Friday, March 30, 2012

Conquered by Mount Everett. Power lose 63-40 to Mustangs

The Pittsburgh Power are still looking for answers in the 2012 season after getting blown out 63-40 by the milwaukee Mustangs on Thursday night.

The Power (1-2) were hoping that quarterback Bill Stull had developed more chemistry with his wide receivers in between their last game against the Philadelphia Soul and last night's game.  That wasn't the case. 

The offense stalled on their opening drive and had to settle for a field goal from rookie Collin Wagner.  The next two drives ended in turnovers.  Milwaukee scored on all three of their opening drives and the score was 20-3 before many Power fans could blink. 

Stull finished his day in the third quarter after completing only 13 of his 31 passes for 181 yards, 1 TD, and two turnovers (1 interception, one fumble).  He was also sacked 3 times.  He was continually harassed by the Mustangs defense and many of his passes missed wide open receivers.  Several times alone he failed to find 6'6" receiver Lonnell DeWalt.  It's pretty hard to miss a target that big. 

Andrico Hines entered the game to replace an injured Stull, but his first pass was returned for a touchdown by Marcus Everett.  Everett, the week 3 AFL JLS-Ironman, likely laid claim to the week 4 Defensive Player of the Week award in the AFL.  He finished the day with 2 interceptions and a fumble recovery.

The Power offense did get a little bit going late in the game but not until the game was well out of reach.  Lonnell DeWalt finished with 7 catches for 97 yards and 2 touchdowns, and P.J. Berry crossed the century mark with 104 yards on 8 catches.  Tyre Young also provided a few highlight runs with 6 carries for 41 yards and 2 TD's.

Pittsburgh will look to get back to .500 at home next week against the Iowa Barnstormers. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Pittsburgh Power at Milwaukee Mustangs Preview

TV: UStream, Pittsburgh's CW (Tape Delay)
Radio: TribLive Radio (Pittsburgh), ESPN 540 AM (Milwaukee)
8:00 PM EST - Bradley Center, Milwaukee, WI.

The Pittsburgh Power (1-1) looked at last week's showdown with Philadelphia as a litmus test for where they stood as championship contenders.  They found out there are still some kinks to work out in their quest for the Foster trophy.  They will travel to Milwaukee on Thursday night to take on their division rivals, the Milwaukee Mustangs (1-1)

Quarterback Bill Stull took over as the starting quarterback for the Power last week and looked strong early, but faltered in the 4th quarter.  He finished the day 26 of 42 for 299 yards, 6 touchdowns and 3 interceptions.  He has to put a halt to the turnovers if he expects to be a successful arena football league quarterback.   His accuracy also seemed to falter a bit in the second half.  Perhaps fatigue played a part in the late struggles. 

Stull will have the full confidence of his teammates and coaches and should fare a bit better against Milwaukee.  His favorite target last week was Randy Hymes.  The former Baltimore Raven had 7 catches for 112 yards and two scores.  His size (6'3" 215 pounds) is a big advantage in the AFL. 

P.J. Berry has had a slow start to the 2012 season so far at least on offense.  I do believe his foot injury has impacted him a bit more than he had hoped, but it's only a matter of time before he has the kind of game Power fans were hoping for when he signed with the team.   This could be the week he finally makes his mark in a Power uniform.

Speaking of making their mark.  Tyre Young left a lasting impression on the Consol Energy Center turf last week after scoring a touchdown.  I'm all for sharing, but I doubt the CEC faithful wanted to share his pregame meal with him quite the way he did.  I think any Young touchdowns from here on out should be sponsored by Stanley Steemer.   All joking aside, Young has shown why he was the best AFL running back in 2010 and he will be a strongly utilized part of the Power offense in 2012. 

Milwaukee's offense funnels through quarterback Gino Guidugli (Pronounced Ga-duel-ee).  The second year quarterback has been strong so far on the season connecting on 43 of 65 passes (66.2%) for 603 yards, 10 TD's and only 2 interceptions.  There were high expectations for Guidugli entering the season and so far he's lived up to them. 

His top target so far has been 6'3" receiver Jared Jenkins.  Jenkins has 17 catches for 248 yards and 4 TD's early on in his AFL rookie season.  He lines up next to another AFL rookie in Jonathan Wilson, who has added 11 catches for 183 yards and 3 TD's.     

Milwaukee has scored exactly 65 points in both of their games this season, and that seems to be a likely scoring level again in this week's contest. 

Defensively last week, the Power did what they had to do to secure victory.  Don't let the 84 points that Philly put up fool you, the Power D had two interceptions and three recovered fumbles.  Anytime you get 5 turnovers as a defense in the AFL you should win handily.  I think linebacker John Green showed a lot of great instincts with the ball, but unfortunately he had a fumble of his own after an interception which negated the big play. 

Bryan Williams and Chris LeFlore seem to be around the ball on just about every play.  No defensive back in the AFL is perfect, but these guys have a chance to make plays throughout the game and that's what you want.  I am very impressed by what I've seen from the Power secondary so far. 

Milwaukee's biggest strength was on defense in 2011, and they held the New Orleans VooDoo to 42 points in a 65-42 victory in the Graveyard last week.  They will pose a strong test for a Power offense still trying to develop a rhythm early in this AFL season.  Luis Vasquez already has 2.5 sacks this year, Dwayne LaFall has added 1.5 sacks, and both Ryan McFoy and Marcus Everett have pick sixes for the Mustangs.

