Le’Veon Bell Leads Steelers Killer Bees in Dolphins Win Game Ball Voting with Silverback in Pursuit

To no one’s great surprise, Le’Veon Bell topped the rest of the Steelers Killer Bees in the game ball voting for the Steelers Wild Card victory over the Dolphins.

Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Steelers killer bees, Steelers vs. Dolphins

The Steelers Killer Bees. Photo credit: Steelers.com

steelers vs. dolphins, steelers dolphins wild card game, steelers dolphins game ballsThat’s the kind of thing that happens when you make your playoff debut by setting Steelers records in one game that neither Franco Harris, nor Jerome Bettis, nor Willie Parker nor Rocky Bleier could top in their collective 58 playoff games.

James Harrison came in second in the voting earning 29 votes, which also is not surprising given his role in completely neutralizing the Miami Dolphins rushing attack. Next came Antonio Brown, who himself had a record setting day with his two touchdown performance that was good enough to earn him 17 votes.

  • Bud Dupree was the next highest individual vote getter, grabbing 14 votes, or one more than the Steelers offensive line, which was a write in vote.

Ben Roethlisberer was the only other player to reach double digits, reaching 10 votes. Ryan Shazier got close with 9 votes, followed by Lawrence Timmons with 7, and Stephon Tuitt who got 6. Jesse James got 2 votes, as did a write in favoring Danny Smith’s dismissal, followed by 1 vote for Mike Mitchell.

  • The write in success of the Steelers offensive line deserves to be commended.

The synergy between Le’Veon Bell and his offensive line is something truly incredible, and truly special. With that said however, the lukewarm support enjoyed by Stephon Tuitt and Mike Mitchell is perhaps a surprise, but this poll is about what you readers think, not about what yours truly thinks.

As always, Steel Curtain Rising thanks everyone who took out time to vote. Now its on to Kansas City!

 

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Watch Tower: Reviewing Steelers Press Coverage on Joey Porter’s Present, Roethlisberger’s Past, Film Reviews & More

How time flies. The last time the Watch Tower switched on its lights, the Pittsburgh Steelers had just defeated the Redskins and were preparing for the grudge match with the Bengals. Not in coincidentally, that column came immediately before a month long trip abroad, and since then, to borrow Mike Tomlin’s metaphor, it’s been like trying to get on to a moving train.

But a lot has happened, and this edition of the Watch Tower focuses on the Joey Porter arrest incident, coverage of Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers injuries, Tomlin trap games (or lack thereof) and comings in goings in the Steelers press corps.

Joey Porter, Joey Porter arrest, press coverage of Joey porter arrest, officer Paul Abel

Steelers Outside Linebackers coach Joey Porter looks on during a preseason game at Heinz Field. Photo Credit: Pittsburgh City Paper

Balance Needed in the Joey Porter Arrest Story

As everyone in Steelers Nation knows, celebration of the Steelers Wild Card win over the Dolphins was cut short with news that Steelers Outside Linebackers Coach Joey Porter got arrested for an incident on the South Side.

  • The next morning, the folks at ESPN had already determined that the Steelers should issue Porter his walking papers (we’ll get to that in a moment.)

Nearly every story of the event not only described what was known at the time, but then issued a laundry list of off the field issues that Porter has had. That seems logical, but it was Dale Lolley who clued the Watch Tower into another side of the story. Lolley observed:

The Steelers are likely a little reluctant to quickly make a move with Porter despite the bad timing of this incident and because the officer in question, off-duty City of Pittsburgh officer, Paul Abel, has quite a checkered past. Google his name to find out more.

To be fair, Lolley wasn’t the only Pittsburgh writer to bring this up. In fact Charlie Deitch of Pittsburgh’s City Paper wrote a full length article on the subject, noting the failure in some publications to cite the Paul Abel’s controversial past, and sharing that some of his readers had begun to question whether the officer’s history should be relevant, concluding:

So that brings us back to the media reports of Porter’s arrest. If mentioning his previous run-ins with the law has new value and speaks to his credibility, then the police officer should be held to the same standard. The word of a police officer is automatically given more weight than the person arrested. We see it in court when an officer testifies against a perpetrator, and we see it in civil cases when police officers are accused of acts of excessive force and false arrest.

In this case, I think it is absolutely appropriate to bring up Paul Abel’s past.

  • Charlie Deitch can’t be more right, and for that he earns Watch Tower Kudos.

Finally, in discussing Porter’s arrest and Adam Schefter included Porter’s presence on the field in the Steelers Wild Card win over the Bengals in his laundry list of transgressions. Given that both video and audio evidence have shown that Porter did nothing to provoke the Bengals, citing that incident although with Porter’s other incidents amounts to shameless piling on to make things look as bad as possible.

Schefter has done this before, namely with Ben Roethlisberger in 2010. The Watch Tower called him out for it then. And sadly, it will probably have an opportunity to do so again in the future. Still Schefter should be ashamed.

Roethlisberger Recycling @ SI

Ben Roethlisberger’s own off the field issues have surfaced again, which shouldn’t be terribly shocking given that the Steelers have entered the post season on a hot streak.

  • In fact, in the Watch Tower’s eyes, there IS a legitimate story, or perhaps essay, relevant to Midgeville that is ripe for the writing.

But that’s not what Sports Illustrated’s S.L. Price chose to do. Instead he wrote a far-ranging piece, 5,000 word plus piece on Roethlisberger’s past that report few, if any relevant new facts. Price for example, did quote a number of people, including several women who refrain from rooting for Roethlisberger and encourage others to follow suit.

