Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Golden Age of Steelers Football Continues

For the past seven years or so, whenever a Steelers fan has complained to me about a loss or how bad the team looks, I remind them that regardless of how any individual game (or season) turns out, we are in the midst of a golden age of Steelers football: “Enjoy it now,” I like to say, “because these good times aren’t going to last forever.”

And despite the opening day loss to the Titans (and the remarkable level of doom and gloom that has surrounded it), this golden age continues. You know why? The Steelers still have a franchise QB in Ben Roethlisberger and one-of-the-best-ever defensive coordinators in Dick LeBeau, two of the primary reasons why Pittsburgh has been a Super Bowl contender almost every year since 2004.

I’m not necessarily suggesting the Steelers are going to rebound and have a good season. It may be that the lack of talent on the offensive line, at running back, and at wide receiver (where we have Antonio Brown and an intriguing prospect in Markus Wheaton but not much else), will drag the team down and leave us with a five- or six-win season. But what the Steelers have going isn’t fundamentally broken, and a strong turnaround could come relatively quickly.

It’s even possible that the 2013 team could rebound and surprise. (Le’Veon Bell and Heath Miller could make a big difference, though I fear their help will be too little, too late.)  And if you think that the 2013 opener was ugly, go back and watch the 1989 opener, which the Steelers lost 51-0—at home, to Cleveland. The Steelers followed up that beatdown with a 41-10 loss at Cincinnati. After those two games, I’ll bet no one though the Steelers would make the playoffs—and win a playoff game—that year, but they did.

And what if the Steelers win just five or six games in 2013…? Another thing I like to remind people—and this annoys them even more than the golden age sentiment—is that going 6-10 in 2003 was a blessing in disguise. That was just enough losses to allow the Steelers to draft Roethlisberger and bring us three Super Bowl appearances in nine years.   

So save your breath. No matter what happens this year, Mike Tomlin isn’t getting fired after this season (not with a contract that runs through 2016). And Todd Haley doesn’t deserve to get fired; he’s an excellent coordinator, the players simply aren’t getting it done. Do you really think Haley wants to be calling plays where Isaac Redman is the feature back and Emmanuel Sanders is serving as the deep threat?

I figure the Steelers are likely to get this partial rebuilding process finished in relatively short order. It’s what happens after the Roethlisberger/LeBeau era that Steelers fans ought to be worried about.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Le’Veon Bell, durability

In light of Le’Veon Bell’s inability to stay on the field during training camp/preseason, I thought I’d review the writeup in Pro Football Weekly’s Draft Preview, which is—er, was—the best draft preview available. (PFW projected Bell to be a second- or third-round pick.) Naturally, there are many “positives” listed, including “Outstanding agility for his size,” and “Extremely soft hands and natural receiving skills.” The write-up also notes that Bell was “highly durable throughout [his college] career.”

But it’s last line of the summary that may give Steelers’ fans pause: “Has the balanced skill desired in an every-down back, but may struggle to re ach his second contract given his upright running style and inability to avoid direct hits.”

Friday, August 30, 2013

Max Starks Re-Visited

The Steelers have signed Max Starks off the street before. Is it time to go there again? In case you haven't heard, the Chargers cut Starks today, in the wake of a sorry preseason performance that saw him give up three sacks and allow one other hit on his QB. That doesn't bode well for his NFL future. On the other hand, Starks has a long history of providing an 'answer' for the Steelers at the all-important left tackle position. And at the moment, the Steelers have a big question mark there--at both tackle spots, in fact.

Could it hurt to bring him back to Pittsburgh for a look-see? I know he's 31 and doesn't fit the zone blocking scheme the Steelers claim they will be using extensively this season. But Mike Adams isn't inspiring a whole lot of confidence at the moment. If--and this is a big if--Starks could ... one last time ... solidify the left tackle spot, that would allow the team to move Adams to the right side (where he seems best-suited) and Marcus Gilbert to the bench.

More and more it appears that the Steelers' most pressing need in next year's draft will be left tackle.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Five challenges for the Baltimore Ravens in 2013

Now that the Baltimore Ravens have won the Super Bowl, they will find that it’s more difficult to get back to the Big Game than to win it. Here are five challenges the Ravens’ organization will face in 2013 (and in some cases beyond).
1. QB Joe Flacco is going to cost a lot more against the salary cap going forward, leaving less financial resources available for other players.

2. The Ravens will play a slightly more difficult schedule than divisional rivals next year. For example, while the Steelers go against the Raiders and Titans, the Ravens will get the Texans and Broncos.

3. Selecting last in the draft in 2013 (#32), the Ravens are less likely to add impactful rookies next year. By comparison, the Steelers pick at #17, and the Bengals at #21.

4. Key veterans like Ray Lewis and Matt Birk (and perhaps Ed Reed) will no longer be with the team.

5. Instead of being the hunter, the Ravens will be hunted by both the Steelers and Bengals. And Baltimore will also have to contend with the all-too-common Super Bowl letdown.

