Now the pressure is on

<b>PITTSBURGH -</b> The thought from the national media seems to be that the Steelers are a surprise this season.<br><br> But regular readers of this site know that this team looked good in training camp and was poised for a breakout season. And that's exactly what we've seen.

However, now that the Steelers have beaten the New England Patriots and done so convincingly, they can no longer fly under the national radar. And we've seen that as they've jumped to No. 2 in the NFL rankings of anyone who does them.

That means the pressure will be greater to perform from here on out. Before, if the Steelers lost, it wasn't that big of a deal, because the expectations for them weren't there.

But now, every loss will be even more scrutinized. And the pressure will continue to build with every victory as the team begins to think about the playoffs and possible home field advantage.

Even though there were high expectations from some locally for this team, nobody expected them to be 6-1 at this point. But that's where they are. They cannot, however, rest on their laurels.

There is a bigger prize at hand. And this team is seeing it now.
  • So have the Steelers done it with mirrors?

    Judging by some key statistics that does not appear to be the case.

    FOX Sports analyst and former Dallas quarterback Troy Aikman has disputed the rankings of offenses and defenses used by the NFL for years and has come up with his own measuring stick.

    The Aikman Efficiency Rating uses a combination of seven key defensive statistics and measures them against the league norms and extremes over the past 10 years.

    Those seven categories are: Adjusted Points (total points scored or allowed minus points on returns and safeties), turnovers, red zone efficiency (measured by percent of possible points), yards per play, yards per rush, yards per pass play, first down achievement.

    According to those rankings, there are only three teams in the NFL who are rated in the top 10 offensively and defensively - Philadelphia, New England and Pittsburgh.

    The interesting point is that the Steelers offense is ranked 15th in the league in the NFL yardage rankings, thanks to the fact they've scaled back their passing from years past.

    But in the AER rankings, the Steelers are eighth in the league in offense. Defensively, they slip a spot from fifth to sixth.

  • Who will be the key to Sunday's game against Philadelphia?

    It could be somebody you don't expect.

    Fullback Dan Kreider and third down back Verron Haynes are going to have to have great games picking up blitzers.

    The Eagles bring it harder and faster than anybody else in the league and often bring more pass rushers than the offensive line can handle. The onus will be on Kreider and Haynes to help out, especially on the right side against Jevon Kearse.

  • Philadelphia's Brian Dawkins and the Steelers' Deshea Townsend lead all NFL defensive backs with three sacks each.

    Townsend also has three interceptions to rank among the league leaders in that statistic. He's playing that well.

    But he won't earn a Pro Bowl spot because he's just not a big name.

    Then again, if he matches up well against Terrell Owens when he gets the opportunity Sunday, it will go a long way toward making him more of a household name.

  • I would expect Kendrell Bell to play 15 to 20 snaps Sunday and return to the starting lineup next week at Cleveland.

  • Duce Staley tried hard to downplay a game against Philadelphia, but don't buy it. Staley will be especially pumped up to play Sunday. I'm not sure Staley can play any harder than he already is, however.

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