Not living in the center of Steelers country, this afternoon was spent at a local wings joint. My seat was comfy beside my beautiful wife. The view was fine and the wings plenty tasty, but there was no sound for the game. As such, I found myself providing my own play-by-play and determined to share a few of my thoughts along the way.
1. Offensive lineman don’t get enough credit. It’s true enough that LeVeon Bell has great skills. It’s also true that he has a great line in front of him. But it’s not an accident that DeAngelo Williams was able to do so well during Bell’s suspension a few years back. Nor is it a great surprise that James Conner did so well on Sunday. More on that later but, in truth, successful running depends more on successful blocking than we can possibly imagine.
2. Keith Butler needs to explain to Bud Dupree the purpose of football. Early on especially, it looked like someone told Bud the goal was to beat the opposing left tackle to the unguarded end zone. Perhaps when Butler said, “Don’t let anyone get around you” Bud heard, “Don’t let anyone get behind you.”
3. The secondary looked good. Tyrod Taylor is no elite quarterback, but his wideouts are no slouches. Most of the sacks we racked up owe an awful lot to the coverage. That’s a good sign of things to come. In addition, so much of our weakness in tackling last season could be laid at the feet of DB’s bouncing off of ball carriers while in search of the big hit. For the most part in Cleveland, they seemed to grasp that the goal was to end the play rather than the player.
4. I thought it strange that having acquired Ryan Switzer to relieve AB of punt-return duties (welcome and thank you Ryan) they would employ AB as a gunner on that surprise first- down punt that Ben launched. Nevertheless, AB was there to bring the return man down and for that I’m grateful.
5. How is it that James Conner and the O-line can rack up more than 120 yards in regulation and next to nothing in overtime? Don’t both sides get tired at pretty much the same rate? In one sense, isn’t the defense supposed to get weary faster? What happened to the run game?
6. It was good to see Ike Taylor able to stay connected to the game by taking a job as a game official. Sadly, he had as much trouble holding on to his flag as he used to have holding on to the ball.
7. I was grateful for Randy Fichter, as the Steelers, nursing a 7 point lead deep in the fourth quarter, dialed up a pass play for a first down. Finally, an OC that plays to win rather than not to lose. Then Ben coughed it up and, suddenly, I missed Todd Haley.
8. I’d give T.J. Watt a 9. It looked like he could have used one. (If you didn’t notice, throughout the game Watt lost the ‘9’ on the front of his helmet and was sporting nothing but a ‘0’)
9. We should give thanks for Conner’s fumble. Had he not done so, he likely would have been canonized by Yinzer faithful. He did great, of course, but Heinz Field isn’t quite ready to become Saint James Place.
10. I’m a grateful man to have my beautiful wife cheering on the Steelers beside me. She’s a passionate fan but also gracious enough to be happy for Browns fans, whose losing streak finally ended. Here’s hoping next week they end their non-winning streak.