Team News

October 14, 2009

Aaron Smith placed on IR


During his regular weekly news conference yesterday, Coach Mike Tomlin revealed that Aaron Smith had injured his right shoulder, and that the situation “potentially could be significant.”

It turned out to be precisely that, and the Steelers placed Smith on the injured reserve list because of the shoulder injury. The injured reserve list means Smith’s season is over.

When asked yesterday about the team’s options in light of Smith’s injury, Tomlin said, “The usual suspects. Travis Kirschke, Nick Eason and Ziggy Hood.”

To take Smith’s spot on the roster, the Steelers signed Sonny Harris from the Carolina Panthers’ practice squad. Harris was the Steelers’ sixth-round draft pick last April, and when he came to training camp the hope was that he would develop sufficiently to contribute as a practice squad player as a rookie. But after a summer in which Harris showed consistent improvement and concluded the preseason in Carolina with a nice game that included a sack, the Panthers claimed him when the Steelers put him on waivers. Because of needs at other positions, Harris subsequently was waived and signed to the Carolina practice squad. The Steelers also had plans to work out veteran Orpheus Roye.

As the team’s most recent No. 1 draft choice, Hood naturally is attracting the most attention, and Tomlin was asked about the rookie’s readiness for an expanded role. “He has played in just about every football game he’s had a helmet on,” said Tomlin. “He has played on special teams in some games, he has had more defensive snaps in others. He played a pretty significant portion of the game this past week (in Detroit). He’s a young guy who’s on the come. He’s got a lot of talent. He’s not out of the oven yet, if you will. We acknowledge that, he acknowledges that. As long as we continue to do that, he’ll continue in the right direction. He’ll continue along those lines in terms of participation, but by no means is Ziggy Hood a potential replacement for Aaron Smith at this point. It will probably be a committee of bodies trying to fill that void.”

Make no mistake, no Aaron Smith creates a void. Smith has been with the Steelers longer than any players except Hines Ward and Deshea Townsend and long has been considered a key ingredient to the Steelers 3-4 alignment.

When Smith was injured late in the 2007 and was forced onto the injured reserve list after the seasons 13th game, the Jaguars, Rams and Ravens rushed for 224, 90 and 180 yards, respectively over the last three weeks of the regular season. Smith’s teammates regularly call him the most underrated player on the defense.

Through five games this season, Smith had 13 tackles, two sacks and 14 pressures, and he also blocked a field goal attempt during the Steelers’ 13-10 win over Tennessee on Sept. 10.

May 19, 2009

LeBeau dreams up new defensive package


To say that defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau eats, sleeps and breaths football is not an understatement.

The mastermind behind the Steelers defense that was once again ranked number one in the NFL last season laid out a new defensive package for the team at OTA’s on Tuesday and it came to him the night before.

“He gave us a new defense today that he thought about last night when he was in bed,” said an amazed James Farrior. “He drew something up for us today. We expect stuff like that from Coach LeBeau. “This offseason is no different. We probably have about 10 new calls right now. They are going to keep coming. It’s the same every year, new calls in and tweaking stuff to make us better. He has a great mind.”

While the players do come to expect this kind of thing from LeBeau, they know how lucky they are to have him working his magic on the defensive scheme.

“He is constantly thinking of ways we can do better,” said defensive end Brett Keisel. “We put in a whole new package today that the wizard came up with last night. He was making some potion and somehow these X’s and O’s came up and it worked really well today so I am sure it’s something we will use.”

Keisel, who credits LeBeau and the other Steelers coaches with the success he has had in his career, knows that the new ideas will keep coming week after week because LeBeau is not someone who will ever let the team rest on their laurels.

“He is never satisfied with where we are,” said Keisel. “The last few years, I think three out of the last five, we finished number one here and it’s never enough for him. “He sometimes shows us this ring he has and it’s the Super Bowl XL ring and it’s never enough. He wants to have 10. Once he has 10 he will have to start putting them on his toes.”

April 3, 2009

Big night for LeBeau at Dapper celebration

Robert Dvorchak- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Dick LeBeau exceeded his time limit in accepting the Dapper Dan Lifetime Achievement Award, but he wasn't about to apologize.

"It's a pretty big night for me, so I'm going to go a little bit long," he said, laughing.

"This really is a great day to be alive. I love you, Pittsburgh. You're never going to get rid of me now."

LeBeau received tributes from players past and present, including Rod Woodson, Jason Gildon, Brett Keisel and James Farrior. "Playing for him is like having your dad on the field," said safety Ryan Clark.

LeBeau was born in 1939, the year the first Dapper Dan Award went to champion light heavyweight boxer Billy Conn, the original Pittsburgh Kid.

Last night, on what was a celebration of the Super Bowl victory and a tribute to all the sports moments in the city, LeBeau joined Arnold Palmer, Joe Paterno and Dan Rooney as recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award.

"I came from California to be here because of one man -- Dick LeBeau," said Woodson. "He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame for what he did as a player, and for what he has done to confound offenses and quarterbacks for the last 36 years as a coach. He's the godfather of the zone blitz. He's true, he's honest, he's authentic."

LeBeau's moment came on the same night that Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was honored as Sportsman of the Year and Pitt guard Shavonte Zellous, the school's first female All-American, received the award as Sportswoman of the Year.

Tomlin won the award in his second year after leading the Steelers to an unprecedented sixth Super Bowl title, which prompted city council to change the city's name to Sixburgh and prompted Mayor Luke Ravenstahl to change his last name to Steelerstahl before the AFC championship game against the Baltimore Ravens.

"I have the best coaching job in professional sports," Tomlin said. "I want to thank the Rooneys for giving me the opportunity to do what I do. And our players and our coaches are second to none."

December 8, 2008

Steelers' defense deserves more credit

John Harris-Pittsburgh Tribune

Besides shutting down some of the best offenses in the NFL, the Steelers' defense also scores points. There practically isn't anything this defense doesn't do.

For those skeptics and nonbelievers who won't be satisfied with anything less than a Steelers' victory in Super Bowl XLII, Sunday's thrilling, 20-13 win over the Dallas Cowboys at Heinz Field probably won't change your point of view.

You will focus on Dallas receiver Terrell Owens' third-quarter touchdown catch, instead of that Owens, facing single coverage from cornerback Ike Taylor, was limited to three catches for 32 yards.

You will complain about the Steelers' inconsistent offense that produced only a field goal through the first three quarters but scored 10 points in the final 15 minutes when anything less would have meant defeat.

