Who are the SteezBros?

Welcome to SteezBros! SteezBros is a Steeler Blog run by three brothers who are all huge Steeler fans. If the true definition of fan is fanatic, we fit the bill. We were born into Steeler fandom. Love of the Steelers goes back many generations in our family. It's in our blood. You can read our "Welcome to SteezBros" post in the archive if you are interested in more information about us and the blog. Thanks for reading and check back often!


Saturday, January 31, 2009

Thoughts on the Big Game

We've been waiting. And waiting. And waiting. But, tomorrow is the big game. The Steelers could bring home their 6th Lombardi Trophy or the Cardinals will complete their Cinderella run and bring home their 1st. I'm sick of prognosticators saying things like "Nobody's giving the Cards a chance," despite the fact that more than half of the fans are picking the Cards. Here are some of my thoughts on the match up for Super Bowl 43.

The Cardinals present the Steelers with some challenges that few other NFL teams do. If you were going to design an offense to beat the Steelers, it would have several key characteristics. The offense would not care about running the football, because the Steez stop the run so well. It would be able to spread out the field with four and five wide receivers. The quarterback would be a veteran that isn't fazed by pressure, who gets the ball out of his hands quickly. The quarterback would need to be accurate and find the hot reads. Unfortunately, the Cardinals do all of these things well. They were ranked last in the league running the ball, and play caller Todd Haley has showed that he deoesn't mind throwing the ball fifty times and ignoring a balanced offense. Kurt Warner is as accurate of a passer as you are going to find and we witnessed last year that he can dissect the Steelers defense with the short passing game. The Cards have the best group of receivers in the league, and Larry Fitzgerald is playing out of his mind right now. According to former Steelers cornerback Rod Woodson, the bet way to beat the 3-4 defense is to spread the field and attack the seams in the middle of the field. Arizona excels at this.

In years past, we've seen New England spread the field and kill the defense with short passes to Wes Welker and Kevin Faulk. But this year's defense is more versatile than those of the past. Lawrence Timmons has added open field speed and coverage that has negated some of the spread formation's effectiveness. The defense has also shown an ability to get pressure on the quarterback with only 4 rushers, leaving 7 people in coverage. Great offenses get more media coverage than great defenses, so it is unsurprising to see so many people jump on the Cards bandwagon, but I don't see Arizona scoring more than 21 points on this defense, unless the Steelers offense turns it over or the special teams shit the bed.

If Arizona fails to score more than 21, the real question is whether the Steelers offense will be able to score three touchdowns. The Cardinals defense was below average in the regular season, but has played better in the postseason. However, they are still vulnerable to the big play. Atlanta scored 24 points against the defense and Philly had more than 400 yards. The real reason this Cardinals team is in the Super Bowl is that it has a +11 turnover margin. The defense has been boom and bust, but it makes up for its deficiencies by forcing turnovers. The Steelers have had trouble against undersized, fast defenses (think about the inability to run the ball against the Colts). I hope the Steelers are aggressive in their game plan, but still feature a heavy dose of Willie Parker. The offensive line will need to play a game like they did against the Chargers in the divisional playoff game. If Pittsburgh runs the ball effectively, it can control the clock and keep the defense fresh. This will spell disaster for the Cardinals.

Big Ben is out to prove that his performance in Super Bowl XL was a fluke. If Big Ben continues to play like he has this postseason, the Steelers will win the game. His numbers haven't been eye-popping, but he didn't turn the ball over against San Diego or Baltimore. The Baltimore numbers were undervalued, because of key drops by Holmes and Sweed, and the absence of Hines Ward. I saw a very encouraging interview between Ben and Deion Sanders where Deion asked Ben to complete the following sentence: The Steelers will win if _____. Ben said "don't turn the ball over." So Ben understands he doesn't has to be a hero, he just needs to limit mistakes. One very concerning issue is the effectiveness of Hines Ward. Arians loves to use three and four wide receivers, but the Steelers have no receiving depth and no one wants this game to depend on Limas Sweed.

Ultimately, I think the Steelers have many ways to win this game and the Cardinals only have two. The Cardinals will rely heavily on the Kurt Warner and the passing game. If Warner has a bad game, the Cardinals lose unless they force multiple turnovers. The Steelers can win with defense. They can win with the running game. They can win with the passing game. They are the more complete team and have proven to be consistently superior throughout the regular season. If the Steelers can get through the first quarter without getting burnt, I think the Steelers come home with Lombardi #6.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Shoule We Be Concerned?

It has been reported by various media outlets that Ben Roethlisberger has had one or two x-rays during the week leading up to the Superbowl on his back/ribs. If you remember correctly, (I may not because I was a little tipsy in the Bellagio sports book)during the AFC Championship game, Ben was seen in the hallway rubbing his back/ribs with Bruce Arians while Byron Leftwhich warmed up on the sideline. Ben said he was very sore after the game, but it was nothing out of the ordinary. All reports out of the Steeler's camp have not listed Ben on any injury report this week and he has been practicing normally.

However, speculation has been going around that the injury could be to Ben's rib cartilage. This is a very painful injury that cannot be easily cured by a pain relieving injection. If this is the injury, it could have a large effect on Ben's ability to through the ball with zip and deep balls. Anyone who watches the Steelers on a regular basis knows that Ben has a tendency to underthrow deep passes anyway. This injury could exacerbate that effect and lead to turnovers. Also, Ben's arm strength allows him to throw balls effectively with defenders draped all over him. If there is a measurable reduction in arm strength from the pain associated with this injury, he could be limited in this aspect as well. Let's hope the injury really is just a little left over soreness and the x-rays were precautionary. But the fact that he is getting x-rayed during the week of the game tells me there must be some serious discomfort that has him or the team concerned.

Ben has played fairly effectively through injuries all season. He had an injured shoulder for most of the season. Then he suffered the scary concussion/spinal concussion in the last game of the regular season. He played well despite those injuries. If Ben comes out underthrowing, wincing, or with lack of zip on his passes we will know the reason.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Unsung Hero: Aaron Smith

Playing on the defensive line in a 3-4 defense, nearly ensures anonymity. Other than massive nose tackles, I probably can't name more than three non-Steelers defensive lineman that play in the 3-4. So it comes as no surprise that Aaron Smith is not a household name. Smith was not a big name prospect when he came out of Northern Colorado in 1999. The Steelers drafted him in the 4th round to add depth to the defensive line. But he blossomed into a starter in 2000 and didn't miss a game until he tore his bicep muscle last year.

Steelers teammates and coaches often rave about Smith, but even the most ardent fan had a tough time understanding his importance to the team until last year. Smith doesn't make a lot of tackles (60 tackles in 2008) and his sack numbers are never even close to the team lead (Smith had 5.5, Harrison had 16). But the Steelers defense, ranked #1 in 2007 and a perennial stalwart against the run, fell apart when Smith went down with an injury. The low light was when the Jacksonville Jaguars ran for 224 yards in a 29 - 22 defeat of the Steelers. That's when we started to understand. This defense wasn't amazing solely because of Troy Polamalu and the linebackers. The keystone of the defense was Aaron Smith. But, don't ask me. Smith's backup Chris Hoke said, “He’s the focal point of our run defense, no question.”

Perhaps, it explains why, after the 2006 season, Smith was re-signed to a 4 year, $25 million contract. He was the first player approached to re-sign with the Steelers, ahead of Troy Polamalu, Joey Porter, Clark Haggans, Alan Faneca, Kendall Simmons, and Dan Kreider. Historically, the Steelers refuse to give older players, such as Porter, Haggans, and Faneca, lucrative long-term deals, but the team had no qualms about re-signing the 31-year old Smith.

