Sunday, November 30, 2014

Stick a fork in 'em. They're done.

DE Cameron Jordan intercepts Ben Roethlisberger
The Steelers aren't mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, but they might as well be.

They may not win another game. Considering they lost to the 2-10 Bucs, 2-9 Jets and 4-7 Saints, how can anybody feel confident the Steelers will beat the Bengals, Falcons and Chiefs?

This was a Steelers team, mind you, that entered Sunday's game at home fresh off its bye week, against a reeling New Orleans squad that had just lost three consecutive games (all at home) and was 2-8 on the road over its past 10 away from the Big Easy. Disgraceful.

Once again, it seemed the Steelers weren't ready. Once again, they played listlessly. Maybe they're just not good enough. It is a flawed team with inadequate talent and, arguably, poor coaching by a staff that didn't have its team prepared. What other explanation could there be?

Against a team with a dreadful run defense, Ben Roethlisberger threw the ball 58 times.

Does that make any sense?

Roethlisberger's passes sailed high and wide repeatedly. He refused to blame his off-target throws on a hand or wrist injury apparently sustained in the first quarter.

Whatever, the fact remains: Pittsburgh running backs had only 22 carries, with 21 of them by Le'Veon Bell -- so much for getting Dri Archer or Josh Harris involved. Twenty-one rushes vs. 58 pass attempts. By the end of the first half, Roethlisberger had completed just 8-of-22 for 115 yards, but the score was only 14-6. There was plenty of time to run the ball.

Not to blame Martavis Bryant for things going sideways, but his second-quarter drop of a contested but catchable pass that would have gone for a touchdown felt like a turning point. The Steelers settled for a field goal, the Saints answered with a touchdown, and it was downhill from there.

Ike Taylor had a bad day.
After that second field goal, Drew Brees went to work. He scorched the secondary for five touchdown passes. Brees completed passes of 69, 44, 21, 18, 17, 15 and 13 yards.

Somebody name Kenny Stills hauled in five passes for 162 yards. Mark Ingram reeled off runs of 34 and 20 yards en route to his 122 yards rushing for 5.3 yards per carry. The Saints had five plays of 20 yards or more. The Steelers' secondary was horrific, and the front seven wasn't any better.

The Saints outclassed the Steelers on a day when the Black 'n Gold were honoring the 1974 Super Bowl squad. Used to be, not so long ago, the Steelers would never lose on such alumni-honoring occasions. The loss today is just another sign of how things have changed and maybe indicative that too many players on the current roster simply don't get what it means to be a Steeler.

Even the Saints' punting game was superior. New Orleans punter Thomas Morstead punted six times for 291 yards with a 48.5 gross punting average and an impressive 45.4 yard net average. Morstead's efforts included a clutch 55-yard punt in the fourth quarter that pinned the Steelers at their five-yard line. That was one of two Morstead punts that the Saints were able to down inside the 20. Pittsburgh's Brad Wing had two punts for a 37.5 yard net average, with one downed inside the 20.

Four games remain for the Steelers. They may win one or two; they may win all four. Or they may not win any. Yes, at this point, it is conceivable that the 2014 Steelers could end up with a 7-9 record.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Saints vs. Steelers: Dissa 'n Datta

Photo credit: Maury Burgwin, Pittsburgh, Pa.
On paper, the Saints-Steelers game on Sunday at Heinz Field appears to be a matchup of two potent offenses.

Both teams have scored an average of 26.2 points per game. The Saints are third in total offense with 433.6 yards per game; the Steelers rank fifth, with 406.4 yards per game.

Both are passing-based offenses:
  • The Saints and Steelers are ranked fourth and fifth in passing attempts per game.
  •  Saints and Steelers rank third and fourth in passing yards per game (308.8 and 286.9 yards per game, respectively). 
  • With the Saints ranking 10th in rushing attempts and the Steelers 12th in rushing attempts, New Orleans has the edge in rushing yards per game (124.8 vs. 119.5).
The  New Orleans offense ranks first in the NFL in first downs (290) and first in third-down efficiency (50.7 percent).

What do these numbers portend? Who knows, but the forecast could be for a Breesy day in Pittsburgh on Sunday. Let's hope the Steelers secondary is ready for a busy day.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanks for visiting Joey Porter's Pit Bulls. We're grateful to be here.

Enjoy your turkey, your fixings, your turkey bowl, your football, all of it. Appreciate, enjoy, express thanks, extend gratitude, and, if possible, give somebody a helping hand.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle passed along the following thought in one of his e-mails: "Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it."

Joey Porter's Pit Bulls gotta send a shout-out to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Animal Rescue League of Western Pennsylvania, Animal Friends, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and the list goes on and on. Lots of ways to help.

And, in the spirit of this holiday, because the following is so much better than anything we can write, here is the classic Big Daddy Drew’s Thanksgiving Itinerary, posted on Kissing Suzy Kolber on Thanksgiving Eve 2006 (the year Joey Porter's Pit Bulls was founded.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Exactly the same stats ...

Yes, the New Orleans Saints' defense has yielded a ton of big plays this season: 40 plays of 20+ yards allowed and nine plays of 40+ yards allowed.

Guess what? So have the Steelers. 

The Steelers have the exact same numbers as the Saints in those categories: 40 plays of 20+yards allowed; and nine plays of 40+ yards allowed.

