Sunday, November 27, 2011

Picking Palko: Steelers WIN


The Chiefs come out as expected and run, run, run. They pick up a few first downs and Palko is able to convert a 3rd down with a strike to Bowe down the middle to get them in field goal range. Troy makes a tackle at the knees of some giant dude and stays down.

Could be bad news bears. 

Thankfully, the defense holds to 3.


Ben comes out trying to prove his thumb is just fine. He hits AB for a big 3rd and long conversion then fires one in to Heath in triple coverage. Hines gets a couple looks then Ben goes downtown for Brown on the right sideline for a big gain to get us down to the 8. Wallace drops a touchdown on first down when he tries to make a sliding catch. On second down, Mewelde Moore gets a carry and breaks through the line but Tamba Hali swats it out from behind and the Chiefs recover in the end zone.
That's exactly what we can't do against the Chiefs. We're the better team but we CAN'T let them hang around by turning the ball over.

The Chiefs keep grinding it out, but Palko can't handle a snap from under center and Keisel falls on it to give us the ball right back.

After two runs, Ben scrambles out of pressure and dives for the sticks. The ball comes out but he is ruled down by contact. Todd Haley decides to challenge the call. Ed Hoculi delivers a dissertation why it wasn't a fumble. After the end of the Baltimore game when Tomlin couldn't decide whether or not to kick, it's obvious he has no faith in Suisham to make anything over 40 yards. The Steelers go for it on 4th and 2 and Ben makes a vintage Ben play, eluding guys in the backfield then finding Redman in the flat who makes a few moves and picks up the first down. What a play by Ben. Sadly, a holding penalty and a sack put an end to the drive.

On the first play, Palko tries to go deep and throws it right to Ike Taylor who brings it all the way back to the 6.

2nd Quarter

The Steelers take over at the 6, but go with the motif offense and Ben can't connect with Sanders on the fade. Suisham ties it.


Tyler Palko responds to his defense coming up with a stand by throwing one right into the arms of Ryan Mundy. There was no receiver even close to Mundy. Palko sucks.

The Steelers get the gift of two defensive penalties, one nullifying a 3rd down sack, to move us inside the red zone. Ben hits Mendenhall out of the backfield and he skitters down inside the 5. Ben makes a vintage Ben play to fake the nuts off a linebacker then floats one to Weslye "My Parents Can't Spell" Saunders in the back of the end zone for the score.

Great catch and toe-tap by Saunders for his first NFL touchdown.


The Chiefs go 3-and-out because they're afraid to let Palko throw.

Ben takes a shot deep for Wallace and almost hits him in stride 55 yards downfield. The ball bounces off of Wallace's hands and falls incomplete. What a throw by Ben, even though it was incomplete. The drive stalls out and Kapinos booms one. 

Palko completes another one over the middle to Breaston on pretty much the same play he hit Bowe on earlier. The Chiefs grind their way into field goal range. They have a kicker who can make kicks from over 40.


Mewelde Moore gets a chance to atone for his earlier fumble, getting a check-down then plowing his way through the line to move the sticks. Arians tries to get cute and have AB throw the ball, but he gets pressured in the backfield. Ben throws a big block to get AB free and he is able to pick up a few yards on the ground. Sanders moves the sticks on a WR screen as the clock hits two minutes. Sanders snags a tipped ball out of the air to move the chains and get us into the fringe of field goal range. Suisham nails it from 49.



Maurkice Pouncey out with a stomach virus. Polamalu out with concussion-like symptoms.

I would say "barf" but Pouncey is doing enough of that for everyone.

Third Quarter

The Steelers come out with a chance to stretch out their lead and put the game away, and they looked ready to roll, mixing runs and passes with Hines converting a 3rd down. But then Ben gets greedy and tries to take a shot downfield for AB. Ben badly underthrows the ball and the safety comes underneath and makes the interception. Brown was covered too. No need to try to force that when we were driving.

Thankfully, the Chiefs can't do anything and give it right back.

Mendenhall gets us across midfield, but a holding penalty pretty much ends the drive.

The Chiefs start to move the ball when they convert a fake punt on 4th and 1. They utilize the No Huddle to keep the Steelers from calling exotic blitzes and are able to march up to midfield but Jason Worlids steps up and brings down Palko for his first sack of the season to end the drive.

Ben zips one to AB down the sideline to get things rolling as the quarter ends.

Fourth Quarter

After the Steelers failed to put the Chiefs away in the 3rd quarter, you were understandably a little worried heading into the fourth. And with the ball at midfield, rather than being aggressive, we go passive with the motif offense. The Puntfest continues.

The Chiefs running-back-by-committee lands on Thomas Jones for this drive and he grinds down the Steelers defense and carries the Chiefs into field goal range. Mr. Irrelevant connects, cutting the lead to 4. Ugh.


A holding penalty on the kickoff gives us the ball at the 12 with a little over 7 minutes to play. A long scoring drive would've put the game away. After Ben converts a 3rd down to AB, the drive stalls out and we have to punt with 4 minutes left.

4 minutes on the clock and down by 4, Tyler Palko takes the field. That sinking feeling in your stomach gets worse as Palko converts a 3rd and 4 to Aliquippa and Pitt alum Jonathan Baldwin. Will Gay makes another big play stopping Dwayne Bowe in his tracks on 3rd down, but Palko comes back and stands in under pressure and hits Bowe over the middle to convert a 4th and 7. As the clock ticks under a minute, the Chiefs move across midfield and thoughts of 2009 start to creep back into your head. Thankfully, the Chiefs suck. He throws one up for Bowe and Bowe makes a bush league effort to not even extend his arms and try for the ball. Keenan Lewis makes a HUGE play, jumping up and snagging the interception as the ball flies over Bowe's head.

Victory Formation.


Players of the Game
Offensive Game Ball: Antonio Brown
Defensive Game Ball: Ryan Mundy

Honorable Mentions:
Hines Ward
Weslye Saunders
Ike Taylor
Max Starks
Jason Worlids
Brett Keisel
Cameron Heyward
Keenan Lewis

Mr. Yuck Sticker of the Game

Not Putting the Chiefs Away

This was a bad team that we let hang around, and once again, put our defense in a situation where they had to make a play to seal the victory. The 4-minute offense has not been a highlight of Tomlin's tenure as head coach. We did get a win, and at the end of the day, we're 8-3, but we need to have that killer instinct and not let teams hang around and have a chance to win late in the game.

Final Thoughts

  • This was about an ugly a win as it gets, but at the end of the day, we're 8-3. We're a half game back in the division race and have a 2-game lead in the wild card race.
  • Great game by Ryan Mundy filling in for Troy.
  • Jason Worlids has played better each week. It will be great to have LaMarr back, but Jason has really stepped it up, particularly in run defense.
  • For all the talk this week about Hines being "demoted", he led the team in catches with 4 (Brown also had 4).
  • Antonio Brown has developed into one of the best, if not the best, 3rd down receiver in the league. He gets open and makes the big catches.
  • This one was ugly, but an ugly in is still better than a loss. A win is a win is a win.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Gameday: Kansas City Chiefs

Arrowhead Stadium

What to Watch For

1. Chiefs Quarterback

Tyler Palko started last week against the Patriots and looked flat out terrible. He had no zip on the ball and was wildly inaccurate when trying to throw anything more than 8 yards downfield. This past week, the Chiefs picked up Kyle Orton on the waiver wire, and if Palko struggles Orton may see time. Palko does bring some mobility to the quarterback position and can scramble out of pressure, but he really isn't a threat to make any big throws.

