Archive for November, 2020

Steelers cruise to 10-0!

November 22nd, 2020

The Steelers handled the Jaguars to improve to 10-0!

It had all the makings of the classic trap game, the Steelers were coming off a big win against a division rival, a major national televised game against their ultimate division rival the following week, playing an unknown quarterback for a team that the Steelers historically struggle against. It didn’t happen. Mike Tomlin had the team prepared and kept everything in perspective, the result was never really in doubt after the first quarter and the Steelers remained perfect on the season.

The defense started the first drive slow, feeling out the Jaguars and yielding a field goal on the opening drive. They then held Jacksonville off the board for the next 49 minutes and three seconds. The game plan was to run the ball with James Robinson and the Steelers had the answer stacking the box. Vince Williams and Cam Heyward each had five tackles stopping the running game. Tyson Alualu, in his Jacksonville return, had a pass deflection that led to an interception. Robert Spillane continues to play well. Bud Dupree and Stephon Tuitt each registered a sack, continuing the current sack street at 66 games. The front seven kept the onus on Jake Luton and harassed him all day. He didn’t have the tools or the weapons to pull off the upset.

Luton completed only 16 passes for a paltry 151 yards and was picked four times. The secondary handcuffed the Jaguars and they had very little success passing. Terrel Edmunds had the best game of his career with four tackles and two interceptions. He showed his total skillset in stopping the run. Minkah Fitzpatrick also had two interceptions including a red zone pick that he returned for 37 yards setting up a Steelers touchdown. It was a very well-played game by the defense.

The offense worked at reestablishing the run, and for the most part they did just that. James Conner led the team with 89 yards on the ground and averaged 6.8 yards per carry. The offense cracked 100 yards on the day behind a solid effort. There was room to run and the Steelers didn’t abandon the run after starting slow. The Steelers use of the jet sweep the last two weeks had been ineffective.

Ben Roethlisberger put together a masterful if unspectacular performance. He passed for 267 yards and two touchdowns, hitting seven different receivers. His only blemish was an interception late in the first half. Diontae Johnson terrorized the Jaguars in the first half and finished the day with 12 receptions for 111 yards. Chase Claypool had a big day scoring his 10th touchdown of the season on a 31-yard catch, he finished with four receptions for 59 yards. Eric Ebron pitched in with another touchdown.

Special teams had a good day. After missing his first field goal of the season, “Little Bos” chipped in with two. The returns team protected the football on an onside kick. The Jordan Berry revival continues, he pinned the Jaguars inside their twenty twice and flipped the field on a 55-yard punt. He had only one miscue with a touchback late in the game.

The refs who have been a sore spot all season, simply let the teams play unless it was an egregious call. It kept the flow of the game going and made for a better viewing experience.

Give the coaching staff credit. They have had the right game plan for the Jaguars and there was no sense of let up during the game. The Jaguars after the first drive and ensuing onside kick try were out manned and the game plan played out exactly the way the coaching staff intended it to.


My “GAME BEER” goes to: Have to go with Diontae Johnson, he was clearly the go to receiver and he led the team in catches and yards. Also Considered: Terrell Edmunds, who continues to improve his game and step up with two interceptions. James Conner, who got back on track Sunday. “The MAC guys” who all contributed and good naturedly ribbed Coach Tomlin after the win.

Where I watched the game: We were at the house. The “Steel the other team’s snacks”, was Cuban Sandwich Sliders that KGB made, they served on Hawaiian Rolls with honey mustard. Keeping with the warm weather Jacksonville theme, the beer this week was Narraganset “Del’s Shandy” 16 oz pounders, that I had been saving for the last few months. KGB went back to “Mother Pumpkin Ale” with a cinnamon sugar rim and Dante had his White-Rock Root Beer! We were happy to welcome back Little Miss Tailgate Hailey for her first game day with us this season! The pressure was on for a victory.

