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)


Power Poll - Week Two

We figured that on these here Internets there aren't enough power rankings listed during the NFL season. And if Kige Ramsey can offer his thoughts on the league every week, why can't we? So here is your official IWIWAR Power Poll after week two of the NFL season, with perhaps a comment or two on the teams. From the bottom ...

32. Kansas City (0-2) - Brodie Croyle is perfect thus far this year. However, he's only 4 for 4. And the Chiefs are 0 for 2.

31. Atlanta (0-2) - Joey Harrington is struggling and taking too many sacks. So their solution? Sign Byron Leftwich. The single-game sack record might be up for grabs when the Falcons play the Colts on Nov. 22.

30. Miami (0-2) - What happened to those Auburn tailbacks from the 2005 draft? Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams had great rookie years. Cadillac had a sophomore slump last year and isn't off to a great start this year, while Miami's Brown was decent in 2006 but has 65 yards through the first two games of 2007.

29. St. Louis (0-2) - I think Bill Simmons put it best on his podcast this week, when he described the Rams as a great fantasy team. Marc Bulger always puts up great stats, and Steven Jackson is one of the top running backs in the league, but when your schedule is set up for you to come out of the gates with a pair of winnable home games and you lose both of them, I don't see the rest of the season going very well.

28. Buffalo (0-2) - The Bills played okay in a week one heartbreaking defeat to Denver, but last week against the Steelers, they looked lost. J.P. Losman was awful. Lee Evans couldn't get open. And 103-year old Marv Levy is still their general manager.

27. New York Giants (0-2) - We'll call them the Time Machine Team. The players are acting as happy to be playing for Tom Coughlin as the 2002 Jacksonville Jaguars, and they made Brett Favre look like the 1996 version of himself in last week's loss to Green Bay.

26. Oakland (0-2) - The Raiders have been surprisingly competitive in their first two games. And they wouldn't be winless but for Mike Shanahan's sneaky but perfectly legal late timeout in overtime last week. They could play spoiler down the stretch.

25. New York Jets (0-2) - Unfortunately for the rest of the AFC, the best thing for the Jets is Chad Pennington's injury, because Kellen Clemens is clearly a better option at quarterback and Gang Green might be contending for a playoff spot by year's end.

24. Cleveland (1-1) - Its hard to rank the Browns higher than this when it was just one week ago that they appeared to have a legit shot at an 0-16 record. But that's what 51 points of offense will do for you. Here's a question - will Cleveland score more against Cincinnati this year than it will against the other division rivals, Pittsburgh and Baltimore, combined? Probably.

23. Philadelphia (0-2) - I had the "pleasure" of attending Monday night's slug fest between Washington and Philly and one of the first things I realized was that the Eagles aren't that good. They just aren't. Donovan McNabb was awful.

22. Jacksonville (1-1) - The Jags have a 1-1 record but got there with an 0-2 effort on the field. Luckily they played Atlanta last week. Maurice Jones-Drew hasn't gotten on track and David Garrard looks like he might be the catalyst for the end of the Jack Del Rio era by January.

21. Cincinnati (1-1) - Carson Palmer threw six touchdown passes. The Bengals were playing the Browns. And they lost. Enough said.

20. Minnesota (1-1) - The only team Tarvaris Jackson could look like an NFL quarterback against is the team ranked just below the Vikes in my rankings.

19. Carolina (1-1) - With a 14-0 lead at home against the Texans, Carolina looked to be on its way to a 2-0 start and maybe to be putting 2006 behind. But it wasn't to be, and the way the Texans shredded Carolina's supposedly vaunted defense doesn't bode well. If not for Steve Smith, the Panthers would be ranked in the bottom five of the league.

18. New Orleans (0-2) - I'll give the defending NFC South champs the benefit of the doubt. There's no doubt that they've looked bad through the first two weeks, but both losses were on the road. There's too much talent on that team for them to be this bad.

17. Tampa Bay (1-1) - I could see the Bucs hanging around in a relatively weak division for the entire season. Jeff Garcia is just good enough to make that happen, though not good enough to make them a serious threat.

16. Tennessee (1-1) - The Titans seem like an 8-8 team - no more, no less.

15. Arizona (1-1) - The Cardinals could easily be 2-0 or 0-2 at this point. This seems to be the right place to stick them.

14. Seattle (1-1) - This team could be the best team in the NFC by season's end, and that's not saying much. If they win the conference, it will be an indictment of the talent in the NFC rather than a compliment to Mike Holmgren and the squad.

13. San Francisco (2-0) - This has to be the most overrated 2-0 squad of the bunch. The 49ers haven't accumulated 200 yards of offense in either game and yet they still managed to win, mostly because of costly turnovers by Arizona and a missed field goal by St. Louis.

12. Denver (2-0) - Why should we be impressed by the Broncos? They needed Jason Elam's heroics to win both of their games against bad teams, including the last second field goal to win in week one. And last week against the Raiders, if not for Shanahan's timeout, they would have lost a home game against a division rival.

11. Detroit (2-0) - I'm not ready to drink the Kool-Aid yet, but the Lions have persevered to win a pair of games that they would have lost in past seasons. Jon Kitna looks good, Calvin Johnson looks better and the defense is much improved.

10. Houston (2-0) - It is unfortunate that Andre Johnson is out for this week's game against Indianapolis, because I think the Texans can compete with the Colts. Matt Schaub has been very impressive. It says here that Houston will finish second in the AFC South.

9. Baltimore (1-1) - Ravens fans may be hoping Steve McNair chooses to sit out a few more games. Kyle Boller played well in his absence and gives the Ravens a better chance to contend in the AFC. I don't think people realize how bad McNair was last year and how much the defense covered for him.

8. Green Bay (2-0) - The Pack looks good. Not quite "contender" good, but maybe "have one last decent season so Brett Favre will retire" good.

7. Chicago (1-1) - Honestly, the Bears were the hardest team to rank in the entire poll. They have an unimpressive win over the team I rank worst in the league, and they lost in week one to San Diego, which got blown out in week two. The talent is there, but it all comes down to quarterback. If Rex Grossman is even close to competent, they will still win 10 or 11 games.

