Saturday, October 30, 2010

Gameday: New Orleans Saints

Louisiana Superdome
Radio: 102.5 WDVE

What to Watch For

1. Run Defense

With Aaron Smith out for an extended period of time, the Steelers will be playing with a weakened defensive front. The Saints have run the ball well on occasion and Chris Ivory has shown he is capable of carrying the load if called upon. That said, the Saints are a pass-first team and the Steelers defense needs to shut things down up front and make sure the Saints are a pass-only team.

2. Pass Rush

The Steelers had done a great job getting to the quarterback this year, but LeBeau has a tendency to fold up and play more conservatively (usually only rushing 3 or 4) when on the road. Their nickel defense can be their most deadly weapon when everyone plays (Keisel and Woodley bring a lot here). If the Diesel or Woodley can't go, We might get to see some more of Jason Worlids in obvious passing situations. Worlids isn't very sound in run defense or pass coverage, but he's got a ton of speed coming off the edge. You'd better believe the Steelers will be watching tape of what the Cowboys did to the Saints O-line last year when they gameplan for this game.

3. Ben Roethlisberger v Drew Brees

Two of the top 5 quarterbacks in the league squaring off on Halloween in New Orleans? Sounds like the makings of a shootout. That said, both the Steelers and Saints defenses rank in the top 5 in the league in total defense. However, even if they game turns into a defensive struggle, both teams have the offensive firepower to turn it on at any time. Brees will spread the ball around. Last season he had 7 receivers with over 35 catches. That's just insane. Ben doesn't spread the ball around quite as much, but he's just as capable of going stride-for-stride with Brees.

4. Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman

Last time these two teams faced off, Willie Parker had one of the best rushing games in Steelers history, racking up over 200 yards on the ground. The Saints run defense has gotten a lot better in the last four years, but that doesn't mean that the Steelers aren't capable of running over these guys. The Browns and Peyton Hillis did it last week.

5. Halloween

"Halloween" comes from the Christian celebration of "All Hallows Eve" or the night before All Saints Day. Wiki it. Lots of connections we could make between the holiday and this game. But Ian is going to the Rally for Sanity and/or Fear in Washington DC this weekend.

Behind Enemy Lines

This week's guest is Andrew from The Saints Nation, a solid blog over on the Bloguin network. If you're not aware of the Bloguin network, get off you ass and check out some of the titans of the Pittsburgh blogosphere: The Pensblog, WHYGAVS?, and PSAMP. Also, you can hit up Andrew on Twitter.

1. In a matchup of the last two Super Bowl Champions, the Steelers and Saints come into this game from very different perspectives. The Saints have lost two of their last three and looking to turn things around while the Steelers have won their last two. Despite the Saints stumbling over themselves against Cleveland, what have you been most impressed with from the Saints this year?

I'd say the run defense, which was suspect last year, has been a real bright spot. For the most part the Saints have been very good against the run. Coverage units on special teams have been impressive for the most part, too. To be honest, that's about the only things I've been "impressed" by this year. Granted we've been spoiled in New Orleans having the top offense in the NFL 3 out of the last 4 years. I will say our ability to miss short field goals this year has been pretty impressive. It takes real talent to find two NFL kickers capable of missing 29 yard attempts in the span of 3 weeks.

2. Reggie Bush appears to be on the verge of coming back from his broken leg, which should re-energize the Saints running and passing game. With Pierre Thomas still nursing an injury, do you think the Saints will exclusively attack the Steelers through the air or will they try to keep things balanced and attempt to grind it out against a tough Steelers run defense?

Sean Payton loves to pass, and he sometimes gets into ruts as a play caller where he doesn't incorporate the run game enough. Chris Ivory is a capable back that showed he's capable of big things when he rushed for over 150 yards against the Bucs. For the Saints to be at their peak offensively, they need to have a healthy run/pass balance. When you saw them rolling people by 30+ points last year, that's what they were doing so well. I know the coaching staff always strives for a good balance and that's the objective going into any game. There is no doubt they sometimes throw too much, though. I don't think Pierre Thomas being out changes much from a play calling philosophy perspective, though, because Chris Ivory has basically replaced him as the feature back. I'm not ready to say he's as good as Pierre, but he's certainly got promise and needs to be accounted for.

3. The last meeting between these two teams was in 2006 when the Saints were just starting to come out of their shell offensively. Then-rookie WR Marques Colston ran over, around, and through the Steelers defense (10 rec, 169 yds). However, the Steelers were able to win a game that turned into a school-yard shootout on the shoulders of one of the greatest running efforts in Steelers history (Willie Parker: 22 car, 213 yds, 2 TD). Do you expect another shootout between offenses that have the potential to be high-powered or do you think the defenses, both of which rank in the top 5 in Yards Against, will steal the show?

I expect a low scoring game, honestly. The Saints won't have Pierre Thomas, and I am skeptical Reggie Bush will play either. The Saints just haven't hit on all cylinders yet offensively this season. I have a hard time believing they will do it against the Steelers' defense. On the flip side, the Superdome is one of the hardest places to play. The Saints will give the Steelers their best shot looking to redeem themselves from a sorry performance against the Browns. Make no mistake, the team that didn't show up against the Browns is not the real Saints and this team has too much character to not come back fighting hard after an embarrassing showing like that. I think it will be a 20-17 type score, liking coming down to a final play in the 4th quarter.

4. After the Super Bowl, players like Drew Brees, Marques Colston, and Tracy Porter are household names. We all know what Jonathan Vilma brings to the table on defense. Are there any lesser-known or "under-the-radar" players that you think will have a big impact on the game?

