Monday, October 31, 2005

The Nation

First things first. Stephen from Sport the Nation sent me some tee shirts and I want to give him a plug (see the ad on the left sidebar). He put them in the mail Thursday and I got them Saturday (and when you consider I'm still waiting -- three weeks and counting -- for my Jerry Remy tee-shirts from, that's pretty good). And in addition to looking good and being simply designed, they also come with a free sticker. Not bad for ten clams. So if you're looking for a Steelers shirt, and aren't necessarily fond of those that look to be designed by Tammy Faye, The Nation is definitely the way to go. Also, if you're going to the MNF Ravens - Steelers game, Stephen and his crew will passing out free stickers and holding a "Knock the Head Off the Raven" contest, so stop by. And if you say that Heels, Sox & Steelers sent you, the cost of the tee shirt goes up to fifteen bucks, so you might want to keep that to yourself.

The Pittsburgh papers are on fire. Two good articles on the secondary, this time in both the Post-Gazette and the Tribune-Review. And even Joe Bendel contributes something that didn't leave me wanting to jump off a bridge. In writing about the Steelers' defensive line, we get to find out something useful: their nicknames:
Casey Hampton is "Big Snack" or "Hampburger."

Kimo von Oelhoffen is "Scooby."

Aaron Smith is "Slim."

Chris Hoke is "Hokie."

Travis Kirschke is "Chubs."

Brett Keisel is "Chubs Jr," or "Diesel."
I think Bendel's found his calling. He should only limit himself to writing "nicknames" columns because he's not so good at the other stuff. By the way, "Hampburglar" might the be the best nickname in Steelers history. Maybe all the hard work that is the CPW is paying off. Or not (thanks Rob Rossi).

This is really funny:
The Cleveland Browns are two-point underdogs to the winless Houston Texans and not feeling the love.

"I take offense to that," fullback Terrelle Smith said.

"A slap in the face," center Jeff Faine said.


"I think those guys think this is their best chance to get a victory," Browns coach Romeo Crennel said of the 0-6 Texans.
Unfortunately for the Browns (but lucky for me ... finally), they still didn't cover.

Using my ghetto DirectTV (By the way, ghetto Direct TV is when I watch the local game on cable, but also cart out the 8-inch TV from the guest bedroom, set it up in the living room -- with rabbit ears in full effect -- and watch a second game through the static; it's basically like listening to it on the radio, but worse.) I also caught parts of the Browns - Texans game. I have nothing to add. I just thought it was pretty impressive I was able to sit through it without throwing up on myself.

I've complained a lot about how my "Steelers Live 'Xtra" subscription via the Tribune-Review might be better spent on Tony Robbins videos, but one thing that might actually be worth $30 alone are the "X's and O's with Tunch." Basically, Steelers radio guy, Tunch Ilkin, explains big plays from previous games and it goes a long way in showing the hows and whys a play was successful. Here's the 37-yard Willie Parker TD run from last week. While the graphic is pretty self-explanatory, the audio is what makes it interesting. Tunch is a former Steelers' lineman and he has a good idea of how an offense works. Previous "X's and O's" segments have included the Randle El punt return for a touchdown, as well as Tommy Maddox's game-winning (for Jacksonville) TD pass to Rashean Mathis. Apparently, Mathis took a big chance in jumping the out route by Quincy Morgan. Maddox actually looked left before coming back to Morgan, and if the Steelers had run a double move on that play, Morgan would've probably scored. Of course the assumption with the double move is that Maddox would've been able to throw the ball 30 yards in the air, but at least it's encouraging to know that the new third string QB doesn't always stare down receivers.

This is from a Ravens blog and I found it kinda interesting:
"Rothlesburgerwithcheese is not the superstar ESPN would have us believe. He’s no scrub, but his effectiveness comes by throwing from a strong pocket when defenses are protecting heavily against the run. Any NFL quarterback should be effective under those conditions. That is the ideal setting that every coach in football tries to create."
I don't have a problem with people saying that Roethlisberger isn't a superstar, but to then intimate that any quarterback could be successful in an offense where opposing defenses must first stop the run is, well, ludicrous. Isn't that the exact offensive game plan the Ravens have used during the Brian Billick regime? And remind me, how's that working out again? Is the implication that Kyle Boller isn't a real "NFL quarterback?"

To be fair, the author is hard-pressed to see the Ravens pulling this one out (or even covering the spread for that matter), so he gets points for that.

Of course, it's these type of games that make me the most nervous. The Ravens really have nothing to lose at this point, and even though Ray-Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are out (Tony Weaver and Mark Clayton may not play either) anything can happen (see Texans, 2002 and Jaguars, two weeks ago). And while the "anything can happen" mantra might seem like a tired cliche, all it takes is an ill-timed turnover and a special teams lapse to put you behind the 8-ball. I'm guessing the Steelers will come out like they always do, and try to run the ball down Baltimore's throat. If that happens, I'll take my chances with Pittsburgh. Whether they cover the ridiculously high ten-point spread is another issue all together.

Something else that worries me is that teams that don't have anything to lose (and who could also set the modern day NFL record for most personal fouls in a season by Week 8) is that Baltimore might not be above taking cheap shots (you know, like Joey Porter was accused of during Week 2 last season). Luckily, James Trapp (yep, the guy who tried to stomp on Plax's head after he lost his helmet in a 2002 game) is no longer with the team, although they might consider giving him a one-day contract for the Monday night game.

Anyway, I hope nobody on either side gets injured, and if that turns out to be the case, here are some things I would love to see during Monday's game:

* Since Haggans is back in the starting lineup, and no one's explained the forward pass to the Ravens, why not let James Harrison play safety. He can shadow Jamal Lewis (or Chester Taylor) with absolutely no other responsibilities -- and just focus on knocking the crap out of whoever ends up as the ball carrier.

* Put Jeff Reed in at fullback. (Is it bad when your kicker outweighs one of your receivers [Cedrick Wilson] by 50 pounds?) If Jared Lorenzen was a fullback, his nickname would be "Jeff Reed."

* If the game is well in hand, on subsequent plays let Hines, Antwaan, Cedrick, and Heath all take snaps at QB (since they're all former QBs). And to make it interesting, every play would be either a WR screen or shallow crossing route to Pittsburgh wideout ... Tommy Maddox (you know, just for laughs ... and to also let Maddox be on the receiving end of a medicine ball the size of Hampburglar's nugget).

* Let Jerome Bettis kick extra points ... Mark Mosely style. Also, just for laughs.

* Let Troy and Chris Hope play running back. Hope was an All-American RB in high school, and he scored on an 81-yard fake punt two seasons ago. I don't know if Troy every played RB in high school, but I have seen him knock the crap out of former teammate Carson Palmer on several occasions, so I know he can block.

* Let Barrett Brooks run a fly pattern (but only if team doctors can give assurances that it won't kill him). Look, I know offensive linemen are heavy-set -- that's part of the job description -- but Brooks is taking things a little too seriously. He's the guy who goes to fat camp and the other chubby campers stop and stare. The thought of him trying to beat Chris McAllister down the field makes me chuckle.

* If the Steelers are fortunate enough to score, the player should have to the Deion dance (and this includes Jeff Reed on successful field goals).

This kind of goofy writing is what happens when I can't watch the Steelers on Sunday.