Category:NFL
Posted on: October 6, 2008 5:09 am
Edited on: October 6, 2008 6:23 am
 

Steelers Collar the Jaguars

They said they were screwed.  That when they lost Rashard Mendenhall and Carey Davis during the Baltimore Ravens game in week four, that they lost their running game and the Steelers were going to struggle.  The demise of the Pittsburgh Steelers was overly exaggerated. 

Somehow this season, games have been classic.  The Browns, the Ravens game, classic Steelers rival games.  Steelers were going into Jacksonville and face the Jaguars.  The team that seemed to hold their number, the team they lost twice to in 07, once in the playoffs. 

The Steelers went in banged up against a defense whose pass coverage was suspect.  Would there be a running game for the Steelers, given that Willie Parker was out, given they lost their backups.  There were questions about Najeh Davenport and Gary Russell.  We said don’t worry.  Homer faith?  Perhaps.  However, Mewelde Moore did better in receiving against a run stingy Ravens defense. 

So it started, already the Jags were up by a touchdown due to an interception to Rashean Mathis.  If Ben had a nemesis, it would be Mathis.  However, the Steelers answered back.   It would end up being a game that would keep people on the edge of their seats, till the final seconds. 

Steelers defense did what we expected a Steelers defense to do, played great, especially in preventing an accurate David Garrard from getting down the field to get a touchdown, in the last minute of the game, protecting their lead.  Lamar Woodley would end up being the defensive stud this game with six tackles and 2 solo sacks.  Aaron Smith would have the spotlight in the last seconds, batting down a Garrard pass that ended the game. 

On the oline, is it too early to think that replacing Kendall Simmons with Stapleton may have been an answer to the weak right side?  Of course there was help with Ben Roethlisberger being able to roll out of the box and extend plays with his feet.  Yeah he was sacked three times, (the Jags found their pass rush) and at one point, for a moment, we thought he’d end up out of the game, however, he came out played without a hitch.  Arians had him play to what worked for him in the past.  Think the OC is finally learning? 

In the end, Ben would throw for 309 yards and three touchdowns,  and Moore would run for 99 yds.  The Steelers would not only answer how they would get passed a team that in the past few years had their number, but also how well they would do without Parker and Mendenhall – just fine. 
Posted on: October 2, 2008 3:30 pm
 

Stapleton to Start against Jacksonville

Those of us watching the continuing saga, "those are the days of our Steelers" may be happy to note, that Gary Russell was officially signed off the practice squad and will fill in the depth of the running back corp.  It was almost a given that the Steelers would sign Russell, the question was just when.  The Pittsburgh Post Gazette announced the signing today.

Also according to the Post Gazette, with right guard Kendall Simmons going out on IR, Darnell Stapleton earned the starting position for the upcoming Jacksonville Jaguars game.  Stapleton replaced Simmons during the Ravens game, after Simmons suffered his season ending injury.

 

Posted on: October 1, 2008 3:26 am
 

Steelers Watch - Jacksonville Game

It will be a short week for the Pittsburgh Steelers as they meet the Jacksonville Jaguars in Jacksonville.  Given the  season ending injuries to Rashard Mendenhall and Kendall Simmons, along with the Willie Parker already out, Steeler fans are watching the status of players for the upcoming game and the rest of the season. 

- Steelers linebacker Andre Frazier could possibly play this Sunday against the Jaguars.  Frazier, who was hurt on a play during the initial kickoff and was taken out of the game via backboard, had been reported to have been walking around the locker room and is apparently fine, reports say.

- Running back Willie Parker, nose tackle Casey Hampton and defensive end Brett Keisel will be out for the Jacksonville game.  It's being reported that Parker may return in Week 7, when the Steelers face the Cincinnati Bengals in Paul Brown Stadium.

- It's reported that Mike Tomlin is looking to bring in three running backs.  Steelers already signed Najeh Davenport on Tuesday and is expected to sign Gary Russell from the practice team by the end of the week.  The third running back has yet to be named, nor have there been any rumors of who the third back may be.

