The Dump Truck Redux

With Mewelde Moore seemingly the only healthy player on the roster with experience as a back of any sort, the Steelers returned one preseason castoff to the fold, Najeh Davenport, and likely another in Gary Russell.

So, uh, welcome back, Najeh. At least you're not Shaun Alexander. Hopefully you've been eating your corn. And learning how to lower your shoulder, you barely adequate short yardage back.

So I guess we kind of have to forget the Mendenhall pick ever happened for a year. And it's not like Limas Sweed has seen any PT. Basically, the game against Jacksonville looks eerily like the last one, just now on the road. Soo-per.

Image courtest Believe

A Sloppy Effort, But a Satisfying Finish

The Steelers looked about as feckless as they have at any point in years by halftime of last night's game against the phantom first place Ravens in Heinz Field. It took all of about 15 seconds to reverse course toward a decent showing. It came at a hefty cost, however, with depatures of Rashard Mendenhall and Kendall Simmons to injured reserve.

Pittsburgh allowed rookie Joe Flacco to look more than adequate, as the quarterback led long drives to take the lead in the 2nd quarter and to tie the game in the 4th quarter. Still, at critical moments, after pulling with three points in the third and the Ravens' sole drive in overtime, they battered Flacco enough to exploit his inexperience.

For the most part, the playcalling suffered from some of the same problems as in the Eagles game. And plenty of the blame for the first half struggles falls to Roethlisberger, who had plenty of opportunities to get rid of the ball and waited far too long to do so. Even when the Steelers had an opportunity to put the game away, with a 1st and goal at the four up 17-13, they opted for dinky passing plays over more aggressive, and probably more effective, runs up the gut. A lot needs to change here.

Mitch Berger had a particularly poor night, shanking more than a few critical punts. The kickoff coverage, however, was mostly excellent yet again and has been one of the very pleasant surprises of the season.

Next week looks to be an interesting one going into the bye, with a Jacksonville team with whom the Steelers share a dicey recent history. Who really knows what the running back situation will be for that game, but whatever it is, the Carey Davis Mewelde Moore combo doesn't look all that promising. If the Steelers, however, can escape with a win, going 4-1 into the break with the problems they've had would be huge.

Despite the difficulties, and ultimately the cost, it was rewarding to shut up dancing-after-every-tackle Ray Lewis and his punk-ass counterpart, Bart Scott. Joe Flacco looks like he has a future and hopefully the Steelers can continue to ensure theirs by not losing a million running backs and getting their alredy buffeted QB killed.


Time To Apply Those Lessons Learned

A week removed from being touted as the top team in the AFC, most of the fuckwit knee-jerk pundits immediately consigned the Steelers to being a middle of the pack team following a close loss on the road against a solid Eagles team, proving again that listening to these people only hastens the onset of brain rot. Yes, the Steelers' line was godawful against Philly, the playcalling atrocious, but these things need not be indicative of the rest of the season.

While my faith in Arians play calling improving dramatically is somewhere in the vicinity of null, I can see some hope for the line. Remember that this is a unit with two new starters and will need still some time to fully congeal into a unit that can be at least satisfactory.

The Ravens will likely try to duplicate the Eagles' success of battering the offense with elaborate, intense blitz packages. The personnel advantage between the units would favor Philly, but the Ravens are capable of wreaking similar havoc if the Steelers feel like playing into their hands like last week. At least the lack of crowd noise will help to mollify some of the confusion that was readily apparent in the front five last Sunday.

Much has been made of Mendenhall's fumbling predilictions and boastful texting habits. I don't think he or Willie, were he healthy, would be a huge factor in this game. Baltimore typically does a good job of stifling Parker and the Steelers had most success in the Monday night game last year through big pass plays. I'm not confident that they're going to connect on as many of the bombs that they did last year at home, but that's going to have to be how they have to move the play. Hopefully the gameplan doesn't rely on Ben having to break tackles and find guys downfield (though, again, he did on Monday night last year) as he might be too banged up to reprise that performance. That and I'm certain Baltimore will be keying on making sure they bring Ben down rather than going for the strip first, having seen what he can do after first contact.

This is a game the Ravens defense will have to win, either by turning it into a battle of field goals or getting some scores themselves. Honestly, if the Steelers can't rattle a rookie quarter making his first start on the road, there might not much in the way of optimism going forward. Chris Hoke will play well in relief of Casey and the defense will force Joe Flacco to beat them. He might be able to do it, if the Steelers let them hang around, all of which depends on how much they learned from Philly.


