Steelers ‘D’ put on a dominating performance in the Sept. 17 home-opener against the Vikings, but don’t sleep on the fiesty Chicago Bears this Sunday at Soldier Field
The Minnesota Vikings sailed into Heinz Field and got their wish. They were methodically manhandled by the Steelers by the score of 26-9, Sept. 17, and were set sailing towards “Valhalla.”
Did yinz guys notice that I didn’t say “sent to Valhalla” as opposed to dispatched toward the Vikings’ paradise?
At the outset, it appeared very, very, unfair that the Norsemen from the slightly-thawed tundra of Minnesota were forced to face the Men of Steel with a practice squad-like unprepared signal caller, Case Keenum, who had very few, if any, first team reps and only learned on the morning of the game that he would be starting. Vikings starter Sam Bradford, who has “china doll” tendencies, had come up with a bum knee.
The Steelers now have the third-ranked defense in the NFL, allowing 237.5 yards per game. The 13.5 points per game they’ve allowed is good enough for sixth-best in the league.
However, there were a few elements that should concern Steeler Nation in regards to the performance of the Steelers. First and foremost, there should not have been any drama associated with the Vikings game; not in the first, second, third or fourth quarter. No apprehension of any kind should have been associated with this game. However, the most honorable Charlie Chan says “not so fast.” The Steelers’ opening game against the Cleveland Browns (on the road), the Vikings (at home) and their upcoming contest vs. the Chicago Bears (Sept. 24 in Chicago) should just be mere tune-ups preparing to face their archenemies, the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium in B-more on October 1. If the Steelers have any more rust to remove from the offense and the defense, they had better pull out the steel wool and Rust-Oleum and get to crackin’. Because after they depart from the Windy City, win or lose, there will be no time to get it right. So far the Steelers are 2-0 and are the co-leaders of the AFC North. But during that period, they have faced a rookie quarterback in Cleveland, DeShone Kizer, and a second-string journeyman QB for the Vikings in Case Keenum. Next up for the Steelers is Bears QB Mike Glennon, a fifth-year player out of N.C. State. Glennon’s stats for his first two starts of 2017 are not atrocious, having completed 57 of 85 passes for 514 yards with a 67.1 completion percentage. And if not for the turnovers committed by Chicago at crucial points in those two games, they would have been far more competitive and could be 2-0, and at worst, 1-1. If the Steelers sleep on the Bears, the Steelers themselves might be put to sleep.
During the next few weeks they will be facing the Ravens, Jaguars, Chiefs and Bengals, all with very experienced starting QBs. When the lights are turned down in Baltimore after the Steelers and Ravens have completed “bloodbath two” on the first day of October, Pittsburgh will have completed a quarter of the season. There can be no excuses such as, “Martavis Bryant still is not up to snuff after his long layoff” or, “If the ball had not have been tipped, Ben Roethlisberger would not have been intercepted.” There can be no more numerous missed tackles, blown coverages, unnecessary sacks allowed or any other nonsensical crutches offered for failure. The Steelers have a far higher than average reservoir of young talent on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, but the window for the veteran Steelers to hoist a Lombardi over their heads is closing fast, maybe too fast for comfort.
(Aubrey Bruce can be reached at abruce@newpittsburgh courier.com or 412-583-6741.)
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