Sunday's Marquee Match-up: Bruce Gradkowski vs. Byron Leftwich

For now, at last, we're ready to put the towel stomping aside and focus on pushing the winning streak to the Browns to 11. Romeo's swan song looks to have Pittsburgh native Bruce Gradkowski at the lead vocals. Poor Bruce, he already had to get punished by leading a broken Buccaneers team into Heinz Field in 2006, only to get punished. Now he's forced to do it again with an even lowlier, turd-colored team.

Given the insignificance of the game, you'd like to think Bruce Arians can take a crack at some novel offensive strategies, like, say, running out of the I-formation. Maybe just not using that delayed draw. He actually took a chance with Limas Sweed against the Titans, which failed miserably as the rookie drew an obvious offensive pass interference call on a jump ball. Still, give the kid plenty of game action. This is the best chance you're going to get all year.

However relatively pointless, it's still important the Steelers put together a decent effort. Going into a bye with consecutive losses is no way to enter the postseason. In fact, it almost always spells trouble in the second round. Though if the Bengals can shutout this Browns team, it may not much of a Herculean effort by our slew of starters and reserves to top them at Heinz.

That said, I'd still like to see Hines play the first half, if only so he can get the 27 yards necessary to eclipse the 1,000 yard mark for the first time since 2004. He came within 25 yards in '05 and '06. Who knows if it really means anything to him, but it's unfair knock that critics levy at him that Hines hasn't put up the casual fan friendly 1,000-yard seasons.

For the moment, the big news centers on waiting on the exact injury status of Ryan Clark, not that he should be playing Sunday regardless. Still, the fact that even the X-ray results haven't been disclosed yet has me a little concerned. I'm hoping three weeks gives him sufficient time to bounce back from the shoulder injury, as he's one of the main reasons the Steelers secondary has shown the year-to-year progress it has from '07.

UPDATE: Shock of shocks -- Marvel Smith goes to IR, where he'll have about the same impact on the team he's had all year.


Spatula said...

Just an observation, for what it's worth: at the end of last season, when the defense had all its problems, people finally realized the importance of one guy, Aaron Smith, for the success of the defense. Likewise, I think (I know this isn't particularly original)that the anemic run game is the result of the loss of one guy -- Dan Kreider. Without a true blocking fullback to open the holes for FWP, the running game is almost dead. Gary Russell might be a good blocking back (who knows), but Kreider was a great one, and Arians got rid of him. Just an observation.

Christmas Ape said...

The Rams released Kreider a month ago. There's really no reason they can resign Najeh twice and not give Dan a look.

Paul said...

I'd love to see Kreider back on the team.

But, I don't think it's happening any time soon.

Anonymous said...

I know a friend of Kreider's, and he is battling a neck or back injury that has left him with a pinched nerve and numbness, so I don't think he can play anymore.

Christmas Ape said...

Ah, that sucks. Really underappreciated guy, but then that's fullbacks in general. Probably the best fullback they've had since I've followed the team, with the possible exception of John L. Williams.

domski43 said...

The way the steelers use fullbacks these days theyd probably make Kreider return kickoffs/punts for the special teams.