Wednesday Apple Pie

What a blur. I remember getting up in the morning and making myself a nice hearty breakfast.

I remember watching ESPN Countdown and pitying poor Tom Jackson because he must have nightmares of Michael Irvin trying to speak coherently. I vaguely remember walking to the local Irish bar down the street. I do remember setting up shop in front of the television with a brew and anxiety kicking in. I even remember the Tennessee Titans' first basically walking all over last year's number one defense on the opening drive of the game. Where everything becomes a blur, however, is right about the time Willie Parker cradles a screen pass from Ben Roethlisberger. At that point I don't remember anything, until I see Parker being tackled inside the five.

This memory loss repeats itself every time Parker touches the ball. Was it his pure speed, the likes of which this team and fans haven't seen in all of Bill Cowher's tenure? Was it the shock of seeing the Steelers offense resembling something closer to the Indianapolis Colts rather than the Baltimore Ravens?

I'm not really sure. I'm not really sure Sunday even happened.

But, it did. And I think, this memory loss condition is a defense mechanism, a state of denial, to protect my own deepest wishes from being ultimately denied whether in season or in the playoffs. I'd love to write here today proclaiming "Fast" Willie Parker to be the next coming of Barry Sanders. Or perhaps I'd just rename him "Saint" Willie Parker as Super Fan Pappy Fried Chicken recommended on Sunday.

I wish for nothing more than to be able to proclaim Roethlisberger free of the problems that plagued his rookie playoff campaign or the defense once again ready to sit atop the league rankings with big plays galore.

But, I…just…can't.

I start remembering a few things, a few confusing and sometimes bitter memories.
2002: New England 30 Pittsburgh 14
2003: Pittsburgh 34 Baltimore 14
2003: Buffalo 31 New England 0

Why these games? Well starting backwards, New England was left for dead by many after Buffalo throttled them. Drew Bledsoe far outplayed his former backup and the Bills seemed poised to make their own run. Since then, New England's play speaks for itself and the Bills have yet to make the playoffs.

Same week, different stadium, and the Steelers look like the team to beat, suffocating Kyle Boller's first start as pro quarterback. We even saw the power of an offensive tight end and a quarterback willing to get him the ball. We all know how history played out though in 2003 for the Steelers.

And then one of the best examples of them all is the first game listed. The Steelers, thoroughly whipped by the defending champs on national television, go on to start the season 1 - 3 yet recover to win the AFC North. The Patriots on the other hand? They would be sitting home in January.

Consider me one of the few that, while ecstatic over Sunday's win, just can't seem to buy this team's chances in the post-season until I see a few more contests. A win is a win, but before crowning the second coming of the City of Champions, the Steelers must continue this attention to detail and impressive execution.

A few things lead me to believe these very things could happen. For one, the veterans of this team, Hines Ward, Joey Porter, Jerome Bettis, Dan Krieder, Kimo Von Olehoffen, Casey Hampton, Deshea Townsend, Jeff Hartings and Alan Faneca, have seen this all before. They've been part of teams that have started strong and then fallen into a tailspin. They've been part of teams that started slow only to pick up steam. They've also been part of teams that have over-achieved from week one. Most importantly, they all know what it takes to win consistently.

This is the season of destiny for the Pittsburgh Steelers veteran core. The question is not whether they will achieve that destiny, but rather, will the attention to detail and execution be as intense and thorough? Or will the Steelers in big moments this year once again allow sloppy play, tentative execution and mounting pressure to steal defeat from the jaws of victory?

After one game, it's too early to tell, but what a blur.

Apple Six-Pack Recap

1. Atlanta 14 Philadelphia 10 - What a licking Donovan McNabb took on Monday night. Not only did he look even worse after the hit, but he finished with 245 yds passing on 45 passing attempts. 45. The Eagles amassed only 51 yards of total rushing. In a game where the Eagles lose by 4 points, 51 total yards of rushing on only 14 carries points to the perfect recipe for failure.

