Saturday, July 28, 2012

Steelers Extend Antonio Brown

I've said it before, and now I'm 100% certain I'll say it again.

All Antonio Brown does is make big plays.

And now, just 2 short years after being drafted, the Steelers have signed Brown to a 5-year extension of his rookie contract for a total of a 6-year deal. All told, the deal is worth $42.5 million with an $8.5 million signing bonus. This is a brilliant deal all around. On average, the deal is worth about $7 million per year but the low signing bonus (a little over $1 million per year pro-rated) means that if the Steelers find themselves with cap issues in the future they can easily convert some of the salary money to guaranteed money. Steelers Depot has a really good breakdown of the salary numbers and cap situation.

Some may say that Brown only had one good year in the NFL so far, and while that may be true, look at just what he did. He was the first player in NFL history to have 1,000 receiving and 1,000 return yards in the same season. It's likely Brown won't be used much as a returner this year to protect him from taking as many big hits, but he did more than just that.

Brown led the team with 28 receptions on 3rd down. The next closest were Mike Wallace and Heath Miller who both had 13. On top of that, Brown converted 25 of those 28 catches into first downs (Wallace converted 9 and Miller converted 12). The 3 times Brown came up short were on 3rd and 29, 3rd and 18, and 3rd and 10. Half of Brown's 3rd down catches were with 9 or more yards to go, which means he converted 11 of 14 catches into first downs on 3rd and 9+ (and all 14 catches on 3rd and 8 or less).

All Antonio Brown does is make big plays.


There were some really telling quotes from Brown's agent Drew Rosenhaus in this Post-Gazette article. Rosenhaus has a reputation amongst fans as being one of the toughest agents to deal with (stemming from his involvement in the TO debacle and his shameless over-valuing of his clients. But check this quote out:
"When you're dealing with Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert and Omar Khan and Art Rooney, you know there's a good chance to get something done. They really go about their business the right way. Everything worked to perfection." - Drew Rosenhaus
This tells you a lot because Rosenhaus has been known for gaming the system for all it's worth for his clients, but when both sides have a common goal in mind and sit down at the table, it's usually not difficult to get a deal done.

This is a great move by the Steelers and might be the most telling thing to happen so far with regards to the Mike Wallace situation. By no means does this mean that the Steelers will not still try to work something out with Wallace, but it is a clear message that the Steelers are prepared to move forward with or without #17 on the roster. The ball is in Wallace's court.

Friday, July 27, 2012

2012 Olympics Preview: Gymnastics

After a long time in waiting we have finally come to it. The Opening Ceremonies for the 2012 Olympics are tonight. I conclude my previews with a look at Gymnastics, possibly the event that stung the most for American fans in Beijing when a team of 12-year old Chinese gymnasts beat the American women for gold. 


There are actually 3 different types of Gymnastics in the Olympic Games: Artistic, Rhythmic, and Trampoline. When people think of gymnastics, it's typically the "Artistic" discipline.

Artistic Gymnastics

Men's Events: Vault, Floor, Pommel Horse, Rings, Parallel Bars, Horizontal Bar, Individual All-Around, Team All-Around
Women's Events: Vault, Floor, Uneven Bars, Balance Beam, Individual All-Around, Team All-Around

So just what are these events?

Vault - Run down a track and use a springboard and table to thrust yourself into the air, do some spins and stuff, land as steady as possible.

Floor - Basically a wide open space, points are given for using as much floor space as possible so competitors will set their routine to go corner-to-corner as much as possible

Pommel Horse - A balance beam with two bars on it that are used to hold onto and swing around doing gymnastics stuff. yeah, that was a horrible description, but it's one of the coolest to watch.

Rings - Gymnasts hang by two rings suspended in midair. This one is all about upper body strength and being able to hold your body still.

Parallel Bars - Another event that is all about upper body strength. Two bars next to each other make it a variation on Rings. The bars are obviously less flexible than the Rings so some moves are limited side-to-side but gymnasts do go front-to-back on the bars.

Horizontal Bar - Similar to the Parallel Bars except there is only 1 bar, so the repertoire of moves becomes even more limited.

Uneven Bars - Since Women don't compete on Parallel Bars or the Horizontal Bar, they are given a task that is almost more difficult - navigating two bars that are of different heights. This is one of the more entertaining events in the Women's competition as gymnasts routinely fly back and forth between the bars.

Balance Beam - If you honestly don't know what Balance Beam is then you didn't have a childhood.

98 gymnasts in both Men's and Women's will compete in the events. Nations can qualify up to 5 competitors and only nations with 5 are eligible for the team awards. As we all well remember from Beijing, the Chinese team of 12-year-old girls (which is illegal by minimum age standards) won the Women's All-Around despite an excellent challenge from the American team (all of which were of legal age to compete).

Nations eligible for Team All-Around

Men: China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Romania, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Ukraine, USA

China, Japan, and the United States won medals at the 2011 World Championships and should be the front-runners for Gold again at the London Games. Japan edged the US by 0.010 points for Silver while the US had a 4 point advantage on Russia for Bronze. Two Japanese gymnasts (Kohei Uchimura and Koji Yamamuro) won Individual All-Around medals (Gold and Bronze respectively) at the World Championships, so they are certainly a team to be reckoned with.

Women: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Romania, Russia, USA

The US Women avenged their Beijing loss to the 12-year-old Chinese girls in the 2011 World Championships, taking home the Team All-Around and Jordyn Wieber winning the Individual All-Around Gold. The Russian team finished 2nd at the World Championships with the Chinese team barely edging out Romania for Bronze.

Rhythmic Gymnastics

Only women compete in Rhythmic Gymnastics which involves spinning around twirling streamers that aren't supposed to stay still or touch the ground. 24 competitors will compete Individually and in Groups. Russians have pretty much dominated this event, so don't be surprised to hear the Russian National Anthem being played at the end of this competition.


Remember how much fun it was to bounce on a trampoline when you were a kid? Well, someone decided this should be an Olympic event, just without other people on the trampoline to try to push off or land at the same time as you to make you go twice as high. Both Men and Women compete in the Trampoline and China dominated both competitions at the World Championships.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

2012 Summer Olympics Preview - Swimming

Greetings everyone. You may or may not know me but I am Cory from the Three Rivers Burgh Blog and just like in 2010 for the Winter Olympics I am back to team up with Ian for the 2012 Summer Olympics preview. In the summer games we have 31 different events and over the week we are going to be preview every single one of them. I am going to drop some knowledge today about the swimming events in the Olympics with a preview of men's and women's races. Ian dropped some information earlier in the day so make sure you go and check that out and make sure you check back every day to get your info on everything Olympics.


There are a few staples to the Summer Olympics that everyone things of when you bring up the games. Those three things are undoubtedly basketball, track & field and swimming. Swimming has been a huge sell back to 2008 when Michael Phelps won eight gold medals but we will get more into that later. Swimming might look easy but if you have ever been in a pool and did some laps you know how hard it can be. It takes great cardiovascular training to be able to hang like these guys do and the weight room is a must to be able to hold up and have the stamina to compete at the highest level.

How it works: Here is a breakdown of all of the competitions that will be taking place on the men's and women's side:


50m (one length of the pool)

100m (two lengths)
200m (four lengths)
400m (eight lengths)

800m (16 lengths; women only)

1500m (30 lengths; men only)
10k (open water swim)

100m (two lengths)

200m (four lengths)

100m (two lengths)
200m (four lengths)


100m (two lengths)

200m (four lengths)

Individual medley
200m (four lengths)
400m (eight lengths)

4x100m Freestyle (each swimmer swims two lengths)

4x200m Freestyle (each swimmer swims four lengths)
4x100m Medley Relay (each swimmer swims a different stroke two lengths; the order is backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, freestyle)

 Each event at the Olympics are set in preliminary rounds for 200m races and shorter and the top 16 will move on to semifinals before going to the finals. In anything longer than 200m there will just be one preliminary round and then the top eight move directly on to the finals. Pretty much other than that it isn't really much to explain. In a lot of the other events I have wrote about and explained during this preview series there are little nuances to winning and scoring but it is totally different here. The fastest time wins and really nothing else matters.

