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.

Steelers Week 8 Reactions, part 3

More thoughts on the current state of the Steelers:
1.  Why are we 2-5?
I've heard a lot of people say that the reason we're losing isn't because of the coaching, or bad luck, but because the "team isn't very good."  For this to be right, the pundit must mean the players aren't good.  Well, if so, which ones?  Since this may be the correct answer, I'd say (and none of those are a surprise): (a) punting, (b) offensive line, (c) middle linebackers.  

2. Defense Issues
People are also asking if this is LeBeau's last year?  Considering our defense woes from 2011-2013, that is a plausible question.  Then again, I think 2011 & 2012 defenses were bad because of injuries - something fans/pundits/idiots want to ignore out of macho myopia, but are a real concern.  We lost the playoff game to Denver because of injuries, and 2012 never got off the ground because our 2 best guys were totally busted (Harrison, Polomalu) and the others were getting too old (Hampton) or broke midyear (Ike Taylor).

This is not the (whole) problem this year (except for the loss of Foote).  But I think LeBeau is off the hook for another reason: as everyone says, the LeBeau defense takes 3+ years to learn.  And our linebackers are a bunch of greenhorn rookies.  The 4 linebackers are: LaMarr Woodley (OLB, 7th year, 2nd Round), Vince Williams (ILB, Rookie, 6th round), Lawrence Timmons (ILB, 7th year 1st Round), Jarvis Jones (Rookie, 1st round) or Jason Worilds (OLB, 4th year 2nd round).  Timmons and Woodley are studs; Worilds is not doing so well as a vet, Jones is struggling as a 1st rounder and Williams - an inside linebacker of the freakin' Pittsburgh "Hall of Fame Linebacker Pedigree Team" Steelers - is a 6th round rookie.   It's no wonder we are soft in the middle.

It's a problem with a fancy defense; like a high-performance sports car, when all the parts are working, it's the best around, but the weak links make the defense worse than it would be for other, simpler, teams.  I mean, I saw the Miami-Cincinnati game last night and I wondered how could it be that Miami gets turnovers and sacks against CIN but we can't.   Gevalt!

[note, the ending of last night's game has got to be the single best ending I've ever seen]

3. Jarivs Jones
As for Jarvis Jones, people want to call him a bust.  Those people are dumb.  LeBeau's defense takes 3 years to learn.  Rookies need playing time and Jones was out for 2 weeks with a concussion.  Give him a break.   [Note, I can't just call him "Jones" because there's like 3 new guys named that, Jarvis, Felix & Landry)]

4. Questions to Steelers Depot
So, related to the defense problems, I asked the Steelers Depot two questions, let's see what Dave says: (a) Will Sean Spence and/or Matt Spaeth play this year; (b) do you think the reason why our O-line seems specially cursed with injuries is due to Big Ben's scrambling QB style and their consequent need  to hold their blocks for a long time? The first question is related to the middle linebacking; we really need Spence back - our middle linebacking is bad.
5. O-Line Injuries
The second point is to try to answer why our O-line is always in disarray!  We changed coaches this year, and I thought things were looking up (see last week about Abdullah the Butcher) but then we lost 3 straight players in the SAME POSITION on Sunday.  How?!  One answer could be that the D-line of the Raiders are dirty (in fact, that would be the most historically plausible answer).  But I needed a better reason why it doesn't change year to year.  Hence my theory above.

Fun Kid Story, Football

So I've been playing catch with my middle son in the backyard every day as part of an exercise regimen. The rules of the game, set up by him, are that when a player catches the ball, he has to run to the fence for a touchdown. Two hand touch is a tackle. I basically let him run so I can run after him, hence the exercise.

Earlier this week, when running close to him to try to tackle, my son put out his arm to me with his palm facing me: classic stiff arm position.

I asked him, while keeping pace, "are you trying to stiff arm me?" And he said "No, I'm using the Force!" It worked, too, because I started laughing so hard I couldn't catch him.