Friday, September 30, 2011

Steelers Game Day 4 - @ Houston Texans

The Steelers continue their AFC South swing with a game in Texas where it is going to be hot and humid. The Steelers started the swing last week with a road win at Indianapolis and after this game they get home games against the Titans and Jags. How weird is that the Steelers play every team in the AFC South in four straight weeks right at the beginning of the season? No idea if that happens a lot but I can’t imagine.

This game is going to come down to the Texans offense against the Steelers defense. The Texans can put the points and can put the ball in the air but they can also run the football. Houston is truly a complete offensive team and it is going to be a really big test for the Steelers.

You don’t call games like this must win games but it would be really nice to get a win against a good opponent. It is no secret that the Steelers have a soft schedule and I imagine that they will use this as a measuring stick on how they are progressing and moving forward.

Should be an interesting one and almost everyone in America is going to be seeing this



Let’s take a look at the statistics:


Last Week:

Pittsburgh 23, Indianapolis 20
Passing: Roethlisberger - 25/37, 364 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Mendenhall - 18 carries, 37 yards, 0 TD
Receiving: Wallace - 5 rec, 144 yards, 1 TD

New Orleans 40, Houston 33
Passing: Schaub - 22/39, 373 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Tate - 19 carries, 82 yards, 0 TD
Receiving: Johnson - 7 rec, 128 yards, 0 TD

All-Time Record vs. Houston: 2-1

Last Five Meetings

Sept. 7, 2008 - Pittsburgh 38, Houston 17
Sept. 18, 2005 - Pittsburgh 27, Houston 7
Dec. 8, 2002 - Houston 24, Pittsburgh 6


Team Stats

Offense (rank in NFL)

Total Offense
Pittsburgh: 380.3 yards/game (13th)
Houston: 400.7 yards/game (9th)

Passing
Pittsburgh: 294.7 yards/game (8th)
Houston: 262.7 yards/game (12th)

Rushing
Pittsburgh: 85.7 yards/game (23rd)
Houston: 138 yards/game (5th)

Points
Pittsburgh: 18 points/game (26th)
Houston: 30 points/game (7th)


Defense

Total Defense
Pittsburgh: 263.3 yards/game (2nd)
Houston: 332.0 yards/game (14th)

Pass
Pittsburgh: 164 yards/game (1st)
Houston: 207 yards/game (10th)

Rush
Pittsburgh: 99.3 yards/game (12th)
Houston: 105.7 yards/game (17th)

Points
Pittsburgh: 18.3 points/game (7th)
Houston: 20 points/game (t-9th)


Hit the jump for a closer look at the Houston Texans


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Pitt to the ACC: The Yinzer FAQ by @DixieNormess

So we all know that Pitt has moved to the ACC and for those of you that don't know you need to a) watch any sports program from the last two weeks b) read a newspaper c) read this blog or any of the great Pitt blogs d) all the above.

As you might have guessed I put together my thoughts from Pitt moving to the ACC and you can read those here. My buddy Adam, who all of you know best as @DixieNormess on twitter, is a pretty big Maryland fan that lives in the Pittsburgh area who lives and dies with the professional sports teams in the greater Pittsburgh area.

Adam did a real nice thing for me and put together his thoughts as an ACC/Maryland guy and did sort of a "Mad Yinzer FAQ". I must admit that he sent this to me a while ago but with my work schedule and going home for a friends wedding it has lead me to leaving a back load of e-mails in my inbox, but for no longer.

Here is what Adam put together, and it is great, so please take some time out and give it a read, you will not regret it.

Without further pause here is the mad yinzer questions to Pitt moving to the ACC:

“I don’t understand why Pitt is jumping ship/abandoning The Big East?”

Really, they’re just watching their own back. The landscape in D-I athletics right now is so tenuous and frightening that any chance to establish security is at a premium. Not to mention the idea that Pitt will be upgrading with this move…yea I said it.

“But, The Big East is the best conference in hoops! And the ACC are dicks for what they did before during the first expansion!!! Blargetty Blarggg!”

First off, this isn’t an ACC poaching scenario…they’ve been approached by nearly 10 schools by all reports, most likely as fall out of the Texas A&M move to the SEC and resulting instability in the BIG12. And no, Pitt was not being courted by The Big12…they’re too busy trying to figure out if they can stay solvent to pay the mortgage out there with Oklahoma & Ok. St. potentially bolting to the PAC20 or whatever…

What we really have is a “screw them or get screwed” situation, with the “them” likely being a few other schools in Pitt’s sphere (I’m thinking UConn/WVU/Cincy/etc.)
Second, there will be no more arguing the best conference in basketball if this move goes down. None. ACC will rule supreme with HALF of its teams having played for the National Championship…and ALL having national recognition…can DePaul say that?

“Ok, well…I’m still confused/bummed. I guess it’s because The Big East was AWESOME before…and basketball could keep it going just fine.”

That is head-in-the-sand logic and if you stick with that…you’ll die now or later…but eventually. Football is the only sport that matters on a school-by-school (non revenue-sharing) basis in D-I athletics. Please see this chart:
“What about the massive cash cow that is the Mens’ Basketball Tournament…surely all of my pools have generated lots of cash for those school somehow.”

Um, not really. First of all, your illegal time-wasting pool at work, while immensely entertaining does nothing for NCAA revenues aside from drive up the overall profits from advertising (mostly through sponsorships) and whatever television deal they may have at the time with CBS/DirectTV/etc TO THE TUNE OF $613 million (AWOOOGAH!)
But the sad part is…a Tournament team doesn’t see ANY of that money unless they make it to the round of 32…and even then it’s nominal. Even The Champions’ purse is only $2-3 million. Now, compare that to the middle of the road “Extenze Bowl” or whatever…and…hoops ain’t where it’s at.

In fact, many of the teams that make the tourney every year lose money overall. Granted, it’s difficult to monetize things like notoriety, school pride and name recognition…but those are the real up sell that tend to keep even the “Little Guys” that are one-and-done as Play-ins or 16-13 seeds from crying foul.

Here is also a link worth reading:

“Well, ok. I guess Basketball is more fun than anything…but why should Pitt or any other school want to join the ACC?”

Because they are rich. And they are going to be RICHER! Realizing that football is by far and away the most PROFITABLE component is the first step, the second is understanding that most of those monies come from individual conference television rights. The ACC made the move of initial expansion from nine to twelve based largely on the concept that A) they would gain a foot hold as an elite conference in BOTH basketball B) they would establish their own TV network to exploit this fact and C) they would expand to the sizable Boston market (no, not chicken). Flash forward five years after the ACC brought over Virginia Tech, Boston College and Miami to the ACC and despite the fact that no one will come out and say it: the higher-ups could not deny the fact that they were NOT as competitive on the national scene as they had hoped in football and while basketball was stable…they hadn’t distanced themselves. But perhaps the most damning: The Big Ten11 Network was not proving to be a great model for aspiration…Sooooooo, they signed a 7-year, 2-sport deal for $250 million and change with ESPN. And then, only four years later, they renegotiated said deal to the tune of a 12-year one…to the tune of $150+ million ANNUALLY. Even if you would cede that basketball can make as much as $15 million annually (a top 25 program average) in revenue…that’s literally 1/5 of what TV contracts would pull in. And those are the current TV contracts…without Pitt & Syracuse, don’t even get me started on the possibility/rumors of Longhorns joining the party (and no, I don’t mean the steak hous)…

Ok. Whatever. But, I’m worried Pitt will be lumped in to a crappy division in The New ACC.”

The best games are always going to be between the historical and current rivals. Try as you might, you won’t find any example better than Duke vs. UNC. Those two are DESTINED to be in different pods/divisions as the most drama would be in an ACC Championship that had them meet. So, you’d get one of those two home and away and the other once each year. Working down from that, the groupings would likely be based on mixture of current success, historical rivalries and travel considerations. It’s all conjecture at this point, but you could see a Pitt-UMD (think Capitals/Pens) or the like, right?

“Fine. But, I’m not getting rid of my Big East pog collection. It’s awesome.”


Much thanks to Adam for getting this to me and much apologies for not getting it up sooner. If you aren't following him on twitter you should be and you should be ashamed of yourself for not following him before hand.

Maryland sucks. Hail to Pitt.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Game 162 Recap and Some Season Thoughts - Brewers 7, Pirates 3




The season is over. 162 games in the book and the 2011 season ended with a loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on a Pedro Alvarez strikeout for the final out. Not sure if there is a more fitting way to end the season but if there is then I would love to see it.

