Monday, April 30, 2007

Steeler Draft 07: What it all means.

The Steelers polished off their draft by adding a big wide receiver from Florida who looked good in the National Championship game (didn't they all?). Hopefully he will pan out.

The Tomlin era was ushered in by the drafting of Lawrence Timmons and was hated by nearly all Steeler fans. Timmons is a 4-3 backer, plain and simple. He's not the 6-4, 260 pound hybrid 3-4 OLB pass rusher every Steeler fan wanted or needed. Alot of Steeler fans have rationalized that he could be an inside backer in the 3-4, but that's not what Tomlin is saying.

The Steelers did get this guy in Round 2, however. LaMarr Woodley is a DE/OLB who is 6-2, 269. So maybe the Steelers are hedging their bets. Woodley doesn't have as large a frame as you would want, but he is thick and strong and has had success rushing the passer in a major college program.

Some people are second guessing the 6-7 270lb TE Matt Spaeth, widely considered to be the best blocking TE in the draft. The Steelers believe he has Heath Miller-like pass catching qualities. Some fans don't like this pick because depth on the TE front should not have been addressed so early. However, with fullbacks being phased out across the league, I believe that this pick is meant to provide depth at the FB position...a lot of teams are running 2 TE 1 back formations and if this means the Steelers are going to start throwing to their TEs more, I'm all for it.

The Steelers traded up to get one of the top 2 punters in the draft, and also picked a project in Ryan McBean, a 4-3 DE who with a large frame and at 286lbs could fill out to be a 3-4 DE. Like Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel.

The 5th round pick was a road grader guard, given the Steelers potential depth issues in the interior line (Faneca disgruntled, in last year of contract, Kendall Simmons in last year of contract, hasn't produced.) Many thought the Steelers would have gone IOL on the first day, and if this guy doesn't work out, then maybe they were right.

In my earlier post about the draft I noted that analysts wrote that, had the Steelers focused on front seven defense in last year's draft, able to pick up DeMeco Ryans and Mark Anderson at their respective drafting positions, rather than trading up and reaching for Santonio Holmes, they would be able to focus on OL, RB, and secondary this year. Well, that didn't happen, and the Steelers drafted this year for positions of need (LB) at the top, but looked for depth elsewhere. Will it pan out? I hope so.

The Steelers dramatically improved their special teams with this draft, and provided that Woodley can provide a decent pass rush, the Steelers should be in good shape. If not...and the injury bug hits, the Steelers could be in big trouble.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Steelers Drafting Dynasty

Today on Fox Sports, they're featuring an article "Best and Worst Draft Picks" where they analyze each team's best overall pick, best value pick and worst pick over their entire history. Barnwell's analysis of the Steelers:

Pittsburgh Steelers

Best overall pick: DB Rod Woodson, Round 1, Pick 10, 1987

The best draft pick by the team that laps the league on draft day. Really, only Dallas, Denver, and San Francisco have a claim on Pittsburgh's dominance in April, a competitive advantage without compare. They just don't miss. Ever. Of course, you can debate Woodson versus the great Steelers drafts of the 70's, but you can't blame Woodson for merely being a dominant player on a very good team as opposed to an excellent player on a dynasty. Eleven Pro Bowls, more than any other Steelers player, says a lot.

Best value pick: C Mike Webster, Round 5, Pick 125, 1974

It's your job to argue whether he was the best player taken in the '74 group (Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert, and John Stallworth also went). While there's some doubt about the credentials of Swann and Stallworth, all to be said is that when you draft multiple Hall of Famers in a single season, you are pretty much splitting some very gorgeous hair when you decide who the best pick was.

Worst pick: T Jamain Stephens, Round 1, Pick 29, 1996

Stephens never caught on as a starter, leaving Pittsburgh after two seasons and playing three more in Cincinnati.

His analysis of the Skins:

Washington Redskins

Best overall pick: DB Darrell Green, Round 1, Pick 28, 1983

Will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2008; again, much like Slater, guys who spend forever playing for the team that drafted them are infinitely valuable and special for a variety of reasons.

Best value pick: QB Mark Rypien, Round 6, Pick 146, 1986

While Mark Schlereth was a little more valuable than Rypien, 45 percent of his career was with Denver, 45 percent was with Washington, and 10 percent will be as a cadaver.

