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NFL Week 1 game notes: Ravens vs. Steelers

Posted on 09 September 2011 by Chris Pika

Week 1 of the 2011 NFL schedule features a pair of teams that have waged one of the fiercest rivalries in the NFL over the past decade, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens.

Sunday’s 1 pm (CBS) game in M&T Bank Stadium may prove to be everything the NFL Kickoff opener was not Thursday night — a healthy dose of strong defense.

In our second edition of “From the notes …” for Week 1, we look inside the weekly PR game notes produced by the Steelers and Ravens PR departments and the NFL Communications office via the Elias Sports Bureau.

Pittsburgh won the AFC North last season with a 12-4 record. The Steelers were the AFC Champions, and the club advanced to Super Bowl XLV, where they lost to the Green Bay Packers:

SUDDEN START: Due to the labor impasse the 2011 offseason was all but lost, leaving just over a week for teams to sign undrafted rookies, free agents and their own draft picks that they selected back in late April.

For the Steelers the main focus was on resigning their own players to keep a nucleus in tact that had reaped tremendous success over the past few years.

Pittsburgh’s appearance last year in Super Bowl XLV marked the franchise’s third trip to the title game since 2005. The Steelers bring back 20 players that started in that Super Bowl.

Pittsburgh will also return 18 players that started at least 11 games last season, including 15 players that started 14 or more games.

Key players that the Steelers resigned in the offseason included CB Ike Taylor, LB LaMarr Woodley, OT Willie Colon, OT Jonathan Scott, K Shaun Suisham and NT Chris Hoke. Pittsburgh also signed LB Lawrence Timmons to a five-year contract extension.

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A Final Week of Private Workouts As Draft Season Nears Culmination

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A Final Week of Private Workouts As Draft Season Nears Culmination

Posted on 23 April 2011 by Glenn Clark

We’re less than a week away from the kickoff of the NFL Draft (Thursday night-8pm-ESPN & NFL Network), but we’ve already seen the end of Private workout season, as the Ravens hosted their final private workouts this week.

Now GM Ozzie Newsome, Director of Player Personnel Eric DeCosta, Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz, Head Coach John Harbaugh, Owner Steve Bisciotti, Team President Dick Cass, VP of Football Administation Pat Moriarty and the entire scouting staff will be involved in the process before the team makes their first pick.

Before I continue, I remind you of the players we have already profiled during Draft season.

QB-Ricky Dobbs (Navy), Pat Devlin (Delaware), Colin Kaepernick (Nevada), Josh Portis (California-Pennsylvania), Taylor Potts (Texas Tech), Christian Ponder (Florida State), Tyrod Taylor (Virginia Tech), Jake Locker (Washington), Greg McElroy (Alabama), Andy Dalton (TCU), Jeremiah Masoli (Ole Miss), Ricky Stanzi (Iowa), Jerrod Johnson (Texas A&M)
FB
-Anthony Sherman (Connecticut), Owen Marecic (Stanford), Shaun Chapas (Georgia)
RB
-Evan Royster (Penn State), Da’Rel Scott (Maryland), DeMarco Murray (Oklahoma), Damien Berry (Miami), Kendall Hunter (Oklahoma State), Roy Helu Jr. (Nebraska), Alex Green (Hawaii), Shane Vereen (Cal), Jordan Todman (UConn), Dion Lewis (Pitt), Jacquizz Rodgers (Oregon State), Mark Ingram (Alabama), Ryan Williams (Virginia Tech), Mikel Leshoure (Illinois), Darren Evans (Virginia Tech), Stevan Ridley (LSU)
WR
-Lester Jean (Florida Atlantic), Terrence Toliver (LSU), Leonard Hankerson (Miami), Austin Pettis (Boise State), Denarius Moore (Tennessee), Owen Spencer (North Carolina State), Jock Sanders (West Virginia), Titus Young (Boise State), Vincent Brown (San Diego State), Ryan Whalen (Stanford), Torrey Smith (Maryland), Randall Cobb (Kentucky), Jon Baldwin (Pittsburgh), Greg Salas (Hawaii), Cecil Shorts III (Mount Union), Jerrel Jernigan (Troy), Niles Paul (Nebraska), Dane Sanzenbacher (Ohio State)
TE-Will Yeatman (Maryland)
OT
-Matthew O’Donnell (Queens University Canada), Gabe Carimi (Wisconsin), Nate Solder (Colorado), Anthony Costanzo (Boston College), Joseph Barksdale (LSU), Derek Sherrod (Mississippi State), DeMarcus Love (Arkansas), James Brewer (Indiana)
G-Danny Watkins (Baylor), Will Rackley (Lehigh)
C-Zane Taylor (Utah), Kris O’Dowd (Southern Cal), Rodney Hudson (Florida State), Brandon Fusco (Slippery Rock)
DE
-Justin Trattou (Florida), Allen Bailey (Miami), Eddie Jones (Texas), Ryan Kerrigan (Purdue), Brooks Reed (Arizona), Cliff Matthews (South Carolina), JJ Watt (Wisconsin), Cameron Heyward (Ohio State), Dontay Moch (Nevada), D’Aundre Reed (Arizona), Aldon Smith (Missouri), Adrian Clayborn (Iowa), Sam Acho (Texas), Ryan Winterswyk (Boise State), Christian Ballard (Iowa), Ricky Elmore (Arizona)
DT-Muhammad Wilkerson (Temple)
LB
-Mark Herzlich (Boston College), Casey Matthews (Oregon), Adrian Moten (Maryland), Nate Irving (NC State), Colin McCarthy (Miami), Martez Wilson (Illinois), Kelvin Sheppard (Louisiana State), Alex Wujciak (Maryland), Akeem Dent (Georgia), Justin Houston (Georgia)
S
-Jermale Hines (Ohio State), Jaiquawn Jarrett (Temple), Maurice Rolle (Louisiana-Lafayette), Rahim Moore (UCLA), Ahmad Black (Florida), Will Hill (Florida)
CB-Anthony Gaitor (Florida International), Aaron Williams (Texas), Jalil Brown (Colorado), Jimmy Smith (Colorado), DeMarcus Van Dyke (Miami), Brandon Harris (Miami), Ras-I Dowling (Virginia), Richard Sherman (Stanford), Brandon Burton (Utah), Curtis Marsh (Utah State), Chris Culliver (South Carolina), Buster Skrine (Chattanooga)

If you missed any of those profiles, you can check them out in the archives here at WNST.net.

