Monthly Archives: September 2013

Steelers are in a Heavyweight Pride Fight

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Six Super Bowl titles in eight tries = The Standard.

The Pittsburgh Steelers (0-4) are not in a prize fight, they are now in a PRIDE fight. It is not about Xs & Os anymore. This proud group of veterans will not accept rolling over and getting ready for 2014.

The Steelers are not a team that’s in it for next season. You know, when a team starts out in the dumps and began to look for players to build with for the future? No. They don’t do that! They are either going to dig themselves out of this hole and make history or ruin other team’s seasons. There will be no tanking or setting themselves up to draft South Carolina’s Jadaveon Clowney (although that would be nice to have him play for Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau.)

But, this 2013 season is an example of the bad side of experiencing so many years of success. The Indianapolis Colts have dealt with it. The New England Patriots have dealt with it to some degree (they haven’t won a Super Bowl since 2005.) The San Francisco 49ers of the late 80’s and Dallas Cowboys of the 90’s dealt with it too. All of these teams struggled to retain their championship form as key players aged and retired or were lost to free agency.

This is what happens when you’ve spent over a decade as a championship contender. This is the other side of winning 2 Super Bowls out of 3 in 7 seasons, and winning 3 AFC Titles out of 5 in 10 years. Just look at history, there’s no reason to fear this will last long.

My biggest concern is the backlash Head Coach Mike Tomlin will get. If the season continues this way, it will be the third time his Steelers have missed the playoffs in his Seven seasons at the helm. His predecessor, Bill Cowher, had struggling seasons as well. Cowher’s Steeler teams missed three straight playoffs from 1998 to 2000 before returning to the AFC championship game in 2001 and beginning this decade long run of success that led to 2 Vince Lombardi Trophies in 3 appearances in the big game.

Make no mistake there will be casualties, maybe even before this article is posted. Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley will probably be first to go, but changes will need to be made. I just don’t think Head Coach should be one of them.

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Tomlin is running out of ideas.

Changing head coaches is what delayed the 49ers return to glory and has kept the Cleveland Browns in sports purgatory. Sticking with a coach during the down times as the Rooney family has done in the past, is why this organization is the leader in Super Bowl victories. There have only been 3 coaches in Pittsburgh since 1969, ironically or not, that was the season after the Steelers last 0-4 start.

Steeler Nation, You’re in the PRIDE fight too. Don’t pack away your terrible towels, jerseys, hoodies or other game day traditions, because this organization can turn it around just as quick as the 2012 Indianapolis Colts. Who would’ve thought they’d be where they are when they went 2-12 and let Peyton Manning go?

The franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is only 31 years old. The offensive line that has 3 starters under 3 years of experience will get better as they gain more experience and General Manager Kevin Colbert will draft the right players to play the STEELER way, especially on defense.

The key to re-opening the Steelers championship window is already in place. Patience, it won’t be long before Lombardi trophy number seven joins the six pack in the trophy case.

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#7 isn’t as far away as it seems.

NEXT 4 GAMES:
10/6 BYE WEEK
10/13 @ NY Jets
10/20 vs. Baltimore Ravens
10/27 @ Oakland Raiders
11/03 @ NE Patriots

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Do You STEEL Believe?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are 0-3 for the first time in the Mike Tomlin era, and the first time since 2000. They finished that season 9-7 and missed the playoffs. That could very well be their fate in 2013, unless something drastically changes.

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The 2013 Season is getting away from the Steelers.

Since the current playoff format was introduced in the 1990 season, only two teams have played in the playoffs after starting the season 0-3. The 1992 San Diego Chargers—Started 0-4, finished the season at 11-5, won the AFC West—and the 1998 Buffalo Bills, who finished 10-6. It’s even more of a daunting task if you go farther back in the record books. Since 1978, only five teams have made the NFL Playoffs after starting the season 0-3, according to STATS.

If the Steelers miss the playoffs, it will be for the second season in a row, third time in the Mike Tomlin era. But if the Steelers are going to save their season and gain respect, they’ll have to do it with an aging defense and the right arm of Ben Roethlisberger.

