Friday, October 30, 2009
Watch the video, and you tell me.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
It was Bill Cowher's last game as a Steelers head coach. Heather and I had been dating for two years, and I had recently shared with her my faith in Christ. We were both still very young in our faith, and we didn't quite know what it meant to be a Christian.
The Steelers were playing the Bengals in Cincinnati, and as a New Years celebration, I bought two tickets to watch the game at Paul Brown Stadium. We drove five hours to Cincinnati, slept at a Holiday Inn, and in the morning we prepared for the game by coating our faces in black-and-gold paint. We both wore funny hats and carried our Terrible Towels. Mine was yellow; Heather's was black.
The Steelers were 7-8 and the Bengals 8-7. Pittsburgh was out of the playoff picture after a season marked as one big Superbowl Hangover. The Bengals, however, still had hope. The week before, they had lost a game to the Denver Broncos because of a botched snap causing them to miss an extra point. They were pinning their hopes on this game for a playoff seed. The Steelers had a chance to upset their rival.
As Heather and I walked toward the stadium, the city was filled with orange-donned fans. It was strange to see that effect of fanhood in a foreign city. I had been so used to the yellow and black walking the streets of Pittsburgh on game day.
"They all look like a bunch of hunters," Heather joked. But then she warned me, "Don't get in a fight with anyone. If anybody talks trash, walk away."
"If anybody says anything, I just have two words for them, 'Botched Snap,'" I said, referring to the loss to Denver.
Heather knew my tendency to get rowdy when it comes to the Steelers. I've never had a history of fighting, but I've often lost control of my senses. She had to hold me back and keep pushing me toward the stadium when some Cincinnati punk yelled, "Go back home! Pittsburgh is 300 miles that way!"
"We own this city!" I shouted back as Heather grabbed my Polamalu jersey. "Just remember when you miss the playoffs: Botched snap!"
The Steelers dominated the line of scrimmage and Willie Parker churned out good yards and marked the game's first score with a touchdown from the two-yard line. The Bengals matched it with a field goal. Then, as the Steelers were about to go up 14-3, Parker fumbled the ball for a touch back. It happened on our end of the field, and I had the impulse to jump down and recover the ball.
The momentum swung like an open door into the Bengals' favor, and they came angrily with a 66-yard catch-and-run touchdown by Chris Henry. I was furious. We were letting a sure victory slip away. Another touchdown run by Parker, another touchdown pass by Carson Palmer. With a field goal, the Bengals went up 17-14. With a minute and three seconds left in the game, the Steelers tied it up with their own field goal. All we had to do is hold the Bengals and force the game into overtime.
But you could tell the Bengals wanted it. They had lost to the Steelers at home four years in a row, and they were determined to break that streak. They were determined for a playoff berth. In just five plays they set up for a 39-yard field goal to win the game. I was in disbelief. We had driven all this way. I had spent all that money on tickets and hotel and gas... Only to watch the Steelers lose.
Everybody was on their feet anticipating the kick. Heather grabbed my hand.
"Let's pray for him to miss," she said, staring into my eyes. There was something like magic in that gaze. Something that yearned. Like a power we could have over the world through prayer.
I hesitated. Prayer. Pray for a victory? Pray for football?
I thought about that idea for an instant, which felt like a moment, which felt like a second, which felt like the length of this entire game and the drive to Cincinnati combined. No. It wouldn't be right to pray for something like this. For a missed field goal. How many people in this stadium were praying for a win? How many were praying for the ball to split the uprights? Would God listen to either side more than the other? Or would He be disgusted by the notion of men asking for glory in sport, meanwhile abandoning church to surround this altar of end zones?
"No," I said to Heather as calmly as possible. "We can't pray for that."
She pulled her hand away from me and turned a shoulder. When I tried to hold her, she moved down a few rows. Away from me. Maybe she'd seen judgment in my eyes. But it wasn't that. I wanted to do right by God. I wanted to show Heather that faith in God was more than faith in a team.
She knows that now, and often knows it better than I do. But in that moment, we were young. We knew the Steelers' roster better than we knew God's character.
I held my breath when Shayne Graham booted the ball. It went up and up and swerved right just in time, like a plane changing course.
In overtime, we won the game on a slant pass to Santonio Holmes who sped past everybody on the Bengals defense.
I was happy because we'd won. But I was even happier because we'd done so without pretending that God cared about football as much as he did about our hearts.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
"The death of a child is the greatest reason to doubt the existence of God." ~ Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
This attack on God is really nothing new, but just a stem of an old-age argument that questions how a gracious and loving God can allow so much evil to go on in this world.
But I want to focus on this question particularly. Children. They are wonderful little people. I love picking up my various nieces and nephews, making them laugh, teasing them and simply watching them smile over the little joys. There definitely is something sacred about children, but I wonder how it is that we understand and agree on this. Where did we get the notion that children are special? How did it come about?
Say that a child dies, and this proves in your heart that God cannot exist. God cannot exist because all of these ugly things are happening. Ask yourself next, if there is no God, then who are we? Why is our life so precious if God isn't there? Why is the life of a child even more precious than mine without God?
Without God, we are nothing but a very convenient accident in a very lonely universe. Without God, the only "moral" standard is whatever standard that pushes forward survival. Think about it. If God doesn't exist, there really is little basis to believe a child is all that valuable. Sure a child will grow up to further existence of the human race, but there is nothing so tragic about a child dying as long as there are enough people to keep a society alive. Yes. That is a very cruel and bitter view of life. But we cannot pretend that life means much more than that if God doesn't exist. Suddently, the existentialist is a valiant philosopher. We are just an accident. So the taking away of life is nothing more than an accident in reverse.
