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mesaSteeler
10-13-2009, 08:38 PM
There's no hangover for the Pittsburgh Steelers: Tony Grossi's Scouting Report
By Tony Grossi
October 13, 2009, 6:40PM
Cleveland Plain Dealer
http://www.cleveland.com/browns/index.ssf/2009/10/theres_no_hangover_for_the_pit.html

Ben Roethlisberger has already thrown for nearly 1,500 yards in the first five games of the season, and is on a pace that would surpass his best single-season yardage totals with the Steelers by 1,000 yards.CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Any hope of the Pittsburgh Steelers suffering a hangover from the 2008 Super Bowl championship season should be laid to rest by now.

Yes, they are only 3-2 and tied for second place in the AFC North, a game behind surprising Cincinnati.

Yes, they've blown some big leads in both wins and losses. They lost to the Bengals after leading, 20-9, and also lost 21 points of a 28-0 lead before prevailing over San Diego.

In 15 seasons under former coach Bill Cowher, the Steelers were an incredible 111-1-1 when holding a lead of more than 10 points.

They're also throwing more than a typical Steelers team. They're exactly on the crazy pace of 2002 when Cowher and then-coordinator Mike Mularkey thought Tommy Maddox was the second coming of ... Terry Bradshaw.

But there are reasonable explanations for all.

On the defensive breakdowns

How many teams ever totally compensate for the loss to injury of their best defensive player? Safety Troy Polamalu hasn't played since spraining his left knee in the season opener. He is expected to be cleared to play Sunday against the Browns in Pittsburgh.

The shift in offensive philosophy

Maddox was no Bradshaw, of course. More relevant, he wasn't close in talent to Ben Roethlisberger, the present franchise quarterback. While the Steelers have adopted a "pass-first" philosophy, they haven't gone radically overboard like Mularkey did with Maddox.

Additionally, the eventual switch to Rashard Mendenhall over Willie Parker as the team's feature back will restore the big back-mentality to the Steelers' running game. Mendenhall, who is close to 30 pounds heavier than Parker, is averaging 5.6 yards per carry and has three touchdown runs in what looks to be a transition period in the Steelers' running game.

The 3-2 record

The Steelers plowed through one of the most grueling regular-season schedules in recent memory in 2008, and then they finished the job with two playoff wins at home and the last-minute win over Arizona in the Super Bowl.

An emotional letdown entering 2009 would have been natural. Yet, at times, the Steelers have been dominant in every one of their five games.

The toughest period of a post-championship season often is the beginning. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin appears to have managed his team through it. Like every team, the Steelers' season is evolving. A stout defense of their championship is not out of the question.



TONY GROSSI'S SCOUTING REPORT

Browns vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

Sunday 1 p.m. in Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pa.

Record: 3-2.

Last game: Defeated Detroit Lions, 28-20, Oct. 11, in Detroit.

Coach: Mike Tomlin, 28-13, third year.

Series record: Steelers lead, 59-55 (counting postseason).

Last meeting: Steelers won, 31-0, Dec. 28, in Pittsburgh.

polamalurc.jpgRob Carr/Associated PressInjured in the season opener against Tennessee, Troy Polamalu is expected back for this Sunday's game against the Browns -- which means the Steelers' defense will be a lot healthier as well.League rankings: Offense is seventh overall (21st rushing, fourth passing), defense is fourth overall (second rushing, 14th passing) and turnover differential is minus-4.

Offensive overview: Coordinator Bruce Arians hasn't been able to resist the temptation to let Ben Roethlisberger air it out. They're throwing more -- on pace for 506 passes vs. 460 runs. The bad news for opponents is the Steelers have been able to reduce their sacks. Opponents may be hoping their offensive line doesn't hold up. So far, it's not cracking. It's playing better than last year. The eventual switch to second-year back Rashard Mendenhall will enable the offense to ice games better in the fourth quarter than it could with Willie Parker. Their pass-first mentality is one reason they're the only team in the AFC with three players with 20 or more catches -- Hines Ward has 33, Heath Miller 29 and Super Bowl hero Santonio Holmes 23. They've also been able to bring along speed-burner rookie Mike Wallace (16 catches for team-high 15.4-yard average) to make up for the disappointing second year of higher pick Limas Sweed.