2. Run defense

With a backup quarterback under center, the Chiefs will lean heavily on their running game. The Steelers run defense needs to be ready for a heavy dose of Jackie Battle. The Chiefs will likely mix in some reverses and screens to get the ball in the hands of playmaker Dexter McCluster. The Steelers need to be ready for his change-of-pace speed. McCluster is dangerous in space and can be a mismatch in pass coverage for any linebacker.

3. Special Teams

The Chiefs have lived off of big special teams plays over the last few years. They have big time play makers capable of turning any punt of kickoff into points. The aforementioned Dexter McCluster will return kicks and CB Javier Arenas is their primary punt returner. Both are very capable returners and the Steelers special teams, which has been decent so far this year, will have to bring their A game.

4. Score, score, score

The Chiefs are an offensively deficient team. However, they do have individual players like McCluster, Arenas, and Dwayne Bowe that are capable of making plays to give them the edge in a close game. The Steelers need to come out strong and put points on the board early and not let off the gas pedal. Like New England did last week, the Steelers need to put the Chiefs away and not let the game hinge on a big defensive or special teams play.

5. Doug Legursky

After putting up with Chris Kemoeatu's back-breaking penalties for years, we finally get some relief. It was announced this week that Legursky would be starting at left guard, effectively benching Kemoeatu. Honestly, we're completely behind this move. Kemoeatu was a false start machine and took at least one personal foul penalty for doing something stupid after the whistle (like diving on the pile) every game. While Legursky isn't the biggest guy, he is athletic and should give the Steelers an added element with down-field blocking and pulling.

Around the NFL

AFC North

Baltimore 16, San Francisco 6 (Thursday)

The Ravens defense terrorized the 49ers offensive line.

Cleveland @ Cincinnati

I guess someone has to win...

AFC Playoff Race

Division Leaders

New England @ Philadelphia

The Dream Team against Brady and Company.

Houston @ Jacksonville

Matt Leinart takes over for the injured Matt Schaub and should have an easy task against the offensively deficient Jags.

Chicago @ Oakland

The surprising Raiders get a measuring stick game against Chicago.

Wild Card Race

Tampa Bay @ Tennessee (5-5)

The Jake Locker era begins in Tennessee.

Buffalo (5-5) @ NY Jets (5-5)

Both teams have had horrendous QB play lately. The loser will have a long way to go to get back into the playoff race.

Denver (5-5) @ San Diego (4-6)

The Tim Tebow show goes to SoCal.

Friday, November 25, 2011

WPIAL Championships Preview

After a long season we have come down to it. Eight teams remain across the four classifications and will battle it out on the Heinz Field sod for the right to be called "WPIAL Champion." All four games will be televised on ROOT Sports. All four games will be stacked with Division-1 capable talent, so it should make for an entertaining day of high school football.

There's a lot of buzz around these title games this year as each game (including the Class A game between Clairton and Sto-Rox) is stacked with Division 1 prospects. The boys over at Blitzburgh Blog have a list of Four Players NFL Fans Should Watch today. The Post-Gazette takes a look back at the last 25 years of WPIAL Championship Games. If you're on Twitter, follow the #WPIAL hashtag for updates and chatter on the title games. Also, credit to the folks over at PA Helmet Project for the sick helmet images.


1. North Allegheny (12-0) vs 3. Upper St Clair (11-1)

North Allegheny is the defending state champion and has run through their season, easily defeating most of their opponents. This game is a rematch of the Week 3 showdown when the Tigers edged the Panthers by a touchdown. NA is led by a stalwart offensive line and QB Mack Leftwich, one of the top passers in WPIAL. Upper St Clair upset Central Catholic last week with first-time starting quarterback Pete Coughlin starting in place of dual-threat QB Dakota Conwell, who injured his ankle the prior week. These two teams played a tight game early in the year, and it should be another good matchup. Prediction: North Allegheny


3. Knoch (12-0) vs 5. Montour (7-2)

Montour is back in the Championship game after beating conference rival Central Valley. The Spartans are stacked all over the field with QB Dillon Buechel and RB Julian Durden. On the other side, Knoch has ridden an emotional rollercoaster of a season after one of their cheerleaders was killed in a car crash during the season. The Knights have played mistake-free offense (with the exception of last week against Franklin Regional) and solid defense. Knoch is led by QB Ky Kenyon and RB Andrew Rumberg-Goodlin. The last time the kids from Saxonburg played in a championship game was 1992. I've been picking against Knoch all season, and they've kept winning. We'll see if that holds. Prediction: Montour


1. Aliquippa (12-0) vs 2. Jeanette (12-0)

Aliquippa is back in the championship game for the fourth consecutive season. The last time they failed to reach Heinz Field was when Terrelle Pryor and Jeanette ousted them in the semi-finals in 2007. Now, they get a rematch with the Jayhawks who feature QB/DB Demetrious Cox who has a very similar skill set to Pryor. Aliquippa is stacked with athletes all around the field and in a matchup of perennial AA powerhouses, you have to like the Quips speed and experience. Prediction: Aliquippa



1. Clairton (12-0) vs 2. Sto-Rox (12-0)

Clairton has just been destroying people all season and hasn't given up more than 20 points all year. Their offense is a well-oiled machine with RB Tyler Boyd who has over 1700 yards rushing and a Pitt recruit at WR in Trenton Coles. On the other side, Sto-Rox's trio of Division 1 recruits in WR/DB Marzett Geter (Pitt), WR/DB Dontez Ford (Syracuse), and WR/LB Deaysean Rippy (uncommitted). The Vikings are led by sophomore QB Lenny Williams who is sure to attract the attention of Division 1 schools in the coming years. Clairton is the 3-time defending Class A champion and is looking for an unprecedented 4th consecutive title. For a Single-A championship game, these two teams are stacked with big-play athletes and it might just be the best game of the day. Prediction: Clairton

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Gameday: Bye Week

Not sure why you're reading my blog over the bye week. Spend some time with your family and friends. Do yard work. Enjoy a week without stress.

But if you really intend on sitting on your couch and watching football today, here's what's going down:

AFC Playoff Picture

Division Leaders
New England (6-3) vs Kansas City (4-5) (Monday Night)
Pittsburgh (7-3) BYE
Houston (7-3) BYE
Oakland (5-4) @ Minnesota (2-7)

Wild Card Race
Cincinnati (6-3) @ Baltimore (6-3)
Tennessee (5-4) @ Atlanta (5-4)
Buffalo (5-4) @ Miami (2-7)
San Diego (4-5) @ Chicago (5-4)

Also, don't forget that Thursday night the Broncos beat the Jets. Both of those teams are now 5-5.

Want to know what games are going to be on in your area?

Thankfully, those of us in Pittsburgh will be able to watch Cincy-Baltimore and won't be subjected to watching Cleveland-Jacksonville.

