Sunday, December 30, 2007

Injury Bug


I love milk. 2% to be specific. Drink it everyday if I can. The left-over pink soup from a bowl of Lucky Charms or the cinnamon imbued goodness left behind by a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch is what I wake up for. Delicious and healthy. Apparently, Pittsburgh athletes don't feel the same way. I know milk is becoming expensive, but c'mon, osteoporosis is a serious threat. Injuries, with an influx of broken bones, are threatening the very seasons we look forward to in the summer. A recap of the infirmed:

Penguins
Gary Roberts went down last night with a broken leg. According to a witty anonymous comment on the pens blog, "he is listed as questionable for Tuesday." Gary Roberts' supernatural, Bruschi-esq legend aside, it is fortunate the injury should have him back in plenty of time for the playoff push. Malone has already returned from his injury, with Talbot and Fleury to follow this coming month.

The biggest permanent loss is Mark Eaton with a torn ACL, which will most likely keep him out for the season. Unlike last year, though, when we had to call up Alaine Nasreddine, Brooks Orpik and Rob Scuderi will fill in with less of a drop off.

The Pens were hit hard a bit earlier this season, but seem to be recovering more than falling apart. The type of hardship they've gone through is the type you want to see for a team; early season struggles which leads to younger inexperienced players getting increased roles, then building momentum to the playoffs. Other than the fact people were physically injured, I've convinced myself all of this has been a positive thing.

Pitt

Mike Cook fell with a knee against Duke. Although this was a big loss, the adrenaline from victory over the Blue Devils made most think it could be overcome. Then Levance Fields broke his foot, and suddenly a gimpy Ronald Ramon is going to have to carry the ball up every possession until the tournament. Much like the Gary Roberts injury, at least Fields returns when he is most needed, but the path will become much more difficult with a likely lower seed. Blair will become even more of a focus, which will be good experience heading into March.

Steelers

Six starters are listed on the injury report, with three out for the season and a fourth, Marvel Smith, dangerously close to joining them. Fast Willie has a broken leg. Sometimes, it just doesn't feel like it will be your year, and the impending sense of doom is reaching a new high with the loss to the Ravens. A lot of backups were in, but it was still no excuse for letting the Ravens stomp us for most of the game. The worst part was seeing a 5'6" runningback run right through the defense. Happened two weeks ago, happened this week, and probably will happen again next week.

I know how the 'stache feels about this, but which is a bigger draft need, O-line or D-line?

Analysis for the game and previews for the Steelers-Jags Saturday night match up forthcoming.

End of Post

Saturday, December 29, 2007

NFL Picks

I really have slacked on the picks the past few weeks. In fact, I didn't even put any up last time. During the holidays I lack a version of photoshop that isn't excruciating to make a table for, so for the last week we are going to go out ingloriously with the picks in the form of simple text. This is not to take anything away from Pat's inevitable victory. I have not even looked at the records from the past couple weeks, but Pat appeared to have a sizable lead over everyone, except for the 8 year old Dreamcast. We'll have a post about this later.

For now, enjoy another rather full night of sports. Penguins-Sabres prelude to the outdoor game at 7:30 on FSN, Penn State-Texas A&M at 8 on ESPN, and Patriots-Giants on every channel left. Here are the picks:

12/29 8:15 ET New England -14 At NY Giants 46.5
12/30 1:00 ET At Philadelphia -7.5 Buffalo 37
12/30 1:00 ET Carolina -2.5 At Tampa Bay 36
12/30 1:00 ET Cincinnati -3 At Miami 45.5
12/30 1:00 ET At Washington -9 Dallas 39
12/30 1:00 ET At Green Bay -4 Detroit 39
12/30 1:00 ET At Houston -6.5 Jacksonville 41
12/30 1:00 ET New Orleans -2 At Chicago 40
12/30 1:00 ET Pittsburgh -3 At Baltimore 35.5
12/30 1:00 ET At Atlanta -2 Seattle 38
12/30 1:00 ET At Cleveland -10 San Francisco 40
12/30 8:15 ET Tennessee -6 At Indianapolis 39.5
12/30 4:15 ET Minnesota -3 At Denver 41.5
12/30 4:15 ET San Diego -8 At Oakland 43
12/30 4:15 ET At Arizona -6 St. Louis 48
12/30 4:15 ET At NY Jets -6 Kansas City 34

Pat
New England
Buffalo
Carolina
Miami
Washington
Green Bay
Jacksonville
New Orleans
Pittsburgh
Seattle
San Francisco
Tennessee
Minnesota
San Diego
St. Louis
Kansas City

Marc Anthony (also known as I Want to Fight Tom Brady)
New York
PHiladelphia
Tampa Bay
Miami
Washington
Green Bay
Houston
Baltimore
Seattle
San Francisco
Indianapolis
Denver
San Diego
Arizona
NY Jets

Wannstache

New England
Philadelphia
Tampa Bay
Cincinnati
Dallas
Green Bay
Houston
Chicago
Pittsburgh
Seattle
San Francisco
Indianapolis
Denver
San Diego
Arizona
New York Jets

Sam

New England
Philadelphia
Carolina
Cincinnati
Detroit
Houston
New Orleans
Pittsburgh
Seattle
San Fransisco
Indianapolis
Minnesota
Oakland
St. Louis
Kansas City

Regular posting will resume next week.

End of Post

Penguins Rumours Du Jour

Ray Shero: keeping the telephone lines hot, and the trade rumors swirling
-Marion Hossa. In a Penguins uniform? That might sound too good to be true, but I'll take anything I can get from the Toronto Sun.

-Nothing ever beats the New York Post trying to talk about hockey. Apparently Ruutuu and Gary Roberts want to be traded, and Brooks Orpik being scratched for two games signals a dysfunctional team. No...dysfunctional is when you spend the most money in the NHL year in and year out, you have Jaromir Jagr, Chris Drury, and Scott Gomez, yet you're only third in your division...that's dysfunctional.

-Remember Penguin fans...drink Bud Ice this New Years... but beware of the Penguins.


End of Post

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Best December 27th Ever

This is why we all need more Seth from Empty Netters in our lives: he remembers that today is the 7th anniversary of Mario's comeback game against the Leafs. And he throws up a tremendous video recap of the night, to boot.
End of Post

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Fantasy Football

I know everyone has a fantasy football team, and listening to others talk about their team, especially when the majority of your teams have been eliminated, can be annoying. But there isn't much news out there in the Pittsburgh sports world to debate, so screw you I'm doing it anyway.

Remember when Raul over at Mondesi's House created all those fantasy leagues? Well, we joined one. We squeeked into the playoffs as the 5 seed, and have made it to the Super Bowl playing the 6th seed, Will Power. Here's the matchup:



Other than our opponent being Indiana Jones, I feel pretty good about our chances.

Interesting posts related to actual games will resume with tonight's Penguins game.

Harrison Gets Team MVP

So, James Harrison is your 2007 Steelers MVP, as voted on by the players. Some people are very, VERY upset by this. I myself think that Roethlisberger was much more valuable to the team than Harrison, but I'm a little more concerned about, oh, you know, the playoffs. As we all should be.

A certain local sports talk show host (name not needed, you'll be able to guess soon enough), is irate that this happened and claims that it is an undeniable (yes, undeniable...his words, not mine) manifestation of black players on the Steelers refusing to vote a white quarterback as their team MVP. Yup. You read that right. Black players wouldn't vote for Ben apparently. I wouldn't have believed it either if I hadn't heard it on the radio this afternoon.

Several obvious responses to those of you who may agree with his line of thinking:
- It is a stupid team MVP award. Who gives a crap. It's a popularity contest. Maybe Ben isn't well liked. Big deal.
- Maybe...just maybe...offensive guys vote for offensive guys and etc. Under this line of thinking, Willie and Ben would have likely shared some votes on the offensive side of the ball, whereas Harrison was a more clear choice on the defensive side of the ball.
- The whole "HOW CAN A LINEBACKER POSSIBLY WIN OVER A QB EVERY YEAR?!?!?" line of thinking is stupid. Why not just give it to the QB every year, then? He touches the ball the most, he is the most valuable. He is paid the most. Duh. Of course he is, in theory, the most valuable. But there are obviously other intangible factors at play that the players take into consideration. What are they? I write on a blog. I don't know.

I think Ben deserved the award. But it doesn't matter. Does it matter that he hasn't won a team MVP yet? No. Is it idiotic for media members to bring up racism as a team pushes towards the playoffs? I'll let you all decide for yourselves. The bottom line is that it's playoff time and there are better things to talk about than how an NFL team is "supposedly" going all Remember the Titans on us (the first half of the movie, at least).
End of Post

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

What We Should All Want For Christmas

The last time the Pirates made the playoffs, tape decks were in....
"I've had a tough life. My father never hugged me. My mother is sleeping with the Sweet Angels Above, or whatever her gang from the work-release program is calling itself nowadays. I have no hearing in my left ear and was recently diagnosed with a mutated strain of scurvy.

Also, I'm a Pittsburgh Pirates fan."


