Woodson Goes to the Hall; Dawson Falls Short

As was expected, Rod Woodson was elected to the Hall of Fame today. Hot Rod played 10 years with the Steelers, snagging 38 of his third all-time 71 career interceptions with the team. I met him over the summer and told him I obviously killed me that he got his only ring with the Ratbirds and asked him what team he would go into the Hall with if he got elected (which I thought you had to do). He said though he would definitely go in as a Steeler.

His was also the first Steelers jersey I owned. It killed me when he went down with a torn ACL in Week 1 of the '95 season, but his was the first great recovery from that injury (he was able to play sparingly in Super Bowl XXX) before it became more commonplace for players to rebound quickly from it. The team gave him a bit of a raw deal following the '96 season. It was clear he didn't have the speed to still be a dominant corner but he still made the transition to a top-flight safety for the rest of his career.


Time to Win Number Six

By now if you've watched any of the run-up coverage to the Super Bowl, you've doubtlessly been convinced Larry Fitzgerald is going to finish with 35 catches for 400 yards and five scores, while Jesus will descend from on high to hand Kurt Warner the Lombardi Trophy. Given, like the Phoenix mayor stomping the Terrible Towel, this is only something that's going to rile the fans up, but it's done the trick for me.

Behind the Steel Curtain echoes a point that I've been mulling over the past two weeks: that the Cardinals will come out and try to attack the Steelers much the way the Patriots usually do, with four and five wide shotgun spread sets to minimize the impact of the blitz. In this case, Lawrence Timmons could play a huge role in this game, which is a prospect I'm fairly comfortable with.

No matter what, the Steelers can't afford a repeat of the opening quarter of Super Bowl XL, where they didn't register a single first down and, had the Seahawks been able to capitalize, could have found themselves in a huge hole. I don't think the game is necessarily over should the Steelers find themselves down 10 in the first half, but looking up two scores in the second is not a scenario from which they may be able to recover. In their playoff wins, the Cards have jumped to early leads. I wouldn't be surprised to see Arizona take a gamble on a big play in their first set of downs. This means Pittsburgh's offense can't take a quarter to get going, as was also the case against the Chargers.

Who has to come up big for the Steelers to prevail? Let's say everyone, but a few more than most:

Willie Parker -- Willie struggled against the Cards last year and as a result the offense as a whole was stagnant. If Willie's putting up big numbers, the Steelers are doing well and not playing from behind. With Hines' efficiency up in the air, Arizona will do whatever they can to make sure the Steelers can't dominate with the run. But then they're not the Ravens.

LaMarr Woodley/James Harrison/Aaron Smith -- With the defense likely having to commit more coverage schemes, the big pass rushers are going to have to come up with a lot of pressure. Woodley has excelled in the off-season with a little rest. Silverback has yet to register a sack but he's gotten a lot of hurries in the two playoff games. If these three can get pressure on their own, the Cards may have to abandon spread schemes.

Lawrence Timmons -- As noted above, he'll be critical in coverage of tight ends or perhaps Jerheme Urban. If the Steelers are able to force turnovers, I can see him getting one.

Ike Taylor -- Yeah, yeah, we've heard that no one man can conceivably cover Larry Fitzgerald and live to tell about it. Fitty can come down with the ball even when well-covered and he'll get a few balls no matter what. I think Ike will surprise some people though. Not saying he can shutdown Fitty, but he's been matched up on Moss, T.O. and other top wideouts this year and held his own. Wouldn't be shocked if he can do the same here.

Ben Roethlisberger -- The trend of no turnovers this off-season has to continue. Whiz knows to try to keep him in the pocket, though doing that should limit the amnount of pressure he'll get up the middle and may require the Cardinals to send corners on blitzes.

Hines Ward -- If Hines has even something like five catches for 60 yards, it's a tremendous success for him. I don't think it can be discounted with his presence as a blocker can do for a running game that needs to be productive. Another MVP isn't likely for him, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him make a welcome contribution in a victory.

Mitch Berger --Shanks, let's not have them.

Heath Miller -- Can never reinterate enough that he could play a bigger part in the passing game. Thought he would have a huge on against San Diego. Philly's tight ends torched Arizona two weeks ago. The chances will be there if Heath isn't stuck on blocking assignments.