My Stat of the week: 106 yards for the much-maligned rushing game. The Steelers have “struggled” to run the ball this season and Sunday they looked like they got back on track. James Conner averaged 6.8 yards per carry. When the Steelers commit to the run, they can run it.

My Thoughts on next week: As in three days from today. The Steelers can really step on the Ravens’ neck and not only put them out of this year’s division race, they can put them out of the playoff picture altogether. With Covid the schedule has been unforgiving and playing Thursday after a road game is tough. Mike Tomlin has done an excellent job this year keeping the Steelers focused. Look for the usual battle.

This week’s Jersey: Merril Hoge #33, Away White, one of the true gentleman to ever wear a Steelers jersey, always proud to honor Hogee!



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Steelers route Bengals…improve to 9-0!

November 16th, 2020

The Steelers had a great bounce back performance against a familiar foe the Cincinnati Bengals, with a strong victory to go 9-0 on the season. The Steelers harassed and dominated from the opening whistle and easily handled the Bengals’ super rookie Joe Burrow.

The story of the week was Covid and the restrictions it placed on the Steelers practice schedule. Ben Roethlisberger was forced to work remotely all week and didn’t practice with the team, despite that he played his best game of the year. He passed for 333 yards and four touchdown passes and was in complete control all game. His numbers could have been even better if one or two drops were handled. Even with the absence of a consistent running game Roethlisberger moved the Steelers down the field almost at will and engineered seven scoring drives for 36 points.

Roethlisberger hit seven different receivers and more importantly had zero turnovers. JuJu Smith-Schuster led the team in catches with nine and a big touchdown. Diontae Johnson put up his first 100-yard game of the season and he continues to show that he is a dangerous playmaker, he finished with six catches and a touchdown. Chase Claypool pitched in with four catches for 56 yards and two touchdowns. James Washington, is the unsung hero in the group, putting up two catches and making two big plays.

Despite playing one of the worst run defenses in the league, the Steelers struggled to run the ball and at times all but abandoned it. The “jet sweep” play was no longer effective and failed on three tries. James Conner could only muster 36 yards and he struggled to get outside on any of the running back sweep plays. He never could get in the rhythm and the offensive line couldn’t get the push needed when the Bengals stacked the box. The Steelers need to stay committed to the run especially in games like this but with Roethlisberger moving so well, the run was an afterthought.

It was close to a dominant performance for the defense and it never allowed a third down conversion. The numbers don’t tell the story, for most of the game Joe Burrow had plenty of time to pass but it appeared he didn’t recognize the coverages. The schemes confused him and at times he was just chucking and ducking. His only big play was a 54-yard completion to Tee Higgins on a blown coverage by Cam Sutton. The play setup the only Bengals touchdown on the day. The rest of the day the Bengals were held in check by the secondary. Joe Haden kept A.J. Green off the stat sheet, Steve Nelson played great again and had a fumble recovery. Terrell Edmunds led the team in tackles.

T.J. Watt had two big sacks. The first one knocked the Bengals out of field goal range at the end of the first half. The Bengals front doubled him most of the game. Bud Dupree was a step off but did get his seventh sack of the year. While the Bengals had mild success running the ball, they never really pushed the issue. Cam Hewyard, Tyson Alualu and Stephon Tuitt pushed the pocket and kept the Bengals off balance. There was another Mondeaux sighting, and he played well when called upon .

The Special teams had a nice bounce back week after the “dumpster fire” last week in Dallas. “Little Bos” was called on to complete three field goals in what had to be tough conditions with a swirling wind. Ray-Ray McCloud had a huge return that setup, the kill-shot touchdown on a 43-yard punt return. Olasunkanmi Adeniyi caused a fumbled on the first punt of the day. The Jordan Berry comeback took a nice turn putting together his best game in three seasons, highlighted by banging a 62- yard boomer that pinned the Bengals down. There was a minor hiccup on a fake punt after the game was well in hand.

Give the Steelers leadership and coaching a lot of the credit for the performance. This week was full of distractions with all the Covid Protocols, a lackluster performance last week and the mounting pressure of being undefeated. The team responded and put together its best performance of 2020 so far. It was a thorough demolition of a division rival.