When was the last time, in the middle of winter, when Steelers were running and Penguins were skating, did you think about your lonely Pittsburgh Pirates? Many of you, never....but why should we? The NFL Playoffs are coming...! But still, why not during the season of hope won't you sit down and ask Santa for a successful season for our Buccos? Hell...CBS Sportsline is...

End of Post

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas, 'Stache

We'll be gone for a little while due to the holiday and all (back wednesday maybe? who knows), but Christmas came early for the 'stache: Verron Haynes is back. Santa might as well turn around and go home, cause nothing will make the 'stache happier than his favorite player being back on the Steelers.

Happy Holidays everyone.
End of Post


Thursday, December 20, 2007

"Tonight, Pittsburgh was America's Number 1 Party Town"


Editor's Note: The title of this post is a quote from Against the Odds. If it is lost on you, perhaps this might help.

I texted Sam at about 6:45 tonight saying "You know, tonight could be awful on a number of levels". Such was not the case. A glorious, strange, at times worriesome night of Pittsburgh sports. Johnny Mac and I had the two TV setup going and it worked quite well. Some quick-hit reactions to the games played tonight...


Pitt beats Duke
Make no mistake about it: Levance Fields needs to be "the guy" on this team. Even without taking his ballsy game-winning shot into consideration, he played with a beautiful blend of poise and tenacity that kept the team in it down the stretch in the 2nd half. Pitt was able to keep things at a slow pace, capitalize on transition opportunities, and (gasp!) make big shots in crunch time when they needed them. DeJuan Blair played like a "man" in a "man's game" (boy did Bilas beat that one into the ground). His 20 boards were remarkable, though expected, considering that even my sister wondered how "all of Duke's little guys would deal with that big guy who smiles alot". Sam Young made some clutch shots down the stretch, which negated the unbelievably stupid things he did throughout the game. Yes, it is a big win for Pitt because they beat Duke in the Garden. But it is even bigger because of how they did it - clawing back, controling the pace, and making clutch jumpers.

The Pens beat...wait..what?...phew...beat the Bruins
On any other night, this game would have gotten top billing in the recap. Malkin and Crosby were back together, and three first period scores were the result. Laraque and Chara went at it several times, and Crosby got in a fight with...Andrew Ference? Somewhere, Sam was smiling. Conklin made 37 saves, too. But GOOD LORD, will the Pens ever get a lead and sustain their momentum? Four...count 'em...FOUR goals weren't enough cushion tonight for the Pens in what is becoming a remarkably frustrating habit of sorts. Fortunately, the Pens have two of the best penalty shooters in the NHL. Any novice fan would quickly state Crosby and Malkin, but not so fast my friends. Christiansen and Letang absolutely schooled Thomas tonight. Letang seemingly has an endless bag of tricks to pull from, this time doing the old foot-pull, stay-at-home fakeout (topshelf, not less...ok, well, upper shelf). For as much confidence as the Pens have in Crosby and Malkin, it must be equally reassuring to know that they have such shootout studs.
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Steelers beat a crappy team
When Allen Rossum was fumbling punts and Stephen Jackson was slicing through our defense, I definitely had a moment where I thought the Steelers would provide the sour game of the night. Ben played great though, and the Rams looked absolutely awful in the second half. Najeh played a terrific game, but that isn't much of a consolation for losing Willie. Not just losing him, but losing him for the year it seems. I won't comment more until it is all official, but wow...um...yeah, not good. But hey! They mentioned Verron Haynes name in the broadcast tonight! Only two weeks left in the season...think he could get a thousand yards a week to make your prediction come true, stache?

End of Post

I'm Lazy

In the midst of finishing off the semester, I could not be more apathetic to all work. Meaning you get another pathetic post for the Thursday night picks.

Pat: Rams (+7.5)
I Want to Fight Tom Brady: Rams
'Stache: Steelers
Sam: Steelers

Full picks table will be up tomorrow.

Bumping Down Bitter Sam

Some quick thoughts on THE GREATEST SPORTS NIGHT OF THE YEAR (how's that read, Sam?)

- People sure are worried about the Rams tonight. But I mean...how do the Steelers not win this game? What is the Rams motivation? Do they hate us? No. Are they fighting for a playoff spot? No. A loss tonight would probably be the most embarassing Steelers loss of the past five years. Discuss

- The Pitt/Duke matchup might not live up to the hype tonight, but it will be interesting. I know Duke's team better than I know Pitt's, and Duke cannot deal with Dajuan Blair. Can't. Won't. Shouldn't. Just let him dunk it on you so you can sprint up the floor and jack threes. The bigger thing to watch in this one is going to be how Pitt's guards can deal with a rangy set of guards (Scheyer, Paulus, King, Smith, and, in particular, Demarcus Nelson). I'm predicting a huge night from Demarcus Nelson. That said, Go Pitt.

- Last time there was a holiday and an Eastern conference dynamo on the schedule, this happened. Just sayin...

Come home soon, Sam. Oh, and great picture.
End of Post


Too Much of a Good Thing


During the summer, after the Pirates are already down by 8 runs after a Zack Duke first inning, it would be nice if there were some other Pittsburgh sports going on at the same time.

It only figures that when the three winning teams in the city of Pittsburgh actually get going, the schedule makers decide it would be fun to put them all on the same night, all of them in crucial games. The Steelers play the Rams at 8:15, Pitt brings on Duke at 7:00, in a game that will cause a civil war in Pat's family, and the Penguins play the Bruins for a much needed win in the clusterf*ck that is the Eastern conference.

Look for this to be one of the crazier nights on the South Side. Many were already planning on coming out since they figured the Steelers game is only on the NFL Network (which I just found out is being carried over to KDKA), but now with the influx of those looking to have multiple TVs in order to watch all the action the bar scene should be packed. Add in the drink-your-problems-away response to the anxiety-ridden holiday season and the fact that a very long weekend is coming up, you have the perfect powder keg of Pittsburgh sports and public drunkenness.

Because Penn State inexplicably decided to make all their students come home a week later than any other college, I'm still stuck up here and really should be finishing a paper due tomorrow. So instead of actually making any observations/predictions about tonight, I'll point you in the direction of some excellent previews:

Steelers - Rams

One for the Other Thumb
Die Hard Steel
Nice Pick, Cowher

Pitt - Duke

Pitt Blather
Duke Basketball Report

Penguins - Bruins

Empty-Netters
Face-Off Factor

Enjoy the night, this doesn't happen very often.

End of Post

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Why the Pro Bowl Doesn't Matter

Because Alan Faneca is going.

At first glance it looks to me like Faneca and Troy both got voted in off of name recognition alone. Willie, Ben, and Harrison also made it, with Harrison being a starter.

Now...

Some might say "oh, you are only being hard on Faneca because of the whole contract thing. Troy is equally undeserving due to his injuries and tendency to miss tackles". Point taken. But Troy was a part of one of the league's best defenses (excluding this past week). Faneca anchored one of the worst offensive lines in the league. And he is a starter in the Pro Bowl! You can bet that he made a ton of money today, because the Cardinals or Seahawks or 49ers or someone are going to pay stupid money to have a "Pro Bowl" starter on their roster. Hopefully they know what that means nowadays.
End of Post

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Stache Report: Jaguars vs. Steelers

Pat covered quite a bit in his post, so fewer points this week, although a little more in depth look at the offensive line.

- I hate to sound like a broken record, but the offensive line stunk again. Doesn’t it seem like a different culprit every week? One week, it’s Sean Mahan struggling with the opposing nose tackle. Last week, it was Willie Colon getting manhandled by Mike Vrabel. Pretty much every week, it’s Kendall Simmons showing once again how pitiful he is. Well, this week it was Marvel Smith, who might have played the worst single game by an O-lineman this year. It was that bad. He gave up four sacks, and god knows how many pressures. Back pain, which Mike Tomlin characterized as “immense”, probably contributed to the lackluster performance by Smith, but it was jarring to see your supposed best offensive lineman thoroughly beaten down. Look, I’m tired of this. I’m tired of seeing Ben drop back to pass and have a defender in his face roughly .01 seconds after he has received the snap. I’m tired of throwing fades and calling reverses near the end zone because we don’t have faith in the offensive line to get some push for a running back to punch it in for a TD. I’m tired of writing the Stache report and talking about another garbage performance by the offensive line. This needs to stop. It needs addressed this offseason, and it needs addressed aggressively. Yet the real problems probably won’t be, as I will explain in the next point.

- With that said, let’s summarize what we have on the offensive line. We have an inconsistent left tackle who decides to mail it in every few games. We have a left guard who is dreaming of free agency, and, while he once was a dominating force at the guard position, is no longer that. We have a center who lacks the strength to handle a nose tackle one-on-one, something that is absolutely paramount for the Steelers offense. We have a sack of shit right guard who should be starting in the CFL, not the NFL. And we have a right tackle who is wildly inexperienced and who’s probably better suited at right guard. But, he can’t move to right guard because the aforementioned sack of shit right guard just received an extension in the offseason. Oh, and the weak center is in his first season of his newly signed deal in free agency. You know what that means? Our two worst offensive lineman are the ones signed to long term deals. They’re the ones we will have to put up with for the foreseeable future, because to release them would mean the front office admitting they made massive mistakes, and they won’t do that. Meanwhile, the guy who has been the most impressive the past few weeks, Max Starks, will likely draw too much interest in free agency from other teams for the Steelers to re-sign him, because they have too much money sunk in between Mahan and Simmons. To summarize, our offensive line situation sucks.

