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Steelers Blog

Steelers Playoff Diary – 1/7

Posted by Teresa Varley on January 7, 2012 – 9:45 pm

Saturday, January 7

The Steelers held a walk-thru on Saturday morning, before boarding a plane and heading to Denver to take on the Broncos on Sunday afternoon.
There was some good news for a few former Steelers on Saturday afternoon as Jerome Bettis, Dermontti Dawson, Kevin Greene and Jack Butler were all finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2012. There are 15 modern-era finalists and two senior members, including Butler.

The Class of 2012 will be announced on February 4 in Indianapolis.

Dawson learned of being a finalist when he received a text from former Steelers wide receiver Louis Lipps, which was then followed up by phone calls and other messages from friends.

“The way I approach it, if I am selected, then I am selected. If I am not, I’m not,” said Dawson, who has been down this road before as a finalist. “At least I am a finalist so I have another opportunity. I just take it one day at a time. That is it.”

Dawson, who played for the Steelers from 1988-2000, is considered one of the best to play the game but has the disadvantage of being at a position where he doesn’t have stats.

“I think that is part of it as well,” said Dawson. “That is a hard thing for offensive linemen. It’s supposed to be based on what you did as a player, what you contributed to the game. We are not stat guys, except for jumping offside or holding, those are the only stats we have. Everything is about stats and that makes it tougher for offensive linemen to get in there. You have only had a handful of centers to get in the Hall of Fame. The percentage is very low when it comes to offensive linemen.”

The perfect scenario for Dawson would be him and his former teammate Bettis going in the Hall together this year.

“That would be great,” said Dawson. “If both of us were elected…I don’t know if it’s happened before with two teammates but it would be great.

“Jerome is more than deserving to be elected. He was consistent throughout his career. Every year he was consistent. He wasn’t the typical running back. He wasn’t a super speedy guy. He got it done, came in every week and got it done. He was a load.”

Dawson continues to follow the Steelers and is looking forward to Sunday’s game against the Broncos.

“It’s going to be a good game,” said Dawson. “Overall I think it’s going to be a close game. I hope Ben’s (Roethlisberger) ankle is going to be good enough that he is going to be mobile. I think it’s going to be a competitive game.

“I think the key is going to be those guys trying to corral (Tim) Tebow and contain the running game.”

Steelers players relax for a minute before the start of the Saturday morning walk-thru – when things got down to business.

Charlie Batch mugs for the camera

Ryan Clark, one of the Steelers best dressed players,  making a “fashion” statment

Troy Polamala and Will Allen

Steelers arrive in Denver

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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 – 1/5

Posted by Teresa Varley on January 5, 2012 – 9:15 pm

Thursday, January 5

The news of the day came from the injury report following practice, with CB Cortez Allen (shoulder), LB James Harrison (toe), DE Brett Keisel (groin), RB Mewelde Moore (knee), S Troy Polamalu (calf), and C Maurkice Pouncey (ankle) not practicing.

Pouncey said his ankle started bothering him again after practicing this week.

“I practiced the other day and toward the end I got sore,” said Pouncey. “Today, I came in and my ankle was real sore, so I don’t know what the turnout is going to be. Right now, I’m not practicing.

“I’m aggravated with it. I’m kind of stressed about it. I mean an injury prolonged this long is aggravating. Hopefully, I can push through it and see how this week goes.”

There was some good news, as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (ankle) was a full participant in practice along with G Doug Legursky (shoulder) and LB LaMarr Woodley (hamstring), both practicing for the second straight day.

On the fun side, another college bowl game, another day of bragging rights for a Steelers linebacker. This time it was Mortty Ivy who was sporting a West Virginia sweatshirt and boasting about his Mountaineers victory over the Clemson Tigers at breakfast on Thursday morning.

But there was one player who wasn’t so happy with the Mountaineers 70-33 Orange Bowl win – receiver Tyler Grisham. Grisham went to Clemson and wasn’t too happy he had to wear a West Virginia t-shirt courtesy of Ivy.

“It’s pretty painful, mainly because I have to wear it for three days,” said Grisham. “It’s an hour spurt here and there. Actually the West Virginia emblem is a little small so I can hide it with my backpack or jacket or something. It’s not too bad. But I would have liked to have given him the Clemson shirt to wear.

“I would have given him an extra small to wear, which would have been worse. I am wearing a 3XL and I look like a little child.”

Jerricho Cotchery is a newcomer to the Steelers, but not to the post-season. As a matter of fact when he was with the New York Jets he lost to the Steelers twice in the post-season, including the AFC Championship game last year at Heinz Field.

During his Steelers Speak interview, where he opens up about a lot of topics and can be seen by clicking on Steelers Speak, I asked Cotchery if coming to Pittsburgh is a “if you can’t beat them, join them,” scenario.

“It may be a little of that,” laughed Cotchery. “I just know that these guys know what it takes to get to the Super Bowl and to win. There are a lot of veteran guys, veteran leadership. There are a lot of guys that got a lot of experience last year, even the young guys. There are guys that know what it takes to get there and win it. My rookie year was a bad experience coming here and the kicker missing two field goals. Last year was even tougher losing the AFC Championship game. I am happy to be here, I am happy to be with this team.”

