Monday, November 29, 2010

The Ballad of Shaun Suisham: Steelers Win


This season, Jeff Reed was 0-for-4 from 40-49 yards. Shaun Suisham hit all 4 of his attempts today, all from 40-49.

The Bills came into the game with the worst run defense in the league, and it showed. Mendenhall got off to a great start rumbling for some big gains. The Steelers don't face a 3rd down until they're almost in Buffalo territory but Ben converts it with a big throw to Hines. We get a gift first down on a defensive offsides when Arians tries to get cute and have Randle El throw. From there, Mendenhall takes over and carries us all the way to the end zone.

Might be the best opening drive of the year.



Buffalo comes out throwing and picks up a first down before they remember they're the Bills and suck. Punt.

The Steelers get rolling again. Mewelde Moore makes two nice catches to convert two 3rd downs to keep the drive moving. The Steelers wind up with another 3rd and long, but Heath comes up with a huge grab to not only move the chains, but also to get us into field goal range. Ben goes for the jugular but Emmanuel Sanders can't come up with the over-the-shoulder grab at the goal line.

Second Quarter

An incompletion on 3rd down brings up Suisham's first field goal attempt as a Steeler.


BuffaLOL. 3-and-out.

The Steelers pick up right where they left off, pounding the ball right at the Bills. Things look like they're on the verge of falling apart when the Steelers get called for holding, Ben gets sacked, and Hines fumbles. But an illegal contact penalty on the Bills bails the Steelers out, overturning the fumble and giving them a first down. Mendenhall goes right back to work grinding away at the Bills. The Steelers get called for holding again on the other side of midfield. Hines comes up with a big catch to get us to 3rd and manageable, but another sack ends the drive.

FitzBeard goes back to work, leading the Bills across midfield before the Steelers defense holds when FitzBeard can't hit a receiver.

The Steelers get the ball back with 1:42 on the clock. They look like they are going to be content to wind the clock with a run and a short pass. Heath moves the chains and Arians opens things up. Ben is able to find Hines on a deep in-route near midfield with 45 seconds left. A holding call on Jonathan Scott looks like it's about to put the breaks on things, but Manny Sanders bails us out with two big catches to move the chains and get us into field goal range. Ben takes a shot downfield, but Randle El can't come up with it. A penalty on the Bills moves us just a little closer.


Steelers had the ball for 25 minutes in the first half. What a half.

Third Quarter

Buffalo starts moving the ball, but James Harrison has other ideas. 
Harrison buries FitzBeard

Stevie Johnson, who had 3 TDs last week against the Bengals makes a big catch on 3rd down to move the chains. Two plays later, James Harrison rips the ball out of Lee Evans' hands. Polamalu falls on it to avert the threat.

The offense starts grinding again, with Hines pulling in a big grab down the middle. The drive sputters out at the Bills 35 and Ben pulls out the left-footed pooch punt on 4th and 4 rather than going for it.

The Steelers defense looks to have the Bills bottled up, but a horrendous roughing the passer penalty on Harrison gives the Bills new life. Seems like any time Harrison even touches a QB, the flag is coming out, even if it's in the act of throwing. The defense locks it down again, but on 3rd and 10 FitzBeard hits Fred Jackson out of the backfield on a check-down that he turns upfield and splits the defense and takes it all the way to the house.


The Steelers go 3-and-out and you start to get worried that we might not have enough points on the board. 

FitzBeard comes out and spreads the ball around, using a page from the Brady book: short, quick passes underneath the coverage.

Fourth Quarter

The Bills move it down into Steelers territory, getting the benefit of a shaky Pass Interference call on Keenan Lewis to get into the red zone. The Defensive front steps it up, batting down two passes before Ike does what he does, blankets Lee Evans and deflects the pass away on 3rd down. Ike is having a hell of a year. He needs to be our #2 priority this offseason behind Woodley.


The Steelers go back to the ground to start things off and Mendenhall gets held up as he breaks through the line. His forward progress is clearly stopped, but in the New NFL we don't blow our whistles any more, so they let him get held there and the Bills rip the ball out. First down Buffalo. Forward progress being stopped should be reviewable.

The defense holds, stuffing FitzBeard like a turkey on a 3rd and 1 QB sneak. Field Goal. Tie Game.


Mendenhall bounces back from the "fumble" with a big 42-yarder but Kemoeatu gets flagged for playing on the same team as James Harrison. Ben delivers on 1st and 20 with a huge pass to Heath down the seam. Heath is on the verge of breaking out. You can tell. After Ben gets sacked on 2nd down, he makes the play of the game, scrambling away from pressure and doing his best Michael Vick impression to run 18 yards for the first down. 
What an effort by 007.

From there, Mendenhall takes over. He had a hell of a game. He puts the team on his back and carries us into field goal range. Ben can't hit any receivers and it's Suisham time.


