Posts Tagged ‘Pittsburgh Steelers’

Two 0-3 teams going nowhere - oh wait going to London this week

Two 0-3 teams going nowhere – oh wait going to London this week

The Steel Curtain prevailing over the Purple People Eaters – no not the name of two fantasy football teams that squared-off on Sunday, these were two of the most dominating defenses in NFL history.

For the Steel Curtain, a Pittsburgh Steelers team led by the likes of Mean ‘Joe’ Greene, there were four Super Bowl wins. For the Purple People Eaters there were an equal number of Super Bowl contests fought, but for the Minnesota Vikings no wins.

That was the 1970s when sideburns ruled and disco dancing was the thing you did on a Saturday night.

Fast forward to the 21st century and these two teams are again under the media magnifying glass, but this time it is for two reasons, and neither of them are anything remotely to do with winning football games.

The 0-3 Steelers travel to London this Sunday to lock horns with the 0-3 Minnesota Vikings, in the first of two, yes two regular season NFL contests being played on this side of the pond.

Both teams sit at the foot of their respective divisions, having failed to muster a victory between them in six contests.

The Vikings, the home team in London, have conceded 31 or more points in each of their losses, and the Steelers have managed to score just 42 points in three games. The Denver Broncos managed 49 in their FIRST game of the season.

When I saw the two games announced last year that were to be played in London this year, the other being the San Francisco 49ers against the London…I mean Jacksonville Jaguars, I was like the majority of UK and European fans, most excited about seeing the six-time Super Bowl winning Pittsburgh Steelers play the Minnesota Vikings.

I did think at the time that the Steelers were on a downward slide, after two Super Bowl wins in the last 7 years (2006 and 2009) and an additional Super Bowl loss in 2011. No team in this modern age of free agency can sustain winning and winning big for such a long period.

I also thought that it would be amazing to see Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, the leading rusher in the NFL in 2012, live in front of me, just two hours away from where I live. I had a bad feeling he would be injured before the game, but thankfully he made it through a week 3 loss against the Cleveland Browns in one piece.

One thing is certain on Sunday, one team will be travelling back over the pond with their first win of the 2013 season, and one team will have reached the quarter mark of the season with no wins and a rather embarrassing 0-4 record.

Greg is heading to Wembley in six months

Greg is heading to Wembley in six months

Last season the Minnesota Vikings relied so heavily on Adrian Peterson their second year quarterback Christian Ponder looked like he had forgotten the art of the forward pass.

So when the Seattle Seahawks signed the Vikes best receiving weapon at the start of Free Agency, WR Mr Percy Harvin, the situation got even uglier.

I was with a sense if relief that Minnesota did find a rapid replacement in the shape of Super Bowl winning wideout Greg Jennings.

The Vikings also signed former Patriots and Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel. Hardly the headline news, but putting him and Ponder in a head to head battle will mean whoever gets the starting gig will be playing extra hard as they will want to keep that starting role.

Jennings will be familiar with the purple uniform having faced off against the Vikings twice a year for the past seven seasons during divisional game-play.

Greg, a former Western Michigan Bronco, is one of only ten football players from that college to be drafted into the NFL in the past 20 years. Other Broncos to gain some degree of fame in the NFL include tight-end Tony Scheffler (also drafted in 2006) and Jason Babin the defensive end (selected in the first round in 2004).

Jennings had 17 100+ games in college, second all time on his college team to NFL 2012 draft pick Jordan White (21 games).

Jennings becomes the biggest named wideout in Minnesota since Randy Moss. He will be hoping to get back on track with a 1000+ yard season, following an injury filled 2012 in Green Bay, where he has his worst output both by catches and yardage.

The two time Pr0-Bowler has already registered three 1100+seasons and two 900+ seasons, along with three 100+ yard playoff games and a two-touchdown performance in helping the Packers to win Super Bowl XLV against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

It will be the Steelers that Jennings will face again when the Vikings travel to London in September as part of the NFL’s first ever double dose of regular season football outside of America.

Of the two London games (Steelers @ Vikings and San Francisco 49ers @ Jacksonville Jaguars) on paper the Vikings game looks to be the most competitive, and was quicker to sell out.

Fans like myself (thanks to a Christmas gift from my beautiful wife) will be chomping at the bit to see the likes of Peterson and now Greg Jennings as they take on the Pittsburgh Steelers, the only team to win six Super bowls.

Both the Vikings and the Steelers will be hoping for string drafts, with some rookies that can make an immediate impact. Both teams need to improve their secondary, especially at cornerback. The Steelers lost the under-rated Keenan Lewis and the Vikings let veteran Antoine Winfield go.