2. Indianapolis 24 Baltimore 7 - Call me crazy, but missed field goals, dropped interceptions and Kyle Boller doomed the Ravens, not Peyton Manning. The Ravens should have put at least 9 points on the board from the offense and Chris McAlister dropped a sure interception that would have easily gone for 6 the other way. That means the Ravens would have been down only 17 - 16 mid-way through the third quarter. The fans would have still been in the game, disrupting Peyton Manning, and Jamal Lewis would have been still getting carries and would have broken one or two big ones in the 4th quarter. As it stood though, everything that could have gone wrong for the Ravens did go wrong. But make no mistake, the Ravens defense, until the blowout ensued, played incredible football.

3. Dallas 28 San Diego 24 - So, Antonio Gates-gate caused the Chargers to lose their opening game of the year. How do I know this? Because instead of double and triple teaming Keenan McCardell in the final seconds of the game, the Cowboys would have had to contend with two big threats and I'm betting Brees would have found one of them. Cowboy Matt was ecstatic after the win, but what he should be more thrilled with is that the Cowboys finally have their next franchise running back.

4. Kansas City 27 NY Jets 7 - A local newstation had a great highlight reel of this game. It went something like this: Cue Kansas City highlight, Cue Herm Edwards frustrated gaze, cue Jets lowlight, cue Edwards frustrated gaze, cue Kansas city highlight, cue Edwards frustrated gaze, cue Chad Pennington underthrowing another receiver, cue Edwards frustrated gaze. You get the point. It was hilarious. Best yet, Mike Nugent looks like he's proving the fact that the Jets were insane for drafting a kicker in the second round.

5. New England 30 Oakland 20 - Lost among the ridiculous, pompous and embarrassing hoopla that surrounded New England's pre-game festivities and in-game whipping of the Oakland secondary was the first signs of cracking in the Patriots armor. The Pats looked soft up the middle and that could spell doom against teams that like to run the ball heavily, a la Pittsburgh, San Diego or Kansas City. Also interesting was the lack of running game from Corey Dillon. Regardless of his two touchdowns, he didn't look to have the speed or pop of last season.

6. Jacksonville 24 Seattle 13 - This year's award for best game from the nursing home ranks goes to WR Jimmy Smith who at age 36 picked up 2 touchdowns and 130 yards on 7 passes. The Seahawks also proved once again that the NFC West is a soft division.

Apple Six-Pack

1. Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts - The Colts can look back at both losses to the Jaguars as small blemishes on an otherwise fantastic regular season, but these Jags sure had Peyton Manning's number. If the Colts think they can walk away with the AFC South again, they will have to do it by at least splitting the season series with Team Prisco.

2. New England Patriots at Carolina Panthers - The rematch of the 2003 Super Bowl still is a marquee match regardless of the Panthers' fall from grace and inexplicable opening week loss. But, if history is any indicator, Carolina should be energized to run all over the Pats.

3. Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys - Raise your hand if you thought this game would determine who would get at least a share of first place in the NFC East?

4. Buffalo Bills at Tampa Bay Buccaneers - The second of three interesting inter-conference match-ups. Two young power running stars face off in big Pirate Ship. Yet, I think the big story of this game is the resurgence of Brian Griese that started last year. Sure, he's a head case, but he's a former Michigan quarterback and as we all know Michigan apparently produces a few good quarterbacks.

5. San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos - Raise your hand if you thought one team would leave this game still winless. The Broncos looked awful last week and the Chargers proved that Antonio Gates is their most valuable player. Did I mention the Broncos looked awful? I wonder what idiot picked them to visit the AFC Championship game? (Please Insert John Biles Is A Big Idiot Joke Here).

6. Minnesota Vikings at Cincinnati Bengals - The third of three interesting inter-conference match-ups. The Bengals have a great opportunity to head into week three still undefeated. The old Bengals would lose this game. The new improved Bengals that we've been promised would apparently win this game. If the Bengals should lose, the curse of Boomer Esiason will once again creep into the minds and hearts of Bengals faithful everywhere. Did one game ever mean so much this early in the season?