Report Card: Week 3

Well that was a royal shit-storm. Watching that game was pure torture. Close enough to give hope of a miraculous undeserved victory, but one-sided enough to instill season-long doubt in ourselves. Fuck. Let’s get this postmortem over with.


QBs: C
So much for that 130 QB rating. Ben spent seemingly the entire game scrambling and avoiding Philly’s defense. Much of this was not his fault, but some was. 2 fumbles and a pick which could all be blamed on the pressure, but some was just poor decision making and not getting out when the heat was on. Why in the Samual L. Fuck did we not transition away from the run? Or audible when blitzers were CLEARLY coming over? We constantly hear from jackass announcers that the way to take advantage of an overly aggressive (and successfully penetrating) defense is utilize screens and quick outs – what the shit?

Line: D-

This isn’t an F is because we did manage to mount once successful drive in the 1st for a goddamn field goal. Marvel Smith whiffed on blocks in one on one schemes. Chris Kemoeatu and Willie Colon had 3 false starts and a holding each. Eagles defenders were coming up the middle, around the edge and off the blitz at ease. This line is clearly out of synch and not communicating. A lot has been made about how MNF will be Mendenhall’s chance to shine but he won’t be doing much of anything unless the line can produce more than a collective queef of protection. I will now drink a gallon of lighter fluid.

Running Backs: D+
1.5 per carry for FWP. Good God. Turns out he was hurt in the 1st. Why did we start so many series (7) with a run up the middle after we were already trailing and it was clear that their D-line was eating our lunch?

Wide Receivers: C
The least depressing area of our offensive break-down (barely), the WRs accounted for nearly all of our gains and first downs with 12 catches. However, Philly was in man coverage for nearly the entire game and it was clear that this was enough to keep Hines and Santonio in check. It was encouraging to see Nate Washington haul in 5, his first of the season. Maybe we'll go to a fourth WR package more often.

Tight Ends: C-
Heath Miller got beat around the end a number of times, resulting in two sacks. He remains a valuable receiver down field (4 for 63), but is being used more as a safety valve and less as a planned weapon out of the gate. Spaeth barely saw time, surprising considering we could have used some extra protection.


Line: C+
Stats here were pretty typical as we held their running game to a manageable level and basically were slowly killed by short passes and poor field position as a result of turnovers. Travis Kirshke played well with 6 solo tackles and one assist with half a sack. Smith was neutralized and seemed to be missing in favor of Eason and Roye for whatever reason. Casey Hampton got injured early and was spelled by Hoke who did ok. Just not near the pressure as they got on us with the pass rush.

Linebackers: B
Another quality game for these guys. 11 tackles and a sack and half among them, not to mention significant hurries on McNabb and a thorough job of keeping the dink n’ dunk largely in check. Woodley and Timmons continue to progress and Harrison, Farrior and Foote looked solit. Well done.

Defensive Backs: B
Ike Taylor had a couple balls complete on him but nothing too serious. Polomalu's diving pick was impressive and shows how he is one of only a few guys in the league that can play all out every down. McFadden looked good with a pick and an opportune fumble recovery. Adding Deshea back this week ought to round out an impressive bunch that kept everything in front of them and did well allowing a modest 214 yards passing to McNabb and Kolb.


Kickers: A
Career long 53-yarder for Reed who is all that you can ask for in a kicker. Berger had 3 punts inside the 20 and an average of 41 yards which will do just fine.

Return/Coverage: B+
Returning duties appear to have shifted to form Moore to Santonio for whatever reason…not sure I’m psyched on our #2 receiver filling that role, but whatever. Mendenhall won’t be doing dick here next week as he pinch hits for FWP. Aside from the 37 yard return, coverage was solid.

The above average play of our Defense could not overcome our piss poor O. Things moved reasonably well on the first drive, and Tomlin did a good job challenging and winning the fumble. But after that it was a complete mess with Ben getting sacked twice and fumbling and then sacked twice and throwing a pick on the 3rd drive. Again I am confused as to what Arians is thinking with his game plan. How do you not go into max protect, more shotgun sets or at least run some goddamn counters? The line deserves a lot of the blame for not communicating; like doubling up on the DT and allowing an obvious blitz RIGHT UP THE FUCKING MIDDLE (Kendall Simmons), but we HAVE to be more adaptive with the play calling. 45 passing plays to 15 runs? We weren’t trailing big – where is the Steeler football we know? Willie Parker’s speed was clearly not going to break one up the middle so we give him ZERO tosses outside? How many quick slants or square-ins did we call for Hines and Santonio in MAN COVERAGE, fucking 1? The only reason we went to Heath Miller was because Ben was so pressured he had to dump it to him…call plays for him earlier. Thank God for our defense otherwise this would have been a nationally televised blowout. Let’s hope there isn’t another one on tap...



