Tag Archives: Steelers defense

Steelers 37 Packers 36

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Game Recap

This may not be the prettiest win in the history of the NFL, but you know what?  We as Steeler fans can’t be too picky right about now.  You couldn’t have asked for more out of a game, though.  It had a little bit of everything: a lot of scores, an outstanding individual performance (Ben’s 500+ yards of passing with no interceptions), and of course a winning score on the last play of the game.  These are the games I love to watch when I have absolutely no rooting interest.  As it was, this game probably took a year or two off my life.

So let’s break this down by offense and defense and start with the offense.  Well, Bruce Arians is nothing if not persistent.  We were going down a bad stretch while throwing the ball around the field, and we continued to do it again on Sunday.  The Steelers had 65 plays (not including special teams) and 46 of them were passes.  I don’t see how being that unbalanced can be desirable.  I know that the way of the NFL is towards passing offenses, and I’m all for progress, but I think it’s going towards the opposite end of the spectrum and blowing past the ultimately most desirable outcome: having a serviceable running AND passing game, while being reliant on neither.  I’m not a yinzer who thinks we should get another Franco or Jerome and run the ball 75% of the time.  I’m looking for an even split.  Make the defense respect both aspects.  That’s all.  Is that too hard to understand?  I don’t know.  I’ll get off my soap box now.  I have to admit, when you implement that kind of game plan, and Ben is on, good things definitely happen.  And they did on Sunday.  We put up 37 points on a very very good defense.  But, the problem is we haven’t been consistent with that kind of production.  Just a couple of weeks ago, Ben was definitely NOT on, and we put up only 6 points in a loss to the Browns.  That’s the risk you run.  And if you’re not consistent, and the defense can’t be trusted to limit any opponent to less than 20 points on any given day (like they did last year), you won’t win a championship.  With one bad game, one loss, eliminating you from the playoffs, you can’t be inconsistent.

So, that’s the offense.  What about the defense?  They gave up an awful lot to the Packers on Sunday.  Now, I realize that Aaron Rogers can play, but allowing 376 yards of passing offense is ridiculous.  It can’t happen.  Plus, we are continuing to putter to a stop in the fourth quarter.  If nothing else, Tomlin’s onside kick call will tell you everything you need to know.  We were so confident that our defense would fail, we just wanted enough time to get the last score.  That’s incredible.  Remember last year when we had a ‘legendary’ defense that carried us to a Super Bowl?  Remember when you would get a late lead, put on Renegade and turn the lights out because the game was over?  Yeah, that’s not the case anymore to put things mildly.  I think the biggest story from this season is the erosion of this defense from one of the best of all time to a big joke.  In one year.  What the heck happened?  Are they just getting old?  Did one year make that big of a difference?  Well, I think that it has more to do with personnel than that.  Troy has been injured, and McFadden left after last year.  So that’s half of the secondary that’s been replaced.  And the secondary is where we’re getting torn apart.  It seems like the replacement parts aren’t up to par, and that’s something that needs to be addressed in the off-season.

So, I alluded to it before, but the other major story line here was the on-side kick.  It seems that everyone in Western PA  has an opinion on it.  Well, mine is that I liked it when it happened, and I still like it.  I even would have liked it if we wouldn’t have won.  Why?  Because you’re finally learning from history.  You’ve got tons of data to tell you that when a team needs to make an end of game drive, they usually pass and usually have success against our secondary.  Add to that the success that Green Bay was already having through the air up to that point, and the odds are with the Packers driving as far as they needed to go.  So if you concede the overwhelming odds, then giving them a short field so that the offense has the time they didn’t have in the last few games, it’s a smart move.  Plus, the odds of recovering the kick are greatly increased if you catch the other team off guard.  So, basically, we had a better than average chance of recovering the kick, and if we failed, the odds say we’ve got a better chance of winning assuming the defense gives up a long drive again.  It makes sense.  But it brings to light how awful this defense is, which is very hard to accept for a lot of Steeler fans that have a specific team identity in mind.  I know, conceding that your defense is unable to come up with a stop is a hard thing to do and doesn’t feel right.  After all, you’re basically conceding that you’re not a good football team.  But it’s the reality for where we are right now.

