The Steelers Offensive Line Must Step It Up

Coming into the 2016 regular season, there was no doubt about the Pittsburgh Steelers talent on offense.

  • And we’re not just talking about the skill-position players, either; the offensive line was regarded by many as solid-to-outstanding.

And, it is a really good line, highlighted by Maurkice Pouncey, the perennial Pro Bowl center who returned to the lineup this season after missing all of 2015 with a leg injury, and right guard David DeCastro, the 2012 first round pick who made his first Pro Bowl a year ago.

steelers offensive line, david decastro, steelers vs. Colts

Although the 2016 season is still young, the Steelers Offensive line must step it up. Photo Credit: Jason Bridge, US Presswire, used on Bleacher Report

When a unit is as talented and highly-regarded as Pittsburgh’s offensive line, you’d expect it to win its share of individual and collective battles. However, after three weeks of the 2016 regular season, you’d have to say that, while the Steelers have an official record of 2-1, their hogs up front, entrusted with protecting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and opening holes for DeAngelo Williams, have a record of 1-2.

After looking mighty impressive while paving the way for 437 total yards against the Redskins in Week 1–including 290 through the air and 147 on the ground–the line has looked anything but since.

  • Yes, it’s true that both the Bengals and Eagles–Pittsburgh’s opponents in Weeks 2 and 3, respectively–have formidable-to-dominant front sevens.

But to steal from former Pirates manager Jim Leyland when he would get sick of the media suggesting his team’s ongoing struggles in the hitting department had to do with facing a run of hot pitchers: yeah, Cincinnati and Philadelphia have great front sevens, but bleep it, we have a good offensive line! Sometimes you have to bleepin beat a great front seven!

While Ben Roethlisberger was only sacked once, he was under constant pressure, and his total may have increased by about 75 percent, if he wasn’t so talented at getting rid of the football with defenders trying to pull him to the ground. As for the running game, sure 124 yards looks decent enough, but not when it requires 36 carries to achieve (that’s 3.4 yards per rush–a half a yard below the average that kept Jerome Bettis out of the Hall of Fame for almost a decade).

Make no mistake, the offensive line’s performance this past Sunday against the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field wasn’t a stalemate; in-fact, if it was a boxing match, the referee would have stopped the fight by the third round–and awarded the decision to Fletcher Cox and Co.

Alejandro Villaneuva looked over-matched at times, which may be understandable, given that he didn’t become a starter until the mid-way point of last season. But what about the constant battles that DeCastro and accomplished right tackle Marcus Gilbert lost all afternoon and evening?

It’s fair to point out that Ramon Foster, the solid veteran left guard, exited the Eagles’ game fairly quickly with a chest injury and was replaced by B.J. Finney. On the Steelers official depth chart, Finney is listed as fourth-string at both guard positions. Why that’s noteworthy is because Cody Wallace and Chris Hubbard were both injured last week and couldn’t play. Therefore, that might explain the problems Pittsburgh was having up front this past Sunday.

  • But that’s not going to do anyone any good, if Foster, who was described as ‘very questionable’ by head coach Mike Tomlin during his weekly press conference on Tuesday, can’t go against the Chiefs this week.

If Wallace, who has missed the first three games with a knee injury, can return as soon as this week and fill in for a possibly absent Foster, that might go a long way in keeping the line stable. Wallace did an admirable job filling in for Pouncey at center a year ago, and there’s no reason he can’t do the same at left guard if Foster has to miss a game or three.

The Chiefs invade Heinz Field this week, and while they don’t have quite the dominant front seven as recent opponents, it’s still pretty formidable and includes names like Derrick Johnson, Dontari Poe and Tamba Hali.

It would be nice if the Steelers offensive line rose to the challenge and won this next battle.

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ICYMI #SteelersNation (how could you?) Steelers Shamarko Thomas Experiment is Over. It Failed

Per previous posts, yours truly is, ironically travling in the United States, with limited opportunity to follow the Steelers (yep, there’s globalization for you – US expats who live in Argentina follow Steelers less when in the States.)

Nonetheless, a quick Jim Wexell tweet got my attention:

As Wexell admitted in a later tweet, he’s respected Dangerfield for a long time (pun intended) and is glad to see him get the opportunity with Robert Golden and Sean Davis both ailing. Here’s to hoping that Wexell’s right about Dangerfield deserving a shot. But the unmistakable flip side to this story is that the Steelers Shamarko Thomas experiment has failed and is over.

  • This “news” about Shamarko of course shocks no one.
steelers shamarko thomas experiment, shamarko thomas, jordan dangerfield, tom brady, steelers vs. patriots

Was getting his hands on Tom Brady the highlight of Shamarko Thomas’ career as a safety? Perhaps. (Photo Credit: Mark L. Baer, USA Today)

In truth, this is more like someone “becoming a grownup” when the graduate college, even if they’ve officially been an adult since they were 18. The Steelers Shamarko Thomas experiment ended when they benched Thomas and chose to start Will Allen on the eve of the 2015 season and never looked back.

Still, during the Steelers 2016 preseason campaign, when the defense performed well, Shamarko Thomas won scattered praise from fans for at least looking “OK.” But Steelers current situation at secondary unequivocally reveals Keith Butler, Carnell Lake and Mike Tomlin’s feelings:

  • They’ve not only given up on Shamarko Thomas, they’ve moved on.

Going into 2016 the Steelers secondary was about the only spot on the depth chart that screamed “liability.” Pittsburgh’s defensive backfield lacked in 2015, and Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin opted to attempt addition by subtraction and thus far, no one inside or outside of the South Side should be doing any second guessing.

Seriously, for as piss poor as Pittsburgh performed against Philadelphia, did anyone mutter to themselves:

Neither did I.

With that said, rookie quarterback Carson Wentz looked like Joe Montana in his prime, and plays like Darren Sproles 73 yard touchdown run, which featured Sean Davis and Artie Burns looking like very much like two clueless rookies, so just how much the inexperience of the Steelers secondary can cost them.

But Shamarko’s experience is only serving to keep him on the bench. When the Steelers drafted Shamarko Thomas out of Syracuse in the 2013 NFL Draft, Carnell Lake opined that had Shamarko been two inches taller, he’d have probably gone in the first round. Maybe he was right, because Shamarko had the other the measurables.

The man that the Steelers once traded a future third round pick to a division rival in order to move up in the 4th round now holds his roster spot solely because he’s a good special teams gunner.