The New Orleans wide receivers and running backs are respectable enough (nothing special), but the thought of Drew Brees targeting tight end Jimmy Graham all day with safety Mike Mitchell matched up against Graham ... that's ominous, if not downright terrifying.

Looking forward ...

In a "one game at a time" league, it's almost tempting to look past the New Orleans Saints, who have lost three consecutive games and whose defense looked typically awful in Monday night's dispiriting loss to Baltimore in the Superdome.

Then again, the Steelers apparently looked past the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Jets, and Pittsburgh lost listlessly to both of those doormats.

The Saints are no doormats. They may be just 4-7, but the Saints are in the first place in the weak NFC South, and, more importantly, they still have Drew Brees and tight end Jimmy Graham. The thought of Graham matching up against safety Mike Mitchell is enough to instill dread in any Steeler fan, but ...

On Monday night, the Saints proved once again what everybody knew already, which is that their defense can't stop the run. The New Orleans defense coming into Heinz Field on Sunday ranks 23rd in the NFL against the run (123.8 yards per game). Overall, the Saints' defense ranks 27th (377.1 yards per game). On Monday, the Ravens' offense blistered the Saints for an absurd 11 plays of 20 yards or more (including five runs of 20+ yards apiece), and five plays of 35 yards or more. Baltimore converted nine of 13 third downs. That's weak.

The New Orleans defense has some talented players, but defensive coordinator Rob Ryan usually has them over-schemed, flying around with exotic blitzes and unusual formations -- as if he's going to outsmart anybody instead of just lining up his guys and letting them play.

The Saints' run defense is particularly awful, and if Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley fails to exploit that weakness, shame on him.  Historically, however, Haley's tendency has been to try to show the world how smart he is. The fourth quarter against the Tennessee Titans was an exception. The Steelers ran Le'Veon Bell repeatedly off tackle -- some players said it was the exact same play call for nine straight snaps -- and Bell wound up with 204 yards rushing.

If Haley is really smart, he will run the ball against the Saints, and run it some more.

It's funny how, in an NFL that has become a passing league, running the ball still wins games.

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Little Help from the Saints, Please

The Steelers look to get a little help from the Saints in New Orleans tonight, as the Saints take on the visiting Ravens.

It's worth noting that the Saints have not only won 14 consecutive prime time TV games at home, they've won by an average of 20 points per game.

And it's worth noting that Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco simply hasn't been good on the road for the past year-and-a-half. That's a large reason why Baltimore's record since the beginning of the 2013 season is only 14-12. The Steelers' record in the same span is 15-12.

The 4-6 Saints sit atop the NFC South, ahead of the dreadful 4-7 Atlanta Falcons, who lost at home to Cleveland yesterday, despite Brian Hoyer's three interceptions. The Steelers also got no help yesterday from the Houston Texans, who lost at home to Cincinnati.

Way down in New Orleans ("the prettiest girls I've ever seen"), the Saints' defense has been less than imposing this year. While their defense, "led" by coordinator Rob Ryan, has some notable names (cornerback Keenan Lewis, safety Jairus Byrd, linebacker Junior Gallette, defensive end Cameron Jordan, safety Kenny Vaccaro) the unit as a whole has been mostly awful.

Last week, the Saints allowed Andy Dalton and the Bengals to convert six first downs on third-and-8 or longer. According to ESPN Stats and Information, the Saints' defense has yielded 23 such plays, which is more first downs than any team in the NFL this year on plays of third-and-8 or fourth-and-8 or longer. The Ravens would be crazy not to probe the New Orleans secondary early and often.

On the flip side of the ball, New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees is great, and the Saints' offense hs been very good at converting third downs. As's Jamison Hensley notes, "The Saints have converted a league-best 51.6 percent of their third downs and lead the NFL in fewest three-and-outs with 13."

For Steeler Nation, then, there is reasonable hope the Saints will defeat the Ravens tonight. In any case, the Steelers should watch tonight's Baltimore-New Orleans game very closely. The Steelers host the Saints next Sunday at Heinz Field.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Lack of Mack

It's the Steelers' bye week but also time to pay close attention to the competition. Maybe no team this season has been more interesting than the Cleveland Browns.

After center Alex Mack went down with a knee injury on Oct. 12 when the Browns trampled the Steelers, 31-10, Joey Porter's Pit Bulls couldn't help but wonder how his absence would affect the Browns. Guys like Mack aren't replaced easily. When healthy, he is arguably the best center in the NFL.

How key is Mack to the Browns? If there was a player besides Brian Hoyer the Browns couldn't afford to lose, it was Mack. Since Mack's injury, Cleveland is 3-2, with the two losses being to Jacksonville and Houston.

More importantly, as noted by's Pat McManamon, here is how Cleveland's running game has fared since Mack went down:

"The Browns averaged 146. 4 yards per game 
and 4.4 yards per carry with Alex Mack, 
but 77.2 per game and 2.4 per carry since Mack was hurt."

Say no more. Even with Josh Gordon's return from suspension, the Browns are going to have a tough time, if they can't run the ball.

Add these numbers to the equation: Four of Cleveland's final six games will be on the road, and four of those six games will be against opponents with a record of .500 or better.

This is a laugh

Joey Porter's Pit Bulls have heard Bill Bellichick called a of things before, but "100 percent honest" isn't one of them.