For fans of a team that won a title three years ago, the motivation to win another should be hard to go by. But given how much grief the Steelers took after the last one (the first of many of our lifetimes, including mine) winning this one not only gives us more bragging rights but further validates the outcome of Super Bowl XL, rendering all the talk of "The refs gave you a title" and "Ben sucked in the big game" moot. What's more, it could definitively quiet the dwindling remainder of Mike Tomlin doubters. And put a cap on improbable run through a season stacked against with steep challenges and emotional contests.

DC Steeler Nation on News 4

DCSN president Katie Gorscak interviewed with local news here in D.C. about the bar and the fan club. Hey, I don't remember memberships being free. I've been bilked. The local news had to take an economic angle, because, well, they're local news hacks. Like I'd be throwing down a couple grand even if not as many other people were unemployed.


Ben X-Ray Rumor Gives Us Something Else to Worry About

ProFootballTalk got the ball rolling this morning on a rumor about Ben Roethlisberger getting a furtive X-Ray on his ribs yesterday. When asked by Gregg Rosenthal of NBCSports, Roethlisberger issued a fishy sounding non-denial about it.

My guess is that it's likely a precautionary thing. If any play caused a problem with his ribs, it was the latest of the cheap shots the Ravens have taken on Ben well after he's released the ball. This one happened in the first quarter of the AFC Title Game. Of course, all the talk afterward was about Willis McGahee and Ryan Clark and not this. Typical. Remember not long after this hit, Ben was shown getting checked by two assistants in the tunnel and Byron Leftwich briefly started warming up.

But Ben played the remainder of the game not showing any signs of being pained (at least to the TV audience) and hasn't missed any practice time or shown up on injury reports, so even if the report is true, I doubt it's likely to lead to him missing any snaps in the Super Bowl.

Because It's Not Sunday Yet: More Internet Marginalia

With all the horrible Steelers-related YouTubage out there, I thought I would post an example of our fans using the technology for the forces of good. I picked up on Yinz Luv Da Stillers midway through the season and the low-budget/no-budget homemade football web show became an instant part of the increasingly elaborate routine in the run-up to games, which has claimed absolute dominion over my life. Not sure that's a bad thing.

And because it's been e-mailed to me by roughly 100,000 people, I present the following:

On the news front, Santonio copped to selling drugs when he was a kid, which is a ballsy admission to the media during Super Bowl week. I'm just surprised he wasn't doing porn.

Other than that: ESPN still fellating speculating on Warner's chance at the Hall non-stop; Sean McHugh: still happy not to be a Lion; Cardinals still Fart Boxing; Today still stubbornly not being Sunday. Guh.




Dem boys in Black ‘n Gold squashed dem birdies from Balteemore last week, youbetcha! It was a game for da ages. Big Ben yooked pretty good and hasn’t thrown a pick for four games now. The Ravens did manage to knock him on his dupa a couple a times, but when it caunted he got that pill to Santonio. Everyone is nebbin araund abaut Hineses health since he rolled up dat knee, they outta yeave him be, he’ll be ought der Sundy, you can bookit. I yove da way Troy zips around dat field with da ball,Yoi! He’s one of da best I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen a yot over da years.

So here we are, kiddies, Super Bowl 43. I remember the great teams of the 70s and their runs, and I gotta tell ya, dis team is poised to join em as one of the best defenses to raise dat Yombardi.

I gotta comment on an incident earlier dis week. Da Arizona Cardinals (who I wasn’t sure even were in da yeague anymore) saw fit to disgrace my Towel, as you can see. Now, I’m a genery even tempered man, especially from my vantage point up here in the big Cabana in da sky, but dis really steamed my clams! Do they know what happened to da Bungles when dey did dis a few years ago?

Dem boys dawn in Tennesee ain’t won since dey stomped on it! I dink it’s high time dey yook into what a valuable ding the Towel is, how it helps others. It’s a beacon to Steeler Nation! Hmm-hah! I would dink they wouldn’t wanna do anything to make der job tougher, Sundy.

Okel Dokel, onto Cope's "Key Matchups":

1) Passing Attacks vs. Secondaries: Everyone is makin a bid deal about the Cards’ Yarry Fitz, and dats true, but their pass defense is 29th in the yeague. Feh. Dis game’ll be more abaut first dawns den yong bombs.

