Tuesday, September 30, 2008

STEELERS WIN "PYRRHIC" VICTORY


Yeah, That Looks Broken To Me

The Steelers won a critical matchup against their AFC North rival the Baltimore Ravens 23-20 in overtime last night on "Monday Night Football". While the win was a true gut call for the Steelers offense, it was a costly victory from an injury standpoint.

On the opening kickoff, backup linebacker Andre Frazier sustained a vicious blindside hit that resulted in a significant injury and subsequent game delay as trainers needed to immobilize his spine and remove him from the field via the "meat wagon". The report later on Frazier was that he was moving his limbs, but further diagnosis of the injury was not yet available.

In the first half, rookie first round draft choice, Rashard Mendenhall, subbing for the injured Willie Parker (sprained knee) suffered a fractured shoulder and is now lost for the year. Also lost was guard Kendall Simmons who sustained an ankle injury. For a team that has been struggling mightily along the offensive line, that news was definitely not good.

The Ravens suffered injuries too, as the hitting was intense throughout the contest. Running back Willis Magahee left for a time with a severely bruised chest.

One of the true bright spots in the game was the intense defense displayed by the Steelers outside linebackers, Lamar Woodley and James Harrison who were pressuring rookie quarterback Joe Flacco all night long. Flacco, who transferred from Pitt after losing the quarterback sweepstakes to Tyler Palko, looked very impressive last night. As he gains NFL experience, he should become a force to be reckoned with. Baltimore's search for a quarterback may finally be over, and that's not good news for the rest of the division.

The game was a testament to the Steelers' will to win as they truly left everything they had on the field. After allowing a late game-tying touchdown (the Ravens have a lot of that "no quit" in them too), they subsequently lost the coin toss for overtime yet managed to hold back the Ravens offense and ultimately win via a Jeff Reed 43 yard field goal that barely missed the right upright.

At 12:30 a.m. the Steelers faithful celebrated a costly win. It would be hard to imagine where the team would be emotionally today had they lost this game amid the injuries they ultimately will take with them into Sunday's matchup against a tough Jacksonville team. The NFL season is truly a battle of attrition. Hopefully in winning this battle, the team didn't ultimately lose the war.

GAME NOTES: Once again the physical play of Hines Ward was in great evidence as was that of his protege' Santonio Holmes. Holmes is rapidly developing a "Ward-like" nastiness and propensity for laying out opponents...Big Ben reportedly "lost it" in the locker room at halftime, asking his offensive teammates, "What the ...are you doing?" The offense, which played a dismal first half responded by stepping up the protection and production in the second half...How about Lamar Woodley? He intercepts, he sacks, he returns fumbles for touchdowns. We are seeing the emergence of the next major defensive force in the NFL. His counterpart, pro-bowler James Harrison, gives the Steelers the finest set of outside linebackers in the league.

Monday, September 29, 2008

"CLEARING MY DESK"


That was some vote today in the House of Representatives. As I was waiting to hear the outcome, I said to my son in a matter-of-fact kind of way that, "I wouldn't be surprised if this thing didn't pass."

Not that I have some special ability to touch the pulse of this country, but it certainly occured to me that the phones must be ringing off the hooks in these legislative offices. If any of the conversations I've had with various people are in any way indicative of what people are really feeling about this bailout plan, they're hopping madand ready to get the broom out for a Congress that has only a 12% approval rating.

The Democrats can make fun of George Bush all they want, but their Congress has worse numbers than even he does. Which I think brings us back to why this bill did not pass today: Democrats and Republicans alike are disgusted with the overall state of things in this country. The people have been under such duress for so long that they are now at their breaking point. Many people, if they're lucky, are living week to week. Others aren't so lucky and have already lost their homes. Americans are mad, make that real mad.

For the Democrats and Republicans who voted for this measure, they're either the gutsiest, red-blooded patriots there are, or they're the most out-of-touch morons who ever managed to get themselves elected.

As the news stories came out over the last few weeks involving contributions by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac executives to these same politicians who would now spend a sum of money too large to even contemplate, the thought was constantly going through my mind, "What are these crooks going to get for pushing this thing through? It's unfathomable".

And therein lies the root of the whole problem today. Americans have grown to dislike...make that despise politicians because it's obvious that everything they say or do revolves around,. "What's in it for me?"

