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Last Call from Latrobe

Written by Dan Gigler on .

Though they don't officially break camp until after Friday, the public portion of the 2014 Steelers training camp, their 49th at Saint Vincent College, came to a close yesterday with the second of two combined practices with the Buffalo Bills, their opponent Saturday night at Heinz Field for preseason game number two. 

This was the first time I'd seen one of these combined practices and while it was equally weird to see both another team on Chuck Noll Field and their fans milling around, it was also exponentially more entertaining to watch the Steelers compete against actual opponents rather than simply drilling with themselves ad nauseum. And, it made for one of the best fan turnouts of this camp.  

Here are some pics from the late afternoon practice. 

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Unfiltered. It really is God's country out here. 

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The celebrity selfie is the new autograph, and Ike Taylor indulges some young Norwin Rams.

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J. Peezy learns when you become a coach, only old men are interested in your autograph.

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The view doesn't quit.

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But they have Johnny Football now! Everything will be different, just you wait!   

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Justin Gilbert may become an All-Pro, but speaking of the Browns, methinks they'll regret not taking the gentleman above, Sammy Watkins, when they had the chance.  

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Markus Wheaton makes a grab.

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Drills against an actual opponent was far more interesting than the norm.

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Bills fans -- Why so serious?? Oh right -- no playoffs in 14 years.  

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Big Ben appears to have run into the head shrinker from Beetlejuice

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The Steelers are clearly serious about getting faster on defense. 

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Best non-Steelers Pittsburgh T-shirt of the day

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The principles of ball and baby security are the same: no fumbles or turnovers. 

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I have seen at least one person with a Steelers tattoo on nearly every trip to camp.

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This seems akin to wearing a hairshirt, but whatever. This one is better. 

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Big Steeler & a little kid. 

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Vacation post - 08-15-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

-Happy 51st birthday to former Penguins defenseman Peter Taglianetti (right). Acquired midway through the 1990-91 season along with Larry  Murphy in a deal which sent Chris Dahlquist and Jim Johnson to the North Stars, Taglianetti spent parts of fives seasons with the Penguins. He finished 1990-91 by appearing in 39 games for the Penguins and scored 11 points. In the postseason, he played in 19 games and recorded three assists while helping the franchise claim its first Stanley Cup title. In 1991-92, "Tags" was limited to 44 games and four points. Despite not playing in that spring's playoffs, Taglianetti still got his name on the Cup as the team won its second consecutive title. In the 1992 offseason, he was claimed by the Lightning in the expansion draft. At the 1993 trade deadline, he was traded back to the Penguins in exchange for a draft pick. He finished 1992-93 by playing in 11 games for the Penguins and scoring five points. In the postseason, he saw action in 11 games and contributed three points. The 1993-94 season saw Taglianetti appear in 60 games and score 14 points. In the 1994 playoffs, he played in five games and recorded two assists. His final NHL season was 1994-95. He would play in 13 games and recorded one assist. He played in four postseason games that spring and failed to record a point. In the 1995 offseason, he signed with the Bruins. In 167 games with the Penguins, Taglianetti recorded 35 points.

-Happy 47th birthday to former Penguins defenseman Neil Wilkinson. Acquired midway through the 1995-96 season in a deal which sent Norm MacIver to the Jets (the last deal between the Penguins and Jets before the moved to Phoenix), Wilkinson spent parts of four seasons with the Penguins. He finished 1995-96 by playing in 41 games for the Penguins and scored 12 points. He played in 15 postseason games that spring and recorded one assist.  The 1996-97 season saw Wilkinson appear in 23 regular season and five postseason games while failing to record a point. In 1997-98, Wilkinson played in 34 games and scored six points. His final season was 1998-99. He played in 24 games and once again failed to score a point. He retired in the 1999 offseason. In 122 games with the Penguins, he scored 12 points.

