Chuck Noll was the coach in 1989 when the Pittsburgh Steelers opened against the Cleveland Browns and lost a game 51-0. That is the last time the Steelers were embarrassed in a season opener. Which was worse than what happened to begin this season. Those Browns would eventually abandon the Paris of Northeast Ohio and make a new home in Baltimore and yesterday those former Browns and still adolescent Ravens struck down our beloved Steelers. Many might say that the Original Cleveland Browns were run out of Cleveland as much by Art Modell, as by their persistent inability to best their regional and divisional betters the Only Pittsburgh Steelers. But Sunday's season opener must surely have tasted like redemption for the Baltimore franchise. In a way, it is reminiscent of Virgil's Aeneid.
Those that know their classics would be quick to and correct in pronouncing that Aeneas won in the end, but Joe Flacco (A University of Pittsburgh cast away) only won in week one. There are 16 weeks and 15 games left in this regular season and so this sobering first week may in the end of this long season be looked upon as a blessing, if it is referenced at all. A game that made the Steelers the underdog they seem to love being and motivated them towards a vicious beating of their fowl divisional rival in week nine. Even if that is the case, this loss should be taken as a reminder of the problems that may be overcome but are still very real.
Don't listen to Mark Madden or Craig Wolfley. Trust the evidence of your eyes and know that the Steelers offensive line isn't good enough. Legursky is not going to have to face Haloti Ngata every week, but most defensive lineman can still get fumbles and sacks when they go unblocked. Jonathan Scott won't have to face Terrell Suggs every week, but most teams have people running at the quarterback and Jonathan Scott may not be able to stop any of them. The Steelers might be better off negotiating some sort of a four "Mississippi" count with opposing defenses.
Throw the linebacking performance out of the window. James Harrison is going to get better and Lawrence Timmons won't be that over excited again. Both men probably played what will in all likely hood be their worst games of the season and will be all the more motivated and focused for the remainder of the season. Farrior and Foote didn't play all that poorly, they just aren't difference makers anymore and are only capable of playing as well as the rest of the front seven permits. Woodley was bound to have a let down after that big contract, as was predicted by yours truly just a few weeks ago, but he is still a professional and shouldn't be embarrassed like that again.
The defensive line is full of old men and under aged brutes. There are going to be a lot of ups and downs for that squad this year as the young guys find their place in the NFL and this defense and the old guys struggle through one of their last seasons. Keisel, Smith, and Hampton can't play to their maximum level for 16 games a year anymore and Smith may become a 20 snap a game guy before the season is over, but Heyward and Hood are studs in the making and they will blow you and a few running backs away before the end of the season.
How good was Ike Taylor? Everyone wants to talk about how bad Bryant Mcfadden was, but Taylor didn't let Evans do anything of note. Pick Lee Evans up on your fantasy team this week, but his stock will never be lower than right now. You can probably get him for Peyton Manning and a future consideration if you play your cards right.
The offense will never look that bad again, probably. Rashard Mendenhall actually did alright when Bruce Arians let him. 12 carries or 45 yards isn't exactly epic, but it isn't a failure either. the running back was just never permitted a chance to find his stride. Ben Roethlisberger is a Pro Bowl quarterback and yesterday didn't change that. The offensive line may make this one of his more brutal years, but he is still going to have special moments and great plays. The only real derailing there would be if Charlie Batch ever had to actually use an arm that is already so wary from holding a clipboard for the vast majority the last decade. Charlie may be an adequate back-up, but this offense needs a savior not a game manager.
Some of you may be trying to remember how Chuck Knoll's Steelers did in 1989 after that abysmal loss. They went 9-6 for the remainder of the season and finished behind the 9-6-1 Browns, but still made the playoffs on a Wild Card. The Steelers lost that year in the Wild Card Round against the Houston Oilers. Some seasons go that way. They can't all be Super Bowl years, but one warming reminder to take away from that 1989 season is this: Neither Houston nor Cleveland still possess the teams that beat our Pittsburgh Steelers that year. Always remember, even in crushing defeats, the Baltimore Ravens are a bunch of traitors.
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