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Starkey: Steelers sweep quarter-pole awards!

Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers receiver Markus Wheaton can't hang on to a second-quarter pass as the Bears' Lance Briggs defends Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013, at Heinz Field.

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Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013, 10:09 p.m.

Even the young guys look old and slow. The quarterback looks half shot. The defense hasn't forced a turnover since December. The running game averages 3.2 yards a carry.

What else?

The left tackle who tested positive for pot at his job interview has struggled on the job (go figure). The new left tackle is a first-round bust. An insurance adjuster started a game at linebacker. Felix Jones started a game at running back. Even the punter stinks.

Other than that, it's been a wonderful first quarter for the Steelers. If it were a game of, say, pingpong, they'd be trailing 17-0 (and Kelvin Beachum would be rotating in on both sides like a volleyball player).

Check out the simple and sobering graphic that appeared on the NFL Network after the Cleveland Browns beat Buffalo on Thursday night:


Cleveland 3-2

Baltimore 2-2

Cincinnati 2-2

Pittsburgh 0-4

That has to hurt. But, hey, in an age where everyone gets a trophy, we've got just the salve: The Quarter-Pole Awards!

Envelopes, please …

The Mike Tomlin Mangle The Clock Award: This award goes to Mike Tomlin, who inexplicably let 11 seconds tick away in the first half in London — from 52 seconds to 41 — before calling timeout. His team then ran a quick series of give-up running plays and sprinted to the locker room. Cool.

Honorable mention: Mike Tomlin, for giving his team about five minutes to adjust to the massive time change between Pittsburgh and London.

The Jay Riemersma Award (Play that typifies how soft the Steelers have become): Jay Cutler, of all people, trucked safety Robert Golden. It is not true, however, that Shaun Suisham pancaked Golden at practice.

The Warren Sapp Award (Play that typifies how unathletic the Steelers have become): Giovani Bernard hauled in a 4-yard dump pass over the middle at the Steelers' 23 and ran UNTOUCHED into the end zone. Ryan Clark and LaMarr Woodley still are chasing him. Woodley, incidentally, has eight solo tackles, or six more than center Fernando Velasco, whose tackling prowess is directly related to …

The Tommy Maddox Watch Me Lose A Game All By Myself Award: OK, nobody could match The Maddox Meltdown of 2002, when the Steelers outgained the Texans, 422-47, but lost because No. 8 kept scoring touchdowns for the other team. Ben Roethlisberger came close, though, with his slapstick performance against the Bears, who really should have awarded him a game ball.

The Not Everything Stunk Award: The Steelers did have some good moments — like Antonio Brown's ridiculous catch (the second one) against the Bears and Troy Polamalu's latest leap-the-Titans-line play.

The Alonzo Jackson/Limas Sweed Second-Round Bust Award: Mike Adams and Jason Worilds should, by all rights, split this one. The Steelers took Worilds with Sean Lee still on the board and squarely on their radar. Adams tested positive for marijuana at the NFL Scouting Combine — essentially meaning he got stoned for his job interview — and the Steelers took him anyway. Nice pick.

The David DeCastro Still Wondering If He's As Good As Everybody Said Award: Jarvis Jones, drafted to hound quarterbacks, has zero sacks, one quarterback pressure and one quarterback hit (yeah, I don't remember it either) against mostly single blocking. Otherwise, he's been a terror.

The Brandon Inge/Matt Diaz Award (Player who mysteriously loses his power the instant he arrives in Pittsburgh): Zoltan Mesko's punting average of 41.9 ranks 32nd in the NFL. This is alarming, as the NFL is a 32-team league.

The All-Time Mediocre (Maybe Even Worse Than 2008) Draft Award: Kevin Colbert, come on down! The 2011 class should be titled “Ordinary People.” Cam Heyward, Marcus Gilbert, Curtis Brown, Cortez Allen, Chris Carter, Keith Williams, Baron Batch. Basically just a bunch of guys — a few of whom would be better off as insurance adjusters.

The All-Time Faint Praise Award: Roethlisberger, on the impact of re-signing Jonathan Dwyer after Dwyer was cut because he's not very good at football: “He adds the Jonathan Dwyer effect. He can be the best running back that he can be.”

The Annual Overrated Camp Storyline That Has No Bearing On The Season: Tomlin injects live tackling into drills! Ooooooh! The Steelers are rolling back the clock, baby! Maybe they'll sign Dan Kreider! Yeah, well, that was before Jackie Battle smashed their faces in.

The Annual Overrated Camp Storyline That Has No Bearing On The Season, Part II: Clark told us that Markus Wheaton was better than Mike Wallace at everything but sprinting. Yeah, well, that was before Wheaton morphed from phenom into phantom — every bit as invisible as the overrated and overhyped zone-blocking scheme we heard so much about.

The Anti-Anthony Smith Prophet Award: Clark after the Cincinnati loss: “If we don't play better than we did, we won't win a game. Period. Point blank.”

So far, he's exactly right.

Joe Starkey co-hosts a show 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays on 93.7 FM. Reach him at

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