Tag:Hines Ward
Posted on: January 24, 2011 12:27 am
Edited on: January 24, 2011 3:00 pm
 

10 Super Bowl stories you'll get sick of hearing

Posted by Andy Benoit

Because the Super Bowl is outlandishly over-covered, offering readers 10 Super Bowl stories worth their attention seems redundant if not fruitless. With two weeks until, as your local furniture store calls it, The Big Game!!!, every possible Packers-Steelers storyline is about to be utterly exhausted. And then retold.

You can thank all the “casual fans” who suddenly get interested in the NFL this time of year for this. Somebody has to bring those people up to speed, which means somebody has to retell all the stories true football fans got sick of months ago. You best get used to it now.

Just so you can be on guard, here is an overview of the 10 Super Bowl storylines you’ll get sick of hearing between now and February 6 They’re ranked in order from overhyped to way overhyped, and they don’t even include the non-game related economic stories (you know the ones about how expensive the advertising spots cost, how magnificent the host venue, Cowboys Stadium, is, how bad the CBA talks are going or how many bags of chips are consumed by Americans on Super Bowl Sunday).


10. Wide receivers

The Packers and Steelers receiving units almost mirror one another. Both have a sage veteran (Donald Driver, Hines Ward). Both have a dynamic young big-play weapon (Greg Jennings, Mike Wallace). And both have dangerous but not entirely trD. Driver (US Presswire)usted backups (James Jones and Jordy Nelson; Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown). Here are the predictable cliff notes for the stories involving these guys:

Driver: tough childhood in Houston, first chance at a ring

Ward: borderline “dirty player” who is also proud of Korean heritage

Jennings: NOT a diva, but has still emerged as a No. 1

Wallace: averaging 93 yards per catch this season (or something like that)

Jones: talented but dropped balls; his quarterback trusts him

Nelson: talented but a few fumbles; his quarterback trusts him

Sanders: talented but untested; his quarterback trusts him

Brown: big catches late in games but still raw; his quarterback trusts him

9. Hometown Players

On every Super Bowl team, there are a few players who happen to be from the town in which the game is being played. Thus, you get the homecoming story. This story is only interesting to the dozens of their family and friends who will be in the stands watching on Sunday (because, you know, the player bought dozens of tickets for family and friends!), but that doesn’t stop hard-hitting journalists from writing about it. Or from focusing on how the odds were really stacked against the kid from (insert name of Texas town), as no one ever thought he’d be playing on football’s biggest stage.

So who will the hometown stars be this year? A quick search on PlayersFrom.com (a website that sorts all professional athletes by home state) reveals that the following Packer players were born in Texas: K Mason Crosby, TE Jermichael Finley, QB Matt Flynn, C Scott Wells, WR Donald Driver. The Steelers born in Texas are DE Ziggy Hood, P Daniel Sepulveda, OT Tony Hills, OT Jonathan Scott and NT Casey Hampton.

8. Overcoming adversity

Both teams will talk all week about how they have overcome a lot of adversity this season. Good for them. We can sort of believe the Packers when they trumpet adversity because they led the NFC in injuries (in terms of games missed by starters). But the Steelers? It will be tougher for them to play this card considering they’re littered with stars on defense and have the richest winning tradition in the NFL. But they’ll still find a way to play the adversity card (probably by making veiled references to Ben Roethlisberger’s suspension).


7. Tomlin
M. Tomlin (US Presswire)
You might not get sick of this story because it’s hard to get sick of this man, but you’re going to be hearing it plenty of times: Mike Tomlin is now the only coach in NFL history to reach the Super Bowl twice before the age of 40. He’s already the youngest head coach to hoist a Lombardi Trophy.

This probably won’t be that obnoxious of a storyline. After all, it will probably include plenty about the Steeler modus operandi (which is fascinating), plus Tomlin is about as real as they come. He knows how to give a quote that is just good enough. Which is to say he knows how to say just enough to keep reporters happy but not quite enough to galvanize his opponent.


