Blow Up the Scoreboard
Kordell Stewart has been under the gun for a long time. After game 11 in 1999 he got benched. He survived game 11 this season despite not playing well against Jacksonville last week. So when he came out firing early in a victory over the Bengals on Sunday, it looked like he was just getting off to another fast start, with the possibility of a poor finish as he has done all season. That was not to be on this day.
Kent Graham would replace Stewart in the fourth quarter as Pittsburgh held a insurmountable lead. He finished the game with a career high three touchdown passes, 182 yards on 11 completions in 20 attempts, and rushed for another score as well. So now, the big question is this: "Has the Steelers' offense found itself, or was this just a case of an offense producing against a poor defense." What I would like to see is a repeat performance next week when the Steelers take on the mighty Oakland Raiders at home. Prove to me that you have found the answers on offense, and I will be a believer. One thing rang true on this Sunday, the receivers were not dropping passes as much as they have done all season. But, what worries me now, is that our defense all the sudden is forgetting how to defend against the run. Corey Dillon had a big day on the ground in a losing effort, not only going over 100 yards rushing, but over 1,000 for the fourth consecutive season since beginning his career four years ago. He joins an elite group of seven others who have rushed for at least four consecutive seasons to begin a career. But with Fred Taylor shredding the Steelers' once mighty "D" last week for 234 yards, and now Dillon going over 100, it appears the Defense is either weakening, getting tired, or just collapsing. That does not bode well with three games in the final four coming up against very strong teams.
Moving to 6-6 on the season, it appears that to make the playoffs as a wild card, the Steelers will have to probably win outright beginning next weekend, and at best will have to finish the season at 9-7 and pray. Kordell was sharp at times, and made far fewer mistakes than he has in the past several contests, but one game hardly puts him back on the "good" Quarterback list. We have waited long enough for his development, and I am hardly going to say he has made it based on a performance against a very lousy Cincinnati Bengal team. His numbers for the day were far from "superstar" status. And Kent Graham in relief was a joke. He looked like a slow water buffalo or something, and is hardly what I call a quality backup. As our Feature's Writer had done in his JUST POSTED article for the month, I will go out on a limb with another bold statement. "NEXT SUNDAY IS THE MAKE-OR-BREAK POINT FOR KORDELL STEWART." If Kordell has a bad game against Oakland next week, then I believe his career as a starting Quarterback in Pittsburgh should end. He has failed to look good in home games, he is facing one of the top teams in the AFC, and this would be a perfect scenario to uphold his status for his future in Black and Gold. If anything, this game against the "Bungals" was a confidence builder, and the entire offense must build off of that. The defense? They need to go back to the drawing board. They had their moments on this day, but their overall performance was very poor.
In the first half, Hines Ward picked up 23 yards on a reverse, a
play in which not only Kordell Stewart threw an effective block, but
Courtney Hawkins added another big block that temporarily knocked
Steve Foley out of the game. The first half was seesaw with Cincinnati
practically scoring every time the Steelers scored. Up until this
game, the Bengals had scored only 10 points in the first quarter all
season! The game's momentum may have changed on a fumble recovery that
Mike Vrabel recovered in the first half. Amos Zereoue also forced a
fumble that the Steelers recovered. On the day, Pittsburgh scored 21
points on turnovers, so if you take those away, the game becomes a
28-27 victory for Cincinnati. Mark Bruener got a touchdown reception
aided by a fantastic block by Hines Ward, who blasted a Bengal
defender out of the way. On the ensuing kickoff following Bruener's
score, Mike Vrabel was there again to make a great open-field tackle.
There were still several key drops by receivers, mainly Bobby Shaw and
Courtney Hawkins in the first half. With another 100 yard rushing
game, Corey Dillon (who will be an unrestricted free agent following
the season) tied a team record for 100 yard games in a career with 17,
tying James Brooks. Jerome Bettis went over the 1,000-yard mark on the
season with his performance on the day, making it his fifth
consecutive season with 1,000 rushing yards or more. How about Jason
Gildon scoring a touchdown on a fumble recovery. Gildon did a nice
somersault in retrieving the ball, bouncing up to head into the end
zone. Not-for-nothing, the snap to Akili Smith was horrible, as it
sailed way over his head. Then there was a fumble forced by Jason
Gildon that Chris Sullivan recovered at the Bengal eight-yard line. On
the very next play, Jerome Bettis bulled his way into the end zone,
only to take a hit in the end zone from Artrell Hawkins. Bettis made
sure he did an about face so that he could look Hawkins in the eye and
then spiked the ball at this feet. Well done Jerome! Aaron Smith
continues to impress and improve, showing his skills in making a
one-handed tackle of Peter Warrick on an attempted reverse for a loss
late in the game. Hats off to Troy Edwards to took a pass in the flat
only to appear to have been trapped and going down, when he reversed
his field and ran all the way across the field to turn the play into a
big gainer. And as mentioned, Kent Graham relieved Kordell late in the
game, but was not impressive. And as the game was out of reach, there
was Jerome Bettis still in the game. I suppose the coaching staff was
trying to allow him to attempt to reach 100 yards rushing for the
game. Eventually Amos Zereoue came in, but did not do much. My
question is this? Why not Tee Martin with the game a sure victory?
Things that make you go "hmmm." On a final note from you
editor: You know why I like football so much? Because here you have
all these players banging each other senseless; trying to knock each
other around for 60 minutes; all with one goal in mind, victory; and
in the end when the final gun sounds, there it was on camera: players
from the Bengals and Steelers at midfield smiling, hugging,
conversing, and shaking hands. Who says this game in not a gentleman's
game. Following a hockey game do we see such sportsmanship? How about
baseball, or basketball? I have yet to see the camera catch a
post-game scene in any other sport than football where you see players
acting as if they were good friends. This my friends is what I believe
makes football the greatest sport in the world.
Aronson, Steelers Hotline
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