Saturday, October 30, 2010

PITT, STEELERS BOTH TO WIN THIS WEEKEND

Mark this down: The Pitt Panthers and Pittsburgh Steelers are BOTH going to win again this weekend.

The Panthers, going up against the Louisville Cardinals, are finally maturing as a unit, particularly quarterback Tino Sunseri. As Sunseri has improved on the passing game, so too, coincidentally has the Pitt running game begun to start producing big games out of Ronnie Graham and Dion Lewis.


ABOVE: Tino's been looking better and better each week.

Pitt's shaky defense has also made strides of late as the offense has continued to put things together, so look for a third consecutive strong showing in the Big East and a 28-17 victory.

Meanwhile, the Steelers, proclaimed by many experts as the strongest team in the league at the moment are on the road in the Superdome in a major clash against last year's champion, the New Orleans Saints.

The Steelers seem to have their very best games on the largest stage, so look for them to bring their "A" game on Sunday night. With the team fairly healthy for six games into the season, I look for the offense to be the defense's best friend in this one. The Steelers will play ball control while keeping drew Brees and his flying circus on the bench. 

Result: The Steelers defense will throttle Brees and Co. in a surprisingly convincing 24-10 victory.


ABOVE: The Steelers will need a "large" effort from Big Ben.


While "P.B.& G." is not charging you for this information, we don't expect any hate mail if Pitt or the Steelers don't cover either!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

STEELERS SURVIVE ROLLER COASTER DECISION, DOLPHINS FANS, AH... NOT SO MUCH

By this time, you, like me, have seen the Ben Roethlisberger replay at the Miami goal line more often than you have fingers and toes to keep track of them all. It has been replayed almost as much as the Santonio Holmes controversial touchdown a couple seasons ago or Jerome Bettis' "Heads-tails call" on Thanksgiving day several seasons ago.

But now that we have had a chance to examine this modern day example of the "Zapruder Film" frame by frame, what have we learned from it?


ABOVE: The famous "Zapruder Film" frame #232 taken by a parade bystander during the Kennedy assassination in Dallas.

BELOW: Big Ben fumbles at the goal line last Sunday in Miami. Some people would put this on a par with Zapruder's famous footage!


Basically what I learned from it is that football has to have the most complicated set of rules of any game on the planet!

Let me see a show of hands: When you were watching that replay, you more than likely came to the same conclusion as the referee that the ball had come loose prior to crossing that mythical, invisible, creation of the NFL competition committee known today as "the plane". But how many of you expected to hear what came next in part two of Referee Gene Steratore's final ruling on the play? 

Just like I thought, no hands showing. As a result, this play will now be lodged forever in the Pantheon of bizarre Steeler plays that drew bizarre referee calls. Let's re-examine exactly how Steratore described this play:

"After further review, the ball had come loose before crossing the plane of the goal line," (loud cheer by Dolphins fans). "HOWEVER," (crowd falls silent) "We do not have clear evidence of the defense recovering the football. Therefore, the Steelers will maintain possession of the football at the half yard line. Fourth down," (Steeler fans go wild).

ABOVE: Tony Sparano berates one of the other officials (not Gene Steratore) who strayed too close to him on his side of the field. Steratore was presumably on the Pittsburgh sideline, choosing instead to break the good news to Mike Tomlin personally.

Of course while waiting for this verdict, anyone who's ever watched a football game before in his life, knew that the entire outcome of this game would hinge on Steratore's decision. But what a strange outcome! I never expected the fumble recovery to be taken away from the Dolphins either.

However the NFL has come out in support of the "Steratore Film".  Carl Johnson, the NFL vice president of officiating said on Wednesday that, "A crucial decision not to award anybody a recovery of a Ben Roethlisberger fumble was "properly handled through replay in the Pittsburgh Steelers' 23-22 win against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday." He also said the league, "Regretted another replay decision that took a touchdown away from the Minnesota Vikings."

