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Aaron Rodgers vs. Big Ben Roethlisberger

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The Steelers will host the AFC Championship game against the confident NY Jets this Saturday. They will be playing in the AFC Championship game for the 5th time in 10 years. In my lifetime, they’ve been to 3 Super Bowls, and have won 2, both with Big Ben behind center. Read the rest of this page »

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Post-game Thoughts: The Jets are “That Guy”

Ok, so I guess I don’t really write blog posts as often when the Steelers win. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty to talk about, rip apart, and point out, I just really enjoy a win, and sometimes it takes me about a week to cure the hangover. Read the rest of this page »

Midweek Reaction: On the Upcoming Bills

‘Cause the Raiders game simply isn’t worth talking about.

I don’t know much about the Bills, but I do know that they have a dynamic duo of wide receivers, and we have a disappointing  (to say the least) secondary. I know that they surged late to beat the inept Bengals (Carson Palmer may be even worse than I thought after watching that Tday debacle), and we have a habit of giving up 4th quarter leads. I know that everyone thought the win would be easy last year, and some how we came away losing to a string of teams, including the Bills, that we had no business losing to. Read the rest of this page »

Midweek Reactions/Letter from the Fans: Steelers/Patriots

Sorry Jeff, I didn’t spend $200 on my ticket, and drive 16 hours from MN to heckle you when you miss a field goal. You don’t matter that much.

After a long drive, a fun time on the Strip, and getting to see my long lost family in Pittsburgh, my brother and I had to endure a very, very rough outing by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Ouch. I gave myself a few days before writing this post so I would have some time to cool off, but Im not sure it did any good. All that being said, getting to visit Pittsburgh, tailgate, and soak in the vibe of the stadium made it all well worth the drive. Read the rest of this page »

En Route To Pitt

We are officially on our way to Pittsburgh for an epic weekend of tailgating, and the Steelers Patriots game at Heinz Field. We’ve got great LL tickets. Pictures will be posted.  We’ll drink beer, play bags, toss the rock around, eat some Meckler Dip (family recipe, it’s tha bomb), and record a video blog specially for Pittsburghrick.com. Check back for news from the Burgh!

Midweek Reactions: Game 8, Steelers/Bengals

Although Troy may disagree, style points don’t matter. A win is a win, and the Steelers have outlasted the Bengals to go 6-2. They are neck and neck with the Ravens, and absolutely must keep winning.

That being said, our boys in Black and Gold must learn from their mistakes. They’ve blown fourth quarter leads against the Bengals too many times, and Monday night was too close for comfort. After leading by 20 pts in the 4th, the Steelers gave up a couple touchdowns to let the Bungles back in the game. Thankfully our D stepped up in the end and our big playmakers…well, they made big plays.

I live in MN. Fans here are ridiculous. They don’t understand the game, and if they do, their view on the rest of the NFL is skewed and inaccurate at the best. Every week people say the same thing, “Oh you’re playing [insert team here]? that will be an easy win.” I always respond the same way, “Yeah well, nothing is ever easy for the Steelers.” I believe that, I really do. I grew up listening to my dad talk about how it was like every game was the Super Bowl when the Steelers play, and I am beginning to understand what he meant. Teams know they’re about to face the greatest franchise in the history of professional football. The worst teams in the league get up and play like its do or die when they play the Steelers, regardless of their record. As well they should. A win against the Steelers can give you confidence and swagger, and can be a big momentum changer for your season. Just see this year’s New Orleans Saints after their win against the Steelers. All that really means is the Steelers need to be more prepared mentally and physically than any other team they play, because it is never going to come easy.

Aside from all of the atrocious calls the Steelers had to overcome, they also had to overcome injuries to some of their top offensive linemen, and a myriad of poor playcalling from our friend Bruce “the spruce” Arians. I’ve never liked that screen pass to Ward. I always feel like its a play they run to keep his (well deserved) consecutive catches streak alive. Running it two plays in a row though? When the max we’ve gained from the play after running it a million times is maybe 7 yards? I’d be willing to guess that play yields an average of two yards. Why run it twice in a row? As we saw Monday night, the second of two screens in a row (one to one side, and the second to the opposite side) to Ward resulted in a (albeit rare) Ward fumble. Brilliant.

