Sunday, December 28, 2008

It's Steelers Football, Not Tiddlywinks



Possible inspiration for Mike Tomlin?

Steeler Nation was in an uproar Sunday afternoon when Willie McGinest drove his shoulder through Ben Roethlisberger's face mask and his head nearly below the new turf at Heinz Field. What was Mike Tomlin thinking, why was Ben still in there?

In fact, not only was Ben in there, so was Hines Ward, Willie Parker and most of the other starters. Mike Tomlin had stated earlier in the week that he was taking this game seriously and had every intention of winning it. He wasn't kidding.

The Steelers manhandled a pathetic Browns team 31-0 that featured a Pittsburgh boy, Bruce Gradkowski, who had just played in the WPIAL playoffs at Heinz Field what seemed like a few weeks ago. Fortunately for him he escaped the game without suffering a life-threatening injury. That was the only thing he accomplished. Gradkowski, facing the league's toughest defense with about two weeks under his belt with the Browns was like a lamb being led to the meat market. He finished with a quarterback rating of "1" with that number being one better than a "zero". It was a generous rating indeed.

Apparently Mike Tomlin wanted his team to get the message that "we take no prisoners here" and that nothing short of the complete annihilation of the Browns was going to suffice on this day. Players such as Polamalu, Smith, Ward and Parker were playing well into the fourth quarter and despite the earlier injury to Big Ben, Tomlin continued with his Alred E. Newmann "What, Me Worry?" approach to coaching around injuries. As far as Tomlin is concerned, if you're healthy enough to dress, you should be healthy enough to play. Trying to play not to get injured is the perfect recipe to have just that happen to you. Football is a game of aggression and those waiting to be hit rather than doing the hitting are much more likely to get injured.

I attended Sunday's game and truthfully I've seen Ben get hit much harder and bounce right up. It's ironic that he survived the many tough defenses that he faced and left the field via a stretcher against the Browns. To his credit, Ben gave a "thumb's up" as he left the field to an accompanying roar of the 63,533 in attendance on an otherwise beautiful December day. I was among the many wondering aloud what Mike Tomlin was thinking right after the injury to the "large one", but now I understand. I can imagine Tomlin saying something to his players like, "We're the Pittsburgh Steelers. We're the most physical team in the league. Sometimes you get hurt playing the way we do, but that's Steeler football."

It might not always be the smartest way to avoid injuries, but it helps to avoid the ups and downs that so many teams have in the NFL where the difference in winning and losing is the degree of intensity you bring to the game (just ask Ken Whisenhunt how things are going in Arizona these days). The Steelers, meanwhile, are 12-4 and Mike Tomlin has won 22 games of his first 32 (.687%). His way seems to be most effective and the players have apparently bought into it. So I move that we all shut up and let the man run the team his way. It works.

GAME NOTES: Big Ben was diagnosed with a concussion. He may possibly be able to play by their first playoff game in two weeks....The Steelers had two other scores nullified by the zebras, a pass to Nate Washington and a Gradkowski fumble that was returned for a touchdown....Willie Parker passed Rocky Bleier on the all-time Steeler rushing list and is now in eighth place overall...Hines Ward had a busy day going over 1,000 yards for the fifth time in his career (the first time in three years that he reached the 1,000 yard mark) and also recorded his 800th catch, most ever by any Steeler receiver. Ironically enough, Ward caught that pass from rookie qb Dennis Dixon on his first completion ever in the regular season....The Browns were so unable to move the ball that they only managed to cross the 50 just once, getting as far as the 35 yard line. They then tried a 52 yard field goal that was wide left. The Browns managed only 121 yards in total offense which should ensure that the Steelers will finish first in rush defense, first in pass defense and first in fewest points allowed..... The game more than likely was the last for Browns head coach, Romeo Crennel who was calling off tackle runs for the better part of the day....The Steelers have won their last 11 in a row against the Browns. Crennel never has defeated the Steelers, the first Browns coach to have failed to do so if Crennel is indeed fired.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Don't Fret About The Pro Bowl


James Harrison (left) poses with a hated Cleveland player at last year's Pro Bowl game in Hawaii. Harrison looks strangely odd in any colors other than black & gold.


There has been plenty of weeping and gnashing of teeth in the old 'Burgh the past two weeks due to the fact that the greatest football franchise ever to exist only placed three of its' players on the All Pro team and one of them won't be a starter in the game!






OH MY GAWDDDD!!!!!!!!





Obviously, there is a vast left or right wing conspiracy afoot to keep our beloved Steelers out of the game they so richly deserve to play in. What a travesty of justice, what a.........good thing. That's right, you heard me correctly, I said what a good thing because as we all know from having followed Hines Ward for so long, that football players at this level will use anything they can get their hands on to give them a motivational edge. I think it's a GREAT thing that only three Steelers were named. That means we have that many more players who are hopping mad and have something to prove anytime they'll be stepping onto the field. As Jack Nicholson said in the memorable movie, "Mars Attacks" , "And that ain't bad".


