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Tag:Pittsburgh Steelers
Posted on: January 13, 2012 9:01 pm
 

James Harrison not fined for hit on Tim Tebow

Moral victory: His team loses but Harrison avoids fine in final game of the year. (AP/Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

It took a week, but the Steelers finally have some good news to report. First, safety Troy Polamalu won his appeal for the $10,000 fine he faced for using a cell phone during a game back in October. And now it looks like linebacker James Harrison won't be any lighter in the wallet for his roughing-the-passer penalty on Tim Tebow during Sunday's playoff game.

For folks even half-paying attention to the NFL, Harrison's name is synonymous with words like "dirty" and "suspension." He was fined $100,000 in 2010 for various illegal hits on unsuspecting opponents, and he the league finally suspended him in 2011 after he knocked Browns quarterback Colt McCoy silly.

But we'd like to think that even Harrison's harshest critics can agree that the flag he received for shoving a 250-pound Tebow in the back was taking things a bit far, even for NFL's Public Enemy No. 1.

Of course, no game involving Harrison would be complete if he didn't do something controversial. In the first quarter, the Steelers linebacker went low on Broncos wide receiver Eric Decker. A perfectly legal hit and probably an attempt by Harrison to live within the rules laid down by the league: stay away from the heads and shoulders of defenseless receivers. The only problem: Decker suffered a knee injury, had to be helped from the field, and he won't play this weekend, either.

Still, even Broncos vice president of football operations John Elway didn't have an issue with Harrison's play.

"Because of the fact that he's been fined so often, [Harrison] really had no other option. ... I don't think he intended to hurt Eric. But obviously because of the situations he's been in, he had to go low and stay away from the head. And it ended up costing an MCL sprain for Eric."

So while the officials may have wrongly penalized Harrison for his hit on Tebow, they also missed at least two facemask penalties committed against the Dever quarterback. Ultimately, it didn't matter. The Broncos' from-outta-nowhere high-powered aerial assault wasn't fazed by a couple no-calls or, for that matter, fancy new overtime rules. Next up: the New England Patriots who, if we're being honest, would've much rather faced the Steelers this weekend.
 
In other "hey, we aren't getting fined?!" news, the NFL confirmed to ProFootballTalk.com that Cincinnati’s Reggie Nelson, Houston’s Antonio Smith, Detroit’s Amari Spievey and the New York GiantsJacquian Williams, all flagged for personal-foul penalties last weekend, won't be required to write the league a check for their actions.


After an impressive overtime win over the Steelers last week, Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos will face off against the New England Patriots on Saturday. Jason Horowitz and NFL.com's Pat Kirwan have the preview. Watch the game on CBS at 8 PM ET. 

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Posted on: January 13, 2012 11:16 am
 

Troy Polamalu wins appeal on $10K cell phone fine

By Will Brinson

Way back in October, Steelers safety Troy Polamalu was fined $10,000 for talking on his cell phone during a game. Polamalu was on the phone with his wife, telling her was OK health-wise, which is why Steelers coach Mike Tomlin believed the safety shouldn't be fined.

The NFL didn't care, and fined Polamalu anyway. But happy news today as Jason LaCanfora of the NFL Network reports that Polamalu won his appeal of the fine and was notified of his win by the league on Thursday.

According to league rules, usage of electronic equipment on the sideline (or, in the bench area, if you prefer) is illegal up to 90 minutes before games until the end of game. (It's why players can't tweet during games either.)

Obviously Polamalu's communication with his wife was a matter of alerting her that he was physically safe so the league is providing an exception to the rule here. There's some argument that allowing such an exception could create an easy excuse for players who want to use electronics on the sideline.

A few problems with that logic: there has to be some concern for the health of an individual who wants to use electronics for that excuse to apply. Polamalu was fined anyway, so the player in question would likely need proof that an emergency contact/immediate family member was called/texted/tweeted. And finally, the advantage of using a cell phone on the sidelines is pretty minimal.

All that being said, the league would be smart to bring something like this before the competition committee in the offseason and determine a way that a team with an injured player can provide an alert to family members who aren't at the game and might be concerned with the health of the player in question.

