Tag Archive | "Pittsburgh Steelers"

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 28: Michael Vick  of the Philadelphia Eagles in action against the Minnesota Vikings at Lincoln Financial Field on December 26, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

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Did President Obama call Steve Bisciotti?

Posted on 30 December 2010 by Rex Snider

This weekend, the National Football League wraps up the regular season and enters the “elimination round” for determining the next Super Bowl Champion. Indeed, this is the most exciting time on many sports lover’s calendars.

Heck, we’ve already enjoyed a pretty entertaining and, at times, surprising slate of action across the NFL’s universe. All of us have been right, all of us have been wrong, and most of us have been simply shocked on more than a couple occasions …..

The Kansas City Chiefs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Chicago Bears have served as the most recent examples of fortunes changing for the better in just one season …..

At the same time, the Dallas Cowboys, Cincinnati Bengals and Minnesota Vikings have proven that NOTHING is ever guaranteed …..

And, to the chagrin of many observers, the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers have proven, once again, that dismissing their reputation and stability as major factors in overcoming injuries and depth issues is a foolish proposition …..

Indeed, the upcoming postseason will be representative of surprising entries, as well as the most dependable late season finishers. But, this is a reality of every playoff picture, right?

In addition to team results, individual performances have also been a major part of the game’s lure, in this 2010 season …..

Once again, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have lived up to reputations of being the best players in the game. Donovan McNabb was predictably snake-bitten by the Redskins dysfunction. And, as expected, Ray Lewis rattled off another Pro-Bowl caliber effort.

As for surprises, who really expected a long haired Clay Matthews to join the ranks of the most feared players in the game? Did any of us really know much about Arian Foster, just six months ago? Alas, did we expect Michael Vick to ever contend for another MVP award?

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 28: Michael Vick  of the Philadelphia Eagles in action against the Minnesota Vikings at Lincoln Financial Field on December 26, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Pleasant surprise performances are always a nice way of wrapping up a season and looking ahead to the future. But, unfortunately, these same surprising players can and will be exploited for the gains of others.

We shouldn’t be surprised to be seeing entourages of hawkers latching onto the NFL’s hottest, new or “reborn” commodities. Yet, to see the President Of The United States doing it is pretty disappointing …..

A few days ago, the world learned that President Obama called Philadelphia Eagles owner, Jeffrey Lurie, and commended him for giving Michael Vick a fresh opportunity, because “so many people who serve time never get a fair second chance.”

Fair enough, I suppose …..

But, if expressing such a humanistic approach to helping others and recognizing compassion is a mission during this holiday season, I do wonder if President Obama also used his trusty Blackberry to give Baltimore Ravens owner, Steve Bisciotti, a phone call with the same spirited message?

After all, Mr. Bisciotti has provided the very same effort for Donte’ Stallworth, right? A year ago, Stallworth had no clear indications of how or where he might be able to make a living. The Ravens have afforded him a “second chance”

Better yet, did President Obama spread a little more goodwill by gracing Cincinnati Bengals owner, Mike Brown, with such a spirited “attaboy !!!!” phone conversation? God knows Mr. Brown and the Bengals have doled out more second and third chances than Carmella Soprano and any girlfriend of Alex Rodriguez, combined.

Let’s not stop with football and current players, either …..

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Oct 16, 2010; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans coach Lane Kiffin gestures during the game against the California Golden Bears at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. USC defeated California 48-14. Photo via Newscom

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The “Controversial Sports Personalities” of 2010 …..

Posted on 16 December 2010 by Rex Snider

As we make our way into mid-December and the final weeks of the year, excitement starts to build with many people, young and old. From the anticipation (or stresses) of the holidays, to the culmination of another NFL season, many of us look forward to this part of our annual calendar.

In my own way, I look forward to this time of year, because I’m a “list” kinda guy …..

Be it BEST OF, WORST OF, MOST INTRIGUING, MOST OVERRATED, MOST POPULAR, MOST HATED and just about any related combination, I like compiling lists of my personal rankings regarding people and events of any given year.

Of course, my lists revolve around sports, in one context or another. From the famous to the infamous, and the champions to the chokers, I’ll give you the spin on how 2010 shakes out in my conflicted mind.

Today, we’ll begin with the “TEN MOST CONTROVERSIAL SPORTS PERSONALITIES OF THE YEAR” …..
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10) Lane Kiffin – The ultimate coaching mercenary, huh? Many of us were snookered into believing Kiffin was the sympathetic figure depicted in his dysfunctional ride with Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders. Little did we know his loyalties would tend to run as deep, or shallow, as his former boss …..

