Thursday, May 07, 2015

Led Zeppelin Admission

[Warning: the following will be of interest to only fans of Led Zeppelin... and possibly fans of my personality cult]

Zeppelin has remained my favorite band for decades now.  As a teenager, I remember my friends introducing me to their albums and I just fell in love, even when they moved on to the Who (who, har, I greatly respect, more on that later) I stayed with Zeppelin.  They have the fewest proportion of bad songs of any long standing band (and I can listen to the crud... usually).  I also possess every bootleg I can get my digital hands on and they are a great treasure trove.

What's the admission?  Well, as a teenager, my friends denigrated Presence in favor of In Through the Out Door, which they considered musically more adept.  Nonetheless, after years of listening and fandom, I have to say that ITTOD is their weakest album by far, containing two of their lowest quality songs ("I'm Gonna Crawl" and the poignant and heartbreaking yet not-very-good "All My Love"). Presence, on the other hand, has a great start ("Achilles Last Stand" is freakin' awesome) and it's only weak entry is "Tea for One." 

The real scandal though, is that I actually like their last album, Coda, a heckuva lot.  The only weak entry is their redone "I Can't Quit You Baby" (a holdover from their early note-for-note Blues mimicry*), and many of the tracks are very fun: "Walter's Walk" (another admission, I also like "The Crunge" so that could disqualify me), and "Darlene" (which is a better parody of country music than "Hot Dog"). 

Naturally, I hold the trump for last: "Bonzo's Montreaux" - so good they later merged it with "Moby Dick" (halavai they should merge in one of the "Pat's Delight"s).  Of the later albums, ITTOD just doesn't hold up, even compared to Coda!   Throw tomatoes if you must.

* = when I first heard the early Zeppelin, and early Rolling Stones, I thought their blues songs were atrocious, and I judged the bands accordingly.  I thought that they were young and untrained and only later were able to refine their skills.  Then I heard the original blues songs they were covering and found out that they were equally as bad.  Gadzooks!  I love the blues, as every red-blooded American male does, but not so many of the early bluesmen were listenable.  There are a handful of supermen better than their British successors - Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, John Lee Hooker - but a lot of the early stuff is as bad as the early UK blues-rock.   More tomatoes now I assume.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Songs About Making Songs

I have asserted to my musicologist wife that at least in Rock n' Roll (my bailiwick), I had noticed that whenever a band - which regularly wrote (the de rigueur) love songs - had a breakup song, the latter would be above average for their quality.

Recently, I think I can expand on that to suggest three more genres to add to (1) breakup songs: (2)  songs about the creative process, (3) the sequela of that, songs of insomnia, and (4) songs about the struggles of fame.  The latter is not as interesting as the others, but all four have in common the theme of anger.  And maybe anger is actually a great artistic muse (either that or it's frustration, same thing in this context).

Here's a current list of these types of songs, starting with #2, songs of the creative process.
  1. The Who "Guitar and Pen"
  2. Eagles "Certain Kind of Fool
  3. (arguably): Foreigner "Juke Box Hero"

Just for fun, some (#3) insomnia songs:
  1. Chicago "25 or 6 to 4"
  2. Green Day "Brain Stew"
  3. Beatles "I'm So Tired"

The breakup songs (#1) that I have in my own catalog: [roughly defined]
  1. The Beatles "For No One"
  2. Billy Joel "And So It Goes"
  3. Bob Seger "Still the Same"*
  4. The Commodores "Sail On"
  5. The Commodores "Still"*
  6. Elton John "I'm Still Standing"* 
  7. Elton John "Empty Garden"**
  8. Elton John "Sad Songs (Say So Much)"**
  9. Elton John "Candle in the Wind"**
  10. Jay & the Americans "She Cried" ***
  11. The Rolling Stones "You Can't Always Get What You Want"
  12. U2 "One"
  13. U2 "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"
  14. U2 "With or Without You" ****
* = do all songs with "Still" in the title count as breakup songs?  Discuss.
** = Elton John has cornered the market with eulogy songs, which are a subset.
*** = This possibly ruins my thesis because this band barely makes decent music.
**** = I'm stopping at 3.  Did U2 even write a love song?


Please add some if you know of any favorites.  Sure, there are lists on the internet, but these are songs I've heard first and then categorized.


Tuesday, August 05, 2014

The War in Numbers

Good summary by the Jerusalem Post: "Operation Protective Edge by numbers". This is remarkable if it can be confirmed:
1,867 Palestinians were killed, according to Gaza officials. Of those, 750 to 1,000 were terrorists, says the army: 253 from Hamas, 147 from the Islamic Jihad, and 603 were militants whose affiliations were not immediately established.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Anonymous Against Israel

This is not good news: "Anonymous Declares Cyber War on Israel, Downs Mossad Site, Many Others" Anonymous is a bunch of anarchist/anti-authority cyber-experts who use very powerful computer tools to attack those they don't like. Now, they've turned against Israel because of the Gaza War. This is bad for two big reasons:
  1. Anonymous is very scary. People committed to destruction are never good guys, and computers are early in their universal usage, so many of us who are dubbed "Zionist" (i.e. all Jews), can be in their cross-hairs and I am not capable of protecting myself from that level of assault
  2. If this group of young tech experts considers Hamas to be the good guys in this conflict, then that's a bad sign for the world, vis-a-vis the rise of a new Communist/Nazi style culture.
That's your morning scare. You're welcome.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Good piece - Why Good Societies Stigmatize Anti-Semitic Language

Why Good Societies Stigmatize Anti-Semitic Language
by Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

Never heard of the journal or the author before, so I don't know if he's a loony... The piece starts slow and not so deep, but he hits his stride in the middle to the end and it is excellent. This line especially:
Taboos against using certain language against certain groups is always tied to the violence that has been exercised against these groups, because the language is seen, quite reasonably, as both symbolizing and facilitating that violence.

This is also good:
[The Holocaust] is unique, first of all, because it is unprecedented. The Holocaust was the first time that a genocide was designed and executed in a complete, systematic fashion, using scientific, innovative means of destruction. Its goals were universal. It mobilized all of the authorities, civil and military, of the regime, and indeed the whole society. The Armenian genocide sought to kill all Armenians in Turkey, not all Armenians on the planet. The Rwandan genocide did not deploy new founts of human ingenuity to the end of efficient, total massacre. While Communism killed more people, and was occasionally an instrument of racist (indeed, anti-Semitic) violence, its motivating principle was not the extermination of a certain group of people because of who they were. While slavery in the American South was fundamentally racist like Nazism, slavery was not a historically unprecedented event—indeed, slavery is present in the history of every civilization—nor was its goal genocide.

This combination of factors—fundamental racism, unprecedentedness, universality, scientificness, hellish ingenuity, totality of execution—is why the Holocaust justly stands in our collective imagination as unique among all instances of human evil.
A good read, and a good job.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Tractate Taanit Thoughts

We finished Taanit yesterday in this Daf Yomi cycle. I'm thinking I should write a post like this when we finish in order to get some of my notes down despite the breakneck speed that dafyomi compels me to follow. Sure, I should write these down on daf day, but I'm always behind...

I thought Beitza was an excellent masekhet: filled with important halakhic concepts. Rosh Hashanah was even better - most of the theological concepts of judgement which I expected with Yoma were analyzed in RH. The Mishna of RH is chock full of great things and the Gemara follows suit. Taanit, however, is a jarring reverse from those 2 in quality; it's beyond just not good, it's pretty scary bad. Why? Because the basic mitzvah is about how we need to fast during difficult times. But instead of the mature theodicy of RH which is about individual judgement and responsibility, Taanit is about a shallow theodicy that presumes God will reward and punish IMMEDIATELY based on clearly defined merits/demerits. This assumption is so dangerous; it's not upheld by (1) most grown-up theology, or (2) everyday observation, nor is it (3) consistent with most of our moral philosophy. Basically said, it is the mentality of Job's friends, and I think I can say confidently that his friends are supposed to be wrong.

