Posted on: December 8, 2008 6:39 am

I Believe - Shades of 05

There was something, perhaps a feeling, perhaps just some nuances that I’ve noticed over the past few weeks.  Perhaps it was wishful thinking and at first, I thought it might be that, but now, I’m more sure that I’m not imagining things and Pittsburgh Post Gazette sports columnist Bob Smizik  sees it too. 

It was noticed after the Steelers loss to the Colts.  My husband, a Colts fan didn’t rub the win in, instead he sat quietly.  All I said was, “that’s okay, remember the last time the Steelers lost to the Colts in regular season”.  Actually, I remember it well.  It was 2005 and Steelers would end up doing something that was rarely done.  Run the table to get a wild card slot.  The odds were against them. 

Okay, so this year the Steelers aren’t running for a wild card slot.  Barring a total melt down, the Steelers will be in the playoffs, either with the division title or with a WC slot.  But lets rewind a few years.

It was 2005, the Steelers had come off of one of their best years ever with a 15-1 regular season record, but would fail to get to the Superbowl.  The next season, the Steelers offense made a promise to get Jerome Bettis to the Superbowl.  Their schedule wasn’t going to be the easiest, or so it seemed.  Add to that an injury to Ben Roethlisberger’s hand and it started looking like it wasn’t going to happen.  Ben would miss a few games and come back, only to lose to the Indianapolis Colts.  After that loss, something changed and the Steelers would run the tables.  It would be a Cowboys win that would cinch the Steelers with a sixth seed wild card berth.  It was the heart of an offense and the determination of a defense that led the Steelers to their fifth Superbowl win.

They said they had no chance, no, not in 2005 but in 2008.  Facing the toughest schedule in the NFL in, oh, how many years based on 07 results, the Steelers weren’t supposed to have gone this far.  The year before, they’d be knocked out of the playoffs in the first round by the Jaguars.

Of course, it’s a little different now.  The Steelers are beating the teams they should be beating and staying in the games with the good teams.  Three losses against good teams led critics questioning the Steelers offense.  In 05, it was the Steelers offense getting the headlines, in 08, it’s their defense. 

Since losing to the Colts, the Steelers have won their last four games.  Offensively, most weren’t pretty, but defensively, they were things of beauty.  Bob Smizik would call their last win “magical”.  And perhaps it was, after all, how could an offense who failed to make anything happen for almost three full quarters come back to tie a game against a defense that had sacked Roethlisberger five times and shut down the running game. 

No, the Cowboys game, offensively was not pretty for the Steelers, but the offense did what it needed to do, they played 60 minutes.  What was next, was a thing of beauty, the Steelers defense. 

Perhaps in a sense this is a déjà vu.  Too many things correspond to 05 to be taken lightly. 

  • Being knocked out of the playoffs in 04 to come back for a WC berth and go on to win the Superbowl in 05.  In 07, the Steelers would win the AFC North and be knocked out in the first round
  • Ben Roethlisberger would miss time for a hand injury and his quarterback rating would take a hit in 05.  This season, Roethlisberger’s been nursing a shoulder injury that may have effected his throwing ability.
  • An 05 loss to the Colts led the Steelers to run the table.  After a loss in 08 to the Colts, the Steelers have yet to lose.
  • The Steelers berth in the playoffs depended on the Cowboys beating their opponent in 05.  The Steelers position in the playoffs  could very well come down to a Cowboy win over the Ravens in the last game of the season. 

The major difference is, it’s the Steelers defense playing with heart this season.  Could it be that the Steelers defense wants to win the ring for Dick LeBeau on his 50th season in the NFL?  After all, it’s not a secret that the defense corps believe that LeBeau belongs in the Hall of Fame, after this season, who could argue against it? 

And with the comeback on the Steelers offense against a Cowboys defense that some doubted that they could get past, could prove that the offense is going to help the defense do what needs to be done to get there. 

