Coach Mike Tomlin said it’s time to “wrap a bow” around the 2012 season, but what was inside the package definitely is not what any of the Steelers’ players and coaches had hoped for this season.
The Steelers finished 8-8 and out of the playoffs, far short of the Super Bowl expectations this team has every year.
“There is a certain level of disappointment that comes with sitting here, even right now, having an end of the season press conference,” said Tomlin. “Those are never our intentions. We desire to be a team that is consistently in the battle for the Vince Lombardi trophy. That didn’t transpire this year for a number of reasons, primarily that we didn’t do enough in the closing moments of close football games.”
The Steelers had eight games this season decided by three points or less and were only able to win three of them, Philadelphia, Kansas City and Baltimore. It was games that they lost, including early in the season to Oakland and Tennessee, by those close margins that came back to haunt them in the end.
“That will produce an 8-8-like record that will have you on the outside looking in,” said Tomlin. “Those of us that have been in this business for any length of time, we understand that and embrace that. The good teams, the dominant teams, aren’t necessarily dominant inside stadiums but they are dominant largely in moments, and they do what is required to get out of stadiums with victories. We didn’t do that consistently enough.”
So instead of spending this week preparing for the playoffs, Tomlin will be spending time conducting exit interviews with the players.
“We are on the outside looking in,” said Tomlin. “We don’t feel great about it. As a matter of fact, we dislike it. We are committed to doing what is required for us, in terms of moving forward, to ensure that we are not having similar conversations in the future.”
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Offensive line coach Sean Kugler said his goodbyes on Monday, heading off to his new position as head coach at University of Texas-El Paso. The Steelers will begin their search for a new offensive line coach, but are going to be methodical about it.
“I think it’s important that we hire the right man,” said Tomlin, who did say that Kugler will not be taking any Steelers’ assistant coaches with him. “We’re going to work swiftly but diligently. We’re not going to put any time constraints on it. The big thing is that we come out of it with the correct man to move forward with that group in 2013.
“I don’t have any preconceived notions in terms of the number of people I might interview and things of that nature or how it could transpire. I’ve been gathering information informally. I’ll continue to do that in a more formal manner here moving forward.”
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As Ramon Foster stood in front of the cameras in the Steelers media room on Monday, Maurkice Pouncey and Marcus Gilbert stood outside tapping on the closed door, smiling, taking Foster’s picture, and just having a little fun. It didn’t come as a surprise, as the offensive line is one of the tightest knit units on the Steelers’ team, a group that truly considers each other brothers.
That is one of the reasons Foster, a soon-to-be unrestricted free agent, is hoping that he is back in black and gold next year.
“The friendship part, it would be tough if I wasn’t here,” said Foster. “That’s just a part of the business. I hope I am here.”
Foster also knows the potential that exists on the offensive line with young players like Pouncey, David DeCastro and Mike Adams in the mix with a solid group of veterans, and would love the opportunity to be a part of the bright future the line has.
“We can be really good,” said Foster. “We have a lot of top-quality picks and young guys. I think the average age in our room now is 25 years old. Those guys are really good. I think everyone in our room now has played. We have depth. We just have to get everybody healthy this offseason and see how everything transpires.
“We have a lot of talented and special players on the line. You have all dynamics, smart guys and tough guys, every type of dynamic in the room. The talent is bottomless right now. I want to be a part of a line like that. Barring injuries, it could be a really special line.”
At this point, though, Foster doesn’t know what his future will hold. He will meet with Coach Mike Tomlin on Tuesday, which possibly could give some clarity to his future. But until free agency begins in March he will take Tomlin’s advice and reflect back on this season, one that finished with a disappointing 8-8 record.
“He said just remember what we had this past season,” said Foster of the message Tomlin delivered in a team meeting on Monday. “We were 8-8. That’s something you have to sit on for a little bit and remember it going into the next season. It’s something you can’t dwell on, but you have to reflect back on it before you move forward next year.”
Foster said that missing the playoffs will definitely serve as motivation going into the offseason, giving everyone that extra drive to not have this same feeling again.
“No doubt,” said Foster. “We split 3-3 in division play. We have a higher standard than that here. To come up short, it’s definitely not something that we were looking forward to.”
