• Boller wasn't bad. I stand corrected on ripping Wile E. Genius for starting the rookie quarterback in Pittsburgh. A.K.A. Brian Billick showed me something. He's willing to risk the short term for something that will pay off in the long run.
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  • Boller wasn't bad. I stand corrected on ripping Wile E. Genius for starting the rookie quarterback in Pittsburgh. A.K.A. Brian Billick showed me something. He's willing to risk the short term for something that will pay off in the long run.
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    Notes: It shoulda been worse

    From the notebook of a sportswriter who wonders how bad the score would've been had Kyle Boller played as poorly as most rookies do on opening day: <br> <ul style="margin-top:0in" type="disc"> <li style="mso-list:l1 level1 lfo2;tab-stops:list .5in">Boller wasn't bad. I stand corrected on ripping Wile E. Genius for starting the rookie quarterback in Pittsburgh. A.K.A. Brian Billick showed me something. He's willing to risk the short term for something that will pay off in the long run. </li>

  • Thanks to weekly correspondent Gekko for that send-off. And remember, any and all ideas are welcome.
  • Of course, we'll blast anything Billick right after a game, a cigar game at that. But two of the things I counted upon most – poor Ravens special teams and very poor quarterbacking – didn't come through. Again, think how bad this beatin' coulda been …
  • The Steelers, of course, also showed me something. The defensive front seven looks much better this year, thanks to a rejuvenated Kimo von Oelhoffen. We knew Casey Hampton and Aaron Smith would be studs, and Smith was magnificent Sunday and Hampton was Hampton. But a healthy Kimo rounds it out. A problem though – since Hampton's playing so much nickel, he needs an occasional blow, and one of those blows, with Kendrick Clancy on the nose, allowed Jamal Lewis to waltz up the middle on his 14-yard touchdown run.
  • Almost said that was the only touchdown the Ravens deserved, but that 80-yard drive was helped by 62 yards in, hmmm, arguable defensive secondary calls.
  • When that much yardage is involved, they're always arguable. For the 12th consecutive year, please, please, NFL, do something about pass-interference penalties. It may be the only aspect of college football that's better than the man's game.
  • OK, that brings us to Dewayne Washington. He had 57 of those penalty yards on the drive. He's the guy many in the media want replaced. Coaches, though, insist his tackling is vital, and my birdies tell me he was pretty decent in coverage, too. Or at least better than his few mistakes would have us believe. So let's skip the Chad Scott diatribe, too.
  • Behind that defensive line came waves of backside support. Lewis the Tailback did well – and he just could become a 2,000-yard rusher this season – but his cutbacks met with resistance. Since the Steelers have a generous history against good cutback runners, this unit is standing out for its discipline.
  • Almost said gap-sound.
  • DOH!
  • Might be a good time to remind you to choose your media carefully. We've witnessed first-hand what consistently bad reporting can do to an otherwise innocent football fan, and, man, it ain't pretty.
  • So the Ravens now drop to 18-8 when both Ray and Jamal Lewis play together. But I'm telling you, Jermaine Lewis was the Lewis who counted most. Without the former return sensation, the other two Lewises are 2-4.
  • The Ravens replaced Lewis the Returner with something called Lamont Brightful of Eastern Washington, probably a bitter rival of Western Washington's Erik Totten, but I digress.

    Brightful came into the game with a preseason punt-return average of 7.4 yards per. His partner on kickoffs, Chet Taylor, averaged 17.1 per. In the championship year, Lewis averaged 16.1 on punts, with a 37.8 kickoff return average in the playoffs. On Sunday, Brightful was rather doubtful at 5.5 per punt, and Taylor averaged 23.2 on kickoffs. So the Steelers' coverage units weren't bad, but could've been better, particularly the kickoff coverage. It was the one aspect lagging in preseason stats, too.
  • Not only did the kickoff coverage team miss the recently cut James Harrison, it lost captain Clark Haggans to the starting lineup. Joey Porter's injury will also hurt former starting tight end Mark Bruener, who was deactivated Sunday because fourth tight end Matt Cushing plays special teams.
  • One of the interesting pre-game sideshows happened upon radio analyst Tunch Ilkin. He was accosted by a fat lady and her hubby for saying Ray Lewis is the best linebacker he's ever seen. The argument became semi-heated (never becomes too hot with Tunch) with the lady telling Tunch he ought to be ashamed of himself, and "What would Jack Lambert say to you young man?"
  • Lewis the Linebacker is very good, obviously, but to sum up my feelings we go to Steelers offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey, who said after the game, "oooohhhhhh."
  • Guess the mock shuddering that went along with it makes for better TV than print.
  • The same reason I loved Clark Haggans exiting the tunnel during pre-game intros with his helmet on and without histrionics a few weeks ago, I loved the snapshot of offensive line coach Russ Grimm as he walked off the field yesterday. His linemen had just protected quarterback Tommy Maddox well enough to allow a 29-21-0—260 and 3-touchdown day. Two sacks, and, well, you'll have that. But Grimm was, in a word, grim as he trudged off the field, head down. Fans were looking for the high fives, wristbands and hat doffings they got from Bruener, Maddox and Bill Cowher, in that order, but Grimm ignored all as if to say this is just a start. There is much work that needs to be done.
  • Yes, the line allowed Lewis the Linebacker to make four solo tackles. Totally unacceptable.
  • Frankly, I'm sick of trash talk, respect, disrespect and general slappiness. Swear to God I'll kick the next Tribune-Review writer who mentions trash talk right in the balls next time.
  • Rookie quarterbacks are 5-9 against Cowher, and 2-5 in Pittsburgh against Cowher, but give Boller credit. He's the tough nut who did it here before November 13, the first time that's ever been tried against Cowher. I fear Boller will become a force.
  • By then Lewis the Linebacker and Lewis the Running Back will be in football heaven with Lewis the Returner, and it won't matter.
  • Cowher said that was the first time in two years Kendrell Bell caught a ball, even in practice. Cowher used the word "shocked." It's not on the team-sponsored quote sheet, but he said it. I swear.
  • Why do the Steelers wear black on Sept. 7 when they have a choice? And was that so-called intimidating garb responsible for Cowher's 1-4 record in season-openers at home going into Sunday's game?
  • Best lead of the day belonged to Mike Ciarochi of Uniontown. In explaining why the Steelers used their dime defense only twice, he led with "Brother, can you spare a dime?"
  • OK, maybe not so great, but he's my friend. And the reason, Mike tells me, they used so much nickel on passing downs was because the Ravens only had three active wide receivers.
  • Wile E. Genius indeed.
  • Gotta respect Plaxico Burress for his taste in football legends. That Gale Sayers jersey was magnificent, like the runner himself.
  • At one point in the game, Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister turned to Hines Ward and said, "I respect the sh— out of you." It so startled the ref that he threw a flag and penalized the Ravens 15 yards.
  • Or something like that.
  • Next time you switch the decaffeinated and caffeinated spigots in the press box, please tell me. Please.  

  • Jim Wexell

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