The Steelers' offensive line has been a travesty all year. If it doesn't improve by season's end, the team needs to take a hard look at the players involved, not to mention what’s being taught and who's teaching it. Players of pedigree shouldn't take this long to come good regardless of how young they are.
More immediately, the Steelers might face a tough lineup decision for Sunday's visit to Oakland.
RT Marcus Gilbert was injured and couldn't play vs. Baltimore. Guy Whimper took his place and did well, limiting Ravens' pass-rushing specialist Elvis Dumervil to just a half-sack and minimal pressure. Whimper played better than Gilbert had been.
If both are available at Oakland, who starts? Vote, please, in the poll at left.
I'd start Whimper. Gilbert = dog. A central figure in the Steelers' no-ring mafia. All bark and no bite. Crap attitude. A good bet to wind up a bust.
Gilbert is a second-round pick, Whimper a journeyman. But if the Steelers are serious about getting back in the playoff picture after starting 0-4, they must play the best players. It's not about development, not yet. It's about keeping QB Ben Roethlisberger clean. Whimper did that against Baltimore. Gilbert is a turnstile.
The Steelers' O-line is a joke. It played its best game of the season against Baltimore with a first-round pick injured, a second-round pick injured and a second-round pick benched. Minimal talents manned the tackles. A waiver-wire pickup played center. What an indictment of recent drafts and personnel decisions.
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A win is a win is a win, especially against your big rival.
But the Steelers' 19-16 victory over Baltimore was a strange one:
*Baltimore Coach John Harbaugh's ill-advised on-side kick decision gifted the Steelers a fourth-quarter field goal. The Steelers once again waged a war of field goals, kicking four and winning on a last-play 42-yarder by Shaun Suisham. It's tough to win games three points at a time in the NFL, but the Ravens played the Steelers' way.
*The Steelers' defense allowed just 287 yards. But it got zero takeaways, just one sack, and allowed a game-tying fourth-quarter drive.
*Troy Polamalu's offside dive to try and stop Baltimore's game-tying extra point seemed ill-advised. But most kickoffs result in touchbacks and, even with the Ravens kicking five yards closer, Emmanuel Sanders was a shoe size away from a game-deciding kick-return TD. Who else was hoping he'd flip into the end zone?
*The Steelers are 2-0 since ping-pong, pool and shuffleboard were banned across the board. The veterans really do seem more focused.
*The Steelers' running game was solid: Le'Veon Bell, with 93 yards, more than doubled the output of his opposite number, Ray Rice. Ben Roethlisberger didn't have a ton to do on the game-winning drive – three-for-four, 31 yards – but he did it. But the Steelers' red-zone offense was unproductive and timid. Antonio Brown dropped a touchdown last week; Derek Moye dropped one this week.
*With Marcus Gilbert out, Guy Whimper did a good job at RT. Perhaps Whimper is better than Gilbert. Most tackles are. Whimper just needs a different last name. Football is a tough game. You can't be named "Whimper." But Whimper did fine against Ravens linebacker Elvis Dumervil, holding the pass-rush whiz to a half-sack.
*Antonio Brown made just six catches for 50 yards. But he made two catches for 24 yards on the final drive. That's worth celebrating.
*Roethlisberger was "only" sacked three times. By this season's standard, that seems like an easy day.
*Heath Miller fumbled. On bad teams, the reliable often mimic the unreliable.
*The Steelers must still be classified a bad team. At 2-4, they are not back in the AFC North race. Not with the Bengals at 5-2 and the Steelers having lost at Cincinnati. If they win at Oakland (possible), then at New England (unlikely), the Steelers are 4-4 AND THEY STILL HAVE TO KEEP WINNING. They don't score enough points, too readily settle for field goals and rarely make splash plays. But the Steelers are improving. So are certain individuals.
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North American hockey has nothing on the European version when it comes to idiotic violence. Witness perhaps the cheapest shot to the head in hockey history, executed by Grigory Panin on ex-Penguin Matt Murley in Russia's KHL:
But sometimes the law fights back. In this Swedish league game, a referee puts a player in a choke and he literally taps out:
Matt Cooke, meanwhile, wants everyone to reform just like him. What a laugh. Click HERE to read more.
Yours truly has two MAJOR entertainment options tonight. At Philadelphia (and on ROOT Sports): PENGUINS-FLYERS!
At Tangier in Akron, Ohio: UFO!
That's why God made DVRs. I will be TOO HOT TO HANDLE.
When it comes to celebration, how much is too much?
Quite reasonably, Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin wants no possibility of injury. Emmanuel Sanders did a flip into the end zone to celebrate his touchdown this past Sunday against the New York Jets. Le'Veon Bell did the same when he broke the plane vs. Minnesota in week 4.
Levi Brown couldn't even make it through his first warm-up as a Steeler. Brown is out for the year. Minimizing risk seems intelligent.
What Sanders and Bell did was ill-advised. Antonio Brown celebrating routine first downs like V-J day goes right past ill-advised to silly.
Merely handing the ball to the ref after scoring seems disingenuous, though. A subtle, different "look at me" – but a "look at me" all the same.
Perhaps the best thing to do is score a lot. Then, you can do whatever you want.
Terrell Owens acted like an ass after just about every touchdown. Posing on the Dallas star, yanking out a Sharpie to sign the ball, grabbing a cheerleader's pompoms – some of it was funny, some of it was stupid, some of it was insulting, and it was all gratuitous.
But Owens scored 153 receiving touchdowns. Third-most in NFL history.
Sanders has six career touchdowns, Brown nine. Brown's total does not include the touchdown he dropped against the Jets.
Juxtapose those meager stats with the fact that, despite the best efforts of the "Young Money Brothers," the Steelers are somehow 1-4.
Freedom of artistic impression duly noted, I'd feel better about whatever Broadway production Sanders and Brown next chose to choreograph if the Steelers weren’t buried in last place in the AFC North.
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