Thursday, November 25, 2010

Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee Proves What Is Wrong with College Football

Ohio State University’s president, E. Gordon Gee, recently made comments about how Boise State and TCU don’t deserve the opportunity to play for a national championship because they don’t play as tough of a schedule week in and week out as Ohio State does.

I forgot that Ohio State is playing top ten caliber teams every week in the Big Ten. How did that ever slip past me? Oh wait that’s because it simply isn’t true. There are some strong teams in the conference to be sure, but this isn’t like the Big East’s basketball program where there are usually about eight teams ranked in the top 25 at any given moment. That’s a conference schedule that’s truly a gauntlet.

Based on his logic, a team from the Big East football conference deserves a chance before Boise State or TCU. Yes the same BCS qualifying conference that doesn’t have a team with more than seven wins at the moment.

The top teams from the traditionally strong conferences won’t schedule Boise State. TCU may be on the verge of joining the Big East, but given how “strong” that conference is this year, TCU could win it next year and still hear the arguments of how they don’t play anyone.

Even last year, the BCS committee was unwilling to give Boise State and TCU the chance to prove what they could do against major conference teams. They chose to have the two outsiders play each other instead. Someone tell me how that gave either program the chance to prove how good they are.

Mid major schools have been proving their mettle by winning some big games over the past few years. Utah has defeated Pittsburgh and Alabama in BCS bowls within the past few years. Boise State defeated Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. When given the chance to prove it, they’ve stepped up.

How many times has Ohio State gone to major bowl games, including national championship games, and lost? Maybe they were just tired from “running the gauntlet” week in and week out. I forgot how challenging it was to play teams like Ohio, Marshall, and Eastern Michigan.

Gee went on to say that the traditional bowl system is better for the game than the BCS. He claimed that by having a true playoff system, the game would move closer to the point of professionalism. That’s got to be the lamest excuse against a playoff I’ve ever heard.

I have a newsflash for you Mr. Gee; college football would be a lot more exciting if they actually came up with a legitimate way to give the top teams a chance to prove their worth on the field.

How amazing would it be if the big conferences accepted the challenge of these schools instead of making excuses for why they aren’t worthy?

How about a trendsetter emerges to propose a true playoff system and give a chance to those teams that earn it on the field?

Put your money where your mouth is Mr. Gee and tell your athletic director that you want him to schedule a series with Boise State. I mean if your team is so much better, why not take the chance to put the Broncos in their place.

I guess you’re just afraid that your “battle-tested” team will be too tired from running the “gauntlet” of the Big Ten.

I still hold out hope that college football will eventually do what’s right and adopt a playoff system.

Until that happens, all we’re left with is a bunch of blowhard university presidents who freely admit they don’t know the “X’s and O’s” of football. Maybe next time you shouldn’t comment on something you don’t understand Mr. Gee.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Pittsburgh Steelers Overcome Zebras To Beat Raiders: Week 11 Grades

Flag Day usually falls on June 14th, but we witnessed a late celebration of the holiday by Tony Corrente and his officiating crew today at Heinz Field.

You would think as a Steeler fan I'd be thrilled as could be after a 35-3 shellacking of the Oakland Raiders.  Obviously there's a lot of positives to discuss after a completely dominating performance of the overhyped, overrated Oakland Raiders.

But no, I'm still seething hours after the win because of the ridiculous officiating. 

Personal foul on Ryan Clark for a shoulder hit.  Personal foul on James Harrison for a perfectly legal takedown.  Plenty of major plays by the Steeler offense negated by holding. 

The Steelers were flagged for a franchise record 163 yards, including six personal foul penalties. 

Congratulations Roger Goodell, you're now punishing legal physical play as well.  I'll be anxious to see how the league handles Richard Seymour after he punched Ben Roethlisberger in the face well over five seconds after the play was over.

Onto the grades.

Quarterback: A+

Big Ben threw for 275 yards and three touchdowns.  More importantly, no turnovers from the signal caller.  He also added a rushing score which I factored into the running game score.  No complaints from me on this one.  Good job Ben!

Running Backs: B-

Rashard Mendenhall finished with only 59 yards, but added a tough physical touchdown which really set the tone.  Roethlisberger had three huge runs for 55 yards.  Isaac Redman came in for some garbage time running and added 27 yards.  As a whole, the Steelers ran for 162 yards.   A fairly solid overall effort, even if the featured back didn't put up eye popping yardage totals.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: A

Roethlisberger really spread the ball around to all of his receivers today, and they really delivered.

Mike Wallace continued his huge 2010 capmaign, adding three catches for 116 yards and a score.  Pittsburgh went with more youth at the position for this game, activating both of their rookies, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown.  Sanders had a big touchdown grab, and has really shown flashes of brilliance so far this season.  Both of the rookies have been dynamic on punt and kickoff returns.

Offensive Line: B-

The O-line improved leaps and bounds over last week's debacle, limiting the Raiders to only two sacks.  There were some holds called which negated big plays on offense, but given how Tony Corrente and his zebra crew were calling the game, I'm not going to fault the line for that.  Roethlisberger had plenty of time to make goodc decisions today so I'll give them a solid grade.

Defensive Front Seven: A

Darren McFadden came into the game leading the NFL with 108 yards per game.  He was completely shut down by the Steelers defense, managing a meager 14 yards on the day.  Amazing what happens when you don't get to play an AFC West softie.  

The front seven ended up with five of the team's six sacks, an interception by James Harrison and three forced fumbles.

One word sums it up.  Domination.

Secondary: A

One week after getting scorched by the New England Patriots, the secondary really stepped up and prevented the Raiders from making anything happen.  They ended up with two interceptions, plus a negated pick six by Ike Taylor due to a B.S. personal foul call.  Even in the later parts of the game when everyone knew the Raiders had to pass, the Raiders were unable to move the ball.

Job well done today secondary!

Special Teams: A-

Shaun Suisham was perfect on his field goal attempts, mainly because he didn't have to attempt one.  I'm not going to complain about that.  Dan Sepulveda landed four of his seven punts inside the 20 yard line.  Antonio Brown was very dynamic on his punt returns, hopefully proving that Antwaan Randle-El is no longer needed to fair catch the ball back there.   
I will ding Suisham a bit because most of his kickoffs were being fielded at the ten yard line, however the coverage teams were very good at snuffing out returns by the Raiders.

Coaching: A

Bruce Arians may have called his best game of the season, though let's please temper the enthusiasm and realize this was against an overmatched Raider squad.  The defense was simply amazing.  This is how they looked in the first four games of the season. 

Referees:  F

Dear Tony Corrente, please learn the rules and teach your crew how to properly call an NFL game.   I know, you probably got a memo from Roger Goodell telling you to target James Harrison and the rest of the Steelers for daring to play physical football, and kudos to you for following through on it.  The only problem is you didn't even bother trying to hide this fact. 

This was the most lopsided, blatantly miscalled game I've seen in a long time.  Even Dan Fouts was calling you out on it. 

In the words of the 64,000+ fans at Heinz Field.  "Refs you suck"

Monday, November 15, 2010

No Longer Elite: Pittsburgh Steelers' Week 10 Grades

How painful was that to watch as a Steeler fan.  All the hallmarks of "Steeler Football" were sorely lacking in this one.  Inability to establish a consistent running game, our Steeler D lit up for 39 points and unbelievably they didn't give up more.  New England had their way with the Steelers.  For this being such a key primetime matchup between two AFC heavyweights, the Steelers may have proven tonight they belong back in the middleweight division.

Here's how I viewed the unit performances.

Quarterback: B

Ben Roethlisberger threw for 387 yards, three touchdowns, and a costly pick-six.  If only the defense had made some plays, maybe this could have been a big Steeler victory.

Running Back: C

Despite the lack of an offensive line tonight, the running game made some plays.  Unfortunately the Steelers fell behind and had to abandon the running game.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: C

Once Hines Ward left the game after taking a helmet-to-helmet hit (which was not flagged by the way), the wide receivers seemed to forget how to catch passes or run routes until the game was out of reach.  Mike Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders started making some big catches late in this game.  If only they had helped convert some of those red zone opportunities early, this game could have turned out differently.

Offensive Line: D

Unable to clear running lanes, unable to provide passing protection for Ben Roethlisberger, this line clearly misses Max Starks, Chris Kemoeatu and Willie Colon. The line was pathetic tonight. Trai Essex needs to be flipping burgers somewhere.   Only reason they didn't get an F is because somehow, someway, Roethlisberger managed to throw for almost 400 yards.

Defensive Front Seven: F
Failed to generate pressure on Tom Brady.  If you can't do that, then what happened to the secondary is what occurs.  ZERO sacks, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis had 87 yards and could have had more if the Patriots actually tried to run the clock out.

