Posted on: December 29, 2008 6:01 am
 

Somethings to Ponder

  • Had Ben Roethlisberger not gotten hurt in Sundays game and sat in the second half, would fans still be crucifying Mike Tomlin for playing his starters?  What if he got hurt the first snap of the game? 
  • If Tomlin sat the starters Sunday and the Steelers came out looking lackluster in the divisional game, how many of us would be crucifying for Tomlin for letting the Steelers get cold?
  • Will the oline quit making it's mental mistakes in the playoffs?  Several touchdowns were negated this season due to either a holding penalty or false start. 
  • The Browns game was the first game in quite a few weeks that the Steelers opponents actually had an offensive holding call on the.  Will we actually see some calls against the opponents on blatant holds on James Harrison in the playoffs?  (You know both teams are going to try to get away with it, only the Steelers tend to get caught more often then their opponents).
  • Will we ever see Casey Hampton angry again?  After a holding call against Hampton in the Patriots game, two plays later, Hampton found a hole and ran straight through to get to Matt Cassell.  I, for one, would like to see Hampton get angry more often.
  • Willie Parker surpassed Rocky Bleier and became the eighth on the Steelers all time for rushing touchdowns, with his touchdown yesterday against the Browns.
  • Will we see Mike Tomlin be as aggressive in the playoffs as he was in the regular season?  Will Bruce Arians revert to conservative play calling like he did last year against the Jaguars in the Wild Card game?
  • How long will it take for Arians to abandon the running game in the playoffs?
more ponderings to come
Category: NFL
Posted on: December 28, 2008 5:29 pm
Edited on: December 28, 2008 5:55 pm
 

Steelers Sweep and Shut Out the Browns

They said it was a meaningless game…perhaps.  However, it was to be an opportunity for a team that was coming off of a stinging loss from the week before to gain confidence going into the playoffs   So on a bright Sunday afternoon, the Steelers faced the Cleveland Browns for their last game of the regular season. 

For as suspect as the Steelers offense had been called, perhaps it was good for them to play, especially starting the first quarter where the offense couldn’t seem to get anything going.  Somehow, we second guessed ourselves though, when the stadium went quiet and those of us at home watched with baited breath as the Steelers franchise quarterback lay on the field after a hit by two Browns defenders and a sigh of relief and a cheer going through the stadium as Ben Roethlisberger raised his thumb up as they were carting him off the field.  But let me digress a bit.

It was not a very good start for the Steelers offense.  An interception on Roethlisberger, then later, a beautiful touchdown pass from Ben to Nate Washington, negated on holding penalty.  Troy Polamalu would be denied a forced fumble by the referees and a defensive touchdown, would be called an incomplete pass.  But somehow, Willie Parker found enough rhythm and ran one in for his 24th career touchdown.  Hines Ward would not only have his 5th career season 1000 yard game, but would go on to complete a career 800+ possessions.  As Ben was getting into the groove, he would find himself out of the game, taken away to a local hospital by ambulance.  Byron Leftwich would come in and continue to take this offense down the field on the Browns, to include having a rushing touchdown on his own.

Defensively, James Harrisons presence was missed.  One would have to wonder if Browns running back, Jamal Lewis, would have met his 1000 yd season had the Steelers MVP been in.  However, defense held well today and shut out the Browns offense.  Romeo Crennell had hoped the wildcat offense could help the Browns fourth quarterback, however, the Steelers defense adjusted well and it would not be a good day for the kid from the Burgh in his first NFL start.  Defensive stud for the game was not a name well known throughout the season.  Tyrone Carter would replace safety Ryan Clark, who had dislocated his shoulder during the Steelers/Titans game.  Carter would come up with two picks, one which he ran back for a touchdown. 

Meaningless game, yes, probably.  Given the injury to Roethlisberger, in hindsight, was it a good idea.  I’m sure Ben would tell you it was a good idea and besides, as many analysts and players will tell you, an injury could occur on the first play or the fiftieth.  However, if coming off with not only a shutout, but also a sweep of the division (something that hasn’t been done since 2002), along with confidence going into the playoffs is meaningless, well then you have to be the judge on that one. 
Posted on: December 27, 2008 7:36 am
 

For The Love Of Mike

No, this is not a testimony of my love for my husband (who just happens to be named Mike), nor am I proclaiming that I have the hots for Steelers coach Mike Tomlin (though he is a rather nice looking man), however, as a female football fan, I think I can get away with using the word love while referencing a football coach. 

