Football season is finally upon us and today we got our first real look at the Pittsburgh Steelers without Ben Roethlisberger. Huge win in a 15-9 overtime nail biter. Over the noise emanating from the screen showing the Houston Texans game, I've got a bunch of observations from my seat here at a local Austin, TX establishment where a number of Antwaan Randle El jerseys have come out of retirement. Let's start with what we saw from the offense:
* Issac Redman was fired up and his performance in the preseason earned him some playing time - we should have seen more of him
* Dennis Dixon was very efficient in the short passing game but still has trouble with defensive recognition causing him to miss open receivers on intermediate patterns and throw a horrific interception to Falcons linebacker Mike Peterson (and an almost second one to John Abraham) towards the end of the first half
* The Steelers offense does remain one of the more creative in the League - had to love that fake reverse / shovel pass on the first drive of the game - need to see more of it.
On the defensive side of the ball ...
* Troy Polamalu! HUGE interception with under two minutes left to play in the game and he looks to be fully healed from last year's injury
* As always, the Steelers have one of the best front seven in the League and are going to be difficult to run the ball against - they whipped Atlanta up front, who often looked confused about what the Steelers were doing to them
* With the exception of a couple of plays, the secondary as a whole had a great game as there were many times where Matt Ryan could not find anywhere to throw the ball
Probably most surprising to me was that the special teams look to be much improved over what we have grown to expect.
However, not all was rosy in Steelerland. There were some significant negatives and things to work on this coming week before meeting the Tennessee Titans:
* Four for 14 on third down conversions is not going to get it done
* Dixon has to get better at understanding where linebackers are in pass coverages because right now he has no clue
* It also looks like Dixon has some problem with his grip on the ball, throwing motion, or is just plain aiming it
* The run blocking has to improve, the word putrid comes to mind, almost any significant gains were solely based on the individual efforts by Mendenhall and Redman.
Overall, yes it would have been nice to score some more points on offense, but with Dennis Dixon being limited in the time he had spent with the first team today was a great start to the season. On a final note it was great to see everyone playing with a lot of emotion. This included coach Mike Tomlin who was constantly there to encourage players coming off of the field. This was a huge win and should provide the Steelers a lot of momentum heading into next week.
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