Friday, February 27, 2009

Free Agency: Melee

The 2009 edition of NFL free agency got off to a roaring start with the Redskins signing defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth to a 7-year $100 million deal shortly after midnight. The Redskins also signed cornerback DeAngelo Hall to a 6-year deal.

Apparently, Dan Snyder is trying to get in a spending race with Barack Obama.

The gutting of the Ravens linebacking unit began today when Bart Scott signed with the New York Jets.

Tampa traded an undisclosed draft pick to the Browns for tight end Kellen Winslow.

The Vikings signed another mediocre quarterback to their roster, trading for Sage Rosenfels from Houston. The Vikes released veteran Gus Frerotte to make room for Rosenfels.

The Steelers came to terms with guard Chris Kemoeatu, matching a 5-year, $20 million offer from the New York Jets. With their qualifying offer extended to Willie Colon (who likely won't get a lot of attention from other teams since he will cost them a first round draft pick.

If you were a big Nate Washington fan, you'll probably be disappointed by the result of this year's free agency. Washington looks to be repeating the Antwaan Randle El situation of 2006 where our #3 reciever hit the free agent market and got paid #2 money that the Steelers weren't willing to pay.

Supervillain Drew Rosenhaus is also driving up the price for cornerback Bryant McFadden, meaning McFadden will not be returning to Pittsburgh next year, and will likely go somewhere where he can get paid like a #1 corner.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Offensive Line: The Shake-up Begins

The Steelers released former first-round draft pick and 6-year starter Kendall Simmons.

Simmons had fought off preseason challenges for the Right Guard spot from Chris Kemoeatu during the 06 and 07 season. When Faneca left, Kemoeatu moved in at left guard. Stapleton tore his Achilles Tendon in the first game against Baltimore this season and was placed on the IR. Darnell Stapleton filled the gap (admirably in my opinion).

Obviously the Steelers think they saw enough out of Stapleton to keep him as the starter at right guard. However, Stapleton also has the ability to play center, which could be a part of the long-term plans of the team.

While sites like TIOPS have been talking about how the Steelers are eyeing cornerbacks in the first round, releasing Simmons seems to augment the notion that the Steelers will either go after a lineman with their first round selection (likely candidates are either Alex Mack (C/G-Cal), Max Unger (C/G- Oregon), or Duke Robinson (G-Oklahoma)) or via free agency with the addition of a player like Jeff Saturday from the Colts.

Personally, I thought Stapleton did a great job filling in for Simmons last season, and I said numerous times that I thought the line looked better with Stapleton in there. Stapleton, an undrafted free agent out of Rutgers will be entering his third season in the league. To his credit, Stapleton was part of the offensive line Rutgers assembled during the Brian Leonard/Ray Rice era. And if you consider running back success at least partially a factor of offensive line play, that line was pretty darn good. I have no doubt Stapleton will do well filling in for Simmons and it's good to see the Steelers moving towards a younger line with Starks and Stapleton.

The Steelers also tenured a 2.198 million offer to Willie Colon, which means if another team signs Colon they will have to give the Steelers a first round draft pick.

Finally, a look at the numbers: Simmons had a salary of $3.1 million coming next year with a $4.67 million cap hit. Stapleton, on the other hand, only has a cap hit of 463,000 next season. Simmons was halfway through a 4-year contract extension that he had signed before the 2007 season. This saves the Steelers some money, and could make them players in the market for Colts center Jeff Saturday.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Busy Week

Hey everyone, sorry for my lack of writing and lack of updates to the Picture of the Year poll as of late. As I have mentioned before, I am currently in grad school. This week is midterms/last week for 1/2 semester classes, which means I have a slew of midterms, finals, and papers/projects that were/are due between today and next Wednesday. I'll be around a little bit, and I'll try to keep the Pic of the Year polls updated, but I apologize in advance for not writing as much over the next week.


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Season Review -> Draft Preview: Kansas City Chiefs

'08-'09 Record: 2-14

So much for buying into Herm Edwards' plan. Three years and a 15-33 record after hiring the former Jets' head coach, Edwards was given his pink slip and Todd Haley, a hot commodity after guiding the Arizona Cardinals' offense in an improbable journey to the super bowl, was brought in to replace him. Many thought the Chiefs would wait another year to make a coaching change in an attempt to lure Bill Cowher to Kansas City. The chance to bring in a young coach with super bowl experience was too much to resist, however, and the Chiefs decided to pull the trigger this off-season. One has to wonder if this was the right move though, considering the team's defensive struggles the past few seasons. Is a former offensive coordinator really the best fit for the future of the franchise? Only time will tell. Fortunately for Haley, he is not without talent on each side of the ball.

Twenty-four year old Tyler Thigpen emerged as a more-than-capable NFL signal caller from the time he became starter midway through the season. Almost 3,000 total yards and 21 TD's later, Thigpen has the K.C. brass wondering if they already have their franchise quarterback. Of more concern for the Chiefs may be at running back where Larry Johnson continues to struggle with injuries and is a shell of his former self. Rookie Jamaal Charles provided the offense a spark at times, amassing over 600 total yards. For as much criticism as K.C.'s receiving corps receives, their depth chart boasts some very good players. Tony Gonzalez continues to demonstrate that he is one of the best tight ends in the league. Additionally, in only his second year, 2007 first-round selection Dwayne Bowe quickly asserted himself as a top wide out, pulling down 86 passes for over 1,000 yards and 7 scores. While Thigpen could use one more play maker to help improve upon an offense that ranked 24th in yards and 26th in points per game, the real concern is the offensive line. Decimated by retirements and injuries the past few years, this once great O-line will be rebuilt around 1st-rounder Branden Albert, as well as fellow second year tackle Barry Richardson.

The defense has much more work to do if the Chiefs hope to make the playoffs next season. The line is very young, but oozing with potential. Unfortunately, that potential was not met in 2008. Turk McBride, Tank Tyler, Glenn Dorsey, and Tamba Hali each had solid seasons, but none of them were able to replicate the production of traded star Jared Allen. Linebacker Derrick Johnson had to roam the middle of the defense for half the season without sidekick Donnie Edwards, who only played in 7 games. While the front 7 is brimming with talent, the secondary is devoid of any such play makers, save second-round pick Brandon Flowers, who had 2 INT's as a rookie. Since the linebackers had to drop back and help in coverage, the entire defense was aversely affected, evidenced by the Chiefs ranking near the bottom of the league in total yards (31st), rushing yards (30th), passing yards (28th), and points (29th) allowed per game.

While the stats look bad, and the record looks even worse, the Chiefs have hope for the future under the leadership of a new coach, the unique talents of a hidden-gem QB, young players with loads of potential on defense, and the #3 overall pick in April's draft. Additionally, half of their 14 losses came by 7 or fewer points.

Team Needs: QB?, RB?, OL, DL?, CB, S - The O-line still needs an upgrade, but after selecting Albert last year, the Chiefs may be hesitant to take another lineman. K.C. also has to decide if the time is right to address the quarterback and running back positions.

