August 14, 2008

Oh, Canada...


Toronto, Canada. Home to universal health care, legalized marijuana, some of the world's finest strip clubs, and of course, tonight's second preseason game between our Steelers and the Buffalo Bills. Given that intro, I think you can guess what my biggest fear is...that's right, Jeff Reed missing the game. That's just way too much temptation.

I kid. I kid.

But let's talk about tonight a little bit. Normally on gameday during the regular season, I'd give you a full rundown of the "Llaves a Victoria" (or "Keys to Victory" for you non-Japanese speakers). But I'm not going to do that today. Why would I? The starters may take more snaps than they did last week, but I don't expect them to take significantly more.

So really the spotlight is only shining brightly on three men...well, one man, two "battles"...

1. Byron Leftwich
2. Justin Hartwig vs. Sean Mahan
3. Mitch Berger vs. Paul Ernster

Leftwich is the most obvious of the three. Having just signed a former 1st round pick and three year starter in Jacksonville, it'd be pretty hard for us fans to pretend like we weren't looking for a good first audition. Maybe I'm wrong, but tonight I'd like to see that Leftwich has gained at least a serviceable understanding of the offense, that he can hit his throws accurately, with just enough touch so that Nate Washington can catch them, and that he's in good shape (important given his history). Beyond that, he could be sitting on the sidelines drinking a Diet Coke or drawing up some schematics for his treehouse out in the North Hills. I don't even care.

The Hartwig/Mahan battle has always been, and will continue to be, the most important training camp battle. While Mahan had been taking the bulk of the snaps thus far in camp, and started last Friday night against the Eagles, Hartwig has taken over this week - both practicing with the first team and starting in this evening's exhibition. I personally hate to follow the angry mob, but Sean Mahan definitely blew goats last year. And not mini goats, either. Like, full sized, adult male goats. So I'm really hoping Hartwig can show some promise. Maybe even hint at the possibility of being the next long term Pittsburgh Center. Yes, it's probably just a tad early to start talking about him following in the footsteps of Mike Webster, Dermontti Dawson and Jeff Hartings (though not exactly "long" term, long enough for me). But traditionally, this position has been the least of our concerns. And I'd really like to get back to that. Show me something besides that sick mohawk, Justin. Pancake someone. I recommend Steely McBeam.

Then of course, there's the ever-exciting and oh-so-important battle for starting Punter. Apparently, even though we signed Paul Ernster and let him punt/kick off in last week's preseason game, the front office/coaching staff felt it was necessary to give him a little friendly competition. Enter Mitch Berger. What's the difference between the two? Damned if I know. Well, ok, it may be a yard or two in punt average. Excuse me if I haven't extensively researched the kicking prowess of our two potential consolation prizes. But I've been doing important stuff...like researching current 4th string QB, Mikey Potts. Anyways, I tend to like Ernster here. As I read somewhere this week, the difference in punting averages for most punters around the league really is only a yard or two. So having the added bonus of being able to kick off (and kick off well...9 yards deep in the end zone well, ahem ahem) is a roster-worthy asset. Not like we've got a whole lot better lined up.

And that just about does it, folks. What else to watch for tonight? I'll probably be watching to make sure Steely McBeam isn't exposing himself to unaccompanied minors. There's also probably some injury concerns I should be talking about. But frankly, I'm not even going to go there right now. It's still only August 14.

So who are you guys watching tonight? Any thoughts on the individuals/battles I mentioned above? What do you think about the ultimate score? Tomlin - 47, Jauron - 6? Sound fair?

37 comments:

tob-i-aint-gonna-take-it! said...

I'm #1!


I'm #1!!!


I'm #1!!!


How i love being the first poster. It makes me feel so included. And im-potent.

Leftwich better not screw us up. I want to like the guy. I've tried. And i DID like him until the end in Jax when he started with all his complaining about why he thought DelRio wanted rid of him.

Then he got to Atlanta and did nothing but undercut, badmouth, and campaign against Harrington(who was actually producing on the field at the time) until By-ron got the inexplicable start, just after a couple Falcon WRs said publicly they only wanted to play for a black QB. Suddenly those same wideouts who were dropping 3-of-5 of Harrington's passes were catching everything Byron put in the air. And still they lost with him at the helm.

