Win number one was all defense.
Win number two came with the help of special teams and the defense.
Win number three started out a tough defensive game early, but by halftime emerged an offense with touchdowns a-plenty.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are 3-0 and leaders in the AFC North division.
Yes, 3-0 sounds like a nice record, not only because the Steelers are missing its franchise quarterback, but also because this could have all the makings of something special.
Historically, this franchise had six teams that started 3-0 and all made it to the playoffs
1979 Super Bowl (won)
1978 Super Bowl (won)
Sunday, the Steelers showed they have bought into the winning formula for today’s NFL, stretching the field by throwing the ball early to score and run the ball to win the game. Last year, the Steelers ranked 19th in the league rushing, currently they rank third.
In these last three games, RB Rashard Mendenhall has rushed for 332 yards on 64 attempts and scored two touchdowns. His average to date is 5.2 yards per carry. Last year, he and former running back Willie Parker combined rushing for 205 yards on 59 attempts and zero touchdowns.
Three to four weeks ago, 35-year-old Charlie Batch was the odd-man-out in the quarterback carousel. After Sunday’s game against Tampa, Batch has made a case to be the starter against this Sunday’s opponent, the Baltimore Ravens.
He even showed he can be illusive weaving out of trouble and running 24 yards for a first down that set up the second touchdown.
He finished the day completing 12 of 17 for 186 yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions. Minus the two interceptions, it was a pretty efficient day. Anytime a quarterback can score a touchdown for every 100 yards passed is an efficient day. In Batch’s case, he averaged a touchdown every 62 yards passing.
It seems Batch’s target for the day was WR Mike Wallace who had three catches for 100 yards and two touchdowns. The last Steelers receiver to have two touchdowns in one game? Louis Lipps.
In his rookie year (1984), against the Kansas City Chiefs, Lipps in his first start had six receptions, 183 yards and two touchdowns.
One of the big reasons for the 3-0 start is the improved play of the offensive line. Against Tampa Bay, the Steelers offensive line had no penalties, gave up zero sacks, and had over 201 yards on the ground.
Defense continues to dominate, making big plays, and playing a high level. I hope they have enough gas in the tank to carry them through the second half of the season.
The toughest challenge to date is yet to come as the Steelers will confront the Baltimore Ravens on their home field.
The Steelers know what’s at stake. No pep talk needed.
The defense will be put to the test by the Ravens running game which will feature RB Willis McGahee as the starter instead of Ray Rice. Rice may be out with a sprained knee. In the last three games, McGahee has rushed for 37 yards on 16 attempts and one touchdown. He was basically used as a third-down back.
The 2-1 Baltimore Ravens come to Pittsburgh smarting from their close win against the Cleveland Browns. The Browns running game gouged that Raven defensive line allowing Cleveland RB Peyton Hillis to rush for 144 yards with one touchdown.
In the two meetings last season against the Steelers, the Ravens gave up 131 total yards rushing to Mendenhall.
Currently ranked 23rd in the rush defense department, we can expect the Ravens front seven to clog lanes and attempt to dominate the Steelers offensive line, which means the Steelers will have to come out with a balanced attack taking shots downfield and run the ball well.
Although there are issues with the secondary, the Ravens defense is No. 1 against the pass even without S Ed Reed, which is all the more important that the Steelers offense be successful in the running game.
After throwing four interceptions in a Week 2 loss to the Bengals, Ravens QB Joe Flacco rebounded to finish the day with a passer rating of 127.8 against the Cleveland Browns. It was the second-highest of his career.
The Ravens made some nice acquisitions during the offseason acquiring two receivers, Arizona Cardinals WR Anquan Boldin and Seattle Seahawks receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Boldin has caught 20 balls for 287 yards and has scored three touchdowns for the Ravens in three games.
Points could be at a premium Sunday in Heinz Field. Since 2000, the Ravens have allowed a league-low 17 points per game, and Pittsburgh’s 17.3 points per game is second-best.
The Ravens have lost their past four and nine of their past 10 games in the Steel City. Heinz Field has been a house of horrors for Joe Flacco
The last time the Steelers started 4-0 was their Super Bowl winning year of 1979. During the '79 start, Pittsburgh defeated the Patriots 16-13, the Oilers 38-7, the Cardinals 24-21, and the Colts 17-13.
Note: Houshmandzadeh can’t seem to let go the past. In an interview this week, Houshmandzadeh states he hasn’t forgiven the Steelers for injuring QB Carson Palmer during a 2006 playoff game while he was a Bengal: “If Carson doesn't go down, we beat them and we go on to win the Super Bowl—everybody knows that. We were unstoppable that year."