Saturday, December 29, 2012

Bottle Knocker Hockey Classic - New Year's Day

Are you bummed that there won't be an NHL Winter Classic on New Year's Day?

Do you miss hockey?  

Still pissed at the fact these jagoffs Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr can't figure out how to divide millions of dollars?

Bottle Knocker Hockey understands your frustration and has a remedy for your hockey withdrawal!  The 1st annual Bottle Knocker Hockey Classic is set to air live on New Year's Day and will hopefully draw the interest of local Penguin fans as well as national hockey fans everywhere.

The Blue Collars will be coached by Matt Rethage.  The Red Bottles will be under the direction of Dan McManus.  

The game will feature full play-by-play and analysis from Mike Sasson and yours truly, Dominic Errico.  

The game is set to air at 1 PM on WBGN-TV and their sister/affiliated stations.  You can also view it online via this Livestream link.  You can also watch it via the the Bottle Knocker Hockey channel on YouTube.  Game should be available shortly after 1 PM on both Livestream and YouTube.

Give it a look, you won't be disappointed.  What ELSE are you going to watch on New Year's Day?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Ode To A Lost Season

"Ode To A Lost Season"

Mirror mirror on the wall
Which NFL team was the most disappointing of all?
I submit to you a prime contender
A faux favorite, a true pretender.

It’s a bitter pill to swallow
Being softer than a marshmallow
But really who else but yourselves are to blame
For losing to teams so pathetic and lame

The year started with a thud at mile high in Denver
Just like the season ended there last winter
Questions arose whether the defense was old and slow
By year’s end the blame fell upon “The O”

We thought our quarterback was elite
Down the stretch his mistakes got us beat
The Young Money Crew dropped the ball
We had no running game at all.

There’s plenty of blame in a season of despair
I sit here wondering why the leadership wasn’t there
Those who wanted Bruce Arians fired
Must have been shocked at who the Colts hired

Tomlin keeps firing off cliché after cliché
That’s not what’s needed on a team in disarray
Ben hates Haley, Haley hates Ben
Tell me who’s running this show again?

The bottom line is that these guys underachieved
More heart, desire and effort they need
It’s time to look at themselves in the mirror
The end of a Super Bowl window draws near

This offseason for the Steelers is a crucial one
If they can’t solve the riddle they might be done
Which vets will stay and which vets will go?
That’s something only Tomlin and Colbert know

The bottom line is that this team was disjointed
Their fans were left severely disappointed.
They better fix this mess by next year
Or it'll be the same reflection in the mirror

Monday, December 17, 2012

Young Money Crew owes Steeler fans a refund!

We have another Steeler loss and another morbid display of bad football from the “Young Money” crew.

All I hear out of some of the NFL experts is how this Steelers wide receiving corps might be one of the most talented in the entire NFL. They might have a lot of talent, and they might possess a strong skillset, but they also make up for that with an overabundance of stupidity.

Let’s look at Antonio Brown’s day. After the Steelers force a Dallas punt leading 24-17, it appeared the Steelers were somewhat in control, and could start going to work on the clock. Instead, Brown fields the punt, fails to secure the ball and ends up fumbling to give Dallas new life and a ton of momentum. Dallas marched right down the field for the tying score.

Brown also inexplicably played 60 yards off the punt late in the game and failed to properly field the ball, which cost the Steelers a good 20 yards in field position. Let’s not forget on the Steelers final drive when he ran straight out of bounds instead of staying inbounds to force the Cowboys to burn a crucial timeout.

Emmanuel Sanders dropped a big first down conversion on the opening drive. It was about an inch away from being a crucial fumble, but the Steelers got the benefit of the doubt. Sanders was also injured on the play.

Mike Wallace double clutched a key catch on third down, costing the Steelers another crucial first down conversion. You also had to love the effort he showed on the fateful interception in overtime. Real nice of him to stand there and watch Brandon Carr get up and run all the way to the goal line. Maybe a little bit of effort would have helped give the Steelers a slight chance to stop the Cowboys in overtime.

I keep waiting for this “Money” crew to prove they are worth it. I keep being sorely disappointed.

Brown signed a five-year extension for over $42 million dollars in the offseason. How does that investment look right now? He has three 100-yard games in a three-year career. That’s not exactly “money” to me. He has five receiving touchdowns in that same three-year span. Does that sound “money” to you?

If only these guys could pull their heads out of their butts and make some crucial plays for the Steelers, maybe they wouldn’t be sitting at 7-7. Brown had two fumbles, including a crucial lost one in the earlier Raiders loss. You can easily pin most of this loss today on him as well. Wallace had a crucial fumble that led to a Ravens FG in a three-point loss. Sanders fumbled the ball in a 20-14 loss to the Browns and then fumbled a week later in a tight win over the Ravens. These mistakes are a major reason why the Steelers are fighting for a No. 6 seed instead of handily winning the AFC North and competing for a bye right now.

I guess the most frustrating thing is the fact you have guys on this team who know how to make big plays in the clutch, namely Heath Miller. After a sizzling first half of production, the Steelers stopped using him as a weapon. Why? It’s not like the other guys are making plays when given the chance. Why stop using the one guy who has been your most consistent playmaker all season?

Unlike the Young Money Crew, Miller lets his play do all his talking. He doesn’t need a catchy nickname. He doesn’t show off after a first down. He doesn’t sprint backwards the last 20 yards and draw an excessive celebration flag. All he does is catch the ball when it’s thrown to him.

Maybe the “Young Money” crew could learn a thing or two from the “Old Money.”

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Why Players Should be Booed For Poor Performance

Much is being said about the fact the Heinz Field faithful booed Mike Wallace after another dropped pass clanged off his hands early during Sunday’s 34-24 loss to San Diego. Chances were good that Wallace would have taken it to the house on the play, so the drop cost the Steelers some much needed offensive performance.

Why shouldn’t fans boo poor performance? Wallace wants paid like a top receiver yet seems to have one or two awful drops in every game. The fact he ended the day with a strong stat line doesn’t excuse the fact he made a crucial mistake while the game was still competitive. Garbage time stats are never the same as crunch time stats other than on paper.

When did we get so soft as a society that we are being told not to boo professional athletes? Are we afraid of hurting their massive egos? Are we afraid it will cause them mental anguish? Excuse me if I go boo hoo right about now.

The bottom line is that the NFL is an entertainment industry that happens to center around playing a sport. These players, even the ones making league minimum, are compensated handsomely to play a game. If you go to a concert and a singer struggles to hit notes, you can expect them to get booed. Even the great Whitney Houston wasn’t immune to this.

This is the NFL, not little league. These players are all adults. It’s not enough to show up and get your participation trophy anymore at this level. Fans expect players to play hard and produce along the lines of their talent level. Wallace wants elite receiver money, but doesn’t show elite receiver hands. He’s fumbled at crucial times this year. He’s failed to get feet inbounds on key plays, and again, he’s shown poor hands at important junctures of games.

The Steelers got blown out of their own building by a team that’s probably firing their coach at the end of the year. The whole effort deserved to be booed.

I’m tired of all the political correctness creeping into our everyday lives. If you see a player dogging it out there then BOO HIM! If you see a player have a pass hit him in the hands and not catch it then BOO HIM!

Booing is the traditional way a large crowd lets their feelings be heard. There are rules in place saying you can’t throw anything on the field, which only makes sense. There are rules saying no profanity can be used at stadiums, which also makes sense. Again, what harm really comes out of booing someone other than a little hurt pride.

If it were me getting booed, I’d bust my butt to make sure it never happened again. I make sure I prepare enough in advance before a radio appearance so I know what I am talking about. I look up relevant stats and facts before writing columns, again, because that is part of my job.

Wallace’s job is to catch the damn football. He didn’t. End of story.

Boo me in the comments if you want. I can handle it.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Arena football may be known for all the offense scored in it, but having some dominant defensive talent can go a long way towards separating a team from pretender and contender status.  The Power have been very focused on the defensive side of the ball but until today, they were still looking for a strong presence in the middle of their defense.