The USA Chances: It would be foolish to talk about the USA swim team without talking about Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte on the men's side. Phelps has been the staple of the United States in the pool as he has 16 medals all time with with 14 of those being gold. Phelps will be the favorite in all events that he is swimming in which will total six events. Lochte is making some huge waves in the pool as the main competition to Phelps and those two will be pushing each each and I wouldn't be surprised to see them finish 1-2 in a few events. Brendan Hansen and Anthony Ervin will be two other Americans to watch for. Missy Franklin will be the odds on favorite in the 100- and 200-yard backstroke as well as the 200-freestyle. Rebecca Soni will challenge in the 100- and 200-breaststroke with Dana Vollmer and Elisabeth Beisel also favorites in various events for a stacked United States team.

2012 Olympics Previews: Athletics


Someone must have found the phrase "Track and Field" to be offensive because now it's all grouped together under the heading of "Athletics." In all, there are 26 different events that make up "Athletics." These events are split between Track Events(100, 200, 400, 800, 1500, 5000, 10000 meter races for both men and women; 100m hurdles for women, 110m hurdles for men, 400m hurdles for both men and women; 3000m steeplechase for both; and a 4x100m relay and 4x400m relay for both), Road Events (Marathon and 20 km walk for both men and women and 50 km walk for men), Field Events (Long Jump, Triple Jump, High Jump, Pole Vault, Shot Put, Discus Throw, Javelin Throw, Hammer Throw), and Combined events which features a Heptathlon for women and Decathlon for men.


To qualify for an Athletics event, there are minimum time or distance standards set by the International Olympic Committee. An individual nation may enter up to 3 participants per sex (6 total) in each event provided they each meet the qualification standard.

What Is That?

Steeplechase - This is an "obstacle" race where runners must jump over 7 "normal" hurdles and 1 water hurdle (a barrier with a puddle after it) in each lap of a 4-lap race around the track. On the whole, it is a 3000-meter race. Runners are permitted to step on the hurdles to get over them.

Discus - Athletes see who can throw a 4.5 pound frisbee the farthest.

Javelin - Derived from spear-throwing, is a test of who can throw the javelin (think long spear) the farthest.

Shot put - Have you ever taken a bocce ball and tried to hurl it? That's basically what shot put is. There is some technique that goes into it with spinning around in a confined space and using one's arm to "push" rather than "throw" the sphere (which weighs 16 lbs for men and 8.8 lbs for women). Shot putting likely began around the time cannonballs were invented and people started showing off about how far they could throw them.

Hammer Throw - This one comes from the Scottish Highland Games. In modern times, there is a weighted ball on the end of a stick. Competitors swing the "hammer" around in a circular motion to gain power and speed before throwing.

High Jump - The opposite of the Limbo. Athletes attempt to jump over a bar that gets higher and higher as the competition moves on.

Long Jump - If you can't figure this one out, stop reading now.

Triple Jump - Contrary to what you might think, there is only one distance measured here. However, this plays on the age-old adage "A hop, A skip, and A Jump." Athletes run down the track then take a hop, a skip, and them make a jump into the sand pit where the actual distance is measured. The hop and skip don't really count and are just for show (or generating more speed/leverage)

Pole Vault - Like the High Jump, except competitors use a pole that they run with and must insert to a stand while on the run that then bends and helps to lift ("vault") them upwards and over the bar.

Heptathlon - Seven events over two days for women (100m hurdles, High Jump, Shot Put, 200m, Long Jump, Javelin Throw, 800m).

Decathlon - The men's combined event features 10 events that are contested (100m, Long Jump, Shot put, High Jump, 400m, 110 hurdles, Discus, Pole Vault, Javelin, 1500m).

What To Watch For

The second week of the Olympics are set to get off with a bang (literally) as the 100-meter dash will run qualifiers and heats on Saturday then the semi-finals and finals on Sunday. Any time the fastest man on earth steps on the track, it's must-see-TV. The question is though - who is the fastest man on earth? Up until a month ago, that man was without a doubt Jamaican Usain Bolt who holds the World Record and the Olympic Record. However, at the Jamaican Olympic Trials, Bolt's training partner Yohan Blake beat him in both the 100m and 200m. Bolt is scheduled to run in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay. The 100m final should be a good one as the top 22 times in the world this year were recorded by 5 men - Bolt, Blake, fellow Jamaican Asafa Powell, Americans Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay, and Keston Beldman from Trinidad and Tobago. In the Men's 200m, Jamaicans hold 10 of the top 20 times this year, with Blake and Bolt the frontrunners.

While Jamaicans dominate the short distances, Kenyans still own the long distance running. David Rudisha set a World Record in the 800m in 2010 and is still running strong, posting the 4 fastest times in 2012. Kenyans have also posted the fastest times in the 1000m and 1500m. As the distances stretch out, the Kenyan runners see challenges to their dominance from other African nations, specifically Ethiopia.

The top qualifier in the Women's 100m is Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. No confirmation of her relationship with Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. The top 5 times this year were all run by different women, separated by only 0.2 seconds, which could mean a wide open final in London. Americans are set up will for the 200m and might battle it out with a surprisingly strong Russian contingent (who have posted 5 of the Top 10 times this year). 

Americans to Watch

In the men's 100m, Justin Gatlin has the fastest time this year by someone not named Bolt or Blake at 9.80. Shockingly, that's only 0.05 seconds slower than Blake's qualifying time which was the fastest in the world this year. Gatlin has gone under 10 seconds 4 other times this year in the 100m. Tyson Gay has been around this rodeo before but could still make some noise for Bronze. In the 200m, 3 different Americans have run top 20 times, but only Wallace Spearmon will br running at the Games.

In the men's 400m, LaShawn Merritt who won Gold in Beijing, has the Top 2 times in the world this year and 3 of the top 10. Tony McQuay also has 3 of the Top 10 times in the 400.

In the women's 100m, Carmelita Jeter and Allyson Felix have both posted Top 5 times this season and should be in the medal chase. Felix has the best time in the world this year in the 200m with Jeter and Sanya Richards-Ross also posting top 5 times.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

2012 Summer Olympics Preview - Outdoor Water Races

Greetings everyone. You may or may not know me but I am Cory from the Three Rivers Burgh Blog and just like in 2010 for the Winter Olympics I am back to team up with Ian for the 2012 Summer Olympics preview. In the summer games we have 31 different events and over the week we are going to be preview every single one of them. I am going to drop some knowledge today about the outdoor water races in the Olympics with a preview of canoe/kayak, rowing and sailing. Ian dropped some information earlier in the day so make sure you go and check that out and make sure you check back every day to get your info on everything Olympics.

Outdoor Water Races

Canoe/Kayak (Slalom & Sprint)

It seems like everything I have talked about is something that you and your friends can go out and do for fun on a nice summer day. I guess that is why these are the Summer Olympics. When talking about the sports of canoe/kayak this could go one of two ways for you. You could go out on a canoe and maybe take some beers (beers are good) and a fishing pole with your dad or friend and not catch fish and get drunk all day. The other is that you are the adventurous type that likes to go kayaking down rivers where you could possibly die (I recommend not drinking beer for this one). Well in the Olympics it is more of the latter and while you might fall into the water doing these things the people that are competing here are very good at what they do.

How it works: There are two different types to the race which includes the slalom and sprint events. In the sprint there are 12 events and in slalom where the men compete in eight and the women in four and there are four different events where the men compete in three and the women in one. In the men's heat they use both kayak's and canoe's and in the women's events they use only the kayak.

All of the men's races are either 200 meters or 1,000 meters with a various number of athletes in the canoe or kayak. On the women's side they compete in the 200 meter or 500 meter race for sprint and both the men and women compete in 300 meter races for the slalom. For the men they either have one, two or four members for the sprint races and either one or two members for the slalom. On the women's side they will compete with one, two or four members in the sprint and with one member in the lone slalom race.

In the sprint there are heats that are consider the first rounds then they move into the semifinals and final. There are no more than nine "boats" that can compete in each heat and the number of heats is determined by how many entries there are. The first three finishers in each head are moved directly to the finals while the fourth through seventh spots move to the semifinals along with the fastest eighth place finisher.

In the Slalom there are also heats that blend into semifinals and finals. These are run a little differently than the sprints in that each boats have two runs each. They run in order of the finish at the 2011 World Championships. There is no set number of teams that advance as that totally depends on how many teams compete. In the semifinals they use the times from the heat rounds to determine times and the finals runs are the reverse order from the semifinals.

