No One Likes Us
I posted my NFL week three predictions yesterday and today I give you some predictions from sports writers from an array of online sites and incredibly, nearly EVERY one of them are picking the San Francisco 49ers over our Steelers on Sunday.
Steelers Nation has come to expect being the underdog and disliked around the football world and getting disrespected so that is nothing new but given the start to the Steelers season, some of the underestimation is understandable. However, while I have criticized the defense putting most of the blame on the 0-2 start on their shoulders, I still believe this team can be competitive. On paper there is NO WAY Pittsburgh loses to the 49ers in two days and I don’t care where the game is being played.
All these predictions mean is that the Black and Gold will have to make everyone wrong on their pick of this game. At 0-2 the Steelers season is hardly over. With that said, there was an article today addressing that very issue.
Barnwell: Ranking 0-2 NFL teams from eliminated to alive ... barely
Bill Barnwell, ESPN.com
No NFL team plans to start 0-2. Every organization likes to, at the very least, fall in love with a scenario in which it ends up making it to the postseason. Falling to 0-2 is a great way to free up the calendar for January. Since the league went to its current schedule and playoff format in 2002, just 16 of the 140 teams that have started 0-2 went on to make the postseason. That's 11.4%, or roughly one out of every nine. Wouldn't you know that we have nine 0-2 teams in the NFL this season?
Teams don't have to look too far into the recent past to grow hopeful. Last year, two 0-2 teams advanced into the postseason, and when I wrote a version of this column then, one of them was atop the list. I had the 0-2 Houston Texans as my favorite to overcome the odds and advance into the playoffs, which they did even after losing the third game of the season. The bad news is that the team I had as my second favorite was the New York Giants, who beat those Texans in Week 3 and then proceeded to lose five straight. The Seattle Seahawks were the other team to make it out of the basement and into the postseason.
I'll run through the nine winless teams and try to identify what has cost them victories over the first two weeks of the season; if I have any hope they'll turn things around, I'll also detail why. I'll even throw in each team's estimated current chances of making it to the playoffs from ESPN's Football Power Index (FPI).
1. Pittsburgh Steelers
FPI chance to make the playoffs: 7.1%
This has not been a fun week to be a Steelers fan, but I'm not trying to throw them a bone by putting them at the top of these rankings. Nobody could have anticipated that Pittsburgh would start 0-2 and lose Ben Roethlisberger for the rest of the season, but I still think the Steelers have a viable shot at pursuing a postseason berth in the AFC. As horrifically as these first two weeks have gone, this team is too talented to give up on with so much of the season left to go.
My decision here has little to do with Mason Rudolph, who I'm valuing as a below-average starter, given his draft status and height. (As I mentioned in my Roethlisberger piece on Tuesday, if a 6-foot-5 quarterback has NFL-caliber talent, he doesn't fall into the third round.) My hope is that the Steelers have surrounded Rudolph with enough talent on offense to get by, likely with a heavier dose of their running game. It helps that tailback James Conner's Week 2 injury has turned out to be relatively minor. And if the team moves on from wide receiver Donte Moncrief, the move could turn out to be addition by subtraction.
I also simply find it tough to believe that a defense that ranked 13th in DVOA in 2018 and addressed its two biggest weaknesses (cornerback and inside linebacker) this offseason is going to be the league's fourth-worst defense by DVOA moving forward. I don't love the trade for cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick as a use of a first-round pick, but he's going to be a valuable addition as the Steelers replace Sean Davis, who hit injured reserve this week. Don't give up on this defense just yet.
Five of Pittsburgh's next seven games are at home, which should give Rudolph time to develop in front of a friendlier crowd. One of those games comes in Week 5 against the Ravens, who lead the Steelers by two games in the North. Losing that game would be deleterious to the Steelers' chances of winning the division. Given that the Ravens are 6.5-point underdogs at the Chiefs this week and then play Cleveland in Week 4, the Steelers could pick up a vital tiebreaker if they beat their archrivals.
