December 16, 2007

Who's The Boss?

"We're not good enough to win right now, and that's what I just told that football team."
- Mike Tomlin
I don't mind having to play from behind. I don't mind losing a game. I don't mind calling a pass play to a receiver who isn't beyond the 1st down marker on 4th down in a last ditch effort to tie the game. However, I DO mind getting out muscled, and ran over in our own house. The Jaguars played OUR game today and they played it better than we could, against the NFL's somehow still #1 rated Defense.

Fred Taylor ~ 25 carries, 147 yards
Maurice Jones-Drew ~ 12 carries, 69 yards
Total Rush Yards Allowed ~ 224
Total Pass Yards Allowed ~ 197
Total Yards Allowed ~ 421
Jaguars on 4th Down ~ 3/3
Jaguars Time of Possession ~ 37:39

I'm not sure I need to write much else. That pretty much sums up the game. The Jaguars ran it. We couldn't tackle them. The Jaguars threw it short. We continued to play 8 yards off.

But perhaps most frustrating was the Jaguars final scoring drive of the game (which by the way reeked of Week 7 against Denver). We had just tied the score in truly dramatic fashion. All we needed was to stop the Jaguars Offense, get the ball back and go for the win. But 8 plays, 73 yards and only 3 minutes 49 seconds later, they were putting 7 up on the board and the Steelers hopes came down to a 2 minute drill. I understand that by that point in the game, the Steelers Defense had played a lot of football, but en route to their deathblow, the Jaguars ran the ball 5 out of 8 plays, netting 52 (of the 73) yards and the score.

I'm reminded of that line from the movie Boiler Room, how's it go again? - Oh yeah, "Always be closing." The Steelers Defense let the Jaguars Offense run this game (pun intended) and close it out the same way they drew 1st blood. Plain and simple.

Bright spots? Sure there were some...
  1. Willie Parker is Fast ~ FWP, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways...all 1317 of them. Willie is holding firm as the categorical #1 among NFL backs. Now if only we could've given him the ball more...14 carries, 100 yards...that looks an awful lot like he was about 4 or 5 rushes away from breaking another big one. But alas...we like to throw the ball now...

  2. The Hotrod Cashes In ~ Nate Washington caught a pass...a touchdown pass...go ahead, read that again, I still can't believe it either...

  3. Some People Now Have Records They Did Not Have Before ~ Jeff Reed moved up to 3rd in Scoring All Time for the Steelers and Big Ben set the team record for Touchdowns in a season with 3 today and 29 on the year. As an also ran - Hines Ward inched 31 yards closer to the Steelers record for Receiving Yards All Time, and now only needs 42 more to reach that mark. Awesome... now, can the Steelers beat a playoff caliber team besides those named Cleveland or those from the NFC? Seriously...

  4. The Dolphins Won Today ~ Congratulations. You guys suck, but at least you beat the Ravens (of all people). Too bad Brian Billick cannot be killed by conventional weapons...Yes, you are correct. That had nothing to do with Pittsburgh...

  5. One Down, One Up ~ I think that phrase usually goes the other way...oh well. Anyways, we may have lost Aaron Smith this week, but getting Troy back proved to be so much more pivotal than any of us had imagined. He led the team with 10 tackles today (7 solo) and generally showed us why he's the highest paid Steeler in team history. Which leads me to believe he may have been hurt earlier in the season and just didn't say anything. Either way, this is solid news and gives this defense a much needed boost. Plus the Steelers again have one excellent head of hair in the tu Al Harris!
So look, this is not the end of the world. We're all disappointed (especially me) by this loss. But a win in St. Louis on Thursday, and in Baltimore on the following Sunday, and we can still take the division by way of our dominance over the Browns. Of course, no game is certain. And you better bet that if it comes down to the final game of the season, the Ravens would like nothing more than to play spoiler to the Steelers, as we did to the Bengals last season. Even still, I'm staying positive. We still have a great shot at the playoffs and then the season will start anew. After all, we were a wild card in '05, and look how that turned out.

Now it's your turn. As usual, I want to know what you all thought. What did we learn today? What are your thoughts on the Fred Taylor show? How about the Steeler fans leaving the game in the 3rd Quarter? Does Bruce Arians know we have the #1 running back in the NFL?

PS - In case you missed it, we had some great discussion going on during the game today. I will continue to do this every week. So please, join us. I'll bring the beers...and Domski will bring the Bartles & James wine coolers...

[Behind The Steel Curtain]
[Blitzburgh Report]
[DC Steeler Nation]
[Die Hard Steel]
[Doubt About It]
[Football Braniac]
[Joey Porter's Pitbulls]
[Pittsburgh Sports and Mini Ponies]

[Associated Press]

Ballhype: hype it up!


domski43 said...

this is the time of the year that whoever gets hot goes on to win the superbowl. the steelers are not very hot right now, but if we get a nice groove going in these last two games they could build some momentum for a playoff run. the focus now is winning one game just to get into the playoffs. anything can happen.