Worst pick: T Andre Johnson, Round 1, Pick 30, 1997

Johnson never played for the Redskins, instead appearing in four games as a Lions player before vanishing. Here's a line of busted first-rounders: Desmond Howard (No. 4 overall), Tom Carter (No. 17), Heath Shuler (No. 3), Michael Westbrook (No. 4), and Johnson.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Pound for Pound, the Best of the UFC

Unlike the SteelSkins Power Rankings, which is more of a measurement for gauging who deserves the next title shot than it is for determining who the best UFC fighters are, the Pound for Pound guide is SteelSkins’ opinion of who, pound for pound, are the best fighters in the UFC.

You might notice that some of the fighters in the SteelSkins Top 15 have lost recently to fighters listed below though, or even in Honorable Mention (we’re looking at you, Diego). This is not a mistake. Mirko Cro Cop can get his head kicked into the sixth row by Gabriel Gonzaga, but that doesn’t mean we’d take Gonzaga in a street fight. All it means is that Gonzaga had a better fight that night (albeit, a much better fight). He’s still going to have to prove himself a few more times before we consider him Top 5 material.

And Diego? Let’s not forget what Diego did to Karo Parisyan, who we think would beat Josh Koscheck 7 out of 10 times. You might also notice that we put Big Nog in the Top 5, despite having never actually fought in the Octagon. This would normally go against SteelSkins’ own rationale for the regular Power Rankings. Again, this is not the Power Rankings. This is the Pound for Pound. It’s based on history of dominance. It’s based on ability to control their opponents in their respective divisions. And we like it this way.

Honorable Mention

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Best Draft Analysis Around...

...especially for Steelers fans, can be found right here.

Money Quote:

Last spring, the Front 7 crop was strong throughout; this spring not. This year, the WR set is strong throughout, last spring not. Yet, last spring Cowbert (essentially) accomplished this: traded DeMeco Ryan (or Richard Marshall), Barry Cofield and Mark Anderson for Santonio “Baby Daddy” Holmes. Those were the Front 7 prospects available (and, contemporaneously, slotted here) at 32, 96 and 129 respectively. Ryan, then the 5th LB taken, was a better prospect than any in this class, Willis excluded. Cofield was a better DT prospect than any in this class, from Harrell down. Anderson was a better edge rush prospect than any in this class, no exclusions. On the flip side, Holmes, 1st WR taken last year, would struggle to reach #6 this time.

So it goes. Drafting need-first, scratching last season’s itch that is, is no doubt the low road to competitive ruin. Had the 2006 PS gone Front 7 early, this 2007 PSD would be good to go, whether in a LeBeau 34, Tomlin Tampa 2 or some yet unknown morph. True enough; the 2006 PSO would have been light at WR but not-for-long, considering that the 2007 PS are ideally positioned to draft at that position, early and often. As it is, chock-a-block with numbers if not talent at the spot, this PS FO figures to perform some contortion, reaching for that value imagined elsewhere. Front 7 figures, where the incumbents are approaching antiquity, or OL, considering that exodus (likely) to come past the 2007 season.

It's hard for me to see where he's wrong.

This website, run by passionate Steeler fans, provides extremely insightful analysis along with sometimes mind-boggling levels of venom directed at Bill Cowher, Jason Gildon, and most recently, Joey Porter...but amidst all the bitterness and mockery, they did have something in common: they were pretty much right. Cowher choked altogehter too often, the Stillers wasted alot of cash on a washed-up Gildon, and Joey Porter accomlished jack last year, and not much more the year previous.

Monday, April 23, 2007

SteelSkins UFC Power Rankings UPDATE!

Wow, if you missed UFC 70, you missed an amazing knockout! Without another UFC event until this time next month, we opted to update SteelSkins UFC Power Rankings. Only the HW and LHW Top 15 Contenders were affected by Saturday night’s action, so that’s all we’re including in this post. Here they are!


The biggest one-day move in SteelSkins Power Rankings history was made when Gabriel Gonzaga leap-frogged eight spots to land as the #1 Contender. We didn’t just bump Gonzaga that far because UFC matchmaker Joe Silva says he deserves a title shot, we did it because he knocked Mirko Cro Cop’s head into the sixth row. You might think it’s unfair that Cro Cop only dropped one spot, but need SteelSkins remind you that he’s Mirko mofoin’ Cro Cop? That’s what we thought. Arlovski doesn’t move up a spot because, let’s face it, he’s not better than Cro Cop, but we did move him ahead of Tim Sylvia, despite posting a 1-2 record against the former champ. That’s because, rumor has it, Arlovski gets the next title shot after Gonzaga.