So- i worry that Leftwich has no care for any amount of team integrity. In my paranoid mind i find it strangely coincidental that Anthony "Jackass" Smith, Ryan Clark and even the HEAD COACH(??!!??) accused Gene Collier of "racism" for calling Smith's hit on Hines, IN PRACTICE!, "thuggery".

How, in the name of all that is Holy Steeler Football, is calling a jackass player who hurts a star guilty of "thuggery" in any way "racial"???? And on the same day my beloved Byron shows up on the field?

Hmmmm.

Pittsburgh is the class of the league, and this town loves their Steelers more than it's own families. To even imply a Pittsburgh sportswriter would be racist is absolutely stoopid.

And why the eff did Mike "Affirmative Action-Pittsburgh Coaching Posterboy" Tomlin feel the need to pipe in???

NO coach in Pittsburgh should ever, ever get involved in any he said/he said BS. Especially not divisive, ridiculous, unfounded epiusodes of poorly-played race cards.

This ain't the '40's, 50's or '60's. Men are men. Steelers are Steelers. The only color any Steeler fan sees are Black-n-effing-Gold.

So that crap better stop here and now. If i here one more accusation of racism or implication of whitey holdin' down a Steeler player i'm gonna shun my team this season.

We are family. All of us. Black, white, yellow, tan, beige, red, mauve, pink, purple, gold, green, teal, torquiose, fuschia, baby-blue, orange, and eggshell.

Let's start acting like it again, and stop all this polarizing horseshit.

Word.

Steelbiathan said...

We gonna do any pre-season GameDay Chats?

I'm down....

tecmo said...

It's a bit racist because old, white sportswriter Collier used the word "thuggery" to describe a young, black athlete with tattoos, but no police record. Smith has been inconsistent and never seems to fully pay attention to late hits and all, but a hit on Ward is not "thuggery." That term should be used for players, both white and black, that are actually in trouble with the law...not a young player hitting another player in practice. Collier stepped over the line with that. Stupid...yes? Thuggery...no?

Tomlin did the right thing by defending HIS PLAYER. If you have no police record and bump someone while running for the subway...no matter what color you are...you're going to be pissed if someone calls you a thug. Collier could've used thousands of terms...jerk, idiot, mindless, ass...but thuggery has a whole 'nother implication. Had Tomlin sat on the sideline and said nothing, he would've practically given the Pittsburgh sportswriters a free pass to blast his team.

It has NOTHING to do with the arrival of Leftwich. Smith was defending himself, Tomlin was defending his player. Collier made an unfortunate error in judgement.

Cotter - mini goats rule.

random asshole said...

I mostly agree with tecmo.

I think the point is, though, that the term itself isn't racist nor is anyone accusing Collier of being such. It's simply insensitive when there are better descriptions to use and, as apparently happened, it can be misinterpreted, since no one intended to refer to Smith's (non-existent) criminal record. Tomlin obviously noticed it was bothering some of the players and decided to step in.

For the record, though, does anyone really care about Leftwich? I love Charlie Batch, but it's not like he was ever going to go on a hot streak and take us on a playoff run if Ben got hurt. It's not like Leftwich will either. Leftwich, however, is borderline competent and, if it becomes necessary that he starts a few games, it's the rest of the team that's going to need to step up.

tecmo said...

I haven't heard the racism rumors surrounding the quote...I only call it a bit racist due to who said it and who it was about. As I said, thuggery implies something completely different from just being a jerk on the field. Thug life, thugs/gangs...in the past 25 years or so, the term "thug" has changed from hired goon to young minority causing trouble. Tupac with Thug Life, Bone Thugs and the term Thugster, this is why Collier needed to re-think his wording and what he was actually implying.

I agree about Leftwich. He's capable at worst, and with the progression of our offensive weapons, I'm sure they will step up and perform to task should something unfortunate happen to Ben.

domski43 said...

Collier should have just called Anthony "the sandman" Smith a JAGOFF!
(everyone would have understood what he meant)

Sorry to change the subject, but I'm excited about the game tonight (even though I'll only be able to watch the numbers change on either espn.com or nfl.com). Buffalo is a talented young team. The Bill's defense is solid and will serve as a great test for the Steelers first team offense. Offensively, the Bill's running game, featuring Marshawn Lynch, will be a much greater test than the Eagles' backup running back (Correll Buckhalter).