6. San Diego (1-1) - The Chargers really disappointed on Sunday. Despite Cameragate or whatever you want to call it, Norv Turner's boys came out totally flat and were embarrassed by the Pats. LaDanian Tomlinson isn't racking up the yards, Philip Rivers looks like Ryan Leaf and the defense was shredded by Tom Brady and company. They are too good to stay down, though.

5. Washington (2-0) - This might be a surprise to some people, but I was really impressed with the 'Skins on Monday night. Jason Campbell made the plays to win both with his feet and with his arm. The touchdown he threw at the end of the first half was a perfectly-placed ball. And he stepped it up on third down to keep a few drives alive.

4. Dallas (2-0) - The Cowboys offense is clicking on all cylinders. Maybe Jerry Jones did know what he was doing when he lured Jason Garrett back to take over that side of the ball. And no matter what you think of Wade Phillips as a head coach, there's no doubt that he's good as a defensive tutor.

3. Pittsburgh (2-0) - While I think the Steelers could beat both the Colts and Patriots, at this point there's no reason to justify that other than my blatant homerism. The Steelers dominated two bad teams. That's what good teams should do. We'll know a lot more about this team in the next month.

2. Indianapolis (2-0) - I don't know how they've done it, but somehow Indy managed to convince its run defense that it is still last year's playoffs. That's the biggest difference in this team compared to a year ago at this time. We know the offense will score. If the defense dominates, it is scary to think about how good Indy could be.

1. New England (2-0) - Personal feelings aside, I don't see how you could rank the Patriots anywhere other than the top spot. They absolutely demolished the Chargers on Sunday night. And now they're playing with a chip on their shoulder because of Cameragate. Why, oh why, did the rest of the league feel a need to motivate the Patriots?


Week Two - Steelers 26, Bills 3

Another week and more of the same from the Black and Gold, with a dominating defense and an efficient offense leading the way in the win over a clearly inferior opponent. So what does that mean? Honestly, I'm not sure. Does the Cleveland win look better now because the Browns outlasted Cincinnati in a 51-45 shootout? Sure it does. Is Cleveland any good? No, they're still bad. The Bengals' defense is just worse. And Buffalo played pretty well in week one against Denver, but J.P. Losman and company had about as much success against the Steelers as Idaho Senator Larry Craig had in Minneapolis International Airport.

The Good
The offensive line looked better than in week one, opening good holes for Willie Parker and Deuce Davenport while giving Ben Roethlisberger the time he needed to look downfield when the plays called for it. Fast Willie had the usual bounce in his step and did a good job of breaking runs outside when the opportunity arose. Matt Spaeth caught his second touchdown in two weeks, leaving him on pace to shatter the team's single-season record of touchdown receptions by a tight end. The defense was aggressive and didn't allow Losman to get comfortable. Rookie tailback Marshawn Lynch had a couple of nice runs along the way to 64 yards, but for the most part, the Steelers were able to use the early lead to force Buffalo into throwing the ball. Larry Foote did a nice job of getting interior pressure that led to a few sacks by the outside linebackers. LaMarr Woodley looked good after subbing for James Harrison in the second half. And DeShea Townsend continued to play well and hold off Bryant McFadden for the starting corner spot opposite Ike Taylor. Oh, and Daniel Sepulveda only had to punt one time.

The Bad
For the second week in a row the Steelers should have had the game in hand by halftime but couldn't convert on some prime chances. Last week it was the numerous drives starting in Cleveland territory - this week it was the offense driving down the field but settling for field goals. As a result, the Steelers only led 12-0 at the half instead of at least 20-0 as it should have been, and when Buffalo ran the opening kick of the second half back to Pittsburgh's 30-yard line, it looked like the Bills might climb back in the game. Speaking of that play, even though the story is that Mike Tomlin didn't see the replay of Terrance McGee stepping out of bounds on that return, someone associated with the Steelers had to have seen it, right? It was obvious that he was out of bounds, and luckily the lack of a challenge flag didn't come back to hurt the Black and Gold. James Harrison got stretchered off at the end of the first half but was okay and wanted to come back to the game in the third quarter, which the doctors had to convince him was a bad idea.

The Ugly
It might be a theme on here with Alex Smith and Matt Leinart playing Pittsburgh in the next few weeks, but man, it must be tough for a young quarterback to have to try to solve Dick LeBeau. In week one, Charlie Frye (who'd played a few games against the Steelers in the past two years) played so bad that he got traded two days later. And he was replaced by Derek Anderson, who looked awful against Pittsburgh but managed to bounce back with five touchdowns against Cincy. Week two saw Losman give it a shot, and he failed to impress. He was 15 of 25 for 154 yards with no TDs, no INTs and one fumble lost, but the Bills offense never really threatened. That's certainly not a good sign for the aforementioned Smith and Leinart. And in a criticism of the CBS broadcast, how could Harrison's neck injury be ignored during the halftime show and only shown when the broadcast team came back for the call of the second half? Not only is that bad to ignore a possible news-worthy event, but especially since it was just one week after Buffalo's Kevin Everett suffered a potentially paralyzing injury, and this was Everett's team involved in maybe another such situation seven days later! Luckily Everett's prognosis is much improved and Harrison is fine and should play this week against the 49ers.

Up next: San Francisco (2-0)


Where's the Bills Post?

As I was at the late end of a debauchery filled weekend and did not see the game, only listened to the highlights, I feel unfit (hungover) to comment on the game. So where's Mario? Winning free tickets to the Eagles game at around 6:15 today. I have no doubt he will post first thing when he gets back.


Week One - Steelers 34, Browns 7

Mike Tomlin did something that no other Steelers coach has done - he won his first game in Cleveland. Of course, those other coaches presumably played against real Cleveland teams rather than the pseudo-professional squad that took the field on Sunday. Here's a question for you - if you're a Browns fan, is it worse to follow this team than it was to deal with Art Modell taking your franchise to Baltimore and then watching the Ravens win a Super Bowl? The incompetence was evident throughout the game, but the lowlight for Cleveland was clearly the muffed punt snap by punter Paul Ernster, who was signed Saturday because starter Dave Zastudil decided to tell coach Romeo Crennel over the weekend that he felt like he might hurt the team if he played with an injury. Maybe Crennel should have flipped a coin to decide who his punter should have been. Wouldn't be a new strategy for him. Anyways, back to the travails of Ernster, who couldn't field a perfect snap and then finally retrieved the ball and kicked one off the side of his foot while on the run. If that wasn't bad enough, the Browns were whistled for FOUR penalties on the play. Just a few plays later, Ben Roethlisberger hit Hines Ward for a beautiful TD pass and the rout was on. Anyways, here's the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of this week's game.

