Big Lead Sports Bar

12/21/2008

CAN'T WIN 'EM ALL

TITANS (13-2) 31
STEELERS (11-4) 14

ROETHLISBERGER 26/40, 331 YARDS, 2 TD, 2 INT
PARKER 18-29
WARD 7-109, 1 TD

When you go into a game with the high hopes of home field advantage throughout the AFC Playoffs and end the game with Lendale White stomping on the symbol of your city and your organization, it's safe to say that things didn't go as planned. Let's not waste time and get into things...

1. No doubt about it, this was a tough loss to swallow. Fans will focus on the over-the-top buffoonery of White and fellow Mensa member Keith Bulluck, but the more disturbing image to take with you should be the way the Titans took it to the Steelers on the field.

1a. First of all, the Steelers have no running game whatsoever. None. I have serious doubts about how far they can advance with this lingering in the back of my mind.

Let's review the Steelers' leading rushers against winning teams this season:

vs. Philadelphia: Parker, 20 yards
vs. Baltimore: Mendenhall, 30 yards
vs. Giants: Moore, 84 yards
vs. Washington: Parker, 70 yards
vs. Indianapolis: Moore, 57 yards
vs. New England: Parker, 87 yards
vs. Dallas: Parker, 25 yards
vs. Baltimore: Parker, 47 yards
vs. Tennessee: Parker, 29 yards

That's right...zero 100-yard games, and four games where their leader had 30 yards or less. 30 yards! And to top it off, they have zero confidence in their offensive line in 3rd-and-short and 4th-and-short situations, which results in play calls that don't always make the most sense. These are not the trends usually exhibited by a Super Bowl-caliber team.

1b. It's disappointing to see that 300-yards-or-less streak ended against the Steeler defense, but can you believe that out of all the teams on their schedule, a Kerry Collins-led Tennessee became the first to do it? Not Peyton Manning, not Eli, not the great Tony Romo, not the Eagles, not the Patriots (whose QB was coming off of back-to-back 400-yard performances). It was Kerry Collins, Justin Gage, Justin McCareins, Chris Johnson, and Lendale White.

By the way, another strange stat: Collins is now 3-0 against the Steelers, beating them as a Giant in 2000 and a Panther in 1996. He's thrown five TDs, with no picks. I'm glad he's not in the AFC North, I think.

2. In some odd way, it might be better for the Steelers to have lost on Sunday. Before you run me out of town, hear me out: recent history indicates that this has been a team that performs best when their backs are firmly placed against the wall.

This is an organization that needs to be the hunter, not the hunted. I trace it to the presence of Hines Ward, whose entire career has been of the Me vs. The World line of thinking. When you're going into the home stadium of a 12-2 team where you've won once in the history of your franchise and you're the favorite, that's not a recipe for Steeler success. Some proof:

2005: Sneaking their way into the playoffs? No problem. We'll win three straight road games, including one over the world-beating Colts, then take the Super Bowl to boot. I can still hear Michael Irvin's words on ESPN to Dan Patrick in the days before that Colts game like they happened yesterday:

Patrick: "Do the Steelers have a chance, Michael?"
Irvin [emphatically]: "Not a chance, Dan!"

2006: With the confidence of the public on their side, the Steelers started 2-6 and only finished 8-8 after a miraculous second half rally. I realize there were extenuating circumstances (The "Roethlisberger Hat Trick" of motorcycle wreck, appendectomy, and concussion; Bill Cowher doing his best impersonation of Brett Favre's indecisiveness; the loss of Bettis, Randle-El, Hope, etc), but something was missing from the 2006 team. The fire was not there. The target was.

2007: To boil down the "backs against the wall" analogy for one game, let's cite the first-round playoff game against Jacksonville, where the Steelers took the first three quarters off en route to digging an 18-point hole. With most of the free world giving up on the black and gold, the Steelers somehow score 19 points in the fourth quarter and take a one-point lead on the Jaguars, only to lose on a last-minute field goal set up by an NFL-admitted non-call.