Jordan Dangerfield, who spent two seasons on the Steelers practice squad before making the roster on the strength of his 2016 preseason campaign, is now ahead of Shamarko Thomas on the depth chart. This shocks no one, but it is a little sad, because by all accounts Shamarko Thomas works hard, was mentored by Troy Polamalu and is a good person.

  • All of that speaks well of Shamarko, but Mike Tomlin couldn’t and shouldn’t make sentimental decisions.

If the Steelers were ever going to give Shamarko “One last chance” it would have been now. The Steelers Shamarko Thomas experiment is over, and the only thing that could change that would be a catastrophic series of injuries at safety.

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Steelers Report Card for the Loss to the Eagles

Taken from the grade book of a teacher who is sorely disappointed at his students’ decision to slack off for the substitute teacher, here is the Pittsburgh Steelers Report Card for the loss to the Eagles.

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Quarterback
While it is true that he neither had help from his offensive line, the running game or even receivers not named Brown, Ben Roethlisberger did not play well. The late game interception might not have been Roethlisberger’s fault, but he did give up the ball at a critical period. Moreover, Ben threw several other passes which could have easily been Eagle’s interceptions. Ben Roethlisberger certainly isn’t to “blame” for the Steelers loss to the Eagles, but Pittsburgh needed its best from Number 7, and it didn’t get anything close to that. Grade: F

Running Backs
After week one it looked like Steelers Nation might be saying, “Le’Veon who?” at this stage of the season. No one is saying that following the loss to the Eagles. Once again, DeAngelo Williams should not be scapegoated for his 21 yard, 8 carry performance. Williams did have a long run of 13 yards, but otherwise was getting hammered at or behind the line of scrimmage. Daryl Richardson had one yard on one carry. An effective running game could have given the Steelers offense some stability against the Eagles. But the Steelers completely failed to establish the run. Grade: Fsteelers, report card, grades, steelers vs. eagles, coaching, special teams, unsung heros

Tight Ends
Again, following their fair showing in week 1, and their twin touchdown performance vs. the Bengals, Steelers Nation can be forgiven if they’d been ready to ask “Ladarius who?” as a way of embracing the concept of “Tight end by committee.” The landscape looks a little different this morning, as Jesse James managed just two catches on four targets. Worse yet, both the Steelers run and pass blocking were atrocious vs. the Eagles, and the tight ends could have been part of the solution. Instead, they were part of the problem. Grade: F

Wide Receivers
Antonio Brown’s numbers looked good and a cursory glance at the play-by-play breakdown suggests there’s less garbage time glory behind those statistics than one would expect during such a route. If Brown did turn in a solid game, then the same cannot be said for his counterparts. Steel Curtain Rising has been a big backer of Markus Wheaton since his sophomore season, but Wheaton failed miserably in his first game back, dropping a touchdown pass and another critical pass and otherwise looking lost. Sammie Coates logged another long catch but was hardly a “difference maker” there on the field. Eli Rogers made two catches on five targets. Darrius Heyward-Bey had a touchdown taken away from him in the end zone. Yes, the defensive back made a great play and Heyward-Bey fought for the ball but he failed to gain control or even prevent the interception.

To be fair, the wide receivers had to deal with a lot of balls that were too high, too low, or too wide, but those hardly explain all of the non-catches. Either way, Roethlisberger and his receivers didn’t get the job done. Grade: F

Offensive Line
Who said Ramon Foster is the dispensable member of the Steelers offensive line. Again, it would be grossly unfair to finger B.J. Finney for the fact that the Steelers offensive line getting totally dominated by the Eagles front seven. But that is what happened. The Steelers offensive line couldn’t open holes for its running backs and couldn’t protect Ben Roethlisberger as Ben’s fancy footwork saved a few interceptions. Holding penalties also contributed to more than one stalled drive. A very below the line performance for the offensive line. Grade: F

Defensive Line
Stephon Tuitt and Cameron Heyward were actually numbers 3 and 4 in tackles for the Steelers, which is somewhat of a surprise, given the lethal effectiveness of both the Eagle’s screen passes and the number of times Philly rushers reached the second level. Again, it would be unfair to single out Javon Hargrave, but the Eagles ran straight up the middle of the Steelers defense at will. Carson Wentz had plenty of time to throw…. Grade: F

Linebackers

Perhaps Steel Curtain Rising erred when extoling the depth of the Steelers linebacking corps. Lawrence Timmons would miss most of the game with an injury, and Ryan Shazier would spend a lot of time rotating out. Jarvis Jones was also reported to be nicked. This meant that L.J. Fort and Anthony Chickhillo got extended playing time.

  • The conclusion is the that Steelers linebacking depth isn’t as deep as we thought it was.

The linebackers must bear their share of the blame for the lack of pressure on Wentz, in ability to stop either the run or the screen passing game. Perhaps most ominously, the only linebacker to get any pressure of Wentz was 38 year old James Harrison. Grade: F

Secondary
Robert Golden injured his hamstring and Mike Mitchell suffered from some sort of knee injury. Their misfortune gave more playing time to Sean Davis and Artie Burns and both looked to every bit the rookies that they are when neither seemed to be able to make a tackle on Darren Sproles 73 yard touchdown because both were waiting on the other to make a play. Going into the season, the Steelers secondary appeared to be the team’s only glaring liability. During the defensive backfield took several steps to dispel that notion in the first two games; they took several steps back vs. the Eagles. Grade: F

Special Teams
You know it is going to be a long afternoon when a dropped touchdown on 3rd down immediately precedes a blocked field goal. Chris Boswell made his other field goal attempt. But the Steelers return game failed to provide a spark on an afternoon when the team needed it to, and the coverage units, while not being a liability, gave up more yards than you’d like to see. It IS tempting to fail this until given all of the other F’s awarded, but ultimately, that would be unfair. Grade: D

Coaching
En route to Super Bowl XIV, Chuck Noll’s Steelers dropped a 35-7 decision to the San Diego Chargers that was probably worse than the score indicated. Bill Cowher had Fog Bowl II and any number of other opening day debacles where the Chin’s Steelers played just as poorly across the board as they did vs. the Eagles.

  • One ugly loss does not a failed season make.

But neither does it inspire confidence for what is yet to come. NFL teams can make it to 0-2 “by accident” but improving to 3-0 is harder to do. The Eagles 3-0 record proves Philadelphia is for real. In contrast, the burden of proof is on Mike Tomlin.

