Week 5 Recap: Bring Back The Real Refs

 Posted by at 6:15 am  James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, Lawrence Timmons, Not Football Players, Rashard Mendenhall, Recaps, Troy Polamalu  Comments Off on Week 5 Recap: Bring Back The Real Refs
Oct 082012
 

The Pittsburgh Steelers squeaked  by the Philadelphia Eagles 16-14 thanks to a walk off field goal by Stonecold Shaun Suisham. The good news is the victory evens the Steelers record at 2-2. How crucial was this win? Only 15% of the teams who start the year 1-3 end up making the playoffs.

The bad news is the Steelers have yet more injuries to deal with, starting with All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu. Troy played a couple series then hobbled off to the sidelines never to be seen again. Last week, I faced the wrath of my buddy Hennessy for suggesting James Harrison‘s days may be numbered. I may have just picked the wrong Steeler. I love Troy but he’s quickly turning into another Bob Sanders.

And since Harrison is back and the Football Gods have mandated the Steelers cannot have both Deebo and LaMarr Woodley on the field at the same time lest they cause too much destruction to opposing quarterbacks, Woodley left the game early with what appears to be a re-occurrence of the hamstring problem which plagued him last season.

Even without Woodley and Troy, the Steelers turned in by far their finest defensive effort of the season. I’d prefer to have them both but forced to make a choice, I’d definitely trade Woodley for Harrison every single time. For whatever reason, the D plays much better when Deebo is there. They generated more pressure on Vick than in the first three games combined. And their run defense improved vastly, holding Shady McCoy to only 53 tough yards.

If you didn’t see the game, allow me to repeat some of Joe Buck’s first half play-by-play.  “Timmons, Timmons, Timmons, Timmons, Timmons…” Lawrence Timmons was in absolute beast mode. He led the team in tackles, dropped into coverage, recovered a fumble, forced a fumble, and chased Michael Vick like a dog chasing a bone (sorry, I had to). It’s these rare moments of brilliance where you look at him and think, “Why can’t he do this all the time?” When he’s on like he was yesterday, he’s basically the linebacker version of Troy Polamalu.

The Steelers held the high-powered Eagles offense to only 250 total yards, 80 of which came on a grinding third quarter TD drive which took two fourth down conversions and eight minutes off the clock. It would’ve been nice for the Steelers to get off the the field on one of those fourths, and I’m sure human troll Mark Madden will go on about how they suck because they couldn’t (Timmons shot the gap on the first one but Shady made a nice move and then escaped Keenan Lewis’s decidedly Deion Sanders-esque tackling attempt), but if you’re going to let the other team score, at least make them earn it. It’s big play/quick scores which kill you.

Other than that drive, the Eagles did a whole bunch of nothing. They had two other scoring opportunities although neither one was earned. Early in the game, Philly had first and goal from the Steelers 3 which ended with Ryan Clark, the Steelers Defensive MVP thus far in 2012, forcing a Vick fumble which LT recovered in the end zone. That drive went 49 yards but 31 of them were on a bogus pass interference call on Ike Taylor. The second drive, which did end in a touchdown, covered 80 yards although this time they were gifted 30 yards in penalties thanks to two personal fouls, only one of which was legit.

Which brings me to the referees. Man, I’m begging some intrepid fan to track down their Facebook pages to see if they have pics wearing Iggles gear or chowing down on diarrhea inducing cheesesteaks or something. The zebras called this game like they bet the mortgage on Philly. It was unbearable. At one point, even Steeler haters Buck and Aikman noted there was a flag on every play. EVERY PLAY. The Steelers finished the game with 9 penalties for 106 yards.

A HUNDRED AND SIX YARDS IN PENALTIES?!?!?!

Bring back the Lingerie Football refs.

Worse of all, the atrocious calls did not go both ways. This is not Pittsburgh Paranoia talking, either. I seldom blame the refs because I think yinzers get too worked up over every perceived slight but yesterday was truly an exception. Mike Wallace was getting molested like an altar boy on practically every play yet not a single flag was thrown. Meanwhile, ten yellow hankies went flying when a Steeler so much as breathed heavy.

Not that I am excusing Wallace for only catching two passes. Yes, he was getting grabbed, held, shoved, and sodomized on every play. So what? Elite receivers find a way to get open. One of the things I don’t like about Wallace is he doesn’t work. He doesn’t get dirty. Wallace runs his pattern and if he gets bumped he just throws up his hands and begs for a flag. The Steelers are paying you $3 million to catch footballs, not whine to zebras.

