Sunday, September 28, 2014

What The Buc? Steelers Lose

Remember that game against the Raiders a few years ago when Bruce Gradkowski and Louis Murphy at the Steelers secondary alive in the second half? This game was pretty much a repeat of that.

Antonio Brown did his Lynn Swann impression though

Other than that though.....

Gameday: Tampa Bay Bucs

Heinz Field
TV: FOX (map)
Radio: WDVE and other affiliates

What To Watch For

1. Momentum

The Steelers have some momentum coming out of a dominating second half performance in Carolina last week. On the other side, Tampa is trying to find some momentum after getting shelled by Atlanta on Thursday night. Tampa does have an extra few days of rest coming off their Thursday Night game and will be looking to restore some respect after the last game. The Steelers need to put their foot down right out of the gate and stomp out any hope Tampa has of keeping this game close, just like the Falcons did. If the Steelers offense can continue to perform like they did in the second half against the Panthers, this should be no problem against a Bucs defense that is nowhere near as good as Carolina's.

2. Mike Glennon vs Josh McCown

Josh McCown was the Bucs starter through the first three games. To get this out of the way, we'll always have a soft spot in our hearts for McCown because it was his game-winning TD pass for Arizona back in 2003 that allowed the Steelers to get Ben Roethlisberger. More on that below. Anyways, Tampa's offense was mostly stagnant under McCown who did not throw the ball down the field and relied on short passes to move the team. After McCown suffered a hand/thumb injury last week, Glennon took over and was a different animal. While he is not as accurate as McCown and will hold onto the ball forever (take note, Jason Worilds), Glennon has  huge arm and is not afraid to take shots down the field. Given the size advantage that Tampa's receivers (Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans) have on pretty much every corner in the league, this presents a potentially dangerous combination if Glennon can be accurate.

3. The Replacements

The Steelers defense suffered 3 major injuries last week. Ike Taylor broke his forearm on a hit with Lawrence Timmons, Ryan Shazier sprained his knee when Timmons fell on him making a tackle, and Jarvis Jones separated his wrist. Taylor had surgery on his arm but is still on the active roster as the Steelers hope he will be able to return in 6-8 weeks. Jones was placed on the Injured Reserve-Designated for Return list which puts him out of commission for 8 weeks. Shazier's injury is a little bit more short-term but will still keep him out of the next few games. Sean Spence will get his first NFL start (and what a journey that has been) in replacement of Shazier. At Outside Linebacker, Arthur Moats will fill in for Jones. The Steelers signed James Harrison out of retirement this week to take Moats' backup spot. In the secondary, Will Gay will be an every-down player now at corner and it remains to be seen whether the Steelers will use Antwon Blake as the 3rd corner and play him on the outside, sliding Gay inside or use Brice McCain/BW Webb as the slot corner and keep Gay outside.

4. Fundamental Football

The Steelers played a great fundamental second half against the Panthers. At its core, despite everything you'll hear, the key to winning football is being able to run the ball and stop the run. If the Steelers can do those two things, they'll be set up to head into the second quarter of the season with a 3-1 record with games against Jacksonville and Cleveland up next. Stop the run, pressure the quarterback, force turnovers, run the ball, score touchdowns not field goals. The Steelers are 8-1 all-time against Tampa Bay, with their only loss coming in 1998. Also, Tampa has never scored more than 22 points against the Steelers.

5. The Other Bucs

Everyone will be scoreboard watching in Pittsburgh today, and not because of the Steelers. The Pirates enter the final game of the season (against Johnny Cueto and the Reds) just one game behind the Cardinals for the National League Central title. If the Bucs win and Cards lose, it would set up a one-game play-off for the division champion. The loser of the one-game play-off for the division would have to play San Francisco on Wednesday in the Wild Card Game while the winner would play Los Angeles in the 5-game divisional series. If the Pirates lose to the Reds, they will play host to the Giants in the Wild Card Game on Wednesday. #Buctober

Random n'at: the McCown-Roethlisberger Connection

Heading into Week 17 of 2003, the Arizona Cardinals were in position for the #1 overall pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. The top prospect was Ole Miss QB Eli Manning. However, in Week 17, against a Minnesota Vikings team that needed a win to make the playoffs, Josh McCown threw a last-second touchdown to give the Cardinals the victory and send the Vikings home.

