Wednesday Apple Pie

The bye week, once the bane of all Pittsburgh Steeler fans, has now become the last chance to find a cure for the illness that has stricken the Steelers. Yes, the season in effect comes down to the changes the Steelers can make during their week off.

And changes will be made. Since we can only speculate on what these changes will be, let's play what is this season's game of choice - "If I Were Bill Cowher".

If I were Bill Cowher I would:

  • Start Jerome Bettis It doesn't make any sense when a Hall of Famer sits on the bench and still leads all of the team's running backs in touchdowns. Besides, at this rate there won't be a stretch run.
  • Be concerned about Plaxico Burress The lack of production is disturbing. The lack of touchdowns even more.
  • Introduce Marvel Smith to a guy named "Guts." – Smith needs to take one for the team and play with his discomfort. Two other guys on that line (Hartings and Simmons) are giving their heart and soul while playing with injuries; Smith needs to follow in line.
  • Give Tommy Maddox some pain killers – If he continues to take the sack instead of throwing the bad pass, Maddox might not last the season.
  • Replace Jason Gildon in the dime package – I know it's tough when you're so loyal to veterans, but Bell, Porter and Farrior are a much more imposing package than Porter, Farrior and Gildon.
  • Play more no-huddle – The offense seems to play better when they strike quickly.
  • Give Antwaan Randle-El more touches – Perhaps he needs to see the ball more often and this will get him in the game.
  • Spread the wealth – The Steelers have many weapons, but often Maddox is locked onto only two of them.
  • Let Chukki Okobi play more downs – I'd start alternating series between Hartings and Okobi. It might save Hartings for key moments in games.
  • Use the tight end in the Red Zone – Okay, so the running game isn't helping the red-zone efficiency. How about dropping off underneath to the tight end?

Apple Pix-Six: Week 6 Review

Kansas City 40 Green Bay 34 (OT): The Packer had their chance. Things looked quite lolly in Lambeau, but then Bret Favre threw a "Tommy Maddox" (an interception which was returned for a touchdown) and the Chiefs were in the game. What's worse is that the Pack actually blocked the Chiefs' field goal attempt.

Cleveland 13 Oakland 7: The Raiders are finished. This fall has been epic. In the same vein, William Green is running well in Cleveland and the defense, although young and inexperienced, is playing with confidence. The Browns may in fact challenge the Ravens for the division.

Dallas 23 Philadelphia 21: Signs of the approaching apocalypse (Part 1): The Dallas Cowboys are 4 – 1 under the helm of Quincy Carter. Yes…that Quincy Carter. The Eagles on the other hand drop to two games behind the Cowboys. Oh the times they are a changin'.

New England 17 NY Giants 6: The Giants seem to have many of the same problems that the Steelers have, immobile quarterback, touchdown deficiencies and bad, bad luck.

Carolina 23 Indianapolis20 (OT): Signs of the approaching apocalypse (Part 2): Carolina is 5 – 0. As Jason the Bronco fan said, "Anything can happen in the NFL if Carolina is undefeated." Anyone else seeing a Carolina vs. Kansas City Super Bowl? I hope not. That must be a nightmare.

Tampa Bay 35 Washington 13: Lavar Arrington said he was going to "get" Warren Sapp if Sapp tried to score another touchdown this week. Seems like that's the only thing the Redskins focused on in their game plan. Hey, they shut down Sapp's offensive output. That's something, right?

Apple Pix-Six

1. Tampa Bay at San Francisco: During the divisional playoffs, the Bucs put the sleeper hold on a Niners offense that scored 40+ against the Giants in the Wild Card Round. Do you think Terrell Owens remembers?

2. New England at Miami: If any team will challenge the Dolphins this year in the East, it will be the Patriots. Tom Brady played efficient if unspectacular last week. Ricky Williams on the other hand has had trouble finding room as teams stack the line.

3. Philadelphia at NY Giants: Neither of these teams thought going into the season they'd be chasing the Cowboys, but that's just what has happened. The loser of this game will have a tough time getting back into the mix of the playoff race.

4. Kansas City at Oakland: The Chiefs have looked mortal the past two weeks. But, Priest Holmes and the offense will be an overmatch against the floundering Raiders.

5. Tennessee at Carolina: And all of the sudden, the Panthers play two meaningful games in a row. The Titans come off Steve McNair's best performance of his career and face a Panther team that found a way to hang with Colts.

6. Denver at Minnesota: So many good games and this final pick is a dandy. The Vikings should give the Broncos fits, especially if Denver is forced to play catch up all day. Clinton Portis needs to have a better outing, but the Vikings don't have a defense that resembles the Steelers front 7.

