I'm not the kind of guy who predicts a pro team's season record after the first game or two. So, I certainly won't attempt to draw any conclusions about the Steelers chances to make the playoffs after it's NFL opening-day game against the despicable Patriots. But I am uncharacteristically optimistic.
First an editorial aside on Brady escaping his four-game suspension: All evidence points to his complicity in “Delfategate.” Even the judge, who overturned the suspension, in his ruling stated he took no issue with the NFL's decision in the case. Nope. It was like the police finding the victim's head in the suspect's freezer and then the case being thrown out of court because there was no search warrant. The judge's ruling was based solely on the ham-handed way the NFL handled the case. There is little doubt the Patriots cheat at every opportunity. Although they rarely are caught – Deflategate and Spygate being two examples of when they have been – they persist in attempting unfair advantage. Even in last night's game, they jammed the Steelers coaches headsets for – if Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is to be trusted – most of the first half. Such things are a common occurrence at Patriots home games. Cheaters cheat. Brady shouldn't have been on the field last night or for the three games to follow. Period.
|One of my favorite plays of the game!|
He was, however, and it was a Tom Brady-led team the Steelers needed to beat. Despite Mr. Brady dodging his Deflategate punishment and playing last night against a young defense -- under the leadership of a new defensive coordinator -- that often appeared as though it had never practiced together, last year's Super Bowl champions only managed four TDs. This was by far too many points scored against any team that expects to make the playoffs, but the defense has the talent and leadership to improve....a lot.
The main reason the 28-21 score was as close as it was in this Steelers loss, was the offense. Sure it scored those 21 points, but it also managed to keep Brady and company off the field. In terms of possession: Steelers 32:05 versus Patriots 27:55. In out-possessing the Pats, the Steelers had 103 yards more offense: Steelers 464 versus Pats 361. Big Ben, who just seems to get better and better, tossed for 351 yards. DeAngello Williams, filling in for suspended running back LeVeon Bell, averaged 6 yards per carry for a total of 127 yards.
|Williams gains a few more.|
The offense accomplished all of this without three of its offensive starters: Bell, center Pouncey and wide receiver Martavis Bryant. A fairly remarkable performance, if you think about it.
I went into last night's game expecting a Patriots win with a margin of at least 21 points. It was 7!
Yes, I am optimistic about this year.