But, out of this game i believe that the jaguars will be a force to be reckoned with in the playoffs. i love their physical style of play. adam shein, on sirius nfl radio, calls the jags america's team because their fan base in jax doesnt support their team. taylor and jones-drew are nasty and fun to watch, while garrard manages the game. i would love to see them beat the patricheats.

gentlemen, we must take a nice long look in the rearview mirror because cleveland is hot and their schedule favors them.

I wonder how well the steelers will play with good field conditions?? They sure have a lot of experience with shitty field conditions if the situation arises in the playoffs.

db said...

Honestly, if they don't completely pummel the Rams, the season essentially is over, even if technically it is not. At least Cowher generally had a pattern of getting the team going at this point. This year, they peaked in October. The team reminds me more of the Giants and Dolphins of recent vintage -- start fast, fade big time.

The O-Line is a major issue, but as solid and big-play capable as Ben is, he still needs to grow in terms of getting the ball out of there quickly, I still think he struggles with the ability to make quick reads and decisions beyond the #1 option. And it is hard to keep running in these games because a) they are trailing and b) 2nd-and-8 or 3rd-and-6 seems to be leading to sack after sack.

I'm not giving up hope yet...hopefully we get at least one playoff game, ideally at home. Then, never know. With lowered expectations now, there is only upside, kind of like a few years ago again.

quiet strength said...

Some super duper fun stats: coming into this game, the Jags were averaging 2.07 sacks per game. John Henderson, Brent Hawkins, and Bobby McCray all at least doubled their sack numbers for the year. In addition to the 5 sacks, the Jags hit Ben an additional 6 times. The Jags were without their arguably best defensive lineman (Marcus Stroud). Ben Rothlisberger's ribs now have the consistency of applesauce. Like I said...super duper.

troubledjew said...

on the opposite side opposing quarterbacks can drop and pass allt hey like. the steelers have a grand total of 9 picks and have not reached the qb. although the steelers focus on not allowing the big play which accounts for a lack of picks its still a pretty low number for a top ranked defense to stomach.furthermore big ben will be sacked if fwp only has 14 carries. thats a rule of the game

Cotter said...

Domski - Agreed. If the Steelers want to win in the playoffs, the best way is to build momentum now. With two MUST WIN games left, we've got a good opportunity to do that, and carry that into the 1st round. First line of action - Stop Steven Jackson. Something that Tec (from PSAMP) pointed out to me we couldn't do in the Nike commercial...

DB - Your last statement is well on point, minus the lowered expectations part (at least for me). There is only upside. We've been beaten two weeks in a row and the major culprit in both games has been the Steelers trademark physical Defense. If they get it together, we'll be fine. Then again, no Aaron Smith = major challenge.

QS - Yep, story of the season. Ben drops back, Ben gets hit. Doesn't seem like there's much we can do there. We'll just have to hope that Ben's 6'5" 240 pounds can hold up for the remainder of the season/post season. And hey, after being hit by a car, these hits probably seem pretty minor (that's a joke).

TJ - Seems like we're playing a little too conservatively, doesn't it? I'm frustrated at the lack of pressure myself. We've got two more regular season games to change that. Hopefully the team will get the message from LeBeau/Tomlin and get aggressive. They should probably start piping Rage Against The Machine's "Killing In The Name Of" into the locker room before games. That shit always got me fired up (still does).

Cotter said...

*And by get the message from LeBeau/Tomlin I mean to imply that LeBeau and Tomlin will be more aggressive in Defensive play calling...

troubledjew said...

i dont know if this link will work but a couple of weeks ago the wall street journal had an article about pass protection and pass pressure.

Cotter said...

Wow, that's actually a really good article. The WSJ writes about sports? Insightfully? Who knew? Not sure how my Mom missed that one...yep, Mom Cotter reads a lot of stock shit...too bad none of that rubbed off on me.

Of course, this is traditionally our game. Get pressure on QBs, win the mental game. Get into their heads, make them throw picks or cough up the ball themselves.

Plus, it's no secret that the more time a QB gets in the pocket, the better chance he has of making a play. Just look at what the Eagles did to golden boy Tony Homo yesterday. Pressure. And low and behold he had ZERO TDs and THREE INTs. Or what the Chargers did to Peyton Manning a few weeks back. What was it? 6 INTs?

Too bad we haven't pass protected or gotten much pressure this season.

Good read, thanks TJ! Although I'm not so sure those dudes had to get so scientific about it as to devise a formula to determine who pressures and who protects best. I think we can all figure that one out. 1+1=2, right?

If you guys get a chance, click that link.

Jason said...

It was frustrating how easily the Jags moved down the field on their last TD drive. I guess we should have seen it coming though. The defense hadn't really stopped them all day, so why should we have thought the last drive would be any different?

Life will go on and the team is still in relatively good shape. They just need to get their stuff together and fast.

ncoolong said...

Excellent thought on Troy...and you may be right, maybe he WAS hurt earlier this year. All I know is he had a few of those "Polamay-Lord! DID YOU SEE THAT??" plays yesterday. It's not often you see a player so focused and so insanely fast where he actually runs AROUND AND PAST his teammates, beating them to the ball carrier and make the tackle.

