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Steelers Blog

Keisel’s soft side comes out to fight CF

Posted by Teresa Varley on December 6, 2012 – 10:23 pm

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Steelers’ fans are accustomed to seeing the tough side of Brett Keisel, the burly defensive end who loves nothing more than sacking opposing quarterbacks.

But on Thursday night the softer side of Keisel was on display, as he hosted the Cystic Fibrosis 65 Roses Sports Auction, spending time visiting with children with the disease as well as raising funds to help find a cure for the disease.

“It’s for these kids tonight,” said Keisel. “I have been able to develop some relationships with young children who have cystic fibrosis and are doing great. I am proud of them and their fight. Helping these kids out who have to deal with it every day is what it’s all about. It’s tough for them and their families. You talk to them and you don’t know they have it, they look radiant, beautiful and happy and it makes me smile to see them that way.”

Keisel was joined by 10 of his teammates at the event, signing autographs for those in attendance.

“We are raising money and awareness for children with cystic fibrosis and it’s making a difference,” said Keisel. “That is my favorite part. They tell me each year that we are getting closer to a cure and that is why we do this. The more awareness we can bring to it the closer we are to getting a cure.”

For nine-year old Sydney Willig, who was diagnosed with the disease at two weeks old and is this year’s Cystic Fibrosis Ambassador, and her family it means the world to have someone like Keisel show such compassion for those with CF.    

“We have fought CF every single day,” said her mother, Lisa Willig. “With everyone here and the support of the Steelers organization and especially Brett Keisel, we just can’t thank them enough for putting some really important faces near and dear to our hearts.”

Sydney, who like every other kid loves to play sports, couldn’t stop smiling after meeting Keisel.

“It’s great because it helps you get over it and it makes it fun for you,” said Sydney Willig. “I am glad they do because it gives us more money and the more money we have we can get more medicine.”

A live and silent auction filled with Steelers and other sports memorabilia also were a highlight of the night, but it was Keisel and his teammates that made had the biggest impact.

“I can’t tell you what the Steelers have done to put a face to this disease,” said Pat Joseph, executive director of the Western Pennsylvania Chapter of Cystic Fibrosis. “That is very important because we need to raise awareness as well as funds if we are going to end this.

“When you have a guy who is a leader on the field and he steps off the field and plays a role in an organization like ours, it’s amazing. He leads our families out of a desperate area where they feel like he is on our team, we are not by ourselves, Brett Keisel is helping us. It means the world to our organization and the patients and families that battle this.”


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Colon, Brown & Wallace practice

Posted by Teresa Varley on December 6, 2012 – 4:24 pm

Tackle Willie Colon was back at practice on Thursday and is hoping to play this Sunday against the San Diego Chargers.

“I feel good, I feel real good,” said Colon. “I ran around, I was able to pull, do the necessary things I needed to do. I will see how it reacts tomorrow and try to go this Sunday.”

Colon missed the last two games after a bruise on his knee swelled up.

“I had to drain it a couple of times,” said Colon, who said he thinks it will be a game time decision whether he plays this week or not.

Also returning to practice were receivers Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace, while fellow receiver Emmanuel Sanders was limited in practice after missing practice on Wednesday.

Not practicing on Thursday were tackle Mike Adams (ankle), punter Drew Butler (illness), safeties Ryan Clark (hip) and Troy Polamalu (not injury related), quarterback Byron Leftwich (ribs), cornerback Ike Taylor (ankle), and linebacker LaMarr Woodley (ankle).


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Teammates happy to have Ben back

Posted by Teresa Varley on December 6, 2012 – 4:07 pm

Steelers’ players are excited to have their starting quarterback return to action this week, as Mike Tomlin made it official that Ben Roethlisberger will start on Sunday against the San Diego Chargers at Heinz Field.

“It always intensifies the group and makes us more excited,” said receiver Antonio Brown. “Ben has so much physical talent and ability. I am excited to have him back.  It’s definitely important if we want to make a run and have opportunities in the playoff we’re going to need Ben out there with us.”

Roethlisberger returned to full practice on Wednesday for the first time since injuring his shoulder against the Kansas City Chiefs, and continued to make progress on Thursday promoting Tomlin’s decision.

