The League

Michael Kun
Author

Michael Kun

Co-author of The Football Uncyclopedia. He is also the author of six other books and is a practicing attorney.

We should have known

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A few weeks back, the Sports Illustrated NFL preview issue showed up at our house. In case you missed it, the cover touted SI writer Peter King's prediction that the Steelers would defeat the Packers in the Super Bowl.

I have to admit that I was taken aback by the prediction when I pulled the magazine out of the mailbox. Maybe you had the same reaction if and when you saw it.

The Steelers? Really?

The same team whose starting quarterback had just been suspended for the first six games of the season (although everyone correctly predicted it would be reduced to four games)?

The same team that would have to run Byron Leftwich or Dennis Dixon out at quarterback for the first quarter of the season (we weren't even thinking they might have to go further down on the depth chart)?

The same team that had just shipped off their star wideout after he, too, had been suspended?

A team that hadn't even made it to the playoffs last year when it had its since-suspended quarterback and since-suspended wideout on the field? A team that hadn't signed any "name" free agents in the off-season?

That team is going to win the Super Bowl?

Where everyone else and his sister was predicting the wildly overrated Jets reaching the Super Bowl, Peter King was (apparently) the only sportswriter outside Pittsburgh picking the Steelers to do so -- and to take the title, too. (He wasn't the only one picking the Packers to reach the Super Bowl, mind you, but you have to admit that it was still at least a bit refreshing to see someone pick a team other than the Cowboys to come out of the NFC. Any team.)

Then I read King's article and thought, "Hmm, maybe he does have something here."

It's not a particularly strong division. They do have the weakest schedule in the division. It's now Troy Polamalu's team as much as it was ever Ben Roethlisberger's. And Polamalu and Aaron Smith both missed most of last season. And both apparently were healthy during training camp.

Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is about as sharp as they come. With that defense, don't they only need a quarterback to hold down the fort until Roethisberger returns?

And if Byron Leftwich or Dennis Dixon (or even fourth-stringer Charlie Batch) could hold down the fort well enough to hand Roethlisberger a 2-2 or 3-1 record, couldn't the Steelers do enough over the last 12 weeks to make the playoffs?

Of course, particularly when two of those 12 games are against Cleveland, and two others are against Oakland and Buffalo.

And couldn't they make some noise once they got in the playoffs?

Absolutely, particularly if the defense stays healthy, and Roethlisberger develops a rapport with Santonio Holmes' replacement Mike Wallace.

After Sunday's win over the Bucs, King's prediction not only seems prescient, but downright logical.

The defense has been extraordinary. They've given up a total of 33 points in their first three games. You shouldn't need a calculator to figure out that's an average of 11 points a game. When your defense holds its opponents to 11 points a game, you don't need your offense to do anything special. You need them to play smart football and hang onto the ball, which the Steelers offense has done.

With a 3-0 start, Roethlisberger at worst will return to a 3-1 team. At best, he'll return to an undefeated 4-0 squad. And, as much as we may all dislike Roethisberger's off-field behavior, you have to admit that the offense will receive a jolt when he returns.

And while Roethlisberger will certainly have some rust that needs to be knocked off, he also has something that Peyton Manning, Mark Sanchez and Philip Rivers don't have -- four fewer weeks of wear and tear on his body. The unseen benefit to his suspension is that he'll be the freshest quarterback going in December. And January. And maybe in February.

How did we not see this?

How was Peter King the only one who did?

By Michael Kun  |  September 28, 2010; 12:21 AM ET  | Category:  Ben Roethlisberger , Michael Kun , NFL , Pittsburgh Steelers , Quarterbacks Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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So let's see how Peter King feels after the Ravens visit Steeltown. And the AFC North is not a particularly strong division? Compared to what other NFL division? What other division has three teams comparable to the Bengals, Ravens and the Steelers?

Where can I get some of that Kool-Aid that Peter KIng and Michael Kun are drinking???

Posted by: musicmanjr | September 29, 2010 3:27 PM

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