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April 2010

Epiphany: Why I Wrote About Auburn and Why I’ll Never Do It Again

Published on: 30th April, 2010

Epiphany: Why I Wrote About Auburn and Why I'll Never Do It Again   | read this item

On April 25, 2010, I wrote a slide-show called “Tiger Down! Nine Teams That Can/Will Beat the Auburn Tigers in 2010.”  

And then I posted it on B/R’s Auburn page.  What happened next was to be expected.

But first let me explain why I did it.  It’s not that I’m really an expert on Auburn football; I do, however, keep up with their program more than I do any other SEC school. 

I guess I first got the idea after reading a couple of articles concerning Alabama written by Auburn fans.  Also, the slide-show was more about some of Auburn’s opponents than it was Auburn itself. 

But in the end that didn’t matter.

Another reason I did it, and I’m slightly embarrassed to admit this, was for the accolades.  Yep, I pimped myself out for a Platinum Great Debate and a Silver Hot Read.  Like I said, I’m not particularly proud of that, but it sure is nice to see something other than that lonely old Bronze Great Debate I had before the slide-show ran (which by the way is now a Silver Great Debate, possibly because of the traffic my profile received due to the Auburn story).

What followed came as no surprise.  I thought the body of the work was pretty solid.  I researched nine of Auburn’s toughest opponents and tried to explain why any one of them had a chance of beating Auburn.  I even expressed my opinion on what Auburn had to do to win some of those games. 

They were unappreciated. 

My first debate with an Auburn poster was about my prediction that Auburn would finish the season 3-9.  Of course I never predicted that, nor did I make any predictions of which games Auburn would win or lose.  But the majority of the Tiger faithful just couldn’t get past that headline (more on that in closing). 

As the number of reads climbed, so did the number of comments.  Very few received my slide-show favorably, understandably so. 

Yesterday I came to understand it, that is. 

Sure, there were a few Auburn fans willing to discuss how they saw some of the games unfolding, as well as a few Alabama fans.  But the overall consensus was the Auburn fans did not care for an Alabama fan writing anything about their football. 

Okay, I get the message.

But something interesting happened, something so subtle that it even got past the ever-watchful eyes of the Auburn family: Not a single fan commented about what I believe was really the root cause for the disdain I received.  

Shoot, it even got by me, and I’m the author. 

But after reading my slide-show a couple of dozen times, it soon became clear to my why nobody could get past the title and appreciate the work I put in.

It all starts with the opening photo. 

I’m looking at it right now, and I cannot believe I even picked that photo.  It’s a picture of an Auburn doormat.  I guess I may have picked that photo because a few days ago a semi-retired friend of mine who supplements his income at the flea-market brought me one quite similar, only it said “Roll Tide” and has a likeness of Big Al.  It’s sitting outside my back door even as you read this.

That made me take a closer look at the other photos that accompanied my slide-show.  In every single photo there was a player from the featured team making a play against Auburn.  Whether on offense or defense, there it was; an Auburn player getting tackled for a loss, or an Arkansas player breaking one for a huge gain, or an Alabama receiver scoring a touchdown on an Auburn safety.

I find it amazing that not one single comment (221 to date) mentioned anything about that. 

Oh, the power of subliminal messages! 

And this brings me to why I’ll never write anything about Auburn again.  You see, I also found out something quite amazing about myself: It is probably impossible for me to be unbiased when it comes to Alabama’s rivals. 

Not once did I conscientiously say to myself, “Here’s a picture of an Auburn running back getting creamed,” or “Here’s one of an Auburn corner back getting beat.”  They all just slipped in unnoticed, by me or anybody else.

Now I freely admit that the title “Tiger Down!” was meant to draw attention to my article.  After all, I really wanted some silver on my profile page.  But everything else just slipped in, like a ninja, right through the one window left unattended.  And like a ninja it stayed, undetected, using its poison to bring its targets down.

So, was it worth it?  It was a learning experience, that’s for sure.  I learned something  about rivalry and learned something about myself as well.  And I got a couple of sweet looking medals on my profile page too!  So yeah, I guess it was worth it.  But it’s nothing I wish to repeat ever again.

Nope, I’ll just stick to writing my little-read and little-commented-on articles about the Amos Alonzo Staggs and the Cade Fosters of the world. 

They’re not appreciated that much either, but nobody hates me for it.

 

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Observations From West Virginia’s Spring Game

Published on: 30th April, 2010

Observations From West Virginia's Spring Game  | read this item

Tonight was the annual “Blue-Gold” game for the West Virginia Football team.

It was the culmination of the Spring practice sessions that have taken place at Milan Puskar Staidum throughout April. For the first time ever, the game took place on Friday night and seemed to be a big success.

In the glorified scrimmage, the Blue team handily defeated the Gold 38-0.

The Blue team was comprised of the first unit offense and defense and the Gold team (which were dressed in white uniforms) was fielded with members of the second team and other reserves.

Here’s some notes I took from the game.

  • The turnout was strong as the entire lower west end of the stands was filled to capacity. The announced attendance was 21,029. This was very encouraging to see since proceeds from the game helps to benefit the WVU Children’s Hospital.
  • Geno Smith did not play as expected because of his ongoing recovery from a foot injury. Therefore, Coley White handled the quarterbacking duties for both offenses.
  • Scooter Berry and J.T. Thomas, both seasoned defensive veterans, did not take part in the game either and both were in street clothes.
  • The touchdown plays were as follows
  1. Shawne Alston 2 yard rushing TD (1st Quarter)
  2. Noel Devine 7 yard rushing TD (3rd Quarter)
  3. Coley White to Stedman Bailey for 44 yard passing TD (3rd Quarter)
  4. Coley White to Jock Sanders for an 18 yard passing TD (4th Quarter)
  5. Coley White to Stedman Bailey for a 2 yard passing TD (4th Quarter)
  • Corey Smith handled the kicking duties for an injured Tyler Bitancurt. He was a perfect five for five on extra points and added a 38-yard field goal in the first half.
  • Senior Matt Timmerman occupied the right tackle spot for the blue team. It was the only open offensive line position coming into camp.
  • Quarterback Coley White relied mainly on check down and short passes. With the exception of the long pass to Bailey, the downfield passing game was almost non-existent. The QB’s game can be summed up as a so-so effort. He made some nice throws but at times, his lack of accuracy, especially on longer throws, was certainly glaring. It is expected that White will be moving to receiver for fall camp.
  • Running Back Noel Devine had a nice night. He had two nice runs of over fifteen yards and added a nice short touchdown run to cap things off.
  • Running Back Ryan Clarke was a non-factor only rushing twice for minimal games.
  • Running Back Shawne Alston took snaps for both offenses and showed good things. He looks to be a good change of pace option when Devine needs a breather.
  • Receiver Tavon Austin has game-breaking speeed and showed it on both end arounds and a nice 17-yard pick up on a short flat pass. He had an encouraging night and definitely looks primed for a breakout year.
  • Offensive Coordinator Jeff Mullen looks like he is going to get the ball in the hands of Austin and Sanders using both screens and end arounds this season.
  • Linebacker Anthony Leonard was the most active member of the Blue defense, making numerous plays in the backfield.
  • Robert Sands is a tree. The 6’5″ safety is the definition of long with the height and arm length to be a big-time disruptor in the passing game. He looks like he will be used as the “center fielder” in the defense. He definitely passes the eyeball test.
  • At the end of the first half, corner Brandon Hogan interecepted a White deep out and was able to return it over thirty yards.
  • Eddie Davis is going to need some ice. The second team receiver took two huge shots during the game. The second hit, coming courtesy of Sidney Glover, echoed throughout the stadium.
  • Most of the offense came from the shotgun. There were very few plays that originated from under center. With Geno Smith running the show, that could very well change.
  • Receiver Stedman Bailey looks like he could be something. Bailey, a redshirt freshman, looks like he could be a quality fit for this offense and has made great strides this spring. At 5’10″, he won’t scare off any DBs with his size but his speed, improved route running and understanding of the system could definitely help out this offense in 2010.
  • No second team player for the Gold squad stood out substantially in the game but a name to watch could be Daquan Hargrett. He may be on the smallish side (5’6″), but he never backs down from a collision and packs a punch when he runs.