Rounding out the top 5 is Big Nog, who you might think is ranked low on this list—we’d counter by pointing to the numerous PRIDE veterans who have been losing to UFC veterans in both leagues over the past three or four weeks. We think Big Nog is just fine at #5—that is, until he proves himself in the Octagon.

We opted not to move Fabricio Werdum down more than one spot after losing to Arlovski. We did this for two reasons: 1. It was a close fight, and Werdum had some impressive striking in his UFC debut; and 2. We’re not sure of the status of Jeff Monson since trickling over to PRIDE for a quick win in recent weeks. If he’s serious about playing with the big boys, he might want to stick around town. He hope he does, because there’s a steep drop-off after him in level of talent.

Cheick Kongo surprised us with his complete inability to work the ground (as Joe Rogan put it, “Someone needs to kidnap Kongo and take him to a wrestling camp. No more kickboxing for six months.”), but a win’s a win, so he bumps up one spot. His opponent, Assuerio Silva—who is now a dismal 0-3 in the UFC, despite being 30-5 in the world—surprised us even more with his complete inability to do anything but slam Kongo to the mat three times. He falls four spots.

Upcoming fights include the much-anticipated Couture vs. Gonzaga, along with Sanchez vs. UFC newcomer Colin Robinson, who we’re ranking somewhere around #21.

Light Heavyweights

Bisping moves up one spot with his win over Elvis Sinosic. It’s not that the win over a dead-last (#33) ranked Sinosic is that impressive, but it does give Bisping more Octagon experience, which he will take with him into his next fight (hopefully against a more worthy opponent, like Forrest Griffin). Lyoto Machida also jumps three places with his win over David Heath (which apparently wasn’t televised, as originally planned, because it was so boring). Unfortunately for Machida, he’s starting to get a reputation as a boring fighter. But a win’s a win, and a win over a Top 15 Contender should get anyone advanced a few spots. David Heath didn’t move any spots down, which might not be fair, but the Machida loss is his first ever, and quite honestly, there’s a bit of a drop-off after spot #14, in SteelSkins’ opinion.

UFC 71 may as well be called “Battle of the Light Heavyweights,” because it’s going to feature five bouts from this division, including Champion Chuck Liddell vs. Quinton Jackson, Keith Jardine vs. UFC newcomer Houston Alexander, James Irvin vs. UFC newcomer Thiago Silva, Sean Salmon vs. Eric Schaffer and Wilson Gouveia vs. Carmelo Marrero. We rank all five of the fighters just mentioned who are not listed in the Top 15 below, coincidentally, at #16 – 20. With this event, clearly we’re going to see a lot of movement in this division, and fighters like Bonnar and Eastman are surely to fall off the Top 15 soon.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

SteelSkins UFC Power Rankings

With two of the three April events already under our belts, it’s time to update those Power Rankings! A lot has already changed— especially in the two lightest divisions (whoever put money down on Serra to upset GSP is about 10-1 odds richer). And with the announcement that several world-renowned MMA fighters have signed on to the UFC (most notably Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira—aka “Big Nog”—Fabricio Werdum and Thiago Silva), all of whom have yet to fight in the Octagon, it makes developing the Power Rankings that much more difficult. Plus, Lightweight Top 10 fighter Mark Hominick just forfeited the remaining fights on his UFC contract to go fight in the WEC (thanks to UFCJunkie for that tidbit), so we’re all over the place this month.

Regardless, we have to start somewhere, so here we go! New viewers to the SteelSkins UFC Power Rankings ought to note that we refuse to overvalue UFC newbies. We here at SteelSkins promote brand loyalty over fighters who may have beaten you three years ago in a kickboxing ring in Japan. So in your world, you might place Big Nog at #2 for the Heavyweights, but he’s still a UFC newbie, meaning the best he’s going to do here at SteelSkins is Top 5. Not even Cro Cop got better than #5 when he was first introduced to our Power Rankings (that is, until we watched him hunt down Eddie Sanchez and beat that kid like he owed him money). You might argue this strategy is wrong. But then we’d just point to Heath Herring and everyone who thought we were crazy for introducing him at #15 among Heavyweights.

Without further ado, we give you the SteelSkins UFC Power Rankings!


