Wexell: Don't blow off this win

The Pittsburgh Steelers beat the St. Louis Rams by 17, but lost Willie Parker for the season. Jim Wexell doesn't see it as the death blow everyone else does.

From the notebook of a sportswriter who found something to cheer just in the St. Nick of time:

• As for St. Louis, that Cardinals town is now a Steelers town.

• I was wondering how the invaders would react to the Rams' honoring of Marshall Faulk at halftime. Poor guy had to lie about how loyal Rams fans have been. But it sounded like Steelers fans gave Faulk a classy and hearty round of applause.

Carey Davis didn't become a third baseman like his boyhood idol Terry Pendleton, but he had his best NFL game in his hometown.

• Davis had eight touches for 28 yards, or Najeh Davenport-like numbers. Davenport had 26 touches for 167 yards, or Willie Parker-like numbers. The depth at running back might not be so bad.

• So Davenport was effective only because it was the Rams? But he's the first to rush for over 100 yards against the Rams this season. That's a surprising stat for a team that's watched 12 teams sit on leads against them this season.

• The Steelers' 41 points was also the most scored against the Rams this season, and the 425 yards was the third-most gained against them. That's not bad for a defense that had only 27 sacks coming into the game.

• Of course, that latter stat improved by 15 percent against the Steelers' dreadful pass-blocking.

• Since the Rams' defense isn't as poor as perceived, it must be the offense. But in games with playmakers Marc Bulger, Steven Jackson, Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt healthy, the Rams are only 2-6.

• So it's obviously the offensive line that's doomed the Rams this season. On Thursday night, the Rams used their 10th different starting O-line configuration. It was also the 18th different combination used – counting in-game changes -- all season. Yet, the Steelers had but one sack and hit Marc Bulger only seven other times.

• The Steelers took a 10-point lead with 4:30 left, so in assessing pass-rush stats for the game's first 55:30, with unpredictable play-calling, Bulger was hit four times (one sack) in 28 attempts, or 14 percent of the time he dropped back to pass.

Ben Roethlisberger was sacked four times and hit six other times, so he was hit 10 times in 21 dropbacks, or 48 percent of the time.

• Again, the Rams have used 10 different line combinations and the Steelers have used two. So much for chemistry.

• And so much for left tackle being more difficult than right tackle. Max Starks, a left-hander, isn't even an issue.

• The Steelers did blow open some holes in the run game. Their interior dominated at times, and that's a pleasant development, considering the change at running back.

• The tight ends, after a slow start, also blocked well in the run game, particularly Matt Spaeth.

• The most consistent lineman for the Steelers over the last six weeks has been Kendall Simmons.

• I should elaborate on these comments, but at this point in the year the plain facts speak loudest.

Alan Faneca certainly helped Simmons and Sean Mahan move Rams interior linemen in the run game, but as they say in the business: We can get our quarterback sacked 47 times with you, Al, or 47 times without you.

• Sad, but true when you're throwing around that kind of bonus money.

• For the Rams' next coach, whoever he may be: Draft a faster back and move big Steven Jackson to fullback. Then, in exasperation, trade Jackson to Pittsburgh for a second and a fourth.

Anthony Smith played a mean free safety on the kickoff team. He also made the big block on Ike Taylor's pick six.

Nate Washington is earning my respect. That has to be a relief for a team that looked like it also needed a WR on the first day of the draft.

• Dan Sepulveda's net improved to 37.8, the second-best net since the team began keeping records in 1981. The best net of 38.1 belongs to the 1999 group led by Josh Miller.

• Here's a puzzler maybe the league office can handle: If the offense is given the ball on a shared possession, why can't that shared possession be fumbled?

• Now on holiday, I'll let James Harrison ask the commish himself. In other words, look for a rule change in the near future.


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