Today I started my first football Sunday of the regular season in my usual ritual – watching NFLNetwork starting at 9 am and then switching to Fox at noon.Â Out of approximately ten commentators, only one picked the Steelers to win today.Â That one would be Terry Bradshaw-and although he never picks against the Steelers, today he’s the only one who is right.
If you like defense, as I do, the Steelers and Falcons game today was a great, great game.Â Smashmouth through and through, just the way we like football in Pittsburgh.
The defense made big plays when needed – Timmons, Harrison and Polamalu all came through when it was necessary.Â The defensive line consistently forced the Atlanta rushers to the outside allowing the Steelers to shut the running game down for most of the day.Â That was big since Atlanta likes to run and Michael Turner was likely hoping for a crease to show that he’s back after injuries last year.Â But he probably didn’t expect a defense (or a team) with a chip on its shoulder that wants to be king of the defense mountain for another year. Turner was held to 42 yards on 19 carries.
I will give Matt Ryan credit, he looked good – calm in the pocket even when under pressure and was able to get the ball out.Â His favorite target of the day wasn’t Tony Gonzalez as many predicted, but wideout Roddy White.Â Gonzalez was able, though, to make his 1,000 catch but not until the second half of the game.Â Overall, the Steelers defense kept the Falcons to field goals and didn’t let them make big plays in the redzone.
When the Steelers had the ball, it was all about game management and moving the chains.Â Nothing spectacular, Tomlin told Dixon not to be a hero – just get down the field.Â Yet, there was a hero who emerged, Hines Ward, who made some spectacular catches and kept the Steelers offense on the field.Â Today Hines had 6 catches for 108 yards and had his 26th career 100-yard game – a club record. I love watching Hines, when he gets the ball, corners need to be on alert because his attitude is that you aren’t going to hit him, he’s going to hit you.Â He catches and barrels through – I hope that my budding wide receiver takes notes from the Hines style of play and is as much a blocker as he is a receiver.
It is also clear why Hines is a captain on the offense, he was a leader today on the field, always helping Dixon -Â especially after Dixon threw the interception in the first half after they had moved the ball 58 yards in 7 plays – set up by a great 52-yard catch by Mike Wallace in Atlanta territory.Â After that interception, many were calling for Dixon to be replaced and some even booed him, yet he completed 18 of 26 attempts for 236 yards and 1 interception.Â Compare that to Ryan’s 27 of 44 for 252 yards and 1 interception.Â Dixon just needs to get comfortable and the receivers need to get comfortable with him.
Some of my major takeaways from this game:
- Defense looks great and the secondary even showed good coverage.Â Linebackers were covering receivers too when needed.Â This is important because, as well all know, defense wins championships.Â Woodley and Harrison each got a sack.
- Dixon just needs to throw the ball up and let the receivers do what they do and make plays.Â Seemed at times he was trying to be as accurate as possible and over thinking, when then happened, the ball ended up incomplete, thrown short and into the field.
- Isaac Redman was a great addition to the 53 man roster this year and in short yardage situations was able to deliver.Â Glad we promoted him from the practice squad this year. Redman had 6 carries for 19 yards today.
- Don’t give Rashard Mendenhall a crease to open field. You will be watching him as he runs into the end zone. Today he had 120 yards on 22 carries and the winning and only game touchdown.
Next week we go to Tennessee to meet the Titans.Â Full game analysis to come, but first , we HAVE to stop Chris Johnson and the run in Tennessee, and don’t forget about former Steeler, Nate Washington, while focusing on the run.
Will be tough, but it can be done.
Here we go Steelers!