Sorry about not posting Week 2....life is crazy at times.
I am certainly pleased about the state of the Steelers through 2 weeks. I thought they might be 1-1, and I figured they would be competitive. Obviously, the offense is deficient without Ben. Some folks are saying that this defense looks as good as the 2008 version. I disagree. I think it is better. There have been upgrades in a lot of different areas:
1. MLB - Timmons is much better than Foote ever could have been. He is all over and is making impact plays. The speed in the middle is now outstanding. It used to be that the Buck position didn't have much speed...but no longer. Having Foote back creates wonderful depth too. He's not a slouch, but Timmons is so talented.
2. OLB - Woodley is much better than the 2008 version, and Harrison looks the same. So, the outside pass rush is even better 2 years later.
3. DL depth - Hood can come in and get quality minutes to spell Smith and Keisel. In short yardage packages, he's been a stud. He also provides a nice active inside pass rush. I look for Ziggy to get a lot more time by the end of the year.
This is a young offense lead by a young QB. I like Josh Freeman a lot. I think he has a strong arm, throws a nice deep ball and has good mobility. He has good weapons in Winslow, Cadillac and Mike Williams. Winslow's effectiveness will be interesting to watch as he nurses a knee injury and did not practice. Same for center Jeff Faine who has an ankle injury. Look for the Steelers to provide pressure from the middle against Faine.
I think, unfortunately for Tampa, that the Steeler defense will be too much. Now, Tampa can control how this game looks. If Freeman gets frustrated and makes silly throws, then this game is going to landslide on Tampa. However, if Freeman is patient, is willing to play a field position game and is OK with punting and not making the mistake, then this could be a very close game. In that instance, it might go down to the last possession. Tampa has to do things out of the ordinary to get Lebeau's defense off-balance. I just don't see it happening.
Bottom Line: Tampa scores twice for less than 10 points.
Tampa runs a 4-3 Cover 2 scheme, and they've been pretty stingy against Cleveland and Carolina. Those two opponents aren't offensive juggernauts...but the Steelers aren't right now either. The DL is average. The LBs are average. The CBs are the strength of the Tampa defense. We'll how rookie McCoy matches up with Pouncey. This defense is not sack crazy, so hopefully the o-line will be able to provide some time for Batch. Starks comes back this week, and that will make the LT position a little better.
The Steeler offense has to find some way to manufacture passing yards to take some pressure off the run game. Bubble screens, quick hitters to Heath...something positive. I'd like to see a deep pass to Wallace early on to set the tone - even if it goes incomplete. If they can do that, just keep the defense honest, the run game should open up nicely.
Bottom Line: Steelers score at least 16 points.