Richard Seymour, a defensive end playing in the 3-4 for the New England Patriots, is a perennial Pro Bowl player. Behind the Steel Curtain, a Steelers blog, wrote an article comparing Smith and Seymour. Using statistics to measure the value of Smith is an exercise in futility, but Smith and Seymour have similar statistics. So why doesn't Smith get more recognition?

Although the lack of recognition rarely bothers Smith, it bothers his teammates. Dick Lebeau rarely offers high praise about individual players, but he had this to say about Smith. “This is the best way I can say it,” said defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. “I’ve been here five years since I came back, and I can count on one hand how many times I’ve seen Aaron Smith blocked. He never gets blocked, and there’s no way you can overstate that value to any defense. He gets his job done on a consistent basis.”


“You would say that, but I’m telling you,” LeBeau said. “That’s why I can never understand why he doesn’t go to the Pro Bowl every year. He doesn’t get quite as many sacks as the defensive ends in a 4-3 scheme, but I think our guys should be in competition with the defensive tackles. … To me, Aaron Smith is a shoo-in for the Pro Bowl.”

During the 2008 season, Smith's son, Elijah, was diagnosed with leukemia. Elijah Smith was diagnosed in late October with a form of leukemia that has an 80 percent survival rate. Smith, as is his way, tried to keep the story quiet, but at the Super Bowl it's tough to keep any personal story quiet.

Smith went public about his son's leukemia to try and raise awareness about the disease. Ron Cook at the post gazette wrote a story about the blood drive that he promoted to increase the number of donors from the Pittsburgh area. (Of course, it worked. Steelers fans would probably give an arm or leg for any of the players). And there have been several more articles about his situation here, here, here, and here.

Though his impact on the field is great, through this story, it became evident how important Smith is to his teammates off the field. Following Smith's first game back after finding out about Elijah's diagnosis, Chris Hoke said "Every single one of us wanted to win the game for him." Added defensive end Brett Keisel, near tears, "I love the guy so much. If I could be like him and live my life like he lives his, I'd die a happy man."

Smith might be anonymous across the country, but he is a hero to his teammates and to the fans of the black and gold.

The Terrible Towel Benefits Are Far Reaching

Great Article from Greg Garber at ESPN.com talking about the origins of the Towel, its mystical powers and the amazing charity that its revenues benefit. A great read. If you have ever waived a Terrible Towel, you will love this article.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Media Day Videos

NFL.com posted interviews from media day with our favorite Steelers. If you are interested, you can find interviews with coaches and players. Here are some of my favorites:

Ryan Clark - Clark calls out Deion Sanders for labeling Clark's hit on Willis McGahee illegal. It turns out Clark got bad information from his wife.

Dick Lebeau - The humble grandfather of the zone blitz talks about the creation of the blitz and joy of coaching. It's easy to see why the players love him.

Bruce Arians - The confident (read arrogant) coach explains why all offenses are the same. Adding to the enjoyment is Steve Marriuci trying to interview Arians over the bleachers while Arians offers no attempt to make Marriuci's job any easier. I particularly like the leg slap at the end.

Santonio Holmes - Holmes is dumbfounded when he learns that Arizona coaches siad that Dominique Rogers-Cromartie will cover Holmes one-on-one all game. Holmes doesn't lack confidence and claims that he can't be covered by one man. He also predicts that LaMarr Woodley could be MVP.

Hines Ward's Knee - Ward's knee says that it will be fine for Sunday. It just needs more Gatorade.

NOTE: I just realized that all of the links go to the same page. I trust that you can navigate to find the videos that you desire.

It Starts at the Top

While front office staff members from New England and Baltimore become general managers around the league, all is quiet at the Steelers front office. The Steelers have been one of the most consistent and successful teams, but other teams have not shown much interest in stealing staff members from Pittsburgh's Director of Football Operations Kevin Colbert. But, don't mistake lack of interest as a lack of talent. Colbert has made some great moves that have enabled this team to make it back to the Super Bowl. Maybe if the team brings him its sixth Lombardi Trophy, I'll even forgive him for the Sean Mahan fiasco. Despite losing key players and a Hall of Fame coach, the Steelers front office did an incredible job re-signing core players and filling in the gaps via the draft and free agency.

Here is a timeline of significant off season moves since Super Bowl XL:

February 6, 2006: Steelers win Super Bowl

Free Agent Departures
Chris Hope - Hope played a major role at free safety and allowed Troy Polamalu to play to his strengths, mainly roaming around all over the field causing havoc. Hope signed a $30 million deal with the Titans. He was a pro bowler in 2008.

Antwaan Randle El - Randle El was the #2 wide receiver behind Hines Ward and was a stellar kick and punt returner. Pittsburgh wanted to keep him, but couldn't outbid Daniel Snyder and the Washington Redskins's $31 million offer.

Kimo Von Oelhoffen - He was a solid starter at right end and played a major role in the Steelers playoff run by tearing Carson Palmer's ACL

Free agent signings
Ryan Clark - The Steelers never shake things up in the offseason, but seem to find serviceable players at discount prices. The Steelers signed Clark for $7 million for four years. At the time, Clark seemed to be a good stop gap until the Steelers could find a young safety (See Smith, Anthony) to pair with Polamalu. Clark has turned into the perfect Steelers free safety. He almost never gets beat deep and makes receivers pay for going over the middle. Hands down, the best free agent signing (from outside the team) for the Steelers since James Farrior. Clark is paid less than $2 million per year. What a deal!

James Harrison - When the Steelers gave Silverback a four year, $5.5 million contract in the off season, it was to ensure linebacker depth and retain a good special teams player. Little did any of us know that he would turn into the best linebacker in the league. Well, maybe someone knew. Harrison's agent said this at the time "He won't start this year, I don't imagine. But if anything happens to Joey (Porter) or one of those guys, he's going to be the man. He'll be the next great linebacker in Pittsburgh. That's what we're hoping for."

Willie Parker - Following Parker's 75 yard TD run in the Super Bowl, the team signed him to a four-year $13.6 million contract. Parker turned into the full time starter and a pro bowl runner. Not bad for $3.5 million per year.

Brett Keisel - Keisel played well in the playoffs and proved to the team that he could more than handle Oelhoffen's duties. Keisel signed a four year, $13.1 million deal. A nice bargain for the player that Keisel has become.

Santonio Holmes - The Steelers traded up to the #25 spot to get Holmes and were criticized for giving up draft picks. No receivers were chosen up until that point and many experts thought that Chad Jackson, a WR from Florida who was rated equally with Holmes, would be available. Jackson is now out of the league and Holmes is one of the key reasons Pittsburgh's in its 7th Super Bowl.

Anthony Smith - The third round pick was thought to be the future at free safety after flashing some major skills in the preseason. Currently, he has been inactive for the Steelers playoff run. But, he's still on the roster and has played well on special teams.

Willie Colon - He was picked in the fourth round and currently starts at right tackle. He's one of the worst right tackles in the league, but he is the starter in a Super Bowl.

June 12, 2006 - Ben Roethlisberger gets in motorcycle accident.

2006 Season: Steelers finish a disappointing 8-8. Miss the playoffs.

Free Agent Departures/Retirements
Bill Cowher - The beloved coach of the Steelers decides to take a break. After 14 successful seasons and a Super Bowl XL ring, he earned it.

Jeff Hartings - The pro bowl center retired and our O-line hasn't been the same since.

Joey Porter - The Steelers defensive and motivational leader left Pittsburgh for Miami when the Steelers refused to make an offer in his price range. It looked like a dangerous move at the time. The Steelers only had an unproven back up ready to take his place. Luckily, his name was James Harrison.

