Senin, 19 September 2011

First win nothing to crow about

Let's keep first victory in perspective
Monday, September 19, 2011

PITTSBURGH - SEPTEMBER 18: Mike Wallace(notes) #17 of the Pittsburgh Steelers catches a touchdown pass in front of Brandon Browner(notes) #39 of the Seattle Seahawks in the second half during the game on September 18, 2011 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

There was a genuine work-a-day, clock puncher's dignity in the way the Steelers broke the beaks of the Seahawks, you could argue, but the full persona of Rebound Sunday didn't reveal itself until Isaac Redman encountered Seattle's Kam Chancellor early in the second quarter.

Chancellor is the Seahawks' oversized strong safety, 6-3 and 232 by the flip cards, which is why Redman figured he was in for some intense punishment after breaking open 20 yards from the goal line with the Steelers leading 7-0.

Four plays earlier, Seattle linebacker Aaron Curry dropped a Ben Roethlisberger pass headed for Hines Ward, and now Chancellor needed to blow up a play to keep the Seahawks from going feathers up before it was even noon in Seattle.

"I knew he was a big guy and that he's not the kind of guy who's going to try and cut the legs out from under you," Redman said. "He's going to come in for the big hit, so I just set him up."

Redman gave him a head fake and hip feint right while flipping his gyroscope left on a dazzling 20-yard touchdown run. Chancellor, it so happens, is perfectly emblematic of the new Seahawks under Pete Carroll: bigger, faster and still not terribly good.

You can genuflect all you want for the any-given-Sunday gospel, but the more accurate reality is that while you don't get to play Norfolk State in this NFL, you still sometimes get to the play the Seahawks.

I was going to say that if this 24-0 Steelers victory were a cable sitcom, it would be called Curb Your Enthusiasm, but then Mike Tomlin said almost the same thing.

"It's not going to take one performance to take that [Baltimore] stench off us," Tomlin said a couple minutes after polishing his record to 5-0 in home openers. "We respect that."

You must respect also that the Seahawks came all this way just to provide the struggling Steelers with a copy of Chicken Soup for the Underachievers' Soul, especially when they're so busy remaking their roster into one that can qualify to draft Stanford's Andrew Luck before anyone else has a chance.

"Good Luck Seahawks" isn't a well-wisher's slogan; it's a directive.

Carroll and Seahawks GM John Schneider have already turned over 81 percent of Seattle's roster in two years, and that includes the deporting of quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who spent Sunday throwing for 358 yards and a touchdown to boost the Tennessee Titans over Baltimore's stench spreaders.

Thus it's a nervous time for the remaining 19 percent, including new quarterback Tavaris Jackson, who made a pretty convincing case Sunday for why they had so little use for him in Minnesota.

"I'm just in shock with the offense," Jackson said after eight of his teams 10 possessions ended with a punt. "We just didn't play well at all. We couldn't put two third-down conversions back-to-back. That's embarrassing."

Embarrassment isn't forever, as the Steelers demonstrated by rumbling to a 17-0 halftime lead with an offense that is apparently capable of putting one foot in front of the other without a turnover.

Tomlin told his fellas pretty flatly they're the same team that was blasted only a week ago, but that doesn't mean he won't find some improvement when he analyzes it.

"I think he was just trying to remind us that you don't get too high in this business," said tight end Heath Miller, who caught just one of Ben Roethlisberger's 22 completions. "We have to keep in mind that it's a work in progress, but I think it was better than last week. We didn't turn the ball over."

Coming off a seven-turnover Sunday, a lot's gonna look good. The Steelers offensive line, for example, challenged still again when starting left guard Chris Kemoeatu couldn't start because of a knee injury, got highly professional performances from Ramon Foster and from right tackle Marcus Gilbert in his first NFL start.

"We pretty much knew what they'd do," Foster said of a Seattle defense that didn't have much success doing anything. "They stacked against the run a lot in the box, but we were finishing blocks enough to get the run going and that set up some pass plays."

Having scored once on 13 possessions a week ago, the Steelers got points four of the first six times they had the ball against a defense that wasn't remotely menacing save for the moment defensive end Raheem Brock crashed into Roethlisberger's right leg in the second quarter.

"I didn't feel anything pop so that was the good thing about it," the quarterback said. "Knees are nothing to play around with. It was definitely scary."

So that's on the record then, which means you can't say the Seahawks don't scare anybody. You can say they're perfectly awful though, which should keep the Steelers' first win in perspective.

Gene Collier: More articles by this author

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