The Steelers beat up on the Pats and the Eagles the following week by being the toughest team in the NFL. That's what won the games. The physical toughness and the mental toughness all blended together to turn Pittsburgh from a talented team that has a chance, to a talented team that is the class of the NFL.
And do you want to know what has happened since? The rest of the NFL has been trying to catch up and match that level of toughness. Two weeks ago in Jacksonville you saw what happens when the second toughest team in the NFL meets the first. You get one of the most violently entertaining games of the season. Week after week the Steelers will meet teams that will raise their level of intestinal fortitude a few notches to try to match the Steelers'.
It has happened before, but only because the Steelers lost some of their mental intensity at some point during the season. In 1994, after a brutal, emotional game where the Steelers proved their manhood to the Cleveland Browns, the San Diego Chargers rode in and the Steelers had nothing left in the mental tank. In 2001, the same thing happened with Baltimore in the Browns role and the Patriots in the Chargers role. It almost happened in 1995, but Buffalo wasn't an emotional opponent so the Steelers squeaked out a win.
Could it happen again this year? No. The Steelers will not ride into any game in the playoffs with a little missing from their "toughness tanks". Bill Cowher has his team mentally ready for every game. You could tell early in the first half against the Jets that the Steelers seemed a bit winded and physically drained from their game in Jacksonville, but they regained their focus in the 4th quarter, whereas the Jets lost theirs. Notice, the Steelers committed only two penalties the whole game.
This would have been the week for the Steelers to lose the so-called "trap" game. But it didn't happen and it won't happen the rest of the season. The Steelers will head into the playoffs and will only be knocked out if another team can out-tough them. However, if the team has proven anything by now, it is that at Heinz Field this season no one plays more intensely than the Steelers.
So, if Corey Dillon plays, it won't matter. That won't be the deciding factor. Get a new alibi, Patriots fans, because your team wasn't tough enough on that brisk Sunday afternoon in October.
Apple Six-Pack Recap
1. New England 35 Cincinnati 28 – The Bengals gave this game away. Two killer interceptions, one returned for a touchdown and one in the end zone, sealed the fate of the Bengals and for all intents and purposes ended the playoff hopes for Marvin Lewis' crew. Palmer's 2nd quarter interception led to 7 points and Jon Kitna's interception in the end zone took away 7 points. Take those two plays away and the score is reversed. Oh, by the way, Tom Brady had to throw his way to a win because his defense allowed over 470 yards in total offense.
2. Carolina 20 St. Louis 7 – Chris Chandler returns from the old folks home to start his first game since...since...oh who cares? He threw six interceptions. And Mike Martz thinks that his team can still pass their way out of a box. Nope. The Rams are dead. The Seahawks win the division by default.
3. Jacksonville 22 Chicago 3 – Here is the best example of how terrible the NFC is this year. Both teams entered the game with playoff hopes. But, Jacksonville has some semblance of an offense while the Bears can only score points when playing against other NFC foes. The Bears had no chance against the Jags defense.
4. Washington 31 NY Giants 7 – I blame the Giants' woes on the NY media machine, which attributed all of the early season problems to Kurt Warner. Looks like those idiots were all wrong. The problem was never Kurt Warner but an underachieving offense with a terrible line. The sad thing was that Tom Coughlin bit into this hook, line and sinker.
5. Baltimore 37 NY Giants 14 – Before anyone thinks that Kyle Boller came out of his shell this week, let me remind the nation that it was against the Giants. He won't get those looks or that type of time against the Steelers. Besides, the game was over after the five minute mark and the Giant defense gave up. Jamal Lewis re-aggravated his injury, which can't be good for Boller. I will say this; any NFL quarterback should be able to put up good numbers against this Giant squad. Remember, Tim Lewis is their defensive coordinator.
6. Buffalo 37 Cleveland 7 – Okay here's the deal. The Bills will win in Week 17, effectively ending Big Ben's streak. The question is whether the Jets will be able to beat the Pats in Week 16 and the Steelers can beat the Ravens that same week. This game in Buffalo does not bode well for the Steelers.
