Back and to the right… Back and to the right…
The controversy over what Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin did or didn’t do in his team’s Thanksgiving night loss to the Baltimore Ravens has reached new levels of absurdity. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. It was a national showcase in front of one of the largest audiences of the year. And with the year winding down and so many sites devoted to NFL coverage, these kind of “stories” are a perfect way to generate hits.
Although at this point, they’ve all but accused Tomlin of hiding on the grassy knoll.
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The Pittsburgh Steelers playoff hopes sustained a crushing, possibly fatal blow on Thanksgiving with a 22-20 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Of course, the big story coming out of the game – at least outside of Pittsburgh – are the actions of head coach Mike Tomlin. The Ratbirds won so their trademark whining has been mostly replaced by jokes and sarcastic comments about Tomlin standing on the field just long enough to interfere with Jacoby Jones 73 yard kickoff return early in the third quarter.
Although it didn’t stop Terrell Suggs for providing me the title of this post when asked his thoughts on the Tomlin Two-Step: “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying to win.”
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The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens. There really isn’t much to add to that. It has already become one of the NFL’s most heated rivalries. While the departure of guys like Hines Ward and Ray Lewis has taken away some of the on-field animosity, the rivalry will continue to burn as long as these two teams continue to face each other in big games.
And make no mistake, this is a huge game. About a month ago, the joke going around was NBC probably wishes they could flex Ravens-Steelers out of the coveted Thanksgiving night prime time slot. Both were mired at the bottom of the standings and looked like a couple of teams going nowhere. Thanks to modest winning streaks and the mediocrity of the AFC, both Baltimore and Pittsburgh now find themselves in the thick of the Wild Card race.
As if Ravens-Steelers isn’t important enough. As if a showcase on Thanksgiving wasn’t important enough. Now we get to throw in major playoff implications. With seven teams basically tied for the second Wild Card, head-to-head victories and Conference Record are going to be the difference between a trip to the playoffs and an early off-season.
While I fully expect another close game, let’s just hope it doesn’t go to overtime. We all remember what happened last time the Steelers played an OT game on Thanksgiving.
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I’m not sure we can say the Pittsburgh Steelers are all the way back. But they’re getting there. Yesterday afternoon, the Steelers took a giant step toward digging out of the 0-4 hole that began their season by pulling off a last second victory over the Baltimore Ravens 19-16.
Last week, the Steelers finally broke out of the turnover slump by picking off Geno Smith twice. This week, they finally found a running game. Rookie Le’Veon Bell just missed his first career 100 yard game (93 yards) as five guys combined to pile up 141 yards of rushing offense. Bell averaged 4.9 yards a rush which was particularly impressive when you consider his longest gainer was only 11 yards.
Speaking of impressive, the running game got on track despite the offensive line suffering yet another setback. Marcus Gilbert was injured early on leading to Guy Whimper taking his place at right tackle. Whimper had been used exclusively at guard since coming here but is a tackle by trade so that’s not a huge shock – that they’d rather insert Whimper into a game than Mike Adams is. Adams did see some action when LT Kelvin Beachum was briefly shaken up but it appears he’s buried deep inside Mike Tomlin‘s non-existent doghouse.
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One NFL agent has already been fired due to free agency incompetence. Another may soon join him.
Linebacker Elvis Dumervil was happily employed by the Denver Broncos, who were scheduled to pay him $12 million next season. After signing some name free agents (Wes Welker and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie), the Broncos found themselves over the salary cap. Under NFL bylaws, after any new signing, a team has a window of 48 hours to get in compliance with the cap or they risk forfeiting a first or second round draft pick. Dumervil agreed to rework his contract to help Denver out but thanks some sort of fax machine shenanigans, the papers weren’t signed in time and the team was forced to release him.
Dumervil quickly became a hot commodity as no fewer than five teams were bidding for his services. The Pittsburgh Steelers were among his suitors as were the Baltimore Ravens. The Ratbirds ultimately won the Dumervil sweepstakes, signing him to a five year deal that will pay him $8.5 million this season although only $2.5 of it counts against the cap (the bulk of his first year salary comes in the form of a signing bonus). Why can’t supposed salary cap sooper-genius Omar Khan work out these kind of deals?
The addition of Dumervil is quite the coup for the Ravens, who have lost five defensive starters this off-season. At 29 years old, Dumervil is an accomplished pass rusher having posted 17, 9.5 and 11 sacks the past three years. Paired with Terrell Suggs, they should form one of the better OLB duos in the AFC.
