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Morning Java: Merry Christmas!

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

GREEN BAY, Wis. – Morning, Lunatics …

>> The Monday column from Lambeau Field comes in praise of the victors, no matter how much an unfortunately large segment of the Nation seems determined to pan it.

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

And Mike Tomlin

Random randomness from the scene: Cool to hear Brett Keisel convey how he told all the defensive linemen to soak up every bit of the Lambeau experience: “It was awesome, a game to remember. It’ll be a game I can tell my kids about. Playing against this team, in this place, it’s a really good feeling.” … So, kickers and punters are considered ‘defenseless’ but in this game alone recorded three tackles and a completed pass by Mat McBriar. When the latter was asked about the hit he took to make that sharp throw, he shrugged” “I knew that all along. I don’t really have any protection out there, so it’s just one of those things.” Funny, but these guys sound like football players to me. … I didn’t get a good vibe from Emmanuel Sanders about his injury. … Bell had a wonderful game on the ground but simply can’t drop both passes sent his way. … Anyone notice who saved that last Green Bay kickoff return from being a TD? Yep, Shamarko Thomas. He’s next. … Good on Larry Foote for making this trip and most trips, despite being on IR. Not everyone does. He was only one who came here. … Really stark to hear Tomlin say the refs ‘blew it.’ But one would strongly suspect he’ll get away with it fine-free. Because, you know, the refs did blow it. … While still on the field, Roethlisberger gave the game’s final ball to Keisel after his late sack and fumble recovery played such a big role. “I really enjoyed watching him walk off the field with that under his arm,” Ben said. … Man, what a terrible time for Jarvis Jones to get sick, as he did at the team hotel overnight. Not blaming him, obviously. Just underscoring how unfortunate that was. … First time at Lambeau. Great check mark. Really was. I can’t think of a more powerful statement about the inherent fairness of the NFL and a salary cap than having an iconic, vibrant franchise based in a town of 104,000. Anyone who ever talks about stars needing to be in big markets for big visibility, toss the names of Reggie White, Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers at them.

The game story, by Alan Robinson.

Le’Veon Bell’s big day, by Ralph Paulk.

Here’s our full Steelers coverage.

Here’s Packers news from the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

Here are official game highlights from NFL.com.

And if you missed it, the Sunday column was on LaMarr Woodley. And Robinson had a terrific interview with Todd Haley.

Finally, here’s our Steelers photo gallery by a well-bundled-up Chaz Palla, including the beauty below of Matt Spaeth celebrating his TD. He froze for these, so give him a click!

>> The Penguins are in Ottawa tonight, then get a badly needed three-day break. At least as badly needed as anything can be for a team that never loses anymore.

Looking ahead to that game, through the prism of Matt Niskanen’s recent excellence, is Josh Yohe.

The rookies are holding up, by resident stats maven David Golebiewski.

Here’s our full Penguins coverage.

Here’s Senators news from the Ottawa Citizen.

Here are official game highlights from NHL.com.

>> Pitt could use better shooting from James Robinson. Kevin Gorman reports.

I harp on this every time I cover the Panthers and, honestly, I wonder if the kid won’t just end up being one of those distribution-only point guards. No harm in that.

>> I’ll be taking this week off and return, of course, for the Steelers’ finale with the Browns next Sunday.

I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you, the readers of the column and this blog and whatever other stuff I happen to churn out somewhere, the most joyous of holiday seasons. It really is the greatest time of year. Hug the ones you love. Live every minute of it.

And thank you so, so much for reading. I know I can be difficult at times. I hear that from some of those people I hug, too. But I think we’re all in the same category as Pittsburghers who are passionate about sports not just as entertainment but as our way of life. It’s what we do.

Merry Christmas!

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.

277 Comments

  1. GREAT to see mention of Shamarko’s game saving tackle. No mention in the game stories nor by any of the posters save for PattonBB. I guess in game that had everything else, it was easy to overlook. But I wasn’t fortunate enough to have the game broadcast in my area, so when I saw the NFL Network’s highlights from the game, my eyes popped when I saw No. 29 speed up to the returner and save the day.

  2. “I know I can be difficult at times.”
    Nah. You just act as a foil for the rest of us loonies.
    Happy Holidays to you and everyone else here!

  3. I haven’t posted in a WHILE, and I feel pretty bad about it–great win today for the Steelers! I’m always on Twitter though, @RoseMJ44

  4. What an amazing game. That such a satisfying win could come at the end of an incredibly frustrating season is a great reminder why watching NFL football is so fun. And the Steelers are somehow still alive in the playoff hunt.

