I hate to say I told you so, which is why I am so happy that I don’t have to do it. After my Friday article last week, I went in to the Steelers game thinking there was little chance we had of winning. I thought that Max Starks would not make that big of a difference, I thought that Isaac Redman would not be as good as Rashard, and I thought that Matt Hasselbeck would throw for a billion yards and Chris Johnson would run for a Million more. Well, I was wrong. Thank God.
Seeing our boys put on a performance the way they did against the then 3-1 Titans made me feel good. It made me see that we are still capable of putting points on the board offensively, and creating turnovers, blocked passes, QB hurries and so-on, even without the Silverback. Troy is looking like he is young again, and the Steelers didn’t seem phased at all by all the cray injuries they’ve experienced thus far this season.
Now, for once this season, I am looking forward to the Steelers playing the next couple of weeks. In my mind, these games should be easy-breasy, but we’ve seen our boys slump against worse teams in previous years. I always think back to the 2009 season when the offense was just destroying everyone but the D couldn’t hold a lead. Even against guys like Bruce Gradkowski and the hapless Raiders (who are much better now than they were then). So, no game is a gimmie in the NFL. The Steelers need to be sure they are just as prepared for the Jags as they were for the Titans.
The thing that concerned me the most last week was the ILB core. Farrior and Foote proved they could play a little younger than their age implies, but Farrior was still too slow to make a play in the end zone and was tagged for Pass Interference. As my man Craig pointed out in the comment section of an article this week, had the game been closer, that could have been a very costly penalty. So, my concerns linger about our over 30 ILB core. With Timmons up front in place of James Harrison at least for another week, maybe more (while Worilds gets healthy), we need to be sure that the underneath stuff is being defended.
As I said though, it’s just the Jags. There is little in me that thinks who ever they have at QB is going to be very successful throwing the ball, so that just leaves MJD. Pocket Hercules has killed us on the ground before, and based on how our run defense has played thus far, with the exception of every play after the first play of the Titans game, MJD makes me a little nervous. Woodley had his best game of the season, but it still wasn’t overwhelming (nice awareness on the INT, but that was just being in the right place at the right time, which was to be laying on the ground after getting manhandled by the RT for the Titans…). If we’re going to be able to stop the run effectively this week, Woodley is going to have to play better. Hopefully as Timmons gets used to his new temp position, there will be even more penetration on the blind side.
The key will be if the Steelers can keep this going beyond this Sunday. Of course, they have to win this Sunday first, and looking too far ahead can bite you in the ass, but let me just say this:
The Steelers are lucky to have one of the easiest schedules in football. Assuming they can pull out wins against the Jags and Pittsburgh West, which shouldn’t be too hard, they are then looking at two big show-down games, the Patriots and the Ravens. The reason I say the Steelers are lucky is because they were given the opportunity to slowly get their shit together while the season progresses, all the while playing against mostly lame opponents allowing them to do two things: 1) win games and build confidence, and 2) fill injury holes without such a huge drop off.
Granted, game one of the season wasn’t pretty, but with an all new, confident offensive line going in to the Ravens game, maybe we actually stand a chance at getting Ben some protection against that nasty pass rush. The thing I loved the most about the Titans game was all the time Ben had to throw the ball. I don’t think Ben even knew what to do with all the time he had. In fact, it was clear to me that Ben had some trouble adjusting to all the time and putting throws on the money. He worked that out, of course and ended up throwing 5 TD passes. As Brandt said early this week: “Stuff of Legends”
I know what you’re thinking. I’m a flip flopper. Well, I’m a fan first and a realist second, and when the Steelers come out and handle a team like the Titans the way they did, I don’t think “Maybe the Titans aren’t that good,” I think “It’s nice to see my boys play they way I know they can.”
PS – Anyone remember me saying I wish I would see more deep bombs to Wallace in the second half? Well, Bruce Arians must read this blog. I LOVE that the Steelers played to win last week and didn’t just play to not lose. That stab at the end zone came after a Titans score that put them down just 14 points with plenty of time to play. The Steelers could have easily just thrown up their hands and ran the ball all three downs for a three and out, but instead Bruce called a magnificent play to Wallace that iced the game, and made me think that there really is something special about this team. It just may take a few more weeks for that “thing” to be fully realized.
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