When word broke of Dumervil signing with Baltimore, Steeler fans immediately went into sour grapes mode, pointing out Doom’s limited experience as a 3-4 OLB (he began his career as a 4-3 DE) and his so-so ability to stop the run. Anybody who doesn’t think Dumervil would’ve been a huge asset to the Steelers is completely insane. Had they signed him, he immediately would’ve been the team’s best pass rusher as he’s infinitely more talented than Jason Worilds and has grossly outperformed LaMarr Woodley the past few seasons. What’s more, at 29 years old, he’s got at least three or four more prime years left before age and injury start to catch up with him.
With Dumervil off the table, rumor has it the Steelers have turned their sights to former Colts DE Dwight Freeney. At this point, Freeney is nothing more than a poor man’s Dumervil. Sure he might come cheaper but in football as with smoked ham, you get what you pay for. Freeney is older (33), has a more worrisome injury history, and appears to be a horrible fit for our defense. Where Dumervil shifted from DE to OLB without missing a beat, Freeney moved to OLB last season and recorded a career-low 5 sacks. Freeney isn’t an upgrade over Dumervil, he’s not even an upgrade over the man he’s ostensibly replacing, James Harrison.
Ah, poor Deebo. The agent I mentioned who may soon find himself unemployed (if not naked in a gutter with dog bites and “BMF” tattood on his left butt cheek) is the assclown representing James Harrison. Harrison was scheduled to make $6.57 million this season but the Steelers asked him to take a 30% pay cut down to roughly $4.5 million. He balked thinking he could easily command his original salary on the open market. How sadly he was mistaken.
According to reports, the market for Harrison’s rapidly declining skills is tepid to say the least. In fact it’s so icy that Harrison’s agent has already started floating the idea that James would be open to returning to the Steelers, presumably for the salary he idiotically turned down in the first place. For their part, the Steelers have leaked word that they have no interest in bringing a grovelling Harrison back at any price. Ouch.
The thing is, yes, Harrison is in the twilight of his career. And yes, he was dumb for not agreeing to take the pay cut when it was offered. At the same time, Harrison was the team’s best pass rusher last season and until Woodley discovers the Stairmaster, would still be so heading into this one. Even with eroding skills, Harrison is a better option than either Jason Worilds or Dwight Freeney. Of course, there are still players left to be signed and the draft can change a lot of things so it’s not imperative the Steelers decide on the lesser of three evils. However, they better do something or risk falling even further behind their AFC North rivals.
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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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Super Bowl XLVII has finally been set. And for fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers, you couldn’t pick a worse match-up if you tried. Ordinarily we can find at least one team with which to align our rooting interests. When the Baltimore Ravens face the San Francisco 49ers for the championship in two weeks, the only satisfying outcome would be an asteroid annihilating the Superdome.
The Niners are probably the lesser of two evils. They’ve never done anything directly to the Steelers. They do, however, possess five Lombardi Trophies. Should they win, the Black and Gold would no longer sit alone atop the NFL hierarchy as the only franchise with six championships. And considering the Niners have a fairly young roster while the Steelers are old and in decline, they’d be a whole lot better bet to climb the “Stairway to Seven” before we do.
(As an side, isn’t it crazy that out of 47 Super Bowls, the Niners and Steelers have combined to appear in 13, over a full quarter of them, yet have never faced each other? Damn you, Tim McKyer!)
On the other side, we have the Baltimore Ravens. I don’t have to bother explaining why Steeler fans would rather have their pubic hair plucked out by a pair of rusty pliers than see the Ratbirds win the Super Bowl. It’s bad enough we’ll have to spend the next two weeks hearing what a great guy murdering thug Ray Lewis is, are we really ready for Joe Flacco to be considered an elite quarterback? Even worse, if he plays even remotely decent the pain will continue well into next season as talking heads immediately start ranking him ahead of Ben Roethlisberger despite 90% of his offense being checkdowns to tight ends and Ray Rice.
Can Steeler Nation live in a world where Tyler Palko‘s back-up is considered one of the NFL’s best?
The cherry on top of this shit sandwich is both teams are coached by a Harbaugh. The Niners’ Harbaugh si clearly the bigger asshole what with his childish theatrics after every minor setback although choosing between them is kinda like choosing between the best venereal disease. There are no winners here. We all lose.
Pray for the asteroid.
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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…