In a last minute decision I decided I needed to watch the Bears game in the company of other Steelers fans. Glad I did, sorta. Spent much of the night holding my head in my hands, but if you can get past the suffering it was fascinating to watch.
Yes, the Steelers kicked ass last night, their own. Never has one of Mike Tomlin's favorite sayings 'Steelers beating the Steelers' had more resonance as with the first three games of this season, and last night constituted a peak performance in that regard because of the fact that they are now actually becoming competent in all three phases. It, therefore, required a strong and sustained effort to take themselves out.
This is the really fascinating thing about this 2013 edition of the Steelers. Now, granted, I'm as guilty as anyone of seeing things through black and gold lenses, but this team doesn't impress me as being all that bad. In fact, they show potential of eventually being quite good. It didn't look to me that they were outclassed as far as personnel or other factors. They just seem be behaving in manner that is (to use a politically incorrect term) retarded. If the first three games of this season could be summarized in one image it would be David DeCastro shredding Maurkice Pouncey's knee.
Ben. Folks gave Neal Coolong some grief for not including Ben as one of the losers, or for that matter the biggest loser in last night's festivities. But its complicated. Ben's contribution was, as they say, a push. He gave with one hand and took away with the other (I guess that would be his right hand). Never has the term 'can't live with him, can't live without him' seemed more apt. I couldn't even get mad at him, or anyone else for that matter. Did you see that one turnover that fell so neatly into the hands of a defensive lineman who was both out of the play, and conveniently headed in the direction of the end zone. It was no look too. That takes talent. That comes under the category of God must hate us. Nothing you can do there but burn incense, sacrifice livestock (or dogs or cats in a bow to urban realities) and pray for forgiveness.
Antonio Brown. Earlier in the game I was having a conversation about the state of the team and it was brought up that AB wasn't really a #1 caliber receiver. We were wrong. If he did, in fact, go off last week because he felt he had been neglected I think we now all understand. I think it is fair to say that he has improved as a receiver. Also fair to say that he is earning his money.
Jonathan Dwyer. I guess the question here is whether cutting Dwyer constituted a brain fart on the part of the brain trust of the team, or did that little episode contain the necessary life lesson that lit a fire under this young man. In any case we were treated to a demonstration of what they saw in him. Great running, great blocking and an inspiration to his teammates.
Tight ends. It appears that our little nightmare with this position group may be coming to an end. Of course, it was great to see Heath back on the field, and I was grateful for the prudent way in which he was utilized. But the one winning performance that I believe Neal overlooked was that of David Johnson. He's beginning to recover the form that he had before he was injured last year. A good blocker, and a better receiver than he's given credit for.
Offensive line. Yes, yes, yes. They are still struggling, and your point is what? I thought the most interesting stat of the night is when it was pointed out that the Steeler O line had experienced fewer snaps than any line in the league, which in my mind explains a great many things and is reason for hope in the future.There was much conversation by the broadcasters of the inexperience of the Bears' lineman. DeCastro, to use one example probably doesn't have that many more snaps himself, but is not classified as a rookie. Besides given that Chicago's defensive plan seemed to be to get to Ben at all costs (which makes sense because when they didn't it was tough times) the line didn't do all that bad. Especially when you take into account that with pass blocking there is normal time and then there is Ben time which is something akin to eternity. Its pretty easy to look bad trying to hold a six second block. Kelvin Beachum's stock continues to go up.
Defensive secondary. Solid play all the way around. Ike had another great effort. As Neal and others have pointed out, that pass to Marshall was simply a great play that would have required something truly extraordinary to break up. Gay, Shamarko Thomas and Clark were providing quality work as well. And Troy...
The twin Ws. They're trying which is all you can really hope for at this point. If Williams had been able to effectively follow up on Timmons hit on Forte at the goal line then the momentum and outcome of the game might have been different.
Felix Jones. After some nice runs in the first half his stock went down with his turnover in the second half. This is where being with other Steelers fans was an advantage, because it was clear we were all thinking the same thing; is this guy a turnover time bomb?
And just so we don't leave all of it on an offense that did, after all, considering direct points off of turnovers, produced 37 points, the defense could have been more helpful if they could have gotten off the field on a couple of third's and longer than ten situations on that fourth quarter drive by Chicago. Though, to be fair, credit should be given to Cutler on that third down run. That was the game winner in my opinion.
I think if we could just get the Steelers off our schedule from here on out we'd be all right.