Sean Morey - He was the only stand out on a terrible special teams unit. He decided to seek warmer weather and now plays for the Arizona Cardinals.

Free Agent Signings
Mike Tomlin - Most of Steeler nation, including Alan Faneca, was hoping for Ken Whisenhunt or Russ Grimm to get the job. Instead it went to a relatively unknown defensive coordinator in Minnesota. Tomlin has done things his way from the start and has already won over the city of Pittsburgh. This hiring more than makes up for several bad free agent signings this off season.

Aaron Smith - He's the keystone of the Steelers defense, but rarely gets recognized. The Steelers went against their normal MO for this signing, because Smith was already 31 years old. Nonetheless, signing Smith to a four-year deal worht $25 million was one of the best moves this team could make.

Troy Polamalu - He's one of a kind and there was no way that Pittsburgh would let him leave. Troy is the best strong safety in the league and allows Dick LeBeau to create schemes that other coordinators couldn't dream of. At five year for $33 million, I'd say it's a steal.

Sean Mahan - Let's not discuss this.

Kendall Simmons - It seemed ridiculous to give Simmons a deal worth $6 million per year, especially when the team refused to sign Faneca for $7 million per year. This was a bad offseason for free agent signings. Simmons is a terrible right guard and the offensive line has been better with Darnell Stapleton starting.

Darnell Stapleton - He was an undrafted center from Rutgers, but he stepped in as the starting right guard when Kendall Simmons went down. He is far from superstar, but he's done an admirable job for a guy that had no experience prior to this year.


Lawrence Timmons - With an aging group of linebackers, Colbert and Tomlin decided to draft a playmaking linebacker from Florida St. It was an interesting pick, because most viewed Timmons as a raw talent. He played very little in his rookie year, but has progressed nicely. Even though Timmons doesn't start, he has given the defense speed, coverage, and explosiveness in the nickel and dime package.

LaMarr Woodley - Another linebacker. This team needs offensive lineman! But wait, Woodley has turned into a superstar at LOLB and was a huge upgrade from Clark Haggans. Woodley was a steal in the second round and, in 2008, combined with Harrison to become the top Steelers sack duo of all time.

Matt Spaeth - The decision to draft a tight end in the third round was not well received, but Speath has done a nice job as the #2 tight end and played well when Heath Miller was hurt. He has nice hands, but is an average blocker and gets tackled easier than Shaun Alexander.

Dan Sepulveda - The team traded up to draft Sepulvada, finally realizing that special teams are an important part of the game. Steelers nation was pumped when they found out that their punter hits like a linebacker. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL in preseason and the team has been forced to survive with the pu-pu platter of Mitch Berger and Paul Ernster.

William Gay - This was a great draft for the Steelers as their top 5 picks have all contributed to this team. William Gay has played very well in the nickel and dime defenses. The defense continued to play at a high level this season when Gay was forced into the starting line up because of injuries to Townsend and McFadden.

2007 Season: The Steelers start out hot and win the AFC North. They finish slow and lose a home playoff game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Free Agent Departures

Alan Faneca - He's one of the best offensive lineman to ever play for the Steelers, but he was nearing 30 and his price tag was too high. The offensive line continues to decline.

Sean Mahan - The Mahan experiment failed. He was traded for a 7th round pick and a case of Iron City.

Free Agent Signings
Big Ben - After getting to the AFC Championship in his rookie year and winning the Super Bowl in his second year, Big Ben got the $100 million contract he earned. If he can win on Sunday, he'll be well on his way to Canton.

James Farrior - The unsung hero of the Steelers defense got a contract extension in the off season. His leadership and guidance has been invaluable for young linebackers such as Woodley and Timmons, and inexperienced linebackers such as James Harrison.

Max Starks - Designating a back up tackle as your transition player and paying him $7 million to ride the bench seemed foolish. However, with the injury history of Marvel Smith, this move turned out to be quite prescient. Starks doesn't deserve $7 million per year, but he has played well at left tackle. Without him, I don't think the Steelers would be in the Super Bowl. Therefore, I'm happy to say it was money well spent.

Mewelde Moore - This was a classic Steelers free agent signing. Moore wasn't a marquee name. It didn't make any headlines. But it drastically improved this team. With the injuries to Parker and Mendenhall, Moore stepped in and played extremely well. The offense was forced to shift to a quicker passing attack and Moore's receiving skills have given Ben a reliable check down option. The Steelers probably won two extra games this season because of Moore's play.

Keyaron Fox, Patrick Bailey - Both have contributed to vastly improved special teams coverage.


Rashard Mendenhall - He was hurt early, so the verdict is stil out.

Limas Sweed - Poised to break out in the Super Bowl.

2008 Season - Advanced to Super Bowl, result TBD

Since Super Bowl XL, the Steelers lost a Hall of Fame coach, their best linebacker (Joey Porter), best lineman (Alan Faneca), a pro bowl safety (Chris Hope), best returner (Randle El), a pro bowl center (Hartings), and their best special teamer (Sean Morey). Nonethelss, the 2008 Steelers are in the Super Bowl.

The moves in 2006 were spectacular (Harrison, Clark, Parker, Holmes, and Keisel) and the draft in 2007 landed a stud (Woodley), a potential stud (Timmons), and three contributors (Spaeth, Sepulveda, and Gay). Not to mention the signing of Mike Tomlin. In 2008, the team re-signed Max Starks and signed Mewelde Moore.

Well done, Kevin. Well done.

LeBeau To Stay

The "Grandfather of the zone blitz" will be back with the Steez for at least another year. Post Gazette said that today he informed the players that he will be back next season and that there is no way that his boys wouldn't be the first people he told of a decision of this magnitude. The defense will be in great hands for at least one more year

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Apparently Someone Hasn't Heard of The Curse of The Terrible Towel

Watch as the mayor of Phoenix disses the Terrible Towel. He is messing with the wrong towel and messing with history. Who can forget when TJ Housmandzadeh shined his shoes with the Terrible Towel after the Bengals beat us at Heinz field? That was the year we lost the division to the Bungles but we exacted our revenge in the Playoffs by beating Cincy in the Wild Card round and going on to win the Superbowl.

This season someone dared dis the Towel again. Lendale White proceeded to stomp on the Towel after Tennessee crushed us in their stadium. After Lendale put his stinky feet on our Towel, the Titans proceeded to lose to Indy in the season finale. Then they got ousted from the playoffs by the Ravens.

Now comes the latest assault on the Towel by the mayor of Phoenix. Maybe he was not aware of the curse or maybe he decided to throw caution to the wind and tempt the football gods. Either way I don't think it was a smart move.

UPDATE: Who will win the Super Bowl?

Even though Vegas has the Steelers as a 7 point favorite and a 2 to 1 favorite on the money line, voters at foxsports see this game as a toss up. So much for the underdog story...

UPDATE: The Cardinals are now the fan favorite:

Monday, January 26, 2009

Steeler Songs a Plenty

Here are some of the many Steeler parody songs that are floating around right now. Feel free to add any you come across in the comments.

Our personal favorite a group of 11-13 year olds called the Pop Rocks jamming to Heartbreakers. This definitely rocks

Stairway to Seven. Steelers lyrics to the tune of, you guessed it, the timeless Led Zeppelin classic Stairway to Heaven.

Steelers D. A tribute to the Steelers D based on AC/DC's TNT.

One of many, Here We Go tribute videos.

Sweet Renegade video. If you have ever been to a game where they play Renegade, you know how pumped up the crowd gets. Here is a sweet example of the power of Renegade.