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Posted on: January 11, 2012 10:12 pm
 

Ward says he'll take paycut to stay in PIT

Ward

By Josh Katzowitz

Here’s how badly Steelers receiver Hines Ward wants to continue playing professional football. Not only does he seem content to play a backup role in the Pittsburgh offense -- which is essentially what he was doing in the second half of the season -- but he also said he’s willing to take a paycut to do it.

He has two seasons left on a contract that is scheduled to pay him $4 million in 2012 and 2013, but if he has to lose some of that money, he’s OK with it.

"I'd probably have to restructure my contract," Ward said, via the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. "That's fine with me. I recognize that. I'm telling you I want to be here, I'm telling you I'm willing to do that. And I understand the ramifications -- we have the cap number and stuff, but I want to be here."

Steelers season over
If the Steelers want to cut Ward -- who is still a solid slot receiver but whose play fell off in a big way in 2011 -- they’d have to do so by March 1 or guarantee the full 2012 money. But it sounds like Ward, who will be 36 by the beginning of next season, really wants to stay in Pittsburgh. Like, really, really wants to stay.

"Obviously, I was a starter, and then it went the way it did,” Ward said. “That's fine, I don't have a problem with not starting. But I want to play, I want to try to win another Super Bowl. I want to do it for this organization. I want to help this team out. I still think I can help this team, on the field, off the field with the younger guys, still be there for the team. I'm willing to do all that."

And if the Steelers don’t want him back, well, Ward is still not planning to retire. He’ll move on somewhere else.

"I'm just looking year to year, but I do want to play next year,” Ward said. “If they decide to part ways, I'll be devastated, but life's not over. I'm still young.

"My thing is, I want to be a Steeler, I'm here, I'm willing to restructure, do whatever. I don't want to be seen in another uniform but, if they decide to part ways, or whatever, I don't know, I'm not even thinking like that. I couldn't even fathom myself [in another uniform], but I still want to play football.”

Even if it's at a reduced clip and a reduced rate.

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Posted on: January 10, 2012 6:22 pm
Edited on: January 11, 2012 12:28 pm
 

Pittsburgh mayor Tebows after losing playoff bet

By Will Brinson

The Steelers gave up their first 300-yard passing effort on Sunday. In the playoffs. To Tim Tebow. That's probably a bit frustrating. Of course, it's not as frustrating as having to get on local television and Tebow for your loyal citizens.

Which is what Pittsburgh mayor Luke Ravenstahl was forced to do after losing to his Denver counterpart Michael Hancock.

"This is not something I ever thought I’d have to do, and it’s certainly not something I’m looking forward to," Mayor Ravenstahl said in a statement via CBS Pittsburgh. "However, we’re good sports here in Pittsburgh and I want to congratulate Denver on a great win."

Hey, it's OK, your, um, mayorness. Almost no one picked the Broncos to win on Sunday. And there's definitely no one saw the Mile-High Miracle unfolding the way it did. Tebowing is the least you can do.

While we're here, though, let's handle the elephant in the room: the mayor of Pittsburgh, where the Steelers live, has the word "Ravens" in his last name.

Yes, it's almost as big a miracle that he got elected as Tebow winning Sunday, but it's not like he hasn't addressed it head on: when the Steelers and Ravens met up in the playoffs in the 2008 season, he changed his last name to "Steelerstahl."

Of course, all of Ravenstahl's ideas aren't gold. He wouldn't make a bet with the mayor of Glendale before the Steelers played the Cardinals in the Super Bowl, and he awkwardly danced around not having a parade before the Steelers won it all that year.

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Posted on: January 10, 2012 12:11 pm
Edited on: January 10, 2012 2:47 pm
 

Elway says Harrison's low hit on Decker not dirty

Some players might argue that the rules change led to Decker's knee injury. (US PRESSWIRE/AP)

By Ryan Wilson

On the first play of the second quarter of Sunday's Steelers-Broncos game, Tim Tebow completed a 21-yard pass to then-favorite target Eric Decker. It was a nice throw, and an easy catch for Decker right up to the moment when Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison tackled him low, collapsing Decker's knee in the process.

