Spotted seven points on a short field, the Patriots could nothing against the Steelers. They couldn't stop lengthy Pitsburgh drives, they could only hope for drops. They couldn't throw the ball, they could only hope for shotgun draws being sprung for long gains.
Randy Moss, who complained last week of the disrespect showed him by the Dolphins by single-covering him, dropped vital pass after vital pass. Not that the Steelers receivers didn't find opportunities to flub passes. There were plenty of drops to go around. But Pittsburgh found ways to persevere, to allow the defense to dominate while mostly granting the offense safe throws.
Bruce Arians, naturally, did what he did to stifle offensive progress, forcing the offense into 2nd and short five-wideout empty sets when the run had been working. The team looked very stiff early on, with Carey Davis nearly coughing up the opening kickoff and Roethlisberger serving up an opening drive interception.
The use of Willie Parker was bizarre, as he picked up an early first down, then was all but abandoned until midway through the second half, when he came back looking impressive once again. Perhaps that was an intentional move to save a limited back for a crucial moment in a big game, but Willie looked much better than he did against Cincinnati.
If there's any doubt that James Harrison belongs in the mix for NFL MVP, let it be gone after this game. Silverback blew away the best member of the Pats O-line for two strip-sacks for turnovers. Woodley got a sack at the end for good measure, but Harrison owned the pass rush once the Steelers got the lead in the second half and turned the rush loose. With the three sacks notched between Woodley and Harrison, they set a new record for a Steelers tandem, like we all expected they might.
This win was the most dominant since the blowout victory over the Texans in Week 1, against a team that has dogged Pittsburgh for the entire decade. On a day where the Jets where looked inept, the Steelers took a big step toward a first-round bye. Next week against a rebounding Dallas will be huge, with a looming Ravens rematch following on its heels.
The Steelers were busy returning castoff parts this week, welcoming back Mitch Berger, for obvious Paul Ernster is horrible reasons, and Najeh Davenport today, for, one assumes, just to have another body taking up a running back roster sport. If I trust my instincts, and I don't really, I think this means Gary Russell will be getting a larger portion of the carries until Willie returns and Najeh may unfortunately resume kickoff return duties.
And Anthony Smith: we know the equivocating thing you said earlier in the week wasn't actually a guarantee. Hell, what you said last year wasn't much different, but ESPN ran with it anyway. Just stop talking. Don't give the media an opportunity to motivate New England, because they're going to take it every time.
And of course Matt Light wasn't suspended. Even if he was, he would have appealed and played Sunday. Whatevs. No need to count on the misfortunes of other teams. Woodley and Harrison have to get to Cassel no matter who's blocking them.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is reporting that a new, updated version of the above famous ad has been filmed with Troy Polamalu and is set to air during this year's Super Bowl. The original Coca-Cola spot is routinely labeled as one of the best Super Bowl commercials of all time, mainly because Joe Greene is still so bad-ass that nobody wants to tell him that he can't act for shit. I, for one, am excited to see Troy's reprise of the role and am holding out hope that Roethlisberger will be putting out an album in time for the holidays.
Perhaps a little extra to be thankful for this holiday season?
Early indications are that the above video from last week's match-up between Miami and New England, currently in the hands of NFL executives, may be persuasive enough to result in some form of suspension for Patriots left tackle Matt Light. A two time Pro-Bowler, Light represents the biggest obstacle between a Steelers' pass rush that leads the league in sacks with 37 and current QB du'jour Matt Cassel. Both Light and Channing Crowder threw blows in the above clip and were subsequently ejected from the game by officials.
I mean, you can't just punch a guy without a helmet, right?
Okay, I know that sounds like a "Axis of Evil"-like Bushism, but it's the best I got while drunk on a Sunday evening. Anyway, the brief respite is over and now the Steelers are staring down a three-game stretch against the teams most hated by their fans (okay, at least me) that will decide whether they can earn a first-round bye, or even make the playoffs at all.
