photo via Steelers.com
By Ivan Cole
Twenty five percent of the 2017 season is in the books, and now is a good time to take stock and see what we have learned and can look forward to as we move into October. Let me caution you at the outset to be careful about drawing broad conclusions from what has transpired. Despite the apocalyptic pronouncements coming from the football media and elsewhere, the general outcomes of this season are still far from being settled, no matter how promising or dire it appears for individual teams. It is quite possible that teams that seem Super Bowl bound won’t even make the playoffs, and I would remind you that a few years ago the Steelers, like the present-day New York Giants, began the season at 0-4 and missed the playoffs on the last play of the last game.
A punter’s worst nightmare—Dirty Red… Photo via Steelers.com
It seems entirely appropriate to stay with this format for the first regular season game, because despite the fact the Steelers won it, 21-18, there was a lot not to like about the way they did it.
For one thing, let’s look at that score. As usual the pre-season hype machine has been busily declaring the Steelers offense to be practically unstoppable with Ben, Brown, Bell, and Bryant. 30 points per game should be a minimum expectation with those four on the field!
Except guess what. All four were on the field, two of them looked like they had scarcely practiced, (guess which two—not surprisingly, the two who had scarcely practiced), and to make matters worse, seven of those 21 points were thanks to a blocked punt by special teams, right at the beginning of the game. Read more
USA Today Sports, Charles LeClaire photo
The start of this game was not promising. Nor the middle, for that matter. You could excuse the Steelers not moving the ball as efficiently with Joshua Dobbs at quarterback as the Falcons did with Matt Ryan at quarterback.
But it got more and more difficult to excuse the Steelers not moving the ball at all as the first teamers for the Falcons stayed on the sideline.
It’s time to tackle head-on the 275-pound elephant in the room—James Harrison. In other words, we’re going to have a look at the outside linebackers.
No one has more respect for what James Harrison has brought to the Steelers than I do. He’s had a full career of overcoming the odds, and he continues to do so. Last season he was, at age 38, the oldest non-kicker or quarterback still playing football. That’s amazing. And when you consider he did so at a high level for the past two seasons, and was the almost-every-down ROLB, after Joey Porter had solemnly assured everyone Harrison’s snap counts would be limited, is nothing short of remarkable. Read more
via Whirl Magazine
As I write this it is 10:25 Thursday evening. By the time you read this I will be 63 years old. I’ve been celebrating early today by using up old paint on the walls of the workshop. I then was able to hang up the hand saws, which I have been wanting to do for ages. I was amazed to discover that we actually have about seven hacksaws, in addition to a full panoply of wood cutting devices, so you might not want to annoy me. I also finally got around to cutting up my husband’s old underwear for rags. The glamor never stops.
I decided to see whether any of the current Steelers share a birthday with me. Unfortunately none of them do, although there are a goodly number of December birthdays later in the month, including a few of my favorite players—Tyler Matakevich, Eli Rogers, Vince Williams, Anthony Chickillo, and Jordan Dangerfield.
To see the earlier posts in this series, click the links: 1.Veteranosity vs. Youth, 2. Quarterback, 3. Defensive Tackle, 4. Tight Ends, 5. Inside Linebackers, and 6. Running Backs and Offensive Line
The battle for the outside linebacker slots is an odd one. The odd part (or depressing, depending on how you view life) is that the Steelers can’t seem to find anyone to beat out a 38-year-old man. That 38 year old would, of course, be James Harrison, and the Steelers have tried everything to replace him. They tried cutting him (actually, they tried that several times at the other end of his career as well.) They tried retiring him, but he was back a few weeks after a touching ceremony with tears all around. They tried sending his BFF, former defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, off into the sunset. (They haven’t been real successful with this move lately, as the offensive coordinator they sent into the old folks home is a highly regarded head coach. LeBeau is defensive coordinator for the Titans.) Pretty soon his age is going to match his jersey number.
Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo
Although it would seem that running backs or wide receivers would be next in the progression, I think the tight end situation poses the most interesting questions just now. The retirement of Heath Miller, who I believe the Steelers thought would play this year, and cutting of Matt Spaeth, who failed his physical after knee surgery in the offseason, has left a gaping void, and as we know nature abhors a vacuum.
The Steelers lost no time after the start of free agency in signing Ladarius Green, but it is troubling that there is still “no timetable for his return” from the PUP list. So since it just wouldn’t do not to have a veteran presence, the Steelers re-signed David Johnson, who is back after two years with Green’s old team, San Diego.
As I typed the title for this article I felt a great sense of anticipation. Some articles are easy to write, some are difficult. Some are slow going, but gratifying, but I have a feeling this one is going to be just plain fun. There’s something about Coach Porter that just makes me smile.
Because Joey Porter was already gone from Pittsburgh before I became a Steelers fan, I missed seeing him play. But you don’t have to have seen him play to have heard the stories. The King of Trash Talk—the baddest, most brash player around. His reputation precedes him, as a larger-than-life member of the Steelers revival, I suppose you might call it—when the Steelers finally took home a Lombardi after a 26-year hiatus.
But there is much more to Coach Porter than meets the eye, or ear.