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Ben Roethlisberger via twitter.com/@steelers

The Steelers finally found some offense Sunday night against the Chicago Bears. Roethlisberger passed 41 times completing 26 for 406 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Even with the running game struggling to only gain 80 yards, they were effective against a stout defense. It’s not the total yards that tell the whole story. There were several big runs by Johnathan Dwyer that helped spark scoring drives. The team that was only averaging 10 points a game, managed to score 23 points.

Problem is they turned the ball over 5 times—2 of them returned for touchdowns—handing the Chicago Bears 23 points.

As I watched this team last night, it’s clear they’ll have to rely on Roethlisberger to win any games. Traditional Steeler football of ground and pound has to sit on the sidelines this season.

The return of Tight End Heath Miller will help a great deal. Miller missed the first two games recovering from knee surgery. He made an immediate impact against the Bears (3 receptions, 35 yards) and should be more like himself as he continues to shake off the rust.

If Roethlisberger can take care of the ball and the offensive line can keep him standing up – He was sacked 3 times, hit another 6 vs. Chicago – they can get back on the winning track. Problem is, will it be too little, too late?

The Defense continues to play Steeler football, despite being the oldest in the NFL. They controlled the second and third quarters to allow the offense to pull within four points with over three minutes to go.

The D’s biggest problem so far this season is they’re not getting to the quarterback. They only sacked Jay Cutler 2 times and in three games, still haven’t forced their opponents into a turnover. If they can create some turnovers to set up the struggling offense, that should also jump start a turn around.

Even at 0-3, the Steelers are only 2 games back of first place in the division, with 5 games left against divisional opponents.

Another good thing for the Steelers is their next opponent is the Minnesota Vikings, who are dealing with their own woes after losing to the “tanking Cleveland Browns.” The sad part is, the NFL has to be embarrassed that the two teams in their international showcase are 0-for. Not good for building a fan base.

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Courtesy: Steelers.com

What to Watch in Week Three

In my look ahead pieces, I will choose the games getting the most buzz or I foresee playing a huge factor near the end of the season – I.E. the games we will look back at and say “ah hah” – when playoff positioning starts.

First, It’s homecoming week in the NFL. Kansas City Chief Head Coach Andy Reid returns to the “City of Brotherly Love” where he coached for 15 seasons with the Eagles. Reid’s Chiefs are 2-0 and his new quarterback, Alex Smith looks very comfortable in his new surroundings after several up and down years in San Francisco.

Coach Reid won 130 games with the Eagles from 1999-2012. He is known for his west coast offense, but it is the Chiefs Defense that has taken control in the victories. It is a top 3 Defense that allows only 248 yards and 9 points per game, good for second best. Granted one of their opponents was the woeful Jacksonville jaguars, but the other, the offensive minded Dallas Cowboys.

The Philadelphia Eagles have proven they can score in bunches, and will need to in order to get back on track after losing at home last week to the San Diego Chargers. If the Eagles defense can hold the Chiefs offense under or around their 22.5 points per game average, while posting their 31.5 average, they’ll spoil Reid’s Homecoming and Donovan McNabb’s Jersey retirement.

Another homecoming game, Ed Reed hopes to make his 2013 season debut Sunday back in Baltimore. Reed spent 11 seasons in “Charm City” and was an iconic leader of the vaunted Ravens D. Reed is one of the 9 defensive starters the Ravens lost from their Super Bowl Championship team and he’ll get a first hand look at the disaster his skipping town left. The Ravens D gives up 384.5 yards and 20.5 points per game. The Texans offense should have a field day, if Andre Johnson plays after having concussion symptoms from a hit he took against Tennessee. With him, Houston racks up 477 yards per game, while scoring at a clip of 30.5 points per game.

The Texans D will have a leg up, as Reed knows what Joe Flacco and that Ravens offense likes to do. Plus they’re already dominate. They only allow 255.5 yards and 26 points per game and that’s without the savvy Reed. The Ravens have struggled out the gate and this game could very well show more of their flaws.

