Pittsburgh Steelers: Maurkice Pouncey

Steelers' draft review: 2010

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
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PITTSBURGH -- The is the fourth in a series that reviews the Pittsburgh Steelers' drafts under general manager Kevin Colbert and coach Mike Tomlin.

Next up is the 2010 draft:

Total picks: 10

Picks still with the team: 3

Wallace
Brown
Best pick: WR Antonio Brown. The Steelers got an absolute steal when they landed Brown with the second of their two sixth-round picks. The fourth-year veteran has already made a pair of Pro Bowls and has twice been voted Steelers MVP by his teammates. Brown set a Steelers’ single-season record with 1,499 receiving yards in 2013, and he came within three receptions of also establishing a franchise mark for catches in a season. Not bad for the 195th pick of the draft.

Worst pick: OLB Thaddeus Gibson. The Steelers took the former Ohio State defensive end in the fourth round with the plan of converting him to outside linebacker. Gibson didn’t establish himself as a player who could at least contribute on special teams, and the Steelers lost him during his rookie season when they released Gibson with the intention of signing him to their practice squad. The 49ers claimed Gibson, but it didn’t turn out to be a significant loss. Gibson has bounced around the league, appearing in just four games for two different teams.

Worilds
Best value pick (not named Antonio Brown): OLB Jason Worilds. The Steelers took some criticism for picking the former Virginia Tech star over linebacker Sean Lee, who had starred at a Pittsburgh-area high school as well as at Penn State. Such second-guessing only intensified when Lee emerged a Pro Bowl-caliber player in Dallas while Worilds didn’t contribute much his first three seasons because of injuries and the fact that James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley were blocking him. Worilds, however, emerged as the Steelers’ best pass-rusher last season, notching a career-high eight sacks. The Steelers chose Worilds over the oft-injured Woodley in March when they used the transition tag on the fourth-year veteran and released Woodley.

Also of note: The Steelers hit big on first-round pick Maurkice Pouncey, No. 18 overall, as he became the first center in NFL history to make the Pro Bowl in each of his first three seasons ... Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (third round) and running back Jonathan Dwyer (sixth round) were among the players the Steelers lost to free agency this year ... Every player the Steelers drafted has appeared in at least one NFL game.

Final analysis/grade: It’s hard to quibble much with the Steelers’ first three picks as they netted Pouncey, Worilds and Sanders. The Steelers didn’t fare as well in the middle rounds, but added great value in the sixth round. Brown has established himself as a star, and Dwyer had his moments in Pittsburgh, leading the Steelers with 623 rushing yards in 2012. I’ll give the Steelers a ‘B+’ for this class.
PITTSBURGH -- The six Lombardi Trophies that line the front of the library at Steelers headquarters are impossible to miss even for those used to walking past them on a regular basis.

They have already made an impression on new offensive line coach Mike Munchak, who has done everything in football but win a Super Bowl.

“I’m here to see if we can get that seventh Super Bowl trophy in that case and help these players become as good as they can be,” Munchak told Steelers.com on Thursday. “From what I can see on tape, this is a good, young group that wants to be the best and it’s going to be fun working with them. I see myself as a teacher.”

[+] EnlargeMike Munchak
AP Photo/Wade PayneMike Munchak is aiming to help the Steelers improve off of consecutive 8-8 seasons.
Munchak should find more than willing pupils -- whether it is in the meeting room or on the practice field -- since no offensive line coach can match his combined chops as a coach and a player.

Munchak is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and is considered one of the best guards in NFL history. The nine-time Pro Bowler spent 14 seasons coaching the offensive line for the Oilers/Titans before becoming the head coach for the only franchise he had ever worked or played for prior to joining the Steelers.

That the Scranton, Pa., native became available at about the time the Steelers were looking to stop the revolving door at offensive line coach proved ideal for both sides.

