Tag:Pittsburgh Steelers
Posted on: September 1, 2012 4:43 pm

And the Cat Almost Won

The Saturday of a three day weekend found me in a struggle for dominance.  What was I attempting to dominate and who else was involved in this struggle?  Well, it was my keyboard and my arch-nemisis turned out to be my male cat, Raiju.  You see, we both had different ideas about what to use the computer keyboard for.  I wanted to use it to type and well, he decided it might make a nice bed to stretch out on.  At first it was a struggle and I thought he was going to win.  Every time I would put him on the floor, he'd jump up again and stretch out on it.  In an act of desperation, I found a box.  
Ever wonder what it is with cats and boxes?  What exactly is the fascination that cats have with them (aside from the litterbox aspect of it).  Of course it's the same question that I have about my blogs and why they get so many hits.  Rather than looking a gift horse in the mouth, I'll just thank you for taking time to read me.  I promise, I will talk more about football and less about hot flashes as the season begins.  No, I'm not discussing hot flashes today, aren't you thankful for that?

With college football starting this weekend and the opening kickoff to the NFL just days away, all seems right with the world...well almost anyway.  There will be alot of focus on the cleanup efforts after Hurricane Isaac.  Our soldiers are still struggling on doing what they believe.  And it seemed fitting that an American legend was laid to rest on the day of a blue moon.  Well maybe all is not as right as we would like it to be, but we go on. 

Here in the state capital of South Carolina, there were a lot of groans and grumblings as the University of South Carolina Gamecocks opened their season.  They say Gamecock fans are pretty loyal to their team.  They also say that losing a game to Vandy is a fate worse than death.  I don't know if that's true and for the sake of first responders everywhere, I was just happy that we wouldn't find out what would have happened. 

Speaking of Carolina, I know that along with Andrew Luck and RG III, that Cam Newton in will be in the spotlight to see if he can surpass what he was able to do last year.  I think that there will be a slight drop off in Newton's performance.  Hopefully Panther fans will be patient and give Ron Rivera a chance to build the team around him. 

And I'm guessing that Newton is going to be a pretty hot commodity in NFL fantasy football drafts this season given his performance last season.  Heck, if I were playing, I'd might even take him.  But after two attempts of trying the leagues version and failing miserably on both attempts, as well as playing survivor and pick-em leagues and not doing well on them at all either, I gave up on that.  Now I'm trying a new twist at Fantasy Football.  Think of Shades of Grey, the New York Times Bestsellers List, NFL powerrankings and the NFLs sexiest athletes.  But that's for another time.

Teams are down to 53 and while I'm glad to see that the Steelers added wide receivers Toney Clemons and David Gilreath to the practice squad.  I wouldn't be too surprised if tight end Heath Miller becomes more involved in the passing game than he has been. 

As far as the Steelers chances against the Denver Broncos next Sunday, history doesn't bode well in favor of the Steelers with their "lifetime" series of 17-10-1.  But it's the first game and I won't judge how well a team is projected to do in it's first game of the season. 

Nor will I do any prognastications.  I've noticed sports analysts declaring the Ravens defense becoming old and slow this year.  The funny thing is, every time I've heard these "analysis" made about teams, those old and slow teams somehow manage to make it to the playoffs.  Go figure. 

Enjoy your college football weekend ... and here's to the opening kickoff.

And Happy Labor Day.

Posted on: August 26, 2012 7:35 am

More Menopausal Musings

Early Sunday end-of-summer mornings are meant for sitting on the lanai with a cup of Kona, listening to the birds singing as one watches the sun rise on the horizon. Especially when the morning temps are in the mid sixties, something that's not the norm in late August in the South.  Crazy summer that we've been having.  It was as if May and August got together over drinks and decided to trade places, ala Eddie Murphy and Dan Ackroyd.  I'm not complaining though.  My lawn is still green, something that's not normal this time of year. 

As I said, mornings like this is meant to be spent watching Mother Nature in all her glory come to life. Sad to say, I'm not doing that.  Too much to be done today that will keep me chained to the computer.  In the upcoming election, I'd really like to see discussions about lifting the ban on cloning.  I really need a mini-me, an exact replica who can help me get the things done that need to be done with little to no instructions.  It would be my luck that my mini-me would be reliving my twenty-something years. 

I'm really not going to say much about the elections.  Of course, we're seeing the normal absurdities in statements coming from both sides of the aisles.  If anything positive has come out of the debates and the pleas to "vote for me", it's that we've identified who fell asleep during those boring black and white films that were shown in health classes. 

With everyone else talking about Andrew Luck, RG III, Tim Tebow, Terrell Owens and Chad Johnson, I'll pass on discussing them.  Instead, I'd like to talk about the Sunday Ticket commercials for DirecTv.  I have to admit, I love them.  It really takes a man secure in his own image to be portrayed as the NFL fairies bringing all the games to your home, iphone, etc.  And have to give Eli Manning credit for not taking himself so seriously to be portrayed as the goof.  "You're mom's calling."