The Pittsburgh Steelers did not appear to be physically or mentally prepared to face the Eagles. The misfires began on the very first drive, and continued until the end of the game. The Steelers couldn’t throw or catch well, protect the passer or open holes for rushers. The front seven failed to pressure the quarterback and couldn’t contain the run. The secondary functioned as a sieve.

If any positive is to come out of this, it is that Todd Haley should now know that he cannot simply have Ben Roethlisberger feed the ball to Antonio Brown. For Keith Butler, the equation is more complicated. For two games thus far, the Steelers defense has settled into the “Bend but don’t Break” mode. The sacks and turnovers that characterized the 2015 Steelers defense have been absent, but Butler’s boys got the job done.

  • They failed miserably vs. the Eagles, sliding into a “Bend, Bust” mode.

Mike Tomlin can and should stand behind his “The Standard is the Standard” mantra, but the fact that injuries to Robert Golden, Lawrence Timmons and Ryan Shaizer accompanied this defensive regression is discouraging.

Fortuantely the Pittsburgh Steelers are a team with a lot of institutional memory. This is, after all, a franchise that once lost its opening two games to the score of 92-10 and ended up upsetting a bitter rival in the playoffs. Tomlin need not feel pressured to “shake things up” for the sake of doing so. But clearly, Pittsburgh cannot perform so piss poorly again. Grade: F

Unsung Hero
As Tony Defeo reminded us when he wrote about former Steelers rookie of the year Harry Newsome, when your punter is winning awards, you know things are not going well. And so it is with the Eagles game. If you want to find one player who consistently delivered during the game, then Jordan Berry is your man, who boomed off 3 punts averaging 55 yards per kick, and for that he wins the Unsung Hero Award for the Eagles loss.

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Eagles Deal Steelers Worst Defeat in 27 Years, As Pittsburgh Loses to Philadelphia 34-3

Rookie quarterback Carson Wentz completed 23 of 31 passes for 301 yards and two touchdowns, as he and the rest of the Philadelphia Eagles outclassed the Pittsburgh Steelers in every facet of the game in a 34-3 beat-down, Sunday evening at Lincoln Financial Field.

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completed 24 of 44 passes for 257 yards, an interception and a lost fumble in one of his worst performances since the last time he played at Lincoln Financial Field back in Week 3 of the 2008 season. Much like that day eight years ago, when Roethlisberger’s sacks (eight) outnumbered Pittsburgh’s points (six), No. 7 was taken to the turf four times on Sunday, as he and the offensive line had trouble with the Eagles fierce and dominant front-seven.

Eagles deal steelers worst defeat, darrius heyward-bey, rodney mcleod

Rodney McLeod rips away a would-be touchdown pass from Darrius Heyward-Bey as Eagles spank Steelers. Photo Credit: David Maialetti, Philadelphia Inquirer

In-addition to the struggles in the passing game (222 yards after deducting the four sacks), the running back merely generated 29 yards on the day, led by DeAngelo Williams, who carried eight times for 21 yards.

  • For the day, the Eagles out-gained the Steelers, 426-251, and gained 21 first downs to Pittsburgh’s 13.

The defense, which excelled over the first two weeks at bending but not breaking, had no answers for Philadelphia on the day. The Eagles scored on six of their first seven offensive possessions and enjoyed their 34-3 margin before the start of the fourth quarter.

  • The only bright spot on the day was the play of receiver Antonio Brown, who caught 12 passes for 140 yards.

However, the rest of the Steelers receiving corps struggled, as Markus Wheaton dropped at least three passes, including one for a touchdown and another that could have converted a first down. Darrius Heyward-Bey also failed to secure a touchdown pass which Rodney McLeod ripped away for an interception.

In-addition to the overall dominance at the hands of the Eagles, Pittsburgh suffered some key injuries on the day, specifically inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons, who left the game in the first half with a shin injury and was rushed to a hospital at halftime. Robert Golden and Michael Mitchell were also listed as injured by head coach Mike Tomlin.

Receiver Eli Rogers also left Sunday’s game with a toe injury and didn’t return, while linebacker Ryan Shazier was in and out of the lineup all day battling various injuries.

For the Steelers, a team with huge Super Bowl aspirations, Week 3 was a huge dose of reality.

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Sorpresiva derrota de los Steelers ante los Eagles por 34 a 3

Los Steelers cayeron de manera estrepitosa y sorprendente ante los Eagles por un vergonzoso 34 a 3.

“Jugamos para ganar y si no ganamos, al menos perder competitivamente” fueron más o menos las palabras de Coach Mike Tomlin en la conferencia de prensa ni bien terminado el juego. Este no fue el caso. Ni cerca se estuvo de eso.

Los Pittsburgh Steelers llegaron al Lincoln Financial Field, en Filadelfia con marca de 2-0 para enfrentar a los locales, Philadelphia Eagles, con QB novato, quienes contaban con idéntica marca ganadora.

steelers en espanol, ben roethlisberger, steelers contra eagles

Ben Roethlsiberger, bajo de precion contra de los Eagles; Photo Credit: Chaz Palla, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Los Acereros contaban con una ofensiva que se ubicaba en el Top 10 en puntos, en yardas totales y por tierra por partido. Por el lado de la defensiva, si bien permitieron yardas por toneladas, permitían pocos puntos y, lo más importante, habían permitido solo 1 TD desde la zona roja en los dos partidos anteriores. Como decimos habitualmente, una defensiva que se doblaba pero no se rompía…

  • Hasta hoy. Y se hizo añicos.

Y para empeorar las cosas, la ofensiva acerera nunca estuvo al mando del partido.

La primera serie ofensiva de los Steelers fue un presagio de lo estaba por venir: No se pudo acarrear ni una yarda, el reincorporado Markus Wheaton soltó un pase de sus manos en la zona de anotación y por último, Philadelphia bloqueó el gol de campo a Chris Boswell haciendo que la ofensiva visitante dejara la cancha con las manos vacías.

  • La respuesta de la ofensiva local dejó ver a la defensiva acerera tal como la conocemos: deteniendo a los rivales en la zona roja permitiendo sólo 3 puntos a través de un gol de campo.

Hasta aquí, todo iba como siempre.

A partir de aquí, se comenzó a jugar el juego que finalmente fue. Wheaton soltó su segundo pase y Ben Roethlisberger comenzó a sentir la presión de la línea defensiva local. El QB novato Carson Wentz comenzó a hacer su juego corto, detrás de la línea de golpeo, hacia las bandas, con play actions, sin sentir el acoso de Pittsburgh.

