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Archive for February, 2011

Why you should ignore the Combine

February 24, 2011 By: Admin Category: Draft/Free Agency

The NFL Scouting Combine has officially begun.  It runs from February 24 - March 1, 2011.  And flocks of football fans will tune in to watch it on NFL Network.

It still amazes me that the NFL has been able to package the Combine into a made-for-TV event.  Moreover, I’m amazed that it actually draws a fairly significant audience.  And that audience of rabid fans discusses the day’s events on message boards all over the internet.

But regardless of how many people watch the NFL Scouting Combine, I still feel obligated to post a message that has become an annual ritual for me.  Each year, I warn Steelers Today readers to ignore the NFL Scouting Combine.  Don’t watch it.  Don’t read about it.  Don’t discuss it.  Ignore it!

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the NFL Scouting Combine, it is an annual  event wherein the NFL brings potential draft picks to Indianapolis so that NFL coaches and scouts can examine them like livestock, and then watch them do things that have absolutely nothing to do with football.

The athletes who come to the Combine are all required to strip down to their undershorts, and then they are weighed, measured, and viewed by the scouts and coaches.  Like I said earlier, it resembles inspecting livestock.

Once they’re inspected, the cattle….errrrr, I mean “athletes”, are asked to do a number of physical tests.  They lift weights, jump, and run.  Their scores on all of the physical tests are recorded and compared.

While it is nice to know that an offensive lineman has a 22 inch vertical leap, I’ve never quite understood why that fact was particularly relevant.  Moreover, I’ve never understood why teams place so much importance on how many reps a wide receiver can do on the bench press.  Similarly, I find no value in the fact that a defensive tackle runs the 40 in 5.8 seconds.

The problem that I have with the combine is that they measure things that have little to do with football.  When was the last time you’ve seen a player bench press during a game?  How often have you seen an offensive lineman suddenly do a standing vertical jump to determine the outcome of a game?  Even the 40 yard dash is pretty silly.  Go back and check the stats of any team in the NFL to see how many plays they executed during the ENTIRE SEASON that were for 40 yards.  I can assure you that it won’t be many.  Most NFL plays go for 5 yards or less.  So why don’t they time players in the 5 yard dash?  Or better yet, the 2 yard dash?  At least that would resemble a real NFL play.

As obvious as all of this sounds, every year we see NFL teams make ridiculous mistakes based on Combine results.  They get mesmerized by the “workout wonders”.  Does anybody remember Darius Heyward-Bey?  How about Ted Ginn, Jr.?  Or Matt Jones?  Or Vernon Gholston?  Or Jarron Gilbert?  All of them performed amazingly well at the NFL Combine.  But none of them proved to be particularly effective in the NFL.

Rather than worrying about how many times a player can bench press 225 lbs., maybe teams ought to be more concerned about how the player looks on tape.  How did he perform in actual games?  Can he catch the ball?  Does he make solid tackles?  Those are the things that will dictate his success of failure in the NFL, not his time in a cone drill.

Had scouts done that, they would have seen that Darius Heyward-Bey wasn’t a particularly effective receiver when he played at Maryland, despite his speed.  They would have seen that Jarron Gilbert struggled against inferior competition, despite that amazing YouTube video of him jumping out of a swimming pool.  Everything they need to know is on tape.  It won’t be found in the 40 yard dash.

So save yourself a lot of time this weekend.  Rather than tuning in to the NFL Scouting Combine, read a good book.  Or perhaps you can go see a movie.  Or take the wife to dinner at her favorite restaurant.  But whatever you do, DO NOT watch the Combine……unless you want to see a good comedy.

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How are they different?

February 17, 2011 By: Admin Category: Post-Game Reports

I know that everyone wants to forget about the Steelers’ Super Bowl loss, and move on to the NFL Draft.  And I promise to start talking about the Draft soon enough.  However, there’s one final thought about the Super Bowl that’s been lingering on my mind, and it just won’t seem to leave.

Was it just me?  Did anyone else get a terrible feeling of deja vu when watching the Steelers lose Super Bowl XLV to the Green Bay Packers?

Some fans may not be old enough to remember the last time the Steelers lost a Super Bowl.  After all, it was 15 years ago.  So a 25 year old Steelers fan would have only been 10 years old the last time we experienced this.

So for those who don’t remember Super Bowl XXX, let me take you back in time.

The Steelers were facing the hated Dallas Cowboys.  This was the Cowboys team that featured Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, and Emmitt Smith.  Legends all.

The Cowboys were favored in the game, and the Steelers felt disrespected entering the game because nobody believed they could win.

As it turned out, not only could the Steelers hang with the Cowboys, but they ended up dominating them.

The Steelers had approximately an 8 minute advantage over the Cowboys in their time of possession.  They rushed for over 100 yards, while holding Emmitt Smith and the vaunted Cowboys’ rushing attack to only 56 net yards on the ground.  They forced the Cowboys to punt more times than the Steelers punted.  The Steelers also had approximately 50 more yards of total offense than the Cowboys.

