Man, I'm proud of the Pittsburgh Steelers and their 35-3 drubbing of the Oakland Raiders at Heinz Field on Sunday. The reason you see me occasionally get antagonistic towards excessively negative commenters is not because I'm trying to foster a group-think mentality of blind positivity or homerism. Believe me, that's far from the case. That just wouldn't be any fun first of all, but secondly, the Steelers' 2010 season has been so dynamic, interesting, and hard to categorize that it would be impossible to expect just one narrative about it. Rather, it's because doing this site year round with you all forces me to take the long view, and to appreciate and respect the journey of each season in the NFL.
* Would you care to see defensive dominance defined? How about 65 plays yielding only 182 yards. That's only good for 2.6 yards per play for those keeping score at home. Seriously, forget the penalty yards. I can go back and count them, but my guess is that only 30-50 came on mental mistakes from the Steelers. A BIG chunk came on phantom bogus calls, and the remainder came on Steelers-esque physical, smash-mouth football that may have led to bogus laundry on the field, but ultimately had the positive effect of rattling the Raiders mentally, and completely taking them out of their rhythm.
* Speaking of that, A Giant Hat Tip to Richard Seymour and the rest of the Raiders for unintentionally pissing the Steelers off and perhaps giving them exactly the wake-up call they needed at just the right time. In case you missed the game, Seymour punched Ben Roethlisberger during the Steelers' 21-point second quarter outburst and was ejected from the game. Great work by Chris Kemoeatu hanging tough with Seymour, and again, Mr. Seymour, thank you for helping wake up a sleeping giant!
* 7-of-14 vs. 3-of-14. That was the disparity on 3rd down conversions. Ben Roethlisberger was accurate and decisive with the football on Sunday, whereas Jason Campbell and Bruce Gradkowski were utterly confused and stymied.
* Would I mind if the Steelers magically wound up with one of the NFL's best and brightest up-and-coming offensive minds in the forthcoming years to coordinate their offense? For the record, I don't know who the next Sean Payton may be out there, but let's just say, he's out there and available. Sure, I wouldn't mind moving on from Bruce Arians after five years. But I'm not one to think we can't win with him directing this offense provided we have Big Ben at the controls and a talent-laden defense. Let me rehash one offensive drive early in the game that I was particularly impressed by.
The score: 3-0 Oakland. Pittsburgh gets the ball at its own 15 yard line. Here was the offensive drive:
|1-10-PIT15||(6:35) R.Mendenhall up the middle to PIT 20 for 5 yards (M.Mitchell).|
(5:55) B.Roethlisberger pass short right to H.Miller to PIT 22 for 2 yards (T.Branch; R.McClain). PENALTY on PIT-R.Foster, Clipping, 11 yards, enforced at PIT 22.
|2-14-PIT11||(5:22) B.Roethlisberger pass deep left to M.Wallace to PIT 38 for 27 yards (C.Johnson).|
|1-10-PIT38||(4:35) B.Roethlisberger pass incomplete short right to H.Miller. COVERAGE BY #33 BRANCH|
|2-10-PIT38||(4:32) (Shotgun) R.Mendenhall up the middle to PIT 41 for 3 yards (M.Shaughnessy; L.Houston).|
|3-7-PIT41||(3:47) (Shotgun) B.Roethlisberger pass short left to E.Sanders to OAK 46 for 13 yards (S.Routt).|
|1-10-OAK46||(3:06) (No Huddle) R.Mendenhall up the middle to OAK 37 for 9 yards (M.Huff).|
|2-1-OAK37||(2:20) R.Mendenhall right guard to OAK 31 for 6 yards (R.McClain).|
|1-10-OAK31||(1:38) R.Mendenhall up the middle to OAK 29 for 2 yards (M.Shaughnessy).|
|2-8-OAK29||(:58) B.Roethlisberger pass short right to H.Ward pushed ob at OAK 16 for 13 yards (R.McClain).|
|1-10-OAK16||(:21) R.Mendenhall left tackle to OAK 16 for no gain (Q.Groves).|
|Pittsburgh Steelers continued...|
|2-10-OAK16||(15:00) R.Mendenhall up the middle to OAK 12 for 4 yards (R.Seymour).|
|3-6-OAK12||(14:15) (Shotgun) B.Roethlisberger pass short middle to M.Moore to OAK 5 for 7 yards (Q.Groves, R.Brown).|
|1-5-OAK5||(13:35) R.Mendenhall right guard for 5 yards, TOUCHDOWN.|
|S.Suisham extra point is GOOD, Center-G.Warren, Holder-D.Sepulveda.|
|OAK 3 PIT 7, Plays: 14 Yards: 85 Possession: 8:06.|
Just tremendous balance and execution at just the right time - the Steelers neeeded a score at that point in the game, and they got it. I particularly liked the 2nd and 8 play call to Hines Ward. No. 86 motioned right, Roethlisberger faked a handoff, then found Ward out in the flat on a well-timed pitch and catch. Ward turned it up field before the defender could catch up to the superior angle Ward had taken. Good for 13 yards and a fresh set of downs. Look, Arians has his limitations. But honestly, it's the most cliched thing in the world for fans to hate their favorite team's offensive coordinator. Arians is not out of fresh ideas, believe me. He may not be a guy Tomlin would be wise hitching his wagon to for a decade or longer, but he's not the goat everyone makes him out to be. Period.
* Man, speaking coaches who deserve a tip of the cap. Sean Kugler, ladies and gentlemen. The first-year offensive line coach of the Steelers continues to get his men ready to play each week, despite all the variability in who's playing each week. The Steelers line failed to consistently open up running lanes for Rashard Mendenhall on Sunday - he finished with just 59 yards on 23 carries. But the line did a solid job in pass protection, and I think if we can settle into a fixed lineup for the next few months, Kugler might just be able to get this group to play well enough for the Steelers to play well enough offensively in December and January.
* Awesome job once again by the coverage units on special teams. Anthony Madison in particular had a great game bottling up Jacoby Ford.
* Very encouraging to see Coach Tomlin go to Antonio Brown this week. After not being active for over a month, Brown returned punts (he took one to the house that was called back), and saw some snaps at wide receiver. Brown paid early dividends - he looked good as a punt returner, and he caught a big 21-yard reception that moved the chains. More to come on how Tomlin might utilize Brown more down the stretch.
* James Harrison never disappears in the stat sheet, but there's no denying he'd been less than his usual destructive self the past few weeks. Today, Deebo was back at it, terrororizing Oakland quarterbacks and the rest of the Raiders offense all game. After about three quarters - long after Harrison had done his part to help secure the Steelers victory (1 sack, 1 FF, 1 INT) - my girlfriend had this to say after our young, rambunctious male kitten was being a total shit-storm, knocking things over, harassing the other pet in the household, etc: 'God, Monk. Stop channeling your inner James Harrison and go to sleep!'
* Harrison did however cost Ike Taylor what would have been his third interception of the year, and his second career pick-six touchdown. Oh well, Harrison was flagged for a questionable roughing the passer call that negated Taylor's score.
* Speaking of penalties - 14 for 163 yards! Incredible. I'll save my commentary on some of these calls for a later post. I don't think there's any question that Steeler Nation was in disbelief at some of the calls that went against the black and gold. But really, the officiating incompetence went both ways as well. The refs missed on just about everything on Sunday. Terrible.
* First career touchdown for Isaac, 'The Most Interesting Man In the World' Redman. Congratulations to him. Somewhat surprisingly, it didn't come on a goal-line rushing situation, but rather a nicely-designed and executed 16-yard reception in the 4th quarter with the game out of reach.