NFL should be thanking Steelers for winning at the buzzer

By Ray Fittipaldo about 15 hours ago

The NFL had no comment early this morning on the 20-second clock runoff that happened after the touchback before the Steelers’ final possession. The mistake that was missed by referees did not matter as the Steelers won the game, but it would have been another in a long line of officiating mistakes by officials had the Steelers not won.

The NFL is investigating the matter, but clock operators are residents of the home city and hired by the league. They are responsible for alerting officials of a mistake if one is made. Officials on the field also are expected to keep track of the time as a safeguard.

None of that happened in primetime on Monday Night Football. The NFL should be thanking the Steelers this morning for winning that game at the buzzer.

*Mike Tomlin should be thanking Le’Veon Bell for his second effort to get in the end zone, too. In an interview on ESPN shortly after his game-winning touchdown run, Bell said he thought he had time to run and if he fell short call a timeout. Bell, however, did not have that much time. He took the wildcat snap deep in the back, hesitated and patiently waited for a hole to open. By the time he made it to the goal line and stretched the ball across the plane time had expired.

I’m not sure what the bigger story line would have been had the Steelers lost, the timekeeper’s error or Tomlin’s decision to go for the win? Or, at the very least, his decision to go for the win without calling for more of a quick-hitting play.

*Adam Shefter of ESPN reported this morning the Steelers will not rule Ben Roethlisberger out this week though he said it is a “longshot” that he will play. It will be interesting to see what Roethlisberger says on his radio show this morning, but it’s likely more gamesmanship on behalf of the Steelers, who wanted the Chargers to believe all week they’d have to prepare for Martavis Bryant.

*The Steelers have to make room for Bryant on the 53-man roster by 4 p.m. by cutting another player. I know who I’m not cutting – Roosevelt Nix. It was Nix who buried Pro Bowl safety Eric Weddle on the final play of the game, which allowed Bell a crease to the goal line.

*The cut could be third-string running back Jordan Todman, who committed a special teams penalty against the Chargers, or Dri Archer, the kick returner who rarely gets to return kicks.

*Who else is starting to think chemistry will never develop between Mike Vick and Antonio Brown?

*Vick doesn’t have much chemistry with any of his receivers. Markus Wheaton, the starter opposite Brown, had only one catch. It happened to be one of the biggest receptions of the game, a 72-yard touchdown with 7:42 remaining that tied the score.

Still, it’s hard to imagine the Steelers beating Arizona if Vick doesn’t have more success throwing to his two starting receivers.

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Shazier waiting for the go-ahead from Tomlin

By Ray Fittipaldo 4 days ago

Inside linebacker Ryan Shazier said this afternoon he is frustrated with the shoulder injury that has kept him out of the past two games and is hoping head coach Mike Tomlin will allow him to play Monday night against the Chargers.

“I feel like coach he’s going to think about the decision,” Shazier said. “Whatever he feels is best for the team, he’ll make that decision. It’s all on him. I’ll do everything I have to do. I’m practicing and doing what they ask of me.”

Shazier injured his shoulder against the 49ers, a game in which he amassed a career-high 15 tackles. Sean Spence and Vince Williams have filled in the past two weeks against the Rams and Ravens.

“I’m definitely frustrated,” he said. “When you play a pretty good game like that you want to have another good game and build on your performance.

Shazier indicated he was in and out of practice this week.

“I feel like I was doing good for the little part I was in,” Shazier said. “It’s all on coach. I’ll see what he says. If he feels that I’m not ready, I’m not ready. If he feels like I’m ready, I’m going to give everything I got.”

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Film study: Run blocking out of two-point stances

Ray Fittipaldo 4 days ago

For years, the most important aspect of executing in the running game for offensive linemen was getting leverage on defensive linemen. That always meant offensive linemen getting in a three-point stance, firing off the ball and getting underneath the player lined up in front of them.

In today’s NFL, offensive linemen block out of two-point stances as much as three-point stances. It isn’t necessarily the way some Steelers want to execute their blocks, but the change is a byproduct of how the league has trended toward the passing game in recent years.