But in this case, it was the infamous "goal line plane" that contributed to the confusion. As soon as Steratore saw Roethlisberger cross that invisible line he signaled an immediate touchdown. So no officials were going to worry about who recovered the ball. While it appeared that Miami had recovered it, Big Ben said that he, "Had an arm on it and the referee slapped him on the back to get up and said, 'It's a touchdown'". Roethlisberger said that he then let the ball go. "I didn't want to get my arm torn off or anything."

While the referee's call makes perfect sense in retrospect, it is the fact that once the player crossed the plane, that the touchdown was signaled and the play was ruled over... is where the competition committee has to get this rule straightened out. Even though it was a decision that gave the Steelers a win, I'm sure that if the shoe had been on the other foot that Steeler fans would have been screaming.

How is it that a play ends instantaneously once the ball crosses the plane of the end zone? My thinking is that the reason this rule exists is that the players would be savaging ball carriers once a player had entered into "The Promised Land". 

One other area where I feel the league is leaving itself wide open for criticism is having an official from a home town refereeing a game for his home team. While Gene Steratore apparently did nothing wrong in the eyes of the NFL, it would have been better is the referee's place of residence had nothing to do with the call that determined who would win this football game.

Steratore's a great official and I'm proud that he's from Pittsburgh and an NFL ref. But he's got enough things to worry about if he's even officiating San Francisco and Oakland. Why add another layer for people to potentially criticize his decisions?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

GOODELL CONFIRMS: NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE TO BE RENAMED "NATIONAL HYPOCRISY LEAGUE"

"CLEARING MY DESK"
                        By Angelo Spagnolo
                               Publisher "Pittsburgh's Black and Gold" 


LEFT: James Harrison is the embodiment of every Steeler fans' idea as to what the perfect Pittsburgh Steeler should be. Now he's being legislated out of the league in much the same way that Hines Ward and Mel Blount before him had their playing styles also "altered".

I'm sure that there are greater hypocrites in this world than the "good" folks who run the National Football League. My problem is that I've yet to come across them.

The National Football League is without a doubt, the biggest collection of money-grubbing, thousand dollar suited, carpet-bagging, users of humanity ever assembled on this planet. They have become so big, so greedy and so powerful that they think they can even "lawyer" themselves out of a mess that's been of their own creation over the past hundred or so years.

Take for example the recent James Harrison $75,000 fine. It is a high point even by the lofty standards previously set by the National Hypocrisy League! Harrison, who is the poster boy for what the National Football League has always represented, is now becoming the focal point instead of a concussion witch hunt. The funny part about the hit on Mohamed Massaquoi is that Harrison actually held back! He could have planted the Browns receiver into the tenth row if that's what he wanted to do. But a concussion resulted anyway, so the result is a player who's now talking about retiring, if you can believe that. He's that sick of the hypocrisy, imagine that.


                              Associated Press photo
ABOVE: James Harrison, one nanosecond after putting Mohamed Massaquoi "To sleep".

The National Hypocrisy League has a licensed site that sells game photos and guess what? Two of the major "hits" from last weekend were featured on this site! You can't have it both ways National Hypocrisy League! If you want to promote your sport and make money selling photos based on bone-jarring hits and the injuries they generate, then you can't fine guys like Harrison for playing the way that they do.

In another example of uneven handling of player conduct issues, The National Hypocrisy League threw the book at Big Ben, yet Bret Favre, Vince Young and many others have gone unpunished. Why? Another hypocrisy, that's why.

But make no mistake about it: The National Hypocrisy League is not fining these players because they are so concerned about their fellow man. Are you kidding me??? The suits on Madison Avenue and their lawyers are merely looking to insulate themselves from what they feel will surely be a massive lawsuit someday filed by either the player's union (for unsafe working conditions) or on behalf of some either injured, quadraplegic or even killed player. The high-priced National Hypocrisy League attorneys reason that by establishing an evidential trail that they have "tried to discourage" this type of activity, this will remove the "treble damages" from the hands of some future jury. The National Hypocrisy League will then be safe to continue peddling their violent yet non-violent game (or so they'd like us to think) long into the future.

