´ Steel Curtain Rising: June 2011

Who gets the game ball for the Steelers win over the Texans?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Super Bowl XLVI: Steelers Fate?

Superstitions. They’re part of life, part of sports. Sometimes they can be direct. A favorite one of mine is: “Read Bob Labriola’s column in the Steelers Digest the Saturday before the game, and the Steelers win. Wait till Sunday and they lose.”

Then there are the indirect ones.

I plead guilty to the later count too.

Back in the late 80’s I once wasted the requisite oxygen to annunciate that Bubby Brister was destined to be a star quarterback because “Like Terry Bradshaw, his last name ended in a ‘B.’ Like Terry Bradshaw he’s from Louisiana and played college ball at in Louisiana. And Terry’s number had been 12, the younger Cajun was 6….”

Or something like that.

I guess part of that was right. One could charitably argue that Brister was indeed half the quarterback that Bradshaw was…

Although the rational, Masters degree educated, side of me screams against paying heed to superstition, you’d better believe that I read Labrolia’s column on Saturday.

The ones that are more grounded in coincidence or happenstance mainly serve for amusement, but I’ve gotta tell you, today I am recommending a good one.

Steelers Destined for Super Bowl XLVI?

The stars are aligned for the Steelers to take Super Bowl XLVI.

Forget about the verbiage about how “A veteran team is posed to take care of business in wake of the lock out.”

No, my man Tony Defeo from Behind the Steel Curtain offers a far more compelling string of circumstances.

When I first saw the headline to his article, I was ready to fire off a missive chiding him for jinxing us. (Yeah, you know kind of reprimand you level at the wise guy in your group of Steelers buddies who open worries about “what color jerseys will we wear in the Super Bowl?” in the week leading up to the AFC Championship.)

But jinx be dammed , this is one article that is worth the read. (God, if only La Toalla Terrible had thought of this!)

Regular Steel Curtain Rising readers know that go at great pains to avoid stealing another writer’s thunder, and I will do so again here. But do take time out to read Defeo’s article, because it’s a hoot!

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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Roethlisberger's Foot Injury More Serious than Reported, Surgery Was a Possibility

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s broken foot was so bad that late last season there were times when he did not think he’d be able to walk, and he even considered surgery as an option.

In an interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune Review’s Scott Brown, Roethlisberger dropped another bomb:
If it continues to be as painful as it was at the end of last year, then I'm going to probably have to have the surgery.

In the locker room Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is known as somewhat of a drama queen when it comes to injuries. So perhaps the latest Roethlisberger revelation should be taken with a grain of salt.

Still, the prospect of losing Ben to a mid-season foot operation is not encouraging.

Perhaps, however, the lockout has provided one positive spin off benefit – it has given Roethlisberger time to heal.
It's doing really good. [sic] It's healed up. Obviously, it helps when I'm not cutting and planting and doing all of these different activities. It's really come a long way.

Tribute to the Tribune Review

While a certain unnamed Tribune Review columnist has been a frequent focus of the Watch Tower, kudos go out to Scott Brown for getting this information on the record.

Roethlisberger’s been available to the media because of a youth football camp he is sponsoring, and the Post-Gazette’s Ray Fittipaldo took advantage and wrote a story about the Steelers “stealth” off season workouts. Yet, Fittipaldo got no information in the injury. ESPN did a newswire story which referenced the Tribune Review’s.

This is not the first time Scott Brown has out-hustled his rivals at the larger Post-Gazette, nor is it likely to be the last.

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Friday, June 17, 2011

Mike Tomlin: Class Act

The expressions “Mike Tomlin” and “Class Act” have collocated since the day he took the helm at the South Side.

Tomlin calls it as he sees it, pull no punches, and makes no excuses.

That spirit was on display during Super Bowl XLV when he pointedly refused to chalk Pittsburgh’s defeat up to the Steelers own failings, opting instead to give all the credit to Green Bay. Class Act all the way.

Tomlin is again proving it this off season.

He’s hosting a football camp for youth.

NFL personalities holding football camps for youth is nothing new. But Tomlin’s comes with a twist.

There is no charge and it is directed at kids who otherwise might not be able to attend.

Tomlin explains to the Post Gazette’s Ray Fittipaldo that when he was a child, he could never afford such camps. Tomlin is changing that this summer for 225 youths who in shoes where he once stood.

My parents could, and did, send me to camps when I was growing up whenever I wanted to go. I had those opportunities. Lot’s of other kids didn’t and still don’t.

Mike Tomin his doing his part to change that, and Steel Curtain Rising salutes him for it.

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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Watch Tower: Troy Polamalu Overrated? Yeah, Right.

Tory Polamalu is not finding much love in the peanut gallery these days.

The Reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year recently found himself on the blunt end of some pretty harsh criticism of two members of the national media. Let’s dissect these arguments.

Polamalu “Over Rated”?

CBS Sports Pete Prisco went so far as to label Troy Polamalu as the league’s “most overrated player.” He further explained:
He was selected as the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year in 2010 -- an award I couldn't figure out -- and then disappeared in the playoffs, even getting trucked by Ray Rice of the Ravens in the playoffs.

He was a spinning top in the Super Bowl, trying to cover Packers receivers and instead watched them rip off big gains and two touchdowns on his watch.

The Packers exposed the reason I think Polamalu is overrated. He isn't great in coverage and the NFL is now a cover game. [Emphasis added]
Ok, let’s attack Prisco’s points on Polamalu in order.

