Wednesday, October 31, 2012

For Roethlisberger and Eli Manning Sunday, Ten is Significant Number

It was the 2004 NFL Draft and there was a debate over which young quarterback, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers or Big Ben Roethlisberger, would be taken first.

In a quarterback draft class that could be compared to those in 1971 and 1983, not only was Manning taken first, but there was a trade between he and the second player taken, Rivers, making Roethlisberger the third. Yet, it's the number ten that keeps popping up when considering the two quarterbacks.

Ten players ended up being taken before Big Ben, something which he hasn't forgotten. -

When Big Ben and Eli, No. 10 in your New York Giants program, take the field at the Meadowlands Sunday, it will be yet another act in the dramatic play that has been unfolding in front of us ever since that April day in 2004.

When you look at the accomplishments, the numbers and the hardware, Big Ben and Eli remain at or near the top of the class.

If It Ain't Steel wrote an article back in February about the connection between the two, and many others have written articles comparing the two as well. It seems they can't escape comparisons of late. -

The comparisons having grown especially strong with Eli matching Big Ben with his second Super Bowl win, as well as second comeback victory and game MVP, last season.

How similar their paths have been can be detailed in various ways, including each winning on the other's home field. They met in '04 with the Steelers winning 33-30, and then the Giants returned the favor in '08 with a 21-14 victory.

Both quarterbacks are also very clutch.

Eli has led the Giants to 10 fourth-quarter comebacks over the past two seasons. While Big Ben set a record for most fourth-quarter comeback victories (19) and game-winning drives (25) through a QB's first seven seasons. He now sits at 21 and 27 respectively.

ESPN's Jamison Hensley even tells the tale of the tape, charting even more similarities, in an article he recently wrote on the two heavyweights:

As Hensley points out in his piece, Big Ben does have the edge in wins. However, in the tenth month of October, Big Ben has a 25-8 record. An admirable record, but one that has him third among active quarterbacks. Who's directly ahead of him? Eli with a 26-5 record.

When all things are laid down, it simply put is hard to separate the two quarterbacks in terms of their intangibles too.

Big Ben is a barn-strong man who is hard to bring down and fits the blue-collar mentality of Pittsburgh.

Eli represents New York well-enough as well, known for its toughness. Ripping away from a sure sack to throw the famous helmet catch by tight end David Tyree keeping the drive alive in Giants-Patriots I solidified that.

Don't sleep on Big Ben's pump fake ability, either. Ask any NFL defensive back, it can be deadly. A fact that was evidenced again last Sunday against the Redskins.

Also underrated is Eli's escapability. His footwork allows him to maneuver in and out of the pocket to make plays. It is something the Steelers must respect this Sunday.

All things considered, consistency and playoff wins are what will generally define a quarterback, especially if you are truly of the elite. In this, Big Ben holds the edge with 10 playoff wins to Eli's eight.

Ultimately, though, the pinnacle of those achievements is the Lombardi Trophy. And since it has been pointed out that Big Ben and Eli are even in that category, the most important number for them may in actuality be three.

Strange Attractors

Strange attractors in my windows of endless horizons...

In one of them I see all the proof I need that God is perfect. In the other I see someone who is suspended in a cloudy mist over her...weightless and powerless. He exists in this state longing to be intoxicated by her moist and supple lips. She longs for his passionate kisses. Each moment lasts forever, but each eternity lasts not long enough. Passion so strong she hopes she leaves with her lips.

These two attactors are yet to fully realize their power over each otherOne trembles under the other's touch, the heart of the other pounds like Aboriginal drums at the sound of his voice. Apart they are alive at best. Together they are each other's nourishment. She knows his every tone...he knows her every mood. When those attractors finally meet they shall set ablaze time itself and ride its linear waves to their destiny: eternal love.




Sunday, October 28, 2012

BR7 Proves Better Than RGIII As Steelers Defeat WDC In PGH

The Washington Redskins flew into Pittsburgh having rushed for at least 120 yards in each game this season. The main reasons for that have been Alfred Morris and Robert Griffin III who, as a quarterback, was 12th in the NFL in rushing.

Any thoughts of extending that streak ended on Heinz Field Sunday afternoon.

RGIII was turned into RG 3 points at a time as the Pittsburgh Steelers hurried, hit and confused the rookie quarterback phenomenon all day. At times it looked like a jail break (yeah, I went there). They also shut down the fierce run/option attack the Redskins' offense has been predicated on all season. -

The Steelers shut down their running game and RGIII himself as he only passed for 177 yards and only had eight yards on six rushes.

Many of the keys to winning the game that we outlined in the article before the came to fruition as the Steelers defense kept RGIII at bay. The Steelers offense, led by quarterback Big Ben Roethlisberger, showed more diversity en route to a 27-12 win.

The Steelers had RGIII right where they wanted him all day as he sat back in the pocket and made throws rather than running.

James Harrison, Lawrence Timmons, Larry Foote and LaMarr Woodley, who strained his right hamstring, continually harassed RGIII, and Deebo in particular manhandled the tight ends the Redskins kept running at him, continually sealing the edge.

On the other side, Big Ben was 24-33 for 222 yards and three touchdown passes with a 121.0 QB rating. He didn't have any interceptions and wasn't sacked, the first time that's happened in over two years. When Ben stays as clean as he did Sunday, he's very hard to beat.

As Merril Hoge posted on his personal Twitter (@merrilhoge) account last week: "No SB QB has ever off set more offensive line issues the Ben and won game and SB! Ben is ELITE!!!!!"

Sunday, Big Ben was the same ol' Ben Roethlisberger. When that's the case, it means the Steelers are always going to have a chance to win. -

Big Ben distributed passes generously once again, including all three TD passes going to the tight ends and to fullback Will Johnson. -

One of those tight ends is the very underrated Heeeaaattthhh Miller, who tied the Steelers all-time record for touchdowns by a tight end (37) with his score Sunday.

Miller made a very poignant statement regarding the Big Ben-led D&D offense: "I think defenses have trouble determining who they want to take away in our passing game."

Very true. Especially when the receivers aren't dropping passes, which was much more in check Sunday. This time it was the Redskins receivers who acted like they heard footsteps all afternoon.

The Steelers went into the game with 11 drops in six games. The Redskins had 10 sunday alone.

The Redskins receivers gave little help to RGIII as they surrendered more balls than Queen concert after-party.

RGIII could easily have had 250 or more yards and another touchdown pass had the receivers done their part. They didn't, though, and it kept the Redskins in play-from-behind mode all day.

Another star in the game Sunday was Steelers running back Jonathan Dwyer.

In his press conference last tuesday, Mike Tomlin said that Dwyer is a guy in development. He said of Dwyer that "its good to see him take advantage of opportunities when they are given."

Dwyer did just that again Sunday when he went for 107 yards on 17 carries, the first Steelers running back in more than four years (Fast Willie Parker) with back-to-back 100-yard games. -

That smacks at the changeover to a passing team the Steelers have become. Don't think that they don't want to run the ball, though.

The Steelers are 10-0 when they rush for at least 120 yards since the start of the 2011 season, only 6-7 when they rush for less. Point blank, the Steelers are suddenly dangerous with a gelling offense that includes a strong running game. -

Now that they seem to have hit their midseason stride, they have a real challenge in front of them as they head into the Meadowlands next Sunday, Hurricane Sandy permitting, to face the New York Giants.

For now, though, the Steelers are enjoying having weathered the storm of RGIII before thinking about EM10.


TIDBITS: Before the Redskins game Sunday, Roethlisberger, Willie Colon, and Max Starks had played every snap this year, with Timmons, Miller and Ryan Clark missing only one.

That is no longer the case with Clark as he went down with a concussion in the second half Sunday. He says he ok and plans to play next, per Jason LaCanfora.

“@JasonLaCanfora: Texting w/Steelers S Ryan Clark, who suffered concussion. Says he feels good, recalls details of the game, including his big hit on RGIII” - from his personal Twitter account.

The right quad tightened up on Dwyer. Tomlin addressed all the injuries,but did not say who will start next week. -


Antonio Brown needs to be reined in a little bit. AB running backward is not very smart. What makes him think he won't get flagged in a situation like that? Didn't he learn from the preseason? C'mon, man!

Like Jim Wexell tweeted: "@jimwexell: Two Browns penalized on the same play. First time that's ever happened outside of Cleveland."

And if you're scoring at home, that's 183 yards in returns erased the past two games by six penalties. Like I said last week, "Special Ed Teams."

Friday, October 26, 2012

Steelers Face "Otherworldly" Test Against Redskins And RGIII

Only one rookie quarterback has ever beaten a LeBeau-run Steelers defense: Troy Smith in 2007.

Only one quarterback has ever run for 100-plus yards against the Steelers: Jack Concannon of the Philadelphia Eagles 56 years ago in 1966.

RGIII could do both this Sunday.

