A Routine Win, and Some Worries: A Week 7 Analysis

There really isn’t much to say about Pittsburgh’s dominating 32-20 win over Arizona yesterday so the discussion of the game itself should be pretty brief.

The main purpose of this game was to serve as a good road test against a familiar out of conference opponent, and the team certainly impressed. It’s always good to go into a meaningful game on a roll, and thankfully the Steelers will have some confidence when they face New England next week.

As always, the players that stood out:

  • Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown: I can’t stop talking about this pair of receivers, simply because they’ve been such a joy to watch. Everyone is raving about Wallace right now, calling him the “last true deep threat,” and they absolutely should be. After tallying the longest reception in team history, he deserves every last bit of praise. However, Brown is the one that really excites me. He caught seven passes for 102 yards, and was targeted nine times. He’s been everything the team has needed and more out of their second receiver, and with Ward’s apparent ankle injury his role will only increase in coming weeks. This is the best pair of receivers the team has put on the field since the glory days of Hines and Plaxico in 2001/2002, and they have enabled the offense to really be explosive.

  • LaMarr Woodley: The man has 5.5 sacks on the season, and is on pace for 16 on the year- what more do you need to know? He’s helped the team compensate for Harrison’s absence and has continued to develop into a pass rushing terror. He’s carrying a pretty banged up defense right now, and his continued production is essential to their success.

  • Shaun Suisham: Suisham was virtually automatic yesterday, and that’s a sentence I never thought I’d be typing. After nailing field goals from 41, 42 and 39 yards I feel a lot better about the kicking situation, especially considering his struggles as a recently as the Houston game. The team has never really asked him to do much, so if he can just keep this consistency going for situations like the one at the end of the first half, where the team needed some points and didn’t have enough time to move much closer, then he can be a valuable asset to the offense.

More importantly than this game, I want to address the upcoming New England matchup.

I’m worried. There’s no way around it. No matter whether it’s on the road or at home, in the playoffs or the regular season, New England has the team’s number.

The Steelers haven’t ever beat this incarnation of the team in the playoffs, only winning the Super Bowl when they’ve been knocked out of contention, and only won recently in the regular season when Matt Cassel was in at quarterback rather than Brady. The memories of the 2004 win in Ben’s first year are just about all the team has over New England.

Pittsburgh NEEDS a legitimate win against the Patriots. It certainly didn’t come last year as they were humiliated again, and I’m not sure it’s coming this year either.

The team remains vulnerable to quick passes, which Brady excels at, and Taylor’s bevy of penalties certainly didn’t give me confidence in him leading up to this matchup.

Furthermore, the Steelers are currently struggling in two elements that are essential to beating the Patriots; the run game and a pass rush that creates turnovers.

Time and again we’ve learned that the best way to beat Brady is to keep the ball out of his hands, and that all starts with the run game. Trying to out-pass the Pats, like the team tried to do last year, simply isn’t going to happen.

Mendenhall looked like his old, indecisive self yesterday, and against a New England run defense that’s ranked eighth in the country right now, I’m not feeling particularly confident in him. I would be considerably more comfortable seeing Redman get the ball and pound out some consistent, clock-killing yardage instead.

Additionally, the pass rush needs to hit the Golden Boy early and often to get him to throw interceptions. As good as Woodley looked yesterday, I’m not sure he can do it by himself. It will be too easy for Belichick to scheme to take him out of the game without Harrison on the other side.

The rest of the front seven will really have to step up. I liked what I saw of Steve McClendon yesterday, and with the injury status for much of the defensive line uncertain, he and Keisel will have to come to play next week.

Maybe I’m being too harsh on the team. Maybe this year is different, and Wallace will be able to easily outrun the Pats’ dead last pass defense.

However, I’m preparing for the worst. I’ll savor this Cardinals win, because I have a feeling I’ll be writing about a loss next week.

Back to the Pittsburgh Steelers Newsfeed