Steelers Cut Chris Boswell, Hand Kicking Job to Shaun Suisham

When Steelers place kicker Shaun Suisham became a US citizen a few months ago, he vowed a fight to defend his roster spot. Based on an announcement the Steelers made this morning, Suisham has won the battle without so much as making a single kick.

The most shocking move out of Pittsburgh this off seasons sees the Steelers cut Chris Boswell and anoint Siusham as their place kicker for the 2016 season. While he did not speak to the press, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin announced the decision in a prepared statement:

First, let’s tip our cap to Chris Boswell. He’s a rookie who stepped into a pressure cooker. He didn’t blink. Obviously, Chris delivered for us as we expected. We acknowledge that. He was continually above the line and he made the critical kicks that were necessary to win games a number of times. We thank him for his efforts, but this decision was about Shaun Suisham’s ability to deliver in similar form and fashion. Shaun simply has a larger body of work on tape and obviously we’re excited to move forward with him as our place kicker.

A torn ACL in the Hall of Fame Game sidelined Shuishm for the year, forcing the Steelers to turn to Garrett Hartley who himself was lost to injury, followed by Josh Scobee whose ineffectiveness led the Steelers to look to Chris Boswell. Rookie Chris Boswell rose to the occasion, kicking game winners in the Steelers victories against the Oakland Raiders and in the playoffs against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Chris Boswell was not available for comment, but through his agent he expressed gratitude toward the Steelers organization and Mike Tomlin for giving him a chance to prove himself in the NFL.

Cutting Chris Boswell a Ripple Effect of Heath Miller’s Retirement?

When the Steelers 2016 off season began, many speculated that Shaun Suisham would be a salary cap casualty, given that Boswell had done so well over the course of the season. Shaun Suisham signed a 4 contract in 2014 and carries a salary cap value of $3,503,000 whereas Chis Boswell would have only counted $525,000.

Yet the Steelers were on the record indicating that they planned for Suisham and Boswell to duel it out the kicking job at St. Vincents. In February When pressed by reporters as to whether NFL salary cap rules regarding waving injured players had tied the Steelers hands when it came to Suisham, Kevin Colbert indicated that while such moves involve an extra complication, they can be done. But Colbert concluded “we should have a great, competitive situation at kicker this summer.”

However, Heath Miller’s sudden retirement has created approximately 4 million dollars in additional salary cap room for the Steelers – room that allows them to comfortably keep Suisham on the roster, and the Steelers cutting Chris Boswell makes it seem like that was their desire all along.

Pittsburgh Steelers General Manager did not formally address the press, but reporters caught up with him as he was making his way into the office from his car. Reporters pressed Colbert as to why the Steelers cutting Chris Boswell at this point in the off season..

He declined several times to offer a comment, until Colbert finally cocked his head back and responded with a sly grin, “What better day to announce a move like this than April 1st?”

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Watch Tower: Steelers 2016 Salary Cap, Will Allen Retirement, Mike Florio Hypocrisy and More

As the Steelers 2016 off season picks up steam, the Watch Tower focuses its lights on coverage of the Steelers 2016 salary cap situation, potential retirements, the Steelers kicking conundrum and more.

Confusion Reigns on Steelers 2016 Salary Cap Situation

Perhaps it’s appropriate that the off season began with Kevin Greene’s election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame because much of Steelers Nation feels that the Steelers must have a Kevin Greene like signing in the secondary to climb the Stairway to Seven.

  • Indeed, many saw Art Rooney II intimating that in his post-season press conferences.

But free agent signings require salary cap space so just how much salary cap space to the Pittsburgh Steelers have as the 2016 off season looms? It depends on who you ask, but until late last week there seemed to be consensus.

  • Over the Cap pegged the Steelers top 51 at about 1,490,000 giving them a 5-6 million cushion
  • On Steel City Insider, Ian Whetstone concluded the Steelers were “…at least $4 million under a $156 million team cap, without any veteran cuts or restructures.”
  • Simon Chester of USA Today’s The Steelers Wire calculations left “…the Steelers with a practical amount of $5,106,016.”

On the 10th of February a source no less authoritative than Ed Bouchette himself pronounced, “With a projected salary cap for each team at $155 million and change, the Steelers are under it at this point in the year for the first time in awhile.” Yippe Steelers Nation! Let’s open Art Rooney II’s check book!

Not so fast.

A day after publishing his comments on the Pittsburgh Post Gazette’s Steelers blog, Ed Bouchette startled Steelers Nation with some sobering salary cap news, sharing:

The Steelers are $2.5 million over their projected salary cap, a league source with intimate knowledge of the cap told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. That is in stark contrast with various public Internet sites that track each NFL team’s salaries.

The Watch Tower credits Simon Chester for refusing to accept this at face value. Chester reached out via Twitter to several journalist who cover the Steelers salary cap to gauge reaction to Bouchette’s bombshell. While no one disputed Bouchette’s report, several suggested that perhaps the source is counting all of the Steelers contracts as opposed to the top 51.

You can read the all of the responses here, but the Watch Tower suspects that Steel City Insider’s Jim Wexell’s appears to be on to something:

While there’s a lot of documented about the the NFL salary cap its true workings remain somewhat of a mystery. And the league appears to like it this way. Shortly after the new CBA was adopted in 2011 word was that the salary cap would be relatively flat for a few years but then increase when the new TV contracts kicked in.

However, in 2012 the word was that the NFL was in the “Flat cap era.” John Clayton reported that despite a spike in revenues in 2014, the salary cap would go up little if at all in coming seasons. Kevin Seifert called Clayton’s report one of the most important of the 2012 off season and reminded readers that the NFL salary cap for 2015 was being projected at $122 million.

  • The NFL’s base salary cap for 2015 was 143,280,000…

There are two explanations for this discrepancy: Either NFL revenues grossly overshot estimates or false information leaked and no one in the league cared enough to correct it.

