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.