Steelers Rewind

Jim Wexell finally -- finally! -- has something positive to say about the Steelers and their chances as a contender in his Tape Review of the win over the Washington Redskins.

One of the big shots in the Steelers' front office was awash in victory Sunday in the locker room, and so I must've taken him by surprise when he first walked past and readily accepted my handshake, because he came back later and said, "Hey, Jim, you've got to start writing more positive articles."

I told him it's been tough to do with a 3-3 team, that, you know, the standard is the standard.

"We're 4-3 now," he said with a smile wider than the increment of the single digit by which the atmospheric conditions for sportswriters had just changed.

And, he was right.

So here are some positives taken from film review of Sunday's win over the Washington Redskins:

* Since David DeCastro can begin practicing this week, and the Steelers have three weeks to make a decision on him once he does begin practicing, I focused on guards Willie Colon and Ramon Foster.

From what I watched, the Steelers don't need to force-feed a rusty rookie into the lineup right now. While neither Colon nor Foster shows much mobility – and the oft-maligned Colon does move better than Foster – they're big, strong guys who are developing great chemistry with each other and the rest of the line. This actually looks to be the best line they can field – if all are healthy – going forward.

One of the highlights included the first play when Colon surprised interior linebacker Perry Riley and wouldn't let him go as Jonathan Dwyer ran for 12 yards.

As you watch Colon throughout the game, you see his ability to lock on to those big defensive tackles, but you also see his lack of mobility in reaching blitzers. It makes me believe he's found his home at guard.

Other than the one blitzer who snuck past Colon but didn't touch the quarterback, the two guards were perfect in pass protection. In the run game Foster was penalized during an offsetting situation, but it was really Colon doing his Vontaze Burfict thing on top of the guy Foster was blocking. Foster was locked on, but Colon finished the poor guy and then "gave him the business" at the bottom of the pile.

Talk about chemistry. These guys are contributing to each other's nastiness.

As an aside on DeCastro, who's a gazelle on his feet compared to the starting gaurds, Maurkice Pouncey pulled to lead a late Chris Rainey sweep. He showed again that if they need real mobility out of the interior, the center can handle it.

* Or the right tackle. While Pouncey was credited by TV analyst Brian Billick for leading Rainey on his 19-yard run, it was rookie Mike Adams who actually was ahead of Pouncey on the sweep and made the more important block to spring Rainey. Adams also collapsed the right side of the line so effectively on Dwyer's early 34-yard run that Heath Miller had nothing to do but stand there and admire Adams's block.

Now, Adams will be tested severely on passing downs against the New York Giants, but he's showing that the acquisition of one player, who forced the move of another player to another position, was all this line really needed. And having guys like DeCastro, Doug Legursky and Marcus Gilbert in reserve is the way to finish one incredibly positive note.

* Speaking of the Rainey play, Ben Roethlisberger called a timeout right before that third-and-3 play. If you go back and look, you'll see that Miller, of all people, was lined up on the wrong side and forced the timeout. The offense came back and Miller was in the bunch right before the snap that Rainey picked out of the air to ignite the key run.

It was a critical moment of the game, one in which the Steelers needed to score to land the knockout punch, and Roethlisberger delivered by calling the timeout and getting it right.

* You might be happy to know that I took much criticism for my column late last week that Roethlisberger and the Steelers have been lax with the lead over the years.

I've always believed that Roethlisberger is an adrenaline junkie who performs better with his team behind than he does in performing the mundane task of managing handoffs and field position with the lead. So in my opinion he must keep his foot on the pedal. It's what's keeping him from becoming the scary type of quarterback that populate the elite strata of the NFL.

Roethlisberger hasn't been scary throughout his career. He's been magnificent and talented and a leader, but it's time for him to become scary good. And he can. He just needs to finish drives, finish games, finish his career with another Super Bowl win. That way he'll find himself in the Hall of Fame.

* Roethlisberger can get that third ring this year because the Steelers have that kind of offensive weaponry, even if the defense continues to limp along at edge pass-rusher and strong safety. Those are the critical positions in the Dick LeBeau defense, positions they will certainly look to bolster next off-season. And it's hurting them, regardless of their performance against an option rookie quarterback on Sunday.

But it appears that the offense can carry the load because of Roethlisberger, and the line, and new coordinator Todd Haley, and Miller, and the playmaking wide receivers, and now because of Dwyer.

It was pointed out to me after the game that Dwyer averages more yards per carry in his career (5.4) than did Jim Brown (5.2). I don't want to get carried away with that, but it is interesting.

* It's funny that few really want to get carried away with Dwyer. I know I've balked at making a comparison to Jerome Bettis, but it's just too obvious anymore. Billick, the Fox TV analyst, couldn't help himself either.

Twice Billick did his best to avoid making that kind of hyperbolic comparison, but he couldn't help himself and did compare Dywer to Bettis. Both times he apologized for it, and then he finally stopped apologizing. By the end of the game Billick was just chuckling to himself and saying, "That guy is a classic Pittsburgh Steelers running back."

* Dwyer only carried 17 times, and the Steelers were criticized today by some in the media for not giving him the ball more often.

The first thing that tells me about Haley is that he doesn't want to "run the wheels" off of this special talent, and in the meantime he's developing kids like Rainey and Baron Batch.

It also tells me how far this town's media has come from their steadfast support of Bruce Arians' dizzying playcalling just because the NFL is in some kind of new era and "you don't pay someone $102 million to hand the ball off."

Yes you do. You keep the QB healthy and you utilize all of the weapons. And right now the Steelers' offense has weaponry that runs the gamut from sprinters to bulldogs, really, at every position. It can do anything, even throw touchdown passes to Leonard Pope.

Yes, this offense can do it. Roethlisberger can forge his legacy the way he really wants it, and he can do it this year.


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