Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Time for a Clean Slate

What's done is done.  The Pittsburgh Panthers started off the year a shaky 2-0 and have blown two straight fourth quarter leads to Iowa (21 points) and Notre Dame.  Substandard quarterback play from Tino Sunseri, shake secondary play except for the Notre Dame game, and all around sloppiness leaves Pitt at a crossroads.
This week's game is a new beginning though.  Throw the national championship out the window, Pitt was never going to compete for that anyways.  Still at stake, however, is the Big East title. 

A win this week over the undefeated South Florida Bulls would go a long way towards building some confidence for the Panthers.  Maybe they are just slow learners and this is the week they finally grasp Todd Graham's system completely.

They'll have the chance to show how well they can handle the dual passing and running threat of B.J. Daniels.  South Florida is averaging 45.5 points per game.  Pitt hasn't even scored that in the last two games combined, nor have they even crossed the 40 point plateau yet this season.

None of that matters though.  What matters is this week, this game.  It's a Thursday night game, and those have traditionally been bad luck for any ranked teams involved. 

The numbers are overwhelmingly against Pitt, and based on what I've seen from this football team, there's no possible way they win this game right?  That's what most experts said before the 2007 Backyard Brawl in which Pitt destroyed WVU's shot at the national championship .

Look back at the stats from that game.  Pitt's winning quarterback Pat Bostick, now the radio color analyst for the team, threw for 67 yards and two interceptions.  67 yards!  WVU went into that game as a four touchdown favorite, and yet Pitt found a way to win it. 

Three WVU fumbles and an injury to star quarterback Pat White certainly hurt WVU, but you have to give credit to Pitt for believing they could win.

That's the whole point of this article, Pitt needs to start believing again.  You can tell the Iowa debacle rattled their confidence, and the ugliness we saw against Notre Dame probably didn't help either. 

Wipe it clean though because that was essentially the exhibition season.  Now is when Big East play begins, and now is when you need to start playing your best football.

Could something magical happen again for the Pitt Panthers?  While I wouldn't bet on it, it certainly wouldn't be the most shocking upset Pitt has ever pulled off. 

Don't get me wrong, I still think the Big East will come down to either West Virginia or South Florida.  Pitt has a chance to prove a lot of doubters wrong, including me, and I'm curious to see if they can.

Pittsburgh Power Updates

The Pittsburgh Power have begun to set up their 2012 roster by making a few signings. 

Officially back in the mix are Mike "The Joystick" Washington (WR) , Bryan Williams (DB), Bill Stull (QB), and Tyrell Herbert (DB/LB).

Although not quite official yet, I've heard that Lonnell DeWalt (WR/LB) and Anthony DeGrate (LB) will be returning to the team as well.  OL/DL Mike Byrne is close to signing as well.

DeWalt was a huge impact player on offense AND defense, and should have won the AFL Ironman Award, but sadly, the award seems to go to the best special teams player in the league rather than someone who truly plays both ways.  I'm excited to see he is back to mix it up for the Black and Gold.

It will be interesting to see if the Power make a big splash by signing some big name talent who played for other AFL teams last year.  Who knows, maybe the next big thing for the Power reads this blog.

If you think YOU have the skills necessary to be an AFL player, here's your chance!

The Pittsburgh Power are holding open tryouts to make the team.  Anyone with the passion, determination, and desire should check out this link for all the exact details.   Maybe I'll see if they are holding open PA announcer auditions for this year.  It might be worth the 75 dollar fee!

The Sparks will be having tryouts for the 2012 squad coming up soon as well. 

It's not too late to save 10% off season tickets for the 2012 season.  Call 888-769-2011 for more info or go to the team's official website for more info.

Stay tuned to this blog for all the latest Power news, and follow me on Twitter @SteelCityVoice

Monday, September 26, 2011

Colts/Steelers Aftermath

I'll admit last night's game had me steaming as a Steeler fan.