“I know he is excited to get back and we are excited to have him back,” said receiver Mike Wallace. “I think he will be fine. He looked pretty good. I am excited about it.

“It opens up everything in our playbook. It’s a different level of game-planning other teams have to do just to compensate for how athletic he is. He brings a dimension nobody else can bring.”

One of the key factors in getting him on the field was Roethlisberger’s velocity returning, and he said tight end Heath Miller is his barometer for how he is doing.

“I have been around him the longest and he knows I will give him an honest answer,” said Miller. “It’s better than last week as you would expect. Over time he will only get better and better.”

Brown, who returned to practice on Thursday, definitely saw progress in Roethlisberger since last week when he first started to throw the ball.

“His velocity has gotten better from last week,” said Brown. “Last week he had a little harder time drilling the ball where he wanted to get it. This week he is looking good.”

Roethlisberger missed the last three games, but his teammates expect the same quarterback he has always been when he returns Sunday.

“From what I have seen he just picked up where he left off,” said Miller. “We have the utmost confidence in him. If he is in the huddle he is going to make plays for us.  

“He is one of best players on our team, one of the best quarterbacks in the league.”


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Roethlisberger will start vs. Chargers

Posted by Teresa Varley on December 6, 2012 – 3:29 pm

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will start against the San Diego Chargers on Sunday, returning to action after missing the last three games with a shoulder injury.

Roethlisberger practiced for the second straight day on Thursday, and Coach Mike Tomlin was comfortable enough with what he saw to say Roethlisberger will start this week.

“He has been above the line in all areas,” said Tomlin following Thursday’s practice. “Really, the only question we can’t answer is taking a hit. Obviously that will be answered in the stadium on Sunday.

“I am extremely comfortable with his ability to work the field both vertically and horizontally. He has great velocity on his ball. We’re ready to go.”


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Coordinator’s Corner: Haley & LeBeau

Posted by Teresa Varley on December 6, 2012 – 3:15 pm


Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley

How did Ben Roethlisberger look today?
He looked good. I don’t think there were any setbacks, so I think it was a positive day.

Do you see him being able to make all the throws?
I think yes. Yesterday was the biggest test with the wind, and it was cold and all the factors that were involved. You didn’t see any major limitations. That’s a decision Coach Tomlin will make. I thought yesterday was a positive day and today too.

Does his rib injury limit his mobility?
I haven’t seen any of that. You have to ask him. Just watching him move around, he looks like himself, for the most part. I don’t know how he is feeling when he does some of those things but he looks like he is moving pretty well.

Are there limits to what plays you can call because of his rib injury?
We might keep the quarterback draw out [Laughs].

Do you have to pull him aside and tell him to be extra careful this week?
No. Ben is a pro. He is a tough guy. I think he understands his body better than anybody. He is the one that has to make the decisions. We will just try to put him in the best positions to succeed.

Re: Injuries to receivers:
They call themselves the “Bugatti Crew.” I call them the “Boo-boo Crew.” Today they were back out here and were moving around a lot better. As the week progresses they should feel better. Hopefully by game time we will have the full cast and crew.

Would you anticipate dressing four or five receivers this week?
Again, that’s a Coach Tomlin question. We try to get as many as we can at all offensive positions but special teams and those things factor in.

Is Willie Colon going to be back this week?
You guys are all asking me head coach questions. That will be a decision made by Coach Tomlin, Colon and the doctors. Today, he was out here. He practiced. That’s a good thing as far as I’m concerned.

Does getting the ball out of Ben’s hands this week serve him better due to his recent injuries?
I think that will serve him well all the time. That will give us and him the best chance to succeed. That’s why we were doing it. The fact that he had a bunch of games under his belt, and it’s obvious he was getting more comfortable with how we were trying to do things, and try to limit “Ben being Ben” plays, although they are still there and necessary. I am grateful he has that ability. In certain situations and times you need it. I think he is going to get back on track. He needs to get out there, first of all, then get into a rhythm and get back to doing things and progressing the way that he was, and have success doing them.

Are there any throws you would like to see from him before the game that you haven’t seen?
By the time we get through a week of practice, if he is taking most of the reps, like he is now, you see [the throws]. He’s testing himself now. We will watch the tape and see what we all think and see how he feels. Hopefully there are no setbacks and that he is feeling better tomorrow than he did today, just like he was better yesterday than he was last week. The name of the game is to keep making progress and avoid any kind of setbacks for any of these guys.