6. The defensive coordinators

Dick LeBeau is the master behind Pittsburgh’s 3-4 scheme. Dom Capers is the master behind Green Bay’s 3-4. Both are innovative and perhaps deserving of the majority of credit for their team’s success. LeBeau’s recent Hall of Fame induction ruined the hard-hitting THIS MAN SHOULD BE IN CANTON! angle that most writers had for his story, so expect most of the attention to shift towards Capers and whether he deserves a shot at being a head coach for a non-expansion franchise.

There will be plenty of crossover angles here, too, given that Capers coordinated Pittsburgh's D before LeBeau, and both men are pioneers of many 3-4 zone blitz packages.

A dark horse sub storyline here: Kevin Greene, the Packers’ excellent linebackers coach, who was a long-time Steeler.


5. Hair

You just know some idiot is going to do an entertainment feature comparing Troy Polamalu to Clay Matthews.


4. James Starks

Every Super Bowl needs an unlikely breakout star. The Steelers will unofficially nominate sixth-round rookie wideout Antonio Brown for this role, but expect the media to flock to Green Bay’s sixth-round rookie running back James Starks. The Eddie George-like upright runner from Buffalo has rushed for 263 yards since being inserted into the starting lineup for the postseason. Starks is clearly the team’s most explosive runner, but he does not offer star traits. That doeJ. Harrison (US Presswire)sn’t mean the media can’t tell you he’s a burgeoning young star, though.


3. Illegal hits (James Harrison)

Non-football media outlets have been sitting on their stories about how dangerous the sport is for several months, waiting to release them Super Bowl week. Last year, TIME magazine got this ball rolling with its cover piece titled “The Problem with Football: How to Make It Safer”. With Harrison, the poster child for illegal hits, going up against Aaron Rodgers, who suffered two concussions during the regular season, expect another slew of important but boring as hell articles about brain trauma.



2. Aaron Rodgers

Rodgers’ meteoric rise this postseason has been even louder than Drew Brees’ last season. Thank the Brett Favre drama for setting the backdrop for the first-round pick’s career. From day one we’ve admired Rodgers’ class and poise. Since finally taking the field three years ago, we’ve also added arm strength, accuracy and athleticism to his list of admirable traits. Factor in the female celebrities this guy has been linked to (Gossip Girl’s Jessica Szohr, Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott, ESPN’s Erin Andrews) and, oh yeah, his insanely impressive performance in five consecutive “must win” games for the Packers (which includes Sunday’s game at Chicago, where Rodgers was much better than his numbers suggest) and we have a first-class superstar on our hands.


1. Ben Roethlisberger

B. Roethlisberger (US Presswire)
As great as a quarterback’s coming out party is, it doesn’t compare to another quarterback’s redemption story. Why? Because a redemption story gives everyone a chance to rehash the drama. The only thing more interesting than Rodgers dating celebrities is Roethlisberger getting accused of mistreating college girls. Sorry, but sexual assault allegations are just too salacious for the media (and public) to ignore.

You know the background here: Nevada and Georgia, no charges filed, six game suspension reduced to four. The Super Bowl week storylines will center around whether Roethlisberger is a changed man and how jovial and humble he has become. The popular caveat will be something along the lines of “only time will tell if these changes stick”. At some point, someone will point out that Big Ben recently got engaged to Pennsylvania native Ashley Harlan. And if that isn’t proof that this one-time frat boy is settling down, what is?


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Posted on: January 22, 2011 11:40 am
 

Jets think Hines Ward is rather dirty

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

In the debate about whether Steelers WR Hines Ward is a tough, gritty, blue-collar WR who makes hard, but clean blocks on defenders or a dirty, cowardly head hunter, I usually lean toward the former.

I’m pretty sure a wide variety of players – like Jets LB Bart Scott, Ravens S Ed Reed and Bengals LB Keith Rivers, all of whom have been hammered by Ward – would disagree with my assessment.

You can add Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine to the list.

“Our guys I think called him the toughest guy in the league when nobody’s looking,” Pettine said, via ESPN New York.

Considering Ward was voted by his peers in Sports Illustrated as the dirtiest player in the league, Pettine’s comment might have some merit. That doesn’t mean the “tough, gritty, blue collar” thing is wrong, though.