What a sad state of affairs. America needs good, honest people to run for office, but who wants to ruin their good name by becoming a politician? Look at the cast of characters we have in Congress now. I'll bet 90% of them are attorneys and that's the first thing that's wrong. We have no diversity of background in our Congress, just a bunch of low-lifes who are out to ruin this country.

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad this vote didn't pass today. But it didn't pass for all of the wrong reasons. Wall Street had its' biggest drop in history as a result. Who knows what the overnight markets will bring in the morning. Tomorrow could be one of this country's worst days ever. For everyone who has grown accustomed to the American way of life, get ready for big changes.

Try to enjoy what should be a great Steeler game tonight, because tomorrow should rank up there around 9/11 when it's all said and done. Who wins a Steeler game will be the least of our worries.

THERE'S A RADIO SHOW IN TOWN

                    Fans Begin Lining Up At 3:30 a.m at Bettis' Grill 36


FROM WTAE Pittsburgh: there's a national radio show in town.


A line started forming around 3:30 a.m. outside Jerome Bettis' Grille 36, in anticipation the live "Mike and Mike in the Morning" broadcast on ESPN Radio.

"They're crazy. They're nuts. I don't know why they're here. They could be in bed. I'd be in bed. In fact, I'm thinking of having one of the people out here sit in for me and work with him and find out what it's really like so I can go back to bed," said co-host Mike Golic, who added that when the show goes on tour, it always draws the most fans in Pittsburgh.

"The one thing we have learned over the almost nine years we've been doing this show, and people have been showing up like this, is that people will do anything for a t-shirt," co-host Mike Greenburg said on the show.

The crowd included Gateway High School's nationally ranked football team from Monroeville. Some of the players wore their jerseys and went on the air with Golic and Greenberg.

"In all seriousness, this city, when we come to Pittsburgh, has been the most consistent about filling up any place we come to. It's been great coming here," Golic said.

STEELERS/ MENDENHALL IN BIG DIVISION CLASH

                Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall In Happier Times


Tonight at 8:30 in front of a national audience, Rashard Mendenhall makes his NFL debut as the Steelers starting running back after an injury last week to Steelers starter Willie Parker. Parker sustained a knee injury late in the game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

For the Steelers, the Mendenhall start comes at a time when the offense is already struggling with pass protection issues for Ben Rothleisberger. Big Ben was sacked and pressured all over the field in their loss to the Eagles and the Ravens have historically had one of the league's most agressive defenses.

An even bigger potential problem for the Black & Gold could be Mendenhall's propensity to cough up the football. Rest assured, the Ravens will be slapping at the ball all night long.

Not to be overlooked is the other mismatch in this contest: Baltimore's rookie quarterback Joe Flacco against the always-rugged Steelers defense in a particularly-hostile environment: Heinz Field on a Monday Night. The Steelers have won a record 13 straight on Monday Night Football and the matchups should make for compelling football viewing. Prediction: Steelers by 10 as their defense proves to be too much for Flacco. Mendenhall will rush for 65 yards and one score. He will fumble once. Big Ben and the Steelers will enjoy good field position all night. Final score Pittsburgh 20, Ravens 10.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

WHISTLING PAST THE GRAVEYARD ???



I'm sure that you've heard of the saying "Whistling past the graveyard". When you say this about a person, it basically means that they are trying to ignore some existing problem, fault, or situation as they nervously walk past the graveyard where they know they belong, a hyperbole for going down in flames if you will.

While driving this evening I had a chance to listen to a report, "straight out of the Steeler locker room with Tim Benz". During his report, Benz went on to explain that an offensive linemen, after looking at the game films, said that, "We (the offensive linemen) graded out better than we expected". Another said, "After looking at the films a second time, we didn't look quite as bad."

Now I don't know about you, but I thought that Sunday's game was one of the worst offensive performances I've seen in a long time. So you subject your $100 million dollar quarterback to nine sacks, eight knockdowns and God only knows how many other near-death experiences and all you can say is "We graded out better than we expected"?

It was very obvious while watching the game the players had lost their composure and were totally at the mercy of the Eagles. However, before we throw these guys completely under a steamroller (I just didn't want to use the word bus), it must be said that the entire unit looked like it had never seen a blitz before. Where were the adjustments, coaches? What about the play calling to combat the all-out blitzes? How about a screen pass, a draw play, a wide receiver screen, a pitchout? Aside from a screen pass (which was not performed well at all), none of these other plays were tried, and they are all effective against blitzes.Don't blitzes come with a danger to the defense anymore as in, "The quarterback beat the blitz."?