With the Cardinals win, they jumped to the #4 spot in the draft, giving the San Diego Chargers the #1 pick. Eli vehemently stated that he had no desire to play in San Diego, but the Chargers drafted him anyways. This prompted a draft-day trade with the New York Giants that sent Eli to New York and Phillip Rivers to San Diego. Eventually, the Steelers took Ben Roethlisberger 11th overall. But what if McCown hadn't thrown that touchdown pass? The Cardinals would have been hard-pressed to not pick Eli #1 overall (they certainly wouldn't have taken Larry Fitzgerald #1, who was their eventual selection at #4.) If the Cards took Eli, the Chargers likely would have taken Rivers with the #2 pick and the Giants, still in need of a quarterback, would have taken Big Ben at #5. Thankfully, Josh McCown did throw that touchdown and Big Ben fell to the Steelers.

Friday, September 26, 2014

WPIAL Week 5 Games of the Week

Week 5 is the halfway point in the WPIAL season and generally considered a watershed moment. The wheat has begun to separate from the chaff. Gooseegg Watch 2014 ended on two fronts last week when Springdale became the first team to score points against Clairton and Brownsville put points on the board. Only 24 of the 124 teams in the WPIAL have gone undefeated through 4 weeks and there are 4 games this week which feature head-to-head matchups between undefeated teams. I wrote a post yesterday on teams with the longest current winning and losing streaks. Additionally, @AJWPIAL and I got together this week and talked for an hour and a half about the season so far. Check it out and follow him on twitter and check out his blog WPIAL Football Zone.

If you're going to be at home tonight, keep an eye on the following hashtags on Twitter to follow along as people post score updates from games: #WPIAL #MSAscores #Skylights

Also, if you're not already, follow the @MSAsports twitter account which will post score updates and bookmark the MSA Scoreboard for quick reference at the end of the night. They get the final scores up faster than anyone. Also, MSA Sports broadcasts most games over the internet, here is their list of the games they will be broadcasting tonight.

I'll update my WPIAL Standings Page at the end of the night. It's the only one available that includes all playoff tiebreakers (Gardner Points, WPIAL Points Tiebreaker and Head-to-Head wins).

This is a monster week in AA as there are 3 games between unbeaten teams that will likely decide conference champions.

AAAA Game of the Week
North Hills (3-0, 4-0) at Pine-Richland (3-0, 4-0)

The Rams and Indians are both off to fast starts in the Northern Eight Conference. The two are tied with Central Catholic with 3-0 conference records and are clearly the top teams. Pine-Richland already has an overtime win over North Allegheny on their resume while North Hills has beefed their record with wins over Butler, Fox Chapel and Seneca Valley. The winner will not only solidify themselves as the primary challenger to Central Catholic in the conference, but also take a major step towards earning a home playoff game that comes with a top 2 finish. Pine-Richland's ben DiNucci is the WPIAL's leading passer with 1040 yards and 16 TDs through 4 games. Incredibly, DiNucci has 200 more yards and 4 more TDs than the next closest passer - Clairton's Ryan Williams. North Hills has built their offense on the ground and has 3 players with over 100 yards rushing in Nick Santucci, Jake Bruder and Andrew Bly (who also has over 100 yards receiving and leads the team in scoring).

Honorable Mentions: Norwin at Altoona, Woodland Hills at Upper St Clair

The Norwin-Altoona game has big implications in the Foothills Conference playoff race. Penn-Trafford and McKeesport have the top two spots essentially solidified but everything after that is open. Plum and Norwin are currently 2-1 in conference play while Connellsville is 2-2 and Altoona is 1-2 with a win over Plum. Five teams are guaranteed to make the playoffs, so this is the first of many games over the next few weeks that will sort out the middle of the Foothills standings. In the Southeastern Conference, Upper St Clair is off to a slow start at (1-2, 1-3) and is treading water for the 5th spot in the standings. Woodland Hills looks to be the best team in the conference and it seems surprising saying that a Jim Render team winning would be an "upset" but considering how things have gone for the Panthers this year, a USC win would be a huge upset.

