This week is the Mighty Black and Gold’s home opener and they are welcoming their foes from their record-tying fifth SB win, the Seattle Seahawks.
In light of the NFL’s selection of officials for the game, it would be easy to rehash the same old stuff from that frosty February day in Detroit when The Nation celebrated their first championship in more than 20 years; when they brought Vince Lombardi’s trophy to its rightful, if not ancestral, home, but why live in the past? Let’s have a look at what this match-up will bring and what you can expect to see the Sunday.
What We Saw Against Baltimore
What we saw in Baltimore was one team that didn’t look like they were ready to play and the other team looking like they were playing in the AFC Championship.
The Steelers were flat, lethargic, and just bad all day on Sunday. The offensive line barely gave Ben enough time to do anything and even when he had time, either his pass was tipped or he threw poor passes that were either incomplete or intercepted. Mendenhall seemed to have space to run early on, but the running game eventually had to be abandoned as the Ravens’ lead grew.
The Ravens played incredibly well. They played inspired football offensively and defensively.
In the end, seven turnovers, including two horrible throws that looked like they were intended for Ed Reed (who, need I remind you, does not play for the Steelers), were the difference in the game. Even when the Ravens didn’t score points on the turnovers, the resulting loss of momentum for the Black and Gold was just too much to overcome.
The defense couldn’t seem to do anything about Ray Rice and only touched Joe Flacco on two occasions. Once was a hit delivered by James Harrison after the pass had been delivered (which surprisingly drew no penalty). The other time was a coverage sack.
In short, if this is what we are going to see from the Steelers all season, I’m already wishing the lockout would have been extended.
For their part, the defending NFC West Champion Seahawks were handled by the San Francisco 49ers, 33-17. Not exactly the drubbing the Steelers took, but the game was never really in doubt.
What We Will See When Seattle Has The Ball
What makes this game hard to predict is the uncertainty that the Steelers’ performance on Sunday puts into the minds and hearts of The Nation. If the Steelers had made it a game on Sunday, this would be easier, but I’m sure making my article easier to write is not top of mind for Coach Tomlin and the Mighty Black and Gold this week.
Before Sunday, one of the last images we had seen of Seahawks’ running back Marshawn Lynch was the incredible run he had in the playoff win over the then-defending champion Saints. Lynch looked more like an avatar on my PlayStation Madden game than a human as he ran over, around, and through several Saints defenders for a touchdown.
Against the somewhat-less-than-stallwart 49ers rush defense, he managed only 33 yards on 12 carries, not even a three yard-per-carry average. One can only expect that the Black and Gold defense, which must have surely gotten the ass-chewing of a lifetime after their game on Sunday, will be inspired to show that they should not be taken lightly.
That will put the ball in the hands of QB Tavares Jackson. Jackson managed to throw for two touchdowns and 197 yards, but did have an interception. He had a fair completion percentage of 56.8%, but he should not be ready for the exotic blitz packages the Steelers will likely show him. You know, the blitzes that the Ravens picked up so easily all day on Sunday.
The one thing you cannot overlook is the fact that the Steelers gave up several big plays to the Ravens suddenly explosive offense. You can expect that Pete Carroll is watching film about how to take advantage of the Steelers’ aggressive defense by getting wide receivers Doug Baldwin and Mike Williams into single coverage.
This is where we need Troy Polamalu to remember that he is, in fact, Troy Polamalu. Troy has been basically MIA for the last two meaningful games the Steelers have played. Whether this is by design, that teams have figured out how to neutralize him, or that there is something going on with him remains a mystery, but if he doesn’t rediscover the magic that made him one of the most feared defensive players in the game, Citizens, we are in for another long afternoon.
I think the defense will have a redwood-sized chip on their shoulders and will not want to face another humiliating defeat. I expect they will look faster and more prepared than they did against Baltimore.
Certainly, they can’t look much worse.
Look for the defense to hold the Seahawks to 10 points and to force a turnover.