Thursday, December 31, 2009

Decade in Review: Top 10 Moments

Over the course of the next few weeks, we will be reviewing the decade that was in Steelers football. For many of us, this was the greatest decade in Steelers football we have ever seen. For those of our readers that remember the 70s, this was the second greatest decade in Steelers football.

Despite the disappointing end to the decade, the Steelers won two Super Bowls, went to three AFC Championship games, and won five division titles, putting them up there amongst the most dominant teams of the decade. Only New England won more division titles (7 if they hang on this year), and Super Bowls (3). But Pittsburgh was never accused of cheating.

We'll have a whole series of these, and while we could make quite extensive lists, people love top 10 lists. 10 is a great round number, and it leaves plenty of room for people to debate. Of course, these are just our opinions, so feel free to give us your own in the comments!

Given that the 2009 season isn't over yet, if events occur that necessitate us revising our lists (such as Ben's 503-yard game against Green Bay) we will re-release revised lists after the season is over. Why after the season is over you ask? Well, just to be sure that there is nothing more that can be added.

Today we look back at the Top Ten moments of the past decade. Obviously, there have been a lot of big "moments" this decade and it was hard to distinguish just ten. Due to this, we tried to pick moments that were meaningful on-field and off-field. We could make a Top 100 Moments list and still not scratch the surface of all the awesome things that have happened this decade.

Top Ten Moments

10) Bill Cowher Retires

The man who had taken the helm from Chuck Noll and led the Steelers to division titles and conference championship games finally got his ring in February 2006 when the Steelers defeated the Seahawks. Cowher proclaimed the 2006 season would be his last with the team. Despite a slow start, the Steelers rallied to finish the season 6-2, including an overtime defeat of the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 17 that kept Cincy out of the playoffs. Cowher was a good coach whose ability to build strong, physical teams can't be questioned.

9) Styx plays the National Anthem and Renegade
2008 Divisional Game

The Steelers defense had been keyed by Renegade all season. They had 4 defensive touchdowns on Renegade drives coming into the playoffs. The Steelers staff decided it would be a good idea to bring in Styx to sing the national anthem for the divisional playoff game against San Diego. After a blistering national anthem, Styx stayed on the field, and we all knew what was coming next. Before the Steelers ran out of the tunnel, Styx broke into the beginning bars of Renegade. The crowd went absolutely berserk and set the tone for the entire game.

8) Rod Woodson Hall of Fame Induction

For those of us that were children of the mid-1980s, we grew up watching Rod Woodson. To see him inducted into the Hall of Fame was a big moment for our generation of fans because he was the first Steelers that we remembered watching enter the hallowed halls of Canton. What made it even better was the shout-out that he gave to Steelers fans, saying that he was glad that he was glad he was booed when he played for the Raiders and the Ravens because he would have lost respect for us otherwise.

7) Lynn Swann Hall of Fame Induction

In something that had taken far too long to come to pass, Lynn Swann was finally inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001. What made his speech even better was that he selflessly petitioned for the induction of his fellow wide receiver John Stallworth into the Hall of Fame.

6) John Stallworth Hall of Fame Induction

Lynn Swann had to wait a long time for the call from Canton, and John Stallworth, who at the time held all of the Steelers receiving records, had to wait a year longer. Stallworth was the last of the 70s Steelers to make the Hall of Fame, and his induction signaled the changing of the guard from the Steelers of the 70s, as it highly unlikely that any more members of that team will find their way to Canton.

5) James Harrison wins Defensive Player of the Year

How is this a better moment than Steelers entering the Hall of Fame? Let's look at the scenario. James Harrison, a player that had been cut four times and constantly been told he couldn't make it, won Defensive Player of the Year. Harrison didn't lead the league in sacks or interceptions, but he set a team record for sacks in a season and caused the NFL to re-define how holding penalties were called.

4) Hines Ward becomes the leading receiver in Steelers history

The preeminent Steeler of the decade surpassed Hall of Famer John Stallworth's records for receptions and receiving yards. For playing on teams that ran the ball most of the time, Hines' ability to be consistent and a solid receiver, as well as a great human being who gives back to the community, is something the Steelers organization is built upon. Securing his place in Steelers history was a great moment. In 2009, Hines became the 33rd receiver in NFL history to surpass 10,000 receiving yards.

3) Terrible Towel Ceremonies

After legendary broadcaster Myron Cope retired, the Steelers held a halftime ceremony for him, presenting him with a plaque and honors. It was quite a moment. Unfortunately, this decade also saw Myron passed away, and the Steelers honored him in due fashion. They brought back legends from the entire Cope Era and had a moment of silence at the game with everyone holding up their Terrible Towels. In honor and tragedy, the Steelers get it done in the right fashion.

2) Super Bowl XLIII

There were two moments this decade that simply surpassed everything else. As always with these lists, it's incredibly difficult to differentiate between the top two and determine which should be #1. Super Bowl XLIII was a great game, featuring the longest play in Super Bowl history and one of the most electrifying finishes ever. The Steelers clinched their sixth Super Bowl victory on LaMarr Woodley's sack of Kurt Warner, giving us more Lombardi Trophies than any other team.

