Steelers Today - A Pittsburgh Steelers blog


Predicting the AFC North

September 08, 2010 By: Admin Category: Uncategorized

This year’s AFC North promises to be one of the best divisions in the NFL.  Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh all threaten to be playoff teams.  And Cleveland……..well, they still suck.

Predicting the order of finish this season is going to be tough.  Let’s take a look at each of the four AFC North teams.

Cincinnati Bengals- The Bengals swept the AFC North last season.  Not many people saw that coming.

The most surprising thing about Cincinnati’s season was that they won by playing Steeler football.  The Bengals ran the ball well, and their defense was stout against the run.  Sound familiar?

It was the Bengal’s defense that led the way in 2009.  They were the 4th ranked defense in the NFL.

Despite having Carson Palmer and Chad Ochocinco, it was running back Cedric Benson that led the Bengals’ offense.  The Bengal’s passing game was ranked #26 in the NFL.  That’s nothing to brag about.  In an effort to improve their passing game, the Bengals brought in free agent wide receiver Terrell Owens.  They also drafted tight end Jermaine Gresham from Oklahoma.

The big question is whether Carson Palmer is still the elite quarterback that he once was.  In my opinion, the answer is “no”.  Palmer is probably the 3rd best quarterback in the AFC North.  Similarly, I think the Bengals are going to be the third best team in the AFC North this season.

Baltimore Ravens- On paper, the Ravens look to be the Steelers’ toughest opponent in the AFC North this season.  They are extremely well-balanced.  They too, seemed to win last season by playing Steeler football.  The Ravens had the #3 ranked defense in the entire NFL last year, and they had the top rushing attack in the AFC North.

The Ravens are always a threat with their defense.  However, the defense is getting older.  Ray Lewis is 58 years old (okay, maybe not that old), and Ed Reed spent the preseason on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list after undergoing hip surgery.

Like the Steelers have done in recent years, we may see the Ravens transition into a passing team in 2010.  The Ravens have a talented young quarterback in Joe Flacco.  Ozzie Newsome did a great job of bringing in more targets for Flacco to throw to.  As if Anquan Boldin weren’t enough, the Ravens also recently signed T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

As much as I hate to admit it, the Ravens look good.  They should provide the greatest challenge for AFC supremacy this year.

Cleveland Browns - The Browns suck.  Need I say more?

Pittsburgh Steelers - I am surprised at how many Steelers fans I hear say that the Steelers are going to have a bad season this year.  I don’t see that happening.  In fact, I anticipate the Steelers having a great season.

The Steelers defense suffered due to injuries to Aaron Smith and Troy Polamalu last season.  Either of those would be a devastating loss.  But losing both of them proved to be an insurmountable loss.

Safety Troy Polamalu

The Steelers’ defense never looked good in 2009, despite finishing the regular season as the #5 defense in the NFL.  In fact, they were the third ranked defense in the AFC North, behind Baltimore and Cincinnati.

The Steelers have both Polamalu and Smith back this season.  Moreover, they have added a slew of young, talented linebackers.  I truly believe that the Steelers’ defense will be greatly improved this year.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will miss the first four games of the season, but I have confidence that Dennis Dixon can lead the Steelers to a few victories in Big Ben’s absence.  In fact, not having Roethlisberger may prove to be a blessing in disguise.

In 2009, the Steelers became too dependent on the pass.  They were the worst running team in the AFC North.  That’s right.  They finished dead last in rushing.  That’s almost blasphemy for a Steelers team.

With Big Ben out of the line-up, the Steelers may be forced to re-emphasize the running game.  That should ultimately help the team.

With a rejuvenated running game, and their already potent passing game, the Steelers offense should once again be the class of the AFC North.  Moreover, the defense should also regain their rightful place as the best in the division.

Having said all of that, my predicted order of finish for the AFC North in 2010 is as follows:

#1 - Pittsburgh Steelers

#2 - Baltimore Ravens

#3 - Cincinnati Bengals

#4 - That other team

I’d love to hear what my readers think about my analysis and my predictions.  Am I being too much of a homer?  Do you agree with my predictions?  Leave a comment and let me hear your thoughts.


(If you enjoyed this article, please consider leaving a comment by clicking on the square at the top right of this article. Also, please subscribe to our blog by pressing the orange button below. You can also follow us on Twitter by clicking the bird doohicky below. Also consider following us on Facebook. Thanks.)

