Close to putting it all together

Mike Prisuta hopes the appearance of Brett Favre on Sunday forces the Steelers' offense to stand up and play to its full potential.

The excitement in the locker room was as palpable as the frustration. Perhaps the former can help rid the Steelers of the latter.

An impending visit from Brett Favre and the still-undefeated Minnesota Vikings should be enough to energize any team this season, and the Steelers were clearly no exception in the immediate aftermath of their 27-14 victory over Cleveland.

Just as clearly, the Steelers remain a team in need of inspiration following a performance that can be characterized as one of the statistical best in franchise history from an offensive standpoint and at the same time unsatisfying.

Ben Roethlisberger thought the offense played "OK" in amassing 543 total net yards but generating a relatively disappointing 27 points. And OC Bruce Arians was "very disappointed" in the four turnovers that were largely responsible for the yards-to-points disparity.

Heard any of this before?

The Browns are such a bad joke that on at least one occasion the Steelers were able to screw things up and still score.

Santonio Holmes stopped running his clear-out pattern, mistakenly thinking a pass had been launched his way because he had come open over the middle. All that did was draw a crowd to the intended target, Hines Ward, who somehow found the end zone on a 52-yard catch-and-run play, anyway.

Other mistakes, in particular fumbles by Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall, continued to test the collective patience and continued a trend that dates back to when Ward fumbled inside the 5-yard line in the opener against Tennessee.

Since then we've seen Holmes drop a touchdown pass in Chicago and Limas Sweed drop one in Cincinnati, the same town where Mike Wallace caught a long pass and ran out of bounds rather than across the goal line, and where Holmes ran the wrong route on what became a pick-six.

We've seen critical field goals missed.

We've seen a strip/fumble/touchdown for the Chargers on a Steelers punt return and we've seen Wallace unable to hang onto a perfectly-placed long ball in Detroit.

Physical mistakes can and will happen but the Steelers, while imperfect as any other team, are better than they've shown.

Sunday's frustrating events also included a touchdown surrendered by a unit other than the defense for a fourth consecutive game when Josh Cribbs went coast to coast.

It should have been a much more joyous occasion, it being Homecoming and the Browns in town to play the role of the Northwestern Wildcats. Instead, the Steelers showed a collection of alumni firsthand what's been holding them back.

We're not yet at the point where such repeated miscues must be perceived as a fatal flaw. But the longer the Steelers go without correcting them, one has to wonder whether the problem is their unwillingness or inability to do so.

The former would be disappointing. The latter would be bad.

What might happen if this stuff gets cleaned up?

"I don't even think we know how good we can be yet," Roethlisberger said.

Perhaps they can enlighten themselves this Sunday while doing their best to impress Brett Favre.


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