Steelers in good shape

October 12, 2008

The Steelers arrive at the bye week with a 4-1 lead and a three-game lead on the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North.

It’s about as good as anyone could have wished for, especialy considering all the injuries they’ve had to deal with.

Still, the Steelers have a very demanding schedule with eight of their 11 games remaining coming against legitimate playoff contenders.

But it figures that 10 games should be enough to win the AFC North so the Steelers only have to go 6-5 the rest of the way to make the playoffs.

Figuring that the Steelers can beat the winless Bengals twice and the Browns at home, that means the Steelers have to win 3 of those 8 games against legitimate playoff contenders to win 10 games.

So, of those 8 games, the games against the teams from the NFC North, Giants, 5-0; Redskins 4-2; and Cowboys , 4-2; will probably be the toughest. Luckily for the Steelers they have the Giants and Cowboys at home while they have to travel to Washington for a game with the surprising Redskins.

Then, they have two tough games on the road against the Ravens (2-3) and Titans (5-0). Unfortunately they will come back to back in games 14 and 15. Perhaps the Titans will have come back to earth by then but it still figures to be a tough game.

But the Steelers could lose all five of the those games if they win their other three games against the Chargers, 3-2; Colts, 3-2; and Patriots, 3-2. At the beginning of the season that would have seemed unthinkable, but all they three teams have struggled so far. And they play the Chargers and Colts at home. They have to play the Patriots on the road but with no Tom Brady, you have to think this could be the year we come away with a big win there.

So, it looks to be a formidable schedule but one that’s not impossible. And if the Steelers can make the playoffs, who knows what can happen. All Steeler fans remember 2005 when we made the playoffs as a wild card team and went on to win the Super Bowl.

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Big Ben does it again!

October 6, 2008
Ben Roethlisberger sometimes throws ill-advised passes as he did in the first quarter of the Steelers game with Jacksonville Sunday night.

 

The Jaguars’ Rashean Mathis returned a

Ben Roethlisberger toss 72 yards for a touchdown to give Jacksonville a 7-0 first-quarter lead.

And Ben Roethlisberger held onto the ball too long and took some sacks in the second half as the Steelers’ offense came to a complete stop.

But there’s no one better these days at bringing his team back late in the game and that’s exactly what Roethlisberger did Sunday night. Starting at his own 20-yeard line and down 21-20 with only six minutes left in the game, Ben Roethlisberger

drove his team 80 yards for the winning touchdown. His perfect 8-yard touchdown throw to Hines Ward came with 1:53 left to play and gave the Steelers the win.

Twice on that final drive, Roethlisberger came through with amazing clutch passes. He had defensive end Reggie Hayward draped on his back one play and mammoth defensive tackle John Henderson breathing down his neck a few snaps later. Either one could have been a sack and would have possibly cost the Steelers the game. But Ben somehow made the throws and won the game for the Steelers.

What’s even more amazing is that Big Ben didn’t have All-Pro Willie Parker with him in the backfield. Parker missed the game with a sprained knee and his understudy first-round draft pick Rashard Mendenhall was also out with a broken shoulder. Running back Mewelde Moore, signed as a free agent in the off season, came up big with 99 yards on 17 carries, but in the end it was Ben who rose to the challenge and led the Steelers to victory.

Ben Roethlisberger  also did it despite several injuries to his shoulder and hand that have bothered him all season. He shook off the injuries to complete 26 of 41 passes for 309 yards and three touchdowns.

With the performance, Roethlisberger further established himself as the best quarterback in the AFC, especially considering that Tom Brady is out for the year and Payton Manning is having an off year, There can be little doubt that he’s indeed the best signal caller in the conference.

With a 4-1 record at the bye record, the Steelers, despite having an extremely tough schedule the rest of the way, are the clear favorites to win the AFC North again. And possibly make a return trip to the Super Bowl.

 

 

 


Mendenhall, Tomlin share hot seat

September 27, 2008

Back when the NFL held its draft last spring, a lot of people questioned the Pittsburgh Steelers drafting running Rashard Mendenhall with their first round pick.

 Although Mendenhall enjoyed a great career at Illinois and many thought he wouldn’t be around by the time the Steelers drafted, it had been a foregone conclusion that the Steelers would draft an offensive lineman in the first round since that was their weakness coming off last season. After all, the Steelers had alllowed quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to be sacked 47 times last year and they had lost their All-Pro guard Alan Faneca to free agency.

The debate over whether the Steelers should have drafted an offensive lineman or Mendenall has heated up over the first three games of the season as Mendenhall has done little to prove his value as a first-round pick and the offense line hasn’t exactly shined, especially last week when it allowed nine sacks against the blitz-happy Philadelphia Eagles.

But the debate takes front and center stage Monday night when the Steelers host the red-hot Baltimore Ravens as Willie Parker is out with a knee sprain and Mendenhall will be expected to take over for the all-pro running back.

It’s a tall order and the pressure will be on Mendenhall to prove that the Steelers were wise in picking him over an offensive lineman.

Of course, Mendenhall won’t be expected to win the game by himself. It will be important for the offensive line to protect Roethlisberger and provide some holes for Mendenhall. The Steelers defense will also be expected to put pressure on the Ravens offense, especially its rookie quarterback Joe Flacco.

But this game means much more to the Steelers than the Ravens. Lose and suddenly the Steelers will be 2-2 and three games behind Baltimore in the AFC North. They also have tough game at Jacksonville next week before the bye week.  With the tough schedule ahead, the Steelers could be looking at an 8-8 season and possiby out of the playoffs. That will shift the all the attention to Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, who will be on the hot seat if they don’t make the playoffs.

It will come down to the decisions made by Tomlin, including the pick of Mendenhall over an offensive lineman. Was it a good pick or not? I guess we should be able to answer that question a lot better after Monday night.


Steelers must improve

September 22, 2008

The Steelers can’t possibly be as bad as they looked in their 15-6 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday.

Or at least we hope not.

But they better learn how to deal with the blitz quick, especially with the suprising Baltimore Ravens and their always-tough defense coming to town next Monday.

One that is becoming increasingly clear, though, is the dominance of the NFC East, which is 8-0 against outside opposition this year. It might not be too far of a stretch to say that the division has the two best teams in the NFL, the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys.

And certainly the Eagles can’t be too far behind, based on their strong showing against the Steelers. The Redskins, a playoff team a year ago, have also shown signs they might even be better this year.

So, what does this all mean for the Steelers. Lots. They still have to play all three other NFC East teams as does everyone else in their division. Thank God for that. The Steelers play the Cowboys and Giants at home while they have to travel to our nation’s capital to take on the Redskins.

All three games will be very difficult and it’s possible they could lose all three. And they also still have to play three teams in the AFC South, including the rejuvenated Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars and Indianapolis Colts.

It all adds up to the toughest schedule in the NFL and the Steelers will have to play much better than they did Sunday if they’re goin to up to the challenge.