6 Improbable Steelers Backup Quarterback Upset Wins

Raise your hand if you’re Steelers fan excited to see Landry Jones start against the New England Patriots. OK. Didn’t think we’d get too many takers. Fair enough. With Ben Roethlisberger recovering from knee surgery and Cameron Heyward also the odds makers have been rather generous in installing the Patriots as 7 points favorites.

  • Still, should Steelers Nation abandon all hope?

Perhaps, but Steelers backup quarterbacks have a history of delivering some surprising results under duress. Here are six notable Steelers backup quarterback upset wins dating from 1988 to 2012 (no disrespect to Steelers 1976 rookie Mike Kruczek, just not old enough to remember him.)

Charlie Batch, Steelers upset Ravens 2012, Charlie Batch final game, Charlie Batch Ravens

Charlie Batch won his final start as 2012 Steelers upset Ravens on the road. Photo Credit: Chris Knight, The Patriot-News

1. 1988 – Todd Blackledge Leads Steelers to 39-21 win over Denver Broncos

It had been a bad week for Chuck Noll that began with a 34-14 drubbing in the Astrodome at the hands of arch nemesis Jerry Glanville. Noll cut short his weekly press conference when reporters asked him what it would take for him to step down. Terry Bradshaw called for Noll’s dismissal su

ggesting he was too old for the job. Bubby Brister was injured, and back up Todd Blackledge was struggling even to get snaps from Mike Webster.

In short, no one expected the explosion that was coming, led by Rodney Carter who took it 64 yards to the house on the game’s third play. Carter rushed for 105 yards, caught a touchdown and completed a pass, as Noll employed uncharacteristic trickery. Merril Hoge ran for another 94 yards, and Rod Woodson set up another score with a 29 yard interception and Gary Anderson kicked 6 field goals.

Todd Blackledge was only 9 of 17 for 129 yards on the day, but that was good enough to give Pittsburgh the win.

2. 1991 – Neil O’Donnell Authors 26-15 Upset of the Houston Oilers

1991 had been a tough year for Chuck Noll, and his Steelers had just been humiliated at home by the soon-to-be Super Bowl Champion Washington Redskins. Scalping dished out by the Redskins the week before at Three Rivers Stadium had given the Steelers a 4-7 record, and 4-8 seemed certain against the 9-2 Oilers.

It is also true that perhaps Neil O’Donnell should be considered a backup, having started since relieved Brister 5 weeks earlier against the Giants, but Noll had been coy about designating a “starter.”

The Steelers ability to shut down the “Run ‘N Shoot” offense is one of the reasons why that never “stuck” in the NFL, but that was far from apparent in 1991. Games like this began to change the tune, as Bryan Hinkle, Thomas Everett, and Shawn Vincent picked off Warren Moon 5 times.

Those turnovers set up 3 Gary Anderson field goals, a 43 yard pass from Neil O’Donnell to Dwight Stone, and a Warren Williams touchdown. For the record, Neil O’Donnell went 12 for 29 for 155 yards one touchdown and 1 interception.

3. 1994 – Mike Tomczak Out Guns Dan Marino, Steelers Beat Dolphins 16-13

Perhaps the lead up to this game would have been different in the age of social media, but news that Mike Tomczak got the starting nod over Neal O’Donnell came as a surprise when game day arrived.

  • Imagine getting to the sports bar to learn that Mike Tomczak would square off against Dan Marino.

But got toe-to-toe Tomczak did, and how! In 1994, 300 yard passing games were relatively rare in the NFL but both quarterbacks broke the 300 yard mark, with Tomczak topping Marino’s yardage total. But for all of that passing, the game represented more of a defensive chess match. Chad Brown, Jason Gildon and Joel Steed team to sack Marino 4 times, with Levon Kirkland intercepting him once.

  • The Steelers held the lead until the Dolphins tied it a 48 yard field goal as time expired.

The Steelers won the toss, but could not score. The Dolphins took over at their 40, but the vaunted Steelers 1994 Blitzburgh defense stopped him cold at Pittsburgh’s 47. Mike Tomzcak excelled in overtime, scrambling twice and completed passes of 27 yards to Barry Foster and 23 yards to John L. Williams to set up Gary Anderson’s game winner.

As this site has previously observed, Tomzack’s ’94 wins against the Dolphins and the Raiders marked the shift of the focal point of the Steelers passing attack away from Eric Green and to Yancey Thigpen, Ernie Mills, Andre Hastings and Charles Johnson.

4. 2002 – Kordell Stewart Rebounds to Lead Steelers over Bengals 29-13

Time to fess up. Just as Neil O’Donnell wasn’t really the “Steelers backup quarterback” in the 1991 Astrodome upset of the Oilers, the Steelers win over the 1-10 Bengals can hardly fall into the category of an “upset.”

But its author, Kordell Stewart, most certainly was a backup. Less than one year removed from winning the team MVP award, Kordell Stewart found himself on the bench in favor of Tommy Maddox. Raul Alegre of ESPNDeportes had revealed 5 weeks eailer during the Steelers Monday night game vs. the Colts, Bill Cowher had confided in him that he hadn’t wanted to bench Kordell, but felt he had to because Kordell had lost the confidence of the Steelers locker room.

  • Expectations don’t get much lower than that.

Nonetheless, Kordell Stewart fearlessly took the reigns after Tommy Maddox’s injury the week before in Tennessee. The Steelers raced to a 17 point lead on a Jerome Bettis touchdown run, a 64 yard bomb from Stewart to Hines Ward, and a Jeff Reed field goal. But the Bengals fought back, scoring 14 points in the second half. The Steelers tacked on another 3 in the third quarter, but midway through the 4th the Bengals took the lead.

  • Kordell Stewart rallied the Steelers, first bringing Reed into range to boot a field goal, and then rifling a 27 yarder to Hines Ward which set up a 24 yard rumble by Bettis.

Kordell Stewart was flawless that day, going 22 for 26, one touchdown and zero picks.