“It is hard to pick up and move,” said Munchak, who was fired in January after three seasons as the Titans' coach, “but if you’re going to do that this is a great place to end up.”

Elation may be too strong to characterize the general feeling around the Steelers regarding the addition of Munchak. But not by much.

The offensive line came together nicely at the end of last season and it returns every starter, including Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey, who played eight snaps in 2013 before tearing his ACL.

Pouncey has been working out at the Steelers’ practice facility -- he was here again on Thursday -- and he is among the linemen who could elevate their play under Munchak's tutelage.

If the line shows significant improvement in 2014 -- and, of course, stays healthy to some degree -- the offense could be good enough to carry a defense that is in transition.

And carry the Steelers back to the playoffs following 8-8 seasons.

Munchak, the perfect coach to pull everything together for a line that doesn't have a projected starter over 28, said he wants his players to take an even-keeled approach to the game while also exhibiting toughness and selflessness.

He figures to be more teacher than taskmaster but he won't have to yell to get his players' attention. His credentials alone will do that -- and help Munchak impart a message that has guided since his days as an All-American at Penn State.

“You don’t want to be that weak-link guy,” Munchak said. “Be accountable and if you don’t have a good ethic we’re not going to be very good. I’m big on being prepared, being prepared for the moment. It’s a young group, so I’m looking forward to getting to know them and working with them and getting the job done.”
I received so many questions last week that I did a second mailbag. Keep the questions coming, especially with the draft only a month away. If you have a question please send to @ScottBrown_ESPN with #steelersmail.

And away we go...
Another great round of questions, and I got enough of them that I will do another mailbag on Monday. If you have a question please send it to @ScottBrown_ESPN with #steelersmail.

And away we go…

 
PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers won six of their final eight games last season in large part because the offense thrived with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger running a no-huddle attack.

The Steelers only lose one starter from that group – they didn’t show much interest in re-signing wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders – and they effectively add a Pro Bowler to the mix assuming center Maurkice Pouncey returns from the torn ACL he sustained in the 2013 season opener.

[+] EnlargeBen Roethlisberger
Jason Miller/Getty ImagesWith Ben Roethlisberger leading a no-huddle attack, the Steelers' offense sizzled during the second half of the 2013 season.
The offense appears poised to drive a team that is retooling its defense, and a strong finish in 2013 bodes well for it carrying the Steelers back to the playoffs.

Then there is Mike Tomlin on the assumption that the offense will pick up where it left off last season when the Steelers averaged 28.2 points in their final nine games.

“I think that if that’s your mentality, you set yourself up for failure,” the seventh-year coach said at the NFL owners meetings. “I think that each year stands on its own. We have some quality guys that grew together in the latter parts of 2013, but I am not going to assume that means in anything in regards to 2014. I just think that’s the appropriate mentality to take.”

Indeed, as well as the offense played in the second half of last season it hasn’t been immune to change.

Along with Sanders the Steelers lost wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery, and the two combined to catch 16 of Roethlisberger’s 28 touchdown passes last season.

Will Lance Moore provide Roethlisberger with a reliable, productive No. 3 wide receiver as Cotchery did last season? Is Markus Wheaton, who has all of six career receptions, ready to take over for Sanders and start?

There are other questions, such as whether running back Le’Veon Bell will build on a stellar rookie season, and injuries are always an X factor. The Steelers’ offensive line has been consistently scrambled by injuries and there is no way to foretell how they will impact that unit in 2014.

That is not to say there isn’t a lot to like about the Steelers’ offense.

Roethlisberger always gives the Steelers a chance to win and he played every snap last season. Tight end Heath Miller will be better almost two years removed from reconstructive knee surgery. And new offensive line coach Mike Munchak could prove to be the Steelers’ most significant offseason addition given his body of work and the respect he will command from his new players.

So was Tomlin just trying to downplay expectations for the offense or just simply being a downer when he refused to buy into any hype surrounding the unit?

