I knew it was going to be bad. I never thought it was going to be this bad.
This is quickly turning into a historic season for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Historic in all the wrong ways. The Black and Gold came within 23 minutes of setting an NFL record for longest time taken to force a single turnover. Their 0-4 start was their worst in 45 years. And yesterday, their defense gave up the most points in team history.
I repeat, no Steeler team in the franchise’s storied 80 year history has ever surrendered as many points as they did yesterday in their 55-31 loss to the New England Patriots.
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Is it just me or is Bill Belichick enjoying that a little TOO much?
Ah, our old friends the New England Patriots. So much success between the two teams. So much hate between the two fanbases. There are really only two things which keep the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Patriots from being one of the NFL’s great rivalries. First, they don’t play each other with enough regularity – although we certainly seem to see them an awful lot.
And second, the Patriots always win.
As I’ve discussed when talking about the Browns-Steelers rivalry, it’s hard to keep the hate flowing when the rivalry is so one-sided. The Browns have done a good job of pulling off some unexpected upsets in recent years to reignite some of the passion. When it comes to Pats-Steelers, though, it’s hard to get excited about a rival who’s consistently dished out one-sided whuppins.
From the Spygate AFC Championship Game to the 34-13 beatdown Tom Brady dished out after safety Anthony Smith let his mouth write checks his ass couldn’t cash, it’s been one disappointment after another. On Sunday, the reeling Steelers limp into Foxboro to face the first place Patriots on national TV. At this point, we can only pray they aren’t embarrassed.
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Some people think the Pittsburgh Steelers 0-4 start was the product of a poorly constructed roster, some lousy coaching, and injuries to key personnel. They would be wrong. The Steelers simply decided to postpone winning until after the Pirates season was over. They were polite enough to give them spotlight.
Good manners are the Steeler Way.
With the Bucs done for the year, the Black and Gold wasted no time getting off the schneid by defeating the New York Jets 19-6. The highlight of this game was Bill Cowher, the greatest coach in Steeler history, in the booth calling the game with the normally unlistenable duo of Nantz and Simms. Not only did CBS make sure to work in a plug for Cowher’s mid-life crisis, er, leather-clad rocker babe, the Chin’s near orgasmic joy with every field goal attempt made an otherwise dull game seem exciting.
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The Pittsburgh Steelers had a bye last week. I’m sure most of them put the time to good use, resting some nagging injuries, catching up with their families… Perhaps a few even indulged in their favorite hobbies. For safety Ryan Clark that means finding the nearest video camera and blabbering away.
Clark appeared on his home away from home, ESPN’s First Take, where he had a chance to catch up with his old buddy Skip Bayliss. Of course the first question they asked was about the Black and Gold’s wretched 0-4 start. Not surprisingly, Clark downplayed the team’s woes, maintaining the team would rebound to make the playoffs. Shockingly, Dallas-based Bayliss agreed with him.
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— nfluk.com (@nfl_uk) September 25, 2013
On Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers meet the Minnesota Vikings in London, England in what has become the NFL’s annual version of an “international friendly.” Technically, the Vikings are the home team – the team’s owner agreed to sacrifice one of their eight home games as a combination veiled threat/silent protest over their decrepit stadium – but in reality the Steelers should enjoy the majority of crowd support.
Londoners are used to cheering for Big Ben, after all.
Besides, Steeler Nation extends not only from coast to coast but around the globe. If my google analytics are to be believed, my visitors span the globe from Mexico to China and from Norway to South Africa. Actually, if the Vikes wanted a home game, they probably should’ve played the game in Oslo. Despite the fact good seats are still available, the crowd should be a bunch of Terrible Towel waving hooligans.
Unless they’ve heard of Ryan Clark.
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To paraphrase Niemöller’s famous quote:
First the Steelers came for the pool table,
and I didn’t speak out because I didn’t play pool.
Then the Steelers came for the shuffleboard,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t seventy years old.
Then the Steelers came for the ping-pong paddles,
and I didn’t speak out because I didn’t play ping-pong.
Then the Steelers came for me,
and there were no games left to play.
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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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Over the off-season, Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Antonio Brown made news when he told ESPN that last year’s team featured a fractured locker room. Hines Ward, who wasn’t even with the team, echoed that opinion. I have no doubt last year’s team wasn’t overflowing with happy shiny people. Losing does that to you.
Well, Ryan Clark and safety partner Troy Polamalu are here to tell you this year’s Steelers are different. This year’s training camp should’ve been held in Woodstock, New York rather than Latrobe, Pennsylvania because it has been nothing but one great big lovefest.
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Last week, I wrote about growing discontent amongst the Pittsburgh Steelers. Naturally, I’ll begin this week writing about growing discontent amongst the Pittsburgh Steelers. What? You thought I’d do five hundred words on some college kid’s 40 time at the Combine?
When last we left this ridiculous controversy, an unnamed player called linebacker LaMarr Woodley a fatass. Regardless of his off-season workout regiment, there’s absolutely no denying Woodley has been an injury prone disappointment since signing his big money contract extension a couple seasons back. These unattributed comments riled up team leader/annoying loudmouth Ryan Clark, who was offended someone would break the code of locker room omerta. Shockingly, Clark did make one valid observation; that the team had a clear leadership vacuum in the wake of last season’s purge of veterans.