"Slash" Horror?

"My favorite part is the showers..."

During a recent interview granted to the venerable sports medium jocklife.com, Kordell Stewart let slip that he is indeed wanting to return to the NFL. Now, I realize that the economy is down a bit and people are looking to alternative vocations to augment their respective incomes, but what color is the sky in this guy's world?
Just because 1/2 the teams in the NFL are dealing with QB pergatory doesn't mean they'll all head to shitty public golf courses everywhere to find scrap-heap (sexually vigilant) signal-callers. Perhaps the most upsetting thing about all this: if he comes back he won't have most recently played for the Ravens...


Parker, Hampton Out For Monday Night. Guuuhhhh

Rashard Mendenhall is going to get to test his hands in regular season action and Chris Hoke is going to have to try to plug a massive hole in an increasingly battered defensive line, as Willie Parker and Casey Hampton have been ruled out for Monday night's suddenly pivotal game against the Ravens in Heinz.

Of course, whoever's carrying the ball is moot if the linemen decide they still don't need to block anyone. Roethlisberger had a huge game on the Monday night game against Bawlmer last year in Hines and he may need something of a repeat performance. Still, the Ravens have a knack for injuring Ben and it's a wonder he's even standing upright these days.

Two physical games with the Ravens and the Jaguars stand between the Steelers and their bye week. If they eke wins out of these two games, they'll be in good shape to forge the tough stretch run that awaits them after the break.


CBS Can Eat a Suppurating Dick

Thanks, Tiffany Network, for not switching over even the regional feed of the Steelers-Eagles game yesterday until midway through the fucking first quarter. Like I give a honey-roasted fuck about the Giants and the Bengals. That's a game that surely gonna have playoff implications for us! And, when the game was finally switched over, it was right when the Steelers won a challenge to get possession of the ball. But guess what? No footage of the play under review. Thanks a shitload, guys.


Porous O-Line Overmatched And Outdone

If ever there was a discouraging sign for the offensive line that looked like it had made strides during the first two games of the year, it was the public depantsing in Lincoln Financial Field today against the Eagles. Save a few defensive stands and some impressive Jeff Reed kicks and there might not be anything positive to take away from this game.

This was a contest that felt eerily like the loss in Jacksonville in Week 2 of the '06 season, when the defense kept it close as long as possible while the opposing unit unloaded into a dithering and wiffing front five.v Along with the line, blames falls at the feet of the receivers and Ben himself. The receivers for failing to get open quickly despite man coverage with the blitz. Ben for failing to get rid of the ball in obvious blitz situations. In many ways, it felt like a gameplan that teams will try to duplicate against them all year.

The Philly defensive dominance was hard enough to accept - the way even the Steelers gameplanned on defense, it's surprising they held the Eagles in check as long as they did, having the corners playing at least 10 yards off the receivers, even in markedly short yardage situations and in the red zone. I'm trying to tell myself that as the season goes on, more offensive weapons will materialize in the form of our rookies to counteract defensive strategies such as these, where throwing bombs to Nate Washington in double coverage is best option in the face of overwhelming pressure.


The PA Parley Is Renewed

Steelers +3.5 at Eagles

Last meeting: The Steelers trashed then-unbeaten Philadelphia in Week 9 of the 2004 season 27-3 in Heinz Field, sparking what proved to be the beginning of the end of the relationship of Donovan McNabb and Terrell Owens, as the receiver was filmed on the sideline yelling at the quarterback during the game.

Ben's shoulder continues to be the source of as much media speculation as Sarah Palin inbox. He didn't look to have any difficulty winging passes into the wind last week against Cleveland, so unless the injury was aggravated from the cheap shot by Shaun Rogers, I'm not sure why Ben would be in any worse shape this week.

Odd again that the Steelers face a team coming off a loss to Dallas for the second week in a row. Like the Browns, the Cowboys had little difficulty carving up the Eagles through the air. Jason Witten's big performance in particular bespeaks opportunities for Heath Miller to be a factor on Sunday.

