Thursday, September 30, 2010
By Kevin Cowherd
The Baltimore Sun
6:05 PM EDT, September 29, 2010
Ray Lewis accidentally wandered into the line of fire of a heated game of cornhole in the Ravens locker room before practice Wednesday.
"Ray Lewis!" screamed safety Haruki Nakamura in mock outrage.
For a moment, Lewis seemed startled. Then realizing what he had done, the great middle linebacker smiled and extended his arms, pretending to soar like an airplane as the beanbags resumed flying over his head.
Yeah, too bad the guy's so uptight for Sunday's showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field.
The truth, of course, is that even in his 15th season, Ray Lewis lives for these kind of games, big games on big stages, 70,000 fans shrieking on every play.
His resume reads like the best from pro football's Valhalla. Eleven Pro Bowls. Two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year (2000, 2003.) Super Bowl XXXV MVP. The Ravens' all-time tackles leader (2,368). The team leader in tackles in 12 of the past 14 seasons. Eleven seasons with at least 150 tackles.
You wonder how much longer he can play at such an elevated level. But that's a question for another day.
This is Steelers week. And winding down a magnificent career that will land him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame is the last thing on Lewis' mind right now.
"The guy not only motivates the team, he motivates the city," linebacker Terrell Suggs had said of Lewis moments earlier. "He kind of puts all of us and the fans on his back. Not a lot of men have … shoulders built for that. His are pretty big. He gets us all ready to play. He's our physical and emotional leader."
To that end, Lewis has spent the week studying reams of film on the Steelers' offense and preparing himself for yet another dock brawl in the Steel City.
There have been many of them since he first broke into the league back in 1996, and he says he relishes them even more now than he did then.
When he met with the media Wednesday, the first question posed was this: Is Ravens versus Steelers the most physical matchup in the league right now?
"I think so," he said quickly. "You look at both defenses, [their] style and mentality, the way we play football, they get after people and we get after people … "
His voice trailed off.
"So here we go again," he concluded with a shrug of his shoulders and the hint of a smile.
Yes, here we go again. Only this meeting with Pittsburgh will be a little different than most of the ones in recent memory.
That's because the Steelers, who have gotten off to a 3-0 start, will be without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who sits out the last game of a four-game suspension for generally being a dangerous creep around women.
Charlie Batch will be the Steelers' quarterback Sunday. In football years, Batch might be old enough to be your grandfather.
But Lewis says Roethlisberger's suspension makes no difference in how the Ravens play this game.
"Absolutely not," he said. "… Because you're playing the Pittsburgh Steelers, bottom line. They have a tradition of no matter what's going on, they're going to play their style of football. If you go in there worrying about one person not being there, you're going to find yourself in a whole lot of trouble, because they stick to their identity."
A moment or two later, the talk turned to Hines Ward, the Steelers' veteran wide receiver and frequent Ravens nemisis, now in his 13th season in the league.
At the mention of Ward's name, Lewis seemed to light up.
Ward ranks third among active wide receivers with 905 career receptions, and his 11,098 receiving yards rank him No. 1 all-time among Steelers receivers.
For an instant, Lewis seemed to be imagining Ward on a crossing pattern in front of him, the ball in the air and the two veterans about to meet violently on the football field for the umpteenth time.
"Hines Ward is one of the true professionals," he said at last. "He plays the game with a smile on his face most of the time. It [ticks] people off. But if you can play the game with that kind of emotion and intensity, then do it. That's why he's been around for so long."
"How do you wipe that smile off his face?" a reporter wanted to know.
"Hit him," Lewis said. "That's the way to knock off anybody's smile on the football field."
It's a lock to say Ray Lewis will be hitting a few people at Heinz Field this Sunday. Again: big game, big stage. This is what the man lives for.
It's Steelers Week. For Lewis, even after all these years, it's the gift that keeps on giving.
Listen to Kevin Cowherd Tuesdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. with Jerry Coleman on Fox 1370 AM Sports.
Thursday, September 30, 2010
Hines always tells us he's trying to knock somebody's soul out of their body. — Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor.
I like that quote. I remember the question, too. I asked Taylor a few years ago if he might enlighten me on teammate Hines Ward's approach to the game, particularly the physical part of it and Ward's feelings toward the Baltimore Ravens.
The feelings, of course, are mutual and might best be described as a potent mix of revulsion and respect.
It is a rare rivalry that resumes at 1 p.m. Sunday, when the Ravens visit Heinz Field.
Lawrence Timmons tackles Derrick Mason in Steelers' 13-9 win on December 14, 2008.
These teams aren't into the arena-style football that has come to plague the NFL. They don't play under a roof on a living-room carpet with the thermostat set to 72.5, rolling up points like a pinball machine. They play outdoors, in sun and rain and mud and snow, and bash each other's skulls in. More often than not, defense rules the day.
Some of us prefer it that way.
Mike Tomlin was dead-on Tuesday when he labeled Steelers-Ravens "the best rivalry in the NFL." I wonder if it's also a dying breed, the kind of rivalry we won't see in 10 or 20 years, by which time quarterbacks will play with flags in their belts and tackling will be only semi-legal.
"We're almost illegal now, the way we play," said Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, speaking Wednesday of both defenses. "I don't know if you'll see the legendary, physical-type teams (anymore), 'cause everybody wants to see the scoreboard lit up."
Until then, brutality rules when these two teams meet. So here's a six-pack of hits that have helped to define the series:
›› Nov. 5, 2007: James Harrison plants Ed Reed like a javelin. This was a coming-out party for Ravens reject Harrison, who went nuts with nine tackles, 3 1/2 sacks, three forced fumbles, a recovered fumble and a terrifying takedown of Reed on a punt return. Ravens defensive end Trevor Pryce said he knew it wasn't Baltimore's night "when a little, 5-9 linebacker (Harrison actually is listed at 6 feet) gets four sacks. That will never happen again in his life." I immediately relayed the words to Harrison.
His response: "Who's Trevor Pryce?"
›› Sept. 19, 2004: Gary Baxter injures Tommy Maddox. It wasn't a highlight-reel hit when the Ravens' cornerback combined with Terrell Suggs to pop Tommy Gun. But it did change the course of Steelers history. In came rookie Ben Roethlisberger, who suffered a rude introduction to pro football. Afterward, he said, "I'm not Tommy Maddox; can't be Tommy Maddox. I'm just going to do the best I can."
›› Jan. 18, 2009: Ryan Clark sends Willis McGahee to the hospital. The hit — deemed a clean one — knocked both men silly and epitomized what had to be one of the most violent conference title games ever played. Clark made it off the field. McGahee did not; he was carried away in a medical flatbed cart. Clark didn't want to talk much about the play yesterday — he believes too much has been made of it — but said, "It was a clean hit, and you're always looking to make hits like that."
›› Sept. 29, 2008: Ray Lewis snaps Rashard Mendenhall's shoulder blade in half. Lewis met Mendenhall straight-on and put a quick and pitiless end to his rookie season.
›› Nov. 26, 2006: Bart Scott annihilates Big Ben. Untouched off the left end, Scott delivered a shot Roethlisberger called the hardest he'd ever absorbed. Scott said "it felt good to hear the air leave (Roethlisberger's) body." Steelers tackle Willie Colon was watching from the sideline that day. "One of the worst hits I've ever seen," he recalled. "But that's what this series is about — one shot after another."
›› Nov. 5, 2007: Ward blasts Ed Reed and Bart Scott. With some of the legendary figures in Steelers history watching from the sidelines, Ward lit up Reed on a Hines-side hit in the middle of the field and later blasted Scott on the sidelines. That led to Scott vowing to "kill" Ward and to talk of the Ravens putting a bounty on Ward the following season.
Nobody was surprised.
Get ready for another soul-knocker Sunday.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
The Baltimore Sun
5:02 PM EDT, September 28, 2010
When the Ravens play the Indianapolis Colts, you don't need a psychologist to explain why you suddenly have a burning desire to go punch a moving truck.
When it's the Pittsburgh Steelers — and you want to go all "Deer Hunter" on some drunk guy in a Hines Ward jersey — it's a little more complicated. You might want to lie down on that couch and let the nice doctor go to town.
The thing is, we love to hate the Steelers and their miscreant, terrible-towel-waving fans, but the motivation is not as obvious as one Mayflower van through the heart. This is about them and us, and I'm not just talking about two smash-mouth football teams that play great defense and always seem to be in a death match with postseason implications — even in Week 4.
Sure, the Steelers are a great football team with an enviable tradition and a room full of Lombardi trophies, which already would be enough to stoke the competitive fire of this rivalry. Throw in some nasty street fights over the past few years and you've got all the ingredients for another head-banger at Heinz Field on Sunday.
But this rivalry runs much deeper than that, and goes beyond a single sport or even sports in general. Whenever the Ravens and Steelers hook up, they represent two cities fighting not over their differences, but over their similarities.
Think about it. The Steelers represent a hard-scrabble industrial town that wears its blue collar like a badge. Baltimore was never the steel capital of the world, but we don't bleach our work shirts either. If you still need a football game to decide which town is tougher, that ought to tell you something.
The sports parallels are unmistakable. Each city has a long and glorious football history, though Baltimore's was interrupted when the Colts slithered away under the cover of darkness. Each city also has a long and storied baseball history that has been soiled by years of ineptitude.
The Pirates are one of the few teams in the major leagues that the Orioles haven't had to look up to over the past 13 years, but that's one of the reasons there is no longer any question that both Baltimore and Pittsburgh are football towns.