Last week when we posted the post-game blog of the Pittsburgh Steelers vs Cincinnati Bengals game, we briefly commended the play-calling. Todd Haley and Dick LeBeau ran circles around the Zimmer/Gruden connection. Coaching was a big part of that win.

Dick LeBeau and Todd Haley both drew up good game plans, and LeBeau specifically gets lots of credit for putting in a scheme to help his corners. He brought in more dime and finally worked Curtis Brown into the lineup and it caught Dalton by surprise.

Both need once again to have very specific game plans. Game plans where LeBeau unleashes Timmons on the line of scrimmage, especially with the absence of Troy Polamalu, to contain the phenomenon known as Robert Griffin III.

Expect a lot of base defense, Cover-1 and Cover-3 to keep a lot in front of them. All the while, it isn't as if they can just sit back and be passive against RGIII. They still must be aggressive and get after him.

Per Mike Tomlin at his weekly press conference on tuesday, the Redskins run an option attack that is are designed quarterback runs. Tomlin pointed out rightly that RGIII's runs in college were mostly on broken plays. -

As Tomlin said, RGIII is "writing his own script" right now, and the Washington Redskins are doing a nice job of playing to his strengths.

The Redskins running game with the plucky Alfred Morris and their "new age triple-option" or "East Coast", as some of their players have called it, with RGIII changes slightly each week and presents a unique challenge.

Casey Hampton agrees.

"I was just tellin someone...if I was an (offense) coach, (the Redskins zone-blocking scheme) is what I would run."

He said further that there's "no question" the Redskins are the best running team the Steelers have faced. "Downhill runners," he called them. He said that the Redskins build their success off of the running game and play-action.

Absolute truisms. And while it isn't a true read option that they run, everything they do is designed, they play to RGIII's strengths. All on the Steelers defense agree, and his play has been described as "otherworldly":

Per Mark Kaboly on his personal Twitter (@MarkKaboly_Trib) account: "Watching this RGIII cat. Here's a bold statement ... Steelers gonna have a heck of a time stopping this read/option. HECK OF A TIME!!"

Really? A quarterback with veteran accuracy, the moves of a halfback and the speed of a wide receiver...we hadn't noticed.

ASIDE - We need to address a side point that gets on my last, exposed, raw nerve: Are bloggers and the media in general so racist, prejudiced, closed-minded or just so addle-brained that they can only compare quarterbacks who happen to be Black to other quarterbacks who happen to be Black?

Unless he was really high yella, Concannon mentioned at the outset was not a Black quarterback. Yet, go back and look at his stats, he was a running quarterback.

We bring it up again, not to castigate any one particular person(s), but because many did just that all week. One Steelers website, in rebutting an article by Steelers beat writer Ed Bouchette, inserted a poll asking readers to compare RGIII to a list of four running quarterbacks...not one was of a Caucasian persuasion.

We wrote about this in a recent article and brought out some salient points and brought up non-Black quarterback names who were known also as fleet-of-foot athletes, such as Bobby Douglas, Roger Staubach, Steve Young and John Elway among MANY others. Some of whom are in the league now. -

*puts soapbox away*

Considering RGIII's unique skill set, quick release, accuracy (70% completion), instincts-beyond-his-years and grace under fire, LeBeau needs to make sure his defense is prepared, tackles the catch and is PATIENT. -

Todd Haley has the easier job Sunday. Not that this would create bulletin board-type material, but the Redskins defense is not very g...well, it's really bad.

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has called the offense "dink and dunk," and, though he says he loves it, he still wants to go downfield more. -

He'll have his chance against the Redskins. They are anywhere from 27th to dead last in the NFL in yards allowed and completion percentage given up in the deep right, deep middle and deep left. They're ranked 28th in points and 29th as a unit overall. -

If Big Ben doesn't salivate too much and is patient enough to let it all unfold and come to him, Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders and Mike Wallace should feast gametime Sunday. -

I had a chance to interview Wallace regarding what he expects Sunday, but he dropped my recorder breaking it which disallowed me to bring you that piece. Maybe next time...

By the way, those who love to vilify Haley and his offense, shouldn't do so. Last season through six games, the Steelers passing game produced 18 splash/explosive plays and averaged 19.9 points. Through six games this season, they've produced 28 such plays and are averaging 23.3 points.

Regarding the running game now, Jonathan "Cold-187" Dwyer will be your starter again. (I called him "Cold-187 because of where he was drafted and his running style. Look it up. But, stop the "Baby Bus", "Short Bus", etc...crap. There was only one Bus!)

The Steelers' longest run last year was the 76-yard burst by Dwyer. Their longest run this year is Dwyer's 32-yarder last week in Cincinnati. When Dwyer was first drafted I called it a steal. Though it didn't exactly turn out quite that way, he has overcome adversity to become an important part of the Steelers offense. -

As a bit of feel good point of interest, Redskins linebacker London Fletcher was listed as going full Friday so expect him to keep his 231-game streak alive Sunday.

As the leader of that defense, Fletcher will be needed as Dwyer has been talking about the thrill of getting his first career home start Sunday, and Redman says he might also play after practicing again on Friday.

Just as the Steelers want to stop, or at least contain, their run/run option game, they'll look to do the same after watching Dwyer's 122-yard performance and watching Willie Colon VIOLENT play last Sunday night.

Make no mistake, though, Haley's offense will have to put up enough points to keep ahead of the otherworldly dangerous RGIII. If they can do that, the Steelers should come away with an exciting 60 minutes of a closely fought win.

TIDBITS: Redskins-Steelers preview:


Last week, Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey said that the foot/ankle injury to right tackle Marcus Gilbert may keep him out as for as many as six weeks

Gilbert retorted via his Twitter account: "I will not be out for 2 months, ill back really really soon!"

We'll see. When he does return, he may find himself the swing tackle if Mike Adams continues his improving play. Stay tuned.


Per Bob Labriola: "Steelers to wear their 1934 jerseys vs. Redskins on Sun. When these franchises played in 1934, Pittsburgh lost both. 7-0 and 39-0."

Thanks for the bad mojo, Labs.

Here's our take on them:


Tomlin says penalties on special teams are disturbing and threatened to stop the "grievous offenders" *CoughDeMarcusVanDykeCough* from continually committing the offenses.

Asked how you to stop guys from committing penalties on returns, Tomlin said: "You can take the helmet off them and make them watch."

Loud and clear.


Practice Report: FRIDAY - Marcus Gilbert, Brandon Johnson, Rashard Mendenhall, Troy Polamalu all sat out practice. Will Allen, Chriss Carter, Jonathan Dwyer, Maurkice Pouncey and Jason Worilds all participated fully.

Gilbert, Troy, Mendenhall, Johnson out for Sunday. Redman is questionable and everyone else is probable.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Baltimore Ravens: Rough Times Ahead?

If you are a Baltimore Ravens fan, you may not like what you're about to read. We have been debating whether to write this or not, and have decided that now is the time to do so.

We at If It Ain't Steel look at the game as football fans first, not just as Pittsburgh Steeler fans, and we have given the Ravens their due on more than one occasion. Check back through our posts if you don't believe. The most recent being the paying homage to Ray Lewis:

But, I personally have been seeing something that has me scratching my head. I have been watching the Baltimore Ravens and have to ask what the heck happened to their team? Yes, I am well aware the purple and black has become black and blue with key injuries as of late, but I was asking this before the injuries.

This is a team that has been historically known to have a stout defense. Opposing quarterbacks had to look across the field at men like Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, Jarrett Johnson and so on. If seeing those men did not put fear in you nothing would. They were fierce! Just ask Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. They were so fierce that Big Ben’s nose had its own Twitter (@BigBensNose) account for a while due to a hit taken from Ngata that turned his nose sideways on his face in 2010. The offense never had to score a lot of points because when your defense is only allowing opposing teams 14-17 points a game, you do not need a dominant offense. The only thing the offense had to do was not screw up.

The 2012 Ravens defense has not been that Ravens defense. I'm not the only one seeing this. -

After the win over the Cowboys two weeks ago, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said of his offense that "there have been many, many times our defense carried a heavy, heavy burden over the years. For our offense....and our special teams to carry some of that burden is a great thing."

"I’m quite sure," he went on to say, "(the defense) is going to be doing the same through the course of the season. I have a lot of confidence in those guys. We are going to play really good defense.”


The Ravens are giving up an uncharacteristically high amount of rushing yards. In seven games this season they have allowed an average of 23 points per game (PPG). From 2008 to 2011, they were third in the league each year in points allowed with an average of 16.25 PPG. Even if you take away the Houston Texans butt-whipping, they still gave up nearly 20 PPG (19.7) in the previous six games to teams with a combined record of 15-24. That's 161 points allowed by a defense that had only allowed 266 all of last season.

Another example of this is that they have already allowed 1,000 yards rushing against them, an astonishing 142.6 yards per game (YPG). In the last three games alone, they have given up 622 yards rushing. That's 207 YPG, including a franchise-record 227 yards to a Dallas Cowboys team led by Demarco Murray. Not Don Perkins, not Tony Dorsett, not Emmitt Smith...Demarco Murray. Don't blame the injuries there either, because they gave 214 rushing yards to the mighty Kansas City Chiefs. As a contrast, last season the Ravens only surrendered 92.6 YPG.

