JEROME BETTIS: STEELERS ANSWER CHALLENGE
By JEROME BETTIS
Two weeks ago I thought my Pittsburgh Steelers were on the verge of falling out of playoff contention. But now they are right back in the thick of the hunt, thanks to an inspired performance against Baltimore on Sunday.
Pittsburgh went into that game like a wounded dog, with Ben Roethlisberger still hurt and unable to play. But sometimes a wounded dog is the most dangerous animal, because he's going to defend himself and fight to the end. That's what the Steelers did. They fought off an excellent Ravens team and they survived their turnovers.
The defense was spectacular the entire game, but most importantly it stepped up and got the ball back for the offense at the most crucial time.
And I also give a lot of credit to Charlie Batch. A week ago he was heavily criticized, and many fans were wondering why he was still the designated starter. His arm strength was questioned widely, but in one week he changed all those thoughts and erased the memory of his rough outing in Cleveland.
Charlie is a good friend, and an intensely competitive guy, but he also has a very soft heart. He does so much for the city of Pittsburgh with charity work, and his foundation and basketball camp. It's always great to see good things happen for a truly good guy.
HARD TO BELIEVE WHAT ANDREW LUCK'S DOING
Andrew Luck made a ton of mistakes against Detroit, but the important thing was that it never rattled the rookie. Usually, a rookie quarterback will start dwelling on what he has done wrong, and lose that ability to focus on what he needs to do on the next play or series.
Luck showed tremendous poise and led his team downfield at crunch time, producing clutch plays on fourth downs. He remained a gunslinger from the first throw to the last throw. It won't be long before we start discussing him as an elite quarterback, in a very select circle of the best passers.
AP DEFINITELY STANDS FOR ALL-PRO
Adrian Peterson is an animal, and it seems like every week he does something new to amaze me. Here's a guy who's coming off reconstructive knee surgery and yet as the season progresses he's looking better than ever.
The MVP conversation almost always revolves around quarterbacks, but it's time for AP to be included in that dialogue. What he's doing is special, and perhaps historic. To run for more than 200 yards is awesome, and he did it with some of the best breakaway sprints of his career. Every single play, you were on the edge of your seat, knowing he could go the distance at any moment.
MY HEART GOES OUT TO EVERYONE IN KC
The circumstances surrounding Kansas City's game against Carolina on Sunday obviously couldn't be any sadder. My prayers go out to the families of both people who died, and especially to the 2-month-old girl who no longer has parents.
I know the Chiefs must be torn in different directions, wanting to remember their teammate in a positive way, yet finding it impossible to understand how he could take his girlfriend's life. The outcome of their football game was trivial by comparison, but it was impressive to see them pull themselves together and be professionals amid the tragedy that unfolded on their doorstep.
JETS STILL PAYING FOR THE TEBOW MISTAKE
Reality has really caught up with the Jets now. I think until Sunday's game they still believed Mark Sanchez was their franchise quarterback, or at least a good quarterback. Now it's apparent that's not the case. He's struggling mightily and they have to look at other options.
But they also have to regret trading for Tim Tebow, because this is a team that desperately needs a veteran backup QB to step in. At best, Tebow is serviceable. And as bad as Sanchez has been it would be even worse if they handed the offense to Tebow. This experiment has really cost them.
I STILL DON'T HAVE A SUPER BOWL FAVORITE
This is shaping up to be a very memorable playoff season, maybe one of the best and most competitive ever. All the teams that are closing in on division championships look really strong, but no one team stands out significantly from the rest of the pack.
I don't have a Super Bowl favorite, and I really believe this is one of those years where numerous teams could win. The other great factor is that the likely wild card teams are showing the capacity to win big games on the road, as Indianapolis and Pittsburgh did on Sunday.
So this won't be a year where the playoffs are decided by home-field advantage.
The NFL's No. 6 rusher all-time reviews each week's action with his "Around the League with Jerome Bettis" blog. Bettis retired after his Pittsburgh Steelers won Super Bowl XL in 2006 and The Bus is expected to be a strong candidate for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in January's voting. Bettis was a six-time Pro Bowler and since 1996 his The Bus Stops Here foundation has worked to help underprivileged children in inner cities.