Monday, October 31, 2011

Week 8: Steelers 25, Patriots 17

Happy Halloween

The Steelers finally figured out the trick to beating the Patriots Sunday. Now they have a huge bag of treats to enjoy.

It might be tempting to bite into some of that candy and savor this victory over the Patriots, the Steelers' first win over Tom Brady since Facebook was still just for college students.

But when you went trick-or-treating as a kid, wasn't there always some old coot in the neighborhood who dropped an apple into your bag?

What a bummer that was.

Well, the Steelers better not chuck that apple. That apple is the Ravens, who visit Heinz Field Sunday night. As sweet as beating the Patriots is, beating the Ravens is better for them.

If the Steelers lose to the Ravens, winning the AFC North will be harder than getting Bill Belichick to do stand-up comedy. The Ravens would hold the tiebreaker with two wins over the Steelers.

Then, the Steelers go to Cincinnati in two weeks. Like the Ravens, the Bengals are 5-2 and a half-game behind the Steelers in the division.

As liberating as a win over the Patriots is, it will ring hollow if the Steelers can't take care of business in the division and eventually have to navigate the wild-card route to the Super Bowl.

All that said, a win over the Patriots usually signals a deep run in the playoffs. Since 1995, every win over the Patriots has pointed the Steelers to at least the AFC championship game.

It's too early to tell if that will be the case again this year, but we do know that the Steelers now have a showcase victory to highlight their four-game winning streak, a streak in which they haven't been behind since trailing the Titans 3-0 in the first quarter three weeks ago. 

Prescription for winning  

What makes the Steelers' victory over a Brady-led team so uncanny is the fact that they did it by giving the pretty-boy quarterback exactly what he wants. Plenty of face time. That is, lots of shots of him on the sidelines with his helmet off. You beat the Patriots by keeping Brady off the field.

The Steelers gave the Patriots a taste of their own medicine (doesn't Belichick always look like he's swallowing bitter medicine?) by using the passing game essentially as their running game. The Steelers possessed the ball for 21 minutes, 13 seconds in the first half. Ben Roethlisberger completed 23 of the 32 passes he threw, leading the Steelers to a 17-10 halftime lead.

Roethlisberger threw to nine different receivers in the game (even Jerricho Cotchery caught his first pass as a Steeler). Antonio Brown caught nine of those passes for 67 yards and a touchdown. I thought the Steelers were going to need a punt or kickoff return from Brown to have any chance to win this game. But Brown's more than just a returner now. He's pretty much the Steelers' No. 2 receiver. For the second straight week, he's surpassed a career high for receptions in a game.

A common thread of the Patriots' success over the past decade has been their ability to take away their opponent's biggest strength. Mike Wallace had a reception of at least 40 yards in six straight games. The Patriots made damn sure that didn't happen Sunday. But Wallace still caught seven passes for 70 yards, showing he's a complete receiver.

Heath Miller also caught seven passes, including four for 55 yards on the game's opening drive, prompting enough baritone "Heeeeeaaaath!" rumblings in Western Pennsylvania to register on the Richter scale.

The Steelers' use of the tight end on that drive was a nice little game of "See, We Can Do That, Too." The Patriots gouged the Steelers' defense with their tight ends in last year's win at Heinz Field. 

Rob Gronkowski, who scored three touchdowns against the Steelers in that game, still caught seven passes for 94 yards, but the Steelers limited the damage by employing the Cavalry Defense. After the 6-foot-6, 265-pounder caught a pass, one Steeler would hold onto him and wait for teammates to get there and help bring him down. On one play, Troy Polamalu rode Gronkowski like a jockey until the cavalry arrived.

Patriots fans are going to say that Gronkowski should have had a touchdown when he caught a pass at the goal line with 4:15 left in the game. Yeah, it probably was a touchdown, but didn't Gronkowski do enough scoring during the Patriots' bye week?

After getting the ball to the 1 on that play, the Patriots had a dumb spell and managed the clock poorly before finally getting a touchdown with 2:35 left, narrowing the Steelers' lead to 23-17.

Turnover talk 

Yeah, it got a little hairy at the end, despite the Steelers' dominance in the game.

Why is that?

To answer that question, we have to have our weekly turnover talk.

Do we really have to do that again, you ask? The Steelers finally got that long-awaited win over the Patriots, can't we reward them by not pointing out their takeaway futility for one week?

No. Because the Steelers once again failed to force a turnover Sunday. The Patriots did get an interception, which put the ball on the Steelers' 8 and led to a touchdown to cut the Steelers' lead to 10-7 in the second quarter.

That means the Steelers lost the turnover battle. That's why their lead was a puny 17-10 at halftime despite all the good they did in the first half. That's why we couldn't be sure of a Steelers win until eight seconds remained in the game.

From the Broken Record Department, the Steelers are the only team in the history of the NFL with just three takeaways through eight games, according to At the season's midpoint, they're on pace for six takeaways in 2011. That would be just half of the 12 the Redskins had in 2006. That's the record for fewest takeaways in a 16-game season.

The Steelers join the 1983 Raiders (who won the Super Bowl), the 1971 49ers and the 1945 Lions in going 6-2 despite a turnover differential of minus-10 or worse.

Going the distance 

The only other time the Steelers beat Brady, they blindsided the Patriots with turnovers. After taking a 7-3 lead in that game in 2004, they strip-sacked Brady on the first play of New England's next possession and eventually scored to make it 14-3. Then on the first play of the Patriots' next drive, Deshea Townsend scored on a Pick 6, and it was 21-3 in the first quarter before the Patriots knew what hit them.

So instead of knocking out the Patriots with turnovers like they did seven years ago today, the Steelers went the distance with the Patriots Sunday. Without the knockout punch of a turnover, they stood toe-to-toe with them and outpunched them.

For a while there, though, it looked like the Patriots were going to find a new way to beat the Steelers. For all the Patriots' mastery over the Steelers before Sunday, they've never come from behind to beat them during the Brady Era.

Down six, the Patriots had the ball at their own 22 with 19 seconds left and no timeouts. Was Brady going to add a whole new dimension to our frustration with a miracle?

Thankfully, no.

On a play that crystallized the Steelers' stellar coverage of the Patriots' receivers, they rushed only three, but Brady found no one open. Brett Keisel, who already had his customary batted pass earlier in the game, knocked the ball loose. Polamalu punched the ball through the end zone for a safety. It might have been illegal, but that's for Spygate.