Part 1-A look at players who participated in the East West Shrine Game in Orlando, Florida
Part 2-A look at players who participated in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama
Part 3-A look at players who participated in the NFLPA Game (former Texas vs. The Nation Game) in San Antonio, Texas
Parts 456-Previews of players ahead of the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis
Part 7-A look back at players who made in impact at the National Football League Scouting Combine at LucasOil Stadium in Indy
Parts 8, 9 & 10-A look at players who participated in early Pro Timing Days
Part 11-Players the Ravens have shown direct interest in

The Baltimore Ravens (obviously) made no personnel changes this week, so my team needs remain the same…

1. Defensive End
2. Offensive Tackle
3. Wide Receiver
4. Cornerback
5. Fullback
6. Inside Linebacker
7. Safety
8. Center
9. Running Back
10. Quarterback

Here are ten more prospects-all of whom have been shown special attention by the Ravens during Draft season. (Reported by WNST.net, National Football Post, Carroll County Times, Baltimore Sun, Pro Football Weekly or others.)

Thanks to CBSSports.com/NFLDraftScout.com, NFLDraftBible.com, WNST.net (The AP), ESPN.com, NFL.com, Wikipedia, YouTube and various official athletic websites for helping to put together the profiles.

DT Corey Liuget (Illinois)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tlprPUyKL8M[/youtube]

It might have surprised some to see that Liuget had visited Owings Mills for a meeting with the Ravens. The team has PLENTY of depth on the D-Line (with the exception of rush end). Behind Haloti Ngata, Kelly Gregg and Cory Redding, the team has the likes of Brandon McKinney, Terrence Cody, Arthur Jones, Lamar Divens and Kelly Talavou to play the position.

Liuget remains an intriguing prospect. He’s an outstanding gap filler at 6’2″, 298; and even managed eight sacks during his career with the Fighting Illini-five of those coming in 2010.

Liuget is expected to come off the board as early as the mid-teens in the first round. Should he fall, the Ravens would find themselves with a difficult decision-as it would be hard to imagine they have many players higher on their board than a player with Liuget’s ability.

Liuget has been a steady riser during Draft season. The Ravens have to be impressed by the fact that he’s capable of playing in both the three and the five technique-and his Pro Day workout in Champaign was reportedly quite impressive.

He might not seem to fight an immediate need-but he simply can’t be ruled out as the Ravens’ first round choice.

CB Justin Rogers (Richmond)

justinrogers

If you’ve been following my Draft updates, you should be well aware of the Ravens’ issues at Cornerback.

Josh Wilson, Chris Carr and Fabian Washington are slated to become unrestricted free agents. Cary Williams is an exclusive rights free agent. Domonique Foxworth missed the entire 2010 season due to a torn ACL.

The team is going to have to address the defensive secondary SOMEHOW during the offseason-by retaining their own players or adding new ones (or more likely a combination of both).

Rogers recently visited 1 Winning Drive, giving the Ravens a chance to take a better look at the CAA prospect. His size (5’11″, 180 pounds) is not exceptional, but his 4.40 Pro Day 40 time certainly is.

His Spiders career was certainly exceptional as well, as he finished his four seasons with 12 interceptions (three of which were returned for touchdowns.) He showed himself plenty capable of being a matchup corner-albeit against FCS competition.

He’s not going to come off the board until Saturday. Most pundits believe the team will have picked a corner before then-but it doesn’t rule out the possibility that the team could still add Rogers.

LB Akeem Ayers (UCLA)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J36hhdBm9QU[/youtube]

The Ravens certainly aren’t the only team that has shown interest in Ayers, as half the league (or more) has hosted the former Bruins backer. But it doesn’t change the fact that the interest in Ayers from General Manager Ozzie Newsome and the team is genuine.

That being said, Ayers isn’t a perfect fit for Chuck Pagano’s defense. While he’s shown an ability to get after quarterbacks (11 sacks during his career in Los Angeles), he can’t be fairly expected to be a true “rush backer.”

Of course, the Ravens already have one of those players in LB Terrell Suggs, so they’re really only in need of a complement to T-Sizzle.

Ayers is a more complete standup backer, as he added 6 interceptions (two returned for touchdowns) to his numbers at UCLA. He has mammoth size (6’3″, 254 pounds) and pretty good speed to boot (4.69 40 at his Pro Day).

As the Ravens look to address their rush early in the draft, they’ll have to decide on whether they’re looking for more of a down lineman or a stand-up backer. My guess is that they’re looking for more of a hybrid-as it will allow them to keep LB Jarret Johnson on the field significantly-but slide a rusher back in obvious passing situations.

Ayers likely won’t stick around until the team’s 2nd round choice (at 58). The team will probably have to pull the trigger at 26 or miss out.

(Ayers joined Rex Snider on “The Afternoon Drive” on AM1570 WNST Thursday, that chat can be heard in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net.)

G/C Stefen Wisniewski (Penn State)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jPMkroHBPqM[/youtube]

If selected by the Ravens, Wisniewski would not be the first Wisniewski to play Pro Football in Charm City.

