For just the third time this season, Pittsburgh Steelers fans got to celebrate a victory. This one might’ve been the most gratifying, though, if for no other reason than that it reassured fans their team hasn’t given up.
As per usual, there were some missteps from Mike Tomlin’s squad. Ben Roethlisberger’s interception and the four sacks allowed stand out. But, nonetheless, this was quite possibly Pittsburgh’s most complete outing to date.
While that fact alone points to how poor the quality of play has been in Pittsburgh this season, it also means that fans needn’t yet throw in the terrible towel. After all, last year’s Redskins went from 3-6 to division winners after rattling off seven straight wins.
While predicting such a fate for this year’s Steelers seems far-fetched, it’s not yet out of the question in a tumultuous AFC North. The Steelers currently sit a game back from second place in the North and still have four divisional contests to play.
Whether or not the Steelers can stack wins and remain in contention remains to be seen, but fans can take solace in the fact that their team remains relevant, even in the loosest sense of the term, for at least another week. Read on the see the critical takeaways from the Steelers’ Week 10 victory over the Bills.
After yielding franchise worsts in points and yards allowed a week earlier against the New England Patriots, the Steelers rebounded in a big way against the Bills.
The Steel Curtain allowed just three meaningful points in the contest. And those points came on a chip-shot field goal after the Bills were rebuffed at the goal line.
The Steelers came up with three sacks in the contest, including the first of rookie Jarvis Jones' career and Cameron Heyward’s second in as many games. None, however, was more noteworthy than the bone-jarring hit Lawrence Timmons put on Bills quarterback EJ Manuel.
While the Steelers were expected to limit the rookie Manuel’s offensive production in his return to the field, the same can’t be said about their performance defending the run. The Steelers entered the weekend with the second-worst run defense in the NFL and were pitted against a top-10 rushing offense.
In spite of the apparent mismatch, the Steelers held Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller and Co. to 95 rushing yards, 45 below their season average. While the 55-point drubbing by the Patriots will take more than one solid performance to get over, this was undoubtedly a step in the right direction for the Steelers D.
Perhaps veteran safety Ryan Clark, who also intercepted a Manuel pass in the game, put it best when asked by the Associated Press if Sunday's outing reminded him of the dominant Steelers defenses he's played on…
"No," Clark said. "We used to be much better than that. It was a good day, though."
Lost in the mire of a disappointing season is Todd Haley’s re-commitment to the run game in recent weeks. After failing to amass triple digits in their first five games of the year, the Steelers have rushed for over 100 yards in three of their past four games.
Admittedly, the outlier was an abysmal 35-yard output against the Raiders. In this game, however, the Steelers gave the Bills a dose of their own medicine, rushing for 136 yards, just five off their season high.
Le’Veon Bell contributed 57 yards on a yeoman’s-like 22 carries. His day way highlighted by a bruising four-yard touchdown run. Additionally, Jonathan Dywer continued his campaign to see more touches, gaining 38 yards on just six totes.
The current Steelers are in no danger of being confused with the road-grading units spearheaded by the Franco Harris and Jerome Bettis teams that preceded them. But if they can keep getting performances like this out of Bell, David DeCastro and, dare I say it, Mike Adams, there is hope for more productive outings like this one in the future.
When the Steelers opted not to meet Mike Wallace’s monetary demands and let him walk in free agency, a multitude of questions arose regarding the future of the Steelers passing game.
Chief among them was whether or not Antonio Brown could handle Wallace’s role as the team’s top target. So far, Brown has been proven to be more than up to the task.
Brown is currently the NFL’s leading receiver in terms of receptions and fifth in yardage with 67 and 805, respectively. Brown’s already eclipsed his numbers in both totals from last season and is on pace to smash his career-best numbers set in 2011.
Brown continued to dazzle in Week 10 against the Bills, catching six passes for 104 yards and tacking a 50-yard punt return onto his day as well. Not to be outdone by his teammate, veteran Jerricho Cotchery had another solid performance in his revival season.
Cotchery caught a pretty fade pass from Ben Roethlisberger in the second quarter to add to his team-leading touchdown total, which now sits at six. Cotchery caught all of seven touchdowns in the previous four seasons combined.
Though not directly related to the Bills game, perhaps the biggest news to come out of Pittsburgh this weekend were the trade rumors swirling around Ben Roethlisberger. Per an ESPN article from Scott Brown, Roethlisberger quickly squashed the rumors after his team’s home win…
When it comes to wanting to go somewhere else or anything like that, that's completely unacceptable, Roethlisberger said. It's one of the most B.S. stories I've ever heard.
I'm not quitting, and that means in more ways than one. I'm not quitting on anything, this season, this team, these fans. I'm going to give it everything I have. This is home.
The 10th-year signal caller is unlikely to finish with career-best statistics this season, except in terms of yardage. His 13:10 touchdown-to-interception ratio won’t earn him any Pro Bowl bids.
Nonetheless, Roethlisberger’s been having a gutty season. He’s been sacked almost four times a game and is surrounded by young skill players who inspire enthusiasm and frustration in equal measures amongst Steelers fans.
In spite of the question marks surrounding the 2013 Steelers and Roethlisberger himself, it’s hardly contestable that he’s one of, if not, the biggest reasons the Steelers have even been in some games in which they’ve been decidedly outplayed this year.
It was refreshing for Steelers fans to see the two-time Super Bowl winner earn his 100th career victory (postseason included) and reaffirm his allegiance to the steel city.
Because of the familiar faces that still call Pittsburgh home, many would have you believe that this Steelers team is old. But in spite of what Warren Sapp or any other pundit says, that simply isn’t the case.
Truth be told, the Steelers are relying on a surprising amount of young talent in comparison to years past. Gone are the days of Farrior and Harrison, the veterans in this linebacker core are now Timmons and LaMarr Woodley. And they’re flanked by two rookies in Jarvis Jones and sixth-rounder Vince Williams.
The Steelers defensive line, long considered the strength of their defense, has seen immense turnover in recent years as well. Casey Hampton and Aaron Smith both opted to call it a career, and 35-year-old Brett Keisel will likely join them in the near future. Thus, the duties up front are now being transitioned to the likes of Ziggy Hood, Cam Heyward and Steve McLendon.
On the offensive end, it all starts up front. For the Steelers, their front line is still learning the complexities of the professional game. Key contributors like Marcus Gilbert (2011), Kelvin Beachum, David DeCastro and Mike Adams (2012) were all drafted in the last few years.
And I’ve yet to even mention the likes of Markus Wheaton, Le’Veon Bell, Emmanuel Sanders, Antonio Brown, Cortez Allen and Shamarko Thomas, none of whom are older than 26.
Though it may be tough for fans of the team to come to terms with, this Steelers team is still learning how to play together. There will be positives, like this week's blowout win over the Bills. And there will be negatives, like last week's blowout loss to the Patriots.
Coaches are still evaluating which of these young players can become key contributors and which are expendable. This season is the start of what could be a long rebuild, but it could also be the start of something special in Pittsburgh.