Since Randy Couture defeated Tim Sylvia and Mirko Cro Cop annihilating the then-undefeated Eddie Sanchez, we’ve had some definite movement in the HWs. Plus, Big Nog and Fabricio Werdum are now part of the mix. Upcoming fights include Arlovski/Werdum, CroCop/Gonzaga and Kongo/Silva.

Light Heavyweights

With Jason Lambert stopping Babalu Sobral and the introduction of Thiago Silva and Lyoto Machida, the LHWs are starting to make some noise—and it’s only going to get better in the next two months, with Liddell/Rampage, Evans/Ortiz, Machida/Heath and (possibly) Jardine/Silva. Plus, Stephan Bonnar’s suspension for steroid use is about to expire. Here are your Top 15:


Rich Franklin is right back in the mix of things with his win over Jason MacDonald, making the bottom half of the Top 10 very difficult to judge. Plus, Okami’s decisive victory over Swick, which should have been stopped earlier, catapults him into title contention. Personally, we here at SteelSkins would like to see Chris Leben fight again, although his match with Kalib Starnes (who we rank around 23rd leaves much to be desired). Upcoming fights include Silva/Marquardt and Franklin/Kampmann. Your Top 15 are:


Wow, SteelSkins wishes it would have placed a Benjamin down on Serra! Before the fight, we had Serra ranked #6—and that was being generous. The Top 6 fighters in this division are just sick, which is pretty much why Kos’ lackluster victory over the then-undefeated Sanchez didn’t really shake things up as much as you might expect. Here we see #1 has beaten #2, while #3 has beaten #4, who has in turn beaten #5, who has in turn beaten #8 (not to mention the Champion Matt Serra!). But I digress…Upcoming fights include Serra/Hughes and Parisyan/Burkman. Here are your Top 15:


Personally, we think it’s ludicrous the UFC hasn’t bumped Sherk’s fight against Franca up any further. We know he had a shoulder injury following his title win over Florian, but that was back in October. He should be fighting in June at the latest (or else forfeit his title), but that’s just our opinion. Stevenson’s 27-second victory over Guillard secures his spot in the Top 5, and Huerta’s impressive slugfest with Garcia launches the former into the Top 10 while cementing the latter’s place in the Top 15. Upcoming fights include Sherk/Franca. Here are the Top 15:

Monday, April 09, 2007

What a Difference a Year Makes

If you were to look back at the last year, a lot has changed in the UFC. A year ago, the UFC champions consisted of:

  • HW Andre Arlovski was set to face Tim Sylvia—a rematch he would end up losing. Sylvia would hold the HW belt in a third rematch with Arlovski, followed by a win over Jeff Monson, before losing to current champ Randy Couture. A year ago, the HWs were considered the weakest weight class. But today, thanks in large part to the December signing of Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, the return of Couture, and Saturday’s announced signing of Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira (aka “Big Nog”), this division is now looking pretty stacked.
  • LHW Chuck Liddell had recently knocked Randy Couture into retirement a year ago. He then made short work of Renato “Babalu” Sobral before squaring off with Tito Ortiz, who, at the time, seemed to be fighting better than he ever had in the past. Out of all the divisions, the last year has been kindest to the LHW division, at least in terms of fewest unforeseen upsets. A year ago there were few contenders capable of facing Liddell. Today, there are probably just as few, but they are at least different contenders than they were a year ago. Last year’s Rashad Evans was just 2-0 in the UFC. Since then, however, he’s faced—and beaten—Stephan Bonnar, Jason Lambert and Sean Salmon and now faces Tito Ortiz in July. In December, the UFC announced they had signed Quinton “Rampage” Jackson—Liddell’s only unavenged loss—who faces the “Iceman” in May. There is also a slew of up-and-coming talent, who might not be odds-on contenders against Liddell today, but a lot can change several months down the road.
  • MW Rich Franklin had just defended his title for the second time against David “The Crow” Loiseau a year ago. It would be his last successful title defense. In June, Anderson “The Spider” Silva was introduced to the UFC with a 49-second knockout of Chris “The Crippler” Leben. Silva then went on to take Franklin’s title in under three minutes, before defending the title against TUF4 Winner Travis Lutter. Now Silva is set to face the only 7-time King of Pancrase Champion in history, Nate Marquardt, who’s 4-0 in the UFC by his own right. Plus, Franklin’s back on top of the contender’s list with a solid victory over Jason MacDonald. If that weren’t enough, Yushin Okami (20-3, 4-0 in the UFC) just proved he deserves consideration with a decisive victory over a fighter who many considered to be the #1 Contender, Mike “Quick” Swick (11-2, 5-1 in the UFC).
  • WW Matt Hughes had beaten a “who’s who” of UFC veterans a year ago today, and was set to face UFC legend Royce Gracie, probably because there were so few fighters capable of facing the champ. After TKOing Gracie in the first round, Hughes went on to avenge a loss to B.J. Penn. He looked unbeatable, as always. Then he faced Georges St. Pierre in November, who made Hughes look very beatable. The new champion, GSP, was considered a new breed of fighter—one with virtually no holes in his game. But GSP couldn’t defend his title and lost to 10-0 underdog Matt “The Terror” Serra on Saturday night—on a card that also saw two Top 5 contenders square off, with Josh Koscheck upsetting the unbeaten Diego Sanchez. What has long been the thickest talent pool, the new Welterweights are even more exciting than they were just one year ago, with the entire contender bracket blown wide open, thanks to the upsets on Saturday night.
  • One year ago, there was no LW Champion. The division had been retired in years previous, but had been brought back about a year ago. With a win over Nick Diaz on April 15, 2006, Sean “The Muscle Shark” Sherk earned his shot at the title. His competitor would be Kenny Florian, who earned his shot with a June 24th victory over Sam Stout. Sherk, the hands-on favorite, was too much for Florian, who lost a 5-round unanimous decision, but who has since gone on to beat top talent Dokonjonosuke Mishima. But the talent in this new division doesn’t stop there. In June, Sherk will face #1 Contender Hermes Franca, while B.J. Penn squares off against former LW Champ, Jens Pulver. There’s also Spencer “The King” Fisher, Joe “Daddy” Stevenson (who just stopped Melvin Guillard in 27 seconds last week), and watch out for up-and-comer Roger Huerta, who is now 18-1-1 thanks to a throw-down brawl with the talented Leonard “Bad Boy” Garcia.

