Tag Archives: Playoff

Breaking Down the AFC Playoff Contenders: Baltimore Will Have Tougher Time Defending Title Than It Had Winning it


The Baltimore Ravens were the 2011 AFC North Champions. They came close to representing the AFC in the Super Bowl.

These facts are, as they say, undisputed.

in the NFL, you’re either growing or you’re dying. I’m not suggesting Baltimore is a bad team or they’re not capable of winning 10+ games again, but look at their offseason. Did they improve their team?

There’s something to be said for internal improvement, true, and they have talent at most positions. But in what way are they getting better? I’m hearing nothing but great things about the Steelers‘ draft class, and their main challenge is amongst themselves, not their opponents. Wallace is in a contract year, Brown and Sanders are both looking strong, the offensive line is revamped, could be the most athletic defense they will have put out there in some time (Tomlin coaches athletes, that’s his MO). I can’t say Pittsburgh will walk away with the division, but I see more improvement from last season there than I do in Baltimore.

And keep in mind, just like a few years Pittsburgh beat Baltimore out, they tied at the top of the division, and Baltimore won the tie-breaker on a last-second play. The difference in those two teams was far less than Baltimore likes to admit.

Pittsburgh would have struggled to beat any team on the road in the condition they were in for the Wild Card Round. Health is just as much a part of a championship team as anything else. They didn’t have it. But how well did Baltimore play against Houston? Did the Ravens peak in time for the playoffs?

In all fairness, I thought the Ravens’ divisional round and conference championship games were poorly play by all three teams involved. In fact, Houston would have beaten both of those teams if they had better quarterback play. Credit to Joe Flacco and Tom Brady, who made plays in their respective games to help their teams win, but T.J. Yates was easily the worst quarterback in the AFC playoffs last season. Houston’s last three drives, down 20-13, Yates threw two interceptions and failed to convert on 4th and short.

Flacco didn’t have the turnovers, but was equally futile in moving the ball. The Ravens couldn’t run the ball (tough to do against Houston) and had 227 yards total. TWO HUNDRED AND TWENTY SEVEN YARDS. How often does that get you 20 points if you’re playing a reasonably talented quarterback? Houston turned the ball over four times, and still matched Baltimore with 63 plays. The Ravens were 4-for-16 on 3rd down. Not to take anything away from Houston’s defense, which was one of the best units in the NFL last season, but the Ravens didn’t win that game as much as they allowed the Texans to lose it. Which Yates did. Spectacularly.

Against New England, 51 Ravens players did enough to secure a win. One failed to secure a pass and one lived out the ultimate nightmare for any player in any sport.

Making it to two consecutive conference championships is an anomaly. The Jets advanced in both 2009 and 2010, lost both games and missed the playoffs in 2011. Pittsburgh defeated the Jets, and the Packers defeated the Bears in 2010, neither Pittsburgh nor Green Bay won a 2011 playoff game.

The Colts, Saints and Vikings all made their respective 2009 conference championship games, none of them won a playoff game in 2010.

It’s not impossible, but recent history shows how difficult it is to reach the summit and stay there, especially when you can’t quite get to the top. Baltimore certainly has the talent, but with an improved division and a first-place schedule, they’ll need more than just health to again stand at the top of the AFC North.

Source: Behind the Steel Curtain

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Pittsburgh Steelers Preparing to Avenge Playoff Shocker

With the start of the 2012 NFL season still 104 days away, the Pittsburgh Steelers are hard at work during OTA sessions. The Steelers are still in shock from last year’s early exit from the playoffs are looking to bounce back this season. Ironically, starting things off with a little revenge on the team responsible for their early exit, the Denver Broncos.
Fans still cringe at the thought of that shocking overtime defeat handed to them by Tim Tebow and the Broncos, with the sight of Demetrius Thomas breaking away from cornerback Ike Taylor and safety Ryan Mundy for the 80-yard game winning touchdown etched into their minds. Although Denver has since moved on from the unconventional ways of Tim Tebow, to future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning, who was released earlier in the year by the Indianapolis Colts. The sting from last year’s overtime defeat still lingers amongst players.
Pittsburgh still holds a certain level of disdain for that loss, many feel that the…

Source: Yardbarker: Pittsburgh Steelers

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Former Colts K Mike Vanderjagt Still Hearing About 2005 AFC Divisional Playoff Game

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Allegedly, former Colts K Mike Vanderjagt still knows how to choke.

