Tag Archives: Pittsburgh Steelers

2016-2017 Steelers Season Review

It was a statement season for the greatest “cheerleader” in football. As someone who’s become very critical of head coach Mike Tomlin, I’m giving him his due. He turned this team around at a time when they seemed like they were going to fall apart. 

They lost arguably their best defensive player for the season and got trampled by a struggling Miami team (who eventually turned it around and made the playoffs). They lost their franchise quarterback and lost to top-seed New England. They lost to arch-rival Baltimore in a sloppy game where Big Ben probably came back to quickly and Chris Boswell did his best riverdance impression. They lost a nail-biter at home to Dallas, a game they had in hand with 42 seconds remaining, only to commit a bad facemask penalty and then allow Ezekiel Elliott to walk into the endzone, giving the game away. 

4-1 turned to 4-5 quickly. They were in a tailspin, heading straight down to crash and burn, turning what some were calling a Super Bowl contender into another underachieving team. Many in Steeler Nation started to call for Mike Tomlin’s head, or at least became very critical of him. I know I did. This is a guy who’s had a generational quarterback for his entire tenure as head coach, and has one playoff win in the past five years; a game that was handed to him by Cincinnati in a way only they could pull off. Mike Tomlin’s regular season success goes without saying, but his 6-5 mediocre playoff record leaves something to be desired. 

And here we are – playoff bound. AFC NORTH Champions. How did Tomlin turn 4-5 into 11-5?

I believe it was a team effort from the top down, starting with Tomlin, and all the way down to the water boy. The sense of urgency picked up, especially on the defensive side of the ball. The defense drastically improved over the course of the seven-game winning streak to end the season. They were a bend-but-don’t-break defense, but that’s all they really need to be. They finished as the 12th-ranked defense at season’s end, and I don’t think anyone predicted the defense finishing in the top half of the league. Tomlin demanded performance from his players and they responded. They took care of the teams they should have, and they fought hard to the very end in the games they needed to win the most.

Go ahead and ask any of Tomlin’s players if they think he’s a cheerleader. Go ahead. None of them do.

I’m critical of Tomlin and don’t think he’s a great coach. He won’t even admit that he is. He said it’s not on his resumé yet. He’s not a bad coach though, and he’s certainly not just a great cheerleader. He turned the team around from potentially missing the playoffs to division champions and the third seed in the AFC Playoffs. 

A lot of credit is due all around for the Steelers. Tomlin is one. The star power of the black and gold is another. Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown are the way for the Steelers to win a Super Bowl. They don’t win one unless all three play at a high level. They’re the biggest reason the Steelers are where they are. Ben may not have had the big statistical year like he did in 2014, but everyone will remember his game-winning drive against Baltimore. You know, the one where he completed all but two passes (those two incompletions were spikes)? 

Antonio Brown is a beast. He put up another stellar season with no consistent second target for Ben to rely on. That means AB was double and triple covered all year. And man, that “immaculate extension” was just…immaculate.

Le’Veon Bell. You can agree with me or you can disagree, but he’s the best back in the league. He’s a threat every time he touches the ball, wherever he touches it, however he touches it. Oh, and he touches the ball more than any other back in the league. He’s the ultimate workhorse. Those touches aren’t wasted either. He led all players in yards from scrimmage per game. He can run you over. He can juke you. He can hurdle you. There’s nothing he can’t do from the running back position. There’s a reason why his teammates voted him team MVP.

Don’t forget about the rookies either. They played a huge role in the defense stepping it up down the stretch. Artie Burns became the Steelers best cover corner. He’s still young, and yes, he got burned a few times, but that happens with young corners. Give him a couple years. He has potential to be an elite shutdown corner. 

Sean Davis is my Steelers Rookie of the Year. He made the safety tandem along with Mike Mitchell a pretty good one. Davis is one of the better tacklers on this defense and has really good football instincts. He’s not Troy Polamalu, but he’s another solid piece of that defense.

Javon Hargrave had a big year stepping in a larger role once Cam Heyward went down for the year. Along with Stephon Tuitt, he helped solidly the defensive line, allowing them to win battles in the trench to help stop the run and, more importantly, create pressure on the quarterback, which is something the Steelers struggled mightily to do early in the season.

The Steelers were nearly dead and gone. Just over half the season was gone and they were under .500. They took a long look in the mirror, lowered their heads, and fought back every second of every game. Now they’re 11-5; AFC North Champions. 

The stairway to seven starts at home against Miami; the team that dealt the Steelers the first loss of their four-game skid. It’s the perfect way to start the climb towards greatness. Here we go.