-Happy 67th birthday to former Penguins defenseman Sheldon Kannegiesser. Acquired midway through the 1970-71 season along with Syl Apps, Jr. in a deal which sent Glen Sather to the Rangers, Kannegiesser spent parts of three seasons with the Penguins. He finished 1970-71 by playing in 18 games and recording two assists for the Penguins. In 1971-72, he played in 56 games and scored six points. After three games and zero points in 1972-73, Kannegiesser was traded back to the Rangers in exchange for Steve Andrascik. In 75 games with the Penguins, Kannegiesser scored eight points.

-Happy 79th birthday to former Penguins goaltender Marv Edwards. A free agent signing in the 1967 offseason, Edwards' Penguins career amounted to one game in 1968-69. He allowed three goals in a loss. In the 1969 offseason, he was claimed by the Maple Leafs in an intra-league draft.

(Photo: Penguins Hockey Cards)

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Goin' Campin': Seton-LaSalle and coach talking state championship

Written by Mike White on .

Goin' Campin' is Varsity Blog's series that hits the road to give you notes, quotes, anecdotes and everything else from district football preseason camps.

TODAY'S STOP: SETON-LaSALLE

Before we get to football talk on Goin' Campin's tour, first we bring you a wonderful practical joke at Seton-LaSalle today.

Seton-LaSalle carPlayers park their cars down the hill near the practice field. The photo on the left shows how senior receiver-defensive back Ryan Sago truly got "post"-erized while he was at practice. Or at least his truck did. There were post-it notes all over it.

After practice, first-year Seton-LaSalle coach Damon Rosol was talking with quarterback Tyler Perone and receiver Danzel McKinley-Lewis while they all looked at the car.

"One of the girls soccer players did it," Perone said with a laugh.

Rosol said, "So does that mean she likes him?"

"No," Perone said. "He parked too close to her yesterday and she couldn't get out so she did this."

Tremendous, I say. So football players, watch where you park. And watch those girls soccer  players.

Talking big

Rosol isn't shy about what he wants his team to do this season. He's not afraid to bring up lofty goals, even though this is his first season since taking for Greg Perry, who went across McNeilly Rd. to become Keystone Oaks' coach. The players also don't try to hide such great expectations.

When the entire team huddles together and then "breaks down" they say together "state champs!"

Damon Rosol hatRosol, 39, displays his goals on ... his hat. He wears a green hat with "GET 16" on it. Translation: Go 16-0 and win a state championship. Even the players wear T-shirts with "GET 16" on them.

Confident group, wouldn't you say?

"The state championship is our goal," said Rosol, a former Seton-LaSalle player and assistant coach who spent the past nine seasons as Montour's offensive coordinator under Lou Cerro. "What are we supposed to do, say 'lose in the semifinals?'

"We respect everyone. But like I said to these kids from day one. Embrace the expectations. Don't run away from them. This is Seton-LaSalle. If I would've went to another school, we'd  probably break and say 'conference champs.' But the last time I was here, we were 33-5 in the last three years. Why shouldn't we think big here?"

But Seton-LaSalle is in the same conference as South Fayette, who went 16-0 last season.

There is reason to be optimistic, though. Perry left Rosol a top team. The Rebels have seven starters returning on bothTyler Perone shirt offense and defense. Among the returning starters is quarterback Tyler Perone, who completed 169 of 184 for 2,326 yards and 24 touchdowns last year. (Perone is pictured sporting one of those "Get 16" shirts).

"I think he's a Division I quarterback," said Rosol. "Old Dominion and schools like that are looking at him. I think he's come to the realization that Pitt and Penn State are out. But there are a lot of [Division I-AA) schools out there for him. He's going to make some school happy."

Danzel McKinley-LewisDanzel McKinley-Lewis is a Divison I recruit who returns at receiver. McKinley-Lewis, a 6-foot, 180-pound senior, has already verbally committed to Toledo. McKinley-Lewis is a speedy receiver who caught 40 passes a year ago.

One of the other top returnees is tight end-linebacker Adam Ottaviano, a 6-0, 220-pound senior who is called by Rosol "the heart and soul of the team."

Ricky Mellick was the team's leading rusher last year with close to 400 yards.