    As for Bell’s late TD, I don’t have a problem with Tomlin scoring the touchdown. It’s such a tricky call for the coach there. If they kneel on the ball and try a field goal, you risk a bad snap or a block, just like the Packers’ kick was blocked one quarter earlier – and then everyone’s screaming about why they didn’t take the sure TD.

    As they lined up for second and goal with 1:25 left, I was actually thinking they should take a knee on second down to milk the clock, then legitimately try to score the TD on third down. You either fail to get the TD and settle for the short FG attempt as time expires, or you get the 7 points and kick off with only 40 seconds on the clock instead of 1:25. That seemed like the best way to mitigate risk while still being aggressive. But it would have been an unheard of strategy, so I can’t fault Tomlin for not making it.

    Just as baseball has advanced stats geeks who crunch the numbers to find competitive advantages, football really needs to get some clock management & strategy gurus – guys who understand when to use timeouts and who know when it makes sense from a probability standpoint to go for it on fourth down.

    DK: They’re everywhere in football. No outside inspiration needed.

    • Did someone say “BASEBALL????” (Pant, pant, pant!)

    • Just as many QBs have the play list tape to their wrist, Tomin needs to tape a “cheat sheet” to his, showing time left and opposing team’s timeouts.

      Someone on the bench has the matrix for going for the two point conversion so why not one for “last three minutes” clock management?

      Stubbornness and dismissiveness (HCMT: “I’m not into that”) in the face of certain improvement, which has cost us some wins over the years, doesn’t cut it. Not looking for perfection from Tomlin here, just that an effort is being made to do whatever is possible to give the team its best chance to win. Tomlin is well below the line.

  5. How do the Steelers stand concerning tie breakers?

    • All that is needed for the Steelers to make the playoffs are the following: (1) beat the Browns (2) Jets beat Miami at Miami (3) KC beat San Diego at San Diego and (4) Bengals with nothing to play for beat Baltimore. So I guess we got a great chance to go to the playoff. -:)

      • Not so fast ghost!
        From ESPN:
        Some of that unfinished business includes finishing out the regular season with a perfect home record. The Bengals have a chance to do that next week when they host the Ravens in the regular season finale. In addition to giving them a win over a division rival, a victory over Baltimore would bounce the Ravens from the playoff picture. A win also could give Cincinnati a chance of boosting its playoff seeding. The Bengals currently sit at No. 3 in the AFC, but a loss by the Patriots next week could push the Bengals into the No. 2 spot and give them the coveted first-round bye.

        Back to Me:
        If the Ravens get in it will be the 6th seed. Only spot possible. The Bengals do not want to play the Ravens in the 1st round at PBS after losing to them in week 17. I for one am not concerned about that game. Kansas City is the team with nothing to play for.

      • I’m thinking the Jets won’t beat Miami in Miami.

    • If the Steelers win next week, and the Ravens, Dolphins and Chargers all lose, the Steelers would have the best conference record of the five and get the remaining wild card spot.

      • Don’t know why I said “of the FIVE.” Guess I had the Oakland Raiders on the brain. Another game against those 4-11 wonders is all it would take to remind us how uncompetitive we still really are. That or Aaron Rodgers instead of Matt Flynn, yesterday. Sorry to be the poop in the punch bowl. (But I’m really not. It’s always great to have an excuse to say “poop in the punch bowl.”

        • Why wouldn’t Miami’s head to head win here put them in?

          • Because it’s a five way tie and Miami loses other tie breakers with the other teams. Tie breakers are settled within the division first. The Jets beat Miami head to head twice and we beat Baltimore with a better division record. We then beat the Jets head to head and win some other tie breaker against San Diago.

  6. I know the Steeler coaches are paid a fair wage. Therefore I would hope there are at least a couple of them with a decently high IQ. But can anyone you tell me what in the h*** they were thinking about when the scored that last touchdown with1:25 left on the clock? Second down from the one with no Packer time outs left. If Ben just takes 2 plays to run 10 seconds off the clock and they take 34 seconds to get off the next two plays there is just enough time to kick that field goal. Maybe at best 5 to 10 seconds left on the clock. All that was needed was a squib kick to end the game. Did any of the media ask Tomlin about that stupid decision in the postgame interview?

    DK: If only there were an attached video on this very file, you might have an answer.

  7. And to you as well, Dejan. And to every other lunatic, lurker, troll, optimist and pessimist as well.

    And to Ebenezer Nutting, the Ghost of Steelers Past, and ~sigh~ ok, even to Tiny Thunder, too.