Original Steelers Polka.

It's Polamalu complete with video.

Steeler Dan and the Roethlis Burgers. Terrible but it's out there.

UPDATE: The songs keep coming in...

The video and lyrics to the "Yinzer Anthem" speak for themselves. Check it out.

Any Joan Jett Fans out there? Try this remake. I love Black and Gold

One for the Ladies. Steeler ladies to Beyonce's Singe Ladies

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Roethlisberger Hate Fest Continues

Currently on ESPN.com, there is a poll that asks which Superbowl QB would you rather have: Kurt Warner or Big Ben? Kurt Warner is winning in every state except of course PA. Who in their right mind would rather have Warner? Yes he has won a Superbowl and been to two others but he is 37 years old. He is a statue back there. Ben is great at avoiding pressure and making plays with his legs. Another question is why does Ben continue to not get any respect? He is the Rodney Dangerfield of football. What more do people want from the guy? All he has done is win. He already has one ring, and could have another a week from tonight. He is only 26 mind you. This year he has had no running game, and a shoddy offensive line, yet has still lead us to a 12-4 record and two playoff wins. He has brought us back from behind numerous times. Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Random Thoughts

Here are some random thoughts that I’ve been having for the past week.

1) How sweet it was to not only see the Eagles lose yet another NFC Championship, but even better they got twerked early by Fitz then came back to lead by two, only to have Kurt and Co. come back and then stuff them. So theoretically they lost the game twice in their heads. Then to put some icing on the cake and some extra sugar the Steelers won a trip to XLIII on the same day as the Eagles getting crushed. Bliss! Disclaimer: This does not revenge 2004 when the roles were reversed and Eagles won and Steelers lost on the same day, which is one of the worst days of my life when it was coupled along with meeting a girl who completely sucks and still hangs around to this day. Other worst moments of my life include ’92 NLCS, Super Bowl XXX, every other AFC championship game except for seasons of 1995, and 2005.

2) Fitz is a complete beast. Not only do I still love him from when he was killing people at Pitt, but he now is an Eagle killer and is a huge recruiting tool for Pitt. I was recently at the UPMC Southside facility (which Pitt and Steelers share) and his picture and trophies are everywhere in the Pitt side of the facility.

3) I saw this on Mondesishouse but it is completely ridiculous. Art Rooney Jr.’s AFC Championship hat has the Steelers insignia upside down. How does one hat have an upside down symbol and it make it onto the field and have the Team President wear it on national television? If anyone gets their hands on that I’m sure a crazed Steelers would pay top dollar for it.

4) The question of the Super Bowl will be can Fitz get single coverage down the field? If he does the Steez will be in big big trouble. A comforting factor is that the Steez are the best team of not letting up the big play. Except for the SD playoff game I think we let up two pass plays over 40 yards and one was a fluke tipped ball to Reggie Wayne. I think Dicky will devise a system to shut Fitz down as much as a team can. Look for Ike to blanket him and have Ry Clark over the top with help although this may not be enough. Whiz will undoubtedly run a bunch of trick plays too. Can he come up with one the Steez haven’t ran yet from when he was with us?

5) If we win and Dicky retires our D could be in a bad chain reaction. Much of the defense loves LeBeau like a father/brother. They have been quotes that they say if he wasn’t the coach they would lose the passion to still play. Older players like Farrior, Foote, Aaron Smith could want to call it quits after illustrious careers and two Super Bowls. They will lose their favorite coach who they will give everything for and may not want to learn a new system and prove themselves to someone they don’t love. And they could win the Super Bowl and ride into the sunset with their beloved coordinator. Also players such as Bryant McFadden and other free agents may opt to leave. If they are going to have a learn a new system for a guy they don’t know/love why not do it for the most money possible? Most of the loyalty would be to Dick to stay.

6) If Dick retires that would be the end of the annual ‘Twas the Night before Christmas reading in the locker room on Christmas Eve. I have a vivid picture in my head of Dick Lebeau sitting on a wooden chair with his Santa hat on and 53 way too overgrown men sitting on the floor being complete squirrels and hooting and hollering to the creator of the zone blitz. I would love to be able to witness that scene. It has to be hilariously funny to see.

7) Casey Hampton is a huge beast. He is one of the many reasons our D is so good. I can’t think of anyone else that I’d want to have a beer/party with more.

8) What would be the more interesting story line? Turnpike Super Bowl or Pittsburgh v. Pittsburgh West? I know that if it were the former I would definitely overdose on Zanax and/or Klonopin.

9) If we win and shut down the Cards O where does our D rank in history? Can they top the Steel Curtain of old? The 85 Bears? 2000 Ravens?

10) I am pledging to only drink IC brew until the Super Bowl.

11) Elliot forgot to mention that this year in Vegas there was another prognosticator. Not quite the one of the Colts game. Bet he was a random guy who came up unprovoked and knew the Steelers would win and cover. Also the man in an OSU shirt called the Troy pick 6.

12) PITTSBURGHS GOIN TO THE SUPER BOWL!!! Bringin’ home the six pack or as per Elliot Second Hand Smokin’

PS More thoughts to come soon I’m sure I forgot a bunch and will think of more.

LeBeau Retirement Rumors Swirling

Per PFT, rumors are flying around the airwaves and now the internet that after the Superbowl, Steelers Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau will retire. He is 71 years old so it is not all that surprising. Now we have to start asking who his possible replacement candidates would be. He will be an extremely tough act to follow, especially after this season in which the Steelers D was ranked as the best D in the league. Could this also open up the possibility of switching to a 4-3? Tomlin was a 4-3, Tampa 2 guy before taking the Steelers job. After he was hired there was a lot of speculation that the Steelers would be switching to the 4-3. However, the personnel we currently have does not lend themselves to the 4-3.

I personally hope these rumors are false. Either way, if he isn't retiring this year, retirement isn't too far off given his age. I am thankful for everything he has given to this team and wish him all the best in whatever he does after this year. If this is it, let's at least send him off with an inspring defensive performance and a Superbowl victory.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Chuck Noll: "Your Team is Doing Well"

Great piece at espn.com about legendary coach Chuck Noll.

History, at least in these parts, is consistent. Snow falls; Steelers flags flutter in preparation for another Super Bowl; and Chuck Noll, black-and-gold legend, is somewhere far away. He will not give an oral dissertation this week on how these Pittsburgh Steelers remind him of his Steel Curtain defenses in the 1970s. Noll doesn't even watch a whole game of football anymore. It is believed that he talked to Pittsburgh's front office about his thoughts on the Steelers once this season.

"Your team is doing well," he told chairman Dan Rooney.

He won't be on TV, unless it's a grainy old video of one of his unprecedented four Super Bowl titles, won't be mentioned among the all-time NFL coaching greats. His friends will say the snub is borne out of his desire for privacy. Noll didn't put himself out there, didn't parlay his success into a broadcasting career, and hence, the world carried on without him.

Who is Chuck Noll? A generation of football fans doesn't, really, know.

Pick Me

Willie Colon Fail

I know the Steelers just made the Super Bowl and all, but that's never stopped a Pittsburgh fan from complaining. My crusade to replace our offensive line and offensive coordinator will not stop until a.) BA is fired b.) Willie Colon is replaced c.) Steelers win two consecutive Super Bowls. So here are some glowing reports about your favorite O-lineman and coordinator.

1.) Willie Colon was named to the Football Outsiders All-Keep Chopping Wood Team, the anti-pro bowlers.

