Don't believe me? You will.
Last season, the Steelers faced only 6 of the top 20 rushers in the NFL. In fact they didn't even need to tackle the top 5 rushers at all. This season? The Steelers face, last season's #2, #3, #4, #8 twice, #10 twice, #13, #14, and #15 - in other words, Tomlinson, Portis, Holmes, Jamal Lewis, Corey Dillion, Alexander, George and Martin, and don't forget Faulk who ended up #22 in an injury-plagued year.
That's a pretty big task considering Deuce McAllister, the highest-rated running back faced last year (#6), tore up the Steelers in week 4 for 123 yards.
A simple deduction of the former information will give an easy answer. Unless the Steelers can stop those running backs (and that's 10 games out of the year), it won't matter how bad or good the pass defense becomes this season.
Regardless of the offensive game plan, it takes a special kind of pass attack to consistently control the clock over long periods of time. Pittsburgh has one of those very rare attacks; the teams who have the running backs above do not. Not even the great Oakland Raiders can control a game strictly through the air any longer. That window closed in January.
Therefore, those teams will be forced to rely on their superstar running backs to control the tempo of the game and force the Steelers to play top notch run defense before the question of pass defense ever becomes valid.
It's quite simple, if the Steelers are able to limit the above running backs to 80 yards or less, the game will be won. If not, the Steelers will be in for a long, long day.
Apple Pix-Six: Week 1 Review
Tampa Bay 17 Philadelphia 0: The worst move of the game was made by the usually reliable Andy Reid. He challenged a penalty in the second quarter of what was already a lethargic and ugly contest. The fans that had been screaming since dawn Monday morning grew silent as the challenge progressed, and when action returned (he won the meaningless challenge) neither Eagles nor the crowd were there. The Bucs gained more respect, but I think the Eagles fell into the same revenge trap the Steelers did a year ago. They still thought going in that they were the better team. Newsflash Philly: You aren't.
Tennessee 25 Oakland 20: Both teams played very ugly football as penalties plagued both squads. The Raiders looked old sans Charlie Garner. Where was Jerry Porter? This was supposed to be his breakout year. Rod Woodson had an easy fumble return for a touchdown nullified by the whistle, those plays can change the course of a game. Steve McNair looked a little erratic at times and the offense will scare no one since Eddie George's best days are very far in the past. But the Titans with the emotion pulled out the closely fought victory with the help of the punter, Craig Hentrich.
Buffalo 27 New England 0: This is proof positive of my theory that the pre-season means jack-squat. Buffalo looked energized and one step ahead of the Patriots at all times. In fact, the Patriots had a little post-pre-season ego riding on their shoulders. By the way, Tom Brady is the most overrated quarterback in the league.
Indianapolis 9 Cleveland 6: Ugly, ugly game. Neither quarterback lit up the football field. I thought Kelly Holcomb was the next coming of Joe Montana, no wait that was Chad Pennington. Neither of the defenses will scare anyone so I'm thinking that there is a little anxiety concerning the offense in both towns.
NY Giants 23 St Louis 13: I must admit, I thought Kurt Warner had done enough in his career to warrant being the starting quarterback for the Rams, but I was wrong. What has happened to Kurt Warner? And don't tell me it's injury related. Yes he ended up having a concussion, but this has been a very momentual decline since the Super Bowl two years ago. His decline is one of the great epic tragedies of the modern day football. The Giants? They've been a thorn in the Rams' side for years now. Why would anything change?
Kansas City 27 San Diego 14: Wow, if there was any doubt who was the better running back, it was decided here. Priest Holmes out-classed LaDanian Tomlinson. Tomlinson will have a great year regardless of his output last Sunday, but Holmes hasn't lost a step. Just a feeling, but watch the upcoming Pittsburgh/Kansas City contest extra carefully. These teams may meet in the future. It's very, very possible.
1. (GOTW) Tennessee at Indianapolis: The Colts got swept handily last year by the Titans, but could steal this early divisional contest. The winner gets a leg up on the division as neither Houston nor Jacksonville look to actually make a serious run at the division. The Titans could be emotionally drained after Sunday night's ugly slugfest.
2. Miami at NY Jets: Oh September looked so gloriously easy for Dolphins fans. First, Houston was supposed to be a pushover, and then the Jets were a depleted bunch. But, the Dolphins have a wounded ego right now and the Jets would love to step on that ego a little more in their home opener.
3. New England at Philadelphia: Neither team has scored a point this season. Something obviously has to give. I get the feeling the Patriots will be hard pressed to score this week again, while the Eagles are better than they showed against the Bucs.
4. Denver at San Diego: Clinton Portis will watch game tape of Priest Holmes running over the Charger defense and drool over the possibilities. If the Chargers can't stop Portis, it won't matter how badly Jake Plummer plays.
5. San Francisco at St. Louis: The Niners get Marc Bulger to deal with instead of the injured Kurt Warner. That's unlucky because this Rams team is a different team with Bulger. They seem to have much more energy. The Niners kicked over Kordell Stewart's Bears like a driveway gnome. But if Jeff Garcia doesn't stay healthy, the Niners will be in trouble.
6. Washington at Atlanta: The Falcons looked dreadful for about 3 quarters against the Cowboys. They better kick the gear into the next level or the Redskins will run right through the Vick-less Birds. Lidell Betts? If you have a fantasy team, pick him up off of waivers/free agency. He's got speed and power and looked impressive against the Jets.
The Complete Power Core Rankings: Week 2
- Tampa Bay – Regardless of the stadium, the Bucs love Philadelphia.
- Kansas City – Do they have a defense? Will it matter? We'll find out this week.
- Pittsburgh – Best overall opener in the Bill Cowher era.
