The Monday Afternoon Quarterback goes deep while he waits for the Black-and-gold Eyed Peas to take the stage...
There’s one hyphenated word that scares Steelers World like no other. And it’s even printable.
Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians switched to the no-huddle offense against the Tennessee Titans in the regular-season opener, and the results were only slightly short of sensational. But these are the Steelers, right? The physical, aggressive team that runs the ball first and asks questions later?
Besides, the last time the Steelers threw the ball all over the lot, they finished with a 6-10 record in the 2003 season.
Well, I’m here to tell you that the no-huddle can work for this team, and here’s why: Ben Roethlisberger is not Tommy Maddox any more than Megan Fox is Ruth Bussy.
I’ll take Santonio Holmes, Heath Miller, Mike Wallace, and Hines Ward over Ward, Plaxico Burress, Antawn Randle-El, and Jerame Tuman while I’m at it. Except for Alan Fanaca, who had to play left tackle because of injuries that season, there’s not much difference in the offensive lines, either.
The point is, the Steelers should play to their strengths, which are quarterback, wide receiver, and tight end—in that order. If it means they have to throw 30, 35, even 40 times a game, so be it.
The pass game has worked for Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts all these years. Tom Brady and the New England Patriots have done pretty well that way. Now that Roethlisberger has somebody to ride shotgun, it can work for him and the Steelers too.
The Steelers have to at least make an attempt to run the ball against the Chicago Bears on Sunday afternoon, but I don’t expect much improvement from a week ago. Last weekend the Bears front four had its way with the Packers o-line, which is no worse than what the Steelers have to offer these days.
The Steelers can have a lot of success in the pass game, though, especially on short-to-medium throws that can neutralize the pass rush. Because of health issues and a lack of depth, the Bears are vulnerable at linebacker and in the secondary. Middle linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer represents a significant drop-off from Brian Urlacher in pass coverage. After an injured-riddled preseason, Zack Bowman and Charles Tillman will be paired at cornerback for the first time. And nickel back Nathan Vasher is as good as toast.
The wolves are after Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, who was every bit as bad as his four interceptions would indicate in the regular-season opener. Coaches and teammates tried to cover his tracks throughout the week, but it’s difficult to feel sorry for a guy who comes off as cocky and above it all.
My advice to the Steelers defense is, try for the knockout punch early. (Paging James Harrison! Paging James Harrison!) A turnover or three-and-out could get the home crowd on their side and prompt Cutler to force the action, something he is known to do often.
In his only game against the Steelers previously, which came as a member of the Denver Broncos in Week 7 of the 2007 season, Cutler completed 22-of-29 pass attempts for 248 yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions against a secondary that was without safety Ryan Clark at the time.
Tight end Tony Scheffler and wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Brandon Stokley combined to catch 16 balls for 197 yards in the 31-28 victory. Cutler did a lot of damage on bootlegs, as he picked up 41 yards on three carries himself.
When I asked Cutler what he would take out of that game earlier this week, he told me, “I don’t know. I haven’t gone back and watched that game yet. I don’t know if I will. I’m on a different team. They’re a little bit different defensively, so I don’t now I will look it up.”
This is what Cutler meant to say: “I watch the game film every day. If I could toast their secondary with Troy Polamalu back there, imagine what I can do without him. I mean, Tyrone Carter and Ryan Mundy? Are you kiddin’ me?”
Make it Steelers 31, Bears 27 in a shootout.