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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Steelers -The Pittsburgh Iron Men (1940s)

After a 2-7-2 season in 1940 (the first playing as the Steelers, rather than the Pirates), Alex Thompson, a wealthy financier, offered to buy the Pittsburgh franchise for $160,000. That was a lot of money: especially if you consider that Art Rooney had gotten the team for only $2,500 seven years earlier. Thompson made it very clear that he was going to move the team to Boston after the sale.

Now, future NFL Commissioner Bert Bell had bought the dormant Frankford Yellow Jackets (also for $2,500. Talk about an investment that appreciated in value!) and renamed them the Philadelphia Eagles the same year that Art Rooney got the Steelers and the two were close friends. Rooney did not want to sell the Steelers and leave Pittsburgh without a team. So, he and Bell decided to turn the Eagles into the ‘Keystoners’ and make them Pennsylvania’s team. They would play half of their home games in Philly and half in Pittsburgh. No, I am not making this up!

The NFL actually approved the sale, but a group of team owners, led by racist bigot (I know that’s double-stating, but it’s fitting for the man) George Preston Marshall, owner of the Redskins, blocked the move. Co-founder of the Boston Braves, he had moved them to Washington after five seasons, having renamed them the Redskins a few years earlier (the Braves were also the town's major league baseball team). Marshall did not want the competition of a Boston team: nor did he want Rooney and Bell to essentially be united owners of an entire state and fan base.

So, things weren’t working out for Thompson, Rooney or Bell. But Art Rooney was a bright and slick fellow. Rooney and Bell convinced Thompson to take the Philadelphia Eagles, which he did. Bell was having serious financial problems with the team, so this worked to his advantage. The two friends then became co-owners of the Steelers (actually, they received the Pittsburgh Iron Men in return. Thompson had renamed the team after being blocked from Boston. Rooney quickly threw out the name and went back to the Steelers). Bell coached two games in 1941 (losing both) and was one of three that the Steelers had that odd year.

Rooney eventually regained sole ownership of the team but the two remained close through Bell’s commissionership. All of this happened during one off-season. Imagine something like this going on today.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

I Bought Dice!

I played tabletop Dungeons and Dragons back when I was in grade school. I played off and on into grad school. I don't remember playing after that, although I was pretty deep into PC RPGs by then. I tore through the SSI gold box games back then. I think my first computer RPG was Temple of Apshai on an old Atari 1200 XL.

But last year, I decided to give tabletop role playing a try again. Things had changed a bit since playing AD&D, I discovered. I dug into things a bit and settled on learning the Pathfinder system.

I hope to be starting up a skype-driven game in a few months. We'll have players from three different states on-line to play.

This week, I went to a local gaming store and bought dice. Not the ones below, but a bunch, ranging from four sided to twenty sided. I had given my old ones away many years ago.

It's kinda cool to have D&D dice again (even though we're not actually playing D&D). I'll be GMing four players and I think all of us have virtual dice rolling apps/programs, but there's something about tossing an actual 20 sided die on a table.

Hopefully we're only a week or two away from rolling up characters. We'll see how it goes, as none of us have played in about twenty years.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Defenses: more than the numbers

On the one hand, most of the pre-SB talk seems to be about Ben vs. Rodgers. But these two teams are built on defense.

On the other hand, they played just last season and it was a crazy, 37-36 shootout that Pittsburgh won on a long pass on the game's final play.

Both teams have better defenses' this year.


Points Per Game
1 - Steelers 14.5
2 - Packers 15.0

Total Defense
2 - Steelers (276.8 ypg)
5 - Packers (309.1 ypg)

Passing YPG
5 - Packers (194.2)
12 - Steelers (214.1)

Rushing YPG
1 - Steelers (62.8)
18 -Packers (114.9)

The Packers score 24.2 points per game: the Steelers, 23.4. The Packers threw for about 20 yards more per game. The Steelers ran for about 20 yards more per game.

You have to go beyond the numbers for this game.

Can the Packers O-line hold off the Steelers and give Rodgers time? Pittsburgh had 47 sacks and Rodgers is not very mobile in the pocket. Knock him silly (he's been concussed twice this year) and Matt Foley (formerly of Boston College) comes in.

Can the Steelers patchwork line (Pouncey is doubtful) keep the Packers at bay? Green Bay had 4 sacks, but no QB in the NFL is better at keeping plays alive than Ben.

Can the Packers receivers (five guys caught between 43 and 76 passes. Gregg Jennings is the only downfield threat) get open on Taylor, McFadden (probable to play) and Gay? Clark will have more opportunity to cover since he isn't going to be needed much in the run game.

Charles Woodson was Defensive Player of the Year last year. He and Tramon Williams are regarded as much better corners than the Steelers' guys. But on any play, Ben can go to Wallace, Ward, Brown, Saunders and Miller. And lately, Mendenhall. That's a lot of coverage needed. After you're certain it's not a run play.

Pittsburgh can run the ball. Green Bay can't (and won't against Pittsburgh).

Both defenses are very good. But Green Bay doesn't have as many big play guys. If the D keeps Rodgers from breaking out, they're done on offense. If Ben has a decent game (think Cardinals, not Seahawks), the Steelers have more weapons than the Packer defense can handle. Mendenhall will likely get a lot of work over the first three quarters as they try to slow down the linebackers. And if play action pass is working, Ward and Miller will get open underneath. And a safety needs to give help on Wallace's deep routes.

Green Bay doesn't run well, so the Steelers' #1 strength (run D) doesn't matter too much. But knowing that, the D can scheme more to stop Rodgers. The Packer D will have to respect Mendenhall while accounting for Ben's playmaking to a variety of receivers.

Again, I feel good about this matchup. The idea the Packers are this high-flying offense is a bit of a misconception. They tore apart Atlanta, but they only managed 21 against Chicago. I think the idea that Rodgers can throw for 350 yards and put up 30 points is wrong. And if it comes down to the fourth quarter, Ben has the experience; in the Super Bowl.

On D, I think Troy makes a big play or two and Lawrence Timmons has a monster game. On O, it's Ben.