The Bills get the benefit of a 15-yard penalty on Keyaron Fox for doing something out of bounds after the kick return. Probably made asked someone on the Bills sideline how many Super Bowls they had won.

Either way, the Bills get to start on the Steelers side of midfield. The defense almost holds, but Stevie Johnson makes a catch on 4th and 2 to move the chains. The defense almost gets it back when Willie Gay rips the ball out of Fred Jackson's hands but Lee Evans falls on the ball. Two plays later, Polamalu strikes like lightning. A pass hits off Stevie Johnson's fingertips and out of nowhere, Polamalu flies in like a bat out of hell and makes a diving interception at the 2 yard line. What a pick.

With 2:51 to go, the Steelers go into Ground-and-Pound mode, and pick up a first down and are able to get Buffalo to expend their remaining timeouts. Tomlin goes for the win on 3rd and 7, which we thought was a great decision, and Ben delivers, hitting Manny Sanders for a big gain, but wait...

Holding. Kemoeatu.

On 3rd and long, Arians makes a good call to go with the draw play and wind the clock. The Bills get it back with 46 seconds to play.

Polamalu is everywhere in the last 46 seconds, but FitzBeard completes 2 passes to get the Bills into field goal range. Rian Lindell whose parents might have been dyslexic, converts from 49 with the wind at his back.



Buffalo wins the toss and elects to receive. On the plus side, the Steelers get the wind at their back.

Leodis McKelvin almost ends it on the opening kickoff, but trips over his own guy. Suisham gets credit for the tackle.

The Bills start in Steelers territory, but a HUUUGE 3rd down play by Ryan Clark, who has seen his share of criticism from us, prevents them from picking up a first down and forces a punt. What a play by Clark to get his hand in and knock the ball away from the receiver.

The Steelers take over at their own 4, and almost lose the game on a 3rd and 4 when Ben gets sacked and fumbles at the goal line. Luckily, 007 recovered the ball and kept it out of the end zone. With his heels on the goal line, Sepulveda is called upon to punt.
Sepulveda flies in from the Fortress of Solitude, his cape billowing in the wind, and booms a 55-yard punt.

McKelvin isn't so lucky this time, as Keenan Lewis knocks the ball out, and after a scramble for the ball, Buffalo comes out with it.

The Bills start moving the ball and get across midfield before taking a shot downfield for Stevie Johnson. The camera pans. You see Johnson with two steps on Clark and Taylor. The ball is coming in, going to hit him in stride on the goal line...

Stevie Johnson drops the ball. 

Literally and figuratively.

With two more downs, the pass rush steps it up, forcing FitzBeard to use his feet. He picks up 4 on second down then gets sacked on a scramble play by Potsie on 3rd down, forcing another punt. Touchback.

With 9:20 left, it's 007 time. Ben converts a 3rd and 8 with a sideline pass to a wide open Mike Wallace to get the drive moving. From there, the running game takes the game over. Mendenhall for 8, Redman moves the sticks. Mendenhall for 9, Redman moves the sticks. Mendenhall for 8, Redman moves the sticks on 3rd and 2 at the Bills 29. In easy field goal range, the Steelers give it to Mendenhall twice more to try to get more yards.

Tomlin sends out the kick team on 3rd down. Smart play.


Players of the Game
Offensive Game Ball: Rashard Mendenhall
Defensive Game Ball: Troy Polamalu

Honorable Mentions:
Shaun Suisham
Daniel Sepulveda
Hines Ward
Heath Miller
James Harrison
Ike Taylor
Ryan Clark
James Farrior

Mr. Yuck Sticker of the Game

Stevie Johnson Blaming God

Yes, you read that right. After the game, Stevie Johnson took to Twitter and blamed God for him dropping the would-be game-winning touchdown pass in Overtime.
The boys over at the Shutdown Corner blog on Yahoo took Stevie to task for this

To be realistic though, Stevie tried to make a name for himself last week after showing off a home-made T-shirt with "Why So Serious?" written on it after he scored against the Bengals. This week, he showed up for the game with the Joker's phrase "Why So Serious?" shaved into the side of his head. We might have the makings of the next diva receiver right here. All he has to do now is change his last name from "Johnson" to some mish-mash of Spanish numbers, like "Uno Tres," and I think he's set. It's not like no one has dumped the last name "Johnson" before.