I'd expect Philly to load up against the run, meaning I don't know if you can expect a repeat of Willie's Week 1 performance, but last week illustrated that FWP has improved dramatcally at being able to grind yards out in difficult conditions. The greatest concern centers on how much the Steelers can disrupt McNabb and Westbrook. If not for Brian's late fumble in Dallas, Philly probably takes that game. Nevertheless, it was as good a performance as Donovan has had in a big game in a while.

The Steelers had trouble getting pressure on Derek Anderson, even excusing the Browns' skilled line and the max protect schemes, but the same can't happen against McNabb. Granted, even with goal line ball-dropping DeSean Jackson showing some flashes of being explosive, the Eagles receivers aren't the greatest unit in the league. Still, they're going to get opportunities to go deep in Pittsburgh can't put pressure on McNabb. Drops like the ones the Browns made last week aren't going to manifest themselves in every game.


Report Card: Week 2

Hurricane Ike attempted to blind me from the spectacle that was the Steelers’ systematic dismantling of the Brownies. 70 mph winds killed the power just five minutes into the game and if not for the quick thinking and quicker acting on the part of my brother, who rigged a car battery, TV monitor and rabbit-ears to deliver relief, I would’ve only had Hilgrove and Tunch’s radio version of the ordeal…it’s good to know your way around “electrics,” I say. Ike also stymied the offensive efforts of both squads involved in the contest, for the most part. Week 2 in the NFL was apparently an unofficial Points Orgy; bookmakers everywhere took a beating on the under. Christ, the Packers scored 3 times as many points as our entire game!


QBs: A
In a contest that was anything but a “shootout,” Sunday’s tally of 12/19 for 186 yards and one TD gives Ben the league’s best QB rating of 136.3. Naturally, the detractors will point to quality of opponents up until this point and the fact that he’s only thrown 33 balls. It’s always great to have a quarterback that handles the in and out pressures of a game, whatever the setting or weather, and limits turnovers and mistakes. But Ben’s ability to adapt play calling, maneuver away from trouble and make level-headed decisions mean he is clearly more than a “game manager” and has put us in position for both of our wins…he’s an elite quarterback no matter what the talking heads yap about. There is some concern (and media overreaction, as usual) about Roethlisberger’s shoulder and whether he has a separation or sprained AC joint…meaning he will likely benefit from some down time during practice this week.

Line: B+
Shaun Rogers was the only real challenge for our O-line this game as he played up to his potential, penetrating almost a dozen times. It’s important to put this in perspective though: 104 yards rushing against 7 or 8 in the box every play, on a bad night when the opponents know you have to run the ball, is EXACTLY the type of performance we need to be able to expect week in and week out. Clearing a path for Willie and protecting Ben so that he can use the aforementioned abilities is huge. It’s the difference between a good season and a potentially great one.

Running Backs: A

It takes living or spending a decent amount of time around fans of other teams who have not and do not expect 100 yard rushing performances every week to appreciate just how great it is to have that level of confidence in the Steelers. Willie averaged 3.8 a carry against an above average D-line according to most pundits…but most pundits are dickbags. I said it previously, but I’ll restate: Willie isn’t avoiding hits anymore, he’s staying inside with his runs. It’s only a matter of time until Peter King does a puff piece about how Willie learned this from Bettis…but it’s probably true. No Mendenhall, which makes you wonder how much we’ll see of him this season…

Wide Receivers: B+
The wind was the story in this category. While I don’t usually blame the elements as both teams are asked to deal with them, it was clear even before kickoff that this wasn’t to be a shootout. And while both teams had meager totals of around 150 yards, Ward and Holmes each hauled in 5, with 3 coming as part of the lone touchdown drive in the 2nd quarter. But no catch was as huge as Ward's TD, of course.

Tight Ends: B
Heath Miller only caught 2 passes for 33 yards and took a costly holding penalty in the 3rd. He remains a solid blocker, however and an underutilized weapon, one which we are likely to see more of against the Iggles soft linebacker corps, me thinks.


Line: A
The Brownies ran a number of unbalanced line packages, I suppose in an effort to facilitate both power running and misdirection. This did not work. Our D held Lewis to only 38 yards on 19 carries far less than his previous week’s average of nearly 5 yards a rip. The pressure intensified once the Browns were forced to take to the air more. Aaron Smith’s presence cannot be overstated as he remains the only Steeler lineman to tally a sack this season. It’s tough to see Kiesel go down with an injury to his calf, although early efforts by Kirschke and Eason, his place-holders, have been encouraging.