Friday, November 18, 2011

WPIAL Semi-Finals Results

What a night.  Great action in all 4 classifications with some big upsets mixed in. First-time starter Pete Coughlin stepped in at QB for Upper St Clair and led them to a 28-14 upset of Central Catholic. North Allegheny scored on 4th and goal from the 1 with under a minute to play then intercepted a pass inside the 5 to stop Gateway's comeback attempt. Montour finally got their revenge on Central Valley. Knoch committed 4 turnovers but beat Franklin Regional on a last second field goal. Aliquippa and Jeanette rolled, setting up a rematch of the 2007 AA Championship. Bishop Canevin shut down Sto-Rox explosive offense but couldn't hang on and fell 12-10 to the Vikings. After a close first half, Clairton blew Rochester out of the water to extend their winning streak to 43 games.


1. North Allegheny 21, 5. Gateway 17
3. Upper St Clair 28, 2. Central Catholic 14


1. North Allegheny (12-0) vs 3. Upper St Clair (11-1)


5. Montour 21, 1. Central Valley 14
3. Knoch 9, 2. Franklin Regional 7


3. Knoch (12-0) vs 5. Montour (7-2)


1. Aliquippa 35, 5. Greensburg Central Catholic 0
2. Jeanette 40, 3. Seton-La Salle 21


1. Aliquippa (12-0) vs 2. Jeanette (12-0)


1. Clairton 43, 4. Rochester 7
2. Sto-Rox 12, 3. Bishop Canevin 10


1. Clairton (12-0) vs 2. Sto-Rox (12-0)

WPIAL Semi-Finals Preview

The High School football playoffs are winding down. Since the WPIAL expanded to having playoffs in all 4 classifications in the late 1970s, this is the highest number of undefeated teams to enter the semi-finals. With 11 undefeated teams remaining, it should be a wild night on the gridiron. Tonight is all about strength against strength. The top 3 seeds in all four classifications advanced to the semis. In Class A, #4 Rochester advanced, making it the only classification with the top 4 teams still remaining. In AA, AAA, and AAAA the #5 seed advanced to the semis, though it's hard to argue that GCC, Montour, and Gateway aren't contenders to win the title.

If you're going to the games and have a twitter account, tweet score updates with the hashtag #WPIAL.

Follow the #WPIAL hashtag all night for score updates. Also, you can listen to live internet broadcasts via the MSA Sports Network (broadcasts listed here). The North Allegheny-Gateway game will be televised  on ROOT Sports. Here's to hoping Craig Wolfley drops a "slippier than snot on a doorknob" analogy tonight.


 1. North Allegheny (11-0) vs 5. Gateway (9-2) at Fox Chapel
North Allegheny Preview
Gateway Preview

 The Gators have had an emotional season that started with a tragedy in North Carolina. They held the high-powered Central Catholic offense to 13 points and certainly have the play-makers to keep the game tight against defending state champion North Allegheny. The Tigers are led by QB Mack Leftwich (1803 yards) and have a stellar running game where they share the load amongst a handful of backs. This is the ROOT Sports game of the week, so you can tune in to enjoy Craig Wolfley's ever-entertaining way of describing how these kids play. We're hoping he busts out the "slippier than snot on a doornob" analogy again. Prediction: North Allegheny

 2. Central Catholic (11-0) vs 3. Upper St Clair (10-1) at Chartiers Valley
PG Preview

 The big story in this game is USC QB/LB Dakota Conwell and his ankle injury. Conwell suffered the injury last week against McDowell and didn't play defense afterwards. After the Pitt linebacker recruit left the defensive side of the field, McDowell scored to make it 21-14 and drove down the field at the end of the game with a chance to tie or win. Without Conwell on defense, it's hard to imagine the Panthers slowing down the Central Catholic offense. Prediction: Central Catholic


1. Central Valley (11-0) vs 5. Montour (9-2) at Ambridge
PG Preview

 The top two teams from the best conference in WPIAL square off for the right to go back to Heinz Field. Central Valley, in their second year of competition, is the defending AAA champion. Standing in their way of defending their title is the team they beat at Heinz Field last year - the Montour Spartans. On the field, Central Valley easily has the best all-around athlete in junior WR/DB/KR Robert Foster. He is a threat to score any time he is on the field. Montour has one of the most balanced offenses in WPIAL with QB Dillon Buechel (1974 passing yards) and RB Julian Durden (1522 rushing yards). These teams have had some great games and this one will certainly be worth the price of admission if you can make it out to Moe Rubenstein Stadium. Prediction: Central Valley

 2. Franklin Regional (11-0) vs 3. Knoch (11-0) at Valley
PG Preview

 Two former conference rivals face off for the right to go to Heinz Field. Knoch has knocked off two perennial AAA powerhouses in West Allegheny and Thomas Jefferson while Franklin Regional has slugged it out against Belle Vernon and Pennsylvania's all-time leading rusher Rushel Shell and Hopewell. Both of these teams can put up points in a hurry, with quality running backs. Knoch's Andrew Rumberg-Goodlin has 1288 yards and 18 TDs and Franklin Regional's Dane Brown has 1900 yards and 33 touchdowns. However, in the quarter-finals Franklin Regional was able to do damage through the air against Hopewell's defense, so don't be surprised if a big pass play makes the difference in this one. Prediction: Franklin Regional


 1. Aliquippa (11-0) vs 5. Greensburg Central Catholic (10-1) at North Hills
Aliquippa Preview
GCC Preview

 Aliquippa gets another shot at the team that denied them a WPIAL title in 2009. GCC had one of the top five offenses in AA during the season (34.4 points per game), but have sputtered in the playoffs, putting up only 24 against Ford City and 18 against Ellwood City. Now, they face their biggest challenge yet in Aliquippa's top 5 defense (8.4 points against per game). The Quips have 3 shutouts this season and held opponents under 10 points in 7 of their 11 games. On offense, the Quips are just as potent with senior QB Mikal Hall. Hall has been the Quips QB since his freshman year when he carried them to a WPIAL title. Hall has been to Heinz Field every season, losing in the championship game to GCC and South Fayette the last two seasons. You have to like the Quips chances to get back to Heinz for the fourth consecutive season. Prediction: Aliquippa

 2. Jeanette (11-0) vs 3. Seton-La Salle (11-0) at Elizabeth Forward
PG Preview

 Two of the best players in AA square off with Jeanette QB Demetrius Cox and Seton RB Kevin Hart. Between passing and rushing, Cox has over 1700 yards this season for the Jayhawks. He is easily the most electrifying player AA has seen since fellow Jayhawk Terrelle Pryor. Cox is a Division 1 recruit at safety, and could wreck havoc on junior QB Luke Brumbaugh who has thrown for over 1200 yards this season. Hart is equally capable of taking the game over and dominating. His 1723 yards this season put him in the top 5 backs in all of WPIAL. Prediction: Seton-La Salle


