14 of the 16 NFL Week 1 games are in the books, with two Monday Night Football contests still to be played. I'll get to my reactions from across the league a bit later, but first, a few quick thoughts about the Pittsburgh Steelers and their Week 2 game with the Seattle Seahawks.
Here's what we know after the Steelers' 35-7 loss to the Baltimore Ravens:
- The Steelers aren't capable of steamrolling the league a la the 2007 Patriots. That's okay though by the way.
- Dick LeBeau's defense will struggle to dominate teams as we're accustomed to seeing unless a consistent pass rush is generated by the front-seven, and in particular, from the Steelers' two highly paid outside linebackers, James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley.
- Yet another new configuration of starting offensive linemen will need some time to jell. That's nothing new though is it?
- The Steelers will be pissed off and ready to whoop some ass next Sunday when they host the Seattle Seahawks.
Here's what we don't know:
- Whether Week 1 was an aberration or a foretaste of the struggles to come in 2011.
- Whether the defense would have righted the ship and tightened the screws had it not been put in compromising situations time and again as a result of turnovers from the offense.
- How exactly Mike Tomlin and his coaching staff will adjust to the humiliating Week 1 defeat.
There are countless other variables one could file under the 'don't know' category, but that would have been true heading into Week 2 whether Pittsburgh had won by 28 or lost by 28.
In my mind at least, all that really matters is No. 4 in the 'what we know' category -- that the Steelers are going to come out angry and ready to play in Week 2. I sure hope so at least. I think it's a given though. This Steelers team has too much pride to not come out furious next Sunday. And the roster is constituted with a nice blend of veterans and young talent. By that I mean the veterans should be self-motivated to safe face, and know exactly how to go about getting prepared for Week 2 so that they can go about erasing the foul memory of Week 1 from their minds for the time being. At the same time, the young talent on the roster will get the full, unedited ire of Mike Tomlin this week in practice. It won't be bark, bark, bark all week from Tomlin and his staff. But a poor showing like that gives Tomlin every reason in the world to remind the youngsters that there jobs (and contracts) are guaranteed for exactly, um, no time beyond this coming week.
And really, there could be no better opponent to face than Seattle coming off the unsettling loss to the rival Ravens. Why? I don't really need to elaborate do I? Fine. Firstly, coming off a 1 sack performance against Baltimore, Pittsburgh's pass rushers should fare much better against the inexperienced Seahawks line. San Francisco sacked Tavaris Jackson five times during its 33-17 win over Seattle. Expect James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley and hopefully either Brett Keisel or Aaron Smith (or both) to get past the Seahawks' work-in-progress line and in the face of the indecisive Jackson much more effectively than they did in Week 1.
Secondly, even if Seattle is able to protect Jackson fairly well, Seattle simply doesn't have the passing attack to exploit the weaknesses of the Steelers' secondary. Period. I watched the Seahawks fall to the 49ers and I couldn't have been less impressed by their offensive prowess. I was fairly impressed by the defense's effort, but man oh man was the offense bad.
Obviously Mike Tomlin won't be talking about a single thing I just mentioned during this week's practices. No, he'll be in the ear of every last one of his players getting them ready to play to the standard.
Hell, the Steelers could very well be mistake prone and lose next week to Seattle. I highly doubt it, but I certainly have followed this league closely enough to know that there really are no 'gimmes'. I do know though that the Steelers will be eager to avenge a miserable Week 1 showing. After watching Baltimore dictate Week 1, it's Pittsburgh who will be sure they throw the first punch, and there will be no letting off the gas pedal for an entire 60 minutes.
Count on that if nothing else.