Wednesday Apple Pie

Take a big deep breath. Make a nice cup of hot chocolate. Kick your feet up and relax. The Pittsburgh Steelers did every one of their fans a huge favor on Sunday. They lost. That's right, that's not a typo. And I'm not insane in the membrane. They lost. That's wonderful. I know these words may be be difficult to say, but try repeating them. "They lost. That's wonderful."

I'm serious. It is absolutely wonderful, because with the loss, the Steelers silence all the nonsense about a late playoff run. That would have meant four weeks of heartache, anxiety, and heavy drinking, all in the name of what? All so the Indianapolis Colts could come into Heinz Field and annihilate the team? Just so we could watch Peyton Manning pick apart Chad Scott all day?

Look, I wanted the Steelers to go to the Super Bowl as bad as the next guy. I've picked them to win the big one the past two seasons. That's how much credit I gave the team. I was wrong, but I knew after Denver this team wasn't winning anything this year.

Most importantly however, I don't want the Steelers embarrassing themselves in the playoffs. The team consistently makes a serious run when they reach the playoffs, unlike the Dolphins who can never get out of the wildcard round.

And in fact, that's what this team would have done, had they made a miraculous run to the wildcard round. The last thing Heinz Field needs is another team to blow another big home game (Do you hear me Walt Harris?).

This team is nowhere near the caliber of team that will make the playoffs. Sure the talent is there, but the will, identity and mental toughness (yes I've spoken on that soapbox before) just isn't. It hasn't been around since this team learned that it was pretty darn good.

"I look at our last seven games, and five of those seven games we were winning or tied midway through the third quarter, and in the other two games we were down by three points midway through the third quarter. We just have not been able to finish games, but that's the thing winning teams are doing. That was just like the other day, when you take a three-point lead and you're playing at home and there's 1:05 to play in the game, you've got to win that game and we weren't able to finish it out."

That's a preposterous quote from Bill Cowher. Not because he states facts, but because of how he mangles the facts and turns it into a truth he honestly believes. In honesty, he's right about the Steelers being in many of these games, but what he doesn't tell you about are the mental breakdowns on defense and offense, the lack of strength to overcome mistakes, the lack of running game to keep the offense rolling, Plaxico Burress disappearing and the fact that rarely have both offense, defense and special teams shown up to play on the same day.

Do yourselves a favor and listen to what Bill Cowher doesn't say, then you'll know the true reasons why this team is not winning.

Apple Pix-Six: Week 13 Review

1. New England 38 Indianapolis 34: This game had everything - Two powerhouse teams with top tier quarterbacks and strong defenses. It even ended on a goal line stand. The Patriots are for real this year folks. At this point, I don't think any of the NFC teams are good enough to handle the top 4 AFC teams.

2. Philadelphia 25 Carolina 16: Is the slipper falling off or are the Panthers just playing in a weak division? Well, yes and no. The slipper will stay on through the divisional round, but after that it will fall off. The Eagles are the hottest team in the NFL. They aren't good enough to beat the Chiefs, Titans, Colts or Patriots mind you, but they should be able to hold off Dallas.

3. Miami Dallas: I instant messaged Cowboy Matt about this game. He refused to comment. Apparently the rest of Texas denies that a game ever took place on Thanksgiving Day 2003 in Dallas against the Dolphins. Well, I don't know about all that, but I watched a game on Thanksgiving Day 2003 where Dallas played the Dolphins and the Cowboys got the snot beat out of them.

4. Baltimore 44 San Francisco 6: Okay, so the Ravens either had 30 more seconds or at least were given one extra timeout. Either way, the Seahawks are now in wildcard position because their defense couldn't stop Anthony "All-Pro for a Day" Wright. That's the saddest fact of all.

5. St. Louis 48 Minnesota 17: And the Rams officially stake claim as the scariest team in the NFC. There is no team that any NFC playoff bound club wants to avoid more than the Rams. They have veteran players who know how to win in the playoffs and a guy named Torry Holt.

6. Denver 22 Oakland 8: The Broncos desperately needed to win this week to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. They'll be rooting against the Miami Dolphins the rest of the way and all of a sudden the AFC North has two teams that could challenge both clubs for the final spot.

Apple Pix-Six: Week 14

1. Indianapolis at Tennessee (GOTW): In the best week of matchups you'll find this season, this one takes the cake. The Colts need to win to have any shot at the division. The Titans need to win to stay ahead of the Colts in the tiebreaker. And both teams are chasing the Patriots for the number two seed.

2. Miami at New England: The Patriots really solidified their claim to the #2 seed with last week's win over the Colts. Now, the Pats can claim the division with a win over the Fins. The Dolphins meanwhile have been opening holes for Ricky Williams, but remember, its now December. The Dolphins don't like December.

3. Dallas at Philadelphia: The Cowboys and Eagles come into this huge game tied for first place. BUT, the Eagles need to win this match or they'll be swept and lose the head-to-head tiebreaker. The Cowboys are in a bit of shock after last week's thrashing at the hands of the Dolphins. But the ‘Boys match up very well against the Eagles.

4. Kansas City at Denver: A long time ago, this game was going to determine the AFC West champion. Well, that never materialized, but the Chiefs could suffer their second loss of the season to the Broncos. The Broncos need to win to keep pace with the Dolphins, Ravens and Bengals, while the Chiefs could lose home field advantage with the loss.