“That works for them,” Pettine said. “He’s kind of the spark that gets them going and we are well aware of it.”

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Posted on: January 21, 2011 8:36 pm
 

Jets CB assignments Sunday might surprise you

Posted by Andy Benoit

It’s always interesting to see which wide receiver the Jets choose to put Darrelle Revis on. Speculation has been that the shutdown corner will shadow Pittsburgh’s sensational big-play wideout Mike Wallace this Sunday. Thanks to DeSean Jackson-like speed and quickness, the lanky second-year receiver accumulated 1,257 yards on just 60 receptions this season (21 yards per catch). Wallace also led the Steelers with 10 receiving touchdowns.

Rex Ryan has not said what the Jets will do with Revis Sunday. (See! It IS possible for Ryan toA. Cromartie (US Presswire) keep his mouth shut!) But Jason La Canfora of NFL.com reports that New York will have Revis defend Hines Ward. Antonio Cromartie would then handle Wallace.

The thinking behind this likely centers around Cromartie’s skill set. At 6’2”, Cromartie has the length to match the long-armed, long-striding Wallace. Cromartie also has excellent north/south speed. At the same time, because Cromartie is very poor in his mechanics and unwilling to be physical, he would be an exceptionally bad matchup on Ward.

Having Cromartie on Wallace and Revis on Ward is actually what the Jets did when they traveled to Pittsburgh in Week 15. In that game Wallace caught seven balls for 102 yards, but his longest reception went for just 23. Ward was held to two catches (34 yards) on just three targets.

La Canfora also makes an excellent point about the rest of the Jets’ coverage tactics for Sunday. “The Jets typically use a full dose of man coverage,” he writes. “But the deep threat presented by Wallace, along with wideouts Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown, could lead to the team employing a safety over the top against the Steelers, based on down and distance.”

As logical as all this analysis is, it’s possible the Jets could come out and surprise people by putting Revis on Wallace. Or, they could move Revis around throughout the game (a tactic they used against Donald Driver and Greg Jennings when Green Bay came to town earlier this season). A changeup is possible because, at the end of the day, simple common sense says Revis is New York’s best player and Wallace is Pittsburgh’s most dangerous weapon.

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Posted on: January 20, 2011 11:22 am
Edited on: January 20, 2011 4:30 pm
 

Steelers vs. Jets: 7-Point Championship Preview

Posted by Josh Katzowitz



CBSSports.com's patented and award-winning 7-point preview gets you ready for each and every playoff game. As a bonus, enjoy our playoff podcast preview:



1. New York Jets (No. 6, AFC, 13-5) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 2, AFC, 13-4)

For the second-straight season, the Jets somehow have risen from a Wild Card team to a squad that will play in the AFC championship game with a chance to go to the Super Bowl. Last year, they fell to the Colts. This year, though, they’re riding a big hot streak, having knocked off Indianapolis and then the formerly-invincible Patriots, and they’re looking for their first Super Bowl appearance since 1969.

The Steelers, meanwhile, are coming off a nice come-from-behind victory against the Ravens last week. Like the Jets beating the Patriots, Pittsburgh exerted a ton of energy, rallying to beat their biggest rival for the second time this season. There’s been some talk about emotional letdowns, especially on the Jets side, but this one is for a Super Bowl berth. An emotional letdown, like Jets coach Rex Ryan would say, is impossible.

2. PLAYOFFS?! Watchability Ranking



Both AFC games last week were great matchups and featured great results. It’ll be hard for this one to top those. Maybe I’m the one who is emotionally let down, but 3.5 Mora Faces is the max rating.

3. Key Matchup to Watch: Jets secondary vs. Steelers WRs

Last week, the Jets shut down the Patriots WRs. New England couldn’t create separation, and at times, QB Tom Brady was stuck holding the ball for 5 … 6 … 7 … 8 seconds before having to scramble because his receivers simply could not get open.