Secondary: F

Do I really need to explain this one?  William Gay was played like a harp all night long.  Absolutely horrible display by this unit.  A rookie tight end had three touchdowns against Gay.  If I could give them more than a fail, I would.  At this point, surely some of the backups can play better than William Gay.
Special Teams: F

If you can't even make a 26 yard field goal, you deserve a failing grade.  Granted Emmanuel Sanders had some decent returns and Sepulveda was alright but Jeff Reed has possibly worn out his welcome in Pittsburgh.  Short kickoffs and missed field goals aren't going to do anything to boost your job security.  Several opportunities to try and recover an onside kick, but they could not do it.

Coaching:  F

No defensive adjustments to the Patriots' line of attack.  39 points given up by the best scoring defense in the league.  New England gave the rest of the league a big blueprint on how to defeat Pittsburgh.  This was the same Patriots' team that got crushed last week by Cleveland.  Twice this season the Steelers have lost to teams that got spanked by Cleveland.  That's clearly a coaching fail.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Steelers Make Just Enough Plays To Win: Week 9 Grades

This one almost turned into one of the most disappointing losses in Pittsburgh Steeler's Franchise history.  Cincinatti was within about 13 yards from handing the Steelers their worst blown lead in the franchise's history.  Luckily the Steelers found enough grit and resolve to hold them out of the end zone and earn a hard fought "W" on the road.

Let's see how the team did.

Quarterback: C-

Ben Roethlisberger was making plays down the field under pressure most of the day, and his receivers were dropping more than their fair share of passes all day long.  He gets a lower grade though because of the stupid interception he threw which gave Cincinatti new life while down by 13 points.  It almost came back to bite the Steelers tonight.

Running Back: A

Rashard Mendenhall helped burn the clock with 7 rushes for 43 yards midway through the 4th quarter and pushed his rushing total to 99 yards on the day.  Given that he had to earn most of the yards on his own, this was a great day for the Steeler's starting running back.  He also added 31 yards on 3 catches.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: C-

Mike Wallace had 5 catches for 110 yards, once again showing his big play ability, but the receivers as a whole were dropping a lot of passes tonight .  Hines Ward fumbled and lost the ball in the 2nd quarter.  Ward then got credit for a touchdown later in the 2nd quarter that was not a touchdown.  Luckily Cincinatti chose not to review the call which likely ended up being the difference in the game.  Not a banner day overall for this group.

Offensive Line: B-

Given the fact Chris Kemoeatu and Maurkice Pouncey were injured for good portions of this game, I think the Steelers did a fairly decent job in their pass blocking, and on some of their running plays as well.  There were some mistakes to be sure, but overall the unit got the job done today.
Defensive Front Seven: A

These guys were all over the Bengals and Carson Palmer the entire game.  Four sacks, and they held Cedric Benson to 54 yards rushing.  James Harrison was also involved in the key final defensive play to finally seal the game. 

Secondary: C-

This grade would have been a lot worse if the Bengals had managed to score the go ahead touchdown on that final drive.   Ike Taylor only allowed one catch to Chad Ochocinco on the day, so he definitely did his job effectively.  The problem was William Gay and Bryant McFadden and whoever else was called upon to cover Terrell Owens.  Owens came up big for the Bengals with 10 catches for 141 yards and 2 TD's.  His leadership on the field trying to rally the troops was quite evident, as opposed to Ochocinco who seemed to want to cry and pout all night long because he wasn't getting his way.

Special Teams: B+

Jeff Reed nailed a huge 53 yard field goal, but also missed a kick that would have effectively iced the game.  A few of his kickoffs were shot and allowed some decent returns for the Bengals. 

Emmanuel Sanders continues to show great special teams presence both as a returner, but also as a tackler.  He caused the fumble on the opening kickoff which set the tone early for this match.  He deserves some recognition early on this year for all he is doing.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Joe Paterno's 400th Win: Like Watching Your Grandpa Achieve His Lifelong Dream

Due to parental responsibilities, I got a late start watching the football game between Northwestern and Penn State this weekend. By the time I turned on the game, it was already 21-0 in favor of the visiting Wildcats.

It turned out I was just in time to watch a truly great comeback by my beloved Nittany Lions.

I'm not sure why I felt calm and so sure of the comeback, but it may have been my grandfather's spirit telling me to enjoy what was about to happen. My grandfather Edward was one of the first people who made me a lifelong Penn State fan. He also was about three months apart in age from Joe Paterno.

Maybe that's why watching Penn State football always makes me feel like I am watching my own grandfather out there coaching up the troops. My "Pap" always liked JoePa because of what he stood for on and off the field. He always commented on how Paterno would never rub victory in the face of his opponent by running up the score intentionally.

He always mentioned how Paterno would show nothing but respect for the opponent he was facing, even if it was a game PSU was 99 percent sure to win.

Think about it, have you ever heard Paterno disrespect an opponent before in your life?

I didn't think so.

In today's world of sports, success is fleeting, and it seems like head coaches are always being fired for having a bad season. I've been pretty fortunate to root for two teams that believe in stability at the head coaching position, the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers and, of course, the Penn State Nittany Lions.

As the final moments unwound on victory number 400, I found myself watching in amazement that an 83-year-old man who is constantly being told that the game has passed him by continues to fly in the face of logic and win games for Penn State.

After the final gun sounded, Paterno was greeted by two of his offensive linemen, who picked the old coach up (very carefully, of course) on their shoulders and began to carry him reluctantly for just a little bit. Paterno deserved this moment. He always tries to deflect the spotlight away from himself and his players and onto the next opponent, but this moment deserved to be his and his alone.

It was nice to see him smile and enjoy it.

I was especially touched when Joe's wife Sue found her way to him and the two enjoyed a moment together. It was like seeing your own grandparents unafraid to share their love for each other even after so many years of marriage.

I think that's why this day and this moment were so uplifting to me. It was almost like seeing my own grandfather achieve his dreams.

That's why I know I'm in no hurry to see Joe Paterno retire from coaching. He's like a grandfather to me, and God knows we should treasure every moment with our grandparents before they are gone forever.

Joe Paterno is the embodiment of everything our parents taught us growing up. Be respectful, teach them the right way, not the wrong way. Above all else, with 400 collegiate victories, I think he’s proved that he knew what he was talking about all along.

Hats off to you, Joe.

Think you have another 100 in you?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Grading the Pittsburgh Steelers loss to the Saints

The Steelers had a chance to make a statement against the defending champion New Orleans Saints. They did make a statement, but sadly it was the wrong one. The Saints dominated the line of scrimmage on defense, making the Steeler offense look pathetic. This was very apparent when the Steelers had a first and goal from inside the one yard line and were stuffed on three straight running plays.

The Saints also seemed to move the ball at will against the Steeler D, utilizing an effective short yardage passing attack.

The Steelers had a chance to pull this one out of the crapper, but a key fumble lost by Heath Miller was the final straw that ended those hopes. Very frustrating loss, but let’s move on to the grades.

Quarterback: F
Ben was under duress all night long no doubt, but even when he did have a few seconds to pass, many of his passes were off the mark. His interception on the last gasp final drive was the nail in the coffin. 195 yards, no touchdowns, and a passer rating of 66.8 says it all. There were several times he could have scrambled away from some pressure but he chose to try and make the big plays that just weren’t there tonight.

Running Back: D
You might look at Rashard Mendenhall’s line tonight and think he had a solid effort against the Saints. Numbers can lie. His only good run of the night was the big 38 yard touchdown run that managed to keep the Steelers in the thick of things. However with 1st and goal at the Saints one yard line following the challenge, the Steelers ran it three straight times and could not get that much needed yard. It was a game changer and the Steelers never recovered from it.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: D
This unit seemed off all night long. Many of them appeared to be running the wrong hot routes, and they were not getting open downfield fast enough against a severely depleted Saints secondary. Heath Miller lost a crucial fumble trying to fight for extra yardage, and it cost the Steelers the chance to tie or take the lead. I’ll give them a D instead of an F because once again they were making some key blocks to get a few extra yards throughout the game.

Offensive Line: F
Ben was sacked three times but was under pressure the entire night. There just was not enough time for the offense to get any kind of rhythm going. The aforementioned 1st and goal was a prime example of the line getting blown off the ball. Overall the offense played like total crap tonight and was a major reason the Steelers are coming home with a loss.

Defensive Front Seven: D
They may have held the Saints to 30 yards rushing, but running the ball was never part of the Saints game plan. The Steelers came close on a lot of plays but weren’t able to disrupt Brees much in his passing attack. Lawrence Timmons and James Harrison each got a sack, but this unit didn’t do enough to stop the constant short passing and screens that the Saints were employing all game long.

