Hedging Their Bets, Steelers Sign 3rd Place Kicker, Plus 3 Other Futures Contracts

The Pittsburgh Steelers continued to add to their off season roster by signing four more players to reserve/futures contracts. The players are free safety Jacob Hagen, offensive tackle Brian Mihalik, place kicker Ty Long, and running back Daryl Richardson.

https://twitter.com/steelers/status/689919640940711937

The signing of Ty Long gives the Steelers an unprecedented 3 place kickers on their off season roster with Shaun Suisham coming off of injured reserve and Chris Boswell signed through 2016. When asked about carrying so many kickers, Mike Tomlin simply commented that the Steelers were in a good situation.

Of the quartet of futures contract signees, Daryl Richardson is the most experienced, having been drafted by the then St. Louis Rams in the 7th round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Per Pro Football Reference, Richardson appeared in 24 games over two seasons for the Rams, and rushed for 690 yards and caught 38 passes for 284 yards. He did not score a touchdown for the Rams although he did make a two point conversion.

The Rams cut him after the 2013 season, but Richardson caught on with the New York Jets, although he did not appear in any games from them. He spent time on the practice squads and active rosters of the Houston Texans and Cleveland Browns in 2015, but did not dress for any games.

The Steelers likely signed Daryl Richardson as another training camp body, but he will have a shot to compete with Fitzgerald Toussaint, Jordan Todman, and Mr. John Q. Draft Pick to back up Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams.

Brian Mihalik played defensive line for for Boston College but was drafted as an offensive tackle by the Phialdelphia Eagles in the 7th round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Mihalik neither made the team nor the practice squad, and while the Steelers are listing him at offensive line, they have been known to switch ex-Eagales to new positions as they did with Alejandro Villanueva.

Jacob Hagen played his college ball at Liberty University where he started all 14 games his senior year and led his team with 108 tackles and 8 interceptions. He was signed to the St. Louis Rams training camp roster as an undrafted rookie free agent, but neither made the team nor the practice squad.

Again, the Steelers are most likely projecting Jacob Hagen as a training camp body, but with Will Allen pushing 34 and Shamarko Thomas showing nothing in 3 years outside of special teams, Hagen will certainly have is opportunity.

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Steelers Report Card for AFC Divisional Playoff Loss to the Denver Broncos

Taken from the grade book of a teacher who remains proud of his star student, even if that student fell short of expectations, here is the Pittsburgh Steelers Report Card for the AFC Divisional Playoff loss to the Denver Broncos.steelers, report card, grades, Denver Broncos, afc, divsional, playoffs

Quarterback
Word on the street is that Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t affected by the shoulder injury. This teacher isn’t quite so sure, as Todd Haley seemed to call fewer downfield plays than usual. Still Roethlisberger 24-37-0-0 for 339 yards is impressive and he had at least one touchdown pass dropped and suffered from another non-pass interference call in the end zone. Most importantly, Roethlisberger did not turnover the ball. Grade: B

Running Backs
What a difference a week makes. After the Bengals game, Fitzgerald Toussaint and Jordan Todman played so well fans could be forgiven for wondering where the coaching staff had been hiding them. The Broncos running defense provided a much stiffer test. Toussaint had difficulty running the ball, and Todman was completely ineffective. And while the Steelers have rightly refused to scapegoat Toussaint, his fumble was the turning point in the game. Grade: F

Tight Ends
Heath Miller had one catch for 5 yards and a very visible “drop” that was quite frankly more of a excellent play by the Broncos defense than anything done wrong by Heath. Jesse James posted an excellent 22 yard catch and run that really appeared to position the Steelers to deal Denver the death blow. Matt Spaeth had one catch for one yard. Grade: C+

Wide Receivers
With Antonio Brown out Martavis Bryant was going to have to step up with a monster game, and step up Bryant did. Yes, he dropped the first pass thrown to him, but Bryant excelled after that catching 9 passes for 154 yards. Darrius Heyward-Bey also played well and helped set up the Steelers second score. Sammie Coates had two targets and made good on both of him, and was quite impressive. Markus Wheaton was well defended in the end zone, but the pass hit him right in the numbers and he should have caught it. He had a decent day as a receiver beyond that, but the Steelers needed that catch. Grade: B

Offensive Line
Ben Roethlsiberger only gave up 3 sacks, a number that seems low, although that is in part a measure of how his sack totals have dropped on Todd Haley’s watch. Still, those sacks came when the Steelers could least afford it. Denver has a stout run defense that shut DeAngelo Williams down last time around, and this time they did it again. Like they did in a number of other areas, the Steelers needed a little more from their line. Grade: C

Defensive Line
If you throw out the CJ Anderson’s one long run, the Denver rushing stats look almost as anemic as the Steelers do. One problem, that 34 yard scamper came with Denver backed up on its own 5 yard line. Stephon Tuitt led the defensive line with 4 tackles one for a loss and one quarterback hit. Steve McLendon had 3 tackles, although he got blocked on the 34 yard scamper. Cameron Heyward did not record a tackle. The Steelers needed to get just a little more pressure on Peyton Manning, and those contributions could have come from the line. They didn’t. Grade: C+

