Friday, October 31, 2008

And Only How Many Games Have Been Played?

The Pens suck. We aren't making the playoffs. We should definitely pull the trigger on that Letang-Staal-1st rounder for Kovalchuk deal that was all over the airwaves today. We should probably trade Crosby for Ramzi Abid too. I mean, it'd be a steal with Sid being hurt and all.



Feel relaxed now? Good, you should. Maybe you have forgotten that the Penguins were awful at the start of the season last year. Awful. And last season turned out alright. Who is even playing that bad for the Penguins right now? And by bad I mean dreadful? I could go through tons of analysis, but let's try a simple experiment. I'll name a player and give you the first thought that comes into my head for them. Play along and try to keep it to a single word. I am going to write this next section in under 60 seconds...

Letang - evolving
Eaton - shaky
Sydor - uncanny at keepin the puck in the o-zone
Satan - garbage shoveler
Fleury - validation
orpik - decent
Fedotenko - Dupuis
Dupuis - Fedotenko
TK - getting his own shots
Crosby - Crosby
Staal - playing tight
Goddard/Cooke - corner warriors
Sabourin - solid
Goligoski - coming along
Zigamanis - pleasant
Talbot - Fu.Man.Chu
Sykora - Recchi
Bissonnette - nose breaker
Scuderi - Yeoman's work
Gill - unlucky

Do you see "unbearably bad" anywhere? No. People are freaking about Staal, but the kid is in a contract year...and he's 20. You worked at Pizza Hut when you were 20. You did not have millions of dollars on the line 3 years into your first job.

The only guy I got stuck on and didn't include was Malkin. He's undefinable at this point. Just when you think it looks like he is sulking, he's racing over to tackle a teammate that scored. Just when you are wondering how it is humanly possible for a player to maintain puck possession on the offensive boards for 15 seconds, you realize he probably should have passed it 65 different times. He loafs on D in the final seconds of the Rangers game. He breaks up a 2 on 1 last night in Phoenix. He has his hand in almost every PP goal. He completely disregards any type of setup on the PP and rifles every puck he gets at the net.

In the end, you know you are lucky to have him on your team though. You know he will deliver. Just like the Penguins. Which is why no one should be worrying right now.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Next time you might want to put the security cameras on sturdier structures



(Yes, it took my Penn State homerism to come back from "retirement". I'm sure this post doesn't make up for it.)

While this video is probably the best of the youtubes put up of the riots in State College after the 13-6 Nittany Lion victory on Saturday night, none quite do the justice that the mace-filled video does at the Collegian website (second video down in the list.)

Reaction to the game has been mixed, as there are already those out there (1 2) decrying the weak Big Ten schedule and assuming that Penn State will just follow in line with OSU's poor showing the past two national championships.

The Big 12 and the SEC are better conferences than the Big 10. Without a doubt. The NFC East is better than the AFC North. That doesn't stop the Steelers from hanging with what many people consider the top team in that division and in the league. There's no logic in complaining about an undefeated Penn State team going to the national championship game over a 1-loss SEC or Big 12 team. The system, first and foremost, rewards wins, so it rewards an easy schedule. If you can go undefeated with a tougher schedule, the system rewards you more. Which is why Texas and Alabama should be playing Miami if they both win out. In both cases, the system just sucks.

But Penn State and Joe Paterno can't lose, assuming they finish out these last three games. If Texas or Alabama falter they're playing for the national championship. If they go undefeated and don't get in, the bitching heard from a million middle aged white men in Penn State turtlenecks will not let this die. Ever. For non-Penn State fans,the potential of having to watch a subpar championship game for a few hours is better than endless mentions of "they screwed us in '08!" declarations on message boards, blogs, radio shows and TV for the next decade. Yet, if there was one chance for the BSC system to be altered to a plus-1 or playoff system in future years this would be it.

This is likely Joe's last year. The stars are aligning too perfectly for it not to be. Either way this plays out his legacy will be either that of one last total victory or potentially altering the entire landscape of the game. Seems appropriate to me.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

State of the Union

Yes, we are alive. No, we haven't shut down the blog.

But...

But...

Things have changed - that tends to happen after a year and a half. Sure, we've survived some interesting situations before. Our writers have been in Pittsburgh, New York City, Columbus, State College, and elsewhere. Somehow, the site kept going.

And now, the four writers of this here site are all in Pittsburgh. You would think this is a good thing for Doubt About It. Local announcers, local atmosphere, local papers...we should be more on the beat. And believe me, we are. Rob Scuderi taking a puck to the chest in the crease does not show up in the papers.

