Well at least that Jags game was more exciting than the one last year… still pretty much sucked though. Your boy Diego had a busy weekend bartending at Palazzo (sixth street downtown right next to six penn) so I didn’t get the chance to partake in as much sports viewing I am usually accustomed to over the weekend. I did get a chance to watch a good part of the Pitt game Saturday afternoon, but I completely missed the Pens 3-2 victory over the Islanders Saturday night, so I will leave that recap to Snack.
Pitt (10-0) 85
I’ll go with the good news first, Pitt remains undefeated by beating Oklahoma St. at the Pete. This is the fifth straight year that Pitt has opened the season with ten straight wins. The schedule starts getting tougher from here on out, as Big East play begins soon. Still, Pitt is playing at a high level right now so as long as they keep playing the way they are, then they should win a lot of games this year and even compete for the Big East crown.
The first half of this game is probably the best basketball I’ve seen Pitt play all year long. The starting five of Young, Cook, Blair, Fields, and Ramon are really playing well together on both offense and defense. Pitt’s game plan of playing stifling defense and transition offense has worked out in their favor so far this year. Pitt totally outplayed Ok St. in the first half scoring 49 to Ok St’s 31. Pitt also shot a ridiculous 68% from the field in the first half, going five for eight from behind the arc. Pitt ended the half with a 20-5 run, in which Sam Young scored 11 straight points for the Panthers.
Ok St. began the second half with 14-5 run, but the deficit proved to be too large to come back from. Freshman phenom Dejuan Blair, once again, had a big game for the Panthers scoring 20 points, grabbing 10 rebounds, and swatting 5 shots away. Cook and Young both had 15 points apiece. Guards Fields and Ramon both were solid as well scoring 17 and 10 while dishing out 11 assists between the two. All five starters managed double digits in this win on Saturday. Pitt’s defense as a whole also forced 17 turnovers throughout the game. This win was Pitt’s 27 consecutive win against a non-conference opponent at home.
Pitt’s game definitely looks just as good if not better then it did last year at this time, but it still may be a little premature to judge this team’s effectiveness and longevity. We will have a better grasp on this after Thursday night’s 8PM match up against Duke, their first real opponent of the year, at Madison Square Garden in NYC. (road trip anyone?) The one thing that concerns me is Pitt’s lack of a true big man. Blair is handling business thus far against non-conference foes, but the competition gets stiffer as Big East play starts. Seeing how the Pitt freshman handles such big men as 7’2” Roy Hibbert from Georgetown and 6’11” Daivid Padgett from Louisville should be interesting. For now we will enjoy our undefeated record, and look forward to seeing 9-0 Duke and their two underclassman standouts sophomore guard/forward Gerald Henderson and freshman forward Kyle Singler, who are both averaging a team leading 13.6 points per game.
The Steelers last home game of the 2007 season and all they needed was a win and they clinched a playoff birth, but the Jags came into town and rained on our parade. Was it just me, or did it seem like the Jag’s came to our home field, and smashed us in the mouth with a taste of our own medicine? That medicine being pounding the ball on the ground, taking a few shots down field, and bending on defense, but not breaking. Do not be fooled by the fourth quarter comeback of the Steelers, the Jaguars were clearly the better team on Sunday… that leads to the question where does that leave the Steelers?
The Jag’s seem like they have the Steelers number. These two teams play such a similar style of football that when we do play it usually boils down to which team has the ball last. This was not the case yesterday, as the Steelers had the ball last but failed to convert a 4th and 7, as Heath Miller did everything in his power to try to extend out to reach the first down after being hit, but came up half a yard short. The offense has been struggling in the last couple games, and the Steelers struggled to put up points on the board until the fourth quarter. Ben was avoiding pass rushers all day long as the lineman had difficulty holding off the front four of the Jagoffs. Ben was put down five times, and it really shoulda been six as he dumped off a pass to fast Willie as he was going down for another sack. The O-line has been a problem all year for us and now that they are banged up it is getting even worse. Even though Ben was getting hit all day, he did manage 3 TD passes, which catapulted him past Bradshaw for the most in a Steelers season.
One thing that the last couple of weeks have proved is that the Steelers defense certainly is not the cream of the crop in the NFL this year. They failed to get one sack for the second game in a row, even though they were bringing the blitz all day long. Throughout our early victories the D was dominant, being stingy on both the ground and the air. The last few weeks have showed us this defense is unpredictable, as we have let up 29 points and 421 yards of total offense this week, and 34 points and another 421 yards of offense the week before. Mind you, this is coming against two teams who are playoff bound in the AFC the Jaguars and Patriots. Our defense started out strong against weaker opponents such as the 49ers, the Bills, and the Ravens, but they have been faltering as of late.
I’ll give it to the Jag’s they really came to this game prepared to run, and run is what they did rushing for over 200 yards on the day, the most the Steelers have given up since the year 2000. And what about the 20 play drive to start the second half? The Jags even converted two fourth downs on that drive, that just cannot happen if you want to win ball games.
The best description I could give of the Steelers effort so far this year is inconsistent. So now what? With a loss yesterday the Steelers dropped from the third playoff spot, down to the forth, meaning that there may not be any playoff game held at Heinz field this year. That could be trouble as the Lers are 2-4 on the road this season. Also trouble is the fact that the Steelers can’t seem to beat any good teams. I don’t see us standing a chance versus the Colts or Pats in the playoffs, and even the Jags and the Chargers would give the Steelers trouble if we were to see them in January. Part of the problem definitely stems from out defense’s recent inability to sack the opponents QB; we have only one sack in the last three games. Whenever we bring the blitz its getting picked up, maybe its time we unleashed 2nd round pick Lamar Woodley? After all isn’t he supposed to be a QB pressuring beast? That still remains to be seen.
Also, its clear the O-line needs some type of help; more max protections could be the answer, but Ben seems to be having problems finding open receivers now and with even less people going out on routes it won’t make it any easier on the big guy. Of course it usually easier to find the open man when you don’t have 250+ pound men chasing you around. Not to mention the fact that it would render one of our top receivers, Heath Miller, ineffective in the pass game as he would be forced to stay in the backfield and block.
The way I see it the only chance we have to win a game in the playoffs, right now, is if we would play the Brownies, and now that we are the fourth seed in the AFC playoff bracket that may not happen. If that weren’t enough the Steelers have to go to St. Louis to play Thursday night, and they were looking pretty banged up after that game yesterday so this one could mean more trouble for the good guys.