The passing defense is just as bad this season. They have already given up 1888 yards through the air, which is 269.7 YPG passing. Last season they allowed only 193.6 YPG to opposing passers. Those numbers were also put up with their best corner, Lardarius Webb, in the lineup. How much will the Ravens miss Webb? He was their best cornerback in the last season and a half, stealing nine passes (incl. playoffs), tied for most in the NFL.

The Ravens were given a boost last Sunday with the return of Terrell Suggs, and he played surprisingly well, but it was not enough to stop the Texans, to whom this defense allowed to score a franchise-record 43 points.

All offseason the Ravens talked about the new high-powered, no-huddle offense that they were working on, led by their "elite" quarterback Joe Flacco. Both looked good in the first game against the Bengals, but have been a wildly inconsistent and enigmatic since. Being the NFL's most penalized team hasn't helped any. -

Last Sunday, Flacco had an ESPN QBR of 0.2, the lowest for any QB in that rating system since 2008. Against Dallas, he had just an NFL QBR of 76.3. His two best games were a decisive win against the Cincinnati Bengals where he had a QBR of 95.1, and a one-point win against the New England Patriots when he had a rating of 93.2. He has thrown for 9 TD passes and 6 interceptions, with a completion percentage of 59.5% and an overall ESPN QBR of 53.9 (100 is best) and an 84.0 in the NFL QBR system (153.8 is perfect...both of which are nebulous systems, by the way). Hardly, what I would call an "elite" quarterback. But, what I have seen with this new "high-powered" offense is that they have taken their true star out of the game.

The star I am talking about is Ray Rice. I know that Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has good intentions and wants Flacco to look as good as they say he is, but why take out your main offensive weapon in process? Since the start of 2011, when Ray Rice gets 20 or more touches (carries and receptions) in a game the Ravens are 14-0, when he gets fewer than 20 touches, they're only 4-6. So, why not utilize that weapon? Oh, that’s right, it doesn’t look as pretty when Rice is grinding for all those yards and controlling the clock and giving your defense a break. All those long balls look prettier. And chicks dig the long ball, right?

Point blank, while the Ravens certainly should avoid targeting their star player too heavily, sage advice for any team as it's akin to putting too many eggs in one basket, there's no denying Rice's value to that offense.

Yes, I know they are sitting at 5-2 going into the bye. Trust me, their fans are all-too gung ho to remind us of this on a regular basis. And I'm well aware that the Steelers have their own injury and defense-related issues sitting at 3-3. But, what a lot of those fans are not realizing is that the reality of this is a potential downhill spiral that could get much worse.

From the free agent releases and player-losses in the offseason, to the injuries to the team this year, to the inconsistent offense, to the upcoming five Pro Bowl QBs, one QB who was a Rookie of the Year runner-up and one Rookie of the Year QB in-waiting, the "ball so hard" crew could fall so hard if they don't do something soon.

Monday, October 22, 2012

12 Roses

No special occasion, no particular time of year;
No holiday or event, no specific reason at all.
They're simply a gift and a reason to declare
That witnessing a more beautiful person I cannot recall.

No particular occasion & no special event, again I stress.
They're simply my way of saying that I love your sagacity & wit.
That I love your great capacity to love and your loveableness,
And that the fifth & sixth are silent prayers, each with a pledge in it.

The seventh is a vow, a vow to meet you in paradise.
With the eighth I promise to outlive you if you promise the same.
Listen closely and you'll hear the ninth swear he never lies.
While with the tenth I thank Jah above for the love you claim.

And yes, my love, there are only eleven roses here, it's true.
But that's only because, my imzadi, the twelfth is you.

By Antonio

For Jayden


original date written

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Steelers Remind Bengals That "We Dey", Win 24-17

It was far from perfect, but we'll take it.

For the first time this season the Pittsburgh Steelers found a way to hold on to a fourth-quarter lead and win their first road game. Overcoming penalties, turnovers, and an overall sloppy start, the Steelers (3-3) moved to within 1.5 games of the division-leading Baltimore Ravens (5-2) who were smashed by the Houston Texans.

The Steelers were plagued early by too many penalties and dropped passes. Big punt return after big punt return by Antonio Brown was negated by flags in what has become a running joke on punt returns. So many yards are left on the field and great starting field positions are surrendered because of needless penalties.

There was also the slew of dropped passes. Mike Wallace was dropping pass after pass and Baron Batch had nothing in front of him but weeds as he had the chance to put the Steelers up early.

Complete whiff. The Steelers looked discombobulated early and Steeler Nation was worried.

The Steelers quarterback wasn't, though. Not even after having the team's two turnovers. Ben Roethlisberger pressed on and finished 27-of-37 for 278 yards and a touchdown. -

Those numbers could have been a lot better, but they were still enough as Antonio Brown and Heath Miller, the Steelers Digest Player of the Week, were there whenever Big Ben needed them. Big Ben's instincts and their reliability allowed the Steelers to again be great on third down, going 10-16 on the night.

It was something that Big Ben's head coach, Mike Tomlin, has come to expect of him.

"I hope that never leaves him," Tomlin said, speaking of that instinct. "We just want to tighten up some things around him."

One thing that was definitely 'tightened up' was expected the running game. If It Ain't Steel said in the blog that preceded the game that certain things were necessary, one of which being having enough of a running game to pull the linebackers up and make them respect the run.

Mission accomplished.

Jonathan Dwyer and Chris Rainey made Steelers fans nostalgic as they ran the ball down the Bengals throat. Dwyer had 17 rushes for 122 yards and Chris Rainey darted up the middle for an 11-yard touchdown, which was the go ahead score. Dwyer then sealed it on the next series with a big gain on third-and-six. It was victory formation time. -

Two other issues that we said were needed for a victory were to confuse and hit Andy Dalton so that he'd throw interceptions and/or to be ineffective. Also so that A.J. Green would have fewer chances. Ike Taylor would have his hands full all night, it was thought.

Dalton was pressured. Dalton was confused. Dalton was picked. Dalton was ineffective. Green had one catch. Again, mission accomplished. -

In all, the Steelers were able to overcome issues that had been plaguing them. They found a running game. They were able to hold a fourth quarter lead also.

Most importantly, however, they were able to remind the Bengals once again that "We Dey!":

Friday, October 19, 2012

Bengals Game Is "Must Win" For Steelers; Woodson Talks Defense

"This is a crazy season. Everybody has a couple of losses this early. We just have to pick it up and make some plays." - Mike Wallace

From your lips to God's ears.

It has been a crazy season so far. Just crazy enough to keep the playoff hopes of a 2-3 Pittsburgh Steelers squad alive. A squad that has yet to win a road game, meaning that those hopes can be elevated or dashed depending on the outcome Sunday at the Cincinnati Bengals.

So many things are needed Sunday night to overcome the team's road woes and to take advantage of there being only two AFC teams with a winning record through six weeks. And there things in all three phases of the game that need attention if the Steelers are to have a chance to win.


Most all of the Bengals pressure and sacks this season have come from the front four of their defense. Those being defensive ends Michael Johnson (6'7" 270lbs) and Carlos Dunlap (6'6" 280lbs), and defensive tackles Geno Atkins (6'1" 300lbs) and Domata Peko (6'3" 307lbs).

They are all formidable and have the majority of the Bengals 20 sacks, with Atkins (six) and Johnson (five) leading the charge with 11 sacks between them...the exact number of sacks of the entire Steelers defense.

That being the case, the Steelers should look to keep middle linebacker Rey Maualuga, who isn't exactly off to a great start this season, closer to the box by running up the middle again on offense.

Being able to utilize an effective (not great, just effective) middle-run game will help keep Maualuga and the rest of the linebackers out of Cover-2 and it will keep them honest. That, then will also help to keep excess pressure from that defensive line off of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. In doing so, the Steelers might also look to employ some 12-personnel packages to help Max Starks and especially Mike Adams who'll have their hands full on the edges.

Exposing them down the seam can be accomplished as can getting Heath Miller singled up. I also like Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace against their defensive backs all day. When they're in the Nickel, Pacman Jones could have his power pellets gobbled up very easily by Emmanuel Sanders.

It all hinges, though, on being able to make the Bengals respect the running of Jonathan Dwyer, of whom Rashard Mendenhall said, "he's ready," and Baron Batch.

I said that they need to run it effectively up the middle, yes, but not on first down. They're running on first down has been less than stellar this season. Passing more on first downs would not only help against the Bengals, but also against whomever they play until Mendy is back and completely healthy.

One last thing to consider is that the Steelers have addressed the issue of dressing eight offensive linemen Sunday night.

