Bears

Ward's days with Steelers are nearing the end

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Ward's days with Steelers are nearing the end

From Comcast SportsNet
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Hines Ward has been an icon for the Pittsburgh Steelers for 14 seasons, but no more, as the NFL team announced Wednesday it was releasing the veteran wide receiver. A four-time Pro Bowl selection, who holds franchise records for receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, Ward, 35, will be released by the organization that drafted him back in 1998. "We had a conversation today with Hines Ward and informed him that we plan to release him of his contract prior to the start of the 2012 NFL calendar year," Steelers President Art Rooney II said in a statement on the team's website Wednesday. "Hines has been an integral part of our success since we drafted him in 1998, and we will forever be grateful for what he has helped us achieve." The MVP of the 2006 Super Bowl will finish his Steelers career with 1,000 catches, 12,083 yards and 85 receiving touchdowns. He helped Pittsburgh to three AFC championships and a pair of Super Bowl wins. The former "Dancing With the Stars" champion -- who spent last weekend working the red carpet at the Oscars -- doesn't appear ready to put away his cleats just yet, however. While saying "this isn't how I wanted this chapter of my career to end," Ward vowed to return for a 15th season next fall. "I do feel that I still have more football left in me and I am looking forward to playing in the NFL, again, this upcoming season," Ward said in a statement. Ward has developed a reputation as one of the league's best blocking wide receivers, a trait that endeared him to the blue-collar fan base of one of the league's marquee franchises. Ward was pretty good at catching passes too, particularly in the postseason. He helped the Steelers to their fifth Super Bowl in 2006 catching five passes for 123 receiving yards and a touchdown in a 21-10 win over Seattle. "He has meant so much to this organization, both on and off the field," Rooney said, "and we appreciate his efforts over the past 14 years." There was just not appreciation to bring Ward, who turns 36 next week, back at 4 million next season. The Steelers are in the midst of a roster-wide salary purge and a youth movement at receiver. By the end of the 2011 season, Ward found himself on the sidelines for long stretches as youngsters Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown turned into quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's favorite targets. Both receivers topped 1,100 yards receiving and combined for 10 touchdowns, while Ward had just 46 catches for 381 yards and two scores. It was the worst reception total since his rookie year (15). Ward took the demotion in stride and relished the role of elder statesmen. Wallace, Brown and Emmanuel Sanders credited Ward for helping mature both on and off the field. All three players hoped Ward would come back for one more go, but understood they were nearing the end of an era. "We all know the direction in which we're going with the receiving corps," Sanders said last month. "But, like I said, Hines is still a great addition, just the knowledge he brings to the room. You can't pay for that. You can't coach that. He just brings that well being of how to be a pro into the room." Now the corner locker he's held for more than a decade is vacant. "Enjoyed playing with mvp86hinesward learned a lot! Was a great mentor for me! You define a "Steeler"," Brown tweeted after the announcement. He may end his career in a different city, but Ward left little doubt where his heart lies. "I gave my heart and soul for (the fans) every down and I will always bleed black-and-gold," Ward said.

Bears film breakdown: Mitch Trubisky's amazing scramble, Marcus Cooper's soft coverage mistake

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Bears film breakdown: Mitch Trubisky's amazing scramble, Marcus Cooper's soft coverage mistake

Had Connor Barth not missed a 46-yard field goal that would've sent Sunday's Bears-Lions game into overtime, Mitchell Trubisky's 19-yard scramble on fourth-and-13 would've gone down as the biggest play the rookie quarterback made in 2017. Instead, Barth missed the kick, and the Bears couldn't force an opportunity for Trubisky to win the game in overtime.

But that scramble was incredible in its own right, even if it didn't lead to a tie ballgame and/or eventual victory. Here's how it happened:

The Lions rush three, with linebacker Tahir Whitehead (labeled No. 3 here) defending Benny Cunningham, who initially sticks in the backfield in pass protection. Detroit has four defenders playing man coverage against the Bears' four pass-catchers -- wide receiver Markus Wheaton and tight end Daniel Brown are at the top of the image, while wide receivers Kendall Wright and Dontrelle Inman are at the bottom. The Lions have three safeties playing deep with the Bears needing 13 yards to gain a first down. 

Trubisky drops back and doesn't spy anyone open. The yellow line is where the Bears have to get to for a first down, and instead of forcing a throw, Trubisky opts for a scramble drill. 

It doesn't start very well. Trubisky is pursued by defensive linemen Anthony Zettel and A'Shawn Robinson (blue arrows) and has no chance to scramble outside. There's a window created by Wheaton at the top of the screen (purple arrow) but there's no chance Trubisky could set and make that throw across his body now. Scramble it is. 

Trubisky stops on a dime and is able to avoid Zettel and Robinson, and cuts back to the middle of the field. Defensive end Cornelius Washington (red arrow) identifies where Trubisky is going and begins pursuing him. 

A hole opens up! But Washington is now quickly closing on Trubisky, who at this point still has to run about 17 yards to get the first down. It's not looking good. 

