- The way we won this game reminded me of the way we would win games during Ben’s rookie season when we went 15-1. High efficiency from the passing game and Ben (13/14, 137 yards, 2 TD’s), a strong ground game (183 yards rushing), and suffocating defense. The only difference is, that used to be the game plan out of necessity. The current version of Ben Roethlisberger is fully capable of winning a shootout against the likes of Peyton Manning and Tony Romo, and at some point this season we’re going to need him to do exactly that. But for one day at least, it was the Pittsburgh Steelers circa 2004.
- Any lingering doubts about Willie Parker’s mended leg were squelched after this game. He showed his trademark speed (witness how he beat everyone to the corner on his first touchdown) and looked like the Willie of old. Parker and Mendenhall provide one of the best one-two punches in the NFL.
- Don’t be disappointed Santonio Holmes finished with meager stats. He’ll get his, sooner or later. The day belonged to Hines Ward. He caught everything thrown his way, found the end zone a couple of times, and just for good measure, threw a great block to seal off the right side and allow enough room for Parker to register the first points of the game. Hines does this all the time… whenever you think that maybe he’s slowing down and the end of his career is near and there’s no way his body can hold up, he comes up with a gem of a game like this.
- Good job by the offensive line. Hartwig is a big improvement over Mahan simply because of the fact that he doesn’t get pushed back into the pocket. Marvel did a pretty good job against Mario Williams, all things considered. Facing a pretty good Texans front seven, they put up close to 200 yards on the ground and only allowed two sacks. That means the O-line was doing something right.
- Two guys stood out on the defensive line. First, Casey Hampton. Was Mahan playing center for the Texans? Casey had his way all day, continually pushing the pocket and stuffing the run. If he can get motivated to play like this every week, this defense is going to be scary good. The other bright spot was Nick Eason. He looked surprisingly quick as he closed in on a sack with James Farrior, and then again on a pass to a Houston running back in the flat.
- What a game by the linebacking crew. James Harrison abused rookie tackle Duane Brown, chipping in with 2.5 sacks. LaMarr Woodley made the play of the day with a one-handed INT, and I was almost convinced he killed Matt Schaub when he came untouched for a sack. He provided very good pressure the rest of the game as well. I’m continually impressed by Lawrence Timmons’s speed each and every week. Harrison-Farrior-Timmons-Woodley. That’s the linebacking corps for at least the next couple of years, and it’s a damn good one.
- Sunday was the first time since October 2006 that Troy had an INT or a sack. Good to see him come up with a “splash play”, as Mike Tomlin likes to say.
- Speaking of Tomlin, that’s now two years in a row that he’s had the team extremely well-prepared on opening day. It’s a nice change of pace from the days of Bill Cowher, where it seemed like the team played like absolute shit at the beginning of each and every year.
- Special Teams, kick and punt coverage in particular, looked great. They gave a talented return man in Andre Davis limited room to make something happen. Let’s hope this trend continues.
- In the offseason, people were quick to mention how difficult the Steelers schedule was. On this very blog I had said that it’s impossible to gauge how difficult a schedule is before the season because so many things change, citing last year’s studs turned duds—the Ravens and Saints. I know it’s only one week, but all of the sudden that schedule doesn’t look as daunting, does it? The Patriots lost Tom Brady, the Browns secondary is a mess, the Jaguars have lost their three interior offensive lineman for an extended period of time and looked terrible against Tennessee, the Colts lost to a team led by Kyle Orton (at home, no less), and the Chargers are banged up and lost to a Carolina Panthers team missing their best player (like the Colts, at home).
AROUND THE NFL:
Redskins-Giants: Jim Zorn must have slept through the hurry-up offense portion of his “Football Coaching 101” class.
Lions-Falcons: The Lions allowed the Falcons to churn out over 300 yards rushing. No NFL defense should be that inept. That’s embarrassing, folks.
Bengals-Ravens: Can anyone argue that Carson Palmer is a better quarterback than Ben Roethlisberger, and actually keep a straight face?
Seahawks-Bills: Roscoe Parrish is a bad motherfucker. That punt return TD was a thing of beauty.
Jets-Dolphins: Former Aliquippa and Pitt star Darrelle Revis with a great one-handed pick to end the game.
Chiefs-Patriots: No injury could have altered the landscape of the NFL more than Tom Brady’s. The AFC (hell, the AFC East) is now wide open.
Buccaneers-Saints: Big win for the Saints, toppling last year’s division winner and re-establishing their presence in the NFC South.
Rams-Eagles: Scott Linehan might not last through the season. Oh, and Donovan McNabb looked great. That matchup with the Eagles in week 3 is not going to be easy, not by any stretch.
Jaguars-Titans: Swapping Kerry Collins for Vince Young makes the Titans a better team.
Cowboys-Browns: Ben Roethlisberger, Hines Ward, and Santonio Holmes must be licking their chops at the prospect of facing the Browns secondary next week.
Panthers-Chargers: Carolina is on their way to making my wild-card prediction for them look good.
Cardinals-49ers: I have nothing to say about this snoozefest.
Bears-Colts: Was it me, or did Peyton Manning look “off” on Sunday night?
Vikings-Packers: They won the game, but in my mind it doesn’t matter what Aaron Rodgers does. For Packers fans, nothing will be good enough because he’s not Brett Favre.
Broncos-Raiders: Pat’s sleeper team isn’t looking too good right now.