All in all, the first team looked strong.

I would have liked to see a few more younger guys step up and make a name for themselves, but it was hard considering the circumstances.

It’s impossible to judge anything for sure with a near empty stadium and the first team thoroughly manhandling the reserves, but I think the night was a positive one.

This may be just a glorified practice scrimmage, but there were signs tonight that this team has the makings of a Big East championship contender.

A lot will depends on how Smith develops in preseason camp.

If I were to award an MVP tonight, it would go to Bailey. That’s encouraging since this team needs to have a fourth wide receiver step up.

Bailey definitley looks like he could be that guy.

As the team heads into preseason workouts, here’s a look at how the lineup shapes up at this point.

Offense

Quarterback: Geno Smith (Sophomore, 6‘3″ 210)

Running Back: Noel Devine  (Senior, 5‘8″ 180)

X Receiver: Bradley Starks (Junior, 6‘3″ 190)

Z Receiver: Tavon Austin (Sophomore, 5‘9″ 173)

S Receiver: Jock Sanders (Senior, 5‘7″ 179)

Tight End: Tyler Urban (Junior, 6‘5″ 249)

Left Tackle: Don Barclay (Junior, 6‘4″ 304)

Left Guard: Josh Jenkins (Junior, 6‘3″ 300)

Center: Joe Madsen (Sophomore, 6‘4″ 290)

Right Guard: Eric Jobe (Senior, 6‘2″ 290)

Right Tackle: Matt Timmerman (Senior, 6’3″ 294)

Defense

Defensive Tackle: Scooter Berry (Junior, 6‘1″ 287)

Nose Tackle: Chris Neild (Senior, 6‘2″ 301)

Defensive End: Julian Miller (Junior, 6‘4″ 260)

Strongside Linebacker: Pat Lazear (Senior, 6‘0″ 237)

Middle Linebacker: Anthony Leonard (Senior, 6‘1″ 246)

Weakside Linebacker: J.T. Thomas (Senior, 6‘2″ 225)

Cornerback: Brandon Hogan (Senior, 5‘10″ 189)

Cornerback: Keith Tandy (Junior, 5‘10″ 198)

Bandit Safety: Sidney Glover (Senior, 5‘11″ 207)

Strong Safety: Terrence Garvin (Sophomore, 6‘3″ 215)

Free Safety: Robert Sands (Junior, 6‘5″ 221)

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

When your body won’t let you play the game you love: Message to Smith and Best

Published on: 30th April, 2010

When your body won't let you play the game you love: Message to Smith and Best  | read this item

The Detroit Lions have had only three rookie running backs to ever rush for over a 1,000-yards, Barry Sanders and Billy Sims are two of them, can you guess who the third guy is?

To get the answer, you have to think back to 2004 when Detroit had a promising young rookie running back named Kevin Jones.

Jones was drafted by the Lions with the 30th-pick in the first round of the 2004 NFL draft. Ironically, that’s the same spot the Lions traded up just six years later to draft running back Jahvid Best, who the Lions are hopeful will become the fourth rookie running back to eclipse the 1,000 yard mark.

Jones was unique in that he relished physical contact, but also possessed deceiving speed. Having a “thunder and lighting” tandem at the running back position has become a recent popular trend in the NFL. Back then, in some ways Jones was the best of both worlds all by himself.

He burst on the seen rushing for 1,133 yards and five touchdowns in his rookie campaign. Lions fans were excited about their new player, and the future looked bright for the young running back.

Jones production slipped in his sophomore season, as he rushed for just 664 yards and five touchdowns. To be fair he had been battling injuries, and little did he know that was just the beginning of what would become an injury plagued career.

Jones missed the final three games of the 2006 season, and the first two games of the 2007 season with a foot injury. He finished the 2007 season with 153 carries, for 581 yards and eight touchdowns. He started to look back on track, and once again Lions fans were excited.

Then in week 16, Jones suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee. He had surgery to repair his knee, but it was unclear how long his recovery period would be.

Seeking stability at the position, the Lions released Jones that offseason. They drafted running back Kevin Smith with the first pick in the third round of the 2008 NFL draft. Jones went on to sign with the division rival Chicago Bears.

In 2008 he played eleven games, rushed for 109 yards on 34 carries, and had no touchdowns.

Gearing up for a comeback year in 2009, Jones tore ligaments in his left ankle during the final preseason game against the Cleveland Browns. He missed the entire 2009 season, and was released by the Bears this offseason after Chicago signed free agent running back Chester Taylor.

This is truly a tragic story about a very gifted athlete who just can’t stay healthy. No one can deny the ability he put on display as a rookie, or the flashes of power he showed at times since.

I’ll never forget the time I saw Jones take on Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis.

It came in week five of the 2005 season.

Jones burst through the line of scrimmage, only to see Lewis waiting for him. Jones didn’t back down, he ran right at Lewis and left him laying on his back.

You can count the number of running backs to do that on one hand.

This guy had pro bowl talent. What makes him more impressive is that he shined brightest on a Lions team that won just six games in his rookie year.

He had a lot of Lions fans excited at one time, his body just couldn’t hold up.

It’s a tragic ending to a story that started so promising. But is it truly the end?

Jones is just 27-years old this year, and one would think he has plenty of tread left in those tires.

As for Lions fans, the fear amongst many is that rookie running back Jahvid Best will have a similar future.

Best suffered two concussions in his three years at the University of California. Concerns surrounding those injuries is one of the reasons Best was available with the 30th overall selection. Typically a back as dynamic and game changing as Best, doesn’t fall to the end of the first round.

The Lions got a steal, or did they?

