The Pittsburgh Raiders

Yesterday, the Steelers did their best impression of their opponents, the Oakland Raiders. In true Raiders fashion, the Steelers handed over the ballgame on a silver platter, committing 4 interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns, numerous personal fouls, false starts near the goalline and general, all-around assinine play. It was bad. Real bad.

The game will surely live in Steeler Nation infamy. Right up there with the 2002 Houston game, when the expansion Texans beat the Steelers with no offensive touchdowns and about 70 total yards of offense. This being said, what can we do but look forward?

The 2-5 record sucks, but it wouldn't be any fun giving up on the season at this point. Of course, whether I give up hardly matters. The team desperately needs to find a leader to inject some life into the defending Super Bowl champions.

About leadership: I know The Bus was a team leader, but was he really so much of a leader that nobody else can take up the mantle? I really looked for Hines Ward to be the emotional leader of the team, and he mostly seems disinterested. He has made some awesome plays, and is having a good year, but I miss his heart. He needs to find a way to fire up the rest of the team. There are plenty of veterans on this team to promote discipline.

O.K., I think it boils down to this: The Steelers scored five touchdowns against the Falcons, yet still lost. Then, they allowed 98 yards and 6 points against the Oakland offense, and still lost. The two weeks prior, they combined the efforts, and manhandled the Chiefs. They've clearly got the talent to compete against the best teams in the league, as they have had a chance to win every game this year in the 4th quarter. They are 2-5. If they were to finish 11-5, they would be in the playoffs. If they were to finish 10-6, they would probably be in the playoffs, depending upon the nature of the additional loss. They have 5 divisional games left, and 2 home games in a row coming up. What I'm trying to say is that their schedule is favorable from the standpoint that they would not need a lot of outside help, if they can just start winning. Look, this is mostly the same team that won out last season, and won 15 games in a row the year before. Yes, I know, they had the Bus, and they really miss his leadership, but they should be able to get by without his production. If they can roll off a couple in a row, and get some confidence, they can position themselves to make a late season run. Ben will hopefully play better in the weeks to come. Baltimore and Cincinatti play each other this weekend, so if the Steelers can beat Denver, which I think they will, they will gain a game on one of them.

Regarding Ben: Look, I was angry yesterday. However, after reading some of the vitriol spewed against him on some blogs, I feel like I'm at least being rational. Ben is a great athlete. I think he has already proven that. His 26-6 record prior to this year was largely due to him, not in spite of him. His playoff performance last year was outstanding. He has shown the ability to win big games, rebound from injury and come from behind. The problem is, he hasn't been doing that this year. Well, big surprise!! Try going through a near death motorcycle accident, a surgery the night before the first game of the season, getting knocked cold in Atlanta and see how your demeanor is. Yes, he is making terrible decisions at times. But he is still making some awesome passes and keeping games competitive for the most part. I would not give up on this season, and I would not give up on Ben. I love Charlie Batch, and he has been awesome this year, but Ben simply is not playing so badly that he should be benched. From an execution standpoint, I think his biggest problem is that he is not scrambling nearly as effectively as in recent years. He took a few sacks on Sunday that he would never have taken last year. I think the weight he lost is having an effect. He doesn't seem to be strong enough to shrug off those heavy lineman when they catch up with him. But, the elements of greatness are still there. Now, he faces his biggest challenge ever, on top of all of the horrible things that have happened to him so far this year. My prediction is that Ben is a true man of character, and a winner, and I think he will lead this team effectively for years to come, if nothing else, learning in trial-by-fire fashion this year how to deal with adversity.

Go Steelers! Beat them Broncos!!

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