Just as the title suggests, a few guys that I was impressed by that weren't the obvious choice for post-game interviews or attention from fans or the media.
Isaac Redman - Chuck Norris's role model didn't do anything special on Sunday. He finished with a mere 19 yards on six carries. However, three of those rushing attempts yielded a fresh set of downs. What I liked about Redman on Sunday was how he lowered his pads and just hit the hole hard. No dancing, no hesitation, no fear of contact. Straight ahead, yet looking to slither in between bodies for an extra yard or two. This thought deserves a post of its own, but frankly, I'm surprised that Redman is losing any playing time whatsoever for Mewelde Moore. At this point, I'm not sure at all what Moore brings to the table. I LOVE Mewelde Moore. I was one of his biggest advocates when he came here in 2007. My phrase at the time was: 'one man's trash is another man's treasure.' Moore still can do a little bit of everything, but at this point, I'm not sure he does anything better than anybody else on the depth chart at RB. That used to not be the case when a competent pass-catching RB was absent on the roster. Now, with Rashard Mendenahll, there's aptitude in that department. And with Redman,. there's a capable ball carrier to spell Mendy in more than just short-yardage and goal-to-go situations. Anyway, not trying to pick on Moore. I've been a huge fan of his. But I don't see why Bruce Arians needs to use Moore in any capacity. Redman can be the short-yardage back, Mendenhall is very competent as a pass catcher (he just never gets any looks), and really, between the two of them, that should cover it barring injury.
- Trai Essex - After a ho-hum preseason, I was more or less impressed by the play of Trai Essex on Sunday. Maurkice Pouncey was better at center, and Chris Kemoeatu was superior at left guard, but this isn't a post about the creme de la creme. This is a shout-out to the guys who played an important complimentary role in the victory but weren't much mentioned in the newspapers or in fans' initial post-game reactions. I don't really feel that comfortable with Essex as a season-long solution, but looks like that's the reality for now. I'm just pleased he did a good job opening up a few running lanes, as well as keeping Dixon off his back.
- James Farrior (5 tackles)- We know he's smart and savvy, but at the outset of this year's training camp, there were just question marks about whether he had the motor to keep up in the ridiculously fast-paced NFL. The hype is, and will continue to gravitate towards Lawrence Timmons in the future. But as the headlines shift to an up-and-coming young stud, the Steelers still will be relying on the veteran Farrrior to play a hgue role in their defense - as a communicator, as a motivating leader, and as a playmaker. Intangibles are great and all, but if you're out there playing for Dick LeBeau, you better be able to bring it. There were question marks surrounding Farrior being able to keep up at his age, but all summer long and now through the first week of the season, Farrior somehow seems to have gotten back that explosive burst that allows him to both close out plays in the running game and contribute on passing situations. An encouraging sign for now.
- Daniel Sepulveda - 5 punts, 50.8 average, with a long of 55. A small, greedy side of me still wishes that the Steelers had a guy like Shane Lechler or Mike Scifres booming 65 yarders to flip the field when necessary, but really, I'm thrilled that the former 4th round draft pick out of Baylor is healthy and punting so well. We're going to be tough to beat if the defense can stay healthy and Sepulveda continues to launch punts that the coverage team is able to track down.
- Bruce Arians - I didn't think he had his best performance on Sunday, but I was happy to see a run-pass ratio of 30:26. Obviously I was hoping that Rashard Mendenhall would get 20-25 carries (if not more), but I was also hoping that he wouldn't keep the training wheels on Dixon too much. And he didn't. The Steelers called a number of plays that aren't of the 'vanilla' variety in their playbook. Another big test this coming Sunday for Arians and his young quarterback.