Tuesday, December 04, 2007

To Think About ...

Idle thoughts here -- and mostly wishful/hopeful thinking, but Joey Porter's Pit Bulls have a feeling that ...
  • Willie Parker is going to accelerate fast and often on Gillette Stadium's fast FieldTurf, and have a big game.
  • The Patriots' aging inside-linebacker tandem of Junior Seau and Tedy Bruschi will have their hands full keeping up with Parker, tight end Heath Miller and the Steelers' receivers on crossing routes.
  • Tyrone Carter will torture Wes Welker.
  • Wes Welker will torture Tyrone Carter and the Steelers in general.
  • Supermodel Gisele Bundschen will cringe in horror, as James Harrison makes Tom Brady his bitch, at least once.
  • Patriots left tackle Matt Light, who is an outstanding offensive lineman, is losing sleep over the thought of James Harrison making Tom Brady his bitch. Light had all kinds of trouble with Ravens rookie linebacker Antwan Barnes (out of Florida International, of "Ned" fame). On Monday night, Barnes looked strikingly similar to Harrison (The Silverback), who was just named AFC Defensive Player of the Month. Neither Barnes nor Harrison is the tallest of linebackers, but that presents a real problem to a player like Light. Leverage, my friend, leverage.
  • Rodney Harrison will limp off the field in pain and exhaustion.
  • Randy Moss will drop at least one pass.
  • The Patriots will try all-out to block a punt by Daniel Sepulveda, but the Steelers will have planned for it. Sepulveda runs for a touchdown early in the game, and the Steelers feed off that energy and ride it to a surprisingly convincing win.

Full Metal Jacket

"No question, they have a full metal jacket of weapons, offensively."

Quote from Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin,
discussing the New England Patriots in today's noontime press conference.

It’s Up to the Steelers Now

The Baltimore Ravens (4-8) played an inspired, tough game vs. the undefeated Great Satan New England Patriots (12-0) last night … except for the typically Raider Raven bonehead gaffes that cost them the game:
  • The long interception Kyle Boller threw in the fourth quarter that kept the Patriots in the game.
  • The inexplicable, panicky timeout called on defense with under two minutes left, a nanosecond before the ball was snapped, that negated what should have been a game-deciding fourth-down stop.
  • The many penalties (some blatant) that kept New England drives alive.
  • The general hotheadedness and lack of composure.

Still, for all the gaffes, even Kyle Boller made plays, Willis McGahee ran tough, and the Ravens defense pressured Tom Brady, clogged passing lanes and limited much of what the Patriots tried to do.

The Ravens and Steelers, division rivals, play similar schemes to a large extent, particularly on defense, with an emphasis on establishing the run on offense. The difference between the Ravens and the Steelers? The Steelers are a better team, with a much better quarterback and a better overall defense. Sunday should be interesting.

Idle Musings

We suppose it should not be much of a surprise to see such excellent play this season from Tyrone Carter, a career backup and intermittent starter as an injury substitute. The 31 year-old Carter, after all, is a savvy veteran who was the 1999 Jim Thorpe Award winner as college football’s best defensive back when he was a senior at the University of Minnesota. Listed at 5’9”, Carter will probably always be overlooked, although he provides excellent coverage skills, hits hard and is a sure tackler.

While we doubt there will be much man-to-man coverage against New England’s stable of receivers, it might be interesting to see Carter matched up against the Patriots’ Wes Welker, who has the second-most receptions in the NFL this year. Randy Moss is the unquestioned star receiver on that team, for sure, but Welker is the Patriot’s go-to guy for clutch yardage.

Now Hiring: Anti-Hacking Information Security Experts

Then again, the Patriots throw so many weapons* at opponents … it will take a total team effort, plus a favorable alignment of stars, anti-hack experts proactively safeguarding the Steelers computer systems and, perhaps most importantly, atmospheric jamming signals that block the Patriots’ attempts to intercept all Steelers’ play calls on both sides of the ball, as well as conversations on the sideline, the coach’s booth upstairs and in the wiretapped rooms in the team hotel the night before the game.

Yes, it will take a total team effort. On defense, we could see:

  • Front-seven type players (Keisel, Farrior, Hampton, Foote, Haggans, etc.) mixing up pass-rush duties and clogging running lanes, and the midfield passing lanes/crossing routes.
  • Ike Taylor/Anthony Smith focusing on Moss
  • Tyrone Carter shadowing Welker
  • Deshea Townsend and/or Bryant McFadden on Donte Stallworth and/or Jabar Gaffney.
  • And The Silverback, James Harrison, hunting down Tom Brady.If you haven’t heard, James Harrison is a little intense.

On the Surface …

After all the hand-wringing over the muddy quagmire soggy, sandy turf at Heinz Field, it should be interesting to see how the Steelers play in game conditions on the faster FieldTurf at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. Since the Monday night game slopfest against the winless Miami Dolphins a week ago, many have been clamoring for the Steelers to install FieldTurf at Heinz Hines Field.

Following Sunday night’s game, here’s what Ben Roethlisberger had to say about the playing surface at Heinz Field:

“Wet and sandy. Every time you took a snap, when Sean [Mahan] would snap it, water and sand would come up into your face and it would kind of get in your eyes and it would be all over your hands. Honestly, that's why Willie [Parker] fumbled. I remember when I took it, I went to hand it to him [and] it was soaked with a lot of sand. And it was tough.”

We have a feeling nobody will be talking about the turf following the Steelers-Patriots game, but still …as a backstory, it should be interesting to watch. Again, though, it’s not as if the Steelers have never played on FieldTurf. Lots of stadiums and practice facilities in the NFL use the stuff, including the Steelers at their own indoor practice facility on the South Side.

In any case, it’s been reported widely that the Steelers’ players prefer a grass surface. And on Sunday, the playing surface probably won’t make any difference in the outcome of the game.

*Moss, Welker, Donte Stallworth, Troy Brown, Jabar Gaffney, Kelley Washington, Chad Jackson, tight ends (Ben Watson, Kyle Brady) , running backs (Laurence Maroney, Kevin Faulk), not to mention Tom Brady-Quinn, doting husband, loving father and the best quarterback in football.