View Full Version : Pope brings familiarity with offense to Steelers

Hawaii 5-0
06-06-2012, 01:36 AM
Pope brings familiarity with offense to Steelers


Leonard Pope smiled, shook his head and rolled his eyes incredulously. Then he politely answered the question.

Pope was the only unrestricted free agent the Steelers signed in the offseason, and questions for the 6-foot-8 tight end keep coming back again and again to one subject.

Not the 102 receptions or nine touchdowns he has totaled in his six-year NFL career, and not his appearance in the 2009 Super Bowl. Not even his nickname, ''Champ'' - or the fact he saved a 6-year-old boy from drowning in a swimming pool last summer.

All anyone wants to talk to Pope about is his familiarity with Todd Haley's offense. Haley was hired in February as the Steelers first new offensive coordinator in five years. No surprise, Pope arrived in Pittsburgh weeks later.

Wherever Haley has been the past six years - from Arizona to Kansas City and now Pittsburgh - he's taken Pope with him.

With the Steelers feverishly studying to master the new offense, Pope is a man everybody wants to speak with about it.

''Every day - all day, every day,'' Pope said with a chuckle. ''And I give the same answer: I'm here learning the new playbook just like the rest of the players are. So my story ain't gonna change.''

A story Pope is much more eager to tell is how he potentially saved the life of the young child of a friend at a party in his hometown of Americus, Ga., last June.

The only person at the party who knew how to swim, a fully-clothed Pope jumped into the pool, grabbed the boy, Bryson Moore, by the waist and pulled him out of the water to safety.

''It was an act born out of the fact of me being a father and having kids,'' said Pope, who recently threw a pizza party for the boy's class. ''Like I told people, I would want someone doing the same for my child.''

That story has made its way among his new teammates.

''I guess you can check the `Performs Under Pressure' box for that,'' fellow tight end Heath Miller said.

Providing depth to Pittsburgh's tight end corps isn't a life-or-death issue. But with David Johnson having been moved to fullback and Weslye Saunders suspended for the season's first four games due to a violation of the NFL's performance-enhancing drugs policy, the 272-pound Pope will likely see plenty of reps this season for the Steelers.

''He's a big boy,'' tackle Marcus Gilbert said. ''He's aggressive, he's bright-eyed, he just loves to come in and stick his hand in the pile and try to help us win.''

A third-round pick by the Cardinals in 2006, Pope clearly has the size to help in the blocking game - a trait the Steelers have sought in their tight ends in recent years.

He also has shown an ability to be a weapon in the passing game, evidenced by the five touchdown receptions he had during his second year with Arizona or the career-high 24 catches he had last season with Kansas City.

''I try to tell people, `Please don't sleep on me. When you sleep on me, that's when I get you,''' Pope said. ''You think I'm going to block all day, then I'll run a route past you. You think I'm going to catch all day, I'll block.''

Pope said his grandfathers and father used to argue about who deserves credit for bestowing the nickname ''Champ,'' given to him as an overly active and rambunctious boy.

Pope even dubbed his foundation aimed at disadvantaged families that emphasizes physical fitness, C.H.A.M.P. (Creating Hope And Making Progress).

But one thing Pope is not yet is a Super Bowl champ. He was with the Cardinals when they lost to Pittsburgh in the 2009 Super Bowl.

''I want to be on the other side to not have that feeling again,'' Pope said.

Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin cited the hunger Pope has after being ''on the wrong side of the confetti'' that February night in Tampa three years ago. Tomlin mentioned that when asked about Pope before he mentioned the player's history with Haley.

That's the way Pope would prefer it. Contrary to conventional opinion, Pope did not sign with the Steelers just because of Haley.

''I came here because I had a job opportunity,'' he said.

Haley was the offensive coordinator in Arizona for Pope's final two years there, including the NFC championship season. When Haley was hired as head coach of the Chiefs, Pope was signed soon thereafter.

Haley was fired by Kansas City late last season, and the Steelers hired him to replace Bruce Arians less than three months later. Pope was signed in April.

Haley's fiery sideline demeanor, combined with the fact the affable Arians had a warm relationship with most of his players, have led to much discussion in Pittsburgh about Haley and the offense.

Pope might not be willing to speak too much on Haley's Xs and Os, but he will endorse Haley the person.

''I love Todd,'' Pope said. ''He's a great coach, and hopefully the guys are starting to see that right now.

''I know a lot of people see the negative picture of him yelling on the sidelines and all that kind of stuff, but he's a real humble person and has a great passion for what he does.''


06-07-2012, 10:52 AM
Where does Wes Saunders fit in with all this? If he makes the team he will be the third TE which isn't out of the question for a team to keep 3, but why would you want him not playing on game days?

