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Monday, December 21, 2009

Post-Green Bay thoughts

No sooner had Ike Taylor recovered the Steelers' surprise onside kick - only to have the flag thrown for touching the ball at 9 1/2 yards - than the press box armchair coaches started with the 'I can't believe he did that' refrains.

I was not one of them.

At the time, I told another writer that Tomlin likely did it because he knew his defense couldn't stop the Packers and even if the Steelers didn't recover the ball, it would give the Pittsburgh offense more time to score.

Turns out, that was exactly what Tomlin was thinking. He admitted as much after the game.

That, in itself, was a refreshing bit of honesty. All too often coaches make a move like that and then say they were just rolling the dice.

Tomlin called out his defense while also taking a risk calculated to help win a game.

It was a good move.

© I know the Bruce Arians bashers will look at the run-pass ratio in this game and say it's proof that Arians doesn't know what he's doing.

But when you look at what the Steelers were doing when they did try to run it against Green Bay's front seven and then look at what they did attacking the Packers' overrated secondary, you see what the Steelers were trying to do.

The Steelers averaged 3.4 yards per rushing attempt and Ben Roethlisberger threw for a team-record 503 yards.

Green Bay's front seven is fast and athletic. It's secondary, well it's made up over overhyped Charles Woodson - how many penalties is that? - and a bunch of bums.

Sounds sort of like the Steelers.

© I know I'm in the media and - at least according to Ryan Clark - don't know what I'm watching, but if I'm Tomlin, I've seen enough of Tyrone Carter missing tackles and taking bad angles on the back end of plays.

© Now, we can start talking about playoff scenarios and including the Steelers in them.

And they aren't as far-fetched as they once seemed, especially with Denver's ridiculous loss at home to Oakland. Wait, where have we seen that one before?

Seriously, I thought Sunday's game was the one the Steelers would lose before rebounding to win their final two.

I expected Miami to lose in Tennessee and the Jets-Falcons game was a tossup. That Denver loss was an early Christmas gift to all of you Steelers fans from Santa Goodell.

So here's what we've got now coming up:

The Steelers, of course, host Baltimore next Sunday. The Steelers need a win, but a loss wouldn't do much to hurt Baltimore given Denver's loss Sunday. The Ravens will win a tiebreaker with the Steelers based on a better division record.

Denver travels to Philadelphia, where the Broncos should get the snot stomped out of them by an Eagles' team that is hitting its stride and needs the win to clinch a division title.

Now, let's look at the 7-7 teams.

Jacksonville heads to New England, where the Patriots always play tough and need a victory to try to gain the No. 3 seed in the AFC playoffs. That should be a loss for the Jags.

Miami hosts Houston in what will be an elimination game for the loser. The Steelers would be better served by Miami holding serve at home since they finish up with the Dolphins in Week 17. But even if Houston wins, it must host New England in Week 17 and the Texans are behind the Steelers in the AFC playoff race, anyway.

The Jets, the other team ahead of the Steelers right now, travel to Indianapolis this week. The wildcard is whether the Colts will play their regulars in the game. But they will have had 10 days off between games, so the guess here is that they do. Even if the Jets somehow win that one, they have to finish up with the Bengals at home, a game Cincinnati could need to possibly move past New England into the No. 3 spot in the AFC.

Tennessee hosts red-hot San Diego on Christmas day. I would say the Titans should win that based on San Diego's soft run defense, but since the Steelers hold the head-to-head tiebreaker on the Titans.

Obviously, we'll know a lot more about what's happening after next weekend's games, but the Steelers' win Sunday made them relevant once again.

© That's a tough injury for Greg Warren, who tore his ACL on the final play of the game.

It's also a tough injury for the Steelers, who must now find a new long snapper. It's a good thing it happened on the final play, though.

Imagine if the Steelers had been forced to go for a two-point coversion on the final play of the game instead of just kicking the PAT because Warren was out.


Anonymous said...

It's possible a whole bunch of teams finish 9-7, in which case the tiebreakers are more complicated than just head-to-head wins. I believe there are scenarios where Denver at 9-7 would get a playoff spot ahead of us even though we beat them.

Anonymous said...

Houston isn't behind Pittsburgh. They hold the tiebreaker.