Who They Should Pick: Malcolm Jenkins, CB/S, Ohio State (6'1", 201)

Who They Will Pick
Brian Orakpo, DE, Texas (6'4", 260)

I feel that K.C.'s secondary needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. Unfortunately, there are no top-5 secondary prospects according to NFL scouts. While Malcolm Jenkins would form a formidable duo with Flowers for years to come, the Chiefs' front office will likely look to address the loss of Jared Allen. Orakpo would be almost an exact replica of Allen and his pass-rushing ability, and, paired with Glenn Dorsey, last year's first round pick, would be half of a potentially dominating D-line tandem for the foreseeable future. Orakpo's size is an issue and may result in a switch to linebacker in the future. Also of concern is his durability, as Orakpo has battled knee injuries the last two seasons. Orakpo may be a bit of a reach at #3, but he fills a team need for the Chiefs.

Sleeper Pick: Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia (6'3", 228)

Ian's Projection

Who They Should Pick: Jason Smith (OT - Baylor)

As John highlighted, Kansas City has a lot of young talent on the defensive side of the ball. However, two numbers from the past season stand out. The Chiefs set a NFL record for fewest sacks in a season, juxtaposed to the 37 sacks they allowed last year. That number would likely have been even higher if it wasn't for the mobility of Tyler Thigpen. If Thigpen is going to be the long-term solution in Kansas City, the Chiefs need to go out and find someone to protect him. Branden Albert (first round pick last year) is a solid player but is either a guard or right tackle. They need a left tackle to protect Thigpen, who showed flashes of brilliance when operating in a spread offense look last season. Drafting a tackle would also allow them to send Tony Gonzalez out on pass routes more, as they have been utilizing him more and more as a blocker in past years to make up for deficiencies in their offensive line. With Andre Smith's stock falling, Eugene Monroe and Jason Smith are now in the running to be the top tackles taken. Even though St. Louis will likely take a tackle as well, I am still of the opinion that Kansas City should address the O-line.

Who They Will Pick: Mark Sanchez (QB - USC)

Pioli and Haley both come from systems that have, in recent years, been very pass-heavy (New England and Arizona). However, both of those systems flourised because of efficient passers. Mark Sanchez is known for his accuracy, and I still believe that Detroit will take Stafford with the #1 overall pick. With one of the top two QB's off the board, I believe Kansas City will snatch up the other one, and try to use the rest of the draft and free agency to build a young core of talent around their new franchise QB.

Sleeper Pick: Brian Orakpo (DE - Texas)/Everette Brown (DE - Florida State)

The big question with both of these players is if they are 4-3 defensive ends or 3-4 outside linebackers. If either or both of them project as 4-3 ends, look for the Chiefs to take a good look at them. The inability of the Chiefs to rush the passer last year has to be a major concern entering this offseason, and if Pioli and Haley see it as a big enough concern, they may even use their top pick on one of these two guys.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Free Agency: Blog Edition

Like the Steelers, we had some very clutch performances this year. For those of you not familiar, when we had the time to write a gameday post (which sometimes didn't happen because of work, school or traveling to the game) we usually presented a "gameday player" to help the team win. Did we copy this idea from the Pensblog? Yeah. But we used different characters.

At any rate, here is the contract status for our players.

First and foremost, Aragorn lead the charge for some big road victories. The King of Gondor is still undefeated and heading into free agency looking for a big-time contract. We're in negotiations with him, but his agent is a wizard.

This guy doesn't like to budge on contract numbers. We'll keep you updated on the situation.

Lucky for us, our representative is very good at making irrefusable offers.

Vito has been with us for a long time, and there's no one better at dealing with free agents than he is.

Our medical consultant, JD, is currently listening to other offers. JD will probably go to the bidder offering the most Appletinis.

Luckily for us, we have Jack under contract and he's back where he belongs, so he won't be going anywhere.

Lead analyst Yoda is scheduled to be a restricted free agent, which means we get the opportunity to re-bid for him if he gets an offer for another team. Some have made comments about not offering a long-term deal to someone of his age, but he's got the intangibles that make him a keeper.

Our defender of the home turf, Jack Bauer, may be lost to free agency. He's demanding a very high contract, and he's a ruthless negotiator. We'll be actively looking to pick up a player that can defend the Heinz Field grass.

Styx came through with a clutch performance for us in the post-season, and they are here to stay.

Finally, Jules has one year left on his current deal, but we're looking into restructuring that into a long term deal.

While scouring the lengthy list of free agents, we picked up these guys off of waivers to help us combat off-season rumors.

We're excited about what they can bring to the blog and think they'll be a solid addition to the team.

Eagles Game: Runoff Poll

Apparently, people around these parts like being reminded of the hard times, because the Eagles poll is stuck in a draw so we get to have another runoff.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Starks Tagged

The Steelers placed the franchise tag on Max Starks today. They will have to pay him the average salary of the top 5 tackles in the league next year, which will be around 8.4 million.

Honestly, this was a move that needed to be made. We couldn't let Starks get away in free agency, and this gives us more time to work with him on a long-term contract.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Picture of the Year: Redskins Game

Monday night in early November was a tense time. The Steelers had just lost to the Giants and had a tough stretch of schedule ahead. The Redskins were a hot team coming into the game and Clinton Portis was being touted as an MVP candidate. It should be noted that after the Steelers smacked around the Redskins, Washington finished the season 2-5.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Links n'at

Over the last few weeks of browsing around the series of tubes that Ted Stevens thinks makes up the internet, I've found some great sites.

If you're looking for Draft/Combine coverage, Football's Future is the place to start. We've been a Football's Future fan for a long time. They do a solid job covering the draft and highlighting prospects. They have the Steelers taking Cal center Alex Mack in the first round.

NFL House is a relatively new site over on the Bloguin network. They just posted a pretty solid 2-round mock draft. They have the Steelers taking Oregon center/guard Max Unger in the first round and Mississippi State safety Derek Pegues in the second round.

If you're a bit of a math geek (like me), Pro Football Reference and Advanced NFL Stats are two great sites to poke around on if you have some free time.

All of these sites can also be found on the link list over on the right-hand side of the page.

Speculation n'at: Quarterbacks Edition

The Steelers have two veteran quarterbacks on their roster as backups. Both of them have contracts expiring. We all know how well Leftwich played last season when he came in as a reserve, and he has said he enjoyed his time here and would like to stay.

But let's be realistic. There are teams out there that have the cap space to offer him a huge contract to be a starter. In all likelihood, he takes the money and the starting job elsewhere.

So who are these candidates in the Quarterback market?

