Posted on: November 21, 2008 5:14 am

Polamalu and Coke

When I was younger, I had one favorite commercial, I can still say it's my all time favorite.  The camera catches Mean Joe Green walking into the tunnel, limping and hurt.  Behind him, a small boy, a bottle of Coca Cola in his hand, sympathetic, offers him his pop - yes, we called it pop up north then.  Mean Joe guzzles it down and the kid, kind of disappointed, turns around and starts to leave when the burly and intimidating defensive tackle goes "hey kid" and throws him his jersey, which leads to big smiles.  It's one of these commercials that kind of stick with you. 

Coca Cola is remaking a commercial that had been considered one of the best Superbowl commercials of all times.  This time, it will feature Troy Polamalu as the Steelers defensive player that will chug the brand name pop.  I don't know if Sampson can pull off the same intimidating manner of Mean Joe, but he's definitely proven time and time again that he's as tough as him. 

Source:  Pittsburgh Post Gazette
Posted on: November 21, 2008 12:31 am

Back to the Basic

It seemed fitting, on the night that the Steelers organization honored defensive coordinator, Dick LeBeau for his 50th year in the NFL, that the game would finish the way that it did. 

As promised, it began to snow when the game started.  Two things that didn’t happen, the supposed mark on Hines Ward and a sack hungry defense having Bengals quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick on his back all night.  But as promised, fans were treated to classic Steelers football, both on offense and defense. 

It started out ugly and at first, we wondered if, given the past few weeks, if the Steelers would once again struggle through this one.  At first the running game was stifled and Ben came too close too many times to be intercepted.  Bengals had the lead, but they played for 60 minutes and through that time, they remembered the formula that was Steeler football. 

There would be 30 passes thrown and 37 rushing attempts, and albeit against a ravaged Bengals team, and despite themselves, the Steelers would end up controlling the ball, controlling the field and registering a decisive win against a division opponent.

How much more effective is the Steelers offense when they get Heath Miller involved in the game, and we were reminded with his four receptions that not only kept drives alive, but also registered the one passing touchdown to tie the game in the second quarter.  There would be drops by the wide receivers and there would be times where the Steelers would be their own worst enemy, an offensive pass interference call on Washington that negated a pass for great field position, and a rookie mistake on a punt by Limas Sweed, that turned the ball over to the Bengals, giving them great field position, really, really, really great field position. 

But we would see classic Ben Roethlisberger, behind an oline that gave him great protection in this game.  We would see the quarterback getting out of the pocket, using his feet to extend plays, to even rush for a touchdown.  This was the Roethlisberger we had gotten use to watching.  And as the air game got going, the run game would open up.  We would see more of Gary Russell this game, who would get the short yardage that the Steelers seemed to have been missing in the past few games.  Russell would also get one of two rushing touchdowns in the game.  Mewelde Moore was key in the second half to the Steelers maintaining control of the ball, when he was able to find the open holes and gain positive yards.   And in this offense, we wondered if Bruce Arians finally got it right, with the different play action, slants and screens. 

Of course, the defense continued to show why they are the number one defense in the league.  Although, they would only get to Fitzpatrick once, they would continue to stop the Bengals running game, keeping Cedric Benson to 35 yds total and covering the Bengals receivers only allow Fitzpatrick to connect for 17 out of 35 times.  And this time, it would be James Farrior who would lead the team on tackles, seeming to be there to stop the Bengals on important 3d and short plays.  The game was over, like last week, when Troy Polamalu came up with an interception that kept the Bengals from closing in on the 12 point spread. 

In the end, Ben would throw 15 for 30 for 243 yards with one passing touchdown and one rushing touchdown.  The Steelers running division of Moore/Parker/Davis/Russell would accumulate 104 yards rushing.  Though they lost both Willie Parker and Santonio Holmes in the second half, they just improved and finished the game with the formula that they were known for.  Not bad for only three days off.
Posted on: November 20, 2008 10:47 am
Edited on: November 20, 2008 10:56 am

Bengals without Ocho Cinco Tonight

Cinci's offense just got a little weaker for tonights game, according to the Bengals website, Chad has been deactivated for tonight's game in Pittsburgh for violation of team rules.  Guess Marv finally is getting tough. 