Baltimore's defense looked great against Miami in Week 1, but it shed five starters during the offseason and has already lost starting cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Tavon Young to injuries. Kyler Murray averaged 8.7 yards per attempt against the Ravens in Week 2, and better passing teams are going to test Baltimore in the weeks to come. If Rudolph can exceed expectations quickly, the Steelers could be back on track quicker than it seems now.
Now for the naysayers that includes one of Pittsburgh’s own.
Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post Gazette
One thing is certain with the Steelers: They will get to find out the next 14 games if Mason Rudolph is indeed the heir apparent to Ben Roethlisberger. But they will need to help him with their running game and defense, neither of which have stood out the first two weeks. The 49ers average 178.5 yards rushing per game. Prediction: 49ers, 23-20.
Tadd Haislop, The Sporting News
As SN's Vinnie Iyer notes, the Steelers have problems that extend beyond Ben Roethlisberger's season-ending injury. And, as Iyer also notes, the 49ers appear to have a defense capable of complimenting a strong, run-oriented offense all the way to the playoffs. Desperate to claw out of its 0-2 hole, Pittsburgh needs a successful first start from Mason Rudolph. For him to do it on a long road trip against such a strong front seven, though, is a tough ask. Prediction: 49ers 24, Steelers 17.
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports
This will Mason Rudolph making his first NFL start for the injured Ben Roethlisberger, which won't be easy on the road. The 49ers are playing their home opener and they've looked good getting to 2-0. Make it 3-0 as Jimmy Garoppolo has a good day. Pick: 49ers 28, Steelers 20.
CBS Sports Staff (Jason La Canfora, Will Brinson, Jared Dubin, Ryan Wilson, John Breech, Dave Richard, Jamey Eisenberg)
All onboard the Pittsburgh Steelers train with the exception of Breech who likes the home team.
Tim Lynch, milehighreport.com
The Steelers could come undone here at this point and the 49ers keep telling me I am wrong for picking against them, so I won’t make that mistake here. In fact, I’ll go ahead and call the 49ers here to steamroll the Steelers. Score prediction: 49ers 31, Steelers 13. EDITOR’s NOTE: “Come on man!” Is he kidding?
AthlonSports.com (Rob, Doster, Bryan, Fischer, Mark, Ross)
All San Francisco.
Detroitnews.com (Justin Rogers, James Hawkins, John Niyo and Bob Wojnowski)
Rogers: San Francisco
Hawkins: San Francisco
Niyo: San Francisco (best bet)
Wojo: San Francisco
Matt Verderame, FanSided.com
The Steelers (0-2) are on life support. Winless and without Ben Roethlisberger. Yikes. Meanwhile, the 49ers (2-0) are perfect and finally playing a home game. A win here and San Francisco has to be taken seriously as a potential playoff team. Pick: San Francisco 23, Pittsburgh 20.
Anthony Riccobono, IBTimes.com
The Pittsburgh Steelers are trying to save their season in Week 3 when they visit the San Francisco 49ers. A loss Sunday afternoon would drop the team to 0-3, giving them little chance to make a run toward the NFL playoffs. No one has had a more disappointing start to the 2019 season than the Steelers. Pittsburgh has dug themselves into an early two-game hole in the AFC North by getting embarrassed by the New England Patriots and losing their home opener to the Seattle Seahawks. The team has also lost starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for the remainder of the year.
All of that makes the Steelers 6.5-point underdogs in Week 3, according to the latest betting line at OddsShark. The over/under is 44. San Francisco’s start to the season couldn’t be any different than that of Pittsburgh. The 49ers are undefeated through two games, and they lead the NFC with a plus-38 point differential. The Steelers are tied for the NFL’s second-worst point differential at minus-32.
