Category:NFL
Posted on: December 23, 2008 2:52 pm
Edited on: December 23, 2008 3:05 pm
 

Steelers Marvel Smith to IR, Capizzi Signed

According to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Steelers have placed offensive tackle Marvel Smith on injured reserve and signed Jason Capizzi from the practice squad. 

Smith, who has been suffering from back issues has missed 10 of the last games.   Now the question is, can Capizzi help the oft maligned Steelers oline and be effective in keeping Big Ben upright?  Capizzi, measuring 6'9 and 315 lbs has the height and weight to fill a much needed hole in the offense.  He was originally released earlier in the season due to a stress fracture in his foot. 

Source:  Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

 

Posted on: December 22, 2008 6:45 am
 

Verdicts In, Arians Needs To Go

Alright, up until now, I was sitting on the fence regarding Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, but after the game on Sunday and Arians comments to the press, I just shook my head and said, that does it.  The comment regarding the loss?  We "didn't run the ball enough and didn't run it well enough."  Duh...you think?  40 pass plays to 24 rushing attempts, makes that blaringly obvious. 

So Parker wasn't get much accomplished on the ground, but where was the justification in going to the air against a defense who was in the top five in passing defense?  Especially when running back Mewelde Moore ran for as many yards in three attempts, as Willie Parker did in 18.  Yet you only had Ben hand off three times to Moore against the Titans. Why Bruce, why?

Once again Bruce, you hung that oline out to dry yesterday by wanting to go to the air.  You can say all you want about how you're run first oriented, but we know better.  You showed it when you kept Ben in the pocket against the Eagles, you showed it in Indianapolis, my god, against a team that the Steelers could actually have a chance to run on, you go to the air.  Again you showed it today. 

So the Steelers weren't effective with the run, not necessarily true.  Then again, the Titans weren't either but they didn't give it up.  That's the difference Bruce.  You abandon it too easily.  And going into the playoffs, now, can we really trust you not to call another quarterback drawl on 3-16 like you did against the Jaguars last year?  I wonder, especially given your comment when questioned about a 3d and 1 passing attempt that was intercepted by a Colts defender.  The comment went along the lines of "we used it because it worked before".  Umm, Bruce, we know that Dick LeBeau tends to learn from plays that bit his defense and adjust so not to let them work again, you don't think other DC's do the same?

In the scheme of things, the Titans loss wasn't a major loss, but that leads to questions going down the line, especially since they'll be facing the same teams again in the playoffs, will you be doing the same thing?  I gave you a pass last year and thought you'd figure it out by now, but apparently you haven't. 

Alot of blame has been placed on the Steelers offensive line this season, perhaps, undeservingly so.  How can an oline without an identity be effective.  At one point in time, the Steelers oline had been considered one of the best olines in the league.  The reason, they knew what they were supposed to do, they had an identity.  No, it wasn't a pass protect oline, it was built to open up the run.  The reason Ben did well under that oline was his ability to get out of the pocket to make the plays.  Now the oline gets shredded and Ben has been on the ground more times then most of the quarterbacks in the league.  You've failed to give this oline an identity.  Are they to be built to open up holes in the defense to get the run through?  Or are they to be a pass protect oline?  Which one is it Bruce? 

I don't know Bruce, perhaps the AFC North is not for you.  As an OC, you may be better off with a team that uses the West Coast Offense.  That seems to be more your style of play and you would probably fare much better there, then with a team whose identity is based much more on their ability to run the ball.  I don't believe Pittsburgh is the place for you.

Posted on: December 22, 2008 6:07 am
 

They were not gong to be denied

They were proclaimed the best in the AFC, that was, until the Steelers beat the Ravens.  Once that happened, those in the media jumped the bandwagon and started in on how the Steelers were the team to beat.  Instead of ranting to the media about how they got no respect, they seemed to shrug their shoulders and went into Sunday with an attitude of..."we'll show you".