Here are some quick hitters….

COLTS @ 49ERS

It’s not a homecoming game, but it’s close. Andrew luck will return to Northern California not far from where he stared at Stanford university for 4 years. It will also be a reunion of sorts. He’ll face off against his college coach, Jim Harbaugh for the first time. The Colts made a big splash Wednesday with their acquisition of Luck’s draft mate, 3rd pick from 2012, Trent Richardson. Nobody knows how much he’ll play, but as the season rolls on, Richardson will give the Colts that one-two punch in the backfield they used to have with Peyton Manning and Edgerrin Janes.

The Niners are trying to bounce back from a terrible, embarrassing loss to division rival Seattle. Seattle plays Jacksonville, so you can book that as a win. San Francisco can’t lose to the Colts and fall two games back of the Seahawks.

PACKERS @ BENGALS

Both teams got their first win of the 2013 season last week, and both are in tough divisions where one loss could be the difference from being in or out the playoffs at seasons end. The Bengals played Monday night, which usually spells doom for teams in the following week; luckily for them they don’t have to go on the road. So the one less day of preparation shouldn’t hurt to bad.

LIONS @ REDSKINS

If making the playoffs is hard at 0-2, it’s damn near impossible at 0-3. That’s the mountain RGIII and Washington will have to climb if they lose this game. Griffin’s offseason knee rehab mantra was “All In For Week One”, he and the rest of the Skins better be “All In For Week Three” it could be very well be “All Over For 2013” and there will be fallout in D.C. Especially if RGIII struggles more. There will be calls for his backup, Kirk Cousins.

For Tebow, it’s AFL or Bust

Tim Tebow’s best shot to get back to the NFL–as a quarterback –is in the AFL. History proves, he can do it.
This past Monday, 30-40 Jacksonville Jaguar fans protested outside of Everbank Field on the banks of the St. Johns River for the team to sign Tim Tebow.

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It wasn’t the first show of support for the hometown kid who also stared at the University of Florida. There have been signed petitions and other various, ridiculous acts in attempt to bring Tebow home to play pro football. The other day I tweeted that the Jaguars franchise should give the people what they want. He can’t be worse than what they have, plus it’s a great business move for a team that has to put a tarp over its upper deck because of a lack of fan support, they’ve had several blackouts in the past 5 seasons too.

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After careful consideration, there’s two problems with my tweets (That is why you should think before you press send, thank Coach Herman Hedwards.) One, the Jaguars are a mess and signing Tebow won’t help him long term in his career goals. Problem number two with my tweets, Tebow still needs LOTS of work—I know he wins games, trust me I’m a Steeler fan, I remember the 2011 Wild Card game—before he can be a consistent NFL QB. Which brings me to this, Tebow should sign with an AFL team IMMEDIATELY.

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Kurt Warner spent 3 season in the AFL

Kurt Warner did it. After spending the 1994 season on the Green Packers practice squad, Warner spent 3 seasons (1995-1997) in the AFL with the Iowa Barnstormers.

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Warner led the St. Louis Rams “Greatest Show on Turf” Offense to two Super Bowls

When he got back to the NFL with the St. Louis Rams in 1999, all he did was win a Super Bowl and the game’s MVP, a regular season MVP and played in two other Super Bowls while setting passing records in all of them. Warner threw for a total of 32,344 yards and 208 touchdowns in 12 seasons. He’ll be a Hall of Famer one day.

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Tommy Maddox did it. After being drafted 25th by the Denver Broncos in 1992 , he struggled in the NFL for 5 seasons, 2 of those backing up Hall of Famer John Elway.

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After 3 years away from football, Maddox went to the AFL and played for the New Jersey Red Dogs, then the Los Angeles Xtreme of the sort lived XFL, where he led them to the league championship. His performances were good enough to earn a tryout with the Pittsburgh Steelers. All he did in the Steel City was lead them to the playoffs in 2002 and win NFL Comeback Player of the Year. Maddox won a Super Bowl Championship Ring (SB XL) as Ben Roethlisberger’s back up in his final season as a pro.