Anyone reading the statistics from the game would probably assume that the Steelers won the game.  Unfortunately, that was not the case.

Everyone on the Steelers played a great game…..except one player.  We don’t actually say his name on this blog.  It’s officially banned.  Instead, we simply refer to him as “He whose name is not to be spoken”.

He whose name is not to be spoken

“He whose name is not to be spoken” threw three interceptions in the game.  Two of those interceptions resulted in touchdowns by the Cowboys.  Had it not been for those interceptions, the Steelers would have won their “one for the thumb” ten years earlier than they ultimately did when they won it at Super Bowl XL.

Because of those interceptions, “He whose name is not to be spoken” became the Bill Buckner of Pittsburgh sports.  No other poor performance by an athlete had ever cost a Pittsburgh sports franchise so much.  Until now.

Fast forward 15 years to Super Bowl XLV.  Once again, the Steelers entered the game as an underdog.  Once again, the team felt disrespected because nobody thought that they had any hope of winning.

If you look at the statistics from Super Bowl XLV, you’ll notice that the Steelers actually dominated the Packers statistically. Someone who hadn’t seen the game would probably assume that the Steelers won based on their statistical advantage.

Just like in Super Bowl XXX, the Steelers had approximately an 8 minute advantage in their time of possession.  They rushed for over 125 yards, while holding the Packers to only 50 net yards on the ground.  They forced the Packerss to punt more times than the Steelers punted.  The Steelers also had approximately 50 more yards of total offense than the Packers.

Are you starting to see the similarities?

But just like in Super Bowl XXX, it was costly turnovers that caused the Steelers to lose a game that they dominated statistically.

So why are the two games viewed so differently?  More importantly, why are the two quarterbacks treated so differently?

One quarterback had his name banned from this blog.  It isn’t safe for him to set foot within the limits of Allegheny County.  He probably doesn’t even attend player’s reunions because Greg Lloyd, Levon Kirkland, or Kevin Greene might beat him silly.

The other quarterback escaped a bad performance (his second in his 3 Super Bowl appearances) virtually unscathed.  Despite his untimely, and ultimately extremely costly interceptions, I’ve heard few fans or journalists blame Ben for the loss.  In fact, few even seem to think that he performed poorly.

Both quarterbacks threw interceptions that ultimately cost their team a Super Bowl victory.  Yet one is still viewed as a pariah 15 years after his Super Bowl meltdown.  The other was welcomed as a hero, mere minutes after his Super Bowl failure.

Big Ben even took personal responsibility for the loss.  He admitted that his mistakes cost the team a ring.  Yet he has not been labeled a goat, despite the Steelers’ loss.

I’m not saying that Ben Roethlisberger should be treated the same way that “He whose name is not to be spoken” was treated.  Rather, I’m asking why their treatment was so different.

So that’s my question for you.  How were the two performances different?  More importantly, why are the two players treated so differently?  Inquiring minds want to know.

Any thoughts?

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I’m in the tournament

February 15, 2011 By: Admin Category: Uncategorized

Steelers Today has been nominated for the 3rd Annual Best Pittsburgh Sports Blog tournament.  There are lots of great blogs in the tournament.  Each of them does an incredible job covering Pittsburgh Sports.  Most do so for little or no money.

Please take a moment to cast a vote for Steelers Today.  Also, please take the time to check out some of the other great blogs in the tournament.  Pittsburgh is lucky to have so many great bloggers who really do a very nice job of writing about all of Pittsburgh’s sports teams.

Please click here to vote for Steelers Today.

The brackets sometimes take a while to load,  so please be patient.  Steelers Today is in the Johnny Ray division of the tournament.  Please vote for us if you think we’re worthy.

Thanks in advance for your support.

There’s nothing worse!

February 14, 2011 By: Admin Category: Draft/Free Agency

I’ve now had over a week to fully digest the fact that the Steelers lost the Super Bowl.  And I can now say from experience that time does NOT heal all wounds.  It still hurts just like it did when the final whistle blew.  Frankly, after reading this week’s Sports Illustrated and their love-fest for the Packers, I think I feel even worse.

But now that I’ve had time to reflect on all of the implications of the loss, I’ve come to realize that losing is even worse than it originally seemed.  In fact, losing the Super Bowl may be the worst fate in all of sports.

Some of you probably think that I’m exaggerating.  But I’m not.

Let’s look at some of the worst sports memories that I can recall, then I’ll show you why this is worse.

When the Penguins lost the Stanley Cup, that was pretty bad.  But the team had a very young nucleus, and the team that beat them was aging in dog years.  It was clear that in time, the Pens would overtake them.  And that’s exactly what happened the next year.  So losing wasn’t so bad.  It gave a young team the experience they needed to win the Cup later.

Or how about when the Pirates lost their young stars Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonilla?  While that seemed like a terrible thing, I was certain that it was only going to be a matter of time before the Pirates signed new star players and got back to their winning ways.  Ummmm, I was obviously wrong about that one.  But still, the pain the Pirates bring me on a daily basis is manageable.  It’s not even in the same neighborhood as what the Steelers just put me through.

