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MSP Pittsburgh Steelers 2011 Annual Preview

Since I've been so MIA the past few weeks while I toil away at putting together this year's edition of the preseason publication about the Pittsburgh Steelers for Maple Street Press, I thought I at least owed it to you all to share the contents of this year's edition. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this mysterious publication I've mentioned recently, here's a quick overview: for the past two years, I've edited a preseason magazine about our beloved Steelers for a small publishing outfit. Unlike national preview magazines that try to cram previews of 32 teams into one publication (amidst all the annoying ads), MSP annuals are devoted to one team and one team only, and they're 128 glossy, ad-free pages of Steelers content without all the other crap you don't want to read about. The annuals are essentially broken down into three sections -- a look at the upcoming year's roster and schedule (a tough take this year with the ongoing lockout), a series of feature articles about current players, coaches or statistical trends, and a history section.

So, here's what's lined up to be in this year's edition.

Article 1: Roster and Positional Analysis (Michael Bean)

A tough task that's being held for the last minute while we wait for lockout news to hopefully unfold in the forthcoming weeks. The hope is a deal gets done this month and that this article, plus the one that follows can be tended to in the final week before heading to press.

Article 2: Opponents and Schedule Preview (Michael Bean)

Ditto. Hard to talk intelligently about the Steelers' opponents in 2011 without knowing what their final rosters will look like. I enjoy writing this piece each year though. It's a nice way to really get familiarized with the Steelers' upcoming schedule.

Article 3: 2010 Season Recap (Michael Bean + Rebecca Rollet)

Including Rollett in this puppy was an obvious choice after seeing the fine work she began doing with the game-by-game breakdowns earlier this offseason.

Article 4: Welcome Back Carnell Lake (Neal Coolong)

Coolong writes about the return of Lake to the Steelers. A nice piece about what Lake will bring to the table as the team's new secondary coach, with some personal memories and stories sprinkled in about one of Coolong's absolute favorite players growing up.

Article 5: In Exclusive Company: Mike Wallace's Sensational First Two NFL Seasons (Larry Acker)

Acker (aka WolfPackSteelersFan) takes a closer look at how Wallace's first two NFL seasons stack up against some of the all-time Steeler and NFL greats at the WR position. An stats enthusiast by nature, Acker also isolates second-year performance only amongst great WRs to see how Wallace compares with guys like Stallworth, Rice, Ward, T.O., et al.  The results might surprise you.

Article 6: Bringing Home The Mirror Ball Trophy: Hines Ward on Dancing With The Stars (R. Rollett)

A piece on Ward's participation on DWTS had to be included in this year's edition, and there is absolutely no debate as to who did the best writing on the planet this spring about Ward's involvement with the ballroom dancing reality show.

Article 7: On The Clock: The Definitive Study On Whether Big Ben Holds Onto the Ball Too Long (J.J. Cooper)

I've yet to see this article yet, but I'm super excited about it. The title will be better than that, don't worry, but you get the gist. Cooper, who writes for Steelers Lounge primarily, has been hard at work with the massive undertaking of charting every drop-back attempt of Roethlisberger during the 2010 season to finally get some concrete data for us to reference when debating whether Big Ben's high volume of sacks are the product of him holding on to the ball too long. Something tells me this article's going to be referenced by a lot of people for quite some time. I look forward to seeing it, but am as patient as can be due to the enormous volume of work required.

Not even half way home yet...

Article 8: Was More Better? A Look at the Success of the 2010 Rushing Attack (Adam Gretz)

Again, the title is a work in progress :) Gretz, a colleague of Cooper's at Steelers Lounge, examines whether the Steelers succeeded in fulfilling Art Rooney II's mandate that the team run the ball more effectively last season.

Article 9: Go Figure: How Football Stats Can Throw You For A Loss (Freddy Nager)

Nager's contributed in all three editions now, and I was thrilled to have him back again this year. A marketing, communications and business guru by day, Nager's articles are always well-written and chock full of illuminating, witty and accessible juxtapositions between football-related analysis and cleverly crafted commentaries about similar themes in the business or pop culture world. The article may not contain tons of info that hardcore football fans don't already know, but there's lots of good examples in there that people will enjoy. Bottom line is anything written by Nager him is worth the read. If you're the curious type with time on your hands, sleuth around the net and find out for yourself. How do you think I figured out he was somebody I better introduce myself to?