Linebackers
James Harrison was an absolute monster out there, leading the linebackers in tackles, registering a sack, a quarterback hit and tackling three ball carriers behind the line of scrimmage. Ryan Shazier was second in tackles for Steelers defensive lineman, and although he did not have any splash plays of the week before, he played a solid game. Lawrence Timmons also played a very sold game. Jarvis Jones helped deflect a pass and has now logged to quality playoff performances in a row. Bud Dupree had 3 tackles, one of which went for a loss. Grade: B

Secondary
A couple of stats stand out here. First, Denver found itself in 3rd and long until late in the game, and Denver was 3-15 on third downs (although those three conversions did come on their last drive.) Both of those stats show that the secondary is doing its job. William Gay led all Steelers defenders in tackles, including one behind the line of scrimmage and had another pass defensed (that, had it been intercepted, could have ended the game.) Mike Mitchell had 3 tackles and a pass defensed. Antwon Blake had a quiet game, and that’s generally good for him. The secondary had a solid day, but given how poorly Manning was throwing the ball, it might not be too much to expect the Steelers defensive backs to come down with one. Grade: B-

Special Teams
Chris Boswell was 3-3 on field goals and knocked kickoffs through the end zone, although it did look like his on sides kick hadn’t gone 10 yards. Outside of that, the Steelers special teams were atrocious vs. the Denver Broncos. A long punt return set up Denver’s first score. Markus Wheaton looked clueless on punt returns and two costly turnovers were narrowly avoided. Jordan Berry’s punts were erratic and otherwise short. The Steelers special teams were a liability in the playoffs vs. Denver, and only Boswell’s kicking keeps this grade from being lower. Grade: D

Coaching

The Pittsburgh Steelers went into Denver without its top running back, its top wide receiver and with quarterback at less than 100%, yet led the game from the middle of the 1st quarter until the middle of the 4th quarter.

Sure, there are things you can find fault with – why didn’t the Steelers figure out a way to run the ball better? Tomlin’s clock management critics will no doubt insist that he be fired for taking a time out with 2:22 remaining. Why didn’t Tomlin allow Chris Boswell to attempt a 52 yard field goal? Of course going for the deep ball on 4th and 1 will be seen as a mistake.

  • Really, all of that is missing the point.

The Steelers coaches didn’t fumble the ball away in the 4th quarter, not did they muff the punt returns, nor did they not pickoff one of those wounded ducks Petyon manning was slinging.

The Steelers game plan was solid, and the player executed it well. Moreover, after such an emotional win as the one that came over the Bengals, there was no sign of a let down. Grade: B+

Unsung Hero
Maybe it is because he is 33 and realizes his chances for a Super Bowl are dwindling. Maybe it’s because he’s at a point where his experience can make up for any steps he’s lost. Perhaps he simply wanted it more and went out determined to make it happen, but for the second straight week Steelers Will Allen safety put himself at the center of almost every key defense stop, clocking in with 6 tackles, 2 tackles for a loss, 1 pass defensed and another quarterback hit, and for that Will Allen wins the Unsung Hero Award for the Steelers Playoff loss to the Denver Broncos.

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Steelers Broncos Divisional Playoff Finds Both Franchises at Crossroads

You want to know one of the nice things about the NFL? There are very few one way streets. All roads in the NFL might not lead to Rome, ask the Cleveland Browns, but roads double back  to intersect again.

  • And so it is with the Steelers Broncos Divisional Playoff matchup.

Looking at the X’s and O’s, the Steelers December victory over the Broncos probably offers the best clue to understanding today’s AFC divisional playoff matchup.

It’s a given the Ben Roethlisberger needs to show something and that Markus Wheaton, Martavis Bryant, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Heath Miller and, yes, Sammie Coates must step up their games in Antonio Brown’s absence. Ditto Fitzgerald Toussaint and Jordan Todman with DeAngelo Williams out.

  • But you knew that already.

An analysis of the X’s and O’s says that the key to this game will depend on which Steelers defense shows up. If the Steelers defense of the first half of the Broncos game makes even a brief appearance, the Steelers 2016 off season will begin in earnest. However, if the Steelers defense of the second half of that game shows up in full force, the Steelers have a shot at going to Foxborough.

  • But that tells us very little about the story underlying today’s game.

For that you must look back further.

Steelers Getting Tebowed Leads to Transition

The date was January 8th 2012, the site was the same as today, Denver’s Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Steelers had opened the 4th quarter trailing by 10 points, but a Ben Roethlisberger to Jerricho Cotchery connection and a Shaun Shuisham field goal had tied it in regulation.

The Denver Broncos got the ball to start ove time. Tim Tebow hit Demaryius Thomas over the middle. Ike Taylor missed the tackle. Ryan Mundy couldn’t get into position to take a shot. 80 yards later and Demaryius Thomas ended it all in the end zone.

