Before I write anything, let me say that I hold a high level of respect for anyone who manages to make it as a professional sportswriter—especially someone who has been doing it for 25 years.
It hurts to criticize a fellow Pittsburgh native, but Len Pasquarelli needs a wake-up call.
Recently, I read an article over at ESPN.com where Pasquarelli tried to defend his stance on ranking the Steelers ninth in the preseason power rankings.
You read that right. Ninth.
I don't think I've ever seen a team who's returning 20 starters from a Super Bowl season ranked so low.
I can understand ranking them second or third.
But ninth, really?
I had to check Pasquarelli's article and see why they would fall so low in his estimation, let alone two places behind a team Pittsburgh defeated three times last season (who also lost their defensive coordinator this offseason).
His first argument was the lack of production of the Steelers' offensive line and the dominance of the Patriots' line. I'll buy that for a dollar.
However, he lost me when he tried to say that their defensive front three were better than the Steelers'.
Are you kidding?
How many rushers in the past four years have rushed for over 100 yards against the Steelers?
I can count them on one hand.
And the Steelers have gone up against the best in the league—guys who dominate in the running game.
Also, the Steelers' defense was ranked first in the league in 2008. New England wasn't even in the top five.
In fact, they were ranked 10th.
When confronted with this, he is quoted as saying, "But with apologies to Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, the Pats have Belichick, and he is a master at switching his fronts and disguising coverages."
He might be a master at cheating, but isn't it Pittsburgh who is known as Blitzburgh?
Isn't it LeBeau who is regarded as one of (if not the) best defensive masterminds in the league?
Didn't LeBeau invent the zone blitz?
According to Ron Jaworski, "Dick LeBeau is arguably the best ever to coach defense…he has done it on such a consistent basis over a long period of time."
Isn't it James Harrison who had 16 sacks last season? Didn't he stymie the Cardinals' chance to score in the Super Bowl and return a interception for a touchdown? Wasn't Kurt Warner supposed to dominate through the air in that game?
Oh yeah, that's right. LeBeau's defense tricked a veteran Super Bowl quarterback on a key play that turned the tide significantly when it really mattered.
And what about Troy Polamalu, who is arguably one of the best safeties in the league and is constantly confusing offenses with where he lines up and what he's going to do?
To say the Patriots have a better defense is a major fallacy. In fact, it's downright ignorant.
As for the offense, I'm not going to sit here and try to say that the Steelers' is better. As much as it hurts to say, Tom Brady and his group is damn good.
But is it really good enough to put them eight places in front of the Steelers, especially when Brady is coming off of a bad knee injury?
And can you really put Baltimore and San Diego in front of the reigning champs?
Joe Flacco did a great job for a team that really needed a standout quarterback, but he's no Big Ben (who was undefeated his rookie season until the infamous AFC Championship game against the Pats). And with the loss of the Ravens' defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, can you really say their defense will have the same spark it had last year?
In the end, pre-season power rankings don't mean a whole heck of a lot. Really it's what happens during the season that really matters, and the Steelers are primed to show the world that they are the team of the decade.
As for Pasquarelli, he will see just how foolhardy his estimation of his hometown team really is.
And come on man, where's that Pittsburgh pride everyone else from there has?