9.30.2009

All Is NOT Lost. Yet.

Don't do it, Mr. Mittens.

I woke up today and took a quick look at the standings, just to see an early-season lay of the land.

We have the same record as the Detroit (0-16 last year) Lions.

Jesus Christ on a Cracker.

Yes, the Steelers have a losing record for the first time since the Bungles last defeated them (also in Week 3) of the 2006 season. The schedule parallels do not end there, folks. If you recall, our first attempt at a title defense this millennium invovled a Week 4 opponent, you guessed it: The San Diego Chargers.

Slogging around the interwebs and local dearth of quality reporting two main and divergent rationales/reactions to the Steelers' schedule and resulting season outlook generalized:

"Season's over. Fucking Ravens are winning it. Draft Tebow."

or

"Two road losses. Not the end of the world. Hold serve at home and beat Detroit, Cleveland, maybe K.C. or Miami on the road and get us in to the playoffs one way or the other."

I have a few reactions to these sentiments:

Are we completely screwed?
No. But our chances of option #2 take a considerable hit if we cannot pull out the win Sunday. 1-3 teams don't make the playoffs.

Are the Ravens to be handed the division?
No. The NFL landscape is routinely littered with over-application of the phrase "Must-Win" or "Do-or-Die" as labels for games. But, we're just about there. It is hard to ignore the boastful blatherings (just as the stench) eminating from Baltimore. As in 2006, The Steelers and Ravens will meet in Weeks 12 & 16. Let's hope firstly, those games are meaningful to our playoff chances and then secondly, that we avoid repeating the 0-2 performance the last time that was the case. We can help assure the former by winning in the immediate.

So, what the fuck can we do?
Win our next game. For at least the next month. I, for one, hope that Messers Tomlin and LeBeau have the entire squad convinced of the significance of THIS WEEK'S game. Indeed, it is easy to get ahead of ourselves, but with the Ravens holding a 2-game lead in the division and a few up-start AFC teams turning unexpectant heads (Jets, Bengals, Broncos), the prospect of a dog-fight for a Wild Card birth looms. A loss to any one of our next 3 games (SAN DIEGO, @Detroit, CLEVELAND) all but buries us. We'll deal with the currently undefeated Lord Favre and his ricketty ass if and when we can afford to.

In 2006 the Steelers lost in that Week 4 game to the Chargers. We simply must find away to avoid repeating history in the short-term if we hope to do so in the long.

9.27.2009

Did the Steelers Just Lose to the Bungles? Why Yes They Did


The Steelers are finding new and ever frustrating ways to lose football games. This one against Cincinnati was one they should have won running away, but between agonizing interceptions, dropped surefire touchdowns and key drives by the opposition where the defense can't close the deal, it turned into a second straight gutpunch to Steelers fans. Now the season is following an all too familiar pattern established in 2006 - win in season opener, loss in first road game, loss in game three versus Cincinnati. Just like 2006, the Steelers' fourth game is against San Diego.

Other than Mike Wallace's going over 100 in this game, I'm not sure what good there is to take away. The pass protection was decent again for the most part. Roethlisberger was only sacked once. When the Bengals knew the Steelers were running, they could squelch it out, though Willie Parker was still able to put together a respectable game (25 carries for 93 yards, along with shockingly making a key reception for a TD). How was Rashard Mendenhall not used at all this week, though, even in short yardage situations? It seems like the guy made some plays last week. How does he get shut out against the Bengals?

As last week, here are a number of items in need of addressing if the Steelers are to put together a respectable title defense.

Limas Sweed - I was never forgiving in the many mistakes Sweed made last season, and there were plenty to not forgive. Other Steelers fans assured me that he would work out, and the guy made a few plays during the preseason. But now, in his first significant action of his second season, he drops a wide open touchdown catch that a high school player could haul in, just like his flub in the AFC Championship Game. I'll give him credit as a guy who is able to blow by defensive backs, but he can't make even the most basic of catches. no matter how tall or flashy his other abilities are, he's a liability. He belongs behind Shaun McDonald on the depth chart.

LaMarr Woodley - I love the guy, but James Harrison is drawing all the double and triple teams and Woodley isn't generating the pressure he should from one-one-one encounters with opposing tackles. It's a very big reason why the pass rush isn't as overpowering as last year. The defense only generated marginally more pressure this week - putting up two sacks. The coverage was mostly solid - Ike Taylor kept up well with Chad Ochocinco and again kept him out of the endzone. Otherwise, the defense kept the Bengals from being able to dink and dunk, but couldn't tackle on the 4th down that could have won the game. Sadly, they still come off as very vanilla without Polamalu to work with.