The thing is, we talk about this stuff all the time now. At work, at lunch, at the bar, on the weekends - by the time I even think to write a blog post about how Nate Washington bugs me, I've already talked about it ad nauseum with Sam, the 'Stache, IWTFTB, and anyone else I've run into. Writing posts used to be how the four writers communicated with one another. Now, they feel like a summation of a night's conversation.

Is that corny? Yup. Does it completely ignore our responsibilities to our readers that have been more than kind to us during our stint? Yes maam. But there is no point in us throwing up garbage just for the sake of keeping the blog alive. If a blog comes across as lacking passion or a unique voice, you shouldnt waste time reading it. We don't want to be one of those blogs.

So, "what happens now?", you ask. Maybe this is the last post ever on Doubt About It. Maybe the stache report comes in Tuesday and life moves on as if the past three weeks never happened. Maybe we blow this thing up, wait til we are hungry to write again, and then start anew. I really cant say. As IWTFTB likes to say, "The shareholders are still mulling over options".

Irregardless, we don't say this enough: thanks, to everyone for everything. This is not a "thank you and good night!", but a general thanks for the support and the emails ("is the 'Stache' actually Joe the Plumber and now he is too busy to write?"). At some point, we'll figure out what is going on here and let you know.

Big one for the Steelers today. J. Staal and I will be there. Sam might find a way to sneak in. We'll see what happens.

We'll see.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Stache Report: Week 5

- That’s two games in a row that Mewelde Moore has come up huge. He registered 99 yards on the ground, and had a couple more clutch catches. He’s our Kevin Faulk, with the way he can catch the ball out of the backfield, move the chains, and spot start in a pinch. And they signed him at a bargain rate (3 years, $4.95 million, $2 million signing bonus). These smart, savvy moves are what separate the Steelers from teams like the Raiders ($50 million for Javon Walker?)

- You want to talk about quality depth? How about churning out 124 yards rushing with your #3 and #4 RB’s? How about Darnell Stapleton stepping up and playing a quality game (check out the first offensive play from scrimmage for the Steelers, where Stapleton blew open a huge hole for Moore). How about having 2/3 of your starting defensive line out and holding Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew to a combined 15 carries for 26 yards? Moore, Russell, Stapleton, Travis Kirschke, Chris Hoke, and Orpheus Roye deserve big time kudos after this game.

- For one week at least, the Nate Washington haters can be quieted. That was a sick double move he pulled to get wide open, and Ben sold it beautifully with the pump. For all the flack he takes for not being able to catch, by my recollection the guy only has one drop (against Houston) which you still can barely count since it would have been a pretty amazing catch. The guy makes plays when given the opportunity. Now, I wouldn't mind seeing Sweed get a little bit of time ahead of Dallas Baker. Can someone tell me what exactly Baker brings to the table?

- A virtuoso performance by Big Ben. He doesn't practice all week, gets shot up on Thursday, and he comes out and destroys the Jaguars. He wasn't going to let us lose this game. You want to know who he reminds me of? Steve McNair in his prime. McNair always had some time of ailment and would never practice during the week, but then he would show up on Sunday, break tackles, make huge plays, and will his team to victory. Ben is worth every penny of that $102 million.

- The day Rashean Mathis retires can't come soon enough. I've never seen one individual player kill a team so much. He will be hence referred to as "Rashean Mathis, Steeler-killer."

- Did John Madden really call Troy Polamalu the best tackler in the NFL? I love Troy, but tackling sure isn't one of his stronger suits.

- Is it me or his Hines dropping two passes or so each game? Although, you could say he more than makes up for it with his blocking and ability to get under the opponent's skin. I'm pretty sure everyone in the city of Jacksonville, including the players, absolutely despise Hines Ward right now.

- Aaron Smith, James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, Bryant McFadden, Troy Polamalu. These five are playing lights out right now, and they're the biggest reason why this defense is one of the best in the NFL.

- The officiating was atrocious. The PI call on Ike Taylor early in the game was iffy. The Jaguars offensive line was holding Harrison and Woodley almost every play. The roughing the passer call on Harrison was one of the worst calls I've ever seen, and I'm not exaggerating. I will say that the late hit on Clark was legit, but still, it was a piss-poor effort by the zebras.

- I asked for it last week, so I was happy to see the no-huddle make a significant appearance. Ben seems extremely comfortable using it, and it makes it harder for the defense to make substitutions and get fresh pass rushers. While were on the subject of offensive play-calling, there is one formation I absolutely hate: the bunch formation. It's rarely successful, and it's harder for Ben to read the blitz because everyone on the defense is so clustered together. If you're gonna go 4-wide, spread them out and give Ben the opportunity to diagnose who is blitzing pre-snap.