Not necessarily.

What looks good on paper does not always translate to success on the field, and Tomlin is nothing if not a realist.

“What we were able to do in terms of finding traction down the stretch was significant in 2013,” Tomlin said, “but I am not going to assume that it means anything in 2014, to be honest with you.”

Steelers re-sign OL Guy Whimper

March, 17, 2014
Mar 17
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PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers added more depth to their offensive line on Monday when they announced they have re-signed Guy Whimper to a one-year contract.

The nine-year veteran played in 11 games last season and started one game each at left and right guard. The 6-5, 315-pound Whimper also saw extensive action in two games at right tackle while filling in for the injured Marcus Gilbert.

Whimper is the second offensive lineman that the Steelers have re-signed as Cody Wallace agreed to a three-year, $3.48 million contract last week.

Depth is an issue at several positions right now but offensive line is not among them.

All five starters will return in 2014 assuming Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey is able to work his way back from the torn ACL that he sustained in the 2013 season opener.

Mike Adams, Whimper and Wallace are also on the roster, and all have starting experience and can provide depth.

Fernando Velasco, who started 11 games last season at center before rupturing his Achilles tendon, remains unsigned. But he could be the odd man out with the signings the Steelers have made and especially the return of Wallace.

Velasco’s injury provided an opening for Wallace and the latter held his own while starting the final four games at center.

Colbert: 'All eyes and ears' on Munchak

February, 13, 2014
Feb 13
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PITTSBURGH -- General manager Kevin Colbert didn't do anything to temper fans' enthusiasm for the hiring of offensive line coach Mike Munchak.

Colbert said Munchak may have been the most respected offensive line coach in the NFL prior to becoming the Titans' head coach in 2011.

Munchak, a Hall of Fame guard, returned to his roots after the Titans fired him in January, and he joined Mike Tomlin's staff.

Munchak
Munchak is Tomlin's fourth offensive line coach, following Larry Zierlein, Sean Kugler and Jack Bicknell Jr.

“It was real exciting to have the opportunity for him to join us,” Colbert said on Wednesday. “I think [the players] will be all eyes and ears when you have a Hall of Famer talking to you and trying to teach you and I think they're excited for that.”

Hopes for the Steelers' offensive line are as high as they have been under Tomlin.

A line that showed significant improvement in the second half of last season should only get better under the tutelage of Munchak and with the return of Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey.

Munchak figures to work closely with tackles Mike Adams and Marcus Gilbert, and he could be the key to unlocking the considerable potential of the former.

“I don't think Coach Munchak was brought in for any one player,” Colbert said in reference to the underachieving Adams. “You hope that he gets the most out of all your guts and obviously he has the credentials to do that.”

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who has already met Munchak at the Steelers' practice facility, agreed.

“I know the line will be excited,” Roethlisberger said on 93.7 The Fan, “because any time you have a Hall of Famer coaching you better listen up.”
PITTSBURGH -- This is the seventh in a series in which I will examine every position relative to the 2013 season -- and take a look ahead.

CENTERS

2014 free agents: Fernando Velasco and Cody Wallace.

Pouncey
The good: The Steelers could not have asked for more from Velasco, whom they signed after Maurkice Pouncey went down in the opener with a season-ending knee injury. The former Titan picked up the offense fast enough to start the second game of the season and stabilize center following the loss of Pouncey. The Steelers were similarly fortunate when Velasco went down with a ruptured Achilles tendon in the Steelers' Thanksgiving night loss in Baltimore. Cody Wallace started the final four games and showed a nasty streak that belied his affable personality.

The bad: Pouncey lasted just eight snaps before right guard David DeCastro crumpled his right leg while trying to execute a cut block, and he tore several ligaments, including his ACL. As well as Velasco and Wallace filled in, the loss of Pouncey cost the Steelers their best offensive lineman as well as one of their captains.

