Meadville Tribune

Sports

September 9, 2013

WALK TALK: Big Ben needs some help if Steelers have any hope

1 One week of a 16-game NFL season doesn’t always mean much. And it’s not even unheard of for a team to start 0-2 before making the playoffs. But one game into 2013, the only way the Steelers have avoided the “worst-case scenario” is that Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu are still healthy. You can use the injury of center Maurkice Pouncey to explain Pittsburgh’s inept offensive performance Sunday, but going 58-plus minutes without an offensive point in your home opener is embarrassing.

2. I feel like we’re having the same Week 1 conversation about Pittsburgh’s offense as we did in 2012. The Steelers averaged 2.6 yards a carry on 26 attempts in last year’s opener against Denver. Sunday, Pittsburgh accomplished 2.1 yards a carry on 15 attempts. Forget about stripping Isaac Redman of his starting duties; why is he still on the team? Redman’s eight carries resulted in nine yards and a fumble lost in the end zone. Meanwhile, the team’s best running back from 2012, Jonathan Dwyer, was cut weeks ago. It’s funny to read Monday’s reports that the Steelers re-signed Dwyer. Maybe he’ll help the Steelers average, say, three yards a rush?

3. The Browns provided their ninth straight disappointing season-opener, losing 23-10 at home to the Dolphins. There’s several reasons why Cleveland lost by two touchdowns. Let’s just focus on the play calling of offensive coordinator Norv Turner. Brandon Weeden threw the ball 53 times, completing 26. Trent Richardson, meanwhile, ran the ball just 13 times. No one else but Richardson recorded a carry for Cleveland. Anyone who knows anything about the Browns understands their strengths and weaknesses. Currently constructed, this needs to be a run-first team. Apparently Turner hasn’t received the memo.

4. This past week was once again disappointing for our region, with all three area teams losing. The Bills, however, might just be the best of the bunch this year. Rookie quarterback EJ Manuel was at least serviceable and showed more promise than Ryan Fitzpatrick ever did. And the Buffalo defense made things difficult for Tom Brady, who still found a way to lead the Patriots to a game-winning field goal. While it’s hard to take away a moral victory from a game you’ve lost, the Bills were the best looking team in defeat this week.

5. ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski ruffled a few feathers when he recently said San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick “could be one of the greatest quarterbacks ever.” Many people were up-in-arms over Jaworski’s somewhat trolling comment. While Jaworski is getting way, way ahead of himself, it’s hard to argue against putting Kaepernick in the conversation of top 5 QBs in the league right now. After all, he’s 2-0 against Aaron Rodgers, who is widely considered the best signal caller in the NFL. Sure, Rodgers was going against a tough Niners defense while Kaepernick is facing Green Bay’s average “D.” It’s hard, however, to understate Kaepernick’s ability after a 412-yard, three-touchdown and zero-interception season-opener.

6. Of the NFL’s 15 Week 1 victors, the most impressive team in my eyes was New Orleans. The Saints, known to have an average defense at best, came back from a 10-0 deficit to beat Atlanta 23-17. What’s more, New Orleans used a dramatic goal-line stand to cap off coach Sean Payton’s return from a year-long suspension in connection with the NFL’s bounty probe. If the Saints’ defense, now led by coordinator Rob Ryan, plays like it did on Sunday all season, New Orleans is one of the NFC’s favorites.

7. Quick NFL observations: The Chiefs looked great while winning 28-2 during Alex Smith and Andy Reid’s team debuts, but it’s hard to judge them considering they beat the worst team in the NFL. … The first quarter of three games had a safety on Sunday. It’s the most the word “safety” and acronym “NFL” have been used together in a long time. … How was the Packers’ Clay Matthews not ejected for basically punching the 49ers’ Joe Staley? Since when is that allowed by the NFL? … Now that they witnessed Sunday’s performance, I wonder how the Ravens feel about trading Anquan Boldin for a sixth-round draft pick. 49ers fans are doing back flips.

8. Just three weeks remain in the MLB season and there are only three races of interest – AL wild card, AL West and NL Central. Odds are that the five combined contenders in the AL West and NL Central will make the playoffs, meaning the final AL wild card slot will provide the most excitement down the stretch. Looking at their schedule, the Indians have no one to blame but themselves if they fall short of the playoffs. Fourteen of Cleveland’s remaining 19 games are against three teams that are a combined 96 games under .500 entering Monday’s action.

9. The amateur wrestling world’s tumultuous seven months since being dropped from the 2020 Olympics finally came to an end in a positive way on Sunday. Wrestling beat out baseball/softball and squash as the final 2020 Olympic sport, totaling more votes than the other two sports garnered combined. In the end, this seven-month exile turned out to be a great thing for the wrestling world. If anything, the near-exclusion from the Olympics served as a great wakeup call. Based on preliminary changes – there’s too many to go over in this column – wrestling at the Olympic level is becoming more exciting to watch and I don’t believe the sport’s tradition is being compromised to create a better viewing experience for the average fan.

10. Moving to another combat sport, mixed martial arts, let’s touch on not-so-well known UFC middleweight Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, who has quietly become one of the best 185-pounders in the world. Souza needed just 2:47 to TKO Yushin Okami, who was somehow ranked the No. 3 middleweight in the UFC prior to the fight. Souza has since moved to No. 3 behind champion Chris Weidman, No. 1 contender Anderson Silva and No. 2 Vitor Belfort. Weidman and Silva face off for the middleweight crown in December, while Belfort believes he’s next in line. Souza, however, might just be the best all-around fighter in the weight class, mixing a greatly improved standup game with world-class grappling ability. Don’t sleep on Souza.

The preceding was The Walk Talk 10, which runs in the Tribune's sports section every Tuesday. Assistant news editor Dan Walk can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at dwalk@meadvilletribune.com.

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