View Full Version : Practice updates & preparation
02-03-2011, 08:11 PM
FORT WORTH, Texas—With no change in the injury situation to two prominent starters, Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger stole the show at the Steelers’ second practice of Super Bowl week at Texas Christian University Thursday, throwing red-zone touchdown passes on four straight plays on a sharp afternoon.
The Steelers worked mostly on nickel and red-zone offensive and defensive situations for exactly two hours in the Sammy Baugh Indoor Practice Facility on the TCU campus. For the second straight day, defensive end Aaron Smith, idle since Oct. 24 with a torn triceps, was limited in practice and didn’t play in any scrimmage work, while center Maurkice Pouncey (high ankle sprain) wasn’t present. He was inside the Horned Frogs’ training room getting rehab on the right ankle. Coach Mike Tomlin said he didn’t know if Pouncey would practice Friday, but said time is growing short for the rookie center to prove he can be mobile enough to play in Sunday’s game against Green Bay.
“It’s getting to be the witching hour for Maurkice,” Tomlin said after practice. “He’s going to have to show us something very soon.”
Roethlisberger, preparing to play his third Super Bowl in his seventh NFL season, showed Tomlin something throughout practice—that he’s ready to play. “I thought he had a good day,” Tomlin said. “I thought it was a good day of preparation overall.”
Spreading the ball around well to all his receivers, Roethlisberger hit Mike Wallace, Hines Ward, Heath Miller and rookie Emmanuel Sanders for touchdowns on the 80-yard indoor practice field. Roethlisberger was sharp on other series Thursday as well.
“I’m glad we were sharp, but I’m not sure it really means anything for the game,” Tomlin said. “I’ve seen us practice great on Thursday and play poorly on Sunday, and then I’ve seen us practice not worth anything Thursday and then come out and play great.”
The first-team defense was on its game too, with safety Ryan Clark picking off two balls and corner Ike Taylor and safety Troy Polamalu intercepting one apiece against scout-team quarterbacks Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch.
02-03-2011, 08:55 PM
You like to hear that practices are going well, it means the team is focused, upbeat, and intense. Either way though, he is right, it's what matters on Sunday.
02-04-2011, 12:01 PM
DALLAS -- Mike Tomlin stood stone-faced behind the Lombardi Trophy as a few dozen cameras fired away.
"Smile, Mike!" one photographer yelled out.
"Nah," the Pittsburgh Steelers coach said without a hint of a grin on another cold, snowy Friday in Big D.
He eventually cracked a smile, but this is serious stuff for Tomlin as the Steelers go for the seventh Super Bowl title in franchise history Sunday.
"We're putting the finishing touches, of course, on our plan here," Tomlin said in a sparsely attended final media session that lasted barely five minutes. "It's been a good week, but of course, like the Green Bay Packers, I'm sure we're all getting a little antsy and getting ready to play."
Tomlin will keep an eye on his guys during the next few days to make sure they remain even-keeled with so much at stake.
But what about the 38-year-old coach who could be hoisting that trophy for the second time in his four seasons?
"I'm a robot," Tomlin said. "I'm just going to ride the wave."
And it could carry him to a special place among NFL coaches. He would become only the 13th coach in league history to win multiple rings.
"It's awesome, it really is," Tomlin said of the opportunity. "It's humbling, it's inspiring, it motivates you. It's all those things. I think fortunately for us, we have what you can't buy, which is legacy -- which is unbelievable standard and expectation and all those great things."
The Steelers had a final full practice at TCU set for later Friday, and then Tomlin said the players would have some free time at night to spend with family and friends. Then, they'll have a "dress rehearsal" Saturday in their last practice, going through what Tomlin called "a mock game" before the Super Bowl at Cowboys Stadium.
Tomlin said rookie Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey, dealing with a high left ankle sprain, needs to practice Friday in order to play. Pouncey received treatment on the ankle while his teammates practiced Thursday.
He was injured early in the Steelers' 24-19 victory over the New York Jets in the AFC championship game nearly two weeks ago. Pouncey needed crutches and wore a walking boot on his left foot as he got off the team plane in Dallas on Monday, but didn't need either during the players' final media session Thursday.
