More and Moore Dookie

According to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette running back Willie Parker aggravated his already injured knee during practice today. His status for the Bengals game this Sunday is uncertain. Hopefully the staff realizes that a healthy Parker is worth more in December than against a cellar dwelling divisional opponent half-way through October.

It looks like the door will remain open for backup Mewelde Moore who could see his second 100 yard game in a row. (He got 99 last week, I say we count that.)

The newly signed Najeh Davenport will likely spell Moore who is a sure bet to remain in the game on third downs.

Moore Dookie: It’s the Steelers version of Thunder and Lightning. Should be good enough to knock the scat out of the Bungholes.

Caught in a Trap

“I’m caught in a trap.  I can’t get out.  Because I love you too much baby.”  Elvis sang it back in the day.  The Pittsburgh Steelers have to avoid it this coming Sunday.

They’ve had two weeks off. Fast Willie Parker is returning to the lineup after an injury. Big Snack Hampton will practice with an eye to getting back on the field.

These guys must have some rust. And it’s up to Tomlin to get it knocked off before Sunday.

We fans are saying, “But it’s the friggin’ Bungholes. The Steelers have won seven in a row there. Give me a break! Go ahead and add another to the win column!” But we fans have nothing to do with the outcome of the game. This is a trap game if’n there ever was one.

On the other hand, what better opponent to get back to speed against than the Bengals? Sure, they’ve yet to win a game, but that’s for a very good reason: They’re a crappy team full of whiners and underachievers who’ve had their spirits crushed by a culture of losing. Not to be harsh, ya know?

Their starting QB is injured. Their fans have bailed out. Their only hope for victory? Set a trap and hope a rusty bunch from Pittsburgh takes the bait.

“Caught in a trap …”

Nemesis Defeated

Finally the Steelers get the better of the hated Jax Jags.

Big Ben and the boys got off to a great start on the first drive. They efficiently moved the ball down the field. And in one play they were down 7-0, victims of an INT returned all the way home. It was a deflating moment that no doubt had many Steelers fans sighing and thinking, “Here we go again.”

They received the next kickoff and started a twelve play drive that would eat the next seven minutes off the clock. They mixed pass and run using all three RBs remaining on the roster. Ben even tossed the first of many successful passes to Mewelde Moore. The drive ended on a one yard TD pass to Heath Miller. It was a tie game and the beginning of a veritable offensive explosion.

Jacksonville’s initial possession came with 5:12 remaining in the first. They quickly moved 74 yards for a TD in a drive aided largely by a 39 yard pass interference call on Ike Taylor. Their offense had been on the field for under three minutes but the Jaguars lead 14-7. That would be their final score in the first half. The Big Nasty D smothered the Jaguars forcing three straight three-and-out punts while the Steeler offense quickly added two field goals and another touchdown for a 20-14 halftime lead.

How could the Steelers offense suddenly become so effective after managing a total of 16 points over the last two games? Ben was sacked only one time in opening two quarters with a rag-tag line protecting him. The answer lies in the effective use of the no-huddle. Big Ben is clearly most comfortable with the extra time to read the defense, peruse his options and audible if necessary. He found the hot receiver and dumped the ball to running backs. The offense was beginning to look like a machine. Passes were distributed to three different WRs and the tight end.

One must ask, “Did Bruce Arians have anything to do with this?” I think not. This was all about Big Ben distributing the ball and having options to get rid of it in a snap and his uncanny ability to stay alive and get it twenty yards down field when it looks like all appears lost. It was about the line blocking their man and backs and tight ends taking care of any blitzers. Bruce should announce at the next press conference that he takes no responsibility for the turn around.

The second half got off to a slow start for fans of offensive football. But if you love defense you got plenty. Neither team scored in the third quarter. The Steelers posted two quick three-and-outs while the Jags possessed the ball for over twelve minutes but to little effect. They punted once and failed on a 4th down attempt. Their next possession ran into the fourth and finally yielded just their second offensive score, the go ahead TD to make it 21-20.

Pittsburgh managed to gain a few yards on their next possession but were forced to punt. Their defense held and they got the ball back with about six minutes remaining for what would likely be their final possession. They needed a score. Ben passed them down the field with the help of a third and short scamper for 27 yards by the nifty Moore. They overcame a fifteen yard personal foul penalty on a twelve yard gain for first down. Ben escaped a ferocious pass rush to hit Ward and keep the drive alive. Finally, Ward caught an eight yard pass for the go ahead score with just under two minutes remaining. After a failed two point attempt the Steelers led 26-21.

Yielding a single first down, the defense stiffened and the Jags failed on a desperation attempt at fourth and fourteen. A few Roethlisberger kneel downs later and game over!

It was a tough match on the road but the Steelers finally defeated their nemesis. Next, they enjoy a well earned and much needed bye week.

Walking Wounded and the Rest

That was an ugly game. After moving nicely down the field on their opening possession, the drive stalled and the Steelers were forced to settle for a 3 points. Due to the field position battle and the stifling Steelers defense it seemed possible that a mere FG could suffice. Then came the Big Target’s inexplicable INT to Ravens DT Ngata. You ever see a baseball hit in super slow motion by a bat? The ball nearly flattens out. Well, I’m sure a super slow motion shot of the football as it impacted Ngata’s belly would reveal that the ball disappeared entirely if only for a fraction of a second.

It didn’t get much better for the offense after that. What followed was a series of punts, fumbles, 3-and-outs in a truly ugly display of offensive football. Fortunes changed for a stretch late in the 3rd quarter during a brief TD drive ending in a nifty 38 yard catch and run by San Antonio Holmes. But the still ugly truth is this drive hinged on a personal foul penalty which got the Steelers past the 50 yard line for the first time since their early FG drive in the first quarter.

