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10 reasons to feel optimistic about the Steelers

October 01, 2009 By: Admin Category: Uncategorized

October 1, 2009
By Donald Starver

The Steelers have lost two games in a row, and just as quickly as that, Chicken Little has come out of hiding.  The sky is falling!  The sky is falling!

The Steelers are 1-2, and some are quick to point out that the Steelers have the same record as the Detroit Lions and the Oakland Raiders.  But is that really so bad?

Statistics can be often be misleading.  Sure, the Steelers have more losses than wins.  They are also in third place in the AFC North, and trail the Baltimore Ravens by 2 games.  Despite this, I am not the least bit concerned about the Steelers.  In fact, I feel quite confident.

Let’s look at a few facts that leave me feeling extremely optimistic.

1. The Steelers have outgained their opponents 704 yards to 563 yards in their two losses. That’s right, the Steelers had significantly more yards than their opponent in both losses.

2.  Willie Parker was the leading rusher in each of the Steelers’ losses. Some have overlooked this statistic.  Sure, Willie hasn’t had any 100+ yard performances, but he’s outperformed the opposing running backs in both games.

Willie Parker

Willie Parker

3.  The Steelers led in time of possession in each loss. Usually, when you control the time of possession, you win the game.  It is rare for a team to control the ball for a full 10 minutes more than their opponent and still lose.  But that’s exactly what the Steelers did against the Bengals.  Despite the loss, I’m still happy to see the Steelers dominating the time clock.

4.  The Steelers punted a combined 5 times in their two losses compared to 11 total punts by their opponents. Any team that punts half as often as their opponent is very likely to win the game.  Unfortunately in these two games it didn’t turn out that way.  But if the defense can continue to force the opponents to punt, good things will happen.

5.  The Steelers dropped easy touchdown passes in both losses. Santonio Holmes dropped a sure touchdown against the Bears, and Limas Sweed dropped one against the Bengals.  Both of those touchdowns would have meant victory.

6.  The Steelers lost the two games by a combined 6 points. That’s all.  They lost by 3 points to the Bears, and by 3 points to the Bengals.  That’s much better than losing by a large margin.

7.  Jeff Reed missed 3 out of 5 field goal attempts in the two losses. Both games were lost by 3 points, so those missed field goals proved to be disastrous.  Despite the missed field goals, I truly doubt that Reed is going to continue to hit less than 50% of his field goal attempts.  The 3 missed field goals were an anomaly, not the norm.

Jeff Reed

Jeff Reed

8.  After 3 games, the Steelers are only one game behind their pace during their last two Super Bowl seasons. In 2005, the Steelers started the season 2-1.  They went on to finish 11-5, and won the Super Bowl.  Last year, the Steelers also started off 2-1, and finished the season 12-4 before going on to win the Super Bowl.  So after 3 games, this years’ team is only one game off of their recent Super Bowl pace.

9.  The Steelers haven’t played the Baltimore Ravens yet. Remember, we beat them 3 times last year.  Two wins over the Ravens this year will completely eliminate the current deficit.

10.  Troy Polamalu will be back soon. Do I really need to say anything more?


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Living with the enemy

September 19, 2009 By: Admin Category: Uncategorized

September 20, 2009
By Patrick Cartwright

I don’t want to alarm anyone, but my wife is a Chicago Bears fan.   She grew up in the Chicago suburb of Naperville and, with the exception of her college years, has never lived somewhere that cannot be considered the area locally known as “Chicagoland”.  So when it comes to team allegiances, she picks her hometown and sticks by it.

That is not to say she roots against the Steelers.  You see, Mrs. Cartwright does not care for sports like I do.  While she counts herself among the fandom of such teams as the Chicago Bears, Cubs, Hawks, Sox, and Bulls, her happiness is almost never contingent upon whether or not one of these teams wins or loses.

She wants them to win because they’re the local team, and she loves the city of Chicago with all her heart.  So when we started dating, and even more so now that we’re married, she was a bit taken aback with my passion, or fervor, or in her words, “insanity”.

She quickly learned that the better my teams fared, the better my mood became and vice versa.  Granted, the storm cloud that hangs over my head after a bad loss usually dissipates within an hour, but even so, sometimes that’s a pretty rocky 60 minutes.

And so, because she likes to see me happy (and hates being around me when they lose), she has adopted my teams.  She cheers the Steelers, Penguins, and my college team that will remain nameless.  She does not cheer the Pirates, because I barely cheer the Pirates.

And so, as we go to the game together at Soldier Field on Sunday, I will be wearing the jersey of Steelers Legend Jack Lambert and will carry my Terrible Towel into enemy territory.  My wife will also wear a jersey, a small women’s-style jersey that she enjoys because it makes her look “sporty and cute”.

