Thursday, June 29, 2006

Cowher's last season?

Training camp is only a month away and head coach Bill Cowher has still not signed a contract extension despite offseason talks between the team and his agent. That has led some to speculate whether the 2006 season might be Cowher's last go-round with the Steelers. Furthermore, Cowher recently bought a new home in North Carolina and now describes his employment status as year-to-year.

But there are several good reasons for Cowher to continue coaching the Steelers for many years to come. First, Seattle Seahawks head coach Mike Holmgren just signed a new contract that pays him upwards of $8 million a year. That's roughly double what Cowher is earning now. And seeing as how the Steelers defeated the Seahawks in the Super Bowl, one might think Cowher could command a similar salary.

Second, Cowher has waited his whole career for a starting QB like Ben Roethlisberger, a player who--assuming he's healthy--gives Cowher a legitimate chance to get back to the Super Bowl sooner rather than later.

Third, in recent years Cowher has assembled what is arguably his best coaching staff. Dick LeBeau is arguably the best defensive coordinator in the league and Ken Whisenhunt's star is on the rise too. Why would Cowher walk away when he has a chance to win more games than ever before and cement his legacy as a Hall of Fame coach?

At any rate, if Cowher did walk away I believe Russ Grimm would be the odds-on favorite to take over the job. For one thing, Grimm already has the title of Assistant Head Coach, and by hiring from within the team would likely be able to retain most of Cowher's coaches and maintain continuity. Plus, he's from Pennsylvania, always an important consideration for the Rooney's.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Heckling Ben

Ever since Ben Roethlisberger's motorcycle accident a certain segment of Bengals, Browns and Ravens fans have been particularly vicious, referring to Big Ben as Ben Toothlisberger and the like. Some have promised that Ben will hear particularly harsh heckling on the road this season. But opposing fans should be warned/reminded that antagonizing Roethlisberger doesn't work. It doesn't throw Ben off his game. In fact, Roethlisberger seems to thrive on being disrespected. He's lost just once on the road (including three playoff games) in his career. And he's yet to lose a start against any of the ten teams that passed on him in the draft. Something to think about...

Agent says Roethlisberger a "few weeks" from talking publicly

In an interview with the Pitttsburgh Tribune-Review, Ryan Tollner (one of Ben Roethlisberger's agents) said that Roethlisberger is a few weeks away from talking publicly about his motorcycle accident.

Tollner also said that "a few" helmet manufacturers have been in touch to see if Roethlisberger would be interested in promoting their product. And he didn't rule out the possibility that Big Ben might one day do public service announcements advocating the use of helmets. As we indicated in an earlier post, we hope that Ben takes things a step further and works towards getting the Pennsylvania helmet law reinstated.

Finally, Tollner admitted that he has received photographs from Roethlisberger that show the progression of his recovery. "If he were seen today or tomorrow, I don't think anybody would be too alarmed," Tollner said.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Steelers, Bengals leading the NFL in off-the-field distractions

We all know about Ben Roethlisberger and Santonio Holmes, but the Bengals are having a very rocky offseason, too.

Most recently, Bengals defensive end Frostee Rucker was charged with two counts of spousal battery and vandalism. If convicted, Rucker could face up to three years in jail. Wide receiver Chris Henry turned himself in to authorities last week after he was charged with providing alcohol to underage girls. And earlier this month, linebacker A.J. Nicholson was charged with burglarizing the apartment of a former Florida State teammate.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Legal Woes to Affect Santonio Holmes' Rookie Contract

Santonio Holmes' bad judgment is going to cost him money. Thanks to getting arrested (twice) before signing his rookie contract the Steelers are going to play hardball when it comes to negotiations. First, it's almost a certainty that the Steelers will insist on spreading his signing bonus over two or more seasons, saving the team money if it has to cut him for behavioral or performance reasons. Second, the Steelers will now be highly motivated to add conduct-related clauses that protect the team in case Holmes can't stay out of trouble with the law. Expect Holmes' agent to be a little more flexible than he ordinarily would. I'm sure he wants to get Holmes signed before anything else goes wrong.

What if Holmes gets arrested a third time before getting his name on a contract? In a worst-case scenario the Steelers could decide not to sign Holmes at all. It's hard to imagine any NFL team giving up on a first-round draft choice so soon, but it's not impossible. If the Steelers refused to sign Holmes I believe he would have to sit out the 2006 season and re-enter the draft in 2007. Not only would Holmes lose the money he would have earned in '06, you can bet no team would select him on the first day of the draft in 2007. I suppose the Steelers could also try to trade his rights, but under the circumstances, he wouldn't have much value.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Roethlisberger, Holmes visit Steelers' Practice Facility

Amazingly, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger briefly visited the Steelers' South Side headquarters earlier today. No word on what he was doing there, but I'm surprised he's already out-and-about. Aren't you? It's only been a little over a week since the accident.

