The Benwagon

I just want to start this post by saying that I'm sitting in the Philadelphia airport en route to Columbus, OH for a weekend trip, and at my gate, I see not one, not two, but THREE people wearing Steeler gear. Outstanding work, Steeler Nation.

Count us as members of the Ben Roethlisberger Fan Club, or as Mondesi's House calls it, the Benwagon. I know its been disputed a lot over the past few weeks, but I still don't see how anyone can still rate Carson Palmer ahead of Roethlisberger. The tired old "he's on a better team" argument doesn't work anymore for Ben. Palmer has more weapons at his disposal and has done much less with them. Period.

Ben proved his value last Sunday with a great game against Cleveland. With the exception of a first-half interception, he was flawless. And he even ran for 49 yards and a score (the crucial 30-yard scamper in the fourth quarter). One of the problems I've had with Roethlisberger in his short career is that he has forced some balls into bad spots in the defense instead of tucking it in to run. The message seems to finally be getting through to him from the coaching staff. When Roethlisberger is playing like he is right now, there's not a QB in the league (except for Brady and Peyton Manning) that I'd rather have.

The receiving corps again impressed against the Browns. Is it time to recognize Heath Miller as one of the top five tight ends in football? Given his blocking ability and receiving acumen, I'm ready to put him up there.

Looking ahead to this week's game against the Jets, I must admit that I'm a little worried that New York will move the ball on the Steelers' defense. I don't have a very good explanation for this, but its just a hunch. With the Jets starting Kellen Clemens and having a bye last week for him to work with the first team offense, New York will certainly provide more of a challenge than if it had started Chad Pennington.

Also, I know its been said on a few other blogs, but Mike Tomlin, please, be careful with your challenges. Its not a good sign that Tomlin's challenge success percentage at the end of the year is likely to rival that of a Pittsburgh Pirates' player's batting average (if he's lucky).


Silverback Deserves the Gold Medal

In lieu of an actual recap of Monday night's thrashing of the Ravens, let's just think back again to the game that James "Silverback" Harrison played. The play that best summed up Harrison's complete domination Monday was when he sacked Steve McNair, forcing a fumble that Willis McGahee picked up. McGahee attempted to run with the ball but was forced back to his own goal line and tackled by, who else, Harrison. Just a great effort from #92 the entire night. I don't hear anyone asking for Joey Porter these days. Here are some other random thoughts from the game:

- What's up with Jeff Reed trying to fight someone? Calm down, Skippy, you're not at a bar on Carson Street at last call. No need to fight.

- The long touchdown to Nate Washington was the result of a great job by Ben Roethlisberger to get out of the pocket away from the pass rush and by Nate to change his route and run to the area of the field where Ben could hit him for a wide-open score. And Nate caught the ball, too! Baby steps, baby steps.

- Willie Parker didn't run the ball much, but hey, with a four-touchdown lead at the half, the Steelers weren't going to do much passing in the second half (Mike Tomlin is the coach, not Bill Belichick). So the Ravens knew that they could load up on the line to stop Fast Willie, which they did. No complaints, though. Its not like Willie is scoring touchdowns even when he's getting 150 yards in a game. As long as the Steelers score, that's all that matters.

- Big Ben is on pace for 40 touchdowns and has a passer rating of 111 thus far this season. Tell the truth - if I would have told that you Ben had 20 touchdown passes at week eight, would any of you be flashing back to the 2003 season of Tommy Gun and the shotgun offense that was quickly abandoned?

- Aaron Smith comes back this week against Cleveland, and the Steeler defense should look even better. Smith is the most underrated player on the entire squad, and he has been missed the past two games.

- It was great to see Troy Polamalu flying around the field Monday night. He's been banged up a bit, but this was the first game all year where I found myself watching him instead of the ball at times. His strip of McGahee was a thing of beauty.

- After the Steelers beat Cleveland 34-7 in week one, I remarked that the 2007 Browns had a chance to be remembered as one of the worst teams of all-time. Remember how they had four penalties called on them on one single play in that game??? But two days later, they traded Charlie Frye to Seattle and Derek Anderson has been incredible. Still, if you would have told me that the Steelers were up one game on Cleveland heading into the ninth game of the season, I would have predicted that Pittsburgh's record was 4-4, at best. Shows what I know.