If you doubt there is an overarching civic rivalry, consider the actual sports landscape. The construction of Oriole Park was the beginning of a new era of sports architecture and quickly became the envy of the baseball world. Pittsburgh didn't just join in the rush to replicate the Camden Yards new-old experience, but built PNC Park with such a striking panoramic view of the Three Rivers area that it is considered by some (not us, of course) to be one of the most visually dazzling facilities in professional sports.
The construction of Heinz Field also followed the opening of the Ravens' state-of-the-art downtown stadium, giving Pittsburgh an equally impressive baseball/football complex. I'm sure the denizens of the Steel City would vigorously insist that a sports building boom was going on all over the country at that time and deny there was any intent to keep up with Baltimore, but it's pretty obvious they want to be just like us. Can't blame them for that.
They do have one big advantage over us. They've got a pretty good NHL team that won the Stanley Cup two years ago, but — as everybody knows — it doesn't really count if it's on the Versus channel. Oh, and the Pirates did beat the Orioles in the 1971 and 1979 World Series, but they probably cheated or something.
The biggest thing both cities have in common is a serious self-esteem problem. Baltimore is constantly trying to prove that it isn't just the backdrop for "The Wire" and "Homicide: Life on the Street." Pittsburgh is slightly more conflicted as it hangs on to its hard-as-steel image while trying to prove it's not just the dull factory town that filmmakers like to use to illustrate urban despair.
To be fair, they are both much better places than they have often been portrayed to the rest of the world, but that doesn't make for much of a storyline as the Ravens and Steelers prepare to renew one of football's best rivalries.
Let's just leave it at this: We hate the Steelers for all the reasons we do understand and some that we probably don't.
Now, what were you saying, doctor?
Listen to Peter Schmuck on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon Fridays and Saturdays and at 6 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays with Brett Hollander. Also, check out his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at www.baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.
Copyright © 2010, The Baltimore Sun
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Ben Roethlisberger dug a large hole and threw his team into it, and the Steelers have turned it into the foundation for the 2010 season.
The happiest fan watching the Steelers' first three games of the season at home had to be Roethlisberger, whose four-game suspension to start the season robbed them of their franchise quarterback.
Peter Diana / Post-Gazette
The Steelers will have a winning record when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger returns to the team.
Given little chance to get off to a decent start and underdogs in their first two games, the Steelers have swept their first three games behind a quarterback deemed not ready (Dennis Dixon) and one who was considered too old and brittle even by his own coaches (Charlie Batch).
One more game, at home Sunday against their most bitter rivals, the Baltimore Ravens, and the Steelers can turn the offense back over to Roethlisberger. Whether they are 4-0 or 3-1, they will pass it on as a special gift to a man who could have stolen their season.
That, however, is not how they see it.
"Just because Ben isn't there, he's not the whole team," linebacker James Harrison said. "He's a big part of this team, no question, but he's not the whole team. He's not going to determine if we win or lose a game. It may be something that may be a contributing factor, but the next guy in line is just a starter in waiting, and that's how we look at everything."
The Steelers' defense and special teams virtually carved out victories in the first two games with the offense scoring one touchdown, Rashard Mendenhall's 50-yard run in overtime to win the opener against Atlanta. Sunday, Batch threw three touchdown passes, the offense scored four times and the defense did its thing again in a 38-13 victory at Tampa Bay.
No matter the outcome against Baltimore, the Steelers will reside in first place in the AFC North when Roethlisberger returns. At the end of the day Sunday, they were one of two NFL teams with a 3-0 record.
Chris Kemoeatu, one of the Steelers' offensive linemen who have hung out with Roethlisberger the most over the past few years, believes that Roethlisberger had to enjoy the first three games.
"Definitely, he was hungry to come back, but there's nothing he can do about it," Kemoeatu said. "All he can do is sit it out, and we have to do a good job too as far as covering for him until he gets back. Maybe when he gets back and he'll be ready to go and it will be downhill from there."
Kemoeatu acknowledged that Roethlisberger dug something of a hole for his team by getting suspended, but he noted that the Steelers were determined not only to stick by him but to forge ahead without him.
"That's the great thing about this, it's a family, a brotherhood. No matter what happens to each other, we're all we got and we have to stick together. Stuff like that happens all the time around the league, all we can do is support each other. Whether it's stuff on the field, off the field, we have to support each other."
Roethlisberger politely declined an interview request, and he is not permitted to speak to teammates or coaches about football strategy during his suspension. He has been working out at Hampton High School with a quarterbacks coach and some receivers.
The absence of the quarterback who posted the first 4,000-yard passing season in franchise history last year put pressure on the Steelers' defense to keep things close in the early going. They have allowed two late-game touchdowns with big leads and have scored one of their own, Brett Keisel's 79-yard interception return in Tampa.
"We just knew we had to play well on defense," said defensive captain James Farrior. "We felt we had to carry the load and give ourselves a chance, keep it close and we had to hang. And who knows what was going to happen?"
Linebacker LaMarr Woodley gave a verbal shrug about what it would mean to present Roethlisberger with a 4-0 record next week.
"That's our mindset, to go out and play hard each and every game; 3-0, that's small. A season is 16-0. I mean, you have to aim high.
"When Ben went down, everybody felt like the Pittsburgh Steelers would be down a little bit. But I think a lot of people forgot what kind of defense we play here.
"We're going to continue to play at a high level. When Ben comes back, he's going to take care of the offensive side of the ball, and we're going to continue to take care of the defensive side of the ball. The defense takes care of the defense and the offense takes care of the offense. We never worry about the offense out there. All we need for the offense to do is put a few points on the board and we'll take care of the rest."
For more on the Steelers, read the blog, Ed Bouchette On the Steelers at www.post-gazette.com/plus. Ed Bouchette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10271/1090875-66.stm#ixzz10pNPdUSK
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
DENVER - AUGUST 29: Offensive linemen Maurkice Pouncey #53, Max Starks #78, Flozell Adams #71 and Chris Kemoeatu #68 of the Pittsburgh Steelers watch from the sideline as they prepare for action against the Denver Broncos during preseason NFL action at INVESCO Field at Mile High on August 29, 2010 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Steelers 34-17. (Getty Images)
As much as Flozell Adams making the challenging switch from left tackle to right tackle has become the talk of the Steelers' locker room, so has Adams becoming one of the guys.
The Steelers' offensive line is a team within a team. It's a close-knit group that emboldened quiet left guard Chris Kemoeatu to welcome outsiders into his world. Put Kemoeatu in front of a microphone or camera these days, and he becomes a walking sound bite.
Willie Colon travels with the team and sits at a locker on game days even though he's out for the year with an Achilles injury. Colon's injury is why the Steelers signed Adams out of desperation. Adams' sense of wanting to belong explains his willingness to re-learn a position he hasn't played since college.
Little by little, Adams has loosened up around his new teammates and bought into the Steeler way.
"The Cowboys are past," Adams said. "I'm a Steeler, and I look forward to doing what I can to help the organization win."
Max Starks appreciates what Adams is doing. Starks and Adams are both left tackles, but Adams wanted to play for the Steelers. To do that, he had to learn a new position.
"He was an unknown (at right tackle). He had that question mark next to him," Starks said. "(But) there's a reason why he's a Pro Bowl guy. He's really embraced us. Our offensive line is different from most around the league. We're a very close unit. We're like brothers. He came in and we embraced him. He bought into the plan, and now he sees the payoff."
Adams played his first 12 seasons in Dallas, and then he was an ex-Cowboy. At 35, Adams' supposed flaw, the main flaw, actually, was age. As in too old and too slow.
What else could it be? Strength? Never a question for a man who still pushes defensive linemen around on running plays like he's shoving air.
Adams played left tackle for a dozen years; you have to pass block at a high level to play that position that long.
What attracted Adams to the Steelers was an opportunity to continue to start for a winner. What attracted the Steelers to Adams is that he's a devastating run blocker.
Despite his slow gait to the line of scrimmage, and despite a physique that isn't what it used to be, Adams holds his own in the running game.
In Sunday's 38-13 win at Tampa Bay, Adams and the right side of the line opened holes big enough to drive a sports utility vehicle through. Led by Rashard Mendenhall, the Steelers rushed for a season-high 201 yards. Mendenhall carried 19 times for 143 yards and a touchdown. On four runs behind right tackle, Mendenhall gained 63 yards. Mendenhall has topped 100 yards twice in the first three games after recording three 100-yard games last season.
As a pass blocker, Adams also graded high against Tampa Bay. Quarterback Charlie Batch, making his first start in three years, tossed three touchdown passes. The offensive line kept Batch upright and didn't allow a sack.
And now a player who seemed like a huge gamble when he arrived is becoming a mainstay.
"That's one of the things you go through," Adams said. "Just coming in, getting to know each other and learn particular calls. It's still the beginning of the season. Even though we're out of training camp and we're three games in, it's still a learning experience for all of us. You can have the best game of your life and still have some learning to do. The sky's the limit for us.''
Cloudy skies have turned sunny with Adams in the lineup.
By Ron Cook, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel ran back a 79-yard interception return for a touchdown during Sunday's game at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
Long ago in a far off place, little Brett Keisel scored a touchdown.
OK, so maybe Keisel never was little. But we are talking 14 years and 60 pounds ago. It was the 1996 football season, and Keisel was a senior at Greybull High School.
