Steelers must improve on the defensive side of the ball to soar in 2016:

Photo credit: Justin K. Aller / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Pittsburgh Steelers looked outstanding offensively in 2015. That was despite the fact that they seen several injuries to key players including Maurkice Pouncey and Le’Veon Bell. The team at the end of the day still had enough firepower to get the job done. On defense though things were a little bit of a different story. The once proud Steelers defense from the 2008 defense is starting to transition to a new Steelers defense. They have some good young talent in players like Ryan Shazier and Cameron Heyward. Players that can serve as a nucleus moving forward and can be somewhat the cornerstone of this franchise. The thing that needs to be addressed first is the rushing defense though. The Steelers ranked 28th against the run and were just leaving too many holes for runners to slip through. One way to improve a 3-4 defense is to put a great nose tackle in the middle to help against the run game. That position is so important in controlling both A gaps and allowing the linebackers to play freely. A’shawn Robinson, Andrew Billings, and Kenny Clark all fit that mold perfectly and would serve as a great fit in that particular scheme. By drafting one of those players the Steelers make a commitment to sure up that defensive front. Which ultimately should result in more tackles for losses, and the Steelers winning in the trenches more often. It’s not everyday that you can add an uber talented 300 plus pounder to your roster and the Steelers need to take advantage of this opportunity in the draft. With that pick and the addition of another outside backer or defensive end. Maybe through free agency or through the draft and that would be a huge step in the right direction defensively for this team. You have to think that a franchise that has developed the nickname Blitzburgh would understand the importance of an outstanding defense. Expect them to make the right decision and at least go defense first in the first round of the 2016 draft. Remember the old adage “defense wins championships”.

Charity of the day: Help Our Wounded

Go donate! www.helpourwounded.org

Playoff expectations are high for the Buffalo Bills in 2016:

Photo credit: Brett Carlsen / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Buffalo Bills are the closest they’ve been to the postseason since Doug Marrone and Mike Mularkey’s 9 win seasons in 2014 and 2004. For those of you who don’t know, the Bills haven’t made the postseason since 1999. When Wade Phillips was the head coach of the team. Now with Rex Ryan having the team finish 8-8 in the tough AFC East, the team finally has a strong enough core of players that could get 3 more wins during the 2016 season. One thing that helps is Ryan’s cool demeanor that he emits while coaching. It’s no secret that players around the league like Rex and many players have been vocal about their desire to play for Ryan. That helps make Buffalo a more attractive destination and could be the reason the Bills land a few extra free agents this offseason. Still keep an eye on whether or not they can put it all together. Rex is a players coach and that helps bring talent in the door. However they have to get better x and o’s wise and systematically. Bringing in Rob Ryan should help Rex have another bright football mind on his staff. So keep an eye on whether or not that tilts the odds in Buffalo’s favor. A lot of people will knock Rob Ryan and will say it won’t add a lot because he is not that good of a coach. All of those people would be wrong though, sometimes situations don’t work out for whatever reason. Anytime you can add a guy like Rob Ryan to the mix it’s a good move to do so. That is why so many teams have chose to bring him on board in the past. Outside of that the team has to make some offensive upgrades to the passing game. The Bills were ranked 28th in the league when it came to the pass. So it would be wise to add a few lineman and receivers through offseason additions. They were number 1 in the league when it came to the running game, and that is a testament of Rex Ryan’s philosophy when it comes to running the football. Lesean McCoy and Karlos Williams did a great job of helping the Bills achieve that ranking. If Lesean McCoy doesn’t have any off the field issues (which he very well might) the Bills should have a very real chance at repeating that number 1 ranking in 2016. Finally the Bills have to do a better job of stopping the run and rushing the passer in 2016. Especially if the Mario Williams will be departing from that defensive front. So there has to be some calculated tweaks made to this roster heading into the future. Especially since the Bills are short on cap space, which puts them in a tough position to maneuver. Still this team looks to be heading in the right direction and they even made headlines by hiring the first female full time assistant coach. Just another example of Ryan’s impact in Buffalo.