The Denver wide receiver ended up on the turf writhing in pain. He was helped off the field and didn't return. Literally adding insult to injury: the Steelers challenged the call, which was overturned to an incompletion. Of course, a play later, Tebow threw the first of many 30-plus-yard passes to Damaryius Thomas, and two plays after that, Denver led 7-6.

The hit by Harrison -- which is perfectly legal in the eyes of the league -- was the realization of fears many players voiced after NFL rules prohibited hitting players high. The players' thinking: it's a lot easier to come back from a high-impact collision when it doesn't involve torn knee ligaments or broken legs.

Broncos vice president of football operations John Elway knows this, and he doesn't think that Harrison's intentions were dirty. It's just the nature of today's NFL. (And we discussed it on Tuesday's Pick-6 Podcast embedded below for your listening pleasure)


"The (tackling) target is now lower," Elway said on his weekly Denver radio show on 102.3 FM Monday night according to The Huddle.

"Harrison yesterday, because of the fact that he's been fined so often, really had no other option. ... I don't think he intended to hurt Eric. But obviously because of the situations he's been in, he had to go low and stay away from the head. And it ended up costing an MCL sprain for Eric."

It's the unintended consequences of actions not thought through entirely. Yes, the NFL should thrive for making the game as safe as possible, but drastic changes don't come without ramifications. And the league can't argue that knee injuries were unforeseen because players lamented the possibly as soon as the new rules were announced.

The NFL could point out, however, that the prevalence of knee injuries haven't increased in light of the rules changes. (We write this anecdotally; Decker is the first time we remember a player suffering a below-the-waist injury on a play that, in previous seasons, might've resulted in a hit to the shoulders or head area.) The NFL could also show that even chronic offenders can change the way they play.

Harrison was suspended in Week 15 for taking off Colt McCoy's head in the previous game. At the time, Harrison said "I don't know. I guess try and be more aware about the placement of my face mask. I don't know how you tackle someone and not use any part of your head, especially if you're trying to see what you're hitting. I mean, your face mask is going to touch them."

And now the league has what it wants. It's just that, depending on player backlash, they might not want it very long.

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Posted on: January 10, 2012 11:02 am
 

Coach Killers, Week 18: Taylor needs time machine

Coach Killers is your postseason look around the league at those performances, decisions and "Wait, what did he just do?!" moments that ends Super Bowl aspirations and begins "So, where should we vacation?" discussions.

By Ryan Wilson

Ike Taylor, Mike Wallace - Steelers

It's not a stretch to say that cornerback Ike Taylor had his worst game as a professional at the worst possible time. In fact, he said as much after he spent Sunday afternoon helplessly chasing on-target Tim Tebow passes to Demaryius Thomas. By the time it was over, Thomas had 204 receiving yards, including the game-winning touchdown grab on the first play in overtime. (Incidentally, overtime took less time than explaining the new overtime rules.)

Understandably, Taylor, who a lot of people (us included) thought had a Pro Bowl-caliber season right up until the moment of the Steelers-Broncos kickoff, was upset and saddened by his performance. According to ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley, after the game Taylor "sat in front of a ripped-up locker, staring blankly down at the floor."


Hey, at least the locker didn't outrun him to the end zone.

A day after choosing to not talk to the media (and we don't blame him), Taylor took to Twitter to take responsibility for what transpired in Denver.

"I apologize for playing the worst game at the wrong time apologize to my teammates steelernation and family. Luv y'all to def."

There is no doubt that Taylor's performance had everything to do with the outcome, but wide receiver Mike Wallace deserves some mention here, too.

The former third-round pick out of Ole Miss spent much of his first three seasons running go-routes past defenders who couldn't believe just how fast he was. At the beginning of the 2011 season, after Wallace had 16 touchdowns in 20 starts, the joke was that Ben Roethlisberger couldn't overthrow him deep. And for the first eight games or so that proved to be true.

But a confluence of events changed that over the final two months: the emergence of Antonio Brown, new defensive strategies to slow Wallace, and Ben Roethlisberger's ankle injury, which hampered his ability to throw accurately down the field, all affected Wallace's productivity. But the biggest problem was that Wallace just wasn't playing well.