Secondary: D
Troy Polamalu did an awful lot of guessing in this game, and it looked like he was guessing wrong. Ike Taylor did have a nice interception where he guessed right and left his man uncovered to go for the pick. Bryant McFadden forced a fumble which should have turned momentum if Heath Miller didn’t fumble a few minutes later to give the ball right back. Sadly that was the high point of the game for the secondary. Much of the passing was short routes and screens, so you can’t fault the Secondary completely.

Special Teams: C
Jeff Reed missed a 51 yard field goal which would have meant a lot in this game, but it WAS a 50+ yard attempt. Those are hardly automatic. He did make his other attempt, a chip shot after the goal line stand by the Saints following the challenge. Daniel Sepulveda averaged 48 yards per punt, which is pretty solid. Emmanuel Sanders made some big plays on his kickoff returns, and even got a punt return for 38 yards. That may have been the first punt return for over 5 yard all season.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Steeler Nation: A Family Unlike Any Other

Being a member of the Steeler Nation means being a part of one of the biggest fan bases in the world. It means you are part of a brotherhood, a family. If there is one thing I learned growing up in Pittsburgh, it is that loyalty and family come first.

Next time you are at a game, take a moment and close your eyes while the fans chant and twirl the towel. Cherish the moment, just like other generations of Steeler fans have over the years.

Walk around the city of Pittsburgh and its suburbs on a game day. Everyone is wearing their black and gold. Men, women, children, pets—everyone.

This brotherhood is something that is passed on from generation to generation. I remember watching Steeler games with my father when I was growing up. He would teach me all about the penalties, and what went right and wrong on the plays.

I will become a father in January, and I already envision the day when I’ll be holding my son and watching Steeler games with him. I’ve already gotten a head start on teaching him about rivals. My wife thinks I’m nuts, but I love whispering into her belly and telling him that Cleveland and Baltimore suck. Believe me, I will be a proud father if his first words to me repeat that phrase.

I can’t wait to see him twirl the Terrible Towel and scream “TOUCHDOWN STEELERS!!!” I can’t wait to teach him everything I know about the game, and hopefully someday he will choose to play the game I love so dearly.

Being a part of the Steeler Nation also means you subscribe to the notion that it’s us versus the world. When you have the kind of success that the Steelers or the New York Yankees have, it’s easy to see all the hatred pour out towards your team. People just want you to lose. They’ll revel in the slightest mistake by your franchise, because they want to believe it gives their own team hope.

Steeler Nation stretches all over the world. Dallas wants you to believe they are America’s Team, but they are dead wrong. I don’t see their fans filling opponent’s stadiums. I don’t hear their battle cries on the road.

Watch a Steeler road game and just listen to the chants of “Here we go Steelers here we go!” Observe the Terrible Towel, the flag of the Steeler Nation, fly proudly. I’ve been on the road in Buffalo and Cincinnati. It was a Black and Gold Invasion. The stadiums were almost half full with Steeler fans. Look back and remember how 90 percent of the stadium for Super Bowl XL in Detroit was Pittsburgh fans. We came, we saw, we conquered.

There are Steeler bars in every major city in America. I can guarantee you there aren’t any Dallas Cowboys bars in Pittsburgh.

I don’t know many other fan bases that can lay claim to knowing how this feels. I just know I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

Sally Wiggin, a local news anchor in Pittsburgh, appearing in a NFL Films documentary about Steeler Nation, said it best: “Steeler Nation means having one foot firmly planted in tradition, and the other foot planted in the future.”

I couldn’t have spoken it any truer.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Literally a Close Call: Grading the Steelers Week 7 effort

It was quite an ugly game by the Steelers, who seemed to do everything possible to lose this game. Seeing how the fumble ruling worked out, one could argue they SHOULD have lost the game. I’ll take a “W” but this one was fugly.

Quarterback: C
Ben Roethlisberger threw for 302 yards and two scores. Why does he only get a C? He carelessly fumbled the ball three times. By the grace of God his fumble at the goal line on the final drive didn’t result in a turnover. It probably should have. He made some great throws down the field to stake the Steelers to a lead, but he just as easily could have been sitting here after the game as the GOAT.

Running Backs: D
As a team they rushed 27 times for 58 yards. Starter Rashard Mendenhall only had 37 yards on 15 carries. Granted it’s hard to get going when you’re constantly getting hit in the backfield, but I imagine Mendenhall himself will tell you this was not a good effort today.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: A
These guys just kept making plays downfield for Roethlisberger ALL day. Mike Wallace blew past his defender for a huge 53 yard touchdown. Hines Ward was consistent all game long, catching 7 passes for 131 yards and a score. It was easily his best effort of the season.

Offensive Line: D
The offensive line gave up three sacks, got called for a few holding penalties that wiped out big games, and they were unable to generate any kind of consistent run blocking. This was not a very good day for this group.

Defensive Front Seven: C
Once again the Front Seven held an opponent’s top running back in check. This time it was Ricky Williams and his total of 48 yards. Larry Foote accounted for the only sack of the day, and the unit as a whole didn’t generate much pass rush. You have to wonder how bad the loss of Aaron Smith (Rumored to be done for the year) is going to hurt this group.

Secondary: C
Chad Henne had all day to throw and kept completing passes to sustain drives. However it did seem like the secondary made stops when it had to, holding Miami out of the end zone all but one time. It also seemed like he was making some really good throws into tight coverage. Would have been nice to see an interception here, but when you win, it tends to make things look a little better.

Special Teams: C
Emmanuel Sanders fumbled the opening kickoff but earned a slight reprieve as the defense held the Dolphins to a field goal. The rookie then had some big returns including a return to the Miami 48 to start the final game winning drive. Jeff Reed hit all three field goals and Daniel Sepulveda was his usual solid self in terms of punting. Antwaan Randle-El is still showing me NOTHING on punt returns. Please put someone else back there.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Cleveland Browns Are The Biggest Pushovers In The NFL

In a preseason game, the Detroit Lions star rookie lineman Ndamukong Suh slams your quarterback to the ground by his facemask. What do you do? Nothing. No one even got up in his face about it.

Against the hated Pittsburgh Steelers, their linebacker James Harrison lays a crushing blow on your best offensive weapon, knocking him from the game. What do you do? Nothing.

In that same game, that very same linebacker throws another crushing hit on one of your other top offensive weapons. Again, what do you do? Nothing. In face one of your players childishly kicks the ball out of bounds.

How one sided has the matchup been with Pittsburgh? You've beaten them a whopping three times since 1999. It should have been four, but your team got extremely soft in an epic playoff match and you blew a nice comfortable lead.


Quick. Name me one player on the Cleveland defense that intimidates anyone. People are afraid of Troy Polamalu, James Harrison, LaMar Woodley, Lawrence Timmons, Ryan Clark. They will all throw a major hit on you.

Your wide receivers are always afraid of taking big hits over the middle and often drop the ball. Massaquoi was already bracing for that hit early from Harrison.

The loudest and most noticeable opposition to what happened on the field Sunday comes from the fan base. Uninformed football fans crying for Harrison's head and begging that he gets suspended when all he did was play football. Quite a few former NFL players agree those hits by Harrison were just good, hard hits. It's a crime he got fined for it.

The Browns simply don't know what physical football is anymore. If they did, maybe they would have made the playoffs more than once since their 1999 return to the league. Heck, maybe they should try to finish somewhere other than last place as a stepping stone along the way to being even mediocre.

I'm willing to bet 99% of the Browns fan base is thrilled with all the threats to curtail physical play. I mean, it can't possibly hurt a team that doesn't play that way in the first place. In fact it might even the odds a bit and let the Browns start winning some football games again.

Mike Holmgren is the perfect hire for your organization. Someone with lots of experience whining after the Steelers beat him. He fired James Brown, the only person with any guts in your organization. It's pretty sad when the only person the Browns push around is arguably the team's greatest former player.

Oh well, get used to it. It's going to be a long time before the Browns change their philosophies and get back on the right path. Of course it would help if your team grew a pair first.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How Much Longer Before We Start Playing Touch Football In The NFL?

It was a particularly violent weekend in the NFL in terms of "devastating hits."

James Harrison, linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers, knocked two players out of the game in his matchup with the Cleveland Browns.

Atlanta Falcon cornerback Dunta Robinson destroyed Philadelphia Eagle wide receiver DeSean Jackson on a play over the middle of the field. Both player's helmets collided and both players were knocked out of the game.

New England defensive back Brandon Merriweather issued a helmet to helmet hit on Baltimore Raven's tight end Todd Heap.

I realize the NFL has to be concerned about the safety and health of its players, but things are getting beyond ridiculous. With the speed of the game, and how big the players are, sometimes helmets are going to collide. It's the law of averages. Players know this ahead of time but still choose to participate in the game.

Now there I will say there is a difference between the natural flow of the play, and intentionally launching yourself to injure a player. Meriweather clearly left his feet and twisted his helmet towards Todd Heap to create impact. This is a fine example of intentional contact.

