--What To Expect from the Second Half Steelers-----------------------------------------------------------------------------By Jared Kanter
--What To Expect from the Second Half Steelers-----------------------------
------------------------------------------------By Jared Kanter------------------------------------------------
There are those within Steelers Nation that have already summed this season up to a loss. “The team sucks, our defense is broken, our rookie quarterback needs replaced, our offensive coordinator should be working at an IHOP.” While it is true, heading into the bye week at 2-6 is far from ideal, there is a lot of football yet to be played. Call me an optimist but I feel strongly as though these fans will see a new team post bye-week.
Allow me to begin by adding a little context to our 2-6 record. The season started with a defensive statement. Holding the reigning AFC champions to 20 total points and forcing 5 turnovers showed us what the recipe for success looks like. Unfortunately, in the winning effort the Steelers lost the most valuable player on their team…arguably the most valuable player on any team. All of a sudden, our 115-million-dollar defense was a 85 million dollar defense.
Halfway through the season at this point we are more capable of effective retrospection that I have seen Steeler Nation enact. We have played 5 of the top 8 defenses in the NFL through this point in the year with a rookie quarter back under center for 4 of them. Our opposition thus far has a cumulative record of 43-26. The Steelers defense spends the most time on the field of any franchise’s unit due to lack of offensive possession time. They have been EXAUSED in every contest and still managed to keep it a single possession game in 4 of their 6 losses. As crazy as it sounds on the surface, the Steelers so far this season have been 2 or 3 sustained drives away from a 5-3 record!
A question worth posing is, if TJ had been active for the first half of this season do you think he would have made a 3-point difference in the game vs. the Pats? Or a 1 touchdown difference vs. the Browns? How about a 4-point difference against the jets or a 6-point difference against the Dolphins? I personally would answer yes to each of those and am of the belief that the Steelers might be the best 2-6 team that has ever existed!
Coming out of this week 9 bye I am of a strong belief that this team will surprise you. They are coming out much healthier than they have been. Not only is TJ looking to make his return, but Damontae Kazee will be back, Ogunjobi will be back, Najee will be another week removed from his foot injury, etc. The secondary has seen more injury than any other unit and they are finally looking to be full force in this return to action against the Saints. If these guys can stay on the field, then I think it’s reasonable for Steelers fans to expect a resurgence against a MUCH more forgiving 2nd half of the year schedule. Our remaining opponents have a cumulative record of 28-41-1. There is not a team remaining that I don’t think the Steelers stand a chance against.
The keys to this success, if they are to find it, are going to be…
Not surprisingly, success in the second half of this year will be contingent on Kenny Pickett’s ability to progress as a player and as a leader. He has shown flashes of greatness on more than one occasion. These flashes will become more and more consistent as he adjusts to the dramatically increased speed and complexity of the NFL. There is a human aspect to this game that is frequently neglected. It’s not easy to enter an NFL locker room as a 24-year-old kid and take command immediately. The continuity, trust, and unity that teams like the Buffalo Bills and the Philadelphia Eagles possess is conjured over the course of years on the battlefield together. It is important to remember that the Steelers are one of the youngest teams in the NFL right now and a lot of our guys have only known each other for a year or two.
I think the Steelers will finish this season with an even record, give or take a game. We, as fans need to stop hoping for a playoff berth and stop hoping for a top 3 pick because neither of those things are going to happen. Take a deep breath, sit back, and quit it with the wins and losses for a minute. Use this season to enjoy the progression of your eventual franchise quarterback and observe as the team develops the battle scars that will fuel them for years to come.
It’s also important to remember that not only is this the Pittsburgh Steeler’s first rebuild focused year with a youthful quarterback in multiple decades, but it is Mike Tomlins first time as well! As long as he has been the team’s leader they’ve had a clear identity. When he joined in 2007, he had the best defense in the league, a hall of fame running back in Jerome Bettis, Big Ben, and a clear formula for victory. There isn’t one Steelers fan out there that would argue the fact the Tomlin is an impressive football mind so let’s bear with him a little bit! There is a learning curve to this just like there is in anything else.
Key Take Aways From The Steelers 1st Preseason Game ----------------------------
---------------------------------------------------- By, Jared Kanter -----------------------------------------------------
There was a lot to be excited about for Steelers Nation at the conclusion of Saturday’s preseason contest. The exhibition match gave fans a window into what their Matt Canada led offense might look like with a more mobile passer under center and provided an opportunity to observe their highly touted draft class in game-speed action. Here are what I consider to be the key takeaways from our first look at the 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers:
Improvement Within The Offensive Line
It is no secret that last year’s offensive line was a primary factor in the team’s underwhelming offensive performance. A productive run game has stood atop coach Mike Tomlin’s list of priorities for as long as he has led the team. Prior to the campaign’s start last year it felt as though the question had been answered with the acquisition of elite talent Najee Harris, but veteran departures within the offensive line left an already questionable unit desperate for young talent. In 2021 the Steeler’s front 5 ranked 32nd in the NFL and allowed its running back to be contacted at or behind the line of scrimmage on 42% of carries. Revamping this unit was clearly a point of emphasis for the front office through the execution of this past off-season. The acquisition of veteran center Mason Cole and 4-year starting guard James Daniels serves to solidify the interior line play and reaffirm an experienced presence within the unit. While these acquisitions look to fill a need at their respective positions, it is also the front office’s hope that they might facilitate the growth of last year’s draft picks Kendrick Green and Dan Moore Jr. Strides in the right direction appear to have been taken as the Steelers did manage 185 yards on the ground at a 6.85 per rush clip in their preseason opener. The unit’s pass protection, however, still left a lot to be desired as it mirrored a multitude of the same breakdowns we became privy to throughout the 2021 season. It is important to remember that effective offensive line play requires familiarity and trust to exist between those in the unit. It is very much so a process and this collection of guys have only recently been acquainted so it is fair to say that the Steelers are still early in this process. The squad has plenty of reps remaining prior to the start of the season to conjure the familiarity and trust necessary to address these prevalent shortcomings. The success we witnessed in the run game should serve as an encouraging step in the right direction.
