East Rutherford, NJ (GSM) — Although there were no fans in the stands, “Steeler Nation’s” presence was felt at MetLife Stadium.
The Steelers were victors on the road over the home team New York Giants, 26-16, thanks to the return of Ben Roethlisberger – JuJu connection that was missing last season. Roethlisberger was placed on injured reserve in 2019 to recover from a year-long elbow injury. On Monday night, Roethlisberger completed 21 of 32 passes and 3 touchdowns.
Receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster was on the receiving end of two touchdowns, one for 10-yards another 8 yards, respectively.
James Washington caught one for 13-yards and scored on a valiant second effort to reach over the goalline for a touchdown.
Steelers’ defensive end Cam Heyward racked up an interception after a pass from Giants quarterback Daniel Jones was deflected.
The Steelers are now 1-0 on the season and have their home opener against the Denver Broncos on Sunday.
PITTSBURGH (GSM) — The NFL season is fast approaching with players, coaches and personnel going through the motions of Training Camp in efforts of conditioning to have a robust (and safe) debut.
Steelers’ wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster spoke to the media Monday about his chance to play with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger again. Smith-Schuster says he doesn’t anticipate any challenges with chemistry. However, the chance for rookies to get acclimated to Roethlisberger’s playing style is key for team success moving forward. “I think one thing we did before camp, we always threw with him, which was a good part,” Smith-Schuster said. “Having these young guys—that is the biggest part for us—the young guys trying to get used to him.”
Smith-Schuster also took to Twitter over the weekend to show chemistry between he and quarterback Roethlisberger. A connection the world hasn’t seen since “Big Ben” was sidelined with an elbow injury on his throwing arm in September 2019.
Monday marks the first time the team will practice in pads prior to the 2020 season. Head Coach Mike Tomlin addressed the media last week and says he realizes how protocol has been altered due to coronavirus concerns.
“We are willing to adjust based on what transpires between now and then.” And that is really our mentality about this next month or so. We realize there are certain boxes that need to be checked between now and when we step into a stadium, but we also realize that we might have to alter the pace of some of those intended plans based on the readiness.” — Mike Tomlin, head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers
PITTSBURGH (GSM) — The only hits currently being generated by the NFL are via the internet.
All-pro safety Minkah Fitzpatrick is among the nearly 1,700 players in the National Football League who are eager to take the field in the 2020 season. However, with the uncertainty of whether a season will be played — in light of the COVID-19 pandemic — Fitpatrick spoke to the media (via Zoom) and his message to the fans was one of optimism.
“We appreciate all of the love and support they show us, previously and in the future,” Fitzpatrick said in his remarks Tuesday. He, along with his teammates, have been practicing social distancing during the pandemic but have been in close contact to help team chemistry from afar.
As far as the loyal Steeler fans who are anxious to watch football, Fitzpatrick added, “Whether there are no fans in the stadium or whether it’s going to be full, we’re going to have unwavering support and that is greatly appreciated and reflected in the way that we play.”
As the world sits, waiting for an outcome to the coronavirus, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell released a statement saying, “We will be prepared to make adjustments as necessary, as we have during this off-season in safely and efficiently conducting key activities such as free agency, the virtual off-season program, and the 2020 NFL draft.”
In the midst of waiting, Fitzpatrick knows there is no definitive answer to how the games will shape up, or if fans will be allowed in stadiums across the country, “Whether there is nobody in the stands or a full stadium, we’re going to give our best effort and make sure you guys are entertained and having a good time.“
The Steelers acquired Fitzpatrick in a week-3 trade with the Dolphins for a 2020 first round draft pick, a fifth rounder and a sixth round pick in 2021. He made a significant impact in the secondary immediately after joining the team.
He racked up 5 interceptions, 150 yards and 1 pick-six and became an instant fan favorite in the Steel City.
PITTSBURGH (GSM) — Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin took issue with his backup quarterback Mason Rudolph being “accused” of using racial slurs during a game in Cleveland last season.
A physical altercation resulted in a melee between the Steelers and Browns during the 2019 season where Browns defensive end Myles Garrett forcibly removed Rudolph’s helmet and proceeded to hit him over the head with it. With 8-seconds left to play in the game, Garrett was ejected and suspended for the remaining 6 games of the season.
Coach Tomlin appeared on ESPN’s “First Take” to voice his opinion on the matter and to discuss the allegations against Mason Rudolph:
Steelers’ Head Coach Tomlin released the following statement:
I support Mason Rudolph not only because I know him, but also because I was on that field immediately following the altercation with Myles Garrett, and subsequently after the game. I interacted with a lot of people in the Cleveland Browns organization – players and coaches. If Mason said what Myles claimed, it would have come out during the many interactions I had with those in the Browns’ organization. In my conversations, I had a lot of expressions of sorrow for what transpired. I received no indication of anything racial or anything of that nature in those interactions.
PITTSBURGH (GSM) — I’m sick of all of the “Tomlin didn’t maximize his talent” arguments in Pittsburgh.
Let’s look at the record:
2007: 1st year as head coach, he wins the AFC North but loses momentum and playoff game at home with last-second FG. This was AFTER the NFL’s leading rusher broke his leg in week 15 or 16 (i.e., “Fast” Willie Parker, he of the SB rushing record for longest TD run back in SB XL). Also- his franchise QB throws a pick-6 #ugh.
