I quite honestly could pick from a handful of maybe seven or eight keys for EVERY Steelers’ game, but that wouldn’t exactly but interesting reading for you. With that said, it’s awfully hard to not harp on the same things each week with the 2012 Steelers so far. Today I’m going with key ‘words’ as much as I am with keys to the game and you’ll see why.
1. Containment – Any time you play against Michael Vick, keeping him in the pocket and making him a thrower is your goal. Vick is not a terrible passer but he doesn’t exactly make anyone forget Johnny Unitas. Allowing him to get outside the pocket forces the defense to either come up and play him or sit back and cover allowing him more running room. There’s a reason he’s the all-time leader in rushing yards by a quarterback. Keeping him in the pocket and forcing him to go through his progressions is when he gets into trouble with turnovers.
The word ‘containment’ also applies to LeSean McCoy as well. We saw what he could do against a pretty darn good front last week against the Giants and now the Steelers’ struggling defense will have to keep him in check. If I had to choose one way or another, shutting down McCoy is priority number one. Making teams one-dimensional has always been a goal for Dick LeBeau’s defense but the task is impossible if McCoy gets loose too often.
2. Specialties – Since the firing of Pittsburgh Steelers’ Special Teams’ Coach Al Everest, the unit hasn’t exactly inspired a lot of confidence. Holding calls on returns have almost become the norm and one arguably cost us a win in Oakland when an Antonio Brown TD return was nullified by a penalty. This has to get better and it needs to be cleaned up immediately or Mike Tomlin’s firing of Everest will start haunting him.
Eagles’ rookie Brandon Boykin had several nice returns against the Steelers in the preseason opener in August. He cannot be allowed to do the same and give Philly short fields to work with. The return of Stevenson Sylvester will help on the coverage units, but improvement from everyone is needed to insure a victory in the often forgotten ‘third phase’ of football.
3. Protection – Of course, the Steelers have to protect Ben Roethlisberger against the Eagles’ wide-nine defense which is designed to get pressure on the quarterback as I detailed earlier this week. The last time these two played a regular season game which was in Philadelphia, Roethlisberger was sacked at will in a 15-6 loss. With Marcus Gilbert nursing a sore groin, how effective can he be against the speed of the Eagles’ ends? I have serious concerns…
Protection also means taking care of the football. Twice against Oakland Antonio Brown put it on the turf and the latter of the two probably cost the Steelers points which could have put the game away. Turning the ball over in the NFL is the quickest and easiest way to find yourself hanging an ‘L’ in the win/loss column. Protection also means protecting the lead should we get one.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned the hard way over the last several years it’s that Dick LeBeau has had trouble protecting leads even in games the Steelers have won. The win over New England last year is a perfect example of winning a game despite the defense nearly giving it back. Should the Steelers get out to a lead against the Eagles, LeBeau needs to keep doing the things that helped get the lead in the first place. Keep attacking, not sitting back.
There’s been a lot of talk about this game being a must-win and without question it is. Let’s hope the talk coming from the Steelers’ this week is backed up on the field and leads to a victory.