Dale Lolley

Column Dale Lolley

Dale Lolley has been with the Observer-Reporter since 1993 after previously working at WJAC-TV and the Tribune-Democrat in Johnstown, and The Derrick in Oil City. A native of Fryburg, Pa., he is a graduate of North Clarion High School and the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, where he earned a degree in journalism. He has covered the Pittsburgh Steelers since joining the Observer-Reporter in 1993, and also serves as the outdoors editor. He also is a radio host for Pittsburgh’s ESPN 970-AM, and serves as administrative adviser for the Red & Black, Washington & Jefferson College’s student newspaper.

Improving Steelers should beat the Rodgers-less Packers

Steelers should beat the Rodgers-less Packers

December 21, 2013

The Steelers’ 31-25 loss to Green Bay in Super Bowl 45 wasn’t all that long ago – three seasons to be exact.

In the NFL, that’s a lifetime.

Even with defensive end’s Brett Keisel’s return to the lineup today after missing three of the past four games with a foot injury, the Steelers will have 13 different starters from that Super Bowl game. Green Bay hasn’t been untouched by change, either. The Packers also have 13 different starters than the lineup they had at the end of the 2010 season.

The Steelers might not like to use the word “rebuilding,” but Pittsburgh’s certainly is in transition.

Judging from the results of the last six games, the Steelers might be gaining some traction heading toward 2014.

During a 2-6 start, which amounts to half a season, the Steelers averaged 19.5 points per game, two turnovers and four sacks allowed per game.

Over the past six contests, those numbers have shifted to 27.5 points per game, just three total turnovers and 1 1/2 sacks per game.

Defensively, though the Steelers haven’t played up to their usual standard, there has been improvement. Pittsburgh allowed 26 points per game in the first half of the season, forcing six turnovers and recording 13 sacks. In the last six, that has changed to 20.7 points per game, 10 takeaways and 15 sacks.

The players are starting to get what the coaching staff is teaching.

Because of that, the Steelers likely won’t make any coaching changes this offseason, regardless of the outcome of their final two games.

That might not be what the Todd Haley-haters out there want, but the Steelers’ beleaguered offensive coordinator has done a good job.

Even quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is lobbying for Haley’s return.

Despite everyone looking for a rift between the coordinator and quarterback, it’s just not there.

And the players’ respect for defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau hasn’t waned.

The Steelers are 2 1/2-point underdogs today in Green Bay, a number that would be larger if Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was starting at quarterback instead of Matt Flynn. Rodgers is out again because of a broken collarbone.

Because of that, look for the Steelers to pull off a mild upset in the snow and beat the Packers.

Take Pittsburgh, 23-17

New Orleans (plus 3) at Carolina

As the Saints showed again last week, they’re a different team on the road.

Take Carolina, 27-17

Oakland (plus 10) at San Diego

The Raiders have given up.

Take San Diego, 31-13

Dallas (minus 3) at Washington

Speaking of giving up, both of these teams might have done so.

But this is a rivalry game and Dallas still has a shot at the playoffs.

Take Dallas, 30-24

Arizona (plus 10) at Seattle

The Seahawks clinch the division and home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs with a win.

Take Seattle, 27-13

Chicago (plus 3) at Philadelphia

After blowing a game last weekend in Minnesota, the Eagles should bounce back.

Take Philadelphia 31-27

Atlanta (plus 12) at San Francisco

It’s a big number, but the 49ers need to win this one.

Take San Francisco, 31-17

Indianapolis (plus 6) at Kansas City

These teams will likely meet again in two weeks in Indianapolis.

Take Kansas City, 27-17

N.Y. Giants (plus 9) at Detroit

It’s a lot of points to lay, but Detroit should be good and angry.

Take Detroit, 30-20

Denver (minus 10) at Houston

Peyton Manning indoors? I’ll lay the points.

Take Denver, 37-20

Tennessee (minus 5) at Jacksonville

The Jaguars embarrassed Tennessee at home earlier this season. But the Jaguars were healthy then.

Take Tennessee, 23-17

Miami (minus 2) at Buffalo

The Dolphins won their Super Bowl last week, finally beating New England. That will keep this one close.

Take Miami, 23-20

Tampa Bay (plus 5) at St. Louis

The Rams showed last week how dangerous they are at home.

Take St. Louis, 24-17

Minnesota (plus 7) at Cincinnati

The Bengals at 3-5 on the road, 6-0 at home.

Take Cincinnati, 28-17

New England (plus 2) at Baltimore

The Patriots won’t lose two games in a row, and the Ravens can’t keep winning by kicking six field goals a game.

Take New England, 20-18

Cleveland (plus 2) at New York Jets

Jets shouldn’t be giving points to anyone, including the Browns.

Take Cleveland, 17-16

Last week: 6-9 ATS, 10-5 straight up

Overall: 89-116-7 ATS; 132-77-1 straight up

F. Dale Lolley can be reached at dlolley@observer-reporter.com.



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