The Pirates never really stood a whole lot of a chance in this game. The Pirates got behind early when starter Jeff Locke gave up home runs to Jon Lucroy and Corey Hart in the third inning. Jason Jaramillio singled home a run in the fourth inning to cut the lead in half but that was all done away with when Carlos Gomez went deep in the fourth inning that scored three more runs.

Locke seemed to have cemented his spot in Indy as he didn't look all that great and left a lot of pitches up in the zone. He could use some more time in Indy to fix himself up and hopefully be someone we can rely on in the future.

The hitters weren't all that great tonight either. Neil Walker finished up a pretty good year with doubles number 35 and 36 to finish the season hitting .273 but the Pirates as a team only had six hits. Not going to cut it.

This recap isn't about as much with the game than it is just a quick reflection on how the season has gone. I haven't been around for a lot of Pirates recaps lately because of travel and work but I was still able to follow the team. This was a disastrous way to finish the season for the Pirates. At the All-Star break the team was right there with hopes of at least getting a .500 season but it all went so terribly wrong. Winter finally came for the pitching staff and the offense got no better especially since the lineup was littered with AAAA guys.

Pedro Alvarez struggled this year and the offense never really found the groove. The pitching was nothing short of outstanding during the first half and then reverted back to what it was like last season. There was great times that included Michael McKenry going deep on the Sox and there were terrible times when the Pirates lose on a terrible call in the 19th inning.

I have been blogging now for three Pirates seasons and watching for many, many, more. This was the most fun I have had for a season in a really long time. Over the summer the lead up to the game was awesome and PNC Park filling up without the incentive of promotions was really cool to see.

Although this is more of a three sport blog I am going to try and find some time to write a more in depth recap of the 2011 season but right now I just can't help feel a little blah about everyone. I didn't want to see the season end and even though the Penguins are coming back on and the Steelers are in full swing there isn't much like watching a great baseball game on a Wednesday night.

I also wanted to say thank you to every single person that has come by the blog or stopped in the Live Blogs we have for every game. I really appreciate it and hope that you continue to come back for the other things I write here for the Steelers and Penguins. If you don't get into those sports then still stop back because I will still be doing Pirates stuff here in the off season and as always you can hit me up on twitter to bs about the Pirates anytime. Everyone that comes here to read is why I do the blog and I really want to say thank you to everyone for the good and bad times this season.

Can't wait for opening day 2012 already. Lets Go Bucs!

Pirates Game 162 Live Blog - @ Milwaukee Brewers

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pirates Game Day 161 Live Blog - @ Milwaukee Brewers

Steelers Game 3 Recap - Steelers 23, Colts 20

Sometimes it is really awesome to be right and sometimes it sucks. This was a little bit of both but in the end it doesn’t really matter because the Steelers are now 2-1 and preparing for a massive game against the Houston Texans and the Colts have no idea what is going on and are now 0-3. You might wonder “Well Cory, what exactly are you talking about?” Well, let me fill you in. If you read the preview (which you should have) I talked about how this Colts team isn’t very good offensively (they weren’t) but that they could cause the Steelers a ton of problems with their rush ends (they did). Overall I thought this was going to be a little more of a blowout, but as I stated last night a three point win is worth just as much in the standings as a 100 point win. Whatever.

I was at Lucas Oil Stadium for the weekend with some friends and I had a bomb ass time. The city was just absolutely overrun with Steelers fans. We went out on the town on Saturday night and every bar we went to there were Steelers jerseys all over the place. I tried to high five all of them but there were just too many. Tailgating was a great time because we from Pittsburgh know how to get it done but good Lord was the weather shitty as all hell.



It literally rained from when we got to the tailgate (at 2 p.m.) all the way through the game (lucky it’s a dome) and then poured on the walk home. Miserable. The upper bowl (where I sat) was at least 70% Steelers fans and to be honest to say it was a 50/50 split would be giving the Colts fans some credit. I will give the Colts fans this though, they came to cheer for their team and it got decently loud near the end of the game and it was good to see. Here are a few pictures from inside the stadium:






Here are some general thoughts from the game:

-I am going to start with some good news and that will begin with Ben Roethlisberger. He was an absolute monster on Sunday night. Outside of the interception he threw right before the half (which was really bad) he was on target all day and found nine different receivers en route to completing 25-of-37 passes for 364 yards and a touchdown. He also led the team on his 27th game winning drive in the fourth quarter in only his eighth season. He was about as clutch as it got and every time the team needed a big time third down conversion he found the open receiver. It was really great to see after I talked about it in the preview that Ben might still have some early season rust due to the lockout and there was no rust last night. Ben got battered around a good bit but that is far from his fault as the Steelers offensive line was about as reliable as [insert unreliable joke here]. Dude never complains and just keeps ticking.

-Speaking of the offensive line it wasn’t pretty last night. Granted there were a ton of injuries, and a few of them might be serious, but there is no way this team is a legit contender with how the team played. Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis had their way as they gathered three sacks and forced Ben into two fumbles, one of which went the other way for a touchdown. Jon Scott was banged up with what seemed to be an ankle injury while Doug Legursky and Marcus Gilbert both had shoulder injuries. No idea what is going to go on from here but it needs to improve. Ben had very little time to work and the running game was nowhere to be found. This is all well and good while we play teams like the Colts and Seahawks but next week when Mario Williams is coming off the edge and the Texans can throw out a competent offense the Steelers might not be as lucky. I honestly have no idea what is going to happen. I guess they could start both Ramon Foster and Trai Essex if they are going to go internal if they need two guys. I have no idea, something needs to be fixed, fast.

-At the beginning of the year Mike Wallace said that he wanted to hit the 2,000 yard mark for receiving yards, something that has never been achieved before in the NFL. I actually laughed at this and thought it was a pipe dream but so far, through three games, he is on pace to be pretty damn close. It doesn’t hurt when you might be the fastest man in the NFL and maturing into one of the best receivers in the game either. Wallace was in full effect with an 81-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter and finished the game with five catches for 144 yards. Ho hum. Right now Wallace has 21 catches and 377 yards (second in the league) with two touchdowns so it is a good start for him.

-I am still not 100% sure how I feel about the Steelers defense. It is really hard to take anything away from a game where you face Kerry Collins and Curtis Painter for a half each. The secondary continued to play pretty well as they gave up only 144 yards passing to the due on a combined 18-of-40 passing so I can’t complain about that but they did get gashed a bit by Joe Addai who ran the ball 17 times for 86 yards and a touchdown. They again didn’t get very much pressure on the quarterback and registered only one sack, but it was a HUGE one. James Harrison came around the left side and got to Painter with just over five minutes left of a tie game and created the first turnover of the Steelers season which was a fumble that bounced right into Troy Polamalu’s breadbasket for a defensive touchdown. Just huge. I didn’t get to pay as much attention on what kind of pressure the Steelers were bringing so I can’t touch on that but the Steelers could really use some turnovers from here on out. Just has to happen.

-Antonio Brown continues to play some good football after a pretty stellar preseason. He had four catches for 75 yards and was a monster on special teams by fielding four punts for 65 yards which included a pretty electric 37 yard return that put the Steelers in great field position. Punt returning really has been in flux ever since Randle El left the first time and it would be nice to have someone back there that can potentially take it to the house every time he touches the ball.

Like I said before a win is a win. There were some good things and some bad things but at the end of the day they got the win and are now in a three way tie for first place in the AFC North. Big test on Sunday with the Texans so get your minds right.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Pirates Game Day 160 Live Blog - @ Milwaukee Brewers

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Pirates Game Day 159 Live Blog - vs. Cincinnati Reds

Friday, September 23, 2011

Steelers Game Day 3 - @ Indianapolis Colts

Steelers and Colts. When you looked at the schedule in the preseason and you saw this game on prime time Sunday Night Football you got really excited because this was going to be a prime time matchup between two teams that were destined to win their divisions and have two of the best quarterbacks in the league going at it. It was perfect, in the preseason.

You then fast forward to present time and the Colts are without Peyton Manning and are 0-2 after dropping games to the Texans and Browns and the Steelers are trying to pick themselves up still after the beat down they got on the opening week at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens. Isn’t it strange how opinions and expectations can turn in just a month?

It is no secret that the Steelers have a pretty soft schedule this season. They get to play the NFC West in their cross over and also will play the AFC West teams who have shown to not really be “up to snuff” as Mike Tomlin would put it. Ravens loss included this is a playoff team and that one loss didn’t change my opinion on that. After this game the Steelers have games against the Texans, Titans and Jaguars and I can honestly say I can see this team being 4-2 or better going into a week seven game when they have to travel to Arizona. That being said before the season the Colts were one of those games where you could peg them with a loss. With a below average secondary and Peyton Manning it was just a bad matchup for the Steelers and a game I thought they could lose. Now this is a game they are favored by 11 in some spots and people are picking them to cover.