Source:  Bengals Official Website
Category: NFL
Posted on: November 20, 2008 9:16 am

Marked Man, Snowy Night and Hungry Defense

Rumor has it that Hines Ward is a marked man going into tonight’s game with the Cincinnati Bengals.  The reason, retribution for a season ending injury to the Bengals, Keith Rivers.  While the Bengals locker room may be salivating at thoughts of getting to Ward, the Steelers defense is absolutely drooling for the opportunity to sack Bengals quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick, again and again and again. 

In their second matchup of the season, the Steelers will be looking for a repeat of the first, where the defense had gotten to and sacked Fitzpatrick, seven times their last meeting and an offense, minus Willie Parker, outscored the Bengals 38-10.  For both teams, it will have been a short week, both coming off of games that, well, kept the teams in the national sports headlines with slightly bizarre endings to both games.  But that week has come and gone.  One team, the Bengals, have nothing to lose and the Steelers, will be looking to maintain their lead for first in the AFC North. 

Tonight, in Pittsburgh, it will be snowing, at least that’s what they’re predicting.  Willie Parker will be back in the line up.  Last time, it was Mewelde Moore that ran for 120 yards with 2 rushing touchdowns.  Parker wants to go back to Steelers football, starting this game.  Last time, Roethlisberger threw for 216 yards and 2 touchdowns.  Last week, Ben showed what he was able to do when he actually practices a full week, throwing for 31-41 for 308 yards without an interception. 

This game should be a given for the Steelers, right?  The spread is for the Steelers at 11.5 points.   After all the Bengals are 1-8-1 with more then a suspect run defense, right?  Well, actually the Bengals have only allowed 2 100-yard rushers this season, even if they’ve allowed an average of 206 yds on the ground.   However, only those new to football write anything off as a given.  Bengals have won their last 2 of 3 meetings in Heinz Field.  And a team with nothing to lose but pride, is more dangerous then Michael Vicks pitbulls.   And no doubt that Chad Johnson or Chad Ocho Cinco (or whatever we’re calling him this week) along with T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chris Perry have kept the Bengals in each of their games this season.  The Steelers defense will be short two of their cornerbacks with Deshea Townsend and Bryant McFadden out for this game. 

Still, the Steelers are 3 for 3 in their last three Thursday night games.  Whereas the Bengals are suffering a massive amount of injuries and relying on backups, the Steelers are coming back healthy, just in time for the end of season push, which begins with the Bengals. 

It will be a good night for Steelers football. 
Posted on: November 10, 2008 5:49 am

No Divine Grace This Game

On a wing and a prayer.  Isn’t that what most Hail Mary passes are, throw it up there and hope for divine intervention to come your way and get it in the hands of your receiver in the end zone?  Make no mistake, there were two receivers there, there were more defenders there though.  So here was the prayer, that there would be a tip, another one of several that would go in favor of the offense, just one more and the results would have been different.  If there was divine intervention, it wasn’t going to be on the behalf of the Steelers this game.

We could play the “if” game all day.  If Ben hadn’t thrown two interceptions giving the Colts offense great field position, then the Colts would probably have not been able to drive down the field to get the scores on the turnovers.  If Moore hadn’t been stopped at the goal line by Eric Foster, then it would have been a tie game.  If Leftwich had played instead of Ben.  So many ifs.  However, if’s are fantasies, questions that will never be answered, because that’s not the way that it happened.  If’s don’t win or lose football games, only what occurs at the moment.