The USA Chances: On the men's side Hungary has 53 total medals but it is Germany who holds the most every gold medals with 20. Hungary has 14 gold medals and Sweden has 12. The United States has 11 medals total and only five golds as they didn't medal in 2008. Germany had six total medals in the 2008 summer games with five other countries earning three medals with Slovakia and Belarus having two golds each. On the women's side Hungary has 71 total medals and won two golds in 2008. Germany has 29 golds all-time and will be a force and the favorite as they had eight total medals in 08 with three golds.


Rowing is no joke. I know you may think that it is just a thing where you get into a boat a paddle for a little bit you are really kidding yourself. Not only do you need upper body strength to actually row the boat but something that people forget about is that you use your legs a ton when you row and you need to be just as strong there as you do with your arms and chest.

How it works: I am not going to even pretend to know what the hell is going on with how rowing works. When I was looking into this I just thought your rowed a long time and the winner is the winner. Like one race with one winner. Boy, was I naive.

Evidently there is two types of rowing events which are sweep and scull. The difference is that in sweep each athlete only has one row to work with and then use that on one side of the boat while in scull each athlete has two rows which they use. There are 14 total events in rowing with eight of them coming via the scull and the other six via the sweep.

Each race is 2,000 meters with different members in the boat for each of the different events.

For each of the events they are broker down into rounds, finals and what is called repechage. Basically the repechage is the "second chance" for the teams that lose in the competition the first time around. Basically the rounds turn into a double elimination tournament.

The USA Chances: On the men's side the USA has dominated competition with 69 total medals and 29 gold medals. Last summer games Great Britain took four medals including two golds while Australia had a pair of gold medals also. The USA only had one medal in 2008. On the women's side Romania has 29 medals with 17 golds to dominate everyone while the USA has 15 total medals with two golds.


Honestly if I didn't know a ton about rowing before doing there preview then I knew even less about sailing. I mean obviously you are riding a boat but other than that not a lot of people probably know what is going on and that includes me.

How it works: There are ten events that take place under the sailing umbrella that use eight different kinds of boats. This has been a men's sport before this year where the women are breaking into the sport for the first time. The women compete in four of the ten events while the men compete in the six others.

Basically the boats, for the most part, race against each other in the opening series with the top ten performers going to the finals to fight for a medal for the men's competition. . There are ten races in what is called the "opening series" where the boats will get points for how they finish. Th points get added up and the top-10 performers go on to the finals. In the finals where the points are worth double that they are in the opening series.

In the women's matches they are a little different. They actually pair up and race off in a tournament style where the boats race against another boat. The event starts with round robin matches where every team will face-off against the other with the top eight teams of the 12 that are competing move on. After that it is a single elimination contest the rest of the way.

The USA Chances: I literally have no idea who is supposed to win so I will just go with overall medal count. The United States leads everyone with 59 total medal with 19 of them going for gold. While the USA has the top medal count it is Great Britain who has the most golds with 23. Norway has 17 golds and France has 13.

Statistical Analysis: Running the Ball

Pictured: Mendenhall running right. We did this a lot under Arians.

One of the hardest statistical categories to quantify is offensive line success. Even with something as simple as "sacks" can be hard to pinpoint who is responsible - was it a blown block? was it an overload blitz? did the QB hold on to the ball too long? "Blocking" stats can be even harder - how much of it was the RB and how much was the OL?

One of the best metrics I've seen is the one Football Outsiders uses. They have an Adjusted Line Yards stat that credits the OL differently for different yardage runs.

Somewhat shockingly, the Steelers ranked 3rd in the league last year in Adjusted Line Yards. I'll admit, I was a bit surprised when I saw this, but when I looked at some of the other stats in the table, there were some red flags that jumped out at me to where that #3 ALY rank is not an accurate indicator of how good we were at run-blocking.

First - we were 24th in "Power" Running (Success on 3rd & 4th down runs with < 2 yards to go and all Goal-to-Go situations with 2 or less yards to go) with a success rate of only 57%. Only 1 other team in the Top 10 in ALY (Dallas) was under 62% in Power Success.

Equally as damning was our high "Stuff" rate (rushes for negative or 0 yards) of 20%, 10th worst in the league. Amongst the Top 10 in ALY, only Washington had a 20% or higher Stuff rate. It's pretty crazy to think that 1 out of every 5 rushing plays we had last year went for 0 or negative yards. The Saints led the league with only a 15% Stuff rate whereas the Eagles were the worst with a 25% stuff rate.

Basically, both of these stats are an indictment of our short-yardage running game (which we know objectively from watching the team was downright painful to see). Isaac Redman had a pretty good year converting 3rd and 1s, but I think the Goal-to-Go situations were where we were probably the worst (I'll have to look into this more).

Another red flag I saw was our distribution of runs. We ran in the "Mid/Guard" area 67% of the time and to the right (either Right Tackle or Right End) another 23%. As we all know from watching them, the Steelers rushing attack was far too predictable last year. The data proves this as 90% of their runs were either Mid/Guard or to the Right. On a more positive note, Kansas City's run distribution was much more balanced: 15% Left End, 11% Left Tackle, 48% Mid/Guard, 9% Right Tackle, 16% Right End which is a much more even distribution. I bring this up because even though Todd Haley was the head coach, he did a lot of the offensive play-calling for the Chiefs. One important note there is that Kansas City was above average in runs around Left & Right End (League average 11% for both) which means we may see some more outside runs this year (hello Chris Rainey).

Outside runs seem to be a consistent trademark of the Haley offense looking back over his time at Kansas City and Arizona.Over the last 5 seasons Haley's distribution of Mid/Guard carries were only over 50% once (51% in 2010) whereas over the same time period Arians ran Mid/Guard with an increasing frequency (53%, 56%, 54%, 61%, 67%). An interesting note is that the Mid/Guard carries jump from the mid-50s to the 60s corresponded with the departure of Willie Parker.

On the whole, pretty much what we've been saying for a long time is true - it's not that Arians didn't run the ball enough, it's that he didn't run it effectively (as evidenced by our poor Power and Stuff numbers) and the gameplan was too predictable (67% of runs Mid/Guard, for real?). But since the Bruce Arians Reign of Terrible Play-Calling is over, let's take a deeper look at what Todd Haley has done.

Interestingly enough, Haley didn't run it to the outside that much in Arizona (12% and 18% in his 2 years) but ran a LOT more off-tackle, specifically off Left Tackle (25% and 23%). Looking at Haley's numbers as a whole, it seems like he has kept his Mid/Guard distribution in the 43-51% range and utilized off-tackle and end runs based on personnel. With Edgerrin James and Tim Hightower in Arizona, they weren't speedsters so you saw more off-tackle runs whereas Kansas City had the speed with Jamaal Charles and Dexter McCluster and you saw more End runs and less off-tackle runs.

The one take-away from this is that Haley is going to run the ball LEFT, which is something the Steelers haven't Even in the days of Alan Faneca and Marvel Smith on the left side, the play was always for Faneca to pull around to the right. In the last 5 years Haley has run left (End or Tackle) 33%, 31%, 24%, 27%, 26% whereas Arians ran left 25%, 18%, 18%, 15%, 9%. I know everyone assumed that we'd put DeCastro at LG when we drafted him, but given Haley's propensity to run left, I think this was the key factor in putting DeCastro at RG and having him able to pull from there around to the left. This will give the Steelers plenty of options in the running game as they can have either DeCastro pull from RG around to the left or Willie Colon pull from LG around to the right. Even though Haley has a propensity to run the ball to the left, this does not mean that our running to the right will suffer. Over the last 5 years, Haley has run to the right 18%, 25%, 22%, 25%, 25% while Arians ran to the right 22%, 26%, 29%, 23%, 23%. Both coordinators ran to the right in the range of 24% of the time over the last 5 years. The biggest difference we will see, as I've discussed, is less runs up the middle and more runs to the left. Here's the breakdown (numbers are percentages)

And the full data (directional numbers are percentages):

Note: all data from Football Outsiders

2012 Olympics Previews: Outdoor Racing


Competition Format: There are 18 different events in both Men's and Women's between Road Cycling, Track Cycling, Mountain Biking, and BMX

What to Watch For: Road Cycling is basically like a toned down Tour de France (I guess Tour de London in this case). There are two events - the Road Race and the Time Trial. In the Road Race, all the competitors start at the same time and sprint to the finish. In the Time Trial, competitors start separately. Track Cycling is kind of like NASCAR on bikes. Competitors race around a track with banked curves to help them maintain speed. Some races are as short as 3 laps. Mountain Biking is a race on a course that has built in obstacles to attempt to simulate actual mountain biking. The Mountain Bike course has a "pit stop" area where riders can go to do repairs on their bike during the race, adding a bit of strategy to the event as well. If you've seen the X Games, you've probably seen something similar to BMX. Basically, it's like a Mario Kart race on bikes. Short and sweet on a dirt course packed with bikes.

