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This team is the Pitts right now

It's time to face the facts, Steelers fans. The team just isn't that good.

Really.

They stink.

Bad.

There's no other conclusion to draw after Thursday's 13-6 loss to the Browns.

It looked that way after the Steelers' loss to the Chiefs. It was easy to chalk it up one game up as an aberration. It wasn't the time to panic.

Sure enough, the Steelers dropped a heartbreaker on Sunday to the Raiders. They made Oakland's season with a defensive effort in the fourth quarter that was as bad as the Pitt Panthers' collapse against Cincinnati.

In the Panthers' defense, they were at least up against an undefeated team.

If the Steelers managed to hit a low with the Oakland loss, they topped themselves Thursday.

Against a team that ranks 32nd in rushing defense, the running back Rashard Mendenhall managed 16 carries for 53 yards.

Against a team that widely is regarded as one of the worst in football (the Chiefs and Raiders are included in that esteemed group), …

No fire, brimstone from Steelers

Mike Tomlin promised the Steelers would unleash hell in December.

Well, after Sunday's troubling 27-24 loss to the Raiders at Heinz Field, Tomlin would have been better off saying the Steelers would unleash H-E-Double Hockey Sticks. That's about as watered-down as you can get.

The Raiders admitted after the game that Tomlin's comments motivated them. It least it motivated someone because Tomlin certainly didn't seem to inspire his own team.

Maybe the Steelers just weren't that motivated to play the Raiders. Heck, everyone thought it would be a gimmie. You had a team thought  to be one of the worst in the league traveling from the West Coast to face a wounded Steelers' team looking to end a three-game losing streak.

The offense couldn't sustain a drive in the first three quarters and when they found their groove, the defense predictably faltered when it was needed the most.

That's how a three-game losing streak becomes four games.

A team led by a journe…

Polamalu is most-needed Steeler

To go from 6-2 and end up 6-5 is hard to take.

A chance to win the division title was within the Steelers' grasp a couple weeks ago. Now, they need some help to get back into the division title chase and are simply relegated to contending for a wild-card playoff berth.

That might be a bit of a fall for the Steelers, but you don't need to get a first-round bye in the playoffs to win the Super Bowl.

The Cardinals made it to the big game last year after playing in the first round. And I think the Steelers did pretty well playing all of their games on the road before winning Super Bowl XL.

The biggest need the Steelers have right now is to get Troy Polamalu healthy. The team can't win a game right now, let alone a playoff game, without him.

A healthy Polamalu makes this team dangerous. That's why I'm not ready to hit the panic button on this season just yet.

Polamalu's impact on the defense reminds me of the Colts' need for safety Bob Sanders when they won the …

Why not let Dennis Dixon run?

Dennis Dixon shouldn't be a Pittsburgh Steeler.

Dixon was on his way to winning the Heisman Trophy in 2007. He had thrown for over 2,100 yards and rushed for nearly 600 yards at Oregon. He had thrown 20 TD passes and rushed for another nine touchdowns.

He was on his way. Then, he blew out his knee.

There went his season and his draft stock.

The Steelers were smart enough to take a chance on him on draft day. Today, I wonder if they were smart enough with their play calls with Dixon running the offense against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday night.

Everyone should be impressed with Dixon's performance against the hated Ravens, and they shouldn't place the blame for the loss on his throw in overtime.

I can't help but feel that they didn't use his ability to run during the game.

He showed off his speed with his fourth-quarter touchdown run that briefly gave the Steelers the lead. Dixon also had a longer run called back.

Even if quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was goi…

One thing we know about Steelers

We're 10 games into this football season and there still are many unknowns about this year's Steelers team.

Questions about the defense, the ability to make the playoffs, the play calling, the offensive line, the health of key players, kickoff coverage and more. The list can go on, but I think you get the idea.

However, there's one thing we're keenly aware of: This team is much different without Troy Polamalu.

With Troy playing a full game, this team is undefeated. Without Troy playing a full game or even a half, the Steelers have lost to the likes of the Bears and the Chiefs. Not to mention the Bengals twice.

It hasn't been pretty.

The Steelers are 6-4 and have a now-important game with the 5-5 Ravens on Sunday night. A loss there, and the mighty Steelers will be in third place in the AFC North.

Polamalu should miss that game and could miss the two others that follow -- at home against the Raiders and at the Browns.

Coach Mike Tomlin and the players won't use …

Loss to Bengals not the end

The Steelers loss to the Bengals on Sunday wasn't all that surprising.

The Bengals clearly are a good team, especially after beating the Ravens twice before taking out the Steelers 18-12 at Heinz Field and planting themselves firmly in first place of the AFC North.

The big surprise for me was the conciliatory and somber tone in the Steelers' locker room after the game.

"They're clearly the best team in the division," Ryan Clark said.

It sounded like the Steelers were eliminated from the playoffs after getting trounced on their home field.

Sunday's loss easily could have been a win. The defense was stout, even without Troy Polamalu for most of the day. The offense did move the ball, even without a running game.

One touchdown in the red zone instead of a field goal, and just maybe, the outcome would have been different.

But give the Bengals some props. They won. They outSteeler-ed the Steelers, as a Cincinnati newspaper headline screamed.

It's still not the…

Belichick's blunder an epic one

Bill Belichick gambled against the Colts on Sunday night.

Peyton Manning made him pay.

Leading 34-28 with about 2 minutes left in the game, the Patriots faced a fourth-and-2 from their own 28.

Common sense dictates punting from that spot and turning the game over to the defense.

Belichick is anything but common.

The Patriots gained 1 yard, the Colts got the ball and scored.

Then the debate began. Was it a good call?

There shouldn't be a debate. Such a call shouldn't be made.

Only someone so full of himself would even consider going for it. Only someone with a warped sense of the sport would attempt to pull of such a stunt.

"We tried to win the game on that play," Belichick said after the loss.

Yeah, right.

No. He tried to show his superiority. Now we have a better idea what kind of "genius" he really is.

It's not very often when a coach truly is responsible for losing a game. Usually, it's the players' fault.

Not this time. This one falls squa…

Steelers make Broncos look like Yoncos

I don't put much stock into speeches before or during a sporting event.



