January 24

Rookie Power

What’s up yinz? Hope you’re all heading down the road to recovery after the heartbreaking Steelers playoff loss. The AFC championship game almost dulled some of the pain when the Jaguars came so close to upsetting the Patriots, and every Steeler fan like myself craves to see anyone take down New England. However, the Patriots, as always came back in the second half to steal the win away 24-20.

Casey DeSmith

As football comes to a close and we prepare for the final game of the season, hockey is in full swing. The Pens continue to have an up and down season, winning some and losing some. Currently, they remain a few games over .500 with a record of 26-21-5 and lagging at 5th in the metro. Does this mean we must abandon our hopes of a three-peat Stanley Cup Season? In my opinion, absolutely not. While they may not be the unstoppable force that they were last year, the Penguins are still a solid team and are very capable of making and competing in the post-season.

 

Jean-Sebastien Dea

It’s no secret that part of the pens issue is the lack of production from the superstars of Crosby, Malkin, and Letang. Phil Kessel remains an exception as he is having his best season so far with the pens. However, the young talent on the team has seemed to pick up a lot of the slack and is a huge contributor to keeping the pens in the race. This emergence of young talent was very prominent in last night’s game versus Carolina. Less than a month ago Dominik Simon, Jean-Sebastian Dea, and Casey DeSmith were playing in the minors. Last night the rookies were named the three stars of the game. Dominik Simon netted the game-tying goal for the pens for his second goal of the season. The story of the night, of course, being that Dea scored his first NHL goal, which just so happened to be the game winner. Let’s not forget the fantastic goaltending by rookie goaltender Casey DeSmith, who made 35 saves, only letting one squeak behind him. He has done a great deal in carrying the load while starter Matt Murry has been absent.

Dominik Simon

The Penguins are continually one of the best teams in hockey because of their knack for developing young minor league guys into high-level NHL players. We often forget that guys like Jake Guentzel, Conner Sheary, and Brian Rust were only rookies last year. Now they are looked at throughout the league as top-tier players. Even starting goalie Matt Murray has only been in the NHL for two seasons and now is one of the most desirable goalies in the league and has two cups under his belt. Are Dea, Simon, and DeSmith the next generation of standout rookies? I can’t be certain yet but they’ve shown great promise so far and their high production keeps some of the pressure off of guys like Crosby and Malkin.

If the young talent continues to play like they are and the stars of the team get out of this current slump, the Pens can once again return to that unstoppable force that we have seen the past two seasons.

LET’S GO PENS!!

October 5

Return of the Steel Curtain

Well Yinz I have good news and bad. The bad news is our hopes of a perfect football season were destroyed by the Bears, of all teams. The good news though is we have redeemed ourselves with a nice 26-9 beatdown on the Ravens and are still a comfortable 3-1 (a better record than the pats).

This week I want to go beyond the scores and talk about the reemergence of some old time Steeler football, the legendary Steel Curtain defense. From Mean Joe Green to Troy Polamalu, our defense has been our pride and joy and is what brought us six Super Bowl championships. The past couple years, however, that shut down defense has seemed to fade a bit, letting our speedy offensive talents take over the show. This season I see a new emergence of the curtain, with a wave of young talented defensive players leading the charge.

This new wave is what brought the Steelers to be the 3rd ranked overall defense in the league. They have allowed a meager 14.8 average points per game (2nd in the league) and only 267 total yards on average. Compare that to a mediocre 12th ranked defense in 2016. This rise is due to a combination of acquiring new talent and experienced players developing into their full potential.

Although we still rely on the veterans like Cam Heyward and James Harrison, the young linebackers and secondary behind them have been stellar. The big story now is the future of the Steelers, rookie T.J. Watt (Left). This kid has defense in his blood (his brother is all-pro DE J.J. Watt) and shows it. He was drafted to be eased in as James Harrisons replacement over the next couple years, but due to Harrison’s injuries, Watt has become our go-to man. It’s safe to say he’s filled this role well, already compiling 12 tackles, 2 sacks, an interception and a safety.

 

While T.J. Watt puts up some very impressive rookie stats, his partner inside linebacker Ryan Shazier (Right) has finally emerged to his full potential. Shazier is in his 3rd season with the team and has been a decent backer to this point, but just decent. In 2015 and 2016 he averaged about 5.4 tackles per game. This season, he has exploded with 9.3 tackles per game. He has emerged as the team’s leading defensive player and ranks 4th in the league with 37 tackles this season.

 

The emergence of young players such as Shazier and Watt as team leaders combined with the entire Pittsburgh defensive working as an impenetrable unit, the Steel Curtain will rise once again. This will take the pressure off our offensive and allow the Steelers to compete with those dreaded Patriots.

Let’s hope the Steel Curtain is enough when we face off against Jacksonville at 1:00 pm on Sunday. To much surprise, the Jaguars are no longer the 32nd team in the league. With emerging stars as Leonard Fornette and Allen Hurns leading the pack, they have worked their way to a deserving 2-2 record, putting them first in the AFC South. The Steelers are going to have to bring their A game and be ready to shut down Fornette and his 2nd ranked run game. I still think we have what it takes however so…

My prediction:   Steelers- 24   Jaguars- 17

HERE WE GO STEELERS!!!