Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Steelers, Week 3, Quick Thoughts

Yet another three-day holiday arriving, so I'll need to make this quick:

1. Can the Steelers stop playing night games? I'm getting used to the nobility of losing, but its freakin' tiring.

2. One word: snakebit. Explanation: When looked at logically, we're going through a major transition. We changed 4 key coaches in a year or so (OC, O-line, Receivers, Special teams), and if you see the history of the current team, page 28 here, you'll see 18 of the 53 man roster has come to the team in the past few months. That's the definition of transition. Then add onto that the serious crazy injuries all at once, and you have "bad luck." Or, as I think it can be put, "snakebit."

3. No massive injuries for another week. whew.

4. Heath is back! HEEEEEEATH!!

5. As someone put it, I think on Steelers lounge, that the Patriots are in the same boat as the Steelers - it's the price of success over the past decade. The Steelers have been to 3 Superbowls and been the top of the charts... which means we're an old team whose needed to draft at the dregs. At a certain point, parity catches up. But the Patriots have a way easier division than we have, so they have - logically - been able to stay better longer. Also, Brady is a safer QB.

6. All that said, I do think the o-line is slow to be good. As they said on Sunday night, this too is logical since they are so inexperienced. I have hope that they will gel and develop over the year. This can only be expected. However, we still have to wonder why our second round picks, Gilbert & Adams, aren't better than they are. So I wonder, how does scouting work? Is it done by the position coach? Because we seem to have incredible success with wide-receivers but terrible quality O-line. Its probable that the current coach is doing the best he can with crappy athletes. It's possible that the previous coach either selected badly, and/or coached badly, and the current guy has to do an Obama on the Iraq War that's the o-line.

7. Let's not forget that our defense started slow last year and got better. Why, I dunno. But I also know that our defense has had some key injuries: our #1 inside linebacker is out for the season and have been replaced with 2 rookies (and that is almost unheard of in LeBeau's defense), and our #2 CB is out. It's a bad sign when rookies are doing the play-calling and our HOF safety has to play pickup linebacker! I hope they rookies, like the o-line, will improve over the season. And, hey, maybe Sean Spence will play! (Again, the snakebit injury bug).

8. Let's be clear, while they talked about reload not rebuild last year, this is clearly a rebuilding year... so they better rebuild!

9. If this disaster continues, we may be lucky enough to get our next QB in the 2014 draft... maybe an Andrew Luck type who can stay in the pocket and outthink the opponents.

10. As for these past few weeks, I hear a lot of bellyaching by the fans and commentariat and they seem to adopt the Tomlin BS of ignoring the impact of injuries. It's an ideological/coaching point to parrot "the standard is the standard." But I'm not a coach, I deal with facts - and to understand cause/effect you can't let ideology blind you to facts (see my rant about the 2000 election). So if you asked me why we're 0-3, I'd say that since we played 3 tough teams (2-1, 2-1, 3-0) without our #1 center, #1 & 2 Tight ends, #1 ILB, #2 CB, #1 FB, #1 RB, that we would likely be 0-3. For the Bears, we just got fullback and top TE back and our offense looked better; let's see how much better the O-line will look when we get our top RB & #2 TE back!

11. You can't deny that the defense, week after week, stopped their best players, for the most part. It really was the turnovers.

12. About the Felix Jones fumble - he got walloped in the head, dude. Jim Brown had 57 career fumbles, over 9 years (118 games, that's an average of 1 every 2 games, 0.48 a game). Eric Dickerson, 78 over 10 years, 146 games (.53 a game). OK, so Barry Sanders is 41 over 153 games (whoa, 0.267!); but these things can be excused.

13. Don't give up on the running game. we NEED the running game, if anything to help give the defense a rest.

14. I see this a lot: “According 2 @EliasSports, 115 NFL teams have started 0-3 since '90. Only '92 SD, '95 DET, '98 BUF made playoffs” This is proof more than anything that we need to teach people how to use statistics.

15. How to get better for next week? I think time is the healer here. Let the O-line practice together more! That will really help. Back to fundamentals... because that's what sucks here.

16. About tomlin: he's so close to the chest. Does he know he messed up? We can't tell from his public comments, and we should know we will NEVER know from his public comments.

17. Other silver linings: we have actually been much better about penalties and special teams. That is encouraging!

18. Another example about facts and cause/effect, look at how people judge Brady vs. Manning. Manning is thought as not as good as Brady because of post-game failures. Except that many of those failures came because the Patriots clearly cheated. Just as Bush did in 2000. A win counts de-jure, but de-facto cheating doesn't make reality. Brady is great, but Manning is incredible.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Steelers Week 2, Quick comments

So, the silver lining of our latest humiliating beat-down, is that no pro-bowl starter had a season ending injury. That's how bad things are in Pittsburgh... that's our silver lining. Look, I hope the signs are right and the AFC is as bad as it looks because the AFC North looks like its going to be won with 9-7 and the wildcard may also be 9-7 (see 2002).

