Tuesday, September 29, 2009

NFL Week 3 Rundown


  1. The New York Jets defense. Mark Sanchez is getting the press, but the defense has been stellar. Look what blitzing can do.
  2. Everything about the New York Giants.
  3. Jacksonville's offensive explosion against Houston. I guess the Texans defense is just that bad.
  4. The Baltimore Ravens offense. They still have questions on defense.
  5. Greg Lewis' toe drag at the back of the end zone to beat the 49ers. Favre is getting credit for the pass, but Lewis did a hell of a job to stay in bounds.
Not Impressive

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers 4th quarter defense.
  2. Everything about the Washington Redskins. How does Jim Zorn still have a job? Their next 3 opponents are 0-9 (Tampa, Carolina, KC). If Zorn loses to another winless team, he's done.
  3. The Denver Broncos 3-0 record.
  4. Tampa Bay playing Josh Johnson over Josh Freeman.
  5. The Carolina Panthers passing game.

Futility Watch
Current contenders for the longest losing streak:
St. Louis - 13
Cleveland - 9
Tampa Bay - 7
Kansas City - 7

Off the Schnide

The Lions gave the Redskins a chance, but the 'skins couldn't convert and Detroit gets off the schnide. Enjoy the week Lions fans.

How I Did
9/16. Terrible week. I had far too much faith in road teams this week.
Overall, I am 33/48 (68.8%).

Pittsburgh Bloggers Fantasy Football League
We dominated the Pensblog jobbers this week.

Top half of the league is starting to break away. AP has carried us into first place so far.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Elite Offense? Not so fast

How do you define an elite offense? Is it one that can score on any defense? One that scores enough points to win? One that racks up insane amounts of yards? One that controls the clock for most of the game with the running game?

While all of these can be a measure of what makes a dominant offense, we're going to look at a simpler metric today: Third Down conversions.

Last week, Mike Tomlin said he wanted the Steelers offense to grow to resemble the New England Patriots offense of 2007. That Patriots team is remembered for throwing the ball all over the field, but they were also quite efficient in the running game. That Patriots team finished 13th in the league in rushing, averaging 115.6 yards per game.

Tomlin wants the Steelers to be an elite offense, both on the ground and in the air. Let's take a look back at some numbers that have been put up by the elite offenses of the league the last few years.

It is far too early in the season to talk about average yards per game. However, one metric we can look at is 3rd down conversions.


Indianapolis defeated Chicago in the Super Bowl.

The top 5 offenses were: New Orleans, Philadelphia, Indianapolis, San Diego, and Dallas.

That season, Indianapolis led the league in 3rd down conversions, at 56.2%
Dallas, New Orleans, New York Jets, and San Diego rounded out the top 5 in 3rd down conversion percentage.

The Steelers were 6th at 42.9%


The New York Giants defeated New England in the Super Bowl.

The top 5 offenses were: New England, Green Bay, Dallas, New Orleans, and Indianapolis.

Indianapolis once again led the league in 3rd down conversions at 49.3%
New England, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, and Cincinnati were the rest of the top 5.


The Pittsburgh Steelers defeated Arizona in the Super Bowl.

The top 5 offenses were: New Orleans, Denver, Houston, Arizona, and New England

Indianapolis led the league again in 3rd down conversions at 50.2%
New Orleans, Denver, San Diego, and Green Bay were the rest of the top 5.

The Steelers were 14th at 41.1%


Now let's look at how the Steelers have faired on 3rd down this season.

The Steelers have converted 16 of 38 third downs this season for a 42.1% success rate. On the surface, that wouldn't seem terrible, but let's dig a little deeper.

Of their 36 3rd down attempts, 13 have been "short yardage" (3 yards or less), 13 have been "medium yardage" (4-7 yards), and 12 have been "long yardage" (8 or more yards).

When you think about the teams that are great offenses, what do they do very well? Get into 3rd and short situations. If you remember the New England offense from 2007, one of the best things they were able to do was to get into 3rd and short situations. If they had a setback on first down, they focused on getting 6-8 yards on 2nd down (usually to Welker) to get back on the upside of down and distance.

Is it a bit troubling that the Steelers are only owning Down and Distance about 1/3 of the time? Yes.

So how have we fared? In short yardage, the Steelers have converted 7 of 13 (53.8%). In medium yardage, the Steelers are a miserable 3 of 13 (23.1%). In long yardage, the Steelers are a decent 6 of 12 (50%).

Due to the fact that Arians believes 3rd and 2 is a passing down (he has yet to run on it), it should be no surprise that the Steelers have thrown a pass on 86.8% of their 3rd downs this season. Of those, only 17 (51.5%) have actually been caught, and only 14 (42.4%) have moved the chains. Ben has been sacked 5 times on 3rd downs, and thrown 2 interceptions on 3rd downs this season. Ben does have a 60.7% completion percentage on 3rd down.

The more troubling fact is the run game. The Steelers have only converted 2 of 5 rushing attempts on 3rd down into first downs. Both of those were by Ben Roethlisberger. One was a 3rd and inches, and the other was on a scramble for the first down. Parker is 0/2 and Moore is 0/1. Arians refuses to run on 3rd and 2.

