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fordfixer
10-09-2008, 12:55 AM
Steelers road to the playoffs is like a walk through a mine field

By James Pete | October 8th, 2008
http://mvn.com/nfl-steelers/2008/10/08/ ... ine-field/ (http://mvn.com/nfl-steelers/2008/10/08/steelers-road-to-the-playoffs-is-like-a-walk-through-a-mine-field/)


The Pittsburgh Steelers have started off with a 4-1 record, but the record doesn’t really give a clear picture of the Steelers’ season so far. The Steelers opened up with a big win over the Houston Texans, but followed with a much bigger struggle in Cleveland the following week. The Steelers then traveled to the Eagles, and really had it handed to them by a defense that spent more time upright in the Steelers’ backfield than Ben Roethlisberger did. The next two prime time games ended with an overtime victory over a rookie-led Baltimore Ravens, and a fourth quarter comeback against a somewhat depleted Jacksonville Jaguars. The good news is that the Steelers are 4-1. The bad news is that there may be more questions to this team as it moves forward than there were 5 1/2 weeks ago.

The path doesn’t get any easier for the Steelers after their bye week. When looking at their schedule during training camp, my thoughts were simple about the first five weeks: win at least four games, because they’ll need to bank some wins with the meat of their schedule coming up. The irony is that I felt the Steelers had a shot at going 5-0 during the first stretch, with most of my fears in losing coming from Jacksonville. Of course, in the NFL, anything can happen on any given week. With that said, coming into this season, I saw the Steelers being a better squad than Houston, Cleveland, Philadelphia and Baltimore, and really had questions about a Jacksonville team that lost

The Eagles came out this season much better than I thought, and Jacksonville seemed to be on the flip side of that coin. The Browns, as I suspected, were all smoke and mirrors based on a head coach that is way over his head, and players that either haven’t proved their worth (Derek Anderson and a revamped defense), or can’t stop yapping. Houston and Baltimore were exactly what I expected. At the end of the day, all those games are water under the bridge. The Steelers next five weeks will be like walking through the mine field separating North and South Korea.

Here’s a look at who is standing in front of the Steelers after the bye week:

Sunday, Oct. 19–@ Bengals (0-5)–1 p.m.

This game has “danger” written all over it. The Bengals aren’t a very good football team. Marvin Lewis has proven time and time again that he doesn’t have a clue at how to be a head football coach. The Cincinnati Bengals have proven time and time again that every time Marvin Lewis tries to become a better head coach, they don’t let him. What a wonderful pile of enigma that is, isn’t it. With that said, the Bengals have played some good football games this year. The offense looked like garbage the first two weeks, but came out blazing in week three against the Giants, taking the Super Bowl Champions into overtime before losing when their offense had a chance to win the game, but didn’t. They went back to garbage the following week against a Browns team that barely wanted to win, before showing up again against the Dallas Cowboys last week. The Bengals got to within two points of the Cowboys, before Tony Romo hit Patrick Crayton with a tipped touchdown pass that put the game out of reach. What is the pattern to all of this? The Bengals seem to step it up against good football teams. So I ask you all this: do you think they’ll step it up against the Steelers? There is no doubt about it.

The Steelers and the Bengals don’t like each other, and I think you’ll see a good dose of that in Cincinnati in a week and a half. The Bengals may or may not still be undefeated after a trip to New York city against the Jets. I don’t think that will make a difference. This game should worry me. Any normal rival of the Steelers would look at this game as their ‘game of the year.’ So yes, I do feel this game could be a trap game. At the end of the day, the Bungles are a team that folds when you smack them in the face. Now, raise your hand if you think the Steelers will smack them in the face. The Steelers learned their lessons last year after coming back from the bye week and playing like feces against the New York Jets. This year, the Steelers will not only be coming back better prepared, but will also be much healthier. Ben Roethlisberger will have a week off, and Willie Parker, Casey Hampton, Brett Keisel and Jake Reed will all be back as well. The Steelers should handle their business. Now, if I could just get that ‘trap game’ feel out of my head.

Sunday, Oct. 26–vs. Giants (4-0)–4:15 p.m.

Here come the Super Bowl Champs. The New York Giants come to Pittsburgh for the first time since Chuck Noll’s last season, and they are toting a pretty impressive record coming off of there Super Bowl victory. I can’t tell a lie, I didn’t see it coming. I’m still sitting in the camp that’s scratching their heads, trying to figure out how the Giants are playing this well. You could make a good case that this game features two of the top five teams in the NFL.