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Coach Mike Tomlin held his final press conference of the 2012 season on Monday, and one of the first areas he addressed was the health of the team, including some players who suffered injuries against the Browns.
Defensive end Brett Keisel and cornerback Keenan Lewis both suffered MCL sprains, but the good news is neither will require surgery.
Safety Ryan Clark suffered a severe contusion to his left quad and spent Sunday night hospitalized as a precaution.
“I have touched base with him this morning and he has been released,” said Tomlin. “He is resting comfortably at home. We did want to exercise caution with it to make sure nothing unfortunate developed in the middle of the night. He said it was uneventful and he’s well-rested.”
In addition Kelvin Beachum sustained a concussion, David DeCastro had a “severe” stinger, and Cameron Heyward suffered a broken rib against the Browns.
The other injury news centered on players who previously suffered injuries, including tight end Heath Miller who had ACL and MCL reconstructive surgery.
“There is no timetable on his rehabilitation or the steps in that regard to this point,” said Tomlin.
Cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke had surgery to have his shoulder reconstructed and running back Baron Batch had a plate inserted in his broken arm. There isn’t a timetable on either player’s recovery yet. Tomlin also said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will not require any type of offseason surgery as a result of the rib injury he suffered earlier in the season.
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The Steelers and Ford made the holiday season a special one for Diana Kostelnik of Latrobe, Pa., when she won the Ford “Toughest Truck Toughest Team,” contest and was presented with a 2012 Ford F-150 XLT SuperCrew wrapped in Steelers colors and logos.
“I’ve never won anything in my life,” said Kostelnik, 64. “I couldn’t believe it. We were shocked. This is awesome.
“It’s going to be cool driving around in it. We are really proud.”
The contest to win the truck began during Steelers training camp and extended through Dec. 14, with the truck on display at all home games as a part of the team’s partnership with Ford.
“As the official truck of the Steelers, it only made sense to celebrate that partnership by giving one away to a lucky fan,” said Joey Thurby, chairman of the Neighborhood Ford Store, a group of 81 Ford dealers in western Pennsylvania, southeastern Ohio and the panhandles of West Virginia and Maryland. “And by wrapping it in black and gold, it’ll hands-down be the best-looking truck in town.
“The toughest team deserves the toughest truck – and that’s why the F-Series is the Official Truck of the Pittsburgh Steelers. We couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate that partnership than to give away the ultimate tailgating vehicle.”
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Coach Tomlin: It was good to finish on a positive note here in 2012, particularly the way we knuckled-up in the second half as a team. We were short in some areas. We had five healthy offensive linemen and two healthy corners. Those guys knuckled-up and delivered. It’s a good winning note for us and a good team effort. On the injury front, Keenan Lewis re-injured his knee. He’s getting it examined. The same thing for [Brett] Keisel, it’s probably an MCL but we’re getting that examined. [David] DeCastro has a stinger and Kelvin Beachum had a concussion.
Re: CB Cortez Allen stepping up the last few weeks:
He really hasn’t had an option. He’s playing every snap on defense and he’s a young guy who’s arrow is pointed up. He did a nice job getting some turnovers for us. Of course, we haven’t gotten as many of those as we’d like. He has helped us, not only today but last week as well.
Re: Team’s performance in the second half:
We just continued to play hard and put forth effort. We got a few turnovers there, capitalized, put seven points on the board as opposed to field goals. It was critical for us.
Can you describe the touchdown to WR Plaxico Burress, and do you think he has a future with this team?
We’ll deal with next year next year. I appreciate his efforts today. Obviously, he’s an easy target in that area. We knew that he would have an opportunity to contribute there. We focused a lot of our efforts there. It was good for him to make that play for us.
How is QB Ben Roethlisberger feeling?
Re: Thoughts about this group of players and what you went through this season:
Obviously, we’ve experienced some professional disappointment in the big picture. But in the small picture we had a game to play today and a game to prepare for today and win. I liked the efforts. I’ll wrap the bow around 2012 a little bit tomorrow.
Can that be momentum, using this win to move forward?
No, because this year is this year and next year is next year. But it is good to finish on a positive note and to finish with the arrow pointed up. Hopefully, for individuals it can be something to build upon going into the offseason.
