The Pittsburgh Steelers rescued wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders from the nefarious clutches of the New England Patriots by matching their offer sheet late Sunday night. By tendering Sanders an additional $1.2 million on top of the $1.3 they already offered, the Black and Gold avoid losing what is expected to be their #2 receiver to a hated conference rival. They also roll the dice in the sense that had they let Sanders go, they would’ve received the Patriots’ third round pick in this year’s draft. Manny will be an unrestricted free agent after this season and with his agent already making noise about wanting a decent chunk of change in order to sign a long term deal, it’s entirely possible the Steelers will lose him next winter and get next to nothing in return.
The Sanders Saga has been one of the more mystifying developments of this off-season. There has been an inordinate amount of discussion devoted to a player 90% of football fans have probably never heard of, most of it driven by muckraker Mike Florio over at ProFootballTalk. Florio is a noted Steeler hater so it’s not surprising he gleefully chronicles their every move looking for barbs to throw but over the past week he’s followed the Sanders Saga like it’s Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier. While I get that the Patriots and Steelers are two of the most popular fanbases and popularity = clicks, no less than seven posts on a guy who’s caught a grand total of five touchdowns seems ludicrous.
By the way, I have a correction to make on my original Sanders post from a few days ago. The $2.5 million in cap room PFT listed the Steelers having left was as of the current date. It doesn’t take into account the $5 million in space they’ll get when Willie Colon‘s salary comes off the books on June 1st. So while giving another million to Sanders hurts their ability to add an Ahmad Bradshaw or linebacker depth, they should be in good shape to sign all their draft picks.
Of course the burning question is did the Steelers do right by retaining Sanders? I was torn a few days ago but the more I think about it, it was the right move to make. I’m amazed a whopping 57% of fair-weather yinzers voted in a P-G poll to let him go. I’m even more amazed by the people calling into talk radio bemoaning Kevin Colbert turning down a third round pick in exchange for him. Since when did third round picks turn into precious gold?
Do the names Willie Reid or Dallas Baker ring any bells? How about Limas Sweed? Sweed should be familiar if only because Sanders had a couple Sweed-like moments last season when he dropped a pass then feigned injury to cover for his blunder. However my point is, a third round pick (91st overall) is not exactly a can’t miss prospect. For comparison purposes, last year’s 91st pick was an OT who didn’t see the field last year. Two years ago, it was a linebacker who has started 13 games in two season and has yet to record a sack. With the 91st pick last year, the Steelers could’ve gotten a fine young receiver like the Colts’ TY Hilton (taken one pick later) or they could’ve gotten a guy like Carolina’s Joe Adams (taken nine picks later) who made one whole catch all season.
Point is, the NFL draft isn’t an exact science. The Steelers could’ve found a receiver every bit the equal of Sanders. They also could’ve wasted the pick on yet another shitbum. Furthermore, this team has a number of holes that need filled at OLB, ILB, CB, RB and WR. Subtract Sanders and you almost have to draft at least two wide receivers, burning a pick that might be better spent addressing another position. They might still take two young wide outs but at least now there is some flexibility.
Whether Sanders gets his act together and fulfills some of the potential we saw his rookie year when people forget he looked like the emerging star until Antonio Brown broke through during the post-season remains to be seen. At this point, it’s a gamble the Steelers had to take.
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The New England Patriots aren’t satisfied with stealing AFC Championship games from the Pittsburgh Steelers. Now they’re out to steal our players. After cutting ties with Wes Welker earlier this off-season, the Fighting Belicheats have been looking everywhere for weapons to add to Tom Brady‘s arsenal. Evidently they found one in wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders.
New England signed Manny to one year $2.5 million offer sheet yesterday afternoon. Since Sanders is a restricted free agent, the Steelers now have five days to match their offer or else Sanders becomes Patriots’ property in exchange for their third round pick in the upcoming draft. Since the Steelers have already tendered him $1.3 million, they actually only need to offer another $1.2 million to keep him. Early word from ESPN No-Nothing Ed Werder is the Steelers are expected to match.
At this point, it seems like the Steelers are in a lose-lose situation either way.