I loved seeing Rashard pound it down their throats late in the 4th though. Just wondering why we don’t pass it on 3rd and 4 at the end of that drive? We spent $100 million on our savior Big Ben. Stuck by him when he made some very poor desicions, why not go for the first down and put the game away? After a Rashard 2 yard gain, Jeffy went ahead and missed the game-ender anyway.

I’m done with Jeff Reed. He’s been reliable for a long time, but he isn’t anymore. Plain and simple. Good kickers get it done when the game is on the line. Had he made that kick, he could have probably done anything in the upcoming weeks and we would have let him get away with it. He’s lucky our D was able to hold them off, otherwise I’m sure we’d being hearing even more cries from the Yinzers in Pittsburgh.

Offense

I am a little concerned, I must admit. Big Ben seems like he’s not all there yet. Where most QBs have had 8 or 9 games with their team, Ben has had 4. Against the Bengals we started to see for the first time Big Ben going out there and changing the play at the line of scrimmage on a more regular basis. Its a sign that he is starting to feel comfortable in the offense, and that he’s getting his head wrapped around the feel of the game again. Something else seems to be missing though. That old time Big Ben magic we’re used to seeing seems to be a thing of the past, at least for now. We see flashes of brilliance, but he’s still making very poor throws, and under throwing Mike Wallace nearly every time Mike gets fee down the field. Ben is big and strong enough to get it to him, I wish he’d just chuck that thing down field! Some of this may not be Ben’s fault, as we did experience some injuries to the already struggling offensive line, and the usually inept pass rush of the Cincinnati Bengals was all over Big Ben all night.

Rashard looked pretty good, though. I liked how instead of bouncing him outside like we tried to do too many times, we just started running it right at them. Rashard is showing agility, quickness, and vision, and running him up the middle seems to be much more productive than some of these other running plays (22 Double excluded) have been.

Defense

I am always hesitant to blame the defense for anything since they’ve given us so many things in the past decade or so, and I feel we should be able to beat anyone in the NFL if we can keep them 20pts or less, but something is amiss here as well. Our pattern of giving up 4th quarter leads started over a year ago, and is creeping back again to haunt us. We blamed it on Aaron Smith being out, and Troy being out, but there is something else going on here. Our secondary still seems extremely vulnerable. I have never liked the way Willy Gay plays, and I never will. He makes a big play here, and then gets burned for a touchdown or two there. McFadden is getting beat too often, and Ike Taylor is making costly mistakes. Its also been a while since Troy has come up with a huge interception at a big moment that we are so used to seeing from him. TO is an aging veteran. Smart, but slower than he used to be, and there is no excuse for him having the kind of game he had Monday night. I follow a lot of Steelers players on Twitter, and of the ones who tweet regularly, namely Ryan Clark and LaMarr Woodley, I can hear their frustration in how they are playing. Clark is always saying something like “Well, a win is a win, but we know we need to get better. About to go hit some game tape.”

Bottom line: We need to get better.

Props to Emmanuel Sanders for having another huge game with a forced fumble on special teams. This guy is going to be good, and if he keeps playing like this, we won’t see Antonio Brown again until Ward retires. I’d really like to see Sanders running all of El’s routs. Never been a huge fan of Antwaan as a wide-out, though its nice to have him back for some trickery.

Jon and I head out to Pittsburgh to attend the game at Heinz Field this weekend. Can’t wait to cheer on our boys in person. The Patriots have been winning, and under the radar. I really hope we come prepared, cause I really don’t want to drive 17 hours to see us lose to the Patriots <-Maybe the team I hate the most in the NFL.

There will be video and pictures from the game next week. Until then, I leave you with this:



Midweek Reactions: Game 7 – Steelers/Saints

Alright, so its been a while. Forgive me, Ive been going insane trying to finish up my Masters degree, and unfortunately blogging about my boys in Black and Gold (the real Black and Gold) has taken a bit of a backseat. As always, if you’d like to get frequent updates and listen to me rant during the games, you can follow me on Twitter.

First things first: This was an ugly game. My initial reaction to the way the game started to unfold was that we were unprepared to play against the Saints defense. After some time and some thought, I have confirmed that my first reaction was an accurate one.