Speaking of people who get away with things, Ray Lewis and the Ravens come to town Sunday in a game even more important than this one.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Steelers beat Patriots: My first hundred (or so) words

Today's win means the Steelers have started 6-2 in all five seasons that Mike Tomlin has been their coach.

That's the biggest thing to take from this win, right? Otherwise pretty ho-hum, no?

Oooooh, yeah. There is this small matter of beating the Patriots. Not only beating the Patriots, but beating Tom Brady for the first time in six years, 364 days.

So Troy Polamalu got away with batting the ball into the end zone to give the Steelers a safety and secure the win. Has anyone ever heard of Spygate?

LaMarr Woodley haunted Brady on Halloween Eve with two sacks before going out with a hamstring injury. On the surface, it doesn't seem like anything serious, but those hamstring injuries can linger. We'll have to keep an eye on that.

Let's keep this victory in perspective. It's only one win. If the Steelers beat the Patriots January, then we can say for sure that Brady no longer owns them.

Somehow I see Mewelde Moore touching the ball here in the last 2 minutes. Go #Steelers
Patriots still have shot, especially if Ike is out. Go #Steelers
I don't think Keenan Lewis has to rent month to month anymore. Go #Steelers
#Steelers closing in for the kill and just got an FG. Red zone is where not having Hines Ward hurts. 23-10
All #Steelers fans hold four fingers high above your head. It's the fourth quarter. 20-10
Once again Ryan Clark keeps both teams in the game. Go #Steelers
Let's hope Brady froze his nuts off during that long #Steelers drive. Definitely not in his rhythm today.
OK, 20-10 #Steelers. Keep the pressure on Brady. Good runs by Mendenhall on drive.
The way #Steelers have dominated 1st half, I'm not comfortable with 17-10 lead. Still don't think they win without a takeaway.
Belichick looks constipated. 17-7 #Steelers
#Steelers won't stay ahead on scoreboard if they don't win turnover battle. That means D MUST force turnover at some point. 10-7
New nickname for Big Ben: The Grimace. 10-0 #Steelers
Antonio Brown fair catch? You never see that :~/ go #Steelers
See Patriots? #Steelers can throw to their tight ends, too. 7-0
The #Steelers lost to this team 35-7?
No Ward, no Farrior today. #Steelers can handle loss of Ward. But Farrior? Who starts at ILB? Carter? Sylvester?
Scouting Ravens-Cards. Must not be FOX's top game. Who the hell are these announcers? Go #Steelers
Coming to you from behind enemy lines today. Will be watching game in Massachusetts. Go #Steelers
Greetings yinzers and non-yinzers alike. Holy War at Heinz Field today. Go #Steelers.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Patriots-Steelers preview

It's not just Brady

We've been hearing it all week. "Tom Brady owns the Steelers. Tom Brady owns the Steelers." 

Why does Tom Brady own the Steelers? 

The answer is in the following mathematical formula:

Tom Brady = Elite NFL Quarterback

Elite NFL Quarterback = Trouble for Steelers Defense


Tom Brady = Trouble for Steelers Defense

It's as simple as a = b, b = c. Therefore a = c. 

Or something like that.

Brady isn't the only elite NFL quarterback who makes the Steelers' defense look like a bunch of ham-and-eggers. The Steelers were 0-3 last year against the triumvirate of Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees. 

Brady led the NFL last year with a quarterback rating of 111.0. Rodgers was third at 101.2. I was surprised that Brees was 12th with a 90.9 rating. But I'd still call him elite because he owns a Super Bowl ring.

Brady is second this season with a 104.8 rating. The only other quarterback in the top five who the Steelers have faced this season is the Texans' Matt Schaub, and he's the last quarterback who's beaten the Steelers.

Really, the best quarterback the Steelers can beat is Joe Flacco, and we'll find out next week if they can even beat him anymore.

So here are four things the Steelers must do if they want to have any shot at beating the Patriots Sunday:

Troy Polamalu must stay deep

Brady basically has Polamalu chasing his own hair whenever they're on the same field. In last season's 39-26 Patriots' win at Heinz Field, the Patriots led 17-3 in the third quarter when Brady got Polamalu to bite on a play-action fake, and hit Brandon Tate over the middle for a 45-yard gain, leading to another touchdown and a 23-3 Patriots lead. Game over. In the 2004 AFC championship game at Heinz Field, the Patriots took control of the game when Brady sold Polamalu on an underneath route, and fired a 60-yard touchdown to Deion Branch, giving the Patriots a 10-0 lead in the first quarter. Against Brady, Polamalu is more useful staying back and helping out the cornerbacks.

Get help from special teams

The Steelers have had a two-point conversion scored on them on a fake point-after. They've had both a field goal and a punt blocked. They've allowed an opponent to recover an onside kick and they kept an eventual touchdown drive alive with a roughing-the-kicker penalty on a punt. Shaun Suisham made all three of his field goals in Arizona, but that's not enough to restore my faith in him. He's missed four field goals this season. It's not a good idea to be vulnerable on special teams with the Patriots lurking. That's how the Patriots upset the Steelers in the 2001 AFC championship game. Two of their touchdowns came on a punt return and a blocked field goal  This would be a good week for Antonio Brown to finally break one, because the Steelers are going to need points from more than just their offense.

Win a shootout

A Steelers win would pretty much guarantee an exciting game, because the Steelers can't rely on their defense to stop Brady and the Patriots. This one's on the offense. Every time the Patriots score a touchdown, the Steelers will have to answer with a touchdown. There hasn't been a shootout at Heinz Field since Week 15 in 2009, when the Steelers beat the Packers 37-36. That was before Aaron Rodgers was Aaron Rodgers. The outcome of Sunday's game might depend on who has the ball last. 

Stop Rob Gronkowski 

During the Patriots' bye week, Gronkowski hung out with a porn star. In last year's win over the Steelers, the tight end scored three touchdowns. So maybe the Steelers can't really stop Gronkowski, just hope that instead of catching passes from Brady he catches something from the porn star and can't play.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Week 7: Steelers 32, Cardinals 20

Steelers play Cards right

Funny how the biggest highlight of the Steelers' win over the Cardinals Sunday was a reminder of what might have been.

The same play that fell apart and allowed the Packers to take control of Super Bowl XLV worked to perfection Sunday, allowing the Steelers to take control in their Super Bowl XLIII rematch.

In Super Bowl XLV, the Steelers were at their own 7-yard line, and Ben Roethlisberger tried to find Mike Wallace on a sideline route. But Roethlisberger's arm was hit on the play, and the Packers' Nick Collins grabbed the fluttering ball and returned it for a Pick 6 and a 14-0 Packers lead. If only Roethlisberger had released the ball cleanly, Wallace would have been gone and the game would have been tied.