If they don’t match, Antonio Brown will be the last member of Young Money left standing. While breaking up that group of underachieving punks isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it does leave the team’s wide receiving corps dangerously thin. Subtract Manny and our current depth chart looks like this: AB and Jerricho Cotchery starting with Plaxico Burress playing the slot. Sure Sanders had his problems last season but that’s the kind of line-up nightmares are made of. If we lose Sanders, the Steelers will have to use one of their first two picks in the upcoming draft on a wide out.
If they do match, well, they still need to take a wide receiver. But before they can sign any of this year’s draft picks, they’ll have some work to do to get under the salary cap. According to ProFootballTalk, the Steelers are currently a measly $2.5 million under the cap. Giving Sanders another million plus means they’ll need to clear another chunk of space in order to sign their picks.
$2.5 million under the cap. Seriously, I can’t get over that number. Where the bloody blue hell is all their money going? Don’t say Ben because the Patriots have Tom Brady and they’re still a whopping $10 million under the cap. We haven’t signed a single name free agent. We let Rashard Mendenhall and Mike Wallace walk away. We cut James Harrison and re-worked a bunch of other high priced contracts. I could see if this was a team coming off a Super Bowl victory but the Steelers got Tebow’d out of the playoffs two years ago and went 8-8 last year. Why are they paying a bunch of mediocre shitbums all of this money?
What the f*%k is this team doing?
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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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Don’t look past the Cleveland Browns. When you stop laughing, I’ll try to explain. Yes, the Browns are 2-8. Yes, the Browns are in the midst of yet another miserable season in a long run of them. Yes, the Browns have already given Mike Holmgren the axe with former Pittsburgh Steelers minority owner Jimmy Haslam likely to make more changes after the season. I know all this doesn’t sound like a team ready to give the Steelers a fight on Sunday but despite everything the Browns aren’t ready to wave the white flag.
Oh, wait… Maybe they are…
One thing the Browns are successful at is getting psyched for the Steelers. I’ll spare you the painful trip down memory lane, suffice to say, when the two teams meet you can almost throw out the records. Cleveland has treated their annual meetings with us like their own little Super Bowl and it’s almost like a rivalry game in college where it doesn’t matter how bad your team is on paper, the two teams always find a way to make things interesting. Throw in the fact Cleveland has been sneaky bad (as in, they lose but put forth highly competitive efforts) and the Steelers are injury ravaged and you have a recipe for anything to happen.
STEELERS DEFENSE vs BROWNS OFFENSE
On draft day, I sorta laughed at the selection of quarterback Brandon Weedon. In reality, Weedon has looked like a pretty solid signal caller despite being a rookie on a team with very few offensive weapons. I still think it was a silly pick because if you look across the NFL, a whole bunch of rookie QBs have done well this season, from Andrew Luck and RGIII to lesser publicized names like Ryan Tannehill and Russell Wilson and they’re all 5-6 years younger than Weedon so they’ll have more time to grow. Right now, however, I think given the chance to re-draft teams like the Eagles or Cardinals would take Weedon over the QBs they chose because he’s shown the kind of poise that suggests he could step right in and do a capable job of running an established offense.
Unfortunately, he doesn’t have an established offense in Cleveland. In fact, he doesn’t have much to work with at all. When a RB leads your team in receiving, that’s not good. Their nominal #1 WR is Greg Little but he drops as many passes as he catches. The rest of the receiving corps is a collection of has beens and never weres. Weedon’s numbers don’t look particularly impressive (11 TDs 12 INT 2,300 yds) until you factor in the collection of riff raff he has to catch his passes.
The lone bright shining light in this oasis of suck is fellow rookie RB Trent Richardson. Browns legend Jim Brown dissed Richardson prior to the draft which must’ve lit a fire under him as he’s accounted for 670 yards on the ground and another 280 through the air. Richardson has fast become a weapon in the Ray Rice mold. He’s easily Cleveland’s most dangerous offensive player and must be contained if the Steelers hope to dash any thoughts of an upset.
Dick LeBeau‘s crew is coming off unarguably their finest effort of the season. I feel Joe Flacco and company are grossly overrated but to hold any team without an offensive touchdown, let alone a team one year removed from the AFC Championship game while your own offense is actively sabotaging your efforts, is a damn impressive feat. Ziggy Hood rebounded from the KC debacle and the D-line were the quiet heroes in stifling Ray Rice. Ike Taylor has shook off the early season funk and teamed with Keenan Lewis, who improves by the week, form a very fine secondary. While LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison haven’t played up to previous levels, the inside tandem of Larry Foote and Lawrence Timmons have picked up a lot of slack. Although Cleveland doesn’t have the talent Baltimore has, the team will need nearly the same effort because I don’t foresee our offense scoring a ton of points.