Final Thoughts
  • Buffalo put up 34 points on the Ravens Defense in Baltimore and took the Ravens to Overtime.
  • A win is a win, any way you cut it.
  • Are the Refs targeting James Harrison? Definitely.
  • That was Big Ben's 24th career game-winning drive, putting him halfway to John Elway's mark of 47.
  • The defense played a great game today. Ike Taylor has been playing out of this world. Re-signing him is a must this offseason.
  • Hines had another 100-yard game, his 3rd of the season.
  • Heath is on the verge of breaking out. Might happen next week against Baltimore.
  • Not a good game for the O-line with 6 holding penalties, but when it counted, we were able to run on the Bills.
  • 151 yards and a TD for Mendenhall is nothing to sneeze at. Rashard is 38 yards away from breaking 1,000 on the season.
  • James Harrison became the first player in Steelers history to record 10+ sacks in 3 consecutive seasons. For all the great linebackers we've had here, that's pretty amazing.
  • Under-rated play of the game: Greg Warren's snap to Dan Sepulveda at the back of the end zone in overtime. Right on the money, allowing Sepulveda to get the ball out fast.
  • Polamalu has had two unreal games the last two weeks. Even with his injury, he's really starting to turn it on and make game-changing plays.
  • Bring on the Ravens. Get ready for Hate Week, Part Deux. Division title on the line.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Gameday: Buffalo Bills

1:00 pm
Ralph Wilson Stadium
Radio: 102.5 WDVE

What to Watch For

1. Rashard Mendenhall

The Steelers will be sporting another patchwork offensive line against Buffalo and just hoping that no one goes down with an injury. The good thing? Buffalo's defensive front 7 isn't very good. The Bills rank dead last in the league in run defense, giving up over 160 rushing yards per game on average. The Steelers will need to utilize Mendenhall early and often to keep Buffalo's offense off the field.

2. Score early, score often

As we saw last week, Buffalo's offense is capable of mounting a big comeback. Though, Cincinnati's defense is also horrible, so that could have something to do with it. The Steelers will need to take control of the game early and keep the foot on the gas pedal to not let the Bills mount a comeback.

3. Steve Johnson

This dude has been all over the place for the Bills offense. Lee Evans has been their big-play receiver for years, but Johnson has been a stud this year. He has 52 catches, 728 yards, and 9 TDs this season. He exploded last week for 137 yards and 3 TDs against the Bengals defense. Expect him to get a big dose of Ike Taylor.

4. Mike Wallace

For starters, the kid is now on Twitter. Follow him. Secondly, send him to the Pro Bowl. 759 yards and 8 TDs with a league-leading 23.0 yards per catch average. He's a star in this league right now. What a player.

5. Shaun Suisham

5/5 on Extra Points in his Steelers debut. We're hoping for a similar workload for him this week as well.

Behind Enemy Lines

This week's Behind Enemy Lines guest is our buddy Tony C from Twitter. For those of you who have been reading the blog for a while, you might remember Tony from our NFL draft previews when he hit us up with the lowdown on the Bills...the Buffalowdown if you will. 

1. After a poor start, Buffalo has won their last two games. What have you been most impressed with from the Bills this year?

I have to tell you that while this has been a rough year from a record standpoint, this is a better team than anything Dick Jauron ever fielded.   The 2-8 record does not represent the effort and coaching improvements in the team.   I really like the offense – we have 4 quality receivers (if you count the injured Roscoe Parrish) and two backs to go with Ryan Fitzpatrick.   Fitz gets a lot done on heart and brains even though he isn’t the most talented QB.   I think Chan Gailey (who I was super skeptical of) has improved our offense 100% and has done a good job of squeezing some juice out of the least talented front 7 in football history.   Actually, Kyle Williams, our DT, is a pro-bowler and player worth watching.   Other than him and Dwan Edwards, none of our defense would start for another team.

2. The Bills have had a lot of success throwing the ball this year. Do you expect them to primarily try to air it out against the Steelers or will Fred Jackson get his share of carries?

 I think the Bills will mix it up but their passing offense is much better than their run.   Jackson is a player and will get his touches, but I’d expect the Bills to air it out.   Steve Johnson and Donald Jones will get a lot of looks at WR and Lee Evans has become James Lofton and runs a lot of fly routes.

3. Buffalo's defense hasn't had as much success generating turnovers this year as they did last year. How do you expect them to attack the Steelers offense?

As I said earlier, the defense is ugly.   They are scheming to overcome their many weaknesses.   What weaknesses, you say?   No pass rush, questionable rush defense and few playmakers.   I’d expect you to see a lot of 4-3, occasional blitzing, and some bend don’t break.   If Coach Tomlin called me for my opinion of how to beat the Bills, I’d say run early and run often.   I can’t quite figure out why teams have gotten away from that.   Our linebackers are slowwwww and our DL can’t stop most runners….

4. Fantasy football people know players like Lee Evans and Fred Jackson.  Are there any lesser-known or "under-the-radar" players that you think will have a big impact on the game?

Stevie Johnson is a stud.   He has completely overtaken Lee Evans as our number 1 receiver.   Fitz and Johnson and like Spock and Kirk.   Though not a fantasy play, keep your eye out for #19, Donald Jones – his blocking reminds me of Hines Ward and he is our slot receiver. 

