Well, as we suspected all week, Denver came out to play and gave us their best shot. Here are some of my thoughts that I scribbled down during the game:
* I know some may question the play-calling during the first half, but our initial drive was a thing of beauty. I liked how we got the ball to Heath Miller on the second play, even if it did only go for a handful of yards. And I loved the throw and concentration on the catch when Big Ben hooked up with Nate Washington on that 40-yarder. We then ran the ball once, got Hines involved, then finished things off with two more receptions for Heath Miller. 7-0 Steelers and the Broncos were already on their heels.
* the 2-3-6 look we gave Denver wasn't all that effective last night. We didn't get at the quarterback with the look, and Cutler found unacceptably open receivers basically all night, even when we did have 6 DBs in.
* I thought Big Ben was forcing the ball into Santonio Holmes in the first half. Double teamed. Triple teamed. Mattered not. Big Ben was trying to find Holmes on the deep ball last night and the Broncos were more than ready. We switched things up in the second half and focused more on getting Holmes the ball on shorter passes and letting him make a play. By the way, that TD grab by Santonio was incredible. He trapped the ball against his legs as he went to the ground, and somehow held on. He's a tough son of a gun over the middle for his size.
* We had issues getting to the QB. Harrison had his moments, and Woodley broke through once, but Denver's offensive line had a huge game protecting Cutler.
* Jarvis Moss, a player BTSC was interested in, had an impact on this game. He blew up a running play of ours in the second quarter, and helped flush Big Ben a number of times throughout the game.
* Coach Tomlin is still struggling with his Coach's Challenges. Horrible challenge on that pass to Hines Ward. That extra timeout could have come in handy had we not been sacked and been penalized during the final drive before the half.
* Deshea Townsend really had a long night. He is definitely in my mind the weak link in our secondary. He'd been hiding some of his weaknesses throughout the early parts of this season, but at age 32, Townsend isn't improving really. He's been mediocre for a few years now, and it showed again last night.
* Alan Faneca can still whoops some serious ass in the running game. FWP had several gigantic holes last night thanks to Faneca and Marvel Smith. I know Faneca is not as good as he once was, but I cringe at times when I think about this offensive line without Faneca next year. More on the running game to come, but obviously it wasn't smooth sailing all night for Parker and our offensive line.
* James Harrison is a freak. What a beast. He still has some learning to do about where to be on the field, but man is he strong and crazy out there on the field. During back-to-back plays in the fourt quarter, Harrison penetrated the backfield on a running play for a loss. Then on 2nd down, Harrison sacked Cutler, refusing to let Cutler slide out of his grip. Very, very impressive plays.
* We gave up back-to-back 3rd and 13s in their last TD drive. Those two back-breaking conversions capped an impressive 7/10 day for Denver on third down.
* I'll finish for know - before getting into some positional breakdowns - by saying I was extremely impressed with the way we responded in the second half. We were one play away on defense from really making it a complete half of football for us, but our offense really was fun to watch. Our two TE sets are reaping dividends. Hines Ward got back in the mix. Santonio Holmes keeps proving we have two #1 caliber receivers on our team. FWP continues to exhibit a remarkable competitive spirit out there. And Big Ben, when not making mistakes, is as good an orchestrator as this league has.