The Steelers themselves have played this game regarding their own cap situation. In 2013 Kevin Colbert went on the record saying the Steelers would need to wait until June 1st to sign most of their draft picks, and then the team proceeded to sign most of the 2013 Draft class before the end of May.

Ed Bouchette is the anti-Ian Rapport (Rapport of the Ben Roethlisberger trade demand); he would never base a story like this on spurious sources.

  • But that’s also reason to pay heed to Jim Wexell’s interpretation.

The Steelers do try to shape the coverage the team receives, as Wexell pointed out during the playoffs, when the Steelers PR office made players available to the press the Sunday after the Bengals game to ensure that the rest of the week’s stories would focus on the Broncos game.

Could the Steelers be leaking something to Bouchette for similar reason? Steelers Nation will know in a few weeks….

[Shortly after the original version of this article ran, Kevin Colbert provided an update on the Steelers 2016 salary cap situation.]

Later comments by Pittsburgh Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert would add further credence to Jim Wexell’s interpretation of the story, as Colbert conceeded that the Steelers 2016 salary cap situation was “‘pretty good’ compared to other years.”

Interestingly enough, while the Pittsburgh Post Gazette’s Gerry Dulac did mention Colbert’s update, he did so in a story about James Harrison’s possible return, as opposed to in a new story on the Steelers salary cap. To his credit, Dulac did mention the juxtaposition between Colbert’s comments and Ed Bouchette’s earlier story.

Lolley Scores Minor Scoop on Will Allen

Steelers safety Will Allen has to be one of the team’s most underrated and underappreciated free agent signings in history. What’s Allen done? Well he’s simply boosted the Steelers secondary by stepping off the bench 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015, providing an upgrade when Ryan Mundy, Shamarko Thomas, and/or Troy Polamalu were either unable or not healthy enough to deliver on the field.

  • That almost didn’t happen in 2015.

And Steelers Nation knows that thanks to Observer-Reporter’s Dale Lolley who reported that “The Steelers had to talk Allen out of retiring after 2014….”

That’s an interesting comment. The Steelers resigned Will Allen the day after Polamalu retired, implying that he was their second choice, which could have led to some interesting conversations. Beyond that, this is the first time that the Watch Tower is aware of anyone reporting Will Allen considered beginning his “Life’s work” following 2014, and hence it awards Watch Tower Kudos to Dale Lolley for the scoop.

Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Steelers Kickers

After a nightmare experience that saw the Steelers lose three kickers to injury, Chris Boswell’s arrival in Pittsburgh finally gave the Steelers some relief. Boswell not only put up a nice kicking percentage, he also showed several times that he could kick under pressure and in the elements. Boswell’s outstanding performance has led to speculation that Shaun Suisham’s job could be in jeopardy.

  • One of the pro’s in Boswell’s favor (aside from salary) is his stronger leg.

Boswell might have a stronger leg that Suisham but if he does, it is not backed up by the stats. As Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review has pointed out, Boswell’s touchback percentage of 35.13% is near the bottom of the league, and just a hair worse that Suisham’s 2014 touchback percentage. Adamski also points out that Boswell’s 29 of 32 on field goal attempts was identical to Suisham’s performance in 2014.

While Adamski isn’t breaking any “news” here, he is making a valuable contribution by being the first to connect some dots, and he earns Watch Tower kudos accordingly.

Carter Stands Up for Steelers Nation on BTSC

The brouhaha that was the Steelers Bengals Wild Card playoff game drew national attention an numerous fines and suspensions. Most of the attention focused on Vontaze Burfict and Adam “Pac Man” Jones illegal conduct with regard to Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown, but Jason Whitlock used the occasion to take aim at Mike Tomlin, esseintally asserting that Tomlin deserved a much greater share of the blame.

  • Whitlock’s comments did not sit well with Behind the Steel Curtain’s Chris Carter.

As well they shouldn’t. Many, if not most, of Whitlock’s criticisms of Mike Tomlin were off base, and simply not supported by the facts. Chris Carter did Steelers Nation a HUGE favor and wrote a detailed, 5,003 word point-by-point refutation of Whitlock, supporting his point with both photo and video evidence.

  • Simply stated, Chris Carter proved that Jason Whitlock’s assault of Mike Tomlin is completely baseless.

Anyone can take to Twitter and say, “So-and-so is full of _hit” but unlike Whitlock, Carter chose to counter opinion with cold, hard facts, and for that he wins Watch Tower kudos. His article is must read. (As is his piece on Chuck Noll’s being named as coach to the Super Bowl 50 Golden Team.) Kudos to you Chris!

Mike Florio Highlights His Own Hypocrisy

Peyton Manning’s name is in the news again because of an alleged incident dating back to 1996. While there are a lot of interesting elements to this story from a media analysis perspective, the Watch Tower only focues on Steelers coverage, so we’ll leave others to discuss those elsewhere.

  • However, the Watch Tower cannot let a comment by Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio go by unanswered.

Mike Florio took aim at the New York Daily News’ Shaun King, asserting:

Shaun King presented a one-sided summary of a 74-page document filed by Jamie Naughright’s lawyers in the case against Manning, with no balance or objectivity or apparent effort to contact Peyton Manning or Archie Manning for a response.

Among other things, Florio is criticizing Shaun King for reporting allegations without an attempt to verify their validity. That’s a legitimate criticism for Florio to make, but it was only in 2012 that the Watch Tower took Florio to task for lambasting Mike Tomlin for comments he made in jest while receiving an honor from his alma mater, William and Mary.

At the time, it appeared that Mike Florio simply took press accounts of Tomlin’s remarks, didn’t bother to gather context, and called the Steelers standard bear’s character into question.

In other words, Florio was guilty then of what he is criticizing Shaun King for now. And for the record, at the Watch Tower attempted to contact Florio offer him a chance to explain his words, but email messages from the Watch Tower to Florio remained unanswered.

