Video Highlights of Steelers 26-20 Preseason Loss to the Chiefs

The Pittsburgh Steelers lost 26-20 in overtime to the Kansas City Chiefs, assuring them the first losing preseason record of the Mike Tomlin era, for whatever that little factoid is worse.

Based in Buenos Aires, Argentina, (and no fan of watching things on the computer) Steel Curtain Rising could not see the game, but as always we’re happy to bring you highlights. Watch them while you can, because Roger Goodell’s YouTube police seem to be more aggressive than ever.

The results in preseason are of course meaningless. Its performance that counts. In that light Steelers Nation is faced with a half full, half empty situation.

On the plus side…

On the negative side…

  • Special teams were atrocious, giving up a 109 return for a touchdown and seeing a blocked field goal
  • Despite playing Kelvin Beachum as a roaming tight end, Ben Rothlisberger was sacked twice and under pressure
  • The Steelers were penalized 9 times for 98 yards, many of which ensured that the Cheifs stayed in the game
  • The starting defense allowed Alex Smith to look sharp and tie up the score at half time
  • Neither Jonathan Dwyer nor Baron Batch could make headway rushing the ball (no wonder why Batch was cut)

The other big news of the night was the injury to first round pick Jarvis Jones, but it has been reported that the tests he underwent were negative.

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If Rotator Cuff Surgery End It for Plaxico Burress, He Went Out the Right Way

Monday August 12 was Plaxico’ Burress’ 36 birthday. Per Ed Bouchette’s tweet, it’s also the day that he underwent what will likely be career ending surgery to reaper a torn rotator cuff.

Steelers WR Plaxico Burress will celebrate his 36th birthday today by getting shoulder surgery. Ugh.
— Ed Bouchette (@EdBouchette) August 12, 2013

If this is the end for Plaxico Burress then it is a real shame for him. It may not be much consolation to him, but Burress can at least know that he chose to distinguish himself on the way out.

Remembering Plex

If Plaxico Burress is glad to finish his career in Pittsburgh then he can thank the fact that Kevin Colbert does not draft scared for his arrival.

Colbert arrived in Pittsburgh in February 2000 on the heels of back-to-back 7-9 and 6-10 seasons that brought a long simmering feud between Tom Donahoe and Bill Cowher to a head. Kordell Stewart was the Steelers quarterback, and Stewart was finishing the “My Buddy’s the Cop” phase of his career.

  • Conventional wisdom generally dictates drafting the best available quarterback is the smart (and safe) move for a general manager walking into that situation.

The Steelers had the eighth pick, and Chad Pennington was the top quarterback on the board. Colbert and Cowher took a pass, making Pennington the 2nd most famous signal caller the Steelers never drafted after Dan Marino.

Plaxico Burress was their choice instead. After a rookie season that was a wash, Burress had his breakout game vs. the Titans on Monday Night Football (after Hines Ward instilled some good game preparation habits into him), helped transform Tommy Maddox into Tommy Gun and gave the Steelers 4 good seasons before departing to New York, much to Ben Roethlisberger‘s chagrin.

Burress’ time in New York will be remembered for him quitting on a long route, a game winning Super Bowl catch, and of course the self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Burress to Go Out the Way They All “Should?”

After prison the Steelers and, more specifically Mike Tomlin, briefly courted Burress, but he opted for greener pastures with the New York Jets.

Out of football for much of 2012, the Steelers brought him in late in the season. A poor route led to an interception, spoiling his debut in the comedy of errors in Cleveland.

His stat sheet will only tell this his second stint in Pittsburgh yielded 3 catches. The video quality isn’t so good, but here’s the last one he made:

That touchdown helped seal victory for the Steelers in the 2012 regular season finale vs. Cleveland.

If rotator cuff surgery does spell the end for Burress, his homecoming in Pittsburgh might not have gone as he wished, but Burress’ final catch will always be a game winning touchdown.

Isn’t that the way every player dreams of ending his career?

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Steelers Draft Terry Hawthorne, Cornerback from Illinois in 5th Round of NFL Draft

Although the Pittsburgh Steelers do not lack for bodies at cornerback, they are taking no chances drafting cornberback Terry Hawthorne of Illinos in the 5th round of the 2013 NFL Draft.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Carnell Lake compared Hawthorne to incumbent Steelers starter Ike Taylor, although he also characterized him as a “fast raw prospect.”

