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Wednesday Apple Pie

The Steelers made a statement on Monday night by dominating the Indianapolis Colts 28 - 10. That statement was "We're Baaaack." Then we got the news that Jerome Bettis is doubtful for Sunday. That statement is now "We're Baaack…sort of…in a 2001 kind of way." Bettis left the game early in the third quarter, after what looked like a harmless play from the camera angles ABC provided.<p>

But, in all fairness, the Steelers have been here before and have succeeded wildly without Bettis in the lineup. He will be needed to bring a Super Bowl home, but he won't be needed to win in Baltimore.

The injury that worries me is Jeff Hartings' knee sprain. It's unfortunate that his injury comes just as this offensive line is starting to gel.

However, there were too many other good things happening to not take notice.

Aaron Smith had his best game of the year and started to look like the player the Steelers spent the bank on. He consistently pushed Indy lineman Ryan Diem back into the face of Peyton Manning, forcing Manning to throw the costly interception to Mike Logan in the 3rd quarter, and finishing with 5 tackles and one sack.

Amos Zereoue ran with speed and confidence. His cutback for 42 yards was perfectly timed and set up by the play of Wayne Gandy and Alan Faneca.

Speaking of those two, the holes they opened were perhaps the best in the last 6 games. Faneca showed his All-Pro ability and Gandy made me wish that the Steelers had signed him to an extension before the season.

Tommy Maddox threw crisp passes and only had two ill-advised throws, of which one was picked off. His first touchdown pass was a great read with Hines Ward matched up on DE Chad Bratzkie.

Joey Porter will be a finalist for the AFC Defensive Player of the Year. His punt block was only the most recent incredible play of a list that grows larger every week. He gives the Steelers their most exciting defensive player and potential superstar since Greg Lloyd.

Finally, I must mention James Farrior. It was me who told you to watch him closely on Monday. He did have a perfect game. Yes, it was Farrior who missed his assignment as Brent Alexander dropped back to double-team Marvin Harrison. Farrior was supposed to follow the tight end, Marcus Pollard. But, he let him go in hopes that Alexander would be there for support. Yet Farrior, that play aside, was all over the field again. Many times he ran down Edgerrin James and he did an incredible job shifting the defense as Manning called audible after audible.

In almost every area, the Steelers dominated. But one can only hope that Bettis' injury is not as serious as we want to believe and Todd Peterson will at some point convince us that he is an NFL place-kicker.

The Week 7 Six-Pack Review

  1. Philadelphia 20 Tampa Bay 10: The Eagles wanted to run over the Bucs and they thought they'd be mildly successful. No one ever thought that Duce Staley would rack up 152 yards. The Bucs fall a full game behind the Saints in the South as the Eagles keep pace over the Giants in the East, setting up a big Monday Night showdown this week.
  2. Buffalo 23 Miami 10: Ray Lucas did his best Ty Detmer impersonation, being picked off 4 times. This is a huge divisional loss for the Dolphins, effectively opening the door for Buffalo to steal the division. Jay Fiedler will be sorely missed although the bye week comes at a great time in South Florida. Drew Bledsoe continues his campaign for MVP.
  3. New Orleans 35 San Francisco 27: As you'll see later in the article, I believe in the Saints. They've defeated 4 teams in this week's top 12 and lead the NFC South by a full game. The Niners should have won the game, but collapsed in the 4th quarter under both Kevan Barlow's ill-timed fumble and a Jeff Garcia interception. Barlow also didn't run out of bounds in time. That's a rookie mistake Kevan, and you're not a rookie.
  4. San Diego 27 Oakland 21 (OT): Well, the AFC West teams continue to beat the snot out of one another. The Raiders lose the game and phenom Philip Buchanon and Marty-ball continues to roll. The Chargers are 6 - 1. What? Are you kidding me? The Raiders lose 2 in a row after looking unbeatable for the first 5 games of the year.
  5. Denver 37 Kansas City 34 (OT): The Chiefs are quickly falling out of the AFC West with divisional losses to San Diego and now Denver. The Broncos win sets up a monster showdown in Colorado against the Raiders in two weeks. The Chiefs up 14 with less than 10 minutes left should have not lost the game - not with Priest Holmes as your running back.
  6. Green Bay 30 Washington 9: Another loss, another quarterback change for Washington. Steve Spurrier obviously realizes that he has no quarterback for his system. Too bad he didn't come to that conclusion back in July when the rest of the country new. Bret Favre didn't finish the game after spraining his knee. It was only the 4th time in 11 years with the Pack that Favre didn't finish the game.

