Final Word: James Harrison’s Steelers Desertion Viewed by a Blogger Unable to Write as it Unfoleded

As every Steelers fan registering a pulse now knows, the Pittsburgh Steelers not only cut James Harrison before Christmas, but the linebacking legend signed with the arch enemy New England Patriots.

  • In highly uncanny and very personal sense, this story confirms that all is normal in the world.

And that’s because big Steelers news tends to break while yours truly is traveling and/or unable to write about it. Whether Antonio Brown resigning, Bruce Arians getting fired or Troy Polamalu retiring, its almost like a little light goes on at the South Side saying, “Ok, something big needs to happen NOW.”

James Harrison Patriots

Outside of the Ryan Shazier injury, has Steelers Nation seen a sadder sight this season? Photo Credit:

And so it was that 24 hours after arriving to spend my first Christmas in the United States since 2000, I got a text from my cousin informing me that Steelers had cut James Harrison. Family comes first, (Dan Rooney would certainly agree) and so Steel Curtain Rising said nothing.

  • In fact, the frustration over being unable to write was in fact a blessing in disguise.

My first reaction was “This is wrong.” And had I written anything, aim would have been taken at Art Rooney II, Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin for such an unceremonious parting with a franchise legend while leaving the Daniel McCullers and Justin Hunters of the Steelers roster intact.

  • Then of course the situation took another twist, with the Patriots signed Harrison.

The move smacked of psychological warfare on the part of Bill Belichick, and only seemed to galvanize injustice of the situation. How could this be happening? Yet, because of both work and family obligations, Steel Curtain Rising remained silent, while the storm raged on the blogsphere.

If journalism is the first draft of history, then blogging provides a rough draft of journalism. To blog is to react, and sometimes, quite frankly, its best for bloggers to keep their mouths shut, even if that silence is a product of circumstance rather than choice.

  • And the James Harrison fiasco certainly qualifies as on of those situations.

The Steelers locker room remain relatively silent regarding Harrison’s dismissal, but Debos former teammates unload on him the moment he inked his deal with the Patriots.

  • Maurkice Pouncey said he erased his legacy and spit in the Rooney’s face.
  • Fellow linebackers Bud Dupree and Vince Williams called out their former teammate.
  • Marcus Gilbert berated Harrison for not being more honest about forcing his own departure.

The picture that James Harrison’s teammates painted was far different than that Steelers fans have come to know. Silverback was sleeping in meetings and walking out on his teammates on game days after learning he was to be inactive. Instead of serving as a Jerome Bettis-like mentor, Harrison was acted like a selfish brat.

Yep. Sometimes the best favor a fate an offer a blogger is a chance NOT to write about a big story as it is breaking.

The James Harrison Departure in 1 Word: Disappointing

A single word suffices to describe James Harrison’s parting with Pittsburgh: Disappointing. The image below drives that home poignantly.

James Harrison, Art Rooney II, James Harrison Art Rooney Handshake

Happier times. Art Rooney II shakes James Harrison’s hand after the Steelers playoff win over the Chiefs. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

Fans forget, but the Steelers defense struggled mightily in during the first half of 2016 and was so bad that Mexican blogger Carlos Ortega went as far as to compare it to the 1988 Steelers defense (which finished last in the NFL).
While the development of Artie Burns, Sean Davis and Javon Hargrave was critical you can pinpoint the turn around to Mike Tomlin’s decision to bench Jarvis Jones and start James Harrison following the disaster against Dallas.

The Steelers playoff win over the Chiefs had ended with Harrison drawing a rare holding flag on the Chief’s 2 point conversion, setting up Sean Davis’ pass defense in the end zone. Hollywood couldn’t have scripted it better. Harrison still wanted to play, the Steelers wanted him back, and signed him to a two year deal complete with a 1 million dollar roster bonus.

  • Yet, the Steelers also knew that their future at right outside linebacker wasn’t to be found in a 39 year old man.
  • So they went out and drafted T.J. Watt.

The stage seemed to be set for Jerome Bettis-Willie Parker in reverse, this time with the Super Bowl record setting undrafted rookie free agent mentoring the ballyhood first round draft pick. Except it didn’t happen that way. Jim Wexell and Dale Lolley signaled during training camp that Harrison might be on the roster bubble.

  • Steel Curtain Rising took their cautions seriously, but speculated that the Steelers were merely “Bettising Harrison.”

Instead, as the season evolved, it looked like Harrison might play a role more closer to what Duce Staley played in 2005 – the veteran buried deep on the depth chart who nonetheless stepped up to deliver in spot duty (see Staley vs the Packers in 2005, Harrison on the closing plays vs the Chiefs and Ravens.)

But we now know that analogy falls flat. Harrison wasn’t the mentor, wasn’t the veteran gracefully aging into the football locker room equivalent of an elder statesman. No, instead James Harrison acted as a malcontent.

Anyone To Blame for This Fiasco? Yes – Harrison

Often times life requires you to give up something, to get something. No Steelers fan who remembers Cliff Stoudt, Mark Malone or even Bubby Brister, Neil O’Donnell or Kordell Stewart slinging the ball wants to see Big Ben strike midnight.

  • But the sight of Ben Roethlisberger and James Harrison hosting Lombardi Number 7 and announcing their Life’s Work would be poetic, beautiful and bittersweet.

Ain’t gonna happen now. The question is, is anyone to blame?

The NFL is a results driven business, and Mike Tomlin’s job is to make sure this kind of thing didn’t happen. But Harrison had to know the Steelers didn’t draft T.J. Watt to sit him. He had to see the development of Anthony Chickillo threatened his playing time. Joey Porter also made it clear, VERY early on that the rotation at OLB was over.

While James Harrison has always marched to his own drummer, he had never been a disruptive force in the locker room. And James Harrison has been in Pittsburgh long enough to know that the way to win the favor of Mike Tomlin wasn’t to mail it in.

Its easy to say that “Tomlin suspended Rashard Mendenhall for no-showing at games when he was inactive, so he shouldn’t have had a double standard for Harrison.” Which is true, but in a season filled with Antonio Brown’s tantrums, Martavis Bryant demanding a trade, Ryan Shazier’s injury, would Tomlin really have been wise to create another distraction?

  • As it was, the Harrison situation was kept under wraps until he openly complained in December.

At the end of the day, James Harrison had a choice: He could embrace the Steelers way, and act as a mentor off the field and contribute on the field when called upon or he could pout and act like a spoiled brat.

  • Like fellow Steeler-turned Patriot LeGarrette Blount, James Harrison deserted his teammates.