The Pittsburgh Power announced today that they have been assigned 1st team All-Arena jack linebacker Alvin Ray Jackson.  Jackson was a monster in the middle of the New Orleans VooDoo defense last year with 14 interceptions, which tied him with for the league lead in that category.   In two seasons in the AFL, he has amassed 22 interceptions overall.

“Alvin Ray makes any defense he plays in better,” remarked Power Head Coach Derek Stingley.  “My defense is his defense; it’s the defense where Alvin Ray cut his teeth in.  He knows all the checks, he understands all the situations like down and distance, field awareness, time and personnel.”

Stingley also commented on the impact Jackson will have in the turnover department.  “He’s a playmaker, his instincts are almost always spot on.”   This was something the Power really struggled with last year but the signing of Jackson, along with defensive backs Sergio Gilliam (six interceptions) and Chris LeFlore (nine interceptions), gives the Power defense a few ballhawks who will cause some serious havoc for opposing offenses in 2013.  Jackson and LeFlore both ranked in the top ten in the AFL last year in interceptions.  

The Power still have 13 open roster spots for the 2013 training camp roster and are hopeful that standout wide receiver and kick returner P.J. “Superman” Berry will also return to the team once he comes off the league’s injured reserve list.  By rule he is not eligible to sign with any team until then.

For the latest Power news keep checking in here at the blog.  Follow me on Twitter @SteelCityVoice as well.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Power sign eight more to the 2013 roster.

The Pittsburgh Power continues to stockpile talent for the 2013 season and have added some interesting players to the mix.

2010 Pittsburgh Power standout linebacker Gary Butler (6’1” 250 lbs, California of Pa.) is back with the team after a year off.  Nicknamed “The Bully” by the fans, Butler notched three sacks in his first four games, as well as three fumble recoveries.  He was also a presence with seven passes defensed.  Injuries slowed him down in the second half, but he was a vocal leader on the defense and should be a strong presence again this year for the Power.

Defensive lineman Dominie Pittman (6’3” 255 lbs, North Alabama) also returns to the Power coming off a solid pass rushing campaign last year.  He notched two multi-sack games against Orlando (Week 1) and Iowa (Week 17) and finished with 5.5 sacks overall.  He is looking to be a full time starter on the line this year for the Power.

The Power have also signed six rookies to the roster.

Running back Jason Ford is a 5’10 251 lb. bowling ball out of the University of Illinois.  Steeler fans will remember him from this year’s preseason roster.   He had 42 yards on 8 carries against the Colts before injuring his hamstring.  Considering he was merely an injury replacement on the roster to begin with, he was a longshot to make the team.  His bullying, bruising running style should make him a strong running back in the AFL.

Speedy wide receiver Curtis Walls (5’10”, 180 lbs., North Carolina A&T) has impressed the Power coaching staff enough to earn an invitation to training camp.  He played five seasons at North Carolina A&T (2003-07) and recorded 98 catches for 1,101 total receiving yards as a member of the Aggies.  He has also spent time on the rosters of the Montreal Alouettes (CFL) and the Tulsa Talons (AFL).

Defensive lineman Darius Powell is a 6’3” 245 pound pass rush specialist out of Fayetteville State.  He was 2009 Second team All-CIAA.  His best game was against St. Augustine where he had career-highs in tackles (7), tackles for loss (5), sacks (3), forced fumbles (3) and fumble recoveries (1).

Defensive back Dee Wolford was signed following his appearance at open player tryouts for the Power.  Dee spent two seasons at Geneva College (‘04-‘05) where he was named an All-MSFA Pre-Season All-American, and two-Time All-MSFA Defensive Player of the Week.  He totaled 79 tackles, 27 break-ups, and five interceptions. Wolford finished his college career with two seasons (’06-’07) at Shippensburg University by adding 83 tackles, two sacks, 11 break-ups, and one interception.  Wolford also played in 2010 for the Reading Express of the Indoor Football League.

The Power have also been assigned defensive tackle Willie McGinnis (three year starter at Rhode Island, five sacks) and defensive end Quintin Anderson from Wagner who as an undrafted free agent with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Pittsburgh Power have used the exclusive free agency period to sign two players to the 2013 roster from last year’s squad.

Wide receiver Mike “The Joystick” Washington will return for his third season in the AFL, all for the Pittsburgh Power. The local Aliquippa native has been very consistent for the Power during his career, notching 114 receptions for 1,367 yards and 30 touchdowns in 2011 and 115 receptions for 1,484 yards and 34 touchdowns in 2012. He earned AFL Playmaker of the Week after catching 13 passes for 170 yards and three touchdowns against Cleveland on April 28.

The Power have also signed defensive back Chris “Gingabread” LeFlore, who set the franchise single season record for interceptions last season with nine. Leflore, a three-year AFL veteran, helped lead a Power defense that was one of the stingiest in the league in terms of yards allowed. His two interceptions against Orlando on April 14th helped spark the largest successful comeback (35 points) in AFL history.

When asked what helped him make the decision to return, LeFlore said, “I love the fans in Pittsburgh. That’s one of the reasons I came back.”

Pittsburgh has until Monday to exclusively sign players who were on the 2012 roster. The Power have already teased fans with a big announcement on Monday, so perhaps another key player is already in the mix.

The Power will also be holding open tryouts for the team on November 10th. For more information about how to tryout, go to

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Pittsburgh Steelers Need To Shift Their Focus Back Onto The Field

Rashard Mendenhall is back at his old Twitter nonsense. This time he is calling out Steeler Nation for not supporting this team.

“Seriously, if you’re gonna talk trash about your team and everyone on it, don’t call yourself a fan. A fan is a supporter.” – Rashard Mendenhall (@R_Mendenhall on Twitter)

Is it really talking trash, or more like discussing the cold hard truth about this team? My gut feeling is that the Steelers need a wakeup call in more ways than one.

Maybe the Steelers need to focus more on themselves and not what the fans or media are saying about them. They have enough issues to worry about. In the end, nothing a fan or media person says about this team matters. All that matters is that you go out and win football games like you are paid to do.

This team is clearly lacking in the focus department. Plenty of stupid penalties, missed tackles, blown coverage, poor fundamentals, poor coaching and playing down to opponents. You name it, they are doing it. They are very hard to watch right now.

Rashard, you are paid to play the game of football. You are paid to win games. Fans pay good money to see you guys play on the field, and many invest their time and passion into a team. They identify with a team. You represent the city of Pittsburgh on and off the field.

God forbid Steeler fans actually call out the team for playing lackluster, uninspired football on the field. Are the fans supposed to blindly applaud when this team is losing to the worst teams in the league? Oakland and Tennessee are terrible and Denver is also a losing team and yet the Black and Gold have found a way to lose to all three.

Pittsburgh fans are some of the most knowledgeable football fans in the world. They recognize a stinker when they see it, and the Steelers right now stink with the worst of them. There’s no mistaking their 2-3 record, they’ve earned it by being one of the most undisciplined teams this year in terms of penalties. They’ve dug themselves a hole by letting teams hang around and steal victory from them. Good teams find ways to win close games like this, the Steelers aren’t and therefore, they aren’t a good team.

At what point do we see these losses to inferior teams and conclude the Steelers might also be an inferior team? This was supposed to be the “easy” part of the schedule, and they are 2-3 and face a must-win game next week against Cincinnati. Lose that one and fall to 2-4 with 4 losses in conference already.

The defense can’t stop blowing fourth quarter leads. The coaching staff makes head scratching decisions like going for a career long field goal with a high likelihood of failure. Shockingly, the defense couldn’t stop the Titans from moving right into field goal range. Not like we haven’t seen that story out numerous times this year.

Despite all this, you’d think Mendenhall would be more concerned with finding ways to improve his game. Maybe even stay on the field and help contribute. With all the time he spends standing on the sidelines lately, maybe it’s time for the Steelers to hire actor Orlando Jones to serve as his double. They’d probably save some money on his contract.

