Wednesday Apple Pie

Maybe it is the Pittsburgh Steelers.<p> I don't want to believe. But, my lack of faith in this team is disturbing. I never fathomed that after 4 games my immediate expectations of this season would amount to a hope of possibly winning a game. At this rate, in a few weeks I will be hoping for a competitive game. And if destiny proves fateful, I'll be hoping for a high draft pick by week 11.

There is something about this team that is not working. Maybe it's complacency. Perhaps it's chemistry. The possibility even exists that the players lack the hunger for redemption and respect. Whatever it is internally, the external signs of this problem are evident. In game one at New England it was intimidation. Against the Raiders it was turnovers. Against Cleveland the offense lacked spark. And last week in New Orleans, big plays haunted the defense.

Unlike last year when the team gave a solid 110 percent effort 13 out of the 16 weeks, this year's version of the Steelers relates back to 1998 and 1999, when the team lacked any cohesive efforts. This is an unfortunate turn of events, because the one thing the Steelers don't have on their roster is the big-time, money player. They have solid players and even excellent players, but no one name on this team is in the same league as a Favre, Lewis, or McNabb. Therefore, they have no one player they can lean on in times of trouble. That job was supposed to fall in the hands of Kordell Stewart, but he refused to take the step time and again, which leads us to where we are at now.

Bill Cowher is gambling that the team can win with a quarterback that is solid if not spectacular. He gives up the "big play" option for a more methodical approach, basing this on the solid talent level of the defense and the offensive line. His logic behind the decision makes the debacle in New Orleans on Sunday even harder to swallow. The two outright strengths of the team failed them. The defense once again is not playing to its talent level and the offensive line is struggling to dominate like it did last season. The two phases of the game Cowher could count on to hold up their ends of the bargain have failed in this first quarter of the season.

All of this leads to one last thought. As last season wore on, experts weighed in on the team most likely to be a fluke, a one-year wonder. The list of candidates was short but impressive. Chicago, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, and New England made most lists; and in the end, the Bears were singled out. And why not? They had a stagnant offense and no one could expect the defense to carry the load for a second straight year. But, after 4 games the question must be asked. "Could it be the Pittsbugh Steelers?"

The Week 5 Six-Pack Review

  1. Green Bay 34 Chicago 21: Green Bay made a firm statement that the NFC North goes through Lambeau. The Bears still haven't figured out how to beat the Pack. A rematch in Green Bay later in the season won't be kind to the Bears. The injuries on defense are taking their toll. The team has a great first 11 or 12, but after that the talent is thin. If Terry Glenn can stay healthy, this Packer team will have a ton of fire power at its finger tips.
  2. Miami 26 New England 13: The Dolphins came out swinging and the Patriots wilted under the Florida sun. The Patriots don't look like the same team and they're obviously hurting from the loss of Troy Brown. Ricky Williams is turning out to be a bigger acquisition than any Dolphin fan could've hoped for. Let's see if Miami's defense wears out as quickly as Crystal Pepsi as the season progresses, which has been the case in recent years.
  3. San Francisco 37 St. Louis 13: The Niners nail the coffin shut on the Rams. To be honest, the Rams never had a chance in this game. I would like to see them get rid of Mike Martz, but I have a feeling the St. Louis front office will just consider this year to be an aberration. The Niners pounded a weak team, sort of like driving over roadkill. Amazingly, the weakest division in the NFC has turned out to be the West.
  4. Tampa Bay 20 Atlanta 6: Michael Vick is the Franchise. And when falls, so do the fortunes of the young talented Falcons. Keyshawn Johnson's 76-yard touchdown catch withstanding, the offense still isn't clicking. Michael Pittman must see the ball more. That defense is incredible right now. Derrick Brooks may be my Defensive MVP pick if he continues his stellar play. Hey Lee Flowers, the "Paper Champions" live in Pittsburgh this year.
  5. NY Giants 21 Dallas 17: A misguided attempt at a fake field goal proved to be the difference in this game. The Giants look like a team on a mission to be a Wild Card team this year. Considering how weak the NFC West is, they may have a chance although the loss to the Cardinals hurts. The Cowboys are probably a year, a quarterback, and a running back away from playoff hopes but they could be the definition of a spoiler.
  6. Oakland 49 Buffalo 31: Buffalo stayed with the Raiders as long as they could, but the defense couldn't pull the game out. A great point was made to me this week that the Raiders seem to be playing like they want to prove that Gruden wasn't the only reason for their recent success. That and the fact that they have at least 3 first ballot Hall of Famers on the team doesn't hurt either.

