Wolfley: Come down off the ledge

A loss to the Bengals, at home; a two-game slide three games into the new season; a struggling, surgically-repaired franchise QB; one game out of the AFC North basement. Yep, things are looking up, alright. Let Craig Wolfley be your ray of sunshine.

These are the times that try men's souls. That was the thought that ran through my noggin post-game after the loss to Cincy. Or maybe it was these are the times to fry men's souls. Sometimes a little too much concussion-ating jumbles things upstairs.

Regardless, the Steelers are 1-2 and looking at the Ratbirds and Bungles at 3-0 and Bill Cowher says in post-game comments he saw some encouraging signs? Are you kidding me?

Well, actually he's right. And my job, as Mr. Half-full glass, is to enlighten the Half-emptiers.

The running game comes up first on the list. Thirty-eight rushing plays a game will win you a lot of Mondays and Tuesdays off. Four and a half yards a pop says that everybody blocked somebody, including the water-boys.

The fact that the Steelers ran on the Bengals surprised no one, but look at the improvement the Bengals have made there. With the addition of Sam Adams lining up with a very studly John Thornton in the middle, Cincy held Kansas City Chief RB Larry Johnson to 68 yards rushing in the first game of 2006. The second game of the year brought last year's 1,000-yard Cleveland rusher Ruben Droughns, who managed just 32 yards against Cincinnati, 2.3 yards a whack. It's a step in the right direction.

Willie Parker continues, in my mind, to develop more of the subtleties of the game each and every week. His power running on short yardage is big. The swing passes to him are going to get bigger yet.

After the defense got run down and vapor-locked in the second half of the Jacksonville game, 27 first downs and nearly 34 minutes of possession had to be a welcome sight for the "D". The Steelers rolled the chains offensively 44% of the time, and they were three-for-three on fourth-down conversions.

Ben was five of 12 in the first half and 13 for 27 in the second. He looked to me as if he started to get comfortable in the second half. Madieu Williams said that he followed the QB's eyes on the INT he had in the end-zone. That's called staring down a receiver, and that is rust.

It's no secret there were some drops by the WRs. All it takes are a couple of those drops to be catches, roll them chains some more, and you've got mojo swirling in Ben's head.

Defensively, that was one hassled, rattled Carson Palmer who even described himself as having a poor game. Make no mistake, this is a great QB in the making, but Dick Lebeau and company kept getting off the field on third downs. Palmer was dropped six times by the Steelers. Four TD passes, two picks and a couple of fumbles that went Carson's way says maybe it was Carson's day. How close was Deshea's possible second INT to six points?

Rudi Johnson was a non-factor rushing wise. T.J. Houshmandzadeh continues to torch the Steelers and Lebeau will have to figure that one out. Chris Henry might implode before the re-match.

The biggest factor though, that will play a role the next time these two get together, is who won the battle of the hitting? We all saw the Ryan Clark's hit on Henry, and Mike Logan depositing Brad St. Louis on his duff. What about the thrashing Aaron Smith, Big Snack and the Diesel laid on that offensive line? Not to mention James Farrior, Larry Foote, and Clark Haggans (I'm looking for Joey to break out too). Or do we just dismiss Kendall Simmons going slam-ski on Adams? Brian Simmons couldn't peel Hines Ward off him even after they hit the deck.

I could go on but the point to this is that physical beatings remain fresh in the mind. The Bengals walked out of Heinz Field wondering if they had really won, because in their hearts, they know who won the battle of the hitting.

The Steelers came out of that game believing that if they hadn't made a couple of mistakes, they roll over the Bengals. Physical beatings are the bug-a-boo that sits in the back of your head until the re-match.

I'm not trying to paint a rosy picture, but for a player it is common practice to look up, rather than down. Staying upbeat and positive in the face of adverse situations requires a greater strength and energy, but that is the nature of winners. A player's attitude is all-important, and one must always be on guard against allowing your dobber to dip too much.

Chuck Noll once tried to tell us a story when things were going rather poorly for us back in the day. He was trying to use an analogy of a backyard pool, and the chemical composition of what goes into that pool as a metaphor for a player's mind, and what you should allow to seep into your mind. The gist of the message was to not let outside forces (fans, media) pollute your mind. Seeing that the large number of NASA scientists on that team were not getting the message, Chuck blurted out "What I'm trying to say is don't let anybody pee in your pool!"

Even after all these years, Coach Noll, that message is well received.

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