Meanwhile, the team released the following statement from No. 1 pick Santonio Holmes on his being charged with domestic violence by assault on Monday in Columbus, Ohio:

"I understand that being a Pittsburgh Steeler carries along with it the demands for responsible behavior off the field. I want to apologize for the negative attention that my arrest on Monday has brought upon the Pittsburgh Steelers organization, especially in light of my previous arrest in May."

Holmes faces maximum sentences of six months in jail and $1,000 fines for the misdemeanor domestic violence by assault and assault charges, not to mention possible disciplinary action from the NFL.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Fleishman at fault, Ben cited too

Martha Fleishman, 62, has been cited for failure to yield in the accident that injured QB Ben Roethlisberger. According to Pittsburgh police officer Dan Connolly of the Collision Investigation Unit, she will be mailed a summons for $106.50.

Meanwhile, Roethlisberger will be cited for driving without a valid motorcycle permit and for not wearing a helmet. He will be mailed a summons and owes fines totaling $388.

Not surprisingly, Fleishman has been receiving threatening phone calls ever since the accident occurred. Sounds like the poor woman ought to retreat to Maine for a while, at least until that handful of hot-headed locals cool off.

Santonio Holmes arrested, again

Steelers' wide receiver Santonio Holmes was arrested this morning in Ohio on a domestic violence charge. It's Holmes' second arrest since being selected 25th overall by the Steelers in the NFL draft this past April.

Who does this guy think he is, a Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver? Is he trying to keep pace with Chris Henry?

Friday, June 16, 2006

Steelers wrote letter to Big Ben about motorcycle riding

ESPN is reporting that the Steelers warned Big Ben (in writing) last year that he might jeopardize portions of his contract, and could suffer financial implications, if he continued to ride a motorcycle. "League and team officials confirmed for that the Steelers last year sent a letter to Roethlisberger's representatives stating their concerns and the possibility his contract could be affected if he was injured while riding a motorcycle. Agent Leigh Steinberg confirmed for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the Steelers sent such a letter.

"It is believed the letter was intended to serve dual purposes: To apprise Roethlisberger in writing of the team's stance on what it considered a perilous activity, and to place the club on more solid legal footing were the Steelers forced to try to recover prorated signing bonus money or even base salaries if the quarterback failed to fulfill his contract because of a motorcycle-related injury.

"The situation with Roethlisberger will likely be moot if he does not miss significant time with the facial injuries he suffered in Monday's accident. Even if Roethlisberger were sidelined for a prolonged period, it is not certain the Steelers, who have a long history of taking care of their players under the ownership of the Rooney family, would have attempted to recoup a prorated share of his signing bonus. The letter, however, might have provided more leverage in an arbitration action, had Roethlisberger defaulted on the contract.

Mr. Attitude, Plaxico Burress

Proving that a leopard can't change its spots, even if he changes his jersey, Mr. Attitude himself, Plaxico Burress, attempts to explain his anti-social behavior — from missing the end-of-the-year team meeting to off-season workouts.

Yep, it's still all about Plax. When is he going to learn that it's all about team? That's what separates the good players from the great ones.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Lucky Seven?

Yesterday a reporter from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review intereviewed Hugh H. Hurt Jr., president of the Head Protection Research Laboratory, which researches motorcycle accidents and tests helmets. Hurt reviewed photo evidence from Roethlisberger's accident and said:

"That's lucky No. 7, let me tell you, because if he would have hit two inches to the left or two inches higher, he would have been dead, because he would have hit metal instead of soft windshield glass," said Hurt, who is also Professor Emeritus of Safety Engineering at the University of Southern California.

"Had he worn a full-face helmet he probably would not have broken any facial bones or suffered a concussion," continued Hurt.

Unfortunately the article referenced above (by Karen Roebuck) ran with a misleading headline which read, "Standard Helmet Might Not Have Helped Much."

Bengals have off-the-field issues too

The Cincinnati Bengals might have the most potent offense in the NFL, but Cincy's wide receivers lead the league in off-the-field distractions. On Wednesday Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry, 23, was charged with providing alcohol to three underage females, his fourth arrest in the last seven months. He could get up to a year in jail and a $500 fine on each count if convicted.