His father (Leo Wisniewski) was selected by the Baltimore Colts in the second round of the 1982 NFL Draft. His family tree is rooted in NFL tradition, as his uncle (Steve Wisniewski) was an eight time Pro Bowl guard for the LA/Oakland Raiders and still an assistant O-Line coach for the team.

Clearly football is in his blood.

The Ravens could be well served to add the 6’3″, 313 pound interior lineman to their O-Line. Wisniewski played more Guard in Happy Valley, but many teams believe he will be a Center at the NFL level.

The Ravens have flux at both positions, as G Marshal Yanda is a restricted free agent-but could be asked to return to OT should unrestricted free agent Jared Gaither depart. While C Matt Birk decided to return this season, he is widely expected to be playing in his final NFL season. G/C Chris Chester is also a restricted free agent, but isn’t widely viewed as a “Center of the future” type.

Wisniewski is likely to be a Friday night pick. It would be easy to imagine new Offensive Line coach Andy Moeller rooting to add a player with the bloodlines of a Wisniewski.

DE Robert Quinn (North Carolina)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqJrjwjf55c[/youtube]

The word “interesting” doesn’t even begin to describe Quinn as a NFL Draft prospect.

Quinn is likely better known for his off the field history coming into his pro career than he is for his on field ability. He was suspended for the 2010 season after the NCAA determined he had lied to investigators about receiving improper travel accommodations and jewelry.

When asked how the scandal could affect Quinn (and former UNC teammates Marvin Austin & Greg Little) at the Ravens’ annual Pre-Draft Luncheon, Newsome pointed out the Ravens had an advantage because Pagano was the DC in Chapel Hill back in 2007.

Quinn is widely believed to be a Top 10 talent in this year’s draft class-but the off field trouble has left in doubt where he will end up being selected. That’s where the Ravens come in. Should he continue to fall, the team would have the opportunity to select him at 26th or even consider moving up a few spots to get him.

Quinn has the physique of the type of rush end the Ravens are interested in adding to their defense. He’s 6’4″, 265 pounds and has really good speed (4.59 40 at his Pro Day). In two seasons with the Tar Heels, he tallied 13 sacks-11 of which came in 2009.

As well as addressing the off field trouble, the Ravens have to determine whether or not the year off will also hurt Quinn on the field.

If he slides, it will be awfully difficult decision on whether or not the team should take the chance.

LB Jonathan Cornell (Mississippi)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tCO9L3kFDrg[/youtube]

Despite the fact that only a few players in the history of the NFL have even been worthy of being mentioned in the same SENTENCE as future Hall of Fame LB Ray Lewis, the words “heir apparent to Ray Lewis” tend to get thrown around frequently during Draft season.

It ultimately is never fair to any Inside Linebacker the Ravens select, which Tavares Gooden has found out in recent years.

Gooden, Dannell Ellerbe and Jameel McClain have failed to nail down the WILL LB spot next to the perennial Pro Bowler, and Jason Phillips hasn’t been able to work his way on the field regularly. We also know Lewis won’t be around forever…even if it feels like he might be.

At 6’1″, 236 pounds; some scouts are going to label Cornell as “undersized.” Of course, some of those same scouts said the same thing about that former Miami Hurricanes LB in 1996. Cornell certainly showed an ability to make tackles, finishing his Rebels career with 215 tackles and eight sacks. His 4.76 forty time at his Pro Day in Oxford had to be considered at least a bit disappointing.

There’s no guarantee that Cornell gets drafted at all. Ellerbe and McClain both made the team’s roster out of Training Camp after not being selected. The Ravens will be a bit more hamstrung in the late rounds of this year’s Draft, as they will be unable to sign undrafted free agents until the NFL’s labor dispute is resolved.

With that in mind, Director of Player Personnel Eric DeCosta and company will know that it might be more necessary than ever to not risk exposing a player like Cornell to a prolonged post-Draft free agency period.

DE Jabaal Sheard (Pitt)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VUXMVmDwvmA[/youtube]

Sometimes a team finds red flags in a player that concern them as they make a decision in whether or not they should be drafted.

Other times a team finds positive attributes that make the decision to draft the player a true slam dunk.

In the case of Sheard…well…there’s…both? From the Carroll County Times…

“He was arrested last summer for felony aggravated assault and resisting arrest after an altercation in a bar where he threw a man through a glass door. He pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, was ordered to apologize and pay medical bills. He was suspended from the team for two weeks as well as internal discipline.

He was awarded a medal for bravery years ago for helping an elderly woman escape from a burning home.”

When not getting arrested or helping elderly women from their homes, Sheard has been a hell of a pass rusher for the Panthers. He’s tallied 19 sacks over the last three seasons, and is viewed as a player who could stand up or put his hand in the dirt at the next level.

Sheard is a beast of a man, measuring in at 6’3″, 264 pounds and clocking in with a 4.68 forty time at the Combine. Scouts have been impressed with his bull rush abilities and the way he handled double teams when teammate Greg Romeus got hurt in 2010.

The Ravens are expected to address DE/OLB early in the Draft. Sheard is unlikely to stick around until the 58th pick and might not be a stretch at all should he come off the board at 26.

WR Greg Little (North Carolina)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHwr7WlO77E[/youtube]

So remember all of those things I said about Quinn? Let’s repeat them for Little.

It’s hard to imagine how the year off will affect him, but we do not it took away an opportunity for him to prove himself as a superior pass-catcher.

Little played just a season and a half at receiver after starting his ACC career at Running Back. He finished his UNC career with 1,774 yards of total offense and 12 combined touchdowns. But the only numbers scouts can really use in considering his potential NFL ability are his 62 catches for 724 yards and five TD’s in 2009.

Ironically, Little has good size (6’3″, 231 pounds) but only decent speed (4.51 forty at the Combine). Unfortunately, he’s never really established himself as an outside or over the top receiver, so teams are hard pressed to determine whether or not he’ll be able to be much more than a slot option.

