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):
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.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Blue Highlighters

I wrote below with a review of several highlighters.  One thing I've noticed, though, is that at least in the past year, almost every highlighter company has changed their formula for blue.  While before, a number of versions were bright and light, the most recent batches - from all manufacturers - are so dark as to be nearly markers.  This is a bad trend but I don't know any brand who has kept to the mission goal of making actual highlighters. 

Friday, November 01, 2013

Steelers Week 8 Reactions, part 5

More thoughts on the current state of the Steelers

1.  Ed Bouchette
I agree 100% with these very good points from Ed Bouchette, from here:
"Some Steelers fans are spoiled. You have had a run in this century like no other team this side of the New England Patriots. The Steelers have not had a losing season since 2003 and won two Super Bowls and been to a third since then. They were 12-4 in 2011 and lost in Denver in the playoffs. Yes, they have not played well since they were 6-3 last season. But guess what? Every NFL teams goes through this, it is the way the system is set up with the draft, the salary cap, etc. So some Steelers fans react, fire everyone! Sorry, that’s not how it’s going to work no matter how much blood some of you want. It’s possible some assistants will go but anyone looking for them to fire Tomlin and/or Colbert has no idea about the Steelers history or how they operate."
He adds: "90 percent of the professional sports teams in America would like to be in such free fall as the Steelers organization."

2. AFC North as Solid Citizens
According to this story about the taunting  penalty in football, the members of the NFL competition committee are:
"Rams coach Jeff Fisher .... Atlanta Falcons executive Rich McKay, Dallas Cowboys executive Stephen Jones, Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, New York Giants co-owner John Mara, Green Bay Packers executive Mark Murphy, Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, Houston Texans general manager Rick Smith and Pittsburgh Steelerscoach Mike Tomlin."
Basically, that means that 3 out of the 4 AFC North teams are represented.  I like that a lot.  I also like that the Browns aren't. 

3. Humor
This is a very good list from RedCarpetDefense on Steelers Depot about Brett Kiesel's Beard:

  1. "There is no penalty for a 12th player on the field that was just #99's beard"
  2. should get its own number and jersey
  3. will be hung in the ring of honor next to his jersey
  4. gets its own playbook in training camp
  5. gets its own player introduction at Heinz Field
  6. gets an assist tackle stat whenever Keisel makes one
  7. wants to get a pick six before it hangs up the cleats
  8. will get a job as a tv analyst once its playing days are over
  9. will write a book
  10. has its own agent
  11. makes locker room speeches better than Ray Lewis ever could
  12. fears no one and no thing, only itself
  13. is the ultimate team player paying the ultimate price annually for a good cause
  14. prefers red gatorade to orange
  15. is vegan no matter how much meat Brett eats
  16. was drafted same year as Brett
  17. was the real architect behind Lebeau's zone blitz scheme
  18. drops into coverage
  19. sets the edge on running plays
  20. cried when the Steelers let James Harrison walk
  21. cheered when the Steelers let Mike Wallace walk
  22. wants Ben to get rid of the ball more quickly
  23. is on the "hands team" on kick coverage
  24. only player to ever block a punt, pat, field goal in history of the NFL
  25. Is the emergency QB, long snapper and holder
I hope that's all for now.

Steelers Week 8 Reactions, part 4

More thoughts on the current state of the Steelers:

1. The First Play in the Raiders Game: 

This was the catastrophe that allowed their QB to get a 93 yd rushing TD.

Ryan Clark bit on a play fake and left his position.  Evidently the Raiders have run this play 20 times and always did the same thing, so Clark biting on it was what a veteran is supposed to do. But, safeties need to be the last line of defense and Clark muffed.  However, the Steelers let Polomalu do this all the time.  Which could mean that Clark needs to be extra safety-safe.  I'd add two more thoughts: (a) the fact that he didn't account for the Raiders changing the play after 20 times could mean that he didn't respect their defense - this is exactly why we were burned in the 2011 playoffs with Tebow - we didn't respect their ability (mainly because they were playing stupidly before); (b) it also possible that Clark's muff is the equivalent of Big Ben's turnovers during the first 4 games.  Ben was throwing picks because he was single-handedly trying to carry the crumbling offense.  Clark may feel that with our bad linebacker play, he needed to step up.  And like Ben's actions before, this led to a devastating counter-play.

2. Clock Management
David Todd is all over Tomlin for time management.  This is valid.  I have a strong feeling that Tomlin is too arrogant/stubborn to take certain things seriously, things he considers unmanly: (a) time management, (b) special teams, (c) injuries.   Especially since "clock management' seems to be the province of nerds and girly-men, i.e. people who know football primarily through video games and/or the sad-sack stat guys.

