But do they have kung fu grip?
Blah blah blah went Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin at his weekly grab bag of lies press conference. At this point, Tomlin’s endless droning must sound like Charlie Brown‘s schoolteacher to his players. It’s not as if they have to worry about repercussions for angering their coach. After promising “schematic and personnel” changes last week, he delivered the exact same game plan and exact same lineup that has been sucking for over a month now. Guess he never heard the story of the boy who cried wolf.
Tomlin did speak the truth in one regard. This week’s opponent, the Green Bay Packers, are not to be taken lightly. In fact, they trajectory of their season has been the polar opposite of the Steelers. Where we started great then crashed with a THUD, the Pack had a tough start but have rebounded to win five straight. GB is a tough, hungry, balanced team deep in the thick of the NFC Wild Card race.
The Pack went 6-10 last year through no fault of the offense, which averaged nearly four touchdowns a game. In his first season at QB, Aaron Rodgers ran the show with confidence and precision. He’s continued his superior play into this season, where his 25 TDs against only 7 INTs have cemented him as an emerging superstar. Rodgers is helped by having two All-Pro caliber wideouts in Donald Driver and Greg Jennings, either of whom can be counted on to break a game open. To add some balance, RB Ryan Grant is an effective downhill-style runner. As Tomlin pointed out, their offensive line was a horror show early in the season but those issues seem to have dissipated lately as some of their injured OL returned to the starting lineup.
In other words, I’m not exaggerating when I say this is probably the most dangerous offense we’ll face this season.
Naturally, the fact that our secondary is absolutely pathetic doesn’t bode well for the Black and Gold. One could hope inclimate weather at Heinz Field would help the home team although I doubt Green Bay is going to be caught off-guard by poor weather. Or we could hope the Packers line regresses to early season form allowing James Harrison and company to tee off on him. The problem there is Rodgers has shown good instincts and a quick release in addition to having 1,000 yard rusher Grant to fall back on. Honestly, with Will.i.am Gay completely sucking and Ike Taylor phoning it in, if Rodgers doesn’t throw for at least 350 yards I’ll be shocked.
I hope Ryan Clark reads this post. Feel free to print it out and tack it up on the team bulletin board for extra motivation, Ryan. I’m here for you, man.
Last season, Green Bay had the Origami Curtain as they lost six games which they led in the fourth quarter. So they did what any team with a terrible defense would do, they hired a former Steelers defensive coordinator. Dom Capers, who directed a #1 ranked Steeler D to Super Bowl XXX, installed a 3-4 scheme featuring a lot of gap control and zone blitzes. They went out and used two first round draft picks on DT BJ Raji and LB Clay Matthews to augment this new scheme. Both players have responded by having fantastic rookie campaigns.
Although no one is having a better year than CB Charles Woodson. Woodson is the likely front runner to succeed Silverback as NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He plays corner but has the size and physicality of a safety. He currently has eight interceptions, two sacks, four forced fumbles, and has made 61 tackles. In other words, Ben Roethlisberger would be wise to stay away from him or mush brain will add yet another drive-killing Pick Six to his resume.
On offense, the Steelers will be without LG Chris Kemoeatu. Kemo played hurt last week which could be why our pass protection stunk except most of the stench came from the right side of Justin Hartwig, Trai Essex, and Willie Colon. Still, Kemo’s been our best run blocking linemen and probably the best all-around performer which admittedly isn’t saying much. His absence will be felt on the whopping 10-15 running plays Bruce Arians forces himself to call every game.
Hines Ward, who was limping badly and largely ineffective last week, practiced and is expected to play. I admire the man’s grit and determination but I don’t see what he’s accomplishing by playing hurt other than showing his teammates how much gutsier he is than Whiny Ben. Then again, 50% of Hines is probably preferable to 100% of Limas Sweed. I concentrate on our passing game because lord knows no matter how much I scream and hollar about Stillers Football, we all know Big Ben will be chucking the ball 40+ times on Sunday. As soon as the Pack hits one big play down the field, Arians will push the panic button and roll out the Flying Circus. You know it, I know it, and I’m sure Green Bay knows it.
In fact, I’m sure they’re counting on it.
Beyond that, there’s isn’t much to say about this game. You have two teams headed in total opposite directions. By the law of averages, you’d think maybe a team that has lost five straight is due for a win while a team that has won five in a row is due for a loss. But that assumes the Steelers are an average team. At this point, all evidence points to contrary.