Ben Roethlisberger

That’s a legitimate human interest angle, but adds nothing to what we know about the Midgeville story, nor does it shed any light on Roethlisberger’s public reform, beyond letting us know that some people remain skeptical.

  • Price also obsesses Ben Roethlisberger’s decision change his declared home town from Findlay to Corey Rawson.

While Price stops short of making the point explicit, he clearly wouldn’t mind if readers took this fact as evidence that Roethlisberger’s public character reform is somehow insincere. As the Watch Tower stated at the outset, there is an unexplored angle to the Midgeville story. But Price opts against that route, and instead confines his 5,000 words to repeating what is out there.

In response, Steel City Insider’s Jim Wexell wrote a very personal, revealing piece on Ben Roethlisberger’s character change. Wexell’s work includes interviews and quotes that report some new, if not earth shaking facts, on Roethlisberger’s character rehabilitation, at least as far as it extends to his presence on the South Side.

The article was behind the site’s paywall but, if Watch Tower understand correctly, visitors can read it for free on a trail basis. If you can, the Watch Tower highly recommends it.

Head to Cook’s Kitchen for Scoops on Injuries

As the Watch Tower has observed, the value of journalist getting “scoop” just isn’t is what it used to be. Google “Troy Polamalu Retires” and you won’t even see Jim Wexell’s exclusive show up in the first page of SERPs.

But scoops on injury news still move the needle, and Ron Cook of the Post-Gazette was ahead of his peers on two of the biggest injury stories this season

Ron Cook was first to break these key Steelers injury stories, and both of those turned out to be correct.

Jeremy Fowler also got the early word to his readers on Stephon Tuitt’s injury:

Given the amount of misinformation that circulates on injuries in this age of the internet – note the national press getting the story right on Antonio Brown’s concussion status during last year’s playoff while Pittsburgh reporters kept leaving the door open for him to play – its good to know that a reporter’s word can be trusted.

So Ron Cook wins Watch Tower Kudos on this one.

Tipping Off on the Next Play

Jeremy Fowler of ESPN also came up with a great story prior to the Steelers win over the Giants.

Fowler got Mike Mitchell on the record discussing how he and his study group, which includes Ryan Shazier, Sean Davis, Tyler Matakevich and cornerback Ross Cockrell, got a tip from how Steelers pro scouting coordinator Brandon Hunt that Odell Beckham telegraphs at the line of scrimmage whether the coming play is a pass or a run.

You don’t see stories with revelations like that often, at least coming out of Pittsburgh. Fowler’s predecessor Scott Brown did a good job of bringing them to his readers and in this instance Fowler followed suit.

Tomlin’s Tripping Up on Trap Games… Or Not

Mike Tomlin teams “play down to the competition.” Mike Tomlin doesn’t know how to prepare his teams for trap games. Mike Tomlin’s record against teams below .500 is sub par….

  • We hear this all the time.

Truth be told, this site has criticized Tomlin for getting tripped up on by trap games more than once. The Steelers losses this season, particularly to the Dolphins and the Eagles added a lot of fuel to this narrative.

Mike Tomlin, Mike Tomlin Trap games

Mike Tomlin’s record against sub .500 team’s isn’t quite what some internet trolls make it out to be. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

Fortunately, Steel City Blitz’s Ben Anderson took the time to tabulate Mike Tomlin’s record against losing teams (meaning teams that finish below .500) and compare it to that of Chuck Noll and Bill Cowher’s.

The Watch Tower doesn’t steal the thunder of other writers, but as we encourage you to read Ben Anderson’s story we will say that Tomlin’s record against sub .500 teams stands up well to both his predecessors.

Anderson’s analysis has also proven quite useful in dealing with internet trolls who simply fall flat when confrontd with hard numbers that refute opinions that they present as Gospel…

Reviewing the Film Reviewers….

Film breakdown has grown exponentially in popularity since this the founding of this site. While the Watch Tower has praised a number of film reviewers in its time, one writer’s work who has caught its attention this season has been that of Steel City Insider’s Jon Leynard.

Leynard brings a truly experienced eye to his Steelers All 22 film breakdowns. He clearly takes his time with his reviews and offers a depth analysis, comprehensive scope and sophistication to his breakdowns seldom found on other sites.

  • About the only thing missing from Jon Leynard’s film reviews is that they lack, well, film.

Seriously. While Leynard doesn’t need to lean on animated GIFs the way some writers might, he could do even more to educate his readers if say, he could show Artie Burns using his hands correctly (or incorrectly.)

Comings and Goings in the Steelers Press Corps

Finally the Watch Tower comes to pointing out what has been a busy season of comings and goings in the Steelers press corps. The biggest move of course was the decision of Mark Kaboly to leave the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review in favor of DK on Pittsburgh Sports.

Mark Kaboly, DK on Pittsburgh sports

Long time Tribune Review reporter Mark Kaboly now with DK on Pittsburgh sports. Photo Credit: Mark Kaboly

Dejan Kovacevic’s upstart site has landed (as well as lost) big names before, Mark Kaboly represents the biggest name he’s landed for his Steelers beat, filling a void that the site has struggled to fill following Neal Coolong’s departure. And as one industry veteran privately observed to the Watch Tower, Kaboly’s move signaled more.

  • Joe Starkey departed the Tribune Review for the rival Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The Watch Tower has praised Starkey’s work before, and his defection represents a major coup for the Post-Gazette. These moves have been fueled in large part by uncertainty created by the downsizing of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, which has killed its print edition and has been steadily losing money without Richard Mellon Scaife to subsidize its operations.

