Monthly Archives: December 2014

The Killer B’s are Swarming (Wild Card Edition)

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/d90/35069605/files/2014/12/img_2098.jpg

The Steelers offense led by Roethlisberger and Brown is the top ranked of all playoff teams. Photo Courtesy: Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers are back in the playoffs for the first time since the end of the 2011 season. After alternating wins in their first six games of 2014, and of their five loses losing to teams that aren’t in the playoffs—Cleveland, NY Jets, Tampa Bay and New Orleans—Tomlin’s Crew rides into the playoffs winning 8 of their last 10.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/d90/35069605/files/2014/12/img_2099.jpg

Tomlin has the Steelers poised to make a run at Lombardi #7.

The Killer B offense led by Big Ben’s NFL high 4,952 yards with 32 TDs, Antonio Brown’s League high 129 catches and 1,698 yards with 13 TDs to go along with Le’Veon Bell’s 1,361 rushing yards, plus 83 receptions for 854 receiving yards has playoffs defenses on alert. You also have to account for #7’s security blanket Heath Miller (66 rec, 761 yards and 3 TDs) who averages 11.2 yards per catch. These aren’t your grandfather or even your father’s Pittsburgh Steelers.

With the knee injury to Bell and his questionable status, general manager Kevin Colbert went out and signed another B, former Browns running back Ben Tate. He’ll be running behind a much better offensive line than the one he had in Cleveland. Anything he can give the team will be a bonus, because the key to winning Saturday night will undoubtedly rest on the right arm of Roethlisberger and hands and feet of Brown.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/d90/35069605/files/2014/12/img_2101.jpg

Brown led all receivers in catches 129 and yards 1,698.

The Steelers have already played their Wild Card opponent Baltimore twice. The first meeting in week 2, was a total domination 26-6 victory for the Ravens in Charm City. The most recent matchup in week 9, the Steelers returned the favor, dominating the Ravens 43-23 with Roethlisberger throwing 6 TDs for the second consecutive week and 340 yards. Antonio Brown torched the number 24th ranked passing D for 144 yards and a 54 yard touchdown. On the season, the Ravens have the least amount of interceptions with 11 and give up a 64 percent completion percentage to opposing QBs. As I laid out earlier, right now the passing game is the strongest part of the Steelers offense, especially if Bell can’t play. His replacements biggest contribution may be just helping keep Roethlisberger’s jersey clean with good pass protection.

History is on the Steelers side in this matchup; they are 3-0 in playoff games against the Ravens; All of those games at Heinz Field (2001 Divisional Round, 2008 Championship Game, 2010 Divisional Round).

The Steelers are also flirting with history of their most recent past Super Bowl winning teams. The 2005 Championship went on a four game win streak headed into the playoffs, where they won four more as a Wild Card team to bring Lombardi number five to the Burgh.

In 2008, the 12-4 Steelers also won the AFC North and won 7 of their last 10 entering the playoffs and won three more to bring number six to the Steel City. They’re on track to duplicate those runs and win a NFL record seventh Super Bowl.

Advertisements

It’s Only a Uniform, but, Get Back to Your Roots

Sunday the St. Louis Rams lost 37-27 to the New York Giants in an ugly game in their last game at the Edward Jones Dome for the 2014 season. But, there was a beautiful sighting on the field for nostalgic sports fans. During the game, the current Rams team wore replica uniforms donned by the 1999 Super Bowl Championship team lead by Head Coach Dick Vermeil, NFL MVP Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk; also known as “The Greatest Show on Turf.” The classic royal blue and yellow jerseys were replaced beginning with the 2000 season for the current Navy Blue and Old Gold flavor. It was great to see those classic uniforms from the 19??-1999 back on the field and even though I’m not a Rams fan I wish they would stick with that color scheme and jersey.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/d90/35069605/files/2014/12/img_2085.jpg

The Rams wore these uniforms to honor the ’99 Super Champions. Courtesy:StLouisRams.Com

Some franchises should never change their uniforms or color schemes for any reason; like my Pittsburgh Steelers, the New York Yankees and even the Los Angeles Lakers. In this day where pro sports leagues encourage teams to change up their style often in order to move merchandise, this show of respect by the Rams organization to their past got me to thinking, what other throwbacks should return, but FOR GOOD.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/d90/35069605/files/2014/12/img_2088.jpg

During the throwback craze of the early 2000s, this was one of the more popularly worn amongst the kids.

