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SPORTS New Pittsburgh Courier C3 AUGUST 10-16, 2011 Pick your poison

by Aubrey Bruce For New Pittsburgh Courier

There is talk around town about a pick

‘em issue when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Do you try to improve the defensive secondary or the defen- sive line? Well, well, well, it doesn’t make that much difference if you don’t have an im- proved performance from the secondary and the D-line.The negative perimeter issues are going to surface any- way.

BRUCE The offensive strategy of the NFL has

evolved drastically. It is pass happy, happier and happiest. There is nothing that makes quarterbacks smile more than an offensive coordinator that views running backs and tight ends as extra receivers or extra block- ers protecting the quarterback so that he can have enough time to complete passes to his normal complement of wide-outs. The Steelers must develop a formidable

pass rushingmachine in order to remain at a high competitive level. If you are not get- ting adequate pressure on the QB in this day and age, I do not care if you have Hall- of-Fame corners, RodWoodson on one side, Mel Blount on the other and have head- hunters like ex-Steelers safeties Donnie Shell and Carnell Lake patrolling the de- militarized zone (across the middle), if you are not getting pressure and sacks on the quarterback the above mentioned defen- sive backs will get regularly beat like the favorite drum of Pocahontas. Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Man-

ning have all proven that when a defense has prepared to stop the run,well let’s just say that you can slow down the pace of the game but you cannot ultimately win the battle with the scoreboard. The Steelers need a monster pass rush,

Inside Conditions

post haste. They also need a strong safety that is going to spend more time roaming the middle than roaming the sidelines. Al- though he is one ofmy favorites, linebacker James Farrior should be used in emergency situations only. Folks keep saying; “Farrior is good on first and second down, (general running downs) but has become ineffective on third down.Do you think opposing teams are going to sleep that little bit of info and not try to isolate himwith one of thosewarp speed running backs, tight ends or wide re- ceivers on first and second down? Quit whining about the defensive secondary. If the Steelers do not develop a formidable pass rush, let’s just say that success will be on the back burner. Teams are getting geeked, juiced and hyped just waiting for the Steelers to line up to stop the run be- cause that is when the bloodletting begins. There is another thing about Pittsburgh

sports that concernsme.The fans lovewin- ning but a certain image has to accompany it. The Pittsburgh faithful seem to think that they have to relate to and be con- nected with the athletes that perform on the field. They use words like “blue collar,” “salt of the earth” and “humble” to describe how they perceive an athlete. I have never looked upon a man who makes 20 million dollars per year as “blue collar.” Do you wanna know why? What worker in any local steel mill, metal fabricating plant or other industrial gig, punches out at the end of a particularly grimy, dusty, lung killing day that rakes in one or two million a day just to pour the steel or manufacture any related products to it? The athletes that these poor,misguided souls are desperately attempting to identify with are performers that oftentimes buy meals that cost more than the average mortgage. There are times when athletes are not in

the mood to engage the public. They may not feel up to signing an autograph for Johnny or Jenny.That does notmake them stuck up, arrogant or “siditty.” As far as humble goes; how many of our

neighbors instantly trip as soon as they get that newhouse,newcar or that newpair of shoes? Us ordinary folk trip on far less but demand that athletes who entertain us be far more accessible and attuned with our demands simply because we indirectly help sustain the sports industry that pays their salaries. When beams of steel are manufactured

and used to build structures all across the planet, the architects and builders pay the salaries of the men and women that man- ufacture the goods but they don’t expect them to come and take out the trash or shovel their snow. They have completed their task. Once an athlete leaves the bas- ketball court, gridiron, or baseball dia- mond, their obligation to the public has been fulfilled. As long as they perform to the best of their ability, they should receive no “static” from me, you or anyone else. If an athlete or entertainer receives aDUI ci- tation, well that is their problem. Little Joey should be observing your behavior and emulating you, not some sports and entertainment figure. If he is copying the behavior of anyone but you, could that be an indicator that maybe your parenting skills are lacking? As MJ might say, don’t look at anyone else; spend a little extra time gazing in the mirror. (Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: abruce@newpittsburghcourier.comor 412-583-6741.)