Closing - Last year, the fourth quarter surge was the Steelers motif. Now somehow it's become the first quarter juggernaut that fizzles as the game goes on. The team came out like gangbusters, putting up two scoring drives before the Bengals got a single first down, only to see the Bengals progressively chip away and watch Pittsburgh be unable to maintain their intensity or put them away.

Santonio Holmes - Another sloppy game. He had one bad drop and failed to get both feet in bounds on another snag. Finished with one catch for 18 yards. Meanwhile, Hines had four catches for 82 yards and Mike Wallace had seven for 102. The Steelers outgained Cincinnati by 100 yards and everyone responsible for not letting the team put up more than 20 has to be held accountable.

Offensive Pass Interference - Hines was somehow called for two of them on receiver screen passes, both for infractions that happened within five yards of the line of scrimmage. The latter of the two negated a first down by Santonio in the second half. On the following play, Roethlisberger threw a pick-six to draw the Bengals within four points. Whether they were bad calls doesn't take away from the fact that Ben made a terrible, costly throw, but it would good to know how someone is supposed to block on these plays without drawing a flag.

9.26.2009

Time to Remind Cincy Who They Are

As a testament to the knee-jerk analysis that pervades the first few weeks of each NFL season, the Bengals are the overwhelming favorites among prognosticators to defeat the Steelers on Sunday in Paul Brown. Granted, their team had a fine game on the road against Green Bay, which also doesn't negate the fact that they played a mostly crappy game at home in Week 1 against Denver. And this is still mostly the same unit that has lost five straight to the Steelers, whether or not Pittsburgh effectively gave away its last game. That frustrating loss could provide them just a soupcon of motivation, so's you know.

Antwan Odom will be much discussed coming in, and why not? The guy has had an amazing first two games. It's been reported that he put on a staggering 30 pounds of muscle in the offseason (can we get a drug test?). That said, the Bengals pass rush has had only one sack per game come from someone other than Odom. Someone may say, "Well, the Steelers are averaging one sack per game anyway, so that's a wash." Sure, but opposing offenses are designing plays that ensure that their QBs don't hold the ball longer than a second and a half. Receiver screens, quick outs, slants - anything to keep them from seven-step drops. Naturally, the Bengals will try to emulate that, so it's imperative that LeBeau get a little more aggressive with the corners in this game. Granted, the Bengals receivers have considerably more potential at downfield big plays than those the Bears have, but unless the Steelers show that they're willing to press, teams are going to continue doing that all season long.

I wouldn't be surprised if Hines didn't put up another huge game against the Bengals - dude has 14 touchdowns in 19 games against Cincy since 2000, compared to the three Ocho has against Pittsburgh in his entire career. For however as much as the Bungles front seven has improved, their secondary is still highly suspect. Leon Hall can be beaten with regularity and Roy Williams will be out of position at least a few times in any game. The pass protection has been fairly solid so far this season. Even if it takes a little help from backs and a tight end, they can neutralize Odom. If the run blocking rises along with them, the Steelers win this going away.

For those thinking that Carson can destroy the Steelers without Polamalu, remember that the last time they met the Steelers with Troy sitting out, Carson put up the fabulous line of 17/44 with no TDs. And that's when they actually had Houshmandzadeh. This is a game where the Steelers can stomp out the upstart hopes of some one-game stalwarts in Cincy. And to restore their early season swagger, they're going to have to.

9.24.2009

Look Who's Talking Now

See, this is why the Bengals can't be allowed to be respectable. As soon as they get a whiff of positive goings-on, out comes the oodles of shittalk and speculation about Ocho's next celebration. And a bunch of other booshit no one cares about.

The league is a much better place when they're a bunch of servile losers willing to offer up wins seemingly free of charge.

But as of this moment, they are not. In fact, the Bungles are a trendy pick to upset the Steelers on Sunday. And even if the improbable happens and they do win, it's not because of the clownish tactics of Chad, who is pulling out one of his umpteen catch phrases he developed during Hard Knocks this year, saying he's gonna make the Steelers kiss the baby.

Let's not forget, in 16 career games against the Steelers (including the playoffs), Estaban Ochocinco has all of three touchdown receptions. And never more than one in a game. Yes, three TD catches over an entire season's worth of games. That's a pretty damn mediocre resume to be basing trash talk on. But then, this is Ocho. He doesn't need a leg to stand on to run his mouth.