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Pittsburgh-based rapper Mac Miller led the Terrible Towel Twirl before the start of the Steelers-Browns game, getting the Heinz Field crowd fired up.
“I had a decision today to either play wideout or do the Terrible Towel Twirl and my knee isn’t what it used to be, so I am doing the Towel Twirl,” joked Miller. “It’s awesome. I am a life-long Steelers fan, watching games my whole life.”
Miller, who grew up in Point Breeze section of the city and went to Allderdice High School, released his first album Blue Slide Park in Nov. 2011, and it hit debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. His second album, Watching Movies with the Sound Off, will be released in May, 2013.
“I am very fired up,” said Miller. “It’s a lot of fun. I have only been to five Steelers games my whole life. It’s fun. It’s all about the Steelers today.”
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Mark and Cory Christofel, winners of this week’s “My Pittsburgh Steelers” fan contest, enjoyed pregame warm-ups with their gamily and also took part in the Terrible Towel Twirl before the game.
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The Steelers participated in the NFL’s Play 60 initiative during Sunday’s pregame activities. The NFL Play 60 initiative is an ongoing commitment to the health and wellness of the children. Local youths were on the field during the National Anthem, as well as the coin toss.
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Dick’s Sporting Goods Co-Captains enjoyed pregame warmups.
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Kobe Payton probably never imaged he would catch a pass from an NFL quarterback, but that is exactly what he did on Friday afternoon when Ben Roethlisberger threw a football to the 14-year old from Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
Payton, who has battled myxoid liposacoma, a form of cancer that attacks the tissue, was at the team’s practice through the Make-A-Wish Foundation and afterwards met players and coaches and caught the pass from Roethlisberger.
“I am losing my mind. I lost my mind like three times,” said Payton. “When Troy Polamalu and Mike Wallace came and shook my hand, I almost cried. I was so scared too.”
Payton, along with his mom, aunt and cousin, will also attend the Steelers-Browns game at Heinz Field on Sunday.
“This is really big to me,” said Payton. “It’s crazy and unreal. I am so excited.
“I didn’t think I was going to meet everybody, but I have met everybody. This is crazy.”
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Every day when Maurkice Pouncey walks down the hallway at the Steelers practice facility that features a wall adorned with photos of the six great centers in Steelers’ history, he dreams about his photo one day gracing the same wall as the likes of Ray Mansfield, Mike Webster and Dermontti Dawson.
“I can’t be named with those guys yet,” said Pouncey. “But I walk by them all of the time and seeing their pictures inspires me to hopefully get up there one day. Hopefully I can keep building that legacy and keep things going around here and represent the Steelers the right way.”
Pouncey is definitely off to a good start in that quest. He was recently named to this third straight Pro Bowl, becoming the first center in NFL history to be voted to the Pro Bowl his first three seasons in the league.
“I didn’t really think about that,” said Pouncey. “I didn’t know that. It’s awesome.
“When I sit down and think about it, it’s really crazy. It’s a great accomplishment in my life. It’s a great honor, but I would give it all back to be in the playoffs and compete for the Super Bowl.”
Pouncey is one of two Steelers who were selected to the 2013 AFC Pro Bowl squad, the other being tight end Heath Miller. In a cruel twist of fate, this is Miller’s first time being selected and he won’t be able to play after suffering an ACL injury against the Cincinnati Bengals on Dec. 23, ending his season. Like Pouncey, though, Miller would rather the team be in the post-season than receiving individual honors.
“It’s not why I play,” said Miller. “It’s definitely an honor to be named to the Pro Bowl team. It’s not why I play the game, and I am sure all of our guys would say the same thing. But you take it as a compliment. I wish it were under different circumstances, but it’s an honor and something to be proud of.
“It’s a nice accolade but obviously it was a disappointing season and we aren’t where we want to be. The overriding factor is the disappointing season and not doing what we set out to do. It’s disappointing, because we didn’t perform as well as we would have liked. It’s obvious. I personally have a lot of work to do in this offseason, but as a team I think we have a lot of work to do. This is unfamiliar territory for us. We need to get better.”
Pouncey is considered one of the best, if not the best, centers in the game right now, but he too isn’t satisfied with where his game is yet and credits the rest of the offensive line with his success than his own talents.