The Steelers need to get their focus back and soon, or else they’ll have an entire offseason to spend tweeting about how good they are. Seeing the lack of focus from them, maybe they’re already there.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Are The Pittsburgh Pirates Allergic To Winning?

After today’s loss to the New York Mets, there is absolutely no margin for error if the Pittsburgh Pirates hope to end their 19-year losing streak. If the Pirates truly want to crush their fans hearts in style, they should win four games then lose the last two and finish just below the mark. That seems to be how they do things around here.

Look at the fact they got to 16 games over .500 and most experts, including myself, thought there was no way in hell even the Pirates could blow such a lead. Boy was I wrong. Hey if you’re going to suck, you might as well do it in style.

Do you think I’m being too negative? What about the message being sent by the organization this week? I think the fans and the players, and the rest of major League Baseball have gotten that message loud and clear. Winning is an allergy around here.

Before you say I’m crazy in suggesting this team is allergic to winning, take a look back at 2010. Matt Walbeck was the manager of the Altoona Curve, the Pirates AA affiliate, and led the team to the Eastern League Title. He was fired shortly thereafter when Assistant GM Kyle Stark made some BS comment about how Walbeck didn’t fit in with the organization.

That’s right; a manager had success in the organization and was promptly canned. Here we are two years later and after back to back collapses, no one is getting fired?

Say whaaaaaaaat?

I’m trying to wrap my brain around that, I really am. Of course it probably comes down to money. In spite of the constant reminders this organization would spend money when the time was right, we got to this year’s trade deadline, and the team went cheap. They made trades for reclamation projects with years of control rather than one or two impact bats that may have helped jumpstart a second half offense that, at its most generous description, is anemic.

It’s entirely possible Bob Nutting doesn’t want to spend the money to pay off one GM contract and hire another guy. That could possibly lead to replacing and paying for two managers as well.

Hindsight might tell us maybe Huntington felt this team wasn’t really good enough, but that’s just a copout excuse. The message was sent to players like Andrew McCutchen that this team will not do everything possible to win. Same as it ever was, same as it ever was.

What free agent with any modicum of talent would consider coming here? We saw all of these players at the deadline reject the notion of playing here. I thought perhaps the fun start to this season would change that perception. The players were having fun flashing Zoltan signs. The Fans were rallying around this team. Once again their hopes were dashed.

It’s pretty sad when the fans are willing to go all-in and management isn’t. The city of Pittsburgh deserves better than an ownership group willing to accept this culture.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Wlll Penn State's punishment fit the crime?

Throughout the entire saga of the Jerry Sandusky/Penn State sex abuse scandal, people have speculated what the PSU administration knew and did not know.  People who did not have facts were screaming for the NCAA to fire off the death penalty on the Penn State Football program.  People without facts proclaimed Joe Paterno did all he had to do by reporting the issue to his superiors.   

There was always speculation as to who exactly was in charge at Penn State.  After hearing the findings of the Freeh report today, that's a very valid question.  Who was in charge at Penn State?   I'm not referring to the names of the people in charge during this.  We know those names with great detail.  President Spanier, Coach Paterno, Athletic Director Tim Curley, and Vice-President Gary Schultz.  

My question is directed more towards who these people are in terms of their character.  

Prior to this scandal, all four men were held with the highest regards professionally.  Every college football fan is well aware of Paterno's accomplishments both on and off the field.   Paterno is the all time winningest coach at the highest collegiate level.  He's given millions of dollars back to the school who employed him, and for all intents and purposes he was perceived as a good guy.   Spanier was also widely regarded as one of the finest university leaders in the country.   

None of that matters anymore.

The findings of the Freeh report blow those reputations to hell and back.  In it, the underlying theme of the report is that four people of high power and esteem at Penn State participated in a deliberate cover-up of the deplorable actions of Jerry Sandusky.  They all lied as to the extent of their knowledge.  All four of them.  

In light of the evidence found by the investigative committee, these four people are responsible for choosing not to report the actions of Sandusky to law enforcement to protect the university and football program from shame.  One quote I've heard is that it "wouldn't have been humane to Sandusky." This decision allowed Sandusky to continue to prey on his victims long after it should have been stopped.

People everywhere are disgusted by the actions of Sandusky for good reason.  The crimes he committed against children are unspeakable.  People are also understandably disgusted by the fact that said actions were hidden from the public intentionally.  I've preferred to wait until the facts came to light before making further judgement, and that day was today.

As a former Penn State student I am absolutely sickened to see all the details of just how much these four knew and hid.   Paterno, a man I once respected, has let down the very people he tried to teach the Penn State way to.  When it came time for him to face his greatest test, he failed in the most awful way imaginable.  

If they had gone to the authorities, Sandusky would have still been put on trial, but perhaps more people would have respected Penn State for "doing the right thing" in this situation.  There would have been negative publicity, childish anti-PSU jokes much like other schools caught in scandal have to face, but it would have been the right thing to do.

So now we settle in on the next phase which is, "What punishment fits the crime?"  Keep in mind that Paterno was fired for this, as was Spanier.  Curley and Schultz are on "administrative leave" while they face perjury charges, although I would imagine today's findings are more than enough ammunition for Penn State to fire them for ethical misconduct.  

All four involved will be gone for good from the university.   That should satisfy some of the bloodlust.  

Step two, legal remuneration for the victims.   Money won't change what happened, but making sure these victims get help in recovering from what is an unspeakable tragedy is a necessity.  Especially when it could have been prevented.

Step three, is trickier.  NCAA sanctions.   People out there are screaming for Penn State to get the death penalty.  You'll hear both sides of this argument play out on sports radio in the near future.  I never thought the day would come where I'd find myself writing this statement, but if Penn State was hit with the death penalty, I wouldn't complain.   Any sane, logical fan of Penn State has to see this situation for what it is.  


Shocking words I know, but this entire situation is shocking.  If they continue to play football like nothing happened, it will only prove that football is king in this country.  Innocents get harmed in any type of punishment.  Wives, children, mothers, brothers, sisters, friends.  Everyone who knows a prisoner can attest to this.  It's harder on those left behind.  

What would be even more shocking would be for Penn State themselves to shut down the program for a year or two.  Don't wait for the NCAA to rule.  Prove that you understand the seriousness of this situation and do the right thing.  The school would probably be better off overall if it separated football from the university for a little while.  How much of a distraction will this upcoming football season be?  

There is no precedent for the type of punishment that is worthy in this situation because this (thankfully) hasn't happened before.  Hopefully it never does again. My only question for the readers though is, how much is enough punishment for you?   

I get the feeling from some people out there that they'd like to see the Penn State Campuses flipped upside down and become State Penn.  Anyone who has ever been associated with PSU must be evil right?  

Lock down any former student, professor, athlete, alumni, whatever.  They scream, "Wipe Penn State off the map!"

I don't expect people to forget, but at least forgive and help Penn Staters move forward.  

Contrary to some people's beliefs these days, there is still a lot of good about Penn State.  I trust that PSU will do the right thing and never forget what happened here.  

One other thing many people have discussed is the statue of Joe Paterno.  Most people want it torn down.   You can't argue with that either.  Maybe before today's report you could have, but not now.  

It would be a constant reminder of the man who helped conceal a serial rapist.  It's a constant reminder of one of the greatest mistakes in human history.  Then again, maybe you SHOULD leave it up for just that reason.  

Never forget what happened here. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Pittsburgh Power @ Iowa Barnstormers Preview

The disappointment express that is the Pittsburgh Power season continues to rumble down the tracks towards the end of the season.

The Power now sit at 3-11 on the season, and will try to end what is essentially an 8-game losing streak against the Iowa Barnstormers (5-9) Saturday night.  Pittsburgh's only win in the last two months came via forfeit from the Cleveland Gladiators.  

Iowa is experiencing their own disappointment this year.  They may have contended in the American conference, but with the strong play of teams in San Jose, San Antonio, Arizona, Chicago and Spokane, they have no chance of making the playoffs this year.  It's a shame because they possess some solid talent on their squad.