Playing with heart got the Steelers there in 05 and it’s the same heart that’s driving them towards it this year.  With this defense and the offense getting better with each game, how can I not believe?
Posted on: December 7, 2008 9:13 pm

Bitter Cold but a Sweet Win

The field conditions weren’t what Steelers fans were hoping for at the beginning of the game, but it was cold and it was windy.  It would be a game that left fans of both teams crowing about their defense and still questioning their offenses.  In the winter, it becomes about the defense.  When the game finished, there would be a total of 8 sacks and 7 turnovers.  The offenses would look rather mediocre, but then, good defenses tend to do that to offenses. 

After week 14, the Steelers defense would still have not given up 300 yards in a game and would make a huge defensive play that would bring about the win over the Dallas Cowboys, which wasn’t an easy task, given how the Dallas defense stepped up and showed the “improved” oline of the Steelers, hadn’t actually improved as much as we hoped, with 5 sacks on Ben Roethlisberger.  What can be said about this Steelers defense that we haven’t already lauded on before?  Oh yeah, Steelers cornerback, Ike Taylor finally caught one.  Week in and week out, the Steeler defense has been playing as if they were trying to make a case as to why defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau should be in the NFL Hall of Fame. 

However, what was more impressive was, well the offense.  No, not fantasy football impressive, not statistically impressive.  With the Dallas defense, for the most part, shutting down the Steelers offense for the majority of the game, the questions that surfaced about the Steelers offense not being able to compete against teams with good defenses again.  Although the Steelers took the lead only to be tied going into the half, the Cowboys offense managed to go up ten points.  It was a struggle, especially when a 71 yard drive to the 4th and 1 was stopped, denying the Steelers a touchdown in the 3d quarter.  And for a moment, we were wondering, given the inability to get anything going, would the Steelers be able to come back from this deficit. 

Then a spark, a 47 yd pass to Santonio Holmes on a 3d and 16 would start a drive that would lead to a field goal by Jeff Reed.  A three and out by the Dallas offense and the Steelers offense would drive for 67 yards and come away with a Roethlisberger pass to Heath Miller.  Jeff Reed’s extra point tied the game.  So it wasn’t pretty and may not be impressive, but the Steelers offense finally found the answers to get past the defense that was stifling them.  Oh yeah, and Ben had no interceptions. 

In the end though, it would be the Steelers defense that would win the game with a Deshea Townsend interception on Tony Romo for a defensive touchdown.  Romo would not be able to overcome the Steelers defense to make a drive down the field. 

Of course it’s not everything we would have hoped for.  A rookie running back did get past the Steelers defense for 88 yds, the most a single running back has run against the Steelers all season.  The oline did give up five sacks and failed to create the holes for the running backs, which only ran for a total 53 yds combined. 

A win is a win though, no matter how pretty or ugly, and with this win, the Steelers maintain their lead in the AFC North and Roethlisberger would take the lead in the quarterback with the most wins in his first five years in the NFL.  Oh, and yeah, it came down to a classic Steelers/Cowboy games where the big play, where one score decided the outcome.
Posted on: December 2, 2008 6:54 am
Edited on: December 2, 2008 12:23 pm

Remnants of An Age Old Rivalry

It was once a storied rivalry in the NFL, going as far back to when there was an only an NFL and the AFL was starting out.  A rivalry that would end up providing a true “hatred” against the others team and spark passion with their fans each time they meet up.  It would lead Sports Illustrated to declare the quarterback rivalry of Bradshaw and Staubach as the top quarterback rivalry in the history of the NFL.  No doubt, when you talk about rivalries, this one will top all rivalries to come. 

Not to diminish the division rivalries or conference rivalries because these, for the most part are seen year in and year out on the way to the big game.  But, this one would go as far as the final game of the year, the Superbowl. In fact, if you go through the history of the Superbowl era teams that have faced each other for the Lombardi Trophy, the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers will have faced each other more then any other teams.  Three times, in fact.  In those three meetings, the Steelers would hold the advantage 2-1. 
The younger ones may only remember only the Aikmann/O’Neill game, but those of us old enough to remember, those of us that are now sipping geritol and getting around on our walkers remember the true spirit of this rivalry. 

But, this isn’t the Superbowl and as much as I would love to muse on the possibilities of two 5 time superbowl champions meeting under the lights in February, I should focus on the now and present. 

