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Steelers Blog

Locker room quick hits

Posted by Teresa Varley on October 17, 2012 – 4:14 pm

A little bit of what players had to say in the locker room on Wednesday.

S Troy Polamalu

How do you guys turn the defense around?
We just have to execute better than their offense and their defense.

Did you hope to play this week?
I am always optimistic.

How is your injury different this time compared to a few weeks ago?
Those injury questions are for Coach Tomlin.

Do you feel injuries are an epidemic in the locker room?
I don’t know. Sometimes I wonder if it is just us here. It seems we deal with it pretty seriously every year. I was made aware of Baltimore’s situation. It seems we face those types of situations year-in and year-out.

Re: Other team’s facing similar circumstances due to injury:
It’s never good. First we are human then we are football players.

T Max Starks

Re: Geno Atkins and Michael Johnson:
A lot of people say he’s not small, he’s short. He is a big dude that has a short body. He can create pressure by pushing guys back. He is quick enough to take the edge. He can force guys into bad positions. Michael Johnson is a very long guy. They are a good duo and a great combination.

Re: Advice for Mike Adams:
We are going to talk and work this week. We had a bonus day on Monday. When we are in meetings, we point out key things for him. Him and I will do some extra work on the side to make sure we are both prepared. Helping him actually helps me at the same time. I think he is mentally there. It’s just about making sure he is mentally sharp. There are some things he might not see as a backup, compared to a starting role. I think one of the biggest things is that he is going to have a great test on Sunday night.

C/G Doug Legursky

Re: Geno Atkins:
He is just a hard worker. He works really well with his hands. He has good leverage. He gets into people. He never stops. Their defensive linemen work well together to get their sacks. It’s going to be a challenge for us but every week is.

Re: Possible starting role:
You don’t come into this league and go into games wanting to be a backup. You always want to be a starter. It’s a tough pill to swallow sometimes, knowing you are only going to get in the game if someone gets hurt or we have a huge lead. I will always aspire to be a starter. I think everybody should.

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Steelers cooking for a cause

Posted by Teresa Varley on September 21, 2012 – 4:50 pm

Several Steelers’ players were cooking up a storm on Friday, not to feed their teammates, but instead to help women who are either in treatment for breast cancer or are survivors so they can learn more about the importance of proper nutrition as a part of their treatment.

Tackle Max Starks and linebackers Chris Carter and Marshall McFadden helped prepare a meal at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC’s “Cooking and Eating for a Healthy Life” class.

“It means a lot to be here,” said McFadden, who was first up making a pan seared chicken panini. “It’s great to come out in the community and show love and your sense of humor so hopefully you can make them feel better. Plus, football players are competitive so you give them any kind of task and they think they can do it. It’s fun going up there and showing I have a mixture of skills.”

Carter’s cousin and aunt and Starks’ mom are breast cancer survivors, so taking part in the class was special for them as well.

“It means everything to me because my family that experienced this is very close to me,” said Carter. “They have been there for me and for me to support something that affects them means a great deal. I am in a position where I can affect others in a positive manner, so why not take advantage of it.”

The players also prepared pumpkin chili and quinoa pudding with pistachio, pears and dark chocolate, all which they served to the ladies after making it.

“The patients idolize the Steelers,” said Judy Herstine, administrator of women’s cancer services at Magee Womens Hospital. “Nutrition is important to everyone and they can show with humor that you can make nutritious, healthy meals with fresh ingredients quickly. It’s great, the patients love it and I think the Steelers enjoy as well.”

The Steelers will celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness Month when they host the Philadelphia Eagles at Heinz Field on Oct. 7 and the most noticeable aspect will be players wearing pink apparel, from sideline hats, to shoes, chinstraps and more.
“It’s important to promote early detection, making sure you take care of yourself and knowing the proper steps if you do find something,” said Starks. “I am glad the NFL takes this initiative. I look forward to wearing the pink stuff during October to show my support for everyone, more so my mom.

“It’s important to give back. My mother is now 21 years in remission and she is still around because people cared to help her through the process so it’s my duty to give back.”

