Saturday, April 30, 2011

Power @ Force - LIVEBlog

Are you looking for instant analysis of the Power/Force matchup as well as the chance to chat with your fellow fans? You've found it!

Gametime is at 7:30 PM EST but the blog will start 30 minutes early.

Hope to see you all here!

-- The Voice

Friday, April 29, 2011

Gotta like the Steelers draft so far

The NFL Draft opened up Thursday night and by virtue of their runner up finish in the 2010 season, the Steelers had to wait until pick number 31 before making their selection.

Many fans out there believed the Steelers biggest needs were cornerback and offensive line.  Unfortunately for the Steelers, a shutdown cornerback is usually going to get picked well before the end of the first round, and this held true in the 2011 draft.  Also, as he continued to fall, many Steelers fans held out hope that the big tackle Gabe Carimi out of Wisconsin might somehow make it to 31, but unfortunately the Bears snatched him up 2 picks ahead of the Black and Gold.

Once the Steelers got on the clock, it didn't take them very long to hand in the pick.  As a fan of the Steelers, I tend to love their picks when they make them that quickly in the first round.  Cameron Heyward, a big time Defensive End from Ohio State was now part of the Steelers. 

I remember how well this kid played against Penn State, and given the age of the current Steelers D up front, this pick along with Ziggy Hood is finally showing an investment in the future of the defensive line.

My only expectation for the Steelers after the pick was that I hoped they would address the Offensive line and secondary in the next two rounds.

Prayers answered!

I love the second round pick of Marcus Gilbert for several reasons.  He's a big time tackle prospect who has also shown versatility by playing everywhere on the line except center at Florida.   A nice intangible to this pick is the fact that he is very good friends with his college teammate, Maurkice Pouncey.   It's just good to finally see the Steelers invest some high picks on the offensive line, especially the Pouncey pick last year.

Let's move on to the third round.  You obviously never know for sure until the pick is made, but I really felt the Steelers would take a cornerback here in round three.  Sure enough, Curtis Brown's name was called.  The kid has some experience playing in some big games for a big time college program, and I am already hearing arguments that he wasn't thrown at much at Texas because of how well he covers.  

This is another area of need where higher draft picks needed to be spent.  The Steelers idea of trying to make later round gems work has left the Steelers with players like Joe Burnett, Crezdon Butler, and William Gay and Keenan Lewis filling up the depth chart.  If you were a wide receiver facing those guys, would you be scared?  I didn't think so.

The biggest thing about the Steeler draft so far is that they have not reached for needs.  They got the best player available in Heyward, and got a big time offensive lineman in the second.  They got a corner that might need a bit of work, but you could see him becoming a big part of this secondary later this year and possibly starting by 2012.

I can't wait to see what the rest of the draft brings for the Steelers.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

That's All She Wrote

With the season on the line the Penguins miserable Power Play did what it does best.....FAIL.

I'm probably not the only one that was actually pissed off the Pens went on the Power Play at the end of the game.  Heck that had to be music to Tampa Bay's ears.  There was NO WAY IN HELL the Penguin Power Play was going to score. 

You manage to get a 3-1 Series lead and win two games on the road and still lose.  I don't care if you are shorthanded or not.  There's no excuse for that.

Kovalev is out of here after a pathetic showing in the playoffs.  Hopefully the Pens get some better secondary scoring.  What a frustrating end to a season.

To all the Bylsma for Jack Adams supporters.  If your coach refuses to change what isn't working, you deserve to lose.  Eric Tangradi factored in on the ONLY power play goal of the series, and was he in the lineup tonight?  Nope.

Maybe this offseason Shero will actually invest in some people who know what net presence is all about. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Pittsburgh Power Vs. Georgia Force Preview

Saturday April 30th, 2011 - 7:30 PM
The Arena at Gwinnett Center
Radio: 93.7 FM (Pittsburgh), 790 AM (Atlanta/Duluth)

It's the battle of second place teams in the American Conference as the Pittsburgh Power (3-3) travel to Duluth, Georgia to take on the Georgia Force (4-2).

Both teams are coming off wins that helped the team they face this week.  Pittsburgh was on the road in the Graveyard and brought home a 56-49 victory over the Force's division rival New Orleans VooDoo.  Georgia returned the favor by defeating the Milwaukee Mustangs 57-48.