With Greg Jennings looking to become not only a leader on the field, but also in the locker room, it will be fascinating to see what other pieces of the jigsaw the Vikings pick up en-route to the start of the 2013 season.

What other needs do YOU think are the most pressing for the Vikings?

Super Bowl XLV - Can't wait for kickoff

I can’t wait for Super Bowl XLV to kickoff on Sunday night here in England. The Green Bay Packers v Pittsburgh Steelers has the ideal combination of explosive offense and bone crunching defense, along with a rich, rich history from both teams and their combined 9 previous Vince Lombardi trophy wins.

To prepare for the big game I have a number of rituals, which I will describe below. If you have any please add them in the comments section at the end of this post, as I’d love to hear what you do around the world to get ready for the biggest game on the planet.

To buy a Troy Polamalu shirt from a top UK NFL merchandise shop click here

NFL Fan in England’s Super Bowl traditions

  • Super Bets – I like to do some MVP and some first touchdown scorer bets. This year I have money (not much of it) on three different players for MVP and three different scorers for first td. I always go for both teams quarterbacks to get a rushing td as the first score. I have Aaron Rodgers at 16-1 and Big Ben Roethlisberger at 25-1. Last time Big Ben was in a Super Bowl it looked like he had scored, only for his run to be called back and Gary Russell to punch it in.
  • Super Food – Well not exactly super food in the traditional sense, more like junk food. I have a life size plastic Redskins helmet that doubles up as a food server. I fill the middle with toffee popcorn and the two trays in the face cage with Peanut M ‘n’ M’s. I get some Doritos (cheese and fiery hot) and also a bag of beef crisps and a single Snickers bar that I cut into small slices during the pre game build up.
  • Super Drinks – I have had a can of Pepsi with me at the Super Bowl since 1987, and despite the fact I don’t drink normal Pepsi under any other condition (I have Pepsi Max nowadays) I get a can ready. I also get a pack of Budweiser (bottles) that my wife and I share.
  • Super Program – I always have a Super Bowl program with me, which this year I purchased via http://www.nfluk.com . I got an email yesterday to say it had been dispatched so I hope it arrives today or Friday. I did used to buy it from a shop in Birmingham called Great American Sports, but they shut up shop in the West Midlands. I then ordered it 2 years ago via a website called Great American Sports with its business based in Devon (which may or may not have business relations to the former shop with the exact same name that closed in Birmingham) and they failed, first time round, to send me the correct limited edition program I paid for so I refused to ever use them again. When I rung up to complain I was indeed sent the correct program second time round but I was asked not to mention this on my blog, then in an email told I could publish what I want. I kept the first one as it arrived with a damaged spine. This damage I blame on nobody as I cannot prove it was damaged before or during transit. I miss the shop in Birmingham.
  • Super Structures – Hmmm maybe at bit of an exaggeration but I do move the sofa from the side of the living room to a spot directly in front of the television. It’s important to have your drinks and snacks within touching distance so I make sure that the nest of small tables we have are displayed in front of the sofa.
  • Super Monday – One last thing – as the Super Bowl finishes in the early hours of Monday morning here in England I book the day off and so does my wife. We like to go for a swim in the morning and then a nice lunch. My way of saying thankyou for staying up until 2am to watch the game.

What do YOU do to get ready for the big game?

Now that's what I call bling !
Now that’s what I call bling !

It was with that sense of Santa Claus coming down the chimney bearing gifts aplenty that I just about managed to stay awake for the opening kickoff of the 2009 NFL season.

 
Bearing in mind that it was getting past 1.30am here in England when the Tennessee Titans Rob Bironas made the opening boot I like to think I did my bit for the international support of the NFL.
 
Everything was going well watching the game, a real defensive slugfest, when John Madden’s replacement, former Bengals wideout Cris Collinsworth muttered the immortal phrase
 
‘I spoke to Coach Fisher and he said he has not come to Pittsburgh to kiss the Steelers rings’.
 
Call me depraved but the image that phrase conjured up in my mind was only appropriate at around 2.30am in the morning after having eaten a box of Ritz crackers.
 
Wait a second I did have that thought around 2.30am this morning, and yes I has just eaten the majority of the contents of a box of Ritz crackers.
 
To cap the game off Willie was pretty limp, with a pathetic 19 yards on 13 carries.
 
Above all was the first game of the 2009 NFL season worth the months of non-football agony – Hell yeah.
 
