Wednesday Apple Pie

The experiment is failing. The gut decision Bill Cowher made was flat out wrong. Starting Amos Zereoue instead of Jerome Bettis has completely annihilated whatever hopes of a running game there were heading into the season.

Here's the reason, and it's not pretty. Zereoue lacks the ability to shed a tackle. This was no more evident than on Sunday night. When the Steelers were faced with a third and 2, Zereoue was handed the ball and had a running lane open, except for the one tackler that got an arm on him. Bettis would have broken that tackle. China Doll Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala would have broken the tackle. Heck, even Erich Pegram would have gotten the two yards.

When given an open lane with only a single arm in the way, any NFL-pedigreed feature back is expected to get those two yards. Two yards. That's about the distance from my refrigerator to my stove. Two yards.

Amos Zereoue leads the league in being tackled behind the line of scrimmage. Zereoue supporters say that Barry Sanders never had to run behind a line like the Steelers have now and also led the league in the same category. But, Sanders had one intrinsic thing that Zereoue will never have: the ability to break a tackle.

The holes were there at many times on Sunday night. He just didn't have the ability or speed (remarkably) to get through them. The speed issue is perhaps the most surprising. This is the same guy who busted through a hole against Tennessee last January and went untouched for a 30-yard touchdown. That's the big play ability that Cowher foresaw Zereoue having this season. But somewhere along the line the speed left him, and with it his main strength.

He'll never be a great receiver out of the backfield. He's too chiseled for that. He'll never be a fantastic blocker either. Yet he could have been a speedy, slippery running back with the ability to break big gains on innocent looking plays.

The experiment is failing in a big way. Bettis needs to start. If for only the reason that he will get those two yards. He may not get much more, but when a team only needs two yards, why not go to the Pickup Truck instead of the Big Wheeler?

The Steelers enter the final 11 weeks of the season at 2 – 3. Cowher's been in a worse position before and said the right things to pull the team together to finish on a high note. This season is not over. Let's make that abundantly clear. Fair weather fans take heed. However, the cracks have grown to mammoth size. One more loss like Sunday night's may in fact knock the support right out from under him and the walls will come tumbling down.

In 1995, the Steelers lost a hard-fought game against a Miami team many anointed the Super Bowl favorite. They then lost a sloppy game at home against Minnesota with the help of 4 turnovers. After defeating the San Diego Chargers, the Steelers lost to the then rookie franchise Jacksonville and then offered up an outright embarrassment against Cincinnati on Thursday night.

They went to Chicago for a 4 p.m. contest in front of national TV and amazingly found themselves and their identity in an emotional come-from-behind victory in overtime. Denver holds the key for the Steelers rebirth. If the rebirth is to happen, Sunday at 4:15 pm will be the moment when the Steelers find themselves, their heart, and their ultimate destiny.

Apple Pix-Six: Week 5 Review

Chicago 24 Oakland 21: Mark the Raiders as another pretender this season. The ageless wonders are going to have a long season, much like their rivals from across the country. The Bears finally win a game on the leg of my favorite place-kicker, Paul Edinger. Do you think Kordell laughed with glee when Tommy Maddox was benched?

Kansas City 24 Denver 23: Not to take anything away from Dante Hall's amazing punt return for a touchdown, but he got help from an obvious block in the back after he cut back to his left. That's illegal…well, illegal only when the officials choose to call it.

Philadelphia 27 Washington 25: Oh wouldn't Patrick Ramsey love to have that incompletion to Laveranues Coles back. Coles was wide open. The game would have been tied, but the gods of football gave the Eagles their first win of the season at home.

Green Bay 35 Seattle 13: As my buddy Cowboy Matt explained to me on Sunday night while watching NFL Primetime, "You'd do well not to pick a fight with Bret Favre." The Seahawks did and paid dearly. It's great to see Donald Driver back on a football field.

New England 38 Tennessee 30: I still don't have a good handle on the fate of these two teams, but the Patriots win a big game for wild-card implications late in the season.

Minnesota 39 Atlanta 26: When Randy Moss decides to play he is still the best receiver in the league. This Viking team is playing with a ton of confidence right now and will give the Packers a run for their money in the NFC North. The Falcons officially join the Raiders and Steelers in looking toward next season.