As much as I reveled in the back-to-back wins over the then-unbeaten Patriots and Eagles in 2004, I think a run through this gauntlet would top even that. And though the Cowboys and Patriots don't look like the intimidating twosome they would have before the season, the Cowboys seem to be getting back on their feet while the Patriots have managed to fully adapt to having Matt Cassel under center. More troubling is while Cassel has mostly struggled to complete passes of 20 or more yards, he did so with regularity Sunday against a good Miami defense. Obviously, Dick LeBeau will throw things at him he hasn't seem yet in his career, but I imagine the Pats will try to counteract the blitzes the same way the Bengals did on their opening drive: with a series of short, quick passes. Certainly there are few receivers in the game better for that than Wes Welker.
I don't necessarily mind that the Patriots won today. Had they fallen to Miami, New England would have been a 6-5 team with its back to the wall going into a pivotal home game. I don't think them being 7-4 exactly makes them laid back, but there's a appreciable difference in the urgency of winning their next game.
As for the business at hand, it looks like the writing is on the wall for Paul Ernster, yet I've still yet to hear any news as to his release or the search for a quick replacement. There's really no sense going forward with a guy who averages 28.5 yards per kick. You might as well go for every 4th down. I'm sure the status of Bryant McFadden and Deshea Townsend will be closely watched this week. McFadden seemed like he was close to being back against the Bengals even with the short week, so hopefully that means good things for next Sunday.
It's really important that the secondary gets back to full strength, after all, the Steelers would hate to disrespect Randy Moss by only sticking one guy on him.
Only against the Bengals can a Steelers team look to be sleepwalking through a game and still win by three scores. The running games never got going until late, the defense sat back and the Bengals bring the suck to them and there were still drive killing penalties and drops aplenty. Hell, Hines even had two.
It will be interesting to see whether Willie Parker came into this game more banged up than he did against the Chargers, because he certainly looked the part. After breaking a game-long 15-yard run, in which he looked to be hampering coming off the end, Parker retired to the sideline and didn't get another touch the rest of the game. Meanwhile, Mewelde Moore, a week after it looked like he wouldn't fit in well with FWP running well and Gary Russell taking the short yardage assignments, looked a hell of a lot better and made things happen in space. Speaking of Russell, he parlayed another opportunity to win his positional player to a few critical conversions and a TD run. Tomlin remarked that they thought they found something with Russell in the Chargers game and they may be right. While certainly no game-breaking talent, he's huge improvement other the two running back alternatives in those situations, or even than how Najeh executed last year.
Heath Miller, who only had faint chances of even being able to play, was utilized better than he had been prior to his injury, even if he drew one holding call on a drive in which he ended up making a big catch and later scoring. The odd standout player on the offense was Santonio Holmes, who had one of his better games of the season and was doing some smart route running for a change. You could say that Ben fared better as well, but there were a number of dropbacks where he looked very indecision, pumped six times and still nearly threw a pick. Though the stats looked better, this was a regression from the play we saw from him last week.
Fortunately Bryant McFadden will likely return last week. If this was not Cincy (or possibly the Browns) being a team they can count on for for drops, the defense could have been burned much worse than it was. Bengals receivers were wide open on more than a few occasions. Granted Cincy executed their gameplan well (then oddly abandoned it) connecting on short passes to move the ball down the field. The Steelers didn't cause as much disruption until the game was already essentially decided. The run defense was stout, but when is it not going to be against Cedric Benson?
I'm sure a hardy round of "I'll take it"s are in order, but the team is going to have to play with a little more fire under it's ass to deal with the Patriots-Cowboys-Ravens-Titans foursome coming down the pike.
BREAKING NEWS: According to James Walker over at ESPN.com, everyone's favorite bombastic (stress the ASS) receiver will not be suiting up for the Bengals tonight. The team has not elaborated on why Chad Johnson will be "deactivated." Johnson hasn't exactly been lighting it up this year, catching more than 5 balls only once (against the Steelers) and averaging only 38 yards receiving per game - yawn. He's definitely the #2 receiver behind TJ Houshmandzadeh who leads the NFL with 73 catches.
Former WVU and penal system standout Chris Henry will take his place.
UPDATE: It appears SOMETHING having to do with a team meeting last night is the cause of the deactivation, but there are conflicting reports as to the specifics. I don't give a shit.
In the truncated timetable that has been the last three days leading up to tomorrow’s contest, the Steelers’ media buzz has focused on 1)the gambling debacle as a result of the blown call finale on Sunday, 2) the apparent threats levied by the Bengals on Hines Ward as result of his jaw-breaking hit on Keith Rivers, 3) Big Ben’s BBQ sauce and body guard, and 4) that things have gotten so bad in Bengal-land that the fans are literally organizing a smear campaign against their own team’s management. (Take note, Pirates fans).
