Numbers Don’t Add Up

October 30, 2006

The first four games the Steelers lost this year came at the hands of teams with winning records. Atlanta and San Diego are both 5-2. The combined record of the four teams that had beaten them before yesterday is 18-10. That doesn’t explain how a defending Super Bowl champion could play so poorly, but at least it only causes you only to scratch your head. Losing to the Raiders makes you want to go way beyond scratching, like completely pulling out your hair.
It’s unbelievable that the Steelers could lose to the Raiders period, a team that couldn’t beat Cleveland or San Francisco. But when you look at the way the game played out, it’s even worse, especially with what it meant to the Steelers.
Since Bill Cowher took over as the Steelers head coach, they have gained more rushing yards than any team in the NFL. Yet they couldn’t make one yard on the ground in the fourth quarter with the season on the line while trailing by a touchdown. First and goal at the Raiders one. And they lost yardage on two straight running plays before a penalty completely blew up the series? This against a Raiders team that was ranked first against the pass only because teams had run all over them all year.
But what really didn’t make sense was the fact that the Raiders managed only 98 yards of total offense to the Steelers 360. The Raiders made one third down conversion the entire day. They passed for a whopping total of 17 yards. They picked up just nine first downs. There is just no way this game should not have gone in the victory column for the Steelers.
But if you can only look at one statistic from a football game, look at turnovers. They are the great equalizer. The Steelers had four, the Raiders had one. And now the only thing that is equal, are the records of the two teams. Is it too early to buy a draft preview guide?

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After Sunday’s loss to the Falcons, the Steelers might be the best 2-4 team in NFL history. That being said, you can’t turn the ball over as many times as this team does and expect to win games. I don’t want to hear anyone talking about the officials, Ben getting hurt, or for goodness sake, Nate Washington getting flagged for cutting a rug in the endzone. None of that matters! The Steelers turned the ball over four times! Most of them in their own territory. You can’t win that way, period! Plus, the one thing the Steelers defense thought couldn’t happen did: Michael Vick beat them throwing the ball. Hats off to Mr. Vick, I didn’t think he had it in him, but he stayed in the pocket and made plays with his arm. So now what? The Steelers are 2-4, you can just about forget about the division. And the playoffs? You’re guess is as good as mine!

Malkin Is The Real Deal

October 20, 2006

Penguins fans, get ready for the Evgeni Malkin era! I caught his opening act Wednesday night at the Igloo and I was nothing short of impressed. Not since some guy named Lemieux have I seen a player so big who can move so well on the ice. Not to mention the fact that he’s got great awareness and really soft hands. I expect Malkin and Sidney Crosby to form a one-two punch not seen in this town since number 66 and number 68! And the great part about it, he’s still learning the NHL game! But, let’s not forget, this guy has played in the top leagues in Russia, plus the Olympics, he’s used to big time pressure. So enjoy it, Penguins fans! Players like Crosby and Malkin only come along once in a lifetime!

Falcons All Bark, No Bite!

October 20, 2006

Sure the Atlanta Falcons have the league’s best rushing attack, but the Steelers usually eat good running attacks for lunch. Last week, the Giants did a good job of containing Atlanta’s playmakers. They did give up touchdown runs to Michael Vick and Warrick Dunn, but they also sacked Vick seven times and knocked the ball out of his hand on numerous occaisions. The Steelers have considerably better defensive personel that the Giants, (and those who know me know that’s a little tough for me to say!) plus they are much more gap sound. I predict a long day for Vick and company. The Steelers will shut down the Falcons running attack, thereby forcing Vick to throw from the pocket, something he simply does not do well. On offense, look for the Steelers to open things up a bit. They matchup well with the Atlanta defense and they should be able to run whenever they see fit. That should open things up for Big Ben and the passing attack. (Look for Heath Miller to be huge in this game!) Don’t get me wrong, the Falcons are a tough team, especially in that loud, raucous Georgia Dome. But, if the Steelers execute, they should come out of the Dirty South with a victory!

Can’t Blame Ben

October 10, 2006

Much as you may want to, you can’t blame the Steelers recent stretch of poor play soley on Ben Roethlisberger. Yeah, it’s true, he’s the second lowest-rated passer in the AFC, but it’s not all his fault. The offensive line was less than stellar Sunday night against the Chargers, the running game was inconsistent, and the defense didn’t do the Steelers any favors either. Too often, football fans are quick to blame the quarterback when things don’t go wrong. Did we not forget, this is the same Ben Roethlisberger who turned in three amazing performances to get the Black and Gold to the Superbowl? I don’t want to hear about his motorcycle accident, or the appendectomy, he was medically cleared to play, end of story! Do you think for one minute that the Steelers’ medical and coaching staff would risk the health of their franchise quarterback by putting him out on the field before he was ready? Let’s be real! It’s true, Ben needs to play better, but it all goes hand in hand. The line needs to block better, the receivers need to do a better job of getting open and making plays, and the running game needs to be more consistent to make second and third down more managable. (And a few more turnovers by the defense wouldn’t hurt!) Instead of making knee-jerk reactions when your beloved Steelers don’t play well, my advice would be to consider the whole picture.