Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Browns are Clowns

Following one of the most rousing renditions of the National Anthem by singer Robert Roundlee, the Steelers put on a pretty rousing performance themselves, led by Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown, and the Cleveland Browns were, well, particularly Browns-like.

They were Brown as Browns can be, with Johnny Manziel's early squirt-up fumble setting the tone, followed by numerous other Keystone Kops-like moments en route to a thorough pummeling that was maybe closer than the score indicated but sure didn't feel like it.

Johnny Manziel somehow passed for 372 yards and one touchdown despite his early pop-up fumble, a later interception, and enduring six sacks.  He did some good things, but the Browns as a whole did some very Browns-like things:  Lots of penalties (12 of 'em, to be precise, for a whopping 188 yards), some of them stupid (two on the same play, twice) and utterly Browns-like -- including back-to-back pass interference penalties for 39 and 38 yards -- and numerous other unforced mistakes. They had an unbelievable 173 more penalty yards than rushing yards (15). And, of course, there was that preposterous sequence in the fourth quarter when the Browns had a first-and-goal from inside the Pittsburgh one-yard-line. What followed were a holding penalty, a sack, an illegal formation penalty and an interception. Quintessential Browns.

The Steelers have defeated the Browns 28 of 34 times since Cleveland re-entered the NFL in 1999.  With Cleveland having lost five straight and now just 2-13 in its last 15 games under head coach Mike Pettine, could Browns owner Jimmy Haslam be contemplating change in the coaching ranks?  Haslam denies it, but anything's possible in that mess of an organization.


  • Something to worry about, possibly: Manziel's 372 yards passing make us wonder about the Steelers' pass defense, especially in the wake of Derek Carr's 300+ yard performance last week.  
  • Ben Roethlisberger is now 19-2 vs. the Browns.
  • Jacoby Jones was less than effective, to be kind, in his handling of punts and kickoffs. Zero punt-return yards, zero kick return yards, and a fumble. Most definitely not an improvement over his lackluster showing last week vs. Oakland.
  • After all the talk about poor clock management the last few many weeks, it should not go overlooked that Mike Tomlin actually handled the clock masterfully in the final two minutes of the first half.

Next Up: The Bye Week, and then a 4:30 p.m. (EDT) game in Seattle on Sunday, Nov. 29th in Seattle. After three consecutive 1 p.m. home games, the Steelers get the bye week next weekend, and then just two more 1 p.m. starts the rest of the way, both on the road (at Cincinnati, Dec. 13th, and at Cleveland, Jan. 3rd).

Game 10: Browns at Pittsburgh

First, a shout-out to our friends, 

It's Browns Week. Always reason to get up for this one.

Cleveland Browns quarterback 
Johnny Manziel
With the 2-7 Browns coming to Heinz Field, we'll see if Mike Tomlin continues his penchant for losing to bad teams quarterbacked by crummy QBs led by lousy coaches.

Make no mistake about it: The Browns are a bad team, just as they were last season, when Mike Pettine's squad embarrassed Tomlin's team in Cleveland, 31-10.

Johnny Manziel
Cleveland's Defense is Awful
This year, Cleveland ranks dead last (32nd) in rushing defense, surrendering a whopping 147.6 yards rushing per game, including 11 runs of 20 yards per more and four runs of at least 40 yards. Cleveland has yielded nine touchdowns on the ground.  By comparison, the middling Steelers' run defense, ranked 12th in the NFL, has surrendered 101.7 yards per game on the ground and three touchdowns.

Bigger picture, Cleveland's defense has surrendered 401.6 total yards per game (29th in the NFL) and 27.4 points per game (26th). They've allowed at least 30 points to five of their nine opponents.

Nine games into the season, Cleveland has allowed 18 passing TDs but  tallied just 15 sacks, seven of which were put down in just one game, vs. the woeful Titans.

With just five interceptions (and just two INTs over the past seven weeks), the Browns' secondary today will be without their star cornerback (Joe Haden) and most experienced, hardest-hitting safety (Donte Whitner). Their secondary has allowed nine pass plays of more than 40 yards. The Browns have been outscored by 53 points their last three games.

It's a bad defense. 
Johnny Manziel, on the right, partying
with Floyd Mayweather, Justin Bieber.
It's almost as bad on offense. Their running game has been limp, ranking 31st in the NFL at just 82.3 yards per game and 3.5 yards per carry, with only two rushing touchdowns but four fumbles. Twice as many fumbles as rushing touchdowns.

Granted, Cleveland's 15th-rated passing offense out-ranks Pittsburgh's 19th ranked passing offense, but ... much of Cleveland's success was due to the surprisingly effective Josh McCown, who likely won't play today.

Instead, the Steelers will face the reckless, feckless and immature party boy, Johnny Manziel, who, on the field, is skittish, manic, diminutive and inaccurate. Johnny Manziel? Puh-lease.

If Mike Tomlin's Steelers lose today, at home, to this edition of the Cleveland Browns ... no, that just cannot happen. Can it?

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Mr. Brown

Now that was a shootout. 

Sunday's 38-35 Steelers' win over Oakland featured Antonio Brown's 17 catches and 284 yards receiving (and 22 yards rushing); Derek Carr's four touchdown passes and 301 yards passing; DeAngelo Williams's 170 yards rushing and two receptions for 55 yards receiving; Pittsburgh's nearly 600 yards of total offense (597 total net yards, to be precise) and Oakland's 440 net yards on offense. Time expired on the game-winning kick.