The meetings between the Cowboys and the Steelers have become few and far between now.  In fact, the last time these two teams met was in week 6 of 2004 at Texas Stadium.  In that matchup, the Steelers won 24-20.  Now, four years later, the Cowboys will be going to Heinz Field.  It will be the first time that Tony Romo and this Cowboy team as a team has played here (though one or two of their players can remember losing there).

For the Cowboys, this game could very well be a must win, to stay alive in the race for the playoffs, for the Steelers, well, a win would continue to give them breathing room to stay on top of the AFC North and not have them rely on another team, ironically, the Cowboys in their last game at Baltimore. 

What can we analyze about this game that would give us an accurate barometer.  We can go on common opponents, both teams having won their respective games against Cincinnati, Cleveland and Washington. Defensive stats, well both defenses are extremely good in the pass-rush and getting to the quarterback.  Dallas is a close second in leading the league in sacks at 40, the Steelers have registered only 2 more sacks.  Sacks allowed, well, it’s no secret that the Steelers oline has had it’s problems.  Of course, the Cowboys oline has, in itself, done a good job at protecting their quarterback with allowing only 18 sacks.  Each respective defense have registered 9 forced fumbles and in passing defense and interceptions the Steelers have the edge with 13 interceptions to the Cowboys six. 

I can dwell on stats all day, but this game will be based on the intangibles.  Both quarterbacks are getting healthy from injuries.  Ben Roethlisberger plagues by a shoulder injury and Tony Romo having just come back from a finger fracture.  Though Romo has only been sacked an average of 1 per game, what’s not shown in those stats is that he was sacked 3 times by the Packers defense and 3 by the Cardinals defense.  And though Romo may not have been sacked 4 times against the Giants defense, the Dallas oline did give up those sacks.  So when faced with formidable pass rush, yes, the Cowboys quarterback can be gotten to.  Of course the same can be said about the Steelers oline. 

But again, back to the intangibles.  They are calling for snow in Pittsburgh in the 10-day forecast.  It will be cold, it will be windy and it’s this time of year that is not good for the long deep balls.  Don’t let the scores on the Steelers offense fool you.  The best way to handle a high powered offense is to keep them on the bench.  In the last three games, the Steelers offense had maintained control of the ball for 35 minutes or more.  In the last two games, the offense had found away, not only to get it in the endzone on 3d and shorts.  Had the receivers caught the balls that were placed in their hands, Ben’s numbers would be just a wee bit better.  In fact, the Steelers offense is starting to click at the right time, when it counts. 

The play on the oline has begun to improve, not only on pass protection but also on opening up the holes.  How well will the oline do now against the Cowboys defense, well hard to say, they haven’t faced a formidable pass rushing team since their improvement, but should be at least a little better then in the past given that we’re seeing more mixup in plays, Ben getting out of the pocket and/or releasing the ball more quickly.  It will also depend on the status of Cowboys DeMarcus Ware and his status. 

This game may more then likely come down to who has more mistakes.  The turnover ratio could be an indicator with Pittsburgh with a plus 4 to the Cowboys minus 5. 

No, the Steelers offense is not a high powered offense and this game is an NFL game in December, not BCS football.  Given that the Steelers haven’t allowed one team all season to go 300 yds total on them, this won’t be a high powered shootout but will be dependent on the run, and the quarterback who makes the least mistakes. 

Historical Reference :  Due to the thought there may have been a reference to the Steelers being in the AFL, I should clarify.  The reference to the NFL and AFL was to establish a timeline.  It would be 1960 when the Dallas Cowboys would enter the NFL and play their first professional football game against...the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Both teams were part of the original NFL.  That same year, the American Football League had been formed.  . 

Posted on: November 30, 2008 9:39 pm

Missed Opportunities Make More of a Statement

It was a statement game for both teams.  The Patriots, who had the Steelers number since 2001, needed the win to stay in the hunt for the playoffs, the Steelers needed this win to, not only get the monkey off their back, but to also quiet some critics. 

So it would occur, on a rainy Sunday afternoon in Foxboro where a first year backup quarterback would face his first major challenge after two back to back 400 games, and a veteran quarterback with an offense that was questionable. 

