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.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Collin Wagner Hexed By the VooDoo, Power fall 51-48

Kicking in the AFL is a difficult proposition.  The goal posts are only nine feet wide.  Obviously not much space to aim to make a successful kick. 

Having said that it's Collin Wagner's job to make kicks for his team, and he failed in that regards four times on Friday night, and the Power came up three points shy of reaching the .500 mark.  Overall, Wagner missed three field goals and an extra point in a closely contested game.

The game saw solid quarterback play from the Power's Derek Cassidy.  He completed 18 of 27 passes for 226 yards, 5 TD's and an interception.  He also lost a fumble.  His rival on the other side of the field, Kurt Rocco, one of the AFL's best this year, was somewhat erratic, finishing 19 of 39 for 276 yards, and matched Cassidy's touchdown and interception numbers. 

P.J. Berry, the reigning two time JLS Ironman of the Week winner, had another standout game for Pittsburgh.  He opened the Pittsburgh scoring with a kickoff return for a touchdown.  Overall he had nine returns for 252 yards and a score, he threw a touchdown pass, and added 4 catches for 44 yards and a score.

Randy Hymes continues to state his case as the Power's top receiver this year.  He finished three yards shy of the century mark and hauled in three touchdowns.  Good times for Randy Hymes indeed.

Chris LeFlore tied the franchise record for interceptions in a season by nabbing his fifth pick of the year.  He still has ten games to move ahead of Josh Lay in the record books.

This was a game in which the Power seemed to outplay the VooDoo in many ways in the game, but again, they had critical mistakes at critical points of the game and once again find themselves adding to the loss column.  The fumbled exchange between Derek Cassidy and center Beau Elliott definitely hurt, as did the Power's inability to stop the VooDoo on fourth down on the game winning touchdown drive.

In spite of it all, the Power still had their chance to tie the game and go to overtime, but once again, they found themselves just a bit off the mark.

Pittsburgh will come back home to take on their divison rivals, the Cleveland Gladiators, on April 28th.  It's Fan Appreciation Night for Power fans.  Get your tickets for the game now.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Fighting in the Ultimate Fighting Championship: Not So Good for Friendships

By Guest Blogger: Steven G. Folmar

   On Saturday night in Atlanta, 2 former friends, UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon “Bones” Jones and former Light Heavyweight Champion Rashad “Suga” Evans will step in the ring coming full cycle in their relationship. The former friends and training partners will come to blows in one of the most acrimonious partner splits in the UFC since Ortiz / Liddell. The winner will look almost unstoppable in the Light Heavyweight Division, the loser will have to think long and hard about their future in the UFC.
    Jon Jones is an incredible athlete, probably one of the most gifted in the UFC right now. No fighters have lasted long in fights against him. His wrestling is great, his striking unpredictable and fierce, and his submissions are solid, as we all saw when he put away Lyoto Machida with a standing choke. Evans is a more complete fighter without some of the God given talent that Jones has. He was a very accomplished collegiate wrestler at Michigan State. He can knock you out with punches, kicks or chokes. A couple times in his last fight with Tito Ortiz I thought he was caught in submissions that somehow he fought out of no worse for wear. Both have more than enough knockout power. But the story with these two is as much more the story of how they got here than the athletes themselves. Both were training partners, both also claimed they would never fight the other to preserve their friendship. When Evans hurt his knee before a title fight with Shogun Rua, Bones jumped in a won the title. This immediately rubbed Evans the wrong way and the bad blood began. This has led to no small amount of name-calling and bad feelings between the two.
    I have very mixed feelings about them both going into this fight. I feel this is two of the most talented two young men to fight in years. And the bad blood only makes for a more intriguing fight. I have always been an Evans fan but everyone knows he can come off cocky. He was told to quit showboating by opposing team captain and UFC legend Matt Hughes during The Ultimate Fighter Season 2. He has rubbed opponents wrong many times in the past. But when he does personal interviews I think you see a very intelligent fella who is well aware of how precarious his situation is. Conflict is always a great lead in for fights, Ali/Frasier, Leonard/Duran, Manny/ Mayweather (If they ever manage to get it off the ground) just to name a few. But I don’t think it is real good for maintaining friendships. I think both have acted childish in the leadup to this fight. How can Evans truly believe they would never going to fight considering they are both in the top 5 of their division. That is like Eli and Peyton not playing in a football game because the Giants and Broncos are playing each other. You are professionals, it is what it is. Evans seems naive on this point. This may be his way of vilifying a friend to make him want to fight. Interviews since then have been cocky on both sides. Jones, despite being extremely talented, seems like he may be getting a little cocky. He still has not been pushed into later rounds, outside of the Rampage Jackson fight, when he spent a lot of his time chasing Rampage, who was looking for that knockout punch. This may be his Brock Lesnar/Frank Mir like wake up call.
    In the fight, Rashad has experience on his side. He has been humbled and I think that has made him hungrier. He also has experience with bigger opponents with longer reach. I was watching the championship fight from TUF Season 2 today where Evans did a great job of adapting against a much bigger Brad Imes, whose 6’7” frame and reach seemed insurmountable. But Evans learned as the fight progressed and won one of the classic TUF matchups. Jones has not been tested going into the later rounds beyond the Rampage Jackson fight where he had to chase more than anything else and I think Evans will frustrate him by taking him there. I also think that Evans has got in his head and Jones is going to get frustrated. I have Rashad taking back his title with a knockout in the final two rounds. But Jones will not be sidelined long. And you should plan on seeing these two, and their feud, around the light heavyweight division for quit a while. Win or lose, this is going to be a good one!  