All 3 problems are significant. (1) shows that there are opposing views, and that is how I deal with this masekhet. I imagine that the grown-ups left the room for Congressional recess, as it were, and the mystical clowns got ahold of the floor that day and included all this stuff. Or maybe the grown-ups felt that since many of these stories are part of the tradition, even though they disagree with it, they needed to be included somewhere, so might as well put it in this tractate which has the undercurrent of mystical magic.

(2) is a problem because many cases of "off the derech" for mature thinking adults are as a result of reacting to these types of childish, and UN-NECESSARY, theology. I have historical cases but I've also seen it in my own rabbinic counseling career. It's self-inflicted wounds.

(3) Because the stories are just horrible after horrible. They are such chillulei Hashem that I cannot even cite them in good conscience. These stories cannot be serious contenders in our moral philosophy, and this can be seen in the over-time effort put in by the Aggadah scholars, especially the Maharsha, who do their best to render these terrible stories anodyne.

Now, it's possible that I'm wrong about the inconsitancy of the theodicy presented in the story. Only recently did I hear a similar concept labeled in modern times as "hashgacha pratit" - which I thought just meant God's constant scrutiny, but which I've now heard means God will give immediate messages and reactions to an individual's behavior. HP isn't nearly as bad as what we see in Taanit (anybody saying something like the third chapter in Taanit would be laughed at and vilified) but HP suffers from the same 3 objections as above.

There are some redeeming qualities. Taanit has some interesting and even invaluable points about science and public policy - for the same reason we have all the stuff about theodicy, i.e. how to assess what is a public threat. So the set reaction - fasting - leads to the philosophy issues above, but the need to know what to react to requires knowledge of what is threatening to the public weal. So they need to define the 'rainy season' but also how crops grow and what rains are the best for each. They define the types of calamities which are 'normal' (wolves) and abnormal and thus indicative of Divine punishment. This latter category helps me understand the 'public health' knowledge of 1500 years ago, which is interesting to me as a historian and social scientist.

There's so much I have written in the margins of my gemara and it's not possible to deal with them all in the time frame I want to devote to this, sorry. One last brief point, the bad theology of this tractate reminds me of 'samurai morality' i.e. it reflects a culture of strict honor. This has implications on life-and-death questions, my bread and butter, so I may return to this further.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

It's Been a While

As a person determined to stay both sane and un-angry, I stay away from the New York Times articles on Israel.  They are stupid and offensive, hallmarks of modern journalism.   But since there's a crisis in Israel, and I have the Times open in my browser, I see the front page headline: "Israel Steps Up Air Offensive in Gaza" with the sublede: "Israel on Tuesday bombed about 50 targets in airstrikes that Hamas’s military wing called “a serious escalation.”"

This level of bias is almost comical. Israel has been under constant rocket attack for the past few days from Hamas in Gaza. Rockets now have been able to hit Tel Aviv - which is the capital of Israel for those who reject Israel's right to exist. So how is this an offensive? It's clearly under the definition, of any normal dictionary, of 'defense.' Then the Times quotes a Hamas official?! Whaaaaat? Hamas is a terror organization that openly calls for Israel's destruction. How are they even credible?

And even with the NYT's shoddy journalism, I'd expect there to be 'the other side', i.e. from the Democratically elected Israeli government or something, but... nope. Maybe it's in the article, which I won't read because of the sane/angry thing. But according to the stupid journalism handbook, are you allowed to have both bits of data, the headline and the sublede, be of one "side"? Especially so when the one side is a criminal organization committed to mass murder, no?

Ah well. I do look forward to the day when these news agencies go back to the good side. But considering that there actually is no credentials, or training, necessary to be a journalist, I don't think that day will happen any time soon.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Chuck Noll, Dies at 82

Barukh Dayan ha-Emet: Chuck Noll, Coach of Steelers’ 1970s Dynasty, Dies at 82. Noll was, by definition, the greatest coach of the Superbowl era. Very sad.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Waiting for the Power to go Out

As I've mentioned before, it used to be that being inside on a bad weather day was actually kind of fun. But in the past decade or so, I've lived in places with abysmal power grids and bad weather just means an inevitable loss of power. And so I live in fear every time the wind speed goes over 10 mph. This is nearly intolerable, given our country's wealth and resources. We haven't lost power yet which is remarkable given this horrible winter (3 snow-days for my kids in 2 weeks), but our luck must run out some time.

Unlike the summer brown-outs, which can be avoided (we're told) by reducing energy use, the winter weather blowouts are unavoidable. I still have the summer habits as my initial thought, i.e. "if I turn off all the lights, maybe the power will stay on!" But no. In fact, I should do the opposite: use as much energy as I can before the shaky trees and 50 year old made-in-Burma transformers implode.

And unlike the summer, where at least the roads are accessible during an outage, in the winter we're stuck indoors with no heat, no power, no fridge, and I get flash-memories of The Shining.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Why I Want the Broncos to Win

There's a thread over at SteelersDepot about how to survive a Superbowl without the Steelers in it.  They asked the question about whether people were Steelers fans or football fans, the nafka mina is whether you could watch football when the Steelers fate is sealed. Since I'm an expatriate Pittsburgher, I have had to live for years without my favorite NFL team to root for.  So for me this is an easier prospect than for the Western PA locals.

I am a sports fan, especially in the past few years when I've soured on Hollywood and TV, and my answer is easy (see below for what that means).  But even with the Steelers out, I can still root for them, in a roundabout way.  Because the Steelers are an elite team, we fans can take a very long view, at least in the Superbowl era.

We root for overall Superbowl record.  See what I wrote last year before the nightmare of SB47 for more on this, but basically I root for the Steelers to have the most SB appearances, SB wins, and if possible the best SB record.  For example, last year's Superbowl was a nightmare because I needed to root for the Ravens (ugh) so the 49ers could lose and ruin their 5-0 record.  If SF won, then they'd have as many rings as Pittsburgh but no losses.  Thank goodness they lost (you should have heard me at the end of the game, after the 'mysterious' blackout).

So for this year, I again take a long view, and it may be even longer than most. I'm rooting, seriously, for the Broncos.   Here are the reasons, with the biggest at the end:
  1. Both teams are artificially inflated because they have the two most egregious home-field advantages.  The Seahawks' 12th-man bull-spliff is infuriating - it's basically cheating.  But that also makes them likely to be worse when they're on a neutral field.  The inflated stats/wins skew the data, and that kinda stuff fools people (see my rants about the 2000 election and Spygate), but I expect to see it on display Sunday.  Same holds for Denver.  They got to 3 Superbowls in the 80s on Elway's arm, Browns being the Browns, and the home-field advantage which inflated their numbers.  Both teams this year are actually talented, so I expect a good battle, but I don't like either team because of the home-field cheat.
  2. Richard Sherman's insane rant after the NFCCG doesn't affect my rooting interest.  He was classless and remains so, but a lot of athletes act that way.  Although, I don't ever remember an unhinged rant like his.  Muhammad Ali was controlled, Sherman was actual crazy.  If you recall, Sherman was busted for taking Adderall, and while it may be that he was abusing it to get the crank boost (like many highschoolers), it could also be that he has ADHD.  I know people with ADD and Sherman's rant falls into the category of someone with that condition.  The reason people were repulsed is because unmedicated abnormal psychology is disturbing.  But it's a real condition and he needs meds.
  3. The reaction to Sherman went racist very quickly, another scary sign of what America remains even years after the Civil Rights Act.  Hence why I want to emphasize that while Sherman was classless and unhinged, my tack against the 'hawks is not racially based.  If it were the 'hawks against the Patriots, Ravens, Bengals, Raiders, Browns (ha), or Texans, I'd be rooting for them.
The biggest reason I'm rooting for Denver, is because I need Manning to win for the Steelers sake.  Follow me here: Manning winning will add more wood to the fire of Spygate. Brady is given more credit than Manning because of their head-to-head match-ups, which could/probably have been Manning wins. If Manning wins Sunday, on a new team against a #1 defense and in the cold, then it'll help him - sure - but will finally convince hold-outs that Brady was propped by cheating.