The offensive line was a disgrace. They are so bad they hurt themselves trying to keep up. No fundamentals...No talent. Hard to fully blame Sean Kugler consider there's only Pouncey and Gilbert with any kind of pedigree on the line. The rest are journeymen has-beens and never-was type players.

It's shocking that the Steelers would choose to protect the most valuable player on the team behind such a patchwork group of players. This MUST be upgraded in the offseason.

I'm still trying to decide whether Rashard Mendenhall is becoming a bust or if it is because of above mentioned offensive line problems. Very tough to run where there's no holes. Maybe if he had the talent of Barry Sanders....but he doesn't.

Bruce Arians is a total moron, but everyone here already knew that. No change to the playcalls.

Every play was a checkdown by Ben but they seemed to be designed to go further down the field. Stupid when your O-Line can't protect for more than a second and a half.

Mike Wallace is still a beast and will be for years to come. Antonio Brown is going to be an incredible player, and even Emmanuel Sanders as well, though he had a few brain farts last night.

On Defense, I think the problem we are seeing isn't the entire Defense getting old, but just the D-Line. Unfortunately in a 3-4 D you rely on the guys up front to suck up blocks so the linebackers can make plays.

When Aaron Smith is getting blown off the ball constantly, the linebacker behind him is going to look awful. Who plays on Smith's side? LaMarr Woodley. Is it a coincidence he's not looking anywhere close to worthy of the offseason contract he got?

Hampton isn't looking good either, and that is making Timmons and Farrior look worse as well. Don't get me wrong I think Farrior is looking a step too slow, but mostly because he has to move further than he should to make the plays, and it's showing off the fact he's lost a step.

No pressure up front is leaving the secondary, already a weaker spot to begin with, out to dry. Ike Taylor and Troy look fine, as does Ryan Clark, but William Gay, Keenan Lewis, Bryant McFadden (not last night of course) and the rest of the secondary just can't seem to make plays.

On special teams, Suisham's miss last night in a dome when them team NEEDED the points is a bit of a red flag. On the whole though he was 3 for 4 including the game winner, so you can't get too upset. Even still, I guess I wish we had a kicker you truly believed in.

Overall, the team is 2-1 which can't be discounted, but the quarterbacks they have beaten are Tarvaris Jackson and the combo of Kerry Collins and Curtis Painter. I really need to see a lot more out of this team as the season progresses.

Priority number one this week. SIGN SOME OFFENSIVE LINEMEN!!!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Awful football game today at Heinz Field

Notre Dame and Pittsburgh squared off today at Heinz Field and I have to say it looked like neither team wanted to win this game.

Notre Dame (2-2) quarterback Tommy Rees continued his turnover happy season by fumbling the ball deep in Pitt territory, and then later throwing an interception in the red zone.  Notre Dame was penalized eight times for 85 yards, and most of those penalties came on huge plays by the Notre Dame offense. 

One was a roughing the kicker penalty on 4th and 20 after the Fighting Irish had stopped Pitt deep in their zone.  Pitt (2-2) would go on to score their lone touchdown of the game on that drive.

Pitt's offensive line was pretty offensive in this one, allowing five sacks against Tino Sunseri, but Lucas Nix was even more offensive, being called for FOUR false starts.  You have to be more focused than that by the fourth game of the season.

Tino Sunseri as usual was not very successful throwing the ball downfield, but this time his two best deep throws of the game were both dropped by Mike Shanahan and Devin Street respectively.  Street's drop would have given Pitt the ball with a 12-7 lead deep in Notre Dame territory.

Sunseri's biggest mistakes were not getting rid of the ball quickly and taking two sacks on the critical final drive of the game. 

At least the secondary played a little bit better after being torched for over 300 yards in back to back games by Maine (yes Maine....) and Iowa.  Again though, Pitt couldn't seal the deal in the fourth quarter with the game on the line and now they have to prepare for South Florida on a short week. 

