Don’t Forget About the Steelers

Even though the 2007 season is only three weeks young, so much has happened, for better or for worse. Brett Favre is an amazing warrior; the Patriots look scary good; the Colts are off to a solid title defense; Matt Schaub is playing up to expectations in Houston; the Cowboys have an explosive offense when Tony Romo is on his game; Rex Grossman is consistently inconsistent; and the Dolphins stink. Heck, "Ocho-Cinco" jumped in the Dawg Pound, only to have beer (and other objects) thrown at him, in a game where both teams combined for 96 points!

Those are the good things, but what is so interesting are the things we could not predict; the things that have went disastrously wrong in three weeks. Making a list that seems almost too long to read, let alone write. The Saints lose Deuce McAllister for the rest of the season and are winless through three weeks. The Bengals forgot how to play defense. The Cardinals make a furious comeback in a Week 3 game ... with Kurt Warner leading the charge.

Speaking of charge, the Chargers seem to have lost LaDanian Tomlinson and the defensive line at one of the local beaches. The Rams wish there were beautiful beaches in St. Louis, as to explain why Stephen Jackson seems to be missing. The Chiefs are thinking the same thing on the other side of Missouri, with Larry Johnson inexplicably missing, too. Back in California, Frank Gore is taking his team's name seriously, searching for golden riches, yet coming up with nothing. Oh, and I forgot about Donovan McNabb, and the roller-coaster season he is having, on and off the field.

What an entertaining three weeks. Of course, I did not even mention the recent Michael Vick indictment, Spygate, Pacman Jones serving his suspension, Tank Johnson joining the Cowboys, or LaMarcus Russell's holdout. With so many things to talk about, I can just as easily picked one of these issues, and analyzed it to death. Then again, if I did, then I could not sit here in awe about all that has happened in a short amount of time, while at the same time wondering how the Pittsburgh Steelers have quietly started the season 3-0.

Okay, so the last two months in the NFL have been entertaining and eventful, to say the least. Accordingly, I am not going to beat any of these issues to death. We have all been bombarded with saturated analyses of Vick's shenanigans, Tomlinson's lackluster play, Patriot dominance despite Spygate, the Saints' sputtering start, etc. I do not want to talk about these issues, and I am sure you do not want to read yet another article about the same. I do not want to talk stats. I do not want to discuss West Coast Offense. What I want to do is rant and rave about the Pittsburgh Steelers. So, take this article for what it is worth — my observations (above) and opinions (below). Feel free to chime in at the end.

Nonetheless, the Steelers are 3-0. If all goes as planned, the Steelers may be 5-0 very soon. Since I do not live in Pittsburgh, the thought of the Steelers keeping pace with the Colts and Patriots surprises me. Now, I am starting to have delusions of grandeur. I took another look at their schedule today; it does not seem as tough as the Patriots' or Colts'. I think the Steelers will actually be one of the best teams this season.

Perhaps I am jumping on the bandwagon a little too early, and maybe I will fall of the wagon very hard come Week 9. But I am going to make a bold statement: this year's AFC champion has to beat the Steelers. Okay, so that implies the Steelers will not be winning the Super Bowl, or even make the Super Bowl for that matter. I actually think the Patriots will take it all this year. Coincidentally, the Steelers visit New England in Week 14.

Yet, the Steelers are quietly making a case to win the AFC North, a division many may have thought belonged to the Ravens or Bengals. Judging by their schedule — and by the performances of other AFC teams such as the Chargers — Pittsburgh may very well be the third best team, behind only the Patriots and Colts. How fitting, considering these three teams have won five of the last last Super Bowls. Barring major injury — so far, only Hines Ward has been questionable with a sprained knee — the Steelers will have a say as to who does have a chance to play in Phoenix come February 8, 2008, even though they may not be playing on that day themselves.

It has been an interesting start for the Steelers. They are fresh off a "dominating" win over the 49ers, where Ben Roethlisberger completed 13-of-20 passes for 160 yards and a touchdown — hardly spectacular — and Willie Parker rushed for 133 yards. Overall, Roesthlisberger has thrown for 563 yards, with a 59.7 completion rate and 102.3 rating. Willie Parker is averaging 5 yards per rush, with 368 rushing yards. The defense has been spectacular, allowing only 27 points; the Steelers have yet to give up a first-half touchdown.

Of course, you have to take the Steelers' success with a grain of salt. Their first three opponents include the Browns, Bills, and 49ers, who they beat 34-7, 26-3, and 37-16, respectively. They visit the Cardinals next — a chance to improve to 4-0 — before heading home to play the team they beat in Super Bowl XL, the Seahawks. The Seahawks are not quite the same team they were two years ago, so it is very possible that the Steelers can go into their bye week in Week 6 undefeated.

Weeks 7 through 13 is a moderate schedule for the Steelers. Playing at Denver in Week 7 should be a decent challenge for the Steelers, while a Week 9 matchup against the Ravens will prove the first true challenge of the season for Pittsburgh. The Steelers face the Bengals twice in this period, yet with Cincinnati's porous defense, combined with the Steelers' stingy defense, the matchup no longer appears enticing, though it is not out of question that the Bengals may actually win one of the two games.

