Who doesn't love a pleasant surprise? Getting more than what you expected when you least expected it?
Like your wife coming home with some big, juicy steaks for you to throw on the grill when you thought you were having hot dogs for supper.
Nothing against hot dogs, but supper just got kicked up a notch. Can I get an "Amen" from all my carnivorous Steelers brethren out there? Dang it. Now I'm hungry, but first things first.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have a habit of providing Steelers Nation with a pleasant surprise or two each season.
Last year's biggie was a little bundle of joy named JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Let me be the first to admit I had no idea who he was when the Steelers drafted him in the second round last year. I never watched him play in college because I seldom stay awake long enough for those late-night, west coast games. Then after learning how young he was, coupled with his rather pedestrian measurables, I figured he might compete for the No. 4 wide receiver spot and earn his playing time on special teams. I remember hoping the Steelers had received a little inside information from Lynn Swann to help justify the pick.
Then the season started and, as you know, the rest is history.
I salute anyone who even had an inkling of the impact JuJu was about to have on the team, the community, and the league. Because I sure didn't.
But who will turn out to be this season's pleasant surprise? Could it be one of the draft picks outperforming their pre-draft slotted value according to one of the so-called experts?
Maybe one of the undrafted free agents will come out of nowhere to make the roster and become a valuable contributor, like Mike Hilton last season.
Nobody knows for sure and it's too early to tell, but that's what makes it a surprise.
One area where I'd love to see the Steelers better utilize the element of surprise is on offense. Last year's offensive success can be directly attributed to the superior talents of the Killer B's and company. Todd Haley's play- calling had become stale and frighteningly predictable.
I'll admit I'm one of those fans that screams at the TV while sitting at home watching the game. My wife always jokes that I care more than the players do. In some cases, she might be right. She asks me if I believe my yelling helps anything and I always tell her yes. In some small way, it helps me to release my frustration. If not, I might explode.
Watching Haley's egotistical play-calling caused me to scream quite often. When I can sit in my living room and correctly guess the upcoming play based on formation and tendencies, that's a problem. If I can do it a majority of the time, you can bet your sweet petunias the opponents' defensive coordinators are doing it too. That's their job.
I can hear them now, "Don't worry about guarding against a quarterback sneak, they refuse to run one." I don't think it was even in the playbook.
Another area where the offense can be more unpredictable is when they snap the ball. I'm on record declaring how ecstatic I am to hear the Steelers plan to utilize an up-tempo offense more often this season.
I realize this will be predicated by in-game situations, but I feel this pace of offense is where the team performs at its peak efficiency. It increases the probability of creating offensive mismatches by limiting defensive substitutions and pre-snap adjustments.
It will also help the already outstanding offensive line become even more effective. Last season's offense fell into a pattern of snapping the ball with only one or two seconds on the clock. This allows the defense to pin their ears back and attack, which puts the offensive line at a disadvantage. If the offense will vary their pace and the timing of snaps, the defense loses this advantage.
Another area where Fichtner's offense could bring back the surprise element would be the trick play. Trick plays have been pretty much non-existent since the last Super Bowl team. Haley's idea of a trick play was a bubble screen to a wideout four yards behind the line of scrimmage on 3rd-and-1. Haley's greatest trick appears to be convincing many in Steelers Nation he was a good offensive coordinator.
So, in closing, here's hoping this season's Pittsburgh Steelers offense is predictably unpredictable.