Tuesday, December 30, 2008

John Eeks Out Edge in Preseason Predictions

As you may recall, in our team previews at the beginning of the year we took a shot at predicting each team's final record. Well, the tallies are in and John has taken the edge...barely.

John was a total of 105 games off for all teams in the league. I was a total of 106 games off for all teams in the league.

John hit the nail on the head with 3 teams, accurately calling Pittsburgh's 12-4 record, Tampa Bay's 9-7 record and Arizona's 9-7 record.

I only managed two correct predictions: Arizona at 9-7 and Denver at 8-8.

Counting the teams we got right, we both predicted 13 records within 2 games of their actual record.

The embarrassing part of this post comes in our playoff predictions.

John's Playoff Teams:
Division Champs: New England, San Diego, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis
Wild Cards: Jacksonville, NY Jets
Division Champs: Dallas, Seattle, New Orleans, Green Bay
Wild Cards: Washington, Detroit

Ian's Playoff Teams:
Division Champs: San Diego, New England, Jacksonville, Pittsburgh
Wild Cards: Indianapolis, Buffalo
Division Champs: Dallas, Green Bay, Seattle, New Orleans
Wild Cards: Washington, Arizona

John landed 3 of 12 playoff teams, and I managed slightly better with 4. Don't come to us for playoff predictions before the season happens. Ouch.

Season's Beatings: Steelers Win


Pittsburgh music legend B.E. Taylor rocks out the national anthem in one of the fastest anthems of the year. Very well done...the bongos were a nice touch.

The Browns win the toss and defer, giving us the opportunity to put the game away early.

Everyone knew Hines only needed 23 yards to get to 1000 on the season, and he got a quick 7-yarder, setting up a Gary Russell surge for a first down on 3rd and short. Parker gets a few, then Ben goes back to Ward for 8 more, getting him within striking distance of the 1,000 plateau. Parker gets two totes for minimal yardage, the second one set back by a holding penalty. In typical, predictable, Steelers fashion, they throw an unsuccessful screen on 2nd and long, setting up 3rd and long. Ben hits Moore for 10, leaving him well short of the sticks and bringing in the Lob Wedge. Touchback.

Before the game even started, we knew what was coming when Cleveland had the ball. Jamal Lewis, Jamal Lewis, and Jamal Lewis. True to form, Cleveland comes out running the ball. With Harrison out of the game, the Browns game plan was to run everything away from Woodley so that they could focus on blocking him. In turn, Timmons lead the team in tackles. They forced a 3rd and long, but Gradkowski was able to convert with his longest completion of the day (12 yards). Gradkowski hits Edwards for 5 then Cribbs converts on a QB-keeper out of the Wild Dog formation. The Browns pick up another first down on the ground, pushing the ball into Steelers territory. However, the Steelers defense holds, forcing a long field goal, which Phil Dawson misses.

Ben goes right to the air and hits Hines down the sidelines for 24 yards to put Hines over 1000. Parker grinds out 5 yards on 2 carries then Miller Time converts the first down. Ben goes play-action on first down from the 20 and looks for Heath down the seam, but the ball is behind Heath and gets picked off.

As disgusting as the turnover was at that point in the game, we were lucky it came against the Browns. They do nothing on 2 plays and the quarter ends.

Second Quarter

Lewis takes a quick-hitter for 11 yards off tackle against the nickel defense on 3rd and 7, keeping hope alive temporarily. Cleveland gets themselves into another 3rd and 7 and try a similar run, but Smith and Timmons are there to shut it down. Punt.

The Steelers once again had a chance to put points on the board, and virtually put the game out of reach against this awful Browns offense. Heath makes up for a holding penalty with a big catch down the seam. Parker gets some big yards and the Steelers pick up a second first down on a pass interference call to move back into Cleveland territory. Ben scrambles out of pressure on 2nd down and hits Nasty Nate on Grant Avenue, but a Colonoscopy brings it back. The Steelers can't recover from the penalty and are forced into another punt. The Lob Wedge pins the Browns at the 5.

After Lewis gets the Browns out of the shadow of the end zone, the Steelers defense steps it up and forces a punt.

With 5 and a half to go in the first half, the offense really needed a jumpstart. Parker goes for 3, then Ben hits Heeeeeath for a big 20-yarder. And just like that. Bam.

The Flash

is back.
Parker from 34 for his first touchdown since the Redskins game.

While that touchdown essentially put the game out of reach against a Browns offense that didn't see the end zone since before Thanksgiving, the Steelers still needed to play. And play they did.

The Browns take a holding penalty and can't recover. Punt.

The Steelers start with great field position, just shy of the 50 and Ben goes to work, hooking up with Holmes to get inside the 40. After the two-minute warning, Ben is pressured and forced out of the pocket and flings one to Heath as he gets pounded into the turf on what looked like a blow to the head. After what seems like an eternity, Ben is carted off the field with a concussion.

Byron comes in and has to convert a 3rd down on his first play. True to form, Byron hits the money man Heath Miller for the conversion. After an incompletion and a false start, Byron hits Carey Davis out of the backfield for 14 yards to bring up 3rd and short. The Bulldozer comes in and powers for 8 yards to get down to the 8. Byron spikes it to kill the clock, then is forced into another 3rd and long after an incompletion. Byron drops back, looks left, looks right, and sees the red sea part in front of him. The slowest quarterback in the league takes off...

...and goes untouched into the end zone for the score.
Game out of reach.

Jamal Lewis gets a token carry for Cleveland to end the half.


B.E. Taylor rocks out some tunes. Word circulates that Ben has a "mild" concussion. Nervous times at the stadium.

Third Quarter

Cleveland sucks. We know it. 3-and-out. Punt.

The Willie Parker Show dominates the airwaves and picks up 20 yards on 4 carries before Byron goes to the air and hits Holmes on a slant to convert a 3rd and short. Parker gets two more totes, but the drive gets set back by a penalty on Limas Sweed. The Steelers can't recover and punt.

Cleveland gets into another 3rd and long, but AFC Defensive Player of the Week Tyrone Carter is there to pull down the interception.

With the ball already in the red zone, the offense is primed to score. Arians busts out the motif offense, which leads to a field goal.


With 5 minutes to go in the 3rd, the Steelers start subbing in defensive players. Keyaron Fox gets his name on the score sheet with a tackle. The Browns get themselves into another 3rd and long, but Cribbs throws a pass out of the Wild Dog and completes it, looking better than Gradkowski did throwing the ball. The Browns can't do anything after that though, and punt again.

The Steelers start backed up at their 12, but Byron is ready to lead the troops. Parker gets things going with a 5-yard run, then Hines pulls one in for 7 and the first down. Mewelde Moore comes in and gets 9 as the quarter expires.

Fourth Quarter

On 2nd and 1, you think they might go to the air, but Parker shows why you don't have to against Cleveland, busting a 22-yarder on one of the worst run defenses in the league. Parker and Moore do nothing on 2 carries, but Byron saves the motif offense from another insult by hitting Nasty Nate to pick up the first down. Moore goes for 6 and 11 to get inside the 30. Parker goes for 4 more, then Byron hits Hines on a short pass which Hines turns upfield and powers towards the goal line, but gets pulled down just short.

The Browns can't stop the Bulldozer from 3. TOUCHDOWN.

Renegade rocks out during the commercial break, meaning that the Browns are even more doomed than they were. Lewis carves out a big gain on first down, giving the Browns momentary relief. Cribbs tries a pass off of a handoff from Bruce, but Big Play Willie Gay is all over the coverage. On 2nd down, Gradkowski looks short for Lewis but guess who Tyrone Carter is all over it, pulling in the pick and

Taking it


Carter's touchdown was the 3rd defensive touchdown this year on the drive when Renegade was played. Woodley's fumble recovery against Baltimore, Deshea's score against Dallas, and Carter's in this game. The Renegade legend continues.

Gradkowski falls down on first down, giving the Steelers an easy sack. Cleveland can't recover and punts.

With 6 minutes to go in the game, Dennis Dixon comes in for his first action of the season. He flings a quick one out to Hines for Hines' 800th catch of his career. After that, it's all on the running game. Russell and Davis get nice gains, but not enough for the first down, bringing out the Lob Wedge.

