Monday, December 31, 2007

Beat the Steelers, Lose Your Job

Brian Billick made hating the Ravens fun and, like the folks at Pro Football Weekly, we wonder just how he held on to his job so long.

If the Ravens' organization is open to a suggestion from Pittsburgh Steelers Fanatic, we'd recommend elevating Rex Ryan to the head coach position and bring in Chan Gailey as offensive coordinator.

The guess here is that moves like those will keep the rivalry alive for years to come.

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Maybe it's a Little of Both

The folks out Football Outsiders asserted that the Steelers' defense is missing Ryan Clark, and their arguments are very intriguing. However, there may be someone else whose absence is even more significant.

During the Steelers' radio broadcast Craig Wolfley spoke to the season-ending injury of Aaron Smith, and how much impact it has had on the effectiveness of the defense. We love Aaron Smith and, despite going to the Pro Bowl last season, really believe he doesn't receive the respect he deserves. But we were dubious as to just how big an impact his departure has had. However, the numbers never lie and here are the opponent rushing totals for the 11 games in which Mr. Smith played:

OpponentYds Rushing
Cleveland46
Buffalo102
San Francisco91
Arizona86
Seattle38
Denver90
Cleveland40
N.Y. Jets151
Miami49
Cincinnati (Game #2)74
New England22
Total Rushing Yards789
Per Game Average71.73


Meanwhile, here's how things have looked in the five games Aaron Smith missed this season:


OpponentYds Rushing
Cincinnati (Game #1)91
Baltimore (Game #1)64
Jacksonville224
St. Louis90
Baltimore (Game #2)180
Total Rushing Yards649
Per Game Average129.8

The opponent's per game rushing average shows an increase of 55.26% without Aaron Smith; and while that may not prove causation it's a far more substantial argument than has been made for any other member of the Steelers' defense.

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Start Preparing Your Draft Boards

If the playoffs are upon us can "War Rooms" and Mel Kiper marathons be far behind?

With the 2007 regular season now having concluded we have some idea of who's picking when -- at least so far as the non-playoff teams are concerned.

East Coast Bias: 2008 NFL Draft Order - Picks 1 to 20

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Steelers @ Baltimore: The Good,
the Bad, & the Ugly

If you're a Pittsburgh Steelers player there isn't much to feel good about following the 27-21 loss to Baltimore. If you're a fan of the Steelers here's some information that will leave you shaking your head (at a minimum).

Over the last six seasons (i.e. 2002-2007, inclusive of their game this past Sunday) the Steelers and Ravens have met 12 times in the regular season. In those games:
  • Both teams have a 6-6 record
  • Both teams have averaged 20.08 points per game
  • In the six games played in Baltimore, the Steelers have a turnover differential of -7
  • In the six games played in Baltimore the Steelers have rushed for an average of 57.2 yards
With the tone properly set, here's a look at some of what went on this week.

The Good
Having warmed up for three quarters the Steelers came to life offensively, and were less putrid defensively, in the fourth quarter.

For example, in the first three quarters the Steelers' offense gained 104 net yards (47 yards of which was gained via a pass interference call against Corey Ivy). Conversely, in the fourth quarter alone the Steelers gained 197 net yards. Additionally, nearly half of all the Steelers' offensive plays for the game came in the frenetic fourth quarter (i.e. 21 of 50 -- 42%), and 25% of their non-penalty first downs (i.e. 3 of 12) occurred during that same fifteen minute period.

On the defensive side of the football, the Steelers "limited" Baltimore to 50 yards during the final quarter -- the lowest total of any of the quarters, and "only" three first downs -- also the lowest total of any quarter in the game. Finally, and most "impressive," is that the "vaunted" Steelers defense managed to keep the "explosive" Ravens offense off the scoreboard in the final period.

Also falling into the "Good" section is that nearly every single player active for the game, for the Steelers, played, indeed, the only player not to play was Brian St. Pierre. So when Mike Tomlin breaks out the "We win as a team, and lose as a team" you'll know he really means it this week.

Also, it's good that, once that Baltimore put their third-string players in the game, the Steelers kept working hard enough (with many of their starters still in the game) to put some points on the board.

No, I'm not really buying that either but it's something.

Finally, the one group amongst the Steelers that can stand proud is special teams. Ten days after the Steelers successfully executed a fake punt, they managed to pull-off a successful onside kick against the Ravens. It was, arguably, the best executed play by Pittsburgh all day long. And Daniel Sepulveda, after a very poor first effort (25 yards), delivered kicks of 48 (net of 51), 47 (net of 47), and 29 yards (net of 29, down at the Baltimore 13).

The Bad
When discussing football it is often said that the most popular person in any town is the backup quarterback; and amongst backups no one is more well-regarded than Charlie Batch. But when Mr. Batch stinks in his annual start he's got to take the criticism just like a starter.

In the first half Mr. Batch hard numbers that, quite honestly, most of us could have turned in: 5/11, 41 yards, 0 touchdowns, 1 interception, and a frightening 17.6 passer rating. That his numbers improved dramatically in the second half (and particularly in the fourth quarter, as previously discussed) was as more a function of Baltimore emptying their bench than it was a genuine improvement in the play of Mr. Batch.

Also disappointing was the performance of Willie Reid. The fumble at the beginning of the game, and the subsequent inability of the defense to stop Baltimore from getting into the end zone, ended up being the difference in the score (if not entirely the difference in the game). Then, to compound that error, he fumbled another return though, in fairness, the call was challenged and reversed. During his tenure with the Steelers Mr. Reid has been more potential than performance, and unless something positive happens during these playoffs he may be looking for a new NFL home.


The Ugly
The starting defensive front seven of the Steelers went against a youthful offensive line of the Baltimore Ravens (i.e. there are two rookies in that group) and head their figurative heads kicked in. As a result Musa Smith and Cory Ross -- who had exactly zero carries in his two year career prior to today -- looked like Pro Bowlers. Specifically, these two unknown and unheralded third stringers (in fact, Cory Ross isn't even listed on the Ravens' depth chart) combined for 155 yards on 34 carries (4.56 yards per carry), and two touchdowns.

Additionally, the defense failed to capitalize on opportunities that were all but handed to them: Ike Taylor dropped an interception; and though the Ravens fumbled the football four times, the Steelers could only come up with one of those. When an opponent wants to hand you a game you have to be ready to oblige them, and the Steelers were anything but.

And over on the other side of the football, the Steelers' offensive line turned in another horrific performance -- something that is becoming routine in Baltimore. Najeh Davenport and Gary Russell combined for 47 yards on 18 carries (2.61 yards per carry). Merriam Webster's has a perfect description of the offensive line's performance: "pa•thet•ic: pitifully inferior or inadequate."

Exactly.

Conclusion
As disappointing as the Steelers' performance was, on both sides of the football, the team has earned the opportunity to turn the page and try again. And before we decide to throw dirt on the Steelers' season just remember that the twelve playoff teams went 5-7 the final weekend. And though the Steelers struggled over the final ten games of the regular season here's a look at the records of the other playoff teams over that same period:

TeamWinsLossesPct.
New England1001.000
Dallas82.800
Green Bay82.800
San Diego82.800
Indianapolis73.700
Jacksonville73.700
N.Y. Giants64.600
Pittsburgh64.600
Seattle64.600
Tennessee55.500
Tampa Bay55.500
Washington55.500


So if the Steelers are entering the playoff tournament playing less than their best take solace in two indisputable facts:
  1. There are playoff teams playing worse than they are.

  2. Cleveland was 8-2 in their final ten games, and missed out on the playoffs by losing to Cincinnati, and then watching Kerry Collins lead Tennessee to a fourth quarter comeback on the road in Indianapolis.

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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Steelers' Playoff Tilt in Prime Time -- Correction/Update


Update
Kickoff is now scheduled for Saturday, January 5, 2008 at 8:00PM.

Correction/Update
So much for sources.

I went directly to an unimpeachable source -- my satellite program guide -- and their is a prime time game (on NBC), on Saturday (1/5). The Sunday games (1/6) will be at 1:00PM and 4:30PM.

At this point we're honestly not sure what to think, except that NBC would love to have the Steelers again in prime time. And given their pull, thanks to the gigantic amount of money they're paying the league, the guess now is that they'll get what they want.


Original Post
It hasn't yet been announced by the National Football League, but according to my sources the Steelers will play their first playoff game of the Mike Tomlin era on Sunday, January 6, 2008 at 8:00 PM (EST) -- the final game of Wild Card Weekend.

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Pro Bowl Quarterbacks & Sacks

Big Dan the 'Burgh Man and I were talking Saturday afternoon and he posed the following question: Has a quarterback ever made the Pro Bowl in a season during which he was sacked more than Ben Roethlisberger has been sacked this season (i.e. 47 times)?

It seemed a good question -- could it be that Ben Roethlisberger was the holder of a dubious, not to mention obscure, record? Using Pro Bowl rosters at Pro Bowl Online and statistics available at NFL.com I discovered the answer, at least a partial answer, to Dan's question.

Going back ten years here are the Pro Bowl quarterbacks with the ten highest sack totals during their regular season:

PlayerSeasonSacks
Drew Bledsoe200254
Steve Beuerlein199950
Marc Bulger200649
Rich Gannon199949
Ben Roethlisberger200747
Duante Culpepper200446
Michael Vick200446
Steve Beuerlein199844
Donovan McNabb200343
Tom Brady200141


So while Big Ben's season has been noteworthy, and his sitting out of the final game of the 2007 regular season ensured that he wouldn't move up on this list, it's not a record.