Ten days till kick-off and one more week of pre-season games.  I'm beginning to wonder if the Steelers are going to make it with their starters intact.  Another game, another member down with a major injury as the auditions continue.  The thing that I'm really concerned about are the procedural penalties that the Steelers are having.  Two twelve-men on the field during the Indy game and the illegal-substitution penalty in the Buffalo game.  Idiotic penalties that was caused by players not being aware of what's going on, on the field.  It's bad enough that the substitute refs are making bad calls in every game being played through out the league, why shoot yourself in the foot with avoidable penalties?

On an up note, it's good to see the Steelers defense focusing early on getting the takeaways.  While I'd like to see them come away with twenty take away per games, its looks more promising then it did last season.  The one kid I'm anxious to see on how he continues to develop is rookie safety Robert Golden

Another person I'm looking forward to seeing develop is quarterback Jerrod Johnson.  I know that he's the Steelers project quarterback, the fourth string that will probably never see play time during the regular season, barring an injury to the three quarterbacks in front of him.  However, having seen the Steelers having to go down to their fourth string quarterback two years ago, there is that possibility.  And I know in the Indy game, it was against the backup defense, but you could see the fundamentals and maturity are there.  That he managed to keep the winning drive alive while eating up the clock to keep the Colts from getting the ball back with enough time to score shows a lot of promise. 

I would see if there's one thing "fun" about preseason is seeing the rookies and backups potential.  Seeing those diamonds in the rough who might not have an impact immediately but end up being solid players as their careers go on.

This weekend, wide receiver Mike Wallace is suppose to return and sign his tender.  I've heard a lot of grumbling about his hold out and how the Steelers should sit him since he did.  Yeah, I wasn't happy about him holding out either, but since he's back, I say play him until he shows he's not willing to go out and make the plays. 

I'll let you in on a little secret.  The story that I'm currently working on involves a curse and one woman's (yes woman) battle against an evil curse laid upon her family.  Not that I'm pimping my story since it's not even in the edit stage yet.  Just that I find it out that curses seem to prove relevant in the MLB.  After all, to have gone twenty some years without a winning season would have had the superstitious thinking that someone laid a curse on the Pittsburgh Pirates.  But if their overcoming the 19 inning game to win it is any indication, then I feel good in saying that if nothing else, it's at least been exciting.  When was the last time Pirates fans could say that about them? 

And as the boys of summer make that last thirty some odd game stretch to the playoffs and we gear up for the start of NCAA and NFL football, I have one small piece of advice.  Slow down in the school zones.  The wide eye faces of our future have started heading back to school and it's up to those of us who drive to be law abiding citizens and be aware of our speed as we're passing through those school zones. 

Posted on: August 17, 2012 1:19 pm
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Posted on: January 6, 2010 10:49 am
Edited on: January 6, 2010 10:59 am

If Only ... - Part Two

Prior to the start of the 2009, in true homer fashion, I had projected the Steelers to win Superbowl XLIV.  Okay, I’ll admit, I’m not a complete homer.   As much as I  would love to see the Steelers make the Superbowl year in and year out, I also know that’s not always a possibility.  When Tommy Maddox went down in 2004, a year after the Steelers finished 6-10, I expected another losing season under a rookie quarterback (see, I’m not always right about the Steelers).

My reason for the projection though really wasn’t out of homerism (though my fantasy football picks were), just more out of logic.  And I’m sure that many non-Steelers fans agreed that if there was a team at the time that was perfectly poised for a back to back, it was the 09 Steelers.  Limited turnover in personnel, the strength of talent on this current Steelers roster and their 09 schedule had them perfectly poised to do it.  Unfortunately my predictions fell short, sort of like the Steelers season. 

Going into the post-season, while 12 teams are preparing for their run at the Lombardi Trophy, Steelers join 19 other teams in determining where to go next year.  National media and analysts will be focused on the playoffs and the coaching carousel throughout the NFL.  Pittsburgh media and many Steelers fans, including myself, will be watching and talking about what transpires within the black and gold organization for the next few weeks.  Continuing to try to figure out what went wrong and why, it’ll be a topic discussed on message boards and in analysts columns both in the Pittsburgh and national media as they break down the end of various teams seasons.  CBS Sports writer, Pete Prisco believes that the Steelers defense needs a lot of help as he mentioned in his final regular power rankings and NFL.com’s  Bucky Brooks broke down the Steelers in his column.  And now, after the retirement of Ken Anderson as the Steelers quarterback coach yesterday, we’re waiting with baited breath to see the fate of Bruce Arians. 

In the first part of “If Only”, I tended to regurgitated responses to what the media had speculated  on the demise of a defense that the previous season was no less then a shut down defense, both against the run and the pass.  It was that defense, along with a clutch quarterback and some very good receivers that propelled the Steelers through the playoffs and into the Superbowl.  It’s a given that members of the media and fans of Pittsburgh legendary franchise would try to find reasons as to why.  (Yes, yes, I know that I’m repeating myself). 