On Sunday, the Steelers were at their own 5 and, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, were going to try a short pass to tight end David Johnson to get them a little breathing room.

But Roethlisberger saw that Wallace was open going down the sideline, just like he was in the Super Bowl. This time, nobody in a red shirt touched Roethlisberger before he got the ball off, and he connected with Wallace on a 95-yard touchdown pass, the longest pass play in Steelers' history.

This time, the 14-0 lead belonged to the Steelers. 

Touch of gray

Wallace was preparing for the NFL Scouting Combine three years ago when the Cardinals were giving the Steelers all they could handle in Tampa. The Cardinals wouldn't go quietly on Sunday, either. The 17-7 halftime score was discomforting. That was the halftime score of Super Bowl XLIII, and the second half of that game was a little too white-knuckle for my taste.

The lead was chopped to 17-14 Sunday when Kevin Kolb, who looks like he's permanently afflicted with bitter-beer face, threw a short pass to LaRod Stephens-Howling that turned into a 73-yard touchdown. While overall the Steelers' defense played "above the line," as Mike Tomlin would say, that play revealed another gray hair on a unit that isn't getting any younger.

Yeah, we saw the 2009 James Farrior there. Stephens-Howling couldn't have embarrassed him any more if he had pulled his pants down.

With a few more gray hairs added to the heads of their fans at this point, the Steelers regained command of the game with an 11-play, 80-yard touchdown drive.

Heath Miller caught two passes for 38 yards on the drive. Emmanuel "Remember Me?" Sanders caught three of his five balls on the drive, including one for 20 yards that got the Steelers to the 2. Two plays later, Roethlisberger found Sanders again for the touchdown, dodging unblocked former teammate Clark Haggans before firing the pass.

We're probably going to see Tom Brady do a lot of things next Sunday at Heinz Field, but I guarantee you we won't see him avoid a sack like Roethlisberger did on that play, because that's one thing that Roethlisberger can do that Brady can't.

A penalty yanked the Cardinals back to their own 7 on the the ensuing kickoff, and on the first play LaMarr Woodley, who already had two sacks, roamed free in the backfield and waved his arms at Kolb as if to say "Yeah, it's me again" in a schoolyard kind of way.

Woodley forced Kolb to intentionally ground the ball in the end zone, giving the Steelers a safety and a 26-14 lead.

Suisham settles down 

It's funny how the two points gained from a safety, that most emasculating of football plays, can change the complexion of a game. Now the Cardinals needed two touchdowns, not just a touchdown and a field goal.

But first, the Steelers got the ball back on the free kick, and Shaun Suisham booted a 42-yard field goal to make it 29-14. Now the Cardinals needed two touchdowns and a two-point conversion.

The Steelers could loosen their ties even more after Suisham's 39-yarder later in the fourth quarter, which made it a 32-14 and a three-score game with less than seven minutes left. The Steelers' kicker, who has been shaky this year, made all three of his field goal attempts Sunday and gave us a week off from worrying about him.

The Steelers' running game wasn't quite as impressive, gaining just 3.3 yards per carry. However, after the Cardinals scored a throwaway touchdown (and missed the 2-point conversion) to make it 32-20, Isaac Redman and Mewelde Moore came out of the bullpen to close out the game.

Seriously, these guys should get some kick-ass closer's music when they step on the field, because when the Steelers are trying to protect a lead late in the game, they've proven they can run the ball, move the chains and drain the clock better than Rashard Mendenhall (13 carries, 32 yards). They combined for 27 yards in the final 3:53 as the Cardinals did not touch the ball again.

Let's not forget, too, that Antonio Brown (career-high seven catches) caught a first-down pass to keep the drive going and Sanders, who caught all his passes in the second half, twice gave the Steelers a new set of downs on the drive.

More turnover talk 

Sanders wasn't the only weapon the Steelers dusted off Sunday. The defense forced its first turnover in two weeks. Lawrence Timmons (Correction: James Farrior) tipped a Kolb pass on the opening drive and Ryan Clark intercepted it, leading to a 12-yard touchdown pass to Miller and a 7-0 Steelers lead.

While that turnover had quite a bit of impact, allowing the Steelers to score first in a game in which they never trailed, it was the Steelers' only takeaway of the game. That means I again had to comb the annals of to find other teams that had just three takeaways in the first seven games of a season.

I couldn't find any.

That's right. According to Pro Football Reference, your 2011 Pittsburgh Steelers are the only team with just three takeaways in the first seven games of a season.

The Steelers almost had a second turnover Sunday, but Troy Polamalu dropped an easy interception. Several times this season, it seems the Steelers' mane man has been just a hair away from where he's needed to be to get an interception. It was encouraging, then, to at least see Polamalu in position to make a pick Sunday.

The good news is that on the other side of the ball, the Steelers had their second straight turnover-free game, chipping away at their ghastly giveaway-takeaway ratio, which stands at minus-9.

In the last 50 years, the 2001 Dolphins, the 1983 Raiders and the 1977 Vikings are the only other teams to go 5-2 despite a turnover margin of minus-9 or worse, according to Pro Football Reference. Interestingly, the '83 Raiders won the Super Bowl despite turning the ball over 13 more times than their opponent.

So I guess you don't have to win the turnover battle to win a Super Bowl. That said, the Steelers don't beat the Patriots next week if they cough the ball up more than they snatch it away. The Patriots are too good.

The Steelers have beaten the Patriots only twice since the turn of the century, and are 5-8 against them since 1995. But all five of those wins have come in seasons in which the Steelers have at least reached the AFC championship game.

I can't wait for the week when the Steelers' defense puts together four, five or six turnovers and I no longer have to scour the Internet for historic perspective on their turnover futility.

How about next week? Because if the Steelers beat the Patriots, no number crunching will be required for us to know that they are again capable of playing well into January.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Blazing Arizona

The last time I walked out of a Steelers bar in Manhattan in the darkness of night, it was in the dead of winter after the Steelers lost Super Bowl XLV to the Packers.

Now, the football season is young again. The Steelers are 5-2 after Sunday's 32-20 win over the Arizona Cardinals and have a full head of steam going into the brutal Patriots-Ravens leg of their schedule.

Now, instead of the barren winter, the darkness and slight chill outside Reservoir signal the anticipation of autumn. Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas are all in front of us.

