Blitzburgh from Behind the Steel Curtain, our local Pittsburgh Steeler's site. Thank you to him for taking the time to chat with us.
1) What factors have contributed to Ben Roethelisberger's slow start? Is Charlie Batch playing this season a possibility?
A bunch of factors have contributed to Roethlisberger's slow start, the first obviously being him missing time during training camp due to the motorcycle accident. Then, just as soon as he found himself on the field consistently, he was once again sidelined, this time with an emergency appendectomy. Hines Ward, Roeth's favorite target, also missed considerable time with a hamstring injury. Finally, Roethlisberger has had to get used to a slew of new receivers: Nate Washington, Santonio Holmes, and Willie Reid. He and Holmes seem to be getting more comfortable with each passing day, so most of us feel it's just a matter of time before the passing game straightens itself out and becomes a nice compliment to the running game.
As for Charlie Batch, it's a possibility that he sees the field again this year. Roethlisberger has thrown 9 interceptions since his last touchdown pass. I don't care if you are 27-7 as a starter in the NFL, if you continue to be that futile, the plug will be pulled at some point. That said, the Charlie Batch scenario would be at least three of four more games down the line, and most of us believe Ben will have gotten back on track by then.
2) What matchups do you like against the Chiefs this week?
I must admit that I'm not that familiar with the Chiefs squad, especially on the defensive side of the ball. I do think that the Chiefs offense will have a hard time moving the ball against a Steelers defense that will be playing for its season in front of a rowdy home crowd. Even the best running backs have a hard time against the Steelers front 7, so I don't expect Larry Johnson to have his breakout game this week. From what little I have seen of the Chiefs this year, the receivers seem to be making enough plays for Damon Huard to keep opposing defenses off balance. I'm eager to see if the Steelers secondary can improve from a week ago and be more physical at the line of scrimmage against Eddie Kennison, Dante Hall, and Sammie Parker, none of whom are overly physical receivers.
3) With the Ravens and Bengals in the AFC North, how good are the Steeler's chances to make the playoffs?
Well, it's going to be tough. I don't think the Bengals and Ravens are as good as everybody thinks though. The Bengals have major issues on defense, especially against the run. Last year they were able to force turnovers at a remarkable clip. They haven't been as successful this year. As for the Ravens, yes they're much improved, but I'm getting a bit tired of all the banter about how Steve McNair is the missing piece of the championship puzzle. He's not as bad as he was on Monday night, but he's also not as good as some were proclaiming after the 4-0 start. By no means are the Steelers out of it, but I do think it's going to take 11 wins, maybe even 12, to make the playoffs in the AFC.
4) Where have the Steeler's excelled most this season?
The Steelers have excelled in lots of areas this season. Unfortunately, we haven't excelled in multiple facets of the game at the same time. Big Ben had a great first half against the Chargers; the running game had its way against the Bengals; and the run defense limited both LaDanian Tomlinson and Rudi Johnson to negligible yardage. We're truly only a few plays, and a few stops on third down away from being a 2-2 or 3-1 football team. That's the good news. The bad news is we've been vulnerable in pass coverage for three weeks in a row now. Byron Leftwich, Carson Palmer, and most recently, Phillip Rivers, have all had their way against our DBs and Safetys. If we can shore that up, we should be just fine.
5) Final score prediction.
The Steelers will get back on track with a 20-10 home victory against the Chiefs.
Head on over to Behind the Steel Curtain and let them know why Ben Roethlisberger will wish he was in another motorcycle accident rather than play the Chiefs D.