Last week, I wrote about growing discontent amongst the Pittsburgh Steelers. Naturally, I’ll begin this week writing about growing discontent amongst the Pittsburgh Steelers. What? You thought I’d do five hundred words on some college kid’s 40 time at the Combine?
When last we left this ridiculous controversy, an unnamed player called linebacker LaMarr Woodley a fatass. Regardless of his off-season workout regiment, there’s absolutely no denying Woodley has been an injury prone disappointment since signing his big money contract extension a couple seasons back. These unattributed comments riled up team leader/annoying loudmouth Ryan Clark, who was offended someone would break the code of locker room omerta. Shockingly, Clark did make one valid observation; that the team had a clear leadership vacuum in the wake of last season’s purge of veterans.
Since no controversy is complete until we hear from the wide receivers, not one but two Steelers wide outs chimed in on this issue. First there was Antonio Brown, wearing the swankiest pimp hat this side of the Godfather. He appeared on ESPN’s First Take but since I try to avoid ESPN and I especially try to avoid First Take, I only caught his comments when they were uploaded to their website. In between his various assaults on the English language, AB managed to reveal the Steelers had a “fractured” locker room with guys more worried about their stats and impending free agency than winning football games.
In other words, Mike Wallace and Rashard Mendenhall were the bad guys. Shocking, I know. And convenient. Since both of those goofs are long gone, it very nicely puts all questions about a divided locker room to rest. At least until the team loses two in a row to bottom feeders they should’ve crushed.
Hines Ward, who is no longer a Steeler although for some reason the media runs to get his opinion on every move they make, went on the NFL Network to weigh in on this controversy. Hines reiterated Clark’s point about losing veteran leaders and talked about the team losing track of the Steeler Way. He also provided every headline writer their money quote by saying the backbiting was a sign the team was in “total disarray.” Impressive insight for a man who spent most of last season in Los Angeles preparing sweet and sour spare ribs for Guy Fieri and Rachel Ray.
Look, the Steelers definitely have a problem. When they cut Hines and James Farrior, yinzers called local sports talk shows worried about leadership and were dismissed by hosts who (rightfully) pointed out teams don’t have to like each other or be compromised of good guys to win. Now that the players themselves are pointing out the problems in the locker room, those same hosts are all over this topic. This is why I started this blog, the reporters and sports personalities in this town suck.
You don’t need a team full of choir boys or a team wide lovefest to win. However, the good guys need to outnumber the bad guys. The Steelers have had idiots on the team before but with Hines or the Bus leading the locker room and a hard-ass head coach in Bill Cowher, the Steeler Way prevailed. In recent years, the guys who were all about winning have faded away and a bunch of chest-thumping me-firsters have taken their place. And instead of the head coach reining them in, we have hear-no-evil see-no-evil Mike Tomlin. There is a systematic flaw within this team. Unfortunately, a flaw I don’t see being corrected any time soon.
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As if the Pittsburgh Steelers don’t have enough issues to deal with…
The Steelers announced they have suspended running back Rashard Mendenhall for one game due to “conduct detrimental to the team.” Mendy was told last Sunday that he wasn’t going to be dressing for the game against the San Diego Chargers. When players don’t dress, they’re still expected to come to the game and stand on the sideline in official NFL team gear ™ so the television cameras can pan over to their glum faces when one of the announcers mentions their name. Evidently, Mendy took the news as a sign that he shouldn’t even bother showing up.
After last week’s anemic running performance, there were some calls for Mendenhall to regain his starting job. That’s not happening now or probably ever. If anything, this suspension is the symbolic death knell for Rashard’s career in the Black and Gold. All three of the team’s running backs will be free agents this off-season and it’s looking more and more like the Steelers will be cutting ties with their former first round pick.
The duo of Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman definitely had a terrible showing against the Chargers. However, it’s ridiculous to say Mendenhall would’ve performed any better. As I noted in my game preview, the Chargers have a talented D-line who are very strong against the run. On top of which, the Steelers’ O-line was banged up with one of the team’s best run blockers, Willie Colon, hobbled by a season ending injury which necessitated moving Maurkice Pouncey to LG and inserting Doug Legursky at center after only a few possessions.
Legursky is a lousy run blocker. Pouncey is a Pro Bowler at center but he’s only average at guard. The Steelers were also playing with their third string RT, rookie Kelvin Beachum. Add it all up and the effective run blocking from the middle of the season is just no longer there. Word is the Steelers might finally bite the bullet and start this year’s first rounder, David DeCastro, at RG (with Ramon Foster moving over to the left) this Sunday.