And Patriots Week is here.

That's right, Cardinals. That's right Whisenhunt. I don't care how close Super Bowl XLIII was, you are the #Steelers bitch. 32-20 final
Guess Ward can't be hurt too much if he's smiling. Go #Steelers
Correction Part II: Kolb looks like a hung-over Vince Vaughn, not Val Kilmer. Cards still need 2 TDs. 32-20 #Steelers
Correction: Cardinals need three scores. Two TDs can't beat #Steelers
Three huge points with Suisham FG. Now E TDs can't beat #Steelers. 32-14
Big Ben looks like a ragdoll that's been chewed up by a dog. At least Suisham is showing some sack. 29-14 #Steelers
OK. Woodley's back. 26-14 #Steelers
I'm Emmanuel Sanders. Remember me? 24-14 #Steelers
That TD is on Farrior. ... Kolb looks like a hung over Val Kilmer. 17-14 #Steelers
17-7 #Steelers was also halftime score of SB XLIII, and second half of that game was a little too scary for my taste.
Well there's seven gift-wrapped points. Thanks a lot, zebras. 14-7 #Steelers
If you're even, you're leavin'. Mike Wallace TD. 14-0 #Steelers.
Roethlisberger still struggling with accuracy. Out-threw Wallace there. Seems he's getting there, though. Go #Steelers
My apologies. There are seven former #Steelers on the Cardinals coaching staff. Correction from preview post.
It's OK, Troy. Still forced Cards to punt. Go #Steelers
#Steelers up 7-0. But I think Mendenhall's already lost the same number of yards he gained last week
0 #Steelers
That's what you call a turnover. See what happens when you start a drive with the ball where YOU want it, and not where the punter or kicker wants it? 7-
How does the ball fall off the tee indoors? Go #Steelers

Playing Cards

Greetings yinzers and non-yinzers alike. It's Gameday once again. Late game today, so I'm getting a little bit of a late start with the blogging.

In the Arizona Cardinals, the Steelers have their most intriguing interconference rivalry since they volleyed trash talk with Tampa Bay in the early 2000s.

Cards coach Ken Whisenhunt and offensive line coach Russ Grimm already had bugs up their asses because they both think they should have the Steelers head coaching job. Then on top of that, the Steelers broke their hearts in Super Bowl XLIII.

I have a feeling that as long as the Cardinals beat the Steelers, Whisenhunt doesn't care if the Cardinals go 2-14 and he gets fired and works at Chick-Fil-A for the rest of his life.

What I'm trying to say is this game will be a tough one for the Steelers.

The Cardinals' coaching staff includes four former Steelers employees. Joining Whisenhunt are former Steelers cornerback Deshea Townsend, now Arizona's assistant defensive backs coach, and former Steelers secondary coach Ray Horton, now the Cards' defensive coordinator.

Ex-Steelers Joey Porter and Clark Haggans will be on the field today. They're joined by former Steelers Crezdon Butler (cornerback) and Nick Eason (defensive end).

You know damn well all of those guys were pumped for Steelers trade secrets Gitmo-style. I'm surprised they weren't given new identities, considering Arizona is the Witness Protection State. It says that on their license plates, doesn't it?

Oh, Whisenhunt did give back Bryant McFadden. But the Cardinals totally fucked him up and he sucks now.

Thanks, Whiz.

I think Mike Tomlin needs to show today in no uncertain terms why he is the Steelers coach and not Whisenhunt.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Week 6: Steelers 17, Jaguars 13

Steelers are good, true or false?

The halfway point of the 2011 NFL season is approaching. That means the Steelers are taking their midterm exams.

On Sunday, they passed the True-False portion of the exam.


Here's a tip, kids. Most True-False tests have more true answers than false answers. So you probably can pass if you put down "True" for everything. It also helps if you know how to make the letter that looks like both a "T" and an "F." 

It was with the same half-assed effort that the Steelers won Sunday's game over the Jaguars.

To fully restore their status as Super Bowl contenders, the Steelers (4-2) needed a convincing victory over the one-win Jaguars. But the Jaguars had a chance to win this game until the very last second. Thankfully, Blaine Gabbert's lame-assed Hail Mary found nothing but black shirts in the end zone.

The Steelers will take the multiple-choice portion of their midterms Sunday at Arizona. In the same way that multiple choice can be tricky (all of the above, none of the above, some of the above), weird shit tends to happen to the Steelers in Arizona. Although the game will be at University of Phoenix Stadium, the Steelers won't be able to take this test online. They have to show up.

Then the material goes from tricky to tough. The next phase of midterms will be essay questions, which the Steelers will have to answer in two weeks when the Patriots visit Heinz Field. That's going to require a lot of studying. The good news is that Bill Belichick will be proctoring the test, and he thinks cheating is OK.

Then, the Steelers will go from the classroom to the schoolyard for the last part of the exam -- the bully test. The Ravens bloodied the Steelers' nose in the season opener, and visit Heinz Field Nov. 6. To pass that part of the exam, the Steelers will have to win the fight with the bully, which is really all you need to learn in school to be ready for the real world.

What this midterm exam analogy means is that the Steelers have one more week to get their shit together before the Patriots and Ravens come to town.

Give and take

The Steelers nearly let a 17-0 lead slip away, at home, against a team with a rookie quarterback that had scored just five touchdowns heading into the game.

We can choose to be alarmed at all that, or we can choose to be encouraged that the Steelers have forced just two turnovers this season yet somehow are 4-2.

You know the only other team in the history of the NFL with just two takeaways in its first six games, according to This year's Dolphins, who dropped to 0-5 Monday night.

At least the Steelers didn't turn the ball over Sunday. They've had just five giveaways since their seven-turnover debacle in Baltimore, Still, their turnover differential remains at minus-10. Only the 1960 Giants (4-1-1, minus-10) and the 1960 Bears (3-2-1, minus-11) had winning records with a turnover ratio of minus-10 or worse through six games, according to Pro-Football-Reference.

Another interception or two could have turned a loss into a win in Houston and made Sunday's win a little bit easier. 

We can bellyache about how bad the Steelers' offense was in the second half Sunday or how the defense wasn't able to stop the run. But just one takeaway could have given the Steelers a short field to work with and maybe another score. That would have made the offense look better with more points on the scoreboard and it would have made the defense look better with fewer rushing yards for the Jaguars, who ran for 133 yards at a 4.4-yard-per-carry clip.

