The Criminals in College Sports Debate Verdict

March 29, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Sports Geek.

 

I must give my colleagues, Sports Geek and Loyal Homer, credit. After two years of working together, debating all the biggest issues in sports, they managed to bring out yet another first in TSD history!

For the first time ever, I actually disagree with BOTH arguments (well, at least partly).

The question was to debate whether or not coaches and universities should look into juvenile records before deciding which recruits to extend scholarship offers to. Both Sports Geek and Loyal Homer, although arguing for very different causes, essentially raised the same point – that character matters in sports.

According to Sports Geek, character matters in the sense that it helps people to gain experience. To Sports Geek, growth and second chances for everyone, not just athletes, to make us all better people. Past mistakes do not always serve as an indicator for future actions, though, and so Sports Geek feels that they should not be held against the children (that, after all, is what they are) who commit them.

On the other hand, Loyal Homer argues that character matters, which is precisely why college sports need to clean up their act. Too much is forgiven in sports, and it is tarnishing the reputation of what is supposed to be honest and fair play among student athletes. Instead, we hear more and more about Player ‘X’ from university ‘Y’ and their escapades that resulted in someone getting arrested, or worse, hurt.

But as I said, I disagree with both of them – Character does NOT matter in sports.

We like to SAY that character matters in sports, and realistically, it SHOULD matter in sports, but it is time for us all to stop perpetuating the lie.

We don’t care about character in our athletes at all. We want our athletes to win, and that’s it. We as a fan base may curse athletes who commit some act of moral or criminal wrongdoing. But then we conveniently turn that ire off when the player brings greater success to our team.

It is true that the Florida Gators had a plethora of criminal charges stocking their active roster for the past five football seasons. But they also have two National Championships during that stretch. What do you think Gator fans care about? Would any of them trade in even one of those two National Championships to clear the names of their beloved team’s roster? Hardly.

When Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes caught TD passes in the New York Jets playoff victory over the New England Patriots, were any of the Jets fans booing them?

How long did it take before Steelers fans welcomed Ben Roethlisberger back into the fold with open arms? My guess is about 20 minutes and 20 seconds into his first game back, when he completed a scoring pass to Mike Wallace.

It is time to stop pretending that we demand our athletes to live to a greater moral standard, because when push comes to shove we do not really care at all.

But now that it is time to step off of my soap box, I still need to crown a winner for this debate.

Just because I fundamentally disagree with the key message in both arguments, that does not mean I disagree with their entire arguments. And while I disagree with the principle of Sports Geek’s position, it is for that exact same reason that I am awarding him the verdict.

Because an athlete’s character does not REALLY matter to us in sports, past flaws should not be counted against recruits. As Sports Geek points out, kids make mistakes all the time. Some may be more serious than others, but that does not mean that they should be excluded from the opportunity to better themselves.

In fact, if we as fans REALLY want to see those games that we love cleaned up, then we absolutely MUST forgive the past transgressions of the kids that make childish mistakes. Those who are supposed to be “responsible” adults should assume that responsibility and actually COACH these kids. That’s right – It is the program administrators that must be held to the higher standard.

Coaches like Bruce Pearl, Jim Tressel, Lane Kiffin, and countless others are the ones setting the example for these kids that it is okay to bend and break the rules as long as you win games, and THAT is where accountability should be held.

In many cases, these coaches will have a greater impact on the lives of the student athletes than anyone else ever could. They need to act as mentors, role models, and leaders for the kids they are guiding. If they can live up to a higher standard, I can GUARANTEE you that the athletes will follow suit.

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The 2010 Most Overrated Team in the NFL Debate… Pride Goeth Before the Fall

August 27, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Loyal Homer.

I don’t think I have ever seen a team believe its own hype more than the New York Jets. It is one thing to walk into camp with Super Bowl aspirations, but the “J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS” are strutting around as if the Lombardi Trophy is already claimed.

Rex Ryan, LaDanian Tomlinson, Mark Sanchez, and many others, have already gone on record with declarations that they are a Super Bowl bound franchise. While I love the positivity, there is just one problem – it is only week three of the pre-season.

The Jets are walking around with just a little too much bravado, and although many media outlets are hopping on the New York bandwagon, I am going on record right now with my “I told you so” prediction for 2010 – Forget the Super Bowl, the Jets won’t make the playoffs!

