The first day of the 2016 NFL season came with an unprecedented frenzy of free agent activity. Surprisingly enough, the Pittsburgh Steelers even got in on some of the action. They didn’t make a splashy move involving a headline name but as we saw last season with DeAngelo Williams, sometimes it’s the smaller under the radar moves that provide the biggest dividends. Also seems like their salary cap situation is a tad better than we expected.Continue reading »
Last time the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals met, Cincy put one of ours in the hospital. Yesterday, we may have put their Super Bowl chances in the morgue. Le’Veon Bell ended up on season-ending IR after our first meeting. Now there’s a chance Andy Dalton is about to join him.
Oh and by the way, the Steelers won the game 33-20 to keep their shot at a Wild Card alive.Continue reading »
The Pittsburgh Steelers have ended their run of two straight 8-8 seasons, notching their ninth victory of the season with a 27-20 win over the Atlanta Falcons. They also put themselves in excellent position as far notching their first post-season appearance in as many years. While the Black and Gold did not clinch anything yesterday, a win in either of their final two games gets them in. Sweeping the final two nets them the division title although other than it being a home game the division isn’t really that important as the AFC North champion is almost certainly going to be playing on Wild Card Weekend.
I have no idea how this NFL season is going to end. What I do know is it’ll probably be in the least likely way possible.
In a year full of twists and turns, the latest came Sunday when the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Cleveland Browns 27-11 to officially move into contention for the AFC Playoffs. The graphic above showing the Black and Gold as the second AFC Wild Card team was valid for about three hours yesterday afternoon. That is, until Tennessee beat Oakland to move ahead of us by virtue of a head-to-head victory earlier in the season. Still, the fact the same team that started out 0-4 and got epically blown out by the Patriots a month back is even in the playoff race is utterly insane.
So about the Pittsburgh Steelers’ new look secondary…
A couple days ago, I mentioned the alarming number of injuries which have already befallen the team’s cornerbacks. The most distressing of which was the “knee discomfort” (Mike Tomlin‘s words, not mine) that had sidelined presumptive starter Cortez Allen. Turns out the “discomfort” was a lot more serious than the kind you treat with a hot tub and some Ben Gay. Allen underwent “minor knee surgery” (again, Tomlin’s words) yesterday and is expected to miss the next couple weeks at the very least.Continue reading »
Bryant McFadden was a career nickelback before finally cracking the starting line-up for the eventual Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers. That off-season, he left for a big money free agent contract from the – who else? – Arizona Cardinals. McFadden quickly crashed back down to planet mediocrity as the Cardinals looked to unload him at the first opportunity. They got that chance when the Steelers swung a draft day deal to bring B-Mac back home.
Fast forward several years later. William Gay was a career nickelback before finally cracking the starting line-up. The Cardinals signed him to a pricey free agent deal which they immediately regretted when they saw him play. They also unloaded him at their earliest opportunity, cutting him shortly after the start of the off-season. And once again, the Steelers brought their wayward son back into the fold.
The only difference is when the B-Mac deal was announced, Steeler Nation was ecstatic. When news of Gay signing a 3 year $4.5 million deal was announced yesterday, it was met with a collective groan. I’m not sure why.
Gay’s replacement in the starting line-up, Kennan Lewis, is an unrestricted free agent. Rumor is the Steelers want to re-sign Lewis but aren’t going to break the bank to do so. Lewis played well last year, his first as a starter, even serving as the team’s most consistent shut down corner during the early part of the season. However, the team also has a youngster named Cortez Allen, who when given the chance to start forced something like five turnovers in two weeks. Allen doesn’t have the physical tools Lewis possesses but he’s the kind of smart athletic ballhawking corner the team hasn’t had in ages. Given the Steelers D is in desperate need of playmakers, they’d be insane not to afford Allen a shot at starting in 2013.