I mentioned Chris Ivory, and he's a running back with some potential. Rookie tight end Jimmy Graham is a huge target with really good hands that's starting to get more involved in the offense. Most defenses aren't paying much attention to him because of all the weapons on offense, so he could be dangerous. The thing with Brees is, if you're open, he'll throw you the ball. For that reason, really anyone that's on the field offensively can hurt you if you let them. Defensively, defensive tackles Sedrick Ellis and Remi Ayodele have both played at an extremely high level all season long. They're a major reason why the Saints have been so effective on the interior against the run. If Mendenhall is going to have success, the Steelers have to do a good job of getting push at the point of attack on those two guys. Strong safety Roman Harper is also playing at an extremely high level. He stays around the box, hits very hard, tackles well, and is one of the team's best defenders. Don't forget Darren Sharper, either, who is just back from injury. He's one of those ballhawk defenders that just knows how to find the football.

5. Any other final thoughts?

The Saints have been very Jekyll and Hyde this year. It's just tough, I think, to bounce back from the emotional ride that is winning a Super Bowl. You guys experienced the exact same thing the last couple of times... it's just hard to win the year after being champions. The Saints have been hit or miss this year. They didn't show up against the lowly Cards and Browns. To be honest, I think they went into both of those games thinking the teams would be cupcakes and gave them little respect. That's the harsh reality of the NFL. Even when you have Colt McCoy and Max Hall at quarterback, you can find ways to sneak up on teams and beat them. At other times, they've played better this season like the team we saw last year. There's no doubt they're a good team when they want to be, and I think at home vs. a top team like the Steelers on Sunday night, you should expect we'll bring our A game. I think it's going to be a great battle. There's no denying the Steelers are the class of the NFL right now, but I think that will bring out the best in the Saints. I truly expect it will come down to the end and be a really good battle. Honestly, I will be really disappointed if we don't see anything less than two elite teams giving it their all in a tightly contested NFL game. Obviously I hope the Saints get this W because I think they desperately need it right now (more so than the Steelers need it).

Around the League

AFC North

Miami @ Cincinnati

Miami hasn't lost on the road yet this year.

Game of the Week

Pittsburgh @ New Orleans

We're not kidding anyone. The last two Super Bowl champions square off on Halloween night? Does it really get any better than this? Nope.

Games of Note

Green Bay @ NY Jets

Houston @ Indianapolis

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

WPIAL Playoff Scenarios (Week 9)

The final weekend of the WPIAL football season is upon us. 52 of the 64 playoff spots have been clinched. There are five conferences in which the top two teams will square off this week for the conference title. There are 22 teams battling for the last 12 playoff spots. Of the remaining playoff spots, half of them will be decided by casket matches. You know what that means...

For reference, the WPIAL Tiebreaking procedures are as follows:
1. Head-to-head
2. Gardner Points, determined by margin of victory/defeat in conference games. Any margin of victory/defeat over 10 points only counts as +10 or -10.
Notations: x-clinched playoff spot, y-clinched conference title


12 of 16 playoff spots clinched

7 teams still in the running for 4 remaining playoff spots
2 Conference Title Games
2 Casket Matches

Big East Conference

1.  y-Central Catholic (5-0)
2t. x-Woodland Hills (4-1)
2t. x-Penn Hills (4-1)
4. Kiski Area (2-2)
5. Plum (1-3)

Important Game: Woodland Hills @ Penn Hills - The winner takes second in the conference and gets a home first round playoff game.

Casket Match: Kiski Area @ Plum

Foothills Conference

1t. x-McKeesport (5-0)
1t. x- Gateway (5-0)
3t. x-Penn-Trafford (3-2)
3t. x-Norwin (3-2)

Conference Title Game: McKeesport @ Gateway

Important Game: Penn-Trafford @ Norwin - The winner takes third place in the conference and gets a marginally easier first round playoff game.

Great Southern Conference

1. x-Mt Lebanon (4-0)
2. x-Upper St Clair (4-0)
3. Baldwin (2-2)
4. Peters Twp (1-3)
5. Bethel Park (1-3)

Conference Title Game: Upper St Clair @ Mt. Lebanon

Important Games: Baldwin @ Bethel Park, Peters Twp @ Canon-McMillan

Scenario 1: Baldwin beats Bethel Park - Baldwin finishes 3rd, Peters finishes 4th thanks to head-to-head tiebreaker over Bethel, regardless of result vs Canon-Mac.
Scenario 2: Bethel Park beats Baldwin and Peters Twp beats Canon-Mac - 3-way tie for 3rd place. 
Gardner Points: Baldwin -7, Peters -16, Bethel Park -17

Northern Seven Conference

1. x-North Allegheny (5-0)
2. x-North Hills (4-1)
3. x-Erie McDowell (4-2)
4. Shaler (3-2)
5. Pine-Richland (2-3)

Conference Title Game: North Allegheny @ North Hills

Casket Match: Pine-Richland @ Shaler


11 of 16 playoff spots clinched

9 teams still in the running for 5 remaining playoff spots
1 Conference Title Game
2 Casket Matches

Big Eight Conference

1. y-Thomas Jefferson (6-0)
2t. x-Trinity (4-2)
2t. x-West Mifflin (4-2)
2t. Belle Vernon (4-2)
5. Chartiers Valley (3-3)

Important Games: Thomas Jefferson v West Mifflin, Chartiers Valley v South Park, Trinity v McGuffey, Belle Vernon v Elizabeth Forward

Belle Vernon clinches a playoff spot and 2nd place with a win over Elizabeth Forward
Chartiers Valley needs to beat South Park then hope West Mifflin and Elizabeth Forward win. Not likely.