Oct 16, 2010; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans coach Lane Kiffin gestures during the game against the California Golden Bears at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. USC defeated California 48-14. Photo via Newscom

Earlier this year, Lane Kiffin deserted the University of Tennessee – the institution that gave him a second chance – on a whim to return to his coaching roots, at the University of Southern California. Kiffin garnered a lot of rightful criticism for switching jobs, midstream, while so many people, in Tennessee, depended on him.
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9) Cam Newton – Well, we all know this name, huh? Yet, a year ago at this time, only the hardcore college football fans really knew anything about Newton. Only in America …. can a sports personality rise from anonymity to celebrity, in the span of a few months.

NEW YORK - DECEMBER 11: 2010 Heisman Trophy candidate Cam Newton of the Auburn University Tigers speaks at a press conference at The New York Marriott Marquis on December 11, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

I suppose we should really be recognizing Cam’s father, Cecil, for being the “straw that stirred this combustible cocktail.” He obviously lobbied for money in exchange for his son’s services, and regardless of what the NCAA might be saying, most of us don’t really believe young Cam is blameless.

Hmmm …. how long will it take for him to surrender that trophy?

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PITTSBURGH - DECEMBER 12: Troy Polamalu  of the Pittsburgh Steelers intercepts a pass from Carson Palmer  of the Cincinnati Bengals during the game on December 12, 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

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Sunday’s NFL action provides a clear message; Ravens are still a top team

Posted on 13 December 2010 by Rex Snider

Well, I’m imagining most of us spent yesterday afternoon partaking in some similar Sunday rituals; gauging the competition around the National Football League, and collectively hoping the Cincinnati Bengals might find a way to upset our nemesis up in Pittsburgh.

In totality, the day offered some pretty daunting realities, both on and off the playing field …..

– Having a “trash bag” roof eventually proves to be a bad idea …..

– Tom Brady’s game is just as good on snow tires …..

– Rex Ryan’s Jets really are the NFL’s equivalent of the pro rasslin’ product …..

– While his comeback is pretty impressive, Mike Vick is NOT Tom Brady …..

– Brett Favre evidently owns a pretty sharp razor knife, and access to the dome’s roof …..

Indeed, yesterday was no ordinary Sunday around the NFL. The slate of games was less than impressive, as a large bulk of the contests were nothing more than mismatches. But, weather and interference by off-field personnel really provided some drama to what many of us perceived to be a day full of bad football.

Maybe, I’m being too harsh …..

Instances of occasional “bad football” at the pro level are generally a seldom-seen phenomenon, right? Of course, yesterday provided a few glaring examples of horrendous execution by teams vying for playoff position, as well as those playing out the string …..

– Graham Gano may very well find himself joining Jeff Reed in the unemployment line after missing an extra point and chip shot field goal, in the Redskins embarrassing loss against the Buccaneers …..

– Brodie Croyle and the Kansas City Chiefs mustered just 67 yards in total offense, while being shutout, 31-0, by the San Diego Chargers in a prime AFC-West showdown …..

– Mark Sanchez looked very much like the rookie from last season and the “clown” from HBO’s Hard Knocks, in the Jets second straight loss, which now tasks Gang-Green with trying to stem a late season collapse – on the road, in Pittsburgh, next week …..

– And, of course, speaking of the Steelers …. we must cite the “steaming stinker” Carson Palmer left on the newly sodded turf, at Heinz Field. Yesterday’s line for Palmer: 20 for 32, 178 yards & 2 touchdowns.

Not horrible, huh? Oh yeah, that’s right, those touchdown passes were both tossed into the waiting arms of Steelers defenders …..

PITTSBURGH - DECEMBER 12: Troy Polamalu  of the Pittsburgh Steelers intercepts a pass from Carson Palmer  of the Cincinnati Bengals during the game on December 12, 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Any chance of witnessing a ‘Bungals upset of the Steelers was lost amid predictable breakdowns and missed assignments. Welcome to the 2010 edition of the “Great Cincinnati Disaster”. While they punished Ben Roethlisberger early in the game and even broke out to a quick lead, the ‘Bungals looked very much like a certain black and orange baseball product.

Cincinnati’s string of consecutive losses now stands at TEN AND COUNTING. Given the knuckleheads on that roster, it might be a good idea for the networks to consider slotting this 2-11 team into a nationally televised contest or two.

Say what you will, I’ve got a feeling the ‘Bungals have a “meltdown moment”; a behemoth mutinous catastrophe on the field and I don’t wanna miss it !!!!