Let’s flash back to Sunday, December 20th of 2009. The Jets were walking off of the field after a 10-7 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, and NOBODY was talking Super Bowl at that time. Instead, folks were doubtful that the Jets would even reach the playoffs.

When you take an HONEST look at the Jets between then and now, what has changed? The short answer is “nothing good!”

Too Much Credit for Not Enough Substance

Sure, the Jets made the AFC championship game last season, but can we REALLY call the 2009 Jets a legitimate Super Bowl contender? I can’t!

The Jets eeked into the playoffs thanks to a schedule where the final two matchups pitted them against teams that already clinched post-season berths, and thus rested the stars. The Jets had the luck to draw a wild card matchup against a one-dimensional Cincinnati Bengals team that so heavily relied on the running game that the running back was simply EXHAUSTED when it came time for playoff football. And if not for some late mistakes by the San Diego Chargers, they would never have made it out of the divisional playoff round.

Now I know what you are thinking – the Jets STILL won their way into the AFC championship game, which is a fact that I cannot deny. I am just pointing out that they were the beneficiaries of very favorable conditions leading up to that AFC championship. As soon as the good luck ran out for New York, and they ran into a playoff seasoned Indianapolis Colts team, they were completely embarrassed in a 30-17 rout.

While the Jets enter the 2010 season after being just one game away from the Super Bowl last season, the result HARDLY matched the output.

Quarterback Concerns

Has Mark Sanchez done ANYTHING to convince anyone he can be a great quarterback in the NFL?

Not once last season did he pass for more than 300 yards in a single game. He DID have 14 games where he failed to eclipse the 200 yard mark, though. On the season, his 2,444 total yards ranked as the 23rd worst total in the league, and was almost DOUBLED by the NFL’s best, Matt Schaub.

In 18 games (including the playoffs), he had only one game of 20 completions or more, and his season total of only 196 completions placed him 25th in the league.

He threw for only 12 touchdowns last season (24th in the NFL), but had 20 interceptions (the second HIGHEST total, behind only Jay Cutler of the Bears).

I know that the Jets have brought in Santonio Holmes to give Sanchez another top-level target to throw the ball to, but (once more) has Mark Sanchez done ANYTHING to convince anyone he can be a great quarterback in the NFL?

In a word – NO!

Who Needs a QB Anyway?

So the Jets have a lousy quarterback. It didn’t seem to hurt at all last year, did it? Thomas Jones racked up more than 1,400 rushing yards, leading the Jets to the top rushing offense in the league last season.

That is a GREAT way to compensate for having a bum behind center. And the Jets plan to build off that tremendous rushing performance from last season, right?

WRONG!

In the organization’s infinite wisdom, Thomas Jones was released in favor of unproven Shonn Greene. Now I’m no football genius, but the adage “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” sure would seem to apply in this case.

Releasing Jones was the “head scratching” move of the off-season. The top rushing offense in the league (which arguably was the reason the team had marginal success during the regular season) actually parted ways WILLINGLY with the guy who made them so successful, all so they could rely on a kid with a whopping 108 TOTAL rushing attempts on his resume.

And alongside this unproven kid the organization brings in the soon-to-be washed up LaDanian Tomlinson, who hopes for one more shot at a winner before riding off into the Canton sunset.

What do you get when you mix a highly touted, yet unproven prospect with a once-great NFL record holder who thinks he still has a little gas left in the tank? You get a position battle!

That’s right, in a matter of months the Jets have fallen from having the league’s best rushing offense to not even knowing who the starter is (neither of whom have a PRAYER of producing the way that Thomas Jones did).

But Defense Wins Championships

The New York Jets had the top defense in the NFL in 2009. Led by All Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis, the Jets shut down opposing offenses, giving up only 252.3 yards and 14.8 points per game, no team was stingier when the offense was on the sidelines.

Here’s the problem, though. That superstar leader of the Jets defense, Darrelle Revis, has yet to show up for practice. Because he feels he is bigger than the team he plays for, Revis is foolishly demanding a new contract, and has held out from participating in team activities as his protest.

Without Revis, the Jets defense may not be hapless, but it is certainly not the loaded unit it was last season. And even if Revis and the Jets can come to some sort of an agreement (which today STILL seems unlikely), it is so far into the pre-season that his game-readiness is doubtful.

Wide Egos for Wide Receivers

I will grant only a couple sentences to the least valuable players on the entire Jets roster – Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes.