5. 2005 – Charlie Batch off Bench @ Lambeau as Steelers beat Packers 20-10

2005 was a rough year for Green Bay, who entered the game at 1-10. On the face of it, that might make it difficult to categorize this win as “an upset” but if you’re playing at Lambeau Field, who do you want to be your quarterback Brett Favre or Charlie Batch, a man who hadn’t thrown a non-mop up time pass since 2001.

  • And did we mention that Jerome Bettis was out and that injuries limited Willie Parker to 5 carries?

The Steelers struggled in this one, as did Batch, but he played well enough to win, as did Duce Staley who saw his last real NFL action, and helped the Steelers win with 76 yards rushing and a touchdown.

6. 2012 – Charlie Batch Wins Finals Start, Steelers Upset Ravens 23-20

This Steelers 2012 game against the Ravens at M&T Stadium was one for the ages. The Steeler were reeling, having suffered back-to-back divisional losses, including an 8 turnover game to the Cleveland Browns. Charlie Batch had quarterbacked that game, and committed 3 of the turnovers, all interceptions.

And here the Steelers were, traveling to the home of their arch rival, with their 3rd string quarterback, 3rd string wide out, 2nd string outside linebacker. During the game, they would also lose their starting guard.

  • This was as hard fought game as you get.

The lead changed 5 times. Twice in the second half, Steelers turnovers gave the Ravens a chance to put Pittsburgh away, and twice Pittsburgh clawed back. James Harrison led the Steelers final rally, with one of his patended strip-sacks which came shortly after the Steelers had turned over the ball. Charlie Batch fired a missle to Heath Miller, who then willed himself into the end zone.

  • The Steelers defense held on the next drive.

Charlie Batch then took over at Pittsburgh 15 and with 6:14 remaining, led the Steelers on 13 play drive where Batch completed 7 straight passes, as Pittsburgh reached the Ravens 24 yard line. Shaun Suisham booted in a 42 yard field goal, and the Steelers had won.

Is Landry the Steelers Next “Legendary” Back Up Quarterback?

So, could Landry Jones author a game worth of inclusion of on this list above? With Cameron Heyward, Markus Wheaton, Marcus Gilbert and DeAngelo Williams out the odds are against him. But the odds were also once against Todd Blackladge, Neil O’Donnell, Mike Tomzcak, Kordell Stewart and Charlie Batch and they proved everyone else wrong.

Let’s hope Landry Jones follows in their footsteps.

 

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7 Confessions of a Steelers Blogger – Welcome to Our “Annual” Goofs Column

Being a Steelers blogger comes with a dose bliss. Steelers fans start blogging not simply because they bleed Black and Gold, but because they have something to say that they feel no one else is saying.

  • And it’s pretty awesome when you beat Ed Bouchette to the punch.

Not that it happens terribly often, but it does happen. But blissfulness  can lead even the most conscientious blogger to take himself (or herself) too seriously.

  • Steel Curtain Rising’s delivers its remedy in our “annual” goofs column.

Annual comes in quotes, because after doing one in 2009 and 2010, time pressures from working two jobs prevented me from writing others. But this year Steel Curtain Rising’s annual goofs column is back with a vengeance. As always, we pay homage and acknowledge the example set by the late, great Washington Post columnist David Broder who wrote an annual goofs column.

jesse james, steelers dropped passes, 2015 Hall of Fame game,

Steelers tight end Jessey James can’t hold on in 2015 preseason. Photo credit: Don Wright, Associated Press, used on the Post-Gazette

1 – Shamarko, Cortez & Jarvis Weren’t Keys to 2015 Defense

A good number of the goofs from the last year relate to the Steelers defense. Such was the case with a poll conducted here, where yours truly non-too subtly suggested that the key to improving the Steelers defense in 2015 lay with the development of Shamarko Thomas, Cortez Allen, and Jarvis Jones.

  • Thankfully, you, my faithful readers knew better.

You voted Ryan Shazier as the player the Steelers most-needed to see development from. And you were right. Keith Butler did lead a turnaround of the Steelers defense in 2015, but Cortez Allen and Sharmko Thomas had nothing to do with it. Jarvis Jones did improve, particularly in run defense, but he still couldn’t keep James Harrison on the bench.

2 – Cop-Out on the Steelers 2015 Defense

This one had the potential to earn Steel Curtain Rising “bragging rights,” but a goof negated that opportunity. Last year just before the season, I argued that the Steelers 2015 defense shouldn’t regress under Keith Butler. The argument flowed like this:

  • The Steelers defense greatly improve during 2014, closing the season out with for extremely strong performances.
  • The Steelers defense was loaded with young draft picks, poised to make the next leap
  • Cover-2 should have been easier for younger players to pick up than Dick LeBeau’s Fire-Zone/Zone-Blitz

Ah, it was all there for the taking, but unfortunately that piece was preceded by a copout. As the Steelers defense played like a sieve during the 2015 preseason, I wondered aloud if it was officially time to “worry” about the Steelers defense under Keith Butler, concluding that outright worry wasn’t warranted, but concern was.

3 – No Antonio Brown Hadn’t Already Peaked

Just before the season, Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette expanded on Joseph Juan numberfire.com article, which traced wide receivers peak production to their age and number of years of service. Juan’s analysis indicated that most NFL wide receivers peaked at 3 years of service and/or at age 26.

Of course Antonio Brown improved on his 2014 season in 2015, and arguably would have improved even more had he been able to establish a rhythm with Michael Vick. To be fair to myself, the piece didn’t simply parrot back Joseph Juan’s research, but reviewed in in the context of past Steelers wide receivers.

  • The conclusion was that Steelers history suggested that Brown did have a chance to beat the odds.

But the headline “Has Antonio Brown Already Peaked” certainly qualifies as a goof.

4 – Dri Archer Fails to Fill the Void

When news of Martavis Bryant’s (first) suspension for substance abuse broke, focus rapidly shifted to who would pick up the slack. I thought it wise to suggest that one Dri Archer had a golden opportunity.
Of course Archer did have an opportunity.

  • But Dri Archer didn’t even remotely even attempt to capitalize the opportunity in front of him.

And with 20/20 hindsight, there was little indicate that he could or even that he would. So yeah, was it theoreically possible that Dri Archer could have thrived in Bryant’s absence? Yes. Was it at all plausible? Not so much.