The two teams squared off earlier in the year in Pittsburgh, with the Barnstormers coming away with a 55-42 victory.  The major plays in the Iowa victory were two net recovery touchdowns by linebacker John Mohring and two interceptions by Jason Simpson.

Quarterback J.J. Raterink, in his third season, ranks amongst the AFL's best in passing.  He's thrown for 3919 yards, 73 TD's and 10 INT's this year, plus scrambled for 90 yards and 7 scores on the ground.    

His favorite target, Jesse Schmidt, is tops in the AFl in rfeceptions and receiving yards, and ranks second in touchdowns.  The only game this year in which he failed to score was that earlier meeting against Pittsburgh, so perhaps the Power have his number.

Pittsburgh quarterback Bryan Randall continues to have moments of greatness this year, but he's also had his share of struggles.  The turnovers have come down in recent weeks, but the offense has stalled out a few more times than one would like.  This might be attributed to the transition from Chris Siegfried's offense, over to Mike Tomczak via Derek Stingley.  

The Power activated wide receiver A.J. Jackson for last weeks game against Philly and he responded with a pair of touchdowns.  He could be another strong weapon for the Power offense to go along with Oderick Turner, Mike Washington and P.J. Berry.  His emergence could signal a reduction in playing time for Randy Hymes.  

Chris LeFlore hauled in his 8th interception of the season last week and remains one of the few bright spots on defense for the Power in 2012.  Conversely, Bryan Williams still has zero interceptions this year, and ranks behind P.J. Berry (one interception) in that department.

The Barnstormers have a pair of dangerous defensive backs in Simpson and Cameron McGlenn, both of whom have six interceptions.

Neither team generates a lot of pressure via their defensive line, so both quarterbacks should have time to make their reads.  

Overall as we look back at that first game for a blueprint for what to expect, I think a few bad bounces on kickoffs gave the Barnstormers the edge, although four interceptions by Andrico Hines didn't help the cause.  I like Randall a lot better than Hines, and I think the Power have better depth at WR overall than just Schmidt and Marco Thomas (112 catches, 1241 yards, 15 TD's).

If Randall and company can continue their recent play with fewer turnovers I think they stand an excellent chance of bringing home a victory from Des Moines.  

THE VOICE SAYS....Pittsburgh 58, Iowa 52

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Pittsburgh Power win by forfeit, Fans lose again

The Pittsburgh Power losing streak may have officially ended last night, but the losing streak for the fans continues this year.  It's not just limited to the Power, but also the fan bases in Orlando and Cleveland and threatens to continue growing league wide.

In week one, the fans of not just Pittsburgh and Orlando, but the entire league had to watch a game with primarily replacement players take the field in the showcase "Arena Football Friday" broadcast on the NFL Network.  Pittsburgh won the game 40-28 but in the context of the season they lost.  Due to the labor dispute, Kyle Rowley and Taylor Rowan were not asked to rejoin the team.  You can blame the league, blame the Power or blame Rowley for all of this but in the end the fans are the ones who lose.

Last night the AFLPU called a strike for one franchise for just long enough to cause the Gladiators, who are in the midst of a fierce battle for a playoff spot, to just basically give a game away.   Fans lined up outside the Quicken Loans arena were not notified until 7:45 that the game was not going to be played. Those fans stuck outside included a group of Power fans who had made a bus trip from the Steel City to cheer on their team.

The strike ended officially at midnight so the players could return to their housing, which is a perk of their employment.   Officially the Gladiators lost this game via forfeit, but again, the ones that truly lost were the fans.

I continue to struggle to see what kind of leverage the union gains by forcing one of their possible playoff teams to take a dive in front of their own fans.  If you want to make a statement, you get the players on all of your teams to take a stand and strike.

The problem is I don't think the players are all on board with what AFLPU Ivan Soto is doing.  Over half the Power crossed the picket line in Orlando.  The strike ended shortly after the game.   Even last night there were reports that Gladiator quarterback John Dutton and wide receiver Robert Redd were prepared to cross.

These mini strikes have done nothing but screw with the fans of these three franchises (Pittsburgh twice now).   All they are, in my opinion, are terrorist strikes.  Hit and run attacks that only hurt those directly involved at ground zero so to speak.  These shenanigans caused the NFL Network to cancel their broadcast of the Philadelphia/Milwaukee game to a national audience.  That game finished with a last second 69-62 victory by Philly, a game that would have gone a long way to marketing this game to a larger fanbase.

If the AFLPU thinks these stunts are giving them leverage they are sorely mistaken.  The NFL Network pays the league for the right to broadcast these games.  This was a change from the previous two years when the league had to pay the network money to broadcast.  If that reverts to last year's policy, that is less money the league has to pay their players.

Attendance is down league wide as fans are starting to stay away from this pissing contest.  Look at it logically, why would fans pay money for games they don't know for sure will take place.  Season ticket renewal applications went out to fans across the league this week.  How many are having second (or third or fourth) thoughts about coming back next year?  This is the "Year Of The Fan" according to the AFL, but the fans are the ones who are losing out in this mess.

I may cover the Power for TribLive Radio, but I've been a fan of the arena/indoor football game for over six years now.  It's a fun game when they actually step on the field and play the game.  I'm one of the fans watching this unfold and it angers the hell out of me.  

Soto admits his proposal will cost the league over $15 million dollars over the 2012 and 2013 season.  That's a lot of money considering the league was bankrupt just a few season ago.  Sound out of touch to you?  Speaking of out of touch. I've heard from several sources that the players are unaware of the offers that have been proposed by the league.  Somehow the message is not getting to the membership from union head Ivan Soto.

Soto constantly bashes the league in his tweets and says the league isn't negotiating in good faith.  The league counters with the fact that the union has not budged one bit from their offer around the time of the season opener.

There's no way to know for sure what is going on due to all the misdirection happening publicly.  Here's a novel idea.  Honor the agreement you made BEFORE the season and stop hurting arena football.  After the season sit down and hammer out these differences.  There have to be concessions on both sides, there always are during a negotiation.

I'm hopeful an agreement can be reached but regardless of how this all ultimately ends, the ones who end up losing are the fans.  I repeat...the ones who are the losers in all of this are the fans.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Pittsburgh Power at Arizona Rattlers Preview

It's time to start over for the Pittsburgh Power.  While they can't erase their 2-8 start to the season, they did make a change at head coach.  Chris Siegfried is gone and will be replaced by interim head coach Derek Stingley.   Stingley is a former AFL standout and does have some head coaching experience in the league, having gone 2-12 last year for the New Orleans VooDoo.

The Power have also brought in Mike Tomczak to be the new offensive coordinator.   The move is a curious one, as Tomczak has zero experience with the indoor game.  The thought behind the move is that Tomczak, as a former pro quarterback, will help develop the Power quarterbacks.  It is a quarterback driven league after all.

I'm not sure the Power could have drawn a harder test for this new configuration of coaches than having to go and face the 8-3 Arizona Rattlers on the road.   The Rattlers boast the top scoring offense in the league at 67.1 PPG

Arizona features reigning league MVP Nick Davila who is having another fantastic season.  He's currently third in the league with 3323 yards, 3rd in completion percentage (68.1%), 2nd in touchdowns (77), and 1st in QB rating (127.0).  He's also thrown just 10 interceptions through 11 games, which is very good by arena standards.

The Rattlers also have standout receiver Maurice Purify, the reigning Aaron's Rookie of the Year and a 2011 second team all arena WR.  The 6'3" Nebraska product is 2nd in the league in yards (1411) and 2nd in receiving TD's (38).  He's been nearly impossible to cover in his two AFL seasons.

Keep an eye on Rattlers WR Kerry Reed as well. He's also got great size (6'2") and ability as well as a big school pedigree from Michigan State.  He's got 53 receptions for 823 yards and 19 TD's this year for the Rattlers.

Arizona fullback Odie Armstrong currently ranks 2nd in rushing yards (162) and 3rd in rushing TD's (11).  At 5'11" 260 pounds he's not the usual giant fullback that most teams choose to employ.  He has elusive running ability and can make you pay if you don't focus on containing him.  

