The Steelers have found their identity: Balance

So far in 2004, the Steelers are reaping the benefits of being a balanced football team. Having balance on both sides of the ball, highlighted by the continued solid play of two recent number one picks, could make the Steelers a very dangerous team in January.

The Steelers are atop the AFC North after four games primarily because this team can win a football game in many different ways. Need timely turnovers and a last minute drive by the offense to win the game against Oakland? We can do that. Need dominating defense in bad conditions in Miami? No problem. How about 165 yards on the ground, 168 yards in the air, and a defensive touchdown to ice it against the Bengals? We can do that too, because balance is our specialty.

On offense, the Steelers are a team that would prefer to pound with Duce Staley and then sprinkle in some passing to put points on the board. This is interesting considering that Hines Ward and Plaxico Burress form one of the most dangerous wide receiver duos in the league. Despite the predisposition to run the ball, if the game is still close at the end this team can win it with the passing game. This is an ability that recent dominant Steelers teams did not have. And it cost them AFC Championships.

On defense, the Steelers are a team that would like to force its opponent to pass by clamping down on the running game. If a running back does do damage, however, this team is also capable of harassing quarterbacks and winning games with pass defense. Just ask Rich Gannon and Carson Palmer. Gannon, a three time pro-bowler, fumbled and threw two costly interceptions. Palmer, the number one pick overall in 2003, looked pedestrian against the Steelers throwing two interceptions including the game winner to Troy Polamalu. The pass defense could have easily picked off Palmer five times. With a little more practice catching passes, this defense may just have a five interception game in its future.

Yes the Indianapolis Colts are flying high and getting lots of press with Peyton Manning, Edgerrin James, Marvin Harrison and even Reggie Wayne all making plays. No doubt the Colts are a dangerous team on offense. Overall, however, the Colts lack a key ingredient of most championship football teams. The key ingredient is balance.

The Formula Man™

The En Fuego Formula: Colclough Fumble + (Duce x 100 x 2) = the Formula Man is on Fire. Two weeks ago, the Formula Man predicted a Ricardo Colclough fumble on a return. The next time Colclough touched the ball on a return (against the Bengals), he promptly fumbled. The Formula Man also predicted Duce Staley's back to back 100 yard games. The Formula Man will also stick by predictions that Troy Polamalu will be the Steelers' defensive MVP (diagnose, run like hell, hit somebody) and that the team is playoff bound behind a rookie quarterback. Is the Formula Man clairvoyant? Stay tuned.

The This is Worth Repeating Formula: Bad technique + Bad Coaching = Fumbles. There are "three points of pressure" that should be utilized when carrying the football in the NFL to prevent fumbles. One point is your hand, one point is your upper arm, and one point is your ribs. Since the day Ricardo Colclough stepped onto the field in the first preseason game, the rookie has been using a "one point of pressure" technique. We are now entering Week 5 of the NFL season and his technique still has not changed, nor has he been benched. Why? The answer is poor coaching, because Rookie + Consistently Poor Technique = Bad Coaching.

The Burress Big Game Formula: 6'5" Wide Receiver – Double Coverage = Breakout Game. Don't let Plaxico's stat sheet fool you. He consistently draws coverage and helps to spread the field which sets up Hines Ward and Duce Staley. It is only a matter of time before teams begin to focus more on shutting down Ward and Staley, which will lead to Plaxico Burress' breakout game.

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