Tag:Antonio Brown
Posted on: June 22, 2011 9:24 am
Edited on: June 22, 2011 9:27 am

Big Ben backs Plax return to Steelers

On Tuesday, my colleague Ryan Wilson wondered whether or not Plaxico Burress could end up back with his original team, the Pittsburgh Steelers. As Ryan noted, there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical about the possibility.

Apparently not one of them, though: Ben Roethlisberger's support. That's because Ben apparently is down with bringing Plax back to Pittsburgh.

"I've talked to Plax a number of times in the last couple of weeks," Roethlisberger said, per Scott Brown of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "I told him, 'Hey, if you came back here that would be awesome, but I'm just happy to see you playing again' because he's a good guy."

As Wilson pointed out, there are a number of problems with bringing Burress back to Pittsburgh. Namely, are there even enough footballs to go around in order to find out if Plaxico's still got it after 20 months in the hole?

Right now, the Steelers are staring at a wide receiver corps that features Mike Wallace, Hines Ward, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown. (Presumably, Antwaan Randle El would be the casualty of a Burress signing.)

But maybe -- as we've noted in previous discussions tying Plax to Philly -- that's the best possible situation for the former first-rounder. After all, if he can step in as a big end-zone target, he'll only help to diversify an already stout group of wideouts.

And as far as public relations go, well, it's not as if dealing with off-field issues would be something new for the 2011 Steelers either.

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Posted on: June 21, 2011 11:09 am
Edited on: June 21, 2011 11:30 am

Could Plaxico Burress end up back in Pittsburgh?

Posted by Ryan Wilson

We spent a lot of time Monday explaining why the Steelers should pass on 36-year-old running back Tiki Barber (you'd think the phrase "36-year-old running back" would suffice in scaring off potential suitors; apparently not). But Barber's not the only former NFL player on the wrong side of 30 looking for gainful employment.

Plaxico Burress, fresh out of prison and more than two years removed from his last NFL game, wants to get back in the league. Interest has been lukewarm, although that may change once the lockout ends and free agency begins.

For now, though, Sports Illustrated's Peter King is "mind-boggled" by the tepid interest in Burress. King writes: "Just stupid. In the right offense he'll be the big target many teams lack, and, if healthy, he'll catch 60-plus balls and be a good deep threat. At worst? He's not going to cost much. What's the downside? Rams, Browns? Tell me. I'm dying to know."

Well, one team that appears to be interested also drafted Burress in 2000. Yep, the Steelers.

Twitastic details via Pittsburgh Post-Gazette beat reporter Gerry Dulac.

"Steelers coaches are interested in Burress but depends on price. They would release Randle El to make room."

We have little trouble believing the Steelers would release Antwaan Randle El. By the end of the season, he had lost his job to rookies Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown. And while Randle El is a valuable locker room presence, he doesn't have much left as a player.

Whether that means Burress could replace him is another conversation. Ben Roethlisberger has long supported Burress and lobbied the organization to keep Burress when his contract expired after the 2004 season.

Roethlisberger has also said previously that he likes throwing to tall targets, even though, on average, height doesn't have any bearing on a wide receiver's effectiveness. For recent proof, just look at Limas Sweed. Of course, if Dulac is right, Steelers coaches might consider Burress the type of player they were hoping Sweed would grow into.

In the end, we remain skeptical about Burress returning to Pittsburgh. The Steelers have Mike Wallace, Hines Ward and Sanders at the top of the depth chart, and Brown will likely be the No. 4 wide receiver. We're not sure there are enough snaps to go around. Or more importantly: what type of player Burress will be after spending more than 20 months in prison.

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Posted on: March 20, 2011 2:59 pm
Edited on: March 20, 2011 3:32 pm

Offseason Checkup: Pittsburgh Steelers

Posted by Andy Benoit


Eye on Football's playing doctor for every NFL team with our Offseason Check-ups. Also, check out our checkup podcast:

If you’d told the Steelers at some point during last fall that Ben Roethlisberger would get the ball with 2:07 remaining down six in Super Bowl XLV, they probably would have taken it. That final drive was about the only thing that did not go Roethlisberger’s way in 2010 (suspension aside, of course).

The Steelers, despite a depleted offensive line, got within arms’ reach of a Lombardi Trophy thanks to the emergence of young playmakers Rashard Mendenhall, Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown.

And, of course, thanks to their perennially staunch defense. Troy Polamalu took home Defensive Player of the Year honors (no matter what the humble safety says, the award was well-deserved) while the star-studded linebacking corps welcomed a new sensation: inside ‘backer Lawrence Timmons.