The biggest weakness we saw from the Power last week was the kicking game.  Collin Wagner made his AFL debut and it's one he'd prefer to forget.  He missed three extra points, including one returned for two points the other way, causing a five point shift on the scoreboard.  Some of his kickoffs failed to make it to the rebound nets.  You need to cause some chaos on kickoffs if you're going to have a chance.  I'm not convinced he's the right guy to replace Taylor Rowan.  

Opposite of Wagner, you have Ryan Gates who is 8 of 9 on his extra points and has made the only field goal he's attempted.  AFL games are so close, and often times missed extra points end up being the only difference between two teams.  If the Power keep Wagner in the saddle, he has to improve this week or it could be another loss for Pittsburgh.

Keys to the game for Pittsburgh
  • Shake off the mistakes from last week.  This team has a lot of playmakers on offense and they are much better than the six turnovers we saw against the Soul.
  • Put the pressure on Guidugli early.  If the Power can force him to make some errant throws, I think Bryan Williams, Chris LeFlore, John Green and company can come up with a few turnovers and get the Bradley Center faithful out of it.
  • Lonnell DeWalt, P.J. Berry, Randy Hymes, Tyre Young or even tight end Moqut Ruffins.  Stick with what is working. 

Keys to the game for Milwaukee
  • Force Bill Stull to make accurate passes.  Many of Stull's big plays were to wide open receivers against Philadelphia.  Play tighter man coverage against the Power receivers and Stull will have to make the tighter throws for completions.  This may open him up to a few more interceptions.
  • Enjoy homefield advantage.  This is such a big thing in the AFL with the fans right on top of the field.  Make it tough early on for Pittsburgh.

I personally think Pittsburgh is a lot better than the final score showed last week against Philadelphia, but we still need to see them prove it on the field.  The week one win over Orlando didn't prove anything just yet, so look for the Power to be very hungry in this one. 

Milwaukee's defense could be key.  I don't think their offense is quite on the same level as what we saw out of the Soul last week.  I also don't think their defense is as strong either.  Not to take anything away from the Mustangs, but I just feel this matchup is a lot easier for the Power.   Milwaukee will get a boost out of the Bradley Center faithful, but I just like the Power's playmakers a bit more.

It'll be close, but I think the Power get the job done on the road.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Power Knocked Out in Keystone Collision

Two weeks after a season opening victory in Orlando using replacement players, and coming off a week 2 bye, the Power finally got their first chance to show the fans what they could do at full strength.  After their 84-59 loss to the Philadelphia Soul, the Pittsburgh Power still have a lot of work to do.

Turnovers were the story of the game for both teams.  Both teams lost three fumbles, and Pittsburgh lost the interception battle 3-2.  The Power also lost the fourth down conversion war too going 0 for 2 in that department. 

Despite all of the momentum killing mistakes, Pittsburgh hung in there tight with the Soul and you started to think they might steal one.  Unfortunately, the mistakes just kept coming.

Quarterback Bill Stull seemed to outplay his Philly counterpart well into the fourth quarter before he was forced into desperation mode.    He finished the day 26 of 42 for 299 yards, 6 TD's and 3 interceptions.  One of the picks was as he was being hit from behind.  He failed to connect twice on fourth down overthrowing his receivers badly. 

Randy Hymes stepped up in this game with 7 catches for 112 yards and 2 TD's.  Mike "The Joystick" Washington also caught 9 passes for 80 yards and a pair of scores.

Despite the 84 points on the scoreboard, the Power did a very good job defensively of containing the Soul outside of Donovan Morgan.  John Green had a huge interception but unfortunately fumbled near the goal line to negate a crucial six points.  Justin Parrish returned a Dan Raudabaugh fumble for six the other way.  Anytime you get five turnovers in the AFL you should win comfortably, but alas this wasn't the case Friday night.

Rookie kicker Collin Wagner had a rough AFL debut missing three extra points, plus one attempt was returned for a two point conversion the other way causing another five point swing towards Philly.

Overall the Power just weren't able to capitalize on the chances the Soul were giving them.  We saw a lot of the same out of the New Orleans Voodoo last week in a narrow 63-62 loss to this same Soul team. 

Perhaps some more practice with the team will help Bill Stull get a better chemistry going with his teammates.

Pittsburgh travels to Milwaukee on Thursday March 29th for a big early season divisional matchup.     

Friday, March 23, 2012

Philadelphia Soul Vs. Pittsburgh Power Preview

8:00 PM EST Consol Energy Center
TV: NFL Network
Radio: WPEN 950AM & 97.5 The Fanatic (Philadelphia), TribLive Radio (Pittsburgh)

Need to get the hatred flowing as a Pittsburgh sports fan?  How about inviting a team from Philadelphia into your house.

The cross-state rival Philadelphia Soul come to town for the Pittsburgh Power's 2012 home opener.  Both teams opened their seasons with a road victory.  Pittsburgh had to deal with the labor dispute and replacement players in a 40-26 win against Orlando, while Philadelphia had to overcome turnovers and penalties to edge the New Orleans Voodoo 63-62

Philadelphia has bragging all offseason about handling their business this year by using the slogan "We Got This."  They brought in a lot of all-arena caliber talent across the board and while that makes them formidable, that doesn't make them unbeatable.

Pittsburgh has already lost a key member of their offseason moves.  Due to the labor struggles, quarterback Kyle Rowley is not expected to play for the Power this year, leaving the Power with unproven Andrico Hines or recently re-signed local star Bill Stull to man the quarterback position.

