Category:NFL
Posted on: October 28, 2008 11:41 am
Edited on: October 28, 2008 12:02 pm
 

Help Wanted Long Snapper

With Steelers longsnapper going out for the season with a torn ACL, the Steelers aren't looking to depend on James Harrison (or other Steeler starter) to perform the duties for the rest of the season.  According to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, the Steelers have looked at four candidates to replace the injured long snapper. 

Also possible is the signing of a punter to fill in for an injured Mitch Berger if it's found that he's unable to play for the upcoming game against the Washington Redskins on Monday. 

Category: NFL
Posted on: October 27, 2008 10:26 am
 

A Surreal Ending

Memo to Bruce Arians:  Play not to lose and you probably will.  When something is working, it’s usually a good idea to go with it until it stops working. 

Memo to Mike Tomlin:  Think it’s time to get the oline some more help?  Might want to look at emphasizing plays on special teams too, especially when it comes to the long snapper positon.

Memo to Dick LeBeau:  Keep doing what you’re doing.

Memo to Ben Roethlisberger:  What made you such a perfect fit for this team was that you weren’t a pure pocket passer, so why are you trying to be?

Memo to James Harrsion:  You may suck at long snapping, but you’re still one hell of a linebacker. 

Memo to my daughter:  Perhaps you may want to look into going into sports medicine, with the drop in my 401K, you may be needing to support me in my old age. 

Yesterdays Giants versus the Steelers game proved to be the defensive battle that Giants and Steelers fans expected it to be.  Did it live up to the hype?  Perhaps, depending on who you were rooting for.  Of course, if you were looking for a high scoring run away game, forget it, neither defense was going to allow it.  And, in the end, it was the defenses on both teams that would make the difference in this game.

Going into the game, there were three questions I had.  1)  How would the Giants oline do against a defense that ranked first in sacks?  2)  Would the Steelers defense be able to contain Brandon Jacobs?  3) How would the Steelers oline handle the pass rush of a Giants defense that ranked second in sacks? These questions were answered yesterday.  1) Great, 2) Most definitely, 3) Very poorly. 

No doubt after this game, there are questions on the Steelers offense.  At the beginning they came out looking strong and put themselves ahead.  However, the game and momentum would shift in the Giants favor, a lot due to the pressure the Giants defense was able to place on the oline and Ben Roethlisberger and would limit the Steelers to only 14 points for the entire game.  Of course it didn’t help that the play calling seemed to become rather conservative when it needed to be aggressive either. 

It wasn’t just the Steelers offense that struggled getting points.  Though the Giants did better in obtaining yards on the ground to get to the red zone, the Steelers defense for three quarters would limit the Giants offense to nine points in four trips to the red zone, all field goals.  Steelers defense made an impressive stand keeping Brandon Jacobs out of the end zone and ended up turning it over on downs.  In fact the Steelers defense against the rush, did spectacular in keep Jacobs under 40 yds rushing for the game. 

However, it is said that the team that wins that battle in turnovers will win the game.  Unfortunately for the Steelers, it would be the Giants that would win the turnover battle.  Roethlisberger would end up, at the end of the day, being credited with four interceptions.  So we can argue how good or bad those interceptions were, however, that is irrelevant.  Two of the interceptions placed the Giants with good field position and another took the Steelers out of the game.  It would be at the final quarter, when the Giants would have a field goal and come up with a safety that would tie the game, then a touchdown to put them ahead in the end.

Given the season, it is fitting that one would wonder though if a black cat had crossed the path of the Steelers.  Too many penalties straight in a row, that hurt their field position.  A pulled hamstring by the punter Mitch Berger, a torn ACL to the longsnapper Greg Warren, a hit by Ryan Clark on Brandon Jacobs (or vice versa) that left Clark with a dislocated shoulder.   Somehow it seemed just too surreal.  A bad snap that tied the game, and the inability to get anything going on offense at the end would leave Steelers fans muttering unreal, and grumbling again at the offensive coordinator.

