The Pittsburgh Steelers are out of Latrobe and back at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, also referred to as the South Side Facility. We are already into the regular season, where everything is magnified and, you know, actually counts. The team is working through the highs and lows and dramas that go through a typical Steelers season.
How are the rookies performing? What about the players that the team signed in free agency? Who is missing time with injuries, and when are they going to be back? What are the coaches saying about what they are going to do this season that might be different from how it was a year ago?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: How telling was last night’s big road win about who the 2018 Steelers are going to be?
I do hope that Steelers fans around the country—around the world—are actually taking the time to enjoy last night’s victory, the first of the season, in spite of the fact that the team was outscored 17-0 in the second half and only ended up winning by a field goal.
The team is now 1-1-1 through three games, a .500 record, and is only half a game out of first place in the AFC North, with the Baltimore Ravens and the Cincinnati Bengals tied at the top of the standings at 2-1. They will face the Ravens next week and the Bengals soon after.
Outside of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ opening scoring drive, the Steelers looked pretty good pretty consistently in the first half, putting up 30 points on a combined offensive and defensive effort, even with a punt thrown in for good measure that helped lead to a pick six.
The second half proved to be a different beast with the Buccaneers getting a lot of burn—and the Steelers’ right-side cornerbacks getting burned. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for over 400 yards, doing so for the third game in a row and becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to do that.
Neither team ran the ball often, or well, on a play-to-play basis. The Steelers generated pressure, but too often still allowed the play to run on-schedule or through improvisation with success. They gave up a 20-yard screen on third and 18, for example.
Meanwhile, the offense largely disappeared in the second half until late in the fourth quarter. Still, they put up over 400 yards, and the defense recorded four takeaways. The punting unit even got a couple of deep pins inside the five.
There were plenty of warts to go around for all three phases. The question is just how long those blemishes will remain, and if they can be removed. This team is clearly talented enough to win—going on the road to beat a tough team—but can they stop beating themselves?