By Matt Popchock

6:50 – We are back for at least one more time–hopefully more than one–in press row high above the artificial playing surface at CONSOL Energy Center as fans slowly file in. This is where your Pittsburgh Power, winners of four thrilling home games in a row, will face one of their biggest tests of the year, the National Conference’s top team and West Division champion, the Arizona Rattlers, who come in with a league-best 14-2 mark. The Power own an 8-7 record after last Friday night’s disappointing come-from-ahead loss to the host Orlando Predators, and need to win at least these next two games in order to control their playoff fate. We’ll be keeping you posted with game notes and updates throughout the night…

The Rattlers are coached by Kevin Guy, who is 32-16 in his third year with the club, while the expansion Power are coached by Chris Siegfried, with whom I talked, as I normally do, before practice on the South Side this week. Siegfried talked a lot about the need to match Arizona’s consistency tonight, and about how it’s time for the Power to bring it all together and play four solid quarters. I certainly agree the team has had trouble doing that all year long, in good health and poor, and now is as good a time as any to start against a team playing like an ArenaBowl champion as it gears up for the playoffs. Speaking of health, Siegfried said his Power are as healthy as they can possibly be at this point, save for defensive back Tyrell Herbert, whom we expect to be replaced by newcomer Dorrell Oliver. That’s refreshing because, as we’ve seen, this team, when healthy and at its best, can play with anybody, but that certainly hasn’t been the case for much of the season. Siegfried also said receiver Rod Windsor, the 2010 AFL Rookie of the Year and First-Team All-Arena honoree (and upcoming Cleveland Browns training camp participant), would be the focal point of Arizona’s offense, so it’ll be interesting to see who draws the assignment against him and when.

Siegfried just said to Megan Wolfley he doesn’t plan on this being the last home game in 2011. Let’s hope his players vindicate him. They’ve already beaten two other West Division teams here–the Spokane Shock and San Jose SaberCats–back in May. Does David have one more stone to throw at Goliath? We’re just minutes away from finding out…

7:13 – House lights go dark. Almost time for player intros. Ready or not, the vuvuzelas are back here on Fan Appreciation Night! Team staffers are on the field passing out the yellow air horns to fans in the front rows…

7:21 – A chorus of boos and vuvuzelas greets the Rattlers as they take the field…not to mention the song “If You Wanna Be My Lover” by the Spice Girls. Moments later “Tick Tick Boom” by The Hives blasts over the speakers, as The Sparks (the dance team) take the field…followed by your Pittsburgh Power!

7:25 – Wide receiver Jason Willis is introduced; he needs 28 yards to surpass 1,000. New defensive back Bryan Williams is introduced. Jamar Foulks back at center tonight for the injured Sione Ohuafi.

Siegfried did indicate to me earlier this week they’d be looking at DB’s from other leagues, especially indoor leagues, so the addition of Williams comes as no surprise. Williams played recently for the Marion Blue Racers of the Continental Indoor Football League, and played his college ball at Akron.

7:29 – Pittsburgh native Ashley Tack sings the national anthem.

7:33 – Rattlers win the toss, defer to the second half. Seems like it’s been a while since the Power won one. Anyway, Power offense will move right to left on your computer screen to start the game. Time to get excited…

By the way, I’m told the “Rue’s Crew” cheering section is wondering what happened to fullback Josh Rue. He wasn’t introduced. Admittedly, that’s news to me too…

7:36 – Mike Washington returning kicks this time. Good coverage, as he’s immediately brought down at his own 6 yard line.

7:37 – Morris opens up with a 6-yard keeper up the far sideline, but then Virgil Gray, who supplied good coverage on Washington, picks one off at his own 14. 8th INT of the year for Gray. Arizona now plus-29 in turnover margin, easily the best in the AFL.

7:39 – Rattlers QB Nick Davila, the league leader in passing yards, is working quickly. Incidentally, it’s the second straight home game in which the Power have faced a University of Cincinnati alumnus…

7:40 – Illegal defense on DL Terrance Taylor. First down ‘Zona. Looked like the Rattlers jumped offside first, but the Power don’t get the call.

7:41 – Davila lobs a soft toss over the middle to Kerry Reed for an 8-yard score. 102nd TD pass of the year for Davila, 7th of the year for Reed, who got past JLB Lonnell DeWalt. Fabrizio Scaccia’s kick is good. 7-0 Arizona, 10:11 left, 1st quarter.