Turnovers aren't just window dressing for a defense, folks. They're a necessary tool for winning. Trying to win without getting turnovers on defense is like trying to bang nails into a wall with a baseball bat. Eventually you're going to need that hammer.

The Steelers' defense has to start taking the ball away at some point, right? The law of averages almost dictates it. In a way, it's comforting to think that winning should be easier when those takeaways start catching up to the giveaways.

But what if the turnovers don't come? Is the inability to grab fumbles and pickoffs a sign of the Steelers' age on defense? What makes this more confounding is the fact that Troy Polamalu has been healthy, despite Sunday's scare, and playing well. But he's usually good for an interception or two by this point in the season. He is 30 now. Are the hands the first thing to go?

One encouraging sign is that the Steelers had a similar shortage of sacks earlier in the season. Through the first four games, they had just seven. They've had eight in the last two games, including two Sunday by Brett Keisel. By the way, let's not underestimate how much he was missed in Indianapolis and Houston.

Sacks and turnovers have been signatures of the Steelers' defense since Bill Cowher rejuvenated the franchise nearly two decades ago. It took a while for the Steelers to get to the quarterback this season, but eventually they did. Hopefully one of these sacks will knock a ball loose and open the floodgates for turnovers.

Familiar script

There have been times this season when I didn't think I'd write the following words: The Steelers would not have won Sunday's game without Rashard Mendenhall.

Seeing the running game function without him last week seemed to spark Mendenhall the same way as his benching early in the 2009 season. He ran the ball 23 times for 146 yards and a touchdown that gave the Steelers a 7-0 lead. Mendenhall's 68-yard run set up a Shaun Suisham field goal and a 17-0 Steelers lead in the second quarter.

In between those scores was a 28-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Mike Wallace and a 48-yard completion to Wallace. The second of those receptions marked the fifth straight game in which Wallace has caught a pass of at least 40 yards, the longest such streak since Terrell Owens did it in 2004. If that streak doesn't end Sunday, something tells me the Patriots will end it in two weeks.

Alas, that bomb to Wallace, which put the ball on the Jacksonville 31, didn't lead to any points. The drive ended with Suisham missing a 46-yard field goal. Suisham has made just seven of his 11 field goal attempts this season. Am I the only one who's nervous about this?

The trajectory of Sunday's game was eerily similar to the AFC championship game in January. The Steelers build a big lead in the first half. The opponent gets a field goal to gain a little momentum before halftime. The Steelers go scoreless in the second half and have to hang on for dear life to get the win. 

It's one thing to win in this fashion when a trip to the Super Bowl is at stake. It's quite another when the other team has no shot at getting to the Super Bowl. Or even the playoffs.

If they play like that on Sunday, the Steelers will flunk out of University of Phoenix Stadium.

Monday, October 17, 2011

See you in Arizona, Troy

The last time Troy Polamalu played against the Cardinals, he was damn near invisible.

The Steelers play the Cardinals for the first time since Super Bowl XLIII Sunday. Thankfully, Polamalu will be visible. And in uniform.

I hate myself for saying this, but I was actually relieved to hear that the reason Polamalu was taken out of Sunday's game was "concussion-like symptoms." It's the knee, ankle, Achilles, ACL, calf, heel and toe jam you have to worry about with Polamalu.

If Polamalu actually had a concussion, at worst he'd be out for a game. But injuries to anything sheathed in those yellow uniform pants (or at least those parts not also covered by underwear) are like a nail to the Steelers' tires. Two years ago, Polamalu's injuries took the air out of the Steelers' season. He didn't miss nearly as much time last season, but had he been healthier, the Steelers probably would have raised their seventh Lombardi Trophy.

Not to minimize concussions. Polamalu has had them before. It's sad to think that a respected and likeable player like Polamalu is vulnerable to dementia and depression in 20 years or so.  

The concussion scare Sunday came when Polamalu torpedoed Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew on third-and-1 from the Jacksonville 30-yard line. The play forced the Jaguars to punt trailing 17-10 with less than nine minutes left in the game.

I thought the impact came when idiot Ryan Clark knocked helmets with Polamalu to celebrate the play. It wouldn't have been the first time Clark hurt a teammate. During last year's AFC divisional playoff game against the Ravens, he tried to hit a Ravens receiver but instead hit Ike Taylor. Fortunately, Taylor wasn't badly hurt.

It turns out the impact came when Polamalu's helmet appeared to hit the piston-like leg of the 5-foot-7, 208-pound Drew.

So it wasn't Clark's fault. Still, he needs to be more careful with his teammates.

While scouring the Internet Sunday looking for information about Polamalu's condition, it looked like there was something on, but it was about Polamalu possibly being fined by the NFL for talking on his cell phone during the game. C'mon. Really?

If anyone should fine Polamalu for that, it's the Steelers. He's got a possible concussion and he's letting cell phone radiation seep into his head?

While he was sitting there on the phone, it looked like for the third year in a row a Steelers' season would be compromised by a Polamalu injury.

Fortunately, that's not the case. Not yet, anyway.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Steelers beat Jaguars, kind of

The Steelers beat the Jaguars 17-13 Sunday, barely passing the True-False part of their midterm exam. What does that mean? It means the shitty Jaguars still had a chance to win this game with two seconds left.

As Chris Moltisanti would say, "That ain't good."

I'll take the midterm exam theme further when I write my full column tomorrow night.

I also hope to have more on Troy Polamalu's health. He might have a concussion. I'll be really pissed if I find out it happened when Ryan Clark head-butted him after he tackled Maurice Jones-Drew on that 3rd and 1 play in the fourth quarter.

If Polamalu has a concussion, the Steelers are just going to have to sack up and win in Arizona next week without him.

That's it for now. More tomorrow.