5 – Filling the Void Created by Antonio Brown’s Concussion

Thanks to Vontaze Burfict, the Pittsburgh Steelers were forced to play their 1st Divisional playoff game since 2011 without the services of their 2015 MVP, Antonio Brown. That led to speculation over who would fill the void. While it was obvious that Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton would take on larger roles in the offense, most speculation surrounded the third receiver slot.

And most of that speculation centered on rookie Sammie Coates.

That made sense, because Brown’s injury meant Coates would return to the active list for the first time since early in the season. But this site disputed the suggestion that Coates could contribute arguing:

But to expect a rookie with one catch to his name to fill the void left by Antonio Brown borders on ridiculous.

No, the more logical player to fill the void was Darrius Heyward-Bey. Following the logic that:

There are several reasons for this. First, distribution of targets and catches shows that it is the top three and not top four receivers that are the focus of the Steelers offense. That means Heyward-Bey automatically gets in the game more frequently. Second, with defenses focusing on Wheaton and Byrant, Bey should have more opportunities to get open.

That made sense, but when all was said and done, Darrius Heyward-Bey had 2 catches for 64 yards, and Sammie Coates had 2 grabs for 61 yards and acutally had one more target….

…I guess the reporters who watch practice every day AND get off the record access to coaches knew something when they were writing those stories about Sammie Coates.

6 – Mike Vick’s Role (or lack thereof) in the Playoffs

I’ve never been a Landry Jones basher. In fact, I defended him against those who questioned Landry Jones’ roster spot entering the 2015 regular season. And Jones performed above expectations against the Cardinals and then the Raiders, even if he was less than stealer in action against the Chiefs and Seahawks.

As even Bob Labriola recently suggested, Jones looked like a deer lost in the headlights, and made an interception that, by all rights, should have ended the game. With that in mind, and knowing that Ben Roethlisberger was less than 100%, Steel Curtain Rising issued the following plea on behalf of Mike Vick:

Vick’s playoff passer rating just a shade below his career passer rating and is below his rating for the Steelers this year. But Vick has started four playoff games on the road, and won in hostile environs such as Lambeau Field. Mike Vick has been tested by the NFL’s playoff crucible.

At this point, Landry Jones is almost certainly in the Steelers plans for 2016 and perhaps beyond. Given that, and given the positives from him earlier in the year, Mike Tomlin is wise to name him his QB number 2 for the divisional show down vs. Denver.

But if Roethlisberger can’t play and Jones falters, Tomlin should make sure that Michael Vick is ready to step in.

Mike Tomlin it appears, doesn’t read Steel Curtain Rising, as Mike Vick didn’t even dress for the Steelers game against the Broncos. Tally one more goof.

7 – In Bruce We Trust… Not So Much

The memory of Landry Jones’ playoff performance lingered into the off season (and no, I’m still not part of the “Cut Landry Now” crowd.” But in looking at the Steelers free agents, Steel Curtain Rising made this case:

The case for keeping Bruce Gradkowski comes down to this: 2-3-22-0-0.
That was Gradkowski’s stat line from his only action under center for the Steelers. Yes, that is mundane, but it came in the 4th quarter of a playoff game, and the Steelers offense didn’t miss a beat.
Now take a look at this stat line: 2-5-11-0-1. That’s Landry Jones post-season resume, which came in the 4th quarter of the Steelers win over the Bengals….

…if he’s healthy, the Steelers should consider bringing Gradkowski back.

Unlike with Mike Vick before the playoffs game vs. the Broncos, Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert apparently DID get this memo, as the Steelers resigned Bruce Gradkowski. However, Gradkowski entered training camp as the Steelers number 3 quarterback, and while he looked good in limited action in the Steelers preseason loss to the Lions, he also got injured.

It seems like Mike Tomlin is planning on leaving the door open for Bruce Gradkowski to hold a spot on Steelers 2016 roster in some form or fashion, but he’s clearly now their emergency option, and not the next man up.

Looking forward to Making More Goofs in 2016

This of course does not cover all of the goofs I made over the last year or so. Certainly there have been others. And its even more certain that more will follow in the year to come. That’s human nature.

Regardless, a heartfelt thanks goes out to everyone who has read along over the last 12 months, and rally the last 8 years here at Steel Curtain Rising. Thanks for reading and please continue to come back again.

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Drugs Continue to Fuel Martavis Bryant Downward Spiral, Steelers Wide Out Faces Year Suspension

Martavis Bryant needs help. And he needs it fast. Drugs continue to fuel Martavis Bryant’s downward spiral to a dangerous level.

Last August when news broke that Martavis Bryant would miss the first four games of the season due to repeatedly failing the NFL’s policies regarding marijuana use, Martavis Bryant said all the right things and took all the right actions.

  • Words were important then, because acknowledging an addiction is the first step to beating it.

Fans can debate the wisdom of the NFL’s substance abuse policies as they apply to pot specialists can haggle over the finer points of whether marijuana is addictive or not, but as Rebecca Rollet said on Going Deep with the Steelers, if you risk losing your job for using pot and you continue to use, you’ve got an addiction.

  • And so it is with Martavis Bryant.

News broke on Saturday the March 12th that Martavis Bryant is facing a year long suspension for additional violations of the NFL’s substance abuse policy. The on the field implications of this news for the Steelers can wait for later. This pieces concerns the implications for this news for Martavis Bryant the person.

When news of his first suspension broke last August, Steel Curtain Rising suggested that the tragedies of Tim Worley, Bam Morris and Eric Green offered a cautionary tale, and asked if Bryant could break out of the self-destructive spiral.

  • Sadly, the self-destructive spiral seems to have seized Bryant full-force.

Just consider some of what transpired since Bryant returned from his suspension:

Following the Broncos game, there were no shortage of NFL analysts saying that Bryant had Randy Moss like talent. That game proved that such comparisons were accurate. Bryant dominated in a game that saw Antonio Brown out, the Steelers playing their 4th and 5th string running backs, and Ben Roethlisberger at less than 100%.