Linebackers: A
No sacks and no picks, but guess what…solid game. Woodley and Thimmons will likely have to step up in pressuring McNabb with Keisel out, something that didn’t happen or need to happen as much this game.

Defensive Backs: A+
Derek Anderson’s evening must have been something akin to getting one’s tonsils removed with a rusty spoon. Constant pressure and resulting rushed throws and tackles for loses/small gains. The pressure doesn’t exuse all of the poor throws, but it’s clear that “Troy and the Boys” were in his head. That pick in our redzone was inexcusable and game-changing.


Kickers: A
Jeff Reed was impressive again and DEPENDABLE. He had a few non-returnables on kickoffs and only one of the three came out to the 20, in a field position game, this was good stuff.

Return/Coverage: B+
Coverage was great. Cribbs was nullified by the wind and our downfield coverage. A little trouble on the receiving end with the wind, and almost had a muff cost us big time, pinning us deep in our own end. However, it was followed by a clutch drive by the O that flipped the field position, and effectively ended any hope for a cheap score by the Browns.

Not sure what Arians was trying to prove with two straight screen/dumps to start the game and I wish I could see Mendenhall and Miller a bit more, but it is good to know that we don’t have to use all of our weapons to win, at least not against the Browns. Is it just me, or does Romeo Crennel look just like a black Jaba the Hut? I don’t know HOW he thought kicking a field goal with only a few minutes left in the game was going to make sense in the long run…they needed a TD either way! That’s back to back weeks of horrible clock management. The best part of this game is knowing that the Browns were as well prepared as could be and can’t blame the outcome on anything else other than the fact that we are the better team. It was a microcosm of smash-mouth football. You know what’s coming and you can stop us. I believe Sgt. Winslow said it best:

“They are the best defense in the NFL. They are great, not good. We just want to win the division and to do that, we have to beat those guys."

Not happening.



Well, Hell: Keisel Out For Two Months

Didn't get to enjoy a fully healthy defensive line for long, did we? Brett Keisel, who went down midway through Sunday night's win against the Browns has been ruled out for ruled out for up to two months with a calf injury. Travis Kirschke played serviceably in his place the rest of the way against a solid Cleveland line and this isn't as serious a blow as when Aaron Smith went down last year. Still, Keisel obviously generates more upfield pressure than any of the reserves. With D-line depth a concern coming into the season, this makes the late acquisition of Orpheus Roye look even smarter, though hopefully doesn't affect too adversely what has been a pretty good showing by the front seven through the first two games. While some fans are decrying some of the pressure put on Derek Anderson, one must remember that he has one of the better lines in the league blocking for him and the Browns were using a lot max protect packages.

Brady Quinn Approves

From the Browns tailgate Sunday. Poor Brady, all stuck in the stadium when he'd rather be out there enjoying the scene with the fans. Preferably somewhere private behind the port-a-johns.

[Busted Coverage]


Steelers Survive Tumultuous Weather, Underwhelming Browns

With the elements changing the composure of a game where the Steelers would be able to victimize a weak Browns secondary, Pittsburgh was able to rely on the reliable mixture of running, effective passing and opportunistic defense to turn back the Browns for the 10th time in a row.

Both sides were slow to establish any sort of rhythm on offense, but the Steelers were able to keep the ever exposed Derek Anderson in a state of confusion, while Ben Roethlisberger made the key throws he needed to make to extend drives and put the Steelers in position to put points on the board. Despite the fact that he scored the game's only touchdown, Hines Ward looked the worst among the Steelers' key components, looking a bit like Nate Washington trying to squeeze the ball in.

Once again, Willie Parker went over 100 yards against the Browns, eclipsing the century mark on a clinching dash on the team's final drive. Where there were concerns, the Steelers excelled again. Josh Cribbs was rendered a non-factor by the special teams and the offensive line performed admirable for the most part.

The defense bent but found moments to come up big, like Troy Polamalu's pick in the red zone right before the half. Naturally, they were helped by the inept clock management down the stretch by Romeo Crennel.

With a separated shoulder coming in, Ben deserves all the more credit for playing near flawlessly. Not that the Browns didn't try to exploit that vulnerability, with Shaun Rogers taking a cheap late hit on the Steelers Qb in the 4th quarter that wasn't flagged. Class act, those AFC North bottom feeders.


The Pour House in Moving Pictures: Week 1

Trying to do something different this year and put together a little video each week at the Pour House for games. We'll see how that goes. Took me a while this week to put this one together from the Texans game. It suffers a little from me not getting much footage during and after the game, but you try concentrating on filming people when you're trying to be busy drunk and yelling.


Bring It On

Have you ever been right in the middle of a relatively pleasant day when you realize you maaaaaaay have failed to wipe down below as much as you should have last time you played Kerplunk? Chipotle, Qdoba, Moe’s, whatever it was…it’s making you squirm now.

That’s the Cleveland Browns. They were good, now they’re shitty and they’ll sneak up on you if you don’t put’em away clean.

The Cowboys made efficient work of the Browns last week. Derek Anderson was clearly out of sync with the offense and not communicating well with his receivers. “Sgt. Winslow” was the only Brownie with more than one reception. Browns fans certainly have the fact that both Anderson and Braylon Edwards missed significant preseason time to point to as a cause for this. Keep in mind, as bad as their O was, it was Cleveland’s secondary that allowed T.O. and Patrick Crayton to get significant yardage for the ‘Boys and bust open the game. Additionally, the Cowboys are FUCKING GOOD…so where does that leave us? According to Vegas, nearly a touchdown favorite Sunday and I don’t like that one bit. Where did all of the “experts” who picked the Brownies to come out of the AFC North go (King, Pasquarelli, Banks)? Asshats.

My concerns are more geared toward the O-line (as always) and special teams, with Josh Cribbs capable of a home run at any given moment. We still can’t afford to lose the much ballyhooed “turnover battle” and must effectively stuff Jamal “dime-bag” Lewis who averaged almost 5 yards a carry last week until they were forced to abandon the run.Unfortunately, this game has migrated into the "at best, relieved/at worst, drinking myself into a coma" category. The 8PM kickoff ensures I'll be well on my way to numbing whatever comes my way. Fuck.

I hope my nerves (and bowels) can take this..

This Could Come In Handy At The Bar

Considering I'm not one to arrive at the Pour House eight hours before kickoff, I'm seldom able to secure a seat at a table. Not that I really want one anyway. I can't sit during games. Too nervous. Still, it's nice to have somewhere to park your drink when you're cheek by jowl with a hundred other Stillers fans. That's why this hoodie might be a fine pickup for gameday viewing. If it wasn't $40, that is.

Anyway, NFL Shop needs to crank out some team-customized versions of these. Like, right fucking now.



Willie Pizzle Wins AFC POTW

Which tends to happen when you run for three scores and 130-plus yards. LaMarr Woodley is nominated for Defensive Player of the Week at NFL.com, where voting is open through 4 p.m.

In going for the 10th win in a row against Cleveland, the Steelers will obviously look to exploit a battered and embrassed Browns' secondary, which lost the services of another starter last week, as strong safety Sean Jones will miss a few weeks following arthroscopic knee surgery. Of course, this is a unit that boasted before the season that teams "will be sorry for targeting them." Well, the Cowboys sure weren't.

One of the more interesting matchups of the game will be how respective newbees Justin Hartwig and Shaun Rogers do against one another. Rogers can be dominating when he's on his game, which definitely wasn't the case last week. But he remains the best hope for the Browns to shore up their anemic ground defense, which the Steelers ravaged for 206 and 159 yards rushing in their two meetings last year, with Willie Parker going for over 100 in both contests.


Report Card: Week 1


QBs: A-
Roethlisberger looked sharp, completing 13 of 14 passes for two TDs and most importantly NO PICKS. The new Team Captain looked like a real leader on the field even after his fumble (MARVEL!). Ben showed signs of stiffness in his shoulder just before half-time and was noticeably uncomfortable just as the game went to commercial. But he bounced back and was helped by 7 handoffs in a row to start the 2nd. I consider us fortunate to have seen Leftwich and to get him so real game action to shake off the rust, but as far as faith in his decision making…not so much.

Line: B+
This is a tough one to break down, because it was at times flawless and at times nerve-wracking. In my opinion, Kemoeatu and Hartwig are the most important guys out there as they protect Ben and represent the small changes that were made in the off season on the line. They looked great and even Marvel Smith seemed to haul his ass out to throw down field blocks for Willie’s TDs. Smith does seem to miss every time a defender goes high and around the outside, but considering his assignment was Mario Williams you can’t ask for much more. Colon and Starks looked lost on more than one play and it was clear that Arians’ plan was to keep Ben in short-drop throws and handoffs to Willie away from Williams.