And then, oh I hope, we can convince people that the Steelers should have been in the 2001 and 2004 Superbowls as well.

Look at how long they make Jerome Bettis wait to get into the Hall.  The Patriots cheated to win the AFC championships in 2001 and 2004.  If the Steelers went to Superbowl 36 and 39 as well as 40 with Bettis, he'd be in on the first ballot. We'd have maybe one more ring (over the Eagles, which would have been Pennsylvania sweet, but the Rams were too tough IMO) and our team would have been the legitimate dynasty, helping get Faneca, Cowher and Hines into the Hall as well.

So, in my mind, Manning winning will help fuel the case for Steelers greatness as well.

APPENDICES
1. My biggest proofs for Patriot cheating - aside from their actually getting caught and Goodell burning the evidence because of the horrible damage it would cause the whole sport, cf. Tour de France - is that the Patriots had abnormally high turnovers.  I watched Superbowl 39 recently and the announcers were saying how amazing the Patriots D was at being able to know when a screen pass was coming.  The Pats won all three Superbowls by a field-goal, which shows their lack of non-cheating talent.

2.  For "the Browns being the Browns" see this great video:

Steelers New RB Coach

So far, the Steelers are doing very well in the off-season.  The AFC North was mess this year: Bengals win the division but crash and burn gloriously in the first game, as usual; the Steelers & Ravens are both 8-8, which for the 2013 AFC was actually pretty good, but not up to both team's standards, and the Browns were the Browns.

The offseason has continued the bad juju with coach changes. The Bengals lost their OC (new Redskins HC) and DC (new Vikings HC), the Ravens their OC (new Detroit HC), and and the Browns were the Browns.: they fired their head-coach in what looks like a panicked frenzy, their very talented Coordinators, both Offense and Defensive, walked.  And the Steelers?  So far, we've lost two position coaches, O-line and Running Backs.  The O-line has been a disaster for a long time and not only did we jettison a bad load, but we hired probably the most talented possible person out there, Mike Munchak, making our staff the only one with three former head-coaches, and two Hall-of-Famers.

The loss of our RB coach, Kirby Wilson, doesn't sadden me either.  The guy was ambitious, apparently, and the Steelers aren't a place to rise as RB coach.  We've had only 2 RB coaches from 1972-2013!  Anyway, the running game has been miserable, along with the O-line, for years, so good riddance.   The new fellow is James Saxon, and he may be exactly what we need. According to poster furthur56 at Behind the Steel Curtain:
So you're saying the guy that got to Kansas City the same year that Priest Holmes got there has only "okay" credentials. You know they guy who Baltimore didn’t want, had rushed for only 2000 yards over 4 seasons, and became a huge breakout star after he hooked up with Saxon. The guy who was there when Larry Johnson was drafted and after initial reports on him tended to include the “bust” label, also developed into a huge star. I’m sure James Saxon had nothing to do with that development. In the history of the NFL only 11 times has a running back scored 20 or more rushing touchdowns in a season, 3 out of those 11 times the plateau was reached by a running back coached by James Saxon. The guy has coached 4 different Running Backs and, you’ll love this Steeler fans, 2 different Fullbacks to Pro Bowl Seasons. That’s a little better than “okay” credentials in my book. He’s shown that he can take a Running Back off the trash heap (Holmes) and make him realize his potential. He’s shown what he can do with a young player (Johnson) who has talent, but lacking in fundamentals. He’s shown he can get the most out of older players (Tony Richardson, Ricky Williams) who are in the twilights of their careers. He’s shown what that he can manage a bona fide Superstar (Peterson) through the best season of his career. The only thing he hasn’t done is work for a team with a Quarterback as good as Ben. Every stop Saxon has been, the Running Game was pretty much the entire offense, defenses knew to prepare for it, and still, the running game produced. Those are his credentials. And while you are free to categorize them as merely “okay”, I wonder what a credentials a candidate would need in order to “thrilled by the hire”.

Like Dick Hoak, Saxon has always been a RB coach - Hoak for us 1972-2007 - and Saxon for 22 years over different teams. No (false) ambition to be an OC etc. He wants to do what he does, similar to Munchak who agreed to be an o-line coach after being a freakin' head coach. Shows that's where Munchaks' heart beats, and I think Saxon as well.

I'd even put some money on the possibility that when Saxon became available, the Steelers front office made a calculation and asked for a 'trade.'

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Mark of a Modern Fan

How I can prove my bona-fides as a Steeler fan: I'm extremely excited about the hiring of an Offensive Line coach.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Steelers Week 16, Reflections

Before the Green Bay game:
Steelers are a good 6-8 team. [late note, this story confirms my point] Why? Because in our wins, we've been dominant the whole game. They are clean wins.  But all close games we've lost; and almost all of them were close.  We're not like the teams, e.g. patriots, who've won ugly. That's why we are better than our record shows.  It's one of the quirks of football, that since it's only 16 games, each one matters enormously. There's a real difference between a 9-7 and 10-6 even though it's just one game.

As for Green Bay: I may be wrong, but I conceive them as the NFC equivalent of the Steelers.  They seem old-school and classy.  I don't pay much attention to the NFC, but I guess if I had to root for a team in general, I'd boost the Packers. And, as my middle child said last night, in Black & White, the uniforms look almost the same!


After The Game:
We won.  And EVERYBODY ELSE WHO WE NEEDED TO WIN, WON.  Gadzooks.   This is too much to ask for. Holy cow. After this crazy season I didn't expect we could ever make the playoffs. And I still don't because (see below). But I will accept this one gift: because of how all the games went yesterday, at least every week in the season has mattered. We're playing at 1, so that means all the other games that could knock us out of contention will be at the same time. So when we start the game, it will still be a relevant one. And that's nice.

OK, so what has to happen for us to make it to the playoffs? Only this (this website makes this stuff fun and easy):
  • 1:00 PM: Baltimore at Cincinnati
  • 1:00 PM: NY Jets at Miami
  • 1:00 PM: Cleveland at Pittsburgh
  • 4:25 PM: Kansas City at San Diego
The Breakdown:
  • CIN must beat BAL (oh please, oh please).
  • NYJ must beat MIA (this is the really hard one, because the Jets basically suck, Miami is better than I expected, the Jets are out of the playoffs and Miami is the putative 6th seed.
  • PIT must beat CLE (of course; and this is a trap game because our Defense always lays down when they think the game will easy)
  • KC must beat SND - this is also not a fait accompli, because KC is already in, and SND needs to win to get in the playoffs, and they are division rivals.
Sadly, I think Miami will easily handle the Jets.  However, what the sports pundits seem to forget - and I blame both Madden and the stat-crazed Moneyball type analysis - is that NFL teams don't seem to lay down when a game is "meaningless [for the playoffs]"  Maybe the fat journalists who care about stats and postseasons only would think that way, but professional athletes don't.  I assert this not only because it's backed up by observation, but it also fits theory:  professional athletes, by definition, are these things: (a) they love the game they're playing, especially football, because the monetary rewards barely cover the pain for most players; (b) they are fiercely committed to winning because otherwise the motivation to be in top physical condition, and receive bone-snapping punishment, isn't worth it.

