Monthly Archives: September 2009

Steelers 20 Bengals 23

image from espn.com

image from espn.com

Game Recap

Oh, man.  A two game losing streak.  EVERYBODY PANIC!!!  That’s the impression I get around town, at least.  In truth, we lost two games by a combined 6 points.  That’s not a reason to push the panic button quite yet.  However, there are some developing trends that are quite disturbing on this team.  So lets give those a quick run-down.

Just like Pitt, everybody on the team deserves some blame from the head coach down to the kicker.  The offense is always the easiest thing to pick apart, however.  So lets start there.  We had a rookie as our leading receiver.  That doesn’t say much about this passing game we’re relying on the past couple of years.  Santonio and Limas Sweed just had awful games.  Both had some pretty bad drops, but none were worse than Sweed’s in the end zone.  Santonio has shown enough consistency to dismiss this bad game.  Limas has not.  I think he just cost himself a job.  The run game has shown some signs of life, but its still in critical condition.  Willie is still struggling, and our backup was suspended for the game because of some mistakes in practice.  That’s not a good situation.  I think the blocking situation has reached critical mass as evidenced by the fact that the Steelers signed a ‘fullback’ out of free agency.  If by fullback you mean former Steeler running back Carey Davis.  They already tried this with Frank Summers.  It doesn’t work.  I don’t know if they’re trying to save a roster spot by bringing in a fullback who can double as a 4th string running back or something, but it’s got to stop.  There’s an art to the fullback position that running backs haven’t mastered.  You have to suck it up and dedicate a spot to it.  Also, on the playcalling side, why haven’t we played a little more no-huddle?  It keeps the defense off balance, and Ben’s really good at it.  Seems like a good combo to me.  I realize it goes against traditional football teaching, but so does audibiling 50 times at the line like Peyton Manning.  That seems to work for him alright.

The defense was also a little shaky: especially towards the end.  It’s pretty obvious to anyone watching that the Steelers response to Troy being gone has been to get conservative.  No more blitzes, no more stunts.  Just line up in the base and play defense.  That’s not a bad idea, since Troy was the guy who allowed you to gamble, but it’s obviously not working.  Maybe we should be rolling the dice a bit more often just to see if the defense can surprise us.  Who knows?  Regardless, I’m not willing to write off this defense before Troy gets back.  Remember: this is just temporary.

Jeff Reed missed another kick.  I would wonder if this poor streak was getting in his head if he didn’t make two other ones.  Coach Tomlin also doesn’t escape blame.  The 4th and 4 call was questionable, but I’ll go with it.  It’s a tough spot on the field (at the opponent’s 35).  It’s a long field goal, a medium yardage 4th down, or a way short punt.  I think any of those options would be okay.  I kind of blame the defense for allowing the Bengals to pick them apart for 49 yards in the span of a minute.  But I guess that’s a spot where if they make it he’s a genius and if they come up short he’s an idiot.

So, I guess in short, there are some problems that keep showing their head, but for the most part, we’re still in these games enough to win them.  We’ve just gotten a couple of bad breaks.  It happens.  Besides, we knew we had a front-loaded schedule.  We’ve still got the Raiders, the Lions and the Browns twice to feast on.

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Pitt 31 N.C. State 38

image from postgazette.com

image from postgazette.com

Game Recap

I was trying to think of a way to open this post, and the one word that kept popping up in my mind was depressing.  This game was depressing.  We were so close.  We had them on the ropes, and we let them off.  It was reminiscent of a lot of other games where we were right there with a BCS team on the road, and couldn’t pull it off.  Michigan State, Nebraska, Oregon State (if you call the Sun Bowl on the road).  These are all games that we could have won and just threw up on ourselves.  Wonder why Pitt gets no respect nationally?  Because we can’t win these kinds of games.  Blame can be assessed to everyone on this one, so lets get to it, eh?

