Big Lead Sports Bar


Readers Rule Grand Finale: Reader Steelers Roundtable

At long last and after much buildup, I'm happy to unveil the Steelers/SB45 Reader Roundtable, featuring five Mondesi's House readers who volunteered their time to participate. I love hearing different opinions on the same question and find such an exercise really interesting when I get to ask the questions. So in honor of the run to #7, I've given these readers seven questions to opine on about the team and the game. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did.

Paul O'Donnell (referred below as PO)- Originally from Sheraden in the West End now hailing from Mt. Washington

Jason Millberg (JM) - Originally from Pittsburgh, now living in New Jersey

Marty Vrabel (MV) - From Johnstown

John Hermes (JM) - From Aspinwall

and finally, my brother Dave Spagnolo (DS) - From Houston, Texas, via FayetteNam (Fayette County)

The Q&A comes after the jump:

1. Where will you be watching the game on Sunday? And what's on your Super Menu?

PO: I will be having a few friends over my house to watch. We don't want to be crammed into a bar and spend inordinate amounts of money on food/booze.

Our menu will consist of traditional things like wings, BBQ Chicken, and Buffalo Chicken Dip. However my buddy's girlfriend is bringing over Reuben Dip. I love Reubens, absolutely love them. And I had NO idea it could be made into a dip. STUNNED. I am also planning on making Bacon Explosion, which can not be described, only watched...

(disclaimer: the guy in the video's name is Paul, purely a coincidence, it isn't me)

JM: Because my job is preventing me from heading to the 'burgh for Super Bowl weekend, I'll be watching from my apartment in Boston.  My brother lives in Market Square so it was difficult to pass on the opportunity to watch with him.  Boston has a great Steelers bar, but I'll be so filled with Steeler-anxiety its best I watch at home.  I tend to become excessively superstitious during the playoffs so the comforts of home can save me from others seeing my embarrassing rituals.  My fiancee will make chili, as she did for the last two games.  I usually eat before the game as my stomach is in knots throughout the game.
MV: Although I’m from Johnstown, I’ll be in Pittsburgh (Squirrel Hill) with some of my best friends to watch the game. These people are all part of my Pitt football crew and possibly even a few PSU or WVU people. The beauty of the Steelers is how they unite me on Sundays with the people I loathe on Saturdays. As for the menu we have quite a spread including burgers, pork and an unhealthy amount of appetizers and desserts. Unfortunately, I need to be at work Monday morning in Johnstown so it will be a long night driving home. Hopefully it will be a ride consisting of Bill Hillgrove interviewing numerous Steelers about the victory and reflecting on the last six years.

JH: I will be watching the game at the same friends house with the same group of people I have for each playoff game. I am one of those disgustingly superstitious individuals who refuses to change anything during a playoff run. Can't argue with results right? The Super Bowl platter this year consists of the usual pulled pork and hot wings, and for the of legal age crowd black and gold car bombs are a great way to celebrate touchdowns (or cope with the Packers scoring a touchdown).

DS: I would love to say that I'd be in Dallas watching the game, especially since it's only a 4 hour drive from here.  But I'll probably go to a party somewhere in Houston with my OSHA certified Steelers hard hat placed firmly upon my melon.  I'll probably have too many nerves leading up to the game to worry about food.
2. How should the Steelers handle the Maurkice Pouncey injury? At what percent is Pouncey worthy of starting ahead of a healthy Doug Legursky?

PO: I think Pouncey has earned the right to try and play. I say they should give him until Thursday's practice to see how he can do. If he can show at practice that he can be ready by Sunday, let him go. But like a typical Charlie Morton start, have a reliever primed and ready to go. I think Pouncey at 75% is a Pouncey I want starting in my Super Bowl.

JM: Legursky has to start.  What sets Pouncey apart is his mobility.  With a broken bone and sprained ankle he loses that mobility.  This team has plugged in one backup after another and succeeded.  Why change that now?

