With the glow (and the now annual blame-game fallout) of the Super Bowl dying down, we turn our attention to the long NFL offseason, which won't end until teams start reporting for training camp in late July. Here are the 10 questions that most intrigue me as the league transitions into player acquisition and draft evaluation mode....
Like an underachieving student who needs time to register academic success, the Super Bowl took a few decades before establishing itself as a sporting event that was as much about achievement as it was hype.
Grading out the performances from the Denver Broncos' 29-23 overtime upset over the Steelers in AFC wild-card action.
DENVER -- Consider the trigger pulled. And we even have a victim, that being the once-dangerous Pittsburgh Steelers. And talk about your smoking gun.
1. Tim Tebow picked the wrong time to slump.
Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we break down the NFL's 12-team playoff field from as many angles as occur to us...
My updated Sweet Six after Monday night's 49er beatdown of the Steelers:
SAN FRANCISCO -- It's been a very long time since the 49ers were in an important, late-season Monday night game.
Four weeks remain in the regular season, and this is the time of year when we begin to convince ourselves that we see the 12-team playoff field taking shape in great clarity. But there are almost always developments and postseason drives that we didn't anticipate, and assumptions that get proven false as the final weeks of results roll in and upsets play havoc with our preconceived notions.
Looking ahead at three points that should be key factors in the last month of the NFL pennant race:
Baltimore Ravens (5-2) at Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2)
So we're on the verge of the season's midpoint -- 115 games down, 141 to go -- these 10 truths have become evident as we head to November:
PITTSBURGH -- At 2-2, coming off that humbling and ragged Week 4 loss in Houston, they looked old, slow and perhaps even insufficiently motivated. Now, not quite a month later, the Pittsburgh Steelers just look dangerous. Once again.
It never takes long for an NFL season to prove us wrong. Three weeks into the tale of 2011, conventional wisdom is already on something of a losing streak. Things might be all hiccups and giggles in Detroit and Buffalo, where the 3-0 Lions and Bills appear headed for a Rust Belt Super Bowl matchup -- wouldn't that be something? -- but early season problems abound in some unlikely venues around the league.
LANDOVER, Md. -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we soak in the surprising results from an NFL Week 1 that was long on emphatic statements made by teams in Baltimore, Houston, Buffalo, and Philadelphia....
SI.com is previewing all eight divisions throughout the week in anticipation of the 2011 season kicking off. (Send comments to email@example.com)
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- You wouldn't think you could show up at Baltimore's team complex, notebook in hand, and find a bunch of folks eager to talk about the "P'' word, but I'm happy to report there's no running from the truth going on here at Ravens training camp. Baltimore knows it must confront and conquer its Pittsburgh problem. And soon.
SI.com has dispatched writers to report on NFL training camps across the country. Here's what Damon Hack had to say about Steelers camp in Latrobe, Pa., which he visited on July 29. For an archive of all camp postcards, click here.
Feels like the calm before the storm a bit, doesn't it? With the 32 NFL owners meeting Tuesday in Chicago, we should know soon how close a labor deal really is, and whether Roger Goodell and the owners' negotiating team will have any real problems selling a new labor agreement to the owners.
Growing up, one of my favorite books of childhood was a thin little tome called Baseball Players Do Amazing Things. It had a picture on the cover of Reds outfielder Bernie Carbo awkwardly sliding into home against the Orioles in the 1970 World Series, and I must have read that thing 27 times over the course of my early, baseball-mad elementary school years.
The book is closed on the 2011 NFL Draft as 254 players were selected over the seven rounds. As is the case every year, there were some head-scratching moments as highly-rated prospects slipped through the cracks while several were selected much earlier than their talents warranted. Here's a look at the steals and reaches:
The NFL rolled out the 2011 schedule with its usual amount of prime-time fanfare on Tuesday, and yet what do we make of a regular season that has the potential to be anything but regular?
ARLINGTON, Texas -- It probably couldn't have ended any other way for these Green Bay Packers.
