Kovacevic: 7 ways to win without Big Ben
The number of positives to be culled from Ben Roethlisberger's injury couldn't reasonably be counted on one clavicle.
At the same time, am I the only one who finds it silly that so many seem ready to bury these Steelers before seeing, you know, at least one more game?
Oh, well. Without further ado, then, and without bidding adieu to all hope for 2012 just yet, here are seven suggestions for how this team might — that's might — overcome losing No. 7:
Intangibles can be overstated in sports. Not in this case. If the Steelers don't think they can win without Ben, especially with the Ravens on tap two of the next three weeks, they won't.
Doesn't seem to be an issue, based on my talk Tuesday with veteran guard Ramon Foster.
“We've been through this before, when Ben was out four games in 2010, and we went 3-1. We held our own then, and we can hold our own now,” the big man said, serious as a Willie Colon cuss word. “Look, we'd love to have Ben back. But there's nothing we can't do as a team, and we're going to come together and fight no matter who's back there for us.”
6. Run, run, run.
Simplest solution to losing a quarterback is to keep the ball on the ground. Which makes all of Todd Haley's emphasis on running — futile as it was early on — now look pretty smart.
Neither Jonathan Dwyer nor Isaac Redman had much room Monday, but the Steelers acknowledged afterward that the Chiefs' underappreciated quickness and size on defense had much to do with that.
The Steelers do have a good running game. They've shown it. The Ray-less Ravens rank 26th in rushing defense, giving up 132 yards per game.
No need to overthink this.
5. Go shorter.
Byron Leftwich will get the nod over Charlie Batch, and that's OK, I guess, with Leftwich having taken all backup snaps since the first day at Latrobe.
Still, it's fair to wonder if that's the best fit for Haley's dink-and-dunk. Leftwich, whose arm is as strong as any in the NFL, scans downfield by default. When he did look short, he made little out of quick hits to Mike Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders and — most egregious — failed to find Heath Miller. It looked outright scary.
A tight end is the backup QB's best friend. Spot Miller and aim squarely between the 8 and 3.
4. Get AB back.
This might sound nuts, but it sure looked like the Steelers missed Antonio Brown more than anyone — Ben included — Monday night.
Kansas City deserves credit for its sticky secondary and a scheme that had six or seven dropping back, but it still was glaring that the receivers couldn't create any daylight.
That's Brown's specialty, of course, and his daylight leads to more for his mates, notably Wallace. But Brown's high ankle sprain — which he described after the game Monday as “not quite where I want it to be” — still has him questionable.
It would be a huge boon to the offense if that changes.
3. Tighten up on D.
“I think we took a step back on defense,” James Harrison said Monday, and he was right.
Forget the 13 points. Fact is, the offense-starved Chiefs got 100 yards out of Jamaal Charles despite laughably predictable running patterns to the right. They averaged 4.6 yards per play overall and were done in only by going 2 of 13 on third downs.
The Ravens will target Ziggy Hood and LaMarr Woodley for Ray Rice's patterns, too, and those two need to get the job done without Dick LeBeau's schematic first aid. There's no reason a first-round pick and a $61.5 million linebacker should require safety support.
2. Rage against the Ravens.
No time is a good one for the franchise QB to go down, but if there's a week where the Steelers wouldn't dwell on it, this is it.
As Mike Tomlin boomed in his news conference Tuesday, “It's Ravens week for us. This is going to be an awesome game.”
Tuesday was supposed to be an off day, but players showed up on the South Side for day-long workouts and already were licking their lips to resume the NFL's most belligerent rivalry.
“Oh, this is real,” Foster said. “And it starts in practice. We start getting nasty with each other in drills, man. There's no other way to get ready for Baltimore.”
1. Hope Ben heals. Soon.
Hey, no one said this would be easy, right?
Dejan Kovacevic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.