2008: Won SB as 2nd year coach.
2009: Team collapsed at the end of the year to miss the playoffs. SB hangover. I’ll concede that point. BAD loss to the Raiders at home.
2010: Made it to the SB. Lost to Aaron Rodgers after a(nother) Big Ben pick-6 (no one brings that up) and a bad fumble by Mendenhall (sp). Still lost by 6. Also got to the SB with a banged-up Troy Polamalu, who was the NFL Defensive MVP that was hurt late in the season versus the Bengals (apparently on a pick-6 return).
2011: Lost the Tebow game when his team was VERY banged up. Ryan Clark (starting safety) couldn’t play in Denver after almost dying the last time up there (sickle cell trait). Mendenhall tore his ACL in the past game of the regular season. Multiple injuries everywhere during that game. That was still a 12-4 team.
2012: Big Ben was injured for 3-4 games that year. Missed the playoffs.
2013: Started the season 0-4, including a bad loss in London to MIN. Went 8-4 (67%) the rest of the way, was one missed FG away from making the playoffs by the Chiefs in week 17.
2014: Lost home playoff game after Le’Veon Bell was hurt in the last game of the regular season on a Sunday night (Cincy). This was the LeGarrette Blount season.
2015: Lost to the eventual SB champs (a team with a historic defensive) in the divisional round after Le’Veon Bell was lost for the year (knee vs Cincy again), AB was lost (Cincy concussion game), and Ben was playing with a bad shoulder (also hurt in the Cincy game). Oh, yeah: the backup RB (De’Angelo Williams) was out for the year as well, hurt in the last regular season game vs. Cleveland. Still was one bad fumble away from likely winning that game. Also: their all-Pro center was out for the year.
2016: Went to the AFC Champ game with a hurt Le’Veon Bell. Lost to eventual SB champs. Played the tail end of this season without one of his best defensive players – Cam Heyward (hurt late season).
(***By the way: anyone seeing a theme with some of these late-season IR-leading injuries to top-flight players?!?!
How does Tomlin get blame for that? His fault for foot fractures, tore ACLs, or broken legs?)
2017: With a 13-3 team, lost in divisional round after losing the heart of their defense one month prior (i.e., remember that the Shazier injury was 13 days BEFORE the NE game), causing their defensive to go from top 8 defense in the league to mediocre AT BEST. Gave up 45 points at home with a dude at MLB (Sean Spence) that sat roughly 12 games of the season on the couch. Still should NOT have been in that JAX game (i.e., should have been the #1 seed playing a BAD TEN team) if not for the “Jesse James” game and HORRIBLE Big Ben INT after the James reversal (again, no one talks about that HORRIBLE decision by a $100m QB…some of these “Tomlin losses” have been due to the QB being “a gunslinger” and losing winnable games much like Brett Favre…another QB who could easily have more rings if his style of play afforded better decisions)
BTW: lost that NE game at home without their best CB (Haden was hurt), best LB (Shazier) and the league’s best WR (Brown was hurt early in that game)…still lost because of James reversal and the bad QB decision afterwards.
2018: 9-6-1 after bad losses mid-season. I’ll give you that. Also will note that Conner was hurt and out for 3 games – when he was playing at a Pro Bowl-level. Bell was out (i.e., his own decision), and Brown was a huge headache all year long. That said: they went from possible #1 seed to missing the playoffs pretty fast.
2019: 8-8 with Duck Hodges (i.e., a 4th string QB to start training camp) and Mason Rudolph (i.e., 3rd string QB in 2018) at QB. JuJu missed 4 games. Conner missed 6 games and left during a 7th. Pouncey missed a game.
My point? I know…injuries happen to everyone. However, how many teams lose Pro Bowl-caliber talent late in the season and then do well (i.e., win multiple games) in the playoffs?
I have been a Steelers supporter as a native Pittsburgher. I wish that they won a few more SBs with this QB there. However, let’s be honest: things haven’t completely fallen into place with this team. This year showed us that there’s a drop-off from best WR or top-5 QB in the league to “next man up”, despite “…the standard is the standard…” Same is true for top-5 LB (Shazier in 2017), top-10 DL (Heyward), top-5 C (Pouncey), top-3 RB (Bell/Conner/Parker), and top-tier CB (Haden).
NE has never made it to the SB without a) playing in a division that was quite the opposite as the competitive AFC North (which often sent THREE teams to the playoffs between 2008-2015), having the 1st round bye, and not losing key components (minus not having Gronk in 2016) late in the season. Their “reign of terror” has so much to do with playing in that LOUSY division for 20 years (i.e., never more than 2 teams in the playoffs at one time – and usually only NE went) than anything else.
The AFC North has had (minus Cleveland) some of the most talented and competitive football (and vicious hitting as well) over the past 20 years. Tomlin has been here for the majority of it and has multiple championships (division, conference, and SB) despite it…and the ill-fated injuries that come with all of that to boot.
Can some of us please just stop it with the “Tomlin hasn’t done enough” rhetoric? If 2019 won’t shut you up, please take a look at this year – and the whole record – to get more of why you might not completely get it (i.e., know what you’re talking about/have a waning memory based on your Yinzerism)
…just seems like something some Pittsburghers and some of #SteelerNation should give up on as a New Year’s Resolution for 2020.