Heckuva an entertaining game.

Big Ben looked good passing the ball for 334 yards (despite at least five early drops by intended receivers) before his latest injury, which is a problem. Yet another challenge.

Roethlisberger's injury presents another opportunity, you might say, for Landry Jones to show what he's got.  Jones hit Antonio Brown on the final drive for the pivotal 57-yard gain that put Chris Boswell in position to kick the game-winning field goal, even if it was about a 10-yard pass and 47 yards after the catch. That's okay. Got the job done. Whatever it takes.

  • Next up: The Cleveland Browns, at Heinz Field, at 1 p.m., next Sunday, Nov. 15. It's a rivalry game.  Browns Week. Now the real fun begins. We might even get Johnny Manziel.

Footnote No. 1 - Sign of the times, or of how the times have changed (the stat is courtesy of On Sunday, "Ben Roethlisberger surpassed Joe Montana (40,551) for the 14th-most passing yards in NFL history. Next up on the list for Big Ben is No. 13 Kerry Collins (1995-2011) with 40,922 yards."

No disrespect, but ... Kerry Collins? Ahead of Joe Montana? What is wrong with this picture?

Footnote No. 2: Anybody else notice that Cam Thomas didn't play? No? He was not on the "inactive" list, but he didn't play, meaning he contributed about as much as usually does. And maybe more so.

Footnote No. 3: Jacoby Jones didn't do so well.  He managed two punt returns for one yard. Four kickoff returns for an average of 20.8 yards per return. Not good.

Official Gamebook may be found here.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Blame it on Michael Vick

Yeah, we know. He didn't play.  But. The bad karma continues.

The big story of the day, of course, was the loss of Le'Veon Bell to what is being reported as a season-ending knee injury (torn MCL). What a bummer. The game's best running back. Done for the year. Get well, Le'Veon.

Even as the bad karma continues, so does the uneven quality of play across the NFL ... way too much bad football, a sloppy, shoddy, spotty mess: the continuous rain of yellow flags; the indecipherable rules; the injuries; and the constant, interminable interruptions for commercial TV breaks. Roger Goodell's NFL is just about unwatchable anymore. But still we do. Watch it, that is. Although, there are plenty of other things to do, Roger.

With a 4-4 record halfway through the season -- and all four losses to AFC teams -- Mike Tomlin's Steelers have the look of a .500 team that may not make the playoffs.

Case in point: On Sunday, going just 3-for-11 (27%) on third-down conversions. Although, to be fair, Cincinnati converted just four of 15 (26%) third-down conversion attempts. Yet they found a way to win. On the road.

The Rain of Yellow Flags
Last week at Kansas City, one big issue for the Steelers was missed tackles. This week at Heinz Field, it was penalties: 10 of them, to be precise, for 91 yards, not to mention a couple that were declined, for good measure. Those 10 penalties hurt flow and compromised field position, never mind that the Bengals also incurred 10 penalties (for 94 yards).

The 10 penalties the Steelers incurred were on them, and they hurt.

  • Too many of those were stupid penalties, too: After a key stop, James Harrison removed his helmet to get in somebody's face. 
  • In the first quarter, Marcus Gilbert's flagrant hold negated a 17-yard pass to Will Johnson.  
  • Punt-coverage gunner Brandon Boykin had a going-out-of-bounds penalty that resulted in a field-poisition advantage for the Bengals that they should never have had.
  • Robert Golden got flagged for a block in the back on Mike Mitchell's interception return.
  • Mike Mitchell incurred another costly penalty himself when he got flagged for taunting after Lawrence Timmons swatted away a third-down pass intended for Tyler Eifert. Mitchell's taunting penalty gave the Bengals a fresh set of downs, however, allowing them to start afresh at the 45-yard line instead of having to punt from their own 30. Stupid.
  • Mitchell also got flagged in the first half for taunting star receiver A.J. Green following a mid-air shot Mitchell administered to receiver Marvin Jones. Mitchell supposedly told Green, "You're next," which prompted the flag. Green who finished with 11 catches for 118 yards and the game-winning touchdown catch, said of Mitchell's taunting, "That woke me up. Thank you." Green added, "Some guys just have to talk. I just play."

Questionable Play Calling and Poor Clock Management (again)
Ben Roethliseberger's three interceptions also didn't help, to say the least.

We have to question the play calling on the fourth-quarter pick by third-year safety Shawn Williams on the sideline in front of Will Johnson. It's easy to question Roethlisberger's decision-making and execution there, too, but the play call there makes you wonder why that play-call was even made there, with 5:45 left on the clock.

  • Despite an average of 6.1 yards per rushing play on Sunday, the Steelers ran the ball only 19 times. Late in the fourth quarter, however, when it could be argued the team should have been trying to run out the clock, there was Roethlisberger making ill-advised throws. 

If the excuse was, "no Le'Veon Bell," then what happened to the "next man up" mantra? Those are questions for Mike Tomlin, Todd Haley and Ben Roethlisberger, the latter of whom was quick to take the blame for the loss. But, still.

The coaching, the play-calling, the continued mismanagement of the clock ... that's on Tomlin, first and foremost, although he will never admit to it.