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Watch Tower: Deconstructing Bill Barnwell’s Steelers 2016 Off Season Analysis

With the Pittsburgh Steelers 2015 season over, Watch Tower focuses its light exclusively on deconstructing Bill Barnwell’s Steelers 2016 off season analysis.

Bill Barnwell’s Grudging Respect for Steelers

In the interests of transparency, this isn’t the first time the Watch Tower has dissected one of Barnwell’s columns. And in fairness to Mr. Barnwell, he was probably more right on the Steelers contracts for Troy Polamlau and Ike Taylor that we cared to admit back then.

  • Barnwell recently focused on the Steelers 2016 season on ESPN in a 2,645 word ambivalent analysis piece.

The feel of Barnwell’s breakdown of the Steelers comes down to two words: Grudging respect, as captured by the second and third sentences of his column:

This isn’t the most successful run of the storied franchise’s history, with the controversial wild-card win over the Bengals serving as their first playoff victory since beating a Mark Sanchez-led Jets team in the 2010 AFC Championship Game. But they’ve consistently been in the swing of things in the AFC.

Barnwell feels compelled to balance his concession to the Steelers constant relevance in the AFC playoff picture by devaluing the validity of the Steelers most recent playoff victories and that sets the tone for his entire analysis. Yes, his task is to provide a sort of “Pro’s and Con’s” piece on Pittsburgh’s future prospects, but he almost reads like he’s channeling his internal Bob Smizik.

Barnwell on Steelers 2016 Hopes

Bill Barnwell praises the Steelers for what everyone else is praising them for: Exceeding expectations via more sacks and turnovers on defense and exploding on offense in spite of injuries to Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Ben Roethlisberger and Martavis Bryant.

In doing so he cites any number of advanced saber metrics to document the Steelers offensive performance, and raises and important point – at least statistically – about the difficulty of sustaining the increase in turnovers.

  • There’s really not much to quibble about in Barnwell’s analysis of Steelers potential upside.

One might argue that the Steelers improvement in turnovers is due to something systemic, but Barnwell’s numbers are solid. The only real issue with Barnwell’s assessment of the Steelers upside, as that he seems to forget his own points when he examines the Steelers potential downside….

Barnwell on Steelers 2016 Fears

…And you can see that immediately in his first paragraph. Right after praising the young talent the Steelers have surrounded around quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, Barnwell goes on to make a curious assertion:

The problem is that the Steelers have struggled to surround that young talent with the sort of solid depth that would raise Pittsburgh’s ceiling to that of a perennial Super Bowl contender.

Really? IT would seem that the Steelers depth is what allowed them to weather all of those injuries and put themselves a fumble away – made by a 4th string running back — from playing for the AFC Championship. Barnwell argues that the Steelers salary cap troubles are the main culprit behind their supposed depth issues. This was painfully true in 2013 and perhaps in part of 2014, but his supporting arguments just don’t jive:

This year, with injuries up on the offensive side of the ball, Pittsburgh’s inability to plug holes because of cap concerns became a bigger issue. Despite having one of the league’s most injury-prone quarterbacks in Roethlisberger, the Steelers had to save money on backups and paid Bruce Gradkowski and Michael Vick a combined $2.4 million, far less than even the Chase Daniels of the world get by themselves. They lacked badly-needed offensive line depth and were out of luck once Pouncey and left tackle Kelvin Beachum went down with season-ending injuries, leaving Pittsburgh with journeyman Cody Wallace and fascinating project Alejandro Villanueva in key roles for most of the season.

Where to begin….? First, the Steelers policy of keeping three quarterbacks and depending on experienced, veteran backups increasingly goes what most teams in the league do. Second, one of the reasons why the 2015 Steelers were so resilient was preciecely because Cody Wallace and Alejandro Villanueva proved to be such cost-effective backups.

  • Finally, how exactly does Barnwell conclude that Ben Roethlisberger is “one of the league’s most injury-prone quarterbacks?”

Yes, Roethlisberger did have to leave three games with injuries in 2015. But he only missed a handful of snaps in 2014 and did not miss an entire snap in 2013. Ben Roethlisberger has taken much more punishment than most of his peers – and he be one player who “gets old fast” but toughness, not fragility has been Ben’s hallmark.

Barnwell on Steelers 2016 Salary Cap

Barnwell devotes the last 1/3 of his critique of the Steelers to salary cap issues. The Watch Tower does not pretend to be a closet capologist, but Steel City Insider’s Ian Whetstone has looked at the Steelers situation and come to different conclusions. But if we accept that Barnwell perhaps has a point about the Steelers and Lawrence Timmon’s contract, he still appears to contradict himself.

Barnwell is highly critical of the Steelers secondary. So is Steelers President Art Rooney II, in so many words, so Barnwell’s critiques are on solid ground. Unlike Rooney, Barnwell names names, as he singles out the Steelers reliance on Antwon Blake and Will Allen. Then a couple of paragraphs down, he makes this assertion:

No fewer than six starters are hitting unrestricted free agency this offseason, and Pittsburgh can’t afford to lose them all. That includes three members of that secondary in Blake, Gay and Will Allen; they aren’t exactly stars by any means, but the only players in line to replace them are Cortez Allen and rookie second-rounder Senquez Golson, who combined to play one game in 2015 thanks to injuries.

Barnwell is right about the Steelers not being able to rely on Golson and Allen, but he undercuts his own consistency by critiquing the Steelers for relying on Blake and Will Allen and then turning around and critiquing them for being in danger of losing them.

His conclusion suffers from the same type of circular logic, as he tries to suggest moves the Steelers might make to free up salary cap space:

They can save $4 million by cutting Heath Miller, $1.8 million by releasing Shaun Suisham and $4.4 million by designating Cortez Allen as a post-June 1 release. That also leaves them without starters at three positions.

OK. First, Heath Miller is not going anywhere, 4 million dollar contract or not, but that misses the point. Shaun Suisham missed the entire 2015 season and Cortez Allen missed all but a handful of plays. Chris Boswell may very well have cost Suisham his roster spot, and Cortez Allen has not been considered a starter since mid 2014.