James Harrison on the other hand was moving into tackling position on his hit involving Josh Cribbs. Cribbs lowered his head at the last second into the path of Harrison, and the helmets hit. Greg Aiello of the NFL has already responded that the hit on Cribbs was legal and within the rules. His hit on Mohamed Massaquoi is a bit different. It's hard to tell whether he hits with his helmet, or with his shoulder pads. This will be the hit that draws the ire of the league.

Browns running back Peyton Hillis was quoted as saying, "They were vicious hits, no doubt about it. But you can’t blame the guy. That’s the name of the game. You just have to roll with the punches.”

Now the league wants to be able to immediately suspend players for devastating hits and headshots. I'm all for punishing headhunters, but devastating hits are part of the game as long as they are legal. Players are taught at all levels of the game to hit the other guy as hard as you can.

We've seen how consistent Roger Goodell is in passing out punishment for the personal conduct policy. Ben Roethlisberger gets a four game suspension for his actions in a Georgia bar, despite never being charged with an actual crime. Braylon Edwards gets his second DUI, all documented, and doesn't get any punishment. Brett Favre sends illicit photos of himself to a female reporter, yet he's still playing.

Now we are to trust him in being in charge of determining what constitutes a devastating hit? I'm not even sure many NFL fans know smashmouth football when they see it anymore. What's next for the NFL? Touch football? Take away the collisions and you could even theoretically let women play the game.

In my opinion you need to go ahead and punish Meriweather for his intentional hit. Take a good look at the Harrison hit on Massaquoi and do what you feel is right, but let it end there.

Football is supposed to be physical. Can't take the heat? Stay out of the kitchen!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Why the NHL needs to use Instant Replay to review Blindside hits

I'm sure by now many of you have heard about how the NHL is cracking down on blindside and lateral hits on players. It's called Rule 48 (

According to the NHL official rule 48.1, a lateral or blind side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principle point of contact is not permitted. It carries a five minute major penalty and automatic game misconduct. A match penalty can also be enforced if the referees determine the player intended to deliberately harm his opponent with the hit.

I am all for rule 48 as it helps curtail much of the "Dirty" play in the NHL. Go ahead and get rid of the cheap shot artists but at the same time we have to be careful as vicious hits (legal ones) will always be a fun part of the game. Don't like it? Don't lace 'em up.

However with many of the accompanying penalties now associated with this rule, isn't it also important to make sure the player in question actually committed the crime?

A prime example of how this rule was implemented unfairly was in a recent game involving the Pittsburgh Penguins and the New York Islanders. New York forward Blake Comeau was entering the Penguin's offensive zone and was skating with his head down. Penguin Defensemen Kris Letang came in and laid a shoulder to shoulder hit which knocked Comeau to the ground. During the collision Comeau's helmet went flying.

The referees quickly enforced Rule 48 and issued a five minute major and game misconduct to Letang because they thought Letang made contact with Comeau's head, however the Jumbotron cameras and replays clearly showed this was not the case. The league even later rescinded the penalty based on the clear evidence that Letang's hit was legal.

Given the severe penalties facing a player who might be unfairly called for an infraction of this rule, shouldn't a replay judge at least take a good look to make sure it was in fact a hit to the head? In many cases the player who suffered the hit is lying prone on the ice, so have a replay judge take a look then and there, while the game is already delayed.

In the case of Letang, he was thrown out of the game and the Penguins, who had a 2-0 lead at the time, had to kill the five minute major. The Islanders scored one goal during the power play, and a second one a few seconds after the power play expired to tie the game up at 2. In addition to the score impact, the Penguins were forced to play the rest of the game shorthanded on defense. The blown call had a major effect on the outcome of the game.

Again I want to be clear I am not against Rule 48, I just want to make sure it's implemented properly. It's only fair...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Ben Roethlisberger Returns: Week 6 Grades for the Pittsburgh Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers came off a bye with Ben Roethlisberger back under center. His well documented suspension over, Ben looked to get a good start on his 2010 campaign.

Luckily this week served up the equivalent of a homecoming opponent in the hapless Cleveland Browns. How did each part of the Steeler squad do? Let’s go to the grades.

Quarterback: B+
Ben made a terrible throw on his opening drive that was picked off by Browns rookie DB Joe Haden. Luckily the Steeler D held the Browns only to a field goal and Ben for the most part settled down and made good throws for most of the afternoon. He still tried to force the ball a few times and could have been a little better, but all in all, 257 yards and 3 TD’s is a great day for the Steeler QB. He could have had more if the Steelers didn’t resort to running the clock down in the second half.

Running Back: B+
Rashard Mendenhall ended up with 84 yards and a TD on the day. At times he was busting off big runs, including a dandy spin move to get away from the line in the shadow of his end zone. The kid keeps getting better and better, and has clearly been a driving force in the Steeler offense so far this season. Isaac Redman added 31 yards on 6 carries.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: A
The wide receivers did a great job getting open downfield all game. Mike Wallace caught three passes for 90 yards and a TD. Hines Ward had one of his typical TD’s by catching it short of the goal line then willing himself into the end zone. Rookie Emmanuel Sanders had two nice receptions to convert 3rd downs. No complaints for these guys this week.

Offensive Line: A
The hogs up front did a good job clearing some running room for Mendenhall and Redman, and I think overall they did a good job blocking for Ben. I didn’t see too many breakdowns other than on the plays where Ben held the ball too long trying to make a play. I think we’ve all learned who gets the blame for those. Gotta give major props to Maurkice Pouncey yet again. I think people are forgetting he’s a rookie because he’s been so dominant this year.

Defensive Front Seven: A-
The boys up front controlled the line of scrimmage for most of the afternoon. Peyton Hillis was a non factor, just like every other running back the Steelers have faced this year. James Harrison laid the thunder on some hits knocking both Josh Cribbs and Mohamed Massaquoi out of the game. 5 sacks for this unit proved who was boss.

Secondary: A
The secondary did a good job of containing the Browns from making big plays. Ryan Clark showed good focus on the deflection to make a crucial interception early in the game. Most of Cleveland’s offense came on YAC yardage off screens. But when push came to shove the Steeler D held.

Special Teams: A
Jeff Reed didn’t miss an extra point, Sepulveda pinned the Browns inside the 20 4 times, and the coverage teams did a good job containing the Browns, including a fumble recovery on a muffed punt. The only knock is that Randle El nearly lost another kick. Would be nice to actually see him actually return one every once in a while.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Bullying the Broad Street Bullies

Daniel Briere drew first blood, but it was a river of orange blood that flowed for the remainder of the game. The Penguins (3-3) scored 5 unanswered goals on their way to a convincing 5-1 win Saturday night over the rival Philadelphia Flyers (2-2-1). The win avenged last week’s win in Pittsburgh by Philadelphia.

The Penguin power play continued to struggle early on with an 0 for 4 start. As the game progressed the Penguins started taking more shots on goal on the power play and finally showed signs of waking up from hibernation with two power play goals by Sidney Crosby.

Mark Letestu continued his strong 2011 campaign scoring his third goal of the season. He battled hard in front of the net, before getting his stick free just enough to poke the puck past goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. Bobrovsky, who had looked stellar in last week’s win over Pittsburgh, seemed to come back to earth a bit in this one.

What can you say about Penguin backup goaltender Brent Johnson? He continued to make some huge saves early in the game to keep it tied at 1, and then in the 3rd period he continued to keep the Flyers off the board. Just look at this difference in stats. Johnson is now 3-0, sporting a 1.32 GAA, as well as a .953 save percentage. Marc-Andre Fleury on the other hand is carrying an 0-3 record, a 3.41 GAA, and an .853 save percentage.

I never thought I’d say this but you just might have a goaltender controversy in Pittsburgh. Head coach Dan Bylsma was clearly not happy with Fleury’s play through 3 games and as a result Brent Johnson has gotten, and made the most of, his opportunity. It should be very interesting to see who ends up in net against Ottawa on Monday night.

Bylsma should probably ride the hot goaltender until Brent Johnson cools off. He’s flat out been the better player so far, and I think that should earn him some more playing time. At the same time, Fleury is the long term option in goal, and you really need to give him a chance to redeem himself. It’s a tough decision to be sure, but I’m sure Bylsma already has an idea how he is going to handle it.

As it stands, the Penguins have dug out of the early 1-3 start and are starting to play better hockey. It’ll be fun to see how good this team is once they get Jordan Staal, Zbynek Michalek, and Brooks Orpik back.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Destiny finally found her way home!

Let’s offer up some first thoughts on two really big firsts.

Congratulations to Eric Tangradi on his first NHL goal, which he scored in the first ever win for the Penguins at the Consol Energy Center. Thank god I don’t have to hear Steigy say that 1,492 more times in the next home game. Seriously dude get some new material.