MV: From what I saw on media day, Pouncey seems determined to give it a shot. I believe he will give it a go and try to play through the pain (with the aid of some cortisone shots). Mark Schlereth made the point of how he could play in games after being shot up with the only problem being he could not feel his foot planting in the ground. Also, with no games after Sunday he has as long as he needs to rehab and recover. I’m sure Legursky is getting enough repetitions to be comfortable but I would feel better with an injured Pouncey over a healthy Legursky.

JH:  The Steelers have already dealt with the Pouncey injury the best they could in my mind. No one in the organization has ruled him out yet they have still put their full support behind Lergusky as a more than adequate replacement. That being said Maurkice is an All-Pro selection this season for a reason, he is one, if not the best Center in the NFL. If he's anywhere near 75% he should play without a doubt and I think can still be very effective.

DS: I think people are underestimating how perfect of a last name Legursky is for a Pittsburgh Steeler.  For that reason alone, he will fill in and admirably at that.  Twenty years from now at a random bar in Blawnox they'll be talking about that Polish kid that helped win the seventh ring.  All kidding aside, I don't even think Pouncey dresses.  If he does, he plays like he was never injured and Tomlin is credited with the greatest sleight of hand in Super Bowl history.

3. How many Steelers from this roster will end up in the Hall of Fame, including coaches and front office?

PO: In my mind there are three "locks" as of today: Hines Ward and Troy Polamalu as players and Art Rooney as an owner. Regardless of the outcome of Sunday's game I say these two get in no doubt. Both have two rings, Troy has been dominant since day one and has the personal hardware to prove it, and Hines has every Steelers receiving record and the two guys he surpassed are already in Canton. Art Rooney will simply follow in his father's and grand-father's foot steps in successfully running a first class organization for the next several decades and earn his place in Canton as they did.

With a 3rd Super Bowl and a consistent rest of his career, I don't see a way they keep Ben out. Steelers centers have a rich Hall of Fame worthy history, so starting as a rookie and earning Pro Bowl honors, if he keeps that rate of play up he would eventually be in the conversation. Mike Tomlin isn't even 40 yet and is playing for his second Lombardi, if he should continue on his current path I believe he is a viable candidate.

JM: Dick LeBeau is already in.  Joining him will be Hines Ward, Ben Roethlisberger, Mike Tomlin, Maurkice Pouncey, and Troy Polamalu.  

MV: The easiest call is Troy Polamalu; he could never play another snap in the league and be an easy call for the hall of fame. Next, Hines Ward is more than deserving based upon his solid numbers and complete style of play at the wide receiver position. However, I do not see him going in immediately upon being eligible and may have to wait five or more years. Ben Roethlisberger is forcing himself in to the conversation and will be included with a win on Sunday or any other Superbowl in the future. I was not old enough to understand how Montana was overlooked as the “best” during his time but Ben is certainly following a similar trajectory. I imagine Ben will be remembered more fondly in history after his career is over and you see the championships and records (he already owns fifteen league records according to Colin Cowherd). My only other player is James Harrison. Although he is and will continue to amass impressive stats, I see him as someone who may step away from the game early and be okay with his place in history with or without the Hall of Fame. Just a hunch, but I would not be surprised to see him or Polamalu retire sooner than expected. Finally, Dan Rooney is overdue for obvious reason and Mike Tomlin is on cruise control to the hall with a win on Sunday or any other championship.