How the US might fare: In Beijing, the US took home a gold and Bronze in Road Cycling. In all, the US took home 5 medals in Cycling. They will get strong competition from the teams from host Great Britain who cleaned house in Beijing winning 8 gold medals. In all, 9 different countries won Gold in the 18 events in Beijing and 20 different countries won at least one medal. Cycling is a wide open field that anyone can win if they hit the secret jump just right on Rainbow Road.


Competition Format: Both Men and Women compete as individuals in the Triathlon. The Triathlon consists of 3 stages - a 1500 meter swim, a 43km bike ride and a 10K run. To put this in Pittsburgh terms, it would be like swimming from the Aspinwall Marina to the Highland Park Bridge, biking out to the airport, then running from the airport up to Robert Morris.

What to Watch For: Triathlon is still a relatively new event for the Olympics, debuting in the 2000 games in Sydney. In the 6 Olympic competitions so far there have been 6 different nations win Gold (Canada, Switzerland, New Zealand, Austria, Germany, and Australia). Translation: The US is due to win this. The US has 5 triathletes competing (2 men and 3 women). Countries may only field 6 participants and only 6 nations have fielded the maximum (Australia, France, Germany, Great Britain, New Zealand, Spain).


This might be the strangest sentence you will read in our Olympics previews: This will be the 100th year the Modern Pentathlon will be part of the Olympic Games. The idea of the Pentathlon dates back to the Ancient Greek Olympics when it included long jump, javelin, discus, wrestling and a race. On the track and field side, these events are all now included in the Decathlon, which we will discuss more in detail in the post on Track and Field. The Modern Pentathlon features 5 completely different events: Epee (Fencing), Show Jumping (Equestrian), Pistol Shooting, Swimming, and Running. The planners of the Pentathlon must have watched a lot of Nordic Combo in the Winter Games or they like idea of a hit and run. The Shooting and Running portions of the event have been combined so that athletes will run a km, fire 3 rounds from a pistol, then run another km, and repeat.

Russia and Germany won gold in Beijing with Lithuania taking both Silver and Bronze in the Men's competition. Eastern Europeans are really good at the Pentathlon as Russia, Hungary, and Ukraine dominated at the 2011 World Championships.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

2012 Training Camp Primer

The Steelers hit Latrobe this summer looking to avenge their disappointing end to the 2011 campaign. The 2012 season will kick off at the scene of the crime in Denver, and even though there's a different quarterback under center, you'd better believe the black and gold are going to be focused on leaving the Mile High city on a different note this time around.

But between now and September 9th there are a lot of important decisions to be made that will shape the 2012 season. The Steelers hit camp this year with the most roster spots (10, by my count) open for competition of any camp in recent memory. Obviously, the Mike Wallace situation is still hanging over our heads, but we have a good feeling that something will get done soon, since Steps 1 and 2 in the "Re-Sign Mike Wallace" plan (h/t to Steelers Lounge) have already taken place.

Here's a look at the depth chart as we enter camp. We'll start with the guys that we consider "locks" to make the 53 man roster for opening day.

Roster Locks (29)

QB: Ben Roethlisberger
RB: Isaac Redman
WR: Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Jerricho Cotchery
TE: Heath Miller
OT: Marcus Gilbert, Mike Adams
OG: David DeCastro, Willie Colon
C: Maurkice Pouncey

DE: Brett Keisel, Ziggy Hood, Cameron Heyward
NT: Casey Hampton, Steve McLendon
OLB: James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, Jason Worlids
ILB: Lawrence Timmons, Larry Foote, Shawn Spence
CB: Ike Taylor, Keenan Lewis, Curtis Brown, Cortez Allen
S: Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark

Note: Rashard Mendenhall will likely begin the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list, which will keep him out the first 6 weeks of the season, but he will not count against the 53-man roster during that time.

Players that should make the team (barring injury, getting arrested, or getting suspended) (14)

QB: Byron Leftwich, Charlie Batch
RB: Jonathan Dwyer, Chris Rainey
WR: none
TE: Leonard Pope
OT: Max Starks
OG: none
C: Doug Legursky

DE: none
NT: Alameda Ta'amu
OLB: Chris Carter
ILB: Stevenson Sylvester
CB: none
S: Ryan Mundy

Specialists: Shaun Suisham (K), Jeremy Kapinos (P), Greg Warren (LS)

Note: TE Weslye Saunders is suspended for the first 4 games of the season and will not count against the roster during that time. Given his performances last year, I would put him in the "should make the team" category, so it's likely that the Steelers will make a roster move to put him on the 53-man roster after his suspension ends.

So where does that leave us? 29 "Locks" and 14 more that "Should" make the team is 43 players. By my best estimate, there are 10 roster spots open for competition in camp this year.

Battles For Roster Spots

There are 10 roster spots that I see as being "open for competition" and honestly they could be divided any way, but here's an educated guess at how they'll fall.

Running Back: Baron Batch/John Clay

Both of these guys could make the team out of camp. As I said above, Mendenhall won't count against the active roster for 6 weeks and having both of them on the roster would just add to the stable of backs we can throw out on the field. Baron Batch was a training camp superstar last year before tearing his ACL. Batch will likely battle Chris Rainey for the 3rd Down Back job and John Clay could take some of the short-yardage carries from Isaac Redman in the short-term.

Full Back/H-Back: David Johnson/David Paulson/Will Johnson

David Johnson clearly has the inside track to a roster spot here, and it's likely that 7th round pick David Paulson will end up on the practice squad. Will Johnson is an interesting case as he was signed as an undrafted free agent from West Virginia and is the only listed full back on the roster.

Reserve Linemen: Ramon Foster/Trai Essex/Chris Scott/Kelvin Beachum

Chris Scott is likely on his last legs with the Steelers and will need to make a big splash if he is going to earn himself a roster spot. Foster and Essex have been with the team long enough that they have the inside track to the last two roster spots. Foster can play either guard spot (and maybe tackle in a pinch) while Essex can play any of the 5 positions on the line. Beachum, a 7th round pick from SMU, is a likely candidate for the practice squad.

Wide Receiver: Toney Clemons/Derrick Williams/Marquis Maze

The Steelers enter camp with 11 WRs on the roster. It is likely they will only keep 5 on the roster. Toney Clemons was a 7th round pick from Colorado who lit it up in limited appearances for the Buffs. Clemons is a local kid from Valley High School and definitely has the potential to develop into an NFL receiver. Derrick Williams made a name for himself making big plays at Penn State but hasn't had the success in the pros that his college pedigree would suggest. He has a shot to make the team as a kick returner/special teams ace. Marquis Maze had a good career at Alabama and was one of the bigger name undrafted free agents the Steelers picked up after the draft.

Defensive End: Corbin Bryant/Al Woods

It is unlikely that the Steelers will enter the 2012 season with just 3 Defensive Ends on the roster, especially with Casey Hampton likely sitting out the first few games. Bryant and Woods figure to be the next in line to battle it out for a roster spot and should get plenty of playing time in the preseason to sort this one out. We're secretly hoping UDFA Ikponmwosa Igbinosun makes some noise in camp, just so we can use his name more often.

Linebacker: Mortty Ivy/Brandon Hicks/Brandon Johnson

This is purely a spot that can be won on special teams. The top 4 at both OLB and ILB are pretty much set, but a 9th linebacker could play his way onto the team with a solid showing on special teams.

Cornerback: Terrence Frederick/Terry Carter/Andre Freeman

This is another battle that will probably be won on special teams. Frederick was a 7th round pick from Texas A&M and at best will be the #5 corner this year. Carter and Freeman were both UDFAs. The Steelers could still look to bring back a special teams ace like Anthony Madison to fill this role.

Safety: Will Allen/Damon Cromartie-Smith/Myron Rolle

Will Allen is only this far down the list because of his salary cap number being over $1 million. Cromartie-Smith has been with the team for a few seasons and could make for a solid contributor on special teams. With Ryan Clark unable to play in Denver, the Steelers will start the season with at least 4 safeties on the roster, possibly more. Myron Rolle is a great story, having gone to Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship after graduating from Florida State. Rolle obviously has the intelligence to play safety in LeBeau's scheme, and this should make for a good battle that could come down to special teams play.