How about this one: How many times did you see the Steelers break their huddle very late and then wait to snap the ball with two, one or even zero seconds on the play clock? Who do you think benefits from this? Certainly not the offensive linemen because the element of surprise is completely gone by that time. The defenders can time their rush to coincide with the ball snap and gain a running start on the stationary offensive linemen. Having a running start going against you can never be a good thing.

And what about a quick-hitting slant pass over the middle? Break one of those for a big gain and those safeties will be thinking twice about coming on an all-out blitz every play.

For all of the reasons that I just cited, I have to place the blame for this loss squarely on the shoulders of Mike Tomlin and more particularly, Offensive Coordinator, Bruce Ariens. These guys have to be more flexible in their play calling and need to get out of that football coach mentality where, for example, you stubbornly refuse to stop running the ball off tackle on every play because, "That's what our football team does." Sometimes, the coach who is willing to say, during the heat of the battle, "Well that didn't work, we'd better switch to Plan B", has a much better chance of stealing a victory than the person(s) who are completely inflexible.

This offensive line isn't great, but they're not as bad as the Eagles made them look either. Unfortunately for Ben Rothleisberger, the miracle that is video will insure that he'll continue to get a steady diet of blitz packages each and every week until the Steelers prove they can stop them. But until the coaching staff starts using their imagination, these players will continue to be made to look bad and their quarterback will begin to accumulate the adequate number of hits to insure a major injury. This situation has to be addressed immediately or this team could see their season suddenly spiral out of control. For the first time in a long time, the Steelers coaches just looked like they didn't have a clue in this one.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

TOMLIN DROPS BOMBSHELL


Coach Mike Tomlin has a big decision to make in the wake of the announcement that Willie Parker will be out for this week's game: Does he start Beetlejuice (Above) or "Rocket" Rashard Mendenhall (Top)? Parker, out with a knee strain is listed as, "Week to week", by Coach Tomlin.



Monday, September 22, 2008

CLEARING MY DESK

“Mr. Irrelevant “ signs contract, see story page 9


What a public relations disaster if there ever was one for a team that certainly doesn’t need any more bad press. Pedro Alvarez, who will forever come to be known as the kid who let his agent turn him into a his own personal vendetta against major league baseball and in particular, Pirates team President, Frank Coonelly; reportedly has signed a four year deal with the club for $350,000 more than the amount as was “agreed” to at zero hour of the signing period for draft choices.


The important signing was heralded by the "Pittsburgh Post Gazette" on page nine of Monday’s sports section. It probably would have received more notice in the obituary section. This is how far the relevance of baseball has slipped in Pittsburgh over the past 16 years.


Alvarez and his agent, Scott Boras, wasted no time in generating ill will in this city. The agent’s cavalier behavior towards his client’s image is almost inconceivable. Meanwhile, the player and his family’s failure to step in and say “Enough is enough” doesn’t speak too highly for their character either.



Plenty To Clear
It’ll never happen, but now that the Pirates supposedly have Alvarez under contract, they should try shopping him around the league. This team, as they have said repeatedly, needs players, lots of them. If they could get a great batch of prospects who already have some minor league experience for a guy who will always have the stench of Scott Boras associated with him, the fans in this town will probably stand up and applaud their guts. You want to restock the minor league system? Get rid of this jerk and his slime ball agent. Now that would really be a step in the right direction. Might even sell a couple season tickets.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

EXTRA!!! BIG BEN SAVAGED BY PACK OF WILD DOGS IN PHILADELPHIA


"Human Punching Bag" Renamed a "Big Ben"



Ben Rothleisberger Attempts To Elude A Rusher In The Second Quarter. The Eagles Went On To Win This One By A 15-6 Score.




Earlier this week I read where Steelers offensive lineman, Willie Colon, stated that the Steelers weren't going to stand for Big Ben gettiing any more cheap shots. That's comforting knowing that Rothleisberger just endured one of the worst physical beatings ever by a Steelers quarterback as the Steelers fell to the Philadelphia Eagles in Philadelphia again, thus continuing a 42 year period where they have now lost on nine consecutive occasions.