Subscribe in a reader

Top                NFL Fan Sites



What today’s Steelers-Bengals game really means

November 15, 2009 By: Admin Category: Pre-Game Analyses

I firmly believe that the Steelers are going to beat the Bengals today.  Sure, the Bengals beat the Steelers earlier in the year, but we all know that that game was a fluke.  The Steelers were without Troy Polamalu and Rashard Mendenhall.  They were in Cincinnati.  They blew 10 points due to a missed field goal by Jeff Reed and a dropped touchdown pass by Limas Sweed.  And their defense completely disappeared in the 4th quarter.

This time the game will be played in Pittsburgh.  Troy Polamalu is back.  Rashard Mendenhall is running wild.  Limas Sweed is on the bench (where he belongs).  Jeff Reed has recaptured his mojo.  And the Steelers defense is once again playing like……the Steelers defense.

So when the Steelers beat the Bengals this afternoon, all will be well in Steelerland, right?  Well, not so fast.


Even with a win today, the Steelers will still have their work cut out for them.  The Bengals have already swept their season series with the Baltimore Ravens.  Meanwhile, the Steelers have yet to face the Ravens.  Beating them once is always tough.  Beating them twice is extremely difficult.

The Bengals are 4-0 within the AFC North.  The Steelers are 1-1.  That’s a significant advantage for the Bengals.  And if the Bengals somehow win today, the advantage probably becomes insurmountable.

If we look at their remaining schedules, the Bengals seem to have a fairly easy path for the rest of the season.  The Bengals next three games are against the Oakland Raiders, the Cleveland Browns, and the Detroit Lions.  I’d say those are probably 3 easy wins for the Bengals.  The Bengals also have games remaining against the Kansas City Chiefs and the New York Jets.  Those are also probably wins for the Bengals.  The only two challenging opponents remaining on the Bengals’ schedule are the Minnesota Vikings and the San Diego Chargers.  Both games are on the road, so I’m going to assume that the Bengals will lose one, but not both games.  That would mean that the Bengals would end the season with a 12-4.

Meanwhile, the Steelers still have two games remaining against the Ravens.  The Ravens are 4-4 right now, but we all know that neither team’s record matters when these two teams face one another.  The Ravens are particularly difficult to beat in Baltimore.  So there is a possibility that the Steelers might lose one of the two games against the Ravens.  That would dig the Steelers an even bigger hole in their division tie breaker.

Besides the Ravens, the Steelers have a fairly easy path for the rest of the season.  They have games remaining against perennial losers like the Kansas City Chiefs, the Oakland Raiders, and the Cleveland Browns.  The Steelers also have to face a pretty good Green Bay Packers team, and an enigmatic Miami Dolphins team.

I don’t foresee the Steelers losing to the any of these teams.  But I didn’t foresee them losing to the Bengals or Bears either.  If the Steelers lose one of their games to the Ravens, and then drop a game to one of their remaining opponents (e.g. the Green Bay Packers), they will probably end the season in a tie with the Bengals.  That will leave the Steelers in an unfavorable position with the tie-breakers.  The Bengals will probably have a better record in the division.  They will probably also have a better record against common opponents (that Chicago Bears loss comes back to haunt us).

The bottom line is that if the Steelers lose today, they will have placed themselves in a very difficult predicament.  Catching the Bengals will be almost impossible.

The obvious solution to this problem is for the Steelers to win.  They need to beat the Bengals today, and then keep on winning.  They have to sweep their series against the Ravens (not an easy task).  They also need to make sure they don’t suffer any more unexpected losses (e.g. Chiefs, Browns, or Raiders).  Then they have to take care of business against the two respectable non-division opponents remaining on their schedule (Packers & Dolphins).

I guess it all goes back to something that we all learned on the playground in kindergarten; winning is good, and losing is bad.  If the Steelers keep winning, things will be good for them.  If they suffer another loss or two, things will be bad. 

The team’s fate is completely in their own hands.  They know what they have to do.  Beat the Bengals.  Beat the Ravens (twice).  Beat the doormats (Raiders, Browns, and Chiefs).  Beat the Packers.  Beat the Dolphins.  It’s as simple as that.

To quote a once great man who is now obviously senile; “Just win, baby!”


(If you enjoyed this article, please consider leaving a comment below. Also, please subscribe to our blog by pressing the orange button below. You can also follow us on Facebook or Twitter by clicking the doohickies at the bottom of the right column of this page.  Thanks.)