Usually, they're overrated and it's someone shouting at the top of their lungs.



Such was the case at the opening of Monday Night Football where Broncos safety Brian Dawkins was trying to fire up his teammates before playing the Steelers.



Well, it didn't work so well for Dawkins.



The Steelers scored three touchdowns in the second half on their way to beating the Broncos, 28-10.

And, man, what a half of football that was.

The offense did what they wanted, piling up 321 yards (including 130 on the ground by Rashard Mendenhall) and the defense put the clamps on Denver.

And it all got started after quarterback Ben Roethlisberger delivered a better speech than Dawkins.

It looked like Ben wouldn't need that speech.

After driving the Steelers toward an apparent touchdown and a commanding lead, Roethlisberger was hit, fumbled and the Broncos returned it for a touchdown and a 10-7 lead.

It was a big momentum s…

Steelers defense back in touchdown-making form

After going out and celebrating the Steelers' 27-17 win late Sunday night, I turned on a national talk radio show.

I wanted to hear what they were saying about the Steelers' win.

It turned out, the host wasn't all that impressed.

He kept saying there was something missing from this Steelers team.

Maybe he didn't watch the game. He could be going on accounts from stories or highlights.

There wasn't much missing Sunday from the Steelers' win.

In fact, it looked like their wins against the Chargers and Cowboys last season. Those were victories triggered by huge defensive plays.

Their win against the Ravens in the AFC Championship Game had one too, if I remember correctly.

The point is, the Steelers defense provided the signature moments throughout the 2008 season, except for that brilliant catch by Santonio Holmes in the Super Bowl.

But the defense is back.

The Minnesota Vikings have one heck of an offensive line, but the defense got pressure on Brett Favre and th…

Nutting or Lerner? Which one do you prefer?

The Cleveland Browns are bad.

Terrible.

Pitiful.

Awful.

Horrible.

Yeah, I like to pile on sometimes.

But back to the Browns.

During their loss to the Steelers on Sunday, it got me thinking that it would be terrible being a Cleveland Browns fan.

I know a few at work, and the Steelers' domination combined with the Browns' ineptitude has taken all of the fun out of a Steelers win in the rivalry.

Those fans are miserable. They expect bad things to happen. They don't expect good luck.

Again, it would be terrible being a Cleveland Browns fan.

Their ownership stinks, their management stinks, their players stink.

But I stopped myself. I'm a Pittsburgh Pirates fan. I have it just as bad, or perhaps, worse.

Our ownership stinks, our management stinks and our players stink.

So, I simply ask this: Would you rather have the Nutting ownership running your favorite team or the Lerner ownership that has run the Browns?

Don't mess with the Terrible Towel -- just ask the Titans

Don't mess with the Terrible Towel.



Everyone scoffed at that idea last season after the Tennessee Titans beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-14 to secure home-field advantage in the playoffs and the No. 1 seed in the AFC.



On the sidelines, running back LenDale White and other Titans could be seen stomping on the Terrible Towel after the game. Defensive end Jevon Kearse pretended to blow his nose in the Towel.



Bad move.



The heinous acts cause an outcry in Pittsburgh and throughout Steeler Nation.



You don't mess with the Terrible Towel.



Period.



Everyone else laughed. It's just a towel, they said. The didn't believe in the magic of Myron Cope's creation.


Steelers fans knew better. They believed.

The Titans lost their final game of the regular season, but no one really paid too much attention to that as they finished with a 13-3 record. Plenty of NFL experts thought there would be a Steelers-Titans rematch in the AFC Championship Game.

Didn't play out that way.

The Titans lost t…

Good signs for Pitt football

My friend from high school e-mailed me two weeks ago with free tickets to the Pitt-Connecticut football game at Heinz Field.


Nah, I thought. I wasn't ready to see Pitt this season. I wanted to wait. I wasn't convinced the team was as good as its record was at that point.


Then there was the team's struggles against UConn, and my mind was made up.


At halftime, I still was pretty sure I made the right decision on that game.


Pitt proved me wrong that week with a strong second half and a win over the Huskies.


On Saturday, they got the attention of the national media with a win over Rutgers that vaulted the program into the Top 25 this season.

There still are tough tests ahead, with South Florida, West Virginia and Cincinnati still on the schedule, but this team looks special, largely because of running back Dion Lewis.

This kid has the goods.

He finished that Connecticut game with 158 yards rushing. He followed it up with a 180-yard, two-touchdown performance against Rutgers.

Lewis alo…

Forget the officiating, change the NFL rules

It's typical to argue about officiating in any sport.


One bad call there, another missed call here, and, who knows, maybe the other team could have won.


At least that's how it works if your team is on the losing side of the equation.


Then there are the blown calls. You know the type, the ones where everyone in the stadium knows it was a terrible call. Then, television replay confirms it and your blood pressure goes through the roof.


Meanwhile, the officials just stand there waiting for the commercials to end and for the next play to begin.

But what happens when the officials enforce a bad rule?

That's what happened after Hines Ward caught a touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger in the Steelers' win over the Browns.

Only in the world of the NFL can a player have possession of the ball, get two feet in bounds, roll over and have it not called a touchdown.

The official said Ward did not maintain control of the ball. Presumably, he meant after Ward did his second rollover, wh…

Browns rivalry not the same

There was a time not so long ago that the Steelers-Browns game was an event.


When you mentioned the Cleveland Browns, the eyes got red, steam billowed out of one's ears and a general dislike was a polite term to call it.


Now, however, the Browns are a joke in the NFL.


I'm not sure what that means to Buffalo Bills fans, who endured a 6-3 loss to the Browns last week. But that's besides the point.


The Browns stink. They have stunk for a long time.


And that's killing the once-great rivalry with the Steelers.

Pittsburgh has won something like 113 straight games against the Browns, or so it seems. So it comes with no surprise that Sunday's game against Cleveland isn't drawing much of a buzz.

How could it? The Browns starting quarterback, Derek Anderson, is coming off a game where he went 2-for-17 with 23 yards passing. And, yes, that's for the entire game.

Somehow they won.

Will they be able to manage it again? I wouldn't count on it.