This might not be a game we expected but it is a time when the Steelers need to go on the road and take care of business. The Colts still have a ton of talented football players (as you will read in a second) so this shouldn’t be looked as a pushover and the Steelers will have to come in and impose their will early. Kerry Collins is the quarterback for the Colts as he came in right before Peyton Manning had his second neck surgery(!) so he is still literally learning the offense.

This isn’t going to be the kind of game that most of us thought it was going to be when the schedule came out but a win is all that matters in the case. This isn’t the BCS, as long as you win the game it doesn’t matter how it got done. The Steelers need to do what they do and take care of business and get back over the .500 mark.

Let’s take a look at the statistics:


Last Week:

Pittsburgh 24, Seattle 0
Passing: Roethlisberger - 22/30, 298 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT
Rushing: Mendenhall - 19 carries, 66 yards, 1 TD
Receiving: Wallace - 8 rec, 126 yards, 1 TD

Cleveland 27, Indianapolis 19
Passing: Collins - 19/38, 191 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Addai - 14 carries, 64 yards, 0 TD
Receiving: Baldwin - 4 rec, 66 yards, 0 TD

All-Time Record vs. Indianapolis: 13-6 (5-0 playoffs)

Last Five Meetings

Nov. 9, 2008 - Indianapolis 24, Pittsburgh 20
Jan. 15, 2006 - Pittsburgh 21, Indianapolis 18
Nov. 28, 2005 - Indianapolis 26, Pittsburgh 7
Oct. 21, 2002 - Pittsburgh 28, Indianapolis 10
Oct. 12, 1997 - Pittsburgh 24, Indianapolis 22


Team Stats

Offense (rank in NFL)

Total Offense
Pittsburgh: 366.5 yards/game (13th)
Indianapolis: 260.5 yards/game (29th)

Passing
Pittsburgh: 271.5 yards/game (t-9th)
Indianapolis: 174 yards/game (27th)

Rushing
Pittsburgh: 95 yards/game (20th)
Indianapolis: 86.5 yards/game (23rd)

Points
Pittsburgh: 15.5 points/game (27th)
Indianapolis: 13 points/game (29th)


Defense

Total Defense
Pittsburgh: 274.5 yards/game (2nd)
Indianapolis: 343.5 yards/game (16th)

Pass
Pittsburgh: 174 yards/game (t-4th)
Indianapolis: 207 yards/game (10th)

Rush
Pittsburgh: 100.5 yards/game (12th)
Indianapolis: 136.5 yards/game (29th)

Points
Pittsburgh: 17.5 points/game (6th)
Indianapolis: 30.5 points/game (t-29th)

Hit the jump for the Colts preview

Pirates Game Day 157 Live Blog - vs. Cincinnati Reds

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Pirates Game Day 156 Live Blog - @ Arizona Diamondbacks

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Pirates Game Day 154 Live Blog - @ Arizona Diamondbacks

Monday, September 19, 2011

Pirates Game Day 153 - @ Arizona Diamondbacks

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Shutting Down Seattle. Steelers 24, Seahawks 0

The Steelers got on the right foot with a huge win against the Seattle Seahawks 24-0 on Sunday. To be quite honest with you this game wasn’t all that impressive for the Steelers as they left a lot of points on the board and were pretty sloppy in a lot of aspects of the game. This game was more of an instance that the Seahawks are just that bad of a team and the Steelers were that much better than them.

The Steelers didn’t do all that well in the red zone. They started the game off well enough but marching right down the field after winning the coin toss and getting a first and goal after a pass interference call in the end zone but wasn’t able to punch it in. They actually went for it on a fourth and goal situation but Rashard Mendenhall was stopped at the goal line and the Steelers turned it over on downs. Thank God the Seahawks have Tarvares Jackson under center. The Steelers then got another chance with a first and goal at the two yard line at the end of the first half but were unable to produce a touchdown. Granted on this drive Ben Roethlisberger was injured after getting his leg rolled on and Charlie Batch had to fill in but that doesn’t mean that the offensive line can’t push through for a two yard rushing touchdown. It didn’t matter today but stuff like that can’t happen when good teams come to Heinz Field to play later in the season.

On the surface Roethlisberger had a nice line; 22-of-30 for 298 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions. Really solid line there but he just seemed off all game. He passes were sailing a little bit and while he did complete over 73% of his passes he just didn’t look crisp and missed a couple of throws that he would usually hit. He did make a couple of questionable decisions that didn’t cost him, but they easily could have. Hopefully he can get this stuff figured out as we go on. Large Benjamin got a pretty bad scare as I alluded to earlier with a shot to the knee he took. It didn’t look good and the first thing that went through everyone’s mind is ACL but luckily he was able to get up after being tended to for like five minutes and walk off the field. He came back on the field after missing only two plays but was still very gimpy so it was still worrisome. After the half, however, he did look like he was moving much better.

The running game was so-so. Mendenhall had some early success and it looked as if the Steelers were going to be able to gash the Seahawks for the some big time yardage, but that wasn’t how it turned out. The running game, as a whole, finished with 35 carries for 124 yards and two touchdowns. That isn’t terrible but you would like to see a little more than 3.5 yards per attempt. I touched on the goal line carries which is concerning but I don’t put that as much on the backs as I do the front line for not picking up players, but it was a pretty solid effort by the run game today. Mendenhall had 19 carries for 66 yards and Isaac Redman carried the ball 10 times for 49 yards. I was really impressed with Redman today as he found the end zone on a 20-yard carry that was beautifully blocked and executed. I was very impressed with how Redman used his legs to keep the plays going and picking up the extra couple of yards after it looked like he was going to be tackled.

I talked about the skill position players, mostly how the wide receivers would really be able to stretch out the secondary of the Seahawks and that is exactly what they did. Mike Wallace had another monster game with eight catches for 126 yards and a touchdown while Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders combined for six catches for 111 yards. The Seahawks defensive backs were giving the receivers different looks in terms of off coverage and press coverage but it didn’t really matter. You could tell that the Hawks were well aware of the speed that those players and were just letting Roethlisberger and the receivers pretty much do what they want.

The offensive line kept Ben clean for the most part only giving up two sacks and really giving him a nice pocket to work with on most cases. Doug Legursky really had a tough game and Jon Scott didn’t really stay as consistent as you need but first year man Marcus Gilbert played “above the line” according to Mike Tomlin and I really can’t disagree with that. Sure they weren’t going against a great defense but you still needed to see that he could handle himself in a regular season situation and he did just that.

The defense has now shown us the two extremes this season. They got blown out of the water in week one and then pitch the shutout in the second game of the year. They didn’t force a turnover but they did finally get to the quarterback with five sacks, three of which came on the lone Seattle series where they got into Steelers territory. That is right; it took until there was nine minutes left in the game before Seattle actually crossed the 50-yard line. The Seahawks only went 2-of-12 on third down and accumulated a mere 164 yards of total offense. It was really bad. They couldn’t run the ball, (31 yards) and they sure couldn’t trust Jackson to do anything. The defense got off the field when they had to as the Seahawks only had the ball for just over 21 minutes.

Overall everyone on the defense was pretty good. I don’t think they are where they need to be and to be honest I don’t know how to evaluate the defense after this one. The Seattle offense is really, really, bad and they weren’t going to do anything no matter what the Steelers threw out there. The Steelers didn’t even bring pressure on the Seahawks until very late, when they wanted to end it, so I have no idea. What I do know is that the Steelers took care of business, which isn’t the same thing you can say about the Baltimore Ravens who lost to the Tennessee Titans today. Ike Taylor had another nice game as I believe he was only targeted a couple of times and Troy Polamalu made a team-high eight tackles and was in on one of the Steelers five sacks of the day. Eventually the Steelers are going to have to create some turnovers but right now they just need to focus on getting better every week.

Last week I told you that you can’t put a ton of stock into one game. It is a long season and there is a lot of football to be played so I would say the same thing about today. The Steelers won, which is more important, and even its record to 1-1 on the season so we are back at square one. This was a dominating win but there were far from flaws. Ben was off, the offensive line couldn’t open up running holes inside and the defense still doesn’t look like they are on the same page but it was much better than last week which is what is important. Take things at face value, a shutout win is always good but don’t look too much into it. The Seahawks are a rebuilding team and they have a ton of flaws so this should be expected. You can only play who is on your schedule and a win was a must today.
Every win is a good win. Enjoy it tonight then let's get ready for Indianapolis.

