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Pittsburgh Steelers’ All-Time Roster

Strong effort here from Elliot Harrison on his pass at the all-time Steelers team…but allow me to respond (starters in BOLD):

QB: BEN ROETHLISBERGER, Terry Bradshaw, Kordell Stewart

That’s right – I’ve got Roethlisberger over Bradshaw. Let the bellyaching begin! Before you dash off angry missives about how dumb I am, consider that – for all of Bradshaw’s big-game greatness (proven by those four rings and two Super Bowl MVP trophies) – he never had to overcome what Roethlisberger has: an atrocious offensive line.  Roethlisberger won one Super Bowl (vs Arizona) and lost another (vs Green Bay) in spite of playing behind one of the league’s ten worst lines. The good news is, if Roethlisberger doesn’t come out of the gate on fire, Bradshaw is there to take over. Bradshaw was no stranger to platooning early in his career, splitting snaps with Joe Gilliam. Why is Kordell the third-stringer? Because barring both the two guys ahead of him suffering mysterious MCL injuries, he won’t be under center. In the meantime, he’ll serve the offense well with a return to his more popular alter ego, “Slash”. And besides, who else is there?  We know what Neil O’Donnell does when the pressure’s on in the big game.

RB: FRANCO HARRIS, JEROME BETTIS, Barry Foster, Willie Parker, Rocky Bleier, Merrill Hoge

Franco – maybe the most underrated Hall of Fame running back (yes, I realize that’s an oxymoron) – paired with the most durable big back ever, the Bus. Who’s the fullback and who’s the halfback?  Who cares?  Good luck stopping them. Fast Willie makes the team as our change-of-pace back, and Merrill Hoge will serve the team well as out-of-the-backfield pass-catcher (that is, if he ever makes it onto the field). And good ol’ Rocky? Well, he’s there to provide inspiration and grit.

WR: LYNN SWANN, JOHN STALLWORTH, Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, Louis Lipps, Antonio Brown

Don’t get caught up in their stats, Fantasyheads – Swann and Stallworth are two of the all-time best… especially in big games. You’re probably more familiar with Swann’s work because of the iconic midfield catch in X, but Stallworth made more than his share of huge plays on the big stage.  The two fourth quarter bombs in XIV pulled that game out, and his two touchdown grabs in XIII – one a then-Super Bowl-record 75-yard sprint, the other a twisting catch of a Bradshaw floater between two Cowboy DBs.  Plus, Hines Ward?!  And Santonio Holmes?!  That makes three Super Bowl MVPs.  Good luck stopping them. Wait… did I say that already?  Oh, and sorry, Yancy Thigpen: you had a good run, but you’ve been replaced A.B, who Ike Taylor says is the best receiver in the game today.

TE: HEATH MILLER, Bennie Cunningham, Eric Green

They block well, they catch even better. Anything else you want out of the position?

OT: LARRY BROWN, LEON SEARCY, Jon Kolb, Marvel Smith, Tunch Ilkin

G: ALAN FANECA, Steve Courson, Carleton Haselrig

C: MIKE WEBSTER

c/G: DERMONTTI DAWSON

Webster and Dawson are the “only” two Hall of Famers in this group (with Faneca a solid future candidate), but there’s plenty of experience across the line. We can also expect Dawson (who played one season at guard before switching to center) and Searcy to play with additional fire because of the embarrassing lack of Super Bowl rings on their fingers.

Onto the defense, where the seemingly big question is: 4-3 or 3-4?   But clearly, the correct answer is 3-4. Too many great LBs.

DE: MEAN JOE GREENE, LC GREENWOOD, Dwight White, Ernie Stautner

NT: CASEY HAMPTON, Gary Dunn, Fats Holmes

We’re sliding Mean Joe (the NFL Network’s “#1 Steeler of All-Time) over to end in the 3-4, where he’ll combine with Casey Hampton to form the most impenetrable duo in the history of football. Power sweep?  Meet the Steel Curtain. Even Vince Lombardi’s or Jimmy Johnson’s running attacks would be lucky to break even. Literally. They might even have negative rushing yards. [Side note: I’m not sure if Fats Holmes deserves to make the team over Aaron Smith, but in the name of justice, all members of the original Steel Curtain front four must to be on the team.]

OLB: JACK HAM, JAMES HARRISON, Joey Porter, Andy Russell

ILB: JACK LAMBERT, JAMES FARRIOR, Levon Kirkland, Lawrence Timmons

Linebacker is unquestionably the richest position for the most successful organization of the Super Bowl Era. Stars like Greg Lloyd, LaMarr Woodley, Bryan Hinkle, Kevin Greene, Jason Gildon and David Little – who’d be starting on other franchises’ all-time Ds – don’t even make the cut on this dominant team.