So whose name and number will be on her back as she escorts her husband into the throngs of Bears fans?  Brian Urlacher?  Jay Cutler?  Devin Hester?  Nope.  Her jersey is that of the Bears’ Punter, Brad Maynard.  And, I might also point out, its autographed.

Why, of all the players on the Bears past and present, did she pick the current punter?  Because he calls in every week to my wife’s favorite morning drive radio program (Eric and Kathy) on “Maynard Mondays” to describe his life as an NFL punter and shoot the breeze with the hosts.  He talks about how he and the kicker, Robbie Gould, play Xbox during training camp, and how he’s ill-equipped to make a tackle if there is a big run-back.  He’s a pretty affable, nice sounding guy who doesn’t take himself or his profession too seriously.  So there you go.  My wife’s new favorite player. “He’s the best place-kick holder in the league,” she parrots from some talking head she overheard two years ago while I was watching a game on television.  I have to just smile and shake my head.  You can’t argue with logic like that.

My wife's favorite player.

My wife's favorite player.

A few years ago, I saw that Maynard was having a meet-and-greet at Navy Pier.  So I took my wife and she met him.  She was thrilled to talk to him for 4 minutes, talking the entire time about the radio show.  She never even mentioned football.  And Brad Maynard smiled and laughed, and signed the jersey that as recently as three weeks ago she considered framing, you know, to put in my “Man Cave” that is in the works for our future house.  Why does she think that is a good idea? Because it is the only autographed jersey that we as a family own.  I own one autograph of a Steeler.  It is Jack Lambert’s on a football card, and I keep it in an airtight safe 1000 feet underground at an undisclosed location protected by armed guards.

And so this Sunday we will visit Soldier Field for the 2nd time in as many weeks.  Last week we attended the U2 concert that may or may not have ruined the field (or as I call it, made it “Heinz-esque”).  However, this time we go to Soldier Field as enemies.  Or, as she would say, “frenemies”.  What could possibly go wrong?


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Steelers vs. Bears keys to victory

September 19, 2009 By: Admin Category: Pre-Game Analyses

September 19, 2009
By Patrick Cartwright

This week the Pittsburgh Steelers travel to the windy city to face the Chicago Bears.  Here are what I believe to be the keys to a Steelers victory.

1.  Pressure Cutler – As you may have seen last Sunday, Jay Cutler isn’t quite the savior of mankind that all of Chicago thought he was when they traded for him a few months back.  Funny what a four-pick game will do to a quarterback’s sterling reputation.

Regardless, the reason the Chicago faithful are pining for the days of Kyle Orton is simple; Green Bay put constant pressure on Cutler.  He was hurried and frantic all day long.  When he had the time, and the coverage allowed, he was able to throw the deep ball, but that wasn’t nearly as often as the Bears would like.

More than this, however, the pressure and defensive scheme limited Cutler’s ability to put the ball in the hands of two of his biggest playmakers; running back Matt Forte and tight end Greg Olsen, who was bracketed for practically the entire game.

The bottom line is, against the Packers’ much improved defense, there wasn’t much to look at in the passing game.  I’ve read at least two or three articles attributing a lot of the Bears’ ineptitude to Green Bay’s new 3-4 defense.  That the Steelers play the same style of defense, and are the best in the league at it, does not bode well for Cutler.  He should be running for his life all afternoon.

2.  Run the Ball…and then Pass like Hell – Steelers football is dead.  Before you pass out or send a bunch of hate mail, let me explain; Steelers Football, as defined in the Myron Cope’s Official Terrible Dictionary, is “Run the ball, run the ball, run the ball, and play good defense.”  Which is what I suppose they still do, because if the Steelers ran the ball on three consecutive tries, they would most likely end up punting.

I’ll say it right now; the run game is going nowhere.  It hasn’t been any good for over a year now; yet Ben Roethlisberger has been better than he’s ever been in his career.  Throw the damn ball.

Throw the @#$&#% ball!!!

Throw the @#$&#% ball!!!

I know the arguments.  You have to run the ball the set up the pass.  Ben already takes too many sacks.  The offensive line is terrible.  Wallace is a rookie, Sweed is undependable, Ward is too old, and Santonio might be high.  I get it.  To which I reply: The offense has looked fantastic in the 2-minute drill. They did last year. They did against Tennessee last Thursday.

The best running back we have right now, as far as I can tell, is Mewelde Moore, who seems to be valuable because he’s the only one who can catch a pass out of the backfield.  Slow Willie isn’t getting it done anymore, and I have yet to see something from Mendenhall to make me think he’s the Next Big Thing at Steelers running back.  Oh, and he still fumbles a lot.

