By Michael J.W. Stickings
: Okay, well, what can I say? Seeing Ben go down made me sick. He means so much to this team, and Batch, while a really great guy, just isn't a good QB at this late point of his career. But a Ben who can't move is better than Batch, and Ben shockingly came out to start the third quarter, even leading the Steelers down the field before a dropped pass forced them to punt. We shall see. They should be up 14-3, at least, but those two fumbles deep in Cleveland territory are keeping this game close. Too
close. I'm not sure the Steelers can score much more, and the Browns are actually moving the ball fairly well. I have a bad feeling about this. It won't end well. (Not with a stupid 15-yard personal foul penalty on Farrior, the leader of the D. Seriously. WTF?!)
: Call me a homer, call me a Big Ben apologist, call me whatever you want. That was one of the most remarkable performances I've ever seen. You'll hear the word "gutsy" thrown around a lot, you'll hear the word "tough." Well, it didn't look like there was any chance Roethlisberger would come back and play. When I saw the injury, when I saw him limp off in pain, I thought... "well, that's the season." Or at least the next few weeks. And then he comes out and plays? He couldn't step into his throws, he could barely even make some of his handoffs. He was in obvious pain. Not just the usual discomfort, pain
. Yes, he threw a bad interception, and the Steelers were terrible in the red zone, but most of the bad play wasn't his fault. If Mendenhall had been able to knock it in from the one (or if Wallace had scored on the long pass play prior to their failed attempts to run it in), if Brown hadn't dropped a key pass, if Ward and Miller hadn't fumbled early on, his numbers would have been even better and the game wouldn't have been close. But to put up 280 yards and 2 TDs? Simply amazing.
And when he threw that brilliant back-shoulder pass to Brown, and when Brown deked and dodged and sprinted his way to a TD, I almost lost it. For me, this is one of the most emotional Steelers wins I've ever witnessed.
I love Pittsburgh. I love the Steelers. And I love Ben Roethlisberger, who appears to have put his past behind him and become a true leader to go along with being one of the best QBs in the league.
Yes, we're all taking the Steelers tonight at home against the Browns -- that would be Richard, The Kid, and I.
(As you may know, my associate editor Richard, a friend of ours nicknamed
Comfortable Kid, and I are tracking our picks this year, with posts
going up each Sunday at 11 am. We get one point for each correct pick,
along with two bonus points if
we get our Upset of the Week right. If we get our Lock of the Week
wrong, we lose two points as a penalty.)
I'm tempted to take the Steelers as my lock, but my beloved Black 'n' Gold tend to play down to their opponents, and this might just be one of those games. (I'll probably end up taking the Ravens over the Colts as my lock. No way that game is close, even if Baltimore's had some trouble this year with weaker teams, losing to both the Jags and the Seahawks.)
Regardless, I'm hoping Big Ben & Co. play some no-huddle, spread the field, and prove once again that Steelers football, at least on offence, isn't what idiots like Jon Gruden think it is, namely, a power running game. It hasn't been like that since Bettis was the feature back, before Fast Willie Parker took over, and even then it was evident the team was changing, partly because of the emergence of Roethlisberger as the team's best QB since Bradshaw (and now maybe the best ever?) and partly because the game itself was changing, with the league cutting down on the clutching and grabbing (to borrow from the NHL) and basically allowing receivers to run their routes completely unchallenged by handcuffed DBs who for the most part could barely keep up. It's not that the rushing game doesn't matter anymore, either for the Steelers or for any other team, it's that the passing game has been unleashed, and teams like the Packers, Saints, Patriots, Colts (prior to this non-Peyton season), and Steelers, that is, the dominant teams of the era, have taken full advantage.
Anyway, this has all the makings of a stressful game. I just want the Steelers to come out and dominate, to show they're an elite team that can crush weaker teams without much trouble. It hasn't been that way so far this year, with way-too-close games against the Colts and Jags, though last week's outstanding performance against the rival and perhaps playoff-bound Bengals certainly boosted my confidence. We'll see what happens tonight, but, with the playoffs approaching, it's time for the Steelers to show they're truly for real. Last week was a start, and we'll see how they do in a tough prime-time matchup next Monday in San Francisco, a long 11 days from now, but we need to beat the Browns at home and we need to do it convincingly.
Labels: Football, NFL, sports