That's Greybull, Wyo., a really far off place I think you will agree.
"I wore No. 4," Keisel recalled Sunday. "We lost a playoff game to Lusk High that year, but I caught a touchdown pass."
Keisel was a 225-pound tight end/middle linebacker back then. Today, he's a 285-pound defensive end for the Steelers with the same number of touchdowns this season as future Hall of Famer Hines Ward and one more than Pro Bowl tight end Heath Miller.
Yes, all these years later, Keisel will tell you there's still no place like the end zone.
The big man got to live the defensive lineman's dream Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium, seeing the football pop in the air off the hands of Buccaneers wide receiver Sammie Stroughter an instant before Steelers linebacker James Harrison put a big hit on him. Keisel was there to grab it "only because he hustled to the football," according to fellow defensive end Aaron Smith. "That's a hustle play, absolutely."
This time, Keisel's hands didn't fail him. Nine seasons in the NFL and this was his first interception. Only a week earlier in Tennessee, after Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley rattled Titans quarterback Kerry Collins and forced a fumble, Keisel had a chance to catch the ball out of the air but dropped it.
"Ah, I did that for [nose tackle Chris Hoke]," Keisel said. "He's been in the league 10 years and never had a fumble recovery. I wanted him to get one."
That's Keisel's story, and he's sticking to it.
Now, he has another tale to tell, and this one is priceless.
Doing what a former tight end is supposed to do, Keisel turned upfield at the Steelers' 21 and saw nothing but green in front of him. Well, green and Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman.
"I knew I couldn't let him tackle me," Keisel said. "If I had let him get me, these guys would never have let me hear the end of it.
"I had to score. If I didn't, everyone would say, 'He's getting old. He can't run like he used to.' To be able to actually score a touchdown like that and do it on a big stage is awesome."
No, Freeman wasn't a problem. Woodley made sure of that, taking him out with a block. Cornerbacks William Gay and Ike Taylor also were there to provide an escort service for Keisel.
"You see how I slowed down to use my blockers?" Keisel teased coach Mike Tomlin after the game. Later, in a serious moment, he said, "We practice that play all the time. When a guy gets a pick, we all run to the ball and look for someone to block. That's been a difference for this team in a Super Bowl here."
The reference was to Harrison's 100-yard interception return for a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII.
Keisel went 79 yards up the same sideline to score in the same end zone for the Steelers' final points in their 38-13 win against the Buccaneers.
"They might need to use me as a tight end a little bit," Keisel said, playfully.
I'm thinking Miller isn't too concerned.
The Steelers' plan is to keep Keisel at defensive end, thank you very much. Tomlin and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, though glad to see his touchdown, treasure his work against the run even more because it has been a big factor in the team's improbable 3-0 start without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The Buccaneers ran for just 75 yards, following a 46-yard rushing day by the Titans and a 58-yard day by the Atlanta Falcons in the opening game Sept. 12. Buccaneers leading rusher Cadillac Williams ran for 13 yards, the Titans' Chris Johnson for 34 yards and the Falcons' Michael Turner for 42 yards.
That's hardly all Keisel, but ...
"He's playing his [fanny] off," Smith said.
Keisel got to lug home a football from Tampa as his reward.
"Yeah, I'm keeping it," he said. "I'll probably put it next to my Super Bowl ball."
That goes back to Super Bowl XLIII. Keisel recovered a fumble by Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner after a Woodley sack in the final seconds, effectively ending the Steelers' 27-23 win and their sixth Super Bowl title.
"Woodley still wants that ball," Keisel said. "If I ever let him get his hands on it, I'll never see it again. He's not getting it."
Now there's a story you can be sure Keisel will have no problem sticking to.
Ron Cook: email@example.com. Ron Cook can be heard on the "Vinnie and Cook" show weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on 93.7 The Fan.
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By Dejan Kovacevic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
ST. LOUIS --- Pedro Alvarez has not had the production or the profile this season to rival the Pirates' other two prized rookies, Jose Tabata and Neil Walker, but there were two powerful reminders Monday that he still might have the highest ceiling.
The first came before the game, when Alvarez was named National League player of the week for batting .417 -- 10 for 24 -- with two home runs, four doubles and 13 RBIs, the latter total the highest in all of Major League Baseball for the week ending Sunday. It was the first such award for the Pirates since catcher Ryan Doumit for June 9-15, 2008.
"It's definitely an honor," Alvarez said in the afternoon. "There are some guys in the league who are really hot, and to be privileged to get an award like this, it means a lot to me. And it's a reward for the hard work I've put in and will continue to put in. Hopefully, there's a lot more coming way."
Tom Gannam/Associated Press
The Pirates' Pedro Alvarez is congratulated by third base coach Tony Beasley after his solo home run in the second inning Monday at Busch Stadium.
That would sound prescient in a few short hours, with the second reminder: In the Pirates' 6-4 loss to St. Louis, Alvarez went 3 for 3 with his third home run in six games, a double, an RBI single, two RBIs and an intentional walk.
It was as if he had begun working on becoming the player of next week.
Alvarez, 23, has been hot and cold since his arrival June 16, sometimes striking out every second or third time up, and sometimes swinging as he did to win this award: He led all National League hitters with 20 total bases, tied for the league lead with four doubles and hit safely in every game. Most important, his biggest hits, including a three-run home run and two-run home run, contributed to team victories that were part of a 7-2 homestand.
"It's a great accolade for Pedro," manager John Russell said. "I think one good thing is that some of our players are starting to get noticed, with the way people have been talking about Tabata and Walker and Andrew McCutchen, and now Pedro. I'm proud of him."
Overall, Alvarez is batting .249 with 14 home runs, 58 RBIs and 113 strikeouts in 325 at-bats, though those have been reduced of late.
How has he grown since the promotion?
"I think the game has slowed down for me, going up to the plate, taking a shortcut to the ball on defense, a lot of things," Alvarez said. "And I'm not thinking as much about results. I'm just trying to trust my process, my game plan, and I believe, more often than not, it will pay off my way."
"He's learned a lot," Russell said. "He's a very intelligent young man who takes in a lot, maybe too much. I think he's learned how to process it a little better, relax and not try to do so much so quick. His at-bats have slowed down for him. He's really come a long way, and we've seen that the past few weeks."
• Reliever Chris Resop, out since Sept. 16 because of a sore elbow, threw an extended side session and could be cleared to return to full duty tonight.
• Outfielder Lastings Milledge, out since Sept. 13 because of a strained left oblique, returned to the batting cage still hoping to appear in a game before season's end. Russell said Milledge could take full batting practice with the team soon.
• Jeff Karstens threw another 30-pitch side session, his third after missing much of the month to arm fatigue. He has not received clearance to pitch, although Russell hinted that it might happen.
• Russell and general manager Neal Huntington continue to meet with players in Russell's office as part of what the team calls exit interviews. It is more of a season-in-review process, where all concerned discuss how things went, as well as plans for the offseason. Alvarez had good timing: His meeting came right after the player-of-the-week announcement.
Dejan Kovacevic: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10271/1090899-63.stm#ixzz10pHlrEJm
Monday, September 27, 2010
By Ron Cook, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
TAMPA, Fla. -- There are a bunch of ways to analyze the Steelers' ridiculously easy 38-13 win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but none makes more sense than this: "The league doesn't want us to be 4-0 with a mad Ben coming back," wide receiver Hines Ward said.
The 3-0 Steelers are one win away. Thank you, Charlie Batch.
It will be a much better defense that Batch will face next Sunday when the Steelers play the Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field in the final game before quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's suspension ends. But after throwing for three touchdowns against the Buccaneers, Batch sounded as if he can't wait for the challenge.
Ray Lewis? Terrell Suggs? Haloti Ngata? Bring 'em on!
"I have confidence in what I can do," Batch said. "I've always had that."
TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 26: Quarterback Charlie Batch #16 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks for an open receiver against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the game at Raymond James Stadium on September 26, 2010 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
What Batch did Sunday -- he would have had four touchdown passes if not for a drop by fullback/tight end David Johnson in the third quarter -- made for the feel-good story of the early season and a perfect start that few saw coming after Roethlisberger was accused of rape in Milledgeville, Ga., in March.
Sure, the Steelers were happy for running back Rashard Mendenhall, who ran for 143 yards and a touchdown; for wide receiver Mike Wallace, who had a 100-yard receiving day and caught two touchdown passes; for the defense, which didn't allow a touchdown until the final two minutes; for defensive end Brett Keisel, of all people, who snatched an interception and lugged it 79 yards for a score.
But most of all, they were happy for Batch, who seemed certain to be released in the team's final cut before the season only to emerge on a steamy day on the Florida Gulf Coast to win his first game as a starter since the opener in 2006 when Roethlisberger was out after an emergency appendectomy.
"The consummate team player," coach Mike Tomlin called him.
"Just a great pro," Keisel said.
"Good things usually happen to those kind of people," Tomlin added.
That doesn't mean Batch's success came easily. Tomlin had so little faith that he would stay healthy that he traded for quarterback Byron Leftwich in April. All spring and summer, Batch was the forgotten man as the team tried to get Leftwich ready for the start of the season and Roethlisberger ready for Game 5.
"They also have a young guy here, Dennis Dixon, and they had to see what he could do," Batch said. "I was the odd man out. You didn't have to be a rocket scientist to figure that out."