- When Marvel Smith went out with cramps, the Steelers inserted Trai Essex to take his place. The situation involving the $7 million dollar man has turned from odd to downright puzzling.

- 4-1 going into the bye week, which will allow us to get healthier. The return of Parker and Keisel are imminent. All in all, were sitting pretty good right now.

AROUND THE NFL:

Bears-Lions: The Bears might actually win the NFC North, and Kyle Orton might actually be looking like a real NFL quarterback.

Falcons-Packers: I'm shocked the Falcons are 3-2. Matty Ice has been better than advertised.

Dolphins-Chargers: And I'm shocked that the Dolphins are 2-2. Ronnie Brown has been excellent, and so has their Peezy-led defense.

Giants-Seahawks: Don't fool yourself. The Seahawks lost to the Giants 44-6 because of the refs. Just like Super Bowl XL. Yeah, that's the ticket.

Titans-Ravens: A defensive slugfest. When crunch time came, Kerry Collins made the plays needed to be made and Joe Flacco did not.

Colts-Texans: A potential season-saver for the Colts and a meltdown for the Texans. 21 points in 2:10? Unbelievable.

Panthers-Chiefs: The Panthers were missing both of their starting offensive tackles. And they still put up 205 yards rushing. That speaks to how awful the Chiefs defense played.

Redskins-Eagles: More impressive than the Redskins 4-1 start is the fact that they've already played all three NFC East teams on the road and are 2-1 in those contests.

Broncos-Buccaneers: If only the Broncos defense could play like that every game. I'm still skeptical.

Cowboys-Bengals: The Bengals are proving that the talent difference across the NFL isn't that big. They've taken two of the best teams in the NFL in the Giants and Cowboys down to the wire, both on the road. The Bengals are 0-5, and the Giants and Cowboys are 4-0 and 4-1, respectively.

Cardinals-Bills: The Bills need a healthy Trent Edwards if they want to go anywhere this season. They've tried the J.P. Losman experiment already, and it failed.

Patriots-49ers: I'm still scared of this New England team. Even with Matt Cassel. Don't chalk up that trip to New England in early December as a win. Don't even think about.

Vikings-Saints: Reggie Bush. Wow. And it still wasn't enough.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Stream of Consciousness Friday

Man, I should have gotten that Penguins preview done for today. Moving into an apartment made that virtually impossible though. I'll have to get it on the site after the games in Stockholm. Maybe Sam will do the Picks Table at some point today. Probably not, cause he is lazy, which is why I am taking the opposite of all his picks this week. There are a million times that I should have absolutely tore into a Shelly Anderson column, but I didnt want people to think I am a chauvinist. She could atleast spell the guy's name right. I'm sure that will read "Pesonen" in the near future, but as of right now it reads "Pesonon". Whatever.

Have a weekend. A good one, at that.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Thank You, Lanny

In a town that has been fortunate to have Myron Cope and Mike Lange as announcers, it is easy to overlook Lanny Fratarre's contributions. It is even easier to do so when you think about how bad the Pirates have been for so long. The few times I have run into him over the years, he has been nothing but classy, and for an organization that doesn't have a whole lot to hang its hat on nowadays, it was nice to see a guy like Lanny go to such great extent to support the team and it's image.

Today it was announced that Lanny is retiring.

I always felt that Go Ball Get Outta Here! was an underused and underappreciated home run call. And it goes without saying that "There was noooo doubt about it!" has a special meaning for us, even if that meaning is covered in Ronny Paulino-sized chunks of irony and sarcasm. So raise one high for Lanny Fratarre tonight - he was a supporter of the Pirates through bad times, a steady voice in a market of super-star level announcers, and perhaps most importantly...he wasn't Greg Brown.

Ok, harsh. But I havent forgotten La-La-La-La-Roche just yet.

The Stache Report: Week 4

- It took a multitude of injuries, but the Steelers finally started to utilize their new toy, Mewelde Moore. Through the first three games the guy had zero catches, inexcusable for a guy who caught 46 passes two years ago before being phased out of the offense in Minnesota with the emergence of Adrian Peterson. Moore showed how lethal he could be out of the backfield, nabbing three balls, none bigger than his 24-yarder in overtime to get into field goal range. Look for him to be incorporated more into the offense now that the depth at running back has been depleted.

