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Natural enemies

January 19, 2010 By: Admin Category: Uncategorized

Now that the Steelers are no longer playing, Steeler Nation is left watching other teams battle in the playoffs (am I the only one who finds himself thinking “we could have beaten that team?”).

In discussing the playoffs with fellow Steelers fans, an interesting topic has come up.  I have had disagreements with several fans over which teams it is okay for Steelers fans to support in the playoffs.

I always assumed that Steeler Nation was pretty united about who our enemies are.  But now I see that that is not true.

For example, I said on my Facebook page that I was happy to see the Colts destroying the hated Baltimore Ravens in this past weekend’s playoff game.  But to my surprise, quite a few fans came back at me and told me that they hated the Colts more than the Ravens.

Personally, I was shocked by this.  How could any Steelers fan hate any team more than they hate the Ravens?  Steelers and Ravens are like Superman and Lex Luthor, or Spiderman and the Green Goblin, or Casey Hampton and Nutrisystem; they’re natural enemies.

Not only did I think that it was inappropriate to hate any team more than the Ratbirds, I also questioned whether the Colts are even a natural enemy to the Steelers.

So I started assembling a list of the teams that I believe are natural rivals to our beloved Pittsburgh Steelers.

Firstly, I believe that all of the other teams in the AFC North are our natural enemies.  Thus, the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, and Cleveland Browns have to be on the list of the Steelers’ natural rivals.  Among these division opponents, I believe that the Ravens have earned a spot at the top of the hate list.

The Ravens are brash and arrogant.  They have historically had a very strong defense, just like the Steelers, so there is a natural rivalry each season to see which team has the best defense.  The two teams play one another twice each season (sometimes more).  Moreover, over the past decade (with a few notable exceptions), it has always been the Steelers and Ravens who have fought for AFC North supremacy.  I’m not sure if there is any rivalry in football that is as physical as Steelers versus Ravens.  When you add in the fact that the Ravens actually put out a bounty on Hines Ward, I don’t think that there is any question that the Baltimore Ravens are enemy #1.

Public enemy #1

After the AFC North opponents, I think most Steelers fans will agree that the New England Patriots are a natural enemy of the Steelers.  The Steelers and Patriots may not be in the same division, but they have had some classic battles in the playoffs.  Too often, it was the Patriots who knocked the Steelers out of the AFC Championship picture.  Twice they did it right in our own stadium.  Belichick’s cheatin’ ways probably cost the Steelers a Super Bowl trophy.

In truth, the Patriots may rank higher on the “hate list” than the Bengals or Browns.  Personally, I rank them at #2 behind the Ravens.  After all, which team prevented the Steelers from being the team of the decade?  And they didn’t even do it fair and square.  I hate them!

Next on the hate list is the Dallas Cowboys.  Like the Patriots, I rank the Cowboys higher on my hate list than either the Bengals or Browns.  The Cowboys are like the anti-Steelers.  They are glitzy and glamorous while the Steelers are blue collar and down to Earth.  The Cowboys have the title of “America’s team”, even though everyone knows that the Steelers are really America’s team.

No two teams have met more often in the Super Bowl than the Steelers and Cowboys.  The Steelers have won twice, while the Cowboys won once.  Of course the Steelers would have actually won all 3 times if it hadn’t been for a certain former quarterback whose name shall not be mentioned.  His untimely interceptions cost the Steelers yet another Lombardi Trophy.

The historic nature of the Steelers-Cowboys rivalry puts them high on my hate list, even though we don’t play them very often.  Moreover, the Cowboys are the team that is most likely to match the Steelers’ total of 6 Super Bowl championship.    More than anything else, that is reason for Steeler Nation to want the Cowboys to lose every game they play.  We all want the Steeler to stand alone in their number of Super Bowl championships for a very long time.  Frankly, I hope the Cowboys will still be stuck at 5 Lombardi Trophies in the year 4078.

Upon further review, maybe I hate the Cowboys more than I hate the Patriots.  They’re at least tied.  Maybe one is 2A and the other is 2B.  Regardless, I hate them both.

Some would argue that the Raiders are a natural enemy of the Steelers.  I tend to disagree.  There was a time when this was clearly true.  But Ken Stabler, Dave Casper, Otis Sistrunk, Art Shell, Ray Guy and Fred Biletnikoff are a distant memory.  The Raiders have been so bad for so long that it’s hard to hate them.  In fact, it’s hard to do anything but pity the poor Raiders fans who have had to deal with Al Davis for all of these years.

