Bye Week Will Rejuvenate Slumping Steelers - By Ricky Dimon

Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial

If you're looking in the rearview mirror, the Steelers bye week could not have come at a more inopportune time of the season. But if you're looking ahead, you see that the bye is coming at just the perfect moment for Bill Cowher and company.

Those who argue that it's a bad time for the bye week probably assume that the loss to Cincinnati in Week 3 will hang over the Steelers like an unbearable albatross for an extra-long period of time. With the bye, the loss will linger for not one week, but instead for a lengthy, dreary fortnight. Playing this week would have given the Steelers a chance to rid themselves of the painful taste in their mouth left by Carson Palmer (4 touchdowns), Chris Henry (2 scores), and the rest of the division-rival Bengals. Chad "The Mouth" Johnson was shut down by Pittsburgh, but his yapper was not, and the sting is always that much more painful when you lose to a guy like Chad Johnson.

So focusing on the past, a past that consists of an unfortunate two-game losing streak, is the bad-cop stance on the bye week in a nutshell.

However, great teams do not dwell on the past. Great coaches don't either. That's why coach Cowher and the rest of the squad will be using the off-week not to stew about their 1-2 record or feel sorry for themselves, but to focus on the next game and the next game only.

That, my friends, is just one reason why the bye week could not have come at a better time for the 2006 Pittsburgh Steelers, as that next game is a Sunday night showdown in San Diego with the formidable Chargers.

While it's not technically a must-win situation for the 1-2 Steelers, you can bet Cowher already has his guys treating it as such. Having a 1-3 record to show for yourself five weeks into the season is not exactly an enticing position to be in. While the Steelers dug themselves out of a 0-2 hole in 2002 to win the AFC North, they were able to do so in part because the division lacked another formidable contender.

Pittsburgh has no such luxury this season, as the Bengals, who were the laughing stock of the NFL at 2-14 in 2002, are 3-1 and were rolling along nicely until hitting a major roadblock in the form of the three-time champion New England Patriots. Falling yet another game behind Cincinnati would put the Steelers in an unquestionably dire situation less than a third of the way through the season.

As a result, Week 5 contests rarely get any bigger than Pittsburgh's Sunday night visit to San Diego. In order to go into San Diego and steal a win, the Steelers will have to be a healthy crew.

Hello, bye week, one of the most time-honored cures for an overloaded injury report.

While Pittsburgh's injury list is not anywhere near standing room only, several players will embrace the bye week with open arms. Ben Roethlisberger, who as the entire nation knows is still recovering from a tumultuous offseason that included a motorcycle accident and an emergency appendectomy, has not been the same Big Ben in 2006. Through two games, Roethlisberger is 35 of 71 for 349 and no touchdowns to five interceptions. His lamentable 34.3 passer rating puts another spin on just how woeful Roethlisberger has been thus far. Steelers fan should hope and expect their signal-caller to return from the bye week a rejuvenated man. Look for Roethlisberger to turn things around dramatically, starting with the Chargers game.

Explosive receiver Santonio Holmes, who also returns kickoffs, played last week against Cincinnati despite being listed as questionable with a foot injury. He should be 100 percent by the time next Sunday rolls around, and if he is, the former Ohio State Buckeye star could assume full-time punt returning duties.

Troy Polamalu (shoulder), Hines Ward (hamstring), and Nate Washington (finger) should feel no lingering effects of minor injuries when the Steelers head to San Diego. They'll need to bring a fully loaded crew too, as the Chargers will be looking to avenge a fourth-quarter meltdown to the undefeated Baltimore Ravens in Sunday. It's going to be a heated battle between two teams not quite at the point of desperation, but still starving for a victory.

And if you ask me, I'd rather be a Pittsburgh Steelers team that just enjoyed the friendly comforts of a bye week rather than a San Diego Chargers squad that roughed it up for 60 minutes with perhaps the most physical team in the league.

No, the bye week certainly was not a bad thing for Steel Town. It also never hurts to gain a half game on your biggest division rival without even stepping on the field. That's just what the Steelers accomplished this week by watching the Bengals get pasted 38-13 by the Patriots.