  8. Dejan……..

    Срећан Божић теби и твојој породици, Дејан! Хвала вам што сте нас сваки дан. Нека Нова година буде срећна због тебе, такође!

    Or, if I am bad with that, try this………….

    Srećan Božić tebi i tvojoj porodici , Dejan ! Hvala vam što ste nas svaki dan . NekaNova godina bude srećna zbog tebe , takođe !

    DK: Wow! That’s impressive. And no, the Cyrillic was just fine. That actually was the first alphabet I learned.

  9. JAL’s Snowbound Morning Links

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2RXzgQRrK28

    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

    Why Nick Kingham Would Be Too Much to Pay For Ike Davis
    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/12/why-nick-kingham-would-be-too-much-to-pay-for-ike-davis.html

    Winter Leagues: Starling Marte Returns To Lineup

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/12/winter-leagues-starling-marte-returns-to-lineup.html

    5 Bucs Dugout

    NL Central a non-factor in the free agent market

    http://www.bucsdugout.com/2013/12/23/5237690/nl-central-a-non-factor-in-the-free-agent-market

    6 Rumbunter

    Who Is No Longer on First Base

    http://rumbunter.com/2013/12/22/longer-first-base/

    Gregory Polanco Poised To Win Batting Crown

    http://rumbunter.com/2013/12/22/gregory-polanco-poised-win-batting-crown/

    7 City of Champions

    Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle named Sportsman of Year by Dapper Dan

    http://cityofchampionssports.com/2013/12/22/pittsburgh-pirates-clint-hurdle-named-sportsman-year-dapper-dan/

    8 Green Weenie

    12/22: Connie Mack, Matty Alou, Lee Mazzilli, Teke, Todd Ritchie, Dewey, Garrett Jones…

    http://oldbucs.blogspot.com/2013/12/1222-connie-mack-matty-alou-lee.html

    9 Rant Sports

    Pittsburgh Pirates’ Top Prospect Gregory Polanco Is Tearing Up Winter League Pitching

    http://www.rantsports.com/mlb/2013/12/22/pittsburgh-pirates-top-prospect-gregory-polanco-is-tearing-up-winter-league-pitching/

    10 Crave Online

    2013 Best Moments In Baseball

    http://www.craveonline.com/sports/articles/621725-2013-best-moments-in-baseball#/slide/1

  10. NEWSPAPERS and MAGAZINES and Other Media

    11 13 ABC Detroit

    Don Kelly to Receive 10th Man Award from the Detroit Baseball Society

    http://www.13abc.com/story/24285252/don-kelly-to-receive-10th-man-award-from-the-detroit-baseball-society

    12 Boston Globe

    Tom Glavine awaits deserved Hall call

    http://www.bostonglobe.com/sports/2013/12/22/sunball/F961ShfcCo23Hl7r9tm2PP/story.html

    13 CBS Sports

    Reports: Masahiro Tanaka decision to come during Christmas holiday?

    http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/eye-on-baseball/24384513/rumor-masahiro-tanaka-decision-to-come-during-christmas-holiday

    14 Grand Traverse Insider

    Spring Fever

    http://www.morningstarpublishing.com/articles/2013/12/22/grand_traverse_insider/sports/doc52b764ade39fc574131057.txt

    15 Cincinnati Enquirer

    Billy Hamilton at leadoff, center makes sense for Reds

    http://news.cincinnati.com/article/20131221/SPT04/312210040/Hamilton-at-leadoff-center-makes-sense-for-Reds

    16 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

    Hunt for first baseman may reach Young

    http://www.jsonline.com/sports/brewers/hunt-for-first-baseman-may-reach-young-b99167423z1-236491451.html

    17 Baseball Nation

    Predict the next time the Yankees will be awful

    http://www.baseballnation.com/2013/12/20/5229704/yankees-alex-rodriguez-payroll-luxury-tax-necromancy

    18 St Louis Post Gazette

    Bernie Bytes: Update on Cards’ rivals

    http://www.stltoday.com/sports/columns/bernie-miklasz/bernie-bytes-update-on-cards-rivals/article_b7a43966-e4a7-5caf-ae7b-f19f6faa447e.html

    SPORTS WEBSITES

    19 Baseball Prospectus

    Rangers Choose Choo

    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=22460

    20 Fangraphs

    The Angels Getting Better Without Getting Better

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/the-angels-getting-better-without-getting-better/