James Harrison chose to conduct himself like a 16 year old who throws a tantrum when he can’t have the car keys to the car, even when he knows it’s the only way for Mom and Dad to get to work. It is sad. This never should have ended this way. But the person to blame for this fiasco is James Harrison plain and simple.

Like this? Share it with Steelers Nation!

Pittsburgh Steelers 2017 Roster Shaped by Coates and Cockrell Trades, Haden Signing

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2017 Roster is almost fully in focus as Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert made a flurry of moves to get their roster to the league mandated 53 man limit. And in doing so the Steelers dynamic-duo showed that they were once again unafraid to venture outside their comfort zone, including:

  • trading Sammie Coates and a 2019 7th round pick to Cleveland for a 2018 6th round pick
  • trading Ross Cockrell for an undisclosed draft pick

While trading a player in lieu of cutting them isn’t terribly unorthodox, it hasn’t been the Steelers standard operating procedure, especially when it comes on the heels of the Vance McDonald trade and the signing of Joe Haden. Beyond that the Steelers made a number of cuts which count as surprises:

Mike Hilton, a training camp and preseason sensation, also made the team as the Steelers will keep 7 cornerbacks.

Steelers 2017 roster, Ben Roethlisberger, Martavis Bryant

Hopefully, Ben Roethlisberger cheering as Martavis Bryant takes off will become a familiar sight. Photo Credit: Peter Diana, Post-Gazette

Steelers 2017 Roster by Position

Quarterbacks (3)
Ben Roethlisberger, Landry Jones, and Joshua Dobbs.

No surprises here.

Running Backs (4)
Le’Veon Bell*, Terrell Watson, James Conner and Roosevelt Nix

Terrell Watson’s power rushing pushed veterans Fitzgerald Toussaint and Davis off the team. Note, Le’Veon Bell doesn’t officially count against the 53 man roster yet.

Wide Receivers (6)
Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Eli Rogers, Justin Hunter and Darrius Heyward-Bey.

No surprises among the first four. Keeping Justin Hunter around will make Ben Roethlisberger happy, and DHB makes team largely because of special teams.

Tight Ends (3)
Vance McDonald, Jesse James and Xavier Grimble.

Jake McGee played well in preseason, but will likely head to practice squad. This site’s got a soft spot for underdogs, making it tough to see David Johnson go.

Offensive Line (9)
Alejandro Villanueva, Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Marcus Gilbert, Chris Hubbard, B.J. Finney, Jerald Hawkins and Matt Feiler.

9 offensive lineman might seem a little high, but if the Steelers 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 season painfully proved, you can never have enough good offensive lineman.

Defensive Line (6)
Cameron Heyward, Javon Hargrave, Stephon Tuitt, Tyson Alualu, L. T. Walton and Daniel McCullers.

A late push by McCullers saves his roster spot. On paper, this is the deepest defensive line Johnny Mitchell has ever had to work with – and he’s been coaching despite being given every chance. Assume he’ll be back on the practice squad.

Outside Linebackers (5)
Bud Dupree, T.J. Watt, James Harrison, Anthony Chickillo and Arthur Moats.

Keeping 5 outside linebackers might seem like a luxury, but remember Arthur Moats has position flexibility to move inside in a pinch.

Inside Linebackers (4)
Ryan Shazier, Vince Williams, Tyler Matakevich and L.J. Fort.

If Shazier stays healthy, this group should be OK. Still it looks a lot less athletic with Timmons in Miami.

Cornerbacks (7)
Artie Burns, Joe Haden, William Gay, Mike Hilton, Cam Sutton, Coty Sensabaugh and Brian Allen.

It almost seems like the Steelers are trying to use quantity to compensate with quality issues…

Safeties (4)
Mike Mitchell, Sean Davis, Robert Golden and Jordan Dangerfield.

To the naked eye this looks good for the Steelers. However, Mike Mitchell has been injured for most of cap, Jordan Dangerfield got injured in the final preseason game, and Robert Golden is not a long term starter.

Specialist (3)
Chris Boswell, Jordan Berry, Kameron Canaday.

It seems that Kameron Canaday and not Colin Holba is the heir Greg Warren.

Finally, to the surprise of no one, the Steelers cut Senquez Golson, their 2nd round draft pick from the 2015 NFL Draft whose NFL career at this point consists of a handful of training camp practices. When fans have asked Steelers Digest editor Bob Labriola about whether Golson would return to the practice squad, his stock answer is that he needs to be healthy enough to practice first.

  • Beyond signing their practice squad, the Steelers will also likely need to make another move as Le’Veon Bell does not yet count against their 53 man roster.

There’s a good chance that the Steelers will create space for Le’Veon Bell by putting Cam Sutton on IR, but the Steelers have hardly been predictable of late.

Like this? Share it with Steelers Nation!

Steelers 2017 Draft Needs @ Defensive Line: Low-Moderate

Getting “Younger and stronger” on defensive line was one of Mike Tomlin’s stated objectives when the Steelers 2008 off season began. As it was, the Steelers would continue to open with the same starting threesome for the next 3 seasons, and it wasn’t until the beginning of the 2015 season that Steelers defensive line had been completely renewed.

The question heading into the 2017 NFL Draft is whether the Steelers want to stand pat or continue that renewal process.

Stephon Tuitt, Tyrod Taylor, Steelers 2017 Draft Needs Defensive line

Tyrod Taylor is road kill in Stephon Tuitt’s wake. Photo Credit: Tom Szczerbowski, Getty Images via Bleacher Report

Steelers Depth Chart @ Defensive Line Entering the 2017 NFL Draft – the Starters

Two studs in the form of defensive ends Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt bookend the Steelers defensive line.

During his first two years with the Steelers Cam Heyward doubters were easy to find, but in 2013 he beat out Ziggy Hood for the starting job and since then has established himself as one of the best defensive ends in the league. Cameron Heyward has 25 sacks, 18 passes defensed and a pair of forced fumbles and fumble recoveries to his name, but staistics do not do the man justice.

Week in and week out, Cameron Heyward makes the types of plays that don’t always show up on the stat sheet – unless you count the Steelers keeping more points on the board than their opponents.

Injuries to Brett Keisel thrust Stephon Tuitt into the starting line up late in the 2014 season, and no one has looked back since. With Cameron Heyward out for the second half of 2016, Stephon Tuitt stepped up as a leader of the unit, and despite Cam’s absence, the Steelers defense improved during the latter part of the season.