Quarterbacks available on the free agent market: Kurt Warner, Matt Cassel, Byron Leftwich, Jeff Garcia, Charlie Batch, Kerry Collins, Rex Grossman

There are at least seven teams out there that are in immediate need of a quarterback:
  • Tampa Bay is rumored to be parting ways with Jeff Garcia. Tampa also has a LOT of cap room.
  • The New York Jets are in QB limbo right now with Brett Favre's retirement. However, they don't have the cap room to go after any big name free agents.
  • Besides Aaron Rodgers, the NFC North teams have a big question mark behind center. The Bears may have found a short-term answer with Kyle Orton, but anyone who thinks he is a long-term solution is kidding themselves. Likewise, the Vikings are in a similar situation with Tavaris Jackson. The Lions, as we have already illustrated in our draft preview, need help everywhere. Detroit just restructured Dante Culpepper's contract, but that doesn't take them off the QB market.
  • The new administration in San Francisco says they are comfortable with Shaun Hill for right now, but that could change if the right type of player comes on the market.
  • Similarly, Scott Pioli has to make a decision in Kansas City if Tyler Thigpen is the Quarterback of the future (or at least next year) or if the team wants to move in another direction. Injury-prone Brodie Croyle is on the last year of his contract, and if his past performances (or lack thereof) are any indication, the Cheifs are, without a doubt, looking for a long-term answer at quarterback.

The first market for quarterbacks is the free agent market. Let's cross some names off that list right away.
  • Kurt Warner is not on the market. He's either retiring or staying with Arizona. If he does retire, Arizona will likely give Matt Leinart a shot, which means Arizona will likely stay out of the quarterback market....for this season.
  • After their success last year, I really can't see Tennessee letting Kerry Collins get away. Collins isn't a prolific passer and really doesn't have the arm to succeed in a system other than Tennessee's. Minnesota who runs a very similar offense to the Titans, already has a veteran figure in Gus Frerotte, so don't look for them to make a play for Collins.
  • The Steelers will likely re-sign Charlie Batch because they want to keep a veteran backup on the roster.
  • After his struggles in Chicago, it's not likely anyone is going to give Grossman a big contract to be a starting quarterback.
This leaves Cassel, Leftwich, and Garcia on the free agent market.

Tampa has the resources to sign a quarterback to a large contract and still make some other moves to improve their roster, which resembles the enrollee list at a retirement home. Tampa's new coaching staff will have to make some decisions, namely if they want a proven vet with a huge arm that can stretch the field (Leftwich) or a relative unknown that had one good season (Cassel).

If I was to make a prediction, I would say that Leftwich will find himself starting for the Bucs next season.

Since New England placed a franchise tag on Cassel, he will come with a huge contract obligation. This will likely mean a team will have to give up a #1 pick to get him. Two teams in the league have multiple first-round picks: Philadelphia and Detroit.

Detroit could use the first overall pick to take a franchise tackle and use trade away their second pick for Cassel. Or they could use their pick to draft Stafford or Sanchez.

So here's where everything breaks down. The Jets have been major players in the free agent market the past few years, and it has left them in a cap position where they are not able to make a big splash this year, a year when they need a quarterback.

So what do the J-E-T-S do? If either Detroit or Kansas City elects not to draft a quarterback, the Jets and 49ers may get into a bidding war to trade up to draft whichever quarterback (Sanchez or Stafford) is not selected. Depending on who they make the trade with, there could be ripple effects down the rest of the draft board (for example, if they trade with Seattle, who most mock drafts predict will take Michael Crabtree, then Crabtree could fall to Cincinnati or Oakland).

The wild card in this whole market is the Cleveland Browns. Brady Quinn had success last year, which means that Derrick Anderson is now a tradable commodity. Everyone in Cleveland knows Quinn is the future, and if the right offer comes across the table, I wouldn't be surprised to see them move Anderson.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Picture of the Year: Giants Game

Today's poll comes from the Giants game, which most of us will remember as the day we learned how important a long snapper is.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Picture of the Year: Texans Game Runoff

Since the poll from the Texans game ended in a tie between two pictures, we're going to have a quick run-off poll to determine the winner. This poll will be open for 3 days instead of the normal 5. Keep voting!

Picture of the Year: Bungles game in Cincy

In a game that will be remembered as "the day Hines Ward broke Keith Rivers' jaw" the Steelers romped all over the hapless Bungles in a tune-up game for the Giants. By the way, the poll from the Eagles game is tied and it closes tomorrow, so if you haven't voted in that one, go vote now!


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Picture of the Year: Jaguars Game

Car problems have delayed me from doing much around here lately. Today's poll comes from the Jaguars game back at a point when Jacksonville was still a legitimate threat. Ben orchestrated a huge come-back victory, capped off with a touchdown pass to Hines Ward.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Season Review -> Draft Preview: St. Louis Rams

'08-'09 Record: 2-14

The Rams' descent in their return to embarrassing mediocrity continued in 2008, as they suffered their fifth consecutive non-winning season. Unfortunately, the team's record isn't the only thing in noticeable decline. While the team's defense has long been looked upon as their definitive weakness, the offense has been just as bad the last two seasons. After scoring at least 319 points from 2004-2006, the offense hasn't topped 263 points the last two years. Meanwhile, the defense has also continued to falter, from allowing 381 points in 2006 to 465 points in 2008. A team once dubbed "The Greatest Show on Turf" has recently been fighting to not be named "The Worst Show on Earth."

In all fairness to the offense, injuries over the past couple seasons have been more decimating to the Rams than perhaps any other team in the league. Despite participating in the majority of games, QB Marc Bulger was continued to be plagued by injuries, while once budding star RB Steven Jackson managed just over 1,000 yards and only 7 TD's. As bad as these injuries were, the Rams were hit hardest, for the second consecutive year, on the offensive line. Fortunately for the Rams, while Torry Holt quickly fell from top-tier wide out status, they may have found their replacement in the form of Donnie Avery, who emerged as a reliable threat amidst Holt's constant double teams. Overall, if you want a true measure of St. Louis' struggles, look only to their 14.5 points per game, tied for 30th in the NFL.

The defense is a mess. Aside from the defensive line, the Rams boast a collection of players that look like they belong in mid-major college programs. St. Louis will attempt to rebuild around potential studs Chris Long (DE, 2008 2nd overall pick) and tackle Adam Carriker (2007 13th overall pick), both of whom had somewhat disappointing years but still have loads of potential. The rest of the squad is so bad, it's not even worth mentioning any names. So bad, in fact, that the defense allowed 29.1 points per game, matching the offense's 31st worst ranking for point production in the league.

The 2008 season, therefore, led the Rams to the 2nd overall pick for the 2nd consecutive season. Most people seem certain the front office will go offensive line, but on a team devoid of any defensive certainties, St. Louis, in my opinion, has a multitude of options.

Team Needs: OL, LB, CB, S - Keeping Bulger and Jackson healthy via better blocking is a top priority, but the secondary levels of the defense need to be improved.