“I tell my guys they make me look a lot better,” said Pouncey. “They make it so easy. I just get out in space and work my own things, but those guys make me look better than what I really am.”
Pouncey definitely doesn’t give himself enough credit, but others certainly do, including offensive coordinator Todd Haley.
“He’s a football player,” said Haley. “I mean that in a way – when he came out of college, if you just relied on his timing, speed and his combine numbers, he’d be just another guy. But when the pads are on, he’s special. His football playing ability at his position doesn’t add up to the measurables, so to speak. It comes down to, when you are evaluating these guys, they better be good football players. He is just that. I didn’t know that about him. That’s even more impressive.
“We see it every day. You just don’t want to take it for granted, because he is special. He is a really smart player. He helps a bunch of other guys. He is very athletic. When his pads are on, he allows you to do things you wouldn’t be able to with other players at his position.”
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The Steelers have four players who were selected as Pro Bowl second alternates, including Ben Roethlisberger, Ryan Clark, Lawrence Timmons and Shaun Suisham. They would play in the game if two players selected ahead of them are not able to participate.
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Linebacker LaMarr Woodley is accustomed to football season extending beyond the 16-game regular season schedule. Only once during his six-year career had the Steelers missed the playoffs, that being in 2009, and if you asked him a few months ago he would never have thought this year would be the second time it happened.
“We are not used to it, but we put ourselves in the situation so we have to deal with it,” said Woodley. “It’s frustrating knowing you had every opportunity to put yourself in a good position to be in the playoffs and you weren’t able to.”
Woodley said he can look back at different games, different plays, throughout the season and see what happened, see why the team is where they are today, particularly some of the games early in the season.
“We were giving up too many big plays early in the year, plays that went 30 or 40 yards for a touchdown,” said Woodley. “Those plays hurt us. We gave up too many of those and were counting on the offense too much to bail us out when usually we take care of business.”
The Steelers have one last chance to take care of business on Sunday when they host the Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field. It will be an opportunity for them to show that no matter the scenario, they aren’t about to give up.
“We know what we are capable of. We know the talent we have here,” said running back Jonathan Dwyer. “To be where we are is upsetting. Letting games slip away from us on stupid mistakes makes you want to do better.
“It’s motivation for this week. You want to prove yourself each and every day you step on the field. This week we want to prove ourselves and finish on a good note.”
All week players have been hearing the talk that the game doesn’t mean much because there are no playoff implications. But for men who know what it means to wear the black and gold, there is plenty on the line. Most notably pride.
“I think it’s definitely pride and wanting to end the season on a positive note,” said Dwyer. “The season didn’t go the way we wanted it to, but I think the best thing is to end in a good way to give us momentum heading in to the next year. You want to take it personal, make sure you do what you have to do and get the win for our team and our fans.
“You don’t want to go out on a down note. The fans here deserve a win. Winning is a good way to go out. You want to end the season on a good note.”
The Steelers will face a long offseason, one that will bring changes to the makeup of the team like every offseason does. And this week could be one final time to play together, and you can bet they are going to put it all on the line.
“The guys you have been lining up with, worked all year with, you get to go out there with them again,” said receiver Jerricho Cotchery. “The reality is you might not line up to that guy again. You appreciate those moments and go out there and give it your all for them, the fans and this organization.”
Tags: Jerricho Cotchery, Jonathan Dwyer, LaMarr Woodley
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In some ways maybe it was appropriate that when Heath Miller was announced as the Steelers 2012 Most Valuable Player he wasn’t around to talk about it. Miller likely would not have felt at all comfortable talking about himself. That just isn’t his style. He always takes the quiet approach and never sings his own praises.
“I was teasing him a while back about being the team MVP and he was like, ‘yeah, right,’” said defensive end Brett Keisel. “He doesn’t think that way. That is just the humble Heath Miller. That’s what we all love about him, his humility and the way he carries himself.
“We all appreciate Heath for the way he goes about his business. He is the silent assassin, doesn’t say much but is always in the right place, doing the right things. He is one of the hardest working guys I have ever met. He definitely deserves this honor.”
Miller was selected by his teammates for the honor one day after he was voted to the Pro Bowl for the first time. But he wasn’t there to enjoy it having undergone surgery to repair the ACL in his right knee, suffered against the Bengals last week.