1) Super Bowl XL

After waiting 26 years since Super Bowl XIV, the Steelers finally returned to the top of the league. The best part of this was the improbability of it all. A #6 seed had never made a conference championship game, let alone a Super Bowl. The Steelers accomplished the feat, beating Cincinnati, top-seeded Indianapolis and Denver on the road. The Steelers returned to Detroit, the hometown of Jerome Bettis, defeated the Seahawks in a 21-10 slug-fest and hoisted Lombardi's Trophy.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

aTONEment: Steelers Win


How good of a game did LaMarr Woodley have today? He led the team with 10 tackles, had 2 sacks, forced an interception by hitting Flacco's arm while he was throwing, and forced a fumble on the biggest play of the game. LaMarr has really turned it on the second half of the season, and is once again looking like the disruptive force he was last season. It didn't hurt that Baltimore couldn't block him with one or two guys all day. All in all, the defense played pretty well. Ike Taylor played an inspired game with a sack and a fumble recovery. Baltimore didn't even throw to his side of the field, picking on Gay and Townsend all day. At the end of the day, a win is a win and we'll take it any way we can get it. Oh, and we're still alive in the playoff hunt.

Game Recap

The Steelers win the toss and take the ball. Ben hits Hines for a first down to get things rolling, then Mendenhall gets a few totes to get us across the 50. Ben goes back to Hines to get inside the 40, but the drive stalls, forcing a punt.

Woodley sets the tone for the defense by hitting Flacco's arm on 3rd down, forcing a bad pass that falls into Farrior's hands for the Steelers first interception since the Van Buren administration. Potsie takes it back inside the 10 to put the Steelers in great position.

The Steelers have been terrible in long goal-to-go scenarios this year, and this drive was no different. Ben tried The Super Bowl PlayTM to Holmes on third down and it almost got picked off. Reed hits a field goal for the early lead.


Flacco goes to work mixing runs and passes, moving the Ravens down the field. Tyrone Carter gives up a big catch on 3rd down to Kelly Washington that moves the Ravens inside the 20. The defense holds the Ravens to 3.


Logan breaks a big return across midfield, and Ben goes back to work. Wallace makes a great catch on the sidelines to get us into field goal range before the offense stalls again.


After a 3-and-out, Sam Koch shanks a punt, giving the Steelers another opportunity in plus territory.

Heath throws a great block for Tone on a WR screen, who picks up 13 as the quarter ends.

Second Quarter

After two carries by Mendenhall, Ben goes for Ward and the refs have to consult Eliot Stabler to figure out if it's a penalty or a felony. Eliot lets them know it's just pass interference, but he's still investigating what Brett Favre did to Percy Harvin after his first TD of the season. Two plays later...



Raise Some's 4 yard TD made him the 7th back in Steelers history to surpass 1,000 yards in a season. Not bad for the guy Ron Cook and Bob Smizik called a bust.

Flacco channels his inner Slytherin and moves the Ravens down the field to the 30. He goes play-action for Todd Heap-of-shit who is one-on-one with Deshea. Heap pushes Deshea in the back and comes up with the catch before rolling into the end zone.


Mendenhall fumbles for the first time since the Minnesota game, but the Steelers get it right back on a Ray Rice fumble.
Ike Taylor digs it out on the bottom of the pile.

Mike Wallace comes through on 3rd and 2 with a big catch-and-run down the sidelines, but Ben gets sacked, pushing us out of field goal range. Punt.

Baltimore grinds it out with McClain and look poised to tie the game up, but Ike Taylor breaks through the line on 3rd and 6, bringing Flacco down and knocking them out of field goal range.
Incredibly, in Dick LeBeau's defense where corners blitz often, this was only Ike's second sack of his career.

Two Minute Warning

With two minutes to go, 007 takes over at the 6. Things start to look bleak after an incompletion and Moore getting stuffed on a draw, but Ben takes advantage of a defensive offsides "free play" to go downtown for Wallace. Wallace makes the catch down the sidelines with Frank Walker all over him. Ben goes to Heath over the middle and the Steelers use a time out to set things up with just under 50 seconds to play. Hines pulls in a catch to get down to the 24. On 3rd and 2, Ben hits Tone on a quick slant that he turns upfield around the corner, fights past the safety, and stretches for the goal line...


Baltimore runs the ball and wastes their timeouts.


Met up with @alphadelt in the Great Hall at halftime.

Third Quarter

Apparently Baltimore's halftime discussion was, "Let's give the ball to Ray Rice." They came out afterwards and did, often. Rice does the grunt work to get down the field before Flacco finds a mismatch with Gay on Heap.
Gay got out-jumped for the ball.


Ben comes out and goes play-action for Tone, but Foxworth knocks him down and makes the interception. Foxworth takes it back to the house, but T-Suggs gets nailed for an illegal block, nullifying the TD but still giving Baltimore good field position.

Baltimore goes back to Rice, but the Steelers are ready this time. Ike seemingly comes up with another sack on 3rd down, but it gets nullified on an offsides penalty. Flacco takes the opportunity to go deep for Heap-of-shit, but he can't make the diving catch with Mundy in coverage. Good stand by the defense to hold the Ravens to 3.


Ben gets sacked and the Steelers go 3-and-out, bringing their offensive play count in the third quarter to 4. Ouch.

The Steelers have another sack nullified on an illegal hands to the face penalty when Big Snack knocked a guy's helmet off. Ray Rice goes back to work carving us up, and Baltimore looks poised to take the lead, but they decide to pull a Plaxico. With the ball on the 21, Flacco goes for Mason in the end zone, but Mason channels his inner Limas Sweed.
Drop city.