Given how strongly the success of your quarterback translates to winning in this league, it is vital that the Power get one of them to step up and take care of business. 

Those going to the game tonight will want to arrive early as there will be an indoor fireworks show that's being promoted as "the largest in Pittsburgh history."  Hopefully the fireworks on the field will overshadow the ones off the field.

Philly goes with Dan Raudabaugh at quarterback this year.  Power fans will remember him throwing 433 yards and 10 TD's for Dallas in a 76-75 shootout loss to Pittsburgh last year.  He has a lot of talent and accuracy and should provide a tough test for the Power secondary in their first full game together.

Both the Power and Soul boast a lot of superstar talent at the wide receiver position.  Philly's Tiger Jones was the leading receiver in the AFL last year and picked up right where he left off with 10 catches for 132 yards and 3 TD's last week against New Orleans.  Donovan Morgan also added 86 yards and 2 TD's last week.  Jeff Hughley stood out as the best player in the AFL last week with 4 catches for 92 yards and 2 TD's while also exploding for 265 yards and a score on 10 kickoff returns. 

Pittsburgh's Mike "The Joystick" Washington had 9 catches for 166 yards and 4 TD's in the season opener against Orlando.  Some may try to put an asterisk next to that because of all the replacement players, but we've seen a lot of games like that out of Washington in his time here with the Power.  We're still waiting for a full appearance from Lonnell DeWalt and P.J. Berry, the reigning AFL Ironman of the Year.  Both players should have a huge impact on the Power this season.

One key matchup to look at will be the kicking position.  Soul kicker Phil Marfuggi was a perfect 9 for 9 on his extra points last week.  Pittsburgh will counter with AFL rookie Collin Wagner who will make his arena debut tonight.  How well he adapts to the inside game will go a long way towards determing this outcome.  Wagner played college ball at Penn State.  Nittany Lion fans will likely remember his four field goal effort in awful kicking conditions to lead PSU to a 19-17 win over LSU in the 2009 Capital One Bowl. 

Keys to the game.

For Philadelphia
  • Show some discipline.  12 penalties for 90 yards is simply unacceptable in the AFL. 
  • Hold on to the football.  The offense is explosive, but putting the ball on the ground twice is a quick way to lose the game.
  • Tighten up defensively.  The offense is definitely one of the strongest in the league, but if you can't stop the other team you're leaving a lot to chance. 
For Pittsburgh
  • Get everybody on the same page quickly.  They may have gotten a victory in Orlando, but this will be the first full game as a team.
  • Keep the crowd involved.  The pregame fireworks show should have the crowd amped up.  Take advantage of that by scoring early and often.
  • Take advantage of opportunities.  New Orleans failed to capitalize on the mistakes the Soul made and it cost them big time.  Philly is beatable, but you have to pounce on their mistakes. 
Overall I think the Soul have a bit more talent across the board, and they have the more proven quarterback.  Pittsburgh has the homefield advantage in this one.  I think that will come into play somewhat, but I still think Philly wins it.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sean, the Saints and the Snitch!

By Guest Blogger: Steven G. Folmar
         When I read online yesterday that the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell had suspended Saint’s Head Coach Sean Payton for the year, my first reaction was “You gotta be kidding me!”, but as I read on it all be came clearer to me and this is how I see it. Obviously, somewhere there Sean lied to someone in the league. He had already been warned once and told the league he was cleaning things up, which he definitely didn’t do. He was also accused of telling people before they went to testify that the organization needed to have their “ducks in a row”. (A threat maybe?) But as we look at the situation here I agree the league had to come down hard. I am surprised they did it harder on Payton than they did for Gregg William’s, but as the head coach, it is your ship. It goes where you tell it to go.
          Now it will be interesting to see the repercussions from this and how it plays out. General Manager Mickey Loomis will be suspended for half the season, though he WILL be allowed to handle the draft, training camp and everything leading up to the season. Payton is gone for the year. Now Ram’s defensive coordinator William’s is gone “Indefinitely”, which is going to be at least a season, I am thinking maybe 2 or 3 unless he gets down on his knees and begs. And I have no love loss for William’s. He showed his ego a few years back with his comment about “Look-Out hits” on Peyton Manning. Even if you do it, what kind of Einstein goes on a radio show and says you are targeting the other teams quarterback in the Super Bowl. This gets even more interesting knowing that Drew Bree’s is already involved in contentious contract negotiations. And the team could very well lose defensive playmaker Jonathon Vilma if they decide, he too, lied to the league. Vilma being the only player named at this point. What quarterback wants to have the franchise tag hanging over their head when they lost their head coach, general manager and defensive leader for at least half a year?
        Finally, comes the question, how did the league know about these accusations? I really have mixed feelings here, and it is hard to debate this fact with a non-sports related person. It just doesn’t make sense to them. Warren Sapp, former pro-bowler and now league analyst for the NFL Network, stated on his twitter that he has very solid sources telling him that the snitch was in fact, former Saint’s tight end Jeremy Shockey. Shockey, of course, denies the claims. Again, I do not argue with any of the punishments, they are all deserved up to this point, but the locker room is hollowed ground for a lot of the people involved. To me it is no different than sitting with your family confessing to a crime, and then finding out your brother or sister went and told the police. And we aren’t talking murder here, maybe a little grand larceny is a better fit. You teammates are your brothers, for some people even closer than that. To know that what you say in a locker room could be open fodder for the media, fans or the league really touches a cord with me. I have coached in arena football, and just about every team I played with had a “sack pot”, or one for turnovers or special teams plays. Though I have never heard of one for actually hurting anyone, big hits were certainly encouraged. I think you also see how sore of a subject it is for former players as well. For Sapp to bring these to light and actually name names, while he is en employee of the NFL, could put his job at risk for revealing whistleblowers, though he says that his information did not come form anyone in the league offices nor would he ask anyone from the league offices.
         This is the kind of punishment that could lead the Saint’s back to the days of the“Ain’ts”. The league set a precedent with this one and the ripples could be felt for years to come as the League puts their foot down, teams have to re-think the way they do business and the players are left to wonder who can they really trust.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Ivan Soto needs to get a clue