Here's the delicious irony: The allegedly fragile Batch turned out to be the last quarterback standing. Leftwich injured his left knee in the final exhibition game, saving Batch from the waiver wire. Then Dixon, who started the first two games, injured his left knee in the second quarter against the Tennessee Titans. Batch finished up that 19-11 win and had to be the guy to lead the team against the Buccaneers.
"The one thing I didn't want to do was come here and be that weak link," Batch said. "I wanted to go out and provide a spark and put this team in the end zone."
He did that four times, the other touchdown drive he led ending with a Mendenhall 3-yard run in the second quarter. It was some improvement by a Steelers offense that scored just one touchdown -- Mendenhall's 50-yard run in overtime in the 15-9 win against the Atlanta Falcons in the opener -- in the first two games.
"Offensively, we felt we were letting this team down," Batch said.
Early in Sunday's game, it looked as if those troubles would continue. Batch's first pass was a bad one and was intercepted by Buccaneers cornerback Aqib Talib. "I felt bad," he Batch said, "but it was like, at that point, 'Let's go. We can't stop now.' "
The rest of the first half couldn't have gone better for Batch. He completed 11 of his next 13 passes for 177 yards and a Roethlisberger-like passer rating of 128.6. He threw a 46-yard touchdown pass to Wallace. He scrambled for -- can you believe it? -- 24 yards. He threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to Wallace. He even ran the two-minute offense superbly, throwing a 9-yard touchdown pass to Ward with 16 seconds left in the half.
This is a man who is 35 and in his 13th NFL season?
"Charlie was playing like he was 25 years old again," Wallace said.
Now come the Ravens, who are 2-1 after beating the Cleveland Browns and will be looking to draw even with the Steelers in the AFC North Division. After that game, Batch gladly will turn over the offense to Roethlisberger, who, everybody on the team believes, will play lights out to right his wrong of getting suspended and putting his teammates in a major bind. How did Ward describe him? Mad Ben?
Look out Cleveland in Game 5 Oct. 17 at Heinz Field.
But first things first.
"We have a lot of confidence in Charlie," Keisel said of the team's mindset heading into the Baltimore game. "To see him rise up like he did today just shows the character of the man. Never once did he complain about his situation. He just kept coming to work. Even when he was hurt and on [injured-reserve], he came to work. He watched tape. He was there to help Ben ... ."
It's worth repeating about Batch: the consummate team player; just a great pro.
Ron Cook: email@example.com. Ron Cook can be heard on the "Vinnie and Cook" show weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on 93.7 The Fan.
Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10270/1090663-87.stm#ixzz10jDXqMp0
By Gene Collier, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 26: Receiver Mike Wallace#17 of the Pittsburgh Steelers catches a touchdown pass in front of defender Cody Grimm #35 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the game at Raymond James Stadium on September 26, 2010 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
TAMPA, Fla. -- That Mike Tomlin and Raheem Morris both became NFL head coaches, in large part, for the way they coached the defensive backs in this very city isn't much more than coincidence, but the freshest fact from their story probably rises to the level of irony:
When they finally faced each other across the same NFL stage, Morris' secondary literally gave the game away.
If that wasn't irony, then it was certainly comedy, or did you happen to miss the wackiness of Cody Grimm, Aqib Talib, Sean Jones, and, heaven forbid, even Ronde Barber, who combined to turn a Steelers offense that hadn't scored at touchdown regulation this season into the Indianapolis Colts?
At one point in the Steelers' third consecutive win, rookie center Maurkice Pouncey even patted Barber on the head as if to say, "Don't worry, little man, we're only here for 60 minutes."
Pouncey has been in three games; Barber has been in five Pro Bowls. Barber is looking for the interception that will make him the only person in history with 40 NFL picks and 25 sacks, but Sunday, Barber looked semi-retired, which is what Hines Ward was talking to him about indirectly late in a 38-13 Steelers Bucs-kicking.
"We were just joking with him and I said to him that I wished he had retired," Ward said. "He was such a great player and he's symbolized the way they play defense in Tampa Bay for so long. It was just a respect thing."
OK, but this one had been anything but respectable from the moment fourth-string quarterback Charlie Batch sent Mike Wallace to the end zone from 46 yards out in the first quarter. Wallace turned to look for the ball, but somehow Grimm, the rookie safety standing right next to him at the time, failed to do so.
"He never even looked for the ball," said Wallace of the first of his two gimme touchdowns. "I was hoping he wouldn't turn around, because I would've had to try to take it away from him."
Grimm, the son of former Steelers assistant Russ Grimm, was starting in lieu of Tanard Jackson, who this week began serving an indefinite suspension for a second violation of the league's substance abuse policy. That news by itself likely prompted Tomlin to pass more.
"I wasn't sure," Tomlin claimed. "We knew we'd have to look there potentially, because I knew they would pack the line of scrimmage early, but I didn't feel great about it."
Maybe not, but he started to feel better when Batch's next deep ball clanked off the hands of cornerback Talib and right into Wallace's in the corner of the end zone for the 41-yard touchdown that made it 21-6.
"Charlie told me that if he saw the right coverage he was going to throw it," Wallace said, "but I didn't think he was really going to do it because [Talib] was right there."
Between Wallace's first two scores of the season came a six-play, 67-yard drive that included a 24-yard run by Batch (Ward: "I was screaming at him to get down!"); a 21-yard pass to Heath Miller at 10:26 of the second quarter for the Steelers' eighth first down (they had seven all of last Sunday); and a dazzling spin move by Rashard Mendenhall that turned the 35-year-old Barber inside out, if not upside down.
Mendenhall finished off the drive with a 3-yard run on which he went over Jones, the other safety, like a dump truck over a speed bump.
You would think that somebody would have learned by now that it's a very good idea to actually cover Ward, although no one did on his 9-yard touchdown at the end of the first half, the one that made the score 28-6 and the remaining 30 minutes an exercise in high-risk tedium.
Again it was Barber who seemed to have primary responsibility for Ward, but Ward absolved him.
"No, that's not his play," said Ward, who earlier in the half made Batch the only quarterback in NFL history to complete a pass to a member of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. "That's a play where Charlie looks right and then comes back to me. The linebacker, [Barrett] Ruud, he was responsible."
Heath Miller, who had lined up on Ward's side tight to the formation, ran a simple out to his left, and no one covered him, either.
"That was a typically designed red zone defense," Miller said. "They were dropping eight and sometimes in those situations, you have just keep running and be patient."
This was good advice on a day when, if you just waited a minute or two, Tampa Bay's defenders would hand you a touchdown. Morris, the one-time Tomlin defensive protege, actually punted on fourth-and-3 at the Pittsburgh 36 with his team down, 38-6, and 11:45 remaining.
I don't think he was waving the white-flag; I think he was trying to see what else his defense could screw up.
Gene Collier: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10270/1090661-150.stm#ixzz10jBrkORt
Published: September 26, 2010
When it came time to be more physical on Sunday at Raymond James, the Steelers showed up more than the Bucs.
TAMPA - The reality check was long and painful, and it was hot, and thousands of Pittsburgh Steelers fans fanned the flames with Terrible Towels each time the Bucs were the Terrible Team.
The rallying cry after this 38-13 thumping, the first loss of the season, and how, was doubtless conjured at halftime. The Bucs already trailed 28-6. The central talking point: We were NOT manhandled. We're 2-1 with a bye coming up and, most important: This wasn't like the Giants and Jets laid on the Bucs last 3-13 season.
Repeating: This was NOT a manhandling.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, the Steelers ran for 201 yards, got four sacks and Charlie Batch looked Canton-bound.
"We played a heavyweight today," Bucs coach Raheem Morris said.
The Bucs were mostly lightweight.
This was a beating, a righteous one. True, it wasn't the Giants and Jets games — the Bucs had 86 yards of offense while being shut out by the Giants and not much more against the Jets. They had 303 yards Sunday. But if that's the best thing about Sunday, namely that it WASN'T as bad as two of the worst games in franchise history, well, by all means, Sunday against the Steelers was party time!
Pittsburgh came in, saw the Bucs weren't on their game and devoured them.
"When you play against a team like the Pittsburgh Steelers, they almost prey on mistakes," Bucs center Jeff Faine said. "It almost like it's blood in the water."
It was Bucs blood.
This game was bathed in it, no matter where you looked on either side of the ball.
Poor Cody Grimm. His fairy tale didn't even last a quarter. He went up, but swung and missed on the first touchdown of the game, a grab by Mike Wallace. Thanks again, Tanard Jackson. The defense looked awful, like the pre-Raheem-coached D.
"You can feel free to say that, but that's not the case," Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber said. Barber said the plays were there … he said two of Batch's touchdowns should have been picks. "The opportunities were there."
When it came time to make plays, Pittsburgh did, the Bucs didn't. When it came time to be more physical, the Steelers showed up more than the Bucs. The toughest stuff I saw out of a Buc all day was when hulking newcomer LeGarrette Blount rammed his way to the Bucs' lone TD. There were less than two minutes left. Blount's touchdown prevented the Bucs' worst home loss in 26 years.
This kind of tripe was exactly what this team didn't need to roll out with fans just beginning to get curious — mind you, not curious enough to fill the stadium (not even the Steelers fans could do that) — but curious enough to wonder if 2-0 was real. Well, now 2-1 is real. The Bucs played to it. They coached to it, too.
I have no idea why Morris punted with under 12 minutes left when the Bucs faced fourth-and-3 from the Steelers' 36 when they trailed 38-6 at the time. Morris said the plan was to pin Pittsburgh down and put the Bucs offense in a better …
Better than the Pittsburgh 36?
