The game is still in front of my eyes, too early for any meaningful analysis to be done, but I will take advantage of the 7 hours of time difference and pour out my thoughts before plunging into work on Monday morning.
If winning ugly is what it takes to make another deep playoff run for the Steelers, I'll take it. I will readily admit that this game was pretty ugly, and there was some luck involved with the Steelers walking away with a W from the Lucas Oil Stadium. However, as we have been discussing an entire week here, facing a team close to desperation on a Sunday night game in a hostile domed environment is never going to be easy, and the Steelers expectedly got the Colts' best shot a the win. And I will never admit that the Steelers looked old, weak or beatable last night, even more so, in my view they looked and played much better than the scoreline will tell you. Here's why.
The Steelers dominated the Colts in every phase of the game almost the entire 60 minutes. We outgained the Colts 408 to 241 (including 341-144 in the air), we held the ball for almost 8 minutes more than the home team. The Steelers held the Colts under control on defense.
That last bit is important. Sure, we're talking about a Manning-less Colts offense that lost Collins too. But if you think about it, the Steelers gave up just one long drive that ended with a TD during the game. Even that drive was literally half-inch from being disrupted by Polamalu (twice, actually). The second longest drive by Colts after that one was just 47 yards. If you allow one long TD drive the entire game, you have to win almost every time.
The Steelers gave up 13 of the 20 points off the turnovers, and one fumble was returned for a TD, and the Colts got a short field after the two others (each of the TOs at midfield). Still, they were held to FGs only.
Sure, turnovers are a bad thing, and they can hand the game utterly dominated by your team to an opponent, but let's face it, turnovers are bad luck to a great extent. They are easy to fix, at least much easier than to fix a defense. Imagine at least two of those three drives where Ben turned the ball over ending with a punt - and it is a secure 2 possession lead at the end of the game.
Also, can you imagine any other team with a minus-9 turnover differential (1-10), and being 2-1 on the season? This team will be just fine. They are not old, not slow. And they are winning.
Now, a few other thoughts on the game. I'll start with the good:
- minus an interception, the passing game was pretty good. There were a few kinks that need to be worked out (like a Saunders' almost catch-turned-INT, or a couple of missed throws by Ben), but otherwise I am impressed - especially with that offensive line.
- Polamalu is at his best again. I bet there will be someone who will say that he narrowly missed on those two opportunities to ruin the Colts' TD drive because he's just a bit older. I could not disagree more. There isn't another player in this league who could even be in a position to make plays like that. And on the sack-fumble-TD, Troy made an extremely athletic play to leap over his blocker to be in a position to recover the football and score. Nah, Troy is Troy, and in a very good way. I am a little bit more concerned about James Harrison, but he is improving and becoming more explosive with each game.
There cannot be a game overview without the bad:
- Turnovers. Nuff said. Ben has just got to take care of the football. Throw the ball away, even tuck it in and take a sack, just don't run around the pocket waving it. This is fixable, as I said before.
- Running game. Oh boy. I am not sure who to blame on this one - Mendenhall or the O-line. We couldn't get ANYTHING going even after we had established the passing game (which was supposed to keep safeties outside of the box). It is not like Indy has the best running D in the league...
- I am slightly concerned about the run defense of the Steelers. With Foster and Tate waiting for us next week... Throw in one Matt Schaub, and Dick LeBeau and his unit may have his hands full.
- play action - I may be wrong about this, but it seemed to me that the Steelers abandoned play-action in the 2nd half (it worked oh so well on the Wallace TD!). With safeties close to the line of scrimmage this would have helped.
- playcalling - one traditional whine in the general direction of Bruce Arians. It was too predictable for my liking.
- injuries - the bug has bitten the weakest link, the offensive line. I think Flozell the Hotel is getting a call this week, so is Max Starks - if the salary cap thingy works.
I guess the conclusion after these chaotic thoughts is that a win is a win. The Ravens may get all the style points ni the world after winning 2 games by a combined score of 72-14, but they sit at 2-1 just as the Steelers (and the Browns). Next week will be big, with the Steelers going to see the prolific Texans, and the Ravens hosting Rex Ryan.
P.S. Who would have thought that the Bills would be the only unbeaten team in the AFC after 3 weeks?!.. But that's a topic for a different post.