Monthly Archives: September 2016

Job Security in the NFL: Are Any Steelers Starters in Danger?

ar-160509526Today’s post was inspired by the following exchange on yesterday’s Asked and Answered, Bob Labriola’s Q and A column on

QUESTION: Do you see Justin Gilbert getting a start against the Chiefs, and do you also see Mike Tomlin making any changes to the secondary?

ANSWER: Justin Gilbert starting against the Chiefs? No. But there could be some personnel changes to the secondary, and those changes could be dictated by injuries. Yesterday, Robert Golden (hamstring) and Sean Davis (back) both missed practice, and both of those guys have significant roles either in the starting lineup, in sub-package alignments, or both. As a rookie, Davis is going to have to show Mike Tomlin that he can practice, because knowing what to do is a big part of it. I cannot predict how the Steelers might react if either or both of those guys cannot play, but if changes have to be made, and those changes produce positive results, then my experience is that’s how changes can become permanent.

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Steelers Opponent Preview: The Kansas City Chiefs


Who are the Chefs? An oldie but goodie…

It hasn’t been nearly long enough since we’ve seen the Chiefs. For some reason the Steelers seem to have to play the Chiefs almost every year, and almost every time something bad happens. So let’s begin by checking whether this is actually true in recent years.

The most recent was just about 11 months ago, on October 25th. The quarterback for the Steelers was Landry Jones. Ben Roethlisberger had been injured four weeks previously, and his back-up, Michael Vick, had been injured the previous week in the win against the Cardinals. The Chiefs were 1-5, having won their first match and lost the subsequent five. And of course they turned out to not be as bad as you expect an 1-5 team to be. In fact, they didn’t lose a single game after that, including, of course, the tilt against the Steelers, and ended the season at 11-5.  Read more

5 Smoldering Questions: The Red-Faced Edition

imageOnce again Hombre is unavailable, but the embarrassment referred to by the post title is for the Steelers, not for Going Deep. Let’s see what you all think. Please keep it printable…

In yesterday’s post I wrote about the 2008 Steelers loss in Philly. As we all know, they went from strength to strength after that, eventually winning the Super Bowl. The questions mostly have to do with the comparison to this season. Bearing that in mind, here they are:

1. Be as honest as you can. It’s very easy to let subsequent events color your memory of a past event, but that said, how do you recall you felt after that game? Did you think the Steelers weren’t very good? Did it feel like the season was over? Or did you feel it was a blip on the radar?

2. The two teams the Steelers beat this season in Weeks 1 and 2 appear to be better than the 8-8 Houston Texans and 4-12 Cleveland Browns of 2008. Does this make you feel better or worse?

3. Next week’s opponent is, according to almost everyone, going to attack the Steelers in exactly the same fashion that Philly did so successfully last week. How do you rate the comparative coaching acumen of Andy Reid to that of Doug Pederson, the abilities of Alex Smith as a quarterback compared to Carson Wentz, and the fierceness of the Kansas City defense as compared to that of the Eagles?

4. The Steelers played the toughest schedule in the NFL in 2008 and earned a bye week. How does the difficulty of this season’s opponents appear to compare with the 2008 schedule? [In case you don’t happen to have the schedule at the forefront of your mind, the opponents are, in addition to the usual AFC North suspects, the 2-1 Chiefs, 1-2 Jets, 1-2 Dolphins, 3-0 Patriots, 2-1 Cowboys, 1-2 Colts, 2-1 Giants and 1-2 Bills.]

5. The Eagles “only” sacked Ben Roethlisberger four times in 61 offensive plays. (And boy, were some of them offensive…) In 2008 the Eagles sacked Roethlisberger eight times, and Byron Leftwich once, in 66 offensive plays. Does this mean Roethlisberger is better at getting the ball out of his hand, the offensive line is better now, or something else?

Bonus question: Did you make any mojo-related mistakes? I certainly did, eating tacos at Beba’s after six days (on Saturday) instead of on game day. My daughter-in-law, whom I love very dearly, did also move the Terrible Towel from its display position in the living room, although she immediately restored it after the gravity of this was explained to her. Is there anything you can blame yourself for, except perhaps for wasting four hours or so of your life watching Sunday’s debacle?

Sorry to make you think about this again. Hopefully next week we will have a less embarrassing game to discuss…

On Second Thought: Steelers @ Eagles


Al Tielemans photo/SI

It’s pretty painful to contemplate this game in any depth. We can just all be grateful we aren’t the ones sitting in the film room, trying to explain to our position coaches what the heck just happened.

Perhaps the best way to think about this game is to look at the last time the Eagles spanked the Steelers in Philadelphia. That would be in 2008.

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Steelers @ Eagles

imageI started to put up one of those tombstones with “R.I.P.” on it or some such, but that would perhaps be over-dramatic for a Week 3 game which is also the first loss of the season. But as Son No. 2 says, it’s difficult to truly grasp just how much that sucked. We weren’t able to watch the game, what with one thing and another, until the evening, and as I write this it is bedtime in Salt Lake.