Holmes, who won’t even be on the field for the first four weeks of the season due to suspension, came to the Big Apple after being dealt away from the Pittsburgh Steelers because of yet another legal issue. It doesn’t at all matter what Holmes will do on the field, because he cannot seem to control his personal life.

As for his cross-field counterpart, the only thing that Braylon Edwards seems able to catch is bad press. He can run his mouth, but that pesky little thing called catching the ball seems to trip him up every time.

A Formula for Failure

Last season the Jets capitalized on the element of surprise and relied on a solid running game and a stingy defense to reach the AFC championship game.

Now the teams has drawn as much attention to itself as possible by painting a giant target on its back. The front office has weakened the running game, brought in unreliable receivers to support a quarterback whose performance would have gotten him fired on almost any other team in the league, and the top player is holding out for more money.

Are the Jets REALLY a playoff team?

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The Most Damaging Player Suspension Debate… Risky Jet Business

July 30, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Bleacher Fan and Loyal Homer.

The acquisition of Santonio Holmes from the Pittsburgh Steelers is as risk-laden as it is sensational.

While Holmes’ price tag, a fifth round draft pick seems a low price to pay, but it may be attached to some dire consequences. His immediate absence from a playoff bound team that is counting on several newly acquired marquee players to help may be prove critical in a make or break scenario for the Jets this season.

The New York Jets’ offseason has been somewhat of a gamble, and rather unpredictable, to say the very least. Rather than build upon the chemistry and momentum of a very good team from 2009 – which not only reached the post season, but narrowly missed the Super Bowl by just one game – the organization made several shocking roster changes hat drastically changed the look and feel of the team.

Gone are mainstays of the league leading rushing attack like Thomas Jones and Leon Washington. In their stead the team will call upon sophomore running back Shonn Greene and oft-injured free agent star LaDainian Tomlinson. The formidable Jets defense saw an overhaul following the departure of notable players like Lito Sheppard and Kerry Rhodes. Similar to the Tomlinson signing the Jets will attempt to make improvements with an aging big name star in Jason Taylor. The Jets were even rumored to have interest in the embattled and high profile receiving star Terrell Owens, before he signed with the Bengals.

While these splashy moves may garner attention they do not seem like the type of acquisitions a serious playoff contender would make to elevate their game to the next level.

Perhaps most shocking and potentially volatile of all the Jets’ off-season moves was he trade with the Steelers for wide receiver Santonio Holmes. In Holmes the Jets acquire a Super Bowl MVP coming off of 1,248 yard five touchdown season. But his accolades maybe somewhat deceiving. Prior to 2009 Holmes had never broken the 1,000 yard plateau, and he won the MVP award largely because of one catch. It was no doubt both important and spectacular, but it was still a singular action not indicative of a season’s worth of accomplishments.

Although the Jets desperately need someone to draw defenses attention away from their star wide receiver Braylon Edwards, it will be an awfully difficult task for Santonio Holmes, considering his costly four game suspension. Holmes will miss the start of the regular season due to a violation of the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Even though Holmes will be allowed to participate in pre-season training and practice games he will still be cold for the first four games of the regular season. He is bound to display some rust in his adjustment back to the rigors and speed of NFL game play, which opposing defenders will have overcome and adjusted to during his absence. While the Jets were well aware of the suspension prior to making the trade for Holmes, it’s easy to wonder if management considered the impact the suspension would have for their plans for the passing game.

It certainly seems that no one on the Jets’ current roster is capable of carrying the load in the aerial assault his stead. Jerricho Cotchery was limited to just 821 yards and three receiving touchdowns despite the mid-season addition of Braylon Edwards. It should also be noted that sophomore quarter back Mark Sanchez is bound to struggle without the aid of Holmes’ additional pair of hands on the roster. Sanchez struggled with accuracy throwing 20 interceptions last season. Unless New York makes a deal before the start of the regular season, or Holmes finds a loop hole to play right away, it appears like the Jets are in for more of the same.

It seems that Santonio Holmes’ suspension puts the Jets season in jeopardy. It is clear from their pattern of off-season moves that management believes Holmes is necessary to push the team further into the playoffs, but his behavior unnecessarily undermines the team’s efforts – right from the season’s inception.