- In my post about Aaron Smith’s injury, I mentioned how Travis Kirschke and Nick Eason may be okay to fill in for spot duty, but likely would struggle when having to undergo the rigors of playing a full game. Want proof? In the first half, Taylor and Jones-Drew were mostly bottled up, as they managed only 16 carries for 52 yards, save for Taylor’s one long 38 yard jaunt. In the second half, Jacksonville started gashing us more consistently, as the combo rushed for 126 yards on 20 carries. The Jaguars had carries of 17, 13, 11, 9, 13, 20, and 12 yards in the 2nd half.

- I think it’s time that a bigger deal is made of Woodley and Timmons not getting significant playing time in the defense. Woodley was getting some time early in the season and responded with three sacks. Even before his hamstring injury, though, his playing time was decreasing. To put it bluntly, what has Clark Haggans shown these past few games, other than the fact that his ability to rush the passer has taken a sharp decline. Would it hurt to put one of your best pass rushers on the field, especially when you’re having so much getting to the quarterback? As for Timmons, the guy is a first round pick and has flashed great speed in the little time he has gotten on the field. Give the guy some more time. It couldn’t hurt, not with the way this defense is playing. Woodley and Timmons represent the best options if Dick Lebeau wants to go back to applying significant heat on the opposing quarterback.

- Good to see Troy back. He had a couple of big plays, flying across the field to knock down a potential 3rd down converting pass and closing in to stop Garrard short of the sticks on a 3rd down scramble. Still, he had his share of missed tackles. One guy who continued to disappoint was Anthony Smith. He misplayed the ball badly on Northcutt’s TD, and while the INT he had was nice, let’s be honest, it was right to him. Way too early to write him off, though. I still have high hopes for him, and believe he’ll be a good safety once he gets the mental game in order.

- Yes, I’m worried about the Rams game. I don’t care if they’re 3-11. They finally have a healthy offense. Steven Jackson is still one of the best running backs in the game, and Bulger, Holt, and Bruce represent one of the best passing offenses in the NFL when they’re in sync. Add to the fact that Ike Taylor left yesterday’s game with a knee injury, and the prospect of facing this offense without him doesn’t get me excited. That said, the Rams defense is subpar. It’s one the Steelers should be able to move the ball on at ease, provided the O-line gives Ben some sort of time. This is a game teams with playoff aspirations win. They can still make the playoffs if they don’t, but between you and me, a team that loses to the Jets and Rams has no business making the playoffs.

End of Post

Why Don't You Sit Down Champ, Not Say Anything For a While...


Classy move by the Islanders: the league has standards, but we have our own too, and they don't involve gashing people with skate blades. Chris Simon is "on leave", whatever that means. I swear I'm not trying to emasculate him in any way, but the first thing I thought when I heard it on the radio was "on leave? Is he pregnant?" Boy or girl notwithstanding, you have to respect the Islanders for taking steps to make certain that things like this (see picture) don't happen again.
End of Post

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Prelude to the 'Stache Report

When you root for a sports team, basically all you can hope for is that they give you competitive games late in the year. That is essentially what sports are all about - coming down the stretch and sitting on pins and needles to see if your team will keep giving you more games to be nervous during. In the NFL, "the stretch" is considered December, where snow can make things even more fun. Which is what today was - fun. Yeah we lost, but a great comeback on a perfectly snowy day made for quality entertainment. After going to virtually every game for ten years, I hadn't been to see the Steelers live in about two years. Definitely nice to be back for a great fourth quarter rally.

Does that mean my day was completely enjoyable? Oh my lord no. Plenty of people deserving blame today. Some random thoughts...

- I know it was cold and the Steelers were down two touchdowns...but only 57,000+ at the game? With a few thousand leaving at the end of the third quarter? Shoddy performance by Steelers Nation, I thought.

- Unfortunately, I did not meet up with the 'stache. I imagine he was much less happy with the overall experience than I was.

- No one can be happy with the offensive line. Yeah, maybe Ben needs to get rid of it quicker on occasion, but Marvel got eaten alive. He came out of the game with a back injury, so that likely explains alot. I'm sure the 'stache will have plenty more to say about the line since his seats gave him a better view of it than mine.

- Anthony Smith did some great things. He did some awful things. But Aaron Smith did no things (as in, he's hurt) and boy did it show on that side of the line. The embarassing, untouched winning touchdown went right at Smith's spot on the line. Fred Taylor flat out embarassing the Steelers all day long. Give credit to Del Rio for balancing those RBs so well. Every time Taylor came in, he seemed fresh and ready to burst through a hole.

- You could say that Larry Foote is always in the right places to make a play. Or you could say that he is just a step too slow to make any of those plays. Honestly, how many balls was he around today where he had a chance to cause a turnover and didnt?

- This is not an official stat, but I'm not sure that Allen Rossum step foot on the field in the second half. Any chance of him being back next year?

- Also an unofficial stat, but I don't think the real Steelers defense step foot on the field in the second half. Atleast I hope not. I certainly don't want our "real D" to be the one that has three possessions that go like this: 9 min TD drive, one play TD drive, game winning TD drive. The place was going NUTS after the insanity that was the Cedric Wilson bullet to Holmes, and the defense absolutely wilted.

- My favorite joke/comment to make over the next week: talking about how the Thursday game gives Jeff Reed a completely free weekend. I made jokes in reference to this about 92 times...

-...which coincidentally is the number of the Steelers best defensive player right now. He is their best tackler. Period. Every single other player on the team missed a tackle today. Perhaps Harrison did too, but he also made a ton. And played great special teams.

- Well, if somebody had to beat us...

Kidding. Looking at the standings, this game wasn't as big a showdown as some hyped it up to be. The Steelers are still in control of their destiny and by winning out over two bad teams, they will assure first round home field advantage. Yes, it would have been nice to, you know, actually beat a HALF DECENT TEAM once this year (I guess the Browns qualify), but the playoffs are all that matter. Win out, no worse than the fourth seed, and then we see what the Steelers are really made of. I'm sure Tomlin will get that message across to his players loud and clear.

I'll leave the rest to the 'stache...
End of Post


Friday, December 14, 2007

Weekend Picks



The 'Stache Says:

Home team in caps

Cincinnati (-8.5) over SAN FRANCISCO

It saddens me that the 49ers ineptitude is the Patriots gain. I bet that the 49ers would give anything to go back in time and get back that 2008 first rounder they traded to New England for the 28th pick in the 2007 draft, used to take Joe Staley. Something tells me the 49ers wouldn’t do a top 5 pick in the 2008 draft for Joe Staley deal now. San Fran’s defense has joined their offense in sucking, and now there’s a sizable rift between Alex Smith and head coach Mike Nolan. Bad times in 49er land. Oh, and Shaun Hill will be starting this game for San Francisco.

NEW ORLEANS (-3.5) over Arizona

This is essentially a playoff game. The loser is pretty much done. It’s a tough game to call because we don’t know the status of Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald. If they both play they can take advantage of a weak Saints secondary. This seems like the type of game the Saints will shit the bed, but I’ll roll with them at home anyways.

Atlanta (+13.5) over TAMPA BAY

What a chicken-shit move by Bobby Petrino. At least coach the rest of the season. The guy didn’t even face his players one last time, but rather wrote them a note telling them he was leaving. The players are pissed, and rightfully so. I think use that aggression and play relatively well on Sunday.

Baltimore (-3.5) over MIAMI

Forget it. Miami sucks. I thought they would at least muster an adequate performance last week, but they couldn’t even do that. Cam Cameron is a terrible coach. We should have realized this once he took a punt returner with the 9th overall pick in the 2007 draft.

CLEVELAND (-5.5) over Buffalo

Who would have thought this game would have playoff implications. The Bills somehow are winning, which is a credit to head coach Dick Jauron. That team has been decimated by injuries and didn’t even have a lot of talent to begin with, and he has them at 7-6. The Browns keep rolling as well, and a wildcard matchup with the Steelers is looking increasingly likely. This is one game I hope I’m wrong on, as a Browns loss and Steelers win clinches the AFC North division for the Burgh.

Green Bay (-9.5) over ST. LOUIS

Ryan Grant has emerged as a pretty nice option for the Packers in the backfield. He makes defenses respect the run enough for Brett Favre to do his thing, and that’s really all Green Bay needs from the running game. The defense keeps playing well, and if I can get them at under 10 points against the Marc Bulger-less Rams, I’m going to take them every time.

