Tuesday, November 3, 2009

STEELERS READY FOR SECOND HALF ONSLAUGHT

The Steelers will have officially finished the first half of their league schedule when they play their next game Monday night at Denver. Currently their record stands at 5-2. Their losses came in weeks two and three consecutively, in games at Chicago and Cincinnati. The loss in Chicago, against a team the Steelers should have beaten was bad enough. The loss to Cincinnati, unfortunately let the genie out of the bottle and gave the Bengals reason to believe that they could play to win in the AFC North. As a result, today, the Steelers are sharing the first place lead in the division with the resurgent Bengals who are also 5-2.


LEFT: The Steelers should be well-rested heading into their game on MNF against the Denver Broncos.

Looking ahead at the schedule, the Steelers' opponents, as a whole, are barely over the .500 mark, so it's not as though the Black & Gold are facing some monumental challenge. In fact, in a season where the league that prides itself on parity, there are more really bad teams this year than in any time in recent memory. In their last nine games, the Steelers get to face three of these mediocre opponents, the Chiefs, Raiders and Browns, with a cumulative record of 4-19 (.173).


ABOVE: Three of the Steelers final nine opponents are viewed as "pushovers".

But in those other six contests, there are also some challenges too. Denver on Monday should be one of them, although I fully expect the Steelers to win this game because it is on a national stage where they always excell. The Bengals at home should be a good game, but look for a very physical butt kicking for Cinci when they come to Heinz Field.

The division could very well hinge on the two games still remaining on the schedule with the always-tough Ravens. Baltimore roughed-up Denver last week and now the Broncos get to play the Steelers. Ouch, that's a real one-two punch to have to take!

Baltimore looks very formidable as usual. Their defense isn't quite bringing the same amount of pressure as it used to, but it's still very stout. On the other side of the ball, Baltimore not only has a qb, Joe Flacco, who's getting better with each game of experience, but they also now have a trio of backs led by Ray Rice that are a real challenge for any team. But then again, this is the Steelers we're talking about, and they even managed to keep man-beast Adrian-Peterson under 100 yards when they last played.



ABOVE: Joe Flacco didn't beat out Tyler Palko at Pitt and took his ball home to Delaware State. Last year he was good enough to win the "Diet Pepsi Rookie-of-the-Year Award", so there.

Those two games with Baltimore will once again be pivotal, but the Steelers will also have games against Green bay at home and Miami, on the road.

While trying to remain as objective as possible, and keeping in mind how injuries can play such a key roll in determining the outcomes of games, the remainder of this season certainly looks like one that could very well find them "running the table".

Next Monday, a newly-invigorated Steeler team will take the field in Denver and show the rest of the league why they're the champs. They'll follow that win up with a convincing win over the Bengals at the "Big Ketchup Bottle". From there, with a 7-2 record and atop the division, it should be a sprint to the finish line.