Please note that I give tough love to my team, but we all know that they get the job done in the end. So let's see how they did yesterday.....
So, did everyone see the car wreck that was the season opener? Don't get me wrong, we won - woo hoo! However, it was too clear to me that we were still shaking off the dust; whereas Tennessee came out fighting. We didn't win because we were good. We won because ultimately, Tennessee dropped the ball (metaphorically speaking) momentarily.
I've heard a lot of people ask what happened to Parker, "he couldn't get anywhere! what was up with him??" Well, I'll tell you what was up with him. Tennessee found the holes. They found the holes because our O-line left them wide open, not to mention the fact that Frank the Tank has yet to convince me he has ever deserved a spot on the 53.
At the beginning of the game, Mike Tomlin said that the most violent team will win the game. He would have been right, because Tennessee sure did try! While our O-line was playing around, they were practically running over James Harrison and Casey Hampton like they were nothing. We all know how Ben likes to rush the ball, and I have always lamented his love affair with the ball. Mendenhall and Moore both made mediocre plays that only furthered my chagrin with their obsession of rushing; particularly in such a tight game. Sure, they gained a few yards that eventually held the game at a tie, but as far as the game that it could have been, this was the low road.
Some people probably expect me to rag on Hines Ward for dropping the ball so close to the winning TD, but I'm not going to. It seems he was so excited to get so close, that he didn't check his perimeter. It was a careless mistake, and he knows that. Yes, that would have won the game and we would not have needed the overtime, but his drop is not what would have cost us the game. Neither our defense showed up until the 4th quarter -if they forced back the ball like that the whole time, there would have been a much different outcome - and the O-line did not protect the runners. Sure, there were a couple good pocket protectors, but they allowed Tennessee to fill in those gaps and swoop in for the kill. And Ben.....let go of the ball.
So, yes, I have a lot of tough love for my team, but it was not all horror. There were two shining stars of the game, Heath Miller and Troy Polamalu. Heath really stepped up last night as the best Tight End in the biz. One thing that I love about the Steelers is how versatile they are. (Usually) they are quick on their feet and can adapt to what needs to be done at that time. Heath Miller continued the character of the team while the others were still waking up.
Troy Polamalu was stunning, as usual. The biggest contributor to the defense in the first half and also showing the versatile character of the Steelers. He seemed to be all over the field, including catching a pass from Tennessee's Collins (who needs to smile more, in my opinion) with a single hand. However, he was injured during Tennessee's second attempt at a field goal, when he jumped up to deflect the kick with a single hand...again. Polamalu will now be out between 3 -6 weeks, and this leaves the fate of the defense in question if they continue to sleep during the first half. After the first half, other defense players began to wake up - particularly LaMarr Woodley, James Farrior, and James Harrison.
The rookies were able to get noticed in this game, and it is the beginning of a long season of surprises from the new guys. Stephan Logan was the star returner and reminded us why he is now on the 53. Mike Wallace was able to catch a few and contribute to what little yardage we acquired this game. Although I am happy both of these guys are here, I am more excited about Keyaron Fox, who was originally not going to be starting except for Lawrence Timmons being out on injury yesterday. In my opinion, it seemed that Fox and Farrior were creating quite the double-team on the defense. I really hope that Fox continues to be used to the fullest of his abilities on the field.
All in all, this game was not the one to watch if you wanted to see the Steelers' power on the field. It was ultimately a game of the kickers. If Bironas had made those field goals, we would be the losers of the season opener. It was also a field goal which won us the game. There were players who need to wake up, and a couple who made a couple good plays. But, let's hope our guys take this game as a lesson and learn to wake up BEFORE the game starts. We will be facing teams a lot more challenging than the Titans in the future, and we won't be able to afford to hit the snooze button on the field then.
All of this is, of course, said in love and respect to the team, and I look forward to watching them bring their A-game next Sunday.