Friday, November 20, 2009

Sleeping with the Enemy: Week Ten, Steelers @ Chiefs

Greetings and welcome back in for another installment of "Sleeping with the Enemy," where we wax pigskin of a fan of the opposing team.

Today's special guest is none other than Haliwood, who's a long-time friend, a Canadian, and, yes, he thumped me soundly in fantasy football in week two of this season. Given my fantasy track record, though, that ain't sayin' much.

Either way, our chat proved interesting in that 'Wood happens to have a special place in his heart for both clubs squaring off this weekend. See who gets the edge in his book, after the jump.

Bankmeister: For starters, give us your football-fan background. Am I correct in assuming that your both a Steelers and a Chiefs fan? Tell us how this came to be.

Haliwood: Born in Pittsburgh during the Steel Curtain days. We moved away earlier than I remember, and moved often, but no matter where we were it was always a Steeler household. I moved to KC at the start of high school where I played h.s. football and entered into my formidable drinking years...a Chiefs fan was the next obvious step.

B: I see. Can you give us, then, your three favorite Chiefs and three favorite Steelers memories?

H: All of my fondest Chiefs memories are of the pregame tailgating. I've still yet to attend a sporting event that smells so damn good before the game. Getting drunk on beer, BBQ and bloody mary's probably explains why I don't have many memories after kickoff. I sure loved watching DT play. Hungryman pot pies, pinky casts and “ good you can eat it on ice cream”. As for the Steelers, two of the three would be the last two Super Bowl victories in the last three years. The third I'll reserve for learning to swear at the TV with pops.

B: That's good stuff. Let's talk Pittsburgh for a minute. It's well accepted that Bill Cowher was one of the better coaches in the NFL leading up to his retirement. How do you think Mike Tomlin compares so far? I like to say that he's the best black coach (or bloach as we say here in the House) the league has ever seen. Will Cowher return?

H: First thing I'd like to say about Cower is how happy I was when he was chosen to succeed Chuck Noll. I was definitely a fan of his as the Chiefs D coordinator. Fast forward to the bloach...I'm not sure if I could say anything more that you've probably heard a thousand times as broadcasters' talking points. About what a no-nonsense, stand up kind of character he is, a regular player's coach. In short, a guy who fits perfectly with the values of the Pittsburgh Steeler organization. Best black coach? Perhaps. I guess I've never thought about that sub-category as a group, but even then there's some quality acts there. I'm psyched to have Tomlin as the head coach even though I can't say I knew anything about him before he landed the job. I think those Rooneys know a thing or two about what they're doing. Cowher back as a head coach? I'd personally bet on it, though I'm not looking forward to having that jaw pointing at me from the other side of the field.

B: What about Big Ben? When he's not raping girls, and he's out there on the field, how does he compare to his NFL quarterback counterparts? Top 10? Top five? What do you think are his strengths and weaknesses.

H: I love Big Ben. Like most of the players/coaches on this team he just feels like he belongs. Ben's play isn't the most precise or fancy, it's got the grit of the Steel City. Cheesy, sure, but you know what I mean. His ability to improvise, extend the play, or stand tall when all around him is collapsing is fun to watch. It is easily his biggest strength and weakness. Top five quarterback currently playing in the NFL, easily. Not necessarily top five fantasy QB, but much better this year as he's taken command of this offense.

B: Eh. Fantasy. The Pittsburgh running game has been a dominant force for years now. It looked, for a minute, like Fast Willie Parker would follow right in Jerome Bettis' steps and just dominate run defenses. But he's continuing to prove that he can't stay healthy. Has this year suggested that Rashard Mendenhall is now the number-one guy, or does the job continue to go back to a healthy Parker. How about Mewelde Moore? He's a pretty solid back as well. Without looking at numbers, is he a better rock-toter than his days in Minnesota?