Depth Chart Battles

The last 10 roster spots aren't all that will be decided in camp this year. There are also important decisions in the lineup, including starting cornerback opposite Ike Taylor and Left Tackle.

Starting Cornerback: Keenan Lewis/Curtis Brown/Cortez Allen

This should be a fantastic battle that might not get settled in camp. It's possible that we enter the season with two players rotating like B-Mac and Gay did a few years ago. Lewis was the 3rd corner last season but played on the outside as Will Gay moved in to the slot to play the nickel corner position on 3rd downs. Lewis had his best season as a pro last year and playing on the outside on 3rd downs certainly gives him the most experience of the group. Curtis Brown was a special teams all star last year, leading the team in ST tackles. Brown didn't see many snaps on defense last season, but as a 3rd round pick he has the talent to step in and contribute - though his best position might be as the slot/nickel corner. Cortez Allen is an interesting case. A 4th round pick out of The Citadel last year, we weren't really expecting much from Allen as going from FCS to the NFL was a big jump in talent. All Allen did was match up against Rob Gronkowski and lock him up when the Steelers beat the Pats. Allen might be the best man-to-man defender the Steelers have, which could give him a good case to be the #2 corner.

Starting Left Tackle: Mike Adams/Max Starks

During mini camp and OTAs, the Steelers said that Mike Adams would be the starting Left Tackle, but with the re-signing of Max Starks, that could change. The one thing we can take solace in is that we won't have to watch Jonathan Scott be a turnstile between Dwight Freeney and Ben Roethlisberger any more. Adams is the LT of the future, but if he struggles in camp and the preseason, I wouldn't be surprised to see Starks out there on opening day.

2012 Summer Olympics Preview - Individual Competition

Greetings everyone. You may or may not know me but I am Cory from the Three Rivers Burgh Blog and just like in 2010 for the Winter Olympics I am back to team up with Ian for the 2012 Summer Olympics preview. In the summer games we have 31 different events and over the week we are going to be preview every single one of them. I am going to drop some knowledge today about the individual competition aspect of the Olympics with a preview of archery, shooting and weightlifting. Ian dropped some information earlier in the day so make sure you go and check that out and make sure you check back every day to get your info on everything Olympics.

Individual Competition


Archery might look like it is just your uncle Joe going out into the back yard with a 12 pack of IC Light and shooting at random deer and bunnies but I can pretty much assure you that it is much more complicated than that. In the Olympics Archery is broken down into team and individual events and it is one of the oldest competitions in the Summer games as it started in 1900 but was off and on since then before coming back for good in 1974.

How it works: In each the men's and women's side there will be 64 competitors, so 128 overall. They start with a seeding round where each archer (not the TV show, although that is great) will shoot 72 arrows and the scores of that seeding round will determine your rank. Basically after the seeding round you go one-on-one against another archer and it is single elimination. Pretty legit stuff and if you have ever shot a bow you know how tough it can be. These guys are the best in the world.

On the team side they do things much of the same way as the individual side, only in a team format. I know, tough concept to grasp right? The teams have a ranking round and the top-4 seeds get a bye to the quarterfinal round and the rest face off in a single elimination format. The matching in the team setting takes 24 shots and the high score wins. In the team rounds each team is comprised of three players.

The USA Chances: The USA hasn't had a gold medal winner since the 1996 season and their hopes rest on the shoulders of Brady Ellison who has performed very well in the World Cup events. Interesting note on the men's side is that the front runner Im Dong-Hyun of South Korea is legally blind with a 20/200 eye sight but is the second ranked archer in the world. Impressive. Viktor Ruban won the 2008 gold medal. On the men's team side the USA should have a decent chance of taking down South Korea who has won the last three Olympic gold medals. France and China will also be around there. On the women's individual side the USA doesn't really stand much of a chance as South Korea holds the top three shooters in the world. Yikes. Russia is also pretty good but on the team side South Korea should have a pretty easy time getting through this.


If you imagine that archery is like you uncle Joe going and and shooting deer with a bow and arrow then shooting would be like your uncle Joe going out and shooting a bunch of guns at targets with his friends. Like archery it is much harder than that and these guys are much more talented than any relative you have but I think you get the point of what I am trying to say.

How it works: There are 15 events total between the men's and women's shooting event with the men's shooting in nine different area's and the women shooting in six. On the men's side they shoot the 10, 25 and 50 meter pistol shoot, the 10 meter air rifle, 50 meter rifle prone, 50 meter rifle three positions, trap, double trap and skeet. The women shoot in the 10 meter air pistol, 10 meter air rifle, 25 meter pistol, 50 meter rifle three positions, trap and skeet. In the three position events the shooters will take shots from the prone (lying on stomach), standing and kneeling position and the trap and skeet shoots the shooters will shoot at clay targets.

The USA Chances: Overall the USA has 105 total medals when you combine the men and the women which is many more than Sweden who has 55. The United States has 51 total gold medals, 45 on the men's side and eight on the women's side. The last Olympics showed the US and China taking home a ton of menials as China had eight overall while the US took six. There are way too many events to go through one by one but the USA should be right up there in each event.


Weightlifting is exactly what you think it might be. When you go to the gym and see those guys grunting and lifting heavy weights. The different between those guys and these guys is that these guys are way stronger than anyone at your gym. When you look at these guys you are going to say wow. There are certainly different weight classes they compete in but these guys are the absolute best at picking up heavy objects and holding them.

How it works: There are 15 different weight classes overall. On the men's side they have weight classes that break out as (all in pounds) 123, 137, 152, 170, 187, 207, 231 and 231+. On the women's side they break out as 106, 117, 128, 139, 152, 165 and 165+. There are two separate lifts that each participant will lift and those are the snatch and clean & jerk. The snatch is when the lifter takes the bar from the floor straight above the head. In the clean & jerk the lifter is pulled up to the shoulders and then lifted above the head after it is held at the shoulder. Each competitor gets three chances to make the lift. In between attempts the lifters gets no more than two minutes. Not a lot of time when you are lifting nearly thousands of pounds. The winner is determined by the best combined score from both lifts. If there is a tie for a lift the person that wins is the first person to achieve the total.

The USA Chances: The USSR has the most medals on the men's side with 71 with the United States right behind with 41. The US men hold 15 gold medals which is only second to the USSR with 44. On the women's side China is the runaway winner with 11 gold medals and 12 total while the USA has only one gold and two medals overall. For the men it will be Russia and China who are going to battle for the top spot overall as they have tied for the most athletes that qualified for the lifting events. The USA only sent four lifters total to London for lifting so it seems like a long shot for the homeland to make any noise.

Steelers Extend Mike Tomlin

Coach Tomlin had a year left on his current deal and the Steelers extended him for 3 more seasons, meaning that his contract now runs through 2016.


We could bore you with details like his 55-25 regular season record, his 4 playoff appearances in 5 seasons, his 3 division titles, 2 AFC Championships and 1 Super Bowl ring. Or we could shamelessly plug our Tomlin Press Conference Bingo game.


2012 Olympics Preview: One-on-One Combat

Once again, I'm teaming up with my buddy Cory from Three Rivers Burgh Blog to put together previews of the Olympic Games. Today, I'll be looking at Boxing, Fencing, Judo, Taekwondo, and Wrestling.


Competition Format: 10 weight classes in Men's Boxing, 3 weight classes in Women's Boxing, each with 16-28 participants. There will be preliminary rounds followed by a 16-person bracket to determine the champion of each weight class.

What to Watch For: Of all the sports in the Olympics, Boxing probably has the widest representation from different nations. In total, 79 different nations have qualified a boxer for the Olympic games. The United States, because we're awesome at beating the snot out of people just for fun, has qualified the most boxers with 12 Americans competing in London. That said, only one American (Flyweight Rau'shee Warren) won a medal at the 2011 World Amateur Championships. The 2011 Worlds were dominated by Ukraine, who medalled in half of the events, taking home 4 Golds and 1 Silver. Cuba, Azerbaijan and Russia also performed well, so I guess there's something about communism and Boxing that goes together.


Competition Format: There are 10 events. Both men and women compete in Epee, Foil, Team Foil, and Sabre. Women compete in Team Epee and Men compete in Team Sabre. Each tournament is a single-elimination bracket with the top seeds receiving byes. Scores are determined by hits. In Epee, both fencers can score while in Foil and Sabre only one hit can be scored at a time.