Pittsburgh benefited greatly by recovering three VooDoo fumbles.  The Force are dead even in turnover differential this year, so don't look for them to make too many mistakes in that department.  Georgia does rank next to last in penalty yards per game, so that could play a factor in this matchup.

After a rocky start to the year at the quarterback position, Anthony Morelli has been very solid for the Power during his two starts.  He has thrown for 522 yards, 11 TD's, and also run for 73 yards and a score.  He's done all of this while only losing one fumble.  Is it enough to keep a hold on the starting gig though? 

The Power have reactivated original starter Bernard Morris, so head coach Chris Siegfried has a decision to make.  Stick with the hot hand in Morelli, or go back to who he originally felt was the best quarterback.  

Whoever he chooses, they will be facing the second best pass defense in the AFL.  Tracy Belton and Eric Crosby both have four interceptions, which ties them for sixth in the league.  Ahmad Hawkins has added three picks as well.  

One of the strengths of the Power offense is the fact they have tremendous depth at wide receiver.  This makes it hard to pick one person to focus on.  Even if the Force take away some of the receiving threats, Josh Rue can be a strong factor on the ground against one of the league's weakest run defenses.

Force quarterback Brett Elliott is having a very strong 2011 campaign.  He has posted 1626 yards, 33 TD's and only 5 interceptions.  His 120.7 QB rating is good for third in the league. 

The key to this game will be how well the Power can contain the dual threat of wide receivers Maurice Purify (700 yards, 14 TD) and Larry Shipp, Jr. (638 yards, 11 TD).  Combine that with WR/KR C.J. Johnson who has combined for 882 multipurpose yards and 6 total TD's. 

I do think this is going to be a very close game and ultimately is going to come down to who makes less mistakes.  The Power have been a little better in that department so far this year so I will give them a slight edge.


Monday, April 25, 2011

Pittsburgh Power to "Make-A-Wish" come true for Upper St. Clair boy.

Sometimes in the world of sports, the focus is on winning no matter what the cost.  Roster spots in the Arena Football League are considered a premium.  Solid players are told they don't get to dress for games because of restrictions. 

Considering the risk of injuries and the small amount of active spots, that makes this developing story even more incredible.

The Pittsburgh Power have announced the signing of 10 year old Michael "Mick" Walsh, whose "Make-A-Wish" was to be part of the Pittsburgh Power. 

The Power could have done a lot of things to make him part of the team without actually making him part of the team on the field.  Gameday Host, Ballboy, any number of behind the scenes positions really.  Heck they could have even made him PA Announcer for a day and actually upgraded the position!

They took it the extra step and will let him practice with the team and dress for the May 7th game against the Spokane Shock.  They also mentioned having plenty of surprises in store for a very special kid. 

This is one of those times where you are proud of your sports team for going above and beyond.  I'm surprised the Pittsburgh Pirates don't do this.  They'd probably improve the on-the-field product by doing it. 

My hat is off to the Power organization for doing something pretty fantastic!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Power Offense rises from the ashes in the Graveyard! Wins 56-49

It was a slow start for the Power offense, as the Power failed to register a point until a few minutes were left in the first half.  Trailing 14-0 Anthony Morelli hit Jason Willis for a 7 yard TD to get on the board.  A big return to midfield by Jerome Mathis helped start that drive off on the right foot.

The Power D came up with a big turnover and Morelli found Willis with the same type of pass to quickly knot the score up at 14 just before halftime. 

New Orleans had a chance to score before the half, but their 4th down pass was tipped at the line by Gary Butler and fell incomplete.

The second half opened with another huge return by Mathis to the VooDoo 17 and a few plays later Lonnell DeWalt made one of his patented highlight reel catches for a touchdown.  Power were up 21-14 at this point.

The teams traded touchdowns and with the VooDoo trailing 28-21 and driving, Anthony DeGrate hit Danny Wimprine hard and forced the third fumble of the game and the Power now had a chance to build a cushion.

Anthony Morelli put the offense on his shoulders with a big 22 yard scramble to the goal line, then executed the QB sneak to give the Power a two touchdown lead. 

