The Steelers got just what they needed yesterday, a step up out of the basement of the AFC North with a win over the New York Jets and their rookie QB Geno Smith. It was a well deserved victory with the battles tacking place in the trenches. However, before we start pounding our collective chests, it wasn’t Drew Brees we beat. Knowing full well the Jets Defensive front was stout and running yards would be at a premium, Offensive Coordinator Todd Hailey went right to the ever popular bubble screen on the opening possession. I really fooled myself into thinking that when Bruce Arians left town, the bubble screen was packed tightly in his suitcase. It is however, still the most popular play in the Steelers game plan, and still producing the same unproductive results. On the next several series the play calling turned back to what actually does work, hitting Heath Miller in the flat, hitting Antonio Brown in curl and in routes, getting the ball down field in open spaces. I understand the concept and logic in the screen pass, but rarely does it ever fool the opposing Defenses and rarely does it ever produce positive yards. Once they started to mix it up with the run, the play action worked to perfection on the fifty-five yard strike to Emanuel Sanders, which is what we need to see more of, plays that actually fool the opponent.
It was a luxury for the Steelers Defense to face a rookie quarterback for their first win, otherwise I’m not so sure the results would’ve been the same. Certainly not to put the anvil on Geno Smith’s shoulders, he is a talented young player and was able to move the ball quite effectively on us, but his errant throws resulting in interceptions most definitely helped us in securing the win. It didn’t look at first as if the Defense was very focused, the Jets moved the ball effectively with a mixture of run and pass, but overall there were some marginal improvements compared to week 4 against the Vikings. I didn’t expect the Jets receivers to pose much of a threat against our secondary, and that held true with the exception of a couple of breakdowns, particularly the overthrown bomb to Sean Hill where Ike and Polomalu both got beat. The Defense was able to muster up a couple of sacks, but they are still not getting anywhere near the pressure they should be getting, such is life in the post Casey Hampton and Debo era. They made the plays when it mattered most, and also shut the Jets out in the second half. We’ll see next week when Ray Rice and Big Joe come to town, just how well they hold up and how much improvement they’re making. I will say I like the improvement in Linebacker Vinnie Williams, he seems to playing with a little more confidence and seems to have a better understanding of what’s going on around him.
Thanks Sean Suisham for nailing four fields, keep the leg up as we’re going to need those 48 yarders later in the season. We need someone to run back kicks, Antonio Brown has his moments on punt returns, but is far too inconsistent. I’d like to think there is someone else on the team who could run back kick-offs, but who is he?
Credit should be given to Coach Tomlin for having his team ready to play, as well as keeping their focus on not letting the bottom fall completely out. It’s not an easy task to keep a group of men in the fight when they are potentially on a downward spiral, but given that this team is improving in small increments week by week, it seems the motivation is there. I am however curious as to what is motivating Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley, I don’t think there’s been an opening drive this year that we haven’t gone 3 and out. The fascination with the bubble screen, I haven’t seen a opposing defense yet who wasn’t eagerly awaiting the screen pass. First play of the game is a screen good for 3 yards, third and four is a screen good for no yards, and it took Haley two weeks to come up with that. The inability to string together a cohesive set of functional plays is another Haley deficiency. A perfect example was the third and goal trick play, the end around to Antonio Brown with the option to throw, fooled no one and lost yards resulting in no touchdown. And to think the organization didn’t make the move to rehire Ken Whisenhunt when he was available.
Let’s call this a character win against a mediocre team with a rookie quarterback. None the less a well deserved and essential win which will hopefully provide the impedes to continue working hard as the schedule doesn’t get any easier. The real test of course will be the upcoming match-up against the hated Rat-Birds at Hienz Field, a win and loses by the Brownies and Bungles would certainly put us in the cat-bird seat heading into Oakland. So, time to buckle our belts and cross our fingers. This team is far from being a powerhouse, but it’s safe to assume we’re taking strides in the right direction, assuming we handle our business this week.
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