Posted on: October 23, 2008 7:33 pm
Edited on: October 23, 2008 7:48 pm
 

Flashback, Fast Forward and Deja Vu

Some have called this the game of the year, I’m not sure why, but if some in the media want to hype it that way, go for it, though I doubt if the teams will bite.  I’m looking at it as more of a game of eeriness, shall we say.  Perhaps that’s good though, given it’s a home game at Heinz Field so close to Halloween.  No black and orange here though, just black and gold … oh and the white, blue and red of that other team.  You know the team I’m talking about, the one that will have the bulls eye on their back all season long because everyone wants to beat last years Superbowl champions.

I’m calling it kind of spooky myself.  No, there won’t be any ghosts or goblins, after all, the game will be a day game, however, some events are just a little uncanny to be just, well, to have just happened.  Flashback to 2004 with me for a moment. 

Preseason draft, two young first round draft picks, quarterbacks of course.  One, the first one or the number 1, the other drafted at number 11.  Okay, even that may be a stretch at numerology.  The one would start off as the hope of the franchise, the other proved to be the pride of the franchise, that year. 

Still with me in 2004?  Good, because that was the last time the Steelers hosted the Superbowl champions in Heinz Field.  Guess what, it was on October 31st, 2004 when the Patriots were defeated at Heinz Field by the Steelers.  That Superbowl team was met with a stifling defense, a solid running game and a quarterback who didn’t throw away the game.  Later that year, they would also face the loser of the Superbowl.  Okay, this is as far as I want to take this coincidence, because we know what happened at the end of that year.

Oh yeah, one more thing, last time these two teams met, these two quarterbacks played each other, 2004.  Steelers won that game too.

Now fast forward to October 26, 2008.  Two quarterbacks from the same draft class will be meeting for the first time on the field since their draft year.  One will be the Superbowl champions, the other will be one of the recipient of the Superbowl ring from a few years before. 

One other canny thing here.  On October 26, 2008, the two teams that  are meeting are 5-1, have each registered their only loss to their opponents division rivals. 

Okay, so it’s easy to draw coincidences in this game and make parallel universes appear when there really isn’t any.  However, as I mentioned in the beginning, some are touting this the game of the year.  I can understand why. 

Sunday’s Steelers game against the New York Giants at Heinz Field could very well turn into the battle that the hype may allude it to be.  The hype, two first round draft choices of 2004, two quarterbacks who’ve grown into their own.  Each having their own Superbowl ring. 

Not hype.  Each team having a balanced offense, with a running back tandem that can burn defenses.  For the Giants, Brandon Jacobs could be compared to…well…Jerome Bettis.  A beast on the field that could run over defenders.  Add to that the presence of Derrick Ward.  Combined, both backs have accumulated a total of 853 yds in six games.  Add to that Eli Manning’s arm and the wide receiving talents of Plaxico Burress, Steve Smith and Amani Toomer and this offense has the potential to be lethal.  That’s why they’re 5 and 1 and sitting on top of their division and their conference.

However, the Steelers offense is no slouch either, especially since showing it’s depth with the loss of Willie Parker for several games and Rashard Mendenhall for the season.  In fact, Mewelde Moore was able to fill in quite nicely having accumulated 219 yds in his first two starts.  With the possibility of Parker returning to the game on Sunday, we could see a switch off of the two backs against the Giants 4-3 defense.  Add to that the passing attack of Ben Roethlisberger to Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes and Nate Washington (not to mention tight end Heath Miller) and the Steelers offense can be just as potent. 

Still not hype.  Giants 4-3 defense and the Steelers 3-4 defense.  Steelers defense have only allowed a total of 418 yds on the ground, Giants, 507.  Steelers lead in sacks 25 to 21 and have allowed fewer passing yards 952 to the Giants 1144. 

Here I’m liking the Steelers defense to match up well against the Giants offense.  However, this will be the first real test of the Pittsburgh oline since the Philadelphia Eagles game, especially with Justin Tuck and Fred Robbins on the Giants defense. 

What I’m also liking is that, with the exception of the Redskins, the Giants oline hasn’t really been truly tested this year in the protecting against the constant pressure of the blitz and a 3-4 defense.  When the Browns played the Giants, there were 3 interceptions and 1 sack, and the Giants loss that game. 

