Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin is the newest member of the NFL’s prestigious Competition Committee. No, this isn’t some extremely late April Fool’s joke. The man in charge of one of the league’s most notoriously lawless teams has thrown in with the people responsible for making the rules his players are routinely fined for breaking. Talk about sleeping with the enemy.
When this story first broke, I saw some Steelers fans on Twitter all excited about the prospect of Coach T lending a Black and Gold perspective to the committee. Fools. That committee exists solely to rubber stamp the mandates put forth by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. What the Ginger Dictator wants, the Ginger Dictator gets.
And what he wants is a kinder, more gentle game. I know that seems contradictory to the inherent nature of football but with our increased awareness of the danger of concussions (and the huge ass lawsuit still pending from former players), there’s no going back now. Ginger wants to take the violent hits and hellacious collisions out of the game and no “recommendations” from the Competition Committee are going to change that.
The only thing having Tomlin on the Committee will change is how the Steelers play football. James Harrison and Ryan Clark, among others, have notoriously refused to alter their playing styles despite whatever rule changes were enacted. With Tomlin on the Committee making those rules, it’ll be harder if not downright impossible for his team to openly flout the edicts their own head coach had a hand in making.
Of course, that predisposes Tomlin has some measure of control over his players. If anything has become sadly apparent over the past couple seasons, it’s that Tomlin’s long boring speeches ring as hollow to the guys in the locker room as they do to the media in post-game press conferences.
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Yes, playoffs. I’m talkin’ about playoffs.
Blame Roger Goodell. The Ginger Dictator, in his ongoing quest to go down in history as the worst commissioner of any sport ever, floated the idea of expanding the NFL playoffs from 14 to 16 teams yesterday. Just what football fans need, more .500 teams in the playoffs! Of course, everybody knows the real reason he proposed this ludicrous idea is to deflect attention away from how badly he botched the Saints bounty case.
Hey, always remember the Pittsburgh Steelers were the only team to vote against the new CBA.
Ginger couldn’t have picked a worse year to bring up expanding the playoffs. If there were several 10 and 11 win teams in danger of missing the post-season, I could see a ground-swelling of support for the idea. But this year? With three weeks left in the season, three of four divisions in the AFC have already been clinched.
The only team who hasn’t clinched? Why, the Baltimore Ravens of course! Despite leading our divison, the Ratbirds are so worried about their prospects for a successful post-season that this past week they took the highly unusual step of firing their offensive coordinator. As I’ve said a million times and will keep repeating, Baltimore has this almost pathological need to blame their mediocre offense on everything except the real reason why it’s mediocre: quarterback Joe Flacco.
The firing of ex-OC Cam Cameron evidently was owed to the fact the team’s best player, Ray Rice, had zero touches in the 4th quarter of the Charlie Batch Game. Well, it’s easy to scapegoat Cameron since he’s been a failure everywhere he’s been but in this case that’s hardly his fault. If you watched the game, it was clear that Dick LeBeau was keying on Rice. Sure, great players routinely beat schemes and Rice did break free for a 30 yard TD earlier in the game but no sane team puts all their chips on one player. LeBeau was scheming to stop Rice and control everything short while daring Flacco to beat him deep. Flacco can’t pilot an offense which requires him to routinely throw more than 10 yards down the field. End of story.
With the Ravens stumbling towards the finishing line, it makes the Steelers pathetic showings against the dregs of the NFL all the more painful. We lost to two teams that will be drafting in the top 10 next year (Titans, Raiders) and another just outside it (Chargers). Win one of those games and we’re in the hunt for the division. Win two and we’re probably leading and controlling our own destiny.
You’ll notice I didn’t mention one other Steelers loss, that being to the Cleveland Browns. Sit down, you may need steady yourself when you hear this. All season I’ve been beating the Brandon Weedon drum, saying how he’s been shockingly competent and would get more notice as a fine first round QB draft pick (despite everybody, myself included, mocking the Browns for taking him so high on draft day) if he played anywhere but Cleveland. Well, lo and behold, now the Browns, THE BROWNS, have crept into the playoff picture.