Only this time, it wasn’t at the end of a playoff football game between the Indianapolis Colts and the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was the throat of a student after he taunted Vanderjagt by chanting “Wide Left! Wide Left!” in reference to his missed kick at the end of the 2005 NFL Divisional Playoff game between the Colts and Pittsburgh.

Vanderjagt, a volunteer coach and school parent at Charter Middle School in Marco Island, Fla., according to witnesses, grabbed a student by the throat and began swearing at him after the student was seen and heard yelling “wide left” through a rolled up poster board.

Vanderjagt said he placed his hand on the student’s shoulder, by the base of his neck, and did not choke him.

Local police reviewed the matter and sent an incident report to the state’s attorney general’s office, who concluded no charges would be filed. Vanderjagt also said he’s spoken with the boy’s family, and he apologized. The boy also apologized.

The school board voted 4-2 in favor of allowing the school’s principal to handle the decision of whether to keep Vanderjagt on as a coach.

Apparently, the boy he allegedly choked (and admittedly touched) was only the latest of many who were taunting Vanderjagt in a similar fashion over the months.

Obviously accosting a child is against the moral code of any teacher or child, but a certain level of respect should be given to those coaches and teachers. It seems like a good life and history lesson for both Vanderjagt, the student and everyone involved with the incident.

For life, one must learn to overcome failures, accept them and move on. For history, they should all remember the kick was wide right, not left.

Source: Behind the Steel Curtain

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April is a Time for Playoff Intensity? I Just Don’t Get it. This Must Be Why I’m a Football Fan

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PITTSBURGH PA - JANUARY 15:  Defensive end Brett Keisel #99 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates after defeating the Baltimore Ravens 31-24 in the AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Heinz Field on January 15 2011 in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

A few weeks ago, our very own Ivan Cole wrote a piece about the month of April, and how it’s a time of hope, anticipation, renewal and even a bit of withdrawal what with any real football still many months away. When I read that, I thought, “Amen, Sir.” That’s how I feel.

As a die-hard football fan, I can certainly relate. Right around that same time, the Pittsburgh Penguins were winding-down their regular season by engaging in a blood-bath with their heated rivals and soon-to-be first round playoff opponents, the Philadelphia Flyers. During the game, there were many fights, cheap shots and even opposing coaches screaming at each other. The next day, I was reading an article in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette about the series of events that occurred in the game, and there was a quote from one of the Penguins players. I don’t remember the player or the exact quote, but he mentioned something about it being April, and April is playoff time, so therefore, the intensity is magnified.

Right then is when it hit me: I guess I’m not a hockey fan because I cannot relate to April playoff intensity.

Yesterday, after the Penguins fell to the Flyers in six games in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, my boss, a huge Pens fan, said, “I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself now. I usually count on the Penguins going on a long playoff run. Now, there’s nothing to do.”

And I said, “Mark, it’s the end of April. It’s going to be May any second now. There must be dozens of things you can do. It’s nice out.”

The cold weather that we experienced today in Pittsburgh is certainly the exception to what we’ve been experiencing lately, and it will soon pass and give way to warmer temperatures. So if you’re a Penguins fan who is down about their first round exit, don’t despair.

Take your kids to the park; take them to Disney World; take your wife (or husband) on a cruise; go jogging; get some sun; play some pick-up basketball; fly a kite, etc. There must be tons of things you can do during the spring to make you forget about hockey.