I really hope Hartwig shines bright

Its not time to overanalyze Leftwich, like Cotter said, he has only been with the team a few days.

If Paul Ernster can kick the ball 9 yards deep into the endzone consistently, I feel that the kick off duties should go to him (sorry skippy!), but this would solve a lot of special teams issues. Let every opponent's offense march the ball 80 yards against the Steelers' defense.

Mikey Potts will steal the show tonight (again)

Cotter said...

tobiathan ~ Two comments. #1 - I hesitate to judge Leftwich by last year's lack of success. Atlanta couldn't do shit, with or without him. So I'm trying my best to reserve judgment and just hope that I don't have to worry about him. #2 - The team may be classy, but they have no control over the local press. I don't know if "thuggery" should've caused the stir that it did, but it is a little unnecessary. To me, a thug is more someone who, as everyone has noted, is just a bad person all around and malicious. I don't think that's Anthony Smith. Stupid, without a doubt. But a "thug?" Hardly. I mean, he went to Syracuse for Christ's sake, haha. PS - no gameday chats yet. But come Week 1, we'll resume the gameday Thunderdome.

tec ~ Mini goats DO rule. So do fainting goats. I agree wholeheartedly with your assessment. I think the point we're trying to make is, racist or not (and it's only being made to seem that way because of what you said), "thuggery" was the wrong term and doesn't belong in the same sentence with Anthony Smith. Misguided Prophet, however, does...

random asshole ~ I just wanna say, even now - months after you first commented, I still love typing your handle, haha. Perfect summation of Leftwich's value to the team (see my last comment on yesterday's post). As for the race thing - I think it was brought up somewhere, but like you said, it's really not as much about race as it is about being insensitive and reckless with word choice. It's not like Collier just dropped a random word into his piece. Whether or not he meant to, his whole article became about Anthony Smith being a thug when he used the term "thuggery" as part of his description. It was a dumb choice, but the only reason it's getting so much play is because there's absolutely nothing else to talk about (except, of course, Mikey Potts...who I doubt the MSM are interested in...unlike OFTOT).

domski ~ You hit it all with precision and grace. Pissed off I can't watch game, check. Bills should be an interesting team, check. Hartwig playing well enough to solidify starting job, check. Not overanalyzing Leftwich, check. Ernster getting kickoff nod, check. And Mikey Potts stealing the show, double, nay, triple check! One comment in the form of a question - do you think if Ernster takes the kickoff reins, that'll help Jeff Reed rest his leg for longer field goals, or just field goals in general?

Cotter said...

PS - my apologies in advance if anything I just typed makes no sense.

I'm trying to balance doing actual work (believe it or not I do have a real job), reading all of your insightful comments and harnessing my anger because I can't watch the game tonight, all at the same time...

domski43 said...

After training camp Sunday I went to Chili's in hopes of seeing Troy Polamalu, but he wasnt there. My steak and portobello fajita was great though.

Cotter said...

Haha, good work on the Chili's fajitas, man. Though, I'm sure they weren't as good as Houlihan's Pot Soup...

tobiathan said...

"Thuggery" is a derivative of the term "thug", which originated in India as a reference to the Indian sect/cult of Thugs, who rebelled violently against both British and local authority. Most often their actions were excessively violent and often unnecessarily directed at innocent bystanders or even their very base of support.

That was the context of the word for more than two centuries, and still is to most literate people with a strong historical background. Modern American use of the word "thug" as refering to hip-hop listening, ghetto-residing gangstas is only a colloqiual one and is generally limited to the younger generations. Most people over the age of 35ish+ are pretty far removed from modern street language.

The fact that "thug" has become a cryptic way of making derogatory remarks about someone's race and culture is probably a rewality lost on someone of Gene Collier's age and suburban culture.

The race issue was raised on a couple other blogs, and probably did sem a little odd here since it wasn't really a topic on OFTOT.

Nonetheless- i still don't think it becomes ANY Steeler to make any issue of race when that was never the intention. That kind of chip-on-the-shoulder disposition leads to dissension, and dissension causes teams to come apart, and lose. Which is what i don't want to see.