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Pittsburgh Power At New Orleans VooDoo Preview

The Pittsburgh Power pulled off the most dramatic comeback in AFL history last week, coming back from a 48-17 3rd quarter deficit to defeat the winless Orlando Predators.   It gave the Power a much needed victory but also opened up a lot of question marks.

The first major question mark for the Power (2-3) is what they have at the quarterback position.  The year started with Kyle Rowley in the role before he was released prior to the season opener against Orlando.  Bill Stull and Andrico Hines have also served in that capacity with somewhat poor results.  This week's starter, Derek Cassidy, will be the fourth signal caller to be labeled as starting quarterback for the Power already this year.

Looking back to last week, Cassidy completed 12 of 22 passes for 148 yards, 5 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions.  He also rushed for 20 yards and a score.  One of his interceptions was fumbled in the end zone by Orlando and recovered for a touchdown, so it was still a positive play for Pittsburgh.    He made the plays to win the game, but I cannot say that he was flawless in victory. 

The Power continue to spread the ball around on offense.  Power wide receiver P.J. "Superman" Berry was named the JLS Ironman of the week for the second week in a row after catching 3 passes for 66 yards and a score, plus 151 return yards in the game.  Mike "Joystick" Washington and Randy Hymes each caught two touchdown passes. 

Defensively the Power secondary ranks second in the AFL in yardage allowed at just over 250 yards per game.  Defensive back Chris LeFlore snagged two interceptions last week against Orlando and now has four this year, one behind the league leaders.  Larico Stevenson has also added two interceptions in 2012.

New Orleans is led by quarterback Kurt Rocco, who ranks second in the league in yards (1613), seventh in touchdowns (30), and ranks fourth in the league in QB rating (119.9).   Power fans will remember Rocco as the starting quarterback for the Cleveland Gladiators last year.  He's a tall QB at 6'5" who sees the field well.

Rocco's favorite targets this year are L.J. Castile (38 catches, 446 yards, 11 TD) and Josh Bush (29 receptions, 400 yards, 7 TD's). Bush is also a threat out of the backfield with 11 rushes for 38 yards and two scores and doubles as the VooDoo kickoff return man. 

The VooDoo have multiple standouts on defense.  Linebacker Alvin Ray Jackson is one of the league's standout stars.  He has four interceptions this year already.  Defensive back Jeremy Kellem also has four picks this year and leads the team in tackles (36) and passes blocked (8).

Turnovers are going to play a huge factor in this game.  New Orleans is 1st in the league in turnover margin (+10) this year whereas Pittsburgh ranks 15th in the league (-7).   Pittsburgh has to put a stop to their own self-inflicted wounds.   Pittsburgh does have the edge in the penalty department, ranking first in the league with just 25.8 yards of penalties per game.  The VooDoo average 56.6 YPG in this area, putting them at 14th in the league. 