The Steelers are 3-0 without their Big Ben. They're a serious football team. When they see and or smell blood, well, you saw. If you were on the fence about the Bucs, you just fell off.
"To me, judging by the stands, we never had those people," Cadillac Williams said.
There were Steelers fans where Bucs fans used to be. Will those Bucs fans ever be back in 2010?
"To me, this season is going to go one of two ways," Williams said. "We're going to learn from this, get better, or we're going to start pointing fingers at everybody and it's going to go downhill."
It's all about the response.
But this absolutely was NOT like the Giants and Jets games. You got that?
It was blood in the water, just the same.
September 26, 2010
TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 26: Defensive end Brett Keisel #99 of the Pittsburgh Steelers scores a touchdown after recording his first career interception against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the game at Raymond James Stadium on September 26, 2010 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
TAMPA, Fla. – The last time the Pittsburgh Steelers took the field at Raymond James Stadium, they walked away with their sixth Super Bowl title.
On Sunday, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin exited the field again looking almost as exultant as that moment in 2009. Tomlin thrust his fists to the crowd and stared with a powerful glare after the Steelers improved to 3-0 after a 38-13 thrashing of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The NFL season is only three weeks old, but Pittsburgh is once again playing like a champion and a prohibitive favorite.
And the Steelers don’t even have their two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback. Ben Roethlisberger isn’t due to return to the starting lineup until Oct. 17, but he could be returning to a situation where the table is set.
This was hardly what anybody expected from the Steelers to this point.
As owner Dan Rooney, who took in his final game Sunday before heading back to his diplomat job in Ireland, walked through the locker room, he was asked about his team’s resiliency. Having run the team since 1975 and having been part of the team since he was born in 1932, Rooney has seen it all and isn’t wont to overreact.
“This is as much as adversity as I’ve seen, but these guys have picked [Roethlisberger] up, they really have,” Rooney said. “They’ve rallied together as good as I’ve seen.”
While it’s absurd to think the Steelers will maintain this pace over a 16-game season and into the playoffs, they punctuated their start with a dominant victory Sunday. If nothing else, Pittsburgh showed what it’s capable of and that should be scary to the rest of the league.
Of course, you can qualify this by saying it’s early, that Tampa Bay isn’t as good as its 2-0 start. But this performance was decisive and thorough. Moreover, it comes in the face of those who thought this season was going to be a struggle to make up for the first four games of Roethlisberger’s suspension. A month ago, most analysts thought the Steelers would be lucky to go 2-2.
“We all heard that stuff and that’s fine,” veteran wide receiver Hines Ward said. “But we have a lot of people in this locker room who understand how to play together and get things done when things aren’t exactly how we want them to be.”
Leading the way is Tomlin, who has made it his personal mission to tap into every motivational tactic he can find to make his team believe it can be great, even without Roethlisberger.
This week, Tomlin threw little barbs in every direction. With 35-year-old quarterback Charlie Batch getting his first start since 2007, Tomlin harped on the old guys. Batch took over for injured backup Dennis Dixon.
“Yeah, he kept saying, ‘Don’t be a declining veteran,’ ” said linebacker James Farrior, one of Pittsburgh’s 17 guys on the roster who are 30 or older. Farrior is one of three (Batch and Flozell Adams are the others) 35-year-olds, which is downright ancient in this game. “Of course he’s talking to me and Hines and Aaron [Smith] and Brett [Keisel]. Most of us older guys, that just goes in one ear and out the other.”
Really? Because it sure seems like the Steelers are playing with a “We’ll prove you wrong” mentality.
“Anybody who says they predicted we would be 3-0, they’re lying,” Ward said. “We know that, but that’s OK.”
It also seems to be OK if the Steelers play make-believe. After the game, Tomlin went so far as to call Raymond James Stadium a “hostile” environment. When a reporter pointed out that almost half the stadium seemed to be wearing black-and-gold rather than the home pewter-and-red, Tomlin admitted that he occasionally indulges in fantasy.
“We like to get painted in a corner and I was probably looking for it,” Tomlin said with a sly grin. “We like to use the us-against-the-world mentality.”
With Batch starting, the logical thinking was that the Steelers would again keep things close to the vest, particularly after his first pass of the game was intercepted. Instead, Pittsburgh played aggressive. On their third possession, the Steelers opened with a double reverse to wide receiver Mike Wallace for a loss of a yard, then Batch went deep to Wallace for a 46-yard touchdown pass.
Two possessions later, the Steelers kept the playbook wide open as Batch again went deep to Wallace. Bucs cornerback Aqib Talib missed an interception and tipped the ball to Wallace to give the Steelers a 21-6 lead.
At that point, the game was basically over. The Steelers grinded out a 79-yard drive to finish the first half with a 28-6 lead and then spent the rest of the game hammering young Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman. He was sacked on each of Tampa Bay’s first two possessions of the second half and the third possession ended with Keisel returning a tipped interception 79 yards for a score to make it 38-6.
In three games, the Steelers have forced 10 turnovers. That works out to 53.3 for the season, which is unreasonable to expect.
That’s where the return of Roethlisberger comes in. While he is sure to get plenty of criticism for his off-field behavior, there is no doubting his talent. Roethlisberger is a dynamic passer, even if he is somewhat unconventional. He has twice posted a season quarterback rating of more than 100 in the past three years.
And he’s going to be driven.
“If we can go 4-0 without Ben and we know what he can do once he gets back out there, we’re going to be fine,” Ward said. “I know Ben, he’s disappointed because he’s not with us, but he’ll do fine when he gets back to our team. He had a great training camp, really flawless, really improved his reads.”
Left tackle Max Starks, who has been with the Steelers for seven seasons, including two Super Bowls, likes what he sees, even without Roethlisberger.
“I really think this is one of the two best teams we’ve had since I got here,” Starks said. “Really, I believe that right now and we still haven’t gotten Ben back.”
Sunday, September 26, 2010
By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Mike Tomlin in 2001 upon being named defensive backs coach in Tampa
In all likelihood, no player on the field at Raymond James Stadium today will be happier to see Mike Tomlin than Ronde Barber. And he plays on the other team.
Barber is a cornerback for the surprising Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-0), who are already one victory away from matching their total of 2009. At age 35, he is in his 14th National Football League season, the oldest player on one of the youngest teams in the league.
But he also is the only player on the Tampa Bay roster who was with the Buccaneers when Tomlin was their secondary coach. That he is still playing, and leading the team with two interceptions, is testament to the impact Tomlin had on his career.
"When I think back, Mike came in and changed my career," said Barber, a five-time Pro Bowl cornerback with 11 defensive touchdowns. "I give him all the credit. I was kind of a nondescript guy until he walked into the building and he changed my attitude completely. I had my first Pro Bowl year and led the league in interceptions with Mike [in 2001]. The guy I've been for the last 10 years is mainly because of what he instilled in me."
Then, he added, "I hate to play against him."
He likely is not alone.
Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris was in charge of defensive quality control before becoming a defensive assistant and assistant secondary coach for four years when Tomlin was the secondary coach. Alike in many ways, they forged a friendship that lasts to this day, a bond so strong that Morris easily credits the fourth-year Steelers coach for inspiring him -- and encouraging him -- to become the youngest head coach in the NFL.
"I was just trying to provide him the same guidance that was provided to me," Tomlin said. "I haven't had many opportunities to give back to the business. I've always been the recipient of knowledge and encouragement from older, veteran coaches. He's one of the few guys, young guys that I worked with, that I took a personal responsibility for their growth and development."
For the first time since he was hired to replace Bill Cowher in 2007, Tomlin returns to play the team that gave him his NFL coaching start, the team that ignited the meteoric rise that reached its zenith when he became the youngest coach to win the Super Bowl.
Adding to the subplot: he will be coaching against Morris, who is not just his best friend in the business, but a person who exhibits the same level of intelligence, infectious enthusiasm and brutal honesty that have characterized Tomlin's three-plus seasons with the Steelers.
Unlike Barber, Morris can't wait for the reunion.
"We always used to talk about competing against each other and we always talked about being defensive coordinators," Morris said. "We have the opportunity to go out there and compete on a top stage, and there's nothing better than that. We've always talked about it, we've always dreamed about it, and now it is reality."
It is not in Tomlin's makeup to acknowledge that the 1 p.m. game today in Tampa, Fla., is any more special than another. To him, the game is merely another chance for the Steelers (2-0) to remain unbeaten, despite their uncertain quarterback situation, and start 3-0 for the first time since his rookie season.
But Steelers backup safety Will Allen, one of only three players on the field who has played for both coaches, thinks the game will be extra special for Tomlin.
"I think it is," said Allen, who played two seasons with the Buccaneers when Tomlin was his secondary coach and was signed by the Steelers as an unrestricted free agent in March. "He hasn't been there for a long time. It's going to be fun."
Allen has known Tomlin since he was a senior at Ohio State and Tomlin came to his pro-day workout and told him the Buccaneers wanted to draft him. After Tampa Bay drafted him in the fourth round in 2004, Allen never doubted anything Tomlin told him after that.
Now that he is reunited with Tomlin, Allen said his career is "revived" again.
"He's impacted a lot of people in his life, and I think that's part of his mission as a coach as well -- to impact players, to impact the team, to impact the community, to impact others around him with the platform that he has.
