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2014 was a record setting season for the Pittsburgh Steelers offense and from the most productive set of triplets in NFL history. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger led the league in passing yards with 4,952, averaging 309.5 yards per game. He added in 32 touchdown passes against 7 interceptions and a QBR of 103.3, leading the Steelers to an 11-5 record and an AFC North division title. It was the first playoff appearance for Pittsburgh, following back to back 8-8 records in 2012 and 2013.
Catching 129 of Roethlisberger’s passes was Antonio Brown, whose receptions total was second in NFL history for a single season, and went for 1,698 yards and 13 touchdowns. The question of what can Brown do for you? was answered on a weekly basis, from just about every scenerio imaginable. From Punt returns to a big third or fourth down catch to sustain a drive, Antonio Brown delivered on time. The second leading receiver for the Steelers last season was all-world running back LeVeon Bell, who had 83 receptions for 854 yards and 3 touchdowns. On the ground, Bell averaged 4.7 yards per carry, on his way to 1,361 yards and 8 touchdowns.
What sets Ben, Bell and Brown apart, from the other sets of triplets of the past that they have been compared to, is that they are all within their prime years and they aren’t even close to being satisfied with what they have accomplished. They won’t be out worked by anyone. Perhaps the biggest attribute they have is that they are humble in their confidence to get the jobs done and they are all team first guys. These three will be once again be leading an offense, in 2015, that is going to have to carry the team while the defense comes together during its much needed youth movement.
While the Steelers are still looking for a viable backup for Big Ben, they brought in free agent running back D’Angelo Williams to help keep Bell fresh all season, giving the Steelers one of the best 1-2 punches in the league. Williams should be a more than adequate replacement while Bell is serving his suspension. With receiving depth that includes Markus Wheaton, Martavis Bryant and rookie Sammie Coates, Antonio Brown should continue to see single coverage and continue his ongoing streak of at least 5 receptions/60 yards per game that is sitting at around 34 consecutive games now.
With arguably the toughest schedule in the league facing the Steelers this season, not alot of people have the Steelers... [Read More]
Replacing a legend is never an enviable task, just ask Bill Cowher, or better yet Cliff Stoudt, about what it was like replacing Terry Bradshaw. I'm pretty sure that Stoudt wishes he would have had the success that Bill Cowher had replacing Chuck Noll. It is now Keith Butler's turn to replace a Steelers legend as he takes over for long time defensive coordinator, Dick LeBeau. The Father of the 3-4 zone blitz scheme, LeBeau was a master at disguising coverages and would blitz from anywhere out of any formation. His scheme was a nightmare for offensive coordinators around the league, when he had the athletes to maximize the effectiveness of what he was looking to do.
LeBeau's scheme was difficult for young players to pick up, so often they sat for three or four years before seeing regular playing time. As players like Rod Woodson, Greg Lloyd, Joey Porter, Aaron Smith and Troy Polamalu left or retired, and were replaced with less talented players, his schemes became less effective and had to be scaled back. This past offseason, the Steelers decided to part ways with LeBeau and replace him with long time defensive coordinator in waiting, Keith Butler. While it may seem like Butler will have his hands full replacing a legend like Dick LeBeau, quite the opposite is true.
Keith Butler has plenty of talent to work with and mold, and although he will retain alot of what the defense did under LeBeau, he will simplify and tweak the system to fit the talent that he has available to him. This is why I believe the defense will be alot better than most think it will be and why the younger guys will contribute more alot sooner than they would have under LeBeau. These young guys will be be able to read and react to what they see from offenses and not have to think nearly as much, letting their instincts and abilities able to come through much sooner.
Butler also has the luxury of a explosive offense being able to carry the team for the first four to six weeks of the season, until these guys get comfortable playing with each other and adjusting to what Butler envisions for the defense. Once they get to that point, I look for a defense that is similar to the "Blitzburgh" style of defense that they ran under Dom Capers. Pair that up with the offense that they have, and I can see the Steelers hoisting their seventh Lombardi trophy in the near future. Keith Butler just might have one of the best jobs in the NFL.
We haven't heard too much from Pitt basketball since its fall in the NIT against George Washington. The seniors weren't able to go out on the high note they had hoped. HC Jamie Dixon wasn't able to guide the players to the success he is accustomed to. Thus, I believe there are many questions about this team heading into the summer. Just to name a few:
-Will Dixon be able to corral his players to get them on the "same page" this season?
-Does the return of F Durand Johnson guarantee any more success for Pitt?
-How will the "graduations" of G Cam Wright, F Aron Philips-Nwankwo, and F Derrick Randall affect the team? Who is going to step up?
A few potential explanations may have been provided, as Pitt added a few graduate transfers over the last 6-8 weeks.
