Wow. What a Sunday afternoon. We all know that football is a physical sport. We all know that getting hit and getting back up is part of the game. It happens. Getting sacked happens to the very best. But, man, there is a difference to what is a part of the game and what is just sloppy play.
The Philadelphia defense proved that yesterday afternoon. The Eagles pass rush was all over Ben Roethlisberger and shut down the Pittsburgh quarterback. Watching the game as a fan of the Eagles you felt vindicated. After Philly's D was shredded by Tony Romo and company this how you wanted your boys in green to bounce back. Blitz, blitz, blitz, and take down one the AFC's elite passers.
As a Steelers fan (myself included) this is what you were scared of during the postseason; the weakness of the Steelers offensive line. We heard how thin it was leading up to the first game and just waiting for it to collapse. The first two games were confidence boosting - 5 sacks losing 37 yards. Pretty good. But man, game three was a nightmare for the Steelers. After two games of producing 0 sacks, the Birds pounded on Roethlisberger seven times and after Big Ben went down Byron Leftwhich got nailed twice. All together Pittsburgh lost 44 yards.
So here comes the big question - what happened? Was this Eagles D so good, so aggressive that they just overmatched Ben's protection? Or was it simply Pittsburgh's line cant get it done? Last year Ben got nailed 47 times, and that was with Pro Bowl guard Alan Faneca. Losing him to the Jets only made things worse.
There needs to be improvement. 47 times is a lot. And nine times in one game is too much. Ben has got the goods. Even though he isn't considered by many to be an elite passer, the numbers do not lie. His 104 rating last year tells that. He's tough, he has a powerful arm, and he can move. Most casual observers think that just because of his size he isnt mobile. But trust me, when he needs to go, he can run with the best. Quick side not - Willie Parker got shut down, only getting 20 yards on 13 attempts.
Here is what happened. The offensive line was exposed to a high power defense. Johnson knew that Pittsburgh couldn't give their passer the proper protection. The Eagles pass rush is not spectacular. The secondary and offense will carry the team. The pass rush couldn't do what they did yesterday against the Rams, and gave Romo plenty of time to sit back and find his receiver. This all sits on the Steelers offensive line. Every single thing that happened. There is no excuse to why their QB should be dragged down seven times, and give up a safety. None at all.
The line isn't good. Yes it was nice to see Ben protected well in games 1 and 2. But honestly - and its hard as a fan for me to say this - it wasn't against good teams. The Texans and Browns do not have exceptional defensive lines. They just don't. But expect repeats of the Philly game if there is no improvement made. Philadelphia got lucky. That's what it is. Luck is when opportunity meets preparedness. The Eagles had the opportunity to shut down the Steelers two weapons and did it. If Tomlin and Zierlein can't find a way to give their QB the protection he needs, this team will fall on its face and bad.