The Ravens pick up two penalties on the next play, putting them in 2nd and 15. After another incompletion, a personal foul puts Baltimore in 3rd and 30. Woodley gets pressure on a 3-man rush forcing Flacco out of the pocket where Ziggy makes a great play in the open field to cut down Flacco's angle and force a throw-away. Punt.

Tone puts the team on his back on 3rd down and moves the chains, but the Steelers can't get across their own 40 and have to punt.

On second down, Flacco goes deep for Mason who appears to catch the ball and then get clobbered by Lawrence Timmons. The refs rule it incomplete and tell Tomlin during the break "You can challenge, but we're going to rule it incomplete." All the replays seem to show it was a catch and fumble, but Baltimore got flagged for holding Harrison, putting them in 2nd and 16 and without Mason. Ziggy busts through the line and gets his first sack of the season. Punt.

The Steelers get to a 3rd and 3, and with Hines out of the game, Ben hits his replacement, Tyler Grisham across the middle for 14 yards and a first down.
Rookie out of Clemson showing he's got some potential.

The Steelers go to the Hypocycloid formation, and the Ravens shift all their defenders to the Hypo side. Ben audibles to a quick-hitter to Holmes, who makes a move around Foxworth and takes it all the way down to the 19.

After a false start on Colon, Mendenhall gets a few back, but Grisham takes his eye off the ball on 3rd down and can't haul in the pass. He was short of the sticks anyways.

Nailed it.


With 5 and a half to play, Steelers Nation was nervous given the body of work our fourth quarter defense has this year. After a huge return across midfield, at least 10 people jumped off the 9th Street Bridge. Baltimore picked up a first down at the 38 and looked poised to move into field goal territory. After the defense stacked up Rice and McClain to force 3rd and 7 at the 35, Woodley storms the backfield and brings down Flacco.

For some unknown reason, the Steelers take a timeout with 2:34 remaining. Baltimore has to go for it on 4th and 10. With a 3-man rush, Woodley dominates two blockers and hits Flacco from behind..
...the ball pops out, bounces off a helmet, and into the waiting hands of Ziggy Hood.

Big-time turnover by the defense. Two sacks in two plays by Woodley. What a player.

The offense comes out with 2 1/2 to play needing 1 first down to win the game. Mendenhall gets a carry and Baltimore uses their last timeout. Mendenhall gets another carry and the clock winds down to two.

Two Minute Warning

On 3rd and 11 the Steelers need a first down to win the game. With the season on the line, you have to be aggressive here and throw. Don't question that decision at all. Running the ball here would have given Baltimore the ball with over a minute to play.

Ben does his Ben thing and scrambles out of pressure then tries to go downfield for Mike Wallace who is streaking open but the ball gets picked off. The Ravens bring it back across the 50 and look poised to have a shot to win the game.

But wait, Frank Walker channeled his inner Plaxico and shot himself in the foot by holding Mike Wallace at the beginning of the play, drawing a flag from the officials. The Ravens whine and moan that Ben was out of the pocket when the contact happened, but to no avail, because they were wrong.

Victory formation.



Players of the Game:
Offensive Game Ball - Santonio Holmes
Defensive Game Ball - LaMarr Woodley

Honorable Mentions:
Ziggy Hood
Ike Taylor
Mike Wallace
Ben Roethlisberger
Rashard Mendenhall

Mr. Yuck Sticker of the Game
Giving up 141 yards to Ray Rice
It's quite possible that the loss of Aaron Smith is finally catching up to the defense. There were a lot of missed tackles out there today, which didn't help the run defense. Baltimore did give Rice a lot of carries (30) and the Steelers held him to a long of 16. All in all, Rice rang up a lot of yards, but the Steelers came away with the win, so there can't be too much to hate about this game.

Final Thoughts
  • Great to get a win over the Ravens
  • How much does Tone own the Ravens? That's 5 consecutive games against them with a TD.
  • The Steelers coaches finally got wise to the fact that Ty Carter can't cover and started taking him out on obvious passing situations. They were rotating Mundy and Deshea into the other safety spot.
  • Deshea got the start at corner opposite Ike. He played better than Gay did today.
  • Woodley is a hell of a player. Hard to believe he's only in his third year. He just dominated Baltimore's O-line today
  • Gotta love seeing Baltimore shoot themselves in the foot.
  • Mendenhall did a decent job against a tough run defense for only getting 17 carries. He's going to be the best back we've had since the Bus.
  • First time in Steelers history there has been a 4,000-yard passer, 1,000-yard rusher, and two 1,000-yard receivers.
  • Ben is the first QB in Steelers history to surpass 4,000 passing yards
  • Stefan Logan, for all the criticism he's gotten, broke Ernie Mills' record for kickoff return yards in a season.
  • We're still alive in the playoff race.
  • The Colts didn't do us any favors today by resting Manning and company in the second half.
  • New England took care of business today.
  • No idea what was going on with the Mason fumble. Coach seemed pretty clueless about it in his press conference as well.
  • Ziggy is really starting to turn it on. He's going to be a beast.
  • Despite the drop, Tyler Grisham ran some good routes out there and has some decent potential for the future. Not bad for an undrafted free agent.
  • Ramon Foster played well in his 3rd start. Another undrafted free agent that the Steelers made into a starter.
  • Baltimore never had the lead in this game. This was the best game our defense has played since the Denver game.
  • This is the 2nd consecutive regular season Steelers-Ravens game in Pittsburgh that ended 23-20
  • We're still alive!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Gameday 15: Baltimore Ravens

With Tennessee losing to San Diego on Thursday night, there are now 7 teams in the hunt for the final two wild card positions. Tennessee's loss eliminated them from the playoff picture and dropped the Steelers to 11th in the conference because of the way the tiebreakers work. But that doesn't matter. First and foremost, the Steelers need to take care of business.

