The Steelers’ loss to the Jets was one of those games where you’re left scratching your head. Now, I fully understand that the Jets are on scholarship, too and let’s face it, they were due for a win after losing so many close games. But, it’s the way the Steelers lost that has me puzzled. Rarely does a Steeler team get beat up front on either side of the ball. Seven sacks given up the offensive line, the defense allowing a 100 yard rusher, all the missed tackles, the penalties. That’s not Steeler football at all. I’m not one of the ones that will say the Steelers overlooked the Jets, but if this team has their collective hearts set on competing with the likes of the Patriots and Colts, they’ll need to play better that what they showed in New York. Now, can these problems be fixed? Sure! There’s still six games left to play. But, I think it goes without saying if this team is going to struggle with teams like the Browns, Jets, Broncos, and Cardinals, what’s going to happen in New England on December 9th? One way or another, we’ll find out.

Cover Those Kicks!

November 11, 2007

Luckily they were playing the Browns. You know them, the Steelers equivalent of a little brother. They can tease them, beat them up, let them think they are going to win, but in the end, the Steelers always find a way to pull the football away from them at the last minute, holding it above their heads and just out of their jumping reach.

Cleveland’s opening drive Sunday covered 71 yards. They had only 92 more yards the rest of the game. They converted all four third down chances on that drive. They converted only one more third down the rest of the day. They held the ball for 8:55 of that first drive. Yet possessed it only 12:48 the entire rest of the game. In short, the Steelers defense shut the Browns down completely after the first drive yet still had to hold their breath on a final game-tying field goal attempt as the clock ran out. Why? Mostly because Josh Cribbs had 204 yards on kickoff returns including a 100 yarder for one touchdown and a 90 yarder that set up another. Toss in a Ben Roethlisberger interception at his own 21, returned to the 18, and the Browns got 3 giftwrapped touchdowns that almost allowed them to win a game in which they produced just two first downs in the second half.

What makes this particularly troubling is the fact that it has been a team weakness and Mike Tomlin recognized that and spent tons of time on special teams coverage during training camp. Yet it hasn’t seemed to help. If this were a single game anomaly, it would be easy to look past it. But the Steelers loss in Arizona was largely because the Cardinals Steve Breaston returned a punt for a touchdown in a 21-14 Steelers loss. They only got away with it against Cleveland, because that’s the way it is with little brothers. If their kick coverage doesn’t improve, it will ruin them later in the season. When they play against the big boys.

I grew up in Upstate New York and followed the New York Giants since I was nine. I had the pleasure of watching Lawrence Taylor play just about every game of his Hall Of Fame career from 1981 to 1993. In my humble opinion, L.T. is the greatest linebacker to ever lace up a pair of cleats. (Please! Save your jokes about his off-field troubles!) But I don’t think number 56 had a better game than number 92, James Harrison of the Steelers had against the Baltimore Ravens in the Monday night win. Harrison’s numbers were impressive: 3.5 sacks, 9 tackles, one interception, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, 6 quarterback pressures, and a forced fumble on special teams. Harrison was all over the field and it really looked like he was the only Steelers defensive player on the field; and that’s saying something with the likes of Troy Polamalu, Clark Haggans, Larry Foote, and Casey Hampton in the game at the same time. What impresses me the most, however is the road “Silverback” took to the NFL. Harrison was an undrafted free agent from Kent State who was cut multiple times by both the Steelers and Ravens before finally sticking with the Black and Gold. He never gave up, believed in himself and now he’s taking out all the frustration and anger he felt earlier in his career out on opposing defenses. As Ben Roethlisberger put it after the Ravens game: “I’m glad he’s on my team.” I’m sure Steelers fans are as well.

Beware Of The Browns

November 3, 2007

The Steelers are currently on top of the AFC North division and they appear to have the inside track to the division crown.

So, who’s the biggest threat for the Black and Gold going forward?

The Ravens? Nope. They can’t move the ball on offense and that defense isn’t what it used to be.

The Bengals? Please. Marvin Lewis has lost complete control of that team and their defense can’t stop anybody.

How about the Browns? Yes, the Cleveland Browns!

I’m not sure how or why it’s working, but it is. Romeo Crennel is coaching for his job, and his players are finally responding.

Wideout Braylon Edwards looks like the number one draft pick he was supposed to be. Kellen Winslow is perhaps the best young tight end in the league. The defense is improving, and it features Kamerion Wimbley, a talented young pass rusher. After many seasons of futility, the Brownies are gaining some confidence.

Now, do I think Cleveland can overtake the Steelers and win the AFC North this season? Well, no. All I’m saying is that the team once known as the “Mistake By The Lake” is no longer a doormat. Just so you know.