Well, well, well. For all the Doubting Thomases ready to bail on the six-time Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers - it's nice not hearing from you this weekend. That's typical though. You rear your ugly head when things go wrong, fail to show solidarity, not to mention accept reality of life in the National Football League, and generally make a fool of yourselves with all the negativity in the face of adversity.
But that's a story for another day.
For now, the believers will celebrate the Steelers resounding 35-3 thumping of the Oakland Raiders in a game that Pittsburgh very much needed following last Sunday night's debacle against the New England Patriots. I'll have much more a bit later, but the main talking points from Pittsburgh's Week 11 win were:
- The return of the defense - The Steelers allowed just 182 yards defensively, while forcing three turnovers and piling up 6 sacks. Dick LeBeau's group was angry and it showed. The edge that they played with resulted in a number of penalties (more on the officiating later), but forget about all the penalty yardage, deserved or not. Today's performance was precisely the type of aggressive, physical brand of football that Steeler Nation had hoped to see from the defense after being rendered impotent the week before. BIG games for James Harrison, James Farrior, Ike Taylor, Ziggy Hood, Bryant McFadden, Chris Hoke, and the list could go on and on. Really a tremendous effort by everybody. Much more on the defense soon.
Great preparation by Mike Tomlin and solid game-plan from Bruce Arians and the rest of the Steelers coaching staff - Again, this post isn't designed to delve into the particulars, but the Steelers' embattled offensive coordinator, Bruce Arians, did a nice job from the 2nd quarter on in particular, with his play-calling. The Steelers finished with 431 yards of total offense, their highest output of the season. Ben Roethlisberger (18-29, 275, 3 TDs, 0 INTs) was masterful for the most part. Like always, he took one or two sacks he shouldn't have. But he was precise throwing the ball, and he was unafraid of going to guys like Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown in key situations when the matchups were favorable. Tomlin meanwhile had his men pissed off and ready to whoop some ass, penalties or fines be damned. AWESOME job by Tomlin getting his guys to feel a sense of urgency this week.
- Troy Polamalu makes his presence felt - Polamalu returned to his play-making ways on Sunday. No. 43 intercepted his third pass of the season, and generally was just much more of a presence than he'd been the past month or so. This was the result of LeBeau tinkering with how Polamalu was deployed, but I'd have to re-watch the tape to better understand how. One play in particular stood out though, and it wasn't his interception. It was a 3rd down play when Bruce Gradkowski looked to his tight end, Zach Miller, on a quick out on what I believe was a 3rd and 3. Polamalu sniffed it out, sacrificed his body, and broke up the short underneath play for an incomplete pass. Exactly the type of play that had been missing in recent weeks, and if you analyze the play, you'll see just how explosive Polamalu is with his closing speed once he's got a firm read on what's developing in front of him.
I have to run for now. I'll be back in a bit with more analysis and post-game reaction from the Steelers' huuuuge Week 11 win over the Oakland Raiders.