The Ravens need a win to get into the playoffs. Baltimore is still in the hunt for the division title, which they can only win by winning out and Cincinnati losing twice. If you don't think they'll be fired up, you've been living under a rock. To say this is the biggest game of the season for the Steelers is an understatement. This is a win-or-go-home game against our biggest rivals.

Both teams are going to try to run the ball, but don't be shocked if the game divulges into a shootout. The Steelers offense is determined to score, and Bruce Arians is trying to save his job.

It's not like Balitmore is an entirely healthy team either. Ed Reed is likely out with a groin injury. Chris Carr and Dominique Foxworth will likely be the starting corners for the Ravens. Baltimore also picked up Corey Ivy this week. You may remember that the Steelers picked up Ivy before the game in Baltimore. This is the second player this year (Arnold Harrison the other) to play on both sides of a division rivalry game. You may remember Corey Ivy from the burn wounds Nate Washington left on him in 2007 when the Steelers torched Baltimore 35-7.

On the Steelers front, Troy is out. Chris Kemoeatu is out, giving Ramon Foster his second consecutive start. James Harrison is a game-time decision with a biceps injury he incurred this week in practice. Hines, Wallace, Parker, and Mendenhall are all probable.

If you think Hines isn't going to play in this game because he's a little dinged up, you're further out to sea than the Titanic.

Looking into the Crystal Ball (or at the scoreboard) won't do us much good if we don't wind up with more points than Baltimore tomorrow (because according to John Madden, that means there's a good chance we'll win). However, we can't get to the playoffs all on our own. So eyes across Steelers Nation will invariably be glancing at the scores from other games.

Here's what we're looking at:

Jacksonville (7-7) @ New England (9-5)
New England hasn't lost at home all year and needs a win to clinch the AFC East division. The Steelers need the Jaguars to lose in order to have a hope in the playoffs, and with the Jaguars travelling to Cleveland in Week 17, we need the Patriots to step up and finish off the Jags and not have our playoff hopes rest on the Browns.

Houston (7-7) @ Miami (7-7)
This is an elimination game for both teams. If either of them lose, they are out of the playoff race. Houston hosts New England next week and Miami hosts the Steelers. Both teams need a win this week in order to have a chance to get into the playoffs next week. Miami holds a tiebreaker over New England, and could actually still win the AFC East if New England loses their last two games. The best case scenario for the Steelers here would be for Miami to beat Houston and knock them out of the playoffs and set up a win-and-get-in game against the Steelers next week.

NY Jets (7-7) @ Indianapolis (14-0)
The Jets travel to Indy to face the unbeaten Colts then finish off their season hosting Cincinnati. The Jets need to win out to get in. Indy already has everything wrapped up in the AFC, and the variable here is just how much Indy's starters are going to play. Hopefully, for all parties involved, Indy breaks out a huge lead early and is able to rest their starters while still winning the game and knocking the Jets out of the playoff hunt.

Denver (8-6) @ Philadelphia (10-4)
Denver is reeling after losing to Oakland. Their loss is the only reason that so many teams still have a hope and a prayer of making the playoffs. Our head-to-head tiebreaker over Denver is keeping our playoff hopes afloat. If Denver loses here, all bets are off when they take a 3-game losing streak into their season finale against Kansas City. The Steelers only need Denver to lose once, and the best-case scenario would be for the Eagles to air it out against Denver's aging secondary and blow the Broncos out of the water.

Have things looked bleaker before? Most definitely. Do the Steelers need a lot of help to get in? Absolutely. Is it impossible? Absolutely not. All we need is for all the home teams to win tomorrow, starting in Heinz Field.

With the season on the line, there's only one person who we want with his hands on the ball.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Decade in Review: Top 10 Players

Over the course of the next few weeks, we will be reviewing the decade that was in Steelers football. For many of us, this was the greatest decade in Steelers football we have ever seen. For those of our readers that remember the 70s, this was the second greatest decade in Steelers football.

Despite the disappointing end to the decade, the Steelers won two Super Bowls, went to three AFC Championship games, and won five division titles, putting them up there amongst the most dominant teams of the decade. Only New England won more division titles (7 if they hang on this year), and Super Bowls (3). But Pittsburgh was never accused of cheating.

We'll have a whole series of these, and while we could make quite extensive lists, people love top 10 lists. 10 is a great round number, and it leaves plenty of room for people to debate. Of course, these are just our opinions, so feel free to give us your own in the comments!

Given that the 2009 season isn't over yet, if events occur that necessitate us revising our lists (such as Ben's 503-yard game against Green Bay) we will re-release revised lists after the season is over. Why after the season is over you ask? Well, just to be sure that there is nothing more that can be added.

For today's list, we tried to determine the top 10 players of the decade. Determining All-Decade teams (which we will post at the conclusion of the "Decade in Review" series) was hard enough. Cutting that list down to ten people that were the Top 10 players of the decade was almost impossible. For this list, we looked at the entire body of work of a player, rather than where they are right now. For example, Heath Miller is the best tight end in Steelers history. And while he is playing the best football of his career this year, he did not make the list because his body of work during this decade was not quite at the level of the other ten.