2) Scrambling QBs: Deez quarterbacks are probably da two best at feeling pressure. And Warner’s gonna need it, cuz he’s gonna feel more than my prostate, Sundy. If he can fire it aught before Woodley, Harrison, Farrior and dem can get to him, watch aught.

3) Ground Attacks: Da Cards don’t really have a running game unless dey can jump start James or Hightower, but if Willie can get aught der and rip off a few earlier, watch aught! Also, yook for Mewelde to take a few dumps aughtta da backfield.

4) Pressure vs. Performance: Da Stillers were here 3 years ago (and so was I), but only a handful of fellas from the Cards have been, can Warner lead dem where dey need to go?

Da Cope-ra-scope was dialed in again, yast week. This week's prediction: 29-17, Stillers. Go aught der and win one for me, boys. God, I miss yah.

Bye now.


Yellow Gatorade Seems Popular

No matter what flavor you got, just don't dump it on Tomlin.

And, if I may ask a favor of my fellow Steelers fans - STOP THE LAME SONG PARODIES! NOW!

/realizes futility of request

Super Bowl Media Day: Still Unwatchable

You would think having your team in the Super Bowl would make this shitshow (the fact that it's sponsored by Golden Corral should be a tip-off) slightly more appealing. But no, it doesn't. In fact, it makes you all the more irritated when the talking heads push storylines that don't really exist, like the Steelers being the Goliath in this match-up. Yes, they're touchdown favorites, but the Cardinals historic futility means exactly jackshit in this game. They have players and coaches who have been to the Super Bowl. Let's not pretend that the history of the franchise wipes that away. Moreover, Marshall Faulk claimed that Ben Roethlisberger "can't be sacked," which nearly made me launch my laptop through my TV.


Coke Zero With a Twist

I wrote back in November about Troy Polamalu's reprisal of Mean Joe Greene's famed Super Bowl ad. And now the fine people at Coca-Cola have seen fit to let slip this little tidbit. Apparently, there's some sort of "twist" to this version. Whatever.

I hate that we, as eager fans are forced to suckle at the teet that is methodically planned-out media hoopla. I picture the unweildy execs down in Atlanta watching with delight as this Youtube clip's #s swell.

"Dance, minions, Dance!"

'Bout Damn Time

Finally, enough with the agonizingly long bye week. Let's play a football game.

Okay, there's still the matter of a huge media circus.

The Soft Focus Profile Targets for the Steelers

The Post-Gazette seems to be casting around for advance hype stories prior to media day tomorrow, detailing the obscure quasi-redemption story of Fernando Bryant, who got close to going to a Super Bowl that one time and now has a chance to play in the big game after 10 years and yadda, yadda, yadda, he only plays in dime coverage.

Because we're only three years removed from the last Steelers championship, it's hard to dig up a lot of stories of underdogs who would make nice stories if they got their first title. But there remain a few on the Steelers squad nonetheless.

Mike Tomlin -- Okay, okay, he has a ring from his days as secondary coach in Tampa, but even Tomlin acknowledges that he doesn't think much of it (not sure I totally believe that, but sure). But because of the match-up with Whisenhunt, the Super Bowl becomes a referendum on the Steelers choice to go with Tomlin. The guy's had his detractors among Steelers fans, angry that he hasn't deposed Bruce Arians among other complaints, though many of them appear to have quieted in recent weeks.

LaMarr Woodley -- Easily the best draft pick Tomlin has made in his two years here. Woodley seemed a very odd choice considering the Steelers had already taken Lawrence Timmons in the first round of the '07 draft, but Woodley has turned out to be a huge steal and one of the biggest differencemakers on the defense.

Ryan Clark -- It sucks that all the attention Clark gets is for his monster hits on Wes Welker and Willis McGahee, because he's been a huge factor in the secondary's rise to the league's top unit. Given the difference in the defense last year after he went out for the year to have his spleen removed, you would think he would be getting more credit this season. Outside of hardcore Steelers fans, it's sparse. For those readers of this blog who don't live in the D.C., it's hard to overstate how popular Clark remains with the fans of his old team. There was a Redskins fan who came into the bar because his Steeler fan girlfriend dragged him there, so he got a Ryan Clark Steeler jersey to wear under duress.

Santonio Holmes -- He's only now living up to the promise he had at the beginning of the year of becoming one of the NFL's primere wideouts. In his three years, he's shown just as many flashes of brilliance and inanity. It looks as though he starting to favor an inclination toward to former. Let's hope it stays that way.