As usual, when deciding who is going to win a particular AFL game, you need to start at the quarterback position.  The VooDoo have a decided advantage in this area, so it will be up to the Power secondary to play as well as they did in the second half against Orlando.  Pittsburgh needs to force some turnovers to have a chance in this one.

I don't see that happening.  VooDoo win this one. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Throw back the Throwbacks please!

The Steelers unveiled their new throwback jerseys for the 2012 season, and judging by the comments on Twitter and fan message boards, the fans aren't happy with them.

This is the NFL where most teams change their jerseys every few years so that fans spend more money buying the latest versions of the jersey in their neverending quest to be "the ultimate fan."  

While the Steelers haven't drastically changed their main uniform much over the last two decades outside of the number font, they do alter the throwback jerseys every couple of years.  I kind of liked the version they've used the last few years, but these ones.  I dunno. 

The jerseys are replicas of the uniforms worn in the 1934 season. The shirt features black and yellow alternating stripes with big rectangle blocked numbers with a white background. I guess those fans who have been wanting the Steelers to go back to block numbers got half their wish at least.  The pants are khaki/tan and the socks mimic the shirt with alternating black and yellow stripes.

My first opinion on these jerseys are that they are ugly.  I walked away to reset my eyes and came back.  Yup...still ugly.  So ugly you need the double paper bag method.  For those unfamiliar with that double paper bag method, that means one for what you are trying to hide and one for your head in case the other bag falls off. 

I understand the nostalgia trends in the league and lord knows we'll see some people buying these and wearing them proudly, but you could achieve that sentiment without wearing something as hideous as these.

I Want You...
to try not to laugh at these new Steeler jerseys

I think out of the 300 comments I've seen regarding these I've seen maybe ONE positive reaction and even it seemed tongue in cheek.

Odds are good they'll wear these for one of the Ravens games this year.  Maybe they should wear them against Cincinnati.  Call it the "Stripes Bowl" or something.  You could even get Bill Murray or Harold Ramis to be the ceremonial coin flip guy.  

The only problem with Cincy would be all the felons and thugs on their team getting confused by the prison stripes.  Maybe the refs should wear solid shirts for that one.  Otherwise we'd have a whole lot of stripes going.
I think I speak for 99% of Steeler Nation when I say throw back the throwbacks please!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Power overcome 31-point deficit to beat Orlando Predators

What is it with the blown leads at Consol Energy Center this week?  Pittsburgh fans watched their hockey team blow leads in the Stanley Cup Playoffs to cross-state rival Philadelphia.  The arena team chose to flip the script this time around. 

When all was said and done, the Power (2-3) completed the largest comeback (31 points) in the 25 years of the Arena Football league, winning 57-54 in overtime against the Orlando Predators (0-5). 

The Power offense once again struggled early.  Two of their first three drives ended with failed fourth down conversions.  Down 20-7, and driving, Mike Lucian let his man come free and Andrico Hines was knocked silly and out of the game.  The injury may have been a blessing in disguise for Pittsburgh given how inaccurate Hines was slinging the ball around. 

Derek Cassidy entered the game in relief of Hines and his first drive ended with a pick-six by Eddie Moten to put Orlando up 34-10.

The Power secondary changed tactics at halftime according to defensive back Larico Stevenson.  They shifted to man defense and the results were very evident.  Stevenson's interception on the Predators second drive got the ball rolling.  Pittsburgh got lucky on a Eddie Moten interception that was then fumbled in the end zone and recovered by P.J. "Superman" Berry for a Power TD . 

The next Predators drive ended when T.T. Tolliver dropped a 4th down conversion.  Chris LeFlore then had back to back interceptions as Orlando was fading fast.    The Preds had one last chance to win it in regulation but kicker Mark Lewis missed a field goal wide left and the game went to overtime.

Pittsburgh's defense once again held Orlando in check, forcing the Predators to settle for a Lewis field goal.  Pittsburgh then won it when Cassidy found Christian Wise in the end zone for the game winning touchdown. to send the 4464 fans at Consol into a frenzy.

After the game Coach Siegfried spoke about how the bench remained positive despite the circumstances.  He said the players impressed him with how focused they were on coming back.  He said this the biggest successful comeback he had ever been part of at any level of football.  Siegfried also gave a lot of credit to Derek Cassidy for showing toughness in the face of adversity. 