  • Another possible casualty to the Tribune-Review’s downsizing appears to be Ralph Paulk.

Paulk’s byline has disappeared from the Tribune Review’s pages since early November, and his Twitter feed is not showing any new Tweets since before the Steelers loss to the Ravens. Like Scott Brown’s disappearance from ESPN and Allen Robinson‘s disappearance from the Tribune Review, no announcement has been made.

  • If Paulk’s days as a Steelers beat writer are in fact done, Steelers Nation will be the loser.

Apologies to those Steelers scribes, be they credentialed or bloggers who posted good work deserving of Watch Tower praise. And to those who deserved criticism – we’ll get you next time.

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Even Though Injury Not Serious, Ben Roethlisberger Shouldn’t Have Been in Late vs. Dolphins

I’m not usually one to second guess when it comes to football games (okay, I’m a writer, so you better believe I’m one to second guess), but in the case of head coach Mike Tomlin’s decision to leave quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the game late into the fourth quarter of the Steelers thoroughly convincing 30-12 wild card victory over the Dolphins at Heinz Field on Sunday, I was actually first guessing things.

With Pittsburgh equipped with a 30-6 lead and possession of the football early in the fourth quarter, my uncle and I, enjoying the rare postseason blow-out at Primanti Bros. on Route 60, both agreed that pulling all key offensive personnel at that point was absolutely the right decision.

  • This didn’t happen, as Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell and Ben Roethlisberger took the field for what soon became a quick three-and-out, followed by a punt.

No problem.

Ben Roethlisberger, Cameron Ware, Steelers wild Card win Dophins, Roethlisberger injury dolphins

Ben Roethlisberber hit by Cameron Ware late in the Steelers Wild Card win over Dolphins. Photo Credit: James Lang, USA Today Sports

Miami then proceeded to march 70 yards on nine plays and closed to within 18 points on a short touchdown pass from Matt Moore to Damien Williams. The problem for the Dolphins, however, was that they burned 4:20 of game-clock and only 5:57 remained. What further decreased Miami’s chances of a miraculous comeback was a failed two-point conversion thanks to Ross Cockrell.

  • And what did the visitors in for good was an unsuccessful onside kick that Brown recovered with 5:55 remaining.

Sure, the score didn’t look like a blowout at that point, but it may as well have been. The Steelers had possession of the football, an 18-point lead and less than six minutes remaining to preserve things.

Therefore, not only did the Dolphins have to find a way to regain possession pretty quickly, they needed to score a touchdown and convert a two-point try, recover an onside kick, score a touchdown and convert a two-point try, recover another onside kicker and then make a game-winning field goal.

  • Maybe one of those things was going to happen over the final 5:55 of  the fourth quarter, but all of them?

Not a chance, given the way James Harrison, Ryan Shazier, Stephon Tuitt, Bud Dupree and Lawrence Timmons were corralling the Dolphins.

At that point, the Steelers Killer B’s (or Big Three, as they’re now being called in some circles) should have been excused to the sidelines. DeAngelo Williams was in for Le’Veon Bell was, but Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown remained in the lineup.

Ben Roethlisberger, Mike Tomlin, Steelers wild card win dolphins

Ben Roethlisberger never wants to come out of games. Mike Tomlin shouldn’t be so accommodating. Photo Credit: Barry Reeger, PennLive

Unfortunately, not only did the Steelers not move the ball, they turned it over when Roethlisberger threw his second interception of the day with 4:23 remaining. No big deal, other than the franchise quarterback–the most indispensable member of the entire organization, as it pertains to competing the 2016 season with Lombardi in hand–suffered an ankle injury on the play and was seen wearing a walking boot after the game.

  • This started a firestorm of criticism directed at Mike Tomlin Sunday night and all day Monday…and rightfully so.

I’m a huge Mike Tomlin supporter, but he, like everyone else in Steelers Nation, was/is well-aware of how key injuries either wreck or compromised Pittsburgh’s postseasons in the very recent past.

In 2014, a hyper-extended knee suffered by Le’Veon Bell absolutely wrecked the Steelers season as they had no viable backup at running back after cutting LeGarrette Blount in November.

A season ago, the Steelers put up a good fight, but they went into the postseason without their top two running backs and lost Antonio Brown and almost lost Ben Roethlisberger as they progressed through the Wild Card round and into the divisional portion.

  • How might both 2014 and 2015 have turned out without those key injuries?

We’ll never know.

Remember the 2008 finale at Heinz Field when Mike Tomlin insisted on playing his starters in a meaningless game against the Browns? Pittsburgh had the number two seed locked up and nothing to gain or lose, yet many key players–including Roethlisberger–started the game.

Early in the first half of what would be a 31-0 victory over the Cleveland Browns, Roethlisberger suffered a concussion and had to be carted into the locker room.

  • Obviously, if you know how 2008 ended, you know that Big Ben was fine.

But that was quite the scare.

Sunday was quite the scare, as well, but it looks like Roethlisberger will be fine and ready to go against the Chiefs this Sunday in the divisional playoffs.

As far as I and just about everyone else are concerned, that was one scare that was far from necessary.

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Le’Veon Bell Breaks Steelers Playoff Rushing Record – Now Pause & Think about What that Means….

For two straight off seasons, Steelers Nation has fretted and fidgeted while watching the Steelers asking the question “What IF.” The big “What IF” of course was “What if Le’Veon Bell had been playing?”

Going into the playoff loss to the Ravens in 2014 (2015, actually) Bell’s absence represented a loss of 34% of the Steelers total offense. It is harder to calculate the impact of Le’Veon Bell’s absence in the 2015 postseason because Bell missed the majority of the season injured or suspended.