Defensive overview: There have been some lapses in the defense in the four games without safety Troy Polamalu, who's expected back Sunday. They've also missed his big plays. Only safety Ryan Clark has an interception besides Polamalu. But coordinator Dick LeBeau upped his blitzing in recent games and it provided a needed spark. The defense had seven sacks against Detroit after getting only eight in the previous four games. LeBeau deftly rotates his defensive line to keep over-30 starters Aaron Smith, Casey Hampton and Brett Keisel fresh. Rookie Ziggy Hood hasn't made an impact so far. Outside linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley are just starting to rev it up after relatively slow starts. Those players, along with Polamalu, receive so much notoriety that it leaves a few other stalwarts among the league's most underrated. These include Smith, inside linebacker James Farrior and, increasingly, cornerback Ike Taylor.

Special teams overview: CFL import Stefan Logan, a 5-6, 180-pound waterbug, is their new return specialist. He had a couple touchdowns in preseason but has yet to score in a real game. Logan is averaging 7.4 yards on punts and 26.4 on kickoffs. The coverage teams have improved, giving up nothing longer than a 42-yard kickoff return. Punter Dan Sepulveda is back after missing last year with a knee injury. He's a boomer, 12th with a 45.8-yard gross average and sixth with a net of 42.2. Kicker Jeff Reed is 5-of-8 in field goals with a long of 46. He missed two in a 17-14 loss at Chicago.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

QB Ben Roethlisberger: The Findlay native, 9-0 lifetime against the Browns, is off to another great start. He's first in the NFL with a 73.8 completion percentage, fourth with an 8.55-yard average gain per pass attempt and seventh with a 102.6 passer rating.

LB James Harrison: After a slow start, the 2008 NFL defensive player of the year has five of his six sacks in the past two games. He has four forced fumbles after leading the NFL last season with seven.

RB Rashard Mendenhall: Strong (5-11 and 225 pounds) and quick, the second-year back from Illinois is being groomed to replace Willie Parker as the feature back. He's averaging 5.6 yards a rush (287 yards on 51 attempts) and co-leads the team with three touchdowns.

Injury report: S Troy Polamalu (knee) missed the last four games. RB Willie Parker (toe) missed the last two games. Both are expected to work during the week. DE Aaron Smith (shoulder) is out.

Small world: Steelers coaches who previously worked for the Browns include defensive line coach John Mitchell (1991-93), linebackers coach Keith Butler (1999-02) and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians (2001-03). ... Defensive end Nick Eason played for the Browns (2004-06). ... Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is a native of Findlay and played at Miami, Ohio. ... Linebacker James Harrison is from Akron and played at Kent State. ... Receiver Santonio Holmes played at Ohio State.

stlrtruck
10-14-2009, 08:12 AM
Let's make it 3 in a row and be done with the schnannigans we've seen in the first quarter of the season this year!

The_WARDen
10-14-2009, 08:38 AM
even if there was a hangover, it wouldn't be such a bad thing.

Isn't the cure for a hangover to continue drinking? If it's a SB hangover, then win another SB.

Dino 6 Rings
10-14-2009, 11:27 AM
As long as we keep our foot on the throat of the other team for 60 minutes we should be fine for the rest of the season.

Starting this week vs the Browns, I want to see us punish them for the entire game with no let down in intensity.

Edman
10-14-2009, 12:26 PM
We're on a better pace than in 2006. That year we were 2-3 coming off a blowout win over KC. We went into Atlanta and lost in an epic shootout.

This year, we're 3-2 and facing the Browns at home.

I don't care if it's the Browns, or how much they suck. I hope the Steelers come into this game with a sense of urgency, or else they'll be staring at an 0-2 start in the AFC North.