(AKA, The Fourth Annual Steelers March To The Super Bowl Thread)
My God, is it that time already? I rushed home today to see the Raiders play the Eagles, because loathesome as I might find those teams to be, it’s FOOTBALL! This is the earliest I’ve started my annual smack-talking, but I simply couldn’t contain myself anymore. Anyway, let’s get to it.
The Defending Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers (God, it feels good to be able to say that) open their campaign for number 6 in a few short weeks. With the loss of Bettis, von Oelhoffen, Hope and Randle El, you might think that I’m concerned. Not at all. Let’s look at their division rivals:
Cincy- In typical Cincy fashion, they follow up an outstanding year with a total collapse. Under ordinary circumstances I would be inclined to show them some respect, but not this year. The Bengals have turned into the NFL version of Animal House. They have more criminals in the lineup than Baltimore, Carson Palmer won’t be up to snuff, and because of this Marvin Lewis will to all appearances look like the second coming of Sam Wyche. Get ready for it, Cincy fans. Futility beckons.
Cleveland- Well, what is there to say about Cleveland? Same old Brownies, different year. Who’s starting at QB this year, Ken Dorsey? Hey, maybe Kellen Winslow will actually play this year ([sub]yeah, right…[/sub]), but hey, look on the bright side: Old (and I do mean old) timers Willie McGinest and Ted Washington might come through for you. For your sake, Cleveland fans, I hope they can score, too.
Baltimore- Hope abounds for Ratbirds’ fans with the acquisition of Steve McNair. I tend to think it’s misplaced, because he usually gets a flayed chest by week 2, but you have to hang your hopes on something, and what better person to hang those hopes on than an over-the-hill, oft-injured quarterback? Hey, at least you have Boller to fall back on… ([sub]chuckle…[/sub])
So all anybody really has to do to stop them is put 8 in the box to stuff Jamal Lewis, who hasn’t been the same since he got out of prison, a common story in Baltimore. Luckily for the Rats, they still have a strong defense. Or do they? Their usually strong linebacker corps is unproven with the exception of Ray-Ray and Terrell Suggs, which gives the Steelers time to pick their vaunted secondary apart.
I’m not worried. It looks like the Steelers will take the division with ease. And why shouldn’t they? The 1st round pick, Santonio Holmes, will make a quite capable number 2 receiver and compliment to Hines Ward, They always manage to fill the line capably, and Troy Polamalu will amply take up the slack in the secondary.
As for the rest of the AFC, we must always start with the Colts: chokers, through and through. I called Peyton Manning a choker in the playoffs last year and once more he came through for me. How about the Broncos? Two words: Jake Plummer. 'Nuff said. Maybe the Patsies will rise back up to attempt to stake a claim, but they are but a mere shadow of what they were just a few years ago, as evidenced by their less-than-dominant season last year. They’ll have their hands full with the resurgent Miami Dolphins (!), so again, I’m not worried.
The Steelers will win no less than 13 games this year on their way back to claim what is rightfully theirs. Who, pray tell, will they meet there? Time will tell, although Seattle looks like they have the best chance to suffer humiliation once more at the hands of the Steelers. The NFC East teams will be too busy beating themselves up to get very far, and if Vick stays healthy Atlanta will take their creampuff division, and they’re no threat.
My prediction: Seattle gets their rematch in Miami come February, whereupon they start wishing they were anywhere else when the Steelers take them behind the woodshed. No close result this time, friends. No, this one will be decisive and will give the Steelers the distinction of back-to-back Super Bowls not once, not twice, but three times, along with their unprecedented 6th Lombardi Trophy.
That, my fine friends, you can take to the bank.