Now I’ll admit, myself, I’m far from being an expert at the game.  I’ve never taken a snap, blocked a defensive lineman or even kicked a field goal.  I was never a football mom, heck, I wasn’t even a pom pom waiving cheerleader, just a fan.  But I can say, I’ve been watching the games enough, to be certain of at least some things. 

  • Steeler management needs to put a clause in all players contracts that they will never, ever, appear in a Campbell’s Chunky Soup commercial (see 2006 when Ben Roethlisberger was suppose to be the Chunky Soup commercial and the team went 8-8 that season), appear on a Madden whatever box and not to appear on an Sports Illustrated cover (unless of course, it’s their swimsuit addition and they’re not in uniform).  Okay the SI cover may be a stretch, but why tempt fate? 
  • Every Steelers fan needs to keep a bottle of Bayer aspirin close by, just in case.  Terry O’Neil knows what watching a Steelers game can do to the heart.  He’s the fan who made national headlines in 06 for suffering a heart attack after Jerome Bettis fumbled the ball at the goal line in the Steelers/Colts playoff game.  I’m right with Terry there on this one.  I think the Denver game was the only game this year that I didn’t have my heart in my throat in the fourth quarter. 
  • Steelers fans can be extremely passionate and loyal, can be rabid, are extremely spoiled and as a collective, the Steelers Nation can sometimes be bi-polar.  I’ll address this one later, but when some fans start wanting to burn in effigy a coach who has gone to the playoffs twice, winning a Superbowl, and barely missed the playoffs without a losing season only after three seasons in that position.  Or announce on players facebook pages that the loss against Cleveland made them embarrassed to be a Steelers fan, I just have to shake my head.  Sometimes I think we can take lessons from Lions, Saints, Browns and even Bengals fans.
  • Not to bite into the media hype or the drama.  We’ve heard twice about issues between Hines Ward and Ben Roethlisberger.  After the 2007 season when the press reported that Ben wanted a tall wide receiver and Ward took exception to it.  Yep, there was a rift there, so much so that the Steelers went on to the Superbowl.  Ward would catch 81 times for 1,043 yards and 7 touchdowns.  And after his comments about Ben’s concussion, yep, a real drop statistically in those games.  Yep, the Steelers had a big McNabb/TO controversy going there…NOT.
  • That stats always don’t paint the full picture.  A team with a top five overall defense, with an offense that has a quarterback that has thrown for 4000 yards and a quarterback completion rating of 100.5, with two 1000+ yards receivers PLUS a 1,000 yard running back should be in the playoffs, right? 
  • And yes, despite what Pittsburgh Post Gazette writer Ron Cook might believe (1), Bruce Arians needs to go.  In his column today, Cook points to the stats this season as reason why the calls for Arians head is unjustified.  Though I may agree with Cook on the Steelers need to keep the idea of the high powered passing offense in place, I disagree that Arians is the man to do this.  High powered passing offenses that can make it to and win the Superbowl utilize their weapons effectively.  Arians has all the talent needed for a pick your poison offense, but has shown he’s more of a Mr. Hyde then Dr. Jekyll in his Jekyll and Hyde play calling. 

Let’s face it, the Steelers do have a running game.  Rashard Mendenhall running for 1000 yards rushing for the season.  They have an explosive pass attack if used effectively,  2 1000+ yard receivers and a rookie deep threat by the name of Mike Wallace  proved that.  The game against the Chargers earlier in the season showed how deadly that poison can be when mixed properly.  333 yards passing for 2 TDs and a running back that ran for 165 yards and 2 TDs, not to mention a 6 yard pass by Mewelde Moore for another, made any attempt at a come from behind win a Philip Rivers led offense kind of a pipe dream.  Now take the same offense in the Packers/Steelers game. 503 yards passing by the Steelers and yet the Steelers needed a last minute touchdown to win that game.  Three touch downs in the first half compared to three field goals in the second. 

This is why I believe Arians needs to go.  Despite what the stats say, Arians more often then not seems to have no answers for the 3d and goals.  Think Arians is evolving Ron?  Look at his play calling against the Eagles in the 2008 season.  Despite being eaten alive by the Eagles defense, Arians offered very little solution except keeping Ben behind center and running, running and then pass.  Easily read by the defense Bruce.  How many sacks did Ben take this season?  What did Arians do when the line seemed overwhelmed?  Yeah, sometimes he’d let Ben run no huddle or muddled huddle, other times, Arians seemed to have no answers except…you guessed it, the deep ball. 

No Ron, my reasoning for wanting Arians gone has nothing to do with wanting to revert back to power run first philosophy of old.  I just believe that he has issues using his resources correctly. 

