Thursday, November 20, 2014

WPIAL Championship Preview

Championship Friday is upon us. Because of the PIAA schedule and Thanksgiving being late this year, the WPIAL Championships are not being played on the day after Thanksgiving as they typically have been. Instead, we get a Friday where some schools did not opt to cancel classes which has led to a #Hookie4Heinz movement on Twitter. Unfortunately, since these games are not being played on Black Friday, it will make the parking situation even more difficult because some of the outlying lots and garages will be filled with people who normally park there to work downtown. To complicate matters for the evening games, it is also Light Up Night and there is a Penguins game at 7:00. On the WPIAL website, their suggestions for parking were the Heinz Field Stadium Lots, other North Shore lots, the Rivers Casino Parking Garage (which is only an option if everyone in the car is over 21) or the downtown lots and garages which are going to be backed all day. If you're planning on going to a game, go early because parking is going to be an issue.

If you're not going to the games, ROOT Sports will be broadcasting the Class A game live at 11:00am and the Quad-A game live at 2:00pm. Due to the Penguins game in the evening, the AA and AAA games will be on tape delay and broadcast at 10:00pm and 12:30am respectively.

If you're going to be stuck at work all day, your best bet is to tune in to the MSA Sports broadcasts of the games, which can be found here. As far as I know, the MSA broadcasts work on iPhone/iPad and Android systems as well.

Twitter will be buzzing with updates tomorrow so make sure to keep an eye on the following hashtags: #WPIAL #MSAscores #Skylights

Additionally, I recommend following: myself (obviously), @MSAsports, @PGVarsityXtra, @TribHSInsider, @mwhiteburgh, @JRown32, @AJWPIAL and @WPIAL_Insider for updates throughout the day.

1. Pine-Richland (12-0) vs 3. Central Catholic (11-1)
2:00 pm

Championship History

Pine-Richland won the WPIAL AAA title in 2003 and lost in the Championship Game in 2002. Richland High School won WPIAL AA titles in 1969 and 1970.

Central Catholic is the defending AAAA Champions, have won 4 WPIAL Championships (2003, 2004, 2007, 2013) and have played in 6 Championship Games.

Playoff History: In their only playoff meeting, Central Catholic beat Pine-Richland in the first round of the 2010 playoffs.

The old adage that "offense wins games but defense wins championships" will be put to the test in the Quad-A Championship. Pine-Richland boasts the top offense in Quad-A, scoring nearly 48 points per game, while Central Catholic has the top defense, holding opponents to just 10.6 points per game. These Northern Eight Conference foes met in Week 8 with Pine-Richland's offense controlling the game en route to a 48-28 victory. The 48 points the Rams scored against Central Catholic was the most that a Vikings defense had allowed in 11 seasons since giving up 49 to Woodland Hills in 2003.

Pine-Richland's offense has been dominant this season, scoring at least 40 points in all but two games. The Rams boast the top passer in the WPIAL in senior QB Ben DiNucci who has thrown for 3,296 yards and 34 touchdowns while completing an absurd 74% of his passes. His favorite targets have been a pair of 1000-yard receivers in Mike Merhaut (1174 yards, 15 TDs) and D'ondre Gastion (1002 yards, 11 TDs). As a mark of how good DiNucci's weapons are, every Ram player who has caught at least 7 passes aside from RB Connor Slomka is averaging at least 14 yards per reception. But don't let his receiving stats fool you, Slomka has been an effective weapon for the Rams offense, rushing for 1214 yards and scoring 32 touchdowns, putting him in the top five in the WPIAL in scoring. Slomka, an Army commit, has played his best football in the playoffs, rushing for 348 yards and scoring 12 times in 3 games. Pine-Richland is also in contention for the Best Student Section in the entire WPIAL, based solely on the fact that they plan on bringing a live ram to the game.

Central Catholic is the defending Quad-A Champions and the only blemish on their resume is their loss to Pine-Richland. The Vikings rode a dominant defense that pitched 5 shutouts this season, including a 28-0 victory over an explosive Woodland Hills team in the quarterfinals. The Vikings got pushed by Penn-Trafford in the semi-finals after Penn-Trafford recovered multiple onside kicks in the first half but ultimately pulled away thanks to a 200-yard performance from John Petrishen and a 100-yard night from Vinny Emanuele. Petrishen has been the driving force of this Central Catholic team all year, playing wide receiver and running back on offense, all over the secondary on defense, and has scored 4 times on kick returns. Central Catholic's offense is built around their running game and the Vikings only average 7 pass attempts per game. Their dominant ground attack has enabled them to control the clock on offense and let their defense slam the door on most teams this season.  Grant Foster, son of former Steeler Barry Foster, leads the team with 729 yards and 16 TDs but has been hampered by an injury lately. Vinny Emanuele has stepped up in the playoffs, rushing for 268 yards and 4 TDs over the last 3 games. In the first meeting, the Vikings faltered when Pine-Richland pulled away in the second half and they were forced out of their comfort zone of running the ball and playing defense.

1. Central Valley (12-0) vs 3. West Allegheny (11-1)

Championship History

Central Valley won the WPIAL title in 2010, the first year of the school's existence after the merger of Center and Monaca school districts. They lost in the Championship Game to West Allegheny last year. Monaca won 3 WPIAL Class A titles (1975, 1982, 1985) and played in 8 Championship Games. Center lost in their only Championship Game appearance in 1988.

West Allegheny has won all 7 WPIAL Championship Games they have played (1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2009, 2012, 2013).

Playoff History: West Allegheny beat Central Valley in the WPIAL Championship last year, the only playoff meeting between the two schools.

West Allegheny is the two-time defending AAA Champions but their only losses in the last three seasons have been to Central Valley. In fact, every regular season meeting between these two schools has been won by the home team. West Allegheny also won the only neutral site meeting - last year's WPIAL Championship Game. Between the two schools, they have won four of the last five AAA Championships. These Parkway Conference foes will continue the Championship tradition of the conference, making this the 6th consecutive year a Parkway team has won the AAA crown. Incredibly, this is the 9th straight year that a Parkway Conference team has appeared in the Championship Game.