Making the matter more frustrating is the fact that this is not the first time that Holmes’ conduct has been detrimental to his potential. In 2008 he was arrested for drug related charges and has more recently been implicated in an altercation with a woman in an Orlando night club. This behavior is in line with the undoing of several embattled stars throughout the NFL whose careers have fallen into a tailspin because of bad choices. What makes Holmes’ suspension even worse is the fact that his pattern of behavior indicates that this is not an isolated incident and he may very well incur another suspension perhaps at a more inopportune time.

Holmes simply isn’t worth the risk. His suspension makes him a liability, one that the Jets quite simply can’t afford.

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The Attending 2010 NFL Training Camp Debate… Where the Steel is No Longer Stainless

July 19, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Sports Geek.

Last year at this time spirits could not have been higher in and around the city of Pittsburgh.

The beloved Steelers were coming into training camp as the reigning Super Bowl champions. They were returning many of the stars that helped them one season earlier. The team appeared as likely as any other team in the NFL to be right on course for another playoff-caliber season (with the hopes of successfully defending a championship at another Super Bowl well within reach).

What a difference a year makes!

As the 2009-2010 NFL season (and offseason) wore on, the Steelers were on the short end of many sticks, both on AND off the field. The result today is a sense of frustration, and perhaps desperation, replacing that previous feeling of jubilation as the Steelers commence with preparation for a season loaded with trepidation (I feel like a boxing promoter!).

The past 12 months have been one long series of disappointments for the Pittsburgh Steelers. After riding into opening weekend with the highest of expectations, the team stumbled out of the gates, needing overtime to win its first game, then falling to Chicago and Cincinnati in the next two. Later in the season the Steelers would suffer a five-game losing streak – three of which embarrassingly came at the hands of Kansas City, Oakland, and Cleveland, who last season COMBINED for only 14 wins.

Players began attacking and criticizing each other and the phrase “Steelers Stink” was heard for the first time in many years around Pittsburgh. It became very clear that the Steelers organization was in trouble. When the curtain fell on the 2009 regular season the Steelers became only the 13th team in NFL history to fail in its attempt to reach the playoffs as reigning champions.

Off the field the Steelers had a fair share of issues as well, highlighted by the legal troubles of wide receiver Santonio Holmes and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

This was not the first time either player had been involved in off-field scandal. The result for the Steelers is to be without both offensive stars as the 2010 season commences.

Despite the fact that Holmes was a Super Bowl MVP, and was the team’s leading receiver, the Steelers traded him away to the New York Jets for nothing more than a fifth-round draft pick. Meanwhile, Roethlisberger will serve a six-game ban to kick off the new season as punishment for his indiscretions. Add to those issues the very impressive performances by the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals last season, and the Steelers begin to look like a franchise on the verge of self-destruction.

Now the Steelers must face the prospect of a new season with many more questions than answers.

Perhaps the largest question looming over the Steelers as camp opens is how to handle Ben Roethlisberger’s involvement in preparation for the upcoming season. Will he practice with the first team, or will the backups be spending most of their time lining up with the starting crew? Also (and perhaps most importantly), what if the Steelers find success behind a backup quarterback during the weeks that Roethlisberger is suspended? Should the team stick with what is working or go back to the guy getting paid more than $100M to play that position? Do not forget that the Steelers were actively soliciting trade offers for the former Pro Bowler around draft time. They have clearly been disappointed in Big Ben’s off-field antics, and could be looking for any excuse to relegate his status on the field.

If you could only attend one training camp all year long, Pittsburgh is the place to be. The Steelers are one of the league’s best franchises in recent history wins two out of the last five Super Bowls, but all signs currently point toward a continued collapse. Will Byron Leftwich and the return of Antwaan Randle El be enough to keep the Steelers competitive through the first half of the season, or should fans in Pittsburgh already start looking ahead to the 2011 season… when the franchise can truly start anew?

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The 2010 NFL Player on the Hot Seat Debate… Big Expectations in the Big Apple

June 14, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Loyal Homer.

From a statistical standpoint, Mark Sanchez’s rookie season could hardly be considered a success.

In 2009, Sanchez threw for only 2,444 yards and 12 touchdowns, while giving up 20 interceptions. He had four games in which he threw for three or more interceptions. In those games (each of which the Jets lost), he threw for only two total touchdowns, compared to a combined 15 interceptions.