That's too bad because you're witnessing history in the making.

The Steelers defense is so talented and dominant in every conceivable way that merely calling it great should be considered an insult.

"We're underrated. People don't really say nothing (good) about us," nose tackle Casey Hampton said. "We always hear about everybody else. We like it like that. We like for people to overlook us."

Prior to yesterday's game, the worst thing that could be said about the Steelers' top-ranked defense is that it prevented points from being scored but rarely scored them, as other top defenses have done. It's time to find something else to complain about.

Veteran cornerback Deshea Townsend, dropping back in a three-deep zone on second-and-8 from the Dallas 17 with less than 2 minutes remaining, intercepted quarterback Tony Romo and sped 25 yards for the winning touchdown.

"We made some big plays today. We finally scored," inside linebacker Larry Foote said. "We put pressure on ourselves. A lot of defenses have scored. It was a great game to get one."

It was a typical game for the Steelers this season because the defense's mistakes were magnified since they commit so few of them.

The Steelers held the Cowboys to 289 total yards, marking the 13th game this season that their opponent failed to gain 300 yards.

Romo escaped the pass rush to buy time and connect with Owens in the back of the end zone, giving the Cowboys a 10-3 lead in the third quarter. But he finished the game 19 of 36 passing for 210 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions, and he was sacked three times.

"We left a lot of things on the field. We gave up a lot of big plays," outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley said.

Woodley got it twisted. He made the second-biggest play on Townsend's interception when he rushed inside, pressured Romo up the middle and forced him to throw in a hurry. "I saw the inside move, so I decided to take it," Woodley said. "A lot of tackles have been playing me hard upfield lately, setting themselves up and make sure they don't get bull-rushed. I got underneath."

After telling himself to "catch it .. catch it," Townsend took care of the rest.

"It was the same route they had been running all night, the same route they ran earlier" Townsend said.

And it was the same Steelers defense that validated its No. 1 ranking when it KO'd another opponent.

November 7, 2008

Linebackers' success due to Steelers' defensive line

Jim Wexell-Herold- Standard

PITTSBURGH - The Steelers' linebackers are on a record pace for sacks, but they're quick to put the credit elsewhere.

"It starts with the line," said LaMarr Woodley, a first-year starter who knows how to grease the right wheels.

"That a way to respect your elders," said Aaron Smith at the next-door locker. Smith, of course, is the elder statesman of the Steelers' starting line, but his play's not slowing down a bit.

"Aaron Smith, they just don't block him," said coordinator Dick LeBeau. "I've been back five years and I can count on one hand the number of times in five years he's been blocked. Why people don't recognize that around the league, I don't know. He's tremendous."

And then there are the guys next to him. Casey Hampton blew open the middle of the Washington Redskins' line a couple of times Monday night. On fourth down at the one-yard line, both Hampton and Chris Hoke stacked bodies so high behind the center that the league's leading rusher wouldn't have made it back to the line even if he'd tried. The Redskins were instead wise enough - after watching tape of the Steelers' magnificent goal line stand the previous week - to throw.

The pass fell incomplete, giving the Steelers goal-line stands in successive weeks against the Nos. 1 and 2 rushing attacks in the NFL. It reflected back to the Steelers' rugged line.

"Those are huge," said Hoke. "They give your team a lot of energy, and a lot of excitement, too."

Imagine how the defense will feel the next time it's backed up at the goal line.

"Arrogance," Hoke said, before adjusting his comment. "No, confidence. There'll be some confidence for sure."

Arrogance, too, and why not? This could be the best defensive line the Steelers have had since Chuck Noll went to a 3-4 alignment back in the early 1980s.

"Across the front, I think all three of us, whoever's in there, are playing well," said Smith. "We haven't always had that. Usually there were guys here or guys there, but everybody's playing well now, even the reserves. That's the biggest thing. You can come off the field and the guy behind you will do the job. That's a big advantage, and one people don't appreciate, but it makes a big difference. You don't have to pace yourself now. You can play hard every play and come out if you need a break."

Smith used to be the Iron Horse for the Steelers, and Brett Keisel knew that all too well.

"I was behind him," Keisel said. "He never used to come out of the game. I used to beg him, but he'd say, 'Ah, no.'"

Keisel's grown into that role now. He played the most snaps of the starting three Monday, and at halftime apologized to his backup, Travis Kirschke.

"It's hard for me to come out because I really love being out there with those guys," Keisel said, and that enthusiasm shows. Keisel, the fastest of the three, came down the line at one point Monday night and nearly decapitated Clinton Portis.

Was that Keisel's favorite play of the game?

"My favorite play would probably be Aaron's sack, just because I love it when he or any interior guy gets a sack," he said. "Nick (Eason)'s sack was great, too, but I liked this one because Aaron and I have that nice little dance we bust out in if one of us gets a sack. It's sweet man."

Keisel calls this the best defensive line he's seen since he was drafted in 2002. "Just the speed we have," he said. "And the attention to detail each guy has, each position, as far as getting their job done. When coach LeBeau calls a play, we know what it's for, what it's trying to stop. I just think everybody has a real good understanding of what we can do, what we're capable of, and we go out and get it done. And it's so much fun when we do."

The Steelers lead the NFL at the halfway point in overall defense, sacks, yards per play, passing defense, yardage on first downs and red zone efficiency. They allow 2.9 yards per rush and only 70.1 rush yards per game. The Steelers have led the NFL in run defense since 2001, a reflection of the stellar line play over the years.

But this line just might be the best of the lot.

"We're blessed to have guys from top to bottom who can really play in this league," said LeBeau. "I think they've proven that, and I'm just a lucky coach to have them."

November 5, 2008

This defense doesn't rest


It read this way: field goal, field goal, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, blocked punt, end of half.

That how each of the Washington Redskins’ first half offensive series ended in last Monday night’s game against the Steelers, and their two field goal “drives” lasted a total of six plays and gained a combined 14 yards.

Calling the Steelers defense the league’s best unit to this point in the 2008 season might be debated by the representative from Baltimore, but there are statistics that help make Pittsburgh’s case.

The Steelers defense currently is ranked in the top five in 10 different defensive categories, including yards allowed, sacks, third-down conversions and points allowed. And their run defense, which was a bit of a problem at the end of the 2007 season, has been as stingy and nasty as ever.

When Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew managed 24 yards on 15 carries, it was, well, the Jaguars offensive line was operating without three injured starters. But when the Giants’ Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward went 31 times for 84 yards, a 2.7 average, while running behind the best offensive line in football, there was no way to mitigate the accomplishment.

