Boy, that was fun.
The Pittsburgh Steelers notched their first win of the season by obliterating the San Francisco 49ers 43-18. Yes, there’s still a lot of football left to be played in 2015. And, yes, the Niners were at a pretty big disadvantage having to travel across country on a short week while their opponent had ten days to prepare. Those things given, it’s hard to be anything less than impressed with the Black and Gold’s showing yesterday.
A thorough recap would be impossible because pretty much everybody on our side played a great game. Ben Roethlisberger was as close to perfection as you can get, going 21-27 for 369 yards and three TDs. Antonio Brown caught 9 of them for 195 and a TD. DeAngelo Williams – Le’Veon who? – in his final start for the foreseeable rushed for 77 yards and 3 TDs. Darrius Heyward-Bey and Markus Wheaton had productive games, each catching one long bomb (41 and 48 yards, respectively) to set up a scoring drive.
Big credit to the offensive line, who kept Big Ben clean all afternoon. The Niners might not have the most fearsome rush in the league but to play an entire game and not only give up zero sacks but not even allow a hit on your QB is quite impressive. What’s more, the Steelers actually FINISHED their drives this week. Five trips inside the red zone netted five touchdowns.
Josh Scobee could’ve taken the day off.
Not only because we didn’t attempt any field goals but because Mike Tomlin, channeling his inner Chip Kelly, is going to be the talk of the football world for attempting 2 point conversions on the team’s first two scores. Kelly famously followed that script while at Oregon and it seems like Coach T has bought into the school of thought that you have an equal chance of converting a 2 point attempt from the 3 as you do a 33 yard extra point. That theory seems to have been borne out when Scobee missed our first extra point since 2008 after we scored our third TD. I’m so glad we traded a 6th round pick for a totally useless kicker that probably should be cut before he costs us a game (and, mark my words, he WILL cost us a game eventually).
So, are we gonna start calling him Riverboat Mike now? Gotta admit, getting Tomlin to record one of those asinine PSAs about the evils of gambling paid for by Rivers Casino would be epically entertaining.
We knew the Steelers offense was going to be somewhere between awesome and lethal going in, the surprise of the season thus far has been the defense. The New England game was tough but the Bills are supposed to have one of the best Ds in the league this year and they got 500 yards of offense and 40 points dropped on them by Brady and company. In retrospect, our defense didn’t play all that badly. This week they weren’t facing an offensive juggernaut by any means but for most of the afternoon played fast, aggressive, swarming defense that kept the Niners bottled up.
Our secondary is going to be dicey, particularly CB Antwon Blake and safety Will Allen, who are weak links in coverage. The line and linebacker, though, are really coming on. The Steelers had five (?!?!) sacks and forced two fumbles yesterday. Ryan Shazier had his best game of his young career, recording 15 tackles (!!!) and a sack. He’s not Troy Polamalu but the speed he plays with really shows you why the Steelers were so high on him after taking him in the first round two years ago.
Bud Dupree notched his second sack and looks like a solid addition at linebacker. Jarvis Jones continues to be the Invisible Man but splitting snaps with James Harrison gives us at least serviceable play at ROLB. Our line looks downright beastly with Cam Heyward picking right up where he left off while Stephon Tuitt and Steve McClendon have stepped up their play from last year. We’re going to be vulnerable to good QB play with that secondary but it looks like this defense has vastly improved speed and athleticism along the front seven. New D-Coordinator Keith Butler may not be the tricky genius Dick LeBeau was but he seems like he knows has a good grasp of how to put guys in position to succeed.
And succeed the Steelers did. When the 2015 schedule was announced, this was definitely seen as the most winnable of our first four but not even the most homer-rific yinzer could’ve forseen winning in such emphatic fashion. And Le’Veon Bell returns back next week with Martavis Bryant still looming on the horizon. Our great offense could be Madden ’16-on-rookie-mode level scary good in no time. If the defense continues to come along – or at least holds their own – the Steelers might make some noise in the AFC this year.