Can I just congratulate my favorite NFL team? I was prepared for a season of disappointment and sorrow. Nearly every preseason magazine I read placed the Steelers at the bottom of their division, saying things like "rebuilding year," and "lucky to have a winning season." Hell, they don't even have any Monday Night Football appearances this year--that's how bad they were supposed to be. But after the last two weeks, I'm gonna go ahead and say it--they look to me to be the best team in the league right now.
I'm cringing even as I write this because of the Jinx factor, but I feel pretty comfortable with the argument. Two weeks ago, I watched the Steelers end the Patriot's winning streak which extended back to last season. And they didn't just beat them, they crushed them. The Steelers' defense, missing a few key players, shut down one of the most potent and versatile offenses in the NFL, keeping them to 5 rushing yards. (To be fair, Corey Dillon was not playing, but a) Faulk isn't terrible, and b) Five yards???) They did the same thing this week to the Eagles, keeping them to 23 rushing yards, and keeping Terrell Owens to only 53 receiving yards. Big deal, right? The Steelers have always had a decent defense. But wait! Now they also have an offense! As I watched them move almost effortlessly down the field against two of the top defenses in the NFL, I kept thinking of that scene in Happy Gilmore, when bad guy Shooter McGavin suddenly realizes that Adam Sandler has added a decent putting game to his slapshot-style power-drive. "Uh oh...looks like Happy learned how to putt."
There's no denying they've got a killer offense, though. Let me just frame this for you: They beat the only two unbeaten teams in the NFL back to back. Outrushed them 466 yards to 28. Outscored them by 61 to 23. Did I mention they did this with a rookie QB? Yep, Ben "Ruthless"berger (I swear I'm gonna get that to catch on.) took over for an injured Tommy Maddox. The thing is, if you watch Roethlisberger, he doesn't look like a rookie. He doesn't rattle. He doesn't seem to make "rookie" mistakes. He seems aware of the pocket and while he's no Vick, he runs fairly well. And like most rookies, I would expect that he will get even better as he learns more.
So I expect to see them in the playoffs, and I hope to see them in the Super Bowl. But just in case the Jinx spirits are listening...I never said that.