Who They Should Pick: Andre Smith, OL, Alabama (6'4", 340)

Who They Will Pick
Andre Smith, OL, Alabama (6'4", 340)

Despite needing immediate and drastic defensive help, the Rams will ultimately decide that protecting their two offensive stars is more important, and rightfully so. Without a healthy Bulger and Jackson, two pro-bowl caliber performers, the Rams won't sniff the playoffs, even in the weak NFC West. Orlando Pace's career is just about done, and outside of Roy Schuening (last year's 5th round pick) and Alex Barron (2005 1st rounder), the Rams have no decent O-line prospects. Aside from Smith's suspension for Alabama's loss to Utah in the Sugar Bowl, there is nothing not to love about Smith, who can play every spot on the line except for center. His biggest asset is his mobility, while some scouts question his height, but this is only a minor concern for a player of such talent. The true debate ensues as to whether Smith is better than Baylor OT Jason Smith. While Smith is certainly a first round talent, I feel most experts are overrating him by putting him in the top-5.

Sleeper Pick: Malcolm Jenkins, CB/S, Ohio State (6'1", 201)

Ian's Projection

It doesn't seem like there is much debate around internet circles about what position the Rams should draft. It's more or less unanimous consent that they need to go O-line. The question now remains which of the "big 4" tackle prospects they should select. Michael Oher's name has been dropping on draft boards recently with the ascending of Eugene Monroe (OT-Virginia) and Jason Smith (OT-Baylor) while Andre Smith (OT-Alabama) has always been near the top. My inkling is that the Rams don't do anything risky and go O-line, then take a linebacker or defensive back at the top of the second round.

Who They Should Pick: Andre Smith (OL-Alabama)

Who They Will Pick: Andre Smith (OL-Alabama)

Sleeper Pick: Eugene Monroe (OT-Virginia)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Free Agency: A Look Ahead

The Free Agency period is coming up in a few weeks and teams around the league will be making decisions which players to extend offers to and which players to let go. While the Steelers have never been big players in free agency (and don't expect that to change this year), there are some big-name free agents on the market that will likely change teams this offseason.

But what is the story behind the story? The salary cap, which in 2009 is $123 million. Over the next few months, you'll often hear the phrase "making cap room" with regards to teams letting veteran players with high salaries walk and opting to sign younger players.

Here's an approximate list of the amount of cap space teams have heading into Free Agency 2009. Look for the teams at the top to make some big moves, while the teams at the bottom will be quiet and likely have to cut some players to get under the cap.

All 32 teams ranked by current salary cap space against the 2009 limit of $123 million per club. They are ranked from most cap room (Tampa) to least (NY Jets).

1. Tampa Bay: $42 million
2. Arizona: $41m
3. Denver: $34m
4. Kansas City: $33m
5. Tennessee: $31m
6. Miami: $28m
7. Buffalo: $27m
8. Detroit: $26m
9. San Francisco: $26m
10. Houston: $25m
11. Philadelphia: $25m
12. Cincinnati: $22m
13. New England: $21m
14. Minnesota: $20m
15. Atlanta: $20m
16. Pittsburgh: $19m
17. Baltimore: $19m
18. Chicago: $19m
19. Green Bay: $18m
20. Cleveland: $17m
21. Jacksonville: $16m
22. San Diego: $14m
23. New York Giants: $11m
24. Dallas: $10m
25. Carolina: $9m
26. Seattle: $9m
27. St. Louis: $8m
28. Oakland: $4m
29. Indianapolis: $2m
30. Washington: -$3m
31. New Orleans: -$5m
32. New York Jets: -$7m

What does all this mean? Not a lot, but it does mean that some teams out there (Tampa, Arizona, Denver, KC, Tennessee...) have the ability to fill their needs with proven veteran players via free agency. Meanwhile, other clubs such as the Colts, Redskins, Saints, and Jets will need to spend their money wisely and will be more likely to work on fixing their holes in the draft.

Another thing to keep an eye on is teams releasing/trading players that have 1 year left on their contracts. Contracts tend to be scaled towards a higher payout at the end of contracts, which enables teams to save money in the short-term and cut that player if they do not play to their potential. They still have to pay some of the salary and benefits (such as the signing bonus) but it can save teams money. These are the players that tend to hold out of training camp in the hopes of getting a new contract.

So what does this mean for the Steelers?

Here is the Steelers outlook for 2009 Free Agency:
Unrestricted Free Agents: Max Starks, Bryant McFadden, Charlie Batch, Byron Leftwich, Nate Washington, Chris Kemoeatu, Marvel Smith, Keyaron Fox, Andre Frazier

The Steelers designated Starks as a "transition player" last year and shelled out a bunch of money for him. Personally, I think he is the most important UFA to re-sign. He's still young and did a great job at left tackle when he has filled in the last two years. Marvel Smith is older and injury-prone. With the rise of Willie Gay this year, Bryant McFadden saw even less time in the secondary, but he did prove himself to be worthy of a starting position. He isn't a true shut-down corner yet, but he has better ball skills than Ike Taylor. It would be great to be able to re-sign him, but someone who needs cornerbacks might overpay him. The Steelers will also have to make a decision between Batch and Leftwich. Both parties seem to agree that Leftwich was a one-year addition and that he could still find a starting job somewhere (Minnesota?). Look for the Steelers to make a strong run at keeping Batch.

Restricted Free Agents: Willie Colon, Anthony Smith, Trai Essex, Carey Davis

Now, here's the big list:

Players with 1 year left on their current contracts: James Harrison, Hines Ward, Brett Keisel, Heath Miller, Ryan Clark, Jeff Reed, Casey Hampton, Deshea Townsend, Larry Foote, Justin Hartwig

That's a lot of big-name players that have all been key pieces to the team during their two Super Bowl championships (except Ryan Clark, who was only here for the latter). Of these players, only Larry Foote and Heath Miller will be under 30 by the end of next season. In the past, the Steelers have made it a point not to dole out big contracts to players over 30. However, given Harrison's production the past few years and his relative lack of playing time during the early part of his carrer, he may become the exception to the rule. Ward and Townsend have spent their entire careers with the Steelers and will likely do their best to negotiate contracts to allow them to retire as Steelers.

This is obviously just the beginning and the Steelers have some big choices to make. But if the past decade has taught us anything, it's that the Rooneys and Kevin Colbert (directer of football operations) are very very good at making decisions about players (the Sean Mahan disaster of 2007 aside). Let's not forget, we've won two Super Bowls in the last 4 years. How many have New England, San Diego, Dallas, and everyone else not named the Giants or Colts won in that time? Zero.



Picture of the Year: Ravens Monday Night Game

Today's pictures come from one of the best games of the regular season. In my personal opinion, there are a few pictures in this set that could make a run at being picture of the year. You can enlarge the pictures by clicking on them. I would highly recommend it, particularly for the Holmes ones.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Picture of the Year: Eagles Disaster

Today's poll is somewhat brief and features only the defense. Why?'s from the only game this season that really made you feel like vomiting. If you like your stomach acid where it is, and not all over the floor, I would advise against reading the game recap.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Blog Divided

363 days out of the year, John and I get along great. But it's about time we came clean about something. While we both love the Steelers, we fall on opposite sides of another heated rivalry. Possibly one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports.

