Revenge is a dish best served cold or, sometimes, wet. Playing in a steady downpour, the Pittsburgh Steelers crushed the New England Patriots 33-10 in their most dominating win of the season. The almost biblical rainstorm drenching the field was oddly symbolic as if the heavens above were trying to wash the rotten stink of Bill Belichick from the landscape of the NFL.
Make no mistake, this was the Steelers finest performance of the year. The Massholes, as is their modus operandi, will come up with 101 reasons why this game shouldn’t count but considering most of them weren’t aware they had a team until 2001, ignore their excuse-making. Why just last week those same dimwits were throwing their franchise QB overboard while anointing Matt Cassel the Chosen One. If that doesn’t show you the amount of ignorance we’re dealing with, Cassel’s sloppy and inept play should. Whatever terribly run franchise, I’m guessing the Detroit Lions, that empties the bank to sign this guy is going to be really disappointed when they discover their shiny new sports car is a lemon.
Cassel was coming off two 400 yard passing performances which led to the ridiculous level of hysteria surrounding his play. That those performances came against mediocre Miami and Jets (watch as everybody jumps off that bandwagon this week) defenses seemed to escape the no-nothing talking heads who are, you know, paid to analyze football. Granted, the Steeler defense isn’t your typical defense. It’s an unrelenting machine. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.
Where to begin with the beautiful violence displayed on Sunday afternoon. Defenders stormed in on Cassel from all angles, finishing the game with 5 sacks. James Harrison cemented his place as the BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER IN FOOTBALL adding 2 more sacks to his league leading total, both of which caused fumbles. LaMarr Woodley chipped in with one of his own while Casey Hampton, moments after being flagged for a ridiculous holding call, showed why you do not piss off the Fat Man by promptly squashing Cassel on the next play. Troy Polamalu was all over the field, dropping back and blitzing, culminating in a nice tip-INT to ice the game. Lawrence Timmons, who should be starting at this point, made a sweet pick out in coverage.
Words can’t describe how dominate this defensive performance was. The only score the feeble Patriot offense could manage was when they started at the Steelers 14 after a Ben Roethlisberger interception. They had 5 total yards in the 3rd Quarter. They didn’t convert a third down until late in the 4th. They had 122 rushing yards, about double the 66 which Pittsburgh had been allowing, but that’s misleading. For some reason, the Steelers went to a weird Cover-2/prevent type D late in the first half and the Pats used draws to rip off 55 yards on two runs. Ike Taylor continued to establish a reputation as an elite Shut Down Corner by limiting WR Randy Moss to 45 measly yards.
Of course, the most memorable play occurred in the third quarter when S Ryan Clark, who missed last year’s game, made sure the Patriots knew he was there by attempting to behead WR Wes Welker. The hit was like something out of “The Longest Yard” but without benefit of a highly trained stuntman. Clark was flagged for a personal foul despite the fact Santonio Holmes was lit up on almost an identical (unpenalized) play last week as the NFL continues their march toward turning into Flag Football. Clark will undoubtedly receive a fine from Fuhrer Goodell because, well, the NFL hates the Steelers. Members of Steeler Nation should start a fund for Ryan as I don’t know about you but that hit was totally worth something to me.
On the flip side, the Steeler offense actually showed a spark of life today. I’ve been monitoring the poll I have going on and I’m sad that so many people swallow what the media feeds them without examining the evidence. The offensive line is not a great unit by any means but they are far from the main culprit behind our woes. Big Ben was sacked only once against a pretty decent group of pass rushers while the running game piled up 161 yards which shows you they are a capable if unspectacular unit. Injuries to the backfield, Ben holding on to the ball way too long, and our idiot Offensive Coordinator dialing up 30 yard pass plays in the face of jailbreak blitzes are a much bigger problem than any shortcomings along the line.
Case in point this game. Notice how the Steelers have began utilizing the bunch formation (when all the receivers are packed about 5 yards off the line) in order to facilitate a short, quick-hitting passing game. Notice how the TEs like Heath Miller, who led the team with 4 catches for 60 yards, have become a bigger part of the offense. Notice the commitment to the run as the Steelers have settled into a three pronged running attack with Mewelde Moore featured in the 1st half, Willie Parker (showing good speed but questionable cutting) in the 2nd half, and Gary Russell in short yardage situations. All these things combine for an offense which controls the clock, keeps downs and distances manageable, and keeps the defense off balance enough to prevent them from pinning their ears back on the pass rush.
Again, the Massholes will no doubt whine that Moss dropped a potential TD pass along with several other key throws during the course of the game. I counter by noting the Steelers left several TDs on the grass themselves. Santonio is playing like a man who doesn’t want to be here much longer as he dropped not one but two potential TDs and his loafing on a play almost led to an INT. If rookie Limas Sweed can blossom into a solid #3, he could be squeezed out with the rise of Tiffin Thunder Nate Washington, who has emerged this season and can be counted on for at least one or two big catches per game, although he did drop what would’ve been a back breaking bomb late in the game.
The Bungles bent over and grabbed their ankles for those pesky Baltimore Ravens so the Steelers maintain their slim one game lead in the division. The Purple Birds have the Washington Redskins next week at home which is a tough one to predict because on one hand the Skins are fighting for a playoff spot but on the other hand they haven’t played very well in recent weeks. Meanwhile, our old buddies the Dallas Cowboys come into town also fighting for a playoff spot. In any case, it’s looking more and more like the week 15 showdown in Charm City is going to be the tipping point for the entire year. If the Steelers can continue to play at the level they displayed this week, nothing short of a Silverback launching long snaps can stop them.