Even PZB went home and drank a bottle of Gatorade after last week's steamy and unforgettable win over Tennessee. The only thing more violently oppressive than the heat in Memphis was the Steelers defense.
There's no way Week 3 can produce the excitement that the first three plays at Tennessee produced - a kick return for a touchdown, a fumble recovery on kickoff coverage, and a fight after an incomplete pass.
Sunday was a Leap game for one Steelers defender, and a message to the rest of the league that not only can this defense close games, it can force three games worth of turnovers into 60 violent minutes, and shut down the league's best offensive player.
Take heed, Tampa Bay, if the guy in black has a number in the 90s on his jersey, he's gonna put a hurtin' on you.
Opponent Web Sites/Forums
The "Chris Johnson Tracker" was dented a bit this weekend.
Bucs Nation highlights Tampa Bay's four sacks against Carolina in Week 2.
FS Tanard Jackson was given a 1-year suspension for violation of the league's substance abuse policy.
Tampa Bay's second home game is just like their first; blacked out
It's difficult to dust off the hyperbole and put it into play. Call it a sense of necessity.
Only two words come to mind after one of the most memorable Steelers wins in memory: "Team," and "Physical." In what seemed to be the use of all 53 men on the active roster, many of which could easily be mistaken for heat stroke victims, the Steelers pounded, beat, hammered and drilled every Titans player who stepped on the field. Making no mistake, Tennessee is one of the top defensive teams in the league as well, but the Steelers walked into LP Field overmatched offensively to the point of comedy. For each sputtering series their offense put together, the defense repaid the favor 10 fold.
By the end of it, the question was more "who is the Defensive Player of the Week in the NFL" than "who's the best defensive team?"
As it turns out, the Defensive Player of the Week was James Harrison, due to his 11 tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles and one suplex on the 6-foot-5 Vince Young (more on that in a minute). But Harrison wasn't the only dominant individual in Week 2. Lawrence Timmons made The Leap, notching 15 tackles along with forcing a fumble. Troy Polamalu had an interception - his fifth in the last seven games he's played - in the red zone and one leap over the offensive line onto the quarterback to prevent a touchdown. LaMarr Woodley had a sack and an interception.
When have we seen such a deep and varied defensive effort? An entire Renegade highlight video could have been made based on Week 2 alone. Timmons could only be described as a warrior, playing the best game of his professional career. Seemingly unstoppable RB Chris Johnson had nowhere to go all game, as 94 was in his grill from the first snap. Cut-backs were non-existent for the cut-back master. Timmons even made a few hits on Johnson that turned the heads of the league.
No one wants a piece of this defense. As Young said after the game, "They did some things I hadn't seen before." He was Carlo. The Steelers were Sonny Corleone. Sonny gave Carlo the most vicious beating ever put on film.
Offensively, it was perhaps the least effective performance the franchise has ever seen. The last time they had so few passing yards was probably around the time the forward pass was invented. It was also being directed by a guy who turns 36 in December, and represents the hypothetical fourth team. It'd be difficult to dig this stat up, but it'd be interesting to know how many teams win games in which their fourth quarterback plays three quarters. Charlie Batch proved the old football adage, "any possession resulting in a kick is a good thing, whether it's a punt, a field goal or a kickoff." Batch protected the ball, and while the defense was thumping Tennessee to the point they couldn't hold the ball, Batch simply maintained field possession.
With the re-signing of Byron Leftwich, and the return of Dixon, it's sort of perplexing to predict who the Steelers are going to put under center. But do we even care? Let's win the toss at Tampa Bay, and defer to the second half. We want to see more of this defense.
Harrison Holds: 1 - zero called
The weekly tally of holds on All-World OLB James Harrison, both called and uncalled
Much to the chagrin of most Steelers fans, PZB's Harrison Holds team is reporting the officials called a pretty clean game. With the exception of the off-setting penalties on the gang-attack on Hines Ward (Steelers C Justin Hartwig, who isn't on the team, was flagged for a personal foul on the play), and Harrison's assault on Vince Young, it looked like the officials did a good job. As for Harrison...Five large, James. Worth it, though.
- 1. 12:51 remaining, 3rd quarter, LT Michael Roos (pretty borderline, but it could have been called...so could have Harrison for roughing the passer, though)
4 - one called
Harrison, with help from Brett Keisel and Aaron Smith, produced the definitive highlight of one of the most dominating defensive performances in franchise history. He now has a finishing move - The $5k Suplex.
But his second sack resulted in him shoving a would-be blocker off the carcass of the QB on the ground, then kneel down, looking like he was about to pass out. The amount of effort he gives each play is rivaled by no one on the team or in the league.
Opponent Spotlight: QB Josh Freeman
Does one of the youngest starting QBs in the league know what's in store for him Sunday? PZB doubts it, but that's what is making him successful early into 2010.
Bucs coach Raheem Morris said it's not the throws a quarterback makes, but the ones he doesn't make that make him great. Freeman has done an excellent job in two games - despite a troubling offensive line and a pedestrian-at-best rushing game. The Bucs have given up a slew of QB pressures, but has only taken three sacks. He's tossed four touchdown passes to only one interception.
