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James Harrison vs. ice water

Written by Dan Gigler on .

Earlier this week Troy Polamalu, Ben Roethlisberger and even Steely McBeam got into the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge proceedings to amusing affect, and Brett Keisel (can we call him former Steeler yet? Too soon?) accepted the challenge from the Old Two-Niner, former Penguin Phil Borque then put the challenge out to his former teammate who played next to him and helped him dominate the right side: James Harrison. 

Harrison accepted via Twitter, but said he'd need a day to gather materials. 

You'll see why in one of the better takes of the challenge out there. 

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Vacation post - 08-17-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

 

-Happy 56th birthday to former Penguins forward Rob Garner. A fifth-round pick in 1978, Garner's entire NHL career amounted to one game and no points in 1982-83. He was released in the 1983 offseason.

-Today's Obligatory YouTube Post: Former Penguins captain Jaromir Jagr thanking another former captain, Mario Lemieux, for helping him win the Art Ross Trophy at the 2001 NHL awards show:

 

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Stats and notes from first scrimmage

Written by Sam Werner on .

IMG 0869Pitt (finally) had its first scrimmage of training camp today. All told, the Panthers ran 141 plays from a variety of scenarios — regular 11-on-11, 3rd-and-short, red zone, goal-line and two-minute drill. For simplicities sake, the statistics I kept include all plays from regular 11-on-11, red zone and two-minute drill (basically, I omitted 3rd-and-short and goal-line, but we'll get to those later). Here are the stats (which may not be 100 percent accurate. Like I said, I kept them myself, so I tried my best but there is some guesswork involved) and some highlights and thoughts from the session...

PASSING
Chad Voytik: 12 of 27, 203 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Trey Anderson: 15 of 27, 165 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT
Adam Bertke: 9 of 11, 101 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT

RUSHING
James Conner: 8 carries, 25 yards
Rachid Ibrahim: 5 carries, 24 yards, 1 TD
Chris James: 10 carries, 36 yards
Qadree Ollison: 7 carries, 12 yards, 1 TD
Dennis Briggs: 4 carries, 10 yards
Jameel Poteat: 4 carries, 17 yards
Trey Anderson: 3 carries, 12 yards
Ronald Jones: 2 carries, 30 yards, 1 TD

RECEIVING
Rachid Ibrahim: 5 rec, 116 yards, 1 TD
Chris Wuestner: 5 rec, 61 yards
Zach Challingsworth: 5 rec, 49 yards
Dontez Ford: 5 rec, 45 yards
Jaymar Parrish: 2 rec, 46 yards
Jester Weah: 2 rec, 31 yards
Tony Harper: 2 rec, 27 yards
Jameel Poteat: 2 rec, 21 yards
Ronald Jones: 2 rec, 16 yards
Jaquaun Davidson: 1 rec, 15 yards
Elijah Zeise: 1 rec, 14 yards
Brian O'Neill: 1 rec, 12 yards, 1 TD
Jordan Jones: 1 rec, 11 yards
Manasseh Garner: 1 rec, 6 yards
Dennis Briggs: 1 rec, -1 yards

KICKING
Chris Blewitt: 4 FG made (33, 35, 30, 52); 4 FG missed (38, 35, 47, 48)

- First off, you're probably noticing a couple of names missing there that you would normally expect to see. Receiver Tyler Boyd was at practice and took part in individual drills early on (including a nice catch over Ryan Lewis and Jevonte Pitts). He didn't take part in any of the full-contact scrimmage sessions, though. Afterwards, Paul Chryst said it was just a "rest day" for Boyd (after initially joking "I forgot we had him"). It's probably just a case of Pitt being overly cautious with the most important player on their roster. Nothing would derail the season more than an injury to Boyd, so it makes sense to hold him out of most contact stuff.
Fellow receiver Adonis Jennings also didn't take part in the scrimmage, and Chryst said he was still dealing with some nagging injuries that cost him time earlier in training camp.

- Overall, I think the defense definitely "won" this scrimmage. The Panthers struggled to get big chunks on the ground, and the passing game didn't appear very crips either. Now, I think it's perfectly valid to attribute a lot of the struggles to Boyd's absence. When you take away a player of that magnitude, the overall quality is going to suffer. But Pitt can't be totally reliant on Boyd all season, and it didn't look like there was anyone on offense who stepped up to fill the void in his absence today.
As Chryst said at the end of practice, though, a loss for the offense is a win for the defense. While the takeaway isn't great on one side of the ball, the defense can be proud of its effort, particularly against the run, today.
"I thought they did a nice job there," Chryst said. "You look at that and I think you see some of the details offensively as to why were struggling. We've got to clean that up, but the bottom line is I thought the defense did a nice job, especially early in the scrimmage versus the run."

