Apr 032012
 

The Final Four is down to two. Hennessy and I have picked the two people we feel will be most key to how the 2012 season goes for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Since any March Madness style tournament needs a little friendly competition, we decided to do our first ever co-post. I’ll present my reasoning why my pick is the man who’ll be most responsible for the Steelers success (or failure) in the upcoming campaign. And Hennessy will make his case. How will we decide who is right? Only time will tell.

Chris:

I picked Todd Haley as the man most crucial to the Steelers prospects in 2012. With Rashard Mendenhall hurt, the running game will fall mostly on the shoulders of Isaac Redman. Redman isn’t an explosive back and he’s not going to break a lot of big runs but he’s serviceable enough. I like Baron Batch, I was bummed when he was lost for the season because I thought he’d be a younger more dynamic Mewelde Moore. He definitely has a lot more upside than Jon Dwyer or Jon Clay and I wouldn’t be surprised if he pulled a Willie Parker (unheralded RB who comes out of nowhere to take starting job) on Redzone.

However, all this running game talk is moot because the NFL is a PASSING LEAGUE. Despite what Art Rooney II may think, grandaddy’s power running football is a thing of the past. If the Steelers really think they can run the ball 30+ times a game and be successful, well, they’re in for a rude awakening. You win by putting the game in the hands of your playmakers and the Steelers best players on offense are Ben Roethlisberger and his Young Money wideouts (Antonio Brown, Manny Sanders, and Mike Wallace). Last year, the Steelers enjoyed a 4,000 yard passer and two 1,000 yard receivers for the first time in team history.  While Bruce Arians certainly had shortcomings, one thing he did well was recognize the need for having a high-powered offense in today’s NFL. The team did struggle in the red zone which affected their overall ranking but that was as much a function of the poor offensive line and ineffective running game as his playcalling. Perhaps Batch can help in the red zone but not as much as Ben and his receivers.

Haley is a combustible personality. When he was hired, the stories you heard were of players who either loved him or hated him. Guys like Dwayne Bowe loved him and he helped mold them into elite performers. However, we’ve seen on teams like the Jets how things can fall apart when key offensive personnel, like the quarterback, don’t get along with their offensive coordinator. If Haley can temper his outbursts and focus his intensity in productive directions, the Steelers’ offense has the potential to be among the league’s best. If he doesn’t, well, we’ll all be looking back fondly on the days of the Flying Circus.

Hennessy:

Much like the established players in the Superstar showdown, the impact of Pittsburgh’s up-and-coming players will be critical to the 2012 season. In Baron Batch’s case, he will be looking to fill a void that Mendenhall, Medium-Speed Willie Parker, and Issac Redman have not yet been able to – an explosive running game that scores at will. Punching the ball through the end zone was a routine play when Jerome Bettis put a helmet on during the season. Since his departure, Pittsburgh has seen promise of a second coming several times, but nobody has yet to fit the bill. Providing support to Big Ben and Young Money is a long overdue task, and Baron Batch looks to be the next man willing to take on the challenge. Ziggy Hood will need to mature and become the youth needed on an aging defensive staff. He is making that progress with a  few productive seasons under his belt, but there is still work to be done. Much like Antonio’s role being more significant than Harrison in 2012, the need to stack up a powerful run game is more critical short-term than more strength at Defensive End. With Baron appearing to be the RB on deck, I am looking for a solid performance and quick movement to a starting position. If Batch’s ACL is healed and his game is as sharp as last preseason, Mendenhall could very possibly have injured himself out of a starting position if he is not ready for the 2012 campaign.

 

Steeler Madness: Final Four (Part 2)

 Posted by at 8:40 am  Baron Batch, James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, Ziggy Hood  Comments Off on Steeler Madness: Final Four (Part 2)
Mar 302012
 

 

By Hennessy

Chris had his (long-winded) say, it’s my turn.

