Stillers-Bucs: Stillers Maintain Division Lead
Wow! That's all that I can say for the moment. Five games into the regular season, Pittsburgh controls the reigns to the AFC central while Cleveland is hot on the trail in second! Tennessee, 2-3, is attempting to pull things together while the Ravens, 3-3, have lost to the Bungles and Clowns. The AFC central remains upside down - who would have guessed that? (Not me) At any rate, the Stillers had their first solid performance of the year with both the offense and the defense getting the job done. The only drawbacks were that the special teams were not explosive (although they didn't have to be) and Kordell threw two interceptions (neither resulted in Tampa points).
The offensive line again dominated the day open holes with a wrecking ball not a ball peen hammer. The result -- the Bus rumbled for 143 yards on 17 carries (good for 8.41 yds/att -- he also threw a 32 yard TD to Tuman) while the team pounded out 220 rushing yards! That's smash-mouth football at it's finest. With his effort, Bettis has boosted his season totals to 550 yards on 93 attempts (5.91 yds/att, 110 yds/game). What makes his numbers all the more impressive is the fact that Jagoffville held him to 28 yards in week one and the offense hasn't thrown for more than 161 net passing yards this season.
On the other side of the ball, the defense was equally effective despite the 80 yard TD drive they allowed in the fourth quarter. Brad Johnson was punished throughout the day getting sacked 10 times (Porter-4, Kimo-3), having 4 passes batted (Gildon-3, Porter) and one intercepted (Logan). Porter was an absolute animal on the day seemingly making a play every third snap. This guy has the speed, quickness and explosive ability to take over a ball game and at times he did just that today.
On the day, Tampa was held to a miniscule 64 yards rushing. Warrick Dunn was rendered ineffective, rushing for only 31 yards on 13 carries and adding only 2 receptions for 16 yards. Keyshawn "Big Mouth" Johnson collected big numbers (10 catches for 159 yards), but he was shutdown at the right moments. The key example of this being Chad Scott's superb deflection of a Johnson-to-Johnson pass at the goal line which popped the ball right into Mike Logan's hands. With the score 17-3 at the time, the play eliminated a TD that would have moved Tampa to within 7 and it negated Kordell's interception from 8 plays earlier.
While the offense is still not the Rams' offense, it is showing that it can score points. Mularkey has shown more creativity and ability to adjust on the fly than we've seen in some time. Best of all, the offensive line has shown that it can be downright dominant. Even against a stacked line and run blitzes, the team is still able to run the ball for positive yardage. Best of all, the defense is good enough to cover any mistakes that offense makes.
Things are looking up in the Steel City. The going is not going to get any easier, but so be it. For the time being, I'll enjoy first place in the AFC central...the glass is definitely half full!