“My heart hurt for him. It was hard to see him get hurt,” said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. “He means a lot, everything. He is such a great football player, person, and teammate. It’s amazing how one guy who is so good, is so humble. It’s about time he got these honors. But it kills me now that he is hurt.”
Miller finished the 2012 season with 71 receptions, just five shy of tying his single-season high. He also had a career high 816 receiving yards and eight touchdown receptions before being placed on injured reserve this week.
“To have him on the football field is such a security blanket, a comfort zone,” said Roethlisberger. “Even if he is covered you can still get him the ball. He knows the game. To have someone like that who is so selfless is amazing.”
Miller has 400 career receptions, only the third player in Steelers history to reach that mark. His 39 career receiving touchdowns rank him first among tight ends in team history, passing Elbie Nickel (37), and he is tied for fifth in team history in receiving touchdowns among all players.
But what he means to the team goes far beyond the numbers.
“He is probably one of the best teammates you could have,” said guard Ramon Foster. “He is always here early working. He is the epitome of a team player. He doesn’t need to say much and he doesn’t. His body of work he puts on the practice field and in the game says it all. On the field he made a lot of plays to put us in position to win games. He is a unique player and I am glad to be on the team with him.”
Miller is not just a favorite in the locker room, but also a fan favorite. Every time he touches the ball crowds at home and on the road erupt in a cheer of, ‘Heeeeeeath,’ and many of his teammates did the same when filling out their MVP ballots.
“For my ballot, I didn’t just put Heath, I put Heeeeeath,” said Keisel. “We love it when we hear that at games. We love Heath. He deserves to be MVP.”
Tags: Heath Miller
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Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley
Re: Heath Miller and Maurkice Pouncey being named to the Pro Bowl:
Obviously, I think, and they both said this to me, they would trade it for more wins and a chance to play some more games. Really, I just think it’s a great honor. Both of those guys are very deserving of the award.
When you were hired you gave high praise to Miller. After seeing him play, were you even more impressed this year?
Yeah, he really did [impress me]. I know I said that. I was very excited about getting a chance to work with him. He is just the epitome of the same guy, every day. He is very dependable and reliable. What he does in the run game is what people aren’t going to notice nearly as much as the statistics. That’s what you don’t want people to miss out on, how much he does for us in protections, runs and in the pass game. He is a very unselfish player. You can count on him almost all the time to do what he is supposed to do, and he makes plays when you need him.
Is it difficult to prepare for a game that really doesn’t mean anything in the standings?
No. It’s difficult the situation we are in. It’s hard to accept that we aren’t going to get to play more games. This game is our biggest of the week. I think it’s very important. It’s not a game you want to be in. But like I said to the guys, unless you win the Super Bowl, you never get many chances in the playoffs to end the season on a winning note. We have to take advantage of that. I’ve been places where I really believed it carries over. It changes your mindset and overall mood going into the next few months, and you come back. I think a win in the last game or the last two games, whatever opportunity you have has a springboard effect for you. That’s what we need to do, get this going in a positive direction to finish the season.
Re: Pouncey’s career thus far and how he’s the only center in NFL history to be selected to three straight Pro Bowls to start his career:
He’s a football player. I mean that in a way – when he came out of college, if you just relied on his timing, speed and his combine numbers, he’d be just another guy. But when the pads are on, he’s special. His football playing ability at his position doesn’t add up to the measurables, so to speak. It comes down to, when you are evaluating these guys, they better be good football players. He is just that. I didn’t know that about him. That’s even more impressive. We see it every day. You just don’t want to take it for granted, because he is special. He is a really smart player. He helps a bunch of other guys. He is very athletic. When his pads are on, he allows you to do things you wouldn’t be able to with other players at his position.
What did you learn this year about the Steelers and about this offense?
I think there is no substitute for experience. Having a year under my belt in a new place is a big item, because you have a lot to go by now, whether it’s going to the Senior Bowl or Combine, the role we have as coaches, and our opinion counts as we move through the draft. Those things, you get a much clearer picture of your needs, at least on offense. You have a much clearer picture of the players. I personally have a much better feel for all of the coaches, who I didn’t know very well when I came here. There is no substitute for experience, and then it’s about what you do with it. I believe we will just do nothing but get better, which is what we have to do.