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Saturday, December 29, 2007

New RSS Feed

For those of you who have been good enough to subscribe to Pittsburgh Steelers Fanatic, thank you! Now please do so again.

There were some "issues" with the original feed (in My Yahoo! the feed showed up as "ezshoppingmall.com"), so I've created a new one.

So, if it isn't too much trouble, please click on the RSS icon and subscribe one more time.

Thanks very much.

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Ravens Lose Offensive Coordinator

UPDATE: The official announcement is now on the UCLA website.

ESPN just interrupted the Meineke Car Care Bowl (shocking that such a prestigious game would be interrupted in any fashion) to report that Rick Neuheisel has been hired to be the head coach at America's Greatest University, UCLA.

Before joining the Ravens' coaching staff Mr. Neuheisel served as head coach at the University of Colorado and the University of Washington, where he accumulated a record of 66-30.

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More Lawrence Timmons News

Sixteen weeks of the regular season passed and there was barely a word about the Steelers' #1 draft pick.

Now, in a matter of a couple of days we have the fourth item (Pro Football Weekly, Pittsburgh Steelers Fanatic, Football Outsiders, and now this) regarding Mr. Timmons. Here's a preview:

"Lawrence Timmons has two tackles and a fumble recovery as a Steelers rookie linebacker. The second linebacker selected in the 2007 NFL draft, Timmons' biggest impact has been on special teams where he's tied for second on the team with 12 tackles and has another fumble recovery.

Known as a playmaker coming out of Florida State, Timmons hasn't been able to stay on the field long enough to make an impact. A backup on the league's top-rated defense, he mostly watches and waits his turn.

'My time will come,' said Timmons
."

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Opponents for the 2008 Season Set
(and most of 2009)

It's a good thing that the Steelers qualified for the playoffs this season because next season is going to be a doozy.

Future opponents, other than division opponents, are set according to a formula established in 2002. This same formula will be used through the 2009 season. The particulars of the formula, as quoted directly from the NFL's press release on the matter, are:
  • The four teams from another division within its conference (4 games).

  • The four teams from a division in the other conference (4 games).

  • Two intraconference games based on the prior year’s standings (2 games). These games match a first-place team against the first-place teams in the two same-conference divisions the team is not scheduled to play that season. The second-place, third-place, and fourth-place teams in a conference are matched in the same way each year.
So the Steelers will play six games against their divisional rivals, and will -- along with their divisional rivals -- play the teams from the AFC South and the NFC East. Finally, they will play two first place teams. The first place team from the AFC West (i.e. San Diego) will visit Pittsburgh while the Steelers will go on the road to visit the AFC East (i.e. New England) division winner.

Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has broken it down, and these are the opponents the Steelers will face, home and away:


HomeAway
BaltimoreBaltimore
CincinnatiCincinnati
ClevelandCleveland
HoustonJacksonville
IndianapolisTennessee
DallasPhiladelphia
N.Y. GiantsWashington
San DiegoNew England


The Steelers will play no fewer than six playoff teams next season, and may play as many as seven (if Washington wins this weekend). And for those of you who really want to plan ahead, here's a peek at the 2009 schedule:


HomeAway
BaltimoreBaltimore
CincinnatiCincinnati
ClevelandCleveland
OaklandDenver
San DiegoKansas City
Green BayChicago
MinnesotaDetroit
AFC SouthAFC East

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Friday, December 28, 2007

Sepulveda & Timmons
Named to All-Rookie Team

Regular readers know of our great respect for the experts at Football Outsiders, so it is with great pleasure that we alert all of you to their All-Rookie choices.

Of particular interest to Steelers fans was the inclusion of Daniel Sepulveda, who single-footedly cleansed us of the foul taste that Chris Gardocki had left us with, and Lawrence Timmons as the "Special Teamer"!

One publication's dud is another's gold.

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Joey Porter Out of Miami?

The folks at Pro Football Talk are amazingly plugged in to what's going on around the NFL, and they're "Rumor Mill" is a must read for all fans. And for fans reading the rumor mill today there was the following item (at 9:38AM): "Porter Done in Miami? With new Fins football poobah Bill Parcells declaring that he wants no "thugs and hoodlums" in Miami, the immediate reaction in league circles is that linebacker Joey Porter won't be long for South Florida."

The item goes on to correctly point out that Mr. Porter's $20,000,000 in guaranteed money is more than just a minor sticking point to issuing him an exit visa out of South Florida but, given how woeful the Dolphins are now, it isn't insurmountable.

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Home Field Advantage in Baltimore?

The Steelers' most recent game, in St. Louis, was marked by a pronounced presence of Steelers faithful. And word is now coming out of Baltimore that something similar may happen this week at M&T Bank Stadium.

The article quotes a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers Fan Club of Maryland as predicting that between 30 and 40 percent of the fans in attendance this Sunday will be Steelers fans. The stadium has a capacity of 71,000 seats which means that as many as 28,000 Black & Gold backers may be there.

The article also offers this quote from Terrell Suggs on the issue of Ravens' ticket holders selling their tickets to Steelers fans: "That's a slap in the face . . . We still belong to the city of Baltimore. We don't belong to Pittsburgh. If they're selling their tickets to Steelers fans, maybe they should be Steelers fans."

Terrell, if the Ravens have another season like this that might just happen

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Lawrence Timmons Rated a Dud

Matt Sohn at Pro Football Weekly has made his assessments as to the best and worst of the first round picks in the 2007 NFL Draft, and Lawrence Timmons has made it on to the "Worst Picks" portion of the list. In his brief assessment, Mr. Sohn asserts Mr. Simmons been outplayed by LaMarr Woodley, and criticizes Mr. Timmons for primarily being "a special teams guy."

Great expectations are part of the territory for those players chosen high in the draft (Mr. Timmons was selected at #15), and it is undeniably true that Mr. Timmons has played almost exclusively on special teams. However, a look at some of the Steelers' other linebackers -- both current and former -- reveals that Mr. Timmons' first season in the NFL bears a striking similarity to some of his more well-regarded teammates (and one former Steelers linebacker).


PlayerGames PlayedGames StartedTacklesAssistsSacks
Larry Foote 1431370
Clark Haggans 20000
James Harrison 1000 0
Joey Porter 160002
Lawrence Timmons 1501120


What we've done is look at a few of the linebackers who, like Mr. Timmons, grew up professionally in Dick LeBeau's defensive system, as way of giving his first season some context. And while he may not have had the immediate impact all fans of the Black & Gold hoped he would, Mr. Timmons appears to be serving an apprenticeship of sorts -- not to mention he's playing behind the team's Most Valuable Player, James Harrison.

The good folks out Pro Football Weekly have a right to their opinion, and we understand it, but this is one judgment that seems a little premature.

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

The End of the Line for a UCLA Great?

Jonathan Ogden is arguably the greatest NFL player to come out of America's greatest University, UCLA. However, according to one report, there is a possibility that this could be his final season. In response to a question about whether or not he will return for the 2008 season here is what Mr. Ogden had to say:

"It's pretty much the same: How healthy do I feel; is the love and passion still there to be able to do it for a full season; what I think about where the team is headed. I'll just kind of examine those things . . . [r]ight now I just need a little time . . . [a]fter a year like this, people who have played one year don't want to come back. So you want to get away from it before you figure anything out."

Given the expectations that the Ravens had coming into this season (i.e. after going 13-3 in 2006) versus the frustrations they have suffered, it would be surprising if a few of Mr. Ogden's teammates didn't feel the same way right now.

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Ravens' Football: Everyone is a Comedian

These jokes were sent to me by a friend of mine (tip o' the cap to Mark!) who has been known to cheer for the Ravens. The beauty is you can insert any team name, making them incredibly versatile.

Q: What do you call 53 people sitting around a TV watching the Super Bowl?
A: The Baltimore Ravens

Q: How do you keep a Baltimore Raven out of your yard?
A: Put up goal posts

Q: Where do you go in Baltimore in case of a tornado?
A: M&T Stadium - they never have a touchdown there

Q: Why doesn't Annapolis, MD have a professional football team?
A: Because then Baltimore would want one

Q: What's the difference between the Baltimore Ravens and a dollar bill?
A: You can still get four quarters out of a dollar bill

Q: What do the Baltimore Ravens and possums have in common?
A: Both play dead at home and get killed on the road!

Q: What do the Baltimore Ravens and Billy Graham have in common?
A: They both can make 70,000 people stand up and yell "Jesus Christ!"

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Steelers @ Baltimore: The Matchups

The Steelers go against an inferior opponent this week, one that they should beat handily -- stop us if you've heard this before -- but before anyone dismisses the Ravens as something something akin to a nuisance on the way to the playoffs remember this:
  • In the last eleven regular season meetings with the Ravens, the Steelers have a record of 6-5.

  • During that same period, on average, the Ravens have scored 19.45 points per game while the Steelers have scored 20.

  • The Steelers have not won a game in Baltimore since October 27, 2002; and have not had 100 yards rushing in a game played in Baltimore since that game.

  • Since then, in games played in Baltimore, the Steelers have been outscored, on average, 21.5-9 and have averaged 60 yards rushing (including 21 yards in the most recent game in Baltimore -- November 26, 2006)
With all of that in mind, here is a look at his week's matchups:

Baltimore Offense v. Steelers Defense
Average total yards per game: Baltimore offense 23rd (299.9) v. Steelers defense 1st (261.9).