Right tackle: Willie Colon, PIT

This is likely the first time a lineman on the All-KCW team will play in the Super Bowl, but Colon's appearance is well-justified. The Steelers were dead last in runs to right tackle, 19th to right end. Colon committed 11 penalties and allowed 5.5 sacks.

Not to mention that he has been penalized three times this year for not lining up on the line of scrimmage.

2.) Although they were much more effective than the Ravens, the Steelers offense only had 11 first downs on Sunday. For comparison, the Ravens had 13. I thought this, from TMQ was an apt description of the Steelers offense against the Ravens.

As for the Pittsburgh offense -- ye gods. Pittsburgh won the AFC championship despite getting just 11 first downs. It's not that the offense was excessively conservative; Steelers coaches called 39 passes and 26 rushes. But the running game was poor, blocking often jumbled, and Ben Roethlisberger did way too much scrambling around and improvising. Even though this sometimes worked -- a 65-yard touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes off a zany scramble -- you can't count on scrambling as your game plan.

Both Pittsburgh players and coaches seemed careless on offense. Leading 13-7 with a minute remaining in the first half, Pittsburgh had possession at midfield. Rookie Limas Sweed was running alone up the left sideline on a stutter-go and dropped a perfectly thrown touchdown pass. Eventually the Steelers reached second-and-10 on the Baltimore 21 with 16 seconds remaining, out of timeouts, the wind at their backs. Why was Pittsburgh out of timeouts? Because after dropping a perfect touchdown pass on national television, Sweed did a very unconvincing "oh, I am hurt" number; stopping the game for an injury within the final two minutes cost the Steelers a timeout. (In a miracle of modern medicine, Sweed was fine an instant later, and did break up an interception in the second half.) Anyway, in the situation the Steelers were in, you either kick the field goal or throw a shot to the end zone; you don't risk having a player tackled inbounds and the clock running. Instead, Roethlisberger scrambled around and then threw to the middle of the field, where the half expired before Pittsburgh could spike the ball. No matter how good your defense is, you can't casually squander scoring opportunities.

The Pittsburgh defense seemed to tire in the second half, because the Pittsburgh offense couldn't hold the ball. Example: Leading 16-7 at the start of the fourth quarter, Pittsburgh faced third-and-1 on its 37. That cannot be the Pittsburgh Steelers in a shotgun spread on third-and-1 when trying to grind the clock! Incompletion, clock stopped, bad punt, Baltimore scored and suddenly the pressure is on at 16-14. The pass was not a gamble for a deep completion, rather a dinky-dunky 5-yard thing. No matter how good your defense is, you can't casually throw incompletions on third-and-1 in a clock-killing situation.
I beg to differ. Our offense has casually squandered scoring opportunities and called passes on third and short all season. The defense just keeps bailing them out.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


The Steelers are 3-0 in games we have been in Vegas for (Jets, Indy, Baltimore).

I have been claiming to the SteezBros for sometime now that I am going to write a post about the picture that adorns the top of our site. After our latest escapades in Vegas, I think the time is ripe to finally make good on that promise. It has become somewhat of a tradition or maybe a rite of passage in our family to head for Vegas as soon as possible after attaining 21 years of age. I went when I turned 21. Then we went for Josh's 21st and sometime between Josh turning 21 and Alex turning 21 it became a yearly tradition to go to Vegas over Martin Luther King Day weekend.

MLK weekend worked great for us because we didn't have to use vacation to get a long weekend and the NFL playoffs are going on over that weekend. There is nothing like being in Vegas for some NFL playoff football. The first year we went over MLK weekend was Ben's rookie year. That year the wild card round occurred over the weekend so games occur on Saturday and Sunday. 4 games in Vegas is sweet but it can be draining for your wallet and energy wise. Your wallet is self explanatory. Energy and health wise, I will expand on. (If you want to skip directly to the story of the picture, skip the next couple paragraphs)

For me, the only place to watch football in Las Vegas is the Bellagio Sports Book. I have been to
many sports books in Vegas and I can say without hesitation the Bellagio has them all beat. First, drinks are free no questions asked (besides tipping the drink girl) and you can request what type of say vodka you would like i.e. Grey Goose. Many other books require betting over a certain amount to score free drinks ($300 at Caesars). Others only provide you a certain amount of drink coupons when you make a bet. Second, Bellagio has the best and biggest screen to watch the game on. Also they have 40 plush leather seats for you to sit in. Here is where energy level comes in. This past Sunday in order to secure seats for the game for 6 of us, I arrived at the Sports Book at 6:45 A.M or a game that started at Noon. During the Wild Card weekend, games on Saturday would start at 10 AM in Vegas so you would need to be there even earlier on Saturday, then drink and watch games all day. Sunday would be a repeat. It's a little easier to do it all when there are only games on one day.

Another thing that is amazing about being in the Sports Book for the playoffs are the ease of wagering and the amount of things you can bet on. One of my favorite things to bet on is who will score the first touchdown of the game. Also, there is college basketball, pro hoops and hockey going on in case you want to wager on something else while you are waiting for the football games to start. By the time the games actually start the book is packed with fans, 90% of which have some sort of wager on the game. Practically every play is cheered for by someone because they have a bet on something obscure that was effected by the play that just happened. When a big play happens it's like being at the game.

One thing you need to know about my brothers and I is that we can't normally handle watching the big games with a large amount of people because we are so nervous. We also can't stomach any comments that other people make especially predictions that we have the game in the bag, we are going to win, we are going to lose. Basically we can't stand anything anyone says. We are also a little superstitious about some things.

The first game we ever watched of the Steelers in Vegas was Steelers-Jets in Ben's rookie year. If any of you remember this game it was a rollercoaster ride that we probably should have lost. The Jets missed to field goals at the end of the game and we somehow prevailed. The next year is where the picture at the top of this Blog comes from. The next year was our Super Bowl victory year. The game we were in Vegas for....Indy.

To start with, we had a gnarly crew out there that year, almost all of us Steeler fans but my one friend, Dave, who is in the center of the picture is a die hard Eagles fan from Philly. As many of you are aware, Philly fans and Steeler fans do not always see eye to eye. However, on this day he saw all of us decked out in our Steeler regalia, and wanted to join in the fun. We, being the superstitious Steeler fans that we are, were not too keen on allowing an Eagle fan to wear one of our Steeler Jerseys on the day of a huge game. He proceeded to beg us to allow him to wear the jersey, calling us every name in the book. Finally, we felt bad for him since he had known nothing but losses in his fan life and permitted him to don the jeresy with one condition. If, for any reason at any time during the game we requested that he take off the jersey, he had to immediately remove the jersey no questions asked. He agreed to this request.

Right before kickoff, a mystery woman appeared before my brothers and I. She made the following prediction: "Steelers will win. Their lines will dominate and they will win." Then she disappeared never to be seen or heard from again. We just looked at each other dumbfounded. Then the game Started and the Steelers drove down the field easily twice and took a 14-o lead and no one could believe it. In the 2nd half the Colts started to figure out our D and began crawling back into the game. When Troy seemingly intercepted a Peyton Manning pass late in the game, it all seemed to be over until the play was reviewed. Josh then said to me," If they overturn this interception and Indy goes down and scores, I am out of here." I didn't really think he was serious. Then in one of the worst calls ever, the interception was overturned. Then the colts drove down the field and scored. At this moment, I contemplated forcing Dave to remove the Steeler jersey he was wearing but I didn't because I looked around for Josh to ask him whether we should make Dave take off the jersey and he was nowhere to be found! After that craziness ensued. Indy has one last chance to drive, Steelers sack manning twice and force a turnover on downs at the 3. Steelers ball. Indy has their timeouts though and only down three they could get the ball back and get into field goal range if the Steelers just kneel on it four times. So the give the ball to the Bus and, unbelievably he fumbles. Nick Harper, who was stabbed a few weeks earlier in the leg, picks it up and is returning it for a sure touchdown but Ben grabs him by the shoestrings and trips him up at midfield. The sports book was going crazy! The Steeler fans were apoplectic. After a few completions an endzone shot, the colts line up for a field goal to send the game to overtime. Ultra reliable kicker Mike Vanderjagt was kicking inside to tie the game. The kick went up and we knew immediately that it was no good! We won! About 10 minutes after the game ended, Josh showed back up. He had gone to the room and read his book. He did not watch anything that happened in the game after the interception call got overturned and the colts scored. He missed the fumble, the tackle and the missed field goal. He said that if we had blown that game and he watched it, he wouldn't be able to be a Steeler fan any longer. And that is the story of the picture. Finally.

