JEROME BETTIS BLOG: The Bus is worried about his Steelers
Throughout the NFL season Pittsburgh Steelers legend Jerome Bettis will write a weekly blog, giving his thoughts and opinions on teams and players. Here's his take on the league's latest developments.
By JEROME BETTIS
NO MORE DOUBTS ABOUT ANDREW LUCK
Coming in, I was a bit concerned about the amount of press Andrew Luck got and whether it was warranted. But after looking at him the last couple of games, especially this past week, I saw a rookie quarterback that looked more like a veteran quarterback. I was impressed not only by his accuracy but by his demeanor. The indication is that he's the real deal.
Most rookie quarterbacks struggle with keeping their eyes downfield, but that wasn't the case with Luck. Usually, especially in the preseason games, you see that rookie quarterbacks are a little gun shy. That's just normally the case. They're not used to taking an NFL hit or seeing the pocket crumble around them. To see Luck play through that and step up in the pocket and keep his eyes downfield is a strong indication he's ready.
You also could see he's in control of the huddle, getting in and out of it quickly. When you see a huddle break really crisply, with everyone getting the play and boom, everybody bursts from the huddle at the same time, that tells you it was a good huddle. When you see guys linger it's usually a sign the quarterback was struggling with his terminology or had trouble making the play call clearly. You don't want to see guys coming out to one side and then running back the other way. With Luck and the Colts you could see it was very clear, and that usually doesn't happen in three weeks for a rookie quarterback.
RGIII LOOKS BETTER THAN VICK DID AS A ROOKIE
I really believe Robert Griffin III is headed in the same direction as Luck. I see the poise, I see the accurate throws. The only think I'm worried about with RGIII is that it seems like Mike Shanahan isn't throwing the entire playbook at him and giving him the opportunity to get all the plays in. The Colts let Andrew Luck stay in the game longer and as a result he'll be more prepared when the season starts. With RGIII, I thought they pulled him out a little early. I just think that in a situation like this, when you have a franchise quarterback who's a rookie, he needs all the reps he can get. Especially if he's the Week 1 starter. But I still believe he's going to be really good this season.
RGIII did take a number of deep shots downfield, and even though he didn't complete them that's not a problem. Most rookie quarterbacks don't throw it deep right away. That usually takes time because most young quarterbacks want to get the ball out of their hand right away. They'll go with shorter throws because they're not comfortable with waiting that extra tick of the clock for that deep throw to come open.
And just in case anyone still doesn't realize it, those deep throws from RGIII made it clear he has a cannon of an arm. If I had to name a quarterback who showed similar arm strength as a rookie I'd probably say Michael Vick came the closest. He had a cannon too, but he didn't have RGIII's accuracy. In terms of accuracy between those two as rookies, it's night and day.
MY PITTSBURGH STEELERS HAVE ME WORRIED
I'm concerned about my Steelers, especially now that it looks like David DeCastro's knee injury is very serious. The Steelers were looking for their first-round draft pick to step up at right guard and be a big part of the offensive line this season. If DeCastro is lost for an extended period it's a major blow for a unit that already was having problems. The Pittsburgh running game really hasn't been a force so far in preseason, but I know the offensive line is a resilient group of guys and I know they'll be able to bounce back. But the big question is how good a job they will be able to do protecting Ben Roethlisberger?
The Steelers have looked good during two-minute drills, but that's not really an indication of how good an offense is. That's a product of Ben knowing his position, and understanding what he needs to do on the fly. A successful two-minute drill really depends on your quarterback, and Ben is one of the best at that.
Meantime, there's some concern about whether this offense can be a really good one. With Mike Wallace finally reporting I expect him to jump right back onto the field as soon as possible, because that's what the Steelers need him to do, but I don't think that's the best scenario. With a speed guy like that who hasn't had any camp the odds of him pulling a hamstring are really great. There's a difference between running in training and running in game conditions. In game situations, you have to go out there and start and stop, make cuts, and you can't duplicate those on-field demands during training. I'm fearful he's going to come in and be injured early in the season and leave that offense in even more trouble.
NEW YORK JETS AND TEBOW MANIA
A lot of tension has been heaped on the Jets already, before they've played a single regular-season game, and I think it's a problem that's stunting the growth of the team. Take the benching of right tackle Wayne Hunter -- before he was traded Monday night -- which blew up into front page news in New York. It shouldn't be a big issue to make a lineup switch, because that's what training camp is all about. But the problem now is that they've had so much media attention since Tim Tebow arrived that every move they make is scrutinized.
