Is it me or do you smell the aroma of “soul food” coming from the friendly confines of Heinz Field? Are the pierogies and collard greens finally having the desired effect on the Pittsburgh Steelers? The Black and Gold were thoroughly embarrassed at Heinz Field by the New England Patriots. They were partially embarrassed by a B-More Ravens offense that administered a Michael Jackson “Thriller-like” spanking at the house of “moo-stard” when the left side of the Steelers secondary played like a wax encrusted round of finely aged Swiss cheese. At that point the “home cuisine” did not seem to be quite spicy enough. There is one thing that is very noticeable about the Steelers defense. When they decide to sit back and play “prevent” defense, the only thing they stop is themselves from winning the football game.
Okay, Carson Palmer ain’t no Tom Brady but c’mon he still was a first round draft choice out of fabled USC, (University of Southern California). And yes he is still a bonafide NFL QB. Now get this, Brady was selected with pick No. 199 in the sixth round of the 2000 draft. So see folks, it is not about pedigree, it is about perseverance, purpose and last but not least, coaching. The reason Brady and the Patriots are in an elite class is because of preparation, persistence and probability. The Patriots, excluding their cheating past, have always, (and I do not care what the haters say or think) at least under Bill Belichick been extremely well prepared. They are comfortable understanding what they are doing and appear to delegate more time deciphering what the opposition is doing or not doing. Bill Belichick would rather exploit your weaknesses first and foremost. He can always get back to his strengths. When he does he wants to make sure that you have no positives left. He does not want to demoralize your team for a particular game; he wants to psychologically batter your squad and place the albatross of a “generational” curse around your neck. He doesn’t care if you beat everyone else; his only concern is that you, your coaches, fans, janitors, and ball boys be filled with anxiety and concern when preparing to face him.
His second order of business is to attack the strength of your offense. If you are a great passing team but a mediocre running team, he will not even start a game with eight men in the box. He will play tight coverage or disguised cover two to take away your passing strong points. Why would he allow you to throw the ball when that is your comfort zone? Belichick wants to take away your assets so that you have nothing left to fall back on.
When the Patriot’s beat the Steelers earlier this season, they did not come out hurting themselves, determined to prove that they possessed a running game with a hump of egotism and machismo on their backs. No, Brady threw eight and ten yard passes until the Steelers were vomiting and dizzied. The Patriots did not take what the Steelers gave them; they exploited a very glaring and blaring weakness. New England used the pass to set up the run, not vice-versa.
When the Patriots defeated the St. Louis Rams in XXXVI, they were of course “visually” aided, but no matter what you do and how you coach the game plan still must be executed.
The Patriots put “mad” pressure on Kurt Warner and forced him to throw quick minimum yardage gaining passes. Rams receivers were getting whacked around as if they were running backs. By the time they reached the mid-point of the third quarter the Rams receivers were battered, bruised and bloody. Forget about winning or losing, they just wanted to find a hot tub and a warm bed. The Steelers must mirror that defensive strategy for the remainder of their opponents in 2010. Also, Pittsburgh cannot afford to play 10+ yards off any opponent’s receivers because if they do quick slants behind the linebackers and in front of the corners and safeties, completions will be easy pickin’s for Brady, Phillip Rivers, Peyton Manning or any other quarterback with a reasonable football “I.Q.”
All the “tough” G.I. Joe types are spewing their usual pre-post season rhetoric. “You must play great defense and run the football because of the weather and time of possession,” ya know all of the traditional methods of being successful in the NFL. Well there is a new sheriff in town and he goes by the name of “5 wides empty backfield.” You do not have to have a perfect running game but by golly you do have to have offensive stability and the ability to score some points. Defense wins championships but offense gets you there. For the Steelers to advance to Dallas to play for this year’s version of the Lombardi Trophy, they had better have an above average passing game, an above average pass defense and tons of rabbit’s feet, a few cloves of garlic, and a 18-wheeler full of mojo.
(Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-583-6741.)