Tag:Hines Ward
Posted on: February 9, 2011 1:25 pm
 

Surgery for Steelers receivers

Posted by Andy Benoit

Turns out the injury Emmanuel Sanders suffered in Pittsburgh’s Super Bowl loss was very serious. The rookie wide receiver will have surgery this week to repair his broken foot. H. Ward (US Presswire)

Sanders isn’t the only wideout going under the knife. Hines Ward will have surgery on his left knee (which is already deprived of an ACL), as well as his left thumb. Presumably, the surgeries will take place at separate times. (If it were his right thumb, perhaps simultaneous surgeries would work. But figure with two left side issues, things would get too crowded for the doctors standing around the operating table…right?)

For the knee, Ward is addressing cartilage damage that has been bothersome since training camp. For the thumb, he’s correcting a torn ligament suffered in Week 2 against the Titans. Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says Ward’s thumb can bend all the way back past his wrist (which is why he wore a protective cast on it this season).

Bouchette points out that team doctors around the league, including Pittsburgh’s James Bradley, will be especially busy this month, as players scramble to get operated on before their insurance disappears as part of the looming March 4 lockout.

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Posted on: February 6, 2011 10:12 pm
Edited on: February 7, 2011 2:22 am
 

Rodgers leads Packers to Super Bowl win

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

DALLAS – The Super Bowl experience of the Steelers didn’t matter a bit to the Packers. Neither did Ben Roethlisberger’s toughness, the Pittsburgh defense’s resolve or Brett Keisel’s beard.

Green Bay wasn’t fazed by its youth, its receivers’ inability to make relatively easy catches, or the fact EVERYBODY seemed to pick the Packers to win this game (usually meaning the Steelers would run right over Green Bay). Hell, Green Bay wasn’t even fazed by the furious comeback(s) by Pittsburgh after the Packers took an 18-point lead in the second quarter.

None of it mattered.

Not when Aaron Rodgers, playing in the biggest game of his life, refused to be intimidated by a Steelers offense that never stopped scoring points and narrowing the lead he had built in the first half. Not when he led Green Bay to a 31-25 win.



The biggest drive in the biggest game of his life came after the Steelers cut the lead to 28-25 with 7:34 to play. He was sacked on first down, and on third down, LG Daryn Colledge was called for a false start penalty to make it third and 10. Rodgers’ response: a 31-yard laser to Greg Jennings for the first down to keep the clock running.

Later in the drive, he hit James Jones for a 21-yard pass, and the Packers eventually kicked the field goal. It wasn’t exactly what Rodgers (who finished 24 of 39 for 304 yards and three touchdowns) wanted, but it gave Green Bay some breathing room. Which, it turned out, was all they needed.

Despite an iffy second half on offense and despite the fact the Packers defense clearly was impacted by the loss of CB Charles Woodson, who suffered a shoulder injury in the first half, Green Bay managed to win its first Super Bowl since the 1996 season, returning the Lombardi Trophy to the town that Lombardi put on the map.

After grabbing a 21-3 lead in the second quarter following a Jordy Nelson touchdown catch, a Nick Collins 37-yard interception return and a Jennings touchdown pass, the Packers seemed in control of the game. No, it didn’t just seem like it. The Packers WERE in control of the game.

But the Steelers made an important score late in the second quarter when WR Hines Ward caught an eight-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to cut the lead to 11 before halftime.

Despite an extra-long halftime – an intermission show, mind you, that not even Slash could save – Green Bay couldn’t retake the game’s momentum.

The Steelers forced Green Bay to punt on the first drive of the second half, and five plays later, Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall completed the five-play, 50-yard drive with an eight-yard scoring run. The fact Green Bay didn’t gain a first down in the third quarter and the fact the Packers receivers couldn’t handle Rodgers’ passes didn’t bode well going into the last 15 minutes.

Until the beginning of the fourth quarter, that is, when Clay Matthews and Ryan Pickett forced a fumble from Mendenhall to take possession at the Packers 45-yard line. And despite another terrible drop from Nelson, he redeemed himself with a 38-yard catch on a third down to keep the drive going.

After a Rodgers sack, he found Jennings, who had dominated Troy Polamalu on the route, in the corner of the end zone for the eight-yard score and the 11-point lead.

