The Titans are not as bad as we made them look. The Steelers made some long overdue adjustments and showed that they are far from dead.
Opening drive, the Steelers D looked like shit, but that was about all they gave up easily. The OL was so much improved I just about shat my pants. The DL, ditto. OC, ditto. DC, ditto. Tomlin missed an easy red flag challenge that might have shaved 7 off the final score, but seriously, who the fuck cares? This was a catharsis win.
1. I love Max Starks. He came in and played as well as he ever had, without missing a beat. He is >>> Gilbert >>> J. Scott at LT.
2. The optimal OL (for us, for now) is Starks, Legs, Pounce, Foster, Gilbert/Scott. If you could put Legursky's brain into Kemo's frame you'd have a LG, but Legursky isn't off chasing butterflies at any point, and he meshes better with Starks and Pounce. Pounce is hobbled somewhat but he's out at the second level blasting motherfuckers. Foster had a notable miss, but he's a proto RG and he's played damned well. Gilbert was solid all day and has room to improve. Scott was better at RT than LT, but I hope Gilbert doesn't miss time.
3. The biggest miscues on D were over-pursuits, like when Timmons went backfield and allowed CJ the big initial run. I think the over-aggressive shit has burned us, and the guys were more disciplined today.
4. The DL is a line in transition as well. I love Aaron Smith, and I love Casey Hampton, but they have frankly been liabilities this year. Smith does not appear to have his trademark strength at the POA, and Hamp has been getting cut blocked and has spent far too much time surfing the OL and winding up on his ass. Keisel was back to par, but Hoke seemed better at mobility and avoiding cuts, and getting serious penetration on a consistent basis; Hood opened shit up for Woodley, who (coincidentally?) finally showed up. Time to transition, folks. Hood for Smith, permanently. Aaron Smith is a great backup at this point, IMO. Hells, Cam Heywood is pushing for PT of his own, so Hood can't be too comfy. Motherfucker made some serious assed plays. In fact, I would love to see some 4-3 mixed in with Hood-Hoke-Hamp-Diesel or Heywood-Hood-Hoke/Hamp-Keisel, taking Potsie out and leaving Timmons at MLB.
5. Superlative effort from Ike Taylor (again), but also Keenan Lewis (who needs to start) and Billie Gay. Not so wonderful, Mundy in place of Clark. Missed why Clark was out?
6. Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown are the future. Hines Ward isn't giving up on being the present. Manny Sanders needs to step up to keep in rotation. Where is Cotch? Heath is still a fucking bull. Still trying to work Wes Saunders into the game, but he's not polished enough yet. David Johnson has worked his way back into my favor. Clutch guys: Ward, Miller. Flash guys: Wallace, Brown.
7. Redman ground out tough yardage and should have Mendy sweating. Dwyer showed what a guy can do as the COP to Redman. Fuck, I don't care if it's Mendy or Dwyer knocking those COP runs, but Redman has shown he can carry the difficult D&D runs. He put us in position to succeed consistently. In pregame, Tomlin said he explicitly needed to see something from Jonathan Dwyer. 11-107 showed me plenty. Jonathan Dwyer may have officially made the team sometime last year, but today he made the team.
8. Should have been on guard against that first onside. But nice turn of events to get it right back. Woodley had a nice game overall, not just notching that pick, but also getting a sack2 of Hasselbeck as well as the blocker, simply mauling them. Still think that starts with the DL action though. It's all synchronistic.
9. Loved the late TD to Wallace. Fully expected to see run-run-run-punt, and the Titans come back with a score. That TD broke their backs. Arians is a great playcaller when he's got confidence, but when he's rattled he's just shit. Today, he was never rattled. Great calls against expectation, passing for TD when defense expects run, hitting all the weak spots. The call at the end of 1H should have been 6: Ward and Wallace blocking for Sanders, but the WRs were clearly not set, Ben threw to a spot, and the receivers were 2 seconds late. If that went as drawn up, 6, easy. Lucky it wasn't pick-6. Still: a ballsy play, I liked the spirit of it. And did I see a pitch? No gain, but in the right situation... Mendy breaks that for 25, 30.
10. The special teams play developed in slo-mo. I felt the breath leave my lungs as I saw Mundy wide open, Sepulveda take the snap to throw, the whole play laid out before me. That single play keyed the energy of the game IMO. The blocked punt was fucked up though. Sep had a 70 before the penalty. No way should we be giving 7 on blocked fucking punts.
11. Much better beehive activity of the fr7 today than in previous games. Even when we'd try and miss, sending Gay on a blitz that resulted in a completed for instance, I liked the tendency to get after the QB. Keep that up, please.
12. Back to the OL. We made ONE change, one personnel move that SHOULD have been done before the season started, and got Starks back. Shame on Kevin Colbert for fucking that up. But the week he's back, Ben is sacked once AND we put up 38 points. We should do that EVERY week. Seriously.
13. Also, Tomlin had the boys practicing in pads, and the vets put extra time in. It showed. Let's not lose that momentum.
Steelers should beat Jax and Zona, and get the Pats for Halloween. Strange things have happened in our Halloween games, folks. Don't be surprised if we give the Pats, and the Ravens, some serious fight.