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

Ian Whetstone's having a blast watching these no-quit Steelers pursue an unlikely - but still possible - AFC playoff berth. But forget about that for now. After all it's Ravens Week, and revenge is a dish best served fist to mouth.

- I think it's about time that announcers stop parroting that the linebackers are the strength of Pittsburgh's defense. Yes, they're a strong unit, but the three-man line has been the real defensive strength since as far back as 2003, and with Brett Keisel now a starter, the ends are getting some real pressure from both sides.

- Apart from a 29-yard scamper by Deshaun Foster, Carolina mustered just 14 yards rushing on 10 carries. Yeah, Pittsburgh's defensive line had another pretty solid outing.

- That's not to discredit the job that the linebackers did against the Panthers. Larry Foote and James Farrior had strong games in the zone blitz and stopping the short passes and dump-offs before any damaging yards after the catch. Joey Porter chased running backs all over the field, padding the stats of his teammates more so than his own one tackle on the day.

- Dick LeBeau had the zone blitz working wonders. On Farrior's sack in the second quarter, four Steelers rushed; the left tackle blocked Chris Hoke, the tight end blocked Clark Haggans, ALL FOUR remaining linemen blocked Aaron Smith, and Farrior enjoyed a clear path to the quarterback. When six blockers can't repel four rushers because they don't know whether to expect the OLBs or the safety lined up over center (as Troy Polamalu often does), or someone else entirely like Farrior, that's a beautiful sight to behold.

- I was a little surprised that Foote didn't get flagged for cuddling lovingly with the quarterback's shin on one play, given how the refs have been throwing the laundry this year.

- Carolina might want to find an actual backup quarterback if they want to fancy themselves championship contenders any time soon. Maybe one who isn't 1-17 as a starter in the league, for instance. Just, you know, throwing that out there. Pittsburgh's pass rush performed well, but it certainly helped that Chris Weinke holds onto the ball longer than a concussed Ben Roethlisberger—minus the pocket mobility—and isn't the most accurate thrower in the world.

- That was a bush league move by Julius Peppers to push Roethlisberger in the back five yards out of bounds. I'd have rolled my eyes if it had drawn a flag, but against a less sturdy quarterback, I wouldn't have been surprised to see one.

- So, Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes started across from each other for the first time. Here's to watching that starting combo for several years to come. Holmes has truly rounded into a legitimate starting option in a very short time. What's not to love about the effort with which he fights for extra yards and blocks in the running game?

- Having Ward in the game really makes a difference in the red zone offense. He draws defensive attention and clears defenders out of zones more than anyone else on the team by a very wide margin.

- Cedric Wilson is no Antwaan Randle El throwing the ball, but he certainly put some zip on (and no air under) that option pass to Ward. I can only guess that he asked Shane Boyd for some pointers back in training camp. Or maybe Jack Wilson.

- It was nice to see the Steelers get some mileage out of the screen pass. They had such success with it last season, but very little this year. Seeing the impressive athleticism of Alan Faneca, Jeff Hartings, and Kendall Simmons form a convoy ahead of Najeh Davenport, I have to wonder whether there's an interior line anywhere in the league better built for that sort of play. With a patient running back who melts yards like Willie Parker, that should be a more consistent weapon for the offense than it has been.

- The stiff-arm is back, and Parker is leading the revival. Just ask Ken Lucas.

- Would it be ridiculous to call Chidi Iwuoma the team's most valuable player this year? I know it seems absurd, but look at the special teams turnaround since his return to the roster. Back from the dead (or was it St. Louis? New England?), he tackled the returner on Pittsburgh's opening punt for no gain to set the tone, and the ‘teams responded: out of nowhere, Calamity James Harrison and company are lighting guys up in the return game, blocking punts, Holmes is turning muffs into touchdowns, and Jeff Reed is booming touchbacks and hitting 45-yard field goals with an easy 25 yards to spare. Hell, even Chris Gardocki booted a 51-yard punt.

- Of course, John Kasay also booted a touchback on a squib kick, of all things, so maybe it's just the air down there … or something. Or maybe it's that unusually straight approach Kasay takes to the ball on field goals.

- If Iwuoma is the team's MVP, even half in jest, does that make the last two games a lost cause now that he's gone on injured reserve?

- If Iwuoma were to be named the team's MVP, would Dick Enberg know that his name is not pronounced "Chiddy Eye-womba?" Or that Pittsburgh's quarterback's last name isn't "Roethlisberg?" Or that Drew Carter isn't, uh, "Keyshawn Foster?"

- Enberg's very competent partner Randy Cross had to stop himself at one point in the broadcast from saying that last week Porter made an "ignorant homographic remark" to Kellen Winslow. I now know that my life won't be complete until I hear Joey Porter concoct an ignorant homographic remark.

- Cross followed that gem up with a remark that in most years, Parker's season would merit a trip to the Pro Bowl, but not this year with LaDainian Tomlinson and Larry Johnson also in the conference. Uh, hey Cross … you do know that they send three backs to Hawaii, right? Just checking.

- Did I really see DeAngello Williams do the leg snake with the ball after getting pushed out of bounds two yards short on third down, with his team losing by 17? Just checking.

- Anthony Smith's one-handed interception might have been the most athletic play on the ball by a Pittsburgh defensive back not named Troy Polamalu since Ike Taylor's leaping interception against New England in 2004. His behavior afterwards might have been the most groan-inducing lack of sportsmanship since DeAngelo Williams did the leg snake after getting pushed out of bounds two yards short on third down with his team losing by 17.

- Yes, my favorite cornerback Taylor successfully defended a fade pass in the end zone, and even came up with the ball. Before you get too excited, though, note that it came on a terrible pass from the backup of possibly the worst backup quarterback in football.

- Forget about backup quarterbacks next week. McNair has played with a chunk of his thumb meat missing; I think he'll find a way to manage with a piddly little puncture wound. Forget about the playoffs for now. They're still out there, vaguely and unlikely, but right now it's revenge time with a Ravens club that embarrassed our boys not all that long ago in Baltimore. You know why you're supposed to root for your favorite team to win? Because it's fun to watch them win. Hasn't it been fun the last month and a half to watch the Steelers? I'll take two more weeks of fun, please.

Steel City Insider Top Stories