I don’t like the path that this team is headed down.  The defense (and my suspicion is that it’s mainly the new personnel in the secondary) is unacceptable.  The offense is becoming more and more one-dimensional every year.  These are some trends that have to be stopped right now if we want to remain a good football team.  The good news is that they’re easy fixes.  Troy will return (and hopefully have better luck when he does).  We can sign a better corner and try again.  We can adjust our offensive philosophy and at least put a fullback on the field.  There are easy fixes, but changes have to be made in the off-season.  I’ll be watching at least.  As for next week, we’ve got a huge game against the Ravens.  They kind of stole one from us a month or so ago.  It seems about time for some payback.

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Steelers 28 Lions 20

image from espn.com

image from espn.com

Game Recap

The Steelers are a broken record without Troy Polamalu out.  They stop the run and build up a lead, then when the other team is forced to pass, the pressure disappears and they fold.  For the second straight week, we’re lucky to hold on.

Offensively, we did well.  Mendenhall had a decent first half, then wasn’t given any more opportunities.  Limus Sweed dropped his weekly pass.  Ben played great (I’m forgiving the interception.  Everyone makes mistakes).  There’s not much to complain about.  We only had 7 second half points, but we really didn’t have the ball much to make anything happen.  Bruce Arians is coming under some heat for his playcalling.  Specifically, going away from the run when we had the lead.  His response was that the Lions were stacking the run and the pass game was open, so he wanted to take advantage of that.  I buy that explanation.  I would do the same thing.  So Ben got sacked twice on a 3 and out?  So what.  It still runs the clock.  As long as Ben holds on to the ball (which I trust that he will), that’s still a good play.  I liked the offense all around.

As for the defense, they didn’t have the greatest game ever.  21 first downs is a lot for the Lions.  When you consider they didn’t have their starting QB or their best receiver, it’s embarrassing.  The reason they got 21 first downs?  11 for 18 on 3rd down.  That’s right.  11 3rd down conversions.  Usually when that happens, you lose.  We were lucky the team across the field was Detroit.  It’s not hard to see the pattern: we were succesful only when we got pressure on Dante Culpepper.  We were stopping the run, and they were forced to pass a lot.  Unfortunately, our secondary is not the best without Polamalu.  When the coverage was helped by the front 4 getting pressure, they were successful.  When they had to cover for a few seconds while Culpepper sat there, they got picked apart.  It wasn’t because we weren’t blitzing, it was because we weren’t getting through the line.  That’s unacceptable.

So, overall, not an impressive game to be sure, but it’s another tick in the win column.  I guess just like Pitt the day before, you have to take some lessons away and be thankful that those lessons didn’t cost you a win.  The Browns visit Pittsburgh next week which should be another win.  SHOULD being the key word there.  We’ll see how much we’ve learned.

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Steelers 38 Chargers 28

image from espn.com

image from espn.com

Game Recap

Wow.  I guess the one thing you can take away from this game is that no lead is safe for the Steelers.  Not even a 4 touchdown one.  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  I guess the best way to attack this is to take it one score at a time.  The drive for San Diego’s first touchdown was long and drawn out.  It was filled with lots of short passes and drop-offs.  It also had a 3rd and 8 and a 3rd and 15 that were both converted.  3rd and long has to be a death sentence.  You can’t give up 2 in one drive.  The second score was a fluke “fumble” by Stephan Logan.  I have fumble in quotes because it was ripped out of his hands, he didn’t drop it.  He’s gatta go down when 3 guys have him.  He’s not big enough to power for yards.  The third score was again an attack on our secondary.  4 passes and a score.  Same story on the fourth score.  4 passes (including one interference call) and a score.  On those two drives, Phillip Rivers was 7 for 7 (8 for 8 if you include the interference) with 2 touchdowns.  That’s terrible for our secondary.  It wasn’t because of missed tackles like Pitt.  It was because of blown coverage and bad defensive calls.  We really miss Troy back there.

But defense was not the only story in this game.  The offense had a resurgence due to the coming out party for Rashard Mendenhall.  He had a heck of a day.  165 yards and 2 touchdowns is incredible.  He showed some good vision and really hit the juke button a lot.  However, I did notice something that worried me.  As soon as he got the ball he was sprinting.  Now, I’ve heard that this is what made him successful as opposed to Willie.  If the line only has to make a hole for a split second it’s much easier on them.  I take the opposite view.  You have to wait for your blocks to develop, and then you hit a hole full speed.  But ask any running back: patience is a virtue.  Those holes might not be there every game, and then you’re just running into the backsides of your line.  If our line isn’t as dominant (or, more likely, San Diego’s defensive front doesn’t have a terrible effort), he goes nowhere.