This picture really says it all:

Pirates Game Day 153 Live Blog - @ Los Angeles Dodgers

Dodgers 15, Pirates 1

Win - Chad Billingsley (11-10)

Loss - Brad Lincoln (1-3)

[Box Score]

Hit the jump for the Live Blog replay

Pitt to the ACC. It is Final. What Does It Mean?

Here on the Three Rivers Burgh Blog we don’t talk a lot outside of the Steelers, Penguins and Pirates but as you know I am a pretty big Pitt fan. No, I didn’t go to Pitt, I went to a small Division-II school in Western Pennsylvania, but I am from Pittsburgh so the Panthers have always been dear to my heart. The western part of the state does not have an NBA team and I sure as hell never wanted to cheer for the Cavs over in Cleveland so I watched Pitt. I was there through some lean years and I was at Fitzgerald Fieldhouse in the pre NIT years and cheered for the team through the NIT years and now with Jamie Dixon and the Peterson Event Center come along I watch as top-five teams come to the Pete and wither away. All of this is neither here nor there but it is just to give you a glimpse into how I feel about a team I call my own even though I never went to the University.

Last night there were rumors that Pitt and Syracuse were interested in moving to the ACC. That was it, rumors, nothing more and I didn’t put a ton of stock into them. Yesterday morning I woke up and went online to check the game time of a few games and on the right hand side of the screen said that there were reports that both schools had “applied” to the ACC. A little later in the night it was reported that it was all but a done deal that Pittsburgh and Syracuse were going to the ACC. Then later again that night the ACC was setting up a 9:30 a.m. conference call on Sunday morning and then Sunday morning the University of Pittsburgh and Syracuse University were part of the ACC. I am not going to lie I wasn’t surprised. When all the new conferences were forming I thought that if Pitt was going to make any kind of a move it would be to go to the ACC. I thought this for a ton of reasons and most of them are why they inevitably will be announcing their acceptance to the ACC as soon as tomorrow.

There are big time ramifications to the move for not only the top tier sports of football and basketball, but also for the school as a whole. This will also have a major impact on the Big East in the future as they are looking like they are just treading water waiting for other conferences (read: Big 12) to fall apart and pick up the scraps. Here are some of my general thoughts on my move. I also listed in some help from JD Schroeder who is the Vice President of the Oakland Zoo with some information for this. That dudes lives for Pitt as much as anyone I know and if you aren’t following him on Twitter then you are really doing something wrong.

FOOTBALL

Football is a sport that is going to benefit from the move to the ACC. It is no secret that the Big East isn’t one of the top football conferences. There are not true top-level teams and most of the teams in the conference that earn the automatic bid to the BCS game usually get worked over. Pitt, WVU and maybe South Florida are considered the front runners this year and none of those teams are frightening when you look at them.

The move to the ACC will help do a couple of things including getting some games against better completion. Sure, the way things are now Pitt would get beat up pretty well in the ACC and I have no problem admitting that, but that will make them a better team. How you ask? Well it is not out of the realm of possibility that Pitt is able to win the Big East this year. The offense against Iowa for the first three quarters was pretty good and the defense was even better. Sure, there was a collapse in the fourth quarter but we are talking about an entirely new system for these kids that they have been playing in for what is now three full games. The two big games on the schedule are South Florida and West Virginia, and if you told me that Pitt won both of those it wouldn’t shock me. IF Pitt did win those games and went to the BCS game what kind of chances would you give them? Not a great one, in my opinion.

Now switch to the ACC, a conference that from all looks of it would like to have 16 teams in the conference. Sure moving from playing Rutgers and UConn to playing Boston College, Virginia Tech, Maryland and Miami is a pretty big step but wouldn’t you agree that playing tougher competition will make you a better team? Sure it would be great to win the Big East every couple of years but I am more concerned with winning BCS games. The ACC will prepare us for that opportunity. Not only will the stiffer competition make Pitt a better team but it will give them MORE chances to win the conference. Unlike the Big East the ACC has a conference championship game. That means that the two best teams are going to play for a chance at the BCS berth and will have another quality game to try and push them up in the BCS standings for an attempt to play in the BCS Championship game.

I know that thinking about a National Championship game is tough to put your finger on now, or even playing for a conference championship with how Pitt has played in the past but we aren’t just talking about now; we are talking about the future. Putting Pitt in a position to play better teams throughout the year and then giving them possibly another opportunity to play for a BCS spot is important.

A lot of people are making the point that it would be tough to not have the Backyard Brawl game against West Virginia every year. This sucks. I hate WVU and I love doing so but if this is the biggest holdback then I am all for it. There are non-conference games that you can play these games and even if you don’t there will be plenty of rivalry opportunities available against Maryland and former Big East members Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College.

Most also forget that back in 2003 that BC, VT and Miami were all Big East teams. They had some great and epic games and then all three bolted for the ACC. I didn’t really think much of the time but as we have seen in the past those teams have been good football teams. When the Big East lost them, it killed the conference’s football. I remember going to Pitt/Miami football games with the Big East title on the line. Heinz Field was packed and the BCS berth was on the line. It was in prime time. Those games can now happen again.

TV money and exposure is going to be huge in the deal, especially in football. Pitt football gets local play but I can’t really say that throughout the years that Pitt has been a major player on the TV side of things in prime time. The ACC has an ESPN contract. ESPN contract means money. Money drives moves. It is really that simple. More publicity and a better chance to get on TV makes everyone happy and couple that with better completion and this is a nice step up for Pitt in the football aspect.

BASKETBALL

A pretty big hot button item on this top is basketball. The Big East is generally regarded as the top basketball conference in the nation with the ACC ranking anywhere from second to fourth depending on who you ask. The Panthers have been one of the top teams in the conference for some years so naturally there are going to be people who ask why?

This one can really go either way with me. Sure, the Big East is a great basketball conference but let’s not kid ourselves, it is about money and football makes money. This also doesn’t mean that the program is going to fold because they are going to some third-rate basketball conference; they are going to one of the best.

What is not talked about in the move is that another piece to this puzzle is probably going to the ACC in Syracuse. Now when you look at the ACC, basketball wise, you are going to have Duke, North Carolina, Pitt, Syracuse Clemson, Virginia Tech, Florida State and Maryland. The Big East will have Nova, Louisville, Notre Dame, West Virginia, Georgetown and UConn(maybe). The ACC is going to be just as strong as the Big East when this is all said and done. There are even rumors that UConn is interested in the ACC as well. If UConn bolts for the ACC as well, it’s no longer even a discussion which conference is the best at basketball.

A big drawback to this move is some of the great Big East basketball that we are all used to watching. I do not like UConn whatsoever and playing them in the regular season is what it is all about, but is it worth it to stay in the Big East for games against UConn and Vilanova when you can be playing Maryland or Duke or North Carolina? Seems OK to me. Another shot to leaving the Big East is not playing at Madison Square Garden. MSG is a staple of college basketball and playing tournament games there is really something special to watch. The kids love it and it is just that iconic places to be. That will be a tough pill to swallow, but let’s not act like playing a post season tournament at MSG is more important than the ultimate goal of winning in the NCAA Tournament. I know moving to the ACC doesn’t guarantee anything but I don’t buy the logic that the Panthers program is going to struggle because they don’t get to play at MSG.

Almost in the same breath at MSG there is a real question about recruiting, especially in basketball, if Pitt moves to the ACC. I get the point of it. Jamie Dixon has recruited heavily in the New York/New Jersey/ Philadelphia area and playing in the Big East and playing the Big East Tournament at MSG is a big selling ticket when he is going to get those kids. That is what the foundation of his earlier teams was built on. I know I have seen a lot of people talking as if the program isn’t going to be able to recruit from that area if they move to the ACC. I am sorry, but did I miss a rule that you can’t recruit from that area if you are in the ACC? Am I supposed to assume that Duke or North Carolina or Maryland doesn’t recruit players from the Northeast? Give me a break. Will it maybe make it harder to get those kids? Maybe. Is it going to be impossible? Far from it. If you look at Pitt’s recruiting class just or this year, no players are from the NYC/NJ area. Two are from the Philly area, one is from Canada, and one is from Maryland. Would you like to know who else is from Maryland? Dante Taylor, Talib Zanna, 2012 recruit James Robinson, and Durand Johnson. Arguably Jamie Dixon’s best recruiting grab ever, Steven Adams, isn’t even from the US. He’s a New Zealand product.