If you’re surprised to discover that Javon Hargrave didn’t start the entire year, so was I. He had to wait until week to get his first start, but held on to the job from that point in the season, and established himself along side Artie Burns and Sean Davis as one of the three rookies who made an immediate impact to improve the Steelers defense.

Like his fellow rookies, something clicked for Hargrave during the second half of the season, as Hargrave got his first sack and first fumble recovery in the Steelers road win over the Cleveland Browns. Hargrave got another sack in the Steelers Thanksgiving win over the Colts, and also got to Tom Brady early in the AFC Championship game loss.

Steelers Depth Cart @ Defensive Line Entering the 2017 NFL Draft – Backups

Finding depth on the Steelers defensive line has been a challenge for Pittsburgh, forcing Johnny Mitchell give his starters more snaps than he would like.

  • In 2016 the Steelers defensive line took a step in the right direction, as L.T. Walton stepped up in Cam Heyward’s absence as did Ricardo Mathews.

The Steelers have taken another step in that direction by signing free agent Tyson Alualu, a former first round pick out of Jacksonville who can play either at defensive end or a nose tackle.

Tyson Alualu’s arrival might spell the end for backup nose tackle Daniel McCullers. The Shady Tree offers and imposing physical presence, standing at 6’7” 352 pounds and his snap count percentage did jump from 9.5% in 2015 to 17.4% in 2016, which is good, but given all of the injuries the Steelers suffered on the defensive line, you’d expect to see McCullers getting even more playing time.

Injuries forced practice squad player John Maxey into the action in late in 2016 and Maxley did his part to help prove Mike Tomlin’s “The Standard is the Standard.”

Steelers 2017 Draft Need at Defensive Line

The Steelers quest to rebuild their defensive line took longer than expected, although part of that is due to the longevity of Brett Keisel and Casey Hampton (although whiffing on Ziggy Hood didn’t help the cause.)Steelers 2017 Draft Needs defensive line

  • Yet, even after the Steelers found three competent starters on defensive line, they struggled to back them up.

Time was that when the Steelers had to play without either Cameron Heyward or Stephon Tuitt, the Steelers run defense became a sieve and the team lost. That fact seemed to doom the Steelers chances after Cameron Heyward went on injured reserve in 2016.

However, the rest of the defensive line responded and not only survived but thrived despite Cam Heyward’s absence. That shows that the Pittsburgh Steelers have real depth on their defensive line, and the unit got deeper with the addition of Alualu Tyson.

Let’s be clear, in the contemporary NFL, the difference between an outside linebacker and a defensive end is getting blurred by the concept of “Edge Rusher” and that’s not even taking to account that the Steelers depend on their nickel package, which includes four down lineman, all the more frequently.

  • Edge Rusher” is clearly a Steelers priority, and if they find someone who falls into that category who happens to play defensive line, then the rating you’re about to read is rendered moot.

However, if we’re confining our conversation to conventional 3-4 defensive lineman then the Steelers depth chart is as solid as it has been during the Mike Tomlin era, and Steelers draft need at defensive line can be considered Low-Moderate.

Like this? Share it with Steelers Nation!

Steelers Sign Tyson Alualu. Has Johnny Mitchell Found the Coveted “4th Lineman” for His Rotation?

After remaining relatively inactive during the first wave of free agency, Pittsburgh as been busy this week signing three players into days with the franchise’s latest acquisition seeing the Steelers sign Tyson Alualu the free agent defensive lineman from Jacksonville to a two year contract.

  • During the 2010 NFL Draft the Jacksonville Jaguars surprised the rest of the league when they drafted Tyson Alualu with the 10th overall pick.

Since then Tyson Alualu has had a solid, but hardly spectacular career, although it should be noted that he did make several “All Rookie teams” in 2010, per reporting by Jim Wexell on Steel City Insider.

Tyson Alualu, Steelers 2017 free agents, Steelers defensive line

Steelers reserve defensive lineman Tyson Alualu in Pittsburgh after arriving as a free agent. Photo Credit: Ed Bouchette, Post-Gazette

With seven seasons under his belt, Tyson Alualu provides a perfect example of a player who may not have lived up to his lofty draft status, but is very far from being a bust. He’s never missed a game due to injury, he brings the Steelers 88 games of starting experience, 17.5 sacks, and offers position flexibility with the ability to play either nose tackle or defensive end.

All of this must make for pure music in the ears of Steelers defensive line coach Johnny Mitchell

Does Johnny Mitchell Finally Have his Coveted 4th Lineman?

Pittsburgh Steelers defensive line coach Johnny Mitchell has been with the team since the fall of 1994, having replace Steve Furness as part of Bill Cowher‘s coaching purge following the 1993 season. During Johnny Mitchell’s watch and, particularly during the Kevin Colbert era, the Steelers defensive line has been a model of stability.

While each of those starters played a critical role in securing Lombardi Trophies in Super Bowl XL and Super Bowl XLIII, their impact and importance of their understudies cannot be under stated. Johnny Mitchell’s system relies heavily on rotating defensive lineman in and out throughout the game.

  • But for Mitchell’s system to be effective, the Steelers can’t suffer a drop of in quality of play when the starter has taken a breather.

For a long time, players like Chris Hoke, Travis Kirschke and Nick Eason were good enough to allow Mitchell rotate Keisel, Smith and Hampton in out as needed. In his two years in Pittsburgh, Al Woods looked he was growing into that same role but the Steelers stint in salary cap purgatory in prevented the team from keeping Al Woods in Pittsburgh in 2014.

They signed Cam Thomas instead, who was decidedly not up to the role. Daniel McCullers whom the Steelers drafted during the 2014 NFL Draft has flashed, but has yet to show he can take that role. Ricardo Mathews performed well after Cam Hewyard was lost for the season and so did L.T. Walton.

  • But the Steelers appear to have found an upgrade from both men in Tyson Alualu.

During the heyday of Aaron Smith, Casey Hampton and Brett Keisel’s tenures, Johnny Mitchell quipped – not altogether jokingly – the he would retire when this trio began their “Life’s Work.” The arrival of Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt and most recently Javon Hargrave has provided Mitchell with another fearsome threesome.

Tyson Alualu just might provide the type of talent and stability that Mitchell needs to get his rotation humming.

Struggling to keep up with Steelers free agency? Click here for our Steelers 2017 Steelers Free Agent tracker and/or click here for all Steelers 2017 free agency focus articles.

Like this? Share it with Steelers Nation!

