Monthly Archives: October 2013

How to Lose for Dummies: Steelers Edition

It’s Just That Kind Of Year!

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When you win the turnover battle (+1 PIT), have more first downs (20 PIT – 13 OAK) and less penalties (3 for 12 yards PIT – 6 for 39 yards OAK) than your opponent you expect to win the game, but not if you’re the 2013 Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers even played the Oakland Raiders close to even in total yards (276 PIT – 279 OAK) and time of possession (29:59 PIT – 30:01 OAK) . So how do you lose a game that was so tight and you led in key statistical categories?

First you let the quarterback–who is a first year starter and still raw, yet full of potential—scamper for a 93 yard touchdown, an NFL Record for a QB.

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Pryor ran for 106 yards Sunday.Courtesy: Thearon W. Henderson

Then you miss 2 field goals–not blaming the kicker for the loss, but win you lose by 3 points and you fail to earn 6, you have to knit pick somewhere. Oh, don’t forget your 2 turnovers in critical areas and times. Roethlisberger threw 2 interceptions with the Steelers in scoring position and could have earned some needed points to aid the comeback effort. There you have it, that’s how you lose a game you should’ve and statistically won.

Just when the Steelers built some momentum after the bye week and starting to look like, well the Steelers—and creep closer toward the top of the AFC North—they give away this heartbreaker.

Of the 5 losses this season, there are those that fans and players could point to and say “we got beat by a better team.” Not on Sunday. The Black & Gold gave that one away and probably the season with it.

Pittsburgh is not going to win the AFC North. Cincinnati has a strangle hold on it now, as long as they don’t have an epic collapse. The Steelers only shot is a wild card birth, and if you look around the AFC, I don’t see how they can do it—unless they can win their next 9 in a row.

The AFC West is getting 2 teams in the playoffs. The Denver Broncos and the surprisingly still undefeated Kansas City Chiefs. Honestly, the San Diego Chargers still have a legitimate shot. That’s 3 teams there. The other 3 will be the divisional winners from the AFC North, East and South. So that’s the Bengals, New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts. That’s your 2014 AFC Playoffs. They’re just playing for seeding now.

The Steelers proved on Sunday, that sometimes, it’s just not your year. Here’s hoping they’ll prove me wrong or at least finish above .500. Heck just don’t be last in the division.

There will need to be major changes in Pittsburgh this offseason, including several firings and cuts. I like Head Coach Mike Tomlin, I don’t want to see him fired. Todd Haley, that’s another story.

Another season like this will not be accepted. This isn’t “The Standard.”

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For My Father, Blueprint & Best Friend

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June 29, 2013 in Winter Park, Florida at my graduation from Full Sail University’s Creative Writing Master’s program

I guess I always knew this day would come, but I had hoped and prayed it would be many more years in the future.

On October 16th, 2013, my Father, Karl Eugene Peak went home to be with our Lord. He lived 60 years battling with sickle cell thalassemia. After years of treatment and blood transfusions, he developed a condition that caused him to have too much iron in his liver, causing cirrhosis, which led to him needing a liver transplant.

God blessed us with the gift of a donor whose liver gave our family two more months with my Dad. I’ll forever be grateful to God and that family for that blessing, because there was a week & a half in August where I thought he’d never get his new liver and I would never be able to speak to him again.

I was actually by my Father’s bedside on my 33rd birthday, praying that God would grant my birthday wish of dad getting a new liver. That wish/prayer was answered on August 23. I couldn’t have been happier, because I knew I was closer to getting my best friend back.

That’s why this is very hard, because my Father is my best friend—along with my Mother, they’re married so it’s a package deal—and my blueprint.

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He always knew what buttons to push. When most people hear pushing buttons they often think you’re trying to annoy or anger someone, but not my Dad. He knew what buttons to push because he knew it would only cause a stir in me to work harder to be all that I could be.

I told him when I was 21 years old, I always wanted to be like him. I wanted to be a college graduate like him, work in my desired career for 3+ decades like him, marry a beautiful woman like he did and build a dream life with healthy, successful children like they did. He really was the perfect father, at least for me.

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Don’t my parents look like Lisa and Darryl from “Coming to America”?