It was a statement game, but started off as anything but that.  A muffed kick off, a penalty and then an interception gave the Patriots good field position, which they were able to run in for a touchdown.  Then, as if the Steelers had made us think they wanted the Patriots to win, the Patriots seemed to want to give the game right back to them. 

Dropped passes and missed opportunities would seem to send the first half would leave fans of both teams scratching their heads and somehow, it was no surprise that the game was tied by half time.  The positive is that the Steelers offense was able to come back from a deficit, even if it was one score, which occurred in a beautiful catch by Santonio Holmes

It didn’t turn out to be the shootout that was expected by many.  The deep balls to Moss never came about.  Instead, the Steelers defense would basically make Moss a non-factor (or can we say that Moss had something to do with being a non-factor also) with only four receptions for a total of 45 yards.  It would be Kevin Faulk who would burn the Steelers, both in rushing and passing.  But it wasn’t enough to counter the mistakes made by the Patriots, combined with an offensive play of the Steelers, who began to control the ball and get down the field. 

Having protected well in the first half, somehow the Steelers front line became sack hungry and was able to get five sacks on Matt Cassel, forcing two fumbles.  James Harrison would be the defensive stud of the game.  Add two interceptions, one by Troy Polamalu, another by Lawrence Timmons and it was apparent that the Steelers defensive line began to rattle and unnerve Matt Cassel. 

The Steelers offense not only was able to eat the field, but also took advantage of the turnovers and turned them into points.  Tight end Heath Miller would lead the team in receptions.  Although no one receiver would reach the 100 yd mark in this game, both teams were able to rush for an accumulative total of 100 plus yards, something surprising given both defenses were strong against the rush. 

Can't say the monkey's off their back, but 30 unanswered points by the Steelers is a good way to start shaking him loose. 
Posted on: November 30, 2008 7:25 am
Edited on: November 30, 2008 7:38 am

Something About Curses

It was the words of an old gypsy woman, who muttered an ominous curse in revenge of...oh wait, wrong curse.  Perhaps it seems like a curse, having lost 6 matchups out of their last seven meetings.  Somehow, the Patriots have seemed to have had the Steelers number since the Bill Belicheck era. 

Today, the Steelers will venture into Foxboro in hopes of reversing the curse, getting the monkey off their backs, per say.  The last matchup got ugly.  With Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark and Aaron Smith on the sidelines due to injuries that game, the Patriots offense was able to light up a young safety by the name of Anthony Smith, the whole second half of the game.  Definitely something that shook up the young mans confidence. 

Perhaps this year will be the year that the monkey's off their back.  Why not, the Colts had been able to shake that monkey, and this year, the Chargers have also.  Yes, perhaps this is the year.  There won't be a young safety to exploit, but two seasoned veterans who have shown it's pretty hard to knock them off their game.    In fact, the three forementioned defensive players are healthy and anxious to play this game, and they've seen this Patriots team before. 

No doubt, the Steelers defense will have to be on their game, with so many weapons on the Patriots offense.  The difference this year, no Tom Brady.  Last time the Steelers were able to beat the Patriots, they broke the Patriots winning streak with a rookie quarterback.  Tom Brady has seen this healthy defense many times before, however, Matt Cassell hasn't.  Not personally.  No doubt Matt Cassell has come into his own this season, as the Patriots fight for a playoff berth.  His most impressive games were the last two, where he had thrown over 400 yds in each.  Of course, keeping things in perspective, though the passing numbers are impressive and should no way take away from Cassell, they were obtained on teams that rank 26th and 28th in passing defense.  To believe that Cassell is going to be able to throw for 400 yards easily is like saying that the Steelers are going to run all day on the Patriots defense.  Although the Patriots secondary is suspect, even more so with Adalius Thomas out, their front line has been able to stuff the run and no doubt, that's what they'll try to do for the Steelers running game. 

The biggest factor is going to be the confidence of the quarterback and the play of the wide receivers.  If the Steelers wide receivers keep dropping the ball like they did in their previous games, then it's going to be a long day for the Steelers offense.  There's a question of the pass rush on the Patriots though.  Both offensive lines have given up a total of 35 sacks to their opponents, the numbers lessening in recent games.  Can the Steelers blitz get to Cassell enough to keep him from getting the ball deep to Moss?  Of course, there's the threat of Wes Welker, who has the ability to create plays and get away from defenders.  Though the Steelers have their own weapons up the center too with Hines Ward and Heath Miller.  Both quarterbacks are able to get out of the pocket and make plays happen with their feet. 