Average net rushing yards per game: Baltimore offense 18th (107.8) v. Steelers defense 3rd (83.9)

Average net passing yards per game: Baltimore offense 22nd (192.1) v. Steelers defense 3rd (178.0)

Average points per game: Baltimore offense 25th (16.53) v. Steelers defense 3rd (16.13)

Steelers Offense v. Baltimore Defense
Average total yards per game: Steelers offense 17th (331.7) v. Baltimore defense 7th (304.1)

Average net rushing yards per game: Steelers offense 3rd (141.2) v. Baltimore defense 2nd (81.5)

Average net passing yards per game: Steelers offense 25th (190.5) v. Baltimore defense 22nd (222.6)

Average points per game: Steelers offense: 8th (24.8) v. Baltimore defense 24th (24.2)

Special Teams
Average yards per punt return: Baltimore 10th (10.0) v. Steelers 30th (6.3)

Average yards allowed per punt return: Baltimore 22nd (10.3) v. Steelers 16th (9.0)

Average yards per kick return: Baltimore 8th (23.8) v. Steelers 20th (22.1)

Average yards allowed per kick return: Baltimore 25th (23.9) v. Steelers 17th (22.9)

Net yardage punting average: Baltimore 27th (35.5) v. Steelers 10th (37.8)

Opponent net yardage punting average: Baltimore 19th (37.3) v. Steelers 26th (38.3)

Miscellaneous
Turnover differential: Baltimore 32nd (-19) v. Steelers 8th (+5)

Time of possession: Baltimore 12th (30:25) v. Steelers 1st (33:58)

Red Zone touchdown efficiency: Baltimore 28th (41.5%) v. Steelers 10th (56.6%)

Red Zone defense (touchdowns): Baltimore 3rd (40.0%) v. Steelers 23rd (55.9%)

Sacks allowed: Baltimore 22nd (37) v. Steelers 28th (47)

Sacks: Baltimore 16th (32) v. Steelers 13th (34)

Some Individual Numbers
Passer rating: Troy Smith 73.6 (5 TDs, 7 INTs) v. Ben Roethlisberger 104.1 (32 TDs, 11 INTs)

Leading rushers: Willis McGahee 1,207 yards (4.1 yards per carry, 7 TDs) v. Willie Parker 1,316 yards (4.1 yards per carry, 2 TDs)
In an unusual development each team's leading rusher -- numbers 5 and 2 respectively in the league -- is out for Sunday's game. The statistics for the projected starters are: Musa Smith 181 yards (3.4 yards per carry, 2 TDs) v. Najeh Davenport 472 yards (5.0 yards per carry, 4 TDs)

Leading receiver: Derrick Mason 97 receptions -- #3 in the NFL -- (1,015 yards, 10.5 yards per catch, 5 TDs) v. Hines Ward 71 receptions (732 yards, 10.3 yards per catch, 7 TDs)

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Monday, December 24, 2007

Gameweek: Haynes Re-Signed,
Ravens Battered & Bruised

As expected Willie Parker was placed on injured reserve, and Verron Haynes was re-signed.

Meanwhile the Ravens, the Steelers' opponent this Sunday, more closely resemble a MASH unit than a football team.

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Just What DOES Ail the Steelers?

Our friends at Football Outsiders have turned their laser focus on the Steelers in an effort to uncover why the team has struggled recently. Or, as they say in their own words: "[T]he Steelers have lost three of their last six games, and even in the three wins they haven’t looked particularly impressive, and while their defense isn’t bad, it’s no longer dominating. So what’s happened?"

It's a very interesting take on the team's performance, and the diagnosis offered up by writer Michael David Smith is, in a word, unexpected.

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Steelers Clinch! -- Update

Update: December 24, 2007, 12:35 AM

An article in today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette offers clarification on the Steelers' playoff situation:

"If San Diego (9-5) beats Denver tonight, the Chargers will become the No. 3 seed in the AFC and the Steelers No. 4. San Diego would own the tiebreaker against the Steelers based on a better conference record.

A San Diego victory would send Jacksonville to Heinz Field for the first-round playoff game as the No. 5 seed
."

The Steelers' loss to the Jets may haunt them for quite some time.

Original Posting
Just finished listening to the Bengals' play-by-play announcers -- there's bad football, and then there's Bengals bad -- as the Bengals hang on to defeat Cleveland.

The difference in this game occurred at the end of the first half when, with 0:47 left on the clock and no time outs, Derek Anderson threw an interception (i.e. rather than taking a knee) to Leon Hall. The Bengals managed to put the ball in the end zone, going into the half with a 19-0 lead.

The second half was all Cleveland, but they ran out of time.

The Steelers' game against Baltimore may still have meaning however. The Steelers have a 7-4 record in the AFC whereas San Diego currently has a 7-3 record, with a game against Denver Monday night. So, it would appear that in order for the Steelers to be the #3 seed (thereby facing Cleveland/Tennessee) rather than the #4 seed (thereby facing Jacksonville) they need to win next week and get some help from Denver and/or Oakland (i.e. San Diego's opponent next week).

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Best Mudder Ever?

On this, the 35th anniversary of the Immaculate Reception we share with you an article from Pro Football Weekly in which Tom Danyluk proclaims that Franco Harris was the best bad weather running back he ever saw:

"But the greatest, i.e, most consistent bad-weather back I ever saw was probably Pittsburgh’s Franco Harris – the man for all seasons. Perfect balance was his friend. He could kill you with long, galloping strides in the burning Miami heat, or he could pick-cut-pick his way across the frozen artificial fields of the northeast and get similar production. Line him up in the Everglades or the Rajasthan sand dunes and he’d find his way through it."

To read the entire article, click here

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Play that Changed Everything

I had this post set to go Sunday, but the Post-Gazette threw their's up Saturday so here it is . . .

Today Sunday is the anniversary of the single most important play in the history of the Pittsburgh Steelers franchise.

The miraculous win over the Raiders changed the way that fans perceived the Steelers; and, to a certain extent, changed the way the players perceived themselves. And while they went on to lose to the Dolphins in the AFC Championship game (we'll never forget Larry Siple's fake punt, 37 yard run that broke the Steelers' backs), this most improbable of catches ushered in a new, historic era in Pittsburgh Steelers football.

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The Upcoming Season --
Free Agent Season, That Is

The Yahoo! Sports Group AmCapNFL is comprised of individuals who enjoy calculating salary caps for NFL teams, just for fun.

Geeky though it may seem, these folks come up with great information -- some of which Pittsburgh Steelers Fanatic uses, all of which is appreciated.

One of the members of the group, "ninerscapinformation," has come up with his rankings for the 2008 class of free agents. The list is a long one, but with no Steelers game this weekend you've got nothing but time.

Of interest to Steelers fans -- beyond the names of Dan Kreider, Alan Faneca, Max Starks, and Travis Kirschke as unrestricted free agents -- is the availability of T.J. Duckett. The Steelers made a serious play for him last offseason, and their struggles this season running inside underscored their need for a bruising back.

Complicating any free agency talk is the possibility that the collective bargaining agreement may have to be renegotiated.

Note: "RFA" indicates a Restricted Free Agent, while "UFA" indicates an unrestricted free agent"

Quarterbacks
1 Derek Anderson QB Cleveland Browns RFA
2 Josh McCown QB Oakland Raiders UFA
3 Cleo Lemon QB Miami Dolphins UFA
4 Daunte Culpepper QB Oakland Raiders UFA
5 Rex Grossman QB Chicago Bears UFA
6 Quinn Gray QB Jacksonville Jaguars UFA
7 Todd Collins QB Washington Redskins UFA
8 Shaun Hill QB San Francisco 49ers UFA
9 Ryan Fitzpatrick QB Cincinnati Bengals RFA
10 Jared Lorenzen QB New York Giants UFA
11 Ken Dorsey QB Cleveland Browns UFA
12 Vinny Testaverde QB Carolina Panthers UFA
13 Chris Redman QB Atlanta Falcons UFA
14 Billy Volek QB San Diego Chargers UFA
15 Tim Rattay QB Arizona Cardinals UFA

Running Backs
1 Michael Turner RB San Diego Chargers UFA
2 Julius Jones RB Dallas Cowboys UFA
3 Justin Fargas RB Oakland Raiders UFA
4 Jesse Chatman RB Miami Dolphins UFA
5 Jamal Lewis RB Cleveland Browns UFA
6 Chris Brown RB Tennessee Titans UFA
7 T.J. Duckett RB Detroit Lions UFA
8 Musa Smith RB Baltimore Ravens UFA
9 Vernand Morency RB Green Bay Packers UFA
10 Michael Bennett RB Tampa Bay Buccaneers UFA
11 Mewelde Moore RB Minnesota Vikings UFA
12 Maurice Hicks RB San Francisco 49ers UFA
13 Travis Minor RB St. Louis Rams UFA
14 LaBrandon Toefield RB Jacksonville Jaguars UFA
15 Derrick Ward RB New York Giants UFA
16 Aaron Stecker RB New Orleans Saints UFA

Fullback
1 Mike Alstott FB Tampa Bay Buccaneers UFA
2 Tony Richardson FB Minnesota Vikings UFA
3 Brad Hoover FB Carolina Panthers UFA
4 Cecil Sapp FB Denver Broncos UFA
5 Dan Kreider FB Pittsburgh Steelers UFA
6 Sean McHugh FB/TE Detroit Lions UFA
7 Leonard Weaver FB Seattle Seahawks RFA
8 Nehimiah Broughton FB Washington Redskins RFA
9 Zach Crockett FB Tampa Bay Buccaneers UFA
10 Casey Cramer FB Tennessee Titans UFA
11 Jon Bradley FB Detroit Lions UFA
12 Thomas Tapeh FB Philadelphia Eagles UFA