- Tennessee – McNair sure looks like an instant All-Pro to me.
- San Francisco – It was only Kordell they beat up on.
- Denver – Jake Plummer looked awful, but not as bad as Jon Kitna.
- Philadelphia – They need to get over the fact that they can't beat Tampa.
- Buffalo – Big win. Look like the possible class of the East.
- NY Giants – Tiki Barber could win the rushing title if he stays healthy.
- Atlanta – I don't think Doug Johnson is that good, but the Falcons will stay in wildcard contention while he's under center.
- Miami – Yes they lost, but the coaching was the big problem.
- Indianapolis – Surprising lack of offense.
- Seattle – What? Mike Holmgren's squad looked good? Is this a joke?
- Washington – Impressive win because they actually tried to run the ball.
- Oakland – They need Jerry Porter back in a big way.
- Green Bay – Glad to hear Donald Drive will be okay. Too bad the same can't be said for the Pack.
- Minnesota – Could be the sleeper team of the NFC, what with Randy Moss.
- San Diego – Where was the running game? Where was the passing game? Too many questions.
- New England – I'll say it again. Tom Brady is OVERRATED.
- Carolina – Gutsy win. Smart move to bench Peete; he's old. Not Rich Gannon old, though. Just plain old.
- New Orleans – Wow. Jim Haslett's job security isn't very good right now.
- Cleveland – This team just isn't good enough to win the close games this season. Mark my word.
- NY Jets – Many, many depth issues with this team. Worse yet is that Vinny won't be able to keep them in contention, no matter what the media says.
- Detroit – Bigger win for the franchise than the season itself.
- Houston – Biggest opening day upset in years, all from the foot of Kris Brown. Where was your accuracy two years ago?
- Baltimore – Boller will be better and will be really good in two years.
- St. Louis – The Bulger era officially begins on Sunday.
- Jacksonville – Mark Brunell is still one good quarterback, but his team won't be good until well after his retirement.
- Dallas – I can't move them up or down. They lost, but the defense is decent. Antonio Bryant is good, but Quincy Carter isn't. See. Not up or down.
- Chicago – A collective "ooooooooohhh" comes from Bears fans everywhere. They now understand what Pittsburgh fans were talking about.
- Arizona – Stomped by the Detroit Lions? Emmitt, Emmitt, Emmitt, it should have never come to this. Retire already. What else must you prove?
- Cincinnati – Oh this is like a never ending nightmare for Bengal fans. Fire the whole team.
Fruits of Labor (stock is rising)
- Tommy Maddox – He's the number one quarterback in the NFL and he's a Steeler. One phrase I thought I'd never write.
Rotten Produce (stock is falling)
- Mark Bruener – This Pittsburgh landmark was placed on the inactive list indirectly because of Joey Porter's injury. That's a shame. He's taken a pay cut, now he can't even get on the field.
Missed Point Opportunities (MPO)
|2nd Drive (Field Goal)||1st Drive (Int)|
|3rd Drive (Punt after Taunting Penalty)||3rd Drive (Inside Pitt. 40)|
|4th Drive (Inside Pitt. 40)|
|6th Drive (Inside Pitt. 40)|
|7th Drive (Inside Pitt. 40)|
Wisdom From the Girl Apple
Me: Girl Apple, that was a great Steeler game last week, huh? With the defense playing as well as it did, is it foolish to rush Joey Porter back into the lineup following his injury?
Girl Apple: Hmmm….
Me: I asked is it foolish to rush Joey…
Girl Apple: Do you realize that it's close to Midnight? I'm trying to sleep.
Me: I know, but your adoring fans want to know.
Girl Apple: Want to know what?
Me: About Joey Porter.
Girl Apple: What about him?
Me: Well, he got a shot in the buttocks less than two weeks ago, but he might be back to play this weekend. At least he hasn't been ruled out.
Girl Apple: Who shot him?
Me: It was a drive-by. Possibly gang-related.
Girl Apple: You're going to need a bullet-proof vest if you don't let me sleep. Anyway, he got shot? And they still won? And played well defensively? Well, then no. Don't let him play.
Me: There you have it sports fans, more wisdom from the Girl Apple.
Super-Fan Pappy Fried Chicken's Keys to the Game
- We need to stop the holiest of holy running backs, Priest Holmes. He seems to not be able to do anything wrong at this point. Keep him to short runs on the first two downs and on third down get down on your knees and pray that the secondary holds up.
- Offensively, we need to keep doing what we did last week, except we need to open up the running game. We need to get the running game going now and be consistent so it will be there for the rest of the season. We can't have it stalling now and be a one dimensional offense.
p.s. We didn't have to smack Ray Lewis in the mouth. He shut
himself up. Then, you didn't hear him for the rest of the game. Take that Ray!
Thoughts Assisted by Yuengling
- Dave Wannestad is perhaps the worst football coach in the NFL today. Did he not learn from last year's choke effort in New England? Memo to Dave: When the game is in its waning moments, don't throw the ball when you have Ricky "All-Pro" Williams in the backfield. It's that simple.
- Now suiting up for the St. Louis Rams, Marc Bluger.
- Seriously though folks, why does Kurt Warner look like he's forgotten how to play quarterback?
- Great catch by Antonio Bryant on Sunday. Parcells would be well advised to get this talented youngster as involved in the offense as he possibly can.
- Memo to Bill Parcells: You won't go anywhere with Quincy Carter as your signal caller.
- Yup, that Kelly Holcomb was astounding. Almost scored a touchdown, too.
- Charlie Garner's got one impressive burst of speed in the open field, doesn't he?
- You think Mike Martz was setting Kurt Warner up to fail, keeping him in the game with a concussion? Come on Mike, he's human, not some toy you can play with.