Tag Archives: Jesse James

What I Saw in the 52nd Super Bowl: A Great Championship Game

Photo via PatriotsWire/USA Today Sports

By Ivan Cole

I had originally planned to not watch the game but changed my mind. I was glad I did. It was almost certainly the most entertaining offensive spectacle of a championship game, beginning to end, there has been. Further, the outcome, and the manner that it was reached was probably the best the league could hope for given the circumstances.

You didn’t have to be a Patriots hater or buy too deeply into the ‘cheaters/conspiracy’ narratives to believe that it would be best for the game that they lost. The league has staked its business model on being anti-dynastic (more commonly referred to as parity) for some pretty good reasons. Even some Pats fans were hoping to break the cycle this year. Read more

Conspiracy Theories

Barry Reeger/ PennLive

We all love conspiracy theories. They are a great way to deflect some of the deep disappointment one feels when, just to take a for-instance, the team we all thought was ripe for a Super Bowl win instead is playing in the Pro Bowl. So was the problem a misjudgment on our own part as to the actual quality of the team, a blindness on our part as to the manifest and obvious flaws, or [cue sinister music] Is The Whole Thing Rigged?

Furthermore, I don’t know about y’all, but it’s difficult not to feel that if a 13-3 team can’t even make it to the semi-finals, I may never see another Super Bowl game in which my beloved Steelers are a combatant. Read more

5 Smoldering Questions on the Pittsburgh Steelers, Week 15

AP Photo

The questions are going to be even more smolder-y than usual, because Hombre de Acero has a crazy week and only sent me three questions, and I’m still mad. So here goes. How could anything else be the subject of this edition? Yes, I’m going there, and we will be examining various aspects of The Catch That Suddenly Wasn’t. Feel free to use this as a cathartic experience…

1. After reading a Post-Gazette article in which writer Ed Bouchette fanned the flames pretty thoroughly, I did some research on my own. More on that in a moment. In his article, Bouchette says he isn’t accusing NFL Senior VP for Officiating Alberto Riveron of bias toward the Patriots, exactly, but he does present some interesting facts. Here are the salient points:

In three games this season the Patriots benefitted by the review of a called touchdown on the field.

Two of these rulings overturned the touchdown called on the field. The one which was not overturned was a pass to Brandin Cooks:

New England’s Brandin Cooks caught a 25-yard touchdown pass with 23 seconds left to beat Houston 36-33 on Sept. 24. He caught the ball with both feet in the end zone but lost control as he hit the ground out of bounds. It was ruled a touchdown, and Riveron did not overturn it upon review.

The Jesse James touchdown reversal is probably pretty fresh in your mind. The third touchdown was also reversed. It was to Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and here’s how nj.com describes it:

This was a huge moment in Sunday’s game. The Jets were down 24-14 with 8:24 left in the fourth quarter. So the touchdown would’ve cut New England’s lead to 24-21. Instead, the Patriots got the ball back, and the Jets couldn’t pull off the upset.

Though Riveron defended his call Monday, two former NFL head of officials — Fox Sports analysts Mike Pereira and Dean Blandino — disagreed with the overturn decision.

(Both felt it should have stood as called.) The final score was Patriots 24, Jets 17. (They did manage a field goal on their final series.)

It’s interesting to ponder that, had the two earlier calls been adjudicated differently, the Patriots might actually have been 8-5 when they travelled to Heinz Field. Or had Riveron been consistent, they might have been 9-4. In either case the outcome of last Sunday’s game would be much less momentous for the Steelers. How does this make you feel?

2. Back to that research I mentioned. There have been other touchdown catches reversed this season. Most of them have had what seems like a direct effect on who won the game. Here are all the reversed rulings I could find:

Austin Sefarian-Jenkens had another fourth-quarter touchdown catch reversed upon replay, in the November 26th game against the Panthers, and the Jets lost by a score of 35-27. Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t the Jets in the same division as the Patriots? Just checking.