Como fue en las dos semanas anteriores, comenzaron a aparecer las fallas en el tackleo en todo el campo por parte de la defensiva acerera y Robert Golden y Ryan Shazier tuvieron que dejar el campo por lesiones. Finalmente no tardó en llegar el TD del número 81 Jordan Matthews al atrapar un pase de 12 yardas, lo cual cambió (para siempre, después lo sabríamos) el momentum del partido en favor de los Eagles.
La ofensiva de Big Ben mostraba algunos signos de que aún vivía, pero la efectividad que había mostrado en los juegos anteriores cuando pisaba la zona roja comenzaba a desvanecerse, ya que en 3er y 7 desde la 13, David de Castro fue arrasado y Ben capturado, debiendo Boswell anotar los primeros y únicos 3 puntos de la tarde.

  • Así finalizó la primera mitad con el marcador 13 a 3 para los locales. Los Steelers habían convertido sólo 3 de 7 intentos de 3er downs.

La primera serie ofensiva de la segunda mitad de los Eagles le cavó la tumba y reservó la lápida a las esperanzas de los hinchas de la Nación Steeler cuando el QB Wentz, puesto a correr por su vida fuera del bolsillo de protección conectó con Darren Sproles quien 73 yardas después accedió a la zona de anotación para estirar la diferencia a 17 irremontables puntos.

  • Tal vez prematura pero evidentemente los Steelers eran incapaces de volver a este juego.

Promediando el 3er cuarto, en la siguiente serie ofensiva de los locales, luego de 2 largos acarreos por el corazón de la línea defensiva acerera Wendell Smallwood ingresó como caminando a la end zone desde la yarda 1.
Esa defensiva estaba rendida. 27 a 3.

De allí en más, garbage time.

  • Habría otro TD más que pondría cifras definitivas al juego. Pudieron ser más. Pudo haber sido una derrota aún peor.

Las estadísticas del juego, esta vez no explican lo sucedido en el campo de juego porque el partido terminó y se desnaturalizó al promediar el 3er cuarto, luego del TD de Smallwood. O tal vez antes, luego de la anotación de Sproles. Quien sabe

Fue evidente que se falló en todas las líneas del equipo y en todas las fases del juego pero el partido se perdió en las trincheras.

Comenzando por la línea ofensiva. En general fueron actuaciones decepcionantes. David De Castro, Alejandro Villanueva y hasta Maurkice Pouncey fueron desplazados y movidos a voluntad, poniendo bajo presión a Ben, y permitiendo capturas en momentos claves del partido. Hubo dos capturas de mariscal en jugadas consecutivas que terminaron con Roethlisberger soltando el ovoide.
Para DeAngelo Williams no hubo por donde acarrear. Sólo acarreó para 21 yds, aunque es justo decir que promediando el 3er cuarto, los Steelers debieron enfrentar el hecho de que desde allí en más debían ser un equipo unidimensional, porque estaban acorralados entre el tanteador y el reloj.

  • La asociación receptores-QB funcionó sin consistencia. Con picos y valles. Los valles, muy bajos: tres pases soltados por Wheaton, uno de ellos para TD.

Tal vez por la natural atracción que Antonio Brown ejerce sobre las marca, Big Ben prefirió buscar inicialmente a otros receptores. Esto a veces funcionó muy bien (como con Sammie Coates) y otras no. Recién al final del partido, cuando todo estaba decidido, aparecieron las yardas “estadísticas” para Antonio Brown.

  • Big Ben siendo tal vez demasiado vertical, apareció por segundo partido consecutivo con algunas faltas de toque, volando a Eli Rogers y a Jesse James.
  • En la otra trinchera, la defensiva, fue donde se vió el panorama más desolador.

Durante lo que va de esta temporada, parece que el Coach Keith Butler decidió abandonar la carga. Pittsburgh parece ya no ser Blitzburgh.

No se capturó al mariscal ni una sola vez. Sólo el veterano James Harrison pareció tener el colmillo necesario para perseguir al joven Wentz en dos ocasiones, tarde en el partido y Anthony Chickillo presionando una vez en la cara de mariscal. Tres presiones. En 60 minutos.

Los linebackers lucieron ausentes en las jugadas de pase, las primeras 15 yardas detrás de la línea de golpeo eran tierra de nadie.
Hay que acentuar, para ser justos, que el novato Wentz, sea por defecto de la defensiva acerera o por propia virtud, o por virtud del plan de juego, estuvo casi perfecto. En 3 partidos no lanzó ni una sola intercepción. Y en gran medida, esta tarde tiene mucho que agradecer al plan defensivo de Keith Butler, que esa estadística siga siendo así.

No sé por qué razón los Steelers fallan tantos tackles. Verdaderamente es un misterio. Una cosa es segura: los defensivos de Philadelphia no fallaron tantos tackles como sus colegas acereros. Esto debe ser un problema central de coaching. Y no se vé progreso en esta área.

  • Fue uno de esos partidos que se van de la raya. Atípicos.

Ni antes de este juego los Steelers eran tan brillantes ni ahora son tan malos.

  • Saltaron algunas alarmas. Pero estamos muy lejos del pánico.

Estos que jugaron hoy en Filadelfia, no son los verdaderos Steelers.
El Dr. de Acero

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Colin Cowherd’s Mike Tomlin Attack Amounts to Pure Idiocy

Why Colin Cowherd’s Mike Tomlin attack amounts to pure idiocy

One of the great personal ironies of the global economy is that, trips to the United States either prevent or seriously impair my ability to watch, follow and write about the Pittsburgh Steelers. So it came as a great shock Thursday morning in San Francisco to see that my friend Ivan Cole had taken it upon himself to defend Mike Tomlin against Colin Cowherd on Rebecca Rollet’s Going Deep with the Steelers.

  • My first thought was, “Are we really having this conversation? Aren’t the Steelers 2-0?”
colin cowherd's mike tomlin attack, ben roethlisberger, mike tomlin,

Ben Roethlisberger stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Mike Tomlin. Photo Credit: broncos.com

Well, yes, we are. And perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised, because the year began with then BTSC scribe Chris Carter obliterating Jason Whitlock’s contention that Tomlin was “coddled” simply because he was African American. Ironically, or not, Whitlock launched his attack on Cowherd’s show.