Mewelde Moore -- With injuries to both of the highly touted backs they were staking their fortunes on at the beginning of the year, the team would be up shit creek if it weren't for Moore's performance during the middle part of the season. The best free agent signing the Steelers had this off-season, with the possible exception of...

Justin Hartwig -- He's not Sean Mahan, for one. Hartwig has played well, if not spectacularly, all season. With how bad the line has been at times, that's as high a praise I can confer.

Byron Leftwich -- Possibly the most popular Steeler reserve in some time, his biggest contribution, besides the second half of the Redskins Monday night game, was giving fans an alternative to pine for. I, like many fans, called for him to start for a while after the loss to the Colts in which. Nevertheless, the guy's been a pretty good QB in the league for a while, got semi-screwed in Jacksonville and it'd be nice to see him get a ring.

Conversely, here are a host of players/coaches not quite deserving of a title, but they'll have to lump it and get one anyway:

Bruce Arians -- The bete noire of all Steelers fans, I'm think we're all a little sickened that there's really no way he can be fired now. At least he already has a ring from '05 when he was the receivers coach,

Mitch Berger --It's a two-time marriage of necessity between the Steelers and Berger, because of the very, very unfortunate preseason injury to the robo-punter. And it's still not pretty. Berger was actually having a good game until he shanked the hell out of a punt late in the game. Unfortunately, those are the kind of things that can cost your team the season.

Willie Colon -- If he gets a Super Bowl ring, they should engrave "drive-killing holding penalty" or "drive-killing illegal formation penalty" on it. Both, if you can fit them.

Rashard Mendenhall -- Tempting as it is to put Limas Sweed here, at least Limas appears to be putting in some semblance of effort to get better. Reports say Rashard has been MIA from team headquarters or the sidelines since going on IR in Week 4. Your career isn't over rookie, you could possibly learn something from being around a team in a title chase.


LeBeau's Legacy

Lets start this piece by asking you a question of the utmost importance: Why do old people smell? It’s a particular odor, too. You know what I’m talking about. It permeates “Retirement Villages,” Grandma’s houses and Bingo halls everywhere. It’s a mixture of moth ball, Brylcreem, stuffiness and bagged-ass.

You know who I bet doesn’t smell old? Dick LeBeau. In fact, I bet ol’ Dick could still lay a few guys out if he decided to strap on the pads. Unlike many septuagenarians who are playing shuffleboard, gumming succotash or just fucking DEAD, LeBeau’s mind is razor sharp. So sharp, in fact that, he has again refined the art of NFL Defensive scheming. The author of the zone blitz, LeBeau had a distinguished career as a d-back before revolutionizing the game he loves so from the sidelines. Indeed, Dick didn’t fair as well in the headcoaching sector. Many would point to this as a slight negative , personally I’m glad as hell we have him and the fact that he (unlike certain Baltimore D Coordinators) isn’t looking on to greener pastures is fan-fucking-tastic. Incidentaly, I ran into Dick three weeks ago at Dunkin Donuts (you wouldn't catch him within 5 miles of a Starbucks) and he saw my apparel and approached me, asked about the games that day and if I'd caught the mess the Ravens had made of the Dolphins. I wasn't able to muster much other than a "uhuh" at first. But after ordering my 2 jelly-filleds and IV of joe, I was able to ask him what he thought of the game to which he responded, "They look tough. All the teams look tough. The Playoffs are the reward for a good season and it's just more tough work. But it's great."

FUCKIN'A, Mr. LeBeau.

This guy loves football. He eats, sleeps and breathes it. So much so that he approaches random idiots and starts convos about it. THAT is the kind of man I want leading my defense into battle. And so he has for the last 5 seasons for us, and 6 in a previous tour of duty.

Much has and will continue to be made about the coaching matchups headed into SB43, but make no mistake: LeBeau will have the utmost impact from the sidelines. Although an absolutely hollow award: Pro Football Weekly’s “Assistant of the Year” was recently bestowed on Dick, as far as I’m concerned just further cause to pause and raise one to the wizard behind the Curtain of Steel.

Analyzing the Cardinals Defectors

A lot is being made of the Pittsburgh - Pittsburgh West match-up in two weeks, so let's take a look at the departed Stillers and their possible impact on the Super Bowl.

Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm (Don't forget Kevin Spencer!)

The unchosen people.

Possible Super Bowl impact: Pretty goddamn high. If the Cards win, most likely Whiz will get all the credit (not undeservedly) for having the goods on the Steelers. The Steelers line is doing better with pass blocking (Ben had pretty good time on plays where Starks didn't toally whiff on one-armed Suggs). Obviously, we still miss Grimm in that regard. Little surprising that Grimm didn't get any looks again for head coaching jobs this go-around.

Sean Morey

Did you know he went to Brown? I wish Chris Berman would mention this. The Steelers certainly missed their special teams ace last year, but the coverage unit is looking considerably better this season.

Possible Super Bowl impact: Fairly decent. Sean had his big moment earlier this season when he blocked a punt in overtime against Dallas to secure a victory. The Steelers kickoff team isn't too likely to break a big one, but Santonio's been getting hot on punt returns of late.

Brian St. Pierre

Fear his one career pass attempt! (This isn't it. This picture is from a preseason game). The Steelers smartly dumped him in favor of Dennis Dixon, if only they would ever use him.

Possible Super Bowl impact: STARTING QUARTERBACK! At least in my dreams. If Bri-Bri gets in the game at any point, it probably means the Cards at up by 60 points. Or punter Dirk Johnson gets hurt and they need somebody to hold.

Clark Haggans/Jerame Tuman

Possible impact on the Super Bowl: None. Haggans, starting outside linebacker here as recently as last year, is on injured reserve and Tuman was released in December.

On a side note: more evidence Steelers fans are ubiquitous: here's a Terrible Towel in space.

And here is a Steelers contingent in Mexico.

So if Arizona wins, they're close enough to invade. Viva!


Can Hines Be More Than a Decoy in Tampa?

I don't think there's any doubt that Hines Ward will play in some capacity in the Super Bowl. No matter what his capabilities are, it's a contribution to the team. I mean, who else are they going to throw to besides Santonio, Nate and Heath Miller? Limas Sweed? I think he's (along with Arians) is the Steelers counter to Matt Leinart for "Asshole least deserving of a Super Bowl ring".

Anyway, for a receiver or a back to completely rebound from a sprained knee in two weeks is going to take a minor miracle. I have no doubt he'll play most of the game, but how much of a factor can he be? As Baltimore showed, without Hines, the offense is pretty easy to stifle, especially when the running game isn't doing shit. If Arizona can get ahead early, and I imagine they'll be employing a lot of Whisenhunt trickeration to do just that, I have serious concerns about the passing game being able to keep pace.

We all know Hines is going to do everything it takes to rehab the knee, but what contingencies does the offense have if he's not all the way back?


Terrible Towel at Inauguration

Being in D.C. and about the Steelers, I kinda sorta have to post this. I skipped out on the swearing-in ceremony today because I tooled around the Mall Sunday during the concert before the AFC Championship. And, yes, I waved a Terrible Towel behind where Anderson Cooper was filming. so I'm as bad as this guy.

Santonio Has a Battle Hat Too

A bunch of the Steelers took in Pitt's win over Syracuse last night. One commenter said they spotted Ben snacking on some Dippin Dots (must have been out of Choco Tacos). Most notable to me is the continued trend of Steelers "battle hats." Hines had his rocking last week on PTI. Now it's Santonio courtside.

Might not need that in Tampa. Be sure to bring the battle, if not the hat. Also, don't look glum. You're going to the Super Bowl.

An Early Look Back at Week 4, 2007

Obviously, over the next two weeks we're going to see plenty of footage of Ken Whisenhunt's Cardinals in the desert handing Mike Tomlin his first loss as Steelers head coach early last season. Taking a quick gaze back at the stat line, it followed the Cards' MO that given them success during these playoffs: Larry Fitzgerald had 10 catches for 120 yards (though he did lose a fumble), Edge James had a decent 21 carries for 77 yards while Arizona's defense held Willie Parker to 37 yards on 21 carries and intercepted Ben twice, once memorably in the endzone on a pass he tried to force to Heath Miller.

Remember, though, that Hines Ward did not play in that game, having been injured the week before against San Francisco. The Steelers were winning 7-0 at half, but the defense struggled when Polamalu left the game at the half with an injury.