It’s no secret that concussions have derailed many careers in the NFL, especially at the running back position.

Brian Westbrook was released from the Philadelphia Eagles this offseason for that very reason.

Westbrook suffered two concussions in 2009 and at the age of 30, his NFL career is in serious jeopardy. a couple years ago if Westbrook was available, teams would have thrown big money at him to acquire his services. But with concussions looming in his recent past, teams are much more cautious pursuing him, so much so that Westbrook is still and unrestricted free agent, and has had no offers this entire offseason.

Jahvid Best has been cleared by the most prestigious neurological doctors in the country, yet still many teams where afraid to take him. It’s interesting that the Lions wern’t one of them.

One could argue that the Detroit Lions should have passed on Best simply because they have seen their fair share of promising young backs, like Jones, suffer serious injuries.

In fact, the main reason the Lions needed to add an additional running back to their roster this offseason is because reigning two year starter Kevin Smith, is in the middle of rehab himself for a surgically repaired torn ACL.

The Kevin Smith, to Kevin Jones compariosn is an eary one in my opinion, and not just because they share a common first name.

Smith was the man brought in just two seasons ago as a rookie to replace Jones.

He was immediately subject to comparisons for his somewhat similar type of play that Lions fans had seen from Jones. Physical backs who have speed, not track stars, but fast enough to stretch the field.

He even opted to wear the same number that once graced the torso of Jones during his time in Detorit, number 34.

He appeared promising his rookie year, he also showed toughness battling through numerous minor injuries. He was so promising in fact that is was Kevin Smith who fell just 24 yards shy of becoming the fourth rookie running back to rush for 1,000 yards in a Lions uniform. Many people forget that.

Jones began battling more injuries last year, including a shoulder injury that he played with for most of the season. Then like Jones, late in the season, Smith suffered a torn ACL.

As where Kevin Jones was released before his replacement (Smith) was drafted, Smith is still a Lion, and now faces questions about Jahvid Best.

The number one thing reporters what to know is, how do you feel about loosing your starting job?

Smith has been gracious this far, saying all the right things. He’s said he feels every player is a piece to the puzzle, that goes for both he and Best. They will both have a job to do, they will both play a role in the Lions offense, for now.

If Smith can bounce back from his gruesome injury and Jahvid Best can stay healthy, then the Lions appear no doubt set at running back.

Hopefully Kevin Smith won’t add one more similarity to Kevin Jones, talented young running backs who can’t seem to stay healthy after an injury.

Hopefully Best won’t follow the popular trend here in Detroit, and suffer any serious injuries this season or next.

As of Kevin Jones, after sitting out an entire year to heal a broken body, could he be ready to finally make an impact for a team willing to take a risk?

Only time will tell if Kevin Jones will ever see the NFL again, and only time will tell if the Lions young duo of running backs will share a similar future.

 

Ryan Steck is a Detroit Lions Featured Columnist with Bleacher Report. He is also the host and producer of the weekly radio show, “Detroit Lions Talk with Ryan Steck .” Along with writing for several websites, Ryan is the featured NFL Analyst in the segment “Man vs Math,” in which he goes head-to-head choosing NFL games against Statistical Analyst Dr. Adam Ramey.

Read more NFL news on BleacherReport.com

Has Alan Faneca’s Departure Disrupted The NFL’s Best Offensive Line?

Published on: 30th April, 2010

Has Alan Faneca's Departure Disrupted The NFL's Best Offensive Line?  | read this item

Team Tannenbaum has spun the release of Alan Faneca with the style and prose of a skillful candidate running for public office.

But, what is the real effect of losing this future Hall of Famer, not only on the offenseive line, but on the minds of Jet anchors Nick Mangold and D’Brickashaw Ferguson?

According to NY Post beat writer Justin Terranova, Mangold, the Jet center and former Ohio State standout, was at dinner with Faneca when he received the word over the phone that his days with Gang Green were over.

In an interview with WFAN in New York, Mangold said “I’ve never done through a team saying ‘You are cut,’ and having to watch it happen in front of my eyes was a little difficult,” observed the All-Pro.

Given the fact the Jets still owe Faneca some $5 million, what was the advantage to disrupting the chemistry of an offensive line that ran the football 607 times for 2,756 yards?

Once word spread among Jet players according to Terranova, the reaction to losing Faneca was “well received.”

D’Brickashaw Ferguson apparently Tweeted: “Whhhhyyyyyyyy????.”

With players like Mangold and Ferguson questioning this move, what is the upside for this offense that now has lost its anchor as well as two-thirds of the rushing production in Thomas Jones, who’s now a Kansas City Chief, and Leon Washington, in a Seattle Seahawks huddle?

The irony of these moves is that this is considered a ”business decison,” but isn’t the business of professional football about winning a world championship?

How do you justify the loss of a can’t miss Hall of Famer with a project from the Colonial Conference in Vlad Ducasse, at best a marginal starter from a less than competitive program that last had a player drafted by the NFL in 1968?

Yeah, there are those Jet fans who fawn over every move Mike Tannenbaum makes as if he were Bill Walsh and had a collection of Lombardi trophies hanging over his mantle!

But the reality is that Mike Tannenbaum is just a .500 general manager with an absentee owner who knows little or nothing about running a football team!

Mike Tannenbaum is a lawyer who majored in sports management. What makes every move he makes free from criticism or review?

Alan Faneca’s performance on the field in last year’s playoffs should have been more than enough evidence his presence is essential to another Super Bowl run in 2010.

Unfortunately for Jet fans, that run will be in Phoenix with the Cardinals.

Read more NFL news on BleacherReport.com

Forcier or Robinson? Michigan Offense Set to Roll In 2010

Published on: 30th April, 2010

Forcier or Robinson? Michigan Offense Set to Roll In 2010  | read this item

Michigan fans should have several reasons to be excited about the upcoming 2010 season.

There is no doubt that Coach Rich Rodriguez and his staff have done an excellent job recruiting over the past two years.

Even though many of these talented recruits are still very young, Michigan fans are eager to see them immediately contribute.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Wolverines will certainly benefit from having the same coaching staff for the second year in a row.

This defense, although very young, should be a better unit this year. In fact, Defensive Coordinator Greg Robinson’s 3-5 alignment will be tailored to suit the type of speed athlete that has been recruited on that side of the ball.

There is no doubt that Coach Rodriguez has done an excellent job of recruiting top defense talent into Ann Arbor.

However, the best news to emerge out of spring practice is the progress that quarterback Denard Robinson has made with his pass reads and offensive leadership.

Last season, Robinson’s summer arrival certainly contributed to his limited playing time.

This also contributed to some of his poor pass reads when he did throw the ball.

I expect this to change now as he has gained a full year of experience in the system.

This season, Wolverine fans should see Robinson as a much more refined and confident leader who is poised to challenge Tate Forcier for the starting position.

I see him as a major headache for opposing defenses this upcoming season.

