SevenQuest - Part Two
The Steelers came not to play the Seahawks, but to bury them.
Despite some mistakes and some missed opportunities, that's exactly what the Steelers did. But the Seahawks aren't a very good football team, especially on offense. So how do we weigh this shutout win?
Answer: we don't have to. Folks spend far too much time hypothetically weighing victories (and their margins) against each other, as if football were some kind of predictable continuum of logic. It's not.
We can sit here a day later and criticize elements of the Steelers' performance, but that's a fool's errand. Beating the Seahawks 48-0 would give me no more confidence against the upper echelon teams than a 3-0 victory. Each win is a living entity unto itself, and there are factors at play (Ben's injury and the offensive strategy employed after it) that simply don't port well to other Sundays against other opponents.
So what's left? The tape. And there lies a story of improvement, but with plenty of coachable moments. But how harshly do we go after these guys?
Take Ben for example. Everyone from the in-game announcers (including the Obtuse Twins, Moose and Goose) to Steeler fans weighed in that Ben was off, that he was throwing high and that he wasn't running the offense with enough purpose. Then we look up, and despite taking a Kimo-shot to the knee Ben's numbers were fantastic. Do numbers ever tell the majority of the story? No. But considering the amount of duress Ben was under, he was quite effective. Let's just say that a certain male model up North would have never authored a near 300 yard passing day and 73% completion percentage while facing that kind of pressure. I'll wait for the day that Ben has 5 seconds a down to unload before I start critiquing the accuracy of completed balls where a receiver is at a standstill. I inserted that caveat simply because there was no discussion from the announcers or from the fans about how effective Ben was in the slant game, leading his receiver and letting him run through it. No, we only heard about Hines having to raise his arms for a slightly high pass. Ben is fine, and I mean that both in terms of where he is to start the year and (thankfully) in terms of his physical well-being, which was the most important outcome of yesterday's game.
Same goes for the offensive line. Did they have some miscues? Yes. Were some individuals overpowered at times? Yes. Did they dominate the line of scrimmage? Of course not.
But what's new? This has been the story for the last four years, and what I saw on Sunday was some potential in the form of Ramon Foster and Marcus Gilbert.
Foster isn't pretty. He doesn't move well. He doesn't pull well. But he tends to get a piece of the guy in front of him, and it tends to be the right guy. That's all Ben needs. Not guys who never get beat (though that would be great), but simply guys he can count on not to let rushers come free untouched. Ben was under pressure, no doubt. But it was typically one guy, who could be avoided.
Marcus Gilbert didn't get out to a blitzing safety in time, resulting in a sack. Then he settled down and played good football. His mobility sticks out like a sore thumb. He gets to the second level better than any Steelers' tackle since a young and healthy Marvel Smith. He consistently blocks the right guy. His only issue right now is anchoring against big pass rushers, but some of that is simply adjusting to playing against men instead of playing against kids. He'll figure it out, he's bright and motivated.
Sure, they squandered a 4th and goal from the one foot line. Doug Legursky picked the wrong guy to block, plain and simple. But the Steelers were still three of five in the red zone. I'll take that any day of the week, and that figure (60%) would have been top-five in the NFL last year.
Jonathan Scott isn't the answer at left tackle. He's just keeping that spot warm for Gilbert, which was the bittersweet element to Willie Colon's injury. In the meantime, the Steelers can give Scott plenty of help. It's not the perfect answer, but they can win with him if he's the only guy they have to modify the gameplan for.
The Steelers' offensive line has been a conglomeration of fat, dumb and slow for years now. But it's starting to feel like they're a little less fat, a little less dumb and a little less slow.
Ben and the offensive line will always face criticism. Ben is the Pittsburgh quarterback, which is akin to being the Montreal Canadiens' goalie. Lots of tough love for the starter, with totally irrational love for the backup (see: chants of "Charlie! Charlie!" when Batch entered the game). The yinzer throng was amenable to trading the Franchise, they'll always be at the ready to tear apart even winning performances.
The offensive line is the one unit on the entire football team where there are legitimate signs of weakness. They're the C+ unit on an A+ team. They're going to get dogged for every misstep, and every possible solution will be suggested, whether it takes them further away from improvement or not. I say, let them stay together and get better. They're young, they're only going to get more acclimated to the game and to each other. The bench holds no answers. In the end, this line is better than the last two Super Bowl offensive lines.
Were the Steelers perfect yesterday? Nope. Are the Seahawks good? Not on offense. Can the Steelers play better? Of course. Will I gladly accept a 24-0 win each and every week, regardless of opponent? You betcha.
1. Goose the Obtuse made a fool out of himself (moreso than usual) by complaining about the Steelers' lack of tempo. Has he not watched a Steeler game in the last ten years? Part of the cost of making pre-snap adjustments is that the play clock is going to wind down, and the tempo is going to suffer. A lack of a quick tempo certainly didn't prevent the Steelers from moving the ball at will.
2. Not to beat the topic of talking heads to death (though I'd rather listen to David Byrne than any announcing duo), but Moose the Obtuse was similarly outed as dim when he complained about a drop by Ben Obomanu on the sideline. The real noteworthy element was that Ike Taylor took Obamanu's legs out - he would have never landed in bounds. This is what I was talking about last week, using the new rule (no force out judgment calls) in concert with the Dick Lebeau's "concede the out" strategy. Ike Taylor is simply playing fantastic football right now, the best I've seen from a cornerback league-wide.
3. How 'bout that punter? After two weeks, he's 3rd in gross average (55.1 yards) and 2nd in net average (46.6 yards). That 1980's style immobilizer knee brace on his plant leg seems to be working.
4. My wife's contribution to this piece - was that a tape ring or a taped ring on Ben's left ring finger?
5. Okay, just to pull off the annoying announcer trifecta: during the first half, both Moose the Obtuse and Goose the Obtuse commented about how the Steelers' defense wasn't really doing much. At the time, the Seahawks had a total of three first downs. This really wouldn't have bothered me (okay, it would have) if not for the fact that the crew had already correctly identified the Steelers' defensive game plan - to sit back in zones, rush three or four and force Tavaris Jackson into bad decisions. The game plan that was used against Kordell Stewart all the time. I guess they expect the Steelers to still harass quarterbacks even when they're dropping eight into coverage?