Steelers are Super Bowl Favorites
Going into the 2008 season the Steelers had the NFL‚Äôs toughest schedule and many NFL experts thought the Steelers may struggle to get 9 wins. The Steelers finished the regular season 12-4 and now they are in a unique opportunity as the favorites to win the Super Bowl. The Steelers odds are currently 9-5 to win the Super Bowl. The Eagles are second with odds of 2-1.
It is often said that winning one playoff game makes it a successful season for a NFL franchise. For the Steelers, a loss to the Ravens makes this season a failure. The Steelers are early 6 point favorites playing at home and they need to seize the opportunity.
Terrell Suggs has said he won’t miss Sunday’s AFC championship game, but Ravens coach John Harbaugh wasn’t as optimistic. According to the Baltimore Sun, At his weekly news conference, Harbaugh said Suggs had a magnetic resonance imaging exam and suggested Suggs’ availability against the Pittsburgh Steelers would “be close.” “I’m not going to sit here and say it’s positive, or we’re happy about it,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll just see how it goes. It’s going to be close. He’s going to work real hard to try to get back. That’s all we know.” Suggs sprained the shoulder when he tackled Tennessee Titans quarterback Kerry Collins from behind late in the first half Saturday. Source – Baltimore Sun
The infatuation with Joe Flacco continues with the national media. Yes Flacco is the first rookie quarterback to win two playoff games but the guy is completing just 44.4% of his passes in the playoffs and is averaging only 6.57 yards per attempt. In Sunday‚Äôs NFL pregame shows there were analysts proclaiming Flacco as having a better rookie season than Ben Roethlisberger did when he went 13-0 in the regular season.
Ben Roethlisberger‚Äôs rookie season is very unappreciated. The Steelers were 6-10 in 2003, while in 04 Roethlisberger led the Steelers to a 15-1 record, had a completion percentage of 66.4 (highest in career), threw for 17 TDs ‚Äì 11INTs ‚Äì 98.1 passer rating and averaged 8.9 yards per attempt (highest in career). Even look at Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan‚Äôs stats. Ryan was phenomenal, had a great running game behind him like Roethlisberger did in 04 and helped turn around the Falcons franchise but his stats don‚Äôt even compare to Roethlisberger‚Äôs rookie year. ( 16TD‚Äôs ‚Äì 11INT‚Äôs ‚Äì 87.7 Passer Rating ‚Äì 61.1 CMP % – 7.93 YPA). The notion that Roethlisberger only managed the clock during his rookie year is absurd.
The Steelers will go into¬†Sunday’s game with the mindset that Joe Flacco will have to beat them for the Ravens to win. I expect the Steelers to shut down the Ravens running game and running back LaRon McClain will not be 100% as he has a lingering ankle injury. Flacco is going to have to make some big plays for the Ravens. Where Flacco can catch the Steelers off-guard is his deep ball. That is one asset of his game that he performs very well for a rookie.
For a 34 year old, Ravens wide receiver Derrick Mason can run with the best of them. Mason is Flacco‚Äôs top target on¬†deep routes and Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor will likely have the primary duty of shutting down Mason. Taylor did struggle against Chargers wide out Vincent Jackson as Jackson got by Taylor on a few occasions including a 43 yard touchdown reception in the first quarter. While the Ravens will take a few chances down field, there‚Äôs no way a 44.4% completion percentage gets it done against the Steelers.
Reports of LeSean McCoy declaring for the NFL draft were a bit premature last week as McCoy is still weighing the option of returning to school. McCoy has until Thursday to make his decision as Thursday is the deadline for underclassmen to file the necessary paperwork to be eligible for the 2009 draft. McCoy is projected to be a late first round/early second round pick. TIOPS projects McCoy to¬†be¬†drafted in the¬†2nd round pick. If McCoy returns for his¬†junior season,¬†it would likely guarantee a first round selection. Our second Mock Draft will be available on Friday January 16th. If McCoy does declare, running back Chris Burns will go into the spring¬†practices as the favorite to replace McCoy. Burns is a talented back who could have a productive career at Pitt.
Pascal Dupuis skated with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on a line in practice Monday but his status won‚Äôt be known until after the Penguins morning skate which will be held at 11:30 a.m. in Philadelphia. If Dupuis is unable to play , Max Talbot will move up to the first line.
Flyers forward Daniel Briere who has been sidelined since December 2nd, practiced on Monday and could be activated to play against the Penguins Tuesday night. The Flyers have to clear a roster spot to accommodate Briere.