Snoop and others can all take a hike, I'll take "The King" backing our squad.
Flores is kindof a dick here, though. Asking Arnie who's better between Tiger and Jack is clearly a zero sum move. Palmer is too gracious to dole out the whooping the little shit deserves.
Marvel was a key cog back in the not-too distant days when the Steelers had one of the better offensive lines in the league. A Pro Bowler in 2004, he along with Alan Faneca and Jeff Hartings helped the Steelers to having a top-five rushing attack in 2004 and 2005. It's the memory of his best days that make Max Starks that much difficult to deal with.
So, we’ve come to Part 2 of our look at the Steelers’ upcoming slate of games...and most of this is completely out of my ass. Arbitrarily determined “percentage of win” after each week’s game thought.
@Denver: Seeing “at Denver” on the schedule doesn’t mean what it once did. Mile High’s days are gone and so are Shannahan’s, Cutler’s and potentially Marshall’s. The bruising running game will depend a lot on Knowshon Moreno and rarely is it good to burden a rookie with such a charge. I drafted Eddie Royal to my fantasy squad (The “Yellowish Discharges”) because he had a helluva second half last season and with Marshall in the doghouse, the New England-modeled offense is likely to work through Welker-style slot passes to him. Combine the fact that The Raiders and Chiefs have improved (not a ton, but some) and The Broncos averaged letting up 28 points a game last year and I predict a Monday Night Blow-Out. 65%
CINCINNATI: This late in the season I fully expect that a) Laverneus Coles will be out of football b) the Bungles will be running away with the league lead in sacks allowed c)Marv Lewis will be in-studio as part of NBCs “Ensemble Announcing Troupe” and d) Carson Palmer will be entering his swan-song as a starting QB in the NFL. 80%
@Kansas City: This represents the beginning of a second-half stretch that could seriously derail our season. Arrowhead always makes for a tough contest. But the Chief’s QB situation is more confusing than a NASCAR fan’s spelling test. Brodie Croyle is rumored to be the favorite coming out of camp, but KC paid a shit-load for Cassel and Tyler Thigpen was the strongest at the position last season. With Tony Gonzalez gone, Dwayne Bowe is the only real offensive threat, here and he ain’t enough to get them a “W.” KC’s defense is almost as bad at Denver’s ranking near the bottom against both the pass and run. 60%
@Baltimore: Oh boy. Sunday Night. National TV. Plenty of unpleasant discourse to go around. To say this is a “trap game” is a huge understatement. The Mongoloids by the Bay have been gearing up for us all off season, apparently. Just neutralize the pass rush to protect Ben and knock Flacco’s unibrow-shaving ass on its wallet. If you need more of a playbook select any one of last year’s three contests. Also, Ed Reed is a pussy. 45%
OAKLAND: Remember how we lost to these guys three years ago when we played them? It was the unraveling of the post-super bowl season. Ben got picked 4 times. He hasn’t had that many in a game since. I’d be a little bit concerned if this was on the “Left Coast” but I expect that Oakland will be in full-scale mail it in mode by now. Just watch Cable doesn’t sucker punch you at the fifty, Tomlin. 65%
@Cleveland: Speaking of giving up on something, Derek Anderson will be under center at this point. A cursory look at the Browns’ schedule shows games against teams like Buffalo, Cincy and Detroit before this point in the season so it’s conceivable (especially if they start off with an upset win over the Vikings) they could have a little bit of buzz, but I’m willing to bet this team will have just been steam-rolled five days prior by the Chargers. This Thursday-nighter will be a treat for Steelers fans, who love watching the Dawg Pound squeal. 75%
GREEN BAY: Aaron Rodgers is legit. He has a stable full of deep threats with hands and a bruising runner in Ryan Grant. Why in the sugar-coated hell doesn’t Green Bay go to Grant in the red zone? He had 1,200 yards last season and only 4 TDs, compared with the 28 receiving they posted. So my guess is this game will test our secondary’s coverage abilities…sort of like SB43…wonder if we’ll do a better job of shutting their wide outs down. The Green Bay defense is average, but then again, so is the division they play in. My guess is they’ll be contending for a playoff spot at this point (probably neck and neck with Minnesota) and this game will get bumped to 4pm and national coverage. Play not to get hurt with the Ravens up next. 60%