Rodgers, entering the postseason, had never won a playoff game. Now he’s won a Super Bowl. He might not be the best quarterback in the league. But he’s pretty damn close. And now he’s an NFL champion.

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Posted on: February 6, 2011 8:26 pm
 

Super Bowl XLV halftime analysis

B. Roethlisberger throws an interception in the first quarter of Super Bowl XLV (US Presswire).

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

DALLAS – Through the first 25 minutes, it seemed like the Packers were going to walk out of Cowboys Stadium and Super Bowl XLV with an easy – and surprising – blowout win against the Steelers.

Considering Green Bay had only been a slight favorite and considering people had been talking about how this easily was a game that could go into overtime, this was a relatively stunning turn of events.

That, of course, is what happens when Green Bay strode to a 21-3 lead, based on Aaron Rodgers’ brilliance (11 of 16 for 137 yards, two touchdowns and a passer rating of 134.6), a little dose of RB James Starks (seven carries for 37 yards) and a tough defense that has forced two turnovers while scoring a touchdown of its own.

But Pittsburgh has a reason to hope now – thanks to a seven-play, 77-yard drive late in the second quarter that ended with an eight-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to WR Hines Ward.

Now, it’s a 21-10 game, and though the Packers get the ball to open the second half, the Steelers have a little momentum.

We still might get that close game just about everybody originally expected after all.

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Posted on: February 4, 2011 1:16 pm
Edited on: February 4, 2011 6:21 pm
 

Breakdown of the 2009 Packers-Steelers shootout


B. Roethlisberger (US Presswire)

Posted by Andy Benoit

Conversation overheard in the media center this week:
 
Media Guy A: Maybe it’s just me, but why does it feel like we’re going to get a surprising offensive shootout on Sunday?

Media Guy B: Because last time these two “great defenses” squared off it was an absolute scoring fest.

That scoring fest was a 37-36 instant classic in which a Ben Roethlisberger to Mike Wallace 19-yard touchdown on the final play resulted in a 37-36 Steelers victory. It was a fitting end considering that a Roethlisberger to Wallace 60-yard strike had been the first play of the game.

All week both teams have downplayed the relevance of last year’s shootout. And for good reason. The Packers, with dynamite tight end Jermichael Finley in the lineup, had a slightly different offensive structure than what they’ll have this Sunday. And the Steelers were without strong safety Troy Polamalu.

That said, this was barely a year ago, so what we saw is not entirely irrelevant today. Here are some of the key X and O elements from that contest (tip of the cap to Greg Cosell of the NFL Matchup Show for helping with some of the ’09 details).

PACKERS OFFENSE VS. STEELERS DEFENSE

Inside blitzes

Last time:
The Steelers attacked early with a lot of what’s called Fire X blitzes (having the inside linebackers cross each other to rush the passer). They were successful on a few occasions, though Aaron Rodgers amazed with his ability to deliver throws with defenders bearing down on him. Rodgers also built a lot of locker room cred by popping back up when he did get drilled.

This time: Inside blitzing has been a staple of Pittsburgh’s attack this season. James Farrior recorded six sacks on the year and rising star Lawrence Timmons was a thousand times better than his three sacks suggest. If (IF) the Steelers blitz, their interior ‘backers will be a big part of it.

Corner weakness

Last time:
The Steelers did not have No. 2 corner Bryant McFadden last season (he was in Arizona) and their coverage suffered. Ike Taylor, Willie Gay and Joe Burnett rotated throughout this game. Veteran Deshea Townsend was the nickelback. With so many players altering positions, and with no Polamalu helping out, the entire secondary lacked continuity and consistency.

This time: McFadden is not a stud, but he stabilizes the left corner slot. Willie Gay, who was unfit for a starting job last season, is in a more-fitting nickel role. Gay still has occasional issues on the inside, but this cornerback unit as a whole is in the upper half of the NFL.

Spread formations

Last time: The Packers frequently aligned in the shotgun with four and five wide receivers. This was to take advantage of the thin, “Polamalu-less” secondary.

This time: Given the way Rodgers has played, Green Bay’s depth at wide receiver and the fact that it’s virtually impossible to run on Pittsburgh, expect plenty of spread formations again.

STEELERS OFFENSE VS. PACKERS DEFENSE

Multiple formation throwing

Last time:
Pittsburgh relied on a variety of different formations to attack the Packers through the air – most of them of the spread variety. The objective behind this was to make Dom Capers simplify his complex defensive scheme. Mission accomplished. On the 11-play game-winning drive, Green Bay never rushed more than four.