The Bible, on the contrary, gives a tremendous amount of appreciation for children.
But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. (Luke 18:16)
Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world. (Philippians 2:14-15)
Here am I, and the children the LORD has given me. We are signs and symbols in Israel from the LORD Almighty, who dwells on Mount Zion. (Isaiah 8:18)Children are both a gift from God and a sign of the joy we ought to manifest in praising God. The question then becomes, if children are in fact so valuable to God, then why would he take their lives, even today, in such brutal manners.
I think I'm going to leave that question up for discussion for now. I may comment on that later on in this blog. But one thing is for sure, the very idea that we find children so beautiful and valuable is because God exists.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
Definitely a lot of props to the line backing corps. Through the first three games of the season it seemed that the linebackers were nowhere to be found. Against the Vikings, the line backers accounted for 3 of the 4 sacks and scored more points in one quarter than our entire offense did the rest of the game. They terrorized Favre early and often in the game.
The ageless QB still had a tremendous game passing wise (334 yards through the air) because he was able to victimize William Gay and Ike Taylor, who both had very poor outings. But when it counted the most, the linebackers stepped it up to make the biggest plays. LaMarr Woodley scooped up a fumble and looked like a fatter, slower James Harrison returning it back for a touchdown. I didn't think he was ever going to reach the end zone. Keyaron Fox found himself with a gift in his lap when a Favre ass tipped off the hands of Chester Taylor and landed right in Fox's palms. He returned it for the game-winning score.
Another thing to note, even though the Vikings offense (which had been averaging 31 points a game) torched us in the yardage department, the Steelers D was still able to contain them to just 10 points. Seven points came off of a kickoff return. Up until now, the defense had been showing signs of crumbling in the fourth quarter, but I think they're finally getting back into the groove of things. It's not style points that matter. It's the scoreboard points that count.
Also noteworthy: Welcome back Polamalu! He saved two potential touchdowns in this game that could have shifted the momentum completely the other way.
Going into this game, I was convinced that Big Ben was going to have a field day against this 24th ranked passing defense. Instead, he completed just 14 of 26 passes (53.8 percent) for 175 yards when he had been completing roughly 73 percent of his passes all season and averaging 314 yards per game. My criticism doesn't go against Ben so much, but against his receivers. Hines Ward dropped a beautiful, deep pass down the middle that he typically holds on to, and Santonio Holmes let a couple balls scrape the turf that would have gone for first downs.
Ben also had 3 passes that I can remember were batted at the line of scrimmage (one of them, he threw right into an outstretched arm that had been hanging in the air for an hour before he decided to throw, so that's on him).
Hines Ward finished with one catch for 3 lonely yards. Gerry Dulac of the Post-Gazette gives the wide receivers a C+ for their efforts. I wouldn't be so generous, considering that the Wallace touchdown was due to a completely blown coverage. Satonio Holme's 45-yard catch and run was pretty sweet, though.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
1) Adrian Peterson didn't make it to the 100-yard mark. [+1]
2) The Steelers intercepted Bret Favre only once and it was by Keyaron Fox, not Polamalu [-1]
3) The Vikings managed more than 100 yards (112) in the first half, but they did fare a lot better in the fourth quarter (165 yards) but no offensive touchdowns [-1]
4) The Vikings owned the ball in the last two minutes but did not win the game thanks to two defensive touchdowns [-1]
5) Fright Night had the same number of rushing yards as Adrian Peterson, but his yardage average was much better (6.9 yards per carry compared to Peterson's 3.8 average) [+1]
6) Big Ben had only 175 yards passing-- a huge disappointment against this 24th ranked passing defense [-1]
7) The Vikings definitely covered Ward and Holmes very well, but Wallace did not have a 100-yard performance [-1]
8) We sacked Favre 4 times [+1]
9) Big Ben was sacked 3 times, as predicted, and I would say all of them were for holding on the ball too long [+1]
10) I predicted, "Jeff Reed doesn't miss any field goals, then he goes out to celebrate after the game, gets drunk and punches a police officer in the face demanding him to dispense paper towels." Well... he didn't miss any field goals, but the night is still young [+1] He did miss a terrible tackle during a return that was taken in for a touchdown [-7 for Reed, because that's how many points that cost us]
So overall I got about half of my predictions right. The one I cared the most about was the Peterson rushing performance. Steelers stepped up nicely to contain him for the most part, but he totally blew up William Gay on that dump pass. Peterson is a sick, sick man.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Let me begin by saying that I believe that between these two, the Vikings are the better team overall at this point. The Vikings are 6-0, the Steelers are 4-2. Both teams have pretty much played the same caliber of opponents. The Vikings are definitely the biggest challenge for the Steelers thus far.
The best teams the Vikings have played are the 3-2 Greenbay Packers and the 3-3 Baltimore Ravens. None of the teams we've beaten have a winning record. Beating the Vikings would serve as a great statement, especially going into a Bye Week.
I'd say that on paper the Steelers and Vikings match up very well, and I think both teams will score at least 20 points. The Vikings are averaging 31.5 points per game and the Steelers are finally finding their offensive identity on the arm of Ben Roethlisberger and in the hands of his wide receivers.
The key for the Steelers to win the game is to establish a lead early (at least 14-3 by halftime), and continue working the clock and ripping down yardage. Bruce Arians cannot get too greedy too early if we establish that kind of lead. I want him to be aggressive in the play calling, but not force a 50+ yard heave three or four times that result in consecutive sacks. Dump the ball off to Heath Miller and throw quick slants to Santonio Holmes. Throw in a couple of draw plays and don't be afraid to run the ball.
