2009 NFL Season: Week 13 Picks

After going 13-2 two weeks ago (missing on Oakland over Cincinnati and Kansas City over Pittsburgh) and following that up with a 10-6 week (including a 41-17 prediction of New Orleans over New England), there is no doubt that I am on fire!!

Yesterday was my birthday, so I’m hoping that the hot streak continues.  Party on.

I didn’t make a pick for the Jets-Bills game.  Still, I wouldn’t have picked the Jets.  Sure, I picked the Jets to make the playoffs after their 2-0 start, but Buffalo really should have figured out a way to back up a tough win over the Dolphins with a tough win over the Jets.  Home field, short week, new coach.  What else to you need?

St. Louis Rams vs. Chicago Bears. The Rams are a one win team.  It will stay that way until they play someone with whom they have more familiarity in St. Louis.  The Bears thought this season would be more promising.  A loss here means heads will roll.  They may roll anyway.  For all intents and purposes, the Bears do not have a running game.  The team has had three 100-yard rushing games all season.  Two of those games came against Detroit and Cleveland.  The third came against Philadelphia and Matt Forte managed 34 yards on 14 carries.  The Rams, conversely, have had eight 100-yard rushing games.  Heavy doses of Steven Jackson could make this too close for comfort.  Chicago 24, St. Louis 21.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers. When 4-7 meets 1-10, bad things happen.  This is the second such matchup this week (see above).  Since the beginning of the Josh Freeman Experiment, the Bucs have defeated the Green Bay Packers (7-4) and lost by two points to the Miami Dolphins and lost by three points to the Atlanta Falcons.  Pyrrhic victories have to be enough for a rookie coach working with his third quarterback, his second offensive coordinator AND doubling as a defensive coordinator.  In between those losses was a New England-esque smoke out at the hands of the Saints.  I like the Bucs to pull this one out.  Tampa Bay 28, Carolina 21.

Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars. The notoriously inconsistent Houston Texans are in the midst of a three-game losing streak.  Before that, they’d won three in a row.  The Texans have lost twice to the Colts and once to the Titans.  That’s no way to make the playoffs.  This team has yet to demonstrate it can win close games.  Meanwhile, Jacksonville has to yet to demonstrate winning effort west of the Kansas City.  On two trips to the west coast, the Jags were outscored 61-6.    Does anyone want to see either of these teams waste a wildcard spot by going on the road and playing a one-dimensional offensive game vs. a superior opponent?  I’m rooting for a 0-0 tie.  It won’t happen.  Jacksonville 36, Houston 34. Kris Brown — wide right, AGAIN.

"Juuust a bit outside." -- Bob Uecker

Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs. The problem with the Broncos against teams like Baltimore and Pittsburgh was age and size.  The Ravens and Steelers made them look old and small.  A short week and a home game against the fatigued Giants made them look experienced and rested.  A long break (since Thanksgiving) figures to have Kyle Orton and company in prime condition.  Denver should regain their stride, but it is too late to catch the Chargers.  They better hope that Baltimore and Pittsburgh continue to stumble because they’re still holding the cards if everyone is knotted up.  Denver 23, Kansas City 19.

New Orleans Saints vs. Washington Redskins. TRAP GAME!!!!!!  The Saints have to know this is the biggest hurdle on their schedule.  It is because it is the ONLY game they can play on Sunday — and because the Redskins have a tough pass defense.  The Patriots truly are a smoke and mirrors squad.  Most of the nation that continues to fawn over that team can hardly name a player other than Brady, Moss and Welker.  The Redskins defense (#7 overall) takes away the passing game from most of their opponents.  Only Philadelphia and the Giants have passed for more than 230 yards.  The Saints, then, have to be prepared to run.  I believe that earlier games vs. Buffalo and Miami have laid the framework for winning at Washington.  New Orleans must run to win.  Last week, 25 carries were sufficient because the Patriots surrendered big plays in the passing game.  Washington is less likely to do so.  This game may require 33+ carries.  If New Orleans can get Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell the rock AND sustain drives, they win.  If not, they will have flashbacks to last season when the Redskins knocked them off 29-24.  The Redskins were the last time outside of the NFC South to shut down the Saints passing game (195 yards) and running game (55 yards).  (It would be nice if the Redskins had Clinton Portis and Chris Cooley for this game.)  New Orleans 24, Washington 22.

