Monday, November 30, 2009

Not Dead Yet

Hey, guess what, we're not dead yet. Yes we've lost 3 in a row. But let's look at what else is happening in the league before we bury the 2009 Pittsburgh Steelers.

Current Wild Card Race
5. Denver (7-4)
6. Jacksonville (6-5)
7. Baltimore (6-5)
8. Pittsburgh (6-5)
9. Miami (5-6)
10. NY Jets (5-6)
11. Tennessee (5-6)
12. Houston (5-6)

We'll start close to home then go through the other 7 teams that are battling for the 2 wild card spots.

Remaining Games:
@ Cleveland
Green Bay
@ Miami
Combined record of remaining teams: 22-33
Remaining teams with winning records: 2
Remaining teams in AFC Playoff race: 2
Remaining Home Games: 3

Remaining Games:
@ Kansas City
@ Indianapolis
@ Philadelphia
Kansas City
Combined record of remaining teams: 27 - 28
Remaining teams with winning records: 2
Remaining teams in AFC Playoff race: 1
Remaining Home Games: 2

Remaining Games:
@ New England
@ Cleveland
Combined record of remaining teams: 29 - 26
Remaining teams with winning records: 2
Remaining teams in AFC Playoff race: 4
Remaining Home Games: 3

Remaining Games:
@ Green Bay
@ Pittsburgh
@ Oakland
Combined record of remaining teams: 22 - 33
Remaining teams with winning records: 1
Remaining teams in AFC Playoff race: 1
Remaining Home Games: 2

Remaining Games:
New England
@ Jacksonville
@ Tennessee
Combined record of remaining teams: 29 - 26
Remaining teams with winning records: 3
Remaining teams in AFC Playoff race: 5
Remaining Home Games: 3

Remaining Games:
@ Buffalo
@ Tampa Bay
@ Indianapolis
Combined record of remaining teams: 30 - 25
Remaining teams with winning records: 3
Remaining teams in AFC Playoff race: 2
Remaining Home Games: 2

Remaining Games:
@ Indianapolis
St. Louis
San Diego
@ Seattle
Combined record of remaining teams: 29 - 26
Remaining teams with winning records: 2
Remaining teams in AFC Playoff race: 3
Remaining Home Games: 3

Remaining Games:
@ Jacksonville
@ St. Louis
@ Miami
New England
Combined record of remaining teams: 23 - 32
Remaining teams with winning records: 2
Remaining teams in AFC Playoff race: 3
Remaining Home Games: 2

As you can see, the Steelers and Ravens have the easiest remaining schedules of the 8 teams in the race. Miami plays all 5 of their remaining games against teams in the AFC playoff hunt. Jacksonville has 4 of their remaining games against teams in the playoff race. The Steelers have head-to-head tiebreakers on Denver and Tennessee if it would come to that. They can also secure a head-to-head tiebreaker on Miami by beating them the last week of the season. No idea how the tiebreak situation with Baltimore would go down, but if we beat them head-to-head and win out, we'll be a game ahead of them.

Can the Steelers get things turned around? Of course. Remember, in 2006 things were looking down and we were sitting at 7-5, then we went on a big run and didn't lose the rest of the year. If Polamalu and Ben come back this week, we'll be a completely different team. Everyone else in the race has very losable games, and we've got two games to get our ducks in a row before Green Bay comes to town.

So don't go giving up on this season just yet. We're still in the thick of things and with a great December, could very well be playing in January.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Dark Magic: Steelers Lose


In the run-up before the game, NBC accidentally leaked this picture of Joe Flacco's tattoo:
He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named won't be happy about that getting out.

Due to the 8:15 start time, the game takes forever to finally get started. NBC makes sure to get in as many commercials as possible before kickoff. The Ravens fans have white dish rags that they're waving. Bill Hillgrove calls them a "cheap imitation of the Terrible Towel."

The Ravens won the toss and deferred. Logan takes the kickoff across the 30.

Get used to seeing the motif offense tonight. Run-run-pass. Good call with a screen play on 3rd down, but the pass gets tipped. Punt.

The Steelers force a 3rd and long, but Flacco zips one on a slant route to move the sticks. Two passes to Mason later, the Ravens are inside the 25. Ray Rice takes it down to the goal line. Three plays later, McGahee takes it in.


Remember last time McGahee faced the Steelers?

The Steelers throw their typical WR screen to Ward to start off, then Mendenhall is able to move the chains. Raise Some gets us into a 3rd and 3, and Dixon scrambles for the first, but it gets called back on a hold. Moore gets a draw play and goes nowhere. Punt.

The defense holds and forces a 3-and-out.

Parker comes in as the Steelers continue their 2-and-1 series rotation between Raise Some and FWP. Parker gets 2 carries to get to 3rd and 1. Arians refuses to put a blocking back in, but Parker converts. Holmes gets 8 on the slip-screen, then Parker moves the chains on 2nd and short.

Second Quarter

The Steelers come out with two play-action passes. Dixon hits Hines on the sidelines then Tone across the middle who stiff-arms a corner and takes it TO THE HOUSE to tie the game.

See what happens when you establish the run and set things up? It opens up the play-action and you can actually run pass plays off of running plays that you previously ran. We approve.

Carey Davis makes a tackle on special teams and Baltimore gets called for a hold.

Baltimore runs 3 times and gets a first down, but the Steelers defense buckles down and forces a punt.

Mendenhall makes a good run on first down then gashes through the middle of the Death Eaters defense to get across midfield. Dixon converts 3rd and 7 with a pass to Tone on a curl route. Dixon makes a good play on the next 3rd and long to throw the ball away, but Baltimore gets called for a hold, giving us a first down. Spaeth gets called for a hold setting us back to 2nd and 20. Moore gets called for holding on 3rd down to nullify another 3rd down conversion. Tone catches one well short of the sticks. Superman pins them inside the 15.