I’m hurt right now because we will never have those trips he made to Florida to just hang out with me or get a chance to recreate our trip to Canada with my future kids, his grand children. I think about that stuff all of the time, even before he passed away. But what will hurt me the most, is that I’m still that little boy who wants to make his father proud.

So he won’t be around to meet my future wife, to hold and have a relationship with his grand kids, see me buy my first home or take my place in my dream job.

These are all things we always talked about. If my Mother is my heart, my Father is my brains. I would tell Mom what I wanted to do, then my Dad and I would figure out how I could and would make it happen, and we did many things together.

WE graduated from Northland High School, WE graduated from Ohio State, WE got OUR basketball jersey retired in college, WE bought my first car, WE moved to Florida and WE recently graduated from grad school and many more. WE did that, me and my best friend and no one can ever take that away from me.

In my Father’s last weeks we laughed and joked like always. We poked fun at each other, we reminisced about the good times, and he made me understand why he pushed me so hard. It all makes sense to me now. He was preparing me for this day, when he was no longer around.

Often times we believe when a loved one passes away, they were no longer needed on this Earth. I will always need both of my parents. It’s just the way my Dad will be there for me now, is all the lessons he gave me for 33 years.

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The first picture I ever took with my parents.

I’m grateful for those years. Some kids don’t get one day with their biological father. Last week my Dad told me because of his condition, a doctor told him when he was 18, he wouldn’t live past 28. I was born when he was 27 years old. If that doctor was right, I never would’ve known my Father and just as worse, my brother Kendall never would’ve been born.

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So my Father is a miracle, and no one should ever forget that. I will live the rest of my life thinking about him, but also knowing that I was blessed beyond measure to have had him.

I just hope that from this day forward me and my Brother can be as great of a Man, Husband, Father, Brother, Friend as he was. That’s Karl Eugene Peak’s legacy, then again a couple weeks ago he jokingly said the “E” stood for excellence. I think my Brother and I can handle carrying that mantle.

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Time for Texans to Get Young

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Texans are 2-4 with more questions then answers.

I’m not talking about the team’s collective age or taking a shot at free agent safety Ed Reed’s birth certificate—he’s 35—I’m talking about hometown hero and former AFC South divisional foe Vince Young.

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Young spent time with the Green Bay Packers this past preseason and it looked like he was going to make the roster when they cut Aaron Rodgers’ back up Graham Harrell, but it didn’t happen. Now he is sitting at home, campaigning for jobs and so are Houston’s most notable fans.

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Young was 30-17 (.638), with 2 Pro Bowl selections in his 5 Years as the starter with the Tennessee Titans, while playing for a Head Coach in Jeff Fisher who didn’t want him—he wanted Matt Lienhart.

By the end of his time there, Young became known more for his meltdown in Nashville—he threw his equipment in the stands following a game and then sitting in an empty parking lot in what was called a potential suicide attempt—than his play that helped revive the Titans franchise post the Steve McNair/Eddie George era.

Then of course he brought the ultimate kiss of death on the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles by dubbing them the “Dream Team” when they signed several big name free agents.

After bouncing around to Buffalo and Green Bay he sits in his Houston home waiting on another opportunity and I don’t see why the Texans shouldn’t give it to him. On a team that has all the ingredients of a Super Bowl contender, Matt Schaub has proven he isn’t the QB to get it done. His back up T.J. Yates who actually played well in Schaub’s absence as a rookie, proved Sunday why he isn’t the answer (Yates extended the Texans streak of consecutive games with an interception returned for a TD, Schaub threw 4 of the 5.)

So why not give VY a shot. What do you have to lose if you’re a Texan? His stats with Green Bay were not abysmal, honestly in a back up you want someone who plays similar to the starter, VY and “Discount Double Check” have different styles, so that was never going to be a fit. Young’s scrambling ability is an element that can threaten an opposing defense and help an offensive line that has given up 14 sacks so far in 2013. Young’s athleticism will also add to a running game that ranks 7th in league at 136 yards a game.

Gary Kubiak and the Texans missed out on Josh Freeman when Tampa Bay released him, they better not miss out on Young, or Kubiak and the rest of the Texans coaching staff will be next to Vince looking for work.

600 Down, 11 to Go

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The Steelers finally showed the grit of a franchise built on excellence; getting the 600th win in Steeler History and their first of the 2013 Season after an 0-4 start.

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It’s just one game and one win, but in the grand scheme of things, had the steelers lost on Sunday and dropped to 0-5, their playoff hopes were OVER. I’m not saying they need to win their last 12 (11 remaining after Sunday) games to make the post season, but losing the first game after the bye week—Steelers are now 6-1 after the bye under Coach Tomlin—would have done more then add an L in the wrong side of the standings. Psychologically you’d have to say better luck next year, just look at the New York Giants.

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Coach speaks says the team that wins the turnover battle, wins the game. The defense finally forced a turnover! The Steelers finally won the turnover battle (2-0) as the defense forced two interceptions of Rookie QB Geno Smith and sacking him 3 times.

The defense held the Jets offense to 6 points—21 fewer than what they allow per game on the season—and 267 (84 rushing) total yards, which is 54 yards fewer than their season average. In years past, this type of a performance would be expected, considering Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau’s 15-2 record against rookie QBs coming into the game; it is still a stunner considering the abysmal performance in the first four games of 2013.

Offensively, Ben Roethlisberger played his most efficient game of the season (23 for 30, 264 yards & 1 Touchdown), but most importantly NO TURNOVERS. He even got a little help in the passing game from WR Antonio Brown on a WR trick pass play that was shades of former offensive coordinator Ken Wisenhunt’s days of Steeler Football.

I said a couple of weeks ago when Heath Miller returned in week 3, that as he got healthier he’d be the key link to getting the offense on track. He opens up the middle of the field which takes pressure off Antonio Brown on the outside. Miller now has 9 Receptions for 105 Yards in his three games after a 6 catch, 84 yards (one for 31 yards) performance Sunday against the Jets. Before Miller returned, the offense was getting next to nothing from the Tight End position and it was clear Roethlisberger didn’t trust Miller’s replacements. Now Big Ben’s security blanket is there whenever the initial plan breaks down and he needs to improvise.

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That’s right Le’Veon, because the offense NEEDS more out of the running game that is currently ranked 31st out of 32 teams. Even though they won the time of possession battle 35:49 to 24:11, when the weather gets colder and Roethlisberger can’t sling it around 30 times a game, they’ll need the backfield by committee to gain more than 73 yards in order to keep the aging Defense off the field and resting.

That falls on the offensive line too. The mash unit of the team allowed another 3 times for a loss of 17 yards. But, like always, Roethlisberger causes at least one a game because of his desire to hold the ball and extend the play.

The strength of most teams is the “big uglies” on offense and defense. To complete this turnaround, they’ll need to get more nasty and physical to open up running and passing lanes for the skill players.

Overall this was an impressive win, ONLY because of the circumstances. It showed how much pride and guts this group has. If the Black & Gold can win at least 8 of their next 11 games, 5 of which are against division foes, they’ll have a REAL shot to get back into the race for the AFC North title and into the playoffs. But, it’s just one game at a time.

I guess Tomlin will keep the ping pong, pool tables and other locker room games locked away.

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NEXT FOUR GAMES:
10/20 VS. Baltimore Ravens
10/27 @ Oakland Raiders
11/03 @ New England Patriots
11/10 VS. Buffalo Bills

The Great Debate: LBJ Vs. MJ: Revisited

As the 2013-2014 NBA Season dawns on us, the defending champion Miami Heat are once again the favorites to win it all. Vegas has them as 13 To 5 Odds.

But for LeBron James, he’s chasing ghost, not just rings. He tries to do what his hero Michael Jordan and biggest rival Kobe Bryant have done, win three in a row.

That’s what it’s about as LBJ continues his hall of fame career. He knows if he doesn’t lead the Heat to a three peat his detractors will say, “see he’s not as good as Jordan. Heck, he’s not even Kobe.”

But as I wrote in an article after the Heat won their second title and major media outlets began the MJ and LBJ comparison, James already has topped Jordan in some areas.

I’m not the only one that has taken a close look at this debate. There’s been a recently released book written about it, it even caused stabbing in Pittsburgh. So I’m not crazy, people really are serious about who is better. Just take a look at what I discovered, MJ fans won’t be too happy with me. Hell, I’m not happy with myself.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE FROM 07/09/13:

LeBron James isn’t better than Michael Jordan, and that’s okay. One day he will either eclipse him, fall short or be his equal. Truth is, he is already the best OVERALL player the NBA has ever seen. This is coming from one of the biggest Jordan fans you’ll find.

