Kudos to AB for extending the metaphor.
Antonio Brown made a heavy-handed comparison last week between his “connection” with Ben Roethlisberger and a Wi-Fi connection.
Sounded almost silly.
That was until Big Ben and AB connected six times on Sunday for 101 yards and two touchdowns – the first a 9-yarder that was a thing of beauty, the second a 47-yard strike down the left sideline that reminded Steelers faithful of what these two can do when, to steal AB’s analogy, the, “Wi-Fi is lit.”
Roethlisberger and Brown’s timing could not have been better, either, as the Steelers were desperate for a win and a solid performance. The duo’s performance, part of a 19-29-250-yard, three-TD day for Ben, underpinned a terrific performance by James Conner who took advantage of a struggling Atlanta Falcons defense to rush for 110 yards on 21 carries. Conner scored twice and was very effective catching the ball out of the backfield on checkdowns.
This all on the heels of reports that Le’Veon Bell means to end his holdout and report to the Steelers during the off week and play in Week 8 against Cleveland.
So much has been made of Bell and whether or not he should return. Conner has been hot and cold so far in 2018, but Sunday’s performance, coupled with the high-speed, Ben/AB Wi-Fi display, has to energize the contingent calling for the Steelers to stick it to Bell and stay with Conner.
But the logic suggests otherwise. Conner’s big day makes sense. Atlanta’s run defense entered the game ranked 24th in the league and allowing an eye-popping 5 yards per attempt. Stands to reason Bell would have had an equally productive day.
The Steelers are a better football team with a healthy, motivated Le’Veon Bell. Not to disparage Conner who continues to defy odds and play at a high level, but the Ben/AB air attack relies on the running/checkdown game to take some pressure off of Brown to shake two or three defenders and force opponents into more man coverages than they might otherwise like to play against the Steelers.
Conner has shown up and has been better than I expected he would, but Bell has the proven ability to take the Steelers offense to another level – a faster Wi-Fi connection, if you will.
- The Steelers defense finally showed up. Six sacks – that’s a great number – 62 yards rushing for Atlanta – that’s a great number – and very little from Julio Jones (which had to make AB’s already brilliant smile shine more brightly), The defense limited Atlanta to very little on third down and harassed Matt Ryan most of the afternoon. T.J. Watt finally showed up and Cam Heyward was disruptive all day, Joe Haden played on another level in shutting down Jones, and L.J. Fort and Tyler Matakevich were both very good in Vince Williams’ absence. They even chipped in with a TD. Now if the offense and defense can both have good games against a good team, the Steelers may be close to getting back on the rails – except for the train wreck that has been Chris Boswell. His play is almost as confusing as Matt Murray’s.
- Oh yeah, Matt Murray. What gives? Yes, it is only two horrific games – this season – but Murray’s spotty play dates back to sometime last winter when he seemed to lose his edge. Soft goals against were becoming commonplace and his confidence seemed shattered in last year’s playoffs. While Rutherford and Sullivan have been focusing on the Pens’ depth – which is impressive – the team really did not upgrade its defense (LeTang will never be solid in his own end, Maatta is a plodding liability, and Jack Johnson is Jack Johnson), and Murray is not bailing them out the way he did during his two Cup runs. The Pens have the firepower to be an elite team, but it may take a few moves to strengthen the blue line before the Pens don’t have to rely on five or six goals a game to compete.
- Despite the Game 2 travesty against Montreal, how much fun was the 7-6 opening night with against Washington? The aforementioned Penguins’ depth played a key role in the win and it is never not fun to watch the Pens beat the Caps.