1 for 8 on the Power Play is quite simply awful. Here’s a tip. SHOOT the %#^%&$ puck! Here let me do a quick play by play summary of a Penguins Power play for you.

Goligoski passes to Malkin….
Malkin to Crosby, back to Letang.
Letang over to Malkin.
In deep to Crosby.
Crosby…passes it out to Goligoski over to Malkin.
Malkin…to Letang.
Letang holds it, waits and passes to Crosby.
Crosby to Malkin….

Repeat this cycle for 30 more seconds before someone misplays the puck.

The Pens are now operating at 15% on the Power Play, and that’s with 20 total Power plays which is the second highest in the league. Needless to say that’s abysmal.

Absolutely embarrassing that the refs gave Kris Letang a 5 minute major and a game misconduct for a perfectly clean hit. It’s not Letang’s fault the idiot doesn’t know how to tighten his chin strap. I can understand the refs and the league want to protect players but anyone with any sort of eyesight could see the replays clearly showed it was shoulder to shoulder contact. There was no elbow to the head, in fact Letang never even made contact with Comeau’s head. A complete BS call.

Shame the Penguins couldn’t hold off the Islanders from scoring goals on that BS Power play because otherwise the Islanders did nothing all night.

What a big game for Brent Johnson, who is now 2-0 on the season. I know Fleury, who is 0-3, is your top netminder, but there’s something to be said for riding the hot hand. Johnson has just looked a lot more comfortable out there so far this year, not to mention he’s been statistically better in every way. He made big save after big save tonight to keep the game knotted at 2. If I’m Disco Dan Byslma, I don’t know how you don’t keep playing Johnson until he cools off.

Anyways I'm just glad the Penguins got their two points on the night. They were clearly the better team tonight. Time for some payback against the Philly Cryers.

The Voice says...LET'S GO PENS!!!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Rumor has it Colt McCoy just doubled his life insurance policy

So the news coming from Cleveland is that rookie quarterback Colt McCoy is going to make his first start against the Pittsburgh Steelers this Sunday. Man I don't usually say this kind of thing, but I sense an asswhooping.

I never thought much of Colt McCoy in college. He played for a few overhyped Texas teams who never had to deal with much defense in the Big 12 Conference. All of those games were typically shootouts.

Was it any shock that NFL teams didn't put a lot of stock into him other than that disaster of a football franchise, the Cleveland Browns. Even they passed him over a few times before taking him in the third round. Hey at least he doesn't have to worry about being called a first round bust!

To add insult to injury on what they thought of the kid, rumor had it they nearly cut him during training camp. When you can't even beat out the has-beens and never-was quarterbacks that wear a Browns jersey, what does that say about you?

I see this game getting hideously ugly for the Browns quickly. Ben Roethlisberger is back and ready to prove something to his teammates who he let down by getting suspended 4 games for his off the field antics. The Defense is eager to redeem themselves for letting the Ravens score in the closing seconds of the game 2 weeks ago.

I hope McCoy signed up for extra life insurance because he's got a wife at home to think about.

The Voice Says...Steelers win by 20

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Pens drop another one, 4-3 to the Leafs

It was another game at the Consol Energy Center, and another 1 goal loss for your Pittsburgh Penguins.

Toronto's Clarke MacArthur scored his third and fourth goals of the young season, but please don’t mistake this kid for Steven Stamkos.

Deryk Engellend is now 1-0 in fights this season. He fired off a punch that caught Maple Leaf goon Colton Orr straight in the mouth, knocking him down to the ice. It was definitely one of the few highlights from tonight’s effort. It was also definitely worth a link so you can see it.

First lesson in Defense 101 against Evgeni Malkin. You get beat by Malkin who is now on a breakaway on your goaltender. All you have to do now is haul him down from behind to generate a penalty shot. Malkin not only hasn’t scored on a penalty shot in 4 tries, but he looks like a buffoon doing it. Maybe Gordon Bombay needs to teach Geno the triple deke.

Sidney Crosby finally got his first goal of the season off his own rebound. It came in the closing seconds of the second period and at least got the Penguins back into the game.

Marc-Andre Fleury? Dude come on! 4 goals on 14 shots? An .853 Save % through 3 games? Just isn’t going to cut it. Flower needs to play better. Granted we were missing our top two shutdown defensemen but still. When you’ve averaging over 3 goals (3.41) against per game, you aren’t going to win a lot of games. Something is wrong with his psyche at this point and I’m starting to wonder if he’ll ever get back to the level we saw in the two Stanley Cup Finals.

The Pens are generating a lot of good scoring opportunities they just need to start putting the puck in the net. Maybe it's just been a case of playing some good teams early on, and perhaps their next opponent can provide just the tonic the Pens need to snap out of this early funk.

Pens are now 0-3 at the Consol Energy Center. Not exactly how Penguin fans would have scripted it. They’ll try Friday night against the Islanders to get their first win in the new barn.

50 years ago today....

On this date 50 years ago, My beloved Pittsburgh Pirates STUNNED the New York Yankees 10-9 in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series.

I'm sure many of you know how that game ended dramtically, but I wanted to link this video in case you didn't know.

As a Pirate fan, I have to admit thinking about this hits me two ways. It's fun to look back at the past era and see how my favorite baseball team pulled a shocker and beat the big bad Yankees. At the same time, it saddens me to think we may never have another moment like this for Pirate baseball ever again.

There's an entire generation of Pirate fans out there today that have no idea what playoff baseball and pennant fever are like around here. One of my cousins is in her second year of college. She's never seen a winning season of baseball.

That's pretty pathetic if you ask me, and I guess I'll continue to hope that maybe baseball gets a commissioner with a set on him who will stand up and do what's right for the sport to make it competitive.

Until that happens, and it may NEVER happen, I'll just continue to enjoy the good times in this storied franchise's history. I'll continue to hope that more good times are ahead.

Let's Go Bucs!!!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Who should the Pirates hire as their new manager?

The Pittsburgh Pirates are currently interviewing candidates to replace the recently fired John Russell. I thought I'd take some time to breakdown how I view the leading candidates.

Let's start with the candidates the Pirates have already interviewed. Their career Win-Loss record is in parentheses.

Eric Wedge (561-573)
Pro: Managed a young small market team to an ALCS appearance.
Con: Not able to overcome injuries and talent trades to meet expectations.
Overview: Wedge was the manager of the Tribe when our current GM, Neal Huntington, was working there. In 2007, Wedge led the Indians past the Yankees in 4 games in the ALDS, then lost in 7 games to eventual champion Boston. He was named Manager of the Year. His later teams were derailed by both injury and then by trading their star talent elsewhere (C.C. Sabathia, Victor Martinez).

I actually think Wedge makes the most sense, not only because he has a history of success, but also because of his connection to Huntington. The main reason why he might not end up with an offer from the Pirates is because he is also linked to other available positions, including the Cubs and Mariners.


Ken Macha (525-447)
Pro: Local guy with a winning record in multiple stops
Con: Not much success with fellow NL Central team Milwaukee.
Overview: A lot of Yinzers out there will say they'd love to see Macha come manage the Pirates since he's a local guy. You want to be careful not to get caught hiring a guy just because he's from around here. Just ask Pitt Football fans how that Wannstadt hire is going for them.

Having said that, Macha did not have a single losing season in 4 years with Oakland, including an ALCS appearance when his Athletics lost to the eventual World Series Champion Detroit Tigers. He got fired following the A's sweep in that series.


John Gibbons (305-305)
Pro: Managed a .500 record in an ultra competitive AL East.
Con: Has a history of disputes with his players.
Overview: Managed to have an even record through 3 plus years with the Toronto Blue Jays. Keep in mind that meant he had to face off against two of the biggest spending teams in baseball (Yankees and Red Sox). He also had to contend with up and coming Tampa Bay.

I think that should actually make his non losing record stand out even more considering Toronto isn't exactly a prime free agency destination. You can't ignore his run-ins with players. You have to wonder why several players did not respect him all that well.


Jeff Banister (0-0)
Pro: Familiar with the Pirate Organization
Con: Familiar with the Pirate Organization
Overview: Jeff has zero big league managing experience, and hasn't managed a minor league team since 1998. How can such a great talent remain unknown? Let's be brutally honest here. If the Pirates do in fact name Banister as their next manager, they'll basically be giving the middle finger to any remaining Pirate fans out there. The Pirates really need this next hire to come from outside the organization.


Bo Porter (0-0)
Pro: Would come from outside the organization
Con: No big league managerial experience
Overview: Porter is a strong contender to get the Marlins position because of his past history with the organization. However considering he's been fired as a position coach by both Florida and Arizona. I have a hard time considering him a strong hire for the Pirates.