NBC shows the Baltimore Ravens History Gallery, which has a TV playing the Baltimore Colts "Greatest Game Ever Played" against the Giants. PSAMP posted about this last week. Total fail. The Baltimore Ravens history is the Cleveland Browns, not the Baltimore-now-Indianapolis Colts.

After some screwing around with penalties, Flacco goes deep. Ryan Clark goes for the big hit rather than the interception and Mason pulls it in for a 54-yard gain.

Two Minute Warning

Flacco throws a fade to Mason in the corner and Ike over-runs it, allowing Mason to come back to the ball and make the catch.

The Steelers get the ball with just under 2 minutes to play. Rather than let Dixon air it out, they run two draw plays to Moore. Carey Davis gets the call on a zone read and picks up the first down, allowing us to run the clock out.


Lame commercial about the "invention" of face paint. Toyota trying to be Bud Light doesn't work.

Third Quarter

Patrick Bailey makes a tackle on the kickoff.

Ray Rice rips through the defense on first down for a big gain. Flacco rips one to Mason, and Willie Gay punches the ball out. Tyrone Carter falls on it for the first turnover of the game.
Voldemort kills a mudblood in anger.

The Steelers come back with the motif offense and go run-run-pass-punt. Sepulveda pins them back inside the 15.

Woodley storms the backfield, busting through The Blind Side, knocking Flacco up into the waiting arms of Kirschke. The Ravens give up and run a draw on 3rd and long. Logan makes a few guys miss on the punt return and gets up to the 50.

Dixon comes out play-action and hits Mendenhall in the flat out of the backfield. Raise Some breaks a tackle and takes it down to the 30. Dixon takes a shot downfield for Wallace but slightly underthrows him in the end zone and Wallace can't hang on.
So close

Mendenhall gets a few on 2nd down, then the Death Eaters storm Dixon, forcing a bad pass. Reed comes out and blasts it through.


Baltimore brings the kickoff across the 30 and is able to move the chains on a McClain run. Lawrence Timmons tears through the Ravens line and brings down Flacco for an 11-yard sack to set up 3rd and 18. Woodley beats a double-team of The Blind Side and Heap of Shit and brings down Flacco for another sack. Punt.

Hines Ward takes a short out and cuts it upfield, taking it right into the chops of Ed Reed for a bunch of extra yards. Dixon takes another shot downfield and makes a great throw but Holmes can't come up with the ball in double coverage. Dixon can't connect on 2nd or 3rd down and it's Sepulveda time again.

Flacco goes to the short passing game and picks up a few first downs. McClain grinds out another first down then limps off the field. The Steelers force a 3rd and long, but Ray Rice takes a short pass and breaks 3 tackles to move the chains. Rice picks up a few more as the quarter runs out.

Fourth Quarter

Flacco takes a shot downfield on 3rd and 7 and overthrows Mason. Collinsworth, who played wide receiver for the Bengals, wanted a pass interference call on Ike. Not happening. Baltimore takes their first timeout to debate a 51-yard field goal, punting, or going for it. Punt.

Raise Some takes the first play for 11 yards, then gets stuffed on the bread and butter counter trey. Dixon dumps one down to Heath on 3rd down and Heath can't make a defender miss. The Ravens get a big punt return across the 50.

Lawrence Timmons comes flying in and knocks the ball out of Flacco's hand. The Diesel falls on the ball, giving the Steelers defense their second turnover of the second half.

We get a shout-out on Twitter that @alphadelt played Renegade before each fumble recovery drive. Even when we're on the road the magic happens.

Raise Some rips off a 7-yarder on first down, then follows up with 2 more. Dennis The Menace sneaks to move the chains. DTM rips one to Tone on a come-back route for another first down inside the 30. Mendenhall grinds out a few more to set up a 3rd and 5. Wallace comes in motion and the Ravens D comes up to play the reverse, forgetting that Dixon ran the zone read at Oregon. Dixon fakes the handoff to Wallace and takes it around the right side, picking up a great block from Moore and scampers into the end zone for the go-ahead score.


Voldemort cheats on the kickoff, setting them back inside the 10. Flacco hits two passes to move the Ravens out to the 40. Ray Rice tries some dark magic to stop a blitz and gets called for a trip. The Diesel blows up a screen setting up 3rd and 22. Mason pulls one in but Clark pulls him down short of the sticks. Voldemort whips out a secret dark spell and Rice pulls in a 4th down pass across the middle and takes it all the way down to the 10. The defense stands tall on first and second down as the clock rolls to two minutes.

Two Minute Warning

Flacco can't connect with Todd Heap of Shit in the end zone, and it's field goal city for Voldemort.


Logan takes the kickoff out to the 25. Dixon throws two incompletions then run a draw to Moore. Baltimore uses their last timeout to stop the clock with 1:28. Baltimore gets a good return but gets called for using dark magic.

Flacco hits Rice out of the backfield for 6 then Heap of Shit for the first down. Clark misses an interception by going for a big hit, then Flacco goes deep for Mason and draws a pass interference call on Ike. Mark Clayton commits an offensive pass interference that even Collinsworth sees, knocking the Ravens out of field goal range. Voldemort gets back into range momentarily, but Potsie rips through the middle of the defense and takes down Flacco for the sack. The Ravens run out their kick team and try a last-second 56-yard field goal that falls just short.


The Steelers win the toss and elect to receive.

Good reporting job by Al Michaels noticing the refs put the ball in the wrong spot before the field goal. Thankfully the field goal was missed.

The Steelers come out pounding the rock. Mendenhall gets us into a 3rd and short and Dixon falls forward with a nice second-effort to move the chains. Mendenhall gets 4 more then Dixon goes downfield for Wallace who pulls it in but can't stay in bounds. Dixon throws too high for Holmes on 3rd down, forcing a punt. Superman booms one down to the 17.