On the other hand, there is no doubt that Tate Forcier is ready to battle to keep his starting role and he should not be counted out.

It was reported that he had an average spring practice, however this kid is a competitive fighter and is still very much in the mix to lead the 2010 offense. 

He also played hurt for almost the entire 2009 season.

Let’s remember, however, that he has also gained a year of experience and who can forget his stunning poise in the final minutes of the Notre Dame game?

Meanwhile, lurking in the background, the Wolverines have Devin Gardner who enrolled early.

Michigan could not be in a better position with their quarterback situation this year.

With all of this in mind, the larger question for all of us is who will emerge as the leader when Connecticut rolls into town?

At this point, it is tough to answer that one.

Personally, I have never been a fan of a two quarterback rotation.

In this case, however, I might have to make an exception.

Either way, Michigan’s offense is set to strike quite often this upcoming season and it will do so with either Forcier or Robinson leading them.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Is Nick Saban Building an NFL Training Squad At Alabama?

Published on: 30th April, 2010

Is Nick Saban Building an NFL Training Squad At Alabama?  | read this item

Larry Burton (Panama City Beach, Fla.) Many have thought it but it was publicly stated at Rolando McClain’s press conference with the Oakland Raiders of the NFL. A reporter asked McClain, who just left Alabama for the NFL, “Since Nick Saban runs the closest thing to an NFL program at Alabama, did that prepare you better for the NFL?”

That interview can be seen at: http://www.raiders.com/media-vault/index.html

The pipeline is now open now that players with several years of Nick Saban under their belt are becoming ready for the NFL. This year’s bumper crop is just the beginning of the stream to follow.

So is Nick Saban running an NFL program down in Tuscaloosa? Will Alabama become a minor league NFL team?

Yes, according to both players who have made the transition and coaches who have taken them.

“Nick Saban doesn’t run his practices like most college teams, there’s an urgency of tempo and a pace that few colleges try and copy.” said former NFL Coach Bill Cower. “And he runs an NFL type offense and defense that really prepares his players for life at the next level.”

“There are no gimmicky kinds of offensive or defensive sets that can hurt a player. How many spread offense quarterbacks and running backs make it in the NFL, not to mention the linemen that don’t learn regular blocking techniques?” Cower asked.

Singing a similar but slightly different tune was former NFL Coach Mike Ditka, who said, “When it comes to drafting players and you’re in the late rounds, you can take comfort in taking someone from a school like Alabama, because you know the coaching he had there and the transition from college to pros is going to be a lot quicker for a player like that.”

Are these quotes that Alabama will use on the recruiting trail for years to come. You bet they and many just like them will be used.

So will the fact that other schools, even the ones that Saban once coached, don’t measure up to the standards going on at Alabama.

At one time LSU under Saban pumped much talent into the NFL, but since he’s left, the talent has still been going in but it’s not coming out to the NFL in the same way.

LSU has produced 35 NFL draft picks since 2003, but there are more stories of failure than success. Of those 35 players, nine of whom were first-round picks, only one has been selected for a Pro Bowl: Indianapolis running back Joseph Addai’s appearance as a reserve in 2007.

The handful of successes are overshadowed by players such as Oakland’s JaMarcus Russell and Dorsey — who have shown little evidence that, at least in their current situations, they’ll live up to their draft-day hype.

“I don’t think anybody has seen or heard from Glenn Dorsey,” said former NFL coach Jon Gruden, who drafted former LSU receiver Michael Clayton to the Buccaneers in 2004.

LSU is known as one of the last decade’s most successful college programs, winning national championships in 2003 and 2007 and helping elevate hungry and talented players into college superstars. But according to some outside the LSU bubble, NFL teams have learned the hard way that, at least lately, a draft pick who played for the Tigers isn’t a sure thing.

“Word has been out there that the guys aren’t working real hard,” said Chris Landry, former NFL Scout and now a consultant to almost a dozen teams. “It’s been talked among scouting circles for a while. It’s more: Buyer beware.”

“It gives (LSU) a bad image. It gives an attitude of just, “What the hell is going on over there?”

At Alabama, nobody is wondering what the hell is going on. They know, and that is why Nick Saban may be preparing to flood the NFL with talent for years to come.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Why Brett Favre Needs To Return for Another Season

Published on: 30th April, 2010

Why Brett Favre Needs To Return for Another Season  | read this item

Brett Favre has never missed a football game in his life.

His entire career can be summed up in one word: Toughness.

If The Baddest Grandpa on the Planet (Yes I’m looking at you, Brett) decides to call it quits, the state of Wisconsin will breath a collective sigh of relief, but the rest of the world will only have one thing to say:

Was Brett Favre’s retirement a result of his ankle injury?

It’s no secret that Brett Favre gets an itch to play football that can’t be cured with ointment, which would give doubters more reason to question his toughness.

Favre might be the toughest player in NFL history, but sportswriters with short-term memory loss could beg to differ.

Because with everything that Favre has done in his career, there is one thing that has eluded his checklist: Returning from a major injury.

In an era where naysayers will say anything to support their argument, retiring could only cripple the reputation of a man whose reputation is already on crutches.

Favre has walked out onto the gridiron and given 110 percent effort in sickness, and in health, for the last 19 years. If he wants to keep the reputation that he worked so hard to build then he will have to pull a—well, Brett Favre, and return for one more year.

Common sense would tell a 40-year-old requiring major ankle surgery to call it quits, but since when has Favre had common sense?

Did he have common sense when he threw a pass into Corey Webster’s gut back in 2007 (Yes, I’m still mad about that)?

Did he have common sense when he rolled right and threw back over the middle of the field just three months ago in the NFC Championship Game?

Did he have common sense when he retired, and un-retired, and retired, and un-retired, and retired, and un-retired, and retired, and un-retired, and retired, and un-retired?

Okay, you get the point.

So, why should he start to have it now?

Those are the questions that will fill your TV set for the next three months if Favre announces his retirement, which is why he can’t do it.

For the last five seasons, Favre has flirted with retirement. He has continued to return, because he wanted to.

So now it’s time for Favre to do something, not because he wants to, but because he has to. Favre must return for one more season.

If Favre decides to retire because he says he doesn’t want to play football anymore, I’ll believe him, but in that situation I would be of the minority.

And when the world starts to doubt what Favre has built his career on—toughness—it could be the end of Favre as we know him.

If Brett Favre decides to return for another season, it may not be popular with the public, but it’s what he has to do.

Brett Favre has two choices.

Return for another season, or be doubted the rest of his life.

I really, really hope he chooses the former.

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Christian LeMay Picks Georgia: Under-Dawgs Find Their Savior in Top 2011 QB

Published on: 30th April, 2010

Christian LeMay Picks Georgia: Under-Dawgs Find Their Savior in Top 2011 QB  | read this item

As SEC teams go, Georgia is the one I empathize with most.

Much like my Michigan Wolverines, the Bulldogs are an esteemed program with an accomplished, down-to-earth coach, facing a torrential offseason, a restless fan base, and a must-win year in an increasingly tough conference.