Pittsburgh has announced that Bryan Randall will take the reigns as quarterback again this week, despite being benched in the loss to Kansas City two weeks ago.  Randall is quietly putting up some very good stats for the Power.  In his four games as a starter, Randall is 96 for 139 (69.1%) for 1083 yards, 20 TD's and 4 interceptions.  His biggest problem has been fumbles.  If he can learn to control the ball better while scrambling he has the ability to become a big time AFL quarterback.

The Power love to spread the ball around to their talented receivers.   P.J. Berry, the reigning JLS Ironman of the Year, is once again leading the league in all-purpose yardage. He has 1269 yards in returns and 2 TD's, to go with 741 yards receiving and 9 TD's.  

Mike "The Joystick" Washington has 64 receptions for 862 yards and 20 TD's (12th in the AFL) and Oderick Turner has been strong since returning from injury a few weeks ago.  He has 309 yards receiving and 4 TD's in just a few games of action this year.

The Power also signed A.J. Jackson this week, a 6'4" receiver out of California (Pa.) University.  If activated, he could bring a whole new dimension to the Power offense.  He's got great playmaking ability but the knock on him in the past has been his focus.

Defensively the Rattlers might give up big chunks of passing yardage, but they are also good at forcing turnovers.  The Rattlers have recorded 14 interceptions this year.  Randall will need to stay very aware of where Arkeith Brown (5 INT), Marquis Floyd (3 INT), and Virgil Gray (2 INT) are.  The Rattlers also force a lot of fumbles, which is bad news for the fumble-prone Power.

Pittsburgh's only chance of winning this game is to rely on their passing defense,which is tops in the league.  If the Power can somehow hold the Rattlers in check and minimize their own mistakes, we might have a game on our hands.  Prior history tells us otherwise.

Too much is going against Pittsburgh in this one for me to have much faith in them pulling out a victory.  I think Arizona has a huge edge at quarterback, they have the homefield advantage, and they also have more playmakers on the defensive side of the ball.  It's one thing to have the top yardage defense in the league, it's another to have the better defense at forcing turnovers.

Don't expect a miracle....

THE VOICE SAYS....Arizona 65, Pittsburgh 48

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Remember When? The Pittsburgh Gladiators

A lot of fans around here who root for the Pittsburgh Power may not realize that this is actually the second time Pittsburgh has played in the AFL.  Our city was directly involved in the inaugural season of the Arena Football league all the way back in 1987.

The Pittsburgh Gladiators were one of the original four franchises of the AFL, along with the Washington Commandos, Denver Dynamite, and the Chicago Bruisers.

The Gladiators were coached by Joe Haering, a local football standout who was elected to the Western Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall Of Fame in 2010.   Haering currently serves as the linebackers coach at SMU.

Haering was a tough as nails, old school coach who would get on you even when you were winning.  In a 1989 game in Sacramento, as part of the "Travelling Circus" promotion to show the game to new fans,  Chicago Bruiser quarterback Ben Bennett was ejected from the game for starting a brawl, but AFL commissioner Jim Foster overruled the decision.  Haering proceeded to punch out the commissioner and earn himself a suspension.

The Pittsburgh Gladiators practicing at Robinson Township Community Park

Pittsburgh began that 1987 season 4-0, before losing their final two regular season games.  They still finished as one of the top two teams and earned the right to play the Denver Dynamite in Arena Bowl I.  The game was held in Pittsburgh's Civic Arena but the Gladiators lost 45-16 to become a footnote in Arena Bowl history.

The Gladiators featured league MVP Russell Hairston, who played wide receiver and linebacker.  Hairston finished the season with 67 receptions for 1126 yards and 18 TD's.  He also had four interceptions for 50 yards and a TD.  In addition to league MVP, he was named first team all arena.
Pittsburgh Gladiator Uniforms

Offensive/defensive lineman Craig Walls was also a first team all arena player by virtue of his league leading 13 sacks in that 1987 season and WR/DB Mike Stoops was named second team all-arena.  Current Iowa Barnstormers head coach Mike Hohensee was the starting quarterback for the Gladiators.

1988 saw the team finish with a 6-6 regular season record and once again qualify for the playoffs.  This time the team lost in the first round to eventual champion, the Detroit Drive, by the score of 34-25.

Quarterback Mike Hohensee led the league in completion percentage (58.6%) and QB rating (104) and threw 32 touchdowns versus only 3 interceptions.    Lineman Craig Walls was once again named first team all-arena after recording a league leading 12 sacks.  He would later go on to become one of the members of the AFL Hall of Fame in 1998.  Julius Dawkins, out of the University of Pittsburgh, led the team in receiving with 61 receptions for 927 yards and 21 TD's.  

1989 saw the AFL play a shorter schedule.  The Gladiators finished the regular season 3-1 and beat the Denver Dynamite 39-37 in the first round of the playoffs to advance to face the Detroit Drive in Arena Bowl III.  Pittsburgh once again fell short in their quest for a championship, falling 39-26.  

Standouts in that '89 season included a few first team all-arena players in quarterback Willie Totten and wide receiver Alvin Williams.  

1990 would be the franchise's final season in Pittsburgh.  The team did not have as much success on the field that year, finishing 3-5, but still made the playoffs, making them 4 for 4 in that category during their time in the Steel City.  They would lose 61-30 to the eventual champion Detroit Drive. WR/DB Thomas Monroe was named Ironman of the Year and first team all-arena.  WR/DB Julius Dawkins and OL/DL Keith Browner would earn second team all-arena nods.

The franchise relocated to Tampa Bay for the 1991 season and would go on to win four of the next six Arena Bowls and five titles overall.  They remain active today.

Gone, but not completely forgotten.

Special thanks to former Gladiators equipment manager Chuck Botta and for stats and stories.  

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Power sign wide receiver A.J. Jackson

The Power have a new wide receiver in the mix for playing time.  A.J. Jackson, from California (Pa) University has been assigned to the team and could contribute quickly to the team.

Jackson set school records in 2009 with 101 receptions for 1424 yards and 18 TD's.  He totaled 2130 yards and 28 TD's in his two season with the Vulcans.

His size (6'4" 236 pounds) makes him very tough to cover, and he has enough speed to make defenders pay if they make a mistake in coverage.  Jackson is also skilled at making yards after the catch.

He was named to the 2009 AP Little All-America (Division II, III & NAIA) second team.

Take a glance at his highlight video below.  He makes some incredible catches and shows great footwork along the sidelines.   He should be a fun player to watch if he is given a chance to play.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

"Superfans" of the Pittsburgh Power

One of the coolest parts of the arena football game is how close the fans can sit to the action.  You can sit so close to the field you feel like you are part of the action.

Some Pittsburgh Power fans have taken on personas to become larger than life "Superfans" who only add to the excitement and thrills of a Pittsburgh Power game.

If you've been to a Power game at Consol Energy Center, you're bound to have seen one or more of these people cheering or dancing in support of the Black and Gold.  

I wanted to take a few moments to thank them for their efforts in making the Consol Energy Center a true party atmosphere.

The Pittsburgh Power Green Man

The Pittsburgh Power Green Man was probably the first "Superfan" I noticed last year, mostly because it's hard not to stand out wearing a bright green bodysuit.  This faceless wonder moves around the arena and loves dancing up a storm in between breaks in the action.   

You might be confused because there do seem to be more than one of these guys at the arena.  It's like they say, Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  

According to his Facebook page, He loves taunting, flailing and pterodactyl noises, making the other team feel shame, and making any players on that team wish they had never been born.

The Pittsburgh Power American Man

Another supersuit wearing fan of the Power is The Pittsburgh Power American Man.  

He seems to be cut from the same mold as the Green Man, although his suit has more of a patriotic flair to it.    In addition to the red and white striped suit, he dons an American flag cape, boxer shorts, and usually has a bright flamboyant pair of shoes on to finish the outfit.  

Green Man and American Man often seem to hang out around each other.  Perhaps they are friends outside of the Power games as well.

