A Lot of Smoldering Questions, and the Answers

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Steelers.com

by Ivan Cole

Ivan sent me his game commentary very late Sunday night, as did Homer J. Homer’s comments and report card are in yesterday’s Second Thoughts. Since Ivan phrased his commentary as a Q & A, it appears today, as Hombre de Acero is still unavailable. 

Ivan made a few preliminary notes:

After last week’s stinker in Philly these are the concerns I have in anticipation of tonight’s contest:

  • Le’Veon Bell. What will the extent of the actual impact of his return?
  • Will the Pittsburgh offense dramatically improve? Marginally? Not at all?
  • Ben. Personally don’t he’s been playing that well the last two games. What’s up?
  • Wide receivers. I didn’t think we would miss Martavis Bryant that much. This group looks as fragile as it has in years.
  • Does DeAngelo Williams disappear or do they find a robust role for him in the current offense?
  • Folks have been worrying about the play at the corners. But do we have a safety problem?
  • How long will we be without Ryan Shazier and how much will it matter
  • PaVaSteelers asked me last week if I was concerned about the lack of sacks. I wasn’t then. Ask me again after tonight.
  • How will the team respond attitudinally to getting spanked? What is this group’s character?

I wrote the above about an hour before game time. Here are the answers:

  • Bell gets 178 total yards, 140 rushing.
  • With the three main ‘B’s (Bryant is still out) available for the first time in about a year, the offense puts up 43 points with relative ease. No telling how much they could have scored if they had kept their foot on the gas for the entire game.
  • Coincidence? Ben threw for five touchdowns. Had more touchdowns at one point than incompletions. No interceptions. Completed passes to nine different receivers, which is to say, everyone who was on the field wearing black and gold who was eligible to receive a pass caught at least one. If there was anything wrong with Ben, clearly that’s over.
  • Wide receivers. As some suspected, one of the benefits of the return of Bell is that there are fewer resources available for opponents to bottle up Antonio Brown. Two touchdowns and an active night for him. Sammie Coates had a good night, perhaps his best so far. Darrius Heyward-Bey and Markus Wheaton both had touchdown receptions.
  • DeAngelo Williams had a touchdown run, and made significant contributions despite what Bell was doing. I don’t think we have to worry about DWill disappearing.
  • My intuition about the defense has been confirmed. The defensive shortcomings had more to do with how the team decided to defend the field during the first three games. It was not a reflection of their capabilities.

This and the response to my question about attitude was most clearly on display with the defense. The quarterback pressures and a few sacks were there. Tackling was accurate and brutal. Turnovers came Pittsburgh’s way. The Chiefs managed to scratch and claw for two insignificant but disappointing touchdowns in the fourth quarter. The disappointment came in that it spoiled what could have been a well-earned shutout.

I had no negative feelings about anyone on defense, and I was particularly impressed by the play of Cam Heyward, Lawrence Timmons, Vince Williams, Artie Burns and Jordan Dangerfield. Given their youth and inexperience, you have to be encouraged by what Burns and Dangerfield are bringing. Burns in particular seemed to have taken a leap in just a week.

On the offensive side, who expected this much from BJ Finney? I was thinking this guy would be a great camp story, nothing more. A cup of coffee in the NFL and then on to, if not life’s work, then a football career somewhere else.

The only real negative here, besides the nitpicky, is the injury situation. Marcus Gilbert, Jarvis Jones, Anthony Chickello, and HeyBey are tracking to join Shazier, Ramon Foster, Robert Golden, Cody Wallace and others on the shelf.

You have to ask whether this performance is any more representative of what the Steelers are than last week’s? We would like to think so. Perhaps it is the combination of having the best offensive playmaker (sorry AB) return and energize the offense. Perhaps last week’s game and the response by the organization is, as some have suggested, just the necessary kick in the pants necessary for this team to achieve the right frame of mind to compete for a championship.

Of course we would hope so, but let’s revisit the question in about a month and see where things stand then.

 

3 comments

  • cold_old_steelers_fan

    I didn’t watch the Eagles game even though I had it pvr’d but I thought Ben’s play fell off in the Cincy game after he took a helmet to the chest vs the Bengals (looked like a crown of the helmet but wasn’t called). I wonder if he was nursing the shoulder a little.

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  • Here’s my theory. (I know you were all dying to know…)
    Some teams play well when arrogant. The Seahawks immediately come to mind. But for some reason the Steelers aren’t one of those teams. They seem to need the occasional drubbing/humbling/retooling to bring out their best. Maybe by Steelers, I mean Ben in that sentence. He is sometimes phenomenal, shocks into silence everyone who ever criticized him. And then…What explains that? Is anyone else of his talent as erratic?

    I wasn’t at all surprised by the KC game, although it was much better than I’d hoped. (I was also under the impression that their coach was a giant jug of cherry kool-aid. Hmm.) I might be gloomier about the jets (disfunctional team, Steelers riding high), except for all those awful injuries and the fact that Rex isn’t there to work his special magic. And aren’t they wearing the bumblebees? That usually seals the deal.

    Finally, yes to all those guys in there getting better or making debuts! How wonderful was that? But I’m really truly bummed out about Shazier. I want him to be great, not hurt.

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    • Interesting theory. I was watching the game with Son #1 and a friend of his who is a long-time Steeler fan. And by long time I mean about 70 years or so. She commented that the Steelers seem to need a game like the Philly game every now and again to give them a good kick in the backside, and that, all things considered, she was glad it had come early in the season.

      I take your point about Sunday’s game. The number of injuries is scary, but they sure won’t be taking anything for granted…

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