Monday, December 08, 2008

Post-Dallas thoughts

Two games into their supposedly make-or-break four-game stretch the Steelers are 2-0.

But this offense continues to look like it's stuck in neutral.

One week they come out and run the ball like they really want to establish a running game, the next, it's run, pass, pass, or pass, run, pass.

Even when the run on first down picks up four or five yards, they still go right back to the air. You just can't establish a running game that way.

You also can't establish a running game when you hand the ball off to the backs just 21 times.

Maybe they were afraid of getting into third-and-longs against the Dallas pass rush. But because of the weather conditions that limited the passing for both teams, they did anyway.

Dallas picked up five sacks Sunday, but really, only two were the fault of the offensive line.

The first sack came on a corner blitz and two others were a case of Ben Roethlisberger holding the ball well past the point he should have.

Then again, Roethlisberger made a play scrambling around in the fourth quarter, so once again, things have a way of evening out.

But it sure is frustrating at times to watch him hold the ball and take a sack when he could have gotten rid of it.

Roethlisberger did throw a couple away Sunday as well, but all of this passing against a team that rushes the passer well just doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

© Was there a worse use of a challenge in the history of challenges than Wade Phillips’ decision to challenge whether Roethlisberger’s knee was down late in the third quarter?

Phillips had already used a challenge in the first half and loss and even though he won the second challenge – giving Jason Hatcher a sack – was there really any difference between second-and-10 from the 18 and second-and-18 from the 26?

Phillips probably realized that with about five minutes to go when Nate Washington had a questionable catch in front of the Dallas bench on the Steelers’ game-tying touchdown drive.

© Mike Tomlin is the first coach in team history to win 10 games in each of his first two seasons.

Just in case you were wondering.

Can he win a playoff game in his first two seasons as well? Bill Cowher didn't do that either.

Not that anyone is keeping track of such things.

© The Steelers defense has now held 13-straight opponents under 300 yards of offense this season, the second-longest such streak since the NFL merger in 1970.

Dallas finished with 289 yards and rookie running back Tashard Choice hurt them a couple of times. But forcing five turnovers in back-to-back games against quality competition more than makes up for that.

The Steelers are a good bet to make it 14 in a row next week at Baltimore.

In fact, the first team to 200 yards or 10 points wins.

© Fans who were booing punter Mitch Berger needed to take a closer look at the conditions.

The wind was definitely in their face going into the close end of the field and when both teams were moving in that direction, that’s when bad things happened.

All three touchdowns were into the open end zone - including Deshea Townsend’s.

And every bad punt in this game was booted toward the closed end. That’s why the Steelers deferred after winning the coin toss and chose to open the game kicking toward the open end zone.

That's not to say Berger is a great punter. He's not.

But let's be realistic. It's not like the next Ray Guy was out there waiting to be signed after Daniel Sepulveda was injured.

© The Steelers’ kick coverage teams are the best that I’ve seen in the 16 seasons I’ve covered this team. And I’m talking about opposing teams as well.

And we’ve even begun to see some flashes in the return game in recent weeks, most notably Santonio Holmes’ 35-yard punt return in the fourth quarter.

Rookie linebacker Patrick Bailey has been a big part of that, which is why he'll get my vote as the team's rookie of the year.

© We’ve now seen James Harrison and DeMarcus Ware on the same field together and Harrison is by far the more disruptive force.

Ware had five tackles and a sack Sunday, while Harrison had eight tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. He also had a big stop on a fourth-down run.

And then he nearly killed Adam Jones on a punt return early in the game.

Harrison has to be the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year.

He'll get a chance to be on the same field in a couple of weeks with another of the leading candidates, Tennessee's Albert Haynesworth.

Here's guessing he dominates that performance as well.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dale, great post buddy
BUT Berger is terrible,period. Someone should sponsor an event CAN YOU PUNT BETTER THAN BERGER? and have tryouts raising money for charity. Give them a snapped ball and only a few seconds. It would be fascinating. I still would be someone could be found better than this bum.

Anonymous said...

Berger makes me cringe every time he punts. Is Sepulveda out for the whole season?

And yeah, our Offense is such a riddle. One week they are great, the next they get bailed out by our Defense.

I've noticed that our D is sometimes allowing huge holes to open up by being busy covering the passing game, that they allow big gains in the running game like today.

Kyle said...

Hey Dale,
How much of your game article did you have to rewrite late? I took enough journalism classes to know a game like that is a pain to cover.

adamg said...

I'm with Dale on Berger and will add that before he was re-signed, he had two bad hamstrings, which I'm sure, made punting difficult and painful.

While I hate the offense, I realize it won't change until either the offensive coordinator goes or Tomlin decides to set a run first offensive philosophy. I do think Tomlin can and will fix the situation as he did with the ST play after last year.

Anyone still want to debate if Tomlin shows enought emotion after watching him on the sideline in yesterdays game?

Bobby said...

Dale-

First off --- Thanks for this blog. It has become a regular stop for me since someone mentioned it on the Steelers message board.

Second -- If there is anyone who does not believe Harrison is the clear front runner for DMVP they cannot be watching the games he has played. I was floored when he lowered his shoulder into Roy Williams (who was attempting to block him) and knocked down the ball carrier with Williams. The guy is everywhere!

