Tag Archives: Troy Polamalu

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 24 Raiders 27

image from espn.com

Game Recap

Well, the Pitt game was disappointing, but this game really stank.  It stank because we’re better than how we’ve been playing for the last month or so.  A lot better.  It seems like I’m watching the same game over and over every week.  A team we should beat.  We let them hang around for 3 quarters without much excitement and take a small lead into the fourth.  On the last drive of the game the opponent finally figures out that our secondary sucks and picks us apart through the air for the winning score.  It’s getting ridiculous.

I’m not sure how much you can pick apart in this one.  We didn’t give up the big score on special teams.  We moved the ball very well, but had some miscues in the red zone.  But I think it’s fairly obvious that the problem lies with the defense.  It has the past few games. The Oakland Raiders have struggled to score touchdowns all year.  They came in averaging 9.5 points per game and laid 27 on us.  That’s unacceptable.  So where did the problem lie?  Well, the Raiders got 396 total yards yesterday, and 287 of them were through the air.  That seems like the problem to me.  If you’re not convinced, look at their play calls (28 rushing attempts, 34 passing attempts).  Our problem is our secondary.  And they can’t be letting up 3 touchdown passes to Bruce Gradkowski.  The Raiders were shooting themselves in the foot with penalties, and we were constantly letting them off the hook on 2nd and 3rd and long.  Can’t happen.  I know that Troy is not in, but he can’t be the sole reason that we’re playing such horrid defense.  Or at least I really hope he’s not.  He’s gatta retire at some point, and we can’t be this screwed when he leaves, can we?

Offensively, the only thing that worries me is the red zone offense.  We’ve got a nice balance of run and pass going up the field.  We can get some extended drives going.  We’ve got a lot of weapons.  That’s fine.  But we seem to kill ourselves when we get inside the twenty.  We were 2 for 5 in the red zone against the Raiders.  We lost one to a pick, one to a bad sack, and one to a failed 4th down try.  I have no idea what to say.  We don’t even have a consistent problem to address.  I would say it’s just luck, but luck isn’t extended over a number of games.  This is something that needs to be figured out by smarter football minds than mine.

That’s pretty much all I can say here.  We’ve got some big problems to fix, and they have to be fixed NOW.  I think we’ve already pretty much killed our playoff chances, but if we want to keep them on triage we’d better take this game in Cleveland Thursday night.  For those of you not in the Pittsburgh market, the game will be on the NFL network at 8:20 on Thursday.  Tune in and keep your fingers crossed.

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Steelers 12 Bengals 18

 

image from espn.com

 

Game Recap

Well, crap.  This was a big game.  Cincy now has the driver’s seat on the division, and the playoff home game that goes with it.  But it doesn’t mean that Pittsburghers should go jump off the Smithfield St. Bridge or anything quite yet.  Far from it.  We’re still in a good position for the wild card, and as we know here in da burgh, all you need is that ticket to the playoffs to win it all (remember Super Bowl XL?).  In fact, Cincy won the division that year if my memory serves me.  So, this isn’t the end.  Let’s call it what it was: we made some mistakes, Cincy played great, and they were the better team on Sunday.  But that doesn’t mean they’ll be the better team come January.

Offensively, it was pretty much a wash.  The numbers are almost identical for both teams.  The only thing that sticks out is that the Steelers had a few more rushing yards (which had a lot to do with the lack of Cedric Benson), but neither team was able to break the century mark on the ground.  The only thing that separated these two teams was the one kickoff return.  Just look at the margin of victory.  Those are the six points right there (with the missed extra point).  Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m getting pretty darn sick of watching Jeff Reed chase kick returner.  It’s the easiest facet of the game.  Just run straight ahead, get off your block and hit the ball-carier if he’s in your lane.  That’s it.  High school teams do it all the time.  But there is a serious lack of desire in some cases, and a lack of team spirit to stay in your lane and not try to make a tremendous play in other cases.  Overall, we’ve got to get some new bodies out there on kickoffs.  This is ridiculous.

Troy getting hurt is a huge blow to the team.  We really struggled without him earlier in the year.  The upcoming schedule isn’t the roughest one around, but it would still be nice to have him.  He gives the defense another dimension that you can’t replace.  It’s also troubling that it’s the same knee that he hurt earlier in the season.  This has long-term implications written all over it.

Overall, these were two evenly matched teams.  One mistake is all it took to win this game.  Cincy’s defense slowed down our pass attack more than any other team this season.  For that, you just have to tip your cap.  They limited the running game, and their D-line played fantastic.  You could say similar things about our offense as well.  I hope we see them again in the playoffs.  It would be a fantastic game, and I like our chances with the extra  motivation.  But, I have to once again say hats off to the Bengals.  I came into the season as a doubter, I was pretty convinced by week 4 or 5, and now I’m positive that this is a contending football team.  Kansas City should be much easier next week.  Lets get back to winning.  I like that a lot better.

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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 14 Bears 17

image from espn.com

image from espn.com

Game Recap

I think that picture above pretty much sums up the game.  Everything was juuuuust out of reach.  Not getting off the field on some key third downs, the dropped pass by Santonio in the end zone, Jeff Reed’s missed kicks, etc.  Everything was close, but not close enough.

The obvious story of the game was Jeff Reed and his missed kicks.  I’ve never heard anything so ridiculous as the people yelling for him to be let go after that.  Really.  The guy had a bad day.  You’ve had them before, too.  They just aren’t in front of thousands of people.  So Jeff Reed had a bad game.  So what.  He’s still got an excellent history of consistency.  I’ll give him a slide for a week.  Besides, there are more players on a team than just the kicker.  If they play better, he’s not in that situation.

Take the defense, for instance.  It allowed 7 3rd down conversions, and had 0 takeaways.  Not it’s best outing by any stretch.  They only allowed 275 yards of offense which isn’t bad, but for the #1 defense in the league, that’s a step down.  And since that step down coincided with Troy getting hurt, everyone dismisses the loss as evidence that the Steelers miss Polamalu too much.  Well, it was obvious that the defense was going to miss Troy.  He’s arguably the best safety in the league, and more importantly he does unique things that can’t be replaced.  But I think we need to keep it in perspective.  We kept the Bears to 17 points.  That’s a lot, but low enough that we can still win.  Especially considering that we turned the ball over  twice and put that defense in a bad position.

Speaking of those turnovers, that brings to mind the fact that the offense is not blameless in this game, either.  After starting the game off strong with a good long drive, the offense struggled the rest of the game.  We accumulated 308 total yards (most of which came on that first drive).  Two thirds of that came in the air.  I wonder if the bad playing surface (the turf had just been replaced after a U2 concert and then rained on) held our passing attack back a bit.  Bad tracks usually favor a running team.  Now, I’m not going to go to the argument that ‘we need to play Steeler football’.  That’s silly.  Football strategy evolves and you have to keep up or fall behind.  But I will say that we’re not a balanced team at all, and that may have hurt us here.

So, overall, this loss was just some bad luck on all sides.  No facet of the game (offense, defense or special teams) played well at all.  Yet, we still only lost on a last second field goal after missing two of our own.  I think that, for a loss, this wasn’t so bad.  I’d much rather look good losing and have hope and motivation for the next game than get blown out and feel inferior.  The bottom line is that this is one game.  Unlike college, one game doesn’t kill you in the pros.  So go ahead and step down off the ledge, Pittsburgh.

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