Sunday, December 28, 2008
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
"Potsy"Farrior: No Cupcake.
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
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.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Friday, December 12, 2008
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
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 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”.
Eagles current record 7-5-1 .577
WEEK 8 Steelers lose a tough game they could have won against the New York Giants, last year's SuperBowl champs.
WEEK 11 Steelers eke out a very tough win against the
Cowboys current record 8-5 .615
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
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
The Steelers are 2-1 in the Super Bowl versus the "Cryboys" as the late broadcaster Myron Cope loved to call them.
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
Sub-moron Number 2
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
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.
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!