STEELERS OFFENSE vs BROWNS DEFENSE
Charlie Batch makes his first start of the season after Byron Leftwich flushed a very winnable game down the crapper last Sunday. I have faith in Chaz. Every time Steeler Nation counts him out, he comes off the bench to prove the haters wrong. Given Todd Haley’s short quick West Coast style offense, I think Batch is an even better fit than Lefty and as long as his guys get open, he’ll get them the ball.
Of course, it’d be nice if the Steelers can continue their strong running attack. Mike Tomlin hasn’t committed to a starter but I think at this point you have to go with Jonathan Dwyer. Rashard Mendenhall may have the breakaway speed but he was back to his tap-dancing tricks against Baltimore. Dwyer has been by far the team’s most consistent back and I think he’s earned the chance to be the featured starter (when healthy) for the rest of the year. The Browns rank near the bottom of the league in run D so whoever starts should produce.
The receivers also need to start producing. I know the catch in the corner of the end zone against the Ravens was a tough play but Mike Wallace needs to make it. I caught a little of the Tampa game on Red Zone last Sunday and was struck by how much of a difference Vincent Jackson makes to the Bucs offense. That’s what $10+ million a year receivers do. They make the catches nobody else can make and they make them with frequency. Wallace had a brilliant catch against KC but those sort of big plays have been far too few for a guy who thinks he’s the best WR in football.
Antonio Brown is back practicing so I expect he’ll be a game time decision. Jerricho Cotchery is definitely out so we’ll probably see the return of Plaxico Burress in the Black and Gold. He likely won’t play much, probably just in the red zone (assuming we ever get there), but he should be plenty motivated after signing a 1 year deal when nobody else wanted him. Plax doesn’t have the skills he once had but this team needs all the red zone threats they can get so if he’s even a fraction of his old self he can’t do anything but help.
The Steelers are in a very precarious position. I’ve said all along that the losses to Tennessee and Oakland may come back to haunt them and unfortunately that is proving true. The Steelers can’t really afford to fall much farther back to the pack, especially with only a few very winnable games remaining on their schedule. Had they won the games they should of won earlier this year, we could afford a mid-season nose dive until Ben heals up. At this point, though, they really can’t.
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The phrase of the day is “trap game.” If I had a dollar for every time I heard that spoken on sports talk radio the past few days, I could probably afford season tickets to Heinz Field.
I’m not really sure Monday night’s game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs qualifies as a trap game. Granted, it does come on the eve of the Black and Gold’s first meeting with the hated Baltimore Ravens. And it does come on the heels of the team surging to a three game winning streak, topped by an impressive victory over the defending Super Bowl champions. Actually, maybe this is a trap game…
After losses to two of the most abysmal teams in the NFL, I’m sure the Steelers know better. There’s no way to justify losing to crap teams like the Titans and Raiders but there were mitigating circumstances. For whatever reason, the trip out to Oakland always messes up the Steelers while the Tennessee game came on a short week (Thursday) which has also proven to trip up the Black and Gold (see the Browns game a few years back).
Also, trap games usually occur when you’re playing a scrappy opponent. The Chiefs are circling the drain right now. They’re shuffling quarterbacks in and out. Romeo Crennel, who replaced Todd Haley as head coach last season, just recused himself as defensive coordinator. The team is in utter disarray. If anybody is motivated this week, it’s Boss Todd, who surely wants to make KC pay for making his life a living hell.
STEELERS DEFENSE vs CHIEFS OFFENSE
For whatever inexplicable reason, the Chiefs think they have something in Brady Quinn. Perhaps it has something do with Crennel being the same coach who made the mistake of drafting him in the first round when he was the head coach of the Browns. Whatever the logic, KC has all but given up on the Matt Cassel experiment. With the frail and effeminate Quinn nursing a concussion, Monday night may very well be Cassel’s final shot as a starter.