- That depleted backfield illustrates how quickly things can change in the NFL. Before the season started the Steelers boasted one of the strongest running back stables in the NFL with Willie Parker, Rashard Mendenhall, and Mewelde Moore. Injuries to Parker and Mendenhall leave Moore, an unproven Gary Russell, and a recently re-signed Dump Truck as the primary options Sunday night against Jacksonville. I’m thinking Russell may get the start, with Moore being worked in. If Carey Davis can recover in time from a sprained ankle he’ll see some time as well.

- I don’t necessarily think the preseason is useless, but Troy Polamalu is making a strong case against that train of thought. The guy didn’t play a down during the exhibitions, and it allowed him to get fully healthy. He’s playing unbelievable ball right now, twice coming from out of nowhere Monday night to bat down deep passes that could have resulted in sizable gains for Baltimore.

- Anyone else want to see more of the no-huddle? I think Ben is more comfortable in it. The best thing is it allows him to get to the line of scrimmage with enough time on the play clock for him to survey the defense. Too often it seems like the Steelers are pressing to get the play off when they go to their conventional offense. Yet it always seems like they only go to the no-huddle when they’re down and in desperation mode. Once I’d like to see them do it early in a game when that’s not the case.

- Look, I feel bad for Kendall Simmons. I really do. A torn Achilles is as bad as it gets for football players. That said, this line will be better without him. It looks like they’ll go with Stapleton or Essex at guard, but the more prudent move in my opinion is to eventually slide Colon inside to guard and let the $7 million dollar man earn his money at right tackle.

- James Harrison must love Monday Nights. After last season’s performance against the Ravens, he chipped in with 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble on Monday. That fumble was picked up and returned for a touchdown by LaMarr Woodley, who by the way also had 1.5 sacks. These two could both be on their way to the Pro Bowl this season if they keep this up. They’re on pace to combine for 36 sacks themselves alone this season, and are the best duo at outside linebacker the Steelers have had in some time.

- I know it’s only four games, but I don’t find myself holding my breath on kickoffs and punts anymore. The coverage teams have done an outstanding job thus far. Let’s hope they can keep it up. And while we're talking special teams, Jeff Reed proved once again that he is money.

- Quick look ahead to next week: Jacksonville has had our number as of late. They’ve won the last four meetings, using a brand of physical football. That might be more difficult this time around. Jacksonville has been decimated by injuries along their interior offensive line, and their run game isn’t in optimum shape as a result. This puts more pressure on David Garrard, who willed his team to victory on Sunday against the Texans. That will be more difficult to do against the Steelers, obviously. On defense, the Jaguars haven’t generated the type of pass rush to take advantage of a lackluster Steelers O-line. They’ve totaled only five sacks as a team thus far. Rashean Mathis left Sunday’s game with a bruised shin and did not return. His status for Sunday’s game is not known as of yet, but his absence would be a huge boost to us. He’s been an absolute Steeler-killer in the past. One thing that worries me: having a short week coming off an overtime slugfest with an extremely physical Ravens team.

AROUND THE NFL:

Falcons-Panthers: Muhsin Muhammad didn’t look like he was 35 on Sunday

Browns-Bengals: Why oh why did CBS stick those of us in western Pennsylvania with this piece of shit? Newsflash CBS, I don’t care if they’re in the AFC North, these teams both suck and I don’t want to watch them.

Texans-Jaguars: Steve Slaton is becoming a pretty dangerous weapon for that Houston offense.

Broncos-Chiefs: I said last week that the Broncos couldn’t keep winning with atrocious defensive play. And they didn’t, falling to the hapless Chiefs.

49ers-Saints: Drew Brees is good. Really good.

Cardinals-Jets: Every now and then, Kurt Warner has a game where he turns the ball over approximately 4,268 times. That game came on Sunday.

Packers-Buccaneers: I know the Buccaneers are 3-0 with him, but in the long-run does Brian Griese really give Tampa Bay the better chance to win than Jeff Garcia?

Vikings-Titans: Merrill Hoge can barely contain his excitement over the Vince Young-less 4-0 Tennessee Titans.

Chargers-Raiders: Gamblers got the ultimate backdoor cover when LaDainian Tomlinson sprinted his way to the endzone in the final minute or so.

Bills-Rams: The Marc Bulger for Trent Green switch reeked of desperation from the get-go. As expected, Scott Linehan didn’t finish the season. Hell, he didn’t even get to the halfway mark.

Redskins-Cowboys: That Monday Nighter against Washington is looking a little bit tougher today. Maybe Harrison can have like 10 sacks that night.

Eagles-Bears: Kids, don’t gamble. It’s not worth going through the pain myself and IWTFTB experienced Sunday night.