AAA Game of the Week
Knoch (2-1, 2-2) at Hampton (3-0, 4-0)

Hampton is the only remaining undefeated team in the Greater Allegheny Conference. Knoch got off to a fast start with wins over Franklin Regional and Greensburg Salem, but lost to Gateway last week and threw the conference standings into disarray. There is a lot of uncertainty in the middle of the GAC standings and Knoch needs a win to keep themselves above the fray. On the other hand, a win by Hampton would further separate the Talbots from the pack. Hampton features dual-threat QB Nick Grabowski who has 305 passing yards and 3 TDs to go along with 203 rushing yards and 7 TDs. The Talbots have two players with over 200 rushing yards as Matt Rech has added 292 yards and 4 TDs. Knoch is led by QB Dan Farinelli who has thrown for 472 yards, primarily to Asa Adams and Cole Shinsky who both have over 100 receiving yards. RB Cody Milsom has added 200 yards on the ground for the Knights and leads the team with 5 TDs.

Honorable Mentions: West Allegheny at Montour, West Mifflin at Belle Vernon

West Allegheny and Central Valley are not just the top two teams in the Parkway Conference, they are likely the top two teams in AAA. Behind them, the Parkway is wide open but Montour looks to be the best of the rest. Can the Spartans make a statement against West Allegheny and stake their claim as the 3rd best team in the Parkway? There are 6 teams in the Big Nine Conference with at least 2 conference wins. Belle Vernon and West Mifflin both sit at 2-1 with wins over the bottom teams in the conference. This is an important game in the middle of the standings between two teams likely headed to the postseason.

AA Games of the Week
Apollo-Ridge (4-0, 4-0) at Highlands (4-0, 4-0)

As I discussed at the top, this is one of three games in AA that will likely decide the conference crown. Apollo-Ridge and Highlands have both defeated defending champion Kittanning in the last two weeks. Apollo-Ridge also has a win over Shady Side Academy, a perennial Allegheny Conference powerhouse. Both of these teams are loaded with talented players and this should be a fantastic game where the winner will be the clear favorite to win the conference crown. The Vikings are led by Pitt recruit Tre Tipton who is one of the best all-around athletes in AA. Tipton leads the team in passing (217 yards) and receiving (113 yards) and is second in rushing (442 yards) and has accounted for 8 total TDs. However, he has been overshadowed by sophomore RB Duane Brown who has 562 rushing yards, 87 receiving yards and 15 TDs. Highlands is not without their share of talented players and their offense has blossomed since  Bryaden Thimons took over at QB, throwing for 303 yards and 5 TDs. Elijah Jackson is 6th in the WPIAL in rushing with 627 yards and 8 TDs.

Mt Pleasant (4-0, 4-0) at Washington (4-0, 4-0)

Once again, the Vikings and Prexies are the top two teams in the Interstate Conference. Both teams have solid victories over teams in the bottom half of the conference on their resumes as well as hard-fought victories over an emerging Waynesburg team. The winner will have a clear advantage in the race for the Interstate title. Mt Pleasant has a well-balanced offense with dual-threat QB Nate Piesczak who has thrown for 318 yards and 3 TDs and ran for 175 yards and 2 scores. The Vikings once again have a strong running game with Jake Adamrovich (340 yards), Trevor Salopek (281 yards) and Chris Wagner (157 yards) all contributing in addition to Piesczak this year. On the other side, the Prexies also feature a balanced attack with QB Jonathan Spina throwing for 544 yards and 8 TDs, primarily to 6'2" WR DeQuay Isbell who has 317 yards and 7 TDs. On the ground, senior Malik Wells has shouldered the load, rushing for 400 yards and 7 TDs.

New Brighton (4-0, 4-0) at Aliquippa (4-0, 4-0)

At the beginning of the year, I said that I thought New Brighton would finish second in the Midwestern Conference and would be the biggest challenger to Aliquippa. The results to date have validated my prediction as Beaver smoked Beaver Falls 35-0 then turned around and got blown out of the water in the second half by New Brighton. When the dust settled, the Lions had routed the Bobcats 59-34. Aliquippa meanwhile has done what the Quips do: blow people out. The Quips have scored at least 44 points in every game and have not allowed more than 15. The second half of the season is a challenging slate for the Quips with games against New Brighton, Beaver, Mt Pleasant and Beaver Falls. Luckily for the Quips, all 4 of those games are at The Pit where they have one of the biggest homefield advantages in the WPIAL (with all due respect to The Wolvarena).