With the departure of Lane Kiffen from the head coaching position of the Oakland Raiders, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has become the youngest head coach in the NFL and now has his second division title to add to his two year career as a head coach. 

No doubt, when Tomlin took over the position of head coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers, he was in an enviable position, taking over a team that was only two years out from a Superbowl win, still stocked with talent in an organization that was seeing only it’s third coaching transition in three decades. 

I’ll admit it, I was skeptical of Tomlin when he was first hired.  Of course my loyalties were to Russ Grimm and Ken Wisenhunt, but neither would end up with the position.  No doubt, I had my concerns.  How would this coach change the way the Steelers played.  My biggest fear, Tomlin was going to replace Dick LeBeau.  It didn’t happen.  In fact, there was little transition in the coaching staff upon Tomlin’s arrival.  I won’t go into that however, since Pittsburgh Post Gazette’s columnist Gene Collier does a great job of outlining Tomlin’s transition and the respect he’s earned from his players.

What I do want to go into though is why I like Tomlin.  For the most part, it’s this simple.  He plays to win.  Before you mutter about all the negatives that you might see with him, you cannot argue, for better or worse, he plays to win.  Hear me out.

After the Dallas Cowboys game, when a lot of analysts were questioning as to why Tomlin went for a failed 4th and 1 instead of kicking a field goal to put the Steelers only one score behind, I was cheering that decision.  Okay, so it failed.  But what Tomlin consistenly has shown me is that he has the most important thing that a coach can have…faith in his players and his team. 

The same question came up as to whether Tomlin would have gone for it on 4th and short in the Ravens game or had taken the field goal to tie the game and send it in to overtime.  Tomlin would finally answer that question mid-week that he would have gone for it.  Basically because, he was playing to win the game. 

We’ve seen the difference in coaches that play to win versus coaches that play not to lose.  Give me a coach that plays to win, maybe that’s why the Steelers have had two winning seasons under Tomlin, 10-6 in 2007 and 11-4 (okay maybe 12-4 after the Cleveland game on Sunday). 

Perhaps we should nickname him “Maalox Mike”, for the Maalox moments that he has given us over the past two seasons, with the fourth down calls, that sometime work and sometimes don’t.  At least, for better or worse, he’s not afraid to put his trust in his players and take the chance. 

In the fore mentioned article, Collier wrote about how “smart” Tomlin was.  That seems apparent going into Sunday’s game against the Browns.  In recent press conferences, Coach Tomlin, as mum as Patriots coach Bill Belichick, when asked about the upcoming game would only comment that “we’re playing”. 

With nothing on the line for this game, it’s implied that Tomlin would be playing the majority of his players.  At the moment, everyone is a probable with the exception of strong safety Ryan Clark, who dislocated his shoulder during the Titans game.  Why play everyone in a game that means nothing?  I can see the upside to playing the game and not giving a two week break.  Steelers fans only have to go back to 04 to see what happened when the starters sat out for two weeks.  Of course they don’t have to go back that far.  Teams that seem to sit their starters and take two weeks off tend to come out cold in the playoffs.  It could also give the Steelers offense to sync up before it heads into the divisional game. 

Now I’m not proclaiming Tomlin god, after all, I still think it was a mistake not to make some moves to shore up the oline during the draft, and giving Bruce Arians carte blanche over the offense might not be the best idea.  But then, in a way, Tomlin is a mid-level manager who relies on his “supervisors” to advise him.  Of course, when it fails, he does hold them accountable.  After the loss to the Colts, Tomlin did call out his players and coaches.  Since then, the only loss the Steelers would have was last weeks game to the Titans.  The one nice thing about Tomlin is his youth.  He’s still young enough to learn from his mistakes. 

Only time will tell if Tomlin will live up to the expectations and continue in the tradition of former Steelers coaches Chuck Noll and Bill Cowher.  If he continues the way he is now, I can see a long tenure for Tomlin with the Steelers organization.
Posted on: December 27, 2008 6:03 am
 

Steelers Faithful Answers the Call

Often we talk about the players and the organizations.  Their on the field play, their off the field contributions.  No doubt the Rooney's and the rest of the Steelers organization, in the tradition of "The Chief" makes the community and their fans a part of their "family".  When the team reaches out to the community for help, the "family" responds by giving themselves.  Not their money, not canned goods, but literally, giving a part of themselves.