Speaking of first rounders, this latest incident completes a rather spectacular fall for the former 23rd overall pick. As I’ve noted many times, GM Kevin Colbert holds on to his first rounders well past the point of sanity. To his credit, sometimes that works out as in the case of Lawrence Timmons, who was maddeningly average for most of his career only to finally start fulfilling his immense potential this year. However, in the case of Mendenhall, it’s looking like he’ll be the rare first rounder the team cuts ties with without ever getting a second contract.
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The Pittsburgh Steelers were defeated by the Cleveland Browns, 20-14. I can accept a loss. Every team suffers injuries and while it’s nice to say “the standard is the standard” and all that nonsense you can only lose so many key players before it eventually catches up to you. The fact is the Steelers went into the game starting their third string quarterback, without their top wide receiver (and missing two of their top four wide outs overall), starting a second string left guard (Willie Colon was scratched pre-game due to a swollen knee) and later pressed into playing their third string right tackle, not to mention fielding a defense missing two multiple time Pro Bowlers (Troy Polamalu and LaMarr Woodley, who started but left after a handful of snaps).
When you’re missing that many guys, I can accept the fact anybody can beat them.
What I can’t accept is HOW the Steelers were beaten yesterday.
The Steelers put forth one of their most embarrassing performances in decades. They committed eight turnovers. EIGHT TURNOVERS. There is simply no excuse for that level of ineptitude.
People are going to point a finger at Charlie Batch. I’m not going to defend Chaz or claim he played well. At the same time, anybody who pins this loss entirely on him has absolutely no clue what they’re talking about. Yes, he missed a bunch of throws he should have made. Yes, he made some terrible decisions which led to two of his three interceptions. He could have and should have played better.
However, he is the Steelers third string QB. No team is going to have a starting caliber QB sitting on their bench as the third option. Batch’s performance was about what you could realistically expect from a back-up, to say nothing about what most teams have a third stringer.
What you don’t expect is for every one of your running backs to commit a turnover. To Mike Tomlin‘s credit, he immediately benched any back that fumbled. Unfortunately, he only had four backs on the roster so after turnover #4 he had to start the turnover-go-round all over again. And Rashard Mendenhall happily obliged.
Mendy gifted the Browns with two fumbles yesterday. He continues to start despite contributing in no positive way whatsoever. Isaac Redman relieved Jonathan Dwyer just long enough to deliver an early Christmas present of his own. When it appeared Dwyer would be the lone reliable back, he let the ball get away. Chris Rainey, yes, Chris Rainey became the Last Back Standing and even made a nice goal line run for the team’s lone offensive TD. He did fumble a few carries in but it went out of bounds which only delayed the inevitable since he would eventually fumble on the Steelers final possession to seal the crushing defeat.
In between all the fumbles, we had Batch’s three picks. As I said, only two were bad throws as the third was a short slant pattern which Mike Wallace batted around until it fell into a Browns player’s waiting arms. When you’re playing with a short roster, it’s incumbent on your star players to step up but Wallace was MIA yesterday. He was targeted 7 times, only managing one catch for 9 yards. Several of the misfires were miscommunication with Batch while at other times he appeared to simply give up on the play.
Heath Miller and Manny Sanders performed admirably and even Plaxico Burress contributed by drawing a pass interference which set up Rainey’s 1 yard TD run. There is absolutely no excuse for Wallace’s disappearing act.
As if the turnovers weren’t enough of a handicap, we had penalties. Oh did we have penalties. There were 19 penalties called altogether with 9 going against the Steelers. No word on whether yesterday’s ref made an appointment with Dr. James Andrews to check his rotator cuff. Perhaps the most costly flag occurred early in the third quarter when the Steelers converted a big second and long to Heeeeeaatth only for it to be wiped out thanks to a holding call on rookie RT Kelvin Beachum, who was playing in place of injured Mike Adams.
So before we put all the blame on Charlie Batch, let’s remember we also had a posse of backs who couldn’t hold on to the ball, a “star” receiver who didn’t bother showing up, and a beat up offensive line which kept putting an already sputtering offense into third and long situations.
Truth be told, if not for another heroic effort from the Steelers defense, this would’ve been a one-sided ass-whupping. When an offense commits eight turnovers, many of which came deep in their own zone, I don’t know that you can do much better than hold the opposition to two TDs and two FGs. For the record, Cleveland’s first TD drive started at the Pittsburgh 10 and the other began on our 31. One of their two FG drives began on our 44. Not to mention 7 of our 14 points were scored on a pick six by Lawrence Timmons (with an assist from Bret Keisel). I’m not sure how much more they could have done faced with that 50 pound lead weight called an offense weighing them down at every turn.
The defense has nothing to be ashamed of. The offense? I know they’re missing key players but there is no excusing what we saw yesterday. That was the kind of effort that gets players cut and coaches fired. It was a total humiliation at the hands of a team that was 2-8 going into the weekend.