CH Column: I’m Pulling My Support of Mike Tomlin

The election is over. Half of America is happy while the other half is in disbelief and dismay. After months and months of campaigning, it’s finally all over. We have our President-elect.

There is another campaign going on recently that is picking up a lot of steam on social media and other outlets: those defending Mike Tomlin to the grave and those calling for his head. 

For his entire tenure, I’ve been a Tomlin supporter. I’ve been fairly critical of his time management and other blunders, but still supported him and defended him as the coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers. I’m done. I can’t anymore. When you look at certain statistics that are extremely mind-bottling (I recently re-watched Blades of Glory), it’s hard to campaign for a coach that’s severely underachieved. 

I’m a member of a Steelers fan page on Facebook, and a discussion broke out of people comparing Tomlin to Bill Cowher. People, it’s not even close. People look at the surface and say, “Tomlin had the same amount of Conference championships and Super Bowl championships as Cowher, but in 5 less years!” They’ll also say, “Tomlin’s never had a losing season, while Cowher had three!” And when you look at that and only those points, you might think it’d be hard to vote against Tomlin. Oh boy, you are so wrong.

First off, Bill Cowher had nothing at quarterback for his entire tenure until Big Ben was drafted. We’re talking about Bubby Brister, Neil O’Donnell, Mike Tomzack, Kent Graham, Kordell Stewart, and Tommy Maddox. He had NOTHING. He couldn’t get a franchise quarterback. Yet, he went to four conference championships and one Super Bowl without one, and nearly beat the team of the 90’s in Super Bowl XXX, if it weren’t for, guess who: his quarterback. As soon as Cowher got a franchise quarterback, he went 15-1 and went to the AFC Championship in 2004, and won the Super Bowl in 2005. It took him only two years to get to the top of the mountain once he got an elite quarterback. Also remember, that Cowher and GM Kevin Colbert built the 2005 team. 

Let’s look at Tomlin. Tomlin inherited a team one year removed from a Super Bowl victory, with the majority of the team still in place. Some key guys were gone (Bettis, Faneca, Porter), but the majority of that team was in place. He also inherited a franchise quarterback. Now, I give Tomlin credit. The team can be extremely talented and have all the right players, but you still need someone to captain the ship to lead you to the top of the mountain. Tomlin did that in 2008. He may not have built that team, but he led them there. Bad coaches don’t win Super Bowls, but average ones can. But as time has gone on, and more and more of Cowher’s players have left, it’s become more and more Tomlin’s team. As a matter of fact, the only player left drafted under Cowher’s regime is Ben Roethlisberger. And as it’s become more and more of Tomlin’s team, they’ve gotten worse and worse. 

Since 2012, Tomlin’s team is 19-23 vs teams that are .500 or worse. Well-coached teams don’t lose to teams they should be beating. If it weren’t for Cincinnati giving away a win in the playoffs last year (in a game where Tomlin couldn’t even control his own coaches’ behavior), ZERO playoff wins in five years. This is all with one of the best quarterbacks of his generation, arguably the best all-around running back in the league, and arguably the best receiver in football. Now, the Steelers can’t win the Super Bowl every year, but you’d expect some better performances than sub-.500 against bad teams. You’d expect more playoff wins. You’d also expect a defensive-minded coach to have a better defense than one of the worst in the last three years. And as we look toward Sunday against the 7-1 Dallas Cowboys, I have friends that are Cowboy fans (I live in Dallas) asking me what I think is going to happen on Sunday. I’ve been saying, “I have no idea.” I don’t. I never know what team is going to show up on Sunday. You either get the team that killed Washington and Kansas City, or the team that looked like a high school team against Miami and Baltimore. Well-coached teams are CONSISTENT. The Steelers are far from that. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Steelers won on Sunday 42-10 or lost 38-3. Consistent doesn’t mean you win every week, but you get the same team with the same effort week in and week out. This past week is just another example of poor coaching. The Steelers had one first down in the first three quarters of the game. They played horribly in a week coming off of a bye, where you have an extra week to prepare. Players like Ben and Le’Veon Bell are questioning effort and tightness of practices. Fox Sports’ radio host Colin Cowherd uses a perfect term to describe the Steelers: they’re not “buttoned up.” 105.9’s Mark Madden claims Tomlin is a player’s coach and that they have an “expiration date.” I’m not the only one who’s seeing it, folks. Tomlin is losing the handle on his team year after year, game after game. 

Mike Tomlin isn’t a bad coach. He’s just not the right coach. I fully believe the Steelers don’t win another Super Bowl under Tomlin. I hope he makes me eat my words, but the last 5 years of inconsistency is enough fuel for me to get the engine running on my campaign against Tomlin. I still support and love the team, but Tomlin is not the coach everyone thinks he is. And he sure as heck is not Bill Cowher.

