Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Steelers Postseason Experience

With the Steelers heading to the playoffs for the first time since 2011, I took a look at the roster and came to a startling realization: many of these guys have never played a playoff game. An NFL roster is a constantly changing makeup of long-term veterans, role players and recent draft picks and the Steelers have seen their share of turnover in the last 3 seasons with aged veterans retiring and emerging stars cashing in elsewhere in free agency. Here's a breakdown of the Steelers 53-man roster as we head into the playoffs:

0 Playoff Games (27)

  • Dri Archer
  • Martavis Bryant
  • Josh Harris
  • Daniel McCullers
  • Ryan Shazier
  • Stephon Tuitt
  • Chris Hubbard
  • Brad Wing
  • Le'Veon Bell
  • Terence Garvin
  • Jarvis Jones
  • Landry Jones
  • Shamarko Thomas
  • Ross Ventrone
  • B.W. Webb
  • Markus Wheaton
  • Vince Williams
  • Mike Adams
  • Kelvin Beachum
  • Antwon Blake
  • David DeCastro
  • Robert Golden
  • Will Johnson
  • Sean Spence
  • Arthur Moats
  • Cody Wallace
  • Bruce Gradkowski

0 Playoff Wins (5)

  • Marcus Gilbert
  • Cam Heyward
  • Clifton Geathers (2011 with IND, 2012 with PHI)
  • Steve McLendon (on 2010 roster but inactive for playoffs/Super Bowl)
  • Mike Mitchell (2013 with CAR)

0 Home Playoff Games (3)

  • Marcus Gilbert
  • Cam Heyward
  • Cam Thomas (2013 with SD)

0 Conference Championship Games (3)

  • Darrius Heyward-Bey (2013 with IND)
  • Brice McCain (2011 with HOU)
  • Ben Tate (2012 & 2013 with HOU)

0 Super Bowl Appearances (3)

  • Michael Palmer (2011-12 with ATL)
  • Maurkice Pouncey (injured/inactive for 2010 Super Bowl)
  • Jason Worilds (inactive for 2010 Super Bowl)

0 Super Bowl Wins (4)

  • Antonio Brown
  • Ramon Foster
  • Will Allen
  • Shaun Suisham

1 Super Bowl Win (4)

  • William Gay
  • Matt Spaeth
  • Lawrence Timmons
  • Lance Moore (with NO 2009)

2 Super Bowl Wins (6)

  • Heath Miller
  • Greg Warren
  • Ben Roethlisberger
  • James Harrison
  • Troy Polamalu
  • Ike Taylor

Another way to look at this list is that only 6 players remain from the team that won Super Bowl XL under Bill Cowher and only 10 of the 53 have a Super Bowl ring. 14 of 53 have played in a Super Bowl and 17 have played in at least one conference championship game. Shockingly, less than half of the current roster (only 20 of 53) have won a playoff game and more than half has no playoff experience. While this team might be a little short on players with postseason experience, that also means that those players are that much hungrier to taste the glory some of their other teammates have had. The Steelers have treated the month of December like their own personal playoffs and have won four in a row heading into the postseason. The time has come for this generation of Steelers to make their mark in the postseason, and there is no better opponent for their playoff initiation than the hated Ravens.

The King in the North: Steelers Win


With everything decided during the day, the scenarios entering Sunday night were clear. Win and we got Baltimore at home, lose and we were headed to Indianapolis.

With Troy out of the lineup, James Harrison got the honor of running out of the tunnel last.

The crowd was absolutely electric, the most excited it has been all season. An impromptu "Here We Go Steelers" chant rolled during the pregame.

The Steelers won the toss and took the ball. Bell broke free on a short pass and got us near midfield but we couldn't quite get into Bengals territory.

Dalton took a shot deep down the sideline for Green but Brice McCain made a savvy play to slow down in front of Green and not let him get to the ball. The Bengals couldn't do anything else and punted to AB.

Brown started to the right but there wasn't much there...