Where do we go from here? Unless Ben magically heals between now and Sunday, there is no way this team is beating the Ravens. A loss next week drops them to 6-6 which mathematically doesn’t eliminate them from playoff contention but certainly means the division is lost. It also means they’d probably need to run the table to finish 10-6 and be in the mix for a Wild Card at season’s end. At this point, though, I think we need to worry less about January and worry more about next week. Because the way this team is playing, I’m not sure they can beat ANYBODY right now.
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As of this writing, the match-up between the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Giants is slated to kick-off in MetLife Stadium Sunday afternoon as scheduled. Not to get all soap boxy on yinz but that’s kind of insane. While MetLife has a generator, word is the surrounding area is still without public transportation. The New York/New Jersey area is only now beginning to dig their way out of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy. To play a football game amongst such chaos is nuts.
To further the craziness, word out of NY is many Giants players have been living at the Giant’s training complex because their homes have been amongst those without power. From our side, the Steelers’ team hotel is also powerless so the team has made the call to forgo flying in the night before and will instead fly in on Sunday morning, go directly to the stadium, play the game and head home. Craziness.
Okay, hopping off the box now. So what might we see when this game kicks off?
STEELERS DEFENSE vs GIANTS OFFENSE
In my piece about Eli Manning this morning, I called him Elite Eli. The joke is in reference to the always obnoxious NY media who asked Eli before last season if he considered himself an elite QB and he said yes. They snickered at the answer but the laughing stopped when he led the team to a second Super Bowl victory with a second epic last second comeback victory of the Patriots. Eli had his ups and downs his first few seasons in the league but he has definitely blossomed in to a truly elite QB.
For proof, you need not look any further than the focus of the Giants offense. Much like here in Pittsburgh, in Eli’s early years the offense relied on a strong running game and a conservative passing game. The past couple years, the running attack has dropped off considerably while the Giants put the game in Eli’s hands. And he’s responded. Last year was Manning’s third straight 4,000+ yard game (in fact, he was less than a 100 yards short of 5,000) season.
Manning is on pace to surpass that mark yet again this year. What’s more, he’s doing it with a constantly rotating cast of receivers. He isn’t much like his brother Peyton except in one regard. They both have the knack of making any receiver look like a superstar. The 2007 Champion Giants featured Plaxico Burress and Amani Toome. The 2011 G-Men starred Mario Manningham and Victor Cruz. Manningham is gone but the passing game keeps on rolling with Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. Domenik Hixon has more than replaced Manningham while Cowboys castoff TE Martellus Bennent has emerged as a red zone threat.
The Giants are a passing team. As such, they feature a duo of backs toting the rock. Ahmed Bradshaw is the nominal starter but he’s battled injury this season. Back-up Andre Brown has notched a 100 yard game in his absence. David Wilson is the change of pace back. All three are capable of catching balls out of the backfield, as is perhaps the best fullback in the league, former Pitt star Henry Hynoski.
The Steelers must must must control Eli Manning if they have any hopes of winning this game. The good news is Ryan Clark has practiced normally and would seem clear to play on Sunday after leaving the Washington game with a concussion. Clark has been a dominant force for a secondary that is statistically ranked first in the NFL. Ike Taylor and Keenan Lewis have quietly strung together a couple strong games and it’ll be imperative they bring their A game to New Jersey.
The Giants boast perhaps the best O line in football. The passing game is so effective because Eli is seldom touched. LaMarr Woodley‘s hammy has been acting up and even if he plays, his effectiveness will be limited. No matter, the Steelers haven’t been getting the to QB much even with him and James Harrison finally on the field together anyway. The team doesn’t need to sack Eli or pick off his passes (although that would be nice) but they can’t let him set up a hammock and take a nap in the pocket either. If they can at least rush him a little, it would go a long way to disrupting their offense.
STEELERS OFFENSE vs GIANTS DEFENSE
This is a bad match-up for the Steelers. Our offensive line struggles against teams with good defensive lines and the Giants have perhaps the best D-line in football. Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, Mathias Kiwanuka and Jason Pierre-Paul are arguably the most dangerous front four since the glory days of the Steel Curtain. Yes, they’re that good. They’re so good, I didn’t even mention a guy like Linval Joseph, who rotates at DT and has more sacks than anybody on the Steelers.
Our o-line has done fantastic work the past few weeks. Marcus Gilbert is likely out another week which I wouldn’t ordinarily care about because Mike Adams has done a fantastic job in his absence. I would rather have an experienced guy in there against that d-line but it’s not like Gilbert is a 10 year vet. The o-line, who are always a little fired up thanks to hotheads like Willie Colon and Maurkice Pouncey, have extra motivation this week after Justin Tuck told ESPN that they’ve only played well because they’ve gotten away with a ton of holding. Hey, as Jesse Ventura once wisely said, “it’s only cheating if you get caught.”