I like the Steelers chances this year. They have the same formula as Baltimore used a few years ago: Suffocating defense + underachieving offense = SuperBowl trophy number VI. Only this year their offense is much better than the Trent Dilfer-led magpies while on the other hand their defense is approaching a stratosphere heretofore reserved for people with names like Greene, Ham, Lambert, etc.. Let's face it, barring some catostrophic injuries (like the James Harrison close call last week) this team knows that they can win it all. But let's get back to the Pro Bowl.


Are all-star games a joke or what? The only one of them that even remotely can be looked at as an upgrade over everyday play is baseball, and that's just because of how the game's played. Any game where there is defense to be played on another man carrying a football, dribbling a basketball, or stickhandling a puck, is automatically going to become an offense-only show because no one wants to get hurt in an all star game, right?


When was the last time you watched the Pro Bowl game? It's been years for me. In fact, interest has fallen off so badly that the NFL owners are now talking about moving the game to Super Bowl week at the site of the SuperBowl. That's not a bad idea and I'm sure that the NFL coffers would benefit from the larger venues and built-in audience that that sort of setting would provide, but face it, the game will still stink. So with that as a backdrop, are you still concerned that the New York Jets of all people had seven of their players named? I personally could care less.


What's nice is that three great players for the black & gold will get a vacation to Hawaii. Let's talk about them for a moment.



James Farrior has turned into one of the greatest free agent acquisitions we'll ever have. "Potsy", as the Steelers call him, is a superbly-conditioned athlete who is always in position to make the tackle and just about always does. He is a brilliant run-stopper and is a perfect complement to outside linebackers LaMarr Woodley and fellow pro-bowler James Harrison.


"Potsy"Farrior: No Cupcake.


Speaking of Harrison, he's one of those linebackers who has that special mean streak that all of the truly great ones have. The names Lambert and Lloyd immediately spring to mind. The amazing part of this furious blend of speed and power is that he is much shorter than most of the people that he goes up against. In fact, in last week's game against Baltimore, their godzilla of a left tackle was hanging all over Harrison trying to do whatever he could to contain him. As it turned out, the combination of an unbalanced line and a line judge who never threw a flag kept Harrison to a single sack But he is no doubt having a stupendous season as he has already broken the Mike Merriweather all-time sack record and still has another game to go. Harrison is listed as questionable against the hapless Browns but says he's made great improvement over the last couple of games. Expect the Steelers to hold him out of Sunday's game so that he'll be at 100% for the playoffs.



This week, in a rare occurence, Harrison was voted again as the team MVP, following up last year's MVP performance with another in 2008. Harrison is well on his way to making a case for being one of the greatest Steelers ever if he can continue his assault on the record books and hopefully add a Lombardi Trophy or two or three to his resume.


Polamalu on the other hand is back to his old tricks again. After a lackluster season where he was battling groin problems most of the year, he clearly is in great health (or as good of health as you can be in playing in the NFL). He is leading the AFC in interceptions with five and is back to driving quarterbacks crazy with his stunting. Polamalu is one of those guys who is so good that they only come around once every generation. The Steelers obviously recognized this because they traded-up to get him, something they almost never do. It's funny how often people forget that Polamalu did very little in his rookie year. When you have a good team, you don't have to rush rookies into the lineup. Of course people were murmuring about Lawrence Timmons last year too, but the murmuring has now stopped.


You really have to wonder though if this year's draft class just has the unfortunate luck of trying to crack a very veteran lineup, or will it be a complete bust? Rashard Mendenhall has already wrecked his shoulder and Limas Sweed has yet to impress. In fact, the winner of the Joe Greene award for rookie of the year is Patrick Bailey, an undrafted free agent who has been a special teams demon.


But as we Steeler fans already know, draft pedigree does not always predetermine future greatness. Just ask James Harrison or Willie Parker or Donnie Shell, they'll tell you. As far as the Pro Bowl? Forget it, the real game will have been played the week before in Tampa. Hopefully we'll be in it.






"Seasons Beatings To All a Yinz From Yer Pittsburgh Stillers"


There are a lot of factors that go into the creation of a lifetime love affair between the populace of an entire city and its' football team.

For example, let's take the season ticket waiting list. Now yours truly has been on said list for so long that Terry Bradshaw was still their quarterback when I chistled my application onto a stone tablet. In fact, when Heinz Field was built, I thought for certain that I'd finally make the grade, but they didn't build it big enough!

But amidst a lifetime of frustration (if I got the call today, I'd probably tell my son to go for them) the Steelers continue to keep reminding me that I am still a loyal fan of the black & gold, whether I can get into Heinz Field or not. So each year, around this time, I get a Christmas card from my beloved football team. They know I've been waiting 20 years to get season tickets and they appreciate that. This is yet another small reason as to why the Steelers have managed to elicit the love of an entire community and why people who are transplanted Pittsburghers continue following this team, no matter where they are living.