...gave a sharp cutback to the left, caught a few blocks...

...pushed Shamarko into the punter..

...and was goooooone

flip cityyyy


The Bengals took advantage of the Steelers being in nickel and ground out some yards with Jeremy Hill, getting into Steelers territory. With the ground game rolling, they made the bizarre decision to go to the air not once, but twice. The second was their undoing as Dalton badly overthrew Green and Brice McCain made a Willie Mays over the shoulder interception.
McCain picked the ball off at the 5 and his momentum carried him into the end zone. Heads up play to bring it out and not tempt the refs into calling a safety.

AB dropped his first pass of the season on 3rd down and a terrible punt set the Bengals up in Steelers territory.

The Bengals didn't waste much time marching right back to the red zone. On 3rd down, Dalton found Gio Bernard running a crossing route and Bernard outran everyone to the corner, leaping into the end zone.


The Steelers were able to pick up one first down but a bad snap at the feet of Ben was recovered by the Bengals and things started to look bad.

Second Quarter

The Bengals got into field goal range with a short out to AJ Green but didn't get much further after Cam Heyward stormed the backfield and sacked Dalton.


Trailing for the first time, the offense ramped things up. Ben hit AB to get things going then overcame Bell losing yards by hitting Will Johnson (!) wide open on the sidelines to get us to 3rd and manageable where he hooked up with Heath down the middle to get us across midfield. In Bengals territory, Ben wanted to take a shot deep but everything was covered so he dumped it off to Bell who left 3 Bengals laying on the field and took off up the sideline to get us into the red zone. The drive stalled out from there but Suisham tied the game.


Dalton tried to go deep for AJ Green again but Green tipped the ball up in the air and Brice McCain came down with his second pick of the night, taking it all the way back into Bengals territory.

Two plays later, a WR screen finally worked when Ben hit Bryant with Wheaton and Heath in front of him. Bryant split their blocks and there was no one in front of him as he waltzed into the end zone.


The Bengals ground out one first down but Sean Spence recorded his first career sack at a big time and forced a punt.

The Steelers got the ball back with just over 2 minutes to play and 2 timeouts, which led everyone to wonder how Mike Tomlin would screw up the clock management on this one. However, Ben worked the 2-minute drill to perfection, hitting guys along the sidelines or in space where they were able to get out of bounds, so Tomlin couldn't waste a timeout until the Steelers got into the red zone. Ben spread the ball around beautifully and got the benefit of a pass interference call that took the ball to the 10. Tomlin used a timeout after a short pass to Bell and Ben couldn't connect with Brown on two attempts, bringing on Suisham who bounced one off the upright and in.


The Bengals threw two short passes to run it out. Antwon Blake threw a hit on Bernard so hard his grandparents felt it.

Third Quarter

The Bengals got the ball to start the second half and tried to get fancy with a wildcat snap to Sanu and he tried to throw deep to Green but Blake had solid coverage and the Bengals got flagged for holding on the play. They were able to overcome the penalty and get into 3rd and short where the defense made a stand but Dalton moved the chains on 4th down with a QB keeper. The defense had seen enough and held from there, forcing a 50-yard field goal attempt that Nugent pushed right.

The teams traded 3-and-outs and the Steelers finally got some good field position.

On the first play, Ben hit Bell on a slant coming across the middle and Bell took a low hit from Reggie Nelson, immediately going down and grabbing his knee. In an instant, all the air was sucked out of the crowd. Bell was able to get off and walk to the sideline but everyone basically held their breath for the rest of the drive.
Dri Archer came in and was a giant disaster. He couldn’t find the line of scrimmage on a running play then blew a blitz pickup on 3rd down in field goal range, forcing Ben to rush a throw that Nelson picked off.

The Bengals started picking their way down the field, mixing in runs and short passes. Dalton did a good job hitting the short spots in the Steelers zone and the Bengals made their way into Steelers territory as the quarter ended.