Given that this is at home, the Steelers coming in with the momentum, a defense that can force turnovers and leads the league in sacks.  I’m liking the Steelers chances, but it will be close and it will be defensive. 
Posted on: October 20, 2008 4:00 pm
Edited on: October 20, 2008 4:01 pm
 

Steelers McFadden Out Sunday Against Giants

Steelers corner, Bryant McFadden, who was injured during this past Sundays game will be out on Sunday against the New York Giants.  McFadden showed up at the training center today with his arm in a sling and an apparent soft cast on his arm.  McFadden, who has started five games this season, has been responsible for registering 30 tackles and 2 interceptions.  No word on exactly how long he'll be out.

No word yet on Strong Safety Troy Polamalu, who was hurt in the same play. 


Source: Pittsburgh Post Gazette
Posted on: October 20, 2008 4:02 am
 

Still On Top of the AFC North

There were three teams pulling for a Bengals win on Sunday, the Bengals, the Browns and the Ravens.  For the Bengals it would be a way to break their losing streak.  For the Browns and Ravens, a Steelers loss would tighten the gap in the AFC North.  Of course, no one was really expecting it could happen, but no one could blame them for hoping right?  At the end of the day though, the Steelers would dash any hopes and log a 38-10 win against the Bengals, registering their either straight win at Paul Brown Stadium. 

The win yesterday kept the Steelers atop the AFC North with a 5-1 record overall and 3-0 in the division.  But the win wasn’t a thing of beauty, in fact, for awhile, the game kind of left me scratching my head a bit.  After coming out strong the first quarter, taking the lead 10-0, they failed to capitalize on the momentum. 

Was it the play calling or the Bengals defense or overconfidence or a combination of all three that stopped the Steelers offensive momentum up until the 3d quarter?  No doubt that the Bengals defense stepped up, however, the play calling should have been adjusted when what was being tried wasn’t adjusted.  One would have to wonder if Bruce Arians actually watches game tapes prior to the game.  At least they adjusted at the half.

What seemed to have me screaming more at the television, as I watched the game was the coverage by the Steelers defense. Sorry, it doesn’t matter who the quarterback is, if you leave Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh with all kinds of room, they’re going to burn you.  When Ryan Fitzpatrick found his rhythm, that’s exactly what happened.  However, in the end, the Steelers defense stepped up when it mattered.  They would continue to show why they’re one of the top defenses in the league. 

So, by the end of the day, the Steelers would end up making a statement and putting any lingering questions to rest.   Ben Roethlisbergers shoulder is no longer an issue.  The Steelers haven’t skipped a beat in the running game with Mewelde Moore coming in for Willie ParkerLimas Sweed can actually make a catch. 

Now, if they just keep this momentum going.
Posted on: October 17, 2008 6:38 am
 

Never a Given

There are things that you can say are a given.  Crisp cool autumn mornings in Western PA and the Ohio valley at this time of year.  The brilliant changes of foliage that is associated with fall.  A congested parkway going into the city on a weekday morning.  A congested parkway leaving the city on a weekday evening.  However, if you were to say a Steelers win over the Cincinnati Bengals this coming Sunday is a given, you may want to rethink that. 

Yeah, I know the Bengals are 0-6 so far this season.  Don’t forget last year, when a winless Jets team broke their losing streak at home against the black and gold.  And last weekend should have shown football fans that the “any given Sunday” rule still applies.  Now, add to the fact that those who wear stripes (no, not the refs) are division rivals and always give the Steelers a game.  Remember though, with the exception of last season, even at their worse, the Dolphins were able to hand Tom Brady and the Patriots at least one loss.  Nothings a given in this league.

I know, I know, Roethlisberger is 10-0 in Ohio and has yet to lose in Paul Brown Stadium.  I know, he does better against the Bengals in Ohio then he does in Pittsburgh.  I know, I know the Bengals are last in offense and ranked 28th in rushing defense.  However, they are fourth in passing defense, right behind the Steelers.  Yeah, I know, Carson Palmer is out and Ryan Fitzpatrick will be starting under center.  Just the perfect combination for a trap game. 

Steelers offense are returning after the bye, relatively healthy, with the exception of Willie Parker and Carey Davis.  However, Mewelde Moore is expected to start in his place and has shown that the Steelers do have the depth at the running back position.  Given the Bengals rushing defense, it should prove no problem for the Steelers to have a big day on the ground.  I said should, not a guarantee though.   Steelers fans may see rookie wide receiver Limas Sweed play this week as the fourth wide out, in place of an injured Dallas Baker.