Yes, I'll admit it, I am a Duke fan. I have been ever since I started watching college basketball at a young age. The first college game I ever watched was the Final Four game where Christian Laettner hit "the shot" against Kentucky. Can you blame a toddler for being amazed by that shot and deciding to be a Duke fan? Well, if so, then I can take your criticism. I've been a Duke fan for nearly 20 years, and I'm not about to change my mind now.

John, on the other hand, is a Carolina fan.

Carolina has owned Duke recently, and if Duke plays like they did this past week against Clemson and Miami, they are going to get killed. Duke has been settling for outside shots, have absolutely no inside presence, and have been sloppy in their ball-handling.

Carolina on the other hand, has been on a hot streak since falling to Wake Forest. Carolina has had to deal with some injuries, namely defensive standout Marcus Ginyard and freshman Tyler Zeller. However, Carolina boasts last year's National Player of the Year Tyler Hansbrough and a stellar point guard in Ty Lawson that can slice and dice with the best of them.

Carolina has won 5 of the last 7 meetings, including 3 in a row at Cameron. Duke's offense just isn't clicking right now and Carolina is on a roll. As much as it pains me as a Duke fan to say this, I think Carolina is going to win.

Ian's Prediction: UNC 78-72

John's Prediction: UNC 87-74

Compounding Duke's recent struggles is the fact that the Tar Heels have really ratcheted up their defense recently, as well as started making their free throws. This game will be much closer than my predicted score would lead you to believe.

Picture of the Year: Browns Game in Cleveland

The poll is a little late in going up today, due to the fact that I had a midterm today. The Philly poll closed with 10 votes, woo! The Bills game poll closes tomorrow, so get those last minute votes in!

Today's poll comes from one of the more disappointing games of the year, mainly because most people didn't get to see it because the power went out all across the Greater Pittsburgh area this night due to the remnants of a hurricane passing through.

For what it's worth, he was our terrible game recap.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Picture of the Year: Texans Game

With polls from the four preseason games up and running, today we move on to the regular season. We start with the Kickoff Weekend shalacking of the Houston Texans.

The poll from the Philly preseason game closes tomorrow, so if you haven't voted in that one, get your vote in!

Game Recap

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Game Day: Pro Bowl

Does anyone really care about the Pro Bowl?

Ben Roethlisberger has more Super Bowl rings than the 3 AFC quarterbacks combined.


Potsie, Harrison, and Polamalu are there.

Woodley should have been there over Tyrell Suggs.

However, Pro Bowl rules prohibit blitzing. Lame.

Ian's Worthless Prediction: NFC 31-27

John's Prediction:

Picture of the Year: Panthers Preseason Game

Today's poll is the last one from the preseason. The Carolina game saw Dennis Dixon lead a game-winning field goal drive with 2:00 to play.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Picture of the Year: Vikings Preseason Game

The Picture of the Year tournament is going great so far. If you haven't voted in any of the previous polls, they are linked in the header. Each poll is open for 5 days.

Also, check out John's draft preview for the Lions. Great stuff.

Today's poll is from the Vikings preseason game, where Jeff Reed single-handedly won the game with 4 field goals. Besides that, it was relatively boring.

Game Recap

Friday, February 6, 2009

Picture of the Year: Bills Preseason Game

Today's picture poll is from the only preseason loss: to the Toronto Buffalo Bills.

The Philly poll will be open for 4 more days, so if you haven't voted in it, go do that too.

Season Review -> Draft Preview: Detroit Lions

'08-'09 Record: 0-16

The Detroit Lions had one of the worst seasons for a franchise in recent memory, and their failures are not excluded to football alone. In this era of supposed parity, this season's Lions could very well end up as the standard of futility across all sports for the next generation or longer. After a 2007 season that saw the Lions start 6-2, only to fade into oblivion to finish 7-9, some (myself included) thought Detroit could make a legitimate wild-card run in 2008. We were wrong. What began with a somewhat shocking loss to this season's surprise NFC team (Atlanta) ended with a winless record and virtually no light at the end of the tunnel.

The lone bright spots on offense were rookie RB Kevin Smith and budding star WR Calvin Johnson. Smith rushed for 976 yards and 8 TD's but was plagued by inconsistency throughout the year. For now, the offense will be built around Johnson, who quickly became one of the best at his position. He caught 78 balls for over 1,330 yards (a 17.1 yard average) and hauled in 12 scores. A QB to get him the ball more consistently, as well as an O-line to keep that signal caller healthy, will go a long way toward improving Detroit's fortunes - at least on offense.

Defense is another story, however. The Lions finished dead last in the NFL in total yards (404), rushing yards (172), and points (32.3) allowed per game. Fortunately for them, new acquisition Leigh Bodden (ultimately the team's nickel back) helped the defense allow only the 27th most passing yards per game. The porous defense has only two certainties heading into 2009 - third year players LB Ernie Sims and S Daniel Bullocks, who finished second and third respectively in tackles. Other than those two youngsters, nobody's job is safe.

Of course, the lone upside to finishing as the worst team in football is the right to choose first overall in April's draft. Not only do the Lions own this "privilege," but they also receive the Dallas Cowboys' first round pick for trading them WR Roy Williams.

Team Needs: Everything - any player would be an improvement over someone on the current depth chart.

Who They Should Pick: Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia (6'3", 228)

Who They Will Pick
Mark Sanchez, QB, USC (6'3", 225)

Technically, this is simply a preference pick by the Lions, as they theoretically can't really go wrong with either QB. However, I still feel Stafford would be the Lions' best bet due to his starting experience, as well as his superior durability. Stafford started all three of his seasons with the Bulldogs, remaining relatively healthy, while Sanchez has suffered a dislocated kneecap and a broken thumb in his time with the Trojans, only one year of which was spent as a starter. Although Sanchez is considered to have more potential, each signal-caller possesses outstanding arm strength (slight edge Stafford) and accuracy (slight edge Sanchez), while displaying good athleticism and adequate agility to avoid the rush and escape the pocket. Ultimately, I feel the Lions should select the more durable Stafford, considering the injury problems they've already endured with Jon Kitna and Drew Stanton. However, I think potential and Sanchez's recent Rose Bowl performance will win out here.

Sleeper Pick
: Andre Smith, OT, Alabama (6'4", 340)

Ian's Projection

Detroit needs players everywhere and due to their selection of Gosder Cherilus (OT-Boston College) in last season's draft, coupled with the success that rookie QB's had this past season, it seems almost a foregone conclusion that they will take a QB with the #1 overall pick. This draft class lacks a defensive player that is head and shoulders above the rest of the crop (i.e. Mario Williams) that would warrant consideration at #1. With Matt Millen gone from the front office, I don't think there's much chance of seeing Michael Crabtree's name at the top of the draft board either. Like John, I like Stafford over Sanchez. Since Detroit has two first round picks, look for them to use one pick for offense and one for defense.