NFLFANINENGLAND’s observations from the kickoff 2009 NFL game
  • Kenny Britt the Titans rookie WR looked particularly hot – his 4 catches for 85 yards were an outstanding debut for a newbie, in a position that is notoriously tough for first year players to have a big impact on
  • The Titans defensive line looks like it can still do the business getting pressure on opponents qb’s after the loss of Albert Haynesworth to the Redskins. 4 sacks by the defensive line was very respectable.
  • Hopefully Superbowl MVP WR Santonio Holmes doesn’t catch Burress disease by gunning down one of his own limbs. His 9 catches for 131 yards and a score made him the biggest fantasy stud of the day (my god more innuendo)

Thank goodness we have NFL football back. Here in England we have no live MNF, but as for the weekend we have three live games to look forward to. I can’t wait.

Half a yard from a big payday - and I'n not talking a King Size peanut based snack bar
Half a yard from a big payday – and I’m not talking a King Size peanut based snack bar

I’m over it now, but it took me almost 48 hours to calm my hulk like rage following the Ben Roethlisberger touchdown that never was in Sunday’s Superbowl.

I had £8 on Big Ben to score the first touchdown of the game on a run, and when he took off scrambling I saw the £’s flashing in front of my eyes as I got 33-1 odds on that event occurring.
I didn’t quite celebrate as I knew it was a close call, but the commentators in the London Sky Sports studio, which included former Cardinals QB Jay Schroeder, all agreed that Roethlisberger had crossed the line. See here for the play so you can make your own mind up.
Once I saw the red flag on the Raymond James Stadium field I had a bad feeling – but I also knew I could be time to celebrate.
When the ref reversed the call on the field I was gutted to say the least and I let out a few choice words in my living room.
On cold reflection two days later  his knee was down and it was a helluva tackle by Darnell Dockett, who could have been in the running for MVP had the Cardinals held on.
It was a superb game (aside from that play!) and I absolutely loved the momentum shifts, the Cardinals fightback and the way Santonio Holmes stepped up and said ‘I will take responsibility for us moving downfield’ (probably a bit more dramatically broadcast in the huddle).
Dominique Rogers-Cromartie had a fantastic rookie season, but he was picked on at the Superbowl, as was Cardinals safety Aaron Francisco. The Cardinals showed the world that they deserved to be in the big game, but the Steelers showed why the won their sixth title, by finding the very small flaws in the Cardinals defense.
This was a game for the ages, and in the end the better team just about won. Congratulations to the Steelers for title six, and a big round of applause to the Cardinals for making this game one that will not be forgotten in a hurry.
Big Ben I forgive you for falling short on that td run, but next time you take off in the first quarter of a Superbowl (and yes I do think he will be back again before his career is over) give it that extra little bit of effort please. For the sake of my wife’s sensitive ears. 
Anyone else lose money on the Super Bowl? Let the world know
I think Boldin will be the MVP

I think Boldin will be the MVP

It’s my favourite day of the year today. Better than my birthday, better than Christmas, even better than that feeling when you know you have just done your last shift at work before a two week break. It’s Superbowl Sunday.

It’s a day that is unlike any other as evey play on Superbowl Sunday becomes part of NFL folklore, every catch, every tackle, every kick, every block, all immortalised by the incredible people at NFL Films.

Over the past week here in England those who have a subscription to the Sky Sports satellite channels have had the privilege of watching every episode of  ‘America’s Game’.

Seeing the rags to riches tale of Kurt Warner in 1999, the dominating defenses of the ’85 Bears, the ’00 Ravens and the ’02 Buccaneers, along with the  legendary Dolphins, Steelers, Redskins, and Raiders teams (to name a few) of the past 40 years it makes you realise that this Sunday is more than just a game, it is a notch in the giant oak tree of history. A notch that is permanent, a notch that is there forever for all to see.

This game between the Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers sees one team that is historically a by-word for ineptitude, for losing and for afterthought against a team that boasts five Superbowl wins and five Superbowl trophies in their creaking trophy cabinet.

I think (as a neutral) I will have the same pre-game feelings as many of you out there. I want the Cardinals to win (I have even bet £10.00 on them to win by 7 to 12 points at 8-1) but I cannot look beyond the Steelers defense. The cliche is true ‘offense wins games – defense wins championships’. It’s true, and watching America’s Game just makes that statement bigger and bolder than ever.

I saw John Madden interviewed this week and he was asked for a prediction – he said no one predicts, we all just guess. I agree, and so for the record and so you can poke fun at me on Monday here are my guesses regarding Superbowl XLIII………..

