Friday, November 04, 2005

A Loser Picking Winners, Week 9

It Could've Been Much Worse Edition

Well, Ben is out for this week's game, and will probably miss the Browns next week and hopefully be back in time for the Ravens rematch on November 20. And just like the Jags game a couple of weeks ago, I'm actually OK with the prospects of the backup QB being able to handle the job in Roethlisberger's absence. Of course I couldn't have been more wrong about the Tommy Maddox debacle, but unless Charlie Batch is the Manchurian Candidate, under the spell of some evildoers, I find it nearly impossible to believe that he can turn the ball over four times in a game. Anyway, I figure by the second turnover, Cowher skips right over Maddox and replaces Batch with Randle El, and promptly implements the option offense (with absolutely no passing).

When Israel first reported the impending Cowher press conference yesterday morning, I must admit I felt a little queasy. The first question to enter my mind was: people usually don't call a random press conference mid-morning to report good news.

It's not like it's the offseason and the Steelers just signed some big-name free agent, and the Rooney's were introducing them to the Pittsburgh media. No, it's Week 9, and Cowher just had his weekly press conference two days ago. Luckily, I had to attend a two-hour meeting starting precisely at 10, so I had no idea what was going on until noon. As is usually the case when I'm in meetings, I glaze over five minutes in, praying for a fire drill or some such event to break up the monotony. This time however, I was going through some scenarios Cowher might address in his presser.

Maybe he would go into detail about his hair-brained timeout call at the end of the first half in Monday night's game. Here was his response to a question on this very issue (from Tuesday's press conference):
Q:Why did you call a timeout with eight seconds left?

A:I just wanted to make sure we had the right personnel on the field.
This might be the worst answer to an honest question ever given. There is no justification on this planet for calling a timeout with eight seconds left when Baltimore had no ability to stop the clock (well, I guess he could've said, "I was high as a kite ... that's why I did it, what's up? You wanna go? As I re-read this parenthetical, it definitely comes across are weird ... really weird, even though I thought it was pretty funny when I first wrote it.). Why do you need the right personnel on the field to let the clock run out? Is that a play they practice? Sheesh.

I like Cowher, and I don't often criticize him because I think he's very good at what he does. No, he doesn't strike me as a great tactician (that's what assistant coaches are for), but he does a very good job of motivating his players, and that's pretty impressive for a guy who's been in the same place since 1992. That said, somebody in the media room has to ask a follow up to that question. Cowher doesn't have to answer, but for the love of god, you have to ask it. How's this: "Coach, why was it imperative to have the right personnel on the field when the Ravens couldn't stop the clock and there were only eight seconds left before the half? By calling a timeout, you gave them a chance to throw the ball in the end zone."

Yeah, he probably wouldn't have answered it, but you have to put it out there.

Another silver lining to the Roethlisberger midseason mini-vacation is that, in addition to recovering from minor knee surgery, Ben can also get a few extra weeks to recuperate from all the other injuries he's suffered during the course of this season. And as long as Charlie Batch doesn't have a complete Code Red Maddox Meltdown, the Steelers should be able to handle the Packers and Browns.

Lost in all the talk about Big Ben is the fact that Jerome will probably miss the game too. I guess his knee is bothering him, and if he can't go, he can't go. The good news is that Duce will finally get to put on a uni, and if that guy ain't healthy by now, he never will be. My guess is that Staley has quietly been stewing on the sideline, wondering when he'd get his chance. To his credit, he never moaned about his predicament to the press, and like running backs coach Dick Hoak mentioned a few weeks ago, it's a long season, and the Steelers will need every RB on the roster. He was right. And while I'd like to see Jerome out there, I'm OK with giving him a breather if it means he's ready for the stretch run. Plus, I'm interested to see Duce get some carries, knock off some rust, and return to the form he showed early in 2004.

And then there's the anti-Duce, one of the newest Steelers, Cedrick Wilson. In yesterday's Tribune-Review, Cedrick voiced some of his frustration with not getting more passes thrown his way. And to be fair, I'm guessing a reporter asked him what seemed like an innocuous question, and it went from there. Wilson also makes a good point in that if he doesn't do bupkus this season, and gets cut, there's a good chance he won't be playing anywhere next season because of his lack of production. Fair enough.

But like my buddy Andy mentioned, "It's not like Ced's been wide open on a lot of passes thrown in his direction. He's partly responsible too." Yep. And for as covered as Wilson's been on many of his routes, Quincy Morgan has been that wide open, which just raises more questions. Like, "hey, maybe Quincy should be the #3 receiver."

Personally, I'd love to see Wilson get more involved. If not on offense, then maybe let the guy replace Colclough on kickoff returns. The one thing he shouldn't do -- even though he may have a point -- is blab about getting more touches. That's all well and good when your team is 2-14, but it doesn't go over particularly well in Pittsburgh (just ask Plax -- and he was actually good).

Here are some funny photos from Roethlisberger's blog. There from the Cincy weekend, and my favorite has to be the dinner foursome that included Kimo, Heath Miller and ... Chris Gardocki? How'd he weasel his way into this group? Gardocki reminds me of the nerdy kid in high school who had no business hanging out with the jocks, but because he'd always pay for Mickey D runs, they'd keep him around. I think I've finally figured it out: Chris Gardocki is Ronald Miller. It's also worth noting that, other than me, every other reader of Ben's blog seems to be a woman. Hmmm, I wonder why that is.

I don't have much to say about my crappy picks other than, well, they continue to be crappy. I was 6-8 again last week, and that actually passes for above average around here. So yes, I suck, but what can you do? On to the picks:

OAK KC -4.5 KC
NYG SF 10.5 SF
Season: 50 - 65 - 1
Last week: 6 - 8
Earnings to date: - $2100

Week 1 picks
Week 2 picks
Week 3 picks
Week 4 picks
Week 5 picks
Week 6 picks
Week 7 picks
Week 8 picks