And then, there was the job the Steelers did on Clinton Portis, who came into the game leading the NFL in yards rushing and rushing touchdowns. Portis finished with 51 yards on 13 carries, and 22 of those yards came on one first quarter carry.

“The main thing is they had a great running game, but we stop the run,” said Tyrone Carter, who started at free safety in place of the injured Ryan Clark. “Every time we step on the field, we feel we’re the best. We just have to being our A-game every night.”

The Steelers defense seemed to have its A-game right from the start, even if the same could not be said for special teams or the offense.

An unsuccessful onside kick to open the game, plus an offside penalty to boot, gave the Redskins the ball in field goal range right off the bat. Three plays later, they settled for a field goal.

Then when Ben Roethlisberger was intercepted on the Steelers’ first third-down situation of the game, the Redskins offense again took the field already in field goal range. Three plays later, they settled for another field goal.

And so even though the Steelers defense allowed only 14 total yards on the Redskins first two offensive possessions, the team trailed, 6-0.

“We have a philosophy of give us a blade of grass to defend and we will defend it; they embraced that,” said Coach Mike Tomlin of his defense. “It was not the first time that they have taken the field under those circumstances, and it probably won’t be the last. I think that we have the kind of defensive unit that responds to those challenges. That is why you are comfortable taking some of the risks that you take at times because of what they are capable of doing.”

The Redskins offense also was capable of big plays, thanks to the presence of Santana Moss at wide receiver. In the previous few weeks, Moss had returned a punt 80 yards for a touchdown and caught a 67-yard pass for another score. And remember, the Steelers played the Redskins without Clark, whose absence last season triggered a flurry of big plays allowed by the secondary.

“(Allowing big plays) was a big concern of ours going into the game because they did have big play threats,” said Tomlin. “Santana Moss is a guy who is capable of taking the top off the coverage. (Antwaan) Randle El was great after the catch. Clinton Portis is Clinton Portis. If we were to play well last night, we felt like we had to limit big plays as much as we could.

“For the most part I think we were successful at doing that. Clinton (Portis) bounced out and got out for 22 yards on us pretty quickly one time and that is what he is capable of. But other than that I thought we did a good job of managing that and trying to make them earn it as they went down the field.”

October 27, 2008

Smith's play teaches valuable lesson

Ron Cook- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Big, tough Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel nearly was in tears. It wasn't because of the hurtful 21-14 loss to the New York Giants last night. That disappointed Keisel and ticked him off more than it made him want to cry. No, the emotions came pouring out when he was asked what it meant to see teammate Aaron Smith line up with him on the defensive line after a serious personal crisis forced Smith to miss all of practice last week.

"I love the guy so much," Keisel said, his voice quivering just a bit. "He's the best. If I could be like him and live my life like he lives his, I'd die a happy man. I'm just so thankful he's in my life."

Smith declined interview requests after the game and asked for privacy, which he surely will get here this morning. But he did say it wasn't a hard decision to show up for the game even though he had been excused by coach Mike Tomlin and the Rooneys.

"This was the best part of my week -- by far -- even though we lost," Smith said. "This was where I needed to be for a few hours. There's nowhere I'd rather be than right here. These guys are family to me. I'm closer to them than I am to my own brothers."

Smith's difficult situation added greatly to an almost unbelievable week of distractions for the Steelers. First, there was the aftermath of wide receiver Hines Ward's season-ending hit on Cincinnati rookie linebacker Keith Rivers last Sunday. Then, there was the meeting Wednesday with a couple of NFL czars, who came to town to explain to Ward and others on the team just how and why the league goes about its business of fining players for their transgressions. Finally, there was wide receiver Santonio Holmes' arrest Thursday for possession of a small amount of marijuana, an issue that so incensed Tomlin that he deactivated Holmes for the game and told him to stay away from the team until today.

All things considered, a Steelers win against the defending Super Bowl champions probably was too much to ask, especially after long snapper Greg Warren (knee) and valuable safety Ryan Clark (shoulder) were injured during the game. You don't think about a snapper until he's gone. Well, you thought about the position last night after Warren went down late in the third quarter and the emergency backup -- linebacker James Harrison -- snapped the ball over punter Mitch Berger's head for a safety.

"I've never been through a week like this," safety Troy Polamalu said after it finally was over and he prepared to head off into the night. "I truly believe if we had somehow won this game, after everything that had happened, we would have really set ourselves up as a special, special team."

The Steelers didn't win, but it wasn't because they didn't leave everything on the field. That's why Tomlin made it a point to greet each player on his way into the locker room after the game, shake his hand and say, "I appreciate your effort." When Smith passed by, the two shared a long hug.

Smith isn't just one of the team's top players and a respected leader in the locker room and on the field. He's one of the more popular teammates.

"Unbelievable," Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said of Smith's decision to play. "An emotional day for him and for us," nose tackle Chris Hoke said. "Every single one of us wanted to win the game for him." "If he wouldn't have been out here, no one would have cared," Roethlisberger added. "He's got a bigger battle to fight."

It's tough for any player to miss a week's practice and still play at a high level, even a 10-year veteran. But Smith was on the field for all but a handful of plays. It was a good thing for the Steelers, who almost certainly would have lost by a much bigger margin without their best run-stopper.

We saw how much less the Steelers were as a team last season when Smith missed the stretch run and playoff loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars because of a torn biceps. The Giants came in as the NFL's top rushing team, yet managed only 83 yards on 35 carries, a paltry 2.4-yard average.

"It's hard to miss practice like that, but, if anyone can do it, it's Aaron," Polamalu said. "You know what you're going to get from him every play. He's such a smart player and his technique is so flawless."

Keisel has been studying Smith's game for years. "From the second I landed here, I've had my eyes on 91, just watching how he practices and how he gets himself ready to play."

Now, Smith is teaching Keisel and his other teammates something much more important.

He's teaching them how to deal with one of those tough breaks that life throws at all of us from time to time.

"The man's strength amazes me," Keisel said, tearing up again.

On and off the field.

October 19, 2008

Steelers pull away from Bengals

Scott Brown-Tribune-Review

Ben Roethlisberger threw a pair of touchdown passes, including a 50-yarder to Nate Washington, as the Steelers improved to 5-1 with a 38-10 win over the Bengals today.

Running back Mewelde Moore caught one of those touchdown passes and scored two more on the ground as the Steelers rolled to yet another win in Cincinnati.