Ben Roethlisberger may be thanking the stars for the dink and dunk offense come game time. The best way to combat a hellacious pass rush is to get the ball out quick. Todd Haley’s offense is nothing if not quick. Mike Wallace has been chirping to the media about the lack of long bombs but those of us who remember Bruce Arians insanely dialing up deep ball after deep ball while Ben takes hit after hit prefer this method. Besides, the best defense is a ball control offense.
The Giants don’t have a great secondary. Some point to their 11 interceptions but when you play turnover machines like Michael Vick and Tony Romo (who’s gifted them 6 of the 11), the numbers will be skewed. There will be plays to be made against a secondary that’s in the bottom half of the league in yards given up.
Who will run the ball for the Steelers is a little murky. Jonathan Dwyer and Rashard Mendenhall have been limited at practice. I suspect the starter will be a game time decision. Either way, Mike Tomlin will likely deactivate one or the other and then blame their injury. Isaac Redman seems good to go so he’ll likely back-up whomever starts.
This game isn’t a make or break week for the Steelers. At the same time, this team really needs a signature win over a quality opponent. The past couple weeks we’ve seen an upswing in their play as they’ve done a good job against some capable opposition. But this week we face not only a playoff caliber team but a championship level club. A win this week will firmly establish the Steelers belong in that conversation as well.
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Jonathan Dwyer went over 100 yards on Sunday in the Pittsburgh Steelers win over the Redskins, his second consecutive 100+ yard performance. By now, we’ve all heard the trivia. Dwyer is the first Steeler to post back-to-back 100 yard games since Fast Willie Parker did it in 2008. I guess the running game is only effective in election years.
And much like in an election year, coach Mike Tomlin has to make a choice between several worthy candidates.
The Post-Gazette has already endorsed their candidate: Jon Dwyer. They even jumped on the bandwagon comparing Dwyer to Jerome Bettis. I’m not one to toot my own horn but a long time ago on a site far far away, I made the exact same comparison the day he was drafted. But when even Steeler Nation has taken to calling Dwyer the Minibus, it’s a comparison that’s hard to ignore.
Meanwhile, the incumbent, Rashard Mendenhall, is waiting in the wings. I have to admit, I’m not a Mendenhall fan. He had two consecutive 1,000 yard seasons and came within 90 yards of making it three in a row last year but I’ve just never liked his running style. He’s always been the type of runner who’ll get stopped for minimal gains on his first five carries then break one for 20. His dancing at the line of scrimmage can lead to big plays but it makes him a liability in short yardage.
Next we have Isaac Redman. Redman is almost the polar opposite of Mendy. There is nothing subtle about iRed. He gets the ball and just bulls straight ahead. That makes him a pretty effective short yardage runner but it doesn’t lead to many big gains. Once he gets to the second level, there’s no elusiveness or shiftiness at all.
Then there are the two young guys. Chris Rainey has seen quite a few snaps this season but I don’t think offensive coordinator Todd Haley has totally figured out what to do with him yet. Every week it seems like they add a new wrinkle or trick play, such as the direct snap for a big run against the Skins. I think eventually he’ll settle in as a Darren Sproles type although I don’t expect he’ll ever be a every down back. Then we have Baron Batch, who they use as a Mewelde Moore type third down back, at least while Redman and/or Mendenhall are injured.
The choice basically comes down to Mendy vs Dwyer. Redman is a short yardage specialist. Rainey and Batch are situational guys. Only Mendy and Dwyer profile as starting running backs. Who do you choose?
Later today, Mike Tomlin will have his weekly festival of lies they laughably call a press conference. I’m sure the reporters will ask who he’s planning on starting and he’ll hem and haw and tell everybody nothing. Mendenhall has been battling some residual issues stemming from off-season ACL surgery while Dwyer left Sunday’s game with what Tomlin later called “calf stiffness.” So there’s an easy injury excuse depending on which direction the team wants to go.
Dwyer needs to start. Not because of running style. Not because of some outdated theory that starters can’t lose their job due to injury. They have to start Dwyer because he’s performed. The NFL is a “what have you done for me lately?” business and Dwyer has done everything asked of him and more. The Steelers parted ways with James Farrior and Hines Ward because other guys were doing a better job. Now it’s time to reward one.
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Back in 2009, the Pittsburgh Steelers hit a rough patch. Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. And how did they respond? In a word, badly.
Mike Tomlin‘s weekly press conference became an absolute sham. Okay, it’s always been a sham but every week he’d make fiery pronouncements and then do absolutely nothing to follow up on them. His infamous promise to “Unleash Hell!” came that year and the team responded by unleashing a loss to a Raiders team that would win only 4 games. They followed that debacle by getting losing to an even more pathetic Cleveland team the following week.