Wide Receiver
1 Randy Moss WR New England Patriots UFA
2 Bernard Berrian WR Chicago Bears UFA
3 Bryant Johnson WR Arizona Cardinals UFA
4 Patrick Crayton WR Dallas Cowboys UFA
5 Drew Carter WR Carolina Panthers UFA
6 D.J. Hackett WR Seattle Seahawks UFA
7 Terrance Copper WR New Orleans Saints UFA
8 Devery Henderson WR New Orleans Saints UFA
9 Keary Colbert WR Carolina Panthers UFA
10 Ernest Wilford WR Jacksonville Jaguars UFA
11 Malcom Floyd WR San Diego Chargers RFA
12 Samie Parker WR Kansas City Chiefs UFA
13 Jabar Gaffney WR New England Patriots UFA
14 Jerome Mathis WR/KR Houston Texans RFA
15 David Patten WR New Orleans Saints UFA
16 Nate Washington WR Pittsburgh Steelers RFA
17 Keenan McCardell WR Washington Redskins UFA
18 Robert Ferguson WR Minnesota Vikings UFA
19 Aaron Moorehead WR Indianapolis Colts UFA
20 Devard Darling WR Baltimore Ravens UFA

Tight End
1 Dallas Clark TE Indianpolis Colts UFA
2 L.J. Smith TE Philadelphia Eagles UFA
3 Eric Johnson TE New Orleans Saints UFA
4 Ben Troupe TE Tennessee Titans UFA
5 Stephen Alexander TE Denver Broncos UFA
6 Marcus Pollard TE Seattle Seahawks UFA
7 Bryan Fletcher TE Indianapolis Colts RFA
8 Billy Bajema TE San Francisco 49ers RFA
9 John Gilmore TE Chicago Bears UFA
10 Kris Wilson TE Kansas City Chiefs UFA
11 Aaron Walker TE St. Louis Rams UFA
12 Ben Joppru TE Seattle Seahawks RFA
13 Dwayne Blakley TE Atlanta Falcons UFA
14 Billy Miller TE New Orleans Saints UFA
15 Jeramy Stevens TE Tampa Bay Buccaneers UFA
16 Christian Fauria TE Carolina Panthers UFA
17 Courtney Anderson TE Atlanta Falcons UFA
18 Keith Heinrich TE Tampa Bay Buccaneers UFA
19 Mark Bruener TE Houston Texans UFA
20 Nate Jackson TE Denver Broncos UFA

Center
1 Seth McKinney OC Cleveland Browns UFA
2 Andy McCollum OC St. Louis Rams UFA
3 Jeremy Newberry OC Oakland Raiders UFA
4 Alex Stepanovich OC Cincinnati Bengals UFA
5 Matt Lehr OC Tampa Bay Buccaneers UFA
6 Jason Whittle OC Buffalo Bills UFA
7 Wade Smith OC New York Jets UFA
8 Brett Romberg OC St. Louis Rams UFA
9 Rex Hadnot OC Miami Dolphins UFA
10 Mike Pucillo OC Washington Redskins UFA
11 Dylan Gandy OC Indianapolis Colts RFA
12 Geoff Hangartner OC Carolina Panthers RFA
13 Casey Wiegmann OC/LS Kansas City Chiefs UFA

Guard
1 Alan Faneca OG Pittsburgh Steelers UFA
2 Ruben Brown OG Chicago Bears UFA
3 Ryan Lija OG Indianapolis Colts UFA
4 Jake Scott OG Indianapolis Colts UFA
5 Justin Smiley OG San Francisco 49ers UFA
6 Chris Kemoeatu OG Pittsburgh Steelers RFA
7 Larry Allen OG San Francisco 49ers UFA
8 Keydrick Vincent OG Arizona Cardinals UFA
9 Adam Goldberg OG St. Louis Rams UFA
10 Rick DeMulling OG Washington Redskins UFA
11 Montrae Holland OG New Orleans Saints UFA
12 Chris Liwienski OG Miami Dolphins UFA
13 Fred Weary OG Houston Texans UFA
14 Elton Brown OG Arizona Cardinals RFA
15 Jason Brown OG Baltimore Ravens RFA
16 Tyson Walter OG Green Bay Packers UFA
17 Tyson Clabo OG Atlanta Falcons RFA
18 Stacey Andrews OG Cincinnati Bengals UFA
19 Stephen Peterman OG Detroit Lions UFA
20 Milford Brown OG St. Louis Rams UFA

Tackle
1 Max Starks OT Pittsburgh Steelers UFA
2 Floyd Womack OT/OG Seattle Seahawks UFA
3 Sean Locklear OT Seattle Seahawks UFA
4 Jordan Gross OT Carolina Panthers UFA
5 Trai Essex OT Pittsburgh Steelers RFA
6 Todd Steussie OT St. Louis Rams UFA
7 Nat Dorsey OT Cleveland Browns UFA
8 Travelle Wharton OT Carolina Panthers UFA
9 Flozell Adams OT Dallas Cowboys UFA
10 Jason Fabini OT Washington Redskins UFA
11 Kwame Harris OT San Francisco 49ers UFA
12 Stockar McDougle OT Jacksonville Jaguars UFA
13 Mike Rosenthal OT Miami Dolphins UFA
14 Ross Tucker OT Washington Redskins UFA
15 Adrian Jones OT New York Jets UFA
16 Chris Terry OT Kansas City Chiefs UFA
17 Brandon Gorin OT St. Louis Rams UFA
18 Cornell Green OT Oakland Raiders UFA
19 David Stewart OT Tennessee Titans RFA
20 Will Svitek OT Kansas City Chiefs RFA

Defensive End
1 Terrell Suggs DE/OLB Baltimore Ravens UFA
2 Justin Smith DE Cincinnati Bengals UFA
3 Tommy Kelly DE Oakland Raiders UFA
4 Jared Allen DE Kansas City Chiefs UFA
5 Mike Rucker DE Carolina Panthers UFA
6 Bobby McCray DE Jacksonville Jaguars UFA
7 Bryant Young DE San Francisco 49ers UFA
8 Marques Douglas DE San Francisco 49ers UFA
9 Travis LaBoy DE Tennessee Titans UFA
10 N.D. Kalu DE Houston Texans UFA
11 Antwan Odom DE Tennessee Titans UFA
12 Jimmy Wilkerson DE Kansas City Chiefs UFA
13 Darrion Scott DE Minnesota Vikings UFA
14 Renaldo Wynn DE New Orleans Saints UFA
15 Travis Kirschke DE Pittsburgh Steelers UFA
16 Josh Thomas DE Indianapolis Colts UFA
17 Corey Smith DE/OLB Detroit Lions UFA
18 Bryan Robinson DE Cincinnati Bengals UFA
19 Tony Hargrove DE Buffalo Bills UFA
20 Eric Hicks DE New York Jets UFA
21 Ebenezer Ekuban DE Denver Broncos UFA

Defensive Tackle
1 Albert Haynesworth DT Tennesse Titans UFA
2 Isaac Sopoaga DT San Francisco 49ers UFA
3 Randy Starks DT Tennessee Titans UFA
4 Brian Young DT New Orleans Saints UFA
5 Sam Adams DT Denver Broncos UFA
6 Ted Washington DT Cleveland Browns UFA
7 Spencer Johnson DT Minnesota Vikings UFA
8 Russell Davis DT New York Giants UFA
9 Chuck Darby DT Seattle Seahawks UFA
10 Corey Williams DT Green Bay Packers UFA
11 Damione Lewis DT Carolina Panthers UFA
12 Anthony Maddox DT Houston Texans UFA
13 Dan Klecko DT Indianapolis Colts UFA
14 Colin Cole DT Green Bay Packers UFA
15 Antonio Garay DT Chicago Bears UFA
16 Kimo von Oelhoffen DT Philadelphia Eagles UFA
17 Langston Moore DT Detroit Lions UFA
18 Cedric Killings DT Houston Texans UFA
19 Tim Anderson DT Atlanta Falcons UFA
20 Ian Scott DT Philadelphia Eagles UFA

Outside Linebacker
1 Lance Briggs OLB Chicago Bears UFA
2 Boss Bailey OLB Detroit Lions UFA
3 Demorrio Williams OLB Atlanta Falcons UFA
4 Tedy Bruschi OLB New England Patriots UFA
5 Shantee Orr OLB Houston Texans UFA
6 Sam Williams OLB Oakland Raiders UFA
7 Dhani Jones OLB Cincinnati Bengals UFA
8 Calvin Pace OLB Arizona Cardinals UFA
9 LeMarr Marshall OLB Cincinnati Bengals UFA
10 Junior Seau OLB New England Patriots UFA

Inside Linebacker
1 Karlos Dansby MLB Arizona Cardinals UFA
2 Kawika Mitchell MLB New York Giants UFA
3 Na'ill Diggs MLB Carolina Panthers UFA
4 Jerimiah Trotter MLB Tampa Bay Buccaneers UFA
5 Dontarious Thomas MLB Minnesota Vikings UFA
6 Larry Izzo MLB New England Patriots UFA
7 Randall Godfrey MLB Washington Redskins UFA
8 Teddy Lehman MLB Detroit Lions UFA
9 Tony Gilbert MLB Jacksonville Jaguars UFA
10 Robert Reynolds MLB Tennessee Titans UFA