The Steelers have not lost to the Bengals in Cincinnati since 2001. They play the defending Super Bowl champion Giants next Sunday at Heinz Field.

The Steelers took an early 10-0 lead today but let the Bengals, who are now 0-7, hang around at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals were only trailing 17-10 early in the fourth quarter when Roethlisberger and Washington hooked up for a long touchdown for the second consecutive game.

The Steelers got a big game from Moore, who again started for the injured Willie Parker (knee), and put the game out of reach with a 2-yard touchdown run with just over five minutes left in the game.

Moore rushed for 120 yards on 20 carries, marking the first time since 2005 that he has eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark in a game.

Roethlisberger, meanwhile, shook off a sluggish start to throw for 216 yards on 17 of 28 of passing.

The Steelers sacked Bengals quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick seven times. Linebackers James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons all had two sacks apiece.

Safety Troy Polamalu (head) and cornerback Bryant McFadden (arm) each left the game in the second half because of injuries and did not return.

October 6, 2008

Bruised defense delivers in clutch

Bob Smizik-Post Gazette

With the Steelers running back corps decimated, the conventional wisdom was they would have to rely on their passing offense to secure a win against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Actually, there was another method of securing victory: Shut down the Jacksonville offense.

And that's what a gallant Steelers defensive until did last night at Jacksonville Memorial Stadium, helping the Steelers secure a 26-21 victory that sent them into a bye week with a 4-1 record and feeling good about the much-needed time off and even better about their prospects for the remainder of the schedule.

The Steelers have won four of five while being racked with injuries. If they can get healthier in the next 14 days, they'll be all the more formidable for the remaining 11 games.

It was an 8-yard pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Hines Ward with 1:53 remaining that won the game. But this was a victory achieved every bit as much by the might of the defensive unit, particularly the injury-ravaged line.

The Steelers had no right to expect what they got from their defense. Not with two starters -- end Brett Keisel and nose tackle Casey Hampton -- out of the lineup. But their backups more than did the job. Chris Hoke took over for Hampton and Travis Kirschke for Keisel. Orpheus Roye, who was signed Aug. 17, backed up Kirschke.

"I can't say enough about Hokey and Travis Kirschke," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "And how big is Orpheus Roye? We go get him late in the process and thankfully we have him. He's been delivering for us."

The running back tandem of Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew, which tortured the Steelers last year, carried 15 times for 26 yards.

"There are lots of guys to mention," Tomlin said. "The pass rush we got from No. 92 [James Harrison]. Bryant McFadden ... you can run down the list. It was a great overall team win."

The Jacksonville point total was in no way a reflection of how well the Steelers defense played. The Jaguars might have finished with seven points -- not 21.

Their first touchdown came on a 72-yard interception return by Rashean Mathis. Their second touchdown was greatly aided by a 41-yard phantom penalty. They got the ball on the 1 late in the first quarter after Ike Taylor was called for pass interference in the end zone. Replays showed the contact came after the ball had sailed beyond the reach of receiver Matt Jones. Jones-Drew scored from the 1 to give the Jaguars the lead, 14-7.

The first-half dominance of the Steelers can best be shown by the statistics, not the point total. Jacksonville managed only four first down and 49 yards of total offense in the first 30 minutes as the Steelers controlled the clock. The Jaguars did not get a first down on three of their four first-half possessions.

Momentum switched in the second half as the Steelers offense failed to get a first down in the third quarter and the Jaguars' offense took a forward step.

The first time the Jaguars got the ball in the second half they moved for two first down to the Steelers 36. From there, two passes failed and a third netted a holding penalty which left them in a third-and-20 situation. They were ripe for a blitz and linebacker Lamarr Woodley did just that -- nailing quarterback David Garrard for a 7-yard loss.

On their next possession, after Jones-Drew was stopped for no gain on third and 1, coach Jack Del Rio went for it on fourth down and Garrard passed 15 yards to Jones. But here the defense again held. Aaron Smith batted down a fourth-down pass by Garrard.

But the Jaguars were gaining confidence and the Steelers defense, getting little help from the offense, was wearing down. On the Jaguars next possession, which began late in the third quarter, they moved 76 yards on six plays for a go-ahead touchdown with 14:05 remaining. The score came after a crucial penalty against safety Ryan Clark. After a Garrard pass had gone incomplete, which would have left the Jaguars in a third-and-16 situation, Clark hit Jones after the play, an obvious 15-yard penalty. Given life, on the next play Garrard threw a 24-yard touchdown pass Marcedes Walker.

But the offense found a spark and came back for the go-ahead score.

That brought the defense out for one more stand. The Jaguars had the time -- 1 minute, 53 seconds -- and the timeouts -- two -- to get the job done. But they didn't have the ability to handle the Steelers defense. They managed one first down -- on a fourth-and-9 situation -- but nothing more. Harrison sacked Garrard for a 6-yard loss on second down and the next two passes were incomplete.

The defense held the Jaguars to 213 yards, more than 200 fewer than the Steelers accumulated. It was a stellar defensive effort and the major reason for the win.

September 23, 2008

A good effort by the defense

By: Teresa

The Eagles went into Sunday’s game against the Steelers as one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL, averaging 37.5 points in their first two games. And the Steelers defense was ready for the challenge.

They held them to 15 points and allowed only 260 yards and 16 first downs, a performance which normally would solidify a Steelers win. It didn’t.

“I want to say right now that I have to thank our defense,” said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. “They gave us many chances to win that game. They were the reason that we were able to stay close and have an opportunity to win the game. My hat goes off to our defense and the way they played -- it was something special.”

Special it was, but unfortunately special doesn’t go too far when you don’t win the game. This isn’t a team that looks for style points, they look for victories.

“We did still allow the Eagles to put 15 points up on the board,” said linebacker LaMarr Woodley. “We cannot totally be satisfied because we let them put up more points then we did. I do not worry what the offense does because on the defensive side, we have to keep the scoring down.”

The Steelers forced three Eagles turnovers with Bryant McFadden and Troy Polamalu both intercepting Donovan McNabb and McFadden adding a fumble recovery. It was a good sign for the defense, no doubt, but they still know there is work to be done.

“It is still really too early in the season right now to know where we are at,” said Woodley of the defense. “But when you lose, you have to go in and look at things and make some changes. We have to make some corrections, so it does not happen next week. I think we will come out next Monday and not make the same mistakes.”

September 21, 2008

Eagles shred Steelers, 15-6.

