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Steelers clinch playoff spot with win over Chiefs

So, how do you feel about the Pittsburgh Steelers now?

Maybe a trip to the playoffs is enough to make you forget about those ugly early season losses.

A win over a solid Kansas City team like Sunday's 20-12 win can do that.

Now, the Steelers need a win next Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals for the AFC North crown.

They're peaking at the right time, so anything's possible.

And the way the defense played Sunday, it's not so wrong to think that.

After all, Jamaal Charles, the main cog in the Chiefs offense, didn't do much. That's a big boost for a beleaguered defense.

Sunday's win was enough to get me excited for a playoff run, something that's been missing for a couple seasons now.

Let's savor the win before we get ready for the Bengals.


After Madden-like numbers, back to basics works for Steelers

I always loved playing football video games.

Whether it was Madden, Techmo Bowl or some other game of the week, if it was football, I wanted to play it.

The fun part of the game was trying to pad stats of the players I controlled.

If it was second-and-short, I was chucking the ball deep to try to get the passing touchdown for my QB and the yardage for my receiver.

Fourth down? I was going for it. Didn't matter where the ball was.

It was like that for the entire game.

Unless the game was on the line.

Then I used the plays that worked to get the first down, touchdown or field goal -- whatever was needed.

I couldn't help but get that same feeling about the Steelers for the last game-and-three-quarters.

It seemed after Ben Roethlisberger's back-to-back games with six touchdowns that the offense was different.

It was like they wanted to pad the statistics of Antonio Brown, Ben Roethlisberger and anyone else involved in the passing game.

Don't believe me?

Roethlisberger admi…

Steelers release Blount

Finally.

The Pittsburgh Steelers cut LeGarrette Blount Tuesday.

The move comes after he left the field before the end of Monday's win against the Titans.

I guess he was upset with the lack of playing time.

Poor, poor Blount.

He was lucky to stick with the Steelers that long.

They should have cut him after he a running back Le'Veon Bell were busted with pot during the summer.

But the Steelers kept Blount anyway.

My guess is they wanted some depth at running back.

If Blount had been a fourth-string lineman, he would have been cut back then.

Instead, Monday was his last game in a Steelers uniform.

The Steelers will have a bye week to sort out their running back picture behind Bell, who rushed for 204 yards.

Maybe Ben Tate?

One week later, opinions change on Steelers

So, what's your opinion of the Pittsburgh Steelers today?

A week ago, they were pegged as possible Super Bowl contenders.

Today, well, not so much.

A thoroughly disappointing 20-13 loss to the New York Jets will do that.

Especially since the game wasn't that close.

The Jets are a bad team. And for some reason, the Steelers have been losing to bad teams.

Too much.

Part of that is the way the NFL is set up. They want parity. They have it.

Part of it is the Steelers aren't an elite team.

The good thing is you don't have to be an elite team to get to the Super Bowl.

Oh, it most definitely helps. But if you make the playoffs, all you have to do is get hot.

Can the Steelers do it?

Sure.

You just can't count on it just yet.

Pirates make right call with Martin, Liriano

OK, here's something positive about the Pittsburgh Pirates.

They made the right moves with qualifying offers to catcher Russell Martin and pitcher Francisco Liriano.

Both players rejected the $15.3 million, one-year deal by Monday's deadline.

Martin's choice was a no-brainer. He'll get some serious coin real soon.

Liriano? Can't blame him. He could have taken the money and hoped for a big offer next season.

But I'm guessing he'll do better.

The Pirates will get a draft pick as compensation if Liriano and Martin sign.

So the Bucs have covered their bases, so to speak.

It's better this year, than, say, last year when they passed on A.J. Burett and got nothing when he signed with the Phils.

Sweet! Joe Greene with 'Renegade'

Tickets seem to be available more now for Steelers games than I can remember.

I wasn't able to make it to Sunday's game for the retirement of Joe Greene's No. 75, but as soon as I heard they did "Renegade" with Greene's highlights, I really wished I was there.

Well, here's the next best thing.






Maybe there will be better ones turning up soon.

Ranking the "Friday the 13th" movies

I'm a horror movie fan, so this time of the year I get into the marathons on cable.

After watching the "Friday the 13th" movies, I decided to go ahead and rank my favorites.

