After one quarter of football, the Steelers are on their way to securing the AFC North crown and a first-round playoff bye -a luxury that could be crucial to an older, injury-riddled squad like Pittsburgh - as they lead the Cleveland Browns, 14-0. Should the Steelers blow their lead, however, the Baltimore Ravens could take the division with a win over the Bengals. Here are my thoughts from the first quarter:
- The big story this week was whether or not Steelers safety Troy Polamalu would play. Fortunately, he recovered from an ankle injury and wasted no time making his presence felt, recording his seventh interception of the year (now tied for the league-lead) on the game's second play from scrimmage. Then, on the next play, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hit Mike Wallace - who burnt rookie defensive backs Joe Haden and T.J. Ward - for a 56-yard score. It was Wallace's eight career touchdown reception of 40 yards or more, the most in Steelers history. (Sidenote: I find it difficult, nay, impossible to care about the Pro Bowl, but I will say that Wallace's omission in the AFC strikes me as a huge snub. Later in the quarter, he added YAC-heavy 41-yard scamper on a slant route.) Yeah - I would say that qualifies as a good start.
- Nice call by offensive coordinator Bruce Arians on 3rd-&-3 near the end zone. Roethlisberger took the snap from shotgun, then ran it with ease, nearly getting in for the score. On the following play, Doug Legursky, who filled in nicely at guard earlier this season, lined up at fullback and paved the way for a Rashard Mendenhall touchdown plunge, the running back's twelfth of the year. The Steelers are just doing whatever they want at this point, completely beating up on Cleveland.
- I wanted to include a bullet about how much I hate the cutesey holiday Hyundai commercials featuring Pomplamoose, but their suckitude is almost self-evident. Also, where to even begin? The Attention Deficit Disorder video editing? The frontwoman's lifeless, glassy stare and equally flaccid voice? The drummer's wide-eyed, please-love-me crrrraaaaazy antics? I don't drive much, but I will totally buy a Sonata if they will just pull the plug on this ad campaign.
- Rookie quarterback Colt McCoy did his best Roethlisberger impression on a couple plays, pump-faking defenders on a scramble to create a lane for a good gain on the ground, then evading James Harrison a few plays later, escaping what looked like a sure-fire sack. Of course, there have been growing pains in 2010, but Browns fans have to be excited about their young signal-caller. He's displayed athleticism, discipline, and accuracy and looks like he has all the tools to become a solid starter down the road. Good for Cleveland.