Jan 062012
 

Much digital ink has been spilled this week previewing the Wild Card match-up between the Denver Broncos and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Most of the attention has centered around the two quarterbacks who’ll face off on Sunday. Will Ben Roethlisberger‘s messed up ankle be feeling better by game time? And how is Tim Tebow going to fare in his first career playoff game?

Before we worry about all that, let’s look at the big picture. The bookies have the Steelers listed as an eight point favorite and most media types are penciling this in as a victory for the Black and Gold. Even members of Steeler Nation, a notoriously pessimistic bunch, seem confident of a happy outcome. And it’s understandable, what with Denver losing three straight to end the season and backdooring into the post-season.

Not to throw a wet blanket Terrible Towel on all the optimism but keep this in mind. Since 2000, five teams with records of .500 or worse have made the playoffs. Four of the five won at least one playoff game. Most recently was last year’s Seattle Seahawks, who became the first team in NFL history to win a division with a losing record (7-9). I think we all remember Marshawn Lynch going all BEAST MODE on the 11-5 New Orleans Saints to seal their Wild Card victory.

On any given Sunday…
Continue reading »

Sound-Off: Taking The High Road

 Posted by at 9:30 am  Big Ben, NFL Playoffs, Sound-Off  Comments Off on Sound-Off: Taking The High Road
Jan 052012
 

By Hennessy

The “Mile High” road to be exact.

Three days from now that is exactly where our boys in Black and Gold will be, and I guess I’m saying I like our chances compared to the alternative(s) that could have been bestowed upon us. Unlike Chris, I have a certain degree of disdain for Tebow his Highness, mainly rooted in my utter disdain for the “Media Tidal Waves” that like to make something out of nothing. Tim Tebow took the field behind perennially incompetent Kyle Orton. I mean, they had superfans buying damn billboards asking for Tebowmania to begin.  Anyone who didn’t expect some degree of improvement would be likened to a fool, and that’s exactly what it was, a degree of improvement.

WHAT A STREAK OF DIVINITY FATHER TIM!!! You beat seven teams that are watching the post-season from their local watering hole this year!!!

Tim Tebow is an average NFL quarterback. I am not jumping on the bandwagon of his unconventional style, as I don’t think it differs much from the last “Unconventional Wave” of Miami chewing on the the wildcat formation (Where did that get them?). Denver has a running threat behind center that has yet to prove he can throw the ball consistently. The only thing that he has proven is he is a better option than Kyle Orton. Hell, I would take my chances with Byron “One-Game” Leftwich before Orton.
Continue reading »

No Losers When Steelers Face Broncos

 Posted by at 10:02 am  NFL Playoffs, Ratbirds, Super Bowl Champions  Comments Off on No Losers When Steelers Face Broncos
Jan 042012
 

I have a confession to make. I’m a Tim Tebow fan. I’ve mentioned it in passing on this blog but never felt compelled to join the Tebowmania sweeping sports media by writing a full-fledged post about him. Since the Pittsburgh Steelers will be facing Tebow and his Denver Broncos in Sunday’s Wild Card playoff game, I suppose now’s the time to do so.

My reasons for liking Tim Tebow are twofold. And, not coincidentally, they are the exact same reasons so many people don’t like him. First and foremost, I like him because he’s a winner. He won a state championship in high school and a national championship in college. He took over a Broncos team that started the season 1-4 and led them to their first playoff appearance since the Steelers knocked them off in the AFC Championship Game back in 2005. Sure Denver has lost three straight and backdoored into the playoffs but if not for Tebow’s thrilling last-second victories in four consecutive games, they wouldn’t have even been in that position.

I’ve only purchased two non-Steeler jerseys in my life. One was a Doug Flutie #7 when he played for the Buffalo Bills back in the late 90s. I like Tim Tebow for the same reason I liked the Magic Flutie; they’re both exciting and unconventional quarterbacks who may not always look pretty but have an uncanny ability to get the job done. Flutie wasted the best years of his athletic life in Canada because the NFL’s cookie cutter mentality didn’t see him as a prototypical NFL quarterback. A lot of people dismiss Tebow because he also isn’t a classic drop back passer.

So? Doug Flutie ran around and made plays. Tim Tebow runs around and makes plays. You know who else runs around and makes plays?  Ben Roethlisberger. Outside of Pittsburgh, a lot of media types downgrade Big Ben because he isn’t a pure passer like Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers. Steeler Nation usually counters with some variation of “Count the rings!” Well, if you’re going to forgive Ben’s sandlot style of play because it works, why not do the same for Tebow? I also find it funny that some people criticize the Broncos for leaning on their running game to cover for their young quarterback as if the Steelers didn’t run the ball 60% of the time during Ben’s first three seasons.

