The Super Bowl champions made an unprecedented run through and to the playoffs last year. Once again they are on a similar run; instead it is in the opposite direction. The Steelers are positioned to have the worst record for any defending Super Bowl championship in history. Last year, they succeeded by playing tenacious defense, taking care of the ball and controlling the clock with a stifling running game. As it stands, they have turned the ball over more times in eight games than all of last year. The defense rarely shows itself. The running game is non-existent. I can’t put my finger on exactly what happened, but I think it goes directly to lack of consistent leadership. Jerome Bettis retired, and Bill Cowher has all but said he is retiring after this season. Big Ben has overcome a great deal, but his being on the field is not enough. He has to start being more vocal and taking charge of this team, as it is his to lead regardless of who is head coach. I also must question some of the decision making. Santonio Holmes has fumbled five times in eight games; why is he still returning punts? Why wasn’t Ben yanked in the Oakland game? Maybe Bill is simply satisfied with having a championship. To use a football cliché, the moment you are satisfied as a football player (or coach), you’re finished as a football team.
The match-up that everyone built up was Peyton Manning and the Colts traveling to Foxboro to face the well-hated Patriots. Everyone also said they would have to really run up the scoreboard to have a chance to win. As it turns out, their defense was the saving grace forcing the fourth (yes I said fourth) Tom Brady interception with 1:23 to go. Ironically, Adam Vinatieri missed a 46-yard field goal at his old stomping grounds to give the Pats a chance to tie. Talk about a strange game.
And speaking of strange games, the game in Washington ranks right up there as the weirdest this season. The Cowboys let the Redskins hang around and had the winning field goal attempt blocked and run back; they committed a face mask penalty, and watched the final untimed down end with the ball sailing through the uprights by a foot. Granted, they wouldn’t have been in that position if they hadn’t gone for two in the second quarter. The extra point is never a guarantee, but you never pull the chart until the fourth quarter — never. Hence they sit, buried at four and four, essentially three games out of first, having lost to Dallas already. They need to pick up some games as the Giants host Chicago and travel to Jacksonville, or it will be a long offseason with T.O. spouting how they would have won more if he was able to get the ball. Of course dropping that sure touchdown will not be mentioned, since he will probably be asleep when he talks about it.
Just Plain Lousy Game of the Week: MIN vs. SF – The two teams combined for 371 yards of total offense, and a total of three trips to the red-zone. Yawn.
Shawn Merriman dropped his appeal this week and will start serving his four game suspension. I guess that’s what he gets for soliciting diet advice from Barry Bonds.
Chad Johnson shaved his mohawk after a loss to Atlanta last week in which he was held to six catches. He was quickly chastised by his team since his demonstration didn’t represent a felony conviction.
Detroit won their second game of the season, beating a tough Atlanta team. The Fords filed an official protest, since this actually make Matt Millen look good.
A rumor is circulating that Jeff Fischer could replace Joe Gibbs in Washington next season. Finally, Dan Snyder has someone he can overpay and blame for everything.
The league is considering lifting the blackout restrictions in the Bay Area so at least someone will watch the Raiders and Niners.
Thanks. On to next week…