A Game of the Week
Springdale (2-2, 2-2) at Jeanette (4-0, 4-0)

This week's Class A slate is not nearly as loaded as the AA slate, but there are still games with playoff implications. In the Eastern Conference, widely considered the best conference in Class A, There are five playoff-capable teams battling over 4 spots (Clairton, Jeanette, Monessen, GCC, Springdale). Springdale suffered an early setback when they lost to Leechburg in a game where seemingly half their team got injured. However, the Dynamos should not be counted out of the playoff race. If they can find a way to get 2 or 3 more wins, it might be enough to get them to the postseason. The Dynamos have an opportunity to make a statement against a Jeanette team that has feasted on the bottom half of the Conference through 5 games, averaging over 50 points per game against Riverview, Serra, Leechburg and Wilkinsburg. This will be the first real test for the Jayhawks since moving down to Class A. A win by Jeanette will set up a showdown at the top of the conference between the Jayhawks and Clairton next week.

Honorable Mentions: Fort Cherry at Avonworth, Jefferson-Morgan at Bentworth, Mapletown at Avella

With their win over Brentwood two weeks ago, Avonworth solidified their spot as one of the top two teams in the Black Hills Conference. The Antelopes are the main challenger to Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic and can maintain their spot with a win over Fort Cherry this week, who currently sits in 3rd place but lost to Brentwood in Week 1. Even though the Tri-County South doesn't get much respect in Class A because they have not won a playoff game since 2010, the TCS promises to have one of the most exciting playoff races this season. Frazier and Beth-Center are clearly the top 2 teams and have 2-game lead atop the standings. However, there are 4 teams currently sitting at 2-2 who all face off this week. Bentworth scored a big win over Avella last week and now faces Jefferson-Morgan who already has a loss to Avella. Mapletown started strong with wins over Carmichaels and West Greene but lost games to Beth-Center and Frazier and faces an Avella team looking to get back on track after losing to Bentworth. Avella made the playoffs for the first time since 1978 last year and Bentworth and Mapletown have not been to the postseason since 2005.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

WPIAL Winning and Losing Streaks

As we hit the midpoint in the high school football season, just 24 of the 124 WPIAL teams remain undefeated. Several teams are carrying impressive streaks into the second half of the season. On the other side of the coin, 4 of the 7 teams that carried the longest losing streaks into the season have already won at least one game.

Winning Streaks


CWNC - 20 games
Last Loss: November 16, 2012

Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic won the Class A State Championship last year and have gone 4-0 to start this season. The Trojans last loss was a WPIAL Semi-Finals loss to Sto-Rox in 2012, but they were able to exact their revenge with a victory at Heinz Field last year in the WPIAL Championship.

South Fayette - 20 games
Last Loss: November 16, 2012

Similarly, South Fayette has not lost since the 2012 Semi-Finals when they fell to Shai McKenzie's Washington Prexies. The defending AA State Champions have gone 4-0 this season and won all four games in convincing fashion.


West Allegheny - 25 games
Last Loss: September 28, 2012

West Allegheny's loss in the State Quarterfinals last year knocked them out of the "overall" winning streaks list. However, Bob Palko's Indians are the two-time defending WPIAL champions and have not lost since a regular season game against Central Valley in 2012.

CWNC - 17 games
Last Loss: November 16, 2012

Same as above, the Trojans last WPIAL loss was in the 2012 semi-finals to Sto-Rox. This number is lower than their overall winning streak because the 3 games it took to win the PIAA Championship last year were not WPIAL victories.

South Fayette - 17 games
Last Loss: November 16, 2012

As with North Catholic, South Fayette's winning streak dates back to the start of the 2013 season after they lost in the semi-finals of the 2013 playoffs. They were 13-0 against WPIAL opponents in 2013 and have won all 4 games this year behind QB Brett Brumbaugh.

Central Catholic - 17 games
Last Loss: November 9, 2012

The Vikings won the WPIAL Quad-A title last season and despite falling in the PIAA playoffs, their WPIAL winning streak dates back to the start of the 2013 season. Central has won with dominant defense, something that failed them in their last WPIAL loss, a 38-0 drubbing by Upper St Clair in the 2012 Quarterfinals.


Aliquippa - 42 games
Last Loss: September 18, 2009

The Quips 5-year streak of dominance in the Midwestern Conference might be one of the most impressive streaks in WPIAL history. They have not suffered a defeat since rival Beaver Falls beat them back in 2009.