1. Clairton (11-0) vs 4. Rochester (10-1) at West Allegheny
PG Preview

 In what has become an annual affair, the Bears and Rams meet in the playoffs once again. These two teams have played in the last 2 Class A Championship games and met 7 of the last 8 years in the playoffs. Clairton is the three-time defending state champions and riding a 42-game winning streak. But that all goes out the window here. Rochester has had their season ended by the Bears for 5 consecutive years. The Rams are led by RB DeAndre Moon (1624 yards, 31 TDs) and will look to expose Clairton's run defense like Springdale did last week. Clairton is stacked with talent in RB Tyler Boyd (1504 yards, 27 TDs), QB Capri Thompson (1269 passing yards), and WR/CB Trenton Coles, a WPIAL track champion and Pitt recruit. Prediction: Clairton

 2. Sto-Rox (11-0) vs 3. Bishop Canevin (11-0) at Moon
PG Preview

 It's been a great year for the Crusaders who ran through the Eastern Conference and posted a perfect season. However, Sto-Rox and their three Division 1 recruits will simply be too much for Canevin to handle. The Vikings have been mauling people all year, with their closest game a 21-point shellacking they laid on Rochester. Sto-Rox has been on a collision course with Clairton in the WPIAL title game all season, and while Canevin has slugged it out and won two close games, they just don't have the talent or the speed to hang with the Vikings. Prediction: Sto-Rox

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Still The Bungles: Steelers WIN


 The Steelers win the toss and defer to the second half.

The Bengals go 3-and-out after Gay makes a nice deflection on 3rd down.

Ben comes out and works the short-passing game, hitting Heath over the middle and Wallace a few times to move into Bengals territory. Wallace gets the call on a reverse and makes the Bungles defense just look silly and gets us down into the red zone. Three plays later, Ben buys some time by pump-faking TWO blitzing corners out of their shoes, steps up, and zings one to Cotchery for the touchdown.


The defense forces another 3-and-out and gets the ball right back to 007.

Ben looks deep but nothing is open so he checks it down to Rashard who is wide open on the sideline and rumbles for 26 yards. Arians goes to the well again and Wallace takes another reverse for solid yardage, splitting defenders and running over people.
Anyone who says Wallace is soft should re-watch that run. 

Hines moves the sticks again on a WR screen, getting us into the red zone. Ben has Cotch wide open over the middle but Cotch stops his route and Ben throws it where he thought Cotch would be. That would've been an easy score if Cotch kept running. Two plays later, Ben hits Heath down the seam who gets nailed by a safety at the goal line. 
No flag comes out, even though it looked like the defender led with the crown of his helmet. Raise Some pounds it on on the next play.


Bernard Scott comes in for the Bengals and starts gashing the Steelers with some cut-back runs, moving into Steelers territory. Dalton decides to chuck one up for AJ Green who makes a leaping catch in the end zone with Clark and Troy around him. Clark was trying to make the pick and was somehow in front of Green.
If Clark gets his hands up and/or jumps, he can knock that ball away. Green came down awkwardly on his leg and limped off the field.


Ben hits Wallace to get things rolling as the quarter ends.

Second Quarter

With the Steelers now going into the wind, Ben takes a shot deep for Wallace that gets broken up. On the next play, Ben tries a simple check-down to Heath, but the ball bounces off his hands and into the arms of a diving Leon Hall.

The Bengals grind their way down to the 26 on the ground, but Troy makes a leaping break-up of a 3rd down pass to force the field goal.


After the the turnover, we come back with the motif offense and Ben barely avoids a sack by getting the ball to Redman who gets tackled in the backfield. Punt.

Cincy picks up a first down near midfield but the defense locks it down and forces a punt.

Ben comes back and throws a bad pass for AB that almost gets picked off. Two plays later, Heath redeems himself for the interception earlier and makes a first down grab to get things moving.

Ben gets sacked twice forcing a 3rd and long but finds First Down Brown on a deep in to move the sticks after Brown tips the ball to himself. What a grab.

Ben keeps working it to AB, hitting him two more times for 15 and 17 to move down inside the 25. Brown was just torching Leon Hall on this drive. Ben decides to look elsewhere and steps up away from pressure and lobs one up for Cotchery who catches it in stride and takes it in for the score.

Offensive Pass Interference on Heath.

Weeeeeak call.

Leon Hall was injured on the play, and Ben went right to AB against his replacement to get us down into the red zone again. The offense stalls out and Ben gets sacked again on 3rd down. Suisham extends the lead to 7.


Cincy gets the ball back with under a minute to play and opts to run out the clock.

Third Quarter

The Steelers get the ball to start the half, but another sack leads to a 3-and-out.

The Bengals come back, mixing in runs and short passes, using some out-routes and relatively simple looks for Dalton. Dalton moves Cincy into the red zone. Keenan Lewis seems to make a tackle to keep a Bengal out of the end zone, but Timmons jumps on late and gets flagged, giving the Bengals first and goal at the 1. Dalton goes play-action and finds Gresham out-running Larry Foote to the pylon.

Tie Game.


007 comes right back and answers. He gears up the no-huddle and mixes in passes and runs nicely to get us across midfield. Then the running game takes over and we ride Redman and Mendenhall down into the red zone. A quick-hitter to Wallace gets us inside the 10, then Mendenhall takes one off the right side, catches a good block from Kemoeatu, breaks a tackle, keeps his balance, and runs through defenders into the end zone.


Pretty much the definition of a "RAISE SOME" run right there.


Some guy no one has ever heard of picks up a first down for Cincy at the end of the quarter.

Fourth Quarter

The defense locks it down to start the fourth and forces a punt.

The Steelers commit some penalty on the kick, so they have to start at the 10. After two runs, Ben steps up in the pocket to get away from a 3rd down blitz and heaves one downfield for Mike Wallace who has two steps on the safety....

...and OVERTHROWS MIKE WALLACE. Take a minute to digest that. Ben, throwing into the gusty wind, overthrew Mike Wallace. Wow. Don't expect to see that...ever.

A good return gives the Bengals the ball in Steelers territory, but William Gay has other ideas. He swats the ball away from a receiver and it falls into the waiting arms of Lawrence Timmons for the Steelers first pick since Prohibition.

David Johnson actually makes a catch but the offense can't move the chains and it's another Fourth Quarter 3-and-out. Kapinos booms one to pin the Bungles back at the 8.

Bernard Scott gets some more yards for Cincy, but a 3rd down penalty nullifies a first down and Ryan Mundy steps up and makes a big tackle on the ensuing play to force a punt. A big punt flips the field and puts us back at the 20.

The Steelers take over with 6 and a half minutes left and go with the motif offense, resulting in another 3-and-out. For those of you keeping score at home, that's 3 3-and-outs in the 4th quarter when it was a one score game. Offense has to do more with the ball down the stretch.

Cincy takes over near midfield with 4 and a half to play, needing a touchdown to tie. Tense times as the defense marched out onto the field and subsequently got gashed 3 times by Cedric Benson to get down to the 25. After having success on the ground, Cincy tries to go to the air and Dalton stares down his receiver like he's a hot babe and William Gay jumps the route, making a HUGE interception.

With 2 and a half minutes left and the Bengals with a full slate of timeouts, the Steelers get aggressive. Ben hits Weslye Saunders who makes a big catch then carries defenders across the line for a first down to move the chains. With 2 minutes left, Ben hits Wallace on a curl for another first down.

Victory Formation.


