Was it that bad?

The Steelers beat the undefeated Minnesota Vikings by 10 points on Sunday, but you wouldn't know it by the negativity in Pittsburgh. Jim Wexell explains his optimisim over the Steelers.

It's a great day to be a Vikings fan. After all, their barren organization showed Sunday that it can compete with the best, and that for a few unlucky bounces of the ball could've beaten the best – on its home field.

Not that the Steelers are the best team now. That hasn't been determined. But a Vikings fan can say so, and they can say they finally have a quarterback, and a real threat at receiver in Sidney Rice, and a defensive back-seven that even without its best player can contain a burgeoning passing attack.

They already knew they had the best running back in the game and a championship-level defensive line.

Yes, there should be much to celebrate as a Vikings fan. But that doesn't mean Steelers fans should be ashamed of Sunday's win, and I'm finding that to be the case.

Upon returning home from the game, I clicked on the message board here at SteelCityInsider.com to find little more than doom and gloom. And then I clicked on KDKA's sports roundtable show and listened to every shred of optimism over the Steelers' standing in the league squashed with the sarcastic mantra of "Are you on the Steelers' payroll?"

Really? Was it that bad?

While, yes, the Steelers received some breaks, I saw nothing to dampen my enthusiasm. Both teams had touchdowns taken away by questionable calls. Both teams broke off big returns for touchdowns. Both teams had to deal with key injuries.

Brett Favre overcame 4th-and-1 and 3rd-and-18 situations to score the only 10 points his offense could muster. Call it lucky, or call it great athleticism that afforded Favre a perfect pass to the extended Rice on the sideline to convert on 3rd-and-18. Yes, they had a kickoff return go the distance, and that's why they drafted Percy Harvin, who, by the way, has left his college team struggling without a true playmaker.

On the other side, you can call it a fluke that the Steelers smacked the ball out of Favre's hands and returned it for a touchdown. But also remember that the fumble was forced by Brett Keisel, an athletic defensive end with a large wingspan who was just resigned for those types of plays in the passing game. Also remember the Steelers' defensive mantra of "rally to the ball," which not only helped win a Super Bowl, but James Harrison's play there reinforced the concept. It's now an unshakeable staple of the Steelers' defensive personality.

While Vikings fans can point to Favre's late-game mistakes with the idea that he won't do that the next time, Steelers fans should also realize that their team's offense is still a work in progress.

A wide-open passing game that's finally opening up the run game is taking form. That it didn't work all that well Sunday, that it was clunky and uneven at critical points, should also be viewed with optimism because it will only get better. This is not the struggling offense of the college champion Florida Gators, who seem to sputter regularly and have no real offensive attack percolating on the back burner. The Steelers, while experienced, are still a team on the come, as Mike Tomlin likes to say.

Perhaps the defense isn't the steel trap that it was last season, but it appears the defense will survive the Aaron Smith injury because of a better surrounding cast than the 2007 group that collapsed when Smith went down. Meanwhile, the offense is taking shape, and will only get better as Roethlisberger proceeds through what will certainly be his best season yet.

The pieces are in place, and the fact they needed the ball to bounce their way – for once this season – does not shake my optimism. This is a team I'd favor in a rematch with the Vikings on a neutral grass field. The Steelers have the playmakers, the defense, the experience, and the bit players – punter Dan Sepulveda comes to mind off the top of my head – to win this thing again.

And, no, I'm not on the Steelers' payroll.


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