My friend Mr. Cole launched a two pronged attack on Cowherd, first taking aim at Cowherd’s argument, and second speculating about Cowherd’s motives. Cole’s article amounts to must read for Steelers Nation, and there’s no reason to rehash his arguments here.

There is every reason to pile on additional reasons to prove that Colin Cowherd’s Mike Tomlin attack is pure idiocy.

Colin Cowherd’s Mike Tomlin Attack Rooted in Stale Criticisms

Colin Cowherd’s Mike Tomlin attack begins in the same old stale criticisms that have been leveled against Tomlin for years. The only one that holds any validity is Tomlin’s almost Thanksgiving Day trip of Jacoby Jones.

  • Cowherd criticizes Tomlin’s assistants for getting into fights with opposing players on the sideline.

Is this the best you can do? The charges leveled against Joey Porter and Mike Munchak during the circus in Cincinnati have been debunked by video evidence. Neither coach acted as an instigator, nor were any of their actions inappropriate.

Really? Last January Mike Tomlin led a Pittsburgh Steelers team into a division rival’s stadium on a rainy night and January. His third string quarterback, Landry Jones threw an interception from the Steelers 14 with 1:43 left to play with Pittsburgh down by 1.

  • Let’s see, how did that one turn out?

Oh, yeah, the Steelers came back and won that one, and one of the franchise’s most dramatic playoff come backs since the Immaculate Reception (and that’s not a comparison one makes lightly.) Yeah, Mike Tomlin really mangles clock management, and if he doesn’t, his teams choke with the game on the line.

Tomlin Was Simply Lucky to get Roethlisberger

The basis of Cowherd’s argument is that Tomlin was lucky to inherit a roster with Ben Roethlisberger and others.

There’s no doubt that Ben Roethlisberger has made Mike Tomlin a better head coach just as Bill Cowher suddenly became a Super Bowl winning instead of a Super Bowl contending head coach after Roethlisberger arrived in Pittsburgh. And Bill Parcells was a better coach with Phil Simms than he was with Drew Bledsoe, Vinny Testaverde and whoever else he had under center with Jets, Patriots, and Cowboys.

  • But Cowherd betrays himself here without even knowing it.

You see, when Mike Tomlin arrived in Pittsburgh, Ben Roethlisberger was “an effective game manager,” and of who it was said that “nothing to this point suggests that Roethlisberger can carry an undermanned team on his shoulders to playoff success.” This missive was written on ESPN back on August 2, 2007, before Mike Tomlin had called his first game as Steelers head coach. (The same article suggested that Matt Leinart was a sure-fire Hall of Famer while Ben would never get to Canton.)

  • A decade later those words seem laughable.

In fact, during the Steelers rebuilding seasons in 2012 and 2013, Roethlisberger’s presence was cited as a reason why the Steelers could go all the way. Cowherd himself extols Roethlisberger as one of the best three quarterbacks in the AFC. He’s right. But doesn’t Mike Tomlin deserve credit for helping develop Ben Roethlisberger, or at the very least providing him an environment to thrive in?

  • And while we’re at it, has Colin Cowherd always thought that Ben Roethlisberger was an elite quarterback?

Or did Cowherd sing the “Big Ben’s just a ‘game manager’ chorus” a decade ago?  I don’t know, but perhaps some questions are best left unasked.

Mike Tomlin is a George Seifert, not a Barry Switzer

Colin Cowherd’s Mike Tomlin attack is laced with comparison’s to Barry Switzer. The argument is that, like Switzer, Tomlin inherited a talented team and rode on his predecessor’s coattails. It IS true that Mike Tomlin took charge of a Super Bowl ready team.

Tomlin started James Harrison whereas Bill Cowher kept him on the bench. Unlike Cowher, Tomlin didn’t had the benefit of the services of Jeff Hartings and Alan Faneca, instead he made it work with Justin Hartwig and Darnell Stapleton. What’s more, Mike Tomlin’s 2010 Steelers team featured even more new faces.

  • Barry Switzer got handed a Super Bowl caliber team, and within two years, he brought home another Lombardi Trophy.

Kudos to him. But two years later, Switzer’s team had imploded and his players quit on him late in the season. Has last game featured Troy Aikman imploring his teammates in vain to hustle to the line of scrimmage to run the hurry up offense. Jerry Jones fired him.

  • Comparing Mike Tomlin to Barry Switzer is completely off base.

The better comparison is between Mike Tomlin and George Seifert. Like Tomlin, George Seifert got handed the keys to a Super Bowl-ready team, and like Tomlin, Seifert drove his team home. Seifert however, kept his team in contention and in 1994 won another Super Bowl.

  • No one in Steelers Nation should count Lombardi Trophies before they’re won.

But today the Pittsburgh Steelers are legitimate Super Bowl contenders, with a roster that only contains three players from their last Championship team….

…Not bad for a coach who simply got “lucky” to inherit a talented team.

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Pittsburgh Steelers Report Card for Win over Bengals

Taken from the grade book of a sturdy Steelers scribe feels the way Pittsburgh won this this game reveals the mark of a Super Bowl contender, here is the Steelers report card for the win over the Bengals, during week 2 at Heinz Field.

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Rossy Cockrell made life miserable for A.J.y Green in Steelers win over Bengals. Photo Credit: Matt Freed, Post-Gazette

Quarterback 

Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t at his sharpest. For the day, he completed 19 of 37 passes for 259 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Perhaps his biggest blunder of the game was an interception to Adam Jones that came on a fourth down play when he had Antonio Brown wide open. However, while it wasn’t the pretties performance for Roethlisberger, who struggled in the day-long rain at Heinz Field, he found Sammie Coates on bombs of 44 and 53 yards, respectively. And he capitalized on those huge plays by throwing touchdown passes to tight ends Xaxier Grimble and Jesse James. And Roethlisberger set up the third score–a six yard touchdown pass to running back DeAngelo Williams–by scrambling for 14 yards down to the five-yard line. Grade: C+

Running Backs

The sledding was a bit tougher for DeAngelo Williams in Week 2 than it was in Week 1 when he rushed for 142 yards and two touchdowns against the Redskins. But the veteran running back was a workhorse, as he carried the ball 32 times for 94 yards. Sure, he only averaged 2.9 yards per rush, but he stayed with it and was much better in the second half. Also, he made a great play by getting himself wide open in the corner of the end zone on his six-yard touchdown catch late in the fourth quarter. Grade: B-