Today's loss was especially puzzling considering that while Rothleisberger was resembling a human punching bag, the team really never attempted to establish a running game or make play-calling adjustments. During the second period, Big Ben endured one of the most ferocious pass rushes I've ever seen. On one play he nearly had his head ripped off on a facemask penalty and yet because of a very stout Steeler defense, the team went into the locker room down only four points, 10-6 in what was a very hard-fought game. To their credit, the Steelers defense was laying a lot of lumber of their own and some timely turnovers by Bryant McFadden and Troy Polamalu (his third interception already this year) had a lot to do with them still being in it.

Typically, in the NFL, a team that does not take advantage of having its' opponent clearly off balance can usually count on finding a way to lose later in the game. Even after Big Ben was called for a safety late in the fourth quarter. the Steelers were still down by just six points, 12-6 and still within striking distance. You could almost begin to sense the growing feeling of alarm among the Eagles fans.

However on this day it was not to be. The Eagles managed a short field goal that upped their advantage to 15-6. Rothleisberger then wound up leaving the game because of a hand injury on another rough tackle, giving way to his backup, Byron Leftwich. Leftwich came in and found an Eagles defense that was now ready to play the "prevent" game. He was able to connect on a few mid-range passes, but in the end, with the ball on the 21 with a minute to play, they opted to go for the touchdown on fourth down--unsuccessfully--than go for the short field goal in a two score situation, a questionable decision by Coach Mike Tomlin.. However, even had they made the field goal, the Steelers still would have had to recover an on-sides kickoff and then score a touchdown. all with no timeouts remaining. This is not an enviable situation to imagine winning any game with, let alone one on a day where a team had managed such a ferocious defense.

No, on this day, all the Bob Prince "Hidden Vigorish" in the world couldn't have offset a line that couldn't block, backs that couldn't pick up blitzers and a game plan that didn't account for either of these. I've seen games where a quarterback took a more savage beating...I just don't know when. Ben Rothleisberger should be given four days off and then throw a few balls around on Friday...if he can. He'll need that much time to recover from one of the worst NFL beatings endured on record. It had to be painful to watch for anyone living on the western side of the state. Worst of all, Philadelphia continues their mastery over the Steelers.

This game for Big Ben was so bad, the Steelers are fortunate that he didn't suffer a season or even career-ending injury...and let's hope that his hand isn't broken.. They're also very fortunate to have a competent backup quarterback. But next weeek they play the Ravens, a divisional foe and another guaranteed hard-hitting game. This is they way it's going to be all year for this team. They'd better figure out how to protect their quarterback(s) or they'll be searching the waiver wires looking for more fresh meat to throw to next week's pack of wild dogs.

Quarterbacks make the big money in the NFL. Small wonder why.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

"Hidden Vigorish" Part Deux

"Made By Little Neighborhood Chocolate Confectioner"
On Tuesday I wrote a piece about "Hidden Vigorish", the old Bob Prince saying that the late Pirate broadcaster used to describe the "Law of Averages" as it pertains to sports. During that article I was referring to the dominance that the Steelers have demonstrated over a very long period of time against the Cleveland Browns.

However, in focusing all of my attention of that story on the Browns, I realized later that I had completely failed to mention a very tasty morsel of hidden vigorish that's actually working in the Steelers favor this week! This piece of "Hidden Vigorish" is so massive that it probably dwarfs just about anything else out there among current teams and their streaks except maybe the Cubs length of futility in baseball.

In fact, calling this a tasty morsel is like calling the Hershey Chocolate Company a nice little neighborhood candy confectioner. Can you imagine that with all of the success that they've had for nearly 40 years now that the Steelers haven't managed to win in Philadelphia in 42 years!!!

Do you think the forces of "Hidden Vigorish" could be working at their most highest levels imaginable on Sunday? Like the subterranean river of evil goo running under New York City in "Ghostbusters II" , there seems to be an ocean of bad karma running under Philadelphia for the Pittsburgh Steelers.Will this be the year for the Steelers to break through???

Stay tuned for the 4:00 something kickoff. It should be a doozy! Say it together: "I ain't 'fraid a no ghost".

WE BELIEVE YOU

Friday, September 19, 2008

EXTRA!!!!! Wal Mart's Pricing Is Way Messed Up !!!!!!

Helmet Signed By 10 Steelers Hall of Famers, a low, low Wal Mart price of just $1,299.00!