What to Watch For: People dress up like beekeepers and swordfight. The different competitions are based on the weight and design of the sword. Italy has some of the top fencers in the world and should perform well in London. Valentina Vezzali of Italy has won gold in the individual foil in the last three Olympics and would be the fourth Olympian ever to win a gold medal in an individual competition in 4 consecutive Olympics. The US has the most fencers in the field, but on the whole are not as strong as Italy, Germany, and Russia. Fencing must have been popular during World War I.


Competition Format: There are 7 weight classes for Men's and Women's.

What to Watch For: The United States only has 5 competitors in the competition while Brazil, France, Great Britain, Japan, and South Korea have athletes in each competition. Uzbejistan has some high;y ranked competitors on the men's side and could be a sleeper nation to rack up some medals here. On the Women's side, the Japanese are clearly the ones to beat as they have one of the top 3 in each weight class.


Competition Format: 4 weight classes in Men's and Women's. Each class has a 16-person bracketed tournament.

What to Watch For: Did you take karate lessons when you were a kid? Chances are they were Taekwondo. That said, it's likely you'll still have no clue what's going on when these guys throw down. There is an interesting bit of strategy as each nation is only permitted 4 participants in the competition, it will be impossible for one nation to thoroughly dominate. As expected, South Korea has the best chance to dominate as all four of their entrants placed in the top 3during the World Qualification Tournament. Interestingly enough, the World Rankings are determined by the World Taekwondo Federation who actually embraces the WTF acronym,


Competition Format: Steel Cage, Ladder Match, Money in the Bank, Royal Rumble

Oh, it's not that kind of wrestling?

There are various weight classes in both freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling.

What to Watch For: The US has some very good wrestlers and should be able to rack up some medals here. Jordan Burroughs won Gold at the World Championships in the 74 kg divison. If you make a point to watch one wrestling competition, check out the Men's 84 kg class as Pittsburgh native Jake Herbert will be representing our country in the competition. Jake attended North Allegheny High School and did a pretty funny spot on the DVE Morning Show a while back, joking about how his family was packing all black and gold clothes to wear in London and would be waving Terrible Towels during the competition. Go Jake. Go America.

Monday, July 23, 2012

2012 Summer Olympics Preview - Stuff In A Pool That Isn't A Race

Greetings everyone. You may or may not know me but I am Cory from the Three Rivers Burgh Blog and just like in 2010 for the Winter Olympics I am back to team up with Ian for the 2012 Summer Olympics preview. In the summer games we have 31 different events and over the week we are going to be preview every single one of them. I am going to drop some knowledge today about the basketball aspect of the Olympics with a preview of men's and women's basketball. Ian dropped some information on soccer earlier in the day so make sure you go and check that out and make sure you check back every day to get your info on everything Olympics.

Stuff in a Pool That Isn't A Race

Synchronized Swimming

If you are like most people you see synchronized swimming on the docket of the Olympics and you think it is just some people that spent 15 minutes with each other figuring out some routine like they were on their feet for a sixth grade talent show. That couldn't be further from the truth and if you don't think so go try and just fred water for five or ten minutes. Not as easy as you may think. It looks sometimes as if the people in the pool are robots that were programed the right way and the strength that everyone in the pool has is just unreal.

How it works: There are two different parter to the synchronized swimming portion of the Olympics and those are the team event and the duet event. There are eight nations that will compete in the team event and the United States will not be one of those teams. They failed to qualify for the first time 1996. The eight nations that qualified are: Australia, Canada, China, Egypt, Great Britain, Japan, Russia and Spain.

Each team is composed of nine athletes and is half of the final score. The other half of the score is the duet portion. In each of the portions there is a technical routine and a free routine. The technical routine is what it may seem as the teams and duets are scored for how the athletes perform and execute the finer elements of synchronized swimming while the free routine gives the teams more a chance to branch out and get creative.

During the technical routine the team is giving a time limit of 2:50 while the duet phase of the technical routine is given 2:20. In the free routine the teams and duets get more time with four minutes being allotted for the team and 3:30 for the duet. With all the portions of what I have talked about the teams can pick music they want and with the free routines they have no restrictions as to what they can do. Basically how it works is if you want to see what the "older timers" mean when they talk about synchronized swimming you want to watch the technical portion and if you want to see what teams can creatively do you are more likely to watch the free routine.

Interesting to note that this is one of the few Olympic events that there is no men's competition.

The USA Chances: Um, yea, so about that. As I said before the United States will not have a team in the competition this year but from what I could research it seems as if Russia, China and Spain will vie for the top spot in the duet while the same three should be right there in the team portion.


If you are wondering what diving is then you probably need to go get your head checked or you live in a desert where there is no water and you have no television. On a more serious note there isn't much more to that then you think. While you are I can go up to a diving board and try to jump into the water as good as they do we really don't even touch what these athletes can do. They go into the water and barely make the water move. If you see a splash then you know the diver really messed up the dive and they are going to be penalized for that in a big way with the judges.

How it works: There are 25 nations participating in this year's diving competition which includes Australia, Belarus, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Cuba, France Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Norway, North Korea, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine, United States and Venezuela. Woof, that is a lot of countries.

For both the men's and women's events there are four types of dives which includes the platform ( 10-meter), springboard (3-meter), synchronized platform and synchronized springboard. I will take the format directly from the NBC website:

In women's springboard and platform competitions, divers execute five dives from different groups (forward, backward, reverse, inward and twisting; armstand in platform only) without a limit on degree of difficulty.

In men's springboard, divers execute six dives from different groups, with one from each of the five groups plus an additional dive from any group, without a limit on degree of difficulty. In men's platform, divers execute six dives from the six different groups.

OK, now that we have that out of the way we can talk about the format for the individual events. The first round is the preliminary round where all divers perform and the top-18 divers move on. If there is a tie for the final spot then both divers move on (nice of them to include both). They they participate in the semifinals where the top-12 move on to the finals.

For the synchronized events there is only one round where the women will perform five dives from four different groups and the men will perform six dives from a minimum of four different groups. You can only use the same group a maximum of twice so you have to mix it up.

A group of seven judges score the individual dives and a group of nine judges score the synchronized dives. They each gives scores between a 0-10 with a score of ten being the best. The main portions of the dive that are taken in consideration when giving out a score are: approach, take-off, elevation, execution and entry.

The USA Chances: The American men and women haven't had much success winning medals in the recent past in the diving events as the women last won gold in 2000 while the men have been shut out on the medal ceremony since 1996. China has been nothing short of outstanding as they had 11 medals in the last Summer Olympics and Canada had a couple of medal wins. It will be an amazingly competitive event for the USA.

2012 Olympics Previews: Sports You Never See Except in the Olympics

Once again, I'm teaming up with my buddy Cory from Three Rivers Burgh Blog to put together previews of the Olympic Games. The Games kick off on July 27 in London, so over the next week we'll be giving yinz the rundown on what you need to know in preparation for the greatest international competition in existence. We also have Adam dropping some knowledge on us about athletes and teams you can expect to see on the medal stand. Since there are 31 different events in the Summer Games, we've condensed them down and combined them so we don't have to write 31 different posts. Today, I'll be looking at Equestrian, Field Hockey, Handball, and Water Polo.


You like the Kentucky Derby? Was the triple crown race this year exhilarating until I'll Have Another dropped out of the Belmont? Good for you. Equestrian is nothing like that. Yes, there are horses, but that's about it. There are 3 events in Equestrian - Dressage, Jumping, and Eventing. Since the Olympics are in England I'm using the Oxford comma. Deal with it.

Dressage is basically walking a horse around and making it look good. If you can't figure out what Jumping is you should probably stop reading now. Eventing is the Triathlon of Equestrian events. It involves Dressage, Eventing, and Cross Country which is basically like riding your horse through an Old West town where there is crap all over the ground for it to jump over and possible ponds/streams to wade through.

Competition Format: There are Individual and Team events for each of the 3 categories.

How We Might Fare: Was your country once part of the British Empire? If not, do you have a buttload of money? If you answered yes to either one of these questions, chances are you'll be good at Equestrian Events. In Beijing Germany, the US, Canada, and the Netherlands all won Golds in Equestrian with Germany winning 5 of the 18 medals. The US won a gold in Team Jumping, silver in Individual Eventing, and bronze in Individual Jumping.

