Every coach's nightmare is where your opponent's strong point matches up directly against your weakest point. And that's exactly what happened Sunday night.
Indy's two fabulous trench warriors, Freeney and Mathis, were matched against Jonathan Scott and Marcus Gilbert. It wasn't pretty from the beginning, and got downright ugly.
Indy stacked against the run and gambled that they could keep the game close by forcing the Steelers to pass. The calculus was they'd lose on some long passes (one to Wallace comes to mind), but would win on turnovers (three come to mind). Tony Dungy said before the game that the Colts could keep it close - or even win - if Ben had to pass on every down.
That's Bruce Arians' conundrum: he has half a dozen great pass receivers and a strong QB with an even stronger arm, but he doesn't have the offensive line to establish a running game or protect the quarterback. Unless things change, it's going to be a long, painful, frustrating season for Roethlisberger and his two fragile backups.
Arians kept Ward and Miller home a bit more than usual to block last night...but not enough. And we didn't see enough of David Johnson in the backfield. As Tomlin has said, there are many ways to protect the QB, and that's a good thing because the Steeler tight ends and wideouts are often better blockers than their offensive linemen.
We all know the phone is ringing at the Flozell Hotel and the Steelers are scouring practice squads for large, warm bodies. They may also do the unthinkable: offering players or draft choices for guys on actual rosters. Even assuming the guys who were hurt last night will be back soon, there is an obvious need for reinforcements. Now.
Adding a player or two and keeping in an additional blocker or two will help the Steelers next week. The fact that Freeney and Mathis don't play for Texas will help even more. The Steeler OL might be able to handle one superstar (Williams). Last night made it clear they can't handle two.
It should be interesting to watch how Emmanuel Sanders responds to his inexpiicably horrid performance on Sunday night. His intentional avoidance of DB Joe Lefeged after an interception was one of the worst bonehead plays in recent years. And this came after a big dropped pass and a couple of bad routes where he ran the wrong way or didn't realize he was the hot read. He's young and has a ton of promise. Mike Tomlin is a leader of men and I expect he'll screw Sanders head on straight. Homer would have smacked Sanders upside his head. Of course, that's why Tomlin is the youngest Super Bowl winning coach in history and Homer is busy on his word processor.
Homer can't understand all the hate on the D for allowing one damned drive. Of course, it should have been two, because that 17th string Indy QB couldn't hit that Garcon boy (multilingual pun) when he was open by at least 15 yards. And why was it whenever Homer saw that guy Painter, he kept thinking of that Aerosmith song, "Dude looks like a Lady!"
Homer doesn't really care what Painter looks like. He's just happy that the Dude Throws Like a Lady, or at least he did when Garcon had Ike looking for his jock strap on that sideline hitch-and-go.
We really don't know how good the defense is, because Indy's QB's were so awful. But we do know that Polamalu was absolutely awesome and Harrison is coming along fast. People should stop bitching about the ILB's because LeBeau had Polamalu on the line of scrimmage and all over the place, so 51 and 94 stayed home a lot. Especially Timmons, who stayed back when Polamalu guarded key receivers one-on-one. It worked, especially on third down.
This team is starting to click on defense and will get much better, so long as they stay healthy.
Texas has a lousy defense, and a world-class lousy secondary. If the Steelers can find a way to give Ben time to throw...... But that's a long order.
The story of this season will be how a team with numerous weak spots is able to patch them over week after week... and the first of those is the offensive line. It's gonna be a patchup job every week.
Of course, we said that after the third game of the 2008 season, when Ben got sacked 117 times by the Iggles, and even got dumped for a safety. The Iggles won that game 15-6. But somehow, with that horrid offensive line, the Stillers ended up winning a Lombardi trophy. There's a lesson there, somewhere. Somehow.
Meanwhile, Homer is in the market for a 55 gallon drum of Tums. If anybody sees one on Amazon or at Costco, let me know. And if it's at Costco, Homer can get one of those big hot dogs and a refillable drink for a buck and a half. And those machines to grind all the onions and relish you want for your hot dog. Mmmm.