at Pittsburgh -4.5 NY Jets 43 -235 +195
Projected Win Probability: 68.13%
Similar to last season, the Steelers bounced back from a disappointing week 1 loss with a resounding home opener win. However, unlike beating Seattle as two touchdown favorites in 2011, the Steelers dominated a more evenly matched 1-0 Jets team the final three quarters in route to a 27-10 victory.
Ben Roethlisberger and the new Todd Haley’s offense shined, peaking with a thrilling 10:13 touchdown drive in the 4th quarter that sealed the victory. That was the Steelers longest drive since 2007 and helped bump the Steelers’ average time of possession to 35:51. Roethlisberger played one of his more efficient games, generating a 150.3 deljzc rating and produced a very good 27 points on 9 meaningful possessions. Just as important, Roethlisberger again for the most part avoided taking unnecessary punishments (3 sacks and 3 QB hits total). That’s an acceptable total vs. a Rex Ryan coached defense in my opinion.
One area needing improvement is the run game, which still looks like a work in progress. Similar to last week, the efficiency stats are poor (27 running back carries for 57 yards) but there was no panic with Haley’s playcalling. In that final ten minute drive the team had 5 successful runes out of 7 attempts, which is cause for optimism. This included three straight successful runs to finish the drive starting at 1st and 10 at the 13 yard line. More than anything, when Mike Tomlin and Art Rooney talk about improving the run game, it is in these types of situations (leading and looking to grind out the game).
While I appreciate Isaac Redman’s work ethic, Jonathan Dwyer is showing superior running talent and has earned his split of carries (each had 12 rushes this week). Dwyer has better success rate numbers over the first two weeks (52% vs. 26%) and fewer stops behind the line of scrimmage (2 vs. 5). It will be curious to see how the touches get split moving forward, both now and when Mendenhall returns. Knowing Mike Tomlin, the first fumble lost by either player could make a huge difference in play time as the season moves on. Dwyer has greatly improved by losing weight and playing at 225 lbs. this season. To me, that has always been his ideal play weight and helps him with speed and cutting ability. Dwyer also looks like a type of back that could get better with more carries. This is not a bash on Redman, but there is part of me that would like to see what happens if Dwyer is ever forced into a bellcow roll for four quarters.
Defensively, we still haven’t played a game with Harrison, Woodley and Polamalu on the field together (one of my keys to the season). This week both Harrison and Polamalu were out and early in the game it looked troubling as the Jets put up a quick 10 points. But the defense adjusted and locked down Mark Sanchez for the remainder of the game (at times in dominant fashion). Good games by the secondary (Clark/Taylor) and Lamarr Woodley up front (1 sack and 2 hurries) contributed to the effort.
Maybe most important was how physical the Steelers played throughout. For right or wrong, big helmet to helmet collisions to Shawn Green and Mark Sanchez (the latter illegal) effected momentum in the game. In this regard the game was very Mike Tomlin-like and very Steelers-like. Not sure we can keep it up for 16 weeks and remain healthy enough for the playoffs, but that’s what we do.
In fact, looking forward to our game at Oakland next week, one of the most important keys to the game will be to keep the physical intensity high. The Raiders are a big, athletic team and if we aren’t prepared mentally or have a letdown after the Jets, could be trouble. As for many west coast trips, I would hope the coaches simplify the game plan this week and concentrate more on fundamentals (protect the ball, clean tackles, avoid penalties) than complicated schemes to stop an inferior team. If Roethlisberger plays a clean, even conservative game and avoids taking a pounding. If the defense prevents the big plays like they are taught to do. I don’t see Carson Palmer grinding out long drives nor putting up 24 points that it will take to beat us.
This game will only get away from us if the team isn’t focused and looking too forward to the upcoming week off. It will only get away from us if we give them cheap points via interceptions, fumbles or special teams breakdowns. So far Haley’s offense hasn’t allowed that to happen.
I hate to be so confident, but this is a game we shouldn’t lose and my expectations are even higher than what Vegas is telling me (Steelers are favored -4). I see a huge coaching advantage (Haley vs. Oakland defense and Lebeau vs. Carson Palmer) that should be exploited for our benefit.
NFL Power Rankings
Power Rankings are based on who I would think would be favored on a neutral field if they played this week.
1. San Francisco 49ers (2-0)
2. Green Bay Packers (1-1)
3. Houston Texans (2-0)
4. Baltimore Ravens (1-1)
5. New England Patriots (1-1)
6. Atlanta Falcons (2-0)
7. Philadelphia Eagles (2-0)
8. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1)
9. Denver Broncos (1-1)
10. New York Giants (1-1)