Something is going to have to give in this game. The Giants currently average 5.8 yards per carry on the ground. Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw and Derek Ward are all having solid seasons on the ground, behind an offensive line that is slowly starting to be considered the top in the game. It’s also funny how far Eli Manning has come. Last year at this time, there was a case being made that he shouldn’t be a starter in this league. So much for that. Manning has taken his Super Bowl victory in stride, and is now playing like a Manning, and getting some good commercials to go along with it. The Steelers match up well with this offense as one of the top rated run defenses in the league. Eli will also be facing a torrential downpour of Steelers’ blitzes, which should make things much more difficult than anything he’s seen this year. The Giants defense is what’s going to pose a problem for the Steelers. They will come at Roethlisberger in much the same way the Eagles did (DC Steve Spagnuolo came from that system). The problem? They have a better pass rush than the Eagles, who treated our line like it was wet toilet paper. Their secondary appears to have questions and youth, but always seems to perform better than advertised.

At the end of the day, this game couldn’t be any more intriguing. This is Eli Manning vs. Ben Roethlisberger. Both quarterbacks were taken in the 2004 draft, and both have already won the Super Bowl. The winner of this game has the steam going towards THIS Super Bowl. There’s no doubt that there is a rivalry there, and it will be fun seeing how these two face off against each other. The defenses also should stand out in a game that should be a blast to watch.

I really do like the match-up, and can’t wait to watch the Steelers try and get under the skin of Plaxico Burress, who is a scum bag. Of course, he may have family business that week.

Monday, Nov. 3–@ Redskins (4-1)–8:30 p.m.

My Dad called me up after Sunday’s games and couldn’t stop talking about the Washington Redskins. What did they do? Well, they rolled into Dallas and Philadelphia in back-to-back weeks, and beat them both. The comment of the day for my Dad was, “Joe Gibbs must be rolling in his grave.” Of course, I had to tell him that Gibbs was still alive, probably standing next to a race track in Talladega. You get the point though.

Jim Zorn took over after Gibbs, and has taken this team to the next level. When Zorn signed his name to the dotted line as head coach of the Skins, I couldn’t help but think pass–pass–pass in a West Coast Offense style. Instead, the Redskins are riding the legs of Clinton Portis, who has returned as one of the best backs in football, and is second in the league in yards. They are also playing mistake-free football behind the coming-out part of quarterback Jason Campbell. Campbell hasn’t thrown a pick this year, and as long as the Redskins are playing this kind of football, they’ll be good. Top this off with the fact that their defense is playing well without three of their best players (Jason Taylor, Shawn Springs and Marcus Washington), and you have a team that may only get better. Their next three games are against St. Louis, Detroit and Cleveland. It’s distinctly possible that the Steelers walk into Washington with the Skins sitting at 7-1.

Is this team the real deal, or is this team riding a wave of good feeling. I find it hard to believe you win two tough road games like Philly and the Cowboys on ‘good feeling.’ This is a good football team. Here’s the catch. The Steelers can, and likely will shut down the run. Once they do that, will Jason Campbell be able to handle the Steelers’ pass rush? I don’t think so. It should be a fantastic game.

Sunday, Nov. 9–vs. Colts (2-2)–4:15 p.m.

What is to say about the Colts. They are underachieving, and needed Sage Rosenfelds two turnovers in the final minutes of their game against Houston on Sunday to just get to .500. It’s hard to figure out what the deal is with Indy. They still have all their offensive weapons, but you could make a case that their offensive line is only a shadow of its former self. It’s good to know that a team is going through the same thing we are. That said, the Colts are the Colts, and I have to believe that Tony Dungy will find a way not to be a lame-duck coach by the Steelers game.

Of course, if their line is playing like garbage, then the Steelers will have a field day.

Sunday, Nov. 16–vs. Chargers (2-3)–4:15 p.m.

Here’s another team that just doesn’t make any sense. You have the best running back in football, and can’t find 20 touches for him while you are losing football games? I know there is an injury issue there, but I find it hard to believe that LT wants to come out during third down situations for his back-up. I want to stand up and say this is a lock, since it is playing in Pittsburgh, but my guess is that they’ll figure out that LT is the way to go by the Steelers’ game. Once he starts playing well, the passing game will open up a bit. Of course, LT playing well against the Steelers’ D is anything but a given.

I think San Diego’s window is closed, and the Steelers are going to board it up.

**************

As you can see, the schedule is loaded with potential trap doors. The ultimate wild-card here seems to be the Steelers’ resiliency. This is a team that’s been smacked in the mouth all year, but keeps getting off the canvas. Judging from last week’s game against the Jaguars, the Steelers appear ready to throw a few bombs of their own.

Maybe this schedule isn’t as bad as we think…

Mel Blount's G
10-09-2008, 01:30 AM
Steelers road to the playoffs is like a walk through a mine
Hmmmm. We need somebody to take one (or more) for the team. Can we just send starks on up ahead to sniff out and detonate a few mines?

fordfixer
10-09-2008, 01:49 AM
Steelers road to the playoffs is like a walk through a mine
Hmmmm. We need somebody to take one (or more) for the team. Can we just send starks on up ahead to sniff out and detonate a few mines?
What?...... you mean earn some of that 7 mill :lol: