Steelers ease past Browns; 6-0 Vikings loom large on the horizon

It was a fun game for the Steelers as they eased past the hapless Cleveland Browns 27-14, but now they must face a real team in the undefeated Minnesota Vikings (6-0). This game will go a long way in determining what the Steelers are made of.

The Steelers received a lot of help in the AFC North with the Cincinnati Bengals (4-2) and the Baltimore Ravens (3-3) losing. This puts Pittsburgh in a tie for first with the Bengals.

HAVING FUN— Hines Ward laughs as he fends off two Browns defenders along the sideline. Ward had another outstanding game with eight catches for 159 yards including a 52-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger.

Once again the Steelers played to their competition with another poorly played second half, especially in the fourth quarter, scoring 3 points. But at least the defense and special teams played well in the fourth quarter shutting out the Browns to head off a Cleveland comeback. Ben Roethlisberger had another outstanding game going 23 of 35 for 417 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception, with both Hines Ward, 159 and Santonio Holmes, 104, respectively. Ward had 8 catches and Holmes 5, with tight end Heath Miller continuing to look like a Pro Bowler with 5 critical catches for 80 yards and a touchdown. Ward had two touchdown catches but one was disallowed because of a stupid NFL rule. He had control, crossed the goal line and got both feet down but because he lost control while sliding out of bounds it was ruled not a touchdown. That rule needs to be changed.

The running game was decent even though Rashard Mendenhall carried the ball 17 times for 62 yards. Willie Parker carried 7 times for 26 yards and Melwelde Moore 5 for 20. However, Mendenhall did have a touchdown and 2 receptions for 15 yards. Parker looked rusty, but he and Mendenhall just may give the Steelers one of the best running games in the league before it’s all said and done.

The defense was once again impressive even without All Pro Aaron Smith, who’s out for the season with an injury. The linebackers kept constant pressure on Derek Anderson, who was better than last week, but not by much as he was only 9 of 24 for 122 yards with one touchdown. With the exception of the one kickoff touchdown they kept Joshua Cribbs in check as he only picked up 45 yards on 6 carries. Why he wasn’t touching the ball more is a mystery.

After all the pregame hoopla about the Cincinnati Bengals being for real this season they went out and were blown out by the Houston Texans 28-17. The Bengals are notorious for jumping out fast then fading and it appears to be the same story this season. Even though Houston is a much improved team, they should have never beaten the Bengals. Matt Schaub had an impressive game as he out dueled Carson Palmer. He was 28 of 40 for 392 yards and four touchdowns with half of his completions going to Andre Johnson, 8 catches for 135 yards, and Steve Slaton, 6 catches for 102 yards.

Palmer was 23 of 35 for 259 yards with one touchdown. However, the key to the game was the Texans holding the NFL’s leading rusher going into the game, Cedric Benson, to just 44 yards on 16 carries.

The Baltimore Ravens were blown out in the first three quarters as the Vikings opened up a 20-10 lead and increased that to a 30-10 lead in the fourth quarter, but behind the brilliant play of Joe Flacco the Ravens came roaring back as they scored 21 points in the fourth quarter. And if it had not been for a missed field goal in the final seconds of the game, they would have pulled off the upset of the season, and spoiled the Vikings undefeated record. Now it’s up to the Steelers to put that first blemish on the Vikings record.

Brett Favre had another outstanding game as he kept the Ravens’ defense honest, going 21 of 29 for 278 yards and three touchdowns while handing off to Adrian Peterson 22 times and watching the best back in the game reel off 143 yards to move past Benson into first place in rushing yards with 624.

Whereas the Vikings, behind the running of Peterson, have had the best running game in the league the past two years, the 40-year-old Favre gives them another dimension and is the reason they are a legitimate threat to win it all this season. He is a veteran quarterback who can still pass the ball and has the great leadership they need at the quarterback position and on offense as a whole.

Favre and Roethlisberger’s quarterback ratings are pretty close with Favre in third place with a 109.5 rating and Big Ben in fourth with a 104.5 rating behind Drew Brees, 118.4 and Peyton Manning 114.1. Favre’s favorite receiver is young Sidney Rice who had 6 receptions in the Ravens game for 176 yards. The other receiver, Visanthe Shiance, had 4 catches for 48 yards.

The Indianapolis Colts had a bye week last week so Roethlisberger moved into first place in passing yardage with 1,887, followed by Matt Schaub 1,810, Tom Brady, 1,724, Joe Flacco 1,674 and Peyton Manning 1,645. Peterson leads the league in rushing with 624 followed by Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans with 596, Benson with 531 and Steve Jackson, St. Louis Rams with 501. Ward moved into first place in the NFL in reception yardage with 599 and tied with Steve Smith of the New York Giants with 41 receptions. Miller’s 5 catches put him in fifth place with 34 for the year. Rice has 23 for the year for 409 yards, and Bernard Berrian is second with 22 for 234 yards. Holmes has 28 for 438 yards for the Steelers.

Troy Polamalu and Willie Parker returned to action in the Browns game and even both were rusty they should be 100 percent for the Vikings, where they will be needed. If the Steelers can beat Minnesota they will move up among the elite teams with a 5-2 record, but if they lose they may have to win the AFC North to make the playoffs. Right now no one is acting like they want to take charge of that division.

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