If only he had more games like they did in Denver and against San Diego, continuing to play to win in the 2nd half rather then trying to sit on the lead offensively as we’ve seen in many game by eating the clock and field.  (Especially in the 4th quarter in the first Cincinnati game).   Want wow Bruce…the Denver game was just that, both offensively and defensively.   Why not go for something like that in every game…nevermind, I’m sure he has.

If only his play calling wasn’t so predictable a lot of the time, especially in the 2nd half. How often have we watched the offense telegraph the plays only to result in Ben being sacked?

If only he wouldn’t get conservative when  he should be aggressive and shouldn’t get aggressive when it calls for him to be conservative. 

If only his play calling seemed to be more situational rather then scripted.  Not that it doesn’t happen but once it works, he reverts back to the script he laid out. 

If only he hadn’t opted to pass twice as often as running in a game where the winds were 60 mph or where the rush defense of the opponent was suspect and the run was actually working.  Or if he adjusted his play calling sooner or didn’t wait for two minutes to go no huddle when the oline and Ben are taking a beating.

If only there weren’t so many reasons as to why we lack confidence in him, perhaps Ron, we the fans wouldn’t be calling for his head year in and year out.

Ron, and here’s probably the biggest reason I believe that Arians should no longer be in Pittsburgh.  For three years Ron, the Steelers offense has struggled on 3d and short.  For two of those years they were brushed off due to injuries, or young running backs or issues with the oline.  Ron, this year the Steelers have a quarterback that has thrown for 4000+ yards in a season.  Ron, this year the Steelers have two wide receivers who’ve caught for 1,000 + yds.  Ron, this year the Steelers have a deep fast threat in the way of Mike Wallace.  Ron, this year the Steelers have a running back who has ran for over 1,000 yds.  Ron, yet, still in three years, more often then not, the Steelers are kicking field goals instead of converting the 3d and goals to touchdowns. 

If only Bruce Arians had the answer to this problem, then there’d be less of a call for his head…if only…

(1):  Making Arians a Scapegoat is Unwarranted, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Wednesday 1/6/10

Posted on: January 5, 2010 5:55 am
Edited on: January 5, 2010 6:03 am

If Only

A wing and a prayer, that’s what it came down to, prayers that somehow a miracle will happen, or should we say three miracles?  It could happen.  After all, who foresaw the losses of the Bengals, Eagles and Steelers to the Raiders?  Who thought the Ravens would miss opportunities by stepping on their own toes?  Who would have thought that a rookie quarterback with 12 TDs and 20 interceptions would still be in the playoff hunt, Rex Ryan surely didn’t.  Miracles do happen, right?  After all, it was a miracle that I was cheering on the Cowboys in a game in 2005. 

However, Sunday the Steelers would find no miracles waiting for them.  The wing and a prayer ended officially when the Baltimore Ravens lost to the Oakland Raiders on Sunday.  Instead of preparing for the playoffs, James Harrison and Casey Hampton will be preparing (if there is such a thing) for the Pro-Bowl, while the rest of the Steelers players and coaching staff will try to figure out where they went wrong and why,  Knowing the only one’s to blame were themselves.  No doubt Mike Tomlin and many of the Steelers players acknowledged that time and time again..

What led to the breakdown of the Steelers this season?  Of course the fourth quarter meltdowns on defense had a lot to do with it.  After all, the Steelers had substantial leads in the majority of the games only to see them eaten away.  CBS Sports writer Mike Freeman would have us believe that we can trace it back to Mike Tomlin and “Camp Cupcake” but is that all to it?  In 2007, when Mike Tomlin first took the reigns of the Steelers, he did so with a firm grasp, and in training camp had the players practicing in full pads, the team seemed to have ran out of steam by the end of the season.  After going 10-6 and winning the AFC North that year.  Despite their 5-1 division record, the Steelers would surprisingly lose to teams that many expected them to dominate.  Losses that year included a rebuilding Cardinals team, a New York Jets team that ended it’s season at 4-12.   Of course there is the argument of a soft training camp leading to players not being in proper condition to be able to play a full four-quarters.

Some would also point to the injury of Troy Polamalu as being a big factor in the breakdown of the defense due to the number of turnovers.  What was also missing was the disruptive force of Aaron Smith.  Though the front line of the defense played well enough, the tipped or batted down passes seemed to have diminished under the line by proxy which allowed offenses to exploit the middle of the field all too often.  Sometimes, it seemed that the replacements were attempting to imitate the missing defenders rather then play their own individual strengths.  Again, we can look to 2007 when Polamalu and Aaron Smith went down, not to mention Ryan Clark, how suspect the Steelers secondary looked, especially when they went up against Tom Brady and the 18-1 Patriots.

We could say there’s an age disparity with the Steelers defense having either older players or much younger, inexperienced players and no depth in between and that age is finally catching up with the defense, and this is a plausible argument given some of  the uncharacteristic missed tackles made by James Farrior over the course of the season.  No doubt the Steelers defense is aging and the depth in position in younger players is a major need in next years draft and free agency acquisitions. 

