Wednesday, January 02, 2008

New Year's Resolutions

This could be a one-game playoff for the Steelers if they fail to make good on the following two New Year's Resolutions: (1) STOP THE RUN; and (2) RUN THE BALL.

On Saturday night, neither will be easy. The Jax Jags ran all over the Steelers defense just three weeks ago, and the Jags boast the AFC’s top running game this season. The Steelers obviously miss injured defensive and Aaron Smith, badly, and tackling has been generally sloppy for the past month or so.

On offense, the Steelers’ running game was non-existent in Baltimore, so there is scant evidence that the team can overcome the loss of Willie Parker, the NFL’s leading rusher at the time he went down with a broken leg in St. Louis.

Now, too, the offensive line is seriously depleted with the loss of both starting left tackle Marvel Smith and backup Max Starks. The prospect of doughboy Trai Essex, a healthy scratch most of the season, now playing left tackle doesn’t shore up confidence in the running game.

Worse, the prospect of Trai Essex protecting Ben Roethlisberger’s blind side is scary, to say the least. Very scary. That, and the idea of center Sean Mahan once again getting manhandled by the Jaguars’ John Henderson bodes ill for the passing game.

So, once again, it is imperative the Steelers run the ball effectively. And stop the run.

Still, there’s hope. Steelers defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau has already seen what the Jags’ running game can do, so adjustments surely will be made to counter what worked so well for Jacksonville the last time the two teams met. Although Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard has played well all season, this will be his first appearance in a playoff game. If LeBeau has some tricks up his sleeve to befuddle Garrard, maybe the Steelers can win the turnover battle and put some quick points up on the board.

Yeah, it’s a lot of “ifs,” but what the hell.

“If ‘ifs and buts’ were beer and nuts, we’d have a hell of a party.”

Speaking of parties, nobody’s going to throw a pity party for the Cleveland Browns, who blew their chance to make the playoffs when they lost to the stinkin’ Bengals in the next-to-last game of the season. With a win vs. the Bengals, the Browns could have won the division. Instead, they didn’t even make the playoffs.

It’s so typically Brownies. It’s funny, actually.

As coach Mike Tomlin said about the Steelers after Willie Parker was sidelined with his injury, “Nobody’s going to throw us a pity party. Nobody’s going to care that we have problems. In fact, they’re probably glad we’ve got ‘em.”

Addendum: Speaking of pity parties, nothing of the sort is needed for Brian Billick, fired from his position as head coach of the Baltimore Ravens. The smug, arrogant and egotistical Billick has three years remaining on a contract that will pay him $5 million annually. Even if he takes a job in television -- something he might actually be good at -- he will still collect that $15 million. Good riddance and good luck, asshole.