It goes like this. First, the Browns must win out. Then, if the Steelers lose two of their last three (unless you’re a hardcore yinzer, I don’t think any of us would be shocked if they went 0-3 or 3-0 down the stretch), the Bengals lose two of their last three and the Jets lose one more game, the Browns will be the second Wild Card. THE BROWNS!
I don’t think anybody is ready for a world were the Cleveland Browns leapfrog both the Steelers and Bengals to become a playoff team. Unless the Mayans were right…
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Last night’s game between the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns saw the return of the NFL’s regular referees and the official end of Zebra-Gate. Late Wednesday night, the NFL and the referees’ faux-union reached a reported 8-year agreement. This tentative agreement should keep the Zebras on the field for the foreseeable future, but based on the outrage caused by “THREE WEEKS AH’ CRAPPY OFISHEY-ATIN,” god only knows what else the media will turn from an interesting side story to the end of the NFL as we know it. Hot dog vendor strike? Unsafe working conditions for down-marker-holders? The creation of a kicker-punter-waterboy anti-defamation league (Chris is in trouble)?
Zebra-Gate was a horrible experience. Not the bad calls or the extra timeouts or SportsCenter actually receiving its highest rating ever due to the Packers-Seahawks debacle (more on that play later). The worst part was the fans, the media, and the overly exaggerated commentary on what was truly significant to the games. Sure, I hate the media and all, but allow me to offer my opinion on a few of the more outrageous lines of bullshit that were crafted to sell this as a potential NFL Armageddon.
The replacement referees HAVE OTHER JOBS!!!!
One of the most hilarious reasons for the scab’s unwarranted presence on the field is because they actually have jobs and weren’t in a secluded cult lair where they practice the art of flag throwing until the Ginger Dictator calls them into action. Nothing was more irritating than hearing “The guy is a BANKER in real life man, C’MON!.”
Let’s introduce you to the gun show himself, Ed Hoculi, or should we call him Edward G. Hoculi, J.D.
That’s right folks, the Mighty Hocules spends his time in a court room when he’s not being a “regular referee.” When he’s not bench pressing the legal system, he’s busy being a PARTNER at his law firm. The idiots that think the unionized referees operate on a teacher schedule and take the summer off are exactly that – idiots. Big Ed specializes in Product and Premises Liability, as well as Transportation Defense. This is legalese for helping that guy who fell off the curb at Wal-Mart get paid. I bet I never hear an announcer scream, “What a horrible call by the guy who sued a Sheetz for making their coffee too hot!”
Ike Taylor was NO WHERE NEAR SANTONIO ON THAT PASS INTERFERENCE!!!
Well, I can’t really argue with that one… It’s true. It’s damn true. Next…
That guy can’t REFEREE in the NFL, he WATCHES the NFL!!!!!!!!!!
Scab Brian Stropolo was pulled from a game because he is an avid fan of the New Orleans Saints. Apparently Roger Goodell and his crack staff overlooked Facebook pictures of Brian in SAINTS GEAR AT A TAILGATE!!!!!! The NFL, in their ever widening quest to “protect the shield,” decided this was a no-no because apparently they think no referee, scab or regular, watches the sport and has a favorite team. The NFL is the most popular sport in America but because one scab is a fan like the other 300 million people he is banned from officiating??
Being this Total Steelers, let’s keep things Pittsburgh oriented ‘round here. The “regular referee” who worked last night’s game, the guy who got a STANDING OVATION from those mutants in Baltimore, was none other than Washington, PA native Gene Steratore. He still lives there despite its lack of anything except a snobby college and a few good food joints. Gene co-owns and runs Steratore Sanitary Supply and anyone born and raised in Western PA who sells urinal cakes is obviously a Steelers Fan, myself included.