  11. Steelers Blogs

    21 Behind the Steel Curtain

    How the Steelers can get in the playoffs

    http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/2013/12/23/5237528/steelers-playoff-picture-week-17-nfl-scenarios-what-needs-to-happen

    Steelers vs. Packers final score: Pittsburgh hangs on for thrilling 38-31 win

    http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/2013/12/22/5236960/steelers-packers-final-score-recap-analysis-statistics

    22 Steelers Gab

    Steelers Overcome Not Only Packers But Awful Officials

    http://www.steelersgab.com/2013/12/23/steelers-overcome-not-only-packers-but-awful-officials/

    Soccer(football)

    23 MLS Soccer

    American Exports: Tim Howard helps preserve victory as Everton move into Champions League place

    http://www.mlssoccer.com/news/article/2013/12/22/american-exports-tim-howard-helps-preserve-victory-everton-move-champions-le

    24 World Soccer Daily

    World Soccer Team of the Year: Bayern Munich

    http://www.worldsoccer.com/features/world-soccer-team-of-the-year-bayern-munich

    PENGUIN BLOGS and NHL Links

    25 Pensburgh

    Pens Points Sunday: Candid (Crosby 24/7) Camera

    http://www.pensburgh.com/2013/12/22/5235348/pens-points-sunday-24-7

    Song: Snowbound Genesis

  12. “I harp on this”

    Just this?

  13. I’ll take the TD, only because special teams seem to be crazy the whole game. I understand 2 knees and a three. But I don’t think they expected a 70 yard kickoff return either…Im mean, if Tomlin elected to kick the FG and it was fumbled or missed, chances are some yinzers are calling him stupid for NOT taking the TD.

  14. Merry Christmas Dejan and to everyone on the blog. But I think it’s also important to note that today, December 23, is Festivus!

    So let the airing of grievances begin!

    DK: All of my grievances are with the Tigers’ bullpen.

  15. Merry Christmas all!

  16. Happy Holidays DK.

    I enjoyed your Tomlin video. Good stuff.

    And it will be interesting to hear what he says at his weekly press conference.
    I am all for going for a touchdown —and then having your special teams stop the opponent during the kick off.

    • I probably would have tried to run out the clock and then kicked the field but I have no problem with going for the touchdown there either.

      I really liked the fake punt and going for it on 4th and 1 calls. Way to go Coach Tomlin!

      • Didn’t Bell score on second down?

        If that is the case, maybe the should have taken the knee on 2nd down, try to run it in on 3rd – and if they didn’t get in kick the FG on 4th down.

        But I still like going for the TD. I’m not pleased with the kick coverage or defense.

        • It was second down.

        • My thinking is, if the other team allows you to score a TD there because they think it is their only chance maybe you should not be scoring a TD.

          Our kicker makes 90%+ of all FG, and 100% of XP. No brainer whatsoever.

          • I don’t know Jim. I think the weather and field conditions could make it a ‘brainer’.

            But I also saw a beat writer mention the possibility of a fumble by the running back.

            Maybe they should have just stayed home :-)

          • I had no problem with going for the TD there…remember, Mason Crosby’s blocked FG was a “gimmee” in the 3rd QTR as well. I had more of a problem with the kickoff not being squibbed. Hats off to Shamarko Thomas…great angle and great hustle to save the TD…

  17. Merry Christmas to all!

    Stuart

  18. I had an absolute blast at the game. Took my 6 year old daughter. It was her first professional sports event. (I don’t count the Brewers). She wore her snowpants and we had a great time. There is nothing like a good snow near Christmas to put everyone in a festive, happy mood. Very communal. I met several folks from Pittsburgh and they could not have been more kind. Good peoples you got there in Western Pa.

    It was so fun…the fake punt…the “football present” ….

    It’s anecdotal, I know, but nobody around me thought Tomlin should’ve kicked a field goal. Crosby had one blocked earlier for the Pack. Too much room for error in those conditions.

    • Sweet memories for you and your daughter!
      We had snow last week. It’s been in the 60′s here now for several days. now it’s all mud…
      ugh!

    • Great story about taking your daughter, Osh. I still recall taking my oldest to her first game, which was the Steelers at Cleveland on Dec. 24 the year they would later win their 5th Lombardi. Unfortunately, it was in the 50′s and sunny most of the day. Fortunateley, the Steelers won something like 40-0 and were off to the races toward a championship.