This time: Pittsburgh will likely make a more concerted effort to establish the run, but it would make sense to do so out of spread formations. Spreading the field prevents the Packers from cluttering the box. The fewer bodies the Packers have roving around the box, the fewer options they’ll have for confusing Ben Roethlisberger and the offensive line.

Charles Woodson defended Hines Ward

Last time: This was when the packers were in more traditional sets (two and three wide receivers). Woodson, the ’09 Defensive Player of the Year, was utilized as a cover corner on what the Packers believed was Pittsburgh’s most dangerous wide receiver.

This week: Woodson has evolved into more of a safety in Green Bay’s scheme. (When he plays traditional corner coverage, it usually means the Packers are being passive.) But if the Packers do use Woodson as a cover corner, it’s likely he will face Ward again. That would be an excellent physical matchup. Plus, Green Bay’s other corners, Sam Shields and Tramon Williams, are both better equipped than Woodson to handle the blazing downfield speed of Wallace.

Early pass-rush prowess

Last time: Before they got passive in the second half, Green Bay was effective with their zone blitzes. Clay Matthews, in particular, stood out.

This time: Matthews has only gotten better, but the rest of the Packers pass rush has leveled off just a bit. Brad Jones, the starter last season, joined the host of Packers on IR long ago. Replacement Erik Walden is athletic but battling an ankle injury this week. Still, straight up, Green Bay’s pass rush as a whole has an advantage on Pittsburgh’s O-line. Right tackle Flozell Adams doesn’t begin to have the movement skills to handle Matthews, and with center Maurkice Pouncey likely out, you have to wonder if the rest of the line will effectively communicate on blitz pickups. (Offensive line coach Sean Kugler credits Pouncey’s development as the driving force behind the line’s improvement against blitzes.)

[More Super Bowl coverage]

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Posted on: February 2, 2011 6:31 pm
Edited on: February 3, 2011 3:17 pm
 

Matchup breakdown: Steelers O vs. Packers D

R. Mendenhall (US Presswire)

Posted by Andy Benoit

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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Posted on: February 2, 2011 12:28 am
Edited on: February 3, 2011 8:46 am
 

Pittsburgh Steelers offensive roster breakdown

Posted by Will Brinson & Andy Benoit

Perhaps the most fascinating thing if you look (at a glance anyway) at Pittsburgh and Green Bay is that they've built their teams "properly." (AKA "the opposite of Dan Snyder.) They draft smart, and they sign smarter. At least that's what we're lead to believe, right?

Andy and I set out to check the roster breakdown for both teams. En route, we* managed to figure out not only where they're coming from, but what they'll do for their respective teams in the Super Bowl.

Name POS Acquired Scouting Report
Ben Roethlisberger
QB
Drafted 11th overall, 1st Round 2004
The most physically gifted quarterback in all of football (including Mr. Vick). Sandlot style makes him nearly impossible to gameplan against.
Rashard Mendenhall
RB 
Drafted 23rd overall, 1st Round 2008
Can immediately regain his balance and accelerate after bouncing off a defender. That’s a big reason why he’s developed into one of the best fourth quarter closers in the game.
Mewelde Moore
RB2
Drafted 119th overall, 4th Round MIN; FA, 2008
Struggled in pass protection early but settled down late. Good dumpoff target who can eat up ground if given room to generate speed. However, doesn’t have the initial quickness to create his own space.
Jonathan Scott
LT
Drafted 141st overall, 5th Round, DET; FA, 2010
Offers very little power for a man of 6’6”, 318-pound size.
Chris Kemoeatu
LG
Drafted 204th overall, 6th Round 2005
Steelers’ best lineman. Nasty out-in-front blocker who gets to the linebacker level with ease.
Doug Legursky
C
UDFA, 2009
Iffy strength is a major concern given Green Bay’s ravenous defensive linemen.
Ramon Foster
RG
UDFA, 2009
Not powerful enough to move people in the run game, but at least gets OK placement on his blocks.
Flozell Adams
RT
Drafted 28th overall, 2nd Round DAL; FA 2010
At 35, it’s almost painful watching him try to move. But even more painful is watching a helpless defender try to unshackle from his grasp.
Trai Essex
OL
Drafted 93rd overall, 3rd Round 2005
Has monstrous size and is versatile enough to play inside or outside. But doesn’t it tell you something that he’s still coming off the bench despite all the injuries up front?
Mike Wallace
WR
Drafted 84th overall, 3rd Round 2009
The most lethal big-play weapon at wideout in today’s NFL. The difference between DeSean Jackson and him is his acceleration is augmented by an extremely long stride.
Hines Ward
WR
Drafted 93rd overall, Round 1998
These days, runs like he’s wearing boots. But, somehow, he still manages to get open. Everything they say about his blocking is true, by the way.
Emmanuel Sanders
WR
Drafted 82nd overall, 3rd Round 2010
It’s just a matter of time before the third-round rookie takes over as the No. 2 target. Roethlisberger loves to look for him whenever he aligns in the slot of a five-receiver set.
Antonio Brown
WR
Drafted 164th overall, 6th Round 2010
Sixth-round rookie has shown a penchant for big plays.
Heath Miller
TE
Drafted 30th overall, 1st Round 2005
Not the god that Steeler fans insist he is, but soft hands and technically sound blocking are certainly valuable.
Matt Spaeth
TE
Drafted 77th overall, 3rd Round 2007
Heath Miller only with less skill and more size.