Flacco goes for the home run on first down and overthrows everyone. Mason can't hang on to a pass on 2nd down, and Flacco's pass hits the ref and almost gets intercepted by Deshea, forcing a punt. Logan fair catches and the Steelers take over near midfield.

Mendenhall fights for 4 yards around the outside, then gets stuffed to set up a 3rd and 5. Dixon throws a pass behind Holmes and it gets intercepted by a DE dropping into coverage. Voldemort brings it back to the 28.
The torches are lit, and the Ministry of Magic sirens are blaring.

Rather than kicking the field goal, Baltimore comes out running. Rice gets 3 carries and picks his way down to the 14. Rice gets another call and gets down to the 9. Flacco takes it back to the middle of the field to set up the field goal. Billy Cundiff hits it.

Death Eaters celebrate.

Players of the Game:
Offensive Game Ball - Dennis Dixon
Defensive Game Ball - Lawrence Timmons

Honorable Mentions:
LaMarr Woodley
Rashard Mendenhall
Brett Keisel
James Farrior

Mr. Yuck Sticker of the Game
Missed Interceptions
We had a lot of opportunities to create turnovers tonight. Ryan Clark missed three by going for big hits instead of looking for the ball. Deshea also missed one at the end in OT when the ball bounced off the official. The big difference between Clark and Polamalu is that Troy always has his head up and knows where the ball is. Clark is looking at the receiver and going for the hit rather than the pick.

Final Thoughts
  • Dixon played a great game. He did more than we could have imagined coming in. Definitely not his fault we lost this one.
  • Mendenhall had another solid game.
  • You don't realize how much we miss Kemoeatu until you see Foster on those pull plays.
  • Not throwing Foster under the bus, he played a great game, but he's two steps slower than Kemoeatu when he's pulling.
  • No sacks for the Ravens defense tonight. Heck of a job by the O-line and Dixon.
  • Ray Lewis is the best 3rd-man-to-the-ball tackler in the league.
  • We can beat these guys in Pittsburgh.
  • Casket match next week against Oakland.
  • It's a 5-game season now.
  • At least Houston, Jacksonville, and Miami lost today. Watch out for Tennessee storming up from behind.
  • In the end, we took a game to overtime that we were expecting to get killed in, can't really complain about that.

Gameday 12: Baltimore Ravens

M & T Bank Stadium

As if not having Ben wasn't bad enough, we have to listen to Collinsworth swoon over Ray Lewis all night.

We know one person who is excited:
The Death Eaters will be in attack mode tonight.

All our hopes lie on one man.

We needed some help with our strategy, so we signed a free agent this past week. We're putting the ball in his hands tonight.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Bruce Arians' Play-calling

The Steelers are on a two-game losing streak. Sentiments like "Fire Tomlin" and "Fire Arians" have been thrown around, including the latter on this site.

We're all for keeping Tomlin. We think he's a great coach.

Arians on the other hand...well, we're getting to that.

Bob Smizik wrote an article while touching himself about how Arians has done a good job.

Here are the stats Smizik used to back up his argument:
-The Steelers are averaging 379.9 yards per game, 6th in the NFL
-The Steelers are averaging 33:41 in time of possession, 3rd in the NFL

Guess what stat Bob-o leaves out?

The Steelers are 14th in the league with 23.1 points per game

Last time I checked, yards and time of possession don't win games, points do.

Ask the 2002 Steelers who out-gained the Houston Texans 422-47, and lost 24-6

Ask the 2003 Steelers who ran the Tommy Gun spread offense and out-gained opponents in 7 games, but only went 3-4 in those on the way to a 6-10 season.

Ask the 2006 Steelers who out-gained Oakland 360-98, and lost 20-13

But all of those examples were from the Cowher era, before Arians became the offensive coordinator.

Now let's look at some examples of Arians' stand-out games:


In 2007, his first season, the Steelers faced 3 teams that finished in the bottom 5 in the league in run defense: Denver, Miami, and the New York Jets.

The Steelers were 1-2 against those teams.

Against Denver, a Monday Night game coming off a bye week where they had no excuse for not coming up with a game plan, the play breakdown looked like this:
35 passes, with 38 passing plays called (Ben scrambled for 20 yards on 3 carries).
23 rushes, 21 to Parker who carried for 93 yards (4.4 yards per carry), and 2 to Najeh who got 6 yards. The real question mark here is that Parker only had 11 carries at halftime, against one of the worst run defenses in the league. In the first half, Roethlisberger had 2 interceptions and had fumbled once on a sack, which Denver returned for a touchdown. In the same first half, Ben had 25 pass attempts. Not exactly the run-pass breakdown you would expect against the #7 pass defense and the #30 run defense.

Against the Jets, who were 9th in the league in pass defense and 29th in run defense, the Steelers called 31 runs and 27 passes. Ben was sacked 7 times. Parker had 21 carries for 52 yards (2.5 yards per carry), Najeh had 8 carries for 39 yards (4.75 yards per carry). Not sure why Parker had so many carries and Najeh didn't have more, particularly at the end of the game or in overtime.

Against Miami, which many will remember as the game where the punt stuck in the ground, the Steelers controlled the ball in Miami territory for much of the game. The winless Dolphins kept the game scoreless as the Steelers just couldn't get into field goal range until 59 minutes and 43 seconds into the game. The stats from this game don't mean much because of the sloppy field, but the Steelers ran 29 running plays and 21 passes.


In 2008, the Steelers only played 2 games against teams ranked in the bottom 5 in rushing: both against Cleveland.

The Steelers won both games, but this is Cleveland we're talking about here.