AFLPU Executive Director Ivan Soto (@luv2nvst on Twitter) continues to make himself look like a complete ass on Twitter.  The latest target of his stupid antics is the fan site AFLFanZone.  Soto tweeted out the following message tonight.

Notice the name of the website in question.  AFLFanZone as in fans.  This is a fan site with message boards which serves as the mouthpiece of the AFL fans around the country.  It doesn't matter what team you root for, everyone is welcome on the site.   They don't write articles and cover teams like a professional news organization.  They are the lifeblood of the sport, the fans themselves.

What kind of idiot attacks the fans, especially when trying to imply the owners can afford bigger salaries.  Doesn't he realize the increased cost of business will get passed down to the very fans he is trashing?  Even better in earlier tweets he asks for fan support during all of this.  So which is it?  Do you want the fans support or not?

One should expect some professionalism out of the guy in charge of the player's union, but this is Soto we're talking about.  He tweets out messages about there being a 10% chance of games being played last weekend then acts all shocked when the owners go and do something to ensure the game goes on as scheduled. 

Most union leaders in this country would be furious if some of their players crossed the picket line, but Soto himself tweeted he was glad the players did.

The fact they crossed showed how weak the union was in this case.  Soto would have you believe that at least 90% of the players are completely on board with the union plan, but as we saw last Friday in Orlando, over half of the Power players crossed to play in the game.

Don't get me wrong, I do feel the players deserve more compensation for their efforts.  They should be paid for all weeks they are involved with the team, including bye weeks and training camp.  In the case of a trade their relocation costs should be handled by the league.  But they deserve to have competent leadership capable of getting that message across to the league in a professional manner.

If I'm an owner, am I really going to take a guy with the Twitter name "@Luv2nvst" seriously?   Is it too much to ask that you get a professional sounding Twitter name?  What does that stand for anyways? 

AFLPU Headquarters
If you look and act the part, people will be inclined to take you more seriously.   Why don't you try something simple like @AFLPU_Soto.  Of course since he blocks just about anyone who says anything bad to him on Twitter then why bother in the first place.  A week ago he had 45 followers and most of the ones he has picked up are media types who need a good laugh when he tweets out more garbage.

Here's one thing I am curious about.  I'm told the cost to join the AFLPU is $240.00 per player.  21 active players times 17 teams equals $85680 in union dues.  That doesn't even count the players who get signed midseason.  That's a lot of coin and you have to wonder how that money is being spent.   Knowing Soto, he probably invested the money in a new AFLPU office.  I put a picture of it over to the right.  This certainly puts the PU in AFLPU.

Here's the bottom line.  This league is two years removed from bankruptcy.  The league had to shut down because its economic model was flawed.  That's why salaries went down drastically.  We're now at the point where there are a lot of equally talented players waiting in the wings for a chance to play this game.  They are eager to show what they can do and are more than willing to play for what the league is currently offering.

Ivan Soto needs a
copy of this book.
I love the arena football league but it's still a minor league sport.  It's still niche entertainment.  Most of these guys are not good enough to play in the NFL.  That doesn't change the fact that fans will throw their support behind their favorite teams, and that doesn't mean these guys suck.  What it does mean is that each and every player is replaceable.  If you're replaceable, then what kind of leverage do you have in trying to negotiate a 300% pay raise AFTER agreeing to a contract at a lower rate.

Bottom line, the union deserves someone who didn't learn how to negotiate while staying at a Holiday Inn Express.  They deserve better.  Isn't that what this whole fight was supposed to be about all along?  Improving things for the players?

Get a real leader in place, and maybe the league will do the right thing.  Stop attacking the people who help pay for your player's salaries.  Stop attacking the people who do actually care about this sport. 

Negotiating 101.  Stop trying to use the cliff notes version.

Be sure to let him know what your thoughts are concerning this entire mess by emailing him at

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Second Opinion: The Short Lived Arena Football League Strike

From Guest Blogger: Steven G. Folmar

Now that the smoke has cleared (mostly), I wanted to add a little bit to what Dominic had said about the ill-fated strike that severely affected the Pittsburgh Power’s season. Having coached in the Arena Football League and the arena football league 2, I had the unique experience of seeing the locker room drama that unfolds when strike talk comes up.

In 2000, I was in college at Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania when I got an internship to work in football operations for the Arena Football League’ Buffalo Destroyers. I remember being on cloud nine after being accepted, sitting on my bed watching ESPN when across the scroll at the bottom of the screen said “Arena Football League Season Cancelled Due to Strike”. I was aghast, and I couldn’t wait to Monday morning to call and find out if it was true.

