Steelers head coach Bill Cowher changed things up during the preseason and played his starters more than usual in the team's preseason finale to get them ready for the opener. However, Monday night's 30-14 butt-kicking by the New England Patriots looked a lot like Baltimore's 20-0 opening-day shellacking of the team two years ago and the Jaguars' 21-3 stomping last season at the opener in Jacksonville.
Memo to Bill: You want to change things up? Try this. Why not ask the NFL schedule makers to give you the first week of the season as your off date? Your teams take the opener off more often than not anyway.
A lot of people will blame quarterback Kordell Stewart for Monday's loss. And certainly Stewart and his three interceptions deserve a lion's share of the blame. But make no mistake. This was a team effort. About the only guys who appeared to have any semblance of a good game were defensive end Kimo von Oelhoffen, tight end Mark Bruener, and wide receivers Hines Ward and Antwaan Randle El.
You could throw Jason Gildon into that group, but I'm still trying to figure out why Gildon felt the need to get up after making a tackle in the fourth quarter and gesture to the crowd. Gildon made a nice tackle, dropping Troy Brown for a 3-yard loss. But the Steelers were trailing 27-7 at that point.
Think some other teams will come out throwing against the Steelers this season? New England threw 23 straight passes at one point and ran the ball four times in the first half.
Amazing stat of the night: New England threw 43 passes and the Steelers had two passes defensed. On most occasions, the New England receivers were catching the ball and the best the Pittsburgh defensive backs could do was make a half-hearted effort to push them out of bounds five yards later. Pathetic.
Interesting that Cowher went with rookie Larry Foote to replace Kendrell Bell instead of John Fiala. Then again, since the Patriots weren't doing anything but throwing the ball anyway, what the heck was Foote doing on the field on most of those plays?
Regardless of whether the ball was behind him or not, Plaxico Burress has got to get his feet down in bounds in the back of the end zone in the second quarter. A Steelers' touchdown at that juncture would have made the score 14-7 in favor of the Steelers. Who knows what happens then.
That entire series was messed up. On first and goal from the 1, left tackle Wayne Gandy was penalized for a phantom false start on a play in which Jerome Bettis scored. On second down, Stewart was stopped on a quarterback draw for a 1-yard loss. The ill-fated pass to Burress came on second down, and then Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala decided it would be prudent to get an un-sportsman like penalty after being stopped at the 1 on third down. Then von Oelhoffen - I don't ever remember Kimo being on the field as a field goal blocker before - was penalized for a false start on a field goal attempt from the 16, moving the ball back to the 21, where Todd Peterson missed a 39-yard attempt wide left. Pretty much textbook stuff on how not to score.
Want to look at the bright side? I'm still trying to figure out what that is.
Oh yeah. The Steelers didn't allow any
touchdowns on special teams. That's about as bright as it gets.
--Dale "Sleepless" Lolley