7:45 – Vietnam-esque flashbacks in the press box as the ensuing kick bounced off the goal posts, but a good save by DeWalt. Willis scoots up the near sideline, but can’t secure Bernard Morris’ pass before Virgil Gray strips and recovers for his 2nd turnover of the night at the Power 11. Power’s turnover margin now stands at minus-10. Not good…

7:47 – FB Odie Armstrong rumbles up the near sideline and bowls over Terrance Taylor for a 9-yard gain. Timeout Power, and a good one too. They need to slow the tempo of this game down. 7-0 ‘Zona. 8:55 left.

7:49 – DeWalt can’t knock it away from Rod Windsor, who catches his 35th TD of the year from 4 yards out in the back of the end zone. Scaccia’s kick is good. 103rd for Davila, his 2nd TD pass of the night. 14-0 Rattlers, 8:13 left, 1st quarter.

7:52 – Things getting a little chippy as Washington runs the kick out to his own 13…

7:54 – On 3rd and 10 Morris hits D.J. Hall underneath for a 1st down into Arizona territory. The Power offense finally showing life. An encroachment penalty on the Rattlers follows.

7:56 – DL Marcus Pittman one of several Rattlers players abusing the Power’s OL…

7:57 – TOUCHDOWN POWER! Morris, on 4th down, lobs one over the middle to a WIDE open Mike Washington for a 17-yard score (thank God…)! Paul Edinger’s extra point splits the uprights. Team-leading 23rd TD of the year for “The Joystick,” 45th TD toss of the year for Morris. 14-7 ‘Zona, 3:00 left, 1st quarter. The Power have a pulse…

8:00 – Unsuccessful onside kick by Edinger ricochets off the Rattlers’ bench, and because it bounces off the wall, by rule, it is dead at Arizona’s 22 yard line.

8:02 – DeWalt nearly made the interception of the year in the end zone as he was stumbling backward…

8:03 – Rattlers score as the quarter expires. Davila to Windsor, who gets behind Dorrell Oliver in the front corner of the end zone, left side, for his 2nd of the night. 104 on the year now for Davila, who is nearing the league lead. Scaccia’s kick is good. 21-7 ‘Zona after one. Big play of the drive was a deep ball to Jason Geathers on 3rd and 10. Right now the Power’s secondary is just plain getting out-foxed. I wonder how much they miss Carlos Campbell and Royce Adams?

8:07 – Washington almost found a seam up the near sideline…instead 1st and 10 Power from their own 14. Good effort nevertheless…moments later, a bobbled Washington catch is ruled incomplete…Siegfried not happy about the call…

8:09 – DB Vince Hill stops Washington, but not before he moves the chains to the ‘Zona 22 yard line…moments later, a nice open-field tackle by Riley Swanson of Arizona on Joystick. Willis, meanwhile, inching closer to 1,000, if he’s not there already…will check on that ASAP…

8:11 – TOUCHDOWN POWER! On 4th down and 7 Morris hits Washington, who makes a sliding 17-yard catch into the left wall! 2nd of the night for Joystick, and for Morris. 24 now for Washington this year. Huge play there. Power can’t keep giving away possessions. Edinger’s kick is good. 21-14 ‘Zona, 10:00 left, 2nd quarter.

8:15 – Touchback into the slack net. Arizona ball at its own 5 yard line. Oliver all over Windsor, who makes a short gain. Haven’t seen much of Josh Lay tonight…

8:16 – Armstrong sets up a 3rd and short with a nice run. That guy is quite large, and quite a pain in the you-know-where to tackle. Neal Purvis then goes way offside, which gives the Rattlers a first down to the Power 17.

8:19 – This time Terrance Carter jumps offsides. Another first down on 3rd and short. Power are running out of feet to shoot themselves in…

8:20 – Newly-signed Chris Jackson takes a pounding off the wall in the near corner, but hangs on for the touchdown from 7 yards out. 105 on the year for Davila. Scaccia’s kick is good. 28-14 ‘Zona, 5:10 left, 2nd quarter. Power just can’t seem to find an answer for the Rattlers’ passing game. Those guys aren’t 14-2 for nothing, but the Power REALLY need to slam the door at some point.

8:23 – Washington takes it out to the Power’s 14 yard line. I’ll say one thing for them: special teams is much less of a mess than it has been in other games WR/KR Jerome Mathis has missed…

8:26 – On 4th down Vince Hill interferes with Hall up the near sideline. First down Power. Hill not happy, but that one looked like the right call.