Nor am I excusing the offense for their poor play. Ben Roethlisberger was decidedly off yesterday. His numbers aren’t horrible and he made some clutch plays, particularly a 20 yarder to Antonio Brown (who does the dirty work to get open and works hard on every single play) on the game winning drive, but he also missed a lot of throws. He overshot Heath Miller, who was wide open for a TD, on a drive early in the 4th that would’ve effectively put the game away. Ben’s receivers also did him no favors, what with Wallace not getting open and both he and Manny Sanders dropping passes they ordinarily catch. Then there was some plain bad luck such as when Jerricho Cotchery caught a short slant at the 5 with time running out in the half but tripped and fell two yards shy of the end zone.

The offensive star was undoubtedly Rashard Mendenhall. It’s pretty clear the Steelers piss-poor running game the first few weeks was because of inept backs and not lack of running lanes. Mendy only had 81 yards but he averaged an excellent 5.8 YPC. He showed the burst through the hole and cutback ability which makes him the big play threat the other guys simply aren’t. Todd Haley smartly used iRed in short yardage, the one thing he’s good at, but Mendenhall was clearly the featured back with none of the other clowns even getting off the bench. The final drive to set up Suisham’s game winner was a thing of beauty, with Mendy and Redman alternating carries and chewing up both yards and time.

Despite having to overcome two opponents, one in green, one in black and white, the Steelers managed to pull out what was almost a must-win. It wasn’t pretty but they got the job done. With a short turnaround to the Tennessee Titans on Thursday Night Football, that’s really all that matters.

Know Thy Enemy: Philadelphia Eagles

 Posted by at 4:55 am  Game Preview, Mike Tomlin  Comments Off on Know Thy Enemy: Philadelphia Eagles
Oct 052012
 

The Battle of Pennyslvania. It occurs every season but only once every four years does the game actually count. This Sunday, the Philadelphia Eagles make the trip west to Heinz Field to face off against the Pittsburgh Steelers in a game that could be a tipping point for both teams.

I’m loathe to proclaim week five a “must win” scenario (especially when it’s only the Steelers’ fourth game) but I truly think this weekend will set the table for the rest of 2012. The Eagles are 3-1 but they’re pretty much the worst 3-1 team you’ll ever find. Appropriate for the city they represent, Philly has epitomized the term “winning ugly.” They could as easily be 0-4 as their three wins have come by four total points.

Meanwhile, I have no idea what to make of the Steelers. They whupped the Jets but that looks a lot less impressive in hindsight because the Jets absolutely suck. Meanwhile, they lost close games to the Broncos and Raiders where their defense played like garbage and their offense performed well until crunch time. Now that we’ve seen other teams in action, I can pretty confidently say we have yet to play a really top level team. Regardless of where you slot the Eagles, our schedule definitely gets a lot harder from here on out.

STEELERS DEFENSE vs EAGLES OFFENSE

Ah, Michael Vick. A story making the rounds the past couple days recounts how Mike Tomlin wanted to bring Vick to the Steelers after he finished serving time in the clink on his dog fighting charge. Of course Tomlin wanted him. They’re both Virginia guys and Tomlin won’t rest until he has an entire roster of black quarterbacks. Never mind the fact Vick is a dog-raping scumbag.

He also continues to be a vastly overrated quarterback. Vick reclaimed his position as starter several years back but in many ways he’s still the same guy he was with Atlanta. Which is to say, just a more hyped version of Kordell Stewart. Tremendous athlete, can make plays with his feet as well as his arm but suffers from questionable decision-making and not a dependable pocket-passing QB. Teams have been forcing him to remain in the pocket and when he does  he’s a veritable turnover machine. In only 4 games, he’s thrown 6 picks and fumbled 5 times.

That’s the good news. The bad news is the Eagles have the kind of big play offense that can make up for his mistakes and make up for them fast. Desean Jackson is a home run threat on every play. Former Pitt Panther Shady McCoy is a Ray Rice-like weapon at RB who can break a long run at any time. Much like Darren Mcfadden did in our last game, either one of those guys can be stopped nine times out of ten but that tenth play ends up being a 50+ yard TD.

Which makes this a really bad match-up for the Steelers. Going back to last season, the Steelers D has exhibited the bad habit of giving up big plays at bad times through both the ground and air. Likewise, Vick is a turnover candidate for a D that hasn’t been able to force many turnovers. So something has to give. Let’s hope it’s not the D.

Getting Troy Polamalu and James Harrison back will definitely help. Dick LeBeau‘s defense is carefully constructed where the success of A often depends on B doing their job. With key pieces missing, things tend to fall apart. Troy is a disruptive influence who often forces turnovers just by the opposing QB never knowing where he’ll line up. Having Harrison and LaMarr Woodley on the field together for once should generate the kind of pressure that forces QBs into making mistakes. Both Troy and Deebo have practiced all week and barring a last minute setback (which is not out of the question), we should see the Steelers defense, the REAL Steelers D, back on the field for the first time in a long long time.