It is a rivalry game, so you can…

Mendenhall provides jolt against Bolts

Quick thoughts on the Steelers' 38-28 win over the Chargers on Sunday:

Rashard Mendenhall had a great game (165 yards rushing, two touchdowns), but let's keep it in perspective. The Chargers have one of the worst run defenses in the league. They gave up nearly 150 yards against the Raiders in Week 1 and Dolphins last week, and 130 to the Ravens in Week 2.
If Mendenhall, or Willie Parker, can consistently put up 100-yard games beyond the beyond the next two against the Lions and Browns, then I'll be convinced the line is better.If Mendenhall can have half the game like he had Sunday against the Vikings in Week 7, I'll be thoroughly impressed.
Speaking of the offensive line, did Max Starks or anyone on the line pay off NBC announcer Chris Collinsworth to get compliments?
If Mike Tomlin's benching of Mendenhall helped get this kind of production, then I can't wait to see Limas Sweed's next game. He was made inactive after dropping a touchdown pass against the Beng…

Live blog tonight - Click Read More for window

With Big Ben appearing on WWE's Raw tonight, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to start a live blog. Join me tonight at from 9:30 to 11 p.m. for a live chat at sportsmonitor.blogspot.com.

Chat away talking Steelers, the Pirates' pitiful season, Pitt football, or anything else. You can even try to convince me it was a good idea for Big Ben to make an appearance on Raw. Or, even throw in a comment or two from the Monday Night Football game between the Vikings and Packers.

It's open talk.

Let's see where it goes.
<a href="http://www.coveritlive.com/mobile.php?option=com_mobile&task=viewaltcast&altcast_code=4a76b8f8b1">Sports chat for Oct. 5</a>

Win puts Steelers back on track

I don't know about you, but I'm tired of hearing about a Super Bowl hangover.

And judging by the way the Steelers played Sunday against the Chargers, I think they are, too.

The Steelers disposed of the Chargers 38-28 Sunday, putting them just a game behind the Bengals and Ravens in the AFC North Division.

For 30 minutes, the Steelers played at a very high level. In fact, it would be hard to think they could play better than they did. So, it was natural for them to hit a lull against the Chargers.

Compliment San Diego for not folding in the second half. A lesser team would have taken their medicine and made plans to their flight back home after trailing 28-0.

The Chargers fought back. But the Steelers responded.

Just like giving props to San Diego, give Pittsburgh credit for staying composed and icing the game at the end. A lesser team easily could have collapsed after all that went San Diego's way in the fourth quarter.

Jeff Reed's game-clinching kick was nice, showing he put…

An obituary for the Bucs' 2009 season

The Pittsburgh Pirates season ended mercifully Sunday, Oct. 3, after a 6-0 loss to the Cincinnati Reds.

The 62-99 season marked the fifth straight 90-loss season. It was the fourth time in the last five years the team finished in last place in the National League Central Division. The Pirates finished 28 1/2 games behind the Cardinals.

The season started Monday, April 6, with promise. The Bucs rallied to beat the St. Louis Cardinals 6-4 at Busch Stadium. That optimism spilled over into the home opener. The Bucs beat up the Houston Astros 7-0 behind the strong pitching of Zach Duke.

On Sunday, April 26, the team was four games over .500, the highest point all season. On Saturday, Sept. 26, the team was at its lowest point statistically, 39 games under .500.

The low point, perhaps, was the trading frenzy that jettisoned outfielders Nate McLouth and Nyjer Morgan, and infielders Freddy Sanchez and Jack Wilson from the franchise. It certainly was a morale killer for players and fans.

The team p…

Halloweekends at Cedar Point is scary good

I took a break this weekend.

It was our family's fifth annual trip to Cedar Point for their Halloweekends event.

After all my trips to the Point, I'm still in awe driving up to the park. You know you're in for a treat when you see a skyline at an amusement park.

Despite our worries, the rain stayed away for the two days we were there, and we rode plenty of roller coasters -- multiple times.

I'm convinced our first trip there turned my oldest son into a roller-coaster freak. He seeks out thrill rides and doesn't want the day to end. He loves getting K'nex sets and building coasters.

Back to our weekend. We stayed at one of the resort hotels and got in an hour early both days, although we didn't need it to get on the rides we wanted.

We rode 16 of the 17 coasters -- we were all too tall for Jr. Gemini. My favorite ride is Millenium Force. If you're not too familiar, it has a 300-foot drop, reaches 93 mph and is a pure adrenalin rush. My second-favorite is Maver…

Big Ben turns to pro wrestling

Oh, no.

The Steelers are in trouble.

And it's not because they are 1-2 heading into Sunday night's game against the San Diego Chargers.

I'm worried about Ben Roethlisberger.

Last night, it was announced that Big Ben will be the guest host of a WWE event in Wilkes-Barre.

Can you say bad timing, Ben? Awful decision?

Coach Mike Tomlin said he was aware of the news but he didn't have a comment.

He can't be pleased that the franchise QB will be involved with pro wrestling a day after a prime time game against the Chargers.

And if the Steelers lose ... well, you can guess what the howls and screams will be like. On top of that, can you imagine what would happen if Ben gets hurt?

This has the makings of a week-long distraction, or worse.

The only way to end it is to win Sunday.

On a different note, anyone have any ideas what type of nicknames they'll use for Big Ben?

Pitt doesn't deserve Top 25 ranking -- yet

Last week there were a few howls when the Pittsburgh Panthers college football team was left out of the Top 25.

They were 27th in the Associated Press poll after winning their first two games, and a win against Buffalo seemed to be enough to vault the Panthers into the Top 25.

The Panthers did their part, beating the Bulls. However, the pollsters didn't agree. They actuallly dropped the Panthers a couple spots.

So, armed with a potential chip on their shoulder, the Panthers traveled to N.C. State on Saturday and naturally lost.

Pitt was in control of the game, leading 31-17 late into the third quarter.

N.C. State scored three straight touchdowns and the Panthers missed out on a first-and-goal at the end of the game to tie it.

So much for being a nationally ranked team.

Going into the season, the Panthers didn't have many questions on defense. The offense was the unit that was up in the air.

How would quarterback Bill Stull be? Who would be the running back?

Well, we know those answers.

What are the Steelers doing with James Harrison?

