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Sunday, December 06, 2009

Steelers-Raiders post-game thoughts

Though the players won't admit it, it has become painfully apparent the Steelers' secondary just cannot play without strong safety Troy Polamalu.

Without anybody in their secondary other than Polamalu who can consistently catch the ball, the Steelers just don't scare anybody.

Oakland's Bruce Gradkowski threw a number of balls up for grabs in Sunday's 27-24 win over the Steelers and the Raiders either came down with the pass or saw it fall harmlessly to the ground.

We already knew that catching the football was not Ike Taylor's strong point, but now it's become apparent that neither can anyone else, sans Polamalu.

And the group is also playing without any confidence as well. It's not a good combination.

Opponents are obviously targeting Willie Gay play after play and Gay has not been up to the challenge at all.

In fact, after Gay was beaten a couple of times Sunday, defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau just started sending him on corner blitzes.

I guess if you can't cover, you might as well go after the quarterback.

Head coach Mike Tomlin said Sunday that the team will consider changes in its lineup. The only changes they could make defensively would probably be in the secondary – though the run defense allowed more than 100 yards rushing for the second consecutive game.

All you need to know about the difference between the Steelers defense of 2008 and the 2009 version is that Gradkowski completed five of 16 passes for 18 yards and two interceptions against them last season. Sunday, he threw for more than 300 yards with three touchdown passes.

© I've taken heat all season long for blaming the defense for not holding leads late in games.

That was again the case Sunday. Anybody want to defend the indefensible defense this week?

© I was not a big fan of Tomlin's decision to attempt a 53-yard field goal on the opening play of the fourth quarter and even after Tomlin's explanation that Jeff Reed had been making them from there before the game, I'm still not.

With a four-point lead, why punt there and make the Raiders - who had not shown anything offensively to that point - drive the length of the field?

By giving Oakland the ball at its own 43, all the Raiders needed was 20 yards to get into field goal range. They did better than that, scoring the first of three fourth quarter touchdowns.

© Rashard Mendenhall did not have a carry in the entire second quarter.

He didn't even set foot on the field as Willie Parker was given two consecutive series of play - the first a two-play touchdown drive – while Mewelde Moore was in on the final possession of the second quarter in the two-minute offense.

I'm all for keeping everyone involved, but that's taking it to the extreme.

© Ben Roethlisberger made one bad mistake in this one, throwing a pick from the Oakland 16 late in the first half.

He forced that throw to Hines Ward, who was open coming out of his break, but certainly was not once Roethlisberger let go of the ball.

It was the only sign of post-concussion play that Roethlisberger really showed.


Anonymous said...

Wow... the way a season slips away.. Of course we arent completely eliminated yet, so who do we need to lose out? other than everybody of course

Anonymous said...

IMO Mendenhall should be a 3 down back and only be replaced when needing a breather. He's a better runner than either Parker or Moore. He blocks better than both, catches better than Parker and is better in the open field than Moore.
I think it's time to see what Lewis and Burnett can do. How worse can it be? I'm sure they can make scrub WR look like Jerry Rice as well.
This problem started last year, but it was ignored because the offense was able to cover for the D in the final minutes.
Why doesn't Lebeau get the same criticism as Arians? Last year all I heard was how the D saved Arians and the O. Now it's Arians and the O don't score enough and the D shouldn't be expected to have to play with such a slim lead. LasVegas said...

Is W. Gay ( #22 ) out for the rest of the year? Who is his back-up? This team needs a lot of help in the secondary.

Robbie said...

I'm sorry, but if LeBeau's defensive scheme is so reliant on one player, then there's a problem with the scheme.

Anonymous said...

Today, the offense was inside Oak's 20 three times on its first three possessions. They came away with 3 total points. (I'll give the TD that came after the turnover on downs because the offense did score a TD on the next series.)Score an extra 3 points and the game is a win.

Anonymous said...

Dick LeBeau must go. Will ANY Pittsburgh media person have the balls to ask Mike Tomlin what changes on defense in the 4th quarter from what they do in quarters 1-3?

Hines was waving his arms in the endzone, Ben threw the pass. Maybe Hines should call himself out this week?

The defense is old, six of the regular starters have been here longer than Ben (Only Ward on offense has been here longer than Ben). That's an aging defense any way you slice it.

Arians gave Steeler Nation what they wanted for three quarters: Run the ball, play defense.

And they still got torched in the fourth quarter, twice after the offense scored TD's.

If 24 points isn't enough to beat Oakland? Your defense sucks.


joseph said...