Running Backs: A
One of our perceived strong suits this season, the backs did not disappoint. Parker is obviously back from his injury and capable of churning out short and longer runs. It’s clear that he no longer has the immediate urge to bounce runs outside and is both a short yardage and home run threat. Mendenhall HELD ONTO THE BALL and looked much better than he did in preseason. His stats weren’t great (10 carries for 22 yards), but it was his first game…you’d be a little overwhelmed.

Wide Receivers: B
If anyone had forgotten what an important target (and safety check-down) Hines Ward is for Ben, they were reminded Sunday. 76 yards and 2 TDs with a 75 yarder called back: not too shabby. Holmes was used sparingly and my (and Ape’s) guess of him being held in reserve for more aerial game plans seems spot on. No other WR caught a ball.

Tight Ends: B+
Heath Miller only caught 3 for 26, but two were for 1st downs. Both he and Spaeth did very well with their blocking assignments. With some of the instability on the line still being a concern, it’s nice to know we’ve got these two more mobile loads around.


Line: A
Kiesel, Smith and Hampton looked impressive. Even Eason and Kirshke looked good. Deep penetration, play disruption on almost every offensive call and filling the gaps, these guys looked great.

Linebackers: A+
There’s a reason I splurged and got the Woodley jersey for this season and while it’s clear that Peter King is already on his dong, he and Harrison DID look like the best outside duo this past week. Harrison with 3 sacks, Woodley with a sack, an INT, and a fumble recovery…and that doesn't even factor in how well Farrior and Foote did. Our depth at this position gives me an erection.

Defensive Backs: B
The area of our squad that always, ALWAYS manages to make me want to drive a razor blade up my arm. Polomalu seemed to be unaffected by last season’s injury and got a few good pops and a pick…somehow he seemed to be a bit reserved still, though. Probably the fact that we were blitzing selectively. Taylor gave up some yardage, but didn’t get beat deep, thank the Christ. Clark got burnt for a late TD but was solid after sitting out the remainder of last season with a fuck spleen. Nickel and Dime packages scare me, still.

Kickers: A
Jeff Reed was impressive on kickoffs, as he blasted a few into the endzone (from the 30 and with the wind no small feet) and his leg appears to be in top shape.
Mitch Berger was good as far as I could tell averaging 43 yards a punt with quality hang time.

Return/Coverage: B+
No fumbles or muffs...just glad to see neither Santonio or Mendenhall are out there.


Very Apropos

Tip of the towel: Holy Taco.

In the meantime, Ben is nursing a sore shoulder from the shot he took at the end of the first half Sunday and Marvel Smith, who the Steelers also need to stay healthy, will be limited in practice with a groin injury.

Shut The Hell Up

How much can change in a week, huh? Prior to Sept. 7, all you heard was Patriots and Colts this and Chargers and Jaguars that. The Steelers put on one great showing and on our nuts do you alight. The Steelers did look great in their win over the Texans, but it was fucking Week 1. Lots of football left to go, fellas. And we'd like to have it without the Steelers being the darlings of the fuckwit pundits.

UPDATE: Let's throw jilted Pats homer Bill Simmons in with his ESPN compadres:

Q: Outside of the fans of every other AFC East team, the happiest person in the world today might be Bridget Moynahan. Seriously, no one thought to take away her voodoo doll after the Super Bowl?
-- J. Ponton, New York

SG: I'd throw in all the Steelers -- they're the clear AFC favorites right now.

Oh yeah. I'm pretty sure he had us a noncontending playoff team a week ago.


Brady Out For Season

Yahoo's Michael Silver is reporting Tom Brady is out for the season with a torn ACL as a result of a hit made on him by Chiefs safety Bernard Pollard early in the 1st quarter of the Patriot's game. The Pats still pulled out the win with Matt Cassel at the helm.

With this and the Chargers and Colts vomiting on themselves, suddenly...


So, I'm linking to these "Expert Picks" before ESPN rips them down.

The Steelers Are Looking Sexy

With the exception of a few disruptions by Mario Williams, the Steelers imposed their will on ever facet on today's pasting of the Texans. Willie Parker, who you might have passed over as 1st or 2nd round pick in fantasy for his difficulties getting in the endzone last year, drove in three scores while Hines Ward added the Steelers' two receiving TDs.

The offensive line for the most part played solid, with Chris Kemoeatu looking particularly impressive driving assignments well off the ball. LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison showed why they're going to be a fearsome outside rush tandem to contend with. Woodley had two sacks, a pick and a fumble recovery as the Steelers gave up nothing by garbage scores and a short-field field goal to the Houston offense.