Fourth Quarter

The entire stadium was still shook up about Le’Veon Bell and didn’t have much life as the Bengals worked their way into the red zone, not even facing a 3rd down the rest of the drive. Hill got them down the 5 then Dalton hit Gresham in the flat who bowled through 3 tacklers to get to the end zone.



Josh Harris, fresh off the practice squad, got a carry and broke through the right side of the line, streaking down the sideline for 55 yards but it was called back on a questionable holding call. Dri Archer did something useful and caught a pass that he almost turned into a first down. Harris got a few more carries then Ben hit AB on a 15-yard out-route that is basically impossible to stop. With the ball at midfield, the offense couldn’t do much else and in a weird statistical anomaly, Maurkice Pouncey gets credit for a reception after catching a pass that was deflected by a defensive lineman. With just under 6 minutes to go, Tomlin calls for a fake punt and Brad Wing throws a pass right to a Bengals player.

Suddenly, the Bengals had a ton of life, down just 3 with the ball at their own 40. They had plenty of time left on the clock and went right back to the short passing game mixed with runs to get the ball into Steelers territory. Dalton hit AJ Green on a deep in and Antwon Blake made a great play coming around Green and ripping the ball out then diving on it. Mike Mitchell lowered the boom on Green and he stayed down for a long time.
After the smoke cleared and Green walked off, it was Steelers ball as Blake recovered the fumble he forced. Huge play by the defense to come up with a timely turnover once again.

With just under 4 minutes to play, the Steelers needed to take some time off the clock which seemed like a tall order with Dri Archer and Josh Harris in the backfield. Enter Antonio Brown. On 3rd and 8 Brown got open with a savvy move to get behind Kirkpatrick and Ben hit him on the money.

AB put one move on the safety and was f***ing goooooone





It was mostly just going through the motions from there as the Bengals to the ball back with under 3 minutes to play but Jason Worilds took care of things by sacking Dalton on 3rd down. The Bungles went for it on 4th down and Dalton checked down to Bernard on 4th and 19. Yeah, that went well.

The Steelers took over and could’ve just kneeled it out but Ben was tied with Drew Brees for the passing title so they tried to run a play to get Ben an easy throw but there was a fumble in the backfield that Josh Harris fell on. Ben didn’t get another shot at winning the passing title and it was victory formation time.

We are the Kings in the North

Mike Tomlin had some strong words for Reggie Nelson after the game

Remember this one for a while, because this was the best single season by a receiver in Steelers history.
129 catches
1698 yards
13 TDs

"Thanks AB"

For the moment, WE RUN THE NORTH

But don't rest now. Baltimore is coming to town for a Saturday night playoff game. 

Here we go.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Gameday: Cincinnati Bengals

The House that Hines Built
Radio: WDVE and other affiliates

What To Watch For

1. The King in the North

Sunday Night Football at Heinz Field in Week 17 with the AFC North title on the line. Do I really need to say anything else? If you're not jacked through the roof for this game already, do whatever it takes to get pumped. Listen to Renegade 30 times. Drink 6 Red Bulls. Whatever. When 8:30 rolls around, be ready to roll, because the winner takes home the division title, something the Steelers have not done since 2010. The Bengals are defending the throne, and it's the Steelers job to go out and take it.

2. Run Defense

The Steelers run defense has been much, much better over the last few weeks than they were earlier in the season. Even though I haven't been very high on him, Steve McLendon has made a significant impact since returning to the nose tackle position. They will have their work cut out for them against the "Nuke and Juke" combination of rookie workhorse Jeremy Hill and second-year back Gio Bernard. Hill is a pounding, physical runner that has the top end speed to break away if he gets free. Bernard has fallen into the role of a change-of-pace back and his short-area quickness has given the Steelers problems in the past, especially defending him on short passes. Last week, the Steelers shut down an excellent duo of Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis and will need to do it again against a good Bengals rushing attack. On the other side, Le'Veon Bell tortured the Bengals in the first meeting between these two teams. Will the Bengals do what the Falcons and Chiefs did and stack the box to try to take Bell out of the game? If they do, the Steelers receivers will need to do better at winning 1-on-1 battles against the Bengals DBs than the Broncos did last week.