New Website

How is www.firebrucearians.com not registered yet? That game plan was clearly the work of a coordinator over thinking a game plan on a bye week. And Mike Tomlin shouldn't have let it happen. I know he is a defensive coach, but he has to get some control over what can only be described as Arian's ego. One of the best rushing teams in the NFL against the worst rush defense in the NFL and we start off with a Tight End screen? And don't get me started on the number of screen passes. And Ben, stop with the home run ball every single time. Are there any timing routes in the playbook? Yes, Ben is good at avoiding the rush, thankfully considering our line, but why is waiting 5-10 seconds. Run some slants, some quick outs. Throw to a spot on the field where you know the receiver is going to be.

Our defense cannot be out on the field that long and be effective. The players tire and can't be as aggressive in that attacking system, not to mention the thin air in Denver.

There is no excuse for not lining up two tight ends and putting Dan Kreider in the game and shoving it down Denver's throats.

I'm going to goDaddy to register a domain name.


Monster.com wasn't an option?

Those of you who know me know that I'm unemployed at the moment, save for some temporary work that really does me no good at all. While I generally prefer the term "between jobs", that doesn't change the fact that currently I don't have any income. And yes, that means that this blog is in fact earning me $0 per week. So with this change in employment status, I've been frequenting job boards across the Internet. I have a background in sports from a couple of my previous jobs, so one of the sites I check out regularly is TeamWork Online. I was on the site yesterday for the first time in a few weeks, and there are quite a few interesting jobs listed. Here are just a couple of the ones that caught my eye:

Administrative Assistant, Practice Facility - Madison Square Garden (Tarrytown, NY)
Given the events of the past few weeks, MSG may not be the best place to go to work these days. Unless, of course, you're a female who is willing to sleep with the Knicks (or their cousins) in order to get promoted. In that case, by all means, apply for it.

Director of Player Personnel - Houston Rockets (Houston, TX)
This position will be responsible for evaluation of NBA, minor league, NCAA, international players. The evaluations will be used for free-agent, draft, and trade purposes.

Wait, wait? This is really posted online? Isn't this one of those jobs where the GM/President of Basketball Operations calls around to his buddies and gets a recommendation? Are qualified candidates for this position actually checking this site and wondering if they should apply?

Executive Assistant - Washington Redskins (Washington, DC)
Please tell me this involves working directly for Dan Snyder. If I got this job, would it be possible for me to convince him to give me a raise despite me doing nothing to earn it? Or would I need to be 45 years old for him to hire me?

EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT - Los Angeles Dodgers (Los Angeles, CA)
Does this involve lining up the whores for Tommy Lasorda? Oh yes, I'm sorry. Escorts.

Executive Director - USA Water Ski (Polk City, FL)
I know that the ad asks for it, but is it really necessary to have seven years of experience to run the USA Water Ski organization? Corey Feldman's character, Ricky Wade, in Meatballs 4 had only been to camp for like two summers before he mastered it.

Quarterback - Atlanta Falcons (Atlanta, GA)
Okay, I made that one up. But there are job openings with the Falcons on the site. Maybe Joey Harrington can work for the team's Community Relations office next year. I would suggest Byron Leftwich, too, but I can see him parking his car at 8:30 a.m. and not making it to his desk until 3:30 p.m. Unless of course his linemen from Marshall came to carry him.


Week Five - Steelers 21, Seahawks 0

Seattle fans can't complain about the officiating in this game. But they might find fault with their team's pathetic effort. Facing a Steeler squad missing Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, Troy Polamalu and Casey Hampton, the Seahawks put up a goose egg on the scoreboard as the Steelers dominated time of possession en route to the first-ever shutout at Heinz Field.

The Good
Ben Roethlisberger looked like the 2004-05 version of himself. He was efficient (18 of 22, no interceptions), confident and made some great throws on the run. Najeh Davenport had an outstanding afternoon, while Fast Willie Parker put up another 100-yard game. The drive to start the second half (over 10 minutes long) was a thing of beauty. And the defense -- what else can you say about a shutout? Without blitzing very much, the Steeler D was still able to pressure Matt Hasselbeck and the coverage was outstanding. Ike Taylor's interception at the goal line to end the first half was a game-changer.

