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Browns-Steelers pregame stretch

October 17, 2010 - Ray Eckenrode
Crazy love

Unfortunately, the Steelers’ loss to the Ravens doesn’t seem to have dissuaded much of the national media’s obsessive love for this year’s team. (We say unfortunately because you never want to be the favorite this early in the season.)

Don Banks at Sports Illustrated still has Pittsburgh No. 1 in his power rankings.

Many of the Las Vegas sports books now have the Steelers as the Super Bowl favorite.

And literally dozens of national commentators have opined that the Steelers might not lose another game this year, with Fox Sports’ Jason Whitlock (who’s usually smarter than this) contending the team doesn’t have a weakness.

For the record, we’re very concerned the Steelers might lose a game TODAY (see prediction below) and they most certainly have weaknesses, most notably:

-- An injury to Rashard Mendenhall, Aaron Smith or Troy Polamalu would devastate the team.

-- The play of defensive backs Ike Taylor, Bryant McFadden and William Gay has been streaky.

-- The receiving corps remains largely untested.

-- The offensive line has been improved (because they’ve been primarily run blocking) but hasn’t been tested consistently on pass protection.

This is not to say that we don’t think the Steelers are one of the best teams in the league and a good shot at playing in Dallas in February. We do. It’s just a long way from there and a lot can happen.

As we’ve said before, a lot of this speculation is based on the faulty logic that the Steelers defense will continue to play at its current level of impenetrability as the offense begins to score 30 points per game with Ben Roethlisberger returning as quarterback.

Marty … click

We love NFL Radio on Sirius, we really do, but whoever is responsible for scheduling Marty Schottenheimer to appear on Monday mornings should be fired. That has got to be one of the station’s highest listenership periods and that guy is as exciting as dry toast. Horrible. Automatic click when we hear his voice, almost as quickly as a Dick Vitale click.

Carolina on his mind?

With Carolina starting off 0-5, you have to wonder if the Panthers wind up with the No. 1 pick in the 2011 Draft (assuming that will be Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck), would that be enough to lure Bill Cowher out of retirement? Cowher’s coaching criteria reportedly are: player/personnel control; a franchise quarterback and proximity to his North Carolina home.

Morning juice

The week in obvious and not-so-obvious steroid news:

> St. Louis Rams’ Mark Clayton, a journeyman wide receiver who came out of the blue to become one of the top players in the league this season, saw his season end prematurely when he suffered a torn patellar tendon. Hmmmmm.

> Cincinnati Bengals’ Antwan Odom, a journeyman defensive lineman who came out of the blue to become one of the top players in the league last season, learned the NFL upheld his four-game suspension for the use of a banned substance.

> The San Diego Chargers announced they’ll be parting ways with Shawne Merriman and a lot of people who should know better lamented that Merriman has never been the same since his injuries. Merriman has never been the same since he was busted for PEDs, the injuries are a byproduct of that, just as they were for guys like David Boston and Kendrell Bell beforehand. We’ve noted this before: Merriman had an undistinguished college career until he burst on the scene at Maryland as a junior and left for the NFL early. He then had a monstrous NFL rookie season before being busted for PEDs in 2006, which began his gradual downward slide in production.

The pick

Are we the only one who remembers what happened last December, the Steelers very own mistake by the lake? Well, the three elements that brought that result about – the Browns’ D, Bruce Arians playcalling and Josh Cribbs – all remain in place. Now, we’re not saying the potential doesn’t exist for the Steelers defense to rattle Colt McCoy and get a couple defensive scores and turn this into a laugher. We’re saying there’s a decent chance the Browns D plays well, Arians loses the page in his playbook with screens and draws on it, Cribbs busts off a kick return, McCoy does a CBatch impression and we head to the fourth quarter in a one-score game. Take the 13.5 points and run … Steelers 21-17.

Prediction record

Last week: Steelers -2.5 INCORRECT

Season overall: 2-2, .667

Against spread: 2-2, .667

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