What a difference a year makes.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Is it Karmic Payback or Something Else?

Yesterday, it was reported that Darryl Stingley, a former wide receiver for the New England Patriots, recently passed on at 55. Stingley was paralyzed from the neck down during a preseason game in 1978 after a head-on collision with Jack Tatum, a safety for the Raiders best known for his vicious hits on opponents, including one Frenchy Fuqua that enabled the legend in Pittsburgh known as the Immaculate Reception.
Stingley and Tatum never reconciled. They came close in the late 90s, but when Stingley heard it was part of a publicity campaign for Tatum's third book, he backed out. Rightly, I think.

But the strange irony of it all is that Jack Tatum has had five amputations to his left leg, though all below the knee, due to complications of diabetes and almost lost his right leg due to arterial blockage.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

UFC Fight Night 9 - Tonight!

I have no idea how the Vegas bookies determine odds in MMA or in boxing for that matter. But just posted an interesting article on tonight's bouts. If you understand MMA odds and want to place a few bets, I'd read this article first. If you understand what the heck they're talking about, how about telling me?

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

This Week in Non-Sports News

Yesterday, The Associated Press quoted Keith Richards as claiming to have “snorted (his) father” in an interview with NME. Reported the AP:

In comments published Tuesday, the 63-year-old Rolling Stones guitarist said he had snorted his father's ashes mixed with cocaine.

"The strangest thing I've tried to snort? My father. I snorted my father," Richards was quoted as saying by British music magazine NME.

"He was cremated and I couldn't resist grinding him up with a little bit of blow. My dad wouldn't have cared," he said. "... It went down pretty well, and I'm still alive."

Richards' father, Bert, died in 2002, at 84.

However, today Richards’ spokesman came forward to clear the air, saying he was only joking about the snort.

LONDON -- Keith Richards was joking when he claimed to have snorted his father's ashes along with cocaine, a spokesman said Wednesday.

"It was an off-the-cuff remark, a joke, and it is not true. File under April Fool's joke," said Bernard Doherty of LD Communications, which represents the Rolling Stones.

Perhaps Richards feared reprisals for desecrating a corpse, or perhaps he really didn’t snort his father as he previously claimed, but we here at SteelSkins are still left wondering, “What’s his dad’s street value?”

In an effort to shed light on this snorting debate, SteelSkins took a quick office poll to determine if Richards was joking or if he really did snort his dad. The results:

Richards was only joking. 0%

Richards actually snorted his dad. 0%

Richards was only joking, but had his dad
died in the ‘70s, he would have snorted him. 100%