#Steelers win, I guess. Will have postgame mini-column when I know what's wrong with Polamalu.
Yep. Polamalu hurt. #Steelers season goes down drain in 3, 2, 1
Hurt or just praying, Troy? Stop scaring us. Go #Steelers
Nervous. MJD is on the edge of breaking one. Go #Steelers
Still waiting on that Pick-6 I ordered, guys. Much-needed. Go #Steelers
I'm feelin' a pick 6 here. Go #Steelers
An uneasy feeling. Jags hanging around, starting to assert themselves on D. And Ike got beat on TD. 17-10 #Steelers
Halftime: Jags dropped 2 INTs on last drive. Rashean Mathis almost had his 4th career Pick-6 vs. #Steelers. Jags still in game. 17-3
Suisham, you're a wimp. What's Gary Anderson doing these days? Hell, I'd settle for Harry Anderson. Go #Steelers
Keisel bats so many passes he should be in the cleanup spot for the Pirates. 17-3 #Steelers
Speaking of low-testosterone names, "Blaine" was the name of Andrew McCarthy's character in "Pretty in Pink." Go #Steelers
Despite his boy-band first name, Trai Essex threw a key block on Mendenhall's big run. 17-0 #Steelers
That'll make the list of the Top 10 Dumbest Reverses in the History of Football. Go #Steelers
To be fair, at least Public House played a little AC/DC after Miss Mister. TNT to be exact. Btw, go #Steelers
They also would never play Broken Wings by Mister fucking Mister at #Steelers bars not named Public House. 14-0
Legursky hurt. Ya know, #Steelers O-Line is more fragile than a collection of little glass swans.
Heath Miller 2 catches on TD drive. Here's what u don't get at Public House in NYC that u do get in other #Steelers bars: "Heeeaaath!"
Mendenhall averaged more than 4 yards a carry on that drive. Good job. 7-0 #Steelers.
Mendenhall has a determined look in pregame warmups. #SteelersNation

Will the real Steelers please stand up?

Today, the Steelers are seeking their first home victory over Jacksonville since 2001, when they were still AFC Central rivals.

It's funny how quickly things change from week to week in the NFL. At this time last week, I wouldn't have been surprised if the Steelers had lost to the Titans. Now, I'm thinking the Steelers better damn well beat the Jaguars, who have scored just five touchdowns this season.

So I've gone from resigned to the Steelers falling to 2-3 to expecting nothing less than 4-2. I'm glad I don't, um, overreact to any single win or loss.

In all seriousness, I don't think I overreacted to their loss to the Texans. In a way, it reminded me of their early-season loss in Philadelphia in 2008.

Why am I bringing up a game that happened three years ago? Because the Steelers won the Super Bowl that season, and let's face it, the Lombardi Trophy is the standard in Pittsburgh.

The 2008 loss in Philly, in which Ben Roethlisberger was sacked nine times (nine times, as Dan Rooney's distant cousin Ed Rooney would say), and this year's loss in Houston were similarly discouraging. But if the Steelers could recover from that debacle in '08 and win the Super Bowl, they can do the same thing this season.

The real 2011 Steelers are somewhere between what we saw two weeks ago and what we saw last week. To provide further evidence that they're more like the team we saw last week, they'll need a convincing win over the Jaguars today.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Week 5: Steelers 38, Titans 17

New faces

Daniel Sepulveda. Ryan Mundy. Jonathan Dwyer. David Johnson.

Not exactly the Steelers' Mount Rushmore.

But this quartet played a big role in chiseling out the Steelers' 38-17 win over the Titans Sunday at Heinz Field. These guys pretty much turned a 7-3 game into a 21-3 game, helping to slow down the run on ulcer medication in Western Pennsylvania this week.

The Steelers led 7-3 early in the second quarter and were about to punt from the 50. Instead, Sepulveda threw the ball to Mundy, a backup safety, for a 33-yard gain. Two plays later, Ben Roethlisberger threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Hines Ward for a 14-3 lead.

Ward, who caught two TD passes Sunday, needs 26 receptions to become the eighth player all-time with 1,000. 

Johnson reached the 10-catch milestone for his career later in the second quarter when he hauled in a 1-yard TD pass from Roethlisberger to give the Steelers a 21-3 lead. It was the first career touchdown for the blocking tight end. Dwyer set that up with a 76-yard run to the Titans' 14. 

With guys like Dwyer and Isaac Redman getting carries in summer-like weather, this might have seemed like a preseason game. But thankfully, this win counts. It was the Steelers' third victory of the season, and the first without a "yeah, but" element to it.

Guys who fight for their jobs in August answered the call Sunday because of injuries that, curiously, seem to be just what the doctor ordered in the Steelers' problem areas.

The Steelers haven't been able to run the ball this season. Then Rashard Mendenhall gets hurt and they ground and pound their way to 174 yards on 28 carries. Dwyer ended up with 107 yards on 11 carries despite not getting the start. Redman started and had 49 yards on 15 carries. That's just over three yards a carry, which is less than impressive, but he just seemed harder to take down than Mendenhall has been.

Mendenhall was in uniform Sunday. He stood on the sideline with his helmet off, looking like a restless kid in church. Do the Steelers now have a running back controversy? My guess is Mendenhall gets his job back when he's healthy. Hopefully seeing that the Steelers can run the ball without him is the jolt he needs.

Another reason the Steelers were a .500 ballclub entering Sunday's game was their inability to stop the run. Then Aaron Smith and Casey Hampton go down, and look what happens, they stopped the run.

Sunday brunches turned around and made their way up the esophagus of many a Steelers fan when Titans' running back Chris Johnson gained 21 yards on the game's first play from scrimmage. But that was as bad as it got. Johnson had just 51 yards for the day, 34 of them on that first drive. Chris Hoke filled in well at nose tackle and Brett Keisel returned to the defensive line after being hurt for a couple of games. And a lot of bacon, eggs and pancakes resumed their normal digestive process.

Speaking of digestive systems that get a lot of action, tell me again why Max Starks hasn't been at left tackle all season?

OK, so Starks might have put on enough pounds to have his own TV show, The 400 Club. He was cut during the preseason but signed out of desperation this week. Even with a spare truck tire around his waist, it seems the Steelers could have used him for the first four games.

Roethlisberger was sacked 14 times in those games, but was sacked just once Sunday despite moving around like his left foot was in a bucket. Could Starks rescue the O-Line the same way Flozell Adams did last season? Better yet, let's start Adams on the Max Starks Diet and get him back at right tackle.

The offensive line helped pave the way Sunday for just the second five-touchdown game of Roethlisberger's career. The last of those touchdowns was a 40-yard connection to Mike Wallace that made it 38-17 with less than three minutes left in the game. One of the few weapons the Steelers have been able to count on this season is a bomb to Wallace. The speedy receiver has caught a pass of 40 yards or more in four straight games, and the Steelers needed his touchdown Sunday to quiet rumblings of a Titans comeback.

The Titans recovered an onside kick late in the third quarter after pulling to within 28-10. Then LaMarr Woodley, who decided that Sunday would be a good time to start earning his money, immediately intercepted a Matt Hasselbeck pass to squash any momentum from the onside kick. Woodley also had a sack in the game and shared another sack.

While that takeaway couldn't have come at a better time, it was the only one forced by the Steelers Sunday. The defense still has forced just two this season, but somehow the Steelers are 3-2.