Field Hockey

There's really nothing about this event that says "Field" or "Hockey." It's played indoors on a hard surface with the players running around. It's basically High School Gym Hockey with everyone using sticks with the blades broken off.

Competition Format: There are two groups of 6 with the top 2 in each group qualifying for a bracketed tournament. Both Men's and Women's events.

How We Might Fare: To call this "Hockey" is an insult to anyone from the North American continent. Argentina is the only team from the Western Hemisphere in the Men's competition. The United States Women's team did qualify. The US women finished 4th in their group in Beijing. I guess the qualifier to be good at Field Hockey is to not be good at actual hockey, as Germany, Spain, and Australia medaled in the Men's competition in Beijing and the Netherlands, China, and Argentina medaled in the Women's tournament.


Never heard of Handball? It's because the US hasn't qualified a team in either the Men's or Women's competition since 1996 when we hosted the Games. Handball is basically a combination of soccer and basketball.

Competition Format: Two groups of 6 teams with the top 4 from each group qualifying for the bracket stage.

How We Might Fare? The US didn't qualify once again. Apparently we can only handle so many deviations on soccer.

Does it snow in your country? A lot? Then chances are, you'll be good at Handball. In Beijing France beat Iceland in the Men's Championship and Norway beat Russia in the women's. Iceland is apparently pretty good at this game. Maybe after the disaster at the Junior Goodwill Games when they got embarrassed by a team wearing purple and teal they decided to give up hockey and switch to handball. No confirmation on if Wolf Stansson is their coach.

Water Polo

Once upon a time someone had the brilliant idea to try to combine hockey and soccer and play it in a pool. On the surface the game is pretty simple - try to score goals while not being able to stand or touch the bottom of the pool.

Competition Format: Men's Tournament has 2 groups of 6 with the top 4 in each group advancing to an 8-team bracket. The Women's Tournament has 2 groups of 4 with everyone advancing into an 8-team bracket.

Defending Champions: Hungary (Men's), Netherlands (Women's)

How We Might Fare: The US took Silver in both the Men's and Women's competitions in Beijing. The Men are in a stacked Group B that features all 3 medalists from the Beijing games. The Netherlands women's team did not qualify but the US women will have to navigate through a group that includes Hungary (4th place in Beijing, won Group Play) and China (5th place Beijing, all 3 losses by only 1 goal). Looking at the tournament, the only conclusion one can make is that small Eastern European countries have nothing better to do than be good at Water Polo (Hungary, Montenegro, Romania, Croatia, Serbia, and Greece are all competing). Man, the Ottoman Empire would've been awesome at Water Polo.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

2012 Olympics Previews: Soccer

Once again, I'm teaming up with my buddy Cory from Three Rivers Burgh Blog to put together previews of the Olympic Games. The Games kick off on July 27 in London, so over the next week we'll be giving yinz the rundown on what you need to know in preparation for the greatest international competition in existence. We also have Adam dropping some knowledge on us about athletes and teams you can expect to see on the medal stand. Since there are 31 different events in the Summer Games, we've condensed them down and combined them so we don't have to write 31 different posts. Today, I'll be looking at Soccer.

If you're a fan of international soccer, at first glance you might be excited for another big-time tournament. Well, hopefully you enjoyed the Euro 2012 tournament, because that's about all you're going to get this year. Due to a ridiculously stupid FIFA regulation, Olympic squads may only contain 3 players over the age of 23. Therefore, the normal powerhouse teams are not participating in the Olympics. The qualification tournaments featured Under-21 squads which means most big-name players didn't even partake in qualifying. Due to this, the Euro tournament is considered a bigger deal than the Olympics, which are pretty much an afterthought.

That said, the age restrictions do enable some lesser-known players and nations to compete on a national stage. I don't have much to go off of to make my analysis, and the closest thing many of these teams have seen to international competition is the Under-20 World Cup last year, so I'll probably make mention of their finishes there as a good barometer for these teams.

Men's Draw

Group A - Great Britain, Senegal, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay

If striker Luis Suarez is playing for Uruguay, they have a good chance of sweeping their way through this group. He's an exciting player that led Uruguay to the 2011 Copa America championship while being named the Player of the Tournament. He also helped Uruguay to a 4th place finish in the 2010 World Cup. Great Britain and Uruguay should advance from this group.

Group B - Mexico, South Korea, Gabon, Switzerland

Mexico has a squad that is capable of making a deep run in the tournament. Most players have international experience from their 3rd place finish in last year's Under-20 World Cup. South Korea has quietly built a solid soccer team, advancing to the knockout stage in both the 2011 U-20 World Cup and 2010 World Cup. Mexico and South Korea should advance, but Switzerland could cause some problems.

Group C - Brazil, Egypt, Belarus, New Zealand

Brazil should easily sweep through this group and has a great chance to bring home Gold to back up their U-20 World Cup title from last year. Brazil and Egypt are familiar with each other, having played to a 1-1 draw in the group stage of the U-20 World Cup. Egypt was eliminated in the Round of 16 and could well advance from this group. New Zealand has quietly made their way onto the international stage after earning 3 draws at the 2010 World Cup against Paraguay, Slovakia, and Italy. The Kiwis play a defensive style that isn't going to overpower anyone, but their propensity for earning draws (had draws against Uruguay and Cameroon in the group stage of the U-20 World Cup) could make them a tough out in this group. I expect Brazil and Egypt to advance here.

Group D - Spain, Japan, Honduras, Morocco

Spain has won 3 consecutive major tournaments (2008 Euro, 2010 World Cup, 2012 Euro) without allowing a goal in the Knockout stage of any of them. That's impressive, but with a U-23 roster, this Spanish side may not be as dominant as their full National Team. That said, they should be able to advance through this group. Spain dominated their group in the U-20 World Cup and lost to eventual champion Brazil in the Round of 8 on penalty kicks. None of the other 3 squads competed in the U-20 World Cup, so I don't really know what to expect. Honduras beat El Salvador in the semi-finals of the North American qualifiers (the US went out in the group stage) to earn the 2nd North American bid. Japan will probably advance, but I'm going on reputation.

With the US not competing in Men's Football Soccer, I don't have to be accused of hating America if I don't pick them to win.

Ian's Prediction: Gold - Brazil, Silver - Spain, Bronze - Uruguay, 4th - Mexico

Women's Draw

Unlike the Men's Competition, there are no age restrictions on the Women's side, which means the US was able to qualify and will be out for revenge after losing to Japan in the Women's World Cup last year. This should be a very good competition with 10 of the 12 teams having competed in the 2011 Women's World Cup. The Women's competition at the Olympics is made up of 3 groups of 4 with the top 2 in each group advancing along with the top 2 3rd place finishers.

Group E - Great Britain, New Zealand, Cameroon, Brazil

Brazil tore through the group stage at the Women's World Cup with a 7-0 goal differential but lost to the US in the opening round of the knockout stage. England won their group and lost to France in the Round of 8 and New Zealand was eliminated in group play. Expect Brazil and Great Britain to advance here. If New Zealand can earn a few draws, they might be able to advance.

Group F - Japan, Canada, Sweden, South Africa

Sweden is a very good squad that actually won their Group (which featured the US) at the Women's World Cup and wound up finishing 3rd. Japan is the reigning world champions. The Canadian side is coming off an embarrassing performance at the Women's World Cup but might be good enough to earn a spot in the elimination stage.

Group G - United States, France, Colombia, North Korea

If there's a Group of Death at the Olympics, it's this one. And that's not because Colombia and North Korea are involved. All 4 of these teams competed at the Women's World Cup. The US has experience against all of them, having competed in the Group Stage against Colombia and North Korea and beating France in the Semi-Finals. The US beat North Korea 2-0, Colombia 3-0, and France 3-1. Colombia and North Korea drew 0-0 at the Women's World Cup which should set up an interesting rematch with a potential spot in the quarterfinals on the line. The US and France should easily advance.

The elimination stage should be exciting. Finishing 1st in Group G is a must for the US as they would draw one of the 3rd place squads. A 2nd place finish would force them into a match with the winner of Group F (likely reigning champion Japan or a very good Sweden team). The top 4 from the Women's World Cup are all competing in this tournament so a favorable draw in the knockout stage is essential. The US will likely have to face either Japan or Brazil before the finals, but not having to face either of them in the Round of 8 is huge.

