Saturday was a sad day in Steel Town. The beauty of football is that every Fall you’re entitled to dream about what future glories might lie ahead for your favorite team. Of course, those of us in Pittsburgh are entitled to dream a little longer and a little harder than say the unfortunate souls living in Cleveland. But we all dream, at least until the harsh cold hand of reality smacks us upside the head.
Reality was the word of the day around the ‘Burgh on Saturday as the dream of pigskin glory ended for a great number of people, both fans and players alike.
—- The Pittsburgh Steelers made their final roster cuts of the preseason. The most notable of the newly unemployed was WR Willie Reid. A third round draft choice in 2006, Reid never became the electrifying punt returner he was tabbed as coming out of college. With the addition of Limas Sweed, it came down to Reid vs. Dallas Baker for the 4th WR slot which Baker evidently won due to his size (6’3) moreso than his ability. In fact, neither Baker nor Sweed looked particularly capable in the final preseason game (Sweed had 2 really bad drops) so this move is both risky and surprising.
Also on the cut list were DE Ryan McBean, who played some last year but was only notable because his last name is eerily similar to our stupid mascot’s. It was a bad day for Ryans as S Ryan Mundy, a local Woodland Hills product, was waived due to being injured early on in camp and never showing much of anything. He might be signed to the practice squad otherwise I’d look for him on Jon Bon Jovi‘s Arena Football team next year. And in the epic Battle of the Punters, the guy with the dorky sounding name got beat out by the guy with the fruity sounding one. So prepare yourself Steeler Nation, for this year the mighty Mitch Berger will be booting the ball when Big Ben and the offense sputters.
Finally, QB Charlie Batch’s dream of another year backing up Ben Roethlisberger ended when he was placed on IR, thus ending his season. Newly svelte Byron Leftwich will be our #2 man this season with exciting rookie Dennis Dixon in the #3 slot. This works out well for Pittsburgh as if Leftwich shows anything this year, he’ll move along for a potential starting job next year leaving the returning Batch to battle the rapidly improving (and quite impressive) Dixon for the backup job.
—- The Pitt Panthers also began their college football season yesterday. And, true to form, whenever head coach Dave Wannestedt is handed a good thing, he finds a way to mess it up. After 25 years of misery, the University of Pittsburgh had high hopes this year might be something special. They were ranked anywhere from 19th to 25th in various preseason polls and were coming off a monumental upset of #2 WVU in the Backyard Brawl last season.
So of course first game of the season they go out and lay an egg. And not a little egg. I’m talking ostrich egg here. Wannastache and offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh evidently need a bit of a refresher course in Football 101. See, when your big name Heisman touted running back is your primary weapon, other teams will do what is known as “stacking the box” against you to prevent him from beating them. That is when you do something else, some call it “the passing game,” in order to loosen up said defense and allow said running back to eventually find some room.
Much like many Pitt students, the coaches must’ve been to hungover to attend class that day because they clearly did not learn this lesson. Bowling Green brought 7 and 8 men to the line and basically dared them to throw the ball. So what did Pitt do? Ran Lesean McCoy off tackle to the right. Then they ran him off tackle to the left. Then, for good measure, ran him right up the gut. Punt, rinse, repeat and there’s your game.
It also didn’t help that Shady McCoy fumbled the ball on a crucial first half drive and the Pitt offense turned the ball over 4 times, while the Pitt defense played in a semi-prevent looking thing against BG’s spread offense, allowing the recievers 7-8 yard cushions on almost every play. And perhaps worst of all, Wannastache and his trademark Nad-Free playcalling led to them punting from BG’s 35 yard line, letting time run down and kicking a FG when they could’ve ran at least 2 more plays, and repeatedly throwing short screens and dumps to the flat instead of actually, you know, winging the ball downfield a bit.
I mentioned last year that I don’t watch much college football and when Pitt is your home team, you can understand why. I actually attended this game live and in person, along with about 45,000 other suckers fans who were equally pissed and horrified at the disaster unfolding before them. And I’m not just referring to the game break “entertainment.” Whatever happened to just having cheerleaders? Now we have cheerleaders, drill team, majorettes, some spirit squad looking goofs with flags, and worst of all a dance team, who seem to be just cheerleaders who were not thin and attractive enough to be real cheerleaders. I mean, I’m all for letting chunky girls take part in school activities but if they’re not even going to perform in a uniform that says “Pitt” on it or reflects the school colors, what’s the point?
Then again, what was the point of anything that happened Saturday? What did we expect from Pitt? Big East title? National championship? Yep, they got us. They know nobody loves football as much as Western PA so they promised us a chance of glory on Saturdays when we should’ve known it’s just the same ‘ol Pitt. Shame on us.