A common blame target after this is going to be the refs.  I’ve said on this blog before that I think blaming referees is cheap, and that’s not going to change here.  I’ll admit that those were some questionable calls on the game winning drive for NC State.  I’d love to hear an explanation on some of them.  Especially the second pass interference call in the end zone.  The way I saw it the ball was overthrown and the defender did what he was supposed to: establish position behind the receiver and not let him get to the ball.  I’m not sure what he did wrong.  It was ticky tack at best.  But that’s beside the point.  You have to admit that we had other opportunities to win that game.  Not being able to punch it in to tie at the end means we didn’t deserve the W, anyway.

The real reason we lost is missed tackles.  It was enough to drive you crazy, and its been a problem for a while.  We’ve missed tackles every way possible: by taking a bad route to the ball, by sitting on your heels and waiting for the offensive player, by arm-tackling.  I think we’ve even made up a few new ways to screw up.  If we want to be a good team, that has to stop.  I’m all about forgiving mistakes and dismissing things as a one game anomaly, but this is not one of those times.  This is a reoccurring theme across games and even worse across seasons.  Remember going crazy over missed tackles last year?  I do.

One possibility for the poor tackling could be that they’re not being put in a position to succeed by the coaching staff.  One thing I’ve heard from more than one person this season is that we’re sitting in our base package a lot.  To be honest, I haven’t kept track of how often we keep 7 in the box, but I’m going to do it from now on (I’m not crazy enough to go back and review film of this one.  sorry).  If that’s true, it would explain why the short middle was open all day.  That’s asking a linebacker to cover a much taller/faster receiver.  Not a good situation.

The defense wasn’t the only one to blame, however.  The offense, although putting up 31 points, could improve.  Like, I don’t know,  putting the ball in the end zone from the 8 yard line when the game’s on the line.  I’ve heard Wanny be criticized for his play calling on that series, and I don’t agree.  We pitched left on first down, screened right on second, and once the defense was stretched from sideline to sideline, attacked the seam (right down the middle) on third down.  That’s knowing you’re in 4 down territory and setting up the opponent.  Smart.  The only thing that got in the way was poor execution.  There was a missed block on first down, the screen was thrown way to low on second, and another bad throw on third.  On fourth down in that situation, the defense is going to squat in the end zone, bull-rush the linemen and make you pass into traffic.  That play was destined for failure.  Also, the offense went 3 and out 4 times in the second half (5 if you count the last series from the 8).  That’s not helping your defense, both in fatigue and field position.

So, as you can see, everyone’s a little responsible for this loss, but the vast majority of it can land on the defensive players.  They have to step up.  Plain and simple.  The coaches can run through all the tackling drills they want with them, but it’s gatta happen inside their skulls.  They know how to tackle.  Lets see if there’s a leader in the bunch that can motivate them to do it.  We’ve got a reeling team in Louisville coming up on prime time national TV.  We have a rare opportunity to show off and get some respect back.  Lets see if we take advantage of it.  Justin Burke can wing it for the Cards, but he has 4 INTs on the season so far (with only 3 TDs).  I hope the secondary can get some redemption.

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Steelers 14 Bears 17

image from espn.com

image from espn.com

Game Recap

I think that picture above pretty much sums up the game.  Everything was juuuuust out of reach.  Not getting off the field on some key third downs, the dropped pass by Santonio in the end zone, Jeff Reed’s missed kicks, etc.  Everything was close, but not close enough.

The obvious story of the game was Jeff Reed and his missed kicks.  I’ve never heard anything so ridiculous as the people yelling for him to be let go after that.  Really.  The guy had a bad day.  You’ve had them before, too.  They just aren’t in front of thousands of people.  So Jeff Reed had a bad game.  So what.  He’s still got an excellent history of consistency.  I’ll give him a slide for a week.  Besides, there are more players on a team than just the kicker.  If they play better, he’s not in that situation.

Take the defense, for instance.  It allowed 7 3rd down conversions, and had 0 takeaways.  Not it’s best outing by any stretch.  They only allowed 275 yards of offense which isn’t bad, but for the #1 defense in the league, that’s a step down.  And since that step down coincided with Troy getting hurt, everyone dismisses the loss as evidence that the Steelers miss Polamalu too much.  Well, it was obvious that the defense was going to miss Troy.  He’s arguably the best safety in the league, and more importantly he does unique things that can’t be replaced.  But I think we need to keep it in perspective.  We kept the Bears to 17 points.  That’s a lot, but low enough that we can still win.  Especially considering that we turned the ball over  twice and put that defense in a bad position.

