The first quarter of the Steelers season was bad, and one major upset away from being a disaster - their worst start to a season since 2013. 1-3 and after the Bengals game at home I was down bad. I think we all were. Big Ben looked so damn old, slow, and washed. The line was horrific. The "vaunted" defense was shredded by a second year QB and a rookie receiver.
The fan in all of us felt the pain - like it was over for good - after that one.
But alas, we have to remind ourselves that these seasons are long. Super long. And usually the winners of September are the losers in December and beyond - we know that all too well from just last season. We gotta split the season into quarters. The Steelers lost ugly in the first quarter. But improvements started to be made in Green Bay - ones that we saw amplified last week against a really good Denver defense.
1 sack given up. None to Von Miller. Upfront got a push to give Najee Harris his first one hundred yard game on the ground of his career. And we found Big Ben's magic number: 25. 25 passes. Keep Big Ben in the 25-27 (if really hot or necessary late) passes per game, feed the bellcow Najee, and rely on the defense to get pressure and create turnovers. Sunday was the perfect script (besides allowing a late comeback) for the Steelers to put themselves in the competitive talk for at least the playoffs throughout the rest of the year. It's one I've been on since before Big Ben's return last year. We've come full circle. Big Ben started his career relying on the run game, an elite defense, and himself making a handful of key plays a game to be successful. The offensive evolution for Big Ben went all the way around the clock, and now just as it's about to strike midnight, it's time to go back to where he started. That's fine. John Elway did it with Terrell Davis. Peyton Manning did it with that 2015 Broncos defense. That's gotta be the strict game plan moving forward.
A few weeks ago I was as down and out as I've been as a Steelers fan in a long, long time. I wrote about how I was already looking at mock drafts to blow off the steam and disappointment. But at the end of the day, I think we gotta rely on an experienced coach who has never posted a losing season, a HOF Super Bowl champion quarterback, and the growth and development of young players we've invested in. It takes time.
I don't agree with ol' Poni from Pittsburgh too often, but his tweet above is right. Yes, you wanna take the "one week at a time" approach because if this defense loses to Geno Smith at home in primetime this week I will for sure be saying to my dad at least that everyone should be fired. But where I was after the loss to the Bengals compared to where I am now looking at the offense coming together, Seattle at home on SNF, a bye, then Chicago at home in primetime and the Lions at home to follow....I really like the chances of being 5-4 or better heading into where you make the big bucks in late November and December.
NFL season is a long one. Gotta give the positive credit just as much as when we're looking at mock drafts in Week 3. I like where the Steelers are heading into Week 6, and I'm ready to show some more patience. This is why you ride.