:: Yep, Cowher and defensive coordinator Tim Lewis were certainly caught with their pants down by Callahan, who from the very first snap, ignored his aforementioned deep stable of running backs, and instead lit up the Steelers secondary with his Pro Bowl quarterback and pair of first-ballot Hall of Fame receivers.
:: At first, it would have appeared that the Steelers defense were indeed executing the very same defensive calls that -- according to Lewis -- they had failed to execute against the Patriots. The secondary was tackling far better than they were a week ago, and 14 plays and 50 yards later, the Raiders had to settle for a FG on their first drive. Seriously, could the Raiders really expect to package that many plays together, drive after drive, throughout the night, without a misfire? And win? Um…I guess they could.
:: Truthfully, It was Lewis' admitted impatience and perhaps one blitz too many that led to points on the Raiders second possession. They blitzed on the first two plays and forced a 3rd-and-2. They blitzed again on 2nd-and-2, this time with cornerback Chad Scott, and Raiders wideout Jerry Porter was drilled by safety Lee Flowers. Lewis must have felt he was close, so the Steelers blitzed again, this time from the dime, and the Raiders made them pay with just their second run of the evening -- resulting in a 36-yard TD by Charlie Garner.
:: On the ensuing kickoff, rookie receiver extraordinaire Antwaan Randle El tore off a 31-yard return to the Pittsburgh 40. As nice a return as it was, Randle El made it all the more special with how he finished the play. Finding himself pinned along the sideline, and with little room to work his magic, the young playmaker could just as soon have continued out of bounds, but rather turned away from the sideline, squared his shoulders, and delivered a blow to the Raiders' Derek Combs and Travian Smith. Somewhere up there, Walter Payton was smiling.
:: I must say that despite the beating the defense has taken from the media, the Steelers offense lost this game, and perhaps worse yet, failed the defense. After the opening drive, the offense did little to answer the Raiders. Let's face it, this is a very talented Raiders offense, and few teams could stand up to such a barrage, especially those that were as unprepared as the Steelers were. Yet the game was kept close; the Raiders led just 10-7, 17-10, and 20-17 at the end of each of the first three quarters respectively.
:: Forget all of the yards surrendered through the air for a moment and consider this: The Steelers offense failed to hold the ball for as long as three minutes, and had drives of 4, 5, 5, 4, 3, 7, and 4 plays, following their initial possession (a TD pass to Ward) and through the end of the third quarter. Following that brilliant display, the Steelers offense proceeded to fumble on three of the first four drives of the fourth quarter, and would not score again. And, their only touchdown (read: points) of the second half, were set-up by Joey Porter's incredible interception return.
:: Chad Scott looked great in coverage throughout the evening. Say what you want, but receivers are going to catch passes, no matter how good the corner, no matter how tight the coverage. Scott was all over Tim Brown on back-to-back incompletions in the second quarter, forcing a rare three-and-out. He also looked strong blitzing Gannon, and made a great read and recovery on the halfback option pass by Terry Kirby. Unfortunately, he would give up a TD on the next play. Gannon's pass to Porter was a lazerbeam.
:: Here's hoping Joey Porter follows up Sunday night's career performance with a career year. That could only help the Steelers strongside millionaires, who to this point, have been awfully quiet. Does $13 million buy a sack? How about two?
:: Anyone who misses Earl Holmes must be watching a different game. I've never been a fan of James Farrior, but there is no question that he is an upgrade. And a stop-gap. Here's to the rookie Larry Foote and 20 extra pounds manning the "buck" in 2003.
:: Speaking of rookies, is that the ex-quarterback Randle El ranked second on the team with 8 receptions? I thought Plaxico Burress was the starter, didn't you? Hmmm…
:: Again, speaking of rookies, rookie right guard Kendall Simmons will never leave the starting line-up, so long as he plays as quietly effective as he did Sunday night. Can't wait to see him tussle with Cleveland's man-child Gerard Warren.
:: The season isn't over, not by a long shot. As disappointing as these first two games have been, even the most optimistic fan had to expect to be .500 at this point. The schedule ahead is filled with creampuffs, half of which are of the AFC North variety. Making the playoffs is not in question, so much as winning in them is. I like my chances with Tim Lewis and 14 weeks to prepare and perfect an answer to Oakland and New England's no huddle spread attack. What I question is whether the offense will be equally ready. Heck, offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey may have the answer already, but can Kordell Stewart actually execute it?
:: Here's something to chew on...If the Steelers went with back-up QB Tommy Maddox, would the offense be good enough? Would it be better? I would tend to think yes. For all of Kordell's amazing athletic ability, he still makes the routine look difficult. That's not just my opinion, but the opinion of NFL scouts as well. Steel City Sports Insiders Dale Lolley and Jim Wexell have raved about Maddox's control and execution of Mularkey's system. It is no secret that Mularkey has a heck of a lot more to offer, and that Stewart can only handle so much. Might Maddox at QB be addition by subtraction? Might Maddox consistently delivering the routine allow this offense to flourish? Maddox is unspectacular for sure, but does this system need the spectacular. Wouldn't we get that by hitting one of these fantastic wide receivers in stride?
:: Let that one marinate till next time...