Monthly Archives: December 2015

AFC North Stats ‘N At, Week 16 Edition

USA Today Sports/Tommy Gilligan photo

Week 16 was not a good one for the Black and Gold. The AFC North was a mere .250 this week, and the sole winning team was the one which damaged the Steelers playoff hopes the most—the Ravens. Given the Steelers loss to said Ravens, the best scenario for the Monday night clash between the Bengals and Broncos would have been a Broncos loss, but that was not to be, either. And to no one’s surprise the Browns did not beat the Chiefs, although this had perhaps the smallest effect for good or ill on the Steelers. In other words, it was not a good week, and I don’t think most of us have recovered yet.

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5 Smoldering Questions On the Pittsburgh Steelers, Week 17

toasterWhat are some of the most special Steelers gifts you’ve been given at Christmas time? Have you given away any similarly special Steelers gifts?

The Steelers took their 9-5 record into Baltimore, with line of sight access to the post season, and proceeded to lay one of the worst eggs of the Tomlin era as the Ravens snared Pittsburgh in a trap game.  [Or perhaps you could say they were toast…]

Now Steelers Nation finds itself in the odd state of rooting for Rex Ryan while holding on to the hope that the Steelers can prevail against the Browns. But before that can come to pass, we must first grappled with these 5 Smoldering Questions on the Steelers.

1. When asked to categorize the significance of last week’s win, our esteemed author Ivan Cole suggested that such a comeback represented an important step in a young team’s learning the art of winning….

…After such a horrendous let down are you prepared to say the Steelers are learning to how to lose?

2. Much has been written and said about the Steelers decision to abandon the run that was so successful in the first half. When you lose, people ask questions like that. So what’s your answer? Should the Steelers have continued to feed the ball to DeAngelo Williams more?

3. Mike Tomlin denied that his team came out flat, and chalked up the loss to a failure to win the turnover battle. The Steelers are 0-4 when they get no turnovers. What do you think? Do you agree with the coach, or was lack of turnovers a symptom, not a cause?

4. Here’s a stat to chew on:

What does this factoid tell you?

5. No one on this site (me least of all me) subscribes to the “Play for draft position” philosophy, but in raw, football Realpolitik terms, what would be the best possible long-term outcome for the Steelers this coming Sunday?

Well folks, that’s it for this week. While some element of catharsis is expected and healthy, let’s see if we can also make it constructive….

The Steeler Way. The Linebackers – Joey Porter.

The Linebackers, part 1.

Linebackers are the heart and soul of the Steeler defense. For over forty years, more often than not, Pittsburgh’s defense has been among the elite units in the NFL.  Many great LBs have worn the black and gold. They have been cerebral, athletic, loud, reserved, violent and/or lightning fast. At their best, the linebackers corps have exhibited all of these qualities in one group.

Blitzburgh LBs have earned 57 Pro Bowl nominations since 1968. Two have been elected to the Hall of Fame. Lambert, Russell and Ham were the foundation. Lambert handed the torch to Little, Cole, Merriweather and Hinkle in 1984. Hardy Nickerson and Greg Lloyd joined Hinkle and Little and ushered in the 1990s. Along came Kevin Greene, Levon Kirkland and Chad Brown, a formidable unit who with Lloyd lead the Steelers to a Super Bowl appearance in the 1995 season, their first in 16 years.

Soon came Jason Gildon and then Joey Porter taking the Steelers sack machine into the 21st century. The Rooneys soon signed James Farrior and then drafted Larry Foote bringing into recent memory. Clark Haagans joined Potsie, Foote and Joey, winning SB XL. Gildon and Porter were replaced by James Harrison and Lamaar Woodley and that group lead us to another Lombardi trophy in 2008. Lawrence Timmons replaced Foote and the Steelers got to the Super Bowl two years later. Read more

Ivan’s Second Thoughts: Steelers vs. Ravens


Courtney Upshaw, who made one of the best plays for the Steelers on Sunday…

by Ivan Cole

Ivan got this to me after I had already headed out for a six hour trip to see my mother, so I’m just posting it now. He said he needed time to cool off. I think maybe he didn’t cool off quite as much as he thought he did. You’ve been warned…

Okay, let me say at the outset that this isn’t a fire someone set up. I am asking for your help because of something I honestly don’t understand. So please talk me down from the ledge on this one.