And Tomlin was just too quick to jump in on this subject when he has historically stayed out of this kind of thing.

In all, likely a non-issue by next week, but i'm just nervous about Leftwich's potential for being a problem in the locker room.

No matter what it's all about how the Steelers perform. I don't care about the politics. Athletes aren't politicians.

"Thuggery" is NOT racist. Period.

tbthn said...

Our defense looks pretty loose. I'm hopingit's just a case of pre-season rust.But Buffalo looks pretty sharp on offense this first series.

Not too good to see so many o-line mistakes on our first drive either. At least we're still in the evaluation period of the pre-season.

tbn said...

Offense looks much tighter on second drive. Willie running strong, Spaeth with a nice catch down the right seem. O-line looking much more in-sync(not the boy-band, Domski).Nice to see Ben throwing it away on a broken play.

Ernster almost pinned a corner on the punt.

tbn said...

I like Leftwich, as a player, for the most part. My big problem with him is that he does have a tendency to be too vocal at the wrong times. He is tuff, and can throw. He will be a good backup, as long as he stays satisfied with being a backup.

In Atl. last year there was a bit of controversey because Leftwich and the WRs made a big issue of Leftwich being the starter. The WRs were dropping Harrington's passes all day, then magically caught everything Leftwich threw. It was pretty obvious to me.

Big play by Silverback! Lynch broke thru R side of D-line. Our dfnse not getting much penetration. Penalty on Buf on play. Midle of line holds inside the Buf 10. Looking better than first set. Edwards embarasses our defense by runing for 20+ on a broken play from his own end zone.

Gay gets burnt buy Parrish on a flats right. Gay missed bad. Edwards to Evans again. Our blitzes are not getting any real push. Clark misses tckl on swing pass rght. Tomlin looks pissed. Defense plying sloppy again.

Lynch burns inside for about 5. Bills O eating up yards. 4th 1st down this drive. Foote makes stop on dump to middle.TD to Royal on pass. 2 TDs on our #1 defense in two consecutive drives.

Our D looks sluggish and uncommited on both drives. Steelers coaches look pissed. The veterans are in place, but the young guys are being too agressive, being caught outta position on fakes, patterns, missing tackles.

Bad show for both sides of the ball so far for Pittsburgh. Could be rust, i sense some overconfidence in our defense and some confusion too. Offense just looks rusty, could tighten up soon. Hartwig getting good push at center.

tbn said...

Leftwich in. no- Tomlin waves him off, Ben stays in. Ben deep right to Ward! Mendenhall with coupla short gains. False start on Kemo on 3d down. Ben down middle to Moore for 1st, nicely done on 3d and long.

Ben big DEEEEP one to SanAntonio!!

TD!

tbn said...

I'll go play-by-play for a couple more series, for yinz that can't see it...


Timmons makes nice stop on KO. D starters stay in..stop Jackson on a run. Another stop on run. Our 1st defense again Losman and Buf's #2's....Silverback forces sack by Kiesel. Well done against Bills #1 O-line.

Good punt reception under pressure by Moore.

Byron up next on O.

tbn said...

Nice throw to Nate right off the bat, 20ish yards, right on the money. Mendy on short run. Swing pass right, good pass, few yards. Playing behind Mahan and #2 o-line. Bills timeout.

Note- Leftwich actually looks good, not as heavy as in passt.

3d and short, Leftwich overthrows across middle, bounces of WRs fingers almost INT.

Skippy misses 3? Huh? From 25ish out?

tbn said...

2nd team defense in, i'm gonna give up on play-by-play, will note major points.

Eason bats down pass. Lots of missed tackles on a cutback by reciever on short pass. Timmons with sack on 3d down(Losman, from blind side). Lefty sacked, fumbles. Gets lucky to retain ball. Starks lostr defender.

tbn said...

on the plus side, coverage on ST looks pretty good so far.

Our front seven are losing the battle on running downs, and getting no presure on the pass.

Foote whiffs easy tackle on short middle pass.

Bills running down defense's throat.

tbn said...

Bills averaging 6.3yards/carry.

Cutbacks by RBs killing Steeler D all night.