Re: Ben Roethlisberger saying one full offseason would be beneficial to the offense:
I think change is difficult. It’s not always the easiest thing, because it’s not always comfortable and you have to adjust. That goes for all parties involved. This case, for me, the players and coaches, it’s not easy but that doesn’t mean it’s not right. Coach Tomlin made a change. I was fortunate enough to be the guy that was chosen. You want to make your boss right, and I believe we will. A year of experience working together, all of us, I think is priceless.
Before this season, you hadn’t called the plays in three years. Is it hard to get back into the groove after having such a long layoff?
No, I think somebody asked me that earlier this season. I think that it’s something that I am very comfortable doing. There was an adjustment early. Some of that was just the operation of who is in the box, how you are communicating and who is giving you the necessary information that you have to have quickly. We worked through that in the preseason. In the regular season, I think operationally we were really good for the most part. There are always calls that you’d like to have back. You just don’t want that number to be off the charts. I felt very comfortable in that role. We just need to do a better job as a group, and we will.
Re: Possibly exploring a head coaching position if one opened:
Really, it’s not anything that I am thinking about. I have said a bunch of times, even when I came in and sat down with Coach Tomlin early on, this is where I want to be. I have almost three years of experience doing that. And I will occasionally say to Coach Tomlin, “This is a lot more fun than what you have to deal with.” In some ways, it is, because you get to coach and work with the players on a daily basis and interact all the time. It’s the closest thing to being out there, being able to be in this position. I am happy being here, and I just want to finish this year in the right manner to push us into the offseason, and get ready to be better next year.
Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau
Re: Having no Pro Bowl selections from the defense:
I think it’s an injustice but that’s all. I’m not wasting any sleep over it. It is what it is. Our guys numbers testify what they’ve done. I’m proud of them and certainly some of them deserve to be in the Pro Bowl, but they’re not. You’ve got to win more games.
Will you be back next season?
That would be up to Coach [Mike] Tomlin. Let’s just say I really like Pittsburgh and I really like working for the Steelers. Coach Tomlin will tell you if he wants me back or not. It will be up to Mike.
Do you want to come back if you’re chosen to come back?
I love Pittsburgh.
Have you ever seen a team go through so many injuries?
I think it’s been an unusual year for that. Injuries are part of the game. You have to persevere through those. I think our guys fought through them. We needed to win a few more of those close games. It has been a very unusual year in that respect.
Were the ACL injuries as prevalent when you played, or even early in your coaching career?
I think there had been joint injuries. They’re very vulnerable in the game of football and the more they can do to protect them, the better off it is. I think they have always been probably the most common injury in the game.
Guys played through those injuries years ago.
They’d just tape an aspirin to our leg and tell us it was okay. [Laughs]
Despite the injuries, you have a chance to finish as the top defense against the run, against the pass and overall. How have you been able to do that?
The players have made the plays and created the numbers that give us an opportunity to do that. We’ve certainly made them aware of that. That is one of our goals in this game. The first goal, of course, is to win the game. But you don’t get a chance to do that very often and we’re looking forward to the opportunity to do it.
Re: The defense being able to get off the field now, as compared to when it struggled to do so earlier this season:
Well, the truth of the matter is we didn’t get off to a really good start on defense. I don’t think it was ever quite as bad as it was perceived to be but we weren’t playing the way we wanted to play. For, I’d say over a month and a half now, our third down numbers have been good. We got a little behind early in all phases, but these guys stayed together and played pretty doggone good defense and got us back to where we like to be, up near the top of the bunch.
So, the coach got smarter as the year went on?
Yeah, the better the players play, the smarter the coach is. There’s no question about that.
Re: NT Casey Hampton’s performance after rebounding from an injury:
Well not only Casey, but James Harrison missed all the coaching sessions. He missed all of training camp. [Jason] Worilds missed all of training camp. We had three pretty productive players for us that really couldn’t get football exercise until we started into the regular season. I think all of those men made steady improvement and I think the results are obvious in the performance of our team. But Casey, for two months now we’ve seen him make an awful lot of plays. Probably the one statistic we‘ve come the furthest in was the run advantage in yards allowed per rush. We know Casey is always going to be a big part of that. I think all those guys getting stronger and some of the young guys that had to transition into new roles, they got stronger as we went along and I’m very proud of this group for staying with it and fighting through a slower start than we wanted. We would like to have played better, but they played hard and played fairly well here from the midpoint of the season on.
