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

Friday, September 11, 2009

Post-Tennessee thoughts

Strong safety Troy Polamalu has a sprained MCL in his left knee and though it's too early to tell, head coach Mike Tomlin classified it as a three-to-six week injury.

That's not good news for the Steelers defense, which will play its next two games on the road at Chicago and and Cincinnati before coming home to host San Diego.

Even at the minimum of three weeks, those are three opponents who will be a stiff test for Pittsburgh's pass defense.

And Tyrone Carter is in no way, shape or form as good as Polamalu.

© Polamalu's leaping, one-handed interception in the first half of this game was one of the top five defensive plays I've seen in person in any sport.

Polamalu also has at least one of the others - his diving finger-tip interception last season being the other.

© The national media at this game were raving about Ben Roethlisberger's comeback and improv skills. Welcome to the party, boys.

Roethlisberger was 18 of 22 passing in the second half and overtime and three of those incompletions came on the game-winning drive.

© With Polamalu out, it becomes very important that Lawrence Timmons, who sat out this game with an ankle injury, be back in time to play against Chicago next week.

Keyaron Fox played well in Timmons' spot, but Timmons' speed in the passing game will be needed against the Bears.

© Though it wasn't on the same stage, Hines Ward almost pulled a Jerome Bettis with his fumble at the end of regulation.

Roethlisberger saved Bettis on that occasion as well.

© After a slow start, I thought the offensive line played better as the game wore on.

I'm still not sure why right tackle Willie Colon didn't pick up Jevon Kearse on Tennessee's lone sack of the second half, though.

What'd he think, Kearse was going to drop into coverage?

Colon let him go unblocked, turning to pick up the inside guy.

© Was punter Craig Hentrich thinking just a little bit about kicking the ball to Stefan Logan when he shanked a 28-yard punt late in the game? Just asking.


Anonymous said...

Madden curse strikes again.

Greg Mercer said...

is anyone else as unimpressed with Willie Parker as me?

Anonymous said...

Few questions.....Why did it seem Wallace was getting more playing time than Sweed? And why did it seem that Moore was the only back used down the stretch? Are these injury related or coaching decisions? Both were unexpected.

Anonymous said...

And I thought the Steelers were bad running the ball last year. WOW just when you think it can't get worse. But hey lets keep trying to run up the middle, why not?

adamg said...

Thought the OL did pretty well pass blocking, but the running game...ugh.
It's obvious by now that BA simply gives lipservice to the running game;
he doesn't believe in it. IMHO, the
only reason BA's offense isn't a complete disaster is because BR is able to make those "street ball" plays.

Slipshod said...

I thought Parker left a lot of yards on the field. Yes, there were a lot of plays that were blown up but there were plays that he could have gotten a lot more yardage if he had committed to a hole (there were a few) and just accelerated through instead of gliding from side to side. I don't know where he picked that up but he is not a slalom runner. He needs to find the hole and GO in a straight line like he used to.

That said. It's a win against one of the tougher defenses they will see this year.

Also, losing Haynesworth definately made Tennesee's defense against the pass softer. The 4 man rush last year pushed the pocket consistently, not so much without him.

schnifin said...


Why is this offense so much better when Ben is calling the plays in the no-huddle? It really looks like two completely different offenses out there. Is it just that Ben is more comfortable in the no huddle? That Mewelde is back there with him? Better play calling? I don't get it.

Robert said...

Our running game is a joke, lets just forget about it until we can draft guys who actually block.

marc said...

It's amazing, but the o-line has gotten worse. And I disagree that they got better as the game went on. Actually, Tennessee started rushing 3 or 4 and dropping the rest. I do agree that parker left yards out there. A few times he actually cut right into a titan defender. mendenhall is not ready to step up.

i'm not as upset at BA as some of you guys. i mean, you just can't run the ball with this o-line. they're not good enough.

i would have no problem with moore as our starting RB. at least he can catch it out of the backfield.

Anonymous said...

@Greg, Mewelde Moore was our best running back last night and it wasn't even close. Granted it was a tough front 7 but Mendenhall looked just as awful as Parker.

Looks like Ben really likes Mike Wallace, looks like Mike Wallace will be the #3 WR target this season despite what the front office might want for Limas Sweed.

Anonymous said...

A few random thoughts:

1. The offensive line only looks good when teams don't throw a blitz at them. Anytime a team adds even the slightest twist, they get confused and let the wrong guy get passed them. As for their run blocking, they can't push anyone off the line or open a hole. Clearly this unit is the achilles heal of the team and it looks like this season will probably look a lot like last season...of course it that turned out okay but it's not likely that so many things will fall our way again.

2. Given the state of the offensive line, the Steelers are now a passing team with a smattering of run plays. No more getting the lead, grinding out the clock and playing good defense.

