October 22, 2007

It's Times Like This I Wish We Played In The NFC...

Disclaimer: I know many of you have found this entry under the pretense that I think the positives I go on to mention below somehow outweigh the negatives. Just so there's no misunderstanding, it's actually the exact opposite. While I list 5 positives and 3 negatives, the negatives are definitely way more troubling than the positives are encouraging. So get it right...just trying to find SOME silver lining...

In a word - Awful. To be fair, when I started writing this post it was just about 12:30AM and I'd only had a solid hour to digest what happened on the field last night, but at the risk of sounding bitter - I mean, what the? Another loss predicated on turnovers. BIG BEN TURNOVERS, which are getting pretty damn old. Let's face it, we were lucky to get back into that game.

I'm going to try and keep my post game thoughts "brief" here, because games like that tell the story well enough on their own without me throwing my two cents around. Keep your fingers crossed.

I'll start with the positive, because I'd like to think about something that isn't going to make me feel like punching myself in the face. Plus, even though we lost, I can actually think of more positives (sheer quantity that is) than negatives. So here you go:

  1. Character: We all know this team has enough of it to choke a horse. But I'm talking about the kind of character that allows them to locate their balls and mount a second half assault after being down 2 scores going into the half. Down 2 scores as the result of QB turnovers I might add. And yes, most of this is Ben. But frankly, it's the least he could do after getting us into the situation. I'm getting really tired of interceptions and fumbles. If there's one thing I hate to see it's giving away points. Case closed.

  2. Sir Fast William Everette Parker: The man continues to impress. It's just too bad we put ourselves in a situation where we could not utilize him to the fullest. Still, even on 21 carries, he gained a solid 93 yards on the ground. Had we run him 5, 6, 7 more times I'm pretty confident that number would have been somewhere near 150 yards. I say it all the time, it's not mind blowing. The more chances you give him, the more he is able to help you. The Steelers talked all week about how we were going to use the run to wear them down and how bad Denver's rush defense is...and yet, we came out throwing. I can understand the idea of deception, but when you're up against a team whose rush defense isn't stopping anyone, let alone one of the league's top rushers, you probably don't need to be too deceptive. This game was primed for Willie to shine, and shine he did. But 5 more carries and who knows...anyways, bravo Willie. You're money my friend.

  3. Baltimore lost: Sure, this also means we squandered a chance to put some distance between ourselves and the Ravens, but at least they didn't win when we lost. So our lead in the AFC North is safe for another week. Thank god for Buffalo coming up big. Consequently I am now a Trent Edwards fan.

  4. Tight End Touchdowns: A whopping 3 scores registered by Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth! Now that's what I like to see. At least we exploited one Denver weakness! Heath Miller had 5 catches for 50 yards and 2 TDs and Matt Spaeth had 1 lonely catch for a 13 yard TD. I see Tomlin subscribes to the patented "when in doubt throw it to your tight end" theory. Keep that up. I'm gonna make my new motto - More Heath Miller = More fun for everyone.

  5. Distributing the ball: Last but definitely not least, it was good to see that everyone was contributing last night. Ben completed 24 passes to a total of 8 different recipients. Even Carey Davis registered a catch...finally. 'Course the majority of the load fell on Hines Ward who had 7 catches for 78 yards and Santonio Holmes who had 6 catches for 54 yards. And that's the way it should be. But the way we were spreading the ball around in the 2nd half of that game last night was/is a good sign. The more weapons we utilize, the harder it is for the other team to key on 1 or 2 guys.
And now, the not so good...For all our sakes I'll try and curb my frustration and keep this objective...operative word being "try."
  1. Turnovers: Yes, I'm talking about turnovers again...reluctantly. Big Ben, could you please try and maintain a little composure in the pocket? There were a number of times where I saw Ben get unnecessarily flustered, second guess himself on throws, or not take what the defense was giving him in hopes of making a long completion. Now, I couldn't see down the field so he may have been rightfully holding back on certain reads, but everytime he pump faked we lost precious seconds to make a play. We've gotta either start calling better plays to get guys open, Ben needs to get rid of the ball quicker, or he needs to take advantage of what the defense will offer him - IE like that 1st down run he had. Done.