  • Steelers Nation suffered the ultimate buzz kill.

2011 Pittsburgh Steelers failed at a chance to defend their AFC Championship and atone for the defeat of Super Bowl XLV. But it went beyond that. That loss marked a fundamental shift for the franchise. Shortly afterwards, I remarked to Tony Defeo that I felt I had the feeling that Steelers fans must have had in 1980, when the Super Steelers run can to a sobering end as the Houston Oilers ended their playoff chances.

  • But this thread doesn’t just involve the Steelers, it involves the Denver Broncos too.

Tim Tebow was a terrible quarterback blessed with an uncanny ability for finding a way to win when all appeared lost. That made for some dramatic finishes to football games, but John Elway was smart enough to know that he shouldn’t stake his franchise’s future on an intangible quality.

So he did something about it. He went out and got Peyton Manning, convincing Manning that, like Elway, he still had enough to win Super Bowls in his late 30’s.

  • Elway’s first test of that ability came next season, on Sunday Night Football, against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

If Steelers Nation has blotted that game out of their collective memory, we’ll forgive them. Much screamed to be forgotten. Its synthesis, however, is rather simple. All night long, Peyton Manning engaged in a chess match with Dick LeBeau and Troy Polamalu, while James Harrison watched in street clothes from the sideline.

  • And at each and every critical juncture, Peyton Manning outfoxed LeBeau and Polamalu.

In a word, Peyton Manning schooled the Steelers defense. Yes, the Steelers 2012 defense would finish the season as the NFL’s number one overall in terms of total yards. Yes, the defense would keep the Steelers in games they had no business being in late in the season (see the 2012 7 turnover fiasco vs. the Browns).

  • But Petyon Manning revealed that “Coach Dad” had no clothes.

It may have difficult for some of us (read: Steel Curtain Rising) to see at the time, but with 20/20 hindsight, Peyton Manning revealed the bitter truth that Sunday Night opening day loss.

Steelers and Broncos Two Teams at Diverging Crossroads

Now the Steelers and Broncos meet and again the venue is Mile High, and again it is the playoffs. But this time the backstory is decidedly different.

Peyton Manning is in the twilight of his career. One would have to be a fool to discard the possibility that number 18 would be able to find a way to move the needle in dramatic fashion just one more time. And he might.

But the number of quality football games Peyton Manning has left in him are measured in single digits –at best. Objectively speaking, Steel Curtain Rising is already on the record saying that Pittsburgh’s best plan for success is to dare Peyton Manning to beat the Steelers defense.

  • And this is a very different Steelers defense and, for that matter, offense, than the one that lost to Tim Tebow.

On defense, Cameron Heyward, Steve McLendon, Lawrence Timmons, James Harrison and Will Allen are (about) all that remain. In terms of personnel, the Steelers offense hasn’t seen as much turnover since 2011, but the backfield is completely new, Matt Spaeth is back, and the offensive line presents a mix of old and new.

Regardless of the outcome, assuming that Ben Roethlisberger neither risks nor suffers greater long term injury as a result of playing today, the Steelers Broncos Divisional Playoff marks as much of a new beginning for the Pittsburgh Steelers franchise as it does an ending for the Peyton Manning era of the Denver Broncos.

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Michael Vick’s Playoff Record Proves He Deserves 2nd Look If Ben Roethlisberger Can’t Play

Pittsburgh’s injury report for the Steelers AFC Divisional Playoff game against the Denver Broncos offered a mixed bag. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will attempt to practice, but Mike Tomlin indicated Landry Jones will get extensive work in practice.

Antonio Brown remains in the NFL’s concussion protocols with a sharp contrast between local and national reports as to the likelihood of him playing. Running back DeAngelo Williams has been described as “On the outside looking in,” meaning that Fitzgerald Toussaint and Jordan Todman would again have to carry the Steelers running game.

  • No NFL team wants to head to a playoff game with its top three offensive stars on the injury list.

But fortunately the Steelers have the luxury of knowing that some of their heavy hitters may not be able to go so they can plan ahead. As he’s indicated, Mike Tomlin’s contingency plans are already underway, but it says here that Mike Tomlin and Todd Haley might be wise to expand their thinking.

Should Landry Jones Enter Denver Game as QB Number 2?

Most observers expect Ben Roethlisberger to start for the Steelers in the playoffs against the Broncos.

In his video following Mike Tomlin’s press conference, Ed Bouchette all but alluded to Ben Roethlisberger’s history as a drama queen. Dale Lolley advised his readers that when Ben talks about an injury, as he’s doing now, he usually plays. But the Steelers are wise to prepare an understudy, as no one knows how effective Ben will be.

  • The question is, should Landry Jones be Steelers QB number 2 against the Broncos?