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Jordan Palmer, younger brother of Arizona Cardinal quarterback Carson, is the latest to go from NFL to AFL and back to the NFL. Heck, even a coach has made the jump from the Arena league, Cincinnati Bengal Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden.

The AFL will help Tebow where he’s in need the most, passing accuracy and decision making. The game is played on a shorter field, which will force him to throw into tighter Windows and gain that precision needed to make it back to the big lead. The pocket collapses quicker so he’ll have to get rid of the ball quicker, forcing him to make quicker decisions. Something he struggles at now. Lastly, and just as important, he won’t be able to rely on his legs as an escape plan. In the Arena league game, running the ball hurts you. This is a passing league.

This summer, ESPN Analyst and Former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski offered Tim Tebow a chance to play for the Philadelphia Soul, the team he co owns with Bon Jovi. He told the Associated Press, “I think he’s got to have a career path. What’s he going to do to get back?” That’s why several including Jaworski, believe the AFL is his best and maybe last shot. Jaworski went on to say, “You’ve got to learn to get rid of the football, quick. You’ve got to process information, quick…. If you get reps and you are dropping back 40-45 times with people in your face, you get better. He needs to play. He needs to get on the field.”

So the opportunity is there and it may be the only one, if he continues to stick to his goal of becoming an NFL quarterback, which I commend him for in holding on to his dream. I just don’t believe it will happen if he thinks he can continue to do what he’s been doing, and that’s working out alone with the best QB gurus/tutors in the country. He needs to play, even if the league is a step down. As I showed you it has worked for other QBs, he should try it. I’m sure it will work for him too.

Oh and Two

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At least the Pirates are doing good and Hockey season starts soon.

The number two was a very significant number for the Pittsburgh Steelers heading into their week 2 matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals. 2, was the number of losses they were trying to avoid to begin the season. 2, is how many times Ben Roethlisberger has lost in his home state of ohio in 17 games (8-1 in Cincinnati, 7-1 in Cleveland.) 2, that’s how many touchdowns the Steeler offense has scored this season. 2, is the number of games they’ve never been below five hundred in Head Coach Mike Tomlin’s tenure and 2002, is the last time the Steeler franchise was 0-2.

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0-2 isn’t that big of a hole for this team, in this division.

Two, that’s where the black and gold stand now. Since 1990 when the NFL adopted the current playoff format, only 12% of the teams that have started their season 0-2 have made the playoffs. Only one has made it to the Super Bowl and won. You may remember the 2007, 9-7, Eli Manning led New York Giants. Oh and Pro Bowl Tight End Heath Miller could be returning soon – more on him later – as well as Rookie Running back Le’Veon Bell. So all is not doom and gloom in The Burgh.

The AFC North division leaders – Baltimore and Cincinnati – only have a one game lead at 1-1. The last time the Steelers were 0-2, was in 2002 under Former Head Coach Bill Cower, they went 10-5-1, won the division and beat the Cleveland Browns in a classic Wild Card game in Heinz Field. So there’s still hope.

That hope would come by the way of some key players returning. Say Heath Miller and Le’Veon Bell? Miller’s missed the first two games after tearing up his ACL and MCL in week 16 of last season – Coach Tomlin said he could play in week 3; Bell has battled a lisfranc injury since the preseason. Both would help the anemic offense move the ball and score some points. While we don’t know what the rookie Bell would bring, it’s easy to see Miller’s value. He’s undervalued if you ask me.
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Miller led the Steelers in catches, receiving yards and touchdowns.

Miller is the MOST COMPLETE TIGHT END IN THE NFL. Yes, I mean every word. He is in the mold of Jay Novachek, Brent Jones, Ozzie Newsome, and Mark Bavaro to name a few. All those guys are from the late 80’s, early 90’s and were apart of Super Bowl Championship teams or contenders. These guys, like Miller, could catch like a wide out and block like a lineman. Miller’s not one of these basketball players turned pro footballer to help escalate passing schemes. He’s a throwback.Last week I said Maurkice Pouncey was the Steelers best offensive player, Miller is its most consistent and it shows in the Steelers offense.
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Miller is Big Ben’s number one target.

