BALTIMORE — Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger wore specialized cleats paying tribute to the Tree of Life synagogue shooting victims during pregame warmups Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.
Roethlisberger wore the cleats — which feature the words “Stronger Than Hate” and the Star of David inside the Steelers’ logo — while hugging each teammate during team stretching, his ritual for every game.
Ben Roethlisberger wearing these cleats today in response to shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue. Roethlisberger and his wife are close to Michele Rosenthal, who worked in Steelers’ community relations and assists with Ben’s foundation. Michele lost two of her brothers in shooting pic.twitter.com/W3UrHDBb6M
On Tuesday, Steelers players and staff members attended the joint funeral of brothers Cecil and David Rosenthal, who were among the 11 killed during the Oct. 27 shooting.
Michele Rosenthal, the sister of the two victims, used to be the Steelers’ community relations manager. Roethlisberger was among several players to mention Rosenthal by name after the Steelers’ 33-18 win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
Coach Mike Tomlin lives in the neighborhood of Squirrel Hill, where the shooting took place.
“It was tough, it was crazy tough, especially with Michele and the closeness we have with her,” Roethlisberger said last Sunday. “We’re thankful for the victory, but we all understand, there are bigger things, there’s life.”
After Friday’s practice, Roethlisberger’s equipment bag was packed with two pairs of cleats — one for the pregame tribute, one black-and-gold pair for game action.
Players typically wear tribute cleats for pregame warmups only, or else they face a fine for an NFL uniform violation.
Shazier told NFL Network in a telephone interview that he is doing rehab four days a week, with each session lasting two hours.
“I’m feeling great. I’m getting a lot better. Every day is a challenge, but every day I promise you is getting better,” he said.
Shazier reiterated his thoughts made on teammate Roosevelt Nix’s podcast earlier this month that he still hopes to play again.
“I think I’m going to come back and play football,” he said.
On Sunday, Gorscak gathered all the linebackers together before making the following speech to the prospects:
“We want to dedicate this group here, because you’re the linebackers, to Ryan Shazier. We all know that Ryan had an injury right now and he’s making an amazing recovery. He’s making a lot of progress on his purpose.
“The joy is in the journey, and he’s going through a journey, and you young men are going on a journey also. Everything we do we want to remember Ry, because Ry blew this combine up and he was a first-round pick and he’s an outstanding football player in our league.
“One thing I know about Ry Shazier, I’m not betting against him coming back. He’s making great progress right now. So let’s remember him and his spirit, and we’re going to get a lot of things done today in this group.”
Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman accepted the award on Brady’s behalf at the NFL Honors awards ceremony in Minneapolis.
“There’s no quarterback I’d rather have on my team than Tom Brady,” Pats coach Bill Belichick said leading up to Sunday’s Super Bowl LII showdown against the Eagles. “I’m glad I have him.”
Brady, who also was the NFL’s MVP in 2007 and 2010, will try to win his sixth Super Bowl title Sunday. The last NFL MVP to win the Super Bowl was Kurt Warner in the 1999 season.
Voted first-team All-Pro for the 2017 regular season, Brady was 385-of-581 for a league-high 4,577 yards, with 32 touchdowns and eight interceptions while leading the Patriots to a 13-3 record.
In addition to being the oldest to win AP NFL MVP, Brady is the oldest QB to start in the Super Bowl, and the oldest to lead the NFL in passing yards. Fran Tarkenton, with 3,468 yards in 1978 at age 38 with Minnesota, previously held the distinction.
Brady’s historic season at 40 has been a topic that has followed him all season, which he has embraced by highlighting his commitment to his craft and producing the documentary “Tom vs. Time,” with the first four installments released in the week leading up to Super Bowl LII.
“I learned that I need to invest in my body, and invest in the things that are going to make me feel good, or else I would have stopped playing 10 years ago. I don’t think there is any way you can continue to play if your body can’t do it,” he said.
Brady joined 12 other quarterbacks since the 1970 merger to start an NFL game past the age of 40. The oldest player to attempt a pass in a game was George Blanda at age 48 as a member of the Oakland Raiders in the final game of his career on Dec. 21, 1975.
Brady also became the fourth Patriots player to play at 40, joining quarterbacks Doug Flutie (43 in 2005) and Vinny Testaverde (43 in 2006), and linebacker Junior Seau (40 in 2009).