Steelers are 10-1 at Paul Brown Stadium.

Players of the Game
Offensive Game Ball: Rashard Mendenhall
Defensive Game Ball: William Gay

Honorable Mentions:
Antonio Brown
Ben Roethlisberger
Jerricho Cotchery
Mike Wallace
James Harrison
Brett Keisel
Ike Taylor
Lawrence Timmons

Mr. Yuck Sticker of the Game

AJ Green's Touchdown

Let's face it, sometimes players just make big-time plays against you. That happened last week when Torrey Smith caught the game-winning touchdown. But he was behind Will Gay and somewhat open. Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu were all over AJ Green but neither made a play on the ball. Green did make a great play to go up and get the ball. But I have more of an issue with neither Ryan or Troy even trying to make a play on the ball. If Ryan gets his hands up or Troy does um...anything, Green doesn't have the chance to make the play.

Final Thoughts
  • For those that have been watching the Steelers over the last 20+ years, this was a very "typical" win for the Steelers. They ran out to an early lead, made a few mistakes that let the other team back in it, scored a big touchdown when it counted, then got a huge turnover at the end of the game to seal the win.
  • Huge bounce-back game for William Gay. He played aggressive all game and finished with 4 pass deflections (1 resulting in Timmons' pick), plus an interception of his own.
  • The Bengals looked better than they have in years, but they still have a long way to go.
  • No clue why Cedric Benson is the Bengals #1 back. Bernard Scott looked so much better. 
  • The Steelers were clearly the better team, but made mistakes that let the Bengals hang around.
  • The pick wasn't Ben's fault.
  • First Down Brown is turning into a solid player. He's getting better every week. He's going to be scary good.
  • Cotchery should've had 3 touchdowns today. Good to see him growing into a role player in the offense.
  • The Steelers played man coverage almost the whole game, then went to a Cover-3 look on the play when Gay made the pick. If you're keeping track at home, that's the same play out of a Cover-3 look that Deshea made 3 years ago against Dallas to jump a route (though Deshea took it to the house for the winning score). Nevertheless, gotta credit LeBeau for making the right calls at the right time to give his defenders the chance to make plays.
  • Solid team effort on the ground. Sure, Rashard didn't break 50, but he had 2 TDs and we ran for over 100 as a team. 
  • Andy Dalton wasn't horrendous. There are certainly worse QBs in the league than him right now.
  • Solid game for Kapinos, averaged 50.4 yards on 4 kicks. I think only 1 was with the wind at his back.
  • Great time to have a bye week. Rest up and get healthy. It's going to be an intense race to the finish here. Cincy and Baltimore play twice and we have to play Cincy again and Cleveland twice.
  • Oh yeah, how could I forget....

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Gameday: Cincinnati Bengals

Hamilton County Jail

What to Watch For

1. Andy Dalton vs Steelers Defense

Typically, the Steelers defense makes mince-meat out of rookie quarterbacks. But Dalton has led the Bengals to a 6-2 start. The Bengals have gone back to what made them successful in the past - running the ball and not forcing things in the passing game. Of course, Marvin Lewis has to feel like he's managing a resort now that the TOcho show has hit the road. For the Steelers, James Farrior should be back but LaMarr Woodley will miss another game. A number of other players have minor bumps and bruises. The defense has stepped it up against the run since getting gashed by Houston, so if the Bengals are going to beat us, it's going to require a big effort from Dalton. So far this year, Dalton has shown very good decision-making in the pocket and he has the athleticism to tuck and run if the play breaks down.

2. Steelers receivers vs Bengals Secondary

Even though the Bengals lost CB Jonathan Joseph in free agency, they replaced him with Nate Clements and the Bengals corners have been playing solid this season. Only twice this year have they given up over 250 yards through the air, but those two were in the last two weeks. Ben Roethlisberger is playing out of his mind right now, and you have to think the Steelers have an advantage here, particularly with our receivers. Hines should be back and even though Manny Sanders will be out of the lineup again, you have to like the way the Steelers match up here.

3. Run the Ball

In the past, the Steelers have run the ball very successfully against Cincinnati in the first half then completely abandoned the run in the second half, which makes games closer than they needed to be. The Bengals should get a healthy diet of Mendenhall and Redman to keep them off-balance. The team that can be more successful on the ground will win the game. Cincinnati actually has a decent run defense, with a lot of big bodies up front and big linebackers that key on the run. Which brings us to....

4. Heeeeeeeath

More specifically, utilizing the middle of the field. The Steelers have been incredibly successful going to Heath down the seam or utilizing deep-in routes this season. As much as Ben and Arians want to make sideline throws, the middle of the field has been wide open all season and it's great to see the Steelers finally starting to use it. Heath has 12 catches for 158 yards over the last two games. It's great to see Ben getting everyone involved and spreading the ball around.

5. 20 points

This seems to be the magic number this season. In games where the Steelers score over 20 points, we are 5-0. In games where we score 20 or less we are 1-3. On the other side of the ball, we are 0-2 when our defense gives up more than 20 and 6-1 when we hold our opponents under 20. What does that mean? We need a complete effort from both the offense and the defense. We have to keep Cincinnati out of the end zone and not give up any easy touchdowns on kick returns or turnovers. The offense also has to do their part to put points on the board and actually score touchdowns when they're in the red zone - not just settle for field goals.

Around the NFL

AFC North

St Louis @ Cleveland

Baltimore @ Seattle

Seattle is bad, but Baltimore has been dropping games to bad teams after picking up big wins.

Game of the Week

NY Giants @ San Francisco

Not sure how these two teams only have 3 losses between them, but this is an important game for the pecking-order in the NFC as we pass the halfway point of the season.

Friday, November 11, 2011

WPIAL Quarterfinals Results

Here's the scores from tonight's games and the semi-final matchups. Semi-Finals games are all played at neutral sites, which will be announced on Monday.


1. North Allegheny 35, 9. Seneca Valley 10
5. Gateway 34, 4. Penn-Trafford 9
2. Central Catholic 31, 7. Mt. Lebanon 14
3. Upper St. Clair 21, 6. Erie McDowell 14

Semi-Final Matchups
1. North Allegheny (11-0) vs 5. Gateway (9-2)
2. Central Catholic (11-0) vs 3. Upper St Clair (10-1)


1. Central Valley 44, 8. Ringgold 28
5. Montour 31, 4. West Mifflin 7
2. Franklin Regional 24, 10. Hopewell 21
3. Knoch 31, 6. Thomas Jefferson 9

Semi-Final Matchups
1. Central Valley (11-0) vs 5. Montour (9-2)
2. Franklin Regional (11-0) vs 3. Knoch (11-0)


1. Aliquippa 36, 8. Washington 6
5. Greensburg Central Catholic 18, 13. Ellwood City 15
2. Jeanette 35, 7. Shady Side Academy 14
3. Seton-La Salle 21, 11. South Fayette 13

Semi-Final Matchups
1. Aliquippa (11-0) vs 5. Greensburg Central Catholic (10-1)
2. Jeanette (11-0) vs 3. Seton-La Salle (11-0)


1. Clairton 34, 9. Springdale 20
4. Rochester 26, 5. Avonworth 22
2. Sto-Rox 40, 7. Brentwood 0
3. Bishop Canevin 16, 11. Fort Cherry 6

Semi-Final Matchups
1. Clairton (11-0) vs 4. Rochester (10-1)
2. Sto-Rox (11-0) vs 3. Bishop Canevin (11-0)

WPIAL Quarterfinals Preview

The first week of the WPIAL playoffs saw a lot of blowouts and only a few upsets. The quarterfinals should be a bit more exciting with numerous re-matches and matchups of balanced teams. If you're interested in following the action tonight, check out the #WPIAL hashtag on Twitter where people will be posting score updates. The MSA Sports Network will have radio broadcasts for all the games. Here is the list so you can tune in on your computer.