Cleveland looks like they'll be content to kill the clock, running Jamal Lewis 3 times to run 2 minutes off the clock. However, with 4th and 4 at their own 27, they go for it. Lewis powers for 4 yards, picking up the first down. After the two minute warning, Gradkowski goes to pass, but Andre Frazier is all over the blitz, bringing him down for the sack. Three incompletions later, it's a turnover on downs.

Dixon runs the victory formation. Game.

Players of the Game:
Offensive Game Ball: Willie Parker
Defensive Game Ball: Tyrone Carter

Honorable Mentions:
Lawrence Timmons
Hines Ward
Byron Leftwich
Heath Miller

Mr. Yuck Sticker of the Game
Ben going down with an injury. Hopefully he'll be able to come back for the playoff game and have a fully functioning brain.

Final Thoughts
  • Cleveland sucks.
  • The Steelers won time of possession in all 4 quarters.
  • 12-4. fantastic season.
  • The Steelers were 3-1 in all 4 quarters of the season.
  • For the first time since the Super Bowl year, we didn't lose to a team we weren't supposed to lose to (Oakland in 2006, NY Jets in 2007).
  • All 4 of our losses were to playoff teams.
  • Leftwich will be okay if we need him in the playoffs, but hopefully Ben can go.
  • 11 straight wins over Cleveland.
  • Bye Bye Romeo.
  • Cowher already said no to the Browns job. No surprise there.
  • Rest up this week boys, we'll have a big game against Indy in two weeks.
  • Preferably we play Miami, but chances are we play Indy.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Browns will start Gradkowski

The Cleveland Browns, who have lost their first 3 quarterbacks to injury, have called upon Seton La Salle grad Bruce Gradkowski. If the name sounds familiar, Gradkowski was a WPIAL record-setter while playing AA ball at Seton La Salle.

This will be Gradkowski's second career start in Pittsburgh. His last start in the Steel City? A 2006 game where he was at the helm for the 3-8 Buccaneers team that came in to face a 4-7 Steelers squad.

We all know the 2006 Steelers defense wasn't exactly the best thing since sliced bread. They gave up 41 points to the Atlanta Falcons, and Drew Brees came within an eyelash of 400 passing yards. The Steelers-Bucs game saw a Steelers team coming off a 27-0 shalacking by Baltimore and Tampa coming off an equally embarassing 38-10 loss to Dallas.

Enough dramatic buildup. Onto how Bruce managed the game. He was 20-for-34 for 175 yards, and (most importantly) 3 interceptions and 5 sacks.

Like I said before, the 2006 Steelers defense was a shell of what we're seeing on the field right now, which means the Browns will likely give us a heavy dose of Jamal Lewis and the running game, taking the ball out of the quarterbacks hands, trying to shorten the game.

Not only does the current Browns team rank 31st in the league in Total Offense, but also 30th in the league in Passing Offense, and 31st in the league in touchdowns.

If the Browns offense has one ray of hope, it's that they are have allowed the 7th fewest sacks in the league, which means much of their playbook is focused on short, quick passes. However, Cleveland has the 5th most interceptions in the league, only 2 behind Houston and the Jets.

On the other side of the ball, the Steelers relatively stagnant offense against a Cleveland defense ranked 26th in total defense and 29th in rushing defense. If there was ever a game for Parker and Moore to breakout, it's tomorrow.

Friday, December 26, 2008

2009 Schedule: Sneak Peak

With a week to go in the season, the Steelers schedule for 2009 is almost set. Here's a sneak peak at what we'll be looking at.

For those who don't know how the schedule is made, here's a quick breakdown:

- Home and away against all divisional opponents
- One game against all teams in one other division from your conference (2 home, 2 away)
- One game against all teams in one division from the other conference (2 home, 2 away)
- One game against teams from your conference from divisions you don't play that finish in the same position as your team. (1 home, 1 away)

Since the Steelers played the AFC South this year, and the AFC East the year before, it is our turn to play the AFC West. In 2006 (the last time we played the AFC West), we played Kansas City and Denver at home, which means we will play them away next year.

The cycle of NFC opponents brings the Steelers to the NFC North, a slate of teams they haven't seen since 2005. In 05, we saw Chicago and Detroit at Heinz Field, which means we'll get to see both Aaron Rodgers and Adrian Peterson at Heinz Field next season. This also gives us the potential for a Thanksgiving Day game against Detroit.

Finally, since we won the AFC North, we get the AFC South and AFC East division champions. The last time we played the AFC West, we played our East equivalent (then Miami) at home and our South equivalent (then Jacksonville) away. It will flip for 2009 and we will see the South Champion (Tennessee) at home and the face East Champion (currently undecided, could be anyone except Buffalo) away.

So, with that in mind, here is the Steelers 2009 list of opponents:

Home Games
San Diego
Green Bay

Away Games
Kansas City
AFC East Champion (MIA/NE/NYJ)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Detroit Lions are on the clock

With their loss to the New Orleans Saints, the Lions have clinched the #1 pick in the 2009 NFL Draft.

Detroit fans have 123 days to figure out how to storm team headquarters if the Lions take Michael Crabtree.

Eight teams that entered this weekend at .500 or less won. Only 2 of those teams beat inferior opponents (San Francisco and New Orleans). Upset city for the other 6 teams.

San Diego is finally making their run everyone has been waiting for them to make. They get a gift from Buffalo, and now have a chance to win the division and make the playoffs next week against Denver. If only College Football had something this good: a playoff to get into the playoffs.

Teams not to trust in the playoffs: Arizona Cardinals and New York Jets (if they make it). Neither of these teams can travel. The Jets are 0-4 on the West Coast, Arizona is 0-4 in the east.

Reason the NFL is the best professional sport: Parity. The Atlanta Falcons and Miami Dolphins were the laughing stock of the league last year. Both teams are now 10-5 and have the opportunity to win their respective divisions next week.

Big question of the week: Will any home team win on divisional weekend?
Potential matchups (Bold teams are currently hold position):
Indianapolis @ Denver/San Diego
Baltimore/New England/Miami/NY Jets @ Miami/New England/NY Jets
Atlanta/Carolina @ Arizona
Tampa Bay/Philadelphia/Chicago @ Minnesota/Chicago

Assuming things stay as they are now, would you take an AFC West team over Indy? How about an AFC East team over Baltimore? Arizona over Atlanta or Carolina? I wouldn't predict any of these matchups in favor of the home teams.

Music City Meltdown: Steelers Lose


This was a thumping I'd rather not soon relive. The Steelers had a few missed opportunities early in the game that, if they had converted, could have meant a different outcome.

The game started off with the Steelers playing field position cat-and-mouse with Tennessee's offense, but a fumble by Ben at the goalline killed our early momentum. Even a field goal on that drive totally changes the gameplanning for the rest of the game.

Jeff Reed missed another field goal. What is going on? He used to be Mr. Automatic, now he's missed very makeable field goals in the last few weeks. Ever since the New England game, he just hasn't been as sharp. That won't cut it come playoff time.

Nate Washington is turning into a reliable reciever...in the second half. For some reason, be it Ben or the recievers, but Nate and Holmes have had trouble reeling in passes in the first half, but when the game is on the line have come up huge in the latter parts of games.

The defense didn't have their best game, but Tennessee was averaging 326 yards per game coming into the game, and they racked up just about that many against the Steelers. Tennessee was also averaging about 25 points per game coming in, and they put up 24 (not counting the 7 points from the interception return).

However, giving up 320 yards and 24 points should not be cause for alarm. Our defense has been spectacular, and it should be noted that only 10 teams in the league are averaging allowing less than 320 yards per game. So this game by our defense while not spectacular as we have become accustomed to seeing, was still comparably good.

On the flip side, our offense, which has averaged barely over 300 yards per game, put up 374, with Ben throwing for over 300. However, therein lies the problem. Statistics have proven that teams throwing for over 300 yards are much less successful than teams running for over 100. I hate to be one to incite division or player drama in the locker room, but Parker is right. We need to run the ball more. And for the love of all things holy, PUT A BLOCKING BACK IN!

We are by far, the worst screening team in the league, so that element is out of the game. Our offensive line, while it has been servicible, is much better when they're driving off the ball rather than stepping pack letting defenders run at them. As we saw against Tennessee, delayed runs and draw plays just didn't work against their fast defense. Yet, Arians still insisted on calling them. Moore was running good on runs up the middle, but we didn't establish anything with enough consistency to run play-action. Parker was getting a few creases when we were running quick-hitting running plays that allowed him to use his speed and cutback ability.