Obviously, there were some players whose careers spanned more than this decade. For instance, Hines Ward and Deshea Townsend were both drafted in 1998. For the purposes of the Decade in Review series, we only considered the performance of players between 2000 and 2009.

Honorable Mentions

  • Marvel Smith (9 yrs) 108 starts, 1 Pro Bowl
  • Heath Miller (5 yrs) 74 starts, 236 rec, 2630 yds, 26 TD
  • Jeff Hartings (6 yrs) 89 starts, 2 Pro Bowls
  • Jeff Reed (7 yrs) 116 games, 183/221 FG, 283/286 XP, 832 points
Top 10 Players

10) Joey Porter
106 starts, 58 sacks, 10 INT, 16 FF, 6 FR, 442 tackles, 2 TD, 3 Pro Bowls
7 years

In his seven years in Black and Gold during this decade, Porter stepped into the shoes vacated by Greg Lloyd and became a force. He had 9 or more sacks in 4 of the first 7 years of the decade. Porter was a one-man wrecking crew in the 2005 playoffs against Indianapolis where he ruined Peyton Manning's season. The 3-4 scheme only works if outside linebackers get pressure, and from 2000-2006, no one did it better than Porter.

9) Deshea Townsend
74 starts, 15.5 sacks, 20 INT, 5 FF, 4 FR, 386 tackles, 3 TD
10 years

Deshea, along with Hines Ward, are the longest tenured players on the team. This alone doesn't get him on the list, but his big play ability over the whole decade has. He led Steelers cornerbacks in interceptions during the decade and has produced big plays at big times. He had a key sack of Matt Hasselbeck in Super Bowl XL. His pick-six to seal the game against Dallas was one of the top 10 plays of the decade. His pick-six against Tom Brady in the "21 and Done" game broke open the Steelers lead to 21-3 in the first quarter. Deshea stepped into the starting lineup after the utter failure that was Dewayne Washington and held off camp challenges from Bryant McFadden. Deshea ultimately lost his starting job to McFadden when he went down with injury, but came back in the lineup as a nickel back. Deshea has done whatever has been asked of him, including filling in in the safety rotation this year.

8) Jerome Bettis
54 starts, 1373 att, 5199 yards, 50 TD, 2 Pro Bowls
6 years

It's impossible to make a list recapping the decade in Steelers football without mentioning the Bus. The Bus came to Pittsburgh in a draft-day trade with St. Louis, and became a fixture of the offense. From the 5 carries for 1 yard and 3 TDs game against Oakland to running over Brian Urlacher and the Bears "stout" run defense. Jerome had a hell of a career as a Steeler, amassing enough yards to put him in the top 5 for career rushing yards. Jerome will be going to Canton within the next few years.

7) James Farrior
122 starts, 22 sacks, 7 INT, 11 FF, 9 FR, 881 tackles, 1 TD, 2 Pro Bowls
8 years

Farrior came to the Steelers in 2002 via Free Agency from the New York Jets. He filled the role at inside linebacker that had been vacated by Earl Holmes. Farrior has led the team in tackles every year since joining the team and has been a force in the run game. In his eight years with the team, he has rarely missed a start, and has been an incredibly durable, stable force at linebacker. As a team captain, he has led the defense to great success in stopping the run. The Steelers haven't given up a 100-yard rusher since 2007.

6) Ben Roethlisberger
84 starts, 63.4% completions, 18,823 yds, 123 TD, 91.6 rating, 1 Pro Bowl
6 years

How great a group of players have we had for Ben Roethlisberger to not be one of the top five players of the decade? Incredible. Ben is one of the top two quarterbacks in team history, and when all is said and done, might just be the best we've had. He makes plays out of nothing by using his size and strength in the pocket to shrug off defenders. He had the greatest rookie season of any quarterback, winning 15 consecutive games before losing in the AFC Championship game. The next season, he led the Steelers to their first Super Bowl in 26 years. Ben has won 2 Super Bowls, 3 Division titles, and has an 8-2 record in the postseason.

5) Troy Polamalu
75 starts, 7 sacks, 20 INT, 7 FF, 3 FR, 455 tackles, 3 TD
7 years

Does anyone remember how bad our secondary was before Troy? He took over as a starter after the 2003 season when we finished 6-10 and got blitzkrieged by a slew of opponents through the air. Over his career, Polamalu not only was an impact player in the Steelers secondary, but his ability to come up and play the run, as well as drop into coverage, revolutionized the strong safety position. Before his injuries this season, Polamalu was poised to have a signature season. The first half against Tennessee was a performance worthy of getting him into the Pro Bowl. He has made ridiculous interceptions, including finger-tip catches against Philadelphia and San Diego last season when he led the team with 7 picks.

4) Alan Faneca
127 starts, 7 Pro Bowls
8 years

In his eight years with the Steelers this decade, Faneca was elected to seven Pro Bowls. In and of itself, that number is ridiculous. But consider also the fact that Faneca, a left guard by trade, has played both guard positions and tackle during his time with the Steelers. He was the ultimate team player, always willing to step up and fill in where he was needed. The Steelers running game took a big hit when he left in free agency, and they are just now beginning to recover. Faneca was one of the best NFL linemen of the decade and is another sure-fire Hall of Famer.

3) Casey Hampton
126 starts, 8 sacks, 3 FF, 2 FR, 294 tackles, 4 Pro Bowls
9 years

Only two other players this decade have dominated their position more than Big Snack. Hampton has not only anchored the defensive line, making it impossible for opposing backs to run up the middle. Hampton is one of the major reasons that the Steelers have been one of the best run defenses this decade. Hampton is immovable in the middle of the line and is simply unblockable by just one person.