Thomas Jefferson - 20 games
Last Loss: October 28, 2011

The Jaguars have been one of the most dominant in-conference teams over the past decade. They have not lost to a Big Nine Conference opponent since losing the season finale to the West Mifflin team led by Jimmy Wheeler in 2011.

South Fayette - 20 games
Last Loss: November 11, 2011

This might be nit-picking a bit because it was not a regular season loss, but the last time the Lions were defeated by a conference foe was a Quarterfinals loss to Seton-La Salle in 2011.

CWNC - 17 games
Last Loss: September 14, 2012

The Defending State Champs have also won two straight conference titles (in the Eastern Conference). Their only conference loss in that time was a 21-7 defeat by Northgate in early 2012. The Trojans ran the table in the Eastern Conference since then and have won 4 games in the Black Hills conference this year.

West Allegheny - 16 games
Last Loss; September 28, 2012

The two-time defending AAA Champions have only lost one conference game in the last two seasons - an incredible feat in the Parkway Conference which was widely considered the best conference in the WPIAL during that time. The Indians lost in 2012 to Central Valley and ran the table in 2013.

Mt. Pleasant - 13 games
Last Loss: October 12, 2012

You might be a little surprised to see Mt Pleasant on this list, probably because their undefeated regular season in 2013 was overshadowed by their early playoff exit. However, the Vikings have gone 4-0 in the Interstate Conference this year after an 8-0 mark last year. Their last conference loss was to the Shai McKenzie-led Washington Prexies in 2012.

Beth-Center - 12 games
Last Loss: October 12, 2012

The Tri-County South is often overlooked because of their repeated flame-outs in the Class A playoffs. A TCS team has not won a playoff game since 2010 but that should not overshadow Beth-Center's impressive run in conference play. The Bulldogs went undefeated last year and are 3-0 this year. They have not lost since falling to Frazier in 2012, their only conference loss that season.

Central Catholic - 11 games
Last Loss: October 12, 2012

The Vikings swept through the Northern Eight Conference last year and have started 3-0 this year with wins over Shaler, North Allegheny and Fox Chapel. The last time Central lost to a Conference foe was the 2012 season when they lost to both Seneca Valley and North Allegheny.

Woodland Hills - 11 games
Last Loss: August 30, 2013

The Wolverines lost their season opener in 2013 to Upper St Clair. Since then, they have not lost to a Southeastern Conference opponent, including a revenge game victory over Upper St Clair in the WPIAL Semi-Finals last year. Woody High is widely considered one of the top teams in Quad-A this year and the favorites in the Southeastern Conference.

Losing Streaks

Losing streaks have been dropping like files so far this season. In just 4 weeks, 5 of the 10 teams with the longest losing streaks have won games - with South Side Beaver and Plum winning multiple games. Additionally, with Geibel Catholic not playing this year, their 24-game overall losing streak and 21-game conference losing streaks are suspended. Before we get into the teams mired in multi-year losing streaks, let's take a moment to recognize those that have tasted victory.

Defeated Hempfield August 29, 2014
Previous Conference Win: October 29, 2010

Plum ended their overall losing streak in an "extra" 10th game at the end of 2013 but carried a 22-game conference losing streak into 2014. That streak ended in Week 1 when the Mustangs defeated Hempfield 45-19. Plum also beat Norwin last week and have put themselves in position to make the playoffs for the first time since 2010

Defeated Charleroi September 12, 2014
Last Overall Win: August 31, 2012
Last Conference Win: September 23, 2011

Derry's move down from AAA has proven beneficial as the Trojans are off to a 2-2 start. Their win over Charleroi ended a 19-game overall losing streak and a 22-game conference losing streak. They followed up that win with a non-conference win over Laurel last week.

South Side Beaver
Defeated Rochester September 5, 2014
Last Overall Win: October 13, 2012
Last Previous Conference Win: October 6, 2012

After a winless 2013, South Side Beaver has gone 3-1 in 2014 and have won 3 in a row after losing the opener to Neshannock which stretched their overall losing streak to 12 games and their conference losing streak to 11. Like Plum, South Side Beaver's 3 wins have put them in position to make the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

Deer Lakes
Defeated Burrell September 19, 2014
Last Overall/Conference Win: October 6, 2012

The Lancers have only made the playoffs once in school history (2010) and have been towards the bottom of the Allegheny Conference since then. Their win over Burrell ended a 15-game overall losing streak and 14-game conference losing streak which dated back to a 2012 win over Summit Academy.

