Tag Archives: Steelers

Steelers Post-mortem: What Went Wrong in ’15

Pittsburgh’s quest for Lombardi #7 came up short in 2015, but 2016 is promising. Photo Credit: Kavis Peak

Now that the Pittsburgh Steelers season is over, there are two themes that will stick with me all offseason about the 2015 edition. Injuries and inconsistent defensive play.

First, the injuries. It started in the first preseason game when kicker Shaun Suisham tore his ACL making a tackle in the Hall of Fame game in August. Then All-Pro Center Maurkice Pouncey went down with a broken Ankle in the third preseason game against the Green Bay Packers. Move to the regular season and the injury bug continued to bite. Perennial Pro-Bowl quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had to miss 4 games with a sprained MCL and bone bruise of his left knee when he was hit low during the St. Louis Rams victory. 4 games later, starting offensive tackle Kelvin Beachum tore his ACL in the victory over the Arizona Cardinals and missed the final 12 games including the postseason. Just as #7 was ready to comeback and steady the ship, down goes All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell, who tore up his knee against the Cincinnati Bengals in the first meeting between the two heated rivals, causing him to miss the remainder of the season.

Then as they secured a playoff spot on the final day of the regular season, DeAngelo Williams sprains his ankle and misses the postseason. Then, Antonio Brown had to miss the Denver Broncos playoff game with a concussion suffered in the Wild Card game.

In all, 17 players were put on the injured reserve list. I don’t know of any team that could suffer such losses to key players and finish with a winning season, let alone make the playoffs and be 10 minutes away from making the Conference Championship game. Don’t believe me? Look at the Dallas Cowboys.

All things considered, this team overachieved. If I had told you in August that the Steelers would suffer that many significant injuries, you would’ve probably told me “better luck next year.” Or you might have thought “hope the losses help us get a great draft pick.”

Speaking of draft picks, that brings me to the other issue I have with the 2015 team. It’s time for Coach Mike Tomlin and General Manager Kevin Colbert to draft a defensive back in the first round. Probably in the second round as well.

Tomlin needs to improve his secondary in order to win his 2nd Super Bowl title.

The secondary was very inconsistent for a majority of this season. This unit finished with the 3rd worse ranked pass defense in the NFL, giving up 271.9 passing yards per game for a 16 game total of 4,350 yards, and 231 first downs via the air. Four quarterbacks set career marks against them for yards in a game. The Cleveland Brown’s Johnny Manziel (372 yards), A.J. McCarron (280 yards) of the Cincinnati Bengals and Ryan Mallett (274 yards) of the Baltimore Ravens, and Seattle’s Russell Wilson set career high for touchdowns with 5.

I will be clamoring all offseason for the Steelers brass to use early round picks on the most talented defensive backs in the 2016 class. According to draft analyst, this crop of prospects is the deepest position in the draft. Pittsburgh has the 25th pick by virtue of their postseason finish, and should be able to get a very talented player this late in the round.

A few prospects that already come to mind; cornerback Kendall Fuller from Virgina Tech, who comes from a very good pedigree with two brothers currently excelling in the League at the position, and a third that enjoyed a 7-year career as well. Jalen Ramsey of Florida State is one of the bigger corners in this year’s class at 6’1″ and 204 pounds. Many scouts say he’s more of a safety at the next level than a corner, but it doesn’t matter for the Steelers because they could use him at either position, especially with the 33-year old Will Allen entering free agency. Some mock drafts have the Steelers going with Eli Apple out of Ohio State with their first round pick. Apple was a key contributor on the Ohio State Buckeye team that won the 2014 National Championship. The 6’1″ cornerback is touted as a physical, in-your-face talent that likes to play man coverage and make tackles in the run game. He already sounds like a Steeler.

LSU’s Tre’Davious White is projected to be selected anywhere from the first to third round. If you could get him in round two or three after drafting one of the aforementioned prospects in the first round, you could potentially make a weakness of the club into a strength in two picks. We all know the Bengal Tigers have done pretty well recently with the secondary talent they’ve sent into the NFL in recent years. Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu, Morris Claiborne to name a few.

The last time Pittsburgh selected a defensive back in the first round…. 2003 with the 16th pick. It was Troy Polamalu. How did that turn out? Future Hall of Famer.

I’m not going to point out the negative without looking at the positives. Pittsburgh’s defense was 3rd in the League in getting interceptions with 17, as well as 3rd in sacks with 48. In their last 4 games, which include the playoffs, they only gave up 17.8 points per game. That’s progress.