NFL Offseason

Don’t be shocked if Emmanuel Sanders supplants Hines Ward in the starting lineup sooner than later. This is more about Sanders than Ward. The second-year wideout is already Ben Roethlisberger’s go-to target in spread formations (granted, in part because Roethlisberger prefers to work the slot from four-and five-wide sets). Sanders has the quickness and tempo change to beat man coverage, and he showed marked improvements in understanding the offense as his rookie season wore on.

These days, Ward, 35, runs like he’s playing in sand. But he can still produce. His 59 catches for 755 yards last season were a drop below the back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons he had coming into the year, but his famous (notorious?) blocking remains sharp.

1. Offensive Tackle 1
After watching him lumber through last season, it seems like RT Flozell Adams is nearing that age where Tuesday afternoons and Saturday nights start feeling the same and relatives start dropping subtle hints about the dangers of driving after dark. No way the Steelers pay Adams the $5 million he’s due in 2011. The Steelers can go for the best OT available overall given that LT Max Starks is coming back from injury and could move over to the more-fitting right side.

2. Right Guard
Ramon Foster is not the answer. A simple review of last year’s front line personnel changes reveals that coaches will do just about anything to keep the undrafted utility man out of the starting lineup. Backup G/C Doug Legursky has better mobility than people think, but it’s not enough to make up for his lack of phone booth power.

3. Defensive End
Aaron Smith turns 35 in April and has missed all but 11 games over the past two years. Ziggy Hood was supposed to be primed to start by now, but the ’09 first-round pick does not have the power to be a true anchor outside. Hood must develop the type of agility that’s made Brett Keisel a force; it’s a tossup whether he will. Keisel will be 33 in September but shows no sign of decline. However, the Steelers like to draft players two years out, so finding at least one understudy still makes sense.

A run at a record seventh Lombardi Trophy is clearly not out of the question, though the Steelers won just 17 games combined in the seasons following their last two Super Bowl appearances. The defense is aging but not aged. The offense should only be better.

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Posted on: February 3, 2011 10:32 am

MAC players represented well this week

B. Roethlisberger played his college ball at Miami (Ohio). Posted by Josh Katzowitz

ARLINGTON, Texas – I was talking to Steelers backup QB Charlie Batch the other day at Media Day, and we were discussing the sheer number of Mid-American Conference alumni who were participating in the festivities this week and were preparing themselves to play in the Super Bowl.

“It’s pretty crazy,” I said to the man who played at Eastern Michigan more than a decade ago. “There are 13 of you guys playing.”

“Actually,” he said, “there are 15 if you count the practice squad guys.”

Really? Well, let’s count them.

From the Steelers: Batch, Central Michigan’s Antonio Brown, Kent State’s James Harrison, Miami (Ohio’s) Ben Roethlisberger, and Bowling Green’s Shaun Suisham. That’s five.

From the Packers: Bowling Green’s Diyral Briggs, Miami’s Tom Crabtree, Central Michigan’s Josh Gordy, Central Michigan’s Cullen Jenkins, Western Michigan’s Greg Jennings, Eastern Michigan’s T.J. Lang, Buffalo’s James Starks and Central Michigan’s Frank Zombo. That’s eight.

Well, I count 13. Batch thought there were 15. Either way, it’s an impressive total for a non-BCS conference that doesn’t get much in the way of respect from college football/pro football fans.

“Obviously, we can get our guys out there, and we take a lot of pride in it,” Zombo said. “We talk about it quite a bit in the locker room. Some of the key players from the game are from the MAC who are contributing huge for the team. It shows the caliber of player we have in the MAC conference.”

That’s one impressive aspect of this story. It’s not just the scrubs or the practice squad players. It’s guys like Roethlisberger and Jennings and Harrison and Jenkins – some of the biggest stars of the game.

“The only difference in the MAC schools and the (BCS) conferences is the budgets in the programs,” Gordy said, and he’s probably partially correct.

In fact, the MAC has more players that will compete this week than the Big 12 (eight players), Pac-10 (six) and the Big East (four). All of them are BCS conferences. All of them have less MAC players (for the record, the SEC has 18, the Big Ten has 15 and the ACC also has 13).

Still, it’s a nice boon for the MAC that it has so much representation this week.

“At that level, there’s talent everywhere,” Crabtree said. “Whether you’re in the MAC or the Big 10 or whatever, there’s talent across the board. The MAC might not have the depth other conferences have, but the talent is still there.”

