As the saying often goes, sometimes in life, less is more. That's a phrase that certainly should apply to valuable starters in an NFL preseason game, as all it may take is one inexplicable attempt at a tackle on a kickoff return to lead to a season-ending injury.
While less playing time for starters is a sound strategy if a coach wants to protect them from injury, when you're a fan who happens to be working at the start of a preseason game like I was Friday night when the Steelers traveled to EverBank Field in Jacksonville to take on the Jaguars at 7:30 p.m., it kind of takes the fun out of what football you do get to see once you're off the clock, so to speak.
By the time I arrived home after 9 p.m., Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, Le'Veon Bell and a host of many other valuable offensive weapons were long-since out of the game. I did get to see Landry Jones in action, as he alternated between handing off to running backs like Jawon Chisholm and such ilk and passing to receivers the caliber of C.J. Goodwin.
It was a rather exciting second-half, despite the 23-21 loss suffered by the Steelers. However, with regards to Pittsburgh's offense, the lasting image I now have in my mind from Friday's game didn't come from anything Jones did or the highly impressive receptions by Goodwin. Rather, the image I now have was created by my Twitter feed, as it was my only option to "see" the beginning of the game. Over and over again, phrases such as "Just six plays and 80 yards!" and "This offense is going to be scary good in 2015!" were filling my little smartphone, and they helped form a picture of an offensive juggernaut that seems (at least in my mind) like it will be almost impossible to stop during the regular season.
The reason my Twitter feed was filled with so many exclamation points was because the Steelers offense sliced and diced its way through Jacksonville's defense so easily and so thoroughly during the first drive of the game that culminated in a 44-yard touchdown pass from Roethlisberger to Bryant at the 11:46 mark of the first quarter.
I'll grant you that, in addition to a lot of sports reporters and journalists, my Twitter feed is usually filled with many Steelers fans, fans who like to speak in a hyperbolic fashion, as most tend to do. However, it's certainly no secret that even the experts have been singing the praises of Pittsburgh's offense all offseason and have been hyping it up to be one of the best in 2015. While it was an admittedly small sample of only six plays (seven if you count the two-point conversion to Markus Wheaton), the drive had a lasting effect on my mind's eye.
Back in the mid-90s, when I was on a nostalgia-kick as a lead-up to the Steelers Super Bowl XXX match-up against Dallas, my old boss lent me some VHS tapes from games he recorded in 1980 and 1981. While Pittsburgh was clearly on the other side of its 70s Super Bowl glory by this point, what struck me the most as I watched contests against the likes of the Bears and Saints was how easily these Steelers offenses led by Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Lynn Swann and John Stallworth seemed to drive down field whenever they wanted and could almost score at will (at least in the context of those times). Watching so many struggling Pittsburgh offenses in the post-glory, post-Bradshaw days of the mid-80s through the early 90s, I was awe-struck by this machine-like unit, a unit that could turn the ball over a ton (42 giveaways in 1980) and still average 22 points a game.
I now own my own copies of old Steelers games, this time in DVD form and of the real glory days of the 1970s. One of my favorite Pittsburgh Super Bowls to watch is the magnificent and historic match-up against those legendary Cowboys in Super Bowl XIII. At one point in the first quarter, with the Steelers already ahead, 7-0, Bradshaw throws a rather sloppy interception to linebacker D.D. Lewis, but instead of walking off the field dejected, he sort of smiles at one of his coaches as if to say, "that was stupid, but with the horses I have, I ain't worried." And why would he have been? Bradshaw went on to fumble two times for a total of three first half turnovers, yet he still managed to pass for 318 yards and three touchdowns and was named MVP in a 35-31 victory.
All these images were conjured up and have been marinating in my mind since those initial Twitter remarks following the Roethlisberger to Bryant touchdown on Friday. Like Bradshaw in those aforementioned glory days, Roethlisberger clearly has a juggernaut of an offense that starts with him, goes through the offensive line and ends with the skill position players.
They call something a juggernaut for a reason, and that's because it really is almost impossible to stop.
If this 2015 Steelers offense lives up to the mental image that the six play, 80-yard scoring drive created on Friday, my Twitter feed will be filled with a ton of hyperbole and exclamation points during the regular season.