- As you can see in his numbers, Voytik looked OK at times but definitely missed his share of throws. His statistics are aided greatly by a 58-yard touchdown swing pass he threw to Rachid Ibrahim on the final play of practice. Take that attempt out, and he's 11 of 26 for 145 yards, no TDs and one INT. That's not great. The biggest thing Voytik has to work on is his accuracy when he's throwing the ball more than 10 yards downfield. There was one play today that stands out when he had Manasseh Garner wide open down the middle for the field, but overthrew the ball slightly and put it over the wrong shoulder so Garner couldn't make the catch. The deep ball will never be Voytik's specialty the way it was with Tom Savage, but he needs to at least be able to hit open guys down the field for this offense to be as explosive as it can be.

- Trenton Coles was out today with what defensive backs coach Troy Douglas called a minor ankle injury. In his place, both Reggie Mitchell and Avonte Maddox got reps at first-team cornerback opposite Lafayette Pitts. Both played pretty well, but Maddox made his presence felt with a pair of nice open-field tackles on running back James Conner (who has a good 85 pounds on him). At this point, I would have to say that duo might have a leg up on Coles for a starting job.
Maddox also came very close to making a big interception when he jumped a slant route on a pass from Trey Anderson to Jester Weah. The ball hit Maddox in the hands, but he couldn't come down with it to complete what could have been a pick-six.

- Darryl Render had a good day in the middle of the defensive line. In addition to keying the defense's overall good day, Render also, believe it or not, had an interception. He picked off Anderson on a shovel pass attempt and ran it back a good ways before Anderson finally brought him down (Anderson was riding on his back for a while there). Render had another sack earlier in the day on Voytik.

- Patrick Amara had the other interception, late in the practice. On the play right before Voytik hit Ibrahim for the long touchdown, Amara jumped up and picked off a pass from Voytik intended for J.P. Holtz.

- The offense, in general, had some issues with penalties today. They had two "illegal snap" penalties where the center moved the ball before the offense was set. One of these came in a two-minute drill situation, which particularly seemed to upset Chryst.
"Those are things that kill you," Chryst said. "We've got to iron that out. That part of it was ugly, I thought."

- As you can see from the stats, Chris Blewitt had a little bit of a rough day. He alternated makes and misses on his eight attempts. While the field goal from 52 yards out, you really can't be missing from inside 40.

- Here's a drive-by-drive breakdown, along with some of the situational work the team did today after the jump...

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Vacation post - 08-16-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

-Today would have been the 71st birthday of former Penguins forward Nick Harbaruk (right). Claimed from the Vancouver Canucks of the WHL in a 1969 intra-league draft, Harbaruk spent four seasons in Pittsburgh. Harbaruk, who at one time was one of four players in the NHL with a college degree, appeared in 74 games during his first NHL season of 1969-70 and scored 22 points. He played in 10 postseason games that spring and scored three goals, including the winning goal in a 2-1 win against the Oakland Seals in Game 1 of a quarterfinal series, the first postseason contest in franchise history. In 1970-71, Harbaruk appeared in all 78 games and contributed 25 points. He followed that up in 1971-72 by once against playing in all 78 games and scored a career-best 29 points. In four postseason games that spring, he recorded one assist. His final season in Pittsburgh was 1972-73. He once again played in 78 games and contributed 25 points. Just prior to the 1973-74 season, Harbaruk was traded to the Blues in exchange for goaltender Bob Johnson. One of eight NHL players from Poland, Harbaruk appeared in 308 regular season games for the Penguins and scored 101 points, 84th-most in franchise history. During that time, he appeared in 276 consecutive games, third-most in franchise history. In 14 postseason games, he scored four points. Harbaruk passed away Nov. 11, 2011 at the age of 67.

-Happy 48th birthday to former Penguins forward/broadcaster/coach Ed Olczyk. The third overall pick in the 1984 draft, Olczyk joined the Penguins at the trade deadline in 1996-97 when he was acquired from the Kings in exchange for forward Glen Murray. In 12 regular season games that campain, he scored 11 points. He appeared in five postseason games that spring and scored one goal. He followed that up in 1997-98 by playing in 56 games and scored 22 points. During that season's playoffs, he played in six games and scored two goals. In the 1998 postseason, he joined the Blackhawks as a free agent. After retiring in 2000, Olczyk re-joined the Penguins as a television broadcaster. He held that position until 2003 when he became the team's head coach. In 2003-04, Olczyk directed the club to a record of 23-47-8-4, one of the worst marks in franchise history. Following the 2004-05 lockout, Olczyk led the team to an 8-17-6 record before being fired. In 113 games as head coach, Olczyk had a record of 31-64-8-10. A member of the United States Hockey Hall of Fame, he is currently a broadcaster with the Blackhawks as well as NBC.

(Photo: Penguins Hockey Cards)

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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. 

2014camp8

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

2014camp9

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

2014camp10

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

2014camp14

The view doesn't quit.

2014camp7

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

2014camp11

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.  

2014camp15

Markus Wheaton makes a grab.

2014camp16

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

2014camp5

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

2014camp4

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

2014camp3

The Steelers are clearly serious about getting faster on defense. 

2014camp2

Best non-Steelers Pittsburgh T-shirt of the day

2014camp1

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

2014camp6

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

2014camp12

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

2014camp13

Big Steeler & a little kid. 

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