SAM I Am: Who's to Blame For Short-Yardage Shortcomings?

Paul LadewskiCorrespondent IISeptember 1, 2009

PITTSBURGH - JANUARY 11:  (L-R) Heath Miller #83, Willie Colon #74, Carey Davis, #38, Darnell Stapleton #72, Justin Hartwig #62 and Max Starks #78 of the Pittsburgh Steelers break the offensive huddle against the San Diego Chargers during their AFC Divisional Playoff Game on January 11, 2009 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Steelers won 35-24.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

The Steelers Answer Man sees all, knows all, shares all . . .  


Hi, SAM,   

It seems that ever since Jerome Bettis retired,the Steelers have had problems on third-and-short and fourth-and-short situations. Who’s to blame for this? The linemen? The running backs? The coaches?

Brent H.

There’s enough blame for everybody except Steely McBeam here, but the o-line deserves the brunt of it. Simply put, it hasn’t provided the consistent push necessary to be effective in short-yardage situations.

The front office all but conceded as much last spring, when it selected guard Kraig Urbik in the third round of the draft. While Urbik struggles in pass protection, but he is the kind of powerful drive-blocker that can be effective against stacked lines.


What's the toughest call for head coach Mike Tomlin and his staff when they decide on the 53-man roster this week?

How to juggle short-term performance and long-term potential. For instance, defensive end Travis Kirschke would make the cut in a perfect world, but the guy will turn 35 years old next week. Do you release the veteran, count on rookie Ziggy Hood to step in immediately and open a roster spot for another young player? Or do you keep him one more year and hope the player that you cut doesn't develop into a quality player elsewhere?

The flip side is at cornerback, where rookies Joe Burnett and Keenan Lewis and veterans Keiwan Ratliff and Deshea Townsend are in competition for the final spots. Ratliff and Townsend provide the best chance to win now, but Burnett and Lewis have the ability to be starters in the future.  

Hey, that's why NFL coaches get paid more than Bleacher Report correspondents, right?


SAM the Man:

Please explain the practice squad rules. I’ve heard several versions and am not sure what to believe any more.                                                                          

Paul Smith                                                                                                       

Here’s the Cliff’s Notes version:

Each team is allowed to have a maximum of eight players on its practice squad. Players are allowed to practice with those on the active rosters but cannot participate in league games. Through the 2010 season, when the collective bargaining is scheduled to expire, each player will be paid $5,200 per week.

To be eligible, a player cannot have played more than nine regular-season games or been on the active roster for an entire year. He also cannot spend more than two seasons with the same practice unit unless its team never had fewer than 53 players on its active roster in that span.

Any player under contract is allowed to sign with another team without compensation to his former one. The new team is required to complete the deal at least six days before its next game or 10 days in the event of a bye week.


Hey, SAM:

When I look at this Steelers team, I see no weaknesses. Is it that good or have I missed something here.

Pittsburgh Pete

If there’s an area of concern, then it’s depth at the o-line positions or lack thereof. The loss of guard Darnell Stapleton won’t affect the first unit—in fact, his replacement Trai Essex will prove to be an upgrade, it says here—but it leaves the group with fewer experienced player.

Among the reserves, only tackle Jason Capizzi and guard Jeremy Parquet have spent more than one season in the league. And one or both could be released this week. Expect the front office to take a close look at the final cuts around the league.


Yo, SAM,

You talked about Stefan Logan and his nickname Joystick a few days ago. In your opinion, where does it rank among the best nicknames in Steelers history?

John Brody

Provided that Logan makes the cut—and somebody will have to take him hostage for him not to make it—put it in the top dozen at least. The others in no certain order: Jerome (The Bus) Bettis, Jim (Cannonball) Butler, Bill (Bullet Bill) Dudley, Joe (Mean Joe) Greene, L.C. (Hollywood Bags) Greenwood, Delton (Beltin’ Delton) Hall, Casey (Snacks) Hampton, Chuck (Emperor Chaz) Noll, Donnie (Torpedo) Shell, Tom (The Bomb) Tracy and Byron (Whizzer) White.   

Oh, and Ed Brown receives a special mention. Chicago Bears fans referred to him as Horse’s A--, a nickname that stuck with the quarterback after the Steelers acquired him.


(Gotta gripe, question or observation? Need advice on any and all things Black and Gold? Chlax, Steelers World. Send your request to the Steelers Answer Man at, and help will arrive shortly.)


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