Other Candidates of Interest

Fredi Gonzalez (276-279)
Pro: Solid managerial record and respected by his players
Con: Fired by an idiot owner (Jeffrey Loria) with unreasonable expectations
Overview: Gonzalez was 276-279 over three-plus seasons with the Marlins, but led both the '08 and '09 squads to winning records — despite a payroll that was by far the lowest in the league. When he was fired, a lot of people were shocked since he was 35-36 at that point of the season. His owner though had made a playoffs or bust goal and wasn't happy. Loria, get a clue and hire some talent for your manager to use if you want to talk playoffs.

Gonzalez is a favorite to replace Bobby Cox as manager in Atlanta. he may get an interview with the Pirates, so I included him in this article.


Phil Garner (985-1054)
Pro: Most experienced candidate of the ones listed, and is also a former Pirate.
Con: Not all of that experience is good
Overview: Phil has contacted the Pirates expressing interest in the position, and has stated that he would bring some new ideas to the position of Pirates manager. The problem is that Pirates management might be looking for more of a “Yes Man” and I’m not sure this kind of independent thinking would be appreciated here. After all, the Pirates did fire Altoona manager Matt Walbeck for thinking outside the box.

Getting back to Phil, His most recent tour of duty was with the Houston Astros. he took over midseason in 2004 and led Houston all the way to the NLCS. He then guided them to a World Series appearance in 2005. Houston's core was already old by this point and things went downhill from there.

Hiring Garner wouldn't be a HORRIBLE move, but I think that Wedge and Macha are just far better candidates.


Tony Pena (198-285)
Pro: Responsible for the only recent winning season in Kansas City in last 20 years.
Con: Followed that up with a 100 plus loss season.
Overview: I must start off by saying I may have a slight personal bias for Tony Pena as he was my favorite player when I was a kid. He handed me a baseball at the first Pirate game I ever attended. I still have it. Tony has a passion and fire for baseball, and has served as bench coach for a very successful Yankees team. His last stop was with the pathetic Kansas City Royals. The fact he turned that bunch of losers into winners, if only for one season, is still an amazing feat.

The main drawback with considering Pena for the position is that the Pirates can't even interview him until the Yankee's playoff run is over. I think if the Pirates want their choice of the candidates above, they may need to make a choice long before they get the chance to interview Pena.


So there you have it. Of all the candidates I discussed, I have to say Wedge would be my first choice followed by Ken Macha. Gibbons or Pena would be tied for third choice for me. Feel free to discuss this in the comments below!

Monday, October 11, 2010

What do Pitt and Penn State football have in common?

I have a very simple question for Pitt and Penn State football fans? Besides both schools being located in the state of Pennsylvania, what ELSE do the two teams have in common?

The answer is simple. Both teams are god awful. Both teams were severely overrated at the beginning of the season.

As I sit here and look at the flaming pile of dogcrap that is both offenses, you have to wonder how people thought these were two of the top 25 teams in the country before the season.

Every single marquee matchup both teams have faced this year, they've failed miserably.

Pitt: Lost to Utah (Currently ranked 11th in the AP poll) 27-24 on the road while being ranked 15th. That game was closer than it was only because of mindnumbing play by Utah at times in the game. Lost 31-3 at home to then 19th ranked Miami, who just got embarrassed at home the other day 45-17 to that powerhouse Florida State. Pitt also just lost this past weekend to Notre Dame who also does not have any marquee wins this season to brag about.

Penn State: Lost 24-3 on the road at #1 Alabama. Okay so maybe there's no crime in that, other than the fact the offense drove the field only to committ stupid turnovers in the red zone. Lost 24-3 to #17 Iowa on the road. Also struggled heavily against Kent State, Youngstown State, and Temple. Of course they also just got blown out at home by Illinois in the tempo setting game that might cost the Nittany Lions a lot of confidence.

My friend Chris Mueller posed a question recently. What team will end up with more wins? Pitt, Penn State, or Temple.

How many of you would have said before the season began that Temple would have more wins?

Penn State's problem is that they are inexperienced right now. It was a rebuilding year so this isn't completely unexpected. Pitt though was a darkhose candidate for a national champion if you believed some of the local hype.

The only saving grace for Pitt is the disaster of a conference they play in. Honestly all they need to do to go to a BCS bowl is beat WVU. Could you imagine a 7-5 team playing in a major bowl game? It could happen with this crew.

Oh well, at least we appear to have a strong Steeler squad to root for around here.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The one that got away - Week 4 Steelers Report Card

The Steelers played the Ravens at home with a chance to get to 4-0 and put an early stranglehold on the division. Especially as we saw the other division game unfold and the Browns upset the Bengals. Sadly, after two missed field goals by Jeff Reed, the Defense gave up a late TD pass from Flacco to T.J. Houshmandzadeh and the offense could not respond. Even still, the fact the Steelers got to 3-1 without Ben Roethlisberger is no small feat, and I think we could beat the Ravens down in Baltimore to even the score. On to the grades.

Quarterback: D
Charlie Batch missed some open wide receivers today. His total of 141 yards, no TD’s and an interception late just plain sucks. Granted most of the playcalling for some reason was asking Batch to air it out down the field. Where are the short screens? Where are the quick out routes? This was a Ravens secondary playing without Ed Reed. This team clearly misses Big Ben but at least he’ll be back in week 6 for our next game.

Running Back: A
Rashard Mendenhall had 79 yards and 2 TD’s against this strong Ravens Defense That’s one hell of an effort. Many of Mendenhall’s runs were successful because he improvised and managed to gain yards on plays that got blown up.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: C
Most of this grade comes from the playcalling, as I think the underneath stuff would have worked in this game, but for whatever reason the game plan was to bomb it down the field. When Randle El is your best receiver with 50 yards, you know it wasn’t a good day throwing the ball. No doubt this unit can’t wait for the return of Big Ben.

Offensive Line: C
The O-line only gave up 2 sacks today, They did allow Batch some time to make throws downfield. There were also some nice blocks for Mendenhall on the day. On the negative side, they had some critical false start penalties, including at crunch time when the team needed a first down to ice the game.

Defensive Front Seven: C*
I’m going to give a C with an asterisk. The Steelers front 7 only generated 1 sack and not much of a pass rush for the entire game. However anyone watching the game could clearly see Michael Oher of the Ravens false start the entire game and I don’t think he got called for it other than maybe one time. I’ve never seen such obvious missed calls. He was also holding James Harrison the entire game and only got called once. They did hold the Ravens running game to 70 yards rushing total, and James Harrison had a massive hit on Willis McGahee to force a fumble.

Secondary: C-
Was that an actual Ike Taylor interception sighting today? William Gay had some key stops on the next to last Ravens drive to force a turnover on downs. That’s about where the praise ends. Flacco ended up with 256 yards but it just seemed the entire game our defenders were playing off the ball and letting the Ravens drive the ball down the field with ease.

Special Teams: D
First two obvious screwups were Jeff Reed missing two field goals. Second obvious mistake was Antonio Brown running the ball from the Steelers Locker room to try and make something happen on the last return. He only made it to the 10. Randle El muffed a fair catch on a punt return and luckily recovered the ball. Everywhere you looked today, the Steelers Special teams were screwing up except for Daniel Sepulveda. The holding call on Keyaron Fox on our last punt was a killer.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Need more proof that the Pirates Organization stinks???

I've been a fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates since I can remember. For a great many of my almost 32 years on this planet, the Pirates have been pretty bad. But you know what they are my team.

Some of the moves they make though are just amazingly stupid.

The Pirates Class AA farm team, the Altoona Curve, just won the Eastern League Championship. Their manager Matt Walbeck, was named Eastern League Manager of the Year. He has now won three league titles and four manager of the year awards in six seasons as a minor league manager.

You'd figure that the fact one of the Pirates farm managers had some success, that they might want to lock him up long term. You might even argue they should take a look at him moving up to manage the big league club since, let's face it, John Russell is awful.

But no, this is the Pittsburgh Pirates we're talking about. 18 straight seasons of losing baseball. What do the Buccos do? They FIRE Walbeck!! And they give some lame excuse that Walbeck wasn't following the strict rules being laid out for the minor league teams. They also claimed Walbeck wasn't communicating with the parent organization.

While this MAY have been the case, can't you look past some of that based on the results this guy has gotten? He was a 4 time Manager of the year. He obviously understands what it takes to be a winner. But I forgot, we're not interested in that if we're the Pirates.

Is it any wonder this team is stuck in an abyss? They fire unofficial pierogie mascots for saying things on their facebook pages about the team. Then under intense PR scrutiny they backpedal and hire the guy back.

The Front Office has made dumb comments mentioning dynasties. Let's try to have ONE winning season first okay?

I'm almost afraid to see who the Pirates take with next year's number one overall pick.

But getting back to Walbeck, maybe his Pirates days aren't over after all. The Pirates fired John Russell as third base coach only to hire him as their manager a short time later. Maybe this is just the way the Pirates go about hiring managers.