PITTSBURGH (-3.5) over Jacksonville

One thing to worry about: all the Jacksonville receivers are tall. Really tall. Williams, Wilford, and Jones create matchup problems with their height, and we know that Ike’s weakness is locating the ball at its highest point and defending it. He usually struggles with the fade pass, so the Jaguars will definitely look at that as an option in the red zone. I’m hoping Tomlin can rally the team off a pretty bad loss last week, and get them in the right frame of mind to focus on this game, and this game only. The Jaguars have beat us the last two seasons with Tommy Maddox at QB in one game, and an obviously not ready Ben Roethlisberger (first game back from the motorcycle accident and appendix removal) in the other. This week, they’ll face the real Ben, one of the best QB’s in the league.


NEW ENGLAND (-23.5) over New York Jets

Originally I was going to go with the Jets, because there was supposed to be a huge snowstorm over the weekend in the Foxboro area. It looks like that snowstorm came a little early, and it seems that rain is more likely for the game on Sunday. As such, dipshit Brady (who should be bruised and batteredafter his fight with “I Want to Fight Tom Brady”) will look to throw the ball all over the field, and you know Belicheat will want to run up the score against the team that blew the lid of SpyGate.

Seattle (-7.5) over CAROLINA

Carolina can’t play on the road and they can’t play at home. Seattle may take their foot off the pedal because they won the NFC West last week, but I don’t think they will too much because they haven’t locked up the #3 seed yet. A win and a Bucs loss would do the trick, so expect the Seahawks to put forth an honest effort for at least this week. Honestly, they could mail it in and still beat the Panthers by more than a touchdown.

KANSAS CITY (+4) over Tennessee

The Titans gave that game to the Chargers last week, and as a result the Steelers have no margin for error if they want to hold on to the #3 seed. After starting 6-2, Tennessee is on a 1-4 skid and I think it might be a little too late to stop it.

Indianapolis (-10.5) over OAKLAND

I’ve been surprised by the Colts defense, which has played pretty well despite losing Dwight Freeney. The offense has done the same without Marvin Harrison. I would be quite shocked if the Colts don’t blowout the Raiders on Sunday.

Detroit (+10) over SAN DIEGO

It’s becoming clear that for the Chargers to go anywhere this season they’re going to have to win in spite of Philip Rivers. Yeah, he brought them back in the end last week, but he was miserable for the majority of the game. When you don’t have a good QB or good coach, you usually don’t go far anyways. Luckily for San Diego, they have an outstanding running back and a defense that is still formidable. Honestly, I don’t know if the Lions can keep it close, but I need to fill my underdog quota for the week so I’ll take them.

DALLAS (-10.5) over Philadelphia

The Cowboys always seem to dominate teams at home. I would probably still take them if this line was 14 points.

Washington (+4.5) over NEW YORK GIANTS

The Giants are solidly in the playoffs, while the Redskins are fighting for a spot. Todd Collins will get the start, but he’s spent quite a bit of time in Al Saunders system and played very well in relief last week. Washington will play a ball control game with Portis and their defense, and Collins will make a couple of plays to keep the Redskins in striking range throughout.

Chicago (+10) over MINNESOTA

This game is very appealing to the Stache. It might even warrant a money line bet. I’ve been burned by the Vikings many times this year, and this week it’s time for some revenge. My bet is Tarvaris Jackson and Brad Childress start to feel the heat of a playoff push. Of course, Adrian Peterson is there to bail them out, but ten points is still a lot. My gut is telling me the Bears win this game. I don’t know why.

End of Post

Thursday, December 13, 2007

It all makes sense now...

Kevin Young, possibly 'roid raging


Part of the blame we've been placing on the Pirates inept management can finally be lifted. According to George Mitchell's report, nine former Pirates had received steroids or HGH. And out of the nine, only two, Kevin Young and Tim Laker, were actually taking them while with the Pirates.

The full list [Post-Gazette]:

Kevin Young
Denny Neagle
Jason Christiansen
Tim Laker
Ron Villone
Josias Manzanillo
Jose Guillen
Barry Bonds

All MLB Players

It seems that not only were the Pirates at an economic and front office disadvantage for the past 15 years, but were also downtrodden due to a chemical imbalance in the league. How are we supposed to compete in this league when we're getting the worst picks out of the superhuman players?
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Another interesting tidbit from today. Deadspin released a list of players that was circulating around the internets this morning, but wasn't entirely accurate. Looked fairly legit, until I saw Abraham Nunez on the list.

Picks for tonight: Everyone is going with Houston at +2. You know what that means...

End of Post

Leroux's Links


The last time we had a link dump Mark Recchi was still "just in a slump." Time for a new one.

-Pittsburgh moms are the best. [One For the Other Thumb]

-Tec over at PSaMP puts the Patriots fans in their place. [Pittsburgh Sports and Miniponies]

-The Pensblog is having a Ben Eager photoshop extravaganza. My entry has already been submitted. [The Pensblog]

-A search of Jaguars' blogs came up with this dead site: Jaguars Nation. Great last post.

-During the long baseball season, one becomes accustomed to the great work done by Dejan Kovacevik over at the PG and may not fully appreciate it. Best writer at the Post-Gazette.

-Roger Clemens looks like he'll be named in the Mitchell Report. [Brahsome]

-Preview of the Steelers huge match up against the Jags. [Behind the Steel Curtain]

In other news, I've contacted Don Yee, Tom Brady's agent, about setting up the boxing match. Surprisingly, I have yet to hear a reply.

I'm leaving the logo up for the rest of the week, then its time to move on. Photoshop ideas welcome.

End of Post

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

When It Rains, It Pours, and Then Sometimes It Fleurys


The Penguins will be without the services of Marc-Andre Fleury for up to two months as reported by CBS Sports. The news is unfortunate to say the least. I was really starting to get uncomfortable with Danny Sabourin and Ty Conklin splitting game-time for the Penguins.

The same article goes on to explain that Maxime Talbot will also be out for up to a month with the same ankle injury!

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My next question, is this a mere coincidence that Fleury and Talbot have gone down with the same injury? I Want To Fight Tom Brady' thinks not...you can blame Bauer, the Penguins new skate supplier, for this one.



End of Post

Quick Pens-Flyers Thoughts

If anything good comes out of the awful loss to the Flyers last night, it might be that the rivalry is indeed rekindled. It was quite chippy out there, and if you haven't heard about the post-game verbiage, then check out ThePensBlog. I guess beating a team 8 times in one year makes you a "joke".

January 24th. It's a walk-off.

Oh, and send in photoshop submissions to ThePensBlog as well. Ben Eager deserves whatever heinous form his face graces.
End of Post

Pittsburgh Slim?!? Did I Miss a Season of American Idol?

For those of your who didn't get a chance to watch Last Call With Carson Daly last night, let me catch you up on what you missed.

First off, why was I up watching Last Call With Carson Daly? Well... I was surfing through the Direct TV guide when I noticed that Carson Daly's guests included "Pittsburgh Slim". What?! Pittsburgh Slim. Yep, I had to stay up for this. I'm sure most of you could have cared less, but no, not me. I had officially found the rapper that would walk me out for my infamous fight with Tom Brady.

You know ...just the way Mayweather walked out with 50 Cent before his fight with Oscar Dela Hoya.

(For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, watch the video below...wait till about 16 seconds in)


If Tom Brady walked out with 50 cent every game...I'd respect him. But anyway, he doesn't, so piss on him. I'm walking out with Pittsburgh Slim on fight night...the video below is worth a thousand words.


End of Post

McBean called up from the Practice Squad



Yeah at first glance I had thought the Steelers had recalled Steely McBeam too. Unfortunately Ryan McBean has been recalled from the Practice Squad in place of Aaron Smith. McBean looks more like your regular football player...


Yep...unfortunately he doesn't carry a piece of steel on his shoulder, nor does he have a sport a never-ending smile.....but he does seem to be sporting some form of the "Steely" 5 o'clock shadow.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Can't We Just All Get Along and Fight Brady Together?

Well hello there, random person who has stumbled onto the site in the past 24 hours. If you came here via Deadspin or somewhere else and are all steamed up about this "fighting Tom Brady" thing, a few points...

- We once created this. Sam recently photoshopped Anthony Smith's head onto a goat. If you want journalistic reporting, then I would encourage you to read the newspaper everyday. I wouldn't get too upset about anything we do here.

- If you are going to get upset about things we do here, this probably isn't the best battle. Chances are that I will probably say something more offensive about the Flyers once this hellish game finally ends tonight.

- You should appreciate the honesty (and satire) from...whatever the hell that writer's name is at the time of this post. Everyone else bows down to the Pats, says they are great, and yada yada. But Steelers fans, you KNOW that at one point during that game you wanted to sock Brady in the face. Pats fans, when the Yankees used to resemble a successful organization, you KNOW that you wanted to throw a haymaker at Jeter. Classy? No. Did you act on it? Duh, of course you couldn't. That's the point! What if I could fight Jeter/Brady/etc etc.? What if I could photoshop my picture next to his and just blow this thing so far out of proportion that it was comical? Here as DAI we can, did, and will.