Defeated Charleroi September 19, 2014
Last Overall/Conference Win: October 8, 2011

Burgettstown's move from the Century Conference to the Interstate Conference has already paid off as they became the second team in two weeks to end a losing streak with a win over Charleroi. That ended a 24-game overall losing streak and 22-game conference losing streak for the Blue Devils which stretched back to a win over Quaker Valley in 2011.


Shaler - 26 games
Last Win: October 8, 2011

The JP Holtz effect has been brutal on Shaler. Since the Pitt-recruit led the team to the playoffs in 2011, the Titans have not won a game. Shaler is 0-4 this season after back-to-back 0-9 seasons. Shaler has already lost to Butler and their best hope for a win this year seems to be their season finale against a struggling Seneca Valley team. Their last win was over Erie McDowell in early October, which was enough to get them into the playoffs even though they lost their last 3 regular season games and their first playoff game.

Serra Catholic - 24 games
Last Win: October 14, 2011

So close. So, so close. This past week, Serra Catholic battled with West Greene through 4 overtimes before falling 44-43. The Eagles will have a few more opportunities to win this year now that they are in the Eastern Conference and have games against Riverview, Leechburg and Wilkinsburg remaining on the schedule. Their last win was over an Avella team that was starting members of the band just to field a team.

Brownsville - 22 games
Last Win: October 28, 2011

Heading into the season finale of the 2011 season, Brownsville had a 14-game losing streak and was sitting at 0-8 on the season. But a surprise 20-19 victory over Waynesburg ended 2011 on a bright note. Unfortunately, that was the last time the Falcons tasted victory. There

Freedom - 14 games
Last Win: October 26, 2012

Freedom actually made the playoffs in 2012, breaking a 7-year postseason drought. However, they fell back into the basement of the Midwestern Conference after that senior class graduated. The Bulldogs won the 2012 regular season finale against Riverside but have not won since, losing in the first round of the playoffs to South Fayette then going 0-9 last year and 0-4 this year.


Serra Catholic - 23 games
Last Win: October 14, 2011

Serra's close call against West Greene this past week was a non-conference game so it did not impact their 23-game conference losing streak. Things should be easier for the Eagles now that they are in the Eastern Conference and not the brutal Black Hills Conference. Their October slate features conference games against Riverview, Leechburg and Wilkinsburg where they could find a win.

Shaler - 17 games
Last Win: October 8, 2011

Shaler holds the longest current losing streak in the WPIAL but the second-longest conference streak because of the smaller conference sizes in Quad-A. Their last conference win was over Erie McDowell, who no longer plays in the WPIAL. Their last win against a current WPIAL team was the week before the McDowell win when they beat Butler.

Brownsville - 19 games
Last Win: October 28, 2011

As with their overall losing streak, Brownsville's conference losing streak dates back to the start of the 2012 season. This season did not start on a positive note for the Falcons as they were the last team in the WPIAL to score points. Even though the Falcons are currently 0-4, they will have their opportunities for wins as they close the season with games against Derry, Charleroi and Burgettstown.

Hopewell - 13 games
Last Win: October 26, 2012

Hopewell survived one year in the post-Rushel Shell era, going 4-5 and making the playoffs in 2012 where they won their first round game over Hampton. However, they met Central Valley in the second round and lost 49-21, the first of 13 straight losses to Parkway Conference opponents. The Vikings do still have games remaining against Blackhawk (1-3) and New Castle (0-4) which will be their best chances to break their Parkway Conference losing streak.

Freedom - 11 games
Last Win: October 26, 2012

As above, Freedom won their last conference game of 2012 with a 54-14 win over Riverside to send them to the playoffs for the first time since 2004. However, they went 0-7 in conference play last year and have lost their first 4 outings (all conference games) this year. There is some hope for a win this year as Summit Academy also currently sits winless in the Midwestern Conference.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

WPIAL Midseason Review

Got together with AJ from WPIAL Football Zone for a Google Hangout to talk about the WPIAL season so far.