Pittsburgh Steelers Report Card for the Overtime Win over the Browns

Taken from the grade book of a teacher who is proud to see average, everyday students rise to the occasion with the star pupils out, here is the Pittsburgh Steelers Report Card for the overtime win over Cleveland.

DeAngelo Williams, DeAngelo Williams touchdown Browns, Marcus Gilbert, Jesse James

DeAngelo Williams celebrates his touchdown against the Browns with Jesse James and Marcus Gilbert. Photo Credit: Christopher Horner, Tribune Review

Quarterback
The game’s very first series made it clear that Landry Jones wasn’t going to get the same protection that Ben Roethlisberger got, and Landry Jones struggled for much of the first half. And Landry Jones’ interception at the end of the 3rd quarter was as ugly as it gets. But Jones pushed on, and led the Steelers to two touchdowns in the 4th quarter and another in overtime. Jones also deserves credit for his heads up play in recovering a fumble in the end zone. And Jones did all of this with the Steelers top weapons on offense sitting on the bench. If we apply the same standard we applied last week to Ben Roethlisberger, there’s only 1 grade for Landry. Grade: Asteelers, report card, steelers grades, coaching, special teams, unsung heroes, steelers vs. Browns

Running Backs
One of the big questions heading into the game was how well DeAngelo Williams would respond after 9 games on ice. Fantasy Football owners who started Williams are probably suffering from buyer’s remorse. Mike Tomlin and Todd Haley, however, are not. On the surface, Williams 1 yard rushing in the first half and his overall 67 yards on 22 carries remain unimpressive. But Williams ripped off runs of 12, 10 and 8 in the second half, scored the Steelers first two touchdowns. He also did an incredible job in avoiding safety when the Steelers were backed into their own end zone.

Fitzgerald Toussaint had 3 carries for 14 yards including a 12 yarder, and Roosevelt Nix had 2 catches for five yards. Grade: B+

Tight Ends
Jesse James had two catches for 16 yards on 3 targets. Neither Xavier Grimble nor David Johnson had a carry. The Steelers tight ends had a solid, if not spectacular performance against the Browns. Grade: B

Wide Receivers
Eli Rogers led the team with 6 catches for 61 yards taking another important developmental step forward. As did, Cobi Hamilton who caught the game winner as well as a critical completion during the 3rd quarter. Demarcus Ayers looked good in his second NFL game, finding his way to the end zone for a go ahead score in the 4th quarter. Darrius Heyward-Bey saw his first action in 9 weeks, and came away with on reception for 46 yards. Overall a very good day for the Steelers wide receivers. Grade: B+

Offensive Line
B.J. Finney made several starts at right guard for Ramon Foster this season and played well enough that some bloggers suggested his comparative salary cap value might make Foster expendable during the 2017 off season.

  • No one is going to say that about his performance in place of Maurkice Pouncey.

It is probably unfair to scapegoat Finney, but the truth is that the Browns got pressure on Landry Jones on several third downs, and each time it looked like they came right up the middle. Indeed, the line struggled to protect their quarterback for the first time in recent memory, and the rushing lanes weren’t quite as solid. Grade: C-

Defensive Line
Injuries left the Pittsburgh Steelers playing their 3rd string defensive line for most of the day. The truth is that the Browns ran the ball a little too easily. OK, a big part of this has to do with James Harrison being out (who essentially plays a defensive end in the Steelers nickel alignment), but if the Standard is the Standard, then the Steelers defensive line fell a little short, although Daniel McCullers did get a sack on Robert Griffin III. Grade: C-

Ryan Shazier, Bud Dupree, George Atkinson

Ryan Shazier and Bud Dupree sandwich George Atkinson in the Steelers overtime win vs. the Browns. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

Linebackers
Does anyone still debate why the Steelers rushed to pick Ryan Shazier instead of a defensive back in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft? Ryan Shazier led the Steelers linebackers securing an interception at the 5 yard line, and helping ensure that the Browns would lose 14 yards when on 3rd and Goal at the Steelers 2 in overtime. Jarvis Jones had his best game as a Pittsburgh Steelers, sacking RGIII once, forcing another fumble as the Browns threatened to score, and batting away a pass in overtime. Bud Dupree had another sack, and another tackle for the loss. Lawrence Timmons had 6 tackles.

While the Steelers linebackers had a strong day, they too bear some of the responsibility for the breakdowns in the run defense so their grade must reflect that. Grade: B+

Secondary
Sean Davis led the unit and the Steelers defense overall with 9 tackles, a sack, a tackle for a loss and another QB hit. Mind you, the man is playing safety. Artie Burns had 8 tackles, and batted away a pass that he almost intercepted. Ross Cockrell’s name wasn’t heard much, and that’s good for a cornerback. William Gay had a key pass defense, while Mike Mitchell had 8 tackles and a fumble recovery. A solid day for the Steelers secondary, particularly in the Red Zone. Grade: B+

Ross Cockrell, Seth Delvalve touchdown steelers, steelers vs. browns overtime

Seth Delvalve scores for the Browns as Ross Cockrell attempts to stop him. Photo Credit: Christopher Horner

Special Teams
Chris Boswell was 3-3 on his extra points and Jordan Berry had an excellent day punting on an afternoon where the Steelers found themselves backed up in their own end zone too often.

Eli Rogers returned 3 punts for a total of 15 yards with a long return of 10 yards. While that’s nice, he did bobble one return – which cannot happen during the playoffs. Cobi Hamilton returned 3 kick offs for 44 yards which is as unimpressive as it looks.

  • The real concern here is the Steelers kick coverage.

The Browns averaged 30 yards on their kickoff returns, or five more than they’d get in touchbacks, and Mario Alford returned 3 punts for 26 yards including one return of 17 yards. Those are the types of return yardage numbers that can tip a close playoff game in the wrong direction…. Grade: C-

Coaching
Mike Tomlin’s Christmas present to Todd Haley was to ask him to devise a winning game plan after taking away his top 4 offensive players. The truth is that Haley’s offense sputtered for much of the day, but once they got in a groove, they scored 21 points in less than two quarters.

  • Keith Butler didn’t have the same “excuse” as only James Harrison was held out of the game.

That alone made it clear just how much James Harrison means to the Steelers running game. Had the stakes in the game been higher, Butler likely would have played the Steelers nickel less. While the Steelers defense likely made some Fantasy Football owners happy, the fact is that they secured two Red Zone turnovers in addition to stuffing a 3rd down attempt for a 14 yard loss defending their own two.

  • I’ll take that.