Merry Christmas to all of the Pittsburgh Steelers from one of your most loyal fans!


"Seasons Beatings To All a Yinz from yer Stillers!"

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Ex-Burgher Loves Long Knocker

Okay, so "Pittsburgh's Black and Gold" is about... Pittsburgh's Black & Gold, the teams. But it's also about you, the fans. I love hearing from my readers and seeing where you come from (see Feedjit map to the right).

Recently I got an email from one of our loyal readers, a transplanted Pittsburgher, Dan Bashur. Dan now lives in Pickerington, Ohio (poor kid) a suburb of Columbus. Actually, I'm only kidding, it's not a bad place. I once crashed in a Holiday Inn Express there just off interstate 70, and I also enjoyed the Denny's the next morning, but I digress.
In his email Dan complained about "Black and Gold" not covering enough golf (?). Yes that was my reaction too. But how can you blame "Black and Gold" for not covering team golf when they only play one team match every couple years in the Ryder Cup and they never wear black and gold?
The 2008 Ryder Cup team...Not much black & gold here.

Well Dan went on to explain that I've been missing the boat by not covering this Amazon named Mike Dobbyn. So I proceeded to investigate. It turns out that last year, Dobbyn, a monster at 6'8", 300 pounds won the long driving championship last year by cranking a drive a staggering 551 yards!



I usually snapped my head with a whiplash when I swung, hence cervical fusion!
Dobbyn is due to defend his title in a competition to be aired on Christmas Day, so check your local listings. In the meantime, if you can't watch Dobbyn on Christmas, you can watch this YouTube video of him mashing a ball in true gorilla form: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4a0OpWUEvQ&NR=1

In researching this story I must admit that I hearkened back to one my "Worst Avid Golfer" tournaments that took place at Linden Hall Golf Course, located about an hour south of Pittsburgh in Dawson, PA.
The historic mansion located high atop majestic Linden Hall Golf Course.

It was at our Fifth Annual event in 1989 that we had National Long Drive Champion, Art Sellinger, as a special guest (he is now president of the National Long Drive Association). Anyway, Art put on a fantastic show that day doing stuff like hitting a putter 300 yards, hitting a ball from a tee that I had in my mouth, or my personal favorite, hitting a golf ball through a piece of plywood!



Sellinger bombed drives all day in the 400 yard range in the Worst Avid Golfers Tournament, but it didn't matter. We'd screw up two or three chips and four putt for a snowman.



Autographed Sellinger memorabilia.






This is the reverse side that splintered as the ball crushed through with massive blunt force.

What was amazing about this stunt was that if you were to put a golf ball next to the hole, it wouldn't fit through. The ball changed shape going through the wood, that's how hard it was hit.

Being two avid memorabilia collectors, my sons eagerly retrieved the piece of wood and had Art autograph it for them. Above are photos of this incredible piece of 3/8 inch plywood.


So I had the Art Sellinger Pittsburgh visit with the Worst Avid Golfers, but I still needed more. Then I found this picture and figured "mission accomplished", we have our black and gold tie-in! So I don't want to hear any more complaints about golf not being featured in "Pittsburgh's Black and Gold".




I knew we'd get the black & gold into this story somewhere! Mike Dobbyn looks good surrounded by the colors we love best!!!









Sunday, December 14, 2008

"Find A Way To Win" --- Ben Roethlisberger

(ABOVE) A cutaway view of a clutch. Now also known in Pittsburgh as a "Roethlisberger". EXAMPLE: "I blew the Roethlisberger on my Jeep".


In a defensive battle that lived up to the pre-game hype and then some, the Steelers pulled out a 13-9 win in Baltimore that not only clinched the AFC North but also puts the conference lead and home field advantage throughout the playoffs within their reach. It was that big of a victory.


While the Ravens defense (the number two unit in the league behind the Steelers) did a terrific job stifiling the Steelers offense throughout the game, they couldn't stop Big Ben when the chips were down. In another vintage comeback, Roethlisberger, with 3:36 to work with on the clock and 92 yards yawning in front of him, went to work on the Ravens defense along with pals Hines Ward, Nate Washiington and Santonio Holmes. When the dust had settled, Santonio Holmes was ruled in the end zone on a highly-debateable call and the Steelers had a 13-9 lead with only 46 seconds left. With that catch, Holmes abandoned the goat horns he was wearing at the time due to two earlier fumbles.

But wait, there was a personal foul call on the extra point assessed on Steelers place kicker Jeff Reed for shoving a Raven (a real reach) so the resultant kickoff was returned all the way to midfield.

The Steelers defense capped off another marvelous showing by having William Gay intercepting Joe Flacco, Baltimore's rookie quarterback in their own endzone to seal the victory. Yes, it was a very satisfying win.

However, there were three other very key occurences that had a lot to do with the Steelers winning this game.