The money (2014 salary-cap numbers): Pouncey's cap hit is just over $5.5 million but that will change if the Steelers, as expected, sign the 2010 first-round pick to a new contract. The Steelers sign core players before they reach the final year of their contract, and Pouncey is unquestionably a lynchpin up front. The only concern with the three-time Pro Bowler is his injury history, which is why the Steelers will also try to re-sign Velasco and Wallace. Velasco probably would have gotten a chance to start somewhere else but his best play may be to re-sign with the Steelers for one year, show teams he is healthy and then seek a better opportunity.

Draft priority: None. Pouncey is entrenched at center and there is no need for the Steelers to entertain thoughts of adding one to the roster via the draft.
Steel City wake-up: morning links

Steelers fans may want to hold off on ticketing Pittsburgh for the 2014 Super Bowl, but their excitement over the hiring of Mike Munchak to coach the offensive line is understandable.

The Steelers have more often than not won in spite of their offensive line since Mike Tomlin took over as head coach seven years ago. The uneven play of the line, which, in fairness, has been consistently ravaged by injuries, is why Tomlin is hiring his fourth different offensive line coach.

A young offensive line that returns all of its starters in 2014 is also expected to get Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey back from a torn ACL. The line really jelled in the second half of the season as it allowed just seven sacks in the final seven games and also improved in run blocking.

Munchak’s credentials strongly suggest that he is the coach to pull everything together up front.

I can’t remember such a consensus among Steelers’ fans in applauding a Tomlin coaching hires. There is indeed a lot to like about Munchak, who will return to his native Pennsylvania after spending more than three decades with the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans as a player and then a coach.
  • It is pretty quiet around the AFC North, and that is news when it comes to the Browns as Cleveland has yet to hire a head coach. Buffalo Bills’ defensive coordinator Mike Pettine has emerged the favorite to land the job, and he is scheduled to interview with the team today in Cleveland. ESPN.com reporter Browns reporter Pat McManamon has a good read on what is taking so long for Cleveland, which abruptly fired Rob Chudzinski earlier this month, to hire a coach.

 
  • ESPN.com NFL draft analysts Todd McShay, Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl break down how some of the quarterbacks at the Senior Bowl have fared during practices this week. They also list four players who may not wow teams during the workout aspect of the pre-draft evaluation but should not be overlooked because of that. Ohio State offensive tackle Jack Mewhort, a player who could interest the Steelers, is among those players.
PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers made what will probably go down as their most significant acquisition of the offseason Wednesday when Mike Munchak agreed to become their next offensive line coach.

Munchak
Yes, hiring Munchak is that big.

No one on the planet knows the ins and outs of the NFL and playing offensive line like Munchak does.

Think of the respect one of the greatest guards in NFL history will command from his new players. And his NFL resume merely starts with the 12 seasons he spent crafting a Hall of Fame career as a Houston Oiler.

Munchak has more than two decades of coaching experience, and he impressed the Tennessee Titans’ brass enough in 14 seasons as the team’s offensive line coach that he rose to the head coaching job in 2011.

Munchak might still be with the only NFL organization he worked for as a coach and a player had he agreed to make sweeping changes to his staff following a 7-9 season.

That he ended up in Pittsburgh is a coup for the Steelers.

The only downside to hiring Munchak: He is so highly regarded around the NFL that another head coaching opportunity could come his way in the coming years.

Then again Munchak spent more than three decades with the same organization, so he can hardly be characterized as an opportunist who jumps from job to job.

Munchak inherits an offensive line that is on the cusp of becoming pretty good if not really good provided it can ever stay healthy. He may be the coach to unlock underachieving offensive tackle Mike Adams’ considerable potential.

And he becomes the point man in installing the outside zone-blocking scheme that the Steelers ditched last season after Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey went down in the opener with a torn ACL, a game that the Steelers lost to Munchak's Titans at Heinz Field.

