Tag Archive: Steelers


Fast Fifteen: Quarterbacks

We are introducing a new feature today, the First and Fifteen Fast Fifteen.  It will take in various things as the offseason and (hopefully) subsequent season roll on.  The first series will focus on five teams with the best and worst situations at each position group, plus five that could break either way.  We’ll start off with the games most important position, Quarterback:

The Best:

New England Patriots: How good is their QB situation?  When their incredible starting quarterback (Tom Brady, for those of you just joining us) was injured, their backup quarterback led them to an 11 win season.  So?  That’s what backup quarterbacks are supposed to do.  Except Matt Cassell hadn’t started a game since high school.  The Patriots find talent deep in the draft and make the most of it, and that puts them at the top of this list.

New Orleans Saints: Drew Brees was supposed to be washed up following a shoulder injury, and the San Diego Chargers, with replacement Phillip Rivers in the fold, let him walk.  Only two teams had any interest in him, and he signed with New Orleans- and the rest is history.  For the first time in a long time (ever?) the Saints aren’t horrible, and much of that is thanks to Drew Brees.

Cleveland Browns: They won’t make many ‘best-of-anything’ lists, but they deserve to be on this one.  Question marks surrounded every quarterback in last years draft, including first overall pick Sam Bradford.  Colt McCoy was no exception, and despite a stellar record at Texas, he slipped to the third round.  When injuries thrust him into the starting job, he showed up despite a lot of lackluster talent around him.  The Browns are on the upswing, and should feel lucky to have gotten McCoy to settle their QB woes.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Their starting quarterback was suspended the first four games of the season, and they went to the Super Bowl.  I think that says it all.

Green Bay Packers: This Aaron Rodgers guy is pretty good, in case you hadn’t heard.  However, while he gets them on this list, their backups need work.  They were ok when he missed a game, but because of their defense, not their quarterback.  Prolonged absences from Rodgers could sink them.

The Worst:

Minnesota Vikings: Brett Favre is gone, and he wasn’t there this last year anyway.  I said it in the Vikings Draft Needs, but no one on the Vikings roster inspires any kind of confidence moving forward.  It’s full of ‘serviceable’ quarterbacks.  Not to say one of them couldn’t step it up, but right now, it’s a huge mess.

Arizona Cardinals: After the season that just happened, the Cardinals probably deserve their own category.  A mess of veteran journeymen, undrafted free agents and busts sunk their season from the start.  The worst part is that the Cradinals could be back in contention with some stability here (see Warner, Kurt).

Tennessee Titans: Up until late in the past season, they wouldn’t even be close to this list.  The last few years, when one Quarterback has been down, the other has been up, and it has worked for them.  But Kerry Collins is showing his age, and Vince Young is showing his temper.  No solution exists on their roster.

Carolina Panthers: For some reason, headed into last years draft, a lot of people thought Jimmy Clausen could be an NFL quarterback.  That is not the case.   Combined with Matt Moore- who showed some flashes of promise, but no consistency- and the departure of interception machine Jake Delhomme, there’s a reason the Panthers own the top spot in the draft.  Sadly for them, there is no sure-fire QB prospect in this draft.  Expect another year of limping along.

Washington Redskins: I know they belong here, but it’s so hard with the Redskins to know where to assign blame.  The organization as a whole is such a walking disaster, you hate to even begin to put the blame on the individual players.  However, none of that changes the fact that when Rex Grossman started a game, he became the instant favorite to be the 2012 starter.  Yeah, it’s that bad.

Those That Could Go Either Way:

Denver Broncos: This has a lot to do with coaching, but with Tim Tebow and Kyle Orton both on the roster, there has to be a fundamental scheme for which one you’re going to use.  If it’s done right, this will be a dangerous team next year, but I’m not counting on it.

Seattle Seahawks: Most people probably see the Seahawks as belonging on the ‘worst’ list, but there is considerable evidence to the contrary: Matt Hasslebeck still has gas in the tank, which he showed in the playoffs, and despite the fact that most people are ready to hang him, the jury is still out on Whitehurst.  He played well at times, and not so well at others, but it was his first chance to start since college.  There is a lot of potential at quarterback for Seattle- for good or disaster.

Jacksonville Jaguars: David Gerrard is good, but he needs to improve if the Jags will be.  They showed promise this year, but the entire future of the team is shaky.  A playoff berth would go a long way to getting fans into the stadium and keeping them in Jacksonville, and that starts with Gerrard.  If he implodes this year, look for a complete rebuild.