When Patriots GM Scott Pioli moved over to KC in 2009, he brought Cassel with him to be his QB. Cassel was coming off the season where he led the Patriots to 11 wins after Tom Brady was lost for the year. He got off to a rocky start, throwing 16 TDs and 16 INTs but rebounded in 2010 to toss 27 TDs against only 7 INTs. It’s been all downhill since then. Injuries marred his 2011 campaign and Haley’s insistence on starting former Pitt Panther Tyler Palko in place of Kyle Orton after Cassel was placed on season ending IR eventually led to his ouster.
Cassel has struggled this season, leading one of the league’s most anemic offenses (29th in points scored) and throwing a ton (11) of picks in the process. Chiefs fans had gotten so fed up that they cheered when Cassel was knocked out of a game a few weeks back, drawing scorn from one of their own players. I would’ve said something about it at the time but Pittsburgh is the city that cheered when Terry Bradshaw got knocked out so we don’t really have room to talk.
The bottom line is Cassel has struggled mightily this season. On paper, the Chiefs have the weapons to be a decent offense. WR Dwayne Bowe is a big time playmaker. Former Pitt standout Jon Baldwin is lazy but talented. And the Chiefs have one of the most dangerous weapons in the league in RB Jamaal Charles. Charles is among the league’s rushing leaders and is also a force out of the backfield.
If the Steelers can keep Charles under wraps, they should have a pretty evening. Early in the year, the D was getting gashed on the reg. They’ve tightened that up as of late so let’s hope the pattern continue. The secondary was also victimized by big plays but Ike Taylor has shaken off his early season malaise and returned to the shut down Ike of old. As long as they don’t Charles move the sticks on the ground or Bowe get loose for a big hitter in the secondary, I don’t see Cassel being able to make enough plays to hang in.
STEELERS OFFENSE vs CHIEFS DEFENSE
Ben Roethlisberger has already told reporters that Boss Todd is almost salivating at the opportunity to put the screws to his former team. Some NFL coaches play by a set of unwritten rules which dictate respect for the game and their opponent. Then there are the assholes like Todd Haley. I’m sure Mike Tomlin would rein Haley in if he looked to run up the score but then again Tomlin has no control over his players, why should he try to control his coaches?
The Chiefs have a couple decent linebackers in Tambla Hall and Justin Houston. They inexplicably cut a pretty good corner in Standford Routt so a secondary that was a nominal strength may not be any longer. They’re in the bottom third of the league against the run although they have forced a surprising number of turnovers (6 INTs and 12 fumbles).
If Big Ben and the offense can avoid shooting themselves in the foot, they should have a pretty good game. The revolving door at RB continues as Jonathan Dwyer returns with Rashard Mendenhall said to be another week away from reclaiming his starting job. Isaac Redman will start but unlike last week will probably have to share some carries with the Minibus.
Antonio Brown is probably going to sit out after suffering a dreaded high ankle sprain last Sunday. High ankles only heal with rest so I suspect we may not see him for a couple weeks. Luckily the Steelers are extremely deep at WR with Jerricho Cotchery, who could probably start for most teams, ready to slide in the slot. Manny Sanders, who’s quietly putting together a nice season, will start. For those who remember back, Sanders actually played a ton as a rookie while AB didn’t come on until the playoffs. Sanders has been set back by injuries but now is his time to shine in front of a national audience.
In fact, it’s time for the entire team to introduce themselves to the nation. After getting off to a slow start this season, the Steelers have quietly crept back into the playoff conversation. If the season were to end tomorrow, they would be one of the AFC’s two Wild Cards. For the Black and Gold to firmly establish themselves as Super Bowl contenders, they need to string together wins. A victory on Monday night and a four game win streak going into a showdown with Baltimore would be a nice place to start.
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Maybe they should skip hotels from now on.
Flying in the morning of the game proved a minor distraction for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who rose above travel issues, crooked referees, and mounting injuries to defeat the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants 24-20. One of the great things about NFL football is every season is like a summer blockbuster. Sixteen games don’t seem like a lot but it’s still long enough to pack a year’s worth of ups and downs into four months.
Not too long ago, we were wondering if this was going to be another lost year for the Black and Gold. The team was 2-3 with division rival Cincy, the Redskins and their Ultimate Weapon (TM) at QB and the defending champs looming on deck. Here we are on the other side of that slate riding a three game winning streak to up our record to 5-3 with the worst team in football up next on Monday Night.
