- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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Let's dig into the weekend mailbag.
Mike from Severn, Md., writes: I am a huge Pittsburgh Steelers fan living among all these Baltimore Ravens fans. But why do you think the Steelers didn't run the no-huddle offense to try to disrupt the New Orleans Saints' blitz?
James Walker: The Steelers are one of several teams that can run the no-huddle offense well, but we haven't seen it this year. In recent seasons, Pittsburgh had some success with it, and it has helped when the offense has sputtered. But I think quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's four-game suspension means Pittsburgh isn't trying to get too exotic right away. The Steelers need to focus more on getting in sync with the basics now that their entire offense is intact.
Nakaz from Honolulu writes: How much of a concern is the Steelers' pass defense? Should Steeler Nation be worried?
Walker: I wouldn't go overboard yet because Pittsburgh is still No. 5 in total defense. Recent opponents have learned to stop banging their heads against the wall trying to establish the run against the Steelers, when short and intermediate passes are more effective. Now that opponents have adjusted, it's up to Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau to re-adjust those tendencies. We will see if the Steelers' defense can, starting Monday against the Cincinnati Bengals.
JC13 from New Lexington, Ohio, writes: Why do you think it's taking so long for the Bengals to fire Marvin Lewis and see if Mike Zimmer has what it takes to be a head coach?
Walker: We are getting this question a lot and it's really moot. Lewis is not getting fired by the Bengals. The Bengals will let Lewis finish out the season and his contract, and from there, it will be up to both parties to determine if they will work out an extension or go their separate ways.
Alex Zorniger from Dayton, Ohio, writes: Did the Bengals draft a bust offensive lineman in Andre Smith?
Walker: I have a pretty stern rule that I refuse to call any NFL player a bust after one year. I've seen too many rookies -- Troy Polamalu being a perfect example in the division -- look confused early but go on to be Pro Bowl players. But as we are halfway through Smith’s second season, he's closer to "bust" than "boom" in my opinion. Smith has made a few strides in his second year, but certainly not enough to warrant the No. 6 overall pick and a $42 million contract. Cincinnati missing on this pick didn't hurt the team last year. But I think it's coming back to really bite the Bengals during their struggles this season.
Farhaan Khalik from Baltimore wants to know the MVP so far for the Baltimore Ravens.
Walker: I'd give the nod to Pro Bowl defensive lineman Haloti Ngata. He's been dominant in several games this season and surprisingly leads the Ravens with four sacks. But also don't overlook the contributions from quarterback Joe Flacco season and kicker Billy Cundiff .
Joseph J from Pittsburgh writes: I was just wondering, why did the Browns trade Jerome Harrison to the Philadelphia Eagles? I remember watching him at the end of last season and thinking he would be their RB of the future. What happened?
Walker: Browns president Mike Holmgren confirmed this week that Harrison grew unhappy with his role in Cleveland. He expected to have a big season and be the full-time starter. But that wasn't the case and he ended up in the doghouse and with few opportunities. Instead of keeping an unhappy player, the Browns made a trade.
Comment and complaint department
Here are some comments and complaints from our AFC North community.
Matt from Chester, Va., writes: I know that I have all of Steeler Nation backing me up when I say that on every down linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley are held. If you don't believe me, watch the Saints' drive capped off with a pass to Lance Moore. Literally every down there is a major hold right in front of the umpire.
NN from Cleveland writes: Will Ben Roethlisberger ever have the option of just throwing the ball away when he's about to be sacked for a loss? Even as he's about to land on the ground, he is looking for a receiver and is down for a loss of yards.
Walker: Matt, we get this complaint a lot in the AFC North blog. For the most part, we ignore it for a few reasons. First, we typically stay away from officiating issues because refs miss calls throughout the year with every team, and to some degree it balances out. We could probably discuss a couple of bad calls every week in the blog, and I don't want to go down that road. Second, the Steelers get different officiating crews every game and those holding calls Pittsburgh fans have complained about for years aren't flagged. So according to the majority of officials, most of those blocks are not considered holds. NN, that's just Roethlisberger's style. He's always looking to make a big play and more often than not he pulls it off.
Mike from Columbus, Ohio, writes: James, I know this might not be the popular thing to say, but I believe they should keep the QB depth chart the way it was at the beginning of the season. Jake Delhomme No. 1, Seneca Wallace being the backup and Colt McCoy the third QB. Jake has only played one half this year healthy and you signed him to a large deal. He is a proven veteran and he deserves a chance to be the starter. Seneca is and should always be a No. 2. The Browns should go back to letting McCoy sit for this year unless needed again.
Walker: Mike, I was surprised by the number of people this week who felt Delhomme deserved another chance. It wasn't a large group, but I didn't think any Browns fans felt this way. But I disagree. There are valid points to play Wallace and McCoy, but I see no point in playing Delhomme again this year. He doesn't help your future and there's no evidence that he gives the Browns the best chance to win in the present. McCoy will get his third consecutive start Sunday against the New England Patriots. My second choice would be Wallace, because he played decently in four starts.
Martin Stanberry from USA writes: Almost everyone seems to have an opinion about Carson Palmer's play. Whenever he has big games people say "He only threw so many touchdowns and for so many yards because they were playing catch-up all game." There is some truth to this. His biggest games have come when they are down big, but the better question is why is this the case?
Walker: It's true that Palmer's best halves this year came against the Patriots and Atlanta Falcons when Cincinnati was trailing big. I have a couple theories. The pacing was more up-tempo in both cases, and Cincinnati took more shots downfield. More opportunities equaled more big plays. Also, the defenses bring less pressure when opponents have big leads and play more "prevent" not to allow big plays. Cincinnati's pass protection has been inconsistent picking up blitzes, and the Bengals face less pressure when they're down by two or more touchdowns.
AFC North Homer of the Week
For the first time, we have a back-to-back winner for AFC North Homer of the Week.
John W. from Denver writes: Ok, so my Bengals lost to Miami. I was wrong. I still believe they are the best team in football. I don't count them out yet. Look at what the Titans did last year. I'm feeling a hot streak coming on for the Bengals. They will go to the Super Bowl and prove all the haters wrong!
Walker: Keep hope alive, John. You should go for a record three straight Homer of the Week awards next week.