Since Central Valley came into existence in 2010 with the merger of Center and Monaca and have been one of the dominant programs in AAA ever since. The Warriors have at least made the semifinals every season and this will be their third appearance at Heinz Field. Central Valley is the top seed thanks to their win over West Allegheny in the season finale. The Warriors have dominated the opposition all season and the only team to come within 20 points of them was West Allegheny who they beat by 11. They have been paced on offense by Pitt recruit Jordan Whitehead, who is one of the top defensive backs in the state but also led the team in rushing with 1412 yards. Whitehead has been an all-around playmaker for Central Valley on offense, defense and special teams and leads the team with 27 total touchdowns. Central Valley has been very balanced this season with two quarterbacks combining for over 2000 passing yards. John George started the year under center but was injured in Week 3 and Chris Callaghan took over and threw for 1266 yards and 12 TDs. George returned in Week 7 and has thrown for 879 yards and 11 TDs on the season, with 279 yards and 4 TDs coming in the last two weeks. BJ Powell has been the Warriors primary receiver with 720 yards and 9 TDs and is complemented by Dante Lucci (464 yards, 4 TDs) and Kurt Reinstadler (459 yards, 5 TDs).

West Allegheny made the WPIAL playoffs for the first time in 1993 and the reigns were handed to Bob Palko in 1995. Since then, Palko has become the best big game coach in WPIAL history, becoming the first coach to win 7 WPIAL titles last season when the Indians won their second consecutive title. Palko has never lost a WPIAL Championship Game and is looking for the second three-peat of his career, the first coming from 1999-2001 when his son Tyler was under center. Now, senior QB Andrew Koester can join Tyler Palko as a 3-time WPIAL champion. Koester has been outstanding this season, throwing for 1211 yards and 15 TDs and led a drive in the final minute to bring West Allegheny back to tie Woodland Hills and force overtime in the WPIAL Game of the Year (so far) where the Indians eventually prevailed. As is typical with a West Allegheny team, they have been a dominant rushing team but have don't have a singular feature back. Chayse Dillon leads the team in rushing with 916 yards and 18 TDs but he is not far ahead of Terence Stephens who has run for 837 yards and 17 TDs. Whitney White has added 652 yards and 10 TDs, giving West Allegheny a dangerous three-headed beast on the ground. In the semifinals, the Indians took on Thomas Jefferson and the WPIAL's leading rusher Austin Kemp. Not only did West Allegheny totally dominate the game, jumping out to a 41-0 halftime lead, they dominated TJ on the ground, beating the Jaguars at their own game.

1. South Fayette (12-0) vs 2. Aliquippa (12-0)

Championship History

South Fayette won the WPIAL Class AA title in 2010 and 2013 (beating Aliquippa both times). They won the 1936 Class A Championship Game and were awarded the 1964 Class A title (no championship game was played). They lost in the 1967 Class A Championship Game.

Aliquippa has won 16 WPIAL Championships. They won 8 Class AAA Championships (1952, 1955, 1964, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988 and 1989) and played in 13 Class AAA Championship Games. After moving down to Class AA in 1990, the Quips have won 8 Class AA Championships (1991, 1996, 2000, 2003, 2008, 2011 and 2012) and played in 12 Class AA Championship Games.

Playoff History: South Fayette is 2-1 against Aliquippa in the playoffs with both wins coming in Championship Games (2010 and 2013).

In another rematch of last year's WPIAL Championship, South Fayette and Aliquippa meet for the third time with a WPIAL title on the line. Aliquippa has lost only two games to WPIAL opponents in the last five seasons - both of them coming against South Fayette at Heinz Field. This is Aliquippa's 7th straight appearance at Heinz Field and the Quips have won more WPIAL titles than any other school. These have been the top two teams in AA all season and have been on a collision course for a rematch after their epic back-and-forth championship game last season. Both teams got scares in their semifinal contests but pulled away in the fourth quarter to force the rematch. These are the top two offenses and defenses in AA with Aliquippa averaging over 50 points per game and South Fayette averaging 46.5 per game. On the defensive side, the Quips were slightly better as well, holding opponents to 11.5 points per game as opposed to South Fayette's 12.6 points per contest.

South Fayette is led by the WPIAL's all-time leading passer Brett Brumbaugh who is second in the WPIAL in passing this season with 2927 yards and 35 TDs. Brumbaugh's favorite targets have been junior WR Nick Ponikvar who has 874 yards and 9 TDs and senior TE Logan Sharp who has 755 yards and 12 TDs. Brumbaugh has spread the ball around this season and has completed at least 10 passes to 6 different players - all of them averaging over 12 yards per reception. The Lions are not solely reliant on Brumbaugh's arm as junior RB Hunter Hays has rushed for 1280 yards and 24 TDs with 350 yards and 6 TDs coming in the postseason. South Fayette breezed through their conference slate and their opening round matchup, posting 40+ points every week and only surrendering 21 points once - to Quaker Valley in the season finale. But the quarterfinals and semifinals brought two scares to the defending state champions who now hold the WPIAL's longest winning streak at 28 games. Both South Park and Seton-La Salle were able to put 21 points on the scoreboard against the Lions but eventually South Fayette was too talented, beating South Park by 18 and Seton-La Salle by 14. Even with those close calls, South Fayette has still scored 35+ in every outing and not allowed more than 21 points to anyone this season.

Most AA schools that graduate 3 players that go on to D1 schools don't run through their schedule and find themselves undefeated and playing for a championship the next year. But this is Aliquippa. The Quips have scored 40+ points in every game this season and the only team to break 20 against them was Washington in the semifinals. The Quips have been so dominant that most of their games have been in the mercy rule by halftime. Aliquippa has a pair of junior running backs that have been unstoppable this season, both carrying the ball 132 times. Kaezon Pugh has racked up 1510 yards and 25 TDs while DiMantae Bronaugh has 1245 yards and 24 TDs. The Quips are not solely reliant on their running game as senior QB Darrien Fields has thrown for 1459 yards and 18 TDs, primarily to 6'3" senior WR Patrick Anderson who leads the team with 404 yards and 9 TDs. The Quips have yet to figure out a Brumbaugh brother in a WPIAL Championship Game, but they have the offensive ability to hang with South Fayette and this has all the makings of another epic AA title game.

2. Clairton (12-0) vs 5. Avonworth (11-1)

Championship History

Clairton has won 10 total WPIAL Championships. They were awarded the Class AAA WPIAL Championship in 1929, 1931 and 1954 (no Championship Games played) and lost AAA Championship Games in 1957 and 1958. Clairton has played in 13 Class A Championship Games and won 7 times (1989, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012).

Avonworth tied Union in the 1959 Class A Championship Game, the only WPIAL title in school history and their only appearance in a Championship Game.