The VooDoo fought valiantly to the end, but they weren't able to slow down the Power offense in the second half. 

Morelli has thrown 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions in his two games as the "fill-in" starter and may have done enough to secure the job full time.  He still makes some errant throws, but I like the progression I have seen from him so far, and he's definitely earned the opportunity to keep showing what he can do.  Look for him to get the nod against the Georgia Force next week.

It was good to see the defense step up and force some turnovers after last week's zero stop performance against the Sharks. 

The Power (3-3) will be on the road against the Georgia Force (3-2).  Georgia can do the Power a big favor by knocking off division rival Milwaukee this week.

Player Awards as voted on by New Orleans Arena Media
Russell Athletic Offensive Player of the Game: Anthony Morelli (PIT)

Riddell Defensive Player of the Game:  Abe Koroma (PIT)

JLS Ironman: Jason Willis (PIT)

NiFTy Playmaker of the Game: P.J. Berry (NO)

Cutter Catch of the Game: Lonnell Dewalt over-the-wall TD (PIT)

Spalding Highlight of the Game:  P.J. Berry 58-yard TD kickoff return (NO)

National Guard Player of the Game: Anthony Morelli (PIT)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Pittsburgh Power at New Orleans VooDoo Preview

Pittsburgh Power (2-3) at New Orleans VooDoo (1-4)
8:00 PM, New Orleans Arena aka The Graveyard
TV -
Radio - 93.7 The Fan (Pittsburgh), 99.5 FM WRNO (New Orleans)
LiveBlog -

It's a Thursday night brawl at the Graveyard as the Pittsburgh Power travel to New Orleans  to try and get some momentum back following a 2 game losing streak.

The Power are coming off a 65-40 loss to the Jacksonville Sharks and are licking their wounds a bit on defense.  The Power D had been the strongest part of the team so far, but was unable to stop a single possession by the Sharks on offense. Much of that lack of success can easily be attributed to the signal caller for the Sharks in that game.  Aaron Garcia lived up to his legendary status and played flawlessly. 

The Power offense came back to life following their 22 point showing against Tulsa.  Anthony Morelli ended up with 290 yards passing and Five touchdowns with no interceptions.  He did lose a fumble towards the end of the game after the result was settled. 

The Power matchup a lot better against the VooDoo.  New Orleans comes in giving up an average of 50.2 points per game, and rank 9th in passing defense.  Their offense is nowhere near as good as the one the Power faced last week.   Danny Wimprine boasts a 57.1 completion percentage, 78.4 QB rating and a 16-9 TD to Int ratio.  The Power DB's need to be ready to take advantage of the erratic throws Wimprine is sure to throw. 

P.J. Berry and Carlese Franklin are both solid receivers who have each caught 6 TD's so far this year, but a lot of their ability to make plays will hinge on how accurate Wimprine is in this game.  The VooDoo offense took a hit when leading rusher Jason Schule went on IR.  he will not be active for this game.

Look for Alvin Ray Jackson on defense for the Voodoo.  He's a 6'1" DB who will likely be tasked with trying to contain Lonnell DeWalt.  DeWalt is coming off a spectacular showing against the Sharks.  He made two fantastic touchdown grabs, one a nifty 45 yard catch and run, and the other was a one handed diving catch over the wall.  He is definitely a major reason why the Power offense showed so much improvement this week.

To me this matchup breaks down to how well the Power continue to gel on offense, and how well the defense can rebound from their poor showing.  I can see the Power scoring one more TD than last week putting them at 52 points, right around the average of what New Orleans has been giving up per game.  I also see the Power D holding the VooDoo to the same point total they scored last week


Should be a good matchup but the Power have way too much talent and should win this game easily.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Power Defense No Match For High Flying Shark Attack

One quarterback is an AFL legend, holding every major passing record in league history. The other was making his first start in the AFL.

Aaron Garcia and Anthony Morelli might be at the opposite ends of their AFL careers, but both put on a pretty good offensive showing Saturday night in a 65-40 game won by the Jacksonville Sharks. Both quarterbacks threw for five touchdowns with Garcia winning the yardage battle 297-290.