Of course, all the props went to the Titans defense before the game and with Haynesworth and Vanden Bosch being out, people were proclaiming an easy win for the Steelers offense, an offense that had trouble against tough defenses all season.  That defense wasn't so tough without their two star players.  Jeff Fisher made sure to prove otherwise.

Steelers went into Tennessee, another team that had the Steelers numbers and well, was handed their butts.  The star that day wouldn't be a big named linebacker, but a rookie named Jason Jones.  Jones, with his 3.5 sacks would make a veteran quarterback, one who had come back from behind to win games against the Cowboys and the Ravens, look like, well, a rookie. 

Not only did the Titans defense make hash of an ineffective oline and stuff the running game, but the offense set out to prove it was better then people were saying they were.  They didn't abandon the run and when Collins was able to open it up, forced the Steelers to back up and played balanced enough to take the win, and they took advantage of the turnovers.  29 pass plays to 31 running plays is pretty balanced, wouldn't you say.  It's not a secret, the offense that can stay balanced tends to win.  They made a huge statement yesterday, they did something the so called better offenses couldn't do, put up 300 yards on the top ranked defense in the league.

Titans were  out to prove a point, along with sewing up HFA for the playoffs.  They showed why they remained the top team in the AFC and in the NFL this Sunday. 

Posted on: December 21, 2008 12:11 pm
 

Fever and Lights in the City of Steel

Funny, no matter how many times you've been there and seen it, it's still catches you by surprise, in a good way.  Or maybe not.  Somehow I knew what I would see.  Call it faith.  Faith, that the City of Steel would light up it's buildings for the holidays and faith, that the Steeler faithful, would be that, faithful, and showing their pride. 

It was affirmed, while I sat for two hours in the Charlotte Airport, waiting for my plane to Pittsburgh, passing the time, people watching.  Amongst the holiday travelers, the soldiers on leave, the young students heading home for the holidays, there were, yes, the Steeler faithful.  Fans of the black and gold, in their jersey's, sweatshirts, jackets with the Steelers emblem on it, intermixed in the crowd.  Some were on flights that had arrived from Pittsburgh, a few, were like me, waiting for our flight into the Steel City. 

It just seemed right, that as the Steelers fight for first seed and homefield advantage, that we displaced Steelers fans, arriving in the city of the AFC North Champions, should pass by a statue of Franco Harris (I think the other one is of William Pitt, though I'm not too sure), as we make our way from the terminal to the main building and baggage check.  And not to disappoint, just as the lights of the city took my breath away for a moment as we came out of the Fort Pitt Tunnel over the bridge, you could feel the anticipation in the air for this game, and for the games to come.  No matter how many times fans have seen this before, there's still the anticipation, the excitement, the joy for a team that has made it this far.  Indeed, even as my uncle, who currently lives in Tennessee walked through the door last night, sporting his turtle neck with the Steelers emblem and, this morning, came down wearing his t-shirt with the words Steelers across the front.  One thing is for sure, Steeler fever is alive and rampant in the City of Steel.

Today, the Steelers will stoke that fever even higher as they play against the Tennessee Titan in a battle for first seed.  Hard to say what this game will bring.  Some are saying that Kerry Collins is starting to wear down, that the horrible offense of the Steelers will once again play horrible.  Eh, who knows, only the end of the game will tell.

Although the running game for the Steelers may open up with the absence of Albert Haynesworth and Kyle Vanden Bosch of the Tennessee Titans, one would have to wonder if Bruce Arians will play to exploit that weakness or try to throw against a defense that ranks fifth in passing.  Eighteen interceptions for the season isn't something to sneeze at,  especially since 4 of those interceptions were by former Steelers player Chris Hope

Of course, for any Titan fan who thinks that Johnson and White will run all day over the Steelers defense, I suggest you ask the Giants fans who predicted that Jacobs and Ward was going to do the same, just how that went.   Kerry Collins will be called upon to use his arm to open up the running game.  Can he do it, well, yes, he can, even more so if the Steelers overlook him.  The question is, will they.  We'll have to wait and see.

