Celebrate Good Times Come On! Antonio Brown’s Touchdown Celebrations Can Continue

Looks like you won’t have Steelers receiver Antonio Brown to kick around any longer–or at least his 15-yard penalty-inducing post-touchdown celebrations.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell published an open letter to fans on Tuesday which detailed, among other things, the league’s relaxation on the–at least in my opinion–rather absurd stance on post-touchdown celebrations.

Aside from his post-playoff victory Facebook Live feeds and his complaints about not getting enough passes thrown his way, if there’s one thing that has irked the fans about Antonio Brown in recent years, it’s his penchant for enjoying his touchdowns just a little too much. 

Antonio Brown, Antonio Brown celebration, Antonio Brown touchdown Redskins, Steelers vs Redskins

Antonio Brown celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Redskins. Photo credit: CBS Sports

Why was this a thing? Because most of Antonio Brown’s touchdown celebrations, such as twerking and making love to the goalposts, drew 15-yard penalties in 2016. And this led to Chris Boswell kicking off from his own 20, which often led to….nothing really.

  • But it could have cost his team some valuable field-position, and this is what always bothered the fans so much.

Or did it?

“We know you love the spontaneous displays of emotion that come after a spectacular touchdown,” said Goodell in his open letter. “And players have told us they want more freedom to be able to express themselves and celebrate their athletic achievements.”

  • In other words, no more No Fun League!……sort of.

Among the celebrations that will now be free of penalty are using the football as a prop, group demonstrations and going to the ground to celebrate.

Why were any of those things ever subject to penalty in the first place?

It’s hard to say. But there are Cardinals fans to this day that insist former Steelers receiver Santonio Holmes should have been penalized in the waning seconds of Super Bowl XLIII for using the football to do his LeBron Jameschalk toss” post-touchdown celebration after making one of the greatest catches in NFL history (thanks to a perfectly placed pass from Ben Roethlisberger).

That’s right, there are fans out there who wanted to potentially alter a championship thanks to a benign celebration by the guy who caught the game-winner.

  • But going strictly by the book, Super Bowl XLIII could have gone down differently, had the officials on hand called things to the letter of the law.

Thank goodness they didn’t.

However, there was a time, way back in Week 16 of the 2012 season, when an excessive celebration may have cost Pittsburgh a spot in the postseason.

  • As I said, going to the ground to celebrate will now be permitted in 2017. Unfortunately for Brett Keisel and the Steelers of five seasons ago, it wasn’t.

In the early moments of Pittsburgh’s crucial tilt with the Bengals at Heinz Field on December 23, 2012 (the Steelers had to win in-order to keep their playoff hopes alive), Brett Keisel recorded a sack on Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton and proceeded to do his signature bow-and-arrow post-sack celebration.

Sadly, since Brett Keisel went to one knee in-order to perform his celebration, the defense was hit with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty, and, instead of punting, Cincinnati was awarded a first down.

In a game that was ultimately decided by three points (the Bengals went ahead, 23-20, on a last-second field goal), this penalty on Brett Keisel could have been more costly than anyone is willing to admit.

  • All because The Beard was just trying to enjoy a special moment.

Anyway, back to the “sort of” part I alluded to earlier.

  • While the league has loosened its stance on excessive celebrations, ones that are sexually sugestive, such as twerking, will still be subject to penalty.

Why? Beats me, but given that twerking was one of Antonio Brown’s signature celebrations in 2016, the diva-live receiver may not yet be out of the woods.

But at least the NFL is making progress.

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He Boots It! Chris Boswell Dominates Game Ball Voting for Bengals Win

Boswell boots it! The game ball voting for the Pittsburgh Steelers win over the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium was perhaps as lopsided as it has ever been, with Chris Boswell dominating the balloting.

Chris Boswell, Chris Boswell six field goals

Chris Boswell kicks 1 of his six field goal during the Steelers win over the Bengals. Photo Credit: ESPN.com

Chris Boswell’s strong performance in the game ball polling is hardly a surprise, given his 18 points, several of them coming on long field goals, and his shoe string tackle of Alex Erickson. But no on expected such a landslide result.Chris Boswell, Steelers Bengals Game ball winner polls

After Boswell, James Harrison, Eli Rogers, and Lawrence Timmons were the next highest vote getters with each earning 3 votes a piece. They were followed by Ben Roethlisberger, Ryan Shazier and Ross Cockrell who each earned one vote. However, Artie Burns, Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, and Ladarius Green were shut out of the voting completely.

  • This has to count as a surprise.

None of these players had monster games, but all made important contributions to the win.

Tackle Edges Out the Six Field Goals

The Steelers game ball winners were the only poll we conducted here on Steel Curtain Rising. Our writer Tony Defeo raised the question as to whether Chris Boswell’s 6 field goals or his tackle was more important to the outcome of the game.

Armed with his essay, we took to Twitter to ask Steelers Nation what they thought. Here are the results:

By a bare margin of 2 percentage points, the fans have selected Chris Boswell’s tackle as the bigger play.

  • That’s a razor thin margin indicative of the chicken-egg nature of this question.

Chris Boswell scored 18 points, which is the equivalent of DeAngelo Williams or Darrius Heyward-Bey scoring three touchdowns. Yet his tackle prevented a touchdown on a drive where the Steelers defense held the Bengals to a field goal. That’s a 4 point differential in a game decided by 4.