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It was a tough day for Antonio Brown, as he was bottled up by the Bengals secondary to the tune of just four receptions for 39 yards. Brown even had an uncharacteristic drop during the game, which more than likely was a result of his frustrations. However, the young Sammie Coates was a very welcome sight; he caught just two passes, but they were for 44 and 53 yards, respectively, and set up two of Pittsburgh’s three touchdowns. Grade: C

Tight Ends

Maybe the Steelers do miss free agent Ladarius Green, but his absence has yet to manifest itself early in the 2016 season. While understudies Jesse James and Xavier Grimble didn’t exactly dazzle against the Bengals (they combined for five catches for 55 yards), they pulled in one touchdown each. On Grimble’s score, he displayed great athleticism, by catching a Ben Roethlisberger pass at the five-yard line, shaking free of a defender and diving over the goal line for the score. As for James’ touchdown catch, he showed the value of his 6-7 frame by leaping up to snag an intentionally high pass in the end zone as he was surrounded by several Bengals defenders. Grade: B

Offensive Line

The Steelers very talented offensive line had its hands full all day against Cincinnati’s equally talented defensive line. Roethlisberger may have only been sacked once, but he was under pressure a great deal of the day. As for the running game, again, the going was tough, but the hogs upfront managed to stay consistent, and Williams churned out more yards in the second half than he did in the first. Grade: B-

Defensive Line 

The Bengals only rushed for 46 yards on the day, so kudos to the line for doing its job and containing a talented duo of Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard. The pressure wasn’t there, as the defense got to quarterback Andy Dalton just once. But, as they say, the other team is on scholarship, too, and the Bengals allowed just two sacks a game in 2015. Cameron Heyward appeared to show no ill-effects from his high-ankle sprain suffered in the preseason; and Stephon Tuitt was active, as he totaled four tackles and a quarterback hit. Grade: B-

Linebackers

Inside linebacker Ryan Shazier was once again all over the place, as he recorded 11 tackles (five solo). It was also a very solid game for Lawrence Timmons, who tallied six solo tackles. And what can you say about the veteran James Harrison? He only had one  tackle on the day, but it came at the end of the game, and resulted in a game-saving fumble by Tyler Boyd, just when it looked like the Bengals were driving for the potential tying score. Grade: A-

Secondary 

While Andy Dalton passed for 366 yards on the day, the secondary did a fairly good job of keeping plays in front of them and tackling the catch. Safety Robert Golden was especially impressive, as he posted nine tackles (five solo), had the presence of mind to push tight end C.J. Ozomah out of the back of the end zone before he could get both feet in bounds on a second and goal pass in the third quarter, when the Bengals were were trailing 17-6 (they ultimately had to settle for a field goal) and recovered the Boyd fumble that sealed the deal at the end. As for rookie cornerback Artie Burns, there was the good: he broke up a touchdown pass late in the first half and forced the Bengals to settle for three; and there was the bad: he missed a tackle late in the game on a 25-yard touchdown catch and run by Bernard. But much kudos has to be given to Ross Cockrell who had the tough task of covering A.J. Green and helped limit him to just 38 yards on two catches. Grade: B-

Special Teams 

Jordan Berry had an awesome day, averaging 47.1 yards on eight punts. The average starting field position for the Bengals after Berry’s punts was the  13-yard line; and he downed five of his kicks inside the 10. As for Chris Boswell, he remains Mr. Consistency, as he connected on all three extra points during a game-long rainstorm and made a 49-yard field goal in the first half to give the Steelers a 10-3 lead. Grade: A

Coaching

In a game that could have gotten out of control, given the recent history between the two teams, Mike Tomlin’s troops were quite disciplined. While the hitting was hard, it wasn’t dirty, and Pittsburgh was only penalized five times for 54 yards, with none of those infractions being of the unsportsmanlike or unnecessary roughness variety.

Defensive coordinator Keith Butler appeared to employ a bend but don’t break strategy, by allowing short passes over the middle and preventing big plays over the top. The Bengals racked up a ton of yards (412, total), but three trips inside the red zone resulted in three Mike Nugent field goals.

Offensive coordinator Todd Haley didn’t have an enviable job. Not only did he have to deal with the Bengals stout and talented defense; he had to deal with the elements. However, he remained very consistent with the ground game, calling 34 traditional running plays, even if they only resulted in 106 yards. As for the passing game, while the Bengals contained Brown, three long passes to Coates resulted in two big completions that set up two of the three touchdowns. Grade: A

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Steelers Beat Bengals Improve to 2-0 with 24-16 win over Cincinnati @ Heinz Field

In yet another memorable contest between the two fierce AFC North foes, the Steelers outlasted the Bengals, 24-16, at Heinz Field on Sunday to improve to 2-0.

Running back DeAngelo Williams was the offensive catalyst for the second week in a row, as he carried 32 times for 94 yards against a very stout Cincinnati defense. Williams also caught four passes for 38 yards and a touchdown.

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Sammie had a big day as the 2016 Steelers advanced to 2-0 with a win over Cincinnati. Photo Credit: Justin K. Aller, Getty Images

It wasn’t the best of days for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who completed 19 of 37 passes for 259 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions, as he struggled with accuracy due to the day-long rain at Heinz Field, as well as with pressure by the Bengals formidable pass-rush which was in his face most of the afternoon.

However, like he has most of his career, Roethlisberger did just enough to secure a victory. Late in the first quarter of a scoreless game, Roethlisberger escaped pressure, moved to his left and found second-year receiver Sammie Coates for a 44-yard catch down the the Cincinnati 21. Two plays later, No. 7 connected with Xavier Gimble at the five-yard line, and the rookie tight end made a great individual effort to break a tackle and dive into the end zone to make it 7-0.

  • The Bengals immediately responded with a scoring drive of their own, that ended when kicker Mike Nugent connected on a 25-yard field goal to make it 7-3.

The defensive struggle continued over the next six possessions, as the two teams traded punts back and forth. However, after Bengals punter Kevin Huber only got off a 32-yarder deep in his own territory, the Steelers had great field position at the Cincinnati 36. But Pittsburgh quickly went three and out and had to settle for a 49-yard Chris Boswell field goal to make it 10-3.

With a minute remaining in the first half, Roethlisberger tried to connect with Coates once again, this time on a deep pass down the  right sideline. But cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick intercepted the pass, and the Bengals took advantage, by converting Roethlisberger’s second pick of the half into another Nugent field goal to make it 10-6 at the break.

