I'm still waiting to see the highly-touted Alex Gibbs save Houston's offense. I mean, they put him with offensive line coach Kyle Shanahan, they can't produce a product that has more holes than a Chris Henry alibi, right?
The massive disruption caused by the Steelers was both by design and by ability. The part I loved was how well Lawrence Timmons and Troy Polamalu played in space. Timmons can cover a ridiculous amount of ground, and having two Troys on the field is downright frightening.
I think they'll pressure the passer consistently, but they'll get the benefits of that pressure even when the passer releases the ball - something they didn't have last year. Short checkdown options should be terrified, because 43 and 94 are going to knock then out if/when they catch the ball.
What I'm really excited for on Sunday, though, is to see Timmons in coverage. We all saw two years ago how much Browns TE Kellen Winslow enjoyed James Farrior D-ing him up (cheap shot in the back on Farrior at the end of the game). Timmons is twice as quick and fast as Farrior, and if Timmons is locked on him, and is the pass defender the Steelers say he is, it'll make for some good highlights.
Browns SS Sean Jones is out for a while, are the Steelers looking to attack their safeties early and often? While Cleveland has good offensive playmakers, their secondary is unholy thin. I think the Steelers have the defensive ability to let their offense take a few risks down the field, probably even able to land a few haymakers square on Cleveland's jaw.
Think of it like their game plan against Baltimore on Monday Night last year. Baltimore's starting corners were out, and knowing the Ravens' offense wasn't going to make them pay much if they turned the ball over, they stretched the field, and provided perhaps the most one-sided win over the Ravens they've ever had.
Whaddya think? Attack them vertically? Or will Willie just run all over them?
JJ: We didn't see much from Santonio Holmes last week, partly because the Texans seemed to focus on taking him out of the gameplan (which opened up things for Hines Ward and Heath Miller). I like the idea of starting out by gashing the Browns with the passing game, then turning it over to Parker/Mendenhall at the point where the Browns are overly worried about the passing game.
Of course, that depends somewhat on Ben's injury not being worse than they make it out to be.
I will disagree with you on one point thought. Timmons was taken advantage of one on one in coverage some during the preseason. I'd rather see the Steelers put Polamalu and Ike Taylor on Winslow (at different times). Winslow and Braylon Edwards are the two guys the Steelers have to worry about, and I don't think Winslow can be consistently covered by a LB.
So the Steelers covered kicks successfully for one week, do you think they can do it again?
OTBS: Maybe I'm jumping the gun on Timmons...if you didn't stop me, I'd start suggesting he put a hand on the ground and rush the passer like J-Peezy used to do.
I wrote about the kick coverage in my match-ups column for Steel City Insider. I don't recall many times where I felt truly confident in their ability to get down field and stop the guy with the ball, but Week 1 was one of them. Andre Davis is one of the best around, so obviously that was huge.
Josh Cribbs, though...even with him coming off of a high ankle sprain, we're still hurting from the 200 yards and TD he put on us last year. He nearly single-handedly won that game for Cleveland. They had 164 yards of offense that game, and two of Derek Anderson's TD passes came on drives of a combined 20 yards - field position is critical.
This game is going to largely hinge on Pittsburgh's ability to mark Cribbs, assuming he's going to play (as of Friday afternoon, he was). Do I think they can do it? I certainly do.
But I've been a Steelers fan for way too long to feel completely solid in our kick coverage.