BALTIMORE: This could be a game to sit and rest some, but more than likely it will have direct Divisional or Wild Card implications. As such, I’m glad the later game is at home. Baltimore’s trio of Rice, McGahee and McClain will likely play a large role here as their receiving corps was 28th in the league last year. And this has been the situation between these two teams for the past 3 seasons or so: Everyone in the stadium knows what’s coming, but the Steelers are just a little better at stopping the Ravens than the Ravens are at stopping the Steelers. Hold the status quo, please. 60%
@Miami: Bit of a strange end cap to a regular season. Hopefully this won’t come down to our ability to deal with the goddamn, over-hyped “Wildcat.” I don’t see the ‘fins contending at this point with New England back and ruling the roost. You know, this team went 11-5 last year and Pennington topped a 100 QB rating in half his games but I get the feeling Miami would trade him for a third string wide out and a reach-around. Okay, two reach-arounds and a foot-job. Still, both my AA sponsor and ulcer would appreciate having wrapped up a playoff spot by this point as we’re on the road and against Ronnie-one fumble all last season-Brown and Ted Ginn Jr. who is having a break out fantasy year. The “Yellowish Discharges’” season depends on it, goddamit.
Typically, the safest place to operate, as far as pre-season aspirations are concerned, is one of ultra-conservative, cautious optimism. But this schedule and our roster don’t necessarily call for that. The top non-divisional opponents and ones I am most certainly concerned about all come to Heinz this season. This schedule is set up to be much more friendly than last year’s and with all of the Monday/Sunday Night games, the boys in Black N’ Gold will be drawing the ire of many, many more NFL fans this season. We’re not the Yankees, yet. But that’s the stigma that will begin to be attached to our team if we do make the playoffs for the seventh time in nine seasons. So get used to the “we-root-against-you-cuz-you-always-win” mentality.
The Steelers were good last year, but they were also lucky. That O-line continues to scare me and as everyone remembers: we’re one play away from having Chuck Batch under center. We are admittedly young in most of our “skill positions” but Hines Ward isn’t likely to put up the same numbers as last season and our starting D Linemen of Smith, Hampton and Keisel are all over 30…yikes.
Begin lighting candles, chanting mantras, eating tea leaves or WHATEVER THE HELL to make sure this is just a mild sprain. Jesus.
As Ape’s last post pointed out, Steeler Nation is feeling quite football-starved about now. In depth coverage of Isaac Redman’s impressive accent to possibly-making-the-team status and the constant barrage of ESPN “Brett-Favre-Bonus-Bonanza Coverage” are what we have been reduced to.
Like every loyal and informed fan, when the schedule comes out for next season you take “Win, Loss, May be-Win” stock of what will be in store for the team beginning in the fall. But now we’re only weeks away and a lot of shit has gone down in the off season. Last year, this process actually turned out pretty well, so let's again take a look at our scheduled opponents. Because the rationale, "Screw Vegas, I make my own odds!" is so sound, I've taken the liberty of assigning my completely arbitrary "% Estimate of Victory" after each game:
TENNESSEE: Ok, so we know that some sort of Steve McNair post-mortem will be performed by Bob Costas, Keith Olberman, fucking Tim McGraw prior to kickoff. Originally, coverage was going to be all about the unresolved bad blood from last year’s “Towel stomping”. Whatever the case, The Titans’ ground game is nothing to take lightly, but their arial attack is. Cover Washington and Scaife, blitz Collins. I still like our chances against hedgehog Fischer. 65%
@Chicago: The addition of Cutler is an upgrade at that position and in my opinion will prove to be one of the most one sided trades ever. And let’s not forget that Forte can run, he put up 1,200 yards his rookie year and only had one damn fumble. Bears’ D isn’t that intimidating, ranking 30th against the pass last year. I’m still glad this road game is early on in the season, before the weather turns in The Windy City. Air it out, Ben. 60%