When the situation is first and goal at the one yard line why would you line up in an empty set? Just to clarify, that means no one but the quarterback in the backfield, and just to remove all doubt, in shotgun formation as well.  This is just not a knock on Todd Haley. Bruce Arians did this kind of thing too. It just seems to me that you have made the job of the defense so much easier. They don’t have to be concerned at all about the run, and are able to defend the pass in the most confining space possible.

We saw this kind of smart thinking in Super Bowl 43 with Haley (James Harrison was the beneficiary), and more recently in Super Bowl 49. Running the ball is too boring, too predictable, let’s trick ‘em! Or in this case, let’s not. We have four downs to get the ball in the end zone, hell with it, we’re passing, try and stop us.

What I remember was literally screaming at the television when I saw the formation and then watched in horrified disgust as the pass was intercepted and returned the length of the field.

[‘sigh’] Thank God for Courtney Upshaw in this case.

The story here is about greed and hubris. Maybe they were looking to achieve some level of high art. Perhaps this was the interpretation of not living in your fears. Of course, my version of not living in your fears is believing that your running back can get a yard in two or three tries.

But obviously I’m missing something here. Please help me out. Read more

On Second Thought: Steelers at Ravens

via USA Today Sports: Chris Boswell was one of the few bright spots…

by Homer J.

As usual this is Rebecca editing Homer’s stream-of-consciousness game notes. I presume he will let us know if I manage to edit them into something he didn’t mean. However, there is little doubt how he feels this week, as he sent me this addendum, which seems like a good way to start the article…

About the best thing you can say about Sunday’s loss is that they have closed all access to the Greenfield Bridge in Pittsburgh, and they are going to blow it up on Monday. So that negates one final exit route for those Steeler fans who believe they have no reason to live after this totally unexpected loss. 

Of course, Pittsburgh – as the social scientist Reggie “Crusher” Lisowski once observed, is the only city where a guy can commit suicide jumping out his basement window, because there are so many places to end it all after this Gloomy Sunday. 

For Homer, this also means listening to the incessant yammering of Redskin fans in DC, since the .500 skins have won the NFC Least Division. They will be going to the playoffs, while the Steelers will be playing golf in two weeks. Until the ‘Skins are one and done, Homer will have to bear the pain of listening to these idiots and he will envy the deaf. 

Happy New Year. Yeah, sure. Well, have a healthy one. The NFL Player Selection Meeting is only four months away. Maybe we’ll get a shutdown corner this year. 

I need a beer. (Game notes follow the jump.) Read more

Game Recap: The Ravens Rise Up from the Ashes of a 4-10 Season

If it makes any of us feel any better, there were several upsets in the early games. Undefeated Carolina was beaten by the  previously 7-7 Falcons. The Chiefs barely beat the Browns. The Jets beat the Patriots in overtime. Oh wait, that’s bad. Leave it to the Pats to screw the Steelers one more time this season.

Don’t feel any better? I didn’t think so. The game was definitely sub-optimal. I have to admit I was in no rush to write this one up.

I’m also feeling rather foolish for publishing the Seven Shots article Sunday morning. But I suppose if I hadn’t put it up this morning I might not have felt I could use it at all. So there’s that.

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Taking a Shot at the Steelers’ Defense

Carnell Lake, in a less kind and caring era

Partway through the Steelers’ 2015 training camp tantalizing hints began trickling out about a drill called “seven shots.” This is something head coach Mike Tomlin instituted with the idea of honing a selection of goal line plays, both to help increase the Steelers’ red zone percentage and to use in two-point conversion attempts. Read more

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