Guest Analyst: Jim Wexell, beat writer for Scout.com's Pittsburgh Steelers affiliate, SteelCityInsiders.com
The Steelers have had a number of close games with teams they should have beaten handily (Cardinals, Jets, Dolphins). What is it about those close games that gave the Steelers trouble? Has it been corrected?
Wexell: As they say in the gambling community, they were great spots for those home teams. The Cards, coached by [Ken Wisenhut] and [RussGrimm], were primed for a 3-0 team; the Broncos, with a good coach, were coming off a bye after a shellacking from the Chargers; and the 1-8 Jets were coming off a bye against a team that just won three straight division games. We can't all be Patriots.
Willie Parker has shown lashes of brilliance, but has had some ball control issues. Was it something in particular that caused parker to have difficulty holding onto the ball, and do you expect it to be a problem down the road?
Wexell: No. Willie's problems are that he lacks vision and a quality interior OL. The latter's a problem because defenses are funneling him inside. The fumbling was a fluke.
The Steelers offense has been inconsistent this season, but the defense continues to be solid ranked 1st in the league overall. Do you think the unit's success is about the opponents that Pittsburg has faced or is more about the ability of the team to make plays?
Wexell: Yes, all of the Steelers opponents have been weak. Seriously, make plays? You mean like sacks? And turnovers? Things that the great Belichick schemes in? They have some of those. Otherwise, it's good talent and good coaching. You'll see some of that in Foxborough.
Ben Roethlisberger had a lackluster season the year after his motorcycle incident. How is he doing this season, and do you think he's moved past that?
Wexell: Of course he's moved past that. He's also taken to heart the correct criticism that he didn't work hard enough off the field. He's doing that and he has a smarter head coach.
What has surprised you most about the Steelers this season?
Wexell: I predicted 11-5. Nothing about the success of a team two years removed from a Super Bowl has surprised me, except they should have more wins at this point.
Be sure to check back for part 2 of this Q&A with Steelers insider Jim Wexell