More importantly, Bryant gave all the signs of someone who had settled down. As Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com reported, in December Bryant stood in the Steelers locker room and “…spoke softly but excitedly about his daughters getting snow at Christmas for the first time. He sounded like a guy who wanted to make a home in Pittsburgh. You wanted to believe it.”

The Pittsburgh Tribune Review’s Chris Adamiski shared something similar:

Now all of that is at risk.

The NFL’s drug guidelines indicate that Bryant’s next failed test would lead to a 10 game suspension. The fact that he’s facing a year suspension implies he failed two tests.

And for those of you counting, Bryant has now failed 6 drug tests. Following his four drug test and suspension Bryant sought conseling and advice from renowned former NBA player John Lucas. This was the right, move, but clearly it wasn’t enough.

His agent Brian Fettner confirmed that Bryant would enter rehab be evaluated for depression, confiding “We’re all stunned, me included. We clearly miscalculated the issue. His isn’t a party issue. It’s a coping issue and a depression issue, and he’s got to take care of it.” Whether his addiction is rooted in depression or something else, Martavis Bryant clearly has demons he must struggle with.

Teammate Will Allen suggested on Twitter:

https://twitter.com/WillAllenWAF/status/708771873983754240

That would seem to good advice for Steelers Nation.

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Steelers Free Agent Analysis Brandon Boykin – Cornerback Not Likely to Return to Pittsburgh

Of the 20 players the Pittsburgh Steelers have who will soon become unrestricted free agents, perhaps there is no greater mystery than that surrounding free agent cornerback Brandon Boykin. Steel Certain Rising’s Steelers free agent analysis takes a look at Boykin and tires to see if we can make sense from the noise…

Capsule Profile of Brandon Boykin’s Career with the Steelers

Brandon Boykin holds the distinction of being the first Steelers acquisition that learned about through my wife…. The Steelers of course traded for Brandon Boykin from the Philadelphia Eagles.

Neither player amounted to much, and perhaps that was a bad omen for the Boykin trade. When Boykin arrived, many expected him to push for a starting job. As it was, he found himself unable to get on the field in a year when the Steelers:

Instead, Boykin stood and watched as Antwon Blake struggled and Ross Cockrell got reps ahead of him. Boykin did start seeing regular reps with the Steelers defense following the loss to Seattle.

He got an interception vs. the Colts and ended up working a sort of “closer” for Antwon Blake, although Steel City Insider’s Jim Wexell down played Boykin’s role in the Steelers comeback win over the Broncos in the regular season.

On the flip side, Steel City Insider’s Jim Wexell singled out Boykin’s mental error on Denver’s critical 3rd and 12 conversion during the Broncos go ahead score vs. the Steelers in the playoffs

The Case for Steelers Keeping Brandon Boykin

Brandon Boykin came to the Steelers with 48 games and 6 starts of experience, including one playoff start with the Eagles. The “knock” on him was that he fell out of favor with Chip Kelly, which is something you hear a lot… If there is one area on the Steelers depth chart that is screaming for help it is cornerback.

  • It says here that Brandon Boykin is not the answer for the Steelers at cornerback.

But they gave up a 5th round pick to get him, spent a year letting him learn the system, and they know what they have in him.

The Case Against Steelers Keeping Brandon Boykin

One of the prime reasons why the Steelers let Dick LeBeau go and promoted Keith Butler was to simplify the system so that new comers could learn it more easily. Boykin, by all accounts, struggled to learn the Steelers defense.

While Boyking did make contributions when he started to get reps late in the season, he whiffed on what was arguably the biggest play for the Steelers. That’s not to say it was all his fault, but the playoffs are (generally) a good crucible for seeing which direction a player will go (Ziggy Hood in the 2010 playoffs being an exception.)

The Steelers have looked into bringing Brice McCain back.

Who wouldn’t have preferred McCain in 2015 to Boykin?

Curtain’s Call on Steelers and Brandon Boykin

As Jim Wexell has noted, as a free agent Brandon Boykin is going to draw interest from the rest of the NFL. The Steelers are likely interested to, but the fact is that the greatest probability scenario is some other team will make Boykin an offer that the Steelers are not interested in matching.

If that doesn’t happen, and the Steelers can bring Brandon Boykin back at a low value “prove it” contract, that would be a wise move. But that is not likely to happen.

Free agency go your head spinning? Check out our Steelers 2016 free agent tracker and/or click here to read all articles on our Steelers 2016 Free Agent Focus section. 

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Isaac Redman Deserves Respect from Steelers Nation, Not Ridicule

Who was the last Pittsburgh Steelers running back to rush for 100 yards or more in a playoff game?

The answer must be “Jerome Bettis” or maybe “Willie Parker” or perhaps even “Rashard Mendenhall” right? Wrong.

Redman offered a ray of hope in a very depressing Steelers loss. “Red Zone Redman’s” exploits in preseason during 2009 earned him cult hero status, followed by a roster spot 2010. The 100 yard playoff game seemed confirm Redman’s viability as a backup running back. But injuries led to an down-then up-then down again 2012, and more injuries led to a rough 2013, getting cut and ultimately retirement.

  • In the process, Redman went from being Steelers Nation’s cult hero to whipping boy

When he was an unheralded rookie free agent, Red Zone Redman could do no wrong. But when stumbled, fans turned on him quickly.

Steelers Nation met the Steelers cutting Redman in October 2013 with “Good riddance.” While the Steelers decision to cut someone who’d started just a few weeks before was strange, even season bloggers didn’t bat an eye in private correspondence. Steelers Nation reacted with outright ridicule at Steel Curtain Rising’s April 2014 suggestion, before his injuries became public, that Redman be brought back.

Unfortunately, the fact that Isacc Redman’s career was cut short by a serious spinal injury isn’t enough to absolve him of blame:

isaac redman, fitzgerald toussaint fumble, afc divisional playoffs, steelers, broncos

Isaac Redman deserves respect, not ridicule from Steelers Nation

Isaac Redman responded with pure class:

When people think of great Steelers running backs, names like Bettis, Parker, Franco Harris, John Henry Johnson, Merril Hoge and even Barry Foster come to mind. In his 1 season on the practice squad and three and a third on the Steelers active roster, Isaac Redman didn’t put himself in that category.

