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Tag:Pittsburgh Steelers
Posted on: December 19, 2011 1:47 am
Edited on: December 19, 2011 10:33 am
 

Sorting the Sunday Pile, Week 15: Good losses?

Posted by Will Brinson


Sorting the Sunday Pile takes all of Sunday's NFL action, figures out the winners and losers and asks the big questions. New format! Same old sorting! Send your complaints, questions and comments to Will Brinson on Twitter. Make sure and listen to our Week 15 podcast review below as well and feel free to subscribe via iTunes.

Are Good Losses Good?

You're not ever going to hear Aaron Rodgers or Tim Tebow admit this, but losing isn't always a bad thing. In the case of each, a loss on Sunday actually means significantly less pressure in the public eye over the next few weeks.

For Rodgers, there's no more chatter about whether or not the Packers can run the table. Granted, that was a side story to Tebow for most of the past few weeks but if Green Bay had beat Kansas City, the heat was about to be turned up with questions about resting players, playing stars, Mercury Morris' plethora of media appearances and much more.

The loss stinks, clearly. But now the week will be filled with questions like "Are the Packers in trouble?" and "Are the Saints the best team in the NFC?" (See: below). So a team that hadn't lost in nearly a year is suddenly going to get a free chip put on its shoulder? That seems smart for the rest of everyone.

As for Tebow, we all needed this. I love Tim Tebow's story. I love that my cousins' neighbors have a dog named Tebow. I love that my grandfather sends me newspaper clippings about Tebow's awesomeness. But my, um, God, that last week leading up to the Patriots game was just too much, you guys. We had media wars, Tebrews, preachers recanting TMZ quotes on Twitter and just generally all the other things you'd associate with the Apocalypse.

But now the Broncos lost and the Tebowagon gets a chance to tap the brakes, all while not giving up any ground on the playoffs (except to the Chargers who propped their playoff window open a little wider).

We (me, you, Tim) just need some time apart from Tebowmania. Hopefully we get at least a week.

Winners

It's a good thing Romeo Crennel didn't wear the traditional white shirt on Sunday. (US Presswire)

Romeo Crennel: We've been giving Crennel credit for his defensive schemes for a few weeks now, but Sunday's performance by the Chiefs -- a stunning 19-14 win over previously unbeaten Green Bay -- was absolutely worthy of the Gatorade bath he got after his first game as interim coach in Kansas City. The Chiefs shut down the Packers high-powered offense and Crennel parlayed the "you'd think it's obvious!" decision to bench Tyler Palko for Kyle Orton into a serious résumé builder for the offseason.

Reggie Bush: Look, I've ripped Reggie Bush left and right, especially considering his lack of success as an actual running back over the course of his career. But the dude is going HAMbone down in South Beach and Sunday's 203-yard effort makes him just the 40th running back since 1970 to rush for more than 200 yards on 25 or less carries. If you said you predicted Chiefs over Packers I might give it to you. If you predicted Bush rolling for 200 yards? You're a liar.

Skittles: Marshawn Lynch might've only averaged 2.1 yards per carry against the Bears, but he found the end zone twice and crossed the 1,000 yard mark for the season. The game was in Chicago which means it didn't rain rainbows all over Beast Mode when he dashed in the end zone. But has a candy ever gotten a bigger accidental brand boost from an athlete than what Lynch is giving those little sugar bombs during Seattle's sneaky playoff run?

Kyle Orton: Or, as I like to call him, "Senor Spoiler." Orton ripped the heart out of the Packers chance at an undefeated season and over the next two weeks, he's going to get a pair of shots to ruin some seasons. First there's Oakland in Week 16; a win in KC then and the Raiders are likely done. And then the ultimate revenge game against the Broncos, in Denver, on the final week of the season, against the guy, Tim Tebow, that de-seated him. There might be some major egg on John Elway's face if Orton pulls that "W" out.