Munchak has tons of experience teaching the scheme, and it is something that will maximize Le’Veon Bell’s running ability.

It’s hard to imagine the Steelers finding a better fit for the one opening -- at least for now -- on coach Mike Tomlin’s staff.

And the Munchak hiring is a heck of a way for the Steelers to start an offseason that will bring its share of change.
PITTSBURGH -- Mike Tomlin has filled the one opening he has on his staff right now, and it looks like the Pittsburgh Steelers coach hit a home run.

Mike Munchak has agreed to become the Steelers' next offensive line coach, per ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, and the fourth one during Tomlin's seven-year tenure.

Munchak interviewed in Pittsburgh last Friday and his history makes him the ideal choice to mold a young offensive line that returns every starter next season and should also get Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey back from a major knee injury.

Munchak, one of the greatest guards in NFL history, is in the Pro Football of Fame, and he also distinguished himself coaching the offensive lines in Houston and Tennessee.

Munchak rose to head coach in Tennessee but he was fired earlier this month after the Titans went 7-9 and he refused to make sweeping changes to his staff.

Munchak has extensive experience teaching the outside zone blocking scheme that would appear to be an ideal fit for rookie running back Le'Veon Bell. The Steelers installed the scheme last year but ditched it following the torn knee that Pouncey sustained eight snaps into the Steelers' season opener.

Munchak has Pennsylvania roots as he is a Scranton native who starred at Penn State in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

He becomes the third assistant on Tomlin's staff who was previously a head coach joining defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau and offensive coordinator Todd Haley in that distinction.

Munchak takes over for Jack Bicknell Jr., whom Tomlin fired after just one season.
We’ve arrived at the play that most shaped the Steelers’ season. Here is a look back at nine other plays that impacted the season.

No. 10: Le'Veon Bell rips off a 25-yard run on his first carry after losing a costly fumble at Green Bay.

No. 9: Shaun Suisham misses a 32-yard field goal in a 21-18 loss at Oakland.

No. 8: Emmanuel Sanders catches a 55-yard touchdown pass against the Jets to help the Steelers win their first game of the season.

No. 7: Vikings receiver Greg Jennings turns what should have been a short gain into a 70-yard touchdown catch.

No. 6: The Steelers sniff out a fake field goal by the Lions and stuff it in the fourth quarter at Heinz Field.

No. 5: Sanders drops a 2-point conversion pass that would have allowed the Steelers to tie the Ravens in Baltimore and likely force overtime.

No. 4: Antonio Brown returns a punt 67 yards for a touchdown, giving the Steelers a commanding 21-0 lead against the Bengals.

No. 3: Brown comes within inches of scoring a miraculous touchdown on the final play of the game against the Dolphins.

No. 2: Raiders quarterbacks Terrelle Pryor runs 93 yards untouched for a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage.

No. 1

Pouncey
The play: Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey went down with a devastating knee injury after right guard David DeCastro crashed into his right leg in the season opener.

The situation: The Steelers had been given a gift safety following a gaffe by Titans kick returner Darius Reynaud and were driving when disaster struck. DeCastro tried to cut block Titans defensive tackle Sammie Lee Hill, but he missed and took out Pouncey. A hush fell over Heinz Field as medical personnel tended to Pouncey, and the injury turned out to be as bad as it looked. Pouncey suffered ACL and MCL tears, ending his season after just eight plays.

Why it mattered: The injury to Pouncey cost the Steelers their best offensive lineman, and its ripple effect is why no other play shaped the season more than this one. The Steelers, and DeCastro in particular, were shell-shocked following the loss of Pouncey, and the Titans pulled off a 16-9 upset. I firmly believe the Steelers would have won the season opener if not for the injury to Pouncey. The Steelers could not have done any better replacing Pouncey than they did with Fernando Velasco (and later after Cody Wallace took over for the injured Velasco). But the Steelers scrapped the outside zone-blocking scheme they had installed during the offseason. They also delayed using the no-huddle offense extensively after the loss of Pouncey, and that attack might have been the biggest reason why the Steelers went 6-2 in the second half of the season.

