Posted on: November 4, 2008 6:17 am

It's About Defense.....and Depth

Did you know that going into Monday nights game against the Redskins, Mike Tomlin and the Steelers were undefeated in Monday night games?  Actually under Tomlin, the Steelers were 3-0 on Monday night games, before last night. 

Were you aware, prior to going into Monday nights game that the Steelers hadn’t allowed a 100 yd game by a single rusher all season? 

Are you aware, that when things aren’t going well with the Steelers play calling or inability to get something going, I stand and scream at the tv? 

So this past Monday nights game those three things that I mentioned would remain intact.  Mike Tomlin would go on to be 4-0 on Monday nights, the Steelers defense would not allow the leagues top rusher to pass 100 yards and for the first half of the game, I couldn’t quit griping at the tv. 

The Steelers would go into last nights game with home field advantage…I mean, on the road, against the NFL’s fifth ranked defense, and once again would find themselves in a classic defensive battle.  Once again, it would be about defense and for the Steelers, the ability to show how deep they are.  And once again, leave us fans griping about the play calling. 

It would start early, the griping that is, with the onside kick that left us scratching our head.  What on earth was that?  I guess it would have been considered genius if the Steelers had been able to recover the ball, but, well, they didn’t.  And for much of the first quarter, it went more the way for the Redskins then in favor of the Steelers offense.  Between the favorable field position from the onside kick and a deflected pass which led to an interception on Roethlisberger, the Skins would be up by six.  It could have been worse, it could have been up by 14.  The Steelers defense would step up and keep both possessions to field goals. 

As the night wore on and just as we were getting frustrated with the three and outs, the Steelers wide receivers failing to catch balls, a pass interference penalty by the Redskins on Hines Ward and a Jeff Reed field goal would finally put the Steelers on the board.  Then momentum had changed on offense, in the form of a blocked punt by Andre Frazier.  This would eventually lead to Ben Roethlisberger getting a rushing touchdown on a quarterback sneak.  Unfortunately this play would lead to Ben injuring his shoulder again. 

Somehow this season, the Steelers would have to show how deep they could be.  When Willie Parker went down, Rashard Mendenhall started against the Ravens, only to be taken out that game.  Mewelde Moore came in and proved that the Steelers finally had the depth they needed at the running back position.  Kendall Simmons went out on the oline during the same Baltimore game and Darnell Stapleton came in and seemed to make the oline just a little bit better.  On defense, Bryant McFadden went down and then the next game, Ryan Clark went out.  Somehow the Steelers defense didn’t miss a beat. 

We held our breath coming into the second half and saw that Byron Leftwich would replace Ben Roethlisberger, and somehow, just somehow, he was able to do what Roethlisberger wasn’t able to do in the first half.  He took the lead and not only didn’t lose it, but took it down the field and setup Willie Parker for his first rushing touchdown since he went out early in the season.  The offense continued to go forward, even without the franchise quarterback. 

But this game wouldn’t be about the Steelers offense, it would be more about the Steelers defense.  Once again, this game would show why the Steelers defense is the number one defense in the league.  Steelers defense would be the first team to intercept Jason Campbell not once, but twice.  They would hold Clinton Portis to 51 yards rushing  and they would get to the Redskins quarterback for six sacks.  Despite the loss of McFadden, despite the loss of Clark.  It would be the linebackers that would continue to make a name for themselves.  James Farrior would be a beast with 12 tackles, Woodley would get to the back twice, Harrison once. It would be a backup safety, Tyrone Carter, that would register his first interception of the season. 

It would turn into a game of teamwork, of defense and of depth in position. 
Posted on: October 30, 2008 11:35 am

Burning Questions Going into Monday

After having participated in the “game of the year”, where it seemed that the majority of eyes were following the outcome of the Giants/Steelers game, the Steelers will once again be center stage, along with the Washington Redskins, for this weeks Monday Night Football.

Like many Steelers fans, we’ve been following the health and distractions of the team, going into each game this season.  No doubt we’ve discussed the oline situation, the injuries, fines and, of course, the long snapper (well, at least I have).  Though I’m itching to sit and analyze the upcoming game, I have to step back and have some questions answered, or at least some insight to some things before I can do so in a perfectly unbiased way.  So here are some burning questions that I have going into this game on Monday night:

  •  Will we see Willie Parker playing in this game?  Although Parker has been practicing this week, reports are that his status for game day is still questionable.  No doubt, Mewelde Moore has been more then a capable substitute during his absence, but the return of Parker gives the Steelers rushing offense a major one/two punch should both Parker and Moore play. 
  •  Will Clinton Portis reach the 1,000 yd mark in this game?  Portis only needs 56 yds to reach 1,000 yards for the season rushing.  Steelers defense has been extremely stingy with giving up yards on the ground, only allowing 501 yds in a total of seven games.  That’s a little over 71 yds per game.  Of course, this is a bit deceiving since the Steelers defense kept Brandon Jacobs to 36 yds last week.
  •  Will the Redskins defense come out in this game with a strong pass rush?  There’s no doubt that the Redskins have some type of a pass rush defense, having registered 16 sacks, however, is it as strong and stifling as the Eagles and Giants defense?  Maybe not.  However, if Pittsburgh’s oline takes the pass rush from the Skins for granted, it’s possible that Ben Roethlisberger could find himself on the ground a lot.  I doubt we’ll see that this game, however, the threat with the Skin’s defense is the corners and their abilities to zone in on the ball for interceptions. 
  • Given the injuries to the Steelers defense and having both Bryant McFadden out and then Ryan Clark go out last week with a dislocated shoulder, one might start wondering how strong the secondary is going to be.  Jason Campbell has yet to throw an interception.  Also questionable is Troy Polamalu.  Reason I say he’s questionable is one would have to wonder if he came back too soon from his concussion in last weeks game, given the uncharacteristically high number of tackles he seemed to have missed last week.  No doubt that he’ll play this week, will he be up to speed. 
  •  Given the number of distractions that the Steelers faced within the last week, week and a half, will there be others? 
  •  Speaking of distractions, do the Redskins really use sex to try to distract the opposing teams players?  I’ve heard rumors that they have the cheerleaders warming up and stretching in the opposing teams tunnel?  I guess the Redskins Rule is actually a pretty good rule though.  Okay, so the NFL put a stop to having cheerleaders provide a distraction pre-game and perhaps it’s good.  Think about it, which would be more detrimental to a team…watching the cheerleaders stretch or having the image of Steely McBeam burned into your mind as he stretched and warmed up in the opposing teams tunnel? 
  •  I’m sure that everyone knows by now that I believe Jim Zorn to be the best looking coach in the NFL.  Question is now, on Monday, will he go the way of Mike Nolan and Jack Del Rio and wear a suit for the game?  If so, I might need a towel, (other then the terrible towel of course), to wipe the drool from my chin.
  • One final burning question here.  Will SPIN columnist and CBS Sportsline writer Eric Kay actually join the ranks of the “hogettes” sometime in the near future?  I haven’t seen his legs, but suspect that he has a closet passion for the Redskins that would make him prime recruiting target for this ultimate of Redskins fans.  Actually, it’s pretty cool about the “hogettes” who seem to be the “shriners” of the Skins, making appearances at hospitals and charity events, along with attending the games.  Interestingly, two of the original “hogettes” are in the Pro Football HOF as the ultimate fans.


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