Seems our defense plays fairly well for 3 quarters and then the wheels fall off.

I don't think the scheme changes, but maybe age is creeping up with the Farrior's, Townsend's, etc.

Our defense in the 4th quarter of games has been terrible. Of course the secondary is the easy culprit cause they do stink this year, but we're not getting any big sacks, turnovers either.

Joe E. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe E. said...

I didn't like Tomlin's decision to have Reed kick a 53 yard FG either. Didn't he see the second Janikowski FG? If it wasn't for Janikowski's strong leg, the wind would have blown the ball several yards from the goal post.

Vaflyer said...

I see the same problems game...after game....after game. The combination of these contributes to the D not being able to hold a lead.

1. The offense in the red zone is HORRIBLE! It is like we get to the 20 and we forget how to block, make smart decisions, etc. until we need that 4th quarter points that Ben is so good at giving us.

2. Special Teams. Today wasn't actually that bad other than the missed FG, but that is a repeat of other times as well.

3. The D cannot get off the field on 3rd down....hardly ever. Either we need to make some changes to keep guys fresher for the end of the game, or there is something else wrong. The D....just cannot figure out how to stop a team on 3rd and 10 or 3rd and 22.

Yeah, the D has blown a couple of games at the end, but it was inevitable at some point wasn't it. You keep going to the well, eventually it goes dry, especially with your best DB and best DL both out.

Dave in Cbus said...

So, as I watched the game I was not very happy with the Ward TD and the play calling. I actually said before the play, with the way the D is playing we should run the ball, milk the clock and get the TD with no time left. Worst case scenario we settle for a FG as time expires and go to OT. Against the leagues worst run D, no less...I think it would have worked.

It makes perfect sense, to me that our offense, in that situation, is our best D, regardless of how great or how poor the D is playing.

Why then, if I, a mere fan who only watches football and who has never played a down of organized football in my life can see this, why can't our coaches.

I've been hesitant all year to be critical of play calling and giving Arians the hook (even though I don't like him) because I think consistency in coaching is a high value for the success of a QB and a team. Too many teams are way too quick to think a new coach is the magic formula for success. But, when the coaching constant is poor. And the gameplan against a poor football team like the Raiders doesn't include gashing, repeatedly, their weakness in stopping the run, I have serious issues.

Come on guys!

And, the season is not over. DO NOT give up. Until mathmatically eliminated the season is not over. The leadership on this team knows what it takes and can (with help) make the playoffs and do the seemingly impossible. I refuse to give up. I hope you'll all join me.

Anonymous said...

The D has blown a few games? You're kidding right?

VS Chicago, Cin X 2, SD, Det, KC, Bal and Oakland this defense had 22 drives in the 4th quarter, they gave up 10 TDs and 6 FGs.

VS Chicago, D had a 7 pt. lead, 2 drives and 10 pts.
VS Cin, D had a 11 pt. lead, 2 drives 14 pts.
VS SD, they let them score 14 pts. on 7 plays to almost make a game of it late.
VS Det, gave up 7 pts and let them drive deep to give them a chance to tie it.
VS Cin-2, tied, they gave them 2 drives that took over 8 minutes off the clock and kick 2 FG to win the game by 6.
VS KC, D had a lead of 7 with 8 min. to go and the D allowed them to tie the game.
VS Bal, O with 6 min. left scored a TD taking the lead by 3, then the D allowed Bal. to get the tying FG
VS Oak, they gave up the lead what three times today?

I think people need to be honest when the Steelers scored today with less than 2 minutes, how many thought, "damn too much time left, this D won't be able to hold them?"

Ben said...

"Didn't he see the second Janikowski FG? If it wasn't for Janikowski's strong leg, the wind would have blown the ball several yards from the goal post."

If you looked at the flags on the goal posts, there was no wind during the kick. Janikowski hooked it in.

Until that point, the Raiders had done nothing on offense. To let them start at the 43 wasn't a huge risk at the time. I think it was worth taking a shot.

Anonymous said...

I guess I was trying to come up with an answer for what is the difference between this year's team vs. last year's team, and the answer is the Defense and special teams!!

Last year, the offense wasnt all that great, slightly better than this year, but the Defense was one of the best ever. The D could win games on their own, but not this year. Special teams were "special" last year, and this year, well, they just down right stink. What happened here, I thought all we needed going into this year was a return guy......

I dont think the team should have had that entire week off during the bye week, I knew then it was a bad idea at the time, just asked Tony Dungy about that...

