PITTSBURGH - Conventional wisdom used to dictate that it took five seasons for quarterback to get established in the NFL.
That seems to have gone the way of leather helmets and the single wing.
The Steelers will face a rookie quarterback this week in Baltimore, former Pitt recruit Joe Flacco.
The Baltimore Ravens are a bit like the Steelers in that they rely on a stifling defense. But Flacco has not been an impediment to the offense. He's been managing things much like Ben Roethlisberger did when he was forced into a starting role as a rookie.
You could look it up: Terry Bradshaw was riding the bench at the start of his fifth NFL season in 1974. Joe Gilliam was the Steelers' starter.
The Steelers made a change during the season and Bradshaw was on the job until he retired. But the Steelers really didn't start throwing the ball much until the late '70s.
Much of Bradshaw's work was handing the ball to Franco Harris.
Quarterbacks seem to be assimilating much more quickly these days.
Meanwhile, defenses have never been more sophisticated. It's not easy to decipher what the Steelers are doing, especially when they use Troy Polamalu to attack from a variety of angles.
If the five-year theory were still in effect, the Steelers would be counting on Roethlisberger to blossom this year.
Instead, he already has a Super Bowl ring.
Error on me for the column in Monday's Mirror that said the Steelers clinched a playoff berth with Sunday's victory over Dallas.
I wish I could blame the cold weather for the temporary brain freeze, but we were toasty warm in the press box, where that was written.
Credit to a number of alert readers who sent along e-mails pointing out the error.
The first two were guys named Stan, and each Stan was the man in this case.
The Steelers still have work to do to nail down a playoff spot.
It will be interesting to see how baseball's free agent season unfolds with a lot of franchises concerned about the overall economy.
There's the obvious impact on ticket sales: If people aren't working, they aren't buying baseball tickets as often as they did.
But corporate dollars are also a big issue. The Pirates are already preparing with the idea that Chevrolet will either eliminate or greatly scale back its presence as a sponsor partner.
Now on duty
Congratulations to good guy Rob Egan on his new job as general manager of the Curve.
His predecessor was both Barnum and Bailey, but Rob should be just as successful, albeit less flamboyant.
Mehno can be reached at email@example.com. His weblog is at altoonamirror.com.