Except for the urinal cakes.
Despite this local bias, Gene has still reffed many a Steeler game and nobody cried wolf then.
The refs are back because the SEAHAWKS SHOULD HAVE LOST THAT GAME!!!!
Let’s be clear about one thing nobody has the balls to say; the ending to the Packers-Seahawks game on Monday Night was NOT the most egregious F*!# up of the Scab Era. The play is a lot closer than the empty suits on ESPN have so far been willing to admit. Any line judge who goes by the letter of the law would correctly rule that catch a simultaneous possession and TD for Seattle. He would also overlook the pass interference because he should know that offensive and defensive pass interference occur on every Hail Mary so it is NEVER called.
The officials definitely had a bad game. Seattle only got to attempt a Hail Mary in the first place because of several botched calls. But where the Packers got screwed wasn’t on the field, it was in the replay booth. And the man in the booth Monday Night wasn’t a scab at all. It was Phil Luckett, who Steeler Nation will forever remember as the ref who couldn’t hear Jerome Bettis say “Heads” in the Thanksgiving Coin Toss Fiasco against the Detroit Lions.
At any rate, I’m glad this is over. I’m going to worry about something more important. Something you’ll never hear covered 24-7 on the World Wide Leader. I’m going to worry about the NHL lock out.
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Mother Nature intervened last night to delay the latest installment in the Pittsburgh Pirates descent into abyss. Okay, so they actually won for once, stick with me here. With the Bucs in rain delay, I was able to watch Monday Night Football instead. And I’m glad I did because seeing Peyton Manning toss three picks is definitely not to be missed. Although it does make me worry about the state of the Pittsburgh Steelers defense all over again.
This post isn’t about the Steelers D, it’s about Mike Tirico. What, what? After the first half of the Broncos-Falcons game lasted nearly two hours because simple calls were taking longer than a Microsoft product launch, Tirico went off on the NFL’s replacement officials. Finally a talking head, all of whom are careful to toe the company line, broke ranks and said what everybody has been thinking.
I haven’t watched a ton of football apart from the Steelers but if our first two games are indicative of what’s been going on, I’m surprised nobody else has spoken out.
The Denver game was a complete mess. The refs called a half dozen “illegal formations” which I suspect weren’t illegal since I can count on one hand the number of times I saw it called all of last season. They gave Mike Tomlin a challenge even though the flag came in well after a play had been run. They missed an obvious facemask on Big Ben which would’ve wiped out a fourth down field goal try and set the Steelers up deep in Denver territory.
All that said, I didn’t make a huge deal out of it because I think it’s stupid to romanticize the regular referees. They miss facemasks. They make ticky-tack holding calls. On average, they do a far better job than we’ve seen from the scabs although this revisionist history making them out to be paragons of virtue is kinda ridiculous. So with that in mind, I mostly stayed out of the growing internet backlash against the replacements.
Then Sunday happened.
The officiating in the Jets-Steelers game was an absolute debacle. It was so bad that NFL.com has posted a video of the phantom pass interference call on Ike Taylor under the heading of “What were the refs calling?” Considering the Ginger Dictator has decreed nobody is to critique the scabs under penalty of death, it’s fascinating that the league’s own website is mocking their shitty officiating. Here we are two days later and I’m still trying to figure out what in the blue hell was flagged on that play.
When the action unfolded and the flag was thrown, everybody thought it was on Ryan Clark for playing football, er, hitting somebody too hard. The announcers thought it, I thought it, everybody on Twitter thought it. I had already started thinking what more I could say about Goodell and his phony crusade against concussions absolutely ruining football in my game recap when the scabs announced pass interference on Ike. Oh, okay, rage subsiding…
Until I saw the play in question. Unless Ike ate at a “sauna” before the game and the stank emanating from him was so powerful it disrupted the receiver’s concentration, I cannot fathom how he interfered with anybody. Other than a moments worth of jostling out of the break, he was a good three feet away from Santonio Holmes the entire time. It is undoubtedly the worst pass interference call ever made.