Jason Campbell En Route to Out-dueling Drew Brees (2008: Week 2)

Oakland Raiders at Pittsburgh Steelers. After you’ve lost to the Kansas City Chiefs, you do not have any more trap games on your schedule.  You cannot be surprised anymore.  You cannot underestimate anyone anymore.  You can only go out and play.  If you win, shut up and go play again next week.  If you lose, shut up and go play again next week.  Either way, the time for talk is OVER.  Put up AND shut up.  Pittsburgh Steelers 26, Oakland Raiders 6.

New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins. Miami really needs Ronnie Brown to win this game.  Clearly, the Patriots do not have an elite defense.  Given that both the Colts and Saints scorched them in consecutive weeks, no one really knows what kind of defense they have.  All I know is that they can stop one-dimensional offenses.  If you cannot run AND pass, you’re going to have a long day — unless you’ve got tricks up your sleeve.  Denver beat New England with 21 passing first downs and a 330 yard day from Kyle Orton.  That’s just not an option for Chad Henne and The Uncatchables.  I don’t ever “like” New England in Miami, but the Dolphins really have no business winning this one.  New England 35, Miami 16.

Detroit Lions at Cincinnati Bengals. After you’ve lost to the Oakland Raiders, you do not have any more trap games on your schedule.  You cannot be surprised anymore.  You cannot underestimate anyone anymore.  You can only go out and play.  If you win, shut up and go play again next week.  If you lose, shut up and go play again next week.  Either way, the time for talk is OVER.  Put up AND shut up.  Cincinnati Bengals 38, Detroit Lions 20.

DRAMA ALERT!!!

Philadelphia Eagles at Atlanta Falcons. He’s baaack!!  Some folks have been waiting for this game ALL SEASON long.  Michael Vick finally returns to the house that he built.  The Georgia Dome is going to be electric — and it’s going to be like a home game…for the EAGLES.  This game has tremendous playoff implications for the Falcons.  If they lose this game, they will intensify the pressure to run the table.  The best that they can hope for is a wildcard berth at the expense of the Giants  or Cowboys (to whom they’ve already lost), the Eagles, or the Packers.  The Packers are already 6-3 in the NFC with dates at Chicago, Seattle, and at Arizona.  Atlanta cannot expect help there.

The Falcons need Michael Turner and Roddy White to play great games in order to win.  The loss of Turner has turned the season upside down.  Atlanta is arguably good enough to be 8-3.  Turner was injured early vs. the Panthers.  He had accumulated 111 yards on 9 carries.  The Falcons were one cut place kicker away from a 22-21 win.  They lost.  The next week, they fell to the Giants.  Atlanta has come along way since an early season loss to the Patriots, but Matt Ryan is still the weak link in the chain.  Asante Samuel and Sheldon Brown should be equal to the task.

Edge Philly.  Philadelphia 34, Atlanta 33.

BIG GAME ALERT!!!!

Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts. I watched Vince Young lead the Titans on a 99-yard touchdown drive vs. the Arizona Cardinals.  It was a great drive against a defense that was supposed to be prepared.  The Cardinals, it turns out, were far from prepared.  In fact, they failed to learn of the day.  Before the drive, Vince had thrown for nearly 300 yards.  He had thrown accurate, on time passes all over the field and his favorite target was Kenny Britt.  During that final drive, the Cardinals were unable to get consistent pressure from their front four.  They wasted defenders by spying a QB who had no interest in running.  They wasted downs by failing to bring pressure.  And they allowed the Titans to take a leisurely stroll down the field without using a single timeout until Vince was sacked at the Arizona 11 yard line.  It was not a shining moment in the history of Arizona Cardinal football.  With that said, Vince is a REAL G.

I’ve been calling for him to start games this season since Week 2.  He plays with an eery calm.  He is possessed of the type of confidence that comes from an extended tutelage at the feet of a master.  In his case, it was Steve McNair.  To put all of this in perspective, the Tennessee Titans are +54 (net points) since Vince Young took over.  Before that, they were -114.  Only 10 teams in the league are doing better than that.  The Giants, Steelers, Broncos and Falcons are not on the list doing better.  The Titans are playing like the team that was supposed to emerge from the disappointment of surrendering a 13-3 season to the Baltimore Ravens.

