They Are What We Feared They Were

They are a bad football team.  Don’t try to sugar coat  it.  There is no hiding from it and no amount of reasoning will change it.  This.  Team.  Sucks.

Sadly, Warren Sapp was correct, the defense is old.  Casey Hampton is finished.  Aaron Smith doesn’t have it.  The secondary is a shambles:  Troy Polamalu, while solid, is not an impact player, Ike Taylor is not a shut-down corner and the rest don’t bear mentioning.  Opposing quarterbacks no longer fear Harrison and Woodley.

Against the Texans they yielded a shameful 5.4 yards per carry.  Matt Shaub had a pleasant afternoon of pitch and catch with friends on his way to a 100.9 rating.  He hit the lockers with a clean jersey and may decide  to use the treadmill before showering.

And while the Steelers seem to be stocked at the offensive skill positions, Bruce Arians’ woeful designs preclude judgement.  Is it the offensive line?  Is it the entire scheme?  Is it the design of the plays?  Their execution?  Who knows?

I will be utterly stunned if this team wins again this season.

I hope Kevin Colbert is planning the next draft because the Steelers need a talent infusion.

As for this season?  Got a fork?

 

Texans Game Tough to Predict

It’s Not the Game We Thought It Was.

Before the season started this game was a no-brainer victory for the Steelers.  Chalk it up, done deal.  Now one can’t be so sure.  First, the Texans look like a contender.  They had a lead on the road against a high-scoring New Orleans Saints team but faltered down the stretch, allowing 23 points in the fourth quarter.  And that’s been the knock against Houston for years, their defense is mediocre at best.  For all their offensive firepower, they have yet to consistently win against good teams.  And that’s the measuring stick, quality wins.

So far the Texans have beaten the Colts and Dolphins and lost a road game to the Saints.  That’s comparable to the Steelers’ opening loss at Baltimore with added home and road victories against terrible teams.

 How Can the Steelers Win?

The Steelers defense must dominate and that begins with shutting down the Houston running game.  Ike Taylor will be tasked with covering all-world receiver Andre Johnson.  But Johnson isn’t the only weapon on offense.  Matt Shaub likes to throw to his running backs and tight ends.  The whole mix works great when the running game produces.  Pundits say the Texans have the best offensive line in the league.  Make sure James Harrison and Lamar Woodley know this, both men must pressure Matt Shaub.

Forget about injuries along the line, there are no more excuses for the offense, they need to play better.  There must be a greater commitment to run the football.  Ben Roethlisberger must not turn over the ball.  The Steelers need to rip some pages out of their playbook, particularly those designed to throw a pass within 5 yards of the LOS.  The Steelers should utilize their big-armed quarterback and collection of speedy receivers to pressure opposing defenses with a vertical attack and pound them with their two power backs and offensive line.

Clearly, Bruce Arians doesn’t believe this.  And Mike Tomlin’s failure to recognize it may be his downfall.  The Steelers have a sublime collection of pouding power and speed but it is wasted in their current offensive scheme.

How Can the Steelers Lose?

If the Steelers travel to Houston and fall behind early, it will be their demise.  If their turnover ratio continues as-is, they will lose.  If they don’t remember that they are the Pittsburgh Steelers, they will lose.  Failure to stop the Houston running game will end in defeat.

Basically, if they don’t do the things they need to win, they will lose.  Football can be that simple.

Prediction

Steelers 27 Texans 20

 

The Steelers Are A Mediocre Team

It was easy enough to write off the opening week loss to the Ravens as an anomaly.

“It was their Super Bowl.”

“They’ve been pumped for that since the schedule came out.”

“It’s only one game, just wait till next week!”

Right.  The week two victory over the Seahawks  was to be expected.  Seattle is a dismal team with a substandard quarterback and no running game.  They are coached by a male cheer leader.  The home opener told us only that they can defeat a vastly inferior team at Heinz Field.

But what if they travel to face a vastly inferior team?  They need to get lucky.

It took almost three games before the Steelers’ defense generated a turnover.  And who coughed up the ball?  Curtis Painter.  Who?  Curtis Fucking Painter, the guy who has a career QB rating of six.  A guy who maybe threw 10 passes in the NFL.  A guy who was held in such low regard by his own team that he was replaced by the retired Kerry but-I’ve-been-slamming-vodkas-all-summer Collins.