There's always a chance the aging Steelers' defense paralleled the weather Sunday and experienced an Indian summer phenomenon. Maybe it was one of those "that old dog can still hunt" kind of days. But they've allowed 89 points through five games. The only other team that's played five games and allowed fewer points is the 49ers with 78. So this Steelers defense has to be doing something right.

Let's not forget, too, that three of the Steelers' first four games were on the road. Now, three of their next four are at home. Their next two games, home to Jacksonville and at Arizona, are against 1-4 teams. Hopefully the Steelers can ace those pop quizzes and bone up for mid-term exams at home against the Patriots (Oct. 31) and Baltimore (Nov. 6).

Wins in those two games might have a way of making the Steelers seem a few years younger.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Steelers beat Titans, 38-17

I figured this game was a loss after the Steelers' performance last week. A few talking points before I write my column later.

1. Let's not forget the Steelers played three of their first four on the road. So maybe a 2-2 start isn't the worst thing in the world. Three of Steelers' next four are home.

2. Considering Steelers still have only two takeaways, 3-2 is pretty amazing.

3. Mendenhall can't run out the clock when the Steelers have the lead the way Redman and Dwyer did today.

CBS doing awesome job of getting audio of "Hot for Teacher" opening before kickoff. Heinz Field tradition
No #Steelers win complete without home run ball to Wallace. 38-17
I support breast cancer awareness, but Starks looks like a giant popsicle in that pink cap. 31-10 #Steelers
Was Mendenhall smiling while warming up on the sidelines with Redman hurt?
I like this new guy Woodley. Second turnover of season for #Steelers, first interception
Throwing a challenge flag? You don't really think you can still win this game, do you Munchak? 28-3 #Steelers
Hopefully Pouncey just has a shoe injury. Go #steelers
Big Ben getting too fancy on that last drive. 21-3 #Steelers at halftime
Can't be slipping like that, Sanders. Too many good receivers on this team. Brown's moved past you in pecking order.
Great run by Dwyer. Looks like he still could lose a couple of pounds, though. Go #Steelers
Antonio Brown end around key on that TD drive. Is there anything he can't do? 14-3 #Steelers
Tomlin showing some balls (not literally, of course) on the fake punt call. Go #Steelers
#Steelers stopped run pretty well on that drive. I was thinking maybe Keisel's return might help
After last week, somehow it seems cathartic that the #Steelers have the lead. 7-3
Three Gators (Starks, Pouncey and Gilbert) on #Steelers O-Line
Can you say "sack" boys and girls? That's a new vocabulary term for #Steelers fans. Woodley just had a big one. 3-0 Titans
C Johnson 21 yard gain on first play. Here we go again go #Steelers
Omg, Roethlisberger is moving around like he's got a little kid wrapped around his ankle. Go #Steelers

Are you ready for some Redman?

Greetings yinzers and non-yinzers alike. Welcome to Week 5. 

Rashard Mendenhall is out today with a hamstring injury (correction, added 12:19 p.m., Mendenhall is active today, but won't start). Isaac Redman will get the start at running back.

If I'm Mendenhall, I'm a little uneasy right now. It's not out of the realm of possibility that he might not get his starting job back. No, I'm not mindlessly drooling over Redman's six carries for 40 yards last week. I just think that when Redman carries the ball, he's a lot more decisive when he attacks the defense.

In my reaction to Mendenhall's comments about Osama bin Laden's death in May, I suggested that he might be too intelligent for his own good on the football field. His tip-tapping running style hints that he thinks too much when carrying the football.

Those comments by Mendenhall, by the way, aren't as bad as what Steelers fan Hank Williams Jr. said on Fox & Friends this week. No matter what point you're trying to make, you have to stay away from any mention of Hitler. That's just asking for trouble.

I think ESPN did the right thing by firing Williams. That said, I'm going to miss hearing "Are You Ready for Some Football?"

Finally, in honor of the late Al Davis, all I have to say to the Steelers today is "Just win, baby"

Monday, October 3, 2011

Week 4: Texans 17, Steelers 10

No takers

By Mike Batista

Let's not kid ourselves. Sunday's seven-point margin of defeat was quite flattering for the Steelers. It doesn't tell the tale of just how badly the Texans outplayed them.

Even in the Steelers' two wins this season, red flags have been raised. They couldn't get the ball in from the 1-yard line against the Seahawks. They made Curtis Painter look like, well, Peyton Manning in the fourth quarter last week.

This team has so many weaknesses that it's hard to know where to begin. So I'll do my best and start with the inability of the Steelers' defense to force turnovers.

The Steelers have just one takeaway in the first four games of the season. The dubious record for fewest takeaways in a season is held by the 1982 Baltimore Colts, who had 11 in going 0-8-1 during a strike-shortened season. The 2006 Redskins are saddled with the record for a 16-game season with 12. They went 5-11 that year.

At the quarter pole, the Steelers are on pace to force four turnovers in 2011.

This year's Steelers are one of just seven teams since at least 1940 to force one turnover or less in the first four games, according to The others are the 2010 Bills, the 2005 Texans, the 1998 Eagles, the 1998 Redskins, the 1994 Buccaneers (still wearing the creamsicle unis with Bucco Bruce on their helmets) and the 1977 49ers.

Let's take a look at how these charitable foundations fared.
  • 1977 49ers 5-9 (0-4 in first four games)
  • 1994 Buccaneers 6-10 (1-3)
  • 1998 Redskins 6-10 (0-4)
  • 1998 Eagles 3-13 (0-4)
  • 2005 Texans 2-14 (0-4)
  • 2010 Bills 4-12 (0-4)
Sure, the Steelers (2-2) are off to a better start than any of those teams, and they've allowed fewer yards of offense through four games than any of them. But this isn't good company to keep. If you roll around with pigs, flies start swirling around you.

A 6-10 or 5-11 clunker of a season wouldn't surprise me. The Steelers are heading in a scary direction, and the lack of turnovers is symptomatic of deeper troubles for the Steelers defense, which can't seem to stop the run anymore and can't get to the quarterback. The Steelers have just seven sacks this season, tied for 20th in the league, and barely touched Matt Schaub Sunday.

Ben Roethlisberger, meanwhile, was subjected to his customary battering. He was sacked five times. We always take for granted that Roethlisberger will take his lickin' and keep on tickin', but he ended up in a walking boot on his left foot Sunday and was to undergo an MRI. He's been sacked 14 times this season, putting him on pace to be sacked 56 times, which would make the 50 sacks he took in 2009 seem like a Swedish massage.