But that's how LeGarrette Blount, of all people, described Coach Hoodie this weekend. Blount's statement implies, of course, that Mike Tomlin, Todd Haley, Kevin Colbert and the Steelers organization are less than 100 percent honest.

Whatever. Consider the source.

On This Date in History: A Tipping Point

Like Dec. 7, 1941 and Sept. 11, 2001,
Nov. 22, 1963 was one of those days.

If you're ever in Dallas, we recommend
that you make time to visit the
Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Knucklehead Express

Why did the Steelers sign LeGarrette Blount in the first place? They knew he was a knucklehead, and he's proved them right.  The Steelers finally had to "blink open the blind eye," to borrow a phrase coined by Frank DeFord. Now Blount is on The Knucklehead Express outta town.

Twitter photo courtesy of Mark Kaboly, Tribune-Review:
"Blount dressed and ready to go
while rest of team still in their pads." 
The Steelers wasted time and money investing in the two-year, $3.85 million contract they awarded Blount. He had a history in Tampa Bay, and in Oregon, and there were even questions about him in New England, which allowed him to walk after last season.

Now, just 11 weeks into the 2014 season, the Steelers have seen enough. Blount wore out his welcome quickly, even among his teammates, according to the Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette.

When you see the success of undrafted free agent running backs like Jonas Gray (four touchdowns and 201 yards rushing for the Patriots on Sunday; cover of Sports Illustrated) and Isaiah Crowell (starting for the Browns; 358 yards rushing and five TDs this season) -- and considering the presence of Le'Veon Bell -- why was it necessary to sign Blount as a free agent?

The Steelers' decisions regarding free-agent talent acquisition this past off-season merits second-guessing, if not downright criticism. Blount, Cam Thomas, Mike Mitchell, Lance Moore -- all have disappointed for one reason or another.  The Steelers knew Blount was a knucklehead. They knew Cam Thomas had lost his starting job in San Diego. Mike Mitchell had one year of modest success on a good defense in Carolina, and he's been less than good, to say the least, in Pittsburgh. And Moore has always been an overachiever who played with a great quarterback in New Orleans and may be past his expiration date. He's barely seen the field for the Steelers.

The Steelers had to release Blount. They should never have signed him.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Good Time ... for the Bye Week

If the playoffs were to start today, the Steelers would qualify for a wild-card slot as the sixth seed. Yikes.

Le'Veon Bell, carrying the load.
For the Steelers, the good and the bad, the ying and the yang, the beauty marks and the ugly warts -- all were on display in last night's entertaining but, eh, frown-inducing game in chilly Nashville. Thanks mostly to Le'Veon Bell, Antonio Brown and Heath Miller, the Steelers barely got by a 2-7 Titans squad starting a rookie sixth-rounder at quarterback.

Truth be told, though, Zack Mettenberger showed many of the qualities that generated pre-draft buzz that he might merit a first-day selection in the draft. Following his bad throw that resulted in a pick-six on his first pass of the game, Mettenberger played like a legitimate NFL quarterback, with a 110.2 passer rating, 263 yards passing, no picks and no sacks taken. On a cold, breezy night with a wind chill of 16 degrees, Mettenberger's average gain per pass play was 11.0, which compares more than favorably to Ben Roethlisberger's less-than-stellar 4.9 yards per pass

It's a very good thing the Steelers controlled Time of Possession by almost two to one, controlling the ball for almost 40 minutes. The Steelers ran 73 offensive plays to Tennessee's 39, but the Titan's average yards gained per play was 8.0 vs. 5.3 for the Steelers.

Nate Washington, leaving everyone
behind on his 80-yard TD.
The Steelers' defense is simply not a good defense right now. It needs to get some of its injured players back, but keep in mind this is a unit that allowed Mike Glennon to drive the Tampa Bay Buccaneers downfield on them late in the fourth quarter in an ignominious loss at Heinz Field.

Last night, it showed all the deficiencies that will get exposed, badly, by any offensive unit with more talent than the Titans.

As it was, last night the defense surrendered five plays of 20 yards or more.

The safeties were not good last night. Again, we ask: What did the Steelers see in Mike Mitchell?  He's late on way too many plays. And Will Allen went AWOL on Nate Washington's 80-yrd touchdown.

The linebackers, for the most part, also were not impactful. Jason Worilds is playing nothing like a big-money linebacker. Arthur Moats, who had no tackles, is just a guy.  Sean Spence looks like just a guy, although he was the Steelers' second-leading tackler ... with two individual stops. Two. Will Allen led the Steelers with three solo tackles.  Spence, Allen and Mitchell all got in on five tackles apiece, including assists. It's a good thing the Titans ran only 39 plays.

The defensive front seven generated no sacks. Zero.

The Steelers' offensive line, meanwhile, allowed five sacks and way too much pressure up the middle. Maurkice Pouncey had his hands full, to say the least; no, that's too kind: Pouncey was overmatched and got pushed around, much like he did last week by the Jets.

Although it struggled in pass protection, the offensive line must have done something right in clearing lanes for Bell, who had 204 yards rushing. Bell may well have done much of that on his own, for all we know. He is that good.

It's a good week for the bye. There is much work to be done.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Game Day 11: Steelers at Tennessee

A few more interceptions would help.

Once again this year, the lack of takeaways by the Steelers' defense is a problem.  The Steelers have only 13 takeaways, which puts them at 22nd in the NFL rankings, tied with St. Louis.