The Steelers have been in 3rd and 2 situations more than any other distance on 3rd down this year (6 times). They have converted 4, with an incompletion and a sack.

On 3rd downs, Ben has spread the ball around to 6 different receivers. Of those, he has targeted Holmes the most (10 times). However, Holmes only has 5 catches on those 10 targets. Heath has 2 catches on 3 targets, Hines 3 catches on 4 targets, Wallace 4 catches on 6 targets, Moore 3 catches on 4 targets, and Sweed with 0 catches on 1 target.

As we can see, no one is perfect, but Heath has been the most reliable thus far. Sadly, Heath is also tops on the list of extra blockers they keep in there to protect Ben when the heat is on.

So what's the point of all this information? Cause for alarm?

Not necessarily. Don't raise your red flags yet.

There are a few disconcerting facts. The first is the Steelers woeful ability to convert on 3rd and "medium", at only 23%. Considering they are converting 3rd and shorts and 3rd and longs at around 50%, this is an area for improvement.

Secondly, it would be nice to see some variations in the playcalling. Passing 87% of the time on 3rd down is not the way to fool your opponent. What do New England and Indy do? Well, meet Kevin Faulk and (until this season) Domenic Rhodes. These 3rd down backs have defined the position in the NFL, being capable of running draws, catching screen passes, and blocking when need be. They are difficult to defend because you never know what they are going to do. Is Mewelde Moore this type of back? He could be, but you have to use him in different ways (that includes as a runner out of the shotgun set) for teams to slow down their 3rd down pass rush. The way things stand now, if it's not 3rd and 1, you'd better believe the D-line is just going to pin their ears back and go, because there's no way we're doing anything except running.

New England and Indy are two of the most effective screen-passing teams in the league. Pittsburgh is, and has been, by far the worst. Screen passes and draw plays are great ways to slow down a pass rush on 3rd downs, which will give Ben more time to make plays. There has been a negative result (sack or INT) 21% of the time when Ben drops back to pass on 3rd down.

That's a little more than 1 out of every 5. The Steelers are averaging almost 13 third down attempts per game. Can we afford that many negative plays?

In conclusion, how do we become an elite offense?

The best way is to stay in control of down and distance. This means trying to get into 3rd and short situations. The Steelers have not been in control of down and distance in 66% of their third downs. Of those, they have only converted 36% (or 1 out of 3).

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Another Choke Job: Steelers Lose


This one hurts. That's about all there is to say about that. We've been outscored 24-0 in the 4th quarter the last two weeks.

Game Recap

The Bengals win the toss and elect to receive. They take the opening kickoff out across the 40 and break down. Run-run-incomplete pass. Touchback on the punt.

The Steelers come out looking shaky, but after a penalty, Ben finds Hines wide open down the field for a big gain. Willie gets a crease around the corner and busts a huge gain to get the Steelers down to the 20. The Steelers get themselves into a typical 3rd and long, but Ben finds Wallace at the 10 for a first down. Heath gets down to the 1 on 2nd down, and Parker gets stuffed at the goal line. Reed squeezes one inside the upright to get off the schnide.


Cincinnati comes out flat again as Palmer throws 2 incompletions. Punt.

Hines takes a flanker screen for 6, then Parker converts up the middle for the 1st down. Parker comes back with an 11-yarder 2 plays later to move the chains again. Parker grinds out some more, and Ben hits Wallace again to convert on 3rd down. Ben goes play-action on 1st down and eludes some pressure, finding Parker out of the backfield. Parker makes 3 guys miss and splits 2 defenders to scamper into the end zone for the score.


Big Snack comes right up the middle on 2nd and 10 and throws Palmer down as the quarter ends. Bungles had 8 plays for -10 yards in the first quarter.

Second Quarter

Ryan Clark almost picks one off on 3rd and long and the Bungles have to punt again.

Ben goes deep to Wallace down the sidelines who has 5 yards on Jonathan Joseph. Wallace reels it in but his momentum carries him out at the 10. Parker gets 4 on first down. Heath gets a dump-down on 2nd down for a few, then gets overthrown by Ben in the back of the end zone. Reed knocks it right down the middle.


Palmer goes to OchoStinko for 2 quick-hitters to pick up the Bungles first 1st down of the game. The Bengals grind it out for a bit, then go back to Stinko with Ike all over him to convert a 3rd down. The Bengals look like they're clicking, but a holding penalty sets them back and the Steelers defense holds.

The Steelers come out with an unbalanced line with Ramon Foster in a tight end position as an extra blocker. The call works out and the running game with FWP at the helm. Parker looks a whole lot better in this game. He's running downhill and not hesitating. After the two-minute warning, Ben hits Hines on a slant on 3rd and 2 that he turns upfield for 17 to get him over the 10,000 yard mark.

Congrats to Hines on being the first Steelers receiver to break 10,000 yards.

