If you haven't already done so, start by reading the column below by datruth4life. His thoughts are as always thought-provoking and energizing for us fans, but they also provide some of the framework for what I followed up with.
On to my thoughts from the game:
* A week after writing that Mr. Willie Parker was a feast-or-famine type performer, he comes out and has a workmanlike 28 carry, 108 yard afternoon against a defense that wasn't the least bit scared by our back-up WR corps. Parker did break off a couple 10+ yard runs, but it was mostly tough griding for him. We've discussed how Davenport provides a nice change of pace in short and goal-to-go situations, but Parker's overall production still makes him a legitimate RB that a franchise can hitch its wagon to.
* Speaking of those back-up WRs, I was concerned we may not score more than 7-10 points when I saw Santonio on the sidelines grabbing at his hamstring at the start of the game. Cedrick Wilson, Nate Washington, and Willie Reid all had a fine day though when called upon, and we had just enough offensively to keep the chains moving and our offense on the field. Actually, it was more than just enough. The Steelers were 8-of-15 on 3rd down, and held the ball for 40:45 of the possible 60 minutes. That's utter domination, but it couldn't have been done with a bunch of drops or the same type of lackluster play we saw last week from all our WRs not named Santonio. Special props to Cedrick for stepping up and playing with a sense of urgency and toughness that we haven't seen since the AFC Championship Game several years ago.
* Good call by datruth4life in his prediction that it would be wise to get Andre Frazier in the mix on special teams:
* There was both good and bad play from the offensive line. 3 more sacks of Roethlisberger and a jammed middle in the running game at times. But there was some good sprinkled in as well. There was some great blocking on the edge (not sure by who exactly) on Davenport's long run, and Big Ben had a bit more time than he did last week. This is still our biggest question mark heading forward, but for a week at least, we can be pleased that Marvel Smith, Alan Faneca and Sean Mahan improved from a week ago. Hopefully these guys are friends and like working in the film room together, because it's just not an overly dominating O-line physically. They're going to have to take their lumps in stride and make sure they just don't make the same mistakes in the future.
* Big Ben. Thank you for shaking the symptons of Superman Syndrome and playing within yourself and the flow of the game. It was pretty clear by late in the 2nd quarter that we were only going to lose this game if we made several mistakes with the ball. Roethlisberger didn't. The coordinators saw what we saw last week when Roeth refused to check down, and they must have hammered that home to him this past week. Big Ben took what was given to him and in doing so, threw 0 INTs and pocketed a pretty nice completion percentage to boot (81.8%). I'll finish my thoughts on Roethlisberger by saying he really can be a special talent at quarterback at times. Leaving aside all the physical attributes and competitive spirit he has, I'm often amazed at how much natural talent and feel he has throwing the ball. His out-pattern throw to Cedrick for a first down was perfect - incredible touch and perfect trajectory. Most NFL QBs can make a wide variety of throws, but some clearly have more feel and instinct for knowing which type of ball to throw when. Big Ben is one of them.
* Anybody else noticed Brett Keisel assuming more of a leadership role this year? He's always been a likeable and vocal guy, but I keep finding him providing motivation for our defense and greeting Big Ben and other offensive players on the sidelines after successful plays. Keisel's play didn't quite match that of fellow DE Aaron Smith, but I'm definitely more sold on him as an integral part of this defense and team than I was a year or two ago.
* More impressive punting from Daniel Sepulveda. I don't think he's missed but one opportunity to land one inside the 20 when he had a chance. Considering Sepulveda's tied for 2nd in most punts Inside the 20, his 45 yards per punt average is well above average, and a ginormous upgrade from Chris Gardocki a year ago.
* More to come on the job done by Tomlin, Arians, and LeBeau in yesterday's convincing shutout.