As for why he can continue to play, he said in the days leading up to Super Bowl LII: “I just think I love the game. It’s easy to do this when you love it. I think the point is, if you find something you love to do, it never feels like work. I found football, and I found it at a young age, and I just loved it. “It’s hard to explain – I just love the preparation, I love the offseason, I love the film work. I think a big part of it is because my body feels good and I’ve worked hard [at that]. … I think for a lot of older players, their body doesn’t respond. And football is no fun when you’re hurting.”
On Sunday, at 40 years and 185 days, Brady will become the oldest non-kicker to play in a Super Bowl.
Gurley’s 13 touchdowns and six TD passes during the Rams’ NFC West-winning campaign earned him top offensive honors for the year. The third-year running back was the AP’s top offensive rookie in 2015, then had a mediocre second season.
When Sean McVay took over as coach and Jared Goff was installed as the No. 1 quarterback, it was imperative that Gurley rebound. Did he ever, rushing for 1,305 yards and dominating defenses as LA went 11-5 to win the NFC West. Gurley got 37 votes from a nationwide panel of 50 media members who regularly cover the league.
Donald, Gurley’s teammate, became the first pure defensive tackle to win NFL Defensive Player of the Year award since 1999.
Often the province of outside pass rushers and backs, the Los Angeles Rams star broke the trend by earning 23 votes from a nationwide panel of 50 media members who regularly cover the league.
Warren Sapp of Tampa Bay was the previous DT to win the award. Others have been Hall of Famers Joe Greene and Cortez Kennedy.
While the Rams’ defense didn’t rank highly in league stats, Donald was a force. The 2014 top defensive rookie spent 2017 destroying blockers, leading all players at his position with 11 sacks and had 58 pressures while usually being double-teamed.
Donald enters the final year of his rookie contract. He sat out last summer in hopes of getting a new deal and did not return in time for the season opener.
In a year featuring outstanding rookie running backs, the New Orleans Saints‘ Alvin Kamara has won The Associated Press 2017 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
Kamara, a third-round draft pick from Tennessee, beat another third-rounder, Kansas City RB Kareem Hunt, in balloting by a nationwide panel of 50 media members who regularly cover the league.
Kamara, selected 19 spots ahead of Hunt, received 28 votes to 21 for Hunt. Houston rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson, despite playing in only seven games before a season-ending knee injury, got the other vote.
Kamara shared duties with veteran Mark Ingram as the Saints won the NFC South. He rushed for 728 yards with a 6.1-yard average, and scored eight times. He also caught 81 passes for 826 yards, with five touchdowns.
The big NFL Honors show is this weekend, when the star players and coaches of the season will be recognized in red-carpet fashion with their end-of-season awards.
We decided to go a bit early.
Here are our picks for the 2017 NFL awards as voted on by our usual MVP Poll panel, starting with our final top five for Most Valuable Player, followed by our selections for coach and players of the year. We hope it holds you over until Saturday night, when you can check to see how we did.
Methodology: Our 12 MVP Poll panelists nominated their top five candidates for MVP and their top three for the other awards. First-place votes for MVP were worth five points, second-place worth four and so on. First-place votes for the other awards were worth three points, second-place worth two and third-place worth one. Full MVP results can be found at the bottom.
The case for Brady: Once Carson Wentz got hurt, this felt like a no-brainer. The starting quarterback on one of the four teams that tied for the league’s best record at 13-3, Brady led the NFL in passing yards, was third in passer rating, QBR and touchdown passes, was fifth in completion percentage and yards per attempt — you name it, he’s up there. He also graded out as Pro Football Focus’ MVP and Offensive Player of the Year, checking their advanced-stat boxes, as well as all of the aforementioned traditional ones. And he did it all in spite of losing his favorite receiver Julian Edelman in the preseason. This season was Brady at his best, and he’s the best of all time.
The case against Brady: When Wentz went down, there really wasn’t one. Brady ranked first on 11 of our 12 ballots and second on the remaining one. This was a runaway win.
The case for Gurley: Gurley got that last first-place vote to go with nine second-place votes, a third and a fourth. A strong second-place finish in a year in which the winner seemed obvious, Gurley led the league with 2,093 total yards from scrimmage and 19 touchdowns. He was the engine that drove the NFL’s highest-scoring offense.
The case against Gurley: It’s just really tough for a running back (or any other position) to win this award in a year with strong quarterback candidates. It says a ton about Gurley’s exceptional season that he beat out the other quarterbacks who could have finished here, but MVP voting deservedly takes into account the importance of the quarterback position relative to the others on the field.