When David Paulson caught a 34 yard pass from Ben Roethlisberger in the first quarter last night, I immediately recognized the play as a staple for Miller. Then Paulson fumbled, and I thought Heath would never do that. Miller makes that big play at least three times a game for his quarterback. He was Pittsburgh’s leading receiver in 2012 (71 receptions, 815 yards and 8 touchdowns.)
Who would’ve thought the loss of receiver Mike Wallace to the Miami Dolphins in free agency wasn’t the Steelers greatest loss.

If the Burgh is to repeat the franchise history from 2002 and get this woeful offense going, They’ll need Miller. But if he can’t help turn things around, fans in the Steel city still have postseason baseball coming and the start of the Penguins season to heal their hearts.

Week Two Overreaction

RAGING BRONCOS

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“The Sheriff” Peyton Manning has tossed 9 TDs in 2 games without throwing an interception. The receiving core is in simpatico with the future Hall of Famer like they’ve spent a decade together. Plus, the running game gave them the balance on offense against the Giants that they missed last season. Knowshon Mareno carried the ball the 13 times for 93 yards and a touchdown. The Broncos are the leading scoring team in the NFL, 2nd best is the Green Bay Packers with 66 points. Denver has scored that amount in the 2nd half combined in two games. I predict the Broncos will shatter the 2007 New England Patriots single season scoring record of 589. At 90 points every two games, they are on pace to score 720.

PRESEASON IS IMPORTANT, AT LEAST FOR QUARTERBACKS

RGIII has struggled in the first two games and so has Washington. Last season Griffin only had 7 turnovers (5 Interceptions, 2 Fumbles) total in 16 games, he has 3 interceptions already this season. His QB rating is down to 89.6 from 102.4, But it’s bigger then stats. He doesn’t pass the “eye test”, he looks tentative and so do the play callers. If it takes until week 4 to knock the rust off, it could be too late, then again they are only 1 game back of first place since the NFC East looked so bad yesterday. Which brings me to…….

THE NFC EAST IS THE 2ND WORST DIVISION IN THE NFL

After the AFC North went winless in week 1, the NFC East did the same in week 2. But truthfully they weren’t as bad as the AFC North. The Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys had a chance to win their match ups, but the New York Giants and Washington Redskins looked atrocious. I picked the Cowboys to win this division, and after seeing the rest of the NFC East in two weeks, I think by mid October they’ll pull away from the pack. They’re playing the best, especially on defense where it counts.

OH & TWO

New York Giants, Washington Redskins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Minnesota Vikings, Cleveland Browns, Carolina Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars and the loser of tonight’s game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals…..your season might as well be over.

Since 1990 only 12% of the teams that have started 0-2 made the playoffs. But if you’re a Super Bowl or bust team there is hope, albeit slim. The last 0-2 team to make Super Bowl…… The 2007 New York Giants and you know how historic that was, don’t cha Tom Brady?

OVERREACTION PREDICTION

If the Seattle Seahawks get home field advantage in the NFC Playoffs, they will represent the NFC in New York for Super Bowl 48. The Seahawks have won their last 9 (8-0 in 2012) home games by an average of 30.2 (272 total points) points per game, while the defense is only allowing 10.8 (98 total points) points per game. You mix that 12th Man crowd noise – last night they set the Guinness World Record for loudest stadium at 136.6 decibels – with late January weather in the great Northwest and you have a recipe for disaster for NFC opponents. In my preseason predictions I picked Atlanta to go to the Super Bowl and win, not if Seattle gets home field.

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What To Watch In Week Two

Week two in the NFL kicks-off Thursday night, and it’s already rivalry week. Here’s a look at the best games on the schedule.