Now we move on to the other reason Tim Tebow is a polarizing figure: his religion. The Baltimore Ravens’ resident loudmouth Terrell Suggs went on ESPN yesterday and made some pretty offensive religious based comments. The Ginger Dictator is quick to hand down fines when players flip off the fans or phone their wife to tell her they’re not seriously injured. What do you think the chances are T-Sizzle will be fined for his comments?

I find it a pretty sad commentary on society that anybody would have a problem with somebody being TOO religious. I’m not going to get into particular faiths but religion in general tends to stress honor, humility and respect for your fellow man (and particularly women). How any of those things could be considered “bad” is beyond me. Yeah, some religions have been tainted by scandal but so has the Penn State football program.

Besides, if any team’s fans should have no problem with ultra-religious players, it’s fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers. If Tebow is the most up-front about his faith in football, Troy Polamalu has to be a close second. The man makes the sign of the cross before every play for crying out loud. And not so coincidentally, he also has the second best selling jersey, behind only Tim Tebow. Sure, some of that has to do with chicks digging Troy’s long luxurious hair but much of it is because he’s not only a great player, he’s a soft-spoken gentleman. You can wear a Polamalu jersey with pride and, if you’re an out-of-town member of Steeler Nation, without being barraged with rape jokes.

Another not-so-hidden message I put in many of my posts is the fact I find many athletes to be obnoxious. When I was a kid, I was lucky to grow up woefully ignorant of what our star athletes were up to. Carnegie Mellon hadn’t invented the internet and the media was better about keeping things secret. I had no idea Lawrence Taylor was banging 14 year old hookers or the Pirate Parrot was selling blow to half the team. Kids growing up today can click two buttons and see Antonio Cromartie forgetting the names of his nine children from eight different mothers or the semen stains Big Ben left in the bathroom of a dive bar down in Georgia. I saw Santonio Holmes’ horse-dick for criminey’s sake. And women whine about Victoria’s Secret babes causing an unhealthy body image. Regardless of personal beliefs, it’s nice to know there are still good guys out there like Troy and Tim.

Oh, about that other non-Steeler jersey I bought? As you may have guessed, it’s a Tebow. So no matter who wins on Sunday, I’ll still have a rooting interest going forward. Although for the record, I’ll be rocking my classic #86 during the game. While I may respect, even admire, this weekend’s opponent, my loyalties will never be divided.

Update: Tomlin Decrees Clark Won’t Play Sunday

 Posted by at 2:12 pm  Injury Report, Ryan Clark, Secondary  Comments Off on Update: Tomlin Decrees Clark Won’t Play Sunday
Jan 032012
 

As I wrote this morning, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was given the decision as to whether safety Ryan Clark will play this Sunday in Denver. Well, he’s made his choice and Clark will be inactive when the Steelers take the field against the Broncos. I’m not really surprised by this choice since it’s the same one he made the last time we visited the Mile High City.

A fully healthy Clark accompanied the team to Denver in 2009 and did some running drills to test how his body would react. While the sickle cell trait which flared up after a game against Denver in 2007 didn’t seem affected, it’s best to err on the side of caution. The first time, Clark lost his spleen, gallbladder and thirty pounds while the Steelers lost him for the season. A second flare-up could potentially cost Clark his life.

Now we know why the Steelers were compelled to re-sign Anthony Madison. Madison is primarily a corner but has played some safety during his time in the Black and Gold. Ryan Mundy, who has played very well when called upon this season, will start in place of Clark with veteran Will Allen also there for insurance. Keenan Lewis, who has been the team’s primary nickelback this season, wasn’t mentioned as among the injured despite missing time against Cleveland. Tomlin did say rookie Cortez Allen is questionable after suffering a separated shoulder. Allen comes in when Dick LeBeau goes to his six DBs formation so Bryant McFadden might see increased playing time on Sunday.

The bad news is our top ranked secondary just took a pretty big hit with the loss of Clark, who is by all accounts having a Pro Bowl caliber season. The good news is we’re facing the Denver Broncos, who are almost exclusively a running team. Last week in a game the Broncos thought they had to win to make the playoffs, Tim Tebow completed a grand total of SIX passes. Even against a depleted Steelers defense, I’d be hard-pressed to envision him throwing more effectively against us.

