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Steelers overcome QB chaos to show they might be NFL's best

TAMPA, Fla. -- After watching Pittsburgh dismantle a Tampa Bay team that is going to cause some future opponents some problems, it really hit me that for all the teams that are going through quarterback chaos, no one has been through more at the position than the Steelers.

And what that tells me is that all those squads changing quarterbacks looking for a spark or hoping for hope -- other than those teams had all offseason to get it right -- is that Pittsburgh might have the best team in the NFL. Think about it, is there any other team in the league that could win its first three games with two different (backup) quarterbacks?

Sure, Pittsburgh's defense led the way, but let me ask the same question again, is there any other team in the NFL with a defense to withstand three quarterback changes against Atlanta (2-1, sole loss to the Steelers), Tennessee (2-1, sole loss to the Steelers) and Tampa Bay (2-1, sole loss to the Steelers)?

Don Wright / Associated Press
While the Steelers are 3-0 with two different starting QBs, the defense is a big reason for the success.
Where Pittsburgh's defense ranks
Total defense Turnovers Sacks
278.7 YPG (sixth) 10 (first) 10 (T-fourth)

Now, with Charlie Batch getting them to 3-0 with a 31-point offensive outburst against the Buccaneers (defensive end Brett Keisel scored on an interception), things really seem to be coming together -- just in time for the throw down against the Ravens on Sunday. And make no mistake about it; Pittsburgh feels it's going to do to Baltimore what it's done to its previous three opponents -- with Batch at quarterback.

"We are a bunch of resilient guys," wide receiver Hines Ward said. "We don't listen to people outside this locker room. If we're 4-0 with Ben [Roethlisberger] coming back, I'm sure there'll be a lot of people hopping on the bandwagon."

The Steelers have used every bit of motivation they can. They want to shove it to all of us who said they'd go 2-2 at best without the suspended quarterback and show how stupid we were. Coach Mike Tomlin has prodded veterans -- like Batch -- to prove themselves relevant and to keep the younger players on the roster from taking their jobs. He's also told young players to take jobs from veterans, Ward told me.

Batch told me that he didn't want to be the weak link against Tampa Bay. He sure wasn't. If he has a decent outing against the Ravens, he could solidify a grip on the backup job when Roethlisberger returns. Besides Batch's level of play and having widespread respect among his teammates, his cause to be the No. 2 quarterback is aided by Dennis Dixon being several weeks away from returning after knee surgery and Byron Leftwich sporting a fairly hefty brace on his sprained knee.

The galvanization for a sole purpose is the one aspect so many people discounted about the Steelers -- and maybe the importance of having Troy Polamalu back -- and they are loving throwing it in everyone's face. It's early, but the Steelers are walking the walk.

Whatever happens against Baltimore this week, Pittsburgh held its own without Roethlisberger, whose suspension for violating the personal conduct policy ends after the Ravens' game. That is where things will get interesting. Big Ben will be the starter. There's no controversy in that. Pittsburgh has to guard against Roethlisberger's return being a security blanket.

There could very well be a tendency to relax since they held serve without him, thinking that once he's back, he'll take some of the pressure off. Right now, players are saying that won't be the case. Hard to doubt anything based on what they've done so far.

"He's our teammate and we're a band of brothers," Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace said of Roethlisberger. "We don't kick anybody under the bus. We don't do that. We leave that to other teams to do that to each other. We know what we have. We're going to try and get back into the groove with him as soon as possible when he gets back -- but we don't look for any one man to carry the team.

"Every man has to do his job. Every man should want to be the hero. I want to be the hero. I want to be the guy who makes plays. We can't sit back and put it all on Ben's shoulders. We want to be a team, we don't want this to be a one-man show."

Chargers could still move Jackson

When holdout wide receiver Vincent Jackson didn't get traded by last Wednesday's deadline that could get him on the field in October, the uproar, mainly aimed at San Diego, was pretty substantial. His agents cracked Chargers general manager A.J. Smith, calling him the "Lord of No Rings," while others said he was driving too hard of a bargain.

Though there is widespread belief that Smith and team president Dean Spanos might squeeze Jackson and increase trade compensation demands, a general manager told me this week that he thinks Jackson will get moved by the Oct. 19 deadline. His thinking is that over the next few weeks, some teams with playoff aspirations could suffer an injury or injuries at wide receiver and offer up the multiple high-, mid-range picks San Diego wants.


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I'm not so sure of that.

What about this scenario: The Chargers might sustain an injury at wideout or realize that they're not quite as good as they could be with Jackson. They are 1-2 after all. Could things be bridged or has this gotten too personal for the Chargers? I'm not so sure of that either, but with all the peculiar storylines that have unfolded this season, something like that could very well unfold.

This isn't over.

Buccaneers' Jackson headed to rehab

Tampa Bay safety Tanard Jackson plans to enter a rehabilitation center in the near future as part of a process to keep on the straight and narrow and to get back into the NFL, a team official told me. Jackson was suspended last week for a year after a third violation of the substance abuse policy.

The Buccaneers plan to stand by the talented safety, whose suspension had a drastic effect on their defense. Without Jackson, Pittsburgh attacked rookie safety Cody Grimm (one of five players featured on NFL.com's On The Fringe series). Wallace started the Steelers' offensive onslaught by grabbing a 46-yard touchdown from Batch over the seventh-round draft pick, who struggled tracking the ball.

A home for Blount?

Undrafted rookie running back LeGarrette Blount could become known for actually playing football rather than the punch he threw at a Boise State player while he was at Oregon.

In his first -- and surprise -- game action, he led the Bucs with 27 yards on six carries and scored a violent touchdown in which he withstood a battering from Steelers defenders and then battered them backward into the end zone. There was talk after the game that Blount's solid outing could get him into the rotation, possibly at the expense of starter Cadillac Williams.

Williams will still be the main ball carrier, but they hope to incorporate Kareem Huggins and Blount (also featured in NFL.com's On The Fringe series) to add some explosiveness and diversity to the running attack.

This evolving scenario almost didn't materialize this quickly because Blount wasn't supposed to be active against the Steelers due to the fact that he wasn't up to speed with the offense. He'd spent the entire preseason with Tennessee, which hoped to slip him through waivers and re-sign him to the practice squad, only to have him poached by Tampa Bay.

He was added game-day morning and, surprisingly, thrown in the game early. He would have played more but once the Buccaneers fell behind and had to pass, he was kept on the sideline because he is a liability in pass protection.

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