The Steelers will have to do a better job than that. Assuming Jets CB Darrelle Revis – who has dominated Indianapolis’ Reggie Wayne and New England’s Deion Branch so far in the playoffs – matches up against WR Hines Ward, don’t expect Ward to have much of an impact. In the Steelers Week 15 matchup against New York, Ward was targeted only three times and caught two passes for 34 yards.

That means the speedy Mike Wallace will have to be the game-changer for Pittsburgh. He’s had a big season, catching 60 passes for 1,257 yards and 10 TDs in the regular season. We assume Jets CB Antonio Cromartie, also a rather speedy fellow, will attend to him. Thing is with Cromartie: sometimes he’s great, like last week, and sometimes he’s very beatable, like with Colts WR Pierre Garcon two weeks ago.

Hell, Cromartie might be the biggest factor of all. Especially if Ben Roethlisberger tries to avoid Revis and, instead, targets Cromartie. Hey, at least Cromartie didn’t call Roethlisberger an a------.

4. Potentially Relevant Video

If Revis makes Ward somewhat irrelevant in the passing game, the Steelers WR still can be a nuisance on the field. Ask Bart Scott about that this video, featuring Ward’s greatest hits.



5. The Jets will win if ...

They can get big-time production from both running backs, LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene. Tomlinson, after a swoon in the second half of the season, has run well the first two rounds of the playoffs, and Greene has rushed for 77 and 70 yards in the two games. If Greene can inch closer to the 100-yard mark and Tomlinson can average about 5 yards a carry, that would keep the ball out of the hands of Rashard Mendenhall and Roethlisberger for much of the game and bring the Jets a win.

6. The Steelers will win if ...

They can pound and pressure Mark Sanchez for much of the day. Yes, Sanchez threw three touchdown passes last week, but he still has struggled – for the past two weeks – with his accuracy. The Steelers have plenty of defenders (ahem, James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley) who can harass Sanchez and make him have to release the ball too early. Which certainly won’t help his aim.

7. Prediction: Jets 20, Steelers 17
Posted on: January 13, 2011 11:43 am
 

Hot Routes 1.13.10: Orange ties are always in



Posted by Josh Katzowitz

  • John Fox brought an orange tie to his interview with the Broncos on Wednesday. And after getting delayed by weather twice earlier this week, Fox finally actually made it to Denver. So, what separates him from the other Broncos candidates? "I've been doing it. I have a plan, whether it's a bye week schedule, a training camp schedule. It's not my first rodeo, so to speak," Fox told the Associated Press. "So, I think I do have a blueprint to do it. We've had success, some years more than others. But you know the full body of work I think holds a blueprint for success."
  • And while we’re talking about Polamalu, the NY Times does a nice job on the spiritual side of the guy with the best hair in the league.
  • The Steelers Lounge caught up with Merril Hoge about this weekend’s Steelers-Ravens game.

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Posted on: January 13, 2011 10:47 am
Edited on: January 13, 2011 12:32 pm
 

Steelers vs. Ravens: 7-Point Divisional Preview

Posted by Josh Katzowitz



CBSSports.com's patented and award-winning 7-point preview gets you ready for each and every playoff game. As an added bonus, check out our playoff podcast preview:



1. Baltimore Ravens (No. 5, AFC, 13-4) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 2, AFC, 12-4)

This is perhaps the best rivalry in the NFL today. No, strike the “perhaps.” It is the No. 1 rivalry for toughness, defensive struggles, bloody and broken noses and grit. We’re lucky enough to see these two AFC North squads play twice a year, but it’s always an extra treat to watch them face off in the playoffs.

These two had the same regular-season record, and when they met in Week 4 and Week 13, both contests were decided by three points – one win for the Ravens and one for the Steelers. LB Terrell Suggs said earlier this week that the winner of this game will triumph in the Super Bowl. He might very well be right.

2. PLAYOFFS?! Watchability Ranking



I hate going five out of five, but in the Divisional Playoffs, to get this matchup, there’s really no other choice.

3. Key Matchup to Watch: Ravens offensive line vs. Steelers linebackers

For the second straight week, Baltimore’s tackles will have to figure out how to slow down the opponent’s 3-4 defense linebacking corps. Last week, the Chiefs sacked Ravens QB Joe Flacco four times and put pressure on him throughout the game, and Kansas City linebacker Tamba Hali made life very difficult for the Ravens offensive line.