Indianapolis Colts: Peyton Manning is a good as it gets, but he took a beating this year, and for the first time in a long time, the Colts came close to missing the playoffs entirely, and even then, it was an early exit.  With the rest of the AFC South breathing down their necks, the Colts can’t afford another down year.

Cincinnati Bengals: Marvin Lewis returns, with a new offensive coordinator.  Owens and Ochocinco probably do not.  However, Carson Palmer says he has had enough.  He may be tempted by the chance to play without the distractions of the most petulant and arrest-prone receiving corps in the NFL, but if I am in his shoes, I never want to wear orange and black again ever, no matter what.

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Super Bowl Thoughts

Another Super Bowl has come and gone, an excellent ending to an excellent year of football- let’s hope the CBA gets done and next year is as good.  So what did we see & learn yesterday?

I saved the best for last.  Yes, I think the Green Bay defense is better than the Pittsburgh defense.  Not across the board, every situation, but in the Super Bowl?  These guys get the job done.  Let’s examine:

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Super Bowl Preview: Pittsburgh Defense

Where to start with this defense?  It is the end all, be all definitive of Pittsburgh football.  They play hard, they hurt you and the brains behind the brawn, Dick Lebeau, is second to none.  They face their largest challenge Sunday on the largest stage.  Are they equal to the task? Continue reading

The Green Bay Packers came into the season with lofty expectations- A potent offense, a ball-hawking defense, and a young quarterback coming into his own was expected to carry this team to the Super Bowl.  And here they are, but certainly not by the road most expected them to take.

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Over the next two weeks, every possible story line will be exploited, every aspect over-analyzed.  I am contributing by breaking down every aspect of both teams.

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Conference Championship Thoughts

  • Bizarre finishes to both games.  The eventual losers were down and nearly out at halftime; both staged rallies that fell just short.  Thankfully for the viewers, it made the second half of games interesting, because the first halves were not.
  • There is reason for optimism in the offseason for both teams.  I have long held that it’s better to lose in the Conference Championship than the Super Bowl.  The Bears uncovered a gem in Caleb Hanie, and now face an interesting choice in the offseason (although, if both Cutler and Hanie are under contract in 2011, expect them to keep both, a la the Eagles this year), while the Jets get a little closer each year.
  • The Jets need to win the division to get to the Super Bowl.  This is a strong team, but they need to beat New England in the standings AND in the playoffs.  Road trips to New England, Pittsburgh and/or Baltimore are the road the AFC playoffs go- and that’s not a gauntlet any team can run.  They need at least one home game in there to get over the hump.
  • Rodgers had a small meltdown in the second half.  He will need to turn in a strong 60 minutes in the Super Bowl for them to win.
  • Pittsburgh got away with mistakes it won’t against Green Bay.  They need to play cleaner if they’re going to win.
  • Defense still wins championships.

So the AFC comes down to this- The New York Jets in their second AFC Championship in as many years and the Pittsburgh Steelers, overcoming the four-game suspension of their starting QB to have yet another quality season.

The Jets put together a stellar defensive game plan to stop Tom Brady and 10 other guys, but now they face almost the polar opposite- a strong running game and a rock-solid defense.  They will have to pound the ball at least somewhat effectively to set up play action for Sanchez- a tall order.  Passing on the Steelers defense is no easy task, either, and both safeties have been playing very well lately.  Sanchez will need to be mistake free all game for them to make it further than last year.

For Pittsburgh, they can expect to face something other than 11 active DBs for the AFC Championship.  Expect them to run hard and often, before getting safeties to bite on play action on second- and third-and-short.  They will have to honor it, and Mike Wallace will make them pay.  On the defensive side of the ball, they will have to shut down Greene and Tomlinson, which is not easy task, but if they can force them into passing situations early and often, they will force Sanchez into making bad passes or holding the ball to long.  Look for Polamalu to line up in the box and drop into coverage, and blitz from deep.  Sanchez has a lot of upside, but is young and can be rattled and tricked into making mistakes.  A veteran Steeler secondary will take advantage.

The Line: Steelers by 3.5

My Pick: Steelers 24, Jets 17

Another great day of football, although the late game was somewhat disappointing, Aaron Rodgers and Tramon Williams more than made up for that.  Here are my from-the-hip observations:

It’s First and Fifteen…

Hello, all, and welcome to First and Fifteen, a blog about all things football!  The middle of the playoffs might seem like an odd time to get started, but hey, why not?  We’ll be here through the rest of the playoffs and the offseason with observations, analysis and opinions.  Hopefully you enjoy the ride!