Watching him, it's easy to pinpoint his success. He's poised and confident in the pocket, and he keeps his eyes down the field. He's doing it with mostly no-name receivers - Private First Class Kellen Winslow leads the team with eight catches, and rookie stud Mike Williams has two touchdown catches.
Freeman is the straw that stirs the drink in Tampa, and the Steelers will have to focus on containing him. With all due respect to Carolina and Cleveland (maybe not so much), they do not have the defensive intensity Pittsburgh does, and Week 3 will be the first real test for the second-year budding superstar.
Steelers Spotlight: QB Charlie Batch
The merry-go-round-from-hell continues at the quarterback position. With Dennis Dixon tearing the meniscus in his left knee (the same knee he blew out in college), Batch, one year away from a season-ending elbow injury, makes his first start since a throwaway game at Baltimore in Week 17 of 2007.
He's thrown two passes in game action since that loss to the Ravens. After the last one, which came last season in a loss to Kansas City, he blew his elbow out, ending his 2009 campaign.
The scenario of Batch getting the start shouldn't come as a surprise, with Byron Leftwich having been injured in the team's final preseason game. Together Batch and Leftwich highlight a banged-up passer contingent in Pittsburgh, anxiously waiting for the return of Ben Roethlisberger.
Can they make do with Batch until then? The general consensus was the team would be fine and primed to make a run at the division title if they could finish Roethlisberger's 4-game suspension at 2-2. With a dominant defense, and what's thought to be an inferior opponent in Tampa Bay, optimism increased, and some people dared to say 4-0 when Big Ben sets foot back in the locker room.
It's easy to get carried away.
The hope for the Steelers offense, which put up one of the most underwhelming performances in coach Mike Tomlin's tenure (probably even longer) is that Batch can protect the ball, maintain field position and rely on the defense to win it. Certainly not out of the realm of possibility, but Tampa Bay has a tough defense, anchored by a stout defensive line and a playmaking secondary. The key to Batch's - and the Steelers - success Sunday is his ability to protect the ball. Having the possession end with a kick, whether it be a punt, a field goal or an extra point, isn't a bad thing, just like last week. Batch has this week of preparation to start, and the extra reps will sharpen the whole offense up to the point where a bit more success than his 5-for-11, 25 yard snoozer last week.
I See You
I see you, Mike Tomlin. There have been some chowderheads who called you out after last season, and with the loss of some star power going into this year, thought your lack of coaching ability would mean a disastrous four-game stint to open the year.
Quite the opposite. This team looks more focused, more prepared and more intense than ever, and no one in their right mind could accuse even Bruce Arians for not being on his game. That's leadership. Granted, you likely joined a small spattering of coaches in the modern era to get 127 total yards from your offense in a winning effort. Perhaps that means it's a two-way street; while you're getting it done defensively, offense is at a premium. I just can't imagine the team is not dutifully following your every direction.
I see you, Mike Tomlin, because I saw 22 guys Sunday playing their tails off, and winning a game that frankly could have easily gone the other direction. No one ever plays their fourth quarterback. No one loses three starting offensive linemen while starting a rookie at center by the second half of Week 2 and walks out 2-0. You had to sign a guy from the practice squad to provide depth behind injured Pro Bowl NT Casey Hampton, and not only does he contribute in one of the greatest defensive performances in team history, he recovers a fumble - one of four your defense caused in Week 2.
It's a game for the resume, coach. PZB sees that.
- Johnson's 34 yards was the second-lowest total of his career
- Pittsburgh has yet to score an offensive touchdown in regulation (2-0)
- Tampa Bay is the NFL's second-youngest team
- SS Troy Polamalu has an interception in five of his last seven games
Law-Dog the Leader: This quip from SI's Peter King made me smile behind my coffee: "Linebacker U. is producing another one. On a day when James Harrison had 11 tackles, two forced fumbles and two sacks, Timmons chipped in with 15 tackles and a forced fumble of his own. Every time I looked up, there was Timmons hanging around Chris Johnson and Vince Young. Johnson runs against everyone, and he was held to 34 yards by the Timmons-led defensive front."
Timmons leading the defensive front...there's something special about the first draft pick of the post-Cowher Era stepping into national prominence.
Shameful Jets: In wake of Jets WR Braylon Edwards arrest for drunken driving, one has to wonder two things; 1.) how much of the negative attention piling on the franchise is caused by their outspoken head coach and Yankees-like free agent additions in the off-season? 2.) How does an NFL player find himself in the situation Edwards did? Chris Mortenson posted a flier the Jets gave to its players last week detailing a security company, PlayerProtect, which advertises "24 hour full service and security" including driving, for professional athletes.
Not only does the club pay for this service, but the participants get to choose the luxury vehicle they can cruise in, a limo, a limo van or a luxury SUV.
Beats the hell out of the PZB Cruiser. The actual journalist in me wants to dig into that service, and whether other teams have similar services - I have to think they do.
I'm sure getting details on the frequency of patronage of these services is about as easy to get as the player's medical records, but it leads to the question of why players wouldn't choose to use it; perhaps the team monitors its usage, and reacts accordingly. Granted, the result of such an attitude defeats the purpose of having the service, and ultimately would lead to incidents like Edwards is accused of experiencing early Tuesday morning. It'd be an interesting story, though.