I don't know what it is, but I've been enjoying the action in Week 1 of the 2015 NFL season, this despite the Steelers 28-21 loss at New England Thursday night, a game that kicked off the regular season.
Maybe it's because I expected Pittsburgh to lose the first game when it was announced on September 3 that Tom Brady would not be serving his four-game suspension, and when that news broke, I expected a lot worse than 28 points. I expected the Steelers to be outclassed from the pre-game coin toss to the post-game handshake. I certainly didn't envision a game that Pittsburgh actually could have won, if not for some self-inflicted wounds.
There are worse things than losing to the defending champions on their turf in a game set up for the road team to lose. Since the 2004 season, when the NFL started using their Thursday Night Kickoff to parade the Super Bowl champs around their home field for a night of celebration, only two teams have managed to sour the celebration--the Cowboys defeated the Giants in 2012; and the Broncos mashed the Ravens in 2013. (Baltimore actually had to travel to Denver to open up the 2013 season, thanks to a scheduling conflict with the Orioles.)
In other words, losing at New England the other night wasn't some sort of final nail in the coffin for the Steelers' 2015 season. I know a Week 1 nail when I see one, and that 16-9 home loss to the Titans two years ago, when Maurkice Pouncey and Larry Foote were lost for the year with injuries, seemed a lot more devastating than anything that happened against the Patriots on Thursday night.
Not only did the Steelers get dominated by Tennessee for most of the afternoon in Week 1 of the 2013 season, they looked like a team that was going nowhere fast. While the Steelers did bounce back from starts of 0-4 and 2-6 to finish at .500 and almost make the playoffs, there's no doubt that was probably the worst squad during the Mike Tomlin era in terms of overall talent.
What about last year's Week 1 result? Sure the Steelers won a 30-27 thriller over Cleveland, but that game shouldn't even have been close. Pittsburgh jumped out to a 27-3 first-half lead over the Browns, and the defense actually looked decent enough. However, in the second half, the Browns, with Brian Hoyer under center, made adjustments and scored points at such a furious pace, they managed to tie the game with 11:15 left in the fourth quarter.
What is more alarming, having Tom Brady put up 288 passing yards and four touchdowns against your defense, or Brian Hoyer and the Browns gashing it for 389 and 27 points?
And what about that 20-point loss to the Ravens just five days later and that devastating last-second defeat at Heinz Field to a winless and pretty pathetic Buccaneers team in Week 4?
Not everyone gets to open up at Oakland like the Bengals did on Sunday. Not every team gets to kick off its season by hosting Cleveland, like the Jets did in Week 1. How do you think the Colts, a team picked by some to make it out of the AFC this year, feel today after a 27-14 beat-down at Buffalo? Andrew Luck wasn't going against Brady; the Bills quarterback was someone named Tyrod Taylor.
What's worse? A loss that includes too many mental and physical mistakes or one that is accompanied by a season-ending injury to a star defensive player? The Ravens lost 19-13 at Denver on Sunday--certainly no shame in that. However, Baltimore, a team, like the Colts, that some have picked to make it out of the AFC this year, will have to do so without Terrell Suggs, who tore his Achilles tendon and will miss the rest of the 2015 regular season. At least there's still a chance that Pouncey will make it back this year, after suffering a broken leg in the preseason. And at least his injury occurred early enough that Cody Wallace had time to work with the first-team offense before the start of the season. Much like the Steelers two years ago when Pouncey suffered his season-ending injury in Week 1, Baltimore will now have to scramble to compensate for a loss it could not have anticipated.
At least Le'Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant will soon be back for Pittsburgh this year.
It might be cliche, and all too familiar to say, but it's certainly no time to panic or throw in the Terrible Towel as it pertains to the prospects for the Steelers' 2015 season.
Yes, the defense will struggle this year, but much like the 2008 offensive line, it's something the Steelers will just have to compensate for. No, the offense isn't perfect, but if Thursday night was any indication, it really should be able to carry that defense around on its back, as well as to many victories in 2015.
Now, if Pittsburgh struggles to beat or even loses to what figures to be a pretty bad 49ers team in the home opener this coming Sunday at Heinz Field, then it might be time to panic...just a little.