Steelers fire OL coach

January, 3, 2014
Jan 3
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PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has fired offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. after just one season.

The move comes as a bit of a surprising considering the progress the offensive line made this season despite constant shuffling because of injuries.

The offensive line allowed just seven sacks in the Steelers’ final seven games. It also helped rookie running back Le'Veon Bell rush for 214 yards in the final two games of the season.

The Steelers lost two starting centers during the course of the season, including Pro Bowler Maurkice Pouncey (torn ACL) in the opener. They had to deal with in-game injuries, it seemed, on a weekly basis, and the loss of Pouncey scuttled the Steelers’ plans to employ a zone-blocking scheme in 2013.

“I have decided to go in a different direction with respect to the coaching of our offensive line,” Tomlin said in a Steelers release. “I want to thank Jack for his contributions during the 2013 season, and I wish him well in the future.”

The Steelers will have their fourth offensive line coach under Tomlin as Bicknell had followed Larry Zierlein and Sean Kugler.

Tomlin fired Ziegler after the 2009 season, and Kugler left after 2012 to become the head coach of UTEP, his alma mater.

The Steelers will begin a search for Bicknell’s successor, and Tomlin could wait to talk to prospective candidates at the Senior Bowl, which will be held Jan. 20-25 and is a veritable job fair for those looking for work.

Bicknell had previously served as the offensive line coach for the Chiefs (2012), Giants (2009-11) and at Boston College (2007-08), his alma mater.
PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers' season is riddled with what-ifs. In (dis)honor of their eight losses here are eight things that shaped their fate.

Near miss in opener: The Steelers took a shot deep down the right sidelines after getting a safety on the opening kickoff, but Emmanuel Sanders couldn't haul in Ben Roethlisberger's pass. It would have been a good catch but it turned into the kind of near-miss that defined Sanders' season as much as the big plays he delivered. You have to wonder if the Titans would have recovered had that play led to a touchdown and an early 9-0 Steelers lead. Instead the Steelers lost Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey to a season-ending knee injury on the first drive of the season and didn't score when Isaac Redman fumbled out of the end zone.

Hard to handle in Cincinnati: The Steelers were leading 3-0 in the second quarter when tight end David Paulson lost a fumble at the end of a 34-yard catch and run. Had Paulson held onto the ball the Steelers would have had a first down on the Bengals' 16-yard line. They would have been looking at least a 6-0 lead with Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton struggling with his accuracy. That play pivoted the game toward the Bengals and loomed large in a 20-10 loss at Paul Brown Stadium.

[+] EnlargeTerrelle Pryor
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezTerrelle Pryor left the Pittsburgh defense in his wake en route to a 93-yard TD run.
Off and running in Oakland: Terrelle Pryor broke free for a 93-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage and that set the tone for another bad trip to Oakland. A handful of Steelers were caught out of position on the scamper, and that run exceeded the number of passing yards Pryor had (88). It also set an NFL record for longest run by a quarterback. The Steelers seemed to be a step slow all afternoon and the loss blunted any momentum they had generated following back-to-back wins.

Not so automatic: Shaun Suisham missed just two field goals all season and was as good as any kicker this side of Justin Tucker. But his misses couldn't have been timed any worse as both came in what turned out to be a three-point loss in Oakland. Nothing is as hard to comprehend about what happened this season then Suisham losing it for one game -- and one game only in an otherwise outstanding season. Both of his misses came inside of 35 yards and Suisham blamed himself for the worst loss of the season afterward.

