Sunday, November 30, 2008

Patriots: What are the Chances...?

It's probably safe to say that this game will come down to whichever team does a better job of protecting its QB. Pittsburgh's offensive line woes, combined with the Steelers' sorry history in Foxborough, explains why we're picking the Patriots and giving the Steelers a 45 percent chance of winning.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Vote for the Steelers over the Patriots

This week in the Click for Cans contest the Steelers take on the New England Patriots, just as they will tomorrow in Foxborough, Mass. Click here to vote for the Steelers over Patriots. Entering this week Pittsburgh is 11-1; the Patriots are 5-7.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Bengals: What are the Chances...?

The Steelers are 10.5 point favorites in this game, but not everything points to a romp — or even a win. For one, Cincinnati is on a roll, with a win and a tie in its past two games. And Cincy has emerged victorious in two of its last three visits to Heinz Field, which ought to give Steelers’ fans pause.

On the other hand, without QB Carson Palmer, the Bengals’ offense probably isn’t capable of scoring many points against the Steelers’ number one ranked defense. And the Bengals’ front seven probably doesn’t have the talent to exploit the Steelers’ lone weakness on offense — the offensive line.

Cincinnati also played a full five quarters against a physical Philadelphia Eagles team this past Sunday, hardly ideal for a team playing on the road just four days later. The Steelers have an 80 percent chance of winning this game.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Vote for the Steelers over the Bengals

It should be a relatively easy win for the Steelers this week in the Click for Cans contest. Click here to vote for the Steelers over this week's opponent, the Cincinnati Bengals. Entering this week Pittsburgh is 9-1; the Bengals are 6-4.

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Pittsburgh 11, San Diego 10

First time in NFL history a game has ended with this final score. The Steelers can consider themselves lucky to have escaped with a win considering the number of penalties the team committed and the initially shaky play of the offensive line.

A few notes: It was a bad decision by Mike Tomlin to attempt a field goal following the first drive. He must know that no kicker has ever converted a 50+ yard field goal in the history of Heinz Field, and with the weather and field conditions today, it's unlikely that was going to change. But one can't blame the Steelers for not sneaking Big Ben on 4th and goal at the end of the first quarter. No reason to put his shoulder in further jeopardy in that spot. Finally, Anthony Smith didn't do himself any favors getting called for fair catch interference.

With the victory The Steelyard is 7-3 on the season and 33-10 all-time.

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Chargers: What are the Chances...?

Brief last-minute analysis: With all their injuries at cornerback the Steelers could be very vulnerable to the Chargers' relatively high-powered passing attack. San Diego figures to do most of its damage through the air anyway, as the team's running game has been sluggish this season. Yet, if Ben Roethlisberger starts (as expected), his performance will likely to determine the outcome. Big Ben will need to avoid the kind of costly interceptions that doomed the team in losses to the Giants and Colts. If he does, the Steelers probably win. If not, another costly AFC loss, and more incentive for Tomlin to start backup Byron Leftwich in the Thursday night home game versus Cincinnati.

Let's be optimistic and give the Steelers a 55 percent chance of winning this game. Prediction-wise, The Steelyard is 6-3 thus far this season, and 32-10 all-time.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Vote for the Steelers to beat the Chargers

It should be an easy win for the Steelers this week in the Click for Cans contest. Click here to vote for the Steelers over this week's opponent, the San Diego Chargers. Entering this week Pittsburgh is 9-1; the Chargers are 4-6.

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Sunday, November 09, 2008

Colts: What are the Chances...?

Another difficult game to evaluate, complicated by the fact that we don't yet know who will be playing quarterback for the Steelers. Personally, I hope Byron Leftwich gets the start, mostly because a healthy Leftwich is a better option than an injured Roethlisberger. Let's face it, Big Ben is now so banged up that it's clearly affecting his ability to perform up to his very high standards. Furthermore, Leftwich wouldn't hold onto the ball as long as Ben, an important factor when considering the Steelers' offensive line versus the Colts' speed rushers.