CB: MEL BLOUNT, ROD WOODSON, Ike Taylor, Dwayne Woodruff

Blount & Woodson: Two of the five best corners to ever play. Ever.

SS: TROY POLAMALU, Donnie Shell

FS: MIKE WAGNER

CB/S: Carnell Lake

Wagner plays ballhawk, Lake provides versatility, Shell punishes anyone who dares to run downfield, and Polamalu dominates in which ever fashion the game dictates.

K: Gary Anderson

P: Craig Colquitt

KR/PR: handled by Woodson/Lipps/Swann

I’d say the odds are better than 50/50 that the Steelers would get at least one touchdown on a return per game with this trio.

HEAD COACH: Chaz Noll

He’s too often ignored by the national media when history’s greatest coaches are discussed, but the man Myron Cope called the Emperor Chaz Noll is also the Man Most Responsible for Building The Steelers of the ‘70s (also known as: The Best Team Ever).

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Spoiler Alert: Super Bowl XLVIII

This morning I wrote and re-wrote about 1200 words analyzing what I see as the keys to the game. I veered into the reasons why I’d like to Peyton Manning win and why I’d like to see Richard Sherman win. I outdid myself with pretentious platitudes about Percy Harvin and Von Miller and the 12th Man and the Mile High Fan and legalized weed and legacy and thugs and (the lack of) a wintery mix. Then I deleted it.

At this point, who cares what I or anyone thinks? Let’s just get to the game.

spoiler-alert

Warning: Do NOT continue reading if you don’t want to know the result of the Super Bowl.

(170-98 on the season)

SEAHAWKS 26

BRONCOS 20

DEN –

P. Manning: 311 yds, TD, 2 INTs

K. Moreno: 17 carries, 44 yds, TD

W. Welker: 6 rec, 70 yds

D. Thomas: 3 rec, 68 yds, TD

SEA –

R. Wilson: 290 yds, 44 yds rushing, TD

P. Harvin: 3 plays

D. Baldwin: 52-yd TD rec.

R. Sherman: INT

MVP: Marshawn Lynch (24 carries, 130 yds, TD)

Enjoy the game, everybody. I hope your team wins.

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They should call it ‘Coldth’

Dave is excited about this year’s Super Bowl being held on the ice planet of Hoth …

hoth

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Spoiler Alert: Championship Sunday

Q: What do the Seattle Seahawks, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, and Auburn Tigers have in common?

A(1): Each has played at least one post-season game in 2014

A(2): Heath Evans has played for all of them

What Forrest Gump was to pop culture in the second half of the 20th century, Evans is to football this month.

Evans – the smart fullback who spent ten seasons with the Hawks, Pats, Saints (and Dolphins) – now regularly shares his insights with you on NFL Network… and with me in the hallways of NFL Network whenever I can trap him for a few minutes.

Along with the heaps of great anecdotes about Jerry Rice’s time in Seattle, winning a ring in New Orleans, and watching the original Beast Mode run from the sidelines as a member of the Saints, Evans is especially insightful on the mindset of one Bill Belichick. Matter of fact, I’ve taken to calling him ‘The Hoodie Whisperer’. Evans’ admiration for his former coach runs deep (so deep, in fact, he even claims Belichick has a sense of humor!), but simultaneously demystifies ‘The Patriot Way’: To hear him tell it, there’s not some metaphysical magic at work. Rather, it’s Belichick’s practical trust in his players to not only know their own jobs, but – literally – the responsibility of every other teammate involved in any particular play design.

So I asked the Hoodie Whisperer what he expected from the Pats on Sunday.

“They’re gonna take the air of it.”

Really? Don’t you think the plan should be to just pick on Quentin Jammer all day?

“They’re gonna run the ball.”

Does that mean we’ll see a ton of LaGarrette Blount? Or might Belichick throw a curveball and go with Shane Vereen?

“No, Shane’s dropped some balls lately. Bill definitely doesn’t like that. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a lot of Stevan Ridley… (Denver DT Terrance) Knighton is real solid, but a guy like Ridley might be able to get some quick hitters past him.”

Like anybody else, the Hoodie Whisperer can’t talk for long about Belichick without getting around to Tom Brady.

What’s Brady like?

“As humble and nice a ‘superstar’ as there is… he’s really just one of the guys. He’s a really hard worker.”

Willie McGinest – another longtime Patriot-turned-NFL-Network-analyst – furthers this point: “Win or lose, when we got on that team plane to go home, Tom went straight to back of the plane, took up a whole row, turned on his laptop and started studying for next week.”

The Hoodie Whisperer: “Yep, you hear it about a lot of guys, but Tom honestly doesn’t care about his numbers. He only cares about winning.”

Yeah, but isn’t that true of every QB? Does Peyton Manning care about his stats?

“Peyton knows how many touchdowns he’s thrown, believe me.”