Roethlisberger missed 4 games, but led all QBs in passing yards per game. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

I go into the offseason believing that this young explosive offense, that averaged 26.4 points per game and set a franchise record with 6 consecutive games of scoring 30+, has the tools to compete for a Super Bowl title if everyone returns healthy.

Roethlisberger led all quarterbacks with 328.2 yards per game. Antonio Brown was once again voted to the All-Pro team, and became the first player in NFL history to record 125+ receptions in consecutive seasons. His 265 catches over that span is also the most in NFL history in any two-year period. Now he has more running-mates in Martavis Bryant who showed in the Divisional game against the Denver Broncos and all season he is more than able to compliment AB with his 9 reception 154 yard performance, and Markus Wheaton who pulled in 9 catches for 201 yards and a touchdown against the Seattle Seahawks’ “Legion Of Boom” proved why this is the most lethal crop of wide receivers in the League.

AB became the first WR to catch 125+ passes in consecutive seasons. Photo Credit:Steelers.com

As this season proved, the best ability is availability. And if the Steelers key players are available for a large portion of the 2016 season, that record seventh Lombardi Trophy won’t be that far from their grasps.

Steelers: 4-3, Just Like 2014

The 2015 Pittsburgh Steelers have won ugly and loss ugly. Sunday against the 1-5 Kansas City Chiefs was the latter.

Steelers drop a great opportunity. Photo Credit: David Eulitt/Kansas City Star

Want a key indicator of your team’s chances to win a game? Watch the turnover and 3rd down efficiency categories. If your team is losing both of those, I can guarantee you they’ll be behind in the most important stat line, the scoreboard.

The Steelers were minus 3 in turnovers against Kansas City. Pittsburgh’s offense was 2/10 (20%) on 3rd down, while the Black and Gold D allowed Kansas City to go 9/16 (56%). The final score was 23-13. See my point?!

If the Steelers D could ever learn to cover the opposition’s tight end, they’d be one of the best units in the NFL. Travis Kelce caught 5 passes for a team leading 73 yards while gashing the Steelers linebackers whenever his team needed him to make a play.

However, even with the loss it’s not all bad news. The 2014 Steelers were also 4-3 after 7 games. That team finished 7-2, won the AFC North division and hosted a playoff game. All realistic possibilities for this year’s team. The caveat for 2015, is that while the record is the same, the defense is vastly improved. Also, Pro-Bowl QB Ben Roethlisberger should be back in the lineup next Sunday. That should jolt the struggling offense, just like at this point last season when he put up back to back 6 touchdown passing game performances.

Steeler Nation has to be real with themselves, if  you were told a month ago that Pittsburgh would go 2-2 with Roethlisberger sidelined with an injury, you would’ve taken it. Well here they are, with 9 games remaining to get hot before the most important part of the season begins. It starts at 1 PM at Heinz field, Sunday against the undefeated Cincinnati Bengals.

Steelers Need to Use First Round Pick on a Defensive Back

The last time the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted a defensive back in the first round was 2003. That choice was future Hall of Famer Troy Polamalu. That’s the good news. The bad news is, he’s closer to retirement than the All-Pro, former Defensive Player of the Year he’s been throughout his career. 

Pittsburgh currently holds the 22nd pick and it’s time for general manager Kevin Colbert, head coach Mike Tomlin and newly promoted defensive coordinator Keith Butler to upgrade the secondary. 

Polamalu and fellow veteran defensive back Ike Taylor are hanging on by the gray hairs in their beards. It is time to select their replacements while they can still tutor them on how to be a Steeler.

The Steelers had the 6th ranked defense in the NFL in 2014 against the pass, but they gave up a NFL second worse fifteen pass plays over 40 yards and a 14th league worse fifty pass plays over 20 yards. 

The thirty passing touchdowns given up was tied for 4th worst in the NFL. The Black and Gold were also 6th worse in total passing yards 4,049 and gave up a 5th worse 98.3 rating to opposing quarterbacks. The numbers don’t lie, it’s time to invest in some defensive backs. 

If you go to NFL.com and look at the mock drafts from their four draft analysts, they are split as to what the Steelers should do. Daniel Jeremiah and Charles Davis have Pittsburgh going defensive back with Jeremaih suggesting P.J. Williams from Florida State and Davis suggesting Kevin Johnson from Wake Forest. The other two analysts, Lance Zierlein and Bucky Brooks suggest Pittsburgh should select outside linebacker Vic Beasley from Clemson and defensive tackle Malcolm Brown from Texas respectively.