In training camp you're trying to work toward a place where you'll start the season at a high point, but I think all of the excessive attention that's been given to their poor preseason games means the players aren't building confidence. It sends such a bad message to the team. Because of all this, I think this season is going to go really badly for them. And if they lose their first game, against Buffalo, there's going to be an even greater barrage of negativity.
And there's nothing they can do to fix it. It's too late, because the spotlight already is glued to them. It was a quieter situation before the trade for Tim Tebow, but once he came to town so did the circus.
The Jets' offensive line did look a little better on Sunday, so there is some hope the running game will provide some stability for that offense. But it's still a situation where Mark Sanchez is going to have to make some big plays.
IS MJD THIS SEASON'S CHRIS JOHNSON?
Jacksonville Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey says he still believes Maurice Jones-Drew can be a Week 1 starter, even after missing so much camp, and I won't argue with that. It could happen, but he just won't be an effective Week 1 starter.
Without time in training camp there's no way MJD is going to be up to speed and capable of quality play. He doesn't even know his offensive line. It doesn't matter how many guys are back from last season, because every year you have a different team. He's got to figure out what the line is doing well, and where it's weak. So MJD absolutely could be this season's version of what Chris Johnson was for Tennessee last year, a big-name running back whose numbers take a huge drop.
MJD doesn't need camp to learn plays, but he does need his body to endure that stress and fatigue that it can't possibly encounter when he's training alone. If he comes back and tries right away to go 4-5 plays in a row I guarantee you he's going to be on his knees, fighting for air. I went through something like that when I had a holdout early in my career, back when I was with the Rams. It took me a while to get going and if I had tried to play a full game immediately it would have been really, really difficult. So I understand that Mularkey is hoping for the best, but I think he's being a bit too optimistic.
And speaking of conditioning, the fourth quarter of Week 1 games will tell you which teams had the best conditioning programs during camp. The fourth quarter of Week 1 games is when players will be more tired than at any other time during the season. The weather is still hot and humid, and it's the first time they'll face the demands of going all-out for 60 minutes. You're going to see some teams fade, and you're going to see some teams come on strong. You'll be able to see which teams have had a superior work ethic, and you'll also see some sloppy football from teams that aren't in shape, and it will be very evident.
DEZ BRYANT AND THE DALLAS COWBOYS
It's pretty strange to read the reports that the Dallas Cowboys have banned Dez Bryant from going to strip clubs and that they're assigning a full-time security team to make sure he stays out of trouble. But that's the Cowboys. They've done it before, with Pacman Jones. If there's any team that's used to it, or that's comfortable with it, it's Dallas. But what does it say about the player? Nothing good, obviously, and that he doesn't have self-restraint or good decision-making skills.
When I was with the Steelers, we never had a situation like this. The deal with Pittsburgh is that it's all about character. If the Steelers felt you didn't have the right kind of character you wouldn't be there. And while we're on the topic of the Steelers' character, let me give a shoutout to Pittsburgh's, LaMarr Woodley.
It came as no surprise last week when LaMarr gave $60,000 to the public schools system in his home town of Saginaw, Michigan, so that high school athletes there won't have to pay $75 apiece as a participation fee for sports. LaMarr is that type of guy, and he cares very deeply about kids being given an opportunity. He's very passionate about his city, which has had a rough environment because of high unemployment after the automotive industry pulled out of there. LaMarr has a charitable foundation and doing something like this is right up his alley.
PEYTON MANNING AND THE BRONCOS
Peyton Manning had a great Sunday against San Francisco. He took some hits, got up, and kept delivering the ball with accuracy. But the fact that Denver looked really good wasn't all about Peyton. I was equally impressed with the Broncos' defense. They ran around and created a lot of problems for San Francisco, which really wasn't able to protect Alex Smith very well.
If Denver's defense continues to be that dominant Peyton is going to get a lot of opportunities with the football, and that's going to spell a lot of trouble for opposing teams.
NOTRE DAME HAS RIGHT IDEA ON UNIFORMS
As someone who played on two bowl-winning teams at Notre Dame I have to weigh in on the new Fighting Irish uniforms. At first glance I thought they looked crazy, but I love the jerseys. The helmets, with the asymmetric color scheme, not so much. But I understand the need for the new look. You have to keep up with the competition, and new looks have become a big part of college football. This is where the college game is gravitating, with Oregon, Maryland and Ohio State leading the way lately, and Penn State finally putting the names of players on uniforms.
College football has a different landscape now, and this is all part of attracting today's recruits. You may not agree with the looks, but I totally agree with the mindset.
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.