Now in the world of collecting autographs, it's not unusual to pay $40, $50 even $100 for an autograph. When you add in the cost of a pro helmet plus the fact that the signature is of a Hall of Famer, it's easy to see how you could pay two or three hundred dollars for an autographed helmet. So a hemet bearing the autographs of TEN Hall of Famers should go for a king's ransom, right?

Well in pricing this Steelers helmet at $1299.00 we believe that Wal Mart got this one right. It's an amazing piece and it averages just $129 per Hall of Famer!. However, here's where they really got one wrong: On the same catalog web page, if the Steeler helmet is out of your range, you can drop down and purchase an autographed Rex Grossman, Chicago Bears helmet for just $649!

Now wait a minute. You're going to sell a helmet with 10 Steeler greats for $1,299.00 and then offer Rex Grossman for just $649? What would a helmet cost with 10 Chicago Bears Hall of Famers? We could be talking six figures!

That's messed up pricing there folks. Price check at register three... Watch it!!

Yellowjackets: A Nemesis No Matter How You Describe Them

Nemesis For Lawnmowers and Eagles
The interesting part about football is how you can break a game down beforehand into how an offense will do against a defense or even how an individual player will do in a head-to-head match up. Let’s face it, as it is in any war, soldiers get killed in individual combat, but ultimately it’s all about what country wins.




So it is in Philadelphia this weekend where a regional skirmish, "The Battle for the Keystone State", will be waged. All weekend you will be bombarded first with television spots promoting Big Ben and Fast Willie versus Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook. While it is true that these two combinations will be carrying the battle forward for their respective teams, the bigger story is the two defenses and how they will handle their respective challenges.



It’s been well documented over the years how important it is for a defense to be able to get off the field in key third down situations. As most football observers would agree, it’s much more tiring for a team to play defense than to play offense, so when an offense starts to get the upper hand…as did both offenses in Monday nights' Dallas-Philadelphia track meet, the results can be high scoring affairs and defenses that just can’t keep up.



The Eagles are going to have their hands full Sunday with a retooled Steeler defense that should be renamed the “Yellowjackets” first and obviously because yellowjackets wear “Black and Gold” and secondly because they swarm like yellowjackets to the football. By year end, this team may well become known for having one of the most ferocious blitzing, tackling and coverage teams of any in most recent memory...and probably one or more of them will bite in a pileup too!



For this primary reason I am staking my entire, considerable football reputation on the Yellowjackets harassing and inflicting "stingers" on Donovan McNabb until he goes into submission while Big Ben and his troops tune up the Philadelphia defense. In a game that will serve notice to the rest of the NFL, I expect the Steelers to win it on the road by a 24-10 score. I think the Dallas game on Monday may have taken some from the Eagles and they do have a day less rest and preparation time to get ready for this one. So look for a Yellowjackets win on Sunday and no, I’m not viewing this game through a bee’s complex lens, just telling it like it is…this defense is the best in the NFL and this team’s balance, including greatly improved special teams, makes them an early favorite to get to and win the Superbowl. And it’s only week three when I’m telling you this and we still have 14 regular season games to play! Now that's courage! Not a purple heart's worth, but courage nonetheless!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"Hidden Vigorish", Nothing To Mess With!



One of the things I am going to attempt to do with this blog is to rotate, wherever possible, between Pittsburgh sports teams. Of course the time of the year will have a lot to do with this as will whether or not it's Superbowl week, or it's the Stanley Cup finals, or the World....oh forget that one.

Anyway, I got into a discussion with my good friend Ken (nicknamed as a kid "Steelhead", more on that in a later column) about the Browns losing to the Steelers. I said that it may be good now, but when the two teams meet again at the end of the year fighting for the title, the Browns will have "Hidden Vigorish" on their side.

Now Ken is a man who's slightly older than me who currently is in the lead for having had the most surgical procedures between the two of us. So as you can just imagine, I was shocked when he said, "What's that?"

For anyone who is greying around the temples and had the absolute pleasure to listen to a Pirates game being called by the late Bob Prince, his lexicon of phrases and nicknames was right up there with hockey's irrepressible Mike Lange. "Hidden Vigorish" was just one of those immortal phrases.