Speaking of that line, they finally had a tremendous game.  But you have to take into account the competition.  Like I said, with the exception of Shawne Merriman, I’m not at all impressed with San Diego’s defensive front 7.   I’d like to see this again with some better competition before I make any sweeping statements, but I have to give them credit.  San Diego is still an NFL team, and dominating them like that at the line is a huge step up for us, and I like the prospects.  We were also making a lot of 3rd and shorts thanks to the hogs up front.  That’s the football I like.

Overall, you have to love this performance save about 20 minutes by the defense.  I think it might have been worse had the offense not kept the ball away from the Chargers as much.  We won the possession battle 40:20 to 19:40.  That’s San Diego football, though.  Try to out-score you.  They can’t do that without the ball.  So, I’ll take the win and look ahead to a little bit of a breather in the schedule.  We have Detroit and Cleveland coming up, and Troy will be back by the end of those two weeks.  Hopefully that’s a cure-all.  But I doubt it.

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Steelers 20 Bengals 23

image from espn.com

image from espn.com

Game Recap

Oh, man.  A two game losing streak.  EVERYBODY PANIC!!!  That’s the impression I get around town, at least.  In truth, we lost two games by a combined 6 points.  That’s not a reason to push the panic button quite yet.  However, there are some developing trends that are quite disturbing on this team.  So lets give those a quick run-down.

Just like Pitt, everybody on the team deserves some blame from the head coach down to the kicker.  The offense is always the easiest thing to pick apart, however.  So lets start there.  We had a rookie as our leading receiver.  That doesn’t say much about this passing game we’re relying on the past couple of years.  Santonio and Limas Sweed just had awful games.  Both had some pretty bad drops, but none were worse than Sweed’s in the end zone.  Santonio has shown enough consistency to dismiss this bad game.  Limas has not.  I think he just cost himself a job.  The run game has shown some signs of life, but its still in critical condition.  Willie is still struggling, and our backup was suspended for the game because of some mistakes in practice.  That’s not a good situation.  I think the blocking situation has reached critical mass as evidenced by the fact that the Steelers signed a ‘fullback’ out of free agency.  If by fullback you mean former Steeler running back Carey Davis.  They already tried this with Frank Summers.  It doesn’t work.  I don’t know if they’re trying to save a roster spot by bringing in a fullback who can double as a 4th string running back or something, but it’s got to stop.  There’s an art to the fullback position that running backs haven’t mastered.  You have to suck it up and dedicate a spot to it.  Also, on the playcalling side, why haven’t we played a little more no-huddle?  It keeps the defense off balance, and Ben’s really good at it.  Seems like a good combo to me.  I realize it goes against traditional football teaching, but so does audibiling 50 times at the line like Peyton Manning.  That seems to work for him alright.

The defense was also a little shaky: especially towards the end.  It’s pretty obvious to anyone watching that the Steelers response to Troy being gone has been to get conservative.  No more blitzes, no more stunts.  Just line up in the base and play defense.  That’s not a bad idea, since Troy was the guy who allowed you to gamble, but it’s obviously not working.  Maybe we should be rolling the dice a bit more often just to see if the defense can surprise us.  Who knows?  Regardless, I’m not willing to write off this defense before Troy gets back.  Remember: this is just temporary.

Jeff Reed missed another kick.  I would wonder if this poor streak was getting in his head if he didn’t make two other ones.  Coach Tomlin also doesn’t escape blame.  The 4th and 4 call was questionable, but I’ll go with it.  It’s a tough spot on the field (at the opponent’s 35).  It’s a long field goal, a medium yardage 4th down, or a way short punt.  I think any of those options would be okay.  I kind of blame the defense for allowing the Bengals to pick them apart for 49 yards in the span of a minute.  But I guess that’s a spot where if they make it he’s a genius and if they come up short he’s an idiot.

So, I guess in short, there are some problems that keep showing their head, but for the most part, we’re still in these games enough to win them.  We’ve just gotten a couple of bad breaks.  It happens.  Besides, we knew we had a front-loaded schedule.  We’ve still got the Raiders, the Lions and the Browns twice to feast on.

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