At the moment it was two interceptions on Ben Roethlisberger that ultimately cost the Steelers the game.  A third and two deep pass to Holmes that should have never been called, let alone thrown.  Then another to Holmes, which could have gone either way, given that they were second and thirteen.  However, against an offense like the Colts, you cannot lose the turnover battle and expect to walk away unscathed.  Especially since the Colts have one of the top five passing defenses in the league at the moment.    No matter how poorly one thought the Colts were performing during the season, one could not deny they still had the weapons in place to light it up.  And when given the opportunity, Peyton Manning showed that the “old” Colts offense still existed.  We were still waiting for the “old” Steelers offense to emerge.  Somehow, it never seemed to completely happen.

Yet the Steelers defense continued to be the strong defense we know it to be.  Despite two tipped passes to Reggie Wayne, it could have been worse, much, much, worse.  Yeah, they got lucky on two deep passes to Marvin Harrison that didn’t pan out.  However, they disrupted Manning enough to only allow him to complete a little over half of his passes.  Sadly, for Steelers fans, it’s the completed ones that hurt. 

In the end though, it would be the Colts defense that made the difference in this game.  It was the interceptions by Ratliff and Jennings that would take away the Steelers momentum and the final one by Bullitt, drove the nail in their coffin.  It would be the pressure that the defense was bringing that would force Ben to make some bad, quick decisions.  And somehow, the Colts suspect run defense became less suspect to stop the Steelers running game.
Posted on: November 9, 2008 5:21 am

My Game of the Year

It's finally here, the Sunday I waited two years to watch.  It was the one game that I had contemplated getting tickets and driving to Pittsburgh to see.  It's the game that I got all excited about when I saw the Colts on the Steelers schedule, and at Heinz Field, no less.  I talked about it in pre-season, I mentioned it during the regular season and at 2 am this morning I was talking about this game.  I could say that I was excited because I wanted to see how the Steelers running game would excel against a questionable rush defense, or how the Steelers corners would react to the offensive weapons of Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts.  I could say it's about matchups, but to be honest, this is the game of the year because...well, my husband is a Colts fan. 

So this morning, in the darkness, while we were watching the NFL Network and various shows talking about the Colts/Steelers matchup, my husband muttered "this is going to be ugly" and "I'm going to have to hear about it for the next two years".   Of course my response was filled with humility...not...instead of being sympathetic, I couldn't resist coming back with "yeah, with Marlin Jackson being out, Moore's going to run all over your butt".  Only a heavy sigh in response.  But was there an inaudible mumble about how he was waiting to see Ike Taylor eating Marvin Harrison's dust?  Okay, so it tends to be fun in our household. 

Alright, I'd really believe that the Steelers would have the ability to run the ball up and down the field against a run-suspect defense, if Bob Sanders were out.  Unfortunately for the Steelers, Sanders is playing so it's not going to be as easy as one might think.  In eight games the Colts have given up 1149 yards on the ground, however, Sanders  

Not only will the Steelers offense have to deal with Sanders, but there's the Freeney/Mathis factors.  Two defensive ends that have made their careers in their ability to get off the line quickly and get to the quarterback.  Given Ben's propensity for holding the ball too long and the questionable oline, the Steelers offense will have to hide that bullseye on the chest of whoever the Steelers deem to be their quarterback, whether it's Roethlisberger or Leftwich.

Steelers defense doesn't exactly have an easy job in front of them either.  Peyton Manning just has too many weapons in the form of Reggie Wayne, Anthony Gonzalez and Marvin Harrison, not to mention Dallas Clark, and still has the ability to be lethal in the air.  Add Rhodes and Addai and well, it could be a long day for the Steelers defense, but I see the number one defense in the NFL being disruptive against the high powered offense of the Colts.  An added plus is the return of Safety Ryan Clark to the Steelers defense.  The combination of Clark and Polamalu have helped disrupt, or at least keep in check offenses this season.

Pittsburgh is not a kind place for the Colts to play, whether they were in Baltimore or in Indianapolis.  Steelers lead the series 10-1 against the Colts for games played in Pittsburgh.  I don't see this game being kind to them either, especially since the Steelers are looking to maintain their lead in the AFC North, trying to keep the Ravens off their heels.  It also doesn't help the Colts that the Steelers are 5-0 against AFC teams this year either. 