 

Injuries Mount As Steelers Limp Into Denver

 Posted by at 8:08 am  Injury Report, Rashard Mendenhall, Ryan Clark, Secondary  Comments Off on Injuries Mount As Steelers Limp Into Denver
Jan 032012
 

Maybe Mike Tomlin has a medical career in his future after all.

In his post-game press conference, the Pittsburgh Steelers head coach declined to speculate on the injury to running back Rashard Mendenhall. He simply opined, “When a guy goes down in open grass not touched by anyone, experience tells me that’s generally not good.” Well, the diagnosis turned out to be as bad as we feared with Mendy suffering a torn ACL requiring immediate surgery. The Steelers placed him on injured reserve, ending his 2011 season.

Longtime members of Steeler Nation will remember Rod Woodson became the first (and as far as I know, only) player to return from a torn ACL in the same season when the Black and Gold made it all the way to the Super Bowl in 1995. Typically, that injury requires a 6-8 month healing period and even then players often take a few years to get back to where they were before. If they ever get there at all.
Continue reading »

Week 17 Recap: Best Laid Plans

 Posted by at 7:51 am  Hines Ward, NFL Playoffs, Rashard Mendenhall, Recaps, Redzone Redman, Ryan Clark, Troy Polamalu  Comments Off on Week 17 Recap: Best Laid Plans
Jan 022012
 

Well, that didn’t go according to plan.

On paper, this had the potential to be one of the craziest final weekends in NFL history. No fewer than a half dozen teams had a realistic shot at a playoff berth. All they had to do was win and hope things fell their way. Naturally, almost every single one of those teams lost.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were one of the few that took care of business. Playing their starters the entire game, they battled the Cleveland Browns to a hard fought 13-9 victory. Unfortunately, the gambit didn’t pay off when the Cincinnati Bengals didn’t hold up their end of the bargain, losing to the Baltimore Ravens 24-16. THE RATBIRDS ONLY HAVE ONE GOOD OFFENSIVE PLAYER AND YOU LET HIM RUN FOR 200 YARDS?!?! Thanks to the Jets, Broncos and Raiders also losing, the Bungles were still rewarded for their incompetence by backdooring into the final Wild Card spot.

If the Steelers fail to make noise in this year’s playoffs, this game is going to be the lightning rod for Steeler Nation’s displeasure. By playing his starters the entire game, Mike Tomlin deprived several injured stars, particularly Ben Roethlisberger, of much needed rest. In addition, the team suffered several fresh injuries, most notably to running back Rashard Mendenhall. The preliminary diagnoses is a torn ACL, which would not only end his season but is usually a career-altering injury for a running back. Regardless, Mendy isn’t going to be playing next week.
Continue reading »

Know Thy Enemy: Cleveland Browns

 Posted by at 7:14 pm  Big Ben, Game Preview, Injury Report, NFL Playoffs  Comments Off on Know Thy Enemy: Cleveland Browns
Dec 302011
 

 In Order To See Awesome Video, The Jagoffs Make You Like Their Facebook Page

Ah, the beauty of the NFL. For all the criticism I level at the game, there’s nothing like the mad playoff scramble which occurs each and every season. As we approach the final week of the 2011 season, the AFC Playoff scenarios have been repeated ad nauseam. The Cincinnati Bengals host the Baltimore Ravens with a playoff spot on the line. If Cincy wins, they’re in.

Then the fun starts. An first round bye? Check. The top seed in the AFC if the Patriots, who will probably pull Tom Terrific rather quickly since he’s nursing a separated non-throwing shoulder, lose to the Bills?  Check.

Of course, the party ends rather quickly if the Pittsburgh Steelers don’t first take care of their business against the Cleveland Browns. The Browns stink. Nothing really more needs be said. But, as Hennessy astutely pointed out yesterday, they seemingly live to be a thorn in the Steelers’ side. Against 30 other teams, they are who we thought they are. Against the Black and Gold, they’re the second coming of the ’86 Bears.