JH: I believe Polamalu and Roethlisberger are locks for the Hall of Fame regardless of the game's outcome. Troy is simply one of the best Safeties to ever play the position and has been a key part of three Super Bowl runs, he's in on the first ballot. Ben might join him on the first ballot depending on the final in Dallas, but win or lose the only QB to ever win two Super Bowls and not go into the Hall of Fame is Jim Plunkett and rightfully so. After that things get a bit hazy, Hines Ward will get in eventually as the Steelers all time leading receiver just like Stallworth before him, his ability to block should sure up his induction seeing as voters eat up any player who "changed the way the position was played". Aaron Smith might be the greatest 3-4 end ever, but that is not a position conducive to Hall of Fame votes. Even the world's favorite coaching genius Bill Belichick called him the best defensive end in the NFL after playing the Steelers a few years ago. Unfortunately, he has very little chance of making it due to lack of on paper stats. Pouncey is the only other player I see with a good shot as offensive lineman that good rarely regress, but that has everything to do with staying healthy and playing at an all pro level for upwards of fifteen years and even then it's not a sure thing.Mike Tomlin has work to do to be a Hall of Fame coach, while two Super Bowl win seems to be the magic number for quarterbacks, the bar seems to be set at three for coaches. Does anyone see Mike Shannahan or George Seifert as qualified candidates what about Jimmy Johnson? Tomlin needs to not only win Sunday but make at least one more run before he is given the gold jacket. Other than the Rooney's who are already in I don't see any front office personnel joining them simply because they don't put GM's in the Hall. Dick Haley drafted four future inductees in one draft and has gotten no where near Canton.

DS: Roethlisberger, Ward, Pouncey, Harrison, Woodley, Polamalu, Tomlin and LeBeau.  Some of those are highly speculative (Pouncey, Woodley and Tomlin) but incredibly realistic assuming good health.  If, for some reason, Pouncey plays and plays well enough to eliminate BJ Raji, our entire training staff and doctors should be enshrined.

4. My favorite question: rank the top 5 QBs in the NFL as you see them.

1. Tom Brady (14-5 in the playoffs and 3 rings)
2. Ben Roethlisberger (10-2 in the playoffs and 2 rings******)
3. Peyton Manning (9-10 in the playoffs and 1 ring)
4. Drew Brees (4-3 in the playoffs and 1 ring)
5. Aaron Rodgers (4-1 in the playoffs and 0 rings*****)

Tom Brady is the undisputed #1; three rings, over .700 winning percentage in the playoffs, and multiple individual league honors (which have little significance in my ratings). Ben is #2 because he wins. Would you rather have Dan Marino's stats or Joe Montana's rings? Ask Dan Marino. Brady has now won two Offensive Player of the Year awards, and both of them have come in non Super Bowl years, I'm sure Brady would trade those two awards for two more rings. Peyton Manning is Peyton Manning, however before he was Peyton Manning and won a ring he was known as Bill Belichek's bitch and a playoff choke artist. Drew Brees does nothing but prove people wrong and won a Super Bowl for New Orleans, the AINTS of yesteryear, a feat in itself. Aaron Rodgers is just cool. The guy wins and he wins with flair. I love the championship belt endzone move (until I see it on Sunday at least). He has made a nation of cheeseheads say Brett who?? Other people in the media conversation of this list are Philip Rivers (really? three playoff wins, just as many as Mike Tomczak but Rivers has started two more playoff games) and Matt Ryan aka "Matty Ice" who has yet to win a playoff game despite being a #1 seed this year. I saw a great quote online after they got destroyed by Green Bay where someone said he has a new nickname for "Matty Ice"...... Matt....

1. Tom Brady
2. Ben Roethlisberger
3. Drew Brees
4. Aaron Rodgers
5.Peyton Manning

30. Carson Palmer

MV: 1. Ben Roethlisberger 2. Aaron Rodgers 3. Tom Brady 4. Drew Brees 5. Peyton Manning

My rationale for Rothlisberger and Rodgers ahead of the other three is their mobility and ability to extent the play when necessary. All five quarterbacks are extremely skilled and have produced clutch moments when necessary. However, only the top two can function with poor offensive lines and make plays with their feet when things become a problem. Brady, Brees and Manning would have a tough time behind the Steelers offensive line and survive an entire season.

JH: The classic stats vs. wins question, I try to combine a little of each when forming my opinion.

#1 Tom Brady: I hate him, you hate him, everyone that's not a resident of New England or employee of ESPN hates him. But he has both the stats and post season success to back up his ranking(he was also named MVP this morning), hopefully Ben wins on Sunday and can make this a little bit more debatable.