1. The Original. Series doesn't get any better. Jason jumping out of the lake. Kevin Bacon biting the dust. And, don't forget, Jason wasn't the killer in this movie (Ask "Scream" fans).

2. Part 2. Jason dons the burlap bag and jumps through the window at the end. The latter, I presume, is to try to duplicate the scare of the original.

3. Part 3. This one was in 3-D, if that matters. The music at the beginning and end credits was cool (I still like it today. Too bad those end credits aren't played in full like they used to). This was the one where Jason got his hockey mask.

4. Part 6. This is where I probably go in a different direction than others. After the disaster that was Part 5, the writers brought back Jason is a good way. Alice Cooper had the "Man Behind the Mas…

Ishikawa wasn't good enough for Pirates

Travis Ishikawa.

Do you think Cardinals fans are mutter that name this morning?

A guy that was cut from the Pirates hits a ninth-inning home run to clinch a spot in the World Series.

And do you think Pirates fans wish Ishikawa stayed on the team?

The Pirates thought so highly of Ishikawa that they traded for Ike Davis to play first base.

It seems the Pirates Way is to get rid of players and watch them succeed elsewhere.

Maybe that's not entirely true, but it seems that way.




Don't expect much from Pirates at deadline

Here it is deadline day and the Pittsburgh Pirates have been mentioned in some possible deals to bolster their team.

Yeah, it's nice to hear the Pirates as being buyers instead of sellers at this stage of the summer. It's a much-needed change.

But, really, do you truly expect the Pirates to make a blockbuster deal to go all-in and try to win a title this year?

I don't.

Here's what I expect to come out of Pirates GM Neal Huntington after the deadline passes:

"We wanted to add to our club, but the price was too high. We did not want to sacrifice our minor league system at the expense of a short-term gain."

That's all nice, but the team is just a couple of games out of the lead in the division. Are all those minor league prospects going to pan out? They rarely do.

And maybe it's also about the money too. Never underestimate the cheapness of the Nutting regime.

The Pirates already missed out on John Lackey and Jon Lester. Now we're waiting to see if …

Cleveland is now the center of the sporting universe

Cleveland is at the center of the sports universe.

Can it really be?

When you're talking Johnny Manziel and LeBron James, two of the biggest things going in sports, and they're both with Cleveland teams, then, yes, it is really happening.

LeBron is the face of the NBA, and his Decision II, which Cleveland into a state of joy, is worthy of all the hype surrounding him.

Say what you want about his leadership traits or the ability to win championships, he's the best player in the NBA.

So when the best player in the league leaves the team he helped win two titles, it's big news. When it's LeBron, it's the story of the year -- at least if ESPN is concerned.

LeBron makes the Cavs a legitimate title contender again, just like when he played for them. The genius of James' move is he rebuilds his image and still gets a shot to win a title. The NBA's Eastern Conference is a joke, so it's a lot easier for LeBron to make it back to the Finals than if he went to…

Remembering 'Field of Dreams'

Favorite sports movie?

Well, since it turned 25 years old and it's fresh in my mind, because of its big birthday bash over the weekend in Iowa, it's "Field of Dreams."

Heck, it might be my all-time favorite.

It was the first movie that I played back and watched again on VHS. (Yeah, I know, it makes me old)

There are some terrific scenes, and there are others, like the one where Shoeless Joe lines Ray's pitch right back at his feet, where it doesn't get enough credit. And you can't forget Moonlight Graham.

I'll avoid the obvious and go with a different clip as one of my favorite scenes:



What's your favorite?

Steelers Nation mourns loss of Chuck Noll

Chuck Noll has passed away.

It still doesn't seem right to type those words.

I know Noll was 82 when he died in his sleep Friday after being in ill health, but it doesn't seem possible.

The news froze me when I heard it a little before midnight.

Chuck Noll is dead? Wow.

I couldn't believe it.

He was a hero of mine growing up. How could you grow up in the '70s near Pittsburgh and not root for the Steelers?

Noll was the firm hand guiding the Steelers to Super Bowl championships

It wasn't that long ago when he was carried off a field winning a Super Bowl.

And it couldn't have been that long ago when he stepped down as a four-time Super Bowl champ.

That was a sad day. Today is even sadder.