Finally, Mike Tomlin sent an important signal when he benched the Steelers top players. But he also insisted it would be “Business as normal” for everyone who did suit up. Tomlin lived true to his word. It would have been easy for Tomlin to either intentionally coach towards a tie or to make other decisions that would have left Cleveland with a win, particularly in overtime.

Instead, Mike Tomlin played to win, and his players responded by delivering a win. This is exactly what the mentality and level of execution Pittsburgh needs heading into the playoffs. Grade: A

Unsung Hero Award
When Landry Jones threw his interception at the end of the 3rd quarter and Briean Boddy-Calhoun streaked to the end zone for an apparent pick-six that looked to doom the Steelers for the afternoon. But one player continued to hustle, never gave up, and ended up catching Boddy-Calhoun and knocking out the ball before he scored a touchdown.

  • The play saved a touchdown, and sparked the Steelers rally.

This is exactly the type of hustle at all times mentality a team needs in the playoffs, and for that Darrius Heyward-Bey wins the Unsung Hero Award for the Steelers overtime win over the Browns.

Like this? Share it with Steelers Nation!

Vote Now Steelers Nation: Steelers Game Ball Winners for Browns Game

Apologies to everyone for getting this up so late, but this site has had some security issues to deal with which have taken priority. As we do after every Steelers win, we invite this corner of Steelers Nation to vote game ball winners for the win over the Browns.

landry jones, eli rogers, joe haden, steelers 2016 finale vs. browns,

Joe Haden can’t stop Landry Jones from connecting with Eli Rogers in Steelers comeback win over the Browns. Photo Credit: Chaz Palla, Tribune Review

Landry Jones earns top ballot position, for his 3 touchdown performance and his come from behind overtime victory effort. Next comes DeAngelo Williams, whose overall number might not offer a lot of sex appeal, but he ran stronger as the game wore on, and he scored the team’s first two touchdowns.

This poll is closed! Poll activity:
start_date 12-06-2014 18:49:27
end_date 01-07-2017 13:29:59
Poll Results:
Who do you think deserves a game ball for the Steelers win over the Browns (votes for multiple players allowed)

Eli Rogers, Cobi Hamilton and Darrius Heyward-Bey all get ballot positions, as each man made critical plays.

Sean Davis leads balloting for the Steelers defense, as he lead the Steelers in tackles, had a sack and recovered a fumble. He’s followed by Mike Mitchell who recovered a fumble and was next in tackles for the Steelers. Bud Dupree, Daniel McCullers and Jarvis Jones all get nods on the ballot as each man recorded a sack, (a strip-sack in the case of Jarvis Jones.)

  • Ryan Shazier has the last ballot slot for the defense, but he certainly is not the least deserving.

Shazier had an interception in the Red Zone, and made a spectacular play in overtime to force a field goal.

Write In Votes Not only Allowed, but Encouraged

Remember however, these Steelers game ball winner polls aren’t about who I think should get them, they’re about how you think should win them. So if you think that Jesse James or Demarcus Ayers deserves a game ball, write their names in. Ditto Roosevelt Nix.

Same goes for the defense. If you think that Lawrence Timmons, Artie Burns or even William Gay deserves to win a game ball, write their names in! Better yet, write their names in and leave a comment stating your case!

Thanks for voting and thanks for your patience. Please check back for our full analysis of the overtime win over the Browns.

Like this? Share it with Steelers Nation!

Steelers Report Card for Bengals Win: Chris Boswell Kicks Cincinnati Bengals Buckett

Taken from the grade book of a teacher who seen his students ace 5 straight test-sections in a row but know that it’s the six one that will determine the grade of the entire exam, here is the Steelers Report Card for the win over the Bengals.

2016 Steelers win at Cincinnati, Le'Veon Bell, David Johnson, David DeCastro, Ben Roethlisberger

David Johnson and David DeCastro open holes for Le’Veon Bell in the Steelers win at Cincinnati. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

Quarterback
Ben Roethlisberger probably didn’t make a lot of fantasy owners happy on Sunday, completing 21 passes on 36 tries for 286 yards. The truth is that Ben Roethlisberger was off a number of times, and had a few questionable balls. But Ben Roethlisberger protected the ball, the Steelers moved the chains, and his laser strike touchdown to Eli Rogers came at exactly the right time. Grade: Bsteelers, report card, steelers grades, coaching, special teams, unsung heroes, steelers vs. Bengals

Running Backs
Mike Tomlin had indicated the DeAngelo Williams might suit up for this game, but Williams did not dress, leaving it to Le’Veon Bell to carry the load for the offense again. Le’Veon Bell didn’t have the dominating type game that has been a stable of the Steelers previous four wins, but he found the tough yards on the ground to put the Steelers into manageable down and distance situation gaining 93 yards on 21 carries. As he as he always does, Bell also did his damage catching balls out of the air, catching 5 passes for 28 yards. Roosevelt Nix once again acquitted himself at fullback. Grade: B

Tight Ends
Against the Colts and the Giants, Ladarius Green showed he could be a “field flipping” tight end, which is a welcome sign. However, against the Bills he struggled a little, but bounced back against the Bengals making several tough catches in the middle, making 5 receptions for 72 yards. David Johnson had one catch for 12 yards. Chris Hubbard continued to work as an extra tight end, and Xavier Grimble and Jesse James both got extensive work as blockers. Overall, a strong performance from the tight ends. Grade: B+

Wide Receivers
Eli Rogers led the Steelers wide outs, making a number of key catches downfield including the team’s only touchdown. Cobi Hamilton made one 21 yard catch that help setup the Steelers last 1st half field goal, while Sammie Coates caught one pass for 10 yards on a scoring drive, but was targeted 3 other times, although he probably should have drawn pass interference penalties on at least two of those catches. A solid day by the receivers. Grade: B+

Offensive Line
In the first outing against the Bengals, Cincinnati sacked Ben Roethlisberger once, just as they did on Sunday, although Ben’s sack really came as the result of a bobbled snap. Other than that, the Steelers offensive line kept their quarterback clean. In the first outgoing against the Bengals, as a team the Steelers averaged 3.4 yards per carry, on Sunday that percentage dropped a hair to 3.3 yards, but the Steelers rushing average increases to 3.9 yards a carry if you discount Ben Roethlisberger’s kneel downs at the end.