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Posted on: February 2, 2011 12:28 am
Edited on: February 3, 2011 8:46 am

Pittsburgh Steelers offensive roster breakdown

Posted by Will Brinson & Andy Benoit

Perhaps the most fascinating thing if you look (at a glance anyway) at Pittsburgh and Green Bay is that they've built their teams "properly." (AKA "the opposite of Dan Snyder.) They draft smart, and they sign smarter. At least that's what we're lead to believe, right?

Andy and I set out to check the roster breakdown for both teams. En route, we* managed to figure out not only where they're coming from, but what they'll do for their respective teams in the Super Bowl.

Name POS Acquired Scouting Report
Ben Roethlisberger
Drafted 11th overall, 1st Round 2004
The most physically gifted quarterback in all of football (including Mr. Vick). Sandlot style makes him nearly impossible to gameplan against.
Rashard Mendenhall
Drafted 23rd overall, 1st Round 2008
Can immediately regain his balance and accelerate after bouncing off a defender. That’s a big reason why he’s developed into one of the best fourth quarter closers in the game.
Mewelde Moore
Drafted 119th overall, 4th Round MIN; FA, 2008
Struggled in pass protection early but settled down late. Good dumpoff target who can eat up ground if given room to generate speed. However, doesn’t have the initial quickness to create his own space.
Jonathan Scott
Drafted 141st overall, 5th Round, DET; FA, 2010
Offers very little power for a man of 6’6”, 318-pound size.
Chris Kemoeatu
Drafted 204th overall, 6th Round 2005
Steelers’ best lineman. Nasty out-in-front blocker who gets to the linebacker level with ease.
Doug Legursky
UDFA, 2009
Iffy strength is a major concern given Green Bay’s ravenous defensive linemen.
Ramon Foster
UDFA, 2009
Not powerful enough to move people in the run game, but at least gets OK placement on his blocks.
Flozell Adams
Drafted 28th overall, 2nd Round DAL; FA 2010
At 35, it’s almost painful watching him try to move. But even more painful is watching a helpless defender try to unshackle from his grasp.
Trai Essex
Drafted 93rd overall, 3rd Round 2005
Has monstrous size and is versatile enough to play inside or outside. But doesn’t it tell you something that he’s still coming off the bench despite all the injuries up front?
Mike Wallace
Drafted 84th overall, 3rd Round 2009
The most lethal big-play weapon at wideout in today’s NFL. The difference between DeSean Jackson and him is his acceleration is augmented by an extremely long stride.
Hines Ward
Drafted 93rd overall, Round 1998
These days, runs like he’s wearing boots. But, somehow, he still manages to get open. Everything they say about his blocking is true, by the way.
Emmanuel Sanders
Drafted 82nd overall, 3rd Round 2010
It’s just a matter of time before the third-round rookie takes over as the No. 2 target. Roethlisberger loves to look for him whenever he aligns in the slot of a five-receiver set.
Antonio Brown
Drafted 164th overall, 6th Round 2010
Sixth-round rookie has shown a penchant for big plays.
Heath Miller
Drafted 30th overall, 1st Round 2005
Not the god that Steeler fans insist he is, but soft hands and technically sound blocking are certainly valuable.
Matt Spaeth
Drafted 77th overall, 3rd Round 2007
Heath Miller only with less skill and more size.

*Scouting smarts credited to Benoit. HTML and research credited to Brinson.
Posted on: January 24, 2011 12:27 am
Edited on: January 24, 2011 3:00 pm

10 Super Bowl stories you'll get sick of hearing

Posted by Andy Benoit

Because the Super Bowl is outlandishly over-covered, offering readers 10 Super Bowl stories worth their attention seems redundant if not fruitless. With two weeks until, as your local furniture store calls it, The Big Game!!!, every possible Packers-Steelers storyline is about to be utterly exhausted. And then retold.

You can thank all the “casual fans” who suddenly get interested in the NFL this time of year for this. Somebody has to bring those people up to speed, which means somebody has to retell all the stories true football fans got sick of months ago. You best get used to it now.

Just so you can be on guard, here is an overview of the 10 Super Bowl storylines you’ll get sick of hearing between now and February 6 They’re ranked in order from overhyped to way overhyped, and they don’t even include the non-game related economic stories (you know the ones about how expensive the advertising spots cost, how magnificent the host venue, Cowboys Stadium, is, how bad the CBA talks are going or how many bags of chips are consumed by Americans on Super Bowl Sunday).