Pittsburgh Steelman

The Pittsburgh Steelman fills the role of superhero at the Power games.  His shiny, metallic costume can be seen from anywhere in the arena.  The costume itself is based on the actual uniforms used in Pittsburgh's steel making past.

He was named "Pittsburgh's Official Superhero" at the City of Pittsburgh Comic Book Convention.

He captures the essence of this glorious Steel town, and is a proud fan of the game.  

He also looks out for others at the game.  For example, he caught two footballs at the game, which you are allowed to keep by rule, but gave the footballs to kids sitting near him instead.  

The Pittsburgh Power Brothers

A longtime staple at Power games are The Pittsburgh Power Brothers.  This pair has had front row seats in the end zone for many of the Power's games in 2011 and 2012.  

It does seem like one of the brothers looks vastly different from last year.  A new member perhaps, but the fact remains these guys are true diehards.  

They made it to the finals of the costume contest for "Superhero" night.

Pittsburgh Pony

One Power fan dons a horse mask and personalized jersey to become The Pittsburgh Pony.  PA announcer Bubba Snider often calls him "Horsehead" instead, leading the Pony to point to the name on the back of his jersey clearly marked "Pittsburgh Pony."

He can usually be seen in the end zone ready to receive a football on kickoffs.  He is also a staple of the dance for your dinner contests.  

He occasionally wears a Mike Wallace jersey, playing off the "One Trick Pony" theme.

Pittsburgh Power Ref Guy

Anytime the referee challenge is called at the Consol Energy Center, you can expect to hear a lone voice in the crowd began to chant "Ref Ref Ref!"

This is when the Pittsburgh Power Ref Guy shines.  He'll keep the chant going strong during the review of the play.  The passion and dedication this fan brings to the game would make his idol Ed Hochuli proud.  

The addition of an actual ref costume only adds to the character.  

Who is your favorite?

So which of these "Superfans" is your favorite?  Who best represents the Pittsburgh Power?  Cast your vote in the poll to the upper right.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Pittsburgh Power head coach Chris Siegfried fired.

The Pittsburgh Power announced today that head coach Chris Siegfried was relieved of his duties.  The team currently has a record of 2-8 after falling at home on Saturday to the previously winless Kansas City Command.

Anyone familiar with the Power had to see this coming.  The team is dead last in turnover margin in the league and constantly found ways to lose games.  Constant turnover at the key quarterback position prevented the team from finding any continuity, and Siegfried was also responsible for the offensive playcalling for a team that has struggled for two seasons to score with any consistency.

Siegfried told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that Pittsburgh was his dream job and expressed disappointment that he was unable to get things turned around.  

Former Power head coach Chris Siegfried.
Photo Credit: John Buffone
The Power will go with defensive coordinator Derek Stingley as their interim head coach.  Stingley took on more of the coaching duties during Saturday's loss to the Command due to Siegfried's bout with food poisoning.  Stingley was the head coach of the New Orleans VooDoo last season, compiling a 2-12 record.  He has over 20 years of AFL experience as a player and coach.  Former Steeler quarterback Mike Tomczak will join the team as offensive coordinator.  

The team never seemed to recover from the opening night labor dispute that saw the team fire their players at a pregame meal and roll with a mix of players crossing the picket line and replacement players in a 40-28 win over Orlando.  Kyle Rowley and Taylor Rowan never rejoined the team and the lack of a consistent quarterback and kicker have clearly cost the team a few victories this year.  

Pittsburgh is currently on their bye week, so Stingley's first game as head coach of the Power will be against the Arizona Rattlers on June 2nd in Arizona.  

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Power Hit Rock Bottom, Hand Kansas City First Win Of The Season.

Things have gone from bad to worse for the Power.  Turnovers once again were the story in a 43-37 loss to the Kansas City Command Saturday night.  It was the first win for the Command this year.

I've never seen a team this poor at holding onto the ball.  Already entering the game with the worst turnover margin in the league, the Power gave the ball away three more times. Fumbles by Oderick Turner and Bryan Randall killed early momentum for the Power, and Derek Cassidy threw an interception later in the game which sealed the Power's fate.

P.J. Berry stood out for the Power in all three phases of the game.  He had 10 catches for 94 yards and 2 TD's, plus an interception and another solid showing in the return game.  Oderick Turner had 8 catches for 94 yards plus the fumble, and Mike "Joystick" Washington had 6 catches for 74 yards and 2 TD's.

Starting quarterback Bryan Randall, fresh off a franchise record performance against the San Antonio Talons, went 9 for 13 for 86 yards and 2 TD's.  He was benched after a critical lost fumble and replaced by Cassidy.  Cassidy was floating passes all game long, some being dropped by Command defenders.  He easily could have thrown four interceptions in this game.  

Coach Siegfried had no answers after the game, and seeing how this season has played out, he may not have to answer questions much longer.  This is a team that started out the 2011 season 6-2 and sat in first place in the Eastern division before sputtering to a 9-9 finish down the stretch due to, what else, turnovers.  That trend has continued through every game of the 2012 season.  Siegfried even seemed resigned to this possible fate by apologizing to ownership in the postgame press conference for not being able to deliver a winner.

Siegfried brought up the point that some members of the team, who he refused to name, seemed content to just be here.  He hinted there would be more roster moves after the bye week, but it's probably too little too late.  Siegfried seems like a nice enough guy, but this team appears to have quit on him.  

It's probably no coincidence that both teams involved in the opening night strike fiasco have a combined record of 3-16.  Where would they be right now if Kyle Rowley was still in a power uniform.  Just last night, Rowley was leading the Spokane Shock to a big win over the Philadelphia Soul.    He's the kind of experienced quarterback that could have given the Power a few more wins this year.  Sadly we'll never know.

Where does Pittsburgh go from here?  Sitting at 2-8 with a loss to the worst team in the league, plus the only two wins of the season coming against the equally woeful Orlando Predators, what positives can we focus on.   Fans are turning on the team quickly on the Power's Facebook page.  It's an ugly situation all around.

Maybe it's time to make a move at the head coaching position and see if that lights a spark under the team.  What could it hurt?  Again this doesn't seem to be a fluke seeing how the team had the same issues last year.

A likely interim replacement would be defensive coordinator Derek Stingley, who was the head coach of the New Orleans VooDoo last year and is one of the best AFL players in the history of the game.   Stingley was more involved in this game due to Siegfried suffering from food poisoning.   Spend the rest of the season figuring out who wants to be here and who doesn't and try to build for the future as best as you can.

It's not like things can get any worse....

Friday, May 18, 2012

Kansas City Command @ Pittsburgh Power Preview

Let's roll through the facts for a moment.  The Pittsburgh Power (2-7) have placed themselves in an almost impossible situation because of their inability to hang onto the football.  Pittsburgh is dead last in the AFL in turnover margin at -15 and continually find ways to lose games.  

Last week saw quarterback Bryan Randall fumble twice, running back Tyre Young once, and three missed PAT attempts from kicker Seth Burkholder, who was given his walking papers after the game.  It all adds up in the standings and the Power have no margin for error if they still dream about making the AFL playoffs.  It would take a miraculous comeback, but this is the team that rallied from 31 down against Orlando earlier this year to win a game.

The journey towards that miracle starts this Saturday as the winless Kansas City Command invade the Consol Energy Center to take on the Power.  

Kansas City has the lowest scoring offense in the league (36.1 PPG) and will start AFL rookie Matt Gutierrez at quarterback.  He has struggled mightily this year, completing only 56.1% of his passes.   Pittsburgh might not respect his arm, but they do have to worry about him running the ball.  If the Power's defensive line can contain Gutierrez, the Power D should be in great shape.

The Command have had major injury issues but they do have a strong playmaker in Armand Robinson at the wide receiver position.  In just two games this year, Robinson has amassed 21 receptions for 239 yards and 5 TD's.  

Pittsburgh spent most of the year searching for an answer at the quarterback position, and may have found one in Randall.  Randall leads the league in completion percentage (69%), and has throw for over 300 yards in back to back games.  Last week he set a Power franchise record for yards with 387.  If Randall can curtail his fumbling issues, he could be an elite quarterback in the AFL.