H: The running game is a result of the Steelers' commitment to hard-nose football. That has always been the case whether or not they've got a pro bowler in the backfield. I definitely miss having a bruiser like The Bus back there, but Fast Willie Parker has been fun to helluva fast mutha. As for FWP's future, honestly, I think he's probably done being the feature back. I thank him for his efforts and his contributions in the last two Super Bowl victories and hope he continues to have success. I just personally feel that a feature back can only last a few dominating years in today's NFL. I'd certainly still support him as RB1 if Rashard was out. So what do I think of Mendenhall? I dig him. I see great promise, but above all, I trust Tomlin. Mewelde's a stud backup. That's it in a nutshell and something I felt even when he was back in Minny. True, he's got a deserved spot in as a 3rd down back for both his catching and blocking skills. Mostly, I'm just glad to have him there to fill in if needed. Just like Charlie Batch...he's a stud backup too.

B: The receiving corps has also been pretty strong, dating even back to the Plaxico Burress days. Between Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, Limas Sweed, and Heath Miller, it makes defensive game-planning tough, considering the tight running game. Are the Steelers one of the premiere passing teams in the league, or are they a touch overrated?

H: I wouldn't classify them as either. They get the job done, and it all starts with Hines Ward. “Cheapest player in football”? Give me a break. A fucking baller is what he is. And it's been neat to see how he influences the young guys. He dared Santonio to be great for the last SB, and boy was he great. I really like Heath Miller and wouldn't trade him for any other TE in the league. Mike Wallace deserves some props here too. The biggest story this year for me is, as I said earlier, Ben's command of the offense and especially the passing game. I was sad to see Ken Whisenhunt go (kinda thought he deserved the head coaching job at the time), but think that Ben and Arians have developed a great rapport.

B: Wow. Ride that Hines train. Anyway...the Steelers have long been associated with ferocious defense. What makes it so that this club can field a crew of frustrations for offenses year in and year out? Scouting? Defensive coordination?

H: Dick LeBeau and the Steeler's heritage. Again, hard-nosed, blue-collar football. Simple as that. I love all the defensive starters, the ones they've lost and the ones that are ready to fill in.

B: What about Jeff Reed? He's got to be the most famously idiotic kicker in NFL history. Have you kept up with all of his shenanigans?

H: Oh ya, he's a great drunk. At least he can make the odd FG in Heinz Field in the wind and snow.

B: What about the Chiefs? Your thoughts on the new regime...Were Pioli and Haley good hires? What about the Matt Cassel signing? Is this guy gonna pan out? Will he prove he's worth $63 million? And Larry Johnson? Got an opinion on his departure?

H: Ya know, I can't say. I think there are all those questions and more that could go either way. And that's probably more disconcerting than anything. I've never had to bear with a team undergoing such a regime change. LJ is an easy one... move on and good luck with that. No ill will, really, I'd just rather move on. Freaking hilarious that he was dropped before he could break Holmes' record... I'm still laughing about that one. Even in his prime, I'd rather have LJ on my fantasy team than in my football organization. I'd like to believe Cassel is the real deal but he's gonna need a lot more support. Haley's cool but he's still got a lot to prove and Pioli I don't know jack shit about.

B: I see. How many more contests, if any, will the Chiefs win this season? And next?

H: Two more victories this year...the Browns and one of the Broncos matchups (that's right Donkey fans, suck it). Maybe they can beat the Bills, too. Next year they double this year's victories...I do think it's an team that has nowhere to go but up.

B: Finally, the game: Will the Chiefs be embarrassed like they were after the Passion Party? Gotta score prediction? Who do you root for in such meetings?

H: As I said before, it's always been a Steeler household no matter where I've lived, so they come first. That doesn't mean I won't have a proper KC-style BBQ for the event. Sorry to say, but I feel bad for the Chiefs this weekend. The Steelers have some things to work out after dropping their second to Cincy last week and might take it out on KC. Steelers win 28-3...great googly moogly.

B: Nice Zappa quote, there. I'm leaning toward heavy agreeance with you on the score. My modification to it: Pittsburgh 26, Kansas City 9.

Here's to a good game. Thanks for dropping by the House.