Norv Turner: It seems impossible that Turner could save his gig, but that's mainly because the Chargers are dead-man walking when it comes to the playoffs ... or are they? After pummeling the Ravens on Sunday night, they've won their last three games and with losses by the Jets, Broncos, Titans, and Raiders they're suddenly one game back of a playoff spot.

Losers

Tom Coughlin: Just a week removed from taking over the NFC East with an impressive performance against the Cowboys, the target's back on Coughlin's back and it's bigger than ever. You can't watch Dallas dominate the Bucs on Saturday night and then lay a freaking ostrich egg at home against a division rival with four wins. Not if you want to make the playoffs anyway.

Our Souls: Bad news, you guys, because Tim Tebow lost. Naturally, that means that salvation will escape even the most penitent man (or woman). Or, alternately, it's a reflection of the fact that when the Broncos turn the ball over a bunch and hand Tom Brady short fields, the Patriots are really tough to beat. I'm going with the latter.

Santonio Holmes: Really Santonio? You're going to catch a touchdown pass, put the ball on the ground, stand on it and then do a dance mocking the Eagles who are in the middle of pantsing you right out of the playoffs? Really? It's kind of ironic that Charley Casserly compared Eagles wideout DeSean Jackson to Holmes on Sunday morning, considering they've both picked up embarrassing unsportsmanlike penalties now.

Oakland Raiders
: Take a look at the playoff picture. (Now back to me.) You realize that the Raiders, who choked to the Lions with a 99-yard drive to close things out, would be tied with the Broncos and Jets at 8-6 if they'd held off Detroit? Because they would be, and they hold the tiebreaker against the Jets and they're just one game back of the Broncos in conference record (5-5 to 6-4). Just close baby.

Ben Roethlisberger's Ankle
: No one's tougher than Roethlisberger, but did you see what happened to him against Cleveland? He probably doesn't have any business stepping on a football field for another week or so, especially without starting center Maurkice Pouncey. But with the Ravens getting paddled on Sunday, the Steelers are in the hunt for the top seed in the AFC and a division title, so Ben almost has to play. Poor ankle.

These Questions Go To 11

Who's protecting Aaron Rodgers? Excellent question.(Getty Images)

1. Should the Packers be worried?
Yes -- but not in the sense about caring over an undefeated season. They should be worried because even though they're still going to get the No. 1 seed in the NFC and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs, there's concern about how the offense performed without Greg Jennings and bigger concern about the performance of the offensive line and defense. A bad game from Aaron Rodgers and they can be sent home by anyone.

2. Is Johnny Knox OK?
That's the word on the street. The Bears wide receiver was taken to the hospital after a backbending hit that required him to be carted off the field. Fortunately, he's expected to have surgery to stabilize his vertebrae and according to reports his prognosis is good for a solid recovery.

3. Can the Eagles really still make the playoffs?
Somehow, yes. A lot of things need to happen, but it's not that crazy. 1) Philly wins out (duh), beating. 2) Dallas loses out, against Philly and at the Giants. The Giants go 1-1, losing to the Jets and beating Dallas. If those things happen, the Eagles, Cowboys and Giants will all finish 8-8 and Philly will win the NFC East through tiebreakers. *cues up Gary Wright*

4. What about the Chargers?
YES, THEM TOO. And they have two options -- either the Chargers can win out and the Broncos can lose out and the Bolts win the division. That's the "easy" way. Alternately, if the Jets lose out (against the Giants and Dolphins) and the Bengals can go 1-1 (losing to the Ravens) and the Chargers win out, they can make the playoffs as a wild card. Hope springs eternal in December and whatnot.

5. Should the Bears have called someone?
Yeah, and I'll go so far as to say Brett Favre could've been that guy. Marc Bulger might've made more sense from a perspective of knowing Mike Martz offense, but maybe he wasn't interested. Whatever, Caleb Hanie isn't getting it done.

6. Are the Texans cool with T.J. Yates?
Cool's a relative word, because there's really no excuse for a grizzled veteran of a rookie like Yates to get baffled by a Panthers defense that's running on fumes. Carolina's D showed up big time in Houston, but Yates made some pretty critical mistakes in the 28-13 loss and if Yates ends up with more passing attempts than Arian Foster and Ben Tate have rushing attempts combined, Houston probably lost the game.