2008: Unless people have forgotten, few gave this team a chance to do much more than win nine or so games in '08, let alone be in the running for home field advantage throughout the playoffs. I seem to recall an awful lot being written about the greatness of Derek Anderson and the Cleveland Browns, right?

Sidenote: I really enjoyed the fringe benefit of all those Browns Monday-nighters this season. Does that mean if the Pirates come close to the playoffs this season that we can expect lots of Fox broadcasts in 2010?

And might I add, have you ever seen more made of supposed up-and-comers than the past few years of the AFC North? We were supposedly on the verge of a Cincinnati dynasty, except the Bengals never seemd to nail that whole "winning a playoff game" thing in the one year they made it. And this year we're treated to an offseason of hearing about Cleveland's pending greatness, with their depth of young quarterbacks and an influx of free agent talent.

Maybe someday people will realize that this is, was, and always will be a two-team division.

3. When Ben Roethlisberger is throwing 40 times in a game, that's usually an indicator that the Steelers are going to lose. When you combine that with four fumbles (two lost, one inside the Titan 10) and two picks by #7, that's an even better sign of a pending Steeler defeat.

It's not fair to give Roethlisberger all the credit when the Steelers win and blame all the losses strictly on the offensive line, and I think everyone can agree that the big guy did not bring his A-game on Sunday. It's not the end of the world, especially given the opponent and the locale. Maybe he spent too much energy on "Neutered Balls"?

4. Was it just me, or did the Steelers lose like they were moving in slow-motion during Michael Griffin's fourth quarter pick-six?

5. Hines Ward once again showed up against a quality opponent, leading the Steelers with 109 yards and one touchdown on seven catches. It was nice to see Heath Miller involved, with a career high eight catches. And Santonio Holmes had one of the finest catches of 2008 with his touchdown grab. You can't pin this one on Ben's targets.

6. The Steelers' only sack today was historic: it belonged to James Harrison, and it set a Steeler team record - his 16th of the season. I guess that's one positive to take out of Sunday's game.

7. I hope Mike Tomlin has already made arrangements for an extra-large sized blow-up of Bulluck and White stomping on the towel for the inevitable (I'm hoping) rematch. Do you realize that in the last two contests, one ended with Frank Walker spitting in Mitch Berger's mouth and the other ended with White doing his best T.J. Houshmandzadeh impersonation?

No one can say that Baltimore and Tennessee aren't classy. Wait a minute...of course we can.

8. So we've got the aforementioned Browns at Heinz Field in an extra preseason game next week. Storylines will include the final game of Romeo Crennel's storied tenure as Browns coach and the tired cliche that we're rivals of the Browns. Leftwich! Dorsey! The NFL on CBS!

9. In case you missed it, that was former Steeler Patrick Cobbs leading the 10-5 Dolphins with 44 yards rushing in their win over Kansas City.

Also contributing to the Dolphin victory was former Pitt Panther RB Lousaka Polite, who probably came over via his previous relationship with one Bill Parcells, who saw him firsthand for three seasons in Dallas.

10. As far as other ex-Steelers, the Pittsburgh West Cardinals did not fare well in their trip to New England, losing 47-7. I guess logic would therefore dictate that if the Steelers and Cards met in the Super Bowl, the Steelers should win by roughly 100.

But seriously, is Arizona not one of the least inspiring playoff teams of all time or what? They've won one of their last five, and that was against St. Louis (sidenote II: are they still getting complaints about wanting to keep Jim Haslett as head coach?)

The Cardinals are 2-6 against winning teams, they're awful when they travel east, and like the Steelers, they have no running game to speak of, unless you're inspired by Edgerrin James' 395 yards rushing this season. As you've probably guessed, I'm not.

11. Since we're winding down the 2008 regular season, let's allow a brief look to 2009. Unrestricted free agents are as follows:

QB: Leftwich & Batch
WR: Washington
OT: Essex, Starks, Smith
OG: Kemoeatu
DE: Roye
LB: Fox, Frazier
CB: McFadden, Bryant
Punters with spit in their mouth: Berger

RFAs: Colon, McHugh, Arnold Harrison, Anthony Smith, and Anthony Madison.