      She was about 7, and I was lucky enough to get a few seats in a local TV affiliate’s suite in Cleveland. The Browns were awful, and my daughter was all decked out in black and gold. I remember telling her over and over pre-game that we were guests and that everyone else would probably be Browns fans, so she had to be on her best behavior. That all went out the window when the Steelers got the big lead and she kept waving her Terrible Towel. It all worked out well, though. One of the guys there said, “Don’t worry about us. Let her have her fun. Our team stinks, anyway.” The Cleveland fans in that box were very gracious to us.

  19. Did anyone hear what Tomlin had to say why he didn’t just run down the clock on our final drive and then kick the field goal?

    I’m a big time Tomlin fan but he did drop the ball on that one.

  20. Here is the question I wanted a reporter to ask Ben Roethlisberger in the video:

    With your rosy cheeks and your puffy nose and thick full beard; Are you Santa Clause?

    Happy Holidays!

  21. I don’t get all the people saying they have no problem with getting the TD there. And the explanation that we might botch the kick doesn’t cut it for me. Have we missed an XP all year? That’s what a couple of kneel downs there basically would have amounted to.

    The coach allowed the kicker to kick a longer FG to end the half. Of course, we had to make that kick on 3rd down because of more botched clock management – his trademark, if you ask me.

    The coach also allowed a longer FG attempt a couple of plays earlier. It was not so dangerous at that point, apparently. They must only get dangerous from closer range.

    I would fee much better if he had just said, “You know what, we didn’t think to kneel down at the time but we’ll know for next time.” I don’t feel good that our coach actually thought it through and decided the best course of action was to give the ball back to a team his defense was not doing a very good job of stopping much of the day with 1:25 left.

    I just think it is a bigger deal than it seems most other people do. If the Packers had not so totally screwed up themselves in so many ways that game probably would have gone into OT. What if we had lost? Would people have the same opinion of the exact same decisions the coach made? What if this were a playoff game?

    I said last week that I give Coach Tomlin a lot of credit for the fact that this team has kept playing, kept fighting. I still stand by that. But that is part of his job – just like getting strategy right is part of his job. It is a very important part of his job.

    • Jim, you are 100% right.

    • I guess my counterpoint is, how accurate is Mason Crosby in field goal situations? Because the Steelers sure blocked the hell out of his field goal from basically the same spot.

      What if Suisham slips?

      What if the snap is low?

      Not saying I don’t think he screwed up. He did. I’m just saying, those aren’t outlandish scenarios on a snowy field.

      And part of me likes the idea of looking at the other team giving you the score and saying to the defense, “You see that? These guys gave up. They’re prey. They’re WEAK.” Maybe that fires them up.

      I still agree it was the wrong decision.

    • Didn’t Suisham miss a pair of gimme field goals in the game we most regret losing in California earlier this year? Go for the 7, kick it on 3rd or 4th down if you don’t score on 2nd.

    • Teams are not going all out to block an extra point like they are a game winning field goal. We just witnessed earlier in the game a blocked field goal from the same exact location on the field. I personally would have kicked the field goal with a few seconds left but really don’t see an issue with the other way of doing it.

      You can still lose in regulation if you kick the field goal with a blocked field goal returned or if you leave too much time on the clock for a kick off. Scoring a touchdown secures at least overtime. If your a coach and not a fan you pick the option that seems to have no chance of losing the game in regulation.

  22. Merry Christmas to all the Lunatics! It’s been a fun year on the blog.

  23. By the way, if kicking a field goal was so iffy yesterday – why didn’t everyone go for 2 after they scored TD’s ?

    • If the game was on the line at the time, maybe they would have Milo

      • Really too bad Ben overthrew AB in the end zone on that second down play in that same series. I wanted a running play there but wow, what a great play call, IMO.

        • Well, it was slippery and the conditions were very dangerous. :-)

          • If somebody said the conditions were dangerous I missed it. I thought the implication was that they were riskier than usual.

            • I was just kidding about the conditions being dangerous. If he really felt that short kick was so risky, though, he didn’t seem to show it moments before – or at any time prior during the game.

              One of my major beefs with Tomlin – and I will admit up front that it has some benefits at times – is that he will always go with the bravado play. What do I mean by that? “I trust my defense 100% to get the job done there.” So, even if the smart thing to do is run out the clock, you just dismiss your mistake and anyone criticizing you by saying your defense will get it done.

              Earlier in the week, on an unrelated matter, Tomlin had no earthly reason to basically give Eddie Lacy more incentive to play this game than he already had. But, he stupidly (in my opinion) poked the bear by saying it was an easy decision to choose Bell over Lacy. Why do that? Another false bravado move by Tomlin, in my opinion. If he wanted to fire Bell up, he could have privately worked on him all week, letting him know that all of the experts are saying Lacy is the best rookie RB. That would have gotten Bell fired up just fine. No need to stoke the fires for Lacy at all. Let the sleeping dog lie. Lacy seemed plenty motivated for the challenge yesterday.