Random thoughts after the Steelers' 23-20 loss to the Bengals on Sunday:

The Steelers need to line up linebacker James Harrison back on the outside. I don't understand why they're moving Harrison away from his strength.I don't know about you, but I got tired of hearing the announcers talk about how close the Bengals are from being undefeated, referencing the fluke play against the Broncos. If they want to play that game, give me a fourth-down stop against the Bears or Bengals and the Steelers would be 2-1.Of course, the Steelers easily could be 0-3 heading into the Chargers game Sunday.If they beat the Chargers, and it won't be easy, the Steelers will get games against the Lions and Browns.In case you were wondering, the Vikings, Broncos and Bengals follow.Willie Parker looked good in the first half, but didn't find as much room in the second half.The last time Parker faced the Bengals, he rushed for only 37 yards.
I know he's still young and has talent, but …

The Steelers played like the Bengals when it mattered

If I didn't know any better, I could have sworn that the Steelers and Bengals switched uniforms at halftime Sunday.

The Steelers played like the bumbling Bungles.

There was an interception returned for a touchdown.

There was Limas "Hands of Stone" Sweed's dropped touchdown catch.

The defense couldn't get the opponent off the field when it counted, either.

The Bengals, meanwhile, had the impressive touchdown run.

Their defense came up with key stops in the fourth quarter.

And, yes, there was that game-winning drive capped by a 4-yard TD pass with 14 seconds left.

Those were the plays the team made last year on their way to winning the Super Bowl.

Mike Tomlin knows it.

"We need to finish football games better," he told reporters. "That's the mark of a champion, and that's not us at this point."

I like Tomlin. He gets right to the point.

And, right now, there's no avoiding the fact this team needs to turn things around.

Now.

It's just two losse…

Hopefully Ward decks Rivers again

The overwhelming story leading into Sunday's Steelers-Bengals divisional showdown has been the anticipated meeting between Steelers receiver Hines Ward and Bengals linebacker Keith Rivers.

The last time the two met, Ward ended Rivers' season with a crushing block. He fractured Rivers' jaw early in the game.

Steelers fans loved the play.

Steelers haters call the move a cheap shot.

The NFL banned such a block in the offseason, dubbed the Hines Ward Rule.

But it didn't rattle Ward.

I'd like to see Ward rattle Rivers again.

The idea behind making a rule because a wide receiver is too tough is just silly.

It's OK for a defensive back to knock out a wide receiver, but a receiver can't put a lick on a DB.

Jack Lambert was right when he said quarterbacks should wear dresses. But now it appears the league wants linebackers to wear them, too.

Pretty soon, it'll be flag football.

I'd like to see Ward land a few more hits before that happens.

These aren't the same Bungles

The Cincinnati Bengals have been a joke the past decade or two.

We're talking Pittsburgh Pirates of the NFL kind of joke.

So it's not that surprising that many people want to overlook them this Sunday.

After all, the Steelers own the Bengals, especially in Cincinnati where the Black 'n Gold have won eight straight.

But this team is different than last year's 4-11-1 squad.

For one, Carson Palmer is healthy. I'm sure you remember Palmer, he's the one that led the Bengals to a division title the year the Steelers won the Super Bowl.

The Bengals also have a running game with Cedric Benson, who's coming off a 141-yard game against the Packers. It was Benson's third 100-yard game out of his last four.

The Bengals have a pass rush, too, which should give the Steelers' offensive line fits.

Cincinnati should be 2-0, if it weren't for the miracle finish by the Broncos two weeks ago.

And I'm sure the Bengals will be fired up to give the defending champs their b…

Bears' loss already out of my mind

It wasn't too hard trying to get over the Steelers' loss to the Bears this week.

Maybe it's the thought of six Lombardi's in the team's offices that can calm one's mind.

It could be knowing that the 17-14 loss easily could have been a win.

Then there's the return of Troy Polamalu in a few weeks that will fix problems in the secondary.

But the loss Sunday seemed easier to forget because of another early-season loss last year.

In Week 3, the Steelers had a game they could have won, a Sept. 21 meeting with the Eagles.

As it turned out, the offensive line couldn't protect quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (nine sacks) or create any openings for Willie Parker (13 carries, 20 yards).

For me, that was a game that the Steelers could have won, but didn't.

The offense struggled the following week against the Ravens on Monday night, but came through with a 23-20 win.

The rest of the season wasn't too bad, either, if I remember correctly.

Losing to the Bears wasn't …

Pirates on collision course with 100 losses (or more)

I must admit, I didn't think it was possible earlier in the summer.

Back in June, I think I first heard the idea that the Bucs would lose 100 games this season. In the middle of the month, the Bucs had a 31-34 record. Man, that seems like ages ago.

I didn't buy the theory then, and I didn't buy it at the All-Star break, either.

Oh, I knew they wouldn't have a winning record. That was a foregone conclusion this summer. But 100 losses? No way.

The team traded most of their top players and I still was in denial.

Even in August, with the team scuffling, I didn't think 100 losses was a possibility. And that five-game winning streak from Aug. 17-22 seemed to justify my thinking.

Then, the bottom fell out.

The Bucs quickly turned things around and lost nine straight games, and then their date with destiny was on.

First, they clinched their 17th consecutive losing season, and the franchise is now the proud owner of the longest losing stretch in professional sports. (Way to go, Buc…

Bear market: Cutler beats Steelers

Some passing thoughts after the Steelers' 17-14 loss to the Bears on Sunday:

Against a better defense than he faced last week when throwing four interceptions, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler found his rhythm against the Steelers. Cutler was 27-of-38 for 236 yards and a 104.7 rating.Cutler was sacked just once.Yeah, just once.Ben Roethlisberger's rating was 80.8.
Rashard Mendenhall's 39-yard run was nice, but his other two carries totaled zero yards.Steelers receiver Mike Wallace was singled out on the post-game radio broadcast. Wallace's 10-yard catch was nice, but they wanted to see him fight for the first down. What happens if Wallace would have fumbled trying to get those extra 2 yards? My guess is he would be been questioned for not running out of bounds.Roethlisberger was sacked twice, which is good, but that fourth-quarter sack on third-and-8 from the Bears' 10 hurt -- especially when Jeff Reed missed the field goal on the next play.I'd expect Reed to make hi…

What's wrong with what the Bus said?

