Maybe this is the Steelers' level for 1980—one little notch above the NFL's desperation clubs. But maybe, as Greene says, it was the start of something, a rebirth, a return to basics. In a week or two Lambert will be back, and Stallworth, who was activated for the Packer game but didn't play, is ready now. Harris returned Sunday but departed after taking a blow to the head in the fourth quarter. That gave Bleier his chance.
A ball-control offense will keep the defense off the field and give the defense a chance to tune up its engines for the pass rush. Pass rush means better field position for the offense. The thing nourishes itself. The dark side is the calendar. If the Steelers really are a year too old, a step too slow, a little too tired, then what we saw Sunday was merely a momentary phenomenon, a last twitch before the lights go out.
The Steelers get another crack at Cleveland—in Three Rivers this time—and they play Houston on the road. They can still control the destiny of their division, the AFC Central. Don't write them off just yet. But don't start celebrating, either.