Prior to Pittsburgh’s playoff win over the Bengals, Landry Jones had been one of the more pleasant surprises of the Steelers 2015 season. The Steelers gave not one, but three other quarterbacks the chance to unseat him from the 3rd slot on the depth chart, and Jones fought them off.

When injuries forced him into the game against Arizona, it was Landry Jones to the rescue. While Jones did not play particularly well in his lone start vs. the Chiefs, he also closed out a competitive game vs. the Raiders.

  • Unfortunately, Jones was completely ineffective vs. the Bengals in the playoffs.

In his press conference, Mike Tomlin admitted that Landry Jones must improve if he plays vs. Denver, and indicated that extra preparation should help.

Fair enough. Mike Tomlin, Todd Haley and Randy Fichtner know a little more about preparing quarterbacks for games than I do the Steelers coaches would do well to remember that they do have another quarterback on their roster with playoff experience. His name is Michael Vick

Michael Vick Playoff Experience Means He Deserves a Second Look

If memory serves, it was Hines Ward who once said comparing the intensity to an NFL playoff game to an NFL regular season game is like comparing regular season to preseason. Indeed, the NFL playoffs seve as a crucible that separates the average from the good and the good from the truly great. Legendary Steelers linebacker Greg Lloyd holds cult hero status here on Steel Curtain Rising, but what were his signature playoff moments?

  • Bruce Gradkowski is no superstar, but the Steelers offense didn’t miss a beat when he went in for a few snaps in the Steelers 2014 playoff loss to the Ravens.

It is true that, save for a phenomenal 4th quarter vs. the Chargers, Mike Vick struggled as a starter. And while Steelers beat reporters cannot share what they see in practice, they’ve all but confirmed that Vick has struggled in practice. Fair enough.

  • But Mike Vick has six playoff starts and two playoff wins under his belt.

Vick’s playoff passer rating just a shade below his career passer rating and is below his rating for the Steelers this year. But Vick has started four playoff games on the road, and won in hostile environs such as Lambeau Field. Mike Vick has been tested by the NFL’s playoff crucible.

At this point, Landry Jones is almost certainly in the Steelers plans for 2016 and perhaps beyond. Given that, and given the positives from him earlier in the year, Mike Tomlin is wise to name him his QB number 2 for the divisional show down vs. Denver.

But if Roethlisberger can’t play and Jones falters, Tomlin should make sure that Michael Vick is ready to step in.

Other Steelers Injury Updates Prior to Denver Game

Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and DeAngelo Williams are not the only names on the Pittsburgh Steelers injury report heading into the playoff game Denver.
Fullback Will Johnson (hamstring), inside linebacker Vince Williams (hamstring) and safety Robert Golden (shoulder) are on the injured list but expected to play vs. the Broncos.

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Los Steelers derrotaron a los Bengals en histórico juego de postemporada

Frecuentemente luego de un cotejo deportivo, sin importar de qué disciplina se trate, uno de los puntos de partida para cualquier análisis es determinar quién mereció ganar o, en otras palabras, si aquel que perdió mereció perder.
pregame

Este suele ser un enfoque muchas veces tramposo porque habrá quienes anteponen el juego virtuoso al resultado, aunque sostener ese estilo implique el riesgo de perder.

Luego esta discusión se hace interminable cuando nos ponemos a evaluar si el virtuosismo se contrapone a la efectividad.

  • Porque en definitiva, gana el que junta más porotos en su haber. Y aparte, siempre nos gusta ganar…

Pero entremos en este juego y preguntémonos: merecieron los Steelers ganar? O al revés, fue justo que los Cincinnati Bengals pierdan el partido luego de semejante remontada en el último cuarto? Los Pittsburgh Steelers ganaron porque los Bengals les regalaron en bandeja el partido y sólo eso?

  • Empecemos por ver cómo llegaron los Steelers a la postemporada.

Como sucede con todos los equipos llegando a la semana 17 se agranda la columna de los “si hubiese sucedido que…” (me refiero a: “si hubiese Josh Scobee acertado esos goles de campo…” y cosas por el estilo)

  • Para los fanáticos de los Steelers ese balance se ha hecho bastante habitual, lamentablemente.

Pero volviendo al tema, los Steelers clasificaron de manera agónica en la última semana de la temporada gracias a la derrota de los NY Jets.

Si hubiésemos ganado el partido contra los Baltimore Ravens (cualquiera de los dos, o los dos), si Big Ben no se hubiese lesionado y perdido los juegos que se perdió, si Bell se hubiese mantenido en una pieza, etc., la clasificación hubiese sido más holgada.

  • En cambio Cincinnati ganó la división el AFC North. Sin discusión.

Por otra parte Pittsburgh batalló todo el año con la defensiva y sus inconsistencias . Una defensiva con varios talentos pero joven, inmadura y volátil. Con su talón de Aquiles en el juego aéreo y en el tackle. Que trata aún hoy de adaptarse a un nuevo Coordinador y a un nuevo esquema de juego.