The front three aren’t getting a push, there’s no gap for the middle linebackers and the outside backers can’t get off their blocks in time.  When they do, the ball is gone.  When  they don’t, the QB has time to eat a sandwich and take his pick of the tight end, open 20 yards down the middle, or any of the wide receivers running free deep in the secondary.

Why are all these people open?  Because one of the corners fell down and the all-world safety is 4 yards deep in the backfield having bit on another run fake on 3rd and 23.

Things are worse on offense.  The line looks like a bunch of keystone cops, they’re getting pushed into their own quarterback.  They’re falling on him, they’re turning around and whiffing as guys sprint past.  They’re clogging up running lanes and rolling up on their follow lineman’s ankles.  It’s a fucking joke.

My, what a mess.   The Steelers are seriously looking like a last place AFCN team.  Looking up at the Browns and the Bengals?  Don’t bet against it.  The Steelers are a mediocre team?  I wish.

 

Three Reasons the Steelers Will Defeat the Colts

The Steelers got back on track in their home opener, blanking the disastrous Seahawks.  Meanwhile, the AFC North featured the league’s desired parity when everyone finsished 1-1.  Yes, that means the mighty Ravens were defeated by the Titans.  Perhaps those dirty birds flew a little too high after their week 1 victory?  Maybe they can’t get it up for any team not wearing the black and gold.

This week the Steelers head to Indianapolis to face the winless Colts.  I can think of 3 good reasons they’ll return to Pittsburgh on a win streak.

Peyton Manning is not playing for the Colts.

While Manning’s replacement at quarterback, Kerry Collins, is a veteran at the position, he’s also a journeyman who the Colts convinced to return from retirement.  But this is no Kenny Stabler dusting off the pads to play for the Oilers.  Through two games Collins has thrown one interception and lost three fumbles while completing just over 50% of his attempts.

The Colts’ defense allowed 61 points in two games.

Look for that trend to continue.  The Steelers offense hasn’t been a juggernaut so far but their ground game should make things easier for the passing game.  Look for things to snowball early if the OL gets a push and the backs get it going down hill.

The Steelers’ defense feasts on weak offenses.

Against a perenially dismal Houston defense the Colts managed only 7 points.  Against a Browns team that fumbled four times they managed 19, the last TD coming in garbage time with 00:24 on the clock.  Look for Silverback and Woodley to start padding their sack statistics.  One hopes there will be no fines handed down by Douchell.

Prediction

Steelers 31 Colts 6

 

Five Reasons the Steelers Will Defeat the Seahawks

The Steelers won’t lay two goose eggs in a row.

Admittedly, the loss to Baltimore was a surprise, a real stunner.  But the Steelers dropping two straight to begin the season would be like a bolt hurled by Zeus.   It would defy belief, it’s nigh inconceivable.  I’m not yet sold that the entire roster “just got old.”

Tarvaris Jackson is Seattle’s quarterback.

When Tarvaris Jackson had an All Star offense around him in Minnesota he was eventually replaced by an aged Brett Fav-ruh who had to be coaxed out of retirement for the umpteenth time.  Now he’s expected to lead a grab-bag of NFL players to victory?  I’m not seeing it.  Perhaps he’ll grow into the role eventually, but his performance last week against the Forty Niners suggests that he hasn’t progressed much since his Viking days.

Ben Roethlisberger is Pittsburgh’s quarterback.

Love him or hate him, Roethlisberger knows how to win NFL games.  Granted, he lost his last two dating back to the Super Bowl.  Matter of fact, it’s been a long time since he won one.  But the Steelers have too much talent to blow their home opener,  including plenty of wide outs for Big Ben to target.

Seattle is on the road.

Let’s face it, Seattle is not a good team.  Poor teams rarely fare well on the road.  Seattle is on the road.  Seattle will lose.

Pete Carrol is Seattle’s coach.

Nuff said.

Prediction

Steelers 31 Seattle 13

 

Steelers @ Ravens Recap

Recap?  You really want a recap?  Tough.  There ain’t gonna be a recap, just be thankful it’s over.

Steelers @ Ravens Prediction

My plan this season is to write at least one entry for each game this season.  It will start with a prediction and if inspiration strikes, a recap.  Let’s get to it.

The Steelers are an underdog in this game?  Really? Are you kidding me?  What is Ray-Ray, a thousand years old?  Ed Reed is using a walker, their wide outs are, uh, who?