The Bad
Allen Rossum fumbled one punt and had another go off of his hands and then go out of bounds. It was great when Rossum ran the kickoff back for a touchdown against San Francisco a few weeks ago, but it also seems to have given him a false sense of security with regards to trying to run every kick or punt back, regardless of the situation. He needs to fair catch a few more of those punts instead of trying to make something happen.

The Ugly
Seattle's third-down defense against the Pittsburgh offense was awful. And so was the Seahawk effort throughout the game. It is hard to believe that Shaun Alexander was the MVP of the NFL just a few years ago. He looked a step slower every time he ran the ball. And Elizabeth Hasselbeck could have had more success at quarterback than her brother-in-law Matt had on Sunday.

Up Next: The Steelers are off this week before traveling to Denver the following week.

The Italian-American Pro Bowl Squad

In honor of Columbus Day, and with both of your bloggers here at IWIWAR being proud Italian-Americans, we proudly present to you a 22-man NFL squad made up entirely of active players with Italian ancestry. They could probably beat the Dolphins, right? And maybe the Rams?

QB - Brian Griese (backup - Vinny Testaverde)
Griese gets the nod solely for his play in the second half of last night's win over Green Bay. And why not make Testaverde the backup? He's accustomed to the role, that's for sure.

RB - Travis Henry - I know he's not technically Italian, but you can't tell me that one of his nine children isn't at least part-Italian. Close enough.

WR - Greg Camarillo - Sure, he hasn't made it on the stat sheet yet this year for Miami. But he went to Stanford, and that's a powerhouse program, right, USC?

WR - Bobby Sippio - This Kansas City Chief would provide a nice 6-foot-3 target for Griese (or Vinny) to go to. Just disregard the fact that he's a 26-year old rookie. No big deal.

TE - Anthony Fasano - A Jersey kid who went to Notre Dame. That'll be big for drawing fan support for this fake team. If he didn't play behind Jason Witten he could be putting up big numbers for the Cowboys.

TE - Liro Luoto - Since there was a lack of running backs to use, we're going to go with two tight ends in the starting lineup. And how could we pass on Liro Luoto? Maybe he wasn't good enough to make the Jets roster this year (uh-oh) but c'mon, with a name like that? Okay, fine, he's apparently from Finland. We'll change this choice to Christian Fauria then.

LT - Jason Fabini - A starter for most of the past 10 years in the league, Fabini anchors our line at left tackle.

LG - Chris Naeole - Another decade-long starter, Naeole plays left guard for us.

C - Dominic Raiola - This might be the most legitimate player on the team at this point, which isn't a great sign.

RG - Alan Faneca - The perennial Pro Bowler is used to being on the left side with the Steelers, but he's versatile enough that he can fill our void on the right side. Oh, and I'm not even sure he's Italian. Sounds close enough, though.

RT - Richie Incognito - He's a big, crazy man, which is great for the offensive line.

DE - Mike Devito - He's a Maine Black Bear for God's sake. What else do you need to know??

NG - Ryan Boschetti - The four-year vet has had some productive seasons with Washington since entering the league out of UCLA.

DE - Ryan LaCasse - Our first Brooklyn native, Ryan is on the waiver wire right now waiting for some NFL team to snatch him up.

LB - Tedy Bruschi - Tedy is equal parts Filipino and Italian, and that's good enough to make this squad.

LB - John DiGiorgio - Coming from Saginaw Valley State and playing for Buffalo might mean that you've never heard of DiGiorgio. But he has 25 tackles and a half-sack in the first three games.

LB - Vinny Ciurciu - Another Jersey guy, though his status as a Boston College alum might put him at odds with any Golden Domers on the team.

LB - Jon Abbate - One of the main reasons that Wake Forest (first Demon Deacon football player to ever turn pro early) made a BCS bowl last year, Abbate is now toiling with the Texans, who are trying to move him from LB to fullback. But we're keeping him on defense.