Some might point and say that the Steelers secondary is weak, showing where the secondary consistently was getting burned.  With the exception of  Bryant McFadden, the secondary remained intact, with rookie cornerback, Joe Burnett coming in and well, playing like a rookie.  However, is that something really new?  Okay, it’s a given that the 2008 season, everyone and their brother on defense seemed to be registering an interception, yet the Arizona Cardinals in Superbowl XLIII did manage to uncover the weakness in the Steelers secondary.  So it’s been there.  It’s been a weakness in the Steelers defense even back to the days of Cowher.  It’s just that well…

Perhaps James Harrison hit the nail on the head to define what the actual issue was this season with the Steelers defense.  "I think at times we played as a team and, at times, we played as individuals," he said. "Sometimes it may have seemed that some individual things were more important than actually the whole concept of the team."(1).  With the fourth quarter losses to the Kansas City Chiefs, the Oakland Raiders and the Chicago Bears, it could very well be that once the offense gained the lead, defensively many players bought into the hype.  Superbowl hangover?  Perhaps.  Effects of Camp Cupcake?  Maybe.  Or perhaps it was the lack of a common goal that kept the defense over the past few playing as a unit and not as individuals.  It was no secret that for the past few years the defense was playing for “Coach Dad”.  There were no bones about it, the Steelers defense, especially last season, were looking to help get Steelers Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau into the NFL Hall of Fame.  And now, with the nomination and the likelihood of LeBeau being enshrined a probability, that goal was achieved. 

Whatever happened, it’s left fans, sportswriters and even Steelers players and management scratching their heads trying to figure out exactly what happened.  For a team with so much talent, both on offense and defense.  For a team that had the stars aligned for them in scheduling.  For a team that actually had the potential to make a strong Superbowl run for a back to back, it became a season of missed opportunities and  if only. 

(1) Steelers facing adjustments in personnel and attitude , Gary Dulac, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, 1/05/10

Category: NFL
Posted on: November 12, 2009 4:07 am
Edited on: November 12, 2009 4:19 am

Turn Signals Optional

When you happen to be awake at 2 am when you should otherwise be sleeping, a lot of times it’s either because you have something heavy on your mind (or your stomach) or it’s because of hot flashes.  In my case, this morning it’s hot flashes.  Not to say that there isn’t something on my mind, there always is.

Like how the automobile companies could have saved a lot of money by making those little green or orange flashing lights on the front and the back of the cars optional.  After all, they’re rarely used since apparently all drivers are mind readers and just know where you’re going.  Yes, it was silly to make a law requiring them to be used when even the Sheriffs Deputies fail to use them.  Funny, how instead of fuming about the cop that almost hit me for failing to use HIS turn signal to indicate his desire to change lanes, I played and replayed the “what if” through my mind and what I would have said to him, if indeed a collision had occurred.  “Sorry officer, the meds I’m on to reduce my blood pressure has sorely diminished my mind reading capabilities”, or “sorry officer, but if you hadn’t been thinking about the girl you slept with last night and focused more on thinking of your intent to change lanes, I wouldn’t have been distracted about how she called you ‘daddy’, by the way is 1234 your pin to your atm card?”.   Of course, the idea that we can and should be able to read minds isn’t limited only to the lack of using turn signals.  Those of us who are married understand this, right?

Those who know me, know that my mind can run in strange tangents.  It’s become particularly worse since I have writers block.  Recently I had taken the advice of several people and decided to try to write a novel.  I had actually played with the idea for several decades, after all, there are some interesting experiences I had that I could draw off of and develop into enjoyable storylines.  However, instead of going the path of writing erotica, I decided to try my hand at an NFL murder mystery, bodice ripper cookbook.  I could say that it was coming along just swell, but it’s still in it’s early chapter.  I think where I got stumped was trying to put the recipe for steak tartar right after the part where the hapless victim lie on the floor, her very life source draining from her quickly from the jagged slash along her throat.  Yes, garish and gruesome I know, maybe a good strawberry cheesecake recipe would have kept the creative juices flowing instead. 

So while I sit, most mornings now, with a blank word document up on the screen, waiting for inspiration to hit me, and instead of blogging or writing poetry so it wouldn’t corrupt whatever concept came to me for the story, I found myself addicted to a virtual farm where I’m trying to just get one more level to buy a mansion, or work to redecorate my virtual apartment while I watch the clock to see if my virtual recipes are ready in one of my three virtual restaurants.  It wasn’t a good thing for me to get a Facebook account, because, frankly, it became addicting.  So addicting that I have two, with plans of two more, the fourth coming when I actually get my novel published, which, at this rate will be around the time the Mayan calendar ends. 

And as far as addictions go, I found there is no chance on this green earth that I will ever become addicted to fantasy football.  Sitting at 1 and 8, I basically buried my ffb team by trading away Drew Brees.  Please, if you’re new to fantasy football and someone encourages you that all you need on your ffb team is Drew Brees to win, that’s not true.  Why oh why did I trade away Ben Roethlisberger early on in the season?