But it is quite possible that Ryan Shazier and Ben Roethlisberger’s late game heroics wouldn’t have been necessary against the Bengals had Bell been available to kill the clock in the 4th.

In Pittsburgh’s wild card win against the Dolphins, Steelers Nation finaly got to see their “What IF” come true. So how did that work out?

Le'Veon Bell, Le'Veon Bell breaks Steelers playoff rushing record, Steelers vs. Dolphins, Steelers wild card win dolphins

Le’Veon Bell in his Steelers playoff record breaking performance against the Dolphins. Photo Credit: Barry Reeger, PennLive

  • Le’Veon Bell ran 29 times for 167 yards and scored two touchdowns. In the process, Le’Veon Bell broke the Pittsburgh Steelers single game post-season rushing record.

Let’s restate that: In his first post season appearance, Le’Veon Bell broke the Pittsburgh Steelers single-game playoff rushing record. Now consider what that really means. Had Le’Veon Bell broken this record, say, for the San Francisco 49ers, he wouldn’t have turned many heads, no disrespect to Roger Craig or Rickey Waters.

  • But Le’Veon Bell broke the Pittsburgh Steelers playoff rushing record for a single game.

This is the same franchise that has sent Jerome Bettis, Franco Harris and John Henry Johnson (you forgot about him, didn’t you?) to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It is the team that gave Willie Parker, holder of the Super Bowl record for the longest run from scrimmage, his shot in the NFL.

What’s more amazing is the way in which Le’Veon Bell broke the record. As Peter King, who is no Steelers cheerleader, observed:

Watch the man. He’s got the oddest rushing style in football today. “The Great Hesitator,” Phil Simms called him on CBS, and that’s just about perfect. Usually, Bell lines up as the classic I-back, seven yards deep, and when he takes a handoff from Ben Roethlisberger, he’ll take a couple of jab steps toward a hole and almost stop in his tracks. Denver, under Mike Shanahan, had a one-cut running style; the back was told to hit up in the hole immediately—that charging into the hole was the one cut. Most coaches decry what they call pussyfooting.

Peter King then backed up his argument with a statistic, that someone on his staff deserves a ton of credit for unearthing:

I find this amazing: Emmitt Smith, the all-time rushing king, gained 860 yards in his best seven-game stretch. That’s 142 yards less than Bell’s current seven-game run.

So in other words, in the space of just 8 games, Le’Veon Bell broken a record set by one Steelers Hall of Fame running back that another Steelers Hall of Fame Running back couldn’t touch, and rushed for 142 yards more than Emmitt Smith rushed for during his best seven-game stretch.

Jerome Bettis, Jerome Bettis AFC Championship, Jerome Bettis Broncos

Jerome Bettis in the 2005 AFC Championship Game. Photo Credit: Jonathan Daniel, Getty Images via BTSC

A little bit of research reveals that it’s not unusual for a Steelers running back to break the century mark in his playoff debut.

  • Barry Foster ran for 104 yards on 20 carries in the 1992 Steelers playoff loss to the Bills
  • Jerome Bettis ran for 102 yards in the Steelers 1996 playoff win against the Colts, although he injured himself
  • Merril Hoge rushed for 100 yards even in the 1989 Steelers New Year’s Eve upset of the Oilers

Rashard Mendenhall, Bam Morris, Frank Pollard and Rocky Bleier also had 100 yard (or near 100 yard) performances early in their careers, but these came after their first post season game.

All impressive efforts, to be certain. But if you really want to appreciate what Le’Veon Bell accomplished, look no further than to the comments made by Ben Roethlisberger:

I’ll never forget when Charlie Batch was here, he used to always tell me about how he would hand off and just watch Barry Sanders. I am not trying to put Le’Veon with Barry Sanders yet, but it is fun to sit and watch and just see what he is going to do because he is incredibly talented.

So if you’re keeping track at home, in addition to outperforming 3 Steelers Hall of Fame running backs, Le’Veon Bell’s playoff performance against the Dolphins has now drawn comparisons to two other non-Steelers Hall of Fame running backs.

Walter Payton, Walter Payton Steelers, Le'Veon Bell Walter Payton

Walter Peyton dives over the pile as the Steelers are powerless to stop him. Photo Credit: Jonathan Daniel, Getty Images via NFL SpinZone

During Le’Veon Bell took a lot of heat during his rookie season with a lot of journalists both inside (see John Stiegerwald) and outside of Pittsburgh doubting his ability. Steel City Insider’s Jim Wexell took the time to compare his game-by-game results to Walter Payton’s rookie campaign, despite getting needled about it on social media from some of his peers.

  • Three seasons, a couple of injuries, 2 suspensions, and 1 playoff game later, Bell is getting the last laugh.

As Ben Roethlisberger cautioned, it is still too early to categorize Bell alongside the Smiths, Harris, Sanders, and Paytons of NFL lore, but in Le’Veon Bell, the Pittsburgh Steelers certainly have a special running back.

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Steelers Report Card for the Wild Card Win over the Dolphins – Acing the Essay, Coasting on Multiple Choice

Taken from the Grade Book of a teacher who watched his star students ace the essay portion of the test only to coast a little too much on the multiple choice section, here is the Pittsburgh Steelers Report Card for the Wild Card Win over the Dolphins.

