Sunday, October 27, 2013

It's Easier To Laugh, Steeler Fans

I’m still seeing some overly optimistic Steeler fans out there proclaiming this team can still go 8-1 and get into the playoffs with a record of 10-6. I’m struggling under the weight of their gross ignoring of how bad this team is this year. In fact, I just laugh.

The first play of this disastrous game was enough to tell me the Steelers weren’t ready to win a football game today. When playing a mobile inexperienced quarterback, you need to dare him to beat you with his arm and contain his running ability. Instead, LaMarr Woodley missed the contain, and 93 yards later, Terrelle Pryor had the NFL’s longest rush in league history for a quarterback. I can’t help it, I laughed out loud at the futility.

Antonio Brown had a few more key drops today, including what would have been a huge third-down conversion late in the game. He also failed to hold onto the ball and gave up a turnover late in the game. He fails to make plays when the team needs him most. Not what you want out of your top receiver. I found myself laughing at every mistake he made. You know what makes it easier to laugh at him? It’s easier because he’s right there on the field laughing himself.

Shaun Suisham, the reigning special teams player of the week, missed two field goals inside of 40 yards. I laughed after both of them. That’s simply inexcusable but he’s not the sole reason this team lost today. They lost because once again they simply aren’t good enough. There are no playmakers on either side of the ball. 

The Steelers woes aren’t just a lack of talent either, as much of the blame can also fall on the coaches. Poor timeout selection, poor clock management, tons of screens on 3rd and long when you have to score touchdowns. Look at the final play of the game when you have to make a long pass and get out of bounds. What do the Steelers do? Throw it straight down the middle with no timeouts. Game over. Once again, I laughed.

The Steelers should at least ACT like they’re trying to win the game but this team fails to show any kind of urgency until the score is 21-9 late in the game. That’s the kind of urgency and track record that has some of you thinking a turnaround is just around the corner? There are too many talented teams left on the schedule to think the Steelers can go on a monster run and sneak into the playoffs. They’ve made their bed this year and have to live with the consequences.

The team they faced today is one of the worst in the league and the Steelers STILL found a way to lose to them.

The offensive line took on a few more injuries today. Ramon Foster got hurt, was replaced by Guy Whimper, who subsequently got hurt, and now you’re looking at Cody Wallace in the game. David DeCastro hurt his ankle in this one and now you have to wonder if the Steelers will have to sign Max Starks by default at this point because they are out of other healthy options. The thought that he’s the best option available is funny enough, but sadly it might be true.

Maybe the Steelers will eventually figure out how to win a game outside of the Eastern Time Zone again. They haven’t won one since Nov. 27, 2011 against an awful Kansas City Chiefs squad. Oakland continues to be a black hole for them, with their last road win in Oakland coming all the way back in 1995. In case you’ve missed it, Oakland has been an awful football team for a long time.

Personally, I’m glad they lost today, because this team needs to get into the mindset of fixing things long term. A rebuild is needed this offseason and many hard decisions are going to have to be made. How long can you pay Heath Miller as one of your top players? Is Troy Polamalu’s production matching his cap hit? At what point do you have to write off Mike Adams and Marcus Gilbert as top busts and move on?

At what point do they finally pull the plug on the Todd Haley era? I’d argue that should have happened already this year, but someone in the Steelers organization must love watching this offense sputter and stall out constantly under his watch. Dick LeBeau needs to start planning his retirement conference now as well.

I learned early on in the season not to expect much this year and I’m a better person for it. I’ve learned to laugh at each and every error like a comedy tour, because it’s easier to laugh Steeler fans. Trust me.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Living The Dream

The funny thing about chasing your dreams is that sometimes you do finally get there.  No I haven’t gotten all the way to where I want to go in my broadcasting career but I’ve seen positive steps in the right direction over the past few years.

Last night I got to fill in as the public address announcer for the Pittsburgh Power at the Consol Energy Center, a major league venue.  It’s a gig I envisioned filling ever since I first started honing my announcing skills in Erie and Johnstown.

Every step of the way people have believed in me, people who have reinforced my confidence in my abilities and told me to never stop giving up.  Last night was a validation of their confidence in me and their spirit flowed through me as freely as the words from my lips.

Some of my friends and family asked if I was nervous but to be honest it felt like pretty much every other game I’ve ever announced.  I felt the rush of adrenaline right before player introductions.  There’s something about the lights going out and Thunderstruck kicking in that still gets my heart pumping.  There’s also a feeling of power knowing your words can help impact the way a crowd reacts.  Bringing the crowd to life with the home team on defense is always a blast.

I used a lot of my trademark calls and the crowd responded favorably.  It didn’t hurt that I got to announce the first Power win at home in well over a year.  I felt the electricity in the air, the excitement at how the game was going, and then the sheer joy of the fans when the clock struck 0:00 and we could finally party.

We won….

That’s right I said we, because I can.  I was part of the team last night, the so called 9th man on the mic according to a few fans, and I tried my hardest to will that team to victory.  I felt a connection with the Power fans and I hope they felt it in return.