A Legitimate Competition At Quarterback
It has been a long time since the Steelers found themselves in need of transparency at the quarterback position. For as long as most Steelers fans can remember it has been #7 under center. As the offense enters it’s first legitimate rebuild in almost 2 decades, the roster welcomes Mitch Trubisky and rookie Kenny Pickett into the folds. Both young and eager to prove themselves an asset on the turf, we witnessed a determination under center that we haven’t seen in a preseason contest since Ben took the job in 2004. Both registered an impressive performance. Trubisky’s reps were limited to the first quarter but we saw him confidently take the 1st team down the field and score an opening drive touchdown. He would finish with 63 yards on 4 of 7 passing. The team’s only familiar name at the position, Mason Rudolph, would then take over and do the same. On 15 attempts he was capable of accumulating 93 yards of offense and threw a perfectly placed 26-yard touchdown pass to outstanding rookie George Pickens in the back of the endzone. Finally, Kenny Pickett would enter the game. The Steelers invested serious draft capital to acquire this young man under the assumption that he would one day exist as the new face of their franchise. His 20th overall selection marks the first time since 1997 that the Steelers drafted a quarterback in the first round. His play on Saturday suggests that this investment may have very well been worth the capital. He finished the game with 95 yards through the air and 2 touchdowns, including a game winning drive that had Steelers fans in attendance on their feet. He completed 13 of his 15 pass attempts and earned a QBR of 132.6 which is the highest ever achieved by a rookie in their first NFL game. He looked confident in the pocket but didn’t hesitate to escape when necessary. He displayed a mobility that has been lacking from the Steelers offense for some time now, moving the chains with his legs on more than one occasion. The performance earned praise from his head coach, his teammates, and the fan base which is as much as you can hope for in a preseason debut. While the development should without a doubt be encouraging, Steelers fans should take a deep breath, a step back, and recognize that while he did look impressive, he has a long road ahead prior to being trusted with the leadership of an NFL offense. Instead of calling for Pickett’s immediate promotion, Steelers Nation should be content in the fact that they appear to have 3 competent quarterbacks, all with a legitimate chance of winning the job and filling the sizeable shoes left behind by Steelers great Ben Roethlisberger.
The Pittsburgh Steelers boast the most expensive defensive unit in the NFL. Our coaching staff and front office have always been strong believers in the fact that it is defense that wins championships and for that to be true this season, there are holes that needed filled. The signing of Myles Jack looks to be a strong move as he thoroughly impressed in his first action as a Steeler. He stood out in pass coverage and never failed to oblige his assignment. Devin Bush on the other hand, still appears to be answerless in his attempts to right the ship after a subpar 2021 season. There was more than one occasion that he appeared flat-footed, indecisive, and impatient. These instances ended up costing the team yardage on the ground and suggest that the 2nd MLB position is very much so up for grabs. The first team defense was absent a lot of star power with no appearances from TJ Watt, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Cam Heyward, and a multitude of other name within the front 7. This did not stop the unit from holding the Seahawks to 3 points through the majority of the first half. Standout performances from 2nd level players like Myles, Arthur Maulet, Tre Norwood, and more suggest that the Steeler’s hefty investment in the defensive side of the ball may end up coming to fruition. It goes without saying that more will be revealed as the preseason continues and hopefully we get to see the entirety of our defensive unit out there together.
Outstanding Rookie Class
Strong contributions were made by this year’s draft class. 2nd round pick George Pickens continues to live up to the hype, catching 3 balls for 43 yards and a touchdown. He displayed effective route running on the first reception of the game and phenomenal body control on a toe-drag sideline catch. He topped the showing off with an incredible back right corner touchdown reception from Mason Rudolph in the second quarter. Pro Football Focus gave this ball at 9.9% chance at being caught and the young receiver made it look easy. While fellow rookie Calvin Austin didn’t make an appearance on Saturday, the reports out of camp on him are encouraging as well. 3rd round pick DeMarvin Leal impressed in his limited work too. He managed to effectively fill gaps on the defensive line and left the game with 2 tackles. Connor Heyward showed some versatility in effective blocking as well as a pair of receptions for 24 yards. Youth and the energy that youth brings is just as important to a football team as the experience and calm minded grit that the veterans provide. This Steelers team appears to have an effective balance of the two.
Joe Moore & Bill Fralic-How Blessed Were We?
Buddy Morris, the famed Pitt weight strength coach, penned a letter to the Pitt Panther team as we headed into the 1984 off season. I still have it. Buddy quotes Arnold Schwarzenegger from the movie, Conan the Barbarian.
The tribes wizard asks of Conan, “Conan, what is best in life?”
Conan replies, “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you. And to hear the lamentation of their women.” Buddy urged us to work hard during the off season and, like Conan, prepare for battle.
This was the mentality of our Pitt football team back then. Years have passed now since then. My hair is gray and my body broken. But not I realize that we had our own wizard in Coach Joe Moore and our own Conan in “Bull” Fralic.
Coach Moore is a legend among offensive linemen. To this day in Mt. Lebanon annually is the Joe Moore O-Line Camp. Young O-Lineman come to learn from the games best past and present. They come to pass on what Coach Moore had taught them so many years ago.
“The Joe Moore Award” annually recognizes the nations best college offensive line unit. The unit that best displays toughness, effort, teamwork, consistency, technique and “finishing” is bestowed with the award.
He coached at Upper St. Clair, PITT and Notre Dame to name a few.
All of that is his legacy and how he is honed and remembered to this day, even though he left us in 2003.
To say Coach was loved by his players is an understatement. Adored, revered, and honored. When God himself made the mold for what a football Coach should be, he formed it after Joe Moore.
I first remember him from Jackie Sherrill's Football Camp when I was in 8th grade. And then Coach Fazio's Football Camps. Coach Moore stands out to this day. What I learned from Joe Moore over my high school years helped me earn All-Conference honors at Latrobe and become team MVP in 1983.
To this day, even though I'm old and gray and broken, I can still “punch block” and contain most men my age. Coach Moore taught me that. As he did to many.
By the time I was a scrub team inside linebacker playing for Coach Fazio, Coach Moore had molded men in his image and sent them onto the pro's. Men like Jimbo Covert and Mark May to name a few. I used to keep Mark May's picture from PITT in my high school locker. I was a PITT man all the way.
He looked like the living embodiment of , “The Grinch”. He would watch and study, watch and study. His mind was always going, you knew that by just watching him. He knew a football player when he saw one.
Then with his ever present cigarette dangling from his mouth, he would bark like a Drill Sargent. You have certainly seen, “Full Metal Jacket”.
R. Lee Ermy, as Gunnery Sgt. Hartman, screams his commands at his would be Marines. Always with a funny, salty side dish of humor on top like a cherry.
If you combine the looks of “The Grinch” and the booming, funny voice of Gunnery Sgt. Hartman, you now have a image of Coach Joe Moore in your mind.
He'd chide, motivate and correct each player, like a Swiss watch maker. Tinkering to get the very best out of his men. Oh, he was funny too when he wanted to be.
He wouldn't limit his remarks to his offensive lineman either. Anyone on the field was open game to a Coach Moore ribbing. And God forbid if he decided to ramp up the defense that was going against his O-Line. Then a battle would rage.
Coach Moore loved each and everyone of his players, as if they were his sons. Sure he'd scream and demand your best on the field. But off the field, he was a kind, gentle, and loving man.
He was the one I went too and talked too when I left PITT and decided to join the U.S. Army. He and Coach Andy Urbanic, Fralic's high school coach, were two of the best and nicest Coach's I ever had.
