Tough Stretch Continues in Capitol

Coming out of the Bye Week most Steelers fans eyed the Bengals game as a nice warm up for what would surely be a challenging four game run against the NY Giants, @Washington, Indianapolis and San Diego.

The warm up proved a challenge for the first three quarters of a the game which ended in a 38-10 blowout victory for the visiting Steelers. The defense remained strong, the offense put up points and Bruce Arians felt safe enough to remove his decapitation-proof collar. Surely this was foreshadowing success and the slaying of Giants. Now there was a path to victory through the challenging four game stretch ahead.

Not so much.

After an easy touchdown drive on the first possession of the NY Giants game, the wheels flew off the Pittsburgh Steelers offense as the unit sputtered and stumbled to a grinding halt. Early solutions forgotten, bizarre methods replaced them. Only fine play by the defense kept the game a semi respectable seven point loss.

Now fans are left to wonder what will happen next Monday in Washington, the second of the four game challenge. Steelers injuries mount. Seemingly, for each player that returns, two are lost.

Meanwhile, the Redskins (6-2, 3-1 at home) are facing their toughest foe since back-to-back wins against division rivals Philadelphia and Dallas. They feature a solid defense, the league’s leading rusher and an interception-free quarterback. Not a promising rebound opponent, but one that must be defeated for playoff expectations to continue.

A victory in the capitol would be a confidence builder and the first against an NFC opponent this season.

Return of the Big Target

The Big Target is back. Oh, we wanted to believe it wasn’t so. We crossed our fingers and closed our eyes. We stuffed fingers in our ears and yelled, “No! No! No! No! No! No! No!” whenever somebody said that allowing zero sacks against the Bengals was meaningless.

It didn’t take long for the Giants to bust our bubble and harass Big Ben. They got maximum effort from their front four and made it a miserable day to wear a black throwback. Eventually he would toss four INTs and hit the dirt about twenty times, including a half dozen sacks.

In the fourth quarter, the Steelers gained all of -11 yards over three possessions that went like this: 4 plays, safety; 4 plays, downs; 4 plays, interception.

At this point it’s difficult to single out who to curse the loudest: Bruce Arians for the kooked-out offensive wizardry he cooked up, the sieve-like offensive line or the dirt-diving, interception-throwing Big Target?

As Charlie Brown would say, “Sigh.”

Steelers Waste Stellar Defensive Effort

Kudos are in order for the defense. How many straight times did they stand strong when the Giants had first and goal? Then again when the Giants had inches to go? Time after time they stood strong and time after time the offense shat their pants in return. The offense snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

It’s hard to pick where to begin on this one. May have to let it sit for another day.

Browns Beat the Jags

So the Browns manage to knock off the Jags. I’m not sure how to feel about this. On the one hand, it makes the Steelers win against Cleveland look a tad more meaningful. On the other, it makes the win against the Jags appear less so.

At the end of the day how the wins appear doesn’t really matter. What does is that a division foe just moved a game closer by beating what many had presumed to be a quality opponent.

So, while I was at first amused to hear that the Browns beat the Jags … ain’t laughing right now.

Plus, this extends the career of Bigfoot, who has a little game, and delays the start of the other Brady who, presumably, doesn’t.

Cowboy Cowher?

Things are getting smelly down in Cowboyville. Early picks to contend for a Superbowl title, the Dallas Cowboys have lost 3 of 4 with the most recent coming via a 34-14 whipping by the lowly St. Louis Rams. Owner Jerry Jones said it was the most disturbing and humiliating defeat of his tenure.

Locals claim the team is uninspired and under prepared. A Dallas Morning News columnist is calling for Coach Wade Phillips’ head. Jones stated after the game that Phillips’ job was not in jeopardy but one wonders. Axing Phillips now would allow the ‘Boys to have a look at offensive coordinator Jason Garrett in the head position. Heck, he’s currently paid more than many head coaches in the league as it is.

And if Garrett fails to inspire the team? Who better to help kick off the inaugural season of Jerry World in 2009 than the mouth-breathing, spitting Chin himself, Bill Cowher. The Cowboys already run the 3-4 defense that is preferred by Cowher. They have two good running backs and a solid QB. Yeah buddy, that would raise a few eyebrows.