Atlanta Hawks. The old Pac Man logo has returned to center court and the shorts, albeit modified, but I miss the old red and gold color scheme. The NBA already has three other teams rocking some shade of red and blue, so I never understood why the Hawks made that switch in 2007-2008. At that time the New Jersey, now Brooklyn Nets were also donning their red and blue.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/d90/35069605/files/2014/12/img_2090.jpg

This 80’s Pac Man logo is back, but with modifications.

When teams go through losing periods as Atlanta did at the turn of the century, they quickly try to distance themselves from the stench of losing by doing something drastic with the uniforms, but what they fail to realize is they also tend to cut out the part of the past that was memorable, like the Dominique Wilkins and Spud Webb led teams of the 80s and early 90s.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/d90/35069605/files/2014/12/img_2092.jpg

Brady and the Pats rocked the throwbacks to celebrate their days in the AFL.

New England Patriots. Those AFL jerseys they’ve sported the last couple of years to celebrate the former league with the Minuteman on the side of the helmet hiking the ball are unique. Sure the Pats have had more success with their hockey-Ish style logo and color scheme, but it’s been a while since they won it all, maybe they could use a little rebranding.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/d90/35069605/files/2014/12/img_2091.jpg

His “Airness” only donned this jersey his rookie season, making it one of the more popular amongst his and Bulls fans.

Chicago Bulls. The Bulls jerseys haven’t changed much. The color scheme has always been black and red and the diamond on the side of the shorts with the Bull logo in it is still there, but it’d be great to see the cursive Chicago return to the chest of the road uniforms. Most remember a young Michael Jordan soaring over his foes in this uniform during his 1984-85 rookie season, then they disappeared except the occasional NBA Hardwood Classic nights the league puts on to sell more merchandise. The NBA is king of using new uniforms to drain the wallets of their fans. Example: Christmas Day sleeved jerseys and this upcoming Christmas edition with the first names on the lower back.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/d90/35069605/files/2014/12/img_2093.jpg

It doesn’t get more Miami than this teal, the new orange dominant color scheme is too much.

Miami Marlins. The uniforms they’ve been wearing since 2012 when they moved into their new stadium, Marlins Park are as ugly as the turnout to the games. Only one team in South Florida should be able to rock out dominate orange jerseys, that’s “The U”, even if they aren’t close to resembling the dominant college football program those of us that grew up in the 1980s remember. Although many weren’t a fan of the teal, silver and black jerseys they wore as the Florida Marlins, they did win two World Series Championships wearing them.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/d90/35069605/files/2014/12/img_2094.jpg

The Bucs sported these uniforms from 1976-1995.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I know they went away from the creamsicle and Bucco Bruce logo because it was synonymous with their losing past which included the first 0-14 season in NFL history. But, these news ones they have are more atrocious. Digital clock numbers with the pewter helmets that reflect like a mirror? As Cris Carter would say “C’Mon Man!” I’m not saying they have to bring back the exact same uniforms from the 70s-mid 90s, but some reincarnation of them, especially Bucco instead of the flag with the skull would be better.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/d90/35069605/files/2014/12/img_2096.jpg

These uniforms ARE Houston.

Houston Texans. Now this is a tricky one for me, because the Texans only have had one uniform and color scheme since entering the NFL as an expansion franchise in 2000 they don’t have another option or do they? The Texans were awarded to Houston to fill the loss of the Oilers when they moved to Tennessee in 1998, and while the Titans got to keep the Oilers franchise records, they rebranded the team with new uniforms and different color way.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/d90/35069605/files/2014/12/img_2097.jpg

The powder blue uniforms are as legendary in Houston as their former Hall of Fame QB, Warren Moon.

The Texans should take the baby blue, white and red colors and rebrand themselves in an attempt to reconnect to the city’s more successful pro football past, while moving away from the perennial struggle they’ve had while wearing their navy blue, battle red combination. Just look at the buzz—pun intended!—Charlotte has had bringing back the Hornets.

What are some other classic uniform designs or team color ways you think should return?