None of this is to say that Barnwell doesn’t make legitimate points. While the Steelers are no longer in salary cap purgatory, they still have a lot less room to maneuver than many of their competitors. Few people , including Barnwell himself, mentioned it, but few would doubt that keeping Brice McCain would have helped the Steelers secondary.

So it would be incorrect and unfair to write Barnwell off as a “knee-jerk naysayer.” But it also seems like Barnwell’s Steelers 2016 off season analysis suffers from a lack of objectivity on some level.

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Safety Mike Mitchell Heads a Long Steelers Off Season Surgery List

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2015 season only ended days ago, but the Steelers off season surgery list is already a long one. Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin addressed the media for the final time and confirmed that several Steelers are already schecduled to under go surgery.

Steelers starting free safety Michael Mitchell, whose shoulder has been ailing for weeks, will undergo shoulder surgery, as will punter Jordan Berry, who injured his shoulder in the Steelers playoff loss to the Broncos. Ryan Shazier and Matt Spaeth will have knee surgery, while David DeCastro and Marcus Gilbert will have their ankles operated on.

Mike Tomlin also indicated that Maurkice Pouncey, Le’Veon Bell, Senquez Golson, Shaun Suisham and Mike Adams – all of whom spent the entire 2015 season on the Steelers injured reserve list, are progressing well and should be able to participate in training camp. Tomlin also confirmed that Cortez Allen, Kelvin Beachum and Roosevelt Nix, who went on IR during the regular season, were also recovering according to schedule.

Interestingly enough, the name of Bruce Gradkowski has not surfaced yet along with other Steelers on the mend, which could be an oversight on an ominous sign for the backup quarterback’s future, or lack there of in Pittsburgh.

Could Allen and Suisham Become Salary Cap Casualties?

While this is good news for the players in question, some of them may not be back with the Steelers, even if they do recovery fully.

According to the site Over the Cap, the Pittsburgh Steelers are about 9.2 million dollars under the NFL’s projected salary cap for 2016. While the term “Steelers under the cap” hasn’t been heard in Pittsburgh very often since the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement was reached, the Steelers have the 6th least cap space of any NFL team.

  • The Steelers do not have a lot of veterans that they can cut to gain easy salary cap space.

However, cutting Shaun Suisham after June 1st could shave the Steelers 2.4 million dollars in salary cap space. Likewise, cutting Cortez Allen after June 1st could give the Steelers an extra 4.4 million dollars in salary cap space. Offensive tackle Mike Adams could also have already played his last game for the Steelers, although cutting Adams would not impact the Steelers salary cap much.

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Steelers Bye Week. Es esto todo lo que la ofensiva puede dar?

La llegada del Steelers Bye Week

Llegando noviembre a su final, también llegó la semana libre para los Pittsburgh Steelers. Diez semanas han pasado. 6-4 es el récord actual y en primera posición para ingresar al Wild Card en postemporada por la AFC.

Adelantando el fin de año, época propicia para rebobinar los sucesos del año y ponerlos en valor, nos parece que es este el momento ideal para analizar lo hasta aquí logrado. Y lo que todavía está por lograr.
Poner en blanco sobre negro lo bueno y lo malo. Lo dulce y lo amargo.

Como ha venido sucediendo en los últimos años, el equipo ha tenido que lidiar con un sinfín de jugadores lesionados, algunos de ellos en momentos críticos del campeonato, como fue la lesión de Le’Veon Bell sobre el final de la temporada 2014.

Los jugadores que están fuera de la temporada son varios y sus puestos son difíciles de reemplazar (cuando no insustituibles) sin perder un gran potencial. Tal es el caso del RB Le’Veon Bell (rodilla) quien salió del campo en la semana 8 en la derrota frente a los Bengals. Bruce Gradkowski ni siquiera inició la temporada regular, dando lugar a la contratación de Michael Vick para la posición de QB reserva. La lesión de rodilla de Shaun Suisham, también motivó un fichaje de urgencia.

El elegido fue Josh Scobee, quien a su vez fuera cortado luego de una actuación de pesadilla en la semana 4 vs. los Ravens, malogrando 2 goles de campo que hubieran significado la victoria de su equipo. Revolviendo el fondo de la bolsa de pateadores disponibles, dieron con el joven Chris Boswell: toda una incógnita. Pero esta movida, sin embargo, no pudo haber salido mejor. A tal punto que hay quienes dudan de que Suisham vuelva a recuperar su puesto de trabajo. Boswell, en 6 juegos vistiendo la negro y oro, convirtió 14 de 15 intentos de gol de campo, incluyendo uno de más de 50 yardas, con una efectividad del 98,3%.
Tres jugadores titulares de la línea ofensiva estan fuera: el T Mike Adams (sin fecha de retorno), el G Kelvin Beachum y el C Maurkice Pouncey (estos dos últimos, fuera por la temporada).

Pero hubo jugadores que se lesionaron y volvieron: Ben Roethlisberger (BB) dejó el campo contra Saint Louis en la semana 3 y retornó 5 semanas más tarde por una lesión en la rodilla (MCL), volvió a lesionarse en la semana siguiente (pie), y fue reserva de Landry Jones (LJ) vs. Cleveland, quien a su vez también se lesionó (tobillo izquierdo) y fue reemplazado por Ben quien tuvo una tarde impecable…
Sin hablar de Mike Vick (MV) y su desempeño errático y decepcionante, que dá para largo, así de movida fue la temporada de mariscales y lesiones por allí, por Pittsburgh…

La ofensiva de los Steelers en suspenso

La ofensiva de los Steelers es la número 10 en puntos anotados y la segunda en yardas por jugada detrás de Arizona.

