QB Misfortune - By Neal Coolong
Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial
|To preface this, I had just come back from a wedding the day before, and I showed up at Retlaw's Riverside in Charles City, Iowa, with little voice left after singing Total Eclipse of the Heart at the top of my lungs, so my usual outbursts of Here We Go Steelers, Here We Go! were held to a minimum. After seeing the way Pittsburgh played, maybe I'll sing the night before every game. The running diary:
1:20 P.M. - I just got back in town after a killer night, so my head feels it needs an aspirin and a nap, not to go to a crowded bar full of annoying Vikings fans. Regardless, I pressed on. However, the NFL Sunday Ticket package at Retlaw's seems to include every game except the best of the week: Pittsburgh and Baltimore. Mike, the manager, is taking care of it, so I am forced to watch Minnesota/Green Bay. The fans in my area says the lack of Steelers football at kickoff is yet another sign of disrespect toward the Black and Gold. The professional writer in me says I need to fill space for this column before the game comes on. The consumer in me is wondering where's the beer?
1:30 P.M. - I get the feeling I'll touch on this a few more times, but anyone outside of the midwest is fortunate enough to never be surrounded by Vikings fans. Best described as Bandwagon-jumping, clueless Randy Moss Disciples who drink a ton of beer and pronounce their season over after the first drive of every game. These aren't people you want to be around, trust me.
1:33 P.M. - Well, the ticker is telling me we're up 6-0 and I have no idea how it happened.
1:41 P.M. - We officially have Steelers football. I've been waiting for this ever since I broke my remote seconds after Joe Nedney got a gift from the football gods last season. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you should be ashamed. With 41 seconds left in the first, it looks to be a typical Steelers-Ravens game; both teams playing tough defense, and not allowing much rushing yards. Pittsburgh's offense looks like it's stalling, but Hines Ward is, as usual, beating some wide receiver out of his cleats with a bone-jarring block down field. Gotta love the guy.
2:06 P.M. - The first standout defensive play I've seen: On a middle screen to Ravens tight end Todd Heap, Dewayne Washington makes a great solo tackle to force the punt. It kind of makes you wonder where that kind of tackling was against Tennessee last year. My psychiatrist has worked with me to forget such horrendous play by Washington last year, but some images just stay with you.
2:23 P.M. - Anyone else want to beat Brian Billick within an inch of his life? His arrogance knows no bounds. Keep in mind, he was the offensive coordinator of Minnesota in 1998, and led them to the NFC Championship game with one of the most explosive offenses in league history. That offensive minded coach went to Baltimore to revamp their passing attack. They win a Super Bowl with an offense no more potent than a Viagra user, and he takes credit for the defense Marvin Lewis established. Hate the guy.
2:40 P.M. - The Steelers are attacking Baltimore's defense up front with a balanced selection of run and pass. Why? I know this has been said a thousand times, but Pittsburgh's strength is throwing the ball, not running it anymore. Why fight it? Give Tommy a chance to get the ball downfield, it worked wonders last year. This year, it should be even more dangerous. Maddox can be the gun-slinger kind of QB (mid-career Elway without the scrambling), but his success is found in sitting confidently in the pocket and waiting for the play to develop. Their offensive line has done a great job so far in buying him time (not great run-blocking, though) today, so I really don't see what the hold-up is to start using Burress's size-advantage deeper down the field.
2:45 P.M. - Anyone else hate Tom Brady? Me, too. Therefore, you must be equally giddy that he's racked up an awful 41 yards and has been picked off three times. I love seeing New England get mauled. No, I'm not over 2001. Nor will I be. Ever. Looking forward to Kordell's debut with the Bears.
3:15 P.M. - A rash of scoring has occurred, as Mike Mularkey got smart and started playing the vertical game he created with this offense. Those touchdowns from Maddox to Riemersma and Ward were poetry in motion, and any concern I might have had about a sophomore slump for Maddox have gone the way of the Dodo. Ward scored off a Ravens fumble, which is a beautiful thing. An offense that's coming into its own is a beautiful thing. Watching Ravens free safety Ed Reed and cornerback Chris McAllister yell at each other after a blown assignment is a beautiful thing. I'm enjoying this.
3:31 P.M. - Verron Haynes is in the game, which means Charlie Batch isn't far behind. 21-29, three touchdowns and 260 yards for Maddox. Burress over 100 yards. Ward two scores. Let me see those numbers in a game Pittsburgh lost. Never will happen.
3:34 P.M. - There's the Washington we know. Torched by Travis Taylor twice, in which Washington had no choice other than to prison-rape him before the ball arrived. This will more than likely be Washington's last year as a starter, as he has shown nothing other than a loss in ability to make tackles consistently, and that his speed now only rivals my 81-year-old grandmother without her scooter. Mark my words, this will be a problem down the line.
A win is a win, but a huge win over Baltimore is something to savor. With The Priest and Kansas City up next, Pittsburgh will be tested by a powerful offense much stronger than the rookie quarterback with no running game they saw this week. There's a sick part of me that really feels bad for Kordell after his disastrous debut against San Francisco. After the game, he had that I-don't-know-how-it-happened-but-I-just-played-the-worst-game-of-my-life look on his face, much like he did in last year's season-opener against New England. But then I remember how much I really didn't like Kordell in Pittsburgh. I'm happy again. He can choke all he wants for Chicago, I never have to worry about it again. This win is huge, but I don't think the season has started yet. Baltimore did not provide the same challenge people (myself included) expected. I was impressed with Boller's scrambling ability, as the dominant Steelers pass-rush gave plenty of examples of him avoiding a sack and getting rid of the ball. Pittsburgh is on track right now, but the real challenge awaits on the steamy turf of Arrowhead Stadium.