Meanwhile, it's the first game back in Cincy since Hines Ward ended Keith Rivers season last year via jaw explosion, so naturally that incident has become the subject of blather all week. Hines made some news saying that he would have made the same block again because going at someone straight up is less dangerous than diving at a player's knees. People will argue that this makes Hines appear callous about the injury, but he lead with the shoulder on the Rivers hit. The contact happened at the worst possible location underneath Rivers' facemask while he was pursuing the ballcarrier. It was an unfortunate and freak accident, whereas going at the legs, you're gonna hurt someone almost every time.

But whatever, people will always harp on Hines for having the gall to be an offensive player who dares block aggressively. Well, most people at least.



Uh, thanks Rodney, but you're not really the guy we want standing up for Hines.

UPDATE: Looks like that Rodney account is a fake. So we can all rest easy.

9.22.2009

So, About This Antwan Odom Guy...

The Bungles put up an impressive victory Sunday against Green Bay. The Queen City felt long-forgotten and shocking feelings of mirth which residents misconstrued as the adverse effects of paint huffing.

Yes, we all know the Bungles are synonymous with fail, but this Cincy team is a freakish tipped pass to Brandon Stokley away from being 2-0. They have a defensive end who has seven sacks in two games (the Steelers have two as a team). Ferchrissakes, Cedric Benson is sixth in the league in rushing.

It's bizarre and offensive for me to admit but this is a Bengals team to be taken seriously. Especially because having given away last week's game, it becomes pivotal that the Steelers not be 1-2 with the Chargers coming to town the following week. And, of course, Ben has to stay undefeated in games in Ohio. That's a bragging right not easily relinquished.

So, is Antwan Odom a legit threat or simply enjoying a bit of streaky success? The guy's already one sack shy of his career high. The Bengals fans I've talked to seem to be reluctant to say it's anything but a fluky surge. I suppose going against Max Starks, anything is possible. Alex Brown had the Bears only two sacks of Roethlisberger going against Starks last week. And scouts seem to be raving about the Bengals interior linemen play so far this year. Combine that with Carson Palmer deciding to not suck ass after Week 1, and this could be a tough game.

Or it could be another in a long series of merciless beatdowns by the Steelers. Either way, not taking everyone seriously was a luxury they squandered last week.

Oh, and they're probably getting Limas Sweed back! Happy day! Maybe he'll have a pass thrown to him for the first time this season.

9.20.2009

Opportunities Washed Away, Again and Again

That was about as maddening a game as the Steelers have had the last couple years. They came out on the opening drive and marched it down the Bears D for a touchdown, were doing much the same on the subsequent drive until a well-timed hit on Ben Roethlisberger by a Bears lineman forced a duck that was intercepted, sapping the Steelers of the considerable momentum they had going up to that point. Then the rain started, which is always going to complicate things for a team that is depending mostly on the pass. Don't get me wrong, the run game was much improved over last week (108 total yards on 4.8 per carry against the Bears) but it's clear the coaches still don't trust the run blocking in key short yardage situations.

So here's a litany of gripes and issues to air before I go drink the pain away.

Jeff Reed - About as obvious a goat as you're gonna find. For a guy in a contract year, he's not doing much to raise his stock or keep it on par. Remember that last week he gave Steelers fans a start by sending a knuckler through the uprights to tie the game late against the Titans. Tonight, even taking poor field conditions into mind (that should be something he's used to by now), he let loose consecutive shanks when it counted, one from 28 yards. Simply inexcusable.

Santonio Holmes - His stat sheet was decent enough that AP reporters who clearly didn't watch the game will pronounce it a "solid" performance. Yes, Santonio made a few plays (five catches for a team-high 83 yards) but he also had four key drops that would have resulted in easy first downs, as well as had what would have been the winning touchdown go through his hands in the endzone. This was an unfortunate return to the brainfart heavy outings that marked the middle of last year for Holmes.

Tyrone Carter - Not a terrible game overall - he did put a monster lick on Greg Olsen to force an incompletion - but the guy was beaten for both Bears touchdowns in the red zone. I think that puts to bed any notion that the Steelers won't miss Polamalu for the next few weeks.

Pass rush - Fairly nonexistent until the second half. It did pick up from there, as LaMarr Woodley got a few nice pressures and forced Jay Cutler into an intentional grounding call. That said, still only one sack today. And one sack last week. Not a trend that can be allowed to continue.

Run blocking - As mentioned above, it was better today, but it's still lacking. Enough so that Tomlin and Arians are looking for any possible alternative to running up the gut on short yardage situations. Won't be long until other teams learn to expect that.