In summing up everything observed in yesterday’s NFL action, I’m developing some pretty distinct conclusions:

We are going to see one of the season-long contenders go down in bursting flames over the final few weeks of the regular season …..

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ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 11: Quarterback Matt Ryan  of the Atlanta Falcons converses with quarterback Joe Flacco  of the Baltimore Ravens after the Falcons 26-21 win at Georgia Dome on November 11, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

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Blog & Tackle: NFL one-liners through Week 13

Posted on 09 December 2010 by Chris Pika

The 2010 NFL season has reached the three-quarter mark, and like any good game on Sundays, it’s usually the fourth quarter that decides success or failure.

It’s a chance to take stock of each conference after 13 weeks and 12 games with one-liners on each of the teams. Below are some stats, observations and conjecture as we look ahead to the final four weeks.

First, here is a look at the AFC by divisions. Records are through Week 13:

AFC East

New England Patriots (10-2): Patriots have won last four, including huge win over the Jets to solidfy their claim as AFC’s best team behind conference-best (+110) scoring differential; road to AFC title will go through Gillette Stadium and coach Bill Belichick.

New York Jets (9-3): Despite 3-1 stretch, Jets went from potentially being in line to host AFC title game to very vulnerable after shredding of New York’s vaunted D by the Patriots.

Miami Dolphins (6-6): Dolphins continue to confound with 5-1 road mark, but 1-5 home record — that will be main reason they will not make playoffs as well as offensive woes (-23 point differential).

Buffalo Bills (2-10): Bills finally saw results after 0-8 start with two straight victories, but close loss to Steelers and blowout defeat to Vikings has slowed Buffalo’s progress.

AFC North

Pittsburgh Steelers (9-3): Steelers have grabbed choke-hold of AFC North after winning the war in Baltimore last week behind QB Ben Roethlisberger and stout defense; now Pittsburgh could host AFC Divisional Playoff at always-tough Heinz Field.

Baltimore Ravens (8-4): Only home loss of season so far to Steelers was costly as Ravens may have three straight playoff games on the road instead of one or two home games; predicted high-production offense has gone cold at bad times.

Cleveland Browns (5-7): Cleveland continues to be a “tough out” thanks to solid running game behind RB Peyton Hillis; if they get QB (and maybe head coach) situation settled in offseason, could be 2011 team to watch in AFC.

Cincinnati Bengals (2-10): The wheels have completely come off the cart for one of the preseason favorites to win the division — nine-game losing streak may spell the end of the Marvin Lewis era in Cincinnati.

AFC South

Jacksonville Jaguars (7-5): Jaguars, after 3-1 stretch, find themselves on top in the division, despite worst point differential among all division leaders (-43) — only question is can they hold off slumping Colts?

Indianapolis Colts (6-6): Colts’ injuries have finally taken a toll; forget Peyton Manning for a moment, being in position of having to pass so much has allowed opponents to tee off in crucial situations — but Indy can still catch Jaguars for division title.

Houston Texans (5-7): Lack of strong starts have doomed Texans, 1-5 in their last six games — last chance for Houston (and maybe coach Gary Kubiak’s job) comes with Monday night visit by Ravens in Week 14.

Tennessee Titans (5-7): When you didn’t think anybody else could surpass Minnesota as NFL’s best soap opera, here comes the Titans; normally unflappable coach Jeff Fisher has had to deal with Vince Young, Randy Moss and owner Bud Adams in recent weeks.

AFC West

Kansas City Chiefs (8-4): Chiefs seem to have control of the division after a three-game win streak and perfect 6-0 home mark; can they hold off the Raiders and Chargers over the final four weeks?

Oakland Raiders (6-6): Progress has been slowed by 3-2 mark in last five games, but 4-0 division record could be factor if they get help before Week 17 showdown at traditional rival Chiefs.

San Diego Chargers (6-6): Amazing how one loss changes things after blowout defeat by Raiders last week that stopped four-game win streak; season on the line vs. Chiefs this week.

Denver Broncos (3-9): A three-game losing streak coupled with Spygate-like scandal in London finally cost Josh McDaniels his coaching job; Eric Studesville gets his audition but the supporting cast is not there.

And now for the NFC by divisions:

NFC East

ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 11: Quarterback Matt Ryan  of the Atlanta Falcons converses with quarterback Joe Flacco  of the Baltimore Ravens after the Falcons 26-21 win at Georgia Dome on November 11, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Philadelphia Eagles (8-4): The Eagles are tied for the division lead, but arguably have the NFC East’s toughest schedule left with two games vs. Dallas and one each against the Giants and Vikings — for what was originally expected to be a transition year, a lot is still on the table.