By: Scott Brown-Tribune-Review

An offensive line that had played reasonably well in the Steelers first two games got exposed today at Lincoln Financial field.

As a result, the Steelers have now lost eight consecutive games to the Eagles in Philadelphia.

The Eagles sacked quarterback Ben Roethlisberger eight times and never allowed the Steelers offense to get into a rhythm in a 15-6 victory.

The Steelers (2-1) managed just a pair of Jeff Reed field goals and have not scored a touchdown in their last six quarters.

Roethlisberger threw for just 131 yards on 13 of 25 passing, while Willie Parker managed just 20 rushing yards on 13 carries. Roethlisberger came out of the late in the fourth quarter and did not return.

The Steelers try to get back on track next Monday night when they plays the Ravens at Heinz Field.

Baltimore (2-0) leads the AFC North after beating the Browns today.

The Steelers forced three turnovers and played well enough on defense to win. Troy Polamalu and Bryant McFadden each intercepted a pass. McFadden, who started at cornerback in place of the injured Deshea Townsend, also recovered a fumble.

In the first half, Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb completed his first 15 pass attempts in leading Philadelphia (2-1) to a 10-3 lead. McNabb, however, threw an interception late in the first half, setting up a 53-yard Jeff Reed field goal. Roethlisberger threw his first interception of the season and was sacked six times in the first half.

He lost a fumble in the second quarter that led to a David Akers field goal.

Reed had a pair of field goals and the 53-yarder, the longest of his career, cut the Eagles'A lead to 10-6, going into intermission. The Steelers got no closer in the second half as the Eagles relentless defense and the punting of Sav Rocca loomed large when the game turned into one of field position.

A lost fumble by Roethlisberger deep in Steelers territory with 3 minutes, 31 seconds left in the game all but ended any chances of a comeback.

September 7, 2008

Steelers slam Texans


Willie Parker rushed for 138 and a career-high three touchdowns and Ben Roethlisberger misfired on just one pass as the Steelers throttled the Texans, 38-17, today in front of a capacity crowd at Heinz Field.

The Steelers, who visit the Browns next Sunday, won their sixth consecutive season opener, which is the longest streak in the NFL. Parker showed no lingering effects from the broken leg that ended his 2007 season while Roethlisberger completed 13-of-14 passes for 137 yards and a pair of touchdowns in front of an announced crowd of 64,001.

Roethlisberger came out of the game for good after his 16-yard touchdown pass to Hines Ward with two minutes left in the third quarter allowed the Steelers to take a 35-3 lead.

Ward caught both of Roethlisberger's touchdown passes while hauling in six passes for 76 yards.

The Steelers' defense dominated the Texans and set the tone on the first possession of the game when it stopped Houston on a fourth-and-one near midfield.

LaMarr Woodley made his first NFL start a memorable one as he recorded a sacks, made an acrobatic interception and recovered a fumble.

Woodley's first career interception in the second quarter - he stopped a Matt Schaub pass with his left forearm and then caught the ball -- set up Ward's first touchdown reception of the game.

That gave the Steelers a 21-0 lead.

The Steelers looked like they were going to put the game away on Houston's ensuing possession after Troy Polamalu intercepted Schaub deep in Texans' territory. Houston defensive end Mario Williams, however, sacked Roethlisberger, forcing a fumble that DeMeco Ryans returned to the Steelers' 24-yard line.

A face-mark penalty moved the ball to the 12-yard line but the Steelers held and the Texans had to settle for a 34-yard field goal by Kris Brown. The Steelers wasted little time in extending the 21-3 lead they had taken into halftime.

They marched 71 yards in 10 plays -- nine of them were runs -- on the opening possession of the second half. Parker capped the drive with a 3-yard touchdown run and Houston never seriously threatened the rest of the way.

August 31, 2008

Steelers unveil rejuvenated pass rush

By: Mike Prisuta-Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

They managed just one sack against Carolina. Then again, the urgency of approach was such in the Steelers' preseason finale Thursday night that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger departed having officially attempted zero passes.

The substitutes started hitting the field even before Roethlisberger called it a night, with several lining up the second time the Steelers positioned themselves to return a kickoff just over five minutes into the first quarter.

The starting offense and defense played just two series. And the Panthers starters didn't play at all.

The three previous preseason games the Steelers played weren't exactly perceived as make-or-break affairs, either.

But the combined 10 sacks they had collected against Philadelphia, Buffalo and Minnesota, including six from starting linebackers James Harrison, James Farrior and LaMarr Woodley and starting defensive end Aaron Smith, had the Steelers encouraged about the potential of their pass rush this season.

"We've got some guys individually that are rushing well that haven't played complete games," Tomlin said. "You envision those guys putting a lot of pressure on the quarterback."

Although the starters failed to add to their sack totals against Carolina, pressure generated from a blitz contributed to an interception by cornerback Bryant McFadden that ended the Panthers' second possession.

The ability to consistently generate such pressure is what matters to defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.

Woodley, a second-year pro and first-year starter in Clark Haggans' vacated outside linebacker spot, concurs. "If you keep pressure on the quarterback, have him in there (in the pocket) with the happy feet, that's something we'd like to do and continue to do," Woodley said.

LeBeau's defenses have endeavored over the years to produce pressure through the disguising of coverages and blitzes that rely more on deception than overwhelming numbers.

The plan this year may involve taking deception to another level through the increased use of "walk-around" defenses in passing situations. The Steelers re-introduced these looks to their defense last season.

While remaining relatively basic in approach this preseason, they featured on occasion defenses in passing situations in which only Smith had has hand on the ground when the ball was snapped.

There's much more where that came from, defensive end Brett Keisel said, if the Steelers can perfect it.

"We have some nice things in place," Keisel said. "Whether we can all get on the same page and use them, I hope so. All that stuff can create a great deal of difficulty for an offense. You don't know who's coming (on a blitz) and that has a nice impact.

"We want to make them think we're doing one thing and do another. That's kinda the way the league is going. It's kind of developing into that type of scheme."

The Steelers approached last season intent on improving their pass rush. Their sacks total fell from 39 to 36 but they wound up No. 1 in the NFL in total defense after finishing ninth in 2006.

The intent for the regular season that begins Sept. 7 against Houston is to ramp up the pressure, pile up the sacks and have fun doing both.

"We're all kind of in a nice competition," Keisel said. "We're all kind of talking to each other about different sack dances and things like that. Hopefully, we can bust those out.

"We expect a lot from ourselves this year as far as getting to the quarterback."