7. Why did the Raiders use single coverage on Calvin Johnson?
Honestly, I have no idea. Johnson's the best wide receiver in the NFL and he walked out of a 28-27 win with 214 receiving yards a pair of teeters. It's one thing to trust your cornerback in coverage late in the game. It's another thing entirely to just throw caution to the wind and give the Lions an easy opportunity at going 98 yards for the win, which is what Oakland did Sunday. On the other hand, Darrius Heyward-Bey is starting to look like he could actually be a No. 1 receiver at times. That doesn't help the defensive scheming but it's something, right?

8. Should the Ravens be worried about their road record?
Hell yes they should. Baltimore's been unstoppable at home, rolling to a 7-0 record. On the road they've rolled over for lesser teams like the Jaguars, Seahawks and Titans. And now the Chargers. If Pittsburgh wins on Monday night, it's going to be really tough for the Ravens to land anywhere other than the fifth seed in the AFC, which means they're going on the road throughout the playoffs. And that probably means that the Ravens will be sitting at home in February.

9. Did Jim Caldwell save his job on Sunday?
I know Bill Polian reportedly said all Caldwell had to do was win one game, and the Colts did that by beating Tennessee 27-13 for their first victory on the season. But come on -- this team's going to draft their new franchise quarterback in April in Andrew Luck and Caldwell's not the guy that's going to train him to be Peyton Manning 2.0. Polian can pay lip service all he wants but having Manning/Luck on your roster is like sitting on pocket aces in the hold 'em game of finding a coach who wants to work somewhere with a franchise quarterback.

10. Are the Saints the best team in the NFC now?
If Greg Jennings is guaranteed to be out, if Aaron Rodgers offensive line is completely shredded, and if the game's in a dome ... then maybe, yeah. Drew Brees is as hot as it gets right now (and it's the right time to be hot) and he's going to crush Dan Marino's record for passing yards in a season -- he needs just 305 to break it. And that's in two games, so it's broken. But if (when?) the Saints have to go to Lambeau for the NFC Championship Game, it's a whole different ballgame and the Packers will have a couple weeks to get healthy too. If the Niners can stay afloat, the Saints don't have those luxuries.

11. Should you jump off the Tebow bandwagon?
No you shouldn't have. As mentioned above, the Broncos made some critical mistakes that put the Patriots in a good position to win. The hype was so out of control that it was easy to freak out when New England started rolling. This is a game that Denver should've been more competitive in, but turnovers and a strong defensive performance from the Pats doomed them. They won't see the same sort of challenges against a tepid Bills team that gave up 200 rushing yards to Bush Sunday.

Worth 1,000 Words


GIF O' THE WEEK

This contest was over as of about 6:00 p.m. ET when dog-riding monkeys started herding sheep in Denver.


Award Watch Worth Watching

I'm tempted to open up the MVP race here, but let's get real: it's still Rodgers, despite Brees going ape smell. But how about Offensive Player of the Year instead? Typically speaking, this awards goes to "the most productive person on the team without the best record" or something like that, but I think Brees, if he breaks Marino's record -- and holds it -- is starting to lock it down. But you could make a great case for Calvin Johnson (gobs of touchdowns), Tom Brady and Rodgers too.

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Posted on: December 18, 2011 11:28 pm
Edited on: December 18, 2011 11:31 pm
 

Ravens blow their chance to maintain top seed

J. Flacco and Baltimore looked terrible against San Diego (AP).

By Josh Katzowitz

First things first: the Ravens were horrendous in their 34-14 loss to the Chargers on Sunday night. Quarterback Joe Flacco was terrible, the Ravens defense couldn’t stop anything Philip Rivers or Ryan Mathews were doing, and they looked like a team that would have a tough time advancing past the first round of the playoffs.