The Ravens probably have receivers like Little on the roster already. He’s similar to Anquan Boldin, certainly thicker than Derrick Mason. The team will have tough decisions to make with unrestricted free agents T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Donte’ Stallworth, but neither are really expected back in Charm City next season.

The team is more likely to think big and fast when it comes to receiver upgrades, as they desperately need to stretch the field vertically and extend the field horizontally. The team could use more than one receiver in their upgrade process, which could be where Little fits the picture.

If the team doesn’t go receiver early in the Draft, they could certainly consider grabbing Little on Friday night and trying to use free agency (which should be coming…eventually) to add a superior playmaker to their corps.

G/C Mike Pouncey (Florida)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=klPDvs5vvAM[/youtube]

One AFC scout said this to me about the predicament the Ravens could find themselves in when it comes to Pouncey at 26.

“Well…they’d have to take him…they couldn’t afford the risk of him joining his brother in Pittsburgh.”

Clearly that doesn’t ACTUALLY mean the Ravens would have to select Pouncey at 26, but it is a tough decision they’d face. The Ravens have struggled to get consistent pressure on Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger over the years, which has allowed for Pittsburgh to dominate the AFC North. Every decision they make this offseason must be made knowing the road to the Super Bowl will go directly through the Steel City.

Should Mike Pouncey join his brother Maurkice Pouncey, the Steelers’ O-Line would clearly become that much stronger. It would also make the Ravens’ road to Super Bowl XLVI even more difficult.

That being said, the Ravens’ interest in Pouncey isn’t solely based on keeping him out of Pittsburgh. Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron would be well served to add a player of Pouncey’s size (6’5″, 303) and ability to his O-Line. Pouncey is more likely to begin his career at guard than center; and the Ravens could ultimately shift Yanda to tackle should Gaither depart and stick with Pouncey at RG. The move would also give them a potential “center of the future” should Birk retire following the season.

Most scouts believe Pouncey isn’t quite as NFL ready as his brother was, but it’s hard too many rookies being as NFL ready as his brother was. Few scouts doubt the fact that Pouncey is an outstanding talent however, which is why he could go off at the board at 26 or earlier.

Head Coach John Harbaugh spent real time with Pouncey at the NFL Combine. The other head coach Pouncey said he spent real time with in Indy?

Mike Tomlin…of course.

K Kemar Scarlett (Morgan State)

kemarscarlett

Scarlett gained attention in recent weeks after a lengthy ESPN.com profile and an appearance with Thyrl Nelson on “The Mobtown Sports Beat” on AM1570 WNST recently. (That interview can be heard in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net.)

The Ravens visited Scarlett’s Pro Day over on Hillen Road, but make no mistake-they’re very happy with their own kicker (Billy Cundiff) and they have no interest in Scarlett or any other kicker available in this year’s Draft. It’s certainly a refreshing change for Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg after the last two offseasons.

That being said, Scarlett had a nice career for the Bears; connecting on 27 of 34 field goal attempts, including two 47 yard boots during his senior season.

Scarlett will have an opportunity to play football professionally…it just isn’t going to start with him hearing his name called in the NFL Draft.

Flexing my mic muscles since 1983…

-G

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Tuesday 3-Pointer

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Tuesday 3-Pointer

Posted on 08 February 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

Here are my three points for topical debate on this fine Tuesday morning. I hope to hear from some of you with your thoughts on the following today on the MobTown Sports Beat from 11am – 2pm, or right here as well in the comments section.

Point #1 – Could the Vlad Add Still Go Bad?

 

For all of the good feelings and uplifted expectations that came with the O’s signing of Vlad Guerrero, can you blame fans for still feeling skeptical about and until his arrival? Given the way that he seemingly spurned the O’s years ago in free agency, and worse used their offers to leverage other teams, might we be witnessing an encore performance?

 

Vlad after all, still hasn’t taken a physical. In fact, the O’s haven’t necessarily/officially signed him yet at all. Instead what they have is an agreement in principle, pending a physical and I’m sure a few other details that are beyond my comprehension. The word from the team seems to be that with relocation pending to spring training, Guerrero might meet with team doctors down and hence make everything official then. However, as news begins to build about the supposed trade demands of Michael Young who was cast to be the Rangers DH this season, it certainly doesn’t seem beyond reason or possibility that the Rangers could still re-enter the picture for Vlad with renewed interest. Despite the announcement regarding his agreement to terms with the team, it still seems that Vlad would almost rather be anywhere but it Baltimore. Might he still be able to get his wish?

 

Point #2 – Stacking the Lineup

 

Assuming that the O’s can count on the services of Vlad Guerrero once the season begins, it’s certainly becoming encouraging to envision just what the lineup(s) might look like once that time comes. Here are a few of the ideas that I have, accompanied by the batters 3-year splits for batting average only overall, and vs. lefties and vs. righties respectively. All of the following assume a defensive alignment with Derrek Lee at 1st, Brian Roberts at 2nd, Mark Reynolds at 3rd, JJ Hardy at shortstop, Matt Wieters catching and in the outfield from left to right, Luke Scott, Adam Jones, and Nick Markakis.

 

1st Glance Lineup

Vs. Lefties

Vs. Righties

1. (S) Roberts .288 1. (R) Roberts .301 1. (L) Roberts .282
2. (L) Markakis .297 2. (L) Markakis .361 2. (R) Jones .293
3. (R) Lee .286 3. (R) Lee .290 3. (L) Markakis .269
4. (R) Guerrero .300 4. (R) Guerrero .297 4. (R) Guerrero .301
5. (R) Reynolds .234 5. (R) Reynolds .245 5. (L) Scott .297
6. (L) Scott .284 6. (R) Jones .259 6. (R) Lee .284
7. (R) Jones .284 7. (L) Scott .240 7. (R) Reynolds .230
8. (S) Wieters .266 8. (R) Wieters .230 8. (L) Wieters .283
9. (R) Hardy .262 9. (R) Hardy .241 9. (R) Hardy .270

 

If Reimold winds up with the big club, he might be worth a look over Scott against lefthanders with a .270 three-year split. Jones and Lee might also be interchangeable in the vs. right-handers lineup. I’m looking forward to seeing how you think it should stack up.