Sweed eyes breakthrough with Steelers

by Will Graves AP Sports Writer


Limas Sweed tried not to pay attention when the Pittsburgh Steelers unsuc- cessfully courted Plaxico Burress a week ago. Sure, Sweed heard all

IMPRESSIVE ROOKIE—Steelers running back Baron Batch (35) runs the ball during training camp in Latrobe, Pa. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Batch, Clay hoping to join Steelers backfield

by Will Graves AP Sports Writer


John Clay kept waiting for the phone to ring during the NFL Draft in April. One round passed. Then a

day. Then three. The formerWisconsin

running back never saw his name pop up on the ticker through seven excruciating rounds and 224 picks. He didn’t anticipate not

getting selected, not after running for more than 2,500 yards and 32 touch- downs during his sopho- more and junior seasons at Wisconsin, his 6-foot-1, 248- pound frame serving as a battering ram behind the team’s massive offensive line. He left school a year early,

figuring he was a lock.He wasn’t and going undrafted hurt. In a way, Clay says it may be the best thing that happened to his career. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be

in camp with the Pitts- burgh Steelers, the “per- fect” place for him to prove the doubters wrong. “You definitely want to use

PROMISING FREE AGENT—John Clay wears a Pittsburgh Steelers hat at his parents’ home in Racine, Wis., July 26, after agreeing in principle to a contract with the National team as a free agent. (AP Photo/Journal Times, Mark Hertzberg)

that as motivation,” Clay said. “You want to show that you can play at this level.” Playing in the NFL and stay-

ing in the NFL are two different things. The defending AFC champions appear to be just about set at running back. RashardMendenhall is firmly entrenched at the top after con- secutive 1,000-yard seasons. Isaac Redman and third-down specialistMeweldeMoore are next. After that, things get murky. There appears to be room for a

rookie to make some headway, although the newcomer creating the biggest buzz during the first week of camp isn’t Clay but Baron Batch. Though Batch’s college num-

bers were ordinary next to Clay’s, he did manage to get drafted. The Steelers chose Batch in the final round, in- trigued by his versatility. Batch ran for 816 yards and

five touchdowns last year while adding 32 receptions and three more scores.He’s comfortable operating in a complicated of- fense thanks to former Texas Tech coachMike Leach’s com- plex attack. He’s held his own while com-

peting in the “backs on backers” drill that pits a running back against a hard-charging linebacker coming on the blitz. Still, Batch isn’t exactly ready

to call himself the rookie to beat. Sure, he’s looked good in one-on- one drills.However, the game is played with Batch and 10 team- mates working as a unit.He knows he’s not as sharp as he needs to be when it comes to learning where to go and when to get there. “You guys see that stuff, ‘God,

he did good in backs on backers’ but to me stuff like that doesn’t really matter much because if I get in team and I miss on a blitz, that’s all it takes to get a quarterback hurt,” Batch said. Batch understands that because

of his size—he’s just 210 pounds and he played in a systemin college that relied heavily on throwing the ball—he’s considered soft. “The fans that saw me in

college, they would say, ‘He runs hard, he’s tough,’” Batch said. “I’m just going to show (the Steelers) what they saw when they drafted me.” What the coaches have

seen from Batch is an abil- ity to stick his nose in un- comfortable places.He’s been eager to contribute on special teams and aggres- sively worked between the tackles during a goal-line competition on Saturday. The exercise pits the goal-

line offense against the goal-line defense. The of- fense gets a point if it scores a touchdown from two yards out. The defense gets a point if it stops the ball short of the end zone. CoachMike Tomlin likes

to play the series best-of- seven. Batch and Clay both had opportunities to show what they can do. Batch made it to the end

zone at least once, while Clay was stuffed at the doorstep on the final play. It was the “welcome to the

NFL”moment for both. Though he didn’t come through

on the last snap, in truth there was little room for him to ma- neuver. Clay, who ran a painfully slow 4.8 40-yard dash before the draft, has displayed nimble feet at times. He spent the NFL lockout try-

ing to get into “football shape,” and though he hasn’t lost weight, he’d like to think he’s re- distributed it a little better. Clay understands he’ll never

be confused with a breakaway back.He’s hoping to get the tough yards he’s always gotten. His teammates want to see it

happen.Moore said he’s hoping for a glimpse of “thatWisconsin style of running” from Clay. “You know, I just want to

pound it, pound it, pound it and get that home run in the end,” Clay said. “If I keep working at it, I’ll get a shot.”

