Monday, November 12, 2007

Welcome back Brownies!

Back in 1996, when the Cleveland Browns first left town for Baltimore, Pittsburgh fans weren't happy. Local radio station WDVE even produced a song with a stereotypical Pittsburgher lamenting about the loss of the Browns, and how we had no one to violently cheer against. Steelers fans hate the Browns, but we love to hate them. They came back as an expansion team in 1999, but it wasn't the same, mainly because they were horrible and our games weren't very competitive. The only year the Browns have been good was 2002, when we played them 3 times including playoffs and won each by a field goal (including one of the largest 4th qtr playoff comebacks ever, which no one remembers because of a bigger comeback in the Niners/Giants game the same f-ing day). In fact, in recent years I've caught myself cheering for the Browns against the Ravens, Bengals, and even Team X(!). [The Patriots will hereby always be referred to by me as Team X on this blog - see last week's NFL Recap].

So while it's nice to beat them 41-0 (2005), 27-7 (2006) or 34-7 (2007 Week 1), it was really nice seeing them come into Heinz Field yesterday in second place, one game behind us. We finally had a Browns/Steelers game that meant something. Heck, even Nantz and Simms were calling the game! And I'll admit that I did not expect the Browns to give much a game despite their 5-3 record, boy was I wrong. They came out in the first half, and took advantage of a team who was still on a high from the Baltimore game, and probably remembered the 34-7 win earlier this season, and jumped out to a 21-6 lead. So while it looked like the tide was turning in the AFC North, and Phil Simms was talking about how good Browns QB Derek Anderson was (when he probably never even heard of him before this season), I bet that not a single fan in Heinz Field had any doubt about what would transpire after halftime. The defense said "Hey, uh, let's cover people" and they did just that, as the Browns offense sputtered in the 2nd half and Phil Simms went back to not knowing who Derek Anderson was. And Big Ben said "Hey, I'm awesome" and he went out and threw 2 TD's and had a 30 yard TD scramble in the 2nd half (who said you wouldn't see magnificent running from #7 this year?). After our special teams allowed a ridiculous touchdown on a kickoff return to give up the lead again, the offense said "no problem" and took it back. And then at the end, it was Phil Dawson from 53 at the open end to tie it, and please: just ask Doug Brien, you ain't making that kick in Pittsburgh. Steelers win a wildly entertaining game, 31-28.

There has much debate about Mr. Roethlisberger recently, and how good he is. Pittsburgh blog Mondesi's House had a good post the other day about how national media experts have him ranked as low as 17th (granted, before this season started), and even now people aren't putting him in their top 5. That's fine, he can be ignored as much as he wants if that means defenses won't be prepared for him. But let's see: In this season, the first of his career where we're throwing and running the ball equally, he's got 22 TD passes, second only to QB X. (Remember, Team X throws the ball on nearly every down. If we did that, the gap between 1 and 2 might be a lot closer.) His QB rating is somewhere over 100, also second to QB X. Here's who I honestly think are the best QB's in the NFL right now.

1 QB X (can't really argue)
2 P. Manning (threw 6 INT's last night, but offense was depleted and still almost won)
3 Roethlisberger
4 Romo
5 Favre

Not Carson Palmer, who threw for 5 fewer TD passes than Ben in their win against the Ravens. Not Derek Anderson, who hasn't even been starting for a full year yet. Not Drew Brees, who can't even beat the Rams. Big Ben is clearly the 3rd best QB in the league right now, and the gap between him and Manning ain't as large as you would think (who won their only playoff meeting?).

So let's look at the Steelers' remaining schedule:

@ Jets Win
Dolphins Win
Bengals Win
@ Team X ?
Jaguars ?
@ Rams Win
@ Ravens Win

Provided we don't choke any games that we should win away, we're looking at a record of no worse than 12-4. The AFC North is pretty much locked up at this point, and with the Colts losing at San Diego last night, we're in a tie for the 2nd seed. So this looks like it should be a fun November, December, and January, and just remember: if the Steelers can't beat Team X in December, we could very well get another crack in the playoffs.

UPDATE: The Steelers currently own the conference tiebreaker over the Colts, so we hold our own destiny for the 2nd seed in the AFC.


E said...

you're goin down sunday

Steely McDonati said...

I admire your faith.