Posted on: September 22, 2008 6:52 am
Edited on: September 22, 2008 10:07 am

Just Plain Ugly - Onus is on Arians

So I had to sleep on it, allowing myself to fully digest everything that happened in yesterdays game with the Steelers vs the Eagles, not allowing emotions to cloud my thought process as I write this up.  It wasn't a good sleep though, my mind running through the game over and over, trying to keep things in perspective.

To keep things in perspective, it was a loss, something that we expected to happen at least once (okay, maybe five times) this season.  One team had to win and the other had to lose.   It was a much deserved win by the Eagles and Jimmy Johnson's defense.  A constant blitzing defense against the Steelers offense made Ben Roethlisberger and Willie Parker ineffective.  We expected Johnson's defense to play tough, question is, why didn't Bruce Arians?  Perhaps I'm jumping ahead of myself on this, so let me digress abit before addressing that question.

It was a very physical game, which left players battered and bruised.  Brian Westbrook went down early, Donovan McNabb would end up hobbling at times, Ben Roethlisberger would leave with a hand injury, Byron Leftwich would end up with an ankle injury and Casey Hampton would suffer a groin injury.  Credit to both defenses for shutting down the strengths of their opponents offense.  In the end, it would be a very defensive, low scoring game.  There would be a total of 12 combined sacks, three interceptions and three forced fumbles.  For a fan who enjoys defensive shows, this was the game to watch.

As a Steelers fan, I couldn't be happier with the performance of Dick LeBeau's defense.  Steelers defense kept the Eagles running game under 100 yds and limited McNabb to his lowest passing perfomance so far this season.  Having registered 361 yds against the St. Louis Rams and 281 yds against the Dallas Cowboys, the Steelers would keep McNabb to 196 yds with one TD.  As the game proceeded, the Steelers defense adjusted and held the Eagles high powered offense to make it a smash mouth game.  In the end, the Steelers would only allow 13 offensive points.  Of course, that was 13 points too much.    We can't overlook Jeff Reeds accomplishments either.  It was Jeff Reeds field goals, including a career long of 53 yds, that kept the Steelers in the game offensively.  However, the Steelers defense and the kicking prowess of Reed were the only good things Steeler fans could take away from the game.

Last year the Steelers ended the season with questions on both the oline and the special teams.  Special teams this game for the Steelers was once again questionable.  Though no bobbles or mess ups as there was in the Cleveland Browns game last week,  Steelers return team couldn't produce much in yards returned, and the special teams defense allowed Philly to return the ball for good field position.  Offensive penalties against the Steelers would back the Steelers up not once but twice, not pretty when the Steelers offense hadn't been able to get anything going most of the game as it was.  This was just plain bad playing on the Steelers part. 

The most disheartening though was how the Eagles defense totally descimated the Steelers offensive line.  The constant blitzing from Johnson's defense had the Steelers oline collapsing like a house of cards, allowing eight sacks on Ben Roethlisberger and one on Byron Leftwich.  When Ben was being sacked, he couldn't get anything going on offense, regardless of whether it was the rush or in the passing game.   Amazingly, the Steelers were still able to get it down the field enough for two field goals.  Unfortunately, this wouldn't be enough and the offense would look out of sync for most of the game. A gutsy attempt by Ben, when he was allotted time to throw, would end up with an interception with a long pass to Nate Washington to be picked off by Asante Samuel.   There was nothing pretty to the Steelers offense at all.

Although we could credit the loss to the Steelers offensive line and the failure to protect Ben, the onus of this one lays directly with the play calling of Bruce Arians.  Arians seemed to have failed to adjust the play calling to give both the oline and Ben a break against the constant onslaught from the Eagles defense.  We've seen this before in last years game against the Cardinals.  Rather then keeping Ben back in shotgun, or playing no huddle, Arians seemed to continue to place his quarterback directly in the line of the barrage, by having him play directly under center.  He failed to give the Eagles different looks offensively to help the offense get in sync. 

Arians got a pass last year from most of the fans given it was his first year as OC with the Steelers, unfortunately, this year will be different.  With the level of talent on the Steelers offense, we'll expect the Steelers OC to be able to develop play calls to utilize their strengths and adjust for the defense that their playing, otherwise we'll be calling for his head (not that some of us aren't already).  Oh and we'll be expecting him to be studying more then the prior weeks game film.  Bruce, this loss is on you.

Update Note:  I should read others blogs before writing my own just so I don't get accused of plagarism.  Having noticed that Sircheeks blogs on the Cleveland game did a good/bad/ugly and my title thus referenced that, I felt it better to change the title.

Posted on: September 18, 2008 1:08 pm

Readying the Muskets - The Battle for PA

Some things will be expected.  Governor Ed Rendell will throw his full support behind his choice.  Local media’s will be hyping this event.  More then likely respective mayors will be weighing in.  It’s even possible that there will be statements made by Senator Arlen Spector and 2006 gubernatorial candidate Lynn Swann. 