When I called, the coach told me that a lot of it was just bluster and the season would go as planned, so in the summer of 2000 I got an apartment at the foot of the Peace Bridge to Canada in Buffalo. Throughout the season there were player meetings on the subject, and some became very contentious. I remember once the new deal was ratified, the league said that almost an entire majority had voted for it, which for me was very surprising, since it sure seemed 50/50 in the Destroyers’ locker room. During that time, our quarterback, Browning Nagle, was very much for the Union, other players, not so much. Many felt the union was taking dues and not offering anything in return.

I don’t know what it is about quarterbacks that get themselves into these things. Maybe because they often have to be so vocal of leaders for their teams. But it was no surprise that quarterback Kyle Rowley was at the center of the debate in Orlando. Being out of the loop for a bit, I was totally caught off guard by the strike talk on Friday night. I actually had just gotten home from work 30 or 40 minutes before kickoff and was anxious to see the game on the NFL Network. It was then I took a quick peek at my Facebook and saw the explosion of comments from many of my friends with Arena Football experience. I think the guys at the Network did a great job considering they had no rosters and little forewarning.

In a situation like this, where both sides play the public relations “Spin” game, my opinion is there is more than enough blame to go on both sides. I really don’t have much respect for people that can’t serve out their contracts. If you are working in squalor, or a sweat shop, I can understand complaining and threatening with a union or a strike, but not in professional sports. If you sign your name to a contract, you play it out…period.

Guys complain when they are exceeding expectation, but they see things as being “just the way it goes” when they can’t live up to cushy new contracts (anyone seen Larry Johnson lately). In business, you don’t finish out you contract, you get your butt drug into a courtroom. In professional sports, teams almost always give in. I would really like to see some people stand their ground. Let the guy sit out and save yourself some money. Not that I am against players making their money. I am talking about once you sign a contract, you live buy it.

Try going into McDonalds or Wal-Mart and tell them you want employees like you to be making 50.1% or 29% of all income the company makes. See how long it takes to get thrown out on your butt. Athletes say the leagues are based on their names. Any business is built on the hard work of the people who staff it. That argument doesn’t work either. Or my favorite, “People come to watch me play”. And if you aren’t there, people will come anyway. I love Hines Ward, but you know what, Heinz Field is going to be packed this year without him as well. And these guys who think they can’t be replaced, I will find 10 guys now who would be glad to be out on that field for what you are making. And if you gave them a few years, they would have recognizable names too.

In the AFL, those guys signed contracts knowing there was a good chance they would have to strike at some point. If you don’t like the paying rate, you go elsewhere or you do something else. Rowley, Pittsburgh’s original quarterback, doesn’t seem real apologetic about his role either. You can see his interview here.

But to be fair, I didn’t think that things were handled real well by the League or the Power either. I would think it would be obvious with everyone at pre-game meal the team was at least going to play that night’s game. To walk in and make statements in that environment really raises class questions. That sure comes off to be people playing “mine’s bigger!”

And as for the league and President Jerry Kurz, my personal feelings aside, Jerry Kurz is for Jerry Kurz. I don’t know Mr. Shaner, I love that he helped bring Arena Football back to Pittsburgh, and he had reason to be angry. Obviously there was static between he and Rowley
Instead Shaner really looks like a, well…not so nice guy, forcing the players who stuck with the strike to find their own way home from Orlando. This should have been people sitting down before the flight home and talking like adults. But hey, our congress can’t figure that out, probably a lot to ask our professional sports teams to either. But I think Pittsburgh earned their black eye with how this was handled as well.

One final question I have is how this will affect the Power moving on in 2012? With a proven, championship quarterback at the helm in Rowley, head coach Chris Siegfried’s team was poised to be a legitimate contender. Now, Shaner has declared that Rowley will never play in Pittsburgh so Siegfried has to rally the troops around journeyman QB Andrico Hines. Does Shaner give Siegfried a mulligan if the Power suffers? Needless to say, should be an interesting season.

You can check out Steven G's. blog regularly at the "Religion, Rights, Responsibilities....and a little Football" blogspot at:

Sunday, March 11, 2012

AFL strike leaves a bad taste in the mouth of Power and Predator fans

The first game of the 2012 season is in the books and the victory goes to the Pittsburgh Power.  That's what the record books will show, although anyone involved with arena football or is a fan of the Power or Predators will tell you that last night wasn't a fair fight.   All of the drama surrounding the labor overshadowed what should have been a shining moment for the league.

Mere hours before kickoff, the AFLPU Executive Director Ivan Soto tweeted that the players were on strike.  We heard reports that both teams had fired their entire roster and were in the process of resigning players who would be willing to play in that night's game. 

Although some regular players made it into the game it wasn't the full complement of players we've all been ready to watch play.  Mike Washington torched Orlando for 166 yards and 4 TD's, but was it really Orlando?  We saw P.J. Berry make his Power debut.  We did not see Kyle Rowley. the anticipated starting quarterback, and likely will not after owner Matt Shaner stated Rowley will never play for the Power.

I'm hearing that a lot of players in the AFLPU are upset at the Power and Predators players who crossed the line to play last night.  I'm hearing a lot of last night's picket line jumpers being called cowards.  I think it actually took balls for them to do what they did last night, as they were faced with an impossible decision.  Stay on strike and lose their jobs and flight home, or cross the line and be labeled a scab by their fellow union members. 