"Men's Basketball Signs Graduate Transfer Sterling Smith
Smith transfers to Pitt from Coppin State; immediately eligible to compete for Pitt in 2015-16.
pril 24, 2015
PITTSBURGH--The University of Pittsburgh men's basketball program announced today that Coppin State's Sterling Smith (Chico, Calif./Redemption Christian Academy-Troy, N.Y.) has signed a financial aid agreement and will transfer to Pitt for the 2015-16 season.
Smith, who completed his junior year at Coppin State will be immediately eligible to compete for Pitt because he will graduate this spring. He joins center Rozelle Nix (Cincinnati, Ohio/Pensacola State J.C./Withrow H.S.) and guard Damon Wilson, Jr. (Powder Springs, Ga./Our Savior New American H.S.)--as new players on the 2015-16 roster.
"We are extremely excited about adding Sterling for the 2015-16 season," Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon said. "Over his three years at Coppin State, he has proven to be a strong shooter and effective scorer. His size and length will also help us defensively at both guard positions. He also has excelled academically as he graduated in three years."
Smith is a 6-foot-4-inch, 185-pound guard who averaged 13.9 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game while earning Second Team All-MEAC honors as a junior. A 3-point marksman, Smith also converted 76-182 (41 percent) of his 3-point attempts in 2014-15. Over his three-year, 93-game career, Smith scored 934... [Read More]
Mercer is hitting .176 with a .231 on-base percentage and .204 slugging percentage. Jung Ho Kang started for the fourth consecutive game, and the third time in a row at shortstop.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle gave Jordy Mercer the weekend off by design, he said Sunday, so Mercer could try to work his way out of his slow offensive start to the season.
“We’re going to continue to revisit the best lineup that we can put out there daily,” Hurdle said. “We also know the dynamic of working with Jung Ho, playing time. We'll just see where it takes us.”
Mercer also hit poorly early in 2014. Through 31 games, his current total, in 2014, he was hitting .161/.204/.195. From the beginning of June 2014 on, he hit .278/.333/.433 with 11 home runs.
Kang is hitting .300 with a .367 OBP and .457 slugging percentage. Hurdle felt comfortable enough with Kang’s defense to start him behind A.J. Burnett, whose 56.3 percent groundball rate ranks eighth in Major League Baseball.
“I believe when you look at Jung Ho, the shortstop I'd probably compare him to would be a Jhonny Peralta-type,” Hurdle said. “Jordy has probably more lateral range. They're both very accurate with their arms. Jordy's got more experience within this league for positioning. The only way Jung Ho's going to get it is to continue to get out there and get those reps.”
Not only is Kang up to speed on the hand signals used to initiate defensive shifts, Hurdle said, but first-base coach Nick Leyva, who coordinates the infielders, has Kang’s defensive positioning notes translated into Korean.
Worley will skip start
The Pirates will skip Vance Worley in the rotation in the two-game series against the Minnesota Twins, which is sandwiched between two off days.
... [Read More]
The Pirates have been continuously teasing us with spurts of good play only to follow them up with some heart aching losses. It’s impossible to know if the latest positive glimmer is the start of a turnaround or just another agonizing tease that will leave us disappointed. Much like the start of the Pirates season the minor leagues are a place that can give us a tease of something just to pull it back or can give us something truly game changing. Following the minor leagues isn't for everyone as mostly it consists of players who will never sniff the majors but with very few exceptions nearly all players that have blossomed into stars or even merely average major league contributors cut their teeth somewhere in a much more hidden environment. It is for this reason I and so many like me are pulled towards the minor leagues.
I provide these updates for those who care to dream and are ok with their hopes being dashed more often than not. So before I continue remember to take everything from here on out with a few grains of salt and realize any hope I may give you very well may just be fleeting.
A full proper minor league update would make for too long a piece so I have opted to begin this year's breakdown by looking at various positions. First up I have chosen the middle infield. For the most part this will consist of 3-4 players per level and with 4 levels playing that means 15 ish players.
A: West Virginia Power
Pablo Reyes: Reyes is one of the early season break out guys. Receiving an aggressive push from Bristol last year Reyes wasn't just an afterthought but he was by no means in the spot light either. In short he was a marginal prospect the Pirates were giving a push to see how he responded. Early results have been fantastic as the small Reyes (5' 10" 150 lbs) has been showing the most power on the team with a .235 ISO and 4 home runs. Reyes has also been a threat on the bases this year stealing 6 bases without having been caught once. Originally signed as a shortstop Reyes moved off the position last year as his defense just wasn't up to par but he has been fine at 2B thus far and with his surprising power could quickly develop into a solid 2B prospect. One concern is his early season OBP of just barely above .300 but it’s been solid in the past so it very well may just be an adjustment thing. Still the power and the fact he is properly aged for his current level makes him a... [Read More]