The move to the ACC by two of the best Big East basketball teams might make the Big East a little less of a basketball power and might actually make the ACC the best basketball conference in the country. Isn’t that what you want your basketball team to play in, the top conference? OK then. With Pitt, Syracuse and possibly UConn gone, it’s very possible there may not even be a Big East conference to be compared to. Who says the ACC couldn’t slide into the MSG venue for their tournament if that happens? And let’s be honest…Duke and UNC at the Pete with the Zoo? Are you kidding?

You want to look at the competitive balance of the two basketball conferences? Take a look at what Keith McBride did on his blog here. Unreal stuff.

INSTITUTION

I guess the thing I am most excited about in this whole movement talk is that Pitt is taking care of Pitt. They aren’t worrying about West Virginia or Louisville or UConn or even the Big East as a whole, they are taking care of themselves and doing what is best for their institution. The Big East is in bad shape right now. The Big Ten, Pac who knows and SEC are the three big conferences and the ACC is close to going into that talk. The Big 12 is quickly falling by the wayside and when they do the Big East will be going there and trying to pick up the scraps. Is that really what you want to be a part of? Furthermore is the Big East even going to be around in five years? Say Pitt stays in the Big East and the ACC takes another team, are you really confident that the conference is going to survive with even less talent in football and basketball then it already has? Why wait too long and suffer when you can make a move and secure your future. That is exactly what Pitt did. They are taking the first step and putting themselves in a good position. Pitt is making sure it’s not the one left without a seat at the table. Pitt cannot sacrifice its own athletics program for the sake of the Big East.

I saw an interview online today with the Louisville AD and you can tell that he isn’t very happy with what happened. You can watch the video here but the premise of the video is that back in May all the AD’s got together and pretty much said that they were going to stick together and look out for each other. The Pittsburgh chancellor was the chair of the Big East committee and helped keep the conference on the same page much as it did in 2003. Problem is that since 2003 the conference hasn’t been strong and has struggled. I might be reading a little too much into this but what the Pittsburgh chancellor said back in May might have been the truth. Maybe in May Pitt wasn’t expecting to go anywhere. Why should Pitt turn down a great opportunity when the conference itself doesn’t seem to be helping itself out. I have no idea and I am sure there is much more to it but you can bet your ass there is going to be some sour grapes in the Big East. To be honest I don’t blame the other schools for being sour but like I said before I am glad that Pitt is taking the lead on this. How would you feel if Pitt stayed in the Big East and five years down the road it falls apart and they end up in a place that they don’t fit? I know I wouldn’t like that. Also, as Paul Zeise pointed out, Steve Pederson made it very clear that Pitt wanted a 12 football team conference and the Big East simply sat on it. Big East leadership was being far too complacent, so Pitt acted on its own behalf. Pitt’s Nordenberg was crucial to saving the conference in 2003, and don’t forget it was Jamie Dixon that actually brought TCU to the table. Pitt had done enough to try to save the sinking ship.

This is a really big move but it isn’t like this is the only one that is happening. WVU has been rumored to be talking to the SEC and the ACC is said to have had in excess of 10 teams talking to them about coming to the party. Just imagine if the ACC also adds UConn to the conference. How would that make you feel? What if they added WVU? It could happen, Pitt is just the first team that was going to make the bold move and start things. There are going to be four huge conferences and Pitt is making sure they get into one of them. Why wouldn’t you want to be a part of one of the best conferences? I would.

You also might want to check out these few tweets from Keith McBride about meeting up with a Pitt administrative person?



Good stuff


What do you guys think? Does it matter? Do you care? Hit the comments.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Friday, September 16, 2011

Pirates Game Day 151 Live Blog - @ Los Angeles Dodgers

Dodgers 7, Pirates 2

Win - Kuroda (10-16)

Loss - Locke (0-2)

[Box Score]

Hit the jump for the Live Blog replay

Steelers Game Day 2 - vs. Seattle Seahawks

Well last week wasn’t actually ideal for what the Steelers were looking to do to open the season, was it? The Steelers got taken behind the shed and physically and mentally beat down to the hand of their top rivals. It wasn’t pretty and the guys weren’t too happy about it.

Last week the Seahawks took a loss to the 49ers by a pretty big margin and they will be coming to Heinz Field from all the way across the country to take on the Steelers and they should be in for a rude awakening when they come in to the Black and Golf clad crowd for the first home game of the season.

Most will remember that the Steelers and Seahawks met for the Super Bowl a few years ago in one of the most exciting (read: boring) Super Bowls in the history of the Super Bowl. Since that time the Seahawks have fallen off the cliff and the Steelers continue to make the playoffs and get to (and win) Super Bowls. This time around, however, the state of the teams is about the same. Both team’s got outplayed in week one and both teams need a win in a pretty bad way even though this is only week two.

To be honest the Steelers don’t play all that often, in fact it is only 16 times including that one Super Bowl matchup, so you really can’t get up much for this game. I don’t want to say this game has kind of a “meh” feeling to it but this game kind of has a “meh” feel to it. This isn’t a rival and this isn’t one of the best teams in the NFC so this just feels like an average early season NFL game where one team is favored by two scores over a team that most felt wasn’t going to be very good. That doesn’t mean that the Steelers should take this as a win because that is exactly what they did with the Ravens and that didn’t turn out well.

I am not going to sit here and tell you that I think the Seahawks can come in and beat the Steelers because I just don’t think they are talented enough, but the Steelers have been beaten by bad teams following Super Bowl appearances.

The preview is going to be more serious this week and a little light because, as I said above, this is a tough game to get into and really the Seahawks are a young team and don’t really have those players that grab your attention. Without further ado here is the statistical breakdown for the teams:


Last Week:

Baltimore 35, Pittsburgh 7
Passing: Roethlisberger - 22/41, 280 yards, 1 TD, 3 INT
Rushing: Mendenhall - 12 carries, 45 yards, 0 TD
Receiving: Wallace - 8 rec, 107 yards, 0 TD

San Francisco 33, Seattle 17
Passing: Jackson - 21/37, 197 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Lynch - 13 carries, 33 yards, 0 TD
Receiving: Baldwin - 3 rec, 83 yards, 1 TD
All-Time Record vs. Seattle: 8-8

Last Five Meetings

Oct. 7, 2007 - Pittsburgh 21, Seattle 0
Feb. 5, 2006 - Pittsburgh 21, Seattle 0 - Super Bowl XL
Nov. 2, 2003 - Seattle 23, Pittsburgh 16
Sep. 26, 1999 - Seattle 29, Pittsburgh 10
Sep. 27, 1998 - Pittsburgh 13, Seattle 10

Team Stats

Offense (rank in NFL)

Total Offense
Pittsburgh: 312 yards/game (22nd)
Seattle: 219 yards/game (29th)

Passing
Pittsburgh: 246 yards/game (17th)
Seattle: 155 yards/game (t-27th)

Rushing
Pittsburgh: 66 yards/game (25th)
Seattle: 64 yards/game (t-26th)

Points
Pittsburgh: 7 points/game (t-30th)
Seattle: 17 points/game (t-22nd)


Defense

Total Defense
Pittsburgh: 385 yards/game (21st)
Seattle: 209 yards/game (2nd)

Rush
Pittsburgh: 170yards/game (28th)
Seattle: 85 yards/game (15th)

Pass
Pittsburgh: 215 yards/game (13th)
Seattle: 124 yards/game (4th)

Points
Pittsburgh: 35 points/game (29th)
Seattle: 33 points/game (26th)

Hit the jump for the positional review of the Seahawks and some more junk

Game 150 Recap - Pirates 6, Dodgers 2

Ross Ohlendorf hit a three-run home run and pitched seven innings of four hit baseball and the Pirates picked up their 68th win of the season and need to go 7-5 the rest of the way for my preseason "best case" come together for 75 wins.

OK, I know I could come on here and tell you just about anything for you to believe it. It's late in the season and the Pirates are around 15 games under .500 and they were on the west coast against a team under.500 and you probably didn't stay up to watch the whole game. I could tell you pretty much anything and you would probably rush to the box score to beleive me so I could have some fun this this.

The funny thing is I am not lying about the first paragraph. Ross Ohlendorf went deep in the four run second inning and actually pitched OK for his first win since July 2, 2010. Unreal.

He only gave up four hits and a pair of runs. For a while there it looked like Ohlendorf was going to give it all away but he hung in there tight and threw 72 pitches in the seven innings of work.

Jason Grilli continues to be excellent going a scoreless inning and Joel Hanrahan relieved Evan Meek, make his third start since coming off the DL and walked two. Hanrahan picked up his 38th save of the season.