Orlando's players didn't have quite the same pressure on them.  Even if they don't sign up with the Predators again, they were at least still at home.  It's a lot easier to find a taxi across town for a few bucks than to try and organize a flight home to Pittsburgh at the last minute.

I can see both sides of this whole strike issue.  The owners and players agreed on their playing contracts months ago.  The players, led by Ivan Soto, turned around and wanted more money than what they already agreed to.   They were at least proposing to walk out and strike hours before the first game of the season was to be played, though some players are now claiming that was a total bluff.  Who do you believe though, the players or the owners?

The owners had to make sure the season premiere on the AFL Network was played. All eyes of the AFL Nation were on this situation so to speak.   The owners may or may not have enough money to cover the demands of the players but I will tell you this.  I don't know too many people who can walk up to their boss and ask for over a 300% raise and get it.  I know if I went up to my boss and asked for that big of a raise and threatened to walk out if I didn't get it, I'd be gone in a heartbeat. 

People will be quick to bash the Power for how this was handled, but was it really their decision or was the league forcing them to do it?  There was so much secrecy surrounding this entire possible strike until it happened, it's hard to pinpoint who is telling the truth and who is lying through their teeth. 

The fans of the AFL are the ones hurt most by this.  They deserve better than what they saw last night, especially in what was dubbed the "Year Of The Fan."  Lucky for them most of their teams won't have to watch a game with replacement players.  Only Pittsburgh and Orlando's faithful had a vested interest in this game.   The strike ended before anyone else could be affected. 

The players around the league need to realize that they didged the same fate and should get back to being focused on playing football now that they have their deal.  Forgive and forget.  Players like Washington were damned if they did and damned if they didn't.

Real fair huh?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Pittsburgh Power at Orlando Predators Preview

8:30 PM
Amway Center - Orlando, Fl.
TV: NFL Network
Radio: TribLive Radio (Pittsburgh), 740 The Game (Orlando) 

This week's article is more of a season preview for the Power but I will also touch on some key players for Orlando and what we should expect in this matchup as the AFL kicks the season off.

The 25th season of the Arena Football League is about to begin, and I'm sure Power fans are anxious to see if the improvements the team made in the offseason will be enough to propel the team to the Eastern Division title or at the very least, a playoff berth.

A year ago, the team went 9-9 and barely missed out on winning the division.  Head coach Chris Siegfried spent the offseason retooling the lineup and landed some significant upgrades who should be key contributors. 

Although Coach Siegfried hasn't committed to Kyle Rowley as the starting quarterback, it's hard to imagine a scenario where a former Arena Bowl MVP rides the pine.  My money is on Kyle Rowley and I think he will elevate the level of play we saw out of last year's starter Bernard Morris. 

Rowley enters his third season in the AFL.  2010 saw him throw for 4,475 yards, 102 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions.  His followup campaign was marred by some injuries but despite missing four games he still threw for over 3300 yards and 78 touchdowns.  His interceptions rose a bit which is an area of concern.

One thing the Power will lose is the threat of Morris to take off and run for huge chunks of yardage.  Rowley isn't that kind of quarterback, but he is a proven winner in this league who is a much more accurate passer.  That's what you need to have success in this league.

If Siegfried does decide to go with Andrico Hines, he'd be passing on an experienced quarterback in favor of one that's thrown only 15 passes in the AFL. 

Hines completed 8 of 15 passes for 102 yards in minor duty with the Cleveland Gladiators last year.  He does have a bit more height and size than Rowley which can sometimes help a quarterback see the field a bit better over the linebackers.   

Once again, experience and accuracy are important in the AFL.  It's a quarterback-driven league, and I think Siegfried will ultimately settle on Rowley based on that.

2011 saw Mike "The Joystick" Washington make a name for himself here in Pittsburgh.  His one-handed touchdown grab was one of the highlights of the Pittsburgh Power's inaugural season.  Washington looks to build upon last year's success.  Although he may not be the ideal height for the wide receiver position, he has blazing speed and knows how to run precise routes, which is a strong asset to have as a receiver in the AFL. 

Lonnell DeWalt will start the season as the number two receiver until P.J. Berry gets fully receover from his training camp injury.  DeWalt played strong ironman football for the Power last year, with many of his catches coming in key goal-line situations.  Many Power fans are sure to remember his game winning catch with no time left on the clock to help secure a dramatic come from behind win against Milwaukee last year. 

DeWalt's 6'6" frame makes it very tough for defenders to guard him at the goal line, and he also knows how to use that size on defense.  I thought he should have won the Ironman award last year, not to take anything away from the man who did win it.  P.J. Berry.

Berry joins the Power after spending last year with the New Orleans Voodoo.  I did a Q&A With P.J. Berry a few weeks ago which you can read by clicking here.

He's one of the most exciting, dynamic players in the AFL, and set a record for total yards last season.  He had over 2000 return yards and is a threat to take it to the house whether he's returning kicks or catching passes.  Get used to watching the man they call "Superman" electrify the Consol Energy Center.  The sky is the limit for Berry once he fully recovers from his foot injury.

The Power also have solid depth at wide receiver, including former NFL wide receiver Randy Hymes and former Pitt wideout Oderick Turner, both of whom have some AFL experience.

The ability of Bernard Morris to rush the ball made last year's running back Joshua Rue expendable with a few games left in the 2011 season.  Obviously this was rotten news for members of "Rue's Crew."  Now that Morris is gone, the Power needed to find someone capable of pounding the rock in short yardage situations and have turned to Tyre Young to fill that role.

