Madden on Tonights Game .......
Batch won't need to replace Big Ben
By John Madden
This is the way to start off a football season! The world champion Pittsburgh Steelers playing the Miami Dolphins. It's not just one day or one game but you start off on Thursday (8 p.m. ET on NBC) and you go through the whole weekend ... Kickoff Weekend! It's a real celebration of the start of football.
Here's a quick look at each team:
The loss of QB Ben Roethlisberger (appendectomy) is going to be a difficult adjustment for the Steelers, but if it is going to happen, Week 1 is the time.
Backup Charlie Batch started Week 4 of the preseason, and he probably had more snaps than Roethlisberger through all four games. Now I'm not saying that those extra plays are going to make Batch into Roethlisberger, but had this happened in the middle of the season Batch wouldn't be as ready as he will be for the opener.
And missing Roethlisberger isn't going to go on Batch's shoulders. Everyone has to pick it up for Pittsburgh.
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The Steelers won't need Charlie Batch to carry the load in Week 1.The Steelers have to go back to the type of team they were when Roethlisberger was a rookie in 2004, which was a ball control team with a solid, opportunistic defense and good special teams.
The trend in the NFL and even for the Steelers in the preseason has been pick up the pace get in and out of the huddle quickly, and I think it is going to be just the opposite for these Steelers. They need slow everything down, with Willie Parker running the ball very often.
They call him "Fast" Willie Parker because he has great acceleration and if he gets a step on you he can really go. Remember that run he had in the Super Bowl? That was impressive.
With the retirement of Jerome Bettis, the piece that the Steelers are really missing is that short-yardage back. They don't really have that guy or someone for the goal line. I think they thought maybe it could be Duce Staley, but after watching him in preseason and watching him on film, I don't think he's going to be the answer. That role is probably going to fall on Parker as well.
As for Batch, he's still going to throw the ball some and he's going to run a little. Pittsburgh just doesn't want to get in that position where Batch has to make plays.
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I think the effect that this has on the Miami defense is that it is going to go after Batch even more than it normally would. Jason Taylor normally runs to the quarterback on every play and the Steelers must adjust, knowing that coach Nick Saban will send the Dolphins after Batch on all passing downs, while focusing more on Parker on obvious running plays.
For Daunte Culpepper, I think he is going to have a big year. I watched every preseason game of the Dolphins and was watching to see if there was anything that might indicate that his knee wasn't fully healed.
I haven't gotten that sense at all as he hasn't missed a practice, took every snap possible in training camp, played in every preseason game and performed well. He would drop back, get hit and still make the throw.
He also made all the throws rolling left and rolling right. So every test that you would give an injured quarterback, Culpepper would have passed easily.
Plus, he has a lot of talent around him. I really like Chris Chambers on one side, Marty Booker on the other and Randy McMichael as the tight end. That's a lot of options. Then there's Ronnie Brown to run the ball. If you look at this offense as a whole and now add Culpepper, they are pretty dog gone good.
The key will be whether he and Miami's line can handle the Steelers' defensive rush.
If you look at this Pittsburgh defense the outside linebackers always lead the team in sacks, so you need to watch for Clark Haggans and Joey Porter. Those two guys along with the three-man defensive line are the pass rushers. Then the two inside guys James Farrior and Larry Foote, along with safety Troy Polamalu (always leading the team in tackles) and that is how 3-4 defense is built.
The outside linebackers are your pass rush, the inside linebackers along with the strong safety are your run stoppers and everything is made possible by the defensive line. The one player that I think this team is going to miss from last year's championship unit is Kimo von Oelhoffen.
I watched the Super Bowl and he not only made a lot of big plays in that game but he also did a lot of things that allowed the linebackers to make plays. Von Oelhoffen will be replaced by last year's backup Brett Keisel. I think this is one of the holes that the Steelers need to plug and it won't be easy.