Homer J. makes a strong case for the six field goals being more important over on Going Deep: An Introspective Steelers site. Regardless, we thank everyone who voted in this week’s polls.

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Decide Steelers Nation: Was Chris Boswell’s Shoe String Tackle or 6 Field Goals More Important?

It’s safe to say that, without kicker Chis Boswell’s six field goals–including an amazing three from 49 yards away–the Steelers may not have walked away with a narrow and important 24-20 victory over the Bengals‘ at Cincinnati’s Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday.

  • But it may be even safer to assume that, without Boswell’s tackling heroics late in the second quarter, those six field goals may not have led to a victory.

Shortly after Chris Boswell‘s second field goal of the day drew Pittsburgh to within 17-6, Bengals return man Alex Erickson pulled in the subsequent kickoff at his own two-yard line and proceeded to cut quickly to the left, where he found a lane down the sideline.

 Chris Boswell's shoe-string tackle Alex Erickson, Chris Boswell, Alex Erickson, 2016 Steelers vs. Bengals Paul Brown Staidum

Alex Erickson felled by Chris Boswell channeling his inner Ben Roethlisberger for a touchdown saving shoe string tackle. Photo Credit: Christopher Horner, Tribune Review

Alex Erickson showed a tremendous burst, and didn’t appear to be touched by a single Steelers special teams player as he broke into the clear. At this point, it sure looked like the rookie was about to turn a 17-6 deficit into the 24-6 variety for the Black and Gold visitors.

  • “What’s up with the special teams?” you may have been screaming to yourself or out-loud at that very second.

In fairness to Pittsburgh’s kickoff coverage, how often do players get to practice actual returns these days, with the vast-majority being downed in the end zone in the name of safety? (The NFL moved the kickoff up  to the 35-yard line in recent years, and starting this season, if a player downs one in the end zone, his offense gets the ball at the 25.)

Anyway, Alex Erickson had one man to beat, as he broke into the clear– Chris Boswell–and he actually did manage to maneuver past him; as kickers often do in that situation, Chris Boswell dived head-first in a desperate attempt to grab the returner’s leg, foot, anything.

  • And, lo and behold, it actually worked this time, as Chis Boswell got just enough of Alex Erickson to trip him up and bring him down at the 26.

For the record, Artie Burns did arrive on the scene but he likely would not have caught Erickson without Boswell’s shoe string tackle.

So what looked like a 98-kickoff return for a touchdown (something that’s becoming about as rare in football as hitting for the cycle is in baseball), became a 72-yard run that merely set up a Randy Bullock field goal and a slightly more manageable two-touchdown deficit for the Steelers, whose 18 unanswered points from that moment on proved to be enough for a victory.

So I leave it for you to decide, which was more important:

Chris Boswell’s shoe-string tackle of Alex Erickson may quickly be forgotten and will surely never be placed on the same historic level as Ben Roethlisberger’s official “The Tackle” in the waning seconds of the 2005 Divisional Playoffs against the Colts.

But if the Steelers go on to beat the Ravens to win the AFC North and then make a Super Bowl run, Chris Boswell’s overall performance vs. the Bengals (you can’t forget about those six field goals…obviously) may go down as one of the most clutch by any player in recent memory.

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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.

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Vote Steelers Game Ball Winners for Victory over Bengals

The Pittsburgh Steelers 24-20 win over the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium gave the men in Black and Gold their 5 straight victory in as many weeks. Which beyond keeping the Steelers a step ahead of the Baltimore Ravens , it also gives this corner of Steelers Nation their 5th straight opportunity to vote Steelers game ball winners.

Eli Rogers, 2016 Steelers vs. Bengals,

Eli Rogers touchdown puts the Steelers ahead of the Bengals. Photo Credit: Chaz Palla, Tribune Review

It is no secret why Chris Boswell earns top billing on the ballot after knocking in 6 straight field goals tying the franchise record held by Jeff Reed and Gary Anderson.

This poll is closed! Poll activity:
start_date 12-18-2016 18:49:27
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Poll Results:
Which Steelers deserve game balls for the Bengals win (votes for multiple players allowed)

After that, you have Ben Roethlisberger, who while certainly did not have a dominant performance during the game against the Bengals, protected the ball, and got the Steelers ahead in the 4th quarter with a precision strike to Eli Rogers, another player earning a ballot slot who led the Steelers receivers.

Le’Veon Bell likewise didn’t enjoy the same success he has enjoyed for the last several weeks, but he finished just shy of 100 yards rushing, with 93 and added 38 through the air. Antonio Brown, had a quiet day, also earns a ballot slot. Even if number 84’s catch count was down, Brown came down with balls when the Steelers needed him to.

  • Ladarius Green rounds out the Steelers offensive players with game ball ballot slots, due to his 5 catch 72 yard performance.

On defense, Lawrence Timmons lead the balloting, who came in second in tackles, and made an impressive interception to help turn momentum around for the Steelers. Ryan Shazier likewise gets the second ballot slot, thanks to his all-around sound play and notching.

  • James Harrison led the Steelers defense in tackles providing excellent run support, earning his ballot slot.

Both Ross Cockrell and Artie Burns nabbed ballot slots as both men made key third down pass defenses, although Burns pass interference in the end zone set up the Bengals first touchdown.

Write-In Candidates for Game Winners

Perhaps you think that Cobi Hamilton making a clutch catch should earn him a game ball. Good for you. Write in his name. Perhaps you think that Michael Mitchell or Sean Davis also deserve game balls for their play? By all means write in their names. Better yet, leave a comment stating your case.

Thanks in advance for voting. Please check back for our full analysis of the Steelers win over the Bengals.

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6 Improbable Steelers Backup Quarterback Upset Wins

Raise your hand if you’re Steelers fan excited to see Landry Jones start against the New England Patriots. OK. Didn’t think we’d get too many takers. Fair enough. With Ben Roethlisberger recovering from knee surgery and Cameron Heyward also the odds makers have been rather generous in installing the Patriots as 7 points favorites.

  • Still, should Steelers Nation abandon all hope?

Perhaps, but Steelers backup quarterbacks have a history of delivering some surprising results under duress. Here are six notable Steelers backup quarterback upset wins dating from 1988 to 2012 (no disrespect to Steelers 1976 rookie Mike Kruczek, just not old enough to remember him.)

Charlie Batch, Steelers upset Ravens 2012, Charlie Batch final game, Charlie Batch Ravens

Charlie Batch won his final start as 2012 Steelers upset Ravens on the road. Photo Credit: Chris Knight, The Patriot-News

1. 1988 – Todd Blackledge Leads Steelers to 39-21 win over Denver Broncos

It had been a bad week for Chuck Noll that began with a 34-14 drubbing in the Astrodome at the hands of arch nemesis Jerry Glanville. Noll cut short his weekly press conference when reporters asked him what it would take for him to step down. Terry Bradshaw called for Noll’s dismissal su

ggesting he was too old for the job. Bubby Brister was injured, and back up Todd Blackledge was struggling even to get snaps from Mike Webster.

In short, no one expected the explosion that was coming, led by Rodney Carter who took it 64 yards to the house on the game’s third play. Carter rushed for 105 yards, caught a touchdown and completed a pass, as Noll employed uncharacteristic trickery. Merril Hoge ran for another 94 yards, and Rod Woodson set up another score with a 29 yard interception and Gary Anderson kicked 6 field goals.

Todd Blackledge was only 9 of 17 for 129 yards on the day, but that was good enough to give Pittsburgh the win.

2. 1991 – Neil O’Donnell Authors 26-15 Upset of the Houston Oilers

1991 had been a tough year for Chuck Noll, and his Steelers had just been humiliated at home by the soon-to-be Super Bowl Champion Washington Redskins. Scalping dished out by the Redskins the week before at Three Rivers Stadium had given the Steelers a 4-7 record, and 4-8 seemed certain against the 9-2 Oilers.

It is also true that perhaps Neil O’Donnell should be considered a backup, having started since relieved Brister 5 weeks earlier against the Giants, but Noll had been coy about designating a “starter.”

The Steelers ability to shut down the “Run ‘N Shoot” offense is one of the reasons why that never “stuck” in the NFL, but that was far from apparent in 1991. Games like this began to change the tune, as Bryan Hinkle, Thomas Everett, and Shawn Vincent picked off Warren Moon 5 times.

Those turnovers set up 3 Gary Anderson field goals, a 43 yard pass from Neil O’Donnell to Dwight Stone, and a Warren Williams touchdown. For the record, Neil O’Donnell went 12 for 29 for 155 yards one touchdown and 1 interception.

3. 1994 – Mike Tomczak Out Guns Dan Marino, Steelers Beat Dolphins 16-13

Perhaps the lead up to this game would have been different in the age of social media, but news that Mike Tomczak got the starting nod over Neal O’Donnell came as a surprise when game day arrived.

  • Imagine getting to the sports bar to learn that Mike Tomczak would square off against Dan Marino.

But got toe-to-toe Tomczak did, and how! In 1994, 300 yard passing games were relatively rare in the NFL but both quarterbacks broke the 300 yard mark, with Tomczak topping Marino’s yardage total. But for all of that passing, the game represented more of a defensive chess match. Chad Brown, Jason Gildon and Joel Steed team to sack Marino 4 times, with Levon Kirkland intercepting him once.

  • The Steelers held the lead until the Dolphins tied it a 48 yard field goal as time expired.

The Steelers won the toss, but could not score. The Dolphins took over at their 40, but the vaunted Steelers 1994 Blitzburgh defense stopped him cold at Pittsburgh’s 47. Mike Tomzcak excelled in overtime, scrambling twice and completed passes of 27 yards to Barry Foster and 23 yards to John L. Williams to set up Gary Anderson’s game winner.

As this site has previously observed, Tomzack’s ’94 wins against the Dolphins and the Raiders marked the shift of the focal point of the Steelers passing attack away from Eric Green and to Yancey Thigpen, Ernie Mills, Andre Hastings and Charles Johnson.

4. 2002 – Kordell Stewart Rebounds to Lead Steelers over Bengals 29-13

Time to fess up. Just as Neil O’Donnell wasn’t really the “Steelers backup quarterback” in the 1991 Astrodome upset of the Oilers, the Steelers win over the 1-10 Bengals can hardly fall into the category of an “upset.”