Overall, Pittsburgh's giveaway/takeaway ration is only -2, which ties them for 19th in the league, along with Carolina and, yes, Tennessee.

The Steelers have a mere seven interceptions on the year, which puts them 21st in the NFL rankings (tied with Philadelphia).

Cortez Allen leads the team with two interceptions. Players with one interception are Brice McCain, Antwon Blake, William Gay, Jason Worilds and Brett Keisel.

The safeties have no interceptions. Zero. That's pitiful.

If they don't start taking away the ball more often, the Steelers are going to struggle to win games. Tonight, against a rookie quarterback, would be a good time to start upping that total of a meager seven interceptions made so far in 2014.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Browns Lost at Home to the Texans

J.J. Watt catches a TD pass over Karlos Dansby
The Browns took a major step back today with a 23-7 loss to the Houston Texans in Cleveland. The Texans played without Arian Foster, but still racked up a whopping 214 yards on the ground, as rookie tailback Alfred Blue out of LSU ran for 156 yards on 36 carries.

Thirty-six carries by a rookie running back starting his first game. Fifty-four rushing attempts in all. That is Commitment to the Run. Thirty-six carries by a rookie tailback starting his first game. For the Texans, too, Ryan Mallett made his first start and did okay, throwing two TD passes, including one to J.J. Watt.

Cleveland made too many mistakes. Cleveland gave Houston four first downs on penalties, Paul Kruger dropped an interception, and Brian Hoyer was off his game. He tripped over the feet of his own linemen on more than one occasion, and he missed open receivers multiple times.

The Texans ran for 214 yards against the Browns.
Hoyer threw 50 times -- which was about 25 too many attempts for him. He completed 30 of the 50 attempts and had one interception and one TD pass.

Watt hounded Hoyer all day. As reported on, "Watt was all over the field. Along with his TD, he recorded a strip sack, made five tackles - three for a loss - recovered a fumble and hurried Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer into several bad throws. Watt provided more proof he's the NFL's best defensive player."

Adding injury to the insult of the loss, defensive leader Karlos Dansby suffered a knee injury. No word yet on how severe the injury is.

Where was this the last couple years?

If you want to shake your head in wonderment (and a little nausea), read this article (with video highlights) posted on the Denver Broncos' website.

Titled, "Emmanuel Sanders on the Art of the Spectacular Catch," it gushes about how wonderful Sanders has been this year for the Broncos.

The article pronounces, "Sanders has secured 62 of 63 catchable passes this season (according to Pro Football Focus), good for the second-lowest drop rate (1.59 percent) of any receiver with at least 50 targets. He has at least 14 more receptions than any player who PFF has not credited with a drop this season."

Emmanuel Sanders, dropping the ball in Baltimore
Anybody who watched Sanders with the Steelers last year remembers his maddening propensity to come up short in clutch situations. He had key drops in numerous games, starting with the season opener vs. Tennessee, when he dropped two perfectly thrown long passes, and -- most infuriatingly -- in the end zone against Baltimore in a must-win game late in the season. He makes that catch, the Steelers make the playoffs. He was not clutch for the Steelers.

Sanders's 62 receptions this year puts him close to last year's total of 67 for the Steelers. He has six touchdowns. His designated primary replacement, Marcus Wheaton, has 35 receptions so far this year, and two touchdowns.

Still, Sanders's performance for the Steelers last year left a lot to be desired. His drops last year came at crucial times -- remember the dropped two-point conversion on Thanksgiving night vs. Baltimore? ... the nail-in-the-coffin loss when he choked repeatedly, dropping several passes, as noted the next day on this blog:
"Sanders topped his first-quarter drop of a long pass right on the numbers by failing to catch another long pass right on the numbers, with just over two minutes left in the fourth quarter and looking stupid doing it. Then, Sanders bungled the two-point conversion that would have tied the game. 
If the definition of "clutch" is to thrive and get better in the bigger moments, Sanders ain't clutch."
Emmanuel Sanders, after the infamous
dropped two-point conversion vs. Baltimore.
This point was reiterated over at Behind the Steel Curtain:
"Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders choked throughout the game, dropping several passes, including a two-point conversion with a minute and change left on the clock that would have tied the game."
For all his shortcomings, Sanders was slippery, showed some flash on occasion and came up with enough catches to end up with 67 receptions in 2013 for a pedestrian 11-yards-per catch average (740 yards), a long catch of 55 yards for a TD, six touchdowns, 12 catches of 20 yards or more, three catches of 40 yards-plus. He had 10 kick returns for a very decent 28.6 yard average, with the longest return being 46 yards.

Sanders is gone, now, of course, and lighting it up for the Broncos. But, as Scott Brown at ESPN noted before the last game of the 2013 season, "Sanders' well-documented drops have raised questions about his consistency, and his high opinion of his skills will price him out of the Steelers' range if another team agrees with him."

While Sanders is doing well this year, Steeler Nation has to ask, "Where was this sort of consistency and reliability last year?"

Zack Mettenberger has a chance

Less than a year ago Tennessee Titans rookie quarterback Zack Mettenberger tore his left ACL, which occurred during a Nov. 29th LSU-Arkansas game. That injury, and some other issues (behavioral) left question marks about him, and he fell to the second pick of the sixth round, the 178th overall selection of the 2014 NFL Draft.