  • Sus pasadores completaron el 64% de los pases, alcanzando el 2do lugar en la Liga en yardas netas por intento de pase (7.4 yds)
  • Si analizamos a cada pasador por separado Big Ben lidera en porcentaje de pases completados con 66.8% (MV 60.6%; LJ 60.8%).

En yardas netas por jugadas de pase BB promedió 8.22 yds; LJ: 8.72 yds y MV 4.18 yds. con un rating de pasador de 97; 95.1 y 79.8 respectivamente.
Big Ben, además, está 2° en la liga en yardas ganadas por pase completo con 13,4 yds.

La ofensiva terrestre se vió privada de su jugador estrella en 4 de los 10 juegos disputados, sea por suspensión o lesión. Le’Veon Bell promedió 92,7 yds por juego (4,9 yds por intento).
Sin embargo, el ataque terrestre estuvo lejos de sufrir por su ausencia ya que DeAngelo Williams promedió 5 yardas por intento.

Lo destacable también es que este par de corredores tienen manos de tenazas y siempre dan al pasador opción de pase en jugadas rotas o de engaño: Bell atrapó 24 de 26 (0.92) pases lanzados, promediando 5,7 yds por atrapada y Williams capturó 13 de 18 (0.72); con 10,5 yds por atrapada. Y sólo Williams soltó un balón en 120 jugadas en donde tocó el ovoide.

Esta ofensiva demostró ser muy efectiva cuando avanza sin reunión previa a cada jugada. Promedia más de 11 yardas por jugada, 3.4 yds acarreando y 11.5 yds por pase, completan 79.7 % de los pases con un rating de pasador de 122.9

Los receptores fueron los que más sintieron la ausencia de Big Ben (o tal vez sería más correcto decir que sufrieron la presencia de Vick)

Aún jugando con 3 mariscales diferentes, Antonio Brown está 2° en yardas recibidas con 1141, y también 2° en yardas por juego 114.1. Martavis Bryant también 2° en la Liga en yardas por recepción con 20
Sin embargo queda la sensación de que, a pesar de estos números es una ofensiva que está en suspenso. Que no termina de tomar ritmo debido a los cambios del pasador.

Hay la sensación de que siempre puede ser mejor, que no alcanza su verdadero potencial.

Una de los déficits que hay que marcar en esta ofensiva es la conversión de 3ros intentos. Fue claramente deficitario y se transformó en una de las barreras de esta división. Uno de los posibles motivos es que el promedio de yardas por recorrer en 3er intento fue alto: 6.59 yds. En el 81% de las ocasiones la jugada resultó en pase, como es lógico. En esta situación se lanzaron 4 INT (el 40% de todas las INT se lanzaron en esta situación) y se logró el primer down o un TD en poco más del 40%. Sin dudas los Steelers muestran sus miserias en 3er down.

Fue una constante, durante las temporadas pasadas, el bajo porcentaje efectividad (que se me ocurre medir según el porcentaje de jugadas en las que se arriba a un TD o a 1er down, dentro de las 20 yardas del equipo rival)

  • Así por ejemplo durante la temporada 2013 los Steelers ranquearon en el puesto 23 en toda la Liga. No fue muy diferente en 2014 donde se ubicaron en el puesto 21.

Pero este año se observa una sensible mejoría: es uno de los equipos que más juega en este sector del campo (7° equipo en cantidad de jugadas en Zona Roja), 11° en cantidad de TD convertidos con 19 y N° 14 en porcentaje de jugadas que finalizan en 1er down o en TD.

De cara a los partidos que quedan por disputar en esta temporada, queda por definir para el resto de la temporada, quién será el QB suplente, si Mike Vick o Landry Jones.
Me resulta llamativo que aún habiendo cambios y necesidades de espacio en el roster, el nombre de Jones siempre haya permanecido intocable.

En un tercer lugar, es cierto, pero inamovible. Cuando ha entrado al campo por necesidad, ha sido capaz de ganar partidos. Creo que tiene la confianza del cuerpo de entrenadores, y que al día de hoy, es el mariscal suplente aún cuando Vick haya recuperado su forma física.

El Dr de Acero

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6 Players Who Must Step Up During 2015 Steelers Final Six Games

The Pittsburgh Steelers exit their bye week with a 6-4 record  holding the 1st seed in the AFC Wild Card race. With the Bengals falling to 8-2, the Steelers could conceivably take a long-shot run at the AFC North crown.

  • The 2015 Steelers final 6 games which once seemed brutal now seem less daunting.

Yes, the Steelers travel in 4 out of six weeks including visits to Baltimore, Cincinnati and Cleveland, but Denver, Indianapolis and perhaps even Seattle look vulnerable.

But for Pittsburgh to make it to the playoffs, and, dare Steelers Nation dream, a run at Lombardi Number 7, here are 6 players who must step up during the 2015 Steelers final 6 games.

(It goes without saying that the Steelers cannot afford a serious injury to Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, or DeAngelo Williams.)

Antwon Blake

When reporters asked Carnell Lake following the 2013 NFL Draft why the Steelers waited so long to draft a corner, Lake began talking about Antwon Blake, whom the Steelers had picked up when Kevin Colbert went waiver wire shopping after making their initial 2013 cuts.

Steelers fans scratched their heads, but Blake’s splash plays in the form of an interception vs. the Colts and forced fumble and fumble recover vs. Cincinnati helped inspire confidence. And looking at his Antwon Blake’s 2015 stat sheet offers more to like, as he has two interceptions including a pick six vs. San Diego, an impressive Red Zone interception vs. the Bengals, and the Steelers have credited him with 9 passes defensed.

But stats and highlights can be deceiving. Neal Coolong of USA Today’s Steelers Wire reports that per Pro Football Focus’ accounting, Blake leads all NFL corners with 17 missed tackles.

  • Focus on fundamentals like crisp tackling, or lack thereof, is often what decides “December Football”

Duirng their the 2015 Steelers final 6 games, Pittsburgh needs Antown Blake to focus on fundamentals

Chris Boswell

Chris Boswell’s name might be a surprise here, as Boswell’s performance since arriving after a string of injuries and the disaster that was Josh Scobee made placekicking a dicey proposition in Pittsburgh.