Greater Allegheny Conference

1t. x-Knoch (5-0)
1t. x-Mars (5-0)
3. x-Indiana (3-2)
4. Highlands (2-3)
5. Hampton (2-3)

Conference Title Game: Knoch @ Mars (Sat)

Casket Match: Hampton @ Highlands

Keystone Conference

1.  y-Ringgold (6-0)
2t. x-Franklin Regional (5-1)
2t. x-Greensburg Salem (5-1)
4. Hollidaysburg (3-3)
5. Derry Area (2-4)

Important Game: Greensburg Salem @ Franklin Regional - Winner finishes 2nd and gets the all-important first round home game. Not that it means much, the Keystone Conference is 1-39 in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs in the last 10 years. That said, Franklin Regional just moved to the conference this year and is a former WPIAL champion, adding some muscle to the group.

Casket Match: Derry Area @ Hollidaysburg

Parkway Conference

1. y-Montour (6-0)
2. x-West Allegheny (5-1)
3t. Blackhawk (3-3)
3t. Hopewell (3-3)
3t. Central Valley (3-3)

Important Games: 
Hopewell @ West Allegheny (Thu) - Things will get a little clearer after this game. Hopewell clinches a playoff spot with a win. If they lose, Hopewell can still qualify for the playoffs with a loss by Central Valley or Blackhawk.
Central Valley @ Ambridge - Central Valley clinches a playoff spot with a win.
New Castle @ Blackhawk - Blackhawk needs to win and hope either Central Valley or Hopewell lose.


14 of 16 playoff spots have been clinched

4 teams still in the running for the 2 remaining playoff spots

Only 1 Conference Champion remains to be decided
2 Casket Matches

Allegheny Conference

1. y-Ford City 6-0)
2. x-Deer Lakes (5-1)
3. x-Freeport (4-2)
4. x-Shady Side Academy (4-2)

Everything is locked up here, but the #2 spot is still up for grabs between the 3 remaining teams. Deer Lakes plays Shady Side Academy in the only important game in the Conference this weekend.
Gardner Points: Deer Lakes +32, Shady Side Academy +23, Freeport +13

Century Conference

1. y-South Fayette (6-0)
2. x-Seton La-Salle (5-1)
3. x-Steel Valley (4-2)
4. x-Keystone Oaks (4-2)

Everything is locked up here as well, and like in the Allegheny Conference, the #2 spot and home playoff game is up for grabs. Seton La-Salle and Keystone Oaks have their Rivalry Game this weekend. Seton beat Steel Valley and Steel Valley beat KO. 
Gardner Points: Seton La-Salle +40, Steel Valley +23, Keystone Oaks +21

Interstate Conference

1t. x-Greensburg Central Catholic (7-0)
1t. x-Jeanette (7-0)
3. Mount Pleasant (5-2)
4. x-East Allegheny (5-3)
5. Southmoreland (3-3, 3-4)

Conference Title Game: Jeanette @ Greensburg Central Catholic

Casket Match: Southmoreland @ Mt Pleasant

Midwestern Conference

1.  y-Aliquippa (8-0)
2t. x-Beaver Area (6-1)
2t. x-Beaver Falls (6-1)
4t. Ellwood City (4-3)
4t. Riverside (4-3)

Important Game: Beaver Falls @ Beaver Area - winner takes second place and gets a home playoff game.

Casket Match: Riverside @ Ellwood City


15 of 16 playoff spots have been clinched

2 teams still in the running for 1 remaining playoff spots
3 of the 4 Conference Titles have been decided 
Sadly, no casket matches in Class-A games

Big Seven Conference

1. y-Rochester (6-0)
2. x-Cornell (5-1)
3. x-Sto-Rox (4-2)
4. x-Western Beaver (4-2)

Everything is wrapped up except the seeding. Sto-Rox travels to Cornell this week. Cornell clinches second with a win. A Sto-Rox win sends it to Gardner Points, assuming Western Beaver beats Union.
Gardner Points: Cornell +31, Sto-Rox +24, Western Beaver +19

Black Hills Conference

1. y-Clairton (6-0)
2. x-Chartiers-Houston (5-1)
3. x-Brentwood (4-2)
4. x-Fort Cherry (4-2)

Everything is wrapped up in the Black Hills Conference as well. Chartiers-Houston plays Fort Cherry this week. Char-Houston holds on to 2nd with a win. A Fort Cherry win and Brentwood win over Carlynton sends it to Gardner Points.
Gardner Points: Chartiers-Houston +31, Fort Cherry +23, Brentwood +17

Eastern Conference

1t. x-Avonworth (6-1)
1t. x-Bishop Canevin (6-1)
1t. x-Springdale (6-1)
4. x-North Catholic (4-2, 5-2)

The only team here that can't win the conference title is North Catholic. Avonworth beat Springdale. Springdale beat Canevin. Canevin beat Avonworth. Gardner Points city.
Gardner Points: Avonworth +50, Springdale +50, Bishop Canevin +47

Tri-County South Conference

1. y-Monessen (7-0)
2. x-Beth-Center (6-1)
3. x-California (5-2)
4. Carmichaels (4-3)
5. Frazier (4-3)

Important Games: California v Geibel, Carmichaels v Mapleton, Frazier v Monessen

Carmichaels beat Frazier head-to-head and holds the tiebreaker.
Frazier has their backs against the wall. They have to beat 7-0 Monessen and hope Carmichaels loses to 0-7 Mapleton.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Week 7 Rundown

Pro Bowl balloting is open. Lawrence Timmons has been an absolute beast this year and deserves to go. Vote for him at the Inside Linebacker position. Vote Here. You can vote as many times as you want, so vote early and vote often!