The citizens of Pennsylvania have been there before, a week long lead up to the event, touting the strengths and weaknesses of the opponents that will face each other.  Nope, this is not the run up to the 2008 Presidential election, but Sunday’s game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Philadelphia Eagles.

We’ve seen this before, not so much a rivalry but more a battle for bragging rights of the best team in the state.  It’s always a Battle for Pennsylvania, whether it’s a match up between the Flyers and the Penguins, Phillies and the Pirates, Steelers and the Eagles.  Not too long ago, it was hockey, now with the NFL season in full gear, it’s football. 

The last time these two teams met in regular season, it was the high powered offense of McNabb and Terrell Owens against a Dick LeBeau defense.  A rookie quarterback and solid offense against a  Jimmy Johnson defense.  The two met at Heinz Field.  At the end, the Steelers would walk away with winning the game and stopping the Eagles win streak that year.  However, this isn’t the same team and it’s not at Heinz Field this year. 

When playing at Lincoln Stadium, the Eagles have held the reigns on the series with the Steelers 24-8-2.  It was in 1997 that these two teams met in the city of Independence where Philadelphia won the game 23-20.   In fact, the last time the Steelers have won in Philadelphia, well, before they were good.  You have to look back to 1965 for a win by the black and gold.

There are pressing questions going into this game.

- Can the Steelers overcome history?  We’ve counted on history being in our favor to explain why they would win the season opener at home and last weeks game against the Browns.  Now history is their foe, having shown it’s favor for the Eagles in this matchup when the Eagles were in their nest.  It’s possible but they’ll need some good mojo going their way to break that 40 year time span curse. 

- Will the oline hold up and protect Ben?  Willie Colon said they had to do better to protect their quarterback this week, to even play after the whistle should they need to.  Perhaps knowing that the right side is still a bit weak, may give Colon more incentive to stave off the Eagles pass rush. 

- Can LeBeau’s defense make Brian Westbrook a non-factor?  Mike Tomlin stated that the key to the game is to contain Donovan McNabb.  Although the Steelers were able to do that in the 04 game by shutting down TO,  the defense will not only have to keep McNabb from getting out of the pocket but also keep Westbrook irrelevant, not an easy job to do. 

- How effective will Ben Roethlisberger be with his sore shoulder?  Reports have Roethlisberger participating in full practice and Ben states that it feels better every day.  Given this, his shoulder should be a minor issue, if any.  Bigger question is, will Bruce Arians allow Ben to run a no-huddle offense against the Jimmy Johnson defense, something that Ben is almost perfect at executing but we haven’t seen in the last few games or even last year. 

And the two most pressing questions of all:

- Are there clandestine phone calls going back and forth between Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravensthal and if so, will it be the typical Philly Cheese Steak Hoagie vs the Primanti Brothers Sandwiches?

- Will a certain CBS Sportsline member who once declared me a football goddess after I predicted a Giants win over the Eagles be willing to once again place a wager deeming me such again should the Steelers win?

The answer to these questions, will be known by Sunday. 

Posted on: September 5, 2008 6:34 am

2008-09 Projections - NFC East

Talk about a stomach bug coming on quickly.  As I type this up, all of the sudden I feel really ill.  Okay, I’ll admit it, it’s because I can only say nice things about the Dallas Cowboys and it’s making me ill. 

NFC North: 

#4) Washington Redskins – Nope this has nothing to do with last nights game, although I think the Jim Zorn will be good for the quarterback, I think that this will be an instance where a rookie coach is going to need to get acclimated and his players are going to have to get accustomed with their system.  Yeah, and Clinton Portis isn’t the key to this team, their defense is.  They do have the best looking coach in the NFL though.

#3) Philadelphia Eagles – somethings missing with this team.  Not sure what it is and it’s definitely not Brian Westbrook or Lito Sheppard.  Just a feeling, you know.

#2) New York Giants – No doubt that what the Giants did last year was remarkable, not only to go on to the Superbowl on the Wildcard, but to beat an undefeated Patriots team to win the trophy.  Those of us who’s teams have been to the Superbowl will tell you, it’s extremely difficult to do back to back unless you have an awesome team.  Giants definitely are a good team with the Eli Manning and Plaxico Burress go to, and no doubt that Brandon Jacobs is a beast.  But the Giants have a bulls eye on their back now and they’re the team to beat and they’ll be seeing the A games from most everyone they meet.

#1) Dallas Cowboys – God this pains me to say this.  The Cowboys have everything it takes to get to the Superbowl this year.  Tony Romo has now settled down and become comfortable, they’ve got a very good defense, Patrick Crayton and Terrill Owens as passing weapons.  Keep an eye on Felix Jones.  He’ll make an impact for the team this year.

NFC East Division Champions – Dallas Cowboys 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com