  • This is pointless, but we've been clamoring, off and on for several years, for the Steelers to hire a "Clock Management Specialist" -- call him Special Assistant or whatever -- whose sole job is to watch the clock and advise Tomlin to not do stupid things like waste 38 crucial seconds at critical junctures. Not that Tomlin would listen.

Roethlisberger's been a stand-up guy in recent years when it comes to mea culpas. He is often the first to take blame, even when it's not necessarily deserved. This time, his self-criticism is spot-on, as his fourth-quarter unraveled with two interceptions, two short drives that ended in punts and a pass overthrown, out of the back of the end zone, as the game clock ran out. Still, a few of those 38 seconds would have helped there at the end, eh Coach Tomlin?

The National Passing League
On the game's first drive, Roethlisberger surpassed 40,000 yards passing for his career, making him just the ninth quarterback in NFL history to reach that milestone.  FIVE of those quarterbacks are currently active, which tells you all you need to know about how the National Football League has devolved into the "National Passing League."

The other four active QBs are Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Eli Manning. How the game has changed in recent years. If I had to guess, without bothering to look up the names of the previous four, I'd venture the names of Tarkenton, Marino, Elway and Favre.

Other Notes
The Steelers will supposedly bring in former second-rounder Isaiah Pead, who was recently cut by the St. Louis Rams after missing most of 2014 with a knee injury.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Game 8: Bengals at Pittsburgh

On a day when the Steelers will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Terrible Towel, quarterback Andy Dalton, who currently has the NFL's second-ranked passer rating (116.1), leads the undefeated Cincinnati Bengals (6-0) into Heinz Field today to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3). Dalton is enjoying a superb year, but until he wins big games consistently, questions about his poise, leadership and talent will remain.

This is a big game. For both teams. Not a playoff game (something Dalton has never won in five tries). But a big game. It's a statement game.

With a win, the Bengals would effectively secure a first-round bye as the AFC North Division's presumptive champs and one of the NFL's best squads. The Steelers must win today game to retain any hope of overtaking the Bengals in the standings. And, as they jockey for a wild-card playoff slot, the Steelers also must worry about their number AFC Conference losses (currently three).

For what it's worth, historically, the Steelers have been less than good in games featuring Ben Roethlisberger's return from time missed due to injury. The team has a 2-4 record in such situations. Roethlisberger has thrown eight touchdown passes in those six games, but also seven interceptions.

Draft-Day Decisions That Have Reverberated Down the Line
Cincinnati's front office and coaching staff have built their current team largely through successful drafts. Over recent years, the Steelers and Bengals have been fairly close in the standings, which means their respective drafting positions have also been in close proximity.

David DeCasstro
Notables who were drafted in the same year, same round: in 2012, guards David DeCastro (first round, 24th overall) and Kevin Zeitler (27th overall); and, in 2014, linebacker Ryan Shazier (first round, 15th overall) and cornerback Darqueze Dennard (24th overall). Dennard may get significant playing time today, if fellow cornerback Leon Hall's back injury keeps him out.

Looking back at the 2013 NFL draft, the Steelers passed on tight end Tyler Eiffert (6'6", 250) to select linebacker Jarvis Jones with the 17th overall pick, despite some observers' concerns, including our own, about Jones's medical history and 4.92 time in the 40-yard dash. The Bengals selected Eiffert with the 21st overall pick.

Myron Cope, father of The Terrible Towel
Not crazy at the time about the selection of Jones over Eiffert, Joey Porter's Pit Bulls wrote"At the very least, let's hope Jarvis Jones can cover Tyler Eiffert, who was snapped up by division rival Cincinnati in the first round.  In our book, Jones and Eiffert will be linked for years to come. Who will be the better player?"

Yeah. Although hampered by injuries during most of their respective NFL careers, Eiffert is having a better year than Jones, no question. He has six touchdowns and 28 receptions for a 12.2 yards-per-catch average.

While Jones and Eiffert were the first-rounders in 2013, the second-rounders certainly cannot be overlooked. The Bengals took running back Giovanni Bernard (No. 37 overall) over Le'Veon Bell (48th overall) in the second round.

Bell is the better running back, no doubt about that. And he's been better than both Eiffert and Jones, for that matter, as well. With their other second round selection in 2013, the Bengals picked defensive end Margus Hunt (53rd overall). The Steelers' next pick that year was wide receiver Markus Wheaton (third round, 79th overall).

Sunday, October 25, 2015

A Messy Loss Featuring Sloppy Tackling and Unforced Miscues

Sloppy tackling. That was the thing that stood out most glaringly in the Steelers' loss in Kansas City. 

Albert Wilson
The defense forced no turnovers and didn't get off the field often enough on third down: The Chiefs converted 56 percent (9 of 16) of their third-down conversion attempts -- their best production of the year in that key category.

The linebackers were probably the guiltiest culprits when it came to sloppy tackling. The secondary was leaky, too, somehow allowing two heretofore obscure rookie receivers, Chris Conley (3rd rounder, out of Georgia) and Albert Wilson (undrafted free agent, Georgia State), to have breakout games with clutch, big catches for chunk plays in key situations. Together, the two caught nine passes for 134 yards. Inexcusable.