August 28, 2008

Steelers beat Panthers 19-16

By Ed Bouchette-Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Jeff Reed kicked a 43-yard field goal with no time left to lift the Steelers to a 19-16 victory over the Carolina Panthers tonight at Heinz Field, ending their preseason schedule at 3-1.

The Panthers had tied the game 16-16 with 1:54 left on a 19-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Brett Basanez to Chris Hannon.

The Steelers led the Carolina Panthers 16-6 after three quarters of their final exhibition game in Heinz Field tonight.

Jeff Reed kicked his fourth field goal of the game, from 41 yards, for the only score in the quarter. He also missed one wide right from 43 yards.

The Steelers led the Panthers 13-6 at halftime.

The team's traded field goals in the second quarter: Jeff Reed kicked his third of the half, from 49 yards, and John Kasay of Carolina kicked his second, from 33 yards.

The Steelers took a 10-3 lead at the end of the first quarter against Carolina before a sparse audience at the North Shore stadium.

John Kasay kicked a 32-yard field goal for Carolina. The Steelers scored on Carey Davis' 6-yard run and Jeff Reed's 41-yard field goal.

August 23, 2008

Steelers defeat Vikes on field goals

By: Scott Brown-Trib-Review

Apparently no one wanted to answer to outside linebacker James Harrison.

Seeing its most (and probably last) extensive action of the preseason Saturday, the Steelers defense played with the kind of urgency and intensity that Harrison said –- well, huffed is more like it -- had been noticeably absent during the team’s first two exhibition games.

The Vikings managed just one touchdown in the almost three quarters they played against the Steelers’ first-team defense. And the Steelers dominated the line of scrimmage, shutting down Minnesota’s running back tandem of Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor while sacking quarterback Gus Frerotte three times in a 12-10 win over the Vikings in front of a sellout crowd of 62,625.

Jeff Reed kicked a 47-yarder at the end of the game to deliver the victory.

Unfortunately for the Steelers (2-1 in preseason games), their offense hardly put on a clinic as it mostly sputtered amidst the ear-splitting noise inside the Metrodome. And its struggles probably left Mike Tomlin rubbing his temples more than anything in what amounted to something of a homecoming for the Steelers coach.

The Steelers couldn’t establish the run Saturday night and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger probably had to sidestep Minnesota’s pass rush too many times for Tomlin’s liking.

Perhaps the most noteworthy thing the Steelers did in the opening two quarters -– the starters on offense didn’t play after halftime -- was unveil a new trick play. Not that the two times Willie Parker took a direct snap from center fooled the Vikings as the plays netted a grand total of five yards. Parkers rushed for just 18 yards on 10 carries Saturday night but at least the Pro Bowler hung onto the ball.

Rookie first-round pick Rashard Mendenhall fumbled on his second carry of the game -– the first of two he had Saturday -- and the Vikings recovered the loose ball at the Steelers’ 47-yard line late in the first quarter.

Frerotte, starting for the injured Tarvaris Jackson, completed three straight passes, moving the Vikings inside the Steelers’ 5-yard line. And Peterson broke a scoreless by diving into the end from the 1-yard line.

The Steelers went three and out on their ensuing possession but Ike Taylor gave them excellent position when he intercepted a Frerotte pass at Minnesota's 34-yard line. The offense netted only 18 yards during a nine-play drive and the Steelers had to settle for a 35-yard field goal by Jeff Reed. Perhaps nothing better illustrated the timing issues the offense seemed to have Saturday night than the end of the Steelers’ only scoring drive in the first half. On third and 14 from Vikings’ 16-yard line, the offensive line gave Roethlisberger plenty of time to throw and Nate Washington flashed open near the goal line. The pass, however, sailed wide of Washington as he appeared to be moving in one direction while Roethlisberger threw it the other way.

The Steelers only have one more exhibition game before the start of the regular season. And the starters on both sides of the ball figure to play sparingly Thursday night when the Panthers visit Heinz Field.

Roethlisberger completed 10 of 17 passes against the Vikings but he managed just 65 yards passing. The top three Steelers’ wide receivers combined for two catches for 17 yards. Santonio Holmes did not have a reception.

Harrison and fellow outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley each sacked Frerotte while defensive end Aaron Smith also recorded a take down of the Ford City native.

The news was not all good on the defensive side of the ball as starting inside linebacker Larry Foote left the game in the first quarter with a knee injury and did not return.

In the second half, Mendenhall rushed for 69 of his game-high 73 yards but he lost another fumble with the Steelers trailing by a point late in the fourth quarter and driving.

Reed, however, bailed him out with the game-winning field goal that came with less than four seconds to play.

August 21, 2008

Steelers sign LB James Farrior to 5-year deal


The Pittsburgh Steelers signed linebacker James Farrior to a five-year $18.25 million contract extension that includes a $5 million signing bonus.

Farrior, who is entering his 12th season, was signed through this season, but said he hoped to sign an extension that would keep him in Pittsburgh until he retired. Farrior's agent, Ralph Cindrich, said this contract will do that.

"That's the game plan, to finish out my career here," Farrior said. "The Steelers have been good to me, and I have put all my heart and soul into this, so I'll just try to close it out."

"James has played at an extremely high level the entire time I have been here," second-year coach Mike Tomlin said. "Not only is he an outstanding player, he's also an outstanding professional and, of course, he's an outstanding leader for us."

The meat of the contract is the first three seasons, valued at $12.6 million, including $10 million in the first two years. The last two years were tacked on primarily to ease the team's salary cap concerns, but Farrior said he hasn't ruled out playing beyond even the contract's fifth season.

"I'm going to go until they tell me I can't go no more," Farrior said. "I got five years on the deal, and I plan on playing it all. I'm going to be an old man. By the time I get out of here, I'm going to collect Social Security."

Fellow inside linebacker Larry Foote said Farrior is the kind of unique player who might be able to play that long.

"There are certain guys like that around the league, Junior Seau and James Farrior, guys that just keep playing," Foote said. "God just made him a defensive football player. Not a football player _ just a defensive football player."

Farrior played five seasons for the New York Jets before joining the Steelers as a free agent in 2002. He has been one of the Steelers' defensive co-captains since 2004 when he was selected to play in the Pro Bowl and was runner up for NFL defensive player of the year.

Farrior has missed just four of the Steelers' last 96 regular-season games, starting in all the others. He has 705 tackles in his six years with the team.