New York Giants (8-4): Giants are playing as well as any team in NFC right now, but head coach Tom Coughlin’s team must navigate Minnesota, Philadelphia and Green Bay the next three weeks to stay in the division and Wild Card mix.

Washington Redskins (5-7): The Redskins season has become a trainwreck as head coach Mike Shanahan has had to deal with several distractions, including DT Albert Haynesworth’s suspension for conduct detrimental; the Skins defense should be suspended as well, allowing the fifth-most points in the NFC.

Dallas Cowboys (4-8): The Cowboys have gotten off the deck to become a team no one wants to face down the stretch; Dallas could play spoiler in the NFC East and help Jason Garrett remove the interim coaching tag.

NFC North

Chicago Bears (9-3): The Bears have won five straight to hold the division lead by one game thanks to resurgent play by QB Jay Cutler and LB Brian Urlacher; Chicago has murderous final four weeks capped by Week 17 visit to Packers.

Green Bay Packers (8-4): Despite injuries, Packers are firmly in the playoff mix, but key Week 12 loss at Atlanta looms large as well as final three games against New England, Giants and Chicago — win those and Green Bay will have earned its postseason ticket.

Minnesota Vikings (5-7): A change in head coach to well-respected assistant Leslie Frazier has helped the mood in Minnesota, but the final four weeks will be all about Brett Favre’s literal limp to the finish of his career (I think).

Detroit Lions (2-10): Some of the strides made early in the season by the Lions have been erased by the current five-game losing streak; coach Jim Schwartz is still looking for consistent winning formula.

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons (10-2): The hottest team in the NFC with six straight wins, the Falcons may do something no Atlanta NFL team ever has — host the NFC Championship Game in January; but they have to get through Week 16 Monday Night game vs. Saints.

New Orleans Saints (9-3): The defending Super Bowl champions are playing like it for first time all season with a current five-game win streak as the Saints try to go stride-for-stride with the Falcons; back-to-back road contests at Baltimore and Atlanta in Weeks 15-16 are New Orleans’ key games.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5): The air has finally come out of the Buccaneers’ balloon with two straight losses, but Tampa Bay is just one game out of a Wild Card spot with favorable matchups in the next three weeks before Week 17 at Saints.

Carolina Panthers (1-11): The Panthers just want the season to be over, and the housecleaning will begin soon after starting with head coach John Fox; Panthers are a NFC-worst minus-153 in point differential.

NFC West

St. Louis Rams (6-6): The Rams have quietly put themselves in position to make the playoffs out of a weak NFC West, but don’t mistake St. Louis as a weak team — QB Sam Bradford is one of the league’s feel-good stories of 2010, and division could come down to Week 17 tilt at Seattle.

Seattle Seahawks (6-6): The Seahawks are in position to capture the NFC West, but head coach Pete Carroll’s squad still has worst point differential among NFC teams with a winning record (-49); Week 17 vs. St. Louis could be the decider.

San Francisco 49ers (4-8): San Francisco not officially dead in NFC West race, but last gasp could come this Sunday vs. Seattle; if they win, they still have games vs. St. Louis and Arizona — teams they have already beaten in 2010.

Arizona Cardinals (3-9): Cardinals have gone south for the winter as they have lost seven straight and hold NFC’s second-worst point difference (-138), but have three winnable games in final four weeks.

For up-to-date Tweets on the NFL and the Ravens, please follow me on Twitter (@BlogAndTackle). For more national NFL stories, please visit my personal site at BlogAndTackle.net.

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FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 06: Tom Brady  of the New England Patriots greets teammates during warms up against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium on December 6, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

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I hope the Ravens watched Monday Night Football …..

Posted on 07 December 2010 by Rex Snider

When I plopped down into my Lazy Boy recliner for last night’s showdown between the New England Patriots and New York Jets, I prepared myself for a second straight night of hard fought football between two hated rivals.

Yet, what I observed was an absolute dismantling of a team that has flirted with LOSING for the last six weeks …..

Last night, Rex Ryan and his Jets were “schooled” by the quarterback and coach who’ve served as their obsession in the AFC-East. To say it was a beatdown kinda falls short of the absolute mastery displayed by the Patriots.

I was not surprised to see the Jets lose the game, but I was absolutely stunned to see Mark Sanchez and company get their heads handed to them. They’ve played excruciatingly close contests with the Lions, Browns and Texans over the past month, and whispers of OVERRATED have been getting louder and louder.