5. Any other final thoughts?

I like your squad this year.   I’m getting more enthusiastic about my Bills but you out-talent us almost at every position.   The 12th man in Buffalo can make a difference and they will be out in force, but I’d expect Steelers 35, Bills 31 in a shootout.  Also, I really have a lot of respect for Steeler Nation and their hunger for all things football so I’d suggest you read the book, “Take Your Eye Off The Ball” by Pat Kirwan.   It is a must read for any fan of the game.

Around the League

AFC North:
NY Jets 26, Cincinnati 10 (Thu); Tampa Bay @ Baltimore; Carolina @ Cleveland

Tampa is 7-3, but we're not hanging our hats on them sticking with the Ravens.

Game of the Week:
Green Bay @ Atlanta

Two top teams in the NFC, it's a shame this is a 1:00 game. 

AFC Playoff Race:
Jacksonville @ NY Giants

The Jags are going to have to beat a good Giants team to maintain their hold on first place in the AFC South.

Tennessee @ Houston

Two team heading in the wrong direction. A loss would essentially bury the playoff hopes of either team.

Miami @ Oakland

Two 5-5 teams. Miami is well out of their division race, but Oakland still has hope. but needs to win to keep pace with Kansas City and San Diego.

Kansas City @ Seattle

The current division leaders in the AFC West and NFC West with an important game for both to maintain their respective division leads.

San Diego @ Indianapolis

San Diego gets WR Vincent Jackson back in time for the stretch run. This might be the toughest game left on the schedule for both of these teams.

Friday, November 26, 2010

WPIAL Championship Preview

One day. Four games. All on FSN. If you like High School Football, tomorrow is one of the best days of the year. Here's a rundown on the games on tap at Heinz Field tomorrow.

Class A Championship

1. Clairton (12-0) vs 2. Rochester (12-0)

In a rematch of last year's championship game, the top two teams in Class A face off for the title. Clairton boasts the top offense (49.8 points per game) and the top defense (2.2 points against per game) not only in Class A but in the entire WPIAL. Before last week's 26-7 defeat of Springdale, the Bears hadn't been held under 42 points all season. The defense still hasn't given up more than 7 points in any game and has pitched shutouts in 8 of their 12 games. The Rochester Rams are no slouches themselves, boasting the 2nd ranked offense (37.3 points per game) and 2nd ranked defense (7.0 points against per game with 6 shutouts) in Class A. These two opponents are familiar with each other: this is the 4th time in the last 7 years they have met for the Class A title. Watch out for Clairton WR Trenton Coles, who won the AA WPIAL title in 3 different distances last year in track. If there's any team out there that can slow Clairton's offense down, it's Rochester. Last year, the Rams lost the title when they chose to go for 2 rather than attempting the game-tying extra point with a minute to play. Chances are, this game will be low-scoring, but you have to like the Bears.

Prediction: Clairton

Class AA Championship

1. Aliquippa (12-0) vs 3. South Fayette (12-0)
Air time: 10:00pm on FSN

This game will be tape-delayed on FSN because of the Pens game at 1:00. These two teams met in the second round last year when Aliquippa stormed back from 12 points down in the 4th quarter to upset the top-seeded South Fayette Lions. This year, the Lions bring in the top scoring offense in AA (41.8 points per game) and possibly the best quarterback in all of WPIAL in Christian Brumbaugh. Brumbaugh has thrown for over 2,000 yards and 37 touchdowns this season. On the other side, Aliquippa is the perennial powerhouse in AA football. The Quips had a young team last year but still made a run to the AA title game. At the beginning of the year, I picked Aliquippa to win the AA title, but to do so they're going to have to get pressure on Brumbaugh. If Aliquippa can run the ball and control the clock, keeping Brumbaugh off the field, they might have a chance. If Brumbaugh has all day to throw, this thing will be over quickly. 

Prediction: South Fayette

Class AAA Championship

1. Montour (12-0) vs 14. Central Valley (9-3)

Two new additions to Class AAA have found their way into the championship game. Montour was a mediocre 5-5 team last year that lost in the first round of the playoffs. Then, RB Julian Durden decided to transfer from North Catholic to Montour. The switch from being a Trojan to being a Spartan has paid huge dividends. Durden put up 1,870 yards and 24 touchdowns on the ground this year. On the other side, Central Valley, the result of the merger of Center and Monaca School Districts, is the newest addition to Class AAA. No one knew what to expect from Central Valley this season, and they have shocked most "experts", beating undefeated Ringgold in the first round of the playoffs, 1-loss Knoch in the second, then AAA powerhouse Thomas Jefferson in the semi-finals. The Parkway Conference was clearly the best conference in AAA this year, and Montour ran through the conference en route to their undefeated season. However, their closest call of the year came at Central Valley, when they escaped 12-7. If there's any team in AAA that can beat the Spartans, it's Central Valley.