The only other plausible reason for legislating some of these hits out of the game is because the owners have invested millions into their "livestock". If these pieces of meat can't play, then what good are they on the sidelines or in a whirlpool? When they're through in their average of 3.7 years, you simply throw them into the meat grinder to finish turning them into hamburger: Scrambled brains, wrecked backs, torn up knees, you name it. But hey, they're making millions, right? True, but if they're dead, paralyzed or in a wheel chair what good is it? Ask Mike Webster! Oh wait, you can't, he's dead.

If the National Hypocrisy League wanted to stop people getting concussions, they could easily do so by changing the helmets these players are now wearing. The problem is that the helmets are so impervious to breaking that the players subconsciously have no fear of injury. As a result, they're not afraid to lead with their head. If the players wore a helmet made of the new space aged foam that's used now on mattresses, you'd better believe that they'd stop using their head as a weapon and start protecting it instead. This will never be done though, because then there would be no sound of helmets cracking together for National Hypocrisy League Films to capture for their highlight reels. Let's face it, the sound of foam hitting foam isn't very exciting or compelling. It also wouldn't look good on the videos at the stadium either during the playing of "Renegade".

ABOVE: If there's a scarier sight than this in the National Hypocrisy League, I'd like to know what it is.

But would even this extreme measure signal the end of concussions? Sadly, no. Today's players are too big, too strong, too fast and too dumb for that to happen. Think about it: The human body was not made to absorb this type of massive punishment. But the National Hypocrisy League will still fortunately be able to move forward as it always has because it's now been insulated from lawsuits and has that ever-eager farm system of college draft choices lined up and ready to step forward to collect their fat new paychecks, along with cracked vertebrae, shredded cartilage, mutilated tendons and addled brains.

As much as I love the Steelers and truly admire their toughness, I have grown to literally despise the hypocrites who own and run this league. The salaries they pay the players are grandiose, true enough, but the human suffering that goes on for these players for the rest of their lives is incalculable not to mention the number of years of their lives that are lost.

But please,  just don't lie to us about it. Don't challenge our intellects by acting as though you are now shocked at the violence in the game and the obstinate players who refuse to tone it down. What game have you been watching for the past hundred years anyway? Do you think that hard hitting is a new phenomenon in the National Hypocrisy League? Or have you been making billions in profits during the last century because of it? You can't have it both ways.

Maybe all of the injuries are telling us that the accelerated athletic development of the players in this league has created such a toxic environment that it is now literally impossible to legislate injuries out of the game?

 Is football's time as a sport coming to some cataclysmic end? Don't laugh, they don't have gladiators fighting lions and tigers in Rome anymore either!



ABOVE: The movie "Gladiator" showed the earlier days of the NFL, long before hypocrisy became so much "en vogue". Under most circumstances, my money would be on the tiger, but this is, after all, Russell Crowe and we know he can't die!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

TIGER IN HENHOUSE; MORE RYDER CUP WOES



 ABOVE: The U.S. team has just lost the Ryder Cup Tournament, now Tiger has to survive keeping his eyes focused...somewhere else...anywhere else. More pressure. When does it end?

Monday, October 18, 2010

"COCONUT HUNTERS"


ABOVE: A future Pittsburgh Steeler linebacker hones his skills in this tropical setting. The heretofore unknown secret to the Steeler linebackers' vicious play is hereby revealed. When the coconuts hit the ground with vicious force, they are "concussed" thus releasing their juicy coconut milk and tasty baking ingredients.

Okay,  okay, I know, the NFL is trying to eliminate helmet-to-helment contact from the lexicon of American football, but who out there thought that James Harrison was trying to purposely concuss two Browns players yesterday? While we're on the subject, who among you doesn't enjoy seeing James Harrison, Lawrence Timmons and Company unloading on their offensive quarry? Hasn't hard play been the calling card of the Pittsburgh Steelers over the past 40 years? Would you ever want to see this change?

The Steelers put a beat-down on the Cleveland Browns yesterday, winning by a 28-10 score. The defining storyline of this game...other than Big Ben's triumphal return...was the incredible Steeler defense which continues to strangle the life out of its' opponents.