College football wasn't working out for me. You eventually realize that there are bigger, stronger, and faster animals out there. They too were “All-Something” in high school. I wanted to always Coach football, and I figured I'd learn from the best at PITT. But the best laid plans of mice and men and time goes on.
God has a funny sense of humor. He had bestowed upon the PITT football team the man who in time would be recognized as the “Greatest Offensive Line Coach of All Time” in Joe Moore.
Why not give Coach Moore the “Greatest College Offensive Lineman to have Ever Played the Game” named Bill “Bull” Fralic to Coach?
When God made the mold for what an Offensive Lineman should be, look like and act like, he made Bill Fralic.
He stood 6'5 and weighed 280lbs of pure, raw muscle. His helmet barely fit onto his head and neck. When Coach Moore preached about finishing the block, Fralic listened, understood, and executed.
You simply can not understand how quick, fast and strong Fralic was. Intense? My God he was the definition of Intensity.
When Coach Fazio passed away I had Bill call into my tv show on WBGN TV. Buc Bucowski and Joey Felitsky both came into the studio that night and we talked about PITT and fond memories of another nice man, Coach Foge Fazio.
Afterward we met up with Fralic and some other's at Cipionio's Cigar bar in the strip district. I told “Bull” the story of my very first play at PITT.
We were at Edinboro College for fall Camp.
I was playing scrub team right inside linebacker. Ironhead had forced me out at any chance at Fullback. Across from me was #79. I thought nothing of it. As I looked into the backfield, our new running back, Ironhead Hayward, was looking right at the hole.
I knew where the ball was going. And as soon as the ball was snapped I took off. I was two yards into the backfield and had Ironhead dead to rights in my sights.
Wow, this was easy. As I went in to make the tackle, my head suddenly snapped and turned a complete 180 degrees behind me. A massive hand was on my face mask.
Before I knew what had happened. Fralic had his knee in my chest and somehow was slamming my head like a bobble head doll off the dirt of the field.
I will never forget his face inches from mine. If you were to combine an angry Rottweiler and the Devil himself, this is what I saw through my face mask. The picture in this story should give you an idea of what I was dealing with.
As “Bull” screamed at me, “Don't ever do that again!” I was useless the rest of practice.
As I told this story to “Bull”, he laughed and said I don't remember doing that.
I was nothing, a nobody at PITT. Men like Fralic, Doleman, Benson, Ironhead, John Congemi, Randy Dixon and so many more who played professional football after their career's at PITT, now they were football players.
People ask me, “What position did you play at PITT?” I always make the joke that I played “left bench”. There was the water cooler, the Panther mascot and then me on the bench # 00.
I told that to “Bull” that night as well. The greatest offensive lineman to ever play the game looked at me and said, “Hey, Tank. You took the hits. You were on the team.”
You can not understand how impactful, meaningful and important those worlds will forever be to me. If you know me you know that I really don't give a damn what people think of me, unless I respect them for who they are.
The 1980's were filled with movies with fake tough guys, Arnold, Stallone, Calude Van Dammne, Bruce Willis.
Bill "Bull" Fralic was the real deal action super star! If you locked all of those guys in a room, and threw away the key. Let me ask you, who do you think is going to walk out that door in the end?
Bill Fralic was one of the nicest men off the field as well. There's an old saying, “Money doesn't make a man, it unmasks a man.”
When Bill Fralic's face mask was removed, we saw the soul of the man.
He was kind, caring, compassionate, and giving of both his time and money. He was as smart as he was talented on a football field too.
I'd like to think that these two kind, caring and compassionate men are now reunited in football heaven.
“Come on Fralic, you're dogging it!”, I can hear Coach Moore scream.
“Bull” would just smile that sheepish, wicked, smile of his from underneath his helmet and then explode off the line of scrimmage and plant his man into the turf.
God would then turn to Coach Fazio and say, “I'm proud of those men.”
Maybe, when I get there someday, they will let me play too. Somebody has to hold the blocking dummy!
There's an old story, a sports writer asks a Coach, "Coach, when will you know if you have a good team?"
The Coach replies, "In about twenty years."
Meaning, men like Coach Joe Moore, not only teach us how to be better football players, if we as players are lucky, they have taught us valuable lessons on how to "Play Life".
Far too many of my friends from that team have left us now.
“Ironhead” was one of the funniest people I ever met. We shared the same weird sense of humor. Our skit at training camp at Edinboro consisted of “Iron” putting me into two large plastic bags, tying the top and I tried to escape. Chuckie Scales our talented widereciver, played the piano for dramatic effect. I failed to escape. The lack of applause to out little act was deafening!
“Buc” just passed too this year. Like “Bull” he was a gentle soul in a big mans body.
Joey Felitsky, well Joe left behind a young family and many, many friends.
Tony Brown played right beside Fralic and also went on to the NFL. Tony at left guard and “Bull” at left tackle. I was tasked daily of having to line up across from them, and in a vein, attempt to try and get to John Congemi or tackle Ironhead. And I'd pray that Bill Wallace wasn't going try and break my ribs with a crack back block from his wideout position.
In our day, we played football. In our day, HITTING was the name of the game!
Tony too was a class act and is missed. “Buc” and “Bull” were right there with Tony as he took his last earthly breaths a few years back.
Todd Becker, the poet once wrote, “The storms of youth, precede brilliant days.” Todd never survived the storms of his youth.
Thank you boys for the memories!
To Us! And those like Us, Damn few left!
How blessed were we to have known these men?
Hail to PITT!
Hey, did you eat your “Wheaties” this morning? Just asking.
Now, what the heck just happened last night in Ames, Iowa? 93-77? Are you kidding me?
As of today the WVU Basketball team is 16-6.
If you have been following WVU basketball this season you know what a wild ride it's been!
Jevon “Superman” Carter simply has been amazing.
“The Sagaba-Express” Konati often resembles an angry "King Kong" as he jumps high above the net and sends another blocked shot rebounding of the shooters forehead!
Sagaba's muscles flex on his 6'8 frame. He leaps high above the net. He slams the ball away from the hoop with great anger. It's almost as if the offending ball had somehow "offended" Sags. While be a gentle giant and a kindly soul off the court; Sags transforms into a devastating one-man wrecking ball of pure talent and athleticism!
He then rages with ecstasy in his utter destruction of both defender and ball!
He then commands the 17,000 plus in attendance at "The Coliseum" with fist pumps and screams to rally behind his Olympic effort!
In unison the entire state of Wes Virginia, including those in attendance and those listening and watching at home, respond to his unbridled youthful exuberance and joy with thunderous applause!
Freshman Teddy Allen went toe to toe with another Freshman named Trae Young during the Oklahoma game and was incredible. Impressive enough for Coach Huggins afterwards to say of Teddy Allen, “He's as good as Trae Young.”
Lamont West has been a thrill to watch grow and develop.