And that’s not even the most amazing part. What’s even more remarkable is how the Steelers are getting it done.
Jonathan Dwyer had back-to-back 100 yard games but was sidelined by an sore calf. Nominal starter Rashard Mendenhall joined him on the pine for the third straight week. This left Isaac Redman next man up. All he did was rumble for 147 yards against a tough Giants defense.
Then there was the much-maligned return game. For the first time all season, long returns weren’t wiped out by yellow hankies (probably because Mike Tomlin has finally started benching the repeat offenders). Antonio Brown has been the Steelers punt returner for a couple years now, making the Pro Bowl last year thanks to his special teams play. Early in the game, AB left with a sprained ankle so Emmanuel Sanders took his place on punts. All he did was bust one 63 yards which didn’t lead to a score but flipped field position contributing greatly to the eventual game winning drive.
Antonio Brown is undoubtedly the Steelers top receiver. With him out, the offense barely missed a beat. Seeing his first significant playing time this year, Jerricho Cotchery made 4 catches, several on key third downs. Sanders only caught two balls but they were both huge receptions, one a beautiful catch in the back of the end zone for the Steelers’ first TD and the other a 16 yarder on third down to effectively ice the game with two minutes left.
The turning point of the game came early in the fourth quarter. Down 10, Mike Wallace took a short slant and outran the entire Big Blue D for a 51 TD. Other than the deep bomb against the Titans, it was Wallace’s first real game-changing play this year. The catch-and-run was, dare I say, Fitzgerald-esque.
After a three and out by the Giants, Sanders ripped off his 63 yarder to set the Steelers up at the NY 13. After going nowhere fast, they lined up for a short field goal. Rookie Drew Butler flipped the ball over his shoulder but Stonecold Shaun Suisham couldn’t elude an unblocked defender for the 1st down. The suddenly resurgent Steelers defense forced a three and out and the resulting great field position set up a sweet drive with some big catches from Heath and the Cotch Rocket that eventually culminated in iRed’s game-winning 1 yard TD.
People are going to say this is the latest example of Tomlin’s reckless decision-making but I liked the fake FG try. It showed faith in the defense. Given how they’ve played the past few weeks, there is no reason not to have faith in that unit.
Going back to our early season worries, nothing concerned us more than the state of the Steelers D. They looked, to use a cliche, old, slow, and done. Since then, they’ve seemingly risen from the ashes. They still don’t generate enough Splash Plays, which is obviously a concern, although Ike Taylor did come down with an early INT to set up their first TD and they just missed two more picks and a late fumble recovery by James Harrison. Regardless of the sacks and turnovers, though, they just smother teams with a fast hard-hitting style that is getting better by the week.
The scoreboard gives the Giants 20 points but only 6 of those belong to the Steelers’ D. NY’s first score came after the refs basically did everything in their power to give them a TD. First, they called a horrible 40+ yard pass interference on Keenan Lewis when he barely touched the receiver. Then, after the Steelers made three great stops at the goal line, they called a ridiculous personal foul on Ryan Clark. The Ike Taylor Mystery Pass Interference was our frontrunner for Horrible Call of the Year but this game gave us TWO legit candidates for that title. The Clark hit was one, as he struck the receiver in the ribs with his shoulder pads a split second after the ball was thrown. Nothing illegal whatsoever.
Our other contender was an even more monumentally stupid call which put the Giants ahead before halftime. Ben Roethlisberger dropped back to pass and was hit as his arm was moving forward. The ball was clearly in his hand and the ball was clearly going forward, yet the corrupt zebras called it a fumble which was returned for a TD. At worst they should have called Tuck Rule since the ball was still in the cocked position when it came out. But instead they made a call so bad the Lingerie Football ref was probably sitting at home laughing.
Despite playing two opponents, the Giants and the refs, the Steelers D still managed to put together a tremendous defensive effort. They completely shut down the Giants in the second half, allowing only two measly field goals, one of which came after a Big Ben INT deep in his own end.
After the first month the season, we had a lot of questions. Questions about the offensive line. Questions about the defense. Questions about Todd Haley‘s offense. Here we are at the mid-point of the season and those questions don’t seem so pressing any more. The O-line is mauling people, protecting Ben while gashing people on the ground. The defense is shutting down good offenses for long stretches. And the Haley O is ruthlessly efficient with Ben hitting a bunch of different receivers and a new hero stepping up seemingly every drive. I don’t know where the season is going to end up but 5-3 and clicking in all three phases?
