Visit NFL from the sidelines on the new Observer-Reporter site:

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Post-Cleveland thoughts

The big news coming out of this one is, of course, Ben Roethlisberger's injury. Word is that Roethlisberger is expected to be just fine, however.

He should be ready to go in two weeks when the Steelers host their AFC Divisional playoff game, probably against Indianapolis. At least that's my best guess at this point.

© After a slow start, you could see Willie Parker start to gain confidence Sunday. He had just 22 yards on his first 10 carries and finished with 116 on 23 attempts.

That was what the Steelers really wanted to accomplish in this one.

Parker's knee is fine, but he didn't have a lot of confidence making the cuts he needed to be effective.

He does now.

So what if it was against the Browns. The Steelers need the threat of a running game to be effective in the playoffs. And a confident Parker gives them that.

© The Steelers really wanted to lead the league in scoring, total, rushing and passing defense but will have to settle for three of the four.

That's not bad. And considering that the Browns really made no attempt to throw the ball Sunday, it's not all that bad.

The Steelers allowed 156.9 yards passing per game this season, their best since 1990 when they gave up 156.3 per game.

For a team whose weakness was supposed to be the secondary, that's not bad.

© Would I have played Roethlisberger Sunday? You bet.

Roethlisberger was coming off a four-turnover game and needed some positive plays as well heading into the playoffs.


Patrick said...

Dale, I pretty much agree with everything. I don't "hate" the decision to play the starters and Ben, just not what I would do, but I'm not an NFL coach either. The problem is if you are going to play your starters, you play your starters and don't pick and choose players, unless they are borderline with the health. Unfortunately this happened to Ben and I just don't see him coming back sharp from this injury. Not many QB's do their 1st game back.

Watching this Chargers game, that team is the hot hand right now. If the Steelers end up playing them, it could be trouble. I would expect the Colts too, but given their playoff history, it wouldn't surprise me if the Chargers come to town. I think Baltimore will handle Miami easily, which garuntees they go to Tennesse.

I hate to say this, and it might sound dumb, but I see the Steelers either going 1 and done in the playoffs, or winning both and being in the SB. The reason is the seedings and the teams. If they play SD/Indy I think it is a lose. But if they win that game, beating Tennesse or Baltimore shouldn't be too hard (most likely Tennesse). Sounds a little ridiculous, I know, but thats my thoughts on the playoffs.

Dale Lolley said...

SD is playing well tonight, but Indy beat the Chargers earlier this season out there. I would expect a simliar result.
But if SD does win, that's a break for the Steelers because SD doesn't play well coming east.

Ben said...

In the first round we either play Indy, Miami or San Diego. I like our chances in all of those games. Miami and SD don't scare me in the least. I have a feeling we'd completely shut down Pennington. I can't see how this SD team would beat us in Pittsburgh in January. It just won't happen.

Indy is the only real team of concern in the first round. However, if our running game has finally gotten going, I have no doubt we'll run on them. I think the defense wants revenge for the last loss against Peyton and they'll punish him accordingly. Having Woodley health across from Harrison this time could be a difference maker.

Speaking of Woodley, is there any explanation for his dropoff as of late? You can hardly complain about a sophomore season with 60 tackles, 11.5 sacks, 2 FF and an INT, but he's only had two sacks in the last seven games.

Has he just worn down over the course of the season, been facing better O-Lines, or are they just starting to gameplan around the duo of Harrison/Woodley? Maybe a combination of the three?

adamg said...

Dale, I finally got to a game and had a chance to put the glasses on the OL. The only real sore spot, IMHO, is Colon. He's scrappy and plays hard, but he is just not a tackle.

It was interesting to get a chance to compare the OL with both BR and BL at QB while the game was still competitive. With Leftwich, you could see how much more decisive he is with the ball. He wasn't walking up to the line pointing ten different ways and trying to outsmart the defense, but running the plays that were called and doing it well. I think the OL actually played better with BL in there. Leftwich might have a long wind-up, but he's quick once he throws and that ball zings in to the receiver. After watching both men play, I'd advocate for taking away a lot of BR's ability to audible and/or call protections and just have him run the play that
is sent in because it looks like BA can call a good game - the plays he sent BL worked! I would have a lot of confidence in BL if BR cannot go to start the playoffs.

As for Parker, he had a lot of holes, but his cuts still are not sharp, if they ever were. The grass field at Heinz is not kind to him either. It was easy to see how much more confident Parker was running behind McHugh. Arians would be smart to run him from the traditional I formation in the playoffs.

steelguy said...

In your most recent article, you stated that carter was the one that picked up troy's batted fumble?

My memory recalls that it was anthony smith in there with the return - at the time I commented that we should get him back there for punt returns because he looked so sharp.

Is my memory correct? It's a small point, but anthony smith deserves a little credit since he gets dumped on almost constantly by steeler nation.

Roger said...

I'm not sure how to characterize some of the comments made after the game yesterday about Ben's injury. In the locker room, Hines Ward said in a TV interview, "... I've not heard anything, but I'm sure he will be OK." A couple of "man on the street" interviews said much the same thing, "No, we don't know what happened, but I'm sure Ben will be just fine for the next game." How do these people have such great assessments when they have no facts? These are just plain stupid statements -- OK, so I guess I did characterize their statements.

Hasn't he had other concussions, both at the college level and pro level? At some point, the brain can sustain only so many debilitating blows. Historical evidence indicates that the effects of repeated concussions eventually return later in life. I think I recall a story a few months ago that spoke about former NFL players signing an agreement to have their brains examined when they pass away. These are players who suffered repeated concussions, and want to contribute to a better medical understanding of what happened during their playing days. If I recall the story correctly, some big names signed the agreement, such as Joe Montana, Troy Aikmen, among others.

Anonymous said...

Roger - I think Ben has a total of at least 3 concussions at the pro level. The one on sunday, one against the falcons in 06, and the one he received after his accident. Those are the only ones I can recall anyway and I never watched him play in college so I don't know about any from his college career.

Anonymous said...

Even on the good plays for Parker, he looks like a player that no longer has the breakaway speed. He looks slow by HIS former standard. That is the most troubling. He is not a longer term option after the injury.

Dale Lolley said...

You're right Steelguy. I've been battling a head cold all weekend and was drugged up for the game. Walking to my car afterward, I had to call into the office to make sure I got the final score right in the game story. Something was nagging at me that I knew something wasn't right. I guess that was it.

The players knew Ben was OK because he was moving and talking on the field. He never lost consciousness. And these guys always tell themselves that everything is OK. They have to in order to be able to go out there and do what they do.

I would agree that Colon would be better served at guard and is the weak link on this line.

And Willie was very happy they were running him behind a fullback, even if the fullback didn't always block anybody. I think it's a comfort level. Maybe it helps him find the hole quicker.

adamg said...

I did see McHugh whiff on his first block attempt, but I think the more he plays at FB, the better he'll get at blocking. Don't be fooled that McHugh is listed as a TE. He is absolutely a RB first and it's the position he likes and wants to play. Just because he's as big as Heath Miller doesn't make him a TE. At PSU by the time McHugh was a senior, the coaches there, who had also tried to make him a TE, had figured out he was an RB.

Dale Lolley said...

That wasn't the only one he whiffed on. There were a couple of others as well. But Willie still likes running behind the fullback better. It's a comfort thing.