Wednesday Apple Pie

By all accounts, last week's column was abused and tortured in a manner not unlike Mel Gibson's William Wallace endured at the end of Braveheart.

But, there was a light at the end of the tunnel. While it rained in Apple Pie Land that Thursday, there were posters who were supportive. Regardless, I thank you all, for at least I know people were reading and paying attention, albeit more than I'd ever bargained for.

Now onto football, predominately Pittsburgh Steeler football.

Could we be having the makings of one of the toughest football teams in the league? Now, I know that every football player is tough. You'd have to have some cohunes to step onto the field knowing the physical punishment your body will face over the next 3 hours.

But, that level of "tough" and the supreme level of "tough" do not go hand in hand. Take for instance Hines Ward. He's long been considered one of the toughest players in the NFL, but is he the toughest wide receiver? Placing bets, I'd have to say yes, with Donald Driver of Green Bay coming in a close second. For all of the non-Steeler fans that haven't had the privilege of watching Ward, here's an example:

Two years ago, Ward was having another standout game. This time he was in the playoffs against Tennessee. The Steelers had driven down the field when Maddox stepped back and threw a bullet to Ward, who was at around the 7 – 8 yard line (if my memory serves right). He then dragged two Titans defenders with him into the end zone. That was tough, but what was toughest would happen on the next play. Ward would produce one of the prettiest two-point conversions to tie the game 28 – 28. If anyone remembers the CBS camera angle of that shot, it was quite possibly one of the most amazing moments of that playoff season. That's tough, the supreme level of "tough."

So who else on this team displays toughness? Jeff Hartings, who has a non-existent knee and still plays center, is of that level. Kendall Simmons, who has diabetes and is showing at summer camp that he is dealing with the condition very nicely, is of that level. Alan Faneca and Aaron Smith are of that level. James Farrior and his 1 million tackles are of that level. Chris Hope and Casey Hampton, who both knocked Eddie George silly two years ago, are of that level. Tommy Maddox, who at times last season was no more than a piece of freezer meat for opposing teams to punch, is of that level.

And finally, we come to Duce Staley. Staley was listed as one of the top-5 toughest players in the NFL this off-season. This list was chosen by peers, not fans. Staley achieved this status in 1998 when he rushed for over 1,000 yards while playing half the season with a hernia. But, Staley perhaps is his toughest at the goal line; there may not be another running back in the league that has Staley's knack for the end zone inside the 5 yard line.

The previous two years, I have questioned this team's collective toughness, but perhaps, just perhaps, this year, toughness won't be an issue.


Bites

  • Doesn't it seem like Philip Rivers' people and the Chargers organization are just meant for each other?
  • Reports are that Chris Gardocki is booming the punts. He hasn't had a punt blocked his whole career, which means he'll have one blocked by week 4. That's like when Pat Summerall mentioned that Gary Anderson hadn't missed a field goal all year in the 1998 NFC Championship Game.
  • Sorry, no Super Pappy Fried Chicken's Keys to the Game this year. PFC is in Indiana doing a season of dinner theatre.

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