2.10.2010

2010 Oppnonent Snapshots: Part 2

What is the flux-capacitor coming up with for the Steelers next year, Doc?

First, a bit of business: Head HERE to vote for DC Steeler Nation in the "Best Pittsburgh Sports Blog Tournament."

Now, we'll pick up where we left off the other day (Part 1), taking a brief look at The Steelers' scheduled opponents next season. Again, Free Agency, injuries, The Draft, time of year and phase of the moon can end up serving as significant factors in the outcome of said games, so nothing but a "snapshot" approach is called for: One question and a few comments.

Patriots:
"Are reports of the Patriots' demise greatly FACKIN exaggerated?"
-With Miami and The Jets on the rise (not to mention Wes Welker unlikely to be back from injury in time for the beginning of the season), I'm betting we'll be facing a less cocksure Pats. Some lesser offensive cogs like Watson and Faulk are iffy to return, but the O-line is another big question mark with as many as four guys not coming back. On the defensive side, Vince Wilfork has to be their top priority, but others like Jarvis Green, Derrick Burgess and Leigh Bodden are less sure to be back. It'll be interesting to see how New England's draft strategy plays out. Also, Tedy Bruschi is a corpse.

Raiders:
"How can we enact some revenge at Heinz after Gradkowski ripped out our hearts"
-Oakland is a mess. As always. But their defense is young and good, especially their secondary, and they aren't really losing anyone there. It's depressing just to think we have to worry about a game at home with these guys, but clearly that's the case. We'll need to test whoever is under center and exploit their lack of offensive skill.

Ravens:
"I goddamn hate the Ravens. Shit. I really hate them. You know?"
-I do not fear Joe Flacco. In fact, I cannot remember ever truly being concerned about a Ravens passing game. But, Ray Rice scares the shit out of me. But when you combine a defense that is returning nearly everyone (Fabian Washington and one other corner are restricted) with one of the best work-horse backs in the NFL, you have a mix that will keep me up at night.

Saints:
"How great is this game going to be? It's gotta be the Thursday Night Season-Opener, right?"
-As the defending World Champs, The Saints' schedule really only leaves The Steelers or The Vikings as possible opponents for the NFL's kickoff game. I'm guessing we'll be the pick, since Lord Favre may take until the night before to decide he's coming back again. Down to business: Both Mike Bell and Pierre Thomas are restricted, so keep an eye on how big of a role they see either or both playing with Bush if resigned. The O-line is a weak point of this squad as they could drop as many as three starters in the off season. No one ever assessed The Saints' defense as shut-down and they'll be looking to replace both Scott Fujita and Darren Sharper, two of their best on that side of the ball. But they won it all for a reason, The Steelers would be ill-advised to try and out gun this offense, Brees has a quick trigger and can fire to any one of like 73 receivers and backs. We're going to get a real good test early on in the season.

Titans:
"So, Chris Johnson is better at football than I am at breathing. How do we stop The Titans."
-Another disturbing test for our run defense. With VY in charge their aerial attack isn't too potent, but it doesn't have to be. The Good News? The Titans were horrible against the pass (only Detroit was worse, and barely). I would hope that a later-in-the-season game would neutralize some of Johnson's breakaway speed and give more time for The Titans to have their wheels come off. Seeing as we opened last year with them, maybe that'll be the case.

As you can likely see, The Steelers 2010 season is shaping up to be quite the gauntlet of formidable opponents. An upward-trending division and sub-par 2009 campaign leave many questions lingering among The Nation. Here's hoping we get some encouraging answers throughout the off-season.

2.08.2010

A Quick Look Ahead: 2010 Opponents - Pt. 1

Gotta Give Conan some love...

Like any true die-hard, we must not allow the dust (or confetti) to settle on the 2009 season before taking a look at what lay ahead for The Steelers. The NFL does not release their full, date-by-date schedule until around mid-April, but as of last week, we know our '10 opponents. Of course, Free Agency, injuries, The Draft, time of year and tectonic shift could yet serve as significant factors in the outcome of said games, so nothing but a "snapshot" approach is called for: One question and a few comments.

Got your own take? Leave'em in the comments. What else are you going to do, watch the NBA All-Star Game?

Browns:
"What the hell is Holmgren going to do with this shit pile, besides let their most talented offensive weapon walk?"
-With Cribbs gone, they need to start with the QB situation, for sure. Anderson's likely out and Quinn is a bust. Also, Jerome Harrison's price tag is sure to have shot up following his late-season explosion.

Bills:
"Chan Gailey. The fuck?"
- TO's numbers rebounded a little with Fitzpatrick under center, but neither are all that great at their respective positions. The Bills do have two servicable backs in Lynch and Jackson and a surprisingly adept secondary (second only to the Jets against the pass) to build on.

Bengals:
"Hardknocks was awesome. What doe the Bungles need to do to win the AFC North again?"
-Linebackers Maualuga (DUI/Rehab), Jeanty (UFA) and Brandon Johnson (UFA) all are questions marks headed into next year. So their defense will need some shoring and they're in need of a #2 to replace Chris Henry and a legit tight end, but that's a relatively short list of issues, considering.