  • But before injuries derailed his career, Isaac Redman worked himself into a quality number 2 NFL running back which is respectable for an undrafted rookie free agent.

Isaac Redman deserves respect from Steelers Nation, not the ridicule that blaming him for Fitzgerald Toussaint implies. And this holds true even if that blame is coming from a small, and extremely ignorant, subsection of Steelers Nation.

 

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Los Pittsburgh Steelers cayeron ante los Denver Broncos en el juego divisional

Any Given Sunday

Finalmente los Pittsburgh Steelers cayeron ante los Denver Broncos derrotados en Mile High y así se terminó la campaña 2015.

Un año repleto de adversidades, bajo las cuales muchos equipos sucumben, se desgranan y desangran.

No los Steelers.

Harrison y Big Ben

Estoy conmovido por el equipo y por sus fans.

Al menos por la mayoría de ellos que muestran su orgullo de “nacionalistas acereros” en las redes sociales, donde todos convergemos para demostrar la pertenencia a una idea ética, a una visión humana del deporte, aún sabiendo del negocio detrás del show.

En este equipo hay una esencia humana por sobre el show.
Es lo que queda, al final del día.
El honor, el orgullo, la entrega.
Es el compañero.

Nada de esto se consigue sin una cabeza. Sin un líder.

Sin el Coach Tomlin.

Este es su equipo. Son sus muchachos. No existirían estos jugadores, este tipo de jugadores sin el Coach Tomlin.

  • En este final de temporada no me interesa el juego sino cómo los Steelers jugaron el juego.

Por eso, y pidiéndole permiso a KT y a ustedes, que en realidad no sé cuántos serán, quiero hacer algo un poco inusual. Traté de traducir (y espero poder transmitir el espíritu del texto) el extraordinario monólogo del film “Any given Sunday” de Oliver Stone, en la piel del Sr. Al Pacino.

Más allá de que en esta pieza actoral se hace referencia a la trama de la obra, como es lógico, creo que se pone de manifiesto el espíritu profundamente humano del deporte.
De lo que significa la palabra equipo.

Estoy orgulloso de ser parte de la Nación Steeler.

“No sé qué decir realmente.

Tres minutos
para la batalla más grande de nuestras
vidas profesionales.
Todo confluye al día de hoy.
O nos curamos, como equipo
o nos derrumbamos.
Pulgada a pulgada
Jugada a jugada.
hasta que estemos acabados.
Ahora estamos en el infierno, caballeros.

Créanme
Y
podemos permanecer aquí
y que nos tape la mie&@#,
o podemos pelear por nuestro regreso

a la luz.
Podemos trepar fuera del infierno.
Una pulgada a la vez.

one inch at a time2
Ahora, yo no puedo hacerlo por ustedes.
Soy demasiado viejo…
Miro alrededor y veo estas caras tan jóvenes
y pienso,
quiero decir…
Tomé todas las peores decisiones que
un hombre de mediana edad puede tomar.

Yo, oh,
derroché todo mi dinero,
lo crean o no.
He ahuyentado
a todos los que me han amado alguna vez.

he ahuyentado
Y últimamente,
ni siquiera soporto la cara que veo en el espejo.
Uds. saben, cuando te pones viejo,
las cosas te son arrebatadas.
.
Eso, eso es parte de la vida.
Pero,
uno sólo lo aprende cuando
empiezas a perder cosas.
Te das cuenta de que la vida es un juego de pulgadas.
Así como el football.
Porque en cada uno de esos juegos,
vida o football,
el margen de error es tan pequeño…
Quiero decir,
medio paso demasiado tarde o demasiado temprano
ya no lo consigues.
Medio segundo demasiado lento o demasiado rápido,
y no la atrapas.
Las pulgadas que necesitamos están
a nuestro alrededor.
Están en cada pausa de juego.
En cada minuto, en cada segundo…

En este equipo, luchamos por esa pulgada.
En este equipo, nos rompemos, y cada uno a nuestro alrededor,
en pedazos
por esa pulgada.
Nos AFERRAMOS con nuestras uñas
a esa pulgada.

Screenshot_2016-01-18-20-53-31

Porque sabemos,
cuando sumamos todas esas pulgadas,
que eso va a hacer la pu#@ diferencia
entre GANAR y PERDER.
Entre VIVIR y MORIR.

 

Y les diré esto:
En cualquier lucha,
es el tipo que está dispuesto a morir,
el que va a ganar esa pulgada.
Y yo sé
que si voy a tener algo más de vida,
es porque, aún estoy dispuesto a pelear
y a morir por esa pulgada.
Porque de eso se trata VIVIR:
Las seis pulgadas frente a tu cara.

six inches in front of
Ahora, yo no puedo hacer que lo hagan.
Tienen q mirar al tipo que está a su lado.
Mirarlo a los ojos.
Ahora yo pi que van a ver a un tipo
que irá con ustedes por esa pulgada.
Van a ver a un tipo
que se va a sacrificar por este equipo
porque el sabe que llegado el momento,
Uds van a hacer lo mismo por él.

Eso es un equipo, caballeros.
Y, o nos curamos ahora, como equipo
O moriremos, como individuos.
Eso es el football, muchachos.

that's football guys
Eso es todo lo que es.

Ahora, qué van a hacer?