Yet Boswell missed an extra pointvs. the Browns and missed an field goal against the Raiders in a game that was ultimately decided by 3 points. A few weeks ago on Rebecca Rollet’s Going Deep: An Introspective Steelers Site, Ivan Cole asked if Chris Boswell’s performance signaled that the Steelers should part ways with Shaun Suisham.

  • My response was “Let’s see how Boswell kicks at Heinz Field in November and December.”

Boswell first two misses came in November at Heinz Field on days when the weather was good. The real test will be how he kicks out doors in the AFC North in December. Suffice to say, the Steelers playoff hopes can ill afford a Chris Boswell slump during Pittsburgh’s final six games.

Markus Wheaton

Three years into his NFL career, Markus Wheaton remains an enigma.

Early in 2014 Wheaton flashed explosivness that made him look like he could be a legit big-play receiver. His performance cratered at mid-season, and while he was largely an afterthought thanks to the emergence of Martavis Bryant, Wheaton quietly closed 2014 by making drive sustaining catch after drive sustaining catch.

In 2015 thus far, Markus Wheaton has made some nice plays in Martavis Bryant’s absence, most notably his 72 yard touchdown catch from Michael Vick vs. San Diego, but has yet to find a rhythm in the Steelers offense.

The reality is that Ben Roethlisberger’s first three targets during the Steelers final 6 games are probably going to be Brown, Bryant and Heath Miller.

  • But there will be times when those men will be covered and Ben Roethlisberger will look Markus Wheaton’s way.

Wheaton needs to be ready.

Cody Wallace

Steel Curtain Rising does not pretend to have the time, the facilities, or the ability to do detaled analysis of the techniques of offensive lineman. But after both the Raiders game and after the Browns game, Neal Coolong of Steelers Wire cited Cody Wallace for poor technique.

There’s been little word on whether Maurkice Pouncey will return from the short-term injured reserve list, and even if he does return there’s no guarantee he’ll be at full strength. AFC North contests played in December often comes down to who dominates the line of scrimmage. On offense, that starts with sound play at center. The Steelers need Cody Wallace to step up.

Roosevelt Nix

Early in the season Steelers Nation saw Roosevelt Nix to deliver some crushing blocks. Vs. the Raiders he forced a fumble, against the Browns he had his first NFL catch.

When the Steelers opted to keep Roosevelt Nix, many felt he held a luxury roster spot. Most expected him to go when Bell and/or Bryant came back. Mike Tomlin kept him on the roster.

  • No one questions Roosevelt Nix’s roster spot now.

Teams that are successful late in the season often are the ones who can get the most value out roster spots 46-53. Nix would be in that range. The undrafted rookie free agent ahs done a lot to take advantage of the opportunities Steelers coaches have given him. Look for Nix to get more in December, and look for him to take advantage.

Daniel McCullers, L.T. Walton or Cam Thomas

In Cameron Heyward the Pittsburgh Steelers have a budding superstar. Stephon Tuitt is not far behind. While no one is quite ready to say that the Steelers have the best two 3-4 defensive ends in the league, if both men keep up their current level of play they will soon.

  • In Steve McLendon the Steelers have a solid nose tackle who helps take away the middle of the field.

Behind those front three, the Steelers don’t have a whole lot. Football has always been about attrition, and that tendency only takes on more truth as November fades into December. Even if Heyward, Tuitt, and McLendon stay, God willing, healthy, rotating defensive lineman is quite important to John Mitchell’s scheme.

That means that Daniel McCullers, Cameron Thomas, and L.T. Walton will need to come in and play, and when they do none of these men can afford to be the weak link of the Steelers defense.

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Chris Boswell’s NCAA Kicking Stats Reveal Versatile Athlete

2015 has not been kind to kickers. The tendency is true league wide, and nowhere is it more true than in Pittsburgh. Shaun Suisham tearing an ACL during the Hall of Fame game was bad. Perhaps Jeff Reed getting ejected during the same game was an even worse omen.

  • In came Garrett Hartwell. Out went Garret Hartell.
  • The Steelers traded for Josh Scobee
  • Josh Scobee missed 5 of 17 kicks
  • Steelers cut Josh Scobee (who, if his agent is to be believed, is nursing a quad injury)

The Steelers have signed Chris Boswell who played his college ball at Rice University. One of the interesting things about Chris Boswell is that he knows how to nail an on sides kick:

That’s some fancy footwork.

Will it fool hardened NFL special teamers? Probably not, but it’s good to know he possesses that caliber of athletic talent. And lest ye forget, while Shaun Suisham’s absence is painfully felt in Pittsburgh this year, Suisham was 0-3 in kicking recoverable on-sides kicks in both 2013 and 2014.

  • But if things go well, the Steelers won’t need Boswell to attempt too many on-sides kicks.

Boswell’s job will be to put the ball in the end zone on kickoffs and split the uprights at all other times. Looking at Chris Boswell’s NCAA kicking stats from his time at Rice University, Boswell did pretty well.

steelers, Chris Boswell, NCAA, kicking stats, punter,

Chris Boswell’s NCAA Kicking Stats

  • And you’ll notice, place kicking isn’t all that Boswell does.

Chris Boswell also punts. In fact, he got his first tryout for the Houston Texans as a punter. In the 2014 preseason he punted 14 times for and totaled 619 yards for an average of 44.2 yards. Those aren’t Jordan Berry numbers (on a good day) but they’re not bad.

Boswell also kicked a field goal for the Texans in preseason but, more ominously, he also missed two extra points. As noted when the Steelers signed Boswell, he made 4 of 4 field goal attempts for the Giants in the 2015 preseason.

  • Like one of his predecessors, Jeff Reed, Boswell won the job by kicking at Heinz Field.