My “GAME BEER” goes to: Ben Roethlisberger, who passed for over 300 yards and threw four touchdowns in a week where he never practiced live due to Covid restrictions. Also Considered: Diontae Johnson who had over 100 yards receiving and six catches. Joe Haden who played a masterful game shutting out A.J. Green.

Where I watched the game: We were at the house after an eventful Sunday. The “Steel the other team’s snacks”, was something called Skyline Dip that is supposedly popular in Cincinnati. While it was enjoyable, it was our worst snack of the season so far, especially coming off Texas Style Beef Brisket. The Steelers did score when the snacks came out. Beer this week was Smithwicks Irish Red from Ireland in bottles. I struggled with beverage management all game. KGB went back to “Mother Pumpkin Ale” with a cinnamon sugar rim and Dante had his White-Rock Root Beer!

My Stat of the week: The Steelers held the Bengals ZERO for 13 on 3rd down conversions. It was a very strong performance for the Steelers on defense despite not having the greatest push up front. The Pass Defense was tight with very few mistakes.

My Thoughts on next week: In the words of Admiral Ackbar, “It’s a Trap”! Riding high and now with a three-game advantage in the Division (including game in hand) this wreaks of a letdown. The Jags are starting their fourth string Quarterback and they are a team that the Steelers for whatever reason have historically struggled against. It scares me. Not to mention the Thanksgiving clash with the Ravens looms around the corner. This has the makings of a disaster. The Steelers really need to put their foot on the gas here and not let up.

This week’s Jersey: Franco Harris #32, Salute to Service, again to honor Veterans Day!


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The Grades are in; The Steelers first half report is here!

November 13th, 2020


What has gone right? The Steelers are 8-0 so that is a pretty “right” thing, and I honestly believe that they haven’t played their best football yet. No 8-0 teams has had to endure the absolute garbage media coverage this team gets. For some reason the Steelers should be apologizing for playing lousy football AND still winning.  Ben Roethlisberger’s revival has been nothing short of phenomenal. He is using all the weapons at his disposal and is the number ONE reason, the Steelers are sitting where they are. The Receivers (WR and TE) are beginning to develop into a first-class unit and may again challenge as the best unit on the team. The front seven, when healthy, is among the best in football. They are getting to the Quarterback consistently. The special teams up until last week was surprising enough a strength…but then came down to earth. The coaching has been solid and consistent. They have never gotten too high or too low and they keep the Steelers in every game.  One word for you: Mondeaux-Mania has hit the Burgh!

What has gone wrong? As it has for just about every American, COVID has wreaked havoc on the Steelers. Between having the games rescheduled to having players test positive and sending everyone into quarantine this week. Losing Devin Bush for the season is a tough blow. After six games of absolutely demolishing every team up front, the run defense has looked leaky the last two weeks. Against the Ravens you can give a mulligan, because the defense stepped up in other ways, against the Cowboys, it starts to ring the alarm bell. It looks like teams have found ways to exploit the Steelers zone defense in the passing game. The Steelers have also abandoned the run game because of inconsistency. Not being able to convert 3rd and short and 4th and short is troubling. That’s a challenge that will need to be addressed.  On a personal and non-game related note Tunch Ilkin having Lou Gehrig’s disease is just tragic.

Reasons for Concern: Well according to the media the Steelers are not a great team. I don’t buy it. Injuries have derailed several of the Steelers Super Bowl contenders, so that is a huge reason for concern. This year is the most unique for injuries because of the uncertainty of COVID. The defense needs to step up and make everyone a believer again. Tyson Alualu and Mike Hilton returning will be a major factor. The running game needs to reappear.

Offensive Game Beer:  Have to go with Ben Roethlisberger. The offense is just in a different gear when he is in the game. Honorable Mention: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson.