Apple Pie Power Rankings
1. New England Patriots - Run defense and offense is a concern, but Pats still on top.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers - The "Fast" Willie Parker legend begins.
3. Indianapolis Colts - The Colts' misuse of Edge James never ceases to amaze me.
4. Philadelphia Eagles - Yes, they lost and looked horrible, but the team isn't that bad.
5. Kansas City Chiefs - The Chiefs are the first team to join the revamped rankings.
6. Jacksonville Jaguars - The defense is there, but can the offense keep pace?
7. Atlanta Falcons - Yes, the Falcons defeated the Eagles, but they didn't play particularly well.
8. Dallas Cowboys - Is this too high for the 'Boys? Not when you beat a Super Bowl hopeful on the road.
9. Detroit Lions - The offense didn't explode, but Harrington didn't implode.
10. Cincinnati Bengals - The only real threat to the Steelers in the AFC North.
11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - As the Bus gets ready to retire, the Cadillac is set to take his place.
12. Buffalo Bills - Congratulations J. P. Losman. You've made Chris Berman excited to be Bills fan again.

The Rant
From the gut of Super-Fan Pappy Fried Chicken

I feel silly.

I think we all should feel a little silly. The Titans, I am sure, feel very silly this week. I probably don't feel as silly as many people out there should, but I still feel it. I know it has only been one game, but there are many in and around the NFL who did not see this coming. The media missed it. Bill Cower almost missed it. The only ones who did not miss it were the guys we put our hopes and faith in every season: the Steelers' players and Joe Theismann.

Nobody really thought the Steelers were going to lose this past Sunday, but most predictions were for a tight game with very little offense due mostly to the Steelers' pre-season ineptitude on offense and their strong defense. My most vocal concern leading up to the game was about shoring up the middle of the defense. I did not SAY that I was worried about Roethlisberger throwing the ball. I did not SAY I was concerned about neither Antwaan Randle El or Cedrick Wilson seizing the number two receiver spot. I did say I was not concerned about the offense, but I was not about to elaborate for fear of long arduous arguments with the cubical quarterbacks about how poor of a decision it was to let Burress go which always ends up in a conversation about how good the Giants are going to be now because of him (cough, cough).

It should have flipped the switch in our sometimes dim bulb heads when article after article was quoting every player they could get near about their confidence in the offense. This is the real world here. Every player down to rookie long snapper Greg Warren brushed off the notion that the offense would be susceptible without even an afterthought. I would never believe that there is not one person on that team who was having doubts, but these guys really believe and because of them I believe.

I still do have a concern about the middle of the field on defense, because a good tight end and a guy who can thread the ball over the middle are going to give the Steelers D a case of the fits. At present that appears to be a flaw in the scheme as Troy Polamalu is rightfully being unleashed, but it is also leaving holes in the secondary. I have confidence the issue will be looked at, but only time will tell.

In the meantime I am going to make an effort to put more trust in these players, because with all of the issues yet to face with this team the Pittsburgh Steelers are easily still one of the best teams in the NFL. Believing in Theismann on the other hand…

Mock Apple Pie

Last Week's Results

DCFB 71 69th Street Ruperts 62
Gemini vs. Charmed Life (Night)
Woodside Avenue Cyber Gemini 31 Gangsta A$$ Bitches 2

This Week

DCFB (1 - 0) vs. Class of Confluence (1 - 0)
Gemini (0 - 0) vs. Lemmiwinks (0 - 0)
Woodside Ave. Cyber Gemini (1 - 0) vs. Texan Terror (1 - 0)

Quick Bites

  • Matt Stover misses three field goals. David Akers misses two. What is going on?
  • Sideline Stupidity #1: Sunday Night, Mike Patrick and the gang cut to Suzy Kolber for a recap of the evening's highlights. Could the sideline reporting be any more worthless?
  • Sideline Stupidity #2: Instead of checking on Donovan McNabb's condition after he left the field holding his chest and having obvious breathing issues, Michele Tayofa decided to talk more about the over-hyped, boring saga of the Donovan and T. O.

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