Hurricane Ike attempted to blind me from the spectacle that was the Steelers’ systematic dismantling of the Brownies. 70 mph winds killed the power just five minutes into the game and if not for the quick thinking and quicker acting on the part of my brother, who rigged a car battery, TV monitor and rabbit-ears to deliver relief, I would’ve only had Hilgrove and Tunch’s radio version of the ordeal…it’s good to know your way around “electrics,” I say. Ike also stymied the offensive efforts of both squads involved in the contest, for the most part. Week 2 in the NFL was apparently an unofficial Points Orgy; bookmakers everywhere took a beating on the under. Christ, the Packers scored 3 times as many points as our entire game!
In a contest that was anything but a “shootout,” Sunday’s tally of 12/19 for 186 yards and one TD gives Ben the league’s best QB rating of 136.3. Naturally, the detractors will point to quality of opponents up until this point and the fact that he’s only thrown 33 balls. It’s always great to have a quarterback that handles the in and out pressures of a game, whatever the setting or weather, and limits turnovers and mistakes. But Ben’s ability to adapt play calling, maneuver away from trouble and make level-headed decisions mean he is clearly more than a “game manager” and has put us in position for both of our wins…he’s an elite quarterback no matter what the talking heads yap about. There is some concern (and media overreaction, as usual) about Roethlisberger’s shoulder and whether he has a separation or sprained AC joint…meaning he will likely benefit from some down time during practice this week.
Shaun Rogers was the only real challenge for our O-line this game as he played up to his potential, penetrating almost a dozen times. It’s important to put this in perspective though: 104 yards rushing against 7 or 8 in the box every play, on a bad night when the opponents know you have to run the ball, is EXACTLY the type of performance we need to be able to expect week in and week out. Clearing a path for Willie and protecting Ben so that he can use the aforementioned abilities is huge. It’s the difference between a good season and a potentially great one.
Running Backs: A
It takes living or spending a decent amount of time around fans of other teams who have not and do not expect 100 yard rushing performances every week to appreciate just how great it is to have that level of confidence in the Steelers. Willie averaged 3.8 a carry against an above average D-line according to most pundits…but most pundits are dickbags. I said it previously, but I’ll restate: Willie isn’t avoiding hits anymore, he’s staying inside with his runs. It’s only a matter of time until Peter King does a puff piece about how Willie learned this from Bettis…but it’s probably true. No Mendenhall, which makes you wonder how much we’ll see of him this season…
Wide Receivers: B+
The wind was the story in this category. While I don’t usually blame the elements as both teams are asked to deal with them, it was clear even before kickoff that this wasn’t to be a shootout. And while both teams had meager totals of around 150 yards, Ward and Holmes each hauled in 5, with 3 coming as part of the lone touchdown drive in the 2nd quarter. But no catch was as huge as Ward's TD, of course.
Tight Ends: B
Heath Miller only caught 2 passes for 33 yards and took a costly holding penalty in the 3rd. He remains a solid blocker, however and an underutilized weapon, one which we are likely to see more of against the Iggles soft linebacker corps, me thinks.
The Brownies ran a number of unbalanced line packages, I suppose in an effort to facilitate both power running and misdirection. This did not work. Our D held Lewis to only 38 yards on 19 carries far less than his previous week’s average of nearly 5 yards a rip. The pressure intensified once the Browns were forced to take to the air more. Aaron Smith’s presence cannot be overstated as he remains the only Steeler lineman to tally a sack this season. It’s tough to see Kiesel go down with an injury to his calf, although early efforts by Kirschke and Eason, his place-holders, have been encouraging.
No sacks and no picks, but guess what…solid game. Woodley and Thimmons will likely have to step up in pressuring McNabb with Keisel out, something that didn’t happen or need to happen as much this game.
Defensive Backs: A+
Derek Anderson’s evening must have been something akin to getting one’s tonsils removed with a rusty spoon. Constant pressure and resulting rushed throws and tackles for loses/small gains. The pressure doesn’t exuse all of the poor throws, but it’s clear that “Troy and the Boys” were in his head. That pick in our redzone was inexcusable and game-changing.
Jeff Reed was impressive again and DEPENDABLE. He had a few non-returnables on kickoffs and only one of the three came out to the 20, in a field position game, this was good stuff.
Coverage was great. Cribbs was nullified by the wind and our downfield coverage. A little trouble on the receiving end with the wind, and almost had a muff cost us big time, pinning us deep in our own end. However, it was followed by a clutch drive by the O that flipped the field position, and effectively ended any hope for a cheap score by the Browns.
Not sure what Arians was trying to prove with two straight screen/dumps to start the game and I wish I could see Mendenhall and Miller a bit more, but it is good to know that we don’t have to use all of our weapons to win, at least not against the Browns. Is it just me, or does Romeo Crennel look just like a black Jaba the Hut? I don’t know HOW he thought kicking a field goal with only a few minutes left in the game was going to make sense in the long run…they needed a TD either way! That’s back to back weeks of horrible clock management. The best part of this game is knowing that the Browns were as well prepared as could be and can’t blame the outcome on anything else other than the fact that we are the better team. It was a microcosm of smash-mouth football. You know what’s coming and you can stop us. I believe Sgt. Winslow said it best:
“They are the best defense in the NFL. They are great, not good. We just want to win the division and to do that, we have to beat those guys."
OVERALL GRADE: A