Apple Pix-Six

1. Kansas City at Green Bay: The GOTW goes to Pittsburgh/Denver, but this game comes in a close second. Will Dante Hall get his 5th return for a touchdown this week? With more blocks in the back that go uncalled, he will. Bret Favre and Ahman Green did a number on Seattle's defensive unit. They'll have a harder time moving the ball this week.

2. Oakland at Cleveland: The Raiders can do the Steelers some good by beating the Browns in Cleveland. I'm thinking there is a good possibility they won't, but hey anything can happen in this league.

3. Philadelphia at Dallas: I bet the Eagles never expected to be looking up at the Cowboys in the division. Cowboy Matt is a realist. He knows that his Boys probably won't be able to sustain the winning pace, but then again, the Eagles weren't supposed to start 2 – 2.

4. NY Giants at New England: The Patriots overcame the mighty Steve McNair and now face Kerry "The Fumbler" Collins. I still think injuries will catch up to the Patriots before the season is over, but they should take care of New York easier than most would assume.

5. Carolina at Indianapolis: Here it is folks. This is the improbable Super Bowl match-up. If it comes down to this, I will run naked from Queens to Pittsburgh wearing only a pair of shoes and a Steelers ball cap.

6. Tampa Bay at Washington: The Bucs can't afford to fall too far behind the Panthers, so they'll need to win this week. The Skins on the other hand have already dropped two divisional match-ups. They can't afford a conference loss this week.

The Complete Power Core Rankings: Week 6

  1. Kansas City – The Chiefs won't win in Denver later this season.
  2. Indianapolis – The Manning Miracle was miraculous.
  3. Denver – Okay, a block in the back is the only reason they didn't beat the Chiefs.
  4. Minnesota – And the offensive juggernaut continues to roll.
  5. Carolina – Oh, Dom, Stephen Davis may end up being the most valuable player this season.
  6. Tampa Bay – The implosion by that defense is a very troublesome thing.
  7. Miami – A decisive win over the overrated Giants.
  8. Tennessee – I think on a neutral field, Tennessee would have won the game.
  9. New England – Are they too high? Yup, but they did beat a good Tennessee team.
  10. Buffalo – I think they're still too high also, but there were a bunch of losses by high teams this week.
  11. Green Bay – The Packers will not go quietly into the night.
  12. Seattle – Now that's the Seahawks I remember.
  13. Baltimore – If this team had a good quarterback they would be scary.
  14. San Francisco – The Niners rebound from the previous week's schlocking with a healthy dose of Lion-beating.
  15. Philadelphia – Quietly the defense is taking this team on its back.
  16. Washington – How did you miss Laverneous Coles that badly Patrick Ramsey? How? That was a gimmee.
  17. Pittsburgh – There is a ton of trouble in this River City. It begins with I and ends with T and it stands for Interceptions.
  18. NY Giants – OVERRATED (BUM, BUM, BUM BUM BUM) OVERRATED. Every year this team is OVERRATED.
  19. Dallas – I can't put them any higher until they prove they can beat a good team outside of New York.
  20. Oakland – Al…Al…you don't lose to the Bears.
  21. Cleveland – The Browns atone for last year's choke in the Ketchup Bowl.
  22. Atlanta – Michael Vick's comeback is stalled by at least a week. It doesn't matter this season.
  23. Dallas – Them Cowboys sure love Giants stadium. Too bad they won't visit it again until next year.
  24. Houston – This team plays with a lot of heart. Did you hear that Pittsburgh?
  25. New Orleans – Jim Haslett's tenure is officially over.
  26. Detroit – Rogers' injury is just what this team didn't need.
  27. Jacksonville – I can't tell if Byron Leftwich is that good, but his numbers are pretty incredible.
  28. Cincinnati – A week off and they're still in last place.
  29. Chicago – The monkey is off Kordell's back, for now.
  30. Arizona – Emmit…please retire, you have nothing left to prove.
  31. NY Jets – Can they get a mulligan on this year?
  32. San Diego – What has happened to this team? What has happened to the defense?

Fruits of Labor (stock is rising)

  • Hines Ward Seems to be only player on the team worth raving about. He needs to touch the ball more than twice a game.

Rotten Produce (stock is falling)

  • Amos Zereoue – Please tell me how a running that can't break a tackle can start in this league.

