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Put Your Best Football Forward... E-mail
Written by Cotter   
December 14, 2010 15:52
A few weeks ago, I likened the NFL season to a boxing match, a test of endurance, strength and will. But it's also popularly referred to as a "marathon," usually in the context of - not a sprint. And it's an equally good comparison - the first seven or eight weeks obviously impact your season just as much as the last eight or nine, but with the end in sight, you don't want to be ready to collapse from fatigue.

Deion Branch told an NBC reporter after the Patriots' game on Sunday, "you want to be peaking right now." And I don't think you need me to tell you (but I'm going to anyway) that with three games left, you want to be playing your best football of the season. You want to carry that momentum with you into the playoffs, rather than lucking your way in on a strong September/October, with little chance of surviving your first game after January 2. After all, in a marathon if you slow down, it takes an awful lot of effort to speed back up.

I think the Steelers are doing just that right now - peaking.

Last week, they needed a win to take over the division lead and gain a tiebreaker over the Ravens. They didn't play a flawless game from a team perspective, but the defense - and namely, Troy Polamalu - came through with big plays and overcame an offense struggling to put points on the board.

This week, they needed to keep that momentum going, and keep making those big plays that propel them to wins. With three turnovers and a generally inspiring defensive performance, as well as a gutsy game by their offensive leader - even if he only led them to three field goals - there's an awful lot of reason to be excited about the Steelers right now.

Now, obviously that doesn't mean we're an unstoppable force. Let's not forget, we beat the Ravens (and the Bills before them) by 3, 13-10, the Bengals didn't exactly bring the toughest defense (or offense) in the league to Heinz Field, and this week the offense is going to be facing a LOT tougher test in the Jets defense.

But, like George Michael once said...

And think about this - the Steelers have already won 10 of 13 games. Over that time, they've had three different starting QBs, and it easily could have been four. They've rotated in like 10 offensive linemen. They've been penalized and disciplined like the league's red-headed stepchild for at least the past five or six weeks. But, nothing has kept them from accomplishing their omnipresent goal of winning.

So, anyway, it's now Tuesday afternoon and this thing is just getting posted. Let me not waste all of your time with the same inspirational bit I've been giving you for at least two or three weeks now. Let's just get right into the "Things That Were Awesome," "Things That Were NOT Awesome," and "Things That Were Sorrier Than Carson Palmer."

Things That Were Awesome:

1. Are you really expecting me not to say TROY POLAMALU?!?!
[image via here]

Two picks - one returned for six, one shattering the Bengals hopes of getting some garbage time points to save face.

Don't like his pitch back to McFadden?


Troy Polamalu isn't Superman, he just plays him on Sundays.

2. LaMarr Woodley

Forget Mike Brown, LaMarr Woodley is the one who really owns the Bengals.

Many people will tell you The Wood "was due." Putting aside the fact that he's not a credit card bill, I guess that's fair to say.

The last time we played the Bengals, Woodley finished with three tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. This time, he had five solo tackles, two sacks and a pick six. 

Come to think of it, I'm not sure who could be up for AFC Defensive Player of the Week here - Troy or Woodley.

I'd hate to be the guy to decide...


3. The Ultimate Warrior

Everyone's on the offense's nuts about scoring - or rather, NOT scoring - right now.

But I'm sorry, a guy with a broken foot and a broken nose operating behind possibly the league's most porous offensive line going 21 of 33 for 258 yards, and running three times for 23 yards - including a 13 yarder on 2nd down inside the redzone to set up 1st and 10 from the Bengals 5 with like a minute left in the 1st half...he even took off the protective visor after the half...that's balls out.

Things will get back on track...stay calm.

4. Speaking of the Circus...

In my Bengals preview, I advised Chad Johnson to join the circus with his accomplished side show acts.

But after Sunday, I may have changed my mind on that...

Instead, maybe Antwan Randle El, Hines Ward and Mike Wallace should be the ones to join the big top with their circus catches.


Sorry for the quality of those last two.

I'll be sure to include "pictures taken with my iPhone's camera" under "Things That Were NOT Awesome."

5. Heartwarming Gestures

Friends don't shake hands, friends hug.


Ben and Ryan Clark doing the lord's work, delivering tasty treats to those less fortunate.

And of course, who could forget...

The epic Dick Lebeau fist pump (via Christmas Ape).

5a. The Sweez

Let this make up for not including him in last week's OFFICIAL recap (though he did get some love in the preliminary recap)...

With an offense that's scoring touchdowns about as frequently as Brett Keisel shaves, a good kicker is invaluable.

Since cutting Jeff Reed, The Sweez (you know, like The Fonz...only not) has been automatic - 9 for 9, including 3 for 3 on Sunday.

Don't think I'm not noticing...

Things That Were NOT Awesome:

1. An offensive lineman catching a touchdown pass?

Offensive, indeed.

But, then again, creative playcall by Cincy.

Too bad five minutes into regulation was the last success they'd have in the red zone all day.


2. Four sacks allowed on Ben Roethlisberger

Defensive linemen Pat Sims and Michael Johnson tripled their sack totals on the year on Sunday.

And I tripled my regugitation.

3. 9 penalties - 89 yards...

SIX for 55 yards in the 3rd quarter alone!

Not to mention, on the Bengals only scoring drive, they were helped kindly by a Woodley offsides penalty, which gave them an automatic 1st down on 3rd and 2 after the Steelers had stopped them 3 and out, AND pass interference on Ike Taylor, which then give them the ball at the Steelers one yard line (from where they scored, as we all know).

I'd like to make it through a recap before the end of the season without having to include penalties.

Is that too much to ask?

4. In or out, Antonio?

If you're going to let a punt roll in front of three defenders, you should probably just let it continue to roll.

Anthony Madison isn't going to be there to bail you out every time.

Then again, with his fugitive speed, I could've easily been praising Antonio Brown today.

Rookie mistake.

I'm over it.

5. Carlos Dunlap

Two tipped passes, and he's not even technically a starter.

Pictured = Ziggy Hood getting mugged.

Obviously unrelated.


Things That Were Sorrier Than Carson Palmer:

1. Ben needs to start selling Ugg Boots and/or Mastercard...

Obviously, that's the only way the NFL will start actually caring about his safety.

2. The Bengals 2nd half offense

At some point in the 4th quarter (I believe), the Bengals had only run 9 plays for a total of 17 yards in the entire 2nd half.

Hear that ferocious offensive machine rawr...LOL!

3. This

I don't want to imagine what living in a world without Ike Taylor starting at Corner is like.

4. The Dark Knight

How many times do you get to say that Troy Polamalu caught more passes from Carson Palmer than Terrell Owens?

What can I say, I'm an opportunist.

5. Global warming?

We won 23 - many shitty things do you really want me to talk about?

Time for Yinz Luv Da Stillers to bring this thing to a close...

Sunday at 4:15 sharp, we've got a date with the 9-4 Jets and Mark Sanchez, field general.

Two teams enter, only one leaves...

Another battle brewing, kids.

We must protect this house.

Now, what were your "Things That Were Awesome," "Things That Were NOT Awesome," and "Things That Were Sorrier Than Carson Palmer?"

Let's hear 'em!

If you haven't already, become a fan of OFTOT on Facebook, and follow Cotter on Twitter. Or don't. Your choice, really.


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