@Cincinnati: I’ve only seen one episode of “Hard Knocks,” but I couldn’t be happier. This team continues to be a train wreck. Is it just me or does the entire front office of the Bengals appear to be comprised of “muffin tops?” Nothing like getting told you’ve been placed on waivers by a guy who gets winded walking up the 4 steps to your training camp condo. The Bengals had a grand total of 17 touchdowns last year, let the guy who scored the most Houshmandzadeh (a whopping 4TDs) walk and have been unable to sign first-round pick Andre Smith. I am completely amazed Marv Lewis has a job still. 80%
SAN DIEGO: Remember how concerned everyone was about Darren Sproles going in to last year’s playoff opener? Well, the Charger’s running game only managed 81 yards in the two games against us. LT is should stand for “Losing Tempo” and it’s clear that coveted fantasy star Rivers has a hard time putting up a W at Heinz. Don’t lay the points, though. 65%
@Detroit: The word out of Detroit is that Daunte Culpepper is likely to be the starting signal caller. Calvin Johnson and Kevin Smith are your only prayer at not going winless again, head coach. Wait, who the hell is their head coach? Jim Schwartz? Schwartz when asked about the opportunity to coach the Lions: “You're not going to find a more passionate fan base in the NFL than Detroit. You talk about ownership and a commitment to winning. I think that's important. Without those two things, I don't think it's an attractive opportunity. I think Detroit offers both of those." Um, you HAVE been watching the NFL the last 20 years, right Jim? 85%
CLEVELAND: The other 4 win team in Ohio last season. Finally, we will witness the slow-motion train wreck that is Brady Quinn pull into station. I get giddy just thinking about how fair weather the Browns fans will be this year, calling for his bust at Canton before the opener and just his head by the end of the season. Of course, they’ll have Derek “20-TD drop off in production” Anderson to sub him out. That, plus the worst defense in the league last year oughtta keep the Brownies in the cellar. 75%
MINNESOTA: The 3-ring Favre circus comes to town! Some of the media hype will have died down by this point, but will the Vikes be as good as some are projecting? I just saw Marcellus Wiley pick the Vikes to open 6-0 until this game. Although, I think Wiley also picks his own scabs…he graduated from Columbia? The fuck? Remember: They are likely to be without their two best linemen for the first quarter of the season. But also remember: They have some of the most frightening offensive weapons in the league and just a cursory glance at their schedule shows what should be a worst-case-scenario 4-2 squad coming in with Lord Favre slinging his guns. Shit. 55%
BYE: Decent timing for the break. If I had my pick I’d probably choose week 9 or 10, just because it shortens the final stretch, but I’ll take it. If we don’t have at least 5 wins by this point, fans will be doing jack knifes off The 40th St Bridge.
Part 2 Next Week.
Steelers fans are really, really excited for rookie receiver Mike Wallace. And why not? The guy is fast. Like, fast enough to be drafted way too high by the Raiders fast. Personally, I'm more interested in seeing Limas do well this year, but I'll take any contributions from this kid. Anyway, he's also featured in the funniest of the Madden 10 Rookie Rookie Ratings Drill videos that were just released. Fauxhawk aside, I think I like this guy. At least he didn't paint it some funky color like Shawne Merriman.
For the sake of objectivity, I had to dial back my rampant Steelers homerism in the book all the way back to 9.9, maybe even 9.85. Yes, there are even a few parts where I make fun of the Steelers, but those are far overshadowed by the frequency of rips on the Ratbirds, Browns, Patriots, Cowboys and a host of other contemptible teams. So I hope you'll excuse me for being momentarily treasonous for the sake of even-handed comedy.
Here are a few disconnected thoughts I had on the game, in unprepossessing list form.
Limas Sweed - By far the most encouraging development from last night, Sweed made a tough catch on third down in traffic on the first drive and later connecting with Charlie Batch deep on a 45-yard reception (could've used that in the AFC Title Game - just sayin'). He had a drop in the second half but that wasn't enough to negate the flashes of competence shown early on.