As for today, you knew when Burnett couldnt come up with that late interception, we were going to lose, for it happened the same way in the KC game as well, with Ike's drop!!

I've been saying that Polamalu is this years MVP, and I still agree with that statement, for this team cannot win without him!!! Also, he should be the highest paid on this team, without a doubt!!

Oh, one last thing, it should be written in all Steeler contracts, no one is allowed on the covers of Madden football, Chunky soup or SI to eliminate the curses!!!

adamg said...

Maybe we need to acknowledge this team isn't all that good. Last year they won a lot of games in the "last second" and this year they haven't.

In the salary cap era, it's very hard to keep a team on top through mainly the draft with only a few low profile UFA signings. The Steeler front office rolled the dice that the veteran core of the team (Smith, Farrior, Harrison, Kiesel, Ward, Hartwig) had a few more good years left and signed them to contract extensions. They let younger vets like McFadden walk gambling that 2nd year players like Gay could replace them. It appears that strategy will be proven to have been the wrong one; however, it was probably worth taking the gamble on another championship before having to rebuild the lines, DBs and WRs.

Anonymous said...

Someone answer me this question, its 4th and 1, why cant we put in Dixon for this one play, after all didnt Ben just come off a concussion, and if you are so worried about him, why take a chance on a play like this to get him hurt??

The offense has no imagination this year.......

Anonymous said...

Could you let us in on the hints floating around by some locals that management isn't happy and changes to the coaching staff are coming?

I believe Bouchette said, "heads were going to roll."

Do you know who?

Anonymous said...

All 3 phases of the game have been lacking at some point during this season but the 2 glaring weaknesses have been special teams and/or defense. For those that blame LeBeau you've got to get over yourselves. He is the cream of the crop when it comes to defensive coordinators. You can't make chicken salad...

The secondary as a group is weak. As Dale pointed out they are so lame they couldn't catch a cold. I would be surprised if they didn't go for a 1st round CB next year. And yes, I know they have burnett and lewis but neither is starting material.

Oh well, at least we'll finally get a decent draft pick in April.

Patrick said...

I don't even know where to start with this one. Feels like I'm watching some other team out there. This has become the most dissappointing season in a long time. In August almost all of us would have agreed this team had a legitimate chance of repeating.

Hopefully some "heads roll" but its not going to be Tomlin, LeBeau or Colbert (maybe Colbert if Cowher is hired and takes him - I'd probably jump town if I was Colbert right now). BA is almost certaintly the first to go. But on D, I just hope the Steelers don't turn into a Tampa 2, 43 team. I am not a fan of that style.

And good luck fixing the secondary via the draft. We all know that rookies barely play their first years here, especially on D. Maybe there is a cheaper FA around.

Mundy really put on a show today didn't he? I wouldn't be suprised if he is cut this week.

I like though, that when I criticized Tomlin all year, I was an idiot. But now everyone is calling him out. Nice.

I thought this team could make some improvement with Oak and Cleveland back to back. So much for that.

And the reason you don't put Dixon in on that play is because 4th and less than a year, Ben is almost automatic on the sneak. Not today.

Patrick said...

less than a yard....

Pete said...

Bouchette just sounds like a pissed-off fan. Either he names names, or I have to assume he's just making stuff up out of frustration.

Anonymous said...

I would think it is pretty obvious that there will be changes soon or at least over the off season. This team has added little talent in the last three seasons and is now aging in defense and has an offense that cannot execute. And the play of the STs? - another reflection of poor drafting.

Question has to be asked, should this team kept the Whiz (who is looking more and more like the real deal) Tomlin might have a SB ring but he didn't put that team together, Cowher did. The Cards are the Whiz's creation and looking good - they may not get to the SB this year but they have a solid foundation and add to it every year.

sign me a fellow bouchette pissed off fan.

Farmer Fran

Dale Lolley said...

Any names at this point would be purely speculation on everyone's part, including Ed's. That's why he didn't name names. They aren't going to throw any coaches under the bus with four games remaining. It's not what they do.

But you can bet there will be a change on special teams and I wouldn't bet against a secondary change.

Pete said...

I didn't read the article personally, but the way it's been described made it sound like Bouchette was reporting based on a source inside the front office.

Wouldn't it be dangerous for him to say that management is unhappy and wants changes unless he has a reliable source to back up that claim?

Anonymous said...

The 2008 Steelers are Cowher's creation just as much as the 2009 Cardinals are Denny Green's creation.

Anonymous said...

So are these changes immediate or when the season is over?