The worst call of the year, by far, came in the AFC Championship game. The Steelers had the ball, up by 9, at the start of the 4th quarter. We worked our way into a 3rd and 1. Rather than pounding the rock and picking up the 1 yard we needed, Arians went 5-wide and called a pass. It was incomplete, which stopped the clock. We had to punt, and Baltimore took it down the field for a touchdown to pull within 2. On the Steelers next drive, they went run-run-sack, giving Baltimore the ball back with a chance to take the lead. Thankfully, Polamalu snagged an interception and took it to the house, erasing all memories of the terrible 3rd down call that almost cost us a chance at a Super Bowl.

One of the biggest problems the Steelers had in 2008 was an inability to put teams away at the end of games. How many times did our defense have to bail us out last season? Far too many.

The 2008 Steelers averaged 21.7 points per game, 20th in the NFL.

In 2009, Arians has continued the trend he started in the previous two seasons. The Steelers are racking up a lot of yards, but still aren't finding the end zone. In his 3 seasons, here are how the Steelers have ranked in scoring offense:
2007 - 24.5 points per game, 9th in the NFL
2008 - 21.7 points per game, 20th in the NFL
2009 - 23.1 points per game, 14th in the NFL

Let's look back at how the Whiz did.
2004 - 23.2 points per game, 11th in the NFL
2005 - 24.3 points per game, 9th in the NFL
2006 - 22.1 points per game, 12th in the NFL

If you compare their three seasons, both won a Super Bowl. The difference was that Whiz's Championship team won with his highest offensive output. Arians' worst offense won the Super Bowl.

If you look back at the big plays that the Steelers had in the 2008 season, they all came either on defense, or on broken plays where Ben stepped away from pressure and was able to redirect someone in the secondary. Take the touchdown to Holmes in Baltimore where Holmes broke off his route and came back across the field. The touchdown to Holmes in the AFC Championship game came when Ben scrambled away from pressure and Holmes went downfield. There are countless other examples of "Ben being Ben" and making a big play happen.

But what does this say about Arians? That the best plays the offense makes aren't on plays that he calls. Rather, they're on broken plays where the players are able to make things happen.

This season, Ben has utilized the no-huddle offense more and more. Much of the Steelers offensive success this year has come from the no-huddle. Once again, not exactly a vote of confidence for Arians' ability as a play-caller. The best offense we've had this year has been when Ben has been calling his own plays and keeping Arians' decision-making out of the equation.

This past week against Kansas City was the first time all season where we ran on 3rd and 2. Once was a run up the middle with Mewelde Moore that he converted. The other was on a toss sweep that got dropped for a 3-yard loss. We've already detailed how we felt about how terrible that playcall was, so we won't get into that.

Obviously, this is just the tip of the iceberg when we're talking about Arians' play-calling. With that being said, time and again he has proven to have very poor decision-making skills. Against KC, the Steelers started by establishing a running game, which opened up the play-action plays. However, they completely went away from play-action in the second half. In the first game against Cincinnati, Willie Parker was carving them up on the ground, and we went almost exclusively to a passing game in the second half. Arians also never runs a play to set up another play. An example of this would be coming out in the power I and running the ball two or three times early in the game, then going back to the same formation and going play-action later in the game.

At least with the Whiz, even though we were scoring at about the same rate, we would run one play to set up another and our offense had a flow over the whole game, rather than each play being called in a vacuum. If you look at successful offenses around the league, not only do they distribute the ball between their passing and running games, but they also call plays in the scheme of the game and understand situational football. Arians is terrible at understanding situational football (down, distance, and time on the clock) and this shows up time and time again during games, including calling plays with 12-yard routes on 3rd and 4, or trying for a deep pass on 3rd and 6.

We've made no secrets about the fact that we don't like Arians and his play-calling. Really at this point, give Ken Anderson (QBs coach) a shot at calling the plays, if not making him the offensive coordinator. Arians has a knack for trying to get fancy in the red zone, which leads to us kicking field goals rather than scoring touchdowns (see: both Cincinnati games). We need to find a way to start cashing those opportunities into points. At this point, sitting at 6-4, we need a solution and we need it fast and, based on his body of work, we're just not sold on Bruce Arians being the answer.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Week 11 Rundown

  1. Cincinnati losing to Oakland. Cope smiles from above.
  2. Thanksgiving break. Another semester of grad school almost done.
  3. Seeing Detroit come from behind to beat Cleveland in the final second, particularly Eric Mangini taking a timeout to allow Matt Stafford to come back in the game and throw the winning TD pass.
  4. Tennessee beating Houston on Monday night to keep us in the 6th playoff spot.
  5. Us calling Denver's collapse. They're not making the playoffs.
  1. Losing to Kansas City
  2. The BCS hiring Ari Fleischer as their PR person. Because if there's anything that screams openness and honesty to the American people, it's someone from George W. Bush's PR department.
  3. Luke Ravenstahl separating from his wife. Right after the election and right before the holidays? Bad timing Lukey.
  4. Thursday night games that aren't on Thanksgiving...totally unnecessary.
  5. Christmas stuff in stores before Thanksgiving. Shouldn't happen.

Greg Lloyd "I Wasn't Hired for My Disposition" Award


Twitter just exploded on Tuesday night with the #ravenstahlrumors hashtag. For those of you not familiar with Twitter, here's how the "hashtag" works. If you would like to start a topic for people to talk about, you put a # in front of it. For instance, in posts about the Steelers, you would say #Steelers, then anyone looking for posts about the Steelers could search by that tag and see all the posts (or "tweets") about it. Last night, the boys over at The Pensblog decided to start the #ravenstahlrumors hashtag with rumors about Mayor Luke.

For the full and still ongoing list of Ravenstahl Rumors, check here.

