On The Black Side
A Steelers blog honoring the black left side of the Steelers' helmet - By Neal Coolong
Wednesday, September 17
Did you SEE that play McNabb made Monday Night? Which one? All of them. A preseason pick for NFL MVP, Eagles QB Donovan McNabb didn't get the win Monday night at Dallas, but he showed he's back from injury, and is playing the best football of his outstanding career.

Jason Whitlock of Fox Sports wrote in August, before Tom Brady's injury, that Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb was his choice for MVP of the 2008 season.

His words:
This may be more of a wish than a belief, but Donovan McNabb is my pick for league MVP. He's been written off by most the experts. He's too injury prone. He's overrated without Terrell Owens. I love the way McNabb approaches the game. In the right situation -- had Owens supported McNabb the way Owens supports Tony Romo — McNabb could've been as good as Brady and Peyton Manning. McNabb is going to have a rebound season and make his critics choke on crow.
No one's ripping Whitlock - or McNabb - now, not after the performance he put up in Week 2 at Dallas. He was 25-for-37 for 281 yards and a touchdown.

Those stats don't take into account the way McNabb was able to sluff off pressure, move around the pocket and keep plays alive. They don't indicate how calmly and confidently he scanned four options before making a decision - and how it was almost always the right one.

And he would have had two touchdowns had it not been for a moron rookie wide receiver.

Take note of one play McNabb made. The pocket collapsed around him, and he sought escape to his left. He sprinted effortlessly out of the pocket, and got hemmed in at the sideline. He took a shot from a head-hunting linebacker who forgot how strong McNabb's upper body is. McNabb twisted around just in time to see a safety come in for the kill. He gracefully spun off of him, and even used his free arm to help the safety fly past him with extra force.

He didn't gain more than two or three yards on the play, but it was a fine display of strength, balance and more than anything, confidence.

That's why the Steelers are in trouble. He clearly is not injured, and he has all the confidence in the world. That's not the kind of quarterback a defense wants to see on the road.

He hit deep passes, he exploited the seam, he efficiently got the ball to his world-beating running back Brian Westbrook. Make no mistake, this is the best player the Steelers will have faced by 8 p.m. ET Sunday, Sept. 21.

Matt Schaub? Good joke. Derek Anderson? Most overrated player in the game. McNabb?

Potential MVP.

The Steelers will be without athletic defensive end Brett Keisel (yes, you read here he'd be out two months, and Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said he'd be out week-to-week. All that means is Tomlin will tell us next week that Keisel is out for Week 4. Repeat this until about Week 6). They didn't get to the statue-esque Anderson very often, and forcing linebacker James Farrior or either safety, Ryan Clark or Troy Polamalu, into containment duties draws away from the Steelers' playmaking ability.

What will be tougher, though, is covering that Moron Rookie Desean Jackson. Granted, Jackson only had the ball for 60 of the 61 yards he needed to score a touchdown, but that doesn't make a bit of difference to anyone not playing Fantasy Football (read: the Steelers defense). Jackson showed other-world speed and burst, and there isn't a Steelers corner who's going to be able to cover him deep outside the numbers.

This makes pass-rush and contain on McNabb critical. He looked better than he has in years in the pocket, and as Tomlin said in his press conference Tuesday, if McNabb is committed to getting outside the pocket, he's probably going to be able to do so. He'll have to be watched closer than Jack watched Gaylord M. Focker, and the key to a big Steelers road win will be how much they can limit McNabb, especially on third downs.

The one optimistic stat the Steelers can take away from Philly's 41-37 loss at Dallas Monday is the Cowboys held McNabb and the Eagles to seven points in the second half. The only real problem with that is the fact their offense is explosive and savvy enough to put 37 points on arguably the best team in the NFL on the road on Monday Night.

McNabb's in a class of his own right now. The Steelers' defense is going to have a helluva time keeping him in check.


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