Hmm.

“I don’t mean that in a bad way. I think he thinks his touchdown passes give his team the best chance of winning.”

The Hoodie Whisperer is not what Broncos and some Colts fans call a “Peyton Hater”. In fact, he raves about what #18 can figure out about a defense – and how quickly he can figure it out – before every snap he takes. Virtually anyone who’s played against Peyton supports this.

This week, I also kibitzed with Terrell Suggs, who was on the field for the win against Manning’s Broncos last January in the divisional round. Did Suggs – who’s been trash-talking rival QBs since before Richard Sherman was catching passes at Stanford – have a withering crack about Peyton’s overtime interception?

“It showed Peyton’s character. He came into our locker room after the game… I’ve never seen that before… an opposing quarterback… and he and Ray Lewis talked like high school buddies for an hour. Made me say I’m no longer an adversary of Peyton Manning.”

The comment is especially stunning when held in sharp relief to his response about his feelings for Brady.

True or false, Suggs: you really don’t like Tom Brady.

“True… it’s football history… the whole thing… the knee pointing, the Brady Rule, all of it.”

To be fair, Suggs also says he’s “seeing his therapist” to quell said disdain… but my takeaway is this: Both Manning and Brady are good at football. Seriously. When you beat someone a lot, it tends to cause raw feelings.

Which leads me to another takeaway: The Hoodie Whisperer, T-Sizzle, and (at least 97% of) all pro football players are human beings. They work year ‘round with the goal of reaching the Super Bowl, but in seven of the past twelve seasons, they’ve instead had to sit and watch Brady or Peyton play in the big game. That means an inordinate number of an entire generation of football players have had an inordinate number of their seasons within their relatively brief football-playing lives ended by either Brady or Peyton. And you think you’ve got reasons to hate them? Come to think of it, we should be amazed we don’t hear more disdain for either guy. Instead, we hear almost nothing but respect and admiration.

So what’s any of this mean? And does any of it have an impact on Sunday’s game? Heath doesn’t know. Neither does Suggs. No one knows. One thing we do all know, though: two legacies are on the line. The winner will get a shot at immortality. The loser will be judged harshly. Except by his fellow players.

spoiler-alert

Warning: do NOT continue reading if you don’t want to know the results of Championship Sunday.

(4-0 last week; 170-96 on the season)

PATRIOTS 38

BRONCOS 37

NE: J. Edelman – 7 rec, 90 yds, 2 TDs

DEN: P. Manning – 402 yds, 3 TDs, 2 INTs

NINERS 20

SEAHAWKS 17

SF: F. Gore – 27 carries, 110 yds, TD

SEA: M. Lynch – 27 carries, 88 yds, TD

Enjoy the title games! I hope your team wins…

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Reality Shek: Dueling Personalities

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Spoiler Alert: Divisional Round

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I’ve got two cakes in the fridge for the games this weekend. One cake’s for eating, the other’s just to have. Figured that’d be fitting, because I’m rooting for both sides in every game.

I know, I know… I’m being Pollyanna. Or maybe I’m subconsciously trying to ingratiate myself to that fan who took my pick against his team in Week Seven so personally he tracked me down on Twitter to accuse me of “hating” his city.

I choose to believe my heart is pure. As a fan myself, I’m equally excited and empathetic towards those who’ve got a nerve-wracking three-and-a-half hours upcoming on Saturday or Sunday. As a diehard, I know the reflected glory and relief when your team wins, and bitter pain when your team loses.

Like I say, some fans accuse me of hating their team. The supposition is – because I don’t hide the fact I grew up a Steelers fan – I therefore root against everyone else. I get it, but it’s just plain incorrect. As a grownup, I’m able to successfully distinguish what I think from what I want. The intellectual aspect aside, though, my personal allegiance to one team is precisely why I’m rooting for everyone this weekend. Silly as it seems to those unknowing, unlucky souls who don’t understand the sports fan’s devotion, I know the visceral emotion post-season football evokes.

For 16 days each fall, we live vicariously through the deeds of large human beings wearing the right logo. A lucky few get to keep on rooting when the calendar flips to January. As a Steelers fan, my pain is done for the season (unlike at least one other supporter of the black-and-gold) but I still know what winning can do. Winning makes the frigid winter feel shorter. It gives us something to look forward to while chipping the ice off the windshield or waiting at the train stop in the rain or maybe even rebuilding a city.

I was in New Orleans shooting a Mardi Gras bit for Jimmy Kimmel’s late-night show just a few days after the Saints won the Super Bowl in 2010 – and just a few years after Hurricane Katrina. It was as joyous a place as I’ve ever been. I don’t want to slip into some maudlin hyperbole by overstating the significance of that Saints’ season, but it’d be vapidly cynical to ignore the boost the team gave those fleur de lis-festooned people literally dancing in the streets stretched in front of their still-tattered homes.

