Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Weekend Review

For those of you who are legit Pittsburgh sports fans, the first 98% or so of the weekend went very, very well. The final 2% though was quite crushing.
Consider, these highlights, in chronological order:
-The Penguins started the weekend off a bit early by holding on for dear life with a 5-4 win over the Oilers where they jumped out in front 5 zip, then proceeded to soil themselves for the final 25 minutes of the game.
-The high school football playoffs for the WPIAL went into full swing Friday night with the quarterfinals, always an exciting team, regardless of what team you pull for.
-The Pitt Panthers got Saturday started off the right way, with a 41-7 drubbing of Louisville, cementing themselves as a serious contender for the Big East crown with just three games to go in the season. They also pretty much clinched their first bowl game in since 2004.
-The Penn State Nittany Lions dropped a heartbreaker to Iowa Saturday evening 24-23 on a last second field goal that warmed any Pitt fan's heart. (Sorry Nitter fans, if you are looking for a Pittsburgh site that also supports your squad, this sure as hell ain't it.)
-The West Virginia Mountaineers lost to Cincinnati in OT, continuing a season long underachieving run for the back woods bunch.
-The Pitt basketball team looked crisp in an exhibition win over LaRoche.
-The Steelers took a very tough loss just moments ago to the Colts, 24-20. I can't rationally discuss this one right now, so here's the rest of the highlights, with one mini-rant about the Steelers.

So, all in all, it was a simply spectacular weekend for yours truly, as my rivals lost, and my faves won. Just good times all around. Here are some assorted thoughts from the weekend:
-Pitt football heads into one of the most critical stretches its football program has seen in years, maybe even decades. Running the table would put them in the BCS, and while they did achieve that feat 4 years ago, it was in a very watered Big East, whereas the league nowadays is a very underrated and chippy conference.

-Jonathan Baldwin is an absolute beast and if Bill Stull knew how to throw a deep ball, this kid would be a Freshman All-American. He is going to be a legit special player when he becomes the focal point of the offense when Shady McCoy leaves after this season.

-Speaking of McCoy, he had a rough go of it against the Cardinals, as his numbers looked dreadful, but he still came through with two big runs (a touchdown run and a run to inside the 5 on another drive) and I think he'll rebound in a big way against Cincinnati.

-The Pens certainly like to keep their games interested don't they? Right now they look like they lack that killer instinct, and they certainly aren't putting teams away when they have the chance. I think this develops over time once they develop some better chemistry with their lines.

-I think one thing hardly anyone is mentioning is that this team really, really misses Sergei Gonchar, and doesn't miss Ryan Whitney at all. Gonch was a legit Norris candidate last season, and while he is best known for his offensive play from the point, he was a steadying force on defense, and put up the best blue line play I have ever seen out of a Penguin in my 15 or so years of watching this team. Whitney, on the other hand, looks more and more like a trade candidate when he comes back every day. Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski have stepped up and filled his role as offensive defensemen very well, and honestly I think Letang is already a better player then Whitney, at least the Whitney we saw at the end of last season. A year ago I thought the Whitney contract was a little on the large side, but worth it to lock up a future All-Star defender. Now, I think it's the one true mistake that Ray Shero has made in his tenure as General Manager.

-I can already sense the "Sidney Crosby is slumping" and "Is Malkin the real star of the Penguins?" articles that we know are coming if Sid continues to struggle to put points (especially goals) on the stat sheet. Look., folks, Sid started off a little on the slow side a year ago and still put up very good numbers before his injury, and I don't really know that he will be a 40 goal scorer type for a few more seasons, when he begins hitting his phyical peak. Still, he's scoring at a rate higher than most, and he scares the daylights out of opposing coaches. Sid will be fine, and will be a lot finer if Ray Shero can conjure a winger up for him at some point this season.

-I don't spend much time on Penn State and/or WVU on this site, as I loathe both schools quite a bit, but that was one real tough loss yesterday for the State Penn fans. Of course, in case you didn't know PSUers, the old P-I-T-T knocked off Iowa earlier this season. By a point. The same amount that Iowa beat you by. Care for a little lesson in comparison logic?

-The Steelers, prior to this week, have been ranked 3rd in virtually all 3.4 million power polls done worldwide, but frankly if that's true, then this is a really weak NFL season. This Steeler team would have been slaughtered by numerous past Steeler squads, and in the top heavy AFC of a few seasons ago, would have been hard pressed to make it to the post-season. I'll give the defense a ton of credit for being incredibly stifling and the absolute driving force. But the offense makes me a little bit queasy. Large Benjamin has been way too careless with the ball all season long. That offensive line is a disaster mixed with a catastrophe. The injury bug has hit them unbelievably hard considering its only mid season. They have had too many thin drafts the past few years and it is catching up to them on the depth chart. Hines Ward is firmly on the downhill slope of his career but is still our main weapon. Santonio Holmes continues to be unable to develop into the superstar receiver his talent would suggest he can be. Mewelde Moore is the only thing resembling an NFL running back on the healthy roster right now. This is really just a sampling of their problems, but they are the real reasons why, unless this team really develops over the next few weeks, I just can't pick them to be a Super Bowl contender right now. Of course, I would have said the same thing back in the 05/06 season as late as 12 games into it, and that season turned out pretty darn well, so you never know...

-I am all kinds of fired up for Pitt basketball this season. Our freshman look like they should all be more than ready to contribute this season, but having the veteran core should enable our brilliant coach Jamie Dixon to avoid having too heap too much pressure on them. I do think that one of the four freshman takes a redshirt, though, as I can't figure out how there will be enough minutes to go around for all of them otherwise, but we will see.

1 comment:

Peter said...

Hey man, site looks good. Where's the Pitt b-ball preview you told me about?
Anyway, you know I wasn't too heartbroken about the Steelers losing, never have been my team. Can always rely on good old Roethlisberger to choke it up when it matters most.
Still though, good job, and I'll check back later.