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Steelers ready for the bye
By MIKE TOXIC, MOP Squad Sports Staff Writer
Oct 3, 2005 - 3:00:00 PM

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Heading into the bye week the Pittsburgh Steelers are in a position they haven't seen in recent times. They are currently in second place behind the 3-0 Cincinnati Bengals.  The Bengals have been solid, but time may catch up with them, as their schedule will get harder.

The Steelers are currently 2-1 and are coming off of a tough loss to the New England Patriots where many mistakes were made. This bye week is a good chance for the Steelers to rest their bodies, after the loss and come back ready to play smart football again. Coming off of a loss like this can only help this team improve.

The offensive line play against the Patriots at times looked confused and off their game. The blitzes that New England brought were nothing that they hadnít seen from them in the past, but time and time again the Pats were able to penetrate the line. Ben Roethlisberger was flushed out of the pocket numerous times, and heading into another tough game against the Chargers, they will have to get back to the fundamentals. Sloppy line play was a recent for the lack of success in moving the chains, and this aspect of the offense needs to improve quickly.

The running game could get revitalized as well thanks to this week off, as Jerome Bettis has been practicing. Heading into the Chargers game the Steelers will have three tough horses in the barn ready to run. Having that depth in the running back ranks is sure to help out the duration of the season. Running the ball in Pittsburgh is the number one priority, and with all three backs, Parker, Staley, and Bettis around the ground attack can be more dominant than it was with just fast Willie.

This break also should give the defense a chance to catch their breath after the tough outing against Tom Brady who exposed them to the rest of the league. Its time to retool and get the focus back to playing smash mouth Steelers football. As long as the defense and the running game are worthy and tough components of this team they will be able to go far and win many games.

The best game of Steelers linebacker Clark Haggans' career will be his last game for at least five weeks.

Haggans injured a groin late in the 23-20 loss to the New England Patriots and had surgery Sept. 28 that will sideline him until at least the Steelersí Nov. 6 game at Green Bay.

Haggans, the outside linebacker who plays opposite Pro Bowl linebacker Joey Porter in the Steelersí 3-4 scheme, had a sack, two forced fumbles and 12 tackles, nine solo, against New England. Haggans is tied for the team lead with three sacks in three games.

Haggans will be replaced by former undrafted free agent James Harrison, who has two sacks in limited playing time. Harrison started four games last season when Haggans was injured and when Porter was kicked out of a game for fighting before it started.

Harrison wasnít drafted out of Kent State, and was cut by the Steelers in 2002 and 2003 before being re-signed shortly before training camp in July 2004 when Haggans broke his hand weightlifting. Harrison played in all 16 games last season, getting his first career sack Nov. 14 in Cleveland after learning just before the opening kickoff Porter was ejected and couldnít play.

Now is the time to rest, but with a tough opponent in San Diego ahead, the Steelers have to be ready, because they will have another hard game as they did against New England. For now they can prepare themselves mentally for the remainder of the year, but it will soon be time to get ready for the meat of their schedule and their upcoming encounters with their AFC North opponents. The next four games will be tough matchups as they face San Diego, Jacksonville, Cincinnati, and Baltimore. The road ahead will be tough and its time to buckle up for some quality opponents to step up and challenge the Steelers. Rest for now and enjoy it dearly because it will soon come to a screeching halt.

AIM: mtoxic619               E-mail: mtoxic@zoominternet.net


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