3. Red Zone Defense

Ultimately, this is what will decide this game. The Steelers defense has basically grown into a "bend but don't break" group that lets teams rack up yards between the 20s but forces field goals in the red zone. The Steelers are good enough on offense that forcing field goals is absolutely a win. The Steelers need to continue to force field goals, because the Bengals will be able to move the ball, especially against the Steelers weak secondary. On the other side, because this defense is not capable of keeping opposing teams off the scoreboard, the Steelers need to cash in when they get their opportunities. The Bengals don't have a great pass rush but they do have a very good group of cornerbacks, which makes finding openings in the passing game on the short field of the red zone increasingly difficult.

4. Stop AJ Green

In the first meeting between the two teams, AJ Green had a field day with the Steelers secondary. The Bengals started off throwing short hitch routes to Green then bombed the Steelers over the top with two deep balls down the middle of the field. Green beat Mike Mitchell soundly both times and finished the game with 224 yards. In the first meeting, the Steelers came out with Ike Taylor on AJ Green but that went about as poorly as possible. Taylor took himself out of the game due to an injury and he hasn't played since. Antwon Blake made a play late in the game to knock a deep ball away from Green, but the 5'9" Blake is giving up 7 inches to Green. Green is a matchup nightmare for any defensive back the Steelers line up across from him. William Gay is the tallest of the group at 5'10" but is still giving up 6 inches to the 6'4" Green. The best the Steelers can home to do is keep Green in front of them and tackle the catch.

5. The Playoffs

The Steelers will be in the playoffs for the first time since 2011. If you still have a bad taste in your mouth about the way the game in Denver ended, that's a good thing. It should piss you off. Use that as fuel heading into this postseason. Because win or lose against Cincinnati, we'll be dancing next weekend. If we lose, we'll be headed to Indianapolis and a date with Andrew Luck. If we beat the Bengals we'll be right back at home against San Diego, Baltimore, Houston or Kansas City. By the time the Steelers kick off, we'll know the results of the earlier games and we'll know who the #6 seed is and who could potentially be coming to Pittsburgh. The scenarios in the early games are simple:

  • San Diego is the #6 seed with a win over Kansas City
  • Baltimore is the #6 seed with a win over Cleveland and a San Diego loss
  • Houston is the #6 seed with a win over Jacksonville and losses by San Diego and Baltimore
  • Kansas City is the #6 seed with a win over San Diego and losses by Baltimore and Houston

Monday, December 22, 2014

Winter Is Coming: Steelers WIN


This picture sums up the whole game. Almost just posted this as the whole recap.

The Steelers got the ball first and came out of the gate fast with Ben finding Bryant wide open down the sideline for a big 44-yarder to instantly get us into Chiefs territory. Bryant made some things happen on an end-around then pretty much disappeared for the rest of the game. From there, Le'Veon and AB took over the drive, alternating rushes and short passes to get down to the 5. Ben underthrew AB on 3rd down and once again we had to settle for 3 on our opening drive.


The Chiefs had obviously watched tape on what the Cleveland Browns did to the Steelers and came out with a similar gameplan. James Harrison and Cam Heyward absolutely wrecked the Chiefs line all day and teamed up for a sack early in the drive.
Unfortunately, some dude named Albert Wilson decided to triple his career production in this game and caught a pass for 19 yards to convert a 3rd and long. The Chiefs whole offense was trying to hit big plays to D'Anthony Thomas and throwing the ball to Wilson when Will Gay wasn't covering him. The Chiefs got inside the 10 but Cam Heyward sacked Smith on 3rd down to force a field goal.


The first two drives had consumed 13 minutes of game clock but the trend didn't continue as the Steelers went 3-and-out, a less than ideal offensive series after the defense was just on the field for 7 minutes.