Funny how the mind works though and the thought processes that go on.  Who’d have thought that cuddly Raiders coach Tom Cable might have a violent streak in him?  Okay, that one was maybe a stretch.  Here’s one that might surprise folks though, the Cincinnati Bengals defense is actually a top ten rushing defense going into this Sunday.  Actually the second ranked rushing defense in the league right now allowing only an average of 83.9 yards per game.  When was the last time you actually had to worry about Cincy’s run defense going into a game?  Of course, you’d known that Chad Ochocinco would be playing up and trying to “liven” up the pre-game matchup, but who’d have thought that Bengal’s head coach Marvin Lewis would squash that idea.  Of course, you’d have thought that 85 would have learned his lesson the last time he touted about not being able to be covered with a checklist of all the corners who weren’t able to cover him, and found the first team that did were the Steelers.  Of course, his reasoning, he had thought that Deshea Townsend was the one.  Selective memory right, Chad? 

Not sure why the surprise about the AFC North and their ability to get two teams in the playoffs.  It happened in 2005 when the Bengals were AFC North division champions and the Steelers got the sixth seed wildcard, and then again last season when the Baltimore Ravens met the Steelers in the AFC Championship game.  Not like it hasn’t happened before.  Of course, fans of teams in the AFC North get excited about the possibilities.  Then again, my Colts fan of a husband keeps complaining that there’s not enough attention paid to the Colts being undefeated.  Like I tell him, it’s not the first, or the second time that the Colts have gone undefeated this far.  Actually, it’s more of a shock when they don’t, right?

Of course, Steelers fans have their own thought processes too.  Some would say it’s developed by a set of rose colored glasses.  Like how a lot of us crow about Roethlisberger as our quarterback.  Let’s put things in perspective.  Rose colored glasses or not, we’ve known Roethlisberger’s capabilities for some time now.  It’s just now that others are acknowledging it.  We really weren’t delusional, were we?  We’ve also seen where and when he struggles, it’s definitely not when he’s in no huddle and calling the plays, but more so when the plays are coming in from the sideline.  The difference is night and day.  Seems in the Denver game, Bruce Arians finally got the clue and the wow factor came out. 

And who’d have thought that Steelers rookie wide receiver Mike Wallace would have had the impact that he had.  Of course we expected this season to be Limas Sweeds breakout year, and I don’t think that his season evolved the way it has because of lack of talent but more on the lack of confidence. 

Of course there were questions about Tyrone Carter going into Monday nights game against the Bronco’s.  Most of us believed that he could at least handle the job, there were questions because of what we had expected when he replaced Troy Polamalu.  There was no wow factor, so was he capable of filling in for safety Ryan Clark.  Let’s just say any questions about Tyrone Carter were put to rest.  What we learned from that game (and probably what we already knew), no one can suitably replace Samson when he gets hurt and have the same effect.  Of course concerns came back due to what occurred in 2007, but the defense by the end of that year may have been more due to Polamalu, Aaron Smith and Ryan Clark being out for the rest of the season.  One of them injured and out has an effect, not as drastic, but all three at the same time, diminishes the Steelers defense. 

Guess that’s what we’ve learned with Aaron Smith going out for the season.  Smith was irreplaceable and still is, but any fears we have about being able to stop the run with him gone is answered with the Steelers top ranked rushing defense. And who’d have thought last weeks sack leader for the Steelers wasn’t last years DPOY or a linebacker named Woodley but Brett Keisel?  

Now on the downhill run to the playoffs, dare we say it, the Steelers are a complete team with a pick your poison offense, now that they have a viable running game and not as sporadic, as it was the last two seasons.  The Steelers defense lost it’s way for a few games but is returning to 08 form rather quickly.  This team is quickly proving that if it’s defense doesn’t kill you, it’s offense will.  God help the team when both sides of the ball are clicking for the Steelers, right Kyle?

Posted on: September 20, 2009 9:03 pm
Edited on: September 20, 2009 9:04 pm

Mojo Strong Against Steelers in Soldier Field

When I think about a Bears/Steelers game, I picture Jerome Bettis running over Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher on a snowy December day at Heinz Field.  Of course, that is a ghost of a memory.  Bettis has since retired and the Bears that the Steelers faced today were a different Chicago Bears, with a new general under center. 

A lot of time has passed since the last time the Bears and Steelers met up, and a lot of history to these meetings.  Since 1934, the Bears have had the Steelers number for the majority of the time, especially at Soldier Field, where the Bears have won 11 games over the Steelers one.  As of today, make that 12 games to the 1 the Steelers have won.

If we thought the game was a given, especially given Bears quarterback Jay Cutler’s performance last week, perhaps a reminder of Jay Cutler against the Steelers defense in Denver might have jogged our memories.  Last time Cutler faced the Pittsburgh defense, the game came down to a last minute field goal that clinched the win for Denver.  One has to wonder if these are déjà vu moments. 