Biggest question is going to be, just how tough will the teams really want to play?  Given they already have a bye and the possibility of facing each other in the playoffs may add some truth into the urban legend of not wanting to show the other team what they really have.  That and the possibility of risking injury to their players that would cause them to be out for the playoffs, leaves us to wonder how much we'll see from either of these teams.

Hopefully, it'll be a good game, and with the post-season just around the corner, one with no injuries. 

For me, unless the funeral home director has a tv there (rumor has it he does), this may be the first game I'll miss in three years.  Of course, my uncles and I are conspiring, just how we can keep track of the game this afternoon.   Either way, it's always comforting to know that Steeler fever is as alive as the Christmas lights of the City of Pittsburgh at this time of year, and that the Steelers have continued to find ways to continue to make that fever rise.


Posted on: December 18, 2008 6:27 am
 

Progression of a Quarterback

Call me a homer if you will, I’ll accept that title.  I guess, if we’re fans of a team that is on a winning streak, we all are in one way or another.  And we’ve all had to go through listening to the maligning of our respective teams quarterbacks from time to time.  Some times it’s warranted, others not so much.

I remember sitting and listening to how Peyton couldn’t win the big one, or how Tom Brady was only a field general, only as good as the system he was in.  Of course, there were the arguments about how Tom Brady would be much better behind the Colt’s oline.  Put another quarterback on the Steelers team and they’d do just as well (which we know isn’t true).

In reality, a quarterback regardless of how good he is, is only as good as the team he is on.  Kurt Warner would never survive behind the Steelers oline.  But I’m digressing here.  Because as a homer, this blog is a testimony to Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.  No, seriously.  Over the years, I’ve watched this kid (yes Ben, if you’re young enough to be my son, you’ll always be a “kid”) progress.  There were times I thought he could do no wrong and there were times that I’d want to put him in a corner until he gain some sense. 

While everyone watched the drama over the Philip Rivers/Eli Manning saga in the 03 draft, Bill Cowhers and the Steelers scouting staff quietly picked up a quarterback in the first round, something the Steelers hadn’t done since Terry Bradshaw was drafted.

It wouldn’t be too long before he’d see his first game and from that time on, we’ve watched him progress.  One thing about Ben, it’s his team first.  He’s never been one to care about his numbers, however, I think he secretly enjoys proving his detractors and nay sayers wrong.

In his rookie year, we’ve heard that the Steelers would be lucky to finish 8-8 when Maddox went down.  Ben would go on to have a 13-0 start his first year, taking the Steelers to 15-1 in regular season.  Okay he struggled in the playoffs and would take his first loss in the NFL in the AFCC.  But that year, the only thing that those who doubted him got right was that no rookie quarterback had gotten into and won the Superbowl.  In the off-season he made Jerome Bettis a promise to get him to the SB. 

The next year, due to injuries and a shaky start, it looked like it wasn’t going to happen, but when Ben returned and after a loss to the Colts, in 2005, the Steelers started the run for the wildcard and never looked back.  Some can argue that it was the Steelers running game that got them there, perhaps, but it was Ben’s arm that opened up that running game.  Once defenses backed off, the running game opened up.  While the Steelers offense kept them in it, the Steelers defense methodically did it’s work too.  That year, the Steelers would win the Superbowl.  Okay, maybe Ben didn’t play well, but they had to get there and he was the one that helped them do that.

After a motorcycle accident and an appendectomy at the beginning of the next season, it looked like SB hangover set in, and it did.  However, instead of having a losing season, Cowhers last season, they ended up .500.  It was when Ben finally got healthy that they started winning.  (I’ll rant about this as one of his flaws later).

