Last night was a depressing night for Pittsburgh sports fans. On the one channel you had the Pittsburgh Pirates continuing their death spiral by literally snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. The Cincinnati Reds tried handing this game to the Bucs, twice leaving the winning run on third with less than two outs in extra innings only for the Pirates to somehow manage to one-up them with the colossally inept feat of not scoring with the bases loaded and NOBODY out. Eventually the Bucs lost a game they needed to win when a AAA pitcher from the Netherlands got into trouble and a AAA shortstop botched an easy ground ball hit right at him.
While this disaster was unfolding, on the Four Letter the other team from Cincinnati were getting their asses handed to them by the Baltimore Ravens. Up 41-13 in the middle of the 4th quarter, coach John Harbaugh proved the old adage that a dick must always be a dick by ordering his first team offense to keep chucking the ball towards the end zone. Maybe he’s under the mistaken delusion that BCS voters determine playoff seeding. Nah, he’s just that big an asshole…
As the annoying pasty baseball stat geeks love to say, “sample size, sample size, sample size.” Granted it was only one game. Granted it was against the Bengals, who appear to have a pretty good defense but at the end of the day the Bungles will always revert back to being the Bungles. Granted it was at home with a team and fanbase geared up over the loss of their beloved owner, Art Modell. Yes, I threw up in my mouth a little typing that.
All that aside, it’s hard to have watched what the Ratbirds put on tape last night and not come away thinking they are the team to beat in the AFC if not the entire NFL.
To give you some idea the difference between them and, oh say, our Pittsburgh Steelers, look no further than each team’s first play of the season. The Steelers had Isaac Redman dive forward for 3 yards. Joe Flacco tossed a 52 yard bomb to Torrey Smith. One team looks like they’ve embraced the NFL’s league wide pass happy offensive explosion. The other looks like a team who should be playing in leather helmets.
The Todd Haley backlash has already begun. Local columnists and talk show hosts got on Boss Todd almost immediately after Sunday night’s loss. On Twitter and sports call-in shows, members of Steeler Nation are already bitching about his play calling. The irony of course being their unhappiness with all the running plays when for the past three years all I heard around town was they needed to “run the ball more/get back to Stiller Football!” Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat, what we saw on Sunday wasn’t Haley’s fault.
The blame for the offense belongs to one man and one man only: Art Rooney II.
The Deuce has told every reporter who’d listen he wants to get back to old school football. It’s widely suspected he was the one who engineered getting Bruce Arians fired when Mike Tomlin had every intention of bringing him back. I had some issues with Arians but the man produced a 4,000 yard passer, 1,000 yard rusher and two 1,000 receivers in the SAME SEASON. No Steelers team had ever done that. What’s more, 80 more yards from Mendy last season and BA’s Flying Circus offense would’ve accomplished that feat TWICE.
You don’t fire a guy who puts up unprecedented offensive numbers if you don’t plan on making a deep philosophical change. And that change comes from the top.
Nobody in the media in going to mention Art II’s name because the Rooney family is revered in Pittsburgh. Rightfully so, might I add. But part of that reverence is due to the Rooneys doing things “the right way.” Part of that “right way” was minimal owner interference unlike you see in the circuses down in Dallas or Miami. Art II got Arians fired, Art II wants the Steelers to play Stiller Football, Art II wants the ball in Isaac Redman’s hands more and Big Ben’s less.
Place the blame where it truly belongs.
Ray Rice is one of the best running backs in football. He had 10 carries all game. Redzone Redman had 5 in the first quarter. Yes the running game dropped off and Haley eventually went no-huddle in the second half but you can’t give away an entire half of football and expect to win consistently. The Steelers offense blew several big chances, most notably an early fumble recovery by LaMarr Woodley which set them up inside Broncos territory. The Ravens got out to a lead early and kept their foot on the gas. The Steelers bumbled around with their 3 yards and a cloud of dust offense until they found themselves in catch-up mode.
Yes, we won the time of possession battle. Here’s a newsflash: time of possession is the most meaningless stat in football. Would you rather grind out an 8 minute drive which sputters out with a FG or go 80 yards in 4 minutes and score a TD (as the Manning led offense did twice against the suddenly shaky-looking Steelers D)?
The Steelers have one of the best QBs in football. They have one of the deepest and most talented groups of wide receivers and tight ends in football. The offense should be in their hands, not the hands of Bowie State. Bruce Arians had it right: you throw to get ahead, you run to maintain it. Yeah, I said it.
That’s NFL Football in 2012. Sorry Artie.
Help me out, folks. Every time you see #FireToddHaley, respond with #FreeToddHaley. Let’s place the blame where it truly belongs.