What We Learned
  1. As much griping as there has been from people, Gene Steratore made the right call in the Steelers-Dolphins play. It's good to see NFL refs utilizing the replay booth to make the right call. Yes, we're looking at you Major League Baseball.
  2. There was one set of defensive backs that should be wearing the jersey of an opponent after the Cincy-Atlanta game. And that's the Bengals DBs of Roddy White. He doesn't need to talk, he just performs. What a game.
  3. The Chargers could be a good team if they could get out of their own way. This team makes more mistakes than Michael Scott.
  4. The Giants might have the best defense in the NFC. They have knocked two quarterbacks out and are making swiss cheese out of offensive lines.
  5. The NFC West fills the eye test as the worst division in football. They are in an essential dead heat with the AFC West in the record department (AFC West is 11-16 and NFC West is 11-15). However, the AFC West is 4-3 head-to-head with the NFC West, so the debate is still up for grabs.

  1. The Steelers defense standing strong after LaMarr Woodley and Aaron Smith went down with injuries. For all the bitching about the call at the end, let's not forget that the Dolphins had 2 minutes and only needed a field goal to win. The Steelers defense held them without a first down.
  2. The games some Wide Receivers had this week. Kenny Britt had 3 TDs for Tennessee, Dez Bryant had 2 receiving and 1 return TD for Dallas, and Hakeem Nicks had 2 TDs for the Giants. Not to mention, of course, the game that Roddy White had for the Falcons.
  3. Buffalo's effort against Baltimore. The Ravens defense was averaging 280.5 yards against per game and 15.8 points against per game. The Bills offense, which had been averaging 251 yards per game and 17.4 points per game coming in, put up 508 yards and 34 points.
  4. Josh Freeman's second half against the Rams. The Rams couldn't get to him and Freeman led the Bucs down the field for the game-winning TD with just seconds left on the clock.
  5. Seeing the Yankees lose. They are probably our most hated team in all of professional sports. Nothing makes fall baseball better than seeing these vultures blow it in the playoffs. 

  1. Dallas coach Wade Phillips saying "We had a bit of a letdown after Tony went out, for whatever reason." That doesn't speak much to the leadership in the locker room if the coach doesn't even know why losing their quarterback might cause a letdown. 
  2. Whatever is going on in San Francisco these days. 
  3. Denver's defense. And offense. Basically everything Josh McDaniels is doing out there. He's almost reaching a Matt Millen-level of franchise destruction. All he has to do is oust Orton for Tebow and he's there.
  4. New Orleans laying a big turd against the Browns. Really? The Browns? Also, this doesn't bode well for the Steelers this week as the Saints will be looking for a big "bounce-back" game on Sunday.
  5. Jay Cutler running off at the mouth about DeAngelo Hall after the game. Really dude? Hall just picked you four times in one game. Show him a little respect.

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

Cliff Lee

As we mentioned earlier, nothing makes us happier than seeing the Yankees fail. That said, Cliff Lee has been downright dominant. There have been some dominant pitching performances this post-season, including Roy Halladay and Tim Lincecum. However it would be hard to argue that Cliff Lee doesn't deserve the Postseason MVP award at this point. 34 K's in 24 innings, a 0.75 ERA and a 0.58 WHIP. He's pitched more innings than Lincecum and Halladay, less hits, less runs, has a lower ERA and a lower WHIP. Lee has been absolutely sick. Can't wait to see him go head-to-head with Lincecum in Game 1 on Wednesday. (Though we'll probably watch the Pens game and just hear about Game 1 on Sportscenter).

Bob Smizik "Douchebag of the Week" Award

Brett Favre

Another obvious winner of the Smizik award, but how can you say he doesn't deserve it? He calls a mid-week news conference to say absolutely nothing. No one works the media machine like Favre does. At the rate he and LeBron are going, ESPN might as well just replace the last 3 letters with an exclamation point. On top of all the media mess, he's destroying a good Minnesota team from the inside and outside. They've gotten away from pounding the rock with Adrian Peterson, they brought Randy Moss back to try to "help," but I think we all know how that's going to end up. Now we get to hear all week about how Brad Childress threw Favre under the bus and whether or not Favre will play because of a fracture in his ankle. Joke.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Miami Heat: Steelers Win


The story coming into the game was the "new rules" about head-to-head hits. This past week, we participated in a panel of bloggers over at Blitzburgh Blog on the topic of James Harrison being a dirty player.

The Dolphins made the Steelers wear their black jerseys this year, making it the 3rd straight road game the Steelers have had to wear the black jerseys. They won the first two.

First Quarter

Emmanuel Sanders gets hit in the head on the kick return. Wonder if there will be a fine? Probably not. Sanders fumbles and the Dolphins recover.

The Steelers defense holds the Dolphins to 1 yard and force the field goal. Great stand by the Defense.


The Steelers offense does nothing and Ben tries to flick a pass to Redman under pressure, but the ball comes out early and it's ruled a fumble. Another turnover by the Steelers deep in Dolphins territory.

The defense holds once again on 3 straight run plays, forcing another field goal.


Ben hits Heath on a double-pump slant route to get things rolling on the next drive. Mendenhall gets two carries to get us to 3rd and 2, but Redman gets stoned in the B-gap. Punt.

Aaron Smith stonewalls Ronnie Brown in the backfield on 2nd down and pressure from Woodley forces a throw-away from Henne on 3rd. Punt.

A holding call sets the offense back, but two check-downs to Mewelde Moore are able to pick up the first down. Moore gets a few chances to tote the rock and dances his way out near the 40. Ben gets things rolling hitting El Yeah for 12 more to get across the 50. Ben goes to the no huddle but a holding call sets things back. Ben does his Ben thing and scrambles out of pressure and floats on in to Ward for a big 43 yard game on 3rd and 23. After a run to get down to the 6, Arians goes to the Bubble Screen well once again, and guess what? It goes nowhere once again. Someone needs to take a pair of scissors to the playbook and cut that play out.