 

Point #3 – Call it envy, respect or whatever you want, but there’s no denying that Baltimore has a thing for Mike Tomlin.

 

Of all of the Super Bowl reaction that we filtered through on Monday’s show, the most surprising realization for me was the overwhelming outpouring of respect levied on the Baltimore airwaves for Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.

 

I guess I was remiss in quickly turning away from the pomp and circumstance of the Packers victory celebration, and therefore also missing the post game commentary by Tomlin. Whatever he said, he impressed a number of Monday’s callers to the point that they felt compelled to applaud him for it. Perhaps, from a Ravens fans perspective, anything other than the predictable corporate coach-speak that we’ve come to expect week after week from our own coach is simply viewed as refreshing and genuine. It’s also worth mentioning that the qualities that ingratiated him to fans across the country in the aftermath of Sunday’s game did little to help his team in said game, and that the lineage of coaches that have enjoyed hoisting the Lombardi isn’t exactly a who’s who of fan or media friendly types. Still I found it interesting.

 

With all of the accolades that Tomlin has seemingly achieved in his brief reign as Steelers coach, it’s fair to say that there are still only a handful of impact players on either side of the football whose time with the club doesn’t predate his own. Only time will tell if Tomlin and the Steelers will be able to turn over the roster and remain consistently competitive as his predecessors have done and as a result whether history will regard him in higher esteem than the likes of George Seifert or Barry Switzer, as like them thus far he still bears the “curse” of inheriting a ready to go team and has been smart enough seemingly to simply get out of their way. I’m betting that when the book is closed on Tomlin, he will have achieved distinction above and beyond those others, but still quietly hoping against it. It seems, that in that way at least, Tomlin has gotten to me too.

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Nothing’s changed; the Steelers still OWN the Ravens ….

Posted on 07 February 2011 by Rex Snider

Welcome to Baltimore, Maryland …. home of Edgar Allan Poe, The Star Spangled Banner (thanks Christina !!!!), Berger Cookies, National Bohemian and some of the most fickle sports fans in America.

As this 48th day of winter greets the citizens of our city, you can bet the most predictable conversations will evolve among sports fans in every workplace and social gathering area. 

After all, today is cause for a celebration here in Charm City, because the second most-celebrated scenario unfolded before our very eyes, last night …. 

I don’t think any purple kool-aid drinking Baltimorean can imagine a happier moment than seeing the Ravens conquer their second Super Bowl Championship.

But, rest assured, the second most desirous outcome is seeing the Pittsburgh Steelers lose a Super Bowl.

That’s how the typical Baltimore football fan “rolls”, for better or worse.  And, to a point, I understand the passion.  The Steelers are ENEMY #1 in this town – they’re the Ravens archrival and cast with characters that are easy to dislike.

So, as the final seconds of Super Bowl XLV expired and the confetti rained upon the Green Bay Packers, my hometown undoubtedly became the third most celebrated CHEESEHEAD community, in America – tagging closely behind Milwaukee and Green Bay, itself.

Today’s conversations among Ravens fans will more than likely be spirited along some very predictable lines …..

“So much for that whole 7th HEAVEN thing, huh?”

“That awesome Pittsburgh defense choked.”

“I guess Roethlisberger really isn’t a winner, after all, huh?”

These are the things we’re saying today, as the perceived passion bleeds from our souls.  And, a couple distinct reasons serve as the purpose for Baltimore’s collective group of fans heralding a Super Bowl loss, as opposed to a win:

A)     We are jealous of the Steelers success ….

 

B)     Misery loves company – and we want Steelers fans to join in ours ….

But, make no mistake about the reality that existed before last night’s game.  It’s a reality that has existed for the overwhelming portion of the last fifteen years.  And, it’s a reality that proved quite true as recently as three short weeks ago.

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Morning Reaction Tuesday Top 7-Top 7 “Coolest” Athletes of All Time

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Morning Reaction Tuesday Top 7-Top 7 “Coolest” Athletes of All Time

Posted on 01 February 2011 by Glenn Clark

In honor of the copy of GQ Drew picked up at BWI Airport Sunday, today’s Tuesday Top 7 Topic was “The Top 7 Coolest Athletes of All Time”…

Glenn Clark’s Top 7…

7. Landon Donovan

landon

6. Wayne Gretzky

gretzky

5. Andy Roddick

roddick

4. Shaquille O’Neal

shaq

3. Joe Namath

namath

2. Muhammad Ali

ali

1. Andre Agassi

agassi

Drew Forrester’s Top 7…

7. Greg Maddux

maddux

6. Dan Wilcox

wilcox

5. Johnny Damon

damon

4. Mike Tomlin

tomlin

3. Derek Jeter

jeter

2. Grayson “The Professor” Boucher

boucher

1. Fred Couples

fredcouples

If you missed the explanation of why these players made the list on “The Morning Reaction” Tuesday on AM1570 WNST, hit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net!

Flexing my mic muscles since 1983…

-G

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You can’t can Cam

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You can’t can Cam

Posted on 17 January 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

The Ravens have a lot to think about in this off-season, which depending on the level of the NFL’s anticipated labor strife, could last much monger than usual this time around. Dropped balls, bad calls, blown leads and missed opportunities should and likely will haunt the members of this team for as long as it takes them to see enough success to put those memories into their proverbial rearview mirror.

 

Given the embarrassing fashion in which their season ended on Saturday, again at the unforgiving hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers, I’d imagine there’ll be a lot of off-season soul searching going on at every level of the organization.