But, expect the Ravens to host the Steelers or Patriots in week one of the 2013 season.

Unfortunately, the Curse of the Terrible Towel did not strike the Ravens this year.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Curse of the Terrible Towel to befall Ravens, boost Steelers?

Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice has come under fire this week for derisively waving, wearing a Terrible Towel following the Ravens’ 13-10 win over the Steelers at Heinz Field on Sunday night. Pittsburgh linebacker LaMarr Woodley took to Twitter to call out Rice, tweeting: If youre not a steelers fan, dont put your hands on a terrible towel.” And then “Bad idea ray just ask lendale white and tj whosyourmama.”

Woodley was making reference to the Curse of the Terrible Towel, which seems to befall opposing teams that disrespect the towel. Consider the case of LenDale White and Keith Bulluck, who stomped on a Terrible Towel following a convincing 31-14 win over the Steelers at LP Field in Nashville in December 2008. At that moment, the Titans seemed Super Bowl bound, sporting a 13-2 record. But Tennessee was shut out 23-0 in its season finale at Indianapolis, and then lost to the sixth-seeded Ravens 13-10 in the playoffs. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh went in the opposite direction, winning its season finale 31-0, and then defeating the Chargers and Ravens en route to a Super Bowl victory over the Arizona Cardinals. (Incidentally, during the week before that Super Bowl
the Cardinals’ mascot was seen wiping his furry armpits with a Terrible Towel and the mayor of Phoenix mock blew his nose in one.)

But the Titans’ miser
y wasn’t over. Tennessee started the 2009 season 0-6 (including a season-opening loss at Pittsburgh), a streak topped off by a 59-0 drubbing at the hands of the Patriots. At that point, Nashville radio host Thom Abraham stepped in to try to “reverse the curse,” by sending a Terrible Towel signed by White and Bulluck to the Allegheny Valley  School (which cares for people with physical and mental disabilities and receives proceeds from the sale of Terrible Towels) along with the message: “Please release the curse.” A few days later, on November 1, 2009 — ten and a half months after stomping the towel — the Titans finally tasted victory again with an easy win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Bengals have also been hit by the curse. On December 4, 2005, during a 38-31 win over the Steelers, Cincinnati wide receiver T.J.
Houshmandzadeh wiped his feet with a Terrible Towel. At that point in time, the Bengals seemed poised to reach the Super Bowl, but Cincinnati lost its final two games of the season — and then bowed to Pittsburgh in the playoffs (after Bengals QB Carson Palmer tore his ACL on the second play of the game). The Steelers went on to beat the Colts and Broncos en route to a Super Bowl victory over the Seahawks. As for the Bengals, they didn’t post another winning season until 2009.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Jason Zasky on the Steelers at

Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is on vacation this week. So I'm helping to fill the insatiable demand for Steelers news and commentary with a guest "slog" on the newspaper's Web site. The column is titled Roethlisberger, LeBeau (Not Tomlin) Key Steelers' Success

I'm guessing it will inspire more than a few comments in the Post-Gazette's Steelers section. Feel free to weigh in with additional comments here. Or follow me on my new Twitter feed at @jasonzasky

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Pittsburgh Steelers 2012 schedule

Sun. Sept. 9 at Denver 8:20 p.m. (NBC)
Sun., Sept. 16 N.Y. Jets 4:15 p.m. (CBS)
Sun. Sept. 23 at Oakland 4:15 p.m. (CBS)
Sun., Sept. 30 BYE ---
Sun. Oct. 7 Philadelphia 1:00 p.m. (FOX)
Thurs., Oct. 11 at Tennessee 8:20 p.m. (NFL Network)
Sun. Oct. 21 at Cincinnati 8:20 p.m. (NBC)
Sun., Oct. 28 Washington 1:00 p.m. (FOX)
Sun. Nov. 4 at N.Y. Giants 4:15 p.m. (CBS)
Mon., Nov. 12 Kansas City 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Sun., Nov. 18 Baltimore 8:20 p.m. (NBC)
Sun. Nov. 25 at Cleveland 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Sun., Dec. 2 at Baltimore 4:15 p.m. (CBS)
Sun. Dec. 9 San Diego 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Sun., Dec. 16 at Dallas 4:15 p.m. (CBS)
Sun. Dec. 23 Cincinnati 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Sun. Dec. 30 Cleveland 1:00 p.m. (CBS)


Pittsburgh Steelers unveil 1934 Throwback Uniforms

The 2012 Pittsburgh Steelers schedule is set to be released any minute now. But at the moment fans are no doubt distracted by the look of the 1934 throwback uniforms (pictured above) that the Steelers will wear for two home games this season. Personally, I like them better than the hideous yellow helmet throwbacks they have been sporting in recent seasons.