Speaking of those turnovers, that brings to mind the fact that the offense is not blameless in this game, either.  After starting the game off strong with a good long drive, the offense struggled the rest of the game.  We accumulated 308 total yards (most of which came on that first drive).  Two thirds of that came in the air.  I wonder if the bad playing surface (the turf had just been replaced after a U2 concert and then rained on) held our passing attack back a bit.  Bad tracks usually favor a running team.  Now, I’m not going to go to the argument that ‘we need to play Steeler football’.  That’s silly.  Football strategy evolves and you have to keep up or fall behind.  But I will say that we’re not a balanced team at all, and that may have hurt us here.

So, overall, this loss was just some bad luck on all sides.  No facet of the game (offense, defense or special teams) played well at all.  Yet, we still only lost on a last second field goal after missing two of our own.  I think that, for a loss, this wasn’t so bad.  I’d much rather look good losing and have hope and motivation for the next game than get blown out and feel inferior.  The bottom line is that this is one game.  Unlike college, one game doesn’t kill you in the pros.  So go ahead and step down off the ledge, Pittsburgh.

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Pitt 27 Navy 14

image from espn.com

image from espn.com

Game Recap

This season is shaping out as expected for Pitt so far.  For anyone else, these 3 wins are par for the course.  For a Pitt team that makes a living breaking its fan’s hearts with losses to inferior teams, it’s a welcomed breath of fresh air.  Last time we were 3-0 was 2000.  That’s before we moved into Heinz Field.  That was so long ago, the third win was Penn State (remember 12-0 at three rivers?  You’re smiling.  I can see it).  I think that it’s an embarrassing stat.  Sure, most of the years we fell to a decent team in the first 3 games: Miami in 2001 (with a terrible loss to D1 newcomer South Florida preceeding it), Texas A&M in 2002, Nebraska in 2004, Notre Dame in 2005 (followed by a terrible Ohio U loss), Michigan St. in 2006 AND 2007.  I guess the fact that we don’t have 3 straight patsies most years is a testament to our strength of schedule.  But its still disappointing that we never pulled off an upset, and twice we had schedules to roll through and didn’t:  in 2003 we tripped over Toledo after beating Kent St. and Ball St.  (I guess we couldn’t handle 3 straight MAC teams.  That’s too much mediocrity) and last year we started out losing to Bowling Green before beating Buffalo and Iowa.  I don’t know.  Maybe I’m just making too big of a deal out of this.

But lets at least get back to the game at hand.  Bill Stull had another terrific game due to the fact that he was rarely asked to air a ball out.  He did connect on a couple of fairly deep balls, but I think that a lot of what happened needs to be taken in context.  Our receiving corps (and Baldwin in particular) was taller, faster and more athletic than the Navy CBs guarding them.  Stull had some poorly thrown balls that his receivers went up and grabbed.  I guess you can give Bill credit for throwing in the right zip code for once, but it still won’t be there during the conference schedule.  If we can get a short passing game going though, it will still do something to open up the run game.  I’m not slamming the panic button yet to be sure, but I’m not ready to heap praise on Stull yet, either.  He’s exactly what I thought he would be going into the season: a good decision maker with no arm.

The defense looked really good.  I think they’re really getting the hang of defending an option offense.  I guess a few years of WVU and Navy will do that.  The story of the day was Dan Mason.  He had a heck of a day, and it’s nice to know that we’ve got depth at MLB, but I don’t expect to see him starting.  It’s not Wanny’s style.  In a close race, tie goes to the upperclassman, and Mason waits his turn.  I have no problem with that.  Gunn’s nothing to sneeze at.  Lets see if he can deal with the pressure of someone breathing down his neck.

Speaking of Mason, it was nice to see him do well, because a freshman and local product being named conference defensive player of the week is a good story line.  Otherwise, we’d have to hear about how Pitt fans are classless because a few students booed the Navy team coming out.   Just goes to show how you need to take what is written with a grain of salt after a blow-out.  There has to be a story somewhere, even if that means blowing a small one out of proportion.

