When I first learned that it was a possible Buffalo stampede headed towards Heinz Field, I immediately became concerned for the fans, players and anyone that might be in the path of a disaster waiting to happen. By all accounts, Pittsburgh was not equipped to handle such a scenario. What measures could be taken to prevent a catastrophe?
If last Saturday’s “scrimmage” is any indication of things to come, I would suggest that the trainers of the Buffalo Bills circus, along with their recently spotted diva Terrell Owens, steer clear of the venue sitting on the banks of the Allegheny with its mustard colored seats. If they run through the Steel City too often they may end up on the endangered species list.
Hey look, even if this was just a supposedly “meaningless” encounter then the Bills performed like the contest was not even a blip on their radar screen because they definitely did not play as if they were the descendants of “Buffalo” Bill Cody.
C’mon. The yardage gained by the team from the “blizzard belt” was sort of high school-ish. The Bills had 135 total net yards from scrimmage. I have a sneaking suspicion that the McKeesport Tigers high school football squad might have performed a tad better than that. A team, any team should be able to gain more than 49 yards on the ground and 86 yards through the air, even a pick-up street ball team playing in the “turkey bowl” on Thanksgiving Day.
Pittsburgh, on the other hand, gained 81 yards rushing and 278 yards passing, which surprised me because hey, it’s still preseason. The men of Steel appear to be getting ready to make another run to put the seventh Lombardi Trophy over on the South Side. Pittsburgh seems to have solid players defensively on their first and second teams.
When Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was asked to evaluate his team’s performance he did just that saying; “We had a pre-snap penalty on offense, delay of game [and a] false start. We had a pre-snap penalty on defense. We put the ball on the ground, I like the way we’re moving it. I see some good things, but still see some things that where the Steelers are still beating the Steelers.”
The one facet of the offense that definitely seems promising is the O-line starting to jell and the return of speedster, “Fast” Willie Parker who still, by the way, holds the record for the longest run from scrimmage in Super Bowl history. I actually heard a few scribes pining for the three yards and a cloud of dust days of former Steelers great Jerome “the Bus” Bettis. Methinks that that they may be losing or have already distributed all of their marbles in a place undisclosed to them or anyone else. Their rationale is based upon these premises. 1. Willie Parker stays hurt a bit too much. 2. The Steelers need a big back. 3. The Steelers need a big back. 4. The Steelers need a big back.
No, you knuckles of heads. The Steelers need an offensive line that can consistently block for a world class like sprinter who is capable of taking it to the house on every play.
Coach Tomlin continued his assessment of the offense saying this about the running game. “I thought that it was solid. We are eliminating negative runs, which is good. I still think that we can do a better job of quality penetration a little bit. Once we get those backs to the line of scrimmage clean we have a chance to have a productive running game.”
The Steelers also appear to have a level and a half of quality performers on the offensive side of the ball. Big Ben Roethlisberger looks as comfortable as I have ever seen him and that does not bode well for the rest of the NFL teams. Although the first team offense got off to a sluggish start they locked in sync when they started to run the no-huddle. When Big Ben was asked whether the offense got off to a slow start he said, “Yeah we did. That last drive was a no-huddle drive, which is good to get a little work in at home. [I’m] really proud the way the guys were able to move the ball and listen to communication. We changed some plays at the line of scrimmage. Overall, [I’m] really happy. We made some mistakes early, but then drove down the field and scored.”
The Pittsburgh defense was as usual the strong and silent type. When linebacker James Farrior was asked to assess the defense, his assessment was a humble one. Farrior said; “I think we did pretty good. There [are] some things that we can improve on.”
Well, I am sure if anyone tells that to the Buffalo Bills they might agree to disagree. The Bills had a few offensive series where they appeared to maybe have had one too many puffs of the peace pipe.
It is safe to assume that if wide receiver Terrell Owens was available for Buffalo, the Bills may have been a little more potent on offense. But that theory may be a little generous as well because when Pittsburgh defeated the last team that Owens had the displeasure of playing for and tormenting, the Dallas Cowboys in December of 2008, T.O. was “jacked” by Ike Taylor and the Pittsburgh secondary catching only 3 balls for 32 yards, one being a 12- yard touchdown pass from Tony Romo after Romo scrambled around for a millennium or two.
It seems as if the Pittsburgh Steelers are ready for some football. The question is will the rest of the NFL be ready for the Pittsburgh Steelers?
(Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org)