Of course, saying Georgia or Michigan qualify as “underdogs” sounds inaccurate on the surface. Given the esteem of the brands in question, these teams should be succeeding, should be setting the stakes in their conference year after year.

But both teams have suffered their share of offseason issues, Georgia’s the most recent and, at least as 2010 goes, potentially the more damaging.

Zach Mettenberger, arguably Georgia’s best performer at quarterback in the spring game, was suspended, then kicked off the team earlier this week.

Transfer rumors surrounding backup QB Logan Gray followed the news on Mettenberge. Gray was reportedly dissatisfied with redshirt freshman Aaron Murray being named the starter out of spring ball.

Coach Mark Richt, trying to stop the bleeding, had to iterate that the competition would still be open in fall camp .

Georgia fans, faced with the prospect of an untested starter and a true freshman composing their entire QB depth—in the SEC, mind you—needed some good news this week.

Well, they got it in the form of QB Christian LeMay.

LeMay, 2011′s most technically sound quarterback recruit, named Georgia his “leader” in a ceremony at his church today over Clemson, Texas A&M, Auburn, and Notre Dame.

Lemay intends to enroll early at Georgia and, better still, recruit on behalf of the Dawgs at camps and other events. He’ll compete at the Under Armour All-American game in January before stepping foot on Georgia’s campus and angling for the starting job next spring.

Can he save Georgia in 2010?

Of course not.

That’s still Aaron Murray’s job, and AJ Green’s, and Caleb King’s, and Logan Gray’s, if he has it in him.

But most of all, it’s Mark Richt’s job.

Wins and losses ultimately fall to the head coach. If Richt can’t keep the Bulldogs competitive in the SEC, he’ll have questions to answer this winter. Three disappointing seasons is when the losing diagnosis goes from acute to chronic.

But if you’re Richt, landing big-name recruits like LeMay is a great way to take out an insurance policy against your own termination. If you fire the coach who has just landed your QB of the future, you throw that whole future into doubt.

Now, I’m not one of those casual college football fans that likes to post incendiary articles alleging Richt faces a serious hot seat in 2010. Unlike Rodriguez, Richt has done too much, won too much, on Georgia’s behalf to really be facing the music.

Nor do I believe he should be fired at all , barring truly disastrous news like ethical violations, or that he’s secretly letting Florida State and Tennessee steal all those recruits because he likes their colors better.

But there was something about LeMay’s commitment that encouraged me about the process of recruiting—something along the lines of a door never gets closed without a window getting opened.

Georgia’s QB depth-chart situation is becalmed, for the moment. The good news Georgia fans prayed for did come.

The decision—appropriately made in a church —appears meant-to-be.

The story of the Bulldogs in 2010—like the Wolverines—is survival. Hang tough, win a few games you aren’t supposed to win, and—in return for landing LeMay—keep Richt around.

LeMay is a winner, a technical freak with great feet, a strong arm, and outstanding football intelligence.

Apropos of Athens, he’s a Matthew Stafford with wheels.

The moment he steps on campus, a real quarterback competition will be underway. Out of it will emerge the kind of player who can lead Georgia back to winning SEC championships and landing BCS bowls, whether it be a time-tested Aaron Murray or a hungry, game-ready LeMay.

That’s the kind of competition LeMay brings to the table.

I’ll watch Georgia’s season play out this fall knowing the stakes, and I’m sure LeMay will too.

The Bulldogs may not need a savior—yet—but today, they got one anyway.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

The Science of Alabama’s Nick Saban

Published on: 30th April, 2010

The Science of Alabama's Nick Saban  | read this item

Larry Burton (Panama City Beach, Fla.): The longer I am around Nick Saban, the more I learn about him.

I guess that’s true of anyone you know. But I am always surprised when I see a new layer of Saban peeled back.

To understand Saban is like dealing with a mutating virus. Constantly changing, always working, always seeking to grow, and infectious to others.

Of course, I mean all that in a good way.

But to talk about Saban on a less personal level, and only as a coach, you have to understand his mindset behind what he does, how much thought goes into it and the science he incorporates into it.

Take recruiting.

Lots of people come to Nick with suggestions on “the next great player,” including his own assistants, but you can bet that they don’t excessive amount of time with them and no one is signed, unless they have first passed Saban’s long look.

The science of psychology is just as important as the study of athletic ability.

“Athletic ability is part of the total athlete we look to sign.” Saban told me at an assembled group. “They have to have character, the ability to excel with the class work, and able to live up to expectations we have and the rules we set down.

“Of course, we look for all that and kids who are good athletically, but only those who can and will try to get better each day. It’s those rare players you look for who never stop improving.

“I don’t want a guy who thinks he already knows it all, because I’ve been doing this all my life, and I don’t know it all.” he continued.

Marquis Johnson told me in an interview last season that Saban’s coaching isn’t all one-sided. When I asked him if it was tough to play his position with Saban always watching the D-backs, his answer surprised me.

“I guess it could intimidate, but not after you get to know him.” Johnson said. “I’ll try something maybe a little wild and different. and if it works he may like it and incorporate it, but if it doesn’t he’ll let you know that, too…real quick!

“He doesn’t want robots out there doing everything his way; he teaches us to use our skills and our minds to adapt on the fly, but still using proper techniques.

“Sometimes he’ll show us a very small thing and it makes a big difference, but he trusts that we’ll use it at the right time when the situation calls for it.” Johnson said.

“I’ve seen what he can do to players other than myself if they just buy in 100 percent to all that he teaches and preaches.

“He can raise your game higher than anyone else, he can get you to see things you missed before, and have you fearing no man on that field one on one, because you have the edge.” Johnson finished.

Indeed, as I inquired about the little things, I was told about footwork and the subtle use of rotating a shoulder, what position your body needed to be in to cut with a receiver.

By the end of my interview, it was clear that Saban dealt not just with X’s and O’s but the physiology of the player’s body and physics itself.

But mostly it was how to use your sight and body in connection with your mind, to not worry about what happens in that one second of time we call the present.

Saban wanted his players to have already evaluated the present and be working on what was to happen next.

For a linebacker for example, you know you’re going to push the blocker to the left, take a quick step the right, and then what?

Saban wants his players thinking three steps ahead.

A great example of the Science of Saban can be seen at this site my friend Franklin Crittenden, another great Bleacher Report writer, showed me.

Take a look at this video for an understanding of what I’m saying.

Strength and conditioning coach Scott Cochran has a degree in Kinesiology. Kinesiologists work with individuals with debilitating conditions, to assist in regaining their optimal physical function, as well as teaching them how to better to their bodies to move either quicker or more safely.

It is no wonder that injuries on the team has dramatically decreased nor that Cochran’s salary has likewise increased. You can learn more about Cochran here .

It’s all just one more part of the Science of Saban.