Travis Kelce victimizes Mike Mitchell
Add tight end Travis Kelce's 73 yards receiving on five receptions, and it's easy to see how Alex Smith cobbled together 250 yards passing even without his No. 1 receiver, Jeremy Maclin.

Perhaps most telling, the defense allowed some guy named, improbably, Charcandrick West to run through, over and around it for 110 yards and a touchdown. West's 110 yards just about cancelled out Le'Veon Bell's hard-earned 121 yards rushing.

Antonio Brown's miscue
On offense, unforced errors thwarted momentum at several key points. First of all, DeAngelo Williams's drop of an on-the-money pass right to his hands on the first drive that would have given the Steelers an early 7-3 lead instead of settling for a 3-3 tie.

After that, it seemed like an uphill slog through the rest of the game. Antonio Brown's rare drop/bumble also hurt.

Play calling was questionable, on both sides of the ball.  The Chiefs' offensive line had been a sieve prior to today, but the Steelers generated just one sack. The absence of Stephon Tuitt makes us wonder all the more why Cam Thomas remains on this team.

The Steelers just didn't make the big play(s) they needed in any phase of the game: offense, defense or special teams. The Chiefs did enough to win on their home turf; the Steelers made too many mistakes to win a road game vs. a 1-5 team.

Next up: The Cincinnati Bengals, coming off a bye week, visiting Heinz Field.

Game Day: Steelers at Kansas City

First NFL start for quarterback 
All eyes on him.  
Landry Jones was dandy last Sunday vs. Arizona. 
Antwon Blake decleating Dwayne Bowe last year.
The 1-5 Chiefs can still bring a pass rush -- especially Justin Houston (#50) and Tamba Hali (#91)

Visitors locker room at Arrowhead this morning
(photo courtesy of

Monday, October 19, 2015

It's time ...

Zac Dysert
... to sign a new third-string quarterback. And it's long past time to dump Michael Vick. Sever ties with Vick. Now.

Joey Porter's Pit Bulls are intrigued by former Miami of Ohio quarterback Zac Dysert, who broke Ben Roethlisberger's records at Miam of Ohio. Dysert is currently on the practice squad of the Houston Texans, under the tutelage of head coach Bill O'Brien, the former QB coach for some guy named Tom Brady.

You can watch video of Dysert here or read more about Dysert in this scouting report from

Meanwhile, in Dallas, Jerry Jones is wringing his hands over how he might be able to obtain Dandy Landry Jones, another Oklahoma University product.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Unstoppable Landry Jones.

Landry Jones: Winner.
The Steelers scored on all five possessions with Dandy Landry Jones at quarterback. A relatively small sample size, but, really, What's Not to Like?

When he entered the game, expectations were low, but Joey Porter's Pit Bulls barked, "It's gotta be easier to watch Jones, even if he's gonna suck."

As it turned out he did just fine, with five scoring drives, two touchdown passes and a gaudy 149.3 quarterback rating. No turnovers; no sacks.

It's awkward and painful to watch the wretched quarterback play of Marcus Michael Vick, who should have been intercepted at least three times today -- just like last week vs. San Diego.

With Vick at quarterback vs. the Arizona Cardinals, the Steelers averaged 0.5 yards per offensive play. They were oh-for-six in third-down conversion attempts. Vick had six yards passing at halftime. Six!  The net yardage was even worse: With Vick at quarterback, the offense in the first half had a single pathetic net yard (one yard, net) passing on three completions in seven attempts. Total offense: a measly 59 total net yards,

Clearly, they were a much better offense today with the 26-year-old Matthew Landry Jones at quarterback, in his first NFL regular-season game. Who knew?

Coming Up
As for next week in Kansas City, Joey Porter's Pit Bulls agree: Jones should start. The way coaches think, however, we wouldn't be at all surprised to see Vick start ... the coaches' rationale being that it's a road game, a hostile environment, a noisy crowd, and Vick's a "veteran."

NFL coach-think typically is so conservative and risk-averse that it frequently defies common sense and what everyone else can see. No doubt, Mike Tomlin considers Vick the "safe" choice.  Despite all evidence to the contrary. Just ask Antonio Brown. Vick has proven to be the only player in the NFL capable of stopping Antonio Brown.

Other things to feel good about: 
  • Kicker Chris Boswell. Four field goals in his first appearance at Heinz Field, including kicks of 47, 48 and 51 yards. His kickoffs were deep, too. The Steelers finally might have a kicker who can go toe to toe, or nearly so, with Baltimore's Justin Tucker, who by the way, had a rare miss last week -- coincidentally, from 51 yards, in Baltimore -- and another miss on Sunday, from 45 yards, during the Ravens' loss at San Francisco.
Alejandro Villanueva
  • Left tackle Alejandro Villanueva. On one of his first snaps, he didn't flinch when the opposing defensive end jumped offsides. That's discipline. Even better, he accomplished what all good offensive linemen manage to do: Not get noticed. No flags; no sacks allowed; and no hurries, so far as we could tell. He did just fine. He's a feel-good story, sure, but not just a feel-good story. He looks like a good player, period, and there is every reason to feel good about him stepping in as the starting left tackle.
  • The defense: The "numbers" stats said Carson Palmer three for more than 400 yards, but the only numbers that mattered were points allowed. Thirteen points surrendered to an offense that had averaged 38 points per game prior to their visit to Pittsburgh. It's good to see the defense getting turnovers again, and timely ones at that: two interceptions and a forced fumble recovery.
  • James Harrison: The man is amazing. 'Nuff said. Let's hope he plays like this for another five years.
  • Martavis Bryant: Good for him. Falling down is part of life. Getting back up is living. Bryant got back up in a big way. Let's hope he stays on his feet the rest of his career and that we never see his name in embarrassing headlines again. The young man has a bright future, if he can stay clean. He showed today what he can do.  He is fully capable of sustained success.  