While Tomlin blathered his empty rhetoric, the team played with absolutely no passion whatsoever. The defense blew fourth quarter leads five times, with four of them ending in losses. When the fans and local media began calling them on their poor play, they responded indignantly. Ryan Clark went on a tirade about how fans should support their team unconditionally.
Here we are three years later. And history looks to be repeating itself.
The Steelers haven’t stopped anybody in the fourth quarter all season. Tomlin continues to waste everybody’s time at his press conferences. And the players are turning surly. After losing to a pitiful Tennessee Titans team last Thursday, Rashard Mendenhall scolded fans on twitter for being critical. I wasn’t aware the Koran spoke about the qualities of a true fan.
Maybe he was cranky from all that fasting during Ramadan.
In any case, he should shut his Bin Laden-loving ass up. Fans pay money to go to games. They pay money to buy the team’s merchandise. They invest their time and emotion in the game. They have a right to be critical when the team doesn’t play up to their expectations.
Besides, a fan is somebody who follows a team passionately. Hence the word being derived from the word “fanatic.” Nowhere in the description does it say you’re supposed to root for the team regardless of how they’re doing. They have a name for that, it’s called “cheerleading.”
Speaking of cheerleaders, urban legend has it the Steelers don’t have hot Polish babes in teeny tiny skirts shaking their pom-poms on the sidelines because the fans are passionate enough. That’s only half true. The other half is they don’t need cheerleaders on the sidelines because they already have them up in the press box.
The local media are so far in the Steelers’ pockets, I bet every reporter for the two major papers can tell you whether Art Rooney II dresses to the left or the right. That said, when local reporters shockingly decide to speak the truth, the team and their players don’t know how to react. And it usually ends up with one of the players reverting back to their asshole jock persona.
Ike Taylor, who has played like absolute shit this season, has a weekly radio show. Okay, it’s not really radio, it’s streamed over the internet by the Tribune-Review. Full disclosure: a couple years ago when I wrote for NPC, TribLive invited me on to talk Stillers a couple times. Since then, they’ve cut costs and gone to a line-up of marginable “personalities.” One of which is Face Me Ike.
Ike went on a tirade about reporters “attacking” him which you can listen to by clicking here. Attacks are when the press goes after somebody for no reason at all. They’re CRITICIZING Ike because his play deserves criticism. Or was that game winning TD he gave up against the Titans or the 203 yards he surrendered to Demaryius Thomas in the season opener just bad luck?
People have already started drawing parallels between 2012 and 2009. In 2009, we missed the playoffs because we lost to a bunch of teams we had no business losing to. In 2012, we’ve already lost two games (Tennessee and Oakland) that we should have won. The lies continue spewing forth from the corrupt Tomlin regime. And now the players are turning on the fans and press.
It’s deja vu all over again.
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The Pittsburgh Steelers squeaked by the Philadelphia Eagles 16-14 thanks to a walk off field goal by Stonecold Shaun Suisham. The good news is the victory evens the Steelers record at 2-2. How crucial was this win? Only 15% of the teams who start the year 1-3 end up making the playoffs.
The bad news is the Steelers have yet more injuries to deal with, starting with All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu. Troy played a couple series then hobbled off to the sidelines never to be seen again. Last week, I faced the wrath of my buddy Hennessy for suggesting James Harrison‘s days may be numbered. I may have just picked the wrong Steeler. I love Troy but he’s quickly turning into another Bob Sanders.
And since Harrison is back and the Football Gods have mandated the Steelers cannot have both Deebo and LaMarr Woodley on the field at the same time lest they cause too much destruction to opposing quarterbacks, Woodley left the game early with what appears to be a re-occurrence of the hamstring problem which plagued him last season.
Even without Woodley and Troy, the Steelers turned in by far their finest defensive effort of the season. I’d prefer to have them both but forced to make a choice, I’d definitely trade Woodley for Harrison every single time. For whatever reason, the D plays much better when Deebo is there. They generated more pressure on Vick than in the first three games combined. And their run defense improved vastly, holding Shady McCoy to only 53 tough yards.
If you didn’t see the game, allow me to repeat some of Joe Buck’s first half play-by-play. “Timmons, Timmons, Timmons, Timmons, Timmons…” Lawrence Timmons was in absolute beast mode. He led the team in tackles, dropped into coverage, recovered a fumble, forced a fumble, and chased Michael Vick like a dog chasing a bone (sorry, I had to). It’s these rare moments of brilliance where you look at him and think, “Why can’t he do this all the time?” When he’s on like he was yesterday, he’s basically the linebacker version of Troy Polamalu.