Under center now in a different uniform, Cutler brought the Bears back from behind twice to tie the game and then drove the field for enough yards to give their kicker, Robbie Gould a chance to win the game, something the Steelers kicker Jeff Reed had a chance to do, twice, and just couldn’t seem to get it done.  The mojo at Soldier Field still runs strong against the Steelers. 

Going into the game, one had to wonder how the defenses would perform with the loss of Brian Urlacher for the Bears and Troy Polamalu for the Steelers.  Last week the Bears kept Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers to under 200 yards passing, although the Steelers gave up over 244 with the early loss of Polamalu.  This week, passing defense for both teams gave up over 200 yards a piece.  In the end, both defenses stepped up to make the plays necessary to shut down drives to give their offense a chance. 

It was a shock for the Steelers fan to see kicker Jeff Reed miss not one, but two field goals in a row, especially given the accuracy that Reed has had over his career in Pittsburgh.  Even I’ll admit, I thought the game was in the bag only to groan watching the ball miss the uprights twice.

Despite the loss, there were positives that came from the game for the Steelers.  Not only did offensive line hold up, providing pretty good pass protection (let’s face it, there were numerous times that Roethlisberger had almost all day to throw), but somehow, just some how, the Steelers were able to run for a combined 107 yards.  Running back Rashard Mendenhall seemed to have atoned for his miscue last week, with a catch that he kept the presence of mind to get up and run for 39 yards.  Seeing Stefan Logan bringing back kickoff returns longer then 5 yards was also a bright spot to the day.  With Logan, one gets the sense that one of these days we’ll see him bring one back for six. 

Don’t get me wrong, there were negatives too.  Despite his ability to cover the best receivers in the league, cornerback Ike Taylor missed the opportunity for a pick six.  Center Justin Hartwig, for the second time this season, missed the opportunity to draw an off sides penalty, when a Bears offensive player crossed the line and jumped back quickly.  Secondary often played too soft in zones allowing for completions (not to mention the 200+ yards).   I won’t mention some of the obvious play calling by the Steelers OC that left me scratching my head (how often do I have to scream at the tv, no huddle, go no huddle?).  Of course, there's still the issue with one single running back able to rush for substantial yardage.

There’s a lot of season left and no doubt, the Steelers will take this loss and learn from it.  I’m just hoping that my heart will hold out if all season plans on being nail biters.

Posted on: September 11, 2009 10:59 am

History, Legacies and a New Beginning.

One has to wonder if 117 years ago, when the first professional football game was played in Pittsburgh PA, if the originators of the first league had foreseen how big the sport would become or the number of fans that it would eventually draw?  One has to wonder,  when the first professional football league was born in the town of Latrobe Pennsylvania, with very few rules and very little equipment, if they might have caught a glimpse in their minds eye how elaborate the sport would end up.  From a $500.00 payment to William (Pudge) Heffelfinger, to multi-million dollar contracts of players today.  From a group of guys from an athletics association looking for bragging rights, to a prized trophy and the infamy that comes with winning it. 

Since February, after the Pittsburgh Steelers hoisted the Lombardi Trophy, a lot has happened.  Fans began watching free agency, the draft, mini-camps and training camps.  Teams filled in needs, identified their game plans and prepared for the upcoming season.  The NFL would see Dan Rooney leave for Ireland.  There would be tragedy, there would be triumph in an off-season.  We would watch the ongoing saga of a man who refused to leave the game he loved, and we would comment on hopeful young prospects whose dreams were one day to become as much of a household name.  We would see new coaches coming in to hopefully lead teams to the next season and argue about which quarterback was better.  There would be new rules that would leave us grumbling and scratching our heads.   As fans, we waited, sometimes impatiently for the arrival of September, when the first kick-off of regular season professional football began, trying to fill the gap in the meantime by evaluating talent and hoping that the teams that we pulled for would grab the best of the best.  Questions regarding the worst to the first dominated discussions. 

Since February, the City of Pittsburgh, prepared.  It welcomed home the Superbowl Champions with parades and celebrations.  It would begin preparing for an international summit that would be held in the city. It would welcome home it’s Stanley Cup Champions and would shake it’s head when the beloved Pirates would register it’s 17th straight losing season.  And come August both the City of Pittsburgh and the Steelers organization began preparing for the beginning of football season.  Throughout this past week, as we began to count down the days and then the hours, events were held in anticipation of the city and the Steelers hosting the first game of the regular season.  NFL60 events were held around the area and on Thursday evening, while people tailgated at Heinz Field, others were filing into Point State Park to be a part of the opening celebrations that featured the Black Eye Peas and Tim McGraw. 