Truly an honor having him on our team. Even when everyone else kinda sucked for 60 minutes. Ben's sort of a hick, Hines drops a lot of passes overall, but Troyliness is Godliness.

Tobiathan said...

I'm genuinely starting to get the feeling that a pure 3-4 scheme is killing us defensively. So far all our losses have come against teams that totally neutralized our pass-rush and effectively eliminated the LBs ability to shed blocks and make plays.

I've never been a big fan of Haggans. I've noticed him under-playing pretty consistently and he almost never seems to be putting pressure on a QB. He also usually seems to be getting blocked out of plays. I just don't think he's an every-down kinda guy. Woodley should get more time. And where the hell is Timmons? Washed out already?

Casey looks like he's getting doubled on about every play. How can Lebeau let that just keep happening over and over? Why not use Hoke more? Are they allergic to the 4-3 set? Teams have obviously solved the 3-4.

Is Big Dick still running the defense? Or is Tomlin taking more part in the defensive calls? It doesn't seem at all like our schemetically-aggressive Ds of the past, or even earlier this year.

Maybe it's time to sit Haggans for most downs and get Hoke on the feild with Big Snack, Keisel and the other DE. Maybe Farrior, Silverback and Foote could be more effective with more big boys ahead of them?

And this sitting back 5-8 yards by our CBs on every goddamned pass play is ridiculous. You guys nailed it: no reason for opponents NOT to keep dink-dunking us as long as we jusy keep letting them. I hate it when it starts getting so obvious to everybody but the coaching staff.

And tackling was a HUGE issue. I didn't get to see the last quarter thanks to effed-up TV coverage but i saw plenty of Pocket Hurcules and Fred Taylor running through our defenders. How does that happen? Are our guys getting soft?

If it was me i'd take a opage outta NEs schemes and put Brett Keisel at SLB and put hoke in at his DE position. Sit Haggans down, use him only on pass-rush plays where he excels. Keisel is fast as a guy his size can be, and Vrabel has proved that a 6'%' guy on the outside can pretty much eliminate hot-route passing and anything into the flats. I believe Brett even practiced at LB some in preseason.

Or we could actually switch to a 4-3 bump-run defense. We definitely have the corners for it IMHO. And the safety(s?). Why not start punishing these teams for passing the ball? Do we like to get beat?

And tackiling, again, was horrible. I don't ever remember a Pittsburgh team getting so beat-up on the ground. At least Cowher knew how to fire guys up in hard times. Tomlin almost looks like he's OK with losing. Maybe i'm not seeing everything, but i don't get the impression he's going to change much of anything. But he should.

The O-line is fucked. I can't even really identify the exact source of trouble. I did see Mahan getting torn apart in the middle a lot. And i mean ALOT. Maybe it's because we continue to fail to force the running game early on. Used to be we'd make the ground game work. Now BA seems enamored of the downfeild pass and to hell with determined running. I know we get behind early, but that does not mean we can't fall back into a running rhythm, force the defense up to stop it and fall back on play-action and swing-pass. Short pass plays, even...

Anything. I don't care. Just do SOMETHING new. Move Simmons to center. Maybe Mahan is too small. Maybe he's getting crushed every down in the middle and the rest of the line is screwing up because of it. I dunno.

I will say, again, that Davenport needs to STOP trying to dance around in the effing backfeild and start running like a monster. The guy is huge. He's like a big LB at RB, but he seems to think he's Barry Sanders at times. If he'd drop his shoulder and punish people it'd be a whole different world.

We really, really need a second runing back, an OL, and a pass-rusher. I dunno what happened to Woodley...he *was* looking strong in limited play early in the year. Maybe he could be an alternative to a haphazard effort by Haggans.

And Ben definitely does need to get rid of the ball more quickly. A three-count and throw it out. Anything. Just stop taking sacks. Hell, even running the ball more would be an acceptible option in my mind.

Tyhird downs are killing us on defense. How can we so continuously give up big plays on third downs late in games? I personally think it's time to bench Anthony Smith for a while. Ty Carter is a far smarter player. Not as quick, or as big, but smarter and still a hard hitter.

A long practice of just tackling drills seems in order too.

This post is all over the place, i admit. I'm just frustrated like everybody else. So much that's hurting us seems so obvious and so possibly fixable that i can't parse it out in my head why it keeps staying fuct up.

Tomlin has gotten a lot of praise so far. In the last few weeks i'm not convinced he has earned it. The even-keeled demeanor is a good thing generally, but the whole season can fall apart these last two weeks unless something dramatically changes.

We need more than wins. We need to play effectively, unitedly, and intelligently in order to secure a proper mind-set for the post-season. If we make the post-season.

I love my Steelers. Truly i do. But they are grossly under-performing on a fairly(and sadly) regular basis this year. Tomlin has A LOT to prove the next two weeks. Facing St Louis and Balti means he has ZERO excuse for failure. Especially in Balti.

It's time for the tough to get going. Everybody was shocked by the decision to hire this coach. Is it possible that the Rooneys made their first mistake in decades about a head coach?

I hope not....