Zach Mettenberger
He definitely has an NFL arm, and he's got the size (6'5", 225). Before the draft, Joey Porter's Pit Bulls was checking out some LSU video to see wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. Both of them looked dynamite, but some of the throws Mettenberger made were seriously attention-getting. Like, "whoa," eye-popping, attention-getting type throws.

When he was there in the sixth round, the Titans had to take a flier on him. Now that he's the starter, the job is his until he loses it. He's got every opportunity to establish himself in the NFL, and he could end up being a very good NFL quarterback.

Steeler Nation will get a closer look at him on Monday night, and we'll see whether he looks more like Ben Roethlisberger ... or Landry Jones.

For what it's worth, while Mettenberger is a starting quarterback in the NFL after lasting until the sixth round, the Steelers' two fifth-round picks are no longer with the team. Cornerback Shaquille Richardson (157th overall) was placed on the practice squad reserve/injured list on Oct. 17th and subsequently reached an injury settlement with the team; and offensive lineman Wesley Johnson (173rd overall) was released on Oct. 13th and then claimed off waivers by the New York Jets.


Memphis Daily News: How's Mettenberger doing? Same as other rookies

ESPN: Mettenberger not holding onto the ball long most of the time

The Sporting News: "Zack Mettenberger has six weeks to prove he's worthy of the Titans' trust"

Sports on Earth: LSU Pro Day Report

Friday, November 14, 2014

And Yet Cam Thomas Remains on the Roster

What's up with that, Dude?
The Steelers lost rookie defensive end Josh Mauro, the future Pro Bowler who the 8-1 Arizona Cardinals added to their active roster from Pittsburgh's practice squad. Mauro looked good in the preseason and appears to have a promising future.

And yet Cam Thomas remains on the Steelers' active roster.

This may be a good week to run the ball

The Tennessee Titans, with a 2-7 record, rank 29th in the NFL in opponent rushing yards allowed, yielding 136.6 yards per game.

Last week vs. the Jets, the Steelers ran the ball only 17 times, and look where it got them. Conversely, the Jets ran the ball 36 times for 150 yards.

John Henry Johnson was fearsome.
Although this has become a passing league ... and although offensive coordinators around the NFL want to be unpredictable ... running the football still wins games. That's not to say passing doesn't also win games, as we saw when Ben Roethlisberger threw for six touchdowns in each of two consecutive games, or when Aaron Rogers threw six TD passes in the first half vs. Chicago last Sunday.

But when an opponent is weak against the run, it usually pays to run the ball. On Sunday, the Seahawks trampled the New York Giants for 350 yards rushing on 45 attempts.* The Giants couldn't stop them, and there is nothing more demoralizing to a team than realizing it cannot stop an opponent running the ball, over and over and over again. After last week, the Giants rank 32nd against the run.

The 29th-ranked Titans are weak against the run.

It doesn't have to be rocket science.

*Coincidentally, the Giants attempted just 17 rushing attempts against Seattle -- exactly the same number (17) the Steelers attempted to run vs. the Jets. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Another bad team

Lots of talk this week about the Steelers having trouble beating bad teams. The Tennessee Titans are a bad team.

The Titans have been bad, or at least mediocre, for a good while now. Yet that hasn't stopped the Tennessee franchise from defeating the Steelers 13 of the last 19 times the two teams have met.

The two most recent losses to Tennessee were especially ugly for the Steelers.

In the 2013 season opener at Heinz Field, the Steelers inexplicably played flat and appeared not ready for the game ... after seven weeks of training camp ... at home ... against an inferior opponent.

The Steelers lost, 16-9, as Ben Roethlisberger took five sacks. Emmanuel Sanders dropped a perfectly thrown long pass on the first play of the game. Isaac Redman lost a fumble. Maurkice Pouncey got hurt. The offensive line looked terrible, the running game was absent, and pass protection was abysmal.

By the late fourth quarter, with about five minutes left, CBS announcer Ian Eagle pronounced, "This has been a nightmare for the Steelers: injuries, poor execution, lack of execution, no running game."

After the game, head coach Mike Tomlin said, "Inexcusable. Not good enough. Unacceptable."

Sound familiar?

The Steelers went on to lose another three straight games to open the season 0-4. They never recovered, and finished 8-8.

Blocked punt, Oct. 11, 2012.
In 2012, in a Thursday night game at Nashville, the Steelers made mistake after mistake, letting a bad Titans team hang around and hang around until the very end, when Rob Bironas kicked a 40-yard field goal as time expired.  That was an ugly game, and it was one of several bad losses to inferior teams that year. The Steelers finished 8-8.

In that game: Drew Butler had a punt blocked; Shaun Suisham missed a 54-yard-field goal attempt; Roethlisberger killed a drive with a bad interception just before halftime; Keenan Lewis dropped a gimme interception; penalty flags flew; the defense got pushed around and couldn't generate a pass rush; and defensive end Derrick Morgan had his way with Mike Adams for most of the night. It was embarrassing.

Whatever whammy bad teams have on the Steelers, let's hope the Black 'n Gold figure out a way to get past this year's woeful Titans.


Lots of Connections between the Titans & Steelers

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Capt. Alejandro Villaneuva

It was nice of Mike Tomlin to give a shout-out to veterans during his weekly news conference today and mention how the team is honoring Alejandro Villaneuva, a member of the Steelers' practice squad.