2) Aaron Smith
149 starts, 44 sacks, 1 INT, 7 FF, 9 FR, 436 tackles, 1 Pro Bowl
10 years

On the defensive side of the ball, no player has dominated their position more this decade than Aaron Smith. Smith has been one of the most under-rated players in the league, mainly because he plays the inglorious position of a 3-4 defensive end. Aaron Smith has consistently made plays over his career that can't be measured. By getting past linemen, or pushing them into the backfield, Smith single-handedly blows up running plays, turning backs back into the middle of the field where the inside linebackers clean up the trash. Want to know why the Steelers run defense is so dominant? Look no further than #91. The last time an opponent ran for over 100 yards on the Steelers was in 2007 when Smith was on IR.

1) Hines Ward
150 starts, 807 rec, 9,965 yards, 71 TD
10 years

If you had to pick one player from the decade that personified Steelers football, it would be Hines Ward. A tough, gritty player that will take the big hit and pop back up smiling. Hines has been the ultimate Steelers player this decade, breaking almost all of John Stallworth's receiving records and being named Super Bowl XL MVP. Hines has been the most consistent offensive threat throughout the decade and has been incredibly durable over his career. He had the best decade of any Steelers receiver, and, on a team known for running the ball, he put up a ton of yards and made a bunch of catches. Hines is the quintessential Steelers player, in the mold of the greats of the 1970s and will be enshrined in Canton as one of the best ever.

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Roadmap to the Playoffs

If you turned your TV or a radio on today, you probably heard about how the Steelers are back in the playoff picture.

Actually, things are in much better shape than anyone could have imagined a week ago. Thanks to a few shocking upsets (Oakland over Denver) and some other teams taking care of business (Indy over Jacksonville), here is the current playoff picture.

5. Baltimore (8-6, 6-4)
6. Denver (8-6, 6-5)
7t. Jacksonville (7-7, 6-4)
7t. Miami (7-7, 5-5)
7t. NY Jets (7-7, 5-5)
7t. Pittsburgh (7-7, 4-6)
7t. Houston (7-7, 4-6)
7t. Tennessee (7-7, 4-7)

With two games to play and eight teams fighting for two playoff spots, it seems like a recipe for disaster. However, the picture gets a little clearer when we look at next week's games.

Baltimore @ Pittsburgh
Jacksonville @ New England
Houston @ Miami
NY Jets @ Indianapolis
San Diego @ Tennessee
Denver @ Philadelphia

So what do the Steelers need to happen to make the playoffs? First and foremost, they need to take care of business against Baltimore and Miami. If we lose one of those, we are out.

We hold head-to-head tiebreakers against Tennessee and Denver, the latter of which will come in handy. In order to finish the season even with Denver, we need the Broncos to lose one game.

Jacksonville, Miami, and the Jets all have better conference records than us, so we need them to lose as well. However, since we also need to win out, we are assuming we will beat Miami in Week 17, it doesn't matter what they do next week. Actually, it would be preferable if they beat Houston and knock them out.

So there are five teams that we need to lose at least once in order for us to make the playoffs. That sounds like a bit much to ask until you look at how things shake down.
  • We play both Baltimore and Miami
  • Denver is reeling after a loss to Oakland and has to travel to Philadelphia this weekend to play a hot Eagles team that has won 5 in a row.
  • Jacksonville plays at New England this week. New England is 7-0 at home and needs a win to clinch the division title.
  • The Jets travel to Indianapolis to face the undefeated Colts.

Here's the kicker:
IF we beat Baltimore, Philly beats Denver, New England beats the Jags, the Colts beat the Jets, AND Miami beats Houston...


Let me say that again.

If Philly, New England, Indy and Miami win (in addition to us beating Baltimore), we will have a win-and-get-in game against Miami on January 3.

Holy hell.

Did anyone think two days ago that we could be, after next week, back in control of our own destiny?

Believe it.

All of a sudden, what looked to be an impossible feat might just be possible.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The 60 Minute Man: Steelers Win


There aren't even really words to describe just how awesome this game was. The Steelers played a good first half and scored right before halftime. Only 3 points were scored in the 3rd quarter. Then the teams put up 35 in the fourth. Unreal.

Big Ben threw for over 500 yards. Not only has that never been done in Steelers history, it's only been done 8 other times since 1960. Check out the list of QBs that Ben just joined.

Click to enlarge if it's too small to read on your screen.

Quite a list of quarterbacks 007 joins.
Note that the names Brady and Manning don't appear on that list.

The Steelers set a ton of records today. If we forgot some, we apologize.
  • Roethlisberger: Most passing yards in a single game in Steelers history
  • Ward: Back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons
  • Ward: First Steelers receiver to have six 1,000-yard seasons
  • Miller: Most catches by a Steelers tight end in a single season

Game Recap

Green Bay wins the toss and takes the ball. Can't blame them given the Steelers kick coverage lately.

Green Bay has one of the worst O-lines in the league, and LeBeau goes right after them with Cross-X A-Gap blitzes. Rodgers gets clobbered twice and the Pack goes 3-and-out.

The offense response, staying aggressive as 007 goes play-action and finds Mike Wallace 10-yards open downfield. He underthrows Wallace by 5 yards, but it's still enough for the 60-minute man to take it into the end zone for six.
Notice the Packer defenders nursing their scorch wounds.