Yet, with a relatively favorable schedule through Week 13, the final four weeks will be a true test for the Steelers. They might as well start the playoffs on December 9th, when three of their final four games will be away from Pittsburgh, including a Week 14 matchup at New England. It may well be one of the defining games of the season. If the Patriots win, it may solidify their position at the standings, helping their case for home-field and a playoff bye week. If the Steelers win and the Patriots do not have their playoff position secure by Week 14, home-field in the AFC could be up for grabs, with the Colts, Steelers, and Broncos all potential suitors. Of course, both scenarios assume both teams hold their course and continue to win games over the next 10 weeks.

The Steelers finish the season with their final 2007 home game in Week 15 against the Jaguars — potentially another solid matchup — before traveling to St. Louis in Week 16 and finishing in Baltimore for Week 17. The Ravens/Steelers season finale may or may not have playoff implications, if not for who makes the playoffs, but how teams will seed, as both teams will probably finish atop the AFC North, with the winner of this game potentially having an edge entering the playoffs.

Overall, expect the Steelers to be no worse than 11-5. While such a record may be good for only fifth place in the ultra-competitive AFC, the Steelers can just as well end up 12-4 or maybe even dream to be 13-3. Weeks 7 through 13 will be big for the Steelers. They should enter their bye week no worst than 4-1, though 5-0 is very realistic. In the next seven games, the Steelers must beat the Jets, Dolphins, and Browns. Beating Denver would be nice, especially since it is a conference game, yet a loss to the Broncos will not be devastating, barring injury. With three games against the Bengals and Ravens in that stretch, the Steelers need to win at least two of those games to have any chance of taking the division. If they enter the Patriots game with a 10-2 record, then a loss to the Patriots will not throw the Steelers off-track, especially if they take care of business against the Jaguars and Rams in the following two weeks.

That would put the Steelers at 12-3 before playing in the finale at Baltimore, where anything goes. Win the game, and the Steelers would be 13-3, which should put them in no worst than third place in the AFC, depending on how the Patriots and Colts do — the only two AFC teams with a chance to have better records.

If the Steelers end up with a bye in the first week of the playoffs, they should be able to make it to the AFC Championship Game ... yet again. If not, it will be a tougher road, especially with Bill Cowher no longer on the sidelines, or Jerome Bettis no longer in the backfield or in the locker room. Nonetheless, while the road to the Super Bowl definitely passes through Indianapolis, and the team at the head of the pack includes the Patriots, do not count out the Steelers. They may not be a favorite to make it the Super Bowl this year. Yet, the AFC team that does make the Super Bowl will have to beat Pittsburgh along the way. Barring injuries, of course.

Comments and Conversation

September 28, 2007


If you actually watched the game, you would realize that the only real TD of the game (excluding the kickoff return, a late game pick for a TD, and a 40 yard najeh davenport end of game TD) came on a drive that was helped by a BS Defensive Holding call that kept the steelers on the field. Specifically I am referring to the call where Nate Clements engaged Santanio Holmes at the line of scrimage and they grappled 5 yards from the line of scrimmage, where the ball was thrown. They both released, but the refs called holding on Nate.

Would they have won? Probably. But the performance by Ben Rothlesberger wasn’t exactly inspiring.

September 28, 2007


Look up the ‘72 Dolphins. They won a lot of games that were close by a couple good plays and a few lucky bounces. They could easily have been 8-6. My point is that nobody cares how it was won, only that it was won. You can split hairs and pretend that it wasn’t REALLY a blowout, but the 49ers had the lead for 12 seconds. Those were the only 12 seconds this year that Pittsburgh trailed in a game. They didn’t have a chance. Maybe next time.

September 28, 2007

Parimal Rohit:

Look at the Patriots 3 Super Bowl wins — each on decided by a late-game field goal by Adam Vinateri. Yet the Patriots are considered one of the greatest football teams … because, bottom line, they won.

The same can be said about the Steelers win in 2006. I think Roesthlisberger had the lowest QB rating ever for a winning Super Bowl QB. The Steelers still won, though, and that’s all most people will remember. Joe is right — it’s about winning.

Looking at the Steelers schedule, it’s not that tough of a schedule. Besides the Patriots, and maybe Ravens, the remaining 13 games on the schedule are all winnable, which is more than the Patriots or Colts or Chargers can say … all of whom have tough games to play.

Sure, the Steelers will probably lose a game they should have won, or win a few they should have lost, but it’s not about woulda coulda shoulda. Results are the bottom line, and it is very, very possible that the Steelers can end up with 12 or 13 wins.

With the Patriots hosting the Steelers in week 13, that is one game that can definitely influence the AFC standings and playoff positions, which can have a ripple effect on playoff matchups, and ultimately, who makes it out of the insanely touch AFC to play in Glendale on Feb. 8th.

September 29, 2007


try and spell the steelers qbs name again!?

October 1, 2007

Marc James:

Guess you jinxed them!

October 1, 2007

Parimal Rohit:

Well, last month I said Brandon Webb would be a serious Cy Young candidate and may pass Hershiser’s scoreless-inning streak. Of course, he gives up two runs in the first inning of his next start, about two days after I wrote that article. So, that’s 2 consecutive jinxes … take that for what it worth.

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