Subscribe in a reader

Add to Technorati Favorites

Top NFL Fan Sites

AFC North Review: Baltimore Ravens

June 04, 2009 By: Admin Category: Draft/Free Agency

June 4, 2009
By Donald Starver

I’m Baaaaack!  After taking the month of May off to rest, I am back and ready to get the party started again here on Steelers Today.

May was a quiet month, so I really didn’t miss much.  The Steelers went to the White House.  James Harrison stayed home.  Harrison’s kid got bit by his dog.  That’s about it.  See, we’re all caught up.

To kick things off here at Steelers Today, we are going to start with a review of what each team in the AFC North has done during the off-season.  Rather than give the update myself, I am going to have a blogger from each AFC North team provide the update on what his team has done during the offseason.  First up is Joe Barnes from the Baltimore Ravens blog The Ebony Bird.  Tomorrow we will feature Adam Kiefaber from the Cincinnati Bengals Blog Bengal Stripes.  On Saturday we will have Don Delco from the Cleveland Browns blog No Logo Needed.  And finally, I will finish up on Sunday with my review of the Steelers’ off-season.

Take it away, Joe.

AFC North Offseason Review: Baltimore Ravens

2008 Record: 11-5 (AFC North: 4-2)

Key Losses: LB Bart Scott, S Jim Leohnard, K Matt Stover, C Jason Brown, CB Chris McAllister, FB Lorenzo Neal

Key Free Agent Signings: CB Dominique Foxworth, C Matt Birk, TE L.J. Smith, QB John Beck, CB Chris Carr

Key Draft Selections: 1st Round: OT Michael Oher (Ole Miss), 2nd Round: DE Paul Kruger (Utah), 3rd Round: CB Lardarius Webb (Nicholls St.), 6th Round: RB Cedric Peerman (Virginia)

Best Free Agent Signing and Impact: The best signing would have to be that of cornerback Dominique Foxworth.  While he may not be as established as Pro Bowl center Matt Birk, Foxworth adds a young, solid talent in the secondary that can mature in the Ravens defense with emerging star Fabian Washington.

Biggest Loss and Impact: Lorenzo Neal’s departure hasn’t been talked about as much as that of Bart Scott or Chris McAllister, but Neal was a huge reason for Joe Flacco’s success last season.  Neal was an incredible pass blocker, but was .even better blocking in the run game.  The emergence of both Le’Ron McClain and Ray Rice was in part due to Neal’s blocking.  Moreover, Joe Flacco was put at ease by the success of the running game.

The defense, especially the linebacking corps, always manages to replace their players very well.  Bart Scott was once one of these “replacement backers”, but the offense has never been good at replacing its main contributors.

What is your reaction to the Ravens’ draft?: The Ravens managed to pull in a draft that took the best players available in their slots, while still addressing team depth.  They managed to get stud lineman Michael Oher at the #24 slot, and got FCS 2-time All-American cornerback/safety Lardarius Webb in the third.  Without drafting players that were household names in college, it will take more than just a month or so to judge this draft, but as of now, it looks like a classic Ozzie Newsome success.

Was the Ravens’ biggest need addressed?: This question has varying opinions among Ravens fans.  Many feel that cornerback was the most pressing need, especially after losing McAllister.  But the team signed Foxworth and Carr, as well as drafting Webb to replace him.  That leaves wide receiver, where the team flirted with the option of trading for Anquan Boldin, but never pulled the trigger.  The only player they acquired at the position was Kelley Washington, who was added more for depth than for impact.  There could still be time for the team to trade for a guy like Chad Johnson or another second-tier receiver.

What storylines will you follow in camp?: There are multiple things to look for going into training camp this July:  (1) Who will emerge as the starting kicker?   (2) Can Joe Flacco build on his success?  (3) How will the team deal with the loss of 6 starters?  (4)  How will Greg Mattison replace Rex Ryan as defensive coordinator?

Well, there you have it, Steelers fans.  That is Joe’s review of the Ravens’ off-season.  I noticed he didn’t mention how they plan on addressing the 3 losses they suffered at the hands of the 6-time Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers.  I’ll have to ask him that question next time I talk to him.