In recent drafts the Steelers have looked to fortify their front seven hoping to get pressure on the elite passers in this league. That’s all well and good, but if the back-end of the defense is below average, it won’t matter if the front seven is the best in the league, as the stats show, they’ll still get torched.

Steeler Nation is hoping the Pittsburgh brass will make the correct selection to avoid that from continuing to be a weakness. They’ll have several options  as their are several talented defensive backs in this 2015 Class. Good thing too, because they should be looking to add another with their second round pick as well. 

Greatest Super Bowl Ever? C’mon Man


On ESPN’s NFL Live Monday, Herman Edwards, Jeff Saturday and Tim Hasselbeck all said its not an overreaction to call Super Bowl XLIX the best of all time. I’ll call them and other talking heads that are making this claim prisoners of the moment.

Super Bowl XLIX will be called many things, but “Greatest Super Bowl Ever”? There are a few other Super Bowls that are more memorable and deserve to be mentioned before Super Bowl XLIX. For those who may have forgot, here’s a few that would get my vote before the Patriots and Seahawks.


Holmes catch sealed the Steelers 6th Lombardi Trophy, the most in NFL History.

Remember Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa? It took awhile for the major fireworks to go off, but with the Steelers up 10-7 headed into Halftime and Arizona on the verge of tying or taking the lead; Steelers Linebacker and NFL Defensive Player of the year, James Harrison intercepted Arizona Cardinals QB Kurt Warner and returned it a record 100 yards for a touchdown as time expired for the “greatest play in Super Bowl history.”

The fourth quarter is where this game was made. The Cardinals erased a 20-7 deficit with a safety and two Larry Fitzgerald touchdowns, the second a 64 yarder with with 2:37 left in the game to give them a 23-20 lead.

This game will be remembered for Ben Roethlisberger leading the Pittsburgh Steelers on a 78 yard drive that ended with a miraculous 6 yard touchdown catch by Santonio Holmes with 35 seconds left. The Steelers top ranked defense which had been shredded by Quarterback Kurt Warner and the Cardinals offense in the fourth quarter, still needed a Lamar Woodley sack-fumble at midfield to seal the victory.


David Tyree’s 32 yard “helmet catch”, helped the Giants end New England’s undefeated season.

Another great candidate is Super Bowl XLII, also in Arizona. The 18-0 New England Patriots lost their bid to be the “Greatest Team of All-Time” when the New York Giants defense, led by future Hall of Famer Michael Strahan, smothered the Patriots high powered record setting offense to 14 points, 22 below their then NFL record 36.8 average (The 2007 New England Patriots set records for total points (589), 75 TDs and point differential at + 315).

Eli Manning led the Giants on two fourth quarter touchdown drives; the second with the help of the “helmet catch” by David Tyree and a 13 yard touchdown pass from Manning to Plaxico Burress with 35 seconds left to finish off the greatest upset in Super Bowl history.


Super Bowl XXXVIII was the second win for the Pats off the foot of Vinatieri.

Super Bowl XXXVIII with the Patriots and the Carolina Panthers in Houston has been called the “Greatest Super Bowl of all time” by Sports Illustrated’s long time Senior NFL writer Peter King.

The teams combined for 868 yards and 61 points. The game began with a Super Bowl record 26:55 without a point, then both exploded late in the second quarter to combine for 24 points before halftime. Oh, speaking of halftime, that was the infamous “wardrobe malfunction” performance from Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake.

The teams combined for another record, 37 points in the fourth quarter capped off by a game winning 41 yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri with four seconds remaining. Both Tom Brady and Panthers QB Jake Delhomme threw for 300+ yards and 3 touchdowns.


Vinatieri won Super Bowl XXXVI with a 48 yard field goal as time expired to give the Pats their first Super Bowl title. Courtesy: NY Daily News.

You could even choose Super Bowl XXXVI between the Patriots and the St. Louis Rams in New Orleans. This game set Tom Brady and the Patriots on their run of four Super Bowls victories out of six tries in 14 seasons. The Patriots forced the high powered Rams offense into two turnovers, including a pick six by defensive back Ty Law.

It took a last second field goal by Adam Viniteiri to finish off the “Greatest Show on Turf” as one of the most historic offenses in NFL History never returned to the Big Game.