Re: Thoughts on losing veteran players who have accomplished so much here:
They’re family and you’re always going to miss your family. Fortunately, they come back. [James] Farrior was back a few times. Aaron [Smith] drops back over every now and then. Chris Hoke we get to see from time to time. This is the nature of this business also. There’s a 16-game season and that group of athletes, in all probability, is going to be the only time that all the men in that room are going to be together. That’s why it’s always a special situation with each year and each game. I don’t think it’s ever happened where the same people from top to bottom in that room have returned. It’s a vision of life in the NFL. But we miss them. We miss those guys. They know we think of them all the time.
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It’s easy for a player to stand in front of cameras and talk about their play or the play of the team when things are going well. But in a season where the overall performance of the team has been disappointing, being a go-to guy for the media is never an easy thing.
But Casey Hampton has never shied away from it, never tried to avoid the glare of the camera and the probing questions, and that is why the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America voted him this year’s winner of the “Chief Award,” established in honor of Steelers’ founder, Arthur J. Rooney, Sr. and presented annually to the member of the Steelers’ organization who best exemplifies the spirit of cooperation with the media.
“I don’t mind talking,” said Hampton. “I don’t do a whole lot of it. I know how to talk so it doesn’t really bother me.
“It’s definitely tough (this year). It’s definitely not the result that we wanted this year, but being around this business for as long as I’ve been around, I’ve almost seen everything. Nothing surprises me and you just have to take the good with the bad, keep on being professional and keep on working. That’s just what we have to do at this point.”
And as Hampton was barely finished saying thank you for winning the award, he was asked about this year’s team and if an overhaul is needed to get back to their winning ways. As always, he was frank with his answer.
“I think it’s just a few things here and there,” said Hampton. “We’ve got a mix of young guys and older guys. We’ve got to do a better job of getting those younger guys ready to go and ready to play week-in and week-out. Not only the younger guys, but everybody needs to understand that every game is important and the gravity of every game. You can’t take any game for granted. You have to go into every game the same way, and I don’t think we did that this year.”
Hampton pointed to games early in the season, games many thought the Steelers should win but didn’t, to where problems began.
“Losing to teams that you’re not supposed to lose to, not taking anything away from teams that beat us earlier, but point blank, certain teams you are supposed to beat,” said Hampton. “We just didn’t do that.”
While the Steelers had a laundry list of injuries this year that had starters missing multiple games, Hampton wouldn’t use that as an excuse, sticking to his guns on not beating the teams they should have as the main reason they are not in the playoffs this year.
“Everybody in this league has a lot of injuries,” he said. “I’m not going to make that excuse. I’m not going to say that it’s the reason that we’re in the position we are. I think more so you’ve got to win the game you’re supposed to win early. You can’t let teams that you’re not supposed to lose to beat you early and I think that’s what got us in trouble this year.”
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Tackle Mike Adams, the Steelers’ second round draft pick this year, was selected as the “Joe Greene Great Performance Award” winner by the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America. The award is given annually to the team’s outstanding rookie.
“To have anything with that name on it associated with you is definitely an honor,” said Adams, who grew up a Steelers fan. “He is one of the best Steelers of all time and someone we have all looked up to. To be able to win the Joe Greene award is something I am thankful for and definitely feel blessed.”
Adams is the third straight offensive lineman to win the award, as tackle Marcus Gilbert won it in 2011 and center Maurkice Pouncey in 2010.
“It feels great,” said Adams. “Coming after a guy like Marcus Gilbert last year, it feels good to keep it in the offensive line room.”
Adams made his first start against Cincinnati on Oct. 21, and started six games at right tackle this season. In his first three starts the team had a 100-yard rusher each week, two from Jonathan Dwyer and one from Isaac Redman.
Adams injured his ankle against Cleveland on Nov. 25, and has been inactive for the last four games.
“It’s football and things like that happen,” said Adams. “You just have to roll with the punches and try to keep getting better. I definitely would have liked to be out there a little more and not have gotten hurt. But I’m thankful for the chance that I got.”
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