We need to fire Arians. This offense is going nowhere. Mike Mularkey, who was the Steelers offensive coordinator in the early 2000's when Bettis racked up a crapload of yards, has brought his power-football scheme to Atlanta, and look at the success it's had. We need an offensive coordinator like that.

The Steelers are much, much more successful when Ben has to throw less than 25 times in a game. While Ben has had over 25 attempts in almost every game this year, it's still a fact that, throughout his career, his best games have come when he hasn't had to make plays.

The Steelers did show some good things in this game. Harrison set the team record for sacks in a season. Holmes made a fantastic catch on a very well-thrown ball by Ben for the first touchdown. Hines made a heck of a catch and put up a great fight to get into the end zone for the second score.

However, once we took the 3rd quarter lead, the Titans turned it on and we fell apart. This game did seem to have a lot in common with our loss to Indianapolis in 2005. Both games had missed opportunities on the offensive end (including missed field goals) as well as offensive turnovers that the other team converted into points.

On the bright side, we have an easy game against Cleveland to close out the season, then we get a week to rest up before a likely rematch with Indianapolis in the second round of the playoffs.

As the #2 seed, the only team we can not face in our first playoff game is the #6 seed. All things seem to be pointing to Baltimore, who only has to beat Jacksonville, getting the spot. Therefore, Baltimore will play the AFC East champ in the first round and Indy, who has already clinched the #5 seed, will face the AFC West champ in the first round. With Baltimore and Indy as the Wild Cards, I wouldn't bet on either of the division champs winning those games, meaning Indy will come to Pittsburgh and Baltimore will go to Tennessee in the 2nd round of the playoffs.

Let's not forget, this is what Tennessee has been doing to teams all year, so, in all respects, we played a very average game against a very good team. However, in spite of playing an average game, we were still in position to win the game. Heck, we had a lead in the 3rd quarter. Let's hope no one gets seriously injured against the Browns, and let's hope Ryan Clark can get over his separated shoulder in time for the playoff game.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Steelers Offense: No Cause for Alarm

With the Steelers poised to make a claim to the #1 seed in the conference tomorrow, everyone is focusing on the same question: Is our offense consistent enough to take us the distance?

In short: yes, it is.

Here is a statistical rundown of why the Steelers offense is not as bad as people are making it out to be.

Steelers Stats:
Yards/Game: 303.4 (24th)
Points/Game: 21.6 (21st)

But here are the big stats:
Opponent's Yards Against/Game: 309.8 (4th)
Opponent's Points Against/Game: 20.6 (6th)

The gauntlet of defenses we have faced are allowing the 4th fewest average yards per game and 6th fewest average points per game.

In light of these numbers, our offense is averaging about a 98% success rate in Yards per Game (meaning, we usually get about 98% of the average yards per game that defense allows). On the points side, the news is a little better. We are averaging 104% (outscoring the average our opponent's defenses allow).

So what does all this mean? That our offense is, in a word, average. Essentially, we play to the level of our opponents defense. If their defense is bad, our offense flourishes. If their defense is good, our offense struggles.

For the record, Tennessee is averaging 281 yards against per game, and 14.1 points against per game. Don't expect an offensive explosion tomorrow.

Additionally, considering that after tomorrow, we will have faced every team in the Top 7 in total defense, except ourselves. These are, Baltimore (twice), Philadelphia, Tennessee, Washington, New York (Giants), and Dallas. We have also faced 3 other teams ranking in the top half of the league in total defense (Indy, New England, Jacksonville). This makes for 10 games out of 15 (counting tomorrow's game) that will be played against a defense in the top half of the league.

Is it cause for concern that our offense isn't dominating these defenses? Nope. And I've got 11 wins and no double-digit losses to back me up.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Patrick Bailey: Rookie of the Year


Congrats to Patrick. For those of you who read along, we've been giving him shout-outs all year and he definitely deserves this award. He's been stellar on special teams all year. Hopefully there will be a roster spot for him to keep in the future.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Steelers Opponents Post-Steelers

We all know what the Steelers defense does to teams during games. But how have teams fared in games after playing the Steelers?

Houston- Lost 3 in a row after losing to Pittsburgh

Cleveland- Lost the next week, then beat Cincinnati

Philadelphia- Lost next 2 after beating Pittsburgh

Baltimore- Lost next 2 after losing to Pittsburgh in overtime

Jacksonville- Beat Denver then lost next two

Cincinnati- Lost, then beat Jacksonville

NY Giants- Won 5 in a row after beating Pittsburgh

Washington- Lost to Dallas then beat Seattle. Have gone 1-4 since losing to Pittsburgh

Indianapolis- Won 5 in a row after beating Pittsburgh

San Diego- Lost two games after losing to Pittsburgh

Cincinnati- Lost twice after losing to Pittsburgh

New England- Beat Seattle and Oakland after losing to Pittsburgh

Dallas- Beat the Giants after losing to Pittsburgh last week.

In total, this brings opponents to 5-8 in games after playing the Steelers (regardless of bye weeks). Additionally, in the second game after playing the Steelers, these teams are 6-6 (regardless of bye, Dallas withstanding because they have only played once after losing to us).

So, with Baltimore and Dallas matching up next week, Dallas has a higher chance (50%) of winning than Baltimore does (38%), based solely on how teams fare after playing the Steelers.

What does this mean? Not only does the Steelers defense punish teams in games they play, but those teams are still hurting a week later.

Ben Roethlisberger and the Order of the North: Steelers Win


Has anyone noticed that "Baltimore" sounds an awful lot like "Voldemort"?

I can see it.

The Steelers got an early victory winning the coin toss and deferring until the second half.

Yamon Figures negates a great kickoff by bringing it back to the 40. However, someone forgot to give Baltimore's offense the memo that the game started at 4:15. They go 3 and out, giving the Steelers the opportunity to strike first.

The Steelers look to set the tone early with a pass play, but no one is open and Ben is able to scramble for 9 yards. However, the Steelers get set back by a delay of game, turning a 2nd and short into 2nd and 6. Parker gets the penalty yardage back, setting up 3rd and 1. Ben hits Hines for a big completion to move the sticks, then goes back to Hines for 4 more yards. Nate drops a pass on 2nd down, and the Steelers get a Colonoscopy, setting up 3rd and long. Ben hits Heath on the sidelines, but Heath can't make it to the sticks, bringing in the Lob Wedge. The LW doesn't do anything to lose the nickname, barely squeezing out a 28-yard punt.

The Ravens won the field-position game on the exchange, setting up shop at their 43. The Ravens decided that LeRon McClain was going to be their horse this game, and he got a lion's share of the calls. McClain started the drive with a 4-yard carry. After a false start, McClain got most of it back with a solid run. On 3rd down, Flacco ran an option and no one took the QB, giving up a first down. McClain got 3 yards on 2 carries and the Ravens strangely decided to run it again on 3rd and 7. Aaron Smith and Ryan Clark stuff him, forcing a punt.

The Steelers get pinned at the 7, but a penalty on the kick puts them back to the 4. The Mewelde Moore show takes over, running for 5 and 5 to get away from the goal posts, then gets 0 and 4 to set up 3rd and 6. Holmes drops a pass that hits him right in the numbers on 3rd down, bringing on the Lob Wedge. The Ravens return LW's 46-yard punt past midfield, giving them another good starting point.

After an incompletion, Flacco's pass gets tipped and Ryan Clark comes down with the pick, finally giving us some breathing room.

Parker manages 2 on first down, then Ben can't hook up with Nate on a deep pass, setting up a long 3rd down. Nasty Nate comes through in the clutch, reeling one in and turning it up the sidelines for a big gain. After an incompletion, Ben calls a timeout to set things up. The Ravens defense is jumpy and goes offsides, giving us some free yards. Parker only gets a yard on 2nd and 5, then Ben gets sacked by the guy who shot Joey Porter. Punt. Lob Wedge comes up with a touchdown-saving tackle along the sidelines as the quarter expires.

Second Quarter

The Steelers dominated time of possession in the first quarter with 9 1/2 minutes, but no points to show.

With the ball on the Steelers side of the 50 again, Flacco takes a shot deep, but comes up empty. After a short run, Flacco completes his first pass of the game to Todd Heap-of-sh*t to get the ball into the red zone. However, the defense stands strong, giving up only 6 yards to the run, then getting pressure via Woodley on 3rd down to force an incompletion. Field goal.


