Playing Fantasy Football does not qualify you to be the in the front office or on the coaching staff of the Pittsburgh Steelers. They are professionals and you are not!
By F. Dale LolleyStaff firstname.lastname@example.org
DENVER - In their season-opening 35-7 loss at Baltimore last year, the Steelers saw the Ravens use a lot of cut blocking on nose tackle Casey Hampton to get him on the ground so that they could gash Pittsburgh for 170 rushing yards.
It was a tactic future opponents used with success until the Steelers finally adjusted.
After Denver had success against the Steelers in Sunday night’s 31-19 season-opening victory at Sports Authority Field at Mile High using a no-huddle offense exclusively from the second quarter on, Pittsburgh had better be prepared to see plenty more of that in 2012.
“We practiced against it all week,” said Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley. “We knew they were going to go to the no-huddle at some point. We just gave up some big plays in it.”
None was bigger than a 71-yard catch-and-run to Demaryius Thomas in the third quarter. Thomas caught a simple wide receiver screen at the line of scrimmage, picked up some blocks and ran untouched straight up the field for a score.
That play ruined what was otherwise a dominant third quarter for the Steelers, who ran 28 plays compared to two for the Broncos and held a 14:24-:36 advantage in time of possession yet saw their 10-7 halftime lead turn into a 14-13 deficit.
“We didn’t make significant plays, you know, third-down type plays. Plays to get you off the field,” said Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. “They did. They didn’t have many third-down opportunities, but I think they were like five, six of nine or something like that. We just didn’t make enough football plays, and they did. You’ve got to give credit to them. They executed.”
Peyton Manning completed 19 of 26 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns after a 4-for-7 start once the Broncos went to their no-huddle in the second quarter.
Yes, Manning was coming back after not having played a regular season game in nearly two years, but luckily for the Steelers, not every team has Manning running the no-huddle, an offense he has excelled in throughout his NFL career.
“What can you say? I mean, he’s Peyton Manning,” said Steelers strong safety Troy Polamalu. “He’s the same Manning I don’t know how to explain. Everything anybody has ever said about him is probably the same thing I would say.”
But the Steelers feel like they will be better prepared to face similar attacks moving forward.
Pro Bowl linebacker James Harrison and starting free safety Ryan Clark did not play Sunday night for the Steelers. Harrison should be closer to returning to the lineup after being held out while recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery a little over three weeks ago, while Clark will be back this week against the Jets after sitting out because the game was played in Denver, where the high altitude causes issues with the sickle cell trait that he carries.
“We feel like we’re a better defense than that,” said defensive end Brett Keisel. “We feel like we stopped them pretty good in the first half. I feel like we’ll get better.
“We just couldn’t get to Peyton in the second half. He was getting the ball out quickly. Guys were making plays, and we weren’t.”
Right tackle Marcus Gilbert suffered a hyperextended knee in the third quarter but is expected to be OK. He was replaced by rookie Mike Adams. Right guard Ramon Foster suffered an eye injury and was expected to be evaluated on Monday. He was replaced by Doug Legursky. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was 10 of 12 for 129 yards on third downs as Pittsburgh converted 11 of 19 third downs. Inside linebacker Larry Foote led the Steelers with eight tackles, one sack and two quarterback hits.