If Pouncey, who's listed as questionable, dresses and John Malecki is activated from the practice squad and dresses, there are your eight. We'll know by Saturday. The O-Line, as well as the rest if the offense, was addressed by offensive coordinator Todd Haley on Thursday. -

UPDATE: Right after the Steelers got a two-week roster exemption for the suspension of rookie nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu, which will last past Ta'amu's Oct. 24 hearing, the Steelers signed G Jacques McClendon, a fourth-round draft pick in 2010 out of Tennessee by Colts, to the practice squad. They signed defensive end Corbin Bryant to roster and released tight end Jamie McCoy.

Now, just days later due to the Pouncey injury, the Steelers posted to their official Twitter sight that they've promoted center/guard John Malecki to the active roster and subsequently release Corbin Bryant. (Ed Bouchette surmises that it means Pouncey is likely out.)


Who's the best quarterback in the state of Ohio? Ben Roethlisberger. He's 14-2 in Ohio (Bengals and Browns) completing over 63% of his passes, while throwing 21 TDs with a 93.8 passer rating.

I point that out right here because of one of the things that defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau spoke of in the Coordinators Corner link provided. The fact that Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, as both LeBeau and James Harrison said, he's "accurate....can make every throw out there."

He can, though, can be confused and caused to force passes - he has thrown nine interceptions already this season. Causing the Bengals to become one-dimensional is paramount Sunday.

When Dalton throws over 35 passes and the running attempts drop, the Bengals have lost. Accept for the opening night Ravens game, when their running attempts are high, they've won. The difference in the Baltimore game was that they were in it until the Ed Reed pick six. Then the Bengals had to pass more which opened the floodgates.

Confusing him has not only led to nine interceptions this season, but also to 17 sacks. Throw in that Benjarvus Green-Ellis has also put the ball on the ground three times, forcing will be very important. Not to mention that those turnovers and sacks keeps the cornerbacks from being beaten too often.

The principal part of that equation is of course A.J. Green. Green will catch anything thrown anywhere in his radar. He is at least top three in absolutely every viable NFL wide receiver category. He's the real deal and Ike Taylor, despite his protestations otherwise, will need help over the top. If not, it will be a very long day.

As we've already written, the Steelers defense ranks 31st in 3rd down conversions allowed, but that might be balanced by the Bengals being last in the league at converting 3rd downs. Sort of the resistible force meets the moveable object.

So, that highlights Ike's and Harrison's candid statements this week, with Ike's being a touch more skewed, about the defense needing to step up make themselves accountable. That will be extremely necessary Sunday night. -


Somewhere Al Everest is smiling...

In kickoff coverage, the Steelers rank 25th in the NFL with opponents starting at the 23-yard line on average. Stopping someone for a change would be a great help.

They themselves rank 16th, with an average start at the 21.6 yard-line. Chris Rainey's return average of 27.0 is tied for 12th.

Drew Butler has a net punting average of 37.3 which ranks 28th in the NFL and has suffered a blocked punt. But, the Steelers won a Super Bowl with Mitch Berger, so I won't kill Butler just yet.

Antonio Brown has had a couple of great returns called back, and so only ranks 17th in the league with an 8.0 average. Stop the penalties and he could turn that around in no time.

Putting this all together would be the recipe for finally getting into the win column on the road. According to the site, the Steelers have a 27.2% chance of making the playoffs as of right now, meaning that losing again would be the beginning of the end. That makes this a must win game for the Steelers.

So, if they are able to bring all of this fruition, I could still see a higher scoring game. If the Steelers win, it'd be a 31-27 type of game.

TIDBITS: Speaking of the Ike Taylor vs. A.J. Green duel as I was earlier, Steelers legend Rod Woodson was on 93.7 The Fan last week and, among other things, had some advice for Ike on how he could help himself to rectify his problems this season by simply getting "back to basics." (Yo, Swag, he's one of the best all-time and is a Hall of Famer. I'd listen.) -


Steelers Injury Report: Mendenhall, Redman, Carter, Gilbert, Troy all ruled out for Sunday. Pouncey is questionable. Johnson and Timmons are probable.

Bengals injury report: RB Leonard doubtful; WR Binns & CB Kirkpatrick questionable; WR Hawkins, LB Muckelroy, DT Still and G Zeitler all probable.


If you think illegal steroids and HGH don't exist in the NFL, you're very, hell, you're just stupid. The Steelers aren't any better or worse regarding these things than anyone else. It's something that exists in the NFL. Period. I'll let you make any further decisions on your own:


Hines is a grown and single man and can do whatever...and whomever...he wants. Plus, the guy who tried this was just dumb. -


On the flip side...a feel good story of Chris Rainey and the Pounceys: "Football gave me a family." -


Curtain closing on Pittsburgh Steelers? -

ESPN Video: Countdown Daily Prediction: Steelers-Bengals -

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Exclusive Interview With Ben's Ankle As We Debunk Roethlisberger/Haley Fued

"Ben's ankle has local media all aTwitter. Breaking News! Does anybody REALLY think it keeps him out of Sunday's game at Cincy? Me neither." - Bob Labriola (@BobLabriola on Twitter)

Ben Roethlisberger injured his right ankle Thursday and left practice early. He claimed to be fine afterward, but was later seen with it wrapped and was walking with a slight limp. According to Ben, he stepped on someone's foot and "rolled my ankle a lil bit."

But, Steel City Insider columnist Jim Wexell said: "I watched Roethlisberger drop back. His plant foot slipped. No other player around him. He fell, limped a little bit, left 30 mins later.

So, while it's obvious that Big Ben turned his right ankle and that it was wrapped later on, how did it actually happen. Did he step on someone? Did someone step on his foot? Did someone not replace a divot?

To get the full story, I had to virtually break into the training facility. Once inside, I was able to get a few minutes with Big Ben's ankle before leaving the South Side.

If It Ain't Steel: Thanks for giving me a few minutes. I know you'd like to get off of your...well, relax as soon as you can. What should I call you? "Big Ben's Ankle?" "Thing 1?" "Little Ben?"

Thing 1: Ahh! I like the Dr. Seuss reference! Let's go with that, because people might misunderstand "little Ben", if you know what I mean.

IIAS: Ok, then. "Thing 1" it is. So, to start off, how are you feeling right now?

Thing 1: Other than feeling like Kobe Bryant just broke me when driving to the hoop, I guess I'm a'ight.

IIAS: *chuckles* That's right, you and Ben used to play point guard. I would've thought you'd have said 'LeBron James' instead since he's from Akron and played for Clev...

Thing 1: If you mention that name again this interview is over.

IIAS: Understood. Sorry. Well, let's get to the actual injury: what happened out there?

Thing 1: Well, when the big guy dropped back, I thought it was understood that it was a 5-step, but he tried to set Thing 2 and I after three. I took the worst of it. I'm big enough to admit I screamed. It hurt!

IIAS: So, no one stepped on you?

Thing 1: Admittedly, I thought Marcus Gilbert had. I mean, who hasn't he hurt, right? I started callin' him "Suggs" for a minute there. Ironic in a way, huh? Me calling Gilbert that. Ya know, because of Suggs' injur...never mind. It didn't go over well with him either. Anyway...then I remembered that he wasn't on the field because of his own injury. So, I realized that I just buckled because of trying to take the extra steps when the big guy wanted to stop. Just got attacked by the Turf Monster, I guess.

IIAS: Ok. So, Jim Wexell was correct. You didn't roll over anyone, just kind of got shuffled.

Thing 1: Yeah, unfortunately.

IIAS: Let me address something else while I have you here. Thursday, Ian Rapoport stated fairly openly that the relationship between Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley and Big Ben here is bad. His exact words were that it's "not great." Any thoughts on that?

Thing 1: What?! Are you serious? That's ridiculous. Where did you hear that?

IIAS: He wrote it in his NFL blog.

Thing 1: Who was his source? Bruce Arians?! Let me see it.

IIAS: I have the link. it is. David Todd of ESPN tweeted it. Personally, I think it is much ado about nothing myself, but I had to ask. Here you go:

Thing 1: Ian Rapoport? Really? Did he "report" that we tore an ACL too? Ridiculous.

Look, I admit that he and the big guy may not be passing love notes in class, but this is going overboard. Ask those close to the situation, I mean besides me. I think Mark Kaboly has even written that he hasn't seen any friction between the two. Not a noogie, not an eye gauge, not even an "Oh! Wise guy, eh? Nyuck-nyuck!" Not even one round-the-world snap from either diva. This is blown out of proportion.

Hey, we have to get out of here, but I'll finish by saying that, if Ben practices Friday, he'll play Sunday. Pretty much that simple. But if he's sore enough to stay off of me as a precaution, I may not have as much mobility come Sunday.

IIAS: Ok, got it. Appreciate your time. I'll be looking for both of you tomorrow.


The low down on Big Ben's ankle:

James Harrison And Ike Taylor Talk Defense, Accountability

Photo courtesy of

"Overall it's just breakdowns within the defense...not executing. Guys playing different calls than what are actually called....just not getting all-around snap in, snap out execution of the defense."