Personally, I think the Purple Dragon‘s power will be somewhat diminished this year.  The biggest loss, in my opinion, isn’t even on the field.  It’s the loss of defensive coordinator Rex Ryan.  Buddy’s son was an important component of that team.  Just imagine losing Dick LeBeau.  That’s how the loss of Ryan is going to affect the Ravens.

Chris McAllister and Bart Scott are important losses, but the Ravens will get over them.  I really like the addition of Michael Oher.  I watched him throughout his college career, and I really like him as a player and as a person.  Paul Kruger  is also a nice pick.

Ray Lewis has to start showing the effects of age soon.  But even if he slows down on the field, he is still one of the best leaders in the game (you don’t know how much it hurts for me to openly admit that).  His presence will keep the Baltimore “D” near the top of the NFL.

So what do you guys think of Joe’s review of the Ravens?  Do you like their draft choices?  Think Joe Flacco will be even better this year?  Can the Ravens challenge the Steelers for AFC North dominance?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  After a month of vacation, I am can’t wait to start talking about the Steelers again.

Also, since we still have quite a bit of time until training camp starts, are there any subjects that you’d like to see me cover?  I definitely take requests.  If there is something you’d like me to write about, just let me know.

Once again, I’m happy to be back, and I can’t wait to start talking Steeler football with all of you.

(If you enjoyed this article, please consider leaving a comment below. Also, please subscribe to our blog by pressing the orange button below. Thanks.)

Subscribe in a reader

Add to Technorati Favorites

Top NFL Fan Sites

Steelers 2008: The Year in Pictures (Part 2)

February 25, 2009 By: Admin Category: Uncategorized

Tune in tomorrow for Steelers 2008: The Year in Pictures (Part 3)

(If you enjoyed this article, please consider leaving a comment below. Also, please subscribe to our blog by pressing the orange button below. Thanks.)

Subscribe in a reader

Add to Technorati Favorites

Top NFL Fan Sites

AFC Championship Preview: Steelers vs. Ravens

January 15, 2009 By: Admin Category: Pre-Game Analyses

January 15, 2009
By Donald Starver

The time is finally here.  It’s the AFC Championship game, and appropriately, the two roughest, toughest, meanest teams in the NFL are going to square off for the right to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.  The NFL’s #1 defense (the Pittsburgh Steelers) will battle the NFL’s #2 ranked defense (the Baltimore Ravens).  Perhaps the old saying really is true; “defense wins championships”.

On Sunday at 6:30PM ET, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens will square off at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.  This will be the two teams’ third meeting this season.

There will be no surprises in this game.  The Steelers and Ravens are long-time rivals in the AFC North.  They know one another very well.  And they don’t like each other.

This will not be a game of finesse.  You won’t see any West Coast offense here.  Nope, what you’re going to see is pure, unadulterated smash-mouth football.  You’re going to see football the way it was meant to be played.  The way Dick Butkus played it.  The way Ray Nitschke played it.  The way Jack Lambert played it.  The way Ray Lewis and Ed Reed play it.  The way James Harrison and Troy Polamalu play it. 

This will be a battle of pure testosterone.  Only real men need step onto the field.  Reggie Bush couldn’t play in this game.  Matt Leinart either.  Braylon Edwards would wet his pants.  Nope, the soft need not apply.  No sissies allowed.

Both teams expect to lose players to injury during this game.  That’s just what happens when these two teams play.  Both teams walk onto the field, but they usually limp or even crawl off of it.  So the crew at Heinz Field had better have lots of crutches and bandages available.  Order a few extra stretchers, and have the paramedics standing by.  You’re going to need them.

Here is a little video clip of captures the intensity of the game.  At first we thought these were scenes from a Steelers-Ravens game, but then we noticed that the players were wearing boxing gloves. 


I know they were wearing boxing gloves, but are you SURE that wasn’t a Steelers-Ravens game?  It sure looked like one to me.

On offense, both teams are going to try to run the ball and impose their will on their opponent.  Both will use the run to set up the play action pass.  And most importantly, both teams know that they must keep turnovers to a minimum.  This is not going to be a high scoring game, and the team that turns over the ball most will likely lose.

On defense, both teams will try to stop the run.  At all cost.  Afterall, neither of these teams has allowed a hundred yard rusher since….. well, too long for anybody to remember.  The Steelers’ defense gives up only 237 yards per game.  Total.  Doesn’t Drew Brees pass for that many yards in a quarter?  The Ravens are right behind them, yielding only 261 yards per game.

