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Morning Java: Why not savor it?

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

Morning, Lunatics …

>> The Monday column blankets the Steelers’ c-c-c-cold crushing of the Bengals on an icy Sunday night, and it does so by — to borrow Mike Tomlin’s most commonly used word of the postgame press conference — appreciating it for what it was.

Here’s some of what Ben Roethlisberger had to say …

And Ramon Foster

Random randomness from the scene: Bizarre watching Terence Garvin draw a huge crowd of media afterward, most of whom doubtless never heard of him until he crashed into Cincinnati punter Kevin Huber and cracked his jaw. “I’m just looking for a white shirt,” Garvin insisted. But that was missing the point and so was the questioning about whether a punter is fair game. (He is.) The real issue if is the hit was legal. It wasn’t. Garvin led with his helmet and crushed Huber in his. He’ll pay for that. … It paid off handsomely, but I still hated Mike Tomlin’s early decision to punt from fairly well into Cincinnati territory. … Shaun Suisham is money. Forty-five yards with a powerful wind? No biggie. Kicks it a little to the right, ball goes straight through and into the first row of end-zone seats. Catch that? … Tomlin keeps Le’Veon Bell on edge an awful lot, and I’m talking about off the field. … The Bengals are nothing special. Andy Dalton Is considerably less than that. One and done. … I love how much Antonio Brown loves what Antonio Brown does. Pure joy. He can dance all he wants. … What Kelvin Beachum did to stay in that game was stirring. Could barely pick himself up after some plays, due to that knee he wrenched early. Had a hard time keeping up with the huddle after big plays. Small wonder his teammates feel as they do about him. He might not be a prototype left tackle, but he’s a football player. … Players estimated the offense went about three-quarters no-huddle. … About time the Steelers allowed Troy Polamalu to get off the line and back to playing safety. He seemed to note that himself by saying his shoulders didn’t hurt by game’ end. … Next week, finally (for me), Lambeau. Can’t wait. Major check mark.

The game story, by beat writer Alan Robinson.

The breakdown, by Mark Kaboly.

News and notes, by Ralph Paulk.

The Bengals’ side, by Matt Grubba.

Here’s our full Steelers coverage.

Here’s Bengals news from the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Here are official game highlights from NFL.com.

Here’s our Steelers photo gallery, by Chaz Palla and Chris Horner, of which I’ll cull this rather powerful shot of Antonio Brown’s 67-yard punt return from Palla

>> The Penguins’ injury mess is treated by Rob Rossi as the Penguins hit the ice anew this morning in preparation for the Maple Leafs tonight.

Here’s our full Penguins coverage.

Here’s Maple Leafs news from the Toronto Star.

Here are official game highlights from NHL.com, including one serious collapse by the Flyers that has to be seen to be believed.

>> Merry Christmas, Charlie Morton, by Travis Sawchik.

>> Congrats to South Fayette and North Catholic, PIAA football champions.

>> I’ll check in with TribLIVE Radio at 11:30 a.m., and then it’s off to … well, I’ll wait until tomorrow to share that. Should be fun.

Author: Dejan Kovacevic

Dejan Kovacevic, a lifelong Pittsburgher, is an award-winning sports columnist for Trib Total Media covering the Steelers, Penguins, Pirates, Pitt and more, including his fourth Olympics in Sochi, Russia. He also appears on WPXI-TV's 'Subway Final Word’ and hosts a weekly show on TribLIVE Radio. For 2011, he was named one of the top four columnists in the country -- highest circulation category -- by the AP Sports Editors. For 2012, he was named one of the top three columnists in the country by the National Headliners Awards. For 2013, he was named top columnist in the state by the Keystone Awards and second-place by the Pennsylvania AP Managing Editors.

318 Comments

  1. Your “I could have…” column, in fact ‘does.’ All the shortcomings you end up ‘not’ discussing are very valid points. In the end, the Bengals may end up qualifying for the playoffs, but they still are pretenders. The Steelers beat some pretenders tonight with what was an “A-game” effort for this year’s squad. Ben, Brown, Bell (Dwyer as a sub) Worilds, Heyward — all are legit. I’m leaving out a few others, but that’s not the point: this team is several bullets shy of being a contender. I like that Haley IS accomplishing what he was hired to do. I don’t like that LeBeau’s “bend, don’t break” defense almost bent to the point of breaking again. And I repeat: the Bengals are pretenders. But what the heck. A win is whole lot better than a loss and I’ll happily take it.

    DK: Picked up on that, huh? :)

  2. A couple of responses to the column:

    “I’ll instead wonder aloud if Brown isn’t the Steelers’ most singularly explosive offensive player since … who?”

    Mike Wallace’s one trick blowed up real good.

    “I could even strip away some credit for shutting down Cincinnati by noting that the Bengals insanely neglected to go deep against a defense badly susceptible to big plays.”

    The insane thing to do would have been to throw deep. The streamers at either end would blow in different directions, so long passing was a very dicey proposition. See, for instance, Ben’s first interception in five games.

  3. What a horrible decision to pay 3 linebackers 150 million dollars a few years back. Two of those guys were gone before halftime. Good thing one was on the other team.

  4. After THIS season, hard to believe that the Steelers played THAT well.

    You-Know-What musta frozen over.

    Which would explain why it’s only 56 FREAKING DEGREES OUTSIDE?

    Where’s my parka?

  5. Not that I watched.

    Forget the SEC’s dominance. I have more interest in whether mighty Mount Union can reach their ninth consecutive Division III Stagg Bowl than the NFL.

    Not trying to be cute or huffy about it. I just do.

  6. Peter O’Toole’s eyes in Lawrence of Arabia.

    Yes. THAT scene. When Lawrence is losing control of himself.

    One of the greatest scenes in the history of the cinema.

    And not a word of dialog.

    (Thunder, you should post like that)

  7. ~ Thud ~

  8. Maybe the Steelers need a Groupon game.

    Garvin will get a nice fine. He led with his helmet and made the decision to hit high when he could’ve gone low.

    David DeCastro should be Pro Bowler.