- Full back Carey Davis, who suffered a sprained ankle during the Raven game is questionable for the game on Sunday.  If Davis is unable to play, Sean McHugh is a probable to replace him. 

- With Kendall Simmons out for the season, Trai Essex and Darnell Stapleton will be competing for the starting job at right guard.  Stapleton replaced Simmons during the Ravens/Steelers game.  It should be noted that after Stapleton came in, the oline allowed no sacks on Ben Roethlisberger.

Tomlin admits that he should have more faith in his quarterback.  Concerned about time management, Tomlin called a time out because he believed that the play clock was about to expire.  Unfortunately, the time out was called just as the Steelers got the snap off to Ben which led to a touchdown pass to Mewelde Moore.  The touchdown was nullified by the time out and the Steelers had to settle for a field goal by Jeff Reed.   It's not the first time we've seen Tomlin jumping the gun and calling a time out which nullified an advantage for the Steelers.  Earlier in the season, Tomlin called a time out during an attempt to draw the defense offsides.  The strategy worked, however, the timeout nullified the play.  Mark it up to a young coaching mistake that should eventually fix itself with experience.

Ben Roethlisberger credits the boos from the crowd for firing him up and led to word of prayer to the offense in the locker room.  Roethlisberger, who was not able to get anything accomplished during the Eagles game and was sacked 8 times, and then spent two quarters registering very little progress and was sacked 3 times, would find himself able to move the ball and not receive a sack against him the entire second half.  One has to wonder, if that word of prayer also included OC Bruce Arians, since the play calling in the second half seemed to have switched by allowing Ben to go no huddle. 

Source:  Pittsburgh Post Gazette
 

Category: NFL
Posted on: September 30, 2008 3:19 pm
 

Davenport Resigned By Steelers

As we spent the day wondering who would replace the rookie running back Rashard Mendenhall, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette had been following the Steelers progression in getting a replacement in quickly.

According the to Pittsburgh Post Gazette, former Pittsburgh Steeler Najeh Davenport has been signed to add depth to the Steelers running Corp. 

http://www.postgazette.com/pg/08274
/916247-66.stm

Posted on: September 30, 2008 10:30 am
Edited on: September 30, 2008 2:25 pm
 

14-0 at a Cost, but it got Done.

Last night I figured out the real reason why I don’t play fantasy football.  While others are jumping up and down during high scoring, finesse offense games, I get excited over low scoring, brutal defensive battles.  Games where offenses are forced to try to overcome the juggernaut of the rush in front of them to make something happen.  Give me a game that keeps me on the edge of my seat all night along with a defensive onslaught and I’m a happy girl.

Monday night’s game was a classic Ravens/Steelers matchup, where it would be emotional and physical and it started from the first play.  There would be casualties in this battle for supremacy in the AFC North.  When the ESPN announcers stated blood would be drawn, they didn’t realize how right they were. 

On the opening kick-off Steelers backup linebacker Andre Frazier was hit hard and for a time, the crowd was quiet and players on both team sent positive energy to the injured player.  The crowd erupted though when Davis gave a thumbs up as he was being taken off the field.   By the end of the game, both teams would be playing their third and fourth string running back, with Ravens RB Willis McGahee and LeRon McClain both leaving the game.  Unfortunately for the Steelers, the rookie Rashard Mendenhall would find his season ending with his first NFL start after a hit left him with a fractured shoulder.  Steelers right guard, Kendell Simmons would find himself being placed on injured reserves. 

The first half of the game would leave us shaking our head at the inability of the Steelers offense to get anything accomplished.  Although it had started out with promise, the offense reverted back to it’s vanilla, conservative play calling, and although Ben Roethlisberger did a little bit better at avoiding the rush then last week, it wasn’t by much.  And I believe a collective groan went up, when we realized, that unlike Willie Parker and Hines Ward, Ben cannot make plays without a shoe. 

