Week 1 Recap: Tebowed Again

 Posted by at 5:37 am  Art Rooney II, Face Me Ike, Heath Miller, Recaps, Secondary, Todd Haley  Comments Off on Week 1 Recap: Tebowed Again
Sep 102012
 

Once upon a time, the prospect of playing the boys from the Mile High City was met with the same level of disdain Steeler Nation now reserves for the Ratbirds or Patriots. After last night’s game, I think it’s safe to say while the Denver Broncos may not be full-fledged members of the Circle of Hate, they’re definitely vying for a spot. For the second straight game dating back to last season’s Wild Card debacle, the Broncos defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in groan-worthy fashion, 31-19.

Where to start with this disaster.

How about new offensive coordinator Todd Haley? Some people view Twitter as a sign of the apocalypse (Follow me @totalsteelers) but I enjoy it because instead of waiting hours or even minutes to gauge reaction, you have it in seconds. It took roughly one quarter before the armchair offensive coordinators started calling for Haley’s head. His crime?

He was running the ball too much!

Yes, the same group who called into Pittsburgh sports talk shows whining about Bruce Arians and his Flying Circus offense for the past three years were moaning because Haley gave them what they asked for. More importantly, he gave Art Rooney II exactly what he wanted, a return to Stiller Football. And how did Stiller Football fare? Isaac Redman gained 20 yards on 11 carries while Jon Dwyer, one of the game’s lone offensive stars, chipped in 43 yards on only 9 carries with one big 17 yard gain wiped out due to a dubious holding call on Mike Wallace.

On the bright side, we totally dominated time of possession!

Seeing this offense try to relive the glory days of Franco and the Bus was PAINFUL to watch. Several times we had first and 15s and Haley elected to run on two successive downs. Only Ben Roethlisberger completing some big third down throws kept the chains moving. This team has one of the deepest and most talented group of wide receivers in the NFL. They shouldn’t be running to set up the pass, they should be passing to set up the run.

FORGET YINZERBALL AND PLAY TO YOUR STRENGTHS.

Ben is going to catch some flak for his performance last night, as he should. When your rep is being the best clutch player in football, you don’t throw a pick-six down six with 3 minutes left. Ben certainly had a Jekyll/Hyde game, making some great throws where he literally threaded a needle but he also made several incredibly dangerous throws which could’ve easily gotten intercepted. He also missed several big plays such as botching a sure TD to Heath Miller (who was open all day) and never seeing Wallace left wide open on a crucial fourth quarter drive. While I think it’d be totally unfair to pin this loss on him, Ben needs to play a helluva lot better if this team is going to win.

Especially if the defense is going to play like they played last night. Last year, Warren Sapp derided them as old, slow and done. This season, it appears they’re young, eager and over their heads. Despite obnoxious Cris Collinsworth occasionally getting up off his knees to proclaim “Peyton Manning is doing this to the league’s #1 ranked defense!” this is not the league’s top ranked defense. That was last year’s team with James Harrison and Ryan Clark and a healthier Casey Hampton and William Gay opposite Ike Taylor. Last night’s defense had none of those things and the results showed.

Manning was only sacked twice and one of those, by Jason Worilds, was a clean shot thanks to Manning mixing up the protection call. Other than a first quarter sack by Larry Foote, who was one of the few bright spots on defense, they generated almost zero pressure. Surely the altitude played a part but it doesn’t excuse anything. The bottom line is the Steelers offense held the ball for a whopping 10 minutes (35 to 25) longer yet the “exhausted” Broncos D held them to 19 points while the “rested” Steelers D allowed Pey-Pey to march right down the field on them.

Foote forced an early fumble although it was more luck than skill as he got thrown into the back and happened to knock the ball loose. That was it as far as highlights go. The D-line got pushed around on passing plays and couldn’t stop the run when it counted. The linebackers effort can be summed up by watching Peyton OUTRUN supposedly super-athlete Lawrence Timmons to the sticks for a 7 yard gain. Then we have the secondary. Youngsters Keenan Lewis and Cortez Allen did their best B-Mac impressions, allowing generous 5 yard cushions on every pass play. And then we have Demaryius Thomas, who once again abused Ike Taylor to the tune of 5 catches for 110 yards.

Perhaps no play summed up last night’s debacle like the third quarter turning point when Thomas took a little slant and ran away from like half the defense on his way to a 71 yard TD. Of course the scab refs missed a hold on Ryan Mundy on the play but it probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway.

What would have mattered was the facemask on Ben they missed on the Steelers’ previous drive which ended with a Shaun Suisham field goal. The game was an absolute fiasco from an officiating standpoint, with the scab refs saving their worst for prime time and most of their incompetence going against the Steelers. The lone time we got a call, on yet another boneheaded Mike Tomlin challenge which came in after a play had been run, it would’ve been better if they hadn’t. Meanwhile, Wallace’s hold wiping out a big Dwyer run and a crucial pass interference on Lewis late in the 4th were the definition of ticky-tacky especially after not calling worse against the Broncos. Evidently they did read the Illegal Formations portion of the rule book on the can before the game because that was one thing they called on both teams at least a good half dozen times.