Compare that number to his AFC Championship counterpart, Peyton Manning, who threw for 4,500 yards and 33 touchdowns against only 16 interceptions. Manning also had only one game with three or more interceptions, and he still managed to toss FOUR touchdowns during that one game (which was still won by a score of 28-16).

Obviously, Peyton Manning is a difficult standard for any quarterback to be compared against. But that is exactly the caliber of quarterback that Sanchez must compete against if he hopes to find himself playing in the Super Bowl.

At the end of the 2009 season we learned that Mark Sanchez was an inconsistent quarterback who tended to make more mistakes than good decisions. A repeat performance this season will NOT warrant the same success for the Jets in 2010, though. That success, however, is nonetheless what the Jets and their fans are expecting.

After reaching the AFC Championship game last season (by virtue of owning the league’s best running game and defense), anything less than a Super Bowl appearance for the Jets will be considered a failure. And while the Jets’ defense remains relatively intact, the offense will look very different this upcoming season, placing increased pressure on Sanchez to get the job done.

Last season the Jets were a run-first offense, but that appears to be changing as we move into 2010.

For starters, Thomas Jones (who last season amassed 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns) is no longer with the Jets after being released in favor of the untested Shonn Green, and the injury-prone (albeit still dangerous) LaDanian Tomlinson. The team then added Santonio Holmes to bolster the receiving corps, in an effort to give Sanchez as many weapons as possible.

With those changes Sanchez MUST begin throwing for more than TEN completions per game (something he failed to do FIVE TIMES last season). He must also achieve more than 200 passing yards per game (something he failed to do 11 times last season), and he must balance out his TD to INT ratio.

Something in 2010 will have to change. Either Sanchez will step up and improve his passing game, or the Jets will find a new quarterback to lead the team to victory. The Jets organization, and its fans, has made their wishes known coming into the 2010 season. Both parties want EXPECT a Super Bowl for their beloved Jets. The responsibility falls to Sanchez alone to the team there.

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The 2010 Biggest Pre-Draft Move Debate… Spring Cleaning in the Steel City

April 23, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Sports Geek.

There have been some big moves in the weeks leading up to the 2010 NFL Draft.

Included within those moves are face lifts for two teams that have traded away the very people who for the last decade, in the San Diego Chargers (who released LaDanian Tomlinson) and the Philadelphia Eagles (who traded away Donovan McNabb).

In terms of blockbuster deals, no trade has been bigger than that of Brandon Marshall, who was sent to the Miami Dolphins after a season in Denver where his on-field success was unfortunately overshadowed by several issues that have somewhat diminished the perception of what this dangerous receiver can consistently do.

But with all of those transactions, where teams have put forth the off-season efforts they hope will improve their organization, the team facing the biggest changes to their team is doing so as a RE-active, rather than PRO-active, measure. The biggest pre-draft moves of the NFL 2010 season were the penalty-induced suspensions and transaction of Santonio Holmes and Ben Roethlisberger.

First comes the story of Santonio Holmes, who has been in legal trouble, it seems, since entering the league in 2006. He has admitted to having sold drugs prior to seriously pursuing football, and since 2006 has been hit with assault charges, domestic violence charges, drug charges, and is once again facing a lawsuit for allegedly throwing a glass at a woman in a bar.

And then there is Ben Roethlisberger, who recently was under investigation for the second time with regard to sexual assault allegations.

You know – Really CLASSY actions!

As a result of their respective misdeeds, both Holmes and Roethlisberger are facing suspensions for the first four to six weeks of the upcoming regular season. This presented a very big problem for the Steelers, because both Holmes and Roethlisberger were integral parts of the Pittsburgh offense.

Holmes, a former first-round draft pick (and the MVP of Super Bowl XLIII) was coming off of one of the best seasons in his career as a Wide Receiver. Meanwhile, Roethlisberger had been developing into one of the most successful quarterbacks in the game today. In fact, the Steelers saw fit to reward Roethlisberger’s success back in 2008 with an eight-year, $102M contract, making him one of the highest paid players in the entire league.

Despite that success from two of the Steelers’ most promising offensive stars, patience with the oft scandalized tandem has finally run out, prompting the team to retool their offense.

Two weeks ago, the Steelers dumped Santonio Holmes and all of his baggage in a trade with the New York Jets, where all they received in return was a fifth-round pick in this weekend’s draft. Clearly, Holmes’ stock had drastically plummeted in the eyes of Pittsburgh and its fans. To value a player with Holmes’ on-field credentials as only being worth a fifth-rounder speaks volumes with regard to their opinion of his character.