I expect to see some great defense coming out for the Steelers (what can I say, I'm a Steelers homer).  The only question I'm going to really have...Bruce, what do you have plan to ensure that you actually do open up the ground game and keep Mathis and Freeney off of Ben?
Posted on: November 4, 2008 6:17 am

It's About Defense.....and Depth

Did you know that going into Monday nights game against the Redskins, Mike Tomlin and the Steelers were undefeated in Monday night games?  Actually under Tomlin, the Steelers were 3-0 on Monday night games, before last night. 

Were you aware, prior to going into Monday nights game that the Steelers hadn’t allowed a 100 yd game by a single rusher all season? 

Are you aware, that when things aren’t going well with the Steelers play calling or inability to get something going, I stand and scream at the tv? 

So this past Monday nights game those three things that I mentioned would remain intact.  Mike Tomlin would go on to be 4-0 on Monday nights, the Steelers defense would not allow the leagues top rusher to pass 100 yards and for the first half of the game, I couldn’t quit griping at the tv. 

The Steelers would go into last nights game with home field advantage…I mean, on the road, against the NFL’s fifth ranked defense, and once again would find themselves in a classic defensive battle.  Once again, it would be about defense and for the Steelers, the ability to show how deep they are.  And once again, leave us fans griping about the play calling. 

It would start early, the griping that is, with the onside kick that left us scratching our head.  What on earth was that?  I guess it would have been considered genius if the Steelers had been able to recover the ball, but, well, they didn’t.  And for much of the first quarter, it went more the way for the Redskins then in favor of the Steelers offense.  Between the favorable field position from the onside kick and a deflected pass which led to an interception on Roethlisberger, the Skins would be up by six.  It could have been worse, it could have been up by 14.  The Steelers defense would step up and keep both possessions to field goals. 

As the night wore on and just as we were getting frustrated with the three and outs, the Steelers wide receivers failing to catch balls, a pass interference penalty by the Redskins on Hines Ward and a Jeff Reed field goal would finally put the Steelers on the board.  Then momentum had changed on offense, in the form of a blocked punt by Andre Frazier.  This would eventually lead to Ben Roethlisberger getting a rushing touchdown on a quarterback sneak.  Unfortunately this play would lead to Ben injuring his shoulder again. 

Somehow this season, the Steelers would have to show how deep they could be.  When Willie Parker went down, Rashard Mendenhall started against the Ravens, only to be taken out that game.  Mewelde Moore came in and proved that the Steelers finally had the depth they needed at the running back position.  Kendall Simmons went out on the oline during the same Baltimore game and Darnell Stapleton came in and seemed to make the oline just a little bit better.  On defense, Bryant McFadden went down and then the next game, Ryan Clark went out.  Somehow the Steelers defense didn’t miss a beat. 

We held our breath coming into the second half and saw that Byron Leftwich would replace Ben Roethlisberger, and somehow, just somehow, he was able to do what Roethlisberger wasn’t able to do in the first half.  He took the lead and not only didn’t lose it, but took it down the field and setup Willie Parker for his first rushing touchdown since he went out early in the season.  The offense continued to go forward, even without the franchise quarterback. 

But this game wouldn’t be about the Steelers offense, it would be more about the Steelers defense.  Once again, this game would show why the Steelers defense is the number one defense in the league.  Steelers defense would be the first team to intercept Jason Campbell not once, but twice.  They would hold Clinton Portis to 51 yards rushing  and they would get to the Redskins quarterback for six sacks.  Despite the loss of McFadden, despite the loss of Clark.  It would be the linebackers that would continue to make a name for themselves.  James Farrior would be a beast with 12 tackles, Woodley would get to the back twice, Harrison once. It would be a backup safety, Tyrone Carter, that would register his first interception of the season. 