Something happened after the half though.  I’d like to think it was my yelling at the tv, threatening to make Bruce Arians a member of the “Ice Cream of the month club – no vanilla in this batch”, that had done it, but we would find out later that it was Ben, who gave his offense a butt chewing.  A personal foul (the first in the game that didn’t have an offsetting penalty) and a no huddle offense that we knew Ben could execute well.  Add a defensive touchdown by Steelers Lamar Woodley and the Steelers offense made it a game.  With no sacks in the 2nd half and some offensive drives we knew the Steelers were capable of, we were seeing the offense that Steeler fans came to know. 

In the end, a Jeff Reed field goal would leave the Steelers defending their undefeated streak at home on Monday nights to 14-0, and perhaps, have found a piece of the puzzle to answer the issue with an oline that eventually showed up by the end of this game.

Posted on: September 27, 2008 5:36 pm
Edited on: September 27, 2008 5:40 pm
 

Homecoming, Throwbacks, A Rookie and Monday Night

So their throwback uniforms aren’t the prettiest uniforms in the NFL, but they’re 2-0 when they wear them.  It’s a Monday Night home field advantage game, where they’re 22-5 at home on Monday’s and haven’t lost a Monday night game at home in their last 13 times.  The crowd will be stoked, the towels will be flying and a rookie running back will be making his start in front of a national audience, not to mention some home team greats like Yancy Thigpen and Carnell Lake. 

It’s homecoming weekend and a big game for both the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers.  And there’s questions on both sides…or at least there better be questions on both sides.  On one side, you have the Steelers offense which allowed 9 sacks on the quarterback in last weeks game.  On the other side, a rookie quarterback who relies a lot on the strengths of his running backs.  This game should be a very defensive game for both teams. 

Fantasy football freaks, sit your running backs in this game.  One thing we can expect, the Baltimore Ravens not to allow a 100 yd rushing game by the Steelers offense.  They’ve managed to stuff the running attack last year and forced Ben in the air.  The last time the Steelers allowed a 100 yd running game was when? 

I’m a little more secure in this weeks play by the oline and don’t expect the Steelers offense to allow 9 sacks on the QB this game.  Why?  Because, even as bad as that oline was last year, you didn’t have 2 consecutive games where the oline played atrociously.  Of course, analysts will tell you differently.  No doubt the Ravens defense can create havoc for the Steelers oline and for Ben.  Eagles style defense-don’t expect it.  After all, the Ravens met up in their first game with an atrocious Steelers oline and the Steelers played very well against it.  In fact, in his example of how the Ravens have the ability to get to Ben, during a segment of “Playbook”, Sterling Sharpe had to go back to a 2006 game when the oline was very good, to show how the Ravens defense could get to Roethlisberger. 

Both the Steelers and Ravens defenses will match up well in this game.  Both teams have playmakers who are able to create take aways and capitalize on the turnovers.  They’ll both stop the runs and force the game into the air.  Both offenses rely on the running game.  The difference is going to be, which rookie makes the worse mistake?

Monday will be Rashard Mendenhall’s first start of the season, it will be Joe Flacco’s first Monday night game – and first game against a defense then can stop the run.  With Ben no longer on the injury list and pro-bowl corner Samari  Rolle being out for the game, it’s possible for a big game for Ben.  But before ya’ll start putting in the Steelers WR’s in your fantasy starting line up, I’d just sit them.  Don’t look for this game to be a five TD game against the Baltimore Ravens, like the last time they met in their throwbacks.  Expect it to be closer.  Expect the defenses to be the mvps for this game. 

Expecting this game to be high scoring, don’t bet the house on it.  However, I give the homers (not really, it’s more of a logical edge) to the Steelers in this game, given home field advantage on a Monday Night, coming off of a bad beating from the guys down the road.  Oh yeah, I give it more to the veteran QB to make less mistakes then the rookie QB.