3. Troy Polamalu is a football god! Nuff said, and get well soon

4. It's beginning to look like Mike Wallace is the new deep threat and Limas Sweed will be the #4 WR. Not that Limas isn't talented, he is, it's just apparent that Wallace has the potential to be special.

5. Will somebody...anybody throw a holding flag on the left tackles who are mugging James Harrison?

Anonymous said...

How much of the OL issues are attributable to the OL coach? When Grimm was OL coach, the linemen were able to run block fine and all of back ups were ready to step in if needed. Ilkin couldn't stop talking about how great Munchak was as TN OL coach. It says something about the coaching that Hartwig felt it necessary to start holding OL meeting at his house to go over game film, etc.

marc said...

i was beside myself in the bar when they called that hold on starks but weren't calling anything on the guys wrapping their arms around harrison.

Joe said...

Did it seem for large portions of the game that we did not stretch the field vertically. Everything seemed to be a quick curl or WR screen. I think we may see Redmond activated by midseason if short yardage doesn't come around. Loved the field position game behind Logan, much better than last year, I think that is why we won the game.

Juanus said...

I don't know if I'm missing something or what, and I'm not trying to be a jagoff--But this is the 3rd or so time I've heard someone talking about calling up "Redmond" (sic). I suppose they mean calling him over from Carolina? Coz he's not on our practice squad. And unless they plan on cutting either Parker, Mendy, or Moore--well, that's just not going to happen.

marc said...

redman is on our practice squad. maybe you are thinking of sonny harris.

Juanus said...

Aha! Right you are. See, that's why I said I wasn't TRYING to be a jagoff. I just apparently WAS being one. Ha.

Regardless, I sadly don't see any possibility of him coming w/o injury.

Robert said...

The problems with our oline start with Kolbert completely failing to draft and scout good lineman.

Then continue to Arians who is a terrible OC and doesn't know how to run the ball.

And it ends with Zerlien who isn't and never has been a good oline coach.

Joe said...

I believe you are right Juanus, I am guessing there will be one injury by midseason that will land a player on IR. Unless it is a QB or WR, I would guess Redmond would be next player called up, especially if the goalline & short yardage don't clear themselves up. He may even take Tank Summers place & move D Johnson to fullback on those plays


The Titans are a pretty good defense...while the run game did stink, no need for a knee jerk reaction quite yet.

marc said...

one thing that really ticks me off. i read willie colon's post game remarks where he said they had a lot of communication errors and that's going to happen in the first game. WHAT!! What's the preseason for!!??

Why can't these guys just admit they got it handed to them and there's no excuses.

Dan said...

@Greg I've never been that impressed with Parker. He has speed..thats it. At least Tomlin finally put Moore in there..too bad he didn't have Redman to put in there.

Roethlisberger = Best two minute QB since Elway.

Anonymous said...

The problem with short-yardage isn't the running backs, it's the scheme. That falls squarely on BA's shoulders. Who has linemen throw cut blocks on 3rd & short? I agree the pass block actually looked fairly decent. It's hard to create a pocket for a quarterback that doesn't stay in one.

As for Colon, I can only guess that he believed he had help which is why he blocked down. Sometimes you can't blame the player if you don't know what his responsibility was.

I think the team has the potential to be explosive. And for everybody who said Mendenhall goes down with one tackle, he pushed the pile better than every running back. He was actually the only one not stuffed on 3rd & short. Let him have a chance before you call him a true bust. It's hard to prove yourself with a handful of carries.

Anonymous said...

First off .. nobody should even compare Ty Carter to Troy Polomalu. I don't think there's a reasonalbe person out there that thinks they should be compared. Ty can hold his own which is all we can hope to ask for. He'll do fine in Troy's absense, but he's no Troy to be sure.

Secondly, Parker IS NOT the running back that Mewelde Moore is. Now before some of you get all "it was the O-line's fault!" let me just say that at least Moore can make positive yardage without going down like a sack of wet potatoes behind the LOS.

Wallace is money and will easily take the #3 spot from Sweed. I'm not implying Sweed is a bust, just not a fast learner and money player like Wallace will be in this league.

Dale Lolley said...

Lots of knee-jerk reactions, which is what I'd expect for a game like this one.

The bottom line is that was pretty much the same game these two teams played last season except the Steelers didn't fumble four times.

Tennessee's yardage was nearly the same and the Steelers had a little more than what they did in that game - thanks to overtime.

Moore was on the field late in the game because he's the third-down back and they knew they were going to be passing.

They still plan on using Wallace and Sweed, though Wallace may be earning more PT.

Anybody who watched that game and didn't think the o-line got better as it wore on is looking at it biased. Tennessee had at least a half-dozen zero blitzes in the second half. They're going to hit the QB in those situations.
But the bottom line is that they dropped back to pass 23 times in the second half and were sacked once. That, you can live with.