A promising newcomer is Paris Ford, who transferred from Central Catholic. He is a 6-2, 170-pound sophomore who started on Central Catholic's basketball team as a freshman. Ford has a good chance to start at defensive back.

"He looks as promising as you can look for a sophomore," said Rosol.

Ford should also have a big impact on Seton-LaSalle's basketball team.

More on Seton-LaSalle

**** Liam Sweeney is a returning starter at fullback and linebacker. He is a 6-1, 210-pound junior and the son of former Seton-LaSalle (South Hills Catholic) star lineman Jim Sweeney. The elder Sweeney had an excellent career at Pitt and played in the NFL for a long time.Bill Gallagher

**** Rosol has five assistant coaches who are graduates of Seton-LaSalle (or the old South Hills Catholic). One of them is Bill Gallagher. It seems strange to see Gallagher (pictured) not wearing a blue Perry shirt or coat. He was Perry's coach in the City League for a number of years before resigning after last season.

"The kids love him," Rosol said.

Gallagher coaches the lines.

**** Former Seton-LaSalle quarterback Shawn Lamonde is another assistant coach as well as Perone's father, Mike.

**** One guy's top five teams in WPIAL Class AA:

1. South Fayette

2. Aliquippa

3. Seton-LaSalle

4. Washington

5. Beaver Falls

**** And we end with Seton-LaSalle "breaking down." Did they say "State Champs?"

Seton-LaSalle team helmets

 

 

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Dana Holgorsen presser: Hey, let's talk about some football

Written by Stephen J. Nesbitt on .

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen brought a sense of humor to his Thursday presser ... you'll remember that this happened his previous time on the podium and spun so wildly and rapidly out of control that Holgorsen released a statement Wednesday night.

"OK, I'm all out of statements," he said as he stepped to the mic, "so we will open it straight up to questions and let Mr. Nesbitt go first."

There were a few scattered laughs, and I started into a question about Dravon Henry and Jeremy Tyler jockeying for position at free safety: "Dana, do you like what you've seen lately in the ba—"

He cut the question off with a smile, wave and "We'll take the next question, please."

Well planned, Coach, and well played.

With that, let's get back to football and fall camp. Here's a quick breakdown of Holgorsen's presser, as colorful and entertaining as ever.

POSITION BATTLES | Beyond the free safety position, he is still looking for a second starting cornerback. Daryl Worley has locked down one spot. Ishmael Banks started all 12 games at cornerback last season, making 32 tackles and two interceptions, but is apparently getting pushed for playing time. ... There will be battles going on in the linebacker corps, too. Brandon Golson is in a green jersey and should be cleared in about a week. Nick Kwiatkoski has been out about a week, which has given Al-Rasheed Benton and Edward Muldrow plenty of snaps. Not sure what the rotation will be yet.

RUNNING BACKS | Still figuring the depth chart out, but Dreamius Smith "had a good day the other day." And, really, "whoever we put down on paper as far as who the starter is, I don't think that's going to be an indication of how many reps they're going to get. Whoever gets the hot hand, whatever our game plan is going to be, they're versatile and can do different things. Everyone wants to know who the starter is, but what's probably more important is how many snaps they'll get throughout the course of a game. Don't have an answer for that yet."

CAMP CHANGES | Has changed a few things this year, but not necessarily actual fall camp stuff. "What we changed more than anything is what's going to happen next week. Last year we had a pretty heavy first week of school Tuesday through Saturday, those days were pretty heavy and I feel like we were tired going into game week. We're going to practice a true game week next week." That means a heavy Tuesday, padded practice Wednesday, then "teach them how to practice Thursday, how to practice Friday, how to travel Friday, and then how to have a game day on Saturday. I think that'll help us get our legs underneath us better."