5. Cincinnati at Baltimore: The Ravens and Bengals will play to decide the outcome of the AFC North. Let me repeat. The RAVENS AND the BENGALs will play to decide the outcome of the AFC North. Yes Jimmy, that sound is hell freezing over.

6. Seattle at Minnesota: The Seahawks thumped the Browns but good last week and they'll need to do the same to the Vikings. This game has wildcard tiebreaker implications and besides, the Rams already beat the Vikings themselves.

The Playoff Power Core Rankings: Week 14

With the playoffs rapidly approaching, the Playoff Power Core Rankings begin. It will focus on the top 6 teams from each conference in terms of power. This is not a prediction of how the playoffs would break down if they began today.

1Kansas City – Still the best in the WestSt. Louis – This offense can be very scary
2 New England – SB bound, bank on it Philadelphia – Hottest team in the NFC
3 Indianapolis – Couldn't win from the 1 Dallas – Was Thanksgiving a fluke or the future?
4 Miami – Ricky is running well again Seattle – The ‘hawks love homefield
5 Baltimore – Should win AFC North Carolina – What happened to Cinderella?
6 Tennessee – McNair is hurting, badly Green Bay – Lost to the Lions? Not good

Fruits of Labor (stock is rising)

  • Plaxico Burress – Had his best game since the beginning of the season.

Rotten Produce (stock is falling)

  • Charlie Batch He had has window of opportunity and it closed with his fumble.

Missed Point Opportunities (MPO)

Drives4th Drive (Fumble Inside CIN 10 yard line)6th Drive (Punt after INT)
5th Drive (INT)

Season MPO Record: 4 - 8

Wisdom From the Girl Apple

Girl Apple: Who was that guy who was quarterback for the Jets last night?

Apple: Chad Pennington?

Girl Apple: Yeah, he's really good.

Apple: Yeah he's pretty good, that's for sure.

Girl Apple: Are the Jets good?

Apple: No, they are awful, but when he's in there they seem to play really well.

Girl Apple: Hmm…so he makes the team play better?

Apple: Yes he does…wait is that your wisdom? That's what the Steelers need huh? A player that lifts the game of everyone around him?

Girl Apple: Bingo.

Apple: More wisdom from the Girl Apple.

Super Pappy Fried Chicken's Keys To The Game

  • There can only be one reason why the Steelers might lose this weekend to the Raiders. It's that feeling you get after blowing a lead with 14 seconds left to a team that is still average at best (I don't care what anyone says). That same feeling you get when you realize after hoping against hope your dreams have finally been dashed. That same feeling you get when you have eaten your last Milkdud fifteen minutes into the Matrix: Revolutions. The lack of hope that something good is going to happen any time soon.
  • Although the hope of reaching the playoffs is finally gone, the Steelers will win this week because they are a better team. In other words, the Raiders just suck that bad.
  • Age has caught up with attitude in Oakland. The talent there is still tops, but even great talent needs to know when it is time to hang it up. For the Oakland receiving corps to be successful against the Steelers, just throw it toward Dewayne Washington, because he couldn't beat Jerry Rice's grandmother on a deep route (no offense to his grammy, I'm sure she's still quick as lightnin'). That is their only chance.
  • The running games for both teams have been downright awful. The advantage goes to the Steelers because Jerome Bettis has finally got enough reps to get the feel for the game and for his purpose on the field.
  • The Steelers receiving corps is still the top in the league, maybe not in numbers, but in pure skill. Plaxico Burress redeemed himself against Cinci and Hines Ward is the most consistent pass catcher in the NFL. And if the Swiss cheese offensive line could ever give Tommy some time those two as well as the rest could slice and dice any defense in the league.
  • Other than that, it is time to test the young guys. Ike Taylor deserves a shot at left cornerback and the guy in section 18, row 10, seat 7, deserves a shot at Burnt Alexander's spot.
  • Finally, guys who should be gone at the end of the season: Scott, Alexander, Marvel Smith, Jay Reimersma, Charlie Batch, Amos Zereoue and sad to say Jerome Bettis, all of whom have cost too much and contributed too little.

Thoughts Assisted By Yuengling

  • The best reason why Bill Cowher should not be the coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers any longer is that he has no grasp of reality. Example "A": "Our plans are to win football games, we're not going to sacrifice that in the name of getting guys experience," Cowher said. That would be smart if the team was winning, but they aren't, so what's the difference coach? See, he's not grasping reality at all.
  • He said that the team's plans are to "win football games." Well, I don't think that plan ever changes. As Herm Edwards stated last season, "You play the game to win." I sort of take it for granted that the team plans on winning every game or at least attempts too, but Cowher finds it necessary to state it. Why? To save his job? To show that he's still got the fire? Sorry coach, but the fire's been gone for a few seasons now. Make your players accountable, make your coaching accountable, fix the problems by offering no excuses. That's how you win in the NFL.
  • Better yet, take a cue from Bill Parcells. He tells you exactly what is wrong with a team or a player. After watching his secondary get torched by Chris Chambers, he said at halftime on Thanksgiving Day that his secondary was "a little shell-shocked." That statement was on National television. Bill Cowher would have said, "We're doing alright, but we've got to execute better in the secondary." See the difference?
  • Granted his comments were out of line, but it's nice to see Gregg Easterbrook, one of the smartest writers of professional football, return to the Internet at "Tuesday Morning Quarterback" is back.

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