  9. JAL’s A Hazy Shade of Winter Morning Links

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bnZdlhUDEJo

    GENERAL DAILY UPDATED BASEBALL SITES

    1- MLB Transactions

    http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/transactions

    2-MLB Trade Rumors-Pirates

    http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/pittsburgh_pirates/

    3 MLB Important Dates

    http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/schedule/important_dates.jsp

    BLOGS and such

    4—Pirates Prospects

    Week In Review: Pirates Still Need a First Baseman After the Winter Meetings
    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/12/week-in-review-pirates-still-need-a-first-baseman-after-the-winter-meetings.html

    Winter Leagues: Alen Hanson Starts at Second Base Again

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/12/winter-leagues-alen-hanson-starts-at-second-base-again.html

    5 Bucs Dugout

    Chris Stewart on the 2013 Pirates, pitch-framing

    http://www.bucsdugout.com/2013/12/15/5213034/chris-stewart-on-the-2013-pirates-pitch-framing

    6 Rumbunter

    How Does PirateFest Compare To Other MLB Teams Fan Festivals?

    http://rumbunter.com/2013/12/15/piratefest-compare-mlb-teams-fan-festivals/

    Sometimes Grilled Cheese has an experation date

    http://rumbunter.com/2013/12/15/grilled-cheese-experation-date/

    7 CBS Sports

    Pete Rose makes misguided comments on concussions

    http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/eye-on-baseball/24376285/pete-rose-makes-misguided-comments-on-concussions

    8 Green Weenie

    12/15 Vic Willis, Bucky Williams, Vic Janowicz, Jim Bunning, Rule 5 Debacle, Roberto Hernandez…

    http://oldbucs.blogspot.com/2013/12/1215-vic-willis-bucky-williams-vic.html

    9 Pirates Site

    Sanchez overwhelmed by support at PirateFest

    http://pittsburgh.pirates.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20131215&content_id=64717464&notebook_id=64717792&vkey=notebook_pit&c_id=pit

    10 Bleacher Report

    Fact or Fiction on All the Hottest MLB Free-Agency, Trade Rumors

    http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1889925-fact-or-fiction-on-all-the-hottest-mlb-free-agency-trade-rumors

  10. NEWSPAPERS and MAGAZINES and Other Media

    11 Altoona Mirror

    Sanchez waiting for career to take off

    http://www.altoonamirror.com/page/content.detail/id/577308/Sanchez-waiting-for-career-to-take-off.html?nav=751

    12 Beaver County Times

    Perrotto’s Three Thoughts: Re-signing Barmes a good move

    http://www.timesonline.com/columnists/sports/john_perrotto/perrotto-s-three-thoughts-re-signing-barmes-a-good-move/article_44f00d0d-4ca2-5a68-a766-0c651dbe3391.html

    13 Wall Street Cheat Sheet

    8 MLB Free Agents Keeping the Hot Stove Burning

    http://wallstcheatsheet.com/stocks/8-mlb-free-agents-keeping-the-hot-stove-burning.html/?a=viewall

    14 KDKA

    Colin Dunlap: McCutchen’s Humility Is Astounding

    http://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2013/12/15/colin-dunlap-mccutchens-humility-is-astounding/

    15 Fox News

    Family says late MLB player Ryan Freel had CTE when he committed suicide

    http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/12/16/family-says-late-mlb-player-ryan-freel-had-cte-when-committed-suicide/

    16 Forbes

    Investing In Blue Chip Baseball Cards

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidseideman/2013/12/15/investing-in-blue-chip-baseball-cards/

    17 St Louis Post Dispatch

    Cards land veteran Ellis as option for second

    http://www.stltoday.com/sports/baseball/professional/cards-land-veteran-ellis-as-option-for-second/article_d7c5ebfe-3cd1-5541-a247-7481a212295b.html

    18 Boston Globe

    David Ortiz is now the face of baseball

    http://www.bostonglobe.com/sports/2013/12/15/david-ortiz-now-face-baseball/PdlAnCSzd1hF6zRtrdC18K/story.html

    SPORTS WEBSITES

    19 Baseball Prospectus

    The Week In Quotes

    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=22418

    20 Fangraphs

    Federal Court Hearing In San Jose vs. MLB Could Move Process Forward

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/federal-court-hearing-san-jose-ballpark-oakland-athletics/

  11. Steelers Blogs

    21 Behind the Steel Curtain

    Steelers take ‘No Retreat, No Surrender’ mentality into Week 16

    http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/2013/12/16/5215438/steelers-take-no-retreat-no-surrender-mentality-into-week-16

    Al Woods, Cameron Heyward combine for impressive defensive line performance

    http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/2013/12/16/5215426/steelers-defensive-line-depth-chart-2013-nfl-week-15-bengals/in/4976757

    22 Steelers Gab

    Early Lead, Inspired Defense Lead Steelers To 30-20 Win Over Bengals

    http://www.steelersgab.com/2013/12/16/early-lead-inspired-defense-lead-steelers-to-30-20-win-over-bengals/

    Soccer(football)

    23 LA Times

    U.S. soccer team needs to have patience and calmness leading up to World Cup

    http://www.latimes.com/sports/soccer/la-sp-baxter-soccer-20131215,0,7290684.story#axzz2naYGQSCD

    24 World Soccer Daily

    Tactics: Inverting the Triangle

    http://www.worldsoccer.com/features/tactics-inverting-the-triangle

    PENGUIN BLOGS and NHL Links

    25 Pensburgh

    Deryk Engelland to be suspended for hit on Justin Abdelkader

    http://www.pensburgh.com/2013/12/15/5212654/deryk-engelland-suspended-for-hit-on-justin-abdelkader

    Song: Song A Hazy Shade of Winter Simon and Garfunkel

  12. Who DEM GUYS…last night ??

    • …….Woodley or Worilds?

      ==> I’m taking Worilds if they can KEEP him & try to re-sign him BEFORE he hits the free agent market. Woodley and the DEAD MONEY conversation….I don’t care…..he cannot stay on the field.

