Ben Roethlisberger made decisions that a veteran would make while his targets were the bottom crop of receivers that will make the team. The line that he ran for his life behind was the second team. And yet, he didn't throw an interception and he had a pretty touchdown pass to Antwaan Randle-El.
So where is the need for another veteran quarterback? On a team where Charlie Batch has been an unneeded security, what's the use in bringing in a Kent Graham or Neil O'Donnell type quarterback to take up space in the cap and not play well? Well, the need is in the fascination held by some, nationally and locally, that the Steelers will compete for the Super Bowl and to do so effectively, they will need a veteran for insurance.
But the team simply has too many issues that don't revolve around a back-up quarterback. The reasons this team will or won't make the Super Bowl won't have anything to do with whether they have a veteran behind Maddox.
Unlike previous years, the Steelers have more pressing needs and the final piece of the puzzle is not a veteran back-up. The final piece for a future championship for the team actually rests in the real-game experience of Roethlisberger. Then, the Steelers will suddenly have the cap-friendly Maddox as the back-up and Smizik will have his all-important veteran.
Apple Pie Preview - NFC West
Champion - St. Louis: 10 - 6
The Rams will just barely overcome another up-and-down season to edge out the Seattle Seahawks as division champion. Marshall Faulk and Tory Holt overcome the deficiencies of Marc Bulger and the ex-Greatest Show on Turf moves on to the playoffs one more season. Faulk, if he stays healthy, will account for close to 1800 yards.
Second Place - Seattle: 9 - 7 (Wildcard berth)
The Seahawks will never, ever win a Super Bowl with Mike Holmgren as general manager. They will make some noise early on, but Shaun Alexander will wear down and a thin stock at running back will hurt this team. Can Darrell Jackson be a Pro Bowl-caliber receiver? Can Matt Hasselbeck continue to slowly improve? Can the defense live up to its yearly expectations? Too many questions for this season's paper champions.
Third Place - Arizona: 8 - 8
This team has great weapons on offense. The defense? Not so many. But, Dennis Green will be given a free pass this year. First order of business? A winning record. But that won't happen this year.
Fourth Place - San Francisco: 5 - 11
When will people learn? Dennis Erickson doesn't win. He's like a Dave Wannstedt. Or even a Bill Cowher. Did I just say that? Terrell Owens being gone is a blessing for the locker room, but it kills this team offensively.
Apple Pie Preview - NFC South
Division Champ - Carolina: 10 - 6
I'm still not convinced this team can win on a consistent basis. A ton of things had to go right last year and no one will take the Panthers for granted again. But, I do like Steve Smith as a clutch wide receiver. And I love that defense. With a great defense this team will put up a good fight defending its NFC Conference title. Oh, and playing in the weakest division in football won't hurt matters.
Second Place - Tampa Bay: 8 - 8
Gone are John Lynch, Keyshawn Johnson and Warren Sapp. Hello...Tim Brown? Well, things could be worse. Tampa didn't get hit as hard with Charley as it could have. That has to count for something right? Jon Gruden doesn't have many weapons and I think we're all in agreement that Brad Johnson is beyond his best years.
Third Place - Houston: 6 - 10
I'm going to say the Texans will be a much-improved team this year. David Carr is a gutsy quarterback and this young, hungry team has more talent than New Orleans and a better head coach in Dom Capers.
Fourth Place - New Orleans: 6 - 10
I know the Saints have some great weapons. I know they'll run the ball well, but I think this team's attitude from top to bottom needs a thorough cleansing. That means getting rid of Jim Haslett, who over his seasons as head coach has seen some very talented teams throw in the towel by Week 9.
Next Wednesday, I'll have the NFC North and East previews.
- It was sure obvious that Willie Williams has lost some steps. That being said, the Steelers need a better effort from Porter and Haggans-Jackson-Ross-Roper or that secondary will get torched.
- Kellen Winslow, Jr is already questioning the intensity of his Browns teammates. Butch, do you want to sign your walking papers now or should I just have your assistant take care of it the Monday after Week 17?