The Steelers keep blitzing, forcing another 3-and-out.

The Steelers got the ball back for their 2nd possession of the game with less than 2 minutes gone off the clock. 007 goes play-action again and finds Miller down the seam for 23, but then threw 3 incompletions. Punt.

The first run of the game comes from Green Bay. Grant gets two carries then Rodgers goes play-action and hits Greg Jennings over Tyrone Carter who takes it to the house for 85 yards.


Hines steps up with two big catches on 3rd downs to keep the next drive rolling. Tone gets us down to the 2 and Raise Some does the rest.


Three-and-out city for Green Bay. There was a Packers fan sitting behind me at the game who wouldn't shut his trap the entire game. Every play was "come on big play!" or "interception!" - yeah, it got annoying as shit after about 2 drives.

Green Bay appears to force the first turnover of the game as Matthews sacks Ben around the backside and knocks the ball out, but Tomlin challenges and it gets overturned as Ben's arm was moving forward. I still can't believe we won that one. Punt.

Rodgers converts a 3rd and 10 with a pass to Driver.

Second Quarter

With first down just outside the red zone, the defense held for a field goal attempt. Mason Crosby can kick at Colorado and at Lambeau Field, but not at the open end at Heinz Field. Jeff Reed laughs. Packerfan is beside himself.

Arians goes to the well with a flea-flicker, but no one is open so Ben goes back to Mendenhall on a check-down. Heath gets called for a cheap hold, setting the drive back. Mewelde Moore drops a 3rd down pass that would have moved the chains. Punt.

Rodgers moves the Packers back into Steelers territory, but no further. Punt.

Ben gets sacked by Matthews again on 3rd down. Ugh.

Green Bay gets the ball back with good field position near the 50, and Rodgers picks the Steelers apart through the air to get down to the 15, then takes off on 3rd and 6 and scampers into the end zone.


Having seen both play this year, Green Bay made the right call going with Rodgers over Favre.

The Steelers got the ball back with 3 minutes left in the half and it was 007 time. Ben converts a 3rd down with a big time throw to Heath as the clock hit two minutes.

Two Minute Warning

007 guns one to Tone who takes it down to the 15. The Steelers get some help on a defensive penalty, but then Matthews sacks Ben again as Arians over-uses the 5-wide. The Steelers come right back out in a 5-wide set, but this time stack Moore and Holmes. Holmes runs a post to draw the coverage, and Moore runs a quick slant and 007 hits him in stride as he breaks through defenders for the score.
Mewelde parts the waters.
Chartlon Heston isn't impressed.


Green Bay is able to get near the 50 and takes a shot for the end zone, but Rodgers over-throws it.


There's a huge line for the bathroom. I talk to some people about how people used to pee in the sinks at Three Rivers. I also share one of my favorite stories from the old stadium. In the last game against the Redskins, I saw a guy leaving the bathroom stuffing a toilet seat up under his jacket. People were stealing all kinds of things that day, but a toilet seat? That's disgusting. Pretty much everyone in line agreed with me. And got a good laugh out of it.

Third Quarter

Ben gets sacked to start the quarter, but Raise Some makes up for it with a big catch down the sidelines. Green Bay challenges and loses. We're not going to sink to the level of making a Challenger joke here. That'd just be wrong.

The Steelers come out with the hypocycloid set, and throw it to Logan for the first time (the other 3 times we used the formation, we threw it to Tone on a slant route). Nothing really comes of it and we have to punt.

Green Bay goes 3-and-out again. Packerguy still won't shut up. He tries to ask us why we sucked so bad the last 5 weeks. I tell him it was poor situational football.

Mendenhall shows why he is the best back on the team, taking a short pass and turning it into a 25-yard gain. Parker gets 9 yards on back-to-back carries as he almost breaks one the second time. 007 hooks up with Hines over the middle to get into the red zone. Mendenhall scores an apparent touchdown, but it gets called back on the worst call since Alexander Graham Bell's time. A sack and a screen pass later, it's field goal city.

Reed shows Crosby how it's done at the open end.


The Steelers pick up their only sack of the game on a jailbreak as the Packers line decides not to block anyone. Rodgers bails his team out, exploiting Carter and Clark's inability to cover anyone. The Packers start putting a few first downs together as the quarter ends.

Fourth Quarter

The Steelers hold to third down once again, but Rodgers throws a fade pass for their big tight end Jermichael Finley who eats Clark's lunch.


At this point, you could feel it starting to happen. There was a bit of an air of inevitability in the stadium.

007 reminds us there's still a game to be won and goes play-action. Hines and Holmes are both open and Ben goes for 86 who makes an unreal catch.

Parker comes in and Arians goes to the motif offense. Thankfully, Heath can't be covered by anyone, and he converts the 3rd down. The Steelers crap on themselves in the red zone, but Reed is money in the bank.


This seemed like an ideal time for Renegade, but they run DVE ads instead. Thankfully, Green Bay takes a time out after first down, giving the video booth a mulligan on Renegade. The crowd is totally into it, but the defense looks lethargic about hearing the awesome rock of Styx.

Rodgers takes advantage, going after Gay twice, then Ryan Grant takes a draw play for 25 yards, beating Ty Carter in the open field to the goal line.
Carter was agonizingly slow out there today.


Not to be outdone, 007 brings the boys back. When things look bleak on 2nd and 18, he goes down the left side for Hines who somehow makes a catch with a defender all over him.

Ward had catches of 29 and 54 yards on back-to-back drives in the 4th quarter. How huge is that? Wow.

