Thursday, July 19, 2012

July 25: Training Camp Begins; Polamalu Admits He Withheld Information About His Head Injuries; Porter Intends To Retire As A Steeler; Steelers Sign Starks; Guest Columnist Critiques Arians Years and Offers Advice To Haley

Steelers Training Camp Begins July 25

Yes, in 6 days, Steelers begin training camp at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, PA. As far as many are concerned, it's the beginning of the NFL season.

It's also the 47th year the Steelers will train at St. Vincent.

The first official practice begins the following day on July 26th. The first practice open to the public will be on Friday, the 27th. Afternoon practice sessions are open to the public.

Polamalu Said He Withheld Information About His Head Injuries

In an interview with Dan Patrick, Polamalu admitted he withheld information about his head injuries in the past. According to Polamalu, he did so to remain on the field.

"When you get your bell rung, they consider that a concussion. I wouldn't. If that is considered a concussion, I'd say any football player at least records 50-100 concussions a year, " said Polamalu. He added he's willing to conceal concussions because of the commitment to the other players on the team.

Polamalu also said he never went into a game with the intention of injuring another player.

Joey Porter's Intention To Retire A Pittsburgh Steeler

"It'll be an honor to go out there and retire as a Steeler. Started there. End There..," Porter told this week.

Porter was drafted by the Steelers in 1999 in the third round. He also signed with Miami in 2007 and with Arizona in 2010.

Steelers Signed OT Max Starks To One Year Deal

Steelers re-signed OT Max Starks to a one year deal earlier this week. Starks will most likely not start for the team but he will solidify the line which will include LT Mike Adams, LG Willie Colon, C Pouncey, RG DeCastro and RT Marcus Gilbert. Adams and DeCastro are rookies this year.
I can see a smile on Ben's face.

From The Desk of Ron Cammarata: Critiquing Arians; Offering Advice To Haley

In order to gain a true understanding of the Steelers not retaining Bruce Arians, you need to go back to the 2009 season. When your bosses' boss states we need to make some changes by tweaking a few things here or there...guess that should get your attention. Remember...this was coming from an ownership that is celebrated in their fraternity as the class of the league, not meddlesome in the day-to-day football operations. As a forty-year ticket holder myself, I can count on one hand the number of times I recalled that the Rooney family publicly commented on a coaching staff philosophy, or in any way chided their coaches in a public forum.

2009 Season:

When the 2009 season ended, the Bruce Arians offense guided by Big Ben led the NFL in red zone interceptions. One stat that Art III was painfully aware of is that in the Steelers seven losses that season (failing to make the playoffs), Ben threw five interceptions in five of those games--all on first-down, all in their opponents red zone, all out of the "shotgun empty set" formation. It doesn't take a defensive coaching genius to provide a sound strategy in defending less than 20 yards of field of play---simply man-up, double where necessary, and leave a backer or safety to spy on Ben and prevent him from running. When an offense shows there is no one in the backfield other than the quarterback, defenses turn it up a notch.

After the dismal 2009 season, Art II was asked by the media what happened to his team, a team that had gone to the Super Bowl the previous season? He candidly pointed out that we needed to make wiser decisions with the ball by perhaps running the ball a little more in an opponent's red zone. He used the term "tweaking the offense" which was code for...don't take sure points off the board by turning over the ball so readily when deep in opponent territory.

2010 Season:

The 2010 season rolled around and the boss man's words were heeded as a balanced offense, solid defense, and the home field for the AFC Championship game got us back into another Super Bowl. Looking back at that Super Bowl loss to the Packers, the Mendenhall fumble was a momentum killer for the Steelers, but earlier in the game Ben put the team in the hole by throwing a crucial interception (out of the shotgun set in nearly his own end zone). It led to a Packers touchdown. But all in all, it was a good season simply because they made it back to a Super Bowl while thirty other teams did not.

2011 Season:

The 2011 season played itself out with the ebb and flow of the competitive AFC North Division once again. As the 2011 season progressed, it was obvious that as goes Ben's play, shall the team follow. The trademark of the Arian's offense with Ben at helm was to give the veteran quarterback latitude...lots and lots of latitude. Ben being Ben means he is going to play most seasons somewhat banged up, or concussed, or a combo of both. The 2011 season saw an offensive line that was as patched as an Amish quilt. Keep a QB under center and utilizing more play-action formations keeps a QB safer from violent hits simply because defense can't read pass or run until the play develops. But play action was only a minimal part of the Arians/Ben offensive philosophy. Ben stated he was at a greater comfort level in the shotgun, but the facts point out that he's had greater success and given up less sacks when he is under center. Ben was constantly harassed by quick outside pass rushers (in the Colt's game, we let a horrible team hang around). Throughout the season, pressure was intensified as "empty set" formations do not provide a running back or tight end to chip block.

We, as fans, love to conjecture and this statement is purely that. In my opinion, Ben is an elite quarterback surely in the conversation when ranking the top half dozen or so in the league. He has intangibles like body strength and the ability to extend the play that puts him in that class. However, he is not a quick release, or extremely accurate passer like a Rodgers, Brady, Brees, or even the NFL's senior statesman, Peyton Manning. The guys that perform best out of the shotgun, empty-set spread formations are quick release dart throwers. Again strictly conjecture, but maybe after winning his second Super Bowl, and compiling an incredible final drive with that corner of the end zone pass to Holmes, Arians thought there is nothing else that he can do to better the offense other than ride the back of his big horse of a QB. So as 2009 began, we saw a lot more of Ben improvising, a lot more spread-empty sets, and, in turn, a lot more of a gambling style that led to turnovers in close games with those losses cited above earlier.

Fast forward to 2011 again, an end of season loss to the Broncos, resulted in exiting the playoffs early. Heads were going to roll. The Steelers organization tried to give Arians an easier sounding out by setting his release up as a retirement. But in today's NFL, one organization's continual success resonates with others. Arians (like many other Steelers coaches) was sought out for an OC role with the Colts. An interesting side-note: every season head coaches are released and offensive and defensive coordinators names from successful organizations are bandied about as replacements. In the two Super Bowl's in which Coach Arians headed up the offense for the Steelers, you never heard a whisper about his being considered for the head coaching job for some 3 and 13 basement-dwelling team...did you?

When Mike Tomlin was given the reins as head coach of one of the the NFL's premiere teams, he said and did all the right things, and often appeared to defer to the senior coordinators, LeBeau and Arians. Perhaps Tomlin realized that he was one of the luckiest men in professional sports by reaching the level of head coach at such a young age...thus he deferred to those who have been around through the building of this commonly competitive franchise. Through the Noll and Cowher years, Steelers coaches have left for better personal opportunities or through releases. Now Coach Tomlin stands at his first real important coaching staff crossroads.The hiring of Todd Haley will be judged quickly, not only on the field, but on the control of the quarterback playing within the system, checking his ego and extending his career for the good of the Steelers.

PS: Todd...remember...when the best owners in the sport say something attention.