Third Time not a Charm: Steelers to Super Bowl

As crazy as this NFL football season has been, there has been one constant with the Pittsburgh Steelers. They win, and its usually ugly. The Steelers outplayed the Ravens for four quarters on Sunday, but needed a late pick 6 from Troy Polamalu to assure themselves of the franchise's 7th trip to the Super Bowl.

On a day that Willie Parker was repeatedly stuffed by the Ravens (24 carries for 47 yards and a fumble) and Limas Sweed got significant playing time (Hines missed the final three quarters due to injury), Ben Roethlisberger played another solid game, completing 16 of 33 passes for 255 yards, 1 TD, and 0 interceptions. If not for several drops, these numbers would have been more like 315 yards for 3 tds.

Despite Big Ben's play, the game was controlled by the two defenses. Neither offense gained 300 yards (Pit - 275, Bal - 198). The Ravens had 13 first downs, the Steelers had 11. But the major difference in the game was turnovers. While Big Ben was mistake free in this area, Joe Flacco threw three interceptions that led directly to 10 points. Joe Cool finally looked like a rookie.

The Steelers special teams unit hardly looked special. Mitch Berger averaged 28.3 net yards per punt, which understates how badly he played. The Steelers allowed another long punt return that led to the Ravens first TD. And if not for a stupid penalty by Baltimore on another poor punt in the 4th quarter, Steelers fans might be watching the Ravens in the Super Bowl.

Other random thoughts from the game:

  • This was a game of missed opportunities. The Steelers should have blown out the Ravens, but made repeated mistakes that kept this game close. Santonio Holmes "drop" at the goal line cost the team 4 points. The blown punt coverage and subsequent pass interference gave the Ravens 7 points. The Limas Sweed drop cost the team 7 points. Clock mismanagement at the end of the first half cost the team 3 points. This game should have been a blow out in the range of 31-10. Mike Tomlin is lucky that he was once again bailed out by the defense.

  • I still haven't heard a good explanation for overturning Holmes catch near the end zone. The rule states that a receiver going to the ground during a catch must maintain posession when he hits the ground. But, Holmes wasn't going to the ground when he made this catch. He caught the ball, took three steps, then lunged to the goal line.
  • Limas Sweed, please catch the ball. And don't fake an injury that costs the team a timeout. I won't yet declare him a bust (I declared Troy Polamalu a bust during his rookie year), but he needs to spend some serious time with the football passing machine.

  • The refs had another bad game. The Holmes review, two ticky tack pass interferences that led to both Ravens TDs, roughing the kicker against the Ravens.

  • It's hard to put into words how bad Mitch Berger was in this game. Every punt was a low line drive. He nearly whiffed one punt entirely. I'm counting down the days to Daniel Sepulvada's return.

  • The Steelers coverage units are reverting back to pre-2008 form. The punt coverage unit was ranked second best in the league. In the last two weeks, they've allowed long returns to Darren Sproles and Jim Leonhard. This needs to be fixed in the Super Bowl. Giving Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald a short field will not work out well.

  • The offensive line played an average game. This is a great Ravens defense, so it's no surprise that we couldn't run the ball. But an average of 1.9 yards per rush is unacceptable. The pass protection was decent, but Baltimore still had 4 sacks. This performance was no where near as good as the San Diego game, but it also wasn't a debacle like some of the regular season games.

  • The defense was stellar once again. If not for two questionable pass interference calls, the Ravens wouldn't have come close to scoring. Joe Flacco was confused all day. LaMarr Woodley had his third straight multi-sack playoff game. James Harrison was quiet, but that's only because he was double teamed (and held) on every play. Still, he provided the pressure that led to Troy's game winning interception. Troy was HUGE. He stuffed Flacco on 4th and 1, tackled Flacco for an 8 yard loss on a surprise QB running play, and dealt the knock out blow with his pick 6.

  • Why in the world, when we are up 9 with 12 minutes left, does Arians call a shotgun spread with 5 wide receivers on 3rd and 1? Yes, it's difficult to run on the Ravens, but the five-wide spread completely eliminates the threat of run. Also, Hines Ward is out of the game at this point, so we don't have five reliable wide receivers. I'd rather hand it to Gary Russell. Even if you get stuffed, it takes another minute off the clock.

  • If the Steelers win the Super Bowl, does that make it harder to fire Bruce Arians?

  • Jeff Reed had another great game. The 46 yard field goal in the bad weather at Heinz Field was huge.

  • In the last two weeks, it sure seems like a lot of passes have been thrown at Ike Taylor. I haven't re-watched these games so I could be wrong, but it sure feels like teams are staying away from McFadden and attacking Ike.

  • The Steelers have the Harbaugh's number.

  • Any good slogans for this Super Bowl? One for the other hand isn't all that catchy.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

SteezBros in Vegas

The SteezBros will be in Vegas over the weekend for the game. The Steelers seem to play crazy postseason games when the SteezBros travel to Sin City. During the 2004 season, the Jets missed two game winning field goals, enabling the Steez to steal a win in overtime. During the 2005 season, Jerome Bettis fumbled. Enough said. At least, the Steelers won both games.

The family will be at the Bellagio sports book to watch the game on Sunday. I might be hiding in the hotel room.

Keep it in the family

The last time the Steelers won the AFC Championship at home was against the Indianapolis Colts in 1995. The quarterback of that team? Jim Harbaugh.

This week we play the Baltimore Ravens. The head coach? Jim's older brother John Harbaugh.

Here's to hoping we treat big brother the same way we treated Jim back in the 90's.

AFC Champs: Look to the QBs

The Steelers' struggles, especially at home, in the AFC Championship game are well documented. Since 1994, the team is 2-4 in the game preceding the Super Bowl. Frequently, the Steelers were favorites in these games and all of the losses helped to brand Bill Cowher as a big game choker. However, one needs not look much further than the QB match ups to realize that Pittsburgh was regularly outmatched at the most important position in the game.

1994: Pittsburgh vs. San Diego

QB matchup: Neil O'Donnell vs Stan Humphries

Pittsburgh was a double-digit favorite in this game at Three Rivers Stadium. Steelers TE Eric Green was so confident that he started discussions for a Super Bowl rap video. Midway through the 3rd quarter, Pit was leading 13-3 and the defense was suffocating Humphries and the Chargers. But, Humphries came back with two 43 yard touchdown passes and Neil O'Donnell couldn't get the ball to Barry Foster on 4th down.

Stan Humphries was a solid pro. His career was less illustrious than Neil O'Donnell, but neither of these signal callers would go on to hall of fame careers. The Steelers flat-out choked in this game.