The Steelers held the high-powered Eagles offense to only 250 total yards, 80 of which came on a grinding third quarter TD drive which took two fourth down conversions and eight minutes off the clock. It would’ve been nice for the Steelers to get off the the field on one of those fourths, and I’m sure human troll Mark Madden will go on about how they suck because they couldn’t (Timmons shot the gap on the first one but Shady made a nice move and then escaped Keenan Lewis’s decidedly Deion Sanders-esque tackling attempt), but if you’re going to let the other team score, at least make them earn it. It’s big play/quick scores which kill you.
Other than that drive, the Eagles did a whole bunch of nothing. They had two other scoring opportunities although neither one was earned. Early in the game, Philly had first and goal from the Steelers 3 which ended with Ryan Clark, the Steelers Defensive MVP thus far in 2012, forcing a Vick fumble which LT recovered in the end zone. That drive went 49 yards but 31 of them were on a bogus pass interference call on Ike Taylor. The second drive, which did end in a touchdown, covered 80 yards although this time they were gifted 30 yards in penalties thanks to two personal fouls, only one of which was legit.
Which brings me to the referees. Man, I’m begging some intrepid fan to track down their Facebook pages to see if they have pics wearing Iggles gear or chowing down on diarrhea inducing cheesesteaks or something. The zebras called this game like they bet the mortgage on Philly. It was unbearable. At one point, even Steeler haters Buck and Aikman noted there was a flag on every play. EVERY PLAY. The Steelers finished the game with 9 penalties for 106 yards.
A HUNDRED AND SIX YARDS IN PENALTIES?!?!?!
Bring back the Lingerie Football refs.
Worse of all, the atrocious calls did not go both ways. This is not Pittsburgh Paranoia talking, either. I seldom blame the refs because I think yinzers get too worked up over every perceived slight but yesterday was truly an exception. Mike Wallace was getting molested like an altar boy on practically every play yet not a single flag was thrown. Meanwhile, ten yellow hankies went flying when a Steeler so much as breathed heavy.
Not that I am excusing Wallace for only catching two passes. Yes, he was getting grabbed, held, shoved, and sodomized on every play. So what? Elite receivers find a way to get open. One of the things I don’t like about Wallace is he doesn’t work. He doesn’t get dirty. Wallace runs his pattern and if he gets bumped he just throws up his hands and begs for a flag. The Steelers are paying you $3 million to catch footballs, not whine to zebras.
Nor am I excusing the offense for their poor play. Ben Roethlisberger was decidedly off yesterday. His numbers aren’t horrible and he made some clutch plays, particularly a 20 yarder to Antonio Brown (who does the dirty work to get open and works hard on every single play) on the game winning drive, but he also missed a lot of throws. He overshot Heath Miller, who was wide open for a TD, on a drive early in the 4th that would’ve effectively put the game away. Ben’s receivers also did him no favors, what with Wallace not getting open and both he and Manny Sanders dropping passes they ordinarily catch. Then there was some plain bad luck such as when Jerricho Cotchery caught a short slant at the 5 with time running out in the half but tripped and fell two yards shy of the end zone.
The offensive star was undoubtedly Rashard Mendenhall. It’s pretty clear the Steelers piss-poor running game the first few weeks was because of inept backs and not lack of running lanes. Mendy only had 81 yards but he averaged an excellent 5.8 YPC. He showed the burst through the hole and cutback ability which makes him the big play threat the other guys simply aren’t. Todd Haley smartly used iRed in short yardage, the one thing he’s good at, but Mendenhall was clearly the featured back with none of the other clowns even getting off the bench. The final drive to set up Suisham’s game winner was a thing of beauty, with Mendy and Redman alternating carries and chewing up both yards and time.
Despite having to overcome two opponents, one in green, one in black and white, the Steelers managed to pull out what was almost a must-win. It wasn’t pretty but they got the job done. With a short turnaround to the Tennessee Titans on Thursday Night Football, that’s really all that matters.
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Last night was the first Presidential Debate between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. If you’re a political junkie like me, you’re probably familiar with a website called the Huffington Post. What you may not know is what started as a political news outlet has morphed in to a pop culture website that now posts pictures of Miley Cyrus’s latest nipslip right alongside stories of how Romney is conspiring with Big Oil to blot out the sun in order to increase our dependency on fossil fuels.
They even have a sports section.
For some reason, their sports section on Tuesday featured a guest column penned by none other than Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall. Guess he needed something to do while undergoing those electro-stim treatments on his surgically repaired ACL. Anyway, Mendy’s column, which can be read by clicking here, is a passive aggressive masterpiece. My girlfriend is already studying it in preparation for out next fight.
On the surface, Mendy writes about tolerance. Particularly tolerance of other viewpoints, utilizing among other things a ham-fisted analogy about judging a book by its cover. What he’s really writing about is the shitstorm he brought upon himself last year when he took people to task for celebrating the death of Osama Bin Laden.