The Colts haven’t run the ball effectively vs. the Titans in years.  They haven’t even passed effectively against them since the emergence of Courtland Finnegan and the rest of that young, talented secondary.  In the last two losses vs. the Titans, Indianapolis has managed 223 yards and 194 yards passing.  That’s just not going to get it.  The Colts need to get pressure on Vince Young — and they’ll attack with Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.  The Titans counter with center Kevin Mawae and two Pro Bowl caliber tackles (including stud Michael Roos).  I like the Titans to win this game going away.  Tennessee 30, Indianapolis 21.

San Diego Chargers at Cleveland Browns. The Chargers have just pimp-smacked the opposition the last two weeks.  Denver and Kansas City were beaten down by a combination of effective offense and smothering defense.  The Chargers are having a typical season…and they’re laughing their asses off at all the talk of a Saints-Colts Super Bowl.  The Chargers know what you’ve already forgotten.  The post-season for the Indianapolis Colts has ended at the hands of the San Diego Chargers for the past two seasons.  In 2007, the Chargers went to Indianapolis and crushed the Colts.  Last year, the Colts rode a 9-game winning streak to the playoffs and were summarily dismissed again by the Chargers.  San Diego is holding all the cards for a long run through the post-season.  With New England in shambles and Pittsburgh hoping to unleash hell, the Chargers really should be the favorite to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.  Cleveland is a bump in the road and they lack the firepower to make this a contest.  San Diego Chargers 48, Cleveland Browns 7.

Pep In His Step...LT Leads the Charge.

San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks. I should have read the story about the resignation of the team president and GM before writing this pick.  There is always something wrong with the Seahawks.  There has been one season where things did not go haywire (2005).  NFL officials did their level best to rob the Seahawks of a chance to win the game.  No team has had more solidly mediocre seasons between 6-10 and 10-6.  The Seahawks are never very bad and only once have they been very good.  For TWENTY-FOUR YEARS, the Seahawks have finished somewhere between 6-10 and 10-6.  For EIGHTEEN of NINETEEN seasons dating back to 1985, the Northwest Middle Birds finished somewhere between 6-10 and 10-6.  It is fascinating, on a certain level, that the 49ers were such a symbol of excellence for so long.  The 49ers seem to be a team on the rise (without the wings to fly) and the Seahawks seem to be a team in the middle of a playoff hunt: neither fully in, nor fully out.  Seattle 13, San Francisco 10.

Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants. At the beginning of the season, I remember saying to friends, “Eli finally has a team all his own.”  All of the big personalities on offense are gone.  Shockey, Barber, and Burress are gone.  The Giants are 6-5 for a number of reasons.  One of those reasons, however, is that isn’t a great passer.  He’s a decent enough quarterback.  He can make plays.  He competes.  He has a Super Bowl ring, but there is something missing.  And, everyone in New York knows it.  Perhaps this was amplified by the fact that Ben Roethlisberger (for all his issues) has two Super Bowl rings and that Philip Rivers just left town with an improbable victory.  It’s Eli’s team, but the doubts remain.  Did the Giants really get the right guy?  The Giants have suffered through a four game losing streak and were beaten down by the Denver Broncos.  Nine days of rest does a body good.  The Cowboys had the same rest and never left home after a stress-reduction exercise vs. the Raiders.  The Giants desperately need this game and simply may not have the horses to pull it out.  I say, take it OUT of Eli’s hands and roll the dice with Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw.  Dallas 27, Giants 17.

Minnesota Vikings at Arizona Cardinals. Last year, the Vikings went to the desert and rode the strong arm of Tarvaris Jackson (remember him????) to four passing touchdowns and an easy win over the eventual conference champion.  You can expect more of the same this week.  Arizona is probably still shocked about losing to Tennessee.  They probably expect to lose this week.  Minnesota 33, Arizona 26.