What should we make of San Francisco’s hot start? The 49ers could be in the mix for a playoff spot, but the team still haven’t proven that they are among the conference’s best. Wins against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Cincinnati Bengals aren’t evidence that San Francisco will exceed preseason expectations. The Steelers should give the 49ers their toughest test of the young season, even with Mason Rudolph starting in place of the injured Roethlisberger.
It’s hard to know exactly what to expect from Rudolph, who didn’t attempt a pass in 2018 when he was drafted in the third round by Pittsburgh. The second-year quarterback was more than serviceable in relief of Roethlisberger last week, completing 12 of 19 passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns. Rudolph’s one interception wasn’t his fault as Donte Moncrief dropped a wide-open pass that fell into the hands of Seahawks’ safety Bradley McDougald.
Rudolph doesn’t have to be outstanding in order to give Pittsburgh a chance in this one. A performance similar to his Week 2 game would make Sunday’s contest competitive. Jimmy Garoppolo has more experience and a much bigger contract than Rudolph, but the jury is still out on the 49ers’ quarterback. Garoppolo was very good in Week 2, throwing for 296 yards on 25 attempts with three touchdowns and an interception. The quarterback only totaled 166 yards on 27 attempts in the opener with a touchdown and a pick. Garoppolo still only has 12 career starts. He’s thrown 16 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions since joining San Francisco in 2017.
Left tackle Joe Staley is expected to miss six to eight weeks with an injury. Garoppolo could face a ton of pressure from Pittsburgh’s defensive front. Stephon Tuitt had 2.5 sacks against Russell Wilson in Week 2. T.J. Watt has nine quarterback pressures this season, according to Pro Football Focus. Pittsburgh still has plenty of good players on both sides of the ball, as well as a top head coach. Their success in 2019 wasn’t going to be dependent on Roethlisberger being an elite quarterback. The Steelers can keep Sunday’s game within a touchdown. Prediction: San Francisco over Pittsburgh, 26-23
ESPN Experts (Bowen, Clay, Golic, Graziano, Kimes, Reid, Riddick, Seifert, Wickersham, Wingo)
All but Graziano are going with San Francisco.
Alex Kay, Forbes.com
Pick: Steelers +6.5
Benjamin Hoffman, NewYorkTimes.com
Winning consecutive road games to start the season was big, even if the wins came against Tampa Bay and Cincinnati. Suddenly the 49ers (2-0) are in line for what could be a huge bounce-back season — the rebuilt defense and a (mostly) healthy offense make the start more than just a mirage. San Francisco is back home, and will face the Steelers (0-2), a team off to a bad start that could get worse after the season-ending injury to Ben Roethlisberger. Backup quarterbacks have mostly been keeping teams respectable, but this may be an easy win for the 49ers. Pick: 49ers -6.5. EDITOR’s NOTE: AGAIN…Come on man! EASY WIN? Whatever…
Bleacher Report (Brent Sobleski, Brad Gagnon, Gary Davenport)
Maybe the Pittsburgh Steelers can eventually excel without injured quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, but the majority of our analysts don't see that happening on the road against a talented and confident opponent during sophomore quarterback Mason Rudolph's first career start. And it's not just a Rudolph thing. "On the west coast under head coach Mike Tomlin, the Steelers are 1-5 straight-up and against the spread," Gagnon said. "That's jarring considering how good Pittsburgh has been for much of the Tomlin era. They just don't do well with cross-country travel, and they're running into a scary opponent without Roethlisberger.
The problem might be San Francisco's revamped defense, which has surrendered just 4.7 yards per play and is tied for the NFL lead with five takeaways. Football Outsiders ranks that unit second in the NFL in terms of defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA), behind only the mighty Patriots D. And they've yet to even play at home. That's not an ideal first opponent for Rudolph, who might not enjoy much support from a defense that has surrendered 28-plus points in both weeks thus far. That said, the Steelers are probably desperate, and they're getting nearly a touchdown. That's too much for Sobleski, leaving us without a unanimous consensus. Watch out for the backdoor cover.