Ironically, the only teams that seem to take it easy in meaningless games are the ones who actually have already MADE the playoffs, e.g. the Chiefs (potentially).

So I hope, I hope, that the Jets will come to defeat their division rivals.  If this were the Steelers versus the Bengals (in the AFC East, the analogies for us would be Patriots=Ravens, Dolphins=Bengals, Bills=Browns) and the Steelers were out of contention, and the Bengals needed to win to get into the playoffs, all Steelers players and fans would want the team to play their damnedest to knock the Bengals out.   I assume the Jets would feel the same way.

This can't be said for the Chiefs, alas.  Possibly the players would feel the way against the Chargers as I described above about rivals, but the dynamic is different.  The Chiefs have no way to improve their position; Andy Ried's M.O. is to rest his starters in this scenario; and maybe the Chiefs don't hate the Chargers?   What I'm hoping for is that (a) the Chiefs actually do hate their rivals and want to keep 'em out; (b) that the Chiefs are good enough to beat SND even with their second teamers, especially on defense.

But look, I think just beating Cleveland will be enough because it will be an awesome way to go into the postseason because it will demonstrate to the team that they are monsters, that they will have a winning streak going into the offseason, and that's a lot to build on.

About the game itself.
These past 2 games fulfilled what I said a few weeks ago:
"I will still try to watch the Steelers in future weeks. They occassionaly make a nice play, and that's fun to see. That's what I think makes a real fan. I like watching them win, even when the games don't matter. So if they win any of the last 3, it'll be fun! And if they lose, then it doesn't matter, and it may even be better for our draft position. So it's a win-win. In a filthy depressing way."  
The Bengals game was freakin' awesome (even though I saw it from a hospital bed).  We beat them up, literally, and while it may be like last year's Week 13 pasting of the Superbowl bound Ravens, that's why being a fan is rewarding.  Because even if you don't make the playoffs, football is fun to watch, and every win is precious.  Especially over a division rival.

And the Green Bay game was also fun, even though Tomlin messed up the ending... but that just made it memorable.

I'm seeing the game now and I can say one reason the defense is performing a bit better is due to improvement in the special teams. If McBriar isn't consistent then buy a good punter or ugh draft because they are WORTH IT. We still need way way way better performance on kickoff/punt return defense. Gadzooks, we stink at that. But considering how bad ST has been for years, this year is much better.

As I said here, I think the refereeing - which sucks league-wide - is especially bad for the Steelers.  How many times have they snatched our scores away?  The blocked field goal call was a insult and miscarriage of justice.  We block a field goal, and the refs give GB a touchdown.  And the NFL, as expected, won't admit failure.  Yet they're set to dock us a draft pick because of Tomlin's sideline idiocy.   I hope the Rooneys will use whatever heft they have left to protest this, preferably with lawyers.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Steelers Week 16, pre-game, Playoffs?!

We don't deserve to get to the playoffs given our cruddy defense this year and the winnable games we let slide through our fingers.  But our offense is powerful and it would be nice, real nice, to make it.   Our destiny is not in our hands.  The best we can be is 8-8 and that means all of this needs to happen for us to win:
  1. Win the next 2 games (@GB, Cleveland)
  2. Miami (8-6) must lose the next 2
  3. Baltimore (8-6) must lose the next 2
  4. San Diego (7-7) must lose at least 1
  5. and the tricky kicker, the Jets (6-8) must win the next 2 because if they are 8-8, they knock out the Dolphins in their division and then the Steelers knock them out due to beating them in the regular season
What this means for this week is:
  1. 1pm, MIA @ BUF - Buffalo must win.  Oy.  
  2. 1pm, CLE @ NYJ - Jets must win.  
  3. 4pm, PIT @ GB - naturally we must win or all this is moot
  4. 4pm, OAK @ SND - it'd be nice for OAK to win, but that's a long shot
  5. 4pm, NE @ BAL - gotta root for the Patriots, yuk
What this means is that by 4pm, if either Buffalo or the Jets lose then the Steelers are out.   And in the huge long shot chance that they both win, I'll need the Steelers and the Patriots to win (which I'm more comfortable hoping for).

I'll wait until tonight to go through the rest of the scenario, but those two 1pm games are scary.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Steelers Week 14, part 2

[These are notes I made for the aftermath of the Miami game; I couldn't finish it before the next game because I hurt my back and was hospitalized for a few days]

  1. We are a magical team this year - we make bad teams look good. We allow others to make team or even league records!
  2. Idea: if a team is eliminated from the playoffs, the tickets at the home games should be 75% off.
  3. I wonder if our defense split open because they thought they would win this game easily and didn't prepare - something they have done repeatedly.  If so, we'll give a good show against the Bengals.
  4. All these players want to win, losing locker room is a cruicial issue not incidental. And a crucial point is this: the pundits who talk about "playing the young guys to get a look at them" are deluded by their ignorance - i.e. the pundits aren't allowed to see practice. So all the pundits *know* are the games.  The coaches see practice so they don't *need* the games to know who's the best player.
  5.  Football isn't baseball/hockey/basketball with their humungous playing calendars.  There are 16 games.  Each win is a major percentage victory for the quality of the team. Not only does the team want to finish 8-8 so they won't have a 'losing season', the higher the number, the better they all are in the minds of all.
  6.  Also, even more than what I said earlier about tanking a season to get a higher draft, who says that a high draft pick is a guarantee of a success?  It's all about proper fit.  If you have good scouts, then draft picks are valued differently.  Good scouts could possibly add 12 to a pick, maybe even a round!
  7. Who do I want to make the 6th WC slot?  Anybody but Baltimore.  Seriously.  I can handle either the Dolphins or Chargers but I guess I prefer the latter.  I think Miami is a classless organization, like the Ravens, but I have no opinion about the Chargers.  Although if they make the playoffs maybe that will stop them from moving to LA?  
  8. For late comers, read the earlier Steelers 2013 posts because many of the reasons I gave for the losses in the early part of the season are applicable now.
Other issues: Ben confirms what I said (that the NFL network has a lock-on for the team):
"It's unbelievable," Roethlisberger said during his weekly radio show on 93.7 The Fan. "It gets blown up and it's by reporters that come in there and ask the dumbest questions after a game, and it makes it ridiculous when they only take part of your answer.

"It was taken way out of context. There is absolutely no issue between Coach Haley and I. I love where this offense is right now."
Thinking Draft:

And for next year, who would I eject/keep. BEfore asking that, let's see who we will get back from IR (from the Steeler Website):
#NAMEPOS.HT.WT.AGEEXP.COLLEGE
31Brown, CurtisDB6-0185253Texas
67Brown, LeviT6-6324297Penn State
80Burress, PlaxicoWR6-52323612Michigan State
67Embernate, NikG6-430423RSan Diego State
50Foote, LarryLB6-12393312Michigan
85Johnson, DavidTE6-2260265Arkansas State
53Pouncey, MaurkiceC6-4304244Florida
51Spence, SeanLB5-11231232Miami (FL)
34Stephens-Howling, LaRodRB5-7185265Pittsburgh
61Velasco, FernandoC/G6-4312284Georgia
91Williams, NickDE6-430923RSamford
The biggest losses that Jenga'd our season, in retrospect certainly but even at the time, were Pouncey & Foote.  But we can't forget that we will have Sean Spence along with Foote, and those 2 have the potential to rapidly rebuild our inside LBs.  Depot guys think Foote's gone?

Just a simple eight month wait...

Salary Cap problems.  As I said previously, in the draft we need to go all defense except for a tight end.  Everything else is fine.  Our QB is still in his prime, especially since he hasn't taken a pounding.  The O-Line has improved enough that I want coaching to take care of it, not new players.  Our receivers are great.  Our running backs do their job too.