Common opponents:

vs OAK (HOU 1-0, PIT 0-1)
vs TEN (HOU 1-1, PIT 1-0)
vs CIN (HOU 1-0, PIT 0-2)
vs MIA (HOU 1-0, PIT 1-0)

I'm including the Dolphins because both teams would have to beat them to get to 9-7, anyway.

That gives us HOU 4-1, PIT 2-3. Houston wins. We sit home.

So we either need:

1. Houston loss
2. Tennesse to win out

If TEN and HOU are both 9-7 with Pittsburgh, the Titans would knock out the Texans (division record), then Pittsburgh would knock out Tennessee (head-to-head).

So the SD-TEN game is very important, because it gives us insurance in case Miami or New England can't get the job done against Houston.

Anonymous said...

It is simple:

If next week the Steelers win at home, Phily beats Denver at home, NE beats the Jacs at home and Indi beats the Jets at home.

All the steelers have to do next week is win at Miami and they are in.

Simple. Nothing else matter.

And seem very likely.

Anonymous said...

The above scenario is not all.

If the above scenario happens Houston also has to loose one or Tenesse has to win out.

joseph said...

I am stunned as a Steelers fan at how poorly our defense plays in the 2nd half of ball games. This team will go nowhere with the way the defense has been playing. The secondary hasn't made a play since Carter's pick against Denver. Wow. Tomlin in retrospect made the right call with the onside kick attempt. Maybe next time he'll put someone besides Ike over there who has 1/2 a brain and understands the rules.

Mizou said...

Is this the same ACL Warren tore last season? It seems like this guy has some bad luck with his knees. I wish him the best.

How's Jared Retkofsky (sp) healing up from his bike accident this past offseason? I would expect that he, or whoever our backup longsnapper in camp was to be the first to step in. Personally, I'd prefer Retkofsky, just because of his familiarity with the team, and with Reed.

Darren said...

I was trying to explain to the people I was with why the onsides kick was win-win-win.

#1) It slapped the defense in the face and said "I don't trust you". They proved why they shouldn't be trusted soon after.

#2) If they get the ball, win.

#3) If they don't get the ball, GB has the short field and when (not if) they score, it will leave time on the clock for the offense to do something.

I'm on the fence about the Playoff picture. Yes, it would be great to see the Steelers in the playoffs but I don't see them beating any of the top AFC teams with this defense. I guess Troy is coming back soon which changes things. Then again, replacing Carter with a one legged midget would be an improvement in the secondary.

Mike P from DC said...

I'd be interested to see which corner Aaron Rodgers targeted the most, because I'm pretty sure Rodgers stopped throwing to his left all together, once he realized that William Gay cannot cover and too intimidated to tackle.

Anonymous said...


It is good to see you agreeing with Tomlin's decision to try the onside kick. Judging by various discussion on the net I'd say the majority of Steelers fans also agreed that it was a good decision.

I read some article by other Steelers writers this morning and it seems like they are all bordering on calling Tomlin's choice very stupid. Why do you think this is? Do they feel pressure to call Tomlin out? Is it easier to write that story then to try and defend the call?

It was certainly a gusty call but I wouldn't call it stupid. Following Tomlin's logic it made a lot of sense to try it. They had lost 5 straight games, their defense was falling apart late again and it was time to try anything to help win.

adamg said...

Warren's injury was to his other knee, not the one he hurt last year.

Shipley was the back up long snapper during training camp and since he's been on the PS all year, presumably he's been practicing with Reed and Sepulveda all along.

I can't honestly see this team making the playoffs and even if they do, it will be one and done. The offense, despite the stats, isn't good enough. There is just too much dependence on BR making playground/streetball plays. The defense seems to have peaked vs MN and Denver.

I would like to see the younger guys get more reps, but I suppose Tomlin owes it to the other teams involved in the playoff hunt to try and win each game, just as we expect teams like Indy to play hard when they are in a game with playoff implications.

Patrick said...

Heres why the onside kick wasn't "brilliant". They were up by 2. 2!. If GB took their time and scored, or just went for a FG, the Steelers wouldn't have had a TO and probably about 45 seconds left. Possibly none.

Tomlin gave Green Bay control and a chance to close it out while putting his the team in a very bad position. The fact there was a miracle 86 yard drive at the end doesn't change that. You people know that if Wallace doesn't make that catch, or Jenkins makes that sack, every comment on here would be about Tomlin and not playoff scenarios.