Playoff History: Clairton is 2-0 against Avonworth with wins in the 1982 and 2009 quarterfinals.

In terms of championship pedigree, these two schools are polar opposites. Clairton has been the dominant team in Class A for the last decade, winning 6 of the last 8 Class A titles. After a down year last season where the Bears lost one regular season game "only" made the semifinals (which is a down year by Clairton standards), the Bears have roared back to the forefront of the Class A picture this season. While much of the focus this season was on the potential matchup between Clairton and defending state champion Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic, Avonworth flew under the radar and pulled the upset on North Catholic in the semifinals. The Class A semifinal games last week were about as good a pair of games as you will see with Avonworth scoring a touchdown with 4 minutes to play to pull ahead of North Catholic 28-21. The Lopes then got two interceptions in the final four minutes to seal the victory and earn their first trip to a WPIAL title game since 1959. On the other hand, Clairton's offense continued their record pace but were matched almost score-for-score by Neshannock. The Lancers were able to tie the game late and send it to overtime where Clairton scored first then intercepted a pass to secure the victory and prevent Neshannock from reaching their first Championship Game in school history.

Clairton's offense has been absolutely incredible this season. The Bears have always been known for blowing their opponents out of the water, but they have taken it to an entirely new degree this season. Through 12 games the Bears have scored 788 points, an average of 65.7 per game. They are just 72 points shy of tying the state record of 860 points which was set by the 2007 Jeannette team led by Terrelle Pryor - in 16 games. Clairton scored 70+ points in each of their first 5 games but slowed down slightly, averaging just 59 over their last 7 contests. Their 48 points against Neshannock was their lowest output of the season and the 42 points the Lancers scored was the first time anyone scored more than twice against the Bears defense. The Bears have been led by sophomore sensation Lamont Wade, who is ranked as one of the top CB recruits in the nation for the class of 2017. To call Wade "explosive" on offense doesn't even do justice to his playmaking ability - he has led the Bears with 2128 rushing yards and a WPIAL-leading 39 TDs after starting the season as the backup running back before junior Harrison Dreher was injured in Week 4. Dreher returned in the quarterfinals and gives the Bears a vicious 1-2 punch in the backfield as he has run for 679 yards and 16 TDs in only 6 games. Wade was absolutely sensational in the playoffs, rushing for 744 yards and 15 TDs in 3 games, including 267 yards and 6 TDs last week against Neshannock. Clairton can do more than run the ball, as senior QB Ryan Williams has thrown for 2232 yards and 27 scores on the season. His favorite targets have been 6'5" junior Aaron Matthews (598 yards, 12 TDs, 34 2-point conversions) and senior WR James Hines (731 yards, 10 TDs).

Back in August, I went on the record and said that last year Avonworth was the 3rd best Class A team in the state behind State Champion Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic and Old Forge who took CWNC to overtime in the PIAA Championship. The Antelopes overcame more adversity than any other team appearing in a championship game this season, losing player after player to injuries but managed to persevere. Junior QB Zach Chandler was lost in Week 4 after a hot start to the season where he threw for 742 yards. Senior Josh Drwal stepped in and while he doesn't have the same arm talent that Chandler has, is an elusive runner who has helped reinvent the Lopes offense into a read-option attack. The focus of their offensive attack has been 6'2" junior Jamal Hughley who started the season at WR but has also played RB and enters the championship game as the Lopes leading rusher (779 yards), receiver (449 yards) and scorer (17 TDs) despite missing time at the end of the season with an injury he suffered in Week 7 against North Catholic. Hughley was able to get his revenge last week, rushing for 127 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Lopes to their first WPIAL Championship Game since 1959. While no individual's stats will blow you away like with Clairton, don't let the Lopes fool you. They have an excellent offensive and defensive line and are capable of controlling a game on the ground. This will be the best defense that Clairton has seen all season, but their weakness (as displayed in their Week 7 loss to North Catholic) is speed on the perimeter, which is where Clairton excels. Avonworth's hope lies in their defensive line being able to control the game and keep Clairton's rushing attack bottled up. The Lopes defense will need to continue to be opportunistic, especially in the secondary where Josh Drwal and Brandon Wasko recorded interceptions in the closing minutes to seal their semifinal victory over North Catholic.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Gameday: Tennessee Titans

LP Field
TV: ESPN (WTAE locally)
Radio: WDVE and other affiliates

What To Watch For

1. Playing Down

Coming off a loss to the woeful New York Jets, there have been lots of numbers thrown around on Twitter and Pittsburgh Sports Radio in the past week. Mike Tomlin is somewhere around 1-8 on the road against teams with .200 or worse winning percentages. Mike Tomlin is just 13-13 against teams with losing records. Either way you slice it, the Steelers constantly play to the level of their opponents. They get up for big games (as we saw against Indianapolis and Baltimore) and they stink up the joint against poor competition (Jacksonville, Tampa, New York). So which Steelers team will show up against the 2-7 Titans? Tennessee has lost by 14 points each of the last two weeks since Zach Mettenberger became the starting quarterback. Unfortunately, the Steelers only have 7 wins by 14 or more in their last 42 games and no wins by more than 20.

2. Hello, Old Friends

Remember Ken Whisenhunt and Ray Horton? Our old friends have now found their way to Tennessee after a stint in Arizona and Whisenhunt's year as offensive coordinator of the San Diego Chargers and Horton's exile in Cleveland. The Steelers should be familiar with Whisenhunt's offense and Horton's defense as it is extremely similar to the offense and defense that they currently run. Of course, the Titans defense has been just as bad as the Steelers defense this season, giving up about 24 points per game. Tennessee is in the first year of a transition from a 4-3 to a 3-4 and are still working on getting all the pieces in place. On paper, this is a defense that the Steelers should be able to exploit, but as Ray Horton has shown in the past against the Steelers, he is going to blitz the crap out of Ben Roethlisberger - a strategy that worked pretty well for Rex Ryan and the Jets last week. On the other side, former Titans head coach Mike Munchak is the Steelers offensive line coach and will probably looking for a pound of flesh out of the team that ousted him about a year ago.