After a touchback, the Steelers come out in a power-I and go play-action to Sean McHugh for 7 yards. Parker got 2 more, then Russell came in for the short-yardage play. On first look, it seemed like Russell got stuffed, but the refs gave him a generous spot. Baltimore challenged the spot, but it was upheld, keeping the drive alive. After Parker got 4, Ben scrambled for 7 more and another first down. Ben hits Hines on a crossing route that he turns upfield for 21 yards to get inside the Baltimore 40. Parker gets 2 more carries, but a holding penalty on Stapleton sets us back. On 2nd and long, Ben hits Nate for 9, then goes to the bank and finds the money man Heath Miller for 17 yards and a huge first down to get into field goal range. Arians forgets that the Steelers are the worst screening team in the league and calls a screen pass on 1st down that hits Parker in the back. The drive fizzles out and Reed comes in for a field goal.


The Ravens come out determined to give the Steelers a heavy diet of LeRon McClain. McClain gets 20 yards on 3 carries, then Flacco hits Mason to pick up another first down. McClain picked up 3 more, then Flacco threw an incomplete pass, setting up 3rd and 7. Flacco finds Clayton for 17 yards to keep the drive alive. After an incomplete pass, Flacco finds his fullback who turns it upfield for 12 yards to get inside the 25 as the clock hits two minutes.

McClain gets 2 on first down, then Flacco finds Mason for another first down to get down to the 11. Once again, when the Steelers defense needed a stand, they came up with one. Three incompletions from Flacco brought on Matt Stover again.


The Steelers get the ball back with 45 seconds and 2 timeouts, but after an incompletion on first down, they decide to run out the clock.


Jim Nantz really wanted the Ravens to win this game. That became more and more obvious throughout the game. Time of possession was pretty much even in the 2nd quarter, when the Steelers and Ravens both put together nearly 70-yard drives to put field goals on the board.

The first half was really no surprise. We knew the defenses were good and that points would be scarce. The Ravens were playing conservative with their rookie quarterback, who wasn't having his best game of the season. Flacco was 6-for-15 and Ben was 9-for-16 at halftime.

Third Quarter

If the Steelers could have come out and tied the game up, it would have been huge. After an incompletion, Nate picks up 6 on an end-around. On 3rd and 4, instead of going for the conversion, Ben goes deep for Nate. Shaking off some serious pass-interference, Nate still can't come up with the ball. Lob Wedge busts out a 49-yard punt to flip the field.

McClain picks up 11 yards on 2 carries to get things started, but Aaron Smith comes up with a huge sack of Joe Flacco sets the Ravens back.

Big play by Aaron. Harrison had him around the ankles too.
McGahee picks up 5 on 2nd and long, then Flacco comes up empty, forcing a punt.

Parker busts a good run, but a Colonoscopy brings the play back. Parker gets stuffed on 1st down, but Ben goes back to him on a short pass. On 3rd down, Ed Reed comes free and sacks Ben, forcing another punt. Gah. You knew their defense was good, but this was starting to get frustrating.

The defense was playing huge all game, and they came up with another big 3-and-out, forcing another Ravens punt. The Ravens punter, who you may remember killed us in the first game, blasts a 56-yarder that gets downed at the 1.

With their backs to the wall, the Steelers opt to pass. Ben hits Holmes on a quick slant, but the ball gets knocked out as Santonio turns upfield and Ed Reed jumps on the ball. Max Starks makes a game-saving tackle on Ed Reed in the open field to save a touchdown.

The defense comes back on the field with Baltimore chomping at the bit on the 16. There was no room for error here. And this was the stand that might define our defense for the season. Giving up a touchdown here was not an option. Aaron Smith and Larry Foote stopped McClain on first down, then Foote and Farrior teamed up for a stop on 2nd down to set up 3rd and 4. Timmons applies the heat on Flacco, forcing a bad pass for McGahee...and the defense comes through yet again.


The game was still within a score, but we really needed to get one back after that turnover. Ben goes deep for Nate but comes up empty yet again. Parker gets a few, then Ben hits Holmes who holds on to the ball for the first down. Parker picks up 7 on first down to finally get us in good shape down-and-distance wise, but Parker gets stopped in the backfield, setting us back. Ben and Holmes can't connect on 3rd down, killing the drive.

After a short run, the Ravens take a false start penalty, setting back their drive. McClain picks up 6, but Farrior comes up HUGE on 3rd down defending McGahee in space, forcing a punt.

Santonio, trying to make a play on the punt return, muffs the catch. As the ball bounces away from him and past a bunch of purple shirts, you can see the division slipping away. But out of nowhere, Keyaron Fox scoops up the ball...

...and rumbles down the sidelines for 18 yards, all the way to the Baltimore 33.

The Steelers catch a break, and you get that feeling that if we're going to score a touchdown, it has to come now. Ben starts things off by scrambling for 6 yards, then Moore picks up 3 as the quarter ends.

Fourth Quarter

Down by 6 with the division on the line and a 3rd and 1, Bruce Arians makes one of the worst play calls in the history of football. 3rd and 1. RUN THE BALL. Arians calls a play-action roll-out. Ben gets caught on the rollout and tries to get rid of the ball. It gets called a fumble, but either way, Baltimore came up with it. Gag.

Once again, there was a pervasive feeling that the defense was going to have to win the game for us. After McClain and McGahee combined for 3 yards a piece, Flacco threw another incompletion, forcing a punt.

Parker comes out and carves his best run of the game for 10 yards to get things rolling. Ben hits Hines on a similar crossing pattern to the one in the first half, which Hines turns upfield for 30 yards. Huge gain to swing field position in our favor and get the ball into field goal range. Parker goes for 3 and then gets stuffed, setting up a big 3rd down. Ben takes an ill-advised time out, and your gut sinks a little. As always, Hines is the go-to guy. And he comes through again in the clutch with another big catch on 3rd down. With 1st down on the 15, this seems like the time to take a shot for the end zone. But the offense does nothing on 3 plays, bringing in Reed again.


Patrick Bailey lays a huge lick on Figures on the kick return, giving the Ravens one of their worst starting points of the game. The Ravens came out looking to take it to the Steelers, with Flacco hitting Clayton over the middle for 20, then McClain busting a 10-yard run to get them into Steelers territory. Everyone knew at the very, very worst we had to hold them to a field goal. After McGahee gets held to 3, Flacco goes for the nail in the coffin, but overthrows Mason who was blanketed by Polamalu. Flacco goes back to Mason on 3rd down to move the chains, getting the Ravens inside the 30. CBS flashed a graphic that McClain was nearing 90 yards rushing, and you got that sinking feeling that he might get to 100. But it was as if someone had turned a switch on the defense. Hampton and Taylor stop McClain on 1st down, then the Unblockable One Aaron Smith pounds him on 2nd down, setting up 3rd and long.

Lawrence Timmons comes flying around the outside and hits Flacco from behind, knocking the ball free. Kirschke tries to pick it up but kicks it away from himself, back towards midfield. The Ravens eventually pick it up, but not before they are out of field goal range.

After another good punt, the Steelers take over at their own 8. With 92 yards and 3:36 to go, the feat seemed almost impossible against the Ravens defense. However, if there's one thing we know, it's that Hines Ward will always make big plays in big games. Ben and Hines hook up twice for 13 yards each on quick in-routes, getting the Steelers out to the 34. After two incompletions, the Steelers were looking at 3rd and 10 against the #2 defense in the league. Everyone holds their breath as Ben fires one for Nate on a come-back route. Ed Reed falls down and Nate reels it in and turns upfield, getting to the 50 before Reed brings him down. Ben goes right back to Nate on the right sideline for 9 yards as the clock hits two minutes.

After what might have been the longest 2-minute warning ever, Ben hands off to Mewelde for a few yards and, more importantly, a new set of downs. Ben and Nate hook up on a deep pattern to get the ball down to the 14. Ben calls a timeout to settle things down. On 1st down, Ben hits Hines on a quick-in...

...which Hines turns upfield, spinning between defenders to get all the way down to the 4.