Then there is the mind itself. Not just inputting the playbook and the knowledge to do your job, but how to condition your mind, just like your body.

For this, Saban brought in the Pacific Institute, a Seattle-based company that has conducted mental conditioning classes for Crimson Tide players since 2008. So if you have a new untested quarterback as Alabama did last season, you get his mind as conditioned as his arm.

“They’ve proven to us you can be so much more effective if your mind is allowing you to be effective,” quarterback Greg McElroy said. “Both Antowaine and Nesby (Pacific Institute instructors) have helped us incredibly.”

We talked about the kind of off-the-field activity that had Alabama players in the headlines a few years back. Now, that too has disappeared, thanks in part to the science of Saban and the Pacific Institute.

In talking about both accountability and self esteem, this part of a Jon Solomon interview with Alabama players tells how players learn to deal with more than football.

Linebacker Cory Reamer and safety Mark Barron taught some classes about setting goals and making affirmations. Younger players benefit by hearing the lessons from their peers, Reamer said.

“Especially with everybody coming from different backgrounds, it kind of settles everybody into the same attitude, the same mindset of what you want to accomplish and how you have to go about doing that,” Reamer said.

Richardson said he and Glasgow apologized to the team last January after hearing from players about how dysfunctional Alabama was in season-ending losses to Florida and Utah.

“We assumed that the team knew what a healthy, constructive family looked like,” Richardson said. “To our dismay, we found many of the players came from destructive homes, so it was hard to understand that.

“So when they found themselves in a dire-straits situation, instead of coming together, they tore each other apart.

“It was dysfunctional activity they got into, both in the SEC Championship Game in the fourth quarter and the entire Utah game. They were derogatory to each other. ‘How could you mess that up? How could you do this or that?’”

Many players later described coming from homes filled with drug, alcohol, and verbal abuse, leading to a dialogue about what a healthy family acts like, Richardson said.

Richardson marvels at some of the individual transformations. He said McElroy suffered from self-image issues in the middle of this season as he struggled on the field.

“He talked to me briefly after the Tennessee game and said he was a little overwhelmed, because it had been a while since he’d been in position to be the starter and leader,” Richardson said. “He was able to overcome that type of dialogue with himself, though, by simply being himself.

“I told him, ‘In order to perform at the level you want to perform at, you have to stop this catastrophic thinking that ‘maybe I might lose a game,’ or ‘maybe they expect too much of me,’ or ‘maybe I’m not good enough.’”

McElroy said he appreciated simple advice from Richardson and many others: Have fun.

“Sometimes you can get so down on yourself and upset that you don’t allow yourself to have fun anymore,” McElroy said.

Richardson said linebacker Rolando McClain became the “Tim Tebow of the team,” a passionate leader whose energy fills the locker room. Before the rematch against Florida, McClain instructed teammates what to focus on and how to finish the game, Richardson said.

“It’s night and day when you talk to a kid in the beginning who doesn’t see himself as a leader and says, ‘I’m just going to do me,’” Richardson said. “He’s not thinking that anymore. He accepted his role.”

What Saban does with his players is part father, part coach, part mentor, and definitely part scientist.

It’s the science of Saban you hear so little about, that makes such a huge difference.

That science is just one ingredient in that recipe known as “The Process,” and now you understand just a little more about that process and the mad scientist behind it.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pittsburgh Steelers: All-Time Franchise Team

Published on: 30th April, 2010

Pittsburgh Steelers: All-Time Franchise Team  | read this item

This team is represented by the best players to ever put on a Pittsburgh Steelers uniform.

The players I have selected to this team are Hall-of-Famers and soon-to-be Hall-of-Famers.

This team could be one of the best all-franchise teams out of any NFL franchise in the history of the game.

 

QB: Terry Bradshaw, Pittsburgh Steelers 1970-1983

Terry Bradshaw was the No. 1 pick selected in the 1970 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

In 1972, Bradshaw threw the pass leading to the “Immaculate Reception,” which is among the most famous plays in NFL history.

Bradshaw led the Pittsburgh Steelers to eight AFC Central Championships and recorded four Super Bowl rings (IX, X, XIII, and XIV).

Bradshaw won back-to-back Super Bowls between the 1974 (Minnesota) and 1975 (Dallas) seasons.

In 1978, Bradshaw won Super Bowl XIII against the Dallas Cowboys and was named Super Bowl MVP and the 1978’s regular season MVP as well.

He would return to the Super Bowl in 1979 for his fourth Super Bowl win against the Los Angeles Rams (19-31) and be named to his second Super Bowl MVP award.

Bradshaw also went to three Pro Bowls in 1975, 1978, and 1979 and was named to the NFL’s 1970s All-Decade Team.

Terry Bradshaw was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1989, his first year of eligibility.

 

RB: Franco Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers 1972-1983

In the 1972 NFL Draft, Franco Harris was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round, the 13th selection overall.

Harris was a key player in one of professional football’s most famous plays, labeled “The Immaculate Reception.”

In his first season with the Steelers (1972), Harris was named the league’s Rookie of the Year. In that season, he gained 1,055 yards on 188 carries for 10 touchdowns.

Harris was selected to nine consecutive Pro Bowls (1972-1980) throughout his 12-year career with the Steelers, and named to the NFL’s 1970s All-Decade Team.

Harris was a big successor to the four Super Bowls (IX, X, XIII, and XIV) during the 1970s. He was the Super Bowl IX MVP, rushing for 158 yards and one touchdown. He is also the all-time career leading rushing in Super Bowls with 354 yards.

He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990.

 

RB – Jerome Bettis, Pittsburgh Steelers 1996-2005

In 1996, the Pittsburgh Steelers acquired Jerome Bettis on draft (via trade).

He was a six time Pro Bowler; four (1996, 1997, 2001, and 2004) of them with the Steelers and drove the Steelers to a Super Bowl victory over the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL.

Bettis is considered one of the best big backs ever due to his amazing footwork and sheer power, and is currently fifth on the National Football League’s all-time rushing list.

Bettis won the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award in 1996, and in 2002 he was the recipient of the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.

Jerome Bettis finished his career with 13,662 (5th all-time) yards for 94 (22nd all-time) touchdowns.

WR: Hines Ward, Pittsburgh Steelers 1998-present

In the 1998 NFL Draft, Hines Ward was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the third round, 92nd selection overall.

He is also a four-time NFL Pro Bowl selection (2001–2004).

In 2002, he set a Steelers franchise record for receptions (112) and touchdowns (12), and was named to his first of two consecutive All-NFL teams (2002 and 2003).

Ward was named MVP in Super Bowl XL as the Pittsburgh Steelers won 21-10 over the Seattle Seahawks.

Ward went on to win another Super Bowl win over the Arizona Cardinals, 27-23, at the Super Bowl XLIII.

Hines Ward holds the Pittsburgh Steelers’ career records for receptions (895), receiving yards (10,947), and receiving TDs (78).