3. Something's Gotta Give

If you've been reading this blog or following me on Twitter, you'll know just how bad the Steelers are outside of Eastern Time. If you don't, I wrote about that time zone thing as soon as the schedule was released. The Steelers are just 6-16 under Tomlin outside of Eastern Time and have lost to the likes of Alex Smith, Tim Tebow, Matt Cassel and Terrelle Pryor. Don't think for a second that Zach Mettenberger isn't capable of adding his name to that list - just like Matt Hasselbeck did the last time the Steelers visited Nashville. Of course, there's the other stat of Dick LeBeau being 17-2 against rookie quarterbacks. So something has to give. Either the Steelers will win their second consecutive game outside of Eastern Time (after ending an 8-game losing streak by beating Matt Flynn and the Packers last year) or Dick LeBeau will lose just his 3rd game ever against a rookie quarterback. As a microcosm, it will be interesting to see how both teams come out of the gate. The Steelers have been one of the worst offensive and defensive teams on opening drives this season. While the Steelers only have 2 opening drive scores this year, the Titans are one of two teams with less, having put points on the board just once this year on an opening drive. That Titans offense will be up against a Steelers defense that has allowed 8 scores on opening drives this season.

4. The Playoff Picture

After losing to the Jets, no one wanted to hear about the Steelers chances of making the playoffs. But just like after the loss to Cleveland, it's amazing the difference that one week can make. After losing to the Jets the Steelers were sitting at the bottom of the AFC North. However, with Baltimore (6-4) on bye and Cleveland losing to the Texans (6-4), the Steelers are in position to get a leg up on both of those teams and put themselves just percentage points behind the Bengals (6-3-1). This game is also important because it has implications in tiebreaker scenarios involving common opponents and division opponents. With the Steelers heading into a bye next week, they can also get a leg up on Miami and San Diego (both 6-4) for the last wild card spot. In short, this is a game the Steelers have to win if they have any hope of making the playoffs.

5. Safety Play

The Steelers have been cursed with some of the worst safety play in the league this season. Mike Mitchell has not only been hilariously out of position all the time, he has also made a number of dirty plays that make him really hard to cheer for. Mettenberger has a big arm and the Titans have basically nothing to lose which means Mettenberger will have the green light to take shots down the field all game. Mitchell's biggest issue has been preemptively jumping underneath routes and letting receivers run right past him deep down the field. Troy Polamalu will be out once again which means the Steelers will need to get something out of Will Allen or Shamarko Thomas or Robert Golden. The nightmare scenario is that Tennessee is able to hit a couple of big passes that turn into points and keep them in the game well into the fourth quarter. The Steelers will need to generate a pass rush against a Titans line that has been decent this season and force bad throws and turnovers out of Mettenberger. The Steelers struggle with putting bad teams away, which is exactly what they need to do tonight to head off into the bye week on a high note.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Tortoise and the Hare: The Steelers Slow Starts

The Steelers are sitting at 6-4 and only a game out of the last wild card spot in the AFC. They have looked dominant in their victories against Carolina, Indianapolis and Baltimore and looked absolutely dreadful in losses to Baltimore, Cleveland and New York. One of the stats we have heard week in and week out is that the Steelers continue to give up points to opposing teams on the opening drives of games, which they have done in 8 of 10 games so far.

The 8 scores in 10 games, an 80% scoring percentage, is far and away the worst mark in the league. The only other teams over 56% are the Jets (60%) and the Raiders (67%). Hand-in-hand with allowing the opposition free access to the scoreboard, the Steelers have allowed more yards per opening drive (51.0) than any other team. Opponents are controlling the clock as well, averaging 4:31 on their opening possessions, the 3rd highest mark in the league, trailing only Baltimore (4:54) and Cincinnati (4:32).

While the defense has gotten off to some slow starts, the offense has also not contributed coming out of the gate either.

After yet another opening drive ended in a punt against the Jets, I decided to look up some of the stats. What I found isn't pretty. In the 10 games this season, the offense has punted on their opening drive six times, fumbled twice, scored one touchdown and kicked one field goal. Additionally, the Steelers have failed to get a first down on 4 opening drives - 3 of them being 3-and-outs and one fumble against Tampa.

It's not just that the Steelers aren't putting points on the board in their opening drives, they aren't moving the ball and controlling field position either. Their average opening drive has gained 26.3 yards, tied with the Eagles for 28th in the league. Only the Titans and Giants have scored less on opening drives - Tennessee has 1 field goal and the Giants have not scored at all. The Steelers 20% scoring percentage is about half of the league average of 39% (22% TDs, 17% FGs). Consider this: the league average this season is 18.8 points scored on opening drives. The Steelers have scored 10, more than a full touchdown below average. On top of that, the Steelers punting percentage (60%) is the 5th highest in the league, behind the Giants, Chiefs, Texans and Bears.

All of these stats are troublesome, but perhaps the most problematic statistic is average start position. The Steelers are dead last in the NFL with an average start position of their own 18 yard line. They have only started on the plus side of the 20 yard line once in 10 games. The Steelers have gotten the ball first in 7 of 10 games and because of the offense's inability to move the ball on opening drives and the awful punting from Brad Wing (who ranks 30th in the league in yards per punt), their opponents have the 6th best opening drive starting field position.

Graphically, here is how opening drives have looked on average for Steelers and their opponents this year:

Looking at the broader picture, is this an indictment of the 2014 Steelers or of the Todd Haley Steelers?

In Haley's tenure from 2012-present, the Steelers have averaged more opening drive punts and less opening drive scores than they did under Arians. But when you look at the bottom of the chart, you will note that Haley's teams have averaged 9 yards worse in starting field position than Arians' teams did. This may be due in part to the league-wide average dropping from the 28.6 yard line (from 07-11) to the 25.3 yard line (from 12-14). Scott Kacsmar of Football Outsiders did a fantastic analysis earlier this year on the impact of the NFL moving kickoffs from the 30 to the 35 yard line in 2011. His conclusion was that starting field position on kickoffs has decreased by about 5 yards since kickoffs were moved up. The Steelers have two issues in play here: Haley's offenses have averaged 7 less yards on opening drives than Arians' offenses and they are starting 9 yards deeper in their own territory. In total, this amounts to a difference of about 16 yards of field position.

A perfectly average opening drive under Arians would start at the 33.6 yard line, gain 34 yards and end at the opposition's 32 yard line. This perfectly average drive would put the Steelers in position to attempt a 49-yard field goal.

A perfectly average opening drive under Haley would start at the 24.5 yard line, gain 27.6 yards and end at the opposition's 48 yard line. In this case, the Steelers would most likely punt (as they have done 55% of the time under Haley). As you can see, both the starting field position and the average yards gained play a big role in the end result.

