Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Schilling, the Steelers, & other stuff

Is Schilling a Steelers fan? I have no idea, but Murna left a comment yesterday asking as much after seeing Schilling wearing a Steelers hat:

Seeing as how you are a Sox and a Steelers fan, can you explain if there is any connection between Schilling and Pittsburgh? He wore a steelers hat after game 2 and I have seen a photo of him in a steelers Jersey during batting practice before. Is he merely a fan or is there some type of connection?
The picture above was taken while Schilling was still with the D-backs, and I'm not sure if he's got on a throwback (Swann, #88), or if he's a big Casey Hampton fan (#98 -- I'd like to think it's the latter). Anyway, I couldn't find out any info one way or another, so if somebody knows something, let me know.

Update: Rod Hoffman left this comment solving the Schilling mystery:

"As to Schilling's Pittsburgh connection, he was an Army brat but his father was from Somerset, PA in the heart of Stiller Country."
So there you have it. Good stuff.

It looks like David Ortiz will be playing first base tonight in game 3. I've gone back and forth on this primarily because Ortiz makes Millar look like Will Clark at first base. In a perfect world, Ortiz would play first, Pedro would throw only fly ball outs (none to Ortiz), the Sox would be up by 10 runs in the sixth inning, and Mientkiewicz could be the defensive replacement. Of course, Manny sees things differently. Here's what he was quoted as saying in today's Washington Post:

"He's a sweet first baseman. People maybe judge him wrong. David could do the job."
Don't forget, Martian eyeglasses tend to obscure reality when used on earth, so Manny's overstatement is understandable. Also, Manny could have been referring to Papi's sunny disposition when he described him as "a sweet first baseman," so it's important to keep that in mind when you're watching tonight.

Now the real winner in all this is Mark Bellhorn. That it takes someone with the first base skills of Frankenstein to make Bellhorn look like a slightly above-average second baseman is an ancillary point.

Apparently the Steelers will be playing the Patriots this Sunday as New England looks to win there one millionth consecutive game. Lost in all of this is a point Ed Bouchette mentioned yesterday in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette:

Do you think Josh Miller might have a little incentive coming back to Heinz Field on Sunday? Miller was dumped by the Steelers because he and Bill Cowher had a personality conflict and special teams coach Kevin Spencer liked Chris Gardocki better. So far, Miller has a slight advantage over Gardocki in gross average, 44.2 to 43.5 and in net, 37.8 to 36.8. Miller also has a better percentage of punts downed inside the 20 -- 20 punts, 8 inside the 20 to Gardocki's 33-9.
I had to read this twice because it was so goofy. How does a punter exact revenge on a former team? Is he going to try to punt better? Does he say to himself, "let's go out there and kick a 100 yarder? Or how about this, who cares about punters?

If the Steelers biggest concern going into Sunday is Josh Miller, the Pats will be primed for an upset.

Back on earth...

This will be the test for Roethlisberger. Of course, I say that every week, but if the Steelers play well against the Patriots, next week's game against the Eagles won't be as daunting. I've heard about all I can stomach concerning the Patriots coaches being geniuses, but it'll be interesting to see how they scheme against the Steelers offense. To date, Roethlisberger has done a great job of not getting flustered when pass plays break down, but this New England team, full of guys only a couple of years away from enjoying the full benefits of membership in AARP, has a knack of disrupting well-run offenses.

The Patriots have some injuries in the defensive backfield, so maybe the Steelers will look to exploit them there. Of course Belichick knows as much, which means he'll try to pressure Roethlisberger. Well, Whisenhunt knows this too, but when the Patriots "pressure," it's not in the conventional sense. Instead they'll scheme some crazy zone blitzes and bring guys from weird angles to try and unsettle the offensive line and force Roethlisberger into bad decisions. But wait! LeBeau invented the zone blitz, so he should have some insight into what the Patriots might try to do. After saying all this, I have no idea what to expect.

Sometimes I get the impression that the Patriots actually out-scheme themselves. By that I mean they go so over-the-top with the game-planning that it backfires (or at least delays the inevitable victory). In the first game of the season against the Colts, a team that has trouble stopping the run during timeouts, the Pats insisted on throwing on third and very short situations. They also opted to pass when it looked like Dillon was starting to get in rhythm. Of course, the Pats were able to pull it together and win, but I got the sense that the game could have been decided earlier (this is probably just me trying to rationalize how the Steelers can sneak out of week 8 with a victory).

Either way, I like the Steelers' chances.

I got another comment yesterday from Michael asking why this blog is so oddly titled (my words), "Heels, Sox & Steelers." Well, here's the answer:

I grew up in North Carolina a big UNC fan. The 1982 team was my first real recollection of actually knowing the players and actively pulling for them. I went to college in Virginia, so I didn't get a chance to live out my dream at the end of the Tarheel bench, but that's a story for another time.

After college, I moved to Boston and my first year there was during the 1995 season. That was a team for the ages (or at least for 1995): Mo Vaughn, Jose Canseco, John Valentin, Reggie Jefferson (by the way, Jefferson was one of the best one-dimensional players ever in my opinion; he was the original David Ortiz, just without the power or average), and some guy named Roger Clemens. Anyway, since I was from North Carolina, I wasn't really a fan of any specific MLB team, so during my three years in Boston, the Red Sox became my team almost by default.

After Boston, I moved to Pittsburgh, and again I wasn't really a fan of any one NFL team, and much like my Boston experience, I quickly became a Steelers fan. My first year in Pittsburgh was 2000, and Kent Graham (Kent Graham?) beat out Kordell Stewart as the Steelers went 9-7 and missed the playoffs (I think it's hard to accuse me of being a fairweather fan here; of course the Steelers went 13-3 in 2001, but that's not the point).

Anyway, I was born a Heels fan, moved to Boston and became a Red Sox fan, and ended up in Pittsburgh and became a Steelers fan.