Antonio Brown, Steelers Report card wild card win dolphins, Steelers vs. Dolphins

Antonio Brown waltzes into the end zone to put the Steelers ahead 7-0 in the Wild Card win over the Dolphins. Photo credit: Barry Reeger, PennLive

Quarterback
Ben Roethlisberger started the game in playoff form, completing his first 11 passes including two long touchdown strikes. Those numbers are excellent, but by Ben Roethlisberger’s own admission he took his eye off the ball. The Steelers fourth drive should have put the nail in Miami’s coffin, instead Ben Roethlisberger threw an interception which opened the door to Miami making a real game of it. Standards are higher here in the playoffs, hence the “Good, but…” grade for Ben. Grade: B-

Running Back
Le’Veon Bell finally got to start a playoff game and when he did he broke Franco Harris’ single game yardage record. Bell ran for 167 yards. Take out Bell’s longest run, and his average is still above 5 yards. Wha’ts more impressive, the Dolphins knew the runs were coming, and Bell STILL earned his yeards. DeAngelo Williams got two carries in mop up time, and Roosevelt Nix saw time at fullback. Grade: A+steelers, report card, steelers grades, coaching, special teams, unsung heroes, steelers vs. dolphins, wild card

Tight Ends
This is another clear case of how statistics don’t accurately measure a player’s performance. Jesse James has one catch for 6 yards. Ho hum, right? Wrong. Jesse James saved an interception by snatching it away from a defender. Jesse James also made a critical block the permitted the first touchdown. David Johnson and Xavier Grimble also saw time. Their names don’t show up in the stat sheet, but you can see the product of their work in Le’Veon Bell’s record breaking day. Grade: B

Wide Receivers
Believe it or not, Antonio Brown had never caught a touchdown pass prior to the Dolphins game. Brown rectified that scoring two, and doing so in dramatic fashion to give the Steelers a 14 point lead. After that, the Steelers went into a run on first, run on second and run on third type offense, limiting the opportunities for the rest of the receiving corps. Eli Rogers, however did make a nice 19 yard catch, and Demarcus Ayers had two nice short catches. Darrius Heyward-Bey and Cobi Hamilton each had 1 catch for 10 yards.

While the play of the wide recievers overall was strong, Brown had a couple of drops. These didn’t impact the game, but Kansas City will not be as forgiving and the group’s grade reflects that. Grade: B+

Offensive Line
While its wrong to say that an NFL running back is only as good as the line in front of him, the truth is that no running back can truly excel without a quality line blocking for him. The Steelers offensive line delivered so well for Le’Veon Bell that their third touchdown drive consisted only of runs. While the line’s overall play was extremely strong, Ben Roethlisberger did face a little more pressure than he has of late, and this is not a tendency that can be allowed to build momentum as the post season progresses. Grade: A-

Defensive Line
Just 3 months ago the Miami Dolphins humiliated the Steelers defensive line, and the unit took it personally. The Steelers defensive line responded with a monster game. Stephon Tuitt might only have four tackles and no splash plays, but he was all over the field, always running to the ball. Javon Hargrave only had 1 tackle, but if he’s not playing well Jay Ajayi is. He didn’t. Grade: A

Linebackers
Lawrence Timmons had a monster game leading the team with 14 tackles including 2 for losses, 2 sacks and registered 2 more QB hits. And he was probably not the best linebacker on the field. That distinction belongs to James Harrison, who set the edge and completely shut down Miami’s running game on the weakside. Harrison also had one of his strip sacks, which prevented Miami from getting on the board before the half. Bud Dupree had a strong game, with a hellicious hit on Matt Moore, and shared a sack with Harrison. Ryan Shazier had an interception which essentially ended any threat of a Dolphins comeback, and played extremely well against the run. An outstanding day for the linebackers. Grade: A

William Gay, Lawrence Timmion, Leonte Carroo, Steelers Wild Card win Dolphins

Wlliam Gay and Lawrence Timmons send Leonte Carroo reeling in Steelers Wild Card win over the Dolphins. Photo Credit: Barry Reeger PennLive

Secondary
Mike Mitchell was all over the field all day, and his strip sack of Matt Moore set the tone for the defense in the second half. Ross Cockrell led the defensive backs in tackles, and helped negate a Dolphins 2 point conversion. Artie Burns had 4 tackles while William Gay had a pass defensed that he could have intercepted. Sean Davis stepped up with a tackle for a loss before getting injured. Grade: B+

Special Teams
The Steelers special teams were showing some disturbing tendencies as the season drew to a close, and those have continued here in the post season.

  • Fitzgerald Toussaint continues to struggle as a kick returner.
  • Chris Boswell missed an extra point, and several of his early kick offs were short.

Worse yet, the Dolphins averaged close to 30 yards on kick returns including a long one of 58 yards. The Dolphins also had a 9 yard punt return.

The Steelers return team continued to commit needless penalties, and again failed to stop a fake punt attempt. At the end of the day, these mistakes did not prove to be costly for the Steelers, but if they continue it is only a question of when and not if it will cost the Steelers a playoff game. Grade: D

Mike Tomlin, Danny Smith, Joey Porter, Steelers wild card win dolphins

Mike Tomlin, Danny Smith and Joey Porter look on during Steelers Wild Card win over the Dolphins. Photo Credit: Barry Reeger, PennLive

Coaching
You don’t get many do overs in the NFL, but both Todd Haley and Keith Butler learned from their mistakes in the first outing vs. Miami.

The Steelers began with a balanced attack and quickly put up 14 points, and then essentially turned the game over to the offensive line and Le’Veon Bell. That plan worked, and would have worked better with just a little better execution from Ben Roethlisberger, which isn’t Todd Haley’s fault.