8:28 – Morris gets absolutely swamped by DL Anttaj Hawthrone. Fumble. Easy recovery for ‘Zona. The Power do a good job eating up the clock, but have nothing to show for it…3rd TO of the night. Sadly, this one may be slipping away, unless the Power’s defense can do something.

8:30 – 1-minute warning. ‘Zona ball, 2nd and 13, ball on Rattlers’ 13 yard line after DeWalt and Carter tackle Armstrong for a loss. Good job by DeWalt stringing out that play.

8:35 – Power call their last two timeouts sandwiched around a couple short runs by Armstrong. 38 seconds left in the half. 3rd and 4 ‘Zona, as Geathers is stopped short by Dorrell Oliver, setting up 4th and 1 at the Power 6. Timeout Arizona, its first. 14 seconds left in the half.

8:39 – An inexcusable communication issue leads to an illegal substitution penalty against the Power, which leads to a short TD pass to Reed on the left side. The one silver lining is that Scaccia’s kick clangs off the right upright, thanks to some pressure from Terrance Carter. 34-14 ‘Zona, 9 seconds left.

(AUTHOR’S NOTE: Regardless of the caliber opponent, this Power team, tonight, simply doesn’t look like one that’s ready to be a playoff team. It’s game number 16, and they’re still having the kind of issues that should be resolved after Week 2 or 3.)

8:42 – Edinger tries a long field goal from his own 17 that just clangs off the left upright. Marquis Floyd runs it back to the Power 13 before being gang-tackled, which (mercifully) brings the first half to an end. Arizona Rattlers 34, Pittsburgh Power 14 at the half.

Rattlers have flexed their muscles, outplaying the Power in pretty much every phase of the game….and even that might be charitable.

1st half numbers (because I’m a masochist)…

Davila 14-of-19 for 107 yds 5 TD

Morris 10-of-20 for 86 yds 2 TD 1 INT; 1 rush, 6 yds; sacked once, fumbled once

Willis 2 catches, 12 yds; needs 16 to reach 1,000 yds for the year

Washington 4 catches 41 yds 2 TD

Vince Hill 10 tackles, all solo (wow!)

Armstrong 5 rush 19 net yds

Windsor 5 catches 30 yds 2 TD

Reed 4 catches 23 yds 2 TD

Power DB LaRico Stevenson led the team with 4.5 tackles (4 solo)

Arizona has scored on every possession, all from within the red zone

Arizona outgained Pittsburgh 126-90

It pains me to say this, but at this point the Power may need a miracle similar to the one that outdid them in Orlando last Friday night. Like I said, Arizona has been the better team. That’s all there is to it.

9:00 – Good job containing Virgil Gray, who takes out the second-half kickoff to his own 10.

9:02 – Nice cut by Chris Jackson, who fakes out the DB and walks into the end zone after hauling in a 40-yard bomb, his second of the night. 107 on the year for Davila, who continues to make this defense look downright silly. Scaccia’s kick is good, 41-14 ‘Zona, 12:23 left, 3rd quarter.

9:06 – DeWalt nearly makes a falling catch, but is aided by an egregious pass interference call against Gray. 1st down Power to the Rattlers’ 7 yard line.

9:07 – TOUCHDOWN POWER! Nice body fake by DeWalt, who catches and lunges over the goal line. 18th of the year for DeWalt, 3rd of the night and 47th of the year for Morris. Edinger gets two cracks at the extra point due to a roughing the kicker penalty on Hawthorne, but misses wide left anyway. That’s pretty much how the night has gone, as the Power now trail 41-20, 10:55 left, 3rd quarter. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Geathers will impede the Rattlers on the ensuing kickoff, as a scrum broke out near the Power bench.

9:11 – Gray nearly fumbles the kickoff before getting knocked down by a couple of black jerseys in the end zone. An offside penalty on Steve Edwards, the left tackle, further punishes Arizona.

9:14 – 4th and short from the Arizona 11 after Windsor drops one in the left flat, and Armstrong is stuffed…but Geathers converts on a sweep right. Looks like Anthony DeGrate, the Power’s left end, might have been held, but at any rate, first down to the Arizona 22…

9:18 – Coach Guy needs a valium as Edwards jumps offside again after Arizona converted a first down to the Power 10 yard line.

9:19 – Reed catches at the 5 yard line, then cuts sharply to his left and scores for the third time tonight. 108 on the year for Davila, 7th TD pass of the night. Reed now has nine this year. Scaccia misses his kick off the right hard net. 47-20 Arizona, as I start to see just a couple of folks file out of CONSOL Energy Center with 4:14 left in the 3rd quarter. I’m never a big fan of leaving a game early, no matter how nasty it looks, but can’t say I blame them…

Attendance announced at 8,600. Power will finish the year in the top third of the league in average home attendance. Kudos to you, fans!