Follow us on twitter @thesteelersnat and @AJWPIAL

Sweet Carolina: Steelers WIN


The Panthers win the toss and defer so the Steelers get it first because they're smarter than Texas (link).

The Steelers get off to a bit of a strange start as they an illegal substitution penalty and have to burn a timeout on 3rd and short when they can't figure out their substitutes. The good news is that The Prescription came to play and picks up 2 first downs all on his own, but the drive stalls out near midfield when a 3rd down pass gets batted down at the line.

The Panthers go right to the air and Cam Newton does what Brian Hoyer and Joe Flacco did the first two weeks and picks apart the Steelers secondary. The Panthers move down into Steelers territory with Newton visibly limping after taking a hit from Worilds. The defense is able to get off the field thanks to a pass bouncing off the hands of Kelvin Benjamin, unfortunately Cortez Allen just missed coming up with a diving pick.


The Steelers decide that the drive after giving up points is a great time to take a bunch of penalties and wind up in 3rd and long where they throw a WR screen and just give up. In two drives, the Steelers didn't throw a pass that wasn't a screen of some kind.

The defense steps up and forces a 3-and-out with Bill Gay chasing down a receiver over the middle to force the punt.

Ben finally takes a shot down the field and DHB is able to draw a pass interference penalty to flip the field and get us to the edge of field goal range. Le'Veon picks up a first down on his own on a naaaasty jump cut. The drive screeches to a halt when Ben gets sacked then almost gets his arm hit on 3rd down, but Suisham connects to get us on the board.


Second Quarter

The defense gets off the field again and forces their second straight 3-and-out when Olsen drops a low pass on 3rd and 1.

A booming punt and a penalty on the return flip the field and pin us back inside the 10. A false start sets us back even further but LeGarrette Blount makes a beautiful cutback and gets it all in one chunk. On 3rd down, Ben takes a shot down the field to AB in single coverage. Brown makes a great over-the-shoulder grab to move us out across midfield.

Heath gets in on the action and moves the chains again and gets us into the red zone. AB comes up just short of the chains on 3rd down inside the 10 but the Steelers go for it and Ben sneaks it for the first down.

On 3rd and goal, Ben seemingly hits Wheaton for a touchdown but the back judge calls it incomplete, saying Wheaton stepped out then came back in and caught the ball.

Suisham puts us in the lead.


McLendon gets the first sack since the Browns game to start the next drive but Cam hits Benjamin to get into 3rd and short. Cam hits Olsen to move the chains then Benjamin on a similar play to the one that won the BCS championship, but it was only for a first down this time.  Jarvis Jones makes his first good play of the night, which is getting his facemask held and the penalty puts the Panthers well behind on down and distance. Cam Heyward drills Newton on 3rd down, forcing an overthrow and it's punt city.

Ben burned 2 timeouts already in the half on substitution miscommunications so the Steelers only have 1 timeout and 1:40 to work with after the punt.

AB hauls in a pass then makes an All Pro play jumping into a defender to draw a pass interference to get us across midfield. Wheaton keeps things going but can't get out of bounds which forces a spike to stop the clock. On 2nd down, DeCastro hits Kuechly after the play which knocks us out of field goal range. Bell gets us back into range on a dump-down and Suisham drills it from 45.


Third Quarter

Carolina gets flagged for holding but the refs give it back on an illegal contact penalty on Cortez Allen. Shazier got hurt when Timmons landed on his knee/leg. Another hold knocks the Panthers back and The Diesel takes over, walking the tackle back into Newton on a bull rush on two consecutive plays. On the second, Jarvis Jones also beat his tackle around the edge and hit Newton, seemingly forcing a fumble that the Steelers recover.

Nothing is without drama though as the turnover has to be reviewed to make sure it actually was a turnover.

The Steelers take over at the 17 but can't get anything going and seemingly have to settle for 3 after Ben overthrows Heath in the end zone on 3rd down. Carolina isn't content to let us kick a 30-yard field goal and jump offsides to give us new life at the 7. Ben hangs in under pressure and pumps a few times then makes a RIDICULOUS throw to the back corner of the end zone to Antonio Brown.


Seriously, you can't even make that throw in video games.