It wasn’t a perfect day for the offensive line, as David DeCastro got flagged for a couple of penalties, but the Steelers offensive line improved in their second outing against the Bengals, and they needed it to. Grade: A-

Defensive Line
The Steelers defensive line lost Stephon Tuitt early in the game and then lost Ricardo Mathews later in the game, forcing L.T. Walton, Daniel McCullers and Javon Hargrave to go it alone. If this unit struggled a bit against the run in the first half, they more than made up for it in the second half as Bengals running backs ran for 8 yards in the second half. The trio might not have put up any dazzling stats, but if these men don’t do their job, the linebackers don’t look nearly as good. Grade: A-

Linebackers
Games like this show just how badly stats can mislead. One might look at James Harrison’s totals, and think that without any sacks or hits to the quarterback or tackles for losess, Harrison simply ran up a nice tackle count. Nothing could be further from the case. James Harrison was intremental in neutralizing the Bengals rushing attack. Lawrence Timmons continued to show that he remains a vialbe, play making linebackiner in this defense, pulling down another interception and helping sustain the momentum in the second half, momentum which Ryan Shazier started by ending the Bengals first half possession with a sack. Bud Dupree had a difficult time against the Bengals offensive line, showing the limits of his athleticism. Still, he made it into the backfield on more than one occasion. Grade: A

Secondary
Mike Mitchell led the Steelers defensive backs in tackles and got his hands on a ball that could have been an interception. Sean Davis was next including a tackle for a loss that he split with Timmons. The biggest plays however came on successive third downs as first Ross Cockrell and then Artie Burns batted way sideline passes that, had they been completed, would have kept the drives alive. As Steelers Digest Editor Bob Labirola argued, a year ago the Steelers cornerbacks fail to make those plays (think about it, does Antwon Blake defense either of those passes…?) Those were difference makers in this game. Grade: A

Special Teams
First, there simply aren’t sufficient accolades to praise Chris Boswell’s performance. How many NFL kickers have made three 49 yard field goals in one game? He also hit 45 and 40 yarders. All outdoors, in December in the AFC North. Boswell of course make a critical tackle that saved a touchdown (and Keith Butler’s defense worked the short field to force a field goal.)

  • Sammie Coates added some much needed sparkle by giving the Steelers a 44 yard kick off return that set up the Steelers first score.

While these positives carry the most weight in the final game for the special teams, Fitzgerald Toussaint’s poor decision making and poor returns must be taken into account. Moreover, Alex Erickson 72 yard return could have been a game changer for Cincinnati. Grade: B

Coaching

For all of its flaws, Cincinnati remains a talented team with a defense that has shown an ability to give the Steelers offense fits. While Todd Haley has a long way to go before anyone can say he’s mastered the Bengals defense, but on this Sunday, he found the right mix of ball control and vertical passing that allowed the Steelers to get enough points on the board to get out of Paul Brown Stadium with a win.

  • Keith Butler had a more complicated task, stop a talented Bengals offense short-handed on the defensive line.

As mentioned above, the Steelers completely shut out the Bengals in the second half, eliminating the run while the Steelers linebackers and secondary made Andy Dalton look like David Klingler on third downs.

Finally, Mike Tomlin and his staff took a lot of criticism here for abandoning the run against Miami; others critiqued them for sticking to the run too closely vs. Baltimore. The truth is that a good coach knows when to change things up in midstream (see last week vs. the Bills) and when to stick to his guns.

As the first half ended with Cincinnati scoring on each possession and the Steelers looking at an 11 point deficit Mike Tomlin told CBS Sports that there was nothing the Steelers needed to so much as to stop beating themselves with penalties.

  • And the Steelers did just that in the second half.

While it is impossible to credit Tomlin completely with that turnaround, the fact is that the Steelers never gave in to despair, and continued to chip away at Cincinnati’s lead until going ahead late in the 4th. That’s a sign of a well-coached team if there ever was one. Grade: A-

Unsung Hero Award
When was the last time that Antonio Brown didn’t lead Steelers wide receivers? I’m not about to do the research, but “a long time ago” will suffice. Antonio Brown didn’t dominate as he usually does, but he made critical catches that set up scores. He also had a touchdown negated by a penalty, and drew a holding call late in the game that iced the game for the Steelers and for that Antonio Brown wins the Unsung Hero Award for the Steelers 2016 win over the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium.

Like this? Share it with Steelers Nation!

Chris Boswell Kicks 6 Field Goals as Steelers Beat Bengals 24-20, Set up Christmas Showdown

In the 15th week of the NFL’s 2016 season, the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Cincinnati Bengals to the tune of 24-20 at Paul Brown Stadium. Officially, the victory gives the Steelers their 5th straight win, improves their record to 9-5 and keeps them one game ahead of the Baltimore Ravens.

  • Each of those accomplishments represents a necessary step that advances the Steelers towards the playoffs.

But reaching the playoffs isn’t the Steelers goal, winning the Super Bowl is. And in the game against the Bengals, the Steelers also showed progress on another front that they must master if they are to bring home Lombardi Number 7 this season.

In scoring 15 unanswered second half points against the Bengals, the Steelers showed that they can muster the discipline to avoid the self-destructive penalties that have plagued them for the last several weeks.

2016 Steelers vs. Bengals Paul Brown Stadium, Ryan Shazier, Andy Dalton

Ryan Shazier sacks Andy Dalton in the Steelers 24-20 win over the Bengals. Photo Credit: Chaz Palla, Pittsburgh Tribune Review

Steelers vs. Bengals First Half: When in Doubt, Look for a Flag

As a team, the Pittsburgh Steelers improved on several fronts during their recent four game winning streak.

  • The Steelers offensive line began playing complete games, simultaneously protecting Ben Roethlisberger and opening holes for Le’Veon Bell.
  • The Steelers run defense began shutting down opposing ground attacks.
  • Keith Butler found away both to turn up the pressure on opposing passers and secure turnovers.
  • Artie Burns, Sean Davis and Javon Hargrave stopped playing like rookies.
  • Ladarius Green showed he could help add a vertical element to the passing game.

At first these milestones came with an asterisk – after all, the Steelers had “only” accomplished these feats by beating Cleveland or the Luckless Colts. The wins against the Giants and the Bills helped wipe away those asterisks, but Pittsburgh’s peevish penchant for self-destructive penalties persisted.

Whether the Steelers were screwing up field positions on special teams, or nullifying turnovers thanks to untimely penalties, the tendency continued as Pittsburgh stacked wins. The wiser scribes in Steelers Nation scolded that sooner or later, these penalties would come back to haunt the Steelers.

And during the first half against the Cincinnati Bengals, it looked like the Steelers were going to do themselves in with flags.