Larico Stevenson credited Coach Derek Stingley for making the halftime adjustment on coverage and also gave a big amount of credit to the Power fans for their energy.

P.J. Berry spoke up about putting the game on his shoulders when he returned a kickoff in overtime to the Predators 19 to set up the game-winning touchdown.

It wasn't pretty for most of the game, but at least it was historic. 

Stats for Pittsburgh:
Derek Cassidy: 12-22, 148 yards, 5 TD, 1 RUSH TD, 3 INT
Mike "Joystick" Washington: 7 rec, 65 yards, 2 TD.
Randy Hymes: 5 rec, 72 yards, 2 TD
P.J. Berry: 3 rec, 66 yards, 1 TD, 7 kickoffs for 151 yards.
Chris Wise, 1 rec, 19 yards, TD (Game Winner)
Chris LeFlore: 2 INT
Larico Stevenson: 1 INT

Stats for Orlando:
Justin Roper: 24-46, 245 yards, 6 TD, 3 INT
Bobby Sippio: 7 rec, 83 yards, 3 TD
Nate Forse: 7 rec, 65 yards, 1 TD
Dwayne Eley Jr.: 6 rec, 62 yards, 1 TD
T.T. Tolliver: 4 rec, 35 yards, 1 TD
Eddie Moten, 2 INT, 1 TD

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Orlando Predators vs. Pittsburgh Power Preview

7:30 PM
Consol Energy Center - Pittsburgh, PA.
Radio: TribLive Radio (Pittsburgh), 740 The Game (Orlando)
Twitter Updates: SteelCityVoice

The Pittsburgh Power (1-3) welcome the Orlando Predators (0-4) to Pittsburgh for a rematch of their season opener.  It's not quite a rematch though as that game was marred by a labor dispute and played with a bunch of replacement players.  Neither team got a chance to see where they stood which may be a reason why neither team has won since.

Pittsburgh opted to release starting quarterback Kyle Rowley and kicker Taylor Rowan after that game and while most of the players have signed back on, the loss of a quarterback looms large in this league.  Andrico Hines has shown some talent but the team continues to be plagued by turnovers this year.  Last week against Iowa, they had five more and lost 55-42.

Pittsburgh has to improve their turnover margin in a hurry to try and climb back in the division race.  Orlando has to start winning period.   This is definitely a must-win game for both teams, so the pressure is on. 

Both teams rank high on defense.  Orlando enters the game with the 2nd best scoring defense in the league.  They only allow 44.8 PPG.  They also rank 4th in total defense at 272 yards per game.  Pittsburgh is 2nd in total defense at 241.5 YPG, but they do give up more points.  They rank 11th in the league with 57 PPG allowed.  

P.J. Berry finally had his breakout game for 2012 last week, catching 9 passes for 110 yards and adding 173 yards and a score on his kickoff returns.  He did his damage in the first half against Iowa but was held in check in the second half.   The Power will try to keep him involved in the game for all four quarters in this one. 

Pittsburgh will also try to get fullback Tyre Young back into the mix.  The 3rd leading rusher in the AFL only got the rock once last week.  He's proven early on this year to be a strong weapon on offense so look for him to be a focal point on offense against Orlando.

WR Lonnell DeWalt has been suspended by the team for undisclosed reasons.  From the vibes I get he won't be back with the Power this year and his loss as a goal line threat looms large. 

Orlando's offense has been bogged down all season, not just the first game of the year.  Quarterback Collin Drafts has been very inconsistent all year, completing only 57.1% of his passes (89/156) for 933 yards.  He has 15 TD's and 6 interceptions on the year.  

Perhaps the return of AFL veteran WR Bobby Sippio could provide a boost to their fortunes.  He has been out all season with an injury but was recently assigned back to the roster and might be ready to see some action this week against Pittsburgh.  If not look for Antoine "T.T." Tolliver and Nate Forse, a Uniontown and California university of Pennsylvania graduate, to continue to receive the bulk of Drafts' passes. 