Hawthorne stands at 6’ and weighs in at 190 pounds, here is a brief highlight sketch of him from the Illinois OSU Game (available as of 4/27/13):

Joining the Steelers as a 5th round pick in no way guarantees Terry Hawthorne a roster spot. He will need to earn one. Ike Taylor is of course going no where and neither is projected starter Cortez Allen, nor will the Steelers cut William Gay after resigning him.

That means that Hawthorne will need to beat out Courtney Brown, Justin King, Josh Victorian, DeMarcus Van Dyke and Isaiah Green.

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Mike Tomlin Channels His Internal Ric Flair

Mike Tomlin’s coaching lineage traces directly back to Chuck Noll via Tony Dungy. Tomlin, however, has never been the stoic that Chuck Noll was but his reaction yesterday to Isaac Redman’s touchdown over the New York Jets was far more characteristic of something you’d see out of Bill Cowher.

In case you missed it check it out (available as of 9/17/12):

More than Bill Cowher, Tomlin appears to be channeling his internal Ric Flair! And Steelers Nation never knew he had it in him!

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Steelers vs. Jets Pre-Game: Harrison and Polamalu Out Injured

The Pittsburgh Steelers defense struggled mightly against Peyton Manning’s Denver Broncos, with two of three units earning F’s on the Steelers Report Card.

This week they’ll face an inferior quarterback in Mark Sanchez, but they’ll also do it with out their twin Defensive Player of the year winners.

James Harrison, who is recovering from knee surgery, will miss a second consecutive game reports Ed Bouchette of the Post-Gazette, while Tory Polamalu will also sit out due to an injured calf.

Ryan Clark will rejoin the Steelers secondary, and Ryan Mundy is likely to get his second start. Ironically, Mundy got his first NFL start in Polamalu’s absence in a December match up the Steelers lost to the Jets.

Essex Whisked Away, Steelers Stand Pat on the Offensive Line

Even before Ramon Foster and Marcus Gilbert suffered injuries vs. the Broncos, everyone expected the Steelers to make a roster move and resign Trai Essex. Yours truly went so far as to predict that on Twitter.

However, Bruce Arians, who already “poached” Mewelde Moore invited another former Steeler into Hoosier territory. Essex accepted his offer, and is now a member of the Indianapolis Colts.

The Steelers still could have made an additional move to bolster their offensive line, which only counts eight offensive lineman on the active squad at the moment, at least one below their “normal.”

But they didn’t. Remarks by Kevin Colbert in the recent edition of Steelers Digest indicate that they think highly of Kelvin Becham, and perhaps the Steelers made the calculation that none of the available street free agent offensive lineman would add enough value to their team to sacrifice depth and/or a young prospect.

Or perhaps they’re just banking on the law of averages to protect them from yet another offensive line injury….

Steelers vs. Jets Preview Video

I don’t pretend to follow other NFL teams closely enough to offer detailed pregame assessments, but in this case that is not needed.

Neal Coolong of Behind the Steel Curtain (full disclosure, I also write for BTSC) has put together an excellent 6 minute video breaking down the key match ups that will dominate the Steelers-Jets game.

This is only the latest in a series of SB Nation videos produced by Michael Bean. Check them out on You Tube – and the good news is that they’re using authorized NFL footage, so no worry that Goodell’s YouTube police will make them disappear.

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Ziggy Hood Poised to Lead Steelers Defensive Line

The Steelers overtime playoff loss to the Denver Broncos left a lot of bad memories for SteelersNation. At times the 2011 Pittsburgh Steelers played with so much promise, at other times they were maddeningly inconsistent.

But the playoff game also saw a changing of the guard on the defensive line. Long time anchor Casey Hampton went down with a ACL tear. Brett Keisel also fell injured. That left Ziggy Hood, Cameron Heyward and Steve McLendon on their own. Literally.

  • The results were not pretty. 

Tim Tebow had his way with the Steelers defense. And although some of that does fall on the shoulders of the secondary and Dick LeBeau’s staff, the Steelers defensive lineman didn’t feel that they’d done their part.

As Joe Starkey points out in the Tribune Review, Ziggy Hood didn’t pout, he went out and did something about it.

Check out this video of Hood pulling a 1200 pound sled.