Each year the Pittsburgh Steelers, along with the Central Blood Bank, host their annual blood drive, which normally draws a large response.  This year, Steelers defensive end Aaron Smith reached out to the community with the plight of his five year old son Elijah and the transfusions necessary to help Smith's son battle leukemia, to show the dire need to maintain the blood banks supplies.  This year, nearly 900 Steelers faithful responded by showing up at Heinz Field on Friday and giving a pint of themselves, making this blood drive one of the largest and most successful drives in several years.  On hand to meet the donors were Steelers players, including Mr. Smith.

It is around the holiday season, that blood supplies tend to reach a critically low level.  Nationwide, the American Red Cross and local blood banks step up their efforts to reach out and make sure there is enough blood on hand for those patients that need it. 

Personally, I know the importance of blood donors, they helped save the life of my mother.  My mother under went a routine operation that went bad.  In the end, what saved her life was the blood transfusions (at the time, she made AMA journals for having received the largest amount of blood and surviving).  Had those donors not stepped up, an 11 year old girl and her sisters would have been left without a mother.

If you've donated blood this season, thank you.  If you haven't, please take a moment and stop by your local blood drive, blood bank or American Red Cross and give a little bit of yourself.  Don't worry, those needles only hurt for a second.

Source:  Steelers plea brings hundreds to blood drive at Heinz Field,  by Torsten Ove, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, dtd 12/27/08
Posted on: December 25, 2008 1:25 pm
Edited on: December 25, 2008 1:28 pm
 

Steelers Name Their MVP

With all the talk about who should be NFL league MVP and Offensive/Defensive Player of the Year, the Steelers acknowledge one of their own this year...again. 

For the second year, linebacker James Harrison has been named the Steelers MVP for 2008.  Harrison has been one of the main staples of the Dick LeBeau top ranked Steelers defense, with registering 101 tackles, one safety, 16 sacks and one interception this season. 

Congrats to Harrison, he deserves the honor.

Source:  Pittsburgh Post Gazette, dtd 12/25/08
Posted on: December 24, 2008 10:51 am
 

Sharing Holiday Memories

It was the raisin cookies that did it.  After traveling all day, I walked into my mothers kitchen and on her counter were a dozen of raisin filled cookies from the local store bakery.  Of course, I love raisin cookies, so I had to have one, they were good, but not the same. 

As I ate the cookie, I said to my mother “Grandma use to make raisin cookies just for me”.  My mother only replied, “yes she did”.  My grandmother loved to bake for Christmas, in fact, I think Christmas was her favorite time of the year.  Once the dementia hit full force, she would no longer bake.  Heck, once the dementia hit full force, she would no longer do much of anything. 

I flew home over the weekend, back to the ‘Burgh, to bury my last surviving grandmother on Monday.  At 91, she had a full life, a hard life, but still a full one, that revolved around her family friends.  As I sat in the church for the mass, a church that was decorated in candles and poinsetta’s, I realized that she chose to go when she did, because, well, she wanted to spend Christmas with my Grandfather, who also loved Christmas.  After ten Christmas’s being apart, it was time for her to be with him again. 

Over the past few days, it was the memories that kept coming back.  I can’t say they started with arriving at my mothers house, they actually started sooner, actually, when I arrived in the Pittsburgh International Airport.  Yes, even flying home has fond holiday memories.

On Christmas Eve, what better day then to share holiday memories with friends and family.   Indulge me and let me share my memories with you.

I mentioned my grandmother earlier in this blog, because, well, she and my other grandparents, as well as extended family had always been a part of my Christmas. I was lucky, I had my grandparents with me, well until adulthood.  My daughter was blessed because she had gotten a chance to know her great-grandparents and had also gotten to know her own grandparents too.

For me, as a kid, the Christmas season started after Thanksgiving dinner.  Thanksgiving in itself was exciting because while we watched the parades, my mother would make a turkey.  Actually I saw three turkey’s on Thanksgiving.  The one my mother made would be used to pick on and make sandwiches with.  Every Thanksgiving we’d have a turkey lunch at my mothers parents, with her sister and brothers (and their families) and then we’d go over to my fathers parents for another turkey dinner with his family. 

After this dinner, was when the Christmas holiday started for us.  My grandfather would change the big band records and put on Christmas music.  The adults would draw names for their gift exchange.  I remember thinking how I couldn’t wait to be old enough to be part of the exchange. 

During the weeks that followed there would be, well, the “normal” Christmas stuff.  Going to see Santa at the mall, helping decorate, school Christmas parties, the church’s Christmas pageant, the schools Christmas play. 