Ben hurries to the line, and for some unknown reason, spikes the ball. Why do that when it takes away a down? I don't know. On 2nd down, Ben tries to hit Spaeth with a quick pass, but the throw is too fast for Spaeth to get his hands up on and it falls to the turf. On 3rd down, Ben makes a play that makes Poe jealous. Ben rolls to his left, looking for Hines or Mewelde, both are blanketed and the Ravens are bearing down on him. Ben rolls back to the right and fires one for Holmes streaking across the goalline...

Was he in?
The initial signal from the officials said he was down short of the goal line.
Booth review.....

The Steelers take their first lead of the game with 43 seconds to play.

But the game wasn't over. Baltimore still had timeouts to spare and time to move the ball. Reed takes a stupid penalty after the extra point, forcing the kickoff back 15 yards. Patrick Bailey runs the Ravens returner out of bounds at the 47.

With the Ravens in striking distance, it was cause to be worried. We have seen our defense come up short in years past. But this year is different. Time and again this defense has proven why they are the best in the league. This game was no different.

After an incompletion, Flacco hits McGahee out of the backfield for a big gain. The Ravens stop the clock with 25 seconds to play. With the ball on the 40, you know they're well within Flacco's range. Ike puts the brakes on a short pass to McGahee. With 17 seconds to play, Flacco gives it a heave for Mason in the end zone, but Big Play Willie Gay is in the way, pulling down the interception and sealing the game and the division title.

Players of the Game:
Offensive Game Ball: Ben Roethlisberger
Defensive Game Ball: Aaron Smith

Honorable Mentions:
Hines Ward
James Farrior
Lawrence Timmons
William Gay
Max Starks
Nate Washington
Keyaron Fox

Mr. Yuck Sticker of the Game

Passing on 3rd and 1.

Final Thoughts:
  • Nate Washington drops passes in the first half all the time, but he comes up big at the end of games.
  • Max Starks saved the game with that tackle of Ed Reed.
  • Somehow, the offense blows for 55 minutes, and then is awesome in the last 5. This is the second week in a row.
  • 4th comeback victory in the 4th quarter this season.
  • Trust the defense.
  • Hell of a drive by Ben. Epic.
  • We're the first team to win back-to-back AFC North titles.
  • Tomlin as 2 division titles in his first two seasons. First Steelers coach ever to do that. Wow.
  • Lob Wedge did okay today.
  • Parker is right. Using a fullback would help the running game.
  • Darnell Stapleton > Kendall Simmons
  • Can't blame the sacks on the O-line. When they bring more guys than you can block, it's a lose-lose situation. Good job by the line to hold Baltimore to 3 sacks.
  • Gotta love Ben ripping on the media by saying "You know I hold on to the ball too long."
2008 AFC North Division Champions:

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Renegade: The Legend Continues

There's something special surrounding Renegade. The Steelers know it. The fans know it.

Kinda gives you chills, doesn't it?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

There Will Be Defense: Steelers WIN


This game was built up all week. FOX was broadcasting the game on their Latin American affiliate station. Two Mexican Senators were at the game. The game was dubbed "The Super Bowl for Latin American football fans" because of the high fanbase both teams have amongst Latin American viewers.

The defense gets the nod on the intro. The field was in good shape and the fans were electric.

The Steelers won the toss and deferred. The Artist Formerly Known as Pacman makes a few moves on the kick return before Ike brings him down.

After an incompletion and a short run, Romo is faced with a third and long. By the way, did I mention Romo came into the game leading the league in quarterback rating? On 3rd and 7, he overthrows TO, right into the waiting arms of Troy Polamalu, league leader in interceptions.

After a delay of game penalty, the Steelers offense looks as though they're going to stall out, but Ben hits Holmes down the sidelines for 23 yards. After that sign of life, the Steelers crap on themselves by doing nothing on 3 plays then missing a 45-yard field goal.

Choice managed 4 yards on first down, then Romo hooks up with Witten on 3rd down to keep the drive alive. Choice runs twice to get the ball across midfield, then Witten snags another to keep things rolling for Dallas. Choice got 2, then Romo hit Williams on a short out to set up a 3rd and 2. The Steelers were confused on defense and called a much-needed timeout before the next play. Romo empties the backfield and pitches to Owens, going in motion, but Farrior and Woodley team up for the stop. With 4th and 1 at the Steelers 33, the Cowboys go for it, but Defensive Player of the Year candidates Harrison and Polamalu are there to stop the fullback in his tracks for the turnover on downs.

The Steelers pick up 5 free yards on a defensive offsides, then Ben hits Moore on a quick hitter, and he turns it upfield for 12 yards. Moore catches another short one and turns it into an 11-yard gain and another first down, getting the ball inside the 40. Arians busts out the motif offense, which fails miserably, and the Lob Wedge punts.

With the ball 95-yards from the end zone, the Steelers defense is up to the field position game, and holds the Cowboys to a 3-and-out. Punt.

The Steelers get the ball within breathing distance of midfield. After an incompletion, Ben hits Heath over the middle, but Heath, who has one of the best set of hands on the team, gets hit from behind and fumbles. Dallas recovers on the 45, winning the field position turnaround and killing any momentum the Steelers might have had.

To make matters worse, Romo hit Choice on a short pass that he turned into a 12-yard gain to move into Steelers territory. Farrior stuffed Choice to end the longest first quarter of the year. It was brutal, especially in the cold.

Second Quarter

Romo found Choice with Big Snack in man coverage, and took advantage. But the Snack was hungry, and brought Choice down before the sticks. Romo looked for Owens on 3rd and short, but pressure from Foote broke up the play. The Cowboys elect to go for it on 4th and 2, but Romo can't hook up with TO and the Steelers take over.

Parker manages 2 yards to the outside, which was a stupid play call because the Cowboys defense is fast. We should have been running up the middle. After two incompletions for Nate, it's Lob Wedge time again. 30 yards. Vomit.

Choice shows a flash of speed and gets through a seam as the safeties are sitting back. Polamalu brings him down after 11 yards. Farrior and Snack show up on the next play to stop Choice in his tracks. Harrison gets pressure on 2nd down, forcing a bad pass. You knew what was coming next.

Like a shark, Harrison smells blood in the water and swats the ball out of Romo's hand for his 15th sack of the season, tying the team record set by Mike Merriweather. Kirschke fell on the loose ball, giving us a huge swing of momentum. Dallas challenged the fumble, but it wasn't happening. Steelers ball.

Moore gets 7 on first down, then Ben hits Hines on a Flanker screen that he gets close to the sticks. Ben tries a QB-sneak on 3rd and short but fumbles the ball. Dallas recovers to steal momentum back.

The Cowboys get themselves into a 3rd and 4 and try a draw play against the nickel defense, which was a good idea, but Aaron Smith and Farrior were able to pull Choice down before the marker. Punt. Dallas' real punter booms a 51-yarder, killing it inside the 10. We miss you Danny Boy.

Backed up inside the 10 with a punter that sucks, you knew we needed a first down or two if we were going to give our defense any chance of stopping them. Arians tries to get it through the motif offense, but it wasn't happening. The Lob Wedge gets some serious backspin on his punt (not what you want when kicking out of your own end zone, but in this case it worked out) and the ball hits one of the Cowboys covering the kick. Timmons falls on the ball to give the Steelers offense new life.

You were hoping this was the spark they needed to get things going, but after two incompletions, we were looking at 3rd and long. Ben hit Moore out of the backfield for a 7-yard gain, but that was well short of the first down, bringing out the Lob Wedge again.

Owens tries to sneak behind Ike down the sidelines like Moss did last week, but Ike is all over it and pulls down a HUGE interception to give the Steelers the ball deep in Dallas territory.

Parker comes in to run the motif offense and picks up 8 yards to set up 3rd and 2. Remind me again why we don't run the ball anymore on 3rd and 2 and insist on going empty-backfield? Ben can't hit Sweed, but the Cowboys were cheating, so we got 5 yards and a first down. Parker gets stuffed on first down at the 10, and two incompletions later, it was field goal time.


The Cowboys took over with 2:40 and no time outs, looking to get something going. Choice had his way against our nickel package in this game, taking the first carry of the drive for 10 yards. Romo hit Witten for 9 more to get the ball across the 40 as the clock stopped at 2:00. Out of the break, Choice picked up the first down, then Romo went back to Witten for a big 22-yard gain. Choice picked up 4 to get inside the 30, then Romo missed Witten due to pressure by Woodley. Romo was confused by the defense and with no timeouts left, had to take a delay of game penalty. On 3rd and 11 with 30 seconds to go, Romo hit Witten for 7 yards to get the Cowboys into field goal range. Nick Folk hits a 44-yarder as time expires in the half.



