The Titans’ opening touchdown drive notwithstanding, the Steelers looked great last Sunday, responding with 34 unanswered points and a 34-7 victory. The game featured a smashing performance by third-string running back Willie Parker, who rang up 161 yards rushing. Meanwhile, second-year quarterback Ben Roethlisberger achieved a perfect 158.3 quarterback rating, going 9-11 for 218 yards, two touchdowns, and no sacks or interceptions. These sparkling performances erased a couple of major question marks about the Steelers’ season that had been nagging this Turkey.
First, I was beginning to believe the sports press about the inevitability of a “sophomore slump” for Ben Roethlisberger. The indications were there in the pre-season, in which his performance was absolutely crappy in each game. He seemed to be off-target and out of sync, typically zinging balls well over receivers’ heads. This led me to believe that Big Ben was missing his favorite wide receiver, 6’5″ Plaxico Burress, who left the team after last season. Otherwise, the change from the previous season, in which the Steelers won each regular season game in which Roethlisberger started, was a mystery. Could it be that Roethlisberger’s brain escaped while riding helmetless on his motorcycle during the off-season, or were the sports writers correct about the sophomore slump?
If this first regular season game is any indication, we won’t need to speculate about sophomore slumps anymore.
Neither will we need to worry about the running game being crippled by the absence of Duce Staley and Jerome Bettis. Willie Parker has proven himself to be a stud of a running back with sneaky moves and outside speed. He will provide a welcome complement to the power running of Bettis and Staley when they return. It looks like the running game is going to be as solid as ever, particularly when the big guys return from their medical hiatuses.
So, I’m liking what I’m seeing and I’m looking forward to an interesting season. Many pundits are picking the Steelers to finish second behind the Ravens in their division. Not this Turkey, who thinks that the Steelers will prevail. The Ravens have no quarterback now that Boller hurt his toe. Their desperation is exemplified in their most recent personnel move—signing Kordell Stewart. With Kordell taking the snaps down there, we ain’t got much to worry about!
I’m looking for another balanced tune-up performance against the Texans on Sunday before the big rematch with the Patriots on September 25. New England was our stumbling block in the playoffs last year after a 15-1 regular season. It’s time for revenge! But let us not look past the Houston game. The Steelers have never beaten the Texans, and they are making their first trip to Reliant Stadium. With one good game under their collective belt, the Steelers should be up to the task.