The Green Bay Packers' defensive coordinator, who got his start as a defensive coordinator with the Steelers in 1992, returns to Pittsburgh for Sunday's game at Heinz Field. Capers grew up in Buffalo, Ohio, about an hour and 20 minutes from Pittsburgh, and will have some time to catch up with family and friends after the team arrives on Saturday.
"It's always fun to go back to a place where you've been," Capers said on Friday. "I had three great years there. I got my head coaching job from there. We had very good defensive football players — two of them are on this staff right now (Kevin Greene and Darren Perry). They were a lot of fun to work with because you knew every week you were going to go out and probably not give up a lot of points.
Capers, not surprisingly, has fond memories of his days in Pittsburgh.
In 1991, the Steelers allowed 21.5 points per game. When Capers arrived in 1992, that number plummeted to 14.1 per game and the Steelers went from 7-9 to 11-5. In 1993, the Steelers ranked third in defense, allowed 17.6 points per game and finished 9-7. In 1994, the Steelers ranked second in defense, allowed 14.6 points per game, finished 12-4 and reached the AFC championship game.
Today, the Steelers are still known for their defense — just like they were during the Steel Curtain days of Chuck Noll.
"The fans really loved and appreciated good defense," he said.
As a side note, Capers' alma mater, Mount Union in Alliance, Ohio, will be playing for the Division III national championship against Wisconsin-Whitewater on Saturday. Capers played for the Purple Raiders in the same secondary as Mount Union's current coach, Larry Kehres. In 23 years as the Mount's coach, Kehres is 289-21-3 — a .928 winning percentage — and is seeking his 11th national title.
"You know, I'm glad you brought that up, because I kind of lose track of it," Capers said. "The head coach there, he and I were roommates and are very good friends. I've got a tremendous amount of respect for him. What he's done there has never been done before. You look at his record in college football, it's the best all-time in any division. About this time of year every year, I say, ‘Who are they going to play?' They win a lot of games. He's had a lot of people after him. I've told him, ‘Why would you want to take another job?' He wins every game. That's the fun part of this business."
Ryan Grant was named the running back on the USA Football/NFLPA All-Fundamentals Team this week. He was awarded a pewter-dipped helmet trophy from running backs coach Edgar Bennett during a press conference on Friday.
Grant was singled out for "ball security/proper cuts." He has not fumbled on a running play all season.
"To win something like this, I think it's just a display of all the hard work that we put in individually with the coaches and what we preach on fundamentals," Grant said. "That starts from up top, (Bennett) every day, working on the fundamentals of the game and the techniques. They're much more detailed than the other team that I came from (the Giants)."
Grant was the only Packer named to the 26-player team. As part of the award, Grant will designate a $1,500 equipment grant to a youth or high school program from USA Football.
Packers injury report
Out — LB Jeremy Thompson (neck). Doubtful — CB Brandon Underwood (hip). Questionable — NT Ryan Pickett (hamstring). Probable — LB Nick Barnett (knee); DE Johnny Jolly (knee); CB Charles Woodson (shoulder).
Underwood didn't practice this week and almost certainly won't play. Barnett and Jolly were full participation and Pickett and Woodson were limited.
Pickett, of course, is the big question mark after missing last week's game with the injury. If he feels good on Saturday, he'll likely be active for Sunday.
"I did a full practice and felt pretty good," Pickett said. "I've come a far ways, I know that. I feel a lot better today. I think I'm going to be out there. It's up to the coaches. The doctors, they're going to listen to what I say but they're going to make the decision. I'm pulling to play."
Steelers injury report
— Coach Mike McCarthy said "I don't foresee" anything happening in the Jolly case before Sunday's game.
— The Packers haven't ruled out Thompson from playing again this season. He was hospitalized after sustaining a neck sprain two weeks ago. "We're gathering more information for Jeremy," McCarthy said. "He is in the process of getting a second opinion, and will continue to do so as we move forward. We have not ruled him out, but we're still gathering as much information as possible."
— The Packers rank seventh in the NFL on offense (13th rushing, ninth passing) and second on defense (second rushing, third passing). The Steelers rank ninth on offense (16th rushing, 12th passing) and fourth on defense (first rushing, 13th passing).
— Those obviously are good numbers. So why are they separated by three wins? The Packers are a league-best plus-18 in turnovers while the Steelers are tied for 24th at minus-5.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.