 

El Dr. de Acero

 

 

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Steelers Report Card for AFC Divisional Playoff Loss to the Denver Broncos

Taken from the grade book of a teacher who remains proud of his star student, even if that student fell short of expectations, here is the Pittsburgh Steelers Report Card for the AFC Divisional Playoff loss to the Denver Broncos.steelers, report card, grades, Denver Broncos, afc, divsional, playoffs

Quarterback
Word on the street is that Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t affected by the shoulder injury. This teacher isn’t quite so sure, as Todd Haley seemed to call fewer downfield plays than usual. Still Roethlisberger 24-37-0-0 for 339 yards is impressive and he had at least one touchdown pass dropped and suffered from another non-pass interference call in the end zone. Most importantly, Roethlisberger did not turnover the ball. Grade: B

Running Backs
What a difference a week makes. After the Bengals game, Fitzgerald Toussaint and Jordan Todman played so well fans could be forgiven for wondering where the coaching staff had been hiding them. The Broncos running defense provided a much stiffer test. Toussaint had difficulty running the ball, and Todman was completely ineffective. And while the Steelers have rightly refused to scapegoat Toussaint, his fumble was the turning point in the game. Grade: F

Tight Ends
Heath Miller had one catch for 5 yards and a very visible “drop” that was quite frankly more of a excellent play by the Broncos defense than anything done wrong by Heath. Jesse James posted an excellent 22 yard catch and run that really appeared to position the Steelers to deal Denver the death blow. Matt Spaeth had one catch for one yard. Grade: C+

Wide Receivers
With Antonio Brown out Martavis Bryant was going to have to step up with a monster game, and step up Bryant did. Yes, he dropped the first pass thrown to him, but Bryant excelled after that catching 9 passes for 154 yards. Darrius Heyward-Bey also played well and helped set up the Steelers second score. Sammie Coates had two targets and made good on both of him, and was quite impressive. Markus Wheaton was well defended in the end zone, but the pass hit him right in the numbers and he should have caught it. He had a decent day as a receiver beyond that, but the Steelers needed that catch. Grade: B

Offensive Line
Ben Roethlsiberger only gave up 3 sacks, a number that seems low, although that is in part a measure of how his sack totals have dropped on Todd Haley’s watch. Still, those sacks came when the Steelers could least afford it. Denver has a stout run defense that shut DeAngelo Williams down last time around, and this time they did it again. Like they did in a number of other areas, the Steelers needed a little more from their line. Grade: C

Defensive Line
If you throw out the CJ Anderson’s one long run, the Denver rushing stats look almost as anemic as the Steelers do. One problem, that 34 yard scamper came with Denver backed up on its own 5 yard line. Stephon Tuitt led the defensive line with 4 tackles one for a loss and one quarterback hit. Steve McLendon had 3 tackles, although he got blocked on the 34 yard scamper. Cameron Heyward did not record a tackle. The Steelers needed to get just a little more pressure on Peyton Manning, and those contributions could have come from the line. They didn’t. Grade: C+

Linebackers
James Harrison was an absolute monster out there, leading the linebackers in tackles, registering a sack, a quarterback hit and tackling three ball carriers behind the line of scrimmage. Ryan Shazier was second in tackles for Steelers defensive lineman, and although he did not have any splash plays of the week before, he played a solid game. Lawrence Timmons also played a very sold game. Jarvis Jones helped deflect a pass and has now logged to quality playoff performances in a row. Bud Dupree had 3 tackles, one of which went for a loss. Grade: B

Secondary
A couple of stats stand out here. First, Denver found itself in 3rd and long until late in the game, and Denver was 3-15 on third downs (although those three conversions did come on their last drive.) Both of those stats show that the secondary is doing its job. William Gay led all Steelers defenders in tackles, including one behind the line of scrimmage and had another pass defensed (that, had it been intercepted, could have ended the game.) Mike Mitchell had 3 tackles and a pass defensed. Antwon Blake had a quiet game, and that’s generally good for him. The secondary had a solid day, but given how poorly Manning was throwing the ball, it might not be too much to expect the Steelers defensive backs to come down with one. Grade: B-

Special Teams
Chris Boswell was 3-3 on field goals and knocked kickoffs through the end zone, although it did look like his on sides kick hadn’t gone 10 yards. Outside of that, the Steelers special teams were atrocious vs. the Denver Broncos. A long punt return set up Denver’s first score. Markus Wheaton looked clueless on punt returns and two costly turnovers were narrowly avoided. Jordan Berry’s punts were erratic and otherwise short. The Steelers special teams were a liability in the playoffs vs. Denver, and only Boswell’s kicking keeps this grade from being lower. Grade: D

Coaching

The Pittsburgh Steelers went into Denver without its top running back, its top wide receiver and with quarterback at less than 100%, yet led the game from the middle of the 1st quarter until the middle of the 4th quarter.

Sure, there are things you can find fault with – why didn’t the Steelers figure out a way to run the ball better? Tomlin’s clock management critics will no doubt insist that he be fired for taking a time out with 2:22 remaining. Why didn’t Tomlin allow Chris Boswell to attempt a 52 yard field goal? Of course going for the deep ball on 4th and 1 will be seen as a mistake.

  • Really, all of that is missing the point.

The Steelers coaches didn’t fumble the ball away in the 4th quarter, not did they muff the punt returns, nor did they not pickoff one of those wounded ducks Petyon manning was slinging.

The Steelers game plan was solid, and the player executed it well. Moreover, after such an emotional win as the one that came over the Bengals, there was no sign of a let down. Grade: B+

Unsung Hero
Maybe it is because he is 33 and realizes his chances for a Super Bowl are dwindling. Maybe it’s because he’s at a point where his experience can make up for any steps he’s lost. Perhaps he simply wanted it more and went out determined to make it happen, but for the second straight week Steelers Will Allen safety put himself at the center of almost every key defense stop, clocking in with 6 tackles, 2 tackles for a loss, 1 pass defensed and another quarterback hit, and for that Will Allen wins the Unsung Hero Award for the Steelers Playoff loss to the Denver Broncos.

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3 Critical Mistakes Doomed Steelers Playoff Chances Against Denver Broncos

All playoff losses are painful, but the Pittsburgh Steelers 23-16 loss to the Denver Broncos feels all the more poignant for one simple reason – the Steelers could have won the game. One year ago at Heinz Field the Baltimore Ravens clearly classed the Steelers out of the playoffs. The Steelers, even in their weakened state not only could have won in Denver, but would have had a shot at taking out New England.

  • Alas, none of that was to be.

In strict analytical terms, the Steelers had a half-full/half-empty performance against the Broncos in Denver, but at the end of the day their defeat can be traced to 3 elements: Piss poor special teams, missed opportunities, and one mortal mistake.

Steelers Special Teams Struggle in Denver

This is one time when you wish you were wrong. When Pittsburgh qualified for the playoffs Steel Curtain Rising called out the Steelers special teams a unit that needed to step up if the Steelers were to climb the Stairway to Seven. By definition, you can’t step up if you’re a liability.