I’ll humbly admit that seeing Rex Ryan and GANG GREEN suffering a one-sided loss was pretty satisfying. I really, really like Rex and I think his personality will ultimately lead him down the path of becoming our generation’s next “John Madden” personality.

But, I’ve still got the putrid, pompous taste of last summer’s HARD KNOCKS burned into my short term memory. Based solely on the swagger and ego of the Jets, I’ve wanted to see them throttled. Thus, I found last night’s result to be pretty pleasurable.

However, I think this game really served a greater purpose, especially for a team like the Baltimore Ravens …..

I hope those minds assembled within the Ravens offensive braintrust were watching the Patriots bludgeoning of their divisional rival. I don’t care where they were watching, so long as they got a good look at it.

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 06: Tom Brady  of the New England Patriots greets teammates during warms up against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium on December 6, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Why? It’s simple …. that’s how you kick another team’s ass !!!!

That’s how you find weaknesses and exploit them. That’s how you seize an early lead and methodically dissect an opposing defense, while ultimately forcing their offense to change its gameplan.

Call it what you will, the Patriots served up a blueprint for talented offenses around the National Football League …..

If you’re sitting back and thinking “well, the Patriots have Tom Brady,” that’s fine and certainly noteworthy, but the rest of their cast is arguably lesser talented than the playmakers comprising the Ravens offensive attack.

I’ll take Ray Rice and Willis McGahee over Ben Jarvis Green Ellis and Danny Woodhead ….

I’ll take Anquan Boldin, Derrick Mason and T.J. Houshmandzadeh over Wes Welker, Brandon Tate and Deion Branch ….

Admittedly, the Patriots probably have a stronger offensive line; they’re certainly healthier. But, Brady isn’t solely dependent upon pocket protection. He typically holds the ball for an incredibly brief second or two, before hitting one of his targets for a usual 5-8 yard gain on a quick route.

The Patriots are innovative, yet predictably methodical in their unveiling of a singular strategy that usually emphasizes on wounding a defense, before bleeding them to death over a stretch of 60 minutes.

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Pittsburgh Steelers

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You can sum up this loss in one word …. Roethlisberger

Posted on 06 December 2010 by Rex Snider

I considered putting my fingertips to the keyboard as soon as Joe Flacco threw that impressive “bounce pass” to Ed Dickson, with 37 precious seconds remaining in last night’s game. But, my 43 years on this earth have taught me to grab a collective breath, whenever I’m frustrated and/or distraught.

Perhaps, distraught is an overly dramatic way of describing my discontent …..

I didn’t have any problems sleeping and in the grand scheme of life’s peaks and valleys, an embarrassing loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, AGAIN, will not impact my overall happiness.

Yet, as I sit in front of my computer on the “morning after”, I’m prepared to impart my thoughts and regurgitate as many observations, as possible. Heck, I can think of a solid, dozen mind-scratching moments – but, one dominating reality overshadows all others …..

The better quarterback prevailed.

Aside from all the debate over attempting 49-yard field goals, untimely penalties and costly turnovers, the consistency of a guy who’s best described as a CHAMPION, led his team in the most important junctures of the game.

For the last six days, Baltimore’s football community has been salivating over the much rumored physical disabilities of Ben Roethlisberger. You name it …. sprained foot, glass jaw, broken toe …. our optimism was buoyed by an assumption the Steelers’ quarterback was going to show up and drag his right leg around like an anchor.

He proved every hater WRONG.

From making the most of broken plays to answering a near-knockout blow to the face, Roethlisberger lived up to his reputation; he’s a freakin’ winner.

Pittsburgh Steelers' quarterback Ben Roethlisberger talks to Baltimore Ravens' quarterback Joe Flacco after the Steelers defeated the Ravens 13-10 at M & T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on December 5, 2010. UPI/Kevin Dietsch Photo via Newscom

On the other side of the discussion, Joe Flacco had a steady, impressive performance through 3 quarters. But, his costly gaffes occurred at the most inopportune time of the game – the 4th quarter !!!!

In fairness, I can’t just arbitrarily blame that jarring fumble on Flacco. Troy Polamalu was untouched, as he nailed the Ravens quarterback from behind. It was the game changing moment, without a doubt.

Heck, I fully expected Leigh Anne Tuohy to call a timeout and march onto the field to give the boys a stern lecture on seeing “HER” when they protect the quarterback.

Polamalu simply provided the play of transition, while Roethlisberger seized it and delivered another game winning moment in the waning stages of a contest.

To put an honest perspective on the game, I think it’s quite fitting to simply suggest Ben Roethlisberger outplayed Joe Flacco in the most important stages. Of course, I’m really referring to the 2nd half, in general.