Let’s not blame the scab refs on this fiasco. The Steelers played a terrible game last night. If Ben had Superman’d up and pulled out a last-second victory, it only would’ve been a Band-Aid on a gaping chest wound. The Steelers clearly have some fundamental issues they need to address on both sides of the ball. And they need to start by figuring out what kind of offense they want to run. Because what we saw last night isn’t going to get it done, not against Peyton Manning, not against Tim Tebow, not against anybody.

Musings On Steelers Second Pre-Season Game

 Posted by at 5:12 am  Injury Report, Offensive Line, Pittsburgh Pirates, Preseason, Secondary  Comments Off on Musings On Steelers Second Pre-Season Game
Aug 212012
 

Which evidently some 8.9 million of you watched. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. The Pittsburgh Steelers are America’s Team and so many of you can’t watch pre-season games because you live in other states. Add in the general public’s curiosity about Pey-Pey’s heir apparent Andrew Luck and I sorta understand why the game did bonzo ratings.

But, c’mon, it’s still a pre-season game!

Anyway, sorry for this update coming out a little late. Our pal Hennessy was supposed to present us with his take on Sunday’s meaningless action but he’s MIA so I figured I’ll jump in with what I saw. Which I have to admit wasn’t very much. To be honest, I only caught the second and part of the third quarters on Sunday because I was completely engrossed in the Pittsburgh Pirates‘ epic six hour 19 inning victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.

Screw you, Jerry Meals!

I did turn on the Steelers game in time to see Ike Taylor come down with a sweet interception. Clearly, they weren’t lying when they said Andrew Luck threw a really nice ball. If Ike was able to catch it, it must’ve been a perfect pass. A short time later, Cortez Allen came down with a ricochet INT which is a good sign for a D that didn’t force many turnovers last season.

The Steelers seem locked into Keenan Lewis being the starting corner opposite Ike while Allen plays the nickel role. I guess they figure Lewis’ size suits him better as a starter or something. He was pretty mediocre in the nickel role last year so it must be the Dilbert principal. In any case, I expect Allen will be in the starting line-up before year’s end because that kid has a really good nose for the ball.

The offensive line continued to look somewhat shaky. There are no doubt going to be some growing pains with David DeCastro and Mike Adams. They both do a great job run blocking but tend to get a little confused on passing plays. I can see where the rumor that DeCastro was struggling in camp came from as there were a few plays on Sunday where he clearly got confused. He physically seems fine, though, which is why I think he’ll start sooner than Adams.

Adams played a lot on Sunday as I think the team has figured out that he is indeed a bit raw. He still doesn’t look at all quick enough to handle outside speed rushers coming off the edge. That’s why I’m 99.9% certain at this point that Max Starks will be at LT on opening day. Adams isn’t ready, Gilbert started at LT Sunday but I don’t think they see him as a natural there, and Essex and Foster for damn sure aren’t starting unless Ben pisses off Mike Tomlin.

Speaking of Ben, he got to run a bit more of the Todd Haley offense this week. The Steelers went with a no-huddle for awhile which is a good sign because Ben always does well when the tempo is sped up. Chris Rainey got walloped early in the game but shook it off and came back to have a productive evening. It’s good to see he’s not as fragile as his slight frame suggested he might be. Antonio Brown had another big play catch-and-run TD which isn’t supposed to happen without Mike Wallace out there to “stretch the field.”

In the meantime, the Steelers also continue to stress their running game. Rookie FB Will Johnson made a couple nice blocks and both Heath Miller and Leonard Pope (who wasn’t supposed to be a blocking TE) brought their hard hats as well. Jon Dwyer continues to be the surprise of camp, looking fast, strong and explosive. If he can get and stay healthy, we may have a RB controversy because he’s looked tremendous in the two pre-season games.

The D wasn’t quite as lucky on the injury front. Yet another LB was lost when Stevenson Sylvester tore his MCL meaning he’ll be out about a month. Sly was the team’s top back-up at ILB so without him there’s a major depth issue with only starters Lawrence Timmons and Larry Foote really capable of playing major minutes at the position. On a positive note, I liked what I saw from James Harrison‘s replacement, Chris Carter. Carter is smallish (he looked smaller than several of the team’s safeties) but really quick off the snap and he’s always around the ball. I’d certainly rather have the Deebo/Woodley combo at OLB but Carter might be okay for a week or two. He certainly seems to offer a bit more than Jason Worilds, who didn’t really show much of anything when given a shot last season.

Finally, Charlie Batch got some significant playing time. Watching him sprint away from defenders on some sort of designed roll-out play made me think Haley had to goofing on him. Chaz can still wing the ball down the field but he runs about as well as my grandpa. Still, I think it’s going to be him and Lefty as the back-ups when the season rolls around. Jerrod Johnson definitely has talented but is far too raw to be trusted as a back-up.