The Pittsburgh Steelers laid an egg in Week 1, getting blown out 35-7 against the hated Baltimore Ravens. Then they produced a gem in Week 2, shutting the Seattle Seahawks out in a 24-0 victory.
The Ravens did not keep their one-game lead over the Steelers for very long. After the supposed statement game, Baltimore was upset by the Tennessee Titans, and have come back to the rest of the pack. There is now a four-way tie atop the AFC North.
The Steelers certainly looked a lot more like the team that has been to two of the past three Super Bowls, rather than the impostors that lined up against Baltimore. The defense allowed just 11 rushing yards to bruising playoff hero Marshawn Lynch, sacked quarterback Tarvaris Jackson five times and allowed just 190 yards of total offense.
The team was consistently in the Seahawks' offensive backfield, wreaking havoc before Seattle could get a play developed. The Steelers will need more of the same as they continue to put the Beatdown in Baltimore behind them.
Offensively, Pittsburgh went back to basics, as it used a powerful running game to set up big plays through the air. Rashard Mendenhall churned out 66 tough yards, while 250-lb. bruiser Isaac Redman racked up 49 yards on 10 carries.
The Steelers played off the ground game to get the long gain they never did against the Ravens. Ben Roethlisberger regained his accuracy on the deep ball, and found Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown for a number of long passes. The team even tossed in a trick play that saw Emmanuel Sanders pass for a 15-yard first down.
A potential Achilles' heel for a stacked Pittsburgh squad, the improvement from the offensive line was the most important contribution of the day. Ben was sacked only twice and hit a total of three times, a stark contrast to the performances seen from the O-line thus far, including preseason.
Rookie Marcus Gilbert got the start at right tackle after a season-ending triceps injury to Willie Colon, and performed admirably for most of the day. Guard Ramon Foster had a road-grading block on Redman's touchdown run. Pittsburgh fans will have to hope the performance was a result of finding a winning unit, not playing an inferior defense.
The Steelers only have two dates left on their schedule where they should not be considered clear favorites: The rematch against Baltimore, and the October 30th battle against the New England Patriots.
After the first game's performance, fans were left wondering if age and a Super Bowl hangover were in effect. In spite of that debacle, a 13-3 season and a top seed in the AFC are still well within reach for the defending AFC champions.