A microcosm of his inconsistency was on display against the Broncos. With the Broncos leading 7-6, Roethlisberger completed what looked like a 52-yard pass to Wallace that was eminently catchable except for that Wallace didn't actually catch it. Denver challenged the ruling on the field, won, and Pittsburgh punted a play later.

But that wasn't the worst of it. With the Steelers trailing 17-6 in the third quarter, Wallace dropped a Roethlisberger lateral that was recovered by the Broncos on the Pittsburgh 18-yard line. Because the officials had blown the play dead it couldn't be reviewed which effectively means that horrible officiating had saved Wallace, who had dropped another throw (even if it would appear in the box score as only an incompletion).  If the play is called properly on the field, it's game over. Denver was already in field goal range and Pittsburgh seemed incapable of moving the ball on offense.

Yes, Taylor had his troubles Sunday, but Wallace wasn't far behind.

Atlanta Falcons offense

We could jus stay "everybody in the Falcons organization is responsible for the debacle in the Meadowlands" and just get on with our day. And in fact, the defense is a close 1a) for coach-killing honors this week because their third-ranked rush defense allowed the Giants' Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs to go to town on the ground (Football Outsiders ranked New York's run game 20th.) 

But it's Altanta's offense that never gave this team a chance. Atlanta scored two (TWO!) points, and technically, that was thanks to Eli Manning throwing the ball to no one out of his own end zone. Matt Ryan, meanwhile, was 24 of 41 for a measly 199 yards. His leading receiver on the day was rookie first-rounder Julio Jones (seven catches, 64 yards).

While there's no disputing that Jones had a great rookie season (54 receptions, 959 yards, 8 TDs), he wasn't worth what the Falcons gave up to get him on draft day 2011.

Quick refresher: Back in April, Cleveland traded the sixth-overall pick to the Atlanta in exchange for the Falcons' 2011 first, second and fourth-round picks, as well as a first and fourth-rounder in 2012.

Wild Card Recap
Atlanta promptly selected Julio Jones, who along with A.J. Green were considered can't-miss prospects. (And at the end of the season we can agree that they were just that.)

It's hard to fault the Browns for making that deal with the Falcons. After all, on draft day, New England coach Bill Belichick told Atlanta general manager Thomas Dimitroff, "Thomas, I'm just telling you as a friend. I wouldn't do it."

Belichick added that he thought Jonathan Baldwin was "just as good if not better" than Jones. Which leads us to this: the Browns weren't wrong to trade out of the No. 6 pick, but they really could've used a playmaker. And the Falcons could've settled for Baldwin, kept their draft picks, and been just as well off. (This has nothing to do with Jones' performance against the Giants, more a commentary on how the Falcons went all in and lost.) 

You could argue that the Jones deal wasn't a one-year, all-or-nothing proposition. Except that it sorta is. Yes, Jones will be in Atlanta for years but the trade was made because Dimitroff thought it gave the Falcons the best chance to win now. Why else would you give up a '12 first-rounder, too? 

Put differently: could Atlanta have made it to the playoffs with Baldwin, who went late in Round 1, instead of Jones (and they would've still had their 2011 second-rounder)? If you're willing to accept that as a possibility, then this season was a failure from the perspective of the Jones trade.

Another way to think about it: let's say there's a three-year horizon on the deal. Are the Falcons, as currently constituted, favorites to win the Super Bowl next season? Of course not. They'll be in the conversation as one of the NFC's playoff-caliber teams but not much else. Again, would that conversation be any different if they had Baldwin -- and a full complement of draft picks -- over Jones? Not likely.

And that's the point. This isn't an indictment on Jones' ability. Clearly, he's a special player. But the Falcons' front office took a gamble, it failed, and now, like 24 other teams, they're sitting on their couch wondering what happened.

Detroit Lions defense

It's hard to fault anybody faced with the task of slowing Drew Brees and the Saints offense, but as Lions head coach Jim Schwartz mentioned several times during his post-game comments Saturday: missed tackles, the inability to get off the field on third down and dropped interceptions (not to mention the happy whistle that negated a possible Lions defensive touchdown) conspired against a Detroit team that otherwise exorcised any remnants of Matt Millen's presence in the organization.