On defense, Keith Butler’s unit completely smothered the Dolphins running game, forcing them to try to beat the Steelers through the air. As has been said many times in this space, Fantasy Football owners who started Matt Moore and Jarvis Landry probably came away happy, at least based on yardage totals. But, Keith Bulter’s boys forced the Dolphins to settle for 3 early in the game, and later the defense came up with turnovers on 3 occasions to snuff out any Dolphin comeback attempts.

  • Colin Cowherd might find the Steelers performance lackluster, but the scoreboard proves him wrong.

Two years ago when the Steelers lost to the Ravens at Heinz Field in the playoffs, several position groups appeared to be out of their depth. Perhaps that was to be expected, although not excused, given the long layoff and turnover since the Tewbowing at Denver.

  • The 2016 Pittsburgh Steelers displayed no playoff jitters against the Dolphins.

This was a team that came out with a specific plan on both sides of the ball and fearlessly executed it. Focus perhaps could have been a little better after the lead was established, but the fact that the Steelers were aware of that speaks to their coaching.

Mike Tomlin’s staff had a solid game plan and his players executed. The only real critique probably lies in the fact that Ben Roethlisberger was in the game so late into the 4th quarter. And that drops the coaching grade. Grade: B+

Unsung Hero Award
When the Dolphins run roughshod over the Steelers in October, any number of commentators pointed to opposing teams tremendous success in running the ball against the Steelers defense when either Cameron Heyward or Stephon Tuitt was out of the lineup.

  • Came Heyward missed both Dolphins game due to injuries.
  • Yet in their second outing they Dolphins struggled to rush where they’d soared before.

What changed? Well, certainly the improvement is the result of a team effort. But one player who has stepped up and quietly but steadily made plays each week is L.T. Walton, who played extremely well against the Dolphins, making tackles behind the line of scrimmage, recovering a fumble, and plugging gaps to allow the linebackers to make plays, and for that L.T. Walton wins the unsung hero award for the Steelers Wild Card win over the Dolphins.

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Steelers Killer Bees Sting Dolphins 30-12, as Pittsburgh Imposes Will on Miami in AFC Wild Card

The Pittsburgh Steelers 30-12 Wild Card win over the Miami Dolphins featured the first post-season contest where Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown shared the field together.

  • Pittsburgh’s Killer Bees dominated just as Mike Tomlin expected they would.

In dominating the Dolphins, the Killer Bee’s in premier Pittsburgh echoed in almost perfect rhyme with Steelers history, harking back to the Steelers and Dolphins playoff matchup of 1979. It was fitting then that the Steelers formula for success over the Dolphins today was as simple as it had been in heyday of the Super Steelers: Impose your will.

Le'Veon Bell, Steelers vs. Dolphins, Steelers wild card win Dolphins

Le’Veon Bell Rushes and the Miami Dolphin defense can only watch. (Photo Credit: Christopher Horner, Tribune Review)

’16 Steelers Open in Lockstep Step with ’79 Predecessors

Resarch into the Steelers postseason history against the Dolphins brought to light a gem penned by legendary NFL scribe Vito Stellino who compared the first quarter of the 1979 Steelers playoff win over the Dolphins to Michaelangelo’s work of art in the Sistine Chapel. Those 1979 Steelers amassed 180 yards in jumping to a 20-0 first quarter lead, over a Dolphins that had lost its sea legs.

  • After 18 minutes, the Steelers held a 20 to 3 lead and already had 200 yards in total offense

OK, so use of “Lockstep” in the headline might be an exaggeration, but not by much. During those first 18 minutes, the playoff experience gap between the two teams, revealed itself. Pittsburgh did it whatever it wanted, while the Dolphins looked dumbfounded.

If sideline looks provide any indication, some members of the Dolphins were wondering if they even belonged there…

Steelers Turn the Tables as Bell Bludgeons Dolphins

Accepting a job as an NFL offensive coordinator means accepting a life of being second guessed. The Pittsburgh Steelers October loss to the Dolphins was difficult for many reasons, but one of those was Todd Haley’s decision to abandon the run despite Le’Veon Bell running with sufficient authority to take over the game.

  • Todd Haley didn’t make the same mistake twice.

Pro Football Reference classifies the Steelers offensive scheme as “Erhardt-Perkins” and the Steelers game plan echoed Ron Erhardt’s philosophy of “Throw to score, run to win” to a T.

  • The Steelers first two touchdown drives featured 7 passes and four runs
  • The Steelers third touchdown drive saw Le’Veon Bell run the ball 8 straight times

You can do that when your running back is averaging just under six yards per carry. While it is accurate to argue that the Steelers imposed their will on the Dolphins, Le’Veon Bell revealed that successful rushing is about more than just brute force. Certainly, the Steelers offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage, but time and time again, Le’Veon Bell patience in allowing holes to develop is what added direction and meaning to the line’s force.

As the photo leading off this article suggests, for much of the game, Le’Veon Bell ran and the Dolphins could do little more than watch him.

Steelers Defense Earns Redemption Against Ajayi

Few things demoralize a defense more than getting run on consistently. Sure, getting burned on long pass plays hurts and is humilating, but they’re kind of like getting a Band-Aid ripped off. Even if it opens a new wound, the process starts and ends quickly.

  • Getting run on means you get beaten up physically on one play after another for an entire afternoon.

In their first meeting, Jay Ajayi became the first running back to run for 200 yards on the Steelers defense since the Clinton administration. The question going into the playoff game was, would Ajayi be able to do it again?

  • The Steelers defense took the field determined that the answer to that question be “no.” And they delivered.