As far as Bart Scott’s bulletin board material by Rashard Mendenhall.  Ummm, Bart, I think there’s still the threat of hurting Hines Ward that kind of offsets that, don’t you?
Posted on: September 22, 2008 6:52 am
Edited on: September 22, 2008 10:07 am
 

Just Plain Ugly - Onus is on Arians

So I had to sleep on it, allowing myself to fully digest everything that happened in yesterdays game with the Steelers vs the Eagles, not allowing emotions to cloud my thought process as I write this up.  It wasn't a good sleep though, my mind running through the game over and over, trying to keep things in perspective.

To keep things in perspective, it was a loss, something that we expected to happen at least once (okay, maybe five times) this season.  One team had to win and the other had to lose.   It was a much deserved win by the Eagles and Jimmy Johnson's defense.  A constant blitzing defense against the Steelers offense made Ben Roethlisberger and Willie Parker ineffective.  We expected Johnson's defense to play tough, question is, why didn't Bruce Arians?  Perhaps I'm jumping ahead of myself on this, so let me digress abit before addressing that question.

It was a very physical game, which left players battered and bruised.  Brian Westbrook went down early, Donovan McNabb would end up hobbling at times, Ben Roethlisberger would leave with a hand injury, Byron Leftwich would end up with an ankle injury and Casey Hampton would suffer a groin injury.  Credit to both defenses for shutting down the strengths of their opponents offense.  In the end, it would be a very defensive, low scoring game.  There would be a total of 12 combined sacks, three interceptions and three forced fumbles.  For a fan who enjoys defensive shows, this was the game to watch.

As a Steelers fan, I couldn't be happier with the performance of Dick LeBeau's defense.  Steelers defense kept the Eagles running game under 100 yds and limited McNabb to his lowest passing perfomance so far this season.  Having registered 361 yds against the St. Louis Rams and 281 yds against the Dallas Cowboys, the Steelers would keep McNabb to 196 yds with one TD.  As the game proceeded, the Steelers defense adjusted and held the Eagles high powered offense to make it a smash mouth game.  In the end, the Steelers would only allow 13 offensive points.  Of course, that was 13 points too much.    We can't overlook Jeff Reeds accomplishments either.  It was Jeff Reeds field goals, including a career long of 53 yds, that kept the Steelers in the game offensively.  However, the Steelers defense and the kicking prowess of Reed were the only good things Steeler fans could take away from the game.

Last year the Steelers ended the season with questions on both the oline and the special teams.  Special teams this game for the Steelers was once again questionable.  Though no bobbles or mess ups as there was in the Cleveland Browns game last week,  Steelers return team couldn't produce much in yards returned, and the special teams defense allowed Philly to return the ball for good field position.  Offensive penalties against the Steelers would back the Steelers up not once but twice, not pretty when the Steelers offense hadn't been able to get anything going most of the game as it was.  This was just plain bad playing on the Steelers part. 

The most disheartening though was how the Eagles defense totally descimated the Steelers offensive line.  The constant blitzing from Johnson's defense had the Steelers oline collapsing like a house of cards, allowing eight sacks on Ben Roethlisberger and one on Byron Leftwich.  When Ben was being sacked, he couldn't get anything going on offense, regardless of whether it was the rush or in the passing game.   Amazingly, the Steelers were still able to get it down the field enough for two field goals.  Unfortunately, this wouldn't be enough and the offense would look out of sync for most of the game. A gutsy attempt by Ben, when he was allotted time to throw, would end up with an interception with a long pass to Nate Washington to be picked off by Asante Samuel.   There was nothing pretty to the Steelers offense at all.

Although we could credit the loss to the Steelers offensive line and the failure to protect Ben, the onus of this one lays directly with the play calling of Bruce Arians.  Arians seemed to have failed to adjust the play calling to give both the oline and Ben a break against the constant onslaught from the Eagles defense.  We've seen this before in last years game against the Cardinals.  Rather then keeping Ben back in shotgun, or playing no huddle, Arians seemed to continue to place his quarterback directly in the line of the barrage, by having him play directly under center.  He failed to give the Eagles different looks offensively to help the offense get in sync. 