The key is make the Vikings' defensive front question their own aggressiveness. Fright Night, Holmes and Ward will be excellent candidates for various screens to help keep the pressure off.
If we get a lead and then try to throw bombs (and fail), it will revive the Vikings' chances to continue the running game with Adrian Peterson. If, instead, we build an early lead and work our way down the field methodically (and aggressively), it will be harder for the Vikings to resort to the run in the second half.
The challenging part for the Steelers is that Bret Favre is perfectly capable of beating us all on his own, given the success other QBs have had against our secondary. The key in that department is Troy Polamalu. If he plays and he's healthy, it gives us hope. If he's out, look for at least a half-dozen completed passes down the middle of the field in the 10-40 yard range. I saw some breakdown on the NFL network showing that Favre loves throwing it down the middle, which is where we've been the most vulnerable in our zone schemes.
Speaking of passing, the Steelers are ranked 12th in passing defense but the Vikings are ranked a lowly 24th. Also, they've allowed 24 pass plays that have gone for 20 yards or more, two of which were for 40 yards or more. The Steelers have allowed 13 and 2 in that department. Given the fact that the Steelers' offense is ranked second in the NFL in passing, the edge there goes to Ben Roethlisberger and company.
My prediction: 31-28 Steelers
Friday, October 23, 2009
I'm interested in breaking down some Biblical passages and what they mean for the Christina faith.
I'm also going to break down stats and numbers for the Steelers and what they mean for the team.
I'll try to stay away from political issues, but I have a good post in mind about abortion (it is probably the one "political" issue that I cannot see justified in any reasonable or rational way).
Any topics you wish I tackled or gave my take?
I completely forgot that Mike Tomlin used to be the Vikings defensive coordinator. The media hasn't really talked about it much either. Now, this is his third year coaching the Steelers so I'm not sure that he can use anything as personal motivation, but perhaps he has some insight on how to attack the Vikings' D. And who knows, maybe he'll be a little extra excited for this one. Tomlin is a young coach with a lot of energy and knows how to motivate his players.
The Vikings this year are a team that could win any game against any opponent. I'm just glad that we're playing at home. I won't be at the game, but hopefully we can make it loud and confuse the offense. Their O-line has the reputation of being very, very physical, and they are.
But I do think we can get to Favre. He has been sacked 14 times in 6 games, which is almost as much as Big Ben's 16 sacks. He is definitely not untouchable in this game, and both defenses are at the top of the league in sacking so there will be some quarterback heads thumping in this one.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
During my first week in the photo department for the Post-Gazette, I walked around downtown with my camera strapped to my neck to take natural shots of random people. I walked up Liberty Avenue heading toward the parking authority building when a man turned to me and said, “You a photographer, huh?”
“That’s right,” I said.
I smiled and figured he was interested in photography. I was ready to engage him. Maybe he had a story to tell. Maybe he just liked my camera. So I coasted him and we walked side by side. I looked around as we talked to keep an eye on anything worth capturing. Traffic and people passed.
“Are you from Pittsburgh?” he asked.
“I don’t live in the city. But yeah. My wife and I bought a house on the North Side.” I always feel the need to give those details when I meet somebody, regardless of who it is. I have a wife. We own a home.
He didn’t care where I lived. He wanted to talk, but wasn’t very interested in what I had to say. I noticed it right away because he wasn’t making conversation. He walked with a hurried step. I kept beside him. He went on talking, and maybe it was because I was looking around my surroundings, but I had a hard time following what he was saying. It was as though he were talking in code. He was trying to tell me something, but he would say it only in pieces.
He told me he’d been running around looking for a place to stay. He told me he was looking for help. I thought he meant he was looking for a job and an apartment. He told me he ran into several people around town and people from Pittsburgh were of no help. They don’t care, he said. Only people from out of town had showed him some grace.
Now I thought he was homeless. But he told me he was on his way to his mother’s funeral in Lancaster and stopped in Pittsburgh with his family. His wife and kids were waiting at a hotel.
“Where are you from?” I asked. All of these scattered pieces of information he was providing me felt disconnected, as if he was bracing himself from saying the whole thing at once.
“You want to know where I’m from?” He said it as if he were dejected to have to talk about it.
He unfolded a piece of paper that looked like an office memo or a government letter. It was hard to read while walking.
“That’s where I’m from,” he said as if ordering me to read the paper.
Somewhere in the heading I read Akron, Ohio. I folded the letter and handed it back. I wasn’t interested in playing detective. Though, I did find this whole encounter intriguing, as if there might be a reward if I somehow solved this mystery.
“Akron, Ohio,” I said, because I felt he expected me to say something.
“Yeah, Akron,” he said, but I wasn’t sure whether his tone was impatient for my stupidity or exasperated, as if Akron itself served some kind of injustice.
“So where have you been staying?” I asked. I didn’t know where he was leading me. I didn’t even know whether I was asking the right questions. I was supposed to be a reporter. Why did I feel so dumb?
He showed me what looked like a hospital bracelet on his left wrist. It was a white band with small print and a bar code. None of what he showed me made any sense. I felt as though I’d been caught up in a case of mistaken identity, as though he believed I was somebody else who might understand his clues.
“You’re staying at the hospital?” I asked.
Finally, he had had it. He had it that I wasn’t getting him.
“No. Listen. My wife and two kids are waiting at the Marriot lobby. That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you. We don’t have enough to get a room and nobody from Pittsburgh is willing to give us a hand. We’re on our way to my mother’s funeral, but we need a place to stay. We’re short. All I’m asking for is maybe seven or thirteen dollars. Now, do you want to help me or what?”