Davenport: San Francisco
Gagnon: San Francisco
Consensus: San Francisco
Score Prediction: 49ers 24, Steelers 16.
Gregg Rosenthal, NFL.com
HARDEST GAME TO PREDICT: Pittsburgh Steelers 30, San Francisco 49ers 27.
I don't know what to believe with these two teams. The 49ers can't possibly be as good as they looked in Week 2, because even the 1984 49ers didn't look that good most weeks. Kyle Shanahan will have games where he creates chunk plays before the ball is even snapped, and it finally appears he has the right players to execute his vision. Rookie Deebo Samuel profiles as a future No. 1 receiver, and the backfield tandem of Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert is playing better together than Jerick McKinnon and Tevin Coleman could have if they were healthy. The defense is ranked second in DVOA. While this all looks primed for a market correction, are the Steelers capable of bringing San Francisco down to Earth?
GM Kevin Colbert's trade of a first-round pick for safety Minkah Fitzpatrick was a remarkable show of faith in Mike Tomlin to maximize Fitzpatrick's ability and in new starting quarterback Mason Rudolph to prevent Pittsburgh from drafting in the top five next April. (Or it's a sign Colbert may not be around much longer?) I have a hard time imagining the Steelers at 0-3 and the 49ers at 3-0, yet it also takes a leap of faith to imagine this Steelers defense making a stop when it absolutely needs to. I'll jump.
Chris Mueller, Yardbarker.com
What you need to know: Ben Roethlisberger’s season is over, but the Steelers (0-2) didn’t stand pat, trading their 2020 first-round pick to Miami for safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. The Steelers clearly believe in QB Mason Rudolph, but they’ll be fighting against history in this one. Mike Tomlin is 3-11 in his career in the Mountain and Pacific time zones. Pittsburgh’s offense has major scheme issues, as receivers can’t get open, and its defense still can’t stop anyone. San Francisco is 2-0 after thumping the Bengals. Kyle Shanahan’s gambit to keep the team on the East Coast after Week 1 worked like a charm, and Jimmy Garoppolo looked like the quarterback Niners fans assumed they were getting, tossing three touchdowns against Cincinnati.
On the spot: Steelers QB Mason Rudolph. He was solid in relief of Roethlisberger in Week 2, throwing for two touchdowns. His only interception, on a ball that hit Donte Moncrief in the hands, was not his fault.
49ers RB Matt Breida: He ran for 121 yards in Week 2, and was the driving force behind a running game that totaled 259 yards. He could take over early against the Steelers.
The pick: 49ers 23 Steelers 14.
Jimmy Kempski, phillyvoice.com
San Francisco. This will be our first glimpse as to whether Mason Rudolph is the future at quarterback for the Steelers, or if they were foolish for trading away a potential top 10 pick that could have been used on one. My bet is on the latter.
Cincinnati.com (Bruce Bilek, Tyler Dragon, Kareem Elgazzar, Lindsay Patterson, Jason Hoffman)
Kevin Cusick, twincities.com
Big Ben Roethlisberger is out for the year because of a bum elbow, meaning Mason Rudolph is in charge of driving the Steelers’ tank the rest of the season (pun intended). In a related note, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell laughed. Pick: 49ers by 3.
The Matchup. Edge: Steelers.
A reminder that Jerks of the Week for this week is up, so just click the link. This week's jerks entry is the third entry of my trip to Las Vegas. In this entry, I continue to discuss one of the biggest jerks ever, Mojito Bro.
PITTSBURGH OFFENSE: If Saints fans thought their team was getting screwed by everything, ranging from horrible calls to poor injury variance, they can at least look at the Steelers, who lost Ben Roethlisberger for the year with an elbow injury. Roethlisberger hasn't been able to complete routine throws in either of his two games, so it's unclear when he suffered the injury. What we do know is that the offense will function better without the decrepit version of himself.