Backwards thinking...just like almost every other move they've made in the last 20 years.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The end of a sports talk era in Pittsburgh and what lies ahead

It's the end of an era for Pittsburgh Sports talk as 1250 ESPN fired their on-air talent and announced they will be changing over to Radio Disney at the beginning of the year.

There are several reasons I can see that led to this happening.

First of all their signal is total crap. Once The Fan went on the air and people had a clear FM choice, it was only a matter of time, in this case a few months, before 1250 was done.

Second of all, 1250 ESPN focused on hosts that were the opposite of what Mark Madden brought to the table, the only problem with this, and the ratings show it to be true, is that people LISTENED to Mark Madden.

Madden isn't afraid to tell you what he's thinking. He doesn't kiss the butts of the callers who say the dumbest things. I heard some caller today say that a quarterback is "taught" to underthrow the receiver intentionally and at least Ron Cook immediately said "You are wrong!" Madden would have said what the rest of us were thinking and probably said something like "You're a complete idiot"

I like Stan and Guy, but it's like listening to your Grandfather and his brother talk about sports. They have their place in today's sports talk world, and I hope they replace Vinnie Richichi on the Fan.

The Fan has a chance to snap up a few key people from 1250 ESPN and I think they would really boost their prominence even further.

Third reason, ESPN had to carry some national programming. This city prefers to talk about Local sports and local sports only. That's why Colin Cowherd only lasted a few months before local programming replaced him. Again this was an area 1250 suffered in because of their ESPN obligations. The Fan came in all local all the time and didn't take long to tie ESPN in the ratings.

The Fan needs better talent on some of its shows but the concept is sound.

93.7 The Fan may have won the ultimate battle if only because they are still standing, but I still find most of their programming to be quite boring. I am probably one of the biggest Vinnie Richichi haters in the city mostly because his public speaking skills are borderline high school quality. He stutters, stammers, and goes "Ahhh and You know" at least 30 times a minute. He also can't offer up a clear and concise opinion. He rambles on for almost two minutes trying to spit out a point and almost never seems to succeed.

Paul Alexander "Absolutely" has to improve which given his less than "Outstanding" history, I don't see happening. And it wouldn't be a morning show if Jim Colony didn't abuse a few of his updates. The first move the station got right was removing Jon Burton from the Morning Show.

Looks like I'm stuck listening to 93.7 The fan or trying out Fox Sports 970. Here's hoping ESPN Radio reemerges somehow on FM radio here.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Offense gets back on track - Week 3 report card

Anytime you win a game 38-6 with your 4th string quarterback on the road, the entire team is going to earn some good reviews. This was by far a completely dominating victory for the Black and Gold. Last week I said they were “2 and no” because of the lack of offense. That all changed after this week’s performance. The Steelers move to 3-0 on the season and will now face Baltimore (2-1) next week in a critical early season game. If the Steelers can get to 4-0 without Roethlisberger, we could be looking at a pretty special season. On to the grades!

Quarterback – B
Charlie Batch easily had the best day of any of the fill-in starters during Ben Roethlisberger’s suspension, going 12 of 17 for 186 yards, and three touchdowns. Two of those were long strikes to Mike Wallace. Batch also threw two interceptions, including one on the opening drive which gave Tampa Bay the ball in field goal position. I might be nitpicking a touch but both of Wallace’s TD catches should have been defended and possibly intercepted. Even still, the passing game showed some much needed improvement and I’d rather be lucky than good. It’s even better when you can be both.

Running Back – A
Rashard Mendenhall continues to show he is an emerging talent in this league by rushing for 143 yards on 19 carries (7.5 avg) and also scored a touchdown. I know the season is only 3 games old but Mendenhall has to be considered the offensive MVP so far for the Steelers. He even looked good with Tampa Bay stuffing extra men in the box to stop him. Isaac Redman also chipped in 31 yards on 5 carries (6.2 avg). This is the kind of production many Steeler fans love seeing out of the running game.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends - A
Last week I commented how the receivers weren’t helping Batch out by dropping some easily catchable balls. This week Mike Wallace made two strong catches while being well covered in the end zone for touchdowns. One of them came off a deflection. The Steelers pretty much abandoned the passing game in the second half because of a comfortable lead and the fact Mendenhall was running all over the Bucs.

Offensive Line – A
This unit really struggled last week and I blasted them heavily for not giving our quarterbacks any time. I also killed them for not opening many holes for the running game. This week they did not allow a sack, they gave Batch plenty of time to deliver some strikes down field, and the holes for our running game were plenty. This unit definitely deserves some mad props for their effort today.

Defensive Front Seven - A
Third string running back LeGarrette Blount led the Bucs with 27 yards rushing, most of which came in garbage time. In other words, the Steelers front seven once again completely shut down the opponent’s running game. Brett Kiesel had a nifty interception of a deflection and returned it 79 yards for a touchdown. This unit also had 3 of the 4 sacks recorded on the day.

Secondary – A-
This unit helped hold Josh Freeman to under 200 yards and no touchdowns. This despite the fact Tampa Bay had to throw to try and come from behind. I don’t think we can say enough about how having all of our key players both in this unit and in the front seven have made a huge difference in this team’s ability to play defense. I have to give the minus only because we dropped some interceptions that should have been caught but you can’t argue with the overall job they did. The backups were all in by the beginning of the 4th quarter.

Special Teams - B
Jeff Reed converted his only field goal attempt of the day, Dan Sepulveda launched a 62 yard punt on his only punt of the day, and overall our coverage teams did a good job keeping the Tampa Bay return team in check. I’m starting to wish we’d see someone else returning punts for us as Antwaan Randle El hasn’t shown me a thing this year on his punt returns. Maybe it’s time to get Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown more involved. Brown has already shown explosiveness on his kick returns.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

2 and No....Week 2 Report card for the Steelers

The Steelers are off to what I would call a 2 and No start in the early NFL season. They've managed to win 2 games with NO offense. How funny is that? They forced SEVEN Tennessee turnovers and still found themselves hanging on at the end to prevent a late game tying TD from Tennessee. It's pretty clear that if the defense didn't play at a legendary level in this one, the Steelers would have lost this game. Man I can't wait for Big Ben to return. On to the grades!

Quarterback: F-
Charlie Batch goes 5 for 11 for 25 yards, Dennis Dixon goes 4 for 6 for 18 yards. What an absolutely disgusting display for the Steeler passing game. Dixon fumbled twice, losing one, and Batch fumbled it twice. It probably didn’t help much that the O-line didn’t do it’s job. More on that later.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: F-
9 catches for 43 yards, and receivers dropping catchable balls all day long. I know the quarterback position stunk today but the few times the ball got downfield, it seemed our guys didn’t do a very good job getting open or making big plays.

Running Backs: C-
23 rushes by Mendenhall netted 69 yards behind a horrendous offensive line. I’m frankly shocked he even got this many. He made something out of nothing on a lot of plays and that’s why I gave him a passing grade. Mewelde Moore saw limited action and really showed zero burst. Isaac Redman had a few nice carries, but nothing spectacular.

Offensive Line: F-
Tennessee’s defense got a ton of pressure on our quarterbacks all game long, Jonathan Scott got blown up on the first offensive drive leading to a crushing hit and lost fumble by Dixon. Scott also got called for needlessly holding on what WOULD have been a Touchdown pass. Left tackle is going to be a huge problem until Max Starks returns.

Defensive Front Seven: A+
Our front seven forced 7 fumbles in this game, recovering four of them. They also had four sacks, two by James Harrison who is looking like he is back in his defensive player of the year form. Lamar Woodley also had one of the sacks as well as a nice interception when he dropped back in coverage. The front seven also ended Chris Johnson’s 12 game 100 yard rushing streak, holding the league’s premier running back to 34 yards on 16 carries. These guys brought a mean streak today and were a decisive factor in the victory.

Secondary: A+
Troy Polamalu had a huge interception in the end zone to snuff out one of the better Tennessee drives of the day, Bryant McFadden also made a nice diving interception on one of Kerry Collins first passes of the game. Other than some garbage time yardage by Collins, both defensive units completely shut down the Titans

Special Teams: B+
The opening kickoff return by Antonio Brown set a tone early, and the only glaring miscue by the special teams was the muffed recovery attempt by Will Allen with the game still hanging in the balance. Jeff Reed made all of his field goal attempts and also did a good job kicking it deep on his kickoffs. Sepulveda had some really nice long punts unfortunately a few bounced in for touchbacks. All in all another strong outing by the special teams.

I'm not sure many people would have predicted a 2-0 start for this Steeler team but the defense is singlehandedly carrying this team to greatness right now. Now they head to face an upstart 2-0 Tampa Bay team on the road. Should be another interesting matchup.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Steelers Week 1 Report Card

Allright time to really get serious about blogging. This should become a weekly thing for me as I breakdown the Steelers games for you.