So, Jerome Bettis threw his teammates under the Bus?

Bettis was right on target in his criticisms about the Steelers' running backs and offensive linemen in the team's 13-10 overtime win against the Titans.

If you didn't see his column in SI.com, you can check it out here.

Bettis didn't like the play of Willie Parker, Rashard Mendenhall and the linemen.

On ESPN's "Pardon the Interruption," coach Mike Tomlin jokingly offered Bettis a job.

Maybe it was as running back, but it wouldn't hurt as a lineman, either.

Do people disagreeing with Bettis think he's out of line because those are his teammates?

If you want to disagree with the Bus, do so for not telling us anything new and for not offering any new insight.

Maybe Willie isn't as slow as people think

There should be no surprise about the supposed decline of Steelers running back Willie Parker.

Many people were unnerved about Parker's season-opening performance (13 carries, 19 yards) against the Tennessee Titans last week.

But a quick look at Parker's 2008 performance might shed some light:
at Eagles, 13 carries, 20 yardsat Redskins, 21 carries, 70 yardsvs. Bengals, 14 carries, 37 yardsvs. Cowboys, 12 carries, 25 yardsat Ravens 14 carries, 47 yardsat Titans, 19 carries, 31 yardsThe overriding theme is Parker struggled against good defenses last season (you don't have to consider the Bengals a good defense).

He rushed for at least 100 yards against the Browns twice, the Texans and the Chargers twice (once in the playoffs). And if you think the Chargers have a stout run defense, look at how the one-dimensional Raiders ran against them last night.

So what the heck is wrong with Willie?

As I mentioned in another column, it's hard to put it all on Parker. If you're being …

Steelers, Bears tied in injured defensive stars

The Pittsburgh Steelers game against the Chicago Bears will feature both teams trying to rally around their missing defensive stars.

The Steelers will be without Troy Polamalu, who will be out the next three to six weeks with a knee ligament strain.

The Bears will be without linebacker and face-of-the-franchise Brian Urlacher, who will miss the rest of the season with a dislocated wrist.

Both teams struggled to run the ball in Week 1, too.

Bears starter Matt Forte managed just 2.2 yards per carry in Sunday's loss to the Packers. That he still managed 25 carries was amazing.

We all know about Willie Parker's game against the Titans.

At quarterback, however, the teams couldn't be more opposite.

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler threw four interceptions in his debut for his new team. The Steelers, of course, won on a field goal in overtime thanks to the clutch quarterback play of Ben Roethlisberger.

Cutler finished 17-of-36 passing and had a quarterback rating of 44.6. Big Ben was 33-for-…

Steelers notebook after the Titans victory

Thoughts from Week 1's 13-10 win over the Tennessee Titans: The Steelers running game was atrocious. I won't go into much detail, but Gene Collier sums it up nicely. Watching Rashard Mendenhall run, there seems to be a disturbing trend; he turns his back to the defense way too much. If Troy Polamalu is out the 3 to 6 weeks, it won't be a loss that derails any thoughts of a Super Bowl championship. Polamalu was a beast in the first half. It's a shame he didn't get to play a full game. He seemed poised for a monster year. Did you get to see America's Game on NFL Network? The Pittsburgh Steelers' season was featured the other night. It was worth watching.My favorite quote from Thursday's win came from James Harrison, talking to Sirius Radio about his thoughts after the Steelers won the coin toss to start overtime: "I took off my tape." Meaning he knew the game was over.Why did the Titans drop men into coverage late into the game? It gave Ben Roe…

Big Ben adds to his legacy

There's plenty to remember from Thursday night's 13-10 overtime win by the Pittsburgh Steelers over the Tennessee Titans.

There was Troy Polamalu's one-handed interception.

There was Polamalu's missile-like tackle of Titans running back Chris Johnson.

There was that knee injury Polamalu suffered, too.

That's a lot of Polamalu in a short amount of time.

But what stands out is what quarterback Ben Roethlisberger did in crunch time.

Roethlisberger put the offense on his shoulders and came through when the team needed him.

When the Steelers needed a drive to tie the game, Roethlisberger got it done.

When the Steelers were driving to score the winning touchdown at the end of regulation, Roethlisberger got it done. (Don't worry about Hines Ward's fumble, he'll be fine,)

And when the Steelers won the coin toss to start overtime and needed to score, Roethlisberger got it done.

Big Ben finished the night 33-for-43 with 363 yards passing. He had one touchdown pass, a beaut…

Search for No. 7 starts tonight for Steelers

When last we saw the Pittsburgh Steelers on the football field, they were busy celebrating Santonio Holmes' Super Bowl-winning touchdown and their sixth NFL championship.

Coach Mike Tomlin spent all preseason trying to separate 2009 from that title-winning team.

We'll find out starting tonight how that approach might work.

The Steelers begin defense of their championship against the Tennessee Titans at 8 p.m. on prime time.

There will be fireworks, celebrations and a former star or two from Steelers lore on hand.

And, so will the Titans.

They've been waiting for this game since they blew their chance at a rematch in the AFC Championship Game by losing to the Baltimore Ravens in the divisional round.

They'll finally get it, but with much lower stakes.

The Steelers enter the game having had terrible luck against the Titans in the past, including a 31-14 beatdown last season which knocked the Steelers out of a shot at the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.

That didn't turn out so ba…

One more reason to dislike the Browns

If you're a Steelers fan, naturally you have a strong dislike for the Browns.

The dislike has waned since the Browns' return, mainly because the Browns haven't been able to beat the Steelers.

How can your dislike for a team grow if you continually beat up on them?

Well, until the Browns beat the Steelers, I found one reason to dislike them: Eric Mangini.

The guy thinks he's mini Belichick, which is reason enough. But now that he's the man in Cleveland, it firmly plants the dislike label on his forehead.

But look how he handled his quarterback situation.

Mangini said earlier this week that he would not announce his starting quarterback for the season, leaving Week 1 opponent the Minnesota Vikings to guess as to who it would be.

Mangini also said he wouldn't tell his team who his hand-picked guy would be.

So much for having faith in your team.

Tight-lipped Mangini didn't quit.

