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Five & Out With Behind the Steel Curtain

^^^Psst...we hate them! ^^^
I'd like to thank Michael Bean a.k.a Blitzburgh, a fellow Sports Blogs Nation writer over at Behind the Steel Curtain, for answering some questions regarding the Pittsburgh Steelers heading into this week's game. I encourage you to go over to his site and read the thoughts on this week's game from Pittsburgh's perspective. We all hate the Steelers, but fortunately, we were able to ask each other questions without the typical one liners like "Steelers Suck" or "Clowns Blow". Now, let's get to the questions I asked Mike, and how he responded...

1. Why are the Steelers even keeping Duce Staley on their roster still? Would you like to see him play as a backup? I know Najeh Davenport is solid in relief, but the lack of use with Staley just doesn't make sense to me.

Michael Bean: "Hmm, good question. Is it for sentimental reasons? Maybe, but I doubt it in this day and age. Plus, it's not like Duce has been a Steeler his whole career. The real reason I believe, is that many people in the organization are still concerned about the long-term durability of Willie Parker. If he were to sustain an injury, Davenport and Verron Haynes would be asked to shoulder the load in the running game. Although that is a somewhat scary proposition, I'm not sure Staley would help the situation all that much. Good question that I really can't answer. You're right, that's a roster spot we should be using more productively."

2. Before Roethlisberger's good game this past week, were there any fans that seriously wanted Charlie Batch to be the team's starting quarterback?

Michael Bean: "No, no rational person I had spoken to wanted a change at QB. When Roethlisberger had the motorcycle accident, then the appendectomy, most of us Steeler fans HOPED he would be the same player in 2006 that he has been thus far in his career. That's a lot to ask though. Then, when Ben finally started to find some semblance of a rhythm, he went down with a concussion and again struggled the following game.

Roethlisberger's had some fine moments throwing the football this year. He's 11th in the NFL in passing yards despite missing 1 1/2 games. Against Kansas City and Atlanta, Big Ben posted passer ratings of 153.8 and 147.3 respectively. Then he gets the concussion and struggles against Oakland the following week. What a long strange trip it's been up to this point. But no, we're not ready to bench our starting QB who had posted a 27-4 record and led us to a Super Bowl in the first two years of his short career."

3. There has been talk about Bill Cowher calling it quits after this season. Do you think it's time for a change, not necessarily due to anything he's done wrong, but just because "it's time"?

Michael Bean: "There obviously has been lots of speculation about Cowher's future in Pittsburgh. I've heard he's going to retire, that he'll stay, and that he's all but a lock to take the NC State head coaching gig at the end of this season. I personally think he will feel unsatisfied with this season and will once again return as head coach of the Steelers, which I would argue is one of the best coaching jobs in all of sports, not just football.

As for it being time for a change? I don't think so. Cowher does seem less fiery on the sidelines this year...there's been far fewer shots of him spewing spittle as he says "LET'S GOO!!!" But, his players still play hard for him, that much is undeniable. I think this last 7 games will go a long way towards determining Cowher's future in Pittsburgh."

4. Has the loss of Chris Hope done this much damage to the Steelers' secondary? What has changed in that group from last year to this year?

Michael Bean: "Gosh, the secondary. Where to start? It's been a lot of things, starting with the unexplainably poor play of Ike Taylor. Taylor signed a 5 year $20+ million extension this summer and has basically laid an egg since then. When your 'shut-down' corner gets torched week in and week out, you're going to have some issues. It goes deeper than that though. Lots of the blame lies with the pass rush. The Steelers don't have anybody in the top 30 in sacks Brett Keisel, Aaron Smith, and Casey Hampton in particular, are great stopping the run, but not so spectacular at getting to the quarterback. Opposing QBs have simply had way too much time to dissect our secondary. Even the bottom feeder QBs of the NFL will be successful if they are given time.

Injuries have also hurt. Ricardo Colclough, who single-handedly cost us the Bengals game with his muffed punt, was starting to become a stabilizing force in zone-pass coverage. He's now gone for the season. Deshea Townsend and Bryan McFadeen have also been banged up at various times this year.

All that said, we do miss Chris Hope. Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu just don't seem to play that well together. I do think the pass coverage has hit rock bottom. It can only improve at this point."

5. The Steelers destroyed the Browns 41-0 last year in Cleveland. Do you expect another blowout this season, or do you think the Steelers will have their hands full?

Michael Bean: "I'd be a fool to think that the Steelers will blow the Browns out this Sunday because of how unbelievably inconsistent this year. I do think the Steelers are more capable of blowing out the Browns than vice versa, but I expect this one to be pretty close."

End of Session

Once again, I'd like to thank Michael Bean for his thoughts. I answered five of his own questions, which can be found by going here: Pokorny's Q&A at BTSC.