10. Wide receivers

The Packers and Steelers receiving units almost mirror one another. Both have a sage veteran (Donald Driver, Hines Ward). Both have a dynamic young big-play weapon (Greg Jennings, Mike Wallace). And both have dangerous but not entirely trD. Driver (US Presswire)usted backups (James Jones and Jordy Nelson; Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown). Here are the predictable cliff notes for the stories involving these guys:

Driver: tough childhood in Houston, first chance at a ring

Ward: borderline “dirty player” who is also proud of Korean heritage

Jennings: NOT a diva, but has still emerged as a No. 1

Wallace: averaging 93 yards per catch this season (or something like that)

Jones: talented but dropped balls; his quarterback trusts him

Nelson: talented but a few fumbles; his quarterback trusts him

Sanders: talented but untested; his quarterback trusts him

Brown: big catches late in games but still raw; his quarterback trusts him

9. Hometown Players

On every Super Bowl team, there are a few players who happen to be from the town in which the game is being played. Thus, you get the homecoming story. This story is only interesting to the dozens of their family and friends who will be in the stands watching on Sunday (because, you know, the player bought dozens of tickets for family and friends!), but that doesn’t stop hard-hitting journalists from writing about it. Or from focusing on how the odds were really stacked against the kid from (insert name of Texas town), as no one ever thought he’d be playing on football’s biggest stage.

So who will the hometown stars be this year? A quick search on PlayersFrom.com (a website that sorts all professional athletes by home state) reveals that the following Packer players were born in Texas: K Mason Crosby, TE Jermichael Finley, QB Matt Flynn, C Scott Wells, WR Donald Driver. The Steelers born in Texas are DE Ziggy Hood, P Daniel Sepulveda, OT Tony Hills, OT Jonathan Scott and NT Casey Hampton.

8. Overcoming adversity

Both teams will talk all week about how they have overcome a lot of adversity this season. Good for them. We can sort of believe the Packers when they trumpet adversity because they led the NFC in injuries (in terms of games missed by starters). But the Steelers? It will be tougher for them to play this card considering they’re littered with stars on defense and have the richest winning tradition in the NFL. But they’ll still find a way to play the adversity card (probably by making veiled references to Ben Roethlisberger’s suspension).

7. Tomlin
M. Tomlin (US Presswire)
You might not get sick of this story because it’s hard to get sick of this man, but you’re going to be hearing it plenty of times: Mike Tomlin is now the only coach in NFL history to reach the Super Bowl twice before the age of 40. He’s already the youngest head coach to hoist a Lombardi Trophy.

This probably won’t be that obnoxious of a storyline. After all, it will probably include plenty about the Steeler modus operandi (which is fascinating), plus Tomlin is about as real as they come. He knows how to give a quote that is just good enough. Which is to say he knows how to say just enough to keep reporters happy but not quite enough to galvanize his opponent.

6. The defensive coordinators

Dick LeBeau is the master behind Pittsburgh’s 3-4 scheme. Dom Capers is the master behind Green Bay’s 3-4. Both are innovative and perhaps deserving of the majority of credit for their team’s success. LeBeau’s recent Hall of Fame induction ruined the hard-hitting THIS MAN SHOULD BE IN CANTON! angle that most writers had for his story, so expect most of the attention to shift towards Capers and whether he deserves a shot at being a head coach for a non-expansion franchise.

There will be plenty of crossover angles here, too, given that Capers coordinated Pittsburgh's D before LeBeau, and both men are pioneers of many 3-4 zone blitz packages.

A dark horse sub storyline here: Kevin Greene, the Packers’ excellent linebackers coach, who was a long-time Steeler.

5. Hair

You just know some idiot is going to do an entertainment feature comparing Troy Polamalu to Clay Matthews.

4. James Starks

Every Super Bowl needs an unlikely breakout star. The Steelers will unofficially nominate sixth-round rookie wideout Antonio Brown for this role, but expect the media to flock to Green Bay’s sixth-round rookie running back James Starks. The Eddie George-like upright runner from Buffalo has rushed for 263 yards since being inserted into the starting lineup for the postseason. Starks is clearly the team’s most explosive runner, but he does not offer star traits. That doeJ. Harrison (US Presswire)sn’t mean the media can’t tell you he’s a burgeoning young star, though.

3. Illegal hits (James Harrison)

Non-football media outlets have been sitting on their stories about how dangerous the sport is for several months, waiting to release them Super Bowl week. Last year, TIME magazine got this ball rolling with its cover piece titled “The Problem with Football: How to Make It Safer”. With Harrison, the poster child for illegal hits, going up against Aaron Rodgers, who suffered two concussions during the regular season, expect another slew of important but boring as hell articles about brain trauma.