But its author, Kordell Stewart, most certainly was a backup. Less than one year removed from winning the team MVP award, Kordell Stewart found himself on the bench in favor of Tommy Maddox. Raul Alegre of ESPNDeportes had revealed 5 weeks eailer during the Steelers Monday night game vs. the Colts, Bill Cowher had confided in him that he hadn’t wanted to bench Kordell, but felt he had to because Kordell had lost the confidence of the Steelers locker room.

  • Expectations don’t get much lower than that.

Nonetheless, Kordell Stewart fearlessly took the reigns after Tommy Maddox’s injury the week before in Tennessee. The Steelers raced to a 17 point lead on a Jerome Bettis touchdown run, a 64 yard bomb from Stewart to Hines Ward, and a Jeff Reed field goal. But the Bengals fought back, scoring 14 points in the second half. The Steelers tacked on another 3 in the third quarter, but midway through the 4th the Bengals took the lead.

  • Kordell Stewart rallied the Steelers, first bringing Reed into range to boot a field goal, and then rifling a 27 yarder to Hines Ward which set up a 24 yard rumble by Bettis.

Kordell Stewart was flawless that day, going 22 for 26, one touchdown and zero picks.

5. 2005 – Charlie Batch off Bench @ Lambeau as Steelers beat Packers 20-10

2005 was a rough year for Green Bay, who entered the game at 1-10. On the face of it, that might make it difficult to categorize this win as “an upset” but if you’re playing at Lambeau Field, who do you want to be your quarterback Brett Favre or Charlie Batch, a man who hadn’t thrown a non-mop up time pass since 2001.

  • And did we mention that Jerome Bettis was out and that injuries limited Willie Parker to 5 carries?

The Steelers struggled in this one, as did Batch, but he played well enough to win, as did Duce Staley who saw his last real NFL action, and helped the Steelers win with 76 yards rushing and a touchdown.

6. 2012 – Charlie Batch Wins Finals Start, Steelers Upset Ravens 23-20

This Steelers 2012 game against the Ravens at M&T Stadium was one for the ages. The Steeler were reeling, having suffered back-to-back divisional losses, including an 8 turnover game to the Cleveland Browns. Charlie Batch had quarterbacked that game, and committed 3 of the turnovers, all interceptions.

And here the Steelers were, traveling to the home of their arch rival, with their 3rd string quarterback, 3rd string wide out, 2nd string outside linebacker. During the game, they would also lose their starting guard.

  • This was as hard fought game as you get.

The lead changed 5 times. Twice in the second half, Steelers turnovers gave the Ravens a chance to put Pittsburgh away, and twice Pittsburgh clawed back. James Harrison led the Steelers final rally, with one of his patended strip-sacks which came shortly after the Steelers had turned over the ball. Charlie Batch fired a missle to Heath Miller, who then willed himself into the end zone.

  • The Steelers defense held on the next drive.

Charlie Batch then took over at Pittsburgh 15 and with 6:14 remaining, led the Steelers on 13 play drive where Batch completed 7 straight passes, as Pittsburgh reached the Ravens 24 yard line. Shaun Suisham booted in a 42 yard field goal, and the Steelers had won.

Is Landry the Steelers Next “Legendary” Back Up Quarterback?

So, could Landry Jones author a game worth of inclusion of on this list above? With Cameron Heyward, Markus Wheaton, Marcus Gilbert and DeAngelo Williams out the odds are against him. But the odds were also once against Todd Blackladge, Neil O’Donnell, Mike Tomzcak, Kordell Stewart and Charlie Batch and they proved everyone else wrong.

Let’s hope Landry Jones follows in their footsteps.

 

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4 Random Reflections on 2016 Steelers 4-1 Start + a Shout Out for a Steelers Nation Scribe

he boss is back with 4 random reflections on the 2016 Steelers 4-1 start, plus a shut out for a special Steelers Nation scribe.

Yes, after close to a month on the road my travels have finally brought me back to “home,” namely Buenos Aires, Argentina. One of the great ironies of the global economy is that a month long trip TO the United States kept me from writing about the Steelers, save for a rebuttal of Colin Cowherd’s Mike Tomlin bashing and reflections on Le’Veon Bell’s longevity.

Still, this excurision didn’t result in a full Steelers sabbatical, as followed the news as best I could, while taking in a couple of games on the fly.

2016 steelers 4-1 start, Lawrence Timmons, Artie Burns, Jordan Dangerfield, steelers vs. jets

Jordan Dangerfield, Lawrence Timmons, and Artie Burns gang up on Quincy Enunwa to help 2016 Steelers to 4-1 start. Photo Credit: Chaz Palla, Tribune-Review

1. Stats Mislead in Steelers Victory Over Bengals

The Steelers much anticipated re-match with the Bengals, sans Le’Veon Bell and Vontaze Burfict was easily on of the “Can’t Miss” games when the schedule was announced. Alas, booth set up responsibilities, paired with a corporate event at a baseball game meant there was NO WAY in HELL I was going to see the game.

  • When I finally got to grab lunch at 4:00 pm or so, the headline “Ben Roethlisberger throws 3 touchdowns as Steelers beat Bengals” pleased me.

