The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 27-10 win was a needed one on many levels even in just week two of the National Football League season. While my rants of the last few seasons have probably been well-balanced between my loathing for the offense and the lack of pressure and creativity by the defense, today I’m singing some praises. And I stress, ‘some.’
I really believe what we saw yesterday at Heinz Field was just the tip of the ice berg for the Todd Haley offense. Don’t get me wrong, I know Darrell Revis was not in the line-up and that was a significant loss but I honestly don’t think it affected the outcome.
Ben Roethlisberger was almost surgical yesterday and that is a term I don’t usually associate with him, but he was going 24 of 31 for 275 yards and two scores. The stat that has jumped out to me the most in the first two weeks is his completion percentage. Roethlisberger is raised it significantly and while much of this is due to the shorter passing game Haley installed, it’s also due to the maturation of number seven.
The crossing routes yesterday were there all day as well as some of this ‘sit-down routes’ in the openings of the Jets’ zones. Emmanuel Sanders is coming into his own as a go-to guy and both Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown had big plays and impressive catches of their own. The difference from past seasons through today? The routes themselves are better and the design is better as well. Not every play has a go route or a deep post. There are curls and back shoulder fades as well as the crossing routes. The running backs are more active as both safety valves and as key targets and what can you say about Heath Miller? He continues to have a great start to the 2012 season.
The running game is still a work in progress, but showed some glimmers of hope yesterday behind the hard running of Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer. Still, 66 yards and a 2.4 per carry average are not going to make anyone forget the glory days of Harris and Bleier. The timing of some of the running plays is suspect as well. Haley isn’t fooling anyone by consistently running on first down. It changed a bit in the second half but thankfully we weren’t behind.
What Haley was thinking on a 3rd and four in Jets’ territory in the first half I have no idea. On the play, Antonio Brown came in motion and Roethlisberger faked to him while giving to Chris Rainey in a ‘statue of liberty’ style handoff. New York had the play blown up before it started. Why would any OC call such a play after moving the ball down-field so effectively with the short passing game? That’s a play you do at mid-field on first or second down, not so close to field goal range or a potential first down.
Ok, so the offense has work to do. Most NFL offenses do whether in week two or week 12. The key yesterday was Roethlisberger and his overall control of the offense. He was sacked three times and avoided numerous other potential sackers but this is what he does. He was in command of that offense yesterday perhaps as much as at any time I can ever recall in recent years. Now just imagine if the running game ever gets going, this offense could be scary.