Don't let it bring you down

From the notebook of a sportswriter who urges fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers to take the second half of this wretched football season personally:

  • Jog, quit smoking, quit drinking, hug your kids, whatever. Do something to give yourself a sense of accomplishment because the opium of our masses is not getting the job done this fall.

  •  Down 10 with 3:24 left, the Steelers kicked a 21-yard field goal instead of going for a touchdown from the three-yard line. It was a decision that reeked of an NFL veteran coach. It was a move that can't be second-guessed because the Steelers did need two scores, but in reality it was weak-kneed. Getting the ball back with 1:05 left was the best the Steelers could've hoped for, and that's what happened. That last possession wouldn't have been so hopeless if they'd only needed a long field goal instead of a wing and a prayer.

  • The beauty of the move is that Bill Cowher stands above blame. But, guess what, coach? You're 2-6.

  • Seattle was 2-6 at the same point last year. They beat the Arizona Cardinals the next week and went on to finish 7-9. Right now, the Seahawks are 6-2 and alone in first place in their division.

  • The fine line in this league is being drawn by the Seahawks.

  • How did they do it? Well, here's the rundown. They got a key lineman, Steve Hutchinson, back from injury. They also picked up another lineman, Chris Terry, off the waiver wire after the talented but troubled tackle crossed the line for the last time in Carolina. The Seahawks also picked up three veterans in decline - Norman Hand, Randall Godfrey and Damien Robinson - in free agency. They also picked up a cheap pass-rusher, Chiki Okeafor, in free agency. In the draft, they selected an outstanding young cornerback, Marcus Trufant, with the 11th pick and another fine prospect in free safety Ken Hamlin.

  •  In other words, it's a very do-able process.

  • Hamlin didn't start yesterday. The official explanation was a sprained foot, but Coach Mike Holmgren later said he wanted Robinson, the veteran, back there against Plaxico Burress and Hines Ward.

  • Sounds like the thinking with the Steelers, who can't get enough of Brent Alexander's veteran leadership in lieu of young safeties Chris Hope and Troy Polamalu.

  • Polamalu, the rookie safety who'll be compared with Hamlin for a long time in Pittsburgh, missed a key tackle early in the game and, as the fullback, allowed the blocked punt on the first possession of the second half.

  • Cowher absolved Polamalu of blame on the blocked punt. Of course he did.

  • At least Cowher's pointing fingers at veterans. Dewayne Washington was cited for blame the way he should've been in the Steelers' last playoff game. He was coddled then, but now that he's obviously of no use for the future, Washington was fitted yesterday by his coach for the goat's horns.

  • Not that Washington should've stayed in the game after blowing the tackle on Darrell Jackson's back-breaking 43-yard reception, but is Deshea Townsend an answer? He's the guy that allowed two Seattle receivers to break wide open and drop touchdown passes.

  • Maybe Townsend yelled "boo" loud enough.

  • Plaxico Burress, please have a nice, steaming cup of S.T.F.U. Then come back next week and catch the ball. Just jump up and catch it. Looks like you're crying to the official before the play's over.

  • Seriously, though, Burress can't jump. Don't listen to the talking heads who've been corroborating that myth since he came out of college. His vertical jump then was 32 inches.

  • Tommy Maddox looks like a fine back-up quarterback, and the good part is, he fits the pay scale.

  • The last time the Steelers were 2-6 at the midpoint of the season, they finished 5-11 in 1988. That team also needed a running back and right tackle. On paper, Tim Worley and Tom Ricketts fit those needs.

  • Better yet, the 1986 Steelers parlayed a 2-6 start into a 6-10 finish and drafted Rod Woodson, so there is a ray of hope.

  • Five sacks was not enough. On the third-and-goal, 14-yard touchdown pass to Jackson, only four players rushed the immobile Matt Hasselbeck. Pitiful.

  • Jackson's play-along reaction to the mock cheer from Seattle fans was cathartic for him and the turning point in the game. He became the game-breaker.

  • A good, morning jog would be cathartic for Steelers fans - and writers -- about now.

  • Easy to see why Chad Brown rested last week. He really wanted the Steelers and may have played his best half of Seahawks football on Sunday. Brown suffers from what the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported as a LisFranc ligament sprain in his foot which is "named after Napoleon's surgeon because the damage is similar to what the French emperor's cavalry soldiers did when knocked from their mounts only to have their feet get stuck in the stirrup."

  • With that history lesson, you're on your way to that eight-week self-improvement program. Just don't draft Worley and Ricketts when you get there.

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