South Florida beat Notre Dame earlier in the year, so Pitt is going to have to figure out some magic if they hope to open Big East play with a win.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Thoughts about Pitt's move to the ACC

I know it's been a few days since the major announcement that Pitt and Syracuse were bolting the Big East conference and will move to the ACC.

A lot of pundits are saying this could be the spark that sets off a lot of realignment in college football.  I hope this is true.

My biggest hope in all of this is that several super conferences are formed and we'll finally get rid of the godforsaken BCS setup and move to a playoff system.

Football wise, this move is huge for Pitt.  You add Virginia Tech, Miami, Florida State, all of whom are usually national players on a yearly basis.  Of course time will tell how bad Miami will be penalized for their recruiting shenanigans. 

Sorry but the prospect of facing teams like Rutgers, Louisville, Cincinatti, and South Florida don't exactly scream "Must See" TV.  Oh wait, you don't get many Pitt games on TV around here.  That's another added benefit to this move as the ACC has a contract with ESPN to televise their games. 

More exposure, tougher competition, it all adds up to move revenue for Pitt. 

Basketball wise you could have argued it was a slight step down, except Syracuse is coming along and UConn is also rumored to be a potential member in the new ACC as well.  Take those three schools from the Big East and the balance of power will clearly be to the ACC now in college basketball.

You add nationally important games against Duke, North Carolina, and Maryland which also strongly boosts the national image of Pitt basketball. 

Pitt was smart to jump at this chance when it was there.  Look at WVU's predicament.  Both the ACC and SEC conferences rejected them.  Talk about a slap to the face!

The only question that remains for the ACC is who the next two teams might be that get them to 16 teams.  I already mentioned UConn, but another article I read mentioned Penn State and Notre Dame. 

While I doubt Penn State would leave the Big Ten, it would honor Joe Paterno's vision of an Eastern Conference from decades ago.  I think from a football perspective it would make sense for Penn State, even if they would get crushed in basketball in the ACC.

Notre Dame also needs to get with the program.  The days of being able to remain independent are over.   Pick a conference and get on board if you want to continue chasing the national championship. 

Wrapping up though, Pitt made the right choice, even if it angered the remaining Big East schools.  The Big East sealed its fate when it chose to cater to the basketball only schools and ignore the wishes of the football schools to keep the conference BCS worthy.  

You can't blame Pitt and Syracuse for this.  It's like playing chess.  You have to strike when the time is right to strike.  Even if it does put the Big East in "Checkmate"

Tino Sunseri says he played his best game yet

What does it say when your starting quarterback thinks he played his best game yet after throwing two interceptions, and fumbling twice (losing one)?

I think it says a lot about how disconnected Tino Sunseri is from real life.  I'm sorry but if I was a key contributor to my team's epic meltdown, I am not going before the media and saying it was my best game so far. 

Where does that set the bar if he thinks that way?  What does that tell the team?  "Sorry guys, but three turnovers is my BEST effort!"


Todd Graham continues to stick by this guy but given his reluctance to slow the tempo down with a huge lead, I'm still not convinced how rooted in reality HE is either.

Granted, I'll say the offense showed some explosiveness in getting to a 24-3 lead, but when Sunseri specifically said best GAME yet, he is wrong on so many levels.

Pitt fans are obviously frustrated with Sunseri's play through three games, and asinine statements like this to the media are only adding to the disgust.

This week's game against equally turnover prone Notre Dame should be his last chance to have his best game yet.  Maybe this time he'll limit himself to only two turnovers.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Mike "The Joystick" Washington will return for 2012

The Pittsburgh Power's leading receiver in 2011 will be wearing black and gold again this season.

Mike "The Joystick" Washington posted solid numbers in his rookie campaign, catching 114 passes for 1367 yards and 30 TD's.  he also saw some time at kick returner late in the season, adding 18 returns for 397 yards and a TD.