Bounces - The team was just plain unlucky on a number of decisive situations. For example, James Harrison forced Matt Forte to cough the ball up on the Chicago side of the field late in the 4th and the ball hops right to Greg Olsen for an easy recovery. It happens, obviously, and there ain't shit you can do about it. That's why you don't make the boneheaded plays above that leave it up to chance.

The Steelers have an early blemish on their record and it's one they probably could have easily avoided. I suppose it's better than getting trashed by the opponent, but there are certainly lessons gleaned from this one. This is a game that could have been won handily, but it became the kind of close game the Steelers are used to taking from opponents.

9.18.2009

A Run on Wins Without Polamalu


Before delving into the matchup, a quick rant: Pundits have been casually tossing off the point, free of context, that the Steelers are 6-2 in the eight games Troy Polamalu has missed in his career. And as much as I want to hear that the team is just hunky-dory without him, there's also the implication that he doesn't mean all that much to the defense, which is retarded for oh so many reasons. So let's take a gander at these eight Steelers games sans Polamalu.

2006: (Three games)

Week 13 -- vs. Tampa Bay W 20-3
Week 14 -- vs. Cleveland W 27-7
Week 15 -- @ Carolina W 37-3

On paper, yes, it looks very impressive. Three consecutive wins in which the defense allowed fewer than 10 points. It was also during by far the easiest stretch of their schedule that season. The 2006 Bucs, Browns and Panthers combined to go 16-32. The three starting QBs the Steelers faced over that span? Bruce Gradkowski, Derek Anderson (before he found his 2007 flash in the pan touch, mind you) and Chris Weinke. That's right. CHRIS. FUCKING. WEINKE.

2007: (Five games)

Week 5 -- vs. Seattle W 21-0
Week 12 -- vs. Miami W 3-0
Week 13 -- vs. Cincinnati W 24-10
Week 14 -- @ New England L 34-13
Week 17 -- @ Baltimore L 27-21

Again, the two shutouts look somewhat impressive, though the one against Miami (if you'll recall, a 1-15 team that year) was in the infamous Mud Bowl game where no one could generate any offense. The Seattle game is the most standout performance by the defense (or even the team) of any of the games Polamalu missed. He was one of five key starters to miss that game and they decimated the Seahawks. The Bengals, as it goes without saying, also sucked that year and the final Ravens game means nothing because the Steelers sat everyone. The Patriots are the only other quality opponent the Steelers played aside from Seattle with Troy missing. What happened? The secondary got torched. Yes, Ryan Clark was also missing, so Tom Brady was able to pick on Tyrone Carter and Anthony Smith that day, but I think it makes us all realize that something is definitely lost with Polamalu out.

If I've suddenly made you worry that Jay Cutler is going to have a field day, I'm sorry, though I seriously doubt that he will. Nor do I expect a repeat of his disastrous game against the Packers last week. Having seen what happens when Cutler tried to force passes to young receivers who don't know how to run routes, Lovie Smith is going to simplify his offense even more coming into this week. That could potentially work in the Steelers favor, but it will also mean they will have fewer opportunities for turnovers. The Bears are coming off playing a Packers team with a similar defensive structure to the Steelers, so it worries me that studying what they did against Green Bay will translate well to what the Steelers will try to do, especially when LeBeau won't be able to use quite as many exotic blitz packages with Troy out.

On offense, everyone's dying to see something out of the running game, but my concern, especially with some of the comments coming from Willie Parker during the week, is that the team will overemphasize it early on in an attempt to prove something. Urlacher's absence will make it easier to run the ball (there was a big difference in the Bears defense from the first to second half last week). The thing is, the Bears anticipating the Steelers trying to pounce on an expected weakness coupled with anxieties about the run game is going to cause them to play up to the line early. Which is why I'd love to see some play action on the first two drives.

Timmons has written on his blog that he expects to play, and that's certainly a welcome sign. Keyaron Fox did a good enough job last week that it wasn't even a huge concern, but Timmons still has far more raw ability and playmaking instinct. If he's close to 100 percent, I think the defense is going to need him bearing down on Cutler a few times. The pass rush wasn't all that present last week, even though that was kind of expected against the Titans, who base their passing game on timing routes and have a good offensive line. The Bears, meanwhile, will have ancient tackle Orlando Pace going against James Harrison. That's potentially a game-altering match-up right there.

Even on the road, I think this is a game that the Steelers should expect to win, though they will need to improve obviously on run blocking and pass rush from a week ago. Should they come through, it could be the biggest achievement for a Steelers defense playing without Polamalu since he was drafted.

9.17.2009

Yet's Keep Da Train Rollin!