The game quickly turned into an offensive shootout, which wasn’t good news for the Pittsburgh Power. Both teams scored touchdowns on their first three drives, but after falling behind 28-21 it was the Power who blinked first.

Backed up deep in their own territory, the Pittsburgh offense had several dropped passes as they tried to move the ball away from the goal line. Two straight delay of games backed the ball up to the one inch line and once Morelli’s pass on fourth down hit the turf, you just knew the tide was beginning to turn.

The difference in this game came down to execution on fourth down. Jacksonville was 3-for-3 including a touchdown, while Pittsburgh failed to convert any of their three attempts.

Lonnell DeWalt returned to the Power lineup after serving a one game suspension. His 45 yard touchdown catch was voted highlight of the game. He also added a one-handed touchdown catch over the wall which was voted the Cutter Catch of the game.

Sale’ Key was the NiFTy Playmaker of the Game catching 11 passes for 116 yards and a touchdown. Two of those catches were big fourth down conversions for the Sharks.

Coach Siegfried may not have been thrilled that his team lost, but he was proud of the effort put forth by the guys. “We’re a young team but one thing these guys do is fight. They never give up.”

Pittsburgh travels to New Orleans to face the VooDoo Thursday night. Jacksonville hosts Cleveland on Saturday night in a battle of both division leaders in the American Conference.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Pittsburgh Power QB situation

So it was finally announced that the Pittsburgh Power have signed WR/QB Xavier Lee to the roster.  This was a vital move considering the only healthy quarterback on the Power roster was 3rd stringer Anthony Morelli.

To date so far the Power quarterbacks have been mediocre at best.  Coach Siegfried is hoping one of them make a move to stake their claim to the job permanently.

Bernard Morris was the first player ever assigned to the Power and was the starter heading into the season.  Anthony Morelli and Kevin McCabe were both signed to compete for the backup position with mcCabe originally winning the job. 

Morris aggravated a shoulder injury in the opener and by the time the Iowa game rolled around he was forced to the bench and subsequently the IR.  McCabe looked solid in the second half against Iowa in relief and we expected big things from him in game 3 against Milwaukee. 

McCabe started solidly against Milwaukee but seemed to run into a wall in the second half (not literally) and his play severely declined as the offense went scoreless in the 4th quarter and barely hung on for a 49-47 win.

McCabe remained the starter for week 4 against Tulsa but looked completely lost before being removed for injury reasons.  At one point he threw 6 straight incompletions and his two interceptions didn't help the cause either.  Anthony Morelli came in relief and while he managed to throw his first ever TD pass in the AFL, he also looked a bit inaccurate in his passes.

The reality right now is the Power have four quarterbacks, two of them on IR.  They will have to make some roster moves at this position beginning next week.  I see things breaking down like this.

Morelli will start this week against Jacksonville.   This is a crucial week for him because he needs to prove he deserves to keep his roster spot. 

Morelli will either:
A) Play well enough to become the starting quarterback.
B) Play solidly and keep the backup role once Morris returns next week.
C) Fizzle and likely be cut next week when Morris returns from the IR.

Obviously Power fans hope for option A as it hopefully helps the team win this crucial matchup and get to a 3-2 record.  It is very important that the Power keep winning at this point due to the fact Cleveland is off to an undefeated start.

As for Lee, he's a nice type of player to have as he can contribute both at wide receiver and quarterback, giving the team some roster flexibility.   He might remain with the team regardless of the quarterback situation and continue to contribute in the receiving game.  Who knows, maybe we'll see the Power add some trick plays to their repertoire.

In any case, the Power need more consistency from their passing attack, most specifically from the quarterback position.  It has to begin this week.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Pittsburgh Power vs. Jacksonville Sharks

Jacksonville Sharks (3-1) vs. Pittsburgh Power (2-2)

This game should prove to be the first major test for the Power this season.  Coming off a 45-22 loss to the Tulsa Talons, and a bye week, the Power should be looking for blood in this one. 

Unfortunately they draw a formidable opponent in Jacksonville.  The Sharks only loss so far this year is to the undefeated Arizona Rattlers.  The Sharks offense is led by AFL legend Aaron Garcia at quarterback.  So far in four games this season he has posted 982 passing yards, 25 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions.   He has also posted a QB rating of 125.1 and his 73.6% completion rate is the best in the league by far.

