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Showing posts from September, 2009

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.