Somehow, Trubisky sheds Washington's tackle around the 42-yard line. He still has 10 yards to go, and now safety Miles Killebrew (red arrow) is closing on him. 

Killebrew overpursues to the boundary, and Trubisky is able to cut back to the middle of the field.

"He ran to my side and cut back and then made another guy miss, and I was like, oh s***, he’s really about to get this," Inman said. 

Killebrew whiffs, and Trubisky picks up the first down. 

"That’s his mentality," running back Tarik Cohen said. "Y’all got to see his mentality. That situation, fourth and 13, he’s not going down, not taking a sack, not throwing the ball away — he’s going to find a way to make a play, and he’s going to lead us to where we need to be." 

***

One of the game's most critical plays for the Bears' defense came midway through the second quarter. The Lions were backed up near their own goal line, and Leonard Floyd had just forced a Matthew Stafford incompletion with an excellent speed rush to the quarterback's blind side. The Bears defense seemed to be locking down on Detroit, and with a 10-point lead, forcing a punt here could've turned into more points by an offense that was having success in the first half. 

The Bears rush Floyd, Eddie Goldman, Akiem Hicks and Pernell McPhee (red circle), and have cornerback Marcus Cooper playing off Lions wide receiver T.J. Jones (orange line). Linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski (blue arrow) is going to sit in the flat. 

Jones gets to the sticks and sits down (orange circle), with Cooper still backpedaling. Kwiatkoski, perhaps, could've been a little deeper, but it doesn't appear that he's in the wrong spot. Also, tight end Eric Ebron has some open space just before the first-down line with safeties Adrian Amos and Eddie Jackson (purple arrows) keying on him. 

The ball is in the air, and Cooper is about six yards off Jones, who's right at the first down marker. Kwiatkoski can't get to the ball, and Jones and Stafford easily converts the first down. Credit needs to be given to Jones for a savvy route and knowing exactly where he needed to go to pick up the first down. 

And this was a heck of a throw by Stafford, who in this frame is about to get hit by Goldman while Floyd is leaping to try to disrupt the throw. A good route, a great throw and poor coverage led to the Lions picking up a first down. This throw sparked something in the Lions' offense, too: Including it, Stafford had a run of nine completions in 10 attempts for 153 yards and two touchdowns before halftime. For the Bears' defense, this play was the beginning of one of the "siestas" coach John Fox said have plagued his team this year. 

***

One of the Bears' best designed and executed offensive plays on Sunday came midway through the fourth quarter in the red zone down by a touchdown.

Tre McBride was motioned to the hashmarks from the outside, and the Bears have fullback Michael Burton and tight end Adam Shaheen lined up to the field side (red circles). Zettel (yellow circle) is lined up well off left tackle Charles Leno's left shoulder. 

Trubisky sold this play well, planting his right foot and sort of turning his body toward the field. Zettel (orange arrow) bites hard on that fake and loses contain, while Shaheen, Burton and McBride (red arrows) all disguise the play as a stretch/toss to the field. Cohen (purple arrow) now has some open space to the boundary. 

In the top left corner, another player does his job to set up the play: Inman carries cornerback D.J. Hayden (blue circle) into the end zone, freeing up plenty of green grass for Cohen. Safety Quin Glover (gray arrow) now has to pursue Cohen toward the pylon. 

"(Inman) ran the DB off, so I knew I had to get to the pylon or if he’s going to meet me there first, I had to stop his feet," Cohen said. "So I gave him a hesitation move." 

That hesitation froze Glover just enough for Cohen to tee up this:

Wheeee! "I felt like I had a 44-inch vert," Cohen said. He's able to dive in the end zone and tie the game up in a critical spot. 

The top players to watch during the IHSA State Football championships

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The top players to watch during the IHSA State Football championships

Below is a listing of several prospects and recruit names to watch this coming weekend for the IHSA State Football championships.