Young returns to the AFL anxious to repeat the success he had in 2010 with the Milwaukee Mustangs.  That year he ran the ball 65 times for 173 yards and 20 touchdowns.  Although rushing is hardly the primary mode of attack in the AFL, it's still important to have someone able to get those tough yards in the red zone, and I think the 6'0" 310 pound bowling ball the Power have signed will be a lot of fun to watch.

Offensive lineman Mike Lucian will serve as the backup fullback.  He did record two carries last year in a limited role, one of them for a touchdown. 

The Power have completely overhauled an offensive line that struggled with injuries and consistency last season.  Beau Elliott (6'3" 320 pounds) will be the new anchor in the middle of the line.  The AFL veteran will be entering his 4th season. 

The offensive guard spot is still up for grabs between Mike Lucian and Dan Jones.  Lucian (6'3" 305 pounds) has already spent a year in Siegfried's system but Jones (6'4" 315 pounds) has a little more size.  Both should do a strong job keeping opposing defenses away from Kyle Rowley.

Moqut Ruffins (6'5" 300 pounds) will serve as the other offensive lineman/tight end for the Power.  He had two touchdown catches in 2010 and again in 2011.    Not many players will want to deal with a player that size rumbling towards them after the catch.

Terrance Taylor came over to the Power in a midseason trade with the Spokane Shock and made his presence felt with strong pass rushing skills and a knack for blocking kicks.   With Milwaukee leading 38-32 last year, he blocked what would have been the game winning field goal and helped set up the dramatic catch by Lonnell DeWalt for a 39-38 win. 

Lining up alongside Taylor will be Neil Purvis and Justin Parrish at the defensive end positions.  Purvis struggled with injuries last year, but a full offseason to rest should work wonders for the big man.  The Power will need him and Parrish to provide the kind of quarterback pressure we saw out of the Power early in the season last year. 

Tyrrell Herbert will start at the jack linebacker position in 2012.   For those unfamiliar with arena football rules, this is the linebacker position that has to stay within five yards of the line of scrimmage until the quarterback pump fakes, then they can go downfield into more coverage.  They are not permitted to rush the quarterback.  Herbert was used at both linebacker and defensive back last year.

Anthony DeGrate will start at the mac linebacker spot for the Power.  The mac linebacker can only blitz the quarterback from the side of the line opposite the tight end in the arena football league.   This will be DeGrate's 3rd season in the AFL. 

Lonnell DeWalt will backup Herbert this year after finishing the second half of the 2011 season as the starting jack linebacker. 
Moving on to take a look at the secondary of the Power, there was plenty of room for improvement in a secondary that really lost its way once Royce Adams left the team for the UFL and Carlos Campbell got hurt.  We saw the team get absolutely torched by Dallas, Utah, and Arizona down the stretch.  It definitely doesn't hurt to see some new faces in this unit.

Chris LeFlore blocked 18 passes and intercepted 5 of them last year for the Dallas Vigilantes.  He also returned some kicks for Dallas and would be a potential return man if something were to happen to P.J. Berry.  He's only 5'10" so he might struggle a little bit with some taller receivers but all in all he has strong cover skills and will be a strong asset for the Power D.

Josh Lay returns for his second season with the Power.  Despite missing several games due to injuries and suspension, he led the team in interceptions.  He is a physical hitter who isn't afraid of contact.  He brings a swagger and presence to the backfield and the defense seemed to feed off that last season. 

Bryan Williams will serve as the third starting defensive back.  He joined the Power late in the 2011 season and impressed coach Siegfried and his staff.  He's got good size at 6'1" and should be able to match up well against opposing receivers.

Overall the defense should play with a lot of fire under new defensive coordinator Derek Stingley, who was the head coach of the New Orleans VooDoo last season.  The physical style of the defense should remind Pittsburgh fans a little bit of another team in black and gold around these parts.

Last season saw Paul Edinger start off with a bang and then slowly lose his accuracy to the point where a change needed to be made in the offseason.  Coach Siegfried went back to his Spokane book of contacts and dialed up Taylor Rowan to come handle the placekicking duties for the Power. 
Rowan was good on 67% of his field goal attempts last year, best in the league amongst regular kickers.  He was also good on 85% of his PAT's.  He should be a fine addition to the black and gold.

The aforementioned P.J. Berry will handle most of the return duties this year, and you won't want to be at the concession stand when he's lined up to receive the ball.  He's a threat to take it to the house every time.  Look for him to push for 2000 return yards again.

Overall you look at the Power lineups between last year and this year and they have shown strong improvement across the board.  I think the additions of Rowley and Berry will be the biggest offseason acquisitions for the Power.  They now have a quarterback who has won it all in the AFL once before, and of course Berry is one of the biggest stars in the game. 

Looking at the Orlando matchup, the Power will want to avenge last season's loss to the Predators.  The game flipped when the Predators scored back to back net deflection touchdowns to wipeout a 14-0 Power lead.  Bernard Morris and the Power had the ball but a last minute interception stalled the potential game tying drive and the Power fell 62-54.

Collin Drafts was the starting quarterback that day and he enters the 2012 season as the starting quarterback for the Orlando Predators.  The third year man can struggle at times with his accuracy, completing only 58% of his passes last year.  He does rely on his legs to extend the play though, much like Bernard Morris did for the Power last year.

