Monday, October 06, 2008

Thoughts on Jacksonville

There's no way this game should have even been as close as it was, but that's the way things go when you're playing on the road in the NFL.

The Steelers dominated the Jaguars in every way imaginable, save the scoreboard.

Sure, Pittsburgh failed to record a first down in the third quarter, but Jacksonville couldn't take advantage thanks to a once-potent running game that was going nowhere.

The Steelers' run defense is playing its best football of the past decade – which is saying something. Opponents are averaging just 2.8 yards per carry against the Steelers this season, the lowest total since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger.

Jacksonville averaged 2.0 yards per carry Sunday night on 19 attempts, with a long run of eight yards by David Garrard.

That puts opponents in a lot of second and third and longs and sets the table for what has become a ferocious pass rush.

© Offensively, this was Ben Roethlisberger's game to win or lose, but you have to love what Mewelde Moore brought as well.

Moore showed nice elusiveness in the open field and the Jaguars never really got a bead on him.

It makes you wonder what he was doing languishing on the bench the first three games.

Moore's also an excellent receiver and we saw him split out wide a lot as a fifth receiver.

That's a good set for this team because it spreads the defense out and doesn't really allow them to send more then four or five guys after Roethlisberger.

© Interesting that when Marvel Smith went down with cramps in the second half, he was replaced by Trai Essex, not Max Starks.

Starks must have taken a pee in somebody's Wheaties because there's no way anyone is going to convince me that Essex is a better tackle than Starks.

© Best play of the night was one that went largely unnoticed, I'm sure, by the television audience.

On the opening kickoff of the second half, Keyaron Fox pulled up at midfield and began clutching his hamstring. He still one-legged his way down to stick his nose into the mix and help bring down Jacksonville's return man.

Anthony Madison got credit for the tackle, but Fox tripped him up.

© OK, maybe that wasn't the best play, but it was a gutsy one.

© The bye couldn't come at a better time for the Steelers. They're a banged-up team.

11 comments:

datruth4life said...

Dale,

This was the exact definition of what you would call a "gutsy" win. The regulars played well and the fill-ins played well. Mewelde Moore looked like a better version of Willie Parker, one that made people miss as well as being able to catch the ball. Gary Russell looked good on the limited carries that they gave him. He's a grinder that this team will need this year before it is over and done with.

Najeh even helped on kickoffs. With a healthy Parker, M. Moore, Gary Russell, Najeh, and Sean McHugh, why does this team need Carey Davis? I just hope that Gary Russell is still active on game day when Parker comes back, but I don't think this coaching staff is that smart.

I too wondered what was going on when Trai Essex took over at left tackle instead of Max Starks. Man, he has fallen and can't get up under Tomlin and company. Darnell Stapleton played a pretty solid game. He's better than Kendall Simmons, I don't care what that coaching staff or any other scouts say. The eye in the sky don't lie.

Dale, who can we expect to get back for the Cincinnati game? This defense can legitimately be the best in the NFL if it can get everybody back and remain healthy the rest of the year. Our DL has been playing out of its mind, especially Hoke, Kirschke, and Aaron Smith. Eason was even playing better this year before he got hurt.

Do you expect the team to resign Patrick Bailey this week and cut Paxson since some of our linebackers have lingering hamstring problems (D. Woods, Keyaron Fox)?

Again Dale, thanks for the great blog.

Patrick said...

Dale,

I was wondering about the Essex over Starks thing too since I thought this transition tag was almost based excusively on Marvel's health concerns. But what I thought was that maybe it had to do with them using Starks in other formations? We did see Starks and Essex on the field at the same time at the goalline. Maybe the team didn't want to put Starks at RT, then move him back over to the 3rd TE spot and put in Essex at RT, and then again flip back when they went to a normal formation again?

Might be a reach, but thats all I can think of besides he is just in the doghouse.

6.8 million in the doghouse? Not good, not good at all.