His favorite target last week was P.J. "Superman" Berry who caught a franchise record 19 receptions for 188 yards and 2 TD's.  He finished one shy of the league reception record for a game set by Dwayne Dixon in 1987.

Another popular target for Randall is Oderick Turner.  In just two games this year for Pittsburgh, Turner has hauled in 19 catches for 215 yards and 4 TD's and looks like a potential force for the Power offense.

Keys to the game:
  • How well does Matt Gutierrez match up against an aggressive Power secondary.  Chris LeFlore is third in the AFL in the interception category with six and has to be licking his chops for a few picks against the Command.
  • Can Sione Ohuafi step in for injured Power center Beau Elliott who suffered a season-ending injury against San Antonio.  Ohuafi might be rusty after not playing for almost a year.  This could especially be problematic on quarterback/center exchanges.  
  • Can Pittsburgh finally find a solid kicker who won't leave points on the field?  After an 0 for 3 performance from Seth Burkholder, the Power have brought in Geoff Boyer to try and stabilize the position.  Boyer was 19/24 on FG's and 49/54 on PAT's for the Albany Panthers of the SIFL this year.  

Playoff chase aside, this is a game that Pittsburgh cannot afford to lose.  Fans are getting frustrated in the Steel City and a loss to a winless Command team would be devastating.   I just don't think it'll happen though.  Pittsburgh is too talented to blow this one.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Power fumbling away season, lose 68-52 to San Antonio.

Those searching for reasons why the Pittsburgh Power (2-7) are struggling this year need look no further than their turnover margin.

Pittsburgh came into this game against the San Antonio Talons (6-3) tied with the Talons with a -12 turnover margin.  After losing the battle in that category tonight, Pittsburgh is all but dead in the playoff hunt.  They would likely need to win all of their remaining games and still need help to secure a wild card spot.

This time around, it was two fumbles lost by quarterback Bryan Randall, as well as a third lost fumble by Tyre Young.  San Antonio also had three fumbles in the game, but lost none of them.

Fumbles weren't the only story of this game.  Power kicker Seth Burkholder went 0-for-3 on his extra point attempts before the team chose to go for two points after all of their remaining touchdowns.  Two onsides attempts failed to go ten yards, and were returned by the Talons for touchdowns.

The Power offensive line struggled mightily to contain the Talons ferocious pass rush, yielding 7 sacks against Randall.

If you take away all of these negatives, we can finally look at some of the positives in the game.

Randall set a Power franchise record with 387 yards passing, and he threw for 7 touchdowns and zero interceptions.  Aside from his fumbles, he outplayed AFL legend Aaron Garcia, who threw for 268 yards and 6 TD's.

Also setting a Power record with 19 receptions, P.J. Berry finished the day with 188 yards and 2 TD's, plus 148 return yards.  He was one catch away from tying the AFL record of 20 catches.  Oderick Turner continued his strong play from last week with 10 catches for 96 yards and 2 TD's.  Mike "Joystick" Washington had 5 catches for 82 yards and 3 TD's.

Pittsburgh will look to end this losing streak next week at home against the winless Kansas City Command.  

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Pittsburgh Power @ San Antonio Talons Preview

The Pittsburgh Power (2-6) have dug themselves a deep hole in their quest for an AFL championship and a winning streak is imperative if they still hold out hopes of achieving that dream.

Their first attempt at a reversal of fortune takes them to San Antonio tonight as they take on the San Antonio Talons (5-3)

Pittsburgh is still searching for answers after a 55-52 loss to the Georgia Force last week, a game in which kicker Raymond "Trey" Kramer missed three extra points, and had a fourth blocked.  Kramer was reassigned this week and the Power have their 4th kicker of the year, Seth Burkholder.  Burkholder played for the Canton Cougars last year of the UIFL.

In addition to inconsistency at kicker, Pittsburgh has struggled at the quarterback position, although Bryan Randall will be making his third straight start for the Power and may be proving himself as the long term answer for the team.

On the other side of the ball, the San Antonio Talons boast one of the greatest AFL players of all time under center in starting quarterback Aaron Garcia.  Garcia had perhaps the finest statistical season of his career, completing 71.5% of his passes last year for 4933 yards, 116 TD's and 17 Interceptions.  He also lead the Jacksonville Sharks to their first title, while also earning the first ring of his distinguished 18 year career as well as the title of Russell Athletic Offensive Player of the Year.

Garcia's numbers are down this year, but he still ranks amongst the best in the game.  He's completed 65.5% of his passes  for 2268 yards (6th), 52 TD's, (3rd) and 11 interceptions.  The return of WR Jomo Wilson a few games ago has boosted his numbers greatly.

Wilson has played in just three games this year, but he's caught 28 receptions, 397 yards, and 9 TD's to have a huge impact on all three contests.   Wilson and Garcia played together last year in Jacksonville and have great chemistry with each other.

Former Power wideout Jason Willis currently leads the team with 47 receptions, 516 yards and 11 TD's, but he's a boom-or-bust type of player.  He'll either have a huge game or be invisible.  The Talons will be without top receiving option Robert Quiroga, who is on injured reserve.

Pittsburgh saw the return of Oderick Turner to the lineup last week against Georgia.  The former Pitt product had 7 catches for 107 yards and 2 TD's.  He showed great athleticism and strength and could be a strong player for Pittsburgh down the stretch.

Randy Hymes has also been strong for Pittsburgh this year.  His 8 catches for 119 yards and 2 TD's lead the Power in receiving last week.  His biggest problem this year has been deflecting some passes directly to opposing defenders for interceptions.  If his hands are solid in this game, it'll be a huge boost for Pittsburgh.

Although the Talons rank dead last in rushing offense, they have a strong runner in Tank Cook who had 99 carries for 294 yards and 30 TD's last year with the San Jose SaberCats.  He feasted on the Power defense in their matchup against Pittsburgh last year, and we could see his first major breakout of the year against a power defense that ranks last against the run in the AFL.

Defensively, the Power secondary has been playing well.  Newcomer Davion Mitchell brought a lot of intensity to the defense last week.  He lead the team in tackles and had a pass blocked.  Chris LeFlore remains amongst the best in the AFL with 6 interceptions, although his streak of games with a pick was snapped last week.  Ricky Gary will be active for his first game of action this week.

Pittsburgh has to get their special teams untracked.  They had zero answers for C.J. Johnson last week in kickoff coverage, and they aren't doing P.J. Berry in their blocking schemes.  This was a major area of interest for coach Chris Siegfried.

Both teams are tied for 16th in the AFL with a minus-12 turnover margin, so they'll both make their share of mistakes.   Looking at the matchups, I like the Power's edge in the receiving corps, I give San Antonio a major edge at quarterback, plus they have the homefield advantage.

The team that turns it over the least will win this game.  Sadly, I don't think that will be the team wearing black and gold.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Georgia Force @ Pittsburgh Power Preview

What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?   Don't worry we won't find out the answer to that question this week when the Georgia Force (3-4) travels to Pittsburgh to take on the Power (2-5) in an American Conference matchup.

Georgia has hardly been unstoppable on offense lately, scoring 51 points COMBINED in their last two games. Not surprisingly they lost both games.  The Power do more closely resemble an immovable object, at least in AFL terms, as they rank 1st in total yardage defense.  They also come into this matchup ranked second in the league in red zone defense.

Georgia's starting quarterback R.J. Archer missed last weeks game due to injury, and his status is still up in the air for this matchup.  If Archer cannot go the start will go to Kevin Eakin, who was was only able to throw for 223 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions in last week's 60-27 loss to the Arizona Rattlers.

Also sitting this game out will be Force rookie wide receiver Brandon McRae.  The Force will have to rely heavily on their top receiver Larry Shipp, Jr.  He ranks amongst the league leaders with 65 receptions (5th), 790 yards (5th), and 15 TD's (9th).  The 3rd year player is also used for trick plays from occasion so the Power need to keep an eye on him

Georgia also brings a member of the 2010 and 2011 All-Ironman team with them in the form of kick returner/wide receiver C.J. Johnson.  While his 37 catches for 332 yards and 5 TD's might not jump out at you in this league, his 34 returns for 706 yards and a score do.  Pittsburgh needs to tighten up the kickoff coverage with him on the field.