Costly drop in Baltimore: The Steelers nearly rallied from a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit, but Sanders dropped a 2-point conversion pass that would have tied the game, and the Ravens recovered the ensuing onside kick. The Steelers were nearly out of offensive linemen by the end of another brutal battle of attrition with their archrivals, and the injuries that decimated them up front might have put them at a disadvantage in overtime. On the other hand, the Steelers clearly had the Ravens on their heels after scoring three touchdowns in the second half. And they would have loved to take their chances in overtime.

No doubting Thomas: A backup running back playing on a bad wheel turned in the biggest play of the game when he broke free for a 55-yard run to set up the Dolphins' go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. The Dolphins blocked the play well though Troy Polamalu said after the Steelers' 34-28 loss that he had not gotten to his assigned gap. The run propelled Daniel Thomas, who played on an injured ankle, to only the second 100-yard game of his career and first since his rookie season in 2011. It also led to another improbable loss for the Steelers.

Almost a miracle: The Steelers came within inches of pulling off what would have been one of the greatest endings in NFL history. Sanders caught a pass at around the Steelers' 40-yard line and triggered a series of laterals after he gained about 5 more yards and tossed the ball back to Jerricho Cotchery. The ball reversed field and ended up tucked under Antonio Brown's left arm. Brown weaved his way through the Dolphins defense with no time left on the clock and reached the end zone. Officials however, correctly ruled that he stepped out of bounds at the 12-yard adding another heartbreaking chapter to the Steelers season. Brown probably could have avoided stepping out and still scored but snow made it difficult to tell where he was on the field. No single play epitomized the Steelers' near-miss season than this one.

No call shuts door on Steelers: Wouldn't you have loved to hear what Mike Tomlin was yelling at his TV when he noticed the Chargers were lined up illegally before Ryan Succop's 41-yard field goal attempt? Succop should have gotten a mulligan -- and moved 5 yards closer -- after barely missing the field goal that would sent the Steelers to the playoffs but no penalty was called. A quick whistle may have also cost the Steelers in overtime when Eric Weddle was ruled down before a Chiefs player ripped the ball out of his arms and raced into the end zone. Tomlin is a member of the NFL's competition committee and you can bet he will have plenty to say on the state of officiating.

Steelers' 2014 opponents set

December, 30, 2013
12/30/13
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PITTSBURGH -- Some odds and ends from the Steelers:

Looking ahead: Steelers fans who are furious with Kansas City Chiefs kicker Ryan Succop will get a chance to boo him in person next fall. The Chiefs are among the five non-AFC North opponents that will visit Heinz Field next season. The Steelers will also host the Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Steelers' five non-division road games will come against the New York Jets, Tennessee Titans, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars. Six of their games will come against AFC North foes.

Injury update: The Steelers aren't dealing with a lot of injuries as they head into the offseason. All of the players who needed surgery have already had it except for cornerback Curtis Brown. The third-year veteran tore several ligaments in his knee last month in Cleveland, and coach Mike Tomlin said swelling in his knee had to subside before surgery. Brown is scheduled for surgery on Friday. Nose tackle Steve McLendon wore a walking boot on his left foot following a team meeting on Monday after he re-injured his ankle in the Steelers' 20-7 win over the Browns. There were a host of injured players in the locker room the final time it was open to the media this season, including center Maurkice Pouncey and outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley. But players on injured reserve weren't allowed to talk to reporters.

Owning the Browns: The Steelers' 20-7 win over the Browns only added another chapter to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's dominance of the organization that bypassed him in the 2004 draft. Roethlisberger improved to 17-1 against his home-state team, and his .944 winning percentage is the best by a quarterback against an opponent since 1970, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Right behind Roethlisberger is Tom Brady, who improved to 22-2 against the Bills on Sunday and has a .917 winning percentage against Buffalo.

Giving fans a hand: Tomlin did not reveal much at his final news conference of the season but he did call out Steelers fans -- in a good way. “I believe we have the very best fans in the world,” Tomlin said. “I don't take if for granted. It doesn't get old. But at the same time I want to thank the fans for sticking with us for what was a trying journey this year.”

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