- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
It's not a bad way to travel. It gave Bill Parcells two Super Bowl wins with the Giants. But as primitive as the Giant passing game seemed, it was ahead of the Steelers', and that's what might keep Pittsburgh from going all the way.
The wideouts are an anonymous bunch. Quarterback Neil O'Donnell is a capable leader but a streaky thrower, and he has come down with tendinitis in his right elbow that could keep him out of the opener, maybe longer. The club might be half a dozen TD passes away from the big show, but that could be coming in the future. The Steelers had the lowest payroll in the NFL last season, which puts them in great position for '94, the first salary cap year, when other teams will start cutting costs—and veterans. Pittsburgh has shown a willingness to spend money too, shelling out more than $20 million to bring Greene in and redo the contracts of O'Donnell and their fine right linebacker, Greg Lloyd. Put this team down as a future.
Bet you can't name the last full-time CLEVELAND BROWNS quarterback before Bernie Kosar. It was Paul McDonald, nine years ago. Seems like Bernie has been there forever. And he's only 29, with a 40-year-old body. Last year he felt the surgeon's knife for the first time—on his broken right ankle, which now carries a plate and two screws. He's a heroic guy. Remember last season when he played the whole second half against Miami on the broken ankle and brought the Browns back from 20-3 to go up 23-20 in the fourth quarter? He's also not a complainer. but even he must be wondering what the Brown offense is doing.
No Cleveland runner has gained 100 yards in a game in five years. What exactly happened to Touchdown Tommy Vardell last year? Is Eric Metcalf ever going to have a break-loose season? Who are the wideouts? Will there ever be a season when the offensive line isn't rebuilding? And finally, why doesn't head coach Bill Belichick, a fine defensive coach under Bill Parcells, hire himself an offensive coordinator?
Defense is a happier area, anchored by underrated middle linebacker Mike Johnson, but I don't see defensive tackle Jerry Ball's Rush and Crush Brothers prediction—Ball crushes the run, Michael Dean Perry rushes the passer—working. Ball came from the Lions weighing 345 pounds, and many feel his best years are behind him. Perry, one of the game's best inside rushers when he's right, left camp for two days after a flare-up with Belichick, and he has been bothered by a sore right knee. The secondary is only so-so. Ditto the Browns.
I saw the CINCINNATI BENGALS in the flesh only once last year, in San Diego in a very tough situation. The Bengal defense was crippled, and people were playing out of position, and the Chargers were getting ready to crush Cincinnati with that brutal ground game that preys on the weak. But the Bengals made a game of it. The score was tied deep into the third quarter when the Bengals were finally overrun.
I was interested in seeing how their young coach, David Shula, would handle the postgame interviews. He was cool and honest and very straightforward. So were his players. Yes, I was one of the guys who smirked about Shula's appointment last season. But now I'm thinking that the Bengals might have found something special here, and things eventually will be on track.
Not yet, though. Quarterback David Klingler is still learning the trade. The offense is most effective with Harold Green running behind a fairly decent line. A Ron Lynn defense will always get its share of sacks, because he'll keep blitzing as many rushers as necessary, the most formidable of whom is outside 'backer Alfred Williams. The Bengals will play hard for young David, and that's a start.
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]