The Pittsburgh Steelers are 3-0 and terrorizing quarterbacks just like the days of yore. It’s like hearing our old favorite song on the radio and shouting out, “Crank it up!”
Let’s get this party started.
Yet, just as things are getting wild, the guests are jumping in the pool with their clothes on and the neighbors are complaining about the noise…it all comes to a halt.
Who turned off the music?
Wait. You mean we don’t play this week? Not against the 3-0 Tennessee Titans? But, you can’t take away our football.
Then again, if you ask Coach Mike Tomlin about how much this interruption in schedule will disrupt his team’s focus, his response is quite clear.
But, Steelers Nation does, Coach! Who turned off the music? How do we get it on again? How do we return that diamond needle back on the record?
And, speaking of hot vinyl. Let’s give this a Spin.
That Second Half
For the moment, we are going to choose to forget the first half of the Steelers defense in the game against the Texas.
In fact, not just for the moment. We choose to forget it…forever.
Giving up 21 points to Houston in the first half is not something any respectable defense of high distinction should do.
I mean I’m no mathematician…but heck…that’s like having 42 thrown down at you in a full game. Inconceivable!
Fortunately, we’ve already forgotten about that first half. Because, if we didn’t, we still be haunted by how the Texans moved up and down the field with ease.
If felt like we were being completely run over.
Yet, it turns out the Texans didn’t run up the field at all that game. Did you know that including QB Deshaun Watson’s scrambles, the entire tally of rush yards for the Texans was 29?
29 yards? Are you kidding me?
Why that sounds eerily similar to the exact number of rushing yards they gave up to the New York Giants and RB Saquon Barkley in the season opener.
That’s right. Just 29 then as well.
Oh…and that second half of the Houston game? My, oh my. The Texans only mustered 51 yards and two…count them…two first downs in the last 30 minutes.
For the game, the Steelers tallied up five more sacks to their season total and added eight tackles for loss and a dozen quarterback hits.
Tip The Butler
It is time. Actually, it’s long overdue, to give Defensive Coordinator Keith Butler his due.
This isn’t a perfectly communicating, never stumbling defensive unit. Not at all. Not yet.
However, it is a unit that has a will of its own, and the capability to turn up the pressure like a dial, just like Jimi Hendrix once did with Marshall amplifiers.
Now, isn’t Butler the same fellow we wanted to chase out of town only a few years ago? Don’t we have some apologizing to do?
No…not actually. Because Butler…or the combination of Butler and Tomlin…or the too many cooks in the kitchen of Butler and Tomlin…or SOMETHING…was really poor a few years back. And, it wasn’t because of a lack of talent.
Sure, the Steelers are loaded now with skill and experience. But, back when we were gleefully bashing Butler, they had many of today’s stars on their defense like DE Cam Heyward, LB Bud Dupree, DE Stephon Tuitt and LB Vince Williams.
And yet, they still were still getting rolled over by soft offenses.
What happened is that it took a while for Butler to grow up from being linebackers coach to defensive coordinator.
But, he’s got it down now. And, he deserves much of the credit for this ascendant Steelers defense.
The Pivot Point
Want to know when the Steelers turned a corner on defense? It was the moment they picked up CB Joe Haden off of the NFL scrapheap a few years back.
And, hanging out by the Cleveland Browns dumpster is a good place to find deals. They seem to be incapable of using talent properly.
Haden is not now, or was ever, the level of player in pure talent that merited being drafted as high as he was by the Browns.
But, the man came to Pittsburgh and sealed some major holes in the defense the moment he stepped into the team’s locker room.
Sure. S Minkah Fitzpatrick was a major acquisition for the Steelers. CB Steven Nelson as well.
But, don’t forget about Joe. He was the one that got the Steelers D their groove back.
Don’t look now, but the Steelers rookie class of 2020 is already making a major splash in this young NFL season.
And, who would have thunk? Without a first round draft pick this year, this wouldn’t seem to be a banner year for the Black and Gold.
But already, we’ve seen sparks of interest from WR Chase Claypool, LB Alex Highsmith and RB Anthony McFarland. And wait…will OG Kevin Dotson end up being the best of the bunch?
After his shockingly good performance against the Broncos, that might end up being true.
The Old Normal
If you think it’s a bummer the Steelers are having a Bye this week, then you might want to pull that burr out of your saddle, Cowboy. Because you ain’t seen nothing yet.
There is no way the Texans will be the only squad with a Covid scare, and the league is going to run out of convenient ways to swap a couple of Bye weeks…real fast.
We might have enjoyed the closest thing to normal this season on the way to our dazzling 3-0 record.
I realize this sounds pessimistic, but there are way too many human beings involved in an NFL roster to keep two trains from colliding…and soon.
This might end up being the season where the Lombardi Trophy is decided by a coin flip of whichever two teams managed to get six games in this season.
Well…not that bad. That’s an exaggeration. But, it’s going to get worse.
A Sense Of Balance
As I was watching the game in a sports bar last week, one of my crazy Steelers fan friends turned around after a Ben Roethlisberger completion and declared that, “Ben is the greatest quarterback ever!”
Then he qualified his statement by adding, “Except for Terry Bradshaw.” Which, of course, disqualified him from being an unbiased talent analyst, rather than just another Steelers Homer.
Look, I get it and I agree. Big Ben is a future Hall Of Famer.
But, have you seen some of the quarterback play around the league? I mean, the game has changed, and the next generation of young superstar QB’s are here.
Which means if we believe we can hang the entire hopes of a season on the refurbished elbow of a well-aged legend, then we are swimming in pools of glorious delusion.
Actually. The water is nice in here, by the way.
Which is why, it’s so encouraging to see the team is approaching the offense with a balanced attack.
The plan of five years ago where the Steelers were going to resurrect the Duck and Chuck offense of the 80’s has been appropriately laid to rest.
This team doesn’t really need Roethlisberger to carry it on his shoulders. And, I’m not sure he still can. (Don’t tell my buddy I said that.)
The defense is SO strong, that a healthy running game, with at least an above average passing attack, will be all the Steelers need to reach the highest level of competitiveness this year.
Bye For Now
That’s the best Spin we can put on an otherwise disappointing and ill begotten Bye Week.
Having spent your “Get Well Card” this early in the season will inevitably prove to be a major hindrance to overall team health and strength when it comes to the stretch run.
But, what are we going to do about it? Well…whine a little. There is that.
And then, we will move on. Be strong. Because Coach Tomlin coached us all up when it comes to having the winning attitude regarding all of this.
We do not care. Bring on the Philadelphia Eagles.