We’ve got a lot of weapons on offense.  Dion Lewis is now established (as evidenced by the effort Navy devoted to stopping him), Dorin Dickerson and Nate Byham are legit threats over the middle, Baldwin is…well…Baldwin and Henry Hynoski had a coming out party and showed he can be a physical runner.  We’ve got a number of ways to hurt you on that side of the ball.  I’m feeling comfortable with how the offense is shaping up.

The defensive line is still a force, and the linebacking corps also looks pretty good.  The secondary is still a bit off, but they maintain it’s all correctable mistakes.  We’ll see this Saturday.  They’ll be tested.

Special teams is looking better.  Luke Briggs looked to be back in form after a shaky game in Buffalo.  Kevin Harper continues to impress with his punting, but I’ve lost some faith in the kicking game after the two botched extra points last week.  I think Wanny also lost some confidence as evidenced by the fact that he went for it on fourth down from the edge of field goal range twice.

There were a lot of stupid penalties this week.  That’s two games in a row.  We had 6 penalties, and all of them were personal fouls.  And all of them were costly.  Now I’ll admit that some of them were earned and some, ummm, were not.  But you’ve got to me more carefull out there.  The flagrant facemask and late hit in the end zone, those are penalties that cost you 15 yards AND a bit of a reputation.  If a ref associates you with those kinds of dirty plays, he’ll be more apt to call a closer penalty like the pass interference.  But the good news is since they were all personal fouls so they’re corrected by discipline, and not are not caused by making up for a lack of talent.

Next up on the bill is N.C. State.  They’re led by a great QB in Russell Wilson.  He’s a sophomore who started last year, but still has a bit of a new car smell because of some injuries last year.  He’s a bit of a gunslinger who can really throw hard, and sometimes throws into some tight spots that make you hold your breath.  Surprisingly, however, he’s got an excellent reputation for not throwing interceptions.  He’s also extremely mobile.  He’s the same style as Zach Maynard (Buffalo’s QB who had some success against us), but he’s better at it.  That could spell disaster.  State is also a very senior heavy team.  Especially on defense.  I think their weakness is their two lines.  They also don’t have a good track record against Big East teams.  I think this has to be a redemption game for the defensive backs from Pitt.  They could also get some great help from the front 4 if they can pressure Wilson all game.  Should be a good game, though.  Our first real test.  I’m looking forward to it.

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Pitt 54 Buffalo 27

image from postgazette.com

image from postgazette.com

Game Recap

Wow.  Lots of questions for a 27 point win on the road, aren’t there?  If anyone expected Pitt to play the game they did, raise your hand……didn’t think so.  I think reasonable people thought the defense would hold Buffalo to 10 or under, and the offense would score in the high 20’s, and we’d head back for Navy.  Well, the defense turned into swiss cheese, the offense showed some things, and all of a sudden we had 81 points scored.  Woowza.

So lets break this down by side of the ball, starting with the defense.  What happened?  Well, Buffalo obviously exposed a kink in the armor, so to speak.  And that kink is the secondary.  We started out in man coverage, and the Bulls wide outs turned out to be a little too quick.  That’s not terrible.  I know this is a MAC school, but they do have Naaman Roosevelt (probably an NFL draft pick after this season) and some other decent receivers.  So I’m surprised and not very happy, but I can at least accept it.  So, once man defense didn’t pan out, we went to zone and Buffalo proceeded to pick it apart with timing routes.  Now, this is a problem.  If our secondary continues to misread routes and not follow the quarterbacks eyes, we could be in trouble.  As a last ditch effort, we threw some blitz packages to mess up that timing, but we never got to the quarterback quick enough.  That’s a lot to ask of a defensive line.  On the positive side, Zach Maynard is a very mobile QB.  When you have that, you have to dedicate a linebacker as a ‘spy’.  Someone who doesn’t drop into coverage or blitz, just watches to quarterback and makes sure he doesn’t take off.  Adam Gunn filled that role a lot.  That also means that you’re basically playing defense with 10 guys.  It’s a disadvantage that won’t be seen much later in the season.  On the negative side, the news today is that we lost safety Andrew Taglianetti for the season.  The silver lining is that the safety position was a  close preseason battle won by Taglianetti over Elijah Fields, so it’s not too much of a step down.  The bad news is Taglianetti won not because he’s a better athlete, but because Fields is a knuckle head who is squandering his talent.  He’s a step up in ability.  He already has a pick up in Buffalo (the lone bright spot for the secondary).  But he’s a definite liability.

