Saturday, January 07, 2006

Pregame Stuff

Here's a bunch of random stuff I should've mentioned yesterday (instead of spending half the night whipping up that witty NYT piece on Whosyourdaddy), but since I've still got a day until Go Time, here goes:

... I found this quote in Friday's Herald Standard:
After the last Steelers-Bengals game, Bengals receiver Chad Johnson said that "It's time for a change. ... It was Pittsburgh; it's Cincinnati now, and it'll probably be that way for a while now."

The quote made its way to the Steelers' bulletin board yesterday. Kimo von Oelhoffen read it with amusement.

"He's funny. He's funny as hell," von Oelhoffen said.
I've said a bunch of times that Chad Johnson might be the funniest guy in football, but maybe the most amazing thing about this is that the Steelers actually have a real live bulletin board. (I guess that's where "bulletin board material" came from. Huh.) Seriously, I thought it was just a figure of speech.

... In the same article, I came across this little nugget:
Casey Hampton showed up at the practice facility with a new jersey. It was No. 10 with the name YOUNG stitched across the back.

Obviously, Hampton enjoyed his old school's win over USC on Wednesday night for the national championship.

"I watched with all my boys and went crazy," he said. "I jumped on the table, jumped on the bar. I lost it. I went absolutely crazy when we won the game. I know all the guys on the team. I work out with them in the off-season, so it was fun to see."
OK, am I the only guy that has this visual of the Hampburglar looking the the Comic Book Guy?

... David points out a really good article in yesterday's Post-Gazette about Willie Parker. The more you hear about the guy, the more you like him. And the more you have to wonder exactly why he never, ever saw the field in Chapel Hill. You know, just in case you needed another reason for thinking John Bunting sucks. Anyway, my favorite quote from the Fast Willie piece was this quote from Hines:
"He brings that home-run threat every time," said receiver Hines Ward. "You have that threat like that, teams have to scheme for that. People keep saying they put eight or nine men in the box, but what happens if we block all eight or nine? He's going to get out and break a long one."
Hey, that's a good point. If you block eight or nine guys, I like Willie's chances.

... I found this interesting little tidbit at Pro Football Weekly:
Steelers observers say WR Cedrick Wilson could be an X-factor in the playoffs. The 5-10, 183-pound Wilson caught only 26 passes this season, but he gained a career-high 17.3 yards per catch, surprising with his speed while lined up at split end. Anything Wilson provides as a vertical threat will be a lift to an offense that will likely face a succession of defenses that will stack the line to stop the run. The Steelers wilted in the face of this strategy a season ago, but some close to the squad say they are better-equipped to respond with an aerial attack this season, even without Plaxico Burress. SE Antwaan Randle El is also showing an ability to get open down the field (career-high 15.9 yards per catch). Of course, QB Ben Roethlisberger’s passing prowess also bodes well for Pittsburgh’s ability to adjust to teams putting eight men in the box.
Well, this is certainly news to me, although I do agree with the part about, "... anything Wilson provides as a vertical threat will be a lift to an offense ... " Also, this talk about Randle El showing an ability to get open down the field is certainly not something I've heard a lot this season. Maybe part of that is because it's hard to tell exactly what's going on down the field when watching on TV (and the other part of that is never actually seeing Randle El open down the field when Roethlisberger tries to get him the ball). But hey, if this is true, it couldn't happen at a better time. And who knows, maybe Cedrick will score his first Pittsburgh touchdown (or three) Sunday.

... And just in case you haven't seen it, this is from Will Carroll's weekly "Black and Blue" report from Football Outsiders:
There's only one injury that's counted all season for the Steelers. Yes, I realize they dealt with injuries to the running backs all season, but the Steelers handled that the way smart teams do – with depth. Whichever running back lined up behind Ben Roethlisberger didn’t matter. They each brought something different but the same results. The same wasn’t true when Roethlisberger was out with a knee injury. Back due to the advances in sports medicine, Roethlisberger has been affected more by his thumb injury than he ever was by the cartilage tear. According to team sources, Roethlisberger’s injury has reduced his touch, resulting in more drops. "He throws the ball too hard on some short throws," I was told, "and can't drop it over a defender like he normally can."
I'm guessing all the guys dropping passes against the Lions (and it's a loooong list) were spreading the rumor about Ben throwing the ball too hard all week.

Speaking of which ...

... Jason Whitlock, the resident Village Idiot (A title he literally wrestled away from Skip Bayless while Sean Salisbury yelled at John Clayton for never actually "playing the game." And yeah, all this took place while they watched "Dancing with the Stars." Which could very easily be re-titled, "Dancing Your C-list Celebrity Status Right into the Thomas Crapper," but that's a whole other story), had these pearls of wisdom in his latest steaming pile of crap:
7. Bill Cowher needs to turn Ben Roethlisberger loose in the playoffs.

Big Ben is beginning to look like a fraud playing in Cowher's ultra-conservative offense. In a must-win regular-season finale against the Detroit Lions, Ben completed 7 of 16 passes for 135 yards with two interceptions.
You know, Whitlock's right, Ben has looked like a fraud lately. And not only that, his point about Ben's stats last week are right on. Well, right on if you're a big fat idiot in love with Jeff George's moustache. This is what Guy Junker wrote about the exact same 7 for 16 / 135 yd performance Fatlock references above:
"Early in the game Sunday on third down, Big Ben hit a wide open Quincy Morgan for an easy first down. Morgan dropped it. He made up for it though by dropping another one later in the game. Hines Ward was one touchdown catch away from tying his own team record when he let a sure one go through his hands and embarrassingly hit him in the face mask. Early in the second quarter Cedrick Wilson lost a completion when he hit the ground. Late in the first half when the Steelers were aggressively trying to get to the end zone rather than settle for a field goal attempt in the final minute, Roethlisberger was intercepted when a pass clanked off of Antwaan Randle El's hands. Big Ben finished 7-16 for 135 yards and two interceptions but with a little bit of help, he could easily have been 11 or 12 for 16 for 200 yards with a touchdown and just one interception."
Oh right. I guess Tons-of-Fun forgot about all those dropped passes because he was too busy re-enacting one of my favorite scenes from Tommy Boy:
I have what doctors call
a little bit of a weight problem.

I used to grab bear claws
as a kid, two at a time

and i'd get 'em lodged
right in this region here. (Points to thorax)
Nothing quite like being fat and lazy. Keep up the good work Chubnuts.

Alrighty, enough with all the tomfoolery, it's go time.