My thoughts, for what they're worth

Ian Whetstone likes the convincing 2-0 start against convincingly inferior opponents, but he's not getting too excited. His rundown of Steelers-Bills follows:

- Okay, let's get this out of the way: the throwback uniforms stink to high heaven. It's not just the gaudy awfulness of the golden helmets, or the general Pop Warner feel of the jerseys. The look wasn't just ugly; it departed too greatly from a tried and true standard. It just didn't feel like I was watching the Steelers.

- Last week, viewing the game from Cleveland Browns Stadium, I noted how obvious was Troy Polamalu's impact on the defensive performance even though he didn't show up large on the stat sheet. This week, on television, it wasn't nearly so apparent. Maybe that's a consequence of being able to see only what the camera follows on a broadcast, but some credit goes to Buffalo—and especially to newly-signed TE Michael Gaines—for completely neutralizing the Mane Man's efforts on the blitz.

- Though, it wasn't just Polamalu; the safeties as a group, so often as prominent in Pittsburgh's defense as the linebackers in recent years, combined for just two solo tackles on the day. That makes me wonder whether Buffalo didn't make a concerted effort to avoid the safeties … though I can't imagine how. And if anyone can tell me why Ryan Clark's interception wasn't ruled a force-out, I'd love to hear it.

- Of course, thanks to Solomon Wilcots, I now know that players impact the game by "turning the ball back inside." Pointing that out on every other play would seem to be his new thing.

- And, you know, when it takes a missed call on a long kickoff return to setup the opponent's only three points, any criticism of the defense ventures well into nit-pickery.

- Not to state the obvious, but Terrence McGee is one hell of a return man. He's dangerous enough in that capacity that Buffalo thinks it worth exposing a starter at the all-important corner position to a significant additional risk of injury. Unlike many return guys, he's been pretty consistently dangerous for several years, too.

- Buffalo's defense reminds me a little of Cleveland's, in that they've got real talent in some positions, but not nearly enough solid guys around them or depth behind them. They've got a pretty decent defensive line; Aaron Schobel ought to be regarded among the best ends in the game, Chris Kelsay can play, and John McCargo flashes his first-round potential. The Penn Staters around Pittsburgh must be pleased with Paul Posluszny's early pro career. But the gaping hole that is their secondary mirrors the void up front in Cleveland, especially without Donte Whitner.

- Pittsburgh's defense shows no such holes, especially not at James Farrior's linebacker position. I don't think I've seen the 32-year-old play such great football since the 2004 season as he has over the last two weeks.

- What a tremendous bull-rush James Harrison put on Jason Peters, one of the league's best young linemen. I sincerely hope that he avoids the injury bug that has plagued his career; I really want to see what he offers as a full-time starter.

- Harrison's injury provided a nice opportunity to see LaMarr Woodley in live-game action against an opponent unlikely to exploit any rookie weaknesses in a meaningful way, and the kid looked like he can hang with the big boys. Still, even though he showed better coverage skills than anticipated in pre-season, I'd really rather not see him matched up one-on-one with a wideout downfield. Peerless Price may not be Randy Moss, but Woodley ain't Joey Porter, either.

- Clark Haggans played one of his better games in a while. On one play, he shoved tight end Robert Royal into J.P. Losman hard enough to knock the quarterback over. Brett Keisel then reached down casually to notch what might prove to be the easiest sack of his career.

- Once again, the opposing offense chose to stay away from Ike Taylor. He made four tackles; three came on runs, and the fourth on a five-year dump-off to Royal. Buffalo didn't otherwise complete a pass against him all day.

- Marshawn Lynch impressed me with what seemed like a fairly productive rushing effort against such a tough defense… until I realized that in total he posted just 64 yards at 3.6 per carry. I guess everything is relative to expectation, and that says as much about what I've come to expect from Pittsburgh's run defense as anything.

- Play-by-play man Ian Eagle expressed that Buffalo's second drive "seemed to have some promise" as it petered out after nine yards. Yeah, I guess everything really is relative to expectation.

- Yes, the Steelers also fielded an offense, and they too played effectively. Though, at the quarterback position, despite spreading the ball around better than he ever has, Ben Roethlisberger still isn't quite playing up to his potential. He took the dinks and dunks that the defense readily allowed, and against this opponent needed nothing more. Still, he's a much better mid-to-deep-passer than he showed against Buffalo. Believers in a particularly popular Roethlisberger myth may note that he threw 34 passes and the Steelers won handily, but ironically this was not nearly as effective a game as he has played many, many times past.

- Was that Willie Parker switching the ball to his outside arm … more than once? With nary a problem? Parker's obvious dedication to improving the finer points of his craft only makes it that much easier to root for his continued and greater success. No one will mistake him for Earl Campbell any time soon, but he made his best impersonation blowing safety Jim Leonhard over with the crown of his helmet to end the first quarter.

- Credit for the offensive success belongs largely, as it often does, to the offensive line. The backs, too, made some great blocks in both the running and passing game.

- The tight ends also played their part in the blocking game. Even Matt Spaeth made a really nice block on Parker's touchdown run. Vic Ketchman, the terrific senior editor for the official Jaguars website, has noted that top effectiveness at the position requires a great blocker who is also a threat to catch the ball, and I'm not sure that any tight end in the league epitomizes that description better than Heath Miller. I don't care whether the tight ends catch two balls each game, or ten; I care that they block their butts off, and can provide that receiving threat when called upon.

- As I've said before, Miller also tackles terrifically after interceptions. As I've said before, I wish I didn't know that.

- I can't remember the last time the Steelers ran an effective hurry-up offense to add points at the end of the first half while already ahead. I know that I'd like to see it more.

- I never really bought into the win-one-for-Kevin Everett angle; emotion may propel an all-time great like Brett Favre to notch a masterful performance in honor of his dad, but it can't make a bad team good. And so, the rosters being what they are, I didn't see much to fear from this match-up other than the ever-present "any given Sunday" factor. Beating bad teams convincingly is a good thing, being 2-0 is a good thing, leading the division is a good thing, and showing no obvious deficiencies is a very good thing. San Francisco may provide a better test next week, but I'm itching to see this Steelers team up against a really top-notch opponent … and that level of opposition looks like it may be a few weeks out, yet.

Steel City Insider Top Stories