That being said, the Fightin’ Fitzpatricks did manage to eek a draw out of last week’s contest against the Eagles. And Just as my retarded cousin Ned could ruin next Thursday’s festivities by putting his dick in the stuffing, so too can the Bengals find a way to disrupt our playoff run.
The Steeler Defense should give us a decent cushion for offensive miscues/shitty play-calling. Hopefully we’ve learned from Sunday’s squeaker and a decent mix of shorter passes and FWP is in order until we can open it up with “Tone” (as Ben apparently enjoys referring to #10). Better kick coverage and a reduction in penalties (especially false starts) are also sorely needed.
HOPEFULLY, we’re looking at 8-3 with a 9 day rest before heading up to Foxboro without any sort of bad taste in our mouth from the retards…
The defense didn't play a perfect game yesterday, but between Troy Polamalu and James Harrison alone, they came up with a season's worth of huge plays. And, hey, at least that unit didn't get reamed by Brandon Jacobs the way the Ravens did.
The Steelers, in spite of themselves, in spite of one-sided officiating, found a way to win a critical game at home against an overmatched opponent.
For the most part, it was because of the stout play of James Harrison and, for once, the relatively savvy play calling of Bruce Arians that delivered the win to the Steelers' column. Granted, the call on the opening drive 4th and 1, with the play that failed against the Colts employed again, was terrible, but the planning for safe and superb against the Chargers. It allowed the offense to have safe progress against an allowing San Diego defense.
Having the burst of Willie Parker back was a huge plus. For weeks, I had thought that Mewelde Moore could supplant Willie with no discernable change, but Parker proved without a doubt that he is by far the no. 1 running back without a shadow of a doubt.
It would be nice if the Steelers used the tight end as much with Heath Miller in the game as much as they did with Spaeth as the easy dump off target. Nonetheless, the defense made the plays that it needed to while the offense ate up clock. William Gay was exemplary for the defense while making tackles close on the defense.
While the offense needs better execution in the red zone, the defense can keep anyone in the game. Hines is coming up better as a go-to receiver in the offense and Santonio isn't making as many fuckwited plays as he has in previous weeks. If the teams can convert as many opportunies as it has in recent weeks in the future, the Steelers will be a force to reconed with.
Also, let's thanks the Gianta for laying the wood the the bullshit Ravens. Baltimore is now 1-3 against teams with a winning record. What chance is there fort this team to catch us? Not much of one.
He may not be firing Bruce Arians, who was the subject of a defensive Bob Smizik column that I don't even want to get into, but it seems as though Mike Tomlin has at least been a little more visibly emotive this season.
Perhaps it's the confidence that comes with having his first season as head coach under his belt, but his gameday persona has been a lot more excitable than the mostly sedate be-sunglassed guy who patrolled the sidelines last year. Whether that translates into better play from the Steelers seems to be pretty negligible, but at least it provides the viewers at home some pretty good reaction shots.
While the Jets snagged Ty Law, the Steelers brought on Fernando Bryant to shore up their increasingly depleted secondary, so hopefully William Gay won't be called upon to cover anyone's no. 2 receiver man-to-man again anytime soon. Meanwhile, FWP's staus seems to be improving slightly, as does LaMarr Woodley's (thank God), while Big Ben is actually being required to practice. Funny how quarterback's have trouble doing the Plaxico practice-once-all-week-and-play Sunday routine.
So I says to him, I says, "You would never see Clementy's Porto Reekin ass getting sacked and throwin into double fuckin coverage. N'ats when it hit me: Greatest Idea Ever. Somebody should take da greatest fielder ever to roam the hallowed grounds of Forbes and Three Rivers and put his name on a Stiller Jersey. I'm wearin this shit ALL YEAR - can't wait to see everyone at Saturday Mass' reaction: EPIC. Fuckin'A. Next, I'm thinkin a takin my ol' Faneca 66 and puttin Lemieux onna back..."
Ben Roethlisberger cost the Steelers the game. As did Bruce Arians, but then that's nothing new. Two critical, horribly thrown interceptions on their side of the field set the Colts up for more than half of their points, at least the ones not set up by tipped balls by Ike Taylor.