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N.Y. JETS @ N.E. PATRIOTS (Thursday, 8pm)

Rookie Geno Smith was decent in his first start at quarterback (24/38, 256 yards with a touchdown and interception.) Still, the Jets needed a bone head play by Tampa Bay Buccaneer linebacker Lavonte David and a 48 yard field goal by Nick Folk to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

The matchup with the Pats will be the first true test for Smith. Coach Bill Belichick is known for dominating and confusing rookie QBs, yet in week one, Buffalo Bills rookie QB E.J. Manuel was able to throw for 2 touchdowns with no turnovers against “The Hoodie’s” schemes. It took a late Stephen Gostkowski field goal to slip by the Bills.

Both teams are dealing with uncertainty on offense with injuries and new faces. The Pats will be without their leading rusher from week one, Shane Vereen (14 carries for 101 yards). The Jets are still trying to figure everything out. They have lost the last 5 to the Pats including a 49-19 beat down last Thanksgiving night that gave us, “The Butt Fumble.”

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The Pats have swept the season series the last two seasons. Yet, if the Jets can pull off the upset, they’ll be in at least a tie for first place in the AFC East come Sunday night. Who saw that coming?

DENVER BRONCOS @ N.Y. GIANTS (Sunday, 4:25pm)

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There are those who say Eli Manning is better than Peyton Manning because he has two Super Bowl rings and has been more clutch when it counts, in the postseason. I’m not one of them. After what I saw from Peyton against Baltimore – 462 yards passing and 7 TDs – in the opener and the abysmal Giants defense on Sunday night in Dallas – who will probably be without their best cornerback Prince Amukamura (concussion), I see Big Brother Peyton riding his “Fearsome Foursome” (Welker, DeMaryius Thomas, Decker & Julius Thomas ) of receiving threats to another win in the Manning bowl to move to 3-0 against his little brother.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS @ SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (Sunday, 8:30 pm)

Anquan Boldin vs. Richard Sherman. Colin Kaepernick vs. Russell Wilson. Jim Harbaugh vs. Pete Carroll. While the other two match ups should decide who will win, the Harbaugh-Carroll match up is a cantankerous one that goes back to Stanford vs. USC. I just want to see the pre-game and post game handshakes.

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www.youtube.com/watch?v=WeS3VeluAmg

On the field, I don’t expect Kaepernick to throw for 400 plus yards against the Seahawks tall, physical, athletic defensive backs, but I see him gaining more than 22 yards rushing (his totals from week 1.) I do expect Russell Wilson to be as efficient at home as he was against Carolina, which is saying alot since he was 25 of 33 for 320 yards and a touchdown.

In their last meeting (SEA 42-13; 12/23/12) Wilson threw a career-high four touchdown passes and Marshawn Lynch scored two first-quarter TDs. Don’t expect Lynch to be bundled up two weeks in a row – he gained only 43 yards on 17 carries against the Panthers – he’s rushed for 100+ yards in his last three meetings against the Niners. This is meeting one of two in what could be a preview of the NFC Championship game.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS @ CINCINNATI BENGALS (Monday 8:40 pm)

I was hard on the AFC North division after week one, so was the national media and rightfully so. They are the only winless division in pro football. That will end this week with these two teams meeting and Cleveland playing at Baltimore, unless there are two ties (If you watched these teams play last week that could happen.) Cincinnati is the favorite to win this division by many, present company included. In order to do so, they have to beat the big boys of the division in Pittsburgh and Baltimore, who have controlled the AFC North for almost two decades. Their first crack is the Steelers.

New Bengal and former Steeler linebacker James Harrison will be looking for payback since the Black & Gold didn’t resign him in the offseason. The Steelers have been taking it on the chin all week after looking like their game was drowned in the Three Rivers outside of Heinz Field. There is little doubt Head Coach Mike Tomlin will have his team ready to bounce back.

The two teams split the season series in 2012, with each winning on the other’s home field (PIT 24-17, 10/21/12; CIN 13-10; 12/23/12.) This early season matchup will have a playoff feel, neither team wants to fall in an 0-2 hole. Even though I think 8-8 will win this division, a two game deficit will not bode well for either to make a legit run in January.