NFC West: Pittsburgh Steelers

NFC West injury situations that matter

December, 21, 2011
Arizona: Quarterback Kevin Kolb practiced on a limited basis while continuing his return from a concussion. Coach Ken Whisenhunt remained noncommittal on a starter for Saturday's game at Cincinnati. Kolb has suffered significant injuries in two of his past three starts, missing games following each one. Kolb appears unlikely to start if his reps do not increase Thursday. The team has won enough with backup John Skelton to consider giving Kolb additional recovery time. Right tackle Brandon Keith (ankle) did not practice Wednesday. Jeremy Bridges' presence gives the team insurance. Beanie Wells remained limited while dealing with a knee injury likely to bother him the rest of the season. Wells' production has fallen off as a result. The team's decision to place outside linebacker Joey Porter on injured reserve changes nothing. The team has gone with younger alternatives, and Porter wasn't playing.

St. Louis: The Rams remained without quarterbacks Sam Bradford (ankle) and A.J. Feeley (thumb). Bradford has shed the walking boot he wore last week, but it's unclear whether he'll return this week. Kellen Clemens could start again. The Rams were also without cornerbacks Justin King (shoulder) and Josh Gordy (abdominal) in practice Wednesday. Depth at the position is pretty much tapped out, a huge concern heading into a matchup against Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Mike Wallace. Gordy appears more likely than King to play. Earlier injuries at wide receiver became more significant Wednesday when the NFL levied a four-game suspension against rookie receiver Austin Pettis for using performance-enhancing drugs. The team's best receiver, Brandon Lloyd, did practice fully. He had been ill.

San Francisco: Receiver Ted Ginn Jr. (ankle) and linebacker Patrick Willis (hamstring) missed practice. Ginn's injury is new. Willis remains on course to return at an unstated point in the future. As much as the 49ers want Willis back on the field right now, they need to make sure he's ready for the postseason. Hamstring injuries tend to recur, so the team might be erring on the side of caution. Left tackle Joe Staley did not finish the game Monday night after suffering a bruised leg. The 49ers did not list him on their injury report Wednesday. The team listed receiver Braylon Edwards as limited with a knee injury. He was inactive for performance-related reasons Monday night, but with Ginn's status unclear, the team needs numbers at the position. Ginn's absence would leave the 49ers with a less dynamic and experienced return specialist, a concern heading to Seattle.

Seattle: An ankle injury limited receiver Doug Baldwin in practice Wednesday. Having Baldwin ready is crucial now that Mike Williams has joined Sidney Rice on the Seahawks' injured reserve list. Baldwin is the team's best option on third down. The Seahawks figure to need their tight ends in protection against the 49ers' formidable defensive front seven. Linebacker David Hawthorne's full participation in practice despite a knee injury comes as a positive sign. The team has been resting Hawthorne during the week recently. Getting Hawthorne healthier is important because the team's depth at linebacker has run low in recent weeks. The 49ers favor heavier personnel groupings, so a full contingent of linebackers would have greater value this week than in some others.

Posted by's Mike Sando

The Cardinals' preseason opener against the Steelers begins at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN. AFC North blogger James Walker and I will be discussing the teams during the game, and you're invited to participate. The conversation begins here at 7:45 p.m. ET.

  Getty Images/AP Photo
  Pittsburgh and Arizona meet Thursday night in a rematch of Super Bowl XLIII.

Posted by's Mike Sando

I joined AFC North blogger James Walker and Jeremy Green of Scouts Inc. for a discussion on the Steelers' and Cardinals' chances of making return trips to the Super Bowl. The two teams meet Thursday night at 8 ET on ESPN.

Podcast: Football Today
James Walker and Mike Sando join Jeremy Green to discuss whether the Steelers or Cardinals have a better chance to return to the Super Bowl. Football Today

James raised questions about Ben Roethlisberger's recent play through camp amid potential distractions relating to the civil suit against him. I raised questions about the Cardinals' ability to replace what they lost when offensive coordinator Todd Haley left for the Chiefs.

Jeremy and I debated the merits of Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt's decision to replace Clancy Pendergast as defensive coordinator. And I tried to convince James to rethink perceptions of the Cardinals as a team dealing with distractions.