Prediction: Montour

Class AAAA Championship

5. North Allegheny (11-1) vs 7. Woodland Hills (9-3)


North Allegheny is coming off a stunning upset of top-seeded Central Catholic in the semi-finals. This game features two of the best running backs in all of WPIAL in NA's Alex Papson and Woody High's Lafayette Pitts. Papson put up 190 yards on Central Catholic in the semi-finals, leading the Tigers to a 17-7 victory. Pitts did one better in his semi-final against the North Hills defense, one of the best in Quad-A. And by one better, I mean almost 100 yards better, ringing up 267 against the Indians. With the rain we got this weekend, the Pitt-WVU game (if you can call that shitshow a "game"), and 3 championship games before this one, expect the Heinz Field sod to be stripped down to the bare dirt by the time these two teams take the field. That could be good or bad news for these two running backs. Either way, this should be a heck of a game with two good running backs facing off against two good defenses. Most "experts" are picking the Tigers, but I'm sticking with my preseason pick: the Woodland Hills Wolverines.

Prediction: Woodland Hills

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

AFC Playoff Picture: Week 11

With ten weeks in the books, the playoff picture is beginning to take shape. Who would have thought that after 10 weeks, Jacksonville and Kansas City would be division leaders? Certainly not us. Here's a look at the way the playoff outlook currently stands. Of the 16 teams in the AFC, 12 are currently within 2 games of a playoff spot (whether that be a division title or the Wild Card).

8-2 Overall, 6-1 AFC
Current AFC East Leader
Key Wins: New England
Key Losses: Baltimore
Remaining Games: Cin, @NE, Mia, @Pit, @Chi, Buf

The Jets are in great position to secure the AFC East division title and can take a big step towards doing so with a win over the Patriots on December 6th.

7-3 Overall, 6-2 AFC
Current AFC North Leader
Key Wins: NY Jets, Pittsburgh
Key Losses: New England
Remaining Games: TB, Pit, @Hou, NO, @Cle, Cin

Baltimore has 4 of their last 6 at home, including all-important showdowns with Pittsburgh and New Orleans. The game against Pittsburgh will pretty much decide the division title.

6-4 Overall, 4-4 AFC
Current AFC West Leader
Key Wins: San Diego, Jacksonville
Key Losses: Indianapolis, Houston, Oakland
Remaining Games: @Sea, Den, @SD, @StL, Ten, Oak

Call us crazy, but Kansas City has the schedule to get to 9 or 10 wins. The way things are looking right now, that would keep them competitive in the division. You have to like their chances against Seattle and St Louis, and if they can win 2 of 3 at home, you never know...

6-4 Overall, 5-3 AFC
Current AFC South Leader
Key Wins: Indianapolis, Houston
Key Losses: San Diego, Tennessee, Kansas City
Remaining Games: @NYG, @Ten, Oak, @Ind, Was, @Hou

No clue how the Jags are leading this division right now. Not sure if they have the firepower to sustain it down the stretch run. 4 of their last 6 are on the road, including 3 division games on the road.

8-2 Overall, 7-2 AFC
2nd Place AFC East, Current Wild Card Leader
Key Wins: Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Baltimore, San Diego
Key Losses: NY Jets
Remaining Games: @Det, NYJ, @Chi, GB, @Buf, Mia

At this point, it would take a near-epic collapse for the Patriots to miss the playoffs. The Jets and Packers will give them good games, but we can't see them losing more than 2 of their remaining games.

7-3 Overall, 5-2 AFC
2nd Place AFC North, Current Wild Card
Key Wins: Tennessee, Oakland
Key Losses: Baltimore, New England
Remaining Games: @Buf, @Bal, Cin, NYJ, Car, @Cle

With 4 games remaining against teams with 3 or less wins, the Steelers have to capitalize on the opportunity the schedule has given them. Assuming they beat the teams they should, there's no reason we shouldn't make the playoffs.

6-4 Overall, 4-3 AFC
2nd Place AFC South
Key Wins: Kansas City
Key Losses: Jacksonville, New England
Remaining Games: SD, Dal, @Ten, Jax, @Oak, Ten

They have already split with Houston, and with 3 division games left, you have to like their chances to make a comeback and win the South division. Any team with Peyton Manning, regardless of who he is throwing to, always has a chance. 5 of their 6 remaining games are against teams in the AFC Playoff race.

5-5 Overall, 3-3 AFC
2nd Place AFC West
Key Wins: San Diego, Kansas City
Key Losses: Houston, Tennessee, Pittsburgh
Remaining Games: Mia, @SD, @Jax, Den, Ind, @KC

Shockingly, the Raiders are 3-0 in the AFC West. They are in a dead heat with Miami and San Diego right now, so their next two weeks will likely determine the fate of their season.

