Week 10 Preview: Pittsburgh vs. Arizona

Now that their hopes for a playoff berth have been dashed, the Pittsburgh Steelers unveil a few new faces in their starting and dime defensive packages. Deshea Townsend replaces Dewayne Washington at starting cornerback and Ike Taylor will jump in as the 3rd cornerback during dime situations.

Should the Steelers lose this game, additional changes to the unit should be made. They won't, but they should.

Perennial names like Jason Gildon, Brent Alexander, and Chad Scott may see more time on the bench as the youngsters get their chance to shine. Knowing Cowher, it may not happen that way, but one thing is certain, someone on the defensive side of the ball had to be the scapegoat. Following last season that goat was Lee Flowers. This season it may end up being Washington.

In fact Cowher, if he tried, couldn't have set up Washington for failure any better than Washington himself did. Last year's playoff game in Tennessee vilified Washington to the fans and sealed his fate as the future scapegoat on defense.

At least in Washington's case however, a viable alternative exists. In Gildon's case, his backup Clark Haggans hasn't shown any ability to be an every-down linebacker and the staff has kept rookie Alonzo Jackson inactive for most of the season.

While Washington is being set up as the in-season problem, it should come as no surprise that Jason Gildon will be deemed the problem with the pass rush as soon as the season ends.

That leaves the classy veteran Brent Alexander. Alexander has the smarts but not the athleticism to compete at a higher level any longer. This isn't new information. Alexander's swan song should have been sung in 2001, but Cowher likes his free safeties slow and smart instead of young and inexperienced.

So instead of letting Chris Hope start, Cowher is holding off the full overhaul until after the season. Make baby steps and maybe the fans won't notice the rebuilding. But the problem with this option is that it's the fans calling for the overhaul and not the coach.

OFFENSE

Pittsburgh: Ranked 19th (Passing 8th, Rushing 18th) – It would be nice at some point in the season if the someone other than Hines Ward or Jerome Bettis scored a touchdown. Anyone else want to help out?

Arizona: Ranked 26th (Passing 22nd, Rushing 29th) – Emmitt Smith is willing to share the duties of running back with Marcel Shipp. Emmitt, the minute you bolted to Arizona instead of retiring the country stopped listening.

Advantage: The Steeler offense should be able to put some points on the board. At least more than Arizona. Right?

DEFENSE

Pittsburgh: Ranked 2nd (Passing 7th, Rushing 4h) – The Steelers generated 5 sacks last week, but they still refuse to pressure the quarterback on third down. Instead of giving up big plays, it's death by Chinese water torture.

Arizona: Ranked 13th (Passing 11th, Rushing 11th) – The Cardinals defense is among the top in the league. They've also shut down San Francisco's pass attack. Look for them to make someone other than Hines Ward beat them.

Advantage: Pittsburgh's run defense will come up with a good game, albeit the pass defense will get torched. But the Cardinals defense will be worse.

QUARTERBACKS

Tommy Maddox: Tommy Maddox's numbers would be a lot better if Plaxico Burress didn't drop the ball so often.

Jeff Blake: Jeff Blake must wish he faced the Steelers every week. Ever since his 1995 explosion with Carl Pickens' help, Blake has been a Steeler killer. In fact, his 14 touchdowns against the Steelers are the most he's thrown against any team (except Tennessee where he's also thrown 14).

Advantage: Blake has Pittsburgh's number. He'll torch the defense again.

QUTLOOK: The Steelers finally win a game. The new losing streak begins next week.


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