As for Russ Grimm, he was working with a line that had a much better pedigree than this one. Marvel Smith (2nd round), Alan Faneca, Jeff Hartings and Kendall Simmons (first round), Max Starks (third round).
I agree that they need to address the o-line in the draft, but selecting where they have been at the past two years, that has been difficult. They can't just take an offensive lineman they have a third-round grade on just because he's the only guy remaining in the first round.

skinleeeeeee said...

good points dale...the run on offensive lineman during the last two drafts has been borderline ridiculous.

i just read 43 is having an MRI today...lets hope it reveals nothing more than a sprain and we get him back closer to 3-4 weeks!

marc said...

i guess we will just have to disagree. imo, the o-line "appeared" to get better in the second half because of our focus on the pass and the titans only rushing 3 or 4. obviously, when they bring the house someone will get through. but, when we did run the ball in the second half the blocking was poor.

i'm just very disappointed. i expected more from the o-line.

Anonymous said...

Dale, if a team need is o-line then you trade up or do whatever it takes to get better and protect the franchise QB. No one is suggesting they draft third round talent in the late first round. But for goodness sakes acquiring the upper level talent is more than overdue.

marc said...

over the steelers last 8 games, including playoffs, we have rushed a total of 231 times for 721 yards. that's an average of 29 rush attempts per game for roughly 90 yards per game or 3.1 yards per carry.

i really don't think our concerns regarding the o-line or RB's are knee-jerk reactions. we couldn't run the ball last year, we couldn't run it in the playoffs, except for against the chargers, and we still can't run it. furthermore, our solution was to re-sign the guys we had and keep trying. well, some would say insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result.

kyle said...

Which players would you have traded to move up in the first round last year? which picks? the ones they used on an offensive lineman, a wideout who made a catch in overtime last night, and the corner who looked very good in the preseason? sometimes it's just not in the cards.

and while plenty of running plays had defenders in the backfield last night, at least as much blame falls on willie (and i'm not usually quick to jump on him). he was dancing on every carry.

superfan99 said...

Dale is exactly right, last night's game was identical to last year's game against the Titans, except the Steelers didn't turn it over as often (I don't count the Hail Mary INT, it was the same as a punt).

In the next two games, Parker ran for 260 yards and three touchdowns.

Everyone need to take a deep breath.

Anonymous said...

I've never seen so much hand-wringing over a win over a good team.

This team is exactly the same as last year, just with a better punter and a better kick returner.

Anonymous said...

So in the last game againts the Titans we averaged 1.6 YPC?

I know the Titans have a very good defense, but I will guarantee they would not hold any other team to that average the rest of the season.

We have a big problem and is not only the OL, is the RB, is the OL Coaching, is the play calling, is when we call the runs.

The thing is if we didn't fixed the problem on the of season, so is going to be hard to fixed it during the season. There will be improvement but thats it.

Patrick said...

Let's not forget Summers contribution to the running game, or lack thereof. We all wanted Carey Davis gone, now we got it.

The smart money is on Summers eventually figuring out how to hit the other colored jerseys by the end of the year.

kyle said...

handwringing is right. i was just saying to someone - and it's similar to what Tomlin said last night - they weren't getting much pressure on collins, ben got sacked 4 times and hit a lot more, they couldn't run at all, they couldn't convert 3rd and short, they were on the wrong side of the turnover differential, they lost a superstar player for half the game, another star made a potentially game losing mistake...and they still won against a very good team.

Damien Thorne said...

I really don't know how some of you talk in such absolutes after ONE game against one of the best defenses in the league? Parker is done, Wallace is the #3 over Sweed, Redmon is the chosen one...etc etc. Do me a favor...send me the friggin superlotto numbers while you are at it.

Dale Lolley said...

Against Tennessee last season, they averaged 3.0 yards per carry, but 14 of that was picked up on three Roethlisberger scrambles. Mewelde Moore had 28 on three carries, but some of that came on draws against the prevent.
Parker had 31 yards on 19 carries.

Greg Mercer said...

Willie doesn't fall forward after contact. That and his below average vision are his biggest weaknesses. at least he stopped fumbling.

knock on wood.

emac2 said...

Imagine if we had lost!

I know some of you are young fans but people are going to think we all wear panties if you guys cry like babies because the team shows a weakness.

I think the whole team suffered a little bit from the startrs getting so much rest in the preseason.

I do agree the run blocking is unacceptable.

The bottom line though is that we won the season opener against one of the best teams we will play all year. That's good enough for me and if people here want pretty they need to follow another team.

Yak said...

Dale, good comments, but you left a few rounds out:

Marvel Smith (2nd), Alan Faneca (1st), Jeff Hartings (1st), Kendall Simmons (1st), Max Starks (3rd).