That’s not a great sign for a Ravens team that, after Sunday’s 1 p.m. games, was the No. 1 seed in the NFL playoff picture (and then the No. 2 seed after the 4 p.m. games). Baltimore would have been the No. 1 seed again with a win tonight; now, however, the Ravens are the No. 5 seed.

As we’ve seen this year, the Ravens either struggle mightily (like Sunday night or in Week 2 against the Titans, Week 7 vs. the Jaguars and in Week 10 vs. the Seahawks) or they’re the best team in the AFC (as one analyst said before the Chargers game). That kind of inconsistency does not bode well for Baltimore as it prepares for the playoffs in three weeks.

With the loss tonight and with a Steelers victory on Monday at San Francisco – which is, by no means, certain -- the Ravens would fall into second place in the AFC North. Though Pittsburgh and Baltimore already have clinched playoff berths, the two still have to decide who will win the division.

Based on their effort vs. the Chargers, that won’t be the Ravens. The good news is that they own the tiebreaker against Pittsburgh by sweeping the season series with the Steelers. And while Baltimore should beat Cleveland next week and probably will be favored to knock off Cincinnati in Week 17, the Browns and Bengals won this week and will own the momentum that Baltimore decidedly won’t have entering the final two weeks of the season.

The bigger problem is that, with a Pittsburgh win vs. the 49ers, the Ravens will stay as the fifth seed until Week 16. If that position doesn't change by the end of the season, that means the team would problaby have to face off against the AFC West division winner and travel across the country to do it.

Maybe that wouldn’t be a terrible burden, having to play the Raiders or the Broncos. But you’ll recall what happened to the Saints, who were decidedly the better squad but who had to travel to Seattle for a wild card game against the Seahawks last year. You remember who won that game? Yeah, the Seahawks. Plus, remember, the Ravens are 3-4 this season when they're on the road.

After playing the 49ers on Monday, the Steelers finish up the season with the Rams and the Browns. They’ll probably win both those games, and that puts the pressure on the Ravens to match it in order to win the division.

The best-case scenario for Baltimore? Pittsburgh loses Monday, and the Ravens beat the Bengals and Browns to earn the tiebreaker against the Steelers. But the way Baltimore played Sunday, I wouldn’t count on it.

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Posted on: December 18, 2011 8:25 pm
 

Week 15 playoff picture (after 4 p.m. games)

Week 15 playoff picture

By Josh Katzowitz

We’ve had quite a few developments today in the 2011-12 playoff picture, and to see the graphic representation, feel free to click here to see what would happen if the playoffs started after today’s 4 p.m. games.

The developments from today include:

After the 1 p.m. games:

--Baltimore moves into top AFC seed (for now)

--Pittsburgh clinched a playoff berth thanks to the Titans losing to the Colts

After the 4 p.m. games:

--New England has clinched the AFC East

--Baltimore has clinched a playoff berth, along with Pittsburgh. Neither has clinched the AFC North title yet. Since BAL or PIT wins the division and the other is guaranteed a wild card berth, there's only one wild card spot up for grabs at this point in the AFC.

--No eliminations this round.

--Also, it’s still possible that the Broncos-Chiefs game in Week 17 (Tim Tebow vs. Kyle Orton) would be a “win and you’re in” game.

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Posted on: December 18, 2011 12:18 pm
Edited on: December 18, 2011 12:46 pm
 

Goodell: NFL wants doc eyeing game 'at all times'

By Will Brinson

Last Thursday night, Colt McCoy suffered a nasty concussion that's stirred up plenty of debate about the NFL's policy for how teams handle on-field medical evaluation, because McCoy was never tested for a concussion yet he had one and still came back in the game.

Roger Goodell spoke with CBS Sports James Brown during a "Conversations with CBS Sports" sit down and said that the league is committed to keeping a doctor on hand to watch and then evaluate plays in which a player suffers an injury like McCoy's.

"I think that's one of the keys, JB," Goodell said. "We want to make sure someone -- a medical professional -- has his eyes on that field at all times and can see when an injury occurs to somebody so that the proper medical care is being given."