"He means everything to (the defense)," defensive end Brett Keisel said. "He's the heart and soul of our defense. He makes all the right calls, puts everyone in the right situations. We're all happy he'll be here a little bit longer."

August 20, 2008

Steelers news

Troy Polamalu was able to practice this week, and said he feels great.

Charlie Batch is also progressing well. His rehab has started and he was seen without the protective sling before training camp ended.

Santonio Holmes may be returning punts this week vs. Minnesota, so that should be fun to watch!

Tomlin says he will start Hartwig at center against the Vikings. He hopes to make a decision on the official starter at that position before the last preseason game.

The team is 1-1 in preseason play so far.

August 8, 2008

Steelers win preseason opener

By: Scott Brown-Tribune-Review

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was apparently as anxious to see Willie Parker as the media and fans.

The Steelers called Parker's number on the first three plays of their preseason opener tonight. And after his third carry, one in which Parker followed a block by left tackle Marvel Smith and ripped off an 11-yard gain, it became apparent that the Pro Bowl running back is up and running.

Unfortunately for the Steelers, who beat the Eagles, 16-10, one of their most important backups won't be running or throwing anytime soon.

Charlie Batch left the game in the first quarter with a broken collarbone. His loss leaves the Steelers with two rookies, fifth-round pick Dennis Dixon and undrafted free agent Mike Potts, behind Ben Roethlisberger and may compel the team to sign a veteran quarterback.

Parker had been the story before the Steelers announced Batch's injury. Playing in his first game since breaking his lower right leg last December, Parker gained 20 yards on three carries in the Steelers' win/loss to the Eagles at Heinz Field. His night ended long before the sun went down tonight -- and even before Santonio Holmes capped the Steelers' opening drive of the night with a 19-yard touchdown reception.

"It was big for me personally, getting on that field and running and getting everything all back," Parker said. "It's just like a dream come true. I've been thinking about this for a long time."

There weren't many conclusions to draw from the Steelers' first preseason game. And as entertainment value goes the action on the field may not have measured up to the Frisbee-catching dogs that performed right before kickoff and again during halftime.

As with Parker, the Steelers turned Roethlisberger into a spectator even before the first quarter had ended.

Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense made it look easy the one series the starters did play together. The Steelers marched 80 yards in just eight plays and gave the Eagles a steady dose of Parker and rookie running back Rashard Mendenhall.

Roethlisberger completed both of his pass attempts for 38 yards before giving way to Batch. On Steelers' first touchdown, Holmes caught a short pass in the flat, put a couple of jukes on safety Brian Dawkins and raced past the perennial Pro Bowler as if he were a statue.

"It was a big statement about what our offense is going to be like in the games to comes," Holmes said.

Indeed, the Steelers' opening drive Friday gave a glimpse into how many weapons Roethlisberger may have at his disposal. That is especially true with Parker looking like he has fully recovered from the injury that ended his season in 2007 when he was leading the NFL in rushing.

Parker had been anything but gimpy during offseason practices. Questions, however, persisted about his health and Parker has grown tired of talking about whether he is 100 percent.

"You're going to have me in a mental institution soon, you keep talking about my leg," Parker said with a hint of a smile to reporters earlier this week.

If his leg holds up and Mendenhall emerges as a true complement to Parker, the Steelers' running game could be robust this season.

Mendenhall, the Steelers' first-round pick in this year's draft, made a good first impression. He ran with authority and banged out 34 yards on seven carries in the first half.

"We ran the ball really well," Roethlisberger said. "I think it was awesome that the offensive line did a great job of run blocking."

August 5, 2008

Defense Wins Again

By: Bob

Willie Parker was undefeated. Rashard Mendenhall got his first taste of the end zone. And Chris Kemoeatu is a difference-maker.

All of those things are true, but then so is this: the Steelers defense posted its second win in the goal-line drill, 4-2, when a tackle by rookie inside linebacker Mike Humpal on Justin Vincent clinched it.

“The goal-line drill was much better, it was spirited and I think No. 68 had something to do with that,” said Coach Mike Tomlin.

Tomlin would be referring to Chris Kemoeatu, the presumptive starter at left guard who returned to the field on Monday after spending the first week on the physically unable to perform list with a weak triceps. Playing with a brace, Kemoeatu pulled from his left guard spot to lead Willie Parker into the end zone over the right side of the line of scrimmage on the first play of the drill.

Neither Parker nor Kemoeatu participated in the first version of goal-line, also won by the defense but with the first-team offense going 0-for-3.

“It was nice for me to get into the end zone,” said Parker. “I told the defensive guys that I was going to get two cracks at it, and I was going to be undefeated. I only got one chance, but I did what I had to do.”

Rashard Mendenhall got the next two carries, and he scored standing up on the second of those. On the first, he was stopped short because it seemed as though James Farrior clogged the hole by taking on Kemoeatu and not giving any ground.

After Mendenhall’s two carries, the offense had a 2-1 lead. The defense got into a 2-2 tie when Trai Essex false-started from his guard spot, and then the defense took a 3-2 lead when Andre Frazier kept Gary Russell out of the end zone on a play around the right end. Humpal then ended it by filling the hole and stopping Vincent.

“He was better. He was downhill,” said Tomlin about Mendenhall. “He went in standing up one time, but it’s a unit thing, and no doubt Chris’ presence was a difference for us. We pulled him. It is what he does – he’s a road-grader, a violent run blocker and we ran behind him.”

The Steelers also used a formation in which three of their tight ends and Max Starks all were on the field in eligible positions at the same time.

“It’s something we’re exploring – ways of getting big people on the perimeter and making people defend more gaps,” said Tomlin. “That’s part of our football, and we feel like we have some quality tight ends working. It’s something we’re looking at.”

Another thing that stood out during the evening practice here was the four interceptions recorded by the defense. Bryant McFadden started at right cornerback with Deshea Townsend sidelined with an injury, and he had one interception and also made a pretty play to knock another pass away that was intended for Heath Miller.

“We had another spirited practice this afternoon, an example of the ebb and flow of training camp. That was one of the points I made to the team,” said Tomlin. “We have been talking about being opportunistic on defense and catching balls, and that’s a good sign. But at the same time we can’t be careless with the football on offense, particularly with some of the young men.

“Sometimes those things show when you have a guy like No. 7 limited and some of the younger guys stepping up in his place, but four interceptions is unacceptable. At the same time I’m excited about what I saw from the defensive standpoint, because we had opportunities and we cashed in.”