I was stunned. This was the reason for all the secretive coding and backward talk. I stammered before I spoke. I had fifty-some dollars in my wallet, but I needed it for parking and food for the week. I wanted to help the man. I felt like he was being sincere, but I made it a personal choice not to give money to strangers. I give money to my church, to my family and even my friends when in need. It wasn’t a case of stinginess. It was a matter of trust.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I just—”
He cut me off.
“Oh it’s alright. I knew you wouldn’t give it to me. As soon as you said you were from Pittsburgh, I knew you wouldn’t help. Only people from out of town are willing to help.”
We’d been standing on the corner waiting to cross. The signal turned for pedestrians to walk and he kept going and I stood there. I felt like going after him. I felt like explaining myself and move with him. To convince him I wasn’t like that. That I wasn’t spiteful or mean or greedy with my money. I just had a budget I had to stick by. But the whole street was in motion as I stood there, rooted to the sidewalk. It took me several, long seconds to realize he was already across the street and moving while I’d been standing still there that whole time.
1) Adrian Peterson will not rush for more than a 100 yards, but will come very, very close. Steelers always play up or down to the competition. For the most part we contain the elite backs, but Peterson is still phenomenal so he will make us sweat a little.
2) We will pick off Favre at least twice (Polamalu will have one of those interceptions).
3) We will hold the Vikings to an insanely low amount of yards in the first half (under 100), and then they will adjust and explode in the fourth quarter.
4) Whichever team has the ball in the last two minutes wins this game.
5) Fright Night will get more rushing yards than Adrian Peterson.
6) Big Ben has another 300-yard passing game.
7) Vikings Defense will double-cover Hines Ward and bump Santonio Holmes in his routes, leaving Mike Wallace open to have another 100+ yard performance.
8) We will sack Favre at least 4 times.
9) Steelers O-line protects Ben but he still gets sacked 3 times for holding on the ball for too long.
10) Jeff Reed doesn't miss any field goals, then he goes out to celebrate after the game, gets drunk and punches a police officer in the face demanding him to dispense paper towels.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Monday, October 19, 2009
What's even more sweet is that the Ravens (3-3) just lost their third game in a row and the Bungals (4-2) got defeated by the Texans. We're in second place in our division because we lost to Cincinnati, but we'll redeem ourselves when we match up against them Nov. 15 after the Bye.
Our biggest test for our defense comes this week when Minnesota comes into town. Adrian Peterson ran all over the Ravens with 143 rushing yards. The Vikings beat the Ravens the same way teams have beat us this season... in the 4th quarter. If our defense doesn't show up for 60 minutes (or really 30 minutes because I would hope we can control at least half the clock), then we don't go into our Bye Week very happily.
Prideful, yes. But racist?
No. I've never heard him to be a racist, as most of the political cartoonists and media outlets have tried to portray Limbaugh since he showed interest in being an NFL team owner. In my days of listening to him, I've found time and time again that he is often misquoted or paraphrased to say something he never actually said.
Here's an excellent post that does a better job than I could in showing why Limbaugh is not a racist.
I eventually stopped listening to conservative radio at a regular basis because all I could do is feel angry all the time. I still tune in from time to time, but mostly now I listen to Word FM (which makes me mad only when the preaching is shallow or contradictory to the Bible), ESPN radio and Harry Potter on CD.
I'd say I'm a much calmer man today.
However, what I don't love is that my battle assemblies (which are once a month) are on a Saturday and Sunday. Those are usually the days that I look forward to recharging my batteries, and Sunday is and always will be the Lord's Day. And it wouldn't be so bad if my duty as a Soldier at least ended when I come home from Army. I am convinced that I'm violating the fourth commandment, to keep the Sabbath holy and do no work.
Now that I'm an NCO it's my duty to take on extra responsibilities and look out for other Soldiers. Sometimes this cuts into the rest of Sunday evening. This means I miss out on worshiping God appropriately on 1 out of every 4 Lord's days. That's not setting my priorities right.
I really will have to think thoroughly about what I want to do once this contract is up. I re-enlisted for 6 years when I was in Iraq, so now I have 5 years left. The struggle is that I will have served for 12 years in the Army, only 8 years away from earning retirement benefits. I will lose my Army pension and all kids of benefits... but at the end of the day I really should trust in the Lord to provide.
XYZ123, if you're reading this, I wouldn't mind your comments. In fact, I sincerely welcome them.
The points made by Strobel and the experts he interviews here do not point specifically the existence of the God of the Bible. But they do discredit the notion that life could have existed by mere chance and that more complex life developed from simpler life.
One of my favorite points from the DVD is when it discredits the 1959 Miller-Urey Experiment, the famous experiment that tried to prove that the basic element of life -- amino acids -- could have been produced completely by accident by a spark of electricity. Miller assumed in the experiment that the early Earth contained elements of water, methane, ammonia and hydrogen. In the movie (and in the book), Strobel interviews Dr. Jonathan Wells, who says that the early Earth did not contain those elements but instead contained water, carbon dioxide and nitrogen. One of the reasons for why hydrogen couldn't have been present in the mix is because, like now, it would have floated in the air. According to Wells, when Stanley Millier tried to conduct the same experiment using the latter set of elements, nothing occurred that had any resemblance to life.
Some other arguments that Strobel points out are Michael Behe's irreducible complexity, Jonathan Wells' interest in the Cambrian Explosion, and the discovery of cosmic acceleration, which -- by logic -- shows that the cosmos had a central origin and thus an originator.