And of course I thought that Roethlisberger had been on another rampage, similar to the one he led against the Redskins in week 1. Only later did I learn that Ben Roethlisberger had struggled for much of the day, and that the Cincinnati defense has managed to contain Antonio Brown fairly well. A win is a win, but this one reminds you of how misleading stats passed on the ESPN scroll can be.

2. Wife Wins + Steelers Loss = Husband’s Right Call on Philly Game

Week 2 brought my wife’s arrival in the US and by this time I was back in Maryland. And just as fate would have it, the Steelers-Eagles game was on national TV. No need to hike a Steelers bar, giving me my first chance to watch a Steelers game in my home state since 2008 and my first in my parents’ home since, what, 1991?

Ah, but it was a beautiful day, and my wife wanted to hit Georgetown. Good idea.

  • So I relented and slyly taped the Steelers game. Good decision.

Have the Pittsburgh Steelers ever performed so perfectly piss poorly as they did against Philadelphia during the Mike Tomlin era? Perhaps. The 2011 opening day Debacle at Baltimore would make as strong candidate. Outside of that you’d have to really search. The game started with a dropped touchdown pass followed by a blocked field goal. And things got worse from there.

In other words, it was the perfect time to take your wife down to Georgetown to do some shopping and site seeing.

3. Camerony Heyward, Steelers Clobber Kansas City

At some point we’ll have do a “Steelers history vs.” article on the Kansas City Chiefs, because those games often reveal a lot. But for now the Steelers Sunday Night Football victory over the Chiefs will remain something to relish.

Fortunately, I did get to see this one, and a shout out goes to Andrew Kipp who recommended the venue:

The Reservoir did turn out to be a good place to see the Steelers play. OK, it wasn’t the Purple Goose Saloon, but let’s not kid ourselves – they don’t make Steelers Bars like the Goose anymore. But the prices were great, there were plenty of TV’s to watch on, and the Steelers fans were friendly.

Most importantly, the Steelers bounced back from an ugly loss, and it was nice to see Jarvis Jones make a splash play and Markus Wheaton bounce back from a horrendous performance in Philly.

4. Still in NYC, but Can’t See the Steelers

My last weekend in the United States found me still in New York for the Steelers-Jets game, yet I was unable to watch the game! My wife might have been sold on this one (she was more than OK with me watching the KC game), but it was our last full day in Manhattan, and we had a number of things we wanted to do, and also some things we needed to do.

  • The Steelers won, despite an ever lengthening injury list, on a week that saw the Steelers stash not just Senquez Golson but also Ryan Harris on IR.

From what I read, it was a good game even if the Steelers didn’t start particularly strong, they closed out the game with a second half shut out. That got us to 4-1, and I will take a 4-1 start anytime I can get one.

5. Shout Out to a Special Steelers Nation Scribe

Running a truly independent Steelers blog can be a solitary experience. God knows you, my readers, give continue to come in increasing numbers and give me shout outs on Twitter and Facebook, but stark fact is that here in 2016 you can’t have a site go dark for 25% of a season and expect to be taken seriously.

  • Thanks to Tony Defeo, this was a non-issue during my month long trek.

As regular readers know, big Steelers news only breaks when yours truly is unable to write. The correlation has almost been scientifically verified. For the past several off seasons, Tony has been keeping an eye on the back door, and made sure that no important stories fall through the cracks while I’m away.

Earlier this year, Tony started contributing regular features, and I highly suggest you check out his pieces on Calvin Sweeny, Weegie Thompson, David Little, Harry Newsome, Mark Malone and/or Larry Brown. These profiles, in addition to his other features, have enriched this site in ways I could never do on my own.

  • Over the last month Tony has gone into “Above and beyond the call of duty” of a part-time contributor.

That’s to him, the updates kept coming, whether I was putting in 14 hour days at a tradeshow on the West Coast, scrambling to process leads by day and spending quality time with family at night in my stomping grounds in Maryland, or vacationing in the Big Apple.

  • I’ve thanked you in private, and now I’ll do it in public – Thanks Tony for your contributions to Steel Curtain Rising.

Tony will continue to contribute this season here, but he publishes several times a week on Behind the Steel Curtain and Cover 32. Regardless of the locale, Tony’s stuff is must read. Check him out and be sure to follow him on Twitter:

Thanks to you, readers, for continuing to read. The Steelers are off to a good start. Let’s see where they can take it.

 

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Colin Cowherd’s Mike Tomlin Attack Amounts to Pure Idiocy

Why Colin Cowherd’s Mike Tomlin attack amounts to pure idiocy

One of the great personal ironies of the global economy is that, trips to the United States either prevent or seriously impair my ability to watch, follow and write about the Pittsburgh Steelers. So it came as a great shock Thursday morning in San Francisco to see that my friend Ivan Cole had taken it upon himself to defend Mike Tomlin against Colin Cowherd on Rebecca Rollet’s Going Deep with the Steelers.

  • My first thought was, “Are we really having this conversation? Aren’t the Steelers 2-0?”
colin cowherd's mike tomlin attack, ben roethlisberger, mike tomlin,

Ben Roethlisberger stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Mike Tomlin. Photo Credit: broncos.com

Well, yes, we are. And perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised, because the year began with then BTSC scribe Chris Carter obliterating Jason Whitlock’s contention that Tomlin was “coddled” simply because he was African American. Ironically, or not, Whitlock launched his attack on Cowherd’s show.