      Colbert & Khan have to find a way to keep Worilds so he doesn’t become another Keenan Lewis.

      Can’t keep on doing business…same old …same old…

  13. Well. at least we can all feel better now about the Steelers, and hope they’ll have a brighter future ahead of them. Also, it was nice to see them win one more time.

  14. Anyhow, all those who like those lousy hockey fights better than I do are certainly getting their share of them right now, aren’t they?

  15. Hazy Shade of Winter was a really good one, JAL. Used to find S & G annoying when I was younger, or maybe it was their fans. Appreciate them a lot more now.

  16. I think it’s the effect of the season as a whole, but I never thought the Steelers had this game until about a minute to go. They attacked in the first half, but sort of sat on the lead in the second half.

    Thought the former Bengal color announcer (name escapes me) was overly kind in his comments.

    Were the cameramen drinking scotch while working? So many unfocused and jiggling shots of the action. And, we really don’t need to be close enough to see nose hair, I think.

    • I agree, Wild Bill. We got that point we often get to where we just seem to hand the other team 8-10 on every pass play. So, 30-7 became 30-20 very quickly. And, without the ability to run the ball against a defense set up to stop the run, I thought it was going to get very dicey again.

  17. Does it bother anyone else here that the Pens had to “remake Simone Despres’ game?” Really? I would expect that for a fourth line player but for a first round draft choice?
    Are we losing the players’ natural ability by forcing him into a different style of game?
    Put another way, isn’t it better to let Troy be Troy?
    Not criticizing here but I’m looking to understand.
    Thanks.

    • Al, I took what happened with Despres as a review that he is, first of all, a Defenseman, with other capabilities to be added in as needed. Same review lesson was needed earlier by Letang, but he can’t be sent down. Despres seems to now be playing well.

  18. Your column was spot-on, as usual, Dejan, except for this:

    “I could pile on the beleaguered defense, which now — after the Steelers have topped 26 points in six consecutive weeks…”

    In the last six weeks the Steelers’ offense mustered 23 points against the Bills in a win and 20 against those despised Ravens in that Thanksgiving Day loss. Not to be picky or anything…

    But I absolutely agree that the problem this year has been the defense.

  19. And with that win, the Steelers fall further down the draft order…

    It was a nice win against a team that doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere in the post season. I fear that the Steelers are squandering some of the best years of Ben Roethlisberger’s career. I thought he had a really solid game. I bought into Collinsworth’s comments late in the game that credit Haley for installing an offense that has the QB taking a lot less hits than in prior years. Credit the patchwork O-line too.

    The results last night make it even clearer that there is much work to be done on the defensive side of the ball. Secondary needs an almost complete overhaul. Was it just me that felt like things were starting to slip away in the second half? The search for the missing Jarvis Jones continues….

  20. sign James Loney, give him 3 years, he’s young. Very good defensively when our staff is becoming ground ball specialists. PNC is a doubles hitters paradise. What is the guy 28 or 29? He is the best available and he is in our price range. Neal doesn’t want to give him 3 years. It’s not like Canoe’s 10.
    ps. Nice game by the steelers but now they are as relevant as the Pirates were when they were losing.

    • Loney signed with the Rays over the weekend I believe.

    • The Rays already signed Loney… 3/$21 mil

      • Yep, he’s staying put. I get that they didn’t want to go three years for him. Loney is not a star. But, I think he’s solid enough to pair with Gaby and get good results for the next 2 years. I wonder if the Bucs had offered a little more for 2 years, say 2/$17 … would that have gotten it done? I know it is overpaying a bit, but it is not some crazy commitment. The money is there. I’d rather they had done that than give Volquez $5M.

    • Too late to the Loney party. Such a disappointing off-season so far after a thrilling season. :(

      • + many, Karen. I knew they were not going on a free agent signing frenzy, but so far it has been disappointing.

        I do think they still have a nice team, with more young guys on the way. If AJ suddenly decides to come back, that would be nice. But, he either doesn’t want to come back or he is playing chicken with them right now. Other teams (Baltimore) seem to be entering the picture there. I guess there are 3 AJ scenarios I can think of:

        1) He truly is torn about continuing to play, and is leaning toward retirement;
        2) He wants to come back to the Bucs, but for more money than they are currently offering and is talking with Baltimore to try to get more $$ out of the Bucs.
        3) He wants to come back, but only if he can do it closer to his home in Maryland. So, he’s using the Bucs to get more out of Baltimore.

  21. It may be that the coffee hasn’t kicked in yet, but what does Tomlin do to keep Bell “on edge?”

    • Jason, with your screechy and high pitched metallic voice, I’m not sure I heard you correctly, but I think what DK means is taking Bell out for whole series at a time, and more than once, to play Jones and Dwyer.

  22. Carp from Boston is an intriguing player.

    • I wonder if he is available, and what it would take to pry him loose, bpn. Young pitching, I assume. But, I wonder who we’d need to give up.

      • One of the leftys, Watson or Wilson,…the yanks said Gardner isn’t available but I think he would be nice too.

        • I don’t think we would trade for Gardner because he is a free agent at the end of the year, and we would not give up the kind of high end young talent the Yanks will insist upon.

          Watson and Wilson can bring a lot in return. Lefites out of the pen with multiple years of control left that throw 95+ and can get righty and lefty hitters out are rare. I don’t know enough about Carp to know if we should give up that much, but my first thought is either of them straight up for a platoon 1b is too much of a price to pay. But, maybe there is something that can be worked out.

          • All valid…me personally the whole reason you had to bring in Byrd/Morneau was because your 1b/rf options weren’t adequate. Now Neal is comfortable all of a sudden with some mix of Snider/Tabata/Sanchez/Lambo?…i hope they do something Jim. Very easy for this to all regress.

            • A big, fat UGH to that prospect (the RF/1B options)! Same problems, year after year – unaddressed, year after year.

              • What drives me crazy Karen? If you include this Jaff they got from the Padres, its roughly a half a dozen guys that other teams gave up on. At some point, that has to considered in your evaluation.