Following the announcement of Roethlisberger’s suspension, the Steelers began talks in trying to trade him away as well. To this point, they have not been able to find a suitable partner, but there is a long way to go before the season begins, and a lot of negotiation can take place in the meantime. Don’t forget, also, that even IF Roethlisberger remains on the team, he will not be available to suit up until week SEVEN. That is a lifetime when you consider that the NFL season is only 16 weeks long!

So much for the Steelers’ original plans.

The Rooney family has been very vocal in their displeasure of the situation that Holmes and Roethlisberger put them in, and has taken measures to demonstrate that there is no room within the Steelers organization for thoughtless and reckless behavior, no matter how successful those players may have been on the field. As a Cleveland native you won’t hear me say this often, but I must applaud the Pittsburgh Steelers for having taken such a strong stance in these matters!

The message that the Roger Goodell (now with the support of at least one well-respected owner) is sending is a simple one – being a part of the NFL is a privilege, and must be taken seriously. When a player puts their career at risk by participating in these foolish (and possibly criminal) activities, they put the whole organization at risk. These moves by the Steelers (which may not be over yet) have clearly made the most impact, not only in Pittsburgh, but to the entire NFL.

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The Best Game To Watch THIS Weekend Debate – Steelers Versus Bears… An OFFENSIVE Showdown?!

September 18, 2009

Read Sports Geek’s and Loyal Homer’s arguments about which game this weekend is the one that you CANNOT miss.

If I told you before the NFL season started that the week two matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Chicago Bears was the one to watch because of how the team’s respective OFFENSES were going to control the game, you would have laughed at me. However, after injuries last weekend to Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher and Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, that is exactly what the situation is shaping up to be.

The Bears and Steelers are both textbook examples of a “defense-first” mentality. Both organizations confidently feature their defenses, relying on their offenses to a much lesser degree. However, this weekend both are forced to take the field without their key defensive players (the Steelers will still have the NFL’s 2008 Defensive Player of the Year linebacker James Harrison on the field, but it is Polamalu who is undeniably viewed as the leader of their defense). The absence of Urlacher and Polamalu leaves gaping holes in each teams’ defense, and it will be up to their supporting cast to fill in those gaps.

This means that both teams also have an opportunity offensively to capitalize on their opponent’s defensive weakness.

No player on the field will be subject to more scrutiny or have higher expectations placed on him than Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. Following the highly publicized drama around Cutler’s departure from Denver, and the subsequent praise bestowed on the Bears for “finally” bringing in a pro-bowl caliber quarterback for the first time in over 20 years, many expected Cutler to become the final piece of the Bears’ championship puzzle. However, a very disappointing performance against the Green Bay Packers during week one of the season has cast doubt on his ability to carry the team.

The leadership responsibility now lies solely on Cutler’s shoulders to help the Bears succeed offensively. With the matchup this weekend against a significantly less dangerous Pittsburgh defense than if Polamalu were playing, Cutler will have as good an opportunity as any to prove that he was worth all the off-season hoopla. I hope, for his sake, that it works out well for the Bears. If the fans in Chicago booed quarterback Rex Grossman during the 2006 season (the same year when the Bears actually played in the Super Bowl), what do you think they will do to an over-hyped, underperforming prima-donna who fails to live up to expectations (which is exactly how many fans in Chi-Town will perceive Cutler if he cannot perform satisfactorily), no matter how unrealistic those expectations are?

Meanwhile, on the other side of the field, the Steelers will be dealing with their own share of scrutiny and expectation. They may have a much more established offense than Chicago, with players like quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and wide receivers Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes to rely on, but defense has always been the focal point of a Steelers’ game plan.

Last weekend, Pittsburgh struggled offensively for much of the game against the Tennessee Titans, including a late Hines Ward fumble that nearly cost the Steelers the game. This week against the Bears, they can ill-afford to repeat that performance because they will not have a defense that is at full strength to fall back on as a safety-net.

The Steelers-Bears matchup on Sunday in Chicago is going to present a unique test for both teams. On defense, we will find out which player’s injury was more costly to their team (Urlacher or Polamalu), and we will find out which team’s offense is better prepared to carry the load for a weakened defense that cannot be called upon to do everything.

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