También arribó al mes de enero con su ataque terrestre diezmado: Le’Veon Bell está fuera de la temporada desde el primer encuentro contra los Bengals y su reemplazo, el sólido y efectivo DeAngelo Williams, lesionado hace 7 días y también fuera de este partido.

Así las cosas, este hincha acerero llegaba al minuto 0, cargado de interrogantes y no sin cierta preparación mental para la derrota.

Pero a poco de comenzado el juego se despejó la primera duda: podrían los Steelers imponer el juego terrestre sin sus figuras?

Pues sí pudieron. Los jóvenes Fitzgerald Toussaint y Jordan Todman compartiendo snaps detrás de Ben Roethlisberger, cumplieron con creces su trabajo. Tanto fue así que no se extrañaron ni Williams ni Bell.

La dupla de corredores totalizaron 123 yds a lo que hay que agregar 4 recepciones para más de 40 yds de Toussaint. Mantuvieron el juego vivo y fueron capaces de mover las cadenas.

Fitzgerald Toussaint, Steelers, Bengals, AFC, Wild Card

Fitzgerald Toussaint corriendo contra los Bengals

El siguiente interrogante era qué tipo de defensiva entraría al partido? Para ser más gráfico: la de los 2 primeros cuatros contra Denver o la de los dos cuartos finales? Es que esta defensiva es el Dr. Jekyll y es Mr. Hyde.

La defensiva mantuvo el juego bajo control durante 3 cuartos del partido.
El jugador más destacado fue, a mi juicio, el LB Ryan Shazier.

Repasemos sus números: registró 13 tackles (2 de ellos produjeron pérdida de yardas), desvió 2 pases, provocó 2 fumbles (el segundo de ellos fue el que le dió vida a unos Steelers entregados al milagro). Participó de todas las jugadas del partido.

Ryan Shazier, Steelers, Bengals, AFC Wild Card

Ryan Shazier

Fue simplemente el mejor juego de su corta carrera.

Qué había por el lado de Ben Roethlisberger? Y sus últimos 3 partidos con múltiples intercepciones?

Otra de las claves que el Dr. de Acero había puntualizado antes del partido desde twitter, era que Big Ben debía conservar la prudencia.
El resultado final fue por fortuna, un Ben “INT free” aunque digo por fortuna porque lanzó un par de pases de intercepción que no fueron atrapados por la defensiva.

No obstante, cuando Ben estaba fuera del partido, Landry Jones sí lanzó una INT. Y fue en el peor momento: Abajo en el marcador, finalizando el 4to cuarto y en propio campo.

Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers, Bengals, AFC Wild Card

Ben Roethlisberger

Quedó demostrado, por si todavía hacía falta, que este equipo es Ben dependiente. Pero es lógico que así sea. Como lo era Miami de Dan Marino, San Francisco de Joe Montana o Denver de John Elway. Por eso es mariscal de franquicia.

La dependencia de un equipo de su QB es un efecto colateral de tener un QB de franquicia.

Luego del desafío lanzado en público por el líder del equipo a Martavis Bryant para que jugara con mayor compromiso, este recogió el guante, respiró hondo, acarreó 44 yardas, atrapó 5 pases, 1 de ellos para la atrapada de TD más increíble que se ha visto en mucho, mucho tiempo (por no decir jamás).

Martavis Bryant, Steelers, Bengals, AFC Wild Card

Martavis Bryant

No se puede dejar de lado al líder anotador de esa noche, con 12 de los 18 puntos de su equipo, al asombroso Chris Boswell. Este chico vale su peso en oro. La actitud de veterano con que se paró frente a la formación para patear el gol de campo más importante de su carrera (y de nuestra vida, en ese momento, al menos) fue sorprendente.

Chris Boswell, Steelers, Bengals, AFC Wild Card

Chris Boswell

Resumo.
– Juego terrestre.
– Una defensiva que controló el juego en 3 de los 4 cuartos y mantuvo al contrario en 0 durante todo ese tiempo, que provocó 2 TO más que su rival y que contó con el mejor jugador de la cancha.
– Un QB de élite.
– Un receptor capaz de atrapar un pase de TD mediante semejante acrobacia que implica un nivel de concentración superlativo y
– Un pateador perfecto esa noche y casi perfecto durante toda la temporada

Señores: Con eso, un equipo merece ganar cualquier partido. No hay dudas.

Pero claro, esto es un deporte, un juego. Y en los juegos pasan cosas.
Una de esas cosas es, por ejemplo, que lesionen a tu mariscal.

Esa fue la jugada clave del partido. En manos del jugador más decisivo del partido: Vontaze Burfict.

Esta especie de monstruo malo, convertido en el enemigo público número 1, fue quien tuvo en sus manos el destino del partido.

  • Tres jugadas así lo muestran.

Captura de QB que conllevó lesión y retiró del partido. Y no sólo eso: cambió además el momentum del partido. A esa jugada siguieron 13 minutos de pleno dominio de ofensiva local sobre la, hasta ahí, solvente defensa steeler. Los Steelers pasaron de ganar por 15 a perder por 1 durante esos 13 minutos. Así de simple.