Of the encouraging signs in what I remember being a flat performance out of the Steelers was Santonio Holmes hauling in six catches for 128 yards and two scores, including a huge Roethlisberger bomb on a 3rd and 26 to open scoring. A less comforting thought is that this happened when Whisenhunt was still foolishly shifting between Warner and Leinart at quarterback. Now it's clearly Warner's team and he's much more comfortable with the offense.

The time between then and now for young coaches is dramatic. The Steelers defense is improved. The Steelers, who gave up a huge return to Steve Breaston to set up a score, have shored up special teams coverage. Roethlisberger is playing smarter. Naturally, the key changes the Steelers will need to make is to get a semblance of a run game going, find a way to contain Fitzgerald and hope that Hines can be as close to 100 percent as possible in two weeks.

You could make an argument that Whiz and Grimm benefited early from a match-up at home that both were working for months earlier and that the team is much more Tomlin's animal now than it was then. Either way, they gameplanned well, and the Steelers will have to have answers for will probably be a similar strategy out of the Cards in two weeks.


Here We Go

Same lyrics from the 2007-2008 season, but with an updated montage. Enjoy it before they might have to update that "five-time Super Bowl champs" line.

Your AFC Playoffs Steelers MVPs: LaMarr Woodley and... Santonio Holmes?

With more of the opponent's attention focused on the defensive player of the year, LaMarr Woodley put up four sacks in two playoff games. Add that to the two he had in the game against Jacksonville last postseason and Woodley has six sacks in three playoff games. Not bad for the young guy.

I fault Santonio around here quite a bit for his proclivity for bonehead, absent-minded play. One-game suspension notwithstanding, the guy was a bit of a letdown in a regular season in which he was supposed to propel into the upper echelon of receivers in the league. But the guy made the big plays in the playoffs, keeping the Steelers in the game in the first half against San Diego and coming up with a punt-return-esque dash to the endzone on his touchdown reception yesterday. The guy is finally starting to live up to his potential and doing it at the right time. Nice when that happens.

Onward to Tampa and Tomlin's Validation

Heady times come with clinching a Bowl berth at home in these parts. In a season where they succeeded in winning on the road in Baltimore and New England, it makes sense that they can end the home AFC Title Game slide as well. In keeping with the tenor of this season, this win wasn't going to be pretty. The Steelers jumped to a 13-0 win despite being unable to get any run game going. With Hines Ward injured midway through the first quarter, the offense struggled to get anything going. It didn't help that Bruce Arians was a little too determined to have Willie Parker fall forward for one-yard gains.

Now, as then, as always, the defense was suffocating. Flacco was made to look every bit like a rookie. When the Ravens were granted a short field after a FWP fumble, the Steelers forced a turnover on downs when the Baltimore couldn't convert on consecutive short yardage plays. With Baltimore's focus on James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley went wild with two sacks and continued pressure.

It looked to almost come unglued in the second half when the Ravens closed the lead to 16-14. The offense missed its opportunity to get points late in the first half with drops and poor clock management, and that seemed like it would come back to bite them. At least until the rookie showed why he doesn't belong on the grandest stage.

The team gets to take the trip to Tampa to reunite with Whisenhunt on the big stage. Larry Fitzgerald looks pretty much unstoppable when he gets man-to-man coverage. Can the 'Zona defense continue to come up big? Can the Steelers make Kurt Warner finally show his fumbling ways? All of this is sure to be speculated over the next two weeks.

Before we get to those questions, a few requests. Please die Limas Sweed. Die Mitch Berger. Okay, Mitch booted a few decent punts for a change in this game and even prevented a Jim Leonhard touchdown with a fumble forcing tackle, but then he had to go and shank one in the clutch. The thought of the two of these clowns possibly getting a Super Bowl ring rivals Tommy Maddox getting one in 2005.

Finally, Troy -- I came into this game more worried about how he would play more than anyone else considering his injury. And he was his usual whirlwind self - throwing Flacco down seven yards in the backfield and making the game-sealing pick-six. Is there any doubt he's the best safety in the game?

Here's your bonus Sunday Ed Reed fail. Caw, caw, Santonio.


Let's Go

One of the most mind-boggling, logic-defying and yet, ever-present things in sports fandom is superstitions. However irrational or absurd the logic is behind such things, you will often hear inane ideas about how a specific behavior will control the outcome of a given athletic contest. A particular shirt being worn, sitting in a certain spot on the couch, not washing your crotch until a loss; everyone has their own thing.