Presumably, said doctor will be positioned up high near the press and/or coaches box, but sequestered enough to ensure objectivity. He or she will then watch the game and have access to replays and slow-motion footage to ensure that a player who might have suffered a concussion won't be allowed to return to the game until properly and objectively evaluated.

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Posted on: December 17, 2011 6:46 pm
 

Pouncey out, Ben questionable for MNF at 49ers

Big Ben limps down the steps to the locker room after Pittsburgh beat Cleveland last Thursday. (AP)

By Will Brinson

The Steelers wrapped up Saturday's practice and there's some good news/bad news for Pittsburgh relating to Monday's game agianst the 49ers. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was limited in practice and is questionable to play Monday in San Francisco. However, center Maurkice Pouncey, dealing with an ankle injury, has been ruled out.

Week 15 Preview

Roethlisberger suffered a high ankle injury last Thursday in a 14-3 win over Cleveland but eventually returned to lead the Steelers to a victory over the Browns.

Much of the talk about whether or not Ben should play revolves around not Monday and/or how he's feeling then, but rather Sunday night.

That's when the Ravens and Chargers play, and if San Diego can win, it sure seems like Roethlisberger becomes more likely to play. After all, a Baltimore loss plus a Pittsburgh win on Monday means the Steelers are tracking for the top seed in the AFC.

A Baltimore win, though, and it's going to ridiculously tough for the Steelers to top the Ravens in the standings.

Of course, Roethlisberger's not exactly known for not playing hurt -- a lot of teammates believe that he plays better when he's injured, and we're not inclined to disagree.

So if you see him suit up on Monday, don't be shocked despite reports that his ankle hurts worse now than it did when he returned to the game against the Browns.



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Posted on: December 16, 2011 1:48 pm
 

Colt McCoy sent home with concussion, out Sunday

By Will Brinson

The Browns are taking a more cautious approach with McCoy this week. (Getty Images)

Browns quarterback Colt McCoy took a nasty hit from Steelers linebacker James Harrison on Thursday of Week 14 (Harrison was suspended a game for the hit and his appeal was denied Friday) and the concussion he suffered when Harrison decleated him was the subject of a major controversy because the Browns allowed him to return.

There won't be any controversy this week, as McCoy was seen leaving practice in his pickup truck on Friday. The Browns sent the quarterback home with concussion symptoms for the fourth time this week and have ruled the quarterback out for Sunday's game.

Backup Seneca Wallace, who's completed 100 percent of his passes this season, will get the start for Cleveland, who's looking to avoid a four-game losing streak when they travel to Arizona on Sunday.

McCoy won't even make the trip to Arizona, Browns coach Pat Shurmur said, and that's a good thing. As much flak as the Browns (rightfully) received for missing McCoy's concussion on a pretty obvious play, they deserve credit for making sure that their erstwhile franchise quarterback isn't being rushed back out on the field.

Additionally, the Browns announced that tight end Ben Watson, who's suffered three concussions this season, was going on injured reserve, ending his season.


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Posted on: December 16, 2011 10:54 am
Edited on: December 16, 2011 2:48 pm
 

NFL denies James Harrison's suspension appeal

By Will Brinson

The NFL denied Harrison's appeal of his one-game suspension(Getty Images)

Steelers linebacker James Harrison was suspended one game by the NFL this week. He also filed an expedited appeal, and the NFL announced on Friday that his appeal was denied, meaning Harrison will miss the Steelers game against San Francisco Monday.

James Harrison suspended

It's hardly a surprise that Harrison's suspension held up, although because of the way of the hit on Browns quarterback Colt McCoy unfolded (McCoy became a runner and then decided to pass at the last second), there was a possibility of the punishment being overturned.

"It is clear from the video that you squared up and led with the crown of your helmet when you contacted Colt McCoy," on-field appeals officer Ted Cottrell, who heard the appeal, said in a letter to Harrison. "This is precisely the technique that you must avoid using as a defender. I have determined that your actions were particularly egregious and warranted the discipline imposed by Ray Anderson."