Kevin Dyson and the Tennessee Titans came 1 yard short of forcing the first overtime in Super Bowl history. Courtesy: The Tennesseean.

The most heart stopping definitely was Super Bowl XXXIV between the St. Louis Rams and the Tennessee Titans in Atlanta. The first half was a defensive struggle, with the “Greatest Show on Turf” only able to muster a 9-0 halftime lead on three field goals.

The Rams added a touchdown in the third quarter to take a 16 point lead. It appeared St. Louis relaxed and gave up two rushing touchdowns to Eddie George and a field goal as the Titans rallied to tie the score. It took a 73 yard touchdown pass from Kurt Warner to Isaac Bruce to regain the lead.

The iconic image from this game is Rams linebacker Mike Jones tackling the Titans Kevin Dyson at the 1 yard line as time expired to give the Rams the 23-16 win and avoid the first overtime game in Super Bowl history.


Super Bowl XXV is still the only Super Bowl decided by 1 point.

Super Bowl XXV in Tampa—what is it about Tampa?—The New York Giants historic defense led by Lawrence Taylor, Carl Banks and a young Bill Belichick as the defensive coordinator stifled the NFL’s top scoring no huddle offense led by future Hall of Famer Jim Kelly of the Buffalo Bills.

The Giants offense played ball control and possessed the ball for a Super Bowl record 40:33. But, it still took a missed 47 yard field goal wide right by Scott Norwood to give New York the win. It’s still the only Super Bowl decided by 1 point.


John Taylor caught the game winning touchdown pass with 34 seconds remaining. Courtesy: ESPN.com

Super Bowl XXIII between the San Fransisco 49ers and the Cincinnati Bengals is sure to get a large share of votes for Greatest Super Bowl ever.

The XXIII edition was the first to go into halftime tied. Both defenses were stellar yielding on 3 points each. The Bengals held a 13-6 lead going into the 4th quarter.

But the signature moment of this game was 49ers quarterback Joe Montana leading San Francisco on a 92 yard drive with 3:10 and capping it off with a touchdown pass to John Taylor on the skinny post with 34 seconds left for the win.

Don’t get me wrong Super Bowl XLIX was very good, but it will be known more for the “worse call ever” or the game that solidified Brady as the best quarterback ever. It may even be the game that ended a dynasty in the making depending on how Seattle responds going further. Only time will tell, but for now, let’s quit throwing that phase “greatest ever” around so loosely.

Steelers are in a Heavyweight Pride Fight


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.


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.


#7 isn’t as far away as it seems.

10/13 @ NY Jets
10/20 vs. Baltimore Ravens
10/27 @ Oakland Raiders
11/03 @ NE Patriots

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.


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.


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.


Courtesy: Steelers.com

Oh and Two


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.


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.

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.

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.

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.


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.”


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)


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.


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.



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.


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.

Concerns in The ‘Burgh


Roethlisberger already looks and probably feels like it’s already week 16. Signs the worst is coming?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are 0-1, and in a tie for 1st place of the AFC North, but it already feels like they’re farther behind their three other foes. I know what you’re saying, “it’s one game out of 16”, but it’s not that they lost, it is how they lost. The signs are pointing to a less than Steeler-like season.

First, this team had a very unimpressive preseason. They were 0-4. I know, you’re saying “IT’S PRESEASON!” Still, you’d like to win a game or two, plus they were dominated in every phase throughout every game. The offensive line still struggles after several early draft picks and “upgrades.” They gave up 13 sacks in those 4 games, and their opponents out gained them on the ground and air, plus scored more touchdowns. That continued against Tennessee. What we are seeing are trends, worrisome trends at that.


Roethlisberger was sacked 5 times and the rushing game managed a measly 32 yards.

I don’t care what the scoreboard says, they were shutout Sunday. If it weren’t for a brain fart play by the Titans return game and prevent defense to protect the lead in the 4th quarter, it would have been a 16-0 loss.

The Steelers lost the turnover battle with a interception and a fumble. Roethlisberger was sacked 5 times, the offense was 4 of 13 on 3rd down and they were never close to attempt a field goal to get any points. Finally they lost the time of possession battle (34:01 to 25:59). The Titans finished last season at 6-10 in the AFC South and the defense gave up a NFL high, 471 points last season. Revamped unit or not, these aren’t juggernauts!

