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Two out of three ain’t bad.

In my game preview, I listed three things I thought the Pittsburgh Steelers absolutely had to do in order to defeat the New England Patriots. To be honest, I didn’t think they’d actually do any of them. Well, fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, thy name is Bill Belichick.

The Steelers completely overhauled their usual game plan on both sides of the ball yesterday. The result was a convincing 25-17 victory over the hated Patriots. It was, by any measure, the team’s most impressive performance of 2011. If the Black and Gold goes on a run which culminates in another trip up the Stairway to Seven, we’re undoubtedly going to look back at week eight as the turning point in the season.

Longtime Steeler fans will remember an infamous Monday Night game many years back when the Patriots came out throwing on something like twenty consecutive plays. Yesterday, the Steelers gave them a taste of their own medicine. Ben Roethlisberger threw the ball 32 times. In the first half.

Ben would finish the afternoon 36/50 for 365 yards and 2 TDs. He came out firing and never let up, even when it would have been prudent to do so. I’ve been a Steeler fan for a pretty long time. While I’m not exactly reaching for Touch of Grey, I remember seeing John Stallworth catch passes from Mark Malone. I’ve never seen a better performance by a Steeler signal caller than the one Ben put forth yesterday.
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If Mick was right that women weaken legs, Rob Gronkowski will be in a wheelchair on Sunday.

The Baltimore Ravens are considered the biggest rivals of the Pittsburgh Steelers. With all due respect (which is to say, none), I disagree. A true rivalry is borne out of two equals battling to accomplish the same goal. The Ratbirds haven’t beaten the Steelers in a meaningful game since Ben Roethlisberger first stepped foot in Heinz Field. Over the past ten years, they’ve been a good team but not a great one.

No, there are only two teams who can legitimately claim greatness here in the 21st century. The Steelers and the New England Patriots. Over the past decade, the Patriots have appeared in four Super Bowls and won three. The Black and Gold have appeared in three, winning two. If it were not for the Patriots, the Steelers alone would be able to lay claim to the title of the NFL’s premiere franchise.

If that fact weren’t galling enough, our history with the Patriots is as unfortunate as Baltimore’s is with us. Tom Brady is 6-1 against the Steelers, and overall the Patriots are 7-2 against Pittsburgh since Dreamboat took over signal-calling duties up in New England. Even more heart-breaking, the Pats are 3-1 in post-season meetings. More recently, who can forget the Patriots humiliating 39-26 defeat of the Steelers last season?
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Go figure.

Almost half their starting defense out. Top two running backs injured and a starting quarterback who’s a walking limping human bruise. A never-ending revolving door along the offensive line now featuring a starting left tackle that allegedly suffered a career-ending injury last year and was only re-signed on Tuesday. Facing off against a 3-1 team with the sixth ranked defense and one of the top five running backs in the NFL.

And what happens?

The [intlink id="21" type="category"]Pittsburgh Steelers[/intlink] completely obliterate the Tennessee Titans 38-17. Unlike previous weeks, the final score is precisely indicative of how the game actually went. To say this was the Black and Gold’s finest performance of 2011 would be a colossal understatement. To say they finally looked like the team that went to last year’s Super Bowl would be far more accurate.
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I saw Brad Pitt’s new movie Moneyball this past weekend. What else was I gonna see? Taylor Lautner running for his life through PNC Park? Not only does werewolf boy have the acting chops of Oscar the Grouch, that’s the worst strategy ever. When you’re fleeing from hitmen, you should stick to populated areas.

It was an okay flick. Certainly better than it had any right to be given the source material. I absolutely loathed the book and the cult of statheads it inspired. What kills me is the vast majority of the people who parrot these made up statistics probably never advanced beyond basic calculus. When I took a high level statistics course at Carnegie Mellon, my professor introduced himself on the very first day by saying, “I’m going to be honest with you. Statistics can be manipulated to prove anything.”

Sadly, the stathead parrots lack the education necessary to grasp this simple fact. Instead they quote WAR or EqA or BABIP like they’re actual meaningful numbers without any context or understanding of the completely arbitrary way at which they’re arrived. It’s one of the reasons I can’t stand reading most online baseball blogs. Instead of talking about what we can see with our own eyes, they spill pages and pages of digital ink repeating made up statistics which provide no actual insight.
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Who saw that coming?

The [intlink id="141" type="category"]Baltimore Ravens[/intlink] handed the [intlink id="21" type="category"]Pittsburgh Steelers [/intlink]one of the most humiliating defeats in franchise history yesterday afternoon. The final score of 35-7 doesn’t even begin to accurately describe the level of domination the Ratbirds displayed in humbling the defending AFC Champions. This was the team’s first opening day loss since 2003 and their worst opening defeat in 14 years.  The Steelers had seven turnovers, the most in any single game going all the way back to September 24, 1995.

This was the Ravens’ Super Bowl and they played like their season depended on each and every play.  I’m only shocked they didn’t dump Gatorade on their coach when the final whistle blew. Speaking of head coach John Harbaugh, what a shameful display of showboating. Refusing to call off the dogs when the game was comfortably in hand is one thing, fist pumping and acting the fool is absolutely uncalled for. When he dialed up a fake kick/2 point conversion when an extra point would have sufficiently put them ahead by three scores, the message was clear. Then, late in the fourth quarter with the game clearly over, he had Joe Flacco throwing bombs in to the end zone in an obvious effort to run up the score.

I’m not going to complain about that or the thuggish Ravens going after Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor inciting a near brawl in the third quarter (which somehow ended with only Ike getting a penalty although I’m sure the Ginger Dictator will find some way to fine the entire defense).  The word “class” is associated with Baltimore about as often as Justin Beiber is associated with masculinity. The Ratbirds swagger and boast when the Steelers are dominating them, what should we expect when they actually win for once?
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After the Pittsburgh Steelers heartbreaking loss to the Green Bay Packers in last year’s Super Bowl, an eerie pall was cast over the City of Champions.  When you follow the most successful franchise in NFL history, losing is not something to which you’re accustomed.  Let alone losing on the grandest stage of them all.  It leads to depression which in turns leads to crazy thoughts.

“Maybe they weren’t that good after all.”  “Maybe we should let LaMarr Woodley, Ike Taylor and Hines Ward go so we can get Nnamdi Asomugha!”  “Maybe I’ll start watching the Pirates.  How bad can they be?”

Offensive coordinator [intlink id="31" type="category"]Bruce Arians[/intlink] had a crazy thought of his own.  Retirement.
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