He can’t understand Polamalu’s Defensive Player of the year award? Really?

All he did was make game-changing plays in contests against Atlanta, Buffalo, and Baltimore. His play-making ability also ensured that the Steelers struck blood early and dominated rivals Cincinnati and Cleveland.

  • OK, both teams were terrible in 2010, but these were both crucial, must win division contests in December. That’s when underrated players fold.
Let’s not forget the red zone interception that Polamalu made against the Raiders, which slammed the door on any possible comeback in a game where the officials seemed determined to penalize the Steelers for sneezing, let alone hitting, too hard.

As for the Ray Rice comment, having watched the play again, give Rice (and the entire Ravens offense) credit for an incredible play. Polamalu appears to have simply miss judged the angle on his hit. Not to excuse him, but hardly an error that negates the rest of his accomplishments.

Polamalu's Performance in the 2010 Playoffs

Polamalu took some criticism for not making a dramatic play against Baltimore but, as Joe Starkey pointed out, Joe Flacco only passed for 125 yards in that game, didn't complete a pass longer than 16 yards, and his top two receivers had zero catches for zero yards.

That only occurs if good things are happening in the secondary. And good things do not happen in the Steelers secondary if Polamalu's plays poorly.

  • It is true that Polamalu was not up to par in the AFC Championship and the Super Bowl, but he was playing with an Achilles injury.
The argument that a player is overrated if his level drops off in post-season is both a valid and one which Mike Wallace perhaps needs/may need to answer.

But has Prisco forgotten what a healthy Polamalu can do in the playoffs? Perhaps, so let’s remind him:

Yeah, now you were telling me that Polamalu was overrated?

49 Players Ahead of Number 43?

Sports Illustrated columnist Peter King has been issuing his own list of the NFL’s top 100 players, and he only rated Troy Polamalu at number 50 (while also questioning another ranking that put Ben Roethlisberger at 41.

King explains his low rating of Polamalu this way:

Here's why I put the reigning defensive player of the year where I did: This list is not based entirely on how a player played in 2010, or where his current body of work places him today. It also includes how a player will play in 2011 and the future. The past is important for establishing greatness, and Polamalu has certainly been a great strong safety. But what is he now? I'm not sure. He's missed 13 games due to injury in the last two seasons. He was mostly invisible in the Steelers' run to the Super Bowl last season.
I take issue with King’s comment that Polamalu was “invisible in the Steelers run the Super Bowl” for the reason below.

Beating the Ravens in December in Baltimore was most certainly an integral part of the Steelers run the Super Bowl.

Beyond that, I am unable argue to vigorously against the rest of King’s charge.

  • Troy Polamalu is one of the greatest players in the game today – when healthy.
  • Given what he does, the way he does it, and when he does it, it I argue that Troy Polamalu has the mark of an all-time great – when healthy.
If you think the later comment is an overstatement, think again.

One of the strongest arguments in favor of Lynn Swann’s enshrinement in Canton during the 1990’s when Hall of Fame voters, including King, resisted his induction was that even 20 years after his retirement, fans would still marvel at an acrobatic catch and say “That was a Lynn Swann catch.”

  • 20 years from now, people are likely to look at incredible defensive plays and say, “That was a Troy Polamalu play.”
But with that said, King, sadly, may be right. Earlier this off season Tim Gleason of Behind the Steel Curtain aka “Mary Rose” compared Polamalu to a European sports car – best car on the highway – when not in the shop.

Polamalu’s explosive play is taking its toll on his body.

With 8 seasons under his belt Polamalu is unlikely have the type of 14 season career that other great safeties like Ronnie Lott or Donnie Shell had.

But Steel Curtain Rising certainly hopes that Polamalu has a couple of three more years of peak performance left in him.

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Sunday, June 5, 2011

John Henry Johnson 1929-2011

Former Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame Running back John Henry Johnson has passed away. Johnson, who played for the Steelers, Lions, Oilers and San Francisco 49ers died yesterday at his home in Tracy, California at age 81.

Johnson played for the Steelers from 1960 to 1965 under coaches Ray Parker and Mike Nixon.

Although Johnson's tenure with the Steelers was "short" he retired as the franchise's all time leading rusher, and his record stood until broken by Franco Harris during the Steelers 1976 season.

Since that time rushers such as Merril Hoge, Frank Pollard, Tim Worley, Earnest Jackson, Tim Hoak, Barry Foster, Erric Pegram, and Rockey Blier have come and gone, but John Henry Johnson still holds the number four spot in the franchise's record book.

Johnson was elected to the NFL Hall of Fame in 1987, sharing the stage with Steelers great Mean Joe Greene.

More About John Henry Johnson and What He Meant to the Steelers

John Henry Johnson came "before my time." For years he was little more than a name in the team's media guide. However, that has changed recently due in large part to the efforts of Ed Gleason, aka "Mary Rose" from Behind the Steel Curtain.

Gleason wrote about John Henry Johnson in a very moving father's day piece written a few years back, which you can read here. He also wrote extensively about Johnson's role in one of the pre-Chuck Noll Steelers few bright moments of glory, their 1964 upset of the Cleveland Browns.

Gleason counts the Browns game as one of the Steelers greatest non-Super Bowl victories, and if you have not read that piece yet, you should do so now.

From Black to Gold, also written by Gleason, contains even more information on John Henry Johnson.

Suffice to say, Steel Curtain Rising wishes John Henry Johnson's survivors the very best and offers our deepest condolences.

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