            • I’m with you on that, bpn. We have no safety net at 1b if Lambo doesn’t get it done. And Gaby has pretty much proven the last few years that he is good vs. LHP, but he doesn’t hit RHP very well. So, we need a lefty to take 70% of the ABs. I hope Lambo is up to it, but he’s unproven. I think they will get someone else there, but I don’t think they plan on giving up a lot.

              Snider is a big question mark in RF for me. He just has not gotten the job done for any sort of extended period. He did have a few really big hits early in the year, but that was it. They are saying his injured foot may have been the problem, but I don’t know. Hopefully, they can cobble something together until Polanco arrives in summer (or, so I hope).

              • I was dead wrong on Martin and Liriano, this time last year. So take that for what its worth. But with Volquez, guy pitched in Petco and Chavez Ravine and got rocked. Arguably worst starter in NL. He’s gonna be 4 or 5 in the rotation. 5 million is a lot for the Pirates. Especially for that, at that position. I’m confused.

          • I don’t understand the angst over the $5 mil for Volquez. It’s a one year contract, one year commitment. That’s sunflower seeds money for even the Pirates. I’m more concerned about their apparent refusal to go 3 years for a James Loney, who they needed to take 70% of the at bats at first. 2 years is their limit?

            • Agree on Loney, AW.

              To me, it isn’t the $5M for Volquez so much as that it maybe means there is nothing else coming. Gavin Floyd was signed by Atlanta over the weekend. I know his health is a question, but he’s such a better pitcher than Volquez. I just don’t see much there with Volquez and, if AJ doesn’t come back, he is pretty much penciled into the rotation. It seems the only thing he has going for him is health. 170 bad innings is not something I want.

              • I’m clinging to Searage and Benedict looking at a lot of film of Volquez and seeing some things that they think aren’t difficult to fix.

              • Gavin Floyd is coming off surgery and won’t be ready unti May at the earliest.

              • That is true about Floyd, TC. Sometimes, though, skipping the first month or two isn’t so bad. It was not planned for Liriano last year, but missing those first several starts ended up being what kept him strong into Oct, IMO.

                I’d take Floyd in May. It may not work out, of course. Could be like Karstens last year. But, if he’s healthy, I think we’ll see that he is better than his career stats. US Cellular is a brutal place to pitch.

            • What about allocating 5 million elsewhere and going with Cumpton, Jeanmar ECT….Volquez had an ERA around 6, pitching in two pitcher parks…This is like keepin JMac and giving him a raise.

              • I agree. He has been in an extreme pitcher’s park in SD and still got rocked and walked too many batters. Career 1.5 WHIP. I would be more comfortable with someone emerging from Locke, Pimentel, Cumpton, Jeanmar than Volquez. But, there is always the reality that Huntington & Co. have done this before, and they seem to be good at it. I just think they bit off a bit more with Edinson.

              • 21, why couldn’t Neal and the gang, fix JMac, Bedard, Johnathan Sanchez and so on?.. Can’t teach talent, bro.

              • I think they’re all talented, bpn, and I wouldn’t put Bedard in that category but you can’t fix everybody. Sanchez cost a song and a dance, btw, and I think McDonald has some confidence issues.

                But they seemed to do a great job with A.J., Liriano, Melancon and some others but I also think you need some effort on the part of the player too. If you give me a player with an open mind and a work ethic, I’ll take my chances on Searage making improvements.

            • I don’t understand not signing Loney because there also doesn’t seem to be anyone in the minors that will be ready within the next 3 years.

              I think it may come back to their ‘internal values’. Spending $5 mil on a fringe starting pitcher is ok. Adding $5 mil to an offer to a platoon player may not be ok

              • I think you are right on that, TC. They just didn’t put either 3 years or $7M per season value on Loney. Maybe they valued him at 2/$14? But, sometimes you have to pay a little extra to shore up a position of need.

              • One thing that kind of hit me the last couple of days is it isn’t a true “platoon,” with the 2 players splitting the at bats equally. From what I have seen it’s 70% right handed pitchers the Pirates will face. The guy hitting against them is way more important (if that’s true), than Gaby.

              • True, Arriba. There will always be twice as many RHP as LHP. So, in a platoon the lefty hitter is key.

            • Actually, it’s the one-year part that’s mysterious to me. I get the increased cost of players.

              But either Mr. Searage creates a free agent they can’t afford to re-sign or the five million could have been better spent.

              I sort of understand it, but I don’t like the conclusions it leads to.

          • Oh, Volquez has the talent. That you can be assured of. I did read something that he, like Gomez, blows up after 70-75 pitches. For a no. 5-6, that ain’t so bad. But, seriously, the money, FOR ONE YEAR, is chicken feed in MLB.

              • Of the guys you mentioned, aj, papa Francisco, and melancon they all shared one thing…they came from the AL, pitching in offensive parks, facing dh s instead of the pitchers spot. Again, volquez pitched in two parks better than PNC for a pitcher, and got drilled…I understand to the rest of mlb 5 million is not a lot, but that’s still a decent investment for Seven Springs/Hidden Valley management

              • I don’t care what their most previous team was. They’ve all improved their control and in some cases, dramatically. And I think they’ve done a great job with Charlie.

                I just think Searage does a great job and as I said above, I hope he can do something with Volquez.

              • I hope so, 21. You know the old saying, “When the pupil is ready the teacher will appear.” A lot of people have been trying to get through to Volquez for a lot of years now. I hope Coach Ray can finally break through.

  23. I was glad the Steelers jumped on Cincinnati right away. Of course, the Bengals helped with the dropped snap of the punt and the fair catch screw-up on the kickoff that pinned them deep.

    The Bengals did what they always do when the going gets tough. They cowered. They look like they preferred to be anywhere but on that field – a characteristic of Marvin Lewis-led teams. The Steelers bullied them, intimidated them, and pushed them all around the field in the first half.

    Randomness:

    * Imagine how good Bell would be if we ever get an OLine capable of actually opening running lanes. He gets nearly every yard on his own.

    * Brown is dynamic. I give management credit for choosing him over Wallace. That was very smart.