9:24 – TOUCHDOWN POWER! “Joystick” takes it off the net, follows his blockers, and outruns Scaccia for a kickoff return TD, the first one the Power have had at home in franchise history! 55 yards unofficially…Edinger’s kick is good…Power cut it to a 47-27 deficit, 3:20 left, 3rd quarter. Easily the loudest CONSOL Energy Center has been all night.

9:30 – End of 3rd. ‘Zona will have 3rd and goal from the Power 5 as they switch sides. Rattlers lead 47-27.

Took some time to fill out my game awards ballot. Mostly voted for Arizona players (obviously), but gave Washington some love for his 2nd quarter TD catch, and recent kickoff return score.

9:34 – Jackson overthrown in the far corner. 4th down from the 5. Can the Power’s defense FINALLY get a stop…?

9:35 – Nope. DeGrate has happy feet…offside. Automatic 1st down. This defense is in full meltdown tonight…

9:36 – Williams can’t get a hand on Davila’s pass, which finds Geathers just inside the end zone for his first of the night, 27th of the year for Geathers. 8th of the night for Davila, who now has 109 TD’s on the year. Scaccia’s kick is good, 54-27 Rattlers, 12:34 left, 4th quarter.

9:39 – Give Washington credit, who is not a quitter…he takes off like a shot, and nearly takes another one to the house, but a block in the back pins the Power back at their own 7 yard line.

9:41 – Willis converts a 3rd down up the far sideline…that might have put him over 1,000…we’ll see. A loose ball is missed by Mike Byrne, and Hawthorne falls on it for Arizona at the Power 17. Ouch with a capital “ouch”…under 10 minutes left in this fiasco…

9:46 – Fan Appreciation Night, a.k.a. Insult-to-Injury Night at CONSOL Energy Center continues, as Davila’s errant pass clangs off the left upright…and right into the waiting arms of Geathers. 2nd of the night for him, 28th of the year. 9th of the night for Davila, 110 on the year for him. Tommy Grady of Utah entered Sunday the league leader with 107. Scaccia’s kick is good. 61-27 Rattlers, 7:30 left.

9:51 – TOUCHDOWN POWER! Morris bides his time, and so does Washington, who is wide open for his 4th total TD of the night from 15 yards out, 3rd as a receiver (he now has 25 of those on the season). 5th TD pass of the night for Morris; the second-year man from Marshall, who spent last year with Siegfried in Jacksonville, now has 49 TD tosses on the year. Edinger’s kick is good. 5:20 left, 4th quarter, Power trail 61-34.

9:54 – Washington, who has been everywhere in the second half, can’t quite snag the onside kick, and Arizona recovers at the Power 17.

9:57 – Davila hits Reed inside the 5, and he takes Williams for a ride inside the end zone. 10th of the night for Davila, a season high. 111 on the season. Scaccia’s kick good, even after an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. 68-34 ‘Zona. 2:53 left. 4th of the night for Reed, who, once again, had only 6 TD catches on the year coming in.

10:02 – Lonnell DeWalt almost shed a tackle with a sick move near midfield. Gotta love the guys who keep fighting in games that are already out of hand.

10:05 – Willis catches one and is stopped inside the Arizona 5. That should put him over 1,000 yards for the year. Congrats Jason!

10:07 – I am reminded by team PR, as the Power turn the ball over on downs with 27 seconds left, that Morris topped 2,000 passing yards for the season back in the first half. (He needed 71 yards to get there entering Sunday.) A belated congrats to Bernard as well!

10:09 – Looks like the season basically comes down to Cleveland on Friday, and a short week of prep to boot. Arizona Rattlers 68, Pittsburgh Power 34. Power fall to 8-8, losers of four of five, ‘Zona has won eight in a row now, as it improves to 15-2. Best thing to do is put this one in the rear view mirror and get ready for the Glads.

Offensive POTG – Davila

Defensive POTG/Ironman – Gray

Playmaker of the Game – Washington

Catch of the Game – Geathers off the upright for TD

Highlight of the Game – Washington kick return TD

Player of the Game – Washington (ohhh-kayyyyy…….)

