Friday, November 12, 2004

A Loser Picking the Winners, Week 10

For the first time in three years, the Steelers are on the cover Sports Illustrated and there are already concerns about the "SI jinx."

Right now the jinx is the least of my concerns, and I say that for a couple of reasons. First, the Red Sox won the World Series for the first time in 86 years. Second, The Redskins lost their game before the election, but the incumbent didn't. Finally, Ray Lewis hasn't suffered from being on the cover of Madden 2005 (despite the fact that previous players to don the cover have had off seasons).

My biggest concern is that the Steelers actually start believing all the hype created by the national media in the wake of their two consecutive victories against previously unbeaten teams. I mentioned earlier this week that Cowher seemed to be doing a good job of keeping the troops grounded, but it'll be interesting to see how they come out against a Browns team that has struggled virtually the entire season.

Adding a little more intrigue to a matchup that on paper looks to be a blowout is the fact that Verron Haynes is doubtful, Duce Staley and Dan Kreider are questionable, and Jerome may have to carry the ball 33 times again, but this time with rookie free agent Willie "Hot Boy" Parker as his backup.

Still, the bottom line for Pittsburgh will be to pound the ball and throw high percentage passes to Hines, Plax and El. And I read somewhere earlier this week that the Browns might try to make Roethlisberger beat him with his arm since he's only had one game with 200+ passing yards. To that I say, "bring it on" (I guess it's worth mentioning that the one team Roethlisberger threw for 200 yards against was Cleveland). I would love nothing more than to see the Steelers light up the Browns' secondary. Yesterday Antonio Bryant said he's eager to exploit the Steelers' weaknesses in the secondary. Maybe he's right about the perceived weaknesses, but if he's excited, how must the Pittsburgh wideouts feel about facing this slow Browns defensive backfield? The only request I have is that Plax has a clear path to the endzone, hold onto the ball with two hands.

I found this little nugget over at the 'Burghsportsguys: Don Banks of CNNSI ranks Hines Ward and James Farrior as the most, and fourth most underrated players in the NFL, respectively. Here are two quotes that stand out from the article:
While Philadelphia's Terrell Owens has been getting all the headlines for years now, Ward actually has 30 more receptions than he does (352-322) since 2001.

...Under the guidance of new/old Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, the 6-3, 243-pound Farrior has been as responsible as anyone for Pittsburgh's defensive return to prominence. Putting together his career year at 29, Farrior's 47 tackles rank second on the team, and he makes big plays: Three forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, a career-best three sacks and two interceptions.
Of course I'm perpetually worried about the Steelers falling victim to a big letdown (mental note: work this out in therapy), but I'm still glad guys like Farrior are getting the recognition they've earned through the first half of this season (especially considering that he's already signed his new deal, so he won't cost the Steelers anything more than what they've already invested in him).

OK, now this is just mean. Alan Robinson is the AP writer covering the Steelers and he has your (by now) run-of-the-mill story documenting Roethlisberger's success as he tries to break Mike Kruczek's record of consecutive games won by a rookie QB. Anyway, in talking about Roethlisberger's toughness, Robinson writes the following:
"His everything's-under-control mind-set quickly won over his veteran teammates and helped elevate their level of play. To them, it's difficult to picture Roethlisberger with tears in his eyes after being pulled from a game, as once happened to former Steelers QB Kordell Stewart."
Um, Mr. Stewart, that's called a sucker-punch (but it's a funny sucker-punch). Still, I take Robinson's point. Despite all the success that Roethlisberger's had, he's one of the most grounded guys you'll hear give an interview in the NFL.
"The important thing is keeping a level head and being smart about this whole situation. I think the veteran leaders on this team will do that for us," Roethlisberger said. "From what I've been told, they were here a couple years ago in the same type of situation, the 13-3 year (in 2001). They know how to keep us younger guys levelheaded and keep us smart. For the most part, this is a very selfless team."
Sounds good to me. In a world where athletes are requesting time off from the regular season to finish rap albums, and retiring to tour with Lenny Kravitz, Roethlisberger is a breath of fresh air. Oh yeah, he also wins, and that doesn't hurt either.

Well, it's week 10 and the while my season of picking winners started out so promisingly, it has gotten progressively worse -- in fact it's now so bad that I'm actually a grand in the hole -- and for the first time all season I'm below .500.

Well, just like the 2003 Steelers at the halfway point, I've got to run the table to turn things around, so just sit back and prepared to be amazed (or, if I follow in the footsteps of the 2003 Steelers, prepare to be amazed, but in a way that makes you feel sorry for me).

Season: 61 - 65 - 4
Last week: 5 - 9
Earnings to date: - $1,050

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