Article 10: System Oriented: Coaching Mainstay John Mitchell's Techniques Continue to Pay Dividends (Dale Lolley)

Veteran beat reporter Dale Lolley give us a better understanding as to why Mitchell is one of the best in the business. Great stuff from Lolley that everyone will learn from and enjoy.

Article 11: Draft Metrics: Using Past Data To Better Analyze the Steelers 2011 NFL Draft (Anthony Villiotti)

A. Villiotti has been garnering quite a bit of attention this calendar year for the unique work he does on his website Draft Metrics. Ed Bouchette in particular is a big fan; he profiled Villiotti and his site during this year's draft season.


Article 12: Bill Nunn: The Scout Behind the Steelers' Dynasty (Ivan Cole)

Longtime readers of BTSC have been introduced to Nunn through Tim Gleason's work. Cole, an African American like Nunn, devotes a full feature article into Nunn's pioneering work scouting the black colleges of the south. Rumor has it that Cole got to spend some time at the team facility talking to Nunn, as well as at the country estate of Art Rooney Jr. to get the inside scoop from the two legendary personnel figures of yesteryear. Should be a treat for all of us.


Article 13: The Holy Grail of the New CBA (Tim Gleason)

What's a preseason publication about the Steelers without a maryrose piece? Not much of one, I agree. This one's great and should still be prescient around the time the magazine hits the shelves. Even if the lockout is thankfully resolved before then, Gleason's take on what's most important in this round (and future rounds) of CBA talks is one folks will want to hear and likely nod their heads in agreement with.


Article 14: Under The Black-And-Gold Helmets: Steeler Nation's Unwavering Loyalty During the Tumultuous Times of the 1980s (Andrew Friedman)

Friedman (5020) shares stories about the strikes of 1982 and 1987 and how Steeler Nation found a new cast of characters to cheer for and support during the rocky times of over two decades ago. Good stuff from a great fan and storyteller.

Article 15: "They're Ain't Nothing Better Than Being a Steeler, Man" (Mike Silverstein)

A Pro's Pro, Silverstein is the ideal candidate to write about why playing for and being a part of the Steelers organization is an unrivaled experience for NFL players. It's a topic that can turn into one big cliche if not done right, but Silverstein interviewed a wide range of individuals in the league to highlight why it is that players do in fact find it special to be a part of the Steelers family. Outstanding stuff for the third year in a row from Silverstein (Homer J.), another guy I will never stop patting myself on the back for learning more about and reaching out to.


Article 16Bill Priatko: A Legacy of Friendship (Dave Villiotti)

If you're not familiar with the name Bill Priatko, that's okay, neither was I. But I bet if you mention 'Priatko' around the team's South Side headquarters and throughout the city, the name not only rings out, but faces light up with big smiles. You can read about the former Steeler in this 2009 Post Gazzette article to get a taste of why his story is worth telling. 

All of us know a handful of folks who are just a bit better than the rest of us when it comes to living a noble, dignified and rewarding life. The benefit those rare individuals enjoy from a life-well-lived is a plethora of rewarding, lasting friendships. Priatko's sure seems to be one of those guys. His extensive rolodex of close friends includes Dick LeBeau and Paul Brown, but as you'll read, he also treats his relationships with less celebrated figures, like say, Villiotti, who he coached many moons ago at the high school level, with the same type of earnest commitment. A nice addition to the annual for sure.


Article 17A Rookie Year Retrospective From One of Steeler Nation's Most Colorful Figures (Craig Wolfey)

Last, but certainly not least, we have a gem from former player and current media personality, Craig Wolfley. I was ecstatic to successfully recruit Wolfley for this year's edition. We tentatively had discussed a quick, hard-hitting 1500-2000 word piece (I didn't want to scare him off with expectations of something too lengthy knowing how busy he is).  Anyway, I was pumped up and somewhat surprised when I saw in my inbox recently a nearly 4,000-word trip down memory lane to his rookie season back in 1980. Stories of Terry Bradshaw, Jack Lambert, Mean Joe Greene, Chuck Noll, Howard Cossell -- all told with Wolfley's self-deprecating humor. A dynamite conclusion to the publication.


There you have it. Hopefully you'll now forgive me a bit more for being so unproductive here on BTSC recently. I'm quite confident the time spent elsewhere will be worth the effort. Thanks for all of you who have supported the projects in previous years, and hopefully a few more of you will be able to get your hands on a copy for yourself or a friend this summer. I'll be sure to fill you in on the details regarding when and where it will be available as soon as I know more.

Go Steelers!