 

WR: John Stallworth, Pittsburgh Steelers 1974-1987

In the 1974 season, the Pittsburgh Steelers selected John Stallworth with the 82nd pick of the fourth round.

Stallworth is best remembered for his play in Super Bowl XIII when he caught a record-tying 75-yard touchdown pass from Terry Bradshaw that would later be an essential touchdown in a win over the Dallas Cowboys (35-31).

Stallworth holds Super Bowl records for career average per catch (24.4 yards) and single-game average, 40.33 yards in Super Bowl XIV.

Stallworth also scored touchdowns in eight straight playoff games from 1978–1983, an NFL record.

He led the AFC with a career-high 1,395 yards gained on 80 receptions in 1984, when he was named the NFL Comeback Player of the Year.

John Stallworth was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2002.

 

TE: Heath Miller, Pittsburgh Steelers 2005-present

In 2005, Heath Miller was selected in the first round, as the 30th pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

During a four-game stretch in his rookie season, he caught five touchdown passes and was considered a strong candidate for the Offensive Rookie of the Year award.

Miller is a two-time Super Bowl Champion with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2005 and 2008, with wins over the Seattle Seahawks (XL) and the Arizona Cardinals (XLIII).

In five years with the Steelers, Miller has caught 244 passes for 2,721 yards and has scored 27 touchdowns.

Heath Miller was elected to his first Pro Bowl for his play in the 2009 season.

 

OT: Tunch Ilkin, Pittsburgh Steelers 1980-1992

Tunch Ilkin was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the sixth round, as the 165th pick overall of the 1980 NFL Draft.

He played offensive tackle for the Steelers from 1980 to 1992, earning two Pro-Bowl honors (1988 and 1989).

 

OT: Jon Kolb, Pittsburgh Steelers 1969-1981

Jon Kolb was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1969, in the third round as the 56th overall.

He started at left tackle in 138 games of 177 games in his 13-year career protecting Terry Bradshaw’s blind side.

Kolb was an anchor on the left side of the line that helped the Steelers earn four Super Bowl rings in 1974, 1975, 1978, and 1979.

 

OG: Alan Faneca, Pittsburgh Steelers 1998-2007

Alan Faneca was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round, 26th overall, in the 1998 NFL Draft.

He earned the” Joe Greene Award” as the team’s top rookie in 1998.

Faneca is a nine-time Pro Bowler (seven with the Steelers) from 2001-2009.

He helped Pittsburgh win Super Bowl XL against the Seattle Seahawks, and was named to the NFL’s 2000’s All-Decade Team.

 

OG: Dermontti Dawson, Pittsburgh Steelers 1988-2000

Dermontti Dawson was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second round, 44th pick overall, in the 1988 NFL Draft.

He played on the offensive line alongside Hall-of-Famer Mike Webster, from whom he took over the role of starting center the next season.

Dawson was named to seven straight Pro Bowls for the Steelers from 1992-1998.

In 1993, Dawson was honored to be co-AFC Offensive Lineman of the Year by the NFLPA, and in 1996, he was named the NFL Alumni’s Offensive Lineman of the Year.

He played in 170 consecutive games, which is the second-most in Steelers history.

Dermontti Dawson was one of the 17 finalists in 2008 for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

 

C: Mike Webster, Pittsburgh Steelers 1974-1988

Mike Webster was selected in the fifth round, as the 125th pick overall in the 1974 NFL Draft.

Webster anchored the Steelers’ offensive line during much of their run of four Super Bowl victories from 1974-1979, and is considered by some as the best center in NFL history.

Webster was honored as an All-Pro seven times and played in the Pro Bowl (1978-1985 and 1987) nine times.

While the Steelers no longer officially retire jerseys, Webster’s No. 52 has not been reissued by the team since he retired, and it is generally understood that no Steeler will wear that number again.

In 1999, Webster was ranked No. 75 on The Sporting News’ list of the 100 Greatest Football Players.

Webster was the main anchor on the offensive line that produced four Super Bowls (IX, X, XIII, and XIV) through the 1970s.

Webster is one of the all-time Steelers and was added to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, and was named to the NFL’s 1970s All-Decade Team and NFL’s 1980s All-Decade Team.

Mike Webster was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1997.

 

DE:  Aaron Smith, Pittsburgh Steelers 1999-present

Aaron Smith was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the fourth round, as the 109th pick overall of the 1999 NFL draft.

Smith was named by Sports Illustrated to their 2000s All-Decade Team and played in one Pro Bowl in 2004.

Smith helped the Steelers win a Super Bowl ring in Super Bowl XL against the Seattle Seahawks, and once again against the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII.

Aaron Smith currently has totaled up 385 tackles and 44 sacks in his 11-year career with the Steelers.

 

DE: L.C. Greenwood, Pittsburgh Steelers 1969-1981

L.C. Greenwood was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1969 in the 10th round, pick 238th overall.

Greenwood was selected to six Pro Bowls in 1973-1976, 1978, and 1979.

In 1991, Greenwood was named to the Super Bowl Silver Anniversary Team, and in 2007, he was named to the Steelers All-Time team.

Greenwood was one of the four members of Pittsburgh’s famous Steel Curtain defensive line that helped the Steelers to four Super Bowl (IX, X, XIII, and XIV) appearances.

Greenwood was named to the NFL’s 1970s All-Decade Team.

L.C. Greenwood was a finalist in the 2005 and in 2008 for the Pro Football Hall of Fame voting, but did not get elected.

Greenwood has stated that while he would be honored if he were to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, he would not be upset if he didn’t make it in, feeling that the Steelers  already in the Hall (in particular, “Mean Joe” Greene) represent the entire team’s accomplishments.

 

DT: Joe Greene, Pittsburgh Steelers 1969-1981

In 1969, Joe Greene was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers with the fourth pick in the first round of the NFL draft. He was the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year as well.

In 1972 and 1974, Greene was named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year.

Mean Joe was the cornerstone of the legendary “Steel Curtain” defense that thrashed opposing offenses during the 1970s. That defense is what led the Steelers to their four Super Bowl Championships (IX, X, XIII, and XIV).

Greene was elected to 10 Pro Bowls (1969-1976, 1978, and 1979) through his 13-year career with Pittsburgh.

Greene unofficially totaled 181 games, 78.5 sacks (unofficially, as sacks were not an official statistic until 1982), and 16 fumble recoveries.

Greene was honored to be selected to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team and the NFL’s 1970s All-Decade Team.

Although the Steelers do not officially retire jersey numbers, Greene’s No. 75 has not been issued since his retirement, and is understood to be “unofficially retired.”

“Mean Joe” Green was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987.

 

DT: Ernie Stautner, Pittsburgh Steelers 1950-1963

Ernie Stautner was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second round, 22nd pick overall, in the NFL Draft of 1950.

Stautner was selected to nine Pro Bowls (1952, 1953, and 1955-1961) in his 14-year career, only missed six games out of his 173 total games, and was the MVP of the 1957 Pro Bowl.