Even the kick coverage teams performed well, which alone serves as enough of an indication that everything was going right. If you're looking for downsides, you can have misgivings about Ben getting banged up on the second to last play of the first half. In relief, Byron Leftwich would have looked better if Nate Washington could have hauled anything in. That and my fantasy team took a hit from the limited output from Santonio Holmes (or course, when you jump to that kind of lead, that's bound to happen).

If there's a theme to be gleaned from the Tomlin era from last year, it's that the Steelers come out of the gate strong, but this is no early-season-disheleved Browns or Bills team. Houston was and continues to be a borderline playoff team. It's an encouraging sign no doubt, and the Steelers have more insurance this year for durability concerns, but I'll wait to see if this kind of showing is the norm before getting truly carried away.


Let's. Go.


Steelers vs. Texans: Please Block Mario Williams

Last meeting: The Steelers rolled Houston at Reliant Stadium 27-7 in Week 2 of the '05 season, in which Ben had a passer rating of 139.8.

Where the Steelers should be fine

Stopping the run: Ahman Green, who missed almost all of preseason with a groin injury, is the starting back for the Texans until he gets hurt or Steve Slaton takes his job. Either of which are bound to happen by midseason. With Aaron Smith healthy again, Pittsburgh should be more than up to the task of snuffing out the ground game.

Containing the pass: The Texans line was never as bad as their sack totals made them look under David Carr, but it's not a great unit either. The vaunted improved Steelers pass rush is going to have to pressure Matt Schaub enough that he won't have time to find Andre Johnson on any deep routes.

Throwing the ball: That is, so long as Ben isn't being thrown to the turf by Mario Williams. Fortunately, the rest of the Texans' D-line can be dealt with if the Steelers can hatch an effective scheme while double teamming Mario. Houston's secondary is no great shakes either and I, for one, am looking forward to the Ben-to-Santonio bomb display the Steelers have been hinting at all preseason.

Areas of concern

Special teams: Until proven otherwise, return coverage is a problem and the Texans have a pretty good returner in Andre Davis, who led the NFL in kickoff TD returns last year with three. Uh, shit.

Surprise, pass blocking: As mentioned above, if Mario Williams can be contained, they offense should be fine, though that's always easier in theory.

Most prognosticators aren't believing the Steelers as nearly a touchdown favorite in this game. It could certainly be close, but - as we've come to expect - that pretty much boils down to the line. If they perform decently and Polamalu is sufficiently in shape to be a factor in the secondary, the Steelers could win this one going away, but such is the uncertainty of Week 1s, which, by the way, the Steelers have won five in a row.


Steeler Summer Movie Retrospective

I'm a shameless and unabashed couch potato. The only thing that gets me through the NFL offseason (other than whippets and March Madness) are summer movies. I fucking love'em. "Gimme some SnowCaps...you don't have any? FUCK! I'll be sneaking in to an adjacent movie as I exit the one I paid for to enact my revenge, you zit-faced chimp. Now, give me those Swedish Fish and a Mountain Dew big enough to wash a child in. "

Anyway, allow me to rationalize the following by saying, "Here's this." I eagerly await your additional suggestions in the comments.

"The Dark Knight" - Ben Roethlisberger - More tickets bought for this one than any other; can work magic in a pinch; Oscar/MVP a real possibility

"Death Race" - Sean Mahan - That was fucking horrid, can I get a ticket refund?

"Iron Man" - Santonio Holmes - Explosions all over the damn place; This guy can fly

"Kung Fu Panda" - Byron Leftwich - whatever.

"The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian" - Willie Parker - Sequel; Loads of special effects, but as good as the first time around?

"The Incredible Hulk" - Justin Hartwig - Please, God?

"Tropic Thunder" - Rashard Mendenhall - The new one everbody's talking about; can it take over for the reigning blockbuster?

"Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay" - Charlie Batch - 2nd time around had flop written all over it; still warms our hearts to remember the good times; See'ya Chuck

"Wall-E" - Chris Kemoeatu - Get it, WALL-E? Wow, I'm desperate here

"Hellboy II: The Golden Army" - Heath Miller - Untraditional hero; flew right under most peoples' radar; true fans know how good it is

"Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" - Hines Ward - Old but dependable; Younger leading man (Holmes/LaBeouf) stealing scenes now

"Pineapple Express" - Limas Sweed - Haven't seen it yet, but loads of potential, if it doesn't drop the ball; Weed

"Hancock" - Nate Washington - Shit. Iron Man and Indiana Jones are sold out. Wanna see this one?