Henry was charged June 4 with speeding and drunk driving. He also faces trial Aug. 21 in Orlando on a concealed weapon charge involving allegations that he pulled a pistol on a group of revelers. And he was previously prosecuted for a December arrest on marijuana charges, pleading guilty and avoiding jail time after completing a drug rehab program.

Meanwhile, fellow Bengals wideout Chad Johnson made several idiotic statements when questioned regarding Ben Roethlisberger's motorcycle accident. For instance: "They took away the (touchdown) celebrations. Now we can't enjoy ourselves outside of the facility? That's not fair," Johnson said. When it comes to the Roethlisberger situation the Bengals' PR department ought to put a muzzle on Johnson and let QB Carson Palmer do all the talking.

Ben Roethlisberger's statement

Today Steelers' quarterback Ben Roethlisberger issued the following statement:

"In the past few days, I have gained new perspective on life. By the grace of God, I am fortunate to be alive, surrounded by loved ones and lifted by the prayers and support of so many. I am sorry for any anxiety and concern my actions have caused others, specifically my family, the Steelers organization, my teammates and our fans.

"I recognize that I have a responsibility to safeguard my health in the offseason so I can continue to lead our team effectively. I never meant any harm to others nor to break any laws. I was confident in my ability to ride a motorcycle and simply believed such an accident would not happen to me. If I ever ride again, it certainly will be with a helmet.

"My deepest appreciation goes out to the Steelers organization and my teammates for the compassion they have shown me. The physicians and support staff at Mercy Hospital were simply amazing, and I will forever be grateful for their caring treatment.

"I want to assure everyone I am committed to a complete and timely recovery. I look forward to being at training camp in Latrobe and to winning football games this season.

Roethisberger out of hospital

Ben Roethlisberger was released from Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh on Wednesday night a little before midnight. A second round of tests again showed no brain injuries, although he does have a concussion.
The hospital released a statement saying that it "respected the wishes and privacy of Roethlisberger and his family" by not confirming his discharge until long after he was gone. One hopes Big Ben wasn't pushing to leave the hospital just to show everyone how tough he is. In the meantime, the filming of a planned Chunky Soup commercial went on without Ben and his stepmother. Erin Bobal, a publicist for the Campbell's Soup Co., told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that Roethlisberger will not appear in Chunky ads this year.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Steelers Fans For Re-Instating the Helmet Law

Two days before Roethlisberger's motorcycle crash a similar accident occurred in front of my apartment complex. In fact, the accident was almost identical to that experienced by Roethlisberger: A minivan turned left across a motorcyclist's path and the cyclist rammed into the passenger side of the van. In Arizona, as in Pennsylvania, motorcyclists are not required to wear helmets, and like most Arizona bikers, this particular rider was not wearing any protection. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

In light of Roethlisberger's accident I'd like to propose an idea to the Steelers Nation: Namely, organizing ourselves with the goal of getting Pennsylvania's helmet law re-instated. Neither of The Steelyard's proprietors is a Pennsylvania resident so we can't lead the way, but if the law were re-instated at least some good would come from Roethlisberger's wreck. We don't know much about Pennsylvania politics but it would seem that support for a helmet law ought to be at an all-time high right about now. Maybe we can get governor Ed Rendell to reverse field?

And who knows, in light of the circumstances, maybe Big Ben will one day come around and publicly advocate re-instating the law. Any thoughts?

Monday, June 12, 2006

Roethlisberger in serious condition, going into surgery

The list of injuries already reported to Ben Roethlisberger's head, mouth and face is horrific. The trauma physicians seem to be a little hesitant to talk about the extent of the damage, but what I've seen reported so far is: Fractured left sinus cavity bone; a nine-inch laceration to the back of his head; and broken jaw. He also lost most of his teeth and severely injured both knees. It sounds like he went into the windshield face first, and suffered the laceration and knee injuries when he hit the ground.

No one has reported that the injuries are life threatening, but this kind of damage certainly sounds career threatening. I have a feeling we're going to hear more bad news following surgery. One certainly needs to be concerned about brain injury in a situation like this, and that's one thing they haven't talked about.

Roethlisberger suffers serious head injury in motorcycle accident

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger suffered a serious head injury this morning after his motorcycle collided with a car on Second Avenue near the 10th Street Bridge in Pittsburgh.

Roethlisberger, who was not wearing a helmet, collided with a Chrysler sedan and was thrown off his motorcycle, flying headfirst into the car's windshield "with a pretty good force," said a veteran city police officer.

