Guest Column (by JB in the Big Steel Apple)
4th Down and 10 Facts: Pittsburgh/Jacksonville Post game Report
And the critics are out. Only 2 hours after Pittsburgh�s 20 � 7 victory over the Jaguars, the critics decide to focus on Jerome Bettis� below average rushing day and not on Kordell Stewart�s finest game in 3 years. Yes, I said finest game. Even better than last year�s game vs. Oakland. That game was less about stats and more about guts. Even better than Green Bay on Monday Night three years ago. This was his finest hour. This game proved to the whole nation that he is back and performing at a high capacity. Enough of the rambling, let�s get on to the facts:
Fact 1#: You live by the sword, you die by the sword. Jacksonville run blitzed 9 and sometimes 10 in the box on 80 % of the first downs. Their whole game plan was obvious. They weren�t going to let Jerome Bettis sniff any openings all game. If the Steelers were going to win, they would have to throw the ball a majority of the game.
We waited all game for the Jaguars to wear down physically. They never did. This was because the words "sustained drive" were not common terms used today. The Jags D did a gutsy job on The Bus and until the final drive of the game had held him to 12 yards rushing on 19 carries.
The Jags inevitably dared the Steelers to pass 2/3 of the game away, which the Steelers practically did. Each team waited for the other to blink. And in the end, the Jags blinked. Stewart ended the game with 266 yds passing and 21 completions with 1 passing TD. I will get to his run scoring TD later.
Fact #2: The wide receivers as a whole showed up. For the first time all year, the receiving corps showed us as unit what we�ve been hearing from the coaches all year. These guys we�re in single coverage a majority of the game and continued to fight their way open. They caught the big passes and took the lethal hits. Props to the whole unit. Especially, Troy Edwards and Bobby Shaw. Shaw�s first reception was a thing of beauty. That�s stretching the field and he�s the guy that we�ve been told could do it. Edwards was a key player in the first half, at one point the recipient of three straight completions.
Fact #3: Kendrell Bell is the Defensive Rookie of the Year. WOW. That�s all I have to say about his performance. His bull rush over left guard Zach Wiegert, then leaping, like a beast over the flattened Wiegert, onto Quinn was a thing of beauty. That beats Joey Porter�s one-handed sack of Randall Cunningham as the most gorgeous sack of the year.
Fact #4: This game was closer than expected. We couldn�t have expected any more that a close game. I think it�s a determent to the rest of the Central division to say that we could annihilate any team in the division. Parity is alive and well. And while Jacksonville on whole is not as talented, they are still a rival. And in rivalry games, anything can and will happen.
Fact #5: Cowher�s field goal call at the end of half could�ve come back to haunt us. 10 seconds left. Third down at the Jacksonville 10. We play conservative and kick a field goal. I was speechless at the insanity. I will let Mill rant about this one, because I want to be able to keep my article PG.
Fact #6: Teams will study and copy Jacksonville�s run defense. Jacksonville as I mentioned earlier lived by the run blitz. It basically the only defense they showed all game to Pittsburgh. If they sniffed a run at all they blitz it. Teams will see this and study it. Pittsburgh still gained over 150 yds rushing total, but most of that came in the final drive. For Pittsburgh to continue to run well, they must show the passing game they had today AND attempt more bootlegs, more shifts and more draw plays. Pittsburgh�s run game was curiously conservative today and lacked the creativity we�ve seen in the past. Perhaps they are saving something for the future. What was interesting though was the lack of the toss sweep. I counted one today for Pittsburgh. Why?
Fact #7: The Bus rarely had time to get his shoulders square. This was because the Jags were reading the snap count to perfection. When Kordell reviews videotape he will see how much he telegraphed the snap.
Fact #8: Baltimore choked. Big Time. That loss to Cleveland awakened a young hurt Browns team and showed just how far behind last year�s pace their defense really is.
Fact #9: Jay Hayes� special teams corps is an embarrassment to this team. Once again, no team speed on the special teams units. This lack of speed is killing us and opposing units are getting set and blowing us off the ball.
Fact #10: The rest of the league is quivering. For the Bus to be held in check and Pittsburgh to still put up 20 points is a great sign for this team and a statement of warning to the rest of the league. That Pittsburgh passed at will was one thing, but for the team to score the final TD on a run was another. They we�re held down for 90% of the game and then the Jags gave an inch. And when that inch was given, the Bus and Co. turned it into a 6 foot wide whole. This ability for the Steelers to win by the pass, or by the run, or by field goals shows just how mature and confident this team is.
Thoughts around the League and on the Game.
Check out my pre-game for next week coming to Stillers.com in a few days. I will have the MPO count and more things to think about while going to the fridge for a beer.
Be happy, be proud, be hungry. We won and it sure feels good. Pittsburgh has a legitimate contender for the first time in years. We have problems that have to be addressed, but I�d rather peek in January than in November.
Written by: JB in the Big Steel Apple