He'll have two of Orlando's top three receivers returning again this year.  Antoine "T.T." Tolliver hauled in 1525 yards and 32 touchdown catches last year while Bobby Sippio had 1379 yards and 32 touchdowns.   Tolliver in in his ninth season in the league and is a former first team all arena player and made the all-ironman team in 2004.  Sippio was a first team all arena wide receiver in 2007 and will be playing in his seventh AFL season.

On defense a familiar face will be suiting up for the Predators.  Former Power defensive end Terrance Carter has moved south this year.  Carter had 5 sacks for the Power last year.

Orlando's offensive coordinator is former Spokane Shock head coach Rob Keefe who has a lot of history with many of the former Spokane players that coach Siegfried has signed this year.  Keefe is especially familiar with the quarterback he coached last year in Rowley.  This might provide a little edge to the Predators as Keefe is sure to know the strengths and weaknesses in Rowley's game.

Keys to the game for the Power:
  • Establish an identity early
  • Play hard physical defense
  • Dominate the line of scrimmage
  • Weather the early storm
Keys for Orlando:
  • Jump on Pittsburgh early, keep the crowd in it.
  • Rely on veteran receivers (Tolliver & Sippio)
  • Enjoy homefield advantage

Both teams want to start the season out on a good note. The Power were in control of the game last year until the "Immaculate Deflections" dealt them a cruel and unusual fate.    I think we'll see a close game like we did last year.  I also think the Power are greatly improved across the board and the scales of fate owe Pittsburgh one. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Andrew McCutchen Signing: Not So Fast My Friend…

From Guest Blogger: Steven G. Folmar

      On Monday Pirate fans received some well needed good news with the re-signing of All-Star outfielder Andrew McCutchen to a 6-year, $51 Million contract to stay in Pittsburgh. At least that’s what we all hope. But let’s get past the All-Star break just to be safe.
Here's to six more years of seeing this!
     My good friend Dom and I disagree on what this actually means for the Pirates. Trust me, as a teen who once became an Expos fan for half a season because I was so disgusted by Cam Bonifay, it is going to take more than just one signing to get me on the Neal Huntingdon bandwagon. Not that he shouldn’t be given props for this signing, this could be the building of the foundation for a competitive team for years to come, I stress the “could” part. But then again, it is silly to discount the 2 DECADES where Pirates fans have been disappointed, with just a couple deals over the last 2 years.

     Where is a Derrick Lee? Many thought him a key cog and aged leadership the Pirates could use. Instead the Pirates get…Nate McClouth? And here again, being a good fan, I used to love Nate, his hair flopping as he was running around the outfield during his first stay. And I really do hope Nate can return to form in the Three Rivers confluence. But let’s be honest, Nate’s best season is .228 since leaving the Burgh. My dear friend also pointed out Jose Tabata, and all Pirate fans have high hopes for Jose. But injuries limited him to just 4 home runs last year against 61 strikeouts. He will have to hit better than .266 and stay healthy to make those numbers work. I see little there to dispel the “blind haters” anytime soon.

      The talk in Pittsburgh in the offseason was the trade for A.J. Burnett. But I think that begs the question would the Pirates REALLY have picked him up if the Yankee’s weren’t footing the majority of the bill? And Burnett has been less than dominating, even with one of the most feared line-ups in baseball and the most dominant closer of our time behind him, he still could only manage an 21-26 record over the last two years. Now he goes from a lineup with pop to one with more of an intermittent sizzle and I believe you have a recipe for failure. Not to mention a broken eye orbit he got while bunting (the Yankee’s haven’t had to do much of THAT over their history!) will keep him out 8-12 weeks.

     I will be there to support my Buccos in 2012. And I hope they can mimic their first half success of 2010 without the late season demise. I am also still hoping that the first jersey (Jason Hanrahan) I have bought since Jason Kendall, I can actually wear for a couple years while he is still there! But I am far less optimistic that we will be comparing Neal Huntingdon to the movies version of Billy Beane or the real life Theo Epstein anytime soon. On this subject Dom, we’ll have to agree to disagree.

You can check out Steven G's. blog regularly at the "Religion, Rights, Responsibilities....and a little Football" blogspot at:

Andrew McCutchen will be staying on the Pirate ship for a long time.

Superstar center fielder Andrew McCutchen will be remaining on the Pirate ship for the foreseeable future. 

The Pirates' best player, and one of the best players in all of Major League Baseball signed a six-year, $51 million dollar deal late last night to keep him in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.

You have to give Neal Huntington a lot of credit for locking up a player like this for a long time.  From the sounds of it, the deal could be a steal along the lines of the Jose Tabata deal if McCutchen continues to show growth on the field.
Here's hoping we see more leaps and
walkoff homeruns from Andrew McCutchen

McCutchen is a symbol of the new attitude surrounding the Pittsburgh Pirates and is a great player to have as the "face of the franchise."  He's definitely a lot of fun to watch play the game and a crucial part of the Pirates future.

This news has to be a shock to the blind haters of the Nutting regime who feel that the team will never spend money to be competitive. 

I think this move, plus the move last year to lock up Tabata, plus moves to bring in A.J. Burnett and Erik Bedard show this team is headed in the right direction. 

The team and its fan base needed some good news after the freak bunting accident broke the orbital bone in A.J. Burnett's face.  The injury will force the pitcher to miss 8-12 weeks.

Major kudos Neal Huntington!