1) In the first quarter, the Ravens correctly challenged what appeared to be a very poor ball placement on a third and one play. Incredibly, the ruling on the field--a first down-- was upheld. This eventually led to the Steelers tying the game 3-3 on a 30 yard Jeff Reed field goal.

2) In the third quarter, Santonio Holmes (who battled the ball all game long) let a punt bounce that wound up on the one yard line. On the next play. Big Ben hit Holmes on a slant pass that he caught in stride only to be stripped of the ball that the Ravens recovered at the Steelers 15. The Ravens moved the ball a grand total of four yards in three plays, thus settling for a 9-3 lead instead of the much better 13-3 variety. Those additional four points would have come in handy for Baltimore later in the game.

3) Early in the fourth quarter, after sacking and stripping Ben Roethlisberger on a third and one play (the Steelers at 43.5% are ranked last in the NFL on third down conversions) their killer defense once again stiffened, sacking Joe Flacco for a significant loss and taking them out of field goal range. Once again the Ravens were forced to punt.

While the Steelers were far from perfect offensively, they proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that when the chips are down that they definitely believe that they can pull out victories. Their resilience is the stuff of champions and for now, they are the Champions of the AFC North, but you have to believe that bigger and better things are coming.

"Seven delivered" said a surprisingly-subdued Mike Tomlin after the game "He wants the ball in his hands in that situation. I'm proud of that team in there."

When asked if he was aware that Tennessee had lost their game today and if he realized the implications of the big contest next weekend against the Titans, Tomlin stated that, "(He) wasn't, then said, "When you've been playing the kind of schedule we've been playing, you learn not to look ahead. It's not a healthy thing to do."

Hines Ward, the oft self-proclaimed "head of the receivers" spoke at great length about the victory. "As the head of the receivers I was disappointed at the lapses, the drops, that the receivers had had, but I was very proud of how they bounced back at the end".

At 11-3 the Steelers have far exceeded every national pre-season prognosticator's predictions as far as their expected number of wins for 2008. Most were figuring them to finish at 9-7 or 10-6. at best. The Steelers have two games remaining, next week at Conference-leading Tennessee followed by a home game against the already-vacationing Cleveland Browns. Should they win both games, they would become the top-ranked team in the AFC, thus assuring an important first round bye and home field throughout the playoffs. They have already clinched at least second place in the conference.

Tennessee's stumble at Houston yesterday opened the door to the Steelers taking the top spot in the AFC, something they haven't done since 2004 when they were ultimately victimized at Heinz Field by those cheating Patriots in the AFC Championship.

With the gauntlet of wins they've put together, they're already playoff ready and have to be considered as a strong favorite to make it to the SuperBowl. In many respects, their recent string of wins against the very best of opponents could make that playoff run seem almost anticlimactic before reaching the SuperBowl stage.
One thing is certain: There have to be a lot of teams in the NFL who are hoping they won't have to face this team any time soon.
GAME NOTES: The Steelers deferred the opening kickoff, opting for the ball in the third quarter. That drive was a disappointing three and out...Mitch Berger has been criticized by Steeler fans for poor punts, but on a play in the first half he short-hopped a bad snap, got off a good punt that bounced toward the ten where it was picked up and almost returned for a touchdown. The saving tackle was provided by, that's right, Mitch Berger...Keyaron Fox and Patrick Bailey continue to be special teams demons. Bailey blew up the Ravens Figures in the fourth quarter while Fox, in addition to several tackles (including one on Figures) he also managed to recover one of Santonio Holmes fumbles and return it to the Baltimore 32 yard line....In the final sequence of plays at the four yard line, Roethlisberger inexplicably spiked the ball on first down with one time out remaining and 46 seconds left. After an incompletion to Matt Spaeth, he then hooked up with Holmes for the controversial game-winning score. Had the catch not been ruled a touchdown, the Steelers would have faced a fourth and two inches for a touchdown. Would they have gone for it or kicked a field goal? My guess: After driving 92 yards they would have definitely gone for two more inches.






Friday, December 12, 2008

Now You're Getting Personal


The fans of the Baltimore Ravens have historically been reported as being among the most crude in the NFL. For example, it is said that they will routinely shout obscenities at women wearing opposition colors. Can you imagine that? But bringing the Almighty into this already-heated rivalry by selling the shirt above? Well, that's going just a little too far! Besides, if Jesus hated the Steelers, how'd we beat them earlier in the season? See, these people are not only crude, they have no common sense either!!! After all, everyone in Steeler Nation knows that Jesus LOVES the Steelers!!! Yes, Jesus wears the Black & Gold.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

"CONSOL ARENA": Get Ready For A New "Hockey Night In Pittsburgh"



Since the Penguins announced that their new building will be officially christened with the name "Consol Arena", we thought it would be fun to look at some of the artists renderings of what should be another fantastic Pittsburgh sports venue. Enjoy!!!









Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"Most Difficult Season" ???

In depth analysis from "Pittsburgh's Black and Gold"

While we are still knee deep in what has been universally regarded as this most difficult of seasons for the Steelers, I thought it would be interesting to review each game’s results along with analyzing the current records of the past opposition.