Every year, my mother would go to her mother’s house and take us with her, to help my grandmother bake.  Boy did my grandmother bake.  For her it would be a week long process.  Among the things she baked were my favorites, chocolate chip and raisin filled cookies.  Somehow, as an adult, I could never make those cookies the way that grandma baked them, even after she gave me her recipe.  Of course, my mother would come home and bake her cookies also.  Christmas time was definitely memories of sweet smells through out the house.

When Christmas Eve arrived, we’d bundle up and head out to visit to my fathers family.  They always had a small Christmas Eve gathering.  How strange things have changed.  I lived in a town where you knew your neighbors and called them friends.  I remember, when I was seven, for some reason I just happened to look out the garage door and coming down the driveway was Santa Clause.  Yep, Santa Clause came early.  I was so upset because I was awake and Santa had come.  I hid behind a chair hoping I could fool him to thinking I wasn’t there.  They had to reassure me that it was my grandmothers neighbor, who happened to be the volunteer fire chief for our local fire department, dressed up as Santa.  Do neighbors still dress up as Santa and visit their neighbors?
Then we would head for either Christmas eve service or midnight mass, depending the mood my mother was in.

Christmas morning was a ritual.  My sisters and I would wake up early and sneak down to see if Santa stopped and then we’d run up and wake up our parents.  We’d open our presents and spend some time playing with our toys before getting ready for two turkey dinners and more presents.  (We were spoiled as children).  Christmas lunch would be a turkey at my mothers parents.  We would always be allowed to open our presents when we first got there.  (Santa seemed to have stopped for us every where we went).  We were a close family growing up and our aunts and uncles seemed to be there every Christmas, except for one year, when one of my uncles was in Vietnam.  My grandfather would be there laughing at or with the children.  And it was always a guarantee to hear him muttering as my grandmother would scold him about maybe having a little too much whiskey with his eggnog.

In the evening, we would head to my fathers family for dinner.  They were sadistic.  They were very organized in how they handled Christmas.  We’d have to wait till after dinner to open the presents and it was the youngest first.  I understood exactly why my grandfather would hurry up the kids, since he had to wait until the last to open up his presents.  After the presents were opened, for some reason, we’d put on polka’s and my Aunt Mon and I and my sisters would dance polka’s in the family room.

Christmas didn’t end that night either.  For the week after, we’d have to lay out our presents under the tree as people came to visit to see what Santa brought us.  We’d also visit neighbors and my parents friends during that time.  New Years Eve we would go visit my fathers parents, who lived over the hill from us.  Somehow it seemed to snow every New Years Eve and at the end of the night, my father never could seem to get the car over the small hill to get us home.  Each New Years Eve, he’d seem to struggle to get the car up the hill and by the time it was over, it was at the bottom of the town and we’d make a two mile trek up by foot to get home.

I’ve grown older now, and as it must, things change over time.  The early morning sneaks to see if Santa had arrived were replaced with sneaking through the house to see if we could find out where Mom had hid the presents.  I would grow up and leave home.  There were times when I wouldn’t be able to be home for Christmas.  In the military, I would alternate my years of taking leave.  At one point, when I had my own place, I would invite my co-workers from the barracks, who were stuck on base over for a Christmas Eve party, which included turkey and the fixings.

When I did make it home, things had changed.  I looked forward to flying into Pittsburgh at night, to see the lights as I would come through the Fort Pitt Tunnels.  My Aunt Mon would no longer be with us, and my uncle took it hard.  Both of their presence were missed during the Christmas gathering.  My mothers parents got to the point where they could no longer hold a Christmas gathering, so my mother would have it.  Then I had my own daughter and tried to give her some memories of her own.  (Hopefully she forgot the time I threw the Christmas tree out onto the porch in disgust while I was trying to put it up).

Eventually Christmas gatherings would become Christmas Eve gatherings, I guess I could be blamed for starting those.  Then I moved south and Christmas would just be the three of us.  There wasn’t as much anticipation but I think my daughter has her own memories.  The Christmas by web-cam, when my daughter opened her gifts while my husband watched via webcam when he was in Maui.  The Christmas visit from my mother.  At least those are my memories too.

This weekend, my mothers was decorated and her house bright with lights.  Tonight the family would be gathered and there will be two new little members there, Amelia and Regan.  I won’t be there, I will be where I should be, with my own family.  And despite the circumstances, happy that I had gotten to spend some time with those who shared in a lot of my holiday memories.

Here’s hoping that each year brings you new and wonderful memories that you’ll be able to share with others.
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.

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