A Dominant Trip Down Memory Lane: A Week 5 Analysis

After watching the Pittsburgh Steelers’ dominant 38-17 win over the Tennessee Titans, I can’t help but wonder- what year is it?

Because it certainly felt as if I wasn’t watching the 2011 Steelers on Sunday, but rather the Super Bowl winning 2005 or 2009 iterations of the team.

Despite the absence of a variety of offensive and defensive starters, every element of the team seemed to click, from offense to special teams.

It was undoubtedly the best collective effort Pittsburgh has put forth all season, especially against a half decent opponent, but several players really stood out.

  • Ben Roethlisberger: Ben has been an easy target for criticism these last few weeks given his astonishingly high number of turnovers, but he did a lot to silence the critics yesterday. Throwing for five touchdowns is no easy feat while completely healthy, but to do so with a sprained left foot is just incredible. The numbers themselves are impressive, but what really pleased me with his performance was his greater awareness in the pocket. I talked last week about how he seemed to have blinders on after dropping back, and I was certainly worried that the Titans’ athletic defensive line could wreak havoc on the team. However, the team seems to have made the necessary adjustments to avoiding the pass rush, from a greater emphasis on quick passes, to Ben simply getting rid of the ball more quickly. Bruce Arians and the receivers deserve a lot of credit for this development, but what a feel good game for Roethlisberger after such a tough start to his season.

  • Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman: A lot of people mentioned Rashard Mendenhall’s absence as a reason to be concerned going into this game, but I was secretly a little glad he’d be out, and Dwyer and Redman rewarded my faith. Mendenhall look tentative all year, and while the line certainly hasn’t given him ANY help at all, he seemed far too willing to stop fighting for yards after contact. Redman, however, seemed to refuse to go down, and while he finished with only 49 yards on the day, the way he continuously fought for first downs really carried the offense. Dwyer was similarly impressive, and definitely proved that he belonged on the team after his 107 yards performance. Redman left the game with an undisclosed injury, and depending on the severity, he could very well start losing time to Dwyer once Mendenhall presumably returns next week, but he’s certainly earned the attention.

  • Max Starks: The offensive line was hardly dominant on Sunday, but for once they didn’t appear incompetent, and I’m willing to give Starks a lot of credit. Reports out of training camp were that Starks was badly out of shape at the start of the year, and that he had to be cut, so his re-signing last week hardly brought me joy. However, his efforts contributed to a line that only allowed one sack on the day and opened some beautiful running lanes, especially the absolutely gorgeous series of blocks on Dwyer’s 76 yard run. He completely shut down Derrick Morgan, and Ben had better protection on his blind side than he’s had all year. I am definitely willing to give credit to the unit as a whole, as they barely even flinched when they lost yet another starter, Marcus Gilbert, due to injury in the middle of the game, but Starks really stood out. It’s good to see him back in the fold and healthy again, and I hope this is a good sign for the rest of the year.

After the soul crushing nature of last week’s loss, this week felt extremely refreshing. The team managed to address every issue that I felt needed to be examined, from the offensive line to a turnover producing run defense, and made me feel confident about this team once more.

They have a very favorable matchup against Jacksonville at home coming up next week, so I really hope they can build on this success and actually get some momentum for this young season.

For the first time this year, I can truly say that it feels good to be a Steelers fan.

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