Now conspiracy theorists have come out with their take. The idea floating around is they wanted to flag Clark for unnecessary roughness but somebody on the crew realized there was nothing wrong with his hit. So rather than pick up the flag (which YOU CAN DO, scab refs), someone decided to simply pin the blame on Ike and hope nobody noticed. That might work in the Lingerie Football League where everybody is busy checking for a wardrobe malfunction but not so much in the NFL. Especially in a national game with approximately 65 hi-def cameras present. Normally I don’t buy these crackpot theories but what other explanation is there?
While that was the most egregious error, there were plenty more. The pic above was Rex Ryan’s face after he lost a challenge on whether Isaac Redman fumbled in the midst of that epic 10 minute game-sealing drive. Certainly an argument could be made although I don’t think you could automatically assume the regular refs would’ve called fumble because it was very close. Where the replacements did screw up was the entire play was supposed to be reviewed, not just the challenged part, and by doing that they would’ve seen the play was dead when Redman’s knee hit down behind the line of scrimmage. Guess they were too busy going over illegal formations to learn the proper applications of replay.
The Steelers and Jets weren’t the only victims of lousy officiating. It spread like bird flu last weekend. Cowboys linebacker and St. Clair native Sean Lee was nearly decapitated on an actual unnecessary roughness hit but no flag was thrown. Joe Flacco whined about his receivers getting mugged on every play after his piss-poor performance against Philly. Ordinarily I’d have no sympathy for him but there was no rhyme nor reason to the calls in our game either. I saw Keenan Lewis literally trip guys at the line of scrimmage and nothing get called on one play and then Ike get flagged for routine hand fighting on another. It’s a complete and utter mess and it’s going to cost some team a win, if it hasn’t already.
The NFL is America’s premiere league. They have TV contracts worth billions of dollars. I find it impossible to believe they can’t find a few million dollars to settle with the regular refs. The fact they haven’t is just example number 127 that Roger Goodell is the worst freakin’ commissioner in all of sports.
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Jim Clack. Ray Mansfield. Steve Furness. Joe Gilliam. Dave Brown. Ray Oldham. Willie Fry, Jr. Steve Courson. Dwight White. Ernie Holmes. Tyrone McGriff. Mike Webster. All members of the Steel Dynasty. All passed away in their 40s and 50s, many from heart disease/heart attacks at an unusually early age. Linebacker David Little had a heart attack while working out, causing the barbell to land on his throat, killing him at the age of 46. Terry Long committed suicide. Justin Strzelczyk led police on a high speed chase before slamming head on into a tanker truck. He was only 36.
Moving away from the Pittsburgh Steelers, a spat of suicides have plagued the NFL in recent years. Eagles safety Andre Waters took his life in 2006. Former Bears safety Dave Duerson killed himself in February of 2011. His suicide was what really fueled Roger Goodell‘s ongoing crusade against dangerous hits and crystallized the league’s resolve to crack down on concussions.
And now we Junior Seau.
Seau was the latest, and arguably highest profile, ex-player to commit suicide, taking his life yesterday at the age of 43. I’m not going to go into a long syrupy tribute to Seau because, frankly, taking one’s own life is something which deeply offends me. It’s a selfish, cowardly act which does nothing but create a world of pain and heartache for those you profess to love. If you tuned into the Four Letter yesterday to catch the breaking news, you no doubt saw the heart-wrenching footage of Seau’s mother which ESPN rather shamelessly exploited by playing on a near-constant loop. So while my sympathy does go out to Seau’s family, I want to confine my comments to how Seau’s death shines light on a very disturbing aspect of professional football.
