Super Bowl Chumps?
If three games are any indication, the Steelers are suffering from a Superbowl hangover. The team has been under performing and while they could easily be 3-0, they’re 1-2 and deservedly so. Why, you ask? I have to put this partly on the running game but mainly, on the defense. The Steelers are no longer able to rely on running the ball to eat up the clock which ultimately leads to the defense being on the field too long in the second half. The defense has been getting winded in the fourth quarter and hasn’t been making the plays they normally would. Another factor is the absence of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The defense has managed a mere 5 sacks in 3 games after having 51 last year (3.2 per game). I couldn’t believe my eyes when the Steelers were only rushing four down linemen during the Bengal ’s game-winning drive. They managed to force the Bengals into not one but two fourth down plays on that drive and failed to stop both of them. The latter was especially painful because it was a fourth and ten. That used to be automatic for a Steelers defense but clearly, there is more going on with them. Where are the turnovers? Two in three games, both of which occurred during their opening night win. In fact, the last time the defense went two straight games without causing a turnover was in 2005. That’s not a coincidence. The lack of play making by this defense has been their Achilles heel thus far and if they don’t get it right soon, they will be well on their way to missing the playoffs. A healthy Troy Polamalu would go a long way towards changing that.
OK, so this opinion is definitely colored by the fact that I own Steve Slaton in one of my fantasy leagues but sometimes NFL head coaches get too cute for their own good. Case in point, Kubiak deciding to use Chris Brown as his goal line back when Steve Slaton is perfectly capable of carrying that load. I shouldn’t be surprised since Kubiak cut his teeth as the offensive coordinator in Denver where they practically invented the running back by committee approach. The Texans were driving for the game tying touchdown when Chris Brown fumbled into the end zone. Jacksonville recovered and the Texans lost the game. I hope this loss really chaps Kubiak’s ass because there was no reason to take the rock out of Slaton’s hands. He was averaging over 6 yards per carry (12 rush, 76 yards) and he was running well. In two previous games (against two top ten run defenses), Slaton only managed a paltry 51 yards on 26 carries for a sub-2.0 yards per carry average. The commentators pointed out during the game that Slaton attributed his early season fumbling problems (3 in 26 rushes) to a lack of confidence. But why would he be lacking confidence, you ask? Well, here’s what his coach had to say about him: “He can definitely run better,” “My concern with him, as I told him today, he’s got three balls on the ground in two games. That can’t happen.” Then Kubiak added “We had our chance with Cedric (Benson) in free agency. It just didn’t work out,”. “You know, hindsight is 20-20. We’ve got to play with the people we’ve got.” Geez, not exactly a ringing endorsement of his second-year back. Maybe this is coach Kubiak’s way of motivating his young runner but maybe Slaton needs him to, you know, show his support? What a douche. It’s not surprising that he’s one of the first coaches mentioned on the hot seat this year. Enjoy the loss Kubiak and make sure to remember the next time you think about tinkering with the running back rotation that Steve Slaton was the guy scoring all those touchdowns last year.
Favre and Away
As I wrote way back in my Week 2 column, I am excited to have Brett Favre back in the league for another year. Check out his winning touchdown pass with 2 seconds left to beat the Niners. It was a thing of beauty. He bought time scrambling to avoid the pass rush, set up and fired into essentially triple coverage to win the game. On that play, Greg Lewis appeared to be the only receiver in the end zone for the Vikings which made the throw even more impressive. What really caught my attention and spoke volumes to why Brett still belongs in this league was a completed twenty yard curl pattern to Bernard Berrian earlier in the game. Favre released the ball and then raced down the field, throwing a block on linebacker Patrick Willis while Berrian was juking his way for extra yards. I honestly don’t think I have ever seen a quarterback do that. His excitement for the game is infectious and genuine. It’s obvious that father time has caught up to Brett and he can no longer make all the plays he could when he was twenty but he doesn’t have to. Favre usually gets his team into trouble when he tries to do too much. This Vikings team is talented enough on both sides of the ball that he doesn’t have to carry the team. His latest performance is exactly why the Vikings played the Favre off-season waiting game to sign him. Can anyone honestly say that Sage Rosenfels or Tavaris Jackson would have made that play? I concede they might have but in the second quarter when the game wasn’t on the line. Enjoy the show while it lasts folks because we are witnessing one of the best quarterbacks to ever suit up.