#2 Peyton Manning: BUT BEN HAS MORE SUPERBOWLS!! He does and if he wins on Sunday I think he moves above the eldest Manning, but let's face it Peyton is going to retire with every passing record in the books. He's Marino with a Superbowl ring and while his ability in the clutch is often debated you can't just write off stats all together. Seriously were you looking at the last week of the NFL season saying "I really hope this sets up so we eventually get the Manning and the Colts"? Me neither.

#3 Ben Roethlisberger: I have already snubbed him enough in most of your minds but as of this moment I think he fits in here. A win on Sunday and this becomes a whole new debate He's got two rings and stat wise is actually very similar to Joe Montana through his first 7 seasons, the difference between him and the top two being he has ten more years to improve his position.

Note: There's a clear gap here, above are Hall of Fame QB's, below are not.

#4 Drew Brees: "The Breesus" who of course saved New Orleans from Katrina with his golden arm (obligatory anti-ESPN rant) is about half as good as the WWL would have you believe. Lucky for him that's still not bad, he did win the Super Bowl and is every Fantasy owners favorite. Honestly though he's very good, watch him throw a go route down the sideline over a corner and before the safety can get there, he does it flawlessly at least twice a game.

#5 Aaron Rodgers: On the cusp of jumping Brees, although he needs to beat the Steelers and get an adorably marketable son to carry around during the post game. He is probably the best dual threat quarterback in the NFL and I say that knowing Mike Vick is in the league once again. He runs much more efficiently than Vick and can pick apart a defense from the pocket. He also does this without an offensive line or consistent running game much like Ben.

DS: I'll list them in alphabetical order.  I wish you had only asked for four, because I really don't want to give Marmalard Rivers any credit.  Brady, Manning, Rivers, Rodgers and Roethlisberger.

5. Do you have a problem with any of the Steelers going to a strip club and dancing on stage on Monday night?

PO: Does my company have a problem with me doing the same on one of my days off? I hope not, because it's none of their business. I haven't seen anywhere that any of them missed a curfew or got violent or hammered drunk. No one embarrassed themselves or the franchise. Ben wasn't anywhere near it. Just guys being guys and cutting loose within reason of their self-imposed rules and curfew.

JM: No.  If it would have been detrimental to the team, veterans like Hines Ward and Ike Tayor, who were the two Steelers named in that report, would not have been there.

MV: I have no problem with the Steelers going out on Monday night for a game on Sunday. These are grown men who know how to prepare throughout the week for a Sunday game. Although, I’d like to believe the Steelers are a model franchise because of “good guys” that doesn’t mean they aren’t a bunch of men looking to enjoy the perks of being an NFL star like players on any other team. I don’t expect my athletes to be role models; Rothlisberger, Reed and Holmes proved that last year. However, I still believe the Steelers are a model franchise because of the loyalty to the brand by the fans. The Rooneys created a team in the image of the city and its people, whether the players actually are actually people in that same image or not. As fans we believe it and we love it.

JH:  I have no problem with a bunch of grown men going to a strip club, I hope they would feel the same way if I went to a strip club. They work hard all year killing themselves for your entertainment, let them throw money on naked woman as much as they'd like.

DS: If they were completely trashed and hanging out until 5 in the morning, yes I have a problem.  If they had a drink or two and then left, then I say no worries and I'm glad they're doing it on Monday night and not Saturday night.  I wish they had exercised better judgement and just not gone though.  My only fear is that some impressionable, young buck like Mike Wallace or Emmanuel Sanders uses Hines Ward's lack of better judgement as an excuse when they stay out six hours past curfew later in the week.

6. Who is your favorite current Steeler, and why?

PO: This question was asked in a similar way in the last Reader's Roundtable in the form of Current Favorite Pittsburgh Athlete and I answered Hines Ward then and I'll say Hines Ward again now. He has been a lightening rod of controversial quotes so far in Dallas, criticizing the league office to anyone who will listen. He has a rule named after him. Opponents hate him, teammates love him. Another guy who just wants to win. If he has 150 yards and two touchdowns in a loss he's pissed. If he has 30 yards an no scores in a 9-3 win he is nothing but smiles. And on a personal level, I went to college in Cleveland and a large portion of my good friends are Browns season ticket holders. There is no person that makes their blood boil the way Hines Ward does.

