Because of the impact that this infallible foretelling has on betting lines and the stock market, we advise you to use caution when discussing this column. Thank you.">
Because of the impact that this infallible foretelling has on betting lines and the stock market, we advise you to use caution when discussing this column. Thank you.">

Bold Predictions: Week Four - Playing Ketchup

Green Mountain Dawg, who is behind many of the player profiles you read here, is happy to provide his regular Watercooler "Bold Predictions" feature to all Bernie's Insiders visitors. As he has been doing for years, GMD will tell you exactly, precisely, what is going to happen during this Sunday's game.<BR><BR><I>Because of the impact that this infallible foretelling has on betting lines and the stock market, we advise you to use caution when discussing this column. Thank you.</I>


Calling the Pittsburgh Steelers a disappointment is like calling the Enron fiasco a book-keeping error. The Steelers are bad in ways that preseason pundits could never have imagined when they lauded the team as Super Bowl contenders. Running backs are fumbling, receivers are dropping balls, and defensive backs are playing so far off the ball they seem to be playing goalie rather than cornerback. 

For explosive head coach Bill Cowher, it's all enough to create a state of dementia. Still, a bye week following two humiliating losses has allowed Cowher and his staff enough time that they hope to address the issues and make the game interesting. But when Kordell Stewart fumbles the first snap from scrimmage, giving the Browns the ball on the 32 yard line, the long-time coach snaps like a dry twig. 

Cameras spot Cowher trying to beat Stewart with his own helmet on the sidelines as Hines Ward and Marvel Smith pull the enraged coach away. Cowher never sees Tim Couch's touchdown strike to Andre Davis in the corner of the end zone that gives the Browns a quick 7-0 lead. But he does get an eyeful of Steelers' returner Lee Mays muffing the ensuing kick off at his own 4 yard line. Chris Akins lands on the ball in the end zone for the second Browns touchdown in as many seconds. 

Offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey hopes to strike fire by testing the Browns secondary deep. But backup quarterback Tommy Maddox' first pass - a wretched lame duck intended for Plaxico Burress - falls short and is picked off by Anthony Henry. Two plays later, the Browns score again. 

The Steelers fans have gone silent, but not Cowher. The coach is going berserk. He punches Mularkey in the face, spits at defensive coordinator Tim Lewis, and beats Tommy Maddox with a first down marker. He's got Antwaan Randle El in a vicious choke hold when police finally step in and drag Cowher off the field. 

A blood test at half time confirms what everyone has suspected for years: Yes, Bill Cowher has rabies. And a bad case of it too. The Pittsburgh coach is slobbering like Cujo in butcher shop, thrashing wildly against the nylon restraints on the trainer's table. Warm spit and foam drip from the locker room walls as a six-pack of cops carry the explosive Steelers coach from the building. 

To the 53 Steelers players in the next room, the gurgling noise coming from Cowher's throat sounds like the end of an era.

It couldn't come a moment to soon for Kordell Stewart. The seven-year veteran could be the most tormented QB in NFL history this side of Mike Tomczak. So when the volcanic Cowher is given his walking papers in the middle of the game, you can almost hear the sigh of relief. 

Not that it helps Kordell's game any. Unwillingly forced to play again in the second half, Stewart sets an NFL record by single-handedly committing seven fumbles. By the time Steelers coaches finally get around to running Jerome Bettis, the Browns have scored so many points the stadium scoreboard can't display the triple-digit figure. Mularkey runs Bettis three times, losing four yards, before Bettis fumbles the ball at the 30 yard line. 

For Steelers owner Art Rooney, Jr., the message comes in loud and clear. Tearing down Three Rivers Stadium was a mistake, and naming the new field after ketchup was an even bigger one. The football gods are clearly annoyed. 

Rooney is on the phone in a hot second. In the third quarter, construction crews start tearing down the giant ketchup bottles on the stadium score board. Rooney has sold the naming rights for the stadium to New Jersey-based Reckitt Benckiser, maker of none other than French's Mustard. 

The branding guys are a-twitter, it all makes such perfect sense. Yellow mustard, yellow pants, even terrible yellow towels to hide terrible yellow mustard stains. With 10 minutes left to play, Hines Ward is traded to Kansas City for a second round draft pick. Rooney hires former Steeler running back Frenchy Fuqua to provide event PR. 

None of this, of course, affects the final score. 

Browns: 264
Steelers: -12

And that's the way I see it.



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