Here are a few highlights from last night:
  • @mattkoz81 Luke is the reason Mario retired... twice
  • @mfisher1986 Luke also gave up 2 goals in less than 1 minute to the hurricanes in game 7
  • @Pensblog Luke is a staal brother
  • @mfisher1986 Luke thinks the Cool Springs Mini-Golf course is too hard
  • @PaperClippe: Luke is the seventh Horcrux.
  • @ThreeRiversBlog Luke mentored Bonnie and Clyde
  • @n1chol3 Luke enjoys reading Bob Smizik articles
  • @silicasandra Luke and Steely McBeam are the SAME PERSON.
  • @psamp: Luke peed on The Dude's rug

Not to pat our own back, but here were a few of our best:
  • Luke crashed Oceanic flight 815
  • Luke is turning heel. Will bring a steel chair to the next city council meeting.
  • Luke engineered the Montreal Screw Job
  • Luke told Brett Favre not to retire
  • Luke told DeJuan Blair to leave school early
  • Luke goes for it on 4th and 2
  • Luke paid off Neil O'Donnell
  • Luke once bowled a 27 at Dormont Lanes. He hand-recorded it as a 150.
  • Luke puts his Christmas tree up before Thanksgiving
  • Edgar Snyder is handling Luke's divorce case.
  • Luke has a poster of Michael Scott in his office.
  • Luke was the 6th member of NSYNC
  • Luke sank the Titanic
  • Luke played Lord Zed in the original Power Rangers.
As the Pensblog posted last night, we're probably all going to get sued.

YinzPitt had a post with some more highlights this morning.

Mikey and Bob at KissFM also posted about it.

Bob Smizik "Douchebag of the Week" Award

Ron Cook

Now, we've detailed before how Ron Cook might actually be an undercover agent for Detroit or the KGB. However, it takes a Bob Smizik-sized dicktoucher to pull the stunt Cook did this week. After the Steelers abysmal loss to Kansas City, where a plethora of things went wrong including over-pursuit on kick coverage, defenders being out of position, and poor offensive play-calling, who does he decide to throw under the bus?

What? Seriously Ron?

Yeah, you heard me right. Cook throws Heath Miller under the bus for having a ball go off his shoulder pads and happen to get intercepted by Kansas City. Really Ron? You're going to throw the best tight end in Steelers history under the bus for that? What a joke. Cook is probably just jealous because his own balls never dropped.

Honestly, Ron Cook should be run out of town for publishing that kind of garbage in the Post-Gazette. That's the kind of crap I'd expect from the Valley News Dispatch, but not the Post-Gazette.

ESPN Renegade Feature

We're moving on. It's Tuesday. Cincinnati lost and we're still in the race.

This should get you pumped up in the mean time:

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Kansas City Shuffle: Steelers Lose


The Steelers have to kick. Hope the changes-

Unreal. Jamaal Charles takes the opening kickoff back for a TD.


Coaches look real smart for cutting Anthony Madison right now.

The offense comes out and craps on themselves. Punt.

Kansas City's offense looks worse. Colquitt booms a punt that dies inside the 2. What a kick.

Mendenhall gets us out of trouble by gashing the Chiefs right up the middle to get across the 15. On 3rd and 4, rather than go for a short pass, Ben goes downfield for Wallace in single coverage. He underthrows it, but Wallace makes a great catch over the shoulder. As he tries to elude the DB, the ball gets knocked out and KC recovers. That's almost as good as a punt from there.

Charles makes a good run on first down to get to second and short, but the Steelers defense stands tall twice and forces a punt. This one rolls into the end zone for a touchback.

Ben comes out going play-action and finds Hines wide open across the middle for a 33-yarder to move the Steelers across midfield. Parker gets two carries and sets up a 3rd and 2. Arians shocks the world and runs the ball for the first time all year on 3rd and 2. Moore picks it up with a great second-effort. The Steelers get set back by two penalties. Hines can't quite reach the sticks on 3rd down but Mendenhall goes off left tackle and picks up the first down. Hines picks up a few on a bubble screen then Parker does nothing.

Second Quarter

Once again, on 3rd and medium, rather than going for the first down, Ben goes downfield and overthrows Wallace in the end zone. Reed knocks it right now the middle.


Ike Taylor steps up and makes a special teams tackle after Charles gets through a seam. At this point, would kicking it out of bounds be a bad strategy?

The Steelers look poised to force another 3-and-out, but KC runs a fullback option on 3rd and short and is able to pick it up. The Steelers force the Chiefs into a 3rd and long and Ziggy gets a paw on the ball to knock down a Cassel pass. Logan makes some moves on the punt return, but it gets called back on a holding penalty on Donovan Woods.

Backed up inside the 5, Ben hits Mendenhall out of the backfield, then Raise Some rips through the defense to move the chains. Hines reels one in for another first down, then throws a great block to spring Heath for a big 41-yard romp down the sidelines after a short pass. On 3rd and 8 just outside the 20, Ben finally throws a smart pass and rips one to Heath across the middle to get inside the 10. On 2nd down, Ben creates some time and steps out of the pocket and finds Hines wide open in the back of the end zone.


Hines does a Tomahawk Chop celebration because he's a dirty player who lets his game talk louder than his mouth.

Big Snack eats the entire O-line for lunch and storms the Cassel. First sack of the game. The Chiefs can't do anything. Punt. Logan makes a few moves on the return and takes it back across the 50.

The Steelers take over with 4 and a half to play. Raise Some gets a check-down and scampers for 13 yards to get to the edge of field goal range. The Steelers get themselves into a third and short as the clock hits two.

Two Minute Warning

Ben goes downfield to Wallace on a deep out, and Wallace makes a great catch on a ball on his back shoulder.
On 2nd down, Ben brings Heath in motion to block. Heath chips Tamba Hali to slow down the rush then peels out as a check-down. Ben makes two rushers miss in the backfield then finds Heath across the middle for the touchdown.


Kansas City executes some terrible clock management allowing the clock to run with 3 timeouts on the board. With 2 seconds left, they opt to go for it on 4th down and Cassel gets buried by Woodley.


Brady Quinn and Matthew Stafford are having a shootout in Detroit.