Last week against the San Diego Chargers, the Steelers defense gave up 15 yards rushing.  No, not 15 yards in the first 3 minutes of the game.  That would be pretty normal for most teams.  Nope, the Steelers gave up 15 rushing yards in the ENTIRE GAME.  That’s what I call defense.  The most impressive part is that it was Darren Sproles that they contained.  You know, the same guy who had torched the Indianapolis Colts’ defense for 328 all-purpose yards just one week earlier.

Suffice it to say that nobody on the Ravens or Steelers is going to be running for 328 yards, all-purpose or otherwise.  28 maybe, but not 328.

The Steelers come into the game with a slight advantage, but only slight.  The steelers advantage comes in the form of what I call the “3 H’s”. 

The first “H” is “history”.  These teams have already faced one another twice this season, and the Steelers have won each time.  That is a decided advantage.  The Steelers know that they can beat this team.  The Ravens on the other hand……….  There are some who have used twisted logic to imply that having lost twice is actually an advantage for the Ravens.  They say that it is very difficult for a team to beat another team three times during the same season.  Therefore, the odds are in the Ravens’ favor.  Huh??!!  That’s some pretty convoluted reasoning.  Under closer scrutiny, it just doesn’t hold water.  I debunk that myth here.

The second “H” that is working in the Steelers’ favor is “health”.  The Ravens are banged up.  Really banged up.  They are coming off a brutal battle against the Tennessee Titans last week.  The Ravens won on the scoreboard, but they took a beating physically.  Terrell Suggs hurt his shoulder, and is questionable for Sunday’s game.  Samari Rolle is also hurt, but he is likely to play.  Other Ravens nursing injuries include Ed Reed, Fabian Washington, Todd Heap, Le’Ron McClain, Willie Anderson, and Derrick Mason.  They’ll all take the field on Sunday, but they won’t be at 100%.

To make matters even worse, the football gods played a cruel joke on the Ravens when the 2008 NFL schedule was formulated.  The Ravens got their bye in week 2.  That’s right, week 2.  They really needed it then, after that brutal pre-season (in which the starters barely play) and one regular season game (yes, that’s sarcasm you hear).  Since then, the Ravens have played for 17 straight weeks with no rest.  That’s not good for any team’s health.

The third “H” is “home field advantage”.  The Steelers are playing at Heinz Field.  One of the best home field advantages in the NFL.  Not only will the Steelers have Steeler Nation behind them waving their Terrible Towels and rooting the home team to victory, but they’ll also have the added advantage of the Heinz Field turf.  Heinz Field’s turf is notoriously bad.  The NFL players voted it the worst playing surface in the NFL.  Sure, the Steelers have recently had the turf replaced, and they say that the field is in great shape.  But does anyone really believe them?  “Great shape” is a relative term.  It may be in great shape relative to the normal sloppy, cratered disaster area that the Steelers call a playing surface, but relative to any other field in the NFL, it would probably be found wanting.

Because of those 3 H’s, it’s hard for me to bet against the Steelers.  Well, I’d never bet against the Steelers anyway, but if I weren’t so biased, then I still wouldn’t bet against the Steelers.  The odds are in their favor, and it doesn’t take a biased homer like me to see that.

Because these two teams have faced one another twice, I’ve already done some pretty extensive analysis of the two teams and the key matchups in the game.  Rather than recreate that, I’m going to ask that readers refer to those articles for additional information.  We try to provide some of the most comprehensive pre- and post-game analysis available anywhere.  Please take a look at them.  I’ve provide links below:

Steelers vs. Ravens Preview (Round 1)

Steelers vs. Ravens Key Match-ups (Round 1)

Steelers vs. Ravens Recap (Round 1)

Steelers vs. Ravens Preview (Round 2)

We also wrote the following articles pertaining to the two Steelers-Ravens games earlier this season.  There is very good information here as well for those who are less familiar with the Steelers-Ravens rivalry.  It is good background information before watching Sunday’s game:

Welcome to the NFL, Rookie!!

Steelers vs. Ravens: A tale of good versus evil  (I highly recommend this one)

Purple dragon slain (Part 2 of the story above.  Highly recommended.)

(If you enjoyed this article, please consider leaving a comment below. Also, please subscribe to our blog by pressing the orange button below. Thanks.)

Subscribe in a reader

Add to Technorati Favorites

Top NFL Fan Sites