Defensive Game Beer: Tough one to pick, have to go with T.J. Watt who has made several key plays at key times and leads the team in sacks. Honorable Mention: Stephon Tuitt, Cam Heyward and Vince Williams.

Disappointment of the first half: James Conner not seizing the running back job. He can write a great second half if he gets to play and the right amount of touches.

Most Improved:  Diontae Johnson has been a playmaker for most of the season. Also Considered; Ray-Ray McCloud who dramatically improved the return game. Terrell Edmunds has done a very good job.


QB: A-, Ben Roethlisberger is playing some of his best football.

RB: C+, James Conner needs to step up in the second half. They have been passable this season but need to be much more consistent.

WR: A, This group has done an amazing job and everyone seems to have found their role. JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington make the tough catches. Diontae Johnson is the playmaker, Chase Claypool takes the top off the defenses.

TE: B, This could have been an A- or a B+ but they need to play more consistent. Eric Ebron is an absolute difference maker, except when he isn’t. He shows flashes of brilliance but makes a lot of mistakes. He needs to be more consistent in the second half. Vance McDonald has done a good job.

OL: B-, Pass blocking they have done a consistent and solid job. Run Blocking they have been inconsistent and need to do a better job opening up holes for the running backs.

DL: A-, Have played consistently strong and this would have been an A+ if Tyson Alualu would have been in these last two weeks. When they are healthy they anchor the defense.

LB: A, Very strong performance on the outside with 13 sacks between T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree. Robert Spillane has stepped up in Devin Bush’s absence and the Steelers brought in a great reinforcement in Avery Williamson. Vince Williams continues to play well.

DB: B, They have not been spectacular but they have made the plays when needed, including two goal line stands to preserve two victories. Minkah Fitzpatrick is beginning to shine again. Steven Nelson and Joe Haden are playing strong consistent football. Terrell Edmunds has improved this year.

Special Teams: B+, This would have been an A, but the Dallas game derailed that. If you take out last week. Every aspect of special teams has been good. The punting game was inconsistent but passable. Little Bos drilled the longest field goal in team history. Ray-Ray McCloud was a GREAT find!

What does part two look like: COVID makes everything a challenge right now. Hard to figure out what will happen. As for the things The Steelers can control. They will indeed lose a game or two and everyone will panic especially if it is to a jabroni team like the Jaguars or the Bengals. They have a tough game in Buffalo and the Ravens are extremely dangerous especially on a short travel week. That being written, this is a Super Bowl caliber team in so many ways. Worst case if everyone stays healthy is 13-3 and best case is 14-2.


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Steelers comeback and then hold on!

November 9th, 2020

It was almost the familiar Steelers scenario, the “Tomlin Special”, coming off a big win and then losing to a lousy team on the road, but in the end the Steelers rallied from 13 points down and beat the Dallas Cowboys, remaining undefeated and going to 8-0 for the first time in franchise history.

The Steelers started slow, had a terrible game plan and made several key mistakes on offense, defense and special teams. They also made several timely plays and were able to rally and hold off not one but two furious Cowboys’ comeback attempts.

Ben Roethlisberger playing with a banged-up knee, led the offensive comeback, using an empty backfield and five receiver set. Roethlisberger put up 300+ yards (with 195 yards coming in the second half) and threw three touchdowns. He saved the game and it is painfully apparent how important he is to the offense. Mason Rudolph made a scary appearance late in the first half and had little success.

Despite playing the worst run defense in the league, the Steelers threw the ball 46 times and found very little room for the running game. They only mustered 46 yards and failed to convert on third-and-1 and two fourth-and-1s, one of which was to close out the game. The running game has all but evaporated over the course of the last few weeks. James Conner finished with only 22 yards.

The run defense playing with rookie Carlos Davis as the Nose Tackle also has evaporated. After getting battered last week by the Ravens, the Cowboys churned out 144 yards with a mediocre offensive line and an injured Zeke Elliot. They controlled the clock and the defense which looked unstoppable three very short weeks ago, now struggles against the run and teams have figured out the zone defense on passing plays.