The 2014 numbers are even worse, as they include a starting field position that is 6.5 yards worse than Haley's average and 15 yards worse than Arians' average. Of course, offensive coordinators have no control over starting field position, but it is part of the hand they are dealt. The 2014 Steelers have gained about the same as the average Haley team on their opening drive (only 1.5 yards below average), but the starting field position means that an average opening drive for the 2014 Steelers comes to an end at their OWN 44 yard line.

Yardage aside, the biggest difference between opening drives under Haley and under Arians are the punting and touchdown percentages. Haley's teams have averaged 54.8% punts and 14.3% touchdowns while Arians' offenses averaged 40% punts and 27.5% touchdowns. There is almost a direct correlation here as Arians' offenses had 14.8% less punts and 13.2% more touchdowns. The field goal percentages are essentially equivalent but Arians offense scoring touchdowns over punting is a huge difference in how the Steelers came out of the gate.

As you will recall, Arians was famous for scripting the first 10-15 plays of a game during the week and doing his best to stick to that script when the game started. If Haley does the same thing, it is blatantly obvious that Arians was much better at writing the script during the week than Todd Haley. However, as you will recall I had a post a few weeks ago comparing the points per game numbers from Bruce Arians's offense and the Todd Haley's offense. The points per game were relatively equal, which means that even though Arians' teams were much better out of the gate, the team normalized over the rest of the game to make the points per game and yards per game numbers relatively equal.

Friday, November 14, 2014

WPIAL Semifinals Results and Championship Matchups

The top two classifications saw blowouts in the penultimate round while Class AA and Class A saw tight games that went down to the wire. All of the Championship Games will be Friday November 21 at Heinz Field and will be broadcast on ROOT Sports.


Semifinals Results

1. Pine-Richland 42, 5. McKeesport 7
3. Central Catholic 52, 2. Penn-Trafford 34

Championship Game
1. Pine-Richland (12-0) vs 3. Central Catholic (11-1)


Semifinals Results

1. Central Valley 41, 5. Ringgold 13
3. West Allegheny 41, Thomas Jefferson 7

Championship Game
1. Central Valley (12-0) vs 3. West Allegheny (11-1)


Semifinals Results

1. South Fayette 35, 5. Seton-La Salle 21
2. Aliquippa 44, 3. Washington 26

Championship Game
1. South Fayette (12-0) vs 2. Aliquippa (12-0)


Semifinals Results

5. Avonworth 28, 1. Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic 21
2. Clairton 48, 3. Neshannock 42 (OT)

Championship Game
2. Clairton (12-0) vs 5. Avonworth (11-1)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

WPIAL Playoff Preview: Semifinals

One more step. Sixteen teams remain vying for the eight spots at Heinz Field next Friday. Only four teams remain in each classification and at this point the wheat has clearly been separated from the chaff. In all four classifications, the teams making the semifinals were the #1, #2, #3 and #5 seeds. None of this years semifinalists have more than 1 loss and 10 of them are undefeated. Of the 6 teams that are 10-1 on the season, all of them lost to another team that is in the semifinals.  Incredibly, 6 of the 8 teams that played at Heinz Field last season are still alive and all four defending champions (Central Catholic, West Allegheny, South Fayette and Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic) are still alive in their quests to defend their titles.

If you're going to be at home tonight, keep an eye on the following hashtags on Twitter to follow along as people post score updates from games: #WPIAL #MSAscores #Skylights

Also, if you're not already, follow the @MSAsports @PGVarsityXtra and @TribHSInsider twitter accounts which will post score updates and bookmark the MSA Scoreboard for quick reference at the end of the night. They get the final scores up faster than anyone. Also, MSA Sports will be broadcasting all 8 playoff games over the internet, here is their list of the games they will be broadcasting tonight.

1. Pine-Richland (7-0, 11-0) vs 5. McKeesport (8-1, 10-1)
Location: North Allegheny

Playoff Meetings Since 1980: None
Last Championship Game Appearance: Pine-Richland 2003 (AAA), McKeesport 2005

Pine-Richland continued their run of dominance in the semi-finals, cruising past Altoona 49-7. The Rams got another big performance from the WPIAL's leading passer Ben DiNucci, who threw for 377 yards to put him over 3000 for the season. DiNucci has one of the best receiving tandems in the WPIAL with 1000-yard receiver Mike Merhaut and 900-yard receiver D'ondre Gastion who committed to Duquesne this week. The Rams are much more than an Air Raid offense though as RB Connor Slomka's 100-yard game put him over 1000 for the seasons and his 3 TDs against the Mountain Lions put him at 27 scores on the season, the 5th highest in the WPIAL. The Rams boast the best offense in Quad-A and have not been held under 48 points since the calendar flipped to October. This could present a problem for a run-heavy McKeesport team that averages less than 3 pass attempts per game. McKeesport boasts one of the better defenses in Quad-A and has only allowed two teams to put up more than two scores on them. The Tigers will need to control the clock and keep the Pine-Richland offense off the field with their rushing attack if they want to advance to their first championship game since 2005. They will rely heavily on 1600-yard rusher Khaleke Hudson and bruiser Tymar Sutton who ran for over 600 yards from the fullback position this year but took over under center after TyWann Smith was injured last week against Plum. Sutton carried the Tigers last week, rushing for 150 yards and two scores and will be the key to attacking Pine-Richland's defense.

2. Penn-Trafford (8-0, 11-0) vs 3. Central Catholic (6-1, 10-1)
Location: Norwin

Playoff Meetings Since 1980: 3. Central Catholic is 3-0 and has knocked Penn-Trafford out of the playoffs the last two years.
Last Championship Game Appearance: Penn-Trafford 1997, Central Catholic 2013

