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Who'da thunk?

December 17, 2001 by In the Trenches

Who'da thunk?

(a that was then this is now comparison)

Plexico Burress joins Troy Edwards as a first round WR bust! The scouting report: can't catch with his hands, can't jump, and has no desire to compete - especially for jump balls. Oh yeah...and he yaps and whines too much. To steal a quote from our message board....Plexiglas my ass! While he can make the occasional mistake (a la the alligator arm drop over the middle against the Ravens) he has also emerged as a big play threat. His 2001 resume includes two highlight film TD's over the Ravens, 33 first down catches and a respectable 14.2 yards per catch average. He's even made numerous key blocks throughout the campaign showing his team-first attitude. Oh yeah...and he shuts up big mouths like the Ravens' Sharp and McAllister.
Ask any outta town, non-Steeler fan to name the Stillers' starting receivers and you'd get a response like, "Uh...Let me see...uh...what's that guys name?" Plex and Edwards were both first round busts entering the season while Ward and Shaw were basically no-names. Hines Ward is now known as the NFL's #6 receiver in receptions for 2001. He also has a reputation as the league's most punishing WR -- punishing WR? Sounds like an oxymoron to me, but it's true, just ask any of the DB's that lie Ward's wake. In addition to Burress and Ward, Bobby Shaw and Troy Edwards have shown that they can be opportunistic. Both were quiet early in the year but have show the ability to step up on 3rd down in recent games and Edwards has turned into a special teams daemon. Against the Baltimorons, Shaw was the hero of the night, of course, for the huge 90 yard TD grab on 3rd and 7 in the 4th quarter -- what could be bigger than that? At this point in the season, Pittsburgh's WR corps has to be considered one of the more rounded units in the league.
For Pittsburgh to be competitive, the offense is going to have to hop on the Bus' shoulders and hope for defensive dominance. The problems: Kordell, who has not played a solid season since 1997, is on his eighth offensive coordinator in his collegiate and professional tenure, the WR's are thin and lack a big playmaker and Jeff Hartings, who isn't a true center, is trying to make a difficult adjustment. With the Bus, the Stillers rolled. Without the Bus, the Stillers offense is still rolling. Fu and Amos have proven to be more than capable in his absence. Amos in particular has been spectacular often making something out of nothing. He regularly shows his blend of skills and attributes - evasiveness, quickness, patience and strength. Behind center, Kordell has been stellar. While maintaining a humble attitude, his confidence has grown tremendously and his accuracy has followed. Under Mularkey's system, he's been a true QB with Slash attributes. He's currently the team's second leading rusher with 477 yards. Pair those numbers with his 2560 yards in the air and you have a forced to be reckoned with. No team in the NFL features a more well rounded offense.
Per "the experts": Pittsburgh will probably finish between 7-9 and 9-7. (I actually figured 9-7 was realistic and 10-6 was me a pessimist!!) With three games to play, the team has wrapped up the Central and has collected 11 wins. Now, destiny is in their hands, with three very beatable opponents remaining, to wrap up home field advantage. Who would have imagined the opportunity to watch the team play at home in the playoffs in Heinz field's inaugural season? Although it took this long, the national media has finally come to recognize the Stillers as contenders and then some...

It's still surreal to think the Stillers being division champs and in control of their destiny. How sweet it is! The team has come a long way, but they are actually a long way from completing their journey. It's not time to end the comparisons from then to now....hopefully, the writing has only just begun!

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