Some people think the Pittsburgh Steelers 0-4 start was the product of a poorly constructed roster, some lousy coaching, and injuries to key personnel. They would be wrong. The Steelers simply decided to postpone winning until after the Pirates season was over. They were polite enough to give them spotlight.
Good manners are the Steeler Way.
With the Bucs done for the year, the Black and Gold wasted no time getting off the schneid by defeating the New York Jets 19-6. The highlight of this game was Bill Cowher, the greatest coach in Steeler history, in the booth calling the game with the normally unlistenable duo of Nantz and Simms. Not only did CBS make sure to work in a plug for Cowher’s mid-life crisis, er, leather-clad rocker babe, the Chin’s near orgasmic joy with every field goal attempt made an otherwise dull game seem exciting.
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I avoid ESPN like the plague. I know it’s cliche to hate on the Four Letter but their virtual monopoly on the televised sports world never ceases to depress me. There is no player their hype machine can’t make me sick of, no team their smothering coverage can’t turn me against. If excess were a virtue, that network would be as pious as their man-crush, Tim Tebow.
One particularly irksome trend involves Pittsburgh sports teams. Since we’re a small market, the Four Letter deems us beneath their notice. The Pirates are the story of the year in MLB yet they’d rather put the 30 game out Phillies on Sunday Night Baseball than our Battlin’ Bucs. And hockey, well, even when they owned the rights to the NHL they barely covered hockey.
And then we have the Pittsburgh Steelers. Being one of the NFL’s premier franchises, ESPN couldn’t exactly ignore the Black and Gold like they do our other teams. However, they did certainly tried their best. While the Steelers were going to three Super Bowls in six, all they wanted to talk about was the Dallas Cowboys. It was infuriating but typical ESPN.
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The Pittsburgh Pirates are the talk of the baseball world. Their rise from hapless laughingstocks to legitimate playoff contenders is something Pittsburgh sports fans have been waiting for for twenty years. Some attribute their success to a mixture of blossoming draft picks and shrewd trades. However, smart fans know the Bucs owe their success to one man in particular:
With the Pittsburgh Steelers suddenly the second most talked about sports team in the ‘Burgh, drastic steps needed to be taken. On the eve of what most experts expect to be another average season, the Black and Gold needed some of the Bucs’ mojo. So they did the only thing they could do. They signed Zoltan.
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The Baltimore Ravens are Super Bowl Champions. Pardon me while I empty out my vomit bucket.
Okay, where were we? Oh, right. The unthinkable has happened. The Baltimore Ravens won Super Bowl XLVII. If Steeler Nation thought that team of thugs and loudmouths were insufferable before, we’re never going to hear the end of it now.
To add insult to injury, Joe Flacco was named Super Bowl MVP. For those scoring at home, Tyler Palko’s back-up now has more SB MVPs than Ben Roethlisberger. Oh it was well deserved as Bert played the game of his life. I just hope everybody is prepared when Flacco is ranked equal to or above Ben on those “Best Quarterbacks in the NFL” lists we’re inundated with every season.
Then again, they are basically tied with one championship apiece. Technically, Ben has two but Antwaan Randle El accomplished more with one pass than Ben did during the rest of the Seattle game. And Flacco is only now reaching his prime while Ben’s skills are in decline.
Yesterday’s win capped off perhaps the luckiest run by any team in recent memory. Going into the final month of the season, the Ratbirds were in full free fall when Charlie Batch engineered a win for the ages. People forget that Baltimore backed into clinching their division as with decent quarterbacking and decent coaching, the Steelers could have overtaken them. Baltimore had an easy first round playoff game against the overmatched Colts then should have lost to the Broncos if not for a blown coverage that led to the game tying TD followed by yet another choke job by Pey-Pey in OT. Sure every championship run requires a little luck (Ben making The Tackle on Roman Harper) but the Ravens seemingly had a rabbit’s foot up their ass all through this post-season.
That luck held up through the final whistle of last night’s game. Flacco underthrows his receiver by three yards but Jacoby Jones is so wide open he has time to come back (I wonder if Mike Wallace ever thought about trying that?) for what will go down as a 55 yard TD bomb. The Niners fall asleep on the second half kick-off and gift Baltimore a 108 yard return TD. After a power outage which I’m sure Roger Goodell is already planning on fining James Harrison for, San Fran staged an epic comeback which fell short when Michael Crabtree got mugged on 4th and goal but the refs kept their hankies in their pockets.