Halftime Stats:
Cassel: 4/10 35 yards
Roethlisberger: 16/20, 221 yards, 2 TD
Miller: 67 yards, 1 TD
Ward: 59 yards, 1 TD

Incredibly, Cassel isn't having the worst half of a QB today. Alex Smith in San Francisco was 3 for 7 for 5 yards.

Third Quarter

The Steelers get the ball to start, and Logan takes the return out across the 35. Ben hits Hines across the middle on 2nd down to move the sticks and get things rolling. Ben eludes some pressure and throws dowfield for Heath. The ball bounces off Heath's shoulder and the Chiefs snag it for the interception.

Kansas City looks poised to lay an egg, but Cassel hits Chris Chambers on a come-back route on the sideline to pick up a 3rd down. They go right back to the air and find someone open down the seam to get inside the 30. Cassel keeps rolling through the air and finds former Cardinal TE Leonard Pope wide open at the goal line. No idea who had the coverage there, but it was blown badly.


Logan takes his first knee of the season on the kickoff. Smart play. On the commercial break, CBS does a good job with an overhead view showing the scissors route KC ran for the TD and how Willie Gay took the wrong guy.

Ben goes to Spaeth on first down to get things going again, but Mendenhall can't pick it up on 3rd and 1. Punt.

Kansas City goes run-run-pass and Ryan Clark almost comes down with an interception. Punt.

Ben comes out on a mission and rips one to Holmes on a slant route. Heath gets called for a penalty after the play, moving the Steelers back. Ben hits Holmes again on a quick-hitter to move the chains. Ben is determined not to be sacked today and shrugs off another rusher, finding Hines with a bullet across the middle. Ben goes back to Hines for 19 more to get inside the 35. Parker picks up 12 on two carries. Willie Colon gets called for a hold on first down, setting us back past the 30. Ben goes back to Tone, who makes a diving catch at the 20. Mendenhall makes a great block off of a play-action and Ben rips one to Miller across the middle to move the chains. Ben has a pass tipped across the middle to Hines and it gets picked off at the goal line. Mendenhall makes a GREAT play coming all the way back down the field to make a tackle to keep Kansas City out of the end zone.

Woodley makes a HUGE play to shed a block to make a sack on first down. On 3rd and goal, Harrison joins the party to force a field goal.


Big-time shout-out to Mendenhall there for coming all the way back down the field to make that tackle and keep KC out of the end zone and give our defense a chance to make a play, which they did. Twice.

Fourth Quarter

Ben comes out and zips one to Holmes on a post to immediately get us near midfield. Ben eludes 2 more guys with an inspired effort not to get sacked and throws the ball away. Starks gets hurt and the Steelers patchwork offensive line barely holds, forcing Ben to take off. He can't reach the sticks and it's punt time.

The Steelers give the Chiefs life with a facemask penalty on Carter. On 3rd down, Timmons comes around the outside and knocks the ball away from Cassel. Harrison falls on the ball for a huge turnover.

Starks is back as the Steelers take over inside the 30. On 3rd and 1, Raise Some pounds the rock up the gut to get inside the 10. On 2nd and goal, Mendenhall runs a seam route out of the backfield and Ben finds him wide open at the goal line.


On third down, Cassel hits a 30-yard pass down the seam. He goes back down the field and finds Chambers wide open behind the safeties. Thankfully the ball is underthrown and gives Clark a chance to make the tackle inside the 15. 77 yards in two plays? Polamalu would have never allowed it. The Steelers hold on first and second down, but Charles leans forward and picks up a first down inside the 5. Keisel made a good play to save the touchdown. KC goes play-action on first down and hits Charles for the TD.


007 hits Heath twice to move the chains. After a run on first down, Ben gets a pass knocked down then gets sacked on an all-out blitz on 3rd down. Punt.

KC takes over at the 25 with 2:17 and 2 timeouts. After an incompletion on first down, KC hits one underneath to set up 3rd and 3.

Two Minute Warning

Ryan Clark makes a huge play to break up a pass on an out route on 3rd down. Moore fair catches at the 20 with 1:47 to go.

Ben gets sacked on first down as Mewelde Moore can't hold a block. KC gets called for illegal contact, giving the Steelers a first down. Ben hits Hines on an out-route that he takes up the sideline for 13 yards to move the chains. Ben hits Heath on a hot route for 5. Ben throws low and away from Hines, setting up 3rd and 5. KC calls an all-out blitz again and Ben tries to step up away from pressure but gets pulled down.

KC takes a knee and runs it out.


Harvey Dent smiles at us as we win the coin toss.

Logan takes his second knee of the season.

Raise Some gets 7 up the gut. Ben holds onto the ball forever then zips it to Hines open in the zone across the middle. Raise Some keeps his legs churning and spins out across the 50 for a 7-yard gain. Ben scrambles out of the pocket and comes up just short of the sticks, getting a knee to the head. To make matters worse, the Steelers get called for a holding penalty and Ben stays down.

Steelers nation holds their breath as Ben is walked off the field and Homestead Charlie comes out. Homestead Charlie rips one to Holmes to pick up the first down and get the Steelers inside the 45. Arians shows his ineptitude by calling a 5-wide set with Batch in on first down. Raise Some makes a great carry, making guys miss and getting down to the 35. On 3rd and 2, Arians kills us by calling a toss play, and Moore gets pulled down in the backfield. Sepulveda has to come out to punt. Touchback.

Charles spins out of tackles to pick up 11 and get across the 30. Ike almost comes up with a pick on a deep pass to Chambers. The defense falls apart on 3rd down as Chambers catches one on a crossing route and takes it down the sidelines 61 yards down to the 4.

KC brings out the field goal team right away. Succop connects.

Steelers fans immediately head to the West End Bridge.