I don’t know how hockey fans can even keep up their intensity during the playoffs. It just seems odd to sit in a bar and watch an intense hockey playoff game on, say, Mother’s Day. Shouldn’t you be spending time with her? I mean, she did carry you around for nine months and then give birth to you. She’s tougher than any hockey player. Go pick some flowers and take them to her.

This is where I find hockey to be kind of weird. It’s a sport played in-doors on ice, and the heart of the regular season goes straight through January and February. That’s perfect. However, the intense, white-knuckled playoff action takes place during April, May and June. I just can’t feel very much intensity in my bones during this time of year.

This is how I know I’m a hard-wired football fan.

I think the game of football and the time of year when its playoffs start come together to create the perfect atmosphere for a championship chase, at least if you’re in a cold-weather city like Pittsburgh.

Towards the end of the regular season, the holidays come around, and that fosters great memories with family and friends. You swap old holiday stories and create new ones. You may even share memories of great Steelers games from years gone by. There’s usually football on during the holidays, and it just seems natural as you sit with your family and watch a Thanksgiving day game, for example.

Once November and December give way to January, however, life is a little harsher. You no longer have that fuzzy feeling in your stomach from the holidays. Instead, you just have the cold and the snow, and you’re probably really angry about it.

You know the big Steelers playoff game is coming up, and you’re probably excited about that. But you’re also worried about your car starting for work in the morning because it’s below zero outside, and you keep putting off getting your battery checked.

Every damn morning, it seems like there is frost on your car windshield and snow on your hood. There’s also snow on your door, and everytime you open it, some of the wet stuff gets on your seat and you have to sit in it. This makes you even angrier.

And then there are pot-holes you have to try and avoid and roads that haven’t been plowed yet as you try and navigate your way to work every morning.

You find yourself shoveling your sidewalk everyday, and your hands are always numb because your gloves suck, and your ears are always cold because you can’t find your good Steelers hat.

All you can think about is the upcoming Steelers playoff game, and how you wish you could be out there tackling some Ravens because you know you could do it. This snow and cold is all the motivation you need. This damn winter is getting to you. The stakes are high in January. The Steelers have to win. If they don’t, you know you won’t have much to look forward to for the next couple of months.

You’ll still have the rest of January and all of February to scrape the frost off of your car and shovel your sidewalk, and there will be no football to take your mind off of it. You can’t go jogging, not if you’re not crazy; you can’t fly a kite or pick flowers from the garden; you can’t tan.

Heck, attending an NFL playoff game is sometimes a matter of personal survival if you’re in a city like Pittsburgh. Hockey playoff games are always in-doors, and you may have to take a sweater just in-case the air-conditioning is working a little too well at the Consol Energy Center. If you go to a Steelers playoff game at Heinz Field, you may have to prepare for frostbite. If you don’t prepare properly, whether or not Pittsburgh wins will be the least of your troubles.

Playoff football is played during the month it was intended to be played. If you’re a fan, you can sense the playoffs right around the corner. You can feel it in your soul. It’s very intense, but it’s beautiful.

Playoff hockey? It’s just really beautiful outside, and I just can’t relate. I just want to go fly a kite.

Source: Behind the Steel Curtain

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Steelers Gab NFL Divisional Playoff Picks

The Steelers 2011 season is over, but the NFL season continues this weekend, as there are still games to be played leading up to Super Bowl XLVI in Indy coming up on February 5th.

Here’s my picks for this weekend’s four games, two in the AFC and two in the NFC.