Courtesy: Baseketfootball.com

Now that the confetti has cleared from the Miami Heat’s third championship – the second for LeBron James – and the national media has wiped their collective drool from the last couple of weeks over LeBron’s performance, it’s my turn to jump in on this. I’ve read several articles, watched and listened to several sports talk shows on various media platforms, debate whether or not LeBron is better than Michael Jordan. LeBron is not better than MJ, but he is the best overall player the NBA has EVER seen. There is a difference. It’s like saying what’s the difference between a scorer and a shooter. They both can score plenty of points, but a shooter only does it with the jump shot and a scorer does it a multitude of ways from slashing lay-ups and dunks, jump shots, free throws etc. Ray Allen is a shooter; Carmelo Anthony are Kevin Durant are scorers.

My issues with the comparisons are the key variable in which they are comparing the two by, which is their age. It’s unfair to MJ. You can’t compare ages because LeBron entered the league three years before Michael Jordan did. If you want to use age, you would have to start the comparison at age 21, the age Michael played his first game for the Chicago Bulls back in the 1984-85 season. But this would be unfair to LeBron. The only fair way is to look at years of service or experience, 10. So let’s start there.

All my stats have been fact checked by basketball reference.com. Michael Jordan’s first 10 seasons are 1984-1993 and 1994-1995. LeBron’s first 10 seasons are 2003-2013.

LBJ or MJ

Michael has scored 21, 998 points to LeBron’s 21,081. LeBron has more assists with 5,302 to MJ’s 4,025. LeBron also has more rebounds with 5,553 to Michael’s 4,336. LeBron has the edge in MVP trophies at 4 to 3. Michael has the edge on championships at 3 to 2.

Courtesy: The Sportsfanjournal.com / “18 year old LeBron meets 40 year old Michael”

Another key stat to look at when adding up all these numbers; LeBron has played in 765 games while Michael played in only 684. Because of Michael’s broken foot during the 1985-86 and his stint in minor league baseball that caused him to miss a season and a half, LeBron has played in 81 more games than Michael. That is equal to one full season more than his Airness.

To no surprise MJ scored more than LBJ and the per game average is more than 5 points a game. It’s also not shocking that LeBron – who goes out of his way to get teammates involved – has more assists than Michael at a per game average of 6.93 to 5.88. But I bet few people expected it to be that close.

The stats support the claim that LeBron is more Magic Johnson than Michael as many suggest. Honestly, I thought Scottie Pippen was a better all around player than Michael with his abilities and versatility. So giving the nod to LeBron as a better “overall player” isn’t that big a deal.

But look at the titles category that many are trying to throw against MJ with their 28 years old argument. MJ wins 3 to 2. I’ll throw another stat in there. 3-0 to 2-2. What’s that? Michael Jordan was undefeated in his three trips to the NBA Finals, where as LeBron won two of his four trips. I’ll give LeBron more credit than most for getting that 2007 Cleveland Cavaliers team to the NBA Finals in his first trip. I’ll give Michael a nod for never missing the playoffs in his first 10 seasons, while LeBron did miss in his first two seasons with the Cavaliers.

Depending on what category you place more importance on, you can decide who you feel is the best. If it is championships, MJ is still number one. If it’s total stats, LeBron has the edge everywhere except points.

Either way LeBron isn’t MJ, MJ isn’t LeBron. Let’s just enjoy the greatness we are witnessing in King James and celebrate his Airness for what he has done. My main point is that the discussion of who is the best is closer then we think. At least at this stage of their careers. Let’s do this in 5 years and see where the MVPs, stats and championships lay. Still we have to wait until Lebron is retired to come to any conclusion.

Courtesy: jordansdaily.com

Courtesy: ESPN.com

Time to Hoop: 2013-2014 NBA Story lines & Predictions

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Opening night of the new NBA Season is 20 Days away (as a struggling Pittsburgh Steeler fan, it can’t come soon enough) and there are immense story-lines to follow. The league is more drama filled than an episode of ABC’s “Mistresses”or “Scandal.” As Shaquille O’neal once said, NBA stands for Nothing But Actors. Here’s a glimpse of the ones you should follow.