Moore picks up 6 on a draw, but Holmes can't get both feet down in bounds on 3rd and 4. With the ball on the 35, the Steelers elect to go for it. Ben gets pressured from Odom and is forced to throw the ball away. Turnover on downs.

Palmer comes out and leads the offense in a no-huddle drill with a minute to play and 3 timeouts. He hits a series of short passes, and works it into field goal range. The Steelers defensive front bats two balls down (Keisel and Harrison), holding the Bungles to 3.



Someone in Seattle gets fired for designing those ugly ugly uniforms.

Third Quarter

The Steelers get set back by a pass interference call on Hines for blocking before the ball was caught. On the next play, Ben throws one out for Holmes who either didn't get the hot route or wasn't looking and runs past the ball. Jonathan Joseph gets an easy catch and trot to the end zone. Cincy snaps it over the holder on the extra point.


Logan rips off a great kick return, and takes it all the way to the Cincy 40. Ben goes deep for Sweed running a deep post on 3rd down but Sweed can't hang on in the end zone. Reed barely misses from 52. No idea why we kicked the field goal there on 4th and 4 from the 35, but went for it on 4th and 5 from the 35 at the end of the first half.

The Bengals look poised to get something done, but they throw a quick-out on 3rd and 1 and Willie Gay is all over it to hold Coles for no gain. Punt.

The Steelers look poised to go 3-and-out after Willie Colon gets called for holding, but Ben find Wallace for the first down on 3rd and 12. Ben goes play-action on 2nd down and scampers around before finding Hines for a huge gain to get inside the Bungles 40. Ben finds Holmes for Tone's first catch of the game after dropping a few earlier. Parker catches one out of the backfield to set up 2nd and short. Willie gets the call on the ground and goes around the corner for the first down to get down to the 5. Parker charges up the middle and comes up just short of the goal line. With the Bengals base defense on the field, Ben hurries it up and sneaks it in for the score.


The Bengals come back after a decent return, and get stopped, but fake the punt and pick up 21 on the fake. Benson rips a 9-yard run on first down, but Harrison plows through the backfield for a big stuff to set up 3rd and 3 as the quarter expires.

Fourth Quarter

LeBeau cranks it up and brings the heat, forcing a dump-down. Benson juggles the ball and Willie Gay rocks him. Graham comes out to try a 52-yarder but he hooks it wide left.

Arians comes out with the motif offense, and Wallace snags it on a hot-read quick-slant, but comes up just short. Superman lofts one down to the 15.

The Bengals come out with two hitch patterns down the right side to move the ball out across the 40. Clark gets flagged for pass interference, and the Bengals set up shop in Steelers territory. Harrison brings some heat on 2nd down and pulls down Palmer as he steps up for Silverback's first sack of the season. Palmer hits Coles in the flat to convert the 3rd down. Benson explodes around the corner and takes it in from 23 yards out for the score. Woodley makes a great play on the 2-point conversion to swat the ball away.


Mike Wallace pulls one in on 2nd down to get to 3rd and inches. Ben sneaks it for the first down to keep the drive alive. Parker gets 2 carries, setting up another 3rd and long. The Bengals bring the house and Ben can't escape. Punt.

Cincinnati mixes up runs and passes and works the ball out across the 50. Caldwell pulls one in to set up 2nd and 1 as the clock ticks down to 2:00.

Two-minute warning

Palmer sneaks for the first down. Ike makes a good play to break up a pass on first down, and Caldwell pulls one in in front of Deshea. The Bengals use their first TO with 1:05 left to set up 3rd down. Palmer goes for Stinko on a fade, but Ike comes up with a huge deflection. Palmer hits Coles on a short curl on 4th down to move the chains. Palmer spikes, then goes for Stinko in the middle, but Ike makes a diving play to break it up. Palmer rolls out on 3rd down and Gay plays strong tight coverage. Palmer steps up out of pressure and hits Brian Leonard out of the backfield who lunges for the first down. Palmer has all day to throw and finds Caldwell across the middle for the TD with 14 seconds to play. Leonard catches one out of the backfield for the 2-point conversion.


Vomit city.

Poor special teams coaching and it's lateral-fest on the Kick return. 2 seconds to go.

Ben flings one deep and it falls incomplete. Game over.

Players of the Game:
Offensive Game Ball: Hines Ward
Defensive Game Ball: Ike Taylor

Honorable Mentions:
Willie Parker

Mr. Yuck Sticker of the Game:

Only rushing 4 on the Bengals entire last drive
LeBeau is known for bringing pressure. Palmer was feeling the heat much of the game. Then when it counts, with the Steelers down by 5, LeBeau brings 4 for the entire last drive of the Bengals. With plenty of time, Palmer was able to pick the Steelers apart and work down the field. Even on 4th and 10, they still didn't bring pressure. If you watched the Jets against the Patriots, they were always bringing pressure. No idea why the Steelers defense suddenly looks like a neutered version of the 2008 edition, but someone needs to light a fire under their ass.