Cotchery also talked about what makes the Steelers a special organization.

“It’s just a true family atmosphere. That is the thing I see,” said Cotchery. “Everyone looks after one another. There is no one that is bigger than the family. Every guy is approachable, you can speak to everyone. There are no egos. It’s just a true family atmosphere. It’s unique.”

To watch the complete interview and learn a lot more about Cotchery, click on Steelers Speak.

Injured running back Jonathan Dwyer was at the practice facility on Thursday and instead of wondering “what if” in regards to him getting more playing time if he were healthy, he instead was feeling bad for Rashard Mendenhall.

“I am sad about what happened to Rashard,” said Dwyer. “He was doing well. He has been healthy the majority of his career. I hope he heals as fast as he can so he can be the player he is. Hopefully the guys who are out there now take advantage of the opportunity.”

Former NFL safety John Lynch, who played for the Denver Broncos and also the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when Mike Tomlin was the secondary coach there, was at the Steelers facility today interviewing Tomlin and linebackers James Farrior and James Harrison.

Lynch chatted with me for a bit about Tomlin (you can read what he said about Tomlin by clicking here), but he also talked about the atmosphere in Denver, where he still lives.

“There hasn’t been the excitement about being in the playoffs because more people are talking about them backing in,” said Lynch. “I was a part of a Denver Broncos team that watched a sixth seed Steelers team come in and beat us in our place. I think you get in that tournament and special things can happen. I wouldn’t count them out and being around these Steelers, I know they aren’t.”

Jerricho Cotchery getting ready for Steelers Speak interview.

Antonio Brown is surrounded by the media.

And then turns the tables as he does a weekly feature for Steelers Live @ 4. Brown interviews Ramon Foster, who holds a fake dog, as Brown has a fear of dogs.

Brown interviews Emmanuel Sanders….

…and then Sanders takes the mic.
The Steelers secondary was presented a cake for being the No. 1 pass defense in the NFL.

 Safety Ryan Clark took control of a camera before practice, taking pictures of Mike Wallace.

The finished product – Clark’s photo of Wallace

LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons before practice

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Steelers Playoff Diary – 1/3

Posted by Teresa Varley on January 3, 2012 – 8:18 pm

Tuesday, January 3
The day started off the same way it ended, with snow falling in Pittsburgh. It was one of those days that keeping up with snow removal wasn’t an easy task. The Steelers field crew did an admirable job of clearing the field bright and early, even though there wasn’t practice. But as the day wore on, they were back at it again as the field was once again covered.

There was some big news coming out of the practice facility on Tuesday, particularly during the Mike Tomlin press conference. Tomlin announced that safety Ryan Clark won’t play in Denver because of the dangers involved with having the sickle cell trait and playing in the high altitude. Tomlin said Clark was okay with the decision, as both sides know it’s for his safety and that is definitely what comes first.

With Clark out, Ryan Mundy will get the start.

“In a nutshell, he is starter capable,” said Tomlin. “He has proven that. We are comfortable with what he is capable of doing. Not only him, but we also have a great deal of confidence in Will Allen as well, who is also another veteran backup safety with starter experience. They are both quality special teams players. We have no reservations of what those guys are going to be able to do for us if called upon.”

Anthony Madison was in on Tuesday signing with the team. Madison received a warm welcome from his teammates and was thrilled to be back.

“These guys are like family. I kept in touch with a lot of them,” said Madison. “They are good solid people, from the players to the coaches to the staff. They are people you want in your corner. To see Greg Warren, (Casey) Hampton, all of the guys, it’s always great to have a warm welcome.”

Tuesday was the players’ day off but you would have never known it. There was a steady stream of players in and out of the practice facility all day, some getting treatment, others working out in the weight room and some getting in a little extra film study. They all know how important this week’s game is and everyone wants to take advantage of every minute they can to prepare.

While Clark won’t be playing this week, he will be hosting the Steelers Huddle Show taping at Heinz Field on Wednesday night with special guest Antonio Brown. Stop by and check it out.

If you haven’t had a chance to check out what Hines Ward had to say about his 1,000th career reception, you can do so by watching a one-on-one interview with him. He also said that he has plenty more left in him.

“I don’t want to retire. I don’t want to play for another team,” said Ward. “I still have two years left on my contract so I want to take it year by year.”

Don’t miss what else

he said about retirement…or lack of it.

LaMarr Woodley tries to hide from the camera

Isaac Redman works out in the weight room
Today was Steelers Digest day…the latest cover. Get your subscription today

Coach Tomlin’s Press Conference

Setting up for the Mike Tomlin Show and Hines Ward interview

Snow at the start of the day … and the end of the day

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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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Steelers Playoff Diary

Posted by Teresa Varley on January 2, 2012 – 11:12 am

The calm before the storm as things were quiet first thing this morning in the Steelers media room. It won’t be that way for long, though, as it will be a busy week with the post-season now underway.  Keep checking back throughout the post-season for playoff diary entries on a regular basis.

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