So how do we fix the secondary?  Well, first of all, lets not write them off after one bad game.  They didn’t tackle all that well in either of the first two games, but the mental mistakes were mainly against Buffalo.  By mental mistakes I mean taking a wrong path to the ball, not reading a quarterbacks eyes, and just overall looking lost when they were defending a pass.  I sure hope these can be cleared up in the next week.  Since this isn’t a reoccurring problem yet, I still think they wake up and do better against Navy.  Or at least I hope they do.

So enough with the surprisingly bad defense (or, just the secondary to be exact.  The D line and linebackers did pretty well).  Lets look at the surprisingly good offense.  Dion Lewis had another 100 yard day (almost 200 yards).  I was convinced last week, but now I’m certain he’s the real deal.  The offensive line is also playing extremely well.  Lets just keep them all healthy because I don’t think there’s much depth behind them.  The receivers did well for themselves.  Nothing exceptional, but nothing poor.  They caught the ball (well, most of the time.  Turner had another bad drop) and got as much as could be expected after the catch.  They didn’t make many plays, but they didn’t make many mistakes either.  I’ll take that.  Bill Stull shut up the fans (including me) this week which was fantastic to see.  Everyone who was questioning him, me included, should take the time to admit that he had a great game.  You don’t have to think it will last and this is a sign of the future, but you have to tip your cap to him on a good afternoon.  Now, I’ll admit that a lot of his success had to do with Frank Cignetti’s playcalling.  Frank called a great game overall, and mostly because he listened to me (I’ll keep telling myself that).  You’ll remember I’ve criticised the playcalling in the past because it doesn’t put Bill in a position to succeed.  He’s a decision maker without a cannon for an arm.  Well, on Saturday we tried a number of short (<15 yard) passes, and got a number of completions out of them.  You’ll notice if you check the stats that Baldwin averaged 11 yards per catch, and no one else got more than 10.  That means we were doing a lot of crossing routes and screens and check downs.  Stuff that Stull can throw.  We took one big shot down field that I remember was the first play from scrimmage where Stull aired it out to Baldwin and almost threw a pick because he overthrew him so bad.  If the Buffalo DB hadn’t dropped it, the game could have been much different.  I’m not comfortable without having a deep threat, but I’m less comfortable without a passing game at all.  If we can even show a good short yardage passing game, it should do wonders for Lewis.  I think Stull proved he can be a good decision maker on Saturday.  I really don’t remember him throwing into coverage too much.  He either found an open man or found his tailback in the flats.  It was good to see.

Special teams was a mess.  Dan Hutchins had a great day punting, but got some bad breaks with the kicking.  We missed two extra points in the game.  That’s embarrassing.  To be fair, both of them were on the snapper instead of Hutchins.  Both misses started out with snaps that were way high and barely gotten down by the holder.  When that happens in can mess with a kicker’s timing, and we saw a couple of pushes because of it.  Not having a reliable long-snapper could be a big problem later on.  Also falling apart was the kickoffs.  After a fantastic game doing kickoffs against Youngstown State, Luke Briggs decided he’d rather not kick past the 20.  After two touchbacks against YSU, he didn’t even make the end zone once in Buffalo.  And take it from someone who was there: the wind was not the issue.  It was a pretty calm day.  There was one kick that landed at t he 30.  That’s pretty strong winds to take off 35 yards.  I guess he just wasn’t feeling it for some reason.  It’s something else to watch.

So I guess that’s it.  Defensive secondary is a vulnerability.  The offense found a passing game (KISS: keep it short, stupid).  Special teams were apparently either left in Pittsburgh or abducted by aliens.  Dion Lewis is the real deal.  Some interesting story lines going into the Navy game.  The secondary can get some time to lick its wounds and figure things out because they won’t be doing much against Navy.  The Mids aren’t exactly what you would call a ‘pass-heavy’ team.  I think we match up extremely well against them.  I think we overpower them on offense and the front 7 stop the option on defense.  We should be 3-0 after this weekend.  However, Wanny always drops an easy one and he’s running out of gimmies.  What’s going to be the loss that makes us cry this year?  Stay tuned.