The Good
The defense played great for Dick LeBeau on his 70th birthday. The pressure on the quarterback looked much better than last year, especially from the linebackers. Ike Taylor had a sack and an interception in his first step toward recovering his 2005 form. Roethlisberger was efficient, and threw four TDs and no picks. Even though his percentage wasn't great, you can chalk up a lot of that to dropped passes. And the Steelers even threw to the tight ends, with Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth catching touchdowns!

The Bad
The aforementioned dropped passes would have come back to haunt the Steelers against probably 30 other NFL teams. Luckily this was Cleveland. The offensive line wasn't exactly dominant, especially in the first half before the Browns basically gave up. Allen Rossum looked like he was intent on proving Tomlin right for trading for him a week ago, but in his haste to field and return every punt that went his way, he left me with a feeling that a similar attitude this week could lead to one of those fumbled punts that troubled the Steelers throughout 2006 and have already made Andy Reid want to try some of his sons' drugs in 2007. And the wasted field position in the first half makes me nervous for the future. And Cedric Wilson wasn't very involved in the offense, so I'm sure we'll hear from "Plaxico Without the Height" pretty soon.

The Ugly
The Browns. Plain and simple. Its hard to tell how good this Steelers team is because Cleveland played one of the worst games I've ever seen an "NFL" team play. The Steelers should have been up 35-0 at the half, but despite the wasted opportunities, the game was still never in doubt.

Up next: Buffalo (0-1)


Instant Thoughts - Steelers vs. Eagles

Here's this week's e-mail exchange of our thoughts following the Steelers' 3rd preseason game, a 27-13 win over Philadelphia.

From David to Mario:

Let me just start off by saying I will not watch Sunday Night Football unless the Steelers are on and then I will turn down the volume and try and find a radio feed. Madden is absolutely awful- unwatchable awful. I don't know if you had sound on but at one point he claimed Donovan McNabb's percentage was over 100%. I imagine you can see the problem with that statement. He meant to say QB rating I assume, but I'm not really sure.

Also, I really could only handle the first half due to fatigue caused by Drunken Bachelor Party Weekend but here were my quick notes:

Ben really needs to stop the stupid mistakes but on that one floater that got picked by the Defensive Lineman, he did a great job escaping, Willie was wide open, and it looked like his arm got hit at the line. Of course, our announcing team noticed none of that because of how fun it is when a Lineman intercepts a ball.

I'm still a big fan of Mike Tomlin, when Andrea Kramer asked him stupid questions he gave her great dirty looks and half answers.

I was shocked to see how few yards Philly had the half. I guess field position makes a huge difference.

Do you think Sepulvda was actively trying to channel Jim Miller?

I'm going to need a full breakdown of watching a Steelers game against the Eagles in a Philly bar. Any turnout? And there had to be at least on drunk Eagles fan being an ass right.

From Mario to David:

Why would you ever listen to network announcers anyways? Unless of
course its Gus Johnson in the final two minutes of a tie game.

Ben wasn't really that impressive, in my opinion. A lot of his yards
came on screen passes which Bruce Arians kept calling because the
offensive line was getting pushed around up front so he caught the
Eagles overpursuing. And on his interception, I still think he should
have taken the sack. Even if he made a nice play to try to get it to
Willie, I still see disaster happening about 40 percent of the time in
the future in a similar situation.

And as for watching the Steelers beat the Eagles in a bar in Center
City Philadelphia, well, it was a blast. There were probably 75
percent Steeler fans, 20 percent Eagles fans and 5 percent random
people there for the college welcome back night that was happening
from 11 p.m. til 2 a.m. Its definitely going to be my new regular
season Steeler bar. There was only one drunk Eagles fan being an ass,
and that's mostly because in the fourth quarter, he was still getting
into the game like a spot in the playoffs was riding on it.

Here's what I want to focus on - the punt return game is still awful.
Willie Reid fielded a punt inside the six yard line! That's the first
rule of returning - just let that ball go! And then he dropped one.
Mike Tomlin even resorted to putting Ricardo Colclough back there in
the third quarter to catch a punt.

My favorite play of the game was Fast Willie's touchdown, mainly
because of the blocking on the play. The lead block was by Dan
Kreider, who fighting to make the team because of the de-emphasis of
the fullback position, though he showed on that play why he's still
one of the best pure blockers in the league. The next block was by Max
Starks, who may or may not have lost his starting spot to Willie Colon
(but did he gain it back with that block?). And the final way was
paved by Santonio Holmes (quickly becoming my favorite offensive
player on the team), who sealed off two Eagles toward the end of the

From David to Mario:

I can't help but listen to the announcers, they are talking. Boy, I do hate Madden though.

Did you see Skippy shaved his head? To me that is 100% more interesting than Gaydy Quinn doing it. Those were some hardcore locks.

I'm with you on punt return. I have no real issue with Cedric taking them except for the fact that he called a fair catch with 30 yards in front of him. I was thrilled to see him do that though, rather than drop the ball. Football Outsiders made the same point roughly:

If I am Mike Tomlin, I scan the waiver wire for any Michael Lewis or Eddie Drummond or Terrance Wilkins and I overpay for any punt returner who can cleanly field a punt. Maybe I even trade a fourth round pick for a guy, James Thrash or somebody, who can return punts but isn't doing it right now. I don't risk my season on all of these guys who just can't seem to cleanly field a punt.



Bizarro World of Passing Stats?!?

I know its preseason, and that most defensive coordinators are pretty vanilla with their schemes, but some of the quarterbacking numbers from this weekend's preseason games were ridiculous. Check out these 11 starting quarterbacks and what they did. Two of them (Rivers and Romo) played into the first possession of the third quarter, while Tom Brady played into the second possession of the third quarter and Drew Brees didn't even finish out the first half. The rest played the entire first half before putting on the baseball cap and enjoying the rest of the game.