Cornerback
1 Asante Samuel CB New England Patriots UFA
2 Marcus Trufant CB Seattle Seahawks UFA
3 Drayton Florence CB San Diego Chargers UFA
4 Nnamdi Asomugha CB Oakland Raiders UFA
5 Randall Gay CB New England Patriots UFA
6 Tory James CB New England Patriots UFA
7 Domonique Foxworth CB Denver Broncos RFA
8 Chad Scott CB New England Patriots UFA
9 Karl Paymah CB Denver Broncos RFA
10 Ricardo Colclough CB Cleveland Browns UFA
11 Hank Poteat CB New York Jets UFA
12 Joselio Hanson CB Philadelphia Eagles UFA
13 Daven Holly CB Cleveland Browns RFA
14 David Macklin CB Washington Redskins UFA
15 Jason Webster CB Buffalo Bills UFA
16 Michael Lehan CB Miami Dolphins UFA
17 Keiwan Ratliff CB Indianapolis Colts UFA
18 Stanley Wilson CB Detroit Lions RFA
19 Duane Starks CB Oakland Raiders UFA
20 Reynaldo Hill CB Tennessee Titans RFA

Free Safety
1 Gibril Wilson FS New York Giants UFA
2 Ken Hamlin FS Dallas Cowboys UFA
3 Eugene Wilson FS New England Patriots UFA
4 O.J. Atogwe FS St. Louis Rams RFA
5 William Bartee FS Kansas City Chiefs UFA
6 Madieu Williams FS Cincinnati Bengals UFA
7 Marquand Manuel FS Carolina Panthers UFA
8 Mike Doss FS Minnesota Vikings UFA
9 Brandon McGowan FS Chicago Bears RFA
10 Idress Bashir FS Detroit Lions UFA

Strong Safety
1 Bob Sanders SS Indianapolis Colts UFA
2 Erik Coleman SS New York Jets UFA
3 Atari Bigby SS Green Bay Packers RFA
4 Gerald Sensabaugh SS Jacksonville Jaguars RFA
5 Yerimiah Bell SS Miami Dolphins UFA
6 Hamza Abdullah SS Denver Broncos RFA
7 Omar Stoutmire SS Washington Redskins UFA
8 Jay Bellamy SS New Orleans Saints UFA
9 Tank Williams SS Minnesota Vikings UFA
10 Travares Tillman SS Miami Dolphins UFA

Return Specialist
1 Chris Carr RS/CB Oakland Raiders RFA
2 B.J. Sams RS/CB Baltimore Ravens UFA
3 Andre' Davis RS/WR Houston Texans UFA
4 Rashied Davis RS/WR Chicago Bears RFA
5 Michael Lewis RS/WR San Francisco 49ers UFA

Place Kickers
1 Josh Brown PK Seattle Seahawks UFA
2 Jason Elam PK Denver Broncos UFA
3 Rob Bironas PK Tennessee Titans RFA
4 Lawrence Tynes PK New York Giants UFA
5 Shaun Suisham PK Washington Redskins RFA
6 Morten Andersen PK Atlanta Falcons UFA

Punter
1 Todd Sauerbrun P Denver Broncos UFA
2 Jeff Feagles P New York Giants UFA
3 Michael Koenen P Atlanta Falcons UFA
4 Dustin Colquitt P Kansas City Chiefs RFA
5 Derrick Frost P Washington Redskins UFA
6 Kyle Larson P Cincinnati Bengals UFA


1 Ethan Albright LS Washington Redskins UFA
2 Rob Davis LS Green Bay Packers UFA
3 Ryan Kuehl LS New York Giants UFA
4 Andrew Economos LS Tampa Bay Buccaneers RFA
5 Nathan Hodel LS Arizona Cardinals UFA
6 Lonnie Paxton LS New England Patriots UFA

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Their Welfare Should be Our Concern

One of the issues that Pittsburgh Steelers Fanatic is, well, fanatic about is the long-term, physical well-being of those who play the game. For as much as we want to see James Harrison flatten an opposing quarterback or Hines Ward deliver a crushing, blind-side block down field, we also try to use our little blog to advocate for impeccable, world-class protection and care for the players.

One of the issues that has occupied our attention is that of concussions, Frankly, it began with Ben Roethlisberger's offseason from hell, and picked up steam after last season's Atlanta game (you remember, the one during which he was hit hard, and repeatedly about the head); and we have been amazed at how slow the National Football League has been to do anything serious -- whether it be equipment change(s) and/or more proactive medical care -- about a serious problem.

In October 2006 ESPN Magazine revealed to many of us for the first time that there was/is a problem with post concussion syndrome, and players being rushed back onto the field. Then in February of 2007, writing for the Boston Globe, Jackie MacMullan told the heart-wrenching story of former Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson, and his struggle to survive more concussions than he could count. The story, and Mr. Johnson's assertion that he was forced back into action too soon following head injuries, made for splashy headlines; however it seems that nothing in the league has really changed.

In a story in the New York Times indications are that, at least some, New York Jets players may also be being rushed back in to action. Specifically, the Times article relates the experiences of Jets wide receiver Laveranues Coles. He pointedly refuses to answer a reporter's questions regarding a concussion he suffered saying "I can’t talk about that . . . [y]ou know I can’t talk about that.” The article also points out that two former wideouts for the Jets, Al Toon and Wayne Chrebet, both retired because of post-concussion syndrome.

Also important about this article is that it reveals that Elliot Pellman, formerly the chairman of the NFL's Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee, is "the doctor who oversees the care of the team’s players." The article goes on to say that Dr. Pellman "has been criticized by many medical experts for playing down the effects of concussions and for clearing players to return to the field too soon."

Despite what some in the league (see owners) may think, the players are the game. Forcing, or even allowing, injured players to take the field is unconscionable, but it seems as though that the more things change the more they stay the same. For all the fame and money that the players garner from their participation in the game it seems a mere pittance when compared to the price they are being asked to pay.

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Friday, December 21, 2007

So, Just What is This "Fibula"?

Some information about fibula fractures is probably warranted right about now. Here's the bottom line from MDAdvice.com: "It is impossible to predict exactly how long it will take for any fracture to heal. Variable factors include age, sex and previous state of health and conditioning. The average healing time for this fracture is 4 to 6 weeks. Healing is considered complete when there is no motion at the fracture site and when X-rays show complete bone union."

We have also read that the lower down the leg the break the worse.

The fibula is not the primary weight-bearing bone in the leg, but instead has a "primary function in the knee of . . . the attachement of ligaments and tendons" including the lateral collateral ligament.

In an example of how misery does indeed love company, Lorenzo Neal, the San Diego Chargers' fullback selected to the Pro Bowl, broke his fibula on Sunday and is officially out indefinitely.

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Steelers @ St. Louis: The Good,
the Bad, & the Ugly

On a night when a Hall-of-Fame running back had his number retired, and Pro Bowl running back his season ended, the Steelers ended their two game losing streak with a 41-24 victory over the Rams. Here's a look at what went well, what could have been better, and what we would just as soon forget.

The Good
Basking in the light of a victory almost everything seems like a "good;" however let's begin with Ben Roethlisberger. His passer rating of 158.3, a perfect score in the NFL system, marks the third such rating he has achieved in a game in his career. And with that Mr. Roethlisberger ties Peyton Manning in that statistical category. After a game last week in which passes sailed wildly, and receivers dropped passes that we accurately thrown, the passing game fired on all cylinders Thursday evening. Indeed, Mr. Roethlisberger completed passes to six different receivers, including four to running backs (two to Najeh Davenport and two to Carey Davis), for 261 yards. Coming two days after Pro Bowl participants were named, Mr. Roethlisberger showed everyone who was able to watch the game why he was included amongst the league's elite.

Also impressive were the performances of Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth. After the Steelers' first two running plays resulted in a net -3 yards and the loss their premier running back to a broken leg, Mr. Miller and Mr. Spaeth spent a considerable amount of time on the field -- almost exclusively as blockers. Their efforts to shore up the offensive line were significant, even going against what can charitably be called a mediocre Rams defense: 23 carries, 154 yards (i.e. following those first two carries; and not including scrambles by Ben Roethlisberger). Indeed, the Steelers ran off 37 running plays (59.67% of the total plays run by the Steelers), with a per rush average of 4.5 yards (their season average has been 4.31 yards per rush).

It was great to see a Steelers running back running between the tackles effectively, and if using two tight ends on the same side of the line (which the Steelers did repeatedly) is what is required then so be it.

On the defensive side of the ball, no "good" was sweeter to watch than Ike Taylor actually holding on to an interception, his sixth career pick, and running it back for a game clinching touchdown. The Steelers' career interception leader is Mel Blount (57), and if Mr. Taylor had held on to all the interceptions he's dropped in his career he'd probably be halfway to setting a new record.

Also great to see was the way the defense adjusted in the second half. The result was that they all but shut down the Rams' electric runner Steven Jackson. In the first half Mr. Jackson had 65 yards on 5 carries (36 yards on a single carry). In the second half he had 7 carries for 20 yards. The tale of two halfs for St. Louis could also be found at quarterback. For Mark Bulger the first half looked like this: 9/18, 101 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT (on the last play of the half), with a passer an 81.0 rating. The second half: 9/17, 107 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, but a passer rating of only 67.5. However the most significant number of all was 23. That is the length in yards of Mr. Bulger's longest completion on the night. Though the Rams did move the ball reasonably well (total net yards gained for the game was 316) there were none of the big plays that plagued the Steelers in the preceding two weeks.

Finally, Steelers Nation invaded St. Louis and made it their own -- the NFL Network announcers, all of them, made mention of just how many Black & Gold backers were on hand. It was great that the Steelers ended up with a ninth home game -- HERE WE GO STEELERS, HERE WE GO!!

P.S. A fake punt?!? That was beautiful!

The Bad
Let's begin with Ben Roethlisberger.