The Complete Power Core Rankings: Week 7

  1. Kansas City – Escaped with a hard-fought comeback win.
  2. Denver – Will meet KC for the AFC Championship.
  3. Minnesota – And the offensive juggernaut continues to roll.
  4. Carolina – Gutsy win. These guys are for real.
  5. Tampa Bay – Stuck it to the Redskins. What defensive problem?
  6. Miami – The Dolphins took a little too long to dispatch the Jaguars.
  7. Indianapolis – No shame in that loss, especially a loss without the services of Edgerrin James.
  8. Tennessee – Steve McNair's best day as a pro.
  9. New England – I still don't have any reason to put them this high or drop them any lower.
  10. Seattle – Eke out a win against the Niners to stay in control of the NFC West.
  11. Baltimore – Played in front of hundreds in Arizona.
  12. Dallas – Do you now believe that Bill Parcells is the best coach in all the land?
  13. St. Louis – Was that the Falcons they played or Temple?
  14. Cleveland – All of a sudden William Green is starting to run well.
  15. San Francisco – The Niners are following Dennis Erickson's formula for success. Wait, he doesn't have a formula.
  16. Philadelphia – The Eagles need a running back, wide receiver, and tight end. Donovan McNabb can't play every position any longer.
  17. Green Bay – Is Lambeau losing its luster?
  18. Pittsburgh – And the descent continues.
  19. Buffalo – Without Eric Moulds or Travis Henry healthy, this is a very ordinary, average team.
  20. NY Giants – The Giants can't score. Sounds like another team we know.
  21. Washington – The Redskins are 0 – 3 in the division. That's a bad omen.
  22. Oakland – Break up the vets. The party is over.
  23. New Orleans – Jim Haslett's tenure is officially over.
  24. Detroit – Rogers' injury is just what this team didn't need.
  25. Atlanta – Michael Vick was important to this team, but they won't be much better until that line gets better.
  26. Jacksonville – Hung tough with the Dolphins, but couldn't get any running game going.
  27. Houston – Was that the same team that beat the Dolphins in week one?
  28. NY Jets – Jets finally win a game. Vinny passes Joe Montana. It IS the end of the world as we know it.
  29. Chicago – And the winning streak ends quickly.
  30. Cincinnati – I can't move them up very high because, well…it feels unnatural.
  31. Arizona – They have some talent, but Jeff Blake deserves better.
  32. San Diego – What has happened to this team? What has happened to the defense?

Fruits of Labor (stock is rising)

  • Jerome Bettis – Sure he fumbled. But, come on, the guy is the only running back worth starting at this point.

  • Rotten Produce (stock is falling)
    • Plaxico Burress – Why hasn't he scored more touchdowns?

    Missed Point Opportunities (MPO)

    TeamPittsburghDenver
    Drives2nd Drive (FG after INT)8th Drive (FG after Fumble)
    5th Drive (FG after INT)
    11th Drive (Fumble)
    Score31

    Season MPO Record: 2-4

    Wisdom From the Girl Apple

    Apple: The season is over and we are only hitting the bye week.

    Girl Apple: Does that mean I get you back on Sundays?

    Apple: Not so fast.

    Girl Apple: Well, if the season is over…

    Apple: Well, they could get a little winning streak going.

    Girl Apple: Okay, well when will the season be over?

    Apple: If they lose more than six games.

    Girl Apple: How many have the lost so far? Four, right?

    Apple: Thanks for the reminder.

    Girl Apple: Well, they just can't afford to lose too often now.

    Apple: But that would mean they have to go 8 – 2 the rest of the way.

    Girl Apple: Strange things happen. I never thought you'd say the season was over this early. So just relax. Enjoy your Sunday this week with no silly Steeler games to worry about. Maybe they'll start playing better after they've had some time to reflect and spend with their loved ones.

    Super-Fan Pappy Fried Chicken's Keys To The Bye Week

    • Maybe it was just my frail, emotional football side getting used to disappointment and longing for a brand new W on the board, but I think the Pittsburgh Steelers started to show up in Denver. Don't get me wrong. The offensive line still sucked, but some things started to work.
    • They used Bettis more and he fell forward and gained a couple of the tough yards that defenses have to respect. Get him a few more reps and maybe we will see less of the cover 2.
    • Let me get one thing straight. Nobody could stand up to the pressure that Tommy Maddox has been under, but he has not lashed out and he has handled it with poise and grace. This week we even saw him throw the ball away a couple of times instead of trying to force it. Now we just need him to get his timing back with Burress and to find the tight end in the end zone.
    • We have a bye week and in the past this has been a week for rejuvenation and turn-around. This year will be no different. From the showing they had in Denver I am confident we will see a brand new Steeler team on the field that has made some changes and tightened up. GAME ON!

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