Easter Sunday at Heinz Field
The Messiah has returned to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Just as Moses led the Israelites out of the desert, in which they had wandered for 40 years, Ben Roethlisberger, Moses in Black & Gold, led the Steelers out of their 26 year sojourn through the NFL wasteland, searching aimlessly for "One for the Thumb." Two Lombardi trophies later, Ben found himself banished from the league for a quarter of the season, victim of a dalliance between King Herod, aka Roger Goodell, and "y tu Brute," Steelers President Art Rooney II.
Ben's return to Pittsburgh's Jerusalem on the North Side began this October morning though, with a protestation of his return by two dozen protestors, who fittingly commenced their march, along with other like-minded birdbrains, at the National Aviary. I was amused by one of their signs though, containing Pittsburgh vernacular, "Big Ben's a Jagoff." Amid thunderous ovations, there were eyewitness reports of Ben being booed by a few misguided yinzers. Had I been in the stands, I would have been tempted to visit violence upon these miscreants. Their booing #7 should be sufficient cause for revocation of their season tickets, but given the symbiotic relationship that exists between Art II, and Pittsburghers who want Ben's head on a platter, they'll probably be awarded coupons for a fried jumbo sandwich at Primanti's.
After keeping the game close for the better part of three quarters, the Steelers rolled in the fourth quarter, and bested the Brownies, 28-10. The official offensive set information will be brought to you later this week, but for those of us who thought that Ben's return would result in a resurgence of the 3 and 4 wide receiver sets, formations that accounted for over 60% of all offensive plays during the past two seasons....well, Steelers aren't there, at least not just yet.
In fact, a common gripe of Steeler Nation has been the reliance on multiple tight-end sets, even though multiple wides easily exceeded multiple tights during the past two campaigns. Today though, the perception of multiple tights was valid as the Steelers ran with at least a pair of tight ends on 40 of 63 offensive plays, easily the most extensive usage of multiple tight ends this season. Many of the multiple tight looks resulted in an unbalanced line, as Steelers often lined up both tights to the same side. The Steelers ran with but a single wide receiver on a full-third of offensive snaps, lining up with a pair of tight ends and a fullback. The 50-yarder to Mike Wallace from the shade of the Steeler goalposts came from this formation, leaving many re-visiting the loss to the Ravens, wishing Ben's suspension had ended three game minutes earlier.
It sure was nice to see the emergence of Manny (Colonel) Sanders this afternoon, making some big catches for the first time this season.
Around the League:
There were four games involving AFC contenders where there was no doubt where SBI (Steelers Best Interest) was best-served. The bad news? The Dolphins, Jets and Colts all win. However, the good news? Ravens lost!! In a rare moment, where Steeler Nation damn well should have been rooting for the New England Patriots, Deion Branch caught nine balls in his return to New England, and the Patriots won in overtime. Next week, we return to hoping and praying that Tom Brady breaks his fuckin' leg!! For now though...Steelers are in first place in the AFC North.
The Steelers now won't see the friendly confines of Heinz Field for a month, next home against those Patriots on November 14th, the fourth of four straight nationally televised games. The Steelers hit the road for the next trio of games, none of them soft touches. Steelers visit Miami next Sunday afternoon, followed by the Halloween Night encounter in New Orleans, and then visit Paul Brown Stadium and the hated Bungals, on Monday night, November 8th.