Missed Point Opportunities (MPO)

TeamPittsburghCleveland
Drives2nd Drive (FG)2nd Drive (FG after fumble)
3rd Drive (Punt after False Start)
5th Drive (Punt to start 2nd Half)
6th Drive (INT returned for touchdown)
7th Drive (FG after INT)
9th Drive (INT)
Score60

Season MPO Record: 2-3

Wisdom from the Girl Apple

Apple: Dumb Steelers. Dumb Cowher.

Girl Apple: Relax.

Apple: But…

Girl Apple: Maybe they will win this week.

Apple: Yeah right.

Girl Apple: Maybe they will. You don't know.

Apple: They just aren't as good as advertised.

Girl Apple: Is anything?

Apple: No.

Girl Apple: Then don't get yourself all worked up.

Apple: But optimism is a good thing.

Girl Apple: Not when it ruins your week. The world won't stop, but YOU will.

Apple: You're right.

Just more wisdom from the Girl Apple.

Super-Fan Pappy Fried Chicken's Keys To The Game

  • This week I feel a tremendous amount of pressure to while writing my keys to the game, but then, my offensive line hasn't shown up either.
  • Tommy cannot be the fall guy here. He is a pocket passer who has been running for his life as of late. The passing game is suffocating from the lack of a running game and that's due to the poor play of the o-line also. These guys have to get their act together.
  • It's time for Bill to wise up and give Bettis a chance. Obviously Amos is not the answer. Especially now that he has bulked up, because all that means is he has fewer moves and is more top heavy, which just makes him easier to tackle. Give someone a chance!
  • Chad Scott once again looked like he came straight from the WPIAL. I have stuck up for him for years, but I can't do it any more. The past two weeks he has looked as confused as a hungry baby in a topless bar and if they don't start using Deshea Townsend they are going to lose him. He could be a starter on a number of teams. Time to sit Scott.
  • It is painfully obvious that the rest of the league has figured out how to beat the Steelers and only the talent level of the team has kept them afloat. It is time for a new plan of attack; in past seasons has come about during the bye week.
  • Don't give up on the Denver game. We have a hungry team that is backed into a corner and ready to strike. Or, we can't lose next week.

Thoughts Assisted By Yuengling

  • Sitting at Scruffy Duffy's on Sunday with Girl Apple and myself were Cowboy Matt (a devoted Cowboy fan) and Laura the Red (a devoted Browns fan) and both were just as surprised as us by the display of high school football the Steelers gave the nation.
  • Speaking of Laura the Red, she tells me Tim Couch puts highlights in his hair. Just thought you'd like to know.
  • Cowboy Matt bought me a beer for my sorrows. Thanks Matt, how about buying the Steelers a new center, right tackle, running back, quarterback, secondary, head coach…etc.
  • John the Director, helming a show I'm in up here called "A New Brain", is a devoted Steeler fan as well. I told Matt that the first thing John would say to me on Monday morning would be "I don't want to talk about it." Well, that's what John said, but the subtext was more like "I don't want to %$^&ing talk about the #$%^ing game, now you better have your $%^&ing lines learned because I'm going to be in a $%#$ing bad mood all week."
  • Speaking of "A New Brain", Bill Cowher needs to…ahh it's just too easy.
  • A Browns fan at Scruffy's said to me at half time that the blocked PAT would come back to haunt his Dawgs. I told him that the Steelers would just let an ensuing kickoff be returned for a touchdown. We then gave each other cheers, for as much as we dislike the other's team, we're still the same.
  • Speaking of Laura the Red, she's one of the few people that can make that awful Brown and Orange combination work.
  • Cowboy Matt made a great comment on Sunday night. At about the mid-way point of the third quarter he turns to me, takes a big gulp of Newcastle, and says, "That offense gives up too quickly." That fact is now so obvious that most Steelers fans are still oblivious to the profound meaning of the statement.

Correction

I would like to address the fact that my "sit-down interview" with Wesley Willis made quite a few folks angry. I would like to apologize to anyone, especially the good folks at Alternative Tentacles Records, who was offended by the piece. For those who did not know, the "sit-down" interview has been a running gag in WAP following games against the Cincinnati Bengals since the column was incepted last season. The idea came from my appreciation of Wesley's alternative music and a desire to introduce a recurring "character" into my piece. Never have I actually "sat down" with Mr. Willis, nor have I ever had any relationship with the gentleman. Mr. Willis was never homeless as the column suggests. I'm also well aware that Mr. Willis died tragically on Aug. 21st. The next column in which the character of Mr. Willis is set to appear will be more faithful to his life and musical career.


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