On The Black Side
A Steelers blog honoring the black left side of the Steelers' helmet - By Neal Coolong
Monday, September 15
The Steelers will go several games without one of their starting defensive end for the second time in two seasons.

KDKA Radio in Pittsburgh is reporting Monday afternoon that defensive end Brett Keisel will be out two months after suffering a calf injury in Sunday's 10-6 win over Cleveland.

The team hasn't confirmed this, but coach Mike Tomlin usually won't discuss injuries until his Tuesday press conference.

He left with an injury in the first half, and did not return. Nick Eason was his replacement, and likely will inherit the starting position.

The team lost DE Aaron Smith last season, and their run defense fell apart. It culminated in four losses in their last five games.

Coincidentally, Pittsburgh lost a starting defensive lineman, nose tackle Casey Hampton, two weeks before the team played Philadelphia in 2004. The Steelers inserted Chris Hoke and Travis Kirschke into situations, and were the top-ranked defense in the NFL.

One of the biggest question marks going into this season was the depth of their defensive line. Depending on the severity of the injury, Keisel could be placed on injured-reserve, which would end his season, and clear a roster spot. But if KDKA's report is accurate, and he is out two months, the Steelers may be forced to release someone, or elevate a lineman from the practice squad, where NT John Paxon, a second-year player from Penn State, is the only defensive lineman.

The Steelers cut DE Ryan McBean, a fourth-round draft pick in 2007, this pre-season. He's currently with Denver's practice squad. By rule, teams are allowed to sign players from other teams' practice squads if they are placed on the active roster. The Steelers would have to release someone if they are going to sign on another player to the active roster.


Neither rain nor sleet nor driving winds or poor clock management could stop the Steelers from winning their 10th straight over Cleveland.

In weather that only brought back bad memories of the Steelers 3-0 win over Miami last season, Pittsburgh was able to get just enough offense to pull out a 10-6 win over the trendy AFC North favorite Browns.

Unlike the Steelers' Week 1 thrashing of Houston, Pittsburgh actually had to play four quarters, and if it wasn't for a mismanaged offensive possession at the end of the first half that resulted in and interception by strong safety Troy Polamalu of Browns quarterback Derek Anderson, the result may have swung a different way.

Cleveland had the ball at Pittsburgh's 11-yard line with eight seconds left in the first half when Anderson dared put it near Polamalu. It was the closest the Browns (0-2) got to the end zone, and they have now managed one touchdown in their last eight quarters.

It was the second interception this season for the resurgent Polamalu - who had an epic battle with Browns TE Kellen Winslow. The Steelers now hold a two-game lead over Cleveland and Cincinnati, who lost 24-7 to Tennessee in its home opener.

Baltimore was scheduled to play at Houston, but damages to Reliant Stadium caused by Hurricane Ike postponed the game for Nov. 9.

The Steelers never trailed the division hunt last season en route to head coach Mike Tomlin's first division championship. The team was plagued last year by one victory in their final five games, a swoon that left the door open for the Browns. The division race came down to the fact the Steelers won the two regular season meetings the teams had.

Quarterbacks a serious concern in AFC North

Outside of Winslow, who played with great heart and didn't take the bait he was constantly being teased by the Steelers entire defense, the Browns offense didn't have a single playmaker Sunday night, most particularly Anderson, who is backing up his status as the league's most overrated player. He has a passer rating of 57.1 with 280 yards in two games. That leads only injured Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck's 48.6, and Cincinnati's Carson Palmer at 37.1. Palmer's rating is just slightly less than half of Roethlisberger's completion percentage - 75.8.

Will we begin hearing clamoring for back-up Brady Quinn? The Browns signed Anderson to a three-year, $21 million extension this off-season. Even with the brutal conditions and an offensive line that has allowed only three sacks in two games (one came from Steelers DE Aaron Smith, who took Anderson down with no time left on the clock), Anderson looked completely lost.

Roethlisberger leads the NFL with a 136.3 rating after going 12-for-19 with 186 yards and a touchdown pass to Hines Ward - his third of the season.

Defense suffocating through two games

It was extremely difficult to get to the passer Sunday night just as it was last year against Cleveland. Their offensive line remains the lone bright spot for a dismal Browns team that will likely face a massive coaching and management overhaul this off-season. But the Steelers' defense gave up just 53 yards on the ground, which off-set the fact the Browns owned a slight edge in plays run (59-53) and TOP (30:17 to 29:43). If the Browns were able to bust one decent running play, it could have opened up something on the outside, but credit CB Bryant McFadden, who shut WR Braylon Edwards down for three catches and 32 yards. Winslow was effective enough to keep Polamalu on the move, but the Browns couldn't help out in any other phase of the game over four quarters.

Ward on Pro Bowl pace

Ward's third touchdown catch of the season ties him with Arizona's Anquan Boldin and San Diego's Chris Chambers for the NFL lead. He even "marked his territory" right in front of the Browns' Dawg Pound after his red zone grab Sunday night.

He looks fantastic. His routes are sharp, he's getting off the line aggressively and as usual, he's blocking like a demon. He looks like a healthy, younger Hines Ward. And the fact his quarterback has a ridiculous 75 percent completion rate is testament to the fact he's on pace to break several of his own franchise receiving records.


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