My friend Mr. Cole launched a two pronged attack on Cowherd, first taking aim at Cowherd’s argument, and second speculating about Cowherd’s motives. Cole’s article amounts to must read for Steelers Nation, and there’s no reason to rehash his arguments here.

There is every reason to pile on additional reasons to prove that Colin Cowherd’s Mike Tomlin attack is pure idiocy.

Colin Cowherd’s Mike Tomlin Attack Rooted in Stale Criticisms

Colin Cowherd’s Mike Tomlin attack begins in the same old stale criticisms that have been leveled against Tomlin for years. The only one that holds any validity is Tomlin’s almost Thanksgiving Day trip of Jacoby Jones.

  • Cowherd criticizes Tomlin’s assistants for getting into fights with opposing players on the sideline.

Is this the best you can do? The charges leveled against Joey Porter and Mike Munchak during the circus in Cincinnati have been debunked by video evidence. Neither coach acted as an instigator, nor were any of their actions inappropriate.

Really? Last January Mike Tomlin led a Pittsburgh Steelers team into a division rival’s stadium on a rainy night and January. His third string quarterback, Landry Jones threw an interception from the Steelers 14 with 1:43 left to play with Pittsburgh down by 1.

  • Let’s see, how did that one turn out?

Oh, yeah, the Steelers came back and won that one, and one of the franchise’s most dramatic playoff come backs since the Immaculate Reception (and that’s not a comparison one makes lightly.) Yeah, Mike Tomlin really mangles clock management, and if he doesn’t, his teams choke with the game on the line.

Tomlin Was Simply Lucky to get Roethlisberger

The basis of Cowherd’s argument is that Tomlin was lucky to inherit a roster with Ben Roethlisberger and others.

There’s no doubt that Ben Roethlisberger has made Mike Tomlin a better head coach just as Bill Cowher suddenly became a Super Bowl winning instead of a Super Bowl contending head coach after Roethlisberger arrived in Pittsburgh. And Bill Parcells was a better coach with Phil Simms than he was with Drew Bledsoe, Vinny Testaverde and whoever else he had under center with Jets, Patriots, and Cowboys.

  • But Cowherd betrays himself here without even knowing it.

You see, when Mike Tomlin arrived in Pittsburgh, Ben Roethlisberger was “an effective game manager,” and of who it was said that “nothing to this point suggests that Roethlisberger can carry an undermanned team on his shoulders to playoff success.” This missive was written on ESPN back on August 2, 2007, before Mike Tomlin had called his first game as Steelers head coach. (The same article suggested that Matt Leinart was a sure-fire Hall of Famer while Ben would never get to Canton.)

  • A decade later those words seem laughable.

In fact, during the Steelers rebuilding seasons in 2012 and 2013, Roethlisberger’s presence was cited as a reason why the Steelers could go all the way. Cowherd himself extols Roethlisberger as one of the best three quarterbacks in the AFC. He’s right. But doesn’t Mike Tomlin deserve credit for helping develop Ben Roethlisberger, or at the very least providing him an environment to thrive in?

  • And while we’re at it, has Colin Cowherd always thought that Ben Roethlisberger was an elite quarterback?

Or did Cowherd sing the “Big Ben’s just a ‘game manager’ chorus” a decade ago?  I don’t know, but perhaps some questions are best left unasked.

Mike Tomlin is a George Seifert, not a Barry Switzer

Colin Cowherd’s Mike Tomlin attack is laced with comparison’s to Barry Switzer. The argument is that, like Switzer, Tomlin inherited a talented team and rode on his predecessor’s coattails. It IS true that Mike Tomlin took charge of a Super Bowl ready team.

Tomlin started James Harrison whereas Bill Cowher kept him on the bench. Unlike Cowher, Tomlin didn’t had the benefit of the services of Jeff Hartings and Alan Faneca, instead he made it work with Justin Hartwig and Darnell Stapleton. What’s more, Mike Tomlin’s 2010 Steelers team featured even more new faces.

  • Barry Switzer got handed a Super Bowl caliber team, and within two years, he brought home another Lombardi Trophy.

Kudos to him. But two years later, Switzer’s team had imploded and his players quit on him late in the season. Has last game featured Troy Aikman imploring his teammates in vain to hustle to the line of scrimmage to run the hurry up offense. Jerry Jones fired him.

  • Comparing Mike Tomlin to Barry Switzer is completely off base.

The better comparison is between Mike Tomlin and George Seifert. Like Tomlin, George Seifert got handed the keys to a Super Bowl-ready team, and like Tomlin, Seifert drove his team home. Seifert however, kept his team in contention and in 1994 won another Super Bowl.

  • No one in Steelers Nation should count Lombardi Trophies before they’re won.

But today the Pittsburgh Steelers are legitimate Super Bowl contenders, with a roster that only contains three players from their last Championship team….

…Not bad for a coach who simply got “lucky” to inherit a talented team.

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Pittsburgh Steelers Report Card for Win over Bengals

Taken from the grade book of a sturdy Steelers scribe feels the way Pittsburgh won this this game reveals the mark of a Super Bowl contender, here is the Steelers report card for the win over the Bengals, during week 2 at Heinz Field.