“It’s a passing league,” left tackle Kelvin Beachum said. “You hate to say it like that, but it is what it is. It’s the league. It’s not just our team. Generally, there are a lot of times when you’re up in a two-point stance more than you’re down in a three-point stance.”

There are a few reasons for this. Quarterbacks are changing plays at the line of scrimmage more than ever, and it’s easier to run-block out two-point stance than it is to pass-block out of a three-point stance because defensive linemen and defensive ends are faster and quicker than ever. And for some players, being upright in a two-point stance allows them to survey the field better and see when defenders might be coming on blitzes or stunts that will, in turn, alter their movements.

You might be surprised how infrequently offensive linemen are lining up in the traditional three-point stance. Against the Baltimore Ravens last week, the Steelers called 26 designed running plays. All five Steelers linemen lined up in 3-point stances on just five occasions. On every other running play, at least one and sometimes all five linemen were in two-point stances.

“We’re doing it a lot more this year,” right tackle Marcus Gilbert said. “We made an emphasis this offseason to come out of a two-point stance. Now we’re a lot more comfortable with it.”

The change has not had an adverse effect on the Steelers running game thus far though Le’Veon Bell’s two longest runs against the Ravens came when his linemen were in three-point stances. Bell’s 21-yard came when all five linemen were in three-point stances. His 22-yard run came when everyone except Kelvin Beachum were in three-point stances.

Still, there were productive runs when the linemen were in two-point stances, including an 8-yarder from Bell in the first quarter when all five were upright. Sometimes one side of the line gets in two-point stances and the other side in three-point stances. Sometimes, the left guard and right tackle are up and the right guard and left tackle are down. 

According to the players there is no rhyme or reason to the way they do things. Offensive line coach Mike Munchak allows his players to choose the stance from which they operate.

“He hasn’t talked to us at all about it,” left guard Ramon Foster said. “It’s just a preference thing. He trusts us enough if we’re up we’re not going to be high in our blocks and he’s going to let us play ball.”

So far, so good. The Steelers rushed for 167 yards against the Ravens are averaging 4.3 yards per carry for the season, which ranks 11th in the league.

Tackles are in two-point stances more often than guards because they have to deal with speedy edge rushers. Still, Beachum prefers a three-point stance when possible.

“When we’re running the ball I want to be in a three-point stance,” Beachum said. “But there are nuances to it. If the quarterback checks to a running play, you don’t want to put your hand in the dirt because you would give it away.

“And when a pass play is called, coming out of a predominant run stance and trying to pass block… you don’t want to put yourself in a bad position. You always want to put yourself in the best position to thrive. But when it’s a run down, I want to be in a run stance, a three-point stance, and get after it.”

Gilbert is regarded as the better run-blocking tackle, but he said being upright in a two-point stance gives him a better ability to see what defenders are doing. 

“Just in case we want to check the play we can get better steps, but we can also see the defense a lot better,” he said. “We can see if someone is coming down and make a push call. It makes it easier on us coming out of a two-point stance. You can be more aggressive and get after them.”

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Ben Did Not Refute Report of Early Return

By Ed Bouchette Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 6 days ago

Good morning,

A report by Jason LaCanfora of CBS that Ben Roethlisberger is on track to return to play against Kansas City Oct. 25 was not necessarily refuted by the quarterback on his 93.7 The Fan radio visit Tuesday as others seemed to believe.

All Roethlisberger said about the report was that it did not “come from me or our doctors.’’ He never said it was not true.

“We know that people like to just speculate and say things,’’ Roethlisberger said. “So, they did not come from me, the Steelers or any of our doctors, more importantly.'’

Yes, but is it true?

It all remains conjecture until Roethlisberger actually returns to practice and play. Here’s more speculation: He will return the week of Nov. 2, after the Steelers play Cincinnati at home Nov. 1. That would be smack in the middle of the 4-6 week prognosis originally reported to us because he will have missed five games.

Onto some other stuff:

--- Mike Tomlin gave linebacker Jarvis Jones one big vote of confidence on Tuesday and explained why he might not have the stats to back up his opinion:

“I think he’s been solid. I like the violence in which he is playing. His hands have been heavy. He’s done a nice job in the run game. He hasn’t necessarily produced the numbers from a pressure or sack standpoint yet. We have been doing some things, particularly in the two weeks prior to Thursday’s game, that really minimized his rush opportunities. We would bring the left outside linebackers probably three to four times more often than the right outside linebackers.