Did he tell his QBs? Let's ask Brady Quinn.

"He talked to us about it, but he hasn…

For 17 years, they've been a bunch of losers

We knew this day was coming.

It was guaranteed when general manager Neal Huntington began dismantling the team earlier this summer.

The Pirates' streak of consecutive losing seasons reached 17 on Monday, a record in all of sports. It was fitting that it happened on Labor Day, since it has been a labor to watch this team for most of that span.

The Pirates have had such a storied past, with World Series championships, great players like Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell, and great moments.

This one, isn't worth remembering.

Many of the players weren't bothered by the streak. You can't blame them. They weren't there for all 17 years.

There's been plenty of mistakes through the years, including draft picks, trades and free-agent signings. My favorite was Derek "Operation Shutdown" Bell. But there were others. Too many others.

Perhaps the most disturbing problem is a generation of fans in the area have been lost. A high school senior today doesn't know wha…

Sad opening for college football

College football returned Thursday night with a bang, but it wasn't a good one.

Last night featured a Top 25-battle between Oregon and Boise State at Boise's famous blue turf stadium.

It was cool to see a battle between ranked teams so early in the season. And it's always neat to see the blue turf on the TV screen.

The end of the game, however, wasn't a disgrace.

After the game -- a 19-8 win by Boise State -- Oregon star running back LeGarrette Blount landed a punch to Boise linebacker Bryon Hout that dropped Hout.

Correct that. Call it a sucker punch.

Blount said he got frustrated as the game went on, was taunted by fans and players and reacted.

"I should have handled that situation a lot better than I did," Blount told reported after the game. "I apologize. We will never have a game like this again."

That's too little, too late.

Blount already had been disciplined by coach Chip Kelly for poor attendance at meetings and workouts.

Now, the choice is clear…

Another vacation wraps up ...

It's been a strange week.

A couple days ago I was soaking up the sun in Myrtle Beach, S.C., enjoying the waves and a cool breeze.

A 12-hour drive, return to work and getting the kids off to the first day of school later, it's beginning to feel a lot like fall.

In many ways, that's a good thing.

It means football season officially will kick off and my Steelers fever will kick in. It also means another losing Pirates season soon will be put to rest -- and that's definitely a good thing.

It also means more posting, especially after a summer filled with trips to Deep Creek, Md., Allegany State Park and Myrtle Beach. Throw in a couple trips to Kennywood, a Sandcastle day and visits to Waldameer in Erie, and there were plenty of memories. And the beach trip included a wonderful oceanfront stay, plenty of sun, surf and food.

Now it's time to wait for those sports memories of the fall to happen. But I wouldn't mind a little more beach time.

Mendenhall's injury gives Steelers cold shoulder

Rashard Mendenhall had the look of a pro running back while he was slicing through Big Ten defenses at Illinois.

He looked so good that the Steelers thought highly enough of him to use a first-round pick to draft him.

Then came The Game. That's when Mendenhall talked smack before a Monday night meeting against the Ravens and got smacked down by their defense.

Mendenhall injured his shoulder and didn't play a down after that in the Steelers' Super Bowl season.

Today, just a couple weeks before the start of their title defense, the Steelers are searching for answers about their former No. 1 pick.

It certainly can change, but right now, Mendenhall looks like a player that doesn't want to get hit in that shoulder again.

Call it soft, scared, timid or whatever, Mendenhall looks different.

And that's a shame because Mendenhall was projected as the Steelers' goal-line back, someone able to get the tough yards, absorb contact and give Fast Willie Parker a breather.

I won't…

Surprise! Brett Favre is back. Again.

I knew it was too good to be true.

Not too long ago Brett Favre said he wouldn't return to the NFL.

Well, he had a change of heart.

Again.

On Tuesday, Favre announced he's back for more, signing a deal to play for the Minnesota Vikings.

I'm tired of the Favre roller coaster. It has more ups and downs than the Phantom's Revenge.

And I'm guessing this season ends on a down note, like Favre's comeback with the Jets last season.

Vikings fans thinking Favre will recapture his old magic are mistaken. He's not the answer.

Favre was once a great player, having won a Super Bowl and played in another. He turned John Madden into a gushing schoolgirl.

But the key word here is "was." Favre's not even a good quarterback any more. And he quite possibly can hurt the team more than help.

When Favre retired the last time, Jets teammates spoke about what a distraction it was.

I'll bet it'll be more of the same this time.

Why can't athletes just retire and stay r…

Did Tiger Woods gag on Sunday?

Tiger Woods lost.

That was a couple days ago and I'm still stunned.

That's not supposed to happen -- at all. Anytime Woods has the lead in a major, he's supposed to win. It's predetermined. It's automatic.

Well, tell that to Y.E. Yang.

Woods' battle with Yang was one to remember on Sunday at Hazletine.

I'm still a bit perplexed by how many people have reacted following the end of the PGA Championship.

It seems not many people want to say Tiger Woods choked.

It's hard to suggest, let alone believe. But, think about it for a second.

If the roles were reversed, and Woods shot a 70 and Yang a 75, what would people have said about Yang gagging on a lead entering the final round?

I'll bet there would be a mention or two of Yang choking.

That doesn't diminish what Woods has accomplished to date. He's his generation's greatest golfer, and likely the best of all time.

But he still didn't close it out when he should have.

What do you think?

That 1997 season by the Bucs wasn't so bad

The Pittsburgh Pirates have been taking a lot of heat lately for their string of trades in order to build a winning team.

Many people think it's purely based on saving a buck.

In their criticisms of the franchise, pundits are quick to point out that the Pirates haven't had a winning season since 1992.

They're right, of course. How could any Pirates fan forget?

But it hasn't been a total disaster since '92.

In all of the negative comments about the franchise -- and I've heaped my share in the past -- no one likes to remember the season of 1997.

I like to think of it as the last time the Pirates were competitive, not 1992.

They weren't expected to compete in '97, as their payroll in the neighborhood of $9 million. They proved many people wrong. The Bucs were in first place as late as mid-July and were .500 or better as late as August. They finished in second place in a weak NL Central.

One of the highlights that season was the combined no-hitter from Francisco Co…

Catching up after vacation

It's usually bittersweet for me to end a vacation.

