Joined at the hip

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There were two football games played last weekend in at Heinz Field. The first game on Saturday  featured the Pittsburgh Panthers versus the Cincinnati Bearcats for the Big East Conference Championship. Sunday’s game featured the Steelers against the extremely disliked Oakland Raiders. That game would possibly represent the deciding factor as to whether Pittsburgh would possibly go on to qualify as a wild card team in order to defend its Super Bowl XLIII championship.

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Let’s begin with the Panthers. Pitt lost the game 45-44. Everyone said that it was the fault of the Panthers’ defense but how in the heck can you devise an offensive plan of abuse and expect it to be a win, win, for everyone. How could Dave Wannstedt allow his offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Frank Cignetti to call 47 running plays for one running back, Dion Lewis?

 

Since there are laws in place that will disqualify a student-athlete from competing in the NCAA as an “amateur” if he or she accepts “any” form of compensation for their services, then there should be a law against any coach calling 47 running plays for one individual. That is lazy and visionless coaching. Dion Lewis is not a horse or a greyhound. He is still a young man, just shedding the cocoon of adolescence and he should be treated like the young athlete that he is, even if a reduced workload for him represented the prospect of Pitt losing, which they eventually did anyway. Would you like to see your son or daughter hit 47 times during any one competition? If a quarterback was hit every single time after he threw 47 passes he would have to possibly sit for two weeks, and don’t forget our legs carry our entire body weight.

Running backs coach David Walker should have insisted after 40 carries that Lewis sit on the sideline because only a running or ex-running back like Mr. Walker (Syracuse) knows how it feels to have 30 carries not to mention 47. When recruiters in living rooms of America come-a-calling begging parents to allow their children to compete at various institutions of higher learning, solemn, sincere and heartfelt promises are made to take care of and look out for their young protégés and not to use them to win at any cost.

Dave Wannstedt had this to say about Dion Lewis: “Dion Lewis is the best. I love him and he’s a great player. He shows up. It’s amazing for a freshman, 12 weeks [into] the season to show up with the performance that he had today.” Well, that is a very astute observation but to call that many plays for one player; does that mean that maybe the coaches were the ones that didn’t show up? Only the sore and battered body of Lewis and the final score may hold the answer to that question.

* * *

The Steelers drive for their seventh Lombardi Trophy may have hit an enormous pothole, maybe even a “black hole” at Heinz Field over the weekend. I knew something was wrong when I had to scrounge up the Raiders last media guide. Even thought they are not the Raiders of old, they sure played like it, well, except for Raiders QB Bruce Gradkowski. The Pittsburgh area native looked more like a hybrid of Terry Bradshaw and Kordell Stewart. In this case imitation was not in the least the sincerest form of flattery by the Oakland QB, maybe assault and battery describes how he competed against and beat his hometown team.

Kevin Colbert and the rest of Steelers management rolled the dice when they sat back with smirks on their faces and allowed Bryant McFadden, their former unappreciated cornerback to depart for the desert in Arizona and hop into the Cardinals’ nest. It looks as though they rolled the dice and came up with snake eyes. There also seems to be a sort of insecurity about the job of Ike Taylor, their best corner; no, their only corner being benched. If this is true who in the heck are they going to start in his place? Mel Blount or Judge Dwayne Woodruff? At this point in their lives I do not think either one of them would be interested in suiting up for competition. If Ike Taylor’s job is not safe, the head of offensive coordinator Bruce Arians should be on the chopping block as well.

There are also several injury issues. Troy Polamalu has been nagged by a knee injury and probably will be inactive for the game against the Browns. It has been determined that cornerback William Gay suffered a concussion but hasn’t been ruled inactive for Thursday night’s game, at least not yet. The missed interception by defensive back Joe Burnett during the Raiders final drive was just as important as the senseless pick thrown by Big Ben Roethlisberger that wiped a possible three points off the board. The Steelers needed those three points because they lost by the score of 27-24. ’Nuff said.

(Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: abruce@newpittsburghcourier.com.)

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