CB - Ray Ventrone - He had two tackles for the Pats against Minnesota in week 2 last year, making him eminently qualified to start at DB on this team.

CB - Matt Giordano - The Cal grad had an 83-yard INT return for a score against New Orleans in this year's season opener.

FS - Jon Corto - Is it a bad sign when there are multiple Buffalo Bills on the squad?

SS - Sabby Piscatelli - I can't find much about this guy at all. But his last name is definitely Italian and he's played in three games for Tampa Bay this year.

K - Adam Vinatieri - No debate here. The only Hall of Famer on this list.

P - Saverio Rocca - The Eagles' punter is actually from Australia with Italian descent, but it was either him or Daniel Sepulveda, who I'm fairly certain is not a paisan.

Special Teams - Larry Izzo - Of course we're making the starters play on special teams, too, but we have one guy who is a certified special teams expert.

Head Coach - Lee Corso - That's the only way to guarantee any coverage from the Worldwide Leader.

Assistant Coaches - Mike D'Antoni (the man's a genius, right?!?), Steve Mariucci, Jay Paterno (so I could fire him), Tom Izzo (friend of Mariucci's), Rick Pitino (if we're adding hoops coaches, why not?)

So there you have it. In honor of Columbus Day, there's your Italian-American Pro Bowl squad.


Week Four - Cardinals 21, Steelers 14

Its Thursday and I'm still mad about the way this game turned out. Therefore, not much to say this week.

The Good
The defense held the Cardinals off the scoreboard until the third quarter.

The Bad
The defense made both Kurt Warner AND Matt Leinart look good at times.

The Ugly
Ben Roethlisberger threw a pick in the end zone. And a penalty that causes a re-kick never turns out well. That's all I have to say for now.


Week Three - Steelers 37, 49ers 16

The Steelers moved to 3-0 with another lopsided victory on the scoreboard, but once again, what does it mean? The competition has clearly been inferior, and even San Francisco was able to hang in the game until early in the fourth quarter. The defense continued to dominate, the offense was efficient and the special teams had its best game yet. And that led to another 20-plus point victory for the home team. Plus, the victories in the first two weeks went down another notch as both of those teams (Cleveland and Buffalo) lost on Sunday. With that said, it was a very solid performance and didn't give anyone a reason to think the Steelers are not a contender for a sixth Super Bowl. But I still want to see how they react to the first sign of adversity with a tough opponent.

The Good
With the struggles of the big four running backs (LaDanian Tomlinson, Steven Jackson, Larry Johnson, Frank Gore), Fast Willie is fast looking even more and more like a top-three back in the NFL this year. He currently leads the league in rushing, and despite no touchdowns again this week, he is making his impact felt all across the Steeler offense, as his early success running the ball gave Ben Roethlisberger a chance to take some shots down the field in the second half. Despite the absence of leading TD scorer Matt Spaeth, Roethlisberger continued to get the tight ends involved, as Heath Miller led the team with four catches for 82 yards and Jerame Tuman caught a touchdown pass. The defense was a bit soft on the first possession but was outstanding for the rest of the game after that. As I said earlier, the special teams had its best showing of the season. Allen Rossum's kickoff return for a touchdown led the Steelers back from their only deficit this season. Jeff Reed continued to kick at a Pro Bowl level, despite shaving his head. Rookie punter Daniel Sepulveda booted a kick inside the 10-yard line, where Bryant McFadden made a great play to save it before it went into the end zone.

The Bad
Pittsburgh once again let an opponent hang around too long. In the first two weeks, that meant Cleveland and Buffalo not out of it until the third quarter. And this past week, it was San Francisco hanging around until the fourth. Mike Tomlin's men need to have that killer instinct to be able to put teams away when given the chance, otherwise, that will come back to haunt them later in the season.

The Ugly
The Steeler defense held the 49ers out of the scoreboard for most of the game, but the stats show that it wasn't a dominating performance, at least in terms of total yardage. Sure, Pittsburgh held SF to 289 yards, but the Steelers themselves gained only 350 yards. San Francisco gained 5.1 yards per play, and that number will have to be reduced against better competition.

Up next: Arizona (1-2)