Here Comes the Killer B’s

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/d90/35069605/files/2014/12/img_2098.jpg

The Steelers offense led by #7 is closing in on the top spot
in the NFL. Photo Courtesy: Getty Images

The last time the Pittsburgh Steelers were in the NFL playoffs, the top ranked overall and passing defense that season made Tim Tebow look like a real NFL quarterback (10-21 for 316 yards and 2 Tds, 0 INTs) in a 23-29 loss at Denver. Since then, he’s been fired from the NFL twice and works for the World Wide Leader. After going 8-8 two consecutive seasons, you could see why many fans of the Black and Gold were clamoring for Head Coach Mike Tomlin to possibly join him.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/d90/35069605/files/2014/12/img_2099.jpg

Tomlin has the Steelers poised to make a run at Lombardi #7.

But don’t look now, the most Bi-polar team in the NFL appears to have taken the right medication. After alternating wins in their first six games of the season, and losing three games to teams at least three games under five hundred at kickoff—the Bucs were 0-3, Jets 1-8 and Saints 4-7—Tomlin’s Crew has to be the most feared in the AFC winning 7 of their last 9.

Pittsburgh has the second ranked total offense in the NFL. Let me say that again. The Steelers, notoriously known for smash mouth, take the air out of the ball, ground and pound, three yards and a cloud of dust football, has the number two total offense in the league—only 13 yards behind New Orleans coming into week 17.

Antonio Brown leads the NFL in receptions (122) and receiving yards (1,570) to go along with 12 TDs. Le’Veon Bell is the second leading rusher (1,341) in the league and has 77 receptions for 774 receiving yards and Ben Roethlisberger, the most disrespected quarterback with two Super Bowl rings in three appearances is second in passing yards (4,635)—just 36 yards behind Drew Brees for 1st coming into Sunday—and closing in on 5K for the first time in his career. Don’t forget, Big Ben’s new favorite toys, Rookie wide receiver Martavis Bryant (25 Rec, 528 yards and 7 TDs in 9 games ) and second year pro Markus Wheaton (50 Rec, 627 yards and 2 TDs).

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/d90/35069605/files/2014/12/img_2101.jpg

Brown leads all receivers in catches (122 and 1,570 yards).

The Steelers have already played two of their possible AFC playoff opponents in the Colts and North division rival Cincinnati. The results, not good for the opposition. Indianapolis gave up 51 points with 6 TDs and 522 passing yards to Roethlisberger, 92 rushing yards to Bell and 133 receiving yards and two TDs to Brown. The Bengals were blown out 42-21 in Cincy less than a month ago giving up 25 4th quarter points with a winner take the division title matchup tonight in Pittsburgh. Oh, by the way, Roethlisberger is 8-0 in season finales.

Of the other three teams that could be playoff opponents for Pittsburgh, the top ranked defense is Denver at number three giving up 21.6 points per game and 309 yards per game—before the Bengals carved them up for 353 yards (207 yards rushing) on last Monday night. Next is New England at number thirteen and they give up 349 total yards per game, but only 19 points. Do they really want to face the Killer B offense in a one and done situation?

Maybe they do, because if you’re Tom Brady and the Patriots or Peyton Manning and the Broncos, you’re licking your chops to go against that Steeler Defense. It’s no secret the Steelers struggle against the pass. Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau’s D gives up big plays like Houston Rocket guard James Harden; 50 plays over 20 yards and 15 over 40 yards. They’re twentieth in total defense, giving up 354 yards a game and 23 points and number 27 out of 32 against the pass (255 ypg).

Safety Troy Polumalu is breaking down in his twelfth season and starting Cornerback Ike Taylor, who was injured most of the season with a broken forearm is showing his age (34) and why this may be his last season playing on the shores of the Three Rivers.

Bringing back Super Bowl Champion veterans Defensive End Brett Kiesel and Linebacker James Harrison out of semi retirement stabilized the unit midseason, which helped lead to the three game winning streak that propelled them back into the North Division title hunt. As LeBeau gets more of his young linebackers back healthy and out on the field, maybe he can dial up enough pressure to keep opposing QBs from exposing the Steeler secondary. If he can restore the D to some resemblance of “Blitzburgh”, the Steelers could make a deep playoff run.

But, it’s a new era in Pittsburgh, so make no mistake, if the Steelers are to get to Arizona in February with a shot to reclaim the Lombardi trophy, and be the first franchise to win seven of them, it will rest on the right arm of Big Ben, feet of Bell and hands of Brown. Bzzzzzzz, bzzzzzzz, here comes them Killer Bee’s.