For those of you (in Cincinnati) wondering, we are dey.
Actually, with this being the 7th consecutive win by the Steelers at Paul Brown Stadium (including the infamous Kimo/Palmer knee injury playoff game), the team should officially change their name to the Pittsburgh Deys. Pittsburgh fans have cheered the Steelers for 75 years, I can see another 75 years of rooting for the Deys.
Big divisional win for the Deys...I mean Steelers. Coming off the debacle in Denver, the team needed to prove that they could win on the road against a far inferior D. The 24-13 win appeared to prove that point.
Tale of the tape: Balanced, low-risk win. Underlying theme: Enough muscle to make Magnus Samuelsson proud.
Sure, the Denver game featured guys named Polamalu, Hampton and Ward, but they hardly showed up. The rust was gone for all of these players on Sunday.
There wasn't a bunch of highlight-worthy clips, just pure football dominance. Several of the post-game shows (CBS, Fox) merely mentioned the score, then moved to sexier highlights with tight scores and big plays. Go ahead, CBS and Fox, show those Peyton Manning or Brandon Jacobs highlights. We'll see how far those take their teams come late-December. Personally, I'll put my money in a D that still refuses to concede 100 yards to any particular rusher.
With that being said, we dissect.
Benji. Needs to be said...that movie ruled. It was on TV the other day and I watched it so hard. Cinematography at it's finest. On to our Benji...#7 made plays when he needed to against Cincy. Ben tried to go down field too much in Denver, and the risk/reward ratio is very slim with a D that houses Dre Bly. In Cincy, Ben toned down the passing attack, kept the deep ball to a minimum, and used his feet to extend plays. I don't care who you are, that recipe is perfect for Big Ben. The deep ball to San Antonio worked because Ben pulled the defender away with a solid pump fake. With that fake, the reward end of the risk/reward ratio skyrocketed. Ben kept the pump fake working all game, especially on Hines' first TD, when he was wide open in the front corner of the endzone. Mix all that with the beautiful escapability that caused the Bungles so many headaches, and Ben kept it simple enough to make the game manageable, then made the plays to put it away. 19/26 for 230 yards and 2 scores. The interception comes with the territory (escaping the pocket and forcing a play), so Ben ends with 4 out of 5 motorcycle helmets.
Heir-Bus. Saying this has gotten so old/cliche, but how did Willie Parker get no playing time at UNC and slip to free agency? I saw an interview with Art Rooney II, and he said that in today's NFL, a WR with John Stallworth's skill would not slip to the 4th round, as he did in '74. Apparently, Rooney was wrong, because no NFL team (aside from the Steelers) even knew who Willie Parker was when he left the Tar Heels. That allowed the team to pick up Parker without using a draft pick, and now every other team is left scratching their heads. 22 rushes for 126 yards and a score. Those are mind-boggling numbers for an undrafted free agent. The only active undrafted free agent RB with more career rushing yards than Fast Bill is Priest Holmes. Its only a matter of time before Willie overtakes Holmes. He deflated the Bengals with or without blockers in front of him, and his speed just destroyed any hope of a Cincinnati win. 5 of 5 motorcycle helmets for the Heir-Bus.
Dan Sepulveda. 1 punt. Little Sepulveda involvement means good things are happening. 4 of 5 helmets for the 37 yard punt.
Anthony Smith. Nothing but good things to say about Smith. Its unfortunate that Ryan Clark is battling spleen issues. However, games like this might ease the transition from Ryan Clark to Anthony Smith at Free Safety. Smith had 10 tackles, leading the team. Plus, when Anthony Smith hits you, you'll feel it. The dude was poppin' errbody that touched the ball, and even Ocho-Cinco was seen congratulating Smith on a solid hit. Troy Polamalu didn't want the team to get rid of Chris Hope after the Super Bowl, citing chemistry between the two safeties. Hopefully, Anthony Smith can keep playing at this level to create his own chemistry with #43. 5 of 5 motorcycle helmets for a well-executed game.
Everyone Else. Yeah, I usually only pick a few players to highlight, but the whole team played an outstanding game. Jeff Reed made the FG he was given, Casey Hampton was regularly spotted in the backfield disrupting plays, Hines had 2 TDs. James Harrison played an outstanding game, what with 5 tackles and the forced fumble/fumble recovery. All facets of the team were clicking, save for Special Teams coverage on ensuing kicks. I know Glenn Holt had 5 kickoff returns, but there is no reason that he should gain 141 return yards. As long as the entire team tightens up Special Teams coverage and gets more pressure on guys like Carson Palmer, then Pittsburgh needs to be looked at as an elite team in the AFC. None of that "Second Tier" bs behind Indy and New England. The Steelers are 5-2 and are looking good in the AFC North. 4 of 5 helmets for everyone else.
Bring on the Ravens and Jesus Lewis. I can't wait for the divisional lead to be even greater.