While numbers can be twisted and orchestrated for any particular argument, the blunt statistics of each quarterback’s performance in the final 30 minutes is pretty daunting. After halftime, the numbers look like this …..

Flacco : 8-19, 87 yards, 0 TD, 1 Fumble

Roethlisberger : 13-19, 161 yards, 1 TD

It is what it is, right? Regardless of injuries, vulnerabilities and misfortune, Roethlisberger outperformed Flacco when the game mattered most. For me, the staunch reality of past championships and dominance in big games was pretty telling …..

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7 Jan 2001:  Derrick Mason #85 of the Tennessee Titans is tackled by Rod Woodson #26 of the Baltimore Ravens during the Ravens v Titans AFC Playoff game at Adelphia Coliseum in Nashville, Tennessee. The Titans lost to the Ravens 24-10. Mandatory Credit: Andy Lyons/ALLSPORT

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A Friday Football Frenzy … with Rod Woodson and Peter King

Posted on 03 December 2010 by Rex Snider

Are you pumped up for this Sunday’s showdown between the Ravens and Steelers? Well, WNST will provide even more excitement as we present a star-studded FRIDAY FOOTBALL FRENZY …..

As always, I’ll be joined by Nestor, as we take a closeup view of the NFL’s best and most intense rivalry. We’ll be checking in with our friends at FoxSports/105.3, in Pittsburgh, for the latest injury news on Ben Roethlisberger.

But, given the importance of STEELERS WEEK, we’re also breaking out some high profile, rockstar guests …..

At 245pm, we’ll chat with NFL Hall Of Famer and former Ravens/Steelers All Pro, Rod Woodson, about the magnitude of this rivalry. Rod has witnessed this grudge match from both perspectives and he’ll lend his insight into this current matchup.

7 Jan 2001:  Derrick Mason #85 of the Tennessee Titans is tackled by Rod Woodson #26 of the Baltimore Ravens during the Ravens v Titans AFC Playoff game at Adelphia Coliseum in Nashville, Tennessee. The Titans lost to the Ravens 24-10. Mandatory Credit: Andy Lyons/ALLSPORT

Of course, Sunday night’s game is on NBC …..

So, it’s only fitting that we spend a few minutes with NBC’s Sunday Night Football personality, Mr. Peter King …..

Jul 13, 2009; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Peter King at NFL 101/201 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Photo via Newscom

As everyone knows, Peter is one of the most respected minds in sports media. He’ll give us his take on Flacco vs. Roethlisberger and other keys to the game.

We’ll have plenty of time for callers, at (410) 481-1570 or you can email me – rex@wnst.net

The show kicks off at 2pm …..

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ORCHARD PARK, NY - NOVEMBER 28: James Harrison  of the Pittsburgh Steelers rises after hitting Ryan Fitzpatrick of the Buffalo Bills during their game at Ralph Wilson Stadium on November 28, 2010 in Orchard Park, New York. Harrison was flagged for roughing the passer during the play. (Photo by Karl Walter/Getty Images)

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Can the Ravens count on James Harrison and his bag of blunders?

Posted on 02 December 2010 by Rex Snider

As the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for their prime time showdown, on Sunday evening, some interesting storylines are beginning to unfold …..

Will the Ravens finally beat Ben Roethlisberger in a meaningful game?

Will the Steelers be able to stave off a plethora of injuries and retake the AFC-North lead?

Can Joe Flacco drive a second straight stake through the collective hearts of every RAT-FINK Baltimorean who calls this town home, yet they root for the Steelers?

Can both teams live up to the hype surrounding the National Football League’s most riveting rivalry of the past decade?

We’re gonna find out in just three days.

Yet, amid all the hoopla and anticipation that accompanies a Baltimore vs. Pittsburgh matchup, another factor or storyline is emerging …..

Can James Harrison finally start abiding by the NFL’s newest policies, as they regard the defender’s helmet in tackling?

ORCHARD PARK, NY - NOVEMBER 28: James Harrison  of the Pittsburgh Steelers rises after hitting Ryan Fitzpatrick of the Buffalo Bills during their game at Ralph Wilson Stadium on November 28, 2010 in Orchard Park, New York. Harrison was flagged for roughing the passer during the play. (Photo by Karl Walter/Getty Images)

I don’t like the new rules …..

You don’t like the new rules …..

Most players, with exception to quarterbacks, don’t like the new rules …..

But, opposition and dissent will not change things. The new rules are firm and if players cannot abide by them, they’ll fork over cash, as a result.