The lines at the men's bathrooms were longer than the lines at the women's bathrooms. Some dude peed in a cup in the corner rather than waiting in line. At Three Rivers people used to pee in the sinks at halftime. Someone crapped in a sink once during a playoff game there. Haven't seen any of that yet at Heinz Field.

By the way, that's halftime analysis you're not going to get on any other blog.

Third Quarter

Russell manages a good kickoff return and Parker starts the drive with a solid run. But then things start to fall apart.

Pressure forces a bad throw on a screen pass, then Ben is sacked to end the drive. The Lob Wedge manages a 34-yard punt to give Dallas the ball on their 30.

Choice gets stuffed on first down, but Romo scrambles away from a sack and picks up a few to set up 3rd and short. With the safeties playing deep, Choice bounces one to the outside and takes it for 22 yards. Romo complets another pass to get down to the 25. Choice goes outside again and picks up 12 yards to get inside the 15. Ryan Clark comes up to stop Choice in the hole on first down. On 2nd and 9 the Steelers only rush 3. Big mistake. Romo has all day to throw and scrambles out to his right and heaves a ball for the end zone with Kirschke in his face. TO goes up and snags it at the back of the end zone for the score.


Things were looking down, but a touchdown on the next drive would have made up for everything. Mewelde Moore starts things off by reeling in a short pass then busting a carry for a first down. No surprise, Ben goes 5-wide, the Cowboys bring pressure and Ben is sacked. When will we learn that this 5-wide shit doesn't work? Ben comes back and connects with Heath then scrambles for 7 yards, but still comes up 4 yards short of the sticks. The Lob Wedge boots another 30-yarder to the Dallas 28. I never thought punting could make me this angry.

Romo hits Owens on a crossing route for 11, then finds Choice across the middle in space, which winds up being a huge 50-yard gain down to the 10 after he makes some guys miss in the open field. Kirschke gets some heat on Romo, forcing a bad pass for Williams on first and goal. Choice gets 3 yards on 2nd down, setting up a big 3rd and goal.

Enter James Farrior.
HUUUUGE sack to keep the Cowboys out of the end zone and hold them to a field goal.


We need points. So what happens on first down? Ben gets sacked. After an incompletion on 2nd down, things were looking grim. However, Ben goes deep over the top and finds Holmes in man coverage against Terence Newman. Holmes reels it in for a huge 47-yard gain to get the ball into Dallas territory. Nasty Nate reels one in to get inside the 30 then Moore busts a run to get inside the 20. Ben holds on to the ball for far too long on the next play and gets pulled down, barely getting the pass away. The Cowboys challenge and win, as video showed Ben's knee was down before he got the pass off. Official ruling: Sack. Ben has to scramble away from pressure and gets forced to the sidelines where he manages to find Holmes coming back for the ball. Solid hookup to end the quarter.

Fourth Quarter

The best thing that happened to us in the 3rd quarter? The Cowboys using their last challenge.

The Steelers came down to our end of the field, needing a score. They caught a break when Dallas was offsides on 3rd down, negating an incomplete pass. Gary Russell pounds for 5 yards to get the first down and get the ball down to the 5. In a series that defines why Arians should be fired, Parker runs twice to get the ball down to the 1. Instead of running at the 1, Arians decides it would be a good idea to go play-action...to the fullback. Carey Davis is brought down short of the goal line for no gain. The Steelers elect to go for it, and decide to actuall run this time, when they get stuffed. Gah.

The Cowboys taking over deep in our zone, you know what time it is? RENEGADE.

Romo quiets the crowd by hooking up with Owens for a first down, but then the defense comes alive. Choice gets stuffed on first down, then manages 5 on 2nd down and brought down for a loss by Polamalu on 3rd down. Punt.

In something we haven't seen all year, Santonio Holmes busts a great punt return down to the 25 to set us up in great position.

Ben starts strong by hitting Spaeth. Parker gets 2 to set up 3rd and 2. Remind me again why we don't run on 3rd and 2? Ben gets sacked, bringing out the field goal team. Reed is money and the lead is cut to one score.


Reed craps on his foot and kicks the ball out of bounds, giving the Cowboys excellent field position. But the defense is up to the challenge. Woodley rocks Choice on first down, then Kirschke comes up with a big sack on 2nd down. Romo hits Witten on 3rd down, but Ike and Deshea team up for a big tackle to keep him well short of the sticks, forcing a punt.

Off a bad punt, the Steelers get the ball at the 33 with just over 5 minutes to play. The offense had been a load of crap since the game started, and the goal-line stop left everyone with some severe doubt. But guess what? They decided to start earning their multi-million dollar contracts.

Ben and Nasty Nate hook up for 14 and 21-yard completions, moving the ball to the Dallas 32 as the clock wound under 4 minutes. Hines drops a ball that was a little behind him, but still one he had to catch on first down. Ben can't hook up with Moore on 2nd down, bringing up 3rd and 10. Under pressure, Ben remembers he has legs and takes off. He winds up being inches short of the sticks. They have no choice but to go for it, and Ben dives forward on a QB sneak. The refs call for the chains....

Santonio was all over that one.

On the next play, Ben finds Nasty Nate in single coverage to get down to the 5. Nate got his leg twisted in an ugly way, but he was able to walk off the field. It looked really ugly, but I think he'll be okay. With first and goal at the 5, when we couldn't get it in running, what do we do?

Damn straight.
Ben finds Heath on a short route. Heath runs for the pylon and dives...

Bench, any thoughts?



Reed pounds a booming kickoff driving the Artist Formerly Known As Pacman back to the goal line. Jones brings it out, but is met by Keyaron Fox and Andre Frazier at the 15.

Two-minute warning

The Cowboys had two options. Try and mount a two-minute drive to get in field goal range and win it, or play for overtime. One problem: over the break, RENEGADE played again. And we all know about the lore of RENEGADE. The Steelers have their nickel defense on the field and the Cowboys call a draw, which is stopped for a short gain by Farrior and Kirschke. The Steelers, hoping to get the ball back, call a time out.

In a story that has been all over the news, an indignant Tony Romo mouthed off to Farrior and Woodley about how he couldn't believe we had called a time out. Personally, I was against the time out. In the situation, it saved Dallas time. However, I was about to be proven wrong.

Romo drops back, looks for Witten but the ball sails on him right into the waiting arms of Deshea Townsend. Deshea, with a lot of open field in front of him, makes a beeline for the pylon with Witten in hot pursuit. Witten, Deshea and the pylon all come together.

Big players make big plays in big games.

Everyone was going nuts. It was totally crazy. Some lady from 2 rows behind me ended up a row in front of me. I don't know how it happened. It was insane. Just totally and utterly insane.

Reed came on and knocked in the extra point. 20-13. By the way...Renegade: the legend continues.

With 1:40 to go, the game still wasn't over. Dallas now needed a long drive to tie the game. Romo hit Williams on first down to move the sticks and start things off and you started to get worried. But this defense isn't like any defense we've seen in a long, long time. Woodley gets pressure two plays in a row, causing bad passes intended for Choice. On 3rd down, Romo goes deep but vastly overthrows TO with Ike in tight coverage. On 4th down, Harrison gets pressure and forces a bad pass, getting us our 3rd stop on 4th down in the game.

Dallas had 2 timeouts left, meaning we had to run a few plays with 51 seconds on the clock to close it out. Gary Russell gets two carries to force them to burn their time outs, then Ben goes to the victory formation.


Players of the Game:
Offensive Game Ball: Nate Washington

I know Heath had the touchdown catch, but Nate had 3 huge grabs on that drive that got the offense moving. I've been a critic of Nate all year, but it's good to see him finally come through and pull in some big catches when it's needed.
Defensive Game Ball: Deshea Townsend
After all Deshea's been through this year with injury, it's great to see him come through with a huge play to win the game. The Steelers depth at cornerback was an asset in this game, allowing them to rotate Townsend, McFadden and Gay into the lineup without losing a beat.
Honorable Mentions:
Troy Polamalu
James Harrison
Heath Miller
Ike Taylor
Travis Kirschke

Mr. Yuck Sticker of the Game
Passing on 3rd and 2

Every once in a while, just to mix it up, it would be okay. But this has become a norm for the team and more often than not it fails. Parker, Moore and Russell are all capable backs and our offensive line has been playing great. Here's a novel idea: put a fullback in.