HOW DO?

Boy it’s bin quite a yong while since I weighed in on dem boys in Black n Gold!

Da Champs yooked a yittle banged up after the game yast week. But dey dispatched dem ole’ Oilers, just yike I knew dat dey would after dose knuckleheads stomped on my Towel. THOU SHALT NOT DISRESPECT DA TERRIBLE TOWEL!!!
And what was all dat gobble-di-gook before kickoff? Some cowboy and black-eyed fellas hopin around da Point? Feh. It seems yike da more football is on tv, the yess it is abat da game.

Dat Steve McNair fella just got here not long ago, he’s more dan a yittle pissed. Seems his yady took issue with his cranium, Zounds!

Hmm..Haw! I don’t yike seeing Troy go down with an injury, but we should be ok dis week. It’s bawnd to be a yong season; one game at a time.

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


1) Da Stiller O Line: Boy, I’ll tell yah, dat Offensive Yine yooks more yike a siv dan anything. Not yike Mike Webster and da boys back in da day! Just gotta keep dem Bears off Big Ben and yet him make da plays dawnfield.

2) Da Bears Secondary: Speaking of dawnfield, we all remember the yast time the Stiller played The Bears and what happened to Mr. Urlacher…but I guess he won’t be dare to play the role of speed bump dis go around.

3) Running Attack?: Den again, do we have anyone who can run the ball effectively? I think yast week’s game was more about da Oilers’ quality d line than anything, but we’ll see.


Da Cope-ra-scope was pretty dialed in yast season. This week's prediction: 21-12, Stillers.

Things I'd Like to See Sunday

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That is all.

9.16.2009

Imma Let You Finish, but This Weekend is Another Five-Star Match-up



The fake Tomlin press conference guys are back with a riff on the Kanye West VMA incident. I got a light chuckle out of this, but even to a guy who makes a living on beating jokes into the ground, this meme seems to be losing steam in a hurry. Still, commendable effort.

* The Bears are installing new sod this week after a U2 concert at Soldier Field. Some Bears players are carping about likely loose turf, but Steelers players are all too familiar with such conditions at Heinz. [Pro Football Talk]

*Ryan Clark will likely sit out the game in Denver because of concerns about his sickle-cell. As long as whoever takes over for him doesn't play like the Bengals Roy Williams and ignore tipped passes so they can lay out Brandon Marshall [P-G]

*There's a decent chance Lawrence Timmons could return this week [Trib]

*Behold the Terrible Trowel, with which you can slather on beatdowns. [PSAMP]

* Some fans are ready to bury FWP, some would like to wait at least a few weeks. [XFLMVP]

9.14.2009

So This Week is Looking a Little Easier

Former Steelers defensive coordinator Dom Capers has gotten a ton of press, some would say too much, for installing the 3-4 in Green Bay over the off-season. Hard to argue with the results last night after forcing Jay Cutler into four interceptions and holding Matt Forte to 55 yards on 25 carries.

Not that the Bears won't fare better next week with more preparation against a similarly structured defense, along with some motivation to regain face lot with a humiliating performance in primetime. Can't say I'm not encouraged though.

And the Steelers won't be the only team missing a defensive centerpiece. Brian Urlacher dislocated his right wrist in last night's game and is reported to be out for a minimum of a few weeks and at least definitely this coming game. So far thankfully there haven't been reports indicating that Polamalu's injury will result in any longer than the reported 3-6 weeks.

Should make for an interesting week.

[UPDATE: Urlacher done for the year. That's no good. We only wanted him out this week. And it's hard to hate a guy who's best remembered by Steelers fans for being run over by Bettis going into the endzone.]

9.11.2009

I'm Mike Wallace, And This is 65 Minutes

It always amazes me when fans of opposing teams, and they do still quite often, claim that Ben Roethlisberger is a marginal quarterback or is bailed out by his defense. The guy had a slow, almost maddening start tonight, missed some throws early on, but was utterly dominating when it mattered, hitting a dozen straight completions to put the Titans away, racking up 363 yards. For the exception of a half-ending Hail Mary, he was almost flawless for three quarters. This is with zero discernible running game all day.

It was hard not to get images of the 2006 loss against Denver when Hines fumbled inside the five, but by then it was clear that the Steelers had figured out how to move the ball against the Titans defense. Yes, they were fortunate to have gotten first possession in OT, but once they did you knew they could press the ball down the Titans throat just like at the end of regulation.