Also, today I discovered the PA Helmet Project which has compiled images of current and past helmets from all the Pennsylvania high school football teams they could find. It's quite the task. Here's the list of WPIAL conferences. Click through the conferences to find your high school's current and past's pretty sweet.


 1. North Allegheny (10-0) vs 9. Seneca Valley (8-2) at North Hills
PG Preview

 It's a week for re-matches in Class AAAA. Back on September 30 the Tigers traveled north and defeated Seneca Valley 49-28. Now, two of the top 10 quarterbacks in WPIAL face off for the right to go to the semi-finals. Seneca Valley's Jordan Brown, whose brother CJ is the starting QB at Maryland, leads the WPIAL in passing with 2100 yards. Led by QB Mack Leftwich (1740 yards, 7th in WPIAL), NA has been slaughtering people this year, putting up 34+ points in 8 of their 10 games. The 28 points Seneca Valley scored on the Tigers was the most given up by NA all season. Prediction: North Allegheny 

4. Penn-Trafford (10-0) vs 5. Gateway (8-2) at Hempfield
PG Preview

 Back in Week 4, Penn-Trafford defeated conference foe Gateway on a last-second field goal to give the Warriors the inside track to the conference title. Now, the Gators get a shot at redemption on a neutral field. Penn-Trafford is built on a strong offensive line and rushing attack while Gateway has play-makers all over the field. This one should be close again. Prediction: Gateway

 2. Central Catholic (10-0) vs 7. Mt. Lebanon (7-3) at North Allegheny
PG Preview

Mt. Lebanon has had an up-and-down season while Central, who many (including myself) believe to be the best AAAA team in the state, features 5 Division 1 recruits. This game matches up two of the top running backs in AAAA with Central's Damion Jones-Moore (who Craig Wolfley once called "slippier than snot on a doorknob") and Lebo's workhorse Luke Hagy (who has 1790 yards this year, 2nd best in WPIAL). Prediction: Central Catholic

 3. Upper St Clair (9-1) vs 6. Erie McDowell (8-2) at Seneca Valley
PG Preview

 There are a few things that are simply givens when we get into November in Western Pennsylvania. One of those things is Jim Render winning football games. The Upper St. Clair coach has led the Panthers to 5 WPIAL titles and is relying on QB Dakota Cronwell (948 passing yards, 928 rushing yards) to carry the Panthers past McDowell's triple-option attack. Both of these teams were in the top 10 in points scored this season, so this game could turn into a shootout. Prediction: Upper St Clair 


 1. Central Valley (10-0) vs 9. Ringgold (8-2) at West Allegheny

 The defending AAA champions rolled through the difficult Parkway Conference and should take a step closer to Heinz Field this week. Coming into the playoffs, Keystone Conference teams were 1-43 in the first round since 2000, but Ringgold's QB Quad Law ran and threw for touchdowns, carrying the Rams past Highlands. Nevertheless, Central Valley is much, much better. Prediction: Central Valley

 4. West Mifflin (9-1) vs 5. Montour (8-2) at Baldwin

 Montour was a trendy preseason pick to win the AAA crown, and they certainly have the talent to do so with 1400-yard rusher Julian Durden and 1800-yard passer Dylan Buechel. West Mifflin beat TJ to win the Big Eight conference crown and has a 1300-yard rusher of their own in Shamar Greene. West Mifflin is good enough on defense to keep this game close. Prediction: Montour

 2. Franklin Regional (10-0) vs 10. Hopewell (7-3) at Fox Chapel
PG Preview

Two of the top three running backs in WPIAL face off with Hopewell's Rushel Shell and Franklin Regional's Dane Brown. Shell has 2020 yards this year and is already the WPIAL career rushing leader with 8,787 career yards. He is also 241 yards shy of the state record. Shell can also set the national record for most consecutive 100-yard games. He is currently tied with Billy Sims (who won a Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma in the 70s) with 38. On the other side, Junior RB Dane Brown put up 1774 so far this season and over 3,000 for his career. Prediction: Hopewell 

3. Knoch (10-0) vs 6. Thomas Jefferson (7-3) at Plum
PG Preview

 The Knights won an emotional game after a Knoch student died in a car crash last week. Now, they get to face perennial powerhouse Thomas Jefferson. TJ has been to the Semi-Finals every year since 1997. Knoch has dominated their games with a strong rushing attack this season. Knoch's leading rusher Andrew Rumburg-Goodlin put up nearly 1200 yards and 18 touchdowns. QB Ky Kenyon has also contributed with 741 yards rushing and 892 yards passing. On the other side, the Jaguars have a balanced attack behind 1300-yard rusher Ryan Ruffing and 1300-yard passer Dom Presto. Prediction: Thomas Jefferson


 1. Aliquippa (10-0) vs 8. Washington (8-2) at Chartiers Valley

 The Quips have been dominant all over the field this year with an 1100-yard rusher (Dravon Henry), an 1100-yard passer (Mikal Hall), the top scoring offense in AA (40 points per game), and the #3 scoring defense in AA (9.0 points against per game). On the other side, the Little Prexies have been carried by one of the top 10 offenses in AA, but their defense has given up over 30 points 3 times. Prediction: Aliquippa

 5. Greensburg Central Catholic (9-1) vs 13. Ellwood City (7-3) at Valley
PG Preview

 GCC's dominant season has only been blemished by their 3-point loss to Jeanette. GCC has a top 5 offense and a top 5 defense in AA and should be able to lean on 1100-yard rusher Jordan McCrae to carry them over Ellwood City. Ellwood City came from 15 points down to beat Freeport last week, thanks to 22 fourth-quarter points. Prediction: GCC

 2. Jeanette (10-0) vs 7. Shady Side Academy (8-2) at Norwin
PG Preview

Jeanette overcame a closely-played first half to blow out Burrell in the second half. Led by all-around threat QB Demetrius Cox, the Jayhawks now get another team from the Allegheny Conference. Shady Side Academy ran out to an early lead against Beaver last week. SSA's game is built on controlling the clock with a strong rushing game (they had 3 backs with more than 500 yards this season). Prediction: Jeanette

 3. Seton-La Salle (10-0) vs 11. South Fayette (7-3) at Peters Township
PG Preview

 RB Kevin Hart has been outstanding for the Rebels this year, putting up 1458 yards while rarely playing in the second half of games. This game could be a battle of brothers as South Fayette may continue to play freshman QB Brett Brumbaugh, who has carried them to two victories after starter John Lerda was injured. For Seton-La Salle, QB Luke Brumbaugh has put up close to 200 yards through the air. Both are the younger brothers of last year's WPIAL passing king, Christian Brumbaugh. Considering Luke is only a junior and Brett is a freshman, you'll be hearing the Brumbaugh name for a long time to come. Prediction: Seton-LaSalle