Keys for Orlando
  • Force turnovers and stops early on.  If the Predators can get some early turnovers they'll take out the Pittsburgh crowd and flip homefield advantage.
  • Take advantage of Power mistakes.  Pittsburgh is a -7 on the year in turnover margin.  Orlando isn't much better at -5.  Orlando needs to make Pittsburgh pay for each mistake.
  • Get the W no matter what.  If Orlando falls to 0-5, the odds of a complete turnaround to make the playoffs won't be pretty.  No one is running away with the South at this point but even still, an 0-5 hole will be almost impossible to climb out of.

Keys for Pittsburgh
  • Play a complete game.  This team looks strong in the first half of just about every game but then finds ways to fall apart in the second half.  Coach Siegfried mentioned after the Iowa loss that this team doesn't respond well to adversity.  They have to improve soon or the season could fall apart.
  • Play mistake free.  As I mentioned above, the Power are 16th in the league in turnover margin.  They need to get back to basics and play smarter football.  They consistently beat themselves with interceptions and fumbles. 
  • Win for the home crowd.  Pittsburgh is 0-2 at Consol Energy Center this year, and a win for the fans is a must.  Like Orlando, a loss would put Pittsburgh 3-4 games behind in the division race already.  A 2-3 record would be a lot more manageable with 4 division games still remaining. 

Seeing how the defenses rank, and how both offenses have struggled, I don't think I am going out on a limb by predicting a low scoring affair.  I think Pittsburgh has more talent on the board it's just a matter of putting it all together. 

I think the homefield advantage should help Pittsburgh as they finally get another win.


Saturday, April 7, 2012

Even Superman can't save the day. Power fall to Iowa 55-42

We all love the happy endings when a superhero saves the day.  On a night the Pittsburgh Power (1-3) dedicated to honoring the heroes of our military, "Superman" P.J. Berry, electrified the 4,491 fans in the first half. 

His first feat was a stunning 30 yard catch and run that saw him change direction multiple times as he evaded the bad guys.  It left many in the stands with their jaws on the floor.  Berry also scored on a 58 yard kickoff return and later added a 9 yard touchdown catch with three seconds left in the first half to stake the Power to a 28-27 halftime lead, plus they would get the ball to start the second half.

Unfortunately Iowa controlled the game the rest of the way.  The game saw a number of bad bounces go against the Power.  Their first offensive drive stalled late when Andrico Hines' pass bounced off the end zone boards into the waiting hands of Antoine Thompson.  Two more passes later in the game hit Randy Hymes in the hands and deflected right to a waiting Jason Simpson. 

Simpson, celebrating his birthday, would add a third interception late in the game to seal the deal.  He caught the pass from Hines and lateraled to Cameron McGlenn who returned the ball deep into Power territory. 

Even the special edition camouflage jerseys the Power wore could not hide the problems facing the team.  Turnovers continue to plague the Power offense, as they also lost a fumble on an Iowa kickoff that was recovered by John Mohring for another Iowa touchdown.  Pittsburgh had five turnovers in the game versus zero for Iowa. 

The Power defense continued their strong play early in the season with three goal line stands, but unless they find a way to keep opposing offenses to under 40 points, the offense really needs to pick things up.

Coach Siegfried wasn't very happy in the post game presser.  He is struggling to understand why this team can't seem to handle adversity well.  When asked to comment on how well the defense played he replied, "Any loss is a failing grade."  He also refused to comment on why Lonnell DeWalt was suspended by the team other than to say it was his decision. 

I asked P.J. Berry how morale was in the locker room and he mentioned how this is a veteran team and they aren't going to stop fighting.  They know what they have to do to get the ship headed in the right direction.

Andrico Hines echoed Berry's sentiments and said that it comes down to execution.  It's easy to see that point when a wide receiver misses two catches that bounce to the other team's defensive back.

The Power will continue to search for answers this week as they prepare to play the Orlando Predators.   The game is currently scheduled for Friday night, but could be moved to accommodate the Pittsburgh Penguins and their playoff series.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Iowa Barnstormers at Pittsburgh Power Preview

Radio: AM1700 - The Champ (Des Moines), TribLive Radio (Pittsburgh)
TV: Pittsburgh's CW. 
Twitter Coverage During Game:  @SteelCityVoice
Consol Energy Center - Pitsburgh, PA. - 7:30 EST

A season that started with so much promise for the Pittsburgh Power is at its first crossroads.  Win and keep pace with the rest of the teams in the division, lose and run the risk of falling behind to ofar too soon.