“Such is life. We are going to do things that give us a chance to win. Over the course of 16-plus games, I’m sure that will even itself out and he’ll have an opportunity to represent himself in that area. I am not disappointed by his performance by any stretch.”

--- Those minimized rush opportunities on the right side, though, do not explain why Jones has no quarterback pressures while James Harrison, who rotates with him on that side, has five to go with a sack and, with 15 tackles, six more than Jones. Those five pressures by Harrison lead the team.

--- That sack of Joe Flacco left Harrison with 70.5 career sacks, only their second player to ever hit 70. Jason Gildon is the career leader with 77.

--- With 14 sacks, the Steelers are on pace to get 56, which would dwarf the 33 they had last season, top the 51 they had during their last Super Bowl-winning season of 2008, and top their team record of 55 set in 1994 and tied in 2001.

Will it continue and what does it mean, since all those sacks have helped produce nothing more than a 2-2 record? The Steelers sacked Joe Flacco five times last Thursday.

“Ultimately, I believe your ability to pressure the quarterback is measured by your ability to rush with four,’’ Tomlin said. “We didn’t do that a lot in the [Baltimore] game. We usually brought more than four, but that was the game plan. As we move forward, we obviously want to establish a good, consistent rush that’s steeped in the four-man principle.”

--- Iron Man I: William Gay played in his 132nd straight game, the longest streak among cornerbacks still active in the NFL.

--- Iron Man II: Lawrence Timmons played in his 73rd consecutive game, the fifth-longest among active NFL linebackers.

--- If Ross Cockrell continues to play well, does Kevin Colbert and his staff get the credit for finding him after Buffalo cut its 2014 fourth-round pick to offset the fourth-round rookie the Steelers cut this year in cornerback Doran Grant?

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The Fans Want Answers, so Ask Ed

By Ed Bouchette Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 1 week ago

Good morning,

We turn directly to your question and smoldering vents this morning in Ask Ed. Chat today at 1:30 at

--- YOU: Do you think that ko return in ot saved Archer? When do they have to make room for Bryant? Or did I miss that? If so, who got cut?

ED: I’m not sure who they will cut. They do not have to make a move until 4 p.m. Monday to make room for Martavis Bryant on the roster. However, if that one kickoff return means anything, then the bar of expectations must be mighty low. Dri Archer returned the kickoff 31 yards, from the goalline to the 31 to start overtime. It was the longest kickoff return of his young career.

--- YOU: There were plenty of FA kickers available when the Steelers gave up a 6th rounder for Scobee, the guy they now have dropped. (I'll bet Boswell was one of them.) They also could have had Scobee for free, had they waited a day or two--since eh was going to be cut--before panicking (over the wrong guy, ultimately).

Somewhere this needs to be toted on the Colbert/Tomlin performance evaluations board.

ED: Other teams were looking for kickers at the time and they believed someone else would have picked up Scobee. I do not recall anyone criticizing the trade because most believed Scobee was a good kicker. The real question might be, did the Steelers give up on him too soon? But either way, it turned disastrous all the way around -- lost draft pick, lost cap room (and real money) and now lost kicker.

--- YOU: Ed, I'm guessing you might be the one to answer my question. I Googled it to no avail. Why is Michael Vick now being called Mike Vick??

ED: Because that is what he prefers.

--- YOU: Although Stephon Tuitt has been impressive with a lot of sacks early, does he have a problem with pad level on some running plays? Wasn't he stood up and pushed back a lot on Ravens' running plays? Or is he coached to do that if it looks like a stretch play?

ED: You may be on to something. While Pro Football Focus gives Tuitt an excellent 5.1 rating for his pass rush, they mark him down to minus 2.6 against the run. He has a plus 3.3 overall rating. However, against Baltimore, they did not give him very good ratings at all – minus 2.6 overall, with a minus 1.3 against the run and a minus 1 on his pass rush.

