NFL Needs to Postpone Game
I never had the pleasure of meeting Art Rooney, but those from the generation of sportswriters who preceded me here used to tell me about one of The Chief's great concerns: the influence of TV. Rooney's great worry about the league was that it would slide too far into partnership with TV and would therefore become beholden. Take Sunday's Steelers at Giants game. With the canceling of the NYC Marathon, this is the only game in a wrecked town. And it will go on. The league said it reached out to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to make sure the game wouldn't "divert resources away from the Hurricane Sandy relief effort," according to the Newark Star-Ledger. Christie, according to NFL spokesman Greg Aiello in an e-mail to the paper, "was pleased the game is being played." Aiello announced the NFL will salute first responders at the game and contribute $1 million and TV promotion time to the Red Cross. That money will be useful, and perhaps that's the reason for Christie feeling so "pleased" in the face of catastrophe. So it makes it difficult to criticize the decision to play the game. But I will try. For a league with such vast resources, the game should be postponed or even moved out of respect for the misery that's going on around the game site. Of course, moving the game to Pittsburgh would tilt the competitive advantage to the Steelers and create the opposite of the respect you wanted to convey by moving it in the first place. And moving the game to, say, Philadelphia would only exacerbate the massive transportation woes. And, of course, a postponement, even to the next night, would cause angry ripples within the TV industry. What would ESPN say about the money it paid for Monday night rights when CBS can hog the ratings with a much better game? It would turn into a squabble between billionaires and no one likes to see a billionaire cry. But a postponement until the end of the season would cause an even bigger fuss, what with moving the Super Bowl date and all. So the game will go on, and there's nothing I can do but write an angry little column about it. At least the Red Cross will get a million, or maybe five times that if we all call the text number twice. But something still doesn't smell right. And it's not The Chief's cigar. +++++ Someone over at my website, SteelCityInsider.net, thanked me on the message board for a couple of columns I've written lately. He said my criticism in this space that Ben Roethlisberger had lost his magic touch when behind in the fourth quarter spurred Roethlisberger to the Steelers' fourth-quarter rally against the Philadelphia Eagles. And then he said my criticism last week of Roethlisberger not staying focused with a lead resulted in Roethlisberger and the Steelers knocking out the Washington Redskins with a touchdown drive to start the second half. "Someone's listening … or reading," the poster wrote, referring to Roethlisberger himself. And the poster took it a step farther: "So if one is listening, there is a good chance that others are as well," he wrote. "So it's time to call out that defense." Hey, it's worth a try. And maybe the defense does need a kick in the pants. While I'm of the belief that the talent has fallen off, and that yards allowed per game (of which these Steelers rank second) is a misleading stat, I'm also of the belief that even the worst Steelers defenses of the past 40-some years have been able to get to the quarterback and cause turnovers better than this one. These Steelers rank 31st in the NFL with only 7 takeaways, and 25th with only 12 sacks. They are on pace for 16 takeaways and 27 sacks. The latter would be the lowest since 1988 and the former would barely creep past the modern-day franchise record-low of 15 takeaways last season. So that's two years in a row. That would be a trend. And the Giants are trending the other way: They're currently first with 24 takeaways after finishing fifth with 31 last year. Why can one team do it and not the other? "Traditionally," said Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, "if you look at the teams that are ahead in the latter part of the game, they're going to have a few more interceptions because they know the other team has got to throw the ball. This team (Giants) only has two losses so they know they're throwing the ball. Generally speaking, that leads to a few more interceptions. "Other than that, turnovers are cyclical. And some people are better interceptors than others. We're not all created equal. They must have some pretty good interceptors over there." That's been part of the problem for the Steelers. Ike Taylor and those drafted in Ike's likeness, Keenan Lewis and Cortez Allen, haven't shown deft ball skills. The Steelers have also played with crippled pass-rushers and without Troy Polamalu. But, as the OP (original poster) pointed out, "There are teams with god-awful talent on their defenses that are creating far more INTs and turnovers than the Steelers' defense." And, really, LeBeau's argument that the Giants have more interceptions because they're winning most games doesn't hold up for last year's 12-win Steelers team that had only 11 interceptions. Maybe it IS LeBeau's fault. Maybe he has to begin stressing it the way coaches like Lovie Smith do. And after that, LeBeau can read this column to his team and the matter will be solved. But, between you and me, I have my doubts. +++++ You know what I like best about Jonathan Dwyer? Not his power, his vision or his quick feet. It's his humility. You can see it behind the helmet. Or at least I can. It helps that I've talked to him so often since he came here three years ago. I know he's been a humble kid and I know how he's bided his time and I know that even now, after two consecutive 100-yard games, he insists that Rashard Mendenhall remain the starter. I know Dwyer's genuine, just as I know that when he runs over a defensive back and does not gloat that he's being humble and not just too young and in a state of awe over being on the field. Humility's a mature characteristic, particularly in a young athlete. I asked Dwyer when it became important to him. "As a kid my dad always taught me you want to be a man of character, a man of standards," Dwyer said. "Don't boast about yourself because all of the things I've gotten are from God. I wouldn't be here today without Him or my family." Dwyer said the lessons have continued as he prepares to become a family man. "My fiancée, she's on me about it too, about staying humble and things like that," he said. "That's what I try to do. And I learned from guys around here, like Troy and Heath (Miller). They're behind the spotlight, even though they are superstars. That's the type of guy I want to be. I don't want to be all up in the papers. I don't care about all of that stuff." But even Polamalu raises up an interception to heaven every now and then, and Miller will flex a quick pose in the end zone after an important touchdown. Dwyer, as the close-up camera against the Redskins showed, doesn't even smile, let alone scowl, at a DB he has just trucked, while Dwyer's blockers squeal in excitement all around him and practically beg him to acknowledge them in kind. Or is it just that Dwyer's not the excitable type? "Oh, I get excited," he said. "I get fired up at things of that nature. It's just about being professional though. If it happens, it happens. I try to do it, and if it happens it happens. If it doesn't it doesn't and you just move on to the next play." For every misfire on a draft pick, the Steelers seem to find two or three who turn into real gems. Dwyer appears to be one of them.