Answer Man

The Answer Man's in a better mood this week. A 38-point win tends to have that effect on football folk. So the ashen face has disappeared and our boy is back, better than ever. He's looking at the sunny side of the Steelers these days.

I'm willing to say they're back. Are you?

Yeah. I guess. The way a football season goes, I don't know that I believe they're back. I'm not sure they really needed to be back, and if they were anywhere that was not good I'm not sure they are all the way back because it's too early in the season to tell. We finally saw the football team we've been waiting for. Does that mean they're all the way back? Does that mean they ever left in the first place? I don't really know the answer to those questions. I think that you really can't tell about a football team this early in the season because of the way teams work in training camp, with the lack of reps, the lack of continuity for the early part of the season. But I think we finally saw a team that was firing on all cylinders. We heard from the guys that ‘We're close, we're close, we're close,' and I think maybe the cynical media and fans were going, ‘Yeah, right.' But then obviously they were close. I think this game right here is going to give us even more of an indication of where they're at. Atlanta's not an easy place to play and the Falcons have a lot of great athletes. Let's see where they go next.

What impressed you about the Steelers? What did you like?

What I liked is the way they jumped on them early and they kept their foot on the accelerator and never backed off. They jumped off to a big lead in the first half and were still throwing the ball. I liked that. I liked at the end of the first half that they were trying to come away with points. Some may look at that and question it, but I thought it was great because you have a quarterback who needs the work, who needs the reps, and you're giving him a chance in the one-minute. I liked that. I liked the way the defense played. And I like the fact that when you look at what they've done this year, when they have had the opportunity, they haven't made the plays they were making last year. Sunday, versus Kansas City, they made the plays. To really get a feel for this team, it's going to be in the next three weeks. Let's see if they keep making plays.

What about some of the changes, such as those at cornerback and guard, should those become fixtures?

I don't know. I just think Deshea Townsend is too valuable. I love Bryant McFadden but I'm not ready to yank Deshea in favor of Bryant. I'm not ready to yank Kendall Simmons and put in Chris Kemoeatu. I liked the way Chris played. I think the fact he can play, you learned a lot about him this past week, and I wouldn't be against giving him time, but I don't think you yank Kendall; same thing as Deshea.

What impresses you about the Falcons?

Number 28. I mean, people can say what they want about Michael Vick, and he is a great player, but to me it's number 28.

Why? Is Tiki Barber the New York Giants? Is Willie Parker the Pittsburgh Steelers?

You know what? I don't think too highly of the Giants to begin with. I'm not a Giant fan. I think that Warrick Dunn is a special player, a very special player. He has tremendous balance. He plays a lot bigger than whatever he is. He's got great patience. He's got great vision. You watch him on tape and there won't be a hole there and he'll just have the patience to throttle it down, find a crease you didn't even think was there, and, vroom, he finds it. He's a special player. I like him.

Is that college option offense helping him?

I don't think that's it. What's helped him is what they're running, that Alex Gibbs zone-blocking scheme, the same thing they run in Denver but a little different. Everybody takes a lateral step, block whoever comes in your way, let the running back find the crease, cut the backside and let number 28 do his thing. He's perfect for it. He's small and can hide behind those big guys on the offensive line and like I said he's got great patience and vision. It's a nice offense for him.

Does that scheme also help Vick run?

I don't think it does. Vick runs in a different manner. Vick runs because he's a great athlete. He's just faster than everybody, a better athlete than everybody.

Has he regressed as a passer?

Um, I don't know if I can make that evaluation. He's got a strong arm. Is he a great passer? No. Can he be a great passer? I don't know.

So what's the defense's goal?

You shut 28 down. If you shut 28 down, I don't care what Michael Vick does, you'll win the game.

What do you expect out of the Steelers this week?

I think you'll see them shut down Warrick Dunn. And then Michael Vick is going to have to play a great game to win; not just a good game, a great game for the Falcons to win.

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