If he can't play, Doug Legursky would make his first NFL start at center.
The Dallas-Fort Worth area has been hit by several inches of snow and subfreezing temperatures since the Steelers arrived, but Tomlin said it hasn't bothered the team.
"We're kind of used to inclement weather," Tomlin said. "At least from my perspective, it hasn't changed how we've worked at all."
In a few days, Tomlin could be back in chilly Pittsburgh with another Super Bowl trophy -- and smiling.
"It's the pinnacle," he said of being a champion. "Thirty-two teams start this journey with the same intentions. So, of course, you're overcome with emotions. Great feelings of satisfaction, but also humility because you realize that there are probably a lot of people that are deserving, to be quite honest with you."
02-04-2011, 12:31 PM
The team is now in full super bowl mode and have been since yesterday as well. Final touches and changes to the game plan based on what they have seen on film are being put into place. The team is on a strict curfew now, more so than earlier in the week. Tomlin, the coaches, and the players know what is in front of them. It's time to get serious.
02-04-2011, 07:38 PM
FORT WORTH, Texas—The guessing game with two key Pittsburgh Steelers for Super Bowl XLV is over: center Maurkice Pouncey and defensive end Aaron Smith were both declared out for the game by coach Mike Tomlin Friday afternoon.
Smith, out since Oct. 24 with a torn triceps, never got close to playing again here in the final days before the Super Bowl matchup with Green Bay. But the Steelers held out faint hope that the rookie keystone to their offensive line, Pouncey, might be ready with concentrated rehab. Pouncey didn’t appear at practice for the third straight day Friday, rehabbing inside the TCU trainers’ room, and Tomlin said as his team left the practice: “He’s out.”
Asked after the Steelers’ two-hour Friday practice inside the Sammy Baugh Indoor Practice Facility on the snow-swept TCU campus how Pouncey’s absence will affect the Steelers’ offensive gameplan, Tomlin said: “It won’t. Obviously he’s a quality player, and how it affects the game, no one knows. But as far as what we do, we have a plan, and that won’t change.”
Talk about stepping into a pressurized situation: Undrafted center Doug Legursky from Marshall will make his first NFL start at center in the Super Bowl – and he’ll be facing 2009 first-round nose tackle B.J. Raji of the Packers to boot. Legursky has made four previous starts at guard for the Steelers, but never in the middle of the line, at such a key spot making line calls and handling the exchanges with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. There were times in the three days of Steeler practices here at TCU that Legursky looked like a misfit in the land of the giants, at 6-1 and 315. On average, his four starting linemates are four inches taller and 19 pounds heavier than Legursky.
“The NFL is made up of lots of players like him—guys who somehow got an opportunity and seized it,” said Tomlin. “We’re completely confident that he will seize this opportunity and play well. That’s why we’re not changing what we do.”
As has been the case for the past three months, second-year defensive end Ziggy Hood will man the left end spot for Smith Sunday against Green Bay.
Friday’s workout was the third straight this week inside the TCU practice facility for the Steelers, and the third straight in shells, sweats and helmets. The Steelers, not surprisingly, didn’t wear shoulder pads and didn’t tackle all week, befitting a team trying to stay healthy and fresh after six months of practices and games.
Tomlin had crowd noise piped in for the first time this week as the Steelers went through their normal Friday routine of goal-line, short-yardage and two-minute plays. The team seemed loose, as it has all week. When Troy Polamalu picked off a Charlie Batch pass near the goal line, fellow safety Ryan Clark chanted: “MVP! MVP! MVP!”
“We’ve had a very good practice week, very normal,” said Tomlin. “We’re lucky to have guys who just love football and love one another. It’s a special group.”
The Steelers are welcoming team families into the practice facility Saturday for their final practice of the week, a light walk-through Saturday at 10 a.m. On Saturday afternoon, the players and coaches will part with their families and go to a secret hotel for their last night before the game, the same practice the Steelers followed before the championship game two years ago against Arizona.
02-05-2011, 05:54 PM
DALLAS -- University of Texas product Casey Hampton does not plan to take a back seat in this Texas Super Bowl and, by all measures, that would be a rather large back seat.