I’ll take it.
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I hate NFL pre-season games. I understand why they’re necessary but I still loathe them. To me, they’re tedious, dull, and totally meaningless. I don’t know what’s worse, that they televise them like they’re actual games or that rabid football fans watch them and then buy that some undrafted third string linebacker who got a sack in the fourth quarter will actually see playing time during the regular season.
Teams would rather trot out a starting linebacker with one eye or starting quarterback with one leg *cough*Steelers*cough* than play the guys you see playing in the fourth quarter.
Last night, the Pittsburgh Steelers were edged by the Philadelphia Eagles on a last second field goal by some dude named Alex Henery. At least, that’s what Bob Pompeani told me because I turned the game off long before then. I did suffer through the first half and a few plays of the third quarter before flipping over to the Olympics to watch Usain Bolt blow everybody away in the 200 meters. Which reminds me, who thinks Kevin Colbert should give Usain a call? It doesn’t matter if he can catch the ball so long as he can run cheetah-fast in a straight line thereby “stretching the field.”
He probably wouldn’t want no damn $12 million a year to do it.
Anyhow, last night we got our first look at the Black and Gold’s new offensive coordinator Todd Haley, new offensive line, new backfield, new receiving corps, new secondary… Well, we we sorta got a look at them because coaches keep their game plans blander than Justin Bieber in a Disney movie because nobody in their right mind would waste valuable chunks of their playbook on a meaningless game. So while we saw all these guys on the field last night, we really can’t say with any certainty if they’re ready for some football (that counts). However, since I spent valuable Assassin’s Creed time watching this nonsense, here are a few totally random observations.
– I thought the offensive line was supposed to be good this year? It sure didn’t appear that way what with Ben Roethlisberger getting sacked twice on the opening drive and running for his life a couple other times. For the record, the starting unit was (left to right) Mike Adams, Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro and Marcus Gilbert. The bookends looked shaky, with Adams surrendering one of the sacks while Foster surrendered the other. Both Adams and Gilbert were repeatedly pushed backwards or ran around by a speed rusher in what looked like a repeat of the same old O-line play we’ve seen the past few years.
DeCastro looked pretty solid, though. He pulled on a number of plays and got downfield to block on several others. Him and Pouncey opened up a couple big holes which is a nice sign going forward. Speaking of the running game:
– Chris Rainey. Rainey took over Antonio Brown’s return duties which isn’t surprising because that’s why we assume he was drafted. What was surprising is he’s also taken over Mewelde Moore’s role as the third down back, where his elusiveness and ability to catch balls out of the backfield were on full display. At one point he took a third and long draw and converted a first down in what was probably the first team’s best play of the game. Rainey will never be a three down back (he ended up with 1 yard on 4 carries despite that 14 yard gain) but if you’re looking for this year’s Wallace/AB surprise breakout offensive star, Rainey may be your man.
– The running back battle. Redzone Redman is going to be the starter, we already knew that. The first guy to relieve him, and thus the nominal back-up, appears to be Jonathan Dwyer. Dwyer hasn’t done bupkiss during the regular season but he was the running star last night, ripping off 40 yards on only two carries. The Steelers gave rookie (technically, this is his second year but he blew out his knee before the season started) Baron Batch an extended look to mixed results (19 carries 41 yards, mostly against third and fourth string scrubs). He ran hard but straight ahead showing only mediocre speed and elusiveness. At 5’10 210, he’s not big enough to run like that which is why he got stoned on three tries from the goal line. Later on, he loosened up a bit and began making some cuts but I’m not sure he’s all the way back yet.
The good news is John Clay only got a handful of carries. That’s usually a tell-tale sign of a team wanting to hide a guy on the practice squad. Batch was also a draft pick and we know how Colbert likes to keep his picks around even when other guys are clearly better. I’m not giving up on Batch based on a single pre-season game coming off a major injury. But I am wondering if the team keeps Mendenhall around with the idea of activating him by mid-season, which back will be odd man out. Redman, Rainey and Dwyer look locked in, I don’t know if the roster has room for a fifth back.