The case for Wentz: In spite of missing the final three games of the season after tearing the ACL in his left knee in Week 14, Wentz still collected two second-place votes, three thirds, one fourth and three fifths. He was in position to beat out Brady and win this award before his injury, and Wentz still managed to finish second in the league in touchdown passes while finishing first in QBR. Wentz’s magical second season helped secure the home-field advantage that helped backup Nick Foles deliver the Eagles to the Super Bowl. Wentz’s value to the team was clear.
The case against Wentz: Really, just the three missed games. Last year, the case against Brady was the four games he missed due to suspension. Wentz ended up playing only 81 percent of the regular season, and since he and Brady were neck-and-neck, it doesn’t feel right to give Wentz the award over a guy who played 100 percent of it.
The case for Keenum: Like Wentz and Brady, Keenum was the quarterback for one of the league’s four 13-3 teams. Forget the fact that his emergence from third-stringer to playoff starter was one of the season’s best stories, Keenum delivered the statistical goods. He was second in QBR — right between Wentz — and second in completion percentages, threw one fewer interception than Brady did and kept the Minnesota offense on track after Sam Bradford got hurt.
The case against Keenum: Kind of a meh 12th in passing yards and touchdown passes, seventh in passer rating, 13th in yards per attempt … not that those are numbers to sneeze at, but if you’re trying to crack a top three like this one, they’re not great enough.
The case for Brees: Brees pulled the impressive trick of leading the league in both completion percentage and yards per attempt, setting a single-season record for the former in the process. He was second in passer rating and fourth in yards and had eight interceptions to go with 23 touchdown passes.
The case against Brees: His numbers were impressive but not Brees-esque. Which is to say he didn’t get to 5,000 passing yards. The main case against Brees was the notion that the Saints leaned enough on their run game that he didn’t have to be as valuable to them as he has been in years past.
COACH OF THE YEAR
The first-year coach took a Rams team that hadn’t finished better than .500 since 2003 (or made the playoffs since 2004) and led it to an 11-5 record and a NFC West title. What’s more, his stamp was all over it, as his offense led the league in scoring, Gurley became an MVP candidate and Jared Goff marked himself as a legitimate franchise quarterback after a rough rookie year. McVay got nine of our 12 first-place votes. The Eagles’ Doug Pederson got two of them, and New England’s Bill Belichick (who really could win it every year) got the final one.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
A nice consolation prize after losing out in MVP voting to Brady. The OPOY award fits a guy who led the league in touchdowns and yards from scrimmage. Gurley’s production cannot be disputed, and he was in the middle of all of the big scoring McVay’s Rams did all season. He got seven first-place votes for this award. Brady got the other five.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
A very close and difficult vote, this one went to the big free-agent signing who collected 14.5 sacks and helped lead the league’s most fearsome defense all the way to the AFC Championship Game. Campbell wasn’t the only star on that side of the ball for Jacksonville, but his dominance up front helped solidify things at all three levels. He received six first-place votes and five seconds, barely edging out the Rams’ Aaron Donald, who got six first-place votes and only four seconds. There were nine players named on the three-slot ballots for this award.
OFFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Kamara earned all 12 first-place votes in this award category, easily beating out league rushing leader Kareem Hunt of Kansas City (who received all 12 seconds). A brilliant bright spot in the Saints’ rejuvenated offense from the outset, Kamara proved to be one of the toughest guys in the whole league to tackle. He touched the ball just 201 times (as compared to 343 for Gurley) but still finished sixth in the league with 1,554 scrimmage yards — a whopping 525 of which came after first contact.
DEFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Another sweep, as Lattimore collected all 12 first-place votes to complete the Saints’ dominance of the rookie categories. The New Orleans secondary had become something of a joke in recent years, but the addition of the first-round pick helped lock things down on the back end for a defense whose resurgence was a major part of the Saints’ turnaround. Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White finished a distant second.
COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR
After tearing his ACL in the 2016 opener and missing that entire season, Allen returned to finish fourth in the league in receptions, with 102, and third in receiving yards, with 1,393. Known for what seems like his entire career as a guy who has trouble staying healthy, Allen played all 16 games for the first time. He got eight first-place votes in our poll. Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, Seahawks safety Earl Thomas, Keenum and Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu each received one.