Whooley's Weekly Words: Steelers, Tight Ends and Thomas Jones

Michael WhooleySenior Writer ISeptember 14, 2009

PITTSBURGH - SEPTEMBER 11:  Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers passes the ball in the fourth quarter against the Tennessee Titans on September 11, 2009 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Steelers defeated the Titans 13-10 in overtime.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Could you really have asked for more from a week 1 of NFL action? An overtime game to start the season off, a tipped ball leading to a miracle reception for the win, a six-TD effort by perhaps the league’s best quarterback, a Sunday Night affair that went down to the wire, and, to top it all off, we still have two games to look forward to this Monday night! Yes, it’s great to have football back in full force.

As with the start of every NFL season, so, too, comes the start of Whooley’s Weekly Words, an article in which I’ll break down those things of interest to me from the week’s worth of action. This week, I delve into the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense, the strong showing by the tight end position, Thomas Jones’ stellar start to the season, and more!

Pittsburgh – Philosophy Change?

Six time Super Bowl Champions Pittsburgh Steelers have always been known for being a smashmouth football team. Defense and a strong rushing attack has been their M.O, but based on week one it looks like that may be about to change.

Granted the Steelers faced a difficult task on the ground against a Tennessee Titans defense that ranked sixth in rush defense in 2008, allowing just 93.9 rush yards per game. Still, the Steelers’ ground game looked uninspired. Amassing a mere 36 yards on 24 carries, the Steelers averaged 1.6 yards per carry. Not a good start to the season for a team that averaged just 3.7 yards per carry last season.

The talent for the Steelers’ offense resides in the team’s passing game, so look for the Steelers to change their philosophy going forward. Defense will still play a large part in their winning equation, but the ground game will be replaced by the team’s aerial assault. In 2009, look for Pittsburgh to ride the arm of Ben Roethlisberger and the hands of Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward in their quest for No. 7.

Tight Ends Come Up Big in Week One

Following a year in which only four tight ends surpassed the century mark for fantasy points, the group as a whole made a statement in week one action. Shedding their anemic ways from 2008, nine tight ends totaled nine fantasy points or more.

Yes, a few of the usual suspects were included in the nine with Tony Gonzalez putting up 13 points, Chris Cooley going for 12, and Kellen Winslow finding paydirt on his way to 9 fantasy points. But the group also included some rejuvenated tight ends making a splash in Jeremy Shockey (15 points), Todd Heap (13) and Robert Royal (12), not to mention young guys on the rise like John Carlson (21), Dustin Keller (9), and Brent Celek (9).

If tight ends can keep putting points on the board like this, the position will add a whole dimension to fantasy games that was absent during their dismal 2008 season.

Thomas Jones Proves Doubters Wrong

Despite finishing among the top four fantasy running backs in 2008, Thomas Jones was avoided like the plague in fantasy drafts heading into 2009. From the departure of Brett Favre to the emergence of Leon Washington to Jones’ age of 31 years, fantasy owners justified their staying away from Jones in many ways. If this week is any indication, though, staying away from Jones may have been a mistake.

Picking up where he left off last season, Jones came out against the Houston Texans and posted a strong performance of 107 rush yards and two scoring TDs, good for 22 fantasy points.

So, what about those excuses that had fantasy owners doubting Jones? For one, yes, Favre has gone, but rookie Mark Sanchez, looked more than capable in week one’s action, completing 18 of 31 passes for 272 yards, one TD, and an INT in his NFL debut. If Sanchez continues to play at that level, those eight-man fronts owners were afraid Jones would face will be few and far between.

Then there was the presence of Washington, amassed 15 carries in the Jets’ win over the Texans. But Jones surpassed that with 20 of his own. Finally, Jones’ age didn’t seem to be a factor as the back was as explosive as ever, even breaking off a 38-yard TD run in the fourth quarter.

Granted, this was just one outing in what will be a long season, and against a team that ranked 23rd against the rush in 2008. Nevertheless, Jones’ performance has to have many fantasy owners kicking themselves for passing on the back.

No. 1 for a Reason

Sure, both Drew Brees and Adrian Peterson had soft matchups in their respective openings to the NFL season—with Brees facing a Detroit Lions defense that ranked 27th against the pass in 2008 and Peterson battling a Cleveland Browns defense that finished last season ranked 28th against the run—but both got the job done in big ways on Sunday.

Brees torched Detroit for 358 passing yards, six TDs, and just one INT, while Peterson rushed for 180 yards and three TDs. The matchups may have been easy, but both Brees and Peterson had to be sure to take advantage. Both did, to their fantasy owners’ delight, showing why they were No. 1 at QB and RB going into the season.