5-5 Overall, 4-3 AFC
3rd Place AFC West
Key Wins: Jacksonville, Tennessee, Houston
Key Losses: Kansas City, Oakland, New England
Remaining Games: @Ind, Oak, KC, SF, @Cin, @Den

If you're a Chargers fan, you have to be licking your chops looking at the remaining schedule. Sitting only one game out of first place in the division with 3 division games remaining, you've gotta believe this team is going to win at least 5 of their last 6. Oh yeah, Vincent Jackson comes back this week too.

5-5 Overall, 3-4 AFC
3rd Place AFC East
Key Wins: Tennessee
Key Losses: NY Jets, New England, Pittsburgh, Baltimore
Remaining Games: @Oak, Cle, @NYJ, Buf, Det, @NE

Objectively, the Dolphins look like they have a fairly easy schedule moving forward. However, given that they're on their 3rd quarterback and the running game really hasn't produced this year, Dolphins fans are probably more worried than they would usually be looking at the schedule ahead. Unless they find a way to run the ball, they might not win more than 2 of their last 6.

5-5 Overall, 2-4 AFC
3rd Place AFC South
Key Wins: Oakland, Jacksonville
Key Losses: Pittsburgh, San Diego, Miami
Remaining Games: @Hou, Jax, Ind, Hou, @KC, @Ind

Tennessee has lost 3 in a row and seem to be a team on the decline. Getting Randy Moss was a desperate move for a team that had their most successful year when their offense was built on running the ball. Their defense is still solid,  but unless Kerry Collins gets healthy soon, this team is going to be in trouble. That said, with 4 of their last 6 against divisional opponents, they are not out of the race by a long shot.

4-6 Overall, 3-4 AFC
4th Place AFC South
Key Wins: Oakland, Kansas City
Key Losses: San Diego, Jacksonville, NY Jets
Remaining Games: Ten, @Phi, Bal, @Ten, @Den, Jax

If Houston wants to make their first playoff appearance in franchise history, they are going to have to hit the breaks on their current 4-game losing skid. Their pass defense has gone from "bad" at the beginning of the season to "swiss cheese" in the last few weeks. If they turn things around, they could make a run given their 3 remaining Divisional games and 4 games against teams in the playoff race.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Preliminary Pro Bowl Ballot

We're all about transparency in government and whatnot. So in that same vein, here is our Pro Bowl Ballot.

Fill out your own here.

AFC: Philip Rivers (SD), Peyton Manning (Ind), Tom Brady (NE)
NFC: Drew Brees (NO), Aaron Rodgers (GB), Matt Ryan (Atl)

Running Backs
AFC: Arian Foster (Hou), Rashard Mendenhall (Pit), Peyton Hillis (Cle)
NFC: Adrian Peterson (Min), Ahmad Bradshaw (NYG), Michael Turner (Atl)

Wide Receivers

AFC: Brandon Lloyd (Den), Andre Johnson (Hou), Anquan Boldin (Bal), Mike Wallace (Pit)
NFC: Roddy White (Atl), Hakeem Nicks (NYG), Miles Austin (Dal), Calvin Johnson (Det)

AFC: Mike Tolbert (SD)
NFC: Ovie Mughelli (Atl)

Tight Ends
AFC: Antonio Gates (SD), Mercedes Lewis (Jax)
NFC: Vernon Davis (SF), Visanthe Shiancoe (Min)

AFC: Jake Long (Mia), Joe Thomas (Cle)
NFC: Sean Locklear (Sea), David Diehl (NYG)

AFC: Brian Waters (KC), Ryan Lilja (KC)
NFC: Jahri Evans (NO), Chris Snee (NYG)

AFC: Jeff Saturday (Ind), Maurkice Pouncey (Pit)
NFC: Jeff Faine (TB)

Defensive Ends
AFC: Mario Williams (Hou), Jason Babin (Ten)
NFC: John Abraham (Atl), Osi Umenyiora (NYG), Trent Cole (Phi)

Defensive Tackles
AFC: Casey Hampton (Pit), Haloti Ngata (Bal)
NFC: Ndamukong Suh (Det)

Outside Linebackers
AFC: James Harrison (Pit), LaMarr Woodley (Pit), Cameron Wake (Mia)
NFC: Clay Matthews (GB), DeMarcus Ware (Dal), Brian Orakpo (Was)

Inside Linebackers
AFC: Lawrence Timmons (Pit), Jerod Mayo (NE)
NFC: London Fletcher (Was), Curtis Lofton (Atl)

AFC: Nnamdi Asomugha (Oak), Darrelle Revis (NYJ), Ike Taylor (Pit)
NFC: Asante Samuel (Phi), DeAngelo Hall (Was), Charles Woodson (GB)

Strong Safety
AFC: Troy Polamalu (Pit)
NFC: LaRon Landry (Was)

Free Safety
AFC: Michael Griffin (Ten)
NFC: Earl Thomas (Sea)

AFC: Josh Scobee (Jax)
NFC: Jason Hanson (Det)

AFC: Shane Lechler (Oak)
NFC: Mat McBriar (Dal)

Kick Returner
AFC: Brandon Tate (NE)
NFC: Leon Washington (Sea)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Dirty Laundry: Steelers Win


I've seen a lot of football in my day. This was, without a doubt, the worst officiated game I have ever seen.