The group all took part in a pink Terrible Towel twirl after the class ended, which was special for Elissa Ashwood of Pittsburgh who was diagnosed with breast cancer in January.

“It was moving to hear the players talk about their personal relationship with cancer,” said Ashwood. “You forget how many people are affected. It’s nice to know they are doing something positive.

“Support means everything. That is why we are wearing our Steelers stuff, because we support them. To feel like our favorite sports team is supporting us is awesome.”

* * *   

In support of the NFL’s Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign in partnership with the American Cancer Society, the Steelers will recognize Breast Cancer Awareness Month during the team’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Oct. 7. The 2012 campaign, A Crucial Catch: Annual Screening Saves Lives, is targeted at encouraging annual mammograms for women over 40.

The Steelers will be selling breast cancer awareness merchandise at the game and through the team’s online store. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to breast cancer research. 

Breast Cancer Awareness elements will be seen throughout Heinz Field, including special game balls with pink ribbons, pink coins for the coin toss, pink apparel worn by players including cleats, wristbands, gloves, sideline caps, chin straps and quarterback towels. In addition coaches and sideline personnel will wear special hats.

Breast cancer survivors will be honored at the game and every fan entering Heinz Field for the game will receive a pink Terrible Towel, sponsored by Ford and UPMC Cancer Centers.

Ford and UPMC Cancer Centers will also be presenting a check to the Susan G. Komen Pittsburgh Affiliate.

On Saturday, October 6th the Steelers will be a sponsor of the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk, starting at the North Shore Riverfront Park across from Heinz Field.  Individuals can take part by calling 1-800-881-2345 for more information.

Heath and Katie Miller will host Bid For Hope XI on Monday, October 29 as they raise money and awareness to fight breast cancer through the Glimmer of Hope Foundation. For more information visit Bid For Hope.

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The Steelers “SEC” line

Posted by Teresa Varley on August 29, 2012 – 12:13 pm

The Steelers current offensive line is made up of three former Florida Gators in Max Starks, Maurkice Pouncey and Marcus Gilbert, a former Tennessee Volunteer in Ramon Foster and Hofstra’s Willie Colon.

When asked about the line this week Foster couldn’t help but take note of that.

“That is a great SEC line right there,” said Foster. “You have some good guys up front you know are going to fight for you. You don’t have to worry about the man next door to you knowing his job. It’s going to get done. “

When asked about Colon being the only non-SEC player, Foster was quick to bring him into the group.

“Willie doesn’t have a football program right now, so he is definitely going to take the SEC,” said Foster of Hofstra dropping their program. “We have adopted him.”

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Foster ready to step in again

Posted by Teresa Varley on August 27, 2012 – 6:30 pm

Ramon Foster has been here before, being the guy who is asked to step up when a teammate is injured. Since his rookie year it’s a role that he has been asked to fill, and since then he has delivered. 

“You just have to be able to step in and do the job with no slack off,” said Foster. “I have been in this position before. It’s just staying consistent.

“We have that gift of having guys that are experienced on the offensive line. I am one of those guys that has played a lot and started, and it’s almost like second nature stepping in and doing your job.”

This time Foster will be thrown into the fire at right guard after rookie first-round pick David DeCastro suffered a serious knee injury against the Buffalo Bills.

It’s an opportunity for Foster, who battled for the starting job during camp, to show that he is more than capable of not just holding things down, but being a solid force there.

“It’s definitely an opportunity,” said Foster. “I hate to have it happen to him, but I have to take advantage of it and hopefully run away with it.

“I understand the circumstance, you have a high draft pick and you just have to go to work every day and fight for it. Stuff like this comes along. That is what happens when you go about your business every day.”

Foster said when he entered the Bills game, there was nothing said by the fellow linemen as they had plenty of confidence that he knew what he was doing.
“I don’t think there is any issue. He is a veteran,” said tackle Max Starks. “He has been doing this for a long time. He knows the importance of position flexibility and being ready to be a starter in waiting and a starter.

“It’s an unfortunate situation for David but a great opportunity for Ramon. I think he will do a great job.”