- Thanks to Tecmo for the comment mediating of sorts. Make to check out PSAMP for more of his commentary.
End of Post

A Big Blow

Bad news coming out of Pittsburgh, as Mike Tomlin announced at his weekly press conference that Aaron Smith is out for the season with a torn bicep.

Folks, this is a pretty devastating blow for the defense. I don't really need to tell you that, many of you can figure that out. Smith is arguably the best run-stuffing 3-4 DE in the league, and his injury may have come at the worst possible time, because the Jacksonville Jaguars bread and butter is running the football. He'll be replaced by a rotation of Travis Kirschke, Nick Eason, and possibly Chris Hoke. Hoke is really a DT, and Kirschke and Eason may be okay for spot duty but will probably struggle when they have to play the majority of the snaps in a starter's role. We may see more four man lines of Kiesel-Hampton-Hoke-Woodley, but we'll suffer when we play our base 3-4.

The Steelers now have two defensive starters on IR in Smith and Clark. Not sure if the Steelers will sign anyone, but the pickings are probably slim anyways. This injury is going to highlight our lack of depth at defensive end, and it's why I feel drafting a DE on the first day should be a priority next April. We'll see how the Steelers respond. Both the Patriots and Colts have suffered pretty big season ending injuries to their defense (Rosevelt Colvin and Dwight Freeney, respectively), and they keep chugging along. The good news is that if we ultimately get the opportunity to face the Patriots in the AFC Championship game, it's going to be much more important to stop the pass than the run.

End of Post

Monday, December 10, 2007

I Want To Fight Tom Brady



If Tom Brady isn't the biggest punk ass bitch this country has ever seen, then Osama Bin Laden is a U.S. folk hero. Simply put, someone needs to punch this ass-hat in the face.

This is why today I am proposing a challenge to Tom Brady himself. Come this off-season I challenge Brady to the roughest, toughest, and most heart-pounding heavyweight boxing match this world will ever see.

I win, America wins.

He wins, The Patriots win again...but don't worry America, I won't lose.

As the world can see, Tom Brady has a definite height and weight advantage going in. I believe with consistent training and a high protein diet like the Medifast plan I can add another 20-25 pounds to my 6'2'' frame. Come weigh in time, the only thing separating us will be the god-given height and reach. I'll plan on countering this disadvantage with additional speed and agility, something Brady seems to underestimate with his stellar offensive line, which only Jesus himself could part.

Watching the Mayweather-Hatton fight this past weekend may have put me in a fighting mood... I mean this isn't my normal cup of tea. I love watching boxing, but don't worry Brady-boo, you won't be facing one of the pound-for-pound best fighters in the world here. I've never even strapped on boxing gloves....even though I did strap on some Sock-Em Boppers once.

Speaking of Mayweather-Hatton fight, I wouldn't mind having the Ricky Hatton band in my corner. For those who watched the HBO PPV bout, the chanting often common to soccer matches, was bad ass. To the tune of Winter Wonderland his band sang ...

There's only one Ricky Hatton,
There's only one Ricky Hatton,
Walking along, Singing a song,
Walking in a Hatton wonderland.

Mayweather was scared shitless. Hell, I would have been too. That's why I want those Brits in my corner.

So what's stopping you Tom? I'm here, I'm waiting, I want to knock your clown ass to the canvas.

Vegas is ready...are you?

Hey maybe if you're lucky the Brits will support you.

There's only one Tom Brady,
There's only one Tom Brady,
Walking along, touching a Dong,
Walking in a gay man's wonderland.

The Stache Report: Steelers vs. Patriots

- In all, the offensive line actually had one of its best games yesterday. Parker enjoyed some long overdue success, and it’s clear from looking at this game and previous New England games that the Patriots can be run on. However, the turning point in the game may have been the result of the subpar O-Line play we’ve been used to seeing this season. The play I’m talking about was Wilfork’s sack on the opening drive of the 2nd half, an absolute killer. Parker had just ripped off a 19 yard run, and the Steelers were set up near midfield. A score of any kind coming out of the half would have put the Patriots on their heels. Instead, the next play results in Wilfork abusing Faneca and Mahan and taking down Ben. Sets up a 2nd and 18 that we couldn’t recover from. We punt, and the Patriots score another touchdown on the subsequent drive. For all intents and purposes the game was over then.

- Speaking of the O-line, I want to talk about Willie Colon. As a whole, the offensive line played well, but Colon struggled with Vrabel. The former Steeler was continually beating Colon off the snap, and was causing Ben to roll out left. Naturally, if Ben wants to move he wants to move to his right, as any right-handed quarterback would want to. I think this game clearly signaled to me that Colon is a better fit at guard. Look, I’m no offensive line guru. But I’ve read that one of Colon’s weaknesses is his short arms. This doesn’t allow him to initially get his hands on pass rushers and keep them away from his body. Putting him at guard would eliminate this weakness a bit, as he wouldn’t have to play in space. While we all would like to sign a new free agent at center and guard and draft two first round offensive lineman, I think a realistic O-Line next year would be Smith-Colon-Mahan-Kemoeatu-1st round draft pick.


- Like most of you, I’m extremely disappointed in this loss. But I’m hoping this can turn out like 2005, when we got trampled by Indy in the regular season and then beat them in the playoffs. I didn’t think winning twice in Foxboro was reasonable, and I saw enough positives to think we have a puncher’s chance if we see them in the playoffs. The offensive line played maybe its best game of the year. We moved the ball on them pretty well, but just couldn’t stick it in the end zone. We didn’t have a healthy Polamalu or Santonio. Their two touchdowns were the result of severe miscues on the part of the Steelers defense, miscues that can be easily eliminated. Will it be a monumental challenge? No doubt. But I can’t imagine anything sweeter than knocking off an undefeated Patriots team in the AFC Championship game, in their own house.

- Anyone who watched yesterday knows that Anthony Smith was the goat of the game. The guy is too aggressive, to a fault. While the rest of us see a play action pass, he sees the opportunity to run ahead at full speed and knock the runningback’s head off, and potentially cause a game turning fumble. This puts him wildly out of position, as we saw against the Jets and multiple times yesterday. What I have a problem with is this. Why in the world is Smith biting on a play-action fake against a team that barely runs the ball? The Patriots ran it a grand total of nine times. Someone needs to get it into Smith’s head: trust the front seven to stuff the run. And against a team like New England that very rarely runs the ball, don’t bite on a play fake.

- Couple things about the defense. First, the lack of sacks is disturbing. Against the Bengals last week, Palmer dropped back to pass 44 times and the defense brought him down only once. Yesterday, we went 0 for 46. Yesterday’s 2nd half was especially disconcerting because the moderate pressure we applied in the 1st half disappeared. The second issue I have with the D is the lack of interceptions being generated. The Steelers defense has only had two interceptions in the past 7 games. Winning games means winning the turnover differential, and the deficiency in producing interceptions isn’t helping the cause. The Steelers are currently 2nd to last in the NFL in this category, with only 8.

- Furthermore, I’m not sure exactly what happened to the defense in the 2nd half. It looked like the two long bomb touchdowns by the Patriots made Lebeau extra cautious. All of the sudden, the corners were playing way off to prevent the big play, and pressure subsided. Two absolutely sickening moments: Welker catching what seemed like 10 straight passes on one drive, with no adjustments whatsoever by Lebeau, and the Patriots driving from their one-yard line all the way into the Steelers red zone, with a dropped Moss pass the only thing saving the Steelers defense from an embarrassing 99-yard TD drive by the New England offense.

- I don’t feel like this loss will lead to a December meltdown. But the game this week against Jacksonville is probably the most important game of the year. A win reasserts the Steelers position atop the AFC North and rebuilds their confidence. A loss could mean a tie atop the division with the Browns, and intense pressure to win the next two weeks against a dangerous Rams team and an always game Ravens team. The good news is that the Stache will once again be in the house, and I am 1-0 this season when attending games. I believe Pat will be there as well, so the strong Doubt About It contigent will do their part in leading us to victory. In closing, let me put it this way: I don’t want to have to win that Ravens game in the last week of the season to make the playoffs. You know they would love nothing more than to knock us out of the playoffs, much like we did to the Bengals last season. Winning in Baltimore is never easy and they always play us tough in their house. Let’s take care of business these next two weeks, so we can all enjoy a stress free Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Whatever holiday you celebrate.

End of Post

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Blah


A few immediate reactions to the game

- I didn't think I could hate Tom Brady any more than I already did, but now I do. Not saying Anthony Smith didn't deserve to be talked to, but still a dick move.

- Was their strategy any real surprise? We have two backup safeties in the game and they pick on them. Not sure if Polamalu could have made a difference on either of the long bombs, but I would have liked to see him try.

- I'm reminded of the '05 regular season Indianapolis game right away, which is one of the positives I would take out of the game. Though, the Colts looked past us in the playoffs that year, and I don't think Belichick will let that happen to this team.

