Cleveland – The story here is an emerging QB controversy. Kelly Holcomb runs the offense about as well as you could expect. He wasn't as off the charts as he was last week, but he still appeared better than Tim Couch. More importantly, the team responds to Holcomb and trusts him to make plays.
The run defense continues to look pitiful. Obviously Corey Dillon is no slouch, but if the Bengals had any semblance of a passing game, the Browns probably would have lost the game. This does not look like a problem that is going to go away and if the Browns cannot find a way to address it, their season may seem even drearier than that of the Ravens.
Despite injuries to the offensive line, the pass protection continues to be adequate. However, the offense is designed to execute quick throws and there is not much pressure for the OL to hold its blocks for an appreciable amount of time. Rookie offensive tackle Joaquin Gonzalez came in after an injury to Roger Chanoine and held his own. The Browns appear to be answering questions about their depth on the OL.
SteelCity Summary: The Browns have the best potential to spread the field and throw the ball as the Patriots and Raiders have done against the Steelers. If the Steelers do not solve this riddle, they could well be looking at an 0-3 start.
p.s. Jamel White should be the starting tailback. So far, William Green has been a no-show while White continues to make plays. White's versatility also seems to compliment the offense better.
Pittsburgh – The Steelers are even a less complete team than the Browns. However, the Steelers do have the potential to solve their pressing problems. Kendall Simmons seems to be the answer at right guard. If the Steelers can shore up the right side of the line, the running attack should once again prove to be formidable.
That, of course, depends on if the Steelers can hold onto the ball. Fumbles have been the Steelers' undoing. Everyone seems to be getting into the act and the Steelers continue to find themselves in significant fourth quarter holes.
We are not talking Gus Frerotte here, but QB Kordell Stewart does not look like he is ever going to lead Steeler fans to the promised land of One for the Thumb. However, demoting Stewart would open a host of other problems and probably do little to stabilize this listing ship.
The Steelers do miss LB Kendrell Bell, but Joey Porter has been phenomenal in his new role as the coverage linebacker in the dime. The return of Bell will help in terms of pressure, but the Steelers defense simply needs to come through better in the clutch. Third and long was a death knell for opposing offenses last season. This season, it is almost cause for celebration. Until the Steelers solve this problem, they will continue to be #2 in the North.
SteelCity Summary: The Steelers are all about taking one step forward and two steps backwards. Difficult to fathom how a 13-3 team can turn in such a pitiful 0-2 start. However, this team will turn it around. But will that be too little too late?
p.s. The Steelers rookie class looks phenomenal. There is a future here if this season continues to sink.
Cincinnati – Yes, the broken record continues to skip… no passing game, no passing game, and no passing game. QB Gus Frerotte was dismal against the Browns. The rest of the Bengals looked promising and Cincinnati could have run all day on the Browns had they not fallen behind.
Corey Dillon looked sharp, but then again he was running against the Browns. Where Priest Holmes had a lot of success between the tackles, Dillon feasted on the outside. But Dillon will certainly face stacked fronts and running room will become scarce again. The sum of the offensive production over the last two games has been 13 points.
The defense performed okay against the Browns. Save the second quarter, the Browns were fairly quiet offensively. The Bengal defenders kept the Brown receivers in front of them with the secondary turning in a serviceable performance. What the defense now needs to do is work on generating more big plays such as turnovers and sacks.
SteelCity Summary: I recognize the Bengals started this wretched trend of airing out against the Steelers, but right now it's hard to imagine Cincinnati being able to repeat such a performance.
p.s. DE Justin Smith should have had a field day against the Browns. He didn't. The Bengals defensive line has so far been a disappointment.
Baltimore – The Ravens are back in the North doghouse. 7 total points over two games will do that. As promising as QB Chris Redman looked in game 1, he looked just as dismal in game 2. Part of that reason was all the pressure the Bucs put on him. The offense was a big zero against Tampa Bay and the offensive line looked horrible.
The Ravens continue to struggle to run the 3-4. While the Bucs scored few offensive points, coverage's were blown left and right. Tampa Bay still lacks an explosive offense, but they had little problem moving the ball and almost seemed like a passing team. The Ravens will continue to improve, though, and I expect the defense to steal a game or two this season.
Talk about having no legs to stand on. The Ravens special teams made the Steelers AFC Championship performance look stellar by comparison. If a young team can do something wel