New Orleans at San Francisco – Everyone is on the Saints bandwagon, but a lot of people don’t seem to remember how good the Niners D is. With a solid front seven that will put pressure on Drew Brees, and a run game that will keep the Saints offense off the field, I like what the Niners bring to the table here. New Orleans is the sexy pick, but I think Alex Smith and the Niners do enough to pull off a huge win to advance to the NFC Title game the following week. 49ers 27 Saints 23

Denver at New England – Anyone else tired of Tim Tebow? Sure, he played the game of his life a week ago against the Steelers, but you can bet Bill Belichick will have his goons from New England ready to go against him this week. With temps below 10 degrees with the wind chill, and having already beaten the Broncos once, I have a hard time believing the Broncos are going to keep this close. Tom Brady and the Pats move on with relative ease at home as the clock strikes midnight for Tebow. Patriots 35 Broncos 14


Houston at Baltimore – Two very good defensive teams do battle in Baltimore, and the big question will be – what Joe Flacco shows up? The Ravens QB has had some solid games at home, and some that he’d probably like to forget. The game could come down to a battle of RB’s – Ray Rice for the Ravens and Arian Foster for the Texans. I like Rice and that Ravens defense to do enough to send rookie QB T.J. Yates and the Texans home for the offseason, setting up a Brady vs Ravens AFC Title game next Sunday. Baltimore 16 Houston 10

New York Giants at Green Bay – The finale to the weekend, a NFC showdown that a number of people seem to feel will play out like the 2007 NFC Title Game between the same two teams. Not gonna happen. Looks like a lot of people have already dismissed the Packers – you know, the Super Bowl Champs from a season ago that have gone 19-1 in their last 20 games. Love Green Bay here, as they will attack the Giants secondary, and I can see them getting to Eli Manning for a couple turnovers early to give them a lead they won’t lose. The Giants are playing well, but they are running into a hungry Packers team at home. Packers 31 Giants 13

Next Sunday:

AFC Title Game 3pm EST – Baltimore (13-4) at New England (14-3)

NFC Title Game 6:30pm EST – San Francisco (14-3) at Green Bay (16-1)

Source: Steelers Gab

Patriots quarterback Brady looks to end three-game playoff slide

A win this weekend would send Tom Brady and the New England Patriots to the AFC championship game and end the Tebowmania season of the Denver Broncos.

Source: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Ziggy Hood Talks Playoff Loss and Takes Look Towards Next Season

PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) — Steelers Defensive End Ziggy Hood joined Seibel, Starkey and Miller on Sportsradio 93-7 The FAN to wrap up the season and preview the future of the team.

Ziggy said it has been tough to swallow not being in the playoffs, but they gave it their all and just came up short.

There’s a chance going in to camp next year Ziggy will have to step up and be a leader on the defensive line because Aaron Smith and Casey Hampton may not be back, and he told us how ready he is to accept that responsibility and make this team better moving forward.

We wrapped things up getting Ziggy’s thoughts on New England Denver playing this weekend, and with his experience playing against both teams, who he thinks will advance.

Filed under: Football, Heard on The Fan, Sports, Steelers Tagged: Aaron Smith, Casey Hampton, Maurkice Pouncey, Tim Tebow, William Gay, Ziggy Hood

Source: CBS Pittsburgh » Steelers

Steelers Playoff Diary – 1-8

Sunday, January 8Steelers starting center Maurkice Pouncey is among those inactive for today’s game against the Broncos. Doug Legursky will start at center.Also inactive are cornerback Cortez Allen…

Source: Pittsburgh Steelers : News

Ryan’s hope is to end Atlanta’s playoff jinx

The New York Giants are four years removed from their most recent Super Bowl victory, and they have nothing on the Atlanta Falcons in terms of postseason experience. The Giants (9-7) will be the novices today when they play host to the Falcons (10-6) in an NFC wild-card game at MetLife Stadium.

Source: post-gazette.com – Steelers/NFL

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Steelers’ Mundy will make first playoff start against Broncos

Age 7 might be early for a boy to get career advice from his dad, but when Gregory Mundy saw a chance to impart some to his son, Ryan, he took the opportunity. It had to do with entering the right door.

Source: post-gazette.com – Steelers/NFL

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