Then it happened, it was finally here.  Somewhere in my mind I heard echo’s of Bocephus asking if we were ready for Football and for a moment, John Maddens absence was extremely notable. The fireworks erupted and the Steelers were announced and the Tennessee Titans would be entering hostile territory.  And before the kickoff, we stopped and remembered the tragic events of 9/11 and paid tribute to those lost, not only on Flight 93 but in NYC and the Pentagon.  The coin toss, the kick-off and then they were off.

How can you talk about the first game of the season without talking about the events leading up to it?  With football there is history, legacies and traditions, one of which having the Superbowl Champions hosting the first game.  This year, it would be held in Pittsburgh.  And what more fitting opponent for the team who won it all to meet the last team that beat them. 

The Tennessee Titans come into the 2009 season with unfinished business and the Pittsburgh Steelers, despite the words of coach Mike Tomlin and company, looking to repeat as Superbowl Champions.  Going into the game there were many story lines.  The Steelers hadn’t lost a home opener in the last six years.  Titans quarterback Kerry Collins, prior to the meeting was 3-0 against the Steelers.  Last night, one of these streaks would come to an end.  The comment of LenDale White seemed to be shrugged off in regards to the towel, except, with the fans. 

By now we all know the results of a game that was nothing less then fitting for a season opener, a nail biter to the very end.  Fans looking for high scoring shootouts would be disappointed.  For Titans and Steelers fans, could we have hoped for better?  Perhaps in some areas, yes.  In others, well. 

Anyone who thought the Titans defense would degrade substantially with the departure of Albert Haynesworth, may have jumped a little too soon to that conclusion.  Titans coach Jeff Fisher came into the game with a plan to stop the Steelers running game and they were successful, allowing less then 30 yards on the ground.  At one point their defense had the Steelers at negative yardage. Offensively, Kerry  Collins showed once again why he should be starting quarterback ending the night 22 for 35 with 1 interception.  Most noteworthy though is the Titans offensive line which gave excellent protection to Collins, allowing only one sack.

As for my black and gold.  Despite the slow start, in the end, even with some issues, Steelers seemed to have started the season with the same form that got them to the Superbowl last year, with one exception – a seemingly much improved oline when it comes to pass protection. 

When first signed by the Steelers, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger took the number 7 due to his favorite player being John Elway.  By the end of last nights game, Roethlisberger would once again, have the media talking about his clutch performance.  When the offense was under Ben’s control, he was almost perfect, at one point completing 12 straight passes while in no huddle, keeping the Tennessee defense on their heels. 

Offensively, in the passing game, though some errors and mistake, the wide receivers (and tight end Heath Miller) came through.  Veteran receiver Hines Ward showed just a little too much passion, but in the end, the Steelers defense was able to keep the Titans down field, allowing the game to go into overtime.  Earlier in pre-season I had commented that rookie Mike Wallace would make a name for himself and he didn’t prove me wrong when, in OT he put himself into a position to catch a pass that allowed Jeff Reed to kick the game winning field goal. 

I could say that I was excited about the passing game, but those of us who’ve watched Roethlisberger and company for the past few years knew, that despite what critics said, we could trust Ben if the game relied on his arm.  With the lack of a run game and the inability to convert 3d and shorts on the ground, that was the only way it was going to get done.  However, the excitement I felt last nigh was watching kick returner Stefan Logan picking up more then ten yards on a run back.  Logan’s acquisition from the CFL by the Steelers promises to fill a need where in the past the Steelers special teams struggled in punt and kick off returns.

Unfortunately, the Steelers still need to find a way to create a ground game and perhaps, as the season wears on, it will.  Defensively, the Steelers seemed not to have lost a step, until free safety Troy Polamalu went out with an sprained MCL.  When he returns is unknown.  Although, not as electricifying as Polamalu, Tyrone Carter backfilled just fine and nearly had an interception of his own, though Polamalu’s absence was noticeable at times. 

As far as any retribution for the “disrespect of the towel”, it was doubtful that there was any.  It was more of a matchup between two teams, one looking to defeat the current champions, the other looking to atone for their last matchup.  Although, something to ponder.  The late Myron Cope use to say that the Terrible Towel was magical.  Never more apparent are the towels waving then when a team is down by the goal line and the camera’s catch everyone on their feet swinging the towel around.  A lot of talk over the off-season about the Titan’s disrespect for the towel.  Could it be the spirit of the towel took it’s revenge on the least likely of persons, Titans kicker, Rob Bironas?  How strange that one of the most accurate kicker in the league would miss a field goal under 40 yards with it going wide right and then on his second attempt, actually have it blocked by Steelers defensive end Aaron Smith.  I know ludicrous, right?

As for Tomlin and company.  Well they have ten days to rest before heading to Chicago.  Coach Tomlin and the rest of the team, despite being asked about repeats, say they are seeking a championship and not looking to repeat.  Funny, former Steelers Coach Chuck Knoll adopted that mentality and those types of comments with the press the years the Steelers won the SB back to back.  It’ll be a long and exciting season for fans, something we’ve been waiting for along time.  Once again, it's a new beginning.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com