              I have heard long time pro (and future Buc dad) Mark Schlereth say often on ESPN that he never liked coaches or other players getting his opponent more fired up to play against him than was necessary. His job was tough enough w/o them adding to it.

              I just think Tomlin’s ego has a way of getting the best of him in a lot of different situations. He doesn’t have to go out and play the game. Maybe he wouldn’t be so cocky if he did.

    • Have to agree with Milo and others on this. Coach Clock Management leaves practically a minute and a half. Oh well, we’re technically still in it. I doubt Cincy puts forth much effort against Baltimore though and SD has been hot.

  24. To clarify my stance, I’m all for scoring a TD there. On 3rd down after 2 knees. Then if you get stopped, you kick a field goal. A field goal at PAT distance. Suisham has made 137 PAT’s in a row.

    • But in the grand scheme of things, isn’t this why we watch ? I say this with Hurdle all the time, there’s no one right way.

      • But if Tomlin did things correctly yesterday, then we couldnt **** and moan on the blog today!!

        My bigger issue was with the refs yesterday, as it has been all season.
        Week in, week out, they are just awful.
        Cant wait to see the Super Bowl (in 2 feet of snow!!) be decided on a blown call. Then what would GODell do?

        • I’m sure it was described to death here yesterday. But, the refs actually caught that small illegal bat of the ball, but they did not catch the fact that it had been pitched back by a Steelers player who had possession? That was more than a bit bizarre.

          • Jim, keep in mind this isnt an isolated case.
            The refs across the league blow huge calls every week.

            I know the replacement refs were bad, but these guys are getting into that territory.

            If the refs are “graded” each week, and they possibly lose playoff assignments if they stink…………. this years Super Bowl will have no NFL refs! They may have to bring the replacements back to ref the game !

            Seriously, it is pretty bad.

            • If teams can lose draft picks and coaches are assessed $100k fines for stepping on the field accidentally, I sure hope refs are held accountable when the entire group misses something so obvious.

  25. Oh, I buried the lede. I saw Andrew McCutchen at Ross Park Mall late Saturday afternoon. I didn’t want to give him up so when I walked by him I just said “Hi Cutch”. He said “Merry Christmas”. I thought it was kinda cool. And the future Mrs. Cutch is beautiful.

  26. “I know I can be difficult at times.”

    Merry Christmas, you big lug. ;-)

    And Merry Christmas to all you loonies.

    And to all the FO’s and coaches/managers in town that we savage throughout the year.

  27. We have a lot to be thankful for this Christmas…
    The Buccos ended their 20 year streak and playoff drought.
    The Pens are one of hockey’s elite teams yet again.
    The Steelers are miraculously enough have an actual shot at the postseason.
    Big Ben has been healthy all year long.
    We have the greatest hockey player in the world playing for us.
    And we have the greatest Pittsburgh Pirate of all time in Andrew McCutchen.

  28. Let’s face it. The real injustice was Gregory Polanco losing out on the Dominican Winter League batting title on the last day, .333 to .331. The guy that beat him went 2-2 on the last day, and got pulled out of the lineup in the 6th. Must have had a bonus in his contract for winning the batting title there! Somewhere, Ted Williams rolled over in his grave.

    And, yes, I’m kidding about the importance of winning the DWL batting title. :-)

  29. Well said by everyone! Merry Christmas to all of you! I hope your time with friends and family is well spent over the holidays! I hope you are able to be as thankful for your lives as I am for mine at this wonderful time.

    I hope DK gets a $500 gift card from Starbucks. It would be well deserved for being the best writer in this town, and as good as any I have had the pleasure of reading in a long time from any time.

  30. First time poster…lonnnng time reader…Merry Christmas to you and yours Dejan. Keep up the great work.
    P.S. We may have literally run into each other way back in the day at the Electric Banana!

  31. Always love your blog and updates on sports in the ‘Burgh. Great coverage from Lambeau and all season long.

  32. Bruce Arians. That’s all. :)

  33. DK

    Merry Christmas to you and your family. As an unabashed fan of the written word, I appreciate the 4-5 (or more) gifts a week that you gave us all year. Thank you, and enjoy the heck out of that family during your time off. I know I will!

