Don’t make James Harrison angry. You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.
Displaying a balanced attack missing most of the first month of the season, the Pittsburgh Steelers crushed the hapless Cleveland Browns by a final score of 28-10. Of course, the main storyline was the return of Ben Roethlisberger from his unjustified four game suspension. Prior to the game, Ben was introduced to a rousing ovation from the Heinz Field crowd. I have to admit to getting a little lump in my throat seeing the hero of Steeler Nation receive such a warm and appreciative reception from the people who love him.
Ben got off to a rough start, throwing a terrible red zone interception on his fourth pass of the game. He would recover from this early setback to finish an impressive 16/27 for 257 yards and three touchdowns on the afternoon. Ben, who told reporters he’d grade his performance “a B- or C+,” clearly had some rust to work off. Several of his throws were way off-target or poor decisions which against a less pitiful team might have added another pick or two to his stat line. But by the same token, he also could have easily had two or three more touchdown passes. The most notable was when Mike Wallace, who seemed to be wide open all game (3 catches, 90 yards and TD), was standing all by himself on the 5 yard line late in the fourth but Ben sailed his pass out of bounds.
Despite some of the kinks which will be worked out in time, this was definitely a vintage Big Ben performance. Shrugging off would-be tacklers, taking hits, scrambling away from danger to make a play… The Steelers’ first two touchdowns were perfect examples of what Ben brings to the table. First, he stood in the pocket and delivered a 29 yard strike to Wallace despite a Cleveland linebacker almost jumping on his back. Then he zipped a crazy sandlot-style jump pass to Hines Ward, who broke through three lazy Browns to score.
Meanwhile, I don’t know who this guy standing on our sideline claiming to be Bruce Arians is but I like him. Yesterday we saw pretty much the ideal fusion of Steeler Football with a modern day explosive passing offense. The final pass/run split was 27/35. And for those who didn’t see the game, you may think “Sure, we got up big and then ran the clock out.” Actually, they ran quite a bit early in the game and, shockingly, stuck with it even when Rashard Mendenhall didn’t break off a huge run every third carry. Despite falling short of another 100 yard performance (84 yards and 1 TD), Mendy provided nice balance while Issac Redman contributed a few short yardage pick-ups.
While the offense was shaping up, the defense were their usual dominant selves. James Harrison was a one-man wrecking crew, making 10 tackles, notching two sacks, hitting the quarterback three more times, and registering two KOs. I’m sure we’ll be hearing crybabies whining about Silverback demolishing Josh Cribbs and Mohamed Massaquoi with clean UNPENALIZED hits but that’s just the way the biased anti-Steelers media works. Here’s a newsflash for you: Football is a contact sport. If you put your head down diving for yards or run across the middle of the field, you’re going to get drilled. I’m sick of these idiots moaning every time someone is laid out. If vicious hits are so bad, either tie ribbons around their waists and turn the NFL into flag football or else let the players play.
Giving credit where credit is due, Colt McCoy played a pretty damn good game under the circumstances. He was intercepted twice but both were deflections, one bounced off the receiver’s hands and the second was deflected by Ryan Mundy. Considering he was missing his two best offensive weapons, sacked 5 times, and knocked around several others, a final stat line of 23/33 for 281 yards made for a surprisingly solid afternoon for young Colt even if many of those yards came after the Steelers were comfortably ahead.
The Steelers secondary continues to be something of a mystery to me as I just don’t feel entirely good about what I’m seeing. Bryant McFadden, in particular, has moments but also looks lost at times. Whenever they go to a soft prevent type D, guys get behind him almost every time. And Ryan Clark, who was picked on a lot by the Ravens, needs to stop thinking he’s Troy Polamalu. He tries to lay a smack down on receivers instead of just tackling them and many times they bounce off and keep running.
But those are issues to worry about another day. The bottom line is the Steelers have played five games and given up a grand total of five touchdowns. Mix in a balanced offense which is only going to get better as Ben gets more in synch and you have the most complete team in the NFL. With the Ratbirds going down in glorious flames, the Steelers find themselves a half game up in the AFC North. All in all, the week couldn’t have gone better for the Black and Gold.
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