Steelers 1, Carson Palmer 0 (And A Headache) - By Neal Coolong
Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial
|I was never a great football player. The combination of being thin, lanky and white never really helped me as a wide receiver.
Needless to say, a life in college football wasn't going to come to fruition.
It's for people like me intramural football was invented. North Dakota State University had a pretty competitive league with many of the school's basketball and baseball players participating. My roommate, Buzzy, was one of them.
Buzzy's pretty big. He's as strong as an ox, and is still very graceful. I would go as far as to say if he wasn't playing in the middle of nowhere (Milnor, N.D.) he would have played collegiately.
We played on opposite teams our sophomore year. Of course, there's the taunts, explitives written in toothpaste on the mirrors in the bathroom and a general guy verbal onslaught for the week leading up to the game.
We dropped into our dime package (which shows how geeky we were) toward the end of the game with my team up by six. I doubt the quarterback saw me as he launched it down the sidelines, right into my hands.
I break one guy's ankles, and head toward paydirt with a full head of steam. Then I see Buzzy coming at me from the goal line, where the QB threw the interception. He out-weighs me by at least 100 pounds, but I have all momentum.
Screw the flags, he's going to put me down if I don't lower my shoulder. In one miracle moment, I connect with Buzzy and he falls straight on his back while I roll over him for the game-winning score.
He didn't stop hearing about that for three years in school, and will probably be pissed when he reads that I wrote a column on it today. That's EXACTLY what Troy Polamalu felt when he drilled Carson Palmer, his former roommate, to score the clincher Sunday.
The two All-Americas from USC were friendly before the game, but don't think for a second that TP wasn't thinking about how great it was not only to pick off his friend (and 2002 Heisman Trophy winner), but steam roll him to score.
A slew of missed tackles set the play up, reminding viewers of most of the Steelers defensive effort in their 28-17 win (that put them at 3-1 for the season with Cleveland coming to town next week). But they came up when they had to, with two interceptions the last two possessions to put an emphatic exclaimation point on the divisional win.
Perhaps unfairly, Palmer will only be known for that interception when talk of the game comes up. It was Ben Roethlisberger, not the highly touted Palmer, who won the quarterback battle, but there was little said by the commentators about that. If Big Ben has proved anything so far, it's that he's going to be very difficult to sack, whereas Tommy Maddox, who Roethlisberger replaced, fell over from a sneeze. He had a touchdown and no interceptions and showed the poise of a veteran, bringing them back from a 17-14 deficit in the fourth quarter.
Palmer was consistent, but that pick at the end ruined his performance. He showed for the second week in a row that he is basically unable to get the ball down field, as he missed several opportunities to deliver a knockout punch to Chad Johnson. Chad Scott was beaten badly on more than a few occaisions, but Palmer missed him by a few yards long.
Jerome Bettis continued his nearly-humorous statistics (10 carries, 11 yards five touchdowns on the season) carrying the ball three times: once for a loss of four yards, twice for touchdowns.
For the sake of locker room continuity, Pittsburgh really needs to let Duce Staley score one. He had his best game as a Steeler, but still has yet to get in the end zone. Bill Cowher has said many times Bettis is the goal line back, but it wouldn't kill him to let the work horse punch one in. A few more weeks of this, and Cowher will be dubbed "Bud Kilmer."
Cleveland is about as laughable as it gets at times, but has shown solid play on others. Jeff Garcia had a Ryan Leaf-like game against Dallas, and came back to play well against New Orleans last week. You don't know what you're gonna get with him, but he is more talented than Tim Couch and Kelly Holcombe, both of whom shredded Pittsburgh's secondary over the last two seasons.
But either way, a 3-1 start may not be too accurate of Pittsburgh's ability, and 4-1 would be even further from the truth. After Cleveland, they are looking at a bye, and moster games against New England and Philadelphia, arguably the two best teams in football. Going into the bye week at 4-1 is above my expectations, and gives them a solid shot at the playoffs. Most people said the same thing about the Vikings last season after a 6-0 start, though. But as long as Pittsburgh's secondary is playing against their former roommates, it should be good.
That, or just playing against Buzzy.