The Steelers lost two weeks ago to the Baltimore Ravens sans Roathlisberger. But how many of you out there feel that the Steelers would have lost this game if the "Large One" had played? I don't see many hands.

If you ask most knowledgable NFL analysts today, many of them would tell you that the Steelers, with Ben back in the lineup, are now the top team in the AFC. Barring the one thing that can derail any team's season: injuries, this team has all the pieces necessary to make another visit to the Superbowl. Yesterday, Brett Keisel went down with what could be a more-serious type of hamstring injury. If so, Keisel could miss four to six weeks if not longer. These are just the type of injury losses that no NFL team wants to absorb. But to their credit, the Steelers have quality depth and more important, hungry quality depth.

The Steelers will be embarking on three straight difficult road games starting in Miami this week. the Dolphins upended the Packers in Green bay yesterday so they are brimming with confidence today. For the Steelers, having these types of challenges in front of them seems to stoke their competitive fires and bring out the best of their abilities. Would you rather see the next three competitors be San Francisco, Carolina and Detroit? I didn't think so. This is a team that needs a challenge to be their best. I, personally, hate us playing a game against a bottom-feeding team.

So bring on the the Dolphins, Saints and those customarily-bottom-feeding Cincinnati Bengals. I think our coconut hunters are more than up to the challenge.

BELOW: A concussed coconut... nobody likes seeing this but everybody enjoys the succulent coconut inside. This is commonly referred to as a "dichotomy".


Thursday, October 14, 2010

LEMIEUX ADMITS CONSOL ENERGY CENTER "JINXED"; PONDERS MOVE

ABOVE: A glum Pittsburgh Penguins Chairman of the Board, Mario Lemieux admits, "I screwed up." 

In a stunning announcement, Pittsburgh Penguins Chairman Mario Lemieux revealed today at a morning press conference that the Consol Energy Center has indeed been jinxed. The Penguins have started out 0-3 in their new Taj Mahal facility this season, losing again last night, this time by a 4-3 score to the Toronto Maple Leafs of all people.

"Yes, it's a jinx, we know that," said Lemieux. "The building has been cursed by those who want the Civic Arena to be saved."

Admitting that he added "fuel to the fire" by pouring water from the Arena onto the ice surface at the Consol Energy Center, Lemieux is at a loss for what to do next.

"Yes, that was a big mistake, I realize that now," said the somber chairman of the board. "But who knew that it would result in the building being cursed? Believe me, I'm going to have a hard time getting the players to leave their new locker room facility to go back over to the Arena. If we lose our next two here, it may have to happen...we may have to abandon the Consol Energy Center."

This shocking turn of events was completely unforeseen when the Penguins very cavalierly decided to pursue tearing down the obviously jealous and angry building instead of transitioning it into another type of functioning facility.

"We really don't know if announcing that we are going to abandon the idea of tearing down the Arena would break the curse," said Lemieux. "But if we can't win at home anymore, we'll have to take a serious look at moving back into the Arena. Then we'd have to figure out what to do with the Consol Energy Center."

When asked about moving back to the Arena, Pens Captain, Sidney Crosby offered a unique player's perspective. "We'll play at the Arena, but we'll die before we give up our new locker room. The team can bus us up the hill if need be...I'll even pay for the bus if they won't."

As the pressure to win mounts, the players now know that they only have two more chances to win before Lemieux pulls the plug on Consol.

"Wow, that would be really bad," sighed Crosby.

Penguins President, David Morehouse, was conspicuously absent from the press conference. Morehouse has been the leading proponent of tearing down the venerable, old, Civic Arena and is obviously now a lightning rod for more "bad karma" for the team.

Consol Arena "rink rats" are whispering that Morehouse could indeed be on the way out if it would remove the curse on the Energy Center.