For the second straight year, Penn-Trafford and Central Catholic meet with a trip to Heinz Field on the line. The Warriors got all they could handle from North Allegheny last week, mounting a comeback from 10 points down in the fourth quarter to beat the Tigers. The Warriors were able to attack North Allegheny through the air with QB Brett Laffoon racking up 280 yards and 5 TDs, 197 of which were to junior WR Timmy Vecchio who also hauled in 3 TDs. Vecchio is nearing 1000 receiving yards on the season and is the second-leading receiver in the WPIAL. However, Central Catholic's defense is loaded with Division 1-caliber talent and the Warriors will need to stay balanced and get a solid game out of 1300-yard rusher Devin Austin to keep Central's defense at bay. The Vikings have been outstanding on the defensive side of the ball this year, culminating with a shutout of an explosive Woodland Hills offense last week (their 5th shutout of the season). Amazingly, the Vikings gave up more points to Pine-Richland (48) than they have given up to their other 10 opponents combined (45). While Central is the best defensive team in Quad-A, their offense remains a weakness. They are built on a rushing attack without a dominant back - Grant Foster (729 yards, 16 TDs), Brian Totten (469 yards, 2 TDs), Vinny Emanuele (453 yards, 6 TDs) and Ronnie Jones (432 yards, 7 TDs) have split the workload this year. Last week, the Vikings beat Woodland Hills 28-0 but only one offensive touchdown was scored as Central scored touchdowns on a punt return, fumble return and interception return. The Vikings have been so good on defense this year that their offense's lack of firepower and lack of a passing game was only exposed once - when Pine-Richland put up 48 points in a shootout and Central could not keep up. If Brett Laffoon and Timmy Vecchio can find holes in Central's defense, they could force the Vikings into the uncomfortable territory of a shootout. However, if Central gets out to an early lead, their defense will be able to control the game and send the Vikings to Heinz Field for the second straight season.


1. Central Valley (8-0, 11-0) vs 5. Ringgold (7-1, 10-1)
Location: Chartiers Valley

Playoff Meetings Since 1980: 2. Central Valley beat Ringgold in the first round in 2010 and the quarterfinals in 2011.
Last Championship Game Appearance: Central Valley 2013, Ringgold 1982

Since Center and Monaca school districts merged in 2010, Central Valley has been to the semi-finals every season. In fact, the Warriors are one of only 3 WPIAL schools (with Aliquippa and Clairton) that have reached the semi-finals in each of the last 5 seasons. The Warriors raced out to an early lead against Indiana in the semifinals and cruised to a 41-14 victory, led by one of the best athletes in the WPIAL, Pitt recruit Jordan Whitehead. Whitehead only played the first half but paced the team with 127 rushing yards and 2 TDs along with a 42-yard receiving touchdown. On the season, Whitehead has nearly 1300 rushing yards and 25 total TDs. Senior QB John George has battled injuries this season but threw for 122 yards and 3 TDs in the quarterfinals. The Warriors seem to be blessed with a never-ending pool of talent as George's replacement - junior Chris Callaghan - has thrown for 1200 yards and 12 TDs this season. Ringgold beat Hampton in overtime in the quarterfinals in the most exciting game of the night when Hampton opted to try for a 2-point conversion and the win in overtime and was stopped short by the Rams defense. Ringgold's winning streak has reached 10 games as the Rams have not lost since their Week 1 shellacking by Thomas Jefferson. This semi-final appearance is the deepest the Rams have gone in the playoffs since 1987 and they are seeking their first championship game appearance in over 30 years. If the Rams are going to continue their winning streak, they will need another outstanding effort from dual-threat QB Nico Law. On the season, Law has accounted for over 2000 yards of total offense - 1200 yards and 15 TDs through the air and 800 yards and 12 TDs on the ground. Leading rusher Chacar Berry was injured in the opening round but was able to suit up last week, though he carried the ball just 11 times for 33 yards, a significant dropoff from his season average of 9 yards per carry.

2. Thomas Jefferson (8-0, 11-0) vs 3. West Allegheny (7-1, 10-1)
Location: Bethel Park

Playoff Meetings Since 1980: 5. West Allegheny is 3-2 and 3-1 in semi-finals meetings.
Last Championship Game Appearance: Thomas Jefferson 2008, West Allegheny 2013

At the beginning of the season, I had a debate with Josh Rowntree of MSA Sports about whether or not West Allegheny had overtaken Thomas Jefferson as the premier AAA program. Now, the two meet in the semi-finals with a spot at Heinz Field on the line. It is hard to argue with the prestige of either of these programs. Thomas Jefferson has a WPIAL-leading 20 straight playoff appearances and has reached the semifinals in 17 of those seasons, including 16 of the last 17. The Jaguars have won 4 WPIAL titles in that time and had a run of 6 straight appearances at Heinz Field from 2003-2008, which was the last time they won a semifinal game. On the other hand, West Allegheny and coach Bob Palko have been unstoppable when a title is on the line, going 7 for 7 in Championship Games since winning their first in 1997. The Indians are the two-time defending WPIAL Champions and have not lost to a WPIAL team other than Central Valley since 2011. Thomas Jefferson boasts the WPIAL's leading rusher in Austin Kemp who is nearing 2000 yards on the season after a 200-yard, 3 touchdown effort against Mars in the quarterfinals. The Jaguars have done pretty much nothing except hand the ball off this season, averaging less than 3 pass attempts per game, and Kemp is the workhorse back though sophomore Quinton Hill has added over 700 yards and 11 TDs as a change-of-pace back. West Allegheny has a very good defense and their blitzing scheme is good enough to confuse most offenses, but the Indians will need to find a way to contain Kemp - something no one has done yet this year. For their part, West A has a dynamic trio of backs in Chayse Dillon (811 yards, 16 TDs), Terence Stephens (753 yards, 15 TDs) and Whitney White (572 yards, 9 TDs). In their quarterfinal victory over Franklin Regional, both Dillon and Stephens had over 100 yards rushing and combined for 5 touchdowns. If anyone is going to put the ball in the air in this game, it will be West Allegheny as senior QB Andrew Koester has thrown for over 1200 yards and 15 TDs this season.

1. South Fayette (10-0, 11-0) vs 5. Seton-La Salle (8-1, 10-1)
Location: Peters Township

Playoff Meetings Since 1980: 2. South Fayette beat Seton-La Salle in the quarterfinals last year and Seton beat South Fayette in the quarterfinals in 2011.
Last Championship Game Appearance: South Fayette 2013, Seton-La Salle 2004