WEEK 1 Steelers beat up on a weak Houston Texans team by a 38-17 score.

Texans current record 6-7 .462















WEEK 2 Steelers edge Cleveland, a team that has gone on to have a terrible season, by a 10-6 score at the “Mistake by the Lake”.

Browns current record 4-9 .308


WEEK 3 Steelers play their worst game of the year (to this day) and get hammered by the Eagles 15-6 (It was worse than that).


Eagles current record 7-5-1 .577




WEEK 4 Steelers edge the Baltimorons in O.T. by a 23- 20 score. Both teams immediately begin game-planning rematch in week 14.

Ravens current record 9-4 .692
WEEK 5 Steelers beat a Jacksonville team 26-21 on the road that has always given them fits.

Jaguars current record 4-9 .308

WEEK 6 BYE

WEEK 7 Almost another bye. Steelers crush hapless Bungles 38-10 in Cinci. Steeler fans took over Paul Brown Stadium.


Bengals current record 1-11-1 .115


WEEK 8 Steelers lose a tough game they could have won against the New York Giants, last year's SuperBowl champs.


Giants current record 11-2 .846





WEEK 9 Steelers overwhelm the Redskins in D.C., 23-6, begin Skins current tailspin.

Redskins current record
7-6 .538



WEEK 10 Steelers lose another winnable game at home versus Payton’s Colts


Colts current record
9-4 .692




WEEK 11 Steelers eke out a very tough win against the
Chargers.


Chargers current record
5-8 .385

WEEK 12 The Steelers hold off a game, but injury-riddled Bengals team that is going through a season that is bad even by their
standards, 27-10

Bengals current record 1-11-1 .115


WEEK 13 In one of the most satisfying wins ever, the Steelers pummel the New England Cheatriots, in Foxboro no less, by a 33-10 score.
Patriots current record 8-5 .615


WEEK 14 As if beating New England the week before wasn’t enough, the Steelers mount a dramatic fourth quarter comeback to beat the Dallas Cryboys 20-13.

Cowboys current record 8-5 .615

Of course the “hits” just keep on comin’ in this most challenging NFL season since the mid-40s (or so everyone would have you believe) as the Steelers this week invade Baltimoron Field in a battle for AFC North supremacy.

Ravens current record 9-4 .692


After Baltimore comes the AFC conference-leading Tenness Titans, they of a 12-1 record (.923) followed by what will in all likelihood be Romeo Crennell's last game as coach of the Browns (at Heinz (a.k.a.Hines) Field. If the Steelers beat the Ravens and the Titans slip up at Houston, this would set up a week 16 battle in Tennessee for the conference lead. The Steelers, if they were to win that game would have the top spot based on head-to-head play. Of course it goes without saying that this is a tall order.

It’s now time to break out the old adding machine. In this exercise we are going to combine the collective records of all of the teams the Steelers have played this year. For argument’s sake, we’ll pretend that the Bengals are the Lions or the Rams (zero wins and two wins compared to Cinci’s one win) for the second time that we already played them this year.

So far, during this 2008 season, the Steelers’ opposition is sporting an 86-80-2 combined record when you eliminate the games involving the Steelers or a .511 winning percentage. I’m sure that virtually anyone would have guessed (this writer included) that that percentage would have been much higher. The Bengals’ one win season in two contests against Pittsburgh isn’t helping this report any, that’s for sure. A .511 percentage is good for third place in most divisional races right now. However, if we add in the current records of the final three teams, minus Steeler contests, the record now swells to 111-92-2 or .541% or roughly still a third place finish in most divisions.
So are the Steelers playing a schedule that in the off-season was gauged to be one of the toughest ever in league history, or has the opposition actually not been as formidable as was originally thought? In this case, the numbers aren’t lying. The Steelers’ opposition hasn’t held up its’ end of the bargain when facing other opponents. Sorry Steeler fans, our team’s good, but no matter how I manipulate the numbers it still appears that maybe the opposition has been helping that image along a little more than we realized this year. But so what, as long we get into the SuperBowl!

If nothing else, all of this research also shows that you can't gauge this year's schedule difficulty based on last year's results around the NFL.

I'll be looking forward to your comments.



The Steelers had a ball beating Bill Belicheat this year, but it won't bring back two blemished AFC Championships and two more SuperBowls that the Black & Gold could have very well been in.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Clearing My Desk: A Testament to Toughness, Steelers 20-Cowboys 13


Many fans of football mistakenly fall into the line of thinking that games are won by scoring touchdown or kicking field goals.
And while certainly, you need to be able to run, pass and kick there are other very important aspects too, like run and pass defense and special teams.

But even that doesn’t summarize what it takes to be a championship football team. There’s one other major ingredient necessary: Toughness, both physical and mental, and this 2008 Steelers team has toughness by the bushel basket.