Anyway, the Ravens are your 2012 NFL champions. I promised silver linings so here are two. First, since San Francisco lost, your Pittsburgh Steelers are still the only NFL franchise with six Lombardi Trophies. And second, last night was the final time we’ll ever have to see Ray Lewis in an NFL uniform. If karma is a really a thing that exists, hopefully one day we will see him in a bright orange jump suit as karmic justice for the murder he already got away with (and kudos to Phil Simms for having the balls to mention that during the telecast instead of just repeating the company line).
Final lining? Um, the Pittsburgh Pirates report to Spring Training in 10 days.
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Little Josh Harrison may not be related to James Harrison but he sure hits like him.
Speaking of Deebo, the Pittsburgh Steelers finally removed him from the PUP list yesterday. Harrison has been saying all along he’d be good to go by week one so it appears he didn’t get the team’s memo about constantly lying about your injuries. Hopefully him missing all of preseason a precautionary move and not a sign of things to come. The Steelers only had Harrison and LaMarr Woodley together for five games last season which was a huge reason they suffered such a tremendous drop in forced turnovers and overall sacks.
Jason Worilds was also activated although I’m not too enthused about him. I liked what I saw from Chris Carter filling in for Harrison during the preseason and would prefer using him as the top backup at OLB. Worilds showed me precious little when given a shot last season. He’s a decent enough guy to have around for depth but I have a feeling he’s getting chances his level of play doesn’t merit because he falls under that category of “Wasted Picks Kevin Colbert Refuses To Acknowledge” (See also: Sepuvleda, Daniel Davis, Bruce and Sweed, Limas).
With Harrison and Max Starks back on the field and Mike Wallace ending his self-imposed exile, the Steelers are finally looking like the team we expected them to have last April. Wallace didn’t practice yesterday due to CBA rules (players have to wait 3 days) but the reunion of the Young Money Crew sent the entire team into a tizzy of excitement. While Harrison conducted the first post-holdout interview with Wallace, Ryan Clark decided to get into the act by conducting his own hilarious Q&A with Manny Sanders on the state of the YMC.
I can’t believe I’m about to type what I’m about to type but Steelers players really should take a page from Chad Johnson’s book. Johnson used to do something called the Ocho News Network where he’d break scoops and interview fellow players via ustream. Clark, Harrison, et al should get together and form their own network. After listening to their interviews the past couple days, I’m convinced they do their jobs better than 75% of the sports talk show hosts in this city.
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Which evidently some 8.9 million of you watched. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. The Pittsburgh Steelers are America’s Team and so many of you can’t watch pre-season games because you live in other states. Add in the general public’s curiosity about Pey-Pey’s heir apparent Andrew Luck and I sorta understand why the game did bonzo ratings.
But, c’mon, it’s still a pre-season game!
Anyway, sorry for this update coming out a little late. Our pal Hennessy was supposed to present us with his take on Sunday’s meaningless action but he’s MIA so I figured I’ll jump in with what I saw. Which I have to admit wasn’t very much. To be honest, I only caught the second and part of the third quarters on Sunday because I was completely engrossed in the Pittsburgh Pirates‘ epic six hour 19 inning victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.
Screw you, Jerry Meals!
I did turn on the Steelers game in time to see Ike Taylor come down with a sweet interception. Clearly, they weren’t lying when they said Andrew Luck threw a really nice ball. If Ike was able to catch it, it must’ve been a perfect pass. A short time later, Cortez Allen came down with a ricochet INT which is a good sign for a D that didn’t force many turnovers last season.
The Steelers seem locked into Keenan Lewis being the starting corner opposite Ike while Allen plays the nickel role. I guess they figure Lewis’ size suits him better as a starter or something. He was pretty mediocre in the nickel role last year so it must be the Dilbert principal. In any case, I expect Allen will be in the starting line-up before year’s end because that kid has a really good nose for the ball.
The offensive line continued to look somewhat shaky. There are no doubt going to be some growing pains with David DeCastro and Mike Adams. They both do a great job run blocking but tend to get a little confused on passing plays. I can see where the rumor that DeCastro was struggling in camp came from as there were a few plays on Sunday where he clearly got confused. He physically seems fine, though, which is why I think he’ll start sooner than Adams.
Adams played a lot on Sunday as I think the team has figured out that he is indeed a bit raw. He still doesn’t look at all quick enough to handle outside speed rushers coming off the edge. That’s why I’m 99.9% certain at this point that Max Starks will be at LT on opening day. Adams isn’t ready, Gilbert started at LT Sunday but I don’t think they see him as a natural there, and Essex and Foster for damn sure aren’t starting unless Ben pisses off Mike Tomlin.
