Monday, September 19, 2011

Week 2: Steelers 24, Seahawks 0

And the Oscar goes to ...

By Mike Batista

Vivien Leigh had Scarlett O'Hara. Ben Kingsley had Ghandi. Adam West had Batman.

Now we have seen Ben Roethlisberger in his defining role as an actor.

Already critically acclaimed for his ability to make injuries seem more serious than they really are, Roethlisberger's epic performance hit the big screen during Sunday's 24-0 win over the Seahawks at Heinz Field.

The Steelers led 14-0 with just over two minutes left in the first half when Heath Miller caught his only ball of the day. The 16-yard completion put the ball on the Seahawks' 4-yard line.

The customary, "Heeeeaaath!" baritone chant thundered through Irish Exit, a Steelers bar in Manhattan. But it was quickly muted when it became apparent that Roethlisberger was on the ground writhing in pain.

Seattle's Raheem Brock plowed into Roethlisberger's knees after the play, and it looked like Roethlisberger had met his Bernard Pollard, the guy who wiped out Tom Brady's 2008 season.

Think NBC envisioned Charlie Batch vs. Kerry Collins when it scheduled next week's Sunday night game? It looked like that, as well as 75 percent off all Steelers merchandise, would be the case as Roethlisberger was on the ground surrounded by Steelers staff.

Such is the fragile nature of life in the NFL.

Then, slowly, Roethlisberger rose.

And he walked off the field. No stretcher needed.

Roethlisberger missed just two plays. Perhaps during that brief time on the sideline, the master thespian should have donned a velvet robe and taken a bow.

That wasn't funny, Ben.

Roethlisberger said after the game that he never felt anything pop. So when you know it's not season-ending, why scare everyone like that when all you have is an ouch-ie?

I guess this means everything is normal again in Pittsburgh. Big Ben is a baby and the Steelers are winning.

Taking his punishment like a man didn't seem to work for Roethlisberger last week when the Ravens (by the way, did anyone tell those guys they had 15 more games on their schedule?) sacked him four times. Strangely enough, Pollard, who now plays for the Ravens, was one of the few white shirts Roethlisberger managed to avoid last week.

Why is it that every time the Steelers defense pitches a shutout, it's overshadowed by a Roethlisberger scare? The last time the Steelers blanked an opponent was the 2008 regular-season finale, when they beat the Browns 31-0. Roethlisberger sustained a concussion in that game, but it looked a lot worse. He was immobilized and carted off the field. Guess he wasn't acting then.

This is the first time the Seahawks were shut out since the last time they came to Pittsburgh in 2007. The Steelers defense cooked up this bagel by allowing just 164 yards of offense (31 on the ground), sacking sad sack Tarvaris Jackson five times and getting off the field 10 of the 12 times the Seahawks faced third down.

It was enough to make Seahawks coach Pete Carroll wish he were back at USC banging 19-year-old coeds. I'm not saying Carroll actually banged 19-year-old coeds at USC. I'm just saying that's what I would do if I were the football coach at the University of Southern California, that's all.

The Steelers defense still hasn't forced a turnover this season. We were denied the first high-flying hair show of the autumn when Troy Polamalu dropped what would have been an easy pick-six late in the game.

The Steelers didn't need turnovers to beat the Seahawks as emphatically as they did. Facing such a woeful team, the Steelers needed a win every bit as emphatic as this one after last week's bitchslapping in Baltimore. Anything less, and the doubts planted last week would have grown.

You might say that bullying an NFL wimp like the Seahawks doesn't prove a thing. The Steelers still have to beat a good team to show that they're championship material. Well, according to the website Football Outsiders, routing bad teams might be more indicative of a team's championship mettle than beating good teams in close games.

Football Outsiders classifies as "stomps" wins of at least 14 points over a team that finishes the season below .500. The site classifies as "guts" wins of 1-8 points over a team that finishes the season with a winning record. According to the site, teams with more stomps than their opponents do better in conference championship games and Super Bowls than teams with more guts than their opponents

A stomp is just what the doctor ordered for the Steelers Sunday. And while it's not officially a stomp until the Seahawks lose their ninth game to guarantee a losing season, I think it's safe to go to Vegas and put money on that happening.

The Steelers have another likely stomp opportunity Sunday night in Indianapolis. The Colts fell to 0-2 Sunday after losing to the Browns at home and are toothless without Peyton Manning.

At least NBC gets one of the star quarterbacks it planned on when the schedule was made. It would be better for the blood pressure of Steelers fans everywhere if that star's performance continues to be more Canton-worthy than Hollywood-worthy.

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