Is fandom delusional? Yes. Does a collection of high-paid athletes gathered from far-flung origins winning a game actually fix anything in your life? No. But like the Marx Brothers do for Woody Allen at the end of ‘Hannah and Her Sisters’, a playoff game – even one our team loses – gives us a distraction, and at best makes us part of something larger, something shared, something fun. Like Woody asks, “Don’t you want to be a part of the experience?” Yes, Woody, I do. And that’s why I’m eating just one cake this weekend.

spoiler-alert

Warning: do NOT continue reading this if you don’t want to know the scores of the divisional round games.

(1-3 last week, 166-96 on the season)

SAINTS 16

SEAHAWKS 24

NO – D. Brees: 299 yds, TD, 2 INTs

SEA – M. Lynch: 133 yds, TD

COLTS 24

PATS 35

IND – T.Y. Hilton: 52 yds

NE – S. Vereen: 142 yds/scrimmage, 2 TDs

NINERS 23

PANTHERS 10

SF – A. Boldin: 86 yds, TD

CAR – D. Williams: 41 yds

CHARGERS 24

BRONCOS 37

SD – M. Ingram: 2 sacks

DEN – D. Thomas: 114 yds, 2 TDs

Enjoy the divisional round, everybody! I hope your team wins…

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Inside Out: McGinest & Sharper on Cold Weather Games

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Inside Out: McGinest & Sharper on Playoff Prep

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On The Marc!

Since the moment Marc Trestman was introduced as the new Bears coach 353 days ago, I’ve suffered sleepless nights plagued by gnawing anxiety. I knew – I knew – buried somewhere deep in my TV-addled brain Trestman had a spot-on cinematic doppelgänger. The only problem: who was it?

Then, just this morning, a wildcard weekend miracle! A face flashed through my mind. It was there but an instant, but long enough to make my heart soar – Trestman’s dead ringer is Bernie Lefkowitz’s wife, Rose!

mt

You know… Rose! From ‘Cocoon’! I’m not sure if she actually spoke in the movie before missing her shot at eternal life because Bernie was too curmudgeonly to take her into Brian Dennehy’s ‘Swimming Pool of Youth’ (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, go watch ‘Cocoon’ or shame the devil), but I am sure I’ll finally be able to get a decent night’s rest for the first time in almost a year.

Meantime, it’s a neat coincidence I made this discovery on the very week it was announced Trestman and his spouse Jay Cutler will now be together for the rest of eternity (or at least seven years).

Thinking of you today, Chicago Bears and Wilfred Brimley…

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Spoiler Alert: Wildcard Weekend

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Happy New Year, football fans…

Condolences if 2013 wasn’t the best year for your sports town (I at least hope it avoided making this list) – and congratulations if you’re lucky enough to be able to pencil your team’s upcoming playoff game into at least one of the 31 squares on the January page of your new calendar.

Speaking of pages, I’ve decided to take one from Andy Reid, who let his key players rest up in anticipation of the playoffs. I, too, am gonna take it easy today. Y’know, so my eyeballs and chip-scooping fingers are nice and fresh for this quartet of beauties the Commish has delivered for the first weekend of the year.

Like Reid and his peers, let’s spend some time watching tape (or, more accurately, streaming video). It’s been a long season, after all, so let’s take a stroll/drive down memory lane/the road that led us here. I’m speaking, of course, about the road(s) in Culver City, California, where I got to spend some preseason time in my “sports” car with a number of NFL players, several of whom you’ll be watching this weekend. If your team isn’t in the post-season, maybe watching one of these guys will sway you to root for his team over the next few weeks.

We’ll start off with Eagles WR DeSean Jackson:

 

Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles…

 

Bengals CB Terence Newman…

 

And Niners WR Michael Crabtree…

 

Swell fellas, no? Best wishes to them all this weekend. Speaking of which, let’s get to the games…

spoiler-alert

Warning: Do NOT continue reading if you don’t want to know the resuls of the Wildcard Round games.

(last week: 11-5; 165-93 on the season)

CHIEFS 23

COLTS 20

KC – J. Charles: 167 yds/scrimmage, TD

IND – A. Luck: 304 yds, 2 TDs, 2 INTs

SAINTS 21

EAGLES 28

NO – J. Graham: 128 yds, 2 TDs

PHI – L. McCoy: 114 yds, TD

CHARGERS 13

BENGALS 22

SD – N. Novak: 2 FGs missed after illegal formation penalties

CIN – A. Dalton: 399 yds, 2 TDs

NINERS 27

PACKERS 24

SF – F. Gore: 19 carries, 106 yds, TD

GB – E. Lacy: 19 carries, 53 yds

Enjoy the wildcard games, everybody! I hope your team wins…

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