Buccaneers:
"Just how shitty are the Bucs?"
-Byron Leftwich was not the answer for the Bucs. But there's a chance Josh Freeman is. Cadillac Williams had a small resurgence and Kellen Winslow had an above average season at TE. But a lack of a true #1 option at WR (Antonio Bryant was volatile at best and my not be back) and an abysmal defense that ranked worst in the league against the run, makes the Bucs an ideal road opponent.

Dolphins:
"Will we see The Wildcat? I fucking hate The Wildcat."
-Between injury and a caveat in his contract that frees him depending on the collective bargaining agreement, Ronnie Brown will remain a question mark for the Fins for awhile. But, assuming he's back, he and Ricky Williams represent one of the most potent backfields in the league. I don't think either Chad Henne or Pennington is the answer, so watch for a signing at QB. I don't like that we have to go back down to Miami next season, but if we can't exploit their lack of a passing game and average defense to get a W, then we aren't a playoff team anyway.

Falcons:
"Jesus, it's been awhile since we played Atlanta. What do we need to know about them?"
-The last time the Falcons traveled to Pittsburgh, their current quarterback was in high school. It's fair to say Matty Ice had a bit of a sophomore slump last year, but some of that can be attributed to turf toe. And they can run the ball when Turner is healthy; he averages nearly five yards a tote. We'll need to exploit the Falcons' below average, aging defense and shut down a likely healthier Micheal Turner to grab a win.

Jets:
"Are The Jets really AFC-Title-Game-good?"
-Thomas Jones and an under-the-radar Shonne Greene are another potent running tandem. However, it's likely that other offensive cogs Leon Washington, Braylon Edwards and David Clowney might both be in other jerseys by next season. Rattling Sanchez might be a good backup plan of attack, but solving New York's league-leading defense (all signed through 2010) is what Ben & Co. will have to over come to defend Heinz Field against Gang Green.

Panthers:
"Holy Shit, The Panthers had TWO guys go for over 1,000 yards rushing? How did they go 8-8?"
-Before being placed on the injured reserve in week 13, Jake Delhomme had a QB Rating of 59.4 for the season. He had 18 picks to 8 TDs. At least they didn't sign him to a big contract or something. Matt Moore HAS to be the future, at least for 2010, and there's potential there. He seemed to be able to get the rock to Steve Smith enough to satiate him, so there's that. Still, The Steelers show enough offensively to overcome what should be a decent Panther defense, leaving their running attack as the glaring threat. Like so many of these games, stopping the run should be the priority.

In fact, now that you mention it...

...The Steelers run defenese had better be stout as they face the TOP 6 RUSHING TEAMS OF LAST SEASON. Good Lord.

Part 2 of 2010 Opponents in a day or two...

2.06.2010

LeBeau to Hall of Fame

Congratulations, Dick.

I'm not a professional writer. I'm not fortunate enough to be on location, at the Super Bowl, like our favorite intrepid reporter Mr. Tunison.

But, if you will, allow me a brief story:

This morning I woke up and immediately went about the process of digging my automobile out from under the 20-22" of snow that was dumped in the past day or so in and around the Pittsburgh area. It was at this point that my neighbor's garage door began to lift and he took notice of my efforts. He waived and said, "Wow, looks like we got quite the snow storm last night." We exchanged small-talk and eventually, noticed a young lady that had managed to get her VW Bug stuck in the snow. We worked together, he directing her steering and driving efforts and I pushing on her front end bumper to free the car. At this point, my neighbor headed for his door with a friendly, "Good luck getting yourself out of that," to which I replied, "You too. And good luck getting in to the Hall of Fame today, Sir."

But Dick LeBeau didn't need my or anyone's luck. He was voted into The National Football League's Hall of Fame today, a selection from the Hall's senior committee. LeBeau had an impressive 14-year career as defensive back for the Detroit Lions, during which time he amassed 62 interceptions and three Pro Bowl trips. But, it is his innovative defensive "zone-blitz" scheme and astounding 37-year career as coach that likely landed Dick in Canton.

To add a little note of irony, I wrote last year prior to the Super Bowl about a chance run in with Mr. LeBeau. I was struck by his sheer enjoyment of the game and the reverence his players have for him. Many of you have heard the story of The Steelers' entire roster wearing LeBeau's Lions jersey as a show of support after the passing of his mother and prior to the Super Bowl. The list of former pupils that have played for LeBeau reads like a "Who's Who" of defensive stand-outs. And it is certainly no coincidence that another name on the NFL's list of all time greats, Rod Woodson's acceptance speech gave much credit and shined a light on LeBeau's merit as candidate.

I'm like most of you, I'd imagine. I've had the opportunity to meet and speak with a few current and former professional athletes and coaches. I must say NONE of them has been as impressive and as down-to-earth as Mr. LeBeau. This simply couldn't have happened to more deserving, and neighborly guy.