 

Some of those who had a hand in Saturday’s loss will not be back; it’s the inevitability of professional football. And predictably one of the popular choices, at least amongst the fans, to not come back is offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.

 

While I’m not in love with the body of work that Cameron has compiled here with the Ravens, and while I was also in the camp of those who were unimpressed with the hire when it happened, put me squarely in the camp of those who want Cam back for another shot at this thing. There are a number of factors that have led me to think this way, but here are, in my opinion, the most poignant.

 

First is the labor strife mentioned earlier. Who knows when this thing will be resolved? Even the most hopeful of fans has to believe that negotiations will run into, and therefore likely compromise OTA’s. Further, in the course of negotiating for a longer season and more money, the owners appear likely to be willing to severely scale back OTA schedules as a concession to the union.

 

That would mean that going forward, the suddenly chic turnover of coach and quarterback leading to instant success formula could be a short lived phenomenon and a relic of a now bygone era. Even if that’s not the case, surely an off-season in which there may not be OTA’s anyway, and in which the season itself may be forced to begin in haste is the worst possible time to think about jettisoning coaches or coordinators. Implementing a new system would be a hopeless proposition, so promoting within would have to be the logical next step anyway. Is Jim Zorn or Al Saunders that compelling right now?

 

On a related note, if 2011 has all of the expected trouble getting off the ground, there will likely be a number of teams in terrible situations for the reasons mentioned above. It would be foolish for a team that was so close to put themselves willingly into that category just for the sake of casting a scapegoat.

 

Second, for John Harbaugh to fire Cameron would look like an attempt to absolve himself from culpability in Saturday’s meltdown. The coordinators call the plays, but the coaches set the game plan. Cameron and Mattison both take their cues from Harbaugh. Throughout the season Harbaugh has eschewed the opportunity to play to win, rather than not to lose. That the coordinators follow suit with their play calling philosophies shouldn’t be a surprise. Again on Saturday, Harbaugh’s lack of aggression and subsequent mismanagement of the clock at the end of the first half showed no faith in the offense’s ability to use sound judgment while attempting to put a proverbial dagger in the Steelers. You could say that the tone for the second half began being set in those moments. Confidence is funny like that. The coach should have shown confidence in his offense.

 

Beyond that, since Harbaugh has apparently already indicated a desire to bring back his coordinators ahead of his year end meeting with Steve Bisciotti, backing off of that stance now would seem to give a clear indication that his had was being forced.

 

And lastly and in my mind most importantly, there’s Cameron’s potential to grow. We all have that. We learn from our mistakes. Sometimes we have to make those mistakes over and over again before we grow from them, but the capacity is there for all of us.

 

I know how not only the Ravens’ loss, but also the way that they lost has sat with me as a fan in the 36 hours or so since the final whistle blew. I also know that I can’t even begin to imagine how much it affected those responsible for it at every level. Hopefully there’s a fire burning inside of every member of the organization that will keep them up nights until they have a chance to finish what they started…whenever that may be.

 

That, after all, should have been the expectation anyway. You don’t hire a head coach who’s never done it before and expect everything to come easily. To their credit, Harbaugh and company have made it look too easy at times, so easy perhaps that we’re holding them all to an improbable standard if not an impossible one.

 

Maybe that’s what’s at the heart of it all. It is an improbable charge, but not an impossible one. The road to being Bill Bellichick is a typical one, albeit to atypical results, Look no further however than to Bellichick’s early coaching career to see where all of that savvy came from. Early struggles laid the groundwork for near unprecedented success later, after learning lessons the hard way.

 

Mike Tomlin however, has been the exception to the rule. Tomlin took charge of a team that was ready to win, and allowed them to do their thing, but he did take charge…complete charge. In so doing, he’s given us as fans the expectation that Harbaugh and company should be able to do the same. And they’re in the same division. The Ravens have gotten close…and they’re getting closer. Even in the wake of a monumental meltdown – especially in the wake of a monumental meltdown – they’re getting closer.

 

Allow them to grow Steve Bisciotti. If you want to help them to grow then empower them. Give Harbaugh his raise and his extension, he’s earned that. And give them all the assurance that fortune favors the bold. We’ve seen what the conservative approach to protecting a lead (and protecting your job) leads to. Give them the assurance that 21 point losses and 3 point losses will be judged as equal, as long as they are playing to win. Confidence is funny that way. The owner needs to show some in his coaching staff.

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Part 1 of 3 – Aftermath of a meltdown in Pittsburgh

Posted on 16 January 2011 by Drew Forrester

I remember a scene moments after the Ravens lost to the Steelers in Baltimore back on December 5.  I wrote it about in my post-game blog, in fact, because it was so memorable and so fitting.

A veteran Ravens defensive player exited the team’s locker room at M&T Bank Stadium and I just happened to be in his path, coming at him from 20 yards away.  As we approached one another and made eye contact, I simply said, “Tough one” and he mumbled, just loud enough for me to hear, “We just can’t beat him.”

I saw that player on Saturday night after the game in the locker room in Pittsburgh.  He was among the devastated, sitting at his locker with a towel around his head and disbelief on his face.  This time around, I didn’t say anything to him.

What’s there to say?

He was right back in December.

The Ravens just can’t beat Ben Roethlisberger.

And that isn’t meant to be a dig at Joe Flacco, who was admirable enough most of the season and enjoyed a career-day in Kansas City before having to face the varsity on Saturday at Heinz Field.  As I wrote following the pounding of the Chiefs a week ago:  ”Joe won’t be seeing the Chiefs next Saturday.  He’ll be facing the Steelers.  That’s like going from a 6-furlong race to a mile-and-a-quarter.”

Turns out the mile-and-a-quarter race was a little too much for Flacco and the Ravens offense.

