Monthly Archives: June 2018

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Pittsburgh Steelers go into their bye with Le’Veon Bell showing he can help Ben Roethlisberger with the balance coach Mike Tomlin has been wanting all season.

Bell turned in the best rushing performance in the NFL this season Monday night with 204 yards, and the Steelers finally beat a struggling team as they rallied for a 27-24 win over the Tennessee Titans.

“We want to be a group that’s capable of stepping in a stadium and throwing with anybody in the NFL,” Tomlin said. “We want to be a group that’s capable of stepping into a stadium and running with anybody in the NFL. I think we are rounding into form in that regard and then we can just do what the game presents to us and I think that’s a recipe for real, long term success.”

The Steelers (7-4) moved into second in the so very competitive AFC North, getting the win they so needed to avoid going into their bye on a two-game skid.

“We definitely could be sitting prettier, but we won the game going into our bye week, so now we can take a week and look back and see what happens in the rest of the division and go from there,” Bell said. “We can only control what we can control right now.”

The Titans (2-8) now must hit the road for a two-game swing in a month filled with winning opponents. But they showed signs of improvement with rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger shaking off an interception returned for a touchdown on his first pass to help Tennessee take a 24-13 lead.

“We’re close,” Mettenberger said. “We’ve just got to keep working.”

Here are some things we learned about the Steelers and Titans:

RED ZONE WOES: Bell scored the Steelers’ first rushing touchdown since Week 3 against Carolina and only Pittsburgh’s fourth this season. The Steelers jumped out to a 10-0 lead that could have been bigger if they hadn’t settled for one of Shaun Suisham’s two field goals after having first-and-goal at the Titans 6. Roethlisberger also was intercepted in the end zone inside the final minute of the first half by Titans cornerback Jason McCourty.

“We still got to get better in the red area,” Tomlin said.

MUNCH’S PAYBACK: Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak coached his first game against the franchise he spent 32 seasons with as a player, assistant coach and later head coach. He was let go in January after going 22-26, and Munchak helped the Steelers hold the ball for nearly 40 minutes with a line opening big holes all night long for Bell. The Steelers held the ball for the final 6 minutes, 58 seconds.

GOOD LOOKING ROOKIE: Mettenberger showed plenty of poise for a rookie in his third NFL start. He left his first pass a little inside, and William Gay picked it off for a 28-yard interception return for a TD. But Mettenberger bounced right back, and his best throw came after McCourty’s interception. He hit Nate Washington in stride for an 80-yard catch and run TD that gave the Titans a 17-13 lead at halftime. Whisenhunt said he was impressed at how Mettenberger responded.

The Steelers were impressed too.

“You can see why they like him, he is a fighter,” Pittsburgh linebacker Lawrence Timmons said. “He sat in the pocket and took some hard hits and delivered some balls. For a rookie going against our defense, you have guys like James Harrison chasing you and he was just sitting in there and showing his heart.”

PROTECTING BIG BEN: For all the holes the Steelers opened for Bell, they still gave up five sacks to the Titans, including two to rookie linebacker Avery Williamson. Roethlisberger escaped another would-be sack when he broke loose on his lone run of the night.

CLEANER TITANS: Penalties have been such an issue for Tennessee that Whisenhunt has had officials at practice the past two weeks. Well, the Titans showed they’re learning as they were flagged only once for 10 yards when right guard Chance Warmack was penalized for holding. It was only the fourth time since the start of the 1999 season the Titans had one or fewer penalties.

“Maybe what we’re doing in practice is helping,” Whisenhunt said.

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NAPA, Calif. (AP) — Raiders tight end Clive Walford had the type of offseason that makes coaches cringe and smile.

Walford suffered a knee injury while riding an ATV, and while the accident wasn’t serious, it was enough to keep the 2015 third-round draft pick out of all of Oakland’s OTAs and minicamps.

On the other hand, Walford healed up enough to spend time with quarterback Derek Carr for private workouts, making up for the lost time and giving Walford a head start going into training camp.

Walford showed how critical that was to his development when he made a one-handed catch on a deep throw from Carr during individual drills Wednesday.

“You’ll see him every day we come out to warm up, as soon as he comes out he comes straight to me and wants to catch from me,” Carr said. “That’s the kind of things that we need and that’s how he is.”

Walford is trying to make it through the preseason without a setback after missing large chunks of training camp during his rookie season because of hamstring and knee injuries.

The injuries prevented Walford from practicing and were a major factor in his slow start. A holder of numerous tight end records at the University of Miami, Walford caught only three passes in the Raiders’ first five games a year ago and finished with 28 receptions for 329 yards and three touchdowns.

Part of that was due to Oakland’s revolving door at tight end in 2015. Mychal Rivera caught 32 passes as the primary receiving tight end while Lee Smith was used primarily as an extra blocker.

Although it’s possible the Raiders might still keep three tight ends for the upcoming season, it’s equally likely they’ll go with two.

Walford figures to be atop the depth chart no matter how many tight ends Oakland keeps. He is a better blocker than Rivera, a better receiver than Smith and has the size (6-foot-4, 250 pounds) to be a match-up problem against opposing linebackers and safeties.

“I just continue to do what I’ve been doing, working hard ever since I was at Miami,” Walford said. “If you work hard it’ll start to show. I guess that’s what it’s doing.”

The Raiders weren’t happy when news broke of Walford’s injury while riding the ATV. Walford said he hit an unexpected bump on the trail and tumbled off.

“Believe it or not, when the accident first happened I didn’t realize how serious it was until I got to the hospital,” Walford said. “I thought maybe I just needed some stitches. They told me I was going to be out for a while, so I had to inform the team.”

Although he was unable to take part in on-field workouts while recovering, Walford stayed busy in the meeting rooms and weight room. Catching passes from Carr away from practices also helped make up for the lost time.

“The chemistry is still there,” Walford said. “I just have to get back into football shape.”

Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said Walford’s desire to work out with Carr on the side was encouraging.

“When you take the time to get on the same page with your quarterback, if you’re somebody that’s going to catch the ball and be involved in the offense, that’s a positive thing,” Del Rio said. “That’s a great sign for our football team. We see him as a real key player in our offense. Glad to have him back doing his thing.”

Notes: Undrafted defensive lineman Greg Townsend Jr. returned to practice. … Owner Mark Davis will fly Friday to Canton, Ohio, along with his mother for the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies for the late Ken Stabler.