Following last week’s game in Baltimore I was sort of speechless, and had a hard time coming up with much to write about other than the Steelers looked bad in every facet of the game.
Following a dominant performance in Carolina, I’m wondering what team that was on the field.
Suddenly, the Steelers put pressure on the QB, they stopped the run, they forced turnovers, the offensive line blasted huge holes for running backs, and Ben Roethlisberger’s jersey wouldn’t even need washed.
The question now becomes, which Steelers performance was the “real” Steelers?
As is usually the case, it’s probably somewhere in the middle of the Ravens and Panthers performances. First, here’s what encouraged me coming out of the Panthers game…
The run game. I continue to be amazed at the vision, patience and cutting ability of Le’Veon Bell. Up until last night I wasn’t all that impressed with LaGarette Blount, but he appeared to get some rhythm going last night. I knew these guys were good, but they flat out embarrassed a very tough run defense.
The offensive line. The line really had a great game, and as much flack as Gilbert has received, he stepped up. They did a great job in run and pass blocking . I’d have liked to see them play Greg Hardy, but the Panthers still generated a lot of pressure without him last week.
The team attitude. Maybe it’s just a result of playing well, but to me, the team looked more fired up last night than they did in the first two games. They appeared to be mentally prepared for the game. Lawrence Timmons in particular finally appeared to be playing with some attitude. Tomlin has struggled to have this team in the right mindset a lot, he needs to keep the petal to the floor against lesser competition coming up.
The pass rush. This isn’t as high up on the list because I’m not really sure how good Carolina’s OL really is, but it was still great to actually see pressure being generated, and from various guy on the field. It’s no coincidence that the first game where they bothered the QB was also the first game with a turnover.
Now, with those things being said, there were some things that I think aren’t necessarily fixed even if they didn’t kill the Steelers against the Panthers.
The run defense. The Panthers ranked almost last in the league in rushing going into the game against the Steelers, and were without Deangelo Williams. The Panthers really never seemed to even try to establish a running game. The lack of run defense and subsequent play-action passes have been what’s really hurt the Steelers defense. I’d feel better if the Steelers shut down a more formidable ground team.
The secondary. The Ike injury hurts obviously. Even with Ike I’m not sure about the secondary. The Steelers traditionally have struggled with traditional pocket passers, and had more success against guys like Cam Newton. Cam was obviously beat up last night as well, and playing with a severely depleted receiver group.
Penalties. That game was painful to watch despite such a big win. It seemed like play stopped on nearly every down. The Steelers did a great job last night converting long to-go distances, and getting out of trouble when they were pinned deep… But they can’t count on being so lucky every week.
I’m definitely a better mood this week than I was last week… but I’m not ready to start booking hotels for the Superbowl. The good news is the schedule gets easier, but as we’re all well aware, the Steelers have a reputation of dropping winnable games.
Winning a string of games, even if it’s not against the best competition could do wonders for the confidence and cohesion.