That's 13 UFAs and 5 RFAs by my count. You can already cross off one of the QBs, as well as Bryant, Berger, and Roye. They've got big decisions coming up with virtually all of their tackles and with Bryant McFadden. Who knows what The Enigma Known as Nate Washington could command on the open market? And there's also the future of Chris Kemoeatu to consider. As usual, Kevin Colbert has a busy offseason ahead of him.

12. Do you realize the Steelers played the way they did against a Tennessee team without Albert Haynesworth and Kyle Vanden bosch? That's scary to even consider.

13. In case you've forgotten, Sunday's Terrible Towel stomp wasn't the first time a Titan's stomped on something (or in this case, someone):



14. To wrap up the wrapup, a contest and a controversy.

Last week, there was a minor buzz about an Obama-inspired shirt sweeping Steeler Nation. Well, I've been told that a Mondesi's House reader named Al came up with the idea first, back in October, and he dropped me a line the other day to get his side of the story out. In Al's words...

"Here is the background on the design.

When the presidential election was in full swing, I really admired the Obama campaign poster created by artist Shepard Fairey. Of course it became an iconic image during the campaign and parody posters started popping up playing around with different versions on the "Hope" theme.

I decided to merge the iconic image of the presidential elect with the iconic image of the president of Steeler Nation, and the result has been a big hit. I decided to do a small run of t-shirts for friends and family. Word soon spread, so I ordered 50 t-shirts and a few sweatshirts. I hope to sell off what I have left to cover my losses. If any of your readers would like one, they can email me for details. I don't have many shirts left, so some sizes may be sold out.

The shirts are high quality 100% pre-shrunk cotton. The five color design was printed using environmentally safe inks in a local Pittsburgh screen shop. So not only are the shirts black & gold, they are also green."


And now, the contest part, as per Al's wishes:

It's a photoshop contest where readers create their own version of the HOPE poster. It can ether be celebrating a Steeler or ripping a rival. It doesn't even have to be football related... all sports are open game. All designs must be received by Monday the 29th, the best submissions as selected by a panel will be put up for a vote. Winner gets a free XXL black hoodie sweatshirt with the COPE design."

So there you have it. Get your creative juices flowing, and get those photoshops in to my email address below.

And for information on buying a shirt, email Al at toomuchmetal@comcast.net.

Send your news, tips, and links to Mondesishouse@gmail.com.

24 comments:

Jon said...

Ugly game. We looked fairly uninspired most of the day.

I thought the Titans were a fairly disrespectful bunch, with the stomping of the Towel being the icing on the cake ( surpassing Johnson taunting Polamalu on his into the end zone, which should have resulted in a 15 yd penalty and a broken arm)

But I think we all remember what happened when the Bengals did the same in 2005? I'm just sayin'......

Steve said...

Did anyone notice the towel the Titans were stomping on wasn't anything remotely close to a terrible towel? It looked like something someone's Mom would make their kid if they couldn't afford to buy one...remindes me of the Eddie Murphy welfare-green-pepper-burger bit. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvoBCr7E5qo

I actually think they made one up to bring out there with them and I would expect something that juvenile from the Ravens, Browns Bengals, or even Dallas, but the Titans? Since when did we have a rivalry with them? Honestly, what the hell was that about?

Hopefully the football gods will allow a rematch in the title game, but I don't see the Steelers getting that far. These same gods usually aren't fans of pint-size running backs and egg-headed QB's and definately not supporters of throwing the ball when facing a 2nd and 2. Not only isn't that Steelers football, that's not even west coast and if you can't run there, you shouldn't be allowed to play.

Koz said...

I'm tired of everything Obama but that shirt is awesome.

Steve said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve said...

Essex, Starks, and Kemoeatu? Hmmm, I don't see why they can't simply let them all leave and for about $30, create big cardboard cut-outs of Steely McBeam instead. They might actually fair better since we know the cut-outs can't false start or hold.

AJ said...

Steve...