Joe Flacco put up 300+ yards and 3 TDs last week.  Joe Freakin’ Flacco.  And you’re not going to want to hear this, but the Ravens have a much better running game than the Steelers do.  Hell, I’d trade all three of our current running backs for Ray Rice.  So please, please, sacrifice the notion of “Steelers Football”, or for the second time this decade, “Steelers Football” is going to be synonymous with following a Super Bowl win with a mediocre season.

3.  The middle of the field is your friend – If you haven’t heard, Bears middle linebacker/Old Spice pitchman Brian Urlacher is out for the season with a dislocated wrist.  Yes, he’s old-ish.  And yes, he had back problems.  But if you think Urlacher isn’t a difference maker, you’ve just come back from a Jamacian vacation with Ricky Williams.

With Urlacher gone, that leaves a hole in the middle of the field to be exploited.  So how about throwing about, oh I don’ t know, a thousand passes to Heath Miller?  Dear Baby Jesus, why do they not throw to Heath Miller more often?

But I’m getting away from myself.  Heath, or perhaps Hines Ward, should be able to take advantage of Urlacher’s absence.  Then, when they cheat players toward the middle, its long bomb time to Santonio or Mike Wallace.

Oh, and it would also be a good time to bring back the fullback.

4. Chicks Dig the Long Ball – While the short middle of the field will probably open up, that shouldn’t discourage Ben from throwing deep.  The Bears defense has a significant weakness: their secondary is awful.  And where the secondary isn’t deficient, its injured.  Please, please, throw the long ball early and often, Bruce Arians.  Do it.  Don’t even think about it.  Do it.

5.  Don’t Screw Up – Honestly, the Steelers are the better team here.  I don’t think player-for-player, the Bears should be able to keep up with the Steelers.  But the Steelers have to be aware of the big play capability of this Bears team.

Jay Cutler has a cannon, and throwing the deep ball to a wide open receiver is something he excels at.  With Troy Polamalu out, there is a weakness to be exploited in the Steelers’ secondary.  If the safeties stay back  and don’t get beat by the long ball, the Bears will be unable to capitalize.

The same goes for the Bears’ run game.  Matt Forte may not have looked all that impressive last week, but he’s a strong runner that can not only wear a team down, but can break for a big play.  Thankfully, the Steelers have one of the best run defenses in the NFL.

Lastly, the O-line needs to be able to protect Roethlisberger.  The Bears showed improved play in their line and blitzing game last week against the Packers.  If Ben has time to throw, this game could be a blowout.  If not, it could be a long day for the Steelers offense.


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Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Chicago Bears Preview

September 17, 2009 By: Admin Category: Pre-Game Analyses

September 16, 2009
By Donald Starver

This Sunday, the Steelers travel to Chicago to take on the Chicago Bears. Kickoff is at 4:15 PM ET.

Soldier Field has not been a friendly venue for the Steelers.  The Steelers have lost 11 of their last 12 games in Chicago.

Despite their losing record in Chicago, the Steelers have won their last 3 games against the Bears, including their November 5, 1995 37-34 win over the Bears in Chicago.

As evidenced by the fact that the Steelers haven’t played in Chicago in over a decade, these two teams don’t face one another very often.  That being the case, there won’t be a great deal of familiarity between them. 

The last time they played was in 2005 here in Pittsburgh, when the Steelers won 21-9.  Some fans may remember that game as the “Bus runs over Urlacher” game.  That’s certainly what I remember about it.


But 4 years is a long time, and these are both completely different teams.

The Bears are coming off a difficult loss to their NFC North rivals the Green Bay Packers.  In that game, the Bears’ new franchise quarterback Jay Cutler struggled.  Cutler completed only 17 of his 36 pass attempts, and ended the game with pathetic 43.2 passer rating.  More importantly, the Packers’ new 3-4 defense had Cutler completely frazzled.  Cutler was sacked twice, and threw 4 interceptions.

This is the Packers’ first year playing a 3-4 defense, and they executed it very well against the Bears.  Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has certainly been watching the film of that game, and will have far more exotic blitzes planned for Cutler than what he saw from the Packers. 

Not only did the Packers successfully shut down Cutler, they also managed to keep Bears running back Matt Forte in check.  Forte was held to 55 yards rushing on 25 attempts.  That’s only 2.2 yards per carry.

Last season, Forte had a breakout season in which he amassed 1,238 yards and finished seventh in the NFL in rushing.

Bears' RB Matt Forte

Bears' RB Matt Forte

We all know that the Steelers defense relishes the opportunity to face premiere running backs.  They take great pride in holding the NFL’s top running backs to under 100 yards rushing.  Matt Forte should be in for a long day.

