1 and 0, baby! All around, that was a fantastic way to start the regular season. I actually felt weird during the game, because I couldn't find many faults to criticize in this, the regular season premiere of MMCNY. Honestly, any/all criticisms are ridiculously minor this week. If we continue to play like this week in and week out, there should be no excuses/losses.
Tale of the tape: Cleveland Steamer. Underlying theme: Highlight plays = Comfortable wins.
I've never been a fan of the showboat-y types, and would rather see smash mouth football played by humble warriors. However, the highlight plays (interceptions, sacks, fumble recoveries, deep passes, breakaway runs, etc.) are a great way to separate a good team from a dominant team. A team can be comfortable with close games and just doing enough to win, but I want to see my team absolutely destroy the opposition. I don't want to have to worry about the sheer possibility of losing. A Steelers loss means I am in a horrible mood for the entire week (and that will reflect in my writing). Now, this is PSaMP's first go-around for Steelers season, so you (the reader) have yet to experience that. I can assure you, though, that I will not be a happy camper if/when (I'm emphasizing if) the Steelers put up an L. The highlight plays really put this game away.
No, Troy Polamalu didn't intercept Charlie Frye on the Brown's opening possession, but the D stepped up, and the O took over right away in Cleveland territory. Actually, that happened a lot this game. With all the short fields, Big Ben's passing yards were down, but his touchdowns were way up.
So let's look at the highs and lows. Here's a bit of foreshadowing...there aren't many lows when you absolutely dominate your rival (can we still call them that?)
Ben Roethlisberger. Did '06 happen? Large Ben showed everyone why '07 will be more like '05 rather than '06. Finishing 12 for 23 for 161 yards...eh. However, when 1/3 of those completions are touchdowns, then you know something is working. Ben created a healthy blend of downfield passes with underneath check-downs. The check-downs outweighed the bombs, a main reason why he only threw for a buck sixty. That, and he barely played in the fourth quarter. In the first quarter, Ben would've gotten 5 helmets. However, to end the second quarter, Ben missed his last nine straight pass attempts. The receivers were to blame on several of those nine, so Ben gets one helmet per touchdown toss. 4 of 5 motorcycle helmets for Enormous Ben.
San Antonio Holmes. (How many times did Kevin Harlan call him that?) This guy is gonna be a beast. Simple as that. The dude's a weapon, and displayed his sophomore maturity all game. He threw a few keen blocks, had an 11 yard run (I'll forgive the fumble at the end if it isn't repeated) and got wide open for a 40 yard touchdown catch. We haven't had a speed receiver like Santonio since Plax, and the combo uses of Homes and Wilson lets Bruce Arians call 'Twaan-like gimmick plays. Holmes is a component of this offense that can really make the team dynamic. Hold onto the ball, and the you can help the Steelers compete in the rough AFC North. 4 of 5 motorcycle helmets for the beast.
D. Wow. I love when the experts put all their money behind excuses like "The loss of Joey Porter is really going to hurt this D." I don't know of anyone who said that specifically...its more of a general bone that I needed to pick. The D looked ferocious all day. 6 sacks by 6 different players and 5 turnovers...you can't really expect a defense to give (I guess take would be a better word) any more. 5 of 5 motorcycle helmets. That was Super Bowl-winning defense being displayed. A closer look at two players below...
Deshea Townsend and Ryan Clark. Early on, I was impressed by Deshea and Ryan. Both guys have been on the hot seat, with the popular notion around Steelers Nation being that Bryant McFadden and Anthony Smith, respectively, would step into their starting roles. Deshea played some tight coverage, and benefitted from a poorly-thrown Charlie Frye pass attempt. The old cat showed some moves, and was able to return it for 21 yards. Clark, on the other hand, came flying in on Frye's blind side, recording the sack and forcing the ball out of the QB's throwing hand. He added 3 tackles, and put a couple of hits on Kellen Winslow. For keeping the younger guys at bay, Deshea and Ryan each get 4 of 5 motorcycle helmets...or a combined 8 of 10!
Dan Sepulveda. Does anyone want to question the Steelers for drafting a punter to replace Chris "The Unblockable" Gardocki? This Aussie-style punter is showing why he was chosen as the Gardocki replacement by continually pinning the Browns deep. His style is different from the majority of NFL punters, but how often do rookies come in and pin 4 of 6 punts behind the 20? He's getting some massive english on the ball, and its bouncing how he wants it to bounce. I can't do that. Neither can you. Sepulveda gets 5 of 5 motorcycle helmets. Good job, rook.
Oh, and Mason Crosby, PSaMP's pick in AA's Sportsblogger's Mock Draft, kicked the game-winning field goal for the Pack over the Eagles (as well as an earlier 53 yarder). I told yinz that he was gonna be good. Compliments will be accepted at any time.
These are the players/aspects that stood out the most in my mind. Feel free to add your own thoughts and observations (and there's plenty more, I know) from the hellhole that is Cleveland.