Steelers Flip Quarter - By Kirk Holiday
Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial
| At 3-1, and with a quarter of the season behind them, it looks as though the Steelers fate for the 2005-06 season could rest on the flip of a quarter. Heads, they beat Jacksonville, go to 4-1, and face the surprisingly formidable Cincinnati Bengals, who more than likely will have a 5-1 record at that point. Tails, they drop the contest to the Jags, putting themselves at 3-2 and the Jags at 4-2, and making the Bengal game an almost must win if they wish to keep themselves in the forefront for a wild card playoff bid.
That being said, it's clear that this particular battle at Heinz Field could play quite an important role in determining the outcome of the 2005-06 season.
I, for one, believe this particular game will make or break the Steeler's success this season. If the Black and Gold can put wins against top wild card rivals, San Diego, and Jacksonville, in their back pocket, they will have the leverage they need heading deeper into the season, and also the momentum to step up against current division leader, Cincinnati, in hopes of adding another division title to Coach Cowher's resume. If Byron Leftwich and the Jags are able to get the best of them, all of a sudden the Steelers could easily drop to 3-3 the following week, most likely setting themselves up for an up-hill battle into the playoffs, in which each game for the remainder of the season will serve as critical in determining their future.
The Steelers, who have costumed their starting quarterback for this Sunday, leaving the Jags with no idea who Pittsburgh will pull out of their grab bag of Quarterbacks, have a few things going in their favor. The Bus is back and rolling. Adding Bettis, who continues to seem focused on proving that he still has good mileage left on him, to a backfield that boasts an explosive back like Willie Parker, cannot put warm feelings into the stomach's of a defense that ranks 29th against the run this season.
Jaguars Defensive End, Reggie Hayward, doesn't seem to care who the Steelers throw at him from the QB position, judging from his quote on the Jaguar's website. "It's just a different person handing off the football."
Maybe Hayward is wise, but even so, the question remains, can Jacksonville stop whomever is the recipient of that very football. I for one, doubt that a team who is 29th against the run, can stop a team who's bread and butter is the run, even if they know it's coming.
Another thing the Steelers appear to have going for them for the next three quarters of the season, is their schedule. Besides, a match-up with the Colts and two face-offs against division opponent Cincinnati, the Steelers' schedule looks a lot less imposing than it did prior to the kickoff of the season. Teams like the Ravens, and the Vikings are off to horrendous starts, along with the aging Green Bay Packers.
Despite some of the lackluster opponents the Steelers are set to match up against the rest of the way, they still won't want to put themselves in a position in which they have no choice to be victorious against each foe. That's why I see this particular game against the Jaguars as being the key to which turn the season takes.
A win could mean smooth sailing the rest of the way, with a few speed bumps to overcome, but a loss could lead the Steelers down a detour that they don't want to take. MY PREDICTION: Steelers 27, Jaguars 17.