Combined madness


Combined madness

By Adam Hart

I watched the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine. A lot. Like, every day.

And, as much as I enjoyed it, it is a ridiculous event. Not because it's a track meet in which athletes compete in uncomfortably toight -- for us, not them -- Under Armour clothing. But because of reactions like this:

1) Nebraska DB Prince Amukamara ran a 4.37 40. That's fast:

"The biggest knock on Amukamara was his speed -- that probably shouldn't be a problem anymore."

And here I thought the knock on him was the fact he got chewed up and spit out by Justin Blackmon -- looked like Darius Butler at his worst. But he ran fast in uncomfortably toight clothing. Top 15 pick material.

2) Alabama WR Julio Jones ran a 4.39 40. Mike Freeman of

"So if, say, the St. Louis Ram picked Jones, enamored by his combine 40-yard dash orgasm ..."


3) Jones, it was later discovered, ran, jumped and answered questions on a fractured foot that'd require surgery. An NFL front office executive tells Jones will fall in the draft:
"When I pointed out that the media was trumpeting Jones' remarkable workout numbers, the source said that's what makes the inevitable fallout from this injury so difficult."

Fallout. Right. Like how Michael Crabtree, who suffered a similar injury prior to the 2009 Draft and never even ran at the combine, experienced a fallout.

Crabtree was drafted 10th overall.

Sounds like "an NFL front office executive" wants to artificially see to it Jones drops into his lap.

4) Anytime anyone performed well in a track event:

"Player's name made himself some money this week."

Hah! I get it. He did well, so he'll get drafted higher. Cleverly put -- by the first guy who said it. The one-millionth time, though, it gets a bit tired. No, no. I'm sure yours wasn't the one-millionth.

5) Wes Bunting on Florida SS Ahmad Black:

"I've been saying for months that I love Black as a football player, but small and slow isn't a good combo for any prospect. And at 5-10, 184 pounds and running in the high 4.7 range, he now looks like nothing more than a late-round nickel-type defensive back."

So, because he had a slow track meet, he drops down; no longer a player who can "possibly mature into a starter down the line." Good football player bad track athlete = later, Gator. Got it.

6) This reaction, by Greg Gabriel, is not ridiculous:

"As a former scout and scouting director for the last 27 years, I get a kick out of all the hype the media gives about prospects' stock going up and down because of their performances at the combine."

Preach on, Gabriel.

Steelers know they'll have their hands full with Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett


Steelers know they'll have their hands full with Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett

PITTSBURGH – So far this season, Martellus Bennett and Rob Gronkowski have combined for 39 catches, 644 yards and five touchdowns. Making the numbers that much more impressive is the fact the numbers were rolled up with Gronk inactive for two games and fairly useless in another thanks to his hamstring injury.

Will the Steelers slow the roll of Robellus Grennetski?

Hard to imagine. As Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette points out, Gronk alone has tuned up the Steelers with 26 receptions for 403 yards and seven touchdowns in six meetings.

Fittipaldo explored the strategies the Steelers defense may unveil Sunday afternoon when the Patriots and Steelers get going. He also pointed out that the return of linebacker Ryan Shazier after a three week layoff and injuries for safeties Mike Mitchell and Robert Golden may put Pittsburgh at a disadvantage.

Said Shazier: “They have the tandem they want at tight end. Now they can use tight ends the way they want. You have to respect everyone on the field. Both of them are good blockers, good pass threats and great at running after the catch.”

Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler said Pittsburgh will alter its approaches.

“We have to be able to play more than one defense,” Butler said. “They’re very good and they’ll pick you apart if they can figure out what you’re doing. We just have to execute the defense more than anything else. If we can do that … that’s been our problem for the most part. Some of the things that went on last week, we missed some things we should have made mentally.”

What “went on last week” was a 30-15 loss to the Dolphins.

Pittsburgh hasn’t been a big-play group so far -- eight sacks and three picks -- nor have they seen a gauntlet of great quarterbacks in the first six games. 

Interestingly, their losses have been to Ryan Tannehill and rookie Carson Wentz, probably the two quarterbacks one would figure Pittsburgh would do best against.
Between a smoking hot Brady and a can’t-be-stopped tight end tandem, there’s probably not a lot Pittsburgh can do aside from hoping for an off day.

Said linebacker Arthur Moats hopefully: “You have to continue to mix it up against (Gronkowski). You can’t give him the same look over and over. He has success on guys like that. If we disrupt him, and rush Brady and speed up his clock, I definitely think that will help out.”

In theory, perhaps. In practice? We’ll see.

Game notes: Patriots vs. Steelers


Game notes: Patriots vs. Steelers

A quick look at the information you need to know about today's Patriots-Steelers game:

TEAM RECORDS: Patriots 5-1, Steelers 4- 2

GAME TIME: 4:25 p.m. EST


TV ANNOUNCERS: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms and Tracy Wolfson


NATIONAL RADIO ANNOUNCERS: Larry Kahn, Mark Carrier and Troy West

LOCAL RADIO NETWORK: Anchored by WBZ-FM (98.5 The Sports Hub)

LOCAL RADIO ANNOUNCERS: Bob Socci and Scott Zolak


LAST MEETING: Patriots 28, Steelers 21 on Sept. 10, 2015 at Gillette Stadium

* * * *
-- The Patriots are 8-11 against the Steelers in Pittsburgh in their history, but are 4-2 at Heinz Field. Included in those four Heinz Field victories are two in AFC Championship Games (in the 2001 and 2004 seasons).

-- Tom Brady is 8-2 against the Steelers in his career.

-- The last time Brady played the Steelers, in 2015, he set a Patriots franchise record with 19 consecutive pass completions.

-- The Patriots are 108-70 (.607) in road games since 1994, the best record in the NFL over that span. The Steelers (97- 82, .542) are second.

-- The Patriots have yet to throw an interception in 2016, setting a team record for consecutive games without an interception at the start of a season (6). The NFL record for consecutive games at the start of a season without a pick is 9, set by the 1960 Browns. The Patriots' franchise record for overall consecutive games with no interceptions is 8, set in 2010.

* * * *
-- Rob Gronkowski has 67 overall touchdowns and needs one to tie Stanley Morgan (68) for the franchise record.

-- Gronkowski has 66 receiving touchdowns and needs one to tie Morgan (67) for the franchise record.

-- Gronkowski has 22 100-yard receiving games, including two in 2016, and is tied with Jackie Smith for the third-most among all NFL tight ends. The only TEs who have more are Kellen Winslow (24) and Tony Gonzalez (31).