What’s amusing about the piece is he places the blame for people taking issue with his anti-American sentiments on narcissism. A great deal of his rant chides people for being too narcissistic. For only being about themselves. For not listening to others.
What’s even more amusing is in the course of railing against narcissism, Mendenhall uses the word “I” a total of 25 times.
In a 700 word essay, he says “I” (or a variation thereof) roughly 28% of the time. Pot. Meet Kettle. In the meantime, stick to your day job, Mendy.
Speaking of his day job, I may take issue with his plan to parlay his football glory into 72 virgins (or, as Antonio Cromartie calls them, “A quiet Saturday night.”) but I’m definitely happy to hear he’ll be back on Sunday when the Steelers host the Eagles. He along with Troy Polamalu and James Harrison practiced yesterday but of the three, I think Mendy is the surest lock to actually suit up. I’m hoping the rumors about Troy and Deebo are true but they’re so brittle, I fear a jarring drive over a pothole could send them back to the training room.
Plus the Steelers desperately need an Arabian Knight in shining armor to rescue their pitiful running game. Todd Haley, doing is damnedest to bring back 1956 Stiller Football at Art Rooney II‘s request, has succeeded in nothing but giving Ben Roethlisberger longer third downs to convert. The team is currently third from bottom in rushing, having accumulated a pathetic 195 yards through the first three games.
I like Isaac Redman but he’s just not an every down back. His straight ahead style is great for short yardage and nothing else. The coaches were so pissed at Jonathan Dwyer‘s performance in Oakland, they benched him in the second half in favor of Baron Batch. Batch had a couple nice runs but has zero track record. Chris Rainey is too small to play traditional running back.
If the Steelers have any hope of featuring a running game, they need Rashard. Even if he’s not 100% (and, truly, he won’t be), 75% of Mendy is probably better than what we have now. Plus if he’s busy on the field, he won’t have time to pen self-serving columns about himself. That’s what I call win-win for everybody.
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The Pittsburgh Steelers play host to the Philadelphia Eagles this weekend. The Black and Gold’s anemic running game may get a boost when Rashard Mendenhall takes the field for the first time this season. Mendy tore his ACL in last season’s finale against the Browns and will be making his return to the starting line-up almost exactly ten months later. That’s not the greatest recovery of all-time but it’s still damn impressive.
Meanwhile, James Harrison ended 2011 alongside his teammates in Denver, yet hasn’t taken a single snap in 2012. And at the rate he’s going, I’m starting to wonder if he ever will.
Harrison participated in his first practice of the year last Tuesday. On Friday, the team held another practice. Harrison never made it. His knee experienced “a little bit of a setback” which evidently was so little that the team is now all but ruling him out of Sunday’s game against Philly.
What in the blue hell is going on with Deebo?
Mike Tomlin is an unapologetic liar so we can’t expect answers from him. Instead, we’re going to have to solve this mystery ourselves. Let’s review what we know.
- Harrison played very well in 2011, easily the team’s most effective pass-rusher. The only games he missed were due to a broken orbital socket and an unjust one-game suspension.
- Over the off-season, Harrison had two back surgeries. The first was to take care of a problem which he played through during the season. The second was evidently to clean up something the first surgery missed.
- Harrison showed up for all the team’s off-season OTAs and, from all accounts, participated normally. Of course, OTAs often entail nothing more strenuous than guys in shorts running through plays at 1/4 speed.
- Training camp starts. Harrison was put on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list on day one and never came off. When asked what was up, we were told a never previously mentioned knee problem (?) was acting up (?). However, we were assured the PUP list was precautionary and, with rest, he’d be good to go by the season opener.
- With two weeks before the season opener, Harrison has “minor knee surgery,” what we’re informed was routine scoping, because the knee wasn’t responding to treatment. We’re told by all involved (Tomlin, Harrison, Harrison’s agent) that he still thinks he’s on track to play in the opener but, failing that, he’ll definitely be ready by week two.
- Week one, no Harrison, Week two? Knee is still acting up so we’ll wait and see what happens next week. Week three comes around and everybody is all, “We have the bye after this game so let’s give James this week off so he gets two solid weeks of rest and then is ready for Philly in week 5.” Well, here we are at week 5 and now it’s “wait ’til next week.”
Pirates fans are used to being told wait for something that never comes. Steeler fans, not so much.
Rumor around town is Harrison has received synvasic injections to try and get him back on the field. Synvasic, as those who have a loved one suffering from severe arthritis know, is something they shoot into arthritic knees when the joint has deteriorated to the point it’s basically bone on bone. If this story is true, Harrison’s knee is, pardon my french, pretty well f**ked.
