of game day has passed I wanted to see what the tape delay showed in the harsh light of the next morning. I was prepared to see an inept offensive performance in the 1st half and a passable defensive performance that was hindered by poor field position and an anemic offensive performance. What I saw though wasn't that at all. Now I looked at the last season Defensive stats for the Pittsburgh Steelers and was surprised to see that they led the League in total defense. From the chattering pundits on the interwebs to the talking heads on broadcast TV this was a Steelers team that was on the decline. How does a team on the decline lead the league in total defense? Anyway my first impression of the 1st half was that Pittsburgh doesn't look like it has lost a step defensively. Now remember The 3rd preseason game involves installing a game plan. That the Steelers had not only an offense game plan but a defensive game plan kind of escaped everyone's awareness. That we had issues moving the ball in the first half doesn't surprise me at all. It's a new offense, a new set of offensive personnel, and it is against a Pittsburgh team that isn't in as much as a rebuilding mode as it is a reloading mode. This a very talented coaching staff that has remained stable over the years and knows how to game plan. They have good talent on the defensive side of the ball and felt confident enough to let, what some analysts felt were key pieces, go in FA. So that we had issues moving the ball is not surprising. However after all the pissing and moaning about the lack of targets for the WR group and could it be a lack of confidence in Alex Smith's ability to use our WR's full abilities, It was nice to see after a trade of first round picks between SF and us that Alex Smith can actually throw completions to both the #1 and #2 WR. I was disappointed that we didn't get Charles as involved in the offense as I would have wanted because he really is the key to our success this season. I also saw our offense due to a preseason call to go for it on 4th and 1 on our own 20 fail to get any push against Pittsburgh. I have to say Pittsburgh wanted to shut down our ground game and they did just that.
Our defense on the other hand had to deal with Big Ben. This news flash just in, Ben Roethlisberger is a pretty good quarterback. That our pass rush had issues bringing Ben down should not be a surprise. We are only in the same situation as 30 other teams. That said did we pressure the QB? Why yes, yes we did. Did we sack Ben? Why yes, yes we did. Could DJ have knocked Ben for a loop? I do believe on his sack that he pulled up and settled with just knocking him down instead of driving him into the ground. (Classy move unlike the late shot on Alex by Troy Polamalu) Considering the field position we literally gave them by playing preseason football that we held their ones to 10 points was pretty damn good. More importantly they did what I hope I see this season consistently. They kept the game in reach while our offense adjusted and figured out how to score against the best defense in the league in 2012.
Now to how we scored in the first half. Like many people I get really frustrated when our offense struggles for 2 quarters and when the 2 minute warning sounds we go out and look like world beaters for 2 minutes. However the 2 minute offense is one of those offensive situations that they specifically practice to a huge degree in training camp. Once it gets set the players can stop thinking about what they have to do and just go out and focus on making a play. In other words regular offensive plays require a player to think about what they need to do, where they need to be, where other players need to be, in short a lot of thinking. Thats why NFL teams like the wonderlic. The quicker they assimilate what the responsibilities they have are the quicker they can quit being distracted by thinking and just focus on effort. Thats what I think we saw last night. That when it comes to raw athletic ability I think we can hang with the Pittsburghs and Denvers in this league.
In the second half we finally got to see what we have sitting behind Alex Smith. Chase Daniel I have to say did not suck. Sounds like faint praise but honestly after a season of suck (see Matt Cassel) and sucks more (see Brady Quinn) that Daniel doesn't totally suck is a pretty big deal. I am encouraged that he was able take the 3's down in OT and seal the deal. Also, and this applies to Alex as well, opposing defenses are going to have problems this year cheating on rush blitzing and deep coverage leaving the middle empty. Colin Kapernick just killed Green Bay in the playoffs with that problem. Rewatch that game and see what the Pistol is going to bring to our offense this season. Alex and Charles may be our top two rushers. Also in the second half we got to see the coaching staff make adjustments to Pittsburgh.
This news flash just in, Brad Gradkowski is going to be a capable back up to big Ben. I liked his playing in the second half and I have to think the Pittsburg coaching staff is too. His touchdown pass shows a lot of promise and I kind of wish we would have looked at him harder when he came out. Of course that leads up to something that really isn't a news flash any more. Coach Toub is a really really really good coach. Might be the second most important acquisition we made in the off season. That we were able to answer their score immediately is so important. 2 ST plays saved us in this game, The blocked kick and the return for the TD. Those don't happen and I end up with a horrid hangover this AM instead of hope for the season.
Well that's what I saw. Anybody else see this too?