Quarterback - C-
Dennis Dixon, making his second career start for the Steelers ended his day with 236 yards and 1 INT. On at least three drives he woefully underthrew a wide open receiver on third down which would have kept drives going. I didn't have very many expectations for him in this but I suppose it could have been worse.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends - B
Hines Ward made some clutch catches down the stretch to keep drives going. Mike Wallace showed a lot of speed on his big play early in the second half. I'm trying not to punish the receivers for Dixon's off target passes. They were doing a great job of getting open all day long.

Running Backs - B+
It was painfully obvious that we were going to feature the running game today to try and take pressure off Dixon. Mendenhall kept gaining positive yards on all his plays, and Isaac Redman was 2 for 3 in crucial short yardage situations. And of course we can't neglect that the game winning play was a huge run by Mendenhall to claim victory in overtime.

Offensive Line - B
For the most part they did a decent job giving Dixon a little bit of breathing room in the pocket. Sure they gave up 3 sacks, but I've seen worse out of this unit over the past few years. they DID do a good job pushing the defense back in short yardage situations and also giving Mendenhall lanes to run in. Overall they helped contribute to a close win. PS. Maurkice Pouncey is going to be a stud lineman.

Defensive Front 7 - A
Our Front 7 was causing a lot of pressure all day long forcing Matt Ryan off target on a few throws. They also did a phenomenal job stuffing Michael Turner all day long. he simply had no running room whatsoever. The boys showed up to play today and are a major reason the Steelers are claiming a W this afternoon.

Secondary - B+
The Falcons were able to move the ball through the air somewhat effectively, though I am hesitant to blame it on the secondary. There were a lot of plays that the Falcons just made fantastic grabs in strong coverage. Troy Polamalu showed great football instincts on his exciting interception which SHOULD have sealed a Steeler victory in regulation. Ike Taylor and Bryant McFadden did a good job helping us remember how god awful William Gay was last year. Speaking of William Gay, he dropped an easy interception that really could have helped in the field position battle.

Special Teams - B-
Jeff Reed made the longest FG in Heinz Field history, then nearly broke his record on a later attempt which bounced off the right upright. His knock comes on missing a 40 yarder which would have won the game in regulation. Reed also got some good length on his kickoffs. His missed FG didn't end up hurting us so I'll give him a pass for now. We looked good on our coverages, not really allowing a big runback. Our own return teams didn't really look all that outstanding, but they didn't hurt us either.

Overall I am pleased with how the team looked except for Dixon. We were extremely fortunate that the Steelers D was up to its usual elite level. It's a good sign for the Black and Gold as they try to navigate 3 more games without Big Ben at QB.

Feel free to comment below.

-- The Voice


Well I'm sitting here a few hours after the PSU/Alabama game ended and while the end result was certainly disappointing for us faithful followers of PSU, you have to like some of what you saw in that game.

Yeah the red zone turnovers were a killer, but the fact is that PSU WAS moving the ball somewhat easily on Alabama. For Bolden being a true freshman Qb, he didn't do all that bad.

Yeah I know moral victories don't count for much, but this game could have been a lot worse.

I will say this though, the difference in talent between the two teams was quite apparent. PSU might be "Linebacker U" But I sure didn't see many big plays out of our linebackers. This team needs another LaVar Arrington to dominate again.

The future is bright though, so I won't let a loss on the road to the defending national champions get me down.

WE ARE!!!!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

College Football/Vinnie Richichi the moron.

I heard Vinnie Richichi, the world's dumbest radio talk show host, say that he felt College Football players weren't compensated enough for what they do.

What world does this moron live in? Many college football players are given full ride scholarships to some of the strongest academic schools in the country.

A Non PA resident going to Penn State this year would pay $27,000 in tuition for the fall and spring semesters combined. These guys are getting tuition PLUS room and board for FREE!! And this is for a public university. A lot of other schools charge even more for tuition.

To me college football is like an internship/audition for the professional/NFL level. When I went to CSB School of broadcasting and it came time to do an internship, I had to choose one that was 2 hours away from where I live, and it was unpaid. Sometimes these are the sacrifices you have to make to try and get your big break.

These guys get free housing and free transportation to all their games, have access to top quality training facilities and medical care, and they get to work with some of the best coaches in the country. Oh and did I mention they are getting paid all of this to PLAY A GAME!

The best part is that Vinnie couldn't understand why more people weren't on board with his dumb way of thinking. He only serves to remind me on a daily basis why I switch over and listen to Stan and Guy as long as the 1250 ESPN signal holds up.

I'm sure 93.7 The Fan is happy with their investment in a buffoon who can't even pronounce half the player's names right. Remind me again who Lance Milledge is? I know a Lastings Milledge plays for the Pirates...but no Lance.

Friday, April 2, 2010

NCAA March Madness

Allright first of all it's ridiculous that the NCAA can even consider allowing MORE mediocre teams into the tournament and yet won't allow for a playoff in football.

The latest on the tournament is that they want to increase the field to 96, and offer byes to the top 32 teams.

It's stupid, and it's a complete money grab. Their main argument against a playoff in football is that it would keep students away from classes, yet they have no problems making basketball students miss more time. Basketball teams have road games in the middle of the week, and sometimes play more than one game in a week as well.

Another argument is that it lessens the regular season. They say every week is vital in the regular season for football because if you lose you seriously hurt your chances for winning a title. What they won't admit is that belonging to a conference outside of the SEC or Big 12 is practically a deathblow unless you happen to be USC or Notre Dame. None of the "mid-majors" ever get a fair chance at the title either.

If you want to expand the tourney change the play-in game process to allow best 8 bubble teams to play their way into the field. Give the 4 winners a 12 seed or something and allow the mid major champions the right to play in the full tournament and not against each other in a play-in game.

This allows the bubble teams one last chance to prove they belong in the field by proving it on the court in a playoff situation. You could play the games on the Tuesday after Selection Sunday.

None of these teams could complain about playing an extra game over the others because they wouldn't have made the tournament otherwise.

But to allow 31 more teams in....that's just ridiculous.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Attention Pittsburgh Steelers

Allright, it's soapbox time.

I remember a time when being a Pittsburgh Steeler meant you were someone of high character and morals.

Lately, all I keep hearing about is domestic abuse, sex scandals, public bathroom attacks (not just against towel dispensers), public urination, and more.

We used to mock the Bengals for having a bunch of thugs and criminals on their roster but nowadays the Steelers are fast becoming poster children for stupidity.

This is what happens when Dan Rooney gets named ambassador to ireland and is less involved with the team?

At what point should the coaching staff start being held accountable? It's a disgrace what has happened to the Steelers and quite frankly I am ashamed right now.

Someone needs to step up as a leader and say this crap needs to stop. Maybe our quarterback could, no wait he's facing two sex scandals. One of our defensive leaders could, no wrong again, James Harrison had some legal issues. There's always special teams. Foiled again with Jeff Reed.

We're struggling in all phases of the game Tomlin. You better get this team back under control fast. Or it just might be your head on the block.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Been a while...let's talk College Hoops

I got away from doing this but I'm making it a goal to start posting at least one blog a day now. So yeah, you're gonna have to get used to my opinions spewing forth yet again.

Let's start this return off by commenting on the 2010 NCAA Tournament.

First let me preface this by saying I am by no means a basketball fan, in fact of the major sports in this country it ranks 4th behind football, hockey and baseball for me. I do however admit that I think the March Madness that surrounds the NCAA Tournament is by far some of the most fascinating sports you can watch.

Unlike football, every Division I conference champion is given a chance to win the title as well as most of the other top programs. You have to earn it on the court. What is also fascinating about this is that any National Champion USUALLY ends up having to beat several styles of play along the way.

What has defined this year's tournament is the staggering amount of major upsets we've seen. For any of you who filled out brackets this year, I'm sure a major portion of us that picked the top overall seed to win it all stood by both in sheer amazement at Northern Iowa's victory even as we all silently cursed the bad fortune that struck our brackets.

Even now as I write this, the tourney is down to a single number one seed alive in Duke and they still have to beat a very strong Baylor team to make the Final Four.

For all the arguments in rankings and the bias they show towards big conferences, the tournament is the great equalizer. The Butler's and Tennessee's of the world get to try and show they belong in the Final Four even though neither garners a top 5 ranking from the voters.

This kind of injustice is never balanced out in football, where the SEC and Big 12 biases, as well as a strong USC bias stand out all season and it impacts who gets to ultimately be 1 or 2 and play in the mythical championship game.

So Even though I am not a huge basketball fan you have to give the NCAA Hoops people credit. They sure know how to make Captivating Entertainment.

To all my WVU friends out there, Best of luck in the Final Four. Here's hoping you guys win it all!