm 36 and I haven't played in four years. But I just know."

The Buccaneers and Steelers have been mentioned as potential landing spots for Tiki -- Ronde is still in Tampa and Mike Tomlin, a former Bucs defensive backs coach now the coach in Pittsburgh, is close with Barber. The Steelers seem unlikely to take a flyer on an over-the-hill running back with more baggage than upside, but Bucs coach Raheem Morris said recently that "You can't close the door … anybody who can help your team you want to look into it."

Sports are as much about overcoming adversity as the wins and losses. And while it's easy to point to Michael Vick and say, "See, if he can do it Tiki can, too, right?" The difference: Vick possesses skills that defy comprehension, and still people were skeptical he'd be able to play in the NFL after his stint in prison. Barber is 36, and, as we've mentioned countless times before, it's much easier to replace a running back than, say, a left tackle, cornerback or franchise quarterback.

Yes, anything's possible, but the odds are stacked against Tiki.

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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