And if that’s not enough for you, check out a longer version of the rest of Hood’s workout:

If Ziggy Hood doesn’t have a break out year it won’t be for lack of preparation, because Hood clearly has the look of a man on a mission.

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Roger Goodell Suspends James Harrison

Justice is blind.”

It is a principle that has guided western jurisprudence for millennia. “All men are bad judges in their own cases” wrote James Madison in Federalist Number 10. Madison was right of course. When deciding between what is just and what is unjust it is near impossible to divorce oneself from self-interest.

So we insulate judges from the political process. We try people with anonymous juries. Parties are represented in courts by professional advocates with a limited personal stake in the outcome. The system of blind justice, while imperfect, has served western civilization well.

Over the last several years evidence has mounted on the disastrous, long-term impact that concussions and repeated head trauma can have an NFL player. The NFL took note, encouraged players to keep a watchful eye on their teammates, put posters up in locker rooms, and prohibited players from returning to games after suffering concussions.

But on the field things continued as normal. That is, until October 6, 2010. The big news that weekend was not the return of Ben Roethlisberger, but two hits by James Harrison.

Those hits led NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to implement an arbitrary policy aimed at cracking down on hard hits, particularly hits to the head.

And he made James Harrison his whipping boy, fining him a record $125,000 dollars. The record reflects that the first several fines that James Harrison drew did not even warrant flags on the field.

Harrison did himself no favors, admitting that while he never sought to injure a fellow player, he did seek to inflict pain. There’s a fine line between the two, particularly when you’re talking about 250-300 pound men running at each other at full speed.

Whether Harrison knew it or not he was throwing the gauntlet down to the NFL, and Roger Goodell and his lackey Ray Anderson were only too happy to pick it up. The James Harrison fine fest began.

The Steelers stood by James Harrison. Art Rooney II was clear that he had no problem with protecting against helmet-to-helmet hits: Rooney’s quibble was with the way the league was changing the rules in mid-season.

Rooney was right of course. He also might have added that Goodell’s enforcement of his 2010 seat-of-the-pants helmet-to-helmet hit policy was arbitrary. Referees started throwing flags for love taps on quarterbacks, at the request of the Tom Brady and Peyton Mannings of the league and, on the flip side, fines started being awarded for plays that no one even thought warranted a flag.

Clarified Rules, Fuzzy Enforcement

The NFL did clarify his rules and procedures aimed at of minimizing head trauma. This is completely the right thing to do, as head trauma could do to the NFL what an incoherent Muhammad Ali did for pro boxing.

Nonetheless, enforcement has been spotty.

In 2011 the NFL has issued ticky tacky fines, reasonable and justified ones, but turned a blind eye to other helmet-to-helmet hits, such as the one James Harrison suffered in Houston. (Interestingly enough, no You Tube video of that hit seems to be available – could it be that the NFL PR people don’t want people to know that all helmet-to-helmet hits are equal, but some helmet-to-helmet hits are more equal…?)

Precedent Breaking Suspension

James Harrison, for all his bravado, has altered his style of play this season, and going into the Browns game he had not been flagged for a helmet-to-helmet hit.

In suspending Harrison, the NFL cited his past history dating back to 2009, and clarified that players had been informed they were not entering 2011 with a clean slate.

Yet, as Neal Coolong of Behind the Steel Curtain documented, several other players with a past history have been guilty of far more blatant violations of the helmet-to-helmet hits. Worse yet, players like Richard Seymour continue to punch people out post whistle hits, and continue to draw smaller fines than ones levied for actions taken in the heat of a game.

The Harrison suspension is without precedent.

The last NFL player to be suspended* for a pre-whistle illegal tackle on a quaterback was Charles Martin. Look at the video for yourself (available as of 12/13/11 – not sure how long before the NFL’s lawyers force YouTube to take this down).

A couple of things stand out:

  • Jim McMahon had clearly released the ball before being hit
  • Charles Martin knew McMahon had thrown the ball
  • McMahon had his back to the rusher
  • Martin not only had time to stop, but adjusted his momentum to deliver a late hit

For this Martin got suspended two games.

Now, look at James Harrison’s offense (video available as of 12/13/11):

Let’s make a few points

  • Colt McCoy had clearly tucked the ball and was running
  • McCoy was facing Harrison
  • Harrison began his tackle while McCoy was still a runner
  • McCoy tossed the ball away at the last moment

No one can argue that Harrison did not lead with the helmet. But that is legal against an open field runner (whether it should be is different question).