Several  fans argued that the Colts are also a natural rival for the Steelers.  I just don’t see it.  We don’t play the Colts very often.  We haven’t had many games of historic proportions against them (like Super Bowls or AFC Championship games).  They’re not in our division.  I just can’t count them as a natural rival.  That doesn’t mean that you can’t hate them.  You can hate any team you like.  But I don’t think the majority of Steeler Nation feels that the Colts are in the same category as the teams that I listed above.

Some have even argued that the reason we should all hate the Colts is that they intentionally lost their last regular season game and prevented the Steelers from making the playoffs.  Well if you use that logic, then do you hate the team that lost to the Jets in week 3?  How about the team that lost to them in week 7?  They each had as much to do with the Jets making the playoffs as the Colts did.

In my opinion, the only team that is responsible for the Steelers not making the playoffs is the Steelers.  If they had won just one of the gimme games against the Chiefs, Raiders, or Browns, they’d be in the playoffs.  So casting blame elsewhere is unfounded.    So in my opinion, the Colts do not qualify as a natural rival to the Steelers.

So now that all of the natural enemies are officially out of the playoffs, the remaining teams are neutral territory for Steeler Nation.  Feel free to pull for any team that you like.  Besides, no matter which team wins, we all know that the Steelers probably could have beaten them.


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Super Bowl, here we come!!!

January 19, 2009 By: Admin Category: Post-Game Reports

January 19, 2009
By Donald Starver

For the seventh time, the Pittsburgh Steelers will be playing in the Super Bowl.  Only the Dallas Cowboys, with 8 Super Bowl appearances, have been there more often.  But with a win, the Steelers will stand alone with 6 Super Bowl victories, the most in NFL history.

Like the highways in Pittsburgh, the road to Super Bowl XLIII was full of potholes.  The biggest pothole was the Baltimore Ravens.

After beating the Ravens twice in the regular season, the Steelers had the unenviable task of trying to beat them for a third time.  The Ravens were a team on a roll, and beating them was not going to be easy.

We predicted before the game that the team that avoided turnovers was likely to win the game.  This proved to be true.  Ravens’ quarterback Joe Flacco was the first rookie quarterback to win 2 playoff games, but the AFC Championship proved to be too large a stage for the promising freshman.  Flacco threw 3 interceptions, and ended up with a quarterback rating of 18.2 (no, that’s not a typo).  Flacco was also sacked three times.

Rookie QB Joe Flacco

Rookie QB Joe Flacco

The Ravens also had 3 fumbles during the game, but they only lost one of those.  Likewise, the Steelers had 2 fumbles and lost one.  Thus, the fumbles basically canceled one another out.  But the interceptions proved to be the deciding factor in the game.

As everyone expected, this was a defensive struggle which pitted the top two defenses in the NFL.  The Ravens proved to be very difficult to run on, as they held Willie Parker to just 47 yards on 24 carries.  That’s an average of only 2 yards per carry.

Fortunately, the Steelers’ defense proved to be just as stingy.  The Steelers held the Ravens to only 198 net yards from scrimmage.

The Steelers probably should have had several more scores.  A touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes was called back when the Ravens issued a challenge.  Later in the game, Ben Roethlisberger threw a sure touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver Limas Sweed.  Sweed, as has become his pattern, got great separation from his defender, but then dropped a pass that was right in his hands.  To make matters worse, Sweed was so embarassed because he dropped the pass that he faked an injury after the play.  The faux injury cost the Steelers a timeout.  The lack of that timeout prevented the Steelers from stopping the clock to bring in the field goal unit at the end of the quarter.  Hopefully, Sweed has learned that personal pride can cost his team dearly.

After allowing the Ravens to stick around far too long, the Steelers finally pulled away and won the game 23-14.

The final nail in the Ravens’ coffin was an interception by Troy Polamalu that he returned for a touchdown.  That was one of many great plays in the game by Polamalu. 

There were several scares in the game.  The Steelers lost wide receiver Hines Ward early in the game with a knee injury.  Ward is scheduled to have an MRI tomorrow.  The Ravens saw running back Willis McGahee carted off on a stretcher after a vicious hit by Steelers’ safety Ryan Clark.  Clark knocked himself silly on the play as well, but he was able to leave the field under his own power (although he was extremely wobbly while doing so).

It should be noted that the Steelers have given up fewer than 100 total yards rushing in their two playoff games COMBINED.  That’s some pretty stingy defense.