ABOVE: Darth Vader posed for this motivational poster while pouring water into a 2 liter bottle. This made no sense then...neither did Mario Lemieux pouring the Arena's water onto the Consol Energy Center's ice last week. Besides bringing a curse down on himself and the team, explain what good that did?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

BROWNS IN FOR A TERRIBLE BEATING; BIG BEN CLEANED UP, PRIMED AND READY TO GO.


ABOVE AND BELOW: There are two Big Bens currently undergoing an image overhaul, Pittsburgh's Big Ben and that "other one" over in London. Curious how both Big Bens have men with gold helmets around looking after them! Sadly enough for the Cleveland Browns, Big Ben will be striking 12 both here and abroad this coming Sunday.



I would not want to be Eric Mangini this week. He'll be bringing in his battered and bruised Cleveland Browns team into a typically-hostile Heinz Field minus his top two quarterbacks Seneca Wallace and Jake Delhomme and with a banged-up running back, Peyton Hillis.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the line of scrimmage, the Steelers will counter with a mostly-healthy starting lineup plus have their two-time Superbowl-winning quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, back in the saddle for the first time following his well-documented suspension for sexual hijinks in a Georgia college bar.

Roethlisberger is literally foaming at the mouth to play again and from all reports he is in the best shape of his entire career. If there is any danger that the Steelers may face in this game, it would be Big Ben trying to do "too much". If he plays within himself and allows the small patches of ferrous oxide to naturally wear off of his uniform, the Steelers should have no trouble dispatching the Browns and improving their record to 4-1. It could get grotesquely ugly before it's over with a "Harrison Slam" or two a possibility. Speaking of people whom I wouldn't want to be this week, the name "Colt McCoy" also springs into my mind. The Browns picked up a quarterback off the Ravens practice squad this week to back up McCoy, but the question is, "Will one be enough?"

ABOVE: Eric "Mangenious" has his hands full this week, minus two quarterbacks and possibly his featured running back, Peyton Hillis. The Steelers would be well-advised to look out for a major-league-sized dose of Joshua Cribbs in the wildcat formation on Sunday...but I think our own "Mangenious", "Dickgenious Labeaueinstein" will have already figured that out.

But in the back of every Steeler players' mind should be the horrible losses they suffered versus the Browns, Raiders and Chiefs last year. All three of those games were viewed as "eminently winnable" and the Steelers did have Roethlisberger for all three losses. However, they have a much different team this year. They are focused, seem to be on a mission to get back to championship status, are much healthier than last year and now have a quarterback who has been brought back to Earth by our wonderful N.F.L. commissioner. THANK YOU ROGER GOODELL!!!

All together now..."Happy days are here again....


LEFT: "Annette Hanshaw and Her Boys" could really play this song. Word is that the Pirates are looking to bring them in for a "Skyblast Show."


If you're a Pittsburgh Steeler fan, I'd say you're in for some good times the rest of the year. As was noted by our occasional prognosticator, Michel de Nostradamus, earlier this year he called for the Black & Gold to go 9-3 once Big Ben returned. Coupled with the 3-1 start that they managed sans the "Large One", that would have them finishing with a 12-4 mark and in the thick of things for another Superbowl appearance. But hold the fort, a lot of things can happen in the always-mercurial National Football League...just ask the Minnesota Vikings and their guy who's always trying to "Get out of his Levi's", Brett Favre. 

  Sports Ramblings From Hither and Thither....


I was glad to see the Pittsburgh Penguins sit down Marc Andre Fleury yesterday. I guess Dan Bylsma has finally joined the legions of Penguins fans who are sick and tired of Fleury's complete lapses in concentration...Don't be expecting some big name manager to be hired by the Pirates. They have already figured out that with their present pitching staff they'll win as many games with a "Joe Blow" manager as they would resurrecting Danny Murtaugh or Casey Stengle. They'll use some of the money they save to bring in acts like "Three Dog Night" or "Huey Lewis and the News" next year. Don't laugh, they're making money doing just this type of thing....Question: Is it me or are the Cleveland Browns the football antithesis of the Pittsburgh Pirates? Answer: No, they have no Skyblast Shows"...Talk about laying an egg, crapping the bed, stumbling out of the gate, whatever you want to call it. Who would have ever thought that the Penguins would have lost their first two games at the new Low Wattage Center? By the way, word is that the crowds have been none too vocal thus far this season. They're probably out enjoying those spacious concourses, dining on gourmet smoked kielbasa and luxuriating in those new bathrooms...From the always-competitive world of politics, who out there isn't sick of the political ads we're now being besieged with? I know this much, if half of the mud being slung around is true, God help our country, no matter who wins!!! Are these the best candidates that both parties could come up with???