Re: The reps he has taken this week:
I’d say he took probably almost the full boat today.

Re: Plaxico Burress having chemistry with Ben:
Burress came in at a time when Ben wasn’t throwing. Really, today and yesterday, and you have to think about the couple of times they are in there together at the same time, and the ball happens to be going that way, there has been limited exposure. They are both veterans who know each other. They know each other’s strengths and tendencies. Burress is still trying to get his feet under him and get comfortable with the terminology and calls. But he’s been working hard. He looks great, physically. We will just have to see how things play out and when those opportunities arise. Hopefully he is ready to step up and make plays.

Re: Throwing the ball to Heath Miller:
I said it early on, as an outsider and someone that did some work on him when he was coming out of college. Then I had to compete against him in a bunch of different settings. He is a really good football player, specifically a really good tight end. My opinion of him has only escalated. Everything about him – when you hear the term “true professional” or “real pro,” those phrases, he is everything you want in a football player. He is tremendous in the run game for us and excellent in the pass game. He is just dependable and reliable. He is the same guy every day. That same guy is pretty good.

How difficult is it for a guy like Burress to come to a team and have a secondary role?
I would think [it’s tough] but you also have to consider he hadn’t been on a team for most of the year. I think he has been around long enough to understand where he fits right now. That doesn’t mean it’s going to stay that way. With injuries and things like that, he could be playing more or less. He has been around long enough to understand how it goes. He is mature enough to handle it. He is a grown man that understands what he is trying to work towards, and he’s just getting ready for his opportunities for when his opportunities come.

Re: San Diego Chargers’ defense:
They are a good defense. They are a top-end defense that’s really good against the run. Their front 4-5 guys – and I know number-98 just went on their Reserve/Injured List, so I’d expect to see more of Larry English, but they have a bunch of really good front rushers and run stoppers. They are a complete group up front. I think it shows why they are really good against the run. They have Quentin Jammer, a big-time cornerback that has been in the league a long time. Antoine Cason has become a real good player that is a consistent performer every year. Eric Weddle is kind of the guy that makes it go, along with Takeo Spikes. You can see those two guys are the leaders of their defense. They get after it. We have our work cut out for us. We need to come out and play one of our best games, because they do a great job against the run and we obviously want to run the ball. They are good at creating turnovers. They have returned a bunch of interceptions for touchdowns. We have to be on our game and play really good football against these guys or it will be real difficult.

How did Jonathan Dwyer do last week?
He did a good job. I thought he answered the bell. With the opportunity given, he went out there and he made a real big play for us. I thought he did a good job across the board. He obviously is being tested but he passed that first test. Now he has to come out and back it up.

Does it give you a little more freedom on offense knowing that Shaun Suisham has been so consistent all season?
It’s always good to have a guy at that position. I was with him in Dallas when he was a youngster. He has really developed into a heck of a player. As an offensive coordinator, any time you move into field goal range, whatever it is on that particular day and direction you are heading, it gives you great comfort that if you do the things the way you are supposed to do them, and you don’t take sacks, you at least know you are going to have a good chance to get three points. That kind of gives you an opportunity to move the ball towards the endzone a little bit. I think it’s a very comforting thing for everybody involved when you have a kicker you can count on.

Re: Suisham now compared to five years ago:
He’s come a long way. He was young. That was in 2005 or 2006. You can see he has developed into a heck of a kicker. When those young kickers come into the league, it’s big, especially when you come into Dallas. He was filling in for somebody that didn’t pass the test. I think we were shuffling kickers that year. That’s a lot of pressure. He is doing a good job.

Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau

Re: Getting S Troy Polamalu back but losing CB Ike Taylor:
There’s not much to say. They’re both great players. We’re sure happy to have Troy back. We’re sure sorry to have Ike sitting on the sidelines but I know he’ll get back as quickly as he can. Just count our blessings that we’ve got Troy back. The guys that are in there will just have to step up and play well, and Ike will get back to us as quickly as he can.

What’s it like not having Taylor since this is the first time you haven’t had him available?
I don’t think he’s ever missed one game since I’ve been here. But he got hurt in the first series, so that was technically one game.

