My thoughts, for what they're worth

Are you stoked about the Steelers' 3-0 start? You're not alone. Ian Whetstone's finding it increasingly difficult to keep his excitement for this season in check ...

- Another week, another convincing win. Mounting multi-touchdown victories chip away at doubts regarding the level of opposition over the first three weeks. This is an impressive-looking Steelers team with the ammo and completeness to make the AFC more than the two-team race so many pundits have painted in the early going.

- Allen Rossum at the veteran minimum salary in exchange for a seventh-rounder? Great move. Great move.

- Don't get freaked out too much about Willie Parker's heavy carry total through three games; there will be 15-carry games at some point to balance out the average, when they aren't blowing out their opponents or when running isn't the most effective way to move the ball. Najeh Davenport has done his part to instill confidence that he can shoulder a supportive load: even before his 39-yard stat-padding touchdown gallop against a 49ers defense that had apparently lost interest, he was averaging 5.4 yards per carry on the year.

- Wasn't running back depth regarded as something of a concern at some point in the off-season? Yeah, it's not looking too shabby, right now. And we've yet to see Gary Russell on the field.

- Parker leads the league in rushing yardage at a strong 5.0 yards-per-carry clip, and that's with a modest long run of 25 yards. Among the nine qualified backs with a better YPC, only DeShaun Foster has a shorter long run. Parker will hit his big 40+ yarders against some opponents this season—I'm looking at you, Cincinnati—and the fact that he's posting such good numbers to this point without any super-runs may be all the more impressive.

- Apparently, the FOX announcers never heard the story about some idiot sitting Parker on the bench at North Carolina, as much time as they spent expressing (understandable) befuddlement over his undrafted entry into the league.

- Having seen the Eagles, uh, strut their stuff against the Lions, I take back every mean thing I ever said about Pittsburgh's throwback jerseys.

- A week after Troy Polamalu came up lacking on the stat sheet, he led the team in tackles. Replacing him in the category of "player whose stat line belies his game impact" was Brett Keisel, who pressured the quarterback, disrupted passes, redirected runners into tacklers, and generally played his responsibilities to perfection.

- We're now three weeks in, and we've still not seen a single return yard on a Daniel Sepulveda punt. He may extend that streak for a while, yet, if he only punts twice a game.

- That Andy Lee kid can boot the hell out of a ball. It's easy to see what interested Pittsburgh enough to sign him to an offer sheet in the off-season when he turns what should have been good starting position for the Steelers into an 84-yard field with an un-returnable 58-yard punt. Still, Sepulveda has it in him to be even better; he's got the leg, and his zero touchbacks on the year are five fewer than Lee's. Oh, and he can field kicks with the hands team. Apparently.

- Let's hear it for Bryant McFadden for maintaining that zero touchback total. Leaping efforts to keep a punt out of the end zone rank among my favorite plays in all of football. Throw in the interception return for a touchdown, and McFadden put together a nice little day on the big play front.

- Fellow cornerback Ike Taylor laid the block to spring McFadden for the home stretch on his touchdown return, to go along with his excellent—and, so far this year, extremely consistent—play at corner.

- As good as Taylor has been, when Nate Clements is on his game, he's a souped-up version of the same player: a fast, physical cover corner who plays the run with gusto. Clements adds some big-hitting and big-playmaking to that recipe. There may be better starting tandems in the league than Clements and Walt Harris, but I don't know that anyone goes three-deep with as much quality as Shawntae Spencer in the nickel.

- For the record, it shouldn't matter what action that precipitated the holding call against Clements' on second-and-long fell within the five-yard bump zone; the ball was in the air, and that throws all the bump zone stuff out the window. It probably should have been a pass interference call rather than defensive holding, but that wouldn't have altered the result, anyway.

- It's no big surprise that Pittsburgh's receivers found limited success against that corner trio, especially with the tight ends providing much more inviting targets against some suspect linebackers and safeties. It's even less surprising that San Francisco's receivers found limited success; outside of Darrell Jackson, some of those guys have no business on an NFL roster.

- There may be better tight ends in the league than Heath Miller, but none provide such a perfect fit for what the Steelers need out of the position. I don't care what his receiving numbers look like in aggregate at the end of the season, so long as he continues to block his butt off every week and steps up as a pass-catcher when called upon. He continues to show off the softest hands on the team… and he's not without competition on that front.

- It must be said that, a missed tackle against Parker aside, Bryant Young has no business being as good as he remains at age 35. However many more years he plays had better be just five fewer than his date with a podium in Canton.

- With Patrick Willis injecting some much-needed talent as a pursuit linebacker, that 49ers defense looks to be just a few players away from sitting among the NFC's best.

- Ryan Clark lost another big play to official review, but at least this week it was justified. No one will convince me that Vernon Davis didn't catch that ball; there was an observable period between when his head and shoulder hit the turf—making him down—and when the ball popped loose.

- The gadget play lives! It's good to see a little of that every now and then. After so many years with either Kordell Stewart or Antwaan Randle El on the roster, I think I miss them. It's a shame that Cedrick Wilson didn't find an open target for his option pass; I so wanted to see another rifleball never get more than six feet off the ground en route to some poor receiver's sternum.

- Was it me, or did the Steelers cause themselves more harm than good in attempting to time the snap count in this game?

- Let's hope that Hines Ward isn't too injured. They've got depth at the position, but it's always hard for a team to lose one of its best players for a stretch. If Ward misses time, Santonio Holmes will not only see more coverage attention, he may have to run more of the possession routes while the back-ups run the deeper stuff, as the others probably aren't consistent enough to fill that role in Ward's absence.

- I don't care what anybody says, I like Tony Siragusa on the sideline. Sue me.

- Not many teams will beat these Steelers when Ben Roethlisberger plays a steady game and makes good decisions, let alone when he punctuates such steady play with his own special brand of improvisation. My favorites on the day: on third-and-ten during the opening drive of the second half, Roethlisberger deftly sidesteps safety Mark Roman storming up the middle on the blitz, quickly directs his receivers downfield with his free hand, and guns an all-arm strike to Miller down the left sideline for 29 yards. Later, on first-and-ten near the end of the quarter, a rushing lineman works past a pulling Alan Faneca on play-action and hooks Roethlisberger's throwing arm for the fumble… except that the ball isn't even in his throwing hand, it's safely tucked away in his other hand. Roethlisberger then extracts his arm, thank you very much, in time to hit Holmes along the right sideline for 17 yards.

- I held my excitement in reserve after two thrashings of sub-par teams, but I'm finding it increasingly difficult after three. These are NFL teams, not an ACC school playing a Division II opponent. After three games, there's really no aspect of the Steelers about which to be critical. Sure, there's plenty upon which they could improve, but no apparent outright problems. This time of year, when most teams struggle to find an identity or a groove, that's saying something.

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