I don't like getting in the habit of labeling a game this early in the season a "must-win" but the Power need to get a win under their belts with their full squad.  The only win so far was the season opener in Orlando which featured a large amount of replacement players for both Pittsburgh and Orlando.

Pittsburgh will wear camouflage jerseys for
military appreciation night
Pittsburgh (1-2) is coming off a 63-40 blowout in Milwaukee that saw quarterback Bill Stull complete only 13 of his 31 passes for 185 yards and one TD before exiting the game in the third quarter.  He also fumbled and was picked off once before leaving.   His throws were off the mark the entire game, missing receivers high, low, and wide on almost every throw. 

He's now on injured reserve and will miss at least four weeks of action.  The onus for the Power offense now falls upon Andrico Hines.   Hines was at the helm of that season opener in Orlando, and hopes to continue building the chemistry he started to build in the fourth quarter of the Milwaukee game. 

Hines has built a strong rapport with Mike Washington, who he hooked up with on four touchdown passes in the opener.  He also developed good chemistry with Lonnell DeWalt and Randy Hymes last week.  All of the receivers are hoping that a new signal caller might mean more successful pass completions their way.  

Look out for Perry Baker to see some action as he returns from injured reserve this week.  Head coach Chris Siegfried mentioned in his press conference how Baker brings a new dimension of speed to the offense.

When all else fails, go with the bull on the ground.  Tyre Young is the AFL's leading rusher in per-game yardage with 32, and he already has three rushing touchdowns in two games played.  He was the best rusher in the AFL in 2010 and is hopefully going to be a major part of the Power offense moving forward.

The Iowa Barnstormers (1-2) are also coming into this matchup on the heels of a loss, but theirs was a one point overtime loss to the undefeated Chicago Rush.  Three year AFL veteran J.J. Raterink will call the signals for a Barnstormer offense that ranks 6th in the AFL in scoring at 59.7 PPG. 

Raterink is 72-for-106 on the season (67.9%) for 829 yards and has thrown 17 TD passes to only two interceptions.  He has brought stability to an Iowa offense that struggled mightily at times last year. 

His favorite target is one of the AFL's best.  Jesse Schmidt already has 36 catches for 414 yards and 10 TD's.  Schmidt was a first team all-arena wide receiver last year and is well on his way to repeating that feat so far this year. 

Defensively the Power boast the number one yardage defense in the league.  They only give up 188 YPG through the air, which could be a major factor in how well they do in this matchup.  Chris LeFlore has two  interceptions already this year and seems to be in position to make a lot of plays for the Power. 

One area the Power continue to struggle with is their pass rush.   Look for Neil Purvis to have a bigger impact in his second game back from injury. 

This matchup comes down to a few key areas.

Keys for Iowa
  • Attack the Power downfield.  Pittsburgh seems more prone to the downfield ball.  The DB's get twisted around a little bit easier on the long ball.
  • Withstand the early onslaught.  Pittsburgh will want to use the homefield emotion of the Consol Energy Center to their advantage.  If Iowa can keep pace early, they could take the crowd out of it.
  • Rely on J.J. Raterink's experience.  He has the edge over Andrico Hines, and that could be the difference in this game

Keys for Pittsburgh
  • PROTECT THE BALL!!!  The Power are generating a lot of turnovers on defense, but the offense has been equally as generous the other way.  If the Power can limit their turnovers and still keep up the pace on defense, they will see results in the win column.
  • Get the ball to "Superman" P.J. Berry.  He's been quiet for the most part on offense.  Andrico Hines would be well served to get the ball to Berry and get him involved early in the game.
  • Get back to basics.  Pittsburgh has really lost their rhythm offensively in the last few weeks.  They need to get back to what works and forge an identity offensively.  They desperately need stability at the quarterback position out of Andrico Hines. 

I think Iowa has the better quarterback in J.J. Raterink and top receiver Jesse Schmidt will be the best receiver on the field Friday night.  That doesn't mean Iowa is a shoo-in to win.  I think Pittsburgh has better talent overall on offense, and I think the defensive edge plus homefield advantage should play into Pittsburgh's hand in this one.