FG by Bills, 17-7.

Reid with 29 yard KO return.

3rd quarter shows Hines with huge icepack on left ankle.

Mendenhall looks good, hitting holes fast, fighting for yards. But- not geting big gains. Holding ball tho.

Berger with long, high punt.

tbn said...

Timmons playing strong. Foote playing long time with 2nd unit.

Defense finally makes a stop on Bills deep in Buf territory.

Leftwich throwing too hard.

Steelers ST with huge recovery inside Buf 15.

Mendy with strong bounce outside, showed bursyt, spiins, and hit hard to finish run. Great potential.

domski43 said...

t-rock! - i wish nsync was the mascot for the steelers!


do you think the steelers are playing a vanilla d? LeBeau is a sneaky one and probably doesnt want to show his hand

domski43 said...

watching the eagles/carolina game....its a freaking monsoon!

eagles try fake fg and carolina picks it off and takes it to the house!

tbn said...

Mendy running hard, keeps fighting.
Scores on off-tackle play action right.

Leftwich showing good teamsmanship by hurrying to help Mendenhall up after every run play.

STs blows coverage, Bills run back KO for TD. Poor lanes, STs collapsed under spirited blocking by Bills. Ernster kicked ball deep, too. Kicker Ernster only man to even touch returner.

Reid falls down on cut on KO.

tbn said...

Doms!

Yeah, i think it is a pretty vanilla defense from SuperDick. There haven't been any trick formations or shifting, or creative blitzes. Still, our defense looked like they were mailing it in. I think it got coaching a little pissed, cuz they kept 1st's ion almost the whole first half.

tbn said...

Where are they? Carolina?

domski43 said...

t-rock! nice commentating

at least wreckingball found paydirt

were the steelers playing their first team special teams?

tbn said...

Dekker, Steelers TE, out on cart. No info yet.

Reid dropped hot pass by Leftwich. Thrown hard, but it hit him right in the hands.

domski43 said...

no in philly.....they had a rain delay!?!

tbn said...

Doms,

As far as i could tell it was the same bunch throught on STs. There might have been some changes tho. It's hard to tell every time.

Thanks for the proips. I wasn't sure if anybody'd evensee this, but i figured i might as well since you guys couldn't get the game. Maybe be some blog-fodder for the Cots.

domski43 said...

dennis dixon/mike potts will lead us to victory!!!

tbn said...

Timmons with big QB-hurry and hit.

Dixon gets in, looks very good throwing. Not a lot of completions, but timing good, good composure.

First sighting of Sweed. Makes one tuff catches, blows a couple routes.

tbn said...

From the look of Dixon Leftwich might not be a very long-lived Steeler. Neither might Charlie. Dixon looks good, shows great strength on shows and a decent head for the game. With a little more experience he might be a threat.

tbn said...

Dixon with a naked bootleg right runs for a TD. Nobody ever get near him. Very well executed. Dixon has real-deal speed and vision.

tbn said...

Reid w. offsides on KO.

Dixon battling for game in bottom of 4th. Overcame sack near own goal with deep middle pass. Clock ticking, Dixon showing good composure. Underthrows Baker on next pass, 30seconds left, down by 3.

Over the hands of Sweed, 4th down with 23 seconds. Completes to Baker over middle, spikes ball at 6 seconds. Still excellent composure although not quite effective at getting ball off on spike. Throws Hail Mary, WR had hands on it but couldn't hold on. Beautifully timed deep pas on last play..

Overall excellent showing by very young player Dixon. Could very possibly contribute this season on trick plays, 3rd downs etc. Showed good head, very calm.

tbn said...

Maybe somebody'll enjoy this input. I wasn't doing anything anyway. G'night gang...


...ya buncha thugs, yinz :-)

domski43 said...

thanks tobiathan! I'm DVRing the game on NFL network @ midnight and watching it tomorrow. Cant wait to see your words come to life. (I hate not being able to watch)

Good to hear that Dixon has some balls to stand in the pocket under pressure. T-Rock, I really hope you're right about Dixon being used for trick plays. How can you just let that kind of talent sit on the sidelines? Even if not, there is still the possibility of using him as trade bait down the road if he continues to grow as a quarterback.