Now, to be fair, there are so many counter-arguments all over the internet against Strobel's points that it makes my head spin. I really don't even know which points are sourced and which are not. They come from all over the place and from every angle. I would like to take a closer look at some of them, but the essential points that Strobel are pretty darn strong in showing that chance could not have been our great creator.
Most of the time, Strobel has been criticized as another dodo Christian author simply preaching to the Choir. Except, he began his journey as an Atheist who wanted to debunk all credibility for any god. Others criticize him for interviewing only scientists who believe in a Creator... but if you read the book, Strobel is so incredibly versed in the atheist argument and brings up so many references to support atheism that it's obvious he's done his homework. He's done his research against Christianity before actually accepting Christianity.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Keller, however, goes on to make some interesting arguments for God's existence using mainly logic or reason. This is not one of those books that preaches to the choir, per say, but it really does try to reach across the isle to skeptics and atheists. Unlike "Letter to a Christian Nation" by Sam Harris -- which I have not read but according to Keller seems more interested in mocking Christians than conversing with them-- Keller approaches readers of all backgrounds with the intend to communicate, not bash.
One of the main arguments that Keller starts with is that Doubt itself requires an act of faith. It's very easy to dismiss a Christian's faith as standing on a belief without evidence, but Keller quickly flips the script and shows a mirror to the skeptic. That's not all the book offers, but just a launching pad that then grows into other points. He then addresses some of the more common attacks held against Christianity (such as world suffering, the question of hell and the exclusivity of Christianity). He touches on points of morality as a source for God's existence, and argues that the dis-unity among religions cannot mean that all religions point to the same truth.
I didn't finish reading the whole book yet. I read about two-thirds before I had to return it to the library. However, this is a book I'd like to purchase and read again more thoroughly as a way of approaching both people of faith and those who find no reason to believe in God.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
The question is, can we even make the playoffs without Smith?
The last time Smith missed game time due to injury was in 2007. He missed four games -- one of in the playoffs -- and we lost three of those. The only game we won was against the lonesome Rams.
Up until Smith's injury, the Steelers' defense was allowing a tremendous 245 yards per game. Once Smith went down, we allowed 357 yards average in the final three regular season games. Not only that, but we could hardly contain any running back. Fred Taylor stomped over us for 147 yards, Steven Jackson busted 85 yards, and Cory Ross along with Musa Smith combined for a total 155 yards rushing. Neither of those two is playing in the NFL anymore.
The defense did step it up statistically in the playoffs when we contained Jacksonville to 246 yards, but they still ended up beating us with 31 points (to be fair, 7 points were on a pick-six).
When Smith was healthy, the Steelers allowed an average of 14.5 points per game. Once he was out, they allowed roughly 28 points a game.
The players who will rotate in and out to replace Smith this year will be Travis Kirshke, Nick Eason and our first-round pick, Evander (Ziggy) Hood. Tomlin said Hood is not ready to handle the role by himself. The first two, Kirshke and Eason, were the same players who replaced Smith in 2007, but they have improved their play noticeably since then.
Part of me is excited to see what Hood can do in the role, but I'm not ready to face teams like Baltimore and Minnesota without a solid and proven Smith to plug in their rushing attacks or create lanes for our linebackers.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
The author of the article asked several intelligent questions about how Christian service members in the military bridge the gap between being a war-fighter and being a believer in Christ, who is most associated with being the Prince of Peace.
Her questions really made me reflect on my role in the Army and my involvement in Iraq. Not because I think Iraq is an unjust war. I don't see it that way. I saw some incredibly beautiful things rise up in that country thanks to the efforts and sacrifices of Soldiers throughout the world, especially the U.S.
My conflict, however lies in the idea that most Army Chaplains preach sermons as if the U.S. Soldier is himself chosen by God. I would say that for the most part, being a Soldier and being a Christian are exclusive identities. I'm a Soldier of God first and a war-fighter second. Fortunately for me, I've never had to witness combat or engage the enemy in battle. Never fired a single shot.
In Iraq, it was difficult to reveal who I am. All of my fellow Soldiers know I'm a Christian, and I'd say that for the most part respect me for being one. However, we were never allowed to interact with the Iraqi people at that level.
The U.S. Military imposed strict rules against evangelizing to the Iraqi people. One Marine, in fact, was punished for handing out coins with Biblical scriptures engraved in Arabic.
While my uniform represented the U.S. Army, my heart represents my dedication to God. My duty as a Soldier placed limitations and restrictions to my duties to God. It was never difficult to interact with the Iraqi people. For the most part, they truly loved us. The children chased our humvees and MRAPs any time they saw us on the street. But I've always known that my two identities never blended together perfectly.
Another aspect of it was knowing that War requires killing -- less so when I arrived, but it was still going on.
If I were to kill someone in Iraq, I would have done so as a Soldier, not as a Christian. And I know that there's a difference between killing and murdering, but that's not my main concern. My main concern is, at what point can we say, as U.S. Soldiers, that our service to our Country is also a service to God?
To answer that, we have to remember -- first and always -- that nothing we do guarantees us a place in Heaven. This can actually be a very liberating thought. It's always a matter of the heart and a matter of faith in Christ. Therefore, it's not so much what we do in the Army, but our intentions.
I met a Soldier in Babil Province by the name of Spc. Michael Kim. He's an incredible man who helped raise more than $10,000 for a little girl who needed heart surgery for a congenital disease she had. He was a believer. Now, he knew that his actions to help this girl did nothing to guarantee him entrance into God's kingdom, but he simply did it out of Christian love and compassion for another human being. His heart was in the right place because he placed God first and did everything for His glory.
