600 Down, 11 to Go

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The Steelers finally showed the grit of a franchise built on excellence; getting the 600th win in Steeler History and their first of the 2013 Season after an 0-4 start.

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It’s just one game and one win, but in the grand scheme of things, had the steelers lost on Sunday and dropped to 0-5, their playoff hopes were OVER. I’m not saying they need to win their last 12 (11 remaining after Sunday) games to make the post season, but losing the first game after the bye week—Steelers are now 6-1 after the bye under Coach Tomlin—would have done more then add an L in the wrong side of the standings. Psychologically you’d have to say better luck next year, just look at the New York Giants.

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Coach speaks says the team that wins the turnover battle, wins the game. The defense finally forced a turnover! The Steelers finally won the turnover battle (2-0) as the defense forced two interceptions of Rookie QB Geno Smith and sacking him 3 times.

The defense held the Jets offense to 6 points—21 fewer than what they allow per game on the season—and 267 (84 rushing) total yards, which is 54 yards fewer than their season average. In years past, this type of a performance would be expected, considering Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau’s 15-2 record against rookie QBs coming into the game; it is still a stunner considering the abysmal performance in the first four games of 2013.

Offensively, Ben Roethlisberger played his most efficient game of the season (23 for 30, 264 yards & 1 Touchdown), but most importantly NO TURNOVERS. He even got a little help in the passing game from WR Antonio Brown on a WR trick pass play that was shades of former offensive coordinator Ken Wisenhunt’s days of Steeler Football.

I said a couple of weeks ago when Heath Miller returned in week 3, that as he got healthier he’d be the key link to getting the offense on track. He opens up the middle of the field which takes pressure off Antonio Brown on the outside. Miller now has 9 Receptions for 105 Yards in his three games after a 6 catch, 84 yards (one for 31 yards) performance Sunday against the Jets. Before Miller returned, the offense was getting next to nothing from the Tight End position and it was clear Roethlisberger didn’t trust Miller’s replacements. Now Big Ben’s security blanket is there whenever the initial plan breaks down and he needs to improvise.

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That’s right Le’Veon, because the offense NEEDS more out of the running game that is currently ranked 31st out of 32 teams. Even though they won the time of possession battle 35:49 to 24:11, when the weather gets colder and Roethlisberger can’t sling it around 30 times a game, they’ll need the backfield by committee to gain more than 73 yards in order to keep the aging Defense off the field and resting.

That falls on the offensive line too. The mash unit of the team allowed another 3 times for a loss of 17 yards. But, like always, Roethlisberger causes at least one a game because of his desire to hold the ball and extend the play.

The strength of most teams is the “big uglies” on offense and defense. To complete this turnaround, they’ll need to get more nasty and physical to open up running and passing lanes for the skill players.

Overall this was an impressive win, ONLY because of the circumstances. It showed how much pride and guts this group has. If the Black & Gold can win at least 8 of their next 11 games, 5 of which are against division foes, they’ll have a REAL shot to get back into the race for the AFC North title and into the playoffs. But, it’s just one game at a time.

I guess Tomlin will keep the ping pong, pool tables and other locker room games locked away.

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NEXT FOUR GAMES:
10/20 VS. Baltimore Ravens
10/27 @ Oakland Raiders
11/03 @ New England Patriots
11/10 VS. Buffalo Bills

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