2016-2017 Steelers Preview: Running Backs

The Steelers head into the 2016 season with their eyes set on a seventh Lombardi trophy. In order to achieve their goal, the team’s offensive unit is going to have to be the juggernaut it’s been for the past couple of seasons. The Steelers have an abundance of talent and skill on offense, but lack a bit of depth. We’ve already looked at the offensive line in the very first season preview, so we’ll move on and look at the backfield of the Steelers’ offense. 

Projected Depth Chart:

RB1: Le’Veon Bell (suspended 3 games)

RB2: DeAngelo Williams

RB3: Fitzgerald Toussaint 

FB1: Roosevelt Nix

Atop the running back depth chart is arguably the best all-around back in the league in Le’Veon Bell. He can run you over, juke, or even hurdle you. His patience and vision are second-to-none, and he’s a superb check down target for the quarterback. He’s pretty good in pass protection as well. He really is the elite package…on the field. Bell has had his issues off the field, which has put the Steelers in a need for depth behind him to start last season and this upcoming season as well. Bell served a two-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy two years ago, and got into trouble again this year for missing multiple drug tests, for which Bell will sit the first three games of this season. Bell also has been bit by the injury bug in his career. He missed the first few games of his rookie year in 2013 nursing an injury suffered in training camp. In 2014, he broke out and had a healthy season until the season finale against Cincinnati where he was hit in the knee and missed the playoff game the following week, which the Steelers lost. Last year, he missed the first two games serving his suspension, then played six games, then was out for the rest of the year after a tackle from Vontaze Burfict sidelined Bell with a torn MCL. Bell looks as healthy as can be in training camp and preseason, so hopefully the injury bug has packed up and moved on out of Pittsburgh. 

DeAngelo Williams was signed last offseason to give some depth behind Le’Veon Bell, especially knowing about Bell’s imminent suspension. Williams played very well in the first two games filling in for Bell, and played well in the games after Bell went out for the year. Williams went on to score 11 rushing touchdowns, tying for the most in the NFL in 2015. Williams is a veteran back who also has great vision and a great ability to jump cut through defenders. At the age of 33, even considering most of his career was a time share in Carolina, you have to begin to wonder if his age will begin to show. It didn’t last year, and hopefully, Bell stays healthy and the Steelers won’t have to rely on Williams as heavily. 

Fitzgerald Toussaint will make the team as the third running back and hopefully won’t have to get too many snaps this season. He served nicely in the playoffs last year after Bell and Williams went down with injuries. Toussaint’s biggest blunder in his limited playing time was the fumble he surrendered in the Divisional Playoff against the eventual Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos. Toussaint lacks the ability to break long runs, but is a serviceable third running back. 

Roosevelt Nix has been primarily a special teams player during his tenure in Pittsburgh. He’s the only fullback on the Steelers’ roster, but probably won’t get too many snaps out of the backfield. The Steelers hardly use a fullback in Todd Haley’s playbook. Nix pretty much just needs to be a solid blocker and catch the occasional pass out of the backfield. 

When healthy, the Steelers have an elite group of running backs. Bell is elite on his own, Williams is good enough to be a starter on some of the other teams in the league, and Toussaint is a serviceable third back. It’s a contract year for Le’Veon Bell, so I expect a big year from him. According to one of his rap songs, he wants a contract getting paid $15 million per year, and with his off the field issues, he’s going to have to have the 13 games of his life, win MVP, and put a Super Bowl trophy on top of that before teams fathom paying him that kind of money. If he has that kind of year, a seventh Lombardi trophy isn’t far from reality. 

Preseason Grade: A

Steelers Notes: Jarvis Jones, Transactions, more

Here are the Steelers notes for the week of 5/1/16-5/7/16:

  • On Tuesday, May 5th, the Steelers declined to pick up the fifth-year option on Jarvis Jones, a former 1st round pick. Jones is entering his fourth season, a career in which many consider that he has underperformed or that his skills haven’t quite translated to the NFL level. The Steelers obviously didn’t see the value in the $8.4 million he would’ve made in 2017. He will spend this final season of his contract with Pittsburgh, and then become an unrestricted free agent after the season.
  • The Steelers cut three players on Thursday to trim their roster to 90 players. Headlining the cuts was former second round pick OT Mike Adams. He was cut due to a failed physical. Kicker Ty Long and RB Abou Toure were also among the cuts.
  • Also on Thursday, the Steelers signed their two seventh-round draft picks WR Demarcus Ayers and LB Tyler Matakevich to four-year contracts.
  • On Friday, Pittsburgh signed their sixth-round draft pick LB Travis Feeney to a four-year contract.
  • Rookie Minicamp got under way on Friday. It ran through Sunday, May 8th.

