By Mark Madden
The Beaver County Times
September 18, 2011
PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 18: Tavaris Jackson #7 of the Seattle Seahawks is sacked by Steve McLendon(notes) #90 of the Pittsburgh Steelers during the game on September 18, 2011 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Steelers defeated the Seahawks 24-0. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
After Baltimore administered a 35-7 mauling eight days ago, Warren Sapp of Showtime's "Inside the NFL" said the Steelers are "old, slow and it's over."
Outwardly, the Steelers reacted calmly. Inside, they had to be seething.
The Steelers are a proud team (read: touchy). That Sapp's criticism had a ring of truth had to sting even more.
Yesterday provided no answers. Seattle provided only token opposition. The game was contested with little rancor. Sapp's comments and Baltimore's butt-whipping will hang in the air a bit longer, perhaps until Oct. 30 when New England visits. As Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin said, "It's not going to take one performance to take that stench off of us."
The Steelers' schedule provides both charity and frustration. It's so weak it nearly guarantees a wild-card at minimum, but it offers few true challenges and little opportunity for legitimate evaluation.
Are the Steelers old and slow? Indianapolis (0-2) with Kerry Collins at quarterback doesn't figure to press the issue.
Give Sapp credit. Ex-jocks who aren't afraid to offend the brotherhood - who understand they're media now, not players - last longer on television. Want proof? When was the last time you saw Jerome Bettis on national TV? Right or wrong, Sapp had us talking all week. He's interesting.
The Steelers' lone truly anxious moment came when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger absorbed a hit to the knee courtesy of Seattle's Raheem Brock. Rookie tackle Marcus Gilbert got beat on the play, appearing to leg-whip Brock into Roethlisberger. It was the low point of a shaky day for Gilbert, who spent much of his first NFL start flailing.
Roethlisberger missed two plays, giving Heinz Field the chance to muster a "Char-lie, Char-lie" chant for oncoming QB Batch. Maybe those were his creditors. Do the citizens understand that if Roethlisberger gets sidelined for a significant time, the season is over in ways beyond Sapp's opinion?
Then again, maybe not: Remember that schedule.
Receiver Hines Ward caught four passes. He was not covered by Sapp's 13-year-old daughter. Ward nonetheless seems to be laboring to get open. Perhaps Emmanuel Sanders - beloved by the coaches for his precise route-running - should start alongside Mike Wallace. Ward could jump into the slot, where his value would increase and his career might be lengthened.
But that will not be considered. If any player scares Tomlin, it's Ward. Ward lines up in the slot anyway when the Steelers use three or more receivers, so the debate is moot. There's no debating Wallace's impact: Eight catches for a second consecutive week.
Referee Bill Leavy, the man who ruined Super Bowl XL, was anonymous yesterday by virtue of the game's lopsided nature. When Roethlisberger came up just short of the end zone at the end of a first-quarter ramble, one couldn't help but think of the time that happened in Super Bowl XL - but Roethlisberger was awarded a touchdown anyway.
When Seattle got penalized, you could imagine Seahawks fans yelling, "He's cheating us again!" The officiating mattered in 2006. Not yesterday.
The Steelers won. Against subpar opponents, especially at home, it's all they can do. No agenda beyond. We'll see what Sapp has to say.
Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).