Thursday, October 7, 2010

On Andy Van Slyke And My Surprise Choice For The Next Bucs Manager

ABOVE: If you want to get under this guy's skin real fast, just call him "Slyke".

Some of you may already be aware of my extensive golf prowess from an earlier lifetime, so I won't make you have to re-read that story here today. However, I do have a very interesting tale for you and one that might shed some light into the topic of Andy Van Slyke possibly being the next Pirates skipper. Van Slyke, by the way, has already interviewed for the job.

It was in the late 90's when I found myself sitting in a golf cart with my playing partner for that day: One Andy Van Slyke. The event was the Mario Lemieux golf tournament and it was absolutely loaded with some of the biggest names ever in the world of sports (my being there only added to the star-studded lineup of course). 

When I first met Andy, he seemed like a nice enough guy, but I could tell that there was an "edge" about him. I don't want to say that he was "standoffish" because I had just met him. But to give you an example of how surly he would become on this day...We were in our golf cart together driving towards our first tee and had just introduced ourselves to each other moments earlier. We were slated to start on #10 at Nevillewood and while we were en route to that hole, several young boys ages 10-12 came running up to our cart yelling for us to please stop.

These boys were yelling, "MISTER SLYYYYKE...MISTER SLYYYYKE! CAN WE HAVE YOUR AUTOGRAPH?? PLEEEASE??" I was stunned to see him stop the cart and hear him yell back, "IT'S VAN SLYKE KID AND NO!!! COME BACK LATER WHEN I'M DONE GOLFING."

I had never before seen an athlete treat young kids like this and I guess in his mind he figured that he's probably already signed a million autographs. But this incident stuck with me and actually really was one of the few things from that day that made a lasting impression...that and watching a naked Michael Jordan and John Elway snapping wet towels and arguing over golf bets in the locker room afterwards...priceless.


ABOVE: After first snapping wet towels in the locker room, these two cleaned up rather nicely.

I've always had a real soft spot for kids and I just felt as though for the minute or so it would have taken, that it wouldn't have killed us to stop. I didn't like this attitude at all, especially not at a celebrity event such as this. It's not like we were playing in the Masters or something, it was a celebrity golf event!

On the first hole (as I said earlier, actually number ten) I had a terrific drive, great approach and just missed a birdie putt. What a day I was going to have!!! Hold on there cowboy, not so fast. I then went on to have 17 of the most horrible holes of my already-legendary if not somewhat infamous career. I think that Van Slyke would have gladly cut his arm off with a chainsaw if he had one. Either that or cut my head off! He was that extremely uncomfortable watching me hack away. My sensing his unease did absolutely nothing to help me get my game untracked either. While I'm certain that I had to have set another course as well as Lemieux Tournament record for my score that day, the overwhelming feeling of being uncomfortable was the only thing I took with me. What should have been a memorable, fun day turned out to be my second-worst day ever on a golf course. You probably know what day was the first, but if not, this link will refresh your memory: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cfIWNUW-lbg 

Maybe I'm wrong about "Slyke", but then again, maybe I'm not. He just didn't strike me as someone I'd want to go out and bust my butt for or who would be an inspirational type of leader. I saw him as a guy who could really get sour on people and then just ride them for the sake of riding them. I've coached with and been coached by people like this, and believe me, they're no fun to be around.

Maybe Andy was just in a bad mood that day? Who knows? But then if he was, it leads to the next question: How can you be in a bad mood playing in the Lemieux Tournament at Nevillewood on a perfect sunny day and before you've taken your first swing in anger? Hard to figure unless that's just your personality.