He helped the Steelers to two Super Bowls (VI and XII).

His three career safeties tied him for a then-all-time high, and his 23 opponents’ fumbles recovered placed him third on that list.

Stautner is the only player to ever have his number (70) officially retired by the Steelers.

Ernie Stautner was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1969.

 

LB: Jack Lambert, Pittsburgh Steelers 1974-1984

Jack Lambert was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second round, pick 46th overall, of the 1974 NFL Draft.

Jack Lambert earned the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Award (1974) as a central figure on a great Steelers defense that went on to win the first Super Bowl by beating the Minnesota Vikings 16-6 in Super Bowl IX.

Lambert was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1976, and in his 11-year career, he was named to nine straight Pro Bowls (1975-1983). Lambert was also part of the Steelers’ first four Super Bowls (IX, X, XIII, and XIV).

Lambert was selected to be a member of the All-Decade Team of the 1970s and 1980s.

Lambert racked up 28 career interceptions, 1,479 career tackles, and 23.5 sacks, launching him onto the list of the 20/20 Club.

In 2004, the Fox Sports Net series, The Sports List, named Lambert as the toughest football player of all time.

By the time of his retirement, he was widely recognized as one of the great middle linebackers in the history of the game.

Jack Lambert was selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990.

 

LB: Jack Ham, Pittsburgh Steelers 1971-1982

Jack Ham was the Pittsburgh Steelers’ second-round draft pick, 34th overall, in the 1971 NFL Draft.

Jack Ham is considered one of the greatest outside linebackers in the history of the NFL.

Ham won four Super Bowls (1974-1975, 1978-1979) during his 12-year career (he did not play in Super Bowl XIV due to ankle injury), all of it spent with the Steelers.

He was First-Team All-Pro six years and was named to eight straight Pro Bowls (1973-1980), while making the 1970s All-Decade Team.

Ham’s career statistics include 25 sacks, 21 fumbles recovered, and 32 interceptions. Those stats place him in the Defensive 20/20 Club (20 interceptions and 20 sacks) and he made the 75th Anniversary Team.

Jack Ham was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988.

 

LB: Joey Porter, Pittsburgh Steelers 1999-2006

Joey Porter was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the third round, 73rd overall, of the 1999 NFL Draft.

Porter has been selected to four Pro Bowls during his active career, three of which were with Pittsburgh (2002, 2004, and 2005); the fourth was in 2008 where he played with the Miami Dolphins.

Porter helped the Steelers win Super Bowl XL over the Seattle Seahawks.

Porter has also been named to the NFL’s 2000s All-Decade Team and to the Pittsburgh Steelers All-Time Team.

 

LB: Andy Russell, Pittsburgh Steelers 1963-1976

Russell made seven Pro Bowl appearances (1969, and 1971-1976).

He was an early member of Pittsburgh’s famed Steel Curtain defense, and was named the Steelers’ MVP in 1971.

Russell earned two Super Bowl rings with the Steelers in Super Bowl IX and Super Bowl X in wins over the Minnesota Vikings and then over the Dallas Cowboys.

Andy Russell was named to the Pittsburgh Steelers 50th season All-Time Team and the Pittsburgh Steelers All-Time Team.

 

DB:  Rod Woodson, Pittsburgh Steelers 1987-1996

In 1987, Rod Woodson was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers as the 10th overall draft pick in the first round.

Woodson was honored to be selected to 11 Pro Bowls in his career (seven with the Steelers) from 1989-1994, 1996, and 1999-2002).

Woodson was named as the 1993 NFL Defensive Player of the Year and was selected to be part of the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team and the NFL’s 1990s All-Decade Team.

He holds the league record for interceptions returned for touchdowns with 12, and is tied with 11 other players for the record for most fumble recoveries in a single game (3). His 1,483 interception return yards are also an NFL record. His 32 fumble recoveries are a record among defensive players. Woodson’s 71 interceptions rank’s him third all time.

Woodson was also ranked No. 87 on The Sporting News’ list of the 100 Greatest Football Players.

Rod Woodson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009.

 

DB:  Mel Blount, Pittsburgh Steelers 1970-1983

The Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Mel Blount in 1970 with the 53rd pick overall in the third round.

He was a five-time Pro Bowler (1975, 1976, 1978, 1979, and 1981) and was the Pro Bowl MVP in 1976.

Blount was also part of the Steelers’ first four Super Bowls (IX, X, XIII, and XIV).

Blount was name to the NFL’s 1980s All-Decade Team and the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1975.

In 1994, he was named to the NFL’s 75th anniversary All-Time team. In 1999, he was ranked No. 36 on The Sporting News’ list of the 100 Greatest Football Players.

Blount is considered one of the greatest defensive backs to ever play in the NFL.

In 1989, Mel Blount was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

 

DB: Donnie Shell, Pittsburgh Steelers 1974-1987

Donnie Shell was an undrafted free agent in 1974 when he was picked up by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Shell won four Super Bowls (IX, X, XIII, and XIV), and retired as the NFL’s strong safety career leader in interceptions with 51.

Shell was a five-time Pro Bowler between 1978-1982, and was named to the Pittsburgh Steelers All-Time Team and the NFL Silver Anniversary Super Bowl Team.

Donnie Shell had been in the top 15 in balloting for the Pro Football Hall of Fame once before, in 2002 but with no success.

 

DB:  Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh Steelers 2003-present

Troy Polamalu was drafted in the first round, 16th overall, of the 2003 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Polamalu was awarded with the “Joe Greene Great Performance Award” in 2003.

His first Super Bowl appearance was in Super Bowl XL in 2006, when the Pittsburgh Steelers gained the franchise’s fifth Super Bowl with a 21–10 win over the Seattle Seahawks and won again in 2008 against the Arizona Cardinals 27-23.

In only his third season (2005), he tied the NFL record for most sacks, three, in a single game by a safety.

Polamalu is a five-time Pro Bowler for the Steelers (2004-2008, while still an active player in the NFL he should honored with a few more of those awards. He was named to the NFL’s 2000s All-Decade Team.

 

K:  Gary Anderson, Pittsburgh Steelers 1982-1994

In 1982, the Pittsburgh Steelers signed Gary Anderson as an undrafted free agent.

Anderson was a four-time Pro Bowler (1983, 1985, 1993, and 1998), three of which with the Steelers (1983, 1985, and 1993).

Anderson was honored to be selected to the NFL’s 1980s All-Decade Team and the NFL’s 1990s All-Decade Team.

 

P:  Bobby Walden, Pittsburgh Steelers 1968-1977

Bobby Walden signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1968.

Walden was a part of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Super Bowl IX- and Super Bowl X-winning teams.

He led the NFL in punting in 1964 with a 46.4 yard average, and was selected to the Pro Bowl after the 1969 season.

Bobby Walden still owns the Steelers’ all-time record for career punts with 716, and his 41.1-yard average puts him seventh on the team’s all-time list.

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