  • Le atrapó una INT a Landry Jones que podría haber liquidado el partido a favor de su equipo
  • Y golpe salvaje al casco de Antonio Brown que desencadenó la batahola final, (las 30 yds de penalidad, Pacman Jones y todo lo que sabemos) y que llevó a Boswell a salir al campo a hacer su trabajo 14 segundos antes del final.
  • Los Steelers estuvieron allí, hicieron su juego como equipo de postemporada. Con nivel de postemporada.

Cuando todo eso no alcanzó para ganar el partido, sacó mentalidad de equipo de Postemporada, se mantuvo calmo, con la cabeza fría (como dijo Arthur Moats al ingresar a los vestuarios: “gotta be smart, gotta be smart”), hizo lo que debía hacer y no hizo lo que no debía hacer.

Pray

Por eso (y con eso) también se ganan los partidos.
Quedó demostrado.

El Dr. de Acero.

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Discipline = Differentiator in Steelers Wild Card Win Over Cincinnati?

The Pittsburgh Steelers Wild Card win over the Bengals will go down as one of the most intense, drama filled games in Steelers playoff history. Recording how the Steelers arrived at their 18-16 win over the Bengals represents something of a challenge.

  • The underlying story between the Steelers and Bengals morphed and evolved throughout the game.

For the first three quarters, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati seemed to be weaving a tale to be won by “The Ones Who Hit the Hardest” (with a nod to the book of the same title.) Later in the game, the thread took on new life. It was a game of backups pushing back from poor performances to propel their team ahead.

Finally, the game came down to an age-old value from outside the gridiron: Discipline.

Steelers Wild Card vs. Bengals I: The Ones Who Hit the Hardest

The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens might have the reputations of being the AFC North’s bruisers, but the Cincinnati Bengals put the rest of the division on notice that they will no longer concede that status.

  • For several years now the Bengals have looked strong in the regular season, only to get “pimp slapped” in the postseason, in the words of fellow Steelers scribe Ivan Cole.

No such characterizations need apply to the 2015 Cincinnati Bengals. This team has heart, this team can play with fire, and this team wanted it. (Keep that later point in mind, as it might have contributed to Cincinnati’s undoing.)

  • The Steelers and Bengals have two of the NFL’s most prolific aerial offenses, yet the two teams slugged it out.

The Steelers went into the game without DeAngelo Williams, but Mike Tomlin and Todd Haley refused to bat an eye, giving Fitzgerald Toussaint and Jordan Todman a total of 28 carries. But the physicality of the game was far from limited to the line of scrimmage.

  • The game featured hard hits downfield on both sides of the ball
  • Both receivers and defensive backs physically challenged each other
  • 7 total fumbles show just how hotly both sides contested each and every play

In the words of Steelers standard-bearer Mike Tomlin “I thought we both represented the AFC North and what the AFC North is about tonight.”

True indeed, but physicality takes its toll, and the Steelers and Bengals Wild Card contest was notable as much for which players left the field as for what happened on the field. The Steelers lost Will Johnson and Robert Golden. The Bengals lost Reggie Nelson, Dre Kirkpatrick and Gio Bernard and saw numerous others helped off the field.

And for just under 45 minutes of play, the Pittsburgh Steelers looked like they would win by weathering the battle of attrition better than the Bengals. But that changed.

Steelers Wild Card vs. Bengals II: Backup Bounces Back

The penultimate play of the 4th quarter saw Vontaze Burfict sack Ben Roethlisberger, driving his shoulder in to the turf. Ben Roethlisberger was slow to get up. He was helped to the sideline. He got put on the chat.

Bengals fans threw trash at an injured Roethlisberger worthy of 1980’s Cleveland Browns Dawg Pound shame.

  • Trash or no trash, the sack/injury of Ben Roethlisberger gave his counterpart A.J. McCarron new life.

Prior to that point, McCarron had fumbled several times, found himself picked off by Antwon Blake, and was on the receiving end of sacks by Cameron Heyward, Jarvis Jones, and James Harrison. McCarron was not having a good night.

But give the kid credit – he shucked it off and only needed four plays to lead his team to its first touchdown, bringing the score to 15-7 and putting the game’s outcome very much in doubt.

In his first post-season series, Landry Jones showed why the Steelers would be wise to strongly consider bring Bruce Gradkowski back next spring. While Jones didn’t make any critical mistakes on his first drive, he also only moved the ball 22 yards and barely burned off more than 3 minutes. The Steelers needed more from Jones. Jones didn’t deliver.

  • Had things worked out differently, Steelers fans would not and should not have been able to finger Roethlsiberger’s injury as an excuse.

The Steelers had their starter for 3 quarters, and the Bengals played their back up quarterback for four. As it was, McCarron led his team on a long field goal drive that put the Bengals within 5.