The biggest dramatic star in this season will be Dwight Howard, somehow he has managed in 2 years to incite more rage then LeBron did when he left Cleveland. The good thing for D12, he will be healthy and this team is very similar to his 2009 Orlando Magic that went to the NBA Finals, except now he has a superstar in James Harden to alleviate the pressure on him.

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The Rockets have shooters surrounding D12, that will cause opposing teams to abandon double teaming him. D12s ability in the pick & roll will free up Jeremy Lin, to be “Linsanity” from his days in NY.

If Omer Asik can swallow his pride of being the second fiddle on the post, head coach Kevin Mchale will be able to play Asik and D12 together, creating a twin tower scenario similar to that of Pau Gasol & Andrew Bynum when they helped the LA Lakers win back to back titles in 09 & 10.

• Kobe Brant will play game one. Period.

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Courtesy: @kobebryant

No need for analysis, other then to say Kobe takes challenges where he is expected to fail, to prove his greatness. The average recovery for an Achilles injury is 8-10 months, it’s only been 7 since Kobe tore his. He’s a freak athlete out to prove he can defy the odds once again. Not to mention you throw in the fact that a certain sports publication ranked him as the league’s 12th best player. Mamba’s about to strike!

• Derrick Rose will prove he made the right decision to sit out all of last season and COMPLETELY heal.

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Many pointed to Iman Shumpert—he injured his knee the same day as Rose and returned to play—as to why Rose should’ve played. But for those who don’t remember, Shumpert had issues with his knee in the playoffs against Indiana. Rose did the right thing, long term and short term. The Bulls were so banged up, there was no way they were beating the Heat last season. So sitting out to avoid any wear and tear was the safe, but smart move. Long term; just think how fresh his legs are. At his age, he may find another gear because he didn’t take the pounding for full season.

• Memphis will regret letting Coach Lionel Hollins go. Chemistry is hard enough to obtain between players, but it’s even harder to find the right mix between players and a coach. The trade of Rudy Gay to Toronto actually helped Memphis, that won’t be the same with the loss of Hollins. This team was threatening to win a conference title, without a beloved coach, management has risked this team falling to the back of the Western Conference pack. All over analytics. This isn’t baseball.

• The Brooklyn Celtics….. I mean Nets will push the Miami Heat and drain them in a way similar to an “Ali vs. Frazier” fight. The Nets went all in by adding the aging Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to their young stars in an attempt to win now. Truth and KG are at the end of their Hall Of Fame careers and you can believe they’ll give all they have left, to knock off their bitter rivals. Even if that takes so much away from them they can’t win the title. Knocking off the Heat and old friend Ray Allen would be enough to make these prideful vets fade away.

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• This will be the last season of the big three in Miami. I’m not saying Lebron will leave, but Chris Bosh will be gone. If he doesn’t elect to use his player option, I believe Pat Riley will use him as trade bait to revamp the roster and keep their championship window open. That’s what it will take to keep LeBron around, although I don’t think he’s going anywhere. As far as the back to Cleveland hopes; if he ever goes back it will be at the end of his career, not the middle of his prime. But I’ve been wrong about him before, I never thought he’d leave home in the first place.

PREDICTIONS:
Eastern Conference Championship:
Miami Heat vs. Indiana Pacers

• I could very easily change this to Chicago Bulls vs. New York Knicks/Brooklyn Nets. Point is the East is going to be a beast this season and I don’t see how the Heat could run another 20 plus game win streak or waltz through this gauntlet to the Finals. Indiana brings back an All Star in Danny Granger to a team that won ? Games last season and made the conference finals. With Granger back, their bench gets a boost from Lance Stephenson who emerged in place of Granger. Then you add veterans Luis Scola, C.J. Watson and sharp shooter Chris Copeland. The more I think about it I may want to change my picks.

Western Conference Championship:
LA Clippers vs. Houston Rockets

NBA Finals:
LA Clippers vs. Indiana Pacers

Champions:
LA Clippers
Chris Paul has the coach he wanted, and the stage is set for him to perform. He’s been called this generations Isaiah Thomas and now he needs to channel his inner Zeke.