Post-game presser highlights to come…

Chris Siegfried: “One of two things is going to happen next week…we’re going to show up to play, to the best of our ability, which I hope is what’s going to happen, or they’re going to tank it. It’s really up to them.” Recalls a situation a couple years back coaching another team that took a similar beating and rallied for a big win the next game. “[Arizona’s] the best team, and that’s what we aspire to be, even though there’s a pretty sizable gap judging by tonight.” Elite teams don’t make the mistake his team made tonight. Washington, oddly enough, didn’t really practice on special teams this week. “It’s almost as if no one wants this division, but I know we want the division.” Need to move on; coaches will watch film, but not a lot of sense making players watch. “A loss is a loss, no matter what the score is.” Didn’t play as a team like they did last week. Played like an expansion team the first week of the season. Thought team had good week of practice, good gameplan. “A town like Pittsburgh…they expect a certain degree of fight from their teams…the first half, we were like a whipped little dog, tail between its legs…scared.” Second half they played better and with more emotion, despite mistakes. Josh Rue was released, not injured. How to solve O-line issues? “Find out who wants to block. The way they play on the field tells me who wants to be here.” Will sign new players if necessary. “I guarantee one thing: [we’re] going to play four quarters very, very hard. The 21 guys we take to Cleveland are going to play four quarters hard, fast, and aggressive. I told the captains…help me out. Find the 21 guys we need. I don’t care if they’ve been here a week, or all 17 or 18 weeks, whatever. Find the 21 guys who will give everything they got.” Early turnovers were tough, but didn’t necessarily cost them the game. Recalls a 42-14 game a couple years ago, coaching a different team, when guys picked it up and “came within two yards of winning the game.” Still thinks there’s character on the team, and mac linebacker Gary Butler is one of the guys who embodies that character. (“You either have [character], or you don’t.”) “If you’re not playing relentlessly like Gary Butler, you don’t need to be in Pittsburgh, that’s for sure.” “It’s a learning process for everybody…Gary seldom makes the same mistake twice…but I need 21 guys just like that. I think we have a lot of those guys.”

Post-game presser highlights from the players to come in a little bit…


Gary Butler: Wants to listen to Coach Siegfried, but is still eager to download game tape and watch on computer right away; “I want to know who was there fighting with me, and who wasn’t…who quit.” Doesn’t like to pass judgment on any individual player until he watches film. Can’t let early offensive struggles/turnovers affect the way they play. “I don’t point fingers.” “Everybody out there has played football since they’ve been eight years old. Adjusting to the game…that’s an excuse you can use in Week 1. This is Week 18. Whatever guys they had out there, there’s no excuse for what garbage was put out there today.” Had some “necessary discussions on why we’re here” after the game; “How everybody took it, I don’t know, but this hurt.” “I watched that game that Cleveland played [Friday]. They’re a lot better team than what they put out, just like we’re a lot better team than what we put out.” Can’t move on till team learns from mistakes. Not sure how spirited practice will be this week even with a big game at hand, just because it’s late in the season and guys are banged up.

Mike Washington: Kickoff return touchdown was a matter of reaction; they game-planned to return kicks more up the middle this week, and had different packages prepared. “I just reacted, teammates blocked, and I hit a hole.” “It’s a receiver’s league anyway, so you always want to go out and [make a big play], kind of like how Jason Willis carries us on his shoulders.” It’s really gut-check time. “When another man questions another man’s heart, you’ve got some looking in the mirror to do…we played like a bunch of wimps. Record doesn’t mean anything in this league; anyone can get beat at any time. But that locker room was really intense…people need to take a good, hard look at themselves, which is a shame, because it’s too late in the season to be doing all that. It’s time to get this playoff run going, and focus on Cleveland.” Film study helped him have a big night statistically; other teams in Arizona’s division did what the Rattlers did on defense. Cleveland game “is going to be a dogfight. We’ve got all the talent in the world, but mentally this team is not where it needs to be. Penalties kick us in the butt.” Wants to make the playoffs to give back to all who have supported the team in its expansion year.

In case you missed anything, we’ll have some final (key) numbers, and our own final thoughts before Friday’s pivotal game, coming up shortly…

Final numbers:

The Power will end the regular season, for better or worse, with a 5-4 record at CONSOL Energy Center. Average home attendance was 9,197, which currently ranks sixth in the 18-team league. Average home attendance for the AFL as a whole, through Week 18, is 8,079. The 68 points were the most given up by the Power at home this season; conversely, Sunday marked the third time in a row the Power have scored under 40 points at home. It’s happened in four total home games, and keep in mind the Power also have a 65-40 home loss to Jacksonville Apr. 16 on the books.