Capt. Alejandro Villanueva
Come on, Coach Tomlin, activate him already. Put Villanueva on the active roster. Surely he could play special teams, at the very least. Put him in to block kicks. The Steelers list Villaneuva (6'8", 277) as an offensive tackle, but it sounds like he has the makings of a tight end (and target in the red zone). He played defensive end, offensive tackle and wide receiver at Army.

As Army's offensive team captain, Villanueva started 12 games at wide receiver, led the team in receptions (34) and scored five touchdowns his senior season in 2009.

If you're going to have James Harrison run pass patterns in the end zone, then surely Villaneuva could do it, too.

Villaneuva happens to be an active member of the U.S. Army Rangers Reserve -- a captain, in fact --and a graduate of West Point who was awarded a Bronze Star for valor during one of his three tours of duty in Afghanistan. In 2011, as a 23-year-old lieutenant, he commanded a 38-person unit in combat.

You can read more about Villanueva in this excellent article by ESPN columnist Ashley Fox, titled, "Army Veteran's Long NFL Path."

Alejandro Villaneuva, as a wide receiver for Army.
Photos courtesy of MMQB.SI, which provided the following caption:

"As a receiver at Army, Alejandro Villanueva pulled in a one-handed grab against VMI in November 2009 (left) and soared against Navy a month later. (Frank DiBrango/Icon SMI and Matt Slocum/AP)"

Seriously: A 6'8", 277-lb. guy who has experience playing both tackle and wide receiver? To Joey Porter's Pit Bulls, that sounds like: "Tight end and red zone target."

"One of our teammates is a serviceman," Tomlin said. "West Point grad, Villanueva, we acknowledged him yesterday in our team meeting. We’ll honor him not only today but all week. We’ll carry him with us to Tennessee when we play this game this weekend, just as a sign or a token of our appreciation for not only the sacrifice that he had made, but all of the servicemen and women in our country."

Villanueva's honors for service include: the Bronze Star Medal for Valor, the Ranger Tab, the Parachutist Badge, the Bronze Star Medal for overseas service, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, Global War on Terrorism Service Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, NATO Medal, Combat Infantryman’s Badge and Expert Infantryman’s Badge.

Just promote him to the active roster already.

Soft Against the Run

Chris Ivory of the Jets
The Steelers' defense has been mostly soft against the run this year. That may not be news, but it is a big problem.

Five of 10 opponents have rushed for 100 yards or more, and four of those teams rushed for more than 150 yards. Not cool.

Isaiah Crowell of the Browns
Game 1 (Cleveland): 191 yards rushing

Game 2 (Baltimore): 157 yards rushing

Game 3 (Carolina): 42 yards rushing

Game 4 (Tampa Bay): 63 yards rushing

Game 5 (Jacksonville): 56 yards rushing

Game 6 (Cleveland): 158 yards rushing

Game 7 (Houston): 132 yards rushing

Game 8 (Indianapolis): 63 yards rushing (6.3 yards per rush)

Game 9 (Baltimore): 63 yards rushing

Game 10 (New York Jets): 150 yards rushing

The Roller Coaster Ride Continues

With the game in Nashville on Monday night, we get an extra day to mull over the Steelers' disgrace in New Jersey. Really, though, what's the point? Everybody knows what happened. That was about as poor a performance we've seen since, well, Sept. 28th, when the Steelers lost to Tampa Bay at Heinz Field.

Although everybody saw what happened in New Jersey, explaining why is another story. The Steelers are scraping for answers, just as the New York Giants are trying to figure out why they gave up 350 yards rushing in Seattle, and just as the woeful Chicago Bears are trying to stop the bleeding after surrendering 55 and 53 points their past two games.

Mike Mitchell, arriving too late.
Historically the Steelers haven't played well in Tennessee. The Steelers are 2-8 there. This year's Tennessee Titans are awful. Five of their seven losses have been by 14 points or more, and they average about eight penalties a game.

Then again, the New York Jets are a bad team, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are downright abysmal. And the Steelers managed to lose to both of those teams.

The trouble is, we don't know what we're going to get from the Steelers, week to week. All we know is that the Steelers have had the kind of up-and-down season of a team that can't be trusted to build on any kind of success.

A Good Read:

Bob Labriola of  "Labriola on Loss to Jets"

Monday, November 10, 2014

Dept. of Second-Guessers: Why did the Steelers defer the opening kickoff?

Before the game, it was reasonable to think the reeling Jets, losers of eight straight games, would fold early, if the Steelers got off to a fast start with an early score. This was especially so because the stadium was half-full with vocal Steeler fans clad in Black 'n Gold. It barely seemed like a road game. Crowd noise was just as likely to favor the Steelers.

Joey Porter'sPit Bulls missed the opening kickoff on Sunday and so we did not know the Steelers deferred receiving the kick. During the Jets' opening drive, we were thinking, "Ah, this doesn't look good. Too bad the Jets won the coin toss. This drive looks like they're setting the tone, and the Steelers' defense looks like it did earlier in the year when they couldn't stop the run against Cleveland, Baltimore, etc."

Then, during that 14-play (!) opening drive, we were stunned to learn the Steelers had already surrendered scores on seven opening drives this season. Seven! We did not know that.

Given that the Steelers entered the game with a quarterback on a hot streak rarely, if ever, seen in the NFL, Mike Tomlin's decision to defer receiving the opening kickoff seems curious, and also considering that the Steelers' defense started two backup linebackers and a backup safety.