--- YOU: Hey man, don't be afraid to criticize Mike Tomlin. I am sure he is a nice guy, but 2 games this season he made horrible decisions and was simply outcoached in key parts of the game. Belichick schooled him and Harbaugh simply outfoxed him. Sure the kicker is ridiculous but he simply isn't a high level NFL coach.

ED: I leave the criticizing up to the columnists, Twitter and emails. However, please do not tell me that John Harbaugh outcoached Mike Tomlin. Did he do it on that fake field goal or the one where he had Joe Flacco unsuccessfully sneak on fourth and one rather than run one of his big backs in there?

--- YOU: The Steelers nose tackle play has been lame, period, actually worse than lame..

McLendon hasn't been a producer in years and Thomas even is less. McCullers can't get on/stay on the field because of injuries or lack of experience or some other reason.

ED: What makes you believe their nose tackle play has been poor? Since it is the only objective view we can go by, I will turn to Pro Football Focus again, where they have Steve McLendon at a plus 1.5 this season, including a plus 3.5 vs. the run. It would be higher except he gets a minus 1.6 for penalties.

--- YOU: It appears that every writer from all around the country are ripping Tomlin--except the local writers--musn't upset the coach--he might not approve!!!!!----He signed the QB and the kicker who failed ---the Ravens are not a good team and will be lucky to make it to .500--yet Tomlin messed it up with his bad selections and signings!

ED: I fail to see where Mike Tomlin blew that game. I also do not remember many ripping the deal when they traded for Josh Scobee. It’s easy to not like that trade today. For a backup quarterback who had just 2 days to prepare, I thought Mike Vick did a decent job. Maybe the local writers have more common sense than others and are not knee-jerk reactionaries.

--- YOU: The play call to pass to AB on 4th and 1, reminded me of Pete Carroll's call to pass rather that give the ball to Marshawn Lynch. We should have given the ball to Bell. In fact, we had the ball with 4 minutes to go in the 4th. All we needed to do was get a 1st down and run the clock out. We should have given the ball to Bell.

ED: Apples and oranges. It was not fourth down in the Super Bowl, it was second down, so the Seahawks had more than one chance to score if that ball is not intercepted. Why do you assume that Le’Veon Bell would have picked up that one yard? The call was not a bad one because if Vick throws any kind of reasonably accurate pass, Antonio Brown would have been able to catch it for the first down. Instead, it was way too high. Yes, all they needed to do was get a first down to run the clock out, but Baltimore did have a defense out there to try to prevent that, and did.

--- YOU: My question revolves around playcalling - particularly the 3d and 5 pass to Coates - when you have Brown, Bell and Heath Miller on the team, why are you calling a play to a rookie instead of getting the ball to one of the other proven guys? That wasn't the time to try to break someone in - it was just one of the many times they swung and missed in efforts to put the game away.

ED: Rookie Sammie Coates was on the field because Markus Wheaton was off with an injury. Maybe those other guys were all covered.

--- YOU: That was a pretty tough loss to take. And I'm sure I'm in the minority on this, but am I out of line for thinking that was actually some pretty solid coaching on the Steelers last night? Cases in point:

- Special teams preparation on the stopped fake field goal. That was outstanding.

- The Steelers put themselves in position to win based on field goals. Maybe it's fair to say Scobee should have missed 1. But even playing those probabilities, with 2 opportunities, he should have been able to convert. The coaches put the team in position to succeed.

- Antonio Brown, one of the most sure-handed receivers in football, let a TD pass go through his hands. Good play call; poor execution.

- On the 4th down that gave the Ravens the ball in OT, the play call was great. The coverage was right, Brown was open, and it should have been a high-percentage short-distance pass to an open receiver with great hands. Of course they didn't convert, but the way the play developed up to the pass showed it wasn't a bad play call.

- Sacks galore one season removed from sack misery

- And, with one TD drive excepted, a great defensive effort by a team dealing with some injuries (Shazier, McCullers) and major DB questions heading into the season, playing against a (debatably) good QB.

Am I crazy?

ED: Others (see above) might think so because you just refuse to blame the coaches for that loss, not the players.

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