The chemistry inside the Coliseum has been “ATOMIC” at times!
The team went on an incredible win streak and were suddenly ranked #2 in the country. The first time since 1959 when that West kid was playing for the Mountaineers. Wonder what ever happened to that kid?
“Press Virginia” was back and producing results big time! It was simply amazing to see. WVU would get in the face of the offensive opponent and like a wild and rabid Honey Badger attack, attack and attack.
If the opposition managed to run the labyrinth of pressure defense and per chance find themselves in the “Paint”; there they were met by “King Kong” himself. Standing at 6'8 and weighing 250lbs was Freshman “The Sagaba-Express” Konati! He has 69 blocked shots to date!
Then suddenly the ball deflated as if it has been run over by a freight train.
Against Texas Tech, Kansas, TCU and Kentucky the dominated. Well that is in the first half.
Against TT they blew an 11pt half time lead. Kansas a 16pt lead. TCU 7pt lead. And against Kentucky a team of Freshmen the Mountaineers looked like the Harlem Globetrotters playing the Washington Generals in the first half. Then they blew a 17pt halftime lead and eventually lost 83-76.
As if all of that wasn't devastating to watch; now the Massacre in Iowa! “Mountaineer Nation” now knows how America felt the moment they heard about General Custer's decimation at the battle of “Little Big Horn”.
What has gone so horribly wrong? WVU should be 21-1 as of today. And ranked #1.
I have watched and reviewed the games tapes and have made a conclusion as to why this is happening.
Now stay focused here, “Grasshopper”. I may have found the answer!
1/WVU's “Press-Virginia” style of play causes the WVU players to expend as many calories as they would expend during a whole game if they played a regular 1-3-1 defense; in the first half alone!
2/ WVU's “Press-Virginia” style of play causes the WVU players to “wear-out” midway through the second half. Meaning, they're energy reserves are running low!
If you look at the game tapes of the four losses mentioned above you will see them loosing energy in the second half.
To see if my Hypothesis holds any credibility; I called Nettie Freshour. Tank, who's Nettie Freshour?
Great question, “Grasshopper”!
Nettie is the “Sports Dietitian” and expert on all things nutrition for WVU Athletics.
She explained that the team eats a well prepared meal four hours before the game. It's comprised of proteins and carbs. The team then takes a to go box as well. During the game the players hydrate with either Gatorade or Water.
Again, WVU's “Press-Virginia” style of play is relentless. It's stop and go action burns both Carbs and Fats for fuel according to Nettie.
When I told her my Hypothesis she said, “I can see your point”.
This made me happy to know that I'm not as delusional as I think, you thought, I know, I'am!
I believe that the answer to STOP blowing 17pt Half Time leads just might be the “Half Time Fuel Sources” our boys are ingesting.
Nettie is well respected in her field. And dare I say, WVU winning an NCAA National Championship just may come down to her getting into her lab and blending a “Super Energy Drink” for the boys to drink at halftime.
It will be filled with Carbs, Fats and Proteins galore and have 2,500 Calories!
She'll throw in some Gurana, Yohimbe Root, 'Pop-Eye' Spinach, Beet Juice, 'Ovaltine' and a dash of 'Cajun Hot Sauce' for spice! Then mix in a can of “Monster Energy” for good measure!
And “BOOOM”, the boys will swill down the powerful mixture at Halftime and hit the second half of these remaining games like a runaway heard of stampeding bulls!
I'm probably wrong about this. But in the absence of any other logical reason for the letdowns and blow leads; it's the best I got!
Pats Vs. Steelers
Here's what I saw happen and not happen during Sundays game.
UGGGGGG! Son of a BLEEEEEEP-BLEEEEPPPPP!
Now that's off my chest; below are some thoughts both good and bad.
I asked Coach Tomlin at this weeks Post Patriots Press Conference what he thought about both Mike Mitchell and Sean Spence's performance.
I knew the answer. He watched the same game tape I watched. Click on the You Tube link above to see his answer to me.
I have covered him long enough to know "The Code" in his answers. Basically he told me it was none of my damn business!
He knows what we all know!!
Mike Mitchell: Grade C.
I like Mike. In the past he's had the “assassin” mentality that I want and need in my safeties!
I have no idea if he was injured yesterday or what the hell was wrong with him.
1/In the first period Cooks beat him deep. Mike had plenty of time to react, get on Cook's and make a play. Instead he got burned. Mike was sitting in the middle, there was no other receiver to his right flats and still he could not close. Of course, it did not help that Artie Burns was primary on Cook's and let him run free.
2/Mike got Gronked! Time and time again Mike had a chance to “deliver a blow” to Gronk as the second tackler. He didn't! Each time Mike either broke down and then made a assist or on several plays avoided contact with Gronk all together! Example: In the 3rd with 12:37 on the clock and second and four Bardy hit Gronk down the left side lines for a thirty five yard catch. Burns and Davis were all over Gronk, but he still made the catch. Mike had time to still deliver a blow to Gronk to “make him pay” for the catch; instead he pulled up.
3/On the same drive Brady made a great play and throw to Cook's in the end zone for a TD. Again, Mike could have laid out Cook with a “legal hit”. It may have not have made Cook drop the ball or it might have. The point is a “HIT” was to be had legally. Instead he pulled up!
4/Gronk's epic takeover of the game with 2:00 left in the fourth quarter also showed Mike's tepidness.
5/When Lewis scored the go-ahead TD with :57second left on the clock; Mike was completely lost. He immediately was in a Pass Defense posture, he could have made a play on Lewis at about the two yard line; instead the tape again looks like he pulled up.
Simply, this isn't the Mike Mitchell we have come to know. Was he injured or perhaps, perhaps the NFL's “sissy-fication” of the game and enormous fines levied onto hard hitting Safeties like Mitchell were in the back of his mind.
Lev Bell: GRADE A++++
24 carriers/117 yards and 1 TD! He simply looked amazing.
Enjoy every second he, AB and Ben play for your Steelers. You are watching greatness!
Sean Spence: GRADE F+
Where do I even start? I gave him the + simply because he didn't hurt himself during warm up's or putting on his uniform. And most importantly he didn't hit any of his own players with friendly fire. Hell, he didn't hit anyone!
1/The Steelers opted to bring a guy off the streets and start him in place of the irreplaceable Ryan Shazier.
The starting inside linebacker had 3 tackles and 1 asst. That SUCKS! Sucks, Sucks!
He could not find the ball! He got lost in the pile, he got lost behind his own D-Lineman, he could NOT get off blocks.
He simply was the 11th man on the field.
At times he spun around inside the scrum line in a vain attempt to find the ball.
1/On the Burkehead TD , 9:02 1st Quart, he literally fell on his face at the line of scrimmage! No one touched him. He fell over a Guard who was spread out before him. Did you ever see Linebackers run laterally over five or six bags on the ground at Latrobe during camp. This is an old and basic LB drill. It let's you know who has feet and who doesn't.
