:: Look closely at the NFL standings after week three. Notice a trend? The Rams and Steelers are winless; the Chargers and Panthers are both 3-0. Anyone wonder why?
:: Its just too damn easy to use that tired old line about how everyone overestimated this or underestimated that. Please, teams don't just go from champions to bums overnight, nor from rags to riches. It doesn't happen. Not even in this era of free agency. But, teams do play better, or as is the case with the Steelers and the Rams, worse.
:: Ask yourself: What is it that the Dolphins, Patriots, Chargers, and Panthers have in common? You know, besides being undefeated and all. Ok, that's a tough one…how about the Steelers, Rams, Lions, and Bengals? Common denominator, anyone? Give up yet?
:: The Dolphins, Panthers, Patriots, and Chargers rank among the league leaders in turnover ratio with +8, +7, +6, and +5, respectively. Conversely, the Steelers, Lions, Bengals, and Rams have been far too generous, ranking at the bottom of the league with takeaway/giveaway nets of –7, -7, -6, and –6.
:: Man, do I hate bye weeks.
:: This is not rocket science. And, I'm not the sharpest pencil in the box (no rocket scientist, either)...or so I've been told. So, why am I one of only a few not jumping off the Steelers bandwagon? Everyone has an excuse, and worse yet, a solution. But none address the problem.
:: Fire Bill. Bench Stewart. Cut Plaxico. Retire the Bus. C'mon! This is the same team that went to the AFC Championship game just 9 months ago. They just aren't playing like it. And therein lies the problem.
:: Football is blocking and tackling, and little more. Holding onto the ball helps a little, too. Scheme all you want, romance on and on about the 4-3 defense or the Fun-and-Gun offense. Don't block? Play fails. Don't tackle? Ballcarrier scores. All day long. To hell with geniuses like Mike Martz and Bill Belichick; they are where they are right now because their teams execute, or don't.
:: In response to a question regarding the three days off the players had this weekend, Steel City Sports Insider Dale Lolley bluntly stated "The players aren't going to get any better." ...and he's right. This is a very talented team -- last year's 14-4 finish bears proof to the same -- but talent takes you only so far, just ask Randy Moss.
:: Take the Steelers last game for example. This team, despite all of the yards they had surrendered and whatnot, was in it after three quarters. The Raiders led by a mere 3 points, 20-17, and the turnovers at that point were 2-1 in the Steelers favor. The game swung on Terry Kirby's 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown -- a play on which the Raiders blocked beautifully, and the Steelers failed to tackle. Then the Steelers sealed the deal by giving the ball away four more times. Show me a team that can win a game despite a –3 turnover margin, and I'll show you a mismatch.
:: This Steelers team finds itself in a rather dicey situation this week. Many penciled in this next game against Cleveland as a win back in the spring. Get out the erasers, folks. Whether it is desire, or humble pie this team has needed isn't clear, but they had better figure that out before 1pm on Sunday. Into Heinz Field rolls a confident Cleveland Browns team that has no business being 2-1, never mind 3-0. They just aren't that good. Might they finish 8-8? Sure, but none of those eight should come at the Steelers expense.
:: Familiarity breeds contempt, but more so shrinks the margin for error. The Steelers should have no trouble moving the ball on the Browns, or scoring for that matter. But, they had better hold onto the ball. Butch Davis is sure to unleash the ever-dangerous Tim Couch (laughter) and the Browns' vaunted spread attack on the reeling Pittsburgh defense. The Steelers, however, match-up much better -- both upfront and in the secondary -- against the Browns than they did the Patriots and Raiders, and they return perhaps their best defensive player, Kendrell Bell, in at least a limited role. Even still, the team that wins the turnover battle wins this game, and so it implores Kordell and Co. to protect the football.
:: A little blocking and tackling wouldn't hurt, either.