While I don’t particularly care for these changes, especially considering the hard-hitting nature of football, I absolutely understand the NFL’s mission. They’re obligated to protect the players from themselves, and their equally obliged to protect the league from future lawsuits.

Our sports society is well aware of the NFL’s mission to address concussions and subsequent brain injuries. A vast number of former players serve as prime examples of the detrimental effects concussions can have on life AFTER FOOTBALL.

Technological advances have discovered a correlation between brain injuries and dementia. And, the NFL is under the spotlight when it comes to dissection of this health concern.

It’s really only a matter of time until a former player sues the league over a perceived negligence, as it relates to rule changes or measures taken to prevent brain injuries from occurring.

Sure, it’s quite easy for us to bemoan the new rules, while proclaiming …. “THIS AIN’T FOOTBALL.” Heck, we’re right in our assessment. But, we’re not the ones who’ll be defending our respective livelihood when the lawsuits start trickling into the NFL’s offices.

That’s the spirit of the new rules …..

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BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 28: Carnell Williams  and Earnest Graham  of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers huddle with teammates before the game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on November 28, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens defeated the Buccaneers 17-10. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)

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Tampa Bay lived up to their reputation …..

Posted on 29 November 2010 by Rex Snider

For the last week, I’ve been standing beside the one consistent trait that really describes the Tampa Bay Buccaneers success in this 2010 season.

And we know exactly what it is …..

THEY BEAT BAD TEAMS & THEY LOSE TO GOOD TEAMS

Yesterday, was just the latest example of the Bucs’ predictability …..

But, if we’re being completely honest, Tampa Bay was never closer than a touchdown away from tying the game, after the first few minutes of the 2nd quarter.

They played “catch up” nearly all day.

That’s exactly how they played against the Steelers and Saints, earlier this year. And, if you want to mention the closely fought game, in Atlanta, just remember they’re a divisional rival.

I’m not beating up on the Buccaneers; they’re a young, opportunistic team. Raheem Morris has them subscribing to an obvious TEAM-FIRST mentality and they’re thriving on his enthusiastic approach.

BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 28: Carnell Williams  and Earnest Graham  of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers huddle with teammates before the game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on November 28, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens defeated the Buccaneers 17-10. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)

That said, they win the games against bad opponents, while losing against the better ones.

That’s the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

But, let’s also give due credit to the team that stood on the opposite side of the field, during yesterday’s game …..

I don’t wanna hear “the Bucs beat themselves.” If you want to see an example of a team beating itself, simply watch the highlights from Buffalo, yesterday.

The Ravens did not necessarily dominate the Buccaneers, but they absolutely played a much cleaner, efficient game. Penalties and moving the ball when it mattered most, were crucial to the final result.

Aside from 3rd down frustrations and an ill-timed Joe Flacco interception, the Ravens performed a rather methodic dissection of a lesser talented and disciplined team.

The Bucs never really had an answer for Derrick Mason and clear communication breakdowns existed on big plays to Todd Heap and TJ Houshmandzadeh. Once again, such liabilities are indicative young, inexperienced franchises.

Could things have gone differently? Was the game ever really in question? Nah …..

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Blog & Tackle: NFL labor wars

Posted on 20 November 2010 by Chris Pika

In this version of “Stories you may have missed…”, I take a look at six pieces written in the last week that you should file away until the labor negotiations between the NFL and the NFLPA begin in earnest sometime after the start of 2011.

There will be a lot of posturing between now and then, but some of the key issues are starting to get attention in interesting ways.

First up, the 18-game schedule proposed by the league, and counterproposed by the NFLPA late October. There has been a lot of discussion on this point because of the amount of injuries that occur over the course of the current 16-game schedule, and how much or little offseason workouts or bye weeks the new agreement will have.

FOXSports.com’s Alex Marvez broke down the breakdowns on each NFL roster at midseason, and with the recent emphasis on player safety rules, adding to the amount of regular-season games is getting a lot of backlash from players and the media.

In “Injuries are becoming more common“, Marvez writes:

“But as it stands now, a 16-game docket seems rough enough. Dating back to the offseason, NFL teams have already placed 34 more players on injured reserve through 10 weeks (311) than at this point last year (277). The final numbers will assuredly be the highest since the NFL began playing with 32 teams in 2002.”

Of the five teams Marvez lists as “On Life Support”, three are playoff contenders: Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and San Diego. All five clubs in his “Intensive Care” section – Baltimore, Green Bay, Miami, New York Giants and St. Louis – are in the playoff mix.

One of the senior writers who covers the NFL, Clark Judge of CBSSports.com, says that current and former players should be involved in how discipline for hits on the field should be judged.

