The Steelers went from squashing grapes to drinking wine in the span of seven days. No champagne yet, not for a long time if it is even in their future this season.
But for those who were singled out for being "old, slow and it's over," not so fast there. The oldest defense in the NFL threw its first shutout since 2008 and while the Seattle Seahawks weren't the Baltimore Ravens, the Steelers' 24-0 not-as-close-as-it-looks victory Sunday at Heinz Field was medicine for what ailed them.
"That's our team, what you saw [Sunday]," wide receiver Hines Ward said. "That's who we are. We didn't display that against Baltimore."
They displayed very little in Baltimore, but they will get another crack at the Ravens, who lost Sunday in Tennessee to fall into a tie with the Steelers at 1-1 in the AFC North Division. And they will get many more chances to show their window of Super Bowl opportunities remains wide open. On Sunday, they played with the Seahawks the way a rat terrier plays with a chipmunk.
Seattle (0-2) somehow stopped the Steelers on their opening drive after a first down at the 1. After that, it was all downhill.
Rashard Mendenhall scored on a 1-yard run, Isaac Redman on a 20-yard draw, Mike Wallace on a 2-yard reception from Ben Roethlisberger and Shaun Suisham on a 20-yard field goal.
It was Wallace's shortest reception of the game. He caught eight more passes for 126 yards and has five consecutive games in the regular season of more than 100. His longest and perhaps best reception carried 53 yards in which he made a shoestring catch.
The Steelers pummelled the Seahawks in total yards (421-164), first downs (23-8) and time of possession (38:44-21:16). They held the Seahawks to 31 yards rushing, or 139 fewer than the Ravens ran on them. The only statistic that ended in a draw was turnovers; there was none by either team.
"Everybody took care of their job," said linebacker James Harrison, who had one of five Steelers sacks shared by six players. "It's just a step in the right direction."
There was one scary moment when Roethlisberger missed two plays after getting illegally hit on his right knee by defensive end Raheem Brock, but all is OK. Defensive end Brett Keisel has a slightly sprained knee (potential first-degree PCL) that might not prevent him from playing Sunday night in Indianapolis.
About the only other thing that went awry for the Steelers was Suisham's 41-yard field-goal attempt that was wide right.
Their dominance of Seattle was not unexpected -- the Steelers were 14-point favorites against a team that lost its starting quarterback to free agency and its star receiver to an injury. But they have fumbled games like these in the past, such as their stretch run 2009.
"I just told my team in there that we are the same team that got blasted in Baltimore last week," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. " ... It was appropriate, given how we performed and played a week ago."
What was the difference, besides, of course, the opponent and the venue?
"We came in better prepared," Tomlin said. "That's on me. Ultimately we performed better than we did a week ago and that's on the guys that played."
Roethlisberger stuck out among those who played better in the home opener than in the opener. His three interceptions and five turnovers against Baltimore turned into nearly error-free play against Seattle. One pass should have been intercepted but was dropped. Other than that, Roethlisberger completed 22 of 30 for 298 yards and a 115.7 passer rating. He did come under a decent pass rush and was sacked twice but scampered away five other times for 8 yards in gains.
"Just taking what they gave us," Roethlisberger said of the passing day. "I think I hit more check-downs than I have in a long time. It just proves that our guys can get it done if you get them the ball short. We do not have to go deep every time."
The Steelers wasted two of their biggest plays of the game on the first series -- one of those short passes that Emmanuel Sanders turned into a 30-yard gain, and a 39-yard pass-interference penalty on a deep pass to Wallace in the end zone.
That gave them a first down at the 1 -- and they did not score. It looked like a bad omen at the time. Mendenhall, who gained 66 yards on 19 carries, got none on first down, Roethlisberger was sacked on second, picked up the 7 yards he lost on third with a scramble and Mendenhall was stuffed on fourth down at the 1.
"I am still very disappointed [about] short-yardage and goal line," Roethlisberger said. "I don't know what our percentage was, but I don't think it was very good with converting touchdowns."
No, it wasn't. But in this game, it was good enough.
The Steelers scored three times in the first half and once in the third quarter, but they also settled for a field goal when they could not score a touchdown after a first down at the 2.
They missed another touchdown opportunity when Troy Polamalu jumped in front of a Tarvaris Jackson pass with nothing but air between him and the end zone at the Seattle 18, but he dropped the ball.
"I am sure I can find a lot of things to complain about," Tomlin said.
"I am still chewing on last week, I am sure we all are. That's just the nature of this thing. It's not going to take one performance to take that stench off of us."
At least the result Sunday smelled a lot better to all of them.
For more on the Steelers, read the blog, Ed Bouchette on the Steelers at www.post-gazette.com/plus . Ed Bouchette: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @EdBouchette. First Published September 19, 2011 4:00 AM