Monday, September 08, 2008

Houston v. Steelers:
The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

There are occasions, infrequent though they may be, when even a fan of the Steelers is satisfied. To say that finding something for the "Ugly" section was difficult is an understatement.

The Good
  1. The offensive line has been the object of some concern amongst the Steelers' faithful so it is just that, in the aftermath of a fairly dominant performance, we salute them first. Other than a blown assignment in the second quarter that allowed Mario Williams to get a clean shot on Ben Roethlisberger (which resulted in the fumble return that setup the Texans' first score), the offensive line was very nearly flawless. In fact the job that Marel Smith did on Mr. Williams was marvelous! The outcome of the game was hardly in doubt at halftime, but whatever doubt did exist was squashed in the third quarter when, in two possessions, the Steelers rushed the football on fifteen of their nineteen plays in the quarter, gained 108 rushing yards in the quarter, and had 11:26 of possession time. For one week the group of Marvel Smith, Chris Kemoeatu, Justin Hartwig, Kendal Simmons, and Willie Colon transcended sports to become something closer to art.

  2. The play of the linebackers ~ specifically LaMarr Woodley (3 tackles, 1 sack, 2 tackles for a loss, 1 interception, 1 recovered fumble) and James Harrison (6 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 quarterback hits besides the sacks, 1 forced fumble) ~ had visions of Joey Porter, Greg Lloyd, Jack Lambert, et al dancing in the heads of the Steelers' faithful. The play of this unit was at the very core of an overwhelming display of defensive prowess not captured in the statistics. Indeed, it was the ability of the Steelers' defense to hold Houston to a field goal, following the fumble recovery and run by Houston, that was the turning point in the game.

  3. Another aspect of the Steelers' play that has been justifiably criticized over the years has been their special teams; and given that Houston had excellent return teams in 2007 it was something that was a concern coming into this game. However, rather than the 26.5 yards per kick return that they averaged last season, on six kick returns Sunday the Texans were limited to 18.7 yards. The punt team also did a terrific job, limiting Houston to 2.5 yards per return on two punt returns. The decision to mix-up their kicks (i.e. regular, line drive, pooch) and the ability of Mitch Berger to kick with his coverage (on three punts he had a gross average of 43.0 yards and a net average of 41.3 yards) was . . . remarkable, at least compared to Steelers special teams play of years past.
The Bad
  1. Why in the world did the Steelers actually hand the ball off on the final play of the first half? What if the ball had been fumbled, or Willie Parker had been injured? Hey Bruce Arians, order the kneel down next time (in a game like this one, with the Steelers performing as they did, there is pretty slim pickings for bad stuff).
The Ugly
  1. Sure it's nitpicking, but the fourth quarter defense was pathetic. That's what fifteen minutes of prevent defense looks like, and we didn't care for it one bit. If the Steelers defense cannot do a better job of matching up athletically with opponents (i.e. their ability to stop teams is all about the scheme) then they are going to struggle mightily with the better teams in the league.

  2. It was fourth quarter play in a blow out but we could not help but feel that Byron Leftwich was auditioning for a more permanent place on the Steelers' roster ~ and did not do much to make us believe that Charlie Batch should be let go. Mr. Leftwich's 0-for-4 performance, and general inability to spark any life into the offense, causes us to hope that recent reports that the Steelers are exploring an injury settlement with Mr. Batch for the purpose of releasing him are nothing more than rumor.

  3. Houston's backup quarterback Sage Rosenfels was the only active player for either team not to make it into the game ~ is he hurt or just that bad?
Conclusion
This game represents further evidence that the preseason is utterly meaningless.

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