Who They Should Pick: Matthew Stafford (QB-Georgia)

Who They Will Pick
: Matthew Stafford (QB-Georgia)

Sleeper Pick
: Brian Orakpo (DE-Texas)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

2008 Schedule


8/8Steelers 16, Eagles 10
8/14Bills 24, Steelers 21
8/23Steelers 12, Vikings 10
8/28Steelers 19, Panthers 16

Regular Season

9/7Steelers 38, Texans 171-0
9/14Steelers 10, Browns 62-0
9/21Eagles 15, Steelers 62-1
9/29Steelers 23, Ravens 203-1
10/5Steelers 26, Jaguars 214-1
10/12Bye Week
10/19Steelers 38, Bengals 105-1
10/26Giants 21, Steelers 145-2
11/3Steelers 23, Redskins 66-2
11/9Colts 24, Steelers 206-3
11/16Steelers 11, Chargers 107-3
11/20Steelers 27, Bengals 108-3
11/30Steelers 33, Patriots 109-3
12/7Steelers 20, Cowboys 1310-3
12/14Steelers 13, Ravens 911-3
12/21Titans 31, Steelers 1411-4
12/28Steelers 31, Browns 012-4


1/11Steelers 35, Chargers 241-0
1/18Steelers 23, Ravens 14
2/1Steelers 27, Cardinals 23

Picture of the Year: Eagles Preseason Game

This is the first installment of the 2008 Picture of the Year Tournament that we've got going to get us through the offseason.

You can click the pictures to see a larger version.

2008 Picture of the Year

Since the title "Best Picture" is reserved for the Academy Awards, we're calling this offseason project "Picture of the Year."

How it works

Each day, we'll post a new set of pictures for you to choose between. We're not sure if it will let you vote more than once per poll, but to be honest, we don't care. The more votes the better.

Polls will run for roughly five days and there will be a new poll each day to replace the one that finishes.

The tournament will start off with game-by-game selections. We'll post five or so pictures from a game, and you can choose between them.

Links to active polls will be in the header.

After we go through the 23 games and 1 "miscellaneous" category, we will have 24 pictures, which will be bracketed into a tournament.

Tournament seeding will be decided at a future date.

The tournament will be head-to-head matchups of the pictures, which will eventually result in one picture being chosen as "Picture of the Year."

In all liklihood, we'll put this picture in the header for the rest of the summer.

Feel free to vote based on whatever criteria you feel like (big play in a game, just a sweet picture, your favorite player).

Since we're not ESPN, the Post-Gazette, the Trib, etc, all of the pictures being used were found somewhere online, so if you are the owner of one of the pictures we are using and would like us to not use it, shoot us an e-mail and we'll take it down.

If you have any questions, comment or e-mail us!



Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Offseason Blog Happenings

Wow. What an incredible season.

I've been wearing my Super Bowl Champions shirt for the last 3 days. To be honest, I'm still in shock that we won.

I wish I could have made it to the parade yesterday. It looked like an incredible time.

So now that the offseason has "officially" started, even though we want to hang on to this season as long as possible, here's what we have to look forward to.

Important NFL Dates:

Feb 19- last day to designate Franchise and Transition players

Feb 26- last day to submit qualifying offers to Restricted Free Agents

Feb 27- Free Agency begins

April 25/26- 2009 Draft

As to what we'll be doing during this time. Here's a look at what to expect from us this offseason:

Team-by-Team Season Recap/Draft Previews

This one is pretty self-explanatory. We'll be going through each team, looking at how their season went and what needs they have to address during this offseason.

Picture of the Year

This was an idea we had a month or so back, but we've been waiting to unveil it until the season ended. We'll start posting polls for people to vote for their favorite picture from last season. In all likelihood, we'll be setting up a bracket once the number of pictures are whittled down to a bracketable number.

The offseason may be boring, but we just won the Super Bowl, and the Picture Tournament and Season Recaps/Draft Previews will be a great way to relive the season and look ahead to the future.


Gameday: LOST 5.4

We were distracted last week by the story focusing on the Island folk bouncing around in time. Back to business this week for Coach Linus and company.

We're still waiting for Hurley to redeem himself.

Trust Jack.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Super Bowl XLIII Post-game

Here are some of the best post-game pictures I've found. If you were lucky enough to be at the game and have any pictures, send them our way and we'll post them! We'll credit you of course.

Also, if you went to the parade today and have any pictures/stories, we'd love them as well!

Coach making his way to midfield for the celebration

Polamalu. Classic picture.

Coach didn't touch the trophy on the podium. When asked about it he said, "I see five every day at work."

Ben hoisting his second Lombardi trophy. Here's to many more Ben.

Super Bowl XLIII MVP Santonio Holmes

Coach with Timmons and company.

Over in the locker room, Potsie is close to tears

The D-line gets their turn with the trophy:

L to R: Hoke, Smith, Kirschke, Hampton, Keisel

Ben acting like a little kid with a new toy.

Potsie lights up a stogie

Farrior, Hampton and Harrison
aka Potsie, Big Snack and Silverback
looking like high rollers in their bath robes and cigars

And we end with...

Coach and Hines. Hines is almost in tears.

It's been a hell of a ride this season.

Stick with us through the offseason, we'll still be here.


Monday, February 2, 2009



After the pregame festivities, which seemed like they took forever, we finally got down to business.

Like they have in their last 5 Super Bowls, the Steelers lost the toss, but for the first time in Super Bowl history, the winning team deferred, giving the Steelers first crack at the ball.

Parker gets a quick 2, then Ben hooks up with a wide open Hines Ward who scampers for 38 yards to get inside Arizona's 40. After a few quick hits to Parker for another first down, Ben goes down the seam for Heath Miller who has 4 houses and a hotel on the middle of the field to get the ball down to the 1.

The Steelers come out in a pro set with Russell and Davis and the play gets blown up for a 4-yard loss. Parker gets it all back, and in a typical Arians move, he calls a play-action pass on 3rd and 1. Ben rolls out and can't find anyone and charges for the goalline...

Darnell Dockett tries to slow him down and Justin Hartwig grabs Ben and pulls him forward...

Ben falls forward and the initial signal is touchdown, but the Whizard of Az pulls one out of his hat and challenges. The call is overturned and the field goal team comes out with the ball on the 1-foot line.

This was a good call. Take the points early.


Arizona gets the ball with a chance to prove our coaches either smart for kicking or dumb for not putting a touchdown on the board. Warner fires one to Breaston the Steeler Killer on 2nd down to move the chains. A holding penalty on first down, followed by a botched handoff set the Cards way back. The defense holds and forces a punt.

Ben comes out firing and hits Holmes for 25 yards to get back into Arizona territory. Arizona was about as good at keeping us out of their territory in the first quarter as France was at stopping the Germans. Ben goes play-action and takes a shot over the top to Nate, but DRC makes a great defensive play to knock the ball away after Nate left him in the dust. After a quick slant to Holmes, Stapleton gets flagged for a false start, setting us back 10 yards. Ben does his Ben thing and scrambles away from pressure and flings it out to Heath Miller for a huge conversion. Arians goes to the WildParker, which goes nowhere, but Ben bails him out by finding Heath again down the middle. The Flash goes for 8, then Ben hits Holmes again on a short out as DRC is playing off. Parker gets a carry inside the 10 as the quarter expires.