Charity of the day: Help Our Wounded

Go donate! www.helpourwounded.org

Quarterback is the most important position, defensive line is second:

Photo credit: Streeter Lecka

Author: Jon Kuzma

If there is one thing that stands out from being a football coach in the past. It’s how important the quarterback position truly is to a team. When you get up to the higher and more competitive levels of football. You realize that the teams with the good quarterbacks consistently win more, while the team with a mediocre quarterback have a hard time putting it all together on the field. That is a pretty obvious observation. Most people who don’t have a deep grasp of football still understand this simple concept. Although if you plug in a game a madden and start a franchise mode they will suggest that left tackle is the most important position. That is something many insiders around the league will disagree with. Get a passer and put him in a position to succeed it’s the name of the game. Outside of that though, most people don’t know what position you look at next when building a team. From first hand football experience and many seasons on the sidelines as a coach and player. I can tell you this, a team with an outstanding defensive line changes the game for that team. First off a good defensive line typically engulfs the running game similar to how the Broncos were able to handle the Panthers in Super Bowl 50. Also a strong defensive line also helps eliminate quarterbacks. A good examples of this would be the Giants beating the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI. When you factor in how much the NFL has become a passing league or how much football around the world has developed into a passing game. You also begin to understand that a good defensive line helps eliminate those tendencies of the game that football has transitioned towards. This is essentially the counter to those teams that like to throw for 40 passes in a football game. If you get both of these positions right. Chances are you are going to put together a winning football team. In the NFL they are that much more important because offense is nearly impossible without a QB in the professional ranks. Keep that formula in mind when you watch teams build their roster in the offseason. If they make moves and improve in those particular areas you can almost guarantee they will improve!

Charity of the day: Action on Smoking and Health

Go donate www.ash.org

Steve Smith can still produce heading into his 16th pro season:

Photo credit: Matt Hazlett / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Baltimore Ravens got a heck of a player from the Carolina Panthers when they signed Steve Smith to their receiving corps. Smith had just been released by the Panthers and was looking for a new home to continue his professional career. He found a great landing spot in Baltimore and has never looked back since. In Smith’s first season with the Ravens he was able to haul in 79 receptions, 6 touchdowns, and 1,065 receiving yards. Showing that even though he was getting up there in age, Smith could still play at a high level and have success in the National Football League. In year two things didn’t change very much for Smith. He still came out of the gate and played at a high level. Bringing in 670 yards receiving and 3 touchdowns through the first 7 games of the season. That is when Smith had to face adversity head on. Smith would tear his achilles just 7 games into his 15th NFL season. There were some good things that happened because of the injury though. Instead of retiring like Smith had planned to at the end of 2015. Smith now had a new goal of not getting cheated out of his last NFL season. He made the decision to come back for the 3rd year of his contract and wanted to leave the league on a good note. That is excellent news for Ravens fans since Smith is one of the teams most dynamic weapons on the edge of the field. Giving quarterback Joe Flacco a dynamic threat that can beat the defense in a number of different ways. Even though Smith is small in stature, he plays like he is 7 foot tall. The guy has a motor that never stops running and he has perhaps the most heart of anyone on the field every time he steps on the gridiron. That combination of talent and drive are the reason that Smith is number 11 on the all-time receiving list in terms of yardage. It’s clear Smith can still get the job done and Cam Newton suggested the reason Smith is coming back is because “he always gets the last laugh”. That is just the type of guy Steve Smith is. That competitive fire is what made him such a dominate athlete and that same fire will likely get him to the Hall of Fame someday. In fact both Michael Irvin and Jerry Rice believe Steve Smith will get a gold jacket someday. It all comes to down to will. Steve Smith willed himself into a future Hall of Fame receiver time and time again. It will be a pleasure to watch him go one last time in his 16th season.

Charity of the day: Scholarship America

Go donate! www.scholarshipamerica.org

Terrell Owens being left out of the Hall of Fame is a failure upon voters:

Photo credit: The Sporting News

Author: Jon Kuzma

Terrell Owens is easily one of the best receivers the game of football has ever seen. Yet Owens will not be inducted in the Hall of Fame in 2016. Voters decided that Owens future would be left up to another time, and it must be stated it was the wrong decision. Owens being left out of the Hall of Fame is a direct result of voters and their personal bias getting in the way. It’s no secret Owens brash personality left many folks rubbed the wrong way. Which likely was the reason for voters choosing to bypass Owens. It’s sad that the voting process would end up like that, especially when you have a player as deserving as Owens is. The Hall of Fame is supposed to be a measure of a player’s merit on the field. Instead it was a measurement of Owen’s antics off the football field. Regardless of how likable Terrell Owens is. He still recorded 15,934 receiving yards and 153 touchdowns over the course of his professional career. Showing that he was a force on the field and likely one of the best yards after reception receivers the game has ever seen. Remember Super Bowl 39 when the Eagles took on the New England Patriots in Jacksonville Florida? In that Super Bowl Terrell Owens had just returned from a broken leg which had happened seven weeks earlier. Owens had to sleep in a hyperbaric chamber to make his return in the Super Bowl. How did Owens play after breaking his ankle and tearing major ligaments in his ankle just a couple months prior? He responded with a dominant Super Bowl performance of 9 receptions and 122 receiving yards. A testament of just how gifted Owens was physically. It’s clear this guy has done enough on the football field to earn himself a gold jacket. It’s unfortunate that the selection committee let other factors get in the way of T.O nomination and they all should question their own judgement. Although we know none of them will. Until then Terrell Owens will have to suffer the consequences, unfairly.