I’m going to bed now, hoping I’ll be able to get up tomorrow morning and find something good to write about the game. But I’m not feeling very Pollyanna-ish just now.

The one thing I suppose you could point to is that Ryan Fitzpatrick’s day was even worse than Ben’s. According a tweet by Jon_Bois, Fitzpatrick has the first six interception zero touchdown game since Tom Tupa in 1989. Tupa later became a punter.

Ben’s not a bad punter, actually…

And on that note, see you tomorrow.

Sunday Soliloquy: Random Stuff About Steelers/Eagles ‘n at…

Primanti_Menu_2008apr v2a outside right.inddDuring this past week we have published a well-researched opponent preview, the second part of a very thought-provoking article about what is behind the continuing refusal of some to give Mike Tomlin the credit he clearly deserves, some ground-breaking statistical analysis, (okay, perhaps I exaggerate a tad,) game reviews, and so on. All serious stuff.

Today’s post is not like those. It’s been a long and interesting week here in Salt Lake City as we await the imminent birth of Grandchild No. 11, and a tiring one too. So what you’re going to get is a bit of light relief, I hope.

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Refereeing Part 2: Calculating the Cost in the Steelers/Bengals Game


Frank Victores, USA Today Sports

My youngest son, whom I am currently visiting, read Tuesday’s article in which I focused on the refereeing of last Sunday’s game and came away disappointed. Of course, every parent is accustomed to their offspring feeling a lack in their parental units, but Edmund has reached and passed the age (approximately 25 for most children, I believe) in which his parents have stopped getting stupider and are on the upswing, so perhaps there’s more to it than that.

His disappointment was with my conclusion, or lack thereof, more precisely. He’s got a point. I’m always reluctant to express a really firm opinion about such things, from the fear I’m merely exposing my ignorance. This is despite the fact I spent some amount of time studying the rules for PI and leading with the crown of the helmet, and even watched Dean Blandino’s video on PI. It still wasn’t exactly clear in my mind. But given the results of last Sunday’s game, I’m not sure I’m the only one with this problem.

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Week 3 Opponent Preview: The Philadelphia Eagles



There are a lot of factors in this game which make it more interesting than the usual non-divisional opponent. The Eagles have a baby quarterback who has looked very good so far, a brand-new head coach, and they just shut out the Steelers in the preseason.

Let’s dispose of the last item right away. Whatever happened in the preseason has no bearing whatsoever on the upcoming game. First of all, their quarterback is different, and very possibly better, although Sam Bradford killed it in Minnesota last Sunday. The Steelers’ quarterback is also different, and very definitely better.

But the main reason is, the two head coaches had very different goals for that particular game, which a moment’s reflection should make clear.

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Anti-Tomlin, 2016 Version: Part 2


Peter Diana/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

by Ivan Cole

[Editor’s note: in Part 1 Ivan made the case that the anti-Tomlin rhetoric has gotten more subtle as the narrative is more difficult to sustain in the face of the evidence. Here’s Ivan’s theory as to why it continues anyhow.]


So maybe it’s time to broach the subject of the ‘R’ word. I stated earlier that Cowherd’s insinuations were insulting to all involved. The topic we haven’t upon touched yet is the organization and the culture that has allegedly coddled and protected its head coach. Left unexplained is how such a first class operation could make an error in discernment concerning, arguably, the most important and impactful decision affecting the success of the organizational mission, and then compound it by not acknowledging it and making corrections. Read more

5 Smoldering Questions: Bengals at Steelers Edition


Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo

As noted last week, Hombre is unavailable for an indefinite amount of time, rather like Ladarius Green. Unlike Green, he can come back before six weeks are up, but may or may not, depending on how his fingers are doing and whether he is still having headaches. Or not, depending on who you ask…

My attempt is not to replace him, because like Heath Miller, you can’t hope to do so. You can only hope to keep things going and throw a few good blocks in the process.

1. Is there a solution to the refereeing issues we’ve been seeing in the past few seasons in particular? Is it full-time referees, like pretty much every other professional sport has, or fines for poor performance? Or do we just have to accept that they are human beings who can’t catch everything?

2. Ben Roethlisberger called Sammie Coates out after the interception last Sunday in which Coates stopped running, allowing Dre Kirkpatrick to get the ball instead. Coates responded with some great catches. Ben did the same thing with Martavis Bryant last season, with similar results. I just read that Sammy Watkins in Buffalo is prone to inconsistent effort as well. Is there something in the mental makeup of tall, quick receivers which causes this, or is this merely coincidence?

3. What was your favorite play (or aspect) of Sunday’s game?

4. Are you concerned that the low sack totals (you could argue that the Steelers don’t have a single one yet) and high yardage given up is going to be inconsistent with winning efforts in the games to come? Do you think it is likely to change for the better?

5. Who is the player who is, for you, the most pleasant surprise so far? Who is the player in whom you are most disappointed?

You know the drill. Show your work, feel free to look at other people’s answers, and be sure to color in the little circles completely with a No. 2 pencil.

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