This is, of course, all phenomenal bullshit.

These ideas are basically attributable to the “Butterfly Effect,” a derivation of the Chaos Theory which postulates that the fluttering of a butterfly’s wings in say, Coraopolis, could create minor changes in the atmosphere that would ultimately alter the path of a hurricane in the Philippines. Yes, there was a movie about this. Despite the marvelous thespian stylings of Ashton Kutcher, the “The Butterfly Effect,” was a 2 hour eye-rape. Sensible people don't give a shit about the myriad "alternative futures" that lay out there, unactualized. You live your normal life and your cheer on your fucking team.

But these are not normal times. Without heaping too much on, this is without question the most important meeting between these two teams. It’ll result in significant bragging rights, against a divisional rival, no less. For the readers, or at least writers of this blog, this game has the added significance of involving the team whose thuggish, asshole fans we must deal with day in and day out. So guess what, I’ll be donning my lucky hat, parking in the same spot, waving my unwashed Terrible Towel and going to the game with the same buddy that I did last week BECAUSE IT’S FUCKING JANUARY AND THE AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME AGAINST THE RAVENS. I’d light my sack on fire if I thought’d help us get a shot at a 6th ring. Halleluiah, Holy Shit…Where’s the Tylenol.

Leave your superstitions in the Comments, people.

Time to Exterminate the Ratbirds

And the fates have their way with the match-up everyone figured was coming and the Ravens claim to have been cheering for in retrospect. Believe me, there's nothing more the Steelers want than to quell the homefield demons with silencing all the Ravens who carped for weeks about Walt Coleman.

Most Steelers fans, myself included, aren't entirely convinced the offensive line magically turned a corner last week against the Chargers. FWP went for over 100 in the first game against San Diego and it seemed just as likely he would do it again. Granted, the line allowed three fewer sacks the second time around, but I'm not ready to pronounce them a satisfactory unit just yet. What would really help - what helped last week to get the offense going better than fake punts, what helped to get the first TD against the Ravens in Week 4 in Heinz - is the no-huddle. I figure with it taking Arians 17 weeks to embrace the I-formation, looking at multiple no-huddle drives in a playoff game may be a bit of a stretch, but if they go to it and build a lead, they can bury the rookie early.

Obviously, the run won't come easy, no matter how good it looked last week. Willie Parker's career high against the Ravens is 63 yards. He missed the first game at home, when the Steelers had to try to run half the game with Carey Davis and still won. Remember that Rashard Mendenhall was breaking off some nice runs until the Ravens pulled a Chris Johnson on him (or maybe they pulled a Rashard Mendenhall on Chris Johnson?). That said, if Willie peels off something in the range of 70-80 yards, we're looking at a good day.

As always in these contests, the key is turnovers. The Steelers conceded momentum in the first contest early when Ben had the ball slip out of his hand on the interception to Ngata and got it back with the strip-sack for a touchdown. In the second contest, the Ravens got an easy score of Santonio's fumble near our own end and the Steelers kept themselves alive by causing Flacco to fumble the ball out of field goal range on the Ravens' final drive.

The Ravens strategy with protecting Flacco has been a steady diet of dump passes followed by the occasional play-action chuck down the field to keep defenses from crowding the line, while hoping for a lucky snag or drawing a penalty. Flacco hasn't played all that well in the playoffs, but he has a big arm. The severity of Troy's injury is a concern here. If he's completely healthy, he can continue to play near the line and give Joe Brow a lot of deceptive looks. If not, he'll be playing deep the entire time and I'm sure the Ravens may take a shot or two deep against him. McClain being hampered and Ray Rice appearing to be MIA does them no favors in the running game. A big dose of McGahee seems like a pretty ideal scenario for the defense.

I'm sure Ravens fans are hoping for a make-up call for the goal line Santonio call, but they used up all their bad officating karma last week in Tennessee. Maybe the refs will even calls a hold when they get silverback in a headlock coming off the edge. Not that they did last week.

Bart Scott is making more promises of retribution he won't live up to. With Terrell Suggs possibly out, that means the Ravens have to employ a three-man shift to replace him. Does that mean they also have to split any bounties three ways? I'd prefer that Suggs play. The less Ravens fans have to whine about if their team losses, the better (And they'll take anything). Not that it matters. Hines has his battle hat on. He's ready for all comers.