Daniel Sepulveda -Didja see?! The Steelers had a punter who didn't shank it 35 yards out of bounds. That's a beautiful thing.
Shaun McDonald - Surprised he didn't get in on more plays with the first team offense, though with the success Sweed had, it's justified that they wanted the second-year guy to get more of a chance to prove himself.
The O-line - Granted, they were missing two starters, but it still looks horrid. If Rashard Mendenhall didn't look particularly great, it's because you was frequently being hit in the backfield. And, naturally, Willie Colon only needed the first possession to get flagged for an illegal proceedure penalty.
Defense - Starting unit had some trouble with 3rd downs, but I'm willing to attribute that to LeBeau using vanilla packages for the preseason. I'm not overly concerned, nor should anyone be.
Dennis Dixon - He seemed to develop a good connection with McDonald, but otherwise didn't look all that comfortable under center. At this point, unless he makes a lot of stride in the later preseason games, I don't know how much he can push Batch for the backup role this year.
Joe Burnett - Picked off Steelers defecter Brian St. Pierre but also flubbed a punt that was fortunate to be recovered by the Steelers.
Mike Wallace - Considering how high Steelers fans seem to be on this guy, anything less than three touchdowns (two receiving, one on a return) was probably a disappointment. Still amanged two catches, one a nice catch-and-run on a slant for 22 yards.
Winning the "Best Game" Espy is about as thrilling as Week 1 Preseason
The futility and prolonged dry-hump that is the NFL preseason has been discussed ad nauseum. Teams make roster cuts, avoid any major injuries, get fitted for new more unsightly jerseys. Some become fixated on overcoming a dominant trend. The following are a number of things that are worth thinking about while you watch the 3rd string play tomorrow night.
Roster Changes: For those of you that tuned in to the Hall of Fame Game the other night and heard Collinsworth’s overstatement of Nate Washington as a “big-time game breaker” and might be thinking about our drop off at the #3 receiver position as well as Sweed’s butter fingers from last season. The Titan's new primary receiver was servicable, but big time threat? Also, the loss of Larry Foote means the onus will be on Lawrence Timmons as the newest backer in the club’s storied line. For my money, he’s younger, faster and I’m looking forward to watching him pick pieces of Flacco’s scalp out of his facemask.
Draft success: The word out of camp is undrafted long-shot Isaac Redman is proving to be the most impressive running back, with Parker taking light loads. Although, with recently signed Mewelde Moore, 2nd year Mendenhall and draftee Frank Summers in the fold, it’d likely take Redman beating out Carey Davis to make the squad. 3rd round pick Mike Wallace might push Sweed a little bit this season, too, adding more intrigue to that third receiver position. Then again, we’re still in the Michael Vick sweepstakes according to some, and I’d take him in the slot, too. Say what you want about his off the field issues, but the Rooney's have a knack for rehabbing players' images and Tony Dungy's recent assertion that Vick needs to "find a football family" lends more creedance to the Vick to PIT talk. Lastly, I don’t see Evander Hood making the impact some figure him to this year, remember how Woodley and Timmons were brought along…gradually.
The O-line: A lot was made of this last year, but the rag-tag group obviously got the job done. Tomlin has already discussed the fact that a number of new pass-blocking options are being integrated, some involving double-backed sets and counter blocking. I’d love to see a pulling guard pancake a few in the backfield. Worth noting that Urbik and Shipley, drafted linemen have a chance to grab some scrap minutes, too.
Injuries: The greatest concern of any coach, fan and agent leading up to the the season. I was leaving St. Margret’s Hospital last week and literally bumped into Darnell Stapleton as he “crutched” his way from the professional building to the team van bound for Latrobe. He seemed very upbeat having heard team doctor Bradley predict only the first few games of the season would be missed, if at all. Aside from that you have the standard arm/shoulder concerns about #7, endurance issues with Parker and Casey Hampton’s knees (though his weight at camp is encouraging).
Personally, I'll be eager to see Sepulveda boom a few and watch Pittsburgh's own Steve Breaston zip around...