This season the Steelers have had mixed results in getting that monkey off their back.  They couldn't overcome their history in Lincoln Field, but were able to shake the one that plagued them against the Jaguars.  I won't add to the Cowher curse by declaring a winner for the game today.  I'll sit quietly back and keep my fingers crossed because both sides know the playoff implications in this game, and silently wish that monkey dead.
Posted on: November 26, 2008 8:28 am

And the List Narrows

It was in October when the names of 133 players, coaches and contributors who were eligible and nominated for induction into the NFL Hall of Fame.  This morning, the day before Thanksgiving, this list narrowed to 25.  Included in this list, three well known names for the Pittsburgh Steelers

According to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette and, former Steelers Rod Woodson, Kevin Greene and Dermontti Dawson have made this round of selections to advance in the nominations.  Dawson and Greene are no strangers to this list, for Woodson, it would be a different story.  Rod Woodson who played corner and safety for the Steelers from 87 to 96 and then went on to play for the vaunting Ravens defense that won Baltimore their SB ring, would not only have been nominated for the HOF in his first year of eligibility but would advance past the first round.

Donnie Shell and Art Rooney Jr., nominated earlier this season, did not make it into this round. 

Others to advance to this stage of the selections are:

  • Cris Carter, WR -- 1987-89 Philadelphia Eagles, 1990-2001 Minnesota Vikings, 2002 Miami Dolphins
  •  Roger Craig, RB 1983-1990 San Francisco 49ers, 1991 Los Angeles Raiders, 1992-93 Minnesota Vikings,
  •  Terrell Davis, RB 1995-2001 Denver Broncos
  •  Richard Dent, DE 1983-1993, 1995 Chicago Bears, 1994 San Francisco 49ers, 1996 Indianapolis Colts, 1997 Philadelphia Eagles
  •  Chris Doleman, DE/LB 1985-1993, 1999 Minnesota Vikings, 1994-95 Atlanta Falcons, 1996-98 San Francisco 49ers
  •  Russ Grimm, G 1981-1991 Washington Redskins
  •  Ray Guy, P 1973-1986 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders
  •  Charles Haley, DE/LB 1986-1991, 1999 San Francisco 49ers, 1992-96 Dallas Cowboys
  •  Lester Hayes, CB 1977-1986 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders
  •  Cortez Kennedy, DT 1990-2000 Seattle Seahawks
  •  Bob Kuechenberg, G 1970-1984 Miami Dolphins
  •  Randall McDaniel, G 1988-1999 Minnesota Vikings, 2000-01 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  •  Art Modell, Owner 1961-1995 Cleveland Browns, 1996-2003 Baltimore Ravens
  •  John Randle, DT 1990-2000 Minnesota Vikings, 2001-03 Seattle Seahawks
  •  Andre Reed, WR 1985-1999 Buffalo Bills, 2000 Washington Redskins
  •  Shannon Sharpe, TE 1990-99, 2002-03 Denver Broncos, 2000-01 Baltimore Ravens
  •  Bruce Smith, DE 1985-1999 Buffalo Bills, 2000-03 Washington Redskins
  •  Ken Stabler, QB 1970-79 Oakland Raiders, 1980-81 Houston Oilers, 1982-84 New Orleans Saints
  •  Paul Tagliabue, Commissioner 1989-2006 National Football League
  •  Steve Tasker, Special Teams/WR 1985-86 Houston Oilers, 1986-1997 Buffalo Bills
  •  Derrick Thomas, LB 1989-1999 Kansas City Chiefs
  •  Ralph Wilson, Owner 1960-current Buffalo Bills
Category: NFL
Posted on: November 25, 2008 12:56 pm

A Steelers "Helping Hand" Get Recognition - Again

Spending time in the military and being stationed overseas can be beneficial.  Not only do you get the opportunity to see the sight, experience a place you may never, otherwise have an opportunity to experience, meet new people, and for better or worse, get to know the customs and the culture. 