As, Christians we are called to minister and spread the Gospel to all nations. Unfortunately in Iraq we weren't allowed to do so. We were shackled by military regulations and cultural sensitivities. I've been able to accept that and see it both ways: An effort of evangilization (even if conducted by individuals and not by the organization itself) could cause an uproar in this mainly-Muslim country. And besides, our military efforts have always been focused at fighting terrorism and not a religion, no matter what some people like to believe. I was there. They weren't.
But there lies the conflict between Soldier and Christian. As a Christian, I'm called to share the Good News with all people. And yet, I volunteered to serve in an organization that banned that practice. Does that mean that my service to Country is a disservice to God?
Because God knows how to read our hearts. He knows what our intentions and our desires are. He knows our sins and he knows our pride.
In answering the questions posed by the RP Witness writer, I really faced some questions that I never had thought about before. Even in my church there is high praise and high sense of respect for the Military service man. Except, I had always felt a conflict there that I was never really able to smooth out until recently.
Monday, October 12, 2009
I don't follow college football much, but the various ESPN feature clips I've seen of Tebow showed him out with the crowds, sharing the Gospel, proclaiming Christ as Lord... They made me very excited for this young man. But this GQ article portrays Tebow as extremely self-enamored and prideful. He is more worried about his legacy and his sports achievements than he is dedicated to give up his life to Christ.
"When you die," Tebow booms, "there's gonna be a tombstone, and on that tombstone there's gonna be a name, and there's gonna be a date. And for me, it's going to be 1987, and then it's gonna have a dash.… I want that dash to mean something. I want that dash to be special. I want that dash to represent that Tim Tebow finished strong."That's not how most genuine believers talk about life and death. He sounds extremely worldly in that quote. He is more worried about how people will read his tombstone than how God will view his faith. All Christians know that nothing we do matters in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Sure he has a great passion for the game, but the article depicts Tebow as though God were his number one fan, instead of the other way around.
But then there are moments when Tebow is simply good-hearted and genuine. My worry is that, if suddenly God should take away all of his talents, all of his glory, all of his success... who would Tim Tebow be?
Not that I wish that upon him. Never. His football stage does offer him the opportunity to share the Gospel with thousands and thousands of people. But I wonder if he ever pauses to think about that...
"Without all this, who am I?"
It is believed that these repeated concussions can lead former players to dementia, memory loss and Alzheimer-like symptoms.
The solution, according to one of the scientists quoted in the article, is not helmets. He says,
Helmets are not the answer. The brain has a certain amount of play inside the skull. It’s buoyed up in the cerebral spinal fluid. It sits in this fluid, floats. When the head suddenly stops, the brain continues, reverberates back. So when I hit, boom, my skull stops, but my brain continues forward for about a centimeter. Boom, boom, it reverberates back. So you could have padding that’s a foot thick. It’s not going to change the acceleration/deceleration phenomenon. And a lot of these injuries are rotational. The fibers get torn with rotation. You’ve got a face mask that’s like a fulcrum sitting out here: You get hit, your head swings around. That’s when a lot of these fibers are sheared—by rotation. A helmet can’t ever prevent that.
In fact, the article even argues that helmets have potentially made the game more dangerous because it makes players fearless to lead with their heads.
Suddenly, I don't feel so bad about some of the "ballerina" rules the NFL is taking on to protect players.
As a football fan, I know the intensity and excitement of the game suffers with more and more rules diminishing the "machismo" of the sport, but at the end of the day, we're dealing with real people's lives here.
SACKS: When we needed it most, the defense came out of the gates in the final drive of the game and dragged Culpepper to the ground. Three sacks in a row left the Lions with a Hail-Mary heave to the end zone that was batted down by Ike Taylor. As I had predicted, this would be the game that the Steelers would start racking up some sacks. James Harrison came to life once again with 3 of his own and now has 6 for the season after back-to-back sack games. What was more beautiful, however, is that everybody got a piece of the quarterback. Including William Gay, who I thought finally showed some good aggressiveness yesterday and covered better than ever. In all, the Steelers racked up 7 sacks against the Lions, almost doubling their total for the season (15).
SANTONIO HOLMES: This guy has become one tough, physical wide receiver. He's not a big guy at 5-11, 192 lbs., but on the first pass he caught, he stuck his arm out and pushed down the cornerback defending him to the ground and towed his way for a first down. Then another catch later on, he made contact with several defenders and busted out for more yards after breaking several tackles. You could tell that the Hines Ward philosophy of the game is having a big influence on Holmes. He was doing it all, and even held a beautiful block when Fright Night busted a 27-yard run. And when Mike Wallace dropped that deep ball, Holmes grabbed his attention on the sideline and was joking around with him to let him know to get his head back in the game.
FRIGHT NIGHT: He had 60 yards in the first half, and he would have ended with 100+ if it hadn't been for poor play calling in the second half. The team tried to go for it all a couple of times when they could have ground out the clock with the running game. Mendy finished with 77 yards, but a whopping 5.1 average. He made good yardage after contact and is running with really good confidence.
BEN ROETHLISBERGER: He completed 76.6 percent of his passes in this game, and he still leads all quarterbacks with a 73.8 completion percentage. He is becoming extremely accurate and deadly as a quarterback. Not only that, but he's moved up to second place in passing leaders in the NFL with a total of 1,470 yards passing, behind Payton Manning. His interception returned for a touchdown in this game was ugly, but he laughed it off and drove the team 52 yards with a touchdown on the very next series. He finished the game with 123.9 passer rating.
