The Gloves are off…

Thursday and still no big bulletin board material or controversy surrounding the game to grab on to? It’s apparent the Steelers have learned lessons from ’01, and are saying all the right things this week. The Patriots of course, almost never give the opposition anything. Paul Kenyon picks up on this theme, noting that the Steelers are relishing their underdog role and praising the Patriots up and down. Mike Reiss says that we will hear a lot of “keys” to the game in the coming days, but it will all really come down to the fundamentals and execution. Jim Fennell of the Union Leader says that Bill Belichick has his concerns about the Steelers, but he doesn’t have to worry about his own team buying into what he has to say. Michael Felger says that stopping Jerome Bettis and the Steelers running game should be the Patriots number one target. Nick Cafardo talks to Keith Traylor, Ty Warren and others about what life in the trenches is going to be like on Sunday and what it’s going to take to stop the Steelers running attack. Alan Greenberg looks at what the Patriots offensive line will be facing from the league’s top rated defense.

Karen Guregian says that Tom Brady isn’t worried about playing in Heinz field despite a rough personal history in his two visits there. He also talks about Ben Roethlisberger and what he has accomplished this season compared to what Brady himself did in ’01. Not surprisingly, Brady gives the edge to the Steelers QB. Nick Cafardo catches up with injured cornerback Ty Law, a Pittsburgh native, who is down there at his mother’s house now after ligament surgery, but will be rooting hard for his Patriots teammates. Jonathan Comey notes that in many ways the Patriots and Steelers present mirror images of each other. Michael Parente says that the Patriots have learned from their Halloween nightmare in Pittsburgh.

Steve Buckley (subscription only) looks at the attention that Tedy Bruschi is now getting nationally, and how the Patriots linebacker is indifferent to it all, preferring to just remain another member of the team. Steve Conroy has a look at Adam Vinatieri, who isn’t concerned about having to kick outdoors in the wind and elements. Chris Kennedy looks at Josh Miller, going back to Pittsburgh this weekend. Tom E Curran notes that the signs point to Richard Seymour not playing again this weekend. Christopher Price looks at the importance of slowing the Bus. Mark Farinella looks at the troubles of former Patriot Chris Sullivan. Glen Farley looks at Bill Belichick changing gears from the Colts to the Steelers. Eric McHugh says the clock is ticking for Ben Roethlisberger. Matt Jenkins looks at former BC quarterback Brian St. Pierre, who is playing the role of Tom Brady in Steelers practice this week.

Felger’s notebook says that it is a tough call to say if Richard Seymour will play on Sunday, but the signs point against it. Cafardo’s notebook looks at the similarities between Brady in ’01 and Roethlisberger this year. Greenberg’s notebook looks at Seymour, Hines Ward and Josh Miller. Kennedy’s notebook looks at the Steelers’ zone blitz. Curran’s notebook addresses the empty bulletin boards. Comey’s notebook looks at Mike Vrabel recalling his time with the Steelers, which included a huge play against the Patriots.

Steelers Articles From Here

Tom E Curran looks at Ben Roethlisberger and the confidence his teammates have in him. George Kimball (subscription only) says that Roethlisberger’s thumb is fine and the interceptions he threw against the Jets were errors, not the result of injury. Mark Blaudschun has the Steelers saying the right things and paying their respects to the Patriots. Kevin Paul Dupont has the subject we’re all breathlessly waiting to have addressed…will Roethlisberger wear a glove, or not? Kimball’s notebook has Roethlisberger impressed by what the Patriots defense was able to do against the Colts. Blaudschun’s notebook has the Steelers acknowledging that the presence of Corey Dillon will likely make a difference in this game. Kenyon’s notebook has Steelers’ kicker Jeff Reed learning from Adam Vinatieri.

Pittsburgh Links

Ed Bouchette says Big Ben is dropping the gloves for Sunday. You know the media isn’t getting anything when a QB wearing gloves or not is a big story. Jerry DiPaola says that Roethlisberger accepts full blame for the close call that the Steelers had against the Jets. Bouchette also writes that the Steelers want to prove that their Halloween dismantling of the Patriots was no fluke. On the other hand, Chuck Finder says that the Patriots are determined not to repeat the result of that game. Joe Starkey says that Tom Brady still is on a quest to prove himself each game he plays. Starkey also looks at Bill Belichick being animated for about 45 seconds yesterday. Bob Smizik looks at the media coverage of the Steelers in Pittsburgh. Tom Barnes writes that PA Gov. Ed Rendell is hoping – if not counting on – at least one, PA team making the Super Bowl. Kevin Gorman looks at the Steelers players preparing for Belichick schemes. Bouchette’s notebook has the Steelers preparing to make in-game adjustments. Finder’s notebook looks at the Patriots success in inclement weather. Starkey’s notebook has Josh Miller recalling his time under Bill Cowher.

Celtics Gore Bulls

Peter May and Steve Bulpett report on the Celtics beating the Bulls, who hadn’t lost since the third of January, by the score of 92-83. Carolyn Thornton looks at rookie Al Jefferson putting up 17 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in the win. Marvin Pave has more on the strong outing from Jefferson. Mark Murphy has Tom Gugliotta doing just a little bit of whining about not getting playing time. He understands why he isn’t playing, but he’s not content sitting on the bench. Mike Anthony looks at Bulls rookie Ben Gordon from UConn, who is adjusting to life in the NBA.

Thornton’s notebook looks at Mark Blount putting up a double goose egg last night. 0 points 0 rebounds in 22 minutes. May’s notebook also looks at the statistically unproductive night for the 38 Million dollar center. Mark Murphy also addresses the lost night for Blount. Bulpett’s notebook has Danny Ainge correcting the media in letting them know that players getting kicked out of practice happens more than they know. This is in response to the attention being given the Ricky Davis incident from Sunday.

Patting themselves on the back

With the latest ratings numbers having been released, WEEI finished at the top. Good for them. However, the constant self-congratulatory remarks are tiresome. If a local athlete was constantly promoting themselves, the WEEI hosts would be all over them. However when it comes to themselves, they’re shameless in constantly reminding everyone of their success. While the numbers are undeniable, do you think they just might have something to do with the Red Sox winning the World Series and the continued success of the Patriots? It’s also notable that the success in this ratings period came when many of the regular hosts were off for extended periods during the holidays. Clearly, the teams and not solely the talents of the hosts are responsible for the success of WEEI. The constant pats on the backs among the staff are in poor taste. (Edit 1:50 PM – I’m told that the ratings period ended on Dec 15th, the holidays comment, other than Thanksgiving week, doesn’t really apply)

And why does Lenny Clarke get trotted out on multiple shows during the ratings celebratory periods? Do people really find him funny? How many TV shows has he been through? Good guy? No doubt. Charitable? Absolutely. Worthy of repeat appearances on a sports talk station? No way.

Tonight

TNT has Rockets/Magic at 8:00 and Cavs/Kings at 10:30. ESPN has Iowa/Illinois at 7:00 and ESPN2 has Marquette/DePaul at 9:00.