Then again, there are holes in this theory. For one, we also know arthritis is a progressive disease which breaks people down little by little year by year. As mentioned, Harrison played tremendous last year. It doesn’t make sense that he’d go from All-Pro to 80 year old cripple over the course of ten months. If he’s battling an arthritic knee, we would’ve seen a more gradual decline.
Another rumor is the “routine scope” procedure he had in pre-season was not a routine scope. This one I’m much more on board with. At this point, I’m definitely calling shenanigans on everything we’ve been told since the start of camp. I think it’s pretty obvious that the “routine scope” procedure he had in pre-season was much more than a routine scope. I’m not a doctor so I can’t tell you what sort of surgeries he might have undergone but I do know what arthroscopic surgery is. My beer swilling 250 pound uncle who hasn’t lifted a weight since he was a third string LB behind a fella named Bill Cowher at Carlynton High School had his knee scoped and was walking around normally in three weeks. Surely an elite athlete like Deebo would be fully recovered nearly two months later.
The bottom line is this: James Harrison isn’t playing this Sunday. And I highly doubt he’s playing next Sunday either. In fact, with Harrison due to make $9 million next season, I’m not entirely certain we’ll ever see #92 in the Black and Gold again. I hope I’m wrong because given the inability of LaMarr Woodley to regularly overcome double teams and the sad lack of pressure provided by Chris Carter and Jason Worilds, the D surely needs him. However, at this point I think we all need to take a step back, stop listening to the B.S. emanating from Steelers HQ, and just assume he’s not playing until we actually see him on the field. In the meantime, the linebacking corps will have to make due without him.
Let’s hope Ben scores a lot of points.
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What a difference six months can make.
Back in March, Pittsburgh Steelers GM Kevin Colbert was making the media rounds addressing the state of his team. One subject he was repeatedly quizzed on was the status of injured running back Rashard Mendenhall. Mendy suffered a torn ACL in the Steelers’ final regular season game against the Cleveland Browns last December, an injury which usually entails 8-10 months of recovery time. Colbert said that he expected Rashard back in 2012 but probably not until mid-season and even then in a limited role since players usually need at least a full year to get fully back up to speed after such a catastrophic injury.
Even as recently as a couple months ago, Uncle Eddy behind the P-G’s obnoxious pay wall was dropping hints that Mendenhall was coming along slower than the team anticipated and may not be back at all this year. Most everybody figured he’d remain on the PUP list for the first month or so of the season at the very least.
Well, I don’t know if Mr. Miyagi rubbed his hands together and brought some magical healing to Mendy’s knee or what but reports surfaced yesterday that Mendenhall is not only practicing with the team at full speed sans his knee brace, he looks like he may be good to go on Sunday. He didn’t take a single snap during preseason and, as far as I know, spent all of camp on the PUP list standing on the sidelines. Then again, so did James Harrison and, for the most part, Casey Hampton and both of them are expected to start on Sunday. Big Snack is also coming back from a major knee injury although being fat and clogging up the middle doesn’t quite require the same speed and maneuverability being a running back requires.
If Mendy has recovered well enough to start against the Broncos, that would certainly speak well of determination and recuperative powers. Although it’s hardly unusual as Adrian Peterson also tore his ACL late last season and he’s off the PUP list and pushing hard to start on Sunday. Surgery has gotten a lot more advanced as time has gone on. Plus now we have the wondrous rehabbing machine known as the Wii.
I’ll admit I’m a little confused over news of Mendenhall’s progress. For one, Mike Tomlin is notoriously secretive about injuries so all this info “leaking” out is a bit surprising. I suppose he could be saying this to give the Broncos something else to prepare for. If that is the case, Mendy instantly becomes the most laughable decoy ever. No team tailors their game plan to stop Rashard Mendenhall. No team practices in mortal fear that the unstoppable juggernaut known as Rashard Mendenhall will single-handedly cost them the game.
If football players were judged in Moneyball terms, Mendy would the be definition of replacement level.
Then we have the question of effectiveness. Mendenhall was awful last season before suffering a major injury. Surgery may have advanced but ACL repair isn’t like Tommy John surgery where a player often comes back better than before. In fact, running backs are a lot like cars. You can take them to the shop for repairs but they never run the same as when they were shiny and new.
If you’re a fantasy footballer, you’ve probably seen 349 articles warning you to stay away from AD because you never know how he’ll play coming off ACL surgery. Same thing goes for Mendy. And Peterson is at least someone who can play a physical game if he doesn’t have his speed, Mendy was never a lower-your-shoulder power type back. The only thing separating him from the Redzone Redmans and Jon Dwyers of the world was his cut back ability and big play speed. Take that away from him and I don’t really know what he brings to the table.
Remember Willie Parker when he wasn’t so fast anymore?