Those words were spoken by Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison to Mike Prisuta of WDVE after practice Monday. -

As the Steelers prepare this week for the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday Night Football, the players know that more is needed than what they've shown to this point.

While defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau's scheme may be complex, knowing the plays called and executing them is a salient point to consider.

LeBeau talked a couple of weeks ago about players trying to do too much instead of just playing the defense as called.

Players have to trust their teammates too. But if players are "playing different calls than what are actually called," trust would become a difficult thing. So, execution becomes paramount.

Deebo, therefore, was right in pointing out that each man needs to be accountable.

"What we need is we need to play better defense, ya know, the whole game. Uh...better situational defense and guys need to...take responsibility for their actions exactly what the defense is called to do. That's it."

Being the leader that he is, the Silverback showed appropriate candor when Prisuta asked about the drag route by the tight end late in the game that basically sealed the win for the Titans last Thursday.

"Bad technique," said Deebo. "I didn't get in front of him. He took off and caught the ball. He did his job, I didn't." (This 2nd link provides sstatements by Harrison not contained in the link above.)-

What the Silverback said is no secret. The 2012 version of the Steelers defense is not the juggernaut it has been in recent years so far this season. And other teams are taking advantage.

The main baby from whom teams have been taking their candy this season is cornerback Ike Taylor.

Ike has not played up to last season's standards this season and it has hurt the Steelers on occasion. He doesn't think it's that big of an issue, though, and said so on Trib Live Radio -

A'ight, Swag. I see ya, nephew.

Since If It Ain't Steel isn't exactly the "media" Ike was talking to, we won't take offense. This isn't 1952, but I like Ike, and he did make some valid points.

At the same time, however, overall numbers don't tell the whole story.

Yes, the Steelers do currently have the fifth rated defense in the NFL, are fourth against the pass and have allowed the fewest splash/explosive plays with eleven. When the numbers are examined more closely, though, the dings and dents in the steel curtain become more evident.

The Steelers defense may have allowed the fewest explosive plays, but many of them have come at inopportune times, including third down. Not coincidently, they rank 31st in third down conversions allowed. They're also allowing, as Ike admitted, a pathetic 23 points per game.

Again, Ike is a big part of that. I've said before that Ike has been worked like a part-time job this season. No one needs but to watch the games to see he isn't getting it done this season.

Regardless, Mark Kaboly of the Trib in Pittsburgh pinpointed the numbers to back it up anyway. He compared this year's numbers to last year's to show the difference.

This year through five games Ike has been targeted 44 times allowing 24 receptions for 382 yards, four touchdowns and seven penalties.

Last year through five games he was targeted 24 times allowing only three receptions for 24 yards, no touchdowns and only one penalty. -

That will be tested even more Sunday as Ike is facing a wide receiver whom Ike calls the "third best" in the game, A.J. Green.

Might they switch Ike off of Green on occasion? Like a relief pitcher situation or moving a batter around in the lineup if he's slumping? Not according to Ike.

Ike isn't asking for safety help against Green despite the fact that he catches anything remotely near his hands. He's still confident he can go toe-to-toe. -

Ike knows he's not playing as well as last season, but insisted it's "all correctable" and isn't related to last season's playoffs disaster.

"Um...naw," Ike said. "Just crucial times, I'm just doing a few things. But every season isn't going to be the same. What I do have is 11 more games left. So I just need to do what I need to do." -

In other words, Swag still has his swag.

He'll need it Sunday. He'll need it for the remainder of the season.


TIDBITS - Mike Tomlin wants more, and not just from a few players.


Mike Tomlin said this week on Sirius XM Radio that he is concerned about health of safety Troy Polamalu. We addressed the "retirement" issue last week and said that we don't think imminent. Neither does Troy, per columnist Joe Starkey -


ESPN Video: Harrison Says He Has Had 'Double Digit' Concussions. -


Ta'amu suspended for two (too few) games. -

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Public Enemy No. 1: Showing Respect For Ray Lewis

Originally written 10/16/12
Updated 01/02/13

"On that day, I shall mourn." - Spock, Requiem For Methuselah, Star Trek

Respect. I cannot think of any other way to begin this article. Respect.

Respect for the man, respect for the player, respect for the image and respect for the leader that is Ray Lewis.

It was announced Monday that Baltimore Ravens veteran middle linebacker Ray Lewis would be out for the rest of the season with a torn right triceps injury. The accolades from players around the league for the 17-year veteran were immediate.

As soon as he heard the news, LaMarr Woodley tweeted this on his personal Twitter account: "Just heard on ESPN that ray lewis is out 4 the yr. hate hearing that because hes 1 of the NFL's true legends. wishing him a full recovery...”

This is from the main rival of the Ravens, no less. But that is the ultimate show of the respect that Lewis has earned throughout his career. A career that has had very few speed bumps on the road to Canton.

Just to be fair about his entire legacy, one of those speed bumps was a fairly large one. One of those kinds of speed bumps that could do serious damage to your undercarriage if not handled correctly. That being the murder charges in 2000.

Following a Super Bowl party in Atlanta on January 31, 2000, a fight broke out between Lewis and his friends and another group, which resulted in two stabbing deaths. Lewis and two friends were questioned by Atlanta police, and eleven days later the three were indicted on charges of murder and aggravated assault.

Lewis initially claimed that the he was not involved in the murder. Later, however, he admitted that he gave a misleading statement to police on the morning after the killings.

Lewis was sentenced to 12 months' probation, the maximum sentence for a first-time offender, and he was fined $250,000 by the Paul Tagliabue-led NFL.

Lewis has since devoted his off-field life to not only turning around his own life and righting his own wrongs, but also to being a leader, mentor, charitable contributor and Christian. -

While I know that many haven't forgotten or forgiven those actions, Lewis paid his debt to society and to the NFL. He has shown repentance and has endeavored to make amends and to make certain that others learn from his mistakes. After all, this is America, right? The home of the free, land of the second chance. Too many people tend to forget that...unless if affects them directly. So, if someone can't accept that Lewis has done all he can to show his contrition, then the problem lies with them.

On the field, though, Lewis has been a destructive and disruptive force and an even greater leader and mentor, but he's hardly been charitable.

Lewis is the only man in NFL History to have 40 sacks and 30 interceptions, and is second among linebackers all-time with total takeaways at 50. Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Jack Ham is first with 53 (though, in fairness, Ham did most of his pilfering in 14-game seasons).

There is no greater leader for a team in the NFL today. Maybe ever.

ESPN personality Tom Jackson may have said it best. On the pre-game show of Monday Night Football, Jackson said that 'if you check Ray Lewis' phone or Rolodex, you'll find numbers of not only young players, but veterans alike who reach out to him for advice.'

That is a complete truism. We in Steeler Nation know this first-hand as he and Big Ben have that relationship. Lewis was the first to reach out to Big Ben as we've written in a previous article. -

In 2010, Lewis was quoted as saying he and Big Ben text one another and have a good relationship. In part, he said: “He texted me last night and things like that. It’s a respect we have for each other, but more importantly it’s a respect you got to have for yourself.”

There's that word again...

Though the word "malevolence" could be used as a definition of his position, respect is still the most important thing to Lewis.

When asked once in an interview what he wanted his legacy to be after he retires, Lewis said that he wanted his name to be the first one mentioned when middle linebackers were brought up.

In this writer's humble opinion, he is very definitely on the short list of greatest NFL middle linebackers. A list that contains only four other members. Those being Jack Lambert, Dick Butkus, Mike Singletary and Ray Nitschke. That's it, that's the list.

I spoke earlier of Lewis' road to Canton. The biggest question facing Lewis right now is whether or not the injury that inspired this piece marks the end of a sure-to-be Hall of Fame career.

Given his age and years in the league, it very well could be.

The determination and drive that Ray Lewis has shown over his career, however, challenges that sentiment. ESPN injury expert Stephania Bell agrees.

"It can be repaired," Bell said. "He can come back strong. He can play the position again."

Deion Sanders agrees based on knowing him and having played with him: “The Ray Lewis I know will not end his career off this injury. He's conquered much more than this. He will determine when its over not a injury."

Lewis himself even said that he would be the determiner of his departure.

"I don't know when it will all be over for me," Lewis said before the 2011 season. "People want to use my age against me. They say I'm too old. People fear getting old. I don't fear that because now I have wisdom and a tough body to go with that wisdom."

Lewis is one of six players to win the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award multiple times since the award was first handed out in 1971 (2000, 2003). He's been selected to 13 Pro Bowls, seven All-Pro teams, has three AFC Defensive Player of the Year awards, a Super Bowl with the Super Bowl MVP and a partridge in a pear tree.

While Lewis may not have the same dominance he had a decade ago, he remains the unquestioned leader of the Ravens. He was also still a leader on the field as well. After losing an approximate 20 pounds in the offseason, he was once again leading the Ravens in tackles with 57 total, including 14 in the Dallas game, before the tackle that caused the triceps tear.

