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Final Ramblings About Pittsburgh Steelers 28-20 Victory Over Detroit

It's too late in the week to devote too much additional time to last Sunday's 28-20 victory by the Pittsburgh Steelers over the Detroit Lions, but a couple last things have been on my mind from that game and I wanted to get them down before any more time passed, even if only disjointedly.

  • First of all, Daunte Culpepper needs to start the rest of the season for Detroit. He's healthy again - healthier than he's been in years. We saw that when he scampered for 32 yards against the Steelers defense in the 1st quarter. Pundits would like you to believe that Matthew Stafford is the future and should play now. True, he is the future. But here's the deal. The Detroit Lions are in a little bit different situation than most teams that have a young quarterback waiting in the wings and little chance at making a playoff run in the immediate future. How are they different? They're desperate for wins. Now. Not down the road. Immediately. Losing as much as they have can derail and counterfeit all the hard work that those guys up in Detroit are undeniably putting in. It's a whole lot easier to get players to buy in to a new program under Jim Schwartz if they're able to win 4 or 5 games rather than just 1-2. There's absolutely NO doubt in my mind that Culpepper gives them an exponentially greater chance at doing that. 

  • Let's see what happens this week when the Steelers offense plays a shoddy rush defense for the second consecutive week, but following in the wake of his outstanding game plan against the Chargers, we were treated to the 'old' Bruce Arians last Sunday. Said differently, there was a somewhat disappointing resurfacing of the offensive coordinator who has a tendency to get overly pass happy, abandon the run, get too predictable in certain situations, etc. All I might say to Bruce if I were to watch the tape with him is: 'don't overthink things! The running game was going just fine, use it, then bury them with through the air when the time's right. A 2:3 rush to pass ratio when you're feature back is averaging over 5 yards per pop is hard to understand. Anyway, just because we haven't been a physical bruising team since Arians arrived doesn't mean the team should refuse to act the part when they're finally having success doing so. That brand of football may not work against the upper crust rush defenses, but the Steelers offensive line has proven they're capable of winning the battle in the trenches against lesser defenses. Cleveland would qualify. I know it's tempting to go for the homerun when you have a quarterback playing as well as Ben Roethlisberger, but Arians needs to check his ego at the door and more frequently take what's given to him during the normal ebbs and flows of individual games. 

  • It's funny - if you listen to the national media, you'd think the Steelers are a middle of the pack team. Peter King had nothing nice to say about them in his MMQ column:

I don't like dropping the Steelers four spots after a road win. I understand it's not fair. But the Lions drove to the Steelers 21 in the final minutes and were a big Daunte Culpepper pass from pulling a ridiculous upset. I need to see a little more from the Steelers.

Hmm. I don't know about that. Detroit played very well in the 1st half, engineering field goal drives on their first two series of the game. They had to settle for field goals though and found themselves trailing 14-6 after Pittsburgh stormed down the field twice in a row for touchdowns. After forcing a punt, Pittsburgh got the ball back with about 9 minutes left in the 2nd quarter. And they just about put the clamps on Detroit with another score. I'll touch on that in my next point. 

  • It was that series when Mike Wallace dropped the sure touchdown pass from Big Ben. A routine catch there and the Steelers go up 21-6. Two plays later, Roethlisberger is picked off on 3rd down on a pass he normally doesn't miss on and we suddenly have a 14 point swing in Detroit's favor. The Steelers would then respond again with a scoring drive - punctuated by Hines Ward's first touchdown of the season. My point? Pittsburgh was just a gimme catch away from scoring on four consecutive possessions in the 1st half. Yes the defense needs work, but the offense did exactly what it should have done for much of that game - that's beat up on an inferior defense. It's not at all shocking or concerning to me when an NFL offense has some success playing at home, particularly when said offense is being led by a healthy quarterback that at one time looked destined for Canton. 

  • Back to that pick-six in the 2nd quarter. It's worth noting that Roethlisberger was looking for Mike Wallace on that play. To remind you, that was just two plays after Wallace dropped a sure touchdown. Something tells me Big Ben was determined to go back to Wallace sooner rather than later in order to help get the young rookie's mind straight. If you've ever heard mic'ed up segments with Big Ben, you know that it's not uncommon for him to say things like that to his teammates. I love the leadership - but if Big Ben was in fact trying to force a ball his way for that reason, he'll hopefully learn that's a risky proposition in this league. If you re-watch the play in slow-motion, you'll notice that Big Ben has plenty of time in the pocket to make his reads. He throws the ball behind Wallace for the pick, but you can also see that Hines Ward was about to find a soft spot in the Lions zone if Ben had just been patient for a split second more. My guess though is he had made up his mind to throw it to Wallace before going through all his progressions.

  • Reason #1 why this game was fairly encouraging to me - besides the fact that we won, of course. To me, it was actually that the defense started to get some pressure on the quarterback. The Steelers had 7 sacks (propelled me to a win in fantasy this week btw. w00t.) and pressured Culpepper on numerous other occasions. It wasn't long ago that James Harrison seemed to be stuck in a slump and unable to use that amazing first step and sturdy low center of gravity to get underneath and then around tackles.  Well, the past two weeks, Deebo has 5 sacks in his past two games, and 6 in his last three. After being held without a sack in the first two games, Harrison is already back in the top 5 in sacks and actually on pace to surpass his total of 16 sacks from a year ago. Oh yeah, he's also on pace to not only match, but to shatter his career high of 7 forced fumbles, a number he reached the previous two seasons. I don't have all the historical numbers, but I'm pretty darn sure that back-to-back 7 forced fumble seasons is beyond rare. Harrison looks poised to extend that streak to three straight seasons. Now if only a few of those will bounce our way. They eventually will and that will go a long ways towards helping us shore up some of the problems on that side of the ball. Luck matters.
  • Is it just me or does anybody else have a hard time remembering specific moments when Daniel Sepulveda has been involved in recent weeks. This week he had 4 punts following consecutive weeks where he punted just two times. Sepulveda averaged a healthy 48.5 yards per kick on Sunday, raising his average to the year to 45.8 yards per punt. Good stuff, but as the offense inevitably slows down later in the year at times, it'll be important for him to be better than just good.

  • Finally, was anybody else stunned that Jason Hansen missed that field goal attempt? Random thought, I know, but that guy's been so good for so long.

  • Actually, one last thing. Congratulations to Larry Foote on the impact he's had on the Lions defense and organization since signing with them this spring. A true Steeler. Detroit's very smart and very lucky to have obtained his services. Keep it up Larry! We miss you.