But it was just fine for Roethlisberger.

And I can say this with as much confidence as I can possibly have about a subject in sports:  Until the Ravens figure out a way to beat the Steelers when it counts, they’re not going to play in another Super Bowl.  And that means they MUST figure out a way to beat Roethlisberger.

It’s the Yankees and the Red Sox all over again.  Both of those teams go into every off-season thinking the same thing:  ”How can we be better than (the Red Sox/the Yankees)?”

If the Ravens can’t beat the Steelers, they can’t ever be great.

That’s a fact.

As Saturday night’s game ended, I was down by the area where the teams come off the field.  The Steelers bounded up the steps and Hines Ward yelled out, “They wanted us!  They wanted us!  And they got us!  Now, they don’t want us no more!”

Whether or not the Ravens “want” the Steelers is neither here nor there.  The fact remains that they’re going to have beat Pittsburgh when it matters at some point in the near future.  Ward was right.  The Ravens DID want the Steelers.  They felt good going into the game.  All that was left was to finish the job.  And they couldn’t do it.

The hows and whys of Saturday night are very easy to figure out.

Some people who can’t handle the truth will do what they always do: place the blame on the officials.  (And for the record, I thought the game wasn’t officiated very well AS A WHOLE, but both teams were affected by questionable calls and despite that, it was a one-score game with six minutes to play.)

Some people who know football will speak the gospel:  When you turn the ball over three times in a game you’re leading 21-7, you’re going to lose every single time.  When you throw a ball into the arms of your highest paid receiver in the end zone with six minutes to play – trailing by 3 points – and he doesn’t catch it, you’re going to lose most of the time.  And on 3rd and 19, when you rush 3 defensive players and let a speedy wide receiver get behind your deepest defensive back, a great quarterback is going to make that play and beat you.

A Ray Rice fumble, a Joe Flacco interception, and a bad snap from Matt Birk that Flacco couldn’t corral all conspired against the Ravens in that epic third quarter collapse.  What was a safe, comfortable 21-7 lead turned into a tie game before the quarter ended.

The Steelers didn’t make those mistakes, the Ravens did.

And that’s how you lose.

As Baltimore came to the line of scrimmage after stopping the Steelers on the opening drive of the second half, I leaned over (continued )

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Ravens LB Dannell Ellerbe steals former alma mater rivalry to describe Steelers-Ravens: “Good, Old-Fashioned Hate”

Posted on 14 January 2011 by Ryan Chell

The week of preparation is finally over and on Saturday, the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers will hit the field and put their long-standing AFC North and divisional rivalry to the test with a chance to advance to the conference championship on the line.

The Ravens (13-4)-entered the postseason as the five-seed in the AFC playoffs-defeated the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday 30-7 on the road in their opening wild card matchup, and now along with the Jets and Patriots facing off in the other Divisional game, the Ravens are determined to get over the hump known as the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Several Ravens players joined “The Morning Reaction” this week to discuss their eagerness to punish the hated Steelers, and making the AFC Championship by beating them would make it that much more worth it.

“I know the playoff atmosphere is going to be crazy,” linebacker Dannell Ellerbe told Drew Forrester of “The Morning Reaction” earlier this week, “because when we played Pittsburgh earlier this year it was a lot like a playoff game, and that was a regular season game.”

Ellerbe has played well in the recent weeks with the injury to linebacker Tavares Gooden, giving Ellerbe more of an opportunity to showcase his skills again to coach John Harbaugh in the attempt to get out of the dreaded “doghouse”.

Punter Sam Koch also joined Drew and Glenn Clark on Thursday and re-iterated the same point.

“We’re such a closer team this year from last,” Koch said. “And it’s just a vibe that were going to go out and we’re going to do it this year. A lot of people are excited, and we’re all ready to see where we are and where we’ll end up.”

And it would get even better for the Ravens to host the AFC Championship game should the cards play out for them on Sunday.

“It will be a lot of fun,” the Ravens punter said. “It would be even nicer if the Jets beat the Patriots.”

Both Koch and Ellerbe talked about the difficulty though of playing up in a hostile environment of Heinz Field, and with the stakes higher, it makes the challenge of having a solid game of football that much harder.

Koch and Ellerbe both challenged the Ravens fans to be present, active, and lively on Saturday on the road to make it that much harder for the Steelers to concentrate on their game plan.

“We’re going to need every fan we can get there,” Koch added.”Whenever you were going to Pittsburgh or they were coming here, everybody wanted to go to the game, and everybody is cheering you on. It’s just a great atmosphere and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Koch compared the Pittsburgh-Ravens rivalry to the rivalries his alma mater, Nebraska, has with Oklahoma and Colorado, but times ten.

Ellerbe meanwhile compared it to his college-the University of Georgia-and its rivalry with in-state foe Georgia Tech.

The name of that rivalry game?

Good, Old-Fashioned Hate.

And while Ellerbe said he feels the same way toward the Steelers, he did admit that the rivalry takes on a bigger result in the professional leagues of football as opposed to the amateur level of college football.

“It’s different now because we’re in the NFL and more is at stake right now,” Ellerbe said.

“It would be great to get this win and get the best out of three this year and move on in the playoffs.”

WNST has you covered for Saturday’s game versus Pittsburgh! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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Live From Owings Mills: Harbaugh Says “It’s Our Turn” To Beat Roethlisberger

Posted on 11 January 2011 by Glenn Clark

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens (13-4) returned to practice Tuesday, beginning a short week of preparation for Saturday’s AFC divisional playoff showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) at Heinz Field.

The Ravens are 0-5 in games started by Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger since hiring John Harbaugh as Head Coach (including the 2009 AFC Championship Game). Harbaugh said Tuesday he’s ready to see that number change.