I had been lucky to travel many places at the behest of Uncle Sam. My first trip overseas, sent me for a year to an Air Force base in South Korea from 1982 through 83.  During this time, along with the shopping, the partying, the sight-seeing and just hanging out (not to mention working), I also volunteered my time to help at a nearby orphanage.  This orphanage didn’t accept just any child, it was an orphanage for Amer-asian children.  Children often born from American fathers and unwed Korean mothers.  At the time, life wasn’t easy for multi-racial Korean children and a lot of the children in this orphanage, were given up by their mothers and almost hidden from society.  The prejudice against these children was extremely strong at the time.

It had been a little more then 20 years later, when I kept up with the news on Hines Ward’s travels to Korea and had seen, not much had changed in those 20 years.  After winning the Superbowl, and using the prestige of being the first Korean-American to win the Superbowl to try to bring about a change in the culture status of multiracial children in Korea.  In 2006, Ward would create the “Helping Hands Foundation” to help try to eliminate the discrimination that has for so long been so strong in that country. 

In 2007, the Steelers would vote him to be their Walter Payton Man of the Year, for not only his achievements on the field in football, but also his contribution to the community. Ward would end up being one of the final three men in the standings for the NFLs Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, along with Jason Whitten of the Dallas Cowboys and Jason Taylor, then with the Miami Dolphins.  Taylor would be recipient of the award in February 2008.

Once again, according to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Hines Ward has been selected as the Steelers 2008 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.  Ward leads the team with 54 receptions, 718 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns.  His work with the “Helping Hands Foundation” continues, not only with his trips to South Korea to continue to keep the dialogue open, but also with hosting weekend visits from those children he’s trying to help. 

Ward will join 31 other team Walter Payton Man of the Year recipients, where, during the Superbowl, one will be recognized as the NFLs Walter Payton Man of the Year.

Congratulations to Ward for the team recognition, and to all players who’ve received their respective teams recognition for their contributions both on and off th

Posted on: November 23, 2008 10:45 am

If You had a Personal Ad

Early Sunday mornings are set aside to clear out the spam from my numerous email accounts.  I happened to notice that, along with the regular emails that have informed me that my ex-husband was killed on a dangerous stretch of road in Nigeria, something that seems to occur on a weekly basis (my poor ex has died more times then a cat with nine-lives on that very stretch of road) and how male enhancement products can, in fact, spice up my love life with the woman that I love (which I think they kind of have me confused with someone named Dennis), I found a few new types of emails having crept into my box.  One was how I too, can find hot women who are looking for sexually hungry men by responding to their ads on a particular site, and the others from both and EHarmony. 

When I was single, just right after my divorce, the dating lines were just starting up.  I was a single parent, who didn't get out too much and a girlfriend and I decided, perhaps for fun, to give the local line a chance.  The local newspaper provided a space for it and since it wouldn't cost us any money we each placed one.  Hers was along the lines of classy young lady, never married looking for professional male...blah, blah, blah...her hopes were to find a doctor or lawyer.  (She found the doctor but that turned into a strange obsession where they both started stalking each other, which is another story). 

Mine was along the lines of divorced 30 something down to earth female, enjoys Steelers football, long walks, long talks ...blah blah blah...seeking the same.  My friend ended up jealous because I ended up with more hits then she did.  I had met a few nice guys out of it and, yes, even chatted with some really wierd ones, but nothing really panned out of it, especially since being newly divorced, I wasn't really seeking a serious relationship. 

Being married now, I have no desire to place a personal ad, however, it doesn't stop me from thinking about how I would write one or two of them up.  I would be torn on which one I would actually use, the serious one or the fun loving one. 

I guess if I were to use the serious one, it would read, mature woman, late 40s, children no longer at home, romantic at heart, enjoys long walks on beaches, watching sunsets, quiet evenings at home, and Sundays watching football, with the spontaneity to run off and go dancing, horseback riding, etc........

However, I'd be more likely to use this one:

Old biddy seeking young stud who doesn't have an adversion to yardwork and organizing garages in exchange for homebaked cookies.

So...if you were to write an ad, what would yours be?
Category: General
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