"I think it's natural for him. I don't think he tries. I think it's in his heart. He goes to a guy and looks him in the eye. He's very honest, very candid, and guys are receptive to that. Nobody wants to be around a coach who isn't honest or jerks you around."
Said Barber, one of only two cornerbacks in league history to have at least 25 sacks and 30 interceptions in his career: "It's his approach to coaching and getting his message across. I've been around a lot of coaches for a lot of years and I've never had a guy who puts it as directly and as succinctly and with as much gentle force as Mike. Guys relate to him because of his methods."
J. Meric/Getty Images
Raheem Morris has a lot of Mike Tomlin in him, a fact that makes both men proud.
Despite their similarities in personality and style, Morris, 33, is vastly different from his friend in one important area:
It took Tomlin seven games in his rookie season to get his fifth victory. Morris did not get his fifth win until a 20-7 victory last week against the Carolina Panthers -- 18 games after he became head coach.
"I think that's one of the reasons we hit it off -- we have those types of approaches to coaching in common," Tomlin said. "There's nothing like brutal honesty. It cuts to the chase, and he's a proponent of that."
When Willie Colon made an official recruiting visit to Hofstra University, his host for the weekend trip was none other than Morris, who was the school's secondary coach.
Morris coached two seasons at Hofstra (2000-2001) before leaving to join the Buccaneers as defensive quality control coach in 2002. That was when he met Tomlin, who was Tampa Bay's secondary coach from 2001-2005.
"He was always very articulate, a very smart guy with a really good sense of humor," said Colon, the Steelers' right tackle who is on the season-ending, injured-reserve list. "But you could tell he had an extreme passion for football. It beamed out of him. He's one of the reasons I went to Hofstra."
Even then, the players gravitated toward Morris and confided in him, Colon said.
"Everyone has that guy on the coaching staff that they say, 'Hey, I need to talk to you about something.' Raheem was that guy. You could pull him aside and say, 'Man, I'm going through this,' and he would tell you, 'Listen, man, you get your act straight.' If you needed a mole, he was the mole, just because of his personality.
"That's the way Mike T is. He's able to talk to us on different levels, not just football, life stuff. That's how Raheem was when he was at Hofstra."
After spending four years on the staff of defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, the final two as Tomlin's assistant defensive backs coach, Morris left Tampa Bay to become the defensive coordinator at Kansas State -- one week before Tomlin left to become the Minnesota Vikings' defensive coordinator. Morris stayed one year there before returning to the Buccaneers as secondary coach.
Two years later, he was hired as head coach after the Buccaneers surprisingly fired Jon Gruden. And his presence still was attracting players.
"That's actually why I went there when I left here," said quarterback Byron Leftwich, who signed with the Buccaneers as an unrestricted free agent following the '08 season. "I knew of their relationship. I knew the type of guy he was. To be honest, I'm such a fan of Mike Tomlin, and, when I knew I had to move on, I heard a lot of great things about Raheem and, when I got there, they were all true."
Leftwich lasted one season in Tampa because the Steelers made a draft-day trade to bring him back after Ben Roethlisberger violated the NFL's personal-conduct policy, which resulted in a four-game suspension. Despite starting only three games and eventually being replaced as the starter by rookie Josh Freeman, Leftwich continues to heap praise on Morris.
"I think he's going to be a hell of a coach," Leftwich said. "He's a very sharp guy. A lot of people say, well, he's only 34, but he knows a lot more ball than some of those guys in their 40s and 50s. I'm happy for him. I'm happy to see he's having that kind of success."
Unlike Tomlin, who won his first three games en route to a 10-6 wild-card season, Morris did not fare so well in his rookie season as head coach.
Tampa Bay lost its first seven games and finished 3-13, a record exceeded in futility only by the Detroit Lions (2-14) and St. Louis Rams (1-15).
It did not help that he fired his offensive coordinator, Jeff Jagodzinski, 10 days before the season opener. Or that he took control of the defense when he demoted defensive coordinator Jim Bates 10 weeks into the season -- moves that were viewed as signs of panic.
But he also had some rookie hiccups along the way. In a 26-3 loss to the New York Jets Dec. 13, Morris elected to punt from fourth-and-2 at midfield three plays after recovering a bold onside kick.
When receiver Michael Clayton was re-signed to a five-year, $24 million contract, Morris challenged anyone to question why the Buccaneers had done that.
"He has to trust his gut," Tomlin said. "There are going to be a lot of people with advice, and they might have good intentions. But it has to be him, it has to be authentic, and he's got to trust his inner ear."
For proof, all he has to do is look across the sideline today.
Gerry Dulac: email@example.com.
Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10269/1090401-66.stm#ixzz10dTOCWvn
By Ron Cook, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
On an athleticism scale of 1 to 10, Steelers outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley's interception against the Tennessee Titans last Sunday was at least a 14, especially considering how big he is and how he lugged every one of his 265 or more pounds into pass coverage. So why did his teammates give him the business when they saw the play on tape Monday? "They couldn't believe that Chris Johnson -- a 190-pound running back -- brought me down," Woodley said.
Peter Diana / Post-Gazette
Linebacker LaMarr Woodley intercepts pass from Titans Vince Youing in last week's win in Nashville.
Go back to last season. Woodley picked up a Brett Favre fumble and returned it 77 yards for a touchdown to help the Steelers beat the Minnesota Vikings. "They told me I was too slow and that it took me too long to get to the end zone," Woodley said. "No matter what I do, it isn't good enough."
Woodley could bite back, you know? If that were his way.
"You guys are going to miss me when I'm gone ... "
Good thing that's not Woodley's way.
"Absolutely, I want to say here," he said last week.
"I don't have time to start over again somewhere else. I don't want to have to find a new place to live and make new friends. I like it here ...
"My whole life, I've played on big-time football teams. Saginaw (Mich.) High ... Michigan ... The Steelers. You know all about the history and tradition here. That's big to me. Real big."
The Steelers can't let this guy get away, can they? That just can't happen. Director of football operations Kevin Colbert and coach Mike Tomlin are too smart to allow it. They almost always find a way to keep a guy they really like. "We know he's a pretty special player. We've told him that," Colbert said during training camp.
Woodley is in the unfortunate spot of having his original four-year contract with the Steelers expiring at the end of the season at a time when there's labor uncertainty in the NFL.
That's why the team wasn't able to do a new deal with him this summer. He's playing this season for $550,000, a ridiculous amount of money for most of us, but next-to-nothing for a Pro Bowl linebacker who had 13 1/2 sacks last season and 11 1/2 in 2008, not counting the two he had in each of three postseason games as the Steelers won Super Bowl XLIII.
Depending on how the talks go between the owners and players, Woodley could be a free agent or restricted free agent next spring. It's possible -- almost certain, I say -- that the Steelers will do a new deal with him then or keep him by placing the franchise tag on him. That's if there is a franchise tag in the next basic agreement.
Woodley made it clear before camp that he wasn't pleased by the situation. But he reported on time, has been nothing but a pro and has played a huge part in a Steelers defense that has been terrific in the team's 2-0 start. In addition to the interception against the Titans, he had a sack and a forced fumble, stretching his franchise record to 10 consecutive games with at least half a sack.
"Growing up, I learned you never should get mad at things you can't control," Woodley said. "That's a waste of time. What am I supposed to do? Sit at home and hold out? That's not going to help anything. All I can do is play football. I want to be here, around the guys, playing football."
The fellas appreciate it, even if they do seem to take joy in busting Woodley's chops. I still can hear safety Ryan Clark explaining why that 77-yard return against the Vikings took so long. "Being that LaMarr weighs 370 pounds ... "
Good thing Woodley has a sense of humor to match his talent.
"I can't think of a better player to have behind me," Steelers defensive end Aaron Smith said. "Everybody knows how good he is at rushing the passer. But he's become great against the run. He's very stout.
"This is just his fourth year here. I remember my fourth year. I didn't know anything. It really takes until your sixth or seventh year to really start to figure things out. He's got a lot of great football ahead of him."
It's nice to think Woodley will play that great football with the Steelers. He and Smith make a wonderful pair on the left side of the defense. They were huge in holding the Atlanta Falcons' Michael Turner to 42 rushing yards in the Steelers' opening win, then did even better against the Titans' All-Pro Johnson, holding him to 34 on a day when the defense forced six turnovers. Woodley certainly got even with Johnson for making that tackle.
"You don't have to feel the breath leaving him. You can see it," he said. "When you see a guy slow getting up and not fighting for yards, you know he's tired of getting hit. I definitely saw that with him."
Woodley said he expects the Steelers to play that same kind of punishing defense today against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and in all the games that follow. "It almost feels like it's the Steelers vs. the Steelers. As long as we do what we're supposed to do, we're going to be tough to beat."
A lot of that confidence comes from having a healthy Smith and safety Troy Polamalu. Especially Smith, in Woodley's case.
"It's great playing with Aaron," he said. "He's not just a great player. He's so smart. He's always telling me, 'Watch for this. They're coming our way.' Ninety-five percent of the time, he's right."
That's a nice tribute, but Woodley wasn't quite done. Turns out he gives the abuse as well as he takes it. Maybe better.
"Yeah, definitely, I listen to Aaron. How can I not listen to him? He's been around the league 20 years."
Smith rolled his eyes.
"That's Woodley. He's always telling me I'm old. He loves to talk smack like that."
That changes things a bit, doesn't it?