For you youngsters out there who never listened to "The Gunner", here's how "Hidden Vigorish" works. Let's say that a batter has gone 0-20 batting against a certain pitcher. Most people would automatically think that you should pinch hit him the next time he faces that pitcher. But in the world of "Hidden Vigorish", his chances grow greater each and every time he faces that pitcher. In other words, his "Hidden Vigorish" factor improves with every putout.

The same thing, unfortunately, is going on right now between the Browns and Steelers. As any "Black and Gold" bleeding Steeler fan knows, the Steelers OWN the Browns, and that's a good thing. However Steeler fans, I must warn you: The Browns "Hidden Vigorish" factor is now through the roof! If you ever prayed for anything, you must pray that the Steelers' meeting on December 24th with the Browns is a meaningless game, because if it means the Division Title, the Steelers are doomed. You see, "Hidden Vigorish" only comes into play when the stakes are high.

For example, if the same batter is 0-20 during the regular season, you simply say, "Why did those %3#gsxtf#*&^ Pirates trade away their only hitters?"

"Hidden Vigorish" is a very complex theory that must never be taken lightly. All the more reason that the Steelers, for their sake, had better have the division sewed up before the Browns come back to town. Oh, and if the Steelers have already won the division, they will go on to add to their now- mountainous pile of "Hidden Vigorish" once again.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Ah no, Not Quite, Fair Romeo


It was obvious from the start last night that the Cleveland Browns brought all of the determination they could conjure up in facing their old nemesis, the Pittsburgh Steelers. And while the Browns may have been able to keep it close, in the end it will go in the record books as just another in a long series of losses for the "Dawg Lovers" as the Steelers dispatched the Browns by a 10-6 score.



The Steelers were not spectacular themselves, in part due to an improved Browns defense. But when it got down to rug cutting time and with the score Pittsburgh 10-3 in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter, Browns coach Romeo Crennel managed to infuriate the home crowd by kicking a field goal on 4th and 7 from the 23 yard line. The paying customers apparently were incensed because in their opinion, the Browns were still going to need a touchdown to win and hadn't managed one up until that point all game. After making the chip shot, the Browns, now trailing 10-6 kicked off to the Steelers using an on-sides formation. However they kicked the ball medium depth where Matt Spaeth covered it. In the remaining minutes the Steelers, largely through the efforts of Willie Parker and some inopportune timeouts by Crennel, managed to run the game clock down to just 24 seconds where the Steelers' defense finished suffocating the Browns offense.



The game featured a single touchdown scored by Hines Ward (his third of the year) from Big Ben. Willie Parker also chipped in with 104 yards on 24 carries. Santonio Holmes also contributed with a couple long catches as well.



But on a night where the wind displayed cyclonic tendencies with the constant light rain making life miserable for the ball handlers, the Steelers managed to get through this one turnover-free, a major reason why they won the game. In contrast, the Browns contributed two interceptions, one picked off by Bryant McFadden, the other by Troy Polamalu near the goal line at the end of the first half. The Polamalu interception was truly a back breaker and the Browns left the field to a chorus of boos.



At the game's conclusion and following Crennel's controversial decision and questionable clock management, the crowd was certainly in no better frame of mind. Thus the ongoing Shakespearean tragedy that is Romeo Crennel-style football.



Ben Rothleisberger, it was revealed during the game by the NBC crew, is suffering from a partial shoulder separation. This condition was not helped when he was sacked three times and hit very hard on two other occasions. Big Ben was as evasive as John McCain or Barack Obama as on three occasions he avoided answering NBC's Andrea Kremer when she asked him questions about his ailing shoulder. Ben would respond by giving completely unrelated answers about the offensive line or gushing about his teammates. He flatly refused to even acknowledge the questions which was really something to see. Coach Tomlin is very strict about not discussing injuries with the media. Once again, it's very obvious that Tomlin has his team's complete attention.



Which brings us to next week. The Steelers will be facing a strong Philadelphia Eagles team on the road in Philly, a city reeling from the recent announcement that its' residents were named the worst looking in the United States. In contrast, Miami has the best-looking residents on average (amazingly Pittsburgh did not make either list).


This week will feature thousands of Big Ben shoulder questions. In all probability though, Ben will not practice most of the week but more than likely should play unless the shoulder really flared up after the game. But make no mistake about it, Ben was really hurting after this one. But at least he had the consolation of knowing that he was hurting after a "W", and not an "L".