As a Texas native and an alum of Rice University, Boswell doesn’t have experience kicking in the cold and windy Northeast, experience that Mike Tomlin cited when the Steelers signed Sushiam in 2010. But when asked about his try out by Jim Wexell’s Steel City Insider, Boswell revealed:

Yes. It was good. It was an experience. It was pouring rain and windy, and all the elements you want. I hear it gets pretty bad up here so it was kind of a good test and good competition as well.

At the very least, Boswell has necessary attitude for kicking successfully at Heinz Field. Will that attiude translate in to success in pressure situations? Time will tell. For now all we can say is “Welcome to Steelers Nation Chris Boswell.”

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Los Pittsburgh Steelers perdieron en casa frente a los Ravens por 23 a 20

En la semana 4 de temporada 2015, los Pittsburgh Steelers fueron incapaces de cerrar un partido que, al medio tiempo parecía definido, no tanto en el marcador sino por lo que podía verse en el campo de juego. 

En un duelo de defensivas en las que ambas alternaron protagonismo, el juego se definió en tiempo extra por apenas un gol de campo, abonando una vez más la rivalidad clásica en la División Norte de la Conferencia Americana.

La maldición del pateador que vino de Louisiana

Recuerdan esto?

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A finales de Agosto, durante la pretemporada y luego de haber perdido por lesión al kicker titular Shaun Suisham y a su reemplazante Garrett Hartley, también lesionado, la franquicia de la familia Rooney contrató a pateador Josh Scobee quien vistiera el jersey de Jacksonville Jaguars desde 2009 a 2014.

  • Pues bien. Este no fue ni el año ni el lugar para el bueno de Josh…

Aquí va la historia.

El 4to cuarto de mal fama…

Al comenzar el cuarto final, Baltimore desarrollaba un ataque que finalizaría en gol de campo para poner las cosas 17 a 20 para los locales, luego de que estos hubieran de avanzado con su ofensiva tan solo 14 yardas durante todo el cuarto anterior.

  • Así de flacos estaban los morrales acereros.

Y los Ravens se acercaban en el marcador. Peligrosamente. Amenazando con arrebatarles el partido que Pittsburgh parecía, hasta mitad del 3er cuarto, que tenía controlado.

  • A su turno la ofensiva local falló en progresar el ovoide teniendo que despejar, una vez más.

La respuesta de los Ravens parecía imparable, luego de un acarreo de 22 yardas de Justin Forsett. Pero en 4to y 1 con menos de 10 minutos por jugar, Joe Flacco se la juega quedando a centímetros del 1er y 10. Turn over of downs.

Luego de esta estruendosa victoria de la defensiva que vestía de negro y oro, sus compañeros de la ofensiva avanzaron el balón hasta la yarda 32 de campo rival para intentar un Gol de campo de 49 yardas que obligara a los Ravens a anotar TD si es que querían alzarse con el juego, con menos de 2:30 por jugar.

  • El convocado al campo fue el K Josh Scobee, quien fallara 2 GdeC en la jornada inaugural versus los Patriotas de Nueva Inglaterra.

El intento de gol de campo se quedaría en eso. En un intento. La patada se fue desviada por la izquierda (apenas desviada, pero el apenas no cuenta porque los tres puntos no contaron…)

Cuando fue su turno, la ofensiva de los Ravens fue devorada por la defensiva acerera: dos cargas sobre el mariscal resultaron en sendos pases incompletos, Antwon Blake desvió el tercero y así quedó Flacco enfrentando un 4to down y 10, en su propia yarda 39. Pero se la jugó. Era casi la pausa de los 2 minutos, perdían por 3 puntos. No había opción.

Pittsburgh comenzó su serie en la yarda 29 de Baltimore. Inmejorable.
Tres jugadas después estarían en la 24, en 4to down, con 1:06 por jugar, para un gol de campo de 41 yardas…

Otra vez la patada de Scobee se fue por la izquierda.

Impensado. Impensable

Baltimore, con poco más de 1 minuto, sin tiempos fuera por pedir y tenía que llegar a la 34 rival para poder así intentar su gol de campo que lleve el juego a tiempo extra. 3er y 10 con 29 segundos en el reloj.
Pase al WR Nick Aiken mal defendido por Blake y ya estaban en la 32 de Pittsburgh, aunque más tarde Forsett acarrearía hasta la 24.

  • Gol de campo de 41 yardas de Justin Tucker para poner el juego empatado y a Tiempo extra.
  • Lo demás es conocido, a estas alturas.

La segunda serie de los Steelers en OT, en la realidad ya sin pateador, termina en 4to y 1 y un pase incompleto, alto pero atrapable para Antonio Brown.

La ofensiva visitante deja el ovoide en la 35 de Pittsburgh para un gol de campo de 52 yardas que selló el partido para los Ravens.

Una Steelers Ofensiva Insolvente

Los Steelers entraron al juego con un promedio de 410 yardas totales por juego en esta temporada (5ta ranqueada en la NFL) y anotando 5 TD terrestres empatando el 1er puesto en la liga, pero con Michael Vick al comando en lugar de Ben Roethlisberger.
Vick, en toda su carrera tenía un 56% de pases completados, 22.140 yardas, 131 TD y 87 INT. Tenía la experiencia necesaria para iniciar un clásico como este, jugando en casa.

Pero faltaba tiempo de juego con sus nuevos compañeros de equipo. Así la ofensiva aérea fue impredecible y pobre con tan solo 124 yardas avanzadas.

Los números de los receptores fueron inverosímiles. Basta ver la disminución del nivel que mostró Antonio Brown: 5 rec para 42 yardas.

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Pero lo que no muestran las estadísticas es que dejó caer dos pases que hubiesen sido clave en el partido. Ambos tocaron sus manos, por lo tanto eran atrapables: Un pase lo soltó dentro de la end zone y el otro en OT, en 4to y 1 que entregó el ovoide al rival para que anote el FG definitivo.

