Wednesday Apple Pie

If there is a team that has tried harder to be 2 – 5 in the NFL this season than the Pittsburgh Steelers, please speak now or forever hold your peace. The Steelers, through a myriad of devices ranging from play calling, injuries and turnovers to name a few, have worked very intensely to get as mediocre as a team can become.

Here is an example:

Tommy Maddox pass incomplete to Plaxico Burress.
Maddox pass incomplete to Jerome Bettis.
Maddox pass to Amos Zereoue to the Pittsburgh 43 for 5 yards.

That folks, was the first offensive series of the game for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Sounds innocent enough right? But, looking further into the details of the game, the Steelers started Bettis to help jumpstart a run offense that up to this point has been something out of a Stephen King novel. And, there was sharp steady rain that made the game prime for the team that could commit patiently to the run.

Those conditions of the game would leave anyone with any logic in their mind to believe that the Steelers pounded the ball on the first series of the game. That would have been the easy decision, the smart decision. Instead the Steelers took the hard way and tried their best to not run the ball. In fact they only ran the ball 18 times. Now that's a team that's trying really hard.

This type of inexplicable play-calling and subsequent unraveling of a team is hardly new to the NFL, but it is absolutely new here with this current coaching staff. Mike Mularkey, who could make any play call look genius, all of the sudden is out-smarting himself. In my business that's called "Sondheiming".

Tim Lewis and Bill Cowher have pulled the reigns in on 11+ players drafted for a defense that relies on blitzing the quarterback. These two coaches now have 11 + players operating in a defensive game plan that highlights their shortcomings.

But to say that the inane play calling has been the catalyst for the fantastic slide would be foolish. It all starts at the quarterback position. Tommy Maddox seems to only have eyes for Hines Ward, which can only make Plaxico Burress jealous. That's what happens when two young 1,000-yard receivers are on the same team. In defense of Maddox, Burress' head hasn't always been in the game every down, as at times Plaxico performs his best Randy Moss-version 2002 impersonation.

Maddox also has 11 interceptions already this season. He wasn't content with his 16 of a year ago and obviously feels that opposing teams weren't happy with that output last season. But, you would have to think that teams this season are surely happy with his play.

So, who or what have we blamed so far? Play-calling. Quarterback. What's that Mr. Grimm? Your linemen want some recognition too? Well, I think there are always ample pats on the back for a group that's been decimated by injuries, poor-play, gutless decisions and speed. If it weren't for Alan Faneca, and how dare he sacrifice for the team, the whole unit would be the MVP of the team's decline.

Since that line is doing its best to not create holes, the running game has nowhere to go but backward. And that's where Amos Zereoue, that stud of a running back, can be proud. He leads the league! That's right. In runs for losses, Amos leads the whole NFL. What a proud day it is!

And the pride just continues because the Steelers are officially last in the AFC North division! That's right Sparky; even the Cincinnati Bengals have been able to muster more wins than our Pittsburgh Steelers. Perhaps the Steelers this season will finally be able grab a top-5 draft pick and break the monopoly that the Bengals, Lions and Cardinals among others have held. Imagine it, a top-5 draft pick. Now that's a goal that can be achieved with the same hard work the Steelers are giving every week.

Apple Pix-Six: Week 8 Review

Miami 26 San Diego 10: The Dolphins' game plan was to make Drew Brees win the game for the Chargers. That's some smart, simple, no-brainer game planning, from one of the worst game planners in the NFL, Dave Wannestedt.

Kansas City 35 Buffalo 5: This is all you need to know about the Chiefs: In the 4th quarter with game in hand Trent Green throws the best block I've ever seen a quarterback throw to allow Priest Holmes to get into the end-zone. This team plays with enthusiasm and a will to win that I haven't seen since the St. Louis Rams were blowing away the competition in 1999.

New England 9 Cleveland 3: The Patriots win an ugly game against a team that is making a living off of winning ugly. That defense may be young, but the Browns are gearing up to be the class of the AFC North as quickly as next season.

Baltimore 16 Denver 6: Quietly Jamal Lewis is having an All-Pro season. This team doesn't have a great quarterback yet they make plays to win games and have a strong offensive line. This win coupled with Pittsburgh's loss makes the division Baltimore's to lose.

