Wide receiver position figures to be a period of transition in 09


For a team that lines up two past Super Bowl MVPs at wide receiver, this figures to be a period of transition for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ pass receivers. Yes, change is in the air. Santonio Holmes may finally unseat Hines Ward as the No. 1 option in the passing game. With Nate Washington gone, there is a need for a new No. 3 wideout. With the addition of rookie Mike Wallace, the Steelers are a step faster at wide receiver than they were last year. And finally, if 6-foot-4 Limas Sweed progresses as expected in his second pro season, Ben Roethlisberger will have that tall target he’s coveted since Plaxico Burress left after the 2004 season. In time, this can be an outstanding group of wide receivers. “We can cast a big net in that regard because of the versatility of a Hines Ward and the growth and maturity ofRead More »

Entering the final year of his contract, Parker knows the challenges ahead


By Mike Bires When Willie Parker reports to training camp, he figures to be in the best shape of his life. He has to be in tip-top condition in order to take on the challenges he’ll face this year. In the what-can-you-do-for-me-now world that is the National Football League, Parker has reached a crossroad. He’s now in his sixth pro season, which, considering the short career span of most NFL running backs, may suggest his best days are behind him. He’s coming off his worst season since becoming the Steelers’ starter in 2005. He sees in his rear-view mirror the presence of Rashard Mendenhall, a talented first-round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft who seems fully recovered from a broken shoulder that ended his rookie season. And he’s well aware that the Steelers have shown little interest so far in extending his stay in Pittsburgh. Parker is in the lastRead More »

Roethlisberger accused of sexual assault


By Mike Bires With the start of training camp just 10 days away, the Pittsburgh Steelers have a distraction on their hands. Ben Roethlisberger has been accused of sexual assault. But despite a civil suit filed by a woman from Nevada, an attorney representing Roethlisberger denies claims that the Steelers’ star quarterback committed sexual assault. Late Monday night, Steelers communications director Dave Lockett forwarded a statement via e-mail regarding the situation. “This weekend Andrea McNulty served Ben Roethlisberger with a civil complaint accusing him of sexually assaulting her in July 2008. Ben has never sexually assaulted anyone, especially Andrea McNulty,” David Cornwall, Roethlisberger’s lawyer, said in that statement. “The timing of the lawsuit and the absence of a criminal complaint and a criminal investigation are the most compelling evidence of the absence of any criminal conduct. If an investigation is commenced, Ben will cooperate fully and Ben will be fullyRead More »

OTA Notebook: For the Steelers, spring semester is over


By Mike Bires For the Steelers, spring semester is over. They went through their last of 14 scheduled organized team activity workouts on Thursday, and coach Mike Tomlin was ecstatic about what he’s seen in recent weeks. “We just put the finishing touches on what has been a very productive OTA session for us,” he said. “I thought we had a successful off-season from a teaching standpoint. We provided guys with plenty of opportunities to get reps and learn. Guys who needed rehabilitation got that. “As we sit here today, all-in-all, it was a pretty productive off-season for us.” Even though the majority of the regulars from last year’s Super Bowl team attended all or most OTAs, it’s the newcomers and a handful of younger players who got the most out of these practices. It was a time to watch draft picks like first-rounder Ziggy Hood, who’s making the transitionRead More »

Q&A with Mike Tomlin


Q&A with Mike Tomlin Steelers coach Mike Tomlin met with the media Thursday after the last of the 14 scheduled voluntary organized team activity workouts. Mike Bires, who covers the Steelers for Inside Pittsburgh Sports, was among the reporters on hand. Here are portions of the interview: Q: How did you ward off complacency so what happened in 2006 to the Steelers doesn’t happen this year? A: “I am not concerned about what happened in ’05 or ’06, or in ’07 or ’08 for that matter. I am a singularly focused guy. My single focus is on developing a world championship-caliber team for 2009. 2008 was great – it was an awesome team. Where we are now is where we are. Where we are headed, more importantly than that, is our focus.” Q: Where do you from here in your third year as coach? A: “I better get better. ThatRead More »

Tuesday was like Christmas in June for the Super Bowl Champions


By Mike Bires According to Ryan Clark, Tuesday was like Christmas in June. That’s what he said after receiving a stunning piece of jewelry commemorating the Pittsburgh Steelers’ sixth Super Bowl championship. “You have a bunch of grown men acting like little kids,” said Clark, the Steelers’ starting free safety. “It’s kind of like Christmas. You beg your parents, you know what you’re going to get, but you never know how excited you’re going to be until you open up that box.” Early Tuesday evening at a private ceremony in the East Club Lounge at Heinz Field, members of the 2008 roster reveled as they got their rings symbolic of their 27-23 win over the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII. The ring features six large diamonds that surround the Steelers’ logo. That logo is formed with yellow, red and blue stones and is surrounded by 32 small diamonds. OtherRead More »

Steelers notebook from Thursday’s OTA


By Mike Bires “Big Ben” was back on the job Thursday. Just one day after injuring his left knee at an organized team activity workout, Ben Roethlisberger returned to practice. Obviously, the tweak or bruise he suffered Wednesday was not serious. Roethlisberger, the Steelers’ star quarterback, did wear one of those black rubber sleeves on his knee. But he showed no signs of pain or discomfort like he did when missing the second half of Wednesday’s OTA. Neither Roethlisberger, coach Mike Tomlin or anyone from the Steelers’ media relations staff would comment on the injury. *** Max Starks doesn’t want to talk much about his upcoming wedding, but his teammates keep hounding him about it. One of the Steelers wrote on the locker room bulletin board, “Only 23 days left in Max’s life as he knows it.” “I’m getting a lot of ribbing over it,” the mammoth left tackle saidRead More »

Steelers notebook from Wednesday’s OTA


By Mike Bires Ben Roethlisberger’s health is always a big issue, even when he tweaks his knee at a voluntary off-season practice. Such was the case Wednesday when the star quarterback limped off the field at the Steelers’ indoor practice facility. After he was examined by a trainer, Roethlisberger watched the rest of practice. The injury wasn’t serious enough for trainers to wrap his knee. But “Big Ben” was limping as he left the field and headed into the locker room. Roethlisberger refused to speak to the media after practice. Likewise for coach Mike Tomlin, who has yet to meet with reporters after any of the organized team activities held so far. Although this injury isn’t believed to be serious, Roethlisberger will likely miss Thursday’s OTA. *** Speaking of Roethlisberger, he is scheduled to play June 12 in the Golf Digest U.S. Open Challenge at the Black Course at BethpageRead More »

Urbik’s primary goal at OTA’s: Learn the Steelers offense


By Mike Bires On the day the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Kraig Urbik, the big guy out of Wisconsin was immediately penciled in for a battle to determine the starting job at right guard. So proclaimed Bruce Arians, the offensive coordinator. Well, Urbik may eventually get the chance to challenge incumbent Darnell Stapleton once training camp begins. But for the time being, Urbik just wants to learn offensive line play Steelers’ style. Depending on which O-linemen take part in organized team activities which resumed Tuesday, Urbik is second-team or third-team on the depth chart. When reminded of what Arians said five weeks ago, Urbik put a halt to any discussion about landing a starting job. “I’m not looking past tonight,” he said. “I’m not looking past our next meeting and our next practice. Right now, I’m just trying to learn the offense. “The first thing you have to know is whatRead More »