MIKE WALLACE: After pulling a Limas Sweed and dropping a beautiful deep pass that would have been a sure touchdown, Roethlisberger went back to him on a 47-yard touchdown lob. This one was actually more difficult than the first, as Wallace went down to one knee and a defender came by and almost batted the ball away. It was a terrible play by the defender who didn't even look back for the ball, and a great play by Wallace for not getting distracted.
Some thoughts on the Bengals... I actually wanted the Bengals to win over the Ravens yesterday even though we already lost a game in Cincinnati. The Bengals are not as good as everybody is making them out to be. Yes they could be 5-0 if it weren't for a freak play against the Broncos, but we dominated the Bengals when we played and fell apart in the fourth quarter to give them the win. The Bengals still have to play against the Vikings, Bears, Jets and Chargers, plus rematch games against us and the Ravens. They will not lead the division by the time this is over. They've racked up a very nice start, but the last time they won four in a row was in 2006... that year they finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Saturday, October 10, 2009
As a quarterback, he's a bit of a big loaf and doesn't move around well when the pocket breaks down. I'm not sure what kind of offensive line the Lions have. I don't have access to footage, but since the team's running and passing games are both pretty average, we can assume the same about the line.
I would like to have Polamalu back just for the confusion factor he brings into a game, which helps sacks stats for the boys in the trenches, but I think we can handle this game without Troy.
This is the time for the defense to feast. Last week against the Chargers, our offense was able to build both momentum and confidence. This game could do the same for our rushing-the-passer approach that has gotten to the quarterback only 8 times in four games. We may rack four or five in this one if our coverage is good down field. I do suspect that once Troy is back in the lineup, our sacks will go way up. But if we can bring down whatever QB we face tomorrow at least four or five times, it will help bring this defense back to the kind of play we all love.
Friday, October 9, 2009
I wanted to start a "Here we go Steelers," chant, but my wife shook some sense into me.
The show, by the way, was phenomenal.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
However, I also saw Fright Night run with excellent vision. He didn't force anything, and he was caught for a loss only twice from what I can remember. When the linemen all meshed together and formed a cluster inside, Mendy reacted quickly and went to the outside where there was no safety there to contain the run.
This week I expect a challenge. If nothing else, the Lions (1-3) are trying to bounce back from a terrible second-half performance last week against the Bears. The defense fell apart, and Larry Foote will get into everybody's ear. He will be playing for something in this one, I guaranteee.
This is the second team we play with a former Steeler who was on our roster last year. Tennessee was the first with WR Nate Washington. But Washington was never a vocal leader, just a yapper. Foote is a leader. Even Lawrence Timmons has great respect for him.
I expect a bigger challenge for Fright Night, this time. He performed well last week, but he did just what's expected against a running defense as terrible as San Diego's.
Mendy might be our official starter soon, and if he has another 100+ yard performance against the Lions, Willie Parker might as well sit on that turf toe of his.
Eat that, Ron Cook.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
However, just today I came across a photo on the sports section of the Trib of Mendenhall with his big, gigantic eyes carrying the ball against the Chargers and the caption read "Fright Night!" I think that's the same picture below.
That is officially my nickname for Mendenhall.
Enjoy the following pictures...
Monday, October 5, 2009
So with that said, here are some up-to-date stats that I found interesting...
Rashard Mendenhall had more rushing yards in one game (165) than Willie Parker has had all season (159, in three games).
Also, it's shocking to know that Adrian Peterson is not the NFL leading rusher. There are four other players in front of him, and Chris Johnson, number one, is on pace for 1,700 yards for the season (and the Tennessee Titans are still 0-4? Crazy!)
We have had 3 different receivers with 100-yard games (Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes & Mike Wallace). Limas Sweed, on the other hand, has had 100 drops.
Ben Roethlisberger is the third-leading quarterback in the NFL with 1,193 passing yards. His 73.2 percent completion, however, is the best among all quarterbacks (Mewelde Moore, of course, has a 100 percent completion with his TD pass to Heath Miller). Payton Manning's completion percentage is second with 70.8.
Hines Ward is the 6th leading receiver in the NFL and is on pace for 1,400 yards. That's nuts. Santonio Holmes is on pace for 1,100 yards. Holmes has converted 18 first downs, and Ward 15. Who is our "possession receiver" now?
Our offense (6th) is ranked the same as our defense (6th) in yardage imposed/allowed.
We have 8 sacks in 4 games, on pace for 32 ... a vast downgrade from the 51 sacks we logged last year.
Also, Ben is on pace for getting sacked 40 times, but I don't think we can blame the O-Line this year. They're playing tremendous football.
Nothing better than attending a church service in Latin, where not only you can't understand a single thing being preached -- thus serving no good to your growth in sanctification -- but Latin was not even the original language for either the New Testament or Old Testament writers.
Once again, the Catholic church is more interested in (its own) tradition than in actually preaching the word of God.
Apparently, a group of conservatives have begun a project to enforce Bible doctrine to align with conservative ideals and eliminate any hint of "liberal" language. That's absolutely ridiculous. Conservative ideals come from the Bible, but if suddenly we're going to flip the Bible upside down to better fit Political Right policies, then conservatism becomes self-serving rather than serving God.
This is by far the most liberal act any group of conservatives may take. Some of their issues in this project are okay, as far as the scope is to reveal the Bible as it was meant to be read. But there are several points of effort that try to nudge the Bible's narrative one way or another to favor personal views.
I know that there are plenty of very shoddy translations out there, and even my preferred NKJ doesn't do justice to the original texts and languages unless we do a contextual reading of the passages. But by recreating a translation based on our own language rather than the Greek and the Hebrew can only diminish the word of God. I've often accused liberals of reducing the New Testament to a mere "Social Gospel" (where the focus surrounds the interest of social acceptance and people rather than serving God) but this is exactly what this Conservative Bible Project is doing...