If you followed Power football last year, you'd know Washington was a huge part of the offense, and one of the team's biggest weapons.  Getting him back in the fold certainly had to be a top priority for the Power.

I'd love to see the team bring back Lonnell DeWalt and Jason Willis on offense as well.  I also think they need to try and land another big time receiver and have four viable options in the passing game.

According to reports from 93.7 The Fan, Quarterback Bill Stull will return for 2012 as well, and will likely get first crack at the starting gig.   Last year's starter Bernard Morris will not return to the team.  Seeing how the season unfolded with Morris at the helm, this might be best for all parties involved.

I'm not QUITE sold on Stull as the starter, and would love to see the Power bring in someone with a little more AFL experience even if they end up serving as backup to Stull.

Also back in the fray for 2012 will be defensive back Bryan Williams who joined the team late in the season.

It's going to be interesting to see what players get signed by Pittsburgh, especially after tryouts on October 1st.  Check out the Power's newly redesigned website for all the details.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Field of Nightmares for Pitt

Head Coach Todd Graham preaches "Speed Speed Speed" to his offense and to the fans of Pitt football.

I'll admit, I think the team bought into the philosophy because the Panthers seemed to blow a 24-3 lead very quickly against Iowa.  The Hawkeyes scored 21 unanswered points to claim victory at Kinnick Stadium.

So much for the Field of Dreams it seemed like for most of the game.  It turned into a Field of Nightmares by the end.

Coach Graham is sure to catch a lot of heat for not slowing down the pace of the game and rightfully slow.  You have the NCAA's leading rusher, Ray Graham, and yet you're still throwing the ball up by three scores.  You are putting your team's chances on the arm of Tino Sunseri.  Dumb move.

We've seen Pitt blow leads like this before to hated rivals WVU and Cincinnati, so this should seem like old hat for Pitt fans.

One thing is clear.  Tino Sunseri is an awful college quarterback, and the longer Pitt tries to deny that fact, the longer they will inhibit their chances of getting better.  You cannot tell me Trey Anderson doesn't deserve a chance after watching Sunseri struggle in these early games.

You also cannot tell me the "High-Octane" offense Pitt runs isn't killing the defense.  The secondary can't cover anyone to begin with, and when you throw them back out there after a three and out by the offense, you start seeing James Vandenberg look like a Heisman candidate.  399 yards?  Seriously?

This is one week after the defense nearly imploded completely to let FCS darling Maine have a chance to steal a win in Pittsburgh.  Warren Smith averages 200 yards a game at the FCS level and the Pitt secondary made him look like an NFL talent. 

You'd think Coach Graham would have learned how to run out a clock after that one, but apparently he hasn't.  I can understand being stubborn to a fault as it is one of my flaws in life, but there's times you need to put your pride aside and do what's best for the team.

Hopefully Pitt can figure it out this week before Notre Dame comes to town.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Don't be quick to write off the Steelers defense

Warren Sapp had some harsh words for the Steelers after last week's embarrassing 35-7 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

He said the Steelers couldn't beat his 13 year old daughter.  Not sure why he's advocating the abuse of his daughter, but that's his own personal agenda.

While I will agree the Steelers looked slow on Saturday, there is depth waiting in the wings that could help alleviate some of those problems. 

Aaron Smith looked like a shell of his former self.  Perhaps he is still getting back into shape from last season's injury, but the cupboard isn't exactly bare on the defensive line.  First round pick Ziggy Hood, who filled in admirably for Smith last year, and this year's number one Cam Heyward could easily provide speed and burst up front.

Hines Ward may be losing a step, but there's some great weapons available in Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown.  Both have shown great promise and could easily benefit from more passes being directed their way.

To be honest, I think the area of most concern was the offensive line and the play of Ben Roethlisberger.  Ben made passes that left me shaking my head.  It was obvious he was trying to do way too much.  Take what the defense gives you.  Don't heave it down the field where ONLY Ed Reed can catch the ball. 

