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Steelers-Bucs pregame stretch...

September 25, 2010 - Ray Eckenrode

Will the defense rest?
  If you’ve heard it once this week, you’ve heard it a million times, from both fans and supposed experts: With the way the Steelers defense is playing, once Ben Roethlisberger comes back the team will be unstoppable. Sorry. It’ doesn’t work that way.
  In fact, we can almost guarantee you that the Steelers level of play on defense will fall off when #7 returns. Why? It’s a matter of equilibrium and human nature.
  Winning football teams (emphasis on “winning”) all function with some unspoken form of natural balance between offense, defense and special teams. Some teams need more offense, some more defense, etc. Just as importantly, though, when one aspect of the game isn’t up to its usual level, the other aspects compensate. Remember that: Good teams (and organizations) win when the offense or defense or special teams have an off day (or month) while bad teams (and organizations) point fingers.
  In this instance, we believe the Steelers defense is playing so well because it has to. Once it doesn’t have to, they’ll be a natural human tendency to relax and a likely shift in equilibrium and rather than 15-9 and 19-11 games we’ll see 31-27 and 28-24 games.

Will the offense score?
 Speaking of scoring points, we’ve seen many predictions this week for the Steelers-Buccaneers game that have Pittsburgh scoring 24 or more points. We have one word for that: What? How? Where? What? (Sorry, that’s four questions.) Unless there’s another defensive or special teams TD in the mix the best we can foresee (see score prediction below) is three field goals and one TD drive (based on CBatch practicing a few days with the first offense).

Jets bungle Braylon brouhaha
 Although there’s nothing funny about DUI, there were some funny aspects to the Braylon Edwards saga this week.
 The first is Jets’ owner Woody Johnson’s assertion that his organization has “zero tolerance” for such an offense. Woody needs a better dictionary because we’re not sure he knows what zero means. A team with zero tolerance would deactivate Edwards for this week’s game and keep him off the sideline, in essence, paying him NOT to play of show up. (NOTE: The “pay” part is mandated since any “discipline” in the matter must come from the NFL.) That’s zero tolerance and that’s exactly what the Steelers did when current Jets receiver Santonio Holmes was last busted with pot. (Note: This is not a blanket statement about the Steelers management, just an acknowledgment that they got it exactly right on Holmes.) Zero tolerance is not telling the dolt that he’ll dress, won’t start, but likely will play. (Note: This is being written on Friday afternoon and there’s certainly still time for the Jets to change their stance before Sunday. Here’s hoping they do.)
 The second funny thing about this situation is that reporters and headline writers in New York apparently think Edwards is a star. Now, that’s hilarious.

Reid (quarter)backed into a corner
 We said in this spot last week that Andy Reid wanted Kevin Kolb as his quarterback not because he thinks Kolb is better than Michael Vick, but rather because he think Kolb is better for Reid’s offensive scheme. We alluded to a day coming (we didn’t think it would be five days later) when Reid might have to grit his teeth and announce Vick as his starter. We saw a lot of people say Reid’s press conference had the appearance of a man admitting he was wrong. We beg to differ. It looked to us like a guy gritting his teeth, hard, and asking himself how he ever got himself into a situation where his starting quarterback is playing in the last year of his contract and his backup has a long-term, $12 million deal.
A call to arms?
 We heard some folks questioning why the Steelers didn’t sign a third quarterback this week. To which we ask: Have you seen the laughable level of play of some guys who are already on NFL squads? Can you imagine what some of the guys on the street might look like? If you can’t, we’ve got three words for you: John David Booty. That’s one of the guys the Steelers worked out this week before taking a pass. Pittsburgh’s QB depth chart looks like this:
  Charlie Batch
  Byron Leftwich
  Antwan Randle-El
  Arnaz Battle
  Hines Ward
  Rashard Mendenhall (wildcat)
Add another to the list
 Hey, the Sports Guy is on the Steelers Super Bowl bandwagon.

The pick
 Admit it. At some point last week, you thought: if we can just win this game, we’ve got Tampa Bay next week. Well, guess what? The same thing went through the heads of the Steelers players, even if they’ll never admit it. Yes, they’re professionals, and yes, they’re paid to make plays regardless of the opponent, but we think the potential is there this week (especially if Pittsburgh doesn’t get a defensive or special teams TD and you just can’t expect that every week) for a lackluster Steelers effort and another game that comes down to the final play. Even though they’re trying to be safe, the Steelers have got to find some way this week to reduce Rashard Mendenhall’s touches. With so little depth behind him, you just can’t pound him 25 times a game (for two yards a carry, no less) and expect he’ll be healthy in November and December. We think it’s a W, but we’d be surprised if it’s an easy one … Steelers 16-13.
 Also: If betting were legal and we were the wagering type, we’d put our house on the Bengals this week at Carolina.

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