Labriola On

Labriola on listening when Joe speaks

Ready or not, here it comes:

  • The first two weeks of an NFL season typically serve as something of a benchmark, with observers and football historians weighing in on what a 2-0 record vs. an 0-2 record mean to the respective teams' playoff chances. After two weeks of the 2015 regular season, there were four 2-0 teams in the AFC – Cincinnati, New England, the New York Jets, and Denver – plus five more in the AFC – Dallas, Atlanta, Carolina, Green Bay, and Arizona.
  • A guess at the pretenders in that group of undefeateds would be the Jets, because of their lack of a big-time quarterback, possibly Dallas because of the rash of injuries to the Cowboys' marquee players, and either Atlanta or Carolina because two playoff teams coming from an NFC South Division won with a 7-8-1 record in 2014 seems remote.
  • As for the 0-2 teams, there were three in the AFC – Baltimore, Indianapolis, and Houston – plus six more in the NFC – Philadelphia, the New York Giants, New Orleans, Detroit, Chicago, and Seattle.
  • A guess at the contenders in the group of the winless would be the Ravens, the Colts, who started 0-2 in 2014 and advanced to the conference championship game and competing in the soft AFC South, and the Seahawks, who might have opened with the toughest two-game stretch in the NFL – at St. Louis and at Green Bay.
  • The Steelers will get a taste of what a game against the Rams in the Edward Jones Dome is like this weekend. Once upon a time, when the building was called the Trans World Dome, the advantage to the Rams was the way the artificial surface combined with climate controlled comfort served as a complement to the Greatest Show on Turf. Because Kurt Warner never had to worry about throwing a wet football, and Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce, and Torry Holt never had to worry about inconsistent footing, the Rams torched opponents for years with their high-powered offense.
  • It's a different style of Rams team the Steelers will face on Sunday. This time, the unit taking advantage of the noise and the certain footing is the St. Louis defensive line. In Aaron Donald and Robert Quinn, the Rams boast two of the best pass-rushing defensive linemen in the league. Crowd noise can inhibit communication at the line of scrimmage among the offensive players, while also affecting the ability of those players to hear the snap count. In those situations, it's advantage defense.

Here is a look at the statistical leaders for both the Steelers and Rams heading into Sunday's Week 3 matchup at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, Missouri.

  • The Steelers offense will utilize a lot of silent count on Sunday, and it's really something they now use throughout most games on the road. It's all triggered by left guard Ramon Foster, who will give center Cody Wallace a slap on the thigh, which serves to start the process of the rhythm that then results in the snap of the football.
  • Besides a silent count, another tactic that an offense can use to deal with an aggressive defensive line is the running game. If aggressive defensive linemen fall into the habit of playing the run on the way to the quarterback, an offense can take advantage of that by carving out gashes in the front and getting running backs into the secondary. That's what the Redskins did to the Rams last week, when Matt Jones and Alfred Morris combined for 182 yards rushing.
  • With Le'Veon Bell back, and with him having fresh legs, a similar strategy could work for the Steelers.
  • Then again, there's another strategy that could work for the Steelers on Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome, a strategy that has worked for them at NFL venues all over the country. Just have Steelers Nation take over the building. It has happened at venues of established franchises, and the Rams – rumored as they are to having one foot out the door for Los Angeles – are no longer that in their home city.
  • Maybe it's going to be Nick Foles, and not Ben Roethlisberger, being forced to utilize a silent count on Sunday.
  • Not only did last year's draft end the streak of no running backs getting picked in the first round, but it started a new streak – that one being a draft in which an INJURED running back got picked on the first round. That back is Todd Gurley, who was tearing up the SEC last season until he tore up his knee in a game last November, and the Rams made him the 10th overall pick back on April 30.
  • Gurley has yet to make an on-field appearance for the Rams, but he been practicing fully lately, including all of the team's workouts this week, and he's itching to get onto the field.
  • Gurley vs. Le'Veon could be very interesting.
  • It was a regularly asked question throughout the offseason program and then into training camp and the preseason. The individual at the heart of it was Dan McCullers, the imposing 6-foot-7, 352-pound second-year nose tackle. How is McCullers progressing? When will he get more playing time? Can McCullers allow the Steelers to move Steve McLendon to defensive end?
  • Recently interviewed by Teresa Varley on a variety of Steelers subjects, this is what Joe Greene had to say about that: "What I would like to see, I would like to see No. 62 (Dan McCullers) get his tail over the center and beat the crap out of the center, the guard on the right side and the guard on the left side. Then we will be better. Show some energy by what you are trying to do. You've got the size, you have the ability, you just have to get out there and do it. If he starts doing what he is capable of doing then the rest of that defense will fall in line."
  • Dan, are you listening? Joe Greene is talking to you.
  • According to recent figures released by NFLShop.com, the top-selling player jersey so far in 2015 is Tom Brady's No. 12. Typically a player such as Brady, who has been with the same team for his entire career, a team that hasn't made any fundamental changes to its uniform in a long time, tends to reach a saturation point with consumers. People who wanted a Brady jersey likely already had one before this year.
  • But maybe this is a sign of people casting a vote at the cash register to voice their opinion about NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, their way of celebrating the court decision that vacated Brady's four-game suspension.
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