As much as I didn't like the decision, the execution of it was perfect besides 1 player - Taylor. Come on dude - everyone knows it has to go 10. Jeff Reed was also clutch with the FG's.

This game though, exemplifies this season. Last year they lived by Big Ben and the crazy O and survived by the D when it failed. This year, the D just isn't the same. When the offense goes south, it gets ugly.

John said...

Tomlin's onside kick call was bold and ingenious. Was it the "right" call? There is no "right" or "wrong". It was a good decision based on all the factors of the game. Tomlin bet that the Packers wouldn't sit down on the ball once they got in field goal range. In fact, the best thing that happened on that TD to Jones was Burnett falling down. Get over it, it was a good decision by a young coach. If this is Belichick, people are stroking his monkey.

Anonymous said...

Dale, any word on Polamalu? I know it's early but his presence on the field next week would be a huge boost to our horrid secondary, and significantly increase our chances of winning.

Anonymous said...

Patrick - I've seen people making the same comment (we had a 2pt. lead) by different people on different message boards and I must say I disagree with that thinking. How is kicking the ball deep going to be any better? Reed doesn't have a booming leg, our special teams coverage isn't the greatest, and our secondary has been picked apart without Troy all season long. The most likely scenario would probably be that: Reed kicks it to the 10-15 yard line, the kick returner gets 20 yards bringing the ball to the GB 30ish yard line. Green bay would then know that all they have to go is what 30/40 yards to get into field goal range, take as much time off the clock as they can and score. Greenbay would have been able to milk the clock no matter how they got the ball. At least the way it worked out was giving Ben time to work his magic.

Dale Lolley said...

We'll find out more about Polamalu as the week goes on. But honestly, I don't think anyone "knows" for sure about him at this point. This has been a strange injury.

But Baltimore's receivers and Flacco aren't going to hurt the Steelers like Green Bay. The one wild card, of course, is Rice. But Baltimore can be run on.

I spoke with Ike after the game. He knows the 10-yard rule. He said they are taught to not let the ball bounce a second time. Once that strangely shaped ball hits a second time, it could bounce anywhere.

And let's be honest here, that's a difficult play as you're looking at the ball, the blockers and to see whether you're going to get creamed or not. It's also not like he touched it five yards early. He was about a foot early on touching it.

We'll know a lot more about the playoff picture after this week.

Dale Lolley said...

Also, Green Bay didn't run the ball well all day. The Packers would have had a difficult time running out the clock – even had they tried to.
They trusted their defense to get a stop. The Steelers did not.

Anonymous said...

Tomlin had the guts to try to avoid what every single one of us was thinking. . . . the D is going to give up another game winning drive. Tomlin was right . . . the pack got the ball and had no problem scoring. He tried to avoid that outcome. Anyone who criticizes his decision does not know this steelers D at all. You can disagree with the decision but you can't fault the man for making it.

Patrick said...

"You can disagree with the decision but you can't fault the man for making it."

I'm halfway with you here. Desperate times do call for desperate measures, especially when no one is expecting it and at least Tomlin has tried, with this, and putting Holmes on punt returns last week. But still I don't like the call.

Lets imagine the Steelers receovered the onside kick. Unless they score a TD, Greenbay likely has the ball last with a chance to go ahead. Does anyone here think Arians was going to run out the clock? They would have had to score a TD, which they ended up having to do anyway, but with way less time under far more pressured circumstances. You also just can't assume Greenbay is going to score lightening quick. Bottom line is Tomlin put the control of the game at the mercy of the opponent. Up by 2 with the season on the line - I have a hard time agreeing with that.

marc said...

i agree with patrick. the fault in the logic is that by going for the onside kick you put the control of the game into the other team's hands. not to mention, you need to execute perfectly to get an onside kick. how often does that happen?

tomlin is an aggressive coach and i can live with some of his decisions because others will pay off.

the problem right now is that people are saying how great our offense was in this game. that's bull crap. ben running around and avoiding 2-3 potential sackers before finding someone down the field is not a good offense. many times GB only rushed 3 and ben was running for his life. arians routinely abandons the run in the second half becuase he thinks that's the only way to move the ball and score points.

and, i would like to point out arian's complete inability to manage a game once again. 2 and 10 at the edge of reeds FG range and we dropped back to pass twice only to get lucky with ben running for his life on 3rd and 10, hit mendy and get a short gain so reed could attempt a 47 yarder. what crap. run the ball, a screen pass, or a swing pass, get 3-5 yards and a manageable 3rd down while also getting closer for reed. arians sucks, plain and simple.

steelerark said...

