View Full Version : Cook: There's no need to worry.

08-31-2006, 11:17 PM
Cook: There's no need to worry. An 0-4 preseason won't set the tone for the real games
Friday, September 01, 2006

By Ron Cook, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

No Big Ben last night.

No Willie Parker, Troy Polamalu, Joey Porter and most of the other Steelers starters.

No problem.

None needed to play and risk injury in that meaningless -- OK, tedious -- 15-13 exhibition loss to the Carolina Panthers. That doesn't mean the Steelers are locks to win another Super Bowl or go 15-1 again. It just means they did what they had to do in the preseason -- namely, get through it without any serious injuries -- even if they finished with an 0-4 record. Much better to have that goose egg than lose an Alan Faneca or an Ike Taylor. All it means is the Steelers are ready to play the real games.

Sorry, Joe Theismann.

You might remember Theismann, the ESPN Monday Night broadcaster, was critical of how the Steelers used Roethlisberger in the game at Philadelphia last week. He thought Roethlisberger needed more work than just two series. A year ago, he would have been absolutely right. Not now.

Roethlisberger is far ahead of where he was last summer. The starting offense is.

"It's not even close," Steelers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt said.

It's easy to forget after seeing Roethlisberger hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy in Detroit in February, but he and his offense were pretty dreadful in the 2005 exhibition season. Bill Cowher was so displeased that he played Big Ben and the other starters into the second quarter of the final exhibition game at Carolina -- possible injuries be damned -- looking for a spark, any kind of a spark. Cowher was so concerned, after the first offense failed to score a touchdown in the entire preseason and Roethlisberger produced a dreary 32.8 passer rating, that he expressed his angst publicly.

"We're nowhere near where we need to be right now," he growled.

Cowher even predicted Roethlisberger might have to go through some growing pains, that things might not go as smoothly as they did in his 15-1 rookie season of 2004.

Hard to believe now, isn't it?

It wasn't then.

"You're still thinking 15-1 again?" I remember writing. "1-15 seems more like it at this point."

OK, so Cowher and I both overreacted.

Roethlisberger played a perfect game -- at least statistically -- in the 34-7 win against the Tennessee Titans in the 2005 opener.

You know how the rest of the season went.

Now, there's reason to believe Roethlisberger will get off to a similar start this season, although the Miami Dolphins will provide more stout opposition Thursday night at Heinz Field than the Titans did. He didn't play his best game against the Eagles -- the game Theismann watched -- but he looked much sharper in the first two exhibition games and in practice. He has looked very much like a young, confident quarterback who knows he was good enough to win a Super Bowl last season and plans on doing it again.

"Last year at this time, we were just trying to expose him to a lot more things," Whisenhunt said. "Now, he's not only seen everything, he's making good decisions. I feel really good about where he's at."

One more thing:

Motorcycle accident? What motorcycle accident?

"It's amazing," Steelers offensive tackle Marvel Smith said. "If you were out of the country, you wouldn't have a clue he went through that kind of trauma.

"He's a lot better this year than he was last year. His presence in the huddle. The way he sees things on the field. The way he knows what the linemen are doing. ... It's been impressive."

The Steelers had other troubling questions a year ago that went beyond Roethlisberger. Who would make up for Plaxico Burress' catches? Could Kendall Simmons step back in at right guard after missing the 2004 season? Could Max Starks replace Oliver Ross at right tackle? Could the unproven Parker get it done at running back with Jerome Bettis and Duce Staley hurt?

Little did we know at the time that the answers would be Cedrick Wilson and Heath Miller, yes, yes and absolutely yes.

The concerns now seem almost minimal by comparison. Who will start at free safety -- Tyrone Carter, Ryan Clark or, as a long shot, rookie Anthony Smith, the one eye-opening player of the preseason -- and will he do the same job that Chris Hope did? What happens if Parker gets hurt? (I'm still not ready to give up on Staley despite his lackluster summer). Can rookie Willie Reid ease the loss of Antwaan Randle El as a punt returner?

Actually, the Steelers' biggest worry is Hines Ward's hamstring injury, which forced him to miss the exhibition games. You want to fret about something? Fret about that. Me? I'm not going to waste the energy, at least not yet. Ward always has been the ultimate gamer. He has promised he'll be ready for the Miami game. Are you really ready to doubt him?

The odds are against the Steelers winning another Super Bowl, sure. But know this:

Nothing happened in this preseason to make a reasonable person think they can't.


09-01-2006, 12:15 AM
Finally, a voice of reason.

I'll start panicking when we start looking bad during the regular season. I don't need some chump riding the bandwagon of another team telling me how this team "should" look at this point in time.

09-01-2006, 12:31 AM
Finally, a voice of reason.

I'll start panicking when we start looking bad during the regular season. I don't need some chump riding the bandwagon of another team telling me how this team "should" look at this point in time.

I agree, screw the bandwagon chumps, whether they be in an announcing booth, or on another team's forum.

09-01-2006, 08:27 AM
I love when everyone thinks that we cant. the Steelers thrive on that.

I hope everyone starts thinkung that we are done! Go Steelers!

09-01-2006, 10:40 AM
Just more motivation for the drive to greatness is all it is.