If memory serves, we now have:

Max Starks (3rd), Chris Kemoeatu (6th), Justin Hartwig (6th), Trai Essex (3rd), Willie Colon (4th)

Add them up, then = 8, now = 19, or almost 2 1/2 rounds later on average than Russ had for his lineup.

Yak said...

There is a lot of negativity here. I take away many positives from this game:

* We got into a battle with a team that returned more starters from last year than we did, the same team that had the best record in the NFL last year, a team with a very good head coach and an excellent defense, a team that has a passing game that can attack our defense's weekness (if you can call it that), a team very strong in both trenches and with very good running backs..... and we won.

* We won because we have some real studs on this team, and I'm enjoying watching them week in and week out. Who else could lose one of the best defenders in the game and still shut down an offense that was having success early on?

* The Steelers are still one of the few elite teams in the league, and all teams have things that need work.

* Our return game is going to be entertaining to watch this year.

* Screen passes actually worked for what feels like the first time since the 20th century.

* We dressed a lot of rookies but didn't see glaring rookie mistakes.

* Remember, the Steelers often win ugly, and this game had ugly. But a lot of it wasn't ugly.

* It was only ONE FRIGGIN' GAME, and we're 1-0!

Dan said...


You do a great job of covering the Steelers, but somehow you missed this quote from Bo Scaife of the Titans.

"Waaaaa waaaaa sniffle wheres my mommy I got hit in football"

marc said...

i think a lot of people here are missing the point. yes, we won. yes, we beat a very good team. and how did we beat that team? our best player, the QB, played very well in the second half and moved the team down the field. also, our incredible defense kept the titans to 10 pts.

if we don't learn to run the ball, our QB is going to get sacked and hit as much as he has the last 3 seasons. but, i guess, some of you think he is invincible and we don't need to run the ball. or maybe our defense can just play the whole game because we can't control time of possession. the won't wear down over the course of the season, will they?

c'mon people. rational people here aren't saying off with their heads. we're saying, "what the heck?" this was supposed to be fixed. we kept the OL together so they would be a "more cohesive unit." yet, colon says they had communication problems. WHY? that's absurd. as fans, we're frustrated that this appears to still be a major problem. and there's nothing wrong with expecting more from the OL and RB than what they did against the titans.

Michel Sauret said...

Anybody noticing how the Steelers are winning games when Ben throws more than 30 passes now? Didn't used to be that way.

I wrote more about in my blog if you want to read the breakdown.

Dale Lolley said...

The Bo Scaife stuff was just idle talk. Fisher shot him down on it, saying it wasn't a cheap shot.
I didn't make it into Tennessee's locker room at all. I was too busy trying to work the Steelers locker room before they all headed out for their long weekend.

Parker admitted to me after the game he was rusty and missed some holes. He'll get better. But don't be surprised if Melwelde Moore starts seeing more time. He's more of a dual threat - though Mendenhall has great hands as well.

cajunyankee said...

Our run game suffered due to our O-Line runblocking skills. Our "new" FB summers is more like a paper tank. I have yet to see him totally nail a guy on a lead block and if I have missed one some-one please tell me the game/QTR and time. Not one of our RBs was even a little bit effective running.
I am also disappointed in Mendenhall. I just don't see 1st Rd Talent from this guy. RBs are not supposed to take so long to "develop". Redman seems to have better vision/power and attitude when the ball is in his hands but he wasn't drafted at all much less 1st Rd. Even if Mendenhall doesn't improve we're gonna keep him two more years hoping. Urbik??? How'd he make this team and DT Harris didn't? Must be draft status again. At least they kept Foster.

Dale, At this point in the season can they move a guy to the PS without putting them on waivers and promote some-one from PS to the Roster?
I also liked the O-Lines pass defense. Please,if you can,next time you're in the Locker room tell Ben that when you're in FG range to "Throw it away" before you take a 19yd sack.


Anonymous said...


Go to Postgameheroes, there is a video of all the plays the FB was in the game (A grand total of 5 plays). You will see a very nice lead block on a blitzing LB, two good jobs (although FWP went the other way), one poor block (which didn’t end on a tackle), and a big whiff.

For a first time starter in the NFL not as bad as many here thinks.

The problem with the running game is spread from the coaches to the RB to the OL to the TE, even the WR and QB had their problems. And yes the FB contributed for one bad run.

adamg said...

Dale, Grimm also had Oliver Ross and Keydrick Vincent. When called on to replace injured starters, both players stepped in and the OL never missed a beat. The same thing when Trai Essex had to step in for Marvel Smith. Hartings was a All-Pro guard with Det and had to learn a new position, C, when he signed with Pgh.

Do you think if Zerlien was the OL coach, that would have happened?

Lance Williams said...


Click here to Listen or Paste in Browser:

Give it a Listen - I've had Jim on the show several times