  • The Steelers special teams were a liability against the Broncos.

Things got off to a bad start for the Steelers special teams when Omar Bolden returned the opening punt 42 yards. You don’t win playoff games by spotting Peyton Manning, even an ailing 39 year old Peyton Manning, the ball on your own 30 yard line. The Steelers defense forced a field goal, but points were precious in a game that promised to be close.

Markus Wheaton was a disaster as a punt returner. Not only did he not seem to know when to signal fair catch, he wasn’t able to catch it. On one occasion pure luck prevented a turnover, and on another it was Ross Cockrell’s alert play. That inaugurated the drive that saw Fitzgerald Toussaint fumble – no one should blame Wheaton for the fumble, but it was not the way to start a game-sealing drive.

  • Jordan Berry boomed off a couple of pretty punts.

He also had two 27 yard punts, one of which allowed Denver to kick a field goal, and he had another touchback when the Steelers sorely needed to pin the Broncos down near their own end zone.
Chris Boswell played well with his 3-3 effort on field goals and making the touchback automatic on kickoffs, but Boswell’s game had its faults as his on sides kick was poorly executed.

If you remove the long return, the turnover on downs, and the fumble recovery, the Denver Broncos average starting field position was at their own 27. The Steelers average starting field position was at their own 20. In a game decided by field goal kickers those seven yards make a big difference.

Steelers Missed Opportunities vs. the Broncos

Steel City Insider’s Jim Wexell chose to make missed opportunities the focus of his post-game analysis and so he should. In general, the Steelers played smart football vs. the Broncos, but they still left a couple too many plays on the field.

  • Markus Wheaton dropped a touchdown pass that would have dramatically altered the game’s dynamic
  • On 1st down with Denver at their own 5, Steve McLendon and Lawrence Timmons missed shots on CJ Anderson’s 34 yard scramble, setting up an eventual Denver field goal
  • William Gay missed an interception on Denver’s game willing drive (credit Emmanuel Sanders with a great pass defense)

You can expand or modify this list in any number of ways. But the bottom line is simple:  if the Steelers make plays in those situations, they likely win the game. Even though they left those plays on the field, the Steelers controlled the game and were closing in on the kill with 11 minutes left to play….

One Mortal Mistake Dramatically Shifts Momentum to Denver

Webster’s on-line dictionary defines “Fumble” as “To fail to catch or hold the ball.” That’s a rather mundane definition for a play that transforms a football field into a scene of pure chaos in a millisecond. Fumbles differ from interceptions because, even when they’re forced, they bounce in unpredictable ways, offering an unexpected opportunity to whoever can recover it.

  • 4th quarter fumbles in playoff games often take on a life of their own.

Twice in the 1980’s, Denver went to the Super Bowl in part because of fourth quarter fumbles, if you count the 1989 Steelers failed exchange between Bubby Brister and Chuck Lanza.

In the 21st century, the Pittsburgh Steelers have an uncanny relationship with 4th quarter fumbles. Jerome Bettis opened the 4th quarter of the Steelers 2004 divisional playoff game vs. the Jets by fumbling to the Jets, but the Steelers defense forced a punt. A year later against the Colts, a late 4th quarter fumble by Bettis was negated by a Ben Roethlisberger shoe string tackle, Bryant McFadden’s career play, and Mike Vanderjet’s missed field goal.

From Ben Roethlisberger, to Mike Tomlin, to Art Rooney II, the Pittsburgh Steelers have acted with class and refused to use Fitzgerald Toussaint’s fumble as a scapegoat for this loss. And, as indicated here, had the Steelers made plays in other areas that fumble could have been little more than a footnote. (And for the record, Toussaint wasn’t being careless with the ball, Bradley Roby made a heck of a play.)

Commentators overuse the concept “momentum changer” in football, but the simple reality is that Toussiant’s fumble dramatically shifted momentum in Denver’s favor.

  • Prior to that play, Denver’s offense didn’t so much move down the field, as it muddled down it.

But the fumble breathed new life into Denver. Perhaps Peyton Manning is only an average passer at this point in this career, but he remains a master on-the-field tactician, and the fumble gave him a much needed second wind. As he did in his first game against the Steelers, Peyton Manning outfoxed the Steelers defense, adding insult to injury by burning close to 7 minutes off the clock in doing so.

The Steelers had 3 minutes to make a go of it, but ultimately they could not.

Going Where Mike Tomlin Will Not

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin walks the walk. The Pittsburgh Steelers define “success” with Lombardi Trophies. Chuck Noll set that standard in the ‘70’s and Bill Cowher and Mike Tomlin unflinchingly accepted it.

  • But if there was ever a season where a Steelers coach could be granted a dispensation and allowed to accept a moral victory it was the Steelers 2015 season.

Reporters asked Mike Tomlin on the impact of injuries on the game and the season. He stopped them cold. “We’re not into that” – End that entire line of questioning. A big part of the 2015 Steelers success is the locker room’s embrace of the “Next Man Up” philosophy.

  • Mike Tomlin doesn’t mouth those words:  He lives them.

But bloggers don’t face those constraints. While Steelers felt Antonio Brown’s absence and probably would have won with him in the game, Martavis Bryant, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Sammie Coates stepped up admirably.

On defense James Harrison made plays that a man of his age should be able to do. Ryan Shazier, Jarvis Jones and Stephon Tuitt all put in strong efforts.

In the end, these efforts weren’t quite enough, but the 2015 Steelers have every reason to be proud.

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Pittsburgh Loses Playoff Game to Denver, but Steelers Nation Can Still vote Steelers Game Ball Winners

Alas, the Pittsburgh Steelers lost the AFC Divisional Playoff game to the Denver Broncos to the tune of 23 to 16. Normally we only do Steelers game ball winner polls following wins, but as this is the end of a season that saw a number of Steelers make valiant efforts, we’re doing it after this playoff loss.

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Just how much Ben Roethlisberger was affected by is injury and/or the pain resulting from it will forever remain unknown. Unlike, say the Steelers Monday Night Football loss in San Francisco in 2011, there’s no question that Ben Roethlisberger should have been on the field, but he still was less than 100%.