  • A facemask against Stephon Tuitt on third down gave the Bengals new life and they scored.
  • A pass-interference penalty on Artie Burns set up the Bengals first touchdown.
  • A chop block called on Le’Veon Bell nullified an Antonio Brown touchdown.
  • And so it was, as the first half drew to a close, the Pittsburgh Steelers were looking at a 20-9 deficit while the Baltimore Ravens were leading the Eagles over in Charm City.

On his way in the locker room, Mike Tomlin made no bones about the impact that the penalties had had on his team, and declared that the key to a second half rally lay in “playing cleanly.”

Steelers Play Clean, Bengals Revert to Form

The last time the Steelers played at Paul Brown Stadium, the Cincinnati Bengals were approximately 2 minutes away from their first playoff victory since 1990. But then the Bengals of discipline took over, as the Steelers forced a fumble, moved down the field, and then got into easy field goal range thanks to back-to-back unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.

  • During the first half, it looked like the Steelers lack of discipline would lead to their undoing.

The Cincinnati Bengals went into the locker room holding an 11 point lead on a team that needed this win. Cincinnati was playing for pride, playing to be the spoiler. It would be unfair to say that Cincinnati became completely unhinged in the second half. After all, the Bengals defense continued to force the Steelers to settle for field goal after field goal.

But with Pittsburgh down by 2 in the 4th quarter, the Bengals suffered what Paul Daugherty of the Cincinnati Enquirer would call “Bengals moments.”

  • First, it was an off sides penalty on a failed 3rd and one conversion by Ben Roethlisberger. First down, Pittsburgh.
  • Roethlisberger followed with another incompletion, but Cincinnati matched with another defensive holding penalty. First down, Pittsburgh.
  • Ben Roethlisberger’s next pass fell incomplete, and Cincinnati committed another defensive holding penalty. First down, Pittsburgh.
  • Next, Le’Veon Bell ran for no gain. Cincinnati committed an unnecessary roughness penalty. 15 yards, first down Pittsburgh.

The Bengals did a fine job of blowing up a Sammie Coates reverse, but on the next play, Ben Roethlisberger fired a bullet to Eli Rogers through double coverage which put the Steelers up for good. While the Steelers did earn their share of flags in the second half, none of these were of the drive killing or drive sustaining nature that

While Butler’s Boys Set Table, Boswell Quietly Serves

Chris Boswell wins the Steelers MVP award in a no brainier landslide. Going six for six on field goals in any stadium is no simple task. But Boswell did it outdoors, on a cold December day along the Ohio River. And Boswell didn’t just knock in a couple of chip shot field goals because the Steelers stalled in the Red Zone.

  • Boswell, kicked field goals of 45, 49, 49, 46, 49 and 30 yards.

These kicks, while impressive, weren’t even Boswell’s best performance of the day, which came with his shoe-string, touchdown saving tackle of Alex Erickson.

Chris Boswell, Alex Erickson, 2016 Steelers vs. Bengals Paul Brown Staidum

Chris Boswell’s shoe string tackle of Alex Erickson saved a touchdown. Photo Credit: Christopher Horner, Tribune Review

It took three and a half quarters for the Steelers offense to get in gear, and even when they did, the assist they got from the Bengals lack of discipline greatly facilitated their only touchdown. Thanks to Chris Boswell the Steelers stayed in this game.

  • But Chris Boswell hardly acted alone.

The other side of the story was told by Keith Butler’s defense. Stephon Tuitt stepped up his play tremendously in the absence of Cameron Heyward, but the Steelers lost Tuitt’s services early in the game. Then they lost Ricardo Mathews.

That left L.T. Walton, Daniel McCullers and Javon Hargrave as the Steelers only healthy defensive lineman, forcing James Harrison into some spot defensive-end duty.

  • The Bengals opened the game by scoring on all four of their first half possessions.
  • In the second half, Andy Dalton’s crew went Punt, Interception, Punt, Punt.

They never even threatened to score in the second half, thanks to Lawrence Timmons’ interception, Ryan Shazier’s sack, timely passes tipped away by Ross Cockrell and Artie Burns, and solid tackling all around.

Steelers Have Positioned Themselves to Capitalize on Christmas

The win over the Bengals improves the Steelers record to 9-7, bringing up a Christmas Day show down against the Baltimore Ravens. The stakes in the game are simple:

  • A Steelers win will assure them the AFC North Division Championship and a playoff spot.

A loss likely leads to the Ravens winning the division, while Steelers Nation passes the time between Christmas and New Year’s Day memorizing NFL playoff tie breakers. The Steelers have worked hard to put themselves in position for this. Now Mike Tomlin’s crew must capitalize.

Like this? Share it with Steelers Nation!

Steelers Report Card for the Beating of the Browns

Taken from the grade book of a teacher you is proud of both his veteran class leaders and his freshman and sophomore students who stepped up, here is the Pittsburgh Steelers Report Card from the victory over the Cleveland Browns.

ryan shazier, Steelers report card vs. browns 2016 at Cleveland, Josh McCown, Javon Hargrave

Ryan Shazier closes in for the kill on Josh McCown setting up the Steelers game-clinching touchdown. Photo Credit: Chaz Palla, Tribune-Review

Quarterback
It was an economical passing day for Ben Roethlisberger by both necessity and design. On a windy day with the game plan calling for ball control, Ben Roethlisberger passed for just 167 yards on 23 completions and 36 attempts. The Steelers offense stalled multiple times in the Red Zone which is worrying, and some of that responsibility but not all of it falls on Ben Roethlisberger’s shoulders. But Ben Roethlisberger protected the ball, and the Steelers moved the chains. Grade: B

Running Backsteelers, report card, steelers grades, steelers vs. browns, coaching, special teams, unsung heros
Le’Veon Bell cemented his status as the NFL’s best all around running back by massing well over 100 yards in less than a half. For the record, Bell rushed for 146 yards on 28 carries for a 5.2 yard average, and caught 8 passes for 55 yards. Fitzgerald Toussaint entered the game but did not get a carry. This was Le’Veon Bell’s show, and he carried the Steelers offense. Grade: A+

Tight Ends
Ladarius Green had two balls thrown his way but failed to come down with either of them. Jesse James had four balls thrown his way and only came up with one, including a drop in the Red Zone that the Steelers could have used. The tight ends need to do a better job of making themselves targets for Ben Roethlisberger. They didn’t do that vs. the Browns. David Johnson did throw some key blocks for Bell and caught the two point conversion, which helps this group grade. Grade: C-