When sports television executives dream, they dream of what we saw Sunday night at Cowboys Stadium: With under two minutes remaining in Super Bowl XLV, the game's result remained in doubt. The ratings for the Packers' win over the Steelers are going to be monstrous, but how was the Fox broadcast for viewers? It's time to hand out grades.
Aaron Rodgers inspired the Green Bay Packers to a 31-25 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV at the Cowboys Stadium in Dallas Sunday night.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- In the happy child's dream, of course, the pass is always complete. That's how it works with kids playing football in the backyard. It's always third-and-10, it's the fourth quarter, it's the Super Bowl. In the dream, every receiver is covered, but throwing the ball away is not an option, and taking a sack is not an option, and the sound of footsteps grows louder, they are getting closer, time runs out. In the dream -- but wait! There's an glimmer of something. A tiny opening. A receiver's hand. Something to aim at. The throw will have to be perfect. But if it's thrown just right ...
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight from the Packers' taut and gritty 31-25 conquest of Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XLV Sunday night in Cowboys Stadium. ...
Grading out the performances by the Steelers in their 31-25 loss to the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium ...
Grading out the performances from the Packers' 31-25 win over Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl:
For these past few days in Dallas, the NFL punditry has been remarkably divided on predictions for Super Bowl XLV. For every "Packer Backer" espousing Green Bay's defense, there was a "Steeler healer" pontificating about Pittsburgh's balanced attack.
The Dallas-Fort Worth area was hit by a winter storm, but temperatures should be in the 40s by Super Bowl Sunday.
If you want to know more about two of the NFL's smallest-market yet most successful franchises, talk to the fans.
DALLAS -- The early morning ice storm that hit North Texas with a vengeance on Tuesday, just hours before most Green Bay players got their first-ever look at Cowboys Stadium during Super Bowl media day, no doubt gave the Packers even more reason to count the roof over their heads as a great blessing.
DALLAS -- In the wake of the snippet in "Monday Morning Quarterback'' about commissioner Roger Goodell's comments regarding the lack of player support for Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, I issued a clarification on SI.com last night. I mistakenly inserted a parenthetical "Steelers'' in the middle of a Goodell quote, figuring he was talking about the Steelers in the quote. I erred, and apologize for it.
This story appears in the February 7, 2011 issue of Sports Illustrated.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Dispatches from Lambeau Field, where the Packers on Wednesday started stepping up their preparation for next week's trip to Dallas and Super Bowl XLV ...
CHICAGO -- We'll get to the Super Bowl matchup that Doris Kearns Goodwin would love (it's historic, for those not familiar with Ms. Goodwin's work), and to the volcanic Jay Cutler situation, and to one of the greatest predictions in sports history (sort of) soon enough. But I begin this morning with two things -- the Super Bowl XLV Factoid That Will Interest Everyone, and something Packers GM Ted Thompson said, uncharacteristically, in the winning locker room 45 minutes after Green Bay 21, Chicago 14: "I think this game was good for America.''
PITTSBURGH -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight from an interesting, but rather uneven Championship Sunday in the NFL ...
Grading out the performances from the Steelers' 24-19 victory over the Jets in the AFC Championship Game at Heinz Field ...
Pittsburgh Steelers stories in the SI Vault
The True Blood hunk met Audra Marie at Super Bowl 2009, when Pittsburgh last won it all
Sportscaster Len Berman, ThatsSports.com, talks AFC, NFC championships and looks ahead to Steelers, Packers Super Bowl.
The Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers will contest Super Bowl XLV after securing narrow victories in the NFC and AFC championship games Sunday night.
PITTSBURGH -- The genius of the Steelers defense is in both its speed and its sleight of hand, a devastating combination that so often makes quarterbacks crumble. Last week, it was a harried Joe Flacco, losing a fumble on one drive and throwing an interception on another as Pittsburgh advanced to the AFC title game. On Sunday night in the second quarter of Pittsburgh's 24-19 victory over the Jets for a berth in the Super Bowl, it was Mark Sanchez's turn to buckle.