First of all you have the number one defense in the league. Successful defense is accomplished by playing with toughness, attitude and an unrelenting will. There’s no shortage of that on this team.

But you know, the offense, for as maligned as it has been this season has plenty of this ingredient too. Yesterday, for example, Nate Washington had his leg twisted like an Aunt Annie’s Pretzel and after writhing on the turf and then collecting himself, he literally then leaped to his feet in a show of defiance. Where do you think he learned that move? From “the head of the receivers”, Hines Ward possibly? I could just see Ward teaching Washington about smiling and never letting defensive players think they got your goat. Toughness, it’s the Steeler way.

In fact, toughness is such an ingrained trait for this team that I believe they actually recruit toughness as much or more than any other football skill. They even recruit tough coaches. Look at the Steelers coaches over the last 30 years. Chuck Noll: The guy could look at you and cut you in half. Bill Cowher, “The Jaw”. How many times did we see him glare at a player or official, spit flying from his moustache.

Now there’s Mike Tomlin. Tomlin just won his 20th game out of a young 30-game career (.666) yesterday. Tomlin brings an unquestioned attitude of resolve and self assurance into a football game. But yesterday was the first time that he really let loose after his team finished off the “Cryboys” with DeShea Townsend’s rousing interception and return for a touchdown late in the game.

In a game where the wind chill index dipped into single digits, the Steelers found themselves in a dogfight against a Dallas team that obviously came ready to play their “A” game.

You know in watching football, many fans seem to forget that there’s another team out there that’s trying to win the game too. But being down ten points in murderous cold weather, the Steelers managed to rally back and pull out the win. It was not a “beautiful” or “artistic” game, but it was football. Drilled down to its’ most basic level: Toughness personified.

Before yesterday’s game, the only team this season to have really impressed me with their toughness was last year’s champions, the New York Giants. However, they’re seeing a lot of pieces suddenly fall from their team. They may even already have peaked. The Steelers on the other hand are 10-3 without having had a good offensive team all year.

Speaking of offenses, the 2000 Baltimore Ravens won the SuperBowl with a suffocating defense and a mediocre offense. The Steelers have the suffocating defense part down pat, but they haven’t been a consistent, productive offense. Still, there’s no way you would compare this offense with the pathetic crew that the Ravens trotted out in 2000. And yet the Ravens won it all that year.

Next up for the Steelers are the surprising Baltimore Ravens led by former Pitt q.b. Joe Flacco. A win in Baltimore could set the team’s confidence level to a point where no one may be able to stop them. They’ll then face the Conference-leading Titans on the road and then the pathetic Browns at home.

Call it attitude, call it toughness, call it never-say-die. The Steelers, with this win yesterday over the Cowboys, clearly established themselves as one of the top four contenders for a league-leading sixth trophy and at worst about even money to at least get into the next SuperBowl game. For fans of the Black & Gold around the country, that game yesterday was as close as we’ll come to the SuperBowl ever being played in the Burgh.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Steelers-Cowboys: Should be some cattle punchin' goin' on


Git along l'il doggie.

It's going to be some collision Sunday when the Steelers face the Dallas Cowboys. Not just for the caliber of the two teams today, but for what they represent in terms of past Super Bowl hardware collected by both.





You live for these.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys have combined for 10 Super Bowl championships in the first 42 Super Bowls that have been played. That represents a very disproportionate 23.80% of the time that one of these two franchises has won it all or nearly one out of every four Super Bowls!

When you consider Super Bowl appearances of the 84 teams that have competed in the first 42 games played, the Cowboys have 8 appearances, the Steelers, 6 for a combined 14 total appearances or 16.66%. Amazingly, this translates to mean that of ever five teams that qualifies for a Super Bowl appearance, chances are one of them will with either have a star on their helmet or be wearing black & gold. Not too shabby when you consider how many teams there are in the NFL and how competitive the league is.



The Steelers are 2-1 in the Super Bowl versus the "Cryboys" as the late broadcaster Myron Cope loved to call them.

I'm sure that the oddsmakers would agree that right now, the Steelers' chances of making it to the next Super Bowl would be a lot better than the Cowboys' since they fell on hard times with Tony Romo's finger injury. However, Romo is back for this game, so their chances have markedly improved. Most pundits are in agreement though that this is a must win game for the Cowboys and that they may have to win all of their remaining games to get into the playoffs. After the Steelers, the Cowboys face the Giants and then the Ravens. Talk about having your work cut out for you! Yoi and double yoi!

While this writer feels that the Steelers are the superior team on many fronts in this matchup, the combination to watch is not going to be Romo to Terrell Owens, but rather Romo to Jason Witten, their stud tight end. Everyone knows that the Steelers can stop any running game and having a banged-up Marion Barber isn't going to help them one bit. The Cowboys will become one-dimensional very quickly in this game and that should spell death for them.


I actually feel that this game could turn lopsided if the ferocious Steeler defense starts rolling up turnovers and sacks early. If they get those turnovers on a short field, forget it.