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Rossy Cockrell made life miserable for A.J.y Green in Steelers win over Bengals. Photo Credit: Matt Freed, Post-Gazette

Quarterback 

Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t at his sharpest. For the day, he completed 19 of 37 passes for 259 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Perhaps his biggest blunder of the game was an interception to Adam Jones that came on a fourth down play when he had Antonio Brown wide open. However, while it wasn’t the pretties performance for Roethlisberger, who struggled in the day-long rain at Heinz Field, he found Sammie Coates on bombs of 44 and 53 yards, respectively. And he capitalized on those huge plays by throwing touchdown passes to tight ends Xaxier Grimble and Jesse James. And Roethlisberger set up the third score–a six yard touchdown pass to running back DeAngelo Williams–by scrambling for 14 yards down to the five-yard line. Grade: C+

Running Backs

The sledding was a bit tougher for DeAngelo Williams in Week 2 than it was in Week 1 when he rushed for 142 yards and two touchdowns against the Redskins. But the veteran running back was a workhorse, as he carried the ball 32 times for 94 yards. Sure, he only averaged 2.9 yards per rush, but he stayed with it and was much better in the second half. Also, he made a great play by getting himself wide open in the corner of the end zone on his six-yard touchdown catch late in the fourth quarter. Grade: B-

Wide Receivers steelers, report card, grades, steelers vs. bengals, coaching, special teams, unsung heros

It was a tough day for Antonio Brown, as he was bottled up by the Bengals secondary to the tune of just four receptions for 39 yards. Brown even had an uncharacteristic drop during the game, which more than likely was a result of his frustrations. However, the young Sammie Coates was a very welcome sight; he caught just two passes, but they were for 44 and 53 yards, respectively, and set up two of Pittsburgh’s three touchdowns. Grade: C

Tight Ends

Maybe the Steelers do miss free agent Ladarius Green, but his absence has yet to manifest itself early in the 2016 season. While understudies Jesse James and Xavier Grimble didn’t exactly dazzle against the Bengals (they combined for five catches for 55 yards), they pulled in one touchdown each. On Grimble’s score, he displayed great athleticism, by catching a Ben Roethlisberger pass at the five-yard line, shaking free of a defender and diving over the goal line for the score. As for James’ touchdown catch, he showed the value of his 6-7 frame by leaping up to snag an intentionally high pass in the end zone as he was surrounded by several Bengals defenders. Grade: B

Offensive Line

The Steelers very talented offensive line had its hands full all day against Cincinnati’s equally talented defensive line. Roethlisberger may have only been sacked once, but he was under pressure a great deal of the day. As for the running game, again, the going was tough, but the hogs upfront managed to stay consistent, and Williams churned out more yards in the second half than he did in the first. Grade: B-

Defensive Line 

The Bengals only rushed for 46 yards on the day, so kudos to the line for doing its job and containing a talented duo of Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard. The pressure wasn’t there, as the defense got to quarterback Andy Dalton just once. But, as they say, the other team is on scholarship, too, and the Bengals allowed just two sacks a game in 2015. Cameron Heyward appeared to show no ill-effects from his high-ankle sprain suffered in the preseason; and Stephon Tuitt was active, as he totaled four tackles and a quarterback hit. Grade: B-

Linebackers

Inside linebacker Ryan Shazier was once again all over the place, as he recorded 11 tackles (five solo). It was also a very solid game for Lawrence Timmons, who tallied six solo tackles. And what can you say about the veteran James Harrison? He only had one  tackle on the day, but it came at the end of the game, and resulted in a game-saving fumble by Tyler Boyd, just when it looked like the Bengals were driving for the potential tying score. Grade: A-

Secondary 

While Andy Dalton passed for 366 yards on the day, the secondary did a fairly good job of keeping plays in front of them and tackling the catch. Safety Robert Golden was especially impressive, as he posted nine tackles (five solo), had the presence of mind to push tight end C.J. Ozomah out of the back of the end zone before he could get both feet in bounds on a second and goal pass in the third quarter, when the Bengals were were trailing 17-6 (they ultimately had to settle for a field goal) and recovered the Boyd fumble that sealed the deal at the end. As for rookie cornerback Artie Burns, there was the good: he broke up a touchdown pass late in the first half and forced the Bengals to settle for three; and there was the bad: he missed a tackle late in the game on a 25-yard touchdown catch and run by Bernard. But much kudos has to be given to Ross Cockrell who had the tough task of covering A.J. Green and helped limit him to just 38 yards on two catches. Grade: B-

Special Teams 

Jordan Berry had an awesome day, averaging 47.1 yards on eight punts. The average starting field position for the Bengals after Berry’s punts was the  13-yard line; and he downed five of his kicks inside the 10. As for Chris Boswell, he remains Mr. Consistency, as he connected on all three extra points during a game-long rainstorm and made a 49-yard field goal in the first half to give the Steelers a 10-3 lead. Grade: A

Coaching

In a game that could have gotten out of control, given the recent history between the two teams, Mike Tomlin’s troops were quite disciplined. While the hitting was hard, it wasn’t dirty, and Pittsburgh was only penalized five times for 54 yards, with none of those infractions being of the unsportsmanlike or unnecessary roughness variety.