“It bothers me a lot” said Harbaugh. “I’d rather that we won. We want to win those games. Obviously, he’s a really good quarterback. It seems like we see great quarterbacks a lot. We’ve beaten our fair share, but we haven’t beaten him. It’s our turn.”

Roethlisberger was complementary of the Ravens despite an 8-2 record in the AFC North rivalry in games he’s started. In a Tuesday conference call with Charm City reporters, Roethlisberger said there was one particular factor that allowed for his success in the series.

“Getting lucky” said the two time Super Bowl winning QB. “That’s all it is. I don’t think there’s any magic recipe other than I guess I’m lucky.”

Roethlisberger went on to say that despite his career success, he doesn’t always enjoy playing the Ravens.

“As a competitor, you love (the rivalry). But I hate playing the Ravens because they’re so good. Every single person and every scheme, everything they do challenges you. They’re good.”

Ravens LB Jarret Johnson told reporters Roethlisberger deserves praise, but isn’t the only reason the Steelers have had success against the Ravens.

“When he gets out (of the pocket), he’s killed us” said Johnson. “I think their defense is a big part of (their success), it’s not just him.”

Johnson was also skeptical of Roethlisberger’s theory of being “lucky.”

“I don’t know about that. They’re a good team. There’s one thing about this (rivalry). If you win this game, you’ve earned it. There’s luck that falls in every game (but) if you win these games-for us or them-you’ve earned it.”

PRACTICE REPORT
: The Ravens held a walkthrough Tuesday which was closed to the media. No official injury report was released Tuesday either.

One player who was a participant in Tuesday’s walkthrough was S Ed Reed, who had left the team following their AFC Wild Card playoff win over the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. Reed had traveled to Louisiana to spend time with his family after his brother (Brian Reed) went missing following a jump into the Mississippi River. The younger Reed is presumed dead.

“Ed was here” said Harbaugh. “Ed got back and he practiced, he went through the meetings today. He was in good spirits, he seemed like he was doing pretty well.”

Ravens players were happy to see their Pro Bowl teammate return.

“(That’s) your leader” said CB Josh Wilson. “You always want your leader back. You need him back there to talk it up. I’m just glad for him to be back and just get back to business.”

Reed declined an opportunity to speak with reporters.

NOTES: Hear from Harbaugh, Johnson, Wilson, G Ben Grubbs, CB Chris Carr and WR Derrick Mason now in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault at WNST.net……The conference calls with Roethlisberger and Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin are also available in the Audio Vault……Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz joined Drew Forrester Tuesday on “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST, that chat is available in the Audio Vault as well……Director of Player Personnel Eric DeCosta is scheduled to join Forrester Wednesday at 8:15am, LB Dannell Ellerbe is scheduled to join Forrster at 7:40am Thursday……The Ravens will return to practice Thursday. LB Ray Lewis, LB Terrell Suggs, QB Joe Flacco and TE Todd Heap are scheduled to meet with reporters

-G

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A Dear John letter…

Posted on 01 December 2010 by Nestor Aparicio

Dear John:

It’s Pittsburgh week here and we’re finally on the cusp of getting to the promised land of having some home “Festivus” games in January. And it’s all come down to this: if we win this week and vanquish the Steelers, who have been our oppressors as a community since 1971, we’re probably going to have a week off to watch the playoffs on TV and then have some home cooking. And maybe some folks will even bring those ridiculous purple towels back for another meeting with the Steelers here in Baltimore in January.

But if we lose – and let’s be honest – we’ve NEVER won this kind of game at home on your watch – we’ll be back on the road to Jacksonville or Indianapolis or San Diego or Kansas City for Week 1 of the playoffs. That is, if we even get there at all, because we all know nothing is automatic in the NFL.

This is an open letter and I think this is going to be a trial way of communicating and writing what I think about what you’ve done and what you’re doing here as the leader of the 53 Mighty Men. I haven’t opined much since you’ve taken over as head coach. As you probably know, I’m semi-crazy running and growing WNST.net and I limit my “media time” to my social media endeavors and the occasional video or blog on the run. I also still love your football team with all of my heart and my life is built around Sundays, just like yours. And, honestly, I only take the time to write about stuff that I’m very passionate about or on topics I’m interested in tackling.

Today, I’m writing about you because it’s time to get some stuff off my chest.

I don’t know you that well and I can’t believe you trust me anymore than you trust any of the other media people or anyone else poking for what you deem to be “state secret” information regarding injuries, plays, schemes, coaching philosophies or any of the other things that makes you a very paranoid dude.

Sure, I know you read all of this stuff and you’re probably not going to like everything I write here. But that’s OK, because it needs to be said by someone. And as much as you don’t really understand or respect the Baltimore media – I’ve been doing this for 27 years and I know as much as about the media as you do football coaching – this is what we do for a living: we report, analyze and opine about what you do.

And it’s my job to know as much as I can possibly know, learn as much as I can possibly learn and ask questions on behalf of the fans in the community and then try to interpret and analyze and EXPLAIN to people how all of this really works.

I’ve dedicated my entire life to it and I’ve been proudly trained by the best people in the world from every walk of life in a variety of sports since I was 15 years old on journalism, coaching, leadership, strategy and sports psychology and business. I’m also a bit of a sports history buff.

That’s my job. I’m good at it. I work hard at it. I take pride in it. It’s as important to me as football is to you.

Let me begin by saying that I can’t imagine a soul in this city who could argue with the results we’ve seen since you took over as head coach. This is a good football team that appears to be on the road to doing some special things if the breaks go our way. As much as we hear the bitching and moaning after the losses to Cincinnati and New England and Atlanta, anyone who doesn’t think 8-3 is good enough is just an ingrate.

Sure, the secondary could be better, this McClain injury sucks, Flacco could use a few more footballs for his wide receivers, you’d prefer to have a real punt and kickoff returner you could rely on, etc. If you had Ed Reed and Ray Lewis in their primes

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