Second Quarter

Arians goes 5-wide and the Dolphins bring heat, forcing Ben to dump it down quick to Miller who can't reach the end zone. Reed drills it.


Jason Worlids makes his case for Special Teams player of the year, making another tackle on kick coverage.

Henne completes his first pass of the game, hitting Marshall for 12 yards. Miami apparently is using the Arians playbook too, as they run the bubble screen and B-Mac and Woodley blow it up, forcing a fumble that falls right into the hands of Farrior.

Mendenhall rumbles for a solid gain to get inside the 20. Ben overthrows two passes to bring up a key 3rd down. Ben stands in under pressure and slings it to Hines on the right sideline who makes a move past a defender, picks up a key block from Emmanuel Sanders and hits paydirt.


Henne hits a few passes and is able to march the Dolphins down the field, getting inside the 10 on a check-down pass to Ronnie Brown. The defense locks it down and keeps the Fins out of the end zone. 


Manny Sanders breaks off a good return, starting the Steelers in great field position just shy of midfield. Ben wastes no time going for the kill shot, airing it out to Mike Wallace hanging out on Jimmy Buffet's boat for the score.


The Steelers look poised for force another 3-and-out but Henne stands in and throws one to Hartline to move the sticks. The Dolphins pick up some momentum off the first down, hitting a few more passes to move down the field as the clock winds down to two minutes.

Two Minute Warning

Henne is able to just step out of a Polamalu blitz and hits Davone Bess in the flat who gets by Willie Gay and gets past Ryan Clark to get into the end zone. Poor tackling effort by the defense there. 


Manny Sanders puts together another good return giving us good field position for the 2-minute offense. Hines Ward makes a hell of a catch leaping over a defender to reel one in and get the drive moving.
What a player.

Moore picks up a few more on a check down, then Arians shoots us in the foot by calling a reverse when we're on the fringe of field goal range. Moore gets blown up in the backfield before he can even hand it off to Wallace, knocking us out of field goal range. Ben gets sacked on 3rd down and that's the end of the half. Another game with poor clock management at the end of a half.

Third Quarter

Miami grinds out a first down before Larry Foote blows through the A gap and wrecks Chad Henne.

Jason Worlids makes two nice moves to get pressure on Henne, forcing two check-downs and forcing a punt. Worlids is looking great for a rookie.
Probably going to start calling Worlids "Powerman" from now on.

Manny Sanders steps up on 3rd down once again, pulling in a big catch across the middle to move the chains. That's 3 third down conversions for Sanders in 2 games. Ben goes play-action and hits Hines for a big gain then goes back to Hines two plays later to move the chains again and get into the red zone. The offense sputters out and Reed nails it.


The next drive starts with CBS showing us Aaron Smith walking off the field with his arm wrapped in ice. Bad news for the defense. The refs finally call a holding call on someone blocking James Harrison to set the Dolphins back, but they are able to use the run game against our nickel defense and are able to grind out another first down. The Dolphins pick their way down the field and into the red zone, but the defense forces a bad throw on 3rd and 2, holding the Fins to another field goal in the red zone.


Mendenhall is able to get the Steelers into a 3rd and favorable on a swing pass as the quarter ends.

Fourth Quarter

Ben can't find a receiver on 3rd down and it's Sepulveda time.

The Dolphins dig their way into 3rd and short against a battered Steelers defense. Larry Foote comes from the backside gap and brings down Ronnie Brown in the backfield for a big defensive stand at midfield. Miami opts to punt it back to the Steelers.

The Steelers look like they're going to crap on themselves again, but Ben is able to step away from pressure and zings one in to Heath over the middle to move the sticks on 3rd and 9. Ben gets sacked again on 3rd down and fumbles, but luckily Pouncey is there to grab the ball. Sepulveda.

Henne goes right to the air, hitting Brian Hartline for another big gain to get up to midfield. The Dolphins pick up an A-gap blitz and Henne is able to find his tight end for a big rumble down the sideline to get inside the 30. The defense is able to lock it down and Carpenter sneaks a field goal inside the right post to put the Fins back on top.


Manny Sanders makes another nice kickoff return getting out across the 50 yard line to start the drive with just over 5 minutes to play. Mendenhall picks up a few then Ben hits Hines to get us into 3rd and 5. The Fins bring the heat and Ben dumps it down to Moore who has the entire field in front of him and is able to scamper all the way down to the 14. A bonehead personal foul on the Dolphins gives the Steelers a first and goal at the 5. Moore and Redman get carries to get down to the 2. Ben keeps it on 3rd and goal and dives for the line. The initial ruling is a touchdown but Miami challenges.
Ball was clearly out before he broke the plane.

They rule the ball came out before Ben got to the goal line but there was not conclusive evidence of a recovery so the Steelers get the ball at the half yard line. Excellent by-the-book call by referee Gene Steratore. Fourth and goal. Tomlin elects to kick and Reed nails it.


Ronnie Brown gets 2 and Fasano drops one as the clock hits 2:00. Miami used up all their timeouts on the Steelers last drive, bringing up a huge 3rd down on the other side of the break.

Two Minute Warning

Willie Gay makes a great play to bring down Polite off the check-down to bring up 4th and 6.

JASON "POWERMAN" WORLIDS GETS TO HENNE and the ball flops to the turf.