Final Thoughts
  • Great win. This was a classic.
  • Romo came into the game leading the league in passer rating. He had 3 interceptions and a fumble.
  • Harrison is a monster. He gets held all game and still makes plays.
  • Great interception by Ike. Good to see him come down with one.
  • DESHEA!!!!!!!!!!
  • Big players make big plays in big games
  • Holmes stepped up when we needed it. He's starting to come into his own.
  • What's up with Hines? He hasn't looked the same the past few weeks.
  • Did we forget about Spaeth now that Heath is back? If we're going to use two tight ends, we might as well use them.
  • We miss Dan Krieder. Probably more than Jerome Bettis. Yes, I just said that.
  • We need to use a fullback more.
  • Huge game against Baltimore next week: win the game, win the division.

Monday, December 8, 2008


Here's the deal. I'm in grad school. Finals are this week. The game recap will be up later this week, once I'm done with finals.

In the mean time....it gets better every time you watch it.

Was it just me, or does it seem Polamalu probably would have made the pick if Deshea hadn't? Not to take anything away from Deshea, because he made a great play. But it just goes to show just how good our defense is. That there's not one, but two guys there to make the play.

Don't you just love how downtrodden the FOX announcers sound?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Week 14 Preview

There are some big games out there this week, and as we well know, December football is a completely different animal. Last year the Steelers went into December 9-3 and came out 10-6 as the #4 seed in the playoffs. Last year Cleveland was bearing down on us in the division, this year it's Baltimore. One thing is certain, we need to play better this December than we did last December if we want to make the playoffs.

Game of the Week: Cowboys at Steelers
The Steelers need to win to give themselves a chance to close out the division next week in Baltimore. The Cowboys need a win to keep pace in the tight wild card race in the NFC. Tony Romo has been hot the last 3 weeks, throwing for over 300 yards each week. The Steelers defense has allowed 10 points in each of the last 3 games and hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher or 300-yard passer all season.

Other Meaningful Games:
Atlanta at New Orleans
Philadelphia at NY Giants
Miami at Buffalo
Washington at Baltimore
Tampa Bay at Carolina

Playoff Scenarios:
  • clinches a PLAYOFF BEARTH with a tie, OR a NE loss or tie and NYJ loss or tie, OR a NE loss or tie and MIA loss or tie
  • clinches the AFC SOUTH with a win, OR a tie and IND loss or tie, OR an IND loss
  • clinches a FIRST ROUND BYE with a win and a NYJ loss, OR a tie and an IND loss or tie and a NYJ loss
  • clinches a PLAYOFF BEARTH with a win and a NE loss and EITHER: MIA loss OR MIA tie and NYJ loss
New York Giants
  • clinches a PLAYOFF BEARTH with a tie and EITHER: ATL loss OR ATL tie and TB loss
  • clinches NFC EAST with a win, OR tie and DAL loss, OR DAL loss
  • clinches a FIRST ROUND BYE with a win, OR tie and DAL loss or tie, OR DAL loss and MIN loss or tie and ARI loss or tie
  • clinches NFC WEST with a win, OR a tie and SF loss or tie, OR SF loss
Teams up for elimination:
New Orleans
San Francisco

Monday, December 1, 2008

One if by Land, Two if by Sea, Three if by Defense. Steelers Win

This was a game Longfellow could write a poem about. The lights in the belltower in Boston were all on because the Patriots got thoroughly outplayed in every aspect of the game.


The Steelers won the toss and elected to receive. A solid strategy: score first and let the defense hold the lead.

Apparently, Tomlin didn't give his team the memo. Carey Davis fumbles the opening kickoff and barely jumps on the ball. Keyaron Fox gets called for an after-the-whistle penalty. You're still holding your breath as the offense takes the field. After a flanker screen to Ward, Parker rocks for 13 yards. But after Parker gets stuffed, Ben looks for Heath on a quick out, but Mike Vrabel just loves the feeling of balls in his hands.

The interception gives New England a gimmie score, and the Patriots convert with a pass to Welker over the middle and a Sammy Morris TD run from 2 yards out.


Visions of last year's game start whirling through your head. Arians responds to the early deficit with the motif offense. Moore runs twice and a pass that was low and behind Heath slips out of his fingers. The Lob Wedge is back, and manages a 39-yard kick.

The Steelers defense catches a break as the Pats pick up a penalty on the punt, sending them back to the 20. On first down, Moss sneaks behind Ike and pulls one in for a big gain. After a short run and an incompletion, the defense comes through as Aaron Smith and James Farrior combine for a huge sack. New England's NFL-caliber punter kicks 50-yards, but Santonio reels off the best return of the season and picks up 26 yards down the sideline.

The offense came out determiend to go to work. And who should get the ball when we need to move it? Heath Miller. 21 yards. Enough said.

With the ball across midfield for the first time, the Steelers offense started to come to life. Ben started the No-Huddle, but it only produced an incomplete pass and a 3-yard Parker run. On 3rd down, Nasty Nate sits down in a hole in the zone and Ben finds him. Nate almost drops the ball, but hangs on like it was his contract. With the ball on the 25, Ben takes a shot for Holmes running towards the sidelines inside the 10, but the ball slips out of Santonio's grasp. Dan Diedorf criticizes the recievers for dropping passes, saying the cold and sleety rain has nothing to do with it.

Flock Of Seagulls Dierdorf has 0 career receptions, so he's definitely an expert on the subject of catching passes in the rain.

After Parker goes nowhere, Ben goes back to Nate, who hangs on again to get us down to the 11. Parker gets 4, then Ben remembers he has legs and gets down to the 2. The Bulldozer comes in on 3rd and short, but Vince Wilfork is in the way, and he gets stuffed. Tomlin makes a good coaching move and takes the points.


New England came out and decided they wanted to test our vaunted run defense. Sammy Morris picked up a 11 yards in 2 carries before Cassel went downtown for Moss, but Randy couldn't hang on/dropped the ball. Cassel came back and hit Kevin Faulk out of the backfield for 7 yards to set up 3rd and 3, but Woodley and Farrior were all over Faulk, stopping him short of the sticks and forcing a punt to end the quarter.

TOP: Steelers 9:40, Pats 5:20

Second Quarter

A short Moore run on first down got set back by a holding penalty. After two incompletions, it was Lob Wedge time.

Cassel takes a delay of game penalty after a 1st down incompletion because he crapped his pants over looking at the Steelers defense. Morris takes a short pass and turns it upfield for 12 yards. Somehow, the Pats offense always seems to get into a 3rd and short situation. However, the Steelers dodge another bullet as Cassel and Moss can't hook up. Punt.

Ben goes play-action and goes deep for Nasty Nate against former Bungle Deltha O'Neal, but Nate can't come up with the jump ball. It was worth the shot. Two more incompletions dooms the drive and brings out the Lob Wedge again.

The Pats offense started clicking and they made their way down the field on the short passing game. Kevin Faulk needed some advil after the first half, as he spent it carrying the team. Sammy Morris had 1 carry on the drive, which was good for a 4th and 1 conversion at the Steelers 21. 4-yard passes to Faulk and Welker got the Pats to 3rd and 2. In a play that signaled the beginning of the momentum shift in the game, Polamalu came unblocked through the guard-tackle seam and destroyed Cassel, who was on a 3-step-drop looking for Moss.
Cassel barely got the pass off, and Aaron Smith batted it down. Field goal. Huge stand holding them to 3 there.


With the game still within a score, everyone knew wee needed points. Enter Mewelde Moore. Moore picks up 10 on first down, snags a short pass for 5, then runs for 3 and 10 to get the ball down to the New England 35. After all that success on the ground and passing short, Ben tries to look a little deeper, but Ellis Hobbs comes unblocked from the blindside and sacks Ben. Richard Seymour gave us a break by jumping early, giving us 5 free yards. Ben hits Nate for 10 and Hines for 4 to move the chains as the clock winds under 3 minutes. Moore gets the rock again as the clock hits the two-minute warning.

Right off the break, Holmes puts an ankle-breaking move on Deltha O'Neal and Ben hits him in the front corner for the TOUCHDOWN.

With just under two minutes to go, you had to wonder if the Pats offense might score. You knew they got the ball to start the second half, and the situation had bad news written all over it.