  34. Hi All.

    Happy Festivus all around and the blog is sure a good place for the airing of the grievances…

    I was watching yesterday through the NFL Red Zone and listening to Bill, Tunch and Wolf through SiriusXM…the whole blocked FG, illegal batting call still defies all logic to me, but it is what it is. I too thought the Steelers should have burned more time off the clock, especially since GB didn’t have any timeouts…kneel, kneel, FG? Sounds logical to me. Even a fall down, run play for TD attempt, FG….

    As soon as the kickoff after the TD was made – low, line drive, it didn’t look good. Glad Shamarko was there to save our bacon. Explanation after the game was typical Coach Tomlin. Didn’t really expect him to say anything else…but, can’t believe that they are still alive – really makes all the woulda, coulda, shoulda games early on stand out…

    On another note, how about those Pens! Still finding a way to get it done. Sid, Duper and Kunitz have been playing great, at one point Saturday, they were without Niskie and Olli! Yikes! No top 6 D-men left. They had Jossi and Dumoulin on point on the power play! Geez…Pens back in action tonight vs. the Sens.

    Enjoy your day all.

    Merry Christmas to all!
    Randy in RVA

  35. Merry Christmas to you and your family, Dejan, and a happy holiday season to all here on the blog, whatever you might be celebrating. I would be remiss if I did not ask all of you to take one moment to be thankful for the American service members around the world standing guard for you. Imagine for one moment what it is like to be the husband, wife or child of one of these people who are thousands of miles apart and in harms way during the holiday season. Then say a small prayer for their safety.

  36. Happy holidays and HO HO HO to all! :)

  37. I’m dreaming of a …. well, I guess a white Christmas is out of the question now, so instead I’ll take another victory by the juggernaut that is the Pittsburgh Penguins! My Flyer fan friends are hiding from me these days, and I love it.

    I had no problem with taking the td the Packers gave us yesterday. What I did have an issue with was kicking deep with anything but a squib kick on the kickoff. But, as was said above, second guesses are why we exist.

    A joyous Christmas to all, and thoughts and prayers indeed for those who serve the nation far from their loved ones right now!

    • Oh, and I’m feeling Wild about Brandie’s new job prospects! Write the new chapter, muppet!

    • Merry Christmas Wild One!

      • You too, Jandy, and with that kiddo as your avatar, how could you have anything else?

        • :D Lookin forward to seeing her Wednesday

          • I assume you are going to spoil her rotten!

            • Not quite, really. I try not to go overboard, because her Father’s side of the family does that…and my daughter and son-in-law have a small house with no place to put a lot of “stuff”. I bought her a doll, and a matching outfit for HER to wear (matches the doll’s dress), and a couple “small” things. But I put $$ in a savings account for her every holiday and birthday. I give her my undivided attention when she’s at our house. She’s allowed to play with all my unbreakable collectibles (Coca-Cola and Penguins) when she comes. I’d say that’s spoiled, though :)

  38. Merry Christmas! And may the Pirates make it to a World Series next year, May the Pens win the Stanley Cup, May the Steelers go onto and win the Superbowl, and may Pitt win the Pizza Bowl on the 26th! And, hopefully, I’m not asking for too much, and may you all have a Happy New Year!

  39. Nice effort by the Ravens yesterday! Chance to put a headlock on a Wild Card slot. What was the fina? 41-7 loss at home?

    Same for the Bears. All of my local buddies were saying they hoped my team didn’t lay an egg when they needed our help in Green Bay. So, the Steelers found a way on the Frozen Tundra. And, the Bears only lost 54-11 to the Eagles. Guess they didn’t hold up their end of the deal.

  40. Merry Christmas to you, Dejan, and your family as well.

    Merry Christmas to all you and yours, Loonies.

    Merry Christmas to the Tigers bullpen.

    No one sings “automat” like Sinatra

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s1PpgbtIO3w Old Fashioned

    One of my favorite Christmas songs. Oh, to play the guitar like Buck!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1XdnA2DVp5M Buck Owens

    Just love the French accent here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNDy4dlZRJ0 Maurice

    Buon Natale, everyone!!!

  41. Saw the speculation about O’Brien on web sites and on this blog yesterday. Have to say I’d really be distressed if he leaves for the pros right now. Not that he doesn’t have every right to. But he seems to me like a guy who finishes what he starts, and the rebuilding of the PSU program is not done yet.

    Everyone keeps writing that pro coaching is the pinnacle of the coaching profession, and I’m not sure I agree with that. Sure, you make the most money there. But you can teach and develop young adults so much more at the college level, and a lot more of them over time. I guess it all boils down to what floats your boat the most. I hope O’Brien stays.