Players of the Game

Offensive Game Ball: Ben Roethlisberger
Defensive Game Ball: Jason Worlids

Honorable Mentions:
Mike Wallace
Hines Ward
Heath Miller
Larry Foote
Mewelde Moore
Ike Taylor
James Harrison
James Farrior

Mr. Yuck Sticker of the Game


The Steelers faced a bit of adversity today when LaMarr Woodley tweaked his hamstring. They responded well, using Lawrence Timmons at OLB on 1st and 2nd downs and Jason Worlids as a pass rusher on 3rd downs. The more devastating injury is Aaron Smith's torn triceps. Smith is out for the year. That's just killer. It's no coincidence that the Dolphins started running on us after Smith went out. We drafted Ziggy Hood in the first round last year and now it's time for him to step up. He's played well in a substitute role, but more weight is going to be put on his shoulders the rest of this season. Big opportunity for Ziggy.

Final Thoughts

  • That was Ben Roethlisberger's 18th career Fourth Quarter Comeback and 22nd career Game-Winning Drive.
  • Early word is that Aaron Smith is out for the year with a torn triceps.
  • Gotta hope that LaMarr Woodley, and Flozell Adams are okay. 
  • Have to throw out some props to my dad. Was watching the game with my family and my dad was all over that call at the end. During the review he said that there needed to be conclusive evidence of a recovery.
  • People are going to whine and complain about the call on the review but guess what? It was the right call. Great explanation by Gene Steratore. 
  • Great tackle on Lusaka Polite by Willie Gay on the last drive on 3rd down. Held him to a short gain and kept him in bounds to keep the clock moving. 
  • How much can you say about Ike Taylor? He held Brandon Marshall to 5 catches and 57 yards. He also led the team in tackles today. 
  • Lawrence Timmons. Pro Bowl player. Period.
  • Mewelde Moore had his best game of the year. Looked good running the ball and made some big catches on 3rd down to move the chains.
  • Good to see Ben and Heath hooking up as well. Heath moved into second place on the all-time Steelers TE list for receiving yards.
  • LeBron sucks.

Gameday: Miami Dolphins

Joe Robbie Stadium
Radio: 102.5 WDVE

What to Watch For

1. The Gauntlet

We have come to the Gauntlet of the schedule. We survived the first four games without Ben. We had a successful Revenge Game against the Browns in Ben's comeback. But now we come to the Gauntlet. In ancient Rome, the Gauntlet were two lines of soldiers that men were made to run between as a form of punishment. For the Steelers, the gauntlet looks like this: at Miami, at New Orleans on Halloween night, at Cincinnati on Monday night, then home against New England the next Sunday night. How will the Steelers handle the pressure of four games against good teams, three of those coming in prime time? This four-game stretch will show us what this team is made of, and it's important to get off on the right foot here against Miami.

2. Ben Roethlisberger vs Miami's secondary

Last year, Roethlisberger tore apart Miami's young secondary, throwing for 3 TDs. The Dolphins are 13th this year in pass defense. Their young corners have played better, but with Ben starting to get his rhythm back, these kids could be in for a long day. The key factor in the game might be Heath Miller, who had a great rapport with Ben last year, and is slowly getting back into sync this year. Ben had a good week last week, but this is a much better defense than the one he faced then.

3. Pittsburgh's Offensive Line vs Miami's Front 7

Outside linebacker Cameron Wake is currently leading the league in sacks. He's a speed rusher that presents a tall order for either Flozell Adams or Max Starks. Last season, the Steelers O-line was able to establish a front against the Dolphins and spring Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall for 90+ yards each. If the Steelers can establish a ground game early, it will be a long day for the Dolphins.

4. Weather

It's set to be another hot day in South Florida. But really, the Steelers are used to it by this point. They've played in 90+ temps in Nashville and Tampa. We fully expect to see the Dolphins make the Steelers wear their black jerseys. Honestly, that's a bad decision. For anyone who has watched the Steelers for any lengthy period of time, you know they play better in black.

5. Chad Henne

The Steelers have the best run defense in the league. Miami's offense thrives on the run, and when you take that element away from them, you put the ball in Chad Henne's hands. Henne threw 1 TD and 1 INT last year against the Steelers. The Dolphins boast an improved passing game with the addition of Brandon Marshall to their receiving corps. Ike Taylor will likely draw Marshall in coverage, putting a lot of weight on Ike's shoulders to help shut things down on the back end of the defense.

Behind Enemy Lines
The guys we had lined up to be our Behind Enemy Lines guests this week fell through, so we're just going to throw out there a few good links for you to read before the game:

Around the League

AFC North

Cleveland at New Orleans, Cincinnati at Atlanta, Buffalo at Baltimore

A Falcons win this week would really put the Bengals behind the 8-ball and make the TOcho show even more fun to watch. Baltimore will most likely win by 20.

Game of the Week

Philadelphia at Tennessee

Games of Note

Arizona vs Seattle

Mid-season battle for sole possession of first place in the NFC West

Tampa Bay vs St Louis

Two teams that picked in the Top 3 in last spring's draft both have 3 wins coming into this game.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

WPIAL Playoff Scenarios (Week 8)

With two weeks to go in the WPIAL season, the playoff picture is coming into focus. We figured we'd give yinz a brief rundown of what to look forward to this week and next week. Game of the Week tonight features a AA showdown between Seton La-Salle and South Fayette in a game that will decide the Century Conference crown. The game will be aired on FSN at 11pm tonight after the Pens game.


