Monthly Archives: January 2016

The NFL Water Cooler: The Pro Bowl Heals All Wounds?

Jeremy Fowler, the ESPN Steelers guy, wrote one of the sort of filler pieces we’re all having to come up with right about now, unless we write about the Panthers or the Broncos. Titled Steelers and Bengals Call a Truce, Sort Of, it details a friendly competition between DeAngelo Williams and Tyler Eifert to get signatures from military personnel on a Pro Bowl helmet.

I’ve linked it, but you aren’t going to find out much more by clicking on the link. I told you we are all desperate at the moment. Fowler ends with the following statement:

The reality is NFL players don’t really hate each other off the field, even when the Bengals and Steelers are testing that theory on the field. They see each other at events and training facilities like this all the time.

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Can This Pro Bowl Be Saved?

via Sportslogos.net

Years ago my mother subscribed to the Ladies Home Journal. In it was a column my teenage self adored called “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” The premise was simple. A warring couple both presented their side of the case to a team of marriage counselors.

I noticed how often it seemed one partner in the marriage, while aware the other one was unhappy, really didn’t see that it was any big deal, and had to be persuaded to make more than cosmetic changes to their behavior. But the counselors usually didn’t see it that way, and recommended a course of action requiring significant concessions on each side. Six months later the couples were brought back, having supposedly implemented the plan.

Curiously, none of the couples said they were giving up on their marriage. I don’t know whether the failures were weeded out—all three stages of the process were detailed in the same column—or whether the counseling team was just that successful. I’m guessing the former.

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Surviving the Off Season: Evaluating the Evaluators

NEW YORK - APRIL 28: NFL Commisioner Roger Goodell speaks during the 2007 NFL Draft on April 28, 2007 at Radio City Music Hall in New York, New York. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

by Ivan Cole

Introduction

Wisdom from the North.

Cold Old Steelers Fan offered this up as part of a recent comment:

“We have entered the land of ‘Football is done for this season’ as far as I am concerned.”

If only. Don’t get me wrong. COSF is absolutely right on one level. There is still a championship to be determined, but by the time you read this, for 30 of 32 teams football is over until training camp at the absolute earliest. But we also know that on another level football is not over. It’s never over.

This is the part of the year that I hate. Not that football is over, which it is, but that we now are entering into the period of Zombie Football. The portion of the year that exists due to greed, market forces and ill-informed zealotry. This Undead Football will dominate from now through the spring and will influence matters even when the game legitimately comes back for the 2016 season.

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5 Smoldering Questions, Off-Season Edition

via kdvr

by Hombre de Acero

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2016 off season is underway, but aside from a slew of “futures contract signings” things have been pretty quiet on the South Side. And while the last edition of this column promised not to look back, circumstances have conspired transform that pledge into a little bit of a white lie. We trust that you will not object as we wrestle with these 5 Smoldering Questions on the Steelers.

1. How, if at all, does the fact that the mighty New England Patriots never led vs. the Broncos in the AFC Championship impact your assessment of the Steelers’ performance against them the previous week?

2. ESPN wrote an interesting article on how the “Manning Brothers Keep Patriots Dynasty in Check.” No argument there. However…. In the fall of 2008 yours truly took exception when Michael Wilbon, a writer whom I greatly respect, declared the Patriots and Broncos as “The best two teams of the decade,” with the beef being that Steelers, like the Colts, also had a Lombardi and several AFC Conference Championship game trips.

Since then, the Steelers, unlike Manning, have added another Lombardi (and another Lamar Hunt Trophy) but unlike the Steelers, Manning can boast of several playoff wins over the Patriots. Is the Steelers legacy tarnished by a lack of a post-season wins over the Patriots?

3. A year ago, factions in Steelers Nation were alternatively cheering or jeering Mike Tomlin’s decision to fire Dick LeBeau. In his first year as defensive coordinator, Keith Bulter has seen the Steelers drop 3 notches in yards allowed, but has improved 7 spots in points allowed, while dramatically improving the Steelers turnover and sack numbers.

Would these improvements have been possible had Dick LeBeau stayed in Pittsburgh?

4. In looking towards the Steelers 2016 off season Jim Wexell made this observation:

“For all of the positive plays made by Jarvis Jones on Sunday, I found myself wishing for Harrison to be on the field every snap of the second half. Letting him go, or not talking him into staying another year, would be a mistake by the team. But I know they want to get Jones on the full-time fast track so I have my doubts about watching Harrison play another game.”

So, assuming he wants to come back, do the benefits that James Harrison brings, on and off the field, outweigh the opportunity cost of developmental delays for Jarvis Jones and/or Bud Dupree?