Steelers Sidestep Trap

It was looming ahead of them: a road matchup with the 0-6 Bengals. The trap was set but the cats from Ohio placed it in plain sight.

Coming off a bye week amid speculations of rust and worries of falling for a trap, the Steelers roll over the Bengals 38-10 and head home to regroup for a tough four game stretch. This game had a little something for every Steeler fan: crushing blows, outstanding defense, resurgent ground game and an upright QB.

Hines Ward showed little concern for receiving another fine from Commissioner Goodell as he knocked Bengals rookie linebacker Keith Rivers on his arse and out of the game. We’d find later that Rivers is finished for the season with a broken jaw. Obviously, getting blocked down field by a wide receiver was something Rivers never considered while playing in the PAC 10 for USC. Brandon Johnson, the replacement for Rivers, thought it was a clean hit, “It’s part of the game. It was a good block. If I was in Hines Ward’s shoes, I probably would have taken the same shot. You can’t really blame him.”

Lamar Woodley and James Harrison continued their onslaught of opposing quarterbacks and possibly the single season sack record. Backup QB Fitzpatrick was dropped four times by the duo and a humbling eight times in total by the linebacking corps. Second year man Lawrence Timmons had two while Captain James Farrior and rookie Bruce Davis chipped in with one apiece. The defense as a whole was impressive in allowing a mere ten points and 212 yards on the day.

Former third-down-back and current starter Mewelde Moore continued his impressive play gaining 120 on the ground on twenty carries with two touchdowns. He added another TD and fourteen yards on five receptions. Moore is averaging an astounding five yards per carry. Can you say “running back controversididity?” Me either. But maybe we should practice.

Meanwhile, Polamalu made a case against his own comments from earlier in the week, that the NFL is becoming a pansy game. He knocked himself out of the game tackling (read: launching self missile-like into) running back Cedric Benson. Hopefully, that madman will be well and ready to go next Sunday afternoon against the Giants. It is concerning though since he was listed with a head injury and has a history of concussions. Those bad boys tend to add up over time. Get well soon, Troy.

The most amazing statistic of the day is a big, fat zero. As in, “How many times did Roethlisberger get sacked this time?” Obviously, the backup offensive linemen are doing a fine job. And perhaps the big guy is getting rid of the ball a little faster. Could it be a better offensive game plan by often cursed Bruce Arians? Heck, it’s probably a little of each.

Whatever the reason for Big Ben’s uprightitude, it better continue in the coming weeks. It would be a shame to see the Steelers sidestep the trap only to trip into schedule hell.

Hines Ward Will Knock You the F*!@ Out

Just ask Keith Rivers.

Just ask the entire Baltimore Ratbirds secondary. Those guys have been whining about Ward for years. “Oh, he blocks too hard! Oh, that’s not fair! Mooooooommy!”

Head over to YouTube and check it out for yourself. Hines Ward is a bad, bad man. But in a good way if you’re a Steelers fan.

NFL announcers have been saying it for years: Ward is the best blocking wide receiver in the game. Remove the “blocking” qualifier and he’s still one of the best receivers in the game. And to think I was worried about the extension he got a few years ago.

Chick Jerseys Must Go

We have all seen it: the pink jersey worn by some presumably well-meaning female fan. This phenomenon isn’t limited to the NFL. Ever seen a pastel colored MLB cap? Yikes!

Ladies, if you want to show pride for your favorite NFL team by wearing their colors, please make sure to actually wear those colors!

And gentlemen, be sure to do your part. Cut this behavior off at the pass by buying your lady the correct jersey before she gets any ideas.

$7 Million Dollar Benchwarmer Could Start

Marvel Smith is battling back spasms that have plagued him for a considerable portion of his career.

Head coach Mike Tomlin stated that if Smith cannot play then Steelers backup tackle Max Starks, a player who received the transition tag this past off season, will make his first start of the season.

Has the more recently selected replacement Trai Essex fallen from favor? Has Tomlin received word from above that the $7 Million Dollar Benchwarmer must see playing time? Your guess is as good as mine.

Who would take Starks’s place in the jumbo package remains to be seen but if the Steelers ever get a first and goal, it’s sure to be revealed.