In the wake of the season-ending injury to running back LaRod Stephens-Howling, I dismissed the notion of the Pittsburgh Steelers re-signing running back Jonathan Dwyer. Yesterday, the Steelers re-signed Jonathan Dwyer.
The reason for my doubt is that the Steelers seem to hate Dwyer. I have no idea why. While other players spent their off-season getting stabbed over trucks or going on drunken rampages down the South Side, Dwyer spent his time losing weight and getting into shape with an eye toward winning the starting running back job. Yet, for whatever reason, the coaches had no intentions of giving him a chance.
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I wish that headline was a joke.
The words “disastrous start” don’t even begin to describe the first game of the season for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Sure, every team has to battle through injuries to key personnel. However, I’d be hard pressed to recall any team losing not one, not two, but THREE starters in week one.
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The Pittsburgh Steelers suffered several injuries in their 16-9 loss to the Tennessee Titans. Zoltan Mesko is not listed among the casualties. I’m sure he spent the better part of the evening icing down his foot, though. Poor Zoltan did more punting yesterday than he did all last season for the New England Patriots.
I can safely say the Black and Gold put on the worst display of offensive football I’ve seen in my thirty odd years of yinzer-hood. Worse than when they had a guy named Walter Abercrombie lining up in the backfield. Worse than when they were being quarterbacked by Bubby Brister. Worse than the glory days of Mark Malone.
Words cannot describe how inept the Steelers appeared on offense. When Ben Roethlisberger hit Jerricho Cotchery for the team’s lone touchdown with a minute and a half left in the game, I actually saw people on Twitter posting “Nice of the offense to finally show up.” That’s insane. The offense never showed up yesterday. NEVER.
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The Pittsburgh Steelers have elected their team captains for the upcoming season. The four captains are Ben Roethlisberger, Ryan Clark, Brett Keisel, and Maurkice Pouncey. Ben and Pouncer obviously represent the offense while Clark and Keis stand for the D. The Steelers usuallly have a special teams representative but for whatever reason it appears they won’t this season. Perhaps when they play less shitty they’ll be granted a seat at the big boy table.
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Keep repeating: “It’s only the preseason. It’s only the preseason.”
The Pittsburgh Steelers played their second preseason game last night, losing to the Washington
Redskins 24-13. The final score isn’t as important as how the team performed. In their first preseason game, the Black and Gold looked sloppy and undisciplined. If nothing else, I was hoping to see the team’s level of play improve across the board.
Talk about one step forward, two steps back. Where to begin with last night’s debacle?
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Pittsburgh Steelers All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey was out partying over the weekend with his twin brother Mike. True to my father’s advice that “nothing good ever happens at a night club after 1 a.m.”, both twins were photographed wearing hats emblazoned with the words “Free Hernandez.”Predictably, this sent the football news starved Internet into a feeding frenzy when the pic was reposted by virtually every major sports blog.
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Sometimes I really don’t understand football. I suppose I shouldn’t admit that here since for whatever reason people who read blogs automatically assume the writer know as much about football as Chuck Noll. Truthfully, the best any of us can do, from the guys who write for SI or ESPN all the way down to lowly bloggers, is offer our best guess. I sure would like to a fancy title like Senior NFL Insider, though.
Anyway, all week we’ve waited with baited breath for any scrap of information about Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Granted, Ben has a history of making Terminator-like comebacks just when things seem the bleakest so it’s not altogether crazy to hope he has one more in him. And we are playing the Baltimore Ravens in a pivotal game, a game where a loss not only puts a division title out of reach but makes it so the Steelers pretty much have to run the table to make the playoffs.
All that said, what I don’t understand is how anybody can seriously endorse the idea of Ben coming back on Sunday. Does nobody remember last year’s Monday night fiasco in San Francisco? Ben toughed it out that week and continued toughing it out until the team got bounced in the first round of the playoffs. Maybe it wouldn’t have mattered if Ben took an extra week off to rest up. Maybe his foot was just too far gone and he was going to play at 50% no matter what. But at some point you have to put the big picture ahead of the right now.
Would I love to see #7 jog onto the field in Baltimore on Sunday afternoon? Absolutely. Would it be the smart thing for the team? Absolutely not.
STEELERS DEFENSE vs RATBIRDS OFFENSE
The last time these two teams met, Dick LeBeau‘s crew did a fantastic job keeping them off the scoreboard. It’d be foolish to expect the exact same level of dominance this time around. Unfortunately, that’s what we may need to have any realistic shot at winning.
With few exceptions, Joe Flacco has struggled mightily against the Steelers. LeBeau has basically figured out what the rest of the league is slowly catching on to; when you take away Ray Rice and put the game entirely on Flacco’s arm, you have a better than 50-50 shot at pulling out a win. I’m not going to rehash my critique of Flacco (you can read it in my previous Know Thy Enemy) except to say he is what he is. He’s not the worst QB in the league but he’s not the kind of singular talent that can take over a game through sheer talent either. Last week’s 29 yard catch and run by Rice which snatched victory from the jaws of defeat is the perfect encapsulation of the Ravens offense.
Troy Polamalu continues to practice normally as it looks like he’ll definitely be back Sunday. Troy hasn’t been his old self for a couple seasons now but playing the Ravens usually brings out the best in him. If there’s any Steeler who causes Flacco to wake up in a cold sweat, it’s Troy. Throughout the rivalry, Troy has frequently been the one who makes that one game-changing play which spelled the difference between a win and a loss.
It was exactly that kind of game changing play the defense needed to make last time and didn’t. Will they make it now that Troy’s back in the line-up? I like their chances a lot more.
Since the Football Gods can never give without taking away, LaMarr Woodley will be out with a re-aggravation of the leg injury which knocked him out earlier in the season. Jason Worilds has come on this season to where he’s actually the team leader in sacks (5). Other than a momentary flash of his old self, Woodley hasn’t done much of anything this year so playing Worilds is probably a good thing in the scheme of things. James Harrison is starting to look like his old self and the inside duo of Larry Foote and Lawrence Timmons have been strong all season. I’m not sure the Steelers D can play better than they did in the first meeting but I definitely wouldn’t be shocked if they did.
STEELERS OFFENSE vs RATBIRDS DEFENSE
Where do I start? How about the good news? Assuming Charlie Batch starts as expected, at least he’ll have a full complement of weapons to toss his wounded ducks at. Antonio Brown has practiced all week and is going to start. Any questions about who the Steelers #1 wide out is have been answered in AB’s absence. Mike Tomlin decided to play some mind games this week by listing Emmanuel Sanders and Mike Wallace as co-starters on the depth chart. For some reason, media types have been on radio all week trying to argue that Steeler fans are being too hard on Wallace for his lack of production. Boo hoo, cry me a river. I don’t care that he held out. What I do care about is that he strutted around like he was one of the best receivers in football and hasn’t played anywhere close to that.
Another Tomlin mandate is that the team will feature Jonathan Dwyer as the primary back with Isaac Redman backing him up. Again, the media has been reacting aghast that he’d demote Rashard Mendenhall to third string despite the fact he’s done absolutely nothing to merit playing time. Mendenhall isn’t a good back. He tip toes too much and doesn’t run aggressively to daylight. His only selling point is this mythical “breakaway speed” people keep mentioning yet I can count on one hand how many long TD runs he’s had during his entire career here. Dwyer has shown that when you give him 15-20 carries he’ll run hard, wear down a defense and give you respectable YPC.
The blocking for Dwyer may be a problem. The team’s most beastly run blocker, Willie Colon, hasn’t practice much this week and is looking doubtful. To the team’s credit, they’ve finally realized Doug Legursky sucks at guard but is perfectly capable at center (probably because you can get away with being a small quick center but not really at guard). So if Colon can’t go, they’ve taken the extreme option of moving Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey to guard and inserting the Big Legursky at his natural position. I haven’t seen Pouncey play guard but if David DeCastro isn’t ready to play (and this radical re-alignment suggest he’s an emergency option at best) this seems to be the best arrangement.
Last game, the Steelers had nothing happening on the ground while Byron Leftwich missed wide open receivers left and right. On the flipside, the Ravens offense did a whole bunch of nothing with the their lone TD coming on a punt return. Let’s say the Steelers D slips a little this time and gives up two whole TDs. Can Charlie realistically put up 17-20 points on the Ratbirds? Off what we saw in Cleveland, the answer would be no. However, this is almost certainly the final start of Charlie Batch’s long career. He’s not going to go out without taking a couple swings. Let’s hope one or two connect.
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Now it’s time to panic.
The Tennessee Titans defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 26-23 on Thursday Night Football. I repeat, the 1-3 Titans starting a 37 year old backup QB defeated the Steelers. Where do I begin?
I suppose I’ll start by saying this is a total team loss. Anybody pointing to one specific area as “the reason they lost” has no idea what they’re talking about. The defense, for all their struggles, only gave up one legit TD with the other being a gimme from the 1 yard line after a blocked punt. The offense, despite a 363 yard passing day from Ben Roethlisberger to move ahead of Terry Bradshaw as the team’s all-time yardage leader, made some plays but they also missed a lot of chances. And the special teams, well, the blocked punt was just the latest miscue in a season full of them. Maybe Mike Tomlin shouldn’t have ousted Al Everest so he could give his buddy the job.
Regarding the special teams, Stonecold Shaun Suisham is one guy who can leave Tennessee with his head held high. Nobody has been more critical of him than I so trust me when I say making every field goal up through a 52 yarder early in the 4th quarter is all anybody can ask of him. It would’ve been nice for him to hit the 54 yarder at the end but that’s hardly a kick you automatically expect ANY kicker to make.
Right here is one of the problems with the Steelers. I’m talking about field goals instead of touchdowns. Once again, the offense moved in fits and starts, sputtering around for large stretches and failing to put the game away by scoring TOUCHDOWNS instead of settling for field goals. Twice the Steelers got inside the 15 and twice they came away with 3 instead of 6. You let teams hang around, even bad teams like the Titans, and bad things happen.
The receiving star was Isaac Redman. Wait, WHAT? Yes, for all we talk about Young Money and the best receiving corps in the NFL, it was our running back that caught 4 passes for 105 yards. Our TE, Heath Miller, chipped in with 6 catches for 67 yards. Antonio Brown? A measly 20 yards. Manny Sanders? A whopping 43.
Then we have Mike Wallace. Wallace had 94 yards and a TD on two, count’em two, catches. He scored doing pretty much the only thing he knows how to do: run fast straight down the field. I don’t want to hear any more bullshit about how Wallace is “a complete receiver.” Complete receivers catch many balls on a variety of patterns. Wallace is the ultimate all or nothing guy.
Unlike last week when the receivers dropped a ton of passes, this week much of the blame rests with Ben. He makes some great throws, like the bomb to Wallace, but then he’ll turn around and miss plays he needs to make. Suisham’s 52 yarder only happened because Ben made a terrible throw when he had Sanders wide open down the seam. Earlier in the game, he had Heath in the end zone and threw it behind him. Then there was a costly pick as time was running out in the half which probably cost the Steelers at least a field goal.
Like it or not, Ben needs a running game. When they run, they win. When they don’t, they lose. And last night, they couldn’t run at all. Much was due to having no running backs. Rashard Mendenhall played a couple series before leaving the game with what habitual liar Tomlin described as “some sort of Achilles problem.” Then iRed, who wasn’t carrying the ball well but has emerged as a great screen guy, left the game after taking a helmet to the knee. With Jon Dwyer in the doghouse, Baron Batch did his best in relief, even scoring his first career TD, but he’s not a starting caliber running back.
The other problem with the running game was the offensive line. As if losing our top two RBs wasn’t enough, we also lost 2/5 of our line. I think Maurkice Pouncey is way overrated but there is one huge difference between him and Doug Legursky. They’re about the same in pass protection but Pouncey is a much better run blocker. Ditto with Marcus Gilbert, who was replaced by rookie Mike Adams. Adams is fine at pass pro, perhaps even better than Gilbert, but he doesn’t run block very well.
Now let’s talk about the defense. Specifically, Ike Taylor. The Steelers only had 4 flags thrown on them yesterday, two of them went against Ike for pass interference (he had a third which was declined). When he wasn’t getting flagged, he was letting receivers run past, through, and around him. The Titans’ first FG was set up by a penalty on Ike. Their game tying drive was prolonged by a third down penalty on Ike. Their game tying TD was scored on Ike. Hasselbeck threw for 290 yards (and would’ve thrown for about 50 more if his receivers could catch the ball), about 50% of which was on Ike alone.
In summation, Ike sucks. Instead of making pornographic rap songs, he needs to start figuring out why he sucked against Denver and why he’s sucked ever since.
Keenan Lewis…KEENAN LEWIS is now our best corner. And yes, people are going to point out he dropped a crucial interception late in the 4th that could’ve altered the game. How many of those has Ike dropped? At least Lewis is actually covering people and making plays. Cortez Allen, pressed into duty as a safety when Will Allen got hurt, did his best although messed up several times. Ryan Clark led the team in tackles as he continues to be our defensive MVP. Lawrence Timmons continued his strong play, coming up with a big interception on a play that was positively Polamalu-esque.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: the D held strong for three quarters, holding Tennessee to only 9 points (as I said, the blocked punt TD shouldn’t be held against them) while the offense dicked around. Then they totally collapsed in the 4th. Why Tomlin made the insane decision to try a 54 FG instead of punting and playing for overtime, I don’t know. Dick LeBeau making the asinine call of asking James “Missed the first month of the season because of a bum knee” Harrison to drop back in pass coverage instead of, oh say, SUPER SPEEDY LAWRENCE TIMMONS was equally perplexing.
I’ve avoided dire predictions and grand statements thus far this season. Well, that time is done. The Steelers, with about 12 starters on the disabled list, get 10 days off before facing the Bengals. That has now become a MUST WIN game. I don’t care if it’s still early in the season, I don’t care that neither Cincy nor the Ratbirds are setting the world on fire, you can’t start 2-4 and expect to go anywhere. It’s time to sink or swim.
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Ike Taylor has embarrassed the Pittsburgh Steelers yet again. When we last saw Face Me Ike, he was trying to find his jock after Denver’s Demaryius Thomas ran him all over the field. This coming on the heels on January’s Wild Card playoff game in Denver where Thomas burnt him like a redhead in Acapulco. Ike’s performance led ESPN loudmouth Stephen A. Smith to say, “I didn’t know he was allowed back in the NFL after how he performed against the Broncos.” Ike took offense to these comments and a semi-illiterate twitter war broke out between the two.
Loathe as I am to agree with Screamin’ A, Ike’s showing was easily the worst game I’ve ever seen from a cornerback. And I’ve seen Tim McKyer play.
Fresh off polluting the field with his wretched play, Ike has moved on to polluting our ears with his wretched music. Yesterday a rap song surfaced featuring the musical stylings of some wanna-be gangsta chick (she’s from CANADA, for cryin’ out loud) named Jenna Garcia and the Black and Gold’s own Shoeless Ike Taylor. A 90 second preview of the song was uploaded to youtube although you can buy the full torturous three and a half minute version from iTunes if you feel like flushing .99 down the toilet. Personally, I’d rather spend the money on something more worthwhile, like one of those crusty bear claws you get out of a vending machine.
I led off with Ike and Ambassador Dan Rooney kickin’ it old-skool instead of the clip of the song because I know some of you click on videos before reading my wonderful text. The song begins with Jenna singing, backed by a generic club music auto-beat although admittedly her voice is kinda sexy. About 40 seconds in, Ike arrives to rap some lyrics which sound as if they were lifted from a porno movie. Seriously, his first line concerns Jenna’s vajayjay and how he hopes it feels like a sauna.
Swampy lady parts aren’t high on my dating criteria but, hey, I’m not a graduate of Swaggin’ U.
He proceeds to ask for oral sex, drop a couple F-bombs and brag about the size of his dick. Maybe that’s what he tripped over when Thomas beat him for that 71 yard touchdown. I wonder what Santonio Holmes thinks of his boast.
Anyway, suffice to say this song is very NSFW:
Look, don’t get me wrong, I’m proud to be a Steeler fan but things like this make me wonder if my Black and Gold colored glasses are blinding me to the fact my team really isn’t that different from the circuses we see in Dallas or New York.
Hours after the Denver playoff loss, Maurkice Pouncey pimped some idiotic rap song on his twitter account. When fans rightly questioned whether he should be shilling things so soon after a big loss, he went with the always mature “I’m rich. I’m better than you.” response. Ryan Clark is always shooting his mouth off over twitter or on ESPN. He even challenged a beat writer to a fight last season over some perceived slight. I’m not even going to get into Mike Wallace.
Don’t misunderstand, there are a lot of really good guys on the Steelers. Brett Keisel, Troy Polamalu, hell even James Harrison recently donated $100,000 to his alma mater. Okay that might not cancel out smacking around your baby mama but work with me. I realize they’re football players, not choir boys, but the Rooney family used to have a very low tolerance for idiots. Today’s team seems to feature more idiots than any in memory. Part of the blame goes to the Rooneys, who’ve seemingly relaxed their standards. Part goes to Mike Tomlin, who is by far the least discipline oriented coach we’ve ever had.
I will always love the Steelers. Being proud of the guys who represent my team? Not so much.
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They say losing reveals a lot more about your character than winning. If that old jockism is true, then the Pittsburgh Steelers have a big problem. As I sit back and reflect on an ignominious end to a wasted season, I can’t help but worry about the future of the team. Sports radio around town has already been bombarded by calls from irate members of Steeler Nation advising the organization to begin the reloading process by ridding themselves of the old broken down players who failed them this year.
I think that’d be a big mistake. Not because I think Hines Ward or James Farrior are going to find the Fountain of Youth during the off-season. I think it’s a mistake because I’m not sure if the next generation of Steelers are ready for primetime. In fact, if the game in Denver and its immediate aftermath tells us anything, it’s that we may need Farrior and Hines more than ever.
For those who haven’t heard, Maurkice Pouncey used his twitter feed to pimp some ear pollution by some goofy rapper friend of his following Sunday’s heartbreaker in Denver. When some of his followers wrote him that it was in poor taste to be promoting junk less than 12 hours after your team lost a playoff game, he responded with the always mature, “I’m rich play for the steelers and have a awesome life! u wish u had my life!!” After deleting the tweet and writing a half-hearted apology, he spent the rest of the day blocking fans who criticized him for being an asshole. Nice to see him block somebody for a change.
Now, I’m not advocating cutting Pouncer as he’s undeniably a very talented player. But when he played poorly at the start of the season, whispers around town were that he’s quickly gaining a reputation among the players for being a high maintenance cry-baby. He and Ben suffered their high ankle sprains at roughly the same time, yet Ben came back a week later while Pouncey spent the rest of the season picking splinters out of his ass. Doug Legursky played the Wild Card game despite badly separating his shoulder which shows you the kind of warrior he is. What has Pouncey shown besides a willingness to sit out pretty much every important game the Steelers have played the past two years?
And before anybody gets on me for being hard on Pouncey or dealing in rumor, I will remind everybody that I wrote about Ben Roethlisberger being disliked by his teammates YEARS before the national media finally caught wind of the story. I was vindicated then and I stand by this. Pouncey is a selfish dick who wants all the acclaim of playing for the Black and Gold without any of the success or sacrifices. And the worrisome part is I don’t think he’s alone.
During the off-season, Manny Sanders, Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace dubbed themselves “Young Money.” It was a fun nickname for a group of receivers who promised to take the Steelers offense to new heights. You also know it was a self-promotional tool to raise their notoriety around the league. AB won Team MVP because he is by all accounts one of the hardest workers out there. Meanwhile, Manny had a great playoff game but was injured most of the year and didn’t do jack during the regular season. Then we have Wallace, who’ll be a restricted free agent, who completely disappeared down the stretch run. If you want to call yourself Young Money and want to be this hot young NFL superstar, first you need to make the plays when they count.
Anybody doubt Hines Ward would’ve caught that 50 yard bomb when his team needed it? Instead of clever nicknames or telling reporters you’re going catch 2,000 yards worth of passes in 2011, how about making one big catch in a big game? Once again, we have a guy who likes to run his mouth and act all cocky without actually backing it up ON THE FIELD. That’s not how it works.
A big story last week involved Jets players describing Santonio Holmes as “a cancer” and a quitter in the aftermath of their season-ending collapse. That is why I shed no tears when the Steelers stole a fifth round draft pick for him. Lost in the memory of his game-winning catch in Super Bowl XLIII is the fact for almost the entiretly of his tenure here, ‘Tone was a total dick. While everybody remembers the toe-tapper that won us our sixth Lombardi Trophy and brought ‘Tone the game MVP, I remember two other plays that tell you all you need to know about Santonio Holmes.
The first one occurred on Santonio’s 40 yard catch and run that set the Steelers up for a shot at the end zone. At the end of the play, Ben and the O-line were running down the field to kill the clock because they only had one time out remaining. While they were hustling to the line, Holmes was busy doing a Me Me Me dance to celebrate his catch. Ben was forced to burn that final time out. Considering the game-winning catch came with about 35 seconds left on the clock, had Ben been sacked on one of those subsequent plays, Holmes’ stupidity would have cost us the game. After the catch, he did that goofy LeBron-esque saltshaker move with the football which those enablers at the Four Letter replayed ad nauseum ever since. What they don’t tell you is using the ball as a prop is an unsportsmanlike conduct foul which should have cost the Steelers 15 yards on the subsequent kickoff. Once again, our MVP put his camera time and his personal glory ahead of the team.
Hines Ward has said he’d be willing to stay with the Steelers for a Bettis-like reduced contract. The feeling is the Steelers might not take him up on it because even for veteran minimum, they have no use for him. I disagree. Players like Hines and Farrior may not be the players they used to be but they’re locker room leaders. When they speak, players tend to listen. And it seems apparent to me the Steeler locker room needs all the leaders they can get right now.