The O-line issues won't get any easier now that Willie Colon is out for the year.  I think it's time to take a serious look at the conditioning of the offensive line as it seems like these guys are constantly getting major injuries.  Something's gotta give.

Marcus Gilbert is going to be thrown to the wolves and here's hoping he can have even half the success that Maurkice Pouncey had last year.

Baltimore was fired up for revenge of their severely disappointing loss to the Steelers in the playoffs and it showed.  Pittsburgh can learn a lesson from this and be more prepared for intense football.  They are the defending AFC Champions so the entire conference will be gunning for them.

If I'm the Steelers, I say, "Bring It On!"

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Giant Epic Fail: Grading the Steelers 35-7 loss at Baltimore

Sometimes these articles write themselves.  If you're looking for sugarcoating and positive spins following the Steelers blowout loss to division rival Baltimore, you might as well leave the page right now.

The offense committed seven turnovers.  SEVEN!  That's the same amount of turnovers as the offense scored points.  Even worse the defense didn't take the ball away once other than a fourth and one stop.  That was about all they did to slow down Baltimore.

The secondary was torched all game.  I had lovely views of the BACK the jerseys belonging to Bryant McFadden and William Gay. The front seven was torched by Ray Rice for over 100 yards.  All these contract extensions by the Steelers in the offseason really looked like wasted money out there.  Even Troy Polamalu's only noticeable play was a horse collar tackle. 

On offense, Haloti Ngata owes the Steelers rent for the amount of time he spent in the backfield.  The offensive line was atrocious.  Four sacks and four fumbles lost.  I have to ask, is anyone missing Flozell Adams or Max Starks yet?

Ben Roethlisberger was under pressure all game but that doesn't excuse the fact he was just heaving the ball up for grabs.  You have to play smarter than that Ben!  He sure did a good job of padding his stats in garbage time though.  Mike Wallace crossed the 100 yard mark and Ben almost had 300 yards passing, but again, all when it didn't matter.

The biggest stat was no turnovers from the Steeler defense.  Not the kind of effort you expected against a key division rival.  That's what makes this one sting even more.

Okay I lied a bit, I'll offer up one positive.  It's only one game out of sixteen, but the Steelers have to right the ship quickly.  This kind of loss has a nasty way of causing a lot of doubt and it'll be up to the veteran leadership of the Steelers to nip it in the bud ASAP.

I won't even waste my time going position by position.  The entire team sucked today.


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Not sold on Pitt at this point....

You're supposed to destroy FCS teams if you play at the FBS level.  Especially if you're in a "high-octane" offense like the Pitt Panthers run.

The problem is the Pitt offensive line isn't exactly dominating.  I mean seriously, they gave up 8 sacks to Maine?  How many plays is Ray Graham making on his own in spite of being mobbed in the backfield.

The quarterback has problems making passes downfield that could really open up the scoring.  Tino Sunseri just does not impress me at all, and I have serious doubts for Pitt's long term success this year now that they are moving away from their high school schedule and jumping up to the big boy league.  With two more interceptions today, I think the move to Trey Anderson might come a lot sooner than originally thought.

Defensively, you need to do better than give up 29 points to Maine.  You need to actually force a turnover at some point, something the Panthers have yet to do this year.  334 yards given up to Warren Smith of Maine?  The secondary needs to start covering people. 

On special teams, you need a kicker that can make extra points and field goals.  Kevin Harper continues to struggle mightily in this department.  It may not have cost Pitt a win yet this year, but you can't leave points on the field against South Florida, WVU, Notre Dame or Iowa.

Ray Graham will be huge in keeping Pitt in many of their games this year, but you can't be one dimensional and have much success.  At some point Pitt has to be able to throw the ball downfield.  Pitt has talent at the wide receiver and tight end positions as well, they just need a quarterback that can maximize that talent.

I think a lot of Pitt fans expected to see more out of this team in the first two games.  Wins are wins, but at some point the team has to step it up and correct these problems.