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Steelers Blog

Sanders ready to step up

Posted by Teresa Varley on November 7, 2012 – 10:08 pm

Emmanuel Sanders shook his head, smiled and promised he won’t let it happen again.

“I got brought down by the punter, which is something I am not too happy about,” said Sanders. “But I get another opportunity this week.”

What Sanders was referring to was an electric fourth quarter 63-yard punt return against the New York Giants in the Steelers 24-20 win, that could have gone for a touchdown if he had not been stopped by punter Steve Weatherford.

His teammates have been teasing him about it, he has been getting on himself for it, and if that isn’t enough there is a large photo hanging in the hallway outside the Steelers locker room showing Weatherford getting ready to hit Sanders.

“I am giving myself heat,” said Sanders. “I have an alter ego telling me you got downed by a punter. I wish I would have scored. It is something next time I get the opportunity I will make the most of it and score. I have been getting heat all week. They aren’t going to let it go until I get another opportunity to take it the distance.”

Last week Sanders was forced into action after Antonio Brown suffered an ankle injury in the first half and Chris Rainey injured his ribs in the second half.

“Antonio went down in the first half so right after halftime I went out and caught some punts and got comfortable just in case,” said Sanders. “Then when I saw Chris Rainey go down and I knew I was up next. It was a crucial situation and I wanted to make a play to help my team win.

“You are a championship caliber team and when somebody goes down the next guy has to step up and fill that void. You have to play up to the standard. Coach (Mike) Tomlin says the standard is the standard. We live and breathe that. If we want to get to where we need to be and that’s Super Bowl champions, through the season guys will go down and guys will have to step in.”

The Steelers likely will need Sanders to step in this week against the Kansas City Chiefs, as both Brown and Rainey are still question marks. And while Sanders doesn’t know yet exactly what his role will be, whatever it is he will be spending time this week getting ready.

“We are playing on Monday night so I have an extra day to prepare myself,” said Sanders. “I have to study a lot. I am going to work hard in practice and stay singularly focused on winning. If the ball comes my way it comes my way, but I am going to do my job, get open and make plays.

“I am excited about the opportunity to help my team win. It’s a Monday night game, a lot of fun, great environment. Hopefully I can have a big game as a returner and receiver.”

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Giving teams a lot to prepare for

Posted by Teresa Varley on November 7, 2012 – 9:56 pm

Jonathan Dwyer knows when Rashard Mendenhall is healthy that the former number one draft pick will be back in the starting lineup. But even then, he can see everyone getting their shot in the backfield.

“We’ll just be a running back by committee,” said Dwyer. “Whoever has the hot hand gets more of the carries.”

Over the last three weeks Dwyer has had two 100-yard plus games, while Isaac Redman turned in a 147-yard performance against the New York Giants while Dwyer was injured.

Dwyer expects to be back on the field this week, while Mendenhall is also working his way back, possibly giving the team a full stable of healthy backs for the first time all season in a few weeks. If that happens, Dwyer feels the best plan of action is to give everyone a shot at carrying the ball, until someone gets going.

“It’s good to rotate, let everyone get a feel for it,” said Dwyer. “Everybody has a role, whatever that is. Whoever gets that feeling gets the majority of the carries and another guy rolls in when he gets tired. With all of us able to make plays when we touch the ball, who knows what can happen.”

Dwyer credits the recent success of the ground game with getting comfortable with Todd Haley’s playbook and finding running plays that work to the strengths of the backs.

“We just found things we like to do,” said Dwyer. “Coach Haley has a feel for us now. He knows how we are as individuals and he is going off of that.

“I had two big games and Isaac had a phenomenal game last week. It shows how deep the running back position is and teams have to prepare for all three of us and Baron (Batch), Will (Johnson) and (Chris) Rainey. They have to prepare of all of us.”

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Moye’s childhood dream comes true

Posted by Teresa Varley on November 7, 2012 – 9:49 pm

Derek Moye grew up a Steelers fan living outside of Pittsburgh in Rochester, Pa., and now the rookie wide receiver’s childhood dream has come true after he was signed to the team’s practice squad.

“Being from the area and having a chance to come out here and be with the Steelers is a lifelong dream of mine,” said Moye. “Just like everyone around here I was a huge Steelers fan. It’s a lifelong dream to be a part of the team.”

Moye, who played at Penn State, was added after Antonio Brown suffered a mild ankle sprain against the New York Giants.

“I guess they just needed someone to help out on the practice squad and I am fortunate to be here,” said Moye. “They said work hard and whatever happens, happens. That is what I plan on doing, working hard and trying to show what I can do.”

Moye originally signed with the Miami Dolphins as a rookie free agent in May, but was waived and picked up by the New Orleans Saints. He was released by the Saints during training camp, and is now working toward staying put with the hometown team.

“That is what I plan on trying to do,” said the 6-5, 210 pound Moye. “Hopefully they like what I can do and I can go from there. They just said come in and prove what I can do and show I can play.”

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Steelers/United Way autograph signing

Posted by Teresa Varley on November 7, 2012 – 5:45 pm

Steelers’ players will be signing autographs at Dick’s Sporting Goods at Cranberry Crossroads on Thursday, Nov. 8 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. to benefit the United Way of Allegheny County.