An ineffective Jones gave the ball back to the Bengals with 3:28 left, and McCarron managed to both burn up a 1:28 of that time AND give his team a 1 point lead. Landry Jones threw a terrible interception with 1:36 remaining….

Steelers Wild Card vs. Bengals II: Of Discipline & “Now or Never”

…Normally when your backup quarterback throws an interception at your own 26 yard line with 1:36 left to play on a rainy, windy night, outdoors on the road, against a divisional rival in the playoffs, you’ve lost the game.

Because the Steelers still had three time outs, the Bengals didn’t have the luxury of taking a knee. So their first move was to hand off to Jeremy Hill – not a bad idea as he’d run well that night – Hill found daylight and made it six yards into the Steelers second level…

…where Ryan Shazier found him, forced a fumble which Ross Cockrell picked up.

From across the field, Ben Roethlisberger looked at Mike Tomlin, in Roethlisberger’s words: “I was at the other end of the field, and Coach Tomlin kind of looked at me, and I was giving him the ‘do you want me to go’ type of look; give me the nod. I guess he agreed with me.” As Mike Tomlin described the look as the duo’s “Now or never moment.”

  • But Ben was injured, and had to move the ball 91 yards in a minute 1:23 while only being able to throw chink & dunk routes.

But throw them he did, finding Toussaint, Martavis Bryant and Antonio Brown six times and converting 3rd and 4th downs in the process. Then he went a little deep for Brown, overthrew him, only to see his friend Vontaze Burfict level Brown with a defenseless receiver hit. Steelers coaches and trainers stepped out to check on Brown. One of those was Joey Porter.

  • Adam Jones saw Porter and started jawboning.

As an official tried to keep them separate, Jones grabbed Porter and at some point touched an official. They teach you from Pop Warner forward that both of those are big no-no’s.

  • That cost the Bengals another 15 yards, for unsportsmen like conduct.

Before Roethlisberger’s last pass, the Steelers had had the ball at Cincinnati’s 41. The twin Bengals penalties brought them to Cincinnati’s 17. Chris Boswell stepped in and split the uprights without batting an eye.

The Cincinnati Bengals fought valiantly for four quarters and had their first playoff victory since the Mikhail Gorbachev administration in hand.

  • Marv Lewis‘ team clearly wanted it, perhaps a little too much.

An injured Ben Roethlisberger deserves credit for driving his team down the field as time ran out, but had the Cincinnati Bengals had been disciplined enough to keep their cool, they’d have had their playoff win.

Instead, they get to stay in Cincinnati while the Pittsburgh Steelers advance to Denver and the AFC Divisional Playoffs.

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Steelers Game Ball Winners for Wild Card Win Over Bengals

The Pittsburgh Steelers wild Wild Card win over the Cincinnati Bengals will go down as one of the most drama filled Steelers playoff since the 1989 Steelers New Years Eve upset of the Oilers in the AstroDome. As we do after every week, Steel Curtain Rising seeks out Steelers Nation’s opinion on who the Steelers game ball winners should be.

steelers, bengals, wild card, playoff, game ball, winners, adam "pacman" jones, vontaze burfict, joey porter, personal foul

On the offensive side of the ballot, Ben Roethlisberger gets a nod, for his turnover free performance, touchdown pass and heroic effort off the bench in relief of struggling backup Landry Jones. Martavis Bryant also gets a slot on the ballot, for his touchdown catch and his incredible reverse. Antonio Brown gets a slot as well, due to his 7 catch 119 yard performance.

And so does the Steelers unlikely dynamic rushing duo Fitzgerald Toussaint and Jordan Todman who running back by committee performance was a critical factor in the Steelers win.

  • On special teams, Steelers place kicker Chris Boswell wins a ballot slot and no explanation is needed.

On the defensive side of the ballot, Ryan Shazier wins a ballot slot for the obvious reason. Other Steelers authoring splash plays include James Harrison, Ryan Shazier, Jarvis Jones, Cameron Heyward and Antwon Blake all win ballot positions.

Without the total lack of discipline on the part of both of these players, Pittsburgh Steelers would not have won the game.

Write Your Choice In

Remember, you are not limited to these choices Steelers Nation. A strong case for awarding a game ball to a member of either the Steelers defense or the Steelers offense can be made. If you feel you have someone you want to add, don’t be bashful write in your choice.

As the Steelers win over the Bengals ended at 2:00 am last night, Steel Curtain Rising’s analysis took a while to get up, but here it is!

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Steelers Bengals Playoff Preview – Backup Running Backs Carry Pittsburgh’s Hopes

The last time the Cincinnati Bengals won a playoff game, Dan Quayle remained a heartbeat away from the presidency, David Letterman still worked for NBC, “car phones” were luxury items, Coke still sold in 16 oz glass bottles and Chuck Noll was still the Pittsburgh Steelers head coach.

