In the spirit of one of the greatest films ever made, here's my thoughts on the Steelers/Dolphins from Sunday.
First and foremost, it's definitely good that the Steelers won the game. I can't take that away. They improved their 2010 mark to 5-1 and kept pace with the Baltimore Ravens, who narrowly escaped an overtime upset against the Buffalo Bills.
Keep in mind that this was a road game, the first of a tough three-game stretch on the road, that the Steelers won in a very ugly fashion. I'm not a fan of that style, but there are some out there that believe winning ugly on the road is a mark of a great team.
The Passing Attack
In just his second game back, Ben Roethlisberger was 19-of-27 for 302 yards and two touchdowns. Unfortunately, this was the only thing he did well on Sunday.
Hines Ward passed Art Monk to take third on the consecutive games with a reception list and caught seven balls for 131 yards and a touchdown to lead the receiving corps. Mike Wallace only caught two balls for 53 yards, one of them being a a 53-yard bomb for a score. The catch extended his yards-per-catch average to 25.3, good enough to rank second in the league.
If you look at the list, he pretty much leads the category. There's something called Nick Miller leading the league with one catch for 32 yards.
Emmanuel Sanders was this week's winner of the Sanders/Brown sweepstakes. He fumbled the the the opening kickoff, but had some very good returns to redeem himself. He had 144 return yards on five attempts, which is an average of 28.8 yards for all of you without a calculator. His longest return was 48 yards. That is a huge step up from the days of Carey Davis and Garey Russell handling those duties.
Roethlisberger sometimes makes a bad habit of fumbling the ball. He did it three times Sunday. Twice, he tried to hand it off while in the grasp of a Dolphin defender, and twice he failed miserably.
The third was the fumble at the goal line on the quarterback draw. The very same play that had 75 percent of the country confused. I even thought to myself, being four adult beverages deep at the time, that it was sad that I was making more sense than the guy making the call on the television.
The Rushing Attack
The running game was pitiful on Sunday. They gained only 58 yards on 27 carries, which is horrid compared to their 118.8 yards a game. Rashard Mendenhall had defenders hitting him two yards behind the line of scrimmage. Give credit to the Miami defenders, but this looked more like the inconsistent Steelers of the past few years.
For the third time in four seasons, Aaron Smith has suffered a season-ending upper-body injury, this time having a torn tricep. For me, seeing him walk off the field with the pounds of bandages and ice on his arm instantly unlocked memories of the 2007 season. The same year the Steelers were without Smith and Ryan Clark and let the Jacksonville Jaguars waltz into Heinz Field and push them around twice, giving up 224 rushing yards in the first meeting.
His replacement? Former first-round pick Ziggy Hood, who better be ready to "come out of the oven" as the prophet Mike Tomlin once said.
Sack machine LaMarr Woodley also left the game early with a hamstring injury. I'm looking for him to be questionable once the injury report becomes official tomorrow afternoon.
Did his absence have an effect on the Steelers pass rush, which was also awful? I think it did. With no Woodley, you have Jason Worilds out there in his stead, and first-year players don't usually produce in this 3-4 scheme. His absence also gives the opposition the option to double-team James Harrison at times.
Sanders has been very effective on kick returns, why not give him a couple shots at snagging some punts? Antwaan Randle El had two returns for two yards. I understand that he has great hands, but I think that once you make a habit of being pinned inside the 10 yard line three times a game, you need to find some kind of spark, even with the increased risk of a turnover or muff.
The Black Uni's on the Road
Apparently some teams think that there is a distinct advantage of wearing your white uniforms at home when it is hot and making your opponent wear their dark, home uniforms. If there is any proof that this is a myth, just look at the Steelers.
They are now 3-0 when forced to wear their black uniforms on the road and are 6-2 dating all the way back to 2004.