September 2016

Philip Rivers has been here before.

The San Diego Chargers lost their top two playmakers in the past two weeks with receiver Keenan Allen and running back Danny Woodhead done for the season after suffering successive ACL knee injuries.

Last year, Allen was on a historic pace for receptions in a season before a lacerated kidney ended his 2015 campaign on Nov. 1.

In Week 1 of this year, Allen looked unstoppable against the Kansas City Chiefs, totaling six catches for 63 yards before a non-contact knee injury shut him down early for the third straight year.

Now we hear reports about some players being frustrated with Cousins. Well, no kidding. They’re 0-2, he’s the quarterback making nearly $20 million and he has missed throws and tossed a killer pick Sunday. There’s something wrong if some guys — we’re talking about competitive athletes here — aren’t a bit ticked. Watch the receivers’ body language, whether Pierre Garcon or DeSean Jackson, after bad plays.

Perhaps some of the players are just like many others: still wanting to know if last year’s finish truly was the start of something for Cousins.

It also should be noted: The Redskins hope he boosts his stock this season. It would mean a strong defense of their NFC East title. It would cost them several million dollars a year with his contract demands; it would be the price of success — but it’s never been a lock that, even if he had a good season, they would open the vault for him or at least meet his wishes. Still, that’s a decision they want to face. Their desire wasn’t to save money as much as it was to be sure.

And it also should be noted that their defense has struggled mightily, and the running game only has 29 attempts through two games. They have built a roster that relies too much on one aspect, the passing game, to be a true contender. Heck, the defense has not finished in both the top 10 in points allowed and yards per game since 2008. The inability to build a stronger defense has been a major issue for years.

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Schedule strength means a lot when it comes to deciding who gets a postseason berth in the NFL. An easy schedule didn’t hand the Carolina Panthers a playoff spot, but it was a big reason they went 15-1 last year. An easy schedule kept the New York Jets in playoff contention until the end of the season, and it helped propel the Washington Redskins to a surprise NFC East crown. So it’s important to know which teams are going to get a schedule boost in 2016.

The Steelers start the season in a UPMC Rooney Sports Complex that just underwent a $10-million renovation. Giemont is very happy about that, because his weight room just doubled in size, to 10,000-plus square feet.

Everything is state of the art, from stationary bikes that can monitor performance from anywhere in the world to an “eye muscle” training center where players track spots and numbers on a digital board.

And, oh yeah, there are buckets of Quench Gum and turkey jerky for players by the front door.

“The players spend so much time here, and this is an enjoyable experience for them,” assistant strength and conditioning coordinator Marcel Pastoor said. “We have space … . We can get everybody in and out of here in allotted time [per Collective Bargaining Agreement rules].”

Among other highlights in the room:

A GPS station to track player’s practice activity, with hopes of preventing soft tissue injury.

Forty yards of AstroTurf where players can do plyometrics before or after practice. Players can go from pulling a sled to doing a squat in a matter of seconds. The Steelers believe they are the only NFL team with this amenity inside a weight room.

A cardio room overlooking the Monongahela River.

“I’m sure you guys look at it a lot differently, but I know a lot of players around the league just looking at it; I don’t know if you can feel too strongly one way or the other.”

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