About half-way through it's time to countdown the number of days when I have to return for work.

That wasn't much the case last week at Allegany State Park in New York where I had five relaxing days with no encounters with bears.

If you like the outdoors, Allegany is a great place to check out. There's plenty to do there, or you can do nothing at all.

Now, I can post other entries on football and baseball news that I missed.

So long, Adam LaRoche

Adam LaRoche no longer is a Pittsburgh Pirate.

To that, I say, "Thank you."

LaRoche came to the Pirates with promise of a home-run hitter from the left-hand side, one able to launch blasts over the Clemente Wall and perhaps into the Allegheny River.

Perhaps too much was expected from him. Whatever the case, his term in Pittsburgh was not very memorable.

You could count on a terrible first half followed by a solid second half of the season. By the time he started to hit, the Pirates were selling the good players they had. Now, LaRoche is the one being shipped away.

According to WEEI in Boston, the Red Sox gave up shortstop Argenis Diaz and pitcher Hunter Strickland.

Diaz was playing in Class AA Portland, hitting .253 with no home runs and 24 RBIs. He has seven stolen bases. The WEEI report describe Diaz as a gifted defensive player without much of a bat. Strickland, who is 6-foot-5, 200 pounds, was 5-4 with a 3.35 ERA in the South Atlantic League.

If the reports are accurate, Diaz c…

A look at the Pirates' season so far

The All-Star break came at the right time for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

They enter the unofficial midpoint with a 38-50 record. Last season, they were 44-50 at the break and limped to the end of the season with a 23-45 record.

But, hey, look at the bright side, there are at least three days this week where they won't lose a game.

Unfortunately, there's a little thing called reality. A winning record all is but a dream this season. The team's goal should be to avoid losing 100 games.

Not many will notice by then, since training camp for the Pittsburgh Steelers will begin in a couple weeks and the real games start before the Bucs officially close up shop for the season.

Here's a look at the Bucs:

Catcher: Ryan Doumit missed most of the season with a wrist injury. Those typically can linger, so Doumit's power might not return in the second half. Odds he finishes the season with the Bucs: 65 percent. Odds on him with 2010 Bucs: 60 percent.

First base: Adam LaRoche (.250-12-39 f…

Fire sale or rebuilding? We'll know soon with the Pirates

Pirates second baseman Freddy Sanchez is an All-Star.

Of course, someone from the Pirates has to be an All-Star, baseball's rules demand it.

Go beyond the mandatory selection, and Sanchez still is a darn good player.

A former batting champ, Sanchez has proved this year that the title was legit and last year's season was an aberration.

Sanchez is hitting at a .316 clip entering the All-Star break. He provides offense at a position where anything you get above .250 is a bonus. In addition, with Sanchez, there's not much sacrifice on defense.

So, why would the Pirates want to trade him?

There are about 8 million of them and it's all about the money.

Since Sanchez is an All-Star, he needs just 600 plate appearances to make $8 million next season, which is a Cardinal sin on the penny-pinching Pirates.

I can't blame general manager Neal Huntington for trying to trade Sanchez. You need to sell at the highest point to gain a profit, and Sanchez might not get any higher.

So instead …

So much for a Sanchez-for-Sanchez trade

The have been some rumors of a Freddy Sanchez trade to the San Francisco Giants. In return, the Bucs would get pitcher Jonathan Sanchez.

As luck would have it, Sanchez tossed a no-hitter Friday night for the Giants.

My guess is Sanchez heard the rumors and decided the only way to stay away from the Pirates was to pitch the game of his career.

Stan, loved the show

The staple for Pittsburgh sports fans to get an opinion is going away.

Stan Savran's "Sportsbeat with Savran" will broadcast its last show on Monday on FSN Pittsburgh.

"Sportsbeat" has been on in some form since 1991, dating back to its days on KBL.

The decision reeks of economics, with Liberty Media being known as one just to broadcast games and little else. By all accounts, Savran's show was still drawing ratings.

But let's go back to what Pittsburgh sports fans will miss.

Savran's show leaves a void at a time where unrest over the Pirates is quite possibly at an all-time high, and the Penguins and Steelers are coming off of championship seasons. Steelers training camp is just weeks away, so you know there will be plenty of questions out there about who will be the backup linebacker.

Fans love their sports, and they loved this show.

It became really popular with Guy Junker as co-host. The catch phrase from callers was, "Love the show."

Now, ther…

Maybe the Bucs need a chip on their shoulder more often

It's nice to see Pirates shortstop Jack Wilson show some energy, however misguided it was.

He's since apologized for his remarks after the Bucs traded Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett for Lastings Milledge and Joel Hanrahan.

That comes almost a month after players were highly critical of the trade that sent away popular outfielder Nate McLouth.

After each trade, the Pirates won. So, the question remains, maybe the players need to be a little more fired up when they take the field.

They ripped the Mets, 11-6, after the McLouth trade. After trading Morgan and Burnett, the Bucs beat the Cubs, 3-0.

Maybe the players need to carry a chip on their shoulder more often -- or at least show some life. Have you ever seen an Adam LaRoche interview? He makes comedian Steven Wright look like a ball of energy.

Or, perhaps, a couple more trades will do the trick.

Anyone in the market for an overpaid first baseman?

Bucs headed in right direction

So, Jack Wilson and other Pirates are tired of these trades?

I think the fans are tired of losing, I know I am. Maybe the players should be tired of losing, too.

Like it or not, the management in place have a direction to take this team. Some might argue it's to make more money for the Nuttings. That could be the case, but it seems general manager Neal Huntington has a plan in place to make the team better.

I definitely think that's the case.

You can see it take shape. They have outfielders in place in the minors or already playing at PNC Park with Andrew McCutchen, Lastings Milledge, Jose Tabata and Gorkys Hernandez. Pedro Alvarez recently was promoted to Double-A Altoona and could be in Pittsburgh next season. Andy LaRoche is showing the promise he displayed in the minors.

To review, I didn't like the Nate McLouth trade, but I did like Tuesday's moves. But, I will concede that Huntington has a blueprint. He can't be blamed for the past seasons. Let's give him time…

A trade by the Bucs that I like

Pirates general manager Neal Huntington was busy Tuesday, making two trades.