5. We plan to discuss the nuts in bolts of both free agency and the draft as they become relevant, but looking at the big picture, what is the biggest off season priority for the 2016 Pittsburgh Steelers?

Player Focus: Jarvis Jones

via Observer-Reporter/AP photo

Back in June of 2013 I wrote an article about the Steelers’ first-round draft pick. It was, naturally, primarily speculation, as is most anything we write about draft picks. The sad truth is, no matter how amazing a guy was in college and how many awesome “measurables” they have, figuring out how well they will do in the NFL is anybody’s guess.

This is why the draft gurus have to reassess their assessments, as Mel Kiper did recently when he regraded the 2015 draft class. In case you’re wondering, he downgraded the Steelers class from A- to B-, mainly because Senquez Golson was injured and Sammie Coates didn’t play much at all.

Which drives me nuts. By this time everybody and their grandmother knows why the Steelers picked Coates, and he is looking like a perfectly lovely insurance policy who will contribute as a player in the near future. How can you downgrade the pick of a player who got injured? If nothing else issue an “incomplete.”

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Next Man Up — Believe It

Mike Tomlin has always made a big deal of the “next man up” attitude. I have always thought this was a necessary concept for the team, but not terribly rooted in reality for the fans. Injuries to good players are going to cost a team because backups are backups for a reason. They lack either the talent or the experience (or both) to be a starter. Or so I thought.

Perhaps more than any season in memory, the injury bug bit the Steelers. It bit hard and often. Yet somehow, someway players stepped in and performed at levels I did not think were possible.

Yet despite the injuries and because many fans are all in with “the standard is the standard,” Steeler Nation is rife with fans who proclaim, ANYTHING SHORT OF WINNING THE SUPER BOWL IS FAILURE.

These fans are long on bravado, short on discernment.  This year, the team executed the next man up philosophy at a level I thought was impossible. To say the Steelers failed or that they accomplished nothing is ignorant. The fact that they went as far as they did was a triumph of good coaching and motivated players. The failure to win a   Super Bowl does not equate to a failed season.

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The Final Battle of Peyton Manning and Tom Brady

AP photo/Frank Victores

Disclaimer: I should have added “or so we fervently hope” to my title. But of course this is a website dedicated to all things Steeler, so the Manning/Brady battle is not a sight which gladdened our hearts.

The main reason I mention it at all is because it could have been quite a different game. It would have been a home game for the Patriots, of course, and Foxborough got 10 inches of snow on Saturday. The high on Sunday was 33 degrees.

By contrast it was a balmy 40-something degrees at Mile High Stadium, with sun and not a flake of snow in sight. And once again the home team prevailed. But I noted some things which interested me in comparison to last week’s contest.

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Old Men in the High Country: Which One Would You Least Like to See in the Super Bowl?

Tom-Brady-Pyeton-ManningI’ve done my best to avoid thinking about it, but the truth is, either the Patriots, a team no true Steelers fan wants to see in the big game, or the Broncos, the team who just eliminated our beloved Black and Gold, is going to the Super Bowl.

Both teams are quarterbacked by men who are historically old.

Tom Brady is 38, and will turn 39 on August 3rd. Peyton Manning is 39, and will turn 40 on March 24th. Which should make Tom Brady feel positively sprightly in comparison.

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Why Vontaze Burfict May Have Been the MVP of the Steelers-Broncos Divisional Game

via Post-Gazette/Peter Diana photo

 

As I wrote yesterday, injuries were the story of the 2015 season. If I were Coach Tomlin and his staff, I would be sitting down with the list of who went down when and why, with the aim of trying to reduce injuries next season. After all, you’ve only got Ben for so long before he either bows out or becomes ineffective. I’m guessing he hasn’t got a tremendous amount of his prime left, even though, like a Timex watch, he takes a licking and keeps on ticking.

And as I envision Coach T and the staff reviewing the injuries and assigned them some sort of gravity value, one thing would probably stick out like a sore thumb—my best players, the ones who compare favorably with any others in their position in the entire NFL, were all taken down by one man. And unfortunately this one man is on a team the Steelers are going to have to play on a regular basis every single year.

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On Further Review: Why Injuries Really Were the Story of the Steelers Postseason

photo: Pittsburgh Steelers

The site Man Games Lost, which attempts to rank the impact of injuries on each team throughout the season, based upon not just how many games are lost to injuries but how important the players are, said that while the Ravens and the Steelers did not end the season as the most-injured teams in 2015, they could argue they were most impacted nonetheless.

Obviously there is no perfect metric for such things, because there is no way to know how a team would have performed differently under different circumstances. But there is no way to write the story of the 2015 Pittsburgh Steelers without talking about injuries. But injuries were also a major storyline of the post-season.

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