  42. More on Gregory Polanco’s DWL season: Although he lost the batting title by a slim .002 margin, he won the MVP and Rookie of the Year of the DWL. The GM of the Escogido team, Moises Alou, said that for Polanco to bat 3rd and accomplish what he did for the best team in the league at 22 is remarkable. Polanco had a slash line of .331/.428/.922, and led the league in runs scored (28), hits (55/166) and OPS. He had 10 doubles, 1 triple, 5 HR, 28 RBI, 28 walks – and spent a good portion of the season battling the flu and a stomach virus, as well as missing time with personal family issues.

    With the regular season concluded, the DWL playoffs start on Friday. Starling Marte is a teammate of Polanco’s. The winner of the DWL playoffs will compete against the best teams from the Mexico, Puerto Rico and Venezuela winter leagues.

    Thanks to John Dreker of Pirates Prospects for providing the info.

  43. Just to add a lil spice to the festive atmosphere today here’s the Team Canada squad I would take:

    Chris Kunitz-Sidney Crosby-Steven Stamkos
    Corey Perry-Ryan Getzlaf-James Neal
    Matt Duchene-Jonathan Toews-John Tavares
    Logan Couture-Joe Thornton-Patrick Marleau

    extras/short list: Patrice Bergeron, Eric Staal,Taylor Hall,Jordan Eberle, Michael Richards,Patrick Sharp

    Duncan Keith-Shea Weber
    Marc-Édouard Vlasic-Drew Doughty
    Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo
    Brent Seabrook-Pk Subban

    Corey Crawford
    MAF
    Mike Smith
    Roberto Luongo

    Stay tuned for Team USA :)

  44. First Merry Xmas to all -

    Don’t get to post as much as I like, there is this work thingy,,, but read (lurk) a lot. This is far and away the best blog I’ve come across, as a expatriate living in Texas and chasing drillings rigs around the Panhandle.

    Some thoughts:

    Mike Tomlin is not a perfect coach, but still a damn good one. He IS a leader of men, similar to, but different than both Noll and Cowher. I would guess at least 20 teams would immediately fire their coach to hire him. That being said, I competely agree with hiring a situation specialist to be in his ear, when the heat is on. Anybody who has been on a sideline knows how chaotic it can be.

    Who woulda thunk week 17 was going to be significant after 0-4. An objective observer (as compared to passionate fan) was more disappointed than surprised and not ready to fire everyone on Halloween, given all the issues surrounding the team. Best complement I can give them is …. They didn’t quit, yesterday’s game was a microcosm of the whole season.

    Both Haley and Lebeau will be back next season, unless they don’t want to.

    I really is okay if Bell AND Lacy both end up being great backs. Like both, happy with our guy. I think he has a more complete tool box and will likely last longer. Yesterday he really flashed Eddie George talent, always respected that guy, really gave the Steelers fits against some pretty good D’s.

    Glad someone above pointed out that material to that final KO return, was a low linedrive kick. The returner was past the ten yard line, at full speed, before the coverage was even on the screen.

    The NFL officiating is getting worse not better. This was one situation that would argue for “central control” of calls like these – similar to the NHL.

    Speaking of which, looking forward to the decisions that the Pen’s make when guys start coming back of off th injury list. Should be interesting.

    Saw an interesting stat, re: the Pen’s latest win streak. In the past, it generally happened in March…suggesting that an underlying factor in the post season COULD be that they peaked too early in some cases. I also am not sure that the HC can control “when” a team peaks.

    Pittsburgh sports fans are incredibly lucky and have been for about 40 years. Not only great sports teams with iconic players and coaches, but also tremendous broadcasters, journalists and sports writers that inhance the experience.

    Cheers!

  45. Gonna check out for a few hours. Jandy, Jim, John, Brandy, NMR, Monster, Plan, Drewpy Dog — Everyone, have a great even upon the Eve.

  46. Is this the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl thread ?

  47. Von Miller out for the season. Are the Pats the favorite to win the AFC?

  48. The Rays have claimed Jerry Sands. Merry Christmas to us all !

  49. Tampa Bay Rays claimed Jerry Sands off of waivers.

  50. Huge “if” here but if Steelers make the playoffs, I do believe Pittsburgh will be the only city that had all of its professional franchises make the postseason in their respective seasons.

  51. Dallas opened a 2.5 point favorite. It’s now moved to Philly -7. A 9.5 point move on news of one guy.

  52. Dejan,

    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and yours!

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