-One of the effective strategies that Baltimore used was keeping Ed Reed really far back, sometimes out of the camera's view. If Smith is an extra ten yards back on the bombs, the long TDs don't happen. I was also surprised with the amount of room Taylor was giving on a lot of plays to Moss. He did jam him occasionally, but when he wasn't up on him it seemed like an easy 10 yard gain most of the time.

Overall, I can't say I'm that dejected. We went into Foxboro and were down by 4 at halftime. We ended up losing by 21, with two of their touchdowns exploiting two back up safeties. Our offense moved the ball, but couldn't punch it in when it mattered. Tomlin was aggressive and didn't back down. I'd rather shock the world in January anyway.

Game On

We don't post on Sundays. But is there honestly something else you are thinking about other than 4:15pm? Well, ok maybe one thing. Maybe how the Pens just beasted a Western Canada swing and Kris Letang is turning into that "we're just one or two good defensemen away" type of gap-filler.

But for today, everything is all about Steelers vs. Patriots. Could we get crushed? Absolutely. Were we slated as two touchdown underdogs at the beginning of the week? Yes sir. But for one rare Sunday, it seems as if Steelers nation has swelled to proportions that dwarf even the outpuring of yellow towels seen at XL. EVERYBODY wants us to win this game. A non-Steelers fan said to me yesterday "Hey, you think your Harrison guy could hurt Brady? I mean, I really only saw him play on that one Monday night, but I think he could do it."

The 'stache pointed out last week that winning this week in Foxboro essentially means we have to win there twice this year if we want to go to the Super Bowl. Fair point. But while winning the Super Bowl is the most obvious goal of any team, certain wins almost feel just as good sometimes. Consider last season's year-ending Bengals victory. Seeing Santonio dash down the sideline...knocking the Bengals from the playoffs...it was as good a feeling as you would get from a football game where little real value was at stake. Imagine ending the Patriots streak and raising a big middle-finger to the entire upper-right side of the country, to say to all those Bill-Simmons-worshipping-bandwagon-joiners "hey, you think you are giving the finger to the league by running up the score? Better make sure you can stop the run first." I bet that would feel as good as the Bengals win and better.

In truth, I just want to see the Steelers hang. I want to see from them that, if we meet up again in January, the Steelers can hang with the Pats. I just dont want to turn off the TV today thinking "well, we stood no shot today and we won't in January either". Which, hey, might be the case. They are clearly the best team in the league. One of the best teams ever.

Which is why today feels so much bigger than early December.
End of Post



Thursday, December 6, 2007

Weekend Picks

Considering the big game is upon us, I want to take this space to thank the bloggers who linked to the Roethlisberger flash game and the people who took the time to give feedback on either this site or others. Thus far the game has been viewed 21,000 times, way more than I ever expected. A new Pittsburgh sports game is in the brainstorming phase, look for it in the next couple months.



The Stache Says

Home team in caps

JACKSONVILLE (-10.5) over Carolina

The Jaguars loom as a tough matchup for the Steelers next week. Carolina got their first home win in approximately 100 years last week, but of course that was against the lowly 49ers. Now they have to go on the road to face a team that feels they should have beat the Colts last week if not for some poor officiating. Someone has to pay the price for that this week, and that would be the Panthers.

DETROIT (+11) over Dallas

Sadly, it looks like my sleeper team is not going to make the playoffs. What once began as a promising 6-2 start has become a four game freefall, and now they lost arguably their biggest playmaker on offense in Roy Williams. That said, I like double digit home dogs, even if they have to face everyone’s favorite All-American Tony Romo.

Miami (+7) over BUFFALO

This might be the week. I think the Dolphins have a legitimate chance to get their first win. If it doesn’t happen Sunday, folks, I think we’ll be looking at an 0-16 season. This game is in Buffalo, but there are too many prideful guys on that Dolphins defense for this to keep going, veterans like Jason Taylor and Keith Traylor. At the very least I think they’ll keep it close.

New York Giants (+3) over PHILADELPHIA

Initially, I thought the Giants would be favored in this game, so I was surprised when I saw the line at –3 with the Eagles as the favorite. Donovan McNabb looks like he’ll make his return, but at this point I think Eagles fans want to see what they have in rookie Kevin Kolb. Meanwhile, the Giants are coming off a stirring comeback win over the Bears. DISCLAIMER: Do not actually bet money on this game. It’s not worth it. Not with Eli Manning prominently involved (yes, I’m aware I sound like Bill Simmons. I will now poke my eyes out with a rusty, serrated knife.)

GREEN BAY (-10) over Oakland

Brett Favre looks iffy for this game, but it doesn’t matter. Aaron Rodgers showed some moxie against the Cowboys, enough not to let the 10 points discourage me from taking the Packers at home.

NEW ENGLAND (-10.5) over Pittsburgh

I’m sorry, I can’t. I can’t take the Steelers. Not when I see a Patriots defensive line consisting of Richard Seymour, Vince Wilfork, and Ty Warren and a Steelers offensive line consisting of Sean Mahan and Kendall Simmons. I’m not sure about Anthony Smith’s guarantee, either. He’s a favorite of mine, but you’ve got to just shut the fuck up and play.

TENNESSEE (+1) over San Diego

Last week Albert Haynesworth comes back, and the Titans win. They’re simply a much different team with him. They’ll focus on shutting down LaDainian Tomlinson and make Philip Rivers beat them, and I don’t think he can.

CINCINNATI (-6.5) over St. Louis

The battle of crappy defenses. This is the type of game Carson Palmer thrives on. No pressure, a terrible opponent with nothing really at stake. Look for a 350 yard, 4 TD performance, much ball-washing from the media and fantasy football enthusiasts, and numerous yawns from the city of Pittsburgh.

HOUSTON (+3) over Tampa Bay

If I knew Jeff Garcia would be starting I might lean towards the Buccaneers. Then again, the Texans may not have Matt Schaub. Basically, this game is a toss up and I’m going with the home team.

SEATTLE (-7) over Arizona

Likely no Anquan Boldin. Possibly no Larry Fitzgerald. Uh oh. This looks like a statement game for the Seahawks. Win this and they lock up the division. The Seahawks at home in a statement game, with Arizona lacking their weapons, points me towards the favorite.


SAN FRANCISCO (+8.5) over Minnesota

Lot of talk right now that the Vikings are one of the better teams in the NFC. I’m still not buying it. Adrian Peterson is fantastic, but I’m not sold on Tarvaris Jackson. Seriously, the Vikings giving almost 9 points on the road? No thanks.

NEW YORK JETS (+3.5) over Cleveland

Don’t know why, but I like the Jets. Call it a “hunch” game.

DENVER (-6.5) over Kansas City

Two mediocre AFC West teams. I’ll take the one not coached by Herm Edwards.

Indianapolis (-9) over BALTIMORE

The Ravens gave it all they had on Monday night and came up short. That was a emoralizing loss for them. I don’t think they can recover. Just nothing left in the tank.

NEW ORLEANS (-4.5) over Atlanta

Terrible game. I’m tired of writing.

End of Post

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

SI vs. ESPN (again) and the birth of Skip A. Salsbury

First, let me just say that I was oddly thrilled that the Patriots won that Monday night game. I wanted no part of an angry Patriots team fresh off their first loss. Check out Sam's synopsis of how to beat them below. Oh, and the 'stache just informed me that Anthony Smith has guaranteed a win. Not sure how I feel about that, Kill-Switch...

Anyways, really great piece by Josh Levin over at Slate on one of my favorite topics: what is wrong with Sports Illustrated and how can it be saved? Levin essentially says that SI needs to get rid of the fluffy E! crap that has been trademarked by ESPN and go back to taking hard stances. Not hard stances as in "shout as loud as you can for 15 seconds without ever having to own up to what you say" - there is plenty of that verbal feces being spewed by Skip A. Salsbury at ESPN (from now on, I am just referring to annoying ESPN talking heads as Skip. A. Salisbury. That should cover them all). Instead, take hard stances founded in serious investigative reporting with a spate of thoughtful opinion to layer on top of it. For instance, I remember in '94 (I think) that they had a cover that simply asked "Is Tennis Dying?" Pose tough questions, do research, take a stance, get some good writers: it's an easy blue-print to produce must-read literature in a sports world full of snapshot screaming.

Because while ESPN certainly has entertaining stuff, virtually none of it is must-read (the e-ticket's are often very good, and that is often it). I only bring up Bill Simmons at this juncture because Levin cites him as ESPN's go-to-guy in his article. Which is true. But consider his latest garbage column about the Knicks. Here is the entire article, but I'm most concerned with the closing line...

Same goes for Knicks fans now. In a sports world that is increasingly defined by big money and big markets, the Knicks play in the richest, biggest market of all. You can't drown out their fans and can't reason with them, so don't even try. They will just have to figure out for themselves that they're lucky they don't live in Buffalo or Pittsburgh, where nobody hears you at all.