Defensively for the Force, they boast the league's top man in the interception department.  Tracy Belton already has eight interceptions before the halfway mark of the 2012 season and is leading the Force with 44 tackles and 6 passes blocked.   Fellow defensive back Marrio Norman has four interceptions so far this year and both form a strong pass defense tandem.

Pittsburgh will once again roll with quarterback Bryan Randall at the helm.  Randall started off last week very strong but had a few critical interceptions.  His play could improve but there's a lot of potential from the former IFL MVP.  He'll look to build upon his chemistry with reigning AFL Playmaker of the Week Mike "The Joystick" Washington.  Washington caught 13 passes for 170 yards and three touchdowns in the loss to Cleveland last week.

Power defensive back Chris LeFlore has registered an interception in three straight games now and has already broken Josh Lay's record for most interceptions in a season by a Power defensive back.  He'll look to extend that record against Georgia.

A wild card in this game could be newly signed Power kicker Raymond "Trey" Kramer.  Kramer is playing his first season of American football.  I'm not just talking professionally, this year is his first attempt at the game period.  The Marion Blue Racers of the UIFL gave the diamond in the rough a chance and he rewarded them by kicking a league record 55 yard field goal and was named the Special teams player of the week 3 times.  Through 6 games with the Blue Racers he converted 26 of 32 extra points and 6 of 13 field goals.

Overall this game is going to feature two offenses that have struggled mightily overall this year.  Pittsburgh is still searching for the long term answer at quarterback and hopes that Randall is the man.  Without McRae in the Georgia offense, I think the Power have a few more weapons on their side which should be an advantage.  Pittsburgh also has the homefield advantage in this one which cannot be discounted.

Defensively, the Force are better at causing turnovers, which could favor them slightly.  If Pittsburgh can limit the self-inflicted wounds they should win easily.  I don't think they will avoid the turnover battle completely so this one should remain interesting.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Quarterback carousel continues as Power fall to division rival Cleveland.

The roulette wheel known as the Pittsburgh Power quarterback position keeps spinning.  This time it landed on Bryan Randall, but the results were pretty much the same they've been all season as the Pittsburgh Power lost to their division rival, the Cleveland Gladiators, 58-43.

Randall did finish the day with 309 yards passing and 5 touchdowns, but he also threw 2 interceptions and the Power (2-5) lost two fumbles.  The Power also turned the ball over on downs two additional times.

The Power jumped out to a 21-7 lead, but sat by helplessly as Cleveland (4-3) rattled off 35 unanswered points to take firm control of this Eastern division showdown.   Unlike the last home game against Orlando, there would be no epic comeback from the abyss.

Chris LeFlore set a Power franchise record with his sixth interception of the season, breaking Josh Lay's mark of five interceptions from a year ago.

Mike Washington stood out on offense with 13 catches for 170 yards and three touchdowns but he also lost a fumble that helped the Gladiators on that 35 point run.   P.J. Berry was strong once again in the return game (8 for 103 yards) but he almost certainly will see his streak of three straight weeks as the JLS Ironman end after this loss.

Coach Siegfried mentioned after the game that he's still waiting for someone to take the quarterback position and run with it.  He seemed confident that the answer to the Power quarterback struggles is on the roster but he wouldn't name who that was.  Bill Stull should return from injured reserve soon, and could be in line to reclaim the starting role.

Pittsburgh will continue their search for a quarterback this week as they host the Georgia Force.   It will be "Super Hero" Night so come dressed as your favorite superhero.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Cleveland Gladiators @ Pittsburgh Power Preview

It's rivalry week once again for Pittsburgh and Cleveland.  Two sports towns that don't like each other much.

Both teams are looking for a win to stay in the middle of the wild card hunt in the American Conference.  The Gladiators are sitting in second place in the Eastern division with a record of 3-3 and Pittsburgh is a game behind them but sitting in fourth place at 2-4.

Neither offense has had much luck scoring this season.  Cleveland enters the game ranked 13th in the league at 49 PPG, while Pittsburgh ranks 15th at 47.7 PPG.  What they both do well is stop the other team on defense.  The Gladiators are second in scoring defense (48.2 PPG) and have the league's best yardage defense (255.5 YPG).   Pittsburgh is 9th in scoring defense (55.5 PPG) and just behind Cleveland in total defense (256.8 YPG).

Quarterback play is the first place to look when trying to see who has the edge.  Cleveland features a 12 year AFL veteran in John Dutton.  He's thrown for 1695 yards (7th in league), 36 TD's (7th), and completed 65.6% (6th) of his passes this year.

Pittsburgh will counter with recently signed Bryan Randall, the 2010 IFL MVP who played for the Allen Wranglers and Lehigh Valley Steelhawks this year in the IFL.  Randall will be the 5th quarterback listed atop the depth chart this year for Pittsburgh through 7 games, hardly the kind of consistency you want from the position.  Randall is 6'1" and played college ball at Virginia Tech.  He's more of a stay at home passer, but will scramble when he has to.

Cleveland's receiving corps is fairly deep.  Dominick Goodman leads the way with 68 receptions (1st in AFL), 658 yards (6th) and 15 TD's (6th).  He is the reigning Russell Offensive Player of the Week in the AFL.  They also have Robert Redd who ranks amongst the league leaders as well.  He's caught 53 passes (6th), 560 yards (12th) and 11 TD's (11th).

They also have Thyron Lewis who is having a solid season, and expect to see Maurice "Moe" Williams be active for this game.  Williams was rumored to have drawn strong interest from the Power this offseason, but no offer was ever made.

The Power receiving corps continues to play strong overall, as all three leading receivers are putting up almost identical stats.  Randy Hymes seems to be emerging as the top receiver in the bunch, but the Power spread the ball around so well it's hard to predict who will be Randall's favorite target.  P.J. "Superman" Berry continues in his quest to repeat as JLS Ironman of the Year.  He's won the weekly award three straight times heading into this game.

Defensively, Chris LeFlore is having a strong season for the Power.  He's already tied the franchise record of five interceptions, set by Josh Lay last season, and looks to break it this week against the Gladiators.  Jarrett Sanderson joined the team last week and ended up leading the team in tackles against the VooDoo.

The Gladiators have several standouts to watch as well.    Levy Brown leads the team in tackles and has three interceptions and a fumble recovery.  Derrick Boyd is second on the team in tackles and has two interceptions, and fellow DB Joe Phinisee has also added three interceptions.  Up front look for Drew Berube (5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles) and Tim Cheatwood (2 sacks and an interception) to make life miserable for the Power.

Keys to the game for Cleveland

  • Limit turnovers.  If Cleveland holds onto the ball, they should be able to outscore the Power offense.  
  • Create havoc for Bryan Randall.  This is the rookie's first start in the AFL so you want to make it as uncomfortable for him as possible.
  • Take the crowd out of the game early.  Pittsburgh fans were loud for last year's Gladiators game, and don't like Cleveland at all.  If the Gladiators get up early in this one it'll be huge for them.

Keys for Pittsburgh
  • Keep it simple for Randall.  Don't ask the rookie to do too much early on.  Turnovers would kill his confidence and take the crowd out of the game.
  • Get the ball to your playmakers.  I loved the trick play last week with P.J. Berry throwing a TD pass to Randy Hymes.  Keep up the creative playcalling.
  • Finish drives!  Pittsburgh should have won the game last week but their inability to finish drives cost them once again.  You cannot rely on field goal kicking in this league, and the fact Collin Wagner missed all three attempts against the VooDoo shows you why.

Pittsburgh needs a win in the worst way, but I just don't like this matchup.  Cleveland has been inconsistent at times this year but they are still the only team to have beaten the Philadelphia Soul this year, and that was on the road.  I expect this game to be lower scoring like last year's game in Pittsburgh but I think Cleveland is slightly better right now.