Monday, October 12, 2015

Con-Vick is a lousy QB

"The Baltimore Ravens have now given up 351 passing yards to Oakland's Derek Carr, 383 to Cincinnati's Andy Dalton and a whopping 457 passing yards to Cleveland's Josh McCown. The secondary's best performance came in Pittsburgh, but that was against Michael Vick." -- The Baltimore Sun, Monday, Oct. 12, 2015

Vick managed a measly 125 yards against the same Ravens defense that allowed  the journeyman McCown to shred it for 457 (!) yards the following week. Says it all about Vick as a QB.

Expect the Chargers to stack eight in the box and dare Vick to try to throw on them. On the other side of the ball, the Chargers' coaches should be looking at the fact that the Steelers surrendered 191 yards rushing to Baltimore.

And, on special teams, the Bolts have Jacoby Jones.  'Nuff said.

Even if the Steelers win tonight, Joey Porter's Pit Bulls expect an ugly game and some bad football.

Vick 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.  Vick has 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.  Vick's a fraud.  

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Jim Tomsula: Pittsburgh-style Football?

San Francisco's new head coach, Jim Tomsula, is a Pittsburgh-area native who took over for Jim Harbaugh in the off-season. A typical Pittsburgh guy, the former defensive line coach is first and foremost defensively oriented: The Niners held the Vikings to just three points.

Tomsula's hiring and initial meetings with the media in San Francisco were widely panned. Many prognosticators forecast the 49ers would be among the NFL's worst teams this year.

After reading some of the articles about him, however, particularly this one and this one, Joey Porter's Pit Bulls came around to thinking the 49ers would be a lot better than people expect. After all, Tomsula is a Pittsburgh guy; he's a football guy.

Against the Vikings, the 49ers did something the Steelers did not: They played good, fundamentally sound football. Blocking and tackling. 

It would be nice if we could also see good, fundamentally sound football from the Steelers. What a concept.

Niners TE Vernon Davis Must be Looking Forward to This Game

Rob Gronkowski had open space in front of him for much of the game vs. the Steelers. 
Going into the season opener in New England, we knew the secondary was a hot mess. A week later, and it's still hard to fathom how bad the Steelers' secondary was against the Patriots. They lived down to expectations, and then some.

If there was one guy you'd think they would have had a game plan for, it was Rob Gronkowski. But no-o-o-o.  By some combination of incompetence, lack of talent, lack of planning and lack of brains, the Steelers let Gronkowski romp and roam through wide swaths of open space.

The San Francisco 49ers bring a pretty talented tight end of their own in Vernon Davis to Heinz Field on Sunday. In fact, Vernon Davis is a very talented tight end. The Niners also have two wideouts familiar to Steelers' fans, and familiar not in a good way: former Ravens Anquin Bolden and Torrey Smith.

San Francisco also demonstrated in their season opener that they can run the ball, with Carlos Hyde, who racked up 163 yards rushing against Minnesota.  And quarterback Colin Kaepernick, of course, brings a multi-dimensional game that includes running speed that the Steelers just haven't seen in another quarterback.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Everybody's Looking for the Next Russell Wilson ...

The Buffalo Bills' selection of Tyrod Taylor as their starting quarterback raised eyebrows across the NFL. Taylor vindicated their decision by playing well on Sunday in leading the Bills to a decisive victory over the Colts. What we might be seeing, increasingly, is effort by NFL teams to find the next Russell Wilson.

Tyler Murphy
We might be tempted to speculate that's what the Steelers had in mind with respect to Tyler Murphy, except that he is now playing wide receiver instead of quarterback, which is what he played at Boston College.  The undrafted rookie free agent acquitted himself well during training camp and beat the odds to earn a roster spot. Not only that, but he earned a game-day helmet for the season opener, which is more than can be said of fellow rookie Sammie Coates, the more highly touted third-round draft choice out of Auburn. The coaching staff declared Coates inactive for Sunday's game.

Kudos to Murphy for adapting to a new position and apparently surpassing Coates to this point; admittedly it's early, and maybe Coates will be great. The fact that Coates was on the inactive list instead of Murphy, however, raises questions about his development and how far away from being a contributor he might be.

The Steelers might not have drafted Coates had it not been for Martavis Bryant's immaturity, poor decision-making and inability to keep himself from failing repeated drug tests. The Steelers knew of Bryant's failed drug tests and potential consequences last Spring, before the 2015 NFL Draft, and that his tenuous status influenced their decision to draft Coates in the third round.
“We have known about the possibility of it for some time,” head coach Mike Tomlin said this past week. “In a lot of ways, it directed our course of action throughout the offseason, specifically drafting Sammie Coates, because of the potential of this event.
Maybe the Steelers would have drafted Davis instead of Coates; maybe not. Different positions, different circumstances and different teams, but apparently Carl Davis is further ahead in his development than Sammie Coates.

