Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Pittsburgh Steelers: Two games in

So I didn't do a recap after the opening game this season, and for good reason. No, not because the Steelers got a ass beating not seen in 17 years, but because it seemed everyone in the universe was overreacting like crazy. Not the usual fun overreactions like the stupid Yinzers calling in to local SPORTZ RADIO shows demanding the Rooneys trade Ben for a 7th round draft pick since he's obviously lost it, but national sports personalities who ostensibly get paid for this shit saying things like the Steelers as a team are over and done with.

Let's step back and review a few things here. As someone who spent his whole life following this team, there's two things you can take to the bank every year:

1. The team has always been notorious for slow starts, the first game every season is always an adventure in terms of how rusty everyone will be. Even as the season goes on, it seems like the offense always takes at least a quarter to warm up.

2. The Steelers have one game every year where they just shit themselves and either lose to a jobber team they should beat, or collapse against a team they should at least be competitive with (usually the Patriots).

Fate decided this year their annual shit game would take place on week one. Good to get it out of the way early, I guess. Bottom line is that it was just a bad game and to dismiss the whole season as a result is kneejerkery of the highest order.

Now after the second game, some folks are going in the polar opposite direction. Yes they trounced the Seahawks, but they're the Seahawks, that's what you're supposed to do. Just as the defense isn't as bad as the Ravens game indicated, they aren't as good as this game indicated either.

That's not to say there aren't some real positives to take from the game. Something that no one seems to want to mention but is a stark reality is that the Steelers are going to get kicked in the balls hard by the salary cap unless either the cap leaps an unlikely amount or they start shedding some veterans. This is almost certainly the end of the road for Aaron Smith, James Farrior, and Larry Foote; and the coaching staff knows this. Guys like Ziggy Hood and Steve McLendon are getting increased playing time and are showing they are going to be more than able to step up when the time comes, which is good because that time is coming sooner than later.

The offensive line is another matter. The talking point among the sports media here is that you don't need world class offensive linemen to be effective, just guys that are coachable. That's one of those sports things that sounds like it makes sense when you hear it, but when you watch the game and watch Johnathan Scott getting turnstiled on the reg by average Seahawks D-linemen you start to think perhaps Sean Kugler's gameplan of signing scrub-ass O-linemen he coached in Buffalo isn't the best strategy. With Chris Kemoeatu on a gimpy knee (again), the team's left with one solid lineman (Pouncey) and a bunch of Scrubby Scrubbersons. Ramon Foster showed some promise with his run blocking especially, he laid a couple of guys out and was the key on Redman's TD run, but we're going to be seeing way too much of Charlie Batch if the left side of the line doesn't get its shit together fast.

The defense looked more like its normal self, it's no surprise it took a week to get in rhythm (Hey did you know they have 8 guys starting who are 30 or older? They might mention it the next time the team plays). McFadden getting hurt was probably the best thing that could have happened since A: he kind of sucks now and B: the team's forced to give playing time to the guys they drafted in the middle rounds the last couple years but puzzlingly refuse to play unless someone points a gun to their heads. The Steelers are almost Vince McMahon-like in how they handle young DBs. It's like if a guy doesn't come in and play like the second coming of Mel Blount in his first game the guy gets the "can't play" label, which seems to be harder to shake than a bad case of AIDS.

However, things are looking bright for the Steelers. An already ridiculously light schedule got even easier when Peyton's neck blew up and took the Colts with it. Now with the possible exception of a road game in Houston, there's not really a game on the schedule that would cause a great amount of worry until the Pats come to town the day before Halloween. Kansas City looked like they may have posed a challenge, but the Lions' mascot took out their top RB and things look bleak for them now.

Getting beat badly by your big rival isn't the most ideal way to kick off a season, but all things considered it's still shaping up to be a good year.

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