The Steelers weren’t expected to do much with a rookie head coach coming in the next year.  To top that, there were arguments as to whether Roethlisberger would be a top ranked quarterback, ever.  While Tom Brady and the Patriots were running the gambit for a perfect season, Ben Roethlisberger was taking the Steelers offense to an AFC North title.  Yep, it was the running game, after all, before Willie Parker broke his ankle, he was leading the NFL in rushing yards.  Yet, even with the strong running game, Roethlisberger would end up being 2nd or 3d overall for quarterbacks that year, despite being the most sacked quarterback in the league.

There was one thing that people kept saying about Roethlisberger, that he could only win a game if he was ahead.  If the Steelers had to come from behind to win, it wouldn’t happen.  Guess this year he’s proving them wrong.  Yeah, you may want to say that with no running game, there’s no offense.  I disagree.  A team with no offense isn’t going to be able to control the field, nor be able to come back and tie or win a game, especially against top ranked defenses. 

This year, after losing two games in which the Steelers had the lead in, the Steelers had come back from behind in three of them to win two and tie one.  Can we really say that the Steelers would have lost to the Cowboys in overtime?  Hard to say, Deshea Townsend made that a moot point.  Tony Romo choked?  Well, yeah he did, but he wasn’t the one playing on defense that allowed the Steelers to drive back for a touchdown to tie the game.  Ravens defense changed up, yeah they did, but they were the ones to go into prevent defense…could it be the way that Ben and the wide receivers were driving down the field for 92 yards that caused Rex Ryan to call it that way? 

Yeah, Ben has his problems.  He has an ego that for some reason or another makes it hard for him to sit out a game or two when he’s injured, when there is more then capable backups to substitute for him.  Not like he’s going to lose his starting quarterback slot anytime soon.  Yeah, he holds on to the ball too long at times, but that’s just him wanting to make big plays.  We curse him when he gets sacked, we cheer when he is able to get the big play off.  Yeah, sometimes he doesn’t read the field, but what quarterback is perfect at that? 

But for as much as the offense has struggled in some games, they’re still managing to put up enough points to put themselves in the position for the win.   Despite the lack of a running game, despite an oline, though improved, still struggles.  Those come from behind wins have been on Ben’s arm.  What does it matter if it’s by 1 or 100 points, a win is a win.  And besides, when you have a great defense, do you really need to be putting up 45 points a game anyway?   

And this year, where a lot of quarterbacks have struggled and have become flustered at the end of the game when they're behind, Ben hasn’t done that, at least not since the Colts loss.
Posted on: December 17, 2008 12:15 pm
Edited on: December 17, 2008 12:19 pm
 

GO ELIJAH GO !!!

It’s not uncommon to hear the chants of the crowd in stadiums when a wide receiver gets past the last defenders, when a running back breaks through a pile and runs downhill towards the goal line, when the return specialist breaks through and makes his way down the field for a touchdown.  The chant of “go, go, GO”, hoping some how it would encourage the person who was fighting past the defenders, urging them on.

As fans of football, we’ve been there, watching our team fight through adversity, cheering them on, elated when they break through for a victory.  Go, Go, Go !!!

And there they are, heroes to young boys who aspire one day to maybe be on that field of battle themselves.  Players who send fans cheering and cursing at the same time.  And any given Sunday, in a stadium where the Steelers black and gold show up, towels are waving in hopes to encourage their team on. 

In the midst of the defenders on that field is defensive end Aaron Smith.  The ten year veteran of the Steelers defense has seen many foes.  How important is Smith to the Steelers defense?  Very, his absence last year was noticeable.  In the past the one time Pro-Bowler would fight through injuries to provide his strength and leadership to a defense that consistently remained in the top ten in the league.  This year, on the field he would be having a banner year, with 53 tackles and 5.5 sacks.  Unfortunately, for Smith, the “enemy of battle” would not be just the teams that the Steelers meet each Sunday (or Thursday, Saturday or Mondays) and would not just be on the field. 

The rumors would be confirmed, in a December 14th  article with Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, that Smith’s son, Elijah would be diagnosed and treated for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, a cancer that attacks the white blood cells. This form of cancer, if caught early enough, has an 80 percent survival rate.  Since the diagnosis, just prior to the Giant’s game, Elijah, now five, has responded well to the chemotherapy and has had positive results in fighting this disease.  This battle, dad would play a supporting role and it will be Elijah who is fighting and winning the battle.