I have hated the Titans for quite some time. We don't play them often enough to these days to recall all of their past shenanigans, but I have always thought they they were one of the most classless organizations in the history of the NFL. From Joe Nedney's flop and then post game boasting about it, to Joey Porter claiming that they threw scalding hot water on him on the sideline, to sending the cheerleaders onto the field as Tommy Maddox lay paralyzed, and yesterday's stomping of the Terrible Towel by Fatso White. That team just makes my skin crawl and it all starts with that mullet-wearing head coach. I hope there is such a thing as Karma and it bites them in the ass.

Chip said...

Listening to Cowher get so fired up over the Towel Stomp was awesome. I heard Bradshaw went nuts about it too, although I haven't found any video online yet.

It's hard to imagine Cowher coaching anywhere else when he still seems so enamored with the Black and Gold.

Oh yeah, the game. We have absolutely zero running game so every game is 100% up to Big Ben to win. Unfortunately, half the time he comes up huge and the other half he looks like Tony Romo.

Steve said...

AJ -

That's what gets me, there seems to always be gross disrespect from that team towards the Steelers. I guess it could be that they are simply a jagoff organization with a jagoff head coach. I guess there's no explaining why they're like that other than they just are. Everything comes around though and they'll find that out eventually.

mondesishouse said...

This is the Titans we're talking about. They drafted Pacman Jones. They drafted Vince Young. They employ a head-stomper. Choir boys, they are not. If they were still in our division they would run neck-and-neck with Baltimore for our biggest rival.

Someone Somewhere said...

I think you could see this one coming. I mean, Pittsburgh has had to get up for a huge game every week since the first Bengals game (save the second Bengals game), while this was easily the biggest game the Titans have played all year and they were prepared for it. When the defense is being gashed for 7 yards repeatedly, they are simply worn down.

I know that Willie Parker is a proud man, and since he is the starter he wants to play...but at some point I think you have to wonder to what extent he is hurting the offense. I'm not saying that Mewelde Moore is the answer to the Steelers running game problems, but Parker is clearly not right as evidenced by his 29 yards on 18 carries.

You aren't going to win many games on the road against the team with the best record in football turning it over 4 times (once inside the 5) and missing a short field goal.

If there happens to be a rematch in the AFC championship game, I think that things may be a bit different. People are going to talk about how the Titans smashed the Steelers without Vanden Bosch and Haynesworth. The Steelers will clearly be underdogs, which is a place I am far more comfortable with as a fan. When I saw the Steelers were favored last week I just had a bad feeling about things.

Dennis said...

Hey, did anyone ever consider that Justin Hartwig was with the Panthers last year and when the Panthers really committed to the running game, they let him go? Not he is the center of the Steelers and where is the running games?

Steve said...

Dennis -

I think it's more a coincidence. Plus, In 2003, Hartwig started every game at center for Titans and helped McNair lead the league in passing while Eddie George recorded his seventh 1,000-yard rushing season, so it's hard to draw direct comparisons to Hartwig and the Steelers pathetic running game. That still doesn't excuse anyone on the o-line for what will probably go down as the worst running game in Steelers history.

The way I see it, there's no way to have a blight like that on your resume and still win the Super Bowl.

okel dokel said...

A team needs to have a reliable offense to go to the Super Bowl and that is one thing the 2008 Steelers do not have.

When Ben tries to "do it all" you get results like yesterday. With that running game and o-line who can blame him.

I know I have said this before, but what is with all of the plays that take forever to develop? Is running a draw play a wise move with this o-line...WTF?

I agree with Someone Somewhere, FWP needs to take a seat.

Jon said...

I dont think Hartwig is the problem, he does a better than fair job and is better than Mahan by leaps and bounds.

AJ-
I am glad you brought up Nedney and the scalding of Joey Porter as I was recounting those same incidents as White and Bulluck were stomping all over a symbol of our team and city as I wishing ill things upon them both.

I wonder how the national media would react to Steelers' players doing something similar?

Jon said...

I dont think Hartwig is the problem, he does a better than fair job and is better than Mahan by leaps and bounds.

