Consistently Consistent & Inconsistent Steelers - By Neal Coolong

Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial

Consistently inconsistent. Such a phrase is as much a grammatical mind-boggler as it is being the only phrase to adequately describe Pittsburgh's play so far this season.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are:
A team that can throw the ball down field, but not in the end zone.
A team that can run two drives of eight-plays or more, and be losing 10-0.
A team that can pass to set up the run and not be able to do either in the second half.

Fortunately, just like after Pittsburgh's loss to Kansas City, the Steelers have a weak Cleveland team coming to Heinz Field Sunday night.

Sunday and Monday night games are Pittsburgh's only consistently consistent advantage. Ignoring a Monday night disaster at New England last season, and an even more disheartening loss at Oakland the following Sunday night, the Steelers two best games last season were on Monday night (28-10 thrashing of Indianapolis and a 17-7 win over Tampa Bay).

But it isn't just Monday night. It's Cowher's teams during primetime. Carrying a 13-4 night-game record into Sunday, the Steelers might be seeing the weakest team they have all season. Cleveland has been unable to stop any running attack this season, and yielded an NFL-record 295 yards at the hands of Baltimore's Jamal Lewis in week 2.

To put that into comparison, Pittsburgh stuffed Lewis for under 100 yards the previous week. However, the most inconsistent aspect of the Steelers' season has been their rushing attack, which gives little hope they will be able to break out of their bizarre offensive slump that really isn't a slump on paper.

Despite the obvious fact that the Browns are defending the run as well as Cleveland is defending urban sprawl, violent fans and unemployment , Pittsburgh hasn't done much up front to have full confidence in Amos Zereoue and Jerome Bettis to walk off the field with 100 yards each. A banged-up offensive line negates the fact the Browns' defense has regressed back to their franchise-opening season of 1999, where they ranked last in every defensive category. Once again, the Steelers will rely on the once-again inconsistent arm of Tommy Maddox. Seven of nine teams who have thrown for 300 yards this season have lost, with Maddox having two of those (Tennessee and Kansas City).

Yards stand out on paper just as much as interceptions (six) and touchdowns (five) for Maddox, and his inability to throw productively in the red zone puts even more emphasis on a weak running attack to score inside the five.

For example, the Kansas City game. Pittsburgh dominated the clock in the first quarter, and jumped out to an early 10-0 lead. The Chiefs stayed poised, and ran the ball down Pittsburgh's throat, picking up momentum. The big plays Pittsburgh had used to get their lead (Chad Scott interception return and 50-yard pass to Hines Ward) weren't coming anymore because the offensive line could not control the line of scrimmage, hence establish a running game to keep Priest Holmes off the field.

Maddox got the ball down field rather consistently at times, but two interceptions inside the red zone and a complete lack of running game caused one of the worst blowouts in recent Steelers memory.

Is Cleveland capable of a controlling the running game and big plays on defense? Fortunately, no. The Browns rank 29th in the league in rushing and is allowing an appalling 306 total yards of defense.

The question is will Pittsburgh be consistently inconsistent, or will they prove that term is more of an ambiguous and blatant misuse of the English language as opposed to an accurate representation of their first four games?

It's a good thing Pittsburgh is playing Cleveland. This way, they can wait a week to prove it one way or another.