When most fans think of the Bears, they think of the stout Bears defense that carried the team to Super Bowl XLI back in 2007.  However, that team has changed greatly.  The defense is no longer the strength of the team.  The Bears’ defense finished 2008 as the 21st ranked defense in the NFL.  That’s a far cry from the 2006/2007 team. 

To make things even worse for the Bears’ defense, star linebacker Brian Urlacher was lost for the season last week.  Losing Urlacher hurts the Bears the same way that losing Troy Polamalu hurts the Steelers.  Maybe more.

So the Steelers will face a Bears team with a depleted defense and a high flying offense.  Yeah, these are not your father’s Chicago Bears.

In order to win the game, the Steelers are going to need a much better performance from their running backs than they got in the season opener against the Tennessee Titans.  Willie Parker in particular is going to have to improve on the 19 yards that he accumulated against the Titans. 

The Steelers’ defense will be missing two key starters, as Troy Polamalu will be sidelined following last week’s knee injury.  The Steelers also announced that linebacker Lawrence Timmons re-injured his ankle in practice and is questionable for the game.

Despite missing Polamalu and Timmons, the Steelers should still be more than up to the challenge of facing the Bears.  Tyrone Carter is a seasoned veteran, and has played in place of Polamalu before.  Keyaron Fox is also a quality backup.  In fact, he looked more impressive than Lawrence Timmons in preseason.

My prediction is that the Steelers are going to leave Chicago with their 4th straight win against the Bears.  The final score will be Steelers 21 - Bears 10.  You heard it here first.

Fun fact:
The Steelers have won six straight games and eight of the past 9 (dating back to 1998) against teams currently in the NFC North.


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2009 bloggers’ mock draft: pick #18

March 16, 2009 By: Admin Category: Draft/Free Agency

Steelers Today has hooked up with 31 other NFL bloggers from around the country to do a bloggers’ mock draft. All 32 NFL teams are represented in the mock draft.

The mock draft is sponsored by Cleveland Browns blog No Logo Needed. For more details on the bloggers’ mock draft, click here.

With the eighteenth pick of the 2009 NFL Draft the Chicago Bears blog Blog Down Chicago Bears selects…

Darrius Heyward-Bey, wide receiver, Maryland

Which one of these underwhelming receivers do Bears fans want the underwhelming Kyle Orton to throw to? Third-year receiver — as in he has three years of experience playing the position — Devin Hester? Rashied Davis? Earl Bennett? Brandon Rideau?


The Bears passed on T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Laveranues Coles, aren’t calling the Cardinals about Anquan Boldin, and seem poised to give recently-released Torry Holt the same cold shoulder treatment.

Maryland’s Darrius Heyward-Bey has seen his stock go through the roof after an eye-popping performance at the NFL Combine, including running a 4.30 40-yard dash, the fastest of all receivers. But he isn’t just all speed, he has the height too — 6’2, 210 — to make him an imposing threat to secondaries everywhere.

All-in-all, Heyward-Bey probably has higher upside than any receiver in the draft, but I know he lacks experience and big-time production. If he denies the urge to go all Troy Williamson, he could finally be — take a deep breath — the No. 1 receiver the Bears have been looking for since the beginning of time.

The draft results so far are shown below. Click on the individual pick to read each blogger’s rationale for his selection.

1. Detroit Lions: Mathew Stafford, QB (Georgia)
2. St. Louis Rams: Eugene Monroe, OT (Virginia)
3. Kansas City Chiefs: Aaron Curry, LB (Wake Forest)
4. Seattle Seahawks: Michael Crabtree, WR (Texas Tech)
5. Cleveland Browns: Rey Maualuga, LB (Southern California)
6. Cincinnati Bengals: Jason Smith, OT (Baylor)
7. Oakland Raiders: Jeremy Maclin, WR (Missouri)
8. Jacksonville Jaguars: B.J. Raji, DT (Boston College)
9. Green Bay Packers, Brian Orakpo, DE (Texas)
10. San Francisco 49ers, Everette Brown, OLB (Florida State)
11. Buffalo Bills, Clay Matthews, OLB (Southern California)
12. Denver Broncos, Malcolm Jenkins, CB (Ohio State)
13. Washington Redskins, Andre Smith, OT (Alabama)
14. New Orleans Saints, Brian Cushing, OLB (Southern California)
15. Houston Texans, Michael Oher, OT (Ole Miss)
16. San Diego Chargers, Eben Britton, OT (Arizona)
17. New York Jets, Tyson Jackson, DE, LSU
18. Chicago Bears, Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are on the clock.

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