Bruce Arians caught on, almost too late, that the hurry-up offense was the only thing working on the Titans. On the drive where they tied the game, didn't you feel the air getting sucked out of the offense when Arians decided to take a timeout in the red zone when he could have kept his foot to the pedal? The Steelers did what the Titans did to good effect in last year's game and occasionally tonight - forced them to rush three or four defenders and carve up the secondary.

The run blocking was horrendous all over. And potential big plays were nixed by missed open field blocks. A first quarter drive, which Roethlisberger admittedly pushed out of field goal territory with a 19-yard sack, could have been much easier had Trai Essex made a textbook block to spring Heath Miller.

The big fallout is losing Troy Polamalu for what at the moment is being reported as an MCL strain, putting him out for 3-6 weeks. Given the monster first half the guy had - witness the leaping one-handed pick that rivaled even the diving INT in the snow he had against the Chargers last year - it's disconcerting to miss as much the guy for as much as a month and a half. Looking at the schedule though, only the Chargers look to be a huge threat in that period.

That said, this team can't afford to turn fully into the 2002 Steelers, where they're throwing 40 to 50 times every week. I don't think most teams could have the overpowering run D that the Titans had tonight, but the Steelers have a few on their schedule who could be, namely the Vikings and two games against the Ratbirds.

People will make a lot of the fact that Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall were ditched late in the game for Mewelde Moore (which worked), but not much was made of the fact that Mike Wallace was in on few more plays than Limas Sweed, who had exactly no catches nor even any throws in his direction. For a guy who excelled in getting open, if not actually hauling in the ball last year, this is not a positive development.

Finally, can I get a huge fuck you to NBC for a lack of a LenDale White reaction shot at the end of the game? You spend how much time playing up the towel-stomping angle and don't follow up with that dicksmack? The Titans for the most part were classless once again. LenDale jumped around after marginal gains. On their one TD, Justin Gage taunted someone in the crowd with the ball.



Sending this team home losers was a delight.

9.10.2009

From the Last Loss to, Perhaps, the First Win

In Week 16 last year, the Steelers ventured into LP Field coming off three consecutive victories over New England, Dallas and Baltimore, all teams with winning records. The Titans were coming off a loss to the middling Texans. Albert Haynesworth was out. The top seed in the conference was on the line. Things were rolling.

But then-rookie defensive linemen Jason Jones went and had three and a half sacks and three forced fumbles. Dude seriously wrecked our shit.

You could make an argument that the game was closer than the score indicates. The Steelers led for a while in the second half. It was a one touchdown game until the pick-six at the very end, and the Titans may not have even had a full touchdown lead if not for an odd call on Brett Keisel for barking out signals when the Steelers had stopped the Titans on 3rd down in the red zone.

Still, the Titans played the game they certainly set out to have when they took the field that day. They were able to run the ball effectively. Kerry Collins, sacked only once, was 21-for-29. They forced turnovers. These variables combined will almost always equal Titans victory.

And, of course, it was the last game the Steelers lost. You saw America's Game on HBO last night. You know how it ended. In a way, it's good that the Ravens pussied out of this game, because if the Ravens come into Heinz in Week 1, well, BFD, they did that three times last year. A victory over the Titans, however, sends a more decisive message to the rest of the league: the Steelers have learned from the few mistakes they had in 2008 and reclaim a spot on the top of the league.

It's not gonna be easy. A lot of people are expecting the Titans to fall off this season, and they very well might, but they still do a lot of things that can give the Steelers problems - get a lot of pressure on the QB, stuff the run and negate the Steelers pass rush with a good line and a quarterback who makes quick reads.

Willie Parker had 19 carries for 31 yards in that meeting, which, obviously, is putrid. A marginal better offering from the tandem of he and Rashard Mendenhall isn't out of the question, but I wouldn't expect a dramatically improved effort. Trai Essex starting in place of Darnell Stapleton is essentially a wash to me at guard, but I would like to see some of the benefits of cohesion that people seem to be selling on the Steelers line.

Keyaron Fox subbing for Timmons on the inside this game strikes me as a little preferable. Reports out of camp have been that Timmons hasn't been spectacular against the run. Well, this is a game where we need people to be goddamn stout on the run. The Titans were able to mostly avoid very long third downs in the last contest, and thus Collins was under little pressure. Rattle him a little and the wheels, already unsturdy, will come off that offense.

This is actually a game where Limas Sweed could go a long way to establishing his role in the offense. Hines and Santonio both had solid games at Tennessee, each garnering at least 90 yards and a touchdown. But the longest play between the two was 31 yards, not bad but not particularly huge either. If Sweed can get a deep throw from Roethlisberger in the first half, it can change the complection of the game.