Ben Roethlisberger – 13 of 25, 247 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT
Philip Rivers – 20 of 29, 282 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Matt Leinart – 10 of 16, 196 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT
Tony Romo – 14 of 22, 197 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT
Eli Manning – 17 of 25, 146 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT
Rex Grossman – 13 of 20, 211 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT
Peyton Manning – 23 of 27, 233 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT
Tom Brady – 17 of 22, 167 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Vince Young – 13 of 19, 162 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT
J.P. Losman – 9 of 20, 180 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Drew Brees – 17 of 19, 182 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT

So to recap, this group of 11 starting quarterbacks went 166 for 244 (68% completion percentage) for 2,203 yards, with 16 touchdowns and just four interceptions this weekend - while playing about one half each! That's a quarterback rating of 111.4. That means they averaged going 15 of 22 for 200.3 yards for about one half of play. Breaking that out to a four quarter average, these guys would be somewhere around 30 of 44 for 400 yards and three touchdowns each. That’s just sick - whether the defenses were blitzing or not. What's next, Brady Quinn shaving his head and turning into a competent quarterback???


Already Over the Bettis Story

This story about Jerome Bettis faking an injury to not get cut is already overblown. To say he faked an injury is not right. He faked when the injury happened, but the injury did happen on the football field while he was playing for the Steelers.

Of course The Bus has got to be thrilled with the amount of press that his book which comes out September 4th is receiving.

Apparently this is not an uncommon practice. Also, is there any Steeler fan anywhere who isn't thrilled they kept Bettis and didn't cut him for the immortal Richard Huntley?

Bettis also released another shocker in his book. Apparently he is from Detroit. Surprising that the media chose to completely ignore that during the Super Bowl week.


Instant Thoughts - Steelers vs. Redskins

Here's the post-game e-mail exchange between David and Mario after this weekend's third preseason game, in which the Steelers improved to 2-1 by defeating the Washington Redskins:

From David to Mario:
The defense has to get off the field on third down. Washington isn't exactly Indianapolis or Cincinnati. In fact they might be the only team with a shorter average receiver height than us. I think the Steelers fall in love with the blitz a little much. We almost never have coverage sacks and while its nice to see guys running free at the quarterback, Campbell was finding the open receiver easily, even Todd Collins wasn't fooled. If you come off of a receiver to blitz, you have to have someone cover that receiver. Wasn't that the point of the zone blitz?

The offense didn't look great either. It definitely felt like a small step back, but it is just preseason.

Santonio Holmes looked good again. I think he may have won the starting job with some of those catches.

Brett Keisel pulled out his inner Kimo putting Jason Campbell down. It almost became unsafe for him to visit our nation's capital.

I don't know if you watched it on NFL Network, but Joe Theismann was doing local color for the Redskins the first half. Oh how the mighty have fallen. He was unsurprisingly awful and his reaction to the Kiesel hit was vintage Theismann. He kept talking about how Kiesel should have pulled up (he was falling down), how a 15 yard penalty wasn't enough, going on and on, and then when asked if the hit was dirty went immediately to "no, it wasn't a dirty or intentional play". If you think he could of pulled up and didn't Joe, how is that not dirty?

It wasn't dirty anyway - Kiesel literally fell into his Campbell's knee.

Did I tell you the Pro-Football Prospectus is the greatest book ever?

From Mario to David:

Ummm, first of all, it became unsafe to visit our nation's capital a long time ago. Have you seen the murder rate there lately??

I know I sent you a message about this while listening to the radio broadcast of the game, but the main thing to focus on, as you said, was third down. Both first team offenses were equally (un)productive on first and second downs, but the third downs were what killed the Steelers. Actually, it seemed like more of Pittsburgh's third downs were of the 3rd and 3 or 3rd and 4 variety, while Washington was picking up 3rd and 9 or 3rd and 12 against the vaunted Steeler D.

And yeah, it was a little discouraging when Kiesel knocked out Campbell yet Todd Collins came in and sliced up the defense for the remaining 30 or so yards to get into the end zone.

Kiesel's hit wasn't dirty. I'm okay with the penalty, because that's the Kimo Rule that they put in after the 2005 playoffs - don't come in low at the QB. That's fine, make the call. But just don't say it was dirty. Classy move by Kiesel to go over and say something to Campbell as he was being carted off, though.

From David to Mario:
Yeah, it was tough to judge the receivers, because the offense didn't seem to be clicking. I did not watch the 4th quarter but St. Pierre is making a case for a roster spot. Do you think we hold three qbs this year? Most teams do, don't they? The Steelers always had Randlel-El as the third, who was listed last year?

Kiesel the Diesel isn't scared of some punks in DC.

The secondary looked bad. In man coverage guys were just not covering the players. In zone, the holes were huge. Maybe I did overestimate the Packers.

Sepulvda looked good though, he kicks the shit out of the ball.

From David to Mario:

This is funny, I was reading Peter King’s MMQB after I sent you that e-mail and he says "n. Special Teams Player of the Preseason: Pittsburgh punter Daniel Sepulveda. In his last two games, he's punted nine times for a 49.9-average ... and he's had only 15 return yards on those nine punts. The kid's a 6-foot-3 monster, and he could be quite a weapon."

I should have my own column on SI, but he really does look awesome, doesn't he? I'm just disappointed he hasn't come down and laid out a returner yet. It has to happen soon, right?

From Mario to David:

No, you should not have your own column on SI. You misspell at least one word each e-mail, and your grammar is pretty bad sometimes.

From David to Mario:

Yeah, but they have editors, right? I could probably spend more time on it if it weren't for this damn job problem I have.

Barlow is gone. Haynes made a case. I think Kreider is gone just because he is too limited. He does one thing as well as anyone else in the league - great blocks at the hole. But he doesn't catch passes, I never see him on special teams. If they are planning to keep Carey Davis or Gary Russell and run out of more single back sets than I can't see how they keep Kreider. I hope he catches on somewhere else if he goes though. I like him. I think right now it is Willie, Haynes, and Russell/Davis with the other of those two on the practice squad.
So we don't have any sense of how Arians and Tomlin feel about keeping two or three quarterbacks?

Is Cedric Wilson going to be useless if Santonio wins the starting job?

By the way, Willie looked pretty average. I would probably avoid him in Fantasy Football. I think he is going to have a down year.