The Pirates offense had 12 hits and knocked out Dana Eveland after five innings as Andrew McCutchen, Ryan Doumit, Ryan Ludwich and Brandon Wood all had multiple hits. Who knew.

Good win in Los Angeles even if only 10 people saw it.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Pirates Game Day 150 Live Blog - @ Los Angeles Dodgers

Pirates 6, Dodgers 2

Win - Ohlendorf (1-2)

Loss - Eveland (2-1)

[Box Score]

Hit the jump for the Live Blog replay

Benstonium: Sidney Crosby Comeback 101

For all of those who have been alive you know that Benstonium puts together some of the best stuff on the web. A few days ago this showed up in the inbox and it is well worth the watch.

This time the breakdown of Sidney Crosby coming back:

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Nineteen. Cardinals 3, Pirates 2

I think by the title you can see where I am going to go with this post. Now, as I have said before I do not get too worked up in the losing streak. Does it suck? Hell yea it sucks, real bad. I was only seven years old the last time the Pirates had a winning season and to say I remember a ton about that playoff run would be telling all of you a lie. I have been a big Pirates fan for some time but this is something that really isn't a big deal to me.

Inevitably all Pirate bloggers are going to write something like I am about today's game. The game today really didn't give us much, the Pirates got a good start from Charlie Morton and just didn't get enough offense to overcome and dropped a one run game to a playoff contender. The loss also meant that the Pirates picked up their 82nd loss of the season meaning the streak continues. Whatever. It gives people something to mock but I am not in the group that started this season with .500 as a benchmark.

When you get into making the goal for a season .500 you have already lost. What would 81-81 or even 84-78 season mean? Not too much if you ask me. Making the playoffs is the goal, and that is what it should be, not getting to .500. Earlier in the season when the Pirates went into the All-Star break with the lead in the NL Central were you just hoping for .500 then? I wasn't. Now I know that saying the goal should be the playoff every year is kind of a silly thing to say, especially when your team had the worst record in baseball the year before but that is the mindset that you should have if you are in the organization and even if you are a fan. You should hold yourself to a higher standard and expect the best, even if that probably won't happen.

At the beginning of the year I thought this was a 72-75 win team and at the All-Star break I thought that they were a 75-win team (if you don't believe me go listen to the podcast I did at mid season). This organization has made a ton of huge strides over the past five years, and they are getting better. Dave Littlefield and Cam Bonifay ran the organization into the ground and left Neal Huntington a penny to buy $20 worth of stuff. It has taken a long time but we are beginning to see the fruits. By no means are the Pirates there yet and by no means does this mean that 2012 is the year they are going to make anything happen but after the disgrace last season was it was great to have that feeling of hope earlier this season.

There are a ton of holes and still a to of unknowns in the roster. Are they really going to go with Mike McKenry behind the plate? Is there going to be a left hander in the rotation next year? Who is going to play first base? Can Pedro Alvarez bust out of his funk and not turn into a bust? Can Alex Presley continue to play good baseball or are we looking at another Chris Duffey or Tike Redman? Is Kevin Correia still going to be in the rotation after falling back to Earth? Are Paul Maholm and Ryan Doumit going to still be with the team? Will Josh Harrison ever take another walk? These are a lot of questions for a team and going into next year a lot of them are going to have to go in the right direction for the Pirates to make another push. Nobody said it was easy but as far as the organization has come as a whole you really have to see that there is still a ways to go. It is frustrating but I guess it could be a ton worse.

This all goes to the point that I couldn't give a shit less about being .500. This management team hasn't been here for 19 years and clearly none of the players have. Outside of Neil Walker there isn't anyone that actually knows what it has been like for all 19 years. The streak is meaningless in the grand scheme of things and while I am sure losing has been really tough on the guys that have been here for a few years there was hope this season.

I couldn't agree with Pat over at WHYGAVS more today when he said that he didn't look at the wins and the losses this year rather than how the team played. He looked on the team making progress. I would rather see this team win 70 games and improve their play than have an 82 win season where the team actually regressed. In some aspects I think the team has improved and in other there are regressions so this season is really hard to judge but it has been better than years before and I am hopeful for the future.

Hate it or love it we are a part of this "streak" and it will come to an end. I don't know when that will be but I know that if it happens in a playoff year it will feel a whole hell of a lot better than if it didn't. That is what we want for this team isn't it?

Pirates Game Day 149 Live Blog - vs. St. Louis Cardinals

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Pirates Game Day 148 Live Blog - vs. St. Louis Cardinals

Monday, September 12, 2011

Game 147 Recap - Pirates 6, Cardinals 5

It has been some time since I have been on the blog for the Pirates. Turns out that a vacation back to Pittsburgh and a college roommate’s wedding will do that to your unpaid duties while you have a ton of stuff going on. Tonight I really didn’t get to watch the Pirates game until about the fifth inning and by then the Pirates had the lead and Brad Lincoln was having another decent game. Well that fell apart quickly but everything turned out [surprisingly] good. By good I mean a win. Woo.

Of all the players in the Pirates organization that you would have pegged to come through with the game winning hit tonight with the bases loaded who would you pick? Cutch? Presley? Walker? No, no and no. Pedro Ciriaco. Yes, he is still on the team and still, in fact, alive. Crazy to think huh?

Ciriaco came in on a double switch in the seventh inning and in his second at bat came up in a tie game with the bases loaded and two outs. With two strikes he took an inside pitch off of Cardinals closer Fernando Salas the put it down the right field line to score pinch runner Xavier Paul and pinch hitter Ryan Ludwich. Crazy inning.

I actually am a fan of Ciriaco. I know that he doesn't get much playing time and he is kind of the runner joke among people but I have way more faith in him at the plate than I do Chase d'Arnaud. Ciriaco has got a few hits, a big triple on Friday and a monster hit tonight. Some people might think I am crazy but if you are going to play someone other than Ronny Cedeno at short right now I would like it to be Ciriaco.

Joel Hanrahan came in and got into a bunch of trouble but was able to earn his 37th save.

Good win for the Pirates. It doesn’t mean a whole lot in the grand scheme of things but it was nice to see the guys come from behind and earn the come from behind victory against a team that is fighting for its playoff lives.

Walker had three hits while Presley, Garrett Jones and Ryan Doumit all had two hits for an offense that put 11 together.

The pen was good tonight as Jason Grilli, Tony Watson, Chris Leroux and Hanrahan combined to go 3.2 innings giving up only three hits and the long run (by Hanrahan). Nice job by that group.

Back at it again tomorrow.

Game 1 Recap: Beatdown In Baltimore - Ravens 35, Steelers 7

When you are going into a game, especially one of the magnitude of Steelers/Ravens you always think of everything that could happen. You mostly deal with this the night before the game (if it is a 1 p.m. start) as you lay there trying to fall asleep. Inevitably you always go through what is called the “worst case scenario.” If you don’t it’s cool, it is just something I usually do as I prepare for the game. Usually the worst case is your team losing and probably getting out played in every aspect but what happened yesterday to the Steelers was far and way beyond what I could even fathom. The Steelers were not only beat down on offense and defense but they were dominated on pretty much every play. I know you say that it can’t get much worse than a 35-7 loss but the score could have been much, much, worse.



The Steelers turned the ball over seven (yes, seven) times and didn’t create a single turnover. That stat alone will lose you every game you play. It doesn’t matter when the turnovers are, they are all bad. Just a brutal effort. They fumbled the ball four times and Ben threw three picks (two of them really terrible) and the Ravens made them pay dearly. The drive summary really tells the whole story for this game:



Yes, that stretch to start the second half was terrible. Three picks and a fumble and a total of 20 plays. You know what the worst part of this was? I will tell you, the Ravens response to the turnovers.




If you took the time to add it up that is 20 points off turnovers. Like I said, it could have been a lot worse. Three times the Ravens started with the ball in the red zone and only scored 10 points. I guess that is good.

For real though, there is nothing good to speak of about this game. I will touch on a few things here but it was pretty ugly.

-Ben Roethlisberger was not good. This might have been his worst start as a pro as he turned the ball over five times (three interceptions and two fumbles lost) and just wasn’t his normal self. He only got sacked four times but it seemed like a lot more than that. He managed to find Ed Reed twice, both times in Ravens territory, and both throws were a case of him extending the play and then just making a very poor throw. You take the good with the bad when you have Ben as your QB and yesterday was bad times a million. He did throw for 280 yards but did so in 41 attempts. If you think Ben shouldn’t start next week then please stop reading now. You are an idiot.