Our biggest problem is old & slow defense and special teams.  ST aren't going to improve because Tomlin is an idiot.  But defense I expect will because of what they did between 2012 and 2013.  We lost a *lot* of key veterans, and I think the guys we kept were based on the principle of reload not rebuild.   But if we let Harrison and Hampton go, then I think it's manifestly clear we will let Kiesel and even Ike Taylor go.  Clark is so out of here it's not even debatable.

But what about the high priced people.  I think Troy will stay until he retires.  LeBeau loves him to death and when we get our inside LBs back, he can return to his job (luckily he hasn't been hurt yet either).  However I can't imagine he should be paid the 8.2 million base salary.  And I hope Troy knows that.

Ike is set to make 7m!  Woodley is a cap issue because of his current salary (cash/cap weirdness).  Even if cut after June 1, we need to carry 13.9 cap hit until June 1.  We really should keep Worlids and Woodley, but if I had to choose one, it'd be Worlids.


High rounds: (a) Cornerback with hands x2, (b) powerful Geno Atkins type Nose Tackle? (although Al Woods looks like a beast)

Monday, December 09, 2013

Steelers Week 14, Reflections (Part 1)

Ah, that sucks. The season is over.  We looked so good in weeks 8-12, and today we just looked (sounded, I heard this one on the radio) very very bad.  Especially our defense.  What the heck happened to the Defense?!  A warm weather team, in the snow, and the defense just give up play after play.  It's why we lost the first 4.
  1. We're a Steelers team with a cruddy running game and pathetic defense.  How terrible is that?

  2. I think that we'll now find out all the stories rumored about the season may be true. 

  3. Ironically, I don't think Haley is as much the problem as Tomlin.  He just seems really unprofessional.  And I *know* the Rooneys won't fire him.  But they probbaly should.
  4. Aditi Kinkhabwala on twitter reported at 5:10 pm:  Ben Roethlisberger asked why Steelers didn't run as much in the second half. Says, "No idea. Coach Haley's over there. You can ask him." So I ask: Why is Aditi following the team?  Why are the NFL Network guys all over Roethlisberger?  Why is the NFL gonna dock us a draft pick?   There's something freaky here.  Is it because of Clark?  Are they focusing on his team?  Is he the leak??

  5.  Note, the whole quote:
    “No idea. Coach Haley’s over there. You can probably ask him. Whether it’s scheme, I don’t know. There was no particular reason. We just tried to move the ball, and I thought we did a good job passing it there, too.”
    So I really think that he actually angry at the press asking him nonsense but the horde will twist it to a Haley-Ben Battle.

  6. And I know every fan complains about the refs.  But I watched every game last year and it wasn't like this.  The officiating this year is dreadful for every team, this is also true.  But in the Steelers games we almost NEVER see the calls going our way and an insane number going the other way.   It's confounding.  If I cared about our chances, if we still had a shot, I'd try to go back and chronicle it, but why bother.   We're not 5-8 because of the calls mainly because good teams overcome most of those.  But as today showed, we're just not good enough, and it's in all 3 phases... but mainly the defense.  Gevalt.

  7. At the beginning of the year, I was upset that the Steelers were playing only at night because that meant I had to be depressed and sleep deprived.  Now that we play, and lose, at the 1pm, I'm depressed and miss the afternoon games.

  8. I mean, I expected we'd lose one of these 3 to make it to the playoffs, but that was to be against the Packers.  We couldn't lose this one.  We're not mathematically out, sure, but we shouldn't have lost this one IF WE WERE GOOD.  But somehow the defense gave up.  I don't know why, but they just do.

  9. I couldn't watch any of the later games.  I'm too depressed.

  10. Howeover, I will still try to watch the Steelers in future weeks.  They occassionaly make a nice play, and that's fun to see.  

  11. That's what I think makes a real fan.  I like watching them win, even when the games don't matter.  So if they win any of the last 3, it'll be fun!  And if they lose, then it doesn't matter, and it may even be better for our draft position.  So it's a win-win.  In a filthy depressing way.


What's next? THE DRAFT.  My view, right now, is that aside from Tight End, the draft should all be defense. 








Sunday, December 08, 2013

Some More Steelers Notes pre-Dolphins

Some more points before the game
  1. As I said earlier, I think the O-line coach may be amazing.  Guy Whimper was considered a real dud before he came here but when he's played he's been decent.  Not great, granted, but decent - and that's better than he was before.  That's why I'm hopeful for Cody Wallace at center - he's been on the team all year (so he didn't have to catch up at 60 mph) and the coach, Jack Bicknell, Jr., seems to have a touch. 
  2. For the same reason, I'm hopeful for Mike Adams being better now than in Week 4 (when he was demoted).  If Adams has been practicing since that week, and practicing all week as well, then he'll be prepared.  And if Bicknell has been training him (which I assume the team demanded given the 2nd round status), and if Adams can crack through the doobie haze and realize he's almost out of a job, then maybe he's going to be decent as well.  Too much to ask for him to be good, of course.
  3. As I mentioned earlier, if we finally get a decent pass rush - which could happen with Worlids and Woodley in tandem (maybe move Jarvis inside?), then that could be the missing piece for resuscitating our defense. 
  4. I wouldn't boo Mike Wallace because I think he's a sad, and dumb, person.  He wanted money, I get that, but he's just not good enough to boo.
  5. Dave Dameshek on the BS Report had an interesting insight about NFL teams and  injuries being like the game Jenga: each team, like a Jenga tower, will suffer pieces being removed (by injury) but its unknown which piece will cause the tower to crumble.  This is key this year because almost every team seems to have suffered major injuries.  I wonder which team lost the biggest player?  Right now I'd say Green Bay with Rodgers and before him the Falcons with Jacoby Jones.
  6. So the wags are asking about who will be fired from the Steelers if we don't make the playoffs.  Considering that the Rooneys aren't idiots, I don't see why that will be necessary.  We made a huge comeback after an injury-caused 0-4 start.  I think players will be gone, mos' def, including some of my favorites (e.g. Brett Kiesel) But I don't see why Haley should be fired now that he has let Big Ben run the no-huddle.  Ben runs Haley's plays, even if Haley isn't barking in his ear, and that means Haley is contributing.  Changing the OC would cause another year or so of 'rebuilding' and who wants that?!

Friday, December 06, 2013

The Draft and Playing to Lose

The NFL has draft concept, shared with the other sports, that the worst teams of the previous year get to draft earliest.  Personally, I think the rule should be changed because it's very tempting to play to lose.  Players were kicked out of the last Olympics for doing this, yet it's an open secret that in the NBA (and possibly MLB) this can be done.  MLB has a bit of sense in that you can bring players up from the minors, and send others back, so at least you're actually developing talent... but it's disgusting.

The way to fix it is to give the top draft picks to the C teams not F teams, i.e. the middle of the record not the bottom feeders.  Why? Because C teams were at least trying.   The F teams are there, at least in the NFL, usually because of (a) key injuries, or (b) bad owners.  It's not even the bad coaches, because from what I've seen a "bad" coach is often just in the wrong system, and the only *really* bad coaches are hired by bad owners.

I've said in many occasions - and the standard caveat for all of this is that I only really know the NFL for now - that the worst teams are the ones doomed by bad ownership.  They consistently make bad decisions, throw money around, and kill good players.  Why keep throwing #1 picks into bad environments?

Bad teams have bad owners who then usually have terrible scouting departments and bad playing environments.  The middling teams are more likely to try harder and will be a quicker turn-around.

As it is, we keep throwing good picks into terrible environments and I think it's likely that bad teams don't have good scouts and in my idea they'll need to develop their scouting departments.