Since no controversy is complete until we hear from the wide receivers, not one but two Steelers wide outs chimed in on this issue. First there was Antonio Brown, wearing the swankiest pimp hat this side of the Godfather. He appeared on ESPN’s First Take but since I try to avoid ESPN and I especially try to avoid First Take, I only caught his comments when they were uploaded to their website. In between his various assaults on the English language, AB managed to reveal the Steelers had a “fractured” locker room with guys more worried about their stats and impending free agency than winning football games.
In other words, Mike Wallace and Rashard Mendenhall were the bad guys. Shocking, I know. And convenient. Since both of those goofs are long gone, it very nicely puts all questions about a divided locker room to rest. At least until the team loses two in a row to bottom feeders they should’ve crushed.
Hines Ward, who is no longer a Steeler although for some reason the media runs to get his opinion on every move they make, went on the NFL Network to weigh in on this controversy. Hines reiterated Clark’s point about losing veteran leaders and talked about the team losing track of the Steeler Way. He also provided every headline writer their money quote by saying the backbiting was a sign the team was in “total disarray.” Impressive insight for a man who spent most of last season in Los Angeles preparing sweet and sour spare ribs for Guy Fieri and Rachel Ray.
Look, the Steelers definitely have a problem. When they cut Hines and James Farrior, yinzers called local sports talk shows worried about leadership and were dismissed by hosts who (rightfully) pointed out teams don’t have to like each other or be compromised of good guys to win. Now that the players themselves are pointing out the problems in the locker room, those same hosts are all over this topic. This is why I started this blog, the reporters and sports personalities in this town suck.
You don’t need a team full of choir boys or a team wide lovefest to win. However, the good guys need to outnumber the bad guys. The Steelers have had idiots on the team before but with Hines or the Bus leading the locker room and a hard-ass head coach in Bill Cowher, the Steeler Way prevailed. In recent years, the guys who were all about winning have faded away and a bunch of chest-thumping me-firsters have taken their place. And instead of the head coach reining them in, we have hear-no-evil see-no-evil Mike Tomlin. There is a systematic flaw within this team. Unfortunately, a flaw I don’t see being corrected any time soon.
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Here I was hoping for a nice quiet off-season for the Pittsburgh Steelers…
Then again, I guess the off-season hasn’t truly started until Ryan Clark shoots his big mouth off about something. I’d really like to know how and when that assclown became the official spokesman for the Steelers’ players. Granted football players tend to have IQs somewhere north of a turnip and, as we saw during the lockout, aren’t really that particular about picking their leaders. Still, one would think there is at least one level-headed guy in that locker room who can step forward and talk to the media without being a divisive influence.
Let’s rewind back to Sunday. Ron Cook wrote a piece for the Post-Gazette that was highly critical of linebacker LaMarr Woodley. Cook used a bunch of words to point out what all of us fans already knew; since signing his big money contract extension in 2011, Woodley’s level of play has fallen off the map. What got people’s attention was a quote about Woodley attributed to an anonymous teammate. “He tells us he works out, but we didn’t see it. He wasn’t in shape. That has to be a reason why he was always hurt.”
Clark, who never met a microphone he wouldn’t talk into, immediately decried the comments as “cowardly.” Again, that’s not really shocking as pro athletes love to invoke this code of silence gimmick like they’re a team of Navy SEALS charged with conducting a raid on an al-Qaeda compound. I have no desire to see the Steelers turn into a back-stabbing circus like the Eagles or Cowboys but the feigned outrage whenever somebody criticizes a member of their own locker room is total bullshit.
The ironic part of Clark’s comments were after decrying a player for criticizing the brotherhood, he proceeded to criticize the brotherhood. Even more shockingly, what Clark said was actually pretty smart.
Clark went on to tell NFL.com that the Steelers clearly have a “a fracture” within their ranks. “That shows that this team that is normally close, you had the Joey Porters, the Alan Fanecas, just down the line, leader after leader, this team was close-knit. It shows there is a fracture in that. I think that is the most disappointing thing about that coming out.” said Clark. So by fracture he meant leadership void. We worried this might happened as the old guard retired and handed the team off to the young guys. Now for the first time there is concrete proof that something is amiss with the Black and Gold.
Hines Ward retired and the wide receiver corps became a group of me-first chest-thumping underachieving idiots. James Farrior retired and LaMarr Woodley went from one half of the best linebacking duo in Steelers history to overpaid and injury prone. Local radio host Stan Savran mentioned on his show this morning that he heard from team sources that Woodley got up to nearly 290 pounds last year. Some of that may be due to not being able to do cardio after suffering his hamstring injury. But as the anonymous Steelers points out, he’s constantly coming down with strains and pulls which are telltale signs of a guy being out of shape.
Going into the final week of the season, rumor had it that James Harrison was playing his final game in Pittsburgh. When the Steelers gave Woodley the contract extension, I’m sure they envisioned him being the guy the defense reloaded around as Deebo faded off into the sunset. In reality, Harrison has been the more effective player by far the past couple seasons. Despite the team being in the salary cap danger zone, I don’t see how the Steelers get rid of Harrison and not worry that a defense already struggling to generate turnovers and sacks gets even worse.
Run a lap, LaMarr.