How much tougher is it to play pass defense now as compared to when you played?
I would say day and night. I think we would have lasted about one year under these rules. It’s significantly more difficult. You can’t make contact after five yards, that’s the biggest difference and it opens the game up for the passing game. We’ve become pretty efficient at passing and catching in this country, so it’s difficult to defend. I’ll never argue that.

How have you been able to have success limiting other team’s passing attacks when it is much tougher to defend?
It’s team defense. You’ve got to have pressure, you’ve got to play coverage together and you’ve got to hold up in the back end. We’ve got a pretty good bunch of guys. We’re not always where we want to be all the time. If you take the record overall, they’re fighters and I’m proud of them. We’re looking to get better.

How close is LB James Harrison to getting back to where he was a few years ago?
I think some time ago James turned the corner in terms of complete rehab and football conditioning and things like that. He’s been getting better every week. But I think he’s playing at a very high level right now.

What did you see from Polamalu against Baltimore, and did it seem like he had an appreciation for being back out there?
It’ll do that for you. You never miss the water until the well runs dry. You’re playing every day and then you’re not playing for a while, you do miss it. Troy’s instincts are so great and that’s something you don’t lose. From the first snap that he went in there, you could tell it was Troy in there. He’s just a special player. We’re happy to have him back.

Is it frustrating that rules change for the offense and not for the defense?
It’s not frustrating. Everybody wants to tell you how hard their job is. If you look at the popularity of our National Football League game, I guess they know what they’re doing. It’s just harder on the defense, that’s all. It’s the same for everybody. It’s the same for all defenses.

Is the plan to exploit the Chargers’ offensive line since they have been battling injuries?
Yeah, that’s what we do. I never answer any questions about game plan.

Re: Guys stepping up when other guys are injured:
Well, we’ve got a long way to go yet and we’ll see how we shake out here this last month of the season. We start from the coaching sessions, right up through training camp. We don’t try to get four defensive backs ready to go, we try to get 8-10 because we know before the season is over, we absolutely will be playing 9-10 defensive backs in the games. Experience has proven that. These guys are taught by Coach [Carnell] Lake from day one as if they’re going to be starters and that they have to embrace their role for that day that they’re going to be. Never did it pay us more benefits in Baltimore than when Ike went down, literally, on the first snap.


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Inside the locker room: Troy Polamalu

Posted by Teresa Varley on December 6, 2012 – 3:00 pm


Where do you need to improve on defense?
We need to improve everywhere.

How did it feel being back out on the field?
It felt good. I felt good all game.

Were you on any type of snap count during the game?
I don’t know if I was on a count. I think it was a better game plan going into the last game than it was going into the Philadelphia game when I injured myself. I’m just very happy to come out with a victory.

In what way was it better?
That I was limited in a way, in terms of repetitions and the game plan, and as far as practice was concerned throughout the week.

If you were limited earlier in the season, do you feel that this re-injury may not have happened?
I don’t know. I don’t like to deal in hypotheticals.

Was it worse the second time than the first time?
No, it was just a different muscle.

Are there ways that Chargers QB Philip Rivers is still dangerous, even though he said he is having a disappointing season?
We definitely know what he’s capable of and I’m sure they’re very disappointed in their record as we are with our record. We definitely know what they’re capable of. We always play each other really well, no matter what the records are.

Since you were somewhat limited last game, were you playing more within the structure of the defense?
I just played. If [the big plays] come, they come.

How much will things change without CB Ike Taylor, and are you encouraged with what you saw from CB Cortez Allen last game?
The defensive backs and the coaches obviously know what they’re capable of, Curtis [Brown] and Cortez. It’s what we expected, the performance from them. To replace somebody like Ike, who I don’t think has ever missed a game here, is going to be tough. It’s going to be different for our defense.


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Steelers Toys for Tots Drive

Posted by Teresa Varley on December 6, 2012 – 2:55 pm

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The Steelers will hold their annual Toys for Tots drive when they host the San Diego Chargers at Heinz Field on Sunday, Dec. 9 at Heinz Field .

Uniformed Marines will be on hand collecting new toys at all gates to be given to needy kids in the Pittsburgh area. Toys should not be wrapped, and they ask that there be no weapon toys.


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