One illustrative case for my idea are the Cleveland Browns.  I think finally they may turn aronud and all because they changed owners.  When Paul Brown was fired by the skeevie Modell's, the team took a nose dive.  When they re-formed in 1999 they have remained a silly, childish team (see here for a video of their recent history (YT: Cleveland Browns 1999-2012: A Documentary)
).  A team with bad owners will just waste their draft picks!  Look at their 2012 draft.  They had 2 first rounders and they decided to draft for need - which everyone says not to do, but I wondered why because it sounded like a paradox.  You draft every player because you have a need!  What's the difference?  Again, look and learn from the doofus Browns.

To draft for need means you go for the best position candidate at your pick instead of the best player.  So the Browns, thinking they needed these 2 positions went for a Running Back and Quarterback in the first round.  Sadly, both turn out to be middling (Richardson, but there are reasons) or terrible (Wheeden).  [The opposite technique is - for lack of a better term - "draft against non-needs."  For example, the Steelers shouldn't draft in the first round a QB or center because those are non-needs.]   If the Browns had drafted the best players at their spot, then those positions would be stellar for a long time, and that will always help a team. 

Another example of draft dizziness are the Redskins.  While I like RGIII, his injuries demonstrate why you don't spend multiple draft picks on anybody.  Because everyone can get injured, and when you have a few 1st rounders on your roster, they can carry your team while the rest falls apart.  Their 4th rounder, Cousens, seems to be a fine QB - can you imagine DCs fate if they had more draft picks and a decent QB (Cousens) instead of what they face now?  Their terrible draft position is wasted because they threw it away to another team!


(always a sign of idiocy).  "Drafting for need"
in point for all of this On a related drafting note: if you ever want to know why you never draft for need, look at the 2013 Browns. In 2012 picked

Steelers Week 13, Reflections

Ahhh, gevalt.
  1. What a horrible loss - not the losing per se, but the injuries and the griminess.  Look, if we had won, we'd actually be a top-10 team.  We're average, and this season will show that.  But we're not below average, and we may finish 9-7 but it's likely to be 7-9 or 8-8.   My key point is that the chips were severely against us and I'd like to see how many teams could win these two games in 4 days.
  2. We lost for the reasons why we're an average team, and it kinda goes to age.  Big Ben was not sharp in the first half, and our defense just does not travel well.  They did well on Sunday, but two in 4 days is too much for them.   This is why I think we can actually win the last 4... but not enough for last night.
  3. Luckily, the worst we can be is 5-11 and that would just tie the worst we've been in the Noll era.
  4. Ravens fans shouldn't feel cocky.  Even though we played badly, we should have won.  The botched FG, the Bell TD taken away.  Hopefully they will be as clueless as they are classless and think they're better than they are. 
  5. Case in point, our defense held the Ravens to 74 yards rushing and no rushing TDs. 
  6. The bad: Vellasco! No!!  The good: Worilds is playing so great that maybe with Woodley back we'll have a killer pass rush. for the first time this year.  That will be awesome.  Another good: Ben did not get sacked.  It's nuts, but we were finally getting our O-line working, and now they're demolished.   And we had no turnovers!!  The o-line coach must be a maestro to keep this up.  The crazy thing is that we may lose the next one because of these injuries!   God-Damn Thursday night games!  
  7. God-Damn Thursday night games! I knew this game would be trouble back in August.
  8. Look, it's possible that with Worilds catching fire that he with Woodley (were he to ever return) would finally create the necessary pass rush that would allow the rest of the defense to not be pressed so hard.  Troy could return to being a land-shark and the corners wouldn't have to cover so long.   As such, this would make us a better team and one that can legitimately be in the playoffs.   Sadly, with the devastating and constant O-line injuries, our offense - which by second half Thursday was the best it's been this year - has taken a massive step back.  Damn you Thrusday night games!
  9. Damn you Thrusday night games! 
  10. Is there a curse on the O-Line?  I can make one up.  The Curse of Mike Webster - until concussion money is paid to all the pre-free-agency injuries, Webster's team will lose linemen...  (SteelersDepot says the last time we had a steady line was 2009, so what happened then?) 
  11. A note about luck: if we had Green Bay instead of Vikings or Bears, we'd have the same loss.  But if we had Vikings now, we'd smear 'em.

About the Tomlin Kick Return Thing
  1. Sigh. I actually believe him. He's classy and I think he'd tempt interference like Cowher did (see below) not in a sneaky way.  Tomlin's excuse is that the Jumbotron provides information about his team's activity in coverage that sideline view doesn't give. Wolf confirms that looking at the jumbotron, and sideline standing in general, messes with your spatial awareness.   Sadly, I thought that if we made it to the playoffs, and won a game then too, that Tomlin could be a candidate for Coach of the year.  No more.
  2. Heard the tomlin conference and I'm waiting for the punishment before I post this. I have a feeling he did the conference with input by the league because i don't think they *want* to punish him a lot, and this will allow them to lay a hefty fine and not a suspension or any of the other idiocy.   One thing I noticed, I don't think he said 'obviously' almost at all.
  3. As such, I wonder if "obviously" is his tic when he's saying cliches and in general a monologue of wasted time (in his mind).
  4. The fine is 100K.  And they are still threatening a draft pick (WHY?).  Personally, I thought they'd kick him off the competition committee.   Personally, I'd appeal and offer to be off the field for the next game .  And instead of a flat fee, there should be units of week pay (this way the low-cost players would be equal to the big bucks
  5. People ask; what if it were Harbaugh.  Well, Tomlin has the rep of being a very straight shooter - reflective of the organization.  Harbaugh is a whiny slimeball, so I don't think it's the right example.  What if Coughlin (NYG), or McCarthy (GB) or Shanahan (Wash) did it - those are Tomlin's peers.  Or better yet, the other coaches on the Competition Committee: Marvin Lewis (Cincinnati Bengals) or Jeff Fisher (St. Louis Rams)?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Steelers Week 12, Reflections

A few quick thoughts:
  1. Are we a good team now?  Maybe we are.  Well, we still can't run the ball.  And our defense will still seem to evaporate.  I think we're an average to above-average team.  We were better than 8-8 last year, we just had a lot of growing pains and bad seeds (Wallace, Mendenhall).  This year, we've got even more growing pains. I'll be happy if we can get to 8-8, and estatic if we get 9-7.
  2. After the game, according to ESPN, we're now the 6th seed in the AFC! "Wins tie break over NY Jets and San Diego based on best win percentage in conference games. Division tie break was initially used to eliminate Miami (NY Jets wins tie break over Miami based on best win percentage in division games). Division tie break was initially used to eliminate Baltimore (Pittsburgh wins tie break over Baltimore based on head-to-head win percentage)."  This means that if we lose only to Green Bay & Bengals (both probable) then we'll be in.  Naturally if we win all the rest of the games we'll be 10-6 which is the definition of a good team (but if the Bengals win all the rest, except for the game vs Steelers, they'll be 11-5, so yeah).
  3. Aaaaand, once Tennessee won, we're now the 7th seed: "Wins tie break over NY Jets, Pittsburgh and San Diego based on head-to-head sweep. Division tie break was initially used to eliminate Miami (NY Jets wins tie break over Miami based on best win percentage in division games). Division tie break was initially used to eliminate Baltimore (Pittsburgh wins tie break over Baltimore based on head-to-head win percentage)."
  4. I was beaten to this joke - i.e. that after the pooch punt by Big Ben he should win AFC special teams player of the week (to go with winning Offensive player last week).
  5. Stat issue - the third down conversions were bad, but we converted on many 1st & 2nd downs
  6. AB beat Joe Haden and Megatron, AJ Green etc didn't.  While I think AB is great, it possible that his success was because his, our, QB is better.
  7. I should've mentioned last week that Will Allen's interception seemed to be a sign that we need to send our defensive backs to other teams and have them return because we just don't seem to teach turnovers, but other teams do.  its like graduate school
  8. This is awesome.  We beat the Browns so bad that Mike Polk Jr. needed to scream at the factory of sadness some more (YT: Browns/Steelers Postgame Thoughts, Shared With The Stadium) !
  9. I really hope we win against the Ravens, because that would really solidify our standing.  There's a lot to say we'll lose.  Some real, some karma.  The karma could be that if you split the 16 games into 4 quarters, we could be going in reverse geometric loses: 4 then 2 then 1 then maybe 0!  Oy, I suck.
  10. Actually, we were screwed with the schedule.  To win 2 in a row is hard, to win 2 road games in a row, to win 2 road DIVISION games, to win 2 road division games on a ridiculous short week, to win 2 road division games on a short week against teams fighting for a playoff spot...  Which means if we win, our status is really solid.  Which I don't necessarily want.  Tomlin gets really arrogant when we're considered good and I think that leads to really sloppy play.  If we lose, we're not eliminated from the playoffs, and it could help the team keep the hungry focus...   
I am glad I can see the game on TV this week. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Steelers Week 11, Reflections