Cowboys’ quarterback, Garret Gilbert making his first start in the NFL, was able to find success and dictated the pace of the game. He found early success and kept the Steelers on their heels most of the day.

What has saved the Steelers has been big plays by big playmakers. On defense, Minkah Fitzpatrick had a key fourth quarter red zone interception and the game ending play. T.J. Watt and Cam “Steelhead” Heyward had a huge sack on fourth down to end a Cowboys comeback drive. On offense, Ben Roethlisberger made several key plays engineering the game winning drive. JuJu Smith-Schuster, had six catches for 93 very tough yards and Eric Ebron made a big catch and run play to finally take the lead late in the fourth quarter. On special teams, Chris Boswell hit the longest field goal in Steelers history.

After having a very solid season, the Special Teams issues that have plagued the Steelers since the days of Chuck Noll, reared its’ head, the Steelers missed two extra points, and were torched in the return game. Falling for a trick play and blowing coverage on a short field kickoff. The Steelers could have gone up by eight with 59 seconds left in the game but chose to go for it instead of relying on the special teams.

It wasn’t pretty and there were several mistakes in all facets of the game, but the Steelers now sit with the best start in franchise history and are in control of the division at the halfway mark.


My “GAME BEER” goes to: Minkah Fitzpatrick, who had a key turnover and knocked away Garrett Gilbert’s last ditch pass to preserve the Steelers’ victory. That’s two weeks in a row that Minkah made the game ending play. Also Considered: Chris “Little Bos” Boswell who nailed the longest field goal in franchise history. Ben Roethlisberger, who was banged up and led the comeback. JuJu Smith-Schuster who was the go-to player during the comeback.

Where I watched the game: So this was a sore subject, we were supposed to be in Dallas for the game with our travel group and KGB’s sister and brother-in-law(Both Cowboys fans) were supposed to join us. Because of the damn virus, we had to cancel the trip back in August.  We made the best of it though! The “Steel the other team’s snacks”, was Texas Style Beef Brisket with Texas Toast and Beans. Because of the time, it was our dinner too and it was phenomenal including a crisp caramelized top. The Steelers rally started right after dinner, again proving the power of the snacks! We had a Blue Point Brewing Company day for Beers, I had 16oz pounders of “Drink the Bay Clean” Lager. For KGB it was “Mother Pumpkin Ale” with a cinnamon sugar rim for Dante White-Rock Root Beer!

My Stat of the week: There are several to choose from but have to go with Chris Boswell hitting a 59-yard Field Goal the longest in franchise history. “Little Bos” had a tough day missing two extra points. However, drilling a 59-yarder was legendary and he continued to show how important he is to the Steelers success.

My Thoughts on next week: The Bengals are coming off their bye week and Joe Burrow looks like the best QB prospect in football. The Steelers should run all kinds of blitz packages and most importantly STOP the run!

This week’s Jersey: Two actually – David Decastro, #66 Away Jersey and Alejandro Villanueva #78 Salute to Service, in honor of Veterans Day!

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Steelers take control of the AFC North with wild win over the Ravens!

November 1st, 2020

It was again a tale of two halves, this time the Steelers reversed the script, after falling behind 10 points in the first half and struggling on both sides of the ball, they rallied and then held off a furious Ravens attack that saw them turn back two comeback attempts.

The Steelers coaching deserves a great amount of credit for the win. They made half time adjustments and held the Ravens to seven points in the second half after getting nearly run down in the first half and trailing by double digits. The Ravens offense is basic and seems like a middle school coach designed it, but because of the changing dynamic of the NFL as a passing league, teams don’t have enough fire power up front to slow them down and it looked like the Steelers would fall into that. The Ravens pounded out 265 yards and averaged over 5.6 yards a carry, that is more than three times what they had been giving up in previous six games. The methodical offense is tough to stop, and the Steelers struggled most of the day with stopping it.