SUPERSTARS BRACKET

Antonio Brown vs Mike Wallace – Given the offseason, the 2012 Steelers roster will most likely include all three members of Young Money. AB and Wallace are no-doubt the most proven of the three, and their 2012 success or failures will be at the top of the Offensive report card. Wallace has been a fleeting superstar for two seasons, and showed he may be worth reaching deep in your pocket for. However, last season his 8 touchdown 1,000 + yard performance was overshadowed by a late-season slip in production.  While he’s sitting on top of a $2.7M tender, his eagerness to get Larry Fitzgerald money before proving his long term value has all but signed him up for another year in Black and Gold. Antonio Brown showed he can step up when needed, and proved his durability by being thrown to only 3 times less than Fitzgerald Jr. Though he only crossed the endzone twice, he showed signs of being the go-to-guy for Ben. If Wallace proves his value with a 3rd superstar season, there could be owners opening their checkbook next year. Because I don’t think that owner will be Deuce Rooney, I look forward to draining out another season of Flash Speed from MW and putting my money on the equally capable and seemingly more consistent Antonio.

WINNER: Antoniooooooooo

James Harrison vs LaMarr Woodley – Silverback and Woodley could shake the ground if they faced off against each other in a chess game. The Linebacker tandem has wreaked havoc on opposing offenses more than any other pairing in recent NFL history. 2011 gave us a wide angle at their individual abilities rather than as a tandem, with Harrison and Woodley finding it hard to take the field on the same Sunday as his pass rushing compatriot. Both put up impressive pass-rushing seasons with 9 sacks, but Silverback managed to tackle 22 more men than Woodley, despite playing in only one more game during the campaign. One thing that sets these two apart for me is Harrison’s ferocity and availability on every play. He jumped out of the ESPN highlight reels late in the season, but still managed to compile an impressive record having only played 11 games. If he can come out healthy in 2012 alongside a hopeful healthy Woodley, I’m picking the man with the iron orbital bone to lead the 2012 defense to success.

WINNER: Ironface James Harrison

 

THE NEW GUYS BRACKET

Baron Batch vs John Clay – Who? It wouldn’t surprise me if a handful of readers have little more knowledge of these two than they do their fifth cousin. Batch was sidelined with an ACL tear before his first NFL campaign got off its feet, and John Clay did little more than squeeze into the gameday roster when CB hopeful Curtis Brown was sent to the IR. He punched a 10-Yard TD on his first NFL run against St. Louis, and went on to touch the ball a few more times to close out the year. Baron Batch spent his 2011 writing wordy excerpts and giving convincing insight into his distinguished character on his excellent blog. If he slips out of the NFL, that man could make a living putting together awesome playlists. He showed great promise in the pre-season, and between the two, I’m hedging my bets on Batch being the future of the elusive running game. He had a great career at Texas Tech, and god knows we need to fill the hole left by a man named Jerome.

WINNER: Baron Batch

Ziggy Hood vs Cam HeywardJames Farrior is arguably the biggest loss on the defensive side of the ball this year, but following in his wake was DE Aaron Smith. Smith was the glue that forged Lebeau’s legendary defense in its infancy. Filling that gap will take leadership, performance, and the general bad-assery Smith carried out on the field with him. OSU native Cam Heyward played 16 games in his rookie year, but is still trying to prove his starting worth. Three year vet Evander Ziggidy-Diggity Hood convinced coaches to start him 7 times, and registered time on the clock for all 16 games as well. Heyward is regarded as the second coming of Iron-Head Heyward, and he needs to start proving it after being overshadowed by Hood last season. Hood registered almost 50 tackles last year. Get with the program, Cam – I don’t care if you’re a rookie or not. With the veterans we lost this year, the defense needs a DE with balls. Both are capable of performing, but so far Hood has showed more promise in carrying the load shouldered by Smith.

