After the Japanese successfully crippled the US fleet at Pearl Harbor, Admiral Nagumo scrapped plans to launch an additional attack. The Hollywood classic Tora, Tora, Tora depicts Nagumo defending his decision out of fear the he had “woken a sleeping giant.”
For the last decade the Pittsburgh Steelers have been one of the NFL’s giants, and last week during the Debacle in Baltimore the Ravens most certainly caught this giant sleeping.
If the Baltimore Ravens were the locomotive that pounded the Steelers out of their sleep, then the Seahawks were the fly that the giant’s hand found when he woke up swatting.
Although Mike Tomlin will justifiably say “we fell short of perfection” the Steelers nonetheless did what they should have done – squash an inferior opponent.
Stumbling, But Making A Statement
When giants wake they are more likely to stumble instead of springing to life. When that first stumble comes, the question is, does the giant gain his bearings or does he stumble some more and fall?
During the first drive the Steelers flashed and feigned, marching all the way to the one, only to give up easy “punch it in position” via a sack, then regained it only to fail on fourth and goal.
Could this giant be teetering, about to fall?
No. Dick LeBeau’s defense stoned Seattle allowing them one yard as they forced a three and out.
Neither team of course decided anything in that those first two series, but one thing was certain – the giant had awoken on steady feet.
Inconsistent Performance, Lopsided Result
Stat sheets are wont to deceive, and the Steelers-Seahawks game serves as a perfect example. While every unit of the Steelers had its moments, the team fell short of a consistent effort for most of the day.
In particularly, the offense worked in fits and spirits for much of the afternoon.
- Ben Roethlisberger, despite going 22-30 for 1 TD and almost 300 yards was high on his passes and should have had one if not two balls picked off
- Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman, despite both peeling off double-digit runs, never got into a rhythm
- Three of the Steelers trips into the Red Zone yielded 21 points – the other three yielded 3 points
No, this is no attempt to nit pick away the significance of the Steelers first shut out since 2008, but against a more talented opponent such inconsistency can prove lethal.
Against the Seattle Seahawks the Pittsburgh Steelers flashed that they have all of the elements to be a great team led by a high octane offense. But that offense remains a work in progress, particularly the offensive line.
But the fact that Steelers Nation might have to wait a while for a rebirth of a 1979 styled offense was no problem because this afternoon giant showed he had other weapons.
Dick LeBeau’s Defense – Mike Tomlin’s Big Stick
The Pittsburgh Steelers defense ranked number one in ’07, ’08 and number two in ’10. Yet after the Baltimore game, critics from coast to coast derided this unit as no longer being young enough, no longer being fast enough, and no longer being good enough.
Dick LeBeau stood by his men during the week, and his players backed him up handsomely.
Again, stats can deceive. Travis Jackson hit 11 different receivers in passing a pretty 20 of 29 with no picks. Normally that’s indicative of a pretty good day passing, but it went all for naught because of the Seahawks woeful in ability to convert third downs.
The Steelers kept the Seahawks off of the board in the first half, but their effort was largely subdued. Travis Jackson had time to throw, and Dick LeBeau was content to let the Steelers DB’s do their job.
It wasn’t until the second half that the giant fully shook off his grogginess, loosened the stiffness in his neck and shoulder, and began swinging what has been the Steelers big stick – the sack.
Troy Polamalu, Larry Foote, James Farrior, LaMarr Woodley, Steve McClendon and, yes, James Harrison, all got into the act.
If Dick LeBeau had scripted the defensive side of the game in order to answer the critics, he could not have done a better job:
- Three of those sacks came on the one drive the Seattle actually threatened to score
- James Harrison ended that drive with a sack on fourth down
And, to those beating the “too old” drum,
- James Farrior ended the day for the Steelers defense by sacking Jackson for a seven yard loss.
Stiffer tests against stronger opponents certainly await Dick LeBeau’s defense, but their performance against the Seahawks should renew Steelers Nation’s confidence that they’ll be up to the task.
“You can’t win the Super Bowl in September.” – James Harrison
Scoring a shut out is always good but, as James Harrison’s quote reveals, the Steelers accepted today’s win but no one at Heinz Field declared victory.
And so should it be because a roused giant still must understand that his journey still only begins with the first step. The Steelers appear to understand that.