From Mario to David:

That's my problem with Kreider. He's too one-dimensional. He used to be on one of the kicking teams - maybe field goal/PAT? But I'm not even sure if he does that anymore. I think Russell may have an edge right now on Davis, because I think with Haynes' experience, he'd earn the edge over Davis as they're both bigger guys who could fill either a tailback or fullback role. And then hopefully Davis wouldn't get picked up so he could go on the Steelers' practice squad.

I have no clue about the staff's feeling of how many QBs to keep. Obviously Arians has been around the past few years to see it done both ways with the Steelers, but when the third QB was Tommy Maddox, that didn't exactly entice him, I'm sure.

Cedric can make plays, too. I think he'll be a weapon. I think when they go to four wideouts its going to be tough to defend, because in addition to Willie Parker in the backfield as a breakaway threat, Cedric and Santonio, along with Nate Washington (if he catches it) are all deep threat guys while Hines will catch anything underneath.

I would possibly believe you about Willie if you weren't picking directly AFTER me in our fantasy league and you weren't salivating about the prospect of getting your favorite player in the league. Too bad. I'm taking him.

From David to Mario:

I don't know, he's looking iffy. I wouldn't take him until the third round.

My point on Cedric is will he become a problem with attitude if he gets bumped to third for Santonio. I love Cedric's talent, but I just hate his attitude.

From Mario to David:

Maybe if Mike Tomlin lets Cedric take a few snaps at quarterback, then he'll be happy. I'm still pushing for him to be the punt returner, too. He's been as consistent as anyone back there, which still doesn't say much, though its true. It just seems like they're pushing Willie Reid for the job so they can validate his third round selection last year since he missed practically the entire season, but if he's struggling on returns and not distinguishing himself at receiver, then what value does he have to the team?

And I'm assuming that even if Cedric starts to bitch about not getting enough touches, that will be drowned out by the cheers for Santonio if he keeps playing the way he has thus far in the preseason. I'm predicting 1,100 yards for Holmes this year, to lead the team. He won't have more catches than Hines Ward, who will probably put up his typical 70-80 or so catches for 978 yards, but his gamebreaking ability will make him stand out. Just remember how last season ended in overtime against the Bengals.


Tuesday News from the P-G

Hooray, Fast Willie Parker is going to get on the field this weekend. This can't happen soon enough for me, its already tough enough to justify taking him #1 overall on my Fantasy Football team. It will be interesting to see how long Tomlin keeps the starters in this next game. Usually the third preseason game is the one where the starters get most of the work. However he treated last game just like the first so this one will probably be played like their second game, which means maybe the starters will see a quarter.

However this article about Faneca seemed like nothing more than a stir up the shit with the disgruntled player.The article, titled Faneca debates versatility question, basically asks Faneca if he was asked to move to left tackle because of injury would he. He says yes, because he would do anything to help the players on the field. But first he expresses some doubt about it. Is it really necessary to fan this flame? It really does seem like asking a disgruntled player a question hoping to escalate an already tenuous situation. When the player doesn't take the bait you go ahead and try and escalate the situation anyway. Maybe Bouchette is making his move to try and get with the New York Post? Or maybe I'm crazy, and people actually care about this.

Reaction to 2nd Pre-Season Game and Email Exchange

Mario and I have watched most Steelers games together for the past 3 years, with the notable exception of the postseason of the Super Bowl Year when we both found separate lucky spots. (Don't believe in that kind of thing? Read Super Bowl Year). This year we are far apart so we will be watching the games separately which will inevitably lead to some email exchanges about the games. If there is anything good or semi-interesting we will put them up. Just a warning, we are prolific emailers so this could get long.

From: David

Nate Washington dropped like a 40 yard bomb, although it looked like he might have caught it, there wasn't a good replay.

Max Starks played HORRIBLY. It was great to have the Steelers announcers for the first half. When something happened they specifically talked about how it affected the Steelers, such as the sacks, they weren't giving Green Bay credit they were crushing Max.

From: Mario

Yeah, from what I heard on the radio and read in the articles, that
wouldn't even be classified as a drop by the coaching staff because he
made a great effort and possibly even did make the catch.

From: David

It’s still factually incorrect.

From: David

Also, I think you underestimate how solid both the first and second team defense looked, the CBs were breaking up plays, getting to the receiver at the same time as the ball and knocking it loose. Closing down holes. Green Bay didn't get a first against our first or second team defense.

From: Mario

I think you overestimate the Packers offense. They were awful last
year and don't appear to have gotten any better at all. But yeah, I
was pleased with the D.

From: David

Like I said, what I was most impressed with was how the Cornerbacks were Ball Hawking, just being in the exactly the right spot all the time

From: Mario

That is good to hear, since they were basically awful all of last
year. You think McFadden beats out Deshea for a starting spot?

From: David

I don't know, he played well, DeShea had the penalty on Cedric’s punt return. Neither one seemed to get burned or anything

From: Mario

Here's another question - if Cedric does indeed get the job as punt
returner (or if Santonio does, for that matter), does Willie Reid make
the team? He hasn't really proven enough to earn a spot solely as a
receiver/special teams guy, especially without the return aspect, has

From: David

No, Willie Reid does not make the team.


Would It Have Been Too Much to Ask Them to Settle It On the Field?

Anytime the Steelers struggle, at least we as fans have this to remember - at least we don't root for Cleveland. Tortured Cleveland fans now get to cheer for a team where coach Romeo Crennel decided yesterday's starting quarterback via a coin flip! Crennel couldn't decide between Charlie Frye and Derek Anderson (Where was Brady Quinn? Getting a manicure or something?) so he went to a coin toss. I wonder if he went with the same rules as the NFL game coin toss, where the call has to be made before the toss (after the 1997 Thanksgiving Day debacle with Jerome Bettis against the Lions). Did Frye get to call it since he's technically the incumbent? And if this had happened in Pittsburgh, would the coin toss have been carried live on all of the local networks? Frye did win the toss, for what that's worth. That may be his only victory of the year.

Preseason Game No. 2 - Steelers vs. Packers Recap

The Black and Gold made their first appearance of the 2007 season at Heinz Field on Saturday night for a game against the Green Bay Packers. Both teams' starters struggled a bit, though the Steelers second team got out to a 9-0 lead before the Packers rallied in the second half for a 13-9 victory.

