Steelers vs. Panthers Q&A

It’s finally the last week of preseason. Horray. Just one final game until the real season starts and we finally have football that means something. But we still have a game this week and this week’s game is against the always tough and consistent Pittsburgh Steelers.

And to give us an update on the state of Steeler Nation heading into tonight’s game we caught up with Craig of Nice Pick, Cowher, so he can give us the low down.

I answered five of his questions as well. To read them check out Craig’s site here.

1. Being the last preseason game, how long do you expect the starters to play tonight?

Coach Mike Tomlin says that he will play many of the starters for the first half, and possibly even longer.  Some starters are out, such as Roethlisberger, Pouncey, Taylor and McFadden due to lingering injuries or precautionary treatment for minor injuries sustained last week.  Enough starters will be second string guys that will allow for the coaches to get a good final look at who will stay and who will go or whose riding the pine.

2. With Byron Leftwich going down with an injury, who is the number two quarterback, Batch or Dixon?

Charlie Batch is the #2 QB without a doubt.  Dixon is still too young and makes simple mistakes because of that.  His throwing accuracy has been suspect since he’s been in the NFL and has only made minor improvements in that area.  More importantly, Batch is a proven back up QB.  Time and time again he’s stepped up when Big Ben has been out and has a good winning record as a starter for the Steelers.  Many people had written Batch out and Leftwich in.  I wasn’t one of them, and I’m glad to see him stick around even though it meant losing Leftwich who is probably out for the season.

3. We know Big Ben has had a trouble past few years away from the field. What is the general feeling of Steeler fans towards Ben? Is all forgiven, is there still some negative feelings towards him?

I think many in Steelers Nation separate the player from the man.  There’s no denying that Ben is an amazing QB – top 5 in the league – and is a game changer.  He puts the Steelers in the best position to win a game week in and week out.  He’s a Raven killer. You cannot not love him for that.  I think many though, including myself don’t like him too much as a person.  Yeah we all make mistakes in life but my mom and dad always taught me ‘No means no.’  Even though he wasn’t officially charged with a crime, it rubbed people the wrong way.  It’s bitter sweet the way things have worked out.

4. The Ravens and Steelers have been battling over the last couple seasons for the AFC North crown. They have played some of the best games I have seen over the last few years. Do you believe that this is the best rivalry in the NFL?

Absolutely the best – ever.  It even beats out the ‘Skins/Cowboys rivalry.  Every year the rivalry gets more and more intense.  The players hate each other.  They talk on each other practically 365 days a year.  Players like Hines Ward are obsessed with playing this team and beating them.  The feeling from them is mutual. The fans hate each other (but not in that shoot you in the parking lot kind of way).  Losing to either team leaves a sour taste in the mouth.  The action is fierce and the hitting is incredibly hard.  There are no other teams as physical as these two.   It’s been this way since Modell moved the Browns to Baltimore back in ’96.  Unless the Ravens pick up and move out of the division in the middle of the night, I don’t see this rivalry ever dying down.  I think the greatest rivalries can be judged by those who aren’t invested in the two teams playing – if they get wrapped up in the game and experience similar ups and downs as Steelers and Ravens fans do, then that my friend is an amazing rivalry.

5. Prediction for the season. What do you expect from the Steelers this season.

Well if you read my latest post, you’ll know how I truly feel about predictions.  What I can always expect from this organization is a football team committed to winning and playing very physical football.   History shows that the Steelers have a rough go at it the season following a Super Bowl – win or lose.  I can only hope they buck that trend and continue to play strong. The offense looks very promising and for once I can use the adjective ‘explosive.’  They have some great offensive weapons at the receiver position, and I fully expect O-Coordinator Bruce Arians and Big Ben to take advantage of all that speed on the field.  The Steelers D, though older and shakey in the secondary should still be a top defense (pick them for your fantasy football team).  My gut is that they will be neck and neck for the division again – either winning it out or making a wild card spot in the playoffs.  Let’s say 11-5 record.  Go Steelers!

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