Jay Ajayi managed a paltry 33 yards against the Steelers defense, as Sean Davis, Lawrence Timmons, James Harrison, Ryan Shazier and L.T. Walton all penetrated through the Dolphin’s offensive line to force tackles for a loss.

Bud Dupree, Matt Moore, Steelers wild card win Dolphins

Bud Dupree stones Matt Moore in the Steelers wild card win over the Dolphins. Photo Credit: Christopher Horner, Tribune Review

The Steelers defense matched their impressive effort against the run by mustering the turnover producing killer instinct needed to eliminate any Miami attempt to build momentum:

  • James Harrison hit Matt Moore with one of his patented strips sacks before the half,
  • Mike Mitchell strip-sacked Moore to end Miami’s first drive of the second half,
  • Ryan Shazier limited the Dolphin’s next drive to one play by intercepting Moore’s next pass
  • Stephon Tuitt tackled Moore from behind on its next drive as it sought to convert on 4th down

By that point the Steelers had built a 30 to 6 lead, and everything else that followed was little more than window dressing.

Steelers Set Sights on Kansas City

While Steelers pleased their head coach with their performance over the Dolphins, Mike Tomlin noted that “the road narrows from here.” The Steelers manhandled the Kansas City Chiefs in October, but the Chiefs have been nearly unstoppable since then.

  • On top of that, Ben Roethlsiberger was seen wearing a walking boot at Heinz Field after the game.

Suffice to say, the challenges that the Steelers face will get stiffer with each win. But the Steelers Wild Card win over the Dolphins shows that this group of players has arrived at the postseason ready, willing and able to win.

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Speak Out Steelers Nation: Vote Steelers Game Ball Winners for Wild Card Win over Dolphins

The Steelers beat the Miami Dolphins in the AFC Wild Card 30 to 12 and as we always do here at Steel Curtain Rising, we invite you the readers to vote Steelers game ball winners.

Steelers Dolphins wild card, Stephon Tuitt Matt Moore, Stephon Tuitt, Matt Moore, Steelers Dolphins game ball winners

Stephon Tuitt corrals Matt Moore in Steelers 30-12 playoff win over Dolphins. Photo Credit: Chaz Palla, Tribune Review

Lead the ballot for the offense is Le’Veon Bell. No explanation needed here. If you’re a Steelers running back who breaks Franco Harris post-season single game rushing record in your first playoff game, you’re nominated for a game ball.

This poll is closed! Poll activity:
start_date 01-08-2017 18:54:27
end_date 01-13-2017 16:22:22
Poll Results:
Which players deserve game balls for the Steelers Wild Card win over the Dolphins (votes for multiple players allowed)

After that, we have Antonio Brown, who scored his first 2 post season touchdown, and led Steelers receivers 5 catches for 124 yards. Ben Roethlisberger also gets a nod with his 13 of 18 passing with 197 yards and two touchdowns. After that we’ll nominate Jesse James, whose numbers won’t make fantasy owners happy, but game up big with block and in saving an interception.

On defense, Lawrence Timmons leads the balloting as he led the Steelers in tackles and sacked Matt Moore two times. James Harrison has the next ballot position, who was instrumental in shutting down Jay Ajayi.

Ryan Shazier gets the next nod, as he was all over the field and snuffed out a drive with an interception. Another player who was all over the field was Mike Mitchell, who had a sack and seemed to be in on every play.

  • Bud Dupree also gets the next defensive ballot slot, for his sack.

Rounding out the defensive ballot-place holders is Stephon Tuitt. Stephon Tuitt might have “only” had 4 tackles, but he led the defensive line, which completely shut down Miami’s running game.

Remember, Writings Not Only Allowed, but Encouraged

Remember, this poll is about who you think deserves to win a game ball, not about what I think. So if you think that Ross Cockrell, who had a solid game, deserves a game ball, write his name in. If you think that Sean Davis or Javon Hargrave deserves one, take a moment to write their names in.

  • Better yet, write their names in and leave a comment stating your case.

Thanks for taking time out to vote, and please remember to come back later for our full analysis of the Steelers playoff win over the Dolphins.

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Steelers Defense Holds 2016 Playoff Hopes in Its Hands

The 2016 playoffs are here and the Pittsburgh Steelers have the third seed in the AFC tournament. In other words, all of the blood, sweat, toil and tears of the last 16 games has simply opened the door for the Steelers to accomplish their real goal, winning the Super Bowl.

But it is fitting that the Pittsburgh Steelers start the 2016 playoffs in the same spot that they started the 2016 regular season:  with the Steelers defense carrying their Super Bowl hopes.

James Harrison, Steelers 2016 defense

James Harrison in the huddle with the rest of the Steelers defense. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

That was true in September and it remains true in January, and everything we’ve seen along the way confirms that equation. Certainly, the poor performances were not confined to the defense in losses to Philadelphia, Miami and Baltimore. But the Steelers loss to Dallas drove home the message:

The Steelers story in the 2016 playoffs will be the same. It’s true that the offensive line must protect Ben Roethlisberger and open holes up front for Bell (or DeAngelo Williams). Likewise, someone, be it Eli Rogers, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Ladarius Green or even Sammie Coates is going to have to take pressure off of Antonio Brown.

  • But offense wins game, defense wins championships.

There’s no disputing that the Steelers offense has improve during his 7 game winning streak, but the real difference makers have come on the defensive side of the ball. After the Dallas game, Mike Tomlin ended the linebacker rotation, and started Bud Dupree and James Harrison. Has anyone missed “linebacker by committee?”