Another silver lining is that we're actually getting better. I can't blame Haley for this, because our problem is (a) the key offensive players are currently injured, some for the year; (b) the rest of the key offensive players are either rookies or joined the team after the preseason. Logically, I can't expect them to play that well, especially against two very good defensive teams.

The defense also has two rookies as inside linebackers! And we need, NEED, turnovers!

I do feel things will get better, but I think we need to wait until Heath is back... and even better when Spaeth can join him.

And if you see what the Patriots are going through, if they played the Titans and Bengals maybe they'd be 0-2.

More later.

Quick point about the latest shooting

Hey, guess what! Some crazy man uses a automatic rifle to kill innocent people in America!

I really hope we're actually not getting used to this, where it's like you take an umbrella because it may rain and you update your will because your co-workers are getting crazier. From the preliminary information (which follows the same pattern: "we have no idea he would do this" to "he kept shooting things and had untreated mental problems") this sounds like a weird twist on a workplace "postal" massacre. But I have to say, I don't see a good way forward on how to get the guns outa the hands of lunatics. Mainly because any lawmaker, or citizen, who tries to go after the gun lobby is likely to be shot dead by the selfsame lunatics. It's depressing.

Quick point about Syria

I'm someone who is usually confident in my ability to suss out the logical and moral direction in tough circumstances. That's why they pay me the big bucks (if one got paid big bucks to do that). I support Israel, even their current set of clowns in government, and I support Obama. I don't shy away from calls to war, and I believe that removing Assad from power is the ultimate goal for the region and, most importantly, for humanity. I am a social scientist, a rabbi, a philosopher. And, after all that, I can tell you that I have no freakin' idea what to do about Syria.

And I feel a need to give all that background because many Jewish organizations have been haranguing me, and the US government, to act on Syria. I hear many many people, especially my Israeli friends on Facebeook, that Obama needs to bomb Syria yesterday and since he hasn't that Obama proves he's a ninny. There's quite a lot of confidence in the words of the orgs & friends. And that is frightening. Because I can't see a good path to removing Assad. Why do these people think it's so simple?

Look, if there was a way to get the world together to remove Assad - for crimes against humanity - without risking chemical attacks against Israel, I'd be all for it. The problem with Syria (who, in my estimation, is synonymous with Iran) is the same problem a few miles East in North Korea. NK threatens the world, Iran threatens the world, but both punks have a Big Brother with a Big Stick: Russia for Iran/Syria, China for North Korea. And those scummy Big Brothers make this whole concept - making the world safe - very hard.

So all of you who think the answer is simple, who think that Obama is bad because he's not attacking Syria (which would lead to a chemical attack on Haifa), or who think everything is simple: please shut up.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

What the Steeler Reporters Seem to miss

Ed Bouchette is a veteran Steelers reporter. Yet he fails to see a key fact in his recent article attacking the Steeler running game. Part of the problem is Tomlin's cliches, specifically "the standard is the standard" and ignoring injuries. Yes, injuries aren't an excuse... for the TEAM; but for those who analyze cause and effect of wins and losses the injuries are a huge deal.

So our running game is (still) poor. How do you get a good running game? The components are in order of importance (reverse logarithmic importance) (a) line play, (b) play calling, (c) the back. Without an o-line, the RB won't get anywhere, and the opposite is true. In 2012, our best running games were Weeks 7-9, and Week 7 was Dwyer (122 yds) Wk 8 Dwyer (107), Wk 9 was Redman (147). And those two guys are NOT GOOD. So how did they get 100+ games? The o-line and the o-line only. And we can't forget the o-line includes Tight Ends.

So, let's see who was injured in week 1:
Heath Miller, 1st Tight End, under-rated pro-bowler
Matt Spaeth, 2nd Tight End
Will Johnson, 1st string Fullback
Le'Veon Bell, 1st string Running-back

That list means we were automatically not going to have a quality running game. Decent maybe, based on line-play, but with these best guys out, what quality could we have? And then the roof caved in: Maurkice Pouncey, all-pro center gets blown apart. Which ruins our entire O-line, just plain ruins it. And add onto it, the best blocking "TE", Beachum, needs to move to center.

This doesn't excuse the loss, according to Tomlin's Rules. But this set of facts explains why we had no running game in Week 1. Don't confuse 'is' and 'ought' - don't forget the facts when trying to understand our running game woes.