In his “Simple fix for NFL’s tough hits problem: Listen to players“, Judge writes:

“Look, I don’t care whether you agree with players’ complaints or not, but you can’t deny there are a lot of people out there who don’t understand what passes for good, clean, aggressive tackling anymore. So make them understand.

How? I thought you’d never ask. Assemble a panel that includes more than just members of the NFL officiating and operations offices. In essence, do what Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu suggests and include current and former players in the review process. Then maybe, just maybe, we start getting somewhere.

First of all, you’d have players join league officials in formulating a clear and consistent message. Second, you’d make a conciliatory gesture that could have repercussions in current and upcoming labor talks. I mean, if more players believed they were being heard by the NFL then maybe more players would be receptive to what the league had to say.”

Earlier this week, the NFL Players Association held a conference call with labor/union/issue bloggers to discuss the state of the negotiations between the league and the players’ association.

George Atallah, the NFLPA’s assistant executive director and NFLPA President Kevin Mawae made the presentation.

The full transcript, available, on NFLLockout.com (a site put together by the NFLPA), goes over the recent talking points. Atallah, in his opening remarks said this:

“We consider things like health and safety, employee work place issues, financial transparency, all of the things that come up in everyday conversations in businesses across America are the same conversations that we’re having on a daily basis. It’s gotten to the point now where we’re 107 days away from the expiration of the CBA and while we continue to talk with the league about the possible fair deals, and things of that nature, we still believe a lockout is coming, unfortunately. It’s gotten to the point now where we as a union, as players, and as fans, frankly, need to do everything we can to prevent it.”

Mawae, on the impact of a lockout on the community at large in NFL cites, said:

“What I’ve found out is our players are heavily involved and they’re very educated on our issues. I think that’s been one of our key initiatives over the last four years is to get our players up-to-date and educated on everything that’s happening in collective bargaining. They’ve done that. Some of the biggest concerns are the fact that we won’t play, that we won’t have a job, that our players won’t have a job next year when it’s time to kick-off to 2011 season. Another concern is what does it do to all the personnel that make an NFL game happen? That includes the stadium workers, the police officers that provide support and security, concession workers and the community as a whole, not just a national but in every NFL city. Those are real concerns for the players.”

As a point of emphasis, the league has their own web site where the NFL’s views on the state of the negotiations are posted: www.NFLLabor.com.

One of the NFL owners, the Dolphins’ Stephen Ross, was a featured speaker at this week’s Sports Business Journal’s Sports Media & Technology conference in New York. His remarks at the event made news in the labor wars, and might give some insight into how some of his fellow owners feel about where the game is going.

A blog on the South Florida Sun Sentinel by Sarah Talalay, “Dolphins owner talks NFL expansion, labor and the Super Bowl” gave some insight into Ross’ remarks, especially on expansion into Los Angeles or the move of a current NFL team into that market or internationally:

“On expansion: Ross said he believe there needs to be a team in Los Angeles, and perhaps two to make the economics a stadium there work.

“I think it’s important to the NFL to have a team in Los Angeles, you have the second largest media market in the country,” Ross said. “The question is how you pay for a stadium. There’s no money available for the stadium and the cost will be over $1 billion.”

Beyond LA, Ross suggests Toronto as a market to potentially land the Buffalo Bills.”

Ross also made several remarks about the proposed 18-game schedule that caught the attention of the NFLPA. From Talalay’s story, “Dolphins’ Ross still believes team can make playoffs“, this nugget:

“The additional games, the studies show will not really increase injuries,” Ross said. “We’re still playing 20 games, we’re eliminating two preseason games and adding two regular-season games, which is really what helps with the revenues, and make the fans a lot happier and those games will be a lot more meaningful. But in terms of the players, they’re still playing 20 games.”

And almost immediately, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith pointed out that Ross had lost two quarterbacks in the same game last week due to injury. The league defended Ross in statements from NFL spokesman Greg Aiello, repeated in this post from NFLLabor.com.

“‘Mr. Ross made basic factual points that have been made repeatedly — that we are not proposing to add to the current 20-game season and that the overall injury rate per game remains consistent,’ said Aiello. ‘DeMaurice Smith knows very well that the health and safety issues of converting to the proposed 18-2 season are being addressed with the union in a comprehensive way encompassing the year-found football calendar …”

As the regular season stretches into the final six weeks, there will be more reporting on these subjects. What you have read above will all play into a final agreement, whenever that is reached. And depending on who you believe, that agreement could come quickly, or NFL fans could miss on several weeks of the 2011 season.

Stay tuned …

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