From what I've read so far in the comments here on BTSC, it seems negativity and panic are really high right now in Steeler Nation. It's really hard to keep a positive attitude about this team after such a horrible loss, and I'll admit I'm usually among the first ones to jump on the "We suck" bandwagon when things don't go well. However, if I've learned something in the last few years, it's that things are never as good or bad as the initially look. This loss hurts really bad, there were many disappointing moments, as well as some troubling problems for the Steelers, but there were some positive stuff as well, some performances that really make me believe the team can come back from this.
Let's start with the bad stuff, since it's easier to do so right now:
* Defense looked terrible today
I mentioned after the 1st game that I wasn't truly worried about the D, since that was the Great Peyton Manning out there going against us, I don't enjoy to see our D give up 31 points to him, but I can deal with it since he does it all other D's as well, especially during September. Then, after an opening drive TD by the Jets, I joined the bandwagon and claimed to be officially concerned. I was ready to eat my words after the D showed up big the rest of the game, and then this happens. Call me a fool, but I'm not giving up on this defense yet. The returns of James Harrison and Troy Polamalu would certainly help, but it is the D-Line that needs to step up.
*No running game
Similarly, I was refusing to lose faith in our running game, despite the poor results. The Broncos and Jets defenses are not push overs, and we do have our #1 RB sitting on the bench. The Raiders don't defend the run well, just look at what Reggie Bush did to them a week ago. And yet, the Steelers still run for less yards than their average, that's troubling. Will the running game get better with Mendy? Hopefully, his return game should tell us something about that; if the Steelers show progress, then maybe it will, if it doesn't, then it's an O-Line problem, and not many good alternatives there.
*Where's Mr Clutch?
Big Ben is my favorite player, and he is playing probably his best football right now. This loss was about 0% his fault, he did EVERYTHING he needed to do to get the Steelers to win. Both his running game and defense let him down. I do feel obliged to point out something I noticed recently. The last time Ben led a game-winning drive, was against the Colts last season. Certainly, some of that comes from not having every game go to a final drive to win; but, there have been some opportunities to get those, and things haven't gone our way. Last season vs Denver, the Steelers twice had the ball to end the half, with some decent time, in good field position, and came away empty. This season Ben has had 2 possessions with the game either close or tied, and both times failed to get in scoring position. I don't doubt Ben is still one of the premiere clutch players in this league, but it sure would be comforting to see him make magic happen again.
Now on to some positive stuff.
*Defense can only get better
Yes, they've looked awful at times, and yes other defenses have made Peyton look human and made the Raiders look like the Raiders, but I'm convinced they're better than that. I don't know if you've forgotten, but the 2007 Giants gave up 80 points in their first 2 games, and it was the same defense that held the NFL record setting Pats offense to 14 points in the SB. Dick LeBeau is one of the best in the game at what he does, I trust he will find a way to get this D to improve. Time will only tell if the 2012 Steelers defense will right the ship and look like a Steelers defense, or if they'll free fall the rest of the season and look like the 2009 Steelers whenever they got in the 4th quarter.
*Ben is playing at MVP level
Lack of GWDs aside, Ben is playing lights out. This was the 2nd consecutive game he's spread the ball to 10 different receivers. He looks poised, confident, calm and precise; he's making good decisions with the ball and finding mismatches in the defense. It's very early to begin talking about MVP candidates, and frankly I couldn't care less if he wins it or not, but with Ben playing this way we can compete with anyone. It would be better if we didn't need Ben to play like a man possessed to be in the game, but when you have a Top 5 QB it's always good to see him live up to his status. He just needs a bit more help.
The worst part from this loss is that we'll have 2 weeks to dwell on it. I have a classmate who is a die-hard Patriots fan, and after giving him grief for the Pats loss to the Cards, Arizona is 3-0 after dominating Philly, and the Steelers lost to the Raiders. So you can imagine the kind of weeks I have ahead of me. Regardless, we must remember it's a 16 game season, this is only week 3. Be patient Steeler Nation, we have placed our trust in this organization for a reason. Season's not over yet, have faith in the men. For now, let's just hope for company in our misery and root for the Pats to beat the Ratbirds (if they can both lose that'd be great, but I'll take a Ratbirds loss).