Friday, September 12, 2008

STEELERS VS BROWNS : LITTLE BIGHORN REVISITED ???







ROMEO'S LAST STAND ?



Boy is it ever easy to get caught up in the fever that ultimately develops into Steelermania around here. But it's pretty hard to keep yourself composed as a Steeler fan when your team performs as well as it did against the Houston Texans.





But are they really that good, or are the Texans that bad? My answer: The Steelers are really that good. This team has an awesome array of offensive weapons with an offensive line that is developing nicely. On defense, their suffocating style has been revved up by the appearance of second year linebackers Timmons and Woodley. Add them to Harrison, Foote and Farrior and you may have the deepest set of linebackers in the league. They will wreak havoc on offenses throughout the NFL this year.

Even the special teams, an area of serious concern, looked really good against Houston. To top it off, the Steelers have a perfect blend of great young talent with a closet full of grizzled, seasoned veterans who are ready to show them the way.

In Mike Tomlin they have a coach who has mastered the art of getting an NFL player's attention. In fact, he has mastered the art of getting an entire team's attention. These guys hit the field locked, loaded and ready to clobber anything in their path. Barring that famous NFL problem called injuries, this team could really go all the way.

However, you even have to like their depth except on the offensive line, so keep your fingers crossed there where Marvel Smith already has a sore groin after only week one.

So are the Steelers really that good or are the Texans really that bad? Get ready to drink deeply my fellow Burghers, cause if the Steelers shellac the Browns like I feel they will, we may need the Dormont pool to mix up our next batch of Steelers Black and Gold Kool Aid. Final score: Steelers 31, Browns 7. Big Ben will once again take an early exit after the third quarter as the Steelers will totally dominate every facet of this game.

Best of all, it'll be on national tv, for everyone in the whole country who likes to see solid, bone crushing hits to enjoy!





Thursday, September 11, 2008

CLEARING MY DESK


This is a part of "Black and Gold" where I hope to expound upon important topics of the day and not necessarily sports. With this being the inaugural edition of this blog, I thought it would be entirely appropriate to say a few words about 9/11 and our nation's horrible memories of that sad day.

Thinking back, I can vividly remember hearing Matt Lauer saying on the "Today" show that, "Apparently a small plane has flown into the world trade center." I also remember seeing the first shot of the World Trade Center and the smoke pouring out of the side of the building.

"That's no accident," I immediately said to my wife and then the horror of horrors came not too long afterward when I saw the second plane come crashing in on live national television. There are certain memories that can be etched into your brain as you go through life. That was certainly one for me and most other Americans..

When I later heard of the Pentagon crash and finally flight 93 that had a most unhappy ending on a field outside of Somerset, PA, it really hit home that I was witnessing our country being under siege. We certainly weren't thinking about being attacked on that bright sunny day and we certainly weren't thinking about being attacked today...on another bright sunny day. But it occurred to me that the lessons of 911 have not been learned.

Consider Barack Obama and John McCain today walking together, outside, at ground zero in New York. Now I don't have any problem whatsoever with these men paying their tribute to the many American civilians, firefighters and policemen who lost their lives on that day for no good reason other than pure psychotic hatred. However, when I see these two men standing together in an outdoor setting, I realized that we still don't really get it when it comes to terrorists. What a great target the two of them together could have made today! What a crisis our form of government could have been dealt had it been carried out! One day everyone will get it: Our country has been and will continue to be under siege. George W. Bush today is viewed as an unsuccessful failure of a president. After watching replays of 9/11 and seeing once again the chaos and devastation, could it have been that remote of an idea that a plot could have been hatched against these two men who are now vying for the Presidency?

If it could occur to me (and I'm certainly no terrorist) then I'm sure that a group of people with nothing better to do than hatch terrorist plots could have thought of it too. True, nothing happened, thank God for that, but people, please stop slapping targets on yourselves!!!. After all, who would have ever thought that four jet planes could have ever been hijacked with such deadly efficiency as was done on 9/11/01? Who would have ever thought that two skyscrapers could have been knocked down or the Pentagon hit? It was a beautiful fall day.. a day.just like today! We can't leave our guard down again..