If we can give one piece of advice to a Pro Bowl quarterback it is this: THROW THE BALL!! The four sacks that the Rams came up with were all the result of Mr. Roethlisberger holding on to the ball too long. He was nearly seriously injured (when Corey Chavous rolled up onto the back of his leg) on such a play, and we'll be shocked if there isn't a parade of Steelers players and coaches given the young quarterback the same piece of advice during the flight home.

Kick coverage unit! Step up for your weekly flogging.

In fairness, the kick coverage team did a decent job, especially in the second half (on three second half kick returns the Rams averaged 23.33 yards per return). However two enormous returns (one for 43 yards, and a second for 49 yards) in the first half gave St. Louis outstanding field position, allowed them to open up the playbook, which led to two Rams touchdowns. If the Steelers are fortunate enough to make the playoffs this glaring weakness will cost them points -- count on it.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Steelers allowed St. Louis to convert on 50% of its third downs (7/14), despite the fact that coming into the game the Rams were converting on only 37.4%. Related to this is the apparent inability of Dick LeBeau to adjust to the short drops and quick releases used by Marc Bulger to counteract the Steelers' zone blitz. This is a similar approach used by Tom Brady and the Patriots to beat the Steelers, and Pittsburgh is fortunate that the Rams' defense is as porous as it is or they might be looking at their third consecutive loss.

The Ugly
Trainers and players looking at an x-ray on the Steelers' sideline is absolutely the ugliest sight a Steelers fan will ever see.

Willie Parker's broken leg couldn't have happened to a better teammate, harder working player. He's a joy to watch, and here's hoping that there will be no lingering effects (a la Rennie Stennett) once he returns for mini-camp.

On the other hand this crushing loss is going to force the Steelers to reevaluate the way in which they run the ball (i.e. real power running v. stretch plays), and if that motivates the coaches to implement a more straight ahead, ball control style of running that would be an example of making the best of a bad situation.

Conclusion
The offense looked good from the very start, and the defense gained momentum as the game wore on. And while a win is a win, especially after being dominated the previous two games, this was a fairly hard fought win against a team that was itself dominated last week, and now has a record of 3-12. It's ok to feel good, but no one should delude themselves into thinking that the Steelers have solved whatever ailed them against New England and Jacksonville.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Steelers Look for Home Field Advantage Under the Arch

It seems that the St. Louis Rams are not enjoying any more support than when they played in Anaheim.

An article from the Associated Press (and posted on the website of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reveals that the Rams' players are quite frustrated with the numbers of fans entering the Edward Jones Dome who are supporting the visiting team:

"Running back Steven Jackson, the most outspoken of the Rams, said after Sunday's 33-14 loss to the Packers that it felt like playing at Lambeau Field minus the frozen tundra. So many disenchanted fans sold their tickets to visitors that the crowd was close to an even split.

'It's a joke,' Jackson said
."

Here's hoping the weeknight game doesn't keep supporters of the Black & Gold away.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Pro Bowlers Announced

The National Football League is preparing to announce their All-Stars for the game that nobody watches, to be played February 10, 2008, and word from ESPNews and NFL Radio is that 10 11 Dallas Cowboys have made the NFC squad. Included in that number is running back Marion Barber.

Update: 1:00PM PST
Blogging live (as I watch the NFL Network on my Sprint phone!), here are some of the players chosen for the Pro Bowl:

Alan Faneca is in as a starting guard.

James Harrison, (Joey Porter's replacement) is in as a starting linebacker.

Ben Roethlisberger is in as a backup quarterback.

Willie Parker is in as a backup at running back.

Troy Polamalu is in as a backup at safety.

Other Pro Bowlers include (starters are in bold):
Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots
La Danian Tomlinson, RB, San Diego Chargers
Randy Moss, WR, New England Patriots
Reggie Wayne, WR, Indianapolis Colts

Braylon Edwards, WR, Cleveland Browns
T.J. Houshmandzadeh, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Matt Light, Tackle, New England Patriots
Jason Peters, Tackle, Buffalo Bills

Jonathan Ogden, Tackle, Baltimore Ravens
Logan Mankins, Guard, New England Patriots
Kris Dielman, Guard, San Diego Chargers
Jeff Saturday, Center, Indianapolis Colts
Dan Koppen, Center, New England Patriots
Antonio Gates, Tight End, San Diego Chargers
Tony Gonzalez, Tight End, Kansas City Chiefs
Peyton Manning, Quarterback

Update: 1:13PM PST
Still more AFC Pro Bowlers . . .

Offense
Joseph Addai, RB, Indianapolis Colts
Lorenzo Neal, Fullback, San Diego Chargers

Defense
Jared Allen, Defensive End, Kansas City Chiefs
Kyle Vanden Bosch, Defensive End, Tennessee Titans

Jason Taylor, Defensive End, Miami Dolphins
Albert Haynesworth, Defensive Tackle, Tennessee Titans
Vince Wilfork, Defensive Lineman, New England Patriots

Jamal Williams, Interior Linemen/Nose Tackle, San Diego Chargers
Mike Vrabel, Outside Linebacker, New England Patriots
Shawne Merriman, Outside Linebacker, San Diego Chargers
DeMeco Ryans, Linebacker, Houston Texans
Ray Lewis, Inside/Middle Linebacker, Baltimore Ravens
Asante Samuel, Cornerback, New England Patriots
Champ Bailey, Cornerback, Denver Broncos

Antonio Cromartie, Cornerback, San Diego Chargers
Ed Reed, Free Safety, Baltimore Ravens
Bob Sanders, Strong Safety, Indianapolis Colts


Special Teams
Shane Lechler, Punter, Oakland Raiders
Rob Bironas, Place kicker Tennessee Titans
Josh Cribbs, Kick Returner, Cleveland Browns
Kassim Osgood, Special Teamer, San Diego Chargers

Update: 1:19PM PST
NFC Pro Bowlers . . .

Offense
Terrell Owens, Wide Receiver, Dallas Cowboys
Larry Fitzgerald, Wide Receiver, Arizona Cardinals

Torry Holt, Wide Receiver, St. Louis Rams
Donald Driver, Wide Receiver, Green Bay Packers
Walter Jones, Tackle, Seattle Seahawks
Flozell Adams, Tackle, Dallas Cowboys

Chris Samuels, Tackle, Washington Redskins
Steve Hutchinson, Guard, Minnesota Vikings
Leonard Davis, Guard, Dallas Cowboys

Shawn Andrews, Guard, Philadelphia Eagles
Andre Gurode, Center, Dallas Cowboys
Matt Birk, Center, Minnesota Vikings
Jason Witten, Tight End, Dallas Cowboys
Chris Cooley, Tight End, Washington Redskins
Brett Favre, Quarterback, Green Bay Packers
Tony Romo, Quarterback, Dallas Cowboys
Matt Hasselbeck, Quarterback, Seattle Seahawks
Adrian Peterson, Running Back, Minnesota Vikings
Brian Westbrook, Running Back, Philadelphia Eagles
Marion Barber, Running Back, Dallas Cowboys
Tony Richardson, Fullback, Minnesota Vikings

Defense
Aaron Kampman, Defensive End, Green Bay Packers
Patrick Kerney, Defensive End, Seattle Seahawks

Osi Umenyiora, Defensive End, New York Giants
Kevin Williams, Interior Linemen/Nose Tackle, Minnesota Vikings
Pat Williams, Interior Linemen/Nose Tackle, Minnesota Vikings

Tommie Harris, Interior Linemen, Chicago Bears
DeMarcus Ware, Outside Linebacker, Dallas Cowboys
Julian Peterson, Outside Linebacker, Seattle Seahawks

Lance Briggs, Outside Linebacker, Chicago Bears
Lofa Tatupu, Linebacker, Seattle Seahawks
Patrick Willis, Linebacker, San Francisco 49ers
Al Harris, Cornerback, Green Bay Packers
Marcus Trufant, Cornerback, Seattle Seahawks

Terence Newman, Cornerback, Dallas Cowboys
Sean Taylor, Free Safety, Washington Redskins
Ken Hamlin, Free Safty, Dallas Cowboys
Darren Sharper, Strong Safty, Minnesota Vikings

Special Teams
Andy Lee, Punter, San Francisco 49ers
Nick Folk, Place Kicker, Dallas Cowboys
Devin Hester, Kick Returner, Chicago Bears
Brendon Ayanbadejo, Special Teams, Chicago Bears

Not much to argue with (ok, maybe a little), though it is surprising that Casey Hampton -- the key to the Steelers' ability to stop the run (such as it is) -- was left off the squad entirely.

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Steelers @ St. Louis: The Matchups

In his weekly press conference Mike Tomlin said that the Steelers have to "live in a tunnel," and "cannot ride the emotional rollercoaster" that comes with playing in the National Football League. While the players ponder just what all that means let them consider this: Of the six games played on Thursdays this season (i.e. excluding the opening game of the season -- we're trying to get a look at what the short week does to teams) the home team has a 4-2 record; and one of the visiting teams that won was Indianapolis visiting Atlanta.

With that in mind here's a look at some numbers:

St. Louis Offense v. Steelers Defense
Average total yards per game: St. Louis offense 23rd (300.7) v. Steelers defense 1st (258.00).

Average net rushing yards per game: St. Louis offense 21st (97.3) v. Steelers defense 3rd (83.4) Note: Steven Jackson had over 100 yards in the first half against Green Bay last week.