"Well, there is no question that they are a good team," Schwartz said. "They're 13-3, scoring 44 points a game (on average the last four weeks) and undefeated at home. There is no question that they are a good team. But when you face a team like that, you can't give them second opportunities."

And that's it right there. The difference between advancing in the playoffs and packing your bags one last time until minicamps usually comes down to a play, maybe two. There's no guarantee that the outcome would've been different if the Lions had twice picked off Brees, or had been allowed to return the Saints fumble for what looked like a touchdown, but it wouldn't have hurt.

“Should have been a touchdown because every other time in this league they let that play go and they don’t blow the whistle,” Schwartz said. “We were a victim of that last week (when officials ruled Titus Young didn't have two feet down on a touchdown catch and the Lions didn't have a challenge left to dispute the call) and for some reason in this game they decided to blow the whistle when that would have been seven points in this.”

Brees' numbers were, well, Brees-ian -- 33 of 43 for 466 yards and three touchdowns. But it will be the two interceptions that got away that will haunt Schwartz for some time.

"We were able to score on offense, missed a couple opportunities there but it was really more about missed opportunities on defense," he said during his Monday end-of-season press conference.

"With a team like the Saints, they are going to get some yards, but you got to find a way to stop drives and that is going to come from third downs that is going to come from turnovers. We stopped some drives in the first half with turnovers and had some other plays that we didn't make. We didn't do a very good job on third down. Even when we stopped them on third down, we allowed the conversion on fourth down and they were able to keep drives alive and then big plays, particularly in coverages that we shouldn't give up big plays. It just made it that we couldn't score enough with them because of those things."

Andy Dalton - Bengals

We could just as easily give this to Pacman Jones for getting toasted by Andre Johnson for a touchdown, or Chris Crocker for getting trucked on the way to the end zone by Arian Foster, but it was Andy Dalton, a rookie in name only, who played one of his worst games of the season.

A long day for Dalton. (Getty Images)
When it was over, he was 27 of 42 for 257 yards with three interceptions, although one -- the "wait, what just happened?!" pick-six from rookie defensive lineman J.J. Watt -- doesn't count. Dalton will throw thousands of NFL passes and he'll never ever see anything like that again.

Watts' acrobatics aside, Dalton was off and it played no small role in the outcome. To be fair, he was in the hospital three days before the game because of the flu, but this is the time of year when no one's healthy. Just ask the Texans' quarterbacks.

The Bengals remain winless in the playoffs under Marvin Lewis (the sad truth: Cincy hasn't won a postseason game since 1990 -- Dalton was three), but unlike previous teams, this one is young, full of promise and without egos. Which means no offseason reality shows or MLS tryouts or bull-riding stunts. Just a focus on getting better.

“I don’t want to end in the first round of the playoffs anymore,” Dalton said Monday, as he talked about becoming more of a leader next year. “You get to come back and critique all of the little things that you did in the season,” Dalton said. “You get to work with the guys and not just come into training camp where you have two weeks before your first preseason game. It will be nice to come in and watch stuff, try to get better and do a few things with everybody and make sure everybody is on the same page.”

“I’ll fly wherever he needs me,” Green said of Dalton and their offseason workout plans.

That used to be Carlson Palmer and Chad Ochocinco. Now it's Dalton and Green, who after just one season have the potential to be much better than their predecessors.

“[The past 12 months have] been a freaking whirlwind,” Dalton admitted. “Starting with the Rose Bowl, getting ready for the combine, Senior Bowl, pro day, getting drafted, getting married, a couple of weeks later moving up here. It’s been a crazy year. It seems stuff like that happened a long time ago, but its crazy it’s already over. It’s already 2012.”

And training camps are just seven months away.

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Posted on: January 10, 2012 10:03 am
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Posted on: January 10, 2012 10:00 am
Edited on: January 10, 2012 10:01 am
 

Tracking Tebow: wild, wild, wild-card weekend

We're Tracking Tebow … because it's impossible not to watch. 

