Here are some random thoughts on last night's 39-26 loss to the New England Patriots that didn't make into my live-blogging:
- A few thoughts on Tom Brady ... He is a great, great quarterback, but is there any doubt that he's a total jerk in real life? I understand that you want to win, you want to be fired up - but this guy's idea of that is constantly screaming at his teammates. And when he's not doing that, he's crossing his arms on the sidelines, looking surly, or whipping his hair out of his eyes like an emo kid. You can even feel him holding back his sizable inner jerk in press conferences and television spots - his facial expressions and tone of voice are completely strained. There's just no appreciable joy in what Brady does.
- Ramon Foster and Jonathan Scott both played pretty well in relief of Chris Kemoeatu and Max Starks on the left side of the offensive line. For the most part, when pressure came to Roethlisberger, it was right guard Trai Essex getting beat. That said, the degree of pressure New England was able to achieve sometimes with just a three-man rush was really concerning.
- Going into Week 10, wide receiver Hines Ward went 186 consecutive games with at least one reception, the third longest such streak in league history. That changed Sunday night when he got smacked in the head at the end of the first quarter and had to leave the game. On the other side of the field, second-year man Mike Wallace went off, catching eight balls for 136 yards (both career highs) and two scores. Pittsburgh clearly missed Ward - especially during numerous miscommunications in the red zone - but even still, last night played out like a passing of the torch from Ward to Wallace.
- I really, really, really hate losing to the Patriots, probably more so than to any other squad. Many of the more obnoxious players from their title runs are gone, guys like Tedy Bruschi (annoyingly overrated) and Rodney Harrsion (insufferable showboater). Nonetheless two of the easiest dudes to hate in the NFL, Tom Brady (see above) and Bill Belichek (possibly a robot, definitely a cheater) are still looming large.
- The Steelers were allowing 15.4 ppg before Sunday night, but New England hung more than twice that amount on the Pittsburgh defense. You expect to have "off" games from time to time, especially against elite quarterbacks, but it's concerning to see Pittsburgh's defense get so thoroughly dominated. After the team's loss to the New Orleans Saints, I explained why I wasn't concerned about the Steelers pass defense ... yet. Well, color me concerned now, mainly because Pittsburgh couldn't establish anything resembling a pass rush last night. We look at defensive rankings and tend to think that if teams can be passed all over, they must have terrible defensive backs, but this is often a terribly unfair conclusion to draw. Rushing the passer is a completely underrated facet of defending the pass, and the Steelers couldn't do it at all on Sunday night.