Dave Wannstedt got several extremely talented Pitt football teams to under-perform miserably.  In fact, he seemed to have a special talent for that.  No wonder he’s no longer the head coach.  But I always felt confident that he would recruit another strong class the next year, and they’d under-perform once again.  So Pitt losses were never truly painful.

But what the Steelers did was much worse.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m proud that they got to the Super Bowl.  Mike Tomlin did a fantastic job with this team.  Most fans didn’t expect the Steelers to make it to the Super Bowl this year.  But despite the pride in seeing the Steelers make it to the Super Bowl, I still think that losing the Super Bowl is the worst fate in sports.

There are several reasons that I feel this way.  Firstly, the Super Bowl is the biggest stage in sports outside of the World Cup (and we know that Americans don’t care about soccer).  So losing the Super Bowl is essentially failure of the greatest imaginable magnitude.

Secondly, the feeling of hope that being in the Super Bowl brings also leads to an incredible feeling of letdown when the hopes aren’t realized. The NFL drags on the anticipation by making us wait a full two weeks before the Super Bowl is actually played.  That two weeks is about as enjoyable as Chinese water torture.  If I had to listen to one more analyst ask “who has better hair, Troy Polamalu or Clay Matthews?”, I think I would have shot myself.

Frankly, unless your team actually wins it, the Super Bowl and all of the events leading up to it, are actually pretty miserable.  Think about it.

Perhaps I’m the only one, but I think I’d rather have the Steelers lose earlier in the playoffs than lose in the Super Bowl.  An early playoff exit just doesn’t seem to hurt as much.

And finally, the NFL essentially penalizes the team that loses the Super Bowl.  Because they made it to the Super Bowl, the Steelers will get the 31st pick in the draft.  So we have to watch Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Cleveland pick talented players while we wait patiently for the 31st pick to come around.

Do you think there will be a Pro Bowl caliber left tackle still on the board at pick #31?  Neither do I.  Or how about a top-tier cornerback?   Do you think the next Darrelle Revis is going to be sitting there at pick #31?  Neither do I.

When the Steelers first lost the Super Bowl, I comforted myself by saying that “30 other teams would have loved to have been where we were”.  But now I’m not so sure about that.

When the New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens, New York Jets, Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints, and Indianapolis Colts are all picking ahead of us, do you think that any of them are going to envy the Steelers, or want to swap picks with them?  That’s what I thought.

I know that this has been a bit of a rant.  But I had to get it out of my system.  Losing the Super Bowl sucks!  And it sucks on multiple levels.

In the future, I think I’d prefer that the Steelers either win the Super Bowl, or get eliminated from the playoffs as early as possible.  Heck, if we can’t win it all, then at least we can get a good draft pick to help us win the following season.

Hmmmmm, I wonder if Mike Pouncey will be available at pick #31?

Go away, Arizona!

February 10, 2011 By: Admin Category: Players

Am I the only one who is getting sick and tired of the Arizona Cardinals stealing from the Pittsburgh Steelers?

In case any of you haven’t heard, the Arizona Cardinals signed Steelers’ defensive backs coach Ray Horton to become their new defensive coordinator.

Ordinarily, I would congratulate coach Horton.  After all, it’s nice to see Steelers coaches get recognized for the great job that they do.  But in this case, I’m not happy at all.

I recognize that Ken Whisenhunt used to coach for the Steelers.  I know that he is familiar with the Steelers’ players and coaches.  But does he have to go shopping within the Steelers organization every time he has an opening to fill?

At first, it was kind of funny.  When Ken Whisenhunt wanted players, he always seemed to go after former Steelers.  Same with coaches.  Guys like Joey Porter, Alan Faneca, Russ Grimm, were all brought in by Arizona.  Believe it or not, Clark Haggans still plays for the Cardinals.  I’ll bet most Steelers fans thought he had retired years ago.

The Cardinals even signed guys like Isaiah Williams.  Williams was at Steelers training camp last year, but he didn’t make the team.  But it was still enough to make him attractive to the Cardinals.  Is it any wonder we all started calling Arizona “Pittsburgh West”?

But enough is enough.  There are 30 other NFL teams that the Cardinals can steal from when they need players and coaches.  Moreover, there are literally hundreds of colleges that all have coaches who would love to move up to the NFL.  But the Cardinals seem to think that the only place to get talent is from the Pittsburgh Steelers.

They asked the Steelers for permission to interview linebackers coach Keith Butler too, but the Steelers denied their request.  Good for them!

Perhaps I’m just being petty, but it just seems like Ken Whisenhunt lacks imagination.  Do you mean to tell me that he can’t find a good coach anywhere except in Pittsburgh?  Similarly, is he REALLY not able to find a young player who can do better than 50 year old Clark Haggans?

We all understand that you once coached in Pittsburgh, Whiz.  But it’s about time you established your own identity.  The Cardinals have to become more than just “Pittsburgh West”.

But until you gain the courage to chart your own path, I hear that Levon Kirkland isn’t on anyone’s roster.  Maybe you can sign him too.

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