    * To the OLine’s credit, they have gotten much better at pass blocking as the season has gone along. Cincy did not pressure Ben much at all. Some of that should be credited to Ben for getting rid of the ball on time, but I still give the OLine high marks for pass blocking last night.

    * Ben is at the top of his game now. He is playing at a HOF level, IMO.

    * Our secondary needs a huge talent infusion. Huge.

    * Woodley needs to just go away. Really. He’s pathetic. Can’t stay on the field. Can’t produce when he does. Of course, I’m sure someone without the initials DK is already preparing the annual “He’s in the absolute best shape of his career” article for next July.

    * How many times did Chris Collinsworth say we would have a good defense if we didn’t give up 11 plays of 50+ yards this year? No kidding, Captain Obvious. We would also have a better record if we had just managed to win more games.

    * We handed games to TN, MN, Oak, Balt, Miami. If we just had 3 of those back, we’d be 9-5. We’d still be plenty mediocre, but we’d be in first place.

    I don’t give Coach Tomlin a lot of credit lately. His soundbytes have gotten tiresome for me. But, he had his team ready to play last night. He deserves credit for that. He has them working to the end, and that is a good thing.

    • Obviously, Tomlin had the team ready. Obviously.

    • Those 5 should haves make me ill. Tomlin will see them in his sleep all winter and spring.

    • Good points. As William Laird Cowher once said, “There’s a fine line between winning and losing.” Based on Alan Robinson’s recent article, the Steelers are strapped with Woodley and his burdensome contract and injury prone calves and hammies for at least another season. A huge cap hit if they let him go.

      Hearing more and more positive comments about the play of David Decastro. Hard to notice an interior lineman on TV but that’s good news if it is the case. Still Bell is not exactly running though gaping holes behind the right side. Remember 34 Pike and Willie Parker housing it in Super Bowl XL? That’s what a running game looks like.

      • Steve, I would add that the play in question had future HOFer Alan Faneca as a pulling guard. That helps just a little.

      • If Woodley needs to stay another season, fine. But, let’s not hand him a starting spot next year at least.

        Time for him to get on with his life’s work in the bowling league or whatever he is working on. He was a good player for a few years, but some guys just are not durable. He’s not durable. I also question his desire after getting the big money. But, I guess I’m not in his head to know for sure. Whatever the case, he looks done to me.

    • Spot on analysis Jim…I agree 100%!

  24. I marvel at the organizational depth of the Penguins – particularly on defense. We know that has always been a huge focal point for Shero in the draft. But, the performance they are getting this year out of so many young defensemen amazes me. I bet most teams that expected to contend would be something like 14-16-4 right now if they had the setbacks at defense like what the Pens have faced this year. Few teams, IMO, would be 23-10-1.

  25. Hi Frank,

    Thanks for taking the time for the picture on Saturday. I really appreciate it. Hopefully I can figure out how to get it up on the blog so everyone can see it.

  26. Reports again about pro teams chasing O’Brien. Really hope he says no; I’d love to see what he’d do with Hackenberg over three more years.

  27. APB out for one theplanisworking…

  28. It would be nice if the paper had been delivered to me today.

  29. The most entertaining aspect of the Dallas Cowboys is that they have no idea how dysfunctional they are.

    • They really don’t. I think Jerry Jones is convinced he runs a good football operation because he won the 3 Super Bowls 20 years ago when Jimmy Johnson made every meaningful decision.

  30. I thought Collinsworth last night had an interesting analysis of the decision to bring in Haley to try to save Ben. He had been far from 100% by the end of previous seasons, and he’s still pretty healthy. Maybe Art II and Haley aren’t as dumb as we thought. I know there are reports they went no huddle for 66-75% of the plays, but Ben was choosing Haley’s plays and getting rid of the ball pretty quickly all night.

    • Good stuff, AW. Once in a while though, you have to go deep to keep people honest in the secondary. If I saw this accurately, the Bengals kept creeping up closer and closer as the game went on. The quick release passes can’t work as well if the defense is right on top of scrimmage.

    • Haley may have saved his job by letting Ben run the no huddle.

    • I thought this was some of the stated reasoning when Haley was first brought in.

      • What I remember was the idea was extending his career. This was a little more focused to him being in better shape for the end of season games and playoffs, but I didn’t read everything at the time. He wasn’t in great shape for the last Superbowl they were in, though.

    • Great Point.

      The facts are, this IS Haley’s offense and individually, HIS game plan…regardless if they are in “No Huddle or not”.

      Anybody can be right with 20-20 hindsight castigating individual play calls, but it does appear that Haley’s offensive philosophy is as reasonable as any.

      JMO, but the injury to Pouncey was such that only one to BBR would have been more devistating to the O, given the offseason spent to move to a zone blocking scheme with new (and young) players in 3 positions and DeCastro largely missing his rookie year. Heath’s rehab, additional OLine injuries and Bell missing preseason and the first few games all contributed.

      Resign Velasco – for depth, tighten up LT and get a big receiver, either a TE or WR and the O is set, IMO.

      The D is a little more complicated.

  31. I would like to take this opportunity to credit the penguins with a great 4-1 win Saturday night in Detroit. With all the injuries/suspensions, etc. I was impressed. I am still highly upset with the NHL “discipline” of Thornton, but I at least caught the highlights of the game.

    That being said, what on earth was Engelland thinking?? The day a 15-game suspension gets handed down, he does a head shot to a Wings player? Better question is, didnt Bylsma/Shero address the team to be extra cautious about that stuff, as the refs were surely going to keep a better eye on that?? Engelland got a match penalty, so he will get suspended, just depends on how long.

    Also, with Letang, and malkin now injured, The Wilkes-Barre team may be playing in Pittsburgh if this keeps up. True testament to the coaches and players that they are in first place with this all going on.

    • ++++, Plan. Jandy was worried about you – see above.

    • I watched the game on Saturday, and Engelland’s hit certainly did not look like an attempt to injure. But, that doesn’t do much for Abdelkader’s head right now. I believe it was former Red Wing Mickey Redmond who was on the call that I saw. He said it would have been very easy for Engelland to avoid hitting the guy’s chin, since the guy never lowered his head during the play.

