It's just too early to start crafting a narrative for the Pittsburgh Steelers 2011 NFL season. Despite losing 35-7 to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday afternoon, and looking decidedly unimpressive in the process, it's just way too early to start talking big picture story-lines for this year's squad. We will though discuss throughout the forthcoming weeks what may very well materialize into the narrative for the season but for now, let's take a look at a few facts, stats and figures from the Week 1 loss.
- The 35-7 loss snaps Pittsburgh's winning streak on Opening Weekend at eight games. The Steelers had last lost in Week 1 back in 2003. Mike Tomlin also lost for the first time in a season opener, lowering his mark to 4-1 as the head coach of the Steelers.
- The 28-point defeat was the largest in the Mike Tomlin era. Prior to Sunday, the worst loss suffered by a Tomlin coached team had been a 21-point defeat in New England late in the 2007 regular season.
- Steeler Nation is accustomed to Joe Flacco making some costly mistakes in the annual matchups with Baltimore, but perhaps some are not aware how good the fourth-year QB has been at home recently. Flacco is 12-1 in his last 13 starts at M&T Bank Stadium dating back to last November with an 11:1 TD:INT ratio (22:2). That's impressive stuff, and I mention that just as a reminder that it shouldn't be too too surprising that Flacco found a rhythm at home and avoided the types of mistakes Pittsburgh has grown accustomed to forcing out of The Unibrow. Kudos to him and Cam Cameron for a well-conceived and executed game plan.
- The Steelers finished the 2010 season with a +17 turnover differential, the second best mark in the league behind only New England. After coughing it up seven times on Sunday and not producing a single turnover on defense, the Steelers have a huge hole to climb out of. That's the beauty though of the NFL. There are no style points for winning big, and there are no extra repercussions for getting your butt handed to you convincingly in defeat. All that matters is that turnover margin is in the black for the remainder of the season.
- The Steelers' seventh turnover did not come until late October last season when they turned it over twice in a fortunate win at Miami.
- The seven turnovers were the most in a single game since 1995 when Jim Miller and Mike Tomzcak threw three picks a piece and a fumble was returned for a TD during a 44-24 loss to the Minnesota Vikings in Week 4. That Steelers team, of course, would rebound from its shaky 2-2 start to finish 11-5 and advance to the Super Bowl where turnovers reared their ugly ahead once more at the most inopportune of times.
- The Steelers have allowed just two hundred yard rushing performances in their last 51 outings -- both were posted by Baltimore's Ray Rice. More on Rice in a bit, but if he's healthy and being utilized properly, there's no denying that he's a matchup problem for everybody in the National Football League, and that certainly includes the Steelers defense who got burned by Rice in the passing game in addition to allowing 107 yards on 19 carries.
Am I concerned? Sure, how could I not be? That said, I'm not inclined to make too much out of this loss just yet. The NFL regular season is a war of attrition and you neither get dinged nor rewarded for your start. Each game matters though and the Steelers now find themselves with a slightly smaller margin of error than we might like. But before we declare that the sky is falling, let's see what happens this next five weeks first beginning with Seattle at Heinz Field next Sunday, followed by a tour around the AFC South. Much more on Week 2 later in the week, but first, more thoughts and reactions to Sunday's disappointing 35-7 loss at Baltimore.