Final Thoughts:
  • This was a game we should have won, no doubt about it. The Steelers lost this game more than the Bengals won this game.
  • What happened to our defense? Where have the blitzes gone?
  • Motif offense on our last real possession killed us.
  • Good day for Hines going over 10,000 yards, but it's bittersweet.
  • Parker looked good, but we still have no idea why they didn't at least spell him with Mendenhall to give him a rest.
  • Holmes had another poor game. That pick-6 was on him.
  • 14 points in the 4th quarter this week, and 10 last week. Where has the 4th quarter defense gone?
  • We look a lot more like the 2006 Steelers than the 2008 Steelers.
  • 1-2 and 0-1 in the division put us in a deep hole. It's going to be tough to climb out of this one.
  • We're not planning golf trips for January yet, but this one hurts.
  • Why kick the field goal in the 3rd quarter but go for it in the 2nd? That gave the Bengals field position that set up their first score. Punt that shit and pin them deep.
  • The Steelers had the ball inside the Cincy 10 3 times in the first half. They scored 13 points.
  • We need to get more pressure on the quarterback. Period.

Gameday 3: Cincinnati Bengals

Ohio State Pen

Today, the Steelers prove themselves. They come into this game 1-1 after a disappointing loss to the Chicago Bears. Are they a team poised to repeat? Or are they a team poised to follow a championship season with another mediocre showing? Baltimore is playing Cleveland and will go to 3-0, so we can not, I repeat can not go to 1-2 and 0-1 in the division.

Cincy is out to prove that they are contenders. The Steelers are out to keep pace with the Ravens in the division race. Winning a division game early in the season sets a tone. Mike Tomlin is 12-1 all-time against AFC North opponents. The only loss was to Baltimore in 2007 when we played our JV team.

Hines Ward needs 60 yards to become the 32nd receiver in NFL history to surpass 10,000 receiving yards. Look for the Steelers to take a shot deep for him right off the bat today to try and get this taken care of.

Steelers-Bungles History
All Time: Steelers 48-30
In Cincinnati: Steelers 22-17
Last Five: Steelers 5-0
Mike Tomlin: 4-0
Current Streaks: Overall - Steelers 5, In Cincinnati - Steelers 8

What you didn't know about Cincinnati: The Bungles were 12th in the league in run defense last year, and are currently (albeit after only 2 games) ranked 11th in the league in total defense (11th in run D, 16th in pass D). Defensive End Antwan Odom is currently leading the league with 7 sacks (he had 5 against Green Bay).

What you did know about Cincinnati: Cincinnati has been trying to run the ball more on offense, but Carson Palmer is still a gunslinger. He will try to force balls and he will take his shots downfield. This should give the Steelers pass rush time to get after him against the Bengals relatively weak offensive line. So far on the season, Palmer has 3 TDs, 4 INTs, and 5 sacks.

Where We'll Be:

John will be fixing the wheels on a buggy in Lancaster.

Ian will be watching the game in HD at his parents house.

Ian may also drop by the OFTOT/XFLMVP Liveblog. It'll depend on how his internet connection is.

Going into enemy territory, there's only one person we'd trust this game in the hands of.


Friday, September 25, 2009

NFL Week 3 Preview

Last week, we were reminded that the NFL is not major league baseball, and that the teams at the top and bottom are a lot closer together than you would think. The Steelers went on the road and lost to a mediocre Bears team. the Packers lost to the Bengals. The Jets with rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez at the helm knocked off New England.

Game of the Week: Arizona v. Indianapolis
For as good as the slate of games was last week, this week's games don't have a lot of high-profile matchups. Arizona and Indianapolis are two similar teams. Both have high-flying offenses that can, in theory, score with the best of them. So far this year, we haven't seen a whole lot of aerial dominance from either team. Indy escaped both Jacksonville and Miami, while Arizona got manhandled by San Francisco but bounced back with an impressive effort against the Jags. Indy is ripe for an upset, and you'd better believe the Whiz is going to have his team ready to play on Sunday night in the desert. Kurt Warner v. Peyton Manning in a Fantasy Football dream matchup. First one to 40 wins...maybe.

Most Intriguing Game of the Week: New England v. Atlanta
The Falcons are 2-0 and the Pats are 1-1. This will be a litmus test for both teams to see where they really stand. New England's defense is a shell of its former self and will struggle once again to defend the run. Matt Ryan has the skills necessary to pick apart the Patriots secondary, and the weapons to make it happen. The question in this game will be the Falcons defense. They have played well so far, but haven't really been tested. Will Brady bounce back or continue his streak of mediocrity?

Worst Game of the Week: Detroit v. Washington
How bad is the Redskins offense? Bad enough that even though this would mark Detroit's 20th consecutive loss, you have to like the chances of the Lions in this one. The Redskins managed to put up only 9 points against the dreadful Rams defense. If there is a redeeming factor for the Redskins, it's their defense. Matthew Stafford hasn't been great so far for the Lions, but you have to remember this is the Lions offense he's working with. This game promises to be a crapshoot, which might be just what it takes to get Detroit off the schnide.