A lot is gonna be made about LenDale White before this game, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to see a late game reaction shot where he sinks his head while a jeering crowd exults, but LenWhale is nothing but a barometer for the Titans. He's not a deciding factor. If the rest of the offense gets them deep inside the Steelers' 10, here comes LenDale. If the Titans have a lead late in the game, here come LenDale to wear down the defense. Should the rest of the Titans fail to do their job, he's nothing but a very seldomly used change of pace back.

You're a spoiled team if the special teams is something you're giddy to see. And don't get me wrong, I want Sepulveda on the field as few times as possible. But Stefan Logan in legit action should be a treat. Field position is going to figure heavily in this game. That's a battle I feel confident they can win, as they can this game.

9.09.2009

Defend the Dynasty.


Oh, hell yes.

Hines. Troy. Ben. Silverback. Fast Willie. Potsie.

You know them. They aren't just players. For the next five months or so, they're the characters in your favorite Sunday afternoon drama. Right or wrong, they'll help determine your mood. Your swagger or your sulk from week to week. What's it going to be? What are ups and downs of this season? Who'll step up? How will the 2009 Steelers be remembered?

You're ready. You've got your jersey. Your lucky hat. Your Towel.
You probably bought and wore the shit out of some SB43 Champs gear. Put it away.

That was Before.
This is Now.
This is The New Season. This is our Title Defense.

This means slapping all of the experts who claim a repeat is too hard in the mouth. It means saying we're the best all over again. It means cementing our place in history. Because guess waht, if the Steelers can win another Lombardi, that's three titles in five years. And that, my friends, is something your Fathers or your Grandfathers told you about.

That is a DYNASTY.

The wait is over. The season is finally here.

Get your mind right.

Here we go Steelers...HERE WE GO!

Today and Tomorrow Are Productive Work Days


Submitted by a reader, Steelers and the hypocycloids spelled out in with old A drive disks. If I worked from a cube instead of my couch, I'd be tempted to do the same. Could probably lose that flamingo on the desk though.

Fun times in D.C. tomorrow. Reading in the afternoon (Pens at the White House too). A little LenWhale stomping in the evening. At last, the cold unforgiving offseason is no more.

9.06.2009

LenWhale Just Begging for Comeuppance



It was bound to arise. I'm just glad that it was the Titans who initiated the talk about the towel stomping. Neither their players nor their coaches were never particularly penitent about being gloating dickheads at the end of their win at home in Week 16 last year, and they're sticking to it now. LenWhale, one of the two guys who were caught by cameras stomping a Terrible Towel on the sidelines, is saying he'll do it again if Tennessee wins on Thursday. A shame that the defending champ has never lost the home opener in Week 1, and that he's giving more and more incentive to the Steelers to embarrass this jackass team. I eagerly await the glorious reaction shots at the end of this game when White is looking for comfort food.

9.05.2009

Smell Ya Later, Carey Davis, Anthony Madison, Dallas Baker and Issac Redman

The cuts are in and now we must bid farewell to Carey Davis, Anthony Madison, Issac Redman, Bruce Davis, A.Q. Shipley, and a couple of other scrubs I couldn't pick out of a lineup.

Can't say I'm broken up about losing Davis. He never really fit the bill of what Tomlin and Arians envisioned of him being the Larry Centers type of passing game accessory fullback. Instead, he was the guy who couldn't block and couldn't do very much in the open field once he caught the ball. His enduring memory from this past season may have been breaking up a pass tipped at the line in the Super Bowl, preventing a costly red zone turnover. Appreciated, no doubt, but also no cause for keeping the guy around forever.

Issac Redman's release is already being bemoaned by a host of Steelers fans. I don't know - putting up big numbers on second and third stringers in the preseason doesn't lead me to believe I know definitely that he deserves a roster spot over another guy. He was one I never bought the hype on.

The fact that Stefan Logan was kept is no shock, though Florio had reported him as being listed as a running back certainly was, but reports are coming in that he in fact listed as a receiver, which makes sense. Frank the Tank is the fourth back, which presumably makes him the starting fullback, especially with Sean McHugh going on IR, unless they envision David Johnson assuming McHugh's H-back role. I didn't get a sense of how good of a blocker Summers is during the preseason, so I wonder how much Arians will continue to rely on tight end heavy formations to run the ball early in the year.

All said, people will bicker about Redman's departure, but I remember there being similar buzz around Gary Russell in the preseason entering last year, and while he was adequate for the latter half of the season, he was by no means indispensable. I liked the way the roster has shaped up. Already a lot of liabilities at the end of last year look like potential strong points heading into Week 1.