1. Clairton (10-0) vs 9. Springdale (8-2) at Yough
PG Preview

You would be hard-pressed to find a team that has been more dominant in any classification of WPIAL in any season than Clairton has been this year. Not only do they have the highest scoring offense in all of WPIAL (47.7 points per game) and the least points against (1.8 points per game), they have also pitched 8 shutouts in 10 games and won every game by at least 29. Springdale is no slouch either, boasting one of the best rushing attacks in Class A. They put up almost 500 rushing yards last week against Monessen. Prediction: Clairton

 4. Rochester (9-1) vs 5. Avonworth (9-1) at Ambridge

Two teams from the banks of the Ohio River meet for the second consecutive season in the playoffs. Last year, the Rams won their semi-final matchup 20-7. Both teams boast good rushing attacks and stout defenses, so this should be a good one. The Rams might just have too much firepower for the Antelopes with 1400-yard rusher DeAndre Moon. Prediction: Rochester

 2. Sto-Rox (10-0) vs 7. Brentwood (9-1) at Keystone Oaks

It is rare for a Class A school to have 3 Division 1 recruits on the roster, but Sto-Rox is just that stacked this year. The Vikings have blown out everyone but Rochester, who they still beat by 21. On the other side, Brentwood's only loss is to Clairton but they simply don't have the athletes to stay with Sto-Rox. Prediction: Sto-Rox

 3. Bishop Canevin (10-0) vs 11. Fort Cherry (7-3) at Chartiers-Houston

Canevin survived a first-round scare against Chartiers-Houston. Now they have to travel to Char-Houston to take on a Fort Cherry team that dismantled Tri-County South Conference Champion Beth-Center last week. Behind 2000-yard passer Tanner Garry, Fort Cherry is peaking at the right time. Two of their losses are to Rochester and Clairton while the other was a 20-19 loss to Brentwood. Bishop Canevin has been solid all season but have had to play through a bunch of injuries, which may finally be catching up with them. This one should be exciting and go right down to the end. Prediction: Bishop Canevin

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

That Settles That: Steelers Lose


Let's be straight up about something right off the bat: this was a very well-played game by both teams, and one of  them had to lose. For a few years, we've had the luxury of getting the last drive against Baltimore and our quarterback having the ball in his hands with a chance to win the game. I am a big supporter of Mike Tomlin, but as we've seen all too often with his teams, they failed to put the game away when it counted and left the door open for the other team. In this case, Baltimore made the necessary plays to win the game. We're not out of it by any means, but we certainly have a long hill to climb. Cincinnati is 6-2 but hasn't played us or the Ravens yet. Those 4 games are going to decide the division race.

Game Recap

Steelers do a nice ceremony before the game to honor veterans of past (and present) wars. Still not sure why they play "Born in the USA," a song about a disgruntled Vietnam vet, during occasions like this.

Defense gets the nod for introductions.
What a picture.

Steelers win the toss and defer to the second half.

First Quarter

On the first play from scrimmage, it looked like Week 1 all over again as Ray Rice cut one back through a hole in the line and took it 76 yards to the house, but a holding penalty brought it back. Now, there have been some questions about why, with the hold, it was 1st and 10 again. Here's the rule: if a holding penalty occurs at the line of scrimmage or in the backfield, it is a 10-yard penalty from the line of scrimmage but if a holding penalty occurs past the line of scrimmage it is a 10-yard penalty from the spot of the foul. So, Torrey Smith's hold occurred 10 yards downfield, which brought the ball back to the original line of scrimmage. Interesting note - after the penalty, Vontae Leach went bezerk on the officials, possibly threatening to give them the Ray Lewis treatment.

(h/t PSAMP)

I don't know what Leach said to them, but it obviously worked. The refs only threw 2 flags on Baltimore the rest of the game, and that was a false start penalty that drew the defense off and a defensive offsides where there was contact.

The Ravens start driving after that, with Flacco picking up first downs by hitting running backs and tight ends. The Steelers defense did a good job forcing 3rd downs, but a bad job when it got to 3rd down. In the red zone, Flacco tried for Torrey Smith in the end zone and the refs give them a make-up call for the holding with a pass interference on Gay. Flacco decides to throw on first down and Ryan Clark almost picks it off, but the ball bounces off his hands.

Big missed opportunity there. 

The defense stands tall on Ray Rice at the goal line and forces a field goal.


Mendenhall gets 9 on the first play and things are looking good, but a failed pass and run turn a good start into a 3-and-out.

The Ravens drive back down the field, converting more third downs. Cundiff misses a 40-yarder at the open end of Heinz Field. Think it isn't hard to kick here? He had made like 35 straight field goals before that.

007 comes back and gets in a groove by getting the ball to Heath to get things rolling. Two plays later, he hits AB down the sideline who makes an ankle-breaking move to get past a defensive back but slips and falls as he enters the red zone. If he turns and runs rather than looks back at the defender, he's gone. 

Second Quarter

The Ravens hold to a 3rd down and Ben hits Hines over the middle who gets crushed by a helmet-to-helmet hit to the side of the head by Ray Lewis. Hines held onto the ball until he hit the ground and another Raven fell on top of him. No flag on Lewis for helmet-to-helmet.

Harbaugh challenged the call and it was ruled incomplete. Eerily similar to the Patriots game last year when Brandon Merriweather hit Hines with a helmet-to-helmet shot that wasn't flagged and Belicheat challenged and had the catch overturned.

Suisham ties it.


B-Mac makes his first positive play of the season, jarring a fumble out on the kick return but the Ravens fall on it.

To make matters worse, Flacco converts two 3rd downs to move the Ravens into scoring territory. Harrison makes a big-time stop on Ray Rice on 3rd and short. Cundiff converts in the closed end.


Ben comes back and tries to go deep a few times, which doesn't work. Punt.

The defense is finally able to force a 3-and-out and get off the field easily when Harrison gets pressure on Flacco on 3rd down.

Ben hits David Johnson, who seemed just as surprised to catch the ball as everyone was that he caught it, for a big gain down the seam. Johnson drags some Ravens with him as he barrels across midfield. After Mendenhall grinds a first down out, Ben's pass for Cotchery gets tipped but Cotch makes the catch anyways to get down inside the 10. After a WR screen gets a few (a really worthless play inside the 10 yard line), Ben can't hook up with Cotch then gets sacked on 3rd down. Suisham ties it.


With a minute left, Flacco comes back to drive for points. Harrison finally breaks through and is able to bring Flacco down, but Joe comes back and hits Boldin a few times to move across midfield. Flacco hits Rice on a check-down as time is winding down and he is able to get down, get the time out called, and Cundiff connects from 51 as the half ends.