That was a long paragraph.

The Steelers had the ball a long time in the first quarter.

TOP: Pit 11:28 (19 plays), Ari 3:32 (5 plays)

Second Quarter

Ben goes back to Heath over the middle who gets down to the 1...again. The Steelers don't mess around this time and go right to the bulldozer.


Arizona's offense answered back, with a series of short passes to running backs and BSK (Breaston the Steeler Killer), they move the ball out across the 50. Another holding penalty sets the Cards back again, but BSK picks up some yards, the Boldin crosses up B-Mac and takes one for a big gainer down to the 1 yard line. Some joke catches a touchdown pass over Larry Foote.


Things started to get a little tense as we all wanted the offense to answer right back. The Flash is able to pick us up one first down, but a hold on Kemoeatu, who might have the best neck beard in the league, sets us back, invariably killing the drive. Lob Wedge scalds one, sending a low kick to BSK, who brings it back across the 50.

With the Cards poised to take the lead, a big stand from the defense was needed. In the past, when we called on the defense, they were shaky at times, especially at situations like this in the game. But not this defense. Not this time. After a chop block call on Edge, LaMarr Woodley does his undertaker impression and buries Warner on the other side of the 50. Huge stand by the defense to force a punt there when Arizona started across the 50.

Moore gets a carry and turns it into a solid gain of 6. Ben, who had been sharp all game, gets a pass batted into the air by a defensive lineman and fall into the arms of Karlos Dansby. This wasn't Ben's fault, it's a jump ball when it gets tipped and it's out of the QB's hands.

Two-minute Warning

But once again, we had to call on the defense, this time with Arizona starting at the 34. The Steelers force two bad throws, but Warner comes through on 3rd down with a dump-out to Hightower that he turns into a first down. After a timeout, Fitz gets his first grab of the game for 12 yards and another first down. The Steelers take a time out to change their defensive alignment. Warner comes out and hits Boldin with two quick slants to get the ball down to the 1. Arizona takes their last time out with 18 seconds to play in the half. LeBeau calls an all-out blitz, but Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison opts out and takes a step back into coverage, reading the quick slant to Boldin.

Harrison steps in front of the pass and snags it at the goal line...

...then takes off down the field, breaking tackles and rumbling down with blockers ahead...

...Fitz and BSK catch him at the goal line, but it's not enough.

That dude knows what's up.
Fitz and Breaston are stunned.

Harrison is winded, but he got in as time expired.

Reed comes out for the extra point before halftime.


Thanks to Harrison, we now had some breathing room and could enjoy Bruce without a knot in our stomach.

...and the Boss didn't disappoint.

Bruce comes out and shocks the Springsteen-listening world with Tenth Avenue Freeze Out to open the set. Odds on bet was that he would open with Radio Nowhere or The Rising.

Bruce throws down Born to Run as the second song in the set.

A solid segue into his new title track, Working on a Dream, which is followed by the classic Glory Days. Bruce does the typical Bruce things like his "It's Quittin' Time" routine with Stevie...

...and of course the guitar twirl.

All in all, an epic and very memorable halftime performance. Probably the best in recent memory. Maybe the best ever.

Third Quarter

Arizona got their hands on the ball to start the third and came out in a 3-wide look, hitting Boldin on a quick pass to get things rolling. Edge gets a few carries out of the spread set and is able to find some creases in the Steelers defense to move the ball. As the Cards approach midfield, the Steelers buckle down. The defense swarms and holds Boldin and Edge to short gains on passes, then Farrior gets heat and hits Warner from behind, knocking the ball loose. The ruling on the field is a fumble, but the Whizard of Az throws the red flag again and wins another challenge. Upon replay review, Warner's arm was going forward, so it was an incomplete pass. Punt.

After a Parker slips in a cut on first down, Ben goes back to picking on DRC and hits Holmes on a quick out. Holmes stiff-arms DRC and DRC grabs his facemask, tacking another 15 on the end of the play. Ben throws Matt Spaeth a bone. We should have kept Spaeth more involved in the offense after Heath came back, he was a solid contributor. On 3rd and 1, Arians refuses to run and goes spread-set where Ben finds Hines on a quick out. With the ball at midfield, this would seem like a good time to take a shot downfield. Ben goes for a check-down and Dansby gets called for roughing the passer, giving us 15 more free yards. Holmes reels in a big 15-yarder to get down to the 20 and into solid field goal range. The Willie Parker Show takes over, and he almost breaks one on the Steelers patented guard-pull play where Kemoeatu and Heath throw monster blocks to get Willie to the second level. He's dragged down at the five. The offense stalls out and the field goal unit comes on. Reed drills it, but Adrian Wilson gets flagged for pile-driving Mitch Berger.

Seriously? You needed to lower your helmet and run over the holder? That was necessary?

At any rate, the Steelers get a first down, but the offense just can't punch it in. Reed comes back out and hits another field goal. This was a big win for the Arizona defense to keep it a 2-score game. A touchdown here would have been huge.


Reed crushes the kickoff and it bounds out of the end zone for the touchback. Amazing what playing on a field with good footing can do for a kicker.

Arizona comes out mixing runs and short passes, with Warner finding Boldin for a first down as the quarter runs out.

Fourth Quarter

A potentially damaging pass to Boldin is called back on another hold against Gandy. It was good to see people actually getting called for holding Harrison. 'Bout time. Boldin grabs another short one then Warner throws on behind Hightower and the Cards have to punt. Arizona's joke punter makes a terrible kick that goes out of bounds, giving the Steelers good field position to start the drive.

Ben goes across the middle for Hines who got held out of his cut and the flags come out again. Parker runs for 6 to take it across the 50 and set the Steelers up with a positive down and distance. But it wasn't happening on this drive. Parker gets stuffed in the backfield by Dansby then Ben is sacked by Dockett. Berger makes a good kick and Big Play Willie Gay lays the stick on Breaston at the 16.

With 11 1/2 to go, Arizona comes out with a no huddle offense and Warner picks the Steelers apart through the air with passes to Breaston, Urban, Fitz, and Arrington. Warner goes back to Fitz on a quick come-back route, which Fitz turns upfield and takes down to the 10. Warner goes back to Fitz to get to the 6, then dumps one short to Hightower who is stood up at the 1. On 3rd and goal, Warner throws one up for Fitz on the fade...

Fitz goes up and gets it with Ike's hand in his face.

Upon further review, Ike actually got his hand on the ball, but Fitz was just too strong.

Stellar camera work on this one:


The touchdown hurt, but we knew if we could put together a decent drive that would take time off the clock (and maybe even points on the board), we'd be hoisting Lombardi.

Arians wasn't so inclined. With under 7 minutes to go, he puts Ben in shotgun on 2nd and 6, where Ben is sacked by Dockett, putting the drive in a dangerous spot. Not wanting to force anything, Ben dumps one off to Heath that's good for 10 yards, but nowhere near enough for the first down. Berger punts with 5:42 left in the game.

