Steelers head coach Bill Cowher likes to split the season into quarters. So with the first quarter over, the Steelers would have to be considered winners.
Here's what went right in the first quarter:
The running game is right where the Steelers want it, averaging
129.5 yards per game. That doesn't sound like much until you
figure that back when Kordell Stewart was the team's
quarterback, that's about what the team averaged when you took
away his scrambles.
Duce Staley has been a welcome addition to the running game
and ranks seventh in the AFC with 372 yards on 87 carries. That
puts him on pace for a 348-carry season and 1,488 yards.
Two big reasons for the running game's resurgence has been
offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt's persistence in sticking
with it and the job the good job offensive line has done blocking.
The injury to Kendall Simmons notwithstanding, the line has
stayed healthy. And it's showed as the line has gotten better. But
some stiff tests wait ahead in Dallas and against New England
at Heinz Field. Philadelphia also has a stable of pass rushers,
though rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has shown great escape-ability.
Speaking of Roethlisberger, he's played better than a rookie
could be expected to. Whisenhunt hasn't asked him to do too
much, though the time will come when he has to win a game.
Hines Ward has been his usual self and the special teams
coverage units have been excellent, as has the kickoff return
Defensively, the Steelers have forced 11 turnovers in their first
four games, putting them on pace for 44, a far more than the 25
they forced in 2003.
The young secondary is going to make some mistakes, but it's
also making some big plays.
The pass defense has been good outside of the opening game
against Oakland, but realistically, it hasn't been tested since
then by Baltimore, Miami or Cincinnati.
Here's what went wrong:
Plaxico Burress must become more of a consistent force. Future
opponents are going to try to take Ward away from the Steelers
as Cincinnati did in Week 4 and Burress is going to have to
make big plays one-on-one.
Starting quarterback Tommy Maddox was off to a slow start, but
he also had a better grasp on the offense than Roethlisberger
has. The rookie is going to make mistakes, the Steelers had just
better hope they aren't game-breakers.
Defensively, the run defense has not been strong, allowing
105.5 yards per game. It would look far worse if not for a 52-yard
effort against Miami.
Oakland, Baltimore and Cincinnati all had success running
against the Steelers. Maybe a healthy Kendrell Bell in the lineup
will make a difference. But right now, players are missing too
many tackles and outside linebackers Joey Porter and Clark Haggans haven't been much of a factor stopping the run,
The team is also committing too many penalties, averaging over
eight per game. A good number of those have come in the return
game, negating several nice punt returns by Antwaan Randle El.
Place-kicker Jeff Reed has made just 3 of 6 field goal attempts,
but all three of his misses have been from outside of 40 yards.
He has yet to attempt a field goal inside of 40, a testament to the
team's red zone success (9 for 11).
Rookie kickoff returner Ricardo Colclough is going to see more
action because teams are going to kick away from Randle El.
Colclough must do a better job of holding onto the ball.
A look at the first quarter
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