By Ryan Wilson

After three weeks off, Tim Tebow has returned with a vengeance that only God could appreciate. The Steelers' game plan against the Broncos was what everybody expected: stop the running game and make Tebow beat you with his arm. Because for as fantastic as the second-year quarterback had been for the floundering franchise, the reality was this: head coach John Fox and executive vice president John Elway appeared wholly uninterested in moving forward with Tebow as their starter, and it would surprise no one if they had already given some thought to who else might be under center in 2012 -- especially given how the final three weeks of the season unfolded.

But in typical Tebow fashion, defying logic and physics along the way, he proved that above all else, he's a winner. The Steelers were successful in what they sought out to do: shut down the league's best rushing game. It's just that they didn't account for Tebow's sudden mastery of the deep ball, nor did they expect cornerback Ike Taylor to have the the worst game of his career.

Pittsburgh crowded the line of scrimmage with eight players and left Taylor in single coverage on Demaryius Thomas all day. And all day, Thomas did what he wanted and Tebow had little trouble throwing on time and with accuracy. We joked about it on the most recent episode of the Pick-6 Podcast, but nobody -- Tebow, his family members, Urban Meyer, his high school coach, Thomas -- figured he'd be stroking it like he was Jeff George playing a pick-up game against a bunch of middle schoolers.


Will it last? Common sense says no because every expert proclaimes that Tebow isn't an NFL quarterback. But every time we doubt this guy, he proves us wrong. Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has a saying: "Sometimes you get the bear and sometimes the bear gets you." On Sunday, Tebow was a grizzly and the Steelers were salmon. But there's no way he can do that against the Patriots, right? Right?!


                                                   Play by Play



(Note: Below are the plays -- both running and passing -- involving Tebow. You can view the entire play-by-play breakdown here)




                                                        Quotes



"We felt we had a good grasp of what they would try to do to us. They made more plays than we thought they were capable of making. We really hadn't seen that out of [Tebow] on tape." - Steelers linebacker James Farrior

"We saw on film that their safeties pressed [toward the line of scrimmage], so we knew we had to throw the ball to beat them. They were the No. 1 defense, so I feel they wanted to make a statement to stop the run. I don't know if they forgot about our passing game, or what. The past few games, we weren't passing the ball that great. They gave us opportunities." - Broncos wide receiver DeMaryius Thomas

"I think that's fair to say. We were down, but it was like a focus and very intense frustration that we wanted to get back on the field to show that wasn't us. I feel like our attitude and mind-set kind of grew all week. … We tried to be aggressive. I wanted to be aggressive and (offensive coordinator Mike) McCoy taught us to be aggressive, and guys really stepped up and made some great plays." - Tebow


                                                   Audio-Visual




Join CBS Sports' Jim Nantz and Phil Simms for a recap of all the action in Sunday's Steelers-Broncos game.


Denver quarterback Tim Tebow hit Demaryius Thomas for an 80 yard touchdown to send the Broncos to New England for the divisional round of the AFC playoffs as they beat the Steelers 29-23 in overtime.


(Note: click to englarge photos.)
Above is a breakdown of the Broncos' first touchdown, set up by the first of many deep balls from Tebow to Thomas. On the scoring play to Eddie Royal, Tebow sees that William Gay is in single coverage (first frame, rightmost arrow and that Ryan Mundy is playing centerfield (left-pointing arrow). Tebow knows now that he's going to Royal. But first, some post-snap manipulation of the Steelers' secondary. In the second frame, Tebow uses his eyes and shoulders to move Mundy to the left. In the third frame, he looks back to the right, throws on time, and finds Royal, who makes a great catch in the end zone. Mundy has no chance to help on the play. Presnap he was on the right hash, Tebow moved him to the left a few steps, and that was enough to give Royal a one-on-one matchup.


                                                   Eye on Tebow



DENVER, CO - JANUARY 08: Tim Tebow #15 of the Denver Broncos runs against Ike Taylor #24 of the Pittsburgh Steelers during the AFC Wild Card Playoff game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 8, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

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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