Just as many in Steeler Nation found solace in how the Steelers looked this season in their 37-19 victory over the Carolina Panthers, many will find reason to be optimistic about the Steelers' 17-9 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
But they shouldn't since the Steelers travel to Cleveland next week, signifying the end of the supposed "powderpuff" part of their schedule. In order after the Browns, the Steelers play the Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans and Baltimore Ravens. Two divisional games and two games against teams tied (with each other) for first place in the AFC South.
Nor should Steeler Nation take solace in Sunday's victory against the Jags. The Jags are awful. Just how bad are they? Consider the following rankings for their supposedly "tough" defense:
Total Yards Allowed: Worst in the NFL
Yards Allowed per Play: Seventh worst in NFL
First Downs Allowed: Second worst in NFL
Third Down Conversions Allowed: Third worst in NFL
Penalties Committed: Fourth Worst in NFL
And the stats for the Jags' offense are just as putrid:
Total Yards Gained: Next to last in NFL
Total Yards per Play: Next to last in NFL
First Downs Gained: Third worst in NFL
Third Down Conversions: Ninth worst in NFL
Time of Possession: Third worst in NFL.
The Steelers needed an interception by CB Brice McCain at the 11:40 mark of the fourth quarter to pull ahead of the Jags by eight points and gain enough breathing room to prevent declaration of a mass-suicide watch in Steeler Nation.
This is the Steelers' much-vaunted offense against a weak team? It was a given that, with the youth movement on defense, the offense would need to step up and take command of games. Some command. The Steelers once again started the game with a three-and-out. Their first-three possessions netted the following: Punt (three plays), Punt (five plays with one first down) and Field Goal.
Meanwhile, the Jags' offense behind rookie QB Blake Bortles managed to move downfield with apparent ease, (15 plays, 43 yards and more than eight minutes of possession) to score a field goal on their first possession.
This was the same Steelers offense that managed just nine points in six quarters against the Browns and Ravens. Guess what? Those teams are two of the Steelers' next-four opponents. Cleveland already knows they can play against the Steelers; they came within three points of erasing a 27-3 halftime deficit against the Steelers, then showed Sunday that they believe in themselves by erasing an 18-point deficit against a Tennessee Titans team nearly as putrid as the Jags, to win 29-28. And Cleveland needs to win against the Steelers to split the series in hopes of bettering its Wild Card chances.
The Baltimore Ravens, who lost 20-13 against the Indianapolis Colts (again, two of the Steelers' next-four opponents) will be traveling to Heinz Field with hopes of bettering their chances at a Wild Card spot by sweeping the Steelers.
A "win is a win..." isn't something to count on when the win was the result of a slightly less-inept performance than one's opponent.
PaVaSteeler didn't attend the BTSC game thread; he was watching the game with Ivan and Homer J; both gentlemen were quite critical of the offensive play calling of Todd Haley and Ben Roethlisberger, as well as the quite-apparent malaise the entire offense exhibited for much of the game.
Usually what's said in the Alley Cat stays in the Alley Cat, but the three of us were of the same mind that the "5-Wide" plays called throughout the game were totally mystifying, given the Jags' inability this year to stop the run and the Steelers possessing the No. 3-ranked running back in the NFL in Le'Veon Bell and a brute-force back in LeGarrette Blount (ranked 43rd).
Bell had a whopping 15 touches for 82 yards (5.5 per carry); Blount had 8 for 29 yards (3.6 per carry). All told, the Steelers managed to gain only three first downs by rushing in the entire first half, and only five for the whole game. Again, Jacksonville ranks next to last against the run and the Steelers couldn't, or wouldn't exploit that.
I'll let either gentleman express his own thoughts in more detail if they so choose, but what perplexed PaVaSteeler the most was why, OH WHY Todd Haley, did you choose to go "5-Wide" inside the red zone not once, not twice, but at least three times? In a compressed area like the red zone, having no backs in the backfield is playing to a defense's strength, even a unit as pathetic as the Jaguars by signaling you're going to pass and giving them a limited area to cover with 11 players.
PaVaSteeler had hopes for this season; he even found solace in numerology with all the "7" signs he found. The Steelers' final score in this oh-so-convincing victory does in fact contain a seven, but methinks this won't help me sleep any better this week. Nor should the Steelers.