And therein lies Gay’s value. Steeler fans were upset that Gay’s signing signaled they were raising the white flag on re-signing Lewis. The way I see it, they’ll still try to sign Lewis to a reasonable deal, likely in the ballpark of what they gave to Gay. But if somebody else wants to pay him veteran starter money, see ya later Keenan. Allen can easily slide into the starting line-up with Gay playing the nickel, a position in which he’s both familiar and very solid. If Lewis returns, the secondary will remain some combination of Lewis, Allen and Ike Taylor, a trio who comprised the best pass D in the NFL last year, with Gay serving as injury insurance in place of inept stinkbombs like Curtis Brown or Josh Victorian.
Best of all, I get to dust off my all-time favorite nickname. After the aforementioned Super Bowl victory, the Steelers held a parade downtown attended by nearly 100,000 fans. At one point, Gay decided to treat the crowd to his tone deaf rap stylings for which I dubbed him Will.i.am Gay. I never thought I’d say this but after last year’s massive disappointment, I’d gladly listen to an entire album of Gay’s dope rhymes in exchange for another Lombardi Trophy.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have lost yet another player in an off-season that’s proving a huge boon to our local U-Haul franchises. Starting cornerback William Gay has signed with – I hope you’re sitting down – the Arizona Cardinals. Shocking news, I know. Somewhere, Hines Ward has to be kicking a chair and wondering how was it that Pittsburgh West couldn’t find a place for him.
Ironically, this isn’t the first time Ken Whisenhunt has imported a starting corner from his former team. Following our victory in Superbowl XLIII, the Cards signed then starting CB Bryant McFadden to a big money free agent deal. B-Mac flamed out spectacularly and was eventually traded back to the Steelers the following season. McFadden started for a Steeler team that was once again Super Bowl bound but was injured this past pre-season and by the time he was healthy he had lost his starting job to, yes, William Gay.
Let’s hope Will.i.am fares better than his predecessor.
For the newbies who wonder why I’ve always spelled Gay’s first name with strategically placed periods, the video above should answer your question. When he made an idiot of himself by treating the crowd at our last Super Bowl victory parade to his impromptu musical stylings, I decided to dub him Will.i.am in tribute to his budding music career. The gig in Arizona better work out because I don’t think all the Auto-Tune in the world could salvage that singing voice. At least Kanye has some sick flow, yo.
Truth be told, though, I will miss Will.i.am. His is one of the better redemption stories of recent years. When B-Mac left, Gay was thrust into the starting line-up where he became far and away the most picked on corner in the NFL. After a season long demotion back to nickel, a position he’s always filled admirably, Will.i.am battled back to reclaim his starting job this season. The second time was the charm as he played very solid corner and was a big reason the Steelers finished the year with the league’s top ranked pass defense. Who can forget his Big Gay Interceptions against Cincy and Cleveland which effectively put those games away for us?
Scuttlebutt has it Arizona Pittsburgh West is going to use Gay as their nickelback behind second year player AJ Jefferson and rising star Patrick Peterson. If anybody should know how to use him, it’s former Steelers secondary coach and current Cards defensive coordinator Ray Horton.
Meanwhile, the Steelers will go into this season with a new look secondary. Keenan Lewis did a decent job playing the nickel and the former third round pick will be given every opportunity to claim the starting job opposite Ike Taylor. Lewis has talent but he’s been slightly injury prone over his short career and has a times looked lost in man coverage. Cortez Allen had an impressive rookie season, becoming the rare newb who sees significant playing time in Dick LeBeau’s complicated defense. He has the size (6’1) you like in a corner and has a definite nose for the football but 2012 will still be only in his second year as a pro. Barring the Steelers drafting a corner early in this year’s draft, it appears Taylor, Lewis, and Allen will comprise the secondary.
From cutting Greg Lloyd and letting Barry Foster walk to releasing Joey Porter and ridding themselves of Santonio Holmes, the Steelers have never been afraid to turn over their roster. And more often than not, the players they bring in are as good or better than the ones they let go. Still, by my count the team has now lost, either to age, injury or free agency, five starters from last year’s squad. When’s the bleeding going to stop?
There’s an old joke about being as useful as a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest. Perhaps that saying needs to be updated in light of last night’s game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns. Yesterday, the Browns got their asses kicked by a quarterback playing on one leg.