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Steelers 13 Titans 10 (OT)

image from espn.com

image from espn.com

Game Recap

Man, I missed Steeler football!

Most of the story lines in this one were pretty obvious.  The Steeler running game is on life support.  Big Ben wins close games.  The defense is still pretty good.  Polamalu got hurt or something (maybe you’ve heard?).  Jeff Reed is money in the bank when you need him.  Stefan Logan is as good as advertised.  The Steelers need to stop giving the city a heart attack.  I think that pretty much covers it.

There are a few points I want to get into.  First of all, the Polamalu injury.  Right now the word is an MCL sprain with 3-6 weeks out.  I trust that as far as I can throw a piano.  Teams play too many games with each other.  I don’t think you’ll hear a real diagnosis for a while now.  Especially considering the dramatic shift that the defense will have to take.  Coach Tomlin wants teams to have to prepare for Troy.  That’s common sense.  A lot of the Steeler defenses are based around Polamalu’s speed and general football knowledge.  No one can replace him.  That means that until further notice the Steelers will have to do Steeler defense light: a simplified version of the playbook.  One of the stupider comments I’ve heard around is the notion that this is the Madden curse striking.  If you don’t know, the cover athletes of Sports Illustrated magazine and Madden football games have a history of getting hurt/having a bad year right after they’re highlighted.  Troy was on the cover on Madden this year.  I think it’s silly.  If someone has a bad year after a cover, it’s generally because they’re coming off a career year they can’t possibly repeat.  I mean, that’s the whole reason they’re on the cover of either of those things, right?  The injuries happen because, well, its football.  People get hurt.  A lot.  If you name any person in the NFL, there’s a good chance they’ll miss at least a game or two due to injury during the year.  It’s part of the game.  Just ask a fantasy football player how many players he has to sub out due to injury every year.  I have a 8 player league, and I generally have to sub out at least 2 or 3 during the year.  Those are decent odds.  So, in conclusion, anyone who believes in a Madden/SI cover jinx needs a lobotomy.

Okay.  I’m stepping down off my soap box now.  And moving on to another pressing issue in Steeler football: our rapidly dying ground game.  Now, first of all, I’m going to clarify the fact that I’m not one of those yinzers who believe the Steelers need to play ‘Steeler footabll’ all the time and play solid defense, gain 3 yards in a cloud of dust, and win every game 10-7.  That’s stupid.  The game evolves.  Strategy evolves.  If you don’t keep with the times, the times will pass you by.  That’s my biggest (and really only because he’s a real good coach as hard as it is for me to admit) complaint about Dave Wanndstadt.  The game is evolving into a passing/scoring league, and the Steelers are keeping with the times.  Bruce Arians, our OC, has been more concerned with the passing game since he got here.  Maybe that’s because he’s a former wide receivers coach before being promoted (though he does have some running backs coaching experience in his distant past as well).  Maybe it’s because he saw Ben and a good crop of WR’s and saw a way to win.  Whatever it is, he’s been pretty obvious about his preference.  He let go of Dan Krieder, one of the great fullbacks in the NFL, as soon as he got here.  He’s been de-emphasising the offensive line in player development and opening up the playbook for Ben.  As a result, the Steelers are no longer a running hard nosed team offensively.  Also as a result, we’ve got a ring from last year.  We had no running game last year, either, but still managed to put points on the board through the air.  So I’m not complaining.  What I will say is this.  The running game is slipping every year, and while moving the emphasis of the offense to the passing game is fine, you still need to be a running threat or every defense in the NFL will take advantage of it.  So how do we correct this and stop the bleeding?  Well, I heard Jerome Bettis make a great suggestion in his radio show today: bring back the fullback.  Now, I know what you’re saying: but Andrew.  Frank Summers is going to be the fullback this year.  Yes, well, Frank Summers isn’t good enough.  He’s not a fullback.  He’s a tailback.  There’s an art to sensing out and picking up the first man through the line.  You need to go out and find someone who was a fullback in college, and sign him.  Yes, there are some colleges that still use fullbacks (USC, LSU, Virginia Tech and Alabama just to name a few).  You don’t even have to waste a draft pick on one since no one else in the league drafts them.  Just sign the best one to come to camp.  A fullback would do two things: first he would pick up an extra defensive lineman, gaining the running back a couple of extra yards.  This might even solve that pesky short yardage problem (anyone else notice a correlation between short yardage problems and Dan Krieder leaving?).  Second, a fullback would drastically help on pass protection, being someone who could pick up a blitz better than a running back.  This advantage might be cancelled out by the lost receiver, however.  But the bottom line is that you can be a passing team with a fullback.  So, it’s at least something to think about.