Average net passing yards per game: St. Louis offense 16th (203.4) v. Steelers defense 3rd (174.6)

Average points per game: St. Louis offense 29th (15.71) v. Steelers defense 1st (15.57)

Steelers Offense v. St. Louis Defense
Average total yards per game: Steelers offense 18th (325.0) v. St. Louis defense 17th (329.4)

Average net rushing yards per game: Steelers offense 3rd (139.4) v. St. Louis defense 19th (111.1)

Average net passing yards per game: Steelers offense 26th (185.6) v. St. Louis defense 17th (218.3)

Average points per game: Steelers offense: 8th (23.64) v. St. Louis defense 27th (24.93)

Special Teams
Average yards per punt return: St. Louis 3rd (12.1) v. Steelers 29th (6.5)
Note: Dante Hall is now on injured reserve with a high ankle sprain. In the game against Green Bay the Packers were forced to punt once, and that went for a touchback.

Average yards allowed per punt return: St. Louis 18th (9.7) v. Steelers 17th (8.9)

Average yards per kick return: St. Louis 18th (22.9) v. Steelers 26th (21.3)
Note: Dante Hall is now on injured reserve with a high ankle sprain. In the game against Green Bay rookie Derek Stanley returned six kicks for a total of 121 yards.

Average yards allowed per kick return: St. Louis 32nd (28.2) v. Steelers 13th (22.2)

Net yardage punting average: St. Louis 7th (38.7) v. Steelers 10th (37.7)

Opponent net yardage punting average: St. Louis 31st (39.9) v. Steelers 24th (38.1)

Miscellaneous
Turnover differential: St. Louis 23rd (-7) v. Steelers 12th (+3)

Time of possession: St. Louis 8th (31:01) v. Steelers 1st (33:48)

Red Zone touchdown efficiency: St. Louis 26th (41.7%) v. Steelers 10th (56.3%)

Red Zone defense (touchdowns): St. Louis 26th (57.4%) v. Steelers 19th (53.1%)

Sacks allowed: St. Louis 17th (27) v. Steelers 24th (38)

Sacks: St. Louis 18th (27) v. Steelers 8th (33)

Some Individual Numbers
Passer rating: Marc Bulger 71.1 (7 TDs, 11 INTs) v. Ben Roethlisberger 100.5 (29 TDs, 11 INTs)

Leading rushers: Steven Jackson 862 yards (4.2 yards per carry, 5 TDs) v. Willie Parker 1,317 yards (4.1 yards per carry, 2 TDs)

Leading receiver: Torry Holt 83 receptions (1,055 yards, 12.7 yards per catch, 7 TDs) v. Hines Ward 66 receptions (677 yards, 10.3 yards per catch, 7 TDs)

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Monday, December 17, 2007

A Little Perspective Goes a Long Way

"When you hit adversity, you see what type of players you have on your team . . . [w]ho's going to quit? Who's going to keep fighting? The encouraging thing is we fought to the end."

A quote from a Steelers player after yesterday's game? Actually it's a statement that Hines Ward made -- December 4, 2005 -- in the aftermath of a loss to the Cincinnati Bengals that seemingly ended Pittsburgh's playoff hopes. All fans of the Black & Gold know what happened after that: the team won its final four regular season games (including a game in the dome at Minnesota) to finish at 11-5, made the playoffs, and went on to win the fifth Super Bowl in franchise history.

The 2007 edition of the Steelers compares favorably, statistically speaking, to that 2005 team. Here's a look at some of the numbers through fourteen games:
  • Net rushing yards: 2005, 1,672 v. 2007, 1,952

  • Net passing yards: 2005, 2,413 v. 2007, 2,598

  • Avg. number of offensive plays per game: 2005, 55.93 v. 2007, 63.43

  • Points scored: 2005, 295 v. 2007, 331.

  • Net rushing yards allowed: 2005, 1,154 v. 2007, 1,168

  • Net passing yards allowed: 2005, 2,711 v. 2007, 2,444

  • Avg. number of offensive plays allowed: 2005, 58.86 v. 2007, 57.57

  • Points allowed: 2005, 234 v. 2007, 211

Clearly everything is relative. The doom-and-gloom surrounding the team now is but a temporal thing. If the Steelers can win their next two games, thereby clinching the division, this two game losing streak will be a distant memory -- at least until they face Jacksonville during Wild Card Weekend.

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Something Different

For those of you haven't seen this on ESPN already . . . Brian Westbrook did something I've never seen before in an NFL game.

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

You Could Look it Up -- Update

With the Steelers losing to Jacksonville, teams that have lost to New England are now 4-8 in the following week and have been outscored 148-223.

Original Post
We're not sure what to make of this, but of the twelve teams the Patriots beat prior to beating the Steelers, eleven of them played the following week (Cincinnati lost to New England in week four and had a bye the following week). In those eleven games, the teams that had lost to the Patriots the previous week have a combined record of 4-7 and have been outscored by a combined score 126-194.

Of course, included in those totals are two games against Buffalo, and single games against the Bengals, Dolphins, Jets, and Redskins amongst others.

Meanwhile the Steelers are 3-0 following their three previous losses, and won those games by a combined score of 48-13 (included in that is the 3-0 win over Miami).

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Jacksonville @ Steelers: The Good,
the Bad, & the Ugly

What kind of day was it for the Steelers? For one game at least they were worse than the NFL's worst (i.e. even the Dolphins won). If ever there was a game that was not as close as the score would seemingly indicate it was the the game between the surging Jaguars and the collapsing Steelers. And without further adieu, here's a closer look at the disaster game.

The Good
Is there a rookie special team player of the year award? If so, Daniel Sepulveda should receive serious consideration. On Sunday he kicked seven times, had a per kick average of 40.9, and a net of 38.7. Looking at it another way, of Mr. Sepulveda's seven kicks only four were returned, and those for a combined total of 15 yards. Two of the punts were downed/went out of bounds inside the Jacksonville twenty yard line. On a day when the Pittsburgh offense did little, Mr. Sepulveda's efforts helped keep the Steelers in the game.

Highlighting Daniel Sepulveda's efforts leads naturally to a discussion of the special teams, specifically the coverage teams, which were also a positive. As inferred above, the punt coverage team did a solid job. In fact, coming into the game Jacksonville was averaging just over 10 yards per punt return for the season. In Sunday's game the Steelers held them to 3.8 yards per punt return. Additionally, the kick coverage unit did well -- holding the Jags to nearly six yards under their season average (18.3 v. 24.1). Individually, Marquis Cooper was a special teams standout on Sunday. He was officially credited with one special teams tackle, but he could have been credited with at least one more. Having been re-signed just this week (specifically to shore-up the special teams) he came in and did the job he was hired for. Given the way the rest of the team played that's saying something.

The Bad
It may seem the height of irony, however even on a day when Willie Parker rushed for 100 yards the offensive line has to be called out for another poor performance. The number of sacks certainly tells a story -- five against Jacksonville, and forty-three for the season (the Steelers allowed 49 sacks in all of 2006). Some will point to Mr. Parker's rushing total as evidence of an overall good effort by this unit; however such a perspective ignores the fact the nearly half of his rushing total (42 yards) came on three carries. More significantly, if the offensive line had actually been effective in its run blocking wouldn't the Steelers have called more than 15 running plays? Even after falling behind, perhaps because the Steelers' defense played so abysmally, wouldn't the Steelers have done anything they could do to hold onto the football? The fact is the offensive line did little to assert itself, and the result was a game in which:
  • Jacksonville possessed the ball more than 15 minutes longer than the Steelers -- an entire quarter longer.
  • Ergo, the Jaguars ran 20 more offensive plays than the Steelers.
What was once a strength of the team is now suspect; and unless/until it's bolstered the Steelers will be nothing more than a middlin' team with a rich history.

The Ugly
Fred Taylor ran for 147 yards, Maurice Jones-Drew ran for another 69, and David Garrard added eight more for a total of 224 (note: for those wondering the record for yards rushing by a Steelers opponent in a single game was set November 4, 1934 by the Detroit Lion -- they gained 426 yards). In the thirteen games leading up to this one the Steelers had surrendered a total of 944 net yards of rushing. The previous high total for this season was the 151 yards rushing given up to the New York Jets (which means that 31.5% of the rushing yards gained against the Steelers' defense this season have come in two games).

In the fourth quarter, needing a stop after the offense came to life and tied the game, the Jaguars marched right . . . down . . . the . . . field (8 plays, 73 yards, using 3:35) for the game winning score.

The Jaguars were 3-for-3 on fourth downs.

Dick LeBeau is a hall-of-famer, and he will forever have a special place in the hearts of Steelers fans. But, what exactly was the game plan -- certainly this wasn't it, right? David Garrard is no slouch, but wasn't it incumbent on the Steelers to see if he's actually capable of throwing for a win?

But on a much more basic level, it must be said that the Jaguar's offensive line dominated the Steelers' front seven; and though Jacksonville has won its last three meetings against the Steelers that's the first time anyone could say that.

And Anthony Smith and Ike Taylor . . . please feel free to take care of your job (i.e. deep coverage). If the other nine guys can't stop Fred Taylor then the defense needs more help than you two can provide.

Conclusion
The Steelers now go to St. Louis a team that they should beat -- just like Arizona, Denver, and the New York Jets -- but it appears that there are, quite suddenly, no sure things with this ballclub. Obviously, if there is to be a playoff appearance this season (and at this point we're not convinced that would be a good thing) they need to win their two remaining games.

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Jacksonville v. Steelers:
Instant First Half Analysis

As we pointed out Saturday Jacksonville has a winning record when losing the coin toss, so the fact that the Steelers won the toss represented something of an early setback.