Mason Rudolph looked good in relief in Week 2, albeit against a horrific Seattle secondary. The 49ers' defensive backfield has been better thus far in 2019, albeit with a small sample size. It's also worth noting that their pass rush has been able to beat up on some bad offensive lines this season. The Steelers have a good blocking unit - certainly the best San Francisco will be up against so far this year - so Rudolph should be protected well. If so, he'll be able to connect with some of his talented weapons. This includes Vance Refrigeration McDonald, who caught two touchdowns, as well as James Washington, whom Rudolph had a great connection with in the preseason, perhaps as a result of their familiarity with each other from playing together at Oklahoma State.
One thing the Steelers won't be able to do is run the ball. The 49ers just clamped down on Joe Mixon. While the Steelers have a far better offensive line than Cincinnati, James Conner isn't nearly as talented as Mixon. Besides, Conner may not be 100 percent, thanks to an injury he suffered in Week 2.
SAN FRANCISCO OFFENSE: Jimmy Garoppolo completed one pass for zero yards and an interception in a nationally televised preseason game. It didn't look like he trusted his knee at all, but that apparently has changed. He torched the Bengals with ease this past Sunday, showing no ill effects from his knee surgery. However, there's a major difference between battling the Bengals and the Steelers. While Pittsburgh doesn't have a great secondary - though it'll be aided by Minkah Fitzpatrick's arrival - the team is capable of putting lots of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. I like San Francisco's offensive line when everyone is healthy, but that's not the case at the moment, as Joe Staley will be out for several weeks. Staley will be missed in this contest, as I anticipate the Steelers applying plenty of pressure on Garoppolo.
The Steelers are also stellar against the run, so Garoppolo will have to beat them with his arm. Garoppolo, despite playing well overall last week, made some sketchy passes, including one where he carelessly lofted an interception into triple coverage. This would concern me if I were a 49ers supporter with this impending matchup.
RECAP: I mentioned in the Saints-Seahawks capsule that there were two games that fit the model of a good team playing at 110-percent efficiency to prove that it can win with its backup quarterback. This is obviously the second one. Aside from their secondary, the Steelers have a great roster. They're 0-2 right now because Roethlisberger couldn't complete basic throws against the Patriots and Seahawks, and despite this, they nearly defeated Seattle with a second-half surge from Rudolph. They'll be desperate to avoid 0-3, so they'll be playing with so much more energy than the 49ers, who are in a very unfamiliar role as a large favorite.
There isn't as much action on the 49ers as the Seahawks, and the difference between the spread and the calculated lines isn't going through any key numbers, but I still like Pittsburgh enough to make a four-unit wager. I'd think about moving to five units at +7, but it appears as though the sharps have removed that spread.
THURSDAY THOUGHTS: I'm cooling a bit on this Steelers pick. Unlike the Seahawks-Saints game, I can't definitively say that the team missing its starting quarterback has the better roster. The 49ers have crushed their first two opponents, so they could be one of the better teams in the NFL. I still like Pittsburgh, but I'm going to drop the unit count.
The Motivation Edge: Steelers.
The Steelers, looking to avoid 0-3, will be playing extra hard for their backup quarterback.
The Vegas Edge: Steelers.
Will people want to bet on Mason Rudolph? Apparently so.
Week 3 NFL Pick: 49ers 27, Steelers 23.
WOW…Nothing like being ‘dissed over and over and over again. Well, I hope some of the players are seeing my column today and knowing that most of the above are giving them no chance to win out west on Sunday. Some are saying blowout! That’s laughable. The San Francisco 49ers are NOT the New England Patriots who dismantled the Steelers on opening day 33-3.
Let’s move on…Antonio Brown. He gave a very civil interview yesterday without saying anything crazy. So what. He still has a very dark cloud hanging over his head and while Nike dropped him as an endorser yesterday, tigers DO NOT change their stripes. By that it’s obvious that A.B. remains an idiot because this week he texted the latest accuser pointing a finger at Brown for illicit behavior, messages that threatened this woman and Brown included attaching photos of her children.