Late in the third quarter, Ben Roethlisberger went to the deep well once again, and found Sammie Coates for a 53-yard gain down to the Bengals nine-yard line. One play later, Roethlisberger connected  with tight end Jesse James to make it 17-6.

The Bengals began moving the ball on their next offensive possession, and after a 20-yard pass-interference penalty on cornerback Ross Cockrell who was trying to cover A.J. Green, Cincinnati had it first and 10 from the 14. Three plays later, it was first and goal from the one, after rookie cornerback Artie Burns was also flagged for interference while breaking up a pass intended for Brandon LaFell. But, much like it did most of last season, Pittsburgh’s defense bent, but it didn’t break. Jeremy Hill was stopped for a two-yard loss on first down. On the next play, quarterback Andy Dalton tried to hit tight end C.J. Ozomah in the back of the end zone, but safety Robert Golden made a great play by pushing him out of bounds before he could get both feet in. On replay, it appeared Ozomah got one knee down before going out of bounds, which would have been a legal catch, but the Bengals didn’t challenge.

  • After another incomplete pass by Dalton on third down, Nugent made it 17-9 with his third chip shot of the afternoon.

Early in the fourth quarter, Pittsburgh began a 12-play drive that covered 68 yards, consumed 6:54 of game clock and ended when Ben Roethlisberger found Williams all alone in the end zone for a six-yard score to make it 24-9 with 6:48 left. The key play on the drive came when Roethlisberger scrambled for 14 yards to set up a first and goal from the five.

But the Bengals weren’t done, and they quickly marched 75 yards in eight plays and made it 24-16 when Dalton hit Giovani Bernard on a short pass, and the running back eluded several Steelers on the way to a 25-yard touchdown.

  • After Pittsburgh did nothing on its next offensive series (and only burned 25 seconds off the clock), the Bengals took over at their own 25 with three minutes remaining.

With short passes over the middle, Dalton advanced his offense to the Steelers 39-yard line by the two-minute warning. However, one play later, after a quick pass to rookie receiver Tyler Boyd, linebacker James Harrison forced a fumble, and Golden recovered with 1:50 remaining. On replay, it appeared Boyd’s knee was on the ground just as the ball came free, but after an automatic review, the play stood, and the Steelers prevailed.

While Dalton threw for a ton of yards (366) and didn’t throw any interceptions, the Bengals offense was denied touchdowns on three trips inside the Red Zone. As for Green, he was once again stymied by Pittsburgh’s much-maligned secondary, who held him to two receptions for 38 yards.

Next up for the Steelers is a Week 3 road date with the Eagles next Sunday at 4:25.

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2016 Pittsburgh Steelers are for Real. Just as Steelers Nation Thought They Were

From the moment they lost in heartbreaking fashion to the eventual Super Bowl-champion Broncos in the divisional round of the playoffs last January, the Steelers were considered heavy favorites to be champions of the 2016 season.

The hype not only seemed sincere, as it came from the players, the media (both local and national) and, of course the fans, but it never waned, even in the face of the season-long drug suspension for receiver Martavis Bryant, the three-game drug suspension for running back Le’Veon Bell, and, of course, the questions surrounding a questionable defense.

As Pittsburgh prepared to face the Redskins Monday night, in a Week 1 match-up at FedExField, I must say I felt pretty darn confident. When asked to give a prediction–both as a writer and as a relative (my brother always asks me for a score)–I said, “31-13.”

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Antonio Brown shreds the Redskins defense in the Steelers 2016 season opener. Photo Credit: Christopher Horner, Tribune-Review

And this wasn’t some homer bias on my part (I usually save the lopsided predictions for the playoffs), I truly believed the Steelers, the AFC’s sixth seed a year ago, far outclassed the talents of Washington, the NFC East’s champion from 2015.

What was the famous postgame quote screamed by late head coach Dennis Green following a depressing loss to the Bears? “They are who we thought they were!

  • While the Steelers weren’t exactly flawless in their 2016 debut on Monday Night Football, once they got rolling, they looked about as dominant as one would hope.

Pittsburgh was trailing 6-0 late in the first quarter. The offense hadn’t done much in its first two drives. In-fact, following a punt on the first series, the Steelers second possession ended when a pass from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger deflected off the hands of young receiver Eli Rogers and was intercepted.

  • But following another near-turnover on the third offensive possession, the Steelers began to take control of the game and never really looked back.

What started as a 6-0 deficit, became a 24-6 advantage by the third quarter on the way to a 38-16 pasting of the Redskins before a national audience.

Ben Roethlsiberger looked as efficient as ever, as he completed 27 of 37 passes for 305 yards and a touchdown. Antonio Brown caught 11 passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns–and it almost “seemed” like an off night for him, as he battled premium corner Josh Norman off and on throughout the game.

And what can you say about veteran running back DeAngelo Williams? Twenty-five carries for 138 yards and two touchdowns. It says a lot about the abilities of the 33-year old as he fills in for Bell during his suspension, but it also says a lot about an offensive line that actually may be the best in the NFL.

Back in the late 2000s, the Steelers had a dominant defense complete with studs at every position. I don’t really have to name them, but, in-addition to Roethlisberger’s franchise quarterback-status, Dick LeBeau‘s unit gave the team legitimacy as a Super Bowl-contender. You didn’t have to wonder whether or not all-world players like Troy Polamalu, James Harrison, James Farrior, Casey Hampton and Aaron Smith were going to show up each and every week and make life miserable for their opponents on offense.

  • You just knew they would.

I have that same feeling about the current Steelers offense. They scored 38 points on Monday night, and quite frankly, I don’t see many weeks in-which they don’t at least threaten to score that amount.

As for the defense, it wasn’t necessarily stout, as it surrendered 384 total yards. But there was only one touchdown allowed on the evening, and linebacker Ryan Shazier may have made the pivotal play of the evening, when he intercepted a Kirk Cousins pass and paved the way for the 26-yard touchdown pass from Roethlisberger to Brown that broke the game open in the third quarter.

Having a dominant defense is ideal, but if you can’t have that, an opportunistic one is often all that’s needed. A year ago, the Steelers defense did something it hadn’t been able to do for years, and that was take the football away. After averaging just 19 takeaways between 2011-2014, Pittsburgh had 30 in 2015. Despite having the 30th ranked pass defense, the Steelers allowed just under 20 points per game, and part of that had to do with coming up with timely picks and fumbles–often when the other team was driving for a score.