It is the position of this Steelers Bengals playoff preview that Pittsburgh’s hopes of prolonging Bengals playoff drought likely depend on two Steelers playoff running backs – Fitzgerald Toussaint and Jordan Todman– that no one in Steelers Nation had ever heard of when the Black and Gold’s initial 53 man roster was set.

  • Yes, how quickly we forget!

News that Kevin Colbert cut not one but two members of the Steelers 2015 Draft Class make way for wavier wire pickups sent Steelers Nation up in arms in a case of collective 2008 draft Déjà vu. Colbert and Mike Tomlin had fumbled away yet another draft. Or so it seemed.

One of Kevin Colbert’s wavier wire pickups was running back Jordan Todman, who could easily lead the Steelers in rushing in the Wild Card game vs. the Bengals. A day later Colbert added Fitzgerald Toussaint to the practice squad who will start tonight for the Steelers.

This could change should Pittsburgh advance DeAngelo Williams may return, but right now the Steelers playoff running backs are Fitzgerald Toussaint and Jordan Todman. Ben Roethlisberger still has Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Martavis Bryant and Heath Miller to throw to, but the Steelers success might hinge on Toussaint and Todman’s ability to put in an “above the line performance.”

  • Mike Tomlin’s “The Standard is the Standard. Next man up” philosophy is about to get another test.

When DeAngelo Williams name first appeared on the Steelers injury report, Steel Curtain Rising observed that not only was the Steelers running back depth preciously low, but that the Steelers had made a conscious choice to go into the season with a backfield that was two men deep (its obvious no one on the South Side was counting on Dri Archer).

Who are Fitzgerald Toussaint and Jordan Todman?

Of the two men, Jordan Todman is a much better known commodity.

Todman has been in the NFL since 2011 having spent time on the rosters of Minnesota and San Diego that season. After that, he spent three years in Jacksonville, where he appeared in 33 games and made 3 starts.

  • Jordan Todman has authored precisely one 100 yard game, a 104 yard effort that came against the Buffalo Bills in December 2013.

For his career, Jordan Todman has rushed for 472 yards on 117 carries for an average of 4.1 yards a carry and 3 touchdowns. In Pittsburgh, Todman has carried the ball four times, for 22 yards. Todman’s carries have come in the Steelers home wins against San Francisco, Cleveland and Oakland.

The Baltimore Ravens gave Fitzgerald Toussaint his NFL break in 2014, where he appeared in 4 games and rushed 6 times for 12 yards. The Steelers activated him from the practice squad several weeks ago, perhaps to keep Baltimore from claiming him, and since then the Steelers have rushed Toussaint 18 times for 42 yards.

  • That average is unimpressive, but most of that came against Cleveland, and DeAngelo Williams wasn’t doing much better.

Fitzgerald Toussaint also scored his first points in Cleveland, when he caught a Ben Roethlisberger 2 point conversion pass. Taking our cue from the Pittsburgh sports writers, who while they can’t reveal what they see in practice do nonetheless find ways to signal important information to readers, we know a little more the Steelers plans for their playoffs running backs.

Commenting on the Steelers running game going into the Wild Card vs. Cincinnati, Dale Lolley of the Observer-Reporter offered this observation “Every time somebody in the organization mentions Fitzgerald Toussaint, they add what a solid blocker he is.”

Other writers have reported similar comments. Answering a question about an NFL running back by talking about his pass blocking ability is kind of like saying the blind date you were on was “nice.”

Steelers Relying on Backup Running Backs in Playoffs the 21st Century Norm

Hats off to Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review for connecting some rather obvious dots. When DeAngelo Williams went down vs. the Browns, the image of Le’Veon Bell hyper-extending his knee in the season finale vs. the Bengals flashed through everyone’s mind. As well it should.

  • But as Adamski indicates, the Steelers starting backup running backs in the playoffs is nothing new.
  • Neither are late-season injures to starters, for that matter.

In 2011 Isaac Redman got the start in the Tebowing at Denver (and fans forget, Redman racked up over 100 yards) after Rashard Mendenhall tore his ACL late in the season. In 2007 Willie Parker broke his leg in week 16, leading to Najeh Davenport to start for the 2007 playoffs. And as Adamski reminds us, the trend goes back to Bill Cowher’s days, when Amos Zereoue started for Jerome Bettis, although Bettis had been out for several weeks.

  • The Steelers playoff record with backup running backs starting isn’t promising.

Zereoue, only a nominal backup at that point, led the Steelers to victory in the 2001 Steelers Divisional Playoff victory over the Ravens. Other than that, the Steelers are 0fwers or winless when starting backups.

Most of the analysis of the Steelers post-season prospects, including Steel Curtain Rising’s, has focused on Ben Roethlisberger and Martavis Bryant playing better and Keith Butler and the Steelers defense getting pressure and turnovers. That analysis is sound.

  • But for all of its potency, Pittsburgh’s offense still needs some production out of its running backs.

Against the Bengals it least, it appears that the Pittsburgh Steelers 2015 playoff hopes will go as far as Fitzgerald Toussaint and Jordan Todman can carry them.

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