06-07-2012, 11:13 AM
He could still be active, especially if he plays well on special teams. There are a lot of variables on the roster this year. Do they carry only 5 CBs or 5 WRs? 2 or 3 TEs? How many RBs? Do they go with 7 DL? They don't always do that, although it's looking that way again this year. Don't forget that they can have 46 active now instead of 45, in addition (I believe that's the right number).

Hawaii 5-0
06-07-2012, 11:27 PM
Pope likes what he sees with Steelers

Teresa Varley - Steelers.com
June 7, 2012

When Leonard Pope made his free agent visit to the Steelers this past offseason, one of the first things he noticed was the six Super Bowl trophies lined up in the team’s library.

“I looked at all six,” said Pope. “That is the first thing I saw when I went upstairs. That is something I personally want to be a part of and go down in history with these guys.”

Pope was so close to being a part of a Super Bowl winning team when he played for the Arizona Cardinals, but came up short when the Steelers defeated the Cardinals 27-23 in Super Bowl XLIII. Pope remembers what the feeling was like watching Steelers players celebrate, seeing the trophy handed to them and then watching the confetti flying down.

When he first met with Coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert, he told them flat out he wanted to be “on the other side of the confetti.” He wanted to win a Super Bowl, and felt signing with the Steelers was his best option to do that.

“When you are playing the Steelers that is one team I always knew we had to buckle up our chin straps,” said Pope. “We knew they were going to bring it. This is a special group of people. Coach Tomlin, you listen to him, the way he speaks, he is well respected.

“I know the feeling to lose the Super Bowl. We have the right type of people and the coaching staff and organization here that winning it can be done again. Everything I thought the Pittsburgh Steelers would be and everything I thought I would be surrounding myself around, this is it. I clearly see why the Steelers are so successful and have been the last couple of years.”


Hawaii 5-0
06-10-2012, 02:26 AM
Pope Might Be Ben Roethlisberger’s Savior

June 9, 2012 by Craig


In 2012, Ben Roethlisberger might be getting on his knees every Sunday and thanking the Dear Lord for the Steelers’ acquisition of his newest tight end – Leonard Pope. This will be especially prevalent when the Steelers get in the Red Zone on game day. A very tall and agile Pope will help Ben…. ummm…. widen…. his accuracy.

“It gives you a wide area to miss and to throw a bad ball. And Heath can go up and catch balls with two fingers and it’s not like you have to put it right on their chest. They can have a wide catching radius. (Pope’s) is even bigger than Heath’s.” - Ben Roethlisberger

Woah, settle down there, Ben. Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. You better not be thinking of skipping out on those accuracy drills. Your new coordinator might not like that too much. But, Big Ben does have a point.

With the addition of Pope, Ben’s options in the Red Zone (aka short yardage and end zone crossing routes) grow about as big as the 6′-8″ Leonard Pope. Pope, when on the field, will be the tallest Steeler receiver out there, and will have what will seem like feet over your average corner or safety daring enough to man up on Pope. With Miller out there already, those safeties are going to be busy keeping track of those two men. Add in Antonio Brown and Manny Sanders on the wings and even Redman (or perhaps Baron Batch) out in the flat, and you will have your hands full as a defense inside your own 20 yard line. Were Bruce Arians the OC, most teams would give a second thought to this type of formation. But, with Todd Haley at the helm (a man who is known to make proper use of his TE’s and RB’s as receivers) this type of formation spells danger for defenses and giddy joy for Steeler Nation.

I’ve always like Pope at the TE position and am excited to see how he fits into this new offense. I’m also very partial to Heath Miller… ok… I love Heath. Such a great guy and a hugely underrated player in the NFL. What I hope we don’t witness is Haley playing favorites to Pope. The final decision, of course, is Ben’s and the two TE’s after the ball is snapped. Ben will fire the ball to whomever is open, or who is in good position to go after the ball after he lobs an end zone corner toss. It will be up to those three players to find the right chemistry inside the 20.

Seriously folks – this offense will seem crazy good with all the potential points that will be on the table. Let’s just hope they capitalize this season on each of those opportunities.


Hawaii 5-0
06-11-2012, 12:46 AM
Mark Kaboly ‏@MarkKaboly_Trib via twitter:

Did you know (and I am sure you did) that Steelers tight end Leonard Pope saved a 6-year-old drowning boy last year?

https://twitter.com/#!/search/from:ScottBrown_Trib%20OR%20from:MarkKaboly_Trib%2 0OR%20from:RalphPaulk_Trib?q=from%3AScottBrown_Tri b+OR+from%3AMarkKaboly_Trib+OR+from%3ARalphPaulk_T rib