Once again, in any case, Pittsburgh's nose tackle play was unimpressive during the loss at New England.  It would have been interesting to see if Davis would have fared better against New England's undrafted rookie center.

Thanks, Martavis. 

The big problem for the Steelers right now appears to be the defense, particularly the secondary. One thing is sure: Nobody is scared of or intimidated by the Steelers' defense anymore.  And that's been the case for several years.

Looking at the bright side, maybe the Steelers actually have the next Russell Wilson on their roster in Tyler Murphy.  They just have him playing wide receiver.  Over Sammie Coates.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

They Are Who We THOUGHT They Were!

Rob Gronkowski breaking free from Robert Golden
The secondary.  Yikes.

To borrow the words of former Arizona Cardinals Denny Green, "They are who we THOUGHT they were!"

Which is, for most of them: Not very talented. Not very smart. Lousy tacklers. Hapless. Clueless. Undersized. Slow. And not very good at their craft,

It was no surprise, the way they performed; but it was shocking, the ineptitude.

Mike Tomlin, Keith Butler, the rest of the coaching staff and the players should be ashamed of themselves. They had all off-season to prepare for that game. The entire off-season.  It was the season opener, for crying out loud. They knew what the Patriots were going to do.  Everybody knew what the Patriots were going to do.  It's what they do.

Yet the Steelers, time and again, allowed Rob Gronkowski to break free, unjammed, and roam free, unmolested and uncovered, romping an frolicking past the undersized, overmatched and all-too-slow safeties, corners and linebackers who flailed haplessly as they were either getting outjumped, stomped or run around by Gronkowski.

The missed tackles. The blown coverages. The half-hearted attempts at coverage. Honestly, it was embarrassing.

What happened to the plans to jam Gronkowski, play him tight and disrupt patters? Big talk. Turns out it's easier said than done.

If the performance we saw Thursday night is what we have to look forward to watching all season, it's going to be a long year.

Frankly, Joey Porter's Pit Bulls still don't understand why the Steelers' brass seems to be so infatuated with certain players in the secondary: Shamarko Thomas. Mike Mitchell. Cortez Allen.

Well, we're stuck with them.

It's Michael Vick's fault. Bad karma.

Friday, September 11, 2015

We Will Never Forget

"All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle." 
-- St. Francis of Assisi

It is a solemn and poignant day.  We will never forget.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Blame it on Michael Vick

It's Michael Vick's fault.

The Steelers had all off-season to prepare.  The entire off-season.

"It's unbelievable how much the Pittsburgh Steelers have given away tonight," exclaimed Chris Collinsworth early in the fourth quarter, following another long pass to Rob Gronkowski, who soon thereafter recovered a Dion Lewis fumble at the goal line.

The secondary is a hot mess. Brady at one point had 19 consecutive completions, a new team record. Four touchdowns. Hot toast. Crumbs.

The big trouble with this game: Too few TV commercials.  "More commercials! We need more commercials!!"  

Sloppy tackling by the Steelers all night long.  Which only compounded the loose coverage and apparent lack of communication on the back end of the defense. Lack of communication? Lack of talent.

And the Steelers nose tackles made the undrafted free agent rookie center making his first start in the NFL look like an All-Pro.  What a weak effort by the defense. We wonder what Donald Trump would say about this.  "They're very low energy. It's kind of sad."

At least they beat the spread, as Josh Scobee almost made up for the two missed fields that he'd Scobee'd earlier by kicking the last-second extra point that made some money for people who bet the underdog Steelers.

Nice game, guys.

We blame Vick.

Game Day 1: Steelers at New England - NFL Season Opener

Let's hope Steelers defensive Keith Butler applies a scheme different from what Dick LeBeau used the last time the Steelers visited New England, Nov. 3, 2013, when the Patriots rang up 55 points.

If the corners play off the Patriots' receivers, Tom Brady will dink and dunk all night long,just like he did in the Super Bowl, controlling the clock in the process.

If this game turns into a shootout, look out. Without Le'Veon Bell, the Steelers are not built to "keep Brady off the field." The Steelers are no longer built to control the clock. And, without either Bell or Martavis Bryant to worry about, Bill Bellichick will scheme to take Antonio Brown out of the game as much as possible.

On defense, based on what we've seen so far in 2015, the Steelers' secondary appears to be a hot mess.  We'll see.  Safety Will Allen is a steady veteran, but nobody will ever compare him to Ronnie Lott. William Gay has always been better than people give him credit for being, but he's played best in the slot. Tonight, he starts at left corner. Newcomer Brandon Boykin likely takes over in the slot, where he performed well for Philadelphia last year, grabbing six interceptions.  He is smallish.  Antwon Blake is physical and will see the field, and he's shown flashes at times.  But ...

Cortez Allen, who is slated to start at right corner, was downright bad last year.  And starting safety Mike Mitchell has shown next to nothing since he joined the Steelers. He takes poor angles, has been a lousy tacker and makes poor decisions. The same could be said of fellow safety Shamarko Thomas, who is 5'9", can't stay healthy, has fragile confidence and most definitely is not a good matchup for either of New England's tight ends.