He's been called a rapist, a sexual predator, a serial idiot, and a bore.
In June 2010, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger sat down for an interview with affiliate WTAE.
I won't lie. I loved Hard Knocks and I love NFL Films work in anything. I tried to get them to film my wedding. No, seriously, I did. Can you imagine that? That'd be my idea for a new NFL Network show. Get Steve Sabol and the NFL Films crew to film some things they normally don't. What would an NFL Films bar mitzvah look like? An NFL Films family vacation to Disneyland? It could go forever. Of course, what I really wish Sabol and his crew were doing was following the Jets all season, Hard Knocks style. If the pre-season was good, how awesome would some of the scenes been during the season -- and I don't have to tell you all the issues. The Jets culture seems poisoned at times, with problems going back well before Rex Ryan got his foot in the door. If sunlight is the best disinfectant, then NFL Films is like penicillin. Imagine the ratings! For now, we still have three more games this season and the injuries are still a big story, as always.
PITTSBURGH -- Mike Tomlin stood outside the Steeler locker room shortly after 8 Saturday night. Cheerleading.
Grading out the performances from Pittsburgh's wild, turnover-filled 31-24 win over Baltimore in a Divisional Playoff game at Heinz Field:
Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we wrap up the NFL's wild-card weekend of playoff action and start counting the hours until next weekend's intriguing slate of divisional-round matchups ...
Sorry, but the expiration date on the Winter Classic has come and gone.
Quick-hitting insight on today's 1 p.m. games ...
(AP) -- Sports teams were scrambling a day after a blizzard dumped more than a foot of snow along portions of the East Coast, stranding two NHL franchises near New York City and forcing Philadelphia to dig out before Tuesday night's NFL game.
PITTSBURGH -- You could tell all was right once again in the Jets world after Sunday's upset win over the Steelers, because some of the bluster was back. Maybe they didn't talk quite as boldly or brashly as they have at times this season, but still, they were recognizably Jet-like once more, and you could hear the swagger starting to flow back into them.
There's no denying Week 15 in the NFL is rife with an abundance of intriguing subtopics. There's Johnson-Finnegan II in Nashville. The doll-eyed Mike Shanahan perhaps going full-blown Child's Play cuckoo by starting Rex Grossman over Donovan McNabb. There's a Snow Day in Minneapolis, a You're Fired Bowl in Ohio and marquee quarterbacks fighting to get on the field despite serious injuries.
Quick-hitting insight from today's 1 p.m. games ...
BALTIMORE -- If this particular rivalry between bitter division foes happened to be represented by a symbol -- think of it as Prince meets the NFL -- for 15 seasons now the bloody nose would have been entirely apt.
Quick-hitting insight on today's 1 p.m. games ...
PITTSBURGH -- Here are five things we learned from New England's 39-26 throttling of Pittsburgh on Sunday night at Heinz Field, in a surprisingly one-sided showdown of AFC superpowers ...
NEW ORLEANS -- There was ample noise in this city on Sunday night and deep into Monday morning, because it was Halloween and that is something like a junior varsity Mardi Gras around here. There was music spilling out of the storefronts of every bar on Bourbon Street and the giddy thrum of a thousand vaguely drunken conversations, every voice trying to make itself heard over all the others until none are heard at all -- and it's just a seismic blur. It's like this most nights here, but louder on some than others, and in particular when it seems like half the city is in costume.
When he looks around his huddle these days and barks out the play call, could you blame Tom Brady for wondering, "Who are these guys?'' Here's a quick check of who the Patriots' franchise quarterback sees staring back at him in New England as Week 7 of the NFL's regular season looms:
Quick-hitting insights from the slate of 1 p.m. games.
PHILADELPHIA -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we take stock of a bevy of hotly contested Week 4 games while watching the unfolding McNabb Bowl at Lincoln Financial Field ...
ColdHardFootballFacts.com breaks down Sunday's Baltimore at Pittsburgh game (1 p.m. ET, CBS).
