The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Upon a second viewing, the Steelers offensive line played better than I had initially thought. That's one positive. Watching Ramon Foster and Maurkice Pouncey handle Ziggy Hood a few times brought a smile and a laugh. I had initially thought the Steelers gave up some pressure fairly often from the offensive right side of the line, but that wasn't really the case.
As individuals, the line shined at different times and they really created space to run the ball. So why didn't they? All I can really determine is the Steelers' game plan hinged almost entirely on the passing game and Ben Roethlisberger wasn't as mentally sharp as he usually is. He had run-options built into a lot of these plays but he went to the air.
At the same time, Ben made some seriously high-level throws in this game. The one to Brown on the sideline that went incomplete was borderline impossible; just a little bit lower and Brown, as good as he is, might have been able to get his feet down. I'm not entirely sure if this means the quarterback is at fault or if there's fault to be given to any one individual. But the reality is, they didn't want to run the ball despite an offensive line that was controlling the game in the trenches. That almost cost them the game in the end.
Twin Cams Broken
Looking back on it, there was a quiet optimism about Cam Thomas, rooted in a per-play level of athleticism he showed in San Diego. But through five games, his signing and his continued place in the starting lineup have to be questioned. Even in just a handful of snaps, he's constantly being pushed off of the ball and is making little impact of a positive nature.
Rookie Stephon Tuitt will be in the starting lineup by Week 8 at the latest. Mark it down now.
What's worse, Cam Heyward, the player who was supposed to bring the nasty back to the Steelers' defensive line, is really struggling. It's unclear what the main difference is between Heyward last year and this year, but he's clearly not the same player right now. He takes himself out of plays and looks as if he's expecting something that isn't happening. Heyward is way more talented than the way he's playing now.
Easily the best coverage game the Steelers' secondary has had this year. From Cortez Allen's resurrection to Brice McCain's pick to Mike Mitchell showing up a few times on camera, the coverage was excellent in this game (for both teams, actually). William Gay looked much more like the outstanding player he was last year after a poor showing in Week 4. Coaching can work wonders from one week to the next.
They'll need it, judging by the resurgent passing attack found in Cleveland. The Steelers got a big win but it's likely they're about to be underdogs against the Browns for the first time in a decade. But given a few adjustments, a less one-sided game plan and another consistent effort from the Steelers' secondary and linebackers, it's a winnable game.
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