Wide Receivers
Antonio Brown had a good day despite going up against Joe Hadyen (who was helped by the officals.) Nonetheless, Brown found a way to do his damage. The same cannot be said about the rest of his compatriots. Eli Rogers and Cobi Hamilton only managed to come down with six catches for 33 yards. The Steelers needed more production out of their 2 and 3 receivers, and they can’t wait for Sammie Coates and Darrius Heyward-Bey to get healthy. Antonio Brown’s performance brings the group grade up, considerably. Grade: C

Offensive Line
It has been long overdue, but the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line finally managed to put together a complete game – the Cleveland Browns barely touched, let alone sacked Ben Roethlisberger while and Le’Veon Bell had gapping holes to run from. To that end, we’ll offer a special shout out for Alejandro Villanueva and David DeCastro who cleared the way for Bell on the Steelers do-or-die touchdown at the end of the second half. While it is true that the Browns defensive line doesn’t classify as world-class opposition, the Steelers offensive line did its job, and did it masterfully. Grade: A

Defensive Line
Stephon Tuitt talked about stepping out in Cam Heyward’s absence, and he backed up his words with a breakout performance that saw him register 2.5 sacks, make 3 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, and hit the Browns QB’s 4 more times. Javon Hargrave also turned in a strong game, getting a sack, a tackle for a loss, a QB hit and recovering a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown. Daniel McCullers also defensed a pass and helped bring down a Browns rusher at behind the goal line in the Red Zone. And outstanding day for the defensive line that has been struggling. Grade: A

Linebackers

Ryan Shazier was simply all over the f ield, making 7 tackles, three of which went for losses, defending a pass, and making the strip sack that set up the game sealing touchdown. Lawrence Timmons was all over the field as well, rattling the quarterback, getting a sack and making a tackle behind the line of scrimmage. We haven’t seen this form the Law Dog in a while. Arthur Moats had a sack and a half, while James Harrison simply broke the Steelers All Time sack record in a play that helped force a field goal.

Again, all evaluations must be tempered by the quality of opposition, but the Steelers were “supposed” to dominate the Browns, and they did. Grade: A

Secondary
Artie Burns got things started right by ending the Brown’s first drive with an interception. That was good, but he also blew the coverage on the play that set up the Browns only touchdown. Sean Davis barely missed on a sack, but is starting to make himself noticed on the field. Mike Mitchell and two defensed passes that should have been picks. Ross Cockrell did not get himself noticed for the wrong reasons. A solid game by the Steelers secondary. Grade: B

Special Teams
Chris Boswell went out and went 3-3 on three short-medium ranged field goals. If that fact seems insignificant, it has been a rough few weeks for the sophomore kicker. And given Browns own kicker missed an extra point in on his home field should tell you all you need to know about the kicking conditions.

Jordan Berry had some nice long punts, but his hang time was a less than you might like it. The Steelers punt return coverage units allowed a little more yardage than you’d like, but there were no breakdowns. Grade: B

Coaching
On the offensive front, Todd Haley clearly wanted to dominate time of possession, and he did. With just a little more Red Zone efficiency this game would have been a total route.

  • Keith Butler likewise bounced back from one of the worst Steelers defensive showings in decades.

Yes, the Cleveland Browns are little better than an expansion team who is playing its 3rd quarterback, but the truth is that the Steelers should have dominated this game from end to end, and they did. The fact that they turned in such a strong performance after losing their best player for the rest of the season speaks volumes of the focus and preparation of the men on the field.

Yes, the Steelers let the Browns stay in the game until far too late into the 3rd quarter. Yes, it was because of several Red Zone offensive failures and mustn’t be overlooked. Yes, the performance came against a 0-10 Browns team that could be en route to an 0-16 year.

  • None of that naysaying matters.

The type of loss the Steelers suffered at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys is the kind of loss that crushes teams. The Steelers however, did not play like a team whose spirits were defeated, and Mike Tomlin deserves credit for that.

And credit Mike Tomlin for putting his money where his mouth is, in not “Living in his fears.” The Steelers had 6 shots from the goal line with time expiring, and Mike Tomlin didn’t bat an eye, not only insisting on going for the touchdown but also in going for two. This is called coaching to win. Grade: A

Unsung Hero Award
Following in the footsteps of a larger than life figure is never easy, and particularly not when you’ve done it before and been singled out as the weak link in a very bad Steelers defensive performance vs. the Miami Dolphins. His stat line says he only has 2 tackles, but he made the first one in the game, and he made it for a loss and that set the tone for things to come, and for that Ricardo Mathews is the Unsung Hero of the Steelers victory over the Browns.

Like this? Share it with Steelers Nation!

Pittsburgh Steelers Activate Bud Dupree, Cameron Heyward to Injured Reserve

Is the Pittsburgh Steelers pass rush about to pick up an octane boost? That might be too much to expect, but the Steelers have activated Bud Dupree ahead of their road game vs. the Cleveland Browns. To make room for Bud Dupree, the Steelers placed Cameron Heyward on injured reserve.

Bud Dupree’s rookie season got off to a strong start sacking Tom Brady, Colin Kaepernick and Philip Rivers in his first five games. Dupree also downed Andy Dalton midway though the 2015 season, but then hit the infamous rookie wall.

Bud Dupree, steelers activate bud dupree, bud dupree sacks colin kapernick

Bud Dupree sacks Colin Kapernick in the Steelers 2015 win over the 49ers. Photo Credit: Gene J. Puskar

Bud Dupree has spent all of 2016 on the injured reserve list due to a sports hernia, and the Steelers pass rush has suffered in his absence. Cam Heyward leads the Steelers in sacks with three, and he has missed two games and played injured in the Steelers loss to the Cowboys. After that, the Steelers sack “leaders” are rookie Anthony Chickillo, Vince Williams and James Harrison.

The headline “Steelers activate Bud Dupree” shouldn’t signal a panacea for Pittsburgh’s pathetic pass rush, but at the very least it provides hope that Dupree can compensate for the loss of Heyward.

Is 5 the Magic Number for Steelers Defensive Line?

With Cameron Heyward lost for the season, the Steelers decision to replace him with Bud Dupree doesn’t amount to much of a surprise, but it does leave Pittsburgh without much defensive line depth. With behind Stephon Tuitt, Javon Hargrave and Ricardo Mathews, the Steelers have Daniel McCullers and L.T. Walton.

The Steelers normally carry 5 active defensive lineman on game day, although they also have also have Caushaud Lyons and Johnny Maxey on their practice squad.

Like this? Share it with Steelers Nation!