-On the flip side Joe Flacco was great. It pains me to say it because I don’t think that he is a great QB but he was yesterday. Joe is a good QB but he wasn’t even touched until LaMarr Woodley sacked him in the fourth quarter. I don’t care who you are, if you get time in the pocket and have no fear of being touched then you are going to have a good day. Joe stayed away from Ike Taylor and picked on Bryant McFadden and it worked. Joe made the reads and tossed three touchdown passes while going 17-for-29. Very nice game.

-Ray Rice took the Steelers lunch, slapped them in the face, and then took their lunch money for the rest of the week. Rice is a dynamic running back that can catch the ball out of the backfield and make plays happen. He did that. He was utilizing the cut back lanes and gashed the Steelers for 107 yards on 19 carries and also caught four passes for 42 yards. He scored twice and might have cured cancer in the process. Man.

-On the other side Rashard Mendenhall actually had a nice game. In the first half he ran for 50 yards and was finding holes and making people miss. All of a sudden, when the Steelers had a chance to cut into the lead, they stopped using him. Not really sure what happened there. Not being critical because the Steelers staff knows a hell of a lot more of the game plan and what is going on than I do but Redman and Mendenhall were running the ball effectively and it just seemed to stop. Most of that might been because of the score, but when it was still a close game I think they could have got a few more carries.

-The Steelers defense was slow and tired. I don’t even know what to say about it because it was just so different to see this out of the Steelers defense. Nobody stood out outside of maybe Ike Taylor and it just didn’t seem like they were up for the game. I know the Steelers were up for the game. You would be foolish to think any other way, but it is hard not to say that they looked disinterested. A lot of people are making the point that the defense is old (9 starters over 30), and it is, but I don’t think this is the defense that we are going to see all year. I am going to talk about this later but this is one game.

-I am absolutely shocked at how some Steelers fans are reacting to this game. Was this a horrible game to watch? Yes. Was it frustrating as hell to watch the 2010 AFC Super Bowl representative get blown out of the water by its biggest rival? Yes. Was I pissed while watching the game? Hell yea. With all that being said you just have to keep things in perspective, it is just one game. I know that people are going to tell me that a loss like this is different than a one score game but they count for the same thing. If the Steelers come out and throttle the Seahawks and Indianapolis then is everyone still freaking out? Probably not. The Steelers have lost to the Ravens before and they still have another game against them this year. If they win that game then this game is really a moot point. Some people expressed feelings of concern for this season, which I get, but don’t count me in that group. I understand 100% where those people are coming from but in the grand scheme of a 16 game season I will need to see this again in the next couple of games to really worry. If the Steelers struggle like this in two of the next four games then I will worry, but not after one game. I actually saw some people saying they want to see Dennis Dixon or Charlie Batch play next week. Please, get over yourself. Ben Roethlisberger is still one of the best QB’s in the game and he will bounce back.

-The Steelers got dominated in every aspect of the game, no two ways about it. The Ravens were by far the better team and I know that I, and many other people, talk about how the Steelers lost the game but don’t lose sight that the Ravens won this game. They got rid of some popular players in the offseason and made some off the radar moves to bring in solid players to try and jump the Steelers and so far they have. They were the better team yesterday and right now they are the clear cut favorite to win the AFC North. That can change in three weeks, or even next week and might change after the next meeting against the Steelers in week nine. All that being said is that the Ravens deserve a ton of credit for the win, they earned it in a big way.

-The coaching staff is taking a lot of heat for this game, as they should. Adjustments weren’t made and the Ravens had their way with them but this game was much more than that. The Steelers weren’t tackling and there isn’t much the staff can do when your team is turning the football over in their own red zone. Don’t get me wrong, the staff got out coached yesterday but this was much more on the players than on the coaches.

-As I am writing this there was some big news on the injury front. Looks like Willie Colon might be out for the season with a torn triceps muscle. Not good. I wonder what Flo Adams is doing right now? Probably talking to the Steelers. Although the offensive line wasn’t great they need Colon. This is not good news.

-As you all know I am not a huge Phil Simms fan. He isn’t a very good announcer and for the most part his bias comes out in the games he does (not just in Steelers games, but other games too) but he took it to another level yesterday. Simms had a right to gush over the Ravens because, as I have talked in this post, they beat the Steelers ass, but he needed to try and keep his gleeful fan hood out of the booth. I know this might sound like whining but it’s not like this was only happening during the blowout, this was all game. For me he is now in Chris Collinsworth territory which is somewhere nobody wants to be. I think the most defining moment, which I had forgot about until someone brought it up (I forget who, sorry), but hearing him argue with Jim Nantz on TV about whether the Ward/Webb (I think) pushing battle where Ward was blocking Webb and neither player really let go. Nothing absurd but for some reason Simms was all over Ward like he threw a punch. Nantz was much more level headed (read: right) about the situation saying that they were just going a little beyond the whistle and no foul and tried to explain that to Simms but he was having none of it. I wish Simms signed with FOX. Give me Gus Johnson all day.

This game was nothing like we, or anyone, is used to seeing from a Steelers team. They were no crisp and were just out muscled by the Ravens. I have no doubt that the Steelers will be ready for the Seahawks when they come to Heinz Field on Sunday afternoon and after seeing how visibly pissed Mike Tomlin was should give you an indication that the boys will get the kick in the ass that they may need. I think this loss also gave the team a wakeup call. They have owned the Ravens for the most part and I am sure confidence was high, especially after a Super Bowl season, so we will see what this team is made of. I have also been told that you are judged not by what happens to you but how you react to it. I believe that line whole heartedly and expect the Black and Gold to come out on fire in front of the home crowd.

Pirates Game Day 147 Live Blog - vs. St. Louis Cardinals

Friday, September 9, 2011

Pirates Game Day 144 Live Blog - vs. Florida Marlins

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Steelers Game Day 1 - @ Baltimore Ravens

Steelers/Ravens. The best rivalry in all of football and it is coming to us in week one of the NFL season. The rivalry goes all the way back to the first meeting on September 8, 1996 when the Steelers won 31-17 on the back of a 116 rushing yards from Jerome Bettis and a strong performance from quarterback Mike Tomczak. Yes, Mike Tomczak. Since that time the series has been the best in football with the Steelers holding the advantage with 21 wins in the 32 games played including a perfect 3-0 record in the playoffs.

The most recent history of this head-to-head battle has the Steelers winning seven of the last 10 including an AFC Championship game and a division playoff win last season en route to both seasons being Super Bowl appearances for the Black and Gold. So is the life of dominating the Ravens.

This is going to be a great Sunday of football. I will actually be back in Pittsburgh for this game which is going to be even better. Saturday night go to a wedding and Sunday wake up to watch the Steelers kick the ever living shit out of the Ravens. The best part about it is I will be among a Ravens fan so that will make things either really really good or really really bad. I will go with the former.

When I sit back and think about the Ravens I actually realize that I have a lot of respect for them. They are a great team and they have given the Steelers plenty of good games over the year. Since Ben Roethlisberger was drafted in the first round of the 2004 draft the Steelers have gone 9-7 in those games. Seems pretty even and all things considered you can say that on the surface. Look deeper and you will find something different. One of those games was the first game the two teams met in 2004 when Roethlisberger was brought in after the game was out of hand and Tommy Maddox was hurt in his rookie year.

Maddox stepped in for an injured Roethlisberger in one of the losses in 2005 where the Steelers only lost by three and then Charlie Batch filled in for Roethlisberger who didn’t play in December of 2007. Dennis Dixon and Batch filled in for Ben in the 2009 season and 2010 season so overall, in games that Ben Roethlisberger starts the Steelers are 9-2 since he was drafted in 2004. I am not sure if that is real good, but I think that is real good.

The Steelers defense has a lot to say about that in the process as they just have been monsters getting to Joe Flacco and making his life miserable since he’s been in the league. I will get into that a little bit later.
All things told this is a great rivalry and if you need something more to get you up for this game then you might want to go get your pulse checked. This is smash mouth footaball and it will not be for the weak at heart. These teams hate each other. The fans hate each other. Both teams are good and this will set the tone for the division race this year and that is what it’s all about.