Sure, there was some luck involved, Monday evening (in-addition to Roethlisberger’s fumble that was nearly recovered by the Redskins, a pass into the end zone  that should have been intercepted, was caught for a touchdown by Rogers after it was deflected right to him), but what did the legendary Chuck Noll used to say? “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

Whether or not the Steelers are crowned champions at the end of this season  remains to be seen, but  they definitely are who we thought they were.

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Pittsburgh Steelers Report Card for Win Over Redskins

Taken from the grade book of a teacher who is delighted to see his star pupils show up on the first day of school both willing and ready to work, here is the Steelers Report Card for their Monday Night Football win over the Washington Redskins.

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Antonio Brown goes up for 6 vs. the Redskins. Photo Credit: Chaz Palla, Tribune-Review

Quarterback
Ben Roethlisberger might not have been perfect, his fumble could have been very costly, and led the team to two and outs to start the game. But after that, Roethlisberger was nearly flawless completing 27 passes on 37 attempts for 288 yards and three touchdowns. He was also able to seamlessly work relative newcomers into the offense. Grade: A-

Running Backs
Who says 33 is over the hill in the NFL? That certainly did not apply to DeAngelo Williams Monday night, who ran for 143 yards on 26 carries and was running through the Redskins secondary at will by the time it was all over. The fact that Fitzgerald Toussaint’s stat line reads 3-6 surprises shows just who dominate the Steelers rushing attack was. Grade: A

Wide Receivers
Antonio Brown continues to maintain an almost mystical connection with the Steelers and is clearly the best receiver in football. With Markus Wheaton out, carrying the rest of the load fell to Sammie Coates and Eli Rogers. Both men made impressive plays, although both did see the ball bounce off their hands only to caught be another receiver. Fortunately in Coates’ case Rogers was the receiver and it was in the end zone. Teams like the Patriots, Bengals or Ravens won’t be so forgiving and the grade must reflect that. Grade: A-

Tight End
The post-Heath Miller era began against the Redskins, with Jesse James taking up the mantel, for the time being at least. As he flashed in 2016, Jesse James showed that he can be a fairly reliable target in the passing game, although he didn’t look quite comfortable out there. His blocking remains a liability, having missed a couple of key blocks. In contrast, David Johnson played in an H-Back roll, and made a key block on one of DeAngelo Williams first big gains. Xavier Grimble also saw some action. Against the Redskins, the Steelers tight end by committee worked well enough. Grade: B

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Against the Redskins, the Steelers had 4.9 yards rushing, surrendered on sack, and only saw their quarterback hit 4 other times. That’s what I call an excellent effort. Grade: A

Defensive Line
The Washington Redskins actually had a decent rushing average against the Steelers, but the truth is neither running back broke the 25 yard mark. Cameron Heyward led the unit with 2 tackles, followed by Stephon Tuitt with one and registered a QB hit. Javon Hargrave made his rookie debut, and little was seen of him, although that’s not always a bad thing for a nose tackle. Grade: B

Linebackers
Ryan Shazier had another fantastic night, forcing a fumble, breaking up a touchdown pass in the end zone, and hauling in an interception that permanently reversed the course of the game for Pittsburgh. Lawrence Timmons led the Steelers with 8 tackles and was all over the field. James Harrison might only have had 3 tackles on the night, but his run stop of Matt Jones was a beauty. L.J. Fort saw his first regular season action and got a hit on Kirk Cousins late in the game. Jarvis Jones quietly recorded 6 tackles. Grade: B

Secondary
Ross Cockrell let an interception slip though his fingers, and the Steelers defensive backs didn’t record any take aways, but they did force the Redskins to settle for field goals on three occasions when touchdowns were very real possibilities. Mike Mitchell led the group and set the tone by keeping receivers in front of him, and then laying in the wood afterwards. William Gay had a quiet night, which is good for a cornerback. Robert Golden looked like he belonged as did the rookie Sean Davis. Grade: B

Special Teams
Chris Boswell made all of his extra points and a 46 yard field goal (on the road, at night, on grass.) Jordan Berry’s punting was solid. The kick coverage of Fitzgerald Toussaint’s return was good, and it looked like a more capable returner could have taken that much further. Toussaint needs to learn to take advantage of those opportunities when they present themselves.

  • The Redskins had one kick return of 29 yards and a punt return for 17.

Danny Smith must see to it that future play by the Steelers kick coverage units must renders those numbers to statistical aberrations. Grade: B-

Coaching
Mike Tomlin won his first road opener since 2008, and he did it against a defending divisional champion. In the NFL it is more about how you finish than how you start, but the goal of every coach is to “start fast, finish strong” and the Steelers took a first step in that direction. Yes, there was some rustiness, but considering that the Steelers are fielding a host of different players than the squad that was last on the field in Denver, a 38 to 16 performance is all the more impressive.

  • The Steelers locker room is embracing Tomlin’s “Next man up” credo.

It took Todd Haley’s offense a quarter to get warmed up, but once it got into gear, it almost seemed as if the Steelers offense was restraining itself against the Redskins at times. Scoring 38 points against an NFL defense always impresses, but the Steelers could have scored more. The tests will get tougher, starting this week against the Bengals, but Haley’s crew passed the first with flying colors, and the did it against a team that made big time investments in their pass defense.

Keith Butler’s defense lacked some of the splash plays from 2015. Over the long term that figures to be a problem. If the fireworks were missing, the Steelers defense was fully in “bend but don’t break mode.” Playing against a defending divisional champion, on the road, the score could have easily been 14 or 21 nothing giving the way the game unfolded. Butler’s defense saw to it that the score remained 6-0. Overall, the Steelers coaches had their players prepared and ready. Grade: B+

Unsung Hero Award
More than one fan has looked at the performance of Cody Wallace in 2013 and 2015 and asked, “Why are we paying the other guy so much?”

Against the Redskins, Maurkice Pouency answered those doubters. When the Redskins stripped Ben Roethlisberger the Steelers were down by six and at their own 25. A turnover there could have changed the direction of the game, and breathed life into the Redskins. Instead, Pouency got the ball away from the defender, and Ben Rothlisberger recovered it. On the very same drive, the Steelers went up by 7 after converting on a 4th down.

It is plays like that which facilitate fireworks by the super stars like Brown and Roethlisberger and for that Maurkice Pouncey is the Unsung Hero award winner of the Pittsburgh’s win over Washington.

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