  2. Offensive line play: See exhibit A below...We all knew coming in that Denver did not have what most would qualify as a good defense. They let up 20 points to the Raiders in a winning campaign earlier this season, a team that only scored 10 points on Kansas City's poor-excuse-for a defense yesterday. So let's suffice it to say we should not have been letting guys come free and hassle Big Ben nearly as much as they did last night. This was a problem last season and so it is now as well. Obviously replacing Max Starks did not solve our problem. Actually, last night it really looked to me like Kendall Simmons was the biggest asshole on that line. I seem to remember 2 or 3 times guys coming after Ben from Simmons' territory. Simply, Kendall Simmons and Willie Colon need to get it together. Sort it out dicks.

  3. Late Game Defensive Breakdown: Listen. When you score a touchdown to tie things up with a minute left on the clock, all you need to do is make sure the other team does not move the ball into field goal range. Obviously we forgot that we had just come back to TIE IT UP and had not ACTUALLY WON the game yet. All we needed was 1:10 worth of solid defensive play. And what happened? Completion to the tight end for 16 yards (with a really nice offsides penalty, though it didn't mean anything...thank you Clark Haggans). Completion to Brandon Marshall, who shat on us all game, for 9 yards. A Silverback Offsides penalty = 1st down at the 50 for Denver. Completion to Glenn Martinez (anyone know who that is? Me neither...) for 11 yards. Another completion to the other tight end for 9 yards and a 49 yard Jason Elam field goal sends us home with our tails between our legs. Seriously, that did NOT look like what you would expect from the #1 defense in the league. Coming in, we had let up 47 points all season. Last night we gave them 31. What more can I say?
There you have it. My slightly less than full roster of positives and negatives from last night's losing effort. I find it appropriate that Denver only scored 3 points in the entire 4th quarter and it happened to be the only 3 points that mattered. And just for the record, anyone who thought Jason Elam was going to miss from 49 yards, you're nuts. The guy has been hitting 49 yarders in Denver since the god damn early 90s.

So I guess overall I'd say while I'm discouraged because we lost a very winnable game, I did see a few things that were encouraging as well. We can't dig ourselves holes with turnovers, but at least when we did, the team responded and showed us that we are not just a team that plays from ahead (though we certainly like to). Which is important if we have any hopes of a playoff run this year.

Anyways, after that novel of an entry, I'm done. If you need me, I'll be here at my desk until 5:30 trying not to screw anything up royally. It's Monday. Kill me.

Game Recaps:
[Behind The Steel Curtain]
[Blitzburgh Report]
[Die Hard Steel]
[D.C. Steeler Nation]
[Joey Porter's Pit Bulls]
[Mondesi's House]
[Nonstop Steelers]

[Associated Press]
[ESPN Boxscore]


Black&Gold Girl said...

Ha! At least you had something positive to say. I think I was all negative. I'm just so tired of seeing us loose games the same exact way.

domski43 said...

Last night's performance was a disgrace. The steelers' remaining schedule looks easy on paper, but if they continue to lose to teams like Arizona and Denver even playing the Rams and Miami cannot be overlooked. Cotter, I somewhat agree that the steelers should get a few pats on the back for growing some balls and putting together a comeback, but the Steelers have yet to prove to me that they have the ability to overcome any type of deficit(sp?)and WIN (championship teams win the close games). Of course ben's interceptions were a huge factor in the loss, but the steelers' d was pathetic. Barely any pass rush and terrible coverage. We made Cutler look like Tom Brady. Now, back to Ben...what the f man? Obviously you havent learned your lesson from last year. Arians, it might be time to pull back the reigns on allowing ben to throw so much. In my less-than-expert opinion ben should start with short passes such as screen passes and slowly build his confidence before he starts throwing the ball to the other team. Sorry for being so negative, but tomlin...is this the way you prepare your team coming off the bye? Steelers still have lots to prove..time to get it together as we enter division play. P.S. cincy cant stop the run...so run the ball!!

Tobiathan said...


