Well my beloved Steelers are on the cusp of not making the playoffs for the first time in as long as I care to remember and I am sure the haters and doubters are in full effect here in Western PA. However, instead of negativity and pessimism, I offer a different perspective on last night's game, a more positive outlook.
Let me start by saying Dennis Dixon did one hell of a job in his first NFL start last night. Anyone who is saying otherwise is an idiot when it comes to the game of football. He managed the game as well as anyone could have dreamed for.
He had respectable passing numbers which were held in check by the offensive game plan that Bruce Arians chose to employ, and I believe that was also for a reason, and a smart one at that. You don't ask a second year guy to go out and WIN the game for you in his first career start against the Baltimore Ravens, one of the best defenses in recent history. He rushed for 27 yards and a touchdown on three carries, that's 9.0 yards per rush, for a QB! That rushing yardage total would have been even better if not for a costly holding penalty that negated a 30 yard rush early in the game. He is definitely a "wrinkle" in our offensive scheme to be reckoned with. I give Dennis a solid "B+" for last night. 'Atta Boy!
Next up is the defense which was ranked number one overall last night. They did manage to fall to third overall, but regardless they again did the best that could be expected of them I think. It is obvious that without Troy Polamalu they are a different bunch. Not necessarily bad, but different and I am not sure that their strengths are that evident or played to without Troy in the mix. They are still a solid bunch and really stepped it up in the fourth quarter last night. Timmons had an amazing game and for the most part they were still our beloved "Steel Curtain".
I do believe they have some issues in the secondary to address. William Gay is not playing up to what should be expected from a Steelers corner. Ever since I saw Adrian Peterson lower his head and chest butt him onto his ass a few weeks ago, I have lost respect for his game and abilities. Our Defense demands physicality and violence from our players. If there is one who is consistently not living up to that, then it needs to be addressed and fixed. I understand giving folks a chance to redeem themselves bit I have seen him playing scared for some weeks now and I am no longer confident he is starter caliber. Had we not cut Keiwon Ratliff, due to our special team's woes, I could see him getting an opportunity to do some better work. Another option in my opinion would be giving an opportunity to CB Keenan Lewis, one of 2009's third round draft picks. As my father says when someone goes down or isn't performing to the standard, "Next man up". The Defense gets a "B" and William Gay gets the bench.
Next up is the Offensive line which I think did a solid job as well. They gave up no sacks and blocked well enough for Rashard Mendenhall to manage 95 rushing yards against a consistently stingy Ravens running defense. I would also like to give an "Atta Boy" to rookie guard Ramon Foster who played very well while filling in for injured guard Chris Kemoeatu. O- Line "A+"
Finally I have to give an "Atta Boy" to Rashard Mendenhall for putting up the numbers he did last night against Baltimore's defense. He has been a consummate professional and really taken advantage of the opportunity presented to him by Coach Tomlin this year. His stats read: 95 rushing yards on 24 attempts for an average of right at 4.0 yards per carry, very respectable.Mendenhall gets an "A" as well.
All and all injuries are limiting what we are able to do Steelers fans, and while I agree with Coach Tomlin and his "No excuses" attitude, there are things that lack of experience or lack of desire will inhibit you from accomplishing no matter what. I feel like the Steelers are still a playoff quality team who are simply suffering from injuries and growing pains right now. I remind you all that on any given day, any team can beat another. This is what keeps the NFL not only competitive but endears it to us so very much as fans.
I will be gracious in defeat and congratulate the Ravens on being the better team...
At least for last night...