Baltimore Ravens at Green Bay Packers. The Ravens don’t use Ray Rice enough to consistently impose their will on the opposing defense.  Joe Flacco is not going to throw the ball all over the yard at Lambeau.  If he tries it, Charles Woodson is going to make him pay.  The Packers defense is improved, but it is far from dominant.  The Ravens are not possessed of a dominant defense either and could find themselves chasing Aaron Rodgers’ missiles all over the yet to be frozen tundra.  If the Ravens follow Michael Oher and ride Rice, they can get a W here.  If they rely on Flacco, they’re going to lose.  The Packers have won three in a row and last faced the Detroit Lions on the national turkey day.  The Ravens are coming off a bruising win vs. the Steelers.  I lost count at the number of “Bird Men” who were carried off the field.  I’ll take the rested Packers to find a way to make plays.  Green Bay 28, Baltimore 21.

C’mon Vegas!!!!

33 comments

  1. your steelers are grating my nerves!!! I really hope they pull this out after that unnacceptable Louis Murphy bomb…

    It sure seems like Troy Palamalu make this D an entirely different squad…

  2. T3 –
    I prefer the old Chick Hearn line for these Steelers:

    The door is closed, the lights are out, the eggs are cooling, the butter’s gettin’ hard and the jell-o’s jiggling!

    MODI –
    Yes, Troy means that much. I swear, with him in there, that long catch against Ike doesn’t happen. Looking at it, I think that the safety was out of position. I’m not the biggest Ike fan, but I just don’t think he was THAT far out of position. I am seeing the team drafting a new corner next year, though.

  3. When I wrote “Why the Steelers are Stumbling” back in Week 3, I thought the Steelers issues were, in large part, due to the fact that the young guys had not proven they could make plays. Mendenhall and Wallace are the only guy who has shown they can make plays on a consistent basis. Sweed and Timmons and Gay have not done the job. This team has not been able to compensate for the losses of McFadden, Foote, Smith and Polamalu. From the outside, folks think it’s just about Troy. It’s deeper than that.

    In looking to 2010, the team has to think about successors to Casey Hampton, Aaron Smith and James Farrior. Those three guys are not done, but I don’t believe they have enough left to do all the heavy lifting. They need to be supported by younger, healthier fresher players. At some point, DeShea Townsend is going to retire. The team needs to get DBs who can make plays in the air.

    The team needs a kickoff guy with a stronger leg. There are simply too many drives starting at the 35 or better. They need to find another receiver. Ward can’t play forever (though he has some surprisingly solid numbers against the league’s best). Believe it or not, they can still make the playoffs — but they have a ton of work to do.

  4. And they need a center who can actually get off of the line of scrimmage in short yardage situations. They’ve gone the free agent route here before. I wouldn’t mind seeing a Jeff Faine type in Pittsburgh.

  5. What’s sad, Deshea Townsend has better hands than all of the rest of the Steelers corners, and he isn’t even a full timer anymore! I knew the Raiders strengths were the O-line and their corners, but their O-line either played out of their minds in the 4th quarter, or the injuries have taken a toll on the depth of the Steelers D-line to where they can’t mount the same kind of pass rush. Probably some of both. After Woodley and Harrison had been harassing the offense the first 3 quarters, the Steelers couldn’t get consistent pressure on Gradkowski in the 4th.

    Key defensive stats:
    No Steelers corner has an interception this year.
    William Gay is leading the team in tackles.

    In other words, at critical junctures during the game when a drive could be stopped with an INT, it’s going through the Steelers corners hands, or they are getting beat, giving the opposing team more chances. And for Gay, that means that teams are picking on him because they know he is the weak link on defense.

    I would suggest turning Sweed into a corner, but the last thing the Steelers need is another corner that can’t catch! And I’m not letting Ike off. He can no longer say “Ike Taylor, swagger” in intros until he can intercept a ball that is coming right at him!

  6. We were talking about DeShea in the bar yesterday. He’s an absolute baller — a true football player. Remember, he won the Dallas game last year with that pick of the pass intended for Witten.

    That’s on Colbert though. The team has always tended to draft guys who could support the run and tackle. The game is changing and they need guys who can catch balls that come out hot off zone blitz pressure. Grand Nubian and I always say that Ike would be a household name if he could catch.

    They actually blitzed Ike Taylor on the very last touchdown. So neither he nor Gay was in coverage on the pass. I can’t blame Ryan Mundy. He just joined the team and he clearly came ready to hit anything that moved. He had helmet-to-helmet hits three times on the final drive. He was never a great cover safety — so, it is what it is.