Steelers go ‘Rogue’ for new Batman film PITTSBURGH (AP)—The

Pittsburgh Steelers have gone rogue. About a dozen Steelers played

members of the Gotham Rogues, the home team taking on the equally fictitious Rapid City Monuments in a new Batman movie currently filming in Pitts- burgh. Thousands of extras playing fans also were recruited for Saturday’s shoot for “The Dark Knight Rises” at Heinz Field. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

reported that players getting their star turn include Ben

Roethlisberger,HinesWard, Willie Colon,Maurkice Pouncey, MikeWallace,HeathMiller, Aaron Smith, Ryan Clark, Troy Polamalu, James Farrior and Casey Hampton. “I don’t think it will be a big

part, It’s not like we’re chasing Batman down or anything,” Roethlisberger said. Linebacker LaMarrWoodley

told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Re- view that he was a big Batman fan as a youngster and can’t wait to be in the movie. “I can tell somebody I was in ‘Batman,’” Farrior said. “That’s

going to be awesome.” Production on the film, director

Christopher Nolan’s third in the trilogy, will continue in Pitts- burgh through the end of Au- gust. The film, scheduled to be released in July 2012, stars Christian Bale as the caped cru- sader and his alter ego, Bruce Wayne, along with Gary Oldman and Anne Hathaway. Thomas Tull, the film’s execu-

tive producer, joined the Steelers ownership group two years ago. He helped bring the movie to Pittsburgh and wanted to get the Steelers involved.

the chatter about how the Steelers needed a big wide receiver to comple- ment the swift if under- sized quartet of Hines Ward, MikeWallace, Em- manuel Sanders and An- tonio Brown. The fourth-year pro nods his head when asked if there was a part of him that wanted to raise his hand and say, “remember me? I’m 6-foot-4. I can run. I can catch. I can play.” Yet he understands why

he’s become a forgotten man at best and a draft bust at worst. Struggle as the former Texas star has since being taken in the second round of the 2008 NFL draft and it’s hard to avoid labels such as “in- jury-prone” and “under- achiever.“ He has all of seven re- ceptions in three years, only one since Thanksgiv- ing 2008. He was put on injured reserve in 2009 after being diagnosed with depression and missed all of last season when he tore the Achilles tendon in his left leg in minicamp. Was it tough? Of course.

Yet he remains upbeat, a sign the emotional dis- tress he went through two years ago is behind him.

Still, he’s only too happy

to remind critics he’s 26, not 46. There’s still time to turn things around. “I’m ready to show them

I’m that guy,” Sweed said. “I’m that big guy and fill in the way they want me to fill in.” Pittsburgh could cer- tainly use a receiver with Sweed’s skill set, particu- larly the skill that comes with being 6-4 and having a 37-inch vertical leap. Wallace,Ward and com- pany can do fast. They can’t do big. Sweed can, though he knows he’ll have to do it now if he wants the breakthrough to happen while he’s wearing black-and-gold. “I have a chip on my shoulder,” he said. “I feel like I have something to prove to the coaches and to myself and I’m ready to be here and I’m ready to play. It’s just a matter of time and a matter of it showing.” Sweed has shown brief flashes of turning the cor- ner during the opening 10 days of camp. Sweed out- jumped two members of the Pittsburgh secondary for a deep ball during a seven-on-seven drill last weekend only to grab his left hamstring has he sprinted toward the end zone. He sat out a couple of days before returning to the field only to head back to the trainer’s room with a shoulder sprain. Asked about Sweed’s progress, coach Mike Tomlin says, “I’m here to talk about the guys that are working, not those that aren’t.” Sweed says he’s fully healed from the Achilles injury and the hamstring issue is just one of those things that pops up in camp. He’s spent too much time away from the game to let a cramp stop him.

“The (NFL) lockout, it

felt like a lifetime,” he said. “Now that it’s over with and I’m back out here running with the team it’s just a great feel- ing.” One he hopes doesn’t fade too quickly.

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