Ben Takes Ohio
The climb up from the basement of the AFC North took another good turn, with a win over the Cleveland Brown in their stadium the Steelers are sitting at 5-6, tied with their next opponent the hated Rat-Birds. What’s most promising about the win over the Browns, the offense did not turn the ball over or commit foolish mistakes. This being the second week in a row where the offense was efficient, and much of that can be attributed to the play calling as well as better overall execution, especially from the offensive line. Prior to the match-up the media pundit’s were opining as to how the Browns were developing a championship defense. They surely have been the strength of the team for the past several years, which is why credit needs to be given to our much maligned, and rightfully so, offensive line. Big Ben again was not sacked, had plenty of time in the pocket, and the offense kept the Browns defense guessing throughout the course of the game, for the most part that is. They did however fail miserably on a fourth and one at midfield, but otherwise can be applauded for a good day at the offense.
I love the quick screen to Will Johnson out of the backfield, only wish they’d get this guy the ball more often, he can make plays and certainly opens up the offense a great deal. Antonio Brown had another stellar outing, in fact his whole year has been at a Pro Bowl level, he’s still the #1 receiver in the NFL. Good thing AB is signed long term, him and Big Ben are developing quite a solid rapport together, much in the way Peyton Manning did with Marvin Harrison. I love the slant pass to Emanuel Sanders for the third quarter touchdown, I scream for this play each and every week, Hines Ward made his living on this play during the peak of his career and it still a dynamic way to score, though rarely used. The beauty of the play was that it was a quick strike right after the fumble recover, that is what they need to continue to do, seize the opportunity and strike.
It shouldn’t be understated the significant impact rookie running back Le’Veon Bell is making, he’s certainly lived up to his billing. Bell is a football player, he’s got natural instincts and a good sense for the game, and more particularly the timing of the game. I’m also loving the way Bell pushes the pile, he’s not simply a one dimensional back, much credit needs to be given for a solid rookie campaign.
Wow! Four turnovers, three fumbles and a pick six! Of course there are those who will say, “yeah, it was against Jason Campbell and Brandon Weedon”, and I would be one of those people. But at the same time the defense played with far more intensity and sense of purpose compared to recent weeks. It wasn’t all rosy however, Cleveland receiver Josh Gordon had a career day while setting a franchise record with 14 catches for 237 yards and one TD. So it’s quite the conundrum indeed, but something not to dwell on as there is definitely sound improvement across the board. We’re getting much better push from our front, Jason Worilds had two sacks, Cam Heyward chipped in with a sack, and they were successful in sending safety blitzes which resulted in two fumbles at the behest of Troy Polamalu and Will Gay respectfully. It seems since Will Allen re-joined the team the defense has improved, I’ll venture a guess it’s largely due to him knowing the defense. Plus his veteran presence has given the rest of the secondary confidence, and he’s making big plays. As I’m not ready to get too happy about this unit, the hope is if they can continue to play in the fashion of a tightly knit group, there’s nothing they can’t accomplish moving forward. The first test will of course be this Thursday against Big Joe and the hated Rat-Birds, the key being not to give up those long pass play the Super Bowl MVP has become so famous for.
Another solid day for Sean Suisham, going 2-2 on field goals. McBriar averaged 40 yards per kick, and Big Ben chipped in with a nifty left footed pooch punt good for 28 yards that was nicely down by Emanuel Sanders at the Browns one yard line. Special Teams coverage was decent, allowing an average of 20 yards per return, but I’m still not happy they have not replaced using Felix Jones for kick-off returns.
Second game in a row where the play calling is a little more varied, more controlled, much better execution. Big Ben is getting the ball out quicker, and the pass protection has improved a great deal. It would seem the position coaches are working hard to correct mistakes, miscues, and otherwise sloppy play that has contributed to the six losses attached to their record. I suspect the relationship between Todd Haley and Big Ben has reached somewhat of a compromise, in that it is more of a give and take and what’s good for the moment. Credit needs to be given to Coach Tomlin for keeping his crew focused and confident throughout the hardship of loosing, that is the Head Coach’s job, Tomlin is holding up his end of the bargain and not allowing his team to hang their heads.
I’m keeping my fingers crossed, but I have loosened my belt buckle one latch. The team has been assertive and somewhat dominant the past two weeks, it is sure in keeping with what we’ve come to expect from the Pittsburgh Steelers. We know on any Sunday a loss can come against a good team or a bad team, and certainly our two previous opponents were worthy, so credit needs to be given where credit is due. Finally that proverbial glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel is within’ sight. Still don’t want to get too happy, the margin for error is very narrow, however there’s no denying we’re on the right track. Now bring on the Rat-Birds!
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