“We feel blessed," said Smith, a man of faith. "We will come out of this and be a stronger family, and my son will be a stronger person." (1)

During this time, Smith would have the support of his teammate and coaches to help him through this both on and off the field.  Said Smith last week, "It's unbelievable the group of guys we have. Honestly, I know some of them better than I know my own family." (1)

On December 26th, the Steelers organization will be hosting a blood drive at Heinz Field, where current and former Steelers players will greet donors.  Aaron Smith acknowledged the crucial need for blood, his son having undergone five or six blood transfusions in the process of his treatment. 

One day this fight will be a memory for both Elijah and his family.  For now, he’s the valiant warrior fighting and winning over his foe.  Today, Elijah is the hero, as is his family and I for one will be chanting

GO ELIJAH GO!!!

(1) Source:  "Since October, pain has had new definition for family of Aaron Smith, Ron Cook, December 14, 2008, Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Posted on: December 16, 2008 11:45 am
Edited on: December 16, 2008 11:48 am
 

One Bloggers Dilemma

Man, I thought political blogging was tough.

Okay, I’ll admit it, I may have rethought my passion for writing and completely discounted any thoughts of becoming a professional journalist, and it could be attributed to my experiences with blogging. 

During the course of the elections, I had done quite a bit of political blogging.  One thing about blogging, for the most part it’s like writing op-eds, opinions.  Usually you’re writing about a recent event or statement that has got you either ecstatic or trying to express your fury in words.  Problem is, if it’s a major event, you’re usually one of 10,000 who are blogging on the same subject.  If you’re lucky, very, very, very lucky then you may be the first one to scoop the bloggers.  Of course, those instances are rare. 

And I thought sports blogging would be easier.  Talk about having rose colored glasses on, seriously. When even NFL Network’s Jamie Dukes has his own blog, you know the competition just has gotten tougher.  Okay, well maybe not competition but trying to be original and catch something that others have missed, is well, dang near impossible. 

Sunday night, after the Steelers took the AFC North, I was so excited, not just in my beloved Steelers winning the division title twice in a row, but there would be so much for me to write on that would be “different” from the analysts and journalists.  I even wrote down each point of interest that would give me a whole week of blogs prior to the game between the Titans and the Steelers and the fight for first.  Of course, come Monday my hopes were dashed and I would find writers, real writers beating me to the scoop.  Man I’d fail miserably if I had to rely on this to make my living.

I thought about writing about how the Steelers chances in the playoffs might be better if they were on the road.  CBS's Judge Clark beat me to it.

Of course, I could have talked about Steelers coach Mike Tomlins 2nd season and 2nd division win, but Pittsburgh Post Gazettes sports columnist, Ron Cook already beat me to it.

Ben Roethlisbergers Elway-esque drives from behind.  Nope, that was covered in Gene Collier’s article for Monday’s edition of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

Discuss the NFL’s ruling on the controversial call at the end of the Ravens game?  Talked to death. 

Okay, I could talk about the defense, but I’m afraid people are getting tired of hearing about them.

Rant about Bruce Arians play calling, well when there was something to rant about I did, right now I’ll hold judgement on whether it really changed or not. 

The non-existent running game? Not sure how non-existent it is since in fourteen games they’ve managed 1440 yds rushing. 

Talk about fashion?  Umm, since it’s a sports site, that’s not an option. 

So what’s a girl to do?  You know it’s bad when you can’t even come up with something to blast Gregg Doyel or Mike Freeman with.