2/At 9:39 in the 3rd, Gronk made a catch. He came right through Spence's zone. Mitchell and Burns did their best to hit Gronk. He mainly fell on his own accord. Spence had the opportunity to DELIVER A HIT on GRONK. He could have dislodged the ball. Or at the very least might have inflicted a little pain on Gronk to make him think twice when going through Spence's zone. Instead, Spence let Burns and Mitchell do the work! WEAK!
3/Vince Williams had the great interception at 4:31 in the 3rd. "Ball-Oskie" is what we were always Coached to scream out when a defensive player made an interception. It lets the whole Defense know that there's an interception. You then should turn up field and look for someone to block to help your man out.
Watch the above video. Spence does not do that. Instead he runs ten yards down field the wrong way to throw a block. A Block he never even delivers! HIT SOMEONE DAMN-IT!
Had he turned immediately up field the way Williams was running; he would have turned directly into #28 White, block him or at least get in his way. Williams would have gained at least ten more yards!
In the end; it was an AWESOME game. The Steelers came up short. But they learned one thing.
If the damn refs can stay out of the way and let the players play; the 2017 Pittsburgh Steelers can and did beat the Patriots!
The loss of Ryan Shazier for the remainder of the season is a tragic loss. Ryan's injury rips at the heart strings of his teammates, coach's and “Steeler Nation”. We pray for him as do all with compassion in their hearts.
He leaves behind enormous shoes to fill. In fact, they can't be filled. He was that damn good!
However tragic his injuries; Ryan wants the Steelers to be crowned Super Bowl Champions as well.
Here are the Steelers options to replace; the irreplaceable.
Matakevich is a hard working, hard hitting hustler. He is a work in progress.
Moats or Arthur is also hard working, well liked and he's fast. He steady and solid. However in the game against the Ravens he did not “flow” as an inside LB should. He looked lost at times.
Spence, forgeta' about it! He hasn't played since leather helmets were in vogue and in his five years he's yet to find a home with any of the three teams he has played for.
That leaves only Fort, L.J.
Fort too has not caught on with any of his three teams. Recently the Steelers liked him best as a practice player willing to take league min and act as a battering ram for the Steelers O-Line during practice.
The attributes that a solid inside LB should posses are:
1/Strength: He must be strong enough with his upper body and hands to get off the block of O-Linemen that outweigh him and often times tower over him. If he can get off the block he has a good chance to make the inside tackle. His legs must be like steel beams to run through a lineman and through the runner.
2/Lateral and Forward movement: His feet must be fast. He must “key through the O-Linemen” and “Flow” to the ball.
3/Anger: You want and need your Inside LB's to arrive violently and with great anger when destroying the ball carrier.
Where will the Steelers find such a beast?
I spent the three weeks at this years Steelers training camp broadcasting my radio show overlooking the practice field in Latrobe. Before each practice I went down on the field.
After the team did their initial stretches, the "O" went onto one field and the "D" went on the far side practice field.
While the rest of the reporters stayed on the easy side where the "O" did their initial drills; I ran down and followed the "D".
Tunch and Wolf and Jim Wexall were the only ones I ever saw down there with me throughout the three weeks.
I watched intently as all the LB's would line up and do ten forty yard sprints. Chickalow won most of them as Coach Tomlin cheered them on.
Then Outside LB's would go with Coach Porter and Inside LB's would go with my old team mate at PITT, Coach Jerry Olasalfsky.
I can tell you what I saw.
Immediately I saw that when TJ Watt ran the gauntlet of the four standing dummy bags in front of him; he got around them quick. When he slapped the bag as he went by the bag his bag moved further than the other Inside LB's. His strength showed through. I was impressed.
James Harrison wore his now infamous warm up suite during training camp. Man, he must have been hot.
He was fast, quick and the bag moved violently when he hit it.
I have heard people say this year; ""Dee-Bo" has lost his speed. Really? How do you know that? He's played a handful of snaps so far. Did something happen I don't know about? I stood only fifteen yards from the man on the practice field in Latrobe and I can tell you that you would not want a forty year old, angry, "Dee-Bo" chasing you!
Did you watch his off-season strength training video's on You Tube? Ask any of the Steelers who the strongest man on the team is? Yep, that's right, "Dee-Bo"!
Where will the Steelers find such a beast to replace Ryan?
Look no further than James Harrison!
James has recently stated that if he knew he would not play this year he would have signed elsewhere.
His pissed he is not playing!
He is the strongest man on the team! Watch his workouts on You Tube!
He is the All-Time sack leader with 74.5! Meaning his forward and lateral movements are exceptional. Do you really think that the same man who was lightening quick off the edge last year and saved the day against the Chief's has lost a step?
Ask any QB that has ever been hit by James if he “arrives angry”. Need I say more!
The other attribute you get with moving Harrison inside is this.
He's PISSED OFF that he's not playing this year!
And I assure you when you get hit by a strong, quick and PISSED OFF inside “Line-Jacker” it hurts!
I have been hit by some of the game's very best! Chris Doleman, Troy Benson and I have been run over by "Iron-Head Hayward". God rest his soul.
You remember "Bull Fralic", he's recognized as the Greatest College Offensive Linemen ever to play the game. Yeah, him too as I played scrub team Inside LB at PITT.
I have been hit so hard on the game field that I stumbled off in a daze and puked on the sideline. I know what it feels like to have your bell rung in an era when "Ear-Holing" a guy was still legal. If you don't know what "Ear-Holing" was; then you don't know football, Cupcake!
"Dee-Bo" needs to be able to do two things well for this to work.
1/Control the inside ground from Center to TE. Clog the hole up, create a pile and wait for the "Marines" to come!
2/Pass Coverage: Drop back 5-10 yards in the middle/right flats and stop the TE crossing patterns! Or float out to the "Flats"
Who amongst "Steelers Nation" really thinks JH CAN NOT HANDLE this responsibilities?
It's either "Dee-Bo" or old #55 from PITT, Jerry Olsafsky!
Or let the "Spence Experiment" continue.
This may be the Steelers last chance with Big Ben to win another Super Bowl. The Steelers must pull out all the punch's and have no regrets.
The saddest words of all are, "What If? What if? What if?"
"I don’t have plans and schemes
And I don’t have hopes and dreams
I-I-I don’t have anything
Since I don’t have you"
Jimmy Beaumont and the Skyliners
I should have known it was not going to be the best of weekends when the Penguins lost by 10-1 to the Black Hawks in Chicago last Thursday. It’s early, I know, but 10-1!!! That’s not a foundation for a Stanley Cup three-peat.
The Pitt football team followed with a sorry showing at Syracuse on Saturday and then Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers stunk out the joint on Sunday afternoon at Heinz Field in losing to the Jacksonville Jaguars, when Big Ben had four passes intercepted and two were returned for touchdowns by the Jags.
