After last week, I think many Pittsburgh Steelers fans wondered which Steelers team would show up to Heinz field to take on the undefeated New York Jets. Would it be the team that played well the entire first half and most of the third quarter of last week’s game, or would it be the team that showed up the last 18 minutes of the game to fall apart? As we saw by the final score 27-10 in favor of the Steelers, things went pretty well. But what do we take from this game?
My first takeaway from this game is just how good quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is. There are few quarterbacks in the league who move in the pocket from side to side and continue to make his reads than Roethlisberger. I said in my preview the Jets needed to pressure Ben, but I also warned if you pressure him and don’t get to him, he’ll make you pay and he did. This is a tribute to the offensive line as well, who did a more than admirable job keeping an aggressive Jets defense at bay. But it’s really about Roethlisberger, who distributed his 275 passing yards to 10 different receivers. In the business, we call that balance. Many of those completions came after the Jets got pressure, Roethlisberger made a move, and then made a play. There is a lot of talk this week about clutch quarterbacks, but for me it’s Roethlisberger.
My second takeaway is that defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau reads my work. Of course I kid, but I said in my preview with the injuries on defense the Steelers needed to hang back, play some zone, keep the Jets in front of them, and force quarterback Mark Sanchez to be patient and push him into mistakes. And that’s exactly what they did. The defensive starters stepped up and executed their game plan even minus linebacker James Harrison and safety Troy Polamalu, and while it wasn’t that attacking defense we are always used to seeing, they played within themselves, stuffed the run, and made good plays to stall out Jets drives.
My third takeaway is about Steelers running back Johnathan Dwyer. This young man can play. The offensive line played well, but in some cases, it was all about Dwyer making runs. It’s amazing what a week of reps with the first team can do for a player and his understanding of the offense. I think at this point with how Dwyer, as well as Isaac Redman is playing, the Steelers should be in no rush to bring Rashard Mendenhall back. This running game is in good hands. I understand that the boxscore doesn’t bear out a dominant running attack, but the Jets are stout on defense and it was tough sledding the whole game. I like what I saw from Dwyer and Redman when they weren’t fighting off defenders in the backfield.
My fourth takeway is that Sanchez is in a bad situation. I don’t consider Sanchez a top quarterback by any means, but there was a point in the game yesterday where the Jets brought in Tim Tebow and he broke off a long run on a zone look power inside run. They immediately cut to the sideline and you could see Sanchez waiting for the play and to run back onto the field and was held up. Jets head coach Rex Ryan was going to play the hot hand and they went Tebow again. The play this time was a sweep I believe to running back Joe McKnight for a nice gain. Again we cut to Sanchez and again he’s frozen. Ryan leaves Tebow in again and they try another tricky little run play and it is stuffed for a loss. At that point Ryan rushes Sanchez back onto the field on second and long, an obvious passing situation and just expects him to make a play. That’s so harsh on Sanchez. There is no good solution to this problem, but it’s clear this relationship didn’t work yesterday.
My final takeway is about the NFL as a whole. People talk about parity all the time, and going from week 1 to week 2, it is easy to make the case that after the Steelers lose big in week 1, and come back and week 2 and win, and vice versa for the Jets it’s parity. I don’t think that’s it at all. I think it’s about preparation. Some of the teams in week 1 you could tell had given considerable time preparing for that week 1 game, and others took considerable time preparing for the season as a whole. It will all balance out by the end of the season, but you can see some teams are really already in trouble.
In the final analysis, the Jets and Steelers did a lot of what we thought. The Steelers are a very tough out at home, and even short handed they showed that. As the season goes on, this team is going to have to re-invent themselves week by week to account for who they are playing and who they have healthy in that week. But right now everything is equal again and there are still 14 games to go.
What did you think of the game? Come find me on Twitter @nfldraftboard and let me know!