Friday, November 03, 2006
The Friday Five: Week 9 Preview: Broncos @ Steelers
Needless to say, it’s been a rough year around town and Week 9 brings us the consistently good Denver Broncos, who are very familiar with the World Champs. They don’t have to remember too far back (see January 2006 AFC Champioinship game) to find the motivation necessary to pull off a win.
Going into another “must win” game (the last one didn’t turn out so well), five questions that need to be answered include:
- Is the season already over? With a loss in Week 9, the Steelers could find themselves at 2-6 and while not quite mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, too much would have to happen around the conference in order for them to become the 6th and final seed at 10-6 (assuming they ran the table).
- Can we get some plus with that minus? With a turnover differential of -5, the Steelers are in pretty horrific company with similarly inept 2006 performers including: Buffalio (-8), Cleveland (-8), Oakland (-9), San Fran (-9), and Houston (-9). If the Steelers want to win a third game this season, they had better start holding on to the ball a little better than they have thus far. Since the Chin became head coach in Pittsburgh, the Steelers are 98-11 when their opponent loses the ball more often in a game than they do, and 22-57-1 when they lose the ball more than their opponent.
- Can Ben give 100%? As a follow up to last week’s #1 question, Stillers Nation still does not believe Big Ben is 100% ready to go full throttle because of the numerous setbacks he’s had since his motorcycle crash this past summer. Case in point, last week the Steelers were driving and instead of running the ball into the endzone for a TD where he most likely would have taken a shot or two, Ben instead elected to throw the ball. Why? Maybe because he thought he couldn’t score or maybe he through he could hit the open receiver. But in any case, ask yourself this: how many times has been been forced out of the pocket this season versus taking a sack? And those times he has run away from the sack, how many times has he elected to throw the ball instead of tucking it and running for positive yardage? Fact is, the injuries he suffered are a cause for worry, especially if he suffers another concussion. Although we don’t think he should be pulled in favor of Charlie Batch, how would the rest bode for Ben’s future?
- 3rd down and inches: Najeh or Duce? The real question is: will Duce even dress this Sunday? Why shouldn’t he? How much worse would the 3rd down game be if he took a few snaps? It not like the Steelers did a great job last week with Verron and Najeh. With that said, suit Duce up, put him in, and make him earn some of that $1.5MM early Christmas gift money he received from the Rooney’s.
- Will stupidity cost us (again)? If interceptions and fumbles weren’t enough, week after week come the bonehead personal foul and unsportsmanlike penalties on offense, defense, and special teams. If it’s not an end-zone celebration, it’s taunting. If it’s not taunting, then it’s a horse collar tackle. Dumb mistakes at some of the most inopportune times have cost this team at least 2, if not 3 games this year. Let’s hope that nonsense is behind us.
Head coach MIKE SHANAHAN (135) needs win to tie HOF coach HANK STRAM (136) for 17th most in NFL history. Under Shanahan (since 1995), DEN is 31-11-0 (.738) in Nov. -- best such record in league during span. ... QB JAKE PLUMMER has won 3 consecutive regular season starts vs. AFC North & is 7-4 (.636) vs. division in career. ... RB TATUM BELL has 100+ rush yds in all 3 on road this season, with 341 yds on 66 carries (5.2 per att.). Bell (4.5) owns 5th best yds/carry avg. in NFL among players w/ 100+ rushes. Rookie RB MIKE BELL rushed for season-best 136 yds & 2 TDs on 15 carries last wk vs. IND for most rushing yds in game by rookie on season. ... WR JAVON WALKER has attained 28 receiving 1st downs on 33 catches. WR ROD SMITH (821) needs 7 catches to surpass LARRY CENTERS (827) for 11th most in NFL history. ... Rookie DE ELVIS DUMERVIL has 5.0 sacks & FR in past 3 games. CB CHAMP BAILEY has INT in 3 of past 4 games. ...
PIT has lost 3 of 5 games by 1-possession scores. ... Under head coach BILL COWHER, PIT is 129-30 (.811) when out-rushing opponent. ... QB BEN ROETHLISBERGER is 4-1 (.800) in career Nov. starts, 2-0 at home. Roethlisberger is 12-3 (.800) in career as home starter. ... RB WILLIE PARKER stands 3rd in AFC w/ 6 TDs (5 rush, 1 rec.). Parker has rushed for 2 TDs in each of past 2 at home. ... For Oct., WR HINES WARD tied for 4th among NFL players w/ 360 rec. yds on 25 receptions (14.4 avg.) & 4 TDs. In last year’s AFC Championship, WR CEDRICK WILSON caught 5 passes for 92 yds & 1 TD; did not catch more than 4 passes in any other game in ’05. ... G ALAN FANECA has not missed start since ’01. ... Defense limited OAK to 17 net pass yds last wk & ranks No. 6 in NFL in yds allowed per game (276.7). LB CLARK HAGGANS leads team w/ 5.0 sacks & needs 1.0 more to record at least 6.0 in 4 of past 5 seasons. S TROY POLAMALU tied for 4th in NFL w/ 3 INTs.