The offense doesn't do anything else and settles for a field goal. Seeing the difference between Crosby and Reed today reminds you why the Steelers might just re-sign Jeff. He's apparently the only kicker in the league who can kick here.


Packerfan is beside himself that they held us to 3. He yammers on about how they just need a few first downs and a field goal.

Tomlin plays the odds and goes for an onside kick. I don't know the exact numbers, but here's a rough estimate: 60% of "surprise" onside kicks are successful. Our defense had only stopped the Packers 50% of the time. It would have worked if Ike had waited 2 seconds to touch the ball and allowed it to go 2 more yards. It was a bad situational call, but it worked out in the end because it gave the Steelers a chance to get the ball back with time left on the clock.

The defense holds to a 3rd and 1, but Rodgers goes spread and hits Finley, who was being "covered" by Carter for 10 yards. Big Snack blows up a run and the Steelers use a timeout to preserve time. On 3rd and 18, Rodgers hits Jones wide open at the 5. I still don't know who was supposed to be on him, but no one was. Touchdown.

Green Bay goes for two and converts, making it a 6-point game.


Packerfan can hardly contain his glee that the Packers scored a touchdown rather than a field goal. A poor kick return puts us back at the 14. The first thought to cross my mind is that Ben took us 88 yards to win the Super Bowl, so 86 is totally doable.

007 never backs down from a challenge. The Steelers seem poised to flush their season away after a sack, a short pass to Heath, and an incompletion. On 4th and 8, 007 buys some time with his feet and hits Tone coming across the middle of the field with a linebacker in coverage. Tone pulls it in and turns it upfield for a 32 yard gain. Starks, who had his worst game of the season, gets called for holding on first down near midfield. The Packers return the favor with a defensive penalty. The Steelers get backed into a 3rd and 15, but 007 just will not be denied. In a formation they haven't used all year, Heath splits out as the only receiver to Ben's left. Heath can not be covered by a corner back. Hell, Heath can't be covered by anyone. Ben exploits it and Heath makes a great grab on the sidelines for 20 yards and a first down.

With 32 seconds to play and 36 yards to go, you start to believe that it might happen. Ben gets sacked but it's nullified by a defensive holding penalty. 007 goes right back to Heath over the middle to get the ball to the 19. The Steelers use their last timeout with 18 seconds to play.

007 goes for Wallace down the seam on first down, but he can't hang on. Not sure if we would have been able to spike the ball in 13 seconds there. Ben air mails one out of the back of the end zone on 2nd down. Three seconds left. Third and 10 from the 19. All or nothing.

Ben does his Ben thing and eludes pressure, rolling to his left...

All the other receivers are on the other side of the field, with Mike Wallace one-on-one on a corner. The corner has inside position on Wallace and Ben guns it to the outside. Wallace comes back for the ball...
What a picture.

Now that's a 60 Minutes man

The booth wants another look at it just to be sure.
Tension mounts, but gets alleviated when the camera crew does an awesome job of finding a photographer with a snapshot of the touchdown.

The refs come back out.

Survey says....


Reed comes out for the extra point to win the game.

Players of the Game:
Offensive Game Balls- Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Wallace
Defensive Game Ball- Casey Hampton

Honorable Mentions:
Heath Miller
Hines Ward
Santonio Holmes
Rashard Mendenhall
Mewelde Moore

Mr. Yuck Sticker of the Game
Our Secondary
What is there really to say? These guys got shredded today. Rodgers finished just shy of 400 yards passing. There were coverage breakdowns all over the place. The only redeeming play made was Deshea's breakup in the end zone. Clark and Carter got burned up and down the field. We need some safety help badly. Willie Gay has been afraid to tackle ever since he got run over by Adrian Peterson.

Final Thoughts
  • Mike Wallace scored touchdowns on our first and last offensive plays of the game.
  • Ben was 29/46 for 503 yards, 3 TD and 0 INT with a 121.9 passer rating.
  • Ward: 7 catches for 126 yards
  • Miller: 7 catches for 118 yards
  • Holmes: 3 catches for 77 yards, including the 4th down conversion which was huge
  • Mendenhall: 6 catches, 73 yards
  • Wallace: 2 catches, 79 yards, 2 TD. Rookie of the Year day for Wallace.
  • No doubt that Mike Wallace wins the Joe Greene Award this year as Steelers Rookie of the Year.
  • Apparently, it's a rule in the NFL that it's not holding if it's against James Harrison
  • Anyone who wants to consider Charles Woodson for Defensive Player of the Year, look at how many holding/pass interference penalties he had today. He looked like Nick Lindstrom out there.
  • It's great to get a win.
  • A lot of teams in the playoff hunt lost. We're right back in the thick of things.
  • Great performance by the offense, but they still need to fire Arians. One game doesn't rectify a bad body of work.
  • Mendenhall only had 11 carries today. Meh.
  • Looks like we're going to have to make some amendments to our "Decade in Review" posts.
  • Lots of Green Bay fans in the stands today. Saw some people downtown selling $80 tickets for under $50.
  • Tomorrow's Ron Cook article: Ben holds the ball too long.
  • Apparently, this was the first 37-36 game in NFL history.
  • How good is Jeff Reed at Heinz Field? There's one reason to sign him, because we sure as hell aren't building a dome.
  • Green Bay had to call in a medic to the locker room after the game to deal with the 3rd degree burns their defensive backs had.
  • THAT is why you never leave a game early.