  7. I agree with all the points that you guys mentioned. The team definitely needs to get younger on defense. I look for Carter, Farrior, FWP, Hampton, Smith and Townsend to be gone next year. I also look for them to draft a DB in the first round because William Gay is NOT the answer opposite Ike. I also look for them to draft Hampton’s replacement as well.

    But T3 nailed it: this team has not replaced Foote and McFadden from last year. I’ve always said that Timmons is playing out of position and would be more effective on the outside. William Gay looks lost on damn near every play.

    One of the things that made this defense so dynamic and dangerous last year is the fact that Ike and McFadden could play good, solid man coverage in 3rd down situations. This forced the QB to hold on to the ball an extra millisecond, or in some cases, an extra second, which resulted in a sack. This has been not the case this year. The sacks that Harrison and Woodley have been getting lately is more “scheme” than coverage down field. Well, at least it looks that way to me. 🙂

  8. Exactly. You know the scenario on 3rd down of every series. Each QB knows if they wait long enough, their tackles can push Harrison and Woodley deep past the pocket — the QB steps up because Aaron Smith is not on the field to collapse the middle of the pocket inside of Woodley. The QB just finds William Gay’s man and lets it rip. First down!!

    Even last year, many of Woodley’s and Harrison’s sacks were on plays where they beat the tackle back to the QB after going past the play. 16 FF’s last year for Harrison. Without Smith, this is all a challenge for guys. This is what I was concerned about when he went down. The team really works like a well-oiled machine when people are healthy.

    At this point, the team is not a well-oiled machine.

  9. I just took a peek at Clayton’s column on the Steelers. The problem isn’t just the defense. It’s the offense too. They simply are not capable of putting teams away early. I don’t see a single good reason why Limas Sweed can’t catch the damn ball…except that he can’t catch the damn ball. They have the talent to punch it in early. If they were up 17-0 or something like that, these “collapses” don’t happen. Field goals keep teams in the game and only add to the number of downs the defense has to play. It’s a TEAM LOSS.

  10. Yeah, i noticed the same thing about the offense. It’s like they’re too timid or unsure on what they want to do. I don’t have a problem with them being a passing team, as long as it’s done to set up the run in the 3rd & 4th Qtrs. But if you’re gonna throw the ball, be agressive…..like the Saints. They (The Saints) always try to score on every possession. That’s why they lead the league in points scored. Bruce Arians needs to bounce!!!

    I knew that when they settled for a FG on that first series, they were flirting with disaster. Their inability to put teams away early is definitely their achilles heel on offense. They haven’t put a team away early since the Chargers game.

    T3,

    You think the Steelers will keep Arians around after this season is over? And if not, you think they will try to get Charlie Weis in as the OC?

  11. You know the Chargers scored 3 TDs in the 4th quarter…Remember Jacob Hester’s strip return? I don’t like Weis, but anyone would be an improvement over Arians. I just hope that Tomlin sees the complicity of the offense in this mess.

  12. I took some time to think about the Steelers and our comments about them this year. It took me back to LAST YEAR. I realized that we have a lot of the same complaints this year that we had last year. The difference being, as stated earlier, the personnel was better last year. They knew their jobs and weren’t out of place as often.

    We talked all last year about how the Steelers overcame all of their flaws to win it all. This year, there are just way too many flaws to cover up. Defenders out of place. Corners not intercepting passes that should be easy for them to catch. Offense not executing to keep drives alive. Settling for field goals when they should be getting touchdowns.

    Another thing, they have to get back to running first. Passing works with a West Coast offense because it’s methodical. With a passing offense that places priority on big plays, you score too quickly and wear out your defense.

    And I know you asked T3 about Arians, GN, but here’s my two cents. No. On the broadcast on Sunday, they talked about how much Ben loved Arians. They are on the same page with play calling. Now, that’s not looking to be a good thing for the Steelers, but Ben likes it. Also, I don’t see Weis as being a good fit for the Steelers. You’re essentially trading one pass first OC, for another. Now, Tomlin should convince Arians to put in a more run-oriented offense in the offseason.