Third -- Our "O" is breaking my heart the "D" keeps giving them the ball and they are doing nothing with it. That being said, I do so love when the "D" scores the winning touchdown.

-Bobby

datruth4life said...

Dale,

Do you think this offensive line is good enough to consistently run the ball? I don't think so because they haven't done it. I also think we have an offensive coordinator who isn't committed to run as well.

That play at the goal line where Gary Russell got tackled on 4th down looked like a jail break. And that has happened far too often this season.

The pass blocking yesterday was above average for this OL. Been held on to the ball too long for 3 of those sacks. I hope there will be a day when he just throws the ball away and live for the next play. Those sacks where we give up big yardage really hurts this already struggling offense.

Is this the year that the Steelers go back to back OT's in the first and 2nd round? They have to fix this problem while many of their defensive players and Ben are in their prime. I also would like to see Carey Davis be put out to pasture and a bulldozer like B-More's RB McClain be taken in the draft. I do like having M. Moore, FWP, Mendenhall and G. Russell for the team's 4 running backs next year and S. McHugh serving as the fullback/HB/tight end.

Other than that, a great win. I was surprised that William Gay started the game yesterday. How much did he play during the game and how much did McFadden play?

Thoughts on anything above?

Anonymous said...

Berger did catch a few terrible longsnaps this past week, not to be overlooked. One of his whiffs was on a really awful one, and kudos to him for catching them all and putting his foot on them.

Junior3 said...

I share everyone's frustration with this offense. As Steeler fans, we were all raised on power running games. It's like our birthright. As we all well know, power attacks--like the Titans--are what win football games in December and January in cold weather cities. I'm sure I'm not the only one watching Gary Russell running over guys on KO returns and wondering... what if?

Patrick said...

the theme of this season is one of two things:

either, good teams find ways to win close games

OR

how many times can a defense bailout a team/offense?

Eventually, ie. the playoffs, the lack of offense is going to bite this team. Like Dale said, just run the ball, at least attempt to establish a running game. You never know what might happen, see the NE game.

Against Baltimore, the runs need to come in bunches. Their D is just about as opportunistic as the Steelers, and if Ben is left alone to be sacked, or ducks are thrown around the field, that D will produce points.

By the way, I thought Ben was good yesterday. Not incredible, but good, gritty and headstrong. He may have held on for too long, but he made plays when they counted, didn't make mistakes (fumble, but thats a QB sneak and the risk you take)and held the offense together when it didn't look good.

Also, I'm a big Ike Taylor fan, and its time to start giving him credit. He is having a great season. The TD against him was kind of flukey and a hard play to make. Otherwise he was just about shut down. Again.

Dale Lolley said...

Did you see the 23-yard punt the Dallas kicker had late in the game kicking toward the closed end. Think about that one - after he had hit a 51-yarder toward the open end - and tell me the wind wasn't a factor in that punting yesterday.
Berger's not great, but he's serviceable when he's healthy. He's healthy now. People booing him in those weather conditions is ridiculous. He wasn't the guy kicking the ball five times for 28 yards three weeks ago.

Yes, I think they'll draft at least two o-linemen in the first three rounds this year. Unless, there's a ridiculous run on them like there was this year.

I will say this about the offense, you'd better be able to both run and pass in January. We've seen run-heavy Steelers teams in the past shut down in championship games. That's why Tennessee's not making the Super Bowl. Too one-dimensional and the defense isn't great. It's good, not great.

I wasn't counting snaps with Gay and McFadden, but both played. Gay seemed to be out there a little more.

adamg said...

Dale, can you recall ever seeing a player physically dug out and tossed out of the scrum for a loose ball off the bottom of the pile as Adam Jones was? I've seen some unusual plays in my close to 40 years watching pro football, but I don't think I've ever seen that. I had to ask myself if I saw what I thought I saw.

John from NJ said...

Great points about Tomlin. I love this guy's guts, smarts, & positive energy. How many coaches could have equalled or even surpassed Cowher's passion for game day & the players? The Rooney's have proven once again that they're not only the class of the NFL, but also just brilliant judgers of talent. I hope the fans in Pgh are over Cowher and appreciate what they've got. Who gives a rat's ass if he coaches the Browns? The Steelers are Mike Tomlin's team.

Robbie said...

I hate this offense, and it has nothing to do with "offensive identity." They're just inept. I don't care if they run on every down, pass on every down, FB, 2-TE, 5-WR, whatever, as long as what they do WORKS. Right now they can't run the ball OR pass the ball.

Dale Lolley said...

No, you don't often see the guy who "recovers" the fumble thrown out of the middle of it.

One thing I will say about the offense is that we often forget that they are playing high quality opponents nearly every week. When they've played garbage, they'e dominated offensively.

Patrick said...

Dale I think you highlight the reason for a lot of people's problems with the offense. And that is inconsistency, even if the competition is better during struggles. Lately though, there has been less missed assisgments, interceptions, and dropped passes. But this week, 2 fumbles, a missed FG, another goal line stand, but opportune completions and drives when it counted.

This team is already one of the best, if the execution on offense is ever perfect, they are the best. Hopefully that happens this week and sometime during the playoffs.