The game was blacked out in my area but replays are being shown multiple times this week on the NFL Network (see previous post). However, I was able to listen to Bill Hillgrove and Tunch Ilkin's radio broadcast for most of the game, and here are my thoughts:

The no-huddle offense that Bruce Arians had Ben Roethlisberger and the first team offense come out with is tough to exhibit in a preseason game. First of all, Arians is obviously going to want to hide a lot of the wrinkles the team has been working on in order to save them for the regular season. Secondly, the no-huddle is very dependent on a quarterback being in rhythm, and that's tough to ask that of Ben on the very first series of the game. And thirdly, and most importantly in my mind, the no-huddle is much more effective to use against a defense that is worn down at a later point in the game. Its not as if the Packers were gasping for air after three plays. I'm excited to see how the Steelers utilize the new package this year, but for this game, it didn't work.

Charlie Batch looked very good again. He's proving (if he hasn't already proved it) that he is one of the most dependable and serviceable backup signal callers in the league. Batch was 3 of 5 for 97 yards and a touchdown, with the score being on a 41-yard pass to Walter Young. Brian St. Pierre came in for the second half and was 10 of 23 for 99 yards in mostly ineffective play.

The offensive line is definitely a concern. For as good as the line looked last week in roughing up the Saints' defensive front, the opposite happened this weekend. The Disgruntled Alan Faneca was out, and that obviously hurt, but the Steelers gave up three sacks from the left tackle position, where Max Starks got some playing time in a tryout role as opposed to his normal right tackle spot.

The guy who was the darling of Steeler Nation last week, RB Carey Davis, didn't get the ball this week, though he did make some nice special teams plays. However, undrafted rookie Gary Russell looked good once again. After rushing for 41 yards on eight carries against New Orleans, Russell led the Steelers with 56 yards on nine attempts against the Packers. Najeh Davenport started once again in place of Willie Parker and had 34 yards on seven carries, though 21 of those yards came on one run. Kevan Barlow had 25 yards on six carries, including a 17-yard burst.

As for the receivers, Walter Young is trying his best to stay off of the practice squad this year. Young had two catches for 50 yards including that touchdown. Santonio Holmes continued to look like he's in for a big year, with a 49-yard catch and run. Nate Washington didn't even drop a pass!

The special teams play had its ups and downs. Daniel Sepulveda boomed five punts for an average of 49.8 yards, including a 59-yarder in the second quarter that went out of bounds inside the 20-yard line. Cedric Wilson staked his claim to be the punt returner with two runbacks for an average of 19 yards. However, Jeff Reed had a PAT blocked.

Defensively there were no individual standout performances, though rookie William Gay had another solid game, including recording the Steelers' only sack. Pittsburgh held Brett Favre to 2 of 7 passing for 7 yards. So for those keeping track at home, Favre and Drew Brees have combined to go 3 of 13 for 13 yards against the first-team D. Not too shabby. Up next for the Steelers is the third game of the preseason, Saturday at 8 p.m. at Washington.


Preseason Games on NFL Network

This year the NFL Network is televising all 52 preseason games not broadcast on National TV. This is great news for those with the NFL Network. Most of the games will be taped not live and many will be from local stations. The NFL Network will use the announcers from both teams, one for each half.

Here is the television schedule for the Pittsburgh Steelers on the NFL Network, so fire up your TIVOs

Green Bay Packers at Pittsburgh Steelers will air Sunday, August 12, 2007 at 5pm NFLN.
(The game will be played Saturday August 11 at 7:30pm)

Pittsburgh Steelers at Washington Redskins will air Sunday, August 19, 2007 at 2pm NFLN
(The game will be played Saturday August 18 at 8:00pm)

Philadelphia Eagles at Pittsburgh Steelers will be aired live on NBC's Sunday night Package at 8:00pm August 26, 2007.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Carolina Panthers will air Sunday, September 2 2007 at 11am NFLN
(The game will be played Thursday August 30th at 8pm)

The last game is a pretty brutal turnaround but the last game usually doesn't see many starters play for very long. The preseason games are great for watching the young talent that could be the future of the team. Carey Davis and William Gay both had great plays in the Hall Of Game and it will be interesting to see if they continue or if others step up. It will also be interesting to watch the defense adjust and see if any of Mike Tomlin's philosophy sneaks in.


Quick Hit Thoughts From the HOF Game

The Hall of Fame game is in the books and football season has officially started. The Pittsburgh Steelers rolled the New Orleans Saints. The first preseason game means next to nothing but it was nice to see the players hitting hard and executing well so early in the season.

Here are some quick thoughts from the game.

Hopefully Cedric is happy now. He got most of the looks when he was in the game and did well with them. He's needs to stop complaining and recognize that this is a team where you sacrifice stats for wins. He is becoming a short Plaxico Burress in his attitude, it will be interesting to see how long Tomlin and Hines Ward are going to put up with that.

Woodley looked solid in his time in the game, breaking up a pass by diving in front of the receiver.

The overall defense looked strong and looked like a Dick LeBeau defense.

Nate Washington needs to learn how to catch if he is ever going to make an impact on this team.

Great to see all the coverage problems have been fixed. The refs saved Reid on that fumble. The Steelers have to do better in that respect.

Carey Davis looked very solid. It will be interesting to see if he can keep the pace up. He was more impressive than Najeh or Barlow.

St. Pierre's fade to Santonio was beautiful. As was Ben's deep toss to Cedric.

Hey Robert Meachem, welcome to the NFL, a guy named Gay laid your ass out.


The Not So Lazy Days of Latrobe Are Here!

I happened to be looking at my calendar yesterday and noticed that it was only two weeks until the Steelers kick off their preseason schedule in the Hall of Fame game against the Saints. Wow. Now I'm excited to see how many two-a-days Mike Tomlin can fit in before that contest, as your 2007-(hopefully)2008 Steelers will report to St. Vincent's College in Latrobe today at 4 p.m. for the start of training camp. Here are a few links to get you ready for camp:

The P-G's excellent two-part feature on our new fearless leader (Part I) (Part II)

Ed Bouchette's Five Pressing Topics

Bouchette's Position-by-Position Look at the Team - Love the description of a Hines Ward as a "Rolex in a Timex Body" and Ricardo Colclough, summed up by "the bloom is off his rose".