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Many say the clips have underachieved the last two seasons, if they don’t exceed expectations this season, it falls on CP3. He has two three point specialist in J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley to open up driving lanes to do what he does best. We all know, that right now in their careers, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan can only help him carry the load so much. But they still can do what’s needed to truly take over the title as L.A.s team.

MVP:
Kevin Durant
Steph Curry (2nd)
KD35 said he’s tired of being second. He can only do so much about changing that for the OKC Thunder, but he can change that for his individual career. This is the year he REALLY challenges LBJ as the best in the L. Steph Curry was the darling of the NBA Playoffs, that will carry over this season as he pushes the Golden State Warriors into the top 3 team in the west. The hysteria over his blazing shooting had his coach Mark Jackson saying “most of you all are showing after the baby’s already been burped.” Basically y’all late, and Steph will use his playoff run to propel him into superstar status this season. He won’t be snubbed for the all star team again.It just won’t be enough to overtake KD for MVP. His time will come soon though.

Defensive Player of the Year:
Dwight Howard
D12 is finally 100%. When he’s right, he’s the best center in the league. Now that the free agent drama is finally behind him – after two years – he will reclaim his spot as the number one big.

Rookie of the Year:
Trey Burke
This is a point guard driver league, like the NFL is with quarterbacks. I didn’t understand why so many teams passed on a guy who proved in the most pressure filled moments, on the best level not called the NBA. Burke will shock many as he has his entire career, going back to his prep days at Northland High School in Columbus Ohio. He’s been overshadowed before—he played with Boston Celtics second year forward Jared Sullinger in high school—and still shined bright. His rookie campaign will be no different. He reminds me of a more versatile Allen Iverson.

• Lastly, I have a bone to pick with the NBA on scheduling. In a league that spans so many months, whose great idea was it to have several key teams play in the preseason?! The Heat played the Nets and will play again on 10/25. This is a big rivalry that carries over from when Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry were in Boston. Why would the NBA allow this matchup to happen outside of the season and dilute the significance and hype of their 1st regular season meeting. Same thing goes for the first matchup between the New Nets vs Boston on 10/23. Truth and KGs first game back in Beantown SHOULDN’T be a preseason game. I’m disappointed and there are already few watchable regular season games to begin with, now those that I were looking forward to are now not must see TV.

STEEL a Chance?

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It’s not impossible. Courtesy:Steelers.com

The Pittsburgh Steelers are 0-4, and in last place in the AFC North; yet they still have a (slim) chance to make a historic run to the playoffs.

A wise man once told me, “only look in the past to avoid making the same mistakes.” The man that said that was my father and that is where the Steelers are this week – after a bye yesterday – after making plenty of mistakes in their first four games.

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The first quarter of the season was a disaster for the black and gold; the silver lining, they were in position to win all four games. They lost by an average margin of 10.25 ppg, with the only blowout loss being to the Chicago Bears (40-23). Yet they were still within 3 points with less than 4 minutes to play.

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Bell will make his first start vs. Jets. Courtesy: Steelers.com

The offense began to come on once they got back key weapons Heath Miller and rookie running back Le’Veon Bell. In the first two games without them they averaged only 10 points per game, they averaged 25 points in the two games they played. Bell even rushed for 84 yards on 20 carries, which was close to topping the 3 game totals for the entire running back group in his absence.

The defense still hasn’t created a turnover, yet they are ranked 10th In the NFL in total defense. If they can create more turnovers to give Ben Roethlisberger and the offense more possessions, that will lead to more wins.

With 12 games left in the season, the Steelers are 3 games back of first place in the AFC North division, with 5 games left against division rivals. Add to the fact this is a division where no one will run away like the AFC West where there are two undefeated teams and you have building hope in the Burgh.

Looking at the next four games you have to believe there are some wins to come.

Next Four Games
10/13 @ New York Jets
10/20 Vs. Baltimore Ravens
10/27 @ Oakland Raiders
11/03 @ New England Patriots

The Jets and Raiders are exceeding expectations right now, you have to think they’ll come down to Earth soon. While the Ravens and Patriots games will be tough, both teams look like a shell of their past dominant selves.

I have to believe, as most of the NFL does, that the Steelers will be a factor down the stretch. But there’s no room for error, they gave that away in the first four weeks. The grind is on NOW!

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Time to grind. Courtesy: Steelers.com