WINNER: Ziggy Hood

Steeler Madness: Final Four (Part 1)

 Posted by at 8:13 am  Art Rooney II, Hines Ward, Todd Haley  Comments Off on Steeler Madness: Final Four (Part 1)
Mar 292012
 

With March Madness in full swing, our pal Hennessy came up with a great idea for our very own Final Four. However, coming up with 64 individual participants and 32 separate brackets proved way too unwieldy. So we narrowed the list to 16 names who we both agreed would prominently figure into how the 2012 season played out for the Pittsburgh Steelers. To give it more of a competitive flavor, I agreed to take half the brackets with Hennessy taking the other half. I’ll be leading off today with an analysis of my eight brackets, picking a winner as to who I think will play a more significant role to the Steelers going forward. Tomorrow it’s Hennessy’s turn. With our Final Fours set, he and I will have a final face off on Monday just in time for the actual NCAA Championship game.

Enjoy!

OLD DOGS BRACKET

Hines Ward vs James Farrior – Two distinguished veterans, both cut by the Steelers early in the off-season. Hines has been the face of the franchise for many years but his actual on-field importance had diminished in recent seasons. Farrior, meanwhile, was the defensive captain and Dick LeBeau’s eyes and ears on the field right up until the day he was released. And while Hines’ leadership was invaluable, Potsie’s leadership was every bit as important to the D. I’ll miss Hines but the bottom line was he was a 4th string receiver last season while Farrior was not only starting but calling the signals.

WINNER: Farrior

Willie Colon vs Willie Gay – You say good-bye, I say hello. Gay, of course, recently departed for Arizona Pittsburgh West, where ex-Steelers go to never be heard from again. Colon was allegedly on the team the past couple seasons but you’d never know it because he kept being lost to season-ending injuries. With Max Starks coming off an ACL injury, the Steelers entire O-Line plan depends on a healthy Colon returning to man the RT spot, allowing Marcus Gilbert to slide over to LT and Jonathan Scott to mercifully remain on the bench. I thought Colon was overrated when he was completely healthy so coming off two serious injuries, I’m skeptical of this plan. However, you can’t deny his level of play will be a crucial factor to this upcoming season. I liked Gay, I thought he did a good job as a starter this past season but I don’t think he showed anything youngsters Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown couldn’t potentially replicate. If Colon falls apart, well, Ben is a dead man.

 WINNER: Colon

THE STAFF BRACKET

Dick LeBeau vs Todd Haley – LeBeau is a genius. I’m not disputing that. But he coached one of the worst games of his life against Denver. Dick is usually a master of adjustments but his refusal to acknowledge Tim Tebow’s success throwing the ball ultimately doomed the team to an ignominious playoff exit. Still, the Steelers ended the season with the league’s number one overall defense, continuing LeBeau’s streak of top ranked units. He’ll have work to do this year, finding a new starting cornerback and replacing his team captain at inside linebacker. However, roster change-over is nothing new to the Steelers and I’m sure the old master will be up to the challenge. The real question is whether Haley will rise to his challenge like he did at prior stops in Dallas and Arizona or flame out miserably like he did in KC. He already got off to a somewhat rocky start with Ben Roethlisberger and despite Mike Tomlin’s outright lie that he made the call to hire Haley, the decision to fire Bruce Arians was far from unanimous. Arians had his faults, no doubt, but he also coached the Steelers to a 21st century high flying high octane offense. Will Haley take them to the next level? Or will he follow a mandate from above and return us to the grandaddy’s five yards and a cloud of dust? And how will Ben or Mike Wallace react the first time they walk to the sideline only to be greeted by a crazed Haley’s hostile word vomit?

WINNER: Haley

Art Rooney II vs. Omar Khan – And here’s our 15-3 upset of the tournament. Most people would think, “Nobody is more important than the owner. He’s the owner!” While Deuce has certainly injected himself into the day-to-day activities more than his father ever did, I still think he limits himself to a large extent. Sure he fired Arians and maybe his mandate to run the ball more will influence Haley’s playcalling but at the end of the day I don’t think he’ll be calling down to the sidelines at halftime. Omar Khan is the Steelers’ cap specialist and I think the work he does will figure much bigger into the team’s future. Mike Wallace becomes an unrestricted free agent next season while both Antonio Brown and Manny Sanders become restricted free agents. Omar will be the man charged with figuring out some way to finagle the cap so we can keep our young receivers while also addressing potential holes at RB and CB.

WINNER: Khaaaaaannnnn!