The Trib gives us a look at what diversions the players are bringing to camp. I like Nate Washington, second-guessing himself after being asked the question, after first saying that he'd bring a TV.

"No I take that back, a computer. I have to have Internet. I love playing on the Internet, anything from e-mailing, MySpace, playing little games on the computer to YouTube."

Here's John Harris of the Trib's "Five Issues Steelers Must Address"

In the Beaver County Times, Mike Bires has a Q&A with Tomlin.

And just in case you haven't had enough of it, here's the BCT's version of Five Burning Questions.


Omar Khan is Awesome

I think it's fair to say that most Steeler fans weren't exactly thrilled to see that uberagent Drew "No Comment" Rosenhaus was the representative of first-round draft choice Lawrence Timmons. But apparently ubersalary cap guy Omar Khan is just that good, as Timmons signed a five-year deal today worth between $12 million and $15 million, depending on incentives. Just over $8 million of that is guaranteed, and it appears to be right in line with what last year's 15th overall pick received. And most importantly, all of the Steeler draft choices are now signed and will report to camp tomorrow, along with The Disgruntled Alan Faneca (yes, that's his official name now, at least here on IWIWAR). So far, so good, for Mike Tomlin.


Meet the New Coaching Staff - Amos Jones

Leading to the start of training camp next week, we'll be taking some time here at IWIWAR to introduce you to the new Steelers coaching staff, culminating with a look at new head coach Mike Tomlin. Click on the Meet the Staff tag below to see previous articles. Today, we'll take a look at new assistant special teams coach Amos Jones.

Amos Jones - Assistant Special Teams Coach

Age: 47
Education: Alabama
Professional Playing Experience: None

What to Like: Obviously his first name, Amos. Could he be a member of Bill Simmons' Reggie Cleveland All-Stars? Plus he played for Bear Bryant at Alabama. How much did he play? Eh, not so sure. His official bio says that he played on the 1978 and 1979 teams, but that he lettered on the 1980 squad, so he definitely got some PT that season.

What Not to Like: Not only does Amos not have any professional experience, but he has multiple instances of high school coaching experience, including in the past 10 years. Looking back on his coaching stops, he went from Temple to Shades Valley High School in 1986 (although that might have been a step up, given Temple's football history). He was the kicking game coordinator at Pitt in 1992 and parlayed that into an assistant coaching position at Eau Gallie High School in Florida. After jumping back into college coaching at Tulane in 1995-96, he pulled off that rarely seen coaching jump - NCAA to CFL to high school. Must've been a great experience for those players at East St. John High School in Louisiana! Oh yes, and it appears that he got fired from his most recent job, with Mississippi State!

Random Internet Find: The new coach shares a name with one of the lead characters of Amos 'n' Andy. Also, not only did Mississippi State fire him, but apparently Cincinnati did, too!


Good news for Browns fans!

Guess what, Cleveland? As if your last place ranking by SI.com's Peter King wasn't enough, now a water pipe burst at your stadium and the Browns have canceled Family Fun Night as a result! I'm sure that a photo of Brady Quinn deliberating screwing with the pipes will pop up on the Internet sometime soon.


The Quinn Quiz

With all of the random funny Brady Quinn pictures floating around the Internet (Thanks, Deadspin and Mondesi's House!), we decided to blur the line between fact and fiction and show you a set of photos with Quinn in them. You just need to decide if they are real or fake. Which is real and which is fake? Or more appropriately, which pictures have already been taken in real life and which are sure to be snapped in the next few months? Ladies and gentlemen, starting at quarterback for your 2007 Cleveland Browns, #10, Brady Quinn!

Brady in a pink shirt, grabbing some kid's junk.

Brady with Hollywood Hulk Hogan.

Brady with Bret Michaels of Poison fame (and also a big Steeler fan).

Brady with former NBA player John Amaechi and *NSYNC star Lance Bass

Brady with the Village People on the cover of the re-release of their Greatest Hits album.


YouTube Clip of the Week

I'm just wondering how these people got a camera in there.


Mistaken Identities

These people may share the same names as your favorite Steelers, but they are most definitely different.

Willie Parker

Charlie Batch

Heath Miller

Kendall Simmons

Willie Reid

Meet the New Coaching Staff - Randy Fichtner

Leading to the start of training camp in July, we'll be taking some time here at IWIWAR to introduce you to the new Steelers coaching staff, culminating with a look at new head coach Mike Tomlin. Click on the Meet the Staff tag below to see previous articles. Today, we'll take a look at new wide receivers coach Randy Fichtner.

Randy Fichtner - WR Coach
Age: 44
Education: Purdue
Professional Playing Experience: None

What to Like: A Meadville native, Fichtner coached with Mike Tomlin at both Arkansas State and Memphis, where he had been the offensive coordinator for the past six seasons. One of his best seasons came with current Carolina Panther DeAngelo Williams in the backfield in 2004, as the Tigers finished 10th in the nation in scoring.

What Not to Like: Fichtner has no NFL experience. And he has a daughter with the same first name as our new running backs coach (Kirby) - that's never a good sign.

Random Internet Find: While there are serious doubts about this, it is always fun when someone speculates on a message board that Fichtner's new house used to be owned by Mr. Rogers.

Carson Palmer Loves the Black and Gold

Cincinnati quarterback Carson Palmer has put up some great numbers in his first few years in the league, but he's had his struggles against the Steelers, throwing seven interceptions in his six career games against the Steelers (well, that's counting regular season games, and I'm pretty sure he didn't throw any picks in that playoff game two years ago because of a guy named Kimo). So it should not surprise anyone that Carson was playing in a celebrity golf tournament last year and managed to hit a wayward approach shot that nailed an 8-year old kid on the back - a kid who happened to be wearing a Steelers jersey. Somehow Carson's golf shots, as well as his passes, just end up going right to the Steelers jerseys.

“I got up there and I said I was sorry, and I said, 'At least you're a Steelers fan, I don't feel so bad,'” Palmer said.

Neither do we, Carson. Neither do we.