Third Quarter

The Steelers came out determined to put points on the board, and went right to work with the no huddle offense. They started the drive running out of the no huddle (though at the pace Ben runs it, maybe it should be called the "Slow Huddle"). Ben connects downfield to Heeeeath and AB, moving us down into Ravens territory. The drive is rolling, everything is going great, and Ben is slinging it downfield. So what next? A WR screen to the right. Ugh. I've said plenty of times how much I hate this play, and lo and behold, Terrell Suggs reads it and jumps the route for an interception, ending the drive.

Flacco comes back converting more third downs by hitting tight ends. Dennis Pitta killed us all game on 3rd down. Looks like the Ravens found their replacement for Todd Heap. As the Ravens drive into scoring territory, Flacco takes a shot down the sideline for Boldin who is running stride-for-stride with Ike. The two are arm-battling, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Except that the refs wanted to see Baltimore score a touchdown.

Almost as bad a Pass Interference call as the one on Ike in the Oakland game last year.

The refs initially place the ball at the 1 and the Steelers run out their goal line defense, taking all their corners off the field. Then, the refs decide the penalty was at the 4 and move the ball back but don't let the Steelers substitute. We get lucky as Harrison gets pressure and Flacco air mails a pass out of the end zone. Bizzarre sequence there. Ray Rice scores on the next play.


Down by 10, Ben knows what he has to do.
Big completions to Heeeeeath for 30 and 12 to get us down into Ravens territory. 

Fourth Quarter

With the ball inside the 10, Ben tries to go the Jimmy Dean route on 3rd down.

He gets a lane and is able to dive for the goal line.

The initial signal is touchdown, but in another bizarre call, the refs overturn it upon review, saying Ben's knee was down at the goal line or that he fumbled or something. Not sure how you can call a QB's knee down when he wasn't down by contact and it looked to me like he had the ball across the plane before the ground caused the fumble. 

Raise Some pounds it in on the next play.



The defense comes out inspired and Harrison makes his second sack of the game. However, Flacco is able to convert ANOTHER third down while getting pressured by Harrison and keep the drive alive. The Ravens move down into Steelers territory but Harrison steps it up again and produces his second turnover of the season, knocking the ball out of Flacco's hands. William Gay is there to pick up the bouncing ball and get it back in the hands of 007.

007 wastes no time, hitting AB on a post down the middle then Tip-Drill Cotchery on another deflected pass. Three plays later, facing a 3rd and 5 at the Ravens 25, Ben does his Ben thing and scrambles away from pressure to the right and guns one downfield.
Mike Wallace comes streaking out of nowhere in front of AB in the end zone and makes the grab for the go-ahead score.



The Ravens go 3-and-out and the Steelers get the ball back with 4:30 to go. As we said at the outset, the "Four Minute Offense" has not been a specialty of Mike Tomlin's Steelers. Once again, it wasn't a specialty.

On the first play from scrimmage, David Johnson drops a pass that hits him right between the numbers. Crap, that could've run 40 seconds off the clock. That came back to bite us. After Cotch picks up a first down on a non-tipped ball, the Ravens start using their timeouts. A dump-down to Redman gets us into 3rd and 4 from the 29. Ben tries to hit Moore on an out-route, but the two can't hook up, stopping the clock with 2:37 left and leaving the Ravens with a timeout on the board. Here's the problem I have with the play - I don't have a problem with throwing to try to essentially put the game away there. But if you're going to throw, why throw for the sideline? Why not use the middle of the field where you don't risk running out of bounds and stopping the clock?

To make matters worse, Tomlin doesn't send the kick team out fast enough AND elects not to use one of our two remaining timeouts to think about it. A delay of game penalty sets us back. This is the most mind-boggling of anything. First: we have timeouts for a reason. If you're not sure, take one. Second: if you don't trust your field goal kicker to make a 46-yard field goal with the game on the line, then he shouldn't be on your roster. Period. Third: The excuse that there was a new holder was a bad excuse. Kapinos held for Suisham last year.

After the delay of game, Kapinos pins the Ravens back at the 8.

92 yards in 2:24 with 1 timeout? You honestly had to like our defense in this situation.

But Flacco had been torturing us all day, and in the hurry-up it was no different. He starts things off by hitting Boldin over the middle before the clock winds to two minutes. Two more completions get them near midfield. Larry Foote has a chance to put the game away when he gets his hands on a 3rd down pass but he can't make the pick. One of the innate rules of football is that if you don't make a key interception when you have the chance, the other team is probably going to score on you. The Ravens opt to throw rather than run for the 1 yard on 4th down and Flacco's pass is high but Boldin makes a leaping grab for the first down to keep things going. The clock starts to tick down and the Ravens make their way down to the Steelers 26. After two incompletions, Flacco goes downtown for Torrey Smith who is streaking past Will Gay. Gay tries to slow him up but Smith gets separation (in his post-game comments he said he "gave [Gay] a shove") and makes a diving catch for the game-winning touchdown with 8 seconds left on the clock. Ryan Clark seemingly was supposed to be over the top but for some reason tried to undercut the route. No idea what he was doing.

Gay got flagged for Pass Interference because it was a Ravens pass into the end zone, but it didn't matter.


The Steelers get it back with 8 seconds left.

Yeah, not happening.

Players of the Game
Offensive Game Ball: Heath Miller
Defensive Game Ball: James Harrison

Honorable Mentions:
Mike Wallace
Rashard Mendenhall
Max Starks
Larry Foote
Casey Hampton
Antonio Brown
Jerricho Cotchery

Mr. Yuck Sticker of the Game

Taking a Delay of Game before a Field Goal

I touched on this already, but there's absolutely no way you can take a delay of game penalty when you're on the edge of field goal range. If you honestly don't trust your kicker to kick a 46-yard field goal, then why not run the ball on 3rd down to try to get closer so you could go for it on 4th down? If you don't trust your kicker to make a 46-yarder, then why is he on your team? To cap it all off, we had 2 timeouts and took 1 home with us. Boy that one would've been useful to take here if Tomlin needed more time to make his decision.

Final Thoughts
  • I've said it before and I'll say it again. I don't have a problem with the league enforcing blows to the head, but the enforcement HAS TO BE CONSISTENT. Ray Lewis can't get away with a forearm shiver to Hines Ward's head and get fined half as much as Ryan Clark does for a textbook hit. Ryan also got flagged and Lewis didn't.
  • The officiating was incredibly inconsistent in this game. Antonio Brown got spun around in the end zone with no flag, but the Ravens got 3 pass interference calls on Steelers DBs inside the 5-yard line.
  • James Harrison was an absolute monster tonight. 3 sacks and a forced fumble? What a comeback.
  • The No Huddle worked very well in the second half.
  • I hate the WR screen. Such a horrible play. No idea why you throw the ball parallel to the line of scrimmage when your offense is rolling.
  • William Gay had a bad game, but anyone who took to Twitter after the game to scrutinize Gay for his play needs to re-evaluate their life.
  • Antonio Brown is starting to make some big-time catches for this team. Only a matter of time before he takes it up to the next level and really becomes a game-breaker.
  • Thoughts & prayers with Emmanuel Sanders and his family. His mother died last week.
  • Great to see Heath Miller getting involved in the offense more. He's been a catalyst for the offense being able to move the ball and has dominated the middle of the field this season.
  • Big game against Cincinnati this week. Get ready to chase down that Wild Card.