– Speaking of injured players, Casey Hampton continues to work his way back from knee surgery so taking his place at NT was Steve McClendon. All McClendon did was record a sack on his first series as starter. Alameda Ta’amu is the future at nose but I liked what I saw of McClendon last season and it appears he’s picking right up where he left off.
– Poor Byron Leftwich. He should probably consider joining Mike Wallace on his couch until the pre-season is over because he’s snakebit in these games. No, he didn’t get hurt last night but Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie tried to behead him while he was attempting a pass.
Lefty looked fine, not too mobile but still possessing a good strong arm. Charlie Batch didn’t get in the game which I honestly don’t know how to take. Jerrod Johnson played the entire second half and looked like the second coming of Dennis Dixon, ie; Ran away when he sensed trouble, terrible accuracy, occasional flashes of competence. There was literally zero difference between JJ and DD except that JJ has apparently learned more than three plays. If the unthinkable happened and we lost Ben and Lefty, I wouldn’t trust Johnson any more than I trusted Dixon.
Then again, as the Philly fanbase thought while holding their collective onion-tinged breath when Michael Vick hurt his hand attempting a pass, you lose your starting QB and the season is lost no matter who you have backing him up. Let’s hope the team affords our superstar QB a little better protection than we saw tonight. Otherwise, we’re in for another loooong year.
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Welcome back Yinzers! I hope everyone had a better-than-depressing off season, and made good use of the heat by frying up a few Cap N’ Eggs on the sidewalk. I’m glad to say there was nothing too controversial happening with the Pittsburgh Steelers to write about this off season so I hope you were not dismayed by the lack of my musings. Hennessy has been a busy guy, but I’m eager to kick off another year of cheering, bitching and offering up my biased and often unwarranted opinions for you all to enjoy.
I wanted to start off on a positive note, since this time of year often revolves around maybe, would if and drunk bachelors laying down C-Notes on Super Bowl long-shots in Vegas. Ever-optimistic as I am, I want to skip past all the potential furniture mover’s turned Sunday Superstars, and get right down to two powerful assets Pittsburgh is not looking for in training camp.
It’s a Pittsburgh attribute that has been beaten like a dead Bungal, but once again we walk into another season with one of the best head coaches in the NFL. Mike Tomlin recently locked up a 3-Year extension to his contract, securing his office at Heinz Field through the 2016 season.
Since being handed the keys to the Jaw’s shiny race car, Tomlin has been one of the winningest coaches in the NFL. 2012 offers him a chance to finally forge his own identity. Tomlin gave the team a personality of its own, won over the respect and admiration of long-time veterans, and now has a chance to build his own legacy with the departure of several key players from the Cowher Era.
Dick LeBeau stayed away from the retirement home for yet another season, and is unlikely to miss a step in fooling offenses and quarterbacks all season long. Paired with newly-hired counterpart and OC Todd Haley, Tomlin has the resources he needs to truly craft this team into one of his own.
Thursday’s camp also welcomed home Running Backs coach Kirby Wilson. After a long recovery from the January 6th grease-fire that claimed his Cranberry, PA home and over 45% of his body, Wilson was grateful to be back on the field, under his own power. He was able to coach at the OTAs via use of a golf cart, but with the help of extra sunscreen to ward off the sun he was back in normal fashion Thursday. A big congrats to him and his recovery from a long stretch, and best wishes to his efforts with sculpting a young running game into “Stillers football”. Speaking of the running game…
The Passing Game
Pittsburgh’s passing game has become the Flying Circus and carried the offensive efforts for several years now. Shuffling through the likes of Plaxico Burress, Antwaan Randle El, and the great Hines Ward, Ben and Bruce have been able to craft an effective passing threat year-after-year.
Just as Mike Tomlin refuses to acknowledge a player he can’t coach, I refuse to blog a player that is sitting on his couch acting like the golden goose girl from Willy Wonka. The player that shalt not be named deserves a big-time contract for his play on the field, and a permanent position in the CFL for his attitude. On a brighter note, I’m looking forward to the #17 jersey clearance at Hometowne sports. So let’s talk about the Steelers shall we?