Arians is fine for putting together an opening scoring drive, which the Steelers parlayed again for an early lead. The Colts got some lucky breaks, but the Steelers were able to temporarily pull away. Playing it smart, the Steelers at worst would have allowed the Colts to cut the lead to 17-10 going into the break, but Arians ran a maddening slant pattern on a 3rd and 2 from inside their 20. There was no way the play was to be completed, even if the pass wasn't darted directly to Keiwan Ratliff.
Granted, minus the cadre of players that included Heath Miller, LaMarr Woodley and Bryant McFadden, the schemes were altered as they have been all year with the high frequency of injuries. James Harrison still got good pressure without his partner on the opposite side of the defense. It's curious how many times Harrison is clearly held any given game, with the lineman never flagged, meanwhile Max Starks is called out by referees at the first opportunity to stall a Steelers drive.
Ben has one touchdown and eight interceptions in the last four games. It stands to reason he is injured to the point that it affects his game or that he is going through a slump that requires more than empty pledges to get better. Ben was not overly pressured by the Colts front seven. This wasn't like against the Giants or Eagles. Those were forced passes into coverage. The defense wasnt playing the shutdown game it did against Washington, but it didn't need the added burden of short fields against a superstar quarterback.
To be fair, it's an offensive-wide deficiency that is enabling teams to play tight on the Steelers. With a shitty line and receivers who aren't great at breaking free deep in a hurry, defenses can afford to create pressure before needlessly complex routes develop. At least with Leftwich, the team has a quarterback with an arm not compromised by a hurt shoulder and Arians knows not to design plays that take forever to develop. It change won't happen, of course, which is why the the team has to hope everyone gets healthy soon enough to staunch the bleeding.
While an MRI may not reveal a injury to Ben Roethlisberger that would make him physically unable to perform Sunday, it would still be best to gve Byron Leftwich a crack against a familiar foe. Ben's assurances that he will suddenly step up his play sounds like characteristic stubbornness that defines his tendency to try to shake off his oncoming defensive lineman. Maybe he's become more conscious of his habit to hold the ball and, seeing how effective Leftwich was with three- and five-step drops against Washington, will try to modify his appraoch. But I'm skeptical and even moreso that his shoulder wouldn't benefit from a week off.
For the fifth time this year, it's Mewelde Moore lining up at halfback, which obviously isn't a huge concern, though the parade of Willie Parker injuries - now his shoulder - isn't something Steelers fans can safely assume will curtail in time for the playoffs. Considering how much success the Steelers had using Heath Miller in the playoff victory in Indy in '05, his being out has me more uneasy than it normally would.
As has been noted, Mike Tomlin, who noted Steelers hater Bill Simmons calls the best young coach in the NFL in this week's picks column, will get a chance at his coaching mentor Tony Dungy, who got his first NFL coaching job under Chuck Noll. So, indirectly this is Tomlin vs. Noll, right? Finally it gets settled. Okay, maybe not.
With Ryan Clark returning, Bryant McFadden remains the last vital cog of the league's top defense not suiting up against a Colts' offensive attack that was still plodding even in a supposed season-saving victory at home against the Patriots last week. Joseph Addai is still questionable with a lingering hamstring injury. No doubt the NFL will find new, innovative ways to fine the Steelers for so much as batting down on Peyton's passes in aggression. Apparently Pittsburgh is expected to serve drinks to opponents as they usher them into the endzone.
Well, well, well. Here we are again, taking stock of the Steelers’ potential playoff positioning -fucking alliteration, man! After eight weeks of gloriousness that is the NFL season the following has been ascertained: We have less money in our bank accounts as a result of either stock market shit-storms or gambling attrition. Our teams’ injury report has a league leading 11 players on it. The all-mighty goal of PARITY has officially been achieved…NOBODY knows what’s going to happen in any game!
Once again, team capsule style by record followed by playoff predictions, like I’m some sort of fucking soothsayer, I know:
Tennessee (8- 0) – With a two win lead on the conference and Detroit, Cleveland and Houston remaining on their schedule, it appears likely the Titans will claim a first round bye. It seems so long ago that Vince Young’s one-man soap opera was the only news coming out of Nashville. This squad appears to have a lot going for it: Versatile running game, overpowering defense and a relatively stable quarterback. Look for
Pittsburgh (6-2) – A depleted roster and a decidedly difficult second half schedule with Tennesse, New England and Indy on it are concerns. But, we have 5 home games left and get both Cincy and Cleveland again, plus Dallas doesn’t look quite as intimidating.
