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MIRZA ZUKIC: Don't get too excited about Steelers' win

by on October 14, 2013 11:00 AM

The Pittsburgh Steelers finally won a game.

So what?

Without a doubt, Sunday’s 19-6 win over the New York Jets was the Steelers’ best outing in a season gone terribly wrong. But to say — or even think — that this will miraculously turn their fortunes around and propel them into the playoffs is crazy talk. At least for now it is.

Loads of Steelers fans this week will find a way to convince themselves the Steelers are legitimate playoff contenders. That’s unfounded optimism.

The 2013 edition of the Steelers remains a seriously flawed team, no matter how feel-good Sunday’s win was, and one solid performance doesn’t mean this team has what it takes to turn it around.

Naturally, the players remain optimistic that they’ve taken the first step toward an improbable turnaround, and how can you blame them?

They still have to endure 11 more weeks of punishment that would land most of us in a hospital bed, and what fun is that to look forward to when you know it was all for nothing?

It’s great that the players continue to remain optimistic. It shows they still have the competitive edge.

“We believe it,” veteran defensive end Brett Keisel said. “We’re not going to give up. We’re not going to quit. Obviously, it wasn’t the start we wanted, but the men in this locker room believe that there’s a chance that something great can come out of this if we all work towards it.”

To be perfectly honest, yes, there was a lot to feel good about Sunday.

The defense finally forced a couple of turnovers — only 277 minutes, 8 seconds into the season.

Pittsburgh kept the Jets out of the end zone, limited them to a 27 percent third-down conversion rate (3 of 11) and nearly matched its total through the first month of the season with three quarterback sacks.

But you know what? You shouldn’t have expected anything less.

Steelers defensive coordinator and Hall of Famer Dick LeBeau is considered a genius, and he’s known to do his best work against rookie quarterbacks. LeBeau delivered again as he improved to 16-2 against rookie signal callers since his return to the Steelers in 2004.

But take all that with a grain of salt.

Why, you might ask?

New York was playing without its top two threats in the passing game in Santonio Holmes and Kellen Winslow. Other than those guys, had you ever heard of any of the receivers the Jets had on the field Sunday?

Exactly.

The overachieving Jets’ best running back is Bilal Powell. Wait … who?

So let’s not get too high on the Steelers’ defense for stopping an offense stocked with a bunch of no-names.

Furthermore, the offense didn’t do much to impress, other than Ben Roethlisberger being his reliable, typical self.

The Steelers still rushed for only 73 yards, and their longest run was 11 yards.

They put up another 0-fer in the red zone, settling for field goals both times they were inside the Jets’ 20-yard line. And the most critical part of the offense, the offensive line, remains very much in flux.

Yeah, Emmanuel Sanders caught a 55-yard touchdown pass on a great call, and Heath Miller had a 31-yard reception, but let’s not get carried away. That was two plays out of the 61 the Steelers ran. Otherwise, they didn’t have a play that went longer than 16 yards. That, by no means, is a juggernaut offense.

The offensive line showed improvement, even though Roethlisberger was sacked four times. And truthfully, at least one of the sacks can be blamed on Roethlisberger because he hung on to the ball too long and missed a wide-open Emmanuel Sanders on a crossing route.

Roethlisberger passed for almost 800 yards in the previous two games, but that means nothing. The Steelers trailed by 17 or more points in both of their games prior to Sunday’s win, forcing them to throw the ball to catch up. That inflates the passing statistics and shouldn’t impress you.

Getting back to the offensive line, Levi Brown, the veteran left tackle Pittsburgh traded for to replace the incapable Mike Adams, was hurt in the pregame warm-ups, and Mike Tomlin’s outlook on his status was gloomy.

Yes, there were plenty of positives to take away from Sunday’s win, but let’s not forget whom it came against. As much as the Steelers want you to believe a turnaround has started, don’t buy it until they string together a few performances like Sunday’s.

If they do it again next week, you might start to believe in the most improbable turnaround in the NFL in recent history.

Until then, don’t get too high on this win, folks.



Mirza Zukic is a sports writer that primarily covers the Pittsburgh Steelers and is the Gazette's track and field beat writer.
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STEELERS 19, JETS 6: Steelers finally get first win of season
October 14, 2013 10:55 AM
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