Put in context with the article, he is mostly referring to the Pirates in this instance (though he should specifically SAY that instead of including the whole city in the matter). But you know what the fun thing is about this asinine comment? I don't even have to criticize Mr. Simmons for it. He does that himself! From his personal website...
I couldn't totally get this week's ESPN The Magazine column to work. Liked the idea, thought it had potential, spent Saturday and Sunday working on it, couldn't quite get over the hump and eventually ran out of time because we go to press Sunday nights.

In other words: yeah, that wasn't a very coherent article and I threw some cities under the bus without really considering their larger sports psyches. I'm still not even sure what the hell the point of the article was. The Knicks suck? Ok, cool. Great. Sports fans don't like it when their teams lose? Revolutionary.

I mean, really, you are telling me that Sports Illustrated couldn't seriously compete with ESPN again? Hell, I think they are competing more with them at this very moment than many people realize, though only because ESPN is letting them. Just think about that statement from their go-to-guy Simmons: nobody cares what people say or think in Pittsburgh - we only listen to big market banter. Sound like an arrogant blanket statement from Around the Horn? You bet it does. Here's hoping SI can ask some tough questions in the next year while readers and viewers or ESPN are left questioning where to get a more substantive sports opinion.

End of Post

Pirate Rumors at Bay



As much as the Patriots-Steelers game excites Pittsburgh, there is nothing more tantalizing than some Pittsburgh Pirates' trade rumors. Including those involving some of your favorite Pirate personalities....well sike. We're talking about Jason Bay for the most part...does he have a personality? No.

But we do have some exciting, and hilarious, news from the Dave Littlefield camp. Yes, this article is about Nate McLouth pulling some trade interest, but please read the last possible line in that article. It is by far the funniest tidbit of information you will ever find in the TRIB.

To the Bay Rumors:

The Post-Gazette on Tuesday said a Jason Bay deal was in the works.

Today, the deal was dead.

Then the Tribune Review settled the rumor once and for all....Yes, They still publish a daily newspaper.

Oh and for the Steelers fans out there, who are strong enough not to give a shit about the Pirates, here is a Steelers' rumor for you. Verron Haynes might be coming back!!

Personally, I would be ecstatic if the Pirates pulled the trigger on a Jason Bay deal. I'd rather trade Bay before Nady. Simply put, Nady knows how to put the bat on the ball. We've all seen it first hand... Jason Bay goes to the plate with the bases loaded, and strikes out. Bay couldn't hit Ronny Paulino in the clutch if Paulino was standing on home plate...And while we're talking about Ronny Paulino, trade him too.

The only way the Pirates will get this ship turned around is if Jason Bay or Jack Wilson is traded. Don't tell me I'm wrong either, the Pirates have already tried trading everyone else. Anyway, I support Jack Wilson staying over Bay. Jack just wants it more than Bay. Let me also remind you that this is America, and I'm talking about baseball, not hockey. I completely support Canadians carrying our hockey team, but not our baseball team.

On the Verron Haynes rumors: Bring Verron back! How he didn't get picked up by another team is beyond me...

End of Post

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

How The Steelers Can Beat the Patriots

The 'stache alluded to a few points in his report about next week, but I thought I'd add in a few things. Nothing that I say here is that surprising, which all told is a good thing. The Patriots have flaws, we'll find out what we can do with them.

1.) Run the football - but don't be stupid about it.

If the Ravens showed anything, its that the brand of football that the Steelers have traditionally been known for can be effective against the Patriots. We'd be dumb to not run Willie like crazy. I'm not exactly sure our offensive line is up to it, but if the running game can come close to what the Ravens did our greater discipline could carry us to the victory. On the other hand, this could be exactly what Belichick is thinking.

One of Cowher's greatest strategic moves of his career was going heavy on the pass at the beginning of playoff games in '05. Everyone expected us to run, and the results were spectacular. Not only will the Patriots expect us to try and dominate at the line, after their embarrassing showing in Baltimore you know they will be ready to commit to the run and probably have 8 guys in the box.

We have to run -- but look for a play-action heavy first drive.

2.) Get within a couple feet of Brady

I suppose I've gotten used to Ben refusing to be sacked, but I was amazed by Brady's willingness to go down. Its probably better in the long run for his team and for himself (we wouldn't want to jeopardize his other career goals), but I finally understand how important it is to get pressure on him. Get within a couple feet, and he'll begin to put in motion the fetal-roll. The end result: Brady by himself in a Claude Lemieux-esq upside down turtle. See below.



Notice there is no defender in the frame. I don't remember Brady ever being hit that hard that the defender would not be near him.

3.) Attack Seau

I had no idea how important Rosevelt Colvin was to this team until Junior Seau stepped back into the starting role. Did anyone else see McGahee literally turn him around on one play? The Patriots' linebackers on the left side are Seau and Tedy Bruschi, ages 38 and 34 respectively. Age has been an issue for those 0-12 Dolphins, why can't it be a small problem for the Patriots? Conveniently, the left side of our line, with Faneca and Starks, could exploit this. Starks should have no trouble stopping the slow Seau on pass protection and he's always been strong on run blocking.

4.) Stay Patient

Points allowed by the Patriots by Quarter:

1st - 31
2nd - 65
3rd - 51
4th - 69

The high total in the 4th has to be partly due to the leads they've had. The trend, though, mostly confirms that you can wear them out. The Patriots are superb at blowing teams out, but in their two opportunities in close games they've failed to close teams out. Age, again, may play a factor, but I think it has to do with the other team relaxing and just letting loose once they are already down by three scores. Judging by the Steelers' comments they aren't afraid, which is the exact mindset they need to have.

5. Give the Challenge flag to someone else

I love Mike Tomlin, but could he please be just a bit more patient when throwing the flag? I can understand a quick throw when the other team's offense is on the field, but too many times this season we've had the ball and he still throws it 10 seconds after the play is complete. Tell Ben to take his time getting the play off, wait for CBS to give the replay, then ask the guys upstairs what to do. Do we even have anyone upstairs with Arians on the sideline?

End of Post

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Stache Report: Bengals vs. Steelers

- Pat said he wasn’t going to touch the Ben Roethlisberger-Carson Palmer debate. I’m going to. I will take Ben every day and twice on Sunday over Palmer. I’ll always take the winner over the better statistical passer. It’s the reason why I always told people in past seasons that I would take Brady over Manning. Look, I’ve always held the belief that Palmer becomes ordinary when it’s crunch time. He’s great in the first quarter when there’s no pressure on him to get his offense in the end zone. Put him in a situation where he has to bring his team back in the 4th quarter, and he shits the bed. Pat alluded to this fact, and he’s absolutely correct. Palmer has very few clutch 4th quarter comebacks on his resume. Contrast that with Ben, who seems to always show up when it’s crunch time. Here is a great article, from Stillers.com, to drive this point home.

- Our secondary thus far in the season has been good. Real good. One of the few predictions that has gone right for me this season is the fact that I thought Ike would bounce back from his sub-par season a year ago. For the most part, he did an admirable job when manned up against Chad Johnson (as he always does). His coverage on the deep ball early in the game was absolutely perfect. I feel Ike is one of the best corners in the game, and he definitely has the physical skills to keep up with Randy Moss next week. You can’t say that about many cornerbacks in this league.

- Willie P. had a tough day holding onto the football, but I’m really more concerned with his workload. It seems like I say this every week, but Tomlin needs to give some more carries to the 2nd back, whether it be Najeh or Gary Russell, who was active yesterday. Willie is now under 4.0 YPC, and his production has been declining every week. Admittedly, this is a byproduct of lackluster run blocking, but you would be na├»ve if you didn’t think his high workload isn’t a factor as well.

- MVP of the game was obviously Hines Ward. Actually being at the game gives you a greater appreciation of his play. You can see the way he runs his routes and just finds the open spots in the secondary. My favorite play of his yesterday was the crossing route where he somehow managed to hold onto the ball after taking a vicious hit from a Bengals defender. So good that it brought the crowd to it’s feet. Wilson made a couple of key grabs, but Nate was a disappointment. It’s becoming very apparent that Nate can thrive when placed in a #3 or #4 role. He just isn’t starter material, though. You know after this game that Belichick will attempt to take Ward out of the game, making Santonio’s presence even more paramount. Thankfully, Holmes says he is going to play next week (scroll to the 5th to last paragraph).

- Not sure what to make of these slow starts by the defense. Three out of the past four weeks the opposing team has driven down the field on their first drive for a touchdown. On the plus side, none of these offenses did much thereafter. It’s a credit to LeBeau and Tomlin for making the necessary adjustments, but still, you’d like to see the defense come out and make a stand from the get go.

- I really like the game Arians called this week. I’ve been hoping that they would use the no-huddle more, and they used is substantially Sunday night. Furthermore, we saw some play calls that allowed Ben to get the ball out quickly. This was a nice change of pace from the slow developing, 7-step drops we’ve been used to seeing this season. A perfect of example of this was Hines 2nd TD, a 3 to 5-step quick slant. With substandard offensive line protection, this is exactly what you need.