Boldin picks up 11 yards on first down, and gets 15 more after Ike gets flagged for extracurricular activities. With the ball across the 50, the Cards make a token run, trying to catch the Steelers in pass coverage, but Potsie is all over it. On 2nd down, BSK reels one in for 23 yards to get down to the Steelers 26. Your heart started coming up in your throat, but sank back down a little when Gandy got called for another hold on Harrison. Polamalu nearly gets a pick on first down, and two incompletions later the Cards punt.

They are able to down the ball at the one, and Harrison picks up an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after the play for punching a guy who was down. I guess anyone would be frustrated if you'd been getting held all game. At least they called it this game.

The penalty really didn't mean anything as the Steelers started at the 1 anyways. With 3:26 to play, Arians calls a pass. Hines can't pull it in and the clock stops. The Steelers go back to the ground and Parker barely gets out of the end zone. On 3rd and long, Ben drops back and guns one to Holmes, but Hartwig gets called for holding in the end zone, which results in a safety.


The free kick was a recipe for disaster, but Rookie of the Year Patrick Bailey comes up with a huge tackle to stop BSK in his tracks. The Steelers possession had started at 3:26. The Cards got it back at 2:58. A 28-second drive is not the kind of ball control you want with the Super Bowl hanging in the balance.

Warner and Boldin can't hook up on first down. On a play that had the potential to live in infamy in the minds of Steelers nation, Fitz pulls in a quick slant and turns on the jets, blowing away Ike Taylor and splitting the seam of the 2-deep safeties, his Superman cape flashing in the breeze as he flew to the end zone.


On the bright side, we still had about 2 1/2 to play. Ben had led us back before, he would simply have to do it again. I'll admit, I was worried. Our offense hadn't done much in over a quarter of game time, and I wondered if we could turn it back on when we needed to. I got my answer. Never doubt 007.

Kemoeatu is called for holding on the first play, turning a 78-yard field into an 88-yard field. Ben scrambles away from pressure and rips one to Holmes for 14 to get more than half of it back on the first play, then hustles the troops up to the line to get off another play before the 2-minute warning. He tries to go deep for Nate down the sidelines, but it gets broken up.

Two-minute Warning

Longest commercial break ever.

On 3rd and 6, Ben goes right back to Holmes for the first down. Out of the no-huddle set, Ben finds Nasty Nate who scampers for 11, but he can't get out of bounds. Ben keeps the offense moving in the no-huddle, but is forced to scramble out of the pocket and picks up 4 yards. The Steelers take a timeout to stop the clock with just over a minute to play.

Ben drops back, makes a pump-fake that looks so real the ball almost comes out of his hands, getting a corner to bite in coverage, letting Holmes come open towards the numbers. Ben flings it out and Holmes snags it, turns it upfield and runs...

...all the way down to the 7.

The Steelers take their last timeout to set things up. The gameplan here was simple. 3 shots to the end zone.

Ben looks for Holmes in the left corner, but no dice. Holmes later says he took his eye off the ball worrying about getting his feet down and the ball went right through his hands. 2nd down. 42 seconds to play.

Ben takes the snap, looks left, pumps, takes a few steps, and fires to the corner...

Holmes appears to be surrounded...

But the ball makes it through...



A closer view:

And he hangs on...

All the way through the catch



They go up to the replay booth for another look, but there is NO DOUBT.

"The ruling on the field stands."



The Cards still had 35 seconds and 2 timeouts, so the game wasn't in the books quite yet. And when you have Larry Fitzgerald, nothing is over.

The Steelers only rush 3 (Smith, Keisel, and Woodley) and can't get to Warner, who finds Fitz at the 43. Timmons keeps him in bounds, forcing Arizona to use their 2nd timeout. Warner comes back with a short one to Arrington, but he can't get out either as Harrison drags him down, forcing Arizona to take their last timeout with 15 seconds to play. Once again, the Steelers rush 3 and drop 8, but the downfield coverage is superb and Warner is forced to step up to avoid Woodley. However, having LaMarr Woodley coming at you from behind is never a good thing either.
Warner cocks his arm to throw the Hail Mary... Woodley lunges...

...the ball comes out of Warner's hand before it starts moving forward...

...the ball is loose...

...and Keisel falls on it to end the Cardinals hopes.





Players of the Game:

Ian's Super Bowl MVP: Santonio Holmes
John's Super Bowl MVP: Santonio Holmes

Ian's Offensive Player of the Game: Santonio Holmes
Huge catches throughout the game and none bigger than those that came on the last drive or the touchdown grab to win the game.
John's Offensive Player of the Game: Ben Roethlisberger
As good as Holmes was, every receiver still needs a QB to get him the ball, and I'm still trying to decide which was better - Ben's throw or Santonio's catch. Quite simply, it was one of the best plays I've ever seen.

Ian's Defensive Player of the Game: James Harrison
The 100-yard interception return was the greatest defensive play in Super Bowl history and a backbreaker for the Cards. That was a 14-point play that changed the game.
John's Defensive Player of the Game: LaMarr Woodley
With all due respect to James Harrison, I'm going to go with Woodley, who recorded 2 sacks for the fourth straight playoff game. Oh, and one of those sacks forced a fumble on the Cards' final offensive play of the year.

Honorable Mentions:
LaMarr Woodley
2 sacks, 1 forced fumble. Had 2 sacks in every playoff game.
Ben Roethlisberger

007 was 21/30 for 256 and 1 TD...the game winner.
Gary Russell

Scored the only rushing touchdown of the game.
Heath Miller
5 catches for 57 yards, 2 of which got the Steelers down to the 1 yard line.
Max Starks and Willie Colon
The only non-penalized linemen tonight. They did a great job against edge rushers.
Ike Taylor
He shut down Fitz for 3 quarters. Solid performance.

The final drive:

Holmes touchdown set to epic music:

Harrison Interception:


Final Thoughts:
  • What a game. Quite possibly the best Super Bowl of all time.
  • I'm still not sold on Arians, but I trust Ben.
  • Better nickname: 007 or 00Ben?
  • Defense. Wins. Championships.
  • What a final drive by Ben and Holmes.
  • Wow...this is too good for words.
  • Incredible game by Woodley. He just blows tackles away with his bull rush. No one can stop him.
  • Harrison is a beast. What a play. Gamechanger. 14-point swing.
  • Great performance by Bruce at halftime.
  • Congrats to Tomlin. He's done a hell of a job as a coach.
  • Words can't really describe this season. Simply amazing.
  • Best defense of all time? Quite possibly. We can start that discussion now that they sealed the deal.
  • There is nothing better than wearing a Super Bowl Champions shirt and blogging.
  • This was about as perfect a season as anyone could have imagined with the schedule we had and the questions we had about out O-line.
  • To quote Ben, "Hey O-line, who's laughing now?" great quote after the game.