Oh, ring the bells and rejoice yet again in Steeler Nation for we are now 3-0. Wow.
I need to make a confession going into this article. I thought the Steelers would have dropped one of their first two games and would have come into Tampa Bay at 1-1. I was also wrong in thinking at the beginning of the season that the Steelers would be 2-2 going into the bye week. With that off of my chest, let's go into what happened today down in Buccaneerland.
Given the Steelers quarterback situation, and a banged up offensive line, I would grant you that the expectations should not have been too high going into this game. I was pleasantly surprised. How's that for understatement?
The game started out rough - on the second play Charlie Batch threw a horrible pass that was picked resulting in a quick three points for the Buccaneers. Batch responded by heaving (and badly under throwing) a 50 yard touchdown pass to Mike Wallace in the end zone. The coverage was right there and had the DB even thought about looking for the ball it would have been pick number two.
It was from there however that the Steelers got the offense into high gear for the rest of the game. Batch turned his rough start around and making good reads hit receivers all over the field during the rest of the game. A Steelers passing game that had averaged an anemic 110 yards per contest easily eclipsed that total - nearing 200 yards and scoring 28 points all by halftime.
Continuing on a very positive note, an offensive line that has been depleted by injuries this year played exceptionally well. There was a major improvement in the room that Rashard Mendenhall had to run, allowing him to rip off big chunks of yardage with no drop off when Issac Redman touched the rock. More good news was that with only a few exceptions, Charlie Batch had a ton of time in the pocket to find receivers against a blitzing Tampa Bay defense. Gee, I wonder if it has anything to do with Doug Legursky replacing Trai Essex at right guard?
Let's face it, for the first two weeks of the season we were getting spoiled by a defense turning in all-time dominant performances. Hard to imagine that would keep up every game this year. Well, it did this week. Tampa Bay moved the ball in spurts during the first half, but the defense was rock solid early when they needed to be. Not counting garbage time at the end of the game, they were a dominate defense for the final three quarters.
The Steelers were in Josh Freeman's face all day, and as usual coming at him from all angles. You can add Cadillac Williams to the "totally shut down" list with Tennessee's Chris Johnson and Atlanta's Michael Turner. It was also great to see some guys like Ziggy Hood and Nick Eason come into the game and make some things happen.
Never in a million years did I think I would see a Brett Keisel 80 yard interception return for a touchdown. When it rains it pours.
Yeah, there were some squandered opportunities early in the game. LaMarr Woodley dropped a ball that looked like it could have easily gone for a touchdown. On Tampa's best drive of the first quarter, Ike "Stone Hands" Taylor did a great job getting himself into position on a long ball and then promptly dropped it. You know what? In the final analysis of today's game, who cares?
It's early but I have just about given up on the special teams for yet another year. Bad special teams play for the Steelers is like getting a raise at work, you are always hopeful and inevitably disappointed. Forty yard kick-off return to start the second half, dumb unnecessary roughness penalty, zero yards on punt returns...
On a side note, I for the life of me cannot figure out why Antwaan Randle El with his four yard return average, and not Antonio Brown, is returning punts.
For the third consecutive week the Steelers have won without Ben Roethlisberger with a total team effort. It was just like last week in Tennessee - by the second half the Steelers had just plain made the other team quit. Not something that you see in the NFL all that often.
As has been the case all year I thought that Mike Tomlin and his staff did an outstanding job having the team prepared and ready to play. Even though they did not convert it, I loved the call to try for the back breaker with 10 minutes left in the 3rd quarter and go for it on 4th and 1.
I don't think that beyond the biggest homers out there, many had the Steelers looking at the possibility of being 4-0 when Big Ben returns from his suspension. I may be in the minority, and time will tell, but I am not going to be shocked if it takes Roethlisberger a week or two to shake off the rust. However, with the way this team is playing right now he is not going to have to win those games, just not lose them. I don't want to jinx anything but it is looking like this could be a very good season.
Game balls to Charlie Batch and the entire Steelers offensive line.
Coming to town next week are Ray Ray and the Baltimore Ravens. This game is always a blood bath, but with the Steelers going into the game at 3-0 and holding a lead in the AFC North there is not nearly the pressure that a bad start to the season would have placed on them.
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