Welcome to the premier edition of the Steelers Hangover. Have a seat, take an aspirin, and let’s quietly reflect on the Sunday Thursday that was in the NFL.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has a thing for catch phrases. Throughout the pre-season, Tomlin preached a minimalist philosophy.
“We don’t care about style points,” he kept telling the media.
Boy, I’ll say.
Aside from Stefan “Little Bit” Logan’s tantalizing opening kickoff return, the Steelers were far from stylish in their 13-10 Week 1 victory over the Tennessee Titans. Pittsburgh’s running game was $7 Wal-mart jeans and their pass protection was 80s bangs.
The nationally televised kickoff bash will undoubtedly send both teams spiraling down the fabled “Power Rankings” on the hyper-reactionary mainstream sports web sites, not to mention downgrade their respective “contender” statuses the minds of America’s ADD-riddled football fans, but don’t be fooled. This was a tight, tactical, hard-nosed game featuring two elite AFC defenses.
This is the NFL, not Dancing with the Stars.
Style points be darned, the Steelers won the game and Titans running back LenDale White went trotting back to Tennessee without a Terrible Towel to trounce on. Mr. White, who tipped-toed for a whopping 28 yards on Thursday, did not keep his promise.
“If there is a towel in the stands, I will stomp on it,” White promised reporters before the game. “I don’t care who gets mad.”
Well, Mr. White, like they say in Congress…
The Steelers snatched victory from the jaws of defeat because the defense was handing out Federal-sized bailouts all night long. The dominance of the defense, both last night and last season, was underlined in big, bold Sharpie marker by the ludicrous pass interference call on Troy Polamalu in the second quarter. In the last five years, the NFL has done everything in its power to favor wide receivers, as last night’s phantom call is evidence of, and yet in 2008, the Steelers defense allowed the fewest yards per play in 30 years.
The Steelers/Titans officiating crew was doing its best “distracted pro wrestling referee” impression last night.
Before I get tripsy off of all this whine…on to the first ever Steelers Hangover Awards!
Double Yoi! Play of the Week
The first-ever Double Yoi! Play of the Week goes to the Heinz Field PA crew, who boldly waited to unleash the legendary Styx “Renegade” montage until the twilight of the fourth quarter, when the Steelers defense desperately needed to come up with a stop. Casey Hampton reacted like he just found a treasure trove of Chicken McNuggets.
With just a few muffled percussions, Heinz Field was transformed from a public library into a raucous 12th man. If the Director of Rock (I made that up) would have jumped the gun and pulled out Styx at the beginning of the fourth quarter, as per usual, the Steelers would be 0-1. Believe it.
The Fail Dog Display of Ineptitude of the Week
The Display of Ineptitude of the Week, inspired by FailDogs.com, goes out to the heavily inebriated gentleman in the Kevin Greene jersey who sat behind me in peanut heaven at Heinz Field last night.
With the Steelers driving deep into Titans territory, the man publicly lamented the Steelers’ running strategy.
“Here we go again,” he screamed. “(Offensive coordinator) Arians couldn’t score in the Red Zone if his (bleepin’) life depended on it.”
And so on.
It’s common knowledge among Steelers fans that the team cannot score touchdowns in the red zone, and naturally Arians is the culprit. Great logic. The only problem is that it’s entirely untrue. It’s Steelers Nation’s own little “Death Panels for Granny.”
Actually, the Steelers were seventh best in the league in red zone efficiency in 2008. So, sorry, Mr. Drunkasaurus Rex, but you are the recipient of the premier Fail Dog Display of Ineptitude of the Week award.
What Did We Learn This Week, Children?
We learned that an intangible little miracle called “chemistry” doesn’t make your offensive line any better in one off-season. We also learned that Santonio Holmes is ready to pick up right where he left off, literally, after he grabbed a quiet 131 yards and one touchdown against a very astute Titans secondary (Holmes had exactly the same statistics in last year’s Super Bowl. Spooky.)
Thanks for Hines Ward’s bizarre fumble, we even learned that if you give Ben Roethlisberger (33-for-43, 363 yards, 1TD) two do-or-die drives, he’ll lead his team down the field on both of them, no questions asked (thank you and drive home safely).
Finally, in just a quarter and a half, we learned that Troy Polamalu is unequivocally the best open-field tackler in the NFL. Forget the one-handed interception. His back-to-back tackles on the Titans’ first drive were super human. His closing speed is more than insane. It’s Usain.
Unfortunately, we were quickly reminded that Polamalu does, in fact, put his pants on one leg at a time when he was knocked out of the game with a flukey knee injury. His sprained medial collateral will keep him out 3-6 weeks – emphasis on the six.
But as unbelievable as it may seem, the most important thing that we learned on Thursday night is that the Steelers defense is so stacked that it can manhandle last season’s best regular season team – even with the best safety in the league on the sidelines.
So relax, Pittsburgh. It might not always be pretty, but you are watching something truly beautiful.
Now on to Chicago.