The X-Factor Files
After an horrendous, atrocious and despicable start that included a spanking at home by Baltimore, the infamous Kent 'Graham cracker' crumbling in the waning moments of the Cleveland loss, and a loss to Tennessee that should have been a win, Pittsburgh has rebounded to take five straight games.
These wins are not due to utter domination by the Black 'n Gold, but more a factor of grit, determination, improved coaching by Cowher and a whole lot of x-factor influence. By x-factor, I am referring to those factors that are not completely tangible or predictable. And, Pittsburgh has been on the right end of the X-factor matchup since they traveled down to face the Jags...let's take a look.
The Jags, coming off a loss to the Colts on Monday Night Football were lucky enough to have a home game following that performance. Unfortunately for them, they fell pray to what many NFL teams do after a short week - a cold start the following Sunday. Brunnell did not play well, the Jags couldn't run the ball and they finished with a whopping 26 yards rushing and 206 total yards. All this added up to Pittsburgh's first win ever in Alltel Stadium. The Stillers found the perfect time to match up against the Jags...Pittsburgh had little to lose after an 0-3 start and Jacksonville, as mentioned before, was playing on a short week. Chalk up win number one.
The following week, Pittsburgh faced another road foe in the Jets. Another sure loss for Pittsburgh (on paper at least). The problem this time for the opposition was that the Jets were coming off an extended vacation having had a bye week the week before. As can happen with short weeks, bye weeks can result in teams having slow starts which was the case. In addition to the slow start for NY, Vinny Testicle was injured on his first snap of the game when none other than Mr. Inconsistent, Jason Gildon, dropped him in the backfield. Ray Lucas stepped in for Testaverde but barely completed 50% of his passes (13/25) for a meager 99 yards with two interceptions. Once again Pittsburgh lived life per Robin Williams in "The Dead Poet's Society" -- carpe diem -- and they took advantage of the opportunity at hand.
Next up, the Bungles. This game was a home game versus one of, if not the worst, team in football. Coslett was out and LeBeau was tossed into the fire...fortunately he inherited the wind...unfortunately that wind was coming from the local dump. Anyway, Cinci was a team in turmoil trying to play a Stillers team that had won two in a row. When Akili Smith struggled to get the job done, fat Scott Mitchell was called upon to be Pittsburgh's secret weapon...and a secret weapon he was. En route to a 4 of 16 performance, Mitchell completed six passes - two of which were to Stillers DB's Washington and Alexander. A struggling team continued more of the same and Pittsburgh found their third win in a rare win at home, 15-0.
Bring on the Browns. "Cleveland rocks...Cleveland rocks!!" Sure, I'll buy that if they keep playing like they did versus Pittsburgh at home. Against the Brownies, Pittsburgh was on the lucky end of a foolish coaching move called "starting Doug Pederson". Dougie Boy was 9 of 20 for 61 yards and 3 interceptions....need I say more?? That is the ultimate x-factor!! Pittsburgh wins number four 22-0.
Finally, Pittsburgh took number five from the Ravens at PSINet Stadium. Not a pretty game, but a win nonetheless. Pittsburgh this time was the lucky team to face yet another QB change in Trent Dilfer. Dilfer sucked, plain and simple. The defense played well and the offense avoided critical mistakes to reach the end result of a win.
Now...if I'm the rest of the NFL, I'd avoid changing QB's or coming off bye weeks or MNF games versus the Stillers. Unfortunately, Tennessee is stuck. They won a close game against the Washed-up Redskins, but must find a way to start strong against Pittsburgh or we'll be cheering our team to victory number six in a row. Tennessee is tough, but Eddie George is hurt and has historically not had good success against the Stillers. If Jeff Fisher is not careful, he'll find himself another victim of the Stillers x-factor.