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Offense – I am often puzzled by the decisions Bruce Arians makes when he calls plays, but this game seemed to be worse than others. I am always hesitant to blindly jump on the “fire his ass” train, and when Yinzers started calling for BA’s head I was no different. Needless to say, I am beginning to see the light. The Steelers offense couldn’t seem to play against the Saints blitz. It was just too much for them to handle. I am sure the crowd noise was a big factor in communication, but the play-calling was just ridiculous. I love the balance between the run game and the pass game, but running the ball straight up the middle when there are 8 or 9 guy in the blocks about to blitz is never a good idea.  It wasn’t really until they ran the  22 Double play that Rashard was able to break one off for a TD. This is where the offense started to click, before the 4th quarter, it was like our offense had never seen a blitz before. No short passes, no play action, no deep balls to Mike Wallace…Everything you could logically think of that might discourage the other team from blitzing every down was like a mystery to our offense. Instead we ran screen passes and runs up the middle that resulted in short gains and ultimately a situation where our offense had a long 3rd down to convert. Throwing the ball deep to Wallace (they didn’t do it once against the Saints. They didn’t even try) lets the defense know that they have to respect us and that they cant blitz every down. Wallace has said it himself, he believes he can beat anyone in the NFL. LET HIM!!

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>Im not in to woulda coulda shouldas, but if Heath hadn’t fumbled, Id probably be writing a much different blog post right now. We’d be talking about Big Ben and yet another miraculous 4th quarter comeback. It was amazing to see how much impact one play had on the result of the game.

Also, why not let Ben run the no-huddle for a while? Crowd noise too much for him? Hasn’t been back long enough? Changing up the pace of the game would have forced New Orleans to stop blitzing, and given Ben more time to get rid of the ball and find an open receiver.

ps-I love Emmanuel Sanders. I needs to hold on to the freaking ball though. I hope they give him shit for that in practice.

Coaching I touched on this a little bit with Bruce Arians, but there are a couple other things I’d like to get at.

Challenges: After El’s TD was taken away from him – a ball I thought clearly crossed the plain. If anything, there wasn’t conclusive evidence to overturn it – Mendenhall clearly ran the next ball in. Just watch the replay. Its sick. It hurts to watch your coaching staff sit back and watch instead of doing something about the terrible officiating that was going on out there. As it turns out, Tomlin has actually said he should have challenged the Mendy run, but hey, hindsight is always 20/20. Or at least close to it. I understand that Tomlin felt it would be hard to win a challenge in an away game, but in a situation like that, you have to try.

Defense – 3rd and 8. You have to stop them. The Steelers had a chance to stop the Saints and get the ball back again late in the game and they couldn’t stop the Saints on a 3rd and 8. I hate prevent defense. It sucks, and other teams always rack up big numbers on our D when they use it. This time, the Saints easily (how the hell was that guy so wide open, and how the hell did the 3 Steelers jerseys around him not stop him from crossing the chain marker??) converted on third down, and then quickly scored to seal the deal.

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Im not going to sit here and bash the defense though, because the defense was not the problem. Our defense made a couple of really big red zone stops, a goal line stand, and kept the Saints under/on the 20 point mark. In fact, they kept the Saints to just 6 points all the way in to the 4th quarter. Our team should be able to beat any team in the NFL if they hold said team to such a low point total. The Saints only started scoring touchdowns after it seemed the Steelers had already accepted defeat. Im just not used to that. Im not used to seeing my team play so lousy, and then give up before the game is over. I don’t care how loud the stadium is, I don’t care that they are the defending Super Bowl champs. Go out there and play hard.

That being said, we’re in pretty good shape. I think the offense will learn from being in such a hostile playoff-like environment and get better from it. We missed Aaron Smith, but the numbers didn’t really show. As long as Ziggy Hood can step up and play some ball, we should be fine in that area. Timmons had another big week, and the Silverback seems to be back to his old ways of hurting people. I love it. The offense needs to get on the same page or every team we play is going to bring everyone and the kitchen sink in to blitz.

I think sometimes I just need to remember that teams don’t win every game they play (See Patriots undefeated season), and 5-2 is a good spot to be in. Although, it would be nice to be a couple games up on the Ratbirds.

ANNOUNCEMENT Jon and I hit the road next Friday to Pittsburgh where we will tailgate, and watch the game from great seats in the LL of Heinz Field. I’ll take some video and post it here, so STAY TUNED!