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Starks has shaken off the rust

Posted by Teresa Varley on August 27, 2012 – 3:37 pm

Max Starks was back in the starting lineup against the Bills last Saturday, seeing his first action of the preseason at left tackle.

Starks was on the physically unable to perform list for the first two preseason games as he worked his way back from a torn ACL suffered at the end of last season.  Starks’ comeback was faster than many anticipated and getting back on the field was the final step.

“It felt great,” said Starks. “I was a little stiff at first, a little rusty. I shook the rust off and felt comfortable as we started moving through the game, especially in the second quarter.

“I started relaxing, calming down, and the game started to turn into the game I know it to be. I am glad I got the opportunity to play.”

It wasn’t just the physical aspect that Starks benefitted from with the playing time, but it also allowed him to get used to the new terminology in Todd Haley’s offense in real speed.

“It’s mental because it’s a brand new offense, so therefore it’s brand new terminology as far as in the huddle,” said Starks. “We still had some issues we had to clean up as far as game communication. It was a start. That is the biggest thing, getting used to the jargon, and everybody being out there on the field trying to communicate and be successful.

“Once we got passed that first quarter everyone started understanding and we were a lot cleaner than in the first.”

Starks expects to play about a quarter against the Carolina Panthers on Thursday night in the preseason finale at Heinz Field, one last tune-up before they open the regular season against the Denver Broncos on Sept. 9.

“It’s a good time to come in and clean up some of our communication and show we are seamless coming into the regular season,” said Starks.

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Post-Game Comments: Max Starks

Posted by Teresa Varley on August 26, 2012 – 7:50 pm



On the no huddle offense:

Some of the words are new to me, I got up there, was able to communicate. We talked about it, had enough time we were rushing to the ball which was a big thing. When you get on the ball you can make those extra communication calls. That was clean and everybody was hustling.


On Ben Roethlisberger favoring the no huddle:

I just think having the experience that (Roethlisberger) has as an elite level quarterback. Especially when he catches a defense off kilter, where they’re trying to get calls in, trying to make sure the personnel is right. They’re trying to make subs in between plays. You kind of catch them off guard and he puts us in the best position to be successful.


On red zone offense:

Should have been five of five but we’ll take four out of five. I think it was a point of emphasis for us because we were unsuccessful last week. I think the biggest thing is making sure that we were efficient. When you get in those situations where there is defensive turnover or whether we drive the ball down there is that we finish it with points. Especially when you get it close to the two-yard line you have to finish with touchdowns not field goals.


On moving forward as a unit if DeCastro’s knee injury is severe:

I think we have a good enough group of veterans and guys that are used to these situations. I think that’s one of the biggest things. We’ve been through this before, it’s not like this is something brand new and you’ve had the same five starters for three years and nobody’s had any reps. Our group is used to turnover and position flexibility so I think it will work out.

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Starks to return to action

Posted by Teresa Varley on August 23, 2012 – 9:30 pm

Max Starks will see his first game action of the preseason when he starts at left tackle against the Buffalo Bills on Saturday night. Starks doesn’t know how long he will play, but is anxious to get out there.

“We’re going to see,” said Starks. “I definitely feel good enough to at least get a quarter in. Once we’re out there and we know the field conditions, especially with the field turf versus grass – it’s hard to say because I haven’t really practiced on field turf this year. I feel pretty good and we’ll see how many plays we get in the first quarter and we’ll take it from there.”

Starks went through his first full week of practice after being removed from the PUP list last week and hasn’t had any issues with his knee.

“It felt pretty good,” said Starks. “I haven’t had any setbacks and I did everything in practice. One of the biggest things is that I was able to move forward and get used to the lingo and the tempo. That was the biggest thing I had anxiety about in my mind.

“We practiced in pads every day and that helped me, as well, to get a full speed perspective instead of a walk-thru days or just a helmet and shoulder protection. I feel good so far and I’m looking forward to Saturday.”

Playing on Saturday won’t just help Starks testing his knee, but it will also help him as he adjusts to Todd Haley’s offense, the first time he will be working in it in game action.

“I need the game to hear the terminology and go through the process,” said Starks. “We get the play and you have less than 10 seconds to process, know what you are doing, react and respond and get a look against guys moving. That is going to be the true test.”

