Cleveland - The Browns deserve some credit for the Titans impotent offense, but four fumbles hardly engenders optimistic visions of success. Did the Browns finally improve their awful run defense or was Titans RB Eddie George a shadow of his normal self? Did Cleveland's secondary smother a potent Titans passing attack or did the injuries to Titan QB Steve McNair hamper his game?
The stat sheet tells the tale of a completely woeful performance by the Titans on their homefield and yet they were one lucky bounce of an onsides kick to walking away with a victory. Still, the performance of Browns QB Tim Couch was nothing short of electric. Finding a way to win such games is what a playoff run is all about and you might excuse Browns fans for really thinking they are 3-0.
Who needs a running game? Despite the eggs that rookie RB William Green continues to lay, the Browns continue to score. The Browns can feel good about what backup QB Kelly Holcomb brings to the equation and absolutely wonderful about the leadership QB Tim Couch is exhibiting. Amazing how a team can go from no lead to big to be safe to no deficit to great to overcome in just the span of two weeks.
SteelCity Summary - If momentum and confidence are all that separates teams in this era of parity, the Steelers are staring 0-3 right in the face. They are the Cleveland Browns and they believe.
- p.s. Who would you take, Phil Dawson or Todd Peterson? The answer most likely does not bode well for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Pittsburgh Steelers - What else can you do during a bye-week except join the Kendrell Bell health watch? The Steelers entered into an off-season project to build the defense around the special talents of this linebacker. For all the wonders of the Joey Porter show against the Raiders, the Steelers schemed and planned to improve the NFL's former number one defense by finding new ways to launch Bell into the opposition's backfield. A healthy Bell would turn Tim Couch into a tasty dog biscuit.
The offense has probably been busy pointing fingers. OT Wayne Gandy is talking about running the Bus. WR Plaxico Burress is talking about his own Randy Moss ratio. OC Mike Mularkey is talking about fumbles. QB Kordell Stewart is talking about, well, DirecTV. Somebody has got to stand up and take control of this offense. The guess here is that Wayne Gandy commands the most respect.
SteelCity Summary - The Bus runs for 150+ yards against the Browns. Steeler fans die multiple deaths watching Stewart commandeer the Steeler offense on a final drive with a game on the line. Can Joey Porter play wide receiver?
- p.s. The Steelers have finally figured out a way to get the ball into a tight end's hands. TE John Allred is now the long snapper.
Baltimore Ravens - That's right, the Ravens move up in the AFC North during a bye-week. What a young team needs is more practice. The Ravens are essentially looking at a bye-season. Next week's draw is the Denver Broncos on Monday night. Primetime has not exactly been kind to the North this season, but I'd rather see this spunky young Ravens team than the Bungle in the Jungle.
QB Chris Redman needs a little help. Really, he needs a little time. Not time to develop, but time to make the proper reads and throw the ball. Instead, the Ravens continue to treat their offensive line as an ongoing high school science experiment. There is not much rhyme or reason to this tinkering, just a blind hope that there will be some results. With the Broncos in town the result may be Redman on injured reserve. A good offensive line can make anyone look like an offensive genius. Brian Billick is no genius.
But perhaps he knows a thing or two about defense. Right now, the wrecking crew in Baltimore looks better than Marvin Lewis' underachievers in Washington. What I wouldn't give to see the Ravens play the Redskins during the regular season this year. As the young guns continue to tease out the assignments of the 3-4, the Ravens defense will get nothing but better.
SteelCity Summary - Better to play Baltimore now than later in the season. Unfortunately for Steeler fans, the schedule does not quite work out that way.
- p.s. His name is Ron Johnson and the sooner someone introduces Brian Billick and Chris Redman to him the better the offense will be.
Cincinnati Bengals - I was on the road listening to this one on the radio. I don't think I missed anything. The 4th quarter banter when the game was long over was probably the best part of the show. A couple of Bengal fans were escorted out of the stadium in Atlanta, reportedly for their own safety. I didn't realize that embarrassment could physically harm someone. Somebody should have escorted me away from the radio.
For all the feel good in Cleveland, Browns fans should take stock that they were very, very close to only having a victory over the hapless Bengals to point to going into the game against Pittsburgh. And I can't wait for that marquee match up tonight, St. Louis traveling to Tampa Bay. The Bucs were built to beat the Rams. I only bring this up so Bengal fans can start saying that their team has the same record as the Rams.
Did you see Michael Vick last night? I'd say he's the frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy this year. Vick's TD scamper towards the end of the game was the difference in a heartbreaker for the Bearcats. Wait, there's football being played in Cincinnati? I mean professional football. Can the Bengals use the Bearcats as a minor league team? Or is it the other way around?
SteelCity Summary - I see the Steelers as 2-2 right now. Of course, so are the Ravens and the Browns are a sparkling 3-1. I suppose the Bengals part of this column will turn into a 2003 draft analysis. I'll start next week by listing over-hyped potential busts that the Bengals might pick.
- p.s. - The Bengals and Ravens have played five games total. Pittsburgh has scored more points in two games than Cincinnati and Baltimore combined. I had to find some way to rank the hapless North.