Catching Up on the News

Before we get to the latest from Steeler Nation, we'd like to extend our apologies for the lack of updates in June. No excuses, though. July marks the start of training camp, so we're going to ramp up our coverage of the Black and Gold as they make the trek to Latrobe. Soon, we'll be releasing a weekly schedule of updates and what you can expect from IWIWAR once the 2007 regular season begins.

LeCharles Bentley wants to make a comeback from his patella injury turned staph infection, and he even thinks he'll be back for the season opener against the Steelers. LeCharles, have you met Casey Hampton? Maybe you should consider waiting until week two.

Scroll down on this link until the arrests for Copley Township. Not only did the Pittsburgh guy get arrested for fighting a Cleveland fan (in Ohio, too!) at a bar, but his lady friend got arrested for pulling another female out of the car and fighting her. Can't wait for that season opener!

Its good to see that (Face Me) Ike Taylor didn't charge Anthony Madison any rent for staying in his apartment. And its also great to see Ike mocking someone for dropping passes, giving his penchant for struggling to make easy interceptions the past two years.

YouTube Clip of the Week

Yinz - The Movie!


The Dungy Coaching Tree of Woe

New Steeler head coach Mike Tomlin comes from the Tony Dungy coaching tree. You'd think right away that learning from the most-recent Super Bowl winning coach would be a good thing. That may turn out to be true, but in the first year? Let's see what Tony and the other Dungy disciples did in their first seasons.

Tony Dungy - 1996 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs finished strong in those (not so) classic old jerseys, going 5-2 before switching to the pewter uniforms and making the playoffs in Dungy's second season. But still, 6-10 is 6-10.
First-year record: 6-10

Herman Edwards - 2001 New York Jets
Herm took over from Bill Parcells and had a strong first season with most of Parcells' personnel left over, taking Gang Green to the playoffs.
First-year record: 10-6

Lovie Smith - 2004 Chicago Bears
Injuries took their toll on the Bears in Smith's first year, though the defense improved nearly 10 spots in league rankings.
First-year record: 5-11

Rod Marinelli - 2006 Detroit Lions
The last of the Dungy disciples to get a head job in the NFL before Tomlin debuted last year in Detroit. While 2006 was a struggle for the Lions, Jon Kitna apparently thinks 2007 will be better.
First-year record: 3-13

To sum it up, Tony Dungy and his disciples are a combined 24-40 in their debut seasons as head coaches, an average year of 6-10. Somehow it doesn't feel like Steeler Nation will be happy with that record this year.

P.S. - The other Dungy disciple who went to a high-profile coaching job was Mike Shula, his former offensive coordinator with Tampa Bay. Shula's record in his first year at Alabama? 4-9.


That Will Be Enough, Mr. Roethlisberger

Ben Roethlisberger apparently reiterated that he and Coach Cowher were never tight and that he likes Coach Tomlinn because treats him like a man and doesn't yell at him. Let's review some facts:
1. Bill Cowher told Ben to wear a helmet if he was going to ride his motorcycle, even called him out in public. Ben didn't do it, busted his head.

2. Bill Cowher trusted Ben to play in the opening season game last year agaisnt Jacksonville, too quickly after appendix surgery. I was at that game, Charlie Batch could have won that game. After the game Ben claimed to have had a 104 degree fever. Have you ver had a 104 degree fever, it sucks, you can't move or play football. Although everyone backed off of that statement, if Ben felt like he wasn't well enough to play he owed to his team, teamates, coaches, and fans to step aside. That is what a man would do.

3. He singlehandley cost the Steelers the Raiders game with absolutely game killing interceptions on the goal line in what statistically should have been a blowout.

There were numerous other occasions where Ben, who lead the league in interceptions last year made bad mistakes but these three really stick with me. Remember, the Steelers missed the playoffs by one game, if either of those two had been victories, Pittsburgh could have gone to the playoffs.

Last season Ben Roethlisberger received a pass from the media and the fans, but the fact remains that if he would have played average in a couple of games, just average, the Steelers would have at least had a chance to defend their title.

I am perfectly willing to give Ben a pass as well after all the great things that he has done, but Ben, please stop talking. Every time you talk about problems with Cowher, or how he treated you like a kid it makes me want to slap you! You acted like a little kid last year and if that is how Bill Cowher chose to treat you, maybe he had a reason.


Why Old People Shouldn't Use Computers

Dear Larry Zierling,
Why do you want to be that guy? You know the guy who doesn’t quite understand how the email machine works and forwards pornographic material to your entire address book. I know this new technology is tough for you older guys, but you do you realize that the email you forwarded to all the Rooneys and other General Managers had my email address as the one who forwarded it to you? I’m thrilled that Roger Goodell’s secretary knows that I like to look at young girls in various states of undress.


A lot.

Doug Whaley

PS. Seriously how could you be so dumb? You realize that I am in every story that comes out about this now. When people google my name it is probably going to be one of the first things that comes up forever. Thanks again.


Meet the New Coaching Staff - Ken Anderson

Leading to the start of training camp in July, we'll be taking some time here at IWIWAR to introduce you to the new Steelers coaching staff, culminating with a look at new head coach Mike Tomlin. Today, let's take a look at new quarterbacks coach Ken Anderson.

Ken Anderson - QB Coach
Age: 58
Education: Augustana College (Ill.)
Professional Playing Experience: Cincinnati Bengals (1971-1986)

What to Like: A two-time finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Anderson obviously has the knowledge of the game to take Ben Roethlisberger to the next level. Plus, he has a law degree and is licensed to practice in both Kentucky and Ohio, which explains why the Bengals had him on staff for 10 years.

What Not to Like: Anderson was let go by both the Bengals and the Jaguars after pretty rough offensive outputs from each squad. His Bengal teams of the late 90s and early 2000s weren't exactly offensive juggernauts, and he tutored Byron Leftwich for the past two years to the point that Leftwich is on the verge of losing his job.

Random Internet Find: On the Wikipedia page of his alma mater, Augustana College, there is a list of "famous" alumni, which includes Anderson as well as Dave "Gruber" Allen, who plays the Naked Trucker on "The Naked Trucker and T-Bone Show" on Comedy Central. And of course, the character of T-Bone is played by David Koechner, a.k.a. Dunder Mifflin's own Todd Packer.