Some people think the Pittsburgh Steelers 0-4 start was the product of a poorly constructed roster, some lousy coaching, and injuries to key personnel. They would be wrong. The Steelers simply decided to postpone winning until after the Pirates season was over. They were polite enough to give them spotlight.
Good manners are the Steeler Way.
With the Bucs done for the year, the Black and Gold wasted no time getting off the schneid by defeating the New York Jets 19-6. The highlight of this game was Bill Cowher, the greatest coach in Steeler history, in the booth calling the game with the normally unlistenable duo of Nantz and Simms. Not only did CBS make sure to work in a plug for Cowher’s mid-life crisis, er, leather-clad rocker babe, the Chin’s near orgasmic joy with every field goal attempt made an otherwise dull game seem exciting.
If you care about kickers, yesterday’s FieldGoal-palooza was for you.
Out of seven total scoring drives, six of them ended in field goals. One may think that is a sign of a defensive struggle but really it was more about two mediocre offenses moving the ball in fits and starts before eventually sputtering to a stop. The Jets penetrated the red zone three times, turning it over twice and settling for a FG from the Steelers 2. The Steelers entered it twice, settling for field goals both times.
They should’ve had a TD in one of those trips as Ben Roethlisberger (23/30 for 264 yards) hit Antonio Brown right in the gut only for AB to drop the ball to the turf. That didn’t stop him from jumping up and posing after he made a routine 8 yard catch the next time they had the ball, though. He finished the afternoon with 86 yards, a whopping two more than Heath Miller, although you’d think he won the Super Bowl after every catch. Brown is undoubtedly the team’s best receiver but he’s also quickly becoming the team’s biggest punk.
Speaking of asshats, Ryan Clark broke the Steelers turnover drought by coming up with a key interception early in the third quarter. A week after putting up 30 points on the Atlanta Falcons, the Jets came out with a bizarrely conservative strategy. When they finally turned QB Geno Smith loose, the Jets started moving the ball despite playing with a badly depleted receiving corps. Luckily for the Steelers, Geno stinks as when he tried forcing the ball into triple coverage winding up in Clark’s red zone pick.
I don’t know where the Smith from Monday night went but thankfully he didn’t show up yesterday. Geno was wildly inaccurate, missing wide open receivers left and right. The Steelers’ secondary suffered yet another blown coverage leaving Stephen Hill wide open for a 50+ yard TD only for Smith to airmail the ball five yards too deep. Geno’s second INT was a little less his fault as he was nailed by Jarvis Jones and launched a floater into Lawrence Timmon‘s waiting arms.
TWO TURNOVERS? IN THE SAME GAME?
The Steelers offense had an up and down day. LT Levi Brown got hurt in pregame warm-ups (!?) so Kelvin Beachum started at LT with Marcus Gilbert starting on the right. They struggled at times – Beachum had three holding penalties called against him – with Ben taking some big hits (4 sacks and 8 quarterback hits) although by the second half they started to gel a bit. As sad as it is to say, you probably have to say their performance was an upgrade just by the simple fact Mike Adams wasn’t active for the game.
Future Hall of Famer Le’Veon Bell continued the proud Steeler tradition of not being able to run the ball by rushing for 34 yards on 16 carries for a piddling 2.1 YPC average. He also appeared to re-injure his foot so it’s nice to know Mr. Glass will have an excuse for doing bupkiss. I said in my preview the Jets were extremely tough against the run so I guess Bell’s sad output should have been expected. Following a 57 yard effort against Minny, I’m still waiting to see this improved running game he was supposed to provide.
Todd Haley called a very smart game. People, myself included, were groaning about the dizzying array of screens and quick outs he employed early but it’s clear he’s trying to get the ball out of Ben’s hand quick to cover for the inept offensive line. The conservative game plan also sucked the Jets close to the line which set up the game’s lone touchdown, a beautiful 55 yard strike to Manny Sanders after he got behind the entire NY secondary. Okay, I probably could’ve lived without the SECOND trick play – a wide receiver option pass by Antonio Brown from the Jets 7 – but all in all I thought his game plan was excellent.
After all, it’s not Haley’s fault the team’s $50 million number one receiver can’t hold on to a ball in the end zone.
Yesterday pretty much couldn’t have gone better for the Steelers. Oh there is still plenty to worry about although it was nice to see them play somewhat near their potential for once. In addition to the Steelers victory, 2/3 of the their division lost with both Cleveland and Baltimore falling to 3-3. So despite their horrid start, the Black and Gold are only a game off the pace in the loss column. I’m not predicting playoffs – PLAYOFFS? – but does anybody doubt 9-7 puts you in the thick of the AFC North race this year?