      I am not an ex-player, so I will defer to others. I saw Engelland coming from the side to hit him, and it seems like it is very easy to clip a guy’s chin there w/o trying to as you go for the shoulder. I would like to hear from someone who has actually lived this as to how easy it is to always avoid hitting the other player’s chin when making that hit. Engelland looked to be aiming for the shoulder, and he did catch a lot of shoulder there. I’m not saying he should not be out 2 games, BTW. Just wondering if the hit was as easily avoidable as Redmond indicated.

      • Looked avoidable to me. Appears to have been a stupid move, right up there with James Neal.

        Can’t understand it, given the situation. Now that it’s an in person hearing will not be surprised if it’s not 5 -10 games.

        • Oh, its an in-person hearing?
          That means at least 6 games.
          Look for Shanahan to send a message……… a Penguin commits this on the day Thornton got 15……… look for Engelland to get 8-10 games.

          • Engo had a 3 game suspension 2 years ago for hitting Hawk’s Kruger in the head.

            • One of the things I learned with the recent “troubles” is that prior discipline is only technically taken into account if it was within the past 18 months. DK mentioned it in regards to Neal, whose prior discipline was 20 months.

              • The league said that they couldn’t use Neal’s priors, but also couldn’t ignore them. They also had to placate the bruins, knowing that they were giving thornton 15.

                Engo is gonna get the max they can justify, given all the particulars. THAT’S what’s so frustrating.

                With him out and Glass not back yet. Not a lot of protection out there…..

        • He committed to the hit too early to really back off or let up. He and abdelkader had a pretty good collision not long before that so Engo was just returning the favor. Abdelkader leaned down to play the puck which was enough of a deviation for Engo to hit him in the chin. He was trying to be clean but bad result. I understand the crackdown on head shots but it shouldn’t be more than 2-3 games.

          • In person hearing generally are more than 5 games.

          • Exactly how I interpreted the hit, Monster. Didn’t seem malicious – just a tough shoulder hit where he accidentally clipped a chin that was extended out.

            • Only Engo knows for sure, but to me, it looked as accidental as Steckel’s was on Sid.

              • Oh no tpbco, steckel’s was of the accidentally on purpose variety far away from puck. Engo’s was on purpose just bad result due to abdelkader reaching down to play the puck.

              • Yeah I agree, Monster Mash read the hit well.

                Steckel, well, sometimes it’s better not to say anything if you have nothing nice to say ;)

              • When shammy stops giving scrubs and knuckledraggers the benefit of the doubt so much and starts to penalize the accidentally on purpose hits more often(like neals knee) then i’ll start calling him shanny again. :)

          • HM-

            If that’s the case then maybe we’ll see it in the suspension length.

            I actually put Neals hit more like Steckels, a skate by oops, my bad. Unfortunately Neals was in front of the bruins bench and referee and Crosby’s was behind the play at the end of a period and no one really saw it.

            • Ya neals knee and steckels shoulder are similar. I hate to say it but sometimes its all about what you can get away with…especially late in season and in playoffs. Those plays will be hard to regulate out of the game completely. But shammy could start by using his experience to judge whats over the line instead of just looking at precedent or suspension history.

    • Indeed it was a good win, in spite of all the injuries and then Engo losing his elbow…

      The WBS guys are doing their job well…

    • ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

      ;)

  32. Dejan said the hit on Bengals P Huber was illegal.

    But when this is the end result, how can you not love it?

    https://scontent-a-lga.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-prn2/q71/1463233_650795671629476_1925414910_n.jpg

    • I thought it was high also. I think he aimed lower, but just didn’t judge properly how high his helmet extends above his targeted spot.

  33. It was so cold last night, Mike Tomlin zipped his jacket.

  34. Something I thought would get more traction that it did………

    Fox reported that the Miami special teams coach was on the field during Troys attempted runback of a missed FG at the end of the 1st half of the Steelers-Dolphins game.

    $10,000 fine, no loss of draft pick. I understand he wasnt the head coach, but………………

  35. Funny tweet by Rossi:
    Scuderi says 8-10 days before he can play. Jokes he is waiting for one of AHL guys to ‘Nancy Kerrigan my foot’

  36. For the eternal optimists, the Steelers can still make the playoffs if two things happen: They must finish tied at 8-8 with the Ravens (Steelers would win tiebreaker). Then, the Jets must tie the Dolphins at 8-8 (Jets would win tiebreaker over Miami.)

    In that scenario, the Steelers get in based on their win over the Jets earlier this year. (Steelers would also win a tiebreaker with the Chargers at 8-8 as well.) Whoever gets that #6 seed will probably travel to Cincy in the first-round, which is a very winnable game.

    Quite unlikely, but still possible.

    http://espn.go.com/nfl/playoffs/machine

    • It ain’t over until it’s over, regardless of the odds.

    • Cincy is undefeated at home, FWIW. They are a different team in the Queen City. I don’t believe it will come to that, though.

      But, how do we get in over Miami?

      • Has to be a mutiple team tie for the last spot (Steelers, Chargers, Jets, Ravens and Fins). To long to post the particulars. If it’s just the Steelers and the fins…fins go due to heads up.

        • Thanks. I figured it would have to be convoluted. I’d put the odds of the Steelers getting in at 100 to 1, at best.

          • It’s actually MUCH better than that.

            100 to 1 would be 1%, and it was posted on CBSsports that if the Steelers win out, their odds are 8%.

            I am kidding, of course.

  37. Don’t particularly like Rodney Harrison but I have to agree with what he said at halftime. He picked the Steelers to win because (Paraphrasing) “the Bengals don’t have the heart to win a game like this one.”

    Also, I do believe the Steelers have finally found a running back. Stay healthy Leveon!

    • I like the combo of Bell starting with Dwyer as backup and hopefully LSH and then a rookie, to be named.

    • I really like how Bell runs the ball. I think the one thing that is missing from his game and might not be his fault, is the break away, long run.