The Steelers are actually in better health this week than have been in a long time. They'll be without Brett Keisel and Marvel Smith, but as has already been proven, they have more than capable replacements for those two players. While Smith may have played his last game as a Steeler or for anyone, the team refuses to put him on I R holding out hope that he could be of help later when "the chips are down". It's not a bad risk to take, especially with the team doing well now and they have history to show that they did it once before when Rod Woodson went down in the opening game of the season and managed to make it back.

(Above left) Not a Mavel-ous season.

I look for a convincing Steeler victory tomorrow, something along the lines of 31-10. It should be another feast for Steeler fans in a season of great games in this most difficult of schedules.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

OPEN SEASON ON IDIOTS

Yes with the coming of deer season in Pennsylvania, apparently it’s also open season on professional sports idiots around the country. Consider these two brain surgeons:

Brain Surgeon Number One

Calling E.F. Hutton I presume

Plaxico Burress, recently employed as a wide receiver for the New York Giants is employed there no more as of today. He has been suspended indefinitely by the team as a prelude to permanent separation. Of course virtually everyone in the free world knows by now that Burress shot himself accidentally in the leg in a New York City nightclub. Not only was the gun not registered, it even had the serial numbers filed off so it was a totally illegal firearm. Not only is Plaxico in hot water in New York (he could potentially face three years imprisonment) sources around the NFL are saying that this knucklehead cost himself $30 million.

$30 million dollars??? My God, what could this guy have been thinking? Oh yeah, that’s it, he wasn’t thinking. The real irony of this story is that Plax dodged another bullet recently when he was in Pittsburgh to play the Steelers. See our recent story on this blog entitled “Somethin’ to do with Plaxico”.

Sub-moron Number 2

So what's he thinking here? Probably nothing!

Then there’s noted brain surgeon Sean Avery, now of the Dallas Stars. In an interview yesterday, Mr. Avery spoke with his usual eloquence of recent relationships with actress Elisha Cuthbert (seen above) and model Rachel Hunter. As a jab at two NHL players who are now dating these women, and another attempt at agitating (which is his only skill) Avery eloquently stated that it has become in vogue to date his “sloppy seconds” if you can imagine the depth of that comment.

The league, to its’ credit suspended this jerkweed indefinitely, which isn’t long enough for his type. It stated conduct “detrimental to the league” which it certainly was. The team president of the Stars said that he was glad that the league suspended Avery because, “If they hadn’t then I would have.”

It’s interesting in the Burress case how the same people who complained because the Steelers didn’t keep him aren’t saying much now. The Steelers don’t need problem players and refuse to retain them, to their credit. If my name were Santonio Holmes, I’d be thinking once, twice, even three times about where I went and the company I kept. His next problem will be his last with the Black & Gold. Write it down.

Monday, December 1, 2008

"CLEARING MY DESK"

That was some beatdown that your "Stillers" landed on the hated New England Patriots yesterday. Does it get any better than when the Steelers "DEE" starts laying the lumber like it did during that driving rainstorm?

The signs of a serious physical thrashing were everywhere. Whether it was Steeler safety Ryan Clark's near assassination hit on New England wideout Wes Welker, or James Harrison's violent sacks that led to two fumbles by quarterback Matt Cassel or a furious Casey Hampton sacking Cassel on the play after being flagged for defensive holding, you could just feel the tenor of this football game, and if you happened to be wearing a navy blue jersey with silver-white pants with a red and blue stripe running down the side...well God help you because it was that dangerous out there. A football field is not a place for the faint of heart on a good day. But on a day like yesterday where a team that prides itself on being the most physical team in the league decides to unleash its' full fury on a hated foe, the results are predictable.

This Steeler team is playing a schedule that has been rated as the most difficult since 1940. Beacuse of this, going into the year, most pundits were predicting an 8-8 or 9-7 season at best. Now the Steelers are in the midst of a four week swing that takes them to New England, back home to play the Cowboys, then at Baltimore for possibly a division championship showdown and then against the AFC-leading Tennessee Titans. The Steelers then close out their regular season at home in what should be Romeo Crennell's final game as head coach of the Browns.

Strangely enough, the only game that "worries" me is that Browns game, because the team will have just completed playing a murderer's row of teams that owned a 34-14 record (.708 winning percentage) after yesterday's action. That's known as a let down. However, the amazing phenomenon that is occuring now is that as the difficulty of the schedule manifests itself to the fullest, the team is reaching a zenith of focus and intensity.


Above: In the tunnel, "Trouble on the way".


Just look at the offensive line yesterday. They allowed one sack (a corner blitz) and dominated the line of scrimmage to the point where the Steelers had 160 yards rushing between Mewelde Moore and Willie Parker. The hitting wasn't confined to the offensive and defensive teams either. Even the special teams, long an achilles heel for this team had some fine plays. Keyaron Fox had some massive hits and a muffed kick recovery. Santonio Holmes was sprung on a 29 yard punt return (the longest of the year) when a runaway truck ran over a Patriot along the sidelines.