It's not pretty.
We've already seen games where we dominate early in the game, and suddenly things blow apart when we have a lead and our opponents seem to scream their way down the field. Against the Chargers, we allowed 21 points in the fourth quarter alone, but one of those touchdowns was on a punt-return fumble, so I want to scratch that in talking about our defense.
On average, we have allowed 10 points in the fourth quarter, with a total of 41 in four games. In the first quarter? Zero.
That's right. We have shut out opponents completely in the first, and the Tennessee Titans were really the only team that was able to move the ball against us in the first with 102 yards. Against the Bears, Bengals and Chargers we allowed 11 yards, -10 yards and 18 yards respectively.
In the fourth quarter against Cincinnati, however, the Bengals blasted our defense for 191 yards. They also accumulated 12 first downs and racked up 14 points that would win the game. On average, in the fourth we have allowed 108 yards (total of 432). Meanwhile, in all of four first quarters we allowed a TOTAL of 121 yards (30 yards average). That means we allowed an average in the fourth that was almost as much as our total in the first. In other words, teams are quadrupling their attack against us by the time we're trying to close out the game.
The same story is true when it comes to first downs. It's one thing if opponents accumulate yardage on a bunch of drives, and it's another completely if they're moving the chains and converting first downs. In all four first quarters we allowed a total of 6 first down. Teams were simply not moving the ball on us. However, in the fourth we allowed a total of 27 first downs... an average of 6.75, which is more than our total in the first.
Compare that to 2008 when we allowed a complete total of 71 first downs across 16 games... that's an average of 4.4 first downs per GAME, not per FOURTH QUARTER.
So of course with teams moving the ball, they will certainly control the clock. The longest drive allowed to any opponent in the first quarter was 3 minutes and 48 seconds, allowed to the Titans. For the most part we allowed drives that lasted less than 2 minutes in the first.
But in the fourth?
We allowed at least 3 drives that lasted 5 minutes or longer. Plus the Bengals controlled the ball for 11:40 out of 15 minutes in the fourth. On average, teams controlled slightly more than half of the fourth quarter against us. In the first, the Steelers were the ones who held on to the ball for an average of 11 minutes and 40 seconds.
If this pattern continues, we will go on to allow 160 points or more in the fourth quarter by the end of the season.
This, simply, cannot happen.
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Saturday, October 3, 2009
... Thanks to Isaac "Redzone" Redman, who was just activated to our 53-man roster.
The Post-Gazette confirmed Parker is out for Sunday night's game. So that's wonderful to see Redman come in.
It's very rare that a nation of fans get to grumble and moan and hypothesize on what "could have been" if only the coach had...
Well, finally after 3 weeks of an atrocious running game that couldn't get a first down in the short-yardage department, we will see if the Fans had it right all along. We've all been screaming for Redman to be signed on the team, but there wasn't enough room on the roster for him.
The coaches made room by releasing DE Nick Eason. We will see how that plays out.
I've always thought that even if we signed Redman and the only thing he does is convert third-and-short, or even fourth-and-goal at the 1-foot line, who knows what kind of demoralization damage we can impose on other teams. Who knows how many drives might end in TDs instead of field goals.
Now we will find out.
Personally, I'm really excited about this.
Either the coaches have been listening to the fans... or the coaches are seeing the same thing we've been seeing. Now, if only we had a TRUE full back.
This game is the perfect opportunity for Rashard Mendenhall. The stars just might be aligning for this guy. First of all, Willie Parker may be out with a Turf Toe, therefore Mendenhall will be our starter. Yes, I actually would rather give the ball to Mewelde Moore (he's consistent, reliable and good in space), but we drafted Mendy in the first round for a reason.
Second of all, the Chargers' defense is allowing an atrocious 142 rushing yards per game at a pace of 4.5 yards per carry.
Third, it is redemption time for Mendenhall after being benched last week against the Bengals for not being up on his playbook. It shows that Rashard simply hasn't set his mind on the game. I'm not sure what's wrong with the kid. I believe he made a terrible decision last year after his injury to not stick around the team during practice. Instead, he chose to take that time off to work on his Michael Jackson dance moves (In case you don't know what I'm talking about, go here). He could have used all that time off to familiarize himself with the playbook, ask questions and create a bond with his teammates. His decision to take that time away from the game was childish.
Now it's time to grow up.
With this game.
Why this game? Because this is the game we will need him the most. Our running back situation is depleted, and we face the fourth consecutive team with a QB who knows how to hit the right targets against our Defesnse. You think Philip Rivers hasn't been watching our fourth quarter performances? To keep the ball away from him... run the pig.
In 2007, under Tomlin's first year, we faced three different teams who were at the time ranked LAST in rushing defense when we played against them... and we weren't able to control the game using our running game in at least two (Broncos and NY Jets) -- resulting in losses.
Right now we face a team that's ranked 26th in that category, and if we don't get our running game going now, we likely never will.
Rashard can help us even out the score and step up to 2-2. If we don't control the running game, I guarantee we fall to 1-3.
Running the ball means doing it through all four quarters. Especially in the fourth when it counts the most.
If Rashard can match the rushing average the Chargers have been giving out so far, we will control the clock, keep the ball and avoid another fourth quarter debacle.
Friday, October 2, 2009
I think this voting has become a beauty contest, not a contest of talent. The guy with the most friends wins. What's more impressive, completing 9 out of your 15 passes, or rushing for 172 yards and scoring FOUR touchdowns? Plus, Maddox played defense and led the team in tackles and had a pair of sacks int he same game.