Upset Special: San Francisco over Minnesota
Minnesota needs Adrian Peterson. Brett Favre can't win games on his own any more. With Peterson dinged up, and San Francisco's strong defense coming in, the 49ers have a great chance to move to 3-0. If the 9ers shut down Peterson and force Favre to beat them, the game will swing for San Fran. This game matches up two strong running and mediocre passing teams with strong defenses. Look for a low-scoring, defensive showdown.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Ian's Week 2 Power Rankings

This is a relatively short Power Rankings post this week. Grad school and the G-20. Wooo.

As some of our long-time readers may remember, I developed a mathematical scale for Power Rankings last year. Basically, it's a simpler version of the stuff some NFL stats sites (like Advanced NFL Stats) do to rank teams. Unfortunately, I need at least 3-4 weeks worth of data to be able to work with, so for now, you're stuck with my opinions.

Top 5

They disposed of a decent Dallas team this week and have moved to 2-0 in the hardest division in the NFL. The questions about their passing game are evaporating before our eyes.

Joe Flacco is tearing it up. Their defense is questionable. This is a team just waiting to get upset.

Their offense is on fire. They proved themselves against the Eagles offensively. The defense still has some holes.

They're running well, Matt Ryan has been efficient, and the defense has been playing stellar. It's a deadly combination in Atlanta right now.

Do I think they're the 5th best team in the league? No. However, I give them the honor this week after they knock off the Pats.

Just Missed: Indianapolis

Bottom 5
Is there any doubt who the worst team in the league is? 7 points in 2 games? Vomit.

Did they really go 10-6 two years ago?

19 and counting but they're still not the worst team in the league.

When you can't beat Oakland, you've got problems.

I can understand getting shredded by Dallas, but Buffalo?

Just Missed: Jacksonville

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Rather than play the blame game, as Ron Cook (who as you may remember, hates Pittsburgh) and Gene Collier have been doing this week, we're looking forward.

With that in mind, we present to you today, our ode to Ben Roethlisberger in Cincinnati.

Ben has faced the Bungles 11 times (counting playoffs), more than any other team in the NFL. Of those 11 times, Ben has been on the winning end 9 times. The only two losses were a 38-31 shootout at Heinz Field in 2005 (otherwise known as the last time the Steelers lost before winning Super Bowl XL), and a 28-20 loss in Pittsburgh in 2006.

But in Ohio, Ben is king.

In NFL games in Ohio, Ben has posted a 63.4% completion percentage, with 16 touchdowns (8 each against Cincy and Cleveland) and 7 INTs. Ben needs 71 yards to surpass 2000 passing yards in Ohio during his NFL career.

Against the Bungles in Cincinnati, Ben has never had a QB rating lower than 93.2. Three times he has broken 100.

Only twice under Ben's reign have the Steelers scored less than 20 points in Ohio. Once was a 19-14 victory at Cincy in Ben's first year. The other was that 10-6 rain-soaked disaster last year in Cleveland.

Cincinnati supposedly was in the top half of the league in run defense last year. We put up 125 and 121 on them in two games. Could this be Mendenhall's breakout game? We saw some flashes last week.

Oh yeah, and Hines Ward destroyed Keith Rivers' jaw.

The only team Ben owns more than Cincinnati is Cleveland.

Clang Clang, the Warden is coming to town.

Week 2 Wrap-up

  1. The New York Jets Defense.
  2. Peyton Manning does more with less than anyone else in the league not named Roethlisberger.
  3. Chris Johnson, Frank Gore, and Andre Johnson. Doesn't our defense look great now for holding CJ to 55 yards last week?
  4. San Francisco is 2-0, with wins coming over Arizona and Seattle. Was it really just the jersey change?
  5. Our blog! We got our first comment since July. Actually, I ran into about 4 people this week that asked me about the blog, so we're growing in popularity. Awesome.

Not Impressive
  1. Kansas City's "offense"...if that's what they're calling it.
  2. Green Bay - losing to Cincy at home? Really?
  3. Tom Brady.
  4. San Diego running the ball on 4th and goal.
  5. Tennessee's pass defense.

Futility Watch

19 down, 7 to go.

How I Did:

Not so hot with the predictions this week, I was 10 for 16, bringing my yearly total to 24/32 (75%).

Pittsburgh Bloggers Fantasy Football League

We fall to 1-1 after losing to I Heart PGH.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Obama Bowl: Steelers Lose


Let's set the record straight here. We're not going to throw Jeff Reed under the bus. He's come through for us a bunch of times in the past, and he probably will again in the future. So, for the record, the space under our bus is still empty. We didn't throw the running game there, and we're not throwing Reed there either.

Chicago wins the toss and elects to receive.

The Bears come out and show their strategy early: short passes to runningbacks and wide receiver screens. The Steelers play it well and force a 3-and-out.