Even an opening interception that led to a New England touchdown wasn't enough to rattle the team on this day. The Steelers came to Foxboro on a seek and destroy mission and that's just what they did. This whole performance was one of the most satisfying wins a Steeler fan can enjoy (beating the world-reknowned cheater, Bill Belichick). Of course this win does not compensate for two checkered AFC Championships that the Patriots stole from the Black & Gold, however it's a good down payment.

Wasn't it great seeing a near-empty Gillette Stadium with the Patriots "faithful" having vacated the premises to the few thousand Steeler fans who once again managed to gain admission to a foreign stadium?

The only criticism I had of the coaching for this game was the decision to kick off rather than deferring to the second half. With a defense like we have, the sooner we can get them on the field the better. I'll take my chances anytime that they'll be able to stop that opening drive. I also really appreciate getting that kickoff to start the second half. That possession, to me, has always been much more valuable. After all, it's later in the game, after the break, and gives the team a chance to establish control in the drive that Bill Cowher once called, "The most important possession of the game."

But don't get me wrong, I thoroughly appreciated and enjoyed the rollicking effort by the entire Steelers team during weather that Big Ben called, "Probably the worst weather that I've ever played in." That's what made it even more memorable!
Above, Right: LaMarr Woodley has had a killer reputation since his days at Michigan. Any coincidence he's a Steeler today?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"OUR BASEBALL YATRA" ---Rinku Singh, Dinesh Kumar Patel



2008 "Blackened Gold" award winning story


Yātrā (Sanskrit: यात्रा, 'journey', 'procession'), in Hinduism and other Indian religions,
generally means pilgrimage to holy places such as confluences of sacred rivers, places associated
with Hindu epics such as the Mahabharata and Ramayana, and other sacred pilgrimage sites.

In one of the most unusual developments in the entire fabled history of the Pittsburgh Pirates, few events, if any, have been as completely out of "left field" than the announcement this week that the team had signed the two finalists in the "Million Dollar Arm" competition that took place over the last several months in India.
In one of the most unusual developments in the entire fabled history of the Pittsburgh Pirates, few events, if any, have been so completely out of "left field" than the announcement this week that the team had signed two finalists in the "Million Dollar Arm" competition that took place over the last several months in India.

The contest, sponsored by a U.S. based sports management company, was designed to find the strongest arm(s) in the nation of India, a country of 1.1 billion people. The logic was that surely, with that many possibilities, that the law of averages would produce a major league arm and the first representative from this Hindu nation into Major League Baseball. You must admit, it is an intriguing idea.

Amazingly, in a land where baseball is largely unknown, over 30,000 contestants applied and competed to land the $1 million prize AND the coveted major league contract.

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"We are thanking the Pittsburgh Pirates and will work very hard to make them proud of our results" ---Singh & Patel

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Could this be one of the most memorable "early photos" in team history? Lefty 20-year-old Rinku Singh goes into his windup along with 19-year-old righthander, Dinesh Kumar Patel. We can expect to see both in the rotation before you know it. They couldn't do any worse than last year's staff did, that's for sure (except for Paul Maholm, of course).

In researching this story, I discovered that these two have started a blog together! http://wwwthemilliondollararm.com/blog/ and to read this, and hear their words spoken in uncommon English phraseology, is to immediately begin pulling for these two guys like no two prospects we've ever had. When you hear two young men talking about someday going back home to their villages but only if it doesn't interfere with baseball...well how can't you root for that kind of enthusiasm?

Posing with their newly signed Bucco minor league contracts.
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"We hope to pitch for you soon and we not let you down" --Singh & Patel
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Wearing their new Pirate hats for the first time, the two have become a "cause celebre" both here in the U.S. and in their native India.



Righthander Patel works out for Bucco brass. Well at least he looks like a pitcher (so, unfortunately, have a host of other Pirate prospects).

As you sit and analyze this situation, you have to admire the Pirates' moxie for making such a radical move. Surely they knew that they would be the butt of many Harold & Kumar jokes. But so determined to leave no stone unturned is this current regime that they would even go so far as India to sign a couple live arms.

To those naysayers conjuring up a new batch of Pirate jokes, I say, "This is great" and also "Gutsy move Neil". Unfortunately, I must also say, "God help us, they must have absolutely nothing in the minor leagues".

But admit it, who will you be pulling more for, these two guys from poor Indian villages or Pedro Alvarez whose sleazy agent wouldn't let him sign a $6 million contract? I predict that given Pittsburgh's appreciation for a great work ethic and humility (see Crosby, Sidney) Singh and Patel could become a sensation here if they were to one day make it to the "Burgh and don the Black & Gold. They already have one big big fan who'll be pulling for them here at "Pittsburgh's Black and Gold". We promise to keep you posted.


ABOVE:Pedro Alvarez: Number one draft pick has some much-needed p.r. work to get started on.