Charity of the day: National Osteoporosis Foundation

Go donate! nof.org

C.J Anderson was the key factor for the Broncos offense in Super Bowl 50:

Photo credit: Christian Petersen / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Denver Broncos defense played outstanding all night long and that ultimately won them the Super Bowl. Still if you’re going to bring the Lombardi Trophy home and if you want to win on the big stage. You’re going to need some offense to get the job done and overcome your opponent. Luckily for the Denver Broncos they had C.J Anderson running the ball for them in the Super Bowl. Anderson was a headache all night long for the Panthers defense. He ultimately finished the Super Bowl as the games leading rusher, running for 90 yards and a touchdown. In a defensive battle between two very good football teams. 90 yards was enough to give that Broncos offense the necessary boost towards victory. On one particular play Anderson was able to run with the zone blocking offensive lineman to the right. Then cut back to the left and finish the play 34 yards downfield for the Broncos offense. That was just one big play Anderson had on the night. There were so many 12 yard gains, and 8 yard gains just here and there that gashed the Panthers defense. That really set the tempo from the get go for the Denver Broncos. Even late in the game when the Broncos were looking to seal the game once and for all. They called on Anderson, only to see him met in the hole heads up with Luke Kuechly. On that play Anderson was able to use his raw strength and running back grit to spin off that Kuechly hit and finish the play in the end zone for 6. The Broncos knew they had a guy who could perform if they put the game on his shoulder. That is why they stayed consistent to the team they’ve been all season long and rode Anderson’s legs to the franchise’s 3rd Lombardi Trophy.

Charity of the day: National Osteoporosis Foundation

Go donate! nof.org

Saying goodbye to Marshawn Lynch:

Photo credit: Ezra Shaw/ Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

Marshawn Lynch has decided to hang his cleats up after 9 seasons of professional football. The Seattle Seahawks running back has been contemplating retirement for the past two off-seasons and Lynch felt like now was the right time to leave the game for himself personally. Don’t weep too much for Lynch though, he has done a great job of saving all of his money earned through playing contracts. Instead only spending money that he made through endorsements. If you followed the NFL since the Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl at Super Bowl 48 you will understand that Lynch has gotten a lot of facetime in commercials, advertisements, and other forms of promotion. Proving that beast mode truly has done a great job of marketing himself and he earned a pretty penny in return for his efforts. As a player Marshawn Lynch leaves the game with 9,112 rushing yards and 74 touchdowns over the course of his career. His career started in Buffalo where he was able to rush for a 1,000 yards for his rookie and sophomore seasons in the NFL. Lynch then ran into some off the field issues which made him start to develop a bad rap. Eventually Lynch was dealt to the Seahawks for a 4th round pick in 2011 and a conditional pick in the 2012. When you reflect back on that deal you have to think that Buffalo got the short end of the stick. Lynch would go on to rush for a 1,000 yards four more times in Seattle. Not to mention he also contributed 57 touchdowns to the Seahawks offensive attack over the six seasons he had in Seattle. Coming out of high school Marshawn Lynch was the number 2 running back in the country only behind Adrian Peterson. Fast forward several years later and Marshawn Lynch was the best running back in the league besides Adrian Peterson. So that just goes to show how impressive this guy was over the duration of his career. He worked hard to accomplish his success on the football field and he managed his money well. How can you not respect that.