The Power Core Rankings: Week 8

  1. New Orleans - Ladies and Gentlemen please take the lunch bags off your heads. The Saints are alive.
  2. Green Bay - Enter the Bye Week exactly where they want to be - 1st place
  3. Denver - Was that Shannon or Sterling on Sunday?
  4. San Diego - Call me crazy, but I still don't think this team will be in the playoffs.
  5. Philadelphia - McNabb was only a bystander and they still won.
  6. Miami - Lucas' performance is biggest downer since The Phantom Menace.
  7. Tampa Bay - And where is this offense? Come on Jon, it's week 8 already.
  8. Oakland - Oh how the aged are falling.
  9. Pittsburgh - And here we go again. Bettis out for Baltimore.
  10. San Francisco - Pulled a should'a, could'a, would'a in the Bayou.
  11. Arizona - Could Arizona really be for real? We'll find out next week.
  12. Buffalo - Watch out, the Bills may steal the AFC East.

Missed Prime Opportunity (MPO) Score: Pittsburgh 2 Indianapolis 4

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: 3 - 3

Week 8 Mini - Preview: Pittsburgh at Baltimore

The Steelers and Ravens meet once again to determine who holds the torch in the AFC North. The Ravens are a shell of their former talent, but are playing inspired ball behind the leadership of All-Pro Ray Lewis. They won't win the game on offense, so the Ravens will be forced to dominate the Steelers defensively.

5 Keys to the Game

  1. Limit Jamal Lewis to under 70 yards: If he gets 80 or more, the Steelers may be forced to take some chances.
  2. Open the lanes: Amos Zereoue will never run over anyone, but he needs only a small hole. He'll have to trust his line.
  3. Force Redman into long situations: The Steelers need to force Redman to win this game himself.
  4. Deeper Kickoffs: I feel like a broken record.
  5. Plaxico all the time: Burress had some huge games against the Ravens last year. He'll do the same this year.

Outlook: I just can't help but like the Steelers this week. I don't believe the Ravens can score on our defense.

Apple Six-Pack: Week 8

  1. NY Giants at Philadelphia: Game of the Week. The Eagles can put a stranglehold on the NFC East. The Giants are hoping Donavon McNabb doesn't play.
  2. Denver at New England: Do you think Clinton Portis is licking his chops? He should be, as the Broncos try to help dig a bigger hole for the defending champs.
  3. Arizona at San Francisco: Winner gets sole possession of the NFC West. You've got to enjoy these type of games, even if Arizona is a participant.
  4. Atlanta at New Orleans: Michael Vick worked out with Terry Pendelton of the Atlanta Braves to learn how to slide. He responded, "Why slide when I can run right by them?"
  5. Cleveland at NY Jets: Losers see the season pretty much slip away. Brings to mind the great Paul Simon classic "Slip Slidin' Away"
  6. Oakland at Kansas City: Why do I think the Chiefs won't blow this week's game? Law of Averages I guess.

Thoughts Assisted By Yuengling

  • I'm in Tennessee and I watched the Jeff Fisher Show before Monday Night's game. It looked like a BINGO Night crowd.
  • John Madden spent way too much time talking about the "confluence" of the three rivers.
  • By the way, Al Michaels needs to let the Immaculate Reception go. Madden did.
  • Dan Kreider should be pleased he got one of the few "Boom, Right There" comments of the game.
  • The issue of Kordell Stewart was skirted pretty well, but they couldn't hide the fact that he is pissed off.
  • I may be the only person in America who thinks Arizona has a chance to win the NFC West.
  • I would like to thank our Web personnel here for finding the picture of Wesley Willis in last week's Apple Pie. You made me a very happy man.

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