9 of 16 playoff spots clinched
14 teams still in the running for 7 remaining playoff spots

Big East Conference

Clinched Playoff Berth: Central Catholic (4-0, 7-0), Woodland Hills (4-1, 4-3), Penn Hills (3-1, 4-3)

Still Alive: Kiski Area (2-2, 2-5), Plum (1-3, 4-3), Fox Chapel (1-3, 1-6)

  • Kiski can clinch a playoff spot with a win over Penn Hills and a Plum loss to Fox Chapel this week.
  • If not, Kiski and Plum play the final week of the season and the winner will go to the playoffs.
  • Fox Chapel needs to beat Plum then hope Plum beats Kiski to force a 3-way tie for 4th place then win a tiebreaker.
  • Most likely Scenario: Plum-Kiski game next week decides the final spot.

Foothills Conference

Clinched Playoff Berth: McKeesport (4-0, 6-1), Gateway (4-0, 4-3), Penn-Trafford (3-1, 4-3)

Still Alive: Norwin (2-2, 3-4), Latrobe (1-3, 4-3), Hempfield (1-3, 1-6)

  • Norwin can clinch a playoff spot with a win over Latrobe this week.
  • Latrobe must beat Norwin this week then beat Hempfield or hope for a Norwin loss to Penn-Trafford next week.
  • Hempfield must hope Latrobe beats Norwin this week then they beat Latrobe next week and can win out in a 3-way tie for 4th place.
  • Most likely scenario: Winner of this week's Norwin-Latrobe game gets the final spot.

Great Southern Conference

Clinched Playoff Berth: Mt Lebanon (3-0, 7-0), Upper St Clair (3-0, 6-1)

Still Alive: Peters Twp (1-2, 4-3), Bethel Park (1-2, 3-4), Baldwin (1-2, 2-5), Canon-McMillan (0-3, 1-6)
  • This conference is still wide open. Anything can happen, so we're not even going to get into the playoff scenarios.
  • 10/22 Games: Bethel Park v Upper St Clair, Canon-McMillan v Baldwin, Mt Lebanon v Peters Twp
  • 10/29 Games: Baldwin v Bethel Park, Peters Twp v Canon-McMillan, Mt Lebanon v Upper St Clair
  • Most likely scenario: Baldwin, Bethel, and Peters all end up with 2-3 conference records. Tiebreaker city.

Northern Seven Conference

Clinched Playoff Berth: North Allegheny (4-0, 7-0)

Still Alive: North Hills (3-1, 6-1), Shaler (3-1, 5-2), Erie McDowell (3-2, 5-2), Pine-Richland (2-3, 2-5)

  • North Hills, Erie McDowell, and Shaler can clinch a playoff spots this week with wins over Seneca Valley, Butler, and North Allegheny.
  • Pine-Richland is pinning their hopes on a Shaler losing this week to NA then beating them next week to get into the playoffs.
  • Most likely scenario: North Hills & Erie McDowell clinch this week, Shaler-PR game decides the last spot next week.


7 of 16 playoff spots clinched
20 teams still in the running for 9 remaining playoff spots

Big Eight Conference

Clinched Playoff Berth: none

Still Alive: Thomas Jefferson (5-0, 6-1), Belle Vernon (4-1, 4-3), Trinity (3-2, 4-3), Chartiers Valley (3-2, 3-4), West Mifflin (3-2, 3-4), South Park (2-3, 2-5)

10/22 Games: Thomas Jefferson v Belle Vernon, Trinity v South Park, Chartiers Valley v West Mifflin
10/29 Games: Thomas Jefferson v West Mifflin, Chartiers Valley v South Park, Trinity v McGuffey, Belle Vernon v Elizabeth Forward

  • The winner of the TJ-Belle Vernon game clinches a playoff spot.
  • South Park is eliminated with a loss to Trinity this week.
  • Everything else is wide open.
  • Most likely scenario: TJ, Belle Vernon, and Trinity make the playoffs. The winner of this week's CV-West Mifflin game grabs the last spot.

Greater Allegheny Conference

Clinched Playoff Berth: Knoch (4-0, 7-0), Mars (4-0, 6-1)

Still Alive: Indiana (3-2, 5-2), Highlands (2-2, 4-3), Hampton (1-3, 1-6), Kittanning (1-3, 1-6)

  • Highlands plays Hampton next week in a game that will probably decide the last playoff spot.
  • Kittanning needs to beat Hampton this week and Indiana next week to get in.
  • Indiana clinches a spot with a Hampton win over Kittanning this week.
  • Most likely scenario: Indiana and the winner of the Highlands-Hampton game make the playoffs.

Keystone Conference

Clinched Playoff Berth: Ringgold (5-0, 7-0), Franklin Regional (5-0, 6-1), Greensburg Salem (4-1, 6-1)

Still Alive: Hollidaysburg (2-3, 4-3), Uniontown (2-3, 3-4), Derry Area (1-4, 1-6), Laurel Highlands (1-4, 1-6)

  • Hollidaysburg beat Uniontown head-to-head, giving them the inside track on the last spot, but have to play both Laurel Highlands and Derry the next two weeks, keeping the playoff hopes of those two schools alive.
  • Most likely scenario: Hollidaysburg gets the last spot.

Parkway Conference

Clinched Playoff Berth: Montour (5-0, 7-0), West Allegheny (5-0, 6-1)

Still Alive: Blackhawk (3-2, 5-2), Hopewell (2-3, 3-4), Central Valley (2-3, 4-3), Moon (1-4, 3-4), New Castle (1-4, 3-4), Ambridge (1-4, 2-5)

  • Blackhawk can clinch a playoff spot with a win over Central Valley this week.
  • Good luck figuring the rest of this conference out. Hopewell has the tiebreaker over CV thanks to their win this past week.


