Now, we see what the 2010 Steelers are really all about.
Perceptions that lasted from training camp through Cincinnati have been shattered. Tom Brady and the Patriots saw to that.
Now, suddenly, there is doubt. Now, suddenly, these Steelers appear vulnerable.
Do they bounce back, as the Patriots did in Pittsburgh after getting smashed in Cleveland? Or does the downward spiral commence again?
We'll know on Sunday.
The autumn wind is a Raider. And this one will be blowing into Heinz Field in full force.
Gonna be a twister … to blow … everything down … that ain't got … the faith … to stand its ground.
(As always, fall back to Springsteen for inspiration/perspective in troubled times such as these.)
Here's where the Steelers will really have to stand their ground, test their mettle, and rise up most of all on Sunday:
* Defending the run – Casey Hampton maintained pre-New England that teams don't even try to run the ball against the Steelers any more. That's about to change. The Raiders will try to run it down their throats.
They'll run Darren McFadden with extra tackle Khalif Barnes (No. 69 is eligible) motioning across the formation and leading the way. They'll run Michael Bush (a Louisville man) off a handoff from McFadden from the wildcat. And if they get McFadden on the edge or into the second level, look out.
* Turning them over – The Steelers haven't faced a quarterback more likely to throw a few up for grabs since Vince Young in Week 2. Jason Campbell will do that, sometimes from the pocket and sometimes off his back foot, back across his body on the run or from some other awkward contortion. It'll be up to the DBs to catch the ball when Campbell throws it to them.
* Rushing the passer – The ball won't be coming out of the pocket quickly the way it did with Brady and to a lesser extent with Carson Palmer. The Steelers will have their chances to amass sacks, particularly if James Harrison does to gangly, 6-foot-8 rookie-from-Hillsdale left offensive tackle Jared Veldheer what Harrison ought to do to such an overmatched, inexperienced alleged pass protector. Harrison has to do more than he did against Matt Light.
In the opener against Tennessee, the Raiders' offensive line looked like the five most ineffective guys wearing the same color jerseys since the Washington Generals. Since then they've gotten a little better (they've figured out how to run block). Blitzes can and have been devastating against these guys. Oakland's best bet at pass protection is establishing the run and relying upon play-action.
* Running the ball – Against this pass rush, the Steelers better be able to run the ball. But the Raiders have gotten better here, too. The biggest problem is going to be right defensive tackle Richard Seymour. He doesn't play every down and he doesn't play hard every down that he plays. But when he does both, wow.
Oakland took on Kansas City on Nov. 7 ranked 20-something in run defense, then stuffed the Chiefs' first three third-and-1s. And that against a Kansas City team that had rushed for 200-plus yards in three consecutive games.
Good luck, Kemo.
* Protecting the passer – Seymour rushes the passer pretty effectively, too. So do his buddies along what looks to be an outstanding front four.
They'd better see what they can do about relying upon that run-it-and-then-throw-it-off-play-action thing, as well.
* Resiliency – Oakland took on Kansas City minus cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, tight end Zach Miller and wide receiver Louis Murphy, then lost linebacker Rolando McClain and strong safety Tyvon Branch during the game and still won, 23-20, in overtime.
Apparently, it's possible to overcome injuries.
* Keeping them in front of you – Once play-action gets established, the Raiders are going deep. Campbell at least throws a consistent deep ball and Jacoby Ford got under one late against Kansas City (setting up the game-tying field goal with three seconds left) and another in OT (setting up the game-winning field goal).
Ford also returned the second-half kickoff 94 yards for a TD to jump-start a comeback from 10-0.
* Getting off the line of scrimmage – The Raiders like press coverage to the extent that cornerback Chris Johnson was flagged for lining up in the neutral zone against the Chiefs. That was one of 15 enforced penalties against Oakland (others were flagged and declined).
The Raiders lead the NFL with 91 penalties and 794 yards in penalties.
They don't seem to care.
Just win, baby.
The Steelers need to approach Sunday with an equally singular focus.