Dick LeBeau’s defense hasn’t skipped a beat, despite Brett Keisel and Casey Hampton being out.  Keisel will return for this game, though Hampton is still questionable.  So physically this team should have no issues.

The Steelers seem to be returning mentally, well motivated and not looking past this game.  At least the players aren’t taking anything for granted and are expecting for the Bengals to give them a fight.  Guess the only question now is, is Bruce Arians going to continue to go with the flow that we’ve seen in the last 6 quarters that the Steelers played or will he go back to the old run, run, pass play calling that could make it easier for the Bengals defense to stop the Steelers offense?  We’ll see on Sunday.
Posted on: October 16, 2008 6:24 am
Edited on: October 16, 2008 6:26 am
 

From Hard Hitting to Pansy Football

While the NFL front office is planning one spectacular Christmas party, partly due to two fines levied against Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward for god only knows what, criticism on the new direction under commissioner Roger Goodell is coming from an surprising source, Troy Polamalu.  The 5’10, 207 lb, hard hitting, soft spoken, Steelers strong safety believes that direction is becoming a “pansy game”.

"I think regarding the evolution of football, it's becoming more and more flag football, two-hand touch. We've really lost the essence of what real American football is about. I think it's probably all about money. They're not really concerned about safety."

Perhaps Polamalu is correct, especially when he compares the old school NFL and the likes of Jack Tatum and Ronnie Lott and how their style of play would have drawn fine after fine under the new guidelines.  Given the enormous contracts and the need to protect the franchise arm, more and more rules have been put in place to protect the quarterback.

"You have to figure out how to tackle people a new way," he said. "There's such a fine line. I guess, hitting quarterbacks late and whether they're going to slide or come forward -- it's too much.”

Indeed, the new rules have not only taken away a lot of the physicality of the game, but has led to a lot of inconsistencies in the calls by the officiating crews.  How often have we seen a Steeler defender this year get penalized with a late hit just as the quarterback releases the ball, yet, an obvious late hit doesn’t draw a flag?  This isn’t something that’s unique to Steelers games, but have been seen against other teams also. 

There’s been an obvious shift that we’ve been noticing in professional football where it seems to have gone from a game in the trenches to one of finesse, that could be equated to “grass basketball”.   No doubt that high scoring games seem to be the fave among fans and add to the increasing popularity of free and pay-to-play fantasy football, could it be that the rules are being adjusted to accommodate these trends?  After all, where’s the attraction in putting together a fantasy team if your quarterback isn’t going to have the chance to throw for 400 plus yds in a game? 

The argument that the rules are in place to protect the players, but at what point does it stop being about protecting the players and becomes about babying the players?  Rules are already in place to protect quarterbacks and other players from obvious season or career ending injuries.  Helmet-to-helmet hits, horse collar tackles, chop blocks, have all been deemed as against regulation and will draw penalties, if not fines.  However, the very nature of the game poses a risk of injury to all players, even when the hit is clean.  You can only do so much before you take away, as Polamalu puts it, the very essence of the game.

Posted on: October 15, 2008 7:38 am
 

Sweed A Probable Against the Bengals

When Ben Roethlisberger added to his wish list a tall wide receiver, the Steelers responded with bringing in not one, but two at the beginning of the season.  The first was bringing Dallas Baker up from the practice squad and the other, drafting Limas Sweed in the second round of this years draft.  It had been speculated that Sweed would make an immediate impact for the Steelers, however, to date, the closest we saw Limas Sweed to playing was dressing for the Jacksonville Jaguars game and standing on the side lines.

With Dallas Baker ruled as being out for Sundays game at Paul Brown Stadium, Mike Tomlin speculated that there's a good possibility that Limas Sweed will be used as the Steelers fourth wideout. 

Steelers will have the majority of their offensive weapons available for the game also.  Tomlin was noted to say that Roethlisberger is in his best shape yet since the injury to his shoulder.  Willie Parker will be returning from his injuries also and is expected to start against Cincinnati.  Sean McHugh will be replacing the injured Carey Davis at the fullback position again.  On defense Brett Keisel is due to return, however, Casey Hampton will be a day by day decision.  Jeff Reed is also projected to play.

Source:  Pittsburgh Post Gazette
Category: NFL
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com