This will be the second meeting this season between South Fayette and Seton-La Salle as the Century Conference foes met in Week 8 amid eligibility controversy. Seton-La Salle was forced to play without playmaker Danzel McKinley-Lewis after he was flagged twice for unsportsmanlike conduct (both questionable calls) the week prior and South Fayette rolled to a 41-14 victory. McKinley-Lewis, the Rebels leading receiver, second leading rusher, and leading scorer will be suiting up for this semifinal showdown. McKinley-Lewis led the Rebels to a hard-fought 28-21 victory over Highlands in the quarterfinals, scoring a receiving and a rushing touchdown, the later of which broke a 21-21 tie in the fourth quarter. Seton-La Salle QB Tyler Perone threw for 188 yards, putting him over 2000 on the season. South Fayette, who had been so dominant all season, showed some cracks in the armor against South Park in the quarterfinals. South Park led by 1 at halftime and stretched their lead to 21-13 before the WPIAL's all-time leading passer Brett Brumbaugh led his team on a 26-point barrage in the second half. Brumbaugh threw touchdown passes of 40, 26, and 45 yards on three consecutive drives to put the Lions back in control of the game. Brumbaugh is the second-leading passer in the WPIAL this season and has thrown for almost 2700 yards and 33 TDs. His primary targets have been 800-yard receiver Nick Ponikvar (who scored twice against South Park) and 600-yard receiver Logan Sharp. This game features two balanced offensive attacks as both teams have a 2000-yard passer and a 1000-yard rusher. For South Fayette, that is Hunter Hays who has run for 1153 yards and found the end zone 22 times. Ricky Mellick has paced the Rebels with 1102 rushing yards and 11 scores. This is the fourth semi-final appearance for South Fayette in the last 5 seasons and they are carrying a WPIAL-leading 27-game winning streak into this contest.

2. Aliquippa (8-0, 11-0) vs 3. Washington (8-0, 11-0)
Location: West Allegheny

Playoff Meetings Since 1980: 8. Washington is 5-3 against the Quips but Aliquippa knocked the Prexies out in the 2011 quarterfinals and 2012 Championship Game.
Last Championship Game Appearance: Aliquippa 2013, Washington 2012

Aliquippa has absolutely dominated the competition this season, much like they seem to do every season. The Quips just reloaded after losing 3 players to D1 schools last year and haven't had a game within 30 points this season. The Quips have put up 40+ points in every game and only Kittanning has scored more than 15 against their defense. Last week, the Quips beat Mt Pleasant for the second time this season, riding a 180-yard, 5 touchdown game from RB Kaezon Pugh. Both Pugh and backfield made DiMante Bronaugh have rushed for over 1200 yards this season. Pugh has found the end zone 21 times and Bronaugh 24. Not to be outdone by his backs, QB Darrien Fields has nearly 1300 yards passing and 18 TDs. The Quips are dynamic on offense and stifling on defense and seem to have all the pieces in place to make it to Heinz Field for the 7th straight year. Standing in their way is their biggest playoff nemesis, the team that has beaten them more in the postseason than any other school - the Washington Little Prexies. The Prexies are back in the semifinals for the second time in three seasons and have a balanced offensive attack between 1200-yard passer Jonathan Spina and 1300-yard rusher Malik Wells. The Prexies also have a big play receiver in DeQuay Isbell who leads the team in scoring with 19 total touchdowns and is averaging over 20 yards a play every time he touches the ball. The Prexies won a shootout against an offensively talented Apollo-Ridge team last week but the Quips might be too much on both offense and defense. The Prexies have shown some holes in their armor, needing late touchdowns to beat rival Waynesburg in Week 3, Mt Pleasant in Week 5 and McGuffey for the conference title in Week 9.

1. Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic (7-0, 11-0) vs 5. Avonworth (6-1, 10-1)
Location: Mars

Playoff Meetings Since 1980: 3. Avonworth is 2-1 against North Catholic.
Last Championship Game Appearance: Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic 2013, Avonworth 1959.

The Defending State Champions meet conference rival Avonworth in the playoffs for the fourth time in the last seven years. The Trojans beat Avonworth in the quarterfinals last year and again in the regular season this year. North Catholic got a bit of a scare last week as they trailed South Side Beaver for much of the first half and were only up 7-6 at halftime on a PJ Fulmore touchdown. Fulmore added two more scores in the second half and the Trojans moved on to their third consecutive semifinals appearance. In their regular season meeting, the teams were scoreless at halftime before an explosion of offense in the second half ran the Trojans to a 28-0 victory that could have been 35-0 if a 100-yard pick-6 wasn't called back for a trip behind the play. The Trojans have been outstanding on offense this season, led by 1300-yard rusher and leading receiver PJ Fulmore, a Duquesne commit. Jerome Turner has added over 1000 yards and 22 TDs while sophomore sensation Mario Latronica has been a change-of-pace back and rushed for over 700. Turner was injured in the opening round of the playoffs and missed last week's game against South Side Beaver, which gave Latronica a chance to shine as a complement to Fulmore. If Latronica adds 260 more rushing yards this season, the Trojans will be the first team since the 2007 Serra Catholic squad to have 3 players rush for over 1000 yards. This would be quite an impressive feat, considering QB Adam Sharlow has also thrown for over 900 yards and 9 TDs this season. Avonworth is in the semifinals for the third time in the last 7 seasons and have not been to a championship game since winning the WPIAL title in 1959. The Lopes have survived a number of injuries to key players this season, including to their starting quarterback. Josh Drwal has taken over under center and accounted for almost 1000 yards of total offense, though he is more of a threat on the ground running the read-option than through the air. Jamal Hughley was the Lopes leading rusher and receiver, providing over 1000 yards of total offense and 15 TDs. The Lopes have a very good group of linemen and were able to stifle North Catholic's interior running game in their first meeting. The biggest problem for Avonworth was that the Lopes offense just couldn't move the ball against the Trojans defense.

2. Clairton (8-0, 11-0) vs 3. Neshannock (7-0, 11-0)
Location: Canon-McMillan

Playoff Meetings Since 1980: 1. Clairton beat Neshannock in the 2012 semifinals.
Last Championship Game Appearance: Clairton 2012, Neshannock has never been to a WPIAL Championship Game

