This is not a good sign. A couple hours ago, JJ, Gretz and I put the finishing touches on what I think was one of our best podcasts. I did everything the same — Audio Hijack Pro, Skype, red light indicating that this was all being recorded — except when we wrapped things up 45 minutes later, there was no .AIFF file.
No evidence that we’d even talked about the horrors of the offensive line from a week ago, or answered many of the questions you guys put to us in the comments, or our collective fear that the 2013 Steelers could be a .500 (or worse) oufit whose salary-cap hell is only beginning.
And maybe the disappearing podcast is a harbinger of the ’13 season. While we consider the mystical powers of the internet, I’ll try to recap our conversation, which touched on everything from Guy Whimper (still awful) to Charlie Batch to the 10-year anniversary of a Tommy Maddox-led Steelers team that won six games.
* Pro Football Focus has been driving the “Maurkice Pouncey is really, really overrated” bus for a couple years now, and I was reminded of that while watching Pouncey get summarily abused by Barry Cofield on Monday night. I don’t think Pouncey’s overrated — and JJ agrees — but a top-flight center shouldn’t be whiffing on blocks against an average interior defensive lineman.
* Like the rest of us, JJ’s concerned with the o-line’s performance, but he noted that Marcus Gilbert’s play has been especially troubling, going so far as to note that Gilbert looked better during his rookie season. There’s a reason the team moved him from left tackle to the right side and it probably has more to do with his play than anything Mike Adams was doing.
* Inevitably, the conversation turned to the sheer putridity of Guy Whimper, who somehow looked worse at guard than tackle. Max Starks’ name was also brought up because his name always comes up when talking about the o-line, it’s lack of depth, and the front office’s decision to let Max walk. Again.
“If you really want to get Ted going, ask him why Max Starks isn’t on this team,” JJ said during the podcast that you’ll never get to hear.
And this isn’t Ted overreacting, it’s a collective “We’re a couple injuries away from DEFCON SCREWED status with this group.” JJ pointed out that, no, Starks doesn’t fit the Steelers’ new zone-blocking scheme but what’s better: Having Max, Marcus and Michael battle for two spots with the loser serving as the backup, or having Kelvin Beachum and sticking your head in the sand about the rest of the o-line backups?
This is a rhetorical question.
Part of the problem: The Steelers’ annual up-against-the-cap predicament makes it difficult to sign competent veterans who can play behind the starters. Couple that with recent draft classes that haven’t produced cheap labor and you’re looking at the 2013 offensive line.
In the comments, ELSM asked “Starks or Ziggy?” Gretz’s response: “I think you have to go with Starks because we’re still waiting on Hood after four years and there are players behind him.” I agreed.
ESLM also asked: “Is there a 7th OL you’d rather have now compared to Starks, Legursky or Essex?” JJ’s answer: “I’d say Whimper and Essex are about the same but less than Starks or Legursky.”
In related news: Who plays center if Maurkice goes down? Beachum has worked their for two weeks, but we’re not far from a scenario where he’s playing two or three positions at once. (This would be the part where I’d leave out the joke Gretz made about Bugs Bunny playing baseball, but since it was followed by five seconds of awkward silence, I’m including it here.)
* It took about 20 minutes before we even got around to the Le’Veon Bell injury that could keep him sidelined for 6-8 weeks. Probably because, as we’ve said for six or seven years now, running backs are fungible, even if it means relying on Dwyer and Redman for another year.
* Midway through the podcast, I brought up that this will be the 10-year anniversary of that 6-10 team, the pass-first offense that became a weekly sackfest at Maddox’s expense. That conversation led to the spontaneous “hey, remember this?!” observations:
- Remember when Maddox left the field on a gurney during that ’02 Titans game and Kordell came in and played well after losing his job to Maddox early in the year? Or, as Gretz pointed out, how Steelers fans were pissed when, during the wild card game later that season, a Tennessee radio station had a Tommy Maddox gurney race? Good times.
- JJ talked about the ’04 season, when the Steelers started 1-1 before finishing with 14 straight wins. He called it one of his most enjoyable seasons as a fan, even though things ended with a AFC Championship loss to the Pats.
- I brought up one of my favorite memories from the podcast, when Gretz recounted what it was like to sit in Heinz Field and watch the Steelers get down 21-7 to the Ravens in the 2010 playoffs only to storm back and win with a dominating second-half performance.
If you want to relive that magic, here’s the Ravens-Steelers recap podcast (SL #31), as well as Gretz’s View From 522 following the game. Seriously, listen and read. It’ll take your mind of the Steelers’ current issues.)
Gretz talked about what it was like to watch the Ravens implode in those final 30 minutes, starting with the Ray Rice fumble, a Flacco pick, and a Flacco-Birk center exchange mishap and ended with one of the loudest moments in Heinz Field that Gretz can remember.
I then asked which game was more exciting (something I almost certainly brought up on SL #31): That 2010 playoff win over the Ravens, or the 2008 playoff win where Polamalu pick-6′ed Flacco to put the Steelers back in Super Bowl. (I said 2010, JJ was leaning towards ’08, and Gretz was torn between the two.)
- One last Ravens-Steelers memory: I can’t believe I haven’t told this story yet on the podcast. I was in New Orleans in January covering the Super Bowl for CBSSports.com. At some point during the week, I was at the Bud Light party with other members of the media, and spotted Charlie Batch walk in. There were several hundred people there — media, fans and NFL players — and I made a bee line for Batch where I introduced myself, said that I used to live right around the corner from where he grew up in western PA, and that I wanted to thank him for beating the Ravens last season. Even gave him a hug. One of the highlights of that trip (along with meeting Troy Landry from Swamp People — this is a true story)
* Randy Steele posed this question in the comments: Which players might be on the roster bubble. That led me to wonder who among Justin Brown, Derek Moye or Reggie Dunn should make the final 53. Dunn hasn’t seen a snap at wide receiver this preseason, but his 4.2 speed makes him an intriguing option as a returner.
(Gretz, by the way, was unimpressed with Dunn’s decision to take a knee after catching the opening kickoff seven yards deep in the end zone against the ‘Skins. Regular season: Fine, down it. Preseason when you’re trying to prove yourself: Run it out, please.)
JJ wants Dunn for his special teams potential, something we all agreed with.
* GlennW asked if Landry Jones “safely make this team.” Gretz says yes. Jones is a 4th-rounder, he’s almost certainly earned a scholarship year, and he showed some progress against the Redskins, even with an offensive line that would struggle to block their own shadows. JJ’s only reservation: The Steelers might have Chaz Batch on speed dial in the event that Ben and Bruce go down. God help us if we’re down to QB option No. 3.
* Finally, we ended the podcast by answering this question: How many games will the Steelers win in 2013?
Gretz: I’ve been concerned about the issues on this team since the offseason and I can see them going 7-9 or 6-10.
Me: I wouldn’t be surprised if this group finishes third in the division and goes 8-8 — or worse.
JJ: I’ve said for a while that I think this is an 8-8 team. Maybe that means 6-10, maybe it means 10-6.
Worth remembering: We’re about the three most optimistic Steelers’ fans you’ll come across. Feel free to leave your predictions in the comments.
If you’ve made it this far down the page, thanks. And apologies again for FUBAR-ing the podcast. Hopefully, this does not portend bad things to come.