10.10.2011

Backs To The Wall, Steelers Finally Put Up Fight

The Steelers, a month into the season, finally gave a performance that shows that they belong with any team in the league. None too soon, of course. Pittsburgh was coming into Sunday's game hard on the heels of a feckless outing in Houston that was made worse by yet another substantial injury toll.

The Titans had been rolling prior to yesterday, even decisively beating the Ravens a week after Bawlmer lambasted the Steelers in Week 1. It appeared the two teams were on clearly divergent paths. No one was mistaking the Steelers for a team on the accent. Even after the win, I would still doubt that analysts would change that appraisal, but a few may now take pause before saying this Steelers team is "done".

Some will say the abrupt turnaround is owed to backups who made the most of their opportunity to contribute. And certainly, much of yesterday's win is thanks to the Max Starks, Chris Hoke, Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman, among others. I was among those who scoffed when the team brought on Starks, remembering how little he had to offer last year. But the big guy was solid yesterday. It remains to be seen whether Max is still durable enough to keep that up for the remainder of the season, but that's a risk less dangerous than just being resigned to have Jonathan Scott or Trai Essex start there. Of course, all was not rosy for the O-line, as Scott got back in the game after Marcus Gilbert left with a shoulder injury. Hopefully he won't be out an extended period. I haven't seen any reports indicating as much yet, but we'll see.

But it was also key members of the team who at last stepped their game up to the level to which we're accustomed. LaMarr Woodley has admittedly been called upon to drop into coverage a lot this season, but with James Harrison out, Wood was finally turned loose in the pass rush, and it's good to know he can still bring it in that department. His first sack where he took down the blocking back as well as Matt Hasselbeck was just an unbelievable display of strength. And let's not forget that Woodley notched the team's first interception of the season. Given the secondary concerns coming into the year, maybe that's not the ideal scenario for the team's first INT, but who won't take it at this point?

Despite the questionable move before the half to try a hurry-up receiver screen that ended up being intercepted on the Titans' end of the field, this was easily Ben Roethlisberger's best outing of the season. Obviously, the improved protection aided in that showing, but in general, I feel like he was more on point.

After the Titans opening drive, the run defense showed glimpses of its former self. It was personally satisfying to see Nate Washington play well, but come up just short of making huge plays in the passing game on several occasions. Nate and Kenny Britt form a nice WR tandem for the Titans, but I can't say the guy is missed much around these parts.

You could tell early on that this game was not only huge in the standings, but of personal significance to the team that they attempted this fake punt early in the second quarter with a slim lead, hoping to break the game open early. Nice bit of film study and great execution by Sepulveda.



Now that we know the Steelers won't be content to just sleepwalk through this season, there's still the concern that they're not much of a road team. Right now, they;ve won two games at Heinz Field by 20+ points each, but have looked completely lost elsewhere, with their only win in three road games being a pathetic squeaker in Indianapolis over the winless Colts. The Steelers won't have another road test for two weeks, when they have to go to Arizona. The schedule is fortuitous in many ways for the Steelers - their last two really difficult games are against the Patriots and the Ravens and both of those are at home, even if in back-to-back weeks. Of course, the trip to San Francisco a few weeks later is more and more starting to look like a real challenge, but have to wait and see on that one. As for now, I'll just be glad with what we saw yesterday.

1 comment:

Erin Cruz said...

Looking at the steelers schedule you have posted on the right, while they are certainly not looking good, I think they have plenty of room to bounce back. Roethlisberger will have to just carry the team and, as luck would have it, he has the talent to do just that.

2011 STEELERS' SCHEDULE

9/11 @Baltimore L 7-35
9/18 Seattle W 24-0
9/25 @Indianapolis W 23-20
10/2 @Houston 1 p.m.
10/9 Tennessee 1 p.m.
10/16 Jacksonville 1 p.m.
10/23 @Arizona 4:05 p.m.
10/30 New England 4:15 p.m.
11/6 Baltimore 8:20 p.m.
11/13 @Cincinnati 1 p.m.
11/20 Bye
11/27 @Kansas City 8:20 p.m.
12/4 Cincinnati 1 p.m.
12/8 Cleveland 8:20 p.m.
12/19 @San Francisco 8:30 p.m.
12/24 St. Louis 1 p.m.
1/1 @Cleveland 1 p.m.