Running back Chris Ivory,
breaking a tackle on the opening drive.
The decision to defer was all the more perplexing in light of remarks Tomlin made on Friday, when he said of his own offense:

“It’s important that we get off to a fast start, because the Jets possess the ball. They’re the No. 3 rushing team in the NFL, and so we can’t start off slowly like we did against the Ravens with three-and-outs and three-and-outs because the game will move too fast. Then on defense we have to minimize the big plays. We have to rush and contain this quarterback. We cannot allow him to create splash plays as plays break down or to utilize his legs to find escape lanes and move the chains.”

So, Tomlin had already acknowledged that the Jets' one path to victory is to possess the ball and keep Roethlisberger on the sidelines. And he surely knew that the Jets were a team looking to go home, if the Steelers could jump on them early.

Why, then, did Tomlin play into Rex Ryan's hands and opt to kick off to the Jets? Why? The game was lost at the coin toss.

Sunday, November 09, 2014


The Steelers are making it really, really tough to take them seriously.

First they lost at home to an abysmal Tampa Bay team that was riding a six-game losing streak.  Now, in the wake of Sunday's ugly loss to an awful Jets squad that was riding an eight-game losing streak, it's almost impossible to assign the Steelers any credibility as legitimate contenders.

At this point, it's virtually impossible to believe this team will do anything good in the post-season, if it even gets there.

Enough said.

Game Day 10: Steelers at New York Jets

 The Steelers have to prove today they can beat a team that is 1-8.

The last time they played a team this conspicuously lousy was Sept. 28th, when the Steelers lost -- at home -- to a Tampa Bay Buccaneers squad that had lost six consecutive games. The following week, the Steelers barely escaped Jacksonville with a narrow win saved by Brice McCain's late interception return for a touchdown. The Bucs and Jags are bad teams, as are the New York Jets.

The Steelers are riding high right now, and the Jets stink. The Steelers have to prove, however, they can win consistently, and that they can get over their tendency to play down to the level of their competition.

That's been a problem for them for at least the past three years. The Steelers have a lot to prove.

If you can manage it, enrich your life today by adopting a stray dog from a shelter such as the Animal Rescue League of Western Pennsylvania or Animal Friends. And, if you can swing it, try to support organizations like the ASPCA and the Humane Society.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Nyet to the Jets!

New York Jets fans deserve better than the dreck they've been served under the ownership of Woody Johnson

Today, the dreadful Jets, losers of eight consecutive games, appear rudderless.  The team has some good individual players, but they appear to be playing as individuals, not as a unified team. That indicates lack of leadership on the field, in the locker room and on the sidelines.

For all of Rex Ryan's blustery bravado, his words seem hollow at this point. He seems unable to ignite his players, although they have lost close games to New England and Denver. 

One glaring problem is the quarterback position. The Jets bet heavily, and badly, on Geno Smith.  It appears he does not have the stuff the be an NFL quarterback, not yet, and maybe not ever. 

Just as fatally for the Jets, they placed their backup chips on Michael Vick, who has always tantalized with spasmodic flashes of flick-of-the-wrist laser throws downfield and speed of foot. But there's something wrong with Vick, and always has been. His notorious involvement in, and leadership of, a criminally loathsome dog-fighting ring, suggests "psychopath." Since then, of course, he served his time in prison and was reinstated to the NFL, has received big-money contracts, and doesn't need any of us. And he acts like it. Does anybody really think he is any kind of leader? Does he do anything in the community? Maybe he does; maybe he doesn't.

Joe Willie Namath
But if anybody in the Jets' management structure ever really believed Vick was going to be a supportive backup to Geno Smith, imparting veteran wisdom and showing Smith how to be a professional quarterback in the NFL, well, they deserve what they're getting. It's actually painful to watch.

Vick is not a very good quarterback. He's never been an accurate passer, and he's never exhibited consistent ball protection. He fumbles too often and throws too many incompletions and interceptions. He's not a very good quarterback, and he's made a lot money conning people into believing he can be a good NFL QB. 

That's the Jets' biggest on-the-field problem: Quarterback. Other than that, who knows? Joey Porter's Pit Bulls suspect the Organizational problems start at the very top, in owner Woody Johnson's office, and that today, Johnson is merely seeing the results of the poor decisions he has made, from the choice of a GM on down, throughout the organization. 

Jets fans deserve better.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Jets Dreck

There's been more than a little talk this week in Pittsburgh mainstream media that the Jets have some weapons and could provide a stern test for the Steelers.

No, that's not going to happen.  Any team quarterbacked by the execrable Michael Vick is not going to beat Pittsburgh, not this week.

Joey Porter's Pit Bulls said so.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

The Jets Won a Game

Joey Porter's Pit Bulls wasted some time watching Sunday's dreadful mess that was the matchup of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. the Cleveland Browns, and even though that wretchedness somehow qualified as an NFL game, it's hard to believe the Steelers found a way to lose to the Buccaneers a few short weeks ago (Sept. 28th, at Heinz Field).

If the Steelers could lose to that mistake-prone squad, they could lose to anybody.

On the other hand, there are the New York Jets. 

The Jets somehow found a way to beat Oakland in Week One, and the Raiders somehow beat the Steelers last year, and the Steelers have shown an unfortunate tendency to lose to inferior teams during Mike Tomlin's tenure, so -- anything's possible. Isn't it?

Yes, the Jets have won a game in this 2014 season that New York linebacker-DE Quinton Coples called "an unbelievable nightmare."