There's no doubt the center of the NFL's universe for Week 4 will be in Pennsylvania. That's where quarterbacks past, present -- and future, in the Steelers' case -- will be stealing headlines. But storylines across the league could not be more enticing as the meat of the NFL season approaches, with at least one coach already fighting for his job, controversial wide receivers butting heads, and contenders and pretenders beginning to separate.
It's Donovan McNabb-goes-back-to-Philly week, and we do love our reunion games in the NFL, don't we? With as much player and coach movement as the league features these days, every season provides a handful of reunion games of varying degrees of significance and intrigue. But some of them, like this week's, really deserve the screaming headline treatment.
A week from now, one of the big stories in the league -- maybe the biggest story in the league -- will be Ben Roethlisberger returning to the Steelers after his four-week suspension. What kind of mood will Roethlisberger will be in? Will he be humbled, chastened? And in a football sense, will he be ready to return after the Steelers' bye week to resume his starting role on a Super Bowl contender?
Throughout the 2010 NFL season, SI.com's Nick Zaccardi will work with Jerome Bettis to get the six-time Pro Bowl running back's observations about the latest happenings in the league. Bettis retired from the NFL in 2006 after a 13-year career.
KANSAS CITY -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight from a Week 3 that was quite friendly to the road teams on this NFL Sunday ...
It's safe to call the Steelers the premier NFL franchise of the Super Bowl Era. They were the first franchise to win three Super Bowls, the first to win four, and the only franchise that's won six Super Bowls.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we watch a wacky Week 2 unfold while awaiting that showdown of sibling rivalry known as Manning Bowl II ...
ColdHardFootballFacts.com breaks down Sunday's Pittsburgh at Tennessee game (1 p.m., CBS).
The dominant factor that separates NFL football from all other forms of the game is speed. It's no different in fantasy football. Things change so fast that you must stay on top of the action in order to have any chance of success. Players such as Seattle's Mike Williams and St. Louis' Mark Clayton go from being epic busts to fantasy boons in one game, while players you count on as the cornerstones of your roster, such as Green Bay's Ryan Grant, can be lost in the blink of an eye. It's because of these factors that every game matters and every player in your lineup each week could mean the difference between winning and losing. Here are players to insert and remove from your active lists this week.
NEW ORLEANS -- Seen this week's slate of 16 games? It's as competitive a group as I've seen in a while. Maybe not the best slate of games, but the kind of schedule that makes me think: Glad I'm not in a knockout pool this year.
A salient point or two that bears noting as we attempt our annual NFL predictions column, as if you really could divine the landscape of the league before its new season even begins...
Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we run down the winners and losers in Week 3 of the NFL's preseason. The games don't count, but the perceptions sure do. ...
SI.com has dispatched writers to report on the 32 NFL training camps across the country. Here's what Peter King had to say about the Steelers camp in Latrobe, Pa. For an archive of all camp postcards, click here.
Ben Roethlisberger will begin practicing with the Steelers this week. Therefore, we will cheer.
The woman who accused Ben Roethlisberger of attacking her says she said "no" to the NFL star.
Agents on Wednesday will release dozens of interviews conducted during the investigation of sexual assault allegations against star professional quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Though the NFL's long march to adopt and refine instant replay usage never experienced quite the tipping-point moment to match what MLB umpire Jim Joyce wrought Wednesday night in Detroit, there were a couple high-profile blown calls along the way that prompted the league to not once, but twice institute replay as an officiating tool -- first in the mid-1980s and again in the late 1990s.
LAYING OVER AT JFK -- OK. Before I inflame a few more passions, the answer to the golf over-under I posed in Monday Morning Quarterback: one. I put one tee shot in the drink from the 17th tee at the TPC Stadium Course in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., at the annual Tom Coughlin/Jay Fund benefit golf outing. I stink at golf anyway, but this was the big time, and I really wanted to hit one good shot on a waterlogged day. I used one of those hybrid clubs, swung soft, hit it pin-high -- but 10 feet to the right of the island. Plunk. Good thing our fivesome didn't have to use my tee shot in the team format on that one.