AJ-
I am glad you brought up Nedney and the scalding of Joey Porter as I was recounting those same incidents as White and Bulluck were stomping all over a symbol of our team and city as I wishing ill things upon them both.

I wonder how the national media would react to Steelers' players doing something similar?

Chris said...

I don't get where everyone says these are Super Bowl killing flaws we have. Sure, they're not good, but take a look at some past champs.

2007 Giants, the fans wanted Eli benched or cut and were calling for his head as late as near the end of the season.

2006 Colts, they gave up 325 yards rushing to the Jaguars two weeks before the playoffs began.

2005 Steelers, we had a QB and coach that had seemed to crack under playoff pressure (albeit small sample size with Ben) and a fairly poor scoring offense.

2003/2001 Bucs and Ravens won with Brad Johnson and Trent Dilfer respectively...enough said.

My point is, we have flaws, definitely, but we also had a qb on an off day (and whoever says Roethlisberger only comes through half the time...no, he comes through much more often than that, don't just look at the numbers and blame him for that), a team worn down from too many tough games, and a team living dangerously the last few weeks. We can't get down 10+ points in the fourth quarter every week and expect to continue winning in the (summon Ron Jaworski) National Football League. It was a needed slap in the face to get our collective act together (yes you, offense), and I think the team could benefit long-term from this.

Get Fresh Designs said...

agreed chris.

also, when you run the ball inside the 10, you better have a fullback in there. going singleback in those situations, you're going to lose yards and it showed.

Also, too many times the Parker got a positive gain and it seemed as if the same running play was called, but netted a loss.

Really, Arians needs to stop consulting Madden 09 for his play calling.

Steve said...

Madden 09? You give him too much credit. It's probably more like Coleco Head to Head.

psumav25 said...

the loss may actually be a blessing in disguise. if the steelers were to take the #1 seed, they faced a strong possibility of seeing a hot indy team in the second round. now the titans will most likely have to host them in the second round (this is, of course, assuming the colts take down whoever they meet in the first round).

Chip said...

Dunno about that, man. The SD/DEN division winner will likely be the #4 seed so the NE/NY/MIA winner will be #3.

This sets up Indy vs SD/DEN and probably Baltimore vs the other winner. I can see both Wild Cards winning those games which sets up Ravens vs us in the 2nd round.

Granted that's a lot of maybes but I want no parts of Baltimore a 3rd time. Although I agree sending Indy out to TENN to do our dirty work might be a blessing in disguise.

HotDog_Zanzabar said...

I don't care who we play, if we run the ball like we've been doing, its not going to be a fun january

BurressWithButterflyWings said...

Probably won't be much of a January at all..... 70 some odd rush yards wont get past any of the teams we will have to play in January

PatDA66 said...

I think being the 2 seed is actually better. If the Colts and Ravens both win we get the Colts. I would rather play them again then the ravens for a 3rd time. Plus if one of the division winners can pull out a win the Steelers play them leaving the Titans playing the Colts or Ravens.

Jason Marianna said...

FAs:
QB: Leftwich & Batch
Goodbye Batch, keep Leftwich but don't overpay

WR: Washington
Sign him.

OT: Essex, Starks, Smith
Goodbye and good riddance. The offensive line needs a complete makeover.

OG: Kemoeatu
See my comments on the tackle situation. We should keep stapleton and let him compete, and let the other bozos go. Draft well, sign good free agents (which means we might actually have to PAY someone in the trenches), and possibly make a trade.

DE: Roye
Is he still on the team? Let the man die in peace.

LB: Fox, Frazier
Well, it depends on what the draft brings us, post-season injuries and if we need cap room. If we can afford these guys, they aren't bad. If we can't afford them, well, that's business.

CB: McFadden, Bryant

At all costs, no matter what, these guys must remain Steelers.


Punters with spit in their mouth: Berger

Goodbye and Good Ridance.

RFAs:
Colon, McHugh,Arnold Harrison, Anthony Smith, and Anthony Madison.

Not real sure on these ones. would love to hear your thoughts.