Now that Ray Rice guy ain’t bad.  With Derrick Mason and Todd Heap gone, at least Flacco will  have somebody to throw to.  The Ravens defense has lost another step and their offense will be as atrocious as ever.  I’ve been hot and cold on Flacco.  Early in his career he appeared to have tremendous upside and poise, like he’d take the next step at any moment.  Now one wonders if the next step simply isn’t there.  There is no sure path to learning QB in the NFL.

The Steelers are a different story though.  One expects the defense to continue their usual excellence even if they haven’t addressed their primary weakness, the secondary.  But the Ravens have nothing to challenge said secondary so no worries for now.  And while questions remain concerning Silverback’s return to health, linebacker is a position of depth.

On the offensive side, only the line is a concern.  The Steelers have perhaps their finest collection of skill players to take the field since Big Ben first took a snap.  So, if the OL can slow down the Ravens attack, expect much from Ben and the boys.

I predict a victory formation at the end of the game, Steelers take this one 24-13.

Update:  Looks like the Tribune Review is thinking along the same lines with their 31-13 prediction.

Above the Dixon Line?

That’s where Charlie Batch will have to be to earn the backup quarterback position.  The line is drawn at Dennis Dixon.  Batch must outperform the younger, more athletic player to prolong his NFL career a few more weeks.

Dixon and Batch (Gene J. Puskar / AP)

Dixon and Batch (Gene J. Puskar / AP)

A second round selection and former starter for the Detroit Lions, Charlie Batch has already had a nice NFL career.  Anyone remember the 1998 Thanksgiving game?  Phil Luckett?  The “heads no tails” call of Jerome Bettis?  You better believe Charlie Batch does.  It was his rookie season and the Lions won on that day.  But can Batch get above the Dennis Dixon line?  I have my doubts.

In any case, Batch looks like a lock to make the roster even if it’s as the 3rd QB.  And one wonders if the Steelers will free up a roster spot by placing Byron Leftwich on IR?  If not, Batch may only have a job for half a season as he’ll be pushed off the end of the bench if Leftwich is able to return – roster spots are valuable.

 

You Get The Team You Deserve

At least I hope you do, New England Patriots.

I understood when the Patriots gave Oakland a late round pick for Randy Moss a few years ago.  It made perfect sense, he was all the team was really missing at that point.  They had possession, short route receivers and 57 varieties of tight ends.  Yet they lacked that dominant down-field threat to strike fear into opposing secondaries.  Moss gave them that.  It was a no-risk proposition and it mostly worked.  19-0 18-1 anyone?

But now the Patriots have traded for the loud-mouthed, passive aggressive Ocho Cinco or Chad Eight Five, however you say it.  Eight Five posted some nice numbers over the years, but was never part of consistent, winning team.  Of course, one can’t blame the Cincinnati Bengals’ failures on a single wide out but I’d be hard pressed to say that Eight Five was ever the solution.

Mix in perennially dissatisfied Albert Haynesworth and you have a volatile “solution” in the Kraft works.  No doubt about it, Hayesworth is a monster of a defensive tackle.  When he chooses to be.  But will he choose to play for Bill Belichick? Could he be a disruptive force on the defense? (See what I did there?)

Both Eight Five and Haynesworth were aquired on the cheap so the experiment is low risk in the end – just cut them if they don’t pan.

We’ll see what happens.  Can’t wait for that mid-November game when Eight Five has finally had enough of not getting enough. Will he simply go through the motions and be relegated to 3rd down, 5 WR sets?  Could he ever accept such a slight?  And what about the first time Haynesworth waives at a running back on the goal line?

Bring it on!

Mike Brown: Still a Mega Douche

Mike Brown wasted no time taking the high road when he announced that the Bengals would not be trading Carson Palmer.

“Carson signed a contract, he made a commitment, he gave his word. We relied on his word. We relied on his commitment. We expected him to perform here. If he’s going to walk away from his commitment, we aren’t going to reward him for doing it.”

Yeah, and you could have traded him without letting this mess become public. Palmer would have brought at minimum a 2nd rounder, probably considerably more. You think Minnesota wouldn’t have jumped on that? Miami? There must be at least 10 team out there who could immediately upgrade with ol’ Rosie.

But no, Mike Brown has to posture and talk about commitment. Commitment! Coming from Brown the word is laughable.

What a douche.