Parker gets the first call of the game and looks tentative, but picks up 5. Ward comes open across the middle and starts things rolling. Tone jumps in front of Heath and pulls one in to convert a 3rd and 12, then Heath snags one down the seam to get across the 50. Ben keeps working it through the air and goes to Tone and Hines to get inside the 10. The Steelers work it down to the goal line, but Moore can't get in on 3rd down. Inches away, Tomlin elects to go for it. Ben goes play-action and rolls out. With the path to the end zone blocked, he flings one and Matt Spaeth pulls it down in the back of the end zone for the score.


Chicago's dink-and-dunk offense comes back out and goes 3-and-out.

Parker leads the way with two solid runs as the quarter runs out.

Second Quarter

Ben picks up where he left off and converts another 3rd and long with a nice pass to a wide open Hines Ward across the middle. Ben goes play-action and looks for Wallace down the sidelines but get hit in the head as he throws, and the ball comes up short and gets picked off. If that's any other quarterback in the league, they throw a flag for a blow to the head. Just saying.

Cutler had plenty of time to sit on the bench up to this point, so he figured he should actually show up and play. He leads the Bears to a few first downs, but the drive stalls out after a holding penalty.

Ben starts to get things rolling again, but a false start on Willie Colon puts us in 3rd and even longer. Superman For. The. Win. Did he really kick it 58 yards in those conditions?

Scott Green, moron extraordinaire, famous for screwing up numerous calls in the Steelers-Chargers 11-10 game last year, bit us in the ass on the next drive. With the Bears pinned back at their 3, Harrison gets flagged for a questionable roughing the passer call where he got pushed into Cutler. Later in the drive, Green bails out the Bears on a 3rd down with a terrible defensive holding call on Timmons. Cutler keeps dinking and dunking his way down the field, and eventually works it down inside the 10. On 3rd and goal, Cutler looks left then fires one back to the right between Farrior and Carter to some backup tight end to tie things up.



Tense times. We had a few chances to stretch out the lead and didn't do it, then let the Bears get back in the game.

Third Quarter

Arians obviously didn't do too much thinking during halftime, because the Steelers came out totally flat and went 3-and-out.

Superman booms a 57-yarder.

LeBeau, unlike Arians, obviously imparted some wisdom on his defense, as they got some of their best pressure of the game and forced a 3-and-out.

Ben gets stuck in another 3rd and long, but is able to convert with a pass to Mewelde Moore who gets a generous spot to move the chains. Spaeth makes another nice catch down the middle to get us to 3rd and 1. Resident moron Arians decides to call a pass rather than a run and Ben gets stormed in the pocket and sacked.

The Steelers defense seemingly has the Bears line on their heels, and two false start penalties put the Bears in 3rd and very long, but Cutler hits Earl Bennett on a receiver-screen that he takes for a 15-yarder to move the chains. Vomit. The Steelers defense gets the message and is able to hold after that.

Mendenhall gets his turn in the rotation, and makes his first highlight of the season. He catches one out in the flat, then falls over. But with no one around, he is able to bounce up then cut back across the field and turn it up for a 13-yard gain. Some joke for the Bears takes a penalty on the next play, moving the Steelers across midfield. On a bread-and-butter play (LG pull) Mendenhall bursts through a hole in the line and charges upfield. He doesn't quite have the burst on the sloppy field to outrun a linebacker and is dragged down at the 2 after a 40-yard rumble. When the Steelers were watching film of the Bears, they must have seen an opening for QB-rollouts, because the 2nd one of the game on the goal line is called, and Ben takes it in for the score.


Matt Forte is able to grind out a first down for the Bears on the next drive. The defense stands tall again, and Harrison brings heat off the edge, causing Cutler to step up into the waiting arms of Aaron Smith. For some unknown reason, the Bears try to run on 3rd and 13. Nothing doing. Punt.

Parker comes out and keeps up the momentum in the run game with a 13-yarder. The running game showed improvement this game, but instead of just being flat out bad like they were last week, they were maddeningly inconsistent. Parker gets stuffed for nothing, but Ben is able to convert another 3rd and long by lasering a pass to Tone to get down to the 26.

Fourth Quarter

The offense starts the quarter rolling, as Parker goes for 6 then Tone pulls one in on a quick slant to get down to the 13. The incredibly unoriginal Arians goes run-run-pass, and Ben gets sacked after some terrible attempts at blocking on 3rd down. Reed comes out for a very makeable field goal, but pushes the 38-yarder wide left.

Cutler comes out and capitalizes. He leads the Bears down the field, including a big pass to a wide open Greg Olsen down the middle. Inside the 10, the Steelers defense forces a 3rd down once again, but Cutler fires one to Johnny Knox in front of Tyrone Carter for the score.


With a little over 6 minutes to play, this was Ben time. We'd seen him do it before, and we were ready for him to do it again. Lead the team down the field on a 5-minute drive and bring home the victory. Ben starts working out of the no-huddle and hooks up with Hines for a first down to get things started. Mewelde Moore rips off a 15-yarder to get across midfield as the clock ticked under 5 minutes to play. After two incompletions and a penalty, Ben is able to convert a 3rd and 5 with his feet, stretching out for the first down. After a run gets stuffed, Ben hits Wallace who goes out of bounds rather than fighting for the sticks, setting up a 3rd and 2. Arians thinks he's coaching the Green Bay Packers and tries to go for the killshot, but the ball goes through Santionio's arms in the end zone and Jeff Reed trots out onto the field again. This one isn't even close and is wide left all the way. Don't know if he slipped or just made a bad kick.