Class 1A

Tuscola

2018 OT Hunter Woodard (Oklahoma State) 6-foot-5, 285 pounds

2018 TE Cal Sementi 6-foot-6, 202 pounds

2019 QB Luke Sluder 6-foot-2, 195 pounds

2019 OL CJ Piczao 6-foot-3, 271 pounds

2019 OL/DL Brayden Vonlanken 6-foot-2, 244 pounds

Lena Winslow

2020 TE/DE Isaiah Bruce 6-foot-3, 238 pounds

2020 RB/LB Sean Ormistron 6-foot-0, 191 pounds

2019 TE/DE Parker Magee 6-foot-3, 206 pounds

2019 OL/DL Ian Kuehl 6-foot-2, 260 pounds

Class 2A

GCMS

2019 WR Ryland Holt 6-foot-4, 190 pounds

2019 S Lane Short 6-foot-2, 180 pounds

2019 QB/DB Nathan Garard 5-foot-11,185 pounds

Maroa Forsyth

2020 QB Ian Benner 6-foot-2, 165 pounds

2019 DL Lane Ohlemeyer 6-foot-1, 275 pounds

2019 WR Max Davenport 6-foot-1, 190 pounds

Class 3A

Immaculate Conception

2019 OL/DL Ricky Mysliwiec 6-foot-1, 275 pounds

2019 LB Khali Saunders 6-foot-4, 215 pounds

2019 WR Khalil Saunders 5-foot-11, 185 pounds

Pleasant Plains

2019 TE/LB Tristen Tewes 6-foot-3, 220 pounds

2019 OL Deven Burns 6-foot-3, 250 pounds

Class 4A

Morris

2018 OL Nathan Korte 6-foot-6, 298 pounds

2018 TE/DE Tyler Spiezio 6-foot-5, 210 pounds

2018 OL Nolan Feeney 6-foot-3, 282 pounds

2019 TE Nathan Little 6-foot-4, 259 pounds

Rochester

2018 QB Nik Baker 5-foot-9, 185 pounds

2018 OL/DL Sean Brewer 6-foot-4, 245 pounds

2018 OL/DL Clay Johnson 6-foot-1, 290 pounds

2018 DL Mike McNicholas 6-foot-1, 215 pounds

2018 DB Tyler Caruso 5-foot-9, 180 pounds

2018 RB Nick Capriotti 5-foot-11, 190 pounds

Class 5A

Phillips

2018 DT Queneil Morrisson (NIU commit)

2018 QB J'Bore Gibbs (South Dakota State commit)

2018 DE Terrance Taylor (Toledo commit)

2018 WR/S Fabian McCray (WMU/Toledo offers)

2019 WR/DB Joseph Thompson

2019 TE Jahleel Billingsley 

2019 DB/WR Joseph Thompson

2020 DB Robert Pledger 

Dunlap

2018 TE Charlie Mangieri (Northwestern commit) 6-foot-4, 230 pounds

2018 RB/LB Luke Bennyhoff 5-foot-10, 180 pounds

2018 WR/DB Isaac Guyton 6-foot-2, 170 pounds

2018 OL Broc Jockisch 6-foot-3, 280 pounds

2019 WR/DE Josiah Miamen 6-foot-4, 215 pounds

Class 6A

Prairie Ridge 

2018 QB Samson Evans (Iowa commit) 6-foot-1, 210 pounds

2018 OL Jeff Jenkins (Iowa commit) 6-foot-4, 280 pounds

2018 LB Joe Perhats 6-foot-3, 205 pounds

2018 LB Jacob Ommen 6-foot-1, 215 pounds

2018 OL Justin Grapenthin 6-foot-3, 250 pounds

2018 OL Jeffery Schultz 6-foot-6, 300 pounds

Nazareth Academy 

2018 DT Isaiah Lee (Iowa State commit) 6-foot-1, 290 pounds

2018 TE/LB Austin Reifsteck 6-foot-1, 210 pounds

2018 LB Wesley Lones 6-foot-2, 205 pounds

2019 RB/DB Devin Blakely 5-foot-9, 180 pounds

2019 WR/DB Diamond Evans 5-foot-10, 180 pounds

2019 WR/DB Michael Love 5-foot-10, 165 pounds

2019 DB Jermaine Baker 6-foot-2, 200 pounds

2019 WR David Ogelsby 5-foot-10, 182 pounds

Class 7A

Batavia

2018 OL Nolan Eike (Central Michigan commit) 6-foot-6, 260 pounds

2018 SS Michael Niemiec 6-foot-1, 190 pounds

2019 ILB Luke Weerts 6-foot-2, 230 pounds

2019 OLB Michael Jansey 6-foot-2, 210 pounds

2019 DE Ethan Towers 6-foot-5, 210 pounds

Lake Zurich

2018 QB Evan Lewandowski 6-foot-4, 215 pounds

2018 LB Jack Sanborn (Wisconsin commit) 6-foot-2, 220 pounds

2018 OL Ian Fitzgerald 6-foot-6, 300 pounds

2019 LB Lucas Dwyer 6-foot-2, 195 pounds

2019 DL Jackson Farsales 6-foot-3, 265 pounds

Class 8A

Loyola Academy 

2018 QB Quinn Boyle 6-foot-1, 180 pounds

2018 OL Charlie Gross (Fordham commit) 6-foot-5, 270 pounds

2018 TE Charlie Gilroy 6-foot-5, 225 pounds 

2018 DL Marty Geary 6-foot-2, 265 pounds

2018 DE John McMahon 6-foot-3, 245 pounds

2019 LB Armoni Dixon 6-foot-3, 220 pounds

2019 S Jacob Gonzales 6-foot-1, 175 pounds

2019 WR Noah Jones 6-foot-2, 195 pounds

Lincoln-Way East

2018 DL Devin O'Rourke (Northwestern commit) 6-foot-6, 250 pounds

2018 TE/LS Turner Pallissard (Iowa PWO) 6-foot-2, 220 pounds

2018 DT Jayden Hacha 6-foot-0, 250 pounds

2018 WR Shane Pedersen 6-foot-4, 185 pounds

2018 LB Declan Carr 6-foot-1, 200 pounds

2020 WR AJ Henning 5-foot-10, 170 pounds

2019 OL Dane Eggert 6-foot-3, 265 pounds