The record grows closer. After smoking Shenango 68-7 last week, Clairton has tallied 740 points through 11 games. The state record is 860 points, set by the 2007 Jeannette team led by Terrelle Pryor. At their current pace of 67 points per game, Clairton would pass Jeannette's 16-game record next week in their 12th outing. But first, the Bears need to get past a Neshannock team that also has a high-scoring offense (though not nearly the record-breaking kind the Bears do). Clairton has been paced by 1800-yard rusher Lamont Wade who has scored an incredible 33 touchdowns this season. Bears QB Ryan Williams has the benefit of game-breaking players at every offensive skill position and has thrown for over 2000 yards and 26 TDs this season. In the quarterfinals against Shenango, Williams threw for 221 yards and  2 TDs on just 7 completions. While the Bears offense has set a record pace, their defense is almost as good, pitching 6 shutouts and has held opponents to under 4 points per game. Neshannock has also dominated their opponents this season. Their 14-point victory over Jeannette in the quarterfinals was the first time they had a game closer than 27 points all season. The Lancers have only been held under 40 points once this season and had not given up more than 20 before Jeannette put up 32 on them last week. Neshannock has a balanced offensive attack with 1000-yard rusher Eli Owens and 1600-yard passer Frank Antuono. The Lancers have been good on defense but probably aren't good enough to stop Clairton's offensive attack which means they will need to be able to score with the Bears and hope to topple Clairton in a shootout, which is a tall task against the Clairton defense. Both of these teams have been here before as Clairton is appearing in their 9th straight semifinals and Neshannock in their 3rd straight. However, Clairton is looking to reach Heinz Field for the 7th time in those 9 seasons while Neshannock has never played in a Championship Game.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

eVICKted: Steelers Lose


The Steelers have launched this new interactive fan thing called Steelers Nation Unite. I'm not quite sure of all the details of it yet, but I do know some people have gotten pregame field passes and things like that just for being members, which is pretty cool. This past week, their campaign to get Steelers fans to show up for the game was #BlackOutTheBigApple. Unfortunately, they didn't have a plan to get the Steelers to show up for the game.

From the very beginning, the Steelers looked totally unprepared to play a football game. They won the coin toss but deferred to the second half, an absolutely bizarre decision considering the Jets hadn't had a lead since the Wright Brothers invented them and Ben Roethlisberger had thrown 12 TOUCHDOWNS in the last two weeks. But apparently the logic was to put a defense that had allowed teams to score on the opening drive in pretty much every game on the field first, instead of your league MVP candidate.

As a random note here, the Steelers and Jets have played 8 times since 2001 when Terry McAuley became a referee. McAuley has been the referee in four of them.

So the Steelers gave the Jets the ball first and that worked out just swimmingly as the Jets looked like the first quarter Houston Texans and ran the ball right down the Steelers throat. The Steelers plan to not give Ben Roethlisberger the ball first completely backfired and the Jets took 8 minutes off the clock before the defense held them to a field goal at the goal line.


The Steelers got 1 first down but a 3rd down sack forced them to punt on an opening drive for the 6th time in 10 games, and sent the ball right back to the Jets who executed a beautiful play-action fake and Vick hit some receiver no one had ever heard of for a 67-yard touchdown.


I'm not sure what was worse on the play:

  • That the Jets ran a 2-man route and both guys were open (underneath TE wide open, deep WR has inside position on CB)
  • That there was no safety anywhere to be seen
  • That CB Brice McCain was the second guy deep on the play and he came all the way from the other side of the field.

The Jets perfectly executed the play and the receiver made a great catch with Gay all over him to haul in the pass. But that doesn't excuse the defense totally breaking down in the middle of the field with all the linebackers and safeties just standing there letting two receivers run open behind them.

The Steelers did what they always do when they want to get their offense rolling, they ran a WR screen. The Jets were all over it and knocked the ball out of AB's hands and recovered the fumble. The defense couldn't hold and the Jets found their way to the end zone again. Like the Cleveland game all over again, it was 17-0 before you knew what happened.


Second Quarter

The Steelers got a gift first down when Jason Babin was a douchebag and hit Ben after the whistle. Le'Veon Bell led us down the field and into the red zone. Ben tried to hit Bryant on a post pattern but the ball got deflected and the Jets picked it off.

The defense seemed to come up with an answer on the next drive when it appeared Vick fumbled on a scramble on 3rd down but even after a challenge the refs said he was down by contact. Antonio Brown muffed the punt and the Jets got the ball right back in Steelers territory. Luckily, Nick Folk did his best Doug Brien impression and missed a 45-yarder.

The Steelers got the ball with 51 seconds and were somehow able to get into long field goal range despite no one getting out of bounds. Suisham banged home a 53-yarder to lift our spirits temporarily before halftime.


Third Quarter

The Steelers started moving the ball down the field and got into Jets territory. The offensive line finally gave Ben time to throw and he made the dumbest throw of the season after looking left and seeing Bryant open for 8 and Brown open for 20, he tried to float a pass to Wheaton over the middle who was surrounded by 4 Jets.

Yeah, that got picked off.

The teams trade 3-and-outs.

Chris Rock's doppelganger continues to pick apart the Steelers defense and drives the Jets into the red zone where they add another field goal.


Ben finally takes a shot deep and is able to hook up with Bryant for 45 yards but then gets sacked. Heath gets his first few catches of the game and the offense rolls on down into the red zone. Rather than doing something smart after Le'Veon gets them to 3rd and 1 inside the 5, the Steelers rush to the line and hurry a snap before the end of the quarter. Le'Veon loses 2.

Fourth Quarter

Stop me if you've heard this story before. Offense driving when we need points but stopped in the red zone. Coaches opt for the field goal and it's missed.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, I'll refer you back to the 2010 game against the Patriots.

Another 3-and-out from the Jets and the Steelers get it back down 3 scores with 13 minutes to go. The offense shows no urgency and takes 9 plays and 4 minutes to drive 54 yards down to the 1 yard line. Once there, the offense takes a dump all over itself. After getting stuffed on first down, Blount tries to run outside on 2nd and gets turned back and loses 8 yards.

1st and goal at the 1 turns into 3rd and goal at the 9 without a penalty. Whatever. Suisham makes this one and we still need 2 touchdowns.


The Jets are more or less content to just run the ball and eat up clock. The Steelers don't do anything with the ball after getting across midfield and almost hilariously go from 2nd and 5 to 4th and 21. Tomlin decides to go for it on 4th and 21 with just over 2 minutes left rather than going for a touchdown on a 4th down inside the 10.

The Jets decide to do their best Annie Get Your Gun medley and tell the Steelers "anything you can do I can do better." and go from 1st and 10 to 3rd and 46 by taking 2 unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on the same play.

After a punt, Ben does his Ben thing and scampers away from pressure and hits Bryant streaking down the field who hauls it in and trots into the end zone for an 80-yard score.


Ultimately, it was too little too late as there was only 1:15 left and the Steelers only had 1 timeout. It came down to an onside kick that we didn't recover because we never do.

Mike Mitchell decides to be a douchebag and dive over the Jets line when they're kneeling down.

Mike Mitchell might be the hardest Steeler to cheer for since Anthony Smith.

Steelers are 6-4 and have lost to the Bucs and Jets who have 1 combined win against teams not from Pittsburgh.