How low can this jackass go? More surprising is that the New England Patriots are allowing him to stay with the team. I thought higher of Bill Belichick and despite all the cheating accusations from the past, he is in fact one of and if not THE best coach ever. However, as a person and gauging his character, he might be a zombie in interviews and does not do well in interviews, but to allow a moron like Antonio Brown to remain active on your team with all the bullshit swirling around him does not speak well of the New England head coach.
Take a peek at what Brown sent to this woman who has said she was hired by A.B. to paint a mural of him at his home and during her work she alleges that he appeared naked while she was working and conducting himself in a disgusting manner. The texts below were not just sent to this woman but included a copy to his own lawyer in what appears an effort to cover himself and make the victim look like the culprit and he the victim. I think the man is just stupid.
While the UFC is in action tomorrow night with Jeremy Stephens fighting Yair Rodriguez, word comes today that newly re-crowned heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic will defend his title next against…Daniel Cormier. I’ve used these words twice already in today’s blogs but here I go again…COME ON MAN! Stupid. A trilogy fight? Is White for real? No one wants to see a third fight between these two. Miocic will be even better than the last fight and the result will be obvious. Cormier is NOT going to beat the champ. Retire already Daniel. There are other heavyweights out there that deserve a title shot.
What White said was:
“Stipe is recovering from that fight. He's got some bumps and bangs from that fight. We're waiting for him to heal and then yeah, we're going to do the trilogy.”
Meanwhile, last night the UFC held a press conference outdoors for the upcoming Nate Diaz/Jorge Masvidal fight and while the two combatants were not even talking about their fight nor did the press ask questions about the fight, the presentation was ridiculous. It came across as very unprofessional and Masvidal did his best “Tony Montana” Scarface imitation with his outfit. It was more like a mini circus but that is to be expected from the UFC.
Lastly in the UFC, former NFL player Greg Hardy, yet to lose in the Octagon since entering MMA has been fighting nothing more than what is sometimes termed “tomato cans.” Hardy has yet to face a stiff challenge so it has become obvious that Dana White is giving him the ole Ronda Rousey/Conor McGregor treatment in other words CARRYING Hardy into title contention. He’s doing this by putting Hardy in against fighters that have little to no mixed martial arts skills.
Hardy was scheduled to be on the undercard of the Demian Maia vs. Ben Askren on October 26 squaring off against Jarjis Danho but his opponent has been injured and had to withdraw. What does White do? He went out and found another tomato can this one named Ben Sosoli. Sosoli was a combatant on White’s “Contender Series” this past August when he fought to a No Contest with Dustin Joynson because of an accidental eye gouge.
Sosoli is an Australian fighter with a 7-2 record losing to Kelvin Fitial by unanimous decision in March of 2017 while fighting for PXC and his first loss came two years prior another decision loss to Simon Scott. Of his seven victories, six came by way of a KO or TKO. In a return bout with Fitial, this time in an organization known as “Hex Fight Series,” Sosoli won a slug fest by scoring a TKO in the first round. Highlights from that fight are below and after you watch it, you tell me…is this guy going to beat Greg Hardy? Hardy being the type of fighter that just wants to strike and strike and strike until he knocks you out? Sosoli doesn’t stand a chance. But as I’ve always said, once Hardy gets in there with ANY fighter that has MMA skills this fairy tale story comes to a crashing halt.
Mystery Science Theater 3000...Steelers style...sort of...
UFC comedy routine...
September 21, 6:00 pm
vs. Millersville University (1-1) at
Millersville lost last week to IUP 54-0
The Rock defeated Shippensburg 54-19
Slippery Rock is currently ranked #13 nationally in NCAA Division II football
September 20, 7:30 PM
vs. Peters Township at
Peters Township High School 7:00 pm
Last week: North Hills 35 Hampton 14
Peters Township 23 West Allegheny 7