The Steelers visit the Jags on Sunday with the anticipation of upsetting the jags and turning the season around. The Steelers - aside from the Baltimore game, haven't looked overly bad. Granted, the Brownies should have been a win and the Titan game was another example of too little, too late.
Still, let's look at the positives.
In both games, the Steelers were in it at the end of the game and "in a position to win" - as much as I hate this cliche. In fact, they were competitive after the offense got going and the defense began playing with more heart. What does that mean this weekend?
The Steelers are due for some good fortune - with two NFL admitted mistakes going against Pittsburgh the past couple weeks, the football gods should cast their glow their way Sunday. The jags are also not the team they were a year ago - their defense has been pounded twice by Baltimore and the Indy Colts Monday night. Fred Taylor and Brunell will both play with nagging injuries not to mention the injuries they sustained in the preseason.
However, these are NOT the reasons why the Steelers will win Sunday.
The Steelers will win this game out of frustration and hatred for their newest and truest rivals in the NFL. The Browns are in essence a new franchise while the Steelers and Jags share a fairly intense rivalry which started the day the Jags entered the league. The Steelers were a little flat against Cleveland - why would they be anything else?
The Jags are their true rivals.
Last years game in Jacksonville was not very competitive, but this one will be. I look for several things from the Steelers on Sunday:
1 Joey Porter - Is this guy ever going to get going. Yes. Look for Porter to have a couple of huge plays in this game - he loves to hit and Brunnel should be an easy target. Tony Boselli will win most of the day against Porter, but Porter's speed will serve him well Sunday if only for a couple of plays.
2. Run defense - I have been surprised this year at the apparent ease that teams have run the ball against Pittsburgh. Kimo and Holmes have been especially tough in the middle, but it hasn't seemed to matter much at times. There always seems to be a big gapping hole on the next play or too much room outside. Look for this to stop on Sunday - I gotta believe that Kirkland was still hobbled for the Brown and Tenn game and the defense was just worn out due to inept offense in the Baltimore game. Again, playing your most hated foe will bring out the best and allow for the third and fourth wind.
3. Offensive Line - Don't look now, but the offensive line has gelled rather nicely. The BUS has been running the ball well the past two games, but still needs to get more carries. The Ravens, Titans and even the Browns all have pretty solid defensive lines - the Jags are a little lacking in this department for a number of reasons. This will mean a big day for Bettis and a big day for the offensive line.
4. Graham - I keep on waiting for Graham to step up and take charge of this team. If he has not by asserted himself as the teams offensive leader by the end of Sunday's game - the Steelers need to look elsewhere. I do have a lot of confidence in Graham, he just needs receivers to get open and for Burress to accept seeing a lot of coverage. Still, Graham should throw this man the ball even if he is in double coverage - the Steeler offense needs to start taking more risks downfield.
5. A TD pass to Ward - Believe it or not - the Steelers will get a TD pass this game - I think� Ward has been the Steelers best offensive player this year and has usurped Edwards from his starting role. Remember, competition within the players of the same team is good. I look for both Edwards and Ward to perform quite well Sunday.
So, Why will we win 27-24 this weekend?
Cowher - Bill has surprised me - he actually rewarded a player in Ward for playing well and sat Edwards for being a worthless piece of filth. So, maybe he has vanquished himself of the Kordell Syndrome that has plagued him the past three seasons. Maybe he is ready to start coaching a Man's Game once again! Maybe he will coach this team the way it needs to be coached - with a pounding offense, an in your face defense and a rigged jaw behind both. That's Football!!! In Your Face, Smashed-Mouth, Juttin' Jaw, Pittsburgh Steelers Football!!!
Sure would be nice to some on Sunday.