There will be two one-hour sessions, with fans able to get one autograph per player for a $25 donation to the United Way per session. 

Scheduled to appear in the first session from 6:30-7:30 are Charlie Batch, Keenan Lewis and Shaun Suisham. The second session, which runs from 7:30-8:30, will feature Jonathan Dwyer, Larry Foote and Maurkice Pouncey. Wristbands for each session go on sale beginning at 5 p.m. on Thursday.

Fans are also eligible to win prizes for additional donations.

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Inside the locker room: Ben Roethlisberger

Posted by Teresa Varley on November 7, 2012 – 4:07 pm

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger talked to the media before practice on Wednesday about the offense, Todd Haley and the game against the Chiefs on Monday night.

How easy it to avoid the proverbial ‘trap game’?
I just got asked that same question from the Kansas City media. They asked kind of the same things about the records and all of that. I’m excited to come home and play in front of our home fans and I want to put on a show for them. I don’t see that happening. We can’t let down. But just to come home and play in front of our home fans, it feels like forever since we’ve been here.

Why was last year’s game against the Chiefs so close?
It’s a hard place to play. They’re a good team. I don’t remember a lot of the game but I just know going there is never easy.

If Antonio Brown cannot play Monday, what does the wide receivers rotation look like?
We obviously have to wait and see what’s going on but I think we’d leave Emmanuel [Sanders] at his spot and move Jerricho [Cotchery] to Antonio’s spot. It’s a great thing to have those receivers. We’ve always said it’s the next man up and there’s no doubt in my mind we’ll have someone step up and be ready to go.

How do you explain the success of this team on Monday night’s at home?
I don’t know. The crowd is always great no matter when you play but when it’s a primetime game it seems to have a little bit more energy which gets us going a little bit more.

Re: Avoiding a letdown game:
I hate that, the whole letdown game-type thing because everyone knows that any week in this league, any team is good and any team can be bad and anybody can win. We just have to go out and approach it like we need to play Steelers football. It doesn’t matter who we play, we need to go play Steelers football. That’s the kind of approach we’re going to have this week as well.

How much can the diversity of the offense from the Oakland game to last week’s game can be attributed to offensive coordinator Todd Haley?
He’s our coordinator. He’s calling the plays. We just do whatever we feel we have to do to win the game, run the ball, pass the ball, throw deep or throw short. We take in pride in being able to be diverse.

Did you start the season with a lot of plays and the playbook has since been scaled back now that Haley has a better feel for who can do what?
Possibly. We did get to a point this year where we felt like we were getting a little bit out of control with not being simplified with whatever we thought our best personnel packages were. We felt like we’ve got to the point where we felt like we know what our best personnel group is and we just design plays out of those groups.

How many running plays have you gotten rid of in the past few weeks?
I don’t think it’s getting rid of stuff as much as it is adding things every week. Instead of having, this is just a number, 50 runs, we said let’s just do 25 that we know well and do them well. We did the same thing in the pass game with formations and motions and everything else.

Being able to successfully run fewer plays means the defense has more of an idea of what’s coming. So, you have to execute the plays better in order to be successful, right?
Correct. That’s the approach that you have to have. That’s why I think we were okay doing it because we felt like we could still mix it up enough, still have combination routes and run plays at the same time so if the run doesn’t look good we can get into a pass or visa-versa.

What do you attribute to the fact that your sack totals are much lower this year?
A little bit of a couple things. I think the line has been playing great. They’re doing a great job. I think the offense just calling short pass plays and you could in turn say that I’m getting the ball out of my hands. But guys are getting open in shorter routes because that’s what we’re doing and we’re not taking quite as many shots deep down the field. It’s a combination of all those things.

How much of an adjustment has it been not taking as many shots deep down the field?
We’ve always felt we’ve got deep play guys but as we saw the other night, we can also get it to them quick and let them go the distance. We just try to have a happy medium. When do we take our shots? We still have to have those plays because we’ve got guys that can stretch the field. But we also have guys that we feel we can get them catches short and let them run long. That’s the approach that we have to be able to take as well. Whatever works, as long as we get in the endzone, it doesn’t matter how we get there.

Do you get the sense that this is an important game for Haley?
[Laughs] A little bit. He hasn’t come out and said anything like “Let’s go get ‘em” or anything. But you always have that feeling. It’s the same thing when we play the Jets for Jerricho Cotchery or anybody that comes to this team from another team. You as a team want to get that win for those guys, like when we went to the Super Bowl and had Flozell [Adams]. Just things like that, you want to do it for those guys.

Why have you been able to run the ball when teams know you’re going to run, and pass the ball when teams know you’re going to pass?
I don’t know. Obviously, early on in the year we weren’t super successful running the ball but we felt that we still got the runs when we needed to but “the numbers weren’t pretty.” It’s just the will of the guys. Late in games, when we need to run the ball, the line loves it because they love just burying those defensive linemen and it’s demoralizing for defenses. It’s just wanting to get it done I guess.

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