Steelers Nation abandoned the team in the late going. There was booing and early bail-outs at the North Side stadium. I think many of them were still miffed at the team’s failure to stand for the national anthem two weeks earlier.
They say that bad news comes in threes and those sports results certainly made that point clearly.
Then came the news that three of my all-time favorites had died over the weekend.
Connie Hawkins, a Hall of Fame basketball player who led the Pittsburgh Pipers to the first championship in the American Basketball Association (in 1968), died at age 75 in Phoenix. I was always close to Connie and I knew he was not well, but that gets your attention when you are also 75. He was a month older than me. He died on Friday.
John Troan, the former editor of The Pittsburgh Press, and the writer who broke the story that Dr. Jonas Salk had discovered an anti-polio vaccine during his stay at the University of Pittsburgh, died on Saturday at age 99. Right up to the end, he was sharp as a tack. We should all be so lucky.
His headline story in the April 12, 1955 issue of The Press said “POLIO IS CONQUERED.” Dr. Salk trusted Troan and they had the same kind of relationship that I had with “The Hawk.” Dr. Salk liked Troan because he was always careful to get his facts right.
Dr. Salk and Connie Hawkins, along with Pitt All-American Don Hennon, were Pittsburgh’s greatest shot-makers, to expand on a line once offered by Pitt sports publicist Beano Cook. Cook wanted to get a picture of Dr. Salk with Don Hennon, and Dr. Salk said, “Who’s Don Hennon?” A great idea went out the door of Dr. Salk’s lab on the Pitt campus. Cook wanted to caption the photo “Pitt’s two greatest shot-makers.”
I have kept in touch with Connie Hawkins and John Troan through the years, and I should have known something was amiss when my last two phone calls to them – over the past month – were not answered.
Troan and Leo Koeberlein, the managing editor of The Press, were responsible for hiring me away from The New York Post in 1979 and assigning me to cover the Steelers. I had first gotten to know them when I served a summer internship on city-side at The Press during my sophomore year (1962) at Pitt. Troan was a nice man, a passionate Penn State alum and a friend of Nittany Lions’ coach Joe Paterno.
On Monday, I went out on my driveway in a light rain to get the Post-Gazette before it got damp, and learned that Jimmy Beaumont,
the lead singer of the doo-wop group “The Skyliners,” had died Saturday at his home in McKeesport at age 76.
I still love to listen to “Since I Don’t Have You” on Sirius Radio in my car. Yes, I still love to listen to the rock and roll songs of the ‘50s and ‘60s. They remind you of when you were young and went to school and church dances every other weekend. Kids today can’t relate to that often challenging but so rewarding experience.
I never met or spoke to Jimmy Beaumont, but he came out of Knoxville to become a national favorite and continue to perform for 60 years. He had staying power. Hawkins, Troan and Beamont were all points of pride for Pittsburghers. Yes, bad news often comes in threes.
It’s funny what you remember best about certain people. I saw Hawkins in his high-flying and mystifying ball-handling magical days many times at the Civic Arena here, and at cities across the country in his ABA and NBA days, but when I think about him three memories come to mind.
I have just completed a book called “Looking Up” about the best basketball players I have met and interviewed in my career, and Hawkins is one of eight great players in a drawing by Bob Weaver that forms a wrap-around cover for the book.
I just okayed the 480 proof pages last Friday and it goes to press this week. I was able to squeeze in a line on Monday about his death.
I have thought of him often since I moved to a new home in Washington County 18 months ago. There is a hawk that sits atop a skeletal tree that I can see from my back porch and when it swoops in figure-eights in the sky it reminds me of “The Hawk.”
I paid a visit to his modest row home on Charles Street on the North Side when he was between the ABL and the ABA in the early ‘60s, during a four-year period when he was playing with the Harlem Globetrotters.
As we were talking at his kitchen table, there was a knock at the front door. It was Roger Brown, who had driven from Dayton to Pittsburgh, to visit his old Brooklyn buddy. They had both been implicated in a point-shaving scandal in New York that got them thrown out of Dayton, in Brown’s case, and Iowa, in Connie’s case during their freshman years. They were never found guilty of any wrong-doing yet they were banned for many years from playing in the NBA.
Both were stars of the ABA.
We went across Charles Street that day to a tavern called Red & Dot’s. I was familiar with the name because my brother-in-law Dick Cook’s parents frequented the place. I had visited his parents’ second-floor apartment in that same stretch of row homes on Charles Street when I was 14 or 15.
We were playing at one of those bowling machines where you slide a steel puck down the lane, and the pins fold up when the puck passes through. An old guy who looked like Gabby Hayes was beating all of us. I asked Connie why the guy was so good. “That’s because he can’t afford to lose,” Connie came back. I could count on Connie for lots of funny lines. His sense of humor helped him survive many slights in his life.
It was that way with Connie and because of the tireless and relentless efforts of the Pittsburgh attorney team of Roz and David Litman, Connie won his lawsuit against the NBA. David Stern, who was the ABA’s attorney at the time and later the league commissioner, once told me he never saw a legal team fight so hard for a client as the Litmans did. David’s brother, Archie “Tex” Litman, owned the Rens.
Hawkins got a large settlement figure and, even more important, he was free to play in the NBA. Connie made good on his promise to give me an exclusive on the outcome of his case, and he called me in Miami with the good news.
It wasn’t as big a story as Dr. Salk, but I have some idea of John Troan felt when he broke the news of the new vaccine.
I also remember paying 50 cents to see a sandlot basketball game played at the YMHA in Oakland, just across the street from Pitt’s Cathedral of Learning. Connie Hawkins was the star for the Porky Chedwick All-Stars. His teammates included Jim McCoy and Walt Mangham, who had played for the Rens. Connie had married the sister of Jim and Julius McCoy, another outstanding college basketball player. Her name was Nancy and she and her kid brother were present the day I visited Connie on Charles Street.
I host a monthly Good Guys Luncheon Group at restaurants in the South Hills – TGIFriday’s and Atria’s Restaurant & Tavern – and John Troan spoke to our group about his coverage of Dr. Salk and the anti-polio vaccine. He was 96 at the time and he didn’t miss a beat. He was clear and often humorous and he was a big hit. He came other times to hear other speakers. His wife, Varcy, died during that stretch. They were a great and devoted couple.
I wonder what Troan would have thought if he heard Jimmy Beaumont singing “Since I Don’t Have You.
I was successful in getting Hawkins into the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. I had been on the nominating committee there for a three-year term when I was the editor of Street & Smith’s Basketball Yearbook, the No. 1 selling annual of its kind. I contacted coaches and players to send me endorsements for The Hawk, and put a package together that I shipped to executives at the Hall of Fame.
He got in the same year – 1992 -- as another of my favorites, Lou Carnesecca, who coached at St. John’s University and with the New York Nets when I covered them for The New York Post. “Connie has always been a New York legend,” claimed Carnesecca.