9.04.2009

STEFAN LOGAN STEFAN LOGAN STEFAN LOGAN


I've been away for a bit plugging my new projectile in book form, but rest assured I've been watching these meaningless meaningless games very closely.

And I can now conclude that the Stefan Logan hype is the new Mike Wallace hype is the new Frank Summers hype.

Dude will make the team to the surprise of no one. Because thankfully this will not be another year of Mewelde Moore and Gary Russell (or Najeh Davenport!) returning kicks for the Steelers.

Less than a week to go until the title defense begins.

9.02.2009

Get Engorged: Viagra For Your Season

Yea, I'm getting a rising sensation, alright...

I participate in fantasy football. I did not say "play" as that would suggest some type of physical exertion being involved. You don't play "Dungeons & Dragons," dipshits, you take part in it. Same with sex, for that matter, Level 8 "Mage." I'm not one of these off-the-deep-end guys that has 24 teams and tracks which receivers lead the league in YAC (one point each!). I am in one league. I have one team. The smack-talking and one night a year of binge drinking it constitutes completely validate my involvement as far as I'm concerned. So, yea, I bought one of those Fantasy Football Ranking Magazines the other day to see who I should draft. It took until page 32 until I read a SINGLE GODDAMN THING about the Steelers. So I bout another; page 29. And another; page fucking 33. The returns of Tom Brady, Favre and Vick, The "Wildcat" and Mark Sanchez all took precedence.

Look, I don't say this to decry Fantasy Sports, far from it. They draw non-fans to the sport, give casual fans a reason to watch just about every game and expedite the divorce precedings of avid fans. And this slighting isn't germane to fantasy coverage, either. Of course, Ben's joke of a litigation issue had it's few days mention mid-summer, but otherwise it's as if The Steelers' earning of a 6th Championship simply cannot be book-ended with a 7th.

I get it. We're boring. We win without as much flash as most and we don't mix with celebrities, have front office fisticuffs or appear on the police blotter as much as some teams. Hell, Ben has to donate a shitload to regional police organizations just to keep them up to date with the Bengals' latest arsenals.

I'm not ashamed to say I openly wondered what it would take to motivate me as a fan this year. Would repeating be enough? For a long time watching and then passing the Niners and Cowboys in Lombardis was a big motivator. Sure, I'll always hate the Ratbirds and want to paste our Ohio divisional opponents (SEE: Pathetic Franchises). I'll always be found at Heinz or in front of the biggest HDTV that can be commandeered on Sundays. But would the FIRE be there?

But the more I read and hear, the more I realize The Steelers are an afterthought. Many will concede that we'll take the division, though not all. But as far as being the "Top Dog"? Forget about it, only Chahida at ESPN things we're #1. Perhaps this is because it is so difficult to repeat? But who/what did we really lose? 2 defensive starters and our 3rd wide out? The fuck?

This slight, at least as far as predictions are concerned, pisses me right off. I wrote about this last year, how The Steelers' simply are too boring for their own good in this manner. Fine. Myself (and the Rooneys, I'm sure) prefer it that way.

Of course, if we make it to the playoffs all sorts of assholes will take credit, saying they "called it." from the start. They'll run story's like "Can #7 take the Steelers to a 7th?" and Dynastic comparison pieces. BUT WHERE IS THAT SHIT NOW? Crickets fucking chirping.

More on why I'm getting fired up next week...

9.01.2009

O-line Concerns; Diesel Locked Down



Defensive stalwart Brett Keisel inked a 5-year deal yesterday, further solidifying an already impressive defensive front for the Steelers in the coming years. In addition to hoping around on the sidelines prior to opening kickoffs, Keisel is one of Roethlisberger's closest friends and confidants on the squad. So while the length of the contract is a little long for my liking, it adds much value. It also means Ryan Clark, whose contract status is up at the end of this year, is likely to have to wait to see how things shake out, as we all know the Rooneys don't deal during the season.

On the other side of the ball, it looks like Dr. Bradley's work on Darnell Stapleton's knee isn't going to hold up - he's headed to the IR, out for the season. Trai Essex will "slide" or perhaps be bull-rushed into the right guard role. Stapleton was serviceable last year, especially down the playoff stretch. And, of course, this further calls in to question the viability of our O-line and makes it likely rookies A.Q. Shipley and Kraig Urbik will see larger chunks of time with the first team O. It will be intersting to see how this affects Tomlin's decisions in getting the squad down to the 53-man roster. Whatever the case, it looks like we're in for another season-long bout of breathe-holding.