Get a decent lead on the rookie and it's time to tee off. Joe Flacco can be unflappable when he doesn't have to make plays. It's incumbent on the Steelers offense not to surrender a lead with mistakes, because the Ratbirds can't take it otherwise.


Ravens Hate of the Day for Thursday

One of the delightful fictions Ravens fans like to spread, other than the one about them being a small cadre of loyal followers while the Steelers enjoy a bandwagon faithful, is that Steelers fans are somehow backwater hicks and Ratbird fans are really sophisticated city dwellers. Sure, the Steelers have some countrified backers, but I can assure you the ratio is no less pronounced among the Ratbird fans. Observe this guy. Going overboard with your Christmas lights is pretty much the hallmark of white trash, and this dude goes way the fuck overboard.

Let's face it, you're hard-pressed to find any Ravens fans living in Baltimore City. They play "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" during the 7th Inning Stretch at every fucking Orioles game. So, yeah, you Eastern Shore residents are the epitome of the slick urbane sensibility. In short, get fucked, you insecure assholes.

Also, Rod Woodson is pulling a Steve McNair and spurning the Ravens to be one of the honorary co-captains for the game Sunday.




I'll tell a! Yoi!

Them boys in Black n' Gold sure whoed who's boss, Sundy. Big Ben's noodle yooked fine and quick Willie sure can move it, youbetcha.

Yotsa people were talkin all abaught Phil Riversand dat little Sproles fella. Feh. The Stiller D bent but didn't break down after dat openin drive. My favorite kinda game: Yotsa runnin for us and none for dem.

It was colder den Art Modell's black heart dare at Heinz! Which brings me to dis week, Hmm-hah, like Mean Joe Greene usta say, "I'll have another cold one!" Dem Balteemore Birdies sure are squawkin a lot lately. But it's da playin, not da talkin dat wins games, feathered friends.

Okel-dokel, yet's yook at Cope's "Key Matchups":

1) Ground Attack: Willie vs. McClain (or dat McGahee fell if he's not aught puttin a bun in da oven)

2) Signal Callers: Big Ben vs. Joe Flacco; The Rook has been as cool as a cucumber lately, but will be be bamboozled Sundy?

3) O-Coordinators: Will Bruce Arians do yike he's been doin all year or more yike yast week? Can Cam Cameron keep Flacco safe from Harrison, Woodley & Co.?

4) Gut Check: My Ass vs. Da Primanti's steak sandwich I'm eatin for breakfast Sundy. Unyike some people, I know good cuisine when I eat it.

Da Cope-ra-scope was pretty dialed in yast week. This week's prediction: 20-9, Stillers.

Bonus Wednesday Ed Reed Fail

Oh noes, more pictures of Ed Reed falling down on big plays. This one was on Santonio Holmes' touchdown catch in the Week 4 Monday night game. BUT ED REED IS SO GOOD! HOW CAN THIS BE?! CLEARLY THIS IS A PHOTOSHOP!

Hopefully more Ravens fans will show up in the comments and link pictures from 2006. Can't get enough of those.

Ravens Hate of the Day for Wednesday

Brace yourselves, but the Ratbirds are already talking shit and designing T-shirts in advance of Sunday's game. Always a great sign. Here's Derrick Mason showing off a very "Who Dey"-like mantra for the Ravens, because they want to believe that, per the usual Baltimore inferiority complex, that no one is giving them a chance. That's why Joe Flacco, he and his playoff completion percentage of 44, is being fellated by every media outlet across the country.

Yes, the Ravens are underdogs. You tend not to be favored when you're playing on the road against a team you already lost to twice. Whatever works for you to get motivated. The Steelers can get fired up for a game without empty fucking posturing to the media.

Naturally, Mason's isn't the only example of Raven histronics. Terrell Suggs, owner of the lamest nickname in sports and the guy who puts up bounties on receivers that he never collects, is making sure to crow about how much he's willing to play through injury. Quoth the thug: "The only way I wouldn't be there is if I didn't have air in my lungs. I will see you Sunday." What braying melodramatic bullshit.

Speaking of injuries, I'd say it's smart money that they had a bounty out on Chris Johnson. It sure appeared that way since they clearly tried to take him out while he was gashing them for huge yardage.