      It seemed FWP and even Mendenhall would have that one carry in the game where they broke it off for a long run. I think Bell has the speed, but doesn’t have the blocking. To include Hines on the outside.

    • Agree, Rob. And he always seems to find a way to “fall forward.”

      • +++, always. The dude is a truck.

      • Someone mentioned in preseaon that he brings back memories of Eddie George.

        That arguement could very well be made. Kid’s gotta chance.

        BTW, have watched Eddie Lacy. He is a good back, MIGHT be a little better pure runner, but with no blocking – he don’t go nowhere either, doesn’t appear to be that good in the passing game – catching or pass blocking.

        It really is okay if they both end up good.

        Don’t hear much about Sean Lee lately, given he is injured AGAIN, and likely done for the year.

  38. Question for Pirates Fest attendees. I know Milo and AW have both indicated they attended this past weekend. Is that event good enough that, if you were me and were coming in from out of town, you would do it? I think it would make a great Christmas gift for 2 of my kids, who are huge fans.

    • If they are huge fans, definitely. To plan a trip over it? I can’t answer that, but I think you mentioned before you have family in town? It is fun, I think, if you’ve never been before. I’ve been to 4 of the last 5 with my son, and he said this year’s was more fun than the prior ones (we both got our pictures taken with Clint). He wasn’t much of a fan in the past, but I think being at the wild card game may have created a new fan.

  39. Question from a newbie. How do you add an avatar?

  40. About the call ups and young players on defense i think the most encouraging thing is that they’re all around 6’2-6’5 with tremendous reach and real good mobility. Hard to think they’re performances are flukes when they can defend passing and shooting lanes just using they’re mobility to be in the right spot. Having a plethora of big mobile dmen is a good way to give yourself a chance at cups.

    Despres has been impressive. But then again i thought he was pretty good last season and in philly series too. He just needs to realize that we got all the risk taking we need from Tanger and that we need him to keep it simple using his size, reach and skating.

    Dumoulin has more upside than i thought. Similar to despres where he has talent but needs to keep his creativity in check and focus on simplicity. However, he seems like he can be a little lumbering when he’s not moving his feet so he needs to really remind himself and focus on keeping his feet moving so he’s not a lumbering target for forecheckers.

    Bortuzzo continues to show why he needs more experience. He’ll make 4-5 solid defensive plays then get desperate to join the rush or force a play to get points. He has good mobility for a big physical player but he needs to use it to be a Hall Gill upgrade and not a Rob Blake wanna be.

    Maatta, all things considered is beast. Continues to surpass the lofty expectations i had for him. Thats all i have to say about that. And if you guys like maatta wait till harrington gets here.

    Nisky continues to make a fan out of me. Never wanted to trade him and injury to TV obviously made it easier to keep him. Can we hold onto him for cup run then trade his negotiating rights? Less return but depth he provides could be invaluable.

    Overall emergence of Sill and Megna(along with ebbett and bennett coming back) gives us some food for thoughts going further into the season. Do we ride out depth on d or do we make a move?

    • Like your descriptions.

      Too me, Depres is almost 180 turn around. He seems much more responsible and is using his size much more effectively than last year, especially in front of the net, where to me, he kinda shrank last year.

      Bortzo does need to contain he random “Letang moments”. I see him as maybe Brooks Orpik Part 2.

      I wonder if Maata couldn’t end up being the Pen’s version of Nick Linstrom? Wouldn’t that be fun…

      I think GMRS will be sitting pretty at the trade deadline – with assests to move, depending on where we stand and what we need AND what room he can manufacture around the cap.

      • About Despres, he’s a young improving player so not sure if i would say he needed a turnaround per say. I think disco’s 2 man forecheck system opened up too much ice in the middle and left despres and our entire defense in a position to defend way too many high speed rushes. Between that and him being something like +15 last season i think he held his own. This season just looked like he was victim of maatta not being allowed to go to WB while playing too well to go back to juniors.

        Hope the dmen i listed above are here for a long time.

  41. I’m going to put posts at 60% Steelers today, 35% Pens, 4% Pirates, and 1% miscellaneous.

    The afternoon shift will be reporting for duty shortly. :-)

    • Pirate posts are at 10%.

      Sincerely,

      21, CPA

    • Drew at 2%, btw.

    • You know, I said this to someone before and I’m gonna repost it here….sounds to me like some male person had a bad case of PMS. Take 2 midol and call your doctor in the morning
      :D
      (I’m referring to the number of baseball posts. Heck, my favorite sport is HOCKEY but I love reading the basdeball posts. You guys keep an ol’ lady edumacated. I don’t comment a lot on this stuff but I’m trying to soak it all up.)

      • “a bad case of PMS”

        So what would a good case of PMS be like?

      • I didn’t see it until just now, but Dejan offered a particularly sincere apology at the bottom of Friday’s Morning thread.

        Conversation seems brisk this morning so I won’t post it, but I would be remiss not to point it out and thank him for his time.

      • In fairness to DK, though, I think he realized he erred and admitted it pretty quickly. I appreciated that.

        Let’s face it, he is probably not really a baseball fan. So, maybe it is like inviting a bunch of folks over for the holidays and they are sitting in your living room, drinking all your beer and soda, munching on your snacks, and they are watching the MLB Network’s replay of the ’65 World Series, and you can’t get your hands on the remote to switch to the Breaking Bad Marathon you have been waiting all week to see. At some point, as you keep checking your watch and making veiled references about how you have to get up early tomorrow, you have a deadline to meet, etc. you just lose it and say “Save some of that cheese wheel for me, you idiots.” Then, you apologize and everything calms down again. The doorbell rings and you realize your guests also just stuck you with a $150 pizza tab. You make peace with it.

        Or, maybe not.

        • Jim
          What makes you say that DK is nt a baseball fan?

          If anything he’s not a fan of baseball fans

          • I’m not sure if he is or isn’t, TC. Just a guess. To each his own.

            • ‘Let’s face it, he is probably not really a baseball fan.’