So now the Steelers move on to Tampa to take on the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII.  That’s right, the Arizona Cardinals.  It must be snowing in Hell.

The Cardinals (also known as the Steelers West) defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 32-25 in the NFC Championship game to move on to their first Super Bowl.  The obvious Pittsburgh connections on that Cardinals team adds several storylines that are going to be beat to death by the media over the next two weeks.  You know, Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm were candidates for the position that ultimately went to Mike Tomlin.  Larry Fitzgerald went to Pitt.  Several (most?) Cardinal players used to play for the Steelers.  Blah blah blah.  Yeah, I’m sick of hearing it already.

On to the Super Bowl.

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Hatred and Respect

January 15, 2009 By: Admin Category: Uncategorized

December 16, 2008
By Patrick Cartwright

I hate the Ravens.

I abhor and disdain them.

I loathe, despise, and detest them.

But I respect them.

Not as individuals.  On their defense, they have a linebacker who, more likely than not, was involved in a murder.  They have another linebacker that tells the media they put bounties on opposing players in order to injure them.  They have a player who spit in a kicker’s mouth.  And another player who so delighted in the fact that when he sacked Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger he “felt the breath leave his body”, that he felt the need to brag about it to the national media.  To call the Ravens a bunch of thugs would be unfair and offensive to thugs.

So how can a Steelers fan respect a group so heinous?  A group that I wouldn’t let inside my house without a national guard regiment present.  A group that makes my skin crawl.  A group that undoubtedly gets together in the offseason to drown kittens, strangle puppies, and plot to bring back the Macarena?

Because they play the game the way it should be played.

The Baltimore Ravens play the game with intensity and vitriol.  They run the ball down your throat.  They  trust their young , confident QB.  They control the clock.  And they play a punishing style of defense that leaves the other team’s offense battered, broken down, and wondering how much time is left before they can get on the bus and get the hell out of town.  They play good old-fashioned smash-mouth football.

Sound familiar?

It’s the exact same way the Steelers organization has played for the past 40 years, ever since Chuck Noll took a losing team and molded them into a dynasty.  And it’s the way the Ravens have played since the day that Art Modell pulled the midnight switch on Cleveland and bussed the team to the East Coast.  Just another reason to hate the Ravens.  They used to be the Browns.  But even so, you have to respect the way they go about playing the game, even if you don’t like it.  Even if you don’t like them.

The best enemies are always the ones that are slightly distorted reflections of the hero.  Wolverine and Sabertooth.  Green Lantern and Sinestro.  Spiderman and Venom.  It’s the same with the Steelers and Ravens.  They play the same style of football, and they play it the same way.  Both teams have a QB that has been a rookie phenom, playing well beyond his years.  Both have an All-World game-changing safety.  Each has an old man that just happens to be the most reliable receiver on his team.  Each has punishing linebackers who regularly put the opposing quarterback on his back.  Since the AFC North was founded in 2002, with the exception of the 2005 Bengals, only the Steelers and Ravens have won the division.  They have both won a Super Bowl this decade.  Ravens Coach Jim Harbaugh is in his first year at the position.  The Steelers’ Mike Tomlin has been at it twice as long, currently coaching in his second year.

If the NFL was a soap opera (and with the likes of T.O., Chad Ocho Cinco, and Pacman Jones in the league, who’s to argue that it isn’t?), the Ravens would be the Steelers’ evil twin.  Nobody knows the Steelers better.  Nobody plays them harder.  No other team has been as much a thorn in the Steelers’ sides as the carrion birds from Baltimore.

From a Steelers fan’s perspective, looking at the Ravens is like looking at the Steelers in a dirty, grungy, distorted mirror.  You don’t like what you see.  You don’t want to admit that what you’re looking at may well be everything you love filtered through a different light.  When you look at the Ravens, from an organizational and team standpoint, you’re just looking at a thugged-out version of the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Did the truth of that just make you throw up in your mouth a little?  Me too.

Like them?  No way.

Respect them?

You have to.  Right?

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Steelers vs. Ravens Playoff Mythbuster

January 14, 2009 By: Admin Category: Pre-Game Analyses

December 14, 2009
By Donald Starver

Okay, I keep hearing people parroting the same crap, so I had to add my two cents to the conversation.  The “crap” that I’m talking about is this myth that seems to be circulating that implies that the Baltimore Ravens somehow have an advantage coming into this Sunday’s AFC Championship game against the Steelers because “It’s hard to beat a team three times in the same season”.