Lonliest man in America.

With 3:18 left, you had that sinking feeling in your stomach that things were looking bad. Matt Forte gets a swing pass in space, and there's a spark of life when Harrison knocks the ball out from behind, but Chicago is able to recover because Greg Olsen is well-practiced in grabbing loose balls. After the two-minute warning, the defense has Chicago in a 3rd and 4 and brings some heat. Cutler lobs one off his back foot, but Devin Hester makes a fantastic leaping catch to pick up the first down. Things looked grim as the clock ticked down. Forte got a few carries to move it closer. The Steelers used their last 2 timeouts. Robbie Gould, out of Penn State, came out with 20 seconds left and did what Jeff Reed could not.


Logan fumbled on the kickoff return and that was all she wrote.

Players of the Game:
Offensive Game Ball:
Ben Roethlisberger
Defensive Game Ball: James Farrior
Honorable Mentions:
Rashard Mendenhall
Hines Ward
Matt Spaeth
Ike Taylor
Daniel Sepulveda
Aaron Smith

Mr. Yuck Sticker of the Game

Missed Field Goals
No explanation needed.

Final Thoughts
  • Like Coach said, Jay Cutler is very good at fitting balls into tight places.
  • Scott Green might be one of the worst officials in the NFL.
  • The Bears were 7/14 on 3rd downs. The Steelers were 6 of 12.
  • Is it just me, or are we better on 3rd and long than 3rd and short?
  • Arians is the least inventive play-caller in the NFL. No, we're not throwing him under the bus, we've hated his play-calling for a while.
  • Houston averaged 2.2 yards per carry against Tennessee today. Anyone who threw our running game under the bus after last week, don't let the door hit you on the way out. Tennessee's run defense is that good...and their pass defense is that bad.
  • Both of Chicago's TDs came on passes in front of Tyrone Carter. Does Polamalu make those plays? Just asking.
  • Sepulveda averaged 54.3 on 3 punts. Holy hell.
  • O-line looked a little better, but still inconsistent.
  • Don't hurt yourselves falling off the bandwagon. Seriously people, this is the NFL, losses happen, get over it.
  • Jeff Reed will probably never have to kick at Soldier Field again in his career, thank goodness.
  • Bring on the Bungles.

Gameday 2: Chicago Bears

Soldier Field

Today is one of those days where you get to watch the 1:00 games and hope that they actually get over with as quickly as possible. Is there anything more annoying than missing the start of your game because an earlier game hasn't finished yet? Probably not.

The Steelers come into this game with a lot to prove. They need to prove they can get their running game going, particularly against a decent defense like Chicago. We all know Parker will go off next week against Cincinnati, because Cincy just sucks like that. But for now, a solid effort by the running game will give Ben more time and less pressure. Brian Urlacher, the anchor of the Bears defense, is out for the season, making them thin at linebacker, which gives the Steelers

Chicago's opener was characterized by pretty-boy Jay Cutler trying to be Brett Favre. And in Brett Favre fashion, he threw 4 interceptions, including one with under a minute to play when the Bears were down by 6. The Bears biggest weakness, as we detailed in our Season Preview, is their lack of wide receivers. Devin Hester is the #1 target, but he isn't a great route-runner. He does have the speed to kill you though. You have to believe Cutler is going to be taking some shots downfield in this one.

Steelers-Bears History
All Time: Bears 19-7-1
In Chicago: Bears 11-1
Last Five: Steelers 3-2
Mike Tomlin: 0-0
Current Streaks: Overall - Steelers 3, In Chicago - Steelers 1

What you didn't know about Chicago: Running back extraordinaire Matt Forte averages 3.4 ypc on grass, 4.7 ypc on turf. Soldier Field is a grass surface that is very similar in conditions to Heinz Field (aka sloppy).

What you did know about Chicago: Despite popular belief (and all of last season), they are actually Barack Obama's favorite team.

Where we'll be

John will be churning butter with the amish.

Ian will be at his favorite bar, Hough's in Greenfield.

Ian will also be live-blogging the game with Cotter and Steve from One for the Other Thumb and Slash and Tommy Gun from XFLMVP.

Check back around gametime for a link to the CoveritLive blog.

The last word goes to Stephen:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Godless Killing Machines

Go Steelers!

Friday, September 18, 2009

NFL Week 2 Preview

In Week 1, we were reminded that, in the NFL, there are some things that never change. Buffalo, Cincy, and Oakland snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Whatever Brett Favre tried to do to Percy Harvin will be the subject of Law & Order SVU next week.

