Demolition Man 2 is scheduled to hit theaters sometime later this year… but Steelers fans got a sneak preview and had to like what they saw.
Like a mediocre action movie sequel, the heroes spent too much of the plot planting charges and setting up the climax. In the end, though, when they finally pushed down the detonator’s plunger, the demolition was awesome and complete.
The Steelers flashed a few familiar plot points early, with characters likeT.J. Watt leaping onto the screen at the start, then Guard Matt Feiler appearing from behind a wall to clear the way for the muscular young co-star James Conner, and grizzled veteran squad leader in yet another mission shook off the creaky arm to hit a couple of big conversions and pout points on the board.
But a controversial decision from headquarters pulled them back from a strong opening fight scene and they were grudgingly forced to settle for 3 points… a decision that seemed to give life to the enemy and put the mission in jeopardy.
For the next hour of screen time, little went Pittsburgh’s way, except for a whole lot of agita. The defense suddenly was giving up chunks of yardage and, even more concerning, they gave up touchdowns––something they had been doing pretty stingily for the first 2 games of the year. Things were beginning to look bleak for the good guys when they fell behind 14-3, but the team suddenly started clicking on offense, with Ben directing his unit to two TD drives and a 17-14 lead with just 1:24 left in the first half. The villains had one last trick up their sleeve, though and the bad guys breezed down the field and took a 21-14 halftime lead, something which had resulted in a 38-3 record under head coach Bill O’Brien.
But then in a dramatic plot twist, the Steelers ignited those explosives they planted, the defense completely shut off the Texans’ engine (allowing just 17 plays for 41 yards and an interception from that point), and the Steelers biggest cache of planted C4––the persistent pounding of the rock––broke Houston’s defenses. The mission was successful and the demolition was complete. The crowd would have gone home happy, provided they weren’t already at home.
Sometimes we complain that the Steelers keep the game close because of their insistence on leaning hard into the run game, but this was clearly one of those occasions where the game was won by the defense stepping up and the run game wearing down the opponent’s will. On the last drive of the game, the Steelers could have run the power lead sweep 15 times in a row with a pulling guard and Vance McDonald and the defense wouldn’t have figured out how to stop it. Feiler & Decastro had strong games leading as pullers and McDonald played probably his best game as a Steeler in two seasons. Yea verily, there were yinzer rock-pounding orgasms.
Speaking of rock-pounding, the Steelers have been crushing boulders into gravel like an old-time prison crew. They have had 100 yards rushing as a team in 3 games to start the season for only the 5th time in 44 years, and the first time in a decade. More unlikely, they’ve had a 100-yard rusher in all three games, something that they’ve done only twice in the Super Bowl era (as far as I can tell, only the second ever in the history of a franchise known for running the football!). Only in Tomlin’s rookie coaching career, when he seemed determined to run the wheels off Willie Parker have the Steelers accomplished that feat. Neither renowned rock-pounder Bill Cowher nor GOAT Head Coach The Emperor Chaz Noll ever had a RB go for 100 yards in a game three straight to start the year.
Mike Tomlin will be quick to point out that in 2007, 2010, and 2020, his team rushed for 100 plus and started 3-0 for the only times in his tenure.
Speaking of historical landmarks, Ben Roethlisberger took another step into Steelers lore, logging his 221st game, passing Mike Webster for the most-ever in franchise history. It wasn’t Ben’s best day but, like the HOF pitcher he is, he found a way to win without his “A” stuff. This just in: the way Ben is playing, he might set that record so far out there it’ll never be surpassed. He hasn’t been perfect but he’s rounding into a winning formula of adjusting playcalls at the line, challenging defenses, converting 3rd downs, good play in the redzone, and even using his legs to make a play a couple times in every game. What he’s doing at his age and after major surgery and a year off–– very, very impressive. Your mileage may vary.
So, here we are: the hometown team looks around after 3 weeks of playing who they were tasked to play and 3 wins. And yet, teeth-gnashing and criticism abound. You can choose to be a glass-half-empty type, who says, “They’re overrated and have been lucky to play some terrible teams so far” or you can be optimistic and say “They have found a way to win three games without playing a complete 60 minutes on all cylinders––once they get it goingl look out”. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle, but for now we say, “scoreboard”. On to next week’s challenge in Nashville.