Hawkins is among the sports greats of New York fame who are pictured in a Hall of Fame room at Madison Square Garden.
Jim O’Brien has a new book coming out later this month called “Looking Up.” His website is www.jimobriensportsauthor.com
Pirates playing pretty good baseball leading into All-Star Game in Miami.
By Jim O’Brien
We were doing something that was once quite common for Pirates’ fans. We were sitting on our back porch and listening to Sunday afternoon’s game in Chicago.
Once most homes became air-conditioned, porch-sitting lost favor. The majority of fans watch the games on television in the comfort of their homes these days. There was a time they said you could walk through the residential sections of Oakland on the way to a Pirates’ game at Forbes Field and hear the pre-game show as you passed by fans listening to the game on their porches.
I remember that experience. If you parked your car somewhere in South Oakland, near the boyhood homes of Danny Marino, Bruno Sammartino and Andy Warhol you wouldn’t miss a beat on Bucs’ baseball on the radio. Bob Prince, Jim Woods or Nellie King would accompany you on your walk.
It was an idyllic day in Pittsburgh on Sunday, and there was no wind whatsoever where we now live in Washington County, which is uncommon. We sit high on a hill of what was once a horse farm and the winds can get wild and wooly.
It was calm on Sunday. It was also an idyllic day in Chicago, if you were rooting for the visitors from Pittsburgh rather than the hometown Cubs. The Cubs are the defending National League and World Series champions, but you wouldn’t have known it by their performance on this sunny Sunday.
We missed the first few innings, so we missed the fireworks. The Pirates scored ten runs in the first inning off former Pirates’ pitcher Jon Lester. It was 12-2 when we tuned in. “At least they no longer have Bastardo to blow a lead like this,” said Kathie, the knowledgeable fan and critic.
No Bastardo is gone, and so are all the remnants of what we ended up with when we traded Neil Walker to the Mets two years ago.
That’s Antonio Bastardo, an aptly-named pitcher who was just terrible in his stint with the Pirates. And he was making $5.5 million a year. That surely spoils breakfast most days for El Roy Face and Bob Friend and the like, terrific Pirates’ pitchers of the past who now sign autographs at some games at PNC Park.
It was relaxing to a listen to a Pirates’ game when you were quite confident they’d come out winners. They took two out of three games in Chicago and three out of four in Philadelphia in the prior series. So it was a good road trip and a great way to go into the All-Star break.
Wade Davis, the Cubs’ closer, was the only one on his team to be voted into the All-Star Game, and Josh Harrison, the Pirates’ infielder, was the lone Bucco to be voted into the All-Star Game.
If Andrew McCutcheon had started his hitting tear a little earlier he might’ve been chosen for the All-Star Game in Miami on Tuesday. He has been unreal of late.
Yet the trade rumors persist. The trade deadline is July 31. There will be two months remaining in the regular season after that.
McCutcheon, Gerrit Cole and Tony Watson are among those to be found on an Internet listing of 50 players most likely to be traded, and even Josh Harrison, Jordy Mercer and Ivan Nova are mentioned on an extended list.
I hate to hear that. These guys are the current face of the Bucs, but keep in mind that Neil Walker was once the face of the franchise, and he was dealt away – for nothing, as it turns out.
Remember a few years back when a popular theme was that the Pirates had the best outfield for the future? There was Starling Marte in left, McCutcheon in center field, and Gregory Polanco in right field.
For one reason or another, that has changed considerably. The Pirates thought they had a third baseman with power in Jung-ho Kang, but he’s been stuck in South Korea so far this season. It could be worse. He could be stuck in North Korea. Who knew he was a drunk?
There is hope, however, with a young promising player such as Josh Bell. He hit his 16th home run last week, the most by any Pirates’ rookie before the All-Star break since Ralph Kiner hit 15 in 1946.
It would be nice, of course, if the Pirates can put their act together in the second half of the season to be a real contender. Going into the All-Star break they were seven games behind the Milwaukee Brewers and there were three teams ahead of them in the NL Central standings.
Artie Burns, the promising defensive back of the Steelers, was arrested on June 29 in South Florida on a DUI charge, and it turned out he had an expired driver’s license and owed over $1,000 in parking tickets. This happens because ballplayers like Burns think they are above the laws the rest of us must heed.
Athletes often behave this way. They are used to someone else taking care of business for them.
By coincidence, I had to go to the license bureau this past week to get my photo taken for my new driver’s identification card. They send you a notice in the mail with a deadline and you have to do it. It’s simple enough.
When I was walking out with my new i.d., former Steelers’ offensive lineman turned broadcaster Craig Wolfley was coming through the door. He held the door open for Kathie and me. He was coming to get his picture taken for his new i.d. card. Wolfley is mature enough to know that’s what you need to do if you wish to continue to drive a car around town.
I remember a woman asking me during the season, after several Steelers had gotten into one kind of trouble or another, “Do the Rooneys still own the Steelers?”
It’s going to be interesting to see how the Starling Marte story plays out. Some members of the media are urging the Pirates to trade him.
“Surround yourself with good people.”, is what Mr. Rooney told me as we strolled through the streets of Mexico City back in 2000.
The Steelers were in Mexico City playing the Colts in a preseason game. I had been in Mexico working on a golf project. Timing is everything in life.
Since I was “Still-R-Man”, as heard on KDKA Radio Pittsburgh at that time, the fates had aligned in my favor.
I caught a small prop plane from Guadalajara over o Mexico City. Checked into my hotel. And then “Boom, Zing and Shazamm!”; I was reborn as “Still-R-Man”.
I took off for the worlds largest soccer stadium, “Azteca Stadium”, in the heart of the massive city.
The Steelers and Colts were at the stadium on Friday afternoon doing a Mexican version of Super Bowl Media Day with the teams.
As I entered the stadium the outside was guarded by at least one hundred Mexican soldiers with automatic weapons. I gave them my patented “Still-R-Man” wave and “Hello Citizen.”
Nada! No one stopped me. No one said a world. I was only greeted with smiles.
As I walked the concourse and entered the giant arena I saw both teams on the field with the Mexican and international media interviewing players.
The field itself was surrounded by a huge chain link fence and another one hundred Mexican “Policia” again holding automatic riffles.
I can only assume to this day that they thought that since I was saying very loudly for all to hear, “Hola, me nombre es Still-R-Man!”. And I was wearing a black and gold cape, black nylons, had on my ex ray gold glasses and my Super Bowl 30 Helmet. The well armed police assumed I was with the team.
I walked right down on the field and soon found myself surrounded by cameras and microphones.
Now my Spanish is just a little North of better than average. And considering that none of the Steelers players spoke Spanish; well the local media now had a semi-fluent “Still-R-Man” rambling at them.
