At 3-0 and heading to a week four match-up with division rival, the Baltimore Ravens, the Pittsburgh Steelers are the surprise team of the NFL. Yeah, yeah I know the Kansas City Chiefs are sitting pretty at 3-0 and the Chicago Bears are making some noise in the Windy City, but what Pittsburgh has done in three weeks is nothing short of remarkable. Need I remind you that Ben Roethlisberger has yet to take a snap under center this season? Just in case you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past several months, “Big Ben” has been suspended for the first four games of the season due to a violation of the NFL’s personal conduct policy. Last time I checked, KC and “Da Bears” have their starting QBs’!
So how are they doing it? It’s simple….Teamwork!
The Steelers have used two different quarterbacks during their run, with 35 year old Charlie Batch making the most of the opportunity by dismantling the Bucs in week three. This was Batch’s first start in nearly three years and it showed as his first pass of the game was picked off by Tampa Bay corner back, Aqib Talib. Batch would settle down and lead the Steelers by completing 12 of 17 passes, including two touchdowns.
What about the Pittsburgh running game? Rashard Mendenhall is now the 4th leading rusher overall in the NFL. Mendenhall rushed for 143 yards against the Bucs. The third year back was the game hero in week one as he torched the Atlanta Falcons with a 50 yard touchdown run in overtime. Mendenhall so far, seems like a breath of fresh air for a team that has been mediocre in the run department for the past couple of years.
After the offense generated only 25 yards in the air in week two, the receiving corps held its own in week three. We already know what Hines Ward is capable of but how about the play of second year wide-out Mike Wallace? Wallace was the recipient of the two touchdowns Batch threw against Tampa. He would finish the game with three receptions for 100 yards, along with those touchdowns. Look for Batch to get the receivers more involved against the Ravens.
Oh, how about that defense? I have two words for you…Troy Polamalu. This guy is hands down the best defensive player in the league. He’s so disruptive to an offense it’s scary. You heard of the term, “Shut Down Corner”? Well, Polamalu can shut down an entire offense if he wanted to. Pittsburgh’s linebacker group of LaMarr Woodley, James Farrior, Lawrence Timmons, and James Harrison gives opposing offenses hell come game time. With Polamalu’s ability to be in just about every play defensively, it’s almost like they have a fifth linebacker. No disrespect to the rest of the great players on defense but we all know that the key cog on “D” is Polamalu. Steelers fans can only imagine what Pittsburgh would have looked like last year if he were healthy.
I realize that the NFL has a lot of games left in the season, but the rest of the teams in the NFL have to feel a little uneasy that the Steelers are winning games without their top player. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has done an excellent job keeping his team focused. Considering the circumstances, Pittsburgh was left for dead. That was the chip on the organization’s shoulder Tomlin needed. So far it’s working.
If there was ever a time where focus is needed for the Steelers it’s this week, because the Baltimore Ravens is going to bring it to them 100 percent. If Pittsburgh manages to win this one…teams better “Watch Out”!
By Keith Madyun