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Steelers Thump Carolina, Keep Playoff Possibility Alive

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Before I recap yesterday's must-win over the Carolina Panthers, allow me to briefly welcome the hordes of people who have stumbled upon the site while searching for information on the Steelers playoff chances. There is information about the Steelers playoff chances further down the main page, as well as several diaries written by readers that also breakdown what must happen. Rest assured that there will be constant analysis of all the different scenarios as they unfold.

In either a few weeks or a month or so, depending on what transpires this next two weeks, the Steelers will be done playing football for 2006. In other words, we've only got a little bit of time left to enjoy what we love doing for 16 weeks a year: watching the Steelers play football. So, jump on in and let's talk while we still can!

For the third week in a row, the Steelers turned in a convincing performance. Yesterday's game may have been the best of the lot, as we benefited from bigtime contributions from all three facets of the team: the offense, defense, and special teams.

I wrote several weeks ago when the Steelers were 4-7 that we had two choices heading into the last 5 weeks of the season: pack it in and turn in one of the most embarrassing seasons for a defending Super Bowl Champion, or relax, have fun, and play the brand of winning football that took us to the promised land last year.

Give credit to Coach Cowher and the rest of the coaching staff. They've gotten the Steelers to do just that: relax, have fun, and win.

Here are some other random thoughts from yesterday's 37-3 victory.

*Fast Willie Parker had another big day on the ground...this time on the road. Parker had 132 yards on 23 carries, increasing his season total to 1331 yards. Parker was brilliant yesterday, blending tough short runs with his trademark bursts of speed. Parker's 41 yard run in the 3rd quarter made the score 27-3, putting the game out of reach and all but ending Carolina's disappointing season.

*Big Ben has now thrown the ball only 64 times in the past three games, and has 4 TDs to only 1 INT in that same span. What does that mean? It means Pittsburgh has finally gotten back to their M.O: running the football. Roethlisberger certainly hasn't seem to be effected by the change in offensive philosophy. You can tell he's having fun winning, even if he's less directly responsible for the outcome.

*I love watching Anthony Smith play. Smith hauled in an interception, then proceeded to showboat his way to the sidelines ala Deion Sanders. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau and Cowher gave him a lashing for his unnecessary showmanship, but let's face it, the kid's fun to watch and brings a spark. I'm not one for showing up opponents, but let's hope he's not completely lobotomized by yesterday's scolding. His attitude out there has been refreshing.

*It's not just Smith who deserves accolades for their recent play. The Steelers have now allowed only 9 points since the 27-0 debacle against Baltimore. Everybody, and I mean everybody has elevated their intensity and performance the past three weeks. Brett Keisel, Clark Haggans, Aaron Smith, Larry Foote, and James Farrior all recorded sacks yesterday.

*How `bout the special teams yesterday??!! James Harrison blocked a punt. We never block punts! Santonio Holmes desevers a shout out as well for his play as both a receiver and punt returner. Holmes took one to the house for a 65 yard score in the 4th quarter, making an already sweet day even sweeter.

*Najeh `Dookie' Davenport has made some solid contributions the past month. He's still slow, and he still poops in closets, but he's proven to be a serviceable backup to Parker, especially as a 3rd down back capable of catching passes out of the backfield.  By the way, what the hell has happened to Verron Haynes??

*Even geriatric Chris Gardocki had a good game punting the ball. I didn't know he had it in him to kick one more than 50 yards, but he proved me wrong.

We're back at .500 guys and gals. I know I am proud of the way we've bounced back after getting hit squarely in the mouth by adversity for the first 2/3 of the season. We've got the personnel to matchup with any and every team in football. I sure hope we get a chance to prove that by sneaking in the back door of the playoffs.

Go Steelers!