Final Score – Cardinals 28-21 Steelers – I reckon Warner tosses three touchdowns (two to Boldin one to Edgarrin James) and Tim Hightower gets the Cardinals 4th. Ill go with a Roethlisberger run, a Hines Ward catch and a Heath Miller catch for the three Steelers touchdowns.

Game MVP – Anquan Boldin – Arizona Cardinals WR – (9 catches 111 yards 2 touchdowns)  My thought process behind Boldin is based on the fact that Fitzgerald will be the man who will have his #11 jersey followed around the Tampa Bay field like a sniper on a target. Boldin has had bad press for calling out his offensive coordinator, but we all know he has incredible hands and some pretty good speed. Boldin can get the MVP if the gameplan is aimed at getting him the ball, just like Deion Branch for the Patriots in Superbowl XXXIX (2005).

 Now lets see who you think will be MVP and why…………..

Timmy Smith (left) was so under the radar before Superbowl XXII that his blip did not register - 204 rushing yards later he became immortal

Timmy Smith (left) was so under the radar before Superbowl XXII that his blip did not register - 204 rushing yards later he became immortal

We all know that this is a game featuring two previos Superbowl winning quarterbacks (not sure how many times this has happened before  – maybe Superbowl XIII Roger Staubach v Terry Bradshaw) but we all like to root for players that have the potential to make the Superbowl the best game in their entire career that NOBODY would have predicted.

Examples of Superbowl ‘Under the Radar’ players who had amazing Superbowls include…..

  • Timmy Smith the Redskins running back who ran for 204 yards in Superbowl XXII (1988) against the Broncos. What isn’t so well known is that Smith went to prison in 2006 for trying to sell cocaine to an undercover policeman – unreal I know – see here Number 6.
  • Larry Brown the Cowboys cornerback who had two interceptions and an eventual MVP award in Superbowl XXX. What istn’t so well know is that Brown only had 14 career interceptions and has appeared in an episode of Married with Children – as himself.
  • Wide receivers Andre Coleman (San Diego Chargers) and Desmond Howard (Green Bay Packers) remarkably both have recorded 244 combined yards (rushing, receiving, returning) in the Superbowl (in separate games). Coleman’s achievement is even more special as he was a rookie when he took on the 49ers in Superbowl XXIX. Howard who was drafted by the Redskins and was a bust was immortalised forever when he returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown against the New England Patriots.

So no pressure there then for some players that will not be household names but could have their names etched in Superbowl granite for the next 43 years.

Here goes then – five players that could have mindblowing games but no-one is talking about them right now…..

  •  Mewelde Moore– Pittsburgh Steelers – running back – If Willie Parker has the bad fortune of getting injured again early in the game (bearing in mind he has missed 5 games this season already) Moore could get his opportunity on a global stage. Moore racked up over 1,100 total yards in 2008 and his versatility in rushing, catching and returning and as an everyman he could have a monster game if fate deals his hand.
  • JJ Arrington– Arizona Cardinals – running back – Arrington actually tops Moore with over 1,350 total yards in 2008. As a kick returner Arrington has taken two kick returns ‘to da house’ in his career, and as miracles do happen what is the odds of him taking one back against the Steelers of all people. He could also find himself unmarked in the red zone and catch a touchdown that may turn the game, just like Tim Hightowed did two weeks ago against the Eagles.
  • Neil Rackers– Arizona Cardinals – kicker – With the Pittsburgh Steelers bringing their #1 ranked defense to Florida the Cardinals could be struggling in the red-zone so we could get to some bizarre situation when it comes down to Rackers having the game of his life with potentially six converted field goals. No kicker will ever get a Superbowl MVP award, but racking up something crazy like 18 points would be unforgettable.
  • Jerheme Urban– Arizona Cardinals – wide receiver – With Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin being salivated over by the American media and Steve Breaston being a new member of the 1,000 yard club Urban, the Cards 4th wideout, could be the straw that breaks the Steelers pass defense. Urban has great hands and is a Wes Welker ‘Lite’. If he is left alone, or seen as an afterthought he could get 8 catches for 100 yards and maybe even a score. It’s unlikely, but we know that any given sunday is a cliche with real bite.
  • Nate Washington– Pittsburgh Steelers – wide receiver – Washington is a pure and simple game breaker. He can get a 70 yard touchdown or be swept away by a lockdown CB. As a 3rd WR he will be overlooked in some situations and get his chance to shine. I know Big Ben likes to throw him a few bones every game – normally monster bombs – this could simply be the stage when he makes two catches for 120 yards and two tds.

Anyone elsoe got any ‘under the radar’ picks for the Superbowl? Please post in the comments section of my blog – I will be facinated to read them……….