Now let me tell you who I feel would be THE GUY to manage the Pirates. Not "Slyke" or any of the other popular flavors of the day you've heard bantied about. How about this guy:

ABOVE: Every baseball comment I've ever heard from this man has been "spot-on". He's not afraid to call a "spade a spade" either or call out people if necessary. He's had a successful history as a pitcher for a franchise that has had darn few of them and I know that he would be a much more interesting manager for both the players and fans than the near-comatose John Russell was...incidentally another great Pirates personnel decision there.

But even if the Pirates could resurrect Danny Murtaugh, even he couldn't win with the horrible pitching staff that this team has. John Russell may not have been "Mr. Personality" but if you ever needed someone to stand in front of a firing squad, he'd be your guy. After all, he's done it on hundreds of occasions.

He wasn't my favorite manager by a longshot, but if anyone ever "took one for the team" it was him...every day.

But I like Bob Walk a lot for this job. So that being the case, don't bank on it happening because the Pirates have such great skill making these kinds of decisions as you well know.

Monday, October 4, 2010

OPPORTUNITY COMES CALLING, STEELERS DON'T HEAR DOORBELL

ABOVE: It's hard to imagine how many paper towel dispensers were damaged in the Steelers Heinz Field locker room last evening.

When a team loses a game like the Steelers did yesterday, whether they had their starting quarterback or not, you can't help but think that it was an opportunity squandered.

In this case, it was a chance to go 4-0 for the first time since 1979, the year they won their fourth SuperBowl championship. Who out there would have ever dared think that the team could pull that off...especially without Big Ben? Even the great Nostradamus picked them to go 2-2 (although he did predict that the Steelers would lose twice to the Ravens this year and thus become a wild card team coming out of the AFC North.

But sooner or later, mistakes have a way of catching up to you in the NFL. For example, two missed Jeff Reed field goals would have looked nice on the scoreboard at the end, but before you pin this entire loss on Reed (who is certainly working very diligently on finding another team for next season) there are plenty of other errors too.

To begin with, the Steelers defense once again came up with two more turnovers. Reed's misses notwithstanding, the offense did very little with these two possessions at all. This is absolute taboo stuff in the NFL where all logic dictates that you must score points off turnovers or await whatever fate becomes of you.

That's exactly what happened yesterday. So not only did the Steelers not score touchdowns, their paper towel dispenser punching, public urinating, constantly whining kicker couldn't even get them three points on two separate occasions! (By the way, his kickoffs were lousy yesterday too).

But lest I sound like the rest of the Steeler fans out there today who are pinning this loss entirely on Reed (who has already missed as many kicks this year as he did all last year at Heinz Field) let's look around for some other culprits.

Refereeing, for one. The Steelers were penalized a multitude of times and every call made against them was a good one. I'm not talking about those calls, but the great many off sides calls that repeatedly weren't called against the Ravens plus at least a half dozen holding calls as well. In Pittsburgh, we've always been taught by the Steelers coaches to never blame the refereeing for a loss. In respect to that preference for manhood, I'll close this subject by saying that had Baltimore been flagged accurately (as the refs always managed to get it right where the Steelers were concerned) it would have had a profound impact on the game.

While we're "calling out" people for blame, let's fast forward to the Steelers' possession just after their 93 yard scoring drive and the subsequent fabulous defensive stand that preserved their 14-10 lead in the fourth quarter. In resetting the game, the Ravens had already burned two timeouts and there was just 2:40 left on the game clock. The ball was resting precariously on the Pittsburgh two yard line.

It was obvious to everyone watching this game, or to anyone who had ever watched a number of these types of finishes before, that it was crucial that the team be able to move the ball and retain possession here. With Baltimore having the two minute warning and just one time out left, the Steelers would have ended this game quickly had they been able to get that first down. Cue the blame music.

