by Bill Neal, For New Pittsburgh Courier
:10—We’ll take it. Yeah, I gotcha, a home victory after a bye week against a dull, plodding New Orleans Saints team coming off a short week and being led by Steelers’ whipping boy Andy Dalton, he of the 3-14 lifetime record against the Steelers is not a season-making victory. However, there were several highlights to the game for the Steelers on Nov. 13, first and foremost taking care of business at home as they should against an injured, depleted team, our own injured kicker, Mr. Boswell notwithstanding, and his soon-to-be-waived kicking replacement, Matthew Wright, 2 of 4 field goals and less-than-stellar kickoff length. All things considered, and by that I mean where the Steelers fall in the draft order, 3-6 sounds a heap better than 2-7. I’ll leave it up to you to tell T.J. Watt and Cam Heyward they should hold back a bit to lose so we can get the No. 7 pick instead of the No. 13 pick.
:09—Let’s begin with 217 yards on the ground, bringing back memories of Jerome Bettis and, dare I say it, Le’Veon Bell. Najee Harris rushed for 99 yards on 20 carries and busted several runs, including a career-high 36-yarder, getting major yardage after first contact and looking every bit like the first-round draft pick we all hope he is. Jaylen Warren had 37 yards on 9 carries and also had 3 catches out of the backfield, showing once again how valuable he has become to this offense. Kenny Pickett had 51 yards on 8 carries/scrambles including a nifty 1-yard dive for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately he was sacked 6 times again and still does not seem to have enough time to be truly effective in the passing game. Much work is needed in the pass blocking. Kenny was 18-30 for 199 yards but had no TD passes and no picks this week, so we’ll call it even.
:08—The defense held New Orleans to 186 total yards, a team with multiple threats Taysom Hill and Alvin Kamara and Jarvis Landry at wideout. No matter what can be said about Andy Dalton against the Steelers, the defense clamped down and never truly let up, 2 interceptions, 2 sacks from Alex Highsmith and a D-Line that was at times a solid brick wall. Though T.J. Watt played a relatively quiet game for him, not enough can be said by just having his presence on the field and the multiple blockers sent his way. He alone allows everyone else to play a bit looser and free. Yes, I also noticed it seemed at times that Matt Canada was running their offense but the less said about that, the better.
:07—In the NFC, the Philly Eagles are 8-1, the Minnesota Vikings are 8-1, the NY Giants 7-2 and everyone else seems to be stuck in neutral. In the AFC we have the K.C. Chiefs back on top at 7-2, the Miami Dolphins, wait, who, what,(?) are 7-3, the fading Buffalo Bills, Tennessee Titans, NY Jets and Baltimore Ravens are 6-3 and everyone else is not worth mentioning. Is there a front-runner in the AFC? As good as the Chiefs record is, they don’t frighten anyone at this juncture of the season. Tua Tagovailoa and his 9 TDs with no interceptions over the last 3 games for Miami should frighten everyone. A 9-8 team is making the playoffs and I truly think any team in the playoffs this season has a legitimate shot at the Super Bowl. The Cincinnati Bengals are 5-4 and the L.A. Rams are 3-6. What a difference a year makes and yet, if the Bengals make the playoffs, they are dangerous and could tale anyone out. If you like things going down to the wire, this season is one to treasure.
:06—One quick hit—Who is the premier cornerback in the NFL now? With all the money that position commands, who’s the standout guy everyone mentions as their top or second guy? No idea? Me either. Remember when it was Darrelle Revis or Darrell Green? Rod Woodson, Deion Sanders, Ty Law or Mike Haynes? Richard Sherman? The greatest of all-time, Mel Blount? Ronnie Lott? Someone just said Jalen Ramsey of the Rams. He’s good but not at “that” level yet. Hey, I’m just asking questions here.
:05—Did anyone see Coach Bill Cowher on Sunday talking, well, foaming at the mouth about the Indianapolis Colts hiring Jeff Saturday as their new head coach without one second of assistant coaching experience? And I quote, “It’s a disgrace to the coaching profession. And regardless of how this thing plays out, what happened in Indianapolis is a travesty.” Don’t sugarcoat it Coach, tell us how you really feel. Jeff Saturday was a heckuva center in his playing days, a 6-time Pro-Bowler, 2-time First Team All-Pro and generally regarded as a terrific teammate and someone who laid it on the line every play. Good for him. However, and we get it, several times he’s been asked by Colts ownership to come in and be an assistant and he’s refused, citing his family time as more important than the incredibly long hours it takes to coach at the NFL level. But then when the head coach job comes along, all that is thrown out the window. And whatever happened to the Rooney Rule? You know, the one where Black assistants were supposed to be part of the hiring equation and at least given lip service and an interview or two to make things at least appear on the up and up. The rule where Eric Bieniemy is always interviewed for the job before being passed over yet again for some retread head coach on his 5th NFL job without much success. Yeah, that rule??? And the beat goes on.
:04—Your Pitt Panthers, with a 6-4 record, are now bowl-eligible again and could end up with an 8-4 record and a decent bowl game to attend. I’ll always say an extra game to develop younger players for the next season is a plus and though it’s not going to be a top-tier game, the pride and fun of visiting another city for a week is nothing to sneeze at. If they end up 9-4 after the bowl game and in the top 25 of the final polls, is the season still considered a loss? I say no, the players gave all, competed against a very good Tennessee team and, hopefully won out. Go Panthers!!!
:03—Penn State has crept back to No. 11 in the polls and with a bit of luck could be back in the Top 10 by next Sunday. With losses to No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Michigan their season has been another in a series of seasons where they just didn’t have the complete team to get into the Top 5 or even the Top 4 at the end of it all. It’s disappointing because every year we think, “Is this finally the year they take the next step and get past one of both of those teams?” and once again the answer is, “No.” If you’re a Penn State fan you must be pulling out your hair but Top Ten is pretty darn good.
:02—Remember, “Soul Take/Champions Live” every Tuesday from 6 to 8 p.m. at http://www.pghdsn.com.
:01—And last but not least, the 9th Annual Pittsburgh City League High School All-Sports Hall of Fame Inductions —coming Saturday, Dec. 17 at the DoubleTree Hotel, 101 Mall Boulevard in Monroeville. There’s a Meet & Greet at 12 noon followed by a Call To Meal at 1 p.m. and the induction ceremony beginning at 2 p.m. Tickets are $65 for adults and $45 for youth 12 and under, tickets sold in advance. No tickets will be sold at the door. For information call Achieving Greatness Inc. at 412-628-4856. This show is proudly presented by Soul Take/Champions Live Sports Talk Show.