I know I’m supposed to remain unbiased as a member of the media but last night I was part of the team and it felt different, it felt great.   I was caught up in the emotions the team and fans were feeling because I had invested myself into this one.  I know how much it means to this team to finally win one for the fans at home.

Yes it was the players on the field who ended up making the difference in the end, but maybe just maybe there’s something to this homefield advantage and I firmly believe a revved up crowd can make a huge difference in the Arena Football league.

One of my favorite parts of the night was right after the score went final, getting to add a little personal touch to the game.  I blurted out, "Libbie leave the lights on, we're celebrating a Power win tonight!"  It's always fun to add your wife to Power lore.  Not many people get the chance to have that kind of impact.

Hope I get to say it again soon.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Power Outage On Offense Leads To 0-3 start

Usually there is plenty of scoring to talk about in arena football. We here at Pittsburgh Sporting News had plenty of pixel space set aside to talk about the great plays we saw out of the Pittsburgh Power in Chicago. Unfortunately, the Power saw themselves get shutout in the first half. They would score two touchdowns in the third quarter but then got shutout in the 4th. Three scoreless quarters is horrendous no matter how you look at it.

The final result is a 45-14 loss to the Chicago Rush and has me wondering how the Power offense could actually go backwards from the pathetic showings we saw in week one and two. I’ll tell you the two main culprits in my eyes are quarterback Jordan Jefferson and offensive coordinator Mike Tomczak.

Don’t get me wrong, Jefferson can make plays with his legs, but he’s being paid to throw the ball. He’s nowhere near good enough to be an AFL quarterback. No play signifies how bad Jefferson has been this year more than the ball slipping out of his throwing motion for a fumble despite him not being touched on the play.

I can understand fumbles when you are hit, but he’s lost the ball several times this year untouched. His deep passes are constantly off the mark and the opposing defenses know he’s not much threat outside of the screen pass.

Ah yes the screen pass. Mike Tomczak seems to love this play immensely. Tomczak is a great guy in real life. I’ve had some nice chats with him, but when I take a hard professional look at this offense, it sucks.


Too many plays are designed to start in the backfield, whether it’s a deep pitch to a running back, a backwards lateral, a screen pass or a Jefferson scramble. You can’t play that way and have success in the AFL. I truly feel like I am watching the same movie on perpetual replay with this offense. It wouldn’t be so bad if it worked but we all know it isn’t.

I remember wondering what kind of hire the Power made when they brought in a guy with zero AFL experience in Tomczak. It had me scratching my head at the time, but I vowed to give him a chance. I’ve seen enough. The Power have to do something to fix this mess. Once again it starts with the quarterback and offensive coordinator. There’s just no way to sugarcoat that.

Through three games now the Power have a combined 82 points total. Jacksonville scored 76 points this week alone. The Power offense gives this team zero chance to win. It’s a shame because the defense has done a good job trying their best to keep the team in games. If you hold your opponent to 14 first half points you should be in great shape, but instead the Power trailed by 14 going into the half. If I’m the Power defenders right now I’m dialing 1-800-OFFENSE and paying $9.99 a minute for some assistance. Remember kids to ask your parents first.

The fans deserve so much more than this. Especially when it’s plain as day to all the fans and those covering the team that Jefferson just doesn’t have it. When he was injured against Jacksonville, Shane Austin came in and the offense seemed to spark under him. I actually saw a pulse. He has indoor experience. He actually knows the game, so why not use him? 0-3 is bad, but not an impossible mountain to climb out of. Make the right move now and try something different before it’s too late.

This was a game the Power should have been competitive in. Instead it was another regression for the Power. They aren’t moving forward, they are moving backwards. Not surprising since that’s the kind of playcalling they prefer.

Pittsburgh has another game on the road this week against the New Orleans VooDoo (1-2) as they will try to earn their first win of the season.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Pittsburgh Power 2013 season/Week 1 preview

We are just about ready to kick off the 2013 season for the Pittsburgh Power.  The team announced their “final” roster today, although one more move will have to be made to sign a new kicker.  Josh Smith suffered an injury while preparing for training camp and will not be ready for the season opener.

A few players return again for the Power, but overall there are a lot of new faces suiting up for the team this year.  Considering the final results from last season, that’s probably a good thing.

Let’s take a look at the team a bit more in depth.

There wasn’t much to write home about last year as the Power struggled to a 5-13 season.  The only truly memorable game was an AFL record 31-point comeback victory over the Orlando Predators.

The team seemed to lack direction and the losses piled up, leading to the dismissal of head coach Chris Siegfried.  Defensive coordinator Derek Stingley took over and the team seemed to rally around him a bit more, winning two of their last four games to head into the offseason.

It’s obvious change is needed anytime you post that kind of record, and the Power have made quite a few changes to the roster and are fully prepared to kickoff the 2013 season Saturday night against the Utah Blaze.

Fans who have followed the Power since their inception will know that it’s been the team’s inability to find a solid quarterback that’s led to failure.  Here’s hoping AFL rookie quarterback Jordan Jefferson is finally the superstar they need to take this team to the playoffs.

