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NFL Power Rankings: No Ben, no worries for Steelers


Updated Sept. 28

Here's something to ponder: If the Pittsburgh Steelers called me to start at quarterback this week, would they still be favored?

OK, that's an extreme -- but not by much. The Steelers could trot out Terry Bradshaw or Bubby Brister right now in their current aged state and they might have a chance to win.

That's how well they are playing on defense right now.

The Steelers are down to their fourth quarterback, veteran Charlie Batch, and they are still 3-0. We wondered how they would handle the adversity of not having Ben Roethlisberger for four games, and they've answered by smacking offenses in the mouth.

I talked with a coach this week who has studied the Steelers intensely and he marveled at their defense. He said it might be playing as well as at any point under Dick LeBeau. That's saying something.

I didn't pick the Steelers to make the playoffs and I didn't pick them to win their division. I didn't think they could handle seeing Roethlisberger watch for four games.

For now, they're the best team in the NFL. Their 3-0 start has them vaulting to the top spot in my CBS Power Rankings.

If the first three weeks are the norm, they won't be staying there. There has been a lot of change at the top the first month of the season. They say you don't win titles in September, but the Steelers might be doing just that.

They probably hoped to go 2-2 through the first four weeks. If they can beat the Baltimore Ravens at home Sunday, their time without Roethlisberger will not have Ben wasted.

It's the defense that has made it possible. They are the top-ranked scoring defense and also lead the league with 10 takeaways. They are also first in yards-per-play for the opposing offenses, a telling number.

Those numbers will win a lot of games, no matter who's playing quarterback, even an aging passer like Batch, whose deep balls float so much you have expect a basket underneath them with a couple drinking wine in it.

If they can beat the Ravens at home, the Steelers will be sitting pretty at the quarter point of the season. Even so, they have to know that getting Roethlisberger back is the only way to win a title, no matter how well the defense is playing.


Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.

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