Are you ready to count Ray Ray out? I'm not.

Being a devoted Steelers fan, I can't even reconcile seeing that dismal purple uniform lined up across from my beloved black and gold without Ray Ray out there.

Ray Lewis is the Baltimore Ravens. He's my favorite villain in my favorite movie. He's public enemy No. 1 in Steeler Nation. I love to hate him, but I respect him too.

The aforementioned Captain Jack Lambert in an interview once related that a particular player on the Cleveland Browns said that every player on the team "hated Jack Lambert," but that each player would "love to have him on [their] team."

That was the ultimate compliment to Captain Jack.

In harmony with that, you don't have to love Lewis, you don't even have to like him, but you must respect him.

Remember that tweet from LaMarr Woodley expressing his good wishes to Lewis? He got a not-so-nice reply from a Steelers fan afterward. Woodley retweeted it and replied to it. It went like this:

“@LaMarrWoodley: Its called respect RT @DJJonnyHaze: @LaMarrWoodley how could u [say] that, lewis is a joke & we hate baltimore! U lost my respect for that one.”

Yes, Woodley, it is.

See ya next year, Ray Ray.

"Ray Lewis announced he is retiring at the end of the season."

I guess we won't see ya next year after all.

At approximately 9:08 a.m. PST, that tweet came through from ESPN's Adam Schefter via his Twitter (@AdamSchefter) account. It was a shock, to say the least, as can be gathered by the way this article was written. That said, we've written enough. A listing of his Hall of Fame stats or a video of his masterful highlights could accompany this update, but we thought we would let his peers speak.

The media, opposing coaches, and former teammates alike have been chiming in on the retirement of Ray Ray. In more than one instance it has been said of him, like former teammate Deion Sanders said, that "he will go down in history as arguably the best linebacker to ever play this game." -

Jamison Hensley, ESPN reporter and AFC North blogger, made a compelling, though not necessarily convincing, argument for Ray Ray as the greatest defensive player that the NFL has seen. -

As was reported by Aaron Wilson, who cover the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun, two former coaches showed their respect as well.

On his Twitter (@RavensInsider) account, Wilson quoted Marvin Lewis, former defensive coordinator of the Ravens who coached Ray Ray and the record-setting Ravens defense that led them to a win in Super Bowl XXXV 34-7 over the New York Giants, as saying: "I'm happy for him. It's disappointing for the game after what he's done.”

Wilson also quoted Chuck Pagano, who served as secondary coach and then defensive coordinator for the Ravens and whom Ray Ray would've faced this weekend, as saying: "Nobody studied the game and prepared as well as Ray. He taught so many how to do that. He always had great insight.”

"He's obviously a first-ballot Hall of Famer," Pagano continued, "and he'll be sorely missed.”

Yes, he will. By the Ravens, the NFL and especially by the Steelers-Ravens rivalry, he will indeed.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Latest Meltdown Exposes Steelers Many Flaws

After letting Thursday night's loss sink in a little bit, I realize two things: by no means should the Steelers have allowed it to happen, and we all should've seen it coming.

On Thursday Night Football the Pittsburgh Steelers lost to the Tennessee Titans by a score of 26-23, following yet another late-game collapse. One thing was made very apparent. That being that the 2012 version of the Steelers just aren't very good.

For the fourth time this season, they allowed a team to come back on them, and for the third time, they lost. They've also allowed 47 points through five games in the fourth-quarter after allowing all of 68 in the combined first three quarters. This abomination of a defense has taken the blame for it. -

Speaking on this moth-eaten steel curtain, ESPN analyst and former Pro Bowl and Super Bowl quarterback Ron Jaworski was on PTI last week and offered up his assessment.

"I watched the game last week against Philadelphia, and I did not see the dominant interior defensive line. And when you play that 3-4 defense, those guys down in the trenches, that 3-gap on that tackle, that nose head-up on the center, they must make plays," Jaws said.

"I didn't see Casey Hampton being very active," he continued. "I didn't see Keisel making plays. I didn't see Hood making plays....You need that defensive line to have impact for the Steelers. I haven't seen it yet. I'm not going to throw the age card out there just yet, but maybe it's creeping up."

Fine, the Polish Rifleman won't, but we will. As we've said and quoted from Steel Curtain Radio before, the young guys have to become the guys. The jury is still out on Ziggy Hood, Cameron Heyward needs to see the field more and we've sung Steve McLendon's often. He absolutely needs to be used more. Much more.

But, other, more distressing problems are now evident also.

We at If It Ain't Steel recently suggested a lack of conditioning, which was denied by head coach Mike Tomlin. While the jury is still out on that issue, two other problems are painfully obvious: a lack of leadership and a lack of mental discipline/toughness.

As to the mental discipline and/or mental toughness aspect, veteran inside linebacker Larry Foote was all too willing to express his feelings on the matter.

"We’re not strong mentally,” Foote told 93.7 The Fan. “We don’t look like a championship team right now. Everybody here’s been knocked down, everybody’s had doors shut in their face, everybody’s gotten beat.”

Foote, who has never endured a losing season as a starter in a Steelers uniform, went on. "You can't have mental breakdowns. That's what gets you beat in this league. That's what happened to us in the fourth quarter. But it's only five games. We're 2-3 but our goals are still reachable. So, 10 games from now when we get this thing corrected, who's going to remember the first five games? So, we're going to see what we're made of."

What they're made of, indeed. Can Ike Taylor stop getting worked like a part-time job? Is he able to focus enough to stop the penalties? Is Hood even able improve on his stat line of zeros across the board? Is Lawrence Timmons able put a string of games together?

Because this is systemic and therefore goes beyond just dealing with the absence of an elite defensive player or two. Especially considering one of those players will be absent a little longer.

Mike Prisuta of WDVE Radio said during the pregame radio show of the Titans game that he'd heard that Troy Polamalu is expected to miss four weeks of action after re-injuring his right calf against the Eagles. That's three more weeks. In other words, after Halloween.

Trick or treat.

So, with Polamalu sidelined for that much longer, the Steelers are minus a player of sound mental character and strength, but also minus a leader on the field. Which brings us to the other obvious problem: a lack of leadership.

If It Ain't Steel said in the offseason that leadership can't necessarily be found in the draft. -

Steelers beat writer Mark Kaboly sees and has said the same thing regarding the lack of leaders on this team. -

A shortage of vocal leaders means that men you'd expect to step up and rein in players like Ike Taylor and work with Mike Wallace on his hands aren't doing so. Because this reflects on Ryan Clark, Brett Keisel and, yes, even Ben Roethlisberger. They MUST take Foote's cue and speak up. Remember when Joey Porter called out everyone, including Big Ben?

Speaking of Big Ben, he's the only reason the Steelers have the two wins they do. Can you imagine how bad the Steelers would be if Big Ben, the Steelers Digest Player of the Week and all-time Steelers passing leader, wasn't there? I don't even want to imagine it.

Regarding leadership again, that must extend beyond the field and into the locker room. From respected players as well as coaches.

From the standpoint of the coaches, that can simply mean putting players in the best positions possible to win. They didn't do that against the Titans.

Though we disagree with some of the points he attempts to make, Dejan Kovacevic calls out the coaches brilliantly in the article he wrote Friday regarding the ills of the confusing passivity of the coaches' play calling. -

Despite these three major problems, there are correctible measures that can be taken to salvage the season. -

The question, however, is, "Will they?"

As Alan Robinson, staff writer for Trib Total Media, wrote: "They can’t rush the passer. [Defense] They can’t hold a lead. [Mental Discipline/Toughness] And when it’s over, another apparent victory now lost, they can’t find a reason for it." [Leadership]

Those are a lot of flaws to overcome that few will admit that they, that we, should've seen coming.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Debating The "It Is Time For Troy Polamalu To Retire" Talk; Ta'amu Latest, Penalties and Trai Essex

Updated 10/15/2012

They're calling for the head (and shoulders) of Troy Polamalu.

There has been a lot of talk on this subject recently from Steelers fans, NFL fans and media alike. Many have begun to manifest a similar prevailing mentality, that being that 'Troy is injured all the time and it isn't worth the effort to keep him around anymore'.

And now, since he's missed more games with his latest calf injury, I'd be inclined to agree.

I also believe the sky is falling, the moon landing was shot on a Hollywood soundstage and that police don't know who killed Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G.

Look, talk that Troy is better off retiring and/or that he isn't worth the "headache" to the Steelers anymore should just stop. Has Troy missed playing time lately? Yes. But, is that reason to send him to the glue factory? Have the Steelers been better without him?

If It Ain't Steel wrote two articles last year that went into this very subject. They emphasized that Troy hadn't truly missed a lot of games in his nine years, not counting the 2009 season, and what his absence meant for the Steelers. -

Not wanting to be accused of choosing stats to fit an argument, if you're looking to focus on the period of time including and since 2009 in which he was sidelined for 11 games, Troy's missed 16 contests. The Steelers are 7-9 (counting the Titans loss) in those games, with more coming. And in '09 specifically, the Steelers were 9-7 and missed the playoffs. Though special teams were a problem that year, it was painfully obvious that the defense suffered in his absence.