Who made up that lie?  The Steelers played (and beat) the Cleveland Browns twice this season.  If we played them a third time, is there anyone who would bet money on the Browns?  I didn’t think so.  We also played the Bengals twice, and beat them twice.  If a round three had been required, who do you think would have won?  Steelers.

The Steelers swept the AFC North this season, beating the Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals, and Baltimore Ravens each time they played them.  That’s six wins and no losses.  None.  Don’t you think that was a pretty loud statement of who reigns supreme in the AFC North?

Well, now the Steelers have to face the Ravens again.  This time more is at stake than just bragging rights in the AFC North.  This time they’re playing for a trip to the Super Bowl.  Much higher stakes.

When reporters asked Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin whether it’s hard to beat a team three times in the same season, Tomlin said “I personally don’t subscribe to that hocus-pocus.  What happened in the other games will have no bearing on the outcome of this game.  Each individual performance stands on its own.  We’re not buying into that”.   Good for you, Coach Tomlin!

While I can’t speak meaningfully about the mental state of any of the players who will participate in this game, I do know that all of them know that the Steelers won both of their previous meetings.  That’s got to help the Steelers, and it’s got to be a negative for the Ravens.

Just picture yourself back in third grade.  You’ve been challenged to a fight after school by the same bully who has already kicked your @$$ twice this semester.  Do you feel like you have an advantage because he’s already beaten you up twice?  Hell no!  You’re ready to piss your pants.  You know that your strategy of blocking his fists with your face won’t be any more effective this time than it was the first two times.  You may pretend to be confident, but deep down, you know that three is not your lucky number.

Some of you are probably saying, “this isn’t the third grade.  These are professional football players”.  Okay, I’ll give you that.  So let’s look at the history of professional football players who have found themselves in this situation.  Does a team that has lost to another team twice during the same season usually beat them the third time around?

To be clear, there aren’t many instances where that has happened, so the sample size isn’t very large.  In the modern era, it has only happened 18 times.  Of those, the team that won the first two games has won the third game 11 times.  It doesn’t take a math genius to see that the team that won the first two times usually wins the third.  In fact, the team that has won the first two games has won the third 61% of the time.  I’ll take those odds.

To make things even worse, the Ravens have to come to Pittsburgh to play the Steelers in their own stadium.  Sure, the Steelers have lost AFC Championship games at home before.  But that doesn’t mean that home field advantage is a negative.  It just means that they faced better teams on those days.  This time, that won’t be the case.  The Steelers have already proven that.  Twice.

Lastly, the Ravens are more banged up than the Steelers,  Terrell Suggs is hurt.  So is Ed Reed.  And Fabian Washington.  And Todd Heap.  And Samari Rolle.  And Le’Ron McClain.  And Willie Anderson.  And Derrick Mason.  Get my drift?

So can we please put this “it’s hard to beat a team three times in the same season” crap to rest?  The Steelers are going to beat the Ravens.  Afterall, three is a magic number.  And that’s no myth.

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Poll: Who’s better position by position?

January 14, 2009 By: Admin Category: Players

I was reading some articles from the Baltimore media (boo!), and among the throng of biased, useless drivel that I had to weed through, I came across this.  It’s a poll by the Baltimore Sun to see who is the best player at each position, the Baltimore starter or the Steelers’ starter.

That is actually a pretty good concept, even though it will have no impact on the outcome of the game.  The team with the most talented roster doesn’t always win the game.  Just ask last year’s New England Patriots.  However, I had one HUGE problem with the poll.  It is being done by a Baltimore newspaper, and the people that they are asking are Baltimore Ravens’ fans.  I can just guess how that poll is going to turn out.  They’ll certainly vote Joe Flacco as being better than Ben Roethlisberger, and Derrick Mason as better than Hines Ward.  Well, I’ve got a solution to that obvious bias problem.  Let’s make it a bit less biased by adding some Western Pennsylvania spice to their poll. 

I took statistics in college, and I know that we will actually be helping them by reducing the bias in their sample set.  So let’s do our part to help the people of Baltimore to have a better poll.  You can cast your votes here:  Position-by-position poll.

For what it’s worth, there were actually some good matchups.  Ed Reed versus Troy Polamalu would have been a good one, but one is a strong safety while the other is a free safety, so they are not matched up.  But Terrell Suggs versus James Harrison is very interesting.  Or how about Haloti Ngata versus Casey Hampton?  Ray Lewis vs. James Farrior?  Hmmmm.

So that’s it.  This is a call for Steeler Nation to get out and rock the vote!

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