Expect the Patriots to employ a lot of two tight end sets with Rob Gronkowski and Scott Chandler, who was signed in the off-season (and would have been a nice addition to the Steelers, if they'd been able to get him).  This will be much the same offense (with new wrinkles, of course) that we've seen before from the Patriots.  And it will likely look much the same as the two tight end offense the Baltimore Ravens have employed so effectively against the Steelers ... including last year's ugly loss in Baltimore, when tight end Owen Daniels caught two touchdown passes.

The Steelers' defense will have to prove tonight that they don't have a soft middle. Brady will probe the middle of the field all night long, and the linebackers will have to help in pass coverage.  The Patriots like to use the small but quick Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola to scoot through the secondary on intermediate and crossing routes, and both Gronkowski and Chandler are actually threats to go deep.  Look out.  It could be a long night.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Martavis Bryant: Dumber Than a Box of Rocks

Martavis Bryant
Chris Henry

Following the reports of multiple failed drug tests since he entered the NFL in 2014, many people have chimed in on the Martavis Bryant situation and how dumb, clueless, obtuse or just plain stupid he was -- or addicted -- to have gotten himself into the jam he currently finds himself, which is a four-game suspension to start the 2015 season (with the corresponding loss of salary -- about $105,000 in game checks), which follows in the wake of the six games he missed at the beginning of last season.

Chris Henry Redux?
People have said Bryant may end up being the next Josh Gordon, but Bryant reminds Joey Porter's Pit Bulls of another troubled former player, the late Chris Henry, formerly of the Cincinnati Bengals.

Chris Henry died at the age of 26.  His death followed a brief but tumultuous NFL career during which he not only was arrested five times but made an infamous name for himself for all the wrong reasons.
Martavis Bryant

Chris Henry

On the field, the former Bengals wide receiver was built much like Bryant (6'4", 210) and could fly --  a deep threat exactly in the mold of Bryant.

Off the field, however, Henry had a knack for getting in trouble, including numerous arrests for marijuana use, a DUI and other mishaps, calamities, tomfoolery, hijinks, shenanigans, chicanery and sloppiness.

Not to say that Martavis Bryant is destined to for the same fate that befell Henry, but he's off to a fast start down a path that could abruptly end his NFL career.  By now, of course, we all know that's not news.

In fact, it wasn't even news that Bryant was, uh, "troubled" even before the Steelers drafted him.  The red flags were there for all to see, and why he lasted until the fourth round of the 2014 draft.

As reported on this blog on May 21, 2014, here is what his college coach, Clemson's Dabo Swinney, had to say about him in an interview recorded in April 2013, before Bryant's final season at Clemson:
"Accountability, responsibility, dependability, trust-ability - those are the 'abilities' that matter," said Swinney. "He's got plenty of ability, it's all them other ones that have kept him from being a complete player. He's had some great moments, but he's been inconsistent. When you're not fully committed, you're going to be inconsistent."
But then here's another "red-flag" quote (from earlier in the article) that makes us wonder which Martavis Bryant the Steelers are getting (again, keeping in mind this was published in April 2013, before his senior season):
"Martavis isn't a bad guy, not at all. He's just been an immature, uncommitted guy - off the field, academically, in the meeting rooms, on the practice field, in the way he's prepared, not being dependable."
After the Steelers drafted Martavis Bryant, a skeptical Joey Porter's Pit Bulls asked if Bryant might end up being a latter-day Fred Gibson, another tall, skinny fourth-round receiver -- who never made it out of his first training camp. Gibson was cut before the first game of the regular season.

At least during his rookie season, Bryant showed flashes of big-time playmaking potential. At this point, however, everybody will be relieved if Bryant doesn't end up like Josh Gordon ... or, worse, like Chris Henry.

The Ripple Effect
It came to light this past week that the Steelers knew of Bryant's failed drug tests and potential consequences last Spring, before the 2015 NFL Draft, and that his tenuous status influenced their decision to draft wide receiver Sammie Coates in the third round.  To most observers of the draft, the selection of Coates was a head-scratcher, as he is somewhat physically similar to Bryant, as well as raw and unpolished with a reputation for dropped passes.
“We have known about the possibility of it for some time,” head coach Mike Tomlin said this past week. “In a lot of ways, it directed our course of action throughout the offseason, specifically drafting Sammie Coates, because of the potential of this event. So we are going to deal with it the best we can.”
At the time of this year's NFL Draft, we weren't crazy about the Coates pick because it seemed redundant and, more so, because the Steelers need so much help on defense.  We were further dismayed when, just three picks after the Steelers selected Coates, the Baltimore Ravens selected a player Joey Porter's Pit Bulls really liked and thought would be a good fit on the Steelers' defense.

That player was Iowa defensive tackle Carl Davis (6'5", 320 pounds), a rough and disruptive force on the defensive line -- and Lord knows the Steelers could use that.

But, no, because of Martavis Bryant's inability to stay clean, the Steelers felt they had to reach for another wide receiver, Coates. Now, as it turns out, the reports out of Baltimore (nauseatingly enough) are that Carl Davis could have been "the steal of the draft" and, according to Pro Football Focus, was rated as the Ravens' top-rated defensive player after the first three preseason games. Just great.

