Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Steelers announce 2014 preseason schedule

Generally speaking NFL teams a free to schedule their home and away games during the preseason (the exception is the Hall of Fame game), so it will come as no surprise who the Steelers' opponents will be during the preseason: New York Giants, Buffalo Bills, Philadelphia Eagles, and Carolina Panthers. The actual dates have not been announced.

The Steelers will play at the Giants and at the Eagles, and will face the Bills and Panthers at Heinz Field.

The Steelers faced the Giants and Panthers last season (along with games versus Kansas City and Washington), and played on the road in Philadelphia and Carolina in 2012.

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Sunday, December 29, 2013

2014 Opponents

Since the debacle that was September the Steelers have been 7-4 (8-4 with a win versus Cleveland in week 17), and that has us feeling optimistic about 2014. So, while the Steelers try to pull off another December miracle, (as we write this the Jets are driving, the Bengals are leading) we look at next season's opponents.

HOME: Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Houston, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Kansas City.

AWAY: Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Tennessee, Atlanta, Carolina, N.Y. Jets.

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Nobody recovers from a concussion in a week

Players in the National Football League routinely return from mild traumatic brain injuries just in time to participate in their team's next game, typically a week following the injury.  But now comes word that "lingering abnormalities in the gray matter of [the] left prefrontal cortex . . . could persist up to four months after the injury."

If the NFL is as serious about the well-being of its players as Commissioner Goodell claims then we would like to see teams have the option to place players on a "injured reserve -- concussion" status that would be 14 days in duration.  This would give players a chance to begin the healing process, and teams could get short-term flexibility for their rosters.

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Monday, October 28, 2013

Turning to the 2014 NFL Draft

Losing to Oakland, something that happens with increasing regularity when the Steelers travel west, is always painful but let's face it: This year's Steelers squad is not a Super Bowl contender (and never was), so the long-term health of the franchise would benefit from the highest possible pick next spring.

With that in mind we give you the first mock draft of the season, about four months ahead of schedule.  This particular effort, October 23, has Pittsburgh picking sixth and choosing offensive tackle Jake Matthews out of Texas A&M.  Personally, we think it is time to think nose tackle, defensive end, strong safety but it isn't as if a strong OT wouldn't be helpful.

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Monday, October 21, 2013

Steelers @ Oakland: The Weekly Matchups

Not to put too fine a point on this but my children have never seen the Steelers defeat Oakland in Oakland, and if the numbers are to be believed (and we all know that -- as Nick Bakay always says -- the numbers never lie!) this week's contest is a battle between two teams who have more in common than their 2-4 records.

Oakland Offense v. Steelers Defense
Average total yards per game: Oakland offense 25th (320.8) v. Steelers defense 6th (306.8 )

Average net rushing yards per game: Oakland offense 9th (129.2) v. Steelers defense 18th (109.3)

Average net passing yards per game: Oakland offense 32nd (191.7) v. Steelers defense 4th (197.5)

Average yards per pass attempt (excluding sacks): Oakland offense 11.8 v. Steelers defense 10.7

Average points per game: Oakland offense 28th (17.5) v. Steelers defense 12th (22.0)

Steelers Offense v. Oakland Defense
Average total yards per game: Steelers offense 22nd (329.8) v. Oakland defense 12th (344.0)

Average net rushing yards per game: Steelers offense 27th (74.3) v. Oakland defense T9th (99.0)

Average net passing yards per game: Steelers offense 12th (255.5) v. Oakland defense 16th (241.0)

Average yards per pass attempt (excluding sacks): Steelers offense 11.6 v. Oakland defense 10.9

Average points per game: Steelers offense: 27th (17.8) v. Oakland defense T21st (22.0)

Special Teams
Average yards per punt return: Oakland 13th (8.7) v. Steelers 30th (6.0)

Average yards allowed per punt return: Oakland 21st (8.4) v. Steelers 22nd (8.9)

Average yards per kick return: Oakland 20th (23.1) v. Steelers 31st (19.8)

Average yards allowed per kick return: Oakland 1st (19.0) v. Steelers 4th (20.3)

Net yardage punting average: Oakland 42.0 v. Steelers 37.2

Opponent net yardage punting average: Oakland 37.9 v. Steelers 40.2

Miscellaneous
Turnover differential: Oakland T15th (0) v. Steelers 29th (-10)

Time of possession: Oakland 12th (30:46) v. Steelers 18th (30:21)

Sacks: Oakland 16 v. Steelers 8

Sacks allowed: Oakland 27 v. Steelers 22

Penalties: Oakland 55 for 336 yards v. Steelers 33 for 284 yards

Some Individual Numbers
NFL passer rating: Terrelle Pryor, 18th (84.9) v. Ben Roethlisberger, 15th (90.8)

NFL Leading rushers: Terrelle Pryor, 25th (285 yards) v. Le'Veon Bell, 41st (448 yards)

NFL Leading receivers: Denarius Moore, 58th (44 targeted, 25 catches, 399 yards, 16.0 per catch, 4 touchdowns) v. Antonio Brown, 2nd (60 targeted, 47 catches, 548 yards, 11.7 yards per catch, 2 touchdowns)

NFL Sack Leaders: Lamarr Houston, 3.0 v. LaMarr Woodley, 5.0

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Friday, October 18, 2013

The NFL & Concussions: Adding Insult to Injury

According to a story in the New York Times former NFL players "found with a severe brain injury after they turned 45, or who played in the N.F.L. for five years or less, would probably receive smaller payouts" from the league's recent $765,000,000 settlement of a lawsuit brought by 4,500 retired players.

The problem of course is that encephalopathy is a gradual, neurodegenerative disease that, while there have been high profile cases of players exhibiting symptoms before age 45, may take years to manifest itself.

Further, the survivors of players who died before 2006 (e.g. Mike Webster, Terry Long and Andre Waters) would be ineligible to receive any payment.  What does that mean for those survivors?  According to the article, "the families of players who committed suicide [prior to 2006] and were found to have C.T.E. may receive up to $4 million."

Given the level of suffering that some players have suffered it seems small-minded, if not cruel, to exclude cases of football related encephalopathy, and the attended depressive issues, that have been confirmed by postmortem examinations simply because the victims died more than seven years ago.

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Thursday, October 17, 2013

The NFL's Concussion Problem: New Evidence

According to a Los Angeles Times article a newly published study of NFL alumni reveals that the
differences in brain function between the former NFL players and their healthy comparison group suggest that long before concussion-related dementia is evident, the brain begins to work differently to keep up. As crucial brain networks break down, those who have sustained cumulative injuries to their brain must exert extra mental energy just to deliver cognitive performance approaching normal.
The groundbreaking aspect of this particular study (available online) is that the former players were living at the time of their participation in the study and, rather than brain tissue being examined, the players and the participating control group underwent "fMRI-optimised neuropsychological test of executive function" that examined brain activity while each subject performed a series of tasks.

In recent years the NFL has seemingly played both sides of the concussion threat -- supporting scientific research and rule changes within the game while simultaneously claiming that the science was unclear and unsettled as to whether or not playing football leads to encephalopathy -- and we can only wonder how much longer league leadership will equivocate on this crucial issue.

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