In the waning seconds of their September 24th match versus the Falcons, the Lions thought they had won the game with a last-second touchdown pass to Golden Tate. But because Tate was ruled as having fumbled when the ball moved slightly as he went to the ground, and because there were only 8 seconds left on the clock, the mandatory 10-second runoff of the clock ended the game. The Lions lost, 30-26.

Also on September 24th, which was a busy day for Riveron, Sterling Shepard of the Giants had a touchdown pass reversed as the ball came slightly loose when he hit the ground. Earlier in the game, a catch by TE Zach Ertz of the Eagles was declared good despite him losing control of the ball when he hit the ground. The Giants lost, 27-24.

Zach Miller (Bears) dislocated his knee during what looked like an incredible touchdown catch that he somehow or other held onto as he collapsed onto the field. Riveron reversed it. Blandino disagreed. The Bears lost 20-12.

And finally, in a 31-24 loss to the Panthers, Vikings receiver Adam Thielen caught a touchdown. Quite conclusively, or so one would think. If one weren’t Senior VP of Officiating, at any rate.

Here’s how the Daily Norseman described the problem with the Thielen catch, which looked like a catch to pretty much everyone in the NFL-watching world:

This is the NFL. In order for it to be called a catch, you must catch it, get no fewer than four limbs and five internal organs in bounds, seal the ball in Lucite, get your cleats notarized, and recite the alphabet backwards.

So my question is, is the New York office unduly influencing the course of games, regardless of whether you believe there is a particular bias involved?

3. In looking at the above information, would you find it interesting to look very, very closely at Al Riveron’s financial picture?(Told you I was mad…)

Now to return to our regularly scheduled programming, and to Hombre de Acero:

4. The interesting thing about Jesse James’ non-touchdown is that there is no shortage of Steelers/Pittsburgh commentators who are saying, “Yeah it sucks but the ruling was correct” and no shortage of neutral observers saying, “This is INANE. THAT IS A TOUCHDOWN.” Based on your understanding of the rule, regardless of whether you agree with it or it, do you think it was correct?

5. Were the Steelers right to go for it at the end instead of kicking and playing in overtime?

And a bonus question for the holidays:

6. After the game, Jim Wexell’s instant reaction was, “I’m not sure the Steelers can overcome this.” However yesterday, he wrote a long column arguing that the game showed that the Patriots can be beaten. Which side do you come down on?

We Had ‘Em All the Way: Titans @ Steelers

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via Steelers.com.  By gum, the black unis are slimming…

For whatever reason, I was far more nervous for this game than any I have watched this season. (Had I not already known the outcome, last Sunday’s game might hold that distinction.) Talk about thrills and chills, as Ivan would have it. Opening drive: Touchdown! Sweet! First Tennesse drive: Interception!! Even better!

But things quickly went—well, perhaps not south, but definitely in a southerly direction. There was the niggling worry that the Steelers couldn’t turn a drive that started at the TEN 24 into seven points. And then the Titans offense coolly sauntered out and put up a touchdown, and suddenly the lead was down to three points.

That’s when I started to get the shakes. The Steelers went three-and-out, and the Titans had another nice long drive (if you’re a Titans fan, although they had to settle for a field goal. But wait! I should have realized that however it might look, it was the Steelers’ night, because the field goal attempt was blocked! Hooray for the good guys!

Not that the Steelers made it comfortable, or at least not until well into the second half. But a lot of good stuff was happening, and eventually the offense got back off the schneide and did what they were supposed to be doing all season—put up lots of points and make it look easy in the process. So now for the Acceptable, the Objectionable, and the Appalling:

I’ll begin with the Appalling, and that’s the referees apparently not knowing the rule changes for fumbles in under two minutes left in the half. The AB catch that got knocked out and was recovered by Martavis Bryant should have, by rule, been spotted where it was fumbled, not where it ended up. And even though this benefitted the Steelers, I really think the refs ought to get it right.

Had that been called correctly, Boswell’s 50-yard field goal attempt (which he made) would have been a great many more yards than 50, and the Steelers would have had to punt. Or so I assume. Perhaps it wouldn’t have made a lot of difference, since there were less than 20 seconds left in the half, but you never know.

