The Pittsburgh Steelers finished the first quarter of their season winning three of the first four games. Offensive performances were underwhelming during three wins, contrasting a strong defense. Their loss to the Chicago Bears showed how bad they are capable of playing when they lose their focus. The first four games, by no means, paint a complete picture of who or what the Steelers are yet. It does however, give a good indication of the direction they are trending. The Steelers first quarter review looks at what was learned about them through their first four games.
Pittsburgh Steelers First Quarter Review: What We’ve Learned
Winning Ugly is Still a Win
Style points seem to mean more these days rather than the win itself. This has been a common theme during Steelers wins, corresponding with the increasing popularity of fantasy football. The fact remains, an ugly Super Bowl win will always beat looking great during a Super Bowl loss. They had one ugly win during the first quarter of the season, which came against the Cleveland Browns. Ugly wins tell a lot about a team, specifically, that despite injuries or other factors, they were able to prevail. In other words, ugly wins reveal the character of a team, regardless of the level of the competition. The Steelers have won 75% of their games despite not playing their best football.
Steelers First Quarter Review: Past Injuries are Catching up to Ben Roethlisberger
Time waits for no man, including Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers 13 year gunslinger. Years of his backyard style football has taken a toll on him, affecting his play this season. His deep ball accuracy has noticeably dropped off, and looks more indecisive than at any point in his career. Roethlisberger has been uncharacteristically impatient this season. Antonio Brown has been wide open, deep down field, six times this season. Roethlisberger has chosen, too quickly, to get rid of the ball with a short pass on each occasion. His trademark is looking for the deep man before dumping it off, but suddenly, the downfield gambler’s playing it safe.
Roethlisberger has missed on his deep balls, for the most part, while under throwing receivers on the completions. He would have two more touchdown passes had he hit Martavis Bryant in stride. Bryant dropped the one perfect deep ball he has thrown. Deep ball accuracy comes from having a solid base, the legs. Could years of injuries to his ankles and legs be catching up to him? Roethlisberger has suffered 10 injuries to his ankles and legs. Four on his left and six on his right.
Roethlisberger’s arm strength is as good as ever. His issues seem more mental than anything else, based on his hesitancy to let it rip. Undoubtedly though, Roethlisberger’s competitive fire will take over, allowing him to shed his hesitancy. He is still one of the very best, more than capable of leading the Steelers back to the Super Bowl. Roethlisberger has been, what amounts to, a game manager through the first quarter of the season. He’s showing signs of regaining his form, in between thinking too much. When he starts doing instead of thinking, the offense will take off.
Steelers First Quarter Review: This Defense is Good
Admittedly, the debacle in Chicago has been the low point for the defense during the season’s first quarter. It’s no coincidence that the Steelers defense had to play without Stephon Tuitt and T.J. Watt. That performance has the look of an aberration and a wake-up call now, after two straight solid performances. Watt and Tuitt returned to the lineup following the Bears game.
Keith Butler gave his first quarter assessment of the defensive progress on Thursday afternoon
The starting defense has yet to play together this season, as Bud Dupree, Tuitt and Watt have all missed time. Tyson Alualu and Anthony Chickillo stepped in and did more than pick up the slack. They helped the Steelers rank second in total defense and sacks through the first month of the season. The defense has collected 15 sacks, five forced fumbles, and four interceptions during the first month. They have given up just under 15 points per game. Ryan Shazier is leading the way with 37 tackles. Butler’s unit will open up the second quarter of the season with all 11 starters on the field, barring unforeseen circumstances.
Steelers First Quarter Review: Once Again, Antonio Brown is not a Distraction
Brown is the best wide receiver in the NFL, a superstar, and a great teammate. He is many things, but the one thing he is not would be a distraction. Brown wants to win more than anyone, it’s assuredly why he works as hard as he does. He works harder for his team and brings more fans into his world than most superstars of his caliber ever have.
As a result, Brown has had to apologize more than any other superstar of his caliber. Brown’s latest apology is for knocking a Gatorade Cooler to the ground, after Roethlisberger failed to get him the ball. Who remembers Roethlisberger defending Brown on Sunday, and throwing him under the bus on Monday?
Brown knocks the Gatorade cooler around and he’s selfish, but Pittsburgh Pirates utility man, Sean Rodriguez, takes a bat to one and he is passionate. This would not have been an issue if the offense was humming like the well oiled machine it should be. Brown would have likely laughed it off if Roethlisberger was playing up to his abilities like he should be. Perhaps Brown’s frustration has to do with Roethlisberger playing more like a game manager than the gunslinger he has been during his career. Maybe if players showed a little more frustration, the Steelers wouldn’t take a dump in the bed against teams like the Bears. Maybe they would put teams like the Browns away early on, not letting them hang around all game.
The Steelers remain Super Bowl contenders after one month, despite the drama, injuries, and a disjointed offensive attack. Roethlisberger will get it going at some point, and a very good defense will continue to improve. The Steelers haven’t come close to playing their best football, yet they’re in very good shape in the AFC. What was learned thus far during the Steelers first quarter review? An ugly win still counts. The defense is very good, and will only get better as the season progresses. Past injuries could be hampering Roethlisberger both mentally and physically. Quit judging Brown to be something that he is not.