I won't insult you by asking you to feel sorry for Woodley because he's so underpaid by NFL standards. But, please, don't feel sorry for him because his teammates like to pick on him. He's a big man. Clearly, he can take care of himself, on the field and off.
Ron Cook: firstname.lastname@example.org. Ron Cook can be heard on the "Vinnie and Cook" show weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on 93.7 The Fan.
Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10269/1090219-87.stm#ixzz10dRJPS6s
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Joe Vogel Jr. doesn't remember when he suffered the three strokes that robbed him of his speech and hearing, but he knows he was 4 when his father took him to his first Pirates game at Three Rivers Stadium.
Unable to afford tickets, they listened to the game on a radio outside until officials opened the gates in the seventh inning, a practice that ended a decade ago. His first game in 1974 was the start of a lifelong love of the team and the game for a man people call "Baseball Joe."
Describing himself as the Pirates' biggest fan, "Baseball Joe" Vogel Jr. says he tries to make it to as many games as possible, despite having suffered three strokes.
Keith Hodan Tribune-Review
Vogel, 40, who earned his nickname because he's "baseball 365," overcame his loss of hearing and speech by reading lips and typing responses onto a keypad with a small screen he carries.
"So hard to communicate," he types in the kind of broken sentences that characterize his "speech."
He may be the Pirates' biggest fan, despite 18 straight losing seasons.
"He's a Pirates fan to the Nth degree," said Joe Elinich of Ross, who has known Vogel for about 10 years.
"Joe Vogel is a great Pirates fan whose passion for the club and knowledge of and respect for its rich history is unsurpassed," team President Frank Coonelly said.
The past two decades have been tough for Vogel, who lives alone in a Downtown apartment.
"Pirates lousy. My mom, dad die. The strokes. ... I see how people look at me and treat me like I'm retarded," he writes. "It hurts so much."
He says people have taken advantage of him, including a Florida dealer who he said cheated him when he sold some of his extensive collection of baseball cards. He hopes an attorney will take the case.
His lifelong dream is to visit Fenway Park, Cooperstown, Wrigley Field and Yankees stadium. Despite leg pains, he walks to PNC Park from his apartment. He travels by bus to doctor's appointments and lives on Social Security disability income.
Former Pirates pitcher Bob Walk remembers the 15-year-old kid who used to walk to Three Rivers. They talked a lot of baseball back then, said Walk, who met Vogel in 1985.
"I liked him. I thought he was a good kid, one of the good people you meet in this game," Walk said.
On a hot, sunny September afternoon, the pain fades away as Vogel settles into a seat at PNC Park to watch his beloved Pirates play the Cardinals, the team he saw them play at Three Rivers Stadium in 1974. He points out holes in the defense and rattles off stats as fast as he could type.
But he misses the father who taught him to love the game and managed, on a window washer's salary, to take his son to the ballpark now and then.
"I wished my dad could have sat this close," said Vogel, who grew up in Mt. Washington and estimates he has been to more than 1,000 games during the past 36 years.
They would get a bus to Downtown and grab a hamburger at Raywell's at Forbes and Wood, where Vogel said Roberto Clemente and Manny Sanguillen were known to eat.
They used to sit with a gang of "old time, hard core fans. Guys in their 70s, 80s and 90s." It was there he met the cigar chomping owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Art Rooney Sr., who Vogel said liked to talk about baseball.
"I loved it ... soaked everything up like a sponge," he types.
His father and the others would trade stories about Forbes Field, and "it felt like I was there," he said.
"Baseball is a big part of history. It connects father and son."
When the Pirates took the wraps off the Bill Mazeroski statue outside PNC Park a couple of weeks ago, Vogel was there at 4 a.m. He makes an annual pilgrimage to Oakland on Oct. 13 to relive Game Seven of the 1960 World Series with a couple hundred other fans.
Vogel would like to see a Ralph Kiner statue at PNC Park and a hall of fame at the stadium. The Pirates said they have no immediate plans for either proposal.
By Ray Fittipaldo, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Jerry Olsavsky and Greg Lloyd were teammates for nine seasons with the Steelers in the late 1980s and '90s. Olsavsky was the hard-nosed inside linebacker and Lloyd the intense sackmaster at outside linebacker for those Steelers defenses nicknamed 'Blitzburgh.'
After more than a decade out of the NFL, both have returned to the league as assistant coaches. On Sunday afternoon at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., the two old buddies will be competing against each other.
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Former Steelers linebacker Jerry Olsavsky currently serves as a coach with the team.
Olsavsky is in his first season as a defensive assistant with the Steelers and Lloyd holds the same position with the Buccaneers. The Steelers and Buccaneers are two of the league's eight remaining undefeated teams.
Olsavsky has spoken with Lloyd by phone on a few occasions since their playing careers ended, but this will be the first opportunity to see each other in person in years.
"The one good thing about being a former player is when you see the guy it's just like when you were in the locker room the last time," Olsavsky said.
Olsavsky played with the Steelers from 1989-97; Lloyd from '88-97.
After his playing career ended after one season with the Ravens in '98, Olsavsky started his coaching career. He was a volunteer assistant at Thomas Jefferson High School, at Youngstown Chaney High School and at Duquesne University. For the past seven years he was the linebackers coach at Youngstown State.
Lloyd spent training camp with the Buccaneers, as part of the NFL's minority coaching fellowship program. Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris was impressed so much by Lloyd that he hired him to a full-time position when camp ended.
"It's hard for us because the game is part of us," said Olsavsky, in explaining the lure to return to the NFL after so many years on the outside. "It's good to see him back. He's probably some of the reason they're playing as good as they are."
The Steelers and Buccaneers are shaping up as two of the better defenses in the NFL. Through the first two weeks of the season, both clubs are among the top three in the league in scoring defense. The Steelers are tied for first place with the Miami Dolphins, giving up 10 points per game. Tampa is close behind, allowing 10.5 points per game.
"Greg Lloyd's made an impact since he's been here," Morris told reporters this week. "His impact has been a lot about mentality. We're lucky and fortunate enough to be around a guy like Greg Lloyd every day."
Lloyd still has a prominent place in the Steelers record books. He ranks sixth all-time in sacks with 53 1/2 and is tied for sixth place in fumble recoveries with 14.
But when asked what made Lloyd a special teammate, Olsavsky spoke about Lloyd's demeanor and approach to the game. Lloyd had such an effect on Olsavsky that when Lloyd injured his knee in a game against Jacksonville in 1996, Olsavsky cried.
Jerry Olsavsky (55) and Greg Lloyd (95) stop Cowboys TE Jay Novacek in Super Bowl XXX.
"I think I learned the most from him in terms of mental preparation," Olsavsky said. "The way I grew up playing football, you didn't like the people across from you. And [Lloyd] personified that. It was easy to know you were going to play someone you didn't like when you were around him."
Olsavsky and Lloyd won five division championships together, played in three AFC championship games and one Super Bowl, a 27-17 loss to Dallas in Super Bowl XXX.
"He was a great teammate," Olsavsky said. "It will be good to see him. He's the man."
NOTES -- Right guard Trai Essex, who sprained an ankle in the victory against Tennessee, has been ruled out for Sunday. Doug Legursky will start in his place. ... Starting left guard Chris Kemoeatu, who injured a knee in practice Thursday, practiced Friday and said he will be ready to play. "I was worried about it [Thursday], but I've been rehabbing it," Kemoeatu said. "I did all of my [repetitions] today. I feel good." Kemoeatu is listed as probable along with nose tackle Casey Hampton (hamstring), offensive tackle Max Starks (ankle) and receiver Hines Ward (calf). .... The Buccaneers list center Jeff Faine (calf), running back Kareem Huggins (groin) and cornerback Myron Lewis (knee) as questionable.
Ray Fittipaldo: email@example.com or 412-263-1230.
Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10268/1090290-66.stm#ixzz10XWofHD2
Friday, September 24, 2010
Sep 23, 3:46 pm EDT
Troy Polamalu intercepts a pass intended for Tennessee Titans wide receiver Nate Washington in the first quarter of an NFL football game on Sunday, Sept. 19, 2010, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP)
PITTSBURGH (AP)—The Falcons and Titans didn’t seem to know what was coming next from the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Dick LeBeau-coached defense, or exactly the way he planned it.
After all, the Steelers themselves don’t seem to know what their newly elected Hall of Famer will scheme up on the next play, the next series or the next game.
They pride themselves on their unpredictability, and it’s obvious that, even at age 73, LeBeau isn’t running out of ideas or innovations.
“That’s why we love him so much,” defensive end Aaron Smith said. “He gives us the best calls, puts us in the best position to make plays. He calls a great game every week.”
Every Wednesday, the Steelers eagerly show up at their practice facility to see what LeBeau has concocted for that week’s unsuspecting opponent. This week, it’s Tampa Bay (2-0) on the road Sunday.
LeBeau’s defense appears to be playing with a sense of urgency that’s uncommon so early in the season, and with good reason. Aware that how they played during quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s four-game suspension might swing their season, the Steelers (2-0) have allowed only one touchdown in eight quarters plus an overtime.
They’ve forced a league-high eight turnovers. They’ve held two of the league’s best running backs, Chris Johnson of Tennessee and Michael Turner(notes) of Atlanta, to an average of about 2 yards per carry. They’ve also re-established their image of a defense that plays with an aggressive edginess and a relentless physicality.