8 of 16 playoff spots have been clinched
14 teams still in the running for the 8 remaining playoff spots

Allegheny Conference

Clinched Playoff Berth: Ford City (5-0, 7-0)

Still Alive: Deer Lakes (4-1, 5-2), Freeport (3-2, 4-3), Burrell (3-2, 4-3), Shady Side Academy (3-2, 4-3), Summit Academy (2-3, 3-4)

10/22 Games: Burrell v Deer Lakes, Shady Side Academy v Summit Academy, Freeport v West Shamokin
10/29 Games: Deer Lakes v Shady Side Academy, Ford City v Burrell, Freeport v Summit Academy

  • Deer Lakes clinches their first playoff appearance in school history with a win over Burrell
  • Summit Academy is eliminated with a loss to Shady Side Academy this week.
  • Most likely scenario: Deer Lakes, Freeport, and Shady Side Academy make the playoffs.

Century Conference

Clinched Playoff Berth: Seton La-Salle (5-0, 7-0), South Fayette (5-0, 7-0)

Still Alive: Steel Valley (3-2, 5-2), Keystone Oaks (3-2, 5-2), South Allegheny (2-3, 2-5), Quaker Valley (1-4, 1-6)

10/22 Games: Seton La-Salle v South Fayette, Keystone Oaks v Burgettstown, Steel Valley v Quaker Valley, South Allegheny v Washington
10/29 Games: Seton La-Salle v Keystone Oaks, Steel Valley v South Allegheny

  • Steel Valley clinches a playoff spot with a win and a South Allegheny loss to Washington.
  • Keystone Oaks clinches a playoff spot with a win and a South Allegheny loss to Washington.
  • Quaker Valley is eliminated with a loss to Steel Valley this week.
  • South Allegheny must beat Washington this week and Steel Valley next week to make the playoffs.
  • Most likely scenario: Steel Valley and KO make the playoffs.

Interstate Conference

Clinched Playoff Berth: Greensburg Central Catholic (6-0, 7-0), Jeanette (6-0, 6-1)

Still Alive: East Allegheny (5-2, 5-2), Mount Pleasant (4-2, 4-3), Southmoreland (3-3, 3-4)

  • East Allegheny can clinch a playoff berth with a win against GCC this week.
  • Mt Pleasant-Southmoreland game next week will likely decide the last playoff spot.
  • Mt Pleasant clinches a playoff spot this week with a win over Waynesburg and a Southmoreland loss to Yough.
  • Most likely scenario: Mt Pleasant and East Allegheny make the playoffs

Midwestern Conference

Clinched Playoff Berth: Aliquippa (7-0, 7-0), Beaver Area (5-1, 6-1), Beaver Falls (5-1, 6-1)

Still Alive: Ellwood City (4-2, 5-2), Riverside (3-3, 4-3)

  • Ellwood City can clinch a playoff spot with a win over Beaver Falls and a Riverside loss to New Brighton
  • Most likely scenario: Casket match between Ellwood City and Riverside next week will decide the last playoff spot


4 of 16 playoff spots have been clinched
19 teams still in the running for 12 remaining playoff spots

Big Seven Conference

Clinched Playoff Berth: Rochester (5-0, 7-0), Cornell (4-1, 6-1)

Still Alive: Sto-Rox (3-2, 5-2), Western Beaver (3-2, 5-2), Neshannock (2-3, 4-3), Shenango (2-3, 3-4), Union (1-4, 2-5)

  • Sto-Rox clinches a playoff berth with a win over Shenango this week
  • Western Beaver clinches a playoff berth with a win over South Side Beaver this week
  • Most likely scenario: Sto-Rox and Western Beaver make the playoffs

Black Hills Conference

Clinched Playoff Berth: none

Still Alive: Clairton (5-0, 7-0), Chartiers-Houston (4-1, 6-1), Fort Cherry (4-1, 4-3), Brentwood (3-2, 5-2), Serra Catholic (3-2, 3-4)

  • Clairton clinches the Conference Championship with a win over Fort Cherry this week
  • Chartiers-Houston clinches a playoff spot with a win over Avella this week
  • Fort Cherry clinches a playoff spot with a win over Clairton this week OR if Brentwood beats Serra Catholic
  • Brentwood clinches a playoff spot with a win over Serra Catholic this week
  • Most likely scenario: Clairton, Char-Houston, Ft Cherry, and Brentwood make the playoffs

Eastern Conference

Clinched Playoff Berth: none

Still Alive: Avonworth (5-1, 6-1), Bishop Canevin (5-1, 6-1), Springdale (5-1, 6-1), North Catholic (4-2, 5-2), Riverview (4-2, 5-2)

  • North Catholic clinches a playoff spot with a win over Northgate this week.
  • Bishop Canevin clinches a playoff spot with a win over Riverview this week.
  • Avonworth clinches a playoff spot with a win over OLSH this week OR a Riverview loss.
  • Springdale clinches a playoff spot with a win over Leechburg this week and a Riverview loss.
  • Most likely scenario: Avonworth, Bishop Canevin, Springdale, and North Catholic make the playoffs

Tri-County South Conference

Clinced Playoff Berth: Monessen (6-0, 6-1), Beth-Center (5-1, 5-2)

Still Alive: California (4-2, 4-3), Frazier (4-2, 4-3), Carmichaels (3-3, 4-3), Geibel (3-3, 3-4)

Any two of these four teams could make the playoffs.

10/22 Games: California v Frazier, Carmichaels v Geibel
10/29 Games: California v Geibel, Carmichaels v Mapleton, Frazier v Monessen

  • This conference is a mess. Anything can happen. Carmichaels has the head-to-head advantage over Frazier. California has the head-to-head over Carmichaels.
  • California clinches a playoff spot with a win and a Geibel loss this week.
  • Frazier clinches a playoff spot with a win and a Geibel win this week.
  • Most likely scenario: California and Carmichaels make the playoffs, then get killed in the first round.