Once again, I suppose I should have taken this as a sign that all would be well, but frankly a nine-point lead didn’t feel like nearly enough. Especially when the Titans came out and scored on their first play of the second half. I’m getting tired of that narrative, but since the Steelers won I’m just going to put it into the Objectionable category. And since they won by quite a lot, I’m just going to move right along to the Acceptable category.

I’m sure we’ll discuss some of the stuff that was less than optimal in the coming days—we have a lot of time to kill before the next Steelers game, after all. But here are a few things I found rather more than Acceptable:

Four picks and five sacks by the defense—the first time they’ve done that in 30 years.  Mike Tomlin, who was complaining about the -1 takeaway/giveaway ratio last week, must be a bit happier after tonight.

Cameron Heyward, who went down in the fourth quarter and didn’t look good at all, was back a few plays later. Hopefully we dodged a major bullet there. You’ve got a week and a half to heal, Cam!

Three touchdowns to Antonio Brown, including the crazy helmet catch, which was rather reminiscent of one of the first big plays of his career. Three touchdowns matches his career high, achieved last year right about this time against the Colts.

Coty Sensabaugh, in relief of Joe Haden, had one interception and almost had another. Robert Golden, in relief of Mike Mitchell, had an interception. L. T. Walton had a sack of Mariota. The Revenge of the Back-ups, I suppose you might say. Not that I didn’t appreciate the interceptions from regulars Mike Hilton and Sean Davis, or the sacks from Vince Williams, Cam Heyward (two of them), and Stephon Tuitt.

45 pass attempts for Ben and 12 rushing attempts for Le’Veon has not typically been a recipe for success. How refreshing that it actually worked. It seemed like as the game wore on Ben and his boys started to get some of their mojo back. And four touchdowns makes a nice accompaniment to four field goals. Makes the latter more palatable.

And speaking of the latter, the kicking game was almost uniformly excellent. Special teams was generally on the ball, as the TEN returner (Adoree Jackson) is a handful. And no special teams penalties on the PIT side, either, at least as far as I noticed.

NO Pittsburgh turnovers. That’s huge.

And while we’re at it, let’s note the Steelers offense finally broke through the Mendoza line of football for the first time this season, getting not just 30 but 40 points. Very gratifying.

And the most important of all—the Steelers are now 8-2, Mike Tomlin’s best start to a season ever. In fact, this now means the Steelers are 17-3 in their last 20 games. I’d say that’s pretty dang acceptable.

And with that I will say adieu. It’s past my bedtime. I’m sure we will have more to say about this. Amazing how much more fun it is to write about wins than losses, even measly wins against inferior opponents such as last Sunday’s tilt. A decisive win against a very respectable opponent? Practically priceless.*

*As was the obviously genuine and heartfelt hugs, plural, between Ben Roethliberger and Dick LeBeau after the game was over. It was quite sweet.

 

 

 

Some Random Thoughts on the trade for TE Vance McDonald

It’s official—the 49ers traded McDonald to the Steelers for a bucket of bubble gum. Actually, they swapped picks next season, giving the Steelers their 5th-round pick in exchange for the Steelers’ fourth-rounder. Which I guess means the Steelers won’t be drafting another quarterback next year, unless they get a fourth-round comp pick, because that’s where they seem to take them lately.

So let’s take a quick look at what sort of player we can expect to see and why he’s here. I’ll take the second question first, because it can be answered by Mike Tomlin’s typically succinct and (when he wishes to be) blunt reply to reporters today—the tight ends on the roster are not “varsity players.”

“Varsity” and “JV” seem to be this year’s Tomlinisms—the distinction between what, in last year’s Tomlin-speak, would have been “above-the-line” and “below-the-line.” I find myself wondering if this represents a heightened sense of urgency on Tomlin’s part, perhaps because the Roethlisberger Window is inexorably closing. I say that because there seems to be a more personal dig in calling someone’s performance “JV” as opposed to “below the line,” which is a bit more, as Dame Edna might say, kind and caring. But maybe there’s no difference, and he’s just looking for a way to get everyone’s attention.

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