But lets not let that take away from a hell of a win. Big time effort from everyone last night(beside maybe Holmes)

kelly said...

Dale,

Any word on Jeff Reed? I heard/read that he has a calf or groin injury. Any idea what it is and how serious?

adamg said...

Travis Kirschke has been playing the best football since he's been here. He was flying all over the field last night.

Even though he didn't play on the DL, Paxson can get down the field on STs. He's in the wedge busting mold of Brett Keisel when he played ST.

VCTMbrian said...

Well Jacksonville looked like a team in need of an identity... However, this was a HUGE win for the Steelers and showed that with or without their starters, they expect to win and aren't going to make excuses.

Townsend looked awful again. Slow, soft, and un-confident.

I really liked Moore on draws and on plays where we were able to get him in space with the opportunity to make guys miss. He's not going to run through many tackles but he is hard to get ahold of. I thought there were too many miscommunications between Ben and WR's but i think that was a product of going no-huddle. I like the no-huddle because it puts power in Ben's hands and out of Arians' which is a good thing if we want our offense to move. Berger keeps getting really lucky bounces on his extremely poor punts, but oh well.

Blount Trauma said...

Dale,

What bothers me about the whole Starks debacle is not how much money he makes or if he's any good or if he's lazy. What drives me nuts is the glaring communication problem between the front office and the coaches. It's not just that the Steelers are paying him a ton to be a back-up - we're paying him a ton and the coaches quite obviously do not value him at all. Did they just not discuss this, or is there a rift? Thanks, I'll take my answer off the air.

Dale Lolley said...

They had no other options with Starks. They had the cap space free and didn't want to tie up a lot of money. It was really a no-lose situation. Had anyone signed him, they would have had the right to match. It was a one-year cover for Smith because they weren't sure about his back.
The only thing I can figure is that Essex got more left tackle work last week, so they went with him there.
I'll find out more Tuesday.
I don't think Reed's calf is that bad.

They should get Keisel and Parker back for sure coming out of the break.

datruth4life said...

Dale,

Any chance that Tomlin would keep Gary Russell active on game days even when Carey Davis is healthy? The reason why I think it'd be a good thing is a backfield of H-back Sean McHugh and G. Russell would give the team a good combo to pound between the tackles and use on short-yardage and goal line situations. I think that could be the final missing ingredient for this offense (besides a better OL in pass protection and a QB that doesn't hold on to the ball too long).

On another note, I really have serious reservations about how this coaching staff judges and uses personnel. Using Essex before Starks this last game, not letting Starks compete for the job at RT the past 2 years and the team giving him $7M on top of that, playing Carey Davis over Russell, keeping Mahan and K. Simmons in the starting lineup this past year when both showed they're not up to the task.

Thoughts?

Dale Lolley said...

Davis plays ahead of Russell because he's the fullback. They like his versatility. He's also an excellent special teams player, hence, he's active and Russell isn't on game days. They can only keep so many backs active. Now, it will come down to Russell or Davenport.
As for Essex vs. Starks, that is explained in my next post.

datruth4life said...

Dale,

I guess if it is a question between Russell and Davenport on game days, then you know the coaching staff and Tomlin will go with Najeh because of kickoff returns and special teams play. Can't Russell take some bad photos of somebody on that staff so that he can be active on game days and the Steelers power running game won't be a joke? I've come to the conclusion that with this staff and personnel decisions, someone has to save them from themselves.

If it wasn't for injury, McFadden would still be playing nickel, M. Moore would only be the third-down back and punt returner and Simmons would still be letting his man tee off on Ben.

Thoughts?

Dale Lolley said...

I agree. They seem to go with what they know – even if that isn't great – instead of trying something new.
But that's human nature for most.
In the case of Townsend, he had done nothing to lose his job and McFadden had done nothing to win it in camp.
In the case of Simmons, I think they felt that with two new starters already, they didn't want to completely rip things up.