Blows are thrown, heads are flown like Pan Am
In the fifth installment of our Steelers season preview we project our gaze outward and talk about our good neighbors in the AFC North. See other preview sections here: 1-2-3-4(1)-4(2)
Last Year: 6-10, missed playoffs
I usually don't have anything nice to say about the Browns, but they did go back to grey bars on their helmets this year, so...one plus to you Cleveland. Grey helmet bars are classic and classy. However, they also got rid of those nice stripey socks on their home (road?) uniforms in favor of solid, two-tone jobs like everybody else. One minus.
On the football side of things, Romeo Crennel will probably get this ship in order, and he's been importing some of his former players to help him implement the hard-scrabble team-first philosophy that nauseated the fuck out of everybody when RC was in New England. That will probably take some time though, and considering I don't really even know who their quarterback is, this is probably not the year. Even the most ardent Browns fans have resigned themselves to failure in '06.
I have to admit, I was pretty excited to say some mean shit about the Browns, but I just can't make myself hate the new Browns with anything even approaching the intensity with which I hated the old Browns. The old Browns (read: Ravens) were a pretty decent team that played in a decrepit, cavernous stadium with deranged animalistic fans. Old Browns fans took road trips into the nether regions between Pittsburgh and Cleveland just for the chance of burning a Steelers fan's arm with a cigarette in a bar in Youngstown. Eric Metcalf would always rip the heart out of your team with a fourth quarter kickoff return for a TD. But now they have a mascot named Trapper whose favorite song is from the Space Jam soundtrack. In a way, I really do feel bad for them.
Predicted record: 7-9
Last Year: 6-10, missed playoffs
The Ravens. Now here is a team that you can really feel good disliking. Smug Brian Billick. RayRay. Deion Sanders. Shannon Sharpe. Winning a Super Bowl. Being the real Browns. They were just built to be hated. It's a beautiful thing, really.
I'm not going to go into the whole "Brian Billick was an offensive genius in Minnesota but his Ravens teams can't play offense" thing. But I will say this: I think that having Steve McNair will give that whole thing a small reprieve when he runs a startlingly efficient ball-control offense for a few weeks. As is usually the case with McNair he will then suffer diminshed efficiency when he plays the last 7 games of the season with a collapsed lung.
People forget that Steve McNair is two seasons removed from being the league MVP on a team with no star receivers and he is a bona fide Steeler killer. If anybody knows how to torture the Steelers secondary (which, honestly, nobody has had any true faith in since Rod Woodson left), it is Mr. Alcorn State himself. Dude regularly beats down NFL defenses while playing through the most rediculous pain imaginable. This is a man I am afraid of.
Predicted record: 10-6
Last Year: 11-5, lost to Steelers in AFC Wild Card Game
The Bengals (and fans) have been the whiniest bunch of sissies in all of sports for about 18 or 24 months running now: -Whining and moaning about the malice of Kimo von Oelhoffen as if he had shot Carson Palmer in the face and then peed on him.
-Carson Palmer and his "I Hate the Steelers" proclaimations via the media.
-Chad Johnson, who is amusing no doubt, betraying his wounded pride by predicting the outcome of every damn game like Nosferatu with fronts.
Just to give you an idea of how bad things have gotten:
Bootsy, get your people to pull themselves together and play some football. Jesus.
All that aside, the Bengals have a pretty good team (about 70% of which is in jail or licking taser wounds, but hey, who isn't?) and they did win the division last year. However, they need to either buck their crippling inferiority complex or shut their mouths.
Predicted record: 1-15 (just for being assholes)
In other news:
Jerry Colangelo and Coach K think that executing in the half-court is a strong metaphor for the war in Iraq. Or maybe the other way around. Either way, themightyjd thinks this is a bit, er, incommensurate with the actual importance of international basketball. I happen to agree and will go one plus by saying that Jerry Colangelo (who has made a life of owning pro sports teams in Arizona and paying people by the thousand to pray for George W.) is batshit crazy in that really scary way.