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Steelers-Saints pregame stretch...

October 31, 2010 - Ray Eckenrode

Will the hits keep coming?

After the timid defensive showing the Steelers had Sunday (with James Harrison, Troy Polamalu and especially Ryan Clark pulling up on hits or diving at players' ankles), Mike Tomlin had no choice but to rip the NFL's "attaboy" press release after Sunday's games. If Pittsburgh loses its defensive character as a result of the NFL crackdown on illegal hits, the team’s chances of winning another Super Bowl go out the window, as well. As usual, Tomlin said the exact right thing, noting that he was offended by NFL VP Ray Anderson’s praise because it implied the Steelers were tackling illegally before the crackdown, something Tomlin, his players and ownership have vehemently denied. But saying “we’re not going to change a thing we do” and actually following through on it are clearly two different things so the Steelers defensive attitude will be something to watch for Sunday evening in New Orleans. As a side note, it apparently wasn’t just the Steelers defense that jumped off the accelerator last weekend as it was the highest scoring NFL weekend since 1983. (Despite the contention of many national sports commentators that the game was unchanged by the violent-hits memo, it obviously was changed – dramatically.)

Hope for Smith return?

Although it hasn’t been reported by mainstream media (and perhaps rightly so since it’s not a legit prognosis), Tomlin reported on his Facebook page Friday (which we’re guessing is actually manned by a front office intern) that Aaron Smith said he is hoping to return from his partially torn triceps injury in 4-6 weeks. Now, that could just be Smith being optimistic, but if Smith’s doctors really told him that it would mean the tear involved was miniscule because a triceps tear is NOT a 4-6 week injury as far as recovery time, more like 4-6 months.

Mike Tomlin’s Facebook page:!/HCMikeTomlin

A look at NFL probabilities

If you enjoy looking at football from a different perspective, he highly recommend you bookmark Advanced NFL Statistics, a site dedicated to getting beyond statistics and exploring probabilities in the game (and the role of luck). The site is interesting and thought provoking and it’s fun to watch the chief statistical guru there tap dance every week as the actual results of some games defy statistical probability. Although to be fair, the probabilities go 11-5 or 12-4 just about every week as far as picks, but when they’re off they’re off spectacularly. For example, not only do statistical probabilities show that this year’s San Diego Chargers are by far the best team in the NFL, they show they’re one of the greatest NFL teams of this generation. Of course, the Chargers are 2-5. In another story this week, the probabilities show that there was basically no statistical difference between the Steelers kicking a FG from the half yard line to go up by two points or going for it on fourth down with a chance to go up by six points. In each instance, the probabilities show you win about four times out of ten. Again, we’re not suggesting probabilities are THE way to analyze football, just another INTERESTING way to do it.

Advanced NLF Statistics site:

Run Mewelde, run

The absolute best development to come out of the win over the Dolphins was Mewelde Moore’s contribution to the offensive workload. Moore, who looked sluggish early this season, helped jump start the Pittsburgh offense while working the entire third series as halfback. It’s imperative the Steelers keep Rashard Mendenhall’s workload in check. An injury to Mendenhall would likely be equally as devastating to the team’s hopes as last year’s combo Smith-Polamalu injuries were. Also, Mendenhall’s 131 carries through six games has him on pace for 370 for the season, a little too close for comfort to the 400 mark. If you’ve read this blog regularly and followed the NFL closely you know that history shows an NFL running back is never the same after a 400-carry season. At Miami, Moore finished the game with eight touches (four carries, four receptions) while Mendenhall had a manageable 15 carries, eight below his season average.

The pick

If you haven’t gathered yet, we’re having a terrible year getting a handle on both Penn State and the Steelers. Last week, we expected the NFL violent-hit controversy to focus Pittsburgh’s energy. Instead, the team came out flat and disjointed. This week, we’re iffy on whether the suddenly-a-tad-shaky Steelers defense can match up on the road with the passing attack of a desperate Saints team, which probably means Pittsburgh will turn in the focused defensive effort we expected last week. Perhaps this is our George Costanza season and we should go the opposite way of every instinct we have. Serenity now!!! … Steelers (+1) 27-23.

Prediction record

Last week: Pittsburgh -3 INCORRECT

Season straight up: 3-3, .500

Against the spread: 2-4, .333

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