- Sigh. It's tough to see another loss, but I find this one easier to swallow than the last. At least San Diego earned the win with strong second-half play and good adjustments; the Steelers didn't just give it away late with the game in hand. Still, I'm not used to seeing Pittsburgh squander a ten-point lead. I don't like it.
- I like giving up long touchdown drives right before halftime even less. That's two games in a row with that junk.
- The loss of Calamity James Harrison from the kick coverage units has me worried. He plays special teams with just the right flavor of controlled abandon, and it's not a unit that needs to be suffering any losses.
- Willie Parker is really running well. Last season he lacked vision and fell to the ground too readily upon contact. He's still pretty easy to tackle, but he's doing a better job of finding creases or bouncing outside if the hole doesn't develop where it's supposed to. It's tough running against San Diego, and he made the most of limited opportunities.
- I don't know why Michael Turner runs better against Pittsburgh than LaDainian Tomlinson does; I do know that they're hands down the best running back tandem in football.
- Ike Taylor played another strong game, doing the things that make him such a good cornerback. Punching the ball out from the hands of Antonio Gates to force an incompletion and knocking down a sure touchdown pass to Malcom Floyd are the sort of plays that earned him his new contract, and they really showcase his strength and athleticism. There might not be a better cornerback in the league and ripping the ball away before the receiver can establish possession.
- There might have been a better safety at it, though … at least in that game. Ryan Clark was not going to be denied that interception on a play that more often than not results in dual possession and a completion. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that though five weeks of the 2006 season, Clark has outperformed Adam Archuleta, his big-money replacement in Washington; at a third of the average annual value that Snyder doled out and a sixth of the guaranteed money, that's another strong signing by Pittsburgh's front office. He didn't have a great second half (not unlike the rest of the team), but he plays with all the heart in the world. Not surprisingly, the fan furor to get Anthony Smith in there seems to have subsided. That should last at least until Clark misses a tackle or two.
- DeShea Townsend is what he is: a solid football player who gets in position and is only hampered by his physical limitations. Bryant McFadden needs to win that job eventually, but so far this season he appears to have taken a step back.
- There may never be another football game played with two nose tackles as good as Casey Hampton and Jamal Williams. Well, I mean, until these two teams play again, at any rate.
- While it speaks well of Hampton's athleticism that he can tackle Tomlinson twenty yards downfield, I'm pretty sure that's not how the defense is designed to work.
- Hell of a stiff-arm by Najeh Davenport. Nice to see the Dump Truck finally get some playing time.
- Dick LeBeau's blitzes worked really well in the first half. In the second half, San Diego compensated and LeBeau started rushing fewer—sometimes only three—and dropping everyone into coverage. But the rushers mostly didn't get close to Philip Rivers, and he picked to zone coverage apart with all day to throw. The only aspect lacking on Pittsburgh's defense is a serious pass rusher who can consistently pressure regardless of scheme. Those guys cost a boatload of money in free agency, so if one is to be added he will likely have to come via the draft.
- I don't mind so much the deep interception by Ben Roethlisberger off of the flea-flicker. When you pass deep, you're going to turn the ball over sometimes. He needs a receiver who can go up and fight for those balls.
- It may be hard to see, but Roethlisberger is gradually getting back up to speed. In Jacksonville he made poor decisions, poor throws, and looked obviously afraid of contact. Against Cincy he got his legs back under him but kept making poor throws and poor decisions. He still wasn't seeing the field well at all in Sand Diego, but he looked to have found some of his accuracy. Yeah, it's incremental (not to be confused with excremental), but it's progress.
- Roethlisberger looked a little better, Hines Ward looked a little better, Troy Polamalu looked a little better. None look like they did before they got hurt, but they're all getting there.
- Cedrick Wilson needs to step up or step down. I root for the guy, but he's not getting it done.
- No unit played particularly well, but the loss falls most squarely on the defense. San Diego sustained more long drives than any offense ought to be able against so talented, seasoned, and well-coached a defense, and with a first-year quarterback to boot.
- Three losses in the first four games test even my optimism, but it really is just four games and there's plenty of football left to be played. The Steelers aren't getting blown out in these games; they can play with anybody. They need to start making the key plays at the key times, just as they did in the opener against Miami and in the eight games preceding it. They need their quarterback to find himself again, and they need to find a way to win some games in the meanwhile. With Baltimore losing in Denver and Cincy idle, Pittsburgh is no worse off than a week ago … but they need to start making up some ground this weekend against Kansas City.
My thoughts, for what they're worth ...
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