Charity of the day: International Medical Corps

Go donate! www.internationalmedicalcorps.org

Denver’s defense overwhelms Carolina in Super Bowl 50:

Photo credit: Patrick Smith

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Denver Broncos defense were number 1 in the league in a number of different categories. They were the best defense in all of football for the entire season and they lived up to those expectations in Super Bowl 50. Von Miller saved one of his best performances for the big stage. Miller started the party early for the Broncos when he was able to strip Cam Newton which led to a Broncos touchdown. From there the Broncos never looked back. The team was able to pressure Cam Newton all night long whether it was Demarcus Ware on a sack, or Derek Wolfe on half a sack. In fact the Broncos pass rushing efforts were so good they recorded 7 sacks as a team. The cool demeanor of Cam Newton was replaced by frustration and lack of comfort. As Wade Phillips called blitz after blitz and let the Broncos secondary stick their receivers man to man. There were countless number of times the Panthers tried to rush up the middle only to have the Broncos defense engulf the play immediately. Malik Jackson also added a defense touchdown to Denver’s defensive contributions as well when he fell on Millers stripped fumble early on. At the end of the day Denver’s key player was Von Miller though. It can’t be stated enough how much of an impact he truly had in this game. He finished the evening with 6 tackles, 2 and a half sacks, and 2 hits on the quarterback. That is why he finished the game as the Most Value Player. Without Miller it would of been much tougher for the Broncos. On one particular play Miller worked a textbook spin move against Panthers tackle Mike Remmers and finished the play by taking down Newton. There were plays like that all night long that swung the momentum in Denver’s favor. They came out and backed it up on the biggest stage. They earned their respect and deserve to be Super Bowl champions.

Charity of the day: International Medical Corps

Go donate! www.internationalmedicalcorps.org

Super Bowl Preview: Panthers vs Broncos

Photo credit: Streeter Lecka / Getty Images Sport Classic

Author: Trent Knight

February 7, 2016 marks the anniversary of our 50th Super Bowl. Tonight will feature the Carolina Panthers going head to toe against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. Cam Newton has been showing the league what he is really made of in his 5th year as the Panther’s starting quarterback. Cam’s quickness and ability to throw on the run has really opened up the Panther’s offense not to mention the fact that he is without his number one receiver Kelvin Benjamin. Benjamin has been out for the majority season with a torn ACL.

Tonight’s lineup is highly anticipated as the number one and the sixth best defenses in the league battle it out in the trenches. As the Panther’s soared past Arizona in the NFC championship the Denver Broncos seemed to barley pull off the win against Tom Brady when the Broncos pulled off what could have been one of the biggest wins in the postseason. This year could easily be Peyton Manning’s last year as he inches closer to retirement. It will be up to Manning to lay it all out on the field one last time in hopes of bringing that coveted Lombardi trophy back to Denver. The sheriff has been playing good football in the postseason and he must maintain that level of play if the Broncos want a chance against this tough Panthers team. Another factor for the Broncos will be the pass rush upfront with Demarcus Ware and Derek Wolfe. The Broncos can put a ton of pressure on opposing quarterbacks and if they can get Cam to crumble they will have a serious shot at winning this game.

Still with this much pressure on the line it seems like the fortune will favor the youthful Cam over the aging Manning. The Panthers were the best team all year and Cam was the most valuable player in the league. That shouldn’t change tonight.

Charity of the day: Reading Is Fundamenta

Go donate www.rif.org

JJ Watt is one of the best defensive football players of all time:

Photo credit: Thomas B. Shea / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

JJ Watt has been absolutely outstanding over the course of his 5 year pro career. He has been so good that you almost are starting to get past the question “is he the best of all-time”? Watt just won his third Defensive Player of the Year award. That puts him in rare company with only Lawrence Taylor to win that award 3 times. At this point you have to acknowledge that Watt is clearly one of the best defenders the league has ever seen, and some might say he is the very best. Watt registered an impressive 17.5 sacks during the 2015 regular season. He did that while playing with a cast on his left hand for several games after breaking it in practice. That didn’t stop Watt from being the league’s 2015 sack champion edging out Khalil Mack by 2 and a half sacks. While you can easily make some compelling points as to why Watt is the very best. You still have to pay your respects to the late great Reggie White who recorded a 198 sacks over his 15 year career. In order for Watt to catch that mark. He’ll need to record at least 14 sacks for 9 more seasons. With all of the information coming out in recent years about concussions and long term injuries from playing the game. You have to wonder if Watt will play a 15 year career like Reggie White did? Especially since Watt lives in an era that compensates athletes much more rewardingly than during White’s era. When White passed away he was worth 8 to 10 million. JJ Watt received a 100 million dollar contract in 2014. So from a financial perspective it’s easier to walk away in today’s era due to the financial well being. Still Watt deserves all the credit he has received up till this point of his career and he doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. Look for Watt’s reign to continue he is hands down the best player on the planet. His next goal will be to bring a Super Bowl home to Houston.

Charity of the day: Ovarian Cancer Research Fund

Go donate! www.ocrf.org

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