Nothing has been more of a glaring need for the Pittsburgh Power (2-5) during the last two seasons of football than a quarterback. Many have tried, many have failed. The problem has always been trying to fit rookies into the starting lineup when experience is needed.
Pittsburgh’s newest quarterback, Steven Sheffield, may not have gotten much playing time in the past but he has spent several seasons learning the AFL game from the bench. Last year in San Antonio he had the luxury of watching one of the best in league history work his magic. He was the experienced quarterback looking for that first chance to show what he can do.
Yesterday’s divisional clash against the Philadelphia Soul (3-4) gave Sheffield his first chance to start a game in the AFL and he made the most of that opportunity. He was a shot in the arm for a team that was averaging a pitiful 33 points per game entering the contest. They had 27 by the end of the first half alone. Sheffield showed great pocket presence, escaping a strong Soul pass rush numerous times to deliver passes where only his receivers could make plays.
Sheffield wasn’t the only new face to make an impact for the Power yesterday. Wide receiver James Robinson saw his first game action for the Power this year and responded with six catches for 84 yards and four touchdowns. Power wideout Mike Washington also scored four touchdowns, two of them on the ground.
Even with the offense finally clicking, it was the defense that stood tall at the end of this game for the Power. On Philadelphia’s final two drives the Power stalled the Soul at the goal line and then Sergio Gilliam made a stunning over-the-wall interception with twelve seconds to seal the game for the Power.
Special teams also made an impact on this game with a big play from another new Power player. Julian Rauch’s kick off the iron with the Power trailing 48-40 caromed straight into the waiting arms of Kirby Griffin. Just like that the Power were back on offense and scored quickly to make it 48-46 Philadelphia and were right back in the game. Without that net recovery, this game might have gone the Soul’s way.
What does all of this mean? In a league where quarterback play means everything, it certainly appears as though the Power may have found the answer they’ve been searching a long time for. Philadelphia might be struggling but that is still a legitimately solid AFL team out there with all-arena talent up and down the board. This is the team that represented the American Conference last year in the Arena Bowl. This is a team you needed to beat if you still hold out hope for winning the division. After yesterday’s game, that goal is still attainable.
The Power defense has put this team in position to win games all year long but the offense never showed up. Now that Sheffield is in the mix, this is a completely new team to watch. This is a team that can play arena ball the way it’s supposed to be played. I suddenly look at this roster with Mike Washington, Shamar Graves, James Robinson and even the injured P.J. Berry and I see playmakers.
Sheffield’s arrival couldn’t have come at a better time for a Power team that was on the ropes. It’s not too late to think this team can rally around him and make some noise in the American Conference moving forward. Don’t believe me? Look at what Sheffield’s mentor Aaron Garcia did these last two weeks for the Orlando Predators. Winless entering their game against Pittsburgh last week he turned their season around with a win over Pittsburgh and then willing them to an amazing late comeback to win 83-82 over the Spokane Shock last night. Suddenly they are the team no one wants to face and it’s my belief Sheffield can have the same effect for the Power.
Why is it so far-fetched to think the Power can win this division? Philadelphia hasn’t won either divisional game yet, they are 0-3 at home and they are hardly the world beaters they were last season. Cleveland is 2-5 just like the Power. If Sheffield can stay hot and keep this offense clicking, I’d stack the Power defense up against just about anyone else in the league.
Good things come to those who wait and for Power fans and Sheffield himself, yesterday was worth the wait.