A few of the Steelers and I were friends and their reaction was priceless. Mostly, “What the hell are you doing here Still-R-Man?”
Once the teams were done with the Media Day they headed back to their hotel in the heart of the city.
Both teams were secured in the same hotel. The NFL gave the players specific orders not to leave the hotel.
I had worked in Mexico long enough to know it can be a dangerous place. Kidnapping is a popular form of employment. And grabbing a superstar QB would bring a nice pay day for the kidnappers.
But the gathered Pittsburgh media had wondered across the street and found a cantina. There we sat for hours enjoying the ambiance of Mexico City.
Myron Cope and “Still-R-Man” in Mexico! Now that's one for the books boys.
After many beers and a round of complimentary tequilas from the owner of the beer garden; the media went to take their siestas in the warm Mexican afternoon.
Since I had been in country for the last month the heat didn't bother me that much.
As I was walking back to the hotel I ran right into Mr, Rooney. He was all alone. No body guard. He was walking the side streets near the hotel and browsing the outdoor market.
I told him it wasn't safe to be by himself and could I join him.
He said, “Sure Still-R-Man!”. We had met before back in Pittsburgh a few times. Years later Rob Pratte at KDKA, who did the Still-R-Man routines with me, had asked Mr. Rooney if he'd make “Still-R-Man” the official mascot of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
I have Mr. Rooney's nice letter in my office saying, “Thanks, but no thanks”, in a polite Dan Rooney fashion.
As Mr. Rooney and “Still-R-Man” walked through the streets of Mexico City through a market district I asked him why the Steelers continued to be so successful throughout the years. And if there was a secret of business and life that he could share with me.
“Surround yourself with good people.”, he said.
Years later during the Steelers Super Bowl season that lead to Tampa and Big Ben's game winning drive to San Antonio Holmes; I asked various coach's why the Steelers were so successful over so many years.
To a person at different times including Kevin Colbert on the field after the game they said, “Surround yourself with good people.”
Money does not make a man; it unmasks a man. Meaning if you give a guy a few bucks and some power; you will find out the nature of his soul.
Mr. Rooney was down to Earth, humble and a man of Christ. He was the best of people.
In a world gone mad. In a world self obsessed. In a world where words like, “Honor and Integrity” seem to have no value. Thank God there was a Dan Rooney.
Today, as we lay him to rest, he is surrounded by a few good people; “Steelers Nation”.
Jaromir Jagr thanks for the memories.
“Thanks for the memory....
We who could laugh over big things, were parted by only a slight thing I wonder if we did the right thing Oh, well, that's life, I guess
But we were intelligent people No tears, no fuss, hooray for us Strictly entre nous Darling, how are you? And how are all those little dreams That never did come true? Awfully glad I met you Cheerio and tootle-loo Thank you Thank you so much for the memory”.
“Thanks for the Memory”-Bob Hope-Circa 1938
Hockey made me cry today.
On paper it was just another game. The Penguins vs the Panthers.
On the ice skated two of the greatest players to ever play the game. Crosby and Jagr.
There was no great fanfare leading up to the game. No hype. No over saturation of images, gaudy music or dramatics of an imaginary rivalry.
For me though the game held a deep meaning.
Crosby, the greatest show on ice, did not disappoint. He scored his fortieth goal with his third goal of the night. The ole' hat trick as we call it.
Marc Andre Fluery, in one of his last home games as a Pittsburgh Penguin, had the fans filling the Igloo with chants of, “Fluery, Fluery, Fluery”.
His shut out of the Panthers helped post the final score of 4-0 in favor of the “Pens”.
Crosby, Fluery and the rest of the Pens look poised to make a solid run at Lord Stanley's cup in a few weeks.
How lucky will we once again be? Our team, with two of the greatest to ever play the game in Crosby and Malkin, shall fill the city with pride.
Bandwagon Pens fans will be glued to their TV sets in hopes that the black and gold will be victorious.
The city will wait with baited breath in hopes of filling the streets again on a hot June day with another Penguins Stanley Cup victory parade.
How lucky are we? How blessed are we?
Yes, on paper it was another notch in the belt as the Pens prepare for the post season.
For some of us last night; the game took on a deeper meaning.
Those of us who have had “Father Time” steal our youth. Those of us who's hair shimmers with stands of gray now. Those of us who were lucky enough to be there long,long ago.
Yes, children there were Stanley Cup celebrations before.
Two of the greatest players to have ever played the game helped deliver us two back to back cups way back in the 1990's.
Mario and Jags were the darlings of the city back then.
They were young, talented and alive with pleasure.
We were young, talented and alive with pleasure as well.
These were high times back in the early nineties.
Jags forever had a smile on his face. Why not? He was a boy who had escaped Communism in Czechoslovakia. He was a boy with blue jeans, a fast car and an adoring city of female fans.
Life was different back then. The carefree seventies rolled into the fun eighties. The nineties began with more good times.
Then boom Pittsburgh became Stanley Cup champions.
You could see Jagr, Stevens or even Mike Lang out among us enjoying themselves. Perhaps it was “Donzi's” or “The Decade” or “Heaven”. Night spots that are all but a distant memory now. Much like those days of our youth.
How fast twenty some years has gone.
So when Jags took the ice here in Pittsburgh last night as a member of the Florida Panthers it peeled back the veneer of time.
I was young again. Lean, just out of the Army, wild, crazy and fun loving. The world was new then. Jags played his hockey and I drank my “Wild Turkey” splashed with tequila. We were immortal.
Last night there he was once again number “68”. His long flowing hair trailing behind him with strands of gray. His pumping pistons of legs were a little slower. He turned over the puck a few times to the younger, quicker defense men. He missed a few passes.
Then the Pittsburgh Penguins paid respect to “68” for the time he'd spent with us. For the “Cups” he helped deliver.
The two minute highlight featured Jags best plays and moments as a Penguin. The eighteen thousand fans in attendance filled the Igloo with a thunderous applause.
Jaromir was home again. At last.
With a heartfelt sign of affection he pounded his hand over his heart and waved at the crowd as if saying, “I love you too”.
I ran into Mike Lang in the media booth we talked about the night we watched Mike Tyson loose to Buster Douglas in Tokyo. We sat in “The Decade” in Oakland and watched as Buster dismantled Tyson.
“The Decade" is gone now. If you never were there; man you missed something special.
If you never got to see Mario and Jags skate together; you also missed something special.
My youth is gone now. You should have scene the "Show"; it was a wild ride back then! It was filled with long legged Italian women, dancing, late nights, laughter and mirth too.
It was spent at joints like "Gene's Blues Bar" on RT 51, "The Decade" and the "Syria Mosque".
It was spent inside the gone but not forgotten "Civic Arena" watching The Penguins and a kid named "Jags" do incredible feats of athleticism.
Hockey made me cry today.
Thanks for the memory Jags. I owe you a drink!
|Pittsburgh Sports Talk|