I could get away from the Steelers for a blog or two and talk about Dora.  Not sure though Dora is a credible story though.  Dora, supposedly from the planet Zgog, says that the distinction with her race of people is the third eye they have (honestly, it looks like a mole on the bridge of her nose), and that she’s carrying T.O.s baby.  Nah, I’m not buying either so of course why should I expect anyone who reads it to buy it.  Besides, in the event that one day I want to write a book, I want to be considered credible and not use my own blogs as sources. (By the way...Dora really is just a figment of my over active imagination).

So now, I have a dilemma, what to do.  Since I don’t think I can get away with sneaking in the Steelers locker room without being noticed and can’t pass myself off as a player on the practice squad, I guess I sit and wait for that news item that shows Troy Polamalu saving a puppy, while out running a speeding bullet on his way to prevent a major train wreck. 

I could write a blog lamenting the inability to come up with something original when all the sportswriters and analysts who actually need those articles for their livelihood had already used the ideas on what I was going to blog on.

I could also blog on some really good articles and insights of analysts who are watching the Steelers even though they stole my ideas (okay, just joking on that one).

And for those of you thinking that I could get a life, yeah, I’m looking into that one also.  Of course, I could always blog about getting a life.

Posted on: December 14, 2008 9:39 pm
 

One Goal Realized, Others to Achieve

It would be clinched in a game that lived up to it’s promise, a defensive battle fighting for the reigns of the AFC North.  For both Ravens and Steelers fans, it would lead to ulcers and, as usual, for me, my perfectly manicured nails, now jagged and bitten off.  It would be a game that ended in a controversial call and my husband telling me to relax, the tip of the ball passed the goal line before Holmes fell forward.  Of course, the win will be controversial and amongst fans and analyst will be discussed for a week or two longer.  

In the end, the Steelers offense would drive from behind to set up the score that would potentially tie the game, unlike last week though, they chose to go for the win.  Perhaps that call was controversial.  Fans would only have the replays to go off of.  Of course, there was no guarantee that they would have or wouldn’t have gotten the win without the call.  Regardless of the controversy, the division was sealed with the Steelers touchdown and an interception by William Gay that kept the Ravens from scoring at the end.  

I could go into what was bad in this game.  It could have been the referee’s calls and non-calls.  Ravens fans could argue about two calls that were overturned as being bad calls.  Steelers fans could argue about the non-calls, especially on a punt return that led to a tackle by punter Mitch Berger, which eventually led to Ravens touchdown.  I could mention the choke hold on James Harrison, but I won’t.  I prefer to gripe on things that players have control over.  Ike Taylor thinking that he was a Raven and allowing Raven’s quarterback Joe Flacco to run for a first down, when he was the one in perfect position to tackle him.  Not sure why Ike decided to block a Ravens wide receiver.  Speaking of wide receivers, the failure of the Steelers wide receivers to catch balls thrown to them have been hurting this offense during the season more then Ben Roethlisberger turning over the ball.  

I could discuss what I liked in this game, the catches by Hines Ward, Ben Roethlisberger getting the ball down the field, once again driving from behind to keep the Steelers in the game.  The team playing for a full 60 minutes.  The Ryan Clark and William Gay interceptions.  The defense keeping the Ravens to under 300 yards.  No interceptions by Ben Roethlisberger, and his keeping faith with his receivers and the change up in Bruce Arians play calling.  The best thing though, is the win and the division title.  Oh yes, no injuries.  

It was a road in which the Steelers were given no chance when they came into the season.  Touted as having the hardest schedule in the NFL at the beginning, the experts and non-experts had the Steelers sitting at home for the playoffs.  Some even had them having at best, an 8-8 season.  But the season played out and what was predicted, it never panned out.  The Steelers offense would come out as lackluster and their defense would prove to be stifling, seeking a spot in history.  Somehow, they came out though as a team, and now, control their own destiny going into the playoffs.  

Perhaps controlling that destiny isn’t a good thing, because, they seem to step up and give of themselves just a little more when their backs against the wall.  But for now, for tonight, it’s the division title.  Tomorrow, hopefully, they’ll see themselves as having their backs against the wall again for next Sunday, and the Sunday after, and so on, and so on.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com