Arizona had 30 first downs to the Power’s 13, including ten via penalty (the Power had just two via penalty). The Rattlers outgained them 281-179. This was only the third time all year the defense failed to make a stop; in contrast, the Power turned the ball over four times, including three lost fumbles. Arizona’s turnover margin is plus-32 (again, the best in the AFL); Pittsburgh’s is now minus-12, which ranks 14th.

One of the only positives the Power can take from this game is that special teams obviously wasn’t nearly as much of a bugaboo as they have been in weeks past, nor was the third quarter. The Power averaged 23.4 yards per kick return, and Washington’s 305 all-purpose yards were a game-high, and the second-best single-game total by a Pittsburgh player this season. Edinger’s 94 total points put him eighth among AFL kickers, right behind Scaccia’s 107. Meanwhile, regarding that third quarter…it’s been a weakness for the Power much of the season, especially down the stretch, but each team scored 13 points in that frame Sunday, despite the fact the Power held the ball for only 2:30 of the quarter.

The Power were a combined 7 of 12 on third and fourth downs, which is above average for them.

*Davila: 22 of 35 (62.8%), 214 yds, 8 TD

*CORRECTION: Something we missed up in press row–bad job by yours truly–is that backup Trevor Harris entered the game in garbage time and was credited with two of Davila’s TD’s, going 5-of-6 for 34 yards. Davila is still your league touchdown leader nevertheless, with 109 on the season.

Morris: 19 of 35 (54.3%), 181 yds, 4 TD, 1 INT, fumbled twice, sacked three times; Power have allowed 34 on the year, which is tied for third most in the league

Reed: 7 catches, 47 yds, 4 TD

Geathers: 8 catches, 86 yds, 2 TD

Jackson: 6 catches, 78 yds, 2 TD

Windsor: 5 catches, 30 yds, 2 TD

Washington: 6 catches, 63 yds, 3 TD

DeWalt: 5 catches, 47 yds, TD; 3 tackles (1 solo), 0.5 tackles for loss, 1 breakup

Willis: 4 catches, 38 yds; now has 1,010 on the year

Vince Hill: 13 tackles, all solo

Marquis Floyd: 7 tackles, all solo

Tyre Glasper was later credited with 2.0 sacks, with one going down as a team sack

Dorrell Oliver: 6 tackles, all solo

Stevenson: 5.5 tackles (5 solo)

Lay: 2 solo tackles, 1 breakup

Carter: 2.0 tackles (1 solo), 0.5 tackles for loss, 1 QB hurry

(By the way, former Penn State OL Mike Lucian lined up at fullback, replacing Rue, though he didn’t have any touches; Lucian has one rush TD to his credit this year.)

Final thoughts:

I wish I had a lot more comforting things to say, especially considering it might be the last home game of the year, but as you might guess, I don’t. The atmosphere was garbage, the team was garbage, and the result was garbage. But Siegfried put it well, and so did Butler; it’s times like this, when your team is getting its doors blown off, that you discover what you really have to work with. I give credit to the Power’s receiving corps, particularly Mike Washington, for continuing to compete hard, but on the other side of the coin, the Power’s defense, at least the secondary, looked lost for much of this contest, and the offensive line got pushed around far too often. I do, however, think a part of that has to do with the team Pittsburgh played. Washington was right to say that there is parity in this league, but let’s face it: the Rattlers aren’t a 15-2 football team for nothing. Yes, it’s about execution and desire, though I can’t help but think some of it is simply not having the horses…not yet, anyway. I talked to some Power fans who naturally were quite disappointed leaving CONSOL Energy Center, and that’s understandable. However, I also think Pittsburgh fans, as proud as I am to consider myself one of them at heart, are often loathe to admit that sometimes, the other team is just better. So I guess my all-encompassing message for Power fans, and for the team itself, would be to keep Sunday’s setback in context, and keep your chins up for Friday’s nationally-televised game at the Cleveland Gladiators. The Power still have a shot at the postseason, needing to win Friday to avoid elimination from the race, and a shot is all you can ask for. Furthermore, I remain quite convinced, after seeing Pittsburgh beat Cleveland in Week 13, that the Power are the better team, but now it’s time for them to prove it in the most pivotal game of their inaugural season.

That’ll do it for now, but be sure to revisit later this week for ongoing coverage of the Power’s critical rematch with the Gladiators…and be sure to join us on the website Friday night for a very special road edition of our Pittsburgh Power live blog!

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