JM: Troy Polamalu, because there is not and never has been an athlete like him before.  

MV: My favorite Steeler is easily Hines Ward. Once again, he represents that image of the Steelers. His play on the field something I respect to no end. His physical style, edginess and confidence are all things I admire in an athlete. I also respect how he speaks out against the league and being honest about the problems he sees with the lack of true concern for player safety and long-term health. He is the one player I will always speak highly of to my own children someday and use him in the same regards that my dad speaks to me about how to play the game the “right way” like Mel Blount and Andy Russell did in a previous generation.

JH: While this was definitely the toughest question for me I finally decided on Lawrence Timmons for a few reasons. This Super Bowl is truly about Tomlin's players not missing a beat from the Cowher engineered team. Timmons was his first pick and developed into one of their best players through learning and working first on special teams and in spot situations. Ever wonder why the defense is consistently successful? It's because of this process, and the reason all he did was lead the team in tackles this season and become arguably their biggest playmaker. That opinion is shared by two people you might know Troy Polamalu and Dick LeBeau. He encompasses everything the Steelers D is about and should be a mainstay for a decade.

DS: James Harrison.  He's just wired so much differently than any normal human being.  You can tell he has a few screws loose. 

7. Finally, let's hear your thoughts for what will happen Sunday and a final score prediction.

PO: The Steelers experience will be too much for Green Bay in the end. They have had a nice run but all good things must come to an end. Only one team has gone from Six Seed to Super Bowl Champ and that's the 2005 Steelers. 45 Steelers have Super Bowl rings, 1 Packer does and he got it on the Steelers practice squad. I was at the Green Bay game at Heinz Field last year and it was a great one. One that we needed the final play of the game to win. One that we played without Troy Polamalu, with Keenan Lewis as a starting corner, and with Willie Parker as our leading rusher; and they played with starters now on IR such as Jermichael Finley, Ryan Grant, Nick Barnett, etc etc. in the line-up.

Steelers win. No score prediction. They just WIN.

JM: Steelers 27 - Packers 20.  Brett Keisel sacks Aaron Rodgers to end a well played, highly entertaining Super Bowl.  Ben Roethlisberger is named MVP after throwing 2TDs and 0 INTs.  The only thing overshadowing Ben's big day is Keisel's beard.  Fear the Beard.

MV: You wouldn’t think the Steelers were even going to be competitive in this game based on public opinion. I’m sure Mike Tomlin is thrilled with the lack of expectations and coverage of the team’s preparation (focusing more on various stories of Harrison, Ben and Hines). I expect a masterful game plan from Dick LeBeau to confuse Rodgers and a lot of blitz schemes to account for questionable cornerbacks. Offensively, Mendenhall will have a bigger role than expected and he will eat the clock away on many drives to limit the Packers’ possessions. Ultimately, it will come down to Roethlisberger making enough plays to win the game and he will with at least seven Steelers catching a pass en route to a 27-20 victory.

JH: I am predicting a Steelers win for obvious reasons, one being I would like to see this published on MH and two my bookie says the fix is in and they are refusing action on it. You heard it hear first the underground sports book world has already crowned your 2011 Super Bowl Champions. Steelers 31, Packers 23

DS: I say 24-13 and that the Steelers prevail with a defensive touchdown that changes the complexity of the game.  I also have a feeling that Julius Peppers' hit on Rodgers a week and a half ago, and the concussion he had earlier in the year will be brought up when Harrison creams him and knocks him out of the game.

--A big thanks to Jason, John, Dave, Paul, and Marty for taking the time to answer these questions for me. And thanks to all the contributors to this round of Readers Rule for all the photos, articles, and opinions they shared with us.--

Mondesi's House: The Director's Cut (more links, commentary, etc):


Anonymous said...

maybe no females were interested, but next time, pick some female fans! :)

jimmy_the_freak said...

I highly recommend the bacon explosion. We made one over the fire up at our cabin this past summer. As good as it looks, It tastes even better! Go Steelers!