Speaking of Ben, he got to run a bit more of the Todd Haley offense this week. The Steelers went with a no-huddle for awhile which is a good sign because Ben always does well when the tempo is sped up. Chris Rainey got walloped early in the game but shook it off and came back to have a productive evening. It’s good to see he’s not as fragile as his slight frame suggested he might be. Antonio Brown had another big play catch-and-run TD which isn’t supposed to happen without Mike Wallace out there to “stretch the field.”
In the meantime, the Steelers also continue to stress their running game. Rookie FB Will Johnson made a couple nice blocks and both Heath Miller and Leonard Pope (who wasn’t supposed to be a blocking TE) brought their hard hats as well. Jon Dwyer continues to be the surprise of camp, looking fast, strong and explosive. If he can get and stay healthy, we may have a RB controversy because he’s looked tremendous in the two pre-season games.
The D wasn’t quite as lucky on the injury front. Yet another LB was lost when Stevenson Sylvester tore his MCL meaning he’ll be out about a month. Sly was the team’s top back-up at ILB so without him there’s a major depth issue with only starters Lawrence Timmons and Larry Foote really capable of playing major minutes at the position. On a positive note, I liked what I saw from James Harrison‘s replacement, Chris Carter. Carter is smallish (he looked smaller than several of the team’s safeties) but really quick off the snap and he’s always around the ball. I’d certainly rather have the Deebo/Woodley combo at OLB but Carter might be okay for a week or two. He certainly seems to offer a bit more than Jason Worilds, who didn’t really show much of anything when given a shot last season.
Finally, Charlie Batch got some significant playing time. Watching him sprint away from defenders on some sort of designed roll-out play made me think Haley had to goofing on him. Chaz can still wing the ball down the field but he runs about as well as my grandpa. Still, I think it’s going to be him and Lefty as the back-ups when the season rolls around. Jerrod Johnson definitely has talented but is far too raw to be trusted as a back-up.
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Eighteen days. In eighteen days, the Pittsburgh Steelers will begin reporting to Latrobe for training camp. The 2012 NFL season will be officially underway. It’s been too long.
I apologize for my sporadic posting schedule this summer. Actually, I’m not. When you have a ton of material to write about during the off-season, that’s usually a sign that things aren’t going well with your team. My most active off-season ever was a couple years ago when Ben Roethlisberger got into a little bit of a situation down in Georgia and I’m sure nobody ever wants to see a repeat of that fiasco.
Thankfully the only big stories to occur since the Black and Gold’s unceremonious exit from the playoffs were the exit of longtime Steelers Hines Ward and James Farrior, the hiring of Todd Haley, and Mike Wallace turning into a whiny little bitch. All things considered, a fairly tranquil off-season. My updates will continue to be a tad sporadic until training camp gets underway but once they kick things into gear, so will Total Steelers. So I thank you for your patience and I hope you’re as excited about the upcoming season as I am.
Thirty-four. While the Steelers and Pens enjoyed totally forgettable seasons, the biggest story in Pittsburgh sports has suddenly become the resurgent Pittsburgh Pirates. With a little less than half the season remaining, the Bucs are a mere 34 wins away from breaking what has become one of the most painful and embarrassing streaks in sports history. With 34 more wins, the Pirates will finally break a string of 19 consecutive losing season.
But the Battlin’ Buccos are actually setting their sights higher than ending the longest sub .500 streak in North American sports history. The team is currently a stunning 48-37 and hold first place in their division. With a top notch pitching staff led by Yankees castoff AJ Burnett and an every day line-up featuring the most exciting player in baseball, Andrew McCutchen, the Pirates might have something special going on. And I think I speak for all ‘Burghers when I say, “Why Not Now?”
Confession time: the Pirates are actually my first true sports love. I was in kindergarten when the Steel Dynasty won their fourth Super Bowl so growing up, I really had precious few chances to witness the glory of living in the City of Champions. The Steelers had a couple decent playoff runs in the 80s and the Pens had Mario Lemieux but there wasn’t any true championship buzz in the city until 1990. That was the year Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla and Andy Van Slyke led the Pirates to the first of three straight playoff berths. The 1990 NLCS was the first playoff game I ever attended live (Screw you, Jose Rijos!) and the first time I obsessed over a Pittsburgh sports team on a daily basis.
I loved the Pirates and it was really hard for me to accept what has happened to them since that fateful night in Atlanta. I know this is a Steeler blog and some of you probably couldn’t care less about the Pirates but I think most Steelers fans are Pittsburgh sports fans, period. I know I am. So while we look to Latrobe and what we hope is another glorious season for boys in Black and Gold, let’s keep one eye on the goings on over at PNC Park. The Pirates may be twenty years late to the party but that doesn’t make them any less welcome.
Let’s Go Bucs! Here We Go, Steelers!