Either way, give the Steelers (three-point favorites) a 55 percent chance of beating the Colts. Currently, The Steelyard is 6-2 on the season in terms of predicting the games, and 32-9 all-time.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Time for Big Ben to sit

Even if it turns out that Ben Roethlisberger is capable of starting on Sunday versus the Indianapolis Colts, it’s time for him to take a seat on the bench for a game … or two or three. The Steelers have a disturbing history of allowing Ben to return from injury prematurely — at Jacksonville (appendectomy), and at Oakland (concussion), both in 2006 — even when a more-than-capable backup was available. Recall that those two games were two of the worst performances of Roethlisberger’s career, similar to those of the past two weeks against the Redskins and Giants.

In the long run, the Steelers would be best served by letting Big Ben’s shoulder and hands (and knee?) heal, instead of rushing him back out on the field. For one, Byron Leftwich is a proven starting-caliber QB, one who could hold down the fort — and likely excel — in Roethlisberger’s absence. Second, in recent weeks, Ben’s play has been subpar, no doubt due to his injuries, a trend that is likely to continue, especially if the condition of his shoulder has deteriorated further. But the biggest reason to sit Ben is to try to get him healthy — or at least healthier — for the stretch drive and the post-season. Otherwise, by the time the post-season rolls around he may barely be able to run or throw, exactly when the Steelers will need him most.

One further thought: I'm adamant that the Steelers should not have Roethlisberger running the quarterback sneak, except in the rarest of circumstances. Nor should they be running reverses where Ben might be called upon to block defenders. With $100 million-plus invested in him, it pays to be smart about minimizing the contact he's exposed to, especially in light of the ongoing struggles of the team's offensive line. Recall that in the space of one season former Tenneessee Titans quarterback Steve McNair went from star QB to being completely washed up (not long after he turned 30), thanks to all the contact he absorbed over the course of his career. The amount of punishment Roethlisberger is absorbing is reminiscent of McNair, and no Steeler fan wants to see Ben washed up before he reaches the end of his current contract.

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Vote for the Steelers to beat the Colts

It's a tough matchup for the Steelers this week in the Click for Cans contest. Click here to vote for the Steelers over this week's opponent, the Indianapolis Colts. Entering this week Pittsburgh is 8-1; the Colts are also 8-1.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Polamalu only Steeler on PFW's midseason All-Pro team

Yesterday Pro Football Weekly (PFW) announced its midseason All-Pro team. Safety Troy Polamalu is the only Steelers' player on the list. Notably, Joey Porter (Miami Dolphins) did make the team as one of the two outside linebackers.

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Sunday, November 02, 2008

Redskins: What are the Chances...?

The good news is that the Steelers seem to match up better against the Redskins than they do against either the Eagles or Giants. So although the Redskins are a two-point favorite, I like the Steelers’ chances in Washington, in spite of the fact that Pittsburgh hasn’t won a regular season game in the capital since 1964.

This game figures to be won by the team whose QB makes the fewest mistakes. It’s well documented that Jason Campbell hasn’t thrown an interception yet this season; that’s a streak that’s due to come to an end. Meanwhile, Ben Roethlisberger must avoid throwing INT’s at all costs, even if it means a more conservative game plan. The Redskins don’t have the type of offense that makes a lot of big plays; the Steelers need to make sure Washington doesn’t score “easy” points thanks to a short field.

One caveat here: The kicking game could be an adventure, thanks to the presence of a new long snapper (Jared Retkofsky) and the fact that the Steelers will be going with a hobbled punter (Mitch Berger). One or two breakdowns in the kicking game would likely be enough to swing the game in the wrong direction for the Steelers. But overall I’m optimistic, giving the black & gold a 55 percent chance of winning this game.

Prediction-wise The Steelyard is 5-2 on the season and 31-9 all-time.

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