  • Sean Davis has replaced Robert Golden, and you’d have to go back 15 years to find a Steelers rookie defender who has made a bigger impact.

Things looked bleak with Cameron Heyward was lost for the season. This site went as far as to recall the “Game over, man! Game over” scene from Aliens on the day Cam Heyward went on IR. But since then Stephon Tuitt, Javon Hargrave, and L.T. Walton have stepped up their games. These three gentleman must continue to deliver in the post season.

Steelers 2016 defense, stephon tuitt, steelers vs. Bills

Stephon Tuitt after sacking Tyrod Taylor earlier this season. Photo Credit: Peter Diana, Post-Gazette

Ryan Shazier has stayed healthy, and the longer he plays, the better he gets. Lawrence Timmons has ended those early season rumblings about his best days being behind him.

  • IT says here that, barring injury, the Steelers linebackers and defensive line won’t wilt under postseason pressure.

So, just as it did when the regular season started, the Steelers secondary hold the primary key to success on the post season.

Kevin Colbert, Mike Tomlin and Keith Butler boldly gambled when they tore up their 2015 defensive backfield depth chart and recreated it almost from scratch. Sean Davis has come through and Ross Cockrell has quietly become a solid starter at cornerback. Artie Burns struggled, both in coverage and in tackling, but has improved tremendously during the second half of the season.

At the end of the day, the Steelers 2016 Super Bowl hopes are riding on these rookie’s ability to sustain their regular season success into the playoffs.

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Steelers Fans in Buenos Aires to Watch Dolphins Game @ Sugar Bar in Palermo

Its that time again Steelers Nation. The playoffs are here and the Pittsburgh Steelers enter the post season riding a 7 game winning streak and holding the 3rd seed in the American Football conference.

  • And this time things are a little different for the men in Black and Gold.
Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Le'Veon Bell, Steelers Killer B's

Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell are set to play their first playoff game together. Photo Credit: Steelersgab.com

For the first time ever, Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, DeAngelo Williams, Maurkice Pouncey, Lawrence Timmons, Stephon Tuitt, Ryan Shazier and James Harrison will play together in a playoff game. Injuries have prevented this from happening before, but the Steelers enter the playoffs as healthy has they have entered the post season in a long, long time.

  • One thing that has not changed is that Steelers fans in Buenos Aires, Argentina will be gathering in Palermo’s Sugar Bar to watch the game.

So if you’re a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers and you’re in Buenos Aires, whether you’re a native porteño or an expat whose passing through to sample some good red wine, drink some mate or enjoy some empanadas, bring your Terrible Towel and plan to join us at the Sugar Bar.

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Fanaticos de los Steelers Juntan en Sugar Bar de Palermo para ver Ben, Bell y Brown Juegan Juntos por la Primera Vez en los Playoffs

Finalizó u intenso mes de diciembre para la NFL y con él, la temporada regular. En un sprint final muy exitoso, los Steelers lograron hilvanar 7 victorias consecutivas, luego de un octubre-principio de noviembre tan desconcertante como tormentoso.

En esas últimas 7 semanas, que comenzaron y terminaron frente a los Browns, disputó con su archienemigo divisional, los Baltimore Ravens, el primer lugar en la división y el pase a la postemporada. La marca final de temporada para los Steelers fue de 11-5, campeón de división y tercer clasificado para la postemporada en la AFC.

steelers contra dolphins playoffs 2016, steelers fanaticos en buenos aires

Fanaticos de los Steelers van a juntar en Sugar Bar de Palermo para ver el partido contra los Dolphins. Photo Credit: Mike Ehrmann, Getty Images

En esta temporada que terminó hubo de todo: suspensiones, derrotas inesperadas como contra Filadelfia, derrotas vendidas a precio de oro como contra los Cowboys, derrotas inexplicables como contra Miami y derrotas dolorosas como siempre lo son contra los Ravens.

Le’Veon Bell (primer jugador en la historia de la NFL en alcanzar en promedio, al menos 100 yds por acarreo más 50 por aire/partido en una temporada) estuvo intratable, anotando el récord de la franquicia en yardas acarreadas para un solo partido contra Buffalo, con 236 yds (6.2 yds promedio por acarreo) el mismo partido en el que Big Ben lanzó pases de intercepción en lugar de pases de touchdowns.

Fue una temporada de maduración para la defensiva que combina experiencia y juventud. El tiempo y los resultados que se alcancen en las semanas por venir, dirán hasta dónde se llegó en ese proceso. La temporada de Ryan Shazier, del eterno James Harrison, de Lawrence Timmons, y fue también temporada de profundos novatos con Artie Burns y el ascendiente Sean Davis. Fue la temporada en la que viejos receptores, por diferentes razones dieron pase a inesperados novatos como Cobi Hamilton y Eli Rogers. De alas cerradas veteranos que tardaron en sanar como Ladarius Green y de jóvenes por madurar pero que desarrollan velozmente como Jesse James y Xavier Grimble.

Ha llegado el momento de la verdad. La postemporada. Los domingos sin lunes.

  • Miami es el primer obstáculo para llegar al Lombardi #7

No será sencillo. pero Miami Dolphins es un rival más que accesible. Con los Killer B’s en todo su esplendor.
La Nación Steeler se extiende por todo el planeta y Buenos Aires no es la excepción.

  • Somos pocos pero buenos

Y este domingo a partir de las 3 de la tarde hora local, no reuniremos en Sugar Bar de Palermo para agitar las Terrible Towels.

Si sos fanatico de los Steelers tenes que estar allí.
Nos vemos. #HereWeGo

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