Tampa Bay 16 Dallas 6: No reason to be embarrassed after this one Cowboy Matt. The ‘Boys still had a great first half of the season, better than anyone could have predicted. Before the game Brad Johnson had 13 touchdown passes. That's almost double Tommy Maddox. Something's not right.

Philadelphia 24 NY Jets 17: Chad Pennington returns and throws an interception. Not exactly a Namath-like entrance, but hey he's back; that's good news for the Jets to build on the rest of the season. But, anybody else feel that Philly is living on borrowed time? Donovan McNabb has zero touchdown passes to wide receivers this season.

Apple Pix-Six

1. New England at Denver (GOTW) – So, I'm changing my own rules. I looked at the last 8 weeks of the season and the GOTW's hinged on assuming the Steelers, Jets, Raiders, Falcons and Browns would be pretty darn good. I think it's an understatement to say that they aren't any good by any stretch of the imagination. So, here is a game that should be brutal and fun to watch. Plus, a loss to the Broncos last season was one of the main culprits that knocked the Patriots out of the playoff hunt.

2. Green Bay at Minnesota: Okay, here's the deal: The Packers must win in Minneapolis to have a shot at the NFC North title. That's reality Cheese-heads. It's literally now or never. Simple, huh? No? Heck, the Giants won there on Sunday.

3. Indianapolis at Miami: This game is very important because both teams will be fighting hard to win their division. Also, both can take a strong step toward a wild-card birth with a win. The loser takes a big step backward.

4. St. Louis at San Francisco: The Niners lost to the Cardinals in what has to be a big blow to their chances for a divisional championship. That divisional loss makes this game a must-win for the Niners. The Rams can make the division a two-horse race by sweeping the Gold-Diggers.

5. Washington at Dallas: Okay Cowboys, you win this game and you knock the Redskins out of the playoff hunt for all intents and purposes. Plus, you let the Eagles and Giants get a game closer last week.

6. Cincinnati at Arizona: If the Bengals win and the Steelers lose, the Bengals will be two games ahead of 4th place in the division. Some Steeler fans may jump if that happens.

The Complete Power Core Rankings: Week 9

  1. Kansas City -- That was some pounding they put on the Bills.
  2. Tennessee – The only team that has the defense to stop the Chiefs.
  3. Indianapolis – The Colts need to win in Nashville to win the division.
  4. St. Louis – Big jump? Maybe, but the Vikings did lose.
  5. New England – Yes, Tom Brady is overrated, but that defense isn't.
  6. Minnesota – The Vikings won't fall far, but if they lose again, the bandwagon may stop.
  7. Carolina – Big overtime in Big Easy win for the Panthers.
  8. Tampa Bay – The rematch in Carolina will be the division breaker.
  9. Miami -- The Dolphins easily dispatched the overmatched Chargers in Arizona.
  10. Seattle – You lose to the Bengals?
  11. Dallas – No shame in that loss Cowboys fans.
  12. Denver – No quarterback means no playoffs.
  13. Philadelphia – Donovan McNabb needs to throw some touchdown passes at some point this season.
  14. Green Bay – Bret Favre, is this your last season? Tell me now so I don't miss another one of your games.
  15. NY Giants – Impressive win in Minnesota.
  16. San Francisco – Ouch, all of a sudden the Monday night match against Pittsburgh doesn't look so sexy.
  17. Buffalo – The Bills aren't getting much better.
  18. Baltimore – Good D is getting the job done.
  19. Cincinnati – Could the ship really be turning in Bengalland?
  20. Washington – The Skins need to win this week or the playoffs will be just another mirage.
  21. Cleveland – Just pick a quarterback, Butch. Please.
  22. Pittsburgh – Could they hit the bottom? Yes.
  23. Oakland – The Raiders don't move too much because they didn't play.
  24. New Orleans – Jim Haslett and his buddy Bill Cowher may both be looking for jobs.
  25. NY Jets – Chad Pennington is back. Jets still lose.
  26. Houston –Tony Banks filling in for an injured David Carr can only be a bad sign.
  27. Chicago – Kordell, you want to come back? We miss your interceptions.
  28. Atlanta – Michael Vick should just sit out the rest of the year.
  29. Arizona – More fans showed up to watch the Dolphins than any Cardinal game this year.
  30. Jacksonville – The Jags were good once. Right? I can't remember it was so long ago.
  31. San Diego – Too bad the best running back in the league is on the second to worst team.
  32. Detroit – Matt Millen can't win with a good coach. You can have Bill Cowher.