One more quick thought that’s unrelated to the game.  Jeff Reed was recently offered a contract and turned it down.  Not a dumb move.  He’s established that he can consistently (that’s a key word) kick in the worst conditions, under the most pressure and in the hardest stadium.  Any team in the NFL would want him.  He’s in for a pay day.  His mama didn’t raise no fool (or at least his agent’s mama didn’t raise no fool).   My thought is that he’s NOT the only kicker who proved he can consistently kick in Heinz Field.  Connor Lee just graduated from Pitt last year and is just sitting around right now.  Bring him into camp next year.  Now, given the choice between the two, you’re crazy if you don’t pick Reed.  He’s proven he can kick on Sundays.  Lee hasn’t.  Therefore, he’s worth more money.  However, bringing in Lee at least takes away his leverage in being the only guy who can kick in Heinz Field.  I’m just sayin’.

So that’s pretty much it.  Another tough test in a road game against Chicago next week.  The Steelers schedule is really front loaded this year.  All our tough games are in the beginning of the season.  I guess that means that we Steeler fans should take the next month or so with a grain of salt and be patient.  HA!  Fat chance of that happening.

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On the Pirates

image from freetothepeople.com

image from freetothepeople.com

Well well well.  The Pirates finished off their 17th consecutive losing season this week on a rainy day against the Cubs.  We all knew this was coming.  So what do you make out of it?

I’ve seen a lot of reaction with people putting up lists of things that have happened since the Pirates last had a winning season (4 new expansion teams were created and all reached the world series, 4 presidents, etc).  I’ve got a killer one of those: when the Pirates last had a winning season it was the summer after my 2nd grade year (I don’t know if that makes me young, the Pirates just that bad, or a combination of both).  So I was mastering the fine art of addition and subtraction at the time.  While the Pirates have been busy losing, I’ve earned a degree in statistics and have held it for two years now.  That’s depressing.  So you can see that this is an entertaining excercise, but ultimately useless.  It gives us no new information.  The Pirates have stank for a while now.  We know.

So what new information and/or viewpoints can we draw from this?  Well, I’ve heard some debate as to whether or not the Pirates are the worst franchise in history.  I think that argument is silly.  The Pirates have 5 World Series trophies, tons of hall of famers, and some very historical moments and teams.  I know it seems like the Pirates are perennial failures, but the overall history of the team is actually fairly positive.  They may not be the worst franchise in the city, let alone worst all time.  I think you can definitely make a case for the Pirates as CURRENTLY the worst franchise in sports.  But even then, I’d have to say there are some teams I would put lower.  The Pirates have been consistently bad, but they’ve only had one season during the streak that they absolutely tanked (100+ losses).  A team like the Lions have quite a few seasons of less than 5 wins, and are coming off of the second ever winless season.  I’d also put the LA Clippers in the category of losing with style.

But no matter what you make of it, or what you think of the Pirates compared to other teams in sports, you can’t defend this as a good team right now.  This record belongs to management who made poor decision after poor decision over the past 17 years.  It’s so unreachable because even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometimes.  You have to stumble on some talent at some point.  But not this group.  They made so many poor decisions it’s almost as if they were trying.  This team is an embarrassment, and no city likes to be embarrassed.  I think it will be a long time before someone matches their stupidity, but I anxiously await the breaking of this record.

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