Jefferson starred at LSU, appearing in the national championship game and he threw for 4733 yards and 34 touchdowns and added over 1000 rushing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns in his collegiate career.

Running back Kirby Griffin is another new face will start in the backfield for the Power.  Griffin did not play in the AFL last year but was a strong part of the Jacksonville Sharks march to the 2011 title.  Griffin has 32 rushing touchdowns in his two years in the AFL so far, and looks to build upon that total this year for the Power.

Two familiar faces headline the Power receiving corps.   Mike “The Joystick” Washington is back for his third season with the Power.  He’s caught 229 passes for 2851 yards and 64 touchdowns the past two years and looks to continue putting up strong stats for the Power.

2012 First team all-arena kick returner and 2011 JLS Ironman of the Year P.J. ”Superman” Berry is also back in the fold.  Berry has posted two consecutive seasons with 2000 return yards, but he also knows how to catch the ball.  He has 4227 receiving yards and 78 touchdowns through the air, and also has run for 18 more in a 3-year career.

Center Beau Elliott, a former 2nd team all-arena center, is back for his second season for his hometown team.  The IUP and Highlands High School grad is an absolute beast in the middle of the Power line and will be looking to help newcomers Jason Thomas and Daverin Geralds mesh into a formidable front wall for the Power.

The true strength of this team is going to be the defense.  This was a group that was 2nd in the AFL in yards allowed last year but struggled at times to force turnovers.  They needed playmakers and I feel the team did a great job of getting them.

The biggest offseason grab was adding first team all-arena jack linebacker Alvin Ray Jackson.  Jackson tied for the lead league in interceptions (14) last year as a linebacker.  He’s played in coach Stingley’s defense several times and knows the ins and outs and should bring fear to opposing defense because of his coverage skills.

Upfront, look for 2nd year man Dominie Pittman to improve upon his rookie season in which he notched 5.5 sacks.  AFL veteran Neil Purvis lines up on the other side.  He has battled injuries both years he has played for the Power but he is capable of generating a strong pass rush.  Rookie Willie McGinnis will play nose tackle.

The Power also upgraded the secondary.  Chris LeFlore returns for a second season and set a Power franchise record with nine interceptions last year.  Sergio Gilliam comes over from Kansas City where he had six interceptions last year.  They also added Brandon Freeman who has two years of AFL experience and the team is also high on Tank Calais.

Josh Smith was supposed to handle the kicking duties for the Power but injured himself in practice so the Power will open up the season with Josh Czajkowski from N.C. State.  Regardless of who does the kicking for the Power they will have to improve upon the dreadful 70% extra point percentage the team posted last year.

They draw a tough battle in week one against the Utah Blaze.  The Blaze fell one game short of the ArenaBowl last year, losing to the Arizona Rattlers 75-69 in the National Conference championship game.   Reigning league MVP quarterback Tommy Grady once again leads a potent passing attack.

He’ll have Aaron Lesue (154 rec, 1787 yards, 55 TD), Brandon Thompkins (76 rec, 906 yards, 26 TD’s), and L.J. Castile (104 rec, 1196 yards, 27 TD’s) leading the way in a strong receiving group.

Defensively, Utah was practically an unstoppable force last year, earning the nickname “Sack Lake City.”  Caesar Rayford has 22.5 sacks in his previous three seasons with Utah and teammate Keenan Mace led all AFL nose guards with 7 sacks last year.

Be sure to keep an eye on new mack linebacker Joe Mortensen who is looking to make a name for himself this year for the Blaze.

Overall it should be an interesting matchup in Pittsburgh this week.  If Jefferson can prove he belongs in the AFL and limit the turnovers, the Power could be looking at a chance to make an early statement.  The defense gets a chance to show right away what it can do against top flight competition.  This is the kind of game that sets the tone for the season.

It’s time to see what these guys can do.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Pittsburgh Power assigned wide receiver Lonnell DeWalt

The Pittsburgh Power have been assigned wide receiver Lonnell DeWalt.

DeWalt is a huge red zone target, standing 6-foot, 6-inches, and has a knack for showing up on the scoresheet. He caught a touchdown in all but one game in 2011, totaling 45 receptions for 489 yards and 21 touchdowns. He also shifted to the defensive side of the ball midway through the season and added four interceptions and two forced fumbles.

DeWalt fit the role of a true Ironman, something that has become a rarity in the Arena Football League these days. He is a guy that can play almost anywhere on the field and have an impact.

Power fans will likely remember his dramatic over-the-wall touchdown grab with no time left to lift the Power to a dramatic 39-38 victory over the Milwaukee Mustangs.

DeWalt’s willingness to do what it takes to make a play is going to be a very welcome addition to this 2013 Power squad. He also adds to the strong wide receiver corps the Power are putting together.

The Power scrimmage the Cleveland Gladiators today from 1-3 p.m. at the Southpointe Fieldhouse in Canonsburg, PA. The scrimmage is open to all fans. The season opener is just a few weeks away when the team opens play against the Utah Blaze March 23rd.

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