Ian's Prediction: Gold - US, Silver - Japan, Bronze - Brazil, 4th - Sweden

2012 Summer Olympics Preview - Basketball

Greetings everyone. You may or may not know me but I am Cory from the Three Rivers Burgh Blog and just like in 2010 for the Winter Olympics I am back to team up with Ian for the 2012 Summer Olympics preview. In the summer games we have 31 different events and over the week we are going to be preview every single one of them. I am going to drop some knowledge today about the basketball aspect of the Olympics with a preview of men's and women's basketball. Ian dropped some information on soccer earlier in the day so make sure you go and check that out and make sure you check back every day to get your info on everything Olympics.



If there is one thing that everyone loves to watch in the Summer Olympics it is Basketball and Track & Field. Basketball is probably the more popular of the two and on the men's side the United States is going to send an absolutely loaded lineup to London to bring back a Gold medal. To say that the USA is expecting to win the Gold medal here might be the understatement of the year. Kobe Bryant went as far to say that if the US team does not win Gold they should have their citizenship's revoked. That seems a little harsh but this is how these guys feel and to be honest they are easily the favorites this year.

The set up for basketball is the qualifying teams are broke up into two groups and this is how they will break down:

Group A: Argentina, France, Lithuania, Nigeria, Tunisia, United States

Group B: Australia, Brazil, China, Great Britain, Russia, Spain

Everyone will play in group play before the top four teams from each group move on to a single elimination bracket.

While the United States should breeze through Group A and earn the top seed in the elimination round they might have a little bit of problems with some of the teams from Group B boasts a much deeper group with Brazil and Spain that can test the United States at the point where they are most vulnerable which is in the paint.

While Brazil hung with the USA in one of the recent tune up games Spain could be the top competitor for the US. Spain has some strong post players that are athletic in Marc Gasol, Pau Gasol and Serge Ibaka and with the US relying on an unproven Anthony Davis this could prove to be a pretty significant advantage for Spain. The loss of Ricky Rubio is going to hurt Spain but they should still be the favorite to challenge the favorite.

Where nobody can match the US is on the wing as the American's are loaded with speed, quickness and deadly shooting. You can just run through the lineup of LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook and that is just the tip of the iceberg when talking about talented guards and small forwards that can just kill you.

I really don't see anyone coming close to competing with the United States. While I don't think they will be as dominant as the 1992 Dream Team, and nobody will, they will still play well enough for nobody to really be that worried.

The United States has won four of the last five Gold's and has 13 total Gold medal's in men's basketball competition. The next closest is Russia who has won two of them. That is pretty much the definition of domination.


On the women's side this is how the groups are going to break down:

Group A: Angola, China, Croatia, Czech Republic, Turkey, United States

Group B: Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Great Britain, Russia

Just like in the men's tournament the two groups will play each other with the top-4 moving on to a single elimination bracket until the Gold is awarded. The United States is considered the favorite for this just like on the other side and should be the favorite to win their group to set up a run at the top spot.

From Group B Russia and Australia should give the United States the toughest test but in Group A the USA will need to get by Czech Republic who will most likely be the toughest test.

The United States roster is loaded with talent from the WNBA which includes Candace Parker, Tamika Catching, Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird, Tamika Catchins and Maya Moore. I don't watch a ton of women's basketball, actually I watch none of it, but I know that this is a stacked lineup.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

2012 Summer Olympics Preview - Volleyball

Greetings everyone. You may or may not know me but I am Cory from the Three Rivers Burgh Blog and just like in 2010 for the Winter Olympics I am back to team up with Ian for the 2012 Summer Olympics preview. In the summer games we have 31 different events and over the week we are going to be preview every single one of them. I am going to drop some knowledge today about the volleyball aspect of the Olympics with a preview of beach volleyball and indoor volleyball. Ian dropped some information on tennis earlier in the day so make sure you go and check that out and make sure you check back every day to get your info on everything Olympics.


Beach Volleyball

There are a few things that go on at beaches during the summer when people go on vacation. There are football flying round and baseball's being thrown and there is also volleyball being played if there is any resemblance of a net around. It is fun to do while you are out by the ocean with a bunch of people that just like to mess around and have fun. The Olympics tries to do this even though there will be no ocean and this type will have the prize of a gold medal for the duo that wins it all. Also in the Olympics I would venture to guess that the teams that are out on the "beach" are going to go all out and not care if they get some sand down their top or pants. Also it is important to note that while most people associate beach volleyball with women there are also men's teams and they both will be competing at the 2012 Olympics.

How it works: Unlike indoor volleyball the beach form is played with one two members on a team and unlike the indoor game those two players have to pretty much excel at every part of the game if the team is going to be successful. Because there are only two players and there is a lot of ground to cover and communication is of the utmost importance in these games. On both the men's and women's side there will be 24 teams that are broken down as such:

Men's: Brazil (2 teams), Germany (2), Latvia (2), Switzerland (2), and USA (2), Austria, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain, South Africa, and Venuzuela.

Women's: Australia (2), Brazil (2), Czech Republic (2), Germany (2), Netherlands (2), Russia (2), USA (2), Argentina, Austria, Canada, China, Great Britain, Greece, Italy, Mauritius, Spain, and Switzerland.

The competition starts in pool play where the group of 24 teams (in each gender) get broken into six pools of four teams each. In the group they will play a round-robin schedule where you get two points for a win, one point for a loss and zero points if a team forfeits. At the end of pool play the top two teams move on to play in a single elimination bracket where a loser will only play in the bronze medal game. Although taking the top two from each pool will only give you 12 teams the two best third place teams will move on also while the final two spots are awarded when the rest of the third and fourth place pool teams play single elimination games to earn that spot.

The competition is best two-of-three sets with the first two sets being played to 21 points via rally scoring and if a third set is needed they play to 15. The winning team must win by two and play will go on till a team wins by two. So, hypothetically speaking the final score of any game could be 100-98 if teams traded points that long and no team was ever up by two until the final point.

The USA Chances: The USA tandem of Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser are the defending champions and should figure as the favorites. The USA is in a tie with Brazil for the most medals all-time in beach volleyball with four but they hold the gold medal advantage with a 3-1 margin. Brazil will be the main competition for the men at London. On the women's side the pair of Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh are back-to-back gold medal winners and should be a favorite going into 2012. The USA has three all-time medals in beach volleyball with Brazil having five total but only one gold medal. Brazil and China will give May-Treanor and Walsh a run for their money this year but I am gonna go with the USA in this one (why wouldn't I?).

Indoor Volleyball

While most people associate beach volleyball as more of a relaxed sport that you do with your buds indoor volleyball is much more competitive than that on the indoor court. This is what almost everyone thinks of when you talk about volleyball and it is more recognizable since it is a NCAA sport that most anyone that goes to college goes to watch at night when their girlfriend or that one hot girl you want to ask out plays. Although the girls dress in tight spandex this is a pretty demanding sport that requires a good bit of athleticism to excel at. Although it is more specialized than beach volleyball it is still no joke.

How it works: There are half as many indoor volleyball teams as their are beach teams which translates into 12 teams for each gender playing in London. Here is a breakdown of the teams that will be competing for gold:

Men: Great Britain, Russia, Poland, Brazil, Tunisia, United States, Italy, Argentina, Serbia, Australia, Bulgaria and Germany.

Women: Great Britain, Italy, United States, China, Algeria, Dominican Republic, Turkey, Brazil, Russia, South Korea, Serbia and Japan

There are 12 players on a team and six players are able to be on the court at the same time. The 12 teams are broke up into two groups where each team will play a full round-robin schedule. Just like in beach volleyball you get two points for a win, one point for a loss and zero points for a forfeit. After the end of round-robin play the top four teams move on to an single elimination bracket with the only game to take place between teams that lose would be for the bronze medal. Unlike the beach volleyball game the indoor game is a best-of-five set game. The first four sets are played to 25 with rally scoring where you have to win by two. If it makes it to a fifth set then they will play that set to 15.

The USA Chances: On the men's side the USSR holds the top medal count with six including three gold medals but since they don't count anymore the USA is up top with four medals with three golds. Brazil and Italy also have four total medals with Brazil holding two golds. The USA men shouldn't be the favorite this year but might be able to bring home a medal. They are ranked fifth in the world and will have to overcome Brazil and Russia who hold the top two spots in the world. On the women's side the USSR still has the medal count lead with seven (four golds) followed by Japan and China. The USA is tied with Brazil with three medals but has yet to ever win a gold in Olympic competition. This year might be a little different as the USA enters as the top team in the world followed by Brazil and China who will make a run at gold.