No redemption this time.
Not the way I really want to start a season's-worth of recaps. That game was a great battle between Pittsburgh's possession and Denver's quick scores, and 1 mistake ended it. Down 6 with 3+ on the clock is usually a given, only Ben tried to thread a pass to a well-covered Manny Sanders. 6 points the other way and that was pretty much it. Tracy Porter, a guy routinely picked on in New Orleans ends a potential Peyton Manning Super Bowl with a pick-6, and gives Manning his first Broncos win in the same fashion. That sucks.
I was hoping for a patented Roethlisberger late-game score to win it for the Steelers, if only for an end to the Manning gush-fest coming from Al Michaels and Chris Collinsworth. But it was not to be. Long season ahead, might as well take this sobering loss right away and work up from the bottom.
Ben: Played an altogether good game in quarters 2 and 3. The late pick was the killer, but his other glaring mistake was not getting 7 deep in the red zone on the Steelers first scoring drive. He had a throw or 2 that needed a bit more touch and left critical points on the field. He's gonna need to shake off that INT and change the red zone efficiency, because we'll need him to sling it to win games if we insist on sticking with Isaac Redman's 2 yards a carry when it's clearly not working 10 carries ago. 3 of 5 motorcycle helmets.
RBs: Speaking of Redman, I love the guy and his running style, but the "we're getting back to Steelers running football" needs to go out the window a lot earlier. Ben made up for a lot of broken running plays with a pretty nice 3rd down coversion rate via the air. And while we've thankfully gotten rid of the Bruce Arians bubble screen, it seems like the shotgun-delayed-handoff is the new ridiculous scheme being beaten into the ground. It works when it's a surprise play, not when it's thrown out there 2 of every 3 runs. Dwyer went beast mode often, and they finally threw Chris Rainey out there for a run to the outside late...too late. 2.5 of 5 motorcycle helmets. Dwyer himself could get a 3.5 or so, maybe a 4 if his knee isn't down on that almost-stunning TD, but the rest of the ground attack and its failure brings the total down.
Defense: Up and down. It's tough to watch the team sack Manning a few times early, only to not even lay a finger on him when the game mattered most. The early fumble recovery was a gift. The team misses Ryan Clark, probably moreso than James Harrison. Both guys open up more opportunities for Polamalu and Woodley, respectively. Holding the Broncos to 3 points after 1st and goal late was perfect timing for vintage Steelers D to show up, so they can't be blamed for the ending result of the pick-6, naturally. Yet I can't help but think of their befuddled look during Manning's no-huddle, and complete lack of game-changing highlight plays. The team had such a low turnover percentage last season, and that can't happen for a second-consecutive season. 3 of 5 helmets and I'm just moving on.
Manny Sanders: Just a quick note, but if he can stay healthy, Manny is gonna have a big year. Ben knows it, probably why he stared Sanders down and tried to squeeze a ball in on that pick-6. 4 of 5 motorcycle helmets. I needed to recognize a positive or I'm gonna go insane.
Jets in Pittsburgh next week. As a resident of NYC, I'm not looking forward to the coming week of hyperbole after New York's win over the Bills.
(thanks to Doug for the banner pic)