The Power Core Rankings: Week 6

  1. Oakland - Outlasted the Bills at the end. And who said older men can't keep it up for long periods of time?
  2. Miami - A close second, but until Oakland loses they'll have to be content at No. 2.
  3. Tampa Bay - The best in the NFC. That offense worries me though. It's still not good.
  4. Green Bay - Impressive win in Chicago over a fading Bears team.
  5. New Orleans - Held off the Steelers with big plays.
  6. Kansas City - Team of destiny. They aren't going away.
  7. Denver - Recovers from embarrassment in Baltimore with a thrashing of San Diego.
  8. San Francisco - Sure the Rams are a shadow of there former selves, but it sure felt good.
  9. Philadelphia - What happened? How does this team lose to Jacksonville?
  10. New England - You just knew someone would finally figure this team out.
  11. Indianapolis - Let Cincinnati come too close. The defense needs an overhaul.
  12. San Diego - Yes, the AFC West all make the top 12. Memo to Head Coaches everywhere: You stop the Bolts by stopping Tomlinson.

Missed Prime Opportunity (MPO) Score

Pittsburgh 6 New Orleans 3

An MPO is when a team fails to score while in scoring range or doesn't take advantage of major swings in momentum (i.e. major penalties/turnovers/settling for field goals in successive series/inability to seal a game with first downs). These are killers because a team only gets so many opportunities.

An MPO Score is like golf: It's best to score low. When a team score's low, it usually wins the game. It's remarkable how accurate it can be.

Pittsburgh's 2001 - 02 Regular Season MPO record: 1 - 3

Week 6 Preview: Pittsburgh at Cincinnati If the Steelers lose in Cincinnati, my buddy Teddy will probably put on a fat suit, dress in drag and start singing. Chad Scott guarantees a playoff birth. He can start backing up his words by helping his defensive unit regain its swagger.

5 Keys to the Game

  1. Stop Corey Dillon: The last thing this team needs is Corey Dillon running like he's at a track meet.
  2. Continue to Work the Running Game: The Bus had 84 yards on Sunday. 100 this week would be dandy.
  3. Stop the Big Play: Here's hoping Chad Scott had his "I got schooled" game of the year last week.
  4. What Coverage?: The Special Teams are blatantly awful. Everyone on those units should be ashamed.
  5. Continue the Drive Trend: Although outdone by the Saints quick strikes, the Steeler offense sustained some long drives. Keep that trend going.

Outlook: I like the Steelers by at least 10 but, knowing the level of play, it will be another nail-biter.

Apple Six-Pack: Week 6

  1. Green Bay at New England: Game of the Week. Green Bay did a number on last year's defending champion Baltimore Ravens. Let's see what they do to a suddenly vulnerable Patriot team.
  2. Miami at Denver: This game has playoff implications written all over it. The second best team in the AFC meets the Broncos (the 4th best team in the AFC). That Denver defense may be quick enough to cause Ricky Williams some problems.
  3. San Francisco at Seattle: The Niners can grasp a heavy hold on the NFC West with a win at Seattle. Seattle needs a win to stay confident as Mike Holmgren's final days in the state of Washington go unfulfilled.
  4. Kansas City at San Diego: A huge divisional matchup for each team. Neither can afford a loss in the league's best division.
  5. Cleveland at Tampa Bay: The Buccaneers can help the Steelers out big time with a win this week. They should get it as the Browns have suffered two very bitter losses in a row.
  6. New Orleans at Washington: The Saints kept on pace with the Buccaneers by beating Pittsburgh. And the Redskins win coupled with the Eagles' upset loss in Jacksonville makes this game an important intraconference battle.

Thoughts Assisted By Yuengling

  • I'll never underestimate Troy Brown's importance to New England's offense. He's also Tom Brady's safety valve.
  • Denver's sudden resurgence can be attributed to one thing. The offensive line is once again dominating. It always begins with the offensive line.
  • After hearing the boos in Cleveland this past week, I wonder if Tim Couch gave Kordell Stewart a call.
  • Cleveland once again continues to blow its chances at a division title.
  • Suddenly, Jacksonville doesn't look like an easy win.
  • For all the talent they lost, the Baltimore Ravens still have more than a handful of former No. 1 draft picks starting and performing at a high level.
  • Vinny Testeverde's career is probably over what with Chad Pennington's performance this weekend.
  • Chicago's commute is turning out to be a real Bear. Okay really bad joke, but you get the point.

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