Baltimore (5-3) – The thugs from out east are showing a bit more than I thought they could, but guess what: You still have a rookie quarterback (endurance issues), you haven’t played ANY of the NFC East squads and we hold the keys to the division. Personally, I still think they’ll get edged out of the wild card.
Buffalo (5-3) – Early season wins beginning to look less impressive and a battered secondary means an uphill climb, but the wild card is still a decent possibility. Still have the Pats twice so that’ll pretty much determine their fate.
NY Jets (5-3) –I reiterate: Favre is good for five or six wins a season based solely on his play-making and slinging of guns…problem is he’s also good for that many loses without a stellar D backing him up. Sub-par running game and a swish cheese secondary spell eventual doom for Gang Green, but they’ll make it interesting.
New England (5-3) – Goddamit. I fucking hate that these assholes MIGHT even make the playoffs. Everyone is going to be all over Belicheat’s dick about how he’s a genius for getting them there without Brady. Bullshit, your schedule and your division are easier than Lindsay Lohan this year. They finish with Arizona and Buffalo and I’m saying they’ll have to win both to make the dance, whatever, the East is a crapshoot.
Indianapolis (4-4) – The true enigma on this list. Took down the Pats (yes, it’s still somewhat meaningful) but were crushed by the Pack. They are 24th in the league against the run and are DEAD FUCKING LAST at running themselves with only70 ypg. Colts could win out or shit the bed, but my bet is on the later considering they are almost completely at the mercy of their remarkably average passing game.
Miami (4-4) – Bit of a surprise these guys are still hanging around and I doubt they’ll make the playoffs, but Ronnie Brown, Ted Ginn are marginal successes. As far as I’m concerned just about anything can happen in the East so why the hell not?
San Diego (3-5) – With 5 at home and no games where they’re likely to be double-digit dogs, except maybe Pittsburgh, I’m not ready to bury them yet. But injuries are a bigger concern here (Chambers, Cormartie, etc.). SOMEBODY has to come out of the West, I guess these are the guys
Jacksonville (3-5) – Apparently coach Del Rio is flipping out on these guys and rightfully so, their performance is not indicative of how much talent they have on the roster. All of their losses have been by 7 points or less, an indication that they could still make a run. But, losing two weeks in a row to the Ohio clubs probably keeps the playoffs a pipe dream.
Denver (4-4) – Broncos are 1-3 since we last took stock, they’re dropping like a stone in high altitude. Only 3 home games left, Cutler’s butchered hand and no real backfield to speak of keep them outside looking in.
Cleveland (3-5) – BRADY QUINN TIME! Watching this franchise from season to season is like witnessing a slow motion car crash – if Quinn was dazzling in practice he would have been given the reigns by now. I’m guessing maybe one more win the rest of the way for the Brownies.
Houston (3-5) – Ripped off three straight wins and then were narrowly edged by the Vikes on the road, with Rosenfels putting up decent numbers. The Texans are good enough to steal a few more, but a difficult schedule and their poor start dooms them.
“With the first overall pick…”
Oakland (2-6) – The Raiders only have one 100+ yard rushing game and none in the receiving department. Blow it up and start over. All of it.
Kansas City (1-7) – The Chiefs’ situation is grim, but Dwayne Bowe, Jamaal Charles and Tyler Thigpen may be things to build on. Seeya Herm.
Cincinnati (1-8) – Tim Tebow, Graham Harrell or Colt McCoy are winding up here – just depends on who the Lions take before them. I’ve been with chicks that fought harder on the first date than the Bengals. Pathetic.
Due to the current log-jam around the middle of the pack, the playoffs break-down for the Steelers is as follows: With eight games left, winning three or less will likely keep us out, four and we’ll take the division, but only five wins could get us a first round bye (likely the 2 seed).
South – Tennessee 13-3 (BYE)
North – Pittsburgh 11-5 (BYE)
East – New England 10-6
West –San Diego 9-7
Wild Card – Buffalo 9-7
Wild Card – Indianapolis 9-7
(Don't hold me to this shit...)
