Kovacevic: Could Foxborough be a blessing?


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I tried. Went stall to stall, canvassing the Steelers' sullen locker room late Sunday night in Foxborough, seeking any semblance of a positive to cull from that 33-3 loss to the Patriots. Something, anything that could carry over into Seattle week.

"Man ... I don't know," Alejandro Villanueva eventually replied. "I mean, it is just one game."

OK, math. It's 1 of 16. That's something.

Anyone else?

"Yeah, I think so," Vance McDonald came back after a similar pause. "Anytime you get on a football field, you have a chance to improve, whether it's timing or whatever."

That's ... also something. Kind of like a fifth preseason game.

Then there was Cam Heyward's take. This one resonated.

"First thing we have to do is look at the film, learn what we can from our mistakes. And we made a lot of 'em," he told me. "If there's a positive, when you're facing a Super Bowl champion, you're going to learn what those are right away rather than wait. Now it's up to us to learn from this lesson and put it to work."

After a pause of his own, "I'll tell you what: I can't wait for Wednesday."

Which is when, after the film study and finger-wagging, attention will fully turn toward the Seahawks.

The finger-wagging will be appropriate. Obviously. But it also will be, as Heyward suggests, ideally timed. Some opponent's going to expose an NFL team's shortcomings, probably all laid bare by the bye week at the latest. And in this specific case, especially since the Steelers showed so many offensive sets and dramatically altered their defensive alignment late in the first half, Bill Belichick's strategies and the Patriots' execution laid all of it bare.

McDonald's remark on another subject might have unwittingly explained this: "Most of what New England does is force you into man-to-man situations, so it's you against them and it's on your execution."

Yep. Some will execute, and some will do whatever the hell Donte Moncrief was doing. And if those performances better inform decisions moving forward ... again, that's something.

Now, consider the alternative ...

The Ravens fly down to Miami to take on the apparent equivalent of a college team, they run a 59-10 rout in their opener, they amass 643 total yards of offense -- most by any NFL team since 2012 -- and Lamar Jackson records a perfect 158.3 passer rating to go with his five touchdowns. And it's great for the Dirty Birds. Everyone's giddy. Heck, John Harbaugh was so pumped he authorized a fake punt with a 32-point lead in the first half.

Oh, and just wait till next week when the Ravens do likewise to the Cardinals. They'll all be spiking their crabcakes over there.

But let's now suppose that Jackson, a runner first and passer second by any reasonable definition, slips away from what makes him most dangerous. Or that their overall offense and defense, which are both basically average — if that — rest on the first couple of results. Without being exposed.

Next come the Chiefs in Week 3, and Patrick Mahomes will eat them alive.

And the first challenge in Week 9, right after Baltimore's bye, will be the Patriots with Tom Brady and Antonio Brown.

By the time the Steelers and Ravens meet in the regular-season finale Dec. 29, yet another possible AFC Central-deciding showdown between the two, which team will have had more time, more opportunity to become all it can be?

Hey, like I said, I tried.

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