Players of the Game:
Offensive Game Ball- Hines Ward
Defensive Game Ball- LaMarr Woodley

Honorable Mention:
Heath Miller

Mr. Yuck Sticker of the Game
Losing to Kansas City.
Are you freaking kidding me? Wow. Bruce Arians should be fired tonight for the play-calling he made during OT with Batch in there. What a terrible coaching job. The defense is totally different without Polamalu in there. Losing to Cincinnati is one thing. Losing to Kansas City is another. This is almost as embarrassing as when we lost to Oakland in Cowher's last season. Heads need to roll after this one.

Final Thoughts
  • Do what you can to talk your friends off the West End Bridge, but it might not work.
  • Fire Arians.
  • Ben has had 4 drives in the last 5 minutes of games the last two weeks when we needed a score. Haven't scored on any of them.
  • This one hurts.

Gameday 10: Kansas City

It's November. We're two games back in the division race to Cincinnati.

But all is not lost.

After our last loss to the Bungles we went on a 5-game winning streak.

The winning streak starts again today.

3 reasons to hate Kansas City:
  1. Their organization is run by a bunch of former-New England people (ex-Pats if you will)
  2. You're going to hear about how good Matt Cassel was last year all day today and hardly at all about how good Ben Roethlisberger has been this year.
  3. We'll hear more about the Chiefs players that aren't playing (Larry Johnson and Dwayne Bowe) than the ones that are.
The day may come when the courage of men fails...
But it is not this day...
This day we fight!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

WPIAL Championship Matchups

Tonight was a great night for football in western Pennsylvania. I went to the North Catholic-Rochester game, which according to the stats and run-up to the game, should have been a slaughter. North played their best game of the season defensively, keeping Rochester's running game in check all night. North tied the game at 7 halfway through the third quarter, but gave up a 65-yard touchdown pass on a broken play with Rochester's QB scrambling out of the pocket. This was really the only thing Rochester did in the whole second half, but it was enough. North had the ball inside Rochester's 20 twice in the fourth quarter, but couldn't find the end zone. Bethel Park and Woodland Hills had an epic overtime game that the whole area had the privilege of watching on FSN. TJ fell two games short of becoming the first team in WPIAL history to win four consecutive titles.

Gateway v. Woodland Hills
Gateway is back in the championship game, looking to finally finish the deal. Woodland Hills still hasn't lost to a WPIAL team this year. These are without a doubt the top two Quad-A schools and this promises to be a fantastic matchup.

Hopewell v. West Allegheny
Hopewell blew out Hampton, ending their surprising run through the playoffs. Hopewell has the best running back in WPIAL, Rushel Shell, who is only a sophomore, and will face a tough challenge against a well-rounded West Allegheny team that handed TJ their first loss in 49 games.

Aliquippa v. Greensburg Central Catholic
Raise your hand if you had either of these teams in the AA championship game when the playoffs started. GCC has ridden a great rushing attack all the way from the #11 seed to Heinz Field. Aliquippa is the defending champions and their young team has come from the #9 seed to beat top-seeded South Fayette and avenge an early-season loss to conference foe Beaver Falls.

Rochester v. Clairton
Technically, this is the #1 seed and #3 seed, but these are the top two teams in Single-A. Clairton's early season loss to Laurel was a fluke in a game where the Bears had an inordinate amount of penalties. Clairton avenged that loss with a 33-0 pounding of Laurel tonight. Rochester squeaked by North Catholic 14-7. Clairton hasn't given up a point yet in the playoffs, and if North Catholic's defense could shut down Rochester, don't be surprised if Clairton does the same.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Night Lights: WPIAL Semi-Finals

