This season, I’ve repeatedly written things I never imagined I’d write. “The Pittsburgh Steelers secondary is the strength of the defense.” “Stop running the ball and release the Flying Circus.” “Great game by Will.i.am Gay.” “The Chief’s great-granddaughter shows off her pierced nipples.”
Add one more to the pile: I feel sorry for the Cleveland Browns.
I started watching football in the mid-80s. Believe it or not, at that time the Steelers were decidedly mediocre while the Browns were one of the AFC’s elite. No lie, the first playoff game I ever watched was the 1986 AFC Championship game that Cleveland lost when John Elway led his Denver Broncos on what is now known in NFL legend as “The Drive.” The next season, the two teams met again and this time the Browns were driving for a last minute go-ahead score when their running back committed “The Fumble” on the Denver 5 yard line. That was the closest the Browns would ever come to a Super Bowl appearance.
I became an Elway fan back then even though they would go on to get hammered in the Super Bowl. This fandom lasted until the Broncos won yet another AFC Championship game in exciting fashion, defeating my Steelers in 1997. Ironically, much like the Browns were snakebitten by the Broncos, they also made a big contribution to Bill Cowher‘s history of falling short in AFC Championship games.
I wrote a number of pieces on the Site That Shall Not Be Named lamenting the state of the storied Browns-Steelers rivalry. On Thursday, we get our first look at the 2011 Cleveland Browns and, much like the females who populate the Dawg Pound, it ain’t pretty. Their brief resurgence under one-season wonder Derek Anderson is a distant memory as the Browns have reclaimed their spot among the dregs of the league. Great rivalries are borne of competitive games on the biggest stage, something which cannot really be said of the Browns and Steelers for going on a decade now.
The sad state of the Browns is not lost on their fans. A few weeks ago, Cleveland lost 20-10 to the resurgent San Francisco 49ers. A fan called in to a local talk show to opine the team, lacking big name playmakers, should give somebody named Carlton Mitchell more playing time. Mitchell, by the way, has a whopping total of one catch for 9 yards during his entire two year career. And I thought I got some crazy comments on my old blog…
This suggestion sent the show’s host, Tony Rizzo, into a mouth frothing rage. You can listen to or download (right click save-as) his rant by clicking here. There’s no real objectionable language but if you’re at work or school, you might want to jack in your headphones or lower the volume on your computer because he gets pretty loud. In fact, the second best part of this audio is how he starts out mildly offended then his rage slowly builds and builds until it sounds like he’s about to burst like Violet Beauregarde after chewing the blueberry gum.
The best part? “I’m the Cleveland sports fan. I’m the kid with no toys at Christmas, and I’m sick of it! Every Christmas!”
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There were a number of ridiculous calls in last Sunday’s game between the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers. The most inexplicable series of events involved Ryan Clark and Ray Lewis. Clark was flagged for “hitting a defenseless receiver” when he popped tight end Ed Dickson going down the middle of the field. You can watch the hit in question by clicking here. Meanwhile, Stabby knocked Hines Ward out of the game with a vicious blow to the head (if you watch a replay, it looked more like a forearm than helmet-to-helmet). No flag was thrown.
Naturally, Roger Goodell seized on these events to partake in his favorite hobby, fining players. And, as usual, the Steelers ended up with a losing spin of his Wheel O’ Justice. Lewis was fined $20,000 for knocking Hines out of the game. Clark was fined $40,000 for brushing up against Dickson in an aggressive fashion.
And he’s not happy about it.
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Those of you who’ve been reading my stuff since my days over at the Site That Shall Not Be Named are no doubt aware of my utter dislike for the Baltimore Ravens. At the same time, you also probably know I consider their rivalry with the Pittsburgh Steelers to be the best in all of sports. The Celtics and Lakers battle for championships but you can count their encounters on one hand. Yankees and Red Sox have a storied history which has been completely dominated by New York. Ditto with the Bruins and the Canadiens.
NFL Network is finally getting with the program. They produced a fantastic NFL Films piece on the Steelers-Ravens rivalry which you can watch by clicking here. I’m sent a bunch of these clips every week and I usually don’t bother pimping them here because most are pretty trite and dull. This one, however, is notable for the on-field audio (Stabby’s whining at 1:12 is classic) and the soundbites from head coaches Mike Tomlin and John Harbaugh.
Harbaugh comes across like a sleazy little prick (which he is). Pretty much the perfect coach for Baltimore. Tomlin, however, is in prime form. His speechifying never fails to crack me up. For the GenXers out there, he is the real-life version of a Damon Wayons character from “In Living Color.” And I don’t mean Homey D. Clown.
“There is immeasurable value when you come out on the victorious side.” Seriously, Mike? You can’t just say, “Winning is awesome?”
Also, if any of you are reading this at Happy Hour, here’s a fun drinking game. Take a shot every time you hear a Tomlinism. Off the top of my head, I caught at least four:
-Iron sharpens iron
-The team that wins imposes their will
-Opportunity to measure yourself
-First team that blinks, loses
Anything I missed?
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No, I’m not talking about an apathetic fan base and a sea of empty seats at every home game. The Pitt Panthers already have that covered.
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin first rose to prominence as a defensive backs coach under Tony Dungy down in Tampa. Dungy’s defense of choice was a modified version of the 4-3 scheme he learned as a player (and later coach) under Chuck Noll. Despite Tomlin’s preference for running the Tampa-2, one of the conditions upon his hiring was he retain Dick LeBeau, inventor and master of the 3-4 zone blitz. Considering the Steelers have ranked at or near the top of the NFL in total defense every year since he arrived in Pittsburgh, I’m sure Tomlin has had no complaints about the change.