Yesterday, Commissioner Goodell suspended four players involved in the New Orleans Saints BountyGate case, most notably Jonathan Vilma, who received an unprecedented full season ban. I was on Twitter when the news broke and almost without exception, every Steeler tweeted their displeasure with the Goodell’s ruling. LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison posted the above, which only goes to show the players don’t get it. Nobody has been more critical of Goodell’s heavy-handed punishments than me but what the Saints did goes far beyond what any Steeler was ever fined/suspended for. Putting bounties on players for the express purpose of injuring them is no different than a bookie in Vegas paying a legbreaker to rough somebody up in a back alley. What the Saints did wasn’t poor sportsmanship, it was a CRIMINAL act.
Harrison does make an intelligent point, however. Don’t kid yourselves, the NFL knew it was eating these guys up and spitting them out. Goodell was promoting “player safety” while simultaneously pushing an 18 game season. The owners have been and always will be a bunch of self-serving assholes.
The owners have never given a crap about the players unless they had to. And it’s finally come to a head with the lawsuit Harrison references where thirty-one former NFL players have filed suit against the league for not protecting them against concussions. That and the recent spate of suicides, all of whom were later found to be suffering from serious brain damage, has revealed an ugly truth about the game we love. As the players have become bigger, stronger and faster and the game has become more hard hitting and violent, the players bodies simply can’t take it. And the brain is usually the first part that goes to mush.
Mike Webster is one of the greatest Steelers ever. He’s a Super Bowl champion, the standard for his position, and a Hall of Famer. On a personal note, he was also my grandpa’s favorite player. But he lived out the last years of his life sleeping in his truck and unable to function in society. His brain was so damaged from years of wars in the trenches, he was a veritable walking vegetable. I know it’s easy to say, “Players know what they’re signing up for,” but nobody should be subjected to a life like that. Nobody.
And it’s long past time the NFL and its players pull their heads out of their asses and take steps to ensure more players don’t end up like Seau or Webby in the future.
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An already crazy NFL off-season is about to get even crazier. When the clock strikes four this afternoon, the league’s 2012 free agency period officially begins. There really wasn’t much free agent activity last year due to the lock-out and teams being reluctant to bring in new faces who wouldn’t have the benefit of an entire off-season to learn a new playbook. Prepare for free agency to return with a vengeance.
Speaking of which, the Pittsburgh Steelers got an itty bit of salary cap relief thanks to of all people Commissioner Roger Goodell. Over the weekend, the salary cap was set at $120 million, a negligible increase over last year’s cap. Considering the lock-out was fought over the players wanting 53% of the revenue while the owners tried shrink their share to 47%, it’s pretty clear who won last year’s showdown. Good job bending over for the league, Dee Smith.
Anyway, the league announced two teams, the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins were being docked cap space for front loading contracts during the uncapped year. In other words, the Ginger Dictator is penalizing those teams ($10 and $31 million respectively) for violating the salary cap in a year in which no cap existed. And I thought suspending players for playing football set a new bar for insane rulings. Gotta love that monomaniacal douchebag.
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My apologies for dropping off the Total Steelers map the past couple weeks. If you must know, I let my confidence seep in to my gambling and have been in a perpetual “Tebow” since the close of the beat down in Denver. It turns out typing is not so easy when praising thy lord via fist on forehead. Let’s just say Mayor Ravenstahl’s PR photo-op was nothing on my two week long homage to Father Tim.
Now that I have stood back up and iced down my aching knees, I am being a good American and preparing for the biggest game in all of professional football. The final showdown between those two teams who have survived the gauntlet of late season football. The game that everyone eagerly anticipates whether our Black and Gold are there to represent the AFC or not.
It’s time for the PRO BOWL BABY!!!!
Setting my overly exaggerated humor aside, when is this game going to catch up with the times? MLB made their All-Star game important by awarding home-field advantage in the World Series to the winner. The NHL added a roster draft so we can laugh at the last man picked like the fat kid in gym class. Oh, and they both have skill competitions which are usually way more exciting than the ACTUAL GAMES!!!