We're one week from Thanksgiving, which also means that the high school football season is winding to a close. There are some great semi-final matchups this week from Quad-A down to Single-A. All four of our predicted champions are still alive. In fact, 13 of our original 16 predictions for semi-final teams were correct.
Gateway v. North Hills (@ Fox Chapel)
Gateway has been on a mission to avenge their championship game loss to Bethel Park all season. Now, one step away from Heinz Field, don't expect them to blink. North Hills has pulled off two shocking upsets of McKeesport and North Allegheny, and now looks to go for the hat trick against #1 seed Gateway. North Hills won their first two games 19-7 and 14-10. Conversely, Gateway obliterated Plum 49-0 and Penn Hills 35-3. If North Hills is going to have a shot at shocking the world (or Western Pennsylvania), they are going to need an inspired defensive effort to keep the game close. Gateway features a slew of ridiculously talented players on both sides of the ball. On offense, RBs Orne Bey (745 yds, 11 TDs), Brandon Felder (583 yds, 17 TDs), and Markie'd Jones (477 yds, 7 TDs) and WRs Steve Vranka (741 yds, 11 TDs) and Dayonne Nunley (7 TDs) lead the charge. Bey and Felder combined for more touchdowns as a rushing duo this season than North Hills has as a team. Gateway quarterback Rob Kalkstein is one of the winningest QBs in WPIAL history and had almost as many passing TDs this season as North Hills had total TDs. This is an obvious statistical mismatch, but one of the beauties of sports (and high school football in particular) is that anything can happen. North Hills is riding high after knocking off McKeesport and NA, so don't be surprised if they give the Gators a good fight.
Prediction: Gateway
Woodland Hills v. Bethel Park (@ West Mifflin)
The WPIAL Game of the Week features two Quad-A powerhouses. Bethel is the defending champs and has won 23 of their last 24 WPIAL games. Their only loss? A 21-17 defeat at the hands of Woody High. Bethel had the ball inside the 5 with under a minute to play, but the Wolverines stood strong and kept the Blackhawks out of the end zone. This week's rematch features two teams that are peaking. Bethel has won 5 straight games by 14 points or more. Woody High hasn't had a game closer than 24 points since their first meeting with Bethel. Woody High has been led by their defense this season, which held Central Catholic to under 155 yards in the quarterfinals. Bethel has a lot of kids back from their WPIAL Championship team from last season and is intent on returning to Heinz Field. This is going to be a close game, and don't be surprised if it comes down to the end once again.
Prediction: Woodland Hills
Thomas Jefferson v. West Allegheny (@ Chartiers Valley)
TJ has a 48-game winning streak and is looking to become the first team in WPIAL history to win 4 consecutive titles. This doesn't mean that West Allegheny stands no chance. But honestly, unless TJ has an inordinate amount of penalties and/or turnovers, I just don't see the Jaguars losing this one. Both of these teams have storied histories, with 8 AAA championships between the two in the last 12 years. But recently, it's been all about TJ. They have won 4 of the last 5. This year's TJ team lacks the star-power that last year's PIAA champion had, but they still don't have a chink in their armour. Quarterback Sam Johnston has 1,766 passing yards, 1,094 of those to receiver Jim Giansante. West Allegheny is a well-coached team that doesn't make many mistakes. Led by RB Mike Caputo who has 1951 yards and 27 TDs this season, West Allegheny is going to play ball-control and try to keep TJ's offense off the field. The problem with that is that TJ has the #1 defense in AAA, holding opponents to under 7 points per game. West Allegheny has the #3 offense in AAA and will give TJ their biggest challenge to date. In the end, we just can't pick against TJ.
Prediction: Thomas Jefferson
Hopewell v. Hampton (@ Montour)
Hampton is making their first trip in school history to the semi-finals. Hopewell is not only expected to be here, they're the only AAA team with a legitimate shot at knocking off TJ. Hopewell is led by sophomore running back Rushel Shell, who has almost 4,000 rushing yards in his two seasons of play. He has over 2,300 this season with 28 touchdowns. Hampton is coming off two emotional victories, an upset of #3 seed Chartiers Valley and a victory over Uniontown (the first Keystone Conference team to win a playoff game in 9 years). Hopewell has been destroying people with the run all season. They put up 33 points against Mars, the #2 defense in AAA, in the quarter finals. Hampton runs a power run game and will need to convert third downs to keep Shell off the field. Hopewell is a gritty team with WPIAL Wrestling Champion Matt Hundenski at QB. In the end, it's been a great run for the Talbots, but Hopewell will just be too much.
Prediction: Hopewell
Beaver Falls v. Aliquippa (@ Ambridge)
As we said last week, AA ball is all about what's going on in Beaver County. This is the third matchup of these two teams in the last 12 months. They met in the AA title game last year with Aliquippa bringing home the championship. The Quips are one of the most storied programs in AA and, as South Fayette discovered last week, never out of a game. However, we like Beaver Falls with their strong running attack to control the game and ultimately earn their second consecutive trip to Heinz Field. The Tigers won the regular-season matchup between these two teams. Aliquippa has a young team that has grown up a lot this season, but we think Beaver Falls and their rushing attack with senior RB Cody Cook who has 541 rushing yards and 7 TDs in two playoff games.
Prediction: Beaver Falls
Keystone Oaks v. Greensburg Central Catholic (@ Elizabeth Forward)
If you like running the ball, you don't want to miss this game. Keystone Oaks and GCC both have rushing attacks that would make Bruce Arians cringe. KO is making their first semi-final appearance in school history and is led by the two-headed monster of Matt McCann and Jordan Maddox. Maddox rushed for 207 yards and 3 TDs against Mt Pleasant last weekend. GCC star back David Miller reached the end zone 27 times this season. Miller has 764 yards and 11 touchdowns in GCC's last three games. This game is going to come down to turnovers. Neither team is going to put the ball in the air unless they really have to, meaning that if either team puts the ball on the ground, they're in trouble. GCC capitalized on 7 turnovers last week. In addition to Miller, GCC has Bowling Green recruit Trent Hurley, who threw for almost 1300 yards this season at quarterback. You can't say enough about what senior leadership means at QB, and GCC has this. This is going to be a tough, physical game, but we're still of the belief that KO is the best AA team outside of Beaver County, and we're sticking with that.
Prediction: Keystone Oaks
Rochester v. North Catholic (@ Mars)
North Catholic is making their first semi-final appearance since 2001 when they played in AA. They were beaten by Beaver Falls in a run-heavy showdown at Pine-Richland. This year, they face the top-seeded Rochester Rams. Rochester has been a Class A powerhouse for over a decade. North's program has been improving over the past few years, building a solid core of players, led by junior QB Martin Long. They used trick plays to beat Springdale last week and capitalized on 5 Springdale fumbles to earn their way to the semis. Rochester brutalized Brentwood on the ground. Ian will be making an appearance at this game, hoping to have another celebrity-sighting of the mayor. Ian will likely post updates on Twitter. Both these teams run wide open offenses with solid quarterbacks and good running games. North had the #4 offense and #7 defense in Class A this year. They're going to have to score a lot to keep up with Rochester.
Realistic Prediction: Rochester
Homer Prediction: North Catholic
Laurel v. Clairton (@ Center)
Of the teams left in the Class A bracket, Laurel has played all three and beaten two of them. The #2 seed in Single-A was the only team to hold Clairton under 24 points this season, and the only team to score more than once on the Bears #1 ranked defense. However, their 15-8 victory came back in week 1, and both teams have progressed a lot since then. Laurel beat North Catholic 28-7 win week 2 and lost to Rochester 14-7 in early October. They were the only team to hold the Rams under 20 points this season. Clairton is battle-tested in the playoffs, but this will be their toughest foe yet. Laurel has the strength to stop them on defense. Look for this one to be a low-scoring affair with the defenses controlling the game. Clairton had 19 penalties in the first game between these two teams. That won't happen again. Clairton hasn't given up a point in the playoffs thus far, and Laurel won both games 55-7. Clairton is the defending champion and is our pick to bring home the trophy again.
Prediction: Clairton