WELCOME TO "BLACK & GOLD"

Twenty-five years is a long time to go between articles, but I guess once writing gets into your blood, well, there's no getting it out.
Let me first tell you a little about me. I graduated from Point Park College's school of Journalism and Communications in 1976 and after becoming frustrated with my options upon graduation, I decided to take the unseemly step of starting a newspaper of my very own. I can remember saying back in those days, "Well if no one will hire me, then I'll hire myself!" In retrospect, those were brave words that were spoken by someone whose only prior blueprint for success was the hard work put in on a daily business at his family's grocery business by his parents and grandparents. Of course I won't rule out extreme naivete in this instance as well.
Yes, if I had no reason to be afraid, it was because I could relate back to a story that my grandfather used to tell in his broken English. When he was contemplating opening a neighborhood grocery store and butcher shop, his family, incredulous at the prospects asked, "Well who's going to be the butcher?" "Well I'll be the butcher" he smiled almost defiantly in recollecting the story. So it was that with a backbone that was inspired by a fear-nothing grandfather and backed up by parents who I know wanted to see me be successful on my own, I launched in 1977 "The Pittsburgh North Star", a free distribution newspaper that covered the North Side and North Hills areas of Pittsburgh.
Shortly after starting the "North Star", "The Pittsburgh Press" responded with its' first 'North' edition which was no small coincidence for me. The resultant crunch in advertising dollars (not to mention a very weak economy) led the then-young managing editor to scramble for new and as yet undiscovered advertising revenue. With my love of all things Pittsburgh clearly in tow, I came up with the idea of launching a second publication, one that was dedicated to Pittsburgh's three professional sports with a simple name that encompassed all three... "Black & Gold".
That would have been a great story in and of itself, but at the same time that "Black & Gold" began rolling off the presses, I learned that there was another sports publication that was funded heavily by one Terry Bradshaw titled "Pittsburgh Steelers Weekly". While this publication was focusing strictly on football, it was nevertheless a bitter pill to swallow, especially considering that they they had the inside edge in dealing with the Steelers. Once again, what I thought would be a niche to help solidify my young company turned out to be an opportunity lost. Under capitalized and out of options, I've always remembered how I cried on the day I closed my newspaper business, because this was something that I loved to do and something that I felt that I had a future in. But it didn't work out that way.
In those days there were no such things as blogs. The very idea of publishing anything required expensive typesetting equipment. Pages had to be "pasted up" then "shot" for a negative before "burning" a printing plate. As you can imagine, all of this equipment cost a lot of money, so getting your thoughts published was a lot more difficult, not to mention expensive than they are today.
By my launching "Black & Gold" again today, I'm once again throwing my hat back into the sports writing ring. The difference is that today there are no typesetting machines, no plate burners, no printing presses and no distribution process. Pretty amazing stuff this Internet.
I can remember when we first installed a "United Press International" (UPI) teletype in our offices for the first time for "Black & Gold", that I marveled at what this tool represented. "Just think", I daydreamed one day. "If every house had one of these, we'd eliminate having to distribute newspapers!" Nice idea, but I think this one...the Internet... is a lot better for about a million reasons.
I must confess that one of the motivations for my deciding to resurrect "Black & Gold" is because of the stunning success that my own son, the inimitable author of "MondesisHouse.com", Don Spagnolo, has had with his now iconic blog site. "After all", I figured. "His witty style of writing had to come at least partly from me," (since his mother also has a degree in journalism from the now-university that was once known as Point Park College) so it would be unfair of me not to share my own witty style with you, right?
I also thought it would be a lot of fun to occasionally exchange opposing viewpoints with Raul while hopefully building a following of readers on my own. In addition to sports commentary, I'm also planning on writing an editorial segment entitled "Clearing My Desk". This area will be primarily sports-based, but it will also offer up some editorial comment on the more pressing matters of the day. "Anything to get the pot stirred up" is what I'll use as a criteria for mention.
I can remember in my newspaper days that we would relish receiving any "letters to the editor" because they meant that people were really interested in reading the publication and were moved to write their opinion. They even had to invest in a stamp to let their opinion be known! I will always gauge the popularity of this site by its' ability to generate comment. Therefore, I want to go on record as saying that I strongly encourage you to post your comments and become one of the "B&G Regulars" by adding your two cents to each post that appears here.
I'm really looking forward to lacing back on my writing boots and providing you with (hopefully) an interesting blog. I know that it's going to be a tall order for me to ever measure up to "Mondesishouse", but at least I have something to shoot for.
See you soon!
Angelo Spagnolo