Tony Corrente should be fired for the atrocious officiating job he did today. If you were that bad at your job, you would be fired. The same rule should apply for NFL refs.

Here's our suggestion: the NFL needs to more stringently evaluate their officials the same way they evaluate their players. The NFL has no trouble levying huge fines on players for plays they make on the field, so why not hold the referees to the same standard? My proposal: fine the refs $100 for each wrongfully assessed penalty yard. So a wrongfully assessed Roughing the Passer call would be a $1500 fine on the officiating crew.

Game Recap

Steelers win the toss and elect to receive, even though their offense hasn't done crap to open games this year. They don't do anything more. Punt.

Roughing the Passer on Woodley. Terrible call. Hit Campbell as he was throwing the ball.
Some BS call on Ike gets the Raiders into field goal range.
Oakland's offense does nothing. Thank the refs for the 3 points.


Arians tries to get cute with a throwback play from Randle El to Ben who goes deep to Ward, but it falls incomplete. The Steelers work it to 3rd and 6. Ben has Brown open on a slant for the first down, but opts to go 30 yards downfield for Sanders. Incomplete. Don't always need the big play, take the first down when you can get it.

The Steelers force the Raiders into 3rd and 9, but are able to get a first down when Clark gets flagged for a helmet-to-helmet hit when he hits a receiver in the back. Oakland does nothing with their gift first down.

Things look like they're starting down the same path when Ramon Foster gets called for clipping. Gag.

Luckily, Mike Wallace is there to bail us out with a big catch down the sidelines. Things start to pick up after that when Ben hits Sanders on a nice inside-out route to convert a 3rd down. Mendenhall gets a handful of carries to move us inside the 30. Ben hits Hines on a shallow crossing route that he turns upfield to get into the red zone.

Second Quarter

With lots of chippy stuff happening after the play, the refs had the opportunity to put an end to things by calling a few offsetting penalties when things heated up. But guess what? They didn't. More on this later.

Mendenhall works it down to the 12. On 3rd down, the Steelers go 5-wide and run the double-slant play to Moore. First down at the 5.


Suisham knocks it through.


Potsie starts things off right, storming up the middle and throwing Campbell down. He'll probably get fined, but really, who cares. Pay them in quarters. Raiders do nothing and punt. Antonio Brown runs it back for a touchd-
Yeah, yeah, bring it back.

Steelers can't get past midfield. Punt.

Oakland shits on themselves.

Arians must be trying to impress a girl, because he keeps trying to do cute things. Luckily, Mike Wallace is a hell of a player and turns a reverse into a 20-yard gain. Mendenhall busts a big run down to the 5, but guess what?


They go back to the 5-wide play they ran on 3rd down earlier, and this time, Ben hits Brown over the middle on the slant route for a big gain to move the chains. With just over 4 minutes to go in the quarter, Ben goes for the end zone but overthrows Wallace on the back line. Mendenhall picks up a few on 2nd down to set up 3rd and 5. Ben looks right then turns back to the left and sees a ton of field. He takes off, eludes a defender, and dives for the goal line...



Harrison gets to Campbell but the Raiders fall on the ball. Campbell tries to go deep on 3rd down. Ike runs textbook coverage: in stride with the receiver, looking back for the ball, no arm bar, no contact...

Ike steps it up on the next play and rips the ball out of a receiver's hands. Timmons falls on the fumble. Steelers ball.

Ben gets things rolling, hitting Spaeth over the middle then Hines to move the sticks. On first down at the 22, Ben hits Sanders on a wheel route. Manny makes a great leaping catch and rolls into the end zone.


After the touchdown, in a typical act of Raider classlessness, Richard Seymour socks Ben in the face.
Ejected, dick.

Tomlin reacts. Great picture.

With 1:23 to go, Oakland looks to get back in it, but Woodley strips Campbell. Oakland falls on it then plays it conservative to end the half.

Third Quarter

Oakland moves the ball a little to start the second half, but then Campbell takes a dive rather than get laid out by Harrison on 3rd down. Punt.

Everyone remembers that the Raiders put up 21 on us in the 4th quarter last year. Everyone needed at least another score to feel comfortable. But we weren't going to get it. 3-and-out.

And then it all went to hell.

The Steelers hold the Raiders to 3rd and 7. Harrison storms up the middle and hits Campbell in the chest while he's releasing the ball. Ike makes a great play on the ball, picks it off and takes it back to the house.
Roughing the Passer.
No idea how that's a penalty.

