By JOHN ROMANO
© St. Petersburg Times,
published October 22, 2001
Talk of the town:
Five topics suitable for inane debate on talk radio
SACK RECORD: The high-priced defensive line can forget about setting a new sack record, but the offensive line should not give up hope. After surrendering 10 sacks Sunday, the line has yielded 19 in five games. At that pace, Brad Johnson will be dumped 61 times. The team record is 56, set in 1986 and matched in '91 and '95.
EANEY, MEANEY, MINEY AND THREE GUYS NAMED MOE: Officials originally ruled Pittsburgh had recovered a last-minute onside kick by the Bucs. Then, after huddling, they reversed the call. Then, after watching replays and discussing it among themselves, they reversed it again. It's a good thing they wear uniforms, otherwise they'd have trouble dressing themselves.
RUNNING GAME: We can live with the fact that Steelers running back Jerome Bettis has rushed for more yards (550) than the entire Bucs offense (366). But it hurts that Bettis' backup, somebody named Amos Zereoue, has rushed for more yards (211) than either Warrick Dunn (168) or Mike Alstott (132).
JOHN HOWELL: He bit on the halfback pass for a touchdown (as did the rest of the defense), but the rookie safety otherwise made a solid starting debut as the replacement for the injured Dexter Jackson.
THIRD-DOWN REDUX: It is no fluke the third-down defense has an (in)efficiency rating of 51.6 percent this season. On 10 third-down plays Sunday, the Steelers averaged 11.1 yards. They averaged 5.0 every other down.
Five self-help books worth checking out for the Bucs
5: Creative Visualization: See the End Zone
4: How To Please A Referee, In And Out Of The Huddle
3: Dale Carnegie's Lifetime Plan For Success: How To Win Friends And Convert On Third Down
2: Men Are From Mars, Stay Away From Mons Venus
1: Making The Most Of Your January Vacation
1. THE TIPPED PASS: It was the finest-looking play of the day for Tampa Bay's offense -- and it turned out to be the Bucs only turnover. Brad Johnson hit Keyshawn Johnson streaking for the end zone on a third and 31 in the fourth quarter. But as the ball fell in Johnson's hands, Pittsburgh cornerback Chad Scott flicked it away and into the hands of safety Mike Logan.
2. THE TIPPED ONSIDE KICK: Brian Kelly made a leaping grab of the onside kick but before he could return to earth (at least according to referee Ed Hochuli) it was stripped from his hands by Mark Bruener.
3. ONE STEP FORWARD, TWO STEPS BACK: Howell was the last line of defense on the halfback pass from Jerome Bettis to Jerame Tuman for a touchdown. Howell took a step toward Bettis and, in that split second, Tuman went past him into the open field.
4. FROM OUT OF NOWHERE: Frank Murphy, on his first kickoff return of the season, was a moment away from potentially ending Tampa Bay's 26-year streak of touchdown-less returns and cutting the score to 17-10 in the third quarter when Zereoue made a diving, ankle tackle.
5. 1:02 P.M. EASTERN TIME: The moment Bettis stepped on the field.
Checking out the best bets (and the Bucs) for Super Bowl XXXVI in New Orleans
1. RAMS: Expect to hear a lot about Lovie Smith in the coming months.
2. RAIDERS: The Broncos are making it easy for them.
3. GIANTS: The early course of the NFC East will be decided tonight when the Eagles visit New York.
4. STEELERS: Nasty blitz package and superb run-blocking have overcome shaky quarterback play -- so far.
16. BUCS: Battling Indianapolis, Denver and Tennessee as the first half's biggest disappointments.
When does the Storm start?