After a tough first half, the defense turned it around and kept Lamar Jackson in check and caused four turnovers including two in the red zone. On the first passing situation of the game, Robert Spillane picked off Jackson and ran it back for a touchdown. While the front seven struggled on run defense, for the most part they had the answer for Jackson. T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree had a sack each and Dupree caused a Jackson fumble in the red zone. Stephon Tuitt anchored the front and chipped in with nine tackles and two big sacks. Rookie Alex Highsmith helped keep the momentum in the second half with a big interception. Isiah Buggs made the play of the day, stopping Lamar Jackson and causing a fumble on a mad dash play late in the fourth quarter. Buggs was filling in for an injured Tyson Alualu.

The secondary missed several big opportunities but were strong in run support. While Jackson’s numbers were mediocre, he made several key plays including converting a fourth-and-2 with a 22-yard pass, a second-and-22 and a third-and-14 and he kept the Ravens in it until the last play of the game.

Ben Roethlisberger led a struggling offense that was dormant from the second half of last week’s game to the first half of this week’s game. He went 17 for 22 for 166 yards of his 182 yards on the day. The Steelers abandoned the running game after the first half and spread the Ravens defense out going with a five-receiver set on several plays, and Roethlisberger would audible out of the play depending on what the defense showed. It was great field generalship and his play v. Jackson’s play was the key differentiator in the game. No turnovers and he played within his capabilities.

JuJu Smith-Schuster was a huge factor in the second half and made several key plays and grinded out some tough yards. He led the team in catches with seven. Chase Claypool had his seventh tough down of the season, which was the subsequent game winner and five catches. Eric Ebron had four catches and James Conner had three.

While the stats are ugly, the results aren’t. Starting with the best record in franchise history is something to behold. The Steelers made the necessary changes and bent but never broke and with a mediocre performance on both sides of the ball held off their arch-rivals.


My “GAME BEER” goes to: Isiah Buggs, There were players who had better stats, and even some flashier plays, but it was Buggs huge stop and forced fumble on Lamar Jackson at the end of the fourth quarter that nearly iced the Ravens. He came off his block and creamed Jackson. It was the biggest stop of the day, after Buggs at times struggled to fill in for Tyson Alualu. Also Considered: Robert Spillane who had a huge pick six to start the game, JuJu Smith-Schuster who had some of the toughest yards and catches you will see.

Where I watched the game: We had more family this week, and the “Steal the other team’s snacks”, was Maryland style Crab Cake Sliders. They were KGB’s usual outstanding fare with three dipping sauces. The Steelers scored one of their go-ahead scores in the 3rd quarter when they arrived. The beer for me was Narraganset Lager (In a “Jaws” themed can.). For KGB, Billy and Ally it was Montauk Pumpkin Beer with a cinnamon sugar rim for Dante homemade Root Beer!

My Stat of the week: It was a milestone for the Steelers most underrated person…Mike Tomlin, winning his 140th game, passing former Steeler player and coach Tony Dungy for the most wins by an African American coach. Given Dungy’s status in the NFL and Tomlin’s relationship with him, it had to be extremely gratifying. Tomlin never gets the credit he deserves and even worse he gets derided some time, because people want change for changes sake. Whatever your feeling, the numbers speak for themselves and are irrefutable, he helps the team put a quality product on the field every week and he is a great coach. I love Tony Dungy and his ties to Chuck Noll and the Steelers.

My Thoughts on next week: Scared to death. Everything I just wrote about Mike Tomlin, I stand behind. He is the best Coach in the NFL not named Bill Belichick, however his Achilles heel throughout his tenure, has been losing to inferior NFC teams on the road. Especially after beating a tough rival like the Ravens. (Plus KGB and I were supposed to be at this game.) Contrary to popular belief, next week is not a guarantee. The Steelers need to rebound on defense and put the Cowboys away early.

This week’s Jersey: Troy Polamalu, #43 Away Jersey. Always one of my favorites, the newly minted Hall of Famer jersey has filled in as my gamer a few times.

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