A mere 15 seconds later Woodley returned a fumble 8 yards for a TD. And just like that the Steelers went from losing a butt ugly 13-3 game to winning in a butt ugly 17-13 game. That Big Nasty D stepped up and got it done for most of the game. Granted, they gave up TD drives late in both halves but they hurried and flustered Flacco for most of the evening and did a workmanlike job against the running game. A Steelers FG and a Ravens TD later and this game was destined for OT. The defense swarmed, the Ravens punted and Jeff Reed nailed a 46 yarder twice to win the game. Thanks, Quadzilla.

But all of this serves only to bury the lead, the story of the Walking Wounded. On the opening kickoff special teams linebacker Andre Frazier was lost to injury. While he returned to the sideline later in the game, he did not return to play.

Also lost was starting RG Kendall Simmons who will be placed on IR for the remainder of the season. That opened the door for Darnell Stapleton, backup center, to join the starters. How this solution works out in the long term remains to be seen.

Adding insult to injury, prized rookie RB Rashard Mendenhall suffered a shoulder injury and will join Simmons on the IR. Next, backup RB Carey Davis was injured and left the game leaving only the diminutive 3rd down back Mewelde Moore to shoulder the RB duties for the remainder. Considering that Fast Willie Parker was already missing from action one wonders what will become of the Steelers RB corps. Certainly we’ll see a call up from the practice squad as Gary Russell is activated. After that, who knows? Is Parker due to return soon? How serious was the injury to Davis?

And don’t get me started on the defensive line. The backups did their best but were pushed around at times. This unit is thin, folks. Hopefully Big Snack Hampton will be ready by Sunday. Seems like right DE Brett “The Diesel” Keisel is a few more weeks out.

Random note: That Timmons kid looks like a keeper. Great play on the special teams and he can rush the passer. He brings speed to the equation.

It’s a short week and the hated Jax Jags are next. Buckle up, boys.

Big Target Roethlisberger

It’s time to update the name. So long as the Steelers have Bruce Arians as the offensive (pew!) coordinator and those guys along the offensive (ugh!) line it will remain true. A full game of trying to pound a square peg into a closed hole yielded the same results as it did in the first quarter: a flattened RB, a battered QB, and a tattered OL. Apparently no adjustments were called for by Coach Arians, either that or Ben refused to implement them. Which do you call?

I wonder what approach the Ravens defense will take next week? I bet they’ll sit back in a soft prevent for most of the game. Yeah, better prepare for that, Brucey.

I wonder if FireBruceArians.com is still available? I hear GoDaddy is having a sale …

Eagles WR Channels Burress in Irving, TX

Plaxico Burress knows how DeSean Jackson feels. During his rookie season for the Pittsburgh Steelers Burress spiked a live ball upon regaining his feet after a catch. Tonight in Texas Stadium Jackson flipped a live ball behind him mere feet before crossing the goal line after a hauling in a long pass and scooting towards a sure TD. Think he got a Maximum Grilling on the sideline?

Why do rookie WRs do these things? Are they cocky? You be the judge.

I wonder if this Jackson kid likes key lime pie?

Ten in a Row, Bigfoot Sighting

The Steelers made it two in a row to start the season with a workman like win in Cleveland. That makes ten in a row against those hapless Brownstains, the popular AFCN champion pick among the semi-literate talking heads on the sports networks. When will they learn? It rarely pays to pick against the Steelers, although, if you were getting 4+ points last night, it paid.

I started the game late (skipping commercials when remembering) and decided it was a boring game. There were far too many punts by both teams due in part to the weather conditions. Great defensive plays were turned in by the Big Nasty Steeler D with Polamalu garnering many mentions from the broadcast team. Although sometimes I wonder if it’s just because Madden can pick him out of the crowd due to the shaggy mane.

The Browns were kept in check. Bigfoot tossed a couple of picks and JLew was tamed for the umpteenth time. Business as usual for the Steelers in their home away from home.

Ironically, Big Ben turned in a dismal fantasy performance even if his QB rating was well into the triple digits. I’ll take the win.

Big Ben the Fantasy QB

I’m talking fantasy football here.  But if you consider his career so far, it must be a fantasy for him.  He went undefeated in his first regular season on a 15-1 team.  That’s an accomplishment unheard of for rookie QBs.  He made an unlikely run to a Superbowl XL victory to cap a farewell season for The Bus.  He survived a near fatal motorcycle accident shortly after attaining that ultimate goal.  Suffice it to say that his first two plus seasons must have seemed like a blur.

Now back to the real world of fantasy football.  In his first few years Ben wasn’t much of a fantasy QB at all unless your league awards points for wins.  Most don’t.  While he consistently posted high QB ratings and continues to do so, his early days saw few attempts, few TDs and earned for him the moniker of “game manager.”  Of course, we Maximum Grilled Steelers fans knew better even if his special qualities didn’t convert to winning fantasy numbers.

Then the page turned.  A new head coach arrived in 2007 and along with him a familiar face at the reigns of the offense.  Bruce Arians and Ben worked together to maximize the Steelers passing game.  Soon Ben was tossing multiple TDs per game.  Perhaps not in each game but enough that he finished the season with a Steelers record 32 TDs.  That’s an average of two TDs per game.  Nice fantasy numbers there my friends.  Couple that with only 11 INTs and you have a gem of a season.

I’m looking forward to 2008 with my new fantasy football QB, Big Ben Roethlisberger.