Por otro lado Markus Wheaton anotó solo una atrapada para 18 yardas y Heath Miller, sólo 1.
Por tierra la cosa fue algo mejor, aunque la línea ofensiva no abría los huecos de manera consistente y se repartían con sus rivales la supremacía en la línea de golpeo.

  • El balance final, a mi juicio, favoreció a los Ravens.
  • LeVeon Bell acarreó para 124 yds, 5.9 yds por acarreo. Nada mal.
  • Pero cuando hizo falta no se lo aprovechó. Ni a DeAngelo Williams.

Para mi gusto hubo una subutilización de un jugador de potencia con DeAngelo Williams quien provee, esta temporada, de 4.8 yds por acarreo.

En OT, en 2 series consecutivas, en 4to y corto, para tal vez quedarse con el partido, el OC Todd Haley prefirió ir con Vick con un roll hacia afuera y acarreando (en la primera ocasión) y por aire con AB, en la segunda, quien no había tenido una noche como las de siempre.

  • Resultado: 0 de 2 en conversión de 4to down.

Fue difícil para esta ofensiva avanzar el ovoide, ya que se consiguieron tan solo el 15% de los terceros intentos. Muy por debajo de lo conseguido en los 3 juegos anteriores:

46% vs Patriots
60% vs 49ers
50% vs Rams

Se están aplicando los remaches de una nueva Cortina de Acero?

Es una pregunta algo pretenciosa. Tal vez desmesurada. Más una expresión de deseos que una realidad, pero el desarrollo que ha mostrado esta unidad es muy destacable y meritoria.

Aquello que nos ocupó y preocupó a todos luego de la semana 1, la defensiva secundaria y la defensa contra el pase ha mejorado notablemente.

Mientras que en la semana 1 se permitieron 281 yds, en la 4 tan solo 165. (Claro que estoy advertido de que aquel día el QB rival era Tom Brady)
Además se obtuvieron 2 turn overs.

Queda mucho por mejorar en la defensa del ataque terrestre puesto que este jueves se ha batido récord en la temporada en yardas permitidas por tierra: 191. La vuelta de Ryan Shazier al campo, tal vez modifique en positivo este ítem de la estadística.

La línea defensiva está mostrando actuaciones sobresalientes: Cam Heyward (7 tkl y 1 captura), Stephon Tuitt (10 tkl y 1 captura)
El tackleador más prolífico este jueves ha sido el veterano Lawrence Timmons con 11 tackles, 1 asistencia y una captura de QB.

De las 7 capturas que ha sufrido Joe Flacco en la temporada, 5 han sido por parte de los Steelers (James Harrison, Heyward, Timmons, Sean Spence y Tuitt) y eso ha sido gracias a las cargas externas que se han lanzado sobre Flacco, que fue capturado, apurado y golpeado en reiteradas ocasiones.

Los Ravens han convertido tan solo el 35% de los 3er downs y en 3 ocasiones de 4 se les ha negado en 1er down desde el 4to intento.

El Factor Scobee

scobee
El Kicker de los Steelers, ha sido desafectado del equipo. En su reemplazo ingresa Chris Boswell, quien a decir verdad no ha jugado en la NFL en temporada regular.

El escueto comunicado de los Steelers presenta al pateador en sociedad: “Boswell estuvo con los New York Giants en el equipo de pretemporada 2015 y en el training camp. Pasó una semana de la temporada 2014 en el equipo de práctica de los Houston Texans. Boswell fue contratado originalmente por los Texans como agente libre novato no seleccionado el 16 de mayo de 2014.”

Verdaderamente el comunicado es poco alentador. Habrá que esperar y confiar.
Sobre todo eso…

Confiar.

El Dr. de Acero

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Steelers Trade 6th Round Pick for Josh Scobee

The Pittsburgh Steelers have not had much luck with place kickers during this 2015 preseason. First the Steelers lost veteran Shaun Suisham  to a torn ACL in the Hall of Fame Game. That led the team to sign Garrett Hartley, who looked pretty solid, but Hartley ended up injuring himself during the Steelers debacle vs. the Bills.

  • And there’s still 1 more preseason game to go….

That scenario saw the Steelers trade a 6th round draft pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars for place kicker Josh Scobee. This is the second trade the Steelers have made this off season, having given up a conditional pick to get Brandon Boykin from the Philadelphia Eagles.

Schobee has kicked in the NFL since 2004 but a training camp battle with rookie Jason Myers made him expendable. The trade was contingent on the Jacksonville Jaguars picking up part of Josh Schobee’s salary, which they agreed to do.

While not as accurate as Shaun Suisham, Schobee has proven himself to be an accurate kicker during his NFL career, and has a strong leg for kickoffs. What he does lack, however, is a proven ability to play in the elements, which can be a particular test at Heinz Field.

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Steelers Place Shaun Suisham on Injured Reserve, Sign David Nelson, Braylon Heard

As expected, the Pittsburgh Steelers placed place kicker Shaun Suisham on injured reserve. Suisham, who has kicked for the Steelers since mid 2010, tore his ACL after the opening kickoff in the in the Steelers 14-3 loss to the Minnesota Vikings in the preseason Hall of Fame Game.

The Steelers made other roster moves in the wake of injuries suffered during the Hall of Fame Game. Undrafted rookie free agent running Cameron Stingily was placed on the “Wavied/injured list” after suffering a knee injury against the Vikings.

The Steelers filled their roster spots with rookie running back Braylon Heard who spent the 2014 season playing for the Kentucky Wildcats where he appeared in 11 games and rushed for 368 yards. He began his college careear with the Nebraska Cornhuskers, where he appeared in 19 games and rushed for 426 yards.

The Steelers also signed wide receiver David Nelson. Nelson has played in the NFL since 2010, having played in Buffalo for three years where he appeared in 32 games and made 17 starts and he spent the last two seasons with the New York Jets, appearing in 18 games.

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