1995: Pittsburgh vs Indianapolis

QB matchup:Neil O'Donnell vs Jim Harbaugh

A year after the meltdown at home against San Diego, the Steelers once again hosted the AFC Championship game. The Colts were on a miracle run of their own. They snuck into the playoffs with a 9-7 records, but Jim Harbaugh, Marshall Faulk, and company beat the Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium to advance to Pittsburgh. Trailing 20-16 with five seconds left, the Colts had the ball at the Pit 29 with time for only one more play. Harbaugh's hail mary appeared to be caught, but was dropped at the last second by Aaron Bailey.

In another match up of crafty veteran QBs, O'Donnell survived against Harbaugh. The Steelers clearly had a better team, but Harbaugh had some magic to keep it close.
1997: Pittsburgh vs Denver
QB matchup: Kordell Stewart vs John Elway

Do I really need to explain? Kordell against Elway. A Steelers punch line vs one of the best of all time. The Steelers outplayed the Broncos, but couldn't overcome Kordell's mistakes. Kordell turns the ball over four times. Broncos advance and Elway wins his first Super Bowl.

2001: Pittsburgh vs New England

QB matchup: Kordell Stewart vs Tom Brady/Drew Bledsoe

At the time, Kordell was the more experienced quarterback. Little did we know that this quarterback mismatch is almost as lopsided as Kordell vs. Elway. The Steelers were clearly the more talented team, but thanks to two New England special teams touchdowns and a late drive by Bledsoe, after Brady got hurt, New England was able to pull it out. Kordell throws two late interceptions and the Kordell Stewart era soon comes to an end.

2004: Pittsburgh vs New England

QB matchup: Ben Roethlisberger vs Tom Brady

Big Ben was 14-0 in his rookie season, but he was still a rookie going up against a two-time Super Bowl champion. Roethlisberger threw 3 interceptions, while Brady was nearly perfect. Despite the loss, Steelers fans were excited to finally have a quarterback worthy of playing in a big game. But still, Brady vs Big Ben (and Belichick vs Cowher) was a mismatch too big to overcome.

2005: Pittsburgh at Denver
QB matchup: Ben Roethlisberger vs Jake Plummer

For perhaps the first time on this list, the Steelers finally have the better quarterback. Even though the team was on the road, the superiority of the quarterback made all the difference in getting the Steelers over the hump. Big Ben and Cowher get their first rings.

2008: Pittsburgh vs Baltimore

QB matchup: Ben Roethlisberger vs Joe Flacco

This match up clearly favors Big Ben and the Steelers. Ben is in his third AFC Championship game and is 6-2 in his career in the playoffs. Flacco is a rookie that's carried by a strong running game and a defense that forces turnovers. Who knows if we willlook back at this game as the start of a brilliant career by Flacco or if we'll look back and say that Pittsburgh won because of clear superiority at the quarterback position.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Praise for Coach Zierlein?

I'm normally a big fan of Mike Florio from the Sporting News and ProFootballTalk.com, but his recent article, 10 moves that shaped the Final Four, gives praise where praise isn't do (see below). Yes, the Steelers just played a great offensive game against the Chargers and the O-line played extremely well, but one good game doesn't erase a season's worth of poor coaching. Giving credit to Larry Zierlein for coaching the weakest link in our team is preposterous. We won in spite of our offensive line, not because of it.

8. Zierlein makes chicken salad.
With a suspect offensive line in 2007, the Steelers didn't do much to improve it in the offseason. Alan Faneca walked away as a free agent, and nearly $7 million was committed to underachiever Max Starks. The only new arrival was center Justin Hartwig, who at the time of his signing was viewed as an unnecessary luxury, given the presence of Sean Mahan. In the draft, the Steelers watched seven tackles go in the first 21 picks, doing nothing to move up from No. 23 to snag one of them.

So offensive line coach Larry Zierlein worked with what he had, and got them ready to play. When Marvel Smith was lost with a back injury, Starks was there to unexpectedly keep things moving in the right direction. And after beating out Mahan for the starting job at center, Hartwig anchored the line with 16 regular-season starts. Though the line allowed 49 regular-season sacks (fourth-worst in the league), they played their part in more than a few late-game victories, holding things together long enough to open up running lanes and/or buy time for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to make key throws. So while what was expected to be a major weakness for the Steelers hasn't exactly been a strength, the offensive line under the leadership of Zierlein has helped, not hindered, the team's unexpected return to the brink of the Super Bowl.

Tough Decisions: Dissecting two controversial calls

Mike Tomlin made two controversial calls against the Chargers. Here we take an in-depth look at them both to see if Coach Tomlin made the right decisions.

Fake Punt on 4th and 1

The Situation: The game was tied at 7 midway through the second quarter. Both teams were struggling to move the ball. Pittsburgh faced a 4th and 1 near midfield.

The Decision: The Steelers attempted a fake punt. The ball was snapped to the up man, Ryan Clark. Lawrence Timmons pulled from the outside, but was too late to block the Ravens pressure up the middle. Clark lost 4 yards and the Chargers took over with great field position. After gaining one first down, the Chargers kicked a field goal to take the lead 10-7.

The Reasoning: Mike Tomlin talked about the decision after the game and explained that he wanted to send a signal to his team that he would play aggresively. Tomlin also wanted to give his offense a spark, since, up to this point, the offense had been held scoreless.

Our take: Typically, fake punts and trick plays are called around midfield. If they work, the offense is very likely to score points. If they don't, the defense has a chance to get a three and out without surrendering points. The Chargers were obviously prepared for the fake punt and it seemed like Tomlin made a poor decision with the call.

At this point in the game, the Steelers were winning the field position battle and the defense had held the Chargers offense to 22 yards in their previous four drives. Traditionally, the Steelers would punt and hope to get the ball back in good field position. It's not the aggressive play, but it certainly seemed to make sense at this juncture.

If Tomlin wanted to play aggresively to show confidence in his offense, I would have preferred that he went for it on 4th and 1 with the offense. The team had success early with the running game and was winning the physical battle. I think the better aggressive play would have been to send the offense on the field, not to try a trick play that hasn't been used all season.

Although the play failed and San Diego scored points, the Steelers offense played incredibly well for the rest of the game, scoring touchdowns on four of their next five possessions. The fake punt was widely criticized after the game, but Jason Whitlock at foxsports.com wrote this in his NFL Truths column:

Memo to Boomer Esiason: Mike Tomlin's fake punt worked.
Where Boomer Esiason saw an ill-advised fake punt, Jason saw a move that sparked the Steelers' offense. At the time of its implosion, I hated Tomlin's second-quarter fake punt. The Chargers blew it up and used the good field position to score a quick field goal. By the time Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh offense responded with their first scoring drive of the game, it was clear that Tomlin's gamble paid off.

Tomlin called the fake because he wanted to spark his stalled offense. Big Ben and the O had done nothing. The botched fake and three-point deficit created a sense of urgency that snapped Big Ben out of his funk. You could see that by halftime when Esiason wasted breath criticizing Tomlin for the risky play. Pittsburgh's offense was lethal after the fake punt

Goal line plunge on 4th and 1

The Situation: The Steelers were winning 21-10 at the start of the 4th quarter. The team had a 4th and goal at the 1, after Gary Russell was stopped for no gain on a 3rd and 1 run.

The Decision: Mike Tomlin decided to go for the touchdown and called a fullback dive with Carey Davis. Davis bobbled the hand off and was stuffed for no gain. The O-line got little movement, but Davis lost power when he tried to get a handle on the ball.

The Reasoning: A touchdown in this situation would have given the Steelers a virtually insurmountable 28-10 lead with one quarter to play. It was another example of Tomlin's aggresive nature. He was playing to win the game.