You can say that Harrison should have adjusted his strike zone, given that when it comes to quarterbacks, the burden of proof is on the defender. Ok, but unlike Martin, can you reasonably say that Harrison had time to alter his actions when it was clear that McCoy was going to throw the ball?

Regardless, there is no way anyone can argue that Harrison’s act was anywhere near as malicious as Charles Martin’s was 25 years ago.

Eye on Harrison’s Explosion

James Harrison doesn’t say much, but when he does speak, words explode from his mouth. This past off season Harrison took NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to task in an interview with Paul Solotaroff.

Later, the Solotaroff confirmed that Harrison was merely saying on the record what scores of other NFL players were too timid to publicly.

Harrison’s comments went public while the lockout was on, and Roger Goodell could do little to act, and when the lockout ended, Goodell issued no punishment.

One wonders why?

Is it too much to surmise that Goodell simply sat quiet and bided his time until James Harrison gave him an excuse to get even?

There’s no way to prove that of course, but it would be equally hard to disprove the fact that, far from being blind, in the NFL justice is guided by the selective gaze of Goodell’s eye.

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James Harrison to Be Suspended?

Neal Coolong of Behind the Steel Curtain is sharing a report from ESPN that the NFL is considering a “1 to 2 game suspension” for James Harrison’s helmet-to-helmet hit on Cleveland Browns quarterback Colt McCoy.

You can see a replay of the hit itself.

The fact that Harrison made helmet-to-helmet contact is inarguable.

McCoy of course had been running with the ball tucked, and then tossed it out at the last moment. NFL rules stat, however, that in those situations the burden is on the defender, not the quarterback.

Ealier, Bob Smizik of the Post-Gazette cited a Mike Florio article that at least in principle argued merits that Harrison might be innocent. Later, Smizik cited another Florio article that indicated the NFL was indeed planning to punish Harrison.

That Harrison would get a stiff fine from the NFL seems to be an accepted fact, but the ESPN report is the first to suggest that a suspension is in the works.

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Seeing Ourselves in this Pittsburgh Dad Video

The secret behind the success of the ground-breaking show All in the Family wasn’t simply in the fact that the show dared to go where others hand not gone, but rather that it played on cultural sterotypes so well that the audience got a chance to laugh at itself.

I won’t put this video up on the same plane as All in the Family, but I have no doubt that if you’re reading this, you’ll get a chance to see a little of yourself.


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Steelers Nation Can Give Thanks for Antonio Brown

Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday in the US that cuts across all races, colors and creeds. Here at Steel Curtain Rising we initiated a Thanksgiving Day tradition two years ago, singling out something that Steeler Nation had to be thankful for.

In 2009, two games into their 5 game mid-season melt down, we recognized the development of Rashard Mendenhall and praised him for his hustle

In 2010, it was the arrival of Emmanuel Sanders, Maurkice Pouncy, and special team coach Al Everest (although ironically special teams performance dropped off shortly there after.)

  • Here in 2011, Steel Curtain Rising recognizes Antonio Brown.

Long before the world became enamored with the whole Suck For Luck phenomenon it was common to hear friends and foes alike whine about the perils of poor draft position.

antonio brown, steelers vs. bengals 2011, steelers thanksgiving

Antonio Brown after scoring a touchdown vs. the Cincinnati Bengals in 2013 at Heinz Field. Photo Credit: Don Wright, AP via PennLive


Good players are there to be had in every round.

Antonio Brown offers proof. Drafted in the 6th round of the 2010 NFL draft out of Central Michigan, Antonio Brown had a promising rookie year, complete with the team’s first kickoff TD since 2007:

and an incredible side of the helmet catch in the playoffs vs. Baltimore.

Those plays were tremendous, but fortunately they were simply a warm up act.

Antonio Brown simply improves with each game and exhibits an almost uncanny pass catching ability that could easily grow to surpass that of any other Steelers wide receiver in history.

The Steelers are a small, but important part of our lives. I both trust and hope that all of you reading this have far more important blessings to be thankful for and share in with friends and family on this special day.

Yet as Steelers fans, the development of Antonio Brown is one thing we can all be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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