OFFENSE NOW VS. 2013 | "It was miserable. Those dynamics I don't anticipate ever happening again in the next 30 years of coaching, or however long I'm fortunate enough to coach." Had three new coaches, had issues at QB, had six or seven skill position players who were in their first year in the program. "It's just a dynamic that's not good." ... "I think we're way ahead of where we were a year ago. But time will tell." ... This year is more relaxed. "There's familiarity with everything. With personnel, with coaches, with the scheme. We know who our starters are on offense, we know who's gonna play. Those guys know what the offense is: we're not teaching them what to do. We were teaching guys what to do Game 8, 9, 10, 11 last year. At this point in time offensively we're not teaching anybody what to do. ... They're learning nuances of where they're supposed to be and how they're supposed to get there as opposed to where to go and all that It's a big difference, night and day."

SITUATIONAL OFFENSE | Says the real topic is offensive efficiency. "We were middle of the pack last year on offensive yards per game, yards per play, but dead last in the stuff that matters: third downs, fourth downs, turnover margin, and score-zone rate. Good offenses are the ones that are extremely efficient in those situations. Everybody is good enough to get yards and first downs. It's the great offenses that are able to be efficient when it really matters." Can't tell if that'll be improved until the games actually happen, though. "Being able to execute efficiently when things are extremely hard is what good teams are made of." ... On two-minute drill, "they have to be able to think when they're dog tired. We're getting them in game shape and putting them in positions where they don't have time to think about it, they're just got to react to it."

TEMPO | "I'm very happy with it." Worked two-minute drill the other day for the first time "and it was like we'd been doing it all along. The worst thing to do when you kinda stink on offense is to go fast. Because then it just stinks real quick."

RUN/PASS RATIO | "We want to be able to do both. We couldn't do either last year." It all depends on what the defense gives you. "If they outnumber you in the box, we're not going to sit there and run it into people that are unblocked."

SCHOLARSHIP | Put redshirt senior offensive lineman Michael Calicchio on scholarship this week, the 83rd man on scholarship. "Such a good story. This big giant of a man who was awful five years ago when he showed up. Couldn't walk and chew gum at the same time. Because of his hard work on the field and off the field ... he's one of our leaders on the entire team right now. When he talks, people listen." Can play guard or tackle.

QUARTERBACKS | Paul Millard is "obviously the most game-ready" of the backups, but no decision has been made yet on who is No. 2. William Crest will continue to rep. "His ceiling is high. How far he can advance? I don't know yet." ... Asked about the Wildcat offense, "I've never done it. Not to say I'm against it." Hasn't had a guy that can do it, and "discard last year" he's always had a starting quarterback who was "the main guy and was pretty good that we didn't want to take off the field, period." Thinks it can be "harmful" and disruptive to bring a starter off the field like that. "When you've got a clear-cut main guy, which at this point Clint [Trickett] is — Clint is playing extremely well — there's a comfort level he has that is positive ... pulling him off the field would not be the appropriate thing to do at this point in time."

SPECIAL TEAMS | Has lots of confidence in the special teamers. "Coach [Joe] Deforest has a plan and is pretty good at what he does. That's widely known across the country." ... "I've got a lot to worry about, but [special teams] is one area I don't feel like I really need to worry about." ... "They're a bunch of goof balls." Kicker Michael Molinari "did a big chest bump and twisted his ankle, so we had to remind them that they have a job they have to do." He'll be fine. Molinari is expected to be the kickoff man.

INJURIES | LB Jared Barber "is not going to be ready. It's unfortunate; he's such a good team leader. He'll still have that role as team leader. He gets down there and coaches the heck out of the linebackers. ... If he doesn't get back to where he's able to play this year then a year from now he's going to be excited about being a fifth-year senior and being able to graduate with 25 of the guys he came in with." ... Other than Barber and Jacky Marcellus, its' day-to-day injuries. "The list grows and shrinks every day."

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Vacation post - 08-14-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

-Happy 34th birthday to former Penguins forward Adam Hall (above). A free agent signing prior to the 2007-08 season, Hall's Penguins career amounted to 46 games and six points that campaign. In the postseason, he saw action in 17 games and scored four points as the team advanced to the Stanley Cup Final. In the Final against Detroit, he scored two goals in two separate games, both wins for the Penguins. He spent last season with the Flyers.

(Photo: Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

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