Besides LeBeau being one of the finest defensive minds of all-time, management didn’t want to change philosophies because they simply didn’t have the right personnel. Whenever a team switches from 3-4 to 4-3 (or vice versa) there is an adjustment period because what is expected from each player changes. Some of you may remember a couple years back when fatass Albert Haynesworth pitched a fit because Washington switched from a 4-3 (where he could collect a bunch of stats, and the bonuses that went with them, by rushing the quarterback) to a 3-4 (where, like our linemen, his primary job was to occupy blockers and create gaps for others to make plays). If you ever wondered why the Steelers love stocking up on linebackers in the draft, it’s because our scheme depends on having plenty of strong, athletic linebackers on the roster.
Unfortunately, we currently have a bunch of strong, athletic linebackers on the injury report.
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I’m a proud member of Steeler Nation. The fact I’ve been writing about them for five years across two different blogs speaks to my devotion. Blogging about your favorite team does present an interesting conundrum, however. While I love the Pittsburgh Steelers, there are players on the team I absolutely can’t stand.
Safety Ryan Clark has quickly reached the top of that list.
For those living outside the Pittsburgh area, you cannot fathom how thoroughly the team dominates this town. One of the reasons I wanted a blog in the first place was the unabashed homerism the local media lavishes upon the team can frequently be nauseating. For those of you who follow sports in general, you’ve probably heard the big controversy in Boston where the local media has eviscerated the team for drinking beer and eating Popeye’s chicken in the clubhouse while in the midst of a historic collapse. I can’t imagine a story of that kind ever being published here in the ‘Burgh. Even when the Steelers where in the midst of a horrific five game losing streak back in 2009, the most stinging criticism you heard from the local media was they were suffering from “a Super Bowl hangover.”
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Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin had his weekly chatfest with the media yesterday. Of course the topic on everyone’s mind was the status of superstar safety Troy Polamalu, who missed most of the fourth quarter against Jacksonville after exhibiting “concussion-like symptoms.” Symptoms no doubt exacerbated by clueless moron Ryan Clark headbutting a dazed Troy after he took a Muy Thai knee to the noggin’ trying to stop Maurice Jones-Drew. Breathe a sigh of relief Steeler Nation, according to Tomlin he has passed a concussion test and should be “good to go” this Sunday when the Black and Gold face off against
Pittsburgh West Arizona.
Also in the lineup on Sunday will be defensive end Brett Keisel, who battled a knee injury during the preseason which hampered his play and eventually caused him to miss two games but has been an absolute beast since making his return. Last week, the Diesel was a one-man wrecking crew, registering six tackles, two sacks and batting down a pass. The week before, his deflection at the line of scrimmage led to the team’s one and only interception of the season. I don’t think it can be argued he has been by far our best defensive lineman this season and an argument could be made he was our best last year as well. Not bad for a 7th round pick back in 2002 who was basically an afterthought until he finally came into his own in 2008.
Of course, the rise in Keisel’s level of play can be directly linked to the length of his facial hair. The Power of the Beard imbued him with the strength of three ordinary men last season. This year, it has healed his sprained PCL and put him back on the field better than ever. The Beard has inspired a cult following here in the ‘Burgh with “Fear The Beard” t-shirts flying off the shelves. This year, Keisel has a new shirt, which you can purchase off his website by clicking here, all proceeds going to charity.
Troy Polamalu’s hair needs no introduction. Before the Beard, Troy’s luxurious mane were the most famous follicles in football. Say that ten times fast. I couldn’t even imagine how Troy would play without the hair to give him strength. The story of Samson leaps to mind.
Anyway, the folks over at Head & Shoulders have finally went where they should have went long ago. They’ve produced a most excellent commercial featuring both our hirsute heroes (and Hines Ward, who threatens to steal the whole thing with his Mr. T-esque “You lyin’ fool!”). About time, Head & Shoulders. You’ve wasted a golden advertising opportunity for almost two years now. I hope we get a few more Beard vs Hair spots in the near future. Not since King Kong faced off against Godzilla has there been a more eagerly anticipated battle.
So, Steeler Nation, Troy’s hair against Diesel’s beard… Who ya got?
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I’ll say this for Kym Johnson, her football analysis is only slightly less insightful than Erin Andrews’. And she has a much nicer ass.
A couple days ago, I wrote this post explaining why I think Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver and reigning Dancing With The Stars champion Hines Ward may be nearing the end of his career. I detailed his rapidly declining numbers and I laid out what we might expect out of him in the future. Guess I was wrong. Some saucy Australian crumpet with access to the coach’s game tape has broken down the footage like a D-cup Ron Jaworski and determined Hines was open all over the field on Sunday.
To add insult to injury, Ms. Johnson then went on to accuse Ben Roethlisberger of purposely not throwing Hines the ball. “Douchebag,” she called him. What is it with Ben and women? A crazy broad in a cowboy hat comes into his room to fix his tv, rides him like bronco, then accuses him of assault. A drunk sorority skank blows him in a dingy bathroom then goes running to Barney Fife in order to salvage what is left of their reputation. And now some women he’s never met is calling him a douchebag because her dancing partner is too old and slow to get open.
She’s a professional dancer, right? Shouldn’t she know it takes two to tango?
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…Walk into a bar. The bartender looks up and says, “What is this? A joke?”
Actually, this is serious business. I get emails. A long time ago on a site that blows now, I got an email from a guy by the name of John Butler. The son of former Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Jack Butler, he created a website to promote his father’s candidacy for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Well, it looks like his hard work has finally paid off as the NFL’s Veteran Committee named Jack Butler one of their two nominees for the HOF.