While I think Todd may not take into account the full extent of the jangly nerve pressure in those situations, there seems to be more and more evidence that the slowdowns and time management problems seem to come from Haley being a control freak and demanding what plays to run.  I saw this in week 1 or 2 when Ben wanted to run a play to avoid a challenge flag on a fumble but he was told to wait for a substitution.  This also could have led to the slow play calling at the end of the Raiders game.  Ben's bone-headed time-out (which even I knew was stupid), may actually have been passive-aggressive against Haley.

3. Rebuilding

I had asked about this months ago, and I have more data about "rebuilding" and why it's dangerous.  Basically, to rebuild, a team needs to fire their non-performing yet high salary cap players - which means that for one year the team absorbs a big cap hit, and that peforce will lead to a very bad year, as there's not enough money to pay for good players.  After that one year, the team can rebuild through the draft (or whatever).  So rebuilding is a multi-year process.

Looking at the changes from 2012 to 2013, I'd say we may have done a portion of that anyway.  We have a lot of rookies.  Yet we still have big money people who could be dead-weight.

4. Spring 2012, Bad Building
I think the reporters need to focus on the 2012 offseason as a keyhole into the current troubles, because that's when Bruce Arians was fired - sloppily - and when we had an absolute disaster of a draft.

This is not to say Arians should have stayed - as can be seen in the past few seasons, he was all grow'd up and deserved to move on anyway.  But the Steelers said he "retired" when he clearly didn't want to; he was fired despite what Tomlin wanted, and misinformation was spread.  And Haley was hired - despite being a unsuccessful weirdo - yet he had strong Steeler connections (his father worked for them for years).   All I can surmise from the BA firing is that there was crass sloppiness and bad decision making.  That was in February.

Then came the draft, April 26-28 2012. Part of the '12 disaster came from injuries (DeCastro out for a year, Spence out for 2), but we also acquired at least three guys with character issues: Adams (drugs), Ta'amu (heavy drinking), Rainey (abuse).  

This is the primo chart from the Wiki.

1 24 Pittsburgh Steelers David DeCastro  G Stanford Pac-12

2 56 Pittsburgh Steelers Mike Adams  OT Ohio State Big Ten

3 86 Pittsburgh Steelers Sean Spence  LB Miami (FL) ACC

4 109 Pittsburgh Steelers Alameda Ta'amu  DT Washington Pac-12

5 159 Pittsburgh Steelers Chris Rainey  RB Florida SEC

7 231 Pittsburgh Steelers Toney Clemons  WR Colorado Pac-12

7* 240 Pittsburgh Steelers David Paulson  TE Oregon Pac-12

7* 246 Pittsburgh Steelers Terrence Frederick  CB Texas A&M Big 12

7* 248 Pittsburgh Steelers Kelvin Beachum  G SMU C-USA

Rating this draft:
  1. DeCastro = still on the team, and looks to be very good.
  2. Adams = smoking doobies in '12.  Won team Rookie of the Year. Then got stabbed after midnight near a nighclub in the '13 pre-season.  This year he's been benched because he seems to suck at his job.  Pundits say he lacks aggressiveness.  I'd say that marijuana will do that to ya.
  3. Spence = a tragedy.  He may play this year, but the injury has been terrible.
  4. Ta'amu = didn't play last year; went on a drunk driving rampage during the season; was cut in the 2013 preseason
  5. Rainey = played all last year; was cut after hitting his girlfriend in public; had a history of violence
  6. Clemons = has never played; bounced around from practice squad to PS.
  7. Paulson = playing this year for Steelers; stinks
  8. Fredrick = see Clemons
  9. Beachum = crazy enough, seems like a diamond in the rough.  Is 2013 starting LT over the 2nd rounder (Adams)
Talley: Injury losses (2), cut before ever playing in Pittsburgh (3), playing (badly) in Pitt (3, Rainey Paulson Adams), playing well in Pitt (2, DeCastro Beachum).  If we get Spence back, then some of the cost of last year is paid back, but busting out of half of the first 4 rounds is bad bad bad.

All of this goes back to the starting question: what the heck happened in 2012 that caused the messy firing of Arians and the terrible scouting for the draft?  If I can get an anwer to that, I can explain possibly why the team is in bad shape now. 

And, postscript, we will suffer the gap because of the cruddy 2012 daft for a few years. 

5. Endzone?
I didn't watch the game Sunday, but the pundits tell me that the play-calling on the scoring drives rarely has Ben just pass into the endzone.  Why not?  Ben is good at that.  Another mystery.

6. Random Point
A certain amount of hay is made this week about how Big Ben thinks Brady is the best QB because of the SB wins ('the rings') but that may be just to set himself up for being the best when he gets a 3rd ring.