Power Core Post Season Monitor
AFC - Current Seeding
2. New England
3. San Diego
WC1: NY Jets
Holding their own destiny: Denver, Buffalo
Need help: Jacksonville, Cincinnati
NFC - Current Seeding
3. Green Bay
Holding their own destiny: Carolina, St. Louis
Need help: Tampa Bay
1. Baltimore Ravens at Indianapolis Colts (GOTW): Peyton Manning's career, legend-in-the-making season finally gets a very stiff test from a quality defense. My bet is that Ed Reed will get one pick, but that the Ravens will be picked apart especially with Jamal Lewis most likely missing the game. Yet, Manning won't get the record this week. Bet on it.
2. Seattle Seahawks at NY Jets: For as finesse a team as the Jets proved themselves to be last week, no one can possibly fathom that they would lose at home to the Seahawks. The Jets have only wild-card positioning to play for and one more win should ice the deal for all intents and purposes.
3. Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs: This is a real dangerous game for the Broncos. Jake Plummer has looked terrible the past few weeks and the Broncos defense has looked much less fierce since the early weeks of the season. Priest Holmes was put on IR, but the Chiefs' Larry Johnson and Derrick Blaylock should get plenty of touches in a game that the Broncos will be lucky to win.
4. Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions: The Vikings are really free-falling. They have no running game to speak of any longer and now they're even taking the ball out of their top-notch quarterback's hands at the end of the game. The Lions must win to stay in the race for the playoffs. A loss ends their season.
5. Buffalo Bills at Cincinnati Bengals: Tom Donahoe must be frothing at the mouth to get to Week 17 with his Bills still in the hunt for the playoffs. He loves that he's proved all of his critics wrong with Willis McGahee and now he wants to prove the Rooney's and Bill Cowher wrong. The Bengals may be out of the race, but they can still be the spoiler this week.
6. Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers: For the Panthers to make the playoffs they don't have to win out the rest of the way – and the Falcons present the stiffest challenge – but here is betting they will anyway. The way the defending NFC champions are playing, I would expect to see them grab the final playoff spot.
Seeds Of Wisdom From the Girl Apple
Girl Apple: Let's talk about the wedding.
Girl Apple: I'm assuming there is football during our honeymoon cruise?
Apple: (sigh) Yes.
Girl Apple: Well, I have it on good record that you probably won't miss a Steeler playoff contest.
Apple: Well, the Steelers haven't clinched one of the top two seeds yet, so anything is possible.
Girl Apple: Do you still believe?
Girl Apple: Then you must know in your heart that the Steelers will get one of the two top seeds.
Apple: You are right. But, that's more inspiration than wisdom.
Girl Apple: I'm tired this week. Now, back to the wedding.
Apple's Fantasy Football Results
TheDallasCowboysSuck 140 (8 - 6) Los Locos Leprechauns 113: Next Week vs. The Sweatin Sopranos (12 - 2)
The season concludes with a visit from the league-leading Sopranos.
The Woodside Geminis (11 - 2) were on a bye
DCFB 90 (6 - 8) McEwan's Export 52: Season Ends
The season ends with a solid win over the McEwan's Export and the DCFB head into the off-season looking back on what might have been.
- Next week's Pie will have the annual 12 Days of Christmas. If you have a specific verse to use, please send me a message on EZ Post. You must follow this format: "On the ___ day of Christmas Bill Cowher Gave To Me___." The first day of Christmas is set, but after that I will use your verses.
- I will say this, Indianapolis is becoming a much more dangerous team now that they've decided to let Edge James score a touchdown or two.
- They still won't win a Super Bowl with that defense.
- The more I watch week after week, the more it looks like a Steelers/Patriots rematch.
- Buffalo will win 10 games and still miss the playoffs.
- Carolina will win 9 games coming from 1 - 7 and will make the playoffs.
- Mike Holmgren should be fired.
- Why hasn't Jim Haslett been fired yet?