Excuse me for saying this, or for peeing in your Wheaties, or for whatever bad start this makes for your day but I couldn't help but thinking I was watching two very mediocre teams playing yesterday. Now, I realize quarterback Tommy Maddox will have much better days, and that Ted Washington was a key factor in making the Steelers' running game appear so halting and uneven, and that the secondary will come around, by then I have the right to change my mind, but the Steelers looked like a middle-of-the-road team Sunday. ... The secondary is taking a beating right now from the experts. Most of them are calling the mistakes "communication problems," but fact is both Troy Polamalu and Deshea Townsend were beaten physically. Doug Gabriel made a terrific move on the late first-half touchdown to beat Polamalu and Alvis Whitted made a great catch on a perfect throw late in the game to beat Townsend. I expect both players to improve and perhaps join the rejuvenated Chad Scott to form an effective secondary down the road. I also expect Ricardo Colclough to improve as well. Chris Hope played a fine game, but both young safeties seem easily blocked. ... Kendall Simmons left the locker room yesterday without a cast, cane or walking stick. He looked to be in perfect health as opposed to someone who just had surgery to repair a torn ACL. He didn't even have his knee in a wrap. Word is Simmons is upset about having to go on injured reserve and says he can do everything he needs to do during a game. But the Steelers insisted on the surgery because the ligament was torn. ... Speaking of linemen, left tackle Marvel Smith says his neck doesn't bother him in the least. ... Duce Staley has a gigantic heart, but I'm getting the feeling he's not a championship running back. He just isn't a breakaway threat. Neither are Jerome Bettis or Verron Haynes. The position will be a high priority next draft. ... Coming into the game, the Steelers felt the right side of the Raiders' offensive line was weak, and Clark Haggans and Aaron Smith proved the advance scouts right with outstanding performances. Look for Robert Gallery, who played some left guard and right tackle Sunday, to become the entrenched right tackle for the Raiders very soon. ... Just another clutch day at the ballyard for Hines Ward. His leaping catch of yet another bad Maddox pass on the final drive may have been the key play of the game. On the other side, One-Catch Plax was being shut down in single coverage by Denard Walker. Ol' One-Catch, I suspect, will also undergo some post-game going-over-the-middle trauma for awhile after taking a full load of Danny Clark in the head on one incompletion. ... The instant replay system failed in that the flow of the game was seriously compromised. If the natural process had been followed, the bad call on Rich Gannon's pass/fumble would've been matched by the bad call on the punt off the Raider's leg. The bad calls would've evened out and the game would've been much more aesthetically pleasing. ... Yeah, I know, a little grumpy after a win, but hopefully the players and coaches are looking at it in a similar way. This is certainly no time to be pleased with yourself, not with an upcoming chance to go two games up on the Baltimore Ravens. Have a great week.