I'm gonna fall into that trap known as "fan-based bias". I'm a Steelers fan. Yeah, even after last night. So my opinion is defintely colored.

On that note, I'll start out by saying they DID manage to pull off a comeback, but unsuccessfully. At least they gave it a shot.

Beyond that I never got the feeling they were really IN the game. Their body language and play seemed lethargic and careless. It never appeared to me that they were determined to win, while Denver obviously came to play.

Granted, the fumble by Ben that resulted in the defensive TD was the difference. If it weren't for that we would have won, but not convincingly.

I don't get the impression that Ben studies tape. Or, maybe he does but not enough. Either way he didn't seem aware of or comfortable with the things Denver threw at him defensively. And he should have changed the play at the line several times. Instead he just handed the ball off, often for a loss. Stupid.

I don't blame Arians. Or Tomlin. Or even the defense. I'm with Cotter: it was Ben. His head is too big and he doesn't look like he's working very hard out there. Not last night anyway. Not until he HAD to. Not exactly leadership.

Now- I'm going to go ahead and say that our D-line was held on nearly every play. I don't remember any holding calls against Denver. None. Zero. All night.

That pisses me off and makes me feel like something is screwy in NFL officialdom. There were at least a few cases where the holding was blatant but still a no-call. BS.

I hate to be THAT GUY, but we never had a chance out there defensively. All because the Bronco's O-line clearly had a free pass to hold all they wanted. I don't want to say why, but I think that game was determined long before Pittsburgh showed up in Denver. Maybe Adam Schefter knows...

Anyway, not only the holding thing but the continuous calls against us in crunch situations. As a Steeler fan I've long sworn to all who'd listen that if the ref's weren't payed off we'd win 90% of our games. I still believe it. The League even admis to "officiating a game in order to keep it competitive". WTF?

I know that sounds bad, but it's how I feel. I'm not saying we were perfect....far from it. But it doesn't add up that our defense was so totally ineffective against this team. Not at all. If you think I'm wrong watch the game on NFL Replay (I'm sure they'll show it. Maybe not..)

In conclusion I'd say none of the ref's calls would have mattered if Ben had A.) studied more effectively, B.) taken the short easy throws instead of looking deep every play and C.)Not played like an overconfident, under-prepared rookie.

Sure, I'm biased. Sure I'm a Steeler's fan. But every game like this when nearly every call goes against us and most come at crucial moments makes me more and more sure there are bigger forces at work than the players on the field.

We lost. Yes. But barely. And it shouldn't have been, on a hundred different levels.

If this is a championship-caliber team they'll need to deal with this appropriately. I'm not sure how that can be done. Of course I'm no coach. But something needs to change.

Tobiathan said...

I have to add:

I hand it to the Broncos for winning, but they had some help.


Cotter said...

Guys, on a serious note, I know you all already read the post but I have added a disclaimer because I don't think I conveyed my opinion of the game with complete accuracy. This DEFINITELY was a disgrace. The only reason I give any pats on the back is because I'm desperately trying to find a silver lining. Plus, you can read the negatives in 15 different places and frankly, I don't really even need to write about them. So why not try and point out some relatively good things.

Either way, Ben lost that game for us. He was responsible for the majority of Denver's points and just because he helped get us back in it, I'm not excusing his play. I, just like you, am getting real god damn tired of turnovers. Ben better get his shit together real quick. Like Domski, I think Championship teams win the close games. But I'll go you one better - championship teams don't put themselves in close situations because of stupid turnovers. Maybe turnovers, but not the kind of turnovers Ben committed last night.

So yeah, I'm up in arms too. Don't get me wrong.

PS - Domski, you're right - it's spelled "Deficit."

Anonymous said...