Arians got a pass last year from most of the fans given it was his first year as OC with the Steelers, unfortunately, this year will be different.  With the level of talent on the Steelers offense, we'll expect the Steelers OC to be able to develop play calls to utilize their strengths and adjust for the defense that their playing, otherwise we'll be calling for his head (not that some of us aren't already).  Oh and we'll be expecting him to be studying more then the prior weeks game film.  Bruce, this loss is on you.

Update Note:  I should read others blogs before writing my own just so I don't get accused of plagarism.  Having noticed that Sircheeks blogs on the Cleveland game did a good/bad/ugly and my title thus referenced that, I felt it better to change the title.

Posted on: September 18, 2008 1:08 pm
 

Readying the Muskets - The Battle for PA

Some things will be expected.  Governor Ed Rendell will throw his full support behind his choice.  Local media’s will be hyping this event.  More then likely respective mayors will be weighing in.  It’s even possible that there will be statements made by Senator Arlen Spector and 2006 gubernatorial candidate Lynn Swann. 

The citizens of Pennsylvania have been there before, a week long lead up to the event, touting the strengths and weaknesses of the opponents that will face each other.  Nope, this is not the run up to the 2008 Presidential election, but Sunday’s game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Philadelphia Eagles.

We’ve seen this before, not so much a rivalry but more a battle for bragging rights of the best team in the state.  It’s always a Battle for Pennsylvania, whether it’s a match up between the Flyers and the Penguins, Phillies and the Pirates, Steelers and the Eagles.  Not too long ago, it was hockey, now with the NFL season in full gear, it’s football. 

The last time these two teams met in regular season, it was the high powered offense of McNabb and Terrell Owens against a Dick LeBeau defense.  A rookie quarterback and solid offense against a  Jimmy Johnson defense.  The two met at Heinz Field.  At the end, the Steelers would walk away with winning the game and stopping the Eagles win streak that year.  However, this isn’t the same team and it’s not at Heinz Field this year. 

When playing at Lincoln Stadium, the Eagles have held the reigns on the series with the Steelers 24-8-2.  It was in 1997 that these two teams met in the city of Independence where Philadelphia won the game 23-20.   In fact, the last time the Steelers have won in Philadelphia, well, before they were good.  You have to look back to 1965 for a win by the black and gold.

There are pressing questions going into this game.

- Can the Steelers overcome history?  We’ve counted on history being in our favor to explain why they would win the season opener at home and last weeks game against the Browns.  Now history is their foe, having shown it’s favor for the Eagles in this matchup when the Eagles were in their nest.  It’s possible but they’ll need some good mojo going their way to break that 40 year time span curse. 

- Will the oline hold up and protect Ben?  Willie Colon said they had to do better to protect their quarterback this week, to even play after the whistle should they need to.  Perhaps knowing that the right side is still a bit weak, may give Colon more incentive to stave off the Eagles pass rush. 

- Can LeBeau’s defense make Brian Westbrook a non-factor?  Mike Tomlin stated that the key to the game is to contain Donovan McNabb.  Although the Steelers were able to do that in the 04 game by shutting down TO,  the defense will not only have to keep McNabb from getting out of the pocket but also keep Westbrook irrelevant, not an easy job to do. 

- How effective will Ben Roethlisberger be with his sore shoulder?  Reports have Roethlisberger participating in full practice and Ben states that it feels better every day.  Given this, his shoulder should be a minor issue, if any.  Bigger question is, will Bruce Arians allow Ben to run a no-huddle offense against the Jimmy Johnson defense, something that Ben is almost perfect at executing but we haven’t seen in the last few games or even last year. 

And the two most pressing questions of all:

- Are there clandestine phone calls going back and forth between Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravensthal and if so, will it be the typical Philly Cheese Steak Hoagie vs the Primanti Brothers Sandwiches?

- Will a certain CBS Sportsline member who once declared me a football goddess after I predicted a Giants win over the Eagles be willing to once again place a wager deeming me such again should the Steelers win?

The answer to these questions, will be known by Sunday. 

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com