Fans getting angry and booing.

Take a guess how the next 3 plays go.

False Start.
Defensive Offsides.
Offensive Holding.

Fans break out a "Refs You Suck" chant. The crowd is livid.
Everyone seemed shocked when a play happened without a penalty.

Oakland punts. Another penalty on the Steelers for some bullshit. Apparently there was a fumble, people jumping on the pile. Essex gets flagged for something. These refs would be booed out of a WPIAL game, so immagine how an NFL crowd treated them. Steelers go 3-and-out.

The Raiders bring in hometown boy Bruce Gradkowski to try to work his magic against the Steelers, and it seems like it works. Gradkowski leads the Raiders down the field, moving all the way to the Steelers 24. Woodley and Ziggy get some pressure, forcing bad passes and bringing up 3rd down. Gradkowski stares down his receiver and Troy undercuts the route. 

Troy brings it back to midfield.

Moore gets a carry to wind out the third.

Fourth Quarter

Ben hits Wallace on a shallow crossing route. Wallace turns it upfield, splits two defenders and is gooooone.
"Visibly fast"


The teams trade punts as the clock ticks down on the fourth quarter. The refs seem wary to throw any flags on Oakland, but have no problem flagging Hines for holding on a Roethlisberger scramble. The crowd takes the refs to task again. This was an embarrassment to the NFL. 

In light of what happened last year, LeBeau isn't taking any chances and brings the blitz. Gradkowski lays down with B-Mac bearing down on him. Easy sack. Harrison getting held all over the place, no flags. Punt city.

The Steelers go to the "Ground and Pound" offense to wind some clock, but Mendenhall gets the ball knocked out with about 4 minutes to play, keeping things interesting.

Oakland can't even move the ball against our second-string defense. Jokes.

Isaac Redman comes in and gets to carry the load. The line does a good job of opening holes for him, and he gets sprung for a few big gains. On 3rd and 2 from the 16, Ben hits Redman out of the backfield who makes a move past a defender and plows his way into the end zone for his first NFL touchdown.


For good measure, POWERMAN rings up a sack on the penultimate play.


Players of the Game:
Offensive Game Ball: Mike Wallace
Defensive Game Ball: James Harrison

Honorable Mentions:
Ben Roethlisberger
Rashard Mendenhall
Emmanuel Sanders
Isaac Redman
Troy Polamalu
James Farrior
Lawrence Timmons
Ike Taylor

Mr. Yuck Sticker of the Game

Tony Corrente

Fact: When not being one of the worst officials in the NFL, Tony Corrente resides in La Mirada, California. Guess where La Mirada is? Los Angeles County. The same Los Angeles, California that used to be home to guessed it, Raiders. We're not saying that played a role in how poorly he officiated this game, he has been a terrible official for a long time. But this was so one-sided that it bears asking: Are the Steelers being targeted by the NFL?

Guess what? Today's officiating was so egregious that even James Walker, ESPN AFC North Analyst, wrote a column about it. Read it, you won't regret it. Great to see even ESPN jumping on this storyline.

Final Thoughts
  • What a game by James Harrison. He was a one-man wrecking crew today. He absolutely destroyed Oakland's offense. 
  • At this point, who cares how much we get fined?
  • The whole Rooney family needs to fly to New York tomorrow with tapes from this game and demand Roger he-who-is-trying-to-play-GOD-ell why some of these flags were thrown.
    • Specifically, we would want to know about the 2 roughing the passer calls, and why one was not called on the Raiders for similar hits on Roethlisberger; the Pass Interference call on Ike where he ran textbook coverage; and the helmet-to-helmet call on Ryan Clark when he hit the receiver, who had possession of the ball, in the back.
  • If you haven't bought a Steelers jersey in a while, do yourself a favor. Go ask your wife/husband/boyfriend/girlfriend/parents/kids/brother/sister/Santa/whoever to buy you a Mike Wallace jersey for whatever winter holiday you might celebrate, whether that be Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Festivus. If you're an aethist, buy one for yourself. Any way you slice it, you won't be disappointed, this guy is a star.
  • Mike Wallace might be the best Steelers receiver we've ever seen at going up and getting the ball in the air. To clarify, we never saw Lynn Swann or John Stallworth play in person. But we challenge you to name someone since Swann/Stallworth that has been better at going up and getting the ball.
  • What a performance by the Defense, despite all the penalties, they still held Oakland to 180 yards of total offense. 
  • Nice game by Suisham, 5/5 XPs and good distance on his kickoffs.
  • Don't forget to VOTE FOR THE PRO BOWL. Timmons. Wallace. Harrison. Woodley. And any other Steelers you want to vote for, but those 4 deserve it.
  • NFL needs to fire Tony Corrente and his entire crew, that officiating performance was just an embarrassment to the league.