By Matt Popchock
Although formal records have not been maintained, it is believed by the Arena Football League that none of its players have ever won the Ironman of the Week Award four times in a row.
That’s what’s at stake individually for Power wide receiver/kick returner P.J. Berry, and that’s also the number of weeks the Power spent atop the East Division following last year’s home-field triumph over the Gladiators. Unfortunately for the sake of the expansionists, that left the Gladiators three more weeks during which to recapture and cement the division lead.
There’s plenty of time to decided this year’s title, but first “Superman” and the Power (2-4) simply need to break free of their proverbial Kryptonite necklace with a second consecutive home win against the Gladiators (3-3).
Berry, the reigning Ironman of the Year and league record holder for single-season all-purpose yards, entered this weekend tops in the AFL with 853 kick return yards and a pair of special teams TD’s. He has amassed seven scores and 1,278 all-purpose yards, which puts him on pace to break his own record.
His coach, Chris Siegfried, neither lives nor dies by stats, but the numbers suggest Berry and his mates will have to earn every yard and every point in this one, just like the last time these teams waged a war of attrition in the Steel City. If it’s any consolation, the same can be said for the Glads and their veteran quarterback, John Dutton, who enters Week 8 with 1,695 yards and 36 TD’s against just nine interceptions.
Cleveland currently leads the AFL in total defense (255.5 yards allowed per game), and Pittsburgh sits right behind its arch-rival (256.8 per game). The visitors have surrendered a league-low 36 touchdowns, while the Power lead the pack in average yards allowed per play (5.4).
Furthermore, Pittsburgh leads the AFL in total passing yards allowed (only 1,311 through six games), though Cleveland is ranked–guess where?–second overall (1,404 through six). Led by sophomore lineman Drew Berube, who ranks fourth in the league with 5.0 sacks, that defense will present a stiff challenge for Bryan Randall, who will become the fourth different quarterback to start for the Power this season at 7:30 P.M. Saturday.
In this week’s edition of “The Power Source” you’ll hear from Berry, and you’ll also hear from Power center Beau Elliott on what his job becomes where there’s an unfamiliar face lining up behind him.
Meanwhile, the Power’s secondary must rise to the challenge against former University of Cincinnati standout Dominick Goodman. He tortured them last year with 24 catches for over 200 yards in two meetings, including two important touchdowns in the Glads’ division-clinching win last July.
You’ll hear from LaRico Stevenson, a key member of that secondary, about containing Cleveland’s attack.
Check out the link below to further preview this matchup in “The Power Source,” our weekly Pittsburgh Power podcast:
In addition, stay logged onto CBS Pittsburgh this evening as we present our Power-versus-Gladiators live blog from CONSOL Energy Center.
(Follow the Power on Twitter @AFLPittsburgh.)
(Follow me on Twitter @mpopchock.)