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Starks ready to put on pads, battle for LT job

Posted by Teresa Varley on August 16, 2012 – 2:18 pm

Tackle Max Starks has been slowly working his way back onto the field after being taken off the physically unable to perform list earlier this week.

Per the new collective bargaining agreement Starks isn’t able to practice in pads until Friday, but has gone through the conditioning test and will have his second day of working out with a helmet and jersey on Thursday, just not taking part in the team and individual padded drills.

Starks doesn’t expect things to be a full-go on Friday, just participating in the individual offensive line drills in pads.
“I am not going full go,” said Starks. “It will be a gradual immersion into the offense.”

Starks said he will not know fully how his knee will react, but once he goes full blow that will be the true test.

“The biggest thing is getting pads on and working,” said Starks. “You need a different type of contact level. It’s a different intensity level when you have pads on and that will give me a better indication.”

Starks is in a battle for the left tackle spot along with rookie Mike Adams and hopes that as he works his way back onto the field he can prove he is worthy of the job.

“If everything does go well I would step in and play,” said Starks. “It’s a long way away. There are a lot of things that have to be in order and I have to show a lot of progress before we get to that point.”

Starks knows that it might be another week or two before a starting left tackle is named, and feels confident that the line will work as one once that happens.

“We are going into our second preseason game and it’s not as big a concern,” said Starks. “As long as you have it set by the fourth preseason game so those guys can work together.

“You don’t want to just give it to somebody or assume somebody is going to be able to fill that role. Keeping it open and making sure it is a competition helps find the five best guys to put on the line because it’s such a unique position versus any other on the field. There are no individual accolades with the group. It’s one unit and we only go as far as the weakest guys in the chain. It has to be five cohesive guys.”

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Starks making progress, but still out

Posted by Teresa Varley on August 13, 2012 – 11:03 am

Tackle Max Starks said he is gradually moving closer to returning to practice, but isn’t ready to say when he will be out on the field just yet.

“I feel good. I got a great workout in,” said Starks. “I got in the hot tub. I feel like I am closer. It’s up to the doctor’s and trainer’s discretion. Everything they have put in front of me I have done pretty well, at least in my eyes. They make their own notes. I feel like I am coming along nicely.”

Starks has been working on one of the side fields during practice with other players that are on the PUP list, pushing a little further each day.

“We have been running every day,” said Starks. “Everything has felt good. I haven’t had any setbacks or any type of swelling. I feel like I am getting along, doing more agility stuff and position specific work. We’ll see when Dr. (James) Bradley gets here and if I can do something limited, at least something individual. We’ll see.”

Coach Mike Tomlin has already ruled Starks out of Sunday night’s game against the Indianapolis Colts at Heinz Field, and Starks knows that it still is going to take a little more time to get his knee in game ready condition.

“You want to give it time to make sure it’s sturdy,” said Starks. “We take on a lot of force and you have to be able to push, hold and redirect with somebody on you. It’s going to take more time to get back in the swing of things.”

With left tackle Mike Adams day-to-day with a knee injury Starks would love to be able to contribute, but knows he can’t right now.

“I would like to get on the field and be able to participate and be in the competition but I think the biggest thing is making sure I am 100 percent,” said Starks.

Among the workouts he has done during camp was pushing a Toro on the field during practice, something he said was easy.

“The Toro is pretty light. I am used to pushing bigger vehicles,” said Starks. “We had guys sitting in it to give it a little more weight. Once it starts rolling it’s on wheels so it’s easy. It’s not like a human being with cleats on, that is trying to stand still and not move. It’s to give us resistance and the leg drive of driving off people and pushing them.”

During the offseason Starks did similar workouts, just with larger vehicles.

“We push trucks and other apparatus that have a lot of weight,” said Starks. “We push Escalades, Suburbans. We aren’t doing the world’s strongest man where we are tugging a semi, but we thought about it.”

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Starks happy to remain in Pittsburgh

Posted by Teresa Varley on July 27, 2012 – 8:00 am

This time last year Max Starks was unsure of what his football future would be, unsigned by any team throughout training camp, and not signing with the Steelers until October.