The Steelers 14-3 victory may not sound particularly exciting but, at the risk of hyperbole, it’ll be a game forever remembered in Pittsburgh lore. And that’s entirely due to the almost superhuman courage displayed by Ben Roethlisberger. When Ben had his ankle rolled up from behind mid-way through the second quarter, a hush fell over the Heinz Field. After hobbling off the field, then literally being carted from room to room in the back, it appeared Ben was not only lost for this game, but perhaps the rest of the regular season.
As halftime came to a close, however, there was Big Ben, still in full uniform rather than crutches or sweatpants, taking snaps like he intended to return. And return he did, despite playing with a horrific limp and making a majority of his throws flat-footed. It was an epic display of toughness by a player whose career is marked by them. Partially due to his off-field situations and partially due to his style of play, Ben has always been an underrated and slightly polarizing figure among NFL fans in general and Steeler Nation in particular. If last night didn’t finally establish once and for all that Ben is one of the toughest and most courageous players to ever lace up the cleats, I can’t help you. Continue reading »
When the season began, Will.i.am was the Pittsburgh Steelers much-maligned nickelback. An injury to starter Bryant McFadden combined with some unexpectedly excellent play earned him a permanent spot in the starting line-up. A couple weeks ago, Gay was the whipping boy on local talk shows for surrendering the game-winning touchdown to the Baltimore Ravens (even though it was loudmouth Ryan Clark who was supposed to provide help over the top and bailed on his assignment). Last week, Gay redeemed himself by almost single-handedly wrecking the Cincinnati Bengals with an interception and a pass deflection which resulted in another pick.
Willie isn’t just ballin’ on the field, he’s rolling large in his personal life as well. Last month, ESPN The Magazine came out with their annual Body Issue. For those who avoid anything stamped with the Four Letter, the Body Issue is their silly attempt to one-up Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue. Instead of Brazillian models in skimpy swimwear, ESPN decided to go with a bunch of athletes in softcore jock porn.
Actually, that’s not completely fair. If I were 12 and growing up in the pre-internet era, it’d be salacious but in today’s world the pictures are pretty tame. The females cover up their good bits with hand bras or strategically placed props. The male athletes (yes, they shoot men, too) do their best Austin Powers impersonation. All they really show is the occasional ass, and it’s usually the guys doing the mooning. The story around Pittsburgh is they asked Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury to be the hockey representative but he turned them down. Sorry, ladies.
I don’t think I could take another half-naked Pittsburgh athlete. I’m still recovering from last year’s issue where they featured CASEY HAMPTON? Click on this link, if you dare.
On a far less frightening note, one athlete who did pose in this year’s Body Issue was sprinter Natasha Hastings. Natasha is the current girlfriend of William Gay. In fact, she told a reporter she got his blessing before accepting ESPN’s offer. Anyway, if you want to take a look at Natasha’s ESPN Body Issue photos, click on the rest of this post. Once again, they’re nothing too explicit but you may want to be careful if you’re at work.
The Pittsburgh Steelers bounced back from last weekend’s soul-crushing loss by defeating the Cincinnati Bengals 24-17 in what was a road game in name only. While Steeler Nation is to be commended for taking over yet another stadium, I implore them to not read too much into this victory. The temptation to say “Well, Cincy is what we thought they were” will be great even though this game was every bit as close as the final score indicates. From what I saw yesterday, I truly believe Cincy will be the team we battle for control of the AFC North in years to come.
The Black and Gold got off to a fast start, scoring touchdowns on their first two drives of the afternoon. The first drive concluded with Ben Roethlisberger scrambling away from danger and finding Jerricho Cotchery in the end zone for his first Steeler TD. The Cotch Rocket would later have another TD wiped off the board on a similar catch-and-run. I hate to belabor this point since it makes me sound like a Hines Ward hater, which I’m definitely not, but why is this guy not playing more? Hines, who spent almost the entire game on the sideline, caught one ball for 10 yards as it appears his career is quickly reaching an end. Continue reading »