- One guy who has played very well the past two weeks has been Max Starks. He has come in and played very well for Marvel Smith at left tackle. This is somewhat surprising, considering Max’s performance at left tackle in the pre-season. It’s worth noting, though, that these two games Max started at LT were played on the Heinz Field slop. This was extremely advantageous for Starks against the Dolphins, because it negated Jason Taylor’s biggest asset, that being his speed and ability to get upfield. To a lesser extent the same can be said for Justin Smith. Starks typically struggles against the speed rushers who can get around his massive size, so the sloppy field conditions should be taken into account a little bit when assessing his performance. His quality play is a great sign, and it could make the front office consider bringing Starks back next season (he’s a free agent at the end of the year), but I want to see him perform under more natural field conditions first.

- Which brings us to next week. The Patriots are currently in a street fight with the Ravens. Win or lose, this will obviously be the toughest test to date for the Steelers. The Ravens are showing that getting heat on Brady is the way to curtail their offense. I’d like to see Woodley more in this game. He’s a pure pass rusher who can get to the quarterback. I’d lock Ike on Moss and give him safety help, have someone (Timmons?) chip Welker at the line of scrimmage to disrupt his route, and play Stallworth straight up. Obviously you want to mix it up with some creative zone defenses to hopefully confuse Brady. I’ve been reading that LeBeau has some stuff that he’s been saving. Now is the week to unleash some of it. Stopping the run shouldn’t be a problem, considering the Patriots run it sparingly. You have to hope you can generate a pass rush with 4 or 5. Harrison needs to have a huge game. If he can get to Brady, that will make a world of difference. I almost don’t want to win, because it’s going to be tough beating New England twice, and you know you are going to have to beat them to get to the Super Bowl. But I know that if it’s a close game in the 4th quarter, I’m going to be rooting like hell for a win. Let’s see what happens.

End of Post

An Entertaining Weekend

A rather cheerful Pittsburgh sports weekend. Some quick Sunday night thoughts...

WE DEY
Frame it in your minds, folks, cause it doesn't get any more telling than this: Hines Ward breaks the Steelers franchise TD-receiving mark on a night that Chad Johnson willingly goes out of bounds three yards short of the first down on 4th and end game. Chad's mishap was maybe my favorite NFL moment of the past five years. I can't say enough about how much that play thrilled me. And apparently John Madden can't say enough about Alan Faneca. My Lord, what is it that John Madden has for veteran NFL players with beards from the Gulf Coast? (see: Faneca and Favre).

Dumb Bungles penalties, slow nights from TJ and Chad, overthrows from Carson Palmer, Anthony Smith laying hits and bumps in excess...sounds like a normal Steelers-Bengals game nowadays. I have never really gotten into the whole Ben is better than Carson debate, but I think it is safe to say Carson is falling behind a little in that contest. I can't wait for his first big-game win, when Bengals fans will cite how Carson-haters were wrong all along. Newsflash: his next clutch, pressure cooker win will probably be his first.

Oh, and did we talk about all the injured players that the Steelers were without tonight? Ah whatever, I don't want to pile on...

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Pitt beats WVU
A good weekend for Wannstedt. Contract extension followed by the biggest win of his college coaching career. I watched the game in a bar full of Ohio State fans and I don't think I have ever been around such a Pitt-Lovefest. Monster game from Shady and from the D. If only a few of those quirky games had gone the other way this year, Pitt is looking at a pretty good year. Then again, quirky games are normally lost by teams that don't deserve to win them.

Pens go 1-1
Nice win over the surging Stars on Friday after a long layover. Not so much against the Leafs last night. Busy few days coming up for the Pens. The Atlantic is a pile-up right now and a win streak would do some quick damage in the standings.

The 'stache was at the Steelers game tonight so he should have some interesting comments soon....
End of Post

Friday, November 30, 2007

Weekend Picks

I screwed up the picks table last night. Pat had the Cowboys, while Marc Anthony had the Packers. Actual quote from the 'Stache: "I actually won a bet last week, then I let it ride on the late games and I lost it. I'm trying to chase. I can either
stop now or try and get back to even. Ugh, f'ing gambling."



The Stache Says:

Home team in caps

Atlanta (+4) over ST. LOUIS

What a QB matchup. Joey Harrington vs. Gus Frerotte. Ol’ Gus showed he could still blow a game, fumbling on 4th down from the Seahawks 1-yard line going in for the winning touchdown. Falcons stink. Rams stink. So I’m taking the points.

WASHINGTON (-6) over Buffalo

No one knows how the Redskins are going to play in this game. They may play their best game of the year to honor their fallen teammate, or they may lay an egg because this week has just been too much for them. I tend to lean towards the former. I think they’re going to be playing on a big-time emotional high. It would be a great moment for them to come out and just dominate the game in honor of Sean Taylor.

Detroit (+3.5) over MINNESOTA

Big game for both these teams. If the Lions can win they can create some separation between themselves and the Vikings by taking a two game lead and holding the tie-breaker advantage over Minnesota for a wild card spot. If the Vikes can pull it out, they become a legitimate wild card contender, which I guess speaks to the quality of play in the NFC. These teams are heading in the opposite direction, so naturally I’m going to take the one on the downswing.

TENNESSEE (-3.5) over Houston

I made this pick strictly off Albert Haynesworth. He is scheduled to practice tomorrow, so I’m thinking he plays. With him the Titans are a different team. If he plays, I like them to stop their three-game skid.

INDIANAPOLIS (-6.5) over Jacksonville

This is a game I hope I’m wrong on. If we want any chance at a #2 seed, Indy needs to lose, and this game is as good as any. But the Colts will be coming off 10 days of rest, which should help their battered football team. Add in the fact that the line is 6.5, which is huge because of the touchdown factor, and I’m going Indy.

New York Jets (+1.5) over MIAMI

An 0-11 team that is the favorite. Doesn’t happen often. John Beck is still getting his feet wet, and the Dolphins don’t have any running backs, thanks in part to Lawrence Timmons. He put a nice cleat into Ricky Williams, didn’t he? Anyways, maybe I’m more enamored with the Jets than I should be just because I saw them beat us, but whatever.

KANSAS CITY (+5.5) over San Diego

If I can get the Chiefs at home in Arrowhead, as an underdog, against a Norv Turner led team, you damn well better believe I’m going to take the Chiefs.

Seattle (+3) over PHILADELPHIA

The Eagles almost pulled off the impossible last week, so I sense a little bit of a let down this week for them. Seattle is no slouch, even though they did struggle with the Rams last week.

CAROLINA (-3) over San Francisco

I mean, can you really feel comfortable betting this game? You can either take David Carr and the Panthers offense and give three points, or you can take Trent Dilfer and the even worse 49ers offense and get three points. The Panthers are 0-5 at home this year. They have to win a home game at some point. Panthers it is.

NEW ORLEANS (-3.5) over Tampa Bay

Doesn’t look like Jeff Garcia is going to start. Local boy Bruce Gradkowski may not get the nod either, as Gruden is contemplating going with Luke McCown. The Saints always look like a great bet, but you never know what you’re going to get with them. Buyer beware here.

ARIZONA (-1) over Cleveland

Sure, the Browns offense has played better as of late. The Cardinals have an explosive offense, though. This is the Browns, people. They’ll fuck it up. Just watch. It starts this week.

OAKLAND (+3.5) over Denver

Just an absolutely brutal loss for the Broncos last week. It was fun watching another gambler other than myself suffer. My older brother had cash on the Broncos at +1 over the Bears. So he was rightfully pissed when the Broncos kicked not once, BUT TWICE to Devin Hester. Nice move, Shanahan. But it got better, because you should have seen the look on his face as he watched Rex Grossman lead the Bears to two touchdowns and the game winning field goal to win the game. You know it’s a bad gambling loss when Rex Grossman fucks you over.

CHICAGO (+2) over New York Giants

And I’m going to ride the Rex Grossman momentum train. Besides, you all saw how Eli Manning played last week. The Bears have had their share of struggles on defense, but do you really trust Eli going up against the Chicago defense in Soldier Field. Plus, the Bears have that Hester fella. I hear he’s kinda good.

PITTSBURGH (-7) over Cincinnati

I already talked about this game a little bit in the Stache Report, so in lieu of that I’m going to show you some quotes from Anthony Smith:

On Chad Johnson: “Oh, yeah, his confidence is back up there. But it’ll get right back down to reality once he gets hit a couple times.”

On the Bengals wideouts facing the Steelers secondary: “They’ll be looking out for us when they come across the middle. It’ll pretty much stop most of their completions”

On whether Chad Johnson should wear a mouthpiece, since Smith knocked it out in the last game: “If he don’t, I’m going to try to do the same thing I did last time.”

On TJ Houshmandzadeh: “See, that’s his problem, working the middle of the field. That’s where I’m at. That’s my domain.”

On Houshmandzadeh wiping his shoes with the Terrible Towel a couple years ago:
“He might want to do that again, but he won’t have a chance to as long as I’m playing. If anybody comes across the middle, if they don’t duck, I’m going to make something happen.”

This man is brilliant.

New England (-20.5) over BALTIMORE

Tom Brady vs. Kyle Boller. Need I explain more?

End of Post