Expanding his worth to encompass the 24 total games missed, the Steelers are barely .500 with none having been playoff games. His value simply should not be underestimated.

Arguments have been made that surround Troy's offseason conditioning program with Marv Marinovich, suggesting that a possible change in his training methods is in order. Maybe even in trainers.

Ike Taylor, who never gets hurt...except in games this season when he gets beaten like he burned Ike Turner's dinner, has wanted Troy to train with him down in Florida a couple of times. The trainer, Tom Shaw of SPARQ Training, has trained athletes like Ike, Ray Lewis (who is now out for the rest of the season with a torn triceps injury) and James Farrior among others. Players who have played at a high level at much later ages than normal at their positions.

It is true that Troy has had calf and lower leg issues for a few years now. So, it's a thought.

Nonetheless, despite the missed time, Troy has been the Steelers anchor on defense when he has been available. We are still talking, after all, about a seven-time Pro Bowler, including 2011, five-time All-Pro, also including 2011, and the 2010 AP/NFL Defensive Player of the Year. The same man who was confusing Peyton Manning at the line of scrimmage in Denver opening night.

As for his departure, Troy is the type to do so on his own terms. It won't be because he feels pressure from naysayers who'd love to see his luscious locks walking away for the last time.

Nor should Steelers fans delude themselves into thinking he isn't needed.

Draft his successor, yes. Draft his replacement, no.


TIDBITS - Everyone has heard by now of the senseless and wreckless crime committed by Steelers fourth-round draft pick, nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu.

In short summation, Ta'amu had a blood-alcohol level of 0.196 percent, more than twice the legal limit. He ended up leading police on a chase that resulted in his sport utility vehicle hitting several cars and was then arrested about 2:30 a.m. Sunday after a scuffle in which an officer punched him twice and was handcuffed with two sets of cuffs. Ta’amu posted $25,000 bail and was released.

I won't speculate on what the Steelers will do, regardless of Ta'amu's apologizing to his team. The Steelers, though, may have no choice as to what to do. With being booked on 15 counts, five of which were felony charges, the next time he sees the football field could be with the Gridiron Gang lined up next to his new cellmate girlfriend, Bubba. -


With the Steelers most likely without the services of right tackle Marcus Gilbert, who was in a boot Monday per Mike Prisuta of WDVE, and center Maurkice Pouncey, sprained MCL, could Trai Essex be on his way back to the South Side?

Essex was released by the Indianapolis Colts in September and could be a consideration for the Steelers to help shore up the offensive line. With Doug Legursky playing center in Pouncey's stead, they have no real backup. Practice Squad center John Malecki is an option also. Head coach Mike Tomlin is sure to address it at his weekly press conference.


Before the Titans game, the Steelers had piled up more penalty yards, 346, than rushing yards, 318. They also averaged more than nine penalties a game. Guard Willie Colon Cancer recognizes his part as he led all offensive linemen with eight penalties going into the Thursday's game.

"I'm making it an easy job for those refs. I've gotta do a better job of putting my hands inside, playing a lil better technique."

He isn't the only one.

Ike Taylor leads NFL defensive backs in penalties also. Per Mark Kaboly, "including the two in the first half of the Titans game, Ike Taylor leads all defensive backs with six penalties called on him (1 of those were declined)."

That is beyond disturbing.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Circle Of Life's Love

It hurts to feel you so deeply yet not to feel your touch,
To be so lonely though strong, to love you so much.
It's like a dagger in my heart, a pain too real,
Every utterance you make opens my wounds just to heal.

An angel, a devil, mild and wild, in peace and at war;
A summer breeze on the surface and a tempest at your core.
A solution and a conundrum, life and death-
A panacea or poison? To know I'll sacrifice my last breath.

Yet I wish to live forever, oblivion is not so sweet.
I want to soak my soul in the rapture of my love's heat,
To look in my lover’s eyes and know full well their symmetry,
To lose my senses in she who is the source of my idolatry.

Yet if I am to die some day, some time, somewhere,
I pray that I have you with me and am able to share
Eternity. Simply do not leave me alone in my grave
Like a slave with chains...for I am not that brave.

So, be the fire to my river and let vapors carry us as a mist,
Only until we become the next rain and into the seas as one we exist.

Remember The Titans: Roethlisberger Looks For Win And Record In Tennessee

As the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare to face the Earl Campbell, Dan Pastorini and the Houston Oilers this Thursday night, Terry Bradshaw will look to set a record...

Oh,'s actually Chris Johnson, Matt Hasselbeck and the Tennessee Titans that the Steelers will face. My bad. I got nostalgic because Terry Bradshaw really is a part of this game.

As Ben Roethlisberger leads his Steelers into Nashville's LP Field Thursday to face the struggling Titans, he has a major franchise record within reach.

Per Steelers beat writer Ed Bouchette, the Elias Sports Bureau changed Big Ben's stats in the Eagles game. His adjusted stats are 22-38 for 220 yards and a touchdown. The change also gives him 13 extra passing yards which means Big Ben needs just 287 yards to break the passing record (27,989 yards) of Steelers legend and four-time Super Bowl winning quarterback, Terry Bradshaw. -

NFL quarterbacks have averaged 284.4 yards passing against the Titans this year. Big Ben is averaging exactly 281 yards per game, six yards shy of the record amount needed. Seems just right for a reason to remember the Titans.

Unfortunately for Rashard Mendenhall, that also means his rushing numbers were reduced considering what is now a TD pass was a lateral and TD run. So, his stats are now 13 rushes for 68 yards, with a 5.23 yards per carry average (was 5.78 YPC). -

Mendy isn't the running back that is of main concern for the Steelers this week, however. That honor goes to the Titans' former 2,000 yard back, Chris Johnson.

Despite getting a $53 million contract for past efforts, this season Johnson has been as valuable as 2001 Enron stock and falls just as fast after the initial contact. CJ2K isn’t Earl Campbell by any means, but is a runner who’s willing to dance around a little until he finds a crease. He has rushed for only 210 yards so far this year, putting him on pace for a career low 672 yards.

But, the Steelers know CJ2K's potential and are ignoring his production thus far.

“We’ll be taking the approach that we can’t underestimate this guy,” linebacker Chris Carter said as reported in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “He’s still a home run-type runner. He can still break an 80-yard run, so we’re focused on containing him.

“You definitely have to give a player like that respect because his résumé has looked good for years," Carter continued. "We can’t give him any lanes, and that’s ultimately what it comes down to. He’s not the type that’s going to run over you; it’s about him getting open space.”

In other words, just because Reggie Jackson struck out more than anyone, he could also go yard three times in an inning. So, you have to account for him, and the Steelers must stay gap sound in their pursuit. Not that we've ever said that before. -

Johnson has faced the Steelers four times in his career and has gained only 211 yards (3.46 YPC) and two touchdowns. He did, though, break off a 60+ yard run four years ago...that was negated by a holding call. The point being that the home run can happen.

CJ2K may be off to a slow start this season, but the potential is there. If the defense is to keep him bottled up, they must be patient and maintain a high technique level throughout the game. Something they haven't been consistent doing this season.

The late game swoon has been an issue this season and absolutely has to be corrected. It couldn't be complacency (it had better not be complacency), so conditioning would seem to be the reason behind it. Blame could be laid on the new practice schedule, per the CBA. But, it still comes back to the coaches making the necessary adjustments.

That said, the Steelers are in an unfamiliar position at this point in the season. The Steelers can't afford to take any team lightly. Period. With the Ravens and Bengals both ahead of them in the division race, their playoff run may already have started.

Without two of its main defensive stars also, Troy Polamalu and LaMarr Woodley are both out as expected, the remaining players must share a greater load. (Per the Wednesday practice report, Rashard Mendenhall, James Harrison and Stevenson Sylvester are all probable.)

Jason Worilds is showing himself to be much more comfortable on the left side and he should start as the stand-in for Woodley. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said he thought Worilds played a good game, so it should seem to reason he'll see the bulk of the snaps. The strong safety position is another story.

Regarding that backup position, Mike Tomlin said they're "willing and capable" of playing not only fill-in starter Ryan Mundy but also special-teamer Will Allen in Polamalu's place Thursday.

LeBeau confirmed Tuesday that both Will Allen and Ryan Mundy should see time with Polamalu out. LeBeau says he considers Mundy and Allen the same person. -

That isn't exactly a ringing endorsement, so forgive me if I don't do cartwheels.

The Steelers need to address both safety positions in the next draft and/or offseason. Both Polamalu and Ryan Clark are getting up in age and an heir apparent for each needs to be found.