It's a wonder Roethlisberger hasn't had a season-ending injury playing behind such a turnstile offensive line all these years. We'll see what the MRI shows, but let's hope the Steelers' luck doesn't run out.

At least Roethlisberger's weekly pounding was delayed for a while as the Texans (3-1) consumed 11 minutes in taking a 7-0 lead on the game's opening drive.

Arian Foster picked up 40 yards on that drive and became the first running back not named Ray Rice to gain 100 yards on the Steelers' defense since the Jaguars' Fred Taylor in 2007. Foster's 155 yards were the most against the Steelers since Curtin Martin's 174 in 2003.

Yes, Foster was the NFL's rushing leader last season, but he was supposed to be easing his way back from a hamstring injury. The Steelers used to allow 100-yard rushers with about the same frequency of a total solar eclipse, but they've allowed two in four weeks.

The Texans committed three penalties on that opening drive and were flagged nine times in the game. Two of those infractions wiped out touchdowns. They did all they could to give this game away, but the Steelers haven't been in a taking mood all season.

The Steelers also couldn't take advantage of first-half injuries to running back Ben Tate, who had a 20-yard gain on that opening drive, and Andre Johnson, the Texans' leading receiver.

That tattered defense had a chance to lick its wounds when the Steelers had the ball for the last 2:33 of the first half and the first eight minutes of the second half. The Steelers wrested the momentum from the Texans and got on the board with a 3-yard Rashard Mendenhall touchdown run in the third quarter.

Mendenhall, however, left the game with a hamstring injury after his touchdown. Did anyone really miss him? He had just 25 yards on nine carries. Meanwhile, Isaac Redman gained 40 yards on six carries and fueled the game-tying drive with 32 of those yards. Shaun Suisham's 26-yard field goal to open the fourth quarter knotted the game at 10-10.

It seemed like the Steelers had gone from decrepit old geezers in the first half to cagey and wily veterans finding a way to win in crunch time.

Then, as if the Steelers' dominant third quarter were just some sort of recess from reality, the Texans needed just five plays to cover 85 yards and take a 17-10 lead on Foster's 42-yard touchdown run, the longest TD run against the Steelers since the Broncos' Javon Walker had a 72-yarder in 2006.

The Steelers' defense turned in three-and-outs on the rest of the Texans' second-half possessions, but we have to accept the fact that this aging unit is prone to senior moments every now and then, and their only one of the second half proved costly.

Then again, turnovers have a way of touching up the gray.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Steelers lose 17-10

Yes, the offensive line is pathetic. The Steelers are going nowhere without improvement there. And the defense is really starting to show its age. But if that defense could have forced just one turnover today, this game might have turned out differently. One forced turnover in the first four games of a season is inexcusable.

Now I have a choice between watching the Yankees and Patriots, two teams I despise. It's like getting the crap kicked out of you and then having a choice between getting pissed on or spit on.

I'll have more later.

99 yards in 70 seconds?

Fucking wonderful. Final score will be 19-10

Two-minute warning

Watch the cutback run, Steelers D.

Big Ben sacked again

With this O-Line, it's just target practice on Roethlisberger when the defense knows he has to throw. Fifth sack of the game.

Turnovers, anyone?

How about a turnover, Steelers? Most teams in the history of the NFL have forced more than one turnover in the first 15 quarters of the season.

Steelers fall behind again

So much for all that Steelers momentum. Those cutback runs kill the Steelers. Looks like you no longer need Ray Rice to gain 100 yards on the Steelers' defense. Arian Foster now has 141. 17-10 Texans.

Steelers tie game

Shaun Suisham (who I still don't like) tied the game 10-10 with a 26-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter. That drive was all Isaac Redman and Mewelde Moore. I hope Rashard Mendenhall got some good tweets in.

Steelers get on the board

There you go, Texans. How do you like it? The Steelers can open a half with a time-consuming drive, too. Big balls by Antonio Brown for a couple of first-down catches and Ben Roethlisberger's run on that drive. 10-7 Texans.

Halftime: Texans 10, Steelers 0

Maurkice Pouncey probably cost the Steelers seven points with that penalty. Very disappointing. A Pouncey screw-up is like when your straight-A student child misbehaves. ... I get queasy every time Steelers need a field goal from Suisham. That block doesn't help. ... Steelers have the ball at the end of the first half and the beginning of the second half. Hopefully the rest will help the Steelers defense.

This could be worse

Steelers finally started to get a little bit of a pass rush when the Texans got into the red zone. It's 10-0. If it weren't for the Texans' penalties, it probably would be 24-0.

Texans' Tate, Johnson hurt

The way the Steelers' defense is playing, losing running back Ben Tate and wide receiver Andre Johnson isn't going to hurt the Texans that much.

Steelers offensive line stinks

How can you trust a guy with a boy-band name like "Trai" to protect your quarterback's blind side? Texans are trying to give this game away with all these penalties, but the Steelers won't take it.

Texans take lead

A very sobering opening drive. It seems all Arian Foster has to do is lean forward and he's got five yards. And Steelers looked like jackasses on the touchdown pass. 7-0 Texans.

Texans running at will

Steelers can't stop the run. Aaron Smith is getting swallowed up by the Texans' O-Line. ... Ryan Clark hurt. Not that I want Steelers players to get hurt, but I don't mind checking out their trainer.

Steelers on TV in most of country

By Mike Batista

Greetings yinzers and non-yinzers alike. It's Gameday.

While today's game might not be a home game for the Steelers, most non-yinzers, including myself, will be able to watch the game at home. CBS is showing it in most of the country.

You know what that means? It means I'll be tweeting about the game today with eight fingers instead of two thumbs since I'm using my home computer instead of my smart phone.

So if you're not doing it already, today might be a good day to start following me on Twitter at Steel_Tweets. I'll have lots of good stuff there.

Tough one today. The Texans (2-1) want to finally say "Wait 'til this year" instead of "Wait 'til next year." Maybe I'm not paying enough attention to the NFL, but I'm just not sold on Matt Schaub being an upper echelon NFL quarterback. Let's hope today doesn't turn into his coming-out party.

One thing's for sure. Either the Steelers (2-1) or Texans will get their first win over a legitimate team today. Both teams have beaten the Manning-less Colts, although the Texans did it much more comfortably. The Steelers' other win came over the Seahawks, and the Texans beat the winless Dolphins.

That's all I got for now. Keep checking in. I'll be here all day.