The report that surfaced this week about the New York Jets having trouble selling out their brand new $1.8 billion stadium should hardly come as a surprise. The issue is not unique to the Jets, as the Jaguars and Rams can attest, but that's not the story here.
Peter King and Don Banks are two of the 50 AP voters who will revote for the 2009 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award. Read Banks' contrasting view here.
Dr. Jordan Grafman has never examined nor met Ben Roethlisberger, and yet listening to him talk about the people he studies, it's as if he's describing the troubled Steelers quarterback.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said Monday he won't appeal the six-game suspension imposed by the National Football League and apologized to his teammates and fans for a night out that left him under a Georgia prosecutor's microscope.
RENTON, Wash. -- Pete Carroll's excited. Surprise!
We've finally found the one group that uniformly agrees about Tim Tebow's prospects this month:
For the first time, the National Football League will hold its draft in the evening, giving football junkies the chance to watch 300-pound young men become millionaires in prime time.
The Steelers without a suspended Ben Roethlisberger early in the 2010 season will be an obviously weakened team, but they are not the 2007 Falcons sent reeling by an incarcerated Michael Vick or even the equivalent of a Colts or Saints team if they were to face a daunting extended absence by star quarterbacks Peyton Manning or Drew Brees.
If the 2010 NFL offseason were given a moniker it would be called the "Year of the Trade." Never before have so many trades taken place in general, and involving big-name players in particular. From Donovan McNabb to Santonio Holmes to Brandon Marshall, the ability to trade players without any cap consequences in the uncapped year has kept the NFL hot stove cooking over the past three months. Already this week, former first round picks Byron Leftwich, Adam Carriker and Ernie Sims have been dealt.
Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we digest the NFL's just-released 256-game regular-season schedule....
Thoughts on The New Draft, the inexact science of mock drafting, why I miss Paul Zimmerman so much at this time of year, the tackle who's all over draft boards ... but first, the only story of the week:
"I'm a pretty hardcore Steelers fan (and father of 2 young daughters). I'm done with this team as long as Ben is a part of it.'' --@MarcMick, Steeler follower Marc Mickiewicz, in a Twitter message to me this morning at 8:51.
Now this is redonkulous. Donovan McNabb from Philadelphia to the Redskins at 8 p.m. last Sunday. Santonio Holmes from Pittsburgh to the Jets at 11:15 this Sunday night. The state of Pennsylvania obviously has no respect for the offseason sleep habits of Mr. Monday Morning QB.
As April dawns, the NFL offseason has already spanned almost three months for the majority of teams. The orgy of hope that is the draft remains three weeks away, but most of the heavy lifting on the personnel acquisition front has been completed and new plans and programs are firmly in place.
Fourteen months ago, Ben Roethlisberger and Santonio Holmes were on opposite ends of a six-yard touchdown pass that gave Pittsburgh its record sixth Super Bowl title. Now they're defending themselves against separate allegations -- Roethlisberger for allegedly sexually assaulting a 20-year-old college student in a Georgia nightclub, and Holmes for allegedly injuring a woman in an Orlando, Fla. nightclub. Possible suspensions and the eroding confidence of the team's fan base make this the biggest dilemma the Steelers have had in a long time.
ORLANDO -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight as the NFL Annual Meeting cranks to life with all its accompanying overtime-inspired debate...
How did Randy Lerner get Mike Holmgren? Can the Titans make it? Was Mike Tomlin right? Are the Saints flawed? Is Clay Mathews in Clay Matthews' league? Can Brett Favre and Brad Childress kiss and make up?
Groundhog's Day isn't until February, but in the Bill Murray movie sense it could come a month earlier in the NFL. That's because two Week 17 games --Packers-Cardinals and Eagles-Cowboys -- could repeat on the schedule the very next week in the wild-card round. In fact, we project that exact scenario will play out in the NFC.
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