Homer has been known to worry about many things. Like whether he'll run out of cold, delicious Duff beer before the game is over. Or if he'll get up too late to get the many-colored Sprink-a-licious donuts at the Kwik-E-Mart. And after watching parts of the Falcons game on NFL-TV Saturday night, and the game in its entirety on the rebroadcast on Sunday, he would like to share his Steeler worries with you.1. Byron Leftwich. Homer is still upset with the picture of Lefty in agony, as he left the field with a broken arm. Lefty is a warrior. We all remember his teammates carrying him down the field as the led his college team on a game winning touchdown drive. He was badly hurt and couldn't walk....but he put his arms around the shoulders of two offensive lineman, who helped him hobble to the next line of scrimmage. He didn't leave that courage back at Marshall. He's still a gutsy guy with a high pain threshhold. He had to be in intolerable pain.
Here's hoping that you are resting comfortably today, Mr. Leftwich. Here's hoping that there's no nerve damage and that you recover completely. You are part of the Steeler family, and the Steeler organization and Steeler Nation will be with you every step of the way. Get well, soon, Lefty.
By the by, about three hours before Saturday's game, Homer went downstairs to check if the mail had been delivered. He was wearing a pair of those big, goofy Steeler slippers. My friend at the reception desk mentioned that the Steelers' quarterback was a customer of hers at the bank where she works full-time. I asked her if she meant Charlie Batch, since the NFLPA HQ is right around the corner from her union-affiliated bank. She said she didn't recognize the name, so I then mentioned Lefty. Her face lit up a bit and she asked what he looked like. I said he looks like a giant Gary Coleman and she laughed and said, "that's him. He's such a nice young man!"
Byron Leftwich is a DC native who is still revered in the town where he grew up. He's a high quality guy, with people rooting for him everywhere.
2) The inability to establish a consistent running game. Sure, I know we had half a dozen "splash plays" that went for touchdowns, or whatever. And I know that Atlanta has a strong defense, especially against the run. But the offensive line hasn't shown me any consistency in the run game. Homer agrees with our Fearless Leader, the fount of all wisdom, Mr. Tomlin, who put it this way....
we will have to learn from this. I understand that can’t be a continual recipe for us in terms of winning football games. I’d like to see us win the line of scrimmage more definitively on offense. I’d like to see us get off more consistently on third downs defensively, put more consistent pressure on the quarterback and have tighter coverage in the secondary. But we will take the win.”
Homer remembers Tommy Gun and he remembers that awful night in Cleveland and he knows that you can't win ONLY with the pass and there are some games where the weather dictates that you can't pass at all. To paraphrase the Lillian Gish character in the all-time classic "Night of the Hunter," "the snow's a gonna fall, and the wind's a gonna blow, but the running game, it will abide. The running game, it will abide."
The weather's gonna get worse. The running game had better get better. And that means more consistent.
3) Maurkice Pouncey. If that ankle's gonna be his Achilles' heel or a constant problem, Homer better stock up on Tums. And thank heaven for that former UDFA, the Big Legursky. He might not be Pouncey, but he's not Mahan or Hartwig, either, thank God.
4) James Harrison. The Steeler defense is predicated on OLB's making the big plays. Deebo had two off-season back surgeries, and he hasn't been himself yet. Maybe that's why we haven't seen the domination we have come to expect at the line of scrimmage (see Tomlin quote above). We all know that pre-season games mean very little (or nothing), and that Harrison is rounding himself into shape. But Homer is allowed to worry, and he will worry about #92 losing his super-human powers until Mr Harrison shows those powers again in an actual game.
And speaking of OLB, Jason Worilds finally showed some of that promise on Saturday night. Of course it was against back-ups, but you can only play against those who are on the field.
If Harrison is less than 100%, Homer is still less than sanguine with Worilds as his replacement.
5) The Defensive Backfield. Sooo many choices, so little time. What to do?
Homer liked Crezdon Butler's 93 yard touchdown return. Of course, the receiver fell down and the ball hit Crezdon between the top of the 2 and the top of the 8. Anybody could have caught it, except that Limas guy and maybe Ike. But he really took it to the house (and Homer LOVED how Heyward was with him all the way down the sidelines, stilll looking to throw a block at the five yard line. Homer LOVES Heyward's skill set and his attitude). Crezdon is a keeper. Of course, the Steelers have never, in their history, cut a guy named Crezdon.
Lewis has sped up his game and looks like a keeper. Donovan Warren has been all over the place. Those two kids from Texas and Citadel picked up in rounds three and four have a ton of raw talent. And Cromartie-Smith is very much in the mix.
Troy, Clark, and Mundy are definites, but Gay, BMac, and Will Allen better show something against Carolina.
We're less than two weeks from the opener and the DB competition is actually heating up, rather than sorting itself out. I guess the best part of it is that we still have all of last year's DB. The question is whether last year's guys are all good enough to make it this year. And that's a good question.
6) Antonio Brown is NOT Superman.
Downtown Tony Brown stopped short of leaping tall buildings in a single bound, and he seemed not to be faster than a speeding locomotive. Homer may need a second opinion on the latter, however. Brown is at least as fast as Amtrak's Northeast Regional, if not the Acela.
Homer was a bit peeved when he saw Brown acting like a jerk by pointing at a man who had just lost his jock strap on the field. And when the ref threw a yellow flag, Homer told the TV that Brown should stop acting like a jagoff.
Then, after the game, Brown shouldered the blame for his mistake and said such actions are "not the signature of the Pittsburgh Steelers." Hmmm. Think he came up with that line? Neither do I.
That's obviously a Tomlinism. And, unlike the previous 'tone, Mr Brown is not "'tone deaf." When Mr Tomlin speaks, Antonio Brown listens.
That little sentence tells you a lot about Mike Tomlin and how he is a leader of men. Many coaches would have ripped into young Antonio Brown and called him a jagoff and told him he put his own ego before the team. But this was a pre-season game and Brown had just scored a spectacular touchdown against a DB who had been trash talking him. Instead, Mr Tomlin puts his arm around him, and tells him the taunting is "not the signature of the Pittsburgh Steelers."
And Antonio Brown tells reporters after the game that his taunting was "not the signature of the Pittsburgh Steelers."
The lesson was learned. This is why we have such a man crush on Tomlin.
Oh, and the pre-season sales of Brown #84 jerseys are WAAAY up, according to the committee.