Not that Polamalu is done, just that this latest injury is proof that it is time to look to the future. His presence will be missed Thursday because, like Dale Lolley of NFL From The Sidelines brought out, he is still a difference maker:

Despite not having that difference maker the Steelers defense should handle Matt Hasselbeck and crew. They're only averaging 17 points per game. The opposing quarterback has professional and personal reasons for wanting this game: if Big Ben does break Bradshaw's record, he wouldn't want to do it in a loss.

While the Titans are also allowing 36 points per game, don't assume 36-17 will be the score of a Steelers win. In fact, a 27-9 win would have a beautiful sense of symmetry to it.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Polamalu And Woodley Won't Play vs. Titans, Will Saunders?

At Mike Tomlin's weekly press conference, held Monday this week because of the Thursday night game, the Pittsburgh Steelers head coach addressed the team looking forward and backward. As is the usual, injuries are a big part of the equation. -

As we know, Troy Polamalu re-inujured his right calf and is out this week. Tomlin was more optimistic on LaMarr Woodley saying he was "probably" out for the Tennessee Titans game with a "mild" hamstring injury. However, considering what happened last year, it would probably be best if he didn't play Thursday.

He pointed out that James Harrison had a "little swelling on knee," and that there was nothing negative regarding Rashard Mendenhall. All-in-all, he said that "from and injury standpoint, we came out of the game with some bumps and bruises."

Tomlin did address what he called a "subpar performance in some instances." He described the penalties that the Steelers are committing as some "guys working hard but not working smart." He says he "won't tolerate" self inflicted wounds, aka, penalties.

The pre-snap penalties can not be tolerated, true. He did, though, somewhat excuse the holding calls. He praised an offensive line that protected their quarterback.

"I think our offensive line did a good job protecting Ben (Roethlisberger), we were not sacked in the game"

Case in point in this is Willie Colon Cancer-he was flagged four times Sunday (though one was highly questionable). In total, Colon has been flagged eight times this season already, with six being false starts and two being for holding.

False start? Pre-snap and unacceptable. Holding? In-game and, well...Sunday was the first time since the October 17, 2010 Cleveland Browns game that Big Ben hasn't been sacked. One can only assume that Steeler Nation can tolerate those penalties much more easily.

We're used to Tomlin in his weekly pressers making a 2-14 team sound playoffs bound, but he had an interesting take on things Monday. He said that the Titans are "obviously off to a slow start" and that it makes them "dangerous."

He gave some praise to Titans running back Chris Johnson, but CJ2K is only averaging only about 42 yards per game (YPG). There are lots of problems in Tennessee, but many creatures are most dangerous when wounded.

What Mike Tomlin won't tell you, though, is that the Titans are allowing 36.2 points per game (PPG) most in NFL through five games since the 1954 Washington Redskins, per

"If we're going to be team we want to be," Tomlin said, "we need to win on the road." Tomlin was asked about the losing four of their last five road games (they're actually 5-6 on the road in last two seasons with some rather unimpressive wins) but he only wanted to focus on this year he said.

Well, here's something else Tomlin probably won't tell you: again per, the Steelers have lost 14 of the past 22 games in Central, Mountain and Pacific time zones.

Once road warriors, now roadkill. Tennessee just might be the road trip needed to turn the tide, especially with a mini-bye right after.

The highlight of the presser? Tomlin getting asked about the hit by Ryan Clark: "Please, Ed (Bouchette)...Next question."


The Steelers are facing a difficult decision when they bring Weslye Saunders back this week. They have a roster exemption snd may not bring him back until Friday. that said, when they do they'll have to make a decision between their tight ends. Leonard Pope has a guaranteed veteran salary of about $575,000. They haven't actually spent the money already, because Cap dollars are not actual cash. At least as far as the way bean counters see it.

Regardless the decision, it's difficult. If they move David Paulson to the practice squad, they have to pay Saunders and cut a P.S. player. Cut Pope and pay Saunders, the cost is about $400,000. An 'overall difference of about $169,000', per Jim Wexell.

But, Sunday may have been an unofficial "goodbye" to Pope. Didn't see field on Sunday and, therefore, he may be gone after Thursday's game. Makes more sense to go with youth and upside anyway.


Per Messieurs Neal Coolong and Lance Williams, Behind The Steel Curtain and Steel Curtain Radio respectively, Michael Vick's first 10 dropbacks Sunday included seven hits and five knockdowns. Vick was getting hit every three and a half drop backs.

So, why did James Harrison pull up on a sure shot on Vick?

"I let up on Michael Vick so I wouldn't get fined." -

Thanks, Roger Goodell. You have what you wanted: players playing tentatively. Thank goodness it wasn't a game-changing play. If it had been, you'd be more than hung in effigy.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Rashard Mendenhall's Return Keys Steelers 16-14 Victory

I said in a recent blog regarding the Battle for the Keystone State that if the Steelers ran for what the Eagles defense was giving up on average, 91 yards per game at 3.8 yards per carry (YPC), that I'd go back to bed thinking that I was dreaming.

Now that I'm awake again, did I miss anything significant? (Congrats, Drew Brees on number 48.)

The running game, boosted by the return of starter Rashard Mendenhall, ran the ball for a total of 136 yards on 31 carries, an average of 4.38 YPC.

Welcome back, Mendy! He ran the ball 14 times for 81 yards himself and said he felt good about his performance and the win. -

In the previously mentioned blog post, I'd said that the Steelers could exploit the middle of the Eagles Wide 9 line. I said "don't expect them to run it up the gut 30 times," but that "they must attack the middle."

According to ESPN's statistics Twitter feed, @ESPNStatsInfo, the "Steelers ran for 99 yards inside the tackles in Rashard Mendenhall's return."

You're welcome.

In the game, Mendy gained 101 total yards from scrimmage. More importantly, he made defenders miss and ran hard throughout the game. Mendy picked up a lot of yardage that wasn't initially there.

When it can down to it, however, Big Ben Roethlisberger overcame a 1st-and-20 start to drive the Steelers down field, setting up the game-winning field goal by Shaun Suisham with three seconds left. -

It ended up being a tight game after a 10-0 halftime lead for the Steelers as they and the Philadelphia Eagles took all 60 minutes to figure out who'd get the chicken dinner.

With this win, the Steelers are now 100-60-1 all time against the NFC. They've also won 27 out of the last 33 vs NFC, including eight straight at Heinz Field. They are only 27-46-3 with this win, though, against the Eagles during the regular season, including 18-18-1 at home.

It almost didn't happen, however, because the Steelers seemingly went to sleep for a while in the second half. The defense allowed the Eagles to run 28 plays in the second half - 25 of them being for scoring drives. It continues a trend of letting teams back into games late.

The Eagles drove, despite what one may think of the officiating, right over the Steelers to take a 14-13 lead. The Steelers took over after that touchdown with 6:33 remaining and used every second to take a 16-14 lead and victory with Suisham putting a cap on the 14-play, 64-yard drive. -

The 4th quarter comeback led by Big Ben was the 21st of his career. He was 21-37 for 207 yards and no touchdowns, no interceptions and suffered no sacks. It was also the 27th game-winning drive orchestrated by the two-time Super Bowl winner. -

It was only the 2nd game-winning drive in last 21 games, though, for the nine-year veteran. But a win is a win, and the Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin recognizes that they weren't as sharp as they could've been coming off of the bye. -

Neither side of the ball was completely sharp on Sunday. The Steelers yet again hurt themselves with penalties. They saw so much yellow laundry that it looked like fans were throwing their Terrible Towels on the field.

They were flagged nine times in all, with Willie Colon Cancer hitting a grand slam as he saw four of them. Two more were personal fouls where their safeties were flagged for illegal hits.

Probably the biggest news of the game, though, was the injuries sustained by the defense. Troy Polamalu re-injured his calf and linebacker LaMarr Woodley tweaked his hamstring. Both left the game and did not return.

With the Steelers having a short week, it is doubtful that they will be on active status as the week progresses toward Thursday's game.

Despite those losses they still played a fairly good defensive game. Actually executing the game plan meant they weren't hurt by big plays. DeSean Jackson had one big catch of 24 yards and Brandon Boykins had one big punt return of 25 yards.

They also kept Michael Vick contained. They confused, pressured and hit him all day, resulting in two lost 2 fumbles. Part of which being aided by the return of James Harrison, who was supposed to split time with fellow linebacker Chris Carter.

That didn't happen as Deebo amazingly played almost every down.

The Steelers put the Silverback in positions that allowed him to be effective. He was used on X-stunts, in coverage, on blitzes...they moved him around to make people have to be accountable for him. He alone had three hits and the Steelers had three sacks all told to go along with the turnovers.

Lawrence Timmons, the Steelers Digest Player of the Week, was all over the field also. He had 10 tackles, three QB pressures, one QB hit and one forced fumble.

The defense had its questionable moments, but as a whole got back to Steelers football. LeSean McCoy was just a shadow of his normal self as he was held to only 53 yards on the day, averaging only 3.3 YPC.

Instead it was Mendy, not Shady, who led his team to victory on Sunday.