Fruits of Labor (stock is rising)

  • Hines Ward – The best receiver on the team is the only real scoring threat this season.

Rotten Produce (stock is falling)

  • Mike Mularkey – Something tells me he won't be getting many calls from teams looking for a head coach this season…unless…well, Rooney wouldn't fire Bill Cowher. Would he?

Missed Point Opportunities (MPO)

TeamPittsburghSt. Louis
Drives2nd Drive (Fumble)3rd Drive (Punt after Fumble)
3rd Drive (Punt after good field position)6th Drive (FG inside 5 yard line)
4th Drive (Punt after good field position)8th Drive (FG inside 5 yard line)
6th Drive (Interception)
8th Drive (Punt after good field position)
9th Drive (Interception)
10th Drive (Interception)
Score73

Season MPO Record: 2-5

Wisdom From the Girl Apple

Girl Apple: So they lost again, huh.

Apple: Yup.

Girl Apple: You don't look too upset.

Apple: I'm in shock. It hasn't hit me that the season is over.

Girl Apple: You really think its over?

Apple: Yup. What do you think?

Girl Apple: I agree with you.

Apple: That's not what I wanted to hear.

Girl Apple: Well, the earlier you come to terms with the fact your Steelers aren't going anywhere the quicker you can start focusing on important things, like spending time with me…

Apple: You're right! I can start to look at what young players will make a name for themselves. If the team can finish strong. Oh, you're so wise!

Super-Fan Pappy Fried Chicken's Keys To The Game

  • It is apparent that a bye week, while great for resting and getting back injured players, does not increase the talent level. Anything is still possible in our division, but some moves need to be made NOW!
  • With all of the changes and shuffling in the offensive line, false hope abounded. Moving Faneca to the outside could be a good move, but we won't know for sure for a few more weeks. It won't matter at all if Marvel Smith does not suck it up and get back in there. Seriously. Can anyone name the Steelers' starting front five?
  • The other shame of the Steeler pride is that *%^#ing defensive backfield. They are so bad that the run defense is suffering. If the front seven didn't have to worry about dropping into pass coverage there would not be a running back in the league who could stand up to them.
  • It is time for the Steelers to make some changes.
  • First thing to nip in the bud is the influx of former Detroit Lions. Can somebody tell me when the Lions were that good that other teams were wetting their shorts to get their hands on some of that talent?!
  • It goes against everything we have grown up knowing about the Steelers, but it is time to make some trades. For the past couple of years the Steelers have spent their high draft picks on WR's and now we have a stockpile of them. how much could it hurt to let one of them go so we can pick up a lineman that can actually block, or a DB that doesn't smell like singed hair after every play?
  • On a nicer note. It was good to see Troy Polamalu as a part of the actual game. He did make some bonehead rookie mistakes, (the ball going through his hands on the one yard line), but I'll take it. Those mistakes will lessen with experience.
  • It was also good to get back on the Bus again. His power was sorely missed. Even if it's just a matter of falling forward for positive yards, opposing defenses have to respect that.

Thoughts Assisted By Yuengling

  • Watching that Sunday night game, I'm amazed at how fast that Chiefs defense seems to be playing. Perhaps it's the fact that they are having the time of their lives.
  • I have a strong feeling that Bill Cowher will be back next season. I don't like that feeling. It seems to me that a change in philosophy needs to be made.
  • At this point, would you keep Plaxico Burress or Kendrell Bell? I'd probably opt for Bell at this point.
  • Something tells me though, Hines Ward wants to win and doesn't care who he plays for or against. Remember that when he's negotiating his next contract.
  • Goodbye Dewayne Washington, Brent Alexander, Jason Gildon and Jeff Hartings, your service over the years has been a pleasure to watch. Albeit, not this season.

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