Now for the stats:


2010 Meetings:

Week 4: Baltimore 17, Pittsburgh 14

Passing
Pit: Batch: 12/21, 141 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT
Bal: Flacco: 24/37, 256 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Rushing
Pit: Mendenhall: 25 carries, 79 yards, 2 TD
Bal: McGahee: 14 carries, 39 yards, 1 TD

Receiving
Pit: Randle El: 2 rec, 50 yards, 0 TD
Bal: Mason: 6 rec, 80 yards, 0 TD

Week 13: Pittsburgh 13, Baltimore 10

Passing
Pit: Roethlisberger: 22/38, 253 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Bal: Flacco: 17/33, 266 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT

Rushing
Pit: Mendenhall: 19 carries, 45 yards, 0 TD
Bal: Rice: 9 carries, 32 yards, 0 TD

Receiving
Pit: Wallace: 5 rec, 76 yards, 0 TD
Bal: Boldin: 5 rec, 118 yards, 1 TD

AFC Divisional: Pittsburgh 31, Baltimore 24

Passing
Pit: Roethlisberger: 19/32, 226 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Bal: Flacco: 16/30, 125 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Rushing
Pit: Mendenhall: 20 carries, 46 yards, 2 TD
Bal: Rice: 12 carries, 32 yards, 1 TD

Receiving
Pit: Brown: 3 rec, 75 yards, 0 TD
Bal: Heap: 3 rec, 43 yards, 1 TD


Offense (rank in NFL)

Total Offense
Pittsburgh: 345.3 yards/game (14th)
Baltimore: 322.9 yards/game (22nd)

Passing
Pittsburgh: 225.1 yards/game (14th)
Baltimore: 208.4 yards/game (20th)

Rushing
Pittsburgh: 120.3 yards/game (11th)
Baltimore: 114.4 yards/game (14th)

Points
Pittsburgh: 23.4 points/game (12th)
Baltimore: 22.3 points/game (16th)


Defense

Total Defense
Pittsburgh: 276.8 yards/game (2nd)
Baltimore: 318.9 yards/game (10th)

Rush
Pittsburgh: 62.8 yards/game (1st)
Baltimore: 93.9 yards/game (5th)

Pass
Pittsburgh: 214.1 yards/game (12th)
Baltimore: 224.9 yards/game (21st)

Points
Pittsburgh: 14.5 points/game (1st)
Baltimore: 16.9 points/game (3rd)


Let’s take a look at the Ratbirds, I mean Ravens. Hit the jump.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

2011 NFL Predictions

This will be my third full season writing about the Steelers and the NFL and every year it seems if I go through the same situation. Through camp I pay attention and get into it and keep saying “oh I will write my predictions as I get closer to the season.” I continue to say this through the preseason games and then wait until I am the busiest at work or just about to leave for an extended trip before I would actually put together my preseason predictions. This year was no different.

Last year I almost got things right as I picked the Steelers and Saints to meet in the Super Bowl but I had the Steelers winning. Whatever, I will take what I can get. If you want to see what I picked for last season you can hit the link here [http://threeriversburghblog.blogspot.com/2010/09/2010-nfl-predictions.html].

As I said last year and in 2009, these are just basic predictions. I go through here and pick the division winners in each of the four divisions in the NFC and AFC and then I pick the two wild cards and then tell you who is going to meet in the Super Bowl and who is going to win it. I might throw out vague win/loss records but I didn’t go through every team’s schedule, or even just the teams I give records for, and say “win, loss, win, win, win…” Hopefully you enjoy it. Let’s get after it.

NFC:

North – I got to go with the Green Bay Packers here. They are probably the best team in the NFC but as Steelers fans we all know how repeating does, it isn’t that easy. The Packers came a game short of winning the division last year but were struck with a ton of injuries early in the season that really almost cost them a playoff spot. If the Packers can stay right they are going to be a really good team, again. The weakest part of their game is their special teams. It cost them some games last year but the offense and defense might be good enough to make up for lapses. I don’t think it will be all that easy for the Packers though with the Bears in the picture. I actually think that most people are discounting the Bears this year and they can make a legit run at the Packers in the North. I have a feeling Jay Cutler is going to have a huge year and if he does then this team can be really good. Detroit is the pick that everyone is going with. They have some talent now and will no longer be a pushover like they have been in the past. I can maybe see them going 8-8 but I think they are about a year away from making the playoff push. I have no idea about the Vikings. They should get six or seven wins.

South – This was a good division last season and what most people don’t realize is that they had three teams finish with 10 wins or more. Atlanta won the division by two games with 13 wins and I expect them to do the same this season, although not by two games. Matt Ryan is pretty good at what he does and with Roddy White and Julio Jones he has a couple of nice targets to throw to along with Mike Turner and Jason Snelling to hand the ball off to. The defense is decent and should do just enough to get the division. The Saints are going to be the same team we have seen for the past three or four years with a strong passing attack and an opportunistic defense. If they defense can force a ton of turnovers like they did two years ago then this might be the team to win the division, that is how tight this might be. I don’t think Tampa will get back to 10 wins, but Josh Freeman is a really solid quarterback. Carolina sucks.

East – Philadelphia is going to be picked by everyone and their mother to win the East and that is who I am going with. They have a really strong group of players and they went into the free agent market with a frenzy to get the players they wanted. It doesn’t hurt that those players are difference makers. Mike Vick got the fat $100M contract and he gets to hand the ball off to Pitt boy Shady McCoy and throw it to DeSean Jackson. Not too bad. I think the Cowboys turn it around this year. I hate the Cowboys more than almost any team but they have a pretty talented roster. The Giants will push the Cowboys for the second spot but I just don’t see it in Eli Manning and Washington is just Washington.

West – The NFC West is still a mess. Seattle won the division last year, by default, but they are a much, much, worse this year and wouldn’t be surprised if they finished third in this division. I have no idea who is going to win this division. I guess you can pick St. Louis but they are still young, but I think I like them. Bradford seems to have some decent weapons with him and if Steve Jackson can get it rolling they can win this division. Yea, I am going to go with St. Louis. Arizona should be better even if Kevin Kolb is not for real and San Francisco should be pretty bad and round out the division.

AFC:

South – The South is really a tossup with the health of Peyton Manning. If Manning stays healthy the Colts can probably get 10 wins, without Manning healthy this is a non playoff team and might finish third in the division. That is pretty unlikely with how bad Houston and Tennessee are but that is really how important Peyton Manning is to the Colts. I am going with the assumption that Manning is going to play this year and probably stay healthy so they win the division. I think Houston is a pretty easy choice for the second spot and should contend for a wild card spot with the second place team from the East or North. The Colts window is closing, in my opinion, and the next few years are kind of the last chance for the Colts to make that run. They have gone downhill the past couple of years and while the passing attack is still good I just don’t think it puts the fear into people as it used to. EDIT: After I wrote this all up I found out that Peyton is probably going to have surgery again on his neck. The Texans will win this division.

East – The East, much like the South, is a two team race. The Patriots and Jets are the toast of the division and in the end the Patriots are just the better team. I have some concerns about their defense, because it is pretty bad and they can be gashed for huge yardage, but Tom Brady is the best in the game. Look at the receivers that Tom Brady has had to work in the past? Outside of Randy Moss it has been the likes of Dion Branch. However, since spygate the Patriots have been a good regular season team and a pretty bad playoff team, like not winning a playoff game since 2007 bad. I don’t think Mark Sanchez is that good and Rex Ryan’s antics are old and played out already, but they have talent and Miami and Buffalo just have no idea what its team is doing now, so there’s that.

West – San Diego should win this division running away. They have the best quarterback and best skill position players and as much as I hate to admit it they can put the fear into the team across the ball when they are on. The problem is that they are so hot and cold it is hard to pin them. That and their special teams are awful. Kansas City is the second best team in the division and Jamal Charles might be the best all around back in the league. Denver and Oakland are joke teams.

North – Ah, the North. Last year the Ravens and Steelers both finished with 12 wins but it was the Steelers that got the last laugh despite missing Ben Roethlisberger for the first four games of the season. The key was consistency. If you broke the season into four different four game segments the Steelers were 3-1 in each of them. I think the Steelers win this division this year but Baltimore is going to be really close. What is weird is that the Steelers and Ravens will conclude their regular season meet ups after week nine. Going to be different to not have a huge Baltimore Pittsburgh game down the stretch run for the division title. All-in-all I think that it comes down to the skill position players and the Steelers are just better. Ben Roethlisberger is better than Joe Flacco and receivers he has employed are much better (Ward, Brown, Sanders, Wallace). Both defenses are top notch and as we have seen in the past it is going to come down to the quarterbacks. Cleveland might be surprising this season if Colt McCoy can continue his strong play so maybe they can reach eight wins. If Cincinnati wins more than two games I will be shocked.

NFC Final Standings

Green Bay
Philadelphia
Atlanta
St. Louis
New Orleans
Chicago

NFC Champion: New Orleans

AFC Final Standings

New England
Pittsburgh
San Diego
Houston
Baltimore
New York

AFC Champion: Pittsburgh

Super Bowl XLVI Winner: Pittsburgh

You didn’t think I would be homer on this? Shame on you.