After finishing the 2011 season with a knee injury, Starks once again didn’t know what his future would hold, spending the offseason unsigned while rehabbing from the injury.

But Starks was signed back on July 17, and comes into camp ready to do whatever is asked of him, whether that be a starting role or as a swing man at tackle.

“I have always been an offensive lineman so if there is a need for me to swing I am ready and willing,” said Starks. “I pride myself in being ready to help in whatever way I can.

“I know what my value is and I can serve in a lot of different capacities. I am happy to be back in Pittsburgh. Things happen for a reason and I will always be ready.”

The starting five on the line have yet to be established, with rookie Mike Adams in the mix to start at tackle. Starks is willing to help him out, even if it means losing a starting job to him.

“If a guy asks for my help, I am always going to help,” said Starks. “I will always be there. I have always helped guys. I am more than willing to help. It’s for team building. The offensive line is five guys playing as one.”

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Steelers Playoff Diary – 1/6

Posted by Teresa Varley on January 6, 2012 – 2:48 pm

Friday, January 6

The outpouring of concern from Steelers fans regarding running backs coach Kirby Wilson is greatly appreciated. Steelers’ president Art Rooney II issued a statement regarding Wilson.

On the football side of things, cornerback Cortez Allen (shoulder) and running back Mewelde Moore (knee) have officially been ruled out of Sunday’s game against the Broncos.  Center Maurkice Pouncey (ankle) is listed as questionable, missing practice for the second straight day on Friday.

LB James Harrison (toe), DE Brett Keisel (groin), G Doug Legursky (shoulder), S Troy Polamalu (calf), QB Ben Roethlisberger (ankle), T Jonathan Scott (back),and LB LaMarr Woodley (hamstring) are all probable for the game and were all full participants in practice on Friday.

Pouncey and Polamalu both received good news as they were both named to the AP All-Pro first team.

Friday was declared “Black and Gold Day” by Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Allegheny County Chief Executive Rich Fitzgerald. There is plenty of black and gold on display by the Steelers staff, and a rally in downtown Pittsburgh brought out hundreds of Steelers fans.

The team had an early practice on Friday and former Steelers wide receiver and Hall of Famer Lynn Swann stopped by the take it in, talking with young receiver Antonio Brown for a few minutes on the sideline.

During the open locker room session after practice a reporter said to Hines Ward, “Everyone forgets about their defense, it’s overshadowed by the Tebow-mania.” Ward quickly corrected him.

“Who forgot about them,” asked Ward. “We didn’t forget about their defense. You guys can talk Tebow all day, but offensively I look at that tape and their defense is solid. It’s going to be a tough challenge for us.

“They play well at home. Their crowd is going to get into it. It’s an important game.”

Brett Keisel’s beard is one that has become legendary, but he isn’t the only one who has been growing some facial hair. Punter Jeremy Kapinos has a beard as of late, something he started to grow when the Steelers played the San Francisco 49ers and has kept since he has been punting well – and he likes the low maintenance aspect of it.

“I looked back at pictures from the Super Bowl last year and thought if it worked then, I should keep it,” said Kapinos.  “I am a big comfort guy. It helps keep me warm. It’s comfortable when I put the chin strap on. It’s low maintenance. I don’t have to do anything in the morning. It feels good.”

While he likes the beard, he said no way is it anywhere close to what Keisel has.

“It’s like night and day,” said Kapinos. “He gave us all shirts with his on it. I will never get to that level. Right now I just have a little baby beard.”

When asked about the Steelers record on the road this year, which is 5-3, Max Starks joked saying the team only lost once on the road since he was re-signed by the Steelers.

Starks knows, though, that the challenge of going on the road in the playoffs is a tough one but is hoping the Steelers experience will benefit them.

“I think this group is battle tested,” said Starks. “This is where experience pays off, in the playoffs. It is single elimination football now. I think we have enough veterans in this room that have been in the playoffs and on the road in the playoffs that know how to handle it. I think the younger guys lean on us for experience. We have had our bumps and bruises and we have had a lot of rotation at a lot of different positions. This has set us up for this opportunity. If some guy goes down, every guy on our team has just about some type of starting or special teams experience this season. There is really not a guy on the active roster that doesn’t.”