Second Quarter

The Chiefs second drive was basically a mirror of their first. They picked their way down the field by runnign the ball, throwing swing passes and staying away from Will Gay. The defense came up with a stop in the red zone but the Chiefs faked a field goal and were able to convert on a shovel pass to Travis Kelce. The Chiefs looked poised to get their first touchdown of the year by a WR when Smith threw a back-shoulder pass to Bowe but Antwon Blake made a great play reaching his hand in to knock the ball away.

The defense stepped up and Worilds chased Smith out of bounds on 3rd down which was technically a sack.

Ben had seen enough of this ball control crap and took the game over. He worked the play action game and exploited the Chiefs down the middle with passes to AB and Heath to get across midfield. Ben kept things rolling with a beautifully thrown out-route to Wheaton to move the chains then went back to Heath to get us inside the 10. A check-down to Heath got us to the doorstep and it looked like we were going to have to settle for 3 again but the Cheifs got called for defensive holding and The Prescription punched it in on the next play.


The Chiefs got the ball back with just over 4 minutes to play and drove right back down the field with Wilson breaking a short pass down the sideline after a few missed tackles to get into Steelers territory. James Harrison blew up a running play but the Chiefs were able to almost get it back on 3rd down but the replay official ruled that Mike Mitchell actually made a play and stopped Thomas short of the sticks. Andy Reid opted to go for it on 4th and 1 rather than kick and the defense came through with Timmons, Harrison and Will Allen stacking up Charles in the backfield.

Third Quarter

After a first half that consisted of long drives that ended in field goals, the start of the second half seemed like a flurry of punts. James Harrison  continued his return to Darth Harrison Mode and wrecked Alex Smith again.

Never forget that time James Harrison inspired a Metallica Album.

After an exchange of punts, the Chiefs drove it down into field goal range but Stephon Tuitt lowered the boom on Charles and knocked the ball out.

Huge recovery by Vince Williams.

Ben wasted no time in taking advantage of the turnover, going right to the air and hitting wheaton and Heath to get us across midfield. A pass to AB on a deep cross got us into field goal range and Le'Veon got us to the goal line. Ben did his Ben thing and avoided an obvious legwhip and took a shot while delivering a ball to Antonio Brown in the end zone.

That was AB's 12th receiving touchdown of the year, putting him into a tie with Hines Ward and Louis Lipps for the most receiving touchdowns in a single season.


It was scary for a moment as Ben got up slow after taking a big hit and he went to the locker room to get checked out.

Fourth Quarter

The defense came out on fire and Jason Worilds rung up his second sack of the game.
We seemingly got off the field but the refs wanted to keep it interested and flagged Will Gay for a taunting penalty for...um...I really don't know. The TV replay just showed him crossing his arms and looking at the Steelers bench but there were no Chiefs around.

The Chiefs took advantage and drove it down into field goal range to get it to a 1-score game.


The Steelers came out with Ben back under center, determined to take some time off the clock and rolled with run-run-pass pretty much the whole way down the field. Fortunately, those passes were to AB and he came through every time (including drawing a pass interference penalty that got us into field goal range. The Steelers got inside the 10 but couldn't quite punch it in. They did force the Chiefs to use 2 timeouts.


Here's the problem with the Chiefs offense: Alex Smith can't throw downfield. In the whole game, he only attempted 1 pass that travelled longer than 20 yards in the air and it was incomplete. He only completed 2 passes over 15 yards. With time running down and needing 2 scores, the Chiefs had to slowly pick their way down the field, which the Steelers were more than content to let them do. The Chiefs got to the edge of the red zone by the 2-minute warning when Tuitt sacked Smith and the Chiefs couldn't rebound. Andy Reid opted for a field goal to cut it to 8.


The onside kick wasn't even close. David Johnson was all over the ball.

Not that one.

Victory Formation.



Brace yourselves for Sunday Night Football with the AFC North title on the line.