412 Sports is not affiliated with the Pittsburgh Steelers or the National Football League. The views and opinions expressed on this site are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of the Pittsburgh Steelers or the National Football League. This site may contain content copyrighted by another person or entity. This site’s author claims no copyright to said content

Steelers 2016 Draft Recap

The NFL Draft is complete. The Steelers, recognized as the NFL’s best drafting team since 1996 (according to the Washington Post and ProFootballReference.com), walked away from it drafting seven players and signing ten undrafted players. Here are the players the Steelers acquired over the weekend:

Drafted Players:
Round 1 (25th overall): Artie Burns, CB – Miami
Round 2 (58th overall): Sean Davis, CB/S – Maryland
Round 3 (89th overall): Javon Hargrave, DT – South Carolina St.
Round 4 (123rd overall): Jerald Hawkins, OT – LSU
Round 6 (220th overall): Travis Feeney, OLB – Washington
Round 7 (229th overall): DeMarcus Ayers, WR – Houston
Round 7 (246th overall): Tyler Matakevich, OLB – Temple

Undrafted Players:
Johnny Maxey, DL – Mars Hill
Tyriq McCord, LB – Miami (FL)
Will Monday, P – Duke
Giorgio Newberry, DL – Florida State
Christian Powell, RB – Colorado
David Reeves, TE – Duke
Jay Rome, TE – Georgia
Quinton Schooley, OL – NC State
Canaan Severin, WR – Virginia
Devaunte Sigler, DL – Jacksonville State

The undrafted players will participate in the rookie minicamp this upcoming weekend May 6-8.

The Steelers did not have a 5th round pick because they traded it away when acquiring Brandin Boykin last year to get depth in the secondary. This year, the Steelers addressed their needs in the draft. The team is set at their skill positions, especially on the offensive side of the ball, except for the secondary. Many argue that the Steelers biggest weakness was their secondary, and them ranking 30th against the pass last year helps prove that point. GM Kevin Colbert and head coach Mike Tomlin have a specific way of drafting players, usually drafting better overall players on their board than specifically filling their biggest holes by reaching for 2nd-rounders in the 1st round. According to that strategy, it seemed to work out this year for them that they were able get players they wanted in positions they needed the most help in.

My Thoughts:
This was not a draft you’ll look at as a Steelers fan and think it’s sexy. And that’s ok. They addressed the biggest needs on the team. The secondary was the biggest hole, and defensive tackle was second on my list of needs. Artie Burns is a guy with an insane amount of raw talent. He’ll take time to develop. I wouldn’t expect him to start at any point this season. His upside is through the roof. He’s an amazing athlete, but technique is vital to being an NFL corner. I really like the Sean Davis and Javon Hargrave picks. Davis can play either corner or safety (although I see the Steelers using him at safety) and he racked up 318 tackles in his college career. He could make a great tackling tandem with Mike Mitchell at safety. Hargrave is technically sound and very strong. He’s a great pass rushing interior lineman. I could see him becoming the best pick in this draft. Jerald Hawkins gives the Steelers depth at offensive tackle, which they need after Kelvin Beachum left. He’s a prototypical tackle for the Steelers schemes and was part of a pro-style at LSU. Feeney (I see Boy Meets World jokes coming already) could make it as a special teams coverage guy at first, then maybe develop into a depth outside pass rusher. The skills are there, he just needs to develop at the NFL level.  DeMarcus Ayers could be an interesting pick because he’s a guy that could win the kick AND punt return job if he proves himself in camp. Which means, we may not see this from Antonio Brown anymore:


Matakevich is a good value pick as he’s been credited by scouts to have good instincts and football awareness. He will fight for a special team job in camp.
What I like: They took DB’s in the first two rounds, found a DT in the third, and addressed depth throughout the remainder of the draft. I like that they didn’t try to make a splash with a pick, like a  Dri Archer, which made zero sense.
What concerns me: While they drafted positions of need, the players they got could be debated whether they were the best at that position when they drafted them. Burns and Davis are raw talents that are highly athletic and could end up being great players, but they could bust too. Raw talent is hard to hone and train. If the coaches can do it, great. If not, this could be a draft to forget.

Overall Grade: B+

412 Sports is not affiliated with the Pittsburgh Steelers or the National Football League. The views and opinions expressed on this site are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of the Pittsburgh Steelers or the National Football League. This site may contain content copyrighted by another person or entity. This site’s author claims no copyright to said content