STEELERS OFFENSE vs EAGLES DEFENSE

Todd Haley‘s eight minute drives are great and all but when the other team can get the kickoff and answer with a TD of their own in three plays, it all goes for naught. I’m not sure Ben Roethlisberger can play any better than he has thus far. Some members of Steeler Nation are blaming him for not leading comebacks and, true, if your rep was made as a clutch money QB, you need to start pulling some games out. At the same time, Big Ben’s putting up some truly incredible numbers. Nearly 70% completion rate, 900 yards not even 1/4 through the season and 8 TDs against only 1 (extremely costly) interception.

The Steelers strength is their receivers. We all know this. Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace picked up right where they left off. Jerricho Cotchery and Manny Sanders don’t catch a ton of balls but make their chances count. Then we have Heath Miller. We’ve always known he’s perhaps the most well-rounded TE in the league and Boss Todd’s offense is finally showing the rest of the NFL what he can do.

As fantastic as the receivers are, you can’t throw all the time. You just can’t, especially if you want Ben to survive to week 10 without catastrophic injury. The running back by committee has been an abject failure with nobody accomplishing much of anything. Rashard Mendenhall will see his first action since tearing his ACL in the season finale against Cleveland. He’ll likely still split carries with iRed (on short yardage) and Rainey (on passing downs) although I figure his workload will depend on how things go. Adrian Peterson suffered a similar injury last year and has done fine as his team’s featured back so I don’t foresee Mendy being limited by anything other than game situation and his own performance.

The Eagles don’t play great defense but it’s an opportunistic group. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie already has three picks. Speedy defensive ends (the bane of the Steelers existence) Jason Babin and Trent Cole have combined for four sacks. Through the first four games, they’ve epitomized bend but don’t break. If the Steelers offense becomes too one-dimensional, that’ll play right into their hands. I’m not saying rely on the running game but it’s time they pulled their weight.

The first month of the season has been a lot of “What Ifs” for the Steelers. What if we had Troy in Oakland? What if we had Harrison and Clark in Denver? What if we had a halfway decent running game? As of Sunday, those what ifs go away. It’s time for the Steelers to establish what kind of team they’re going to be in 2012. And as the saying goes, there’s no time like the present.

Steelers Face Greatest Team Ever Assembled (TM)

 Posted by at 12:56 pm  Charlie Batch, Offensive Line, Preseason, Roster Moves, Secondary, Wide Receivers  Comments Off on Steelers Face Greatest Team Ever Assembled (TM)
Aug 182011
 

For members of Steeler Nation living outside of Western Pennsylvania, tonight is your first opportunity to see your [intlink id=”19″ type=”category”]Pittsburgh Steelers[/intlink] when they face off against the Philadelphia Eagles on Fox.  Despite the Black and Gold coming off a glorious Super Bowl run, prepare yourself for almost non-stop praise for the Iggles.  Philly, you see, is this year’s Greatest Team Ever Assembled.  On paper.

Sure, they pulled off the biggest move in free agency by signing Nnamdi Asomugha.  Then they traded Kevin Kolb to Arizona for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.  TWO ALL-PRO CORNERBACKS!  ON THE SAME TEAM!  YOU CAN’T POSSIBLY LOSE WITH THAT 1-2 PUNCH!

Ask the Jets.
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Terrelle Pryor Already Suspended By NFL

 Posted by at 9:17 am  Charlie Batch, Ginger Dictator, Terrelle Pryor  Comments Off on Terrelle Pryor Already Suspended By NFL
Aug 182011
 

Sometimes you read something that is just too good to pass up.

This is a Pittsburgh Steelers blog.  But sometimes I’ll write about other things related to the sports scene here in the Steel City.  This is one of those times.  And, hey, it does tangentially tie in with the Steelers in a roundabout way.

Pittsburgh high school phenom Terrelle Pryor has been suspended by the NFL.  “Wait,” you may ask, “isn’t he still in college?” Indeed he is, although that will change when he’s taken in next week’s Supplemental Draft.  The lucky team choosing Pryor will have to wait five weeks to see what they’ve gotten themselves into as [intlink id=”8″ type=”category”]Roger Goodell[/intlink] has proactively decided to suspend him for flouting NCAA rules.

God bless the Ginger Dictator.  Only he would have the balls to punish a guy not even under his jurisdiction for an offense which isn’t even illegal under the by-laws of his league.
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