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Old 10-25-2005, 10:09 AM   #1
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Default The Best Team in the NFL Redux

From CBSSportsline.com

As long as Steelers run, AFC North is doomed to chase

Oct. 23, 2005
By Clark Judge
CBS SportsLine.com Senior Writer
Tell Clark your opinion!


CINCINNATI -- Pittsburgh, not Cincinnati, is the best team in the AFC North. And the Steelers might just be the best team in football.

Thanks to the Steelers ground attack, Ben Roethlisberger needs only nine completions. (Getty Images) I know, they don't have the best record in the NFL. Indianapolis does. They don't even have the best record in their division. Cincinnati does, but only because it played one more game than the Steelers.

But Sunday's 27-13 waxing of the Bengals -- Cincinnati's second loss in three games -- convinced me.

Pittsburgh won with Ben Roethlisberger completing nine passes for 93 yards; with only two players, tight end Heath Miller and wide receiver Hines Ward, making catches; and with unheralded cornerback Ike Taylor keeping Chad Johnson off the scoreboard.

Yet they buried the Bengals, and they did it the way they've done it for years -- by running them to death. They went right. They went left. They went up the gut. And when they were finished they had 221 yards in 47 tries, and stop if you've heard this before.

A year ago the Steelers averaged -- averaged -- 158 yards rushing against Cincinnati in two wins. On Sunday, they were so successful with their ground game they called nothing but runs on all 21 snaps of the fourth quarter.

"People get so enamored with the ball in the air, they don't understand what it takes to build an offense," said Steelers running back Jerome Bettis. "This game was designed as a running game, and then the pass was introduced -- and now people want to make the pass the strong point. But that's ultimately why we're competitive every year; because we can run the football."

Bettis offered a textbook example on a third-and-3 call at the Cincinnati 25 late in the third quarter. The Steelers were in control 17-6, and dialed Bettis' number for a short plunge up the middle. At first, it appeared he was stopped. But his feet never stopped, with Bettis carrying a pile of tacklers to the 21 and another first down.

Fans booed, believing officials should have whistled the play dead, but they were wrong. Replays showed that Bettis' knees never touched the turf. So he had a critical first down that, four plays later, produced a Ward touchdown.

"A huge play," said offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. "That was the biggest play of the drive."

It was one of the biggest of the game, too, and it demonstrated that until or unless Cincinnati figures out a way to stop Bettis, Willie Parker, Verron Haynes -- you name it -- they can stop thinking about supplanting Pittsburgh at the top of the AFC North.

"We won this division the last couple of years," said Bettis, "so you still have to go through us. We don't feel this is a division up for grabs. We feel it's still our division. We just have to go out and control the ball, and that's what we did."

The Steelers entered the game determined to beat the Bengals with the run, but they struggled until their third possession, when the combination of Parker and Bettis helped produce Pittsburgh's first touchdown. It was a sign of what was ahead: Parker and Bettis ravaged Cincinnati for 187 yards -- Parker gaining 131 by himself -- and the Bengals wilted in a game that was billed as their biggest in years.

"We can't be more disappointed about losing," Cincinnati's Marvin Lewis would say afterward.

I understand, but this is not exactly new for the losers. An opposing back had 100 yards in five of their six division games last year, and opponents this season averaged five yards a carry against the Bengals. If Cincinnati truly was worthy of challenging for a division title, skeptics insisted, the barometer was Pittsburgh.

And now you know.

"They kind of forgot who the champs were," said Steelers linebacker Joey Porter. "We have the same team we had last year, and until they beat us, we're still the champs. And we went out and played like it today. We played with a chip on our shoulders."

Well, they should. They lost a game last week only because Roethlisberger was out. Until that defeat, the Steelers had two turnovers all year; Tommy Maddox, who replaced Roethlisberger for one start, had four by himself -- including two in overtime. Their only other loss? It was to defending Super Bowl champion New England in a game where officials lost track of the time.

Now, look at this team a little more closely. It has won a franchise-record 10 consecutive road games, is 17-1 under Roethlisberger in regular-season play and hasn't lost two straight since Nov. 2, 2003. Plus, the Steelers are well balanced: A year ago they ranked first in defense and second in rushing; entering Sunday they were eighth in defense and 13th in rushing -- with the latter figure bound to jump.

"We're a run team," said Ward. "And we're going to run first until they stop us."

Last time I looked, they hadn't. What Pittsburgh does well, few clubs do better. It's a formula that produced a division championship a year ago and, barring a change in Cincinnati's play for its Dec. 4 date at Pittsburgh, it's a formula that should produce another this season.

Pittsburgh just showed us why.

"This was a big game for us," said Ward. "Our backs were against the wall, but we just looked at is as, we were 15-1 last year and the division champs. The championship still has to come through Pittsburgh."


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Old 10-25-2005, 10:41 AM   #2
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Default Re: The Best Team in the NFL Redux







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Old 10-25-2005, 11:11 AM   #3
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Default Re: The Best Team in the NFL Redux

I agree, the question is can we win the games that force us to throw the ball. I believe we can!!!!
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Old 10-25-2005, 02:20 PM   #4
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Default Re: The Best Team in the NFL Redux

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I agree, the question is can we win the games that force us to throw the ball. I believe we can!!!!
Just as long as Roethlisberger stays cool under pressure. He didn't fair too well last year against the Jets and Pats in such situations.
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Old 10-25-2005, 02:21 PM   #5
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Default Re: The Best Team in the NFL Redux

Quote:
Originally Posted by Iron City Hangover
Just as long as Roethlisberger stays cool under pressure. He didn't fair too well last year against the Jets and Pats in such situations.


LAST YEAR
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Old 10-25-2005, 02:32 PM   #6
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Default Re: The Best Team in the NFL Redux

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LAST YEAR
We'll see in January!
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Old 10-25-2005, 02:33 PM   #7
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We'll see in January!
It's on the calender!!!!!!!!!!
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Old 10-25-2005, 02:35 PM   #8
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It's on the calender!!!!!!!!!!
Make sure it's on Ben's too.
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Old 10-25-2005, 04:09 PM   #9
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Default Re: The Best Team in the NFL Redux

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Make sure it's on Ben's too.




Enough postwhoring!!!!!!!!
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Old 10-25-2005, 04:30 PM   #10
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Default Re: The Best Team in the NFL Redux

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Originally Posted by Iron City Hangover
Just as long as Roethlisberger stays cool under pressure. He didn't fair too well last year against the Jets and Pats in such situations.
You mean his rookie year? Yeah there is a big differernce between playing 12 games in college at Miami Ohio,and playing 16 in the NFL.
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