It's all the rage to be down on the Steelers, to be predicting gloom and doom, to be calling for the dismissals, in no particular order, of Mike Tomlin, Todd Haley and Kevin Colbert, and to be stating as a fact the team will be lucky to win four games.
That might be true, but it's way too early to be making such predictions. There were things to like about the Steelers' performance Sunday against the Chicago Bears. There are reasons to believe they can win their next two games, against Minnesota and the New York Jets, and then be ready to take on the Baltimore Ravens surrounded by some new-found respectability and with a chance to for victory.
Antonio Brown: The loud-mouth wide receiver allowed his performance to do his talking -- and what a performance it was: Nine catches, 196 yards, two touchdowns, spectacular athleticism. In one game, he accumulated more yardage than Mike Wallace has all season for Miami. His 196 yards vs. the Bears is 52 more than Wallace ever had in one game. He's fourth in the NFL in yards and seventh in receptions.
Ben Roethlisberger: Yes, he stunk out the joint with a plethora of costly turnovers that overrides everything else he did. But the fact he threw for 406 yards cannot be overlooked and dismissed. The suggestions that Roethlisberger is finished don't need statistical proof to be refuted, but this performance shows there are plenty of good games -- and good years -- left in the Steelers franchise quarterback.
The running game: Eighty yards on 21 carries is not a significant accomplishment for most teams. It is for the Steelers. The 80 yards are more than they gained in the first two games combined. Felix Jones looks decent. There was some running room and the expected debut of No. 1 draft choice Le'Veon Bell on Sunday adds another note of optimism. This isn't to suggest the running game has been good. It is to suggest there's reason to believe it will get better and become a positive factor.
The defense: Not to have forced a turnover -- or, as is often the case, to have lucked into one -- is disheartening and inexplicable. It would be considered a mere early-season statistical blip if not for the fact the team has failed badly in this crucial area in 2011 and 2012. That doesn't mean there was nothing to like.
The Bears were held to more than 100 fewer yards than they had gained in either of their first two games. Quarterback Jay Cutler had his lowest passer rating of the season. In the first half, the Bears had drives of 51, 17, 60, 16, 5 and 4 yards. In the second half -- until and including their final touchdown -- their drives were 14, 7, 9, 74. Right away, or course, people are going to jump on the 74. The Bears have players, too. The Steelers had stopped them for six straight possessions. A truly great defense might have done more. The Steelers are not such a defense, nor are they a bad one.
This is no attempt to paint a false positive. The Steelers have been terrible for the first three games. But there have been reasons for optimism and it is possible they can build on them.
First Published September 25, 2013 3:30 PM