Defensive coordinator Keith Butler appeared to employ a bend but don’t break strategy, by allowing short passes over the middle and preventing big plays over the top. The Bengals racked up a ton of yards (412, total), but three trips inside the red zone resulted in three Mike Nugent field goals.

Offensive coordinator Todd Haley didn’t have an enviable job. Not only did he have to deal with the Bengals stout and talented defense; he had to deal with the elements. However, he remained very consistent with the ground game, calling 34 traditional running plays, even if they only resulted in 106 yards. As for the passing game, while the Bengals contained Brown, three long passes to Coates resulted in two big completions that set up two of the three touchdowns. Grade: A

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Steelers Beat Bengals Improve to 2-0 with 24-16 win over Cincinnati @ Heinz Field

In yet another memorable contest between the two fierce AFC North foes, the Steelers outlasted the Bengals, 24-16, at Heinz Field on Sunday to improve to 2-0.

Running back DeAngelo Williams was the offensive catalyst for the second week in a row, as he carried 32 times for 94 yards against a very stout Cincinnati defense. Williams also caught four passes for 38 yards and a touchdown.

Steelers Beat Bengals Advance to 2-0, Sammie Coates, Steelers vs. Bengals

Sammie had a big day as the 2016 Steelers advanced to 2-0 with a win over Cincinnati. Photo Credit: Justin K. Aller, Getty Images

It wasn’t the best of days for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who completed 19 of 37 passes for 259 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions, as he struggled with accuracy due to the day-long rain at Heinz Field, as well as with pressure by the Bengals formidable pass-rush which was in his face most of the afternoon.

However, like he has most of his career, Roethlisberger did just enough to secure a victory. Late in the first quarter of a scoreless game, Roethlisberger escaped pressure, moved to his left and found second-year receiver Sammie Coates for a 44-yard catch down the the Cincinnati 21. Two plays later, No. 7 connected with Xavier Gimble at the five-yard line, and the rookie tight end made a great individual effort to break a tackle and dive into the end zone to make it 7-0.

  • The Bengals immediately responded with a scoring drive of their own, that ended when kicker Mike Nugent connected on a 25-yard field goal to make it 7-3.

The defensive struggle continued over the next six possessions, as the two teams traded punts back and forth. However, after Bengals punter Kevin Huber only got off a 32-yarder deep in his own territory, the Steelers had great field position at the Cincinnati 36. But Pittsburgh quickly went three and out and had to settle for a 49-yard Chris Boswell field goal to make it 10-3.

With a minute remaining in the first half, Roethlisberger tried to connect with Coates once again, this time on a deep pass down the  right sideline. But cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick intercepted the pass, and the Bengals took advantage, by converting Roethlisberger’s second pick of the half into another Nugent field goal to make it 10-6 at the break.

Late in the third quarter, Ben Roethlisberger went to the deep well once again, and found Sammie Coates for a 53-yard gain down to the Bengals nine-yard line. One play later, Roethlisberger connected  with tight end Jesse James to make it 17-6.

The Bengals began moving the ball on their next offensive possession, and after a 20-yard pass-interference penalty on cornerback Ross Cockrell who was trying to cover A.J. Green, Cincinnati had it first and 10 from the 14. Three plays later, it was first and goal from the one, after rookie cornerback Artie Burns was also flagged for interference while breaking up a pass intended for Brandon LaFell. But, much like it did most of last season, Pittsburgh’s defense bent, but it didn’t break. Jeremy Hill was stopped for a two-yard loss on first down. On the next play, quarterback Andy Dalton tried to hit tight end C.J. Ozomah in the back of the end zone, but safety Robert Golden made a great play by pushing him out of bounds before he could get both feet in. On replay, it appeared Ozomah got one knee down before going out of bounds, which would have been a legal catch, but the Bengals didn’t challenge.

  • After another incomplete pass by Dalton on third down, Nugent made it 17-9 with his third chip shot of the afternoon.

Early in the fourth quarter, Pittsburgh began a 12-play drive that covered 68 yards, consumed 6:54 of game clock and ended when Ben Roethlisberger found Williams all alone in the end zone for a six-yard score to make it 24-9 with 6:48 left. The key play on the drive came when Roethlisberger scrambled for 14 yards to set up a first and goal from the five.

But the Bengals weren’t done, and they quickly marched 75 yards in eight plays and made it 24-16 when Dalton hit Giovani Bernard on a short pass, and the running back eluded several Steelers on the way to a 25-yard touchdown.

  • After Pittsburgh did nothing on its next offensive series (and only burned 25 seconds off the clock), the Bengals took over at their own 25 with three minutes remaining.

With short passes over the middle, Dalton advanced his offense to the Steelers 39-yard line by the two-minute warning. However, one play later, after a quick pass to rookie receiver Tyler Boyd, linebacker James Harrison forced a fumble, and Golden recovered with 1:50 remaining. On replay, it appeared Boyd’s knee was on the ground just as the ball came free, but after an automatic review, the play stood, and the Steelers prevailed.

While Dalton threw for a ton of yards (366) and didn’t throw any interceptions, the Bengals offense was denied touchdowns on three trips inside the Red Zone. As for Green, he was once again stymied by Pittsburgh’s much-maligned secondary, who held him to two receptions for 38 yards.

Next up for the Steelers is a Week 3 road date with the Eagles next Sunday at 4:25.

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