Every Steelers fan has been concerned about Roethlisberger's insistence on riding a motorcycle without a helmet. Now the nightmare scenario for the Steelers organization and its fans has come true.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Soup, er, Steelers

Look out Donovan and Wilma McNabb. Ben and Brenda Roethlisberger may be the heirs to your Campbell's Chunky Soup gig. This week Roethlisberger and his mother will shoot a national commercial for the long-running Chunky Soup campaign. Also appearing will be a group of Roethlisberger's closest friends: offensive linemen Alan Faneca, Kendall Simmons, Jeff Hartings and Max Starks. Naturally, nose tackle Casey Hampton will also be featured. After all, nothing says 'chunky' like Casey Hampton.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Big Ben sells out

QB Ben Roethlisberger has agreed to appear in a video for the song "Mr. Right Now" by the PovertyNeck Hillbillies, a country music group that recently signed a national deal with Rust Records.
The video will be released later this month. Strangely, the Rooney family named the PovertyNeck Hillibillies as the official band of the Steelers earlier this year.

Following in the footsteps of Eagles QB Donovan McNabb, Roethlisberger will also soon be appearing with his mom (and several teammates) in one or more Campbell Soup commercials.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Bad news for the Steelers, Bengals and Browns

Today, the Tennessee Titans ended their stalemate with quarterback Steve McNair and traded the former MVP to the Baltimore Ravens pending a physical. This is bad news for the other three teams in the AFCNorth. Sure, at 33 the injury-plagued McNair is no longer in his prime, but he gives the Ravens a legitimate shot at winning the division, provided he can stay healthy. Otherwise, Baltimore will have to turn back to Kyle Boller, who has never looked like a long-term solution to the Ravens' quarterback problems. The Ravens gave up a fourth-round pick to get McNair.

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Ring Cycle

Yesterday at Heinz Field about 150 members of the Steelers organization received their Super Bowl rings during a banquet that featured the sounds of Morris Day and the Time, an R&B group formed by Prince.

A photo of the gaudy ring--designed by Steelers' chairman Dan Rooney, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and retired running back Jerome Bettis--can be found at The ring features five diamond replicas of the Vince Lombardi trophy on the front (representing the franchise's five Super Bowl titles), along with the Steelers' logo.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Steelers' Walter Reed experience

On Friday, several current and former Steelers' players made a trip to Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Jerome Bettis, Troy Polamalu, Aaron Smith, Jerame Tuman, Max Starks and Antwaan Randle El all went and visited military members who have been wounded in the Iraq War.

Bettis told "It's important for us to appreciate what they are doing and the sacrifices that they have made for us and the opportunities that have been given to us," he said. "It was an awesome experience to visit Walter Reed and visit soldiers. It was a special moment."

Friday, June 02, 2006

Steelers Honored at White House

It's been a long time since President Bush has been associated with anyone or anything successful, but he got his chance to stand side-by-side with winners today when the Pittsburgh Steelers visited the White House. At the press conference, George W. demonstrated his natural propensity to say the wrong thing, openly admitting he's a "Texas [sic] Cowboy" fan. The Steelers were nice enough to overlook that observation and presented Bush with a black #43 jersey along with an autographed football. No word yet about how Troy Polamalu feels about the team giving his number away to Bush.

Steelers to Visit the White House and Walter Reed

Early this afternoon the Pittsburgh Steelers will get the opportunity to visit the White House, one of the perks of defeating the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl this past February. Former Steelers Antwaan Randle El, Kimo von Oelhoffen and Chris Hope, all of whom signed elsewhere after the season, are expected to be on hand, along with scouts, coaches, and front-office personnel.

It seems that tight end Jerame Tuman and defensive end Aaron Smith are particularly excited about the visit. "We are going to do our best to get in close somewhere around [President Bush]. We are very big supporters.... We want to get close or at least try to get our picture taken with him," said Tuman.

I don't know what Tuman and Smith are worried about. There should be plenty of space around Bush, considering how everyone is bending over backwards to distance themselves from him. Even former Super Bowl MVP Lynn Swann, hopelessly flailing away in his bid for the governorship of Pennsylvania, could only be hurt by being linked to Bush.

In the end, I predict that nose tackle Casey Hampton will be the only player standing next to Bush on the White House lawn, and not just because Hampton's big belly will be taking up all the available space. Hampton played his college ball at the University of Texas (supposedly Bush's favorite team), and we all know how Bush accords preferential treatment for wealthy 'friends' from Texas.

Prior to visiting the White House several unnamed players will quietly venture over to Walter Reed Army Medical Center to spend time with soldiers wounded in the Iraq War. Mark my words: If these players speak with the media after leaving Walter Reed, they will be in a state of 'shock and awe': Shocked at the extent of the injuries they have seen, and in awe of the rehabilitation these soldiers must endure.