Our take: Typically, I'm a big fan of playing aggresive football on 4th and inches. But in this case, I was hoping for a more conservative approach. My argument was more about momentum than it was about aggresion. A field goal would have given the Steelers a 14 point lead with less than one quarter to play. At this point, the Steelers defense was well rested. The fans were loud. Momentum was clearly in our favor. I thought that a 14 point lead, with the #1 rated defense and an enthusiastic home-field crowd sounded pretty good with 14 minutes left to play. If the Steelers went for it and got stopped (not an unrealistic proposition since the team is 3-12 on 4th down), it would shift momentum and energize the Chargers team. I definitely endorsed the safe play.

However, unlike the fake punt, I don't think Tomlin made a bad call here. There were logical reasons to play for the touchdown. This was the aggressive call. A touchdown puts the game out of reach. He put trust in the offense and hoped that success would put the 4th down woes of the regular season behind them. Even if unsuccessful, San Diego gets the ball on the 1 yard line and has to drive 70 yards to even get into field goal range. So, the reasons for Tomlin's decision were there. I was just more concerned about momentum and running out the clock, than going for the jugular. In this case, I'll agree to disagree.

Even though Carey Davis was stopped short of the goal line (I strongly disagree with the decision to give Davis the ball), the defense stopped the Chargers, the Steelers got the ball back and subsequently scored the game icing touchdown.

Despite the failure of both play calls, I welcome the aggression from the coaching staff. This attitude served the team well and the offense came out with a confidence that hasn't been seen all year. Let's just hope the aggresive play calling against the Ravens is well calculated, as opposed to reckless.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Polamalu injured before Chargers game

It turns out that the reason Troy Polamalu had such a quiet afternoon on Sunday was likely because he was injured. This from the Post-gazette:

All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu has a calf injury and he will tread lightly in the early practices this week. Coach Mike Tomlin revealed today that his star strong safety was injured in pregame warm-ups Sunday. He was not introduced before the game with his teammates because trainers were attending to him. Tomlin did say that all indications are that he will be fine for Sunday's AFC championship game against Baltimore at Heinz Field.

Bring on the Ravens

After an embarrassingly long break, SteezBros is back for the playoffs. Hopefully, we can return as strong as the Steelers did on Sunday.

The Steez picked a good time for their best offensive performance of the year. There was a sense early in the game that things might be different for the offense when Bruce Arians called three consecutive run plays to open the game. The result: 22 yards and two first downs. Despite the rushing success, the offense was held scoreless until the very end of the first half due to repeated failures on third down. Big Ben led a 77 yard touchdown drive with less than two minutes left in the half, highlighted by an incredible 41 yard completion to Hines Ward. Pittsburgh got the ball back after halftime and proceeded to drive 66 yards, capped by an 8 yard Heath Miller TD reception, that effectively put the game out of reach at 21-10. The team added a Gary Russell TD and a late Willie Parker TD to finish off the streaking San Diego Chargers.

Count me as one of the many Steelers fans that didn't see this offensive outburst coming. The team looked like I hoped they would at the start of the season - a reliable running game, a play action passing game, and Big Ben regularly converting third downs. The reason for the success was undoubtedly the great play of the offensive line. The O-line has been the weakest link of this time all year, but they played like stars on Sunday. They repeatedly pushed around the Chargers defense in the running game. Ben Roethlisberger was only sacked once. The line wasn't confused by stunting defensive players and Mewelde Moore did a nice job in pass protection. Willie Parker also played one of his best games of the year, showing lateral quickness that has been missing since his he injured his knee and a willingness to run hard between the tackles.

I also want to give credit where credit is due. Bruce Arians, you called your best game of the year. You stuck with the run. You mixed formations. You called deep play action passes and stayed aggressive even with a big lead. You controlled the clock. You kept your QB clean, two weeks after sustaining a spinal cord concussion. You actually called two running plays on 3rd and and 4 (both would have worked, one was negated by penalty). Nicely done. Now please, if you want to save your job, put together a game plan for Baltimore that plays to this team's strengths.

Most importantly, Big Ben looked sharp. For one of the few times all season, Ben had a nice pocket and significant time to throw. He was accurate and decisive. The ball was coming out of his hand with more zip than I've seen all season and he threw several deep balls that were oh so close to being perfect. His best throw of the game was the deep ball to Nate Washington that resulted in a pass interference. Nate was double teamed, but the ball was placed so perfectly that had it not been for Eric Weddle grabbing Nate's arm, Ben would have ended up with a 220 yard, 2 TD game (which would have earned him some media publicity) instead of the 180 yard, 1 td game. If Ben and the offensive line play this well in the following weeks, this team will bring home its 6th Lombardi trophy.

IMO, the defense didn't play up to its unbelievably high standards. The defense showed little resistance to the Chargers opening drive that took 4 plays to score a touchdown and quieted the home crowd. After that drive, the defense tightened up and played better in the first half, only allowing a field goal that mostly resulted from bad field position. I know that the majority of the Chargers points and yards came in a meaningless 4th quarter, but I'm still worried that this defense peaked mid-season and is on the decline. There seemed to be openings in the passing lanes for Philip Rivers. The Chargers scored a quick TD after the Steelers took a 28-10 lead, when the defense knew that all it needed to do was force a time consuming drive. The Chargers points and yardage were further inflated with another meaningless touchdown drive later in the 4th. Rivers had more than 300 yards passing, the first time the Steelers allowed this all year. Keep in mind, this happend with San Diego's offense only playing for three quarters (the Chargers had one offensive play in the 3rd quarter). Ike Taylor struggled to cover Vincent Jackson and Chris Chambers.
On the positive side, the defense allowed only 15 yards rushing to Darren Sproles. It has also been rumored that Troy P. , who had a very quiet day, had a stomach virus and an injured calf, which would explain some of the weakness in the secondary.

Mike Tomlin did a nice job preparing the troops this week and held the team together after a fast start by the Chargers. The team played with intensity and was the only home team of the weekend that looked well rested, as opposed to rusty. The team also had a nice game plan that was more reminiscent of the 2005 Super Bowl team, than the 2007 version. Coach Tomlin has done a nice job all year. Let's see if he can have more playoff success early in his career than Bill Cowher did.

With the Ravens coming into town next week, I'm expecting a bloody battle between two hated teams. More to come this week.

Quick hit thoughts:
  • Carey Davis is terrible. He is a poor blocking fullback, a poor runner, and brings nothing to the passing game. He was stopped one yard short of a first down on two receptions, gained nothing on another reception, and was stuffed at the goal line on 4th and one. Why did he get four touches this game?

  • Who saw that punt return touchdown coming? It was a key play that changed the momentum of the game. My biggest fear for this game was the special teams match up. Turns out I was dead wrong. Although we did allow a long return to Sproles.=
  • The advantage of having a bad punter is sometimes the punt will hit an opposing player in the head.

  • Big game from Keisel. The week off must have done some good for his injured calf.

  • The Steelers were stuffed again on 4th and goal from the one. Hopefully this doesn't kill us later in the playoffs.
  • Willie Colon: is it that hard to line up on the line of scrimmage?
  • Lamarr Woodley is back. Two huge sacks in this game. Although he might see a fine for his late slam of Rivers. I would disagree with the fine, but it was awfully similar to a fine he got earlier this year.

  • James Harrison gets held more than any player I've ever seen. This is from Ben Riley, a writer for Football Outsiders and not a Steelers fan: : "Did anyone else notice that James Harrison was getting held on virtually every play in the fourth quarter? In fact, I don't think I saw a clean block on him the entire game."