In the end, we agreed on one thing: The Cardinals still must prove they can win consistently, leaving the Steelers as the team more likely to make a return trip to the Super Bowl this season, even if the path through the AFC offers more resistance.

Posted by's Mike Sando

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Steelers do not worry about one of their receivers pulling an Anquan Boldin and demanding a new deal with multiple years remaining on the existing one.

As the Cardinals navigate the Boldin situation, they could benefit from a Steelers-style policy against renegotiating contracts with more than one year remaining.

Last offseason, Cardinals general manager Rod Graves suggested the organization would consider such a policy. Graves declined to discuss details when approached at the scouting combine Saturday, but he did acknowledge that such a policy remains a consideration.

Kevin Colbert, the Steelers' director of football operations, lauded the Steelers' policy as applied to negotiations with defensive player of the year James Harrison.

Neither Colbert nor the reporters interviewing him brought up Boldin or the Cardinals, but the principles apply to the situation in Arizona. The Steelers negotiate only with quarterbacks when more than one season remains on a contract. All other players must wait until the final year. Boldin has two years remaining on his contract.

Colbert: "It's something that we're very consistent with and it eliminates any kind of potential problem because you've been consistent with guys who have been big parts of your success. They all wait their turn. They understand that. They don't even try to test that for the most part.
"James [Harrison] understood that. Our players know that policy. Right, wrong or indifferent, it works for us and it works for them. They accept that. They know there is no reason to try to change that because it's not going to change anytime soon.

"I think most of the players want to stay here if they can. Most players don't want to leave when you have had success."

The Cardinals' willingness to revisit Boldin's contract with more than one year remaining suggests they might consider a window longer than one year. They offered a contract to Boldin before they re-signed Larry Fitzgerald in early 2008. Three years remained on Boldin's deal when the Cardinals made that offer, which Boldin declined.

Posted by's Mike Sando

The Cardinals could be holding out for Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler, delaying their search for a defensive coordinator.

That was the word from Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic. Mike Jurecki of KGME radio in Phoenix previously said Butler would become a candidate. Others cast doubt on the report, but perhaps only the timing was off. Butler's contract status could be key.

Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt has interviewed candidates for the job, including current defensive assistants Bill Davis and Teryl Austin.

Somers: "Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler is under consideration for the Cardinals coordinator's position, although it's unknown if the Steelers will grant Whisenhunt permission to interview Butler. Butler has been in the hospital because of hip surgery, and if the Steelers grant permission, the interview likely would be done over the phone. The Steelers, however, could deny the Cardinals permission, as they did two years ago when Whisenhunt wanted to interview Butler."

Butler would presumably help lead a full conversion to a 3-4 defensive scheme. Such a conversion would emphasize the importance of keeping linebacker Karlos Dansby.

Chat wrap: Leinart appears safe for now

February, 12, 2009

Posted by's Mike Sando

Thanks to those who participated in the most recent NFC West chat. A sampling:

Rick (San Francisco, CA): If Warner does in deed re-sign, will it be a one year contract or is there a possibilty of it being longer? Does this affect Lienart's future with the team ?

Mike Sando: I would think it could be a two-year deal. Leinart would be affected if Warner remained the starter for 2010.

Drew (Buffalo): Who do you see making the biggest offseason splash in the nfc west?

Mike Sando: I would lean toward the 49ers. They'll have the cap room. Their new principle decision maker, Jed York, is 27 years old and running a team for the first time. And then the 49ers have made some high-profile purchases in free agency over the last few years, from Jonas Jennings to Nate Clements to Justin Smith.

Steve (Issaquah, Wa): Mike, I have heard Mora say there will be no limitations on the offense next year including running the wildcat with Seneca Wallace, do you think we could see that?

Mike Sando: We will certainly see more of those things from Seattle. We certainly couldn't see less! Holmgren treated his offensive system as gospel. He seemed to find that other stuff to be sacrilege. The question I have with the new staff -- offensive coordinator Greg Knapp in particular -- is how much they'll get away from the passing game.