Cassel hit Welker for a few, then Faulk busted off a big run against our nickel defense, getting the ball all the way to the Steelers 26. The Steelers caught a break when the Pats were penalized on 1st down, but an 8-yard snag by Welker and a 14-yard run by Morris erased the penalty and got the Pats inside the 10. Your heart was sinking but Randy Moss decided to pull a Chad Johnson and drop a touchdown pass over the middle. Cassel went right back to him, but Farrior was there to knock the ball out of Moss's fragile hands with a hit. As if he was playing Moss on his fantasy team, Cassel looked for him again and Ike Taylor almost came up with the pick, but the ball slipped through his hands. Gostkowski comes on for a field goal, which from 27 yards should be a sure thing, but he pushes it wide right and the Steelers dodge a bullet.


TOP was pretty even in the 2nd quarter. Halftime was highlights from the early games.
The Giants are good.
The Dolphins are lucky.
Buffalo's kicker sucks.

Third Quarter

The Pats got another chance to take the lead and the momentum at the start of the 2nd half. Ike starts off the half by getting flagged for a pass interference penalty, even though it looked suspiciously like Moss was hanging on to Ike. Morris pounds for 6, then for 2 more. Casey Hampton is called for defensive holding, which basically meant he took two guys and gave them a big bear hug. However, the refs learned an important lesson here: don't piss off a big man. After Faulk pulls in a pass for 9 yards, Hampton busts through the Pats line like the KoolAid guy through a wall and brings down Cassel.
After the play, Hampton turned to the ref and said "Hold that"
The Pats crap on themselves on 3rd down and Belicheat elects to punt. Hampton's sack not only pushed the Pats out of field goal range, it also swung the momentum to the Steelers.

Moore comes out with a 20-yard run, then Ben finds Heath for 11 more to move up to the 45. Moore picks up 7 more and Ben hits Holmes on 3rd down to move the chains. After Moore gets stuffed going left, he goes around the right end for 13 yards and another first down. Parker comes in and gets 8 yards on 2 carries before Ben finds Heath to move the sticks and get inside the 10. Ben spent a timeout, and you spent the whole 30 seconds hoping it didn't come back to bite us in the ass. Moore carried for 2, but 2 incompletions stalled out the drive, bringing on Jeff Reed to give us our first lead of the game.


And then, the Patriots came apart at the seams.

Keyaron Fox recovers a muffed kickoff, and the Steelers are in business.

Moore got stuffed in the backfield, but Ben fires a bulled to Hines, who shreds double-coverage on the goal line for the score.


The Pats put Kevin Faulk back, and he at least didn't fumble the kickoff. However, now trailing by 2 scores the Pats had to throw. And when a team has to throw, that usually means they don't keep extra blockers in. And without extra blockers, you're asking offensive linemen to go 1-on-1 with the best linebacker in the game.
James Harrison dominates Pro Bowl tackle Matt Light and strips the ball from Cassel's blind side. LaMarr Woodley falls on the ball and the Steelers offense takes the field again.

Ben hits Heath to get the ball inside the 10, and Parker runs twice to get it down to the 1. Arians calls a pass, and Ben is pressured into an incompletion, bringing out the field goal unit.


The Patriots try to get something going on their next drive, but it's all about the defense. Morris is stopped, then on 3rd down Ryan Clark sends Wes Welker into next week.


Clark was flagged for unnecessary roughness, however the League said this week that the hit was legal and should not have drawn a penalty.

With Welker out, Cassel hits Moss for a short gain, then hits Faulk on a swing pass, but Aaron Smith and Nick Eason blow it up in the backfield for a loss. 3rd and long? James Harrison time. Harrison gives Matt Light the Luca Brasi treatment and whacks the ball away from Cassel again. Farrior falls on it this time, giving the Steelers their 3rd consecutive turnover.

Parker carries for nothing as the quarter ends.

3rd quarter TOP: Steelers 10:05, Pats 4:55

Fourth Quarter

Ben hit Hines to keep things rolling to start the 4th, then Parker got a few carries before Ben did it himself on 3rd and short to move inside the New England 25. Parker gained a few on first down, but two incomplete passes stalled the drive, and Jeff Reed barely missed a 40-yard field goal, keeping the game at 2 scores.

Faulk and Watson went back and forth to get the Pats across midfield. Cassel missed Moss once, but hit him on a quick hitch. Moss turned it back to the middle of the field...

Where Chris Hoke brings him down. Why do I bring this up? Because how often does Randy Moss get tackled by a defensive lineman. Not very.

On 3rd and long, Cassel went down the middle for Ben Watson, but the ball hits the tips of his fingers and lands right in the hands of Polamalu, who had come close to interceptions earlier in the game.

Troy turns it upfield and shows off some moves as we are reminded that he leads the league in interceptions. That makes 6, son.

With 10 minutes to go, it was the Willie Parker show. Parker picked up 7, then turned the corner...

...and ripped off a 31-yard run capped off by lowering his shoulder and plowing into the NE defensive back.
Parker's next run got called back on a hold, but he came back for 7 more on 1st and 20. Ben finally throws Spaeth a bone, and he picks up 4, but an incompletion on 3rd down brings Reed out again. Solid.

The CBS guys, who were fellating the Patriots all game, harped on the fact that it was still only a 2-score game and that the Pats had plenty of time to get 2 touchdowns and 2 2-pointers.

Cassel goes deep, but Gaffney can't come up with it. Ike apparently taunted him (or told him the truth), and picked up a 15-yard penalty. With the ball in Steelers territory, Cassel hit Faulk on a short pass that he takes inside the 30. The CBS announcers can hardly contain their raging boners over the Patriots when Kevin Faulk picks up 9-yards on a run to get down to the 15. Hoke stuffs Cassel on a QB-sneak on 3rd and 1, but the Pats have no choice, and Cassel converts the sneak on 4th down. With 4 minutes to play, we felt okay, but nothing close to secure.

But Lawrence Timmons reminds us why the Steelers defense might be the best defense this town has seen since the 70s. Timmons jumps a pass for Faulk and rumbles all the way down the field, picking up a few big blocks....

...but he runs out of gas at the 5-yard line and Ben Watson catches him from behind and drags him down at the 1.

No matter, The Bulldozer comes in and finds paydirt on his second try.


With just under 3 minutes to play, this thing was over. The Pats ran the ball once to wind the clock to the 2-minute warning. Cassel hit Gaffney on a short pass on 2nd down. After two incompletions, the game should have been over, but the refs flagged Deshea for defensive holding. The crowd, which at this point was only Steelers fans, booed loud enough it was audible on the TV feed. After another run, Cassel decided to try another pass, but LaMarr Woodley had seen enough and buried Cassel in the turf. The Pats ran another meaningless play as time expired.


Players of the Game
Offensive Game Balls: Willie Parker and Mewelde Moore
Defensive Game Ball: James Harrison
Did we mention he had a sprained back in the second half? What did he do in the second half? Only had 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and 5 tackles
Honorable Mentions:
Troy Polamalu
LaMarr Woodley
Lawrence Timmons
Ben Roethlisberger
Hines Ward
Heath Miller
Santonio Holmes

Mr. Yuck Sticker of the Game
The CBS Announcing Crew
These guys were on the Pats balls. I guess it should be expected since CBS just built a new regional complex in Gilette Stadium. But I guess I had hoped for at least a little unbiased announcing. I mean, I'm used to biased announcing against the Steelers, but this was something else.

Final Thoughts
  • Time of Possession: Steelers 35:05, Pats 24:55
  • Berger's punts: 39, 38, 38...everyone who bashed us for drafting Sepulveda should have to answer for this.
  • Ryan Clark's hit was legal. Suck it Patriot fanboys.
  • Santonio and Nate remembered how to catch passes.
  • Heath Miller is always the answer.
  • If there is such a thing as a "perfect half" it was the second half.
  • Darnell Stapelton is the unsung hero of this season.
  • The offensive line is better without Smith and Simmons. Stapleton and Starks need to be kept.
  • Steel Curtain or 2008 defense?
  • Defense wins championships. Period. Our defense is scary good.
  • Ike Taylor is turning into a shutdown corner.
  • The defense has allowed 10 points in each of the last 3 games.
  • Is anyone concerned that the Ravens are the only team currently in the playoffs that we've beaten?
  • Huge victory, always good to beat up on the Pats.