In the first, the Bucs sent outfielder Eric Hinske to the evil Yankees for a pair of minor leaguers, pitcher Casey Erickson and outfielder Eric Fryer.

Hinske didn't have a role or a future for the Bucs. In fact, Hinske goes from the lower class to the elite. He should be happy.

The Bucs should be happy that they get some help for their farm system. Erickson was 3-3 with a 2.25 ERA at Class A. Fryer hit .250 in Class A Tampa. The Bucs will be lucky if either contributes in the bigs, let alone has an impact.

The bigger trade happened hours later when Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett went to a team that appears worse off right now than the Pirates, and that's the Washington Nationals. In return, the Bucs got toolsy but troubled outfield prospect Lastings Milledge and former closer Joel Hanrahan, who actually lost the job twice this season.

This trade works for the Bucs because it's the classic sell-high, buy…

Latest example of Bucs' bumbling bats

For several seasons now, and probably beyond that, the Pittsburgh Pirates have made a bad habit of making poor pitchers look like Cy Young Award candidates.

The latest example was Tuesday night against the Cleveland Indians.

The Tribe sent David Huff to the mound and won the first game of a three-game series.

Huff entered the game with a 2-2 record and a 7.09 record. All he did was shut down the Pirates for eight innings, giving up just four hits.

Here's a look at some other pitchers and what they did to the Bucs this season:

Bronson Arroyo pitched eight shutout innings on May 1. That lowered his ERA to 4.91. His ERA today is 5.16.Brian Moehler pitched a complete game against the Pirates on May 29. He gave up one run. His ERA after that game was 6.43.On May 31, Mike Hampton dominated the Bucs, giving up one run in seven innings. He had a 5.07 ERA after that gem.Glen Perkins picked his second win of the season June 16. He had a 5.04 ERA after giving up two runs in six innings.There are …

What type of celebration would the Pirates draw?

Pittsburgh loves the Penguins, and rightfully so.

A rough estimate of 375,000 fans gathered in the city Monday to celebrate the Penguins' Stanley Cup championship.

There estimate was higher than the number of Steelers fans in February celebrating the Super Bowl championship.

Monday was a great day for a party, much better than a cold February afternoon.

Either way, the sight of fans lined up in parking garages, along streets and climbing on whatever they could to get a glimpse of their favorite players and Lord Stanley's Cup, was amazing.

It was the same route and same scene as four months earlier, but I'm still amazed.

The Pens' first Cup celebrating drew about 80,000 people at the Point in 1991. In 1992, they celebrated in Three Rivers Stadium.

My, how times have changed.

So after Monday's Stanley Cup hangover, I have a question about the Pirates. Would a Pirates celebration draw as many fans?

Yeah, I know, the chances of the Pirates winning a World Series are as likely a…

The City of Champions name is back

Four months ago it was the Steelers. A few hours ago it was the Penguins.

Both are champions. Both bring pride to the city of Pittsburgh.

The label City of Champions was used back in the late 1970s with the Steelers and Pirates (yes, the Pirates actually won back then) were world champions.

Now, it's back where it belongs.

The Penguins' thrilling win Friday was one to remember. The last five minutes of Game 7 were excruciating to watch, but a thrill-a-minute as well.

I'll say this, this new version of the City of Champions has a flair for the dramatics.

Santonio Holmes' touchdown catch in the Super Bowl was one to remember. Marc-Andre Fleury's saves at the end of Game 7 kept you on the edge of your seat.

Now, it's time for another victory parade.

This stuff never grows old.

Game 7, here we come!

The wait is finally over.

It's not as bad as the off week between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl, but the two days between Game 6 and Game 7 in the Stanley Cup finals has taken a long time to get here.

Now that it's here, how will the Penguins do?

I'm still confident in their chances tonight against the Red Wings.

A guy at work last night asked me if I thought they could win at Detroit.

"Oh, yeah," was my quick response.

The Pens played well enough to win Games 1 and 2, they won in Detroit in the regular season and they won there in the finals last year.

So, why not tonight?

Odds certainly aren't in their favor, as the home team always seems to win Game 7s.

That's OK. I'll take the Penguins' chances.

Marc-Andre Fleury is coming off a great game, Sidney Crosby is due to break out, and the Pens are in line to have a few bouncing pucks go there way.

Whatever happens, it's been a great ride during the postseason. This team wasn't su…

Scary thought about the Pirates' scouts

I want to believe Pirates general manager Neal Huntington when he says Boston College catcher Tony Sanchez was the highest player on their draft board Tuesday.

I'll toss aside his other comments about putting money into signing other draft picks, although I would think you would want to put as much money into getting a high-impact player as possible.

Let's take Huntington at his word, shall we? Let's believe the Pirates honestly had Sanchez as the No. 3 player in the draft.

The Bucs got their guy, and that makes me scared.

More talent evaluators, and I think it would be easy to say most evaluators, didn't think that highly of Sanchez. They had Sanchez pegged for the bottom of the first round of the draft. Instead, the Bucs took him at No. 4.

If that's not a big, red flag, then I don't know what is.

If the Pirates are off on evaluating talent for the draft, then maybe they're off on the players already in the minors and big leagues. Maybe they're off on the pl…

Yep, the Pirates know how to waste draft picks

The Pittsburgh Pirates and the baseball draft are almost an annual joke.

Starting with the failed picks of the 1990s through Tuesday, the Pirates made money the deciding factor over athletic ability for many of their picks.

There have been a couple exceptions, Andrew McCutchen being one, and Pedro Alvarez last year being the other.

But more often than not, the Bucs went with budget, and it cost them.

There are two ways to build a franchise these days: buying players or drafting players.

Obviously, the Pirates aren't in position to buy players like the Yankees or Red Sox. The only recourse they have is to draft good ones, like the Tampa Bay Rays have done.

Boston College catcher Tony Sanchez doesn't qualify as a fourth overall pick, however. ESPN and Baseball America had Alvarez rated as end-of-the-first-round talent. As an aside, you can see how Keith Law of ESPN.com rates the Bucs.

The Pirates disagreed.

At least that's what general manager Neal Huntington said.

The Pirates had Sa…