Saturday, February 18, 2012

#243: Pirate Haiku

---SSL Broadcast #81---

I don't have a lot of time to write this, but (for some reason) I wanted to get this episode up before I got busy. Just a little poem on the recent acquisition by the Pittsburgh Pirates:

A.J. Burnett deal:
There was better use for cash,
But could have been worse.

Deep, huh?.

On the latest episode:

- Statement game today for Pens against Flyers.

- Pitt basketball just statistically inferior.

- Steelers have not yet committed fully to ditching Hines Ward.

- Pirates report to camp.


Saturday, February 11, 2012

#242: Ward's Farewell

---SSL Broadcast #80---

14 seasons. 1000 receptions. 12,083 yards. 7 missed regular season games. Countless blocks. 1 rule nicknamed after him.

A report has recently come out saying that Hines Ward's career as a Pittsburgh Steeler is over.

As heartbroken as this may leave the black and gold faithful, letting Ward go is the right move.

For one, the Steelers need to free up salary cap space. Despite all the recent restructuring of contracts (e.g. Ben Roethlisberger, James Harrison), the team is still well over. The Super Bowl XL MVP is also on his final legs, and, while he was still effective at times in a limited role last season, it is better to cut ties when he still has a little "football" left in him, rather than keep him until he's completely out (to the detriment of the team).

On a related note, Pittsburgh's front office needs to do what it can to retain the services of its young and improving receiving corps. Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, and Emmanuel Sanders represents the next chapter of Steeler football. Over the last couple of decades, the Steelers have been adept at being progressive, rather than hanging on to the past (letting Joey Porter go, for example).

Ward's journey is not unique. Even Franco Harris spent a year in Seattle after an established Pittsburgh career. Wherever next season finds #86, everyone knows he's a Steeler for life.

On the most recent show:

- Steelers have a new offensive Coordinator.

- Pens get a player back just as they lose another as the injury-go-round continues.

- Pirates thinking about making a move for aging pitcher A.J. Burnett.

- Panthers basketball team is just an average to slightly-above-average squad, even with Tray Woodall.

- Steeltown Mike finishes the NFL season 21-23-1 (24-25-1 in two seasons) after missing his Super Bowl pick. And he couldn't care less. The Patriots lost and Chuck Noll still stands alone.


Saturday, February 04, 2012

#241: Giants Fan for a(nother) Day

---SSL Broadcast #79---

My elation at Plaxico Burress catching the game-winning touchdown pass from Eli Manning is surpassed only by Santonio Holmes' toe-tap the following year.

Pittsburgh folk generally don't cheer on teams from the Big Apple. Pittsburgh fans generally have no warm feelings for the overspending Yankees or the former NL East rival Mets. The Rangers and Islanders also don't induce warm and fuzzy feelings. The best thing about the Jets is western PA native Joe Namath.

But the bulk of Steeler Nation, for reasons that have been enumerated on this blog, are cheering for Eli Manning to surpass big brother Peyton and grab a second championship ring. Mainly because a Giants victory would come at the expense of the hated New England Patriots.

Despite having sub-standard defensive statistics, the Patriots are about a field goal favorite to win their 4th Super Bowl, all under the Belichick/Brady era. The three previous championships, however, will forever be underneath the shroud of Spygate. We will never know how much videotaping the opposing team's signals affected those seasons and Super Bowls.

If anything, here's hoping that karma -insofar as on-the-field success- continues to bite the legacy of the Patriot organization all the way up the chain to owner Bob Kraft.

That said, listen to this week's show to find out who I pick to win it all.

On the most recent show:

- Super Bowl thoughts with producer Jerome Shell.

- Pens and Steelers representatives all contribute in their respective All-Star games.

- Pirates sign a couple of relief pitchers, which is par for the Pirates' course.

- Panthers roaring back, but likely not enough to make the field of 68.

- Will I finish the year with a winning record on NFL picks courtesy of the Big Game for the second straight year? (21-22-1 entering the game).


Wednesday, February 01, 2012

#240: Woodall the Missing Link?

---SSL Broadcast #78---

The Point Guard is all-important in a Jamie Dixon-led team.

Tray Woodall (formerly known as Travon) has played in 12 of the Pitt Panthers' 23 games. Their record: 9-3.

Without Woodall in the line-up: 5-6.

Woodall is the cog that's been missing in Dixon's machine, and now that he's got his game legs back after recovering from groin and abdominal injuries, has been the difference.

Woodall has drawn some criticism by some who point out that he was the sixth man on his high school basketball team, but it's clear that, even on a team with Ashton Gibbs and Nasir Robinson, Woodall is this squad's first man, right down to his jersey number. Ball distribution and finding that open man or making that extra pass relies on Number 1.

Pitt is still only 3-7 in conference play, and is still a long shot to even make the NCAA tournament, but a strong finish in the regular season and a formidable showing in the Big East Tournament may give them some extra consideration for a #15 or #14 seed.

The thing that may ultimately factor in is if the Big East, which appears to be weaker top-to-bottom than in recent years, will carry the day on its reputation.

One thing that's certain - whether the Big East is weaker this year or not - is that the Panthers are a much stronger team with Tray Woodall running the floor.

On the most recent show:

- Paterno's legacy.

- Arians didn't retire, after all.

- A quick check of NHL All-Star Break numbers, particularly Shots on Goal Differential.

- A bit of Pro Bowl talk.

- According to "prophecy", I went 1-1 on Championship Sunday on my NFL Playoff Picks (21-22-1 overall). The Super Bowl will once again be the decider.