On first down Rashard Mendenhall was sent off tackle for a two yard gain. It was now second and eight from the four. It was before the next play where Chris Kemoeatu was flagged for a false start, thus negating the first down gain by Mendenhall. On the next play, digging deep into their bag of tricks. Mendenhall was dispatched to again plow into the line of scrimmage. This time he gained three yards. So with an upcoming third and seven awaiting them and most undoubtedly the most critical play of the game for the Steelers, the team approached the line of scrimmage. Completely focused on its' importance, tight end Matt Spaeth promptly was flagged for a false start which moved the ball back to the two again! were these guys for real?

Much as I would like to criticize Bruce Arians for not having the guts to call anything but an off tackle run, with ineptitude being displayed like this, what would you have expected him to call, a Charlie Batch naked bootleg? So, once again the Steelers went into their "one yard and a cloud of dust" offense and Mendenhall got them just that, one yard. The good news was that neither Spaeth nor Kemoeatu managed to jump offsides again on this play. What a relief.

With Daniel Sepulvida kicking from the back of the endzone, he did an amazing job of blasting away another great punt. (By the way, Sepulvida has become a tremendous weapon for the Steelers and is certainly among the top three punters in the NFL.) While the ball was punted to the Baltimore 49 with no return, another Steeler holding penalty tacked an ten additional yards of field position.

So starting the drive from the Pittsburgh 41, Joe Flacco, a former Pitt qb who transferred after he was beaten-out for the job by Tyler Palko, engineered a scoring drive against the vaunted Steeler defense with the surgical precision of heart transplant specialist Dr. Michael DeBakey. Two passes to Anquon Boldon and two (including the game winner) to T.J. Houshmandzadeh were enough to put the Steelers on a gurney. There would be no miracle finish on this day as that quarterback was still serving a suspension.

So after the Steelers had begun their drive at the two yard line with 2:40 remaining, because of penalties, play selection, a two minute warning and Baltimore using their final time out, the Steelers got the ball back with 30 seconds still remaining. Two complete possessions by the teams including a total of eight plays had taken just 2:10.

On the first play from scrimmage, grizzled veteran, Ray Lewis, intercepted Charlie Batch's first pass and the crowd existed in silence, thoroughly disappointed.

Somehow, with smoke and mirrors and some fine defensive play, the Steelers managed to finish the "Pre-Ben" portion of their schedule better than most would have ever expected at 3-1. But when you have a legitimate shot at 4-0, Ben being there or not, it still stings. Don't forget after all, this was the division-rival Ravens whom we had just lost to at home.

The team now has a perfectly-positioned bye week as Big Ben comes back from his suspension. The team will be anxious to have Roethlisberger's prowess back in the lineup and the fans will probably celebrate his return as though it was Mardi Gras. While many Steeler fans, myself included, will find it hard to root for Roethlisberger, the Steelers have proven to their fans that the Black and Gold are a lot more than just one man. The team deserves the respect that they have earned with their performance over these first four weeks. If Roethlisberger can come in and give them a big upgrade at the quarterback position...then god help the rest of the league.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

TIME TO GET READY FOR THOSE WONDERFUL BALTIMORONS!!!

ABOVE: Troy Polamalu en route to one of the biggest plays in the long history of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

In order to get you properly "inspired" for the Steelers-Ravens game, I present to you four different perspectives of Troy Polamalu's most memorable interception against them two years ago. The subsequent roar has prompted many to comment that Heinz Field has never been this loud, before or since.
The first clip shows the actual game broadcast along with some very boring network announcing.

The second clip was shot by a fan actually in attendance. You can relive the celebration and share in the obscenities directed towards the Ravens.

The third clip, also shot by a fan at the game, shows the buildup before the play and then the sheer bedlam that erupts. I really like this one.

The final clip though is a classic and enough to give you a lump in your throat. I won't spoil it for you, but when you realize what is being shown and where, well you'll certainly feel proud!


1)    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LEAnXQth3gU&NR=1

2)    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=57uGLUY137s&feature=related

3)    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbZ1E9VMOyQ&NR=1

4)    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xNauvVX1-Jo&feature=related


            Enjoy the clips and enjoy the game!!!