P.S. Quick point about Ndamukong Suh: if you want to see what a sociopath sounds like, watch Suh. He sounds like a reasonable, personable guy... but that's what a standard sociopath does. He's just a stone cold psycho.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Steelers Week 1, more comments

1. Tunch & Wolf are mystified why we fans are giving up hope (the hometown fans abandoned the stadium quickly, it was so ugly). Well it's because of the 0-4 preseason, which showed that last year's problems had not been fixed: no o-line, no running game, no defensive turnovers. We lost 5 of the last 7 in 2012, all preseason, and now game one in the HOME OPENER. There's reason to think the team not only will suck, but that the coaches don't have a clue how to fix it.

2. I asked the 'depot: does the salary of an IR player hit the cap? Dave Bryan says they do. That sucks. But Bryan emphasizes that the players you pick up in September do not hit your cap that much anyway.

3. Tomlin has much to blame here. When he says "the standard is the standard", I'm not certain he places any standards on himself. The team has been getting worse since 2010, not better, and in ways we all recognized. Moreover, his game-time decision making is very poor. We can all rip Rex Ryan for putting Sanchez in the 4th quarter of a pre-season game, leading to an inevitable injury (playing behind a non-cohesive, 3rd string, o-line = no protection), but Tomlin did the same bad thing. He used "LaSH" as his primary back instead of Felix Jones, who was dressed for the game! LaSH is a small, fragile back that you use for maybe 20 carries a game as a change of pace back. And when Tomlin used him on 5 straight carries, he broke. Why dress Jones?

4. There are more key problems from Tomlin, who has not shown me that he can do the job he was hired to do. This hurts me to say, because I think he's a cool character and I like him being the face of the franchise. But he can't coach, can't prepare players, can't improve the problems, and apparently can't draft well.

See these for more: Mike Tomlin Should Be on the Hot Seat | Bleacher Report & Homer's Take

5. For the record, I put some key blame on Defense. They failed to get off the field on key 3rd downs, and AGAIN no turnovers. Yet unlike offense, they had all of their starters! What was their excuse?

6. Some random thoughts: We just pay too much money to old vets and can't use the money to improve o-line. With pouncey out, maybe we'll again get Starks back. And its crazy that everyone in the division lost, but (a) Ravens & Bengals were *away* (b) both were playing against teams with winning records in 2012 (esp. the freakin' Broncos with Peyton Manning!) After we saw the Ravens lose, and with the Bengals playing away a 10-6 team, this was the week to win (holding aside we were playing a poor team at home). Gevalt.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Steelers Week 1, Quick Thoughts

1. Since I've been following the team with daily devotion, they have been playing terribly (mid-2011). So, sorry Steelers fans, this all may be my fault.

2. More accurately, though, it's clearly the coaches fault. You can tell this because the defense is consistently good - because they have a hall-of-fame coach, and the rest of the team has been laughable.

3. If asked at the beginning of the year which players we couldn't lose I'd say, in order, (a) Roethlisberger (b) Polamalu, (c) Pouncey. Well, we still have 2 of 3. Sadly, Pouncey was the one I expected to actually play all 16 games.

4. The silver linings for today's catastrophic rash of injuries - 3 critical starters - are (a) we've so recently cut people that can be possible replacements that they haven't lost their conditioning; and (b) more importantly, since Tomlin never knows when to allow a starter to get healthy, since these guys are gone for the year, the team can actually try playing with one person for the whole rest of the year. This is especially so for the O-line. The line needs to work as a consistent stable unit, and past few years, Tomlin would toss people in and out based on their fluctuating health. So now, I hope, we can get some dude to be a center and not try different permutations every week, which would guarantee a year of failure.

5. Note, I only listened to the game live, so I don't know how bad they looked. My view that things may not be a total disaster could change when I see the actual game.

6. I'd like to remind everyone that we started the game with our starting running-back and our 2 starting Tight Ends out with injuries. And when Pouncey went down, that meant that every offensive plan of the pre-season went up in smoke. You won't have a running game, or decent passing, with an on-the-fly O-line. Yes, sadly, the Steelers (offensive) coaches just don't seem to know how to train the backups to take over. But it happened all last year (we started to suck when both Big Ben and Antonio Brown were injured; not to mention the standard o-line idiocy).

7. I keep harping on the bad coaching because when I see other top-tier teams play, they plainly don't suck like the Steelers do for the past 3 years. I saw Green Bay vs. SF today. What a difference! It's like the Yankees vs. the Mets. GB & SF don't have better players than the Steelers, they have way better coaching.

8. If we get our RB & TEs back, especially Heath Miller, and if the Steelers get the new center to train a week with the O-line to form a unit, I'm assuming we'll play better. That will be the test - if we still suck after those conditions are met, then we're lost.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Contemporary Rainstorms

I used to love being inside during heavy rainstorms (like what's going on now) because it was an example of humanity's conquest over nature. However, in recent years, given the nation's crumbling infrastructure, any major storm fills me with persistent dread. I fear that I'll lose power... because it's happened way too often in storms that didn't seem to cause trouble a decade or so ago.