This year will be the first without smiling #86, at least on the playing field, but it is not without its share of talent, playmakers and optimism. Big Ben will try to get in the end zone utilizing Manny Sanders and Antonio Brown, but will also have a great supporting cast with the return of veteran Jerricho “Cotchrocket” Cotchery, and a number of young prospects provided they make it out of the St. Vincent showdown. Alabama’s furious ball-catcher Marquis Maze, 6’-2” Toney Clemons out of Colorado and previous St. Vincent college opponent Tyler Beiler out of Bridgewater are all legitimate contenders for a helmet come September. If I get to hear Cris Collinsworth say “Tyler Beiler” I will be a happy man, so best of luck to him on his tryout.
Despite a presumed change of course under Tee Haley’s direction, Steeler fans can rest comfortably knowing there’s a good chance Pittsburgh will put together another solid pass and catch performance this season.If Haley and Wilson are able to mold the running game into a more dominant presence, we can only expect Ben and his shiny new O-line to build on an already impressive passing effort.
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*wipes tear from eye*
I’m sorry. Even though this blog isn’t exactly Sports Illustrated or the Wall Street Journal, I try to present thoughtful opinions and reasoned analysis in between the dorky pop culture references and blatant homerism. But Code Red literally shot from my nostrils when I heard this latest development involving the Pittsburgh Steelers. Since then, I can’t stop laughing.
Can’t. Stop. Laughing.
The Steelers have signed wide receiver Antonio Brown to a five year $42.5 million contract extension. Antonio Brown. Not Mike Wallace, the delusional putz who thinks he’s worth Larry Fitzgerald money. Not Mike Wallace, the restricted free agent who spends all day butchering the English language on Twitter because he refuses to sign his tender and report to training camp.
Shhh… If you listen real carefully, you might be able to hear every glass in the Wallace house being thrown against a wall. I bet his aim isn’t as good as Santonio Holmes‘. ‘Tone could part a sister’s weave with a shot glass from twenty feet away.
Brown had a break out season in 2011, becoming the first player in Steelers history to amass 1,000 receiving yards and 1,000 return yards in the same year. In only his second season, he made the Pro Bowl and was voted the team MVP by his peers. The MVP honor was particularly well-deserved as to a man Steeler coaches and players have said AB is one of the hardest workers on the team. He was slated to become a restricted free agent next year but instead will enjoy a new contract which calls for a signing bonus of $8.5 million on top of a base salary of $540,000. Next year he gets a $2.5 million roster bonus and a $2 million base salary with the roster bonus dropping off after that but his base going up to $6 million in 2014 and 2015, $8.25 million in 2016 and $8.71 million in 2017.
The Steelers lock up a promising young wide out until 2017. Brown gets long term security and $42.5 million dollars. A fair deal for both parties. See how easy it is to get a contract done when one of the people involved ISN’T AN ARROGANT DELUSIONAL JACKASS?
I, of course, speak of Mike Wallace. I have no doubt the Steelers offered this deal or one similar to it to Wallace. Or they would have if he hadn’t decided to play the “I’m an obnoxious asshole” card and held out. Handing Brown a shiny new deal while Wallace sits home playing Call Of Duty on his XBox is a giant flashing, “Screw You, Wallace!” from Steelers management.
Then again, maybe they did offer this deal to Wallace first. Perhaps he rebuffed their advances because the money was less than he desired. $42.5 million is a ton of cash to you and I but it wasn’t the “Larry Fitzgerald money” to which Wallace feels he’s entitled. For the record, LarryFitz money is 8 years $120 million.
Well, I have bad news for Mike Wallace. The Rooneys will never pay a wide receiver $15 million per year. Yancey Thigpen, Plaxico Burress, Santonio Holmes, they wanted big money, the Steelers told them to go elsewhere to get it. Dan Rooney would sooner spend $15 million on hand woven spider silk suspenders than give it to a wide receiver. Art Rooney II would sooner spend $15 million on lap dances at Blush (and that’s not easy given the quality of talent they have there) than give it to a wide receiver. The Steelers have never paid a receiver more than they paid their star quarterback or star linebacker and they NEVER EVER WILL.
Wide receivers simply aren’t worth it.
Not that anybody will ever be able to convince that raging egomaniac otherwise. Stay firm and stick to your guns, Mike! I’m sure the Steelers are hard at work scraping together that LarryFitz money you’re waiting for! Don’t worry about showing up to camp, we’ll call you when we need you!
In the meantime, Kevin Colbert and the Rooneys will be busy rewarding the guy who truly wants to wear the Black and Gold.