´ Steel Curtain Rising: Watch Tower: Scab Referee, '87 Strike, Todd Haley, and More...

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

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Watch Tower: Scab Referee, '87 Strike, Todd Haley, and More...

Steel Curtain Rising’s Watch Tower has been quiet for a while, mainly because there’s a lot going on in life. No issue has dominated the news as the replacement referees have, so that’s where the Watch Tower first shines its light.

AP, ESPN Ignore the 4th Time Out Awarded to Houston vs. the 1989 Steelers

Regular readers know that the 1989 Steelers are near and dear to Steel Curtain Rising. So what could they possibly have to do with the replacement refs?

Well, the biggest news flub early on by the scab refs was the 4th Time Out they awarded to Seattle in their loss to Arizona in week 1. However, the Associated Press article that ESPN ran was more problematic:  Refs Error in Arizona Third of its Kind.

ESPN Inaccurate on 4th Time Out

The article discusses the extra timeouts the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens got in 2003 and 2009 respectively. But to read the headline and story, those were the only times such errors occurred in NFL history.

It happened at least once before, on December 3rd 1989 in Three Rivers Stadium when the Houston Oilers got an extra time out on a touchdown drive in a Oilers 23-16 victory over the Steelers. Chuck Noll protested and fired off an apology letter to the league, which admitted the error, not that much could be done about it….

Seattle Seahawks Fans Can Shut Up Now

Of course the biggest news relating to the scab refs was the highway robbery in the form of a Seahawks touchdown instead of a Packers interception.

That blow call generated a lot of Sound and Fury (not to mention a quick agreement between the NFL and its officials), but no one had a more astute observation than my good friend Tony Defeo on “Pittsburgh Best Sports Blog” where he contrasted how Seahawks fans are fine with this blow call, but still whine about Super Bowl XL.

Is there a living soul in Steeler Nation who isn’t sick of hearing the Seahawk’s unending excuse making for losing Super Bowl XL? To listen to them, you’d think that Willie Parker’s 75 yard run came on a questionable call.

As Tony succinctly  concluded, “Seahawks fans need to be very quiet now.”

It’s mildly ironic that Defeo would make such an observation, because in early August, he wrote an excellent tongue and cheek article in Behind the Steel Curtain panning the possibility that scab refs could do much worse than the regular season refs by invoking the interception that Troy Polamalu had stolen from him in the 2005 AFC Divisional playoffs thanks to incompetent use of instant replay.

If you don’t remember the play, check it out here, but do it while you can (available 9/29/12). With the official lockout settled, Goodell now has the time to unleash his YouTube police:


Replacement Refs, What about Replacement Players?

Whether it was editorial coincidence or editorial competition, last Sunday the Post Gazette and Tribune Review featured dueling stories recounting the 1987 players strike.

Both articles were fairly general. Both pointed out that John Stallworth caught his 500th pass from a scab quarterback. Bouchette reminded us that the Steelers refunded tickets, unlike other teams, and that for a time admitted that their sellout record had been broken, although they claim otherwise today.

Robinson went further back, discussing both the ’87 and ’82 strike, and unearthed a story of Steve Courson and Gary Dunn hearing WTAE rebroadcast a Steelers game from a previous season while in the car, and racing back to Pittsburgh thinking a deal had been reached and that they were missing a game. My, how did we live without cell phones and the internet….

Both men wrote good stories, but both left one of the juiciest quotes on the table. It was Christmas time in 1987, and I was sitting with my father and grandfather in some second story waiting room in an office off of Brownsville Road in Carrick, thumbing through the year end edition of Pittsburgh Magazine, when I saw, if memory serves, this priceless gem:

“Yeah, Malone threw one too. But he missed.”

The caption read something on the order of, “A fan recounts striking Steelers pelting Ernest Jackson’s van with Jelly doughnuts as he cross the picket line.”

Mark Malone started all 12 of the 1987 Steelers non-strike games and finished the ’87 season with a 46.7 passer rating….

Haley Holds Court

No off season topic generated as much noise as the decision to fire Bruce Arians and replace him with Todd Haley. Haley returned to Pittsburgh with a checkered past and was known as one who often had trouble working and playing well with others.

The Steelers press office has taken a very proactive approach to diffusing the issue. In PG Plus, Ed Bouchette has lamented several times that under Mike Tomlin the Steelers have been reluctant to grant media access to assistant coaches.

That has not been the case this year. By all appearances, during training camp the press had free access to Todd Haley, and he’s been interviewed regularly since the season started.

While the Watch Tower certainly does not have the time to do any sort of formal count, one is not needed to see that Haley was quoted during training camp more often than Tomlin himself.

The big issue was how would Ben Roethlisberger and Haley co-exist. There’ve been a number of attempts to extrapolate on some of the things Roethlisberger has said to indicate tension. But so far the story has gained no traction.

Part of it is because Ben has immediately shot down such talk. But keeping Haley in front of the microphones also lends a ton of credibility to Roethlisberger’s denials.

It’s still early, but score one win for the Steelers PR team.

Carson Palmer Gets the Last Laugh

This had no impact on the game itself, but both the Post Gazette’s Blog and Gold and Behind the Steel Curtain ran profiles on Carson Palmer’s past, and often miserable, experience vs. the Steelers.

The Steelers play former players all of the time, but Palmer was a little different, in that he’s the first ex AFC North QB to face off against the Steelers in another division. And of course Palmer got the last laugh in the Raider’s victory.

Steelers Problems with Stringing Three Strong Seasons Together

Prior to the season, the media never tired of reminding Steeler Nation that the Steelers have trouble putting three strong seasons in a row. Steel Curtain Rising blasted already blasted this on the merits its preseason analysis.

Its understandable that the press would mention this recent tendency, but sometimes things go too far. Case in point, in his preseason predictions, Alan Robinson mentioned this tendency twice in his 5 arguments against the Steelers winning the Super Bowl.

Ben No Longer a Game Closer? + Timmons Troubles

No one is a better come from behind artist than Ben Roethlisberger, right?

Dale Lolley points out that Ben Roethlisberger failed to rally the Steelers against Oakand, and that in the last two seasons, he’s only done that once.

While I think this is more of a coincidence than anything else, Lolley’s the first person in the Pittsburgh press corps to make this observation, and it is a story that bears watching.

Lolley also came up with some interesting stats on Lawrence Timmons.
[Woodley] was still better than Timmons, who had three tackles. In fact, after recording seven sacks and four forced fumbles in 2009, Timmons has five sacks and two forced fumbles - in the past two-plus seasons.
That hurts. Do numbers lie?

Not exactly, but for all of his splash plays in 2009, Timmons was inconsistent. In contrast, he played extremely well in 2010, even if he lacked the “Splash” plays.

However, Lolley is dead on in concluding that right now the Steelers aren’t getting their money’s worth out of Timmons.

Thanks for visiting. To read more analysis of the media that cover the Steelers, click here to read more from Steel Curtain Rising's Watch Tower.

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