INJURY REPORT: William Gay (groin), Deshea Townsend (groin), Anthony Trucks (lower back), Anthony Smith (groin) did not practice. Jordan Reffert was excused to be with his wife who had a baby.

August 3, 2008

Defense wins Round 1

By: Bob

LATROBE – Why would 80-odd adult males get so excited about one drill at the end of a practice on the eighth day of a training camp, with the first real game still 35 days into the future?

“Bragging rights,” said James Farrior.

“It’s fun,” said Coach Mike Tomlin. “We have to remember sometimes that this is a game, and these guys love to play this game. It’s great to give them a chance to have some fun.”

The defense had all of the fun at Saint Vincent College on Sunday during the first installment of goal-line, the only live tackling drill at training camp. Tomlin’s version of the drill was as follows: “It’s going to be the best of seven; we’re going to put the ball just outside the 1-yard line and the first group to four wins. It could be four snaps, it could be seven. We’ll see how it shakes out.”

There were the full seven snaps, but when the last one was run the defense already had clinched the win with a 4-2 lead. The defense also won the last one to make the final, 5-2.

“Anytime the defense steps out there and stuffs the first offense three plays in a row to set the tone for the drill, you have to give the win to them,” said Tomlin. “The offense did a nice job of recovering but the defense is the winner.”

Rashard Mendenhall got the first two carries in the drill, and three overall, and he was stopped all three times. Farrior and James Harrison did it the first time; Larry Foote and Ike Taylor took care of him the second time.“He’s got to run harder, not overanalyze, understand what that drill is about,” said Tomlin. “It’s about hitting it downhill, and hopefully next time out he’ll be better.”

Gary Russell and Justin Vincent scored for the offense, but Vincent’s touchdown was protested by the defensive unit.

“Kevin Jordan, the chaplain, was the line judge,” said Tomlin. “I figured that if you put the chaplain on the line you get less beefs and complaints, and I think it worked out. I’m not going to second-guess the chaplain. He said he scored, so he scored.”

If Vincent got some help from above, Russell looked to be the team’s best option because he is able to get down so low. Of all the current backs on the roster, Russell looks the most like Jerome Bettis down at the goal line.

“He doesn’t over-analyze,” said Tomlin about Russell. “He gets his pads down and he finishes downhill. It’s one of his distinguishing characteristics, and he has value in that regard.”

As for Mendenhall, this was his first time carrying the football in a live tackling drill at the NFL level, and he admitted it was a different experience.

“It was coming fast, man, and that’s what the NFL is,” said Mendenhall. “It was a learning experience and I’m glad I was a part of that. The next time I’ll be a little bit more prepared.”

When asked if the hitting was harder and the intensity higher than anything he had experienced, his answer was matter-of-fact. “Oh, yeah. Just look at James Harrison. I don’t think you find too many college guys looking like that.”

INJURY UPDATE: Ben Roethlisberger (groin) was limited due to a groin, but he did participate in goal-line. Cody Boyd (shoulder) was limited. Mike Humpal (hamstring), Dezmond Sherrod (stiff neck), Anthony Smith (groin) and LaMarr Woodley (groin) did not practice. Tomlin said the team is simply waiting on a piece of protective equipment for Chris Kemoeatu’s triceps before he returns to the field. Tomlin said he expects Kemoeatu to return to the field early this week.

As for Troy Polamalu, Tomlin said, “It could be three days, it could be a week.”

On Casey Hampton: “That process is still running its course,” said Tomlin. “He and I met today, and we’ll continue to move forward, but he’s not where we want him yet.”

July 31, 2008

Inside the Ropes

By: Mike Prisuta-Tribune-Review

An inside look at Steelers training camp ...

2-for-2: The offense scored on consecutive drives in two-minute situations during Tuesday afternoon's practice at St. Vincent College.

Taking possession at the 38-yard line with 1:41 on the clock and one timeout and needing a touchdown, QB Ben Roethlisberger drove the first-team offense 62 yards in 10 plays, converting a TD on fourth-and-seven from the 12 with nine seconds remaining. Roethlisberger hit WR Nate Washington for the score. Washington made a leaping grab of a high, hard pass and managed to get his feet down in the back of the end zone at the expense of S Tyrone Carter and LB James Farrior.

Roethlisberger, working with four WRs and either Willie Parker or Mewelde Moore at RB, went 7-for-8 passing for 62 yards on the march, not counting a pair of spikes to stop the clock.

Coach Mike Tomlin served as an observer and part-time commentator. "You gotta love the drama," Tomlin said prior to the fourth-down attempt. "Somebody is about to make a football play."

DE Brett Keisel, part of the 4-2-5 pass defense employed to stop the drive, cried foul after Washington had scored.

"(Roethlisberger) was sacked like eight times," Keisel protested.

QBs aren't tackled in practice.

Pass-catchers were touched down in the drill.

Backup QB Charlie Batch led the second-team offense into the end zone against the second-team defense, finding WR Limas Sweed for a big gainer over the middle and then hitting Sweed on a fade over CB Anthony Madison on the next snap for the touchdown.

Having some fun: The Steelers unveiled a new formation toward the end of the final 11-on-11 period of the day. It featured Roethlisberger sprinting from the backfield to a position at WR, and the ball being snapped directly to Parker or Moore.

"Just having a little fun," offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said.

When asked if the Steelers might resort to such a formation in a game, Arians replied "you never know."

Special-teams demon: LB Lawrence Timmons figures to be busy on special teams this season if the early drills in camp are any indication.

Timmons is running with the first groups on the punt, punt return, kickoff and kickoff return teams.

Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney stated, “I have spent my entire life devoted to the Pittsburgh Steelers and the National Football League. I will do everything possible to work out a solution to ensure my father’s legacy of keeping the Steelers in the Rooney family and in Pittsburgh for at least another 75 years.”

Steelers President Art Rooney II stated, “There is no reason to believe that the current internal discussions will have any impact on our fans or on our team this season or in the seasons to come.”

June 17, 2008

Keisel says teammate Aaron Smith is "good to go".

In Pro Football Weekly's 'Whispers' this week, Keisel talks about Smith's recovery from a torn bicep last season.

Steelers DLE Aaron Smith has been limited in practice this offseason after suffering a torn right biceps last December, but he has done some work on the side, including hitting the blocking sled, and what teammate Brett Keisel has seen has been encouraging.

“He looks good to go, from my standpoint,” said Keisel, the Steelers’ other starting defensive end.

“Aaron is a beast, and I took a lot of what I know from watching him for four years.”