So it’s understandable Mike Tomlin wants all hands on deck this Sunday. Giving credit where credit is due, the Browns don’t lie down for anybody. Unlike the gutless Colts, who decided to wait until week 15 to actually show up, or the hapless St. Louis Rams, who packed it in after missing a chip shot field goal last week, the Browns have been playing hard every week. That doesn’t mean they’re any better than those two teams, it just means you can’t score a touchdown on your opening drive and then assume they’ll wave a white flag.
Continue reading »

Steelers Get Early Christmas Present

 Posted by at 10:10 am  Big Ben, NFL Playoffs, Ratbirds  Comments Off on Steelers Get Early Christmas Present
Dec 192011
 

Santa Claus didn’t have a chance to make his list nor check it twice before he started out handing out gifts. But we know what all the good boys and girls are wearing this year: Black and Gold.

A wild and wacky weekend of NFL action has placed the fate of the Pittsburgh Steelers in their own hands. Earlier in the afternoon, the Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans both lost, clinching a playoff spot for the boys from the ‘Burgh. Then, in front of a national audience on Sunday Night Football (cue Faith Hill in S&M gear), the Baltimore Ravens went out to San Diego and crapped the bed so epically even obnoxious ass-kisser Cris Collinsworth turned on the team about halfway through. If I were the Ratbirds, I would request all future opponents wear black and gold because that seems to be the only time they bother showing up.

With the Ravens’ loss, the Steelers currently sit atop the AFC North. If the Steelers win out, they would not only win the division and gain an all-important first round bye, they’d also be the AFC’s top seed, ensuring home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Of course, we’re assuming Baltimore doesn’t have any more brainfarts. While they face the Browns on Christmas Eve, they wrap up with the Bengals, who could be fighting for a playoff spot on the final weekend.

Regardless, things couldn’t have shaken out more perfectly for the Steelers. Destiny is finally in their grasp. With their final two games against the dreadful Rams and Browns, tonight’s match-up against the San Francisco 49ers takes on monumental importance. If they can get out San Fran with a W, the rest of the season should fall into place.

In addition to all these wonderful toys, the Steelers also found a Big Ben under their tree. Yes, Ben Roethlisberger reportedly showed “much improved” mobility at practice and it appears he’s going to start tonight. I know I said in my game preview that the injury risk wasn’t worth it but that was then, this is now. The Ravens boxed it up, put a nice big bow on top, and placed it under the tree, all that’s left is for the Steelers to unwrap their gift.

Pittsburgh Steelers On Collision Course With Tim Tebow

 Posted by at 8:20 am  NFL Playoffs  Comments Off on Pittsburgh Steelers On Collision Course With Tim Tebow
Dec 122011
 

A Sunday isn’t a Sunday without the Pittsburgh Steelers. Unlike the last time I had a weekend without my beloved Black and Gold, at least my computer didn’t seize the opportunity to give me the middle finger. In fact, I was able to enjoy a stress-free Sunday of NFL action. And in the process it gave me a chance to size up the AFC Playoff picture.

It appears that Tim Tebow is a man of destiny. And that destiny is placing him and his Denver Broncos on a collision course with the Steelers.

The Steelers currently sit at 10-3, the same record as the Baltimore Ravens. I didn’t bother watching the Ratbirds this week because everybody knew they were going to hammer the gutless Colts. Instead, I kept an eye on our other AFC North rival, the Cincinnati Bengals. Cincy lost a heartbreaker to the Houston Texans when somebody named TJ Yates led Houston 80 yards in the final two minutes to score the game-winning touchdown. The loss was killer as it dropped the Bengals from the second Wild Card slot to a game behind the New York Jets. I know that box I posted above says they’re also behind the Titans but that’s only if they finish in a three tie as Cincy holds the head-to-head advantage after beating them a few weeks back.
Continue reading »

Road To Playoffs Runs Through…Cincinnati?

 Posted by at 7:43 am  Circle of Hate, NFL Playoffs, Ratbirds  Comments Off on Road To Playoffs Runs Through…Cincinnati?
Nov 082011
 

If the NFL playoffs were to begin today, the top seed in the AFC would not be the New England Patriots. Nor would it be the New York Jets. It for damn sure wouldn’t be the Indianapolis Colts, who should all donate their game checks to charity because they surely aren’t doing anything to earn them. The number one seed in the AFC wouldn’t even go to our mortal enemy, the Baltimore Ravens.

The first overall seed in the AFC would be…   The Cincinnati Bengals?

The Bengals have managed to get enough players out on parole in time to cobble together the top team, ranking-wise, in the AFC. They even hold an edge over the Ratbirds by virtue of their AFC best 5-1 conference record. Despite starting a rookie quarterback and ranking 22nd in total offense, they’re out to their second best start in twenty years. Of course, it helps that they currently have the fourth ranked defense in football.
Continue reading »