We won.  I still can't believe it.  I was saying that all afternoon.  And after the Philly game was (pretty much) over, the local NJ station decided to show the game and it was awesome to see the Bumblebees play in a win.

Some other thoughts
  1. Finally a win over a good team.  Because the AFC stinks, we're now in the wild-card hunt, and because we beat a good team, I can see us actually doing that.  
  2. I love the win, and will savor it, but WHAT THE HECK HAPPENED IN THAT SECOND QUARTER?!? 
  3. And, not to rain too much on my parade, but the Lions are (a) a dome team playing the cold and rain, (b) probably didn't take the Steelers seriously (much like the Jets didn't, I think, back in Week 6).  The Lions definitely seemed to give up in the second half.  But I'll take it because the same things can be said for many a road team.
  4. Yet, we were also missing 4 key guys: Brett "Fear the Beard" Kiesel (DE), Ramon Foster (G), LaMarr Woodley (LB), Shamarko Thomas (S).  Only Thomas, a good player, could be replaced well.  Foster's absence was especially problematic; he was replaced by Guy Whimper - who was a tackle playing the Guard spot.  This is why, I believe, we couldn't run a lick.
  5. I've said in weeks past, bolstered by something Charlie Batch said, that Ben is awesome in no-huddle but Haley was likely the one to keep him back.  The fact that the Steelers ran no-huddle, and won, could be a sign that the bosses found out Haley was the problem, and may even support my contention that Haley was the source for the trade rumors.  (Mark "Psychopath" Madden agrees, so does Starkey)
  6. Tunch says that when the QB gets the ball out quickly then the O-line can play aggressively because they don't fear being over-extended.  I think that the O-line has suffered over the years - including injuries - because of the play extensions.  
  7. More about the play-calling - focused on no-huddle - is coming out this week.  See here from Joe Starkey.
  8. Wow - Megatron and Antonio Brown share jerseys.
  9. This is a great piece about Will Allen who played a few games for the Cowboys before returning to the Steelers. He confirms something I've heard from others, that the Steelers have a healthy culture: "Everybody's given a chance to prove themselves, given a chance to play together and the guys we truly sincerely believe in everyone," Allen said of the Steelers' organization.
    "The coaches believe in the players. The players believe in the coaches, and you just see this even path now. If guys are consistently not performing, you're not going to be on the field. Obviously you're not going to play. But everybody is encouraging, everybody is uplifting, everybody is pushing for everybody's best. That's what you want. // "We understand that it's a business, but football is a business. Winning is our business. But if we're not a team, if we're not together in it all, then we have nothing. That's the mindset in Pittsburgh."
    It's good to know it's true.
OK, now comes the real test.  I thought we were going to lose to the Lions.  We had home advantage, and that carried the day.  Who knows, had we played the Patriots at home maybe we could've done the same thing.  

Playing Cleveland at home will not be easy.  They've beaten CIN and BAL at home (but lost badly to DET, hmmm) and we just seem to be faulty on the road.   That said, their offense is not good and it's our defense that falls apart on the road - just see the Vikings, Raiders, Patriots games for evidence.  As such, I'm not as worried about that matchup (any more than I should).  It's that our offense is the better unit and will need to save us on the road.

The CLE defense is brutal; ESPN ranks them 4th against the pass, 8th against run.  To contrast, admitted this is by week 12 not when we played each team: TEN is 7/20, CIN 6/10; CHI 17/31, MIN 29/14, NYJ 23/1, BAL 13/11, OAK 25/6, NE 12/27, BUF 11/24, DET 30/5.  It's the passing defense that's the concern (our running game won't improve until we get actual linemen). Not only will CLE be the best defense overall we've faced, they are the best against the pass.

No huddle is not so functional on the road due to crowd noise, and the CLE pass defense will harsh our strength.  Maybe this is the game that Haley will bring out the true pass throwing halfback option.  Because if we lose this game, we'd might as well pack up the season.  This is the easiest of the 2 remaining road division games since we need to go into Baltimore on only 3 days rest.  I can't see us winning that game easily, and its likely we'll lose these next two.  And just like our earlier "winning streak" my hopes could be dangerously inflated and I'm trying to tamp that down.

If we win the next 2, I seriously think we'll be the 6th wildcard.  If we lose even 1 of them, we're pretty much toast.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Steelers Week 10, Reactions

We won.  Wheee.

Actually, I am relieved we are relevant for one more week.  After the first interception, I was able to quell my panic by reminding myself: "we're not that good, this is to be expected.  We're not that good, this is to be expected."  Anyway, I heard the game on the radio but I am now watching it and what follows are some 'live-blogging' comments (tape delayed)
  1.  Why on earth are we running the wildcat?  Seriously?  The only positive I can get out of this is the long-con.  That Haley is waiting for a crucial game, like against the Bengals, and Bell will finally throw the ball.  That's the only way I can see this being valuable.  Otherwise, it's a waste of our franchise QB. 
  2. Our running game may have been better this game because DeCastro is back - he's a probowler in waiting.
  3. What has happened to Heath?
  4. LeBeau promised us that the defense would be better and it really was.  If they can keep this up, we can actually be good
  5. The wins are actually fun wins.  It's not like last 2 years where the wins were ugly and scary.  When we've won, it's been decisive.  When we've lost, they've been ugly.  There's very few losses that we should have lost (Patriots was close until the very end, and the upcoming loss to the Lions...)
  6. According to Football Outsiders, 2 of our receivers are in the top 5: Cotchery #4 (DYAR 232), Brown #5 (222).  FYI Sanders is a -54 and Mike Wallace is -48.
The Ian Rappaport report. I actually think there must be something behind this, based on the fact that the reporter doesn't need to make this story. The background facts are there, too. And if Ben is planning to leave, then Ben doesn't care about lying.  Haley is not a good fit for Ben. But to be honest, hearing more of the data, I think the source for Rappaport is from Haley, i.e. Haley knows he's going to be fired at the end of the year and he's spreading discord to make Ben look disloyal.

About the Lions. Boy are we going to lose.  Which is OK, in a way, because as long as we can beat AFC opponents, we can still think we can be in it.


Other thoughts: Why haven't the Vikings tried to get Tim Tebow... or anyone for that matter?

Friday, November 08, 2013

Comment about Fanatsy Football

This week, I finally realized why people like Fantasy Football.  The realization came because my team, the Steelers, a common playoff team, stinks this year.  Now that it looks like we won't get to the playoffs, the other games this year become painful to watch.  Why?  Well contrast it to my attitude when we're still in the hunt (which we were even last year, down to week 15 or 16).