Game of the Week: Baltimore at San Diego
Of the three matchups this week featuring playoff teams from last year, this one has the best profile. San Diego's defense looked terrible last week against a bad Oakland team. What do you think Joe Flacco, who threw for 300 yards against a bad Kansas City defense last week, is going to do to them? San Diego will likely be without LT, meaning that Darren Sproles will see the majority of time at running back. But we all know you can't run on Baltimore. What does that leave us with? Joe Flacco v. Phillip Rivers in a wild west shootout. No surprise here if both teams break 30.

Most Intriguging Game of the Week: NY Giants at Dallas
The new stadium. The Giants defense. The Cowboys passing game. We know the Giants can stop the run. Their secondary is questionable. Dallas knows how to score on them. Will Eli be able to keep up? With a heavy dose of Brandon Jacobs, we think the Giants can. This will be tight, but don't be surprised if it digresses into a 4th quarter shootout.

Worst Game of the Week: Cleveland at Denver
Denver will get to start 2-0 based solely on the fact that they got to play 2 of the 6 worst teams in the league at the front end of their schedule. This will probably be a crap-fest, much like the Denver-Cincy game. Cleveland sucks.

Upset Special: Detroit over Minnesota
Did I just say that? Yes. The Lions were terrible last year, we all know that. They only lost 3 games by less than 7 points. Two of those 3 games happened to be against Minnesota (12-10 and 20-16). They gave up over 100 to AP in both games and were still in them. While this year's version of the Lions isn't much better, neither is this year's version of the Vikings. I still like the Vikings to win this week, but I had to go out on a limb with a crazy pick here, and I actually had a tad of anectodal evidence to back this one up.

We want to give a shout-out to Danny over at Sunday Picks. He just started up his blog and he did pretty well with his Week 1 picks. Check him out.
Ian's Picks

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Ian's Week 1 Power Rankings

One week is already in the books, and if there's anything certain about the NFL this year, it's that nothing is certain. Buffalo and Oakland pushed "Super Bowl contenders" New England and San Diego to the brink. The Steelers played an ugly, ugly game against a good Tennessee team, and managed to pull out a victory. The defending NFC Champs got beat at home by San Francisco.

Top 5

As I discussed last year, I'm a firm believer that the champs are still the champs until proven otherwise. Hence, I came out last year with the Giants on top of my power rankings. The same remains true this year. Even though the Steelers did it in ugly fashion, they got a win that could prove to be big down the stretch in terms of tiebreakers against a very good AFC team.

They didn't play like the second best team in the league this week, but I still believe they are the second best in the league. They got lucky against Buffalo, catching the Bills running the same cover-2 defense twice (and of course, McKelvin fumbling). Can't say much about the way their offense played, since the Steelers offense looked pretty much the same for 90% of the game.

They showed that the loss of No-Catch-ico won't down the passing game, and they still have one of the best running games in the league. Their defense is great, but we knew that coming in. The big factor to determine their success will be the secondary. Will it be able to hold up against teams like Philadelphia and Dallas? We'll find out this weekend.

Was there a more impressive team than Philly this weekend? Carolina was picked by many (but not me!) to win the NFC South. The Panthers looked flat and Philly racked up enough points to take Carolina's running game out of the equation. The question in the city of Brotherly Love now revolves around Donovan McNabb's cracked rib and how soon he can recover. Only one week til Vick.

Too high for an 0-1 team? I don't think so. Who else would I put here? An Indy team that barely beat Jacksonville? A Baltimore team that struggled to beat Kansas City? No, Tennessee is one of the top 5 teams in the league, and they showed it, particularly on defense, against the Steelers on Thursday night.

Just Missed: Baltimore

Bottom Five

I know Detroit has lost 18 straight games. But they played New Orleans. Did any team look as bad this week as St. Louis? They scored no points, gave up 28 to Seattle, and just looked....terrible. Can their Nov. 1 matchup with the Lions come soon enough?

Cleveland actually had a halftime lead against the Vikings. But then the Minnesota coaching staff remembered that they had Adrian Peterson and Brett Favre didn't have to win the game for them. Peterson went ape shit on the Browns defense, including a touchdown run (his 3rd of the game) that proved why he is the best back in the league. Cleveland sucks.

Detroit comes in 3rd to last because, despite their terrible defensive effort against the Saints, their offense actually had a good day (which is more than can be said for the other two). They face 3 of the teams ranked in my "Bottom 5," so don't be surprised if they ring up a few wins this year. Stafford had some issues in his first start, but he will come around. Peyton Manning went 3-13 in his first year. 3 wins for Stafford would be a 300% improvement over the Lions QBs last season.

No one, except maybe Cleveland or Buffalo, is better at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory than the Cincinnati Bungles. Did their offense even play for the first 3 1/2 quarters? Did their defense remember that the game is 60 minutes? Apparently not. Hard Knocks. Pete Prisco is a joke.

I had some options here, but the young Buccaneers get the honor after falling victim to the aerial assault of the Dallas Cowboys. They couldn't tackle, couldn't cover, and just couldn't stop Dallas' offense. Their offense looked mediocre at best, and Byron Leftwich is going to get killed behind that offensive line this year. Who is Gaines Adams?

Just Missed: Buffalo