The 340-poundish Hampton knows the Steelers defense will deploy plenty of nickel and dime schemes against the pass-happy Green Bay Packers. And, in such defenses, Hampton usually is nowhere to be found.
He promised that will change Sunday.
"I'm playing in every package -- nickel, dime, everything," Hampton declared. "I'm not coming out. I'm starting everything, so I'm out there."
During the usual course of events, when the Steelers switch to their nickel defense (simply put for this exercise, five defensive backs) or dime (six defensive backs), Hampton comes off the field. Coordinator Dick LeBeau will insert a fifth defensive back in passing situations or against an offense that employs three or more receivers.
The nickel back this season has been William Gay, who replaces Hampton. The Steelers then would use two interior linemen -- Ziggy Hood and Brett Keisel, usually -- and two "ends" or outside linebackers, LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison.
Before they drafted linebacker Lawrence Timmons, the Steelers usually used six defensive backs in passing situations, adding two in the secondary and removing Hampton and a linebacker (e.g. Larry Foote). They may use more dime this game because the Packers like to use sets that feature four and five receivers.
But Hampton vows to remain on the field in all those defenses, although not all of the time.
"I mean, it's time, the Super Bowl is time to go. It's just time. There's no reason for me to be sitting on the bench and playing 15 plays and stuff like that. I don't have nothing to save it for, it's time to go."
If that's the case, it would be time to go for Hood (or Keisel, but his experience and ability suit the pass defense better) unless LeBeau plans to use a 12-man defense.
"Oh, Ziggy is going to play,'' Hampton insisted, because "after about three, four plays I'm going to be tired anyway. So, he's going to have to go in."
Hampton followed that quickly with a belly laugh, and you have to see the belly to appreciate the laugh.
"It's going to be like a better rotation, more of a mix of both of us in there," Hampton said. "We're just going to try to rotate more, especially if they're passing the ball a whole lot. Just rotate guys more."
Hampton does not like to come out of games, but it is something the Steelers have done with him for a long time. On occasion, smart offenses have been able to take advantage of his absence by showing a pass formation to get him off the field, then giving the ball to their third-down back to run.
"I'm going to do whatever they need me to do," Hampton said. "If they want to put me out there, I'll go out there. If they feel like they want someone else out there, I'm a team guy, whatever they need me to do I'm here to do.
"It's definitely hard for me to watch. I definitely want to be out there helping the team. Sometimes, it doesn't work out like that."
Short and sweet
Mike Tomlin pulled a fast one. He was scheduled to appear for his final news conference in the big ballroom at the Sheraton at 9:30 a.m. Since his team had practice scheduled for 11 in Forth Worth, which can be an hour away depending on traffic -- longer since it snowed overnight -- Tomlin convinced NFL officials earlier in the week to move it to 8 a.m.
Instead of the usual hundreds of reporters in the same ballroom used for the later commissioner's news conference, Tomlin was greeted by maybe two dozen.
He took six questions and, when there was a slight pause, he thanked everyone for coming and ended the news conference. It lasted about 10 minutes. The NFL Network, broadcasting it live, called it the shortest Super Bowl coach's news conference in history.
His most pertinent answer to a question about his chance to join other coaches with multiple Super Bowl rings: "I think fortunately for us, we have what you can't buy, which is legacy."
Thursday, executives of the NFL Players Association repeated their opposition to an 18-game season, although they fell short of declaring that it would be a deal-breaker to a new collective bargaining agreement.
Steelers players plus Ambassador Dan Rooney have consistently voiced their resistance to adding two more games to the regular season. Hampton said the idea has been put forth by people in the NFL who have not played in the NFL.
"An 18-game schedule is crazy," Hampton said. "Anybody who knows football or who has played football knows that's crazy. People who are making decisions and trying to make this an 18-game schedule never played football and they don't know what their body is going to feel like after that.
"I think they need to get guys in there who have played and who can kind of give them a better analysis what a guy's body feels like after 16 games, never mind 18 games."
Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11036/1123347-66.stm#ixzz1D7zUu7KN
02-05-2011, 06:38 PM
Damn, i swear i love all these great Steelers articles.
02-05-2011, 07:07 PM
Hampton is the man. I just love how this group of guys put the team first.
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