It's too bad we can't just push pause and stop and cherish those moments a little bit longer. But time moves on and all we'll have left is memories of The Emperor.

Rest in peace. Steelers Nation mourns your passing.

And thanks for the wonderful memories. You changed …

Good laugh: School bans dangerous sunscreen

Every now and then I like to go off topic.

Here's one of those stories:

A parent is miffed that her pale-skinned child wasn't allowed to bring sunscreen to a field trip at a Texas school.

The school's reaction? Tough.

Well, sort of. Here's what they said:

Typically, sunscreen is a toxic substance and we can’t allow toxic things in to be in our schools. They could possibly have an allergic reaction (or) they could ingest it. It’s really a dangerous situation. Yeah, I read about those dangers of drinking SPF50 all the time.

Just like playoffs, Pens baffle with GM hire

The Pittsburgh Penguins have a new general manager.

I think the analysis can be wrapped up rather easily:

Would you, as a Penguins fan, prefer Ray Shero or former Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford?

I'll take Shero.

There were other bad choices to be made (Pierre McGuire), but Rutherford screams as an uninspiring choice.

And Rutherford saying the team doesn't need sweeping changes, well, that sounds like the status quo wasn't all that bad.

But, maybe I'm reading into things too much.

Maybe all the Penguins need is a new voice calling the shots and a new voice yelling instructions at the players.

It won't take too long to find out.



LeBron wilts in heat? Don't blame James

Can LeBron James take the heat?

I'm not a James fan. Haven't been since he ditched Cleveland.

The hour-long program and the way he left was too classless.

But that was years ago. Since then, I've been happy when the Heat -- and James -- and faltered.

But I won't dump on James for Thursday's Game 1 loss to the Spurs in the NBA Finals.

James left the game with cramps -- and has been taking, well, heat for it.

Fans quickly pointed out that Michael Jordan played in the Finals with the flu. He also left with stomach cramps, too.

A player can gut it out with the flu. If the leg cramps up, you can't will it to work. You're at the mercy of the muscle.

I'm rooting for the Spurs, but I can't fault James for this.

If you want to point fingers, look at Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. He didn't adjust to the conditions and should have used a deeper bench.


It's time to get back to posting

Sometimes, we break habits.

That happened with me with posting here.

I drifted away from it.

It started slowly and turned into a habit -- one that I want to break.

So, if you've checked here and hadn't seen much new, I apologize.

I'll get to some fresh comments soon enough.

Thanks for reading.

Masters still holds major interest

No Tiger Woods?

No problem.

There might be a lot of talk about how awful golf will be without Tiger while he recovers from his back surgery, but I won't be one of them.

I certainly won't be worried about the Masters.

The first major kicks off later today and I'll tune in.

And I'll watch Friday.

And Saturday.

And Sunday, too.

It's the Masters. Green jacket. Amen Corner. A tradition unlike any other.

Next to Opening Day in baseball, it's the surest sign of spring.

I'm a golf fan and I'll watch.

The Tiger fans can stay home.

That's fine with me.

Cheap Pirates made mistake with Burnett

So, now where do Pirates fans stand when it comes to A.J. Burnett?

Burnett reportedly will get $16 million for one season with the Phillies.

Who's happy for him?

Who still thinks the Pirates made the right choice?

I disagreed with the Pirates not making a $14 million qualifying offer to Burnett after they passed on him.

Now, after seeing him sign for $16 million, nothing has changed.

The Pirates could have had Burnett for a discount, if you call $14 million a discount.

If Burnett passed, the Pirates wouldn't have been on the hook.

Now, they're out a first-round pick because of the Burnett Blunder.

Yeah, go ahead and rave about the Pirates and their management team.

They're still cheap.

Nothing has changed my mind  that their decisions are primarily based on finances, not winning.

Best defense of all time? 1976 Steelers

Best defense of all time?

There talking about those Seahawks from last night.

They were impressive, but I'd pass on them.

I'd take the 1974 Steelers, 1975 Steelers or 1976 Steelers over them.

Give me the 1985 Bears too.

In fact, I'd take those '76 Steelers over them all.

That team gave up 9.9 points per game and pitched five shutouts.

They would have capped a three-peat in Super Bowls had Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier, a pair of 1,000-yard backs, not missed the AFC championship game against the Raiders.

