When you’re a fan of an organization as consistently successful as the Pittsburgh Steelers, you’re not accustomed to weeks like this. You don’t expect to get to listen to hours of sports talk radio dominated by talk that the Steelers are too old, too slow, and finished. It’s not often that you almost start to avoid SportsCenter or Pardon the Interruption because you’re tired of hearing about the preceding week. There just aren’t that many of these weeks in the lives of Steelers’ fans (well, every damn day is like this when you’re a Pirates’ fan, but that’s an entirely different matter).
Well, the page has officially turned. For as bad as the carnage was in Baltimore, it was only one game, and this week the Steelers get a visit from the woeful Seattle Seahawks, a team that for a number of reasons should be the perfect tonic for what is ailing the Steelers. Here are 5 things to look at as the Steelers seek to return to normalcy and make all be right with the world again.
1. Tavaris Jackson, meet Dick LeBeau. This is Seattle QB Tavaris Jackson’s 6th season in the NFL, and Sunday will be the 38th NFL game in which Jackson has played. Jackson, however, has never faced the Pittsburgh Steelers or Dick LeBeau, creating a situation that seldom ends well for opposing QB’s.
Initially, Jackson sucks. The fact that Pete Carroll thinks he can actually get by and win games with this guy behind center is the epitome of arrogance or lack of awareness (or some dastardly combination of the two). Jackson isn’t accurate, particularly when throwing downfield, and he could not be less prepared to attack the shaky Steelers’ secondary. Add in the absence of Sidney Rice, well, Jackson starts behind the 8-ball.
In addition to Jackson’s suckitude, QB’s in the situation of facing the Steelers for the first time generally fare poorly. QB’s making their first ever start against the Steelers were 1-7 last year, with the sole win coming from Mark Sanchez in a game in which Sanchez threw for 190 yards and 0 TD’s. Matt Ryan, Josh Freeman, Colt McCoy, Jason Campbell, and Jimmy Claussen combined for exactly 1 TD in 5 games against the Steelers in their inaugural starts in 2010, and all but Claussen are somewhere between somewhat better and way better than Tavaris Jackson is.
2. The Steelers tend to bounce back. As noted earlier, as a Steelers fan you don’t have too many weeks that are spent licking your wounds. On the few occasions where it has happened the last few years, however, there is a quick and decisive correction the following week:
- In 2008, the Steelers lost only 2 games by 9 or more points – September 21 in Philly and December 21 in Tennessee. The Steelers won the following week each time, beating the Ravens the week after Philadelphia and blowing out the Browns the week after being embarrassed by Tennessee (speaking of, how’s that career gone since that game, Lendale?)
- In 2009, the Steelers went 9-7, but 5 of those losses were by a FG. The only time they lost by 7 that season, a Thursday night debacle in Cleveland that capped the inexplicable 5-game losing streak that destroyed the season, they bounced back to beat Green Bay in what was probably the best regular season game played in 2009 in the NFL.
- In 2010, the Steelers were beaten by double digits twice – in New Orleans and at home against New England. The Steelers won the games following those two losses by an average of 19 points.
The Steelers don’t get blown out often. When it does happen, however, it does not linger – the team is 6-0 the past 3 seasons after losing by more than a TD the preceding week.
3. Adding injury to insult. In the immediate aftermath of the game in Baltimore, one of the few saving graces was the fact that no one got hurt. Well, not so much. On Monday it was announced that RT Willie Colon tore his triceps, and he has since undergone season-ending surgery and been placed on IR. Colon, recipient of a 5-year, $28 million contract this offseason, will have played in a grand total of 3 1/2 quarters since the end of the 2009 season when he reports to St. Vincent next July for training camp. Rookie 2nd round pick Marcus Gilbert will start in place of Colon. Most Steelers’ fans, including myself, don’t mind seeing Gilbert get a shot in the starting lineup, but the hope was that it would be in place of LT Jonathan Scott. Scott was beaten like a drum by Terrell Suggs on Sunday, by the way, and to say that Suggs owns Scott is a woeful understatement. In any event, Gilbert gets the first chance to replace Colon. If it goes poorly, don’t be surprised to see Flozell Adams get another phone call, but as of now, the plan is to go with Gilbert.
4. Can Seattle replicate what the Ravens did? Of all of the things that occurred in Baltimore, the most concerning by a wide margin was the manner in which Ray Rice gashed the Steelers run defense for 107 yards. Rice became the first RB to crack 100 yards (or even 70 yards) against the Steelers since Rice did late in the 2009 season. Can the Seahawks replicate this success?
Unlikely. Initially, Seattle struggled to move the ball last week against the 49′ers, totalling only 209 yards against a defense that was mediocre in 2010. Marshawn Lynch finished with 13 carries for 33 yards, and Lynch is more of a straight-ahead runner who, while possessing good vision and decent cut-back ability, is not the type of runner that has given the Steelers fits, a la Ray Rice or Fred Taylor, namely a shifty, cut-back specialist who catches the ball out of the backfield as an extension of the running game. Justin Forsett may actually be more effective on Sunday given his pass-catching ability and shifty, cut-back style.
5. Prediction, take two. While I believed the game in Baltimore was dangerous due to the motivational advantages possessed by the Ravens, I predicted the Steelers would find a way. Not so much. This week, however, the Steelers are pretty much everyone’s pick in their Eliminator/Suicide/Survivor/Knockout pool, and the line has crept up to 15 points. This was a bad matchup for Seattle anyway, given their struggles on the road (5-21 in their past 26 road games), their lack of big-play ability in the passing game (Jackson sucks and Rice is out), and a secondary that was horrific in 2010 that will face the Steelers’ abundance of WR’s with big-play ability. Add in the fact that the Steelers are pissssssssssssssssssssssssed over what happened last week, it is just very difficult to envision a scenario where this thing is close. Steelers 31-6.