First Quarter
Obviously the offense was just pathetic. They gained 41 yards, twenty-one rushing and sixteen passing, but with Ben Roethlisberger being sacked twice for a total loss of seventeen yards the official passing statistic for the first quarter was -1 yards.

Defensively all that can be said is that they adjusted as the quarter went on, and after allowing a forty-two yard drive on Jacksonville's first possession the Jags netted a total of 13 yards on the other two possessions of the quarter.


Second Quarter
Thank God for Adam Podlesh. The horrible effort by the Jaguars' punter, from deep in his own territory, was the equivalent of a turnover. And Ben Roethlisberger's third down 18 yard touchdown pass exceeded his total for the entire first quarter. However the inability of the Steelers' offense to do anything with their next two possessions of the quarter -- they had -1 total yards -- allowed the Jaguars to turn the field position battle back in their favor.

As pathetic as the Steelers' offense played the defense has been an even bigger disappointment. Not stopping Maurice Jones-Drew on the fourth down carry (as a UCLA alum I love Maurice, but come on!) was a back breaker. All told, the two scoring drives by Jacksonville took 18 plays and covered 110 yards. Fred Taylor already has 72 yards rushing, Mr. Jones-Drew has 20, and David Garrard has 6 -- Jacksonville is more than on their way to a 100 yard rushing day.


Conclusion
The Steelers have just played one of their worst thirty minutes of football, but only trail by three points. Improvement is likely to result in a Steelers' win, however another half like the first will almost certainly result in a loss.

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Storm Clouds Off in the Distance

It seems just like yesterday that the National Football League and its Players' Association (NFLPA) narrowly avoided the pandemonium of an "uncapped" year when the two parties hammered out a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA). With that agreement labor peace was guaranteed through the 2011 season.

Or maybe not.

Word from NFLPA's head man, Gene Upshaw, is that the NFL's owners are expected to opt for early termination of the CBA in the first quarter of 2008. Under the terms of the agreement 24 owners must vote to keep the existing CBA in force. According to Mr. Upshaw "[c]learly, there are not 24 votes."

So don't despair -- even after the Super Bowl is over there is sure to be plenty of NFL news.

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Changes in the Offing for Disabled Players

The treatment of former, disabled, players has been an area in which the National Football League has received some well-deserved criticism. Now comes word, in the form of an NFL press release, on changes in the NFL retirement plan that have been agreed to by the league and the National Football League Player's Association (NFLPA). In as much as Pittsburgh Steelers Fanatic has been fairly critical of the league on this issue, the contents of the press release are offered here verbatim.

"The NFL and NFL Players Association have agreed to a series of improvements to streamline and expedite the process for retired players vested in The Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Player Retirement Plan to receive disability benefits.

In addition to the improvements in the disability procedures, the NFL and NFLPA also agreed to provide retired players with a prescription drug card that will permit them to purchase prescription medications at a substantial discount. This new benefit will be provided at no cost to former players and will be funded under the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Following are the changes to the disability procedures:

1. Medical Director – The plan will retain a medical director to consult with the two-person initial claims committee and, as needed, with the retirement board to assist in resolving claims. It is expected that this will reduce the number of initial denials at the claims committee level, expediting both initial approvals and the processing of appeals. In addition, the medical director can help ensure that standards are consistently applied, that reports are prepared in a timely basis, and otherwise monitor the performance of neutral physicians.

2. Physician Panels – The plan will establish a series of physician “panels” or “teams,” consisting of doctors with experience in orthopedic and other practices. These teams will initially be located in areas where there is the largest concentration of retired players, including in Arizona, California, Florida and Texas, as well as in other major metropolitan areas. This change will reduce the trips required of people needing to be examined by doctors in different specialties.

3. Claims Specialist – The plan will provide a specialist to receive calls from applicants via a toll-free number. This specialist will assist in preparing applications and advise applicants on the information that is required. The completed application will be sent to the applicant for review, verification and signature. The 45-day review period will begin once the signed application is returned. This service will make it more likely that applications are completed correctly the first time and thus reduce the processing time.

4. Expedited Email Appeals – The retirement board will, whenever possible, decide appeals via email ballots. This will allow for faster decisions on many appeals and will avoid requiring applicants to wait for the next scheduled meeting of the retirement board.

5. Extending Review Period – The plan will reduce the number and frequency of continuation reviews for those applicants receiving total and permanent disability benefits by extending the current three-year maximum to at least five years. Any three trustees may require a continuation review more frequently, although not more frequently than annually, if they decide there is reason to do so.

'We at the NFLPA promised some time ago, including to the U.S. Congress, that we would do our best to improve and expedite the disability claims process, and these five concrete steps plus the prescription drug card help fulfill that promise,' said GENE UPSHAW, the NFL Players Association Executive Director.

Earlier this week (December 10), the NFL and NFLPA announced the creation of a new benefit plan to assist eligible retired players in need of joint replacement surgery. The program selected 14 leading medical centers across the country to make available specialized, coordinated care to players covered by this new program, which includes financial assistance to all players, regardless of their financial situation, to cover the cost of the operations.

'These changes will substantially improve the disability process and are another step in our commitment to address the medical needs of retired players,' adds NFL Executive Vice President of Labor Relations HAROLD HENDERSON.
"

Anything that makes it easier for these former players, i.e. the players upon whom the NFL's multibillion dollar industry was built, to receive that assistance that they have earned and require is welcomed. However, anyone who has dealt with the bureaucracy of "benefit plans" (i.e. health insurance) know how frustrating that can be. So just how much change there will actually be remains to be seen.

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Odds & Ends: Pre-Game Edition

As the Steelers prepare to host the Jacksonville Jaguars here are some random items for your consideration:

Looking Forward by Looking Back
In week two of the 2006 season the Steelers travelled to Jacksonville for a Monday night matchup with the Jags, losing 9-0. At the time the game represented the lowest scoring Monday night game ever -- until the Steelers beat the Dolphins 3-0 earlier this season. How dominant was the Jags defense? Willie Parker was limited to 20 yards of rushing on 11 carries, and the Steelers had no rushing first downs. And lest anyone think that it was only the running game that performed horribly, Ben Roethlisberger, playing in his first game since emergency appendectomy two weeks before, achieved a 38.7 quarterback rating that night, and Hines Ward had no receptions.

How bad was it? Jacksonville possessed the football for nearly fifteen minutes longer than the Steelers (37:25 v. 22:35) as they ran twenty-two more offensive plays (70 v. 48) than did the Steelers.

Coincidentally, in their defeat of Carolina last week the Jaguars offense ran off 75 plays, their highest total of the season so far, and possessed the ball for 38:58, also their best performance in that category of the season-to-date (though it should be noted that they have had a time of possession total of thirty-four minutes or more in six games this season -- their record in those games is 5-1, with the only loss coming against Indianapolis on December 2nd).

The Marcus Stroud Factor
Much is being made of the Pro Bowl defensive end being placed on injured reserve; and while we do not know Jack Del Rio, it's probably safe to say that he would rather have him playing than not. However, if any Steelers fans believe that Mr. Stroud's absence is a just the "advantage" that the team needs remember this: In the game last season Marcus Stround had one tackle, and zero sacks. The big playmakers in that game were middle linebacker Mike Peterson (2 tackles, 5 assists), Donovan Darius (3 tackles, 3 assists -- what a difference a year makes), middle linebacker Daryl Smith (yes, two middle linebackers -- 4 tackles, 1 assist), and the biggest of them all -- left cornerback Rashean Mathis who had three tackles, one assist, and two interceptions. That's the same Rashean Mathis who in week six off the 2005 season intercepted a Tommy Maddox pass in overtime and returned it for a touchdown.

Coming into this week's game Mike Peterson is the Jaguars' leading tackler, however Mr. Mathis has only one interception. Instead, free safety Reggie Nelson and strong safety Sammy Knight are tied for the team lead in picks with four each. In addition to his four picks Mr. Knight is number two in tackles for the Jaguars' defense.

Rushing Defense
In the first game of the 2007 Jacksonville's defense yielded a mind-boggling 282 yards rushing to Tennessee. Since that game the Jaguars have given up 928 yards of rushing (77.33 yards per game), and have not allowed a team to rush for 100 yards since their November 4th loss to New Orleans.

The Jack Del Rio Factor
Jack Del Rio has a 17-20 record as head coach in road games; and his record when trailing at the end of the first quarter is 8-21. Additionally, his coaching record in games in which the turnover margin was either even or in his opponent's favor (i.e. the Jaguars committed more turnovers) is 13-29. Conversely, when the Jags lead at the end of the first quarter their record (under Mr. Del Rio) is 24-3 (and, under Mr. Del Rio, the team is 29-5 when they score first). And when Jacksonville wins the turnover battle they have a record of 30-4.

From the "who'd have thunk it?" file, Mr. Del Rio's Jags are 15-15 when they win the coin toss, and 28-18 when they lose the toss.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

This is hard to figure

On a day when George Mitchell called upon the leadership of Major League to strengthen its drug testing program comes a report that makes us wonder if the NFL shouldn't start some type of testing program for its owners.

According to the Baltimore Sun, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti has informed head coach Brian Billick that he will return as head coach in 2008.

Mr. Billick has a career, regular season, record of 71-61 since being hired as head coach prior to the 1999 season. However, since winning the Super Bowl in 2000 (his second season in Baltimore) the Ravens have a playoff record of 1-3 and have missed the playoffs completely in three of those six seasons. The Ravens are 4-9 so far in 2007.

While Mr. Bisciotti should be commended for being a patient, dare we say "Rooneyesque," owner; one has to wonder just what it will take for Mr. Billick to be relieved of his duties.

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