In the season opener, with the now-benched Geno Smith at quarterback, the Jets defeated the Raiders by a score of 19-14 at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. Rookie quarterback Derek Carr made his NFL debut for Oakland, completing 20 of 32 pass attempts for just 151 yards (two TDs; no interceptions).

Soon-to-be-fired head coach Dennis Allen didn't help Carr much by having his running backs attempt to run the ball only 14 times (for a pitiful 25 yards), so the Jets dominated Time-of-Possession with almost 35 minutes on offense. In the fourth quarter, Jets' running back Chris Ivory busted a 71-yard touchdown run to give New York a 19-7 lead, and that was pretty much the ballgame. Even in victory, the Jets had 11 penalties for 105 yards.

Still, for one glorious week, the New York Jets had the NFL's top-rated defense: first in rushing defense, first in passing defense and first in total defense.

How did the Jets beat Oakland? Following the game, Raiders coach Dennis Allen said of the Jets, “I thought they won the line of scrimmage battle ... on both sides of the football."

Granted, the Jets do have some good players on both their offensive and defensive lines. Center Nick Mangold has been one of the top players at his position since entering the NFL, and Steeler fans know what left guard Willie Colon is all about, for better or worse. On the other side, defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson is a certified beast.

Otherwise, the Jets have problems, and they are many -- from the front office to the head coach and throughout the roster -- especially at the quarterback position, where Michael Vick is now the starter. No wonder the Jets seem beset by bad karma.

If you can manage it, enrich your life today by adopting a stray dog from a shelter such as the Animal Rescue League of Western Pennsylvania or Animal Friends. And, if you can swing it, try to support organizations like the ASPCA and the Humane Society.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

When you're a Jet, you're a Jet all the way

Under Mike Tomlin, the Steelers have a disturbingly maddening tendency to lose to or struggle with teams they should handle easily. Losing to Tampa Bay at home this year was just one glaring example.  Barely getting by Jacksonville was another.  Losing last year at Oakland, and to Miami at home in December. And too many other losses to bad teams to remunerate here.

Which brings us to ... this week's opponent, the New York Jets, J-E-T-S! Jets, Jets, Jets!! The hapless Jets, losers of eight straight.

The Jets put the "dys" in "dysfunction." They are the dysfunction at the junction.

Over his last two games, Ben Roethlisberger has thrown 12 touchdown passes -- the same number New York Jets quarterbacks have thrown in the team's past 15 games.

With their most recent loss on Sunday, the Jets have lost eight straight games. Head buffoon coach Rex Ryan's career coaching record is now 47-48, five years into his tenure with the laughingstock Jets.

The Jets haven't had a winning season since 2010. New York media and fans have been howling for weeks that Ryan and hapless GM John Idzik should be fired. You can read more about it at the fan-sponsored site, Or here, in a recent column by Mike Vaccaro in the New York Post, or here, or here, in any number of equally scathing columns in the New York Daily News and other outlets in the NYC metro area.

On Oct. 18, Rex Ryan said, "This season has been a big failure." Nice leadership, Rex.

Following last Sunday's loss to Kansas City, Ryan actually said of his team, "These are mighty men. I hope to hell we don't have to endure too many more losses, but we will, if that's the case."

Well, Rex, get ready to endure.

MetLife Stadium on Sunday could have more Steeler fans in it than Jets fans. It is as it should be.

Monday, November 03, 2014

On a roll

So the Ravens are comfortable playing at Heinz Field, eh?

The Steelers took inspiration from Joe Greene Sunday night and rolled past the butt-ugly Ravens, 43-23 at Heinz Field. The Black n' Gold could not lose that game on the night Greene's number was retired, and they won in style.

That's the way to do it. Now the Steelers have evened the score with the Ravens on the season. Each team won on its home field, and each won by 20 points. It's better to have the second win.  Now, the Steelers are even in the division (2-2), with two games vs. the Bengals remaining. Now, happily, the Ravens sit in last place in the division standings, the only team in the AFC North with four losses. Good.

The Chief greeting Joe Greene after a win.
After Joe Greene, the story of the night was the Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown show. Roethlisberger is now the only quarterback in NFL history to throw six touchdowns in consecutive games. Brown caught 11 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown.

On defense, James Harrison is playing like the legendary James Harrison and, against the Ravens, he played as if he would have fit right in on one of Joe Greene's teams of the 1970s. Fierce and intense once again, Harrison brought it last night with seven tackles, two sacks and four hits on Joe Flacco. Pretty good for a 36-year-old man.

"We're very comfortable in that stadium," John Harbaugh said of Heinz Field earlier in the week. "We understand what it takes to win there. We've won there."

Joe Greene, shaking hands with Fats Holmes
Not on Sunday night. Now, the Ravens are on a two-game losing streak, thanks largely to Roethlisberger (25-for-37, 340 yards, six touchdowns, three sacks, 136.3 rating). The Ravens have a fairly easy schedule the rest of the way, though, so it's too soon to write them off. They have the Titans at home next Sunday, and then a bye week. Then, it will be the Saints, Dolphins, Chargers, Jaguars, Texans, Browns.

The Steelers go on the road for their next two games against the Jets and Titans; and then their bye week. After the bye, it gets tougher: Saints at home; at Cincinnati; at Atlanta; and the Chiefs and Bengals at Heinz Field.