The good feeling doesn't last for long as Ike Taylor makes a tackle of Kelvin Benjamin and Ike's arm gets shattered by Lawrence Timmons' helmet coming in to help with the tackle. The Panthers slowly work their way down the field, picking on Antwon Blake who is now the nickel corner. Carolina out-thinks themselves and decides not to go for Blake on Benjamin on 3rd down at the edge of the red zone and Newton overthrows his receiver.


The Steelers seem to be going nowhere when they get called for a pick play and are in a 2nd and 22 inside their own 10 but The Prescription takes one right up the middle and dashes through the Carolina defense and gets caught from behind at the 11.


AB gets us to the 1 but Michael Palmer pushes off in the end zone and gets called for offensive pass interference. Two plays later, Ben scrambles out of pressure and hits Antonio Brown streaking across the goalline for the touchdown.


The Panthers are able to pick up a few first down with passes to Benjamin but Arthur Moats decides he's seen enough and sacks Newton near midfield.

Fourth Quarter

The Panthers get some yards on 3rd down and Riverboat Ron goes for it on 4th down with Benjamin picking it up. Two plays later, Newton hits Olsen who blows past Allen and takes it to the house.


The Steelers can't get anything going and have to punt it right back to Carolina. Brad Wing booms one and the Panthers returner has trouble picking it up, but finally does just before Shamarknado slams into him and knocks the ball out. It pinballs around as Panthers players and Steelers players try to dive on it before Robert Golden finally falls on it in the end zone for a TOUCHDOWN.

(Photoshop brilliance from @OFTOT)


Carolina gets some field position when Cam Newton gets broken in half by Jason Worilds which draws a flag. Cam can barely stand let alone even throw and that's it for the Panthers drive.

Carolina downed the punt inside the 5 so the Steelers go run-run-pass and work their way out with a 3rd down pass to Wheaton. Heath makes a juggling catch over the middle and rumbles down the sideline to get us across the 40. LeGarrette Blount The Warhammer takes one up the middle and bounces it outside and takes it all the way down the sideline inside the 10.

For those keeping track at home, that's an 81-yard run by Bell and a 51-yard run by Blount in the same game.

Two plays later, Blount gets to finish what he started and just runs over some hapless Panther defender and drags him into the end zone.
(h/t @SteelersDepot for the great gif work)


The Steelers have 200 yards rushing for the first time since 2010.

Derek Anderson comes in for Carolina because Cam Newton couldn't even walk any more. Anderson doesn't really care about the score and airs it out, moving the Panthers into Steelers territory. DA goes downtown for Benjamin down the sideline who makes an over-the-shoulder catch over Antwon Blake and slides his feet inside the pylon for the touchdown.

Panthers go for 2 and miss though, because they've never scored more than 20 against the Steelers.


Bruce Gradkowski comes in for his first regular season action as a Pittsburgh Steeler. Blount goes right back to work hammering the Panthers up the middle, hurdling over guys and running them down. Blount picks up a first down right before the 2-minute warning.

With the Panthers still having timeouts, the Steelers give it to Blount who goes right up the middle and he tries to hurdle over Cason again but Cason isn't having it and takes a leg to the face.

Victory Formation.


Players of the Game
Offensive Game Ball: Le'Veon Bell
Defensive Game Ball: Ike Taylor
Honorable Mentions:
Antonio Brown
Ben Roethlisberger
LeGarrette Blount
Kelvin Beachum
Cody Wallace
Maurkice Pouncey
David DeCastro
Marcus Gilbert
Shamarko Thomas
Robert Golden
Cam Heyward
Brett Keisel
Steve McLendon
William Gay

Final Thoughts

  • Antonio Brown surpassed Santonio Holmes in career receiving yards with the Steelers, moving him into 11th on the Steelers all-time list.
    • Brown needs on 63 more yards to pass Ray Matthews and move into the Top 10.
  • 265 rushing yards as a team is the 10th most in a single game in team history.
  • After averaging 19.5 points per game in the first 8 games last year, the Steelers have averaged 26.9 points per game over their last 11 games.
  • The Steelers have scored 30+ points in 5 of their last 10 games.
    • Under Bruce Arians, the Steelers only scored 30+ in 5 of the last 23 games he was Offensive Coordinator.
  • Besides the injuries to Shazier, Jones and Ike, this game couldn't have gone any better.
  • We have two of the worst teams in the league over the next two weeks. Time to stack some wins.