  • And while Ben did miss Antonio Brown, the man who accounted for 1/3 of his passing offense, he protected the ball.

Martavis Bryant had a monster game, both as a receiver and as a rusher. If Bryant can remain sober and sustain this development, the Steelers will have their best wide receiver tandem since Lynn Swann and John Stallworth.

Darrius Heyward-Bey and Sammie Coates also get ballot slots because of the strong games they had. (Jesse James does not, as he did have one nice catch, he did not block well on the play that Fitzgerald Toussaint fumbled on.)

On defense James Harrison gets the first ballot slot, for his excellent read on the direct snap and his sack of Peyton Manning. William Gay also gets a slot as he was a leading tackler and played well, although he did drop what could have been a game-sealing interception.

Ryan Shazier, Will Allen and Lawrence Timmons all get the next ballot slots for the defense as each put in strong games, as did Jarvis Jones.

Chris Boswell is the only special teams player to get a ballot slot for the obvious reason.

Write in Your Choice

Remember, you’re not limited to these choices for Steelers game ball winners. If you think someone deserves a vote, say perhaps Heath Miller, write their names in and vote for them.

Please check back soon for Steel Curtain Risings full analysis.

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Steelers Broncos Divisional Playoff Finds Both Franchises at Crossroads

You want to know one of the nice things about the NFL? There are very few one way streets. All roads in the NFL might not lead to Rome, ask the Cleveland Browns, but roads double back  to intersect again.

  • And so it is with the Steelers Broncos Divisional Playoff matchup.

Looking at the X’s and O’s, the Steelers December victory over the Broncos probably offers the best clue to understanding today’s AFC divisional playoff matchup.

It’s a given the Ben Roethlisberger needs to show something and that Markus Wheaton, Martavis Bryant, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Heath Miller and, yes, Sammie Coates must step up their games in Antonio Brown’s absence. Ditto Fitzgerald Toussaint and Jordan Todman with DeAngelo Williams out.

  • But you knew that already.

An analysis of the X’s and O’s says that the key to this game will depend on which Steelers defense shows up. If the Steelers defense of the first half of the Broncos game makes even a brief appearance, the Steelers 2016 off season will begin in earnest. However, if the Steelers defense of the second half of that game shows up in full force, the Steelers have a shot at going to Foxborough.

  • But that tells us very little about the story underlying today’s game.

For that you must look back further.

Steelers Getting Tebowed Leads to Transition

The date was January 8th 2012, the site was the same as today, Denver’s Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Steelers had opened the 4th quarter trailing by 10 points, but a Ben Roethlisberger to Jerricho Cotchery connection and a Shaun Shuisham field goal had tied it in regulation.

The Denver Broncos got the ball to start ove time. Tim Tebow hit Demaryius Thomas over the middle. Ike Taylor missed the tackle. Ryan Mundy couldn’t get into position to take a shot. 80 yards later and Demaryius Thomas ended it all in the end zone.

  • Steelers Nation suffered the ultimate buzz kill.

2011 Pittsburgh Steelers failed at a chance to defend their AFC Championship and atone for the defeat of Super Bowl XLV. But it went beyond that. That loss marked a fundamental shift for the franchise. Shortly afterwards, I remarked to Tony Defeo that I felt I had the feeling that Steelers fans must have had in 1980, when the Super Steelers run can to a sobering end as the Houston Oilers ended their playoff chances.

  • But this thread doesn’t just involve the Steelers, it involves the Denver Broncos too.

Tim Tebow was a terrible quarterback blessed with an uncanny ability for finding a way to win when all appeared lost. That made for some dramatic finishes to football games, but John Elway was smart enough to know that he shouldn’t stake his franchise’s future on an intangible quality.

So he did something about it. He went out and got Peyton Manning, convincing Manning that, like Elway, he still had enough to win Super Bowls in his late 30’s.

  • Elway’s first test of that ability came next season, on Sunday Night Football, against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

If Steelers Nation has blotted that game out of their collective memory, we’ll forgive them. Much screamed to be forgotten. Its synthesis, however, is rather simple. All night long, Peyton Manning engaged in a chess match with Dick LeBeau and Troy Polamalu, while James Harrison watched in street clothes from the sideline.

  • And at each and every critical juncture, Peyton Manning outfoxed LeBeau and Polamalu.

In a word, Peyton Manning schooled the Steelers defense. Yes, the Steelers 2012 defense would finish the season as the NFL’s number one overall in terms of total yards. Yes, the defense would keep the Steelers in games they had no business being in late in the season (see the 2012 7 turnover fiasco vs. the Browns).

  • But Petyon Manning revealed that “Coach Dad” had no clothes.

It may have difficult for some of us (read: Steel Curtain Rising) to see at the time, but with 20/20 hindsight, Peyton Manning revealed the bitter truth that Sunday Night opening day loss.

Steelers and Broncos Two Teams at Diverging Crossroads

Now the Steelers and Broncos meet and again the venue is Mile High, and again it is the playoffs. But this time the backstory is decidedly different.

Peyton Manning is in the twilight of his career. One would have to be a fool to discard the possibility that number 18 would be able to find a way to move the needle in dramatic fashion just one more time. And he might.

But the number of quality football games Peyton Manning has left in him are measured in single digits –at best. Objectively speaking, Steel Curtain Rising is already on the record saying that Pittsburgh’s best plan for success is to dare Peyton Manning to beat the Steelers defense.

  • And this is a very different Steelers defense and, for that matter, offense, than the one that lost to Tim Tebow.

On defense, Cameron Heyward, Steve McLendon, Lawrence Timmons, James Harrison and Will Allen are (about) all that remain. In terms of personnel, the Steelers offense hasn’t seen as much turnover since 2011, but the backfield is completely new, Matt Spaeth is back, and the offensive line presents a mix of old and new.

Regardless of the outcome, assuming that Ben Roethlisberger neither risks nor suffers greater long term injury as a result of playing today, the Steelers Broncos Divisional Playoff marks as much of a new beginning for the Pittsburgh Steelers franchise as it does an ending for the Peyton Manning era of the Denver Broncos.

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