It would turn into a game of teamwork, of defense and of depth in position. 
Posted on: October 30, 2008 11:35 am

Burning Questions Going into Monday

After having participated in the “game of the year”, where it seemed that the majority of eyes were following the outcome of the Giants/Steelers game, the Steelers will once again be center stage, along with the Washington Redskins, for this weeks Monday Night Football.

Like many Steelers fans, we’ve been following the health and distractions of the team, going into each game this season.  No doubt we’ve discussed the oline situation, the injuries, fines and, of course, the long snapper (well, at least I have).  Though I’m itching to sit and analyze the upcoming game, I have to step back and have some questions answered, or at least some insight to some things before I can do so in a perfectly unbiased way.  So here are some burning questions that I have going into this game on Monday night:

  •  Will we see Willie Parker playing in this game?  Although Parker has been practicing this week, reports are that his status for game day is still questionable.  No doubt, Mewelde Moore has been more then a capable substitute during his absence, but the return of Parker gives the Steelers rushing offense a major one/two punch should both Parker and Moore play. 
  •  Will Clinton Portis reach the 1,000 yd mark in this game?  Portis only needs 56 yds to reach 1,000 yards for the season rushing.  Steelers defense has been extremely stingy with giving up yards on the ground, only allowing 501 yds in a total of seven games.  That’s a little over 71 yds per game.  Of course, this is a bit deceiving since the Steelers defense kept Brandon Jacobs to 36 yds last week.
  •  Will the Redskins defense come out in this game with a strong pass rush?  There’s no doubt that the Redskins have some type of a pass rush defense, having registered 16 sacks, however, is it as strong and stifling as the Eagles and Giants defense?  Maybe not.  However, if Pittsburgh’s oline takes the pass rush from the Skins for granted, it’s possible that Ben Roethlisberger could find himself on the ground a lot.  I doubt we’ll see that this game, however, the threat with the Skin’s defense is the corners and their abilities to zone in on the ball for interceptions. 
  • Given the injuries to the Steelers defense and having both Bryant McFadden out and then Ryan Clark go out last week with a dislocated shoulder, one might start wondering how strong the secondary is going to be.  Jason Campbell has yet to throw an interception.  Also questionable is Troy Polamalu.  Reason I say he’s questionable is one would have to wonder if he came back too soon from his concussion in last weeks game, given the uncharacteristically high number of tackles he seemed to have missed last week.  No doubt that he’ll play this week, will he be up to speed. 
  •  Given the number of distractions that the Steelers faced within the last week, week and a half, will there be others? 
  •  Speaking of distractions, do the Redskins really use sex to try to distract the opposing teams players?  I’ve heard rumors that they have the cheerleaders warming up and stretching in the opposing teams tunnel?  I guess the Redskins Rule is actually a pretty good rule though.  Okay, so the NFL put a stop to having cheerleaders provide a distraction pre-game and perhaps it’s good.  Think about it, which would be more detrimental to a team…watching the cheerleaders stretch or having the image of Steely McBeam burned into your mind as he stretched and warmed up in the opposing teams tunnel? 
  •  I’m sure that everyone knows by now that I believe Jim Zorn to be the best looking coach in the NFL.  Question is now, on Monday, will he go the way of Mike Nolan and Jack Del Rio and wear a suit for the game?  If so, I might need a towel, (other then the terrible towel of course), to wipe the drool from my chin.
  • One final burning question here.  Will SPIN columnist and CBS Sportsline writer Eric Kay actually join the ranks of the “hogettes” sometime in the near future?  I haven’t seen his legs, but suspect that he has a closet passion for the Redskins that would make him prime recruiting target for this ultimate of Redskins fans.  Actually, it’s pretty cool about the “hogettes” who seem to be the “shriners” of the Skins, making appearances at hospitals and charity events, along with attending the games.  Interestingly, two of the original “hogettes” are in the Pro Football HOF as the ultimate fans.


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