1. SPECTACULAR WIN FOR PITT: Todd Graham’s high-octane offense finally hit the gas and went into high gear Thursday night, routing No. 16 South Florida 44-17 in primetime.
It was a spectacular win for Pittsburgh (3-2, 1-0), who desperately not only needed a win to open Big East play at home, but needed the type of dominating performance they put on playing Graham’s system.
It’s a win that could get the fan excited about what to expect in the foreseeable future, regarding a brand of football that Todd Graham and his staff have been preaching.
Pitt had 523 yards on offense and held the ball for 36:03, controlling the game.
Running back Ray Graham was sensational, rushing for 226 yards and two scores and combining for 303 all-purpose yards. Graham showed the nation that he is one of the nations most complete/elite running backs and was unstoppable on the night.
“Ray’s been phenomenal,” head coach Todd Graham said. “I thought it was his best performance.This kid’s competitiveness is off the chart. He runs all over the field, and then he comes over there and he’s cheering on the kickoff team, he demanded that he returned the kickoffs. I love how he’s competing. These kids are transforming. I feel like we’re close. It’s just one game, but we’re close. All of us are really coming together and I’m proud of them.”
Graham’s act was followed by a solid game from quarterback Tino Sunseri who was efficient, going 22-of-33 for 216 yards with a touchdown. He also made things happen with his legs, rushing for 35 yards, including a 9-yard touchdown.
The offensve line which has been a weakness and questionmark this season, was physical and won the battle in the trenches. On defense they were aggressive for the second straight week and got a big effort from their defensive line that got pressure to QB B.J. Daniels. A big step forward for Pitt.
2. GRAHAM MAKING MARK ON RECRUITING SCENE: On Thursday, Pitt also had a big day on the recruiting trail, receiving a verbal commit from four-star offensive tackle Adam Bisnowaty (Fox Chapel, PA ) who had offers from Penn State, Michigan, Michigan, West Virginia, and Virginia among others. Bisnowaty was heavily recruited by Big Ten teams and was also heavily recruited by Florida who were high on his wishlist.
The 6-foot-6, 280-pound tackle has great athleticism for an offensive lineman.
Pitt now has 17 commitments for 2012, Graham and his staff are starting to make their market on the recruiting scene, bringing in the type of players needed to play his system, headlined by 2012 four-star QB commit Chad Voytik.
Graham has coveted athletes and big play explosive players with the likes of WR Corey Jones, superior athlete Demitrious Davis among his top commits.
The headliner of the class could come in a few weeks with Pitt among the front runners for Hopewell’s Rushel Shell.
3. TAKE A PAGE OUT OF BILLS PLAYBOOK?: A cure to the Steelers not becoming one dimensional; Take a page out of the Buffalo Bills playbook.
The Buffalo Bills have a very poor offensive line and what Chan Gailey and his staff have done to counter that is decide to spread teams out and attack teams with runs up the gut and getting their running backs involved in the passing game.
Any success the Steelers had on Sunday night vs the Colts was with running plays up the gut and straight at the Colts as they had 57 rushing yards in the second half.
The Steelers have not been able to get the running game going in bunch formations and two-tight ends sets. Spreading teams out and running straight at them in those type of formations should be something actively explored by Bruce Arians and Co.
To off-set a bad offensive line, the Steelers have to get more efficent with screen passes and Roethlisberger getting the ball into his receiver hands on screens and quick short passes. That means ending the Hines Ward bubble screen pass they try to do once or twice a game. That type of play has to go to Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders or Antonio Brown.
In his first year as starter in 2009, Rashard Mendenhall showed flashes in the passing game, but that area of his game has never expanded. After a 6 reception – 73 yard game vs the Green Packers in week 15 (12/20/09) of the 09 season, Mendenhall has gone 24 straight games (including playoffs) without recording more than 3 receptions in a game.
Mewelde Moore could be in line for more playing time and maybe he should.
4. SECOND ROUND CURSE? Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Month this week and is emerging as an excellent inside linebacker in Rob Ryans 3-4 Scheme. Lee has 32 tackles and 2 interceptions through three games.
For many Steelers fans, 2010 2nd rounder Jason Worilds is always going to be compared to Lee who the Steelers passed up on in the 2nd round of the 2010 draft, despite a significant need at inside linebacker with James Farrior coming off a bad season and entering his mid-30’s.
The decision to select Worilds over Lee was said to have been a very heated one in the Steelers war room. The Steelers had both players rated as 1st rounders but Tomlin overruled others in picking Worilds over Lee, due to a more long-term need at outside linebacker.
Lee has already established himself as an impact player while Worilds is still a project at the outside linebacker position. Worilds though is just 23 years old, compared to Lee who’s 25 with previous knee issues.
5. SELL HIGH ON TANGRADI: It’s still too early to write off Eric Tangradi but I have big concerns about him being an impact player in the longrun and I’m not the only one. Tangradi who is just 22, is destined for another full season in Wilkes Barre with a possible callup here and there when injuries pop up.
That’s not a bad thing but scouts I’ve heard from contend Tangradi’s skill set and skating ability are lacking to be a top-9 player in the Penguins system when you look at his long-term projection.
Things could be moving into the direction as early as this winter when the Penguins (could) begin to mull selling high on Tangradi like they feel they did with Luca Caputi in 2010.