Baltimore LT Michael Oher had a particularly tough time protecting his quarterback, and if he continues to struggle, Steelers LBs James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons will be happy to take shots at Flacco.

But it’s not just about pass protection. The offensive line also has to open holes for RB Ray Rice and Willis McGahee, and if they can’t get into the second level of the Pittsburgh defense, the Ravens are going to have big problems. The Steelers allow only 62.8 rushing yards per game – by far, the best number in the league – and the two times these two teams played this year, Rice combined for 17 carries and 52 yards.

If the offensive line can’t help him improve on those numbers, it’s going to be very tough for Baltimore’s offense to find enough balance to beat the Steelers.

4. Potentially Relevant Video

Those Troy Polamalu Head & Shoulders commercials are pretty hit or miss. Some are fairly funny; some are disastrous. But what I like best about them is that Polamalu is actually a pretty effective comedy actor. “You asked with your eyes, Trent. You asked with your eyes."



5. The Ravens will win if ...

QB Joe Flacco continues to hit TE Todd Heap every chance he gets. Flacco targeted Heap 13 times last week in Kansas City, and Heap caught 10 of those passes for 108 yards. If he finds the end zone a couple times vs. the Steelers, Baltimore could pull off its second-straight road playoff win.

6. The Steelers will win if ...

QB Ben Roethlisberger can pick apart the Ravens secondary. Which he should do. Aside from Reed, who’s still world class, and Chris Carr, Baltimore’s defensive backs corps is awfully mediocre.

7. Prediction: Steelers 16, Ravens 10



Posted on: January 12, 2011 10:28 pm
 

Suggs, Ward fueling the Ravens-Steelers fire

Posted by Will Brinson

There's no need to tell anyone, after the events thus far in the week, that the Jets-Patriots game is going to be heated. But let's not forget about this little Steelers-Ravens rivalry either.

After all, both AFC North teams really, really, really don't like each other. Need proof? How about Terrell Suggs' shirt before Wednesday's practice in Baltimore, which said "Hey, Pittsburgh" right above a giant, purple Raven with its middle finger prominently extended.

You can see the shirt here, but all NSFW-ish warnings apply I suppose. Or maybe not -- even Suggs said "there ain't no message" with the shirt.

"Do I seem worried? This game is going to be what it is regardless," he said. "It’s a physical dogfight, so I ain’t expecting nothing different. And this is the shirt I wore this morning. This is just the shirt I chose."

Now, if he thinks there's no message, he's insane. There's an obvious message and it's quite clear (it's just a visual cue instead of an Antonio Cromartie-style audio number): the Ravens don't like the Steelers.

Good news, though, because the Steelers don't like the Ravens either. Just ask Hines Ward.

"Baltimore is the best place to play," Ward told the Sun this week, sitting in front of his locker after practice. "To me, that's the best road game. I've always cherished it my whole career. It's pure hatred."

Ward also said that when he does something good it "irks the crap out of" Ravens fans and he gets people "flipping the bird" at him. Which, apparently, means Suggs is right on target with his shirt.

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Posted on: January 8, 2011 5:30 pm
 

Steelers prepping their young wideouts

Posted by Andy Benoit

For as much as Hines Ward smiles, doesn’t he just seem like one of those guys you wouldn’t want to have in your ear, riding you all afternoon? That’s ostensibly what the Steelers’ young trio of wide receivers – Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown – had to deal with in practice all week.

“This week is young guys emphasis week,” Ward told Scott Brown of the Pittsburgh Tribune. “They’re getting a lot of reps.” Ward knows what the young guys don’t: playoff football is different from regular season football.

“They don’t have a clue, what they’re about to step into,” he said. “They only know what the veterans tell them.

“We don’t have series like hockey and baseball and basketball where you lose a game and you’ve got a chance the next day. That’s why every play is magnified. If you drop a crucial third-down (pass) you never know, that might be the difference between winning or losing that game.”

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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