The Good, The Bad and the Ugly
The Steelers offensive line is good, Cameron Heyward is one bad man and LeGarrette Blount's leaping ability can be described in some circles as "ugly." It all pooled together in what was perhaps the Steelers' most thorough and complete whipping of an NFL team under Mike Tomlin.
It was the most rushing yards, we know that. A team doesn't gain 264 yards on the ground by accident, and as weird as this is to say, you know who was a huge part of it? Steelers right tackle Marcus Gilbert.
Steelers offensive line
Pittsburgh hired offensive line coach Mike Munchak this off-season with the hopes of taking what he did at Tennessee, usually a negative result for the Steelers in head-to-head games, and paint it black and gold. Week 3 was the first time we saw a significant return on that investment.
And it was a thing of beauty. Gilbert was a dominant player. And this is a very talented Panthers defensive front, let's make no mistake about that. All of this was done without starting left guard Ramon Foster, who may have been Wally Pipp'ed by Cody Wallace.
Between Wallace and Gilbert's surprisingly outstanding performances (the rest of the line as well, of course), the Steelers are seeing the effects of a unit gaining experience playing together, and playing well. Le'Veon Bell had room, Ben Roethlisberger had time and the Steelers' offense had a field day.
Hit 'em hard and hit 'em often
Steelers' outside linebacker Jason Worilds can expect a fine from the league for his hit on Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. Not entirely intentional, but certainly illegal, Worilds' hit came after the contest was no longer competitive, but that wasn't the only hit on Newton in this game.
Borrowing a page from Baltimore's Courtney Upshaw, early hits in the game affected Newton physically, and despite the young passer's remarkable performance otherwise (he was hit six times, sacked three times and still managed to have a turnover-free game playing with hurting ribs and a crippled ankle). It goes to show the value of hitting the quarterback - preferably not in the knee like Worilds unintentionally did, but more like Heyward, who landed all of his 300 pounds on top of Newton just after he released the ball in the first quarter.
Enjoy it, enjoy it good, Steelers fans
The team earned this. The Steelers were dogged all week by fans and the media. I'm not sure if there ever has been a time the team's performance on the field was this much higher than expectations heading into the game. As such, fans have the right, nay duty, to feel good about the progress of the team this week.
Someone mentioned this in the comments on an article this week, "has this team improved game-to-game?" Before Week 3, I probably would have answered something like "they've shown the high level they can reach, but it takes a lot for them to put that together."
Sunday night, it looked like they've been at that level the whole time but they just hadn't quite figured out how to tap into it until now. Either way, this team is still bonding together. I've said that in this space a few times now, they're going to have performances like Week 3 and like the first half of Week 1. Our price for that is games like Week 2. The Steelers will smooth out the bumps and rough edges and, by the time temperatures drop to around freezing and the weeks flip into the double-digits, if they're a contender, we'll start to see their level of consistency reach a much higher point.
Two games against non-World Beaters like Tampa Bay and Jacksonville should help their progress even more.
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