              Jim, that’s the line from you that made me ask that question.

              • That’s honestly what I thought, TC. I recall once where DK responded to a tweet something to the effect that he doesn’t even think about baseball until after hockey season is over. I took it to mean hockey is much more of a priority for him. I don’t think he waits until baseball season is completely over to focus on hockey or football.

        • Something tells me that isn’t a hypothetical situation you are drawing up…or you are very creative…

          • Haven’t we all had those annoying guests at one point or another, Damon? Or, maybe been those guys at one time or another? I was really just trying to make light of the whole thing. I don’t really care that Dejan either doesn’t much care for baseball or if it is just rabid baseball fans that he doesn’t care for. That is his right, of course.

            But, I think NMR put it very well in response on Friday afternoon. At some point, the people who post here have a right to discuss whichever sport they want to discuss. And, it seemed to me that, after giving it a little thought. DK agreed. I appreciated that, although I didn’t really understand how it got to that point in the first place.

            For my part, I was just having a little fun with that scenario.

          • I thought NMR and Johninoshkosh both expressed it very well, without being confrontational.

        • He’s definitely a baseball fan, and it’s great he did the mea culpa. But “quickly?” This has been going on for probably a year or more.

  42. Dont know if this was posted or not, but here is the scenario for the Stillerz making the playoffs…………..

    In case you’re wondering… the following must happen for the Steelers to make the playoffs:

    Steelers win last 2 games. (Packers, Browns)

    Dolphins lose last 2 games. (Bills, Jets)

    Jets win last 2 games. (Browns, Dolphins)

    Ravens lose 2 out of 3. (Lions, Patriots, Bengals)

    Chargers lose 1 out of last 2. (Raiders, Chiefs).

    Thats a lot of winning/losing in the final 2 weeks.

  43. FWIW — I like Charlie Morton’s attitude; could have maybe made more money but wanted to be a Pirate and to be a Pirate you have to sign with the club.

    Refreshing.

    • I see his point – to BEGIN with. He points out the pretty-much norm that one playoff team takes a step back the next year. But then at the end he says the Pirates will LIKELY take a step back based on the kind of question marks that EVERY team has from one season to the next: Will Liriano struggle as he has in years past; Will Charlie struggle in his “age-30 season;” more pitching concerns and NOTHING about the big problem we had most of last year – scoring runs! His only real valid point is on us using Volquez, who hasn’t had an ERA under 4.00 since 2008.

      It happens. Mostly I don’t think there’s enough Volquez-sized question marks to conclude, as he did in the end, we “likely” take a step back.

      • True. But there’s always the possibility of the flip side of that too, Bay. What if the Pirates offense comes around and scores more runs than last year and the pitching stays about the same?

        This article really could’ve been about any team, not just the Pirates.

        • True, Ryan. Probably just a deal where his editor says, “It’s slow, just before the holidays. Give me something real vanilla and general!” :-)

        • Man, you gotta figure some of these guys like Decker, Snider and Gaby are gonna get it figured out soon. Marte, with some plate discipline. Gaby, more a return to some home run numbers. I kinda wish they’d throw the first base job full-time to him. Maybe he returns to all-star form.

        • Good point. The Pirates offense did under-perform last year, Nor Cal. While the Cardinals lit it up at .330+ w/ RISP, the Bucs had a much lower average than their overall average. Those things tend to even out the next season.

        • I think there’s a fair chance that the offense will score runs and the pitching will give up a few more — but with more upside to the offense than the pitching tail off.

          And if the pitchers stay healthy . . . well we can always hope

          I’d like to see what a rotation like this could do though.

          Liriano
          Cole
          Morton
          Taillon
          a healthy Rodriguez or Locke

          On offense I look for Cutch to maintain his level, Marte to move up or even break out, RF to improve either through the natural progress or the addition of Polanco, 1B is still a hole but it was last year, I have no idea what Walker will do but it could be better, Mercer will make natural progress for a second year guy, and I’d like to dream that Pedro will maintain his power and improve his B/A. Martin is Martin and the new guy won’t hit much — but maybe Sanchez will find his stroke and hit his way onto the team.

          That’s not all that unrealistic on a one-by-one basis, but maybe a little optimistic to imagine it ALL happen.

      • I felt the Bucs won 4-5 more games than they normally would have last year because they had a good record in 1 + 2 run games. That will probably slip a little, and could cause a decline of a few wins. But, I’m not so sure I agree with him about all of our players declining in performance. We have guys who can improve their performance as well.

        What about the perfect St. Louis Cardinals? They lost Beltran. They hit .330 with RISP last year, which shattered the all-time record of .291. What happens if they hit .270 w RISP this year? What if several of their young pitchers do a backslide, as young pitchers often do? Oh wait, that doesn’t happen to Cardinals. I almost forgot.

        This seemed like a sloppy article to me. He came up with a conclusion, then backed into it. I would probably agree that the Bucs won’t win 94 games again, but I’m not sure he provided much evidence.

  44. 58 DAYS UNTIL THE GLORIOUS DAY THAT PITCHERS AND CATCHERS REPORT TO PIRATE CITY FOR SPRING TRAINING.

    • Actually, we have year-round baseball here in Vegas (Drew isn’t the only one with glorious weather right now). In fact, a 16U team I run just finished up a baseball tournament yesterday. And the kids’ high school team practices every afternoon (though the coach cancelled practice today :-( ). Just thought I’d tag-team with Drew on you guys living the dream in the teens temeratures right now. :-D

      • La la la. Can’t hear you, Ghost. Oh, you typed it. Oops!

      • Our 12 year olds are inside twice a week from Nov – start of season in April, Ghost. I wish we could be outside like your guys. You just can’t prepare OF in a gym.

        • Jim,
          In a way, the inclement weather where you are acts as a separator between the dedicated, like you and your 12 year-olds, and the rest of the pack. Since you guys are finding a way to keep practicing, it should pay dividends when your boys are already sharp in April and everyone else can’t hit the broad side of a barn.

  45. WOW !!!!!!!!

    I have no clue who scored, but 1-0 good guys!

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