“It’s fun to watch us dominate the way we are,” said nose tackle Casey Hampton, a five-time Pro Bowl player who sat out the Steelers’ 19-11 victory at Tennessee with a sore hamstring. “We’re going to be as good as we let ourselves be.”
The core essentials of one of the best defenses during the NFL’s salary cap era never change: Play fast, play smart, hit hard, don’t get out of position, know what your teammate’s doing and stay aggressive. The alignments do change, and rapidly, in a zone blitz defense that LeBeau innovated more than 20 years ago and, to this day, never stays the same.
“Every third down is something crazy,” linebacker James Farrior said. “We’re trying to confuse the quarterbacks.”
Tennessee Titans quarterback Kerry Collins fumbles the ball as he tries to get a pass away under a heavy rush by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the fourth quarter of an NFL football game on Sunday, Sept. 19, 2010, in Nashville, Tenn. The Steelers recovered the ball on the play and went on to win 19-11. (AP)
Think you’ve seen safety Troy Polamalu line up in every position possible, or launch himself toward a running back or quarterback from every possible angle? With Polamalu healthy again after playing only three full games last season, LeBeau is showing off more schemes than ever that feature a player he insists he is the league’s most versatile.
“He just opens up the playbook to anything that you want to do,” LeBeau said. “It’s just a matter of how far off the diving board you want to go.”
LeBeau’s defense seemingly peaked in 2008, when the Steelers missed by about 60 rushing yards allowed of having the first defense since the 1970 NFL merger to lead the league in the four major team statistical categories: total, rushing and passing yardage and points allowed.
A unit that has changed only one starter since then has been nearly as good this season.
Johnson, coming off 12 consecutive 100-yard games, finished with 34 yards on 16 carries. By the fourth quarter, he didn’t look especially eager to get many more carries despite having an 85-yard run called back by a penalty.
“I think he had a rough day,” Farrior said. “We had a couple of guys hit him in the side of the head. Lawrence (Timmons) had a couple of tough hits on him. I’m sure he was feeling it, and he’s probably still feeling it now.”
Timmons, the only current regular who didn’t start on the Super Bowl-winning team of two years ago, is playing to the level the Steelers expected of a first-round draft pick. He was credited with 15 tackles at Tennessee.
“He’s all over the field. He’s making everybody better,” Farrior said. “I haven’t seen anyone block him yet. … He’s playing out of his mind right now.”
Nearly everyone on the defense is playing up to expectations, a year after an admittedly down season caused in part by injuries that idled Polamalu and Smith for all but a few games. Their injuries depleted the Steelers’ depth and meant there often were tired defenders on the field in the fourth quarter, when they watched five games they led turn into losses.
Linebacker James Harrison was chosen as the AFC defensive player of the week after having two sacks, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, a tackle for a loss and 11 tackles. Polamalu has two sacks and he made perhaps the NFL defensive play of the year so far, deducing the snap count before leaping over the Titans’ offensive linemen to sack Kerry Collins an instant after the ball touched the quarterback’s hands.
“Really, though, we’re two games into this and we haven’t done anything yet,” Smith said. “If we’re still doing this and playing like this in November and December, that’s the true test.”
The New York Times
Spetember 23, 2010
Pittsburgh Pirates co-owner Bing Crosby, center, with co-owner and treasurer John W. Galbreath, left, and President Frank McKinney, at the season opener at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Ill., in 1947. (AP)
How a near pristine black-and-white reel of the entire television broadcast of the deciding game of the 1960 World Series — long believed to be lost forever — came to rest in the dry and cool wine cellar of Bing Crosby’s home near San Francisco is not a mystery to those who knew him.
Crosby loved baseball, but as a part owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates he was too nervous to watch the Series against the Yankees, so he and his wife went to Paris, where they listened by radio.
“He said, ‘I can’t stay in the country,’ ” his widow, Kathryn Crosby, said. “ ‘I’ll jinx everybody.’ ”
He knew he would want to watch the game later — if his Pirates won — so he hired a company to record Game 7 by kinescope, an early relative of the DVR, filming off a television monitor. The five-reel set, found in December in Crosby’s home, is the only known complete copy of the game, in which Pirates second baseman Bill Mazeroski hit a game-ending home run to beat the Yankees, 10-9. It is considered one of the greatest games ever played.
Crosby, the singer and movie, radio and TV star, had more foresight than the television networks and stations, which erased or discarded nearly all of the Major League Baseball games they carried until the 1970s.
A canny preservationist of his own legacy, Crosby, who died in 1977, kept a half-century’s worth of records, tapes and films in the wine cellar turned vault in his Hillsborough, Calif., home.
“Bing Crosby was way ahead of his time,” said Nick Trotta, senior library and licensing manager for Major League Baseball Productions, the sport’s archivist.
Three years ago, Major League Baseball acquired the rights to Yankees pitcher Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series — leaving the finale of the 1960 World Series high on its wish list. The hunt for old games — this one unseen on TV since its original broadcast — is constant, subject to serendipity and often futile. Great games like Game 7 in 1960 are often recalled with just a few newsreel clips.
Crosby was so superstitious about hexing his Pirates that he and Kathryn listened to the game with their friends Charles and Nonie de Limur in Paris.
“We were in this beautiful apartment, listening on shortwave, and when it got close Bing opened a bottle of Scotch and was tapping it against the mantel,” Kathryn Crosby said. “When Mazeroski hit the home run, he tapped it hard; the Scotch flew into the fireplace and started a conflagration. I was screaming and Nonie said, ‘It’s very nice to celebrate things, but couldn’t we be more restrained?’ ”
After Crosby viewed the 2-hour-36-minute game, probably in a screening room in the house, the films took their place in the vault, said Robert Bader, vice president for marketing and production for Bing Crosby Enterprises.
They remained there undisturbed until December, when Bader was culling videotapes of Crosby’s TV specials for a DVD release — part of the estate’s goal of resurrecting his body of work.
He spotted two reels lying horizontally in gray canisters labeled “1960 World Series.” They were stacked close to the ceiling with home movies and sports instructional films. An hour or so later, he found three others on other shelves. Intrigued, he screened the 16-millimeter film on a projector. It was Game 7, called by the Yankees’ Mel Allen and the Pirates’ Bob Prince — the complete NBC broadcast. The film had not degraded and has been transferred to DVD.
“I had to be the only person to have seen it in 50 years,” Bader said. “It was just pure luck.”
Hal Smith, right, was greeted by Roberto Clemente, left, and Dick Groat after a crucial homer. (AP)
Bader’s call to M.L.B. officials last spring initiated months of talks that have led to an agreement allowing the MLB Network to televise the game in December, and to wrap interviews and other programming around it, with Bob Costas as the host. M.L.B. also plans to sell DVDs of the game.
“It’s a time capsule,” Trotta said.
Hearing of the broadcast’s discovery, Jim Reisler, a historian born in Pittsburgh, sounded stunned.
“Wow,” he said. His book about the game — “The Best Game Ever” — would have benefited from seeing the NBC production, he said; he relied on the radio call. “It would have given me a greater sense of the tremendous ebb and flow of the game,” he said.
Dick Groat, the Pirates’ shortstop, said: “It was such a unique game to begin with. It was back and forth, back and forth. It was unbelievable.”
The production is simple by today’s standards. NBC appeared to use about five cameras. The graphics were simple (the players’ names and little else) and rarely used. There were no instant replays, no isolated cameras, no analysis, no dugout reporters and no sponsored trivia quizzes.
Viewers looked at the hand-operated Forbes Field scoreboard, which on that day (of 19 runs and 24 hits) got a vigorous workout. Occasionally they saw newsreel cameras atop the ballpark roof.
Prince and Allen rarely interacted, with Prince calling the first half and Allen the second. That put Allen on the air for Yogi Berra’s three-run homer in the sixth inning (Allen first called it foul); Pirates catcher Hal Smith’s eighth-inning homer to put Pittsburgh on top, 9-7 (“That base hit will long be remembered,” Allen said as the film showed Roberto Clemente — Allen called him Bob — bounding around the bases with joy); and Mazeroski’s winning drive to left field (“And the fans go wild,” Allen said).
The game included the play on which a ground ball hit by Bill Virdon to Yankees shortstop Tony Kubek kicked off the dirt and hit him in the Adam’s apple. Kubek fell on his back, sat up within a minute looking dazed, stood up, then lobbied Manager Casey Stengel unsuccessfully to stay in.
It also included remarkable base running by Mickey Mantle with one out in the top of the ninth. The Yankees were trailing, 9-8, with Mantle on first and Gil McDougald on third. Berra hit a sharp grounder that was grabbed by first baseman Rocky Nelson, who quickly stepped on the bag for the second out. For a split second, Nelson seemed ready to throw home in time for a tag play on McDougald for the final out of the World Series.
But Nelson immediately became distracted by Mantle, who never took off for second when Berra hit the ball and was now standing just a few feet away. Nelson reached to tag Mantle, but Mantle made a feint and dived back safely into first. McDougald scored, and the score was tied, 9-9.
“How about that?” Allen said after Mantle’s play. But just minutes later, Mazeroski stepped to the plate. NBC’s sound was good enough to hear a fan shout, “Just get on, Billy, get on!” Mazeroski did more than that. After his home run, fans poured onto the field and danced on the Pittsburgh dugout.
Only later did Bing Crosby witness the joy and jubilation recorded just for him.
“I can still see Bing hitting the mantel with the Scotch,” Kathryn Crosby said.
Related Video Link (featuring Roberto Clemente and Mickey Mantle):