*Scouting smarts credited to Benoit. HTML and research credited to Brinson.
Posted on: February 1, 2011 3:55 pm
Edited on: February 1, 2011 6:30 pm
 

Ward lets loose on NFL and concussions

H. Ward had plenty of interesting things to say in the latest issue of GQ. Posted by Josh Katzowitz

ARLINGTON, Texas – I spoke with players on both teams at Media Day today about concussions and about the effect they have on their personal lives. I probably interviewed five or six guys about the issue, and most of them went fine.

But I kind of wish I would have spoken to Steelers WR Hines Ward instead.

In the latest issue of GQ magazine, Yahoo! Sports’ Michael Silver talked to a number of players about the concussion issue and the new NFL rules that go along with it.

Some interesting comments from the likes of Buccaneers CB Ronde Barber, Ravens C Matt Birk and Browns LB Scott Fujita.

But Ward? Man, Ward was in a class of his own with these comments (FYI, the video he’s talking about is the tutorial the NFL sent out in the middle of the season to showcase what IS and what is NOT a legal hit. Seems like everybody who saw it was a little more confused afterward than they were before).

“Man, nobody paid attention to that video,” Ward told Silver. “We don't know what they want. They're so hypocritical sometimes. They came out with these new helmets that are supposed to stop concussions. If they care so much about our safety, why don't they mandate that we wear the new ones? If they're so worried about what concussions will do to us after our careers, then guarantee our insurance for life. And if you're going to fine me for a hit, let the money go to veteran guys to help with their medical issues. To say the league really cares? They don't give a f--- about concussions. And now they want to add on two extra games? Are you kidding? Come on, let's be real.

“Now that these new guidelines are in place, you'll see more and more guys lying to doctors to stay on the field. Contracts aren't guaranteed. If a guy's contract is coming up and he gets his bell rung – and if he has a concussion, he'll have to leave the game and maybe miss another one – trust me, he ain't tellin' nobody. Look at [49ers running back] Brian Westbrook. He was an elite player who had concussion issues, and he struggled to find work after the Eagles cut him. Guys saw that. I'm telling you, if you're a guy on the bubble or playing for your next contract, you're going out there and jeopardizing your life to get that payday.”

You might think Ward is crazy, but I’m telling you the guys to whom I spoke today would certainly agree.

Hines Ward discusses Ben Roethlisberger's status in the clubhouse.



And I’ll also let you read Fujita’s anger as well.

“Everybody doubts the league’s sincerity,” he said. “Quit pretending to be the flag-bearers for our health care and safety when you're telling us in the next sentence that we need to go to 18 games. That doesn't cut it. Obviously you don't give a s--- about our health and safety. Remember that photo of [Steelers linebacker James] Harrison making a hit on [Browns receiver Mohamed] Massaquoi? They fined him $75,000 for that – and at the same time, they were selling it on NFL.com for $24.99. They kept it there until someone shamed them into taking it down. I was so pissed off by the hypocrisy of it all.”

Wow, great stuff in the article. Make sure to read it.

More Super Bowl coverage.

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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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