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All good things come to an end…
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison has been a good boy this year. No personal fouls. No fines for plays that weren’t flagged. By the way, I want everybody to re-read that sentence and let sink in how utterly ridiculous that concept is. Meanwhile, other than a handful of (deserved) fines against Ryan Clark and Chris Kemoeatu, Roger Goodell has been fairly lax on persecuting the Black and Gold. Given Silverback’s verbal bitchslapping of the commissioner in Men’s Journal, he’s probably been more frustrated than a virgin directing a porno waiting for revenge.
Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Ginger Dictator, vengeance is mine.
Earlier today, the NFL handed down a nearly unprecedented punishment for playing football, suspending Harrison for one game due to his vicious hit on Cleveland Browns quarterback Colt McCoy. It was the first time a player has been suspended over a football play in 25 years. Keep blazing those trails, Ginger. No wonder the Steelers were the only team to vote against the CBA.
I’m not going to rehash Harrison’s hit in detail because there is no point. I will only say Ben Roethlisberger takes similarly violent and vicious hits all the time and I don’t see others’ being suspended. McCoy left the pocket and moved toward the line of scrimmage. Inadvertent helmet-to-helmet hits on running backs are legal because it goes with the territory. A quarterback scrambling around trying to make a play is no different. Harrison aimed for his chest and didn’t leave his feet. A similar hit on any other player wouldn’t have drawn any flags, let alone a fine or suspension.
I apologize for the lateness of this update but I was waiting for the Harrison verdict to come down from up on high. I kinda expected Ginger would slap him with a suspension. Delirious with power after suspending Ndumakong Suh, a junkie always craves their next fix. Plus, after hitting Silverback with $125,000 in fines last year, this was the next logical step. The irony here is sitting out a game will cost Harrison only about $73,500 (one game check).
Maybe that’s why he tweeted “Lol!!!” minutes after the ruling was made.
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Chris here. When Hennessy told me he was returning to the ‘Burgh for the holiday, I thought it’d make a great idea for a post. Also, with this piece, I’m formally instituting Steeler Nation Sound-Off a permanent feature going forward. So you Hennessy fans will be able to enjoy his musings on a regular basis. And best of all, you get a break from me! Take it away, Hennessy…
I hope everyone had a great Turkey Day. I was fortunate enough to make the travel back to Pittsburgh, and unfortunate to have done it during an away game. I froze my ass off at many late season Pittsburgh Steelers games and it would have been nice to go to one during our Thanksgiving heat-wave. Not that I mind prying frozen Ahrn City’s from my frostbitten hands, it would just be nice to make a trip home one time when it wasn’t a bye week or away game.
I didn’t get the chance to make it to Heinz Field, but then again not many members of Steeler Nation ever get to grace the bleachers to cheer on our boys. It is an experience unlike any other, and if you’ve been there I’m sure you will agree. For those that haven’t, put it on your bucket list. You won’t regret it.
The whole trip home this time made me realize just how different the ‘Burgh really is. I’ve been in Nashville for six years now, so maybe the little things that make that team and that city stick for generations are just setting in. Anyway, here are a few things being back in town brought to light.
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The good news is my computer finally seems to be up and running so I shouldn’t be MIA again this season. The bad news (well, it’s good for me) is I booked a last minute flight to Tampa so I could spend Turkey Day with my parents. Oh, I could stay here in Pittsburgh but between me and the couple thousand of you who read this blog faithfully every day, my aunt is a really lousy cook. A few Thanksgivings ago, she actually cooked the turkey with the giblets still inside.
Anyway, since I have to pack quickly so I can hurry up and wait (and wait and wait) in what promises to be an epic line at the airport, today’s update will have to be a quickie. Without further ado, here are ten Pittsburgh Steelers related-reasons I’m thankful this Thanksgiving.