COME BACK SPATULA!
Also, thanks to Rob Ullman for the improved banner.
Embarrassed that the Steelers wrecked their shit and that Pittsburgh fans overwhelmed FedEx Field, Redskins players were none too happy about playing in front of a less than fully receptive crowd in their home stadium.
In particular, Redskins receiver Santana Moss was vocal on the subject:
Oh noes! An undersized receiver is looking for us! Everybody rrrrrruuuunnnn!
"I'm like are those yellow towels for us or for them?" Santana Moss said. "I really scratched my head about it, because I've never seen it done, especially at FedEx, to have someone come into our home and almost have more fans than we did. You know, you never know what reason. I didn't know if those guys was all from here, but I'm gonna go look for them. I'm going to find every Steelers fan I can find in the D.C. area."
Well, Santana. Since you're free on your bye week, feel free to drop by the Pour House for the Steelers-Colts tilt. You might even find some Steelers fans from the D.C. area!
Granting the Redskins their first two drives on the Steelers side of the field, the first from an unsuccessful surprise onside kick, the other from a tipped Roethlisberger interception, the defense rose up from backed against the wall, much like it did against New York the week before and stopped the bleeding before the game was out of hand. It turns out that was all the offense Washington could muster, and the Steelers eventually broke through with points of turnovers and long drives of their own.
Much will be made of the eye-opening performance by Byron Leftwich in relief of Roethlisberger in the second half, and it was certainly the best he's looked by far in a Steelers uniform. He was doing a lot of what Ben has failed to do much of the season: drop back and get rid of the ball. And he was on target and poised. That said, I'm not exactly ready to anoint him the next starter and the team suffers greatly if Ben is absent an extended period of time. Should it be only one game, I like Leftwich's familiarity with the Colts' defense going into next week.
I was glad to see Mewelde Moore returning kicks last night, though the outcome didn't look to be much better than when Najeh was doing it in weeks past. With a score in the second half, Santonio somewhat redeemed an otherwise sloppy performance in his first game back. I wasn't aware of the Heath Miller injury until after the game, and I'm trying to find out when he tweaked the ankle. Even though Arians, as is the wont with most Steelers' offensive coordinators, isn't able to utilize Miller as much as he should, having him out of the lineup looks like it hurts as much as Ben at this point.
Willie Parker looked to be all the back from his recent setbacks. He had good burst to the outside against a solid Redskins run D.
But this was a night when LaMarr and Silverback and the rest of the defensive unit deserve all the credit. After barely breathing on Eli Manning last week, they overwhelmed Jason Campbell with pressure all night, dropping him for sacks seven times, while blanketing the less-than-productive Antwaan Randle El, holding him and Santana Moss to a combined five catches for 36 yards.
From my perspective in the crowd, the attendance split looked to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 50-50. I know Steelers fans "travel" well (they're really just everywhere), but what an absolutely pathetic showing by Washington fans. This was a prime time televised game against a marquee opponent when your team's record coming in was 6-2. I really never again want to hear what great fans the Redskins have from people in this area.
It looks as though LaMarr Woodley and Chris Kemoeatu are dealing with minor injuries, two players the team desperately needs to play well against the 'Skins. On the other side of the ball, it looks as though Santana Moss' hammy problems are worse than expected immediately after the Lions game and he's determined to be a gametime decision for the 'Skins. Not sure Randle El is quite prepared to be the primary target for any team at receiver.
Joe Starkey has a good coulmn today on the woes of the kick return game and I couldn't agree more. Once Parker goes back to full strength, I would like to see Mewelde take over for both punt and kick return duties, in addition to being a back that spells Willie. That's the role MJD has run in Jacksonville, and it's certainly seemed to work fine for them.
And while Aaron Smith has been dealing with the reported problems with his kid, Troy Polamalu's wife gave birth to their first child yesterday. So congrats to our one healthy safety on that. Presumably Nike is already shooting footage of the kid for future commercial use.
Note: As you probably noticed, I changed the banner. The skyline banner, coupled with the Washington Monument drawing on the sidebar, seemed a little redundant, so I tried to play on the whole patriotic flag motif. Let me if it works, sucks, what have you.