Certainly a disapointing loss, but too much blame for our QB. The first interception, while it probably shouldn't have been thrown into double coverage, was a long ball, puntlike if you will. Also you got to take some deep shots once in a while, that one was a mistake but not a crucial one. The next int., which led to a Denver TD, bounced off Wards'(could be mistaken but I think it was Hines) hands for an easy int. The pass was a little high, but they teach if you can touch it you can catch it in Pop Warner. The killer of a fumble sure took a team effort also. Ben's gotta protect the ball #1, but the line needs to protect him better, and is it just me or did it seem like Marvel Smith shoulda been diving on that ball instead of standin' there. And our 3rd down defense?? This giving up 3rd and longs has been going on for a couple of seasons now. And while there were no big special team errors there weren't any "special" ones either. Hope that draft pick we gave for Rossum ain't a high one!! Let's try someone else, Wilson looked good in preseason. No excuse but the bye hangover in the first half, sure was a better team in the second half. Cincy is gonna get hammered!!

rocket9 said...

BEn is by no means a perfect QB but I think many Steeler fans are blind to how bad the O-line is on this team. I was watching NFL Network and they were saying that BRady has, on average, 5 to 5.5 seconds to get rid of the ball. Ben has, at most, 3 seconds before the pocket breaks down. He has to find another place to throw the ball a lot. Simmons is grading out to a D- for the year so far, Colon is a mauler who gets beat a lot by anyone with speed (plus he has to help Simmons anytime there is a stunt! Simmons is totally confused by any kind of misdirection play. Not good for a guard in the NFL.

Mahan get no push on most plays, he's a backup level player like Okobi who should be on the bench if he had some competition. The Steelers KNEW Hartings was hitting the end of the line and also determined early that Okobi wasn't the answer (as Arizona figured out very quickly after signing and then cutting him). But they gave a pretty substantial contract to a guy (Mahan) who isn't even much of a short term answer. Philip is a raw project. The core of our line is a big ?

Faneca and Smith have played well enough but Smith is not a second effort guy. If he is beaten, he stays beaten. So it looks like the right side of the line is the weak area, but Faneca and Smith let Elvis! (lol) split them for the sack on Ben.

Its a team that wants to throw the ball more, but the line is built for a running attack. Its going to be a year of many ups and downs where they beat good teams and lose to mediocre teams.

Perhaps that should be expected with a rookie HC and OC, not to mention all the other new guys at various coaching positions. Philosophies still havent been ironed out and they are officially "a work in progress"

I think its going to be a down to the wire dogfight for the division now. They arent nearly as good as they showed before the bye unfortunately.

My thoughts are on the O-line because I think the D and ST`s will return to form. The talent is just not there along the O-line for any kind of sustained excellence from that unit.

Cotter said...

Good points. I think we know full well how terrible the line is playing...it wasn't hard to miss the fact that Ben had very little time in the pocket that wasn't spent scrambling around trying to avoid a rush.

As for the Defense - I'll agree that they should return to form. For the most part, they didn't really "play" that terrible. I just think the strategy was all f'd. We should have been rushing Cutler. Forcing HIM to make mistakes. Pressing their receivers so they couldn't keep killing us with short slants (ala Arizona...). But that last drive was just awful. You can NOT let a team convert 3rd and long ever. Let alone twice on one drive. They might have been worn out, but I can't really give them a pass on that.

As for Ben, I will say this: the 1st interception was a forced throw. I am glad that Ben has enough faith in Santonio that he thought he could make the play, but throwing into double coverage when one of the guys in coverage is Dre Bly is not the best decision. As for the 2nd interception - putting the ball up high is not ideal either. Maybe less responsibility in that, but I don't know that I'd put the blame all on the receiver. Then again, I actually didn't physically see the play...I was on my way to the bar at the time.

And the fumble first and foremost was the O-Lines fault, yes.

Here's what I'd like to see from Ben (the team leader). Get up to the podium, say "we made some mistakes, we'll do better" and go out and do it.

I love Ben. Believe me, I think he has a lot of talent and I'd love to see him show it. But we need to make the right decisions - coaching and executing.

domski43 said...

overall, denver did not have champ bailey and dre bly seemed to only be playing with one good arm. ben would have been intercepted again if bly had two good hands. big ben and the o-line play so much better once the run is established. once the defense has to focus on the run, the steelers' play action passes are their bread and butter. if the steelers plan on throwing the ball early i'm sticking with the philosophy of starting ben off slow with short passes such as screen passes to gain confidence and timing with his receivers before challenging the defense.