"Why?" the Cleveland writer
asked. "Phil Dawson is almost automatic."
Not at Heinz Field, I told him. At
Heinz Field, any attempt outside of 35 yards is an adventure for any kicker.
Dawson promptly hit his kick low enough for it to hit Kimo
von Oelhoffen in the helmet. Heinz Field's kicker curse cost the Steelers a
game last season against Baltimore. It saved them this year.
Things have a way of evening out.
Speaking of Heinz Field, the grass is in terrible condition. As cornerback Dewayne
Washington put it, "It doesn't even look like there's grass in a lot of spots. What's it going to be like later this
The Steelers have played four games
on Heinz Field - two exhibition, two regular season - and Pitt has been there
for four games. That's hardly enough to tear it up as bad as it now is. Of course judging
by the looks of my lawn - or what used to be my lawn - this was not a good year to grow grass in Western Pennsylvania.
Some people would beg to differ with
that previous statement, but I'm not going there.
The Steelers can't run the ball. Jerome
Bettis is still struggling to hit the holes, although he did have a nice
spin move to nearly score in the second quarter. Amos
Zereoue is still way too easy to bring down and isn't showing the burst he
did last season. Chris
Fuamatu-Ma'afala gave the team a spark in the second half in place of Bettis,
but then left the game with - what else? - an injury, showing why the coaches have no faith in him. Right now, Kordell
Stewart and Antwaan
Randle El are the only running game the Steelers have.
That being said, don't expect the Steelers to stop trying to run the ball.
I'm not seeing big holes being blown open by this offensive line. The linemen
are as much to blame for the lack of running game as the running backs are at this point.
Stewart's biggest problem this season has been his over reliance on Hines
Ward. It's understandable. Ward fights for the ball and makes tough catches in
Farrior played a terrific game against the Browns. When the Steelers get Kendrell
Bell back, they will be very, very difficult to game plan for if Farrior
continues to play that way.
The Steelers combated the spread offense by taking strong safety Lee
Flowers off the field at times and replacing him with cornerback Deshea
Townsend in their base package. It helps them in coverage, but hurts them
stopping the run. The question is, can you live with the occasional big run as
opposed to being bled to death with the short passing game?
Porter picked off his third pass Sunday, setting up a Steelers field goal.
There's something to be said for being in the right position all the time. But
the most underrated thing for a defensive player in football is having great
hands. Had former Steelers safety Carnell Lake had even average hands, he would
be a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame. Porter, who was a wide receiver and H-back
before moving to defensive end at Colorado State, has excellent hands. It is
obvious after he dropped a Tim Couch pass that was right in his hands on
third-and-goal in the second quarter, that Clark
Haggans does not.
The interception Haggans dropped are the things that keep good players from
becoming great. An interception there stops a Browns field goal drive and the
Steelers take a 6-3 lead into the half. Haggans had another half-sack Sunday and
now has three for the season. But you have got to find a way to catch the ball
when the quarterback makes a mistake like the one Couch did.