Compare that to what the Power have managed so far at quarterback.  Bernard Morris started the year as the starter and got hurt midway through the second game and had to go on IR,  His replacement Kevin McCabe has struggled and is also on IR, meaning third stringer Anthony Morelli will be responsible for jumpstarting an anemic Power offense that ranks near the bottom of the league in terms of production.  Combined, the three Power quarterbacks have managed 861 yards, 17 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. 

The Sharks also feature two wide receivers putting up some really great stats so far this year.  WR Jomo Wilson has 398 yards, 9 TD's receiving, plus 2 TD's on the ground.  WR Jeron Harvey has 353 yards and 10 TD's, he had 364 yards and 13 TD's last year so he's already crushing his numbers from last year.

On the other side, the Power don't seem to feature anyone in their receiving corps, preferring to spread the ball around.  Jason Willis leads the team in receptions (26) and yardage (220) but has only notched two touchdowns.  Mike "Joystick" Washington is tied for the team lead for touchdowns with four with Lonnell DeWalt who should return from suspension this week.  Add in Jerome Mathis who has 116 yards on 7 catches and the offense could finally have most of the pieces in place to move ahead once again.

The Power do feature one of the best short yardage backs in the league in Josh Rue.  They'll need him to cross the goalline a few time and get the Ruebirds cheering this week.

The Power's ability to win this game will fall squarely on how well their defense can contain the Shark attack.  Gary Butler is second in the league in sacks with 3, and will need to create some pressure on Garcia to give our secondary a chance.  Hopefully Neil Purvis can return for this game and help create some chaos up front.

The secondary could be without Josh Lay who is facing drug charges and may not be available for this game (or beyond).  Even still the Power defense ranks 5th in total points against and has managed to keep all of the games competitive so far.   The Power gives up the third fewest passing yards in the league, and hopefully they can bring that level of performance for this one.

The key to game for me will be the ability of Anthony Morelli to further adapt and adjust to the AFL game.  if he is able to limit his mistakes, the Power could do well here. 

I'm not a big fan of this matchup but hopefully Chris Siegfried has the troops fired up and ready to go after a few weeks of playing like an expansion team.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

That's more like it Buccos!

It was good to see the Pirates bounce back from a 7-1 setback in their home opener to beat the Rockies 4-3 in a 14-inning marathon Friday night.  It was also good to see them keep their composure after falling behind 3-0.  The Pirate bullpen pitched 11 1/3 straight innings of shutout ball, which is incredible.

Even more incredible was former Pirate manager Jim Tracy falling for Clint Hurdle's decoy of Andrew Mccutchen in the on deck circle when pitcher Garrett Olson was due up instead.  Tracy let his pitcher throw to Jose Tabata instead of intentionally walking him to face a lesser hitter in Olson.  Looks like Tracy fell asleep early tonight.

Again it's early in the season, but in previous years the Pirates would have found a way to lose this type of game and it would usually be the catalyst for a long losing streak that officially buried them in the cellar for the summer.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Lucy Yanks The Football Away.....Again

The Pittsburgh Pirates do this to me every year.  Get off to a buzzworthy start, get the town a "little bit" excited about some Pirates baseball and then with the whole town watching on Opening Day, lose 7-1. 

In the words of the immortal Charlie Brown..."AUUUUGGGGGHHHHHH" (Not to be confused with a Pirate "Yarrrr")

Is it a coincidence that Charlie wears black and gold all the time?  His baseball team was always notorious for bad play, not all that uncommon to our Pirates here in the Steel City.

I know, I know, there is hope for the team on the horizon, but it'd be nice to actually do something good when everyone has their eyes on you.

Kudos to some of the players who did stand up and shoulder the blame after the game.  Neil Walker was quoted as saying, “I felt like I let the air out of the entire building.  I made Paul’s job a whole lot harder for him. I just blew it. A terrible play.”

I'm not naive enough to think this team is going to contend this year, but I was hoping this was the year where they at least reach competitive status.

Tomorrow's game should be an early barometer on how well they can bounce back from a poor outing.  I think it will show a lot about the mettle of the Pirates this year.