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Friday, December 21, 2007

What we learned, St. Louis

The loss of running back Willie Parker for the season is a big one, but it’s not something that has to be a season-killer for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Head coach Mike Tomlin famously said earlier this season he was going to run Parker “until the wheels came off.”

The wheels are now off and the training wheels should also be gone from the Pittsburgh offense.

With Parker out, the Steelers should turn to Ben Roethlisberger to carry the offense, for better or worse. He’s a franchise quarterback and should be treated as such. If he has to throw the ball 35 or 40 times, then so be it.

Najeh Davenport and Carey Davis did a credible job against St. Louis of providing a running game, breaking tackles and getting extra yardage. But it’s doubtful the Steelers will be able to count on getting that kind of production out of that duo on a regular basis.

Besides, the Steelers didn’t beat St. Louis, 41-24, because of the 151 yards Davenport and Davis combined for on the ground – though it helped. The Steelers beat the Rams because Roethlisberger was 16 of 20 for 261 yards and three touchdowns.

He hit the Rams with some long passes early and forced St. Louis from bringing their safeties down to the line of scrimmage.

Without Parker, the Steelers may not be as balanced offensively, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Roethlisberger had a perfect passer rating against the Rams, the third time in his four-year career that he’s accomplished that rare feat. That, by the way, is the same number of perfect passer ratings that Peyton Manning has in his career.

© The ironic thing about Parker’s injury was that when reporters were asking players about their preference between playing on grass or artificial turf, Parker was the only player I spoke to who said he preferred an artificial surface.

© Speaking of Davenport, the coaching staff had to be out of its mind to send him out there on special teams after Parker’s injury.

Davenport was very slow to get up after a third quarter punt. He gingerly made his way to the sideline favoring his foot after the play.

I know it difficult to change those kind of things on the fly, but somebody had to realize that it wasn’t a good idea for the starting tailback to be out there covering kicks.

© Another aside to Parker’s injury: Many of the players didn’t know what was wrong or that he was lost for the season.

Parker’s best friend on the team, wide receiver Nate Washington, had to be told by reporters that Parker had broken his leg. Washington was speaking about Parker in terms of him possibly being available next week.

Guard Kendall Simmons told me after the game that he didn’t know in the first half.

“I knew Najeh was getting the ball a lot and I saw the running backs coach (Kirby Wilson) walking by on the sidelines in the second quarter and he told me what happened. I didn’t know anything was wrong.”

That kind of tells you what kind of vacuum these guys are in on game days.

© I wrote it last week and I’m doing so again this week, Max Starks should be a priority signing for this team.

Starks was the team’s best offensive lineman Thursday night and is really settling in as a left tackle.

He’ll command a big salary, but given this team’s offensive line problems, they can’t possibly allow both he and left guard Alan Faneca to leave in the offseason.

© Another post-game aside: On the bus after the game, linebacker James Harrison got on long after most of the other players and there were no seats available.

He looked around, pointed at rookie punter Daniel Sepulveda and pointed to an empty seat beside another player. Sepulveda got up and moved.

© Harrison and several other players needed IVs during the track meet at Edward Jones Dome. It was that kind of game.

© Rams running back Steven Jackson is the kind of dynamic player that would put the Steelers over the top in terms of closing the gap with Indianapolis and New England.

He had the power to run through tackles and the speed to sprint past defensive backs.

Jackson even made St. Louis’ makeshift offensive line look good.

© I loved the call by Tomlin for the fake punt in the first quarter. I would have liked it even if it had failed.

St. Louis’ offense was as close to being at full strength as its been all season. Tomlin knew the Rams were going to score points.

He coached accordingly.

© Santonio Holmes had four catches for 134 yards, but it was Hines Ward who had the big night.

Ward had a 19-yard catch on third-and-18 in the first quarter and a pair of catches on third down during a fourth quarter field goal-drive that allowed the Steelers to move the chains and put the game away.

In fact, Ward’s two catches for 19 yards in the fourth quarter were the only two completions the Steelers had or needed.

© The Steelers have now allowed 47 sacks this season and are close to setting a new benchmark for sacks allowed.

But as we saw in this game, the line is not solely to blame.

Roethlisberger’s biggest fault is that he holds the ball always looking to make a play. It’s what makes him so dangerous as a quarterback. It’s one of those things the Steelers will just have to live with.


Mapod said...

I beleive Najeh can help this team. He is a power running back that can get the extra yards. Reason Ben got 3 TD was the Ram CB was out and played a Rookie out there and was beaten badly all season.
Eveyone says how Ben has a perfect passer rating, but when you take a Sack instead of throwing it away hurts the team. Maybe Ben should think team instead of himself. Yes the OL does play bad most of the time, but Ben has to learn how to throw it away and stop taken all those hits.

DaleLolley said...

He's not thinking of his QB rating when he takes those sacks. He's trying to make plays. But I agree, he does need to see the field better and throw the ball away when it's called for.