Heh, I thought of that too patrick. After they missed the onside, I thought, 'Man, we probably wouldve scored too fast anyway." But I still like the call, because of our defense. I mean seriously, who in Steeler Nation really believed we were going to hold them on that last drive? I know I didn't. That onside, even though flubbed, gave us enough time for a scoring drive.

It's a shame our defense has come to this. At least we don't hear many fans come to the D's defense any more.

Anonymous said...

How often do onsides kicks get executed perfectly? If you know they are going to happen . . . not very often.
This was a surprise, the packers were out of position . . . I would say the odds were in favor of the steelers recovering. Also, I would take our odds of recovering that surprise onsides kick versus the odds of our defense stopping Rogers in that situation.

adamg said...

If you watch the replay of the onside kick, the ball never quite gets to the 40 yd line at all before anyone touches it. At that point, it hits and takes an odd hop backwards, right into Ike Taylor's chest.

Otherwise, it is a perfectly executed onside kick. The Steelers took out all GB players who would have any chance of recovering the kick and had the ball surrounded by only players in black and gold.

Mike said...

I will still bash BA for the second half output. The first half was perfect, they were running all the plays they should run to keep a defense honest, screens, hot routes, check downs, reverses and on and on. The result 21 first half points.

In the 2nd half, once BA got the 10 point lead, he reverted back to his normal mantra: pass, pass, pass and hope for a big play. The 2nd half result was 3 FG's before the last touchdown drive.

Dale, you're right, GB should be attacked through the air, but a little diversity in play selection would have potentially lead to TDs instead of FGs in the 2nd half.

I've said it 100 times, I'm not asking BA to run the ball 75% of the time, but a little balance in play selection would be nice.

Did anyone see a screen or any other creative play call in the 2nd half? It was BA as usual, shotgun and go, pray Ben can stay upright long enough to connect on a long throw.

Vaflyer said...

I don't need to see run, run, incomplete pass, punt which is what we often saw under Cowher for the whole 2nd half, but I do think we must find ways to get Mendenhall touches. If you cannot run the ball, at least get him a shovel pass or a screen once in a while. Something. The guy is just to talented to have so few touches.

He had a 14 yard TD and an 11 yard run BOTH nullified by penalties.

Dale Lolley said...

Actually, they ran an inside screen to Mendenhall that went for a touchdown but was called back for offensive pass interference on Heath Miller.

Patrick said...

Dale if that is Ike's explanation then good bye ST coach. So what hes saying is if it bounces once, even if its a yard short of elgiible, pick it up? The only chance you have is to let it go. The whole reason your kicking onside is to get it, you have to let it go before even getting your fingers near it. Otherwise you might as well have just kicked off.

Or given them the ball.

I'm not blasting you, but the explanation. And who knows where it might bounce? Good, at least let one of our guys have a chance instead of killing the play. And I agree it is a tough play to make, but if you are taught to be stupid then you get stupid results like that.

as much as I dislike the decision, the play was there.

Anonymous said...

We need a (Franchise)Q.B. that can throw the ball. We need a T.E. that can catch the ball and block, We need a speedster for Ben to throw it too, We need a R.B. that can catch out of the backfield. We need a taller receiver for Ben. Well we got everything everyone wanted and now you want B.A. to run the ball. Make up your mind!

Vaflyer said...

Any thoughts on who might be put on the active roster before Sunday?

Anonymous said...

Just a comment regarding the playoff scenarios - it is imperative that Houston loses at least once, unless Tennessee wins out. It's a complicated scenario but if Houston wins out and Tennessee doesn't we don't get in regardless of what happens in all the other games. I can post a link to comfirm this if anyone would like it.

Anonymous said...

never mind - just saw that this was already addressed.

Anonymous said...

503 yards....not bad for a "gun shy" quarterback eh?

Stick to exposing game plans at Steelers practices you schlep.