Pirates made mistake with Burnett

Why are so many people defending the Pirates with their decision to pass on making a qualifying offer to A.J. Burnett in the offseason?

I don't get it.

And maybe it's not 'so many.' Maybe it just seems that way with members of the media defending the cheap regime of the Buccos.

But, again, I don't get it.

The Pirates could have offered Burnett $14.1 million. Burnett could have passed. Nothing lost there. In fact, the Pirates could have looked much better by saying we're trying to spend money.

On top of that, the Pirates could have received draft-pick compensation if Burnett signed with another team. Another plus for the team.

And, these days, $14.1 million for Burnett is the going price, or even a discount for pitchers with a low ERA (3.30 for Burnett) and a high strikeout total (more than 1 per inning).

And don't tell me the rotation is strong without him.

I don't see how you can be comfortable with Charlie Morton, Wandy Rodriguez and Edison Volquez as…

Seahawks' defense barely tested this season

There's been plenty of talk about the Seahawks' defense entering Super Bowl Week.

In all the raving about their D, I haven't heard much talk about their light schedule.

Of course the defense should have impressive numbers if they don't face teams with much of an offense.

How did they stack up? You be the judge:
Team, record, points scored rankPanthers, 12-4, 18th49ers, 12-4, 11thJaguars, 4-12, 32ndTexans, 2-14, 31stColts, 11-5,14th (Loss)Titans, 7-9, 19thCardinals, 10-6, 16thRams, 7-9, 21stBucs, 4-12, 30thFalcons, 4-12, 20thVikings, 5-10-1, 14thSaints, 11-5, 10th49ers, 12-4, 11th (Loss)Giants, 7-9, 28thCardinals, 10-6, 16th (Loss)Rams, 7-9, 21st The Seahawks faced 11 teams ranked in the bottom half of NFL scoring, including the three worst scoring offenses in the NFL. 

The highest offense, the Saints, ranked 10th.

I generally take a top defense over a top offense in big games, but this Seahawks' defense isn't elite. The Broncos' offense is. That's why …

Duke sends Pitt basketball a message

Pitt basketball fans had been waiting for Duke for years.

And Monday night seemed like the best time to show the Blue Devils the Panthers were for real.

Pitt was a team ascending. Duke was having an un-Duke-like season.

Plus, the game was at the Pete.

Everything was going in the Panthers' favor.

Then they played the game.

Duke handed Pitt a 15-point loss, 80-65.

So much for this being a game Pitt would win.

I've been of the opinion for more than a month now that Pitt was a Top 25 team. They slowly made it.

They've played some good basketball.

Maryland coach Mark Turgeon really added to the hype after Pitt beat them last week.
“I’ve been doing this a long time. I’ve been an assistant coach and a head coach for about 26 years, and I’m telling you, that’s one of the best teams I’ve ever coached agains. How they’re ranked 20th at 18-2 is an absolute joke. I think they’re a Top 5 team in this country, to come into this building and really control the game.” Everyone really lat…

Too bad O'Brien didn't stick with Penn State like he asked others

Bill O'Brien did a heck of a job under the circumstances at Penn State.

He had to convince a lot of players to commit to the football program through some tough times.

Now, he's bolting for the NFL.

O'Brien is free to do what he wants in his profession.

But I can't help but think O'Brien didn't follow his own advice.

I think abandoning the program is too strong, but he didn't hold himself to the same standard that he pressured college students into staying.

Holiday catchup: Refs blew call twice in Chargers-Chiefs game

I watched Sunday as things fell into place for the Steelers to make the playoffs.

Then the refs blew it.

Twice, in fact.

They missed a call on an illegal formation in the Chargers-Chiefs game. If they make the call, the Chiefs get a chance to kick the winning field goal again.

That seemed to be the big news.

I didn't see a lot of news on the fumble.

The refs mysteriously blew a whistle, to signal the end of the play, on a fake punt by the Chargers in overtime. The Chiefs, however, insist they forced a fumble and no whistle was blown. If the play would have stood, the Chiefs would have gotten the winning TD in OT.

Oh, well.

It's not sour grapes.

The Steelers put themselves in that position by losing to teams they had no business losing to.

Hopefully, they'll be able to retool in the offseason.