Antonio Brown and Lynn Swann

Steelers equipment packed and ready to go to Denver.

Cam Heyward was a guest on Steelers.com Live @ 4 this week with Tunch Ilkin and Craig Wolfley.

Jeremy Kapinos growing beard

Marcel Pastoor helps to stretch Heath Miller

Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark

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Steelers Playoff Diary – 1/2

Posted by Teresa Varley on January 2, 2012 – 9:12 pm

Monday, January 2

The Steelers were back at work on Monday attending meetings and hitting the weight room, getting ready for their playoff journey.

Hines Ward sat down for an interview that will be seen on Steelers.com, sharing with us his thoughts on his 1,000th career reception. Ward also showed off the football that was the 1000th catch, something that he is sure to keep for a long time.

Ward has caught passes from 13 different players during his career, including Kordell Stewart, Mike Tomczak, Jerome Bettis, Pete Gonzalez, Kent Graham, Tommy Maddox, Antwaan Randle El, Charlie Batch, Ben Roethlisberger, Dennis Dixon, Cedrick Wilson, Byron Leftwich and Emmanuel Sanders. Ward rattled off the list for us during the interview, but even he missed a few of them – not naming Wilson or Gonzalez, whose only NFL completion was to Ward.

Several players stopped by the team’s media room after meetings to talk about this week’s game, including linebacker James Farrior who weighed in on Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow.

“I have to admit that I was a fan of ‘Tebow Time,’” said Farrior. “I’ve been watching and cheering him on, but it’s totally different now.”

Farrior said like many he has paid attention to all of the talk about the quarterback who has become known for his late game heroics.

“Just all the media hype about it, a lot of people hated on him,” said Farrior. “I root for the underdogs. He was sort of an underdog. A lot of the coaches and staff members were on his case. I don’t think they really believed in him. I think he showed it, and they believed in him.”

Hines Ward holds 1000th catch football during Steelers.com interview

Max Starks in the media room post-meetings

Heath Miller in the media room post-meetings

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Starks on Steelers Christmas Carols

Posted by Teresa Varley on December 18, 2011 – 1:17 pm

Offensive tackle Max Starks had no problem with the lyrics to the Christmas carols, but joked about some of his teammates struggling to pick up on them. Starks shares his fun thoughts on the Steelers Christmas carols video … which yes Steelers fans … is coming sooner than Santa himself (and even before kickoff tomorrow night you will get a peek at a few songs).

“You get to see who had a childhood, who remembers songs from that childhood and who gets into the spirit,” said Starks. “It either enhances you or exposes you in the Christmas video.”

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Hearing from Arians

Posted by Teresa Varley on November 4, 2011 – 8:37 am

Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians talked to the media after practice on Thursday. Here are a few of his comments.

How much motivation comes from the last game with Baltimore?
You just turn on the tape and it speaks for itself. It was that bad. We had turnovers. We moved the ball okay but we just kept turning it over. It could be good for you, and it could be bad for you. We haven’t spent much time talking about it, other than the things they did. We both are a little bit different. Hopefully we are a little bit better now. They are a little bit better also. Every time we play it’s a different kind of a chess match.  

Is there something different from Ben Roethlisberger in the first four games than in the last four games?
We have been throwing the ball more in the last few ballgames. Obviously that will increase that (Ben’s numbers). We’ve had a little better protection. The offensive line has had some continuity for two games in a row. Everybody is growing a little bit, and knowing their roles. A couple of those games, we thought we could come out and run the ball very well. We didn’t need to throw it that much. Each game is different, but he’s had a nice little four-game stretch.

How have your offensive tackles been playing?
They’ve played extremely well. I think one of the most impressive things is how they have played, especially Max (Starks) coming off the couch. We knew Marcus Gilbert had a chance. He kept injuring that shoulder. He’s fairly healthy now. They’ve made a big difference in their protection. You’re missing it if you say that they haven’t.

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