  13. @T3,

    Yeah, I remember those TDs the Chargers scored in the 4th but the Steelers had scored enough points to savor the victory. They scored those points early, which is what they haven’t done on a consistent basis this season.

    @kos,

    Is it that Ben likes Arians or does he like the fact that Arians allow him to call his own number at times? I’m not suggesting you’re wrong, i’m just trying to get clarification on the matter. If Ben likes him, then what does Tomlin do in regards to fixing the offense? Will he or would he be able to convince Arians to tweak his offense?

    Also…..Weis is a pass first OC, but he did run the ball with Corey Dillon enough to control and put teams away. Remember, Weis was not with the team when NE acquired Randy Moss and put up those sick offensive numbers in 2007. I definitely think that he would be an upgrade over Arians.

  14. GN-
    I’m thinking that Ben likes that Arians lets him have a throwing offense as opposed to running the ball. It’s no secret that given a choice, most QB’s would prefer to throw the ball alot to running it. Ben loves throwing the ball, and I know on the broadcast they said that Ben said that Arians often calls the same play that Ben was thinking of. My guess would be more of a thing where Ben likes the fact that Arians allows him to call his own number. Even if Ben does like him, ultimately, it’s up to Tomlin.

    I still couldn’t see Weiss in Pittsburgh. I think he was a good fit for the Patriots, but now we know he had the benefit of footage of the other team’s practices. 😐 And, even though he had the benefit of NFL offensive knowledge and with the exception of USC, few other teams run pro-style offenses and defenses, he still couldn’t win in college. Plus, Ben is NOT Tom Brady. Ben usually looks to get long chunks of yardage, then takes the short play if he has to. Once Brady got Moss, then he started looking for long chunks more. (I still have nightmares about that MNF game where the Patriots dinked and dunked the Steelers defense to death.)

    One thing that I like about Tomlin, he’s shown that he’s willing to shake things up when necessary. He’s put the entire team on notice. I’m guessing that EVERYONE is going to have to play for their job next training camp. And though he’s won two ‘ships for us, I would dare say that even Ben isn’t safe past a couple of years. After all, it’s not like Dixon fell on his face in his first start. And I think that Dixon might actually be a better QB than Ben in understanding that you don’t have to hold onto the ball all the time and take unnecessary hits.

  15. FYI…

    The team is not playing well, but they could still get into the playoffs. Let’s say that Troy comes back after the Cleveland game and is able to play well. I really like their chances against anyone with him on the field. It’s not unreasonable to think they can win four in a row — just as they have lost four in a row. Momentum comes and goes in a hurry. Green Bay, Baltimore, and at Miami.

    If they run the table, it is likely they will make the playoffs. Denver has a two-game advantage with games at Indianapolis and at Philadelphia on the schedule. They also have to play the Raiders again. If they drop 2 and fall into a tie with Pittsburgh, the Steelers hold the tie breaker.

    Neither Jacksonville nor Miami will run the table. Only one of them can. They play one another this week. Jacksonville, at 7-5, also faces Indy and New England in consecutive weeks. If they win both of those games, MORE POWER TO ‘EM — and watch out! I don’t see it. Miami goes at Jax, at Tennessee, and then they get Pitt in Week 17.

    The Jets are not going to run the table. Their last two games are at Indy and home to Cincinnati. The Colts may rest some folks in Week 16, but that would be crazy to give folks essentially 3 weeks off before a playoff game. The Bengals will need that win to stay ahead of San Diego (and don’t forget, Cincy plays SD and Minn in consecutive weeks). So, the Jets have their hands full.

    The remaining contender is Baltimore. Pittsburgh has to beat them at home.

    If the Steelers run the table, they will be in the playoffs. Book it. If they cannot, they don’t deserve to go.

  16. Yeah T3, but the way the team is playing lately, nothing is a given. What’s bad, this team has lost 6 games by a total of 21 points! Their biggest loss was a couple of weeks ago to the Bengals, 16-10! Every other loss was by a field goal. The team just isn’t finishing the way they should. They aren’t finishing off offensive drives or defensive drives the way that they should.

    Maybe some of Tomlin’s changes will change that. I am hoping so, because we know the Steelers can beat the Chargers. We know that Indy sputters every year that they finish with a bye and can rest their starters at the end of the year. The Pats are vulnerable. Heck, Cinci is the only team that I could see giving the Steelers major trouble in the playoffs, if they play to their potential.