2. Aaron Rodgers

Rodgers’ meteoric rise this postseason has been even louder than Drew Brees’ last season. Thank the Brett Favre drama for setting the backdrop for the first-round pick’s career. From day one we’ve admired Rodgers’ class and poise. Since finally taking the field three years ago, we’ve also added arm strength, accuracy and athleticism to his list of admirable traits. Factor in the female celebrities this guy has been linked to (Gossip Girl’s Jessica Szohr, Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott, ESPN’s Erin Andrews) and, oh yeah, his insanely impressive performance in five consecutive “must win” games for the Packers (which includes Sunday’s game at Chicago, where Rodgers was much better than his numbers suggest) and we have a first-class superstar on our hands.

1. Ben Roethlisberger

B. Roethlisberger (US Presswire)
As great as a quarterback’s coming out party is, it doesn’t compare to another quarterback’s redemption story. Why? Because a redemption story gives everyone a chance to rehash the drama. The only thing more interesting than Rodgers dating celebrities is Roethlisberger getting accused of mistreating college girls. Sorry, but sexual assault allegations are just too salacious for the media (and public) to ignore.

You know the background here: Nevada and Georgia, no charges filed, six game suspension reduced to four. The Super Bowl week storylines will center around whether Roethlisberger is a changed man and how jovial and humble he has become. The popular caveat will be something along the lines of “only time will tell if these changes stick”. At some point, someone will point out that Big Ben recently got engaged to Pennsylvania native Ashley Harlan. And if that isn’t proof that this one-time frat boy is settling down, what is?

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Posted on: January 15, 2011 8:15 pm
Edited on: January 15, 2011 8:18 pm

Did Ravens lose it or did Steelers win it?

Posted by Andy Benoit

All season long, T.J. Houshmandzadeh has been carping for more balls to come his way. On fourth-and-18 on Baltimore’s final drive at Pittsburgh, it was Housh who let the pigskin bounce off his mitts. It was one of a handful of mistakes made by the Ravens during a second half that included three turnovers, J. Harrison (US Presswire)a holding penalty to negate Lardarius Webb’s punt return score and, on the series before Housh’s drop, an equally egregious drop by Anquan Boldin in the end zone.

But before we declare that Baltimore lost the game Saturday night, let’s acknowledge everything Pittsburgh did to win it. On the final touchdown drive, Ben Roethlisberger, who had a few accuracy issues on the night, completed a chains-moving strike to Hines Ward on third-and-10. A few plays later, on third and forever, he launched a bomb to Antonio Brown, who “David Tyree’d” the ball against his helmet inside the five. It was a brilliant play-call by offensive coordinator Bruce Arians; Roethlisberger’s pass would either fall incomplete or be picked off for what would amount to a really good punt. Or, it would be caught near the goal-line to set up Rashard Mendenhall's go-ahead touchdown.

As many plays as the Steelers offense made late in the game, it was the defense that carried the night. The Steelers sacked Joe Flacco five times. James Harrison was overshadowed by Terrell Suggs’ monstrous performance (three sacks, two tackles for a loss and the forced fumble in the second quarter on the play where Cory Redding was the only player who realized that the whistle hadn’t blown). But it was Harrison who exploited the one-on-one mismatch against left tackle Michael Oher (a bright young player but one whom raised some serious questions down the stretch) and took over in the fourth. Harrison finished with three sacks and a host of quarterback hurries.

Harrison was complemented by a multitude of unsung defensive heroes wearing black and gold. Up-and-coming defensive end Ziggy Hood was stout against the run. Ryan Clark was the most dominant safety on the field, registering a handful of openfield tackles in the first half and picking off Joe Flacco during the momentum swing in the third quarter. And, finally, maligned nickelback William Gay was brilliant stepping in on the outside role for injured Bryant McFadden.

The Ravens, with all their mistakes, didn’t do themselves any favors in the second half. But isn’t it funny how mistakes seem to occur more when you’re facing a great team?

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Posted on: January 8, 2011 5:30 pm

Steelers prepping their young wideouts

Posted by Andy Benoit

For as much as Hines Ward smiles, doesn’t he just seem like one of those guys you wouldn’t want to have in your ear, riding you all afternoon? That’s ostensibly what the Steelers’ young trio of wide receivers – Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown – had to deal with in practice all week.

“This week is young guys emphasis week,” Ward told Scott Brown of the Pittsburgh Tribune. “They’re getting a lot of reps.” Ward knows what the young guys don’t: playoff football is different from regular season football.

“They don’t have a clue, what they’re about to step into,” he said. “They only know what the veterans tell them.

“We don’t have series like hockey and baseball and basketball where you lose a game and you’ve got a chance the next day. That’s why every play is magnified. If you drop a crucial third-down (pass) you never know, that might be the difference between winning or losing that game.”

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com