Sure the AFC North went 0-4 in week 1, but at least the Baltimore Ravens showed they can score points against the Denver Broncos. The Cincinnati Bengals shot themselves in the foot at the ends of both halves to GIVE the Chicago Bears a victory and the Cleveland Browns hung with an upgraded Miami Dolphins team. If it had not been for unforced turnovers they would be 1-0. Still, they had a chance to win. Can’t say that about the Steelers. They showed NOTHING.

To make matters worse, they are going to be without aging starting linebacker Larry Foote (33) with a ruptured bicep – I bet they wished they had resigned James Harrison – back up running back LaRod Stephens-Howling with a torn ACL and their most consistent offensive player Maurkice Pouncey with a ACL and MCL injury for the season. Oh, you read that correctly, the Steelers most consistent offensive player is their All-Pro center. I hear the chuckles, but it’s true. Ask any Steeler fan.


Pouncey, the best offensive lineman Pittsburgh has, is likely lost for the season.

Every team that sustains a long period of excellence goes through a rebuilding stage. The Steelers have been able to stave it off longer than most expected. Unfortunately for Black & Gold fans, you might not be able to fight it off any longer. Stick with your team through the rough patch though, if any organization can recover quickly, this one can.

Just be thankful the Black & Gold plays the Browns twice, the Oakland Raiders (10/27), New York Mess, I mean Jets (10/13) and you expect them on pride alone to split the season series with the Ravens and Bengals. Throw in two probable wins against the NFC North – The AFC North plays NFC North this season – and that should get them to 8-8 and a respectable season. Because after what I saw Sunday afternoon, you could win some cash if you bet on that as their final record.

@ Cincinnati Bengals (9/16) – Monday Night Football
VS. Chicago Bears (9/22)
VS. Minnesota Vikings (9/29) – in London, England
@ New York Jets (10/13)

Ready for Football!

Seven weeks and counting. That’s how long until our gridiron heroes officially began the chase of bringing a Super Bowl Championship to its fans.


Latrobe, PA; August 2012

The grass is freshly cut. The field is perfectly lined with white paint. The sun beams so brightly it feels like one hundred degrees. Sweat pours down the back of my neck, but the hair on my arms stands up like I’m standing at the bus stop in the cold on a cold winter’s day. But I’m not cold, I’m excited. Football season is here! By the end of this week, every NFL team will have opened their training camp for the 2013 season and my annual trek to Latrobe, Pennsylvania to see my Pittsburgh Steelers is on deck.

Troy Polamalu signing autographs, 2012

Troy Polamalu signing autographs, 2012

I look forward to this trip every year. it’s the one opportunity I have to get close to the players and coaches I root for every sunday from late august until hopefully early February. This is the highlight of the season for me because  it’s not easy or cheap to get a ticket to Heinz Field in Pittsburgh for a meaningful game.

At Sun Life Stadium, Oct. 2010

At Sun Life Stadium, Oct. 2010

Actually, I’ve only been to one Steelers regular season game. It was in mid October at Sun Life Stadium in Miami during the 2010 season, (A good season for fans of the Black and Gold as they went on to play in the Super Bowl at the end of the season) but I sat all the way in the nose bleeds. The picture above was taken during pre-game warm up, before I had to take my seats at the top of the stadium.

Hines Ward, 2007

Hines Ward, 2007

That’s why training camp is more fun and memorable than going to a game. I get to stand on the sidelines and watch cornerback Ike Taylor chase down wide receiver Antonio Brown on a post route and hear the trash talk between the two of them. On the other end of the field I can hear the legendary defensive coordinator Dick Labeau talk strategy with his prize pupil Troy Polamalu. Most importantly for me and other fans we get to bond with each other and our heroes while wishing them a great season we all hope will end with bring home the Lombardi Trophy for the seventh time in the team’s history.

With Coach Mike Tomlin, Aug. 2009

With Coach Mike Tomlin, Aug. 2009

Most professional sports should open up their training camps to fans like the NFL does. The closest is Major League Baseball when they hold their Spring Training in Florida and Arizona. If basketball and hockey would do the same, maybe they’d see their popularity grow. In the case of the NBA it’d be better to market more teams as opposed to just players, which has turned many fans away. In the NHL’s case it would just bring in more interest period. Training camp in the NFL just goes to show why football has become America’s game.

Here is a link of the dates in which all NFL teams will open up camp. http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap1000000215798/article/nfl-training-camp-schedule-with-dates-and-locations