What a game today in Pittsburgh. My thoughts:
– For as much as every fan criticizes Brian Schottenheimer, he called a brilliant game. Outside of playcalling at the end of the first half, he did a great job moving the ball, keeping the Steelers off-balance. Of course, the play-action bootleg for the Sanchez touchdown was perfect – every single Steeler crashed the line of scrimmage, including the three defenders, including James Harrison, responsible for outside contain on the left. Sanchez could have moonwalked in. The sound you hear is me applauding Schotty.
– Credit to Nick Folk for doing his job. He has taken a lot of heat this year, most of it deserved, but he made two field goals in tough weather on the road and made his PATs. His kickoffs were a bit on the short side, but that can be attributed to the weather. Good show Folk.
– Braylon Edwards had eight catches for 100 yards on the dot. Bray made a lot of big catches, especially over the middle. He took some shots and, to my knowledge, didn’t drop a pass. The first quarter sideline throw from Sanchez over Braylon’s right shoulder was positively Manning-to-Wayne.
– Ah Mark Sanchez. It seems every game he swings from Greatest Anything of All Time, to bum and draft bust. He didn’t light up the scoreboard today, but he didn’t turn the ball over against a great defense in a tough place to play. His TD run was less on him and more on the playcall, but he sold it well. Bootlegs are a strength of Sanchez’s. He continues to grow. He wasn’t going to win the MVP this year; but I like his chances of success in the future because he works hard and he has the QB mentality.
– The defense was frustrating. They didn’t force a turnover, but obviously played well enough to win. Got some good pressure from Bryan Thomas and Drew Coleman, who forced two fumbles from Roethlisberger. The running game beat us up a bit, but we limited the long runs from Mendenhall. Two things really struck me: first, we gave up a lot of long 3rd down conversions, including a 34 yarder on the final PIT drive. Second, we missed a lot of tackles, especially in the backfield. If a defender is matched up one-on-one with a runner in the backfield, you don’t need to necessarily bring him down, just slow him down long enough for your teammates to get there. But the defense made enough plays to win, especially on the last two plays of the game, when they had pretty much blanket coverage in the end zone. Extra points go to backups James Ighedigo for a lot of hustle, and Marquise Cole for great coverage on Spaeth in the end zone on the final play, breaking up the pass.
– Of course, credit Brad Smith and the return game for the early lead. Smith is a secret weapon and would be a huge loss if he left via free agency this offseason.
– Tiny annoyance: Holmes caught a pass on 3rd-and-5 in Steeler territory with one yard to go. He was surrounded by defenders, but instead of just bulling/diving ahead for the first, he tried to spin out to the sideline and was brought down. Of course, this was just before the Sanchez bootleg run so it worked out, but those plays can decide games.