Sunday, January 22, 2006

Heading for the Super Bowl

A week's worth of anxiety... over what? Clearly, beard length does not directly correspond to passing skill.

When the dust settled from the mass exodus of Broncos fans streaming out of their home stadium, the visiting Steelers had soundly thrashed the homestanding Denver team. Trailing by three touchdowns at the half, Denver quarterback Jake Plummer just couldn't lead his team out of the hole. And he was trailing Roethlisberger, too -- Plummer racked up two fumbles and two interceptions by the end of the game, while Big Ben earned a passer rating of 124.9... no interceptions, two touchdown passes and a rushing TD.

All from the kid who opposing teams pinned their hopes on. "Make Ben pass, contain the run" was the defensive mantra of most teams facing Pitt this year. So that's what they did. They contained the run -- Willie Parker's opening performance was never repeated. They made Roethlisberger pass -- and pass he did. He passed so well that he made teams wish they'd kept the ball on the ground.

While Ben sat on the bench watching his team's defense work, Plummer was having a very bad day. Bearded and rattled, and apparently coming off a case of the 'flu, he looked harried and frustrated through all of regulation. Glum Broncos fans in the stands sat with their chins in their hands, wondering why they'd paid $250 for tickets to what wound up being an embarrassing game.

I've never seen the Steelers this good.

Icing on the cake was seeing former Steel Curtain member Terry Bradshaw sitting at the commentators' desk as the Carolina Panters and Seattle Seahawks prepared to battle over the NFC title. He started by congratulating Bettis, Roethlisberger, and coach Bill Cowher... and then loosed a bomb:

"I tell you what, they can beat either of these teams here."

Bradshaw's three cohosts looked at him as if to say, "Uh, Terry? I don't think we're supposed to say shit like that."

I may be wrong, and Bradshaw might, too. But I think the hard part is over.