Yesterday, the Sporting News released their annual poll naming the NFL’s Dirtiest Player. For the second year in a row, Detroit Lions thug Ndamukong Suh took the title as voted on by a sampling of his peers. Somewhat surprisingly, an offensive lineman took the second spot. The ironically named Richie Incognito was recognized by enough of his fellow players to earn that dubious honor.
As usual, the Pittsburgh Steelers were well represented.
The Steelers had a lock on top spot for quite a few years. First, there was Hines Ward, who had a nice run of three of four years in a row. For the record, Hines was not a dirty player. Guys just resented the fact he played every snap and he played them hard. If you ever watch NFL wide receivers on iso-cam, 90% of them jog leisurely down the field on running plays. Hines looked to block or hit somebody, which made a lot of defensive players mad. As a result, he was frequently called dirty when all he did was play every snap.
When Hines started slowing down, and the NFL started getting worried about vicious hits because a lawsuit was coming, James Harrison became the new whipping boy. I’m not going to lie, Harrison definitely deserved his rep as a head-hunter. At the same time, the vast majority of his “illegal” hits came between the whistles in the context of a football play. Guys like Suh, who stomp downed opponents or hit them late are a different case entirely.
With Hines retired and James sidelined most of the year, I thought perhaps the Steelers would finally disappear from the list. Or, if they did show up, they would be represented by one of two prime candidates. Ryan Clark is every bit the vicious hitter that Deebo is. For whatever reason, he doesn’t receive the fines (or media scrutiny) but he definitely aims to annihilate rather than tackle. Then there’s Willie Colon, who’s an absolute maniac. When Giants DE Justin Tuck whined about the Steelers offensive line playing dirty a couple weeks back, I’m sure Colon was one of the guys he had in mind.
In the end, the Steelers were once again represented by two players. The Ginger Dictator‘s smear campaign has evidently been effective enough that Harrison came in 4th place despite only playing a handful of games. The other Steeler who was among those who garnered more than one vote was safety Ryan Mundy. Yes, Ryan Mundy. In a way, it’s not that surprising because he also looks to spear guys instead of tackling them. And he was recently fined a cool $21,000 for knocking Oakland’s Darrius Heyward-Bey out of the game.
I wonder if those two players came from Oakland?
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Yinz love regular features. From Know Thy Enemy (accept no cheap substitutes!) to Wallace Watch ’12, our fearless leader, Chris, loves regular features, too. With hockey season on permanent hiatus (Thanks Bettman…BOOOO!), he thought it would be cool to do our own version of the 3 Stars of the Game. Of course, we have to list three goats as well.
Chris then had the brilliant notion, “If I’m going to do a weekly segment named after the Steel City’s favorite swill beer, why not ask the guy named after booze to do it?”
We hope you play along at home. List your three stars and three goats in the comments and maybe we can get some Pittsburgh Steelers talk going up in this bitch.
3 Stars of the Week
Todd Haley seems to be taking the chains off one link at a time, allowing Ben to air the ball out almost 50 times against Oakland. Completing 36 of those passes kept Pittsburgh in the game, and he managed to be the only player on offense not trying to turn the ball over, managing 0 interceptions and 0 fumbles. Ben looked more like himself on Sunday by scrambling and extending broken-down plays, while also taking several un-flagged shots to the legs. He kept trucking and lobbed four TD passes before the nightmare was over. Hats-off to the man in charge of a relatively productive offensive performance.
I don’t think it is worth mentioning again but Heeeeeaaath may be the most underrated player in the NFL. Ben has stated publicly that he fears the thought of playing without #83 on the field, and showed why against Oakland. Miller tied Wallace with eight receptions on the day, and managed to pull two of those down within the goal line. The often overlooked side of Heath was also apparent, as his “addition of another lineman” blocking style cleared the way for Ben to mark up 384 yards in the air. Heath’s block-and-catch presence has helped cement the weak O-Line for years, and proved its worth again on Sunday.
Woodley was the only visible presence on the defense after Clark’s 1st play interception of Kimo von Oelhoffen’s old snuggle buddy. He set a benchmark by bringing down Palmer for his 50th career sack, only the 8th player in Black and Gold history to reach that milestone. Coming from a Steelers defense that missed more tackles than a communications major, Woodley added a much-needed wall behind the front-line. It was far from a stellar performance, but with Troy and Harrison sitting on the sideline it was critical that someone step up and lead the defensive effort.
3 Goats of the Week
Wallace, Brown and the Ball Control Circus:
No NFL coach has gone a full season without mouthing their version of “you can’t win games if you turn the ball over.” This is only true if the recovering team capitalizes on the generosity, which Oakland did twice. AB and Wallace tossed the ball around the field like the equipment manager filled them with helium. Oakland was viciously punching at the ball all afternoon, and our stellar receiving core seemed happy to act as their personal speed bags. Brown corralled his own fumble for a TD and Wallace saved his drop in the 3rd but the offense still let two of them go to the bad guys. The resulting scores surely didn’t help the Steelers’ cause.
I stay away from fretting about injuries changing the outcome of the game. Every team has sidelined players, men hobbling off the field, and a less-than 100% roster on both sides of the ball. That being said, PLEASE COME BACK TROY. The position of safety is meant to be an “if all else fails” position. In the last three games when “all else failed,” so did our safety. Darren McFadden was the potential undoing of this victory, and he owned it. When Ryan Mundy wasn’t busy trying to get fined for sloppy hits or letting a weak receiving core burn him, he was trotting around wondering what to do when McFadden finally broke through. Answer: Fall on the ground and let him score. Pathetic.
I chose to single out Redman only because he was the starter listed at our non-existent RB slot. Between Redman, Dwyer, Batch, and Rainey, the running game did less damage to Oakland than the San Andreas Fault. Redman put up 27 of their pathetic 54 total yards on the ground, so I guess in some parallel universe he is due credit for not running backwards or fumbling 5 times (Dwyer handled the fumbling honors). I hope Haley hasn’t been watching old tapes of Amos Zereoue to prepare for his dawning of the “New-Old Stillerz Football”.
This Week’s cure for your Six-Pack Hangover:
Much like an open bar at your ex’s remarriage, we should have known this would end up bad. What started off as a chance to drink free whiskey and rekindle an old rivalry quickly turned into seething hatred. Oh, and before you left, you made sure to make an ass out of yourself.
Unfortunately, the next scheduled chance to make up for that night on the town is two seasons away. At least we have a chance to lay low, use the upcoming bye week to rest our heads and headaches, and get ready for handling our swill a little better when we face yet another bi-annual pain in the ass, the Philadelphia Eagles.