Well, there certainly is plenty left to address from this past Sunday's late collapse against the New York Giants. But I'm not yet ready to go back to that dark place. Plus, we know the story: awful execution on 3rd down, untimely penalties, a couple of questionable coaching decisions, amazing defense for most of the game, and just enough ineptitude on offense to cancel out the positives from our offense. Hopefully we can eliminate the penalties and fare better on 3rd down, but I don't think those general themes are going to disappear this year for the Steelers. We'll get back to our boys in black and gold soon enough. At the moment, a quick look around the rest of the AFC North.
First, the standings:
AFC North Standings
BALTIMORE RAVENS (4-3)
Baltimore took care of a hapless Oakland Raiders team on Sunday 29-10 to set up a pivotal divisional showdown next week with the Cleveland Browns. The Ravens used a bit of trickery to defeat the Raiders, having Troy Smith throw a 43-yard pass to QB Joe Flacco that led to a FG and a 22-3 lead for Baltimore that they would not relinquish. Give credit to the Ravens for returning to relevancy after last year's meltdown, but don't forget that their 4 wins have come against Cincy, Cleveland, Miami and Oakland. Nevertheless, a win next week against Cleveland and Baltimore could very well find itself back in a tie atop the AFC North standings.
The Browns have now won two of their past three, with a loss to Washington by just 3 points sandwiched between the victories. To win on the road against a Jacksonville team that had been playing better football lately is quite an accomplishment for Romeo Crennel's bunch. At 3-4, they're more than alive in the AFC North. Cleveland apparently got most of the breaks against the Jags. On one of the final plays of the game, Matt Jones bobbled the ball twice before the ball richocheted off a Browns players helmet and careened out of bounds. A fumble by a Jags kick returner also helped nullify a solid day by the Jags offense, who finished with 10+ more minutes of TOP, and were a very solid 11/20 on 3rd down.
Shaun Rogers continues to earn his hefty pay check, finishing with 9 tackles, a sack, and a blocked FG. Wow. On offense, Jamal Lewis carried it 20 times for 80 yards and Derek Anderson erased an otherwise shaky day with several big pass plays, including a 51 yarder to TE Steve Heiden on 4th down. Speaking of Heiden, the Browns have arguably been playing better football with him in there than Kellen Winslow, Jr. That's not to say he's a better player, but as Mike Singletary mentioned after kicking Vernon Davis off the field, some guys are just cancers around a team.
As I mentioned, the Browns and Ravens matchup next week. The winner has the leg-up in positioning themselves to be the most credible challenger to Pittsburgh's perch atop the AFC North.
Will the public be talking about the Bengals being the first team that finishes 0-16? Still doubtful, but quite frankly, after looking at their schedule, they may very well head into the final week of the year without a win. The Bengals were simply no match for a Texans team that is storming back into contention after a very unfortunate start to their year. Is next week the end for Bengals coach Marvin Lewis? Who knows, but the team does enter its BYE Week after next week's home game against the Jaguars. Another embarassing showing at home might lead to his termination.