My thoughts, for what they're worth ...

A win is a win is a win is a win. Ian Whetstone knows it. And once you're done reading, you'll know it, too. Carry on.

- Hey, it's a win, and I'll take it. Yeah, the injuries and the (semi-resultant) defensive problems are a concern going forward, but a spoonful of victory helps the medicine go down.

- If anyone can explain to me how a big, strong receiver with good hands who can run waited deep into the seventh round to hear his name called on draft day, I'd really like to hear it. Yeah, yeah … I know that Marques Colston played tight end at Dustin Hoffman University or wherever, but still …

- It feels like New Orleans forces its use of Reggie Bush as a running back so as to justify his draft position and general level of hype. Why do that on a legitimate contender when you've got a guy like Deuce McAllister actually producing? Bush could wind up in Canton or Canada eventually, but right now he's just not a good NFL runner. He has value in other areas, and plenty of time ahead of him in which to learn the position when it won't potentially cost his team playoff position, so why force the issue?

- I've never been particularly high on Drew Brees, but he has a little Tom Brady in him in how he can sit in the pocket and deliver the ball only at the very last instant before the pass rush gets him. As frustrating as it can be to watch a defense play a quarterback like that, I can only imagine how it must feel to the defensive players themselves. That offensive line is doing good work to protect him, and he's doing good work to make their jobs easier.

- A consistent, smart quarterback who maximizes his physical abilities through attention to detail is the opposite of what New Orleans had with Aaron Brooks. Maybe we shouldn't be so surprised at their improved record halfway through the season.

- I'm not sure how that touchdown throw to Terrence Copper low and away in the back of the end zone could have possibly been defended.

- Once again, Sean Morey played a strong game on special teams coverage duty, a task at which he has really stepped up in the absence of teams studs like James Harrison. This week, though, his teammates actually showed up on coverage, too.

- Najeh Davenport seems to be as good a short-term answer to kickoff duties as Quincy Morgan proved to be last season, and that's a very good thing in the absence of another healthy experienced returner like Antwaan Randle El on the roster.

- The injuries to the secondary have become troubling. With the loss of Ricardo Colclough earlier in the year, Pittsburgh had to play most of the game against the Saints down two cornerbacks and the best safety in football. Were I a defensive coordinator, any match-up against Anthony Madison might pique my attention.

- For those critical of the depth at which Ike Taylor lines up across from his receiver, you might want to take a look at the position of the guy behind him on the depth chart on third-and-eleven on New Orleans' second possession. Bryant McFadden backed off at least ten yards, at which point he exited the camera coverage. Brees, not surprisingly, burned him with a 22-yard strike to Copper.

- After some less-than-stellar play early in the season by Tyrone Carter, he filled in nicely for Troy Polamalu when called upon due to injury. Involvement in two huge turnovers — including the game-sealer — will re-ingratiate you to coaches and fans alike about as well as anything.

- The television camera flashed to Polamalu after McAllister's "accidental touchdown." It fit, because that's exactly the type of play (minus the accidental part) that Polamalu so often stops in short yardage, knifing through the line to stuff the ball carrier short of the sticks.

- On that play, a first-and-goal from the four yard line, Casey Hampton stood on the sideline despite the team having just taken a timeout. Why on earth wasn't the team's best run defender playing on first-and-goal after a breather, especially with its other best run defender already nursing a concussion?

- Someone — anyone — tell me that I didn't really hear a promo portion of the Fox broadcast feature some kind of remix of "Push it to the Limit," the song to which Eric Cartman once training-montaged so as to perfect his impersonation of the mentally challenged and swindle the Special Olympics.

- Is it me, or is Santonio Holmes running toward the line of scrimmage rather than away more often than not on his receptions? Not that I mind; he's been good at circling around after the catch and picking up extra yards. I just wonder whether that's by route design or because he's always coming back for the ball. He has progressed at this point beyond the stage of "improving rookie" into that of "productive contributor." Despite a lack of elite speed or size, he seems to find ways to get open and knows what to do with the ball in his hands.

- Nate Washington, you need to catch at least some of those jump balls, bud. Otherwise, the announcers will have to stop saying that Ben Roethlisberger throws them because you're good at coming down with them.

- On Roethlisberger's third-down conversion to Washington backed up in their own end, lined up in the shotgun, he faked the draw handoff to Davenport before delivering the pass. The Steelers have only been setting up that fake for the last, what, five or six seasons?

- I've known for quite a while what a great football player Hines Ward is, but when did he become such a big play guy? Through nine games, he has caught seven passes of 25 yards or more—as many as he caught in either of the previous two entire seasons. His single-season high in that department was nine (in both 2002 and 2003). Seven such passes is more than Marvin Harrison, Chad Johnson, Torry Holt, Terrell Owens, or Santana Moss have caught this year. I get the feeling that Ward really, really wants to win.

- Scowly Ward made an appearance shortly before halftime. That, more so than the score, gave me a bad feeling about the second half. The Steelers need Smiley Ward in full effect to win games.

- Sean Peyton is the star of that new James Bond movie, right?

- Watching Fast Willie Parker run through and around defenders in the second half, it seemed amazing that he had such limited success in the first half. Chasing a fast back like Parker around the field can wear down a defense just as much as tackling a 250-pound sledgehammer. It reinforced my view that Pittsburgh didn't run Parker enough in a close loss to Denver the week prior.

- How do players not wind up crippled when tripped running full-speed in the open field? I'm pretty sure that if I rode a bike that fast and someone threw a broom handle into my front spokes, I'd be in the hospital.

- Aaron Stecker caught a ball against Joey Porter in coverage in the first half. Porter's detractors may point to that as counter-evidence of the coverage skills that his supporters often cite; the supporters might do well to remind them that the fact that such an example comes around so rarely says a lot more about his coverage contributions than that one play. Porter also had a nice game chasing down running backs on a day when Jammal Brown locked him out of the pass rush — a successful match-up that New Orleans utilized as often as possible.

- Yeah, so, that roughing the passer flag on Aaron Smith just about takes the cake in the "ridiculous calls from ridiculous rules" department. Some people give the officials a pass on calls like that on the basis that it meets the letter of the criteria as outlined in the rulebook; but aren't the refs supposed to exercise some degree of common sense judgment? I'm going to suggest that in the future, they take into consideration that "roughing the passer" should have to involve someone actually being "rough."

- The yards and points allowed against New Orleans should be troubling because, for once, the defense wasn't hamstrung by bad turnovers and field position because of the offense and special teams. They just got beat, including being run against more effectively than has been typical. They need to find some answers to that if this season upswing is to last more than a game or two.

- The touchdown yielded seconds before halftime hasn't been a rarity this season. It's an atrocious habit, and can't be allowed to recur with this kind of frequency.

- I once saw a television special about baseball's 1979 World Series in which, after the Pirates got down three games to one against the Orioles, Kent Tekulve divulged that the team no longer expected to win, but wanted to show the world one game played the way they knew they could play … to give the world audience a taste of real Pirates baseball. That's exactly how the Steelers need to approach each game from here on; show the world how you should have played all season. Show the pride. It's unlikely that the 2006 Steelers will end their season the way those 1979 Pirates ran the table to close out that Series, but it goes to show … you never know.


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