I root for an AFC team, so when my team is in the hunt, I care about all AFC games, especially in my division, because each win or loss will affect our chances of winning the division or getting a Wild Card berth.  Every game and outcome in the AFC is crucial and thus exciting.

In the NFC, I'll root for them against any AFC team, and then root for the worst possible team to win so it will be easier to defeat them in the possible Superbowl.  It's not as critical as AFC, but still relevant.

But now?  Now the games just mock me - I'm (nearly) out and so all I see is that painful reminder.

And when I realized that emotion, I understand why Fantasy Football is fun for people.  Because even - and I'd say especially - when your team is out of the playoff hunt, you can still root for a winning team, your (actual) own.  That makes all the games fun, no matter who your real world 'home team' is doing.


Before this year, I've pooh-poohed Fantasy Football, and most people I know who don't like it were like me - they all rooted for good teams: Steelers, Patriots, Ravens.   Those teams have been in the playoffs almost every year for a decade.  For people like us, Fantasy is unnecessary, because all games are important (see above).   But if you're a Jets fan (like many of my friends here in NJ), Fantasy Football makes things as fun as if you rooted for a perennial winning team.

Still not gonna do it...

Steelers Week 9, Reactions

Most of these were written soon after the game, I've just been too busy to put it all together.  This is after the worst Steelers game ever, as based on the number of points given up (55), the most in Steelers 81 year history.  Now the previous record was 54 in 1985, so that's key context, and the opposing team in '85 was the Air Coryell Chargers with Dan Fouts, a worthy comparison to the Air Brady of 2013.  Anyway, here goes:
  1. I started the game expecting to lose and feeling that I could keep my emotions in check.  Except these are the Patriots, and I hate them.  And while we played terribly, as usual, we then tied it up!  24-24. And then broke our hearts.  A total meltdown... 28 points by the Pats in the 4th Q alone, almost more than we scored the whole freakin' game.
  2. Teams will love playing us this year because we're allowing others to set records.
  3. When tomlin 'takes responsibility' what does that mean?  Because, he doesn't.  He's still blaming the players.  If he took responsibility, he'd talk about what he's doing wrong.  he says it, though, because it allows him to end the press conference earlier.
  4. About how badly we've drafted - and we clearly have.  If so, how can we draft great receivers?  That part of the drafting process has been top notch.  I guess this means we have a good receivers coach?
  5. Speaking of draft, I have two words: Landry Jones. It was mystifying back in April but now it's egregious.  We literally could use a player in ANY POSITION except QB.  Jeez.
  6. There seems to be a lack of leadership, as I said last year.  But who's the difference from this year from last?  I guess Harrison for linebackers (which the Bengals have talked about, that he's a huge influence on the young guys).  And we all know that Big Ben must be a terrible leader because he doesn't seem to be a decent person.  Maybe we're suffering because we don't have Charlie Batch - which, again, makes the Landry Jones choice worse because we could have Batch there every week just as inactive as Landry.
  7. Right after the game, Scrap Bradley said our defense is porous now because of a lack of pass rush.  I already noticed our soft center, but I also noticed we were never getting to the QB, so Scrap's point makes real sense.  He sez the reason the defense can't get off the field on 3rd downs is that we don't have a pass rush.  Now I miss Harrison even more.
  8. Everyone is just saying we're a bad team.  If so, who are the bad players?  We have pro-bowlers for QB, WR, TE, SS, etc. 
  9. To quote Wolf on Monday: "it was a maelstrom of beatdown"
  10. Just to note: we're drafting 4th or 5th (tied with Giants) right now.
  11. Silver lining: we had better red-zone efficiency.   There was one point during the game, when we tied in up, when we looked like the 2010 Steelers!
  12. Ironically, I think we have the talent on offense but bad coaching, good coaching on defense but bad players.
  13. The hard hitting steelers may be scared to hit hard.  the Mel Blount rule of 2013 may actually be fulfilling its purpose - defanging the Steelers.  (Started with Harrison, etc)
  14. On Monday, a caller on the Tunch & Wolf show said you can blame the coaches because it doesn't seem like we're playing like a team.  That's a good analysis.
  15. On Monday, Tunch was asked what would Myron Cope say about the game.  The answer: "feh"
  16. Troy and Ben are not playing well - so maybe my prediction (see last week) can be upheld? Caveat about Troy - I think he's been forced to act as a Linebacker. We can't judge him because we don't know what his assignments are. But I do think it was polomalu's turn to do what Clark did last week (acc to my analysis of "trying too much").  Our defense depends on linebackers and we don't got 'em.
  17. Prisuita & Labriola are saying what I've been saying, that Polomalu is messing up possibly because he's trying to do too much. This happened to Ben in the first few games.
  18. Why was Ben in the game late? Because of the machismo no-data type coaching of Tomlin? See also: RGIII in the playoffs.  In retrospect I understand: Ben was kept in the game because Tomlin didn't want to give up. This is admirable. And the reporters don't seem to get it because they play too many computer games, or are thinking like stock-holders.
  19. Everyone's talking about LeBeau being forcibly retired. I'd be VERY surprised. I think it's the *talent* on defense, and the big cap money trapped in old players.  LeBeau should be untouchable.  But, again, the fans are freaking out and saying stupid things.  Thank goodness the Steelers don't act like any other organization in this way.
  20. Salary cap: I'm glad it hasn't risen. I hope it won't - it'll take a few more years to rein in the stupidly large contracts. Things gotta shrink, and it'll take a few years for that to happen.  The crazy salary of Flacco could be a death-knell. 
  21. People are recognizing that the team always goes down and battles back furiously.  And in this, I think Charlie Batch is right (in an interview this week): he confirms what I've long suspected, that Haley or whomever is not allowing Big Ben to do no-huddle... because when Ben does that, he rocks and rolls, and it makes the OC look bad.  No other answer right now for why they don't do this more.  And I see in, behind the scenes, in how Ben reacts to the play calling.  Things come in too slow, are predicated on deliberate choices, and it hampers our Superbowl winning QB.   I won't mind when Haley leaves.
  22. After the game Tomlin thought - as many of us did - that maybe the players gave up.  Turns out, as everyone who looked at the tape, that the players didn't. Which means we were outplayed.  Oy.  That's good, vis-a-vis professionalism, but it confirms that we're just an average team.
  23. Tunch asks why the fans are angry.  Well there are those who bet on games and/or pay money for fantasy.  That is a HUGE part of the game and I'm ignoring that because I have nothing to do with it.   But we're angry because (a) bad talent assessment in the drafts, (b) problems don't seem to be fixed, (c) quality players don't play well, e.g. even in 2011 we would play badly against bad opponents. 
  24. Good questions here.
Lastly, some things from Ed Bouchette.  First, a very good point:
Team management today is the same that won a Super Bowl in 2005, again in 2008 and went there in 2010. As I wrote today, perhaps they need to take a look at how they are evaluating players, both in the draft and, as you say, once they make the team. Keenan Lewis is a good example; they never made him an offer. Some believe they could have gotten younger by keeping him and letting Ike Taylor go. I don’t know which, but it was surprising that they let a good, young cornerback they drafted get away. That hasn’t been their style in the past.

However he whiffs on this:
YOU: I believe a backup rookie tackle prevented Woodley from even getting 1 qb hurry, not to mention how well the rookie lineman for the Bears played against us. So couple questions, why haven't the steelers been able to evaluate offensive line talent in the Tomlin era? Or is it our youth and bad luck that they haven't been able to put it together? Or, is the defensive front 7 so bad that it doesn't matter who is blocking them? Finally, as much as he is making, is there any chance Woodley is released in the off season?

ME: LaMarr Woodley has been their best pass rusher and I believe he’d be more effective if they were getting a pass rush from the other side. Their problem is, they don’t have enough pass rushers, so they’re not going to get rid of their best one.