  • Quote: "There's a value pick right here. Some thought Davis would sneak into the back end of the first round. He had an outstanding Senior Bowl week. He has dominating height-weight-speed physical traits." -- Mike Mayock

Thanks, Martavis.  You've not only deprived the Steelers of your services, your irresponsible behavior prompted them to draft a player they wouldn't otherwise have needed, and very possibly at the expense of drafting an impact defensive lineman who went three picks later to our divisional arch rival, the despised Baltimore Ravens.  But you don't get any of that, do you, Martavis, and chances are you don't care.

Your NFL career is in jeopardy, Martavis, as is your very future.  Time to grow up and act like an adult.  You might actually be able to salvage something of your life -- unlike Chris Henry.  Let his tragedy be a cautionary tale to you.

One final Footnote, because that ugly signing still reeks: 

Meanwhile, the Steelers' signing of Michael Vick still is such a turnoff that ... ugh, it's tough to even comprehend that they gave him a uniform and put him on the payroll.  Puke.

It's tough to feel good about this franchise right now, especially with Vick in Black 'n Gold.

What? We're supposed to embrace and celebrate that guy?  Vick?  No thanks.  Nothing but bad karma that guy.  We'll pass.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

It's Embarrassing

If you are known by the company you keep, then I am embarrassed to be a Steelers fan today.

The trouble is, I've been so emotionally invested in the Steelers for so many years -- a lifetime -- that they are like family.  I can't disown them.

But, this, sheesh. This is embarrassing.

We can root for the team and feel good about guys like Alejandro Villanueva, Antonio Brown, Cameron Heyward and others. But not Michael Vick.

Vick taints the entire organization; he taints Steeler Nation.

They couldn't have found a better backup quarterback?  Someone with some upside? Granted, a guy like Kurt Warner doesn't come along every day, but Michael Vick?  Are you kidding me?

It is embarrassing.  The guy is a lightning rod for trouble and bad karma.

We'll hear the usual platitudes: He's "paid his dues," blah, blah, etc., etcetera, ad nauseum.  Save it.

We're also hearing, of course, that he's an "experienced" quarterback, as if that's supposed to make this acceptable and make everybody comfortable. Experienced at what? Sucking? He's not even a good quarterback, and he never has been, except for sporadic flashes.

It's a shame that guys like Vick keep getting rewarded. That's apparently the culture of the NFL anymore, and maybe it's always been that way.

We'll keep watching, no doubt, but it's embarrassing. And we don't like this signing one bit.

That's it, Fort Pitt.  

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Oh, no, say it ain't so ... this ain't right

We're done. 

Or so Joey Porter's Pit Bulls are tempted to say.  Enough.

The Steelers specifically, and the NFL generally, are making it really, really hard to feel good about their product.  Just about impossible, in fact.

This is revolting. Downright nauseating.  This is a dark day in Steelers history.  It's an affront.

When cretins like the infamous Michael Vick, of all people, get signed by the Steelers ... how much can we take?  It's disgusting. Disappointing. And we don't have to like it  -- there are plenty of other things to do.

This signing goes against every grain of decency and respect for the fan base. Vick is not even a good football player, and he's a despicable human being. A sociopath? Maybe. A convicted felon, certainly.

Who the f--k lobbied for the Steelers to sign this emm-effer?  Who signed off on it?

Mike Tomlin?  Kevin Colbert? Shame on them. And Art Rooney II allowed this?  Ya gotta be kidding.  This has gotta be some kind of sick joke.  And the joke's on us fans.

How insulting and presumptuous of them to think they can do this signing and, what? ... the fans wouldn't notice or comment?

The Steelers can try to parse arguments and explain this one away in "football" terms all they want, but it'll never sell. Not here, not on this blog, and not to a hell of a lot of passionate Steeler fans and people of common sense and decency.

What's next?  Maybe they're sending scouts to the prison where convicted murderer Aaron Hernandez is rotting to see if he's in "football shape."

Ray Rice is still looking to get back in the NFL.  Richie Incognito?  How about Ray Lewis?  Leonard Little?  Donte Stallworth?  Maybe he and Warren Sapp could come out of retirement.


And so much, by the way, for the Steelers wasting a fourth-round draft pick and three years of development time on Landry Jones.  They have such little faith in Jones that he can't even get promoted to second string in his third year?  Incompetent scouting, drafting and player development.  A fourth-round pick wasted.

But that's not the point today.  The point is Vick. And the Steelers.  It's sickening.  Of all teams ...

This one is more disappointing and heartbreaking than any playoff loss. This here, what happened today?  This is no game. This is a travesty.

Vick's presence is toxic, poisonous and polarizing, that's for sure.

Just last November, Joey Porter's Pit Bulls wrote about the Jets with Vick:
"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? 
"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."
And that's not the worst of it, that he's a shitty QB.  If he were just a crummy quarterback, he could get in a long line of other sub-par quarterbacks.  Landry Jones apparently is a lousy QB, and so are lots of other wannabe quarterbacks across the land.  Being a crummy quarterback is no crime.

But Vick?  Signing him to wear Black 'n Gold should be a crime, it feels like, but at the very least it is an affront to a great number of fans.  That guy is loathesome; despicable; always has been.  We don't want any part of him.  He brings nothing positive to this football team or this city.

The Steelers are inviting trouble and bad karma into our fair city. And we don't like it. Not one bit.

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.