The linebacker's history of violent and/or flagrant hits (the NFL says Harrison's been punished five times for illegal hits on a quarterback) contributed to his punishment and clearly the appeal as well.

 "I'm not surprised. You're appealing to the same people who put the suspension in place, so no, I'm not surprised at all," Steelers safety Ryan Clark said. "I don't care about the league's message anymore. It's about us as a football team playing the type of football that's going to help us win championships, despite who gets suspended, despite who gets fined.

"We're going to try to play within the rules. We're going to stop fighting this battle of talking to them. That's what this is about."

Harrison's hit on McCoy led to plenty of controversy -- not only with Harrison's suspension and Mike Tomlin telling Steelers players to keep quiet, either. McCoy was never checked for a concussion and re-entered the game.

Additionally, the NFL is reportedly set to start handing out lengthy suspensions for on-field violations.

"Like I said on Wednesday, my disappointment is for James," Clark said. "He's been trying really hard to comply with what's being asked of him. For him to be suspended for this situation, to us, is disheartening. To me, it was a between-the-whistle play. They're making an example out of him for it this year. I don't think it's right.

"We have to continue playing and just roll with the punches and try to win games without one of our best players."

Harrison's suspension was the first for an "illegal hit" and he could potentially miss multiple games if he doesn't change his approach to playing defense.

"Oh well. It is what it is," Harrison told Josina Anderson of ESPN. "That's the decision I was expecting anyways. I'll deal with it and move on."


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Posted on: December 15, 2011 2:45 pm
 

Tomlin wants players mum on Harrison suspension

Not every Pittsburgh player offered 'no comment.' Some remain confused by the league's punishment policies. (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

The league suspended Steelers linebacker James Harrison one game on Tuesday. Harrison promptly appealed and the expedited hearing was held Wednesday. A ruling could come as soon as Thursday afternoon.

In the meantime, the Steelers are preparing for Monday night's matchup with the 49ers as if they will be without Harrison. During head coach Mike Tomlin's Tuesday press conference, he said "We have to prepare as if he is not going to play, of course. We will move forward, James will move forward. …

"We're disappointed," Tomlin continued. "We're disappointed for James because we know how hard he's worked to play within the rules, [but] he has to be accountable for that so we accept the judgment rendered by the league office."

And according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette, Tomlin has also instructed his players not to talk about Harrison's suspension publicly. Dutifully, safety Troy Polamalu offered up a "no comment."

But Bouchette points out that many Steelers players disagreed with Harrison's punishment because of the arbitrary nature with with the league hands down sanctions.  For example:
Other [players] thought it unfair that Harrison was suspended for trying to make a tackle while Oakland defensive lineman Richard Seymour was only fined $30,000 for punching Dolphins offensive lineman Richie Incognito earlier this month, even though it was the second time he had punched another player in two seasons. Seymour punched Ben Roethlisberger last year and was fined $25,000. He was ejected on both occasions.

So repeating a mistake trying to make a tackle cost a suspension while a repeat in throwing a premeditated punch after a play -- which would get a player arrested if he had done it on the street -- drew a fine of only $5,000 more than the first time?
Cornerback Ike Taylor said slightly more than "no comment" on the matter.

James Harrison suspended
"Man, they're tripping," he said of the NFL. "I don't know what it is. [Harrison's] getting it handed to him in the NFL way ... He didn't stomp on nobody, he didn't punch nobody's private area."

"We have to continue to try to play within the rules, try to do the right things because it's a battle we really can't win," said safety Ryan Clark, who has already been fined twice this season and could be in line for a suspension if it happens again. "The NFL is going make the decision on who plays and who doesn't and, for us, we have to try to find a way to play within the rules and still be able to maintain a physical presence out there."

Whatever the NFL's enforcement strategy, Polamalu thinks that it's too late for many players to change.

"I don't think any football player is going to go out there and change the way they're playing. I think it's too late in our lives to really do that. Of course, we're professional athletes and we try our best to adjust, but it's tough."

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com