    William Gay is NOT starting on Thursday. Partially due to performance, partially due to his concussion. Rookie Joe Burnett will take his place. Mike Wallace might also get his first start if Hines Ward isn’t healthy. Mike Tomlin is LIVID about the team’s play.

    http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football/nfl/steelers/2009-12-07-mike-tomlin-day-after_N.htm

  17. Don’t laugh GN. I could see Sweed making a good corner. Albeit, he’d be just like the other Steeler corners. Couldn’t catch a pass thrown right at him. lol

  18. I read that Polamalu won’t be playing tomorrow night and could be shut down for the season. Against Cleveland, that doesn’t really worry me. If he doesn’t play against Green Bay the next week, that could be a long game and put the final nail into the coffin for the Steelers season.

  19. Maybe it’s all a ploy to get the guys in the room to focus. No cavalry will be coming. Actually, if he’s not ready to go, I don’t want him to come back. I’d prefer not to go through this every year the way that Indy does with Bob Sanders. Rest, heal, return when ready. I’ve always said no team should be that reliant on a single player — not even a QB. Of course, the Colts seem to make it work with Manning.

  20. Bruce Arians MUST GO! I didn’t see the entire game, but I saw enough to get a good idea of the problems. A 20 degree below zero windchill and Ben drops back to throw 40 times! Sacked 8 times. Not all of them were from holding on to the ball too long. The O-line played terrible. They didn’t open up the kind of holes that they had been opening. The longest run by the running backs was 7 yards! Mendenhall and Parker averaged 3.4 yards a carry on 19 carries. That could have been due to Cleveland’s defensive play, but they didn’t look all that exceptional. On a night when it was so cold, an offensive plan should have been put in place where there was a heavy emphasis on running the ball.

    The defense gave up some big plays, but they held the Browns to 13 points. It was a respectable performance. Not their best, but not their worst either. It’s just in this game, they gave them up in the first half instead of in the second. Still, I couldn’t put much of the blame on a defense that was at a disadvantage when the offense was busy not moving the ball into advantageous field position.

    Special teams was special teams. They gave up the real long punt return to Joshua Cribbs, but otherwise, they did an adequate job.

    The fat lady is warming up to start singing on the Steelers chances for the playoffs!

  21. I agree.

    I went back and read my thoughts on this team early this season. Not much has changed. They have a great deal of work to do. Given how the last two games have played out, this team better find some pride or next week’s game vs. Green Bay is really going to be embarrassing.

    Since the Denver game, the team has failed to produce 300 yards of offense in 3 of 5 games. The only teams that allowed Pittsburgh more than 300 yards of offense were the Chiefs and the Raiders. The team did nothing offensively in the first half of that game — and you have to go all the way back to the first half of the San Diego game to find a very good offensive performance (yards and points). The Steelers have played several games where they’ve had big yardage numbers, but failed to score in the red zone.

    By my tally, the Steelers have played the equivalent of one solid offensive game this year — the first half vs. San Diego and the second half vs. Denver. If you take that away, we’re talking about a team that will produce roughly 250 yards of offense and 10-13 points against a quality opponent. That’s not even mediocre. That’s piss poor.

    My expectation for the Steelers is that they will run for 150+ yards each game. They have the talent to do that. Guess what — aside from the game that Dennis Dixon started vs. Baltimore, they only games in which they’ve run for more than 150 yards were against San Diego and Denver. No rocket science here. The overall offense has been dismal. There have been tons of turnovers, which often resulted in touchdowns or a very short field for the defense.

    Combine that with the worst overall special teams in the league (shortest kickoffs in league, zero touchbacks, poor coverage) and an aging defense (without Aaron Smith and Troy Polamalu), it isn’t hard to see why the team is 6-7. They have talent, but not as much as they think they do. The uniform doesn’t win games.

  22. I agree w/ everyone’s take. I can’t remember seeing this team play so bad. To Cleveland’s credit, they came to play and deserved to win the game. The Steelers don’t deserve to be in the playoffs this year because they’ve played like crap all season.

    Bruce Arians has got to go. This can’t be emphasized enough.

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