Paul (Albany, OR): Please tell me the Rams will build through the draft and not overspend for older players past their prime. Keep your picks, evaluate talent, resign your key players - oh wait that is the Steelers and not the Rams. Darnit

Mike Sando: I definitely expect the Rams to get younger this offseason. They were the third-oldest team in the league for much of the 2008 season.

Thanks again for dropping by. The full transcript is here.

Posted by's Mike Sando

The Cardinals' reported interest in Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler as a candidate for defensive coordinator appears headed nowhere.

Mike Jurecki of KGME radio in Phoenix said the Cardinals requested and received permission from the Steelers to interview Butler for the job. Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says the Cardinals haven't even asked for permisison on Butler.

Kent Somers, longtime Cardinals beat reporter for the Arizona Republic, says he has been unable to confirm Butler as a candidate. I have also been unable to confirm Butler as a candidate. The Steelers and Cardinals have declined comment as a matter of policy.

We know the Cardinals once had interest in Butler. They requested permission to speak with him before the 2007 season, when Ken Whisenhunt left the Steelers for the Cardinals. The Steelers denied permission at that time. Here is what Somers reported Jan. 19, 2007, according to the Republic's paid archives:

"Whisenhunt asked for the Steelers' permission to interview three current staff members. The Steelers denied the request to talk to receivers coach Bruce Arians and linebackers coach Keith Butler. They granted Whisenhunt permission to talk to special-teams coach Kevin Spencer, and he could join the Cardinals staff soon."

Spencer coaches the Cardinals' special teams. Arians became the Steelers' offensive coordinator. Butler remained in Pittsburgh as linebackers coach.

The Cardinals remain without coordinators on boths sides of the ball, and without a quarterbacks coach. Linebackers coach Bill Davis and secondary coach Teryl Austin appear in line for interviews on the defensive side. Assistant head coach/offensive line Russ Grimm is a candidate on the offensive side.

The Rams are the only other NFC West team with an opening at coordinator. The Rams have not named position coaches at tight end, linebacker or defensive back, but they could conceivably fill one or more of those positions with coaches already on staff.

(Read full post)

Photoblog: Holmes pulls in winning score

February, 1, 2009

Photo by Chris O'Meara/AP

Steelers wide receiver Santonio Holmes made a brilliant catch for a 6-yard touchdown with 35 seconds remaining. Pittsburgh holds on for a record sixth Super Bowl title, 27-23 over Arizona.

Posted by's Mike Sando

TAMPA, Fla. -- Referee Terry McAulay and crew played it safe when they initially ruled the Cardinals had suffered a sack and lost fumble, not an incomplete pass, on that play with 11 minutes remaining in the third quarter.

The ruling made the play subject for review, giving officials a chance to correct their mistake, if one had been made. Had the officials called the play incomplete initially, they could not have awarded possession to the Steelers.

Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt challenged the play and won his second reversal of the game. His challenge record was 2-5 during the regular season. McAulay suffered five coach-initiated reversals during the regular season.

Photoblog: Harrison's touchdown run

February, 1, 2009

Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Steelers linebacker James Harrison on his way to a touchdown after running back an interception of Kurt Warner for 100 yards, the longest play in Super Bowl history.

Photoblog: Cardinals get on the board

February, 1, 2009

Photo by Fernando Medina/US Presswire

Cardinals tight end Ben Patrick pulls in a 1-yard pass from Kurt Warner for a touchdown. The Steelers lead 10-7 in the second quarter.

Posted by's Mike Sando

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Cardinals haven't lost the time of possession battle this badly since the Falcons held the ball for 21:19 of the first half in the wild-card round.

Arizona dominated time of possession in the second half of that victory over the Falcons. The time of possession in this game is 12:27 to 3:32 early in the second quarter.

Photoblog: Cardinals start slow

February, 1, 2009

Photo by Matthew Emmons/US Presswire

Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner looks for a receiver in the first quarter. Arizona's offense is off to a slow start as the Steelers dominate the first quarter.

Photoblog: Steelers' Parker gets going

February, 1, 2009

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

Steelers running back Willie Parker gets chased out of bounds after a 9-yard gain on Pittsburgh's first drive of the game.

Photoblog: Not a bad seat in the house

February, 1, 2009

Photo by Charlie Riedel/AP

J.D. Trevino of Tempe. Ariz. takes the long view of the field.