And is this a copout by players saying they aren't getting the calls or is it a screw up by Lebeau or Farrior?

Darren said...

Three touchdowns that were mistakes that almost certainly don't happen with Troy in there. That simple.

To the person saying the scheme doesn't work if it all revolves around one player, you are missing the point. The whole scheme goes out the window if the person playing that position misses their assignment (like Carter did on the long TD) or just plain can't cover the guy (like Carter did on the crossing route TD and Mundy did on the game winning TD)

That's not a case of "it doesn't work without Troy and Troy alone", it's a case of "whoever the hell is out there needs to be able to follow their assignment".

Also, Gay was clearly a downgrade at CB and in the NFL, once a weakness is found, it will be exploited until you can prove it is fixed.

Still, the Steelers losses have all been by about 3 points. All "one play" games. That's why you can look around and point the blame on so many players and coaches based on which play you are looking at, one play here or there in each game makes the difference between division champs and mid round draft pick.

Realistically, this years team isn't going to win it all. It's time to hope we get some impact players in the draft and some positive coaching changes and contend next year.

Robbie said...

You have a point, Darren, there might not be a defensive scheme LeBeau could devise that would compensate for horrible players.

They could still try running the most elementary of schemes so that the players would never be out of position or not get the right defensive call. They'd still get burned, but maybe it would just be a bunch of short completions instead of huge busted plays.

Anonymous said...

Looking over the 12 game stats, the offense has scored fewer than 3 TD in half of them. They've scored 5 TDs only against SD and 4 TDs vs Det. That means the offense has scored only 20 TDs in 10 games.

In today's pass happy NFL, that's simply not enough production to be more than what the Steelers are - a .500 team. Las Vegas said...

December 06, 2009 A date which will live infamy!! The Oakland Raiders and their bedeviled owner Al Davies came to the mighty Pittsburgh Steelers Heinz Field and unleashed Hell upon the hated Steelers!! After Thirty Seven years Big Al is getting his revenge for the Immaculate Reception. By knocking the Steelers out of the playoff's

Anonymous said...

Maybe they should just tape the DB's hands into little balls so they can club the opposing players. Lord knows they don't need their fingers to catch the damn ball. If anyone other than Troy P. could catch a damn ball we'd be talking about the playoffs right now.

Patrick said...

ha, he said "playoffs"

Anonymous said...

IMO, other than Troy, the Steelers have the worst DB's and ST's in the league. There's nothing like allowing the most kick and punt returns for TD's in a single season to get the fans all excited.

It's obvious that Tomlin has got to make some major changes in the off season. First, fire Bruce Ariens. Second, fire ST's coach, Bob Ligahesky and go after Bobby April. Third, purge the secondary. Other than Troy they can all get cut, even stone hands, Ike Taylor.

It's becoming clearer every game what direction they need to go in in this April's draft. The problem is they don't have enough draft picks to fix what's wrong.

marc said...

this game illustrates perfectly why i said they won't make a run for the playoffs.

turnovers - check. in the endzone to boot.

poor game management - check. attempt a 53 yard field goal at heinz field instead of securing field position in a close game.

questionable play calling - check. qb sneak your franchise concussion prone qb is just stupid. especially with mendenhall at your disposal.

soft defense at clutch time - check. that was just pathetic.

player execution is as much at fault as poor coaching (and that includes all the coaches). i like tomlin, though he still has much to learn. but, i do really think he's a good young coach who is going to get better. arians is out, thank god. they need to start planning for lebuea's successor after next year, imo.

don't panic, the team won't come together as planned every year. they are a top notch organization and we'll be back to fight next season.

marc said...

bobby april will not come to pittsburgh. if you remember, he's already been here once and asked to leave. my uncle was friends with april when he was down in atlanta and said april hates the cold weather. that's why he left pittsburgh previously.

adamg said...

I was at the game and Anthony Madison alone made a huge difference in the ST coverage. I think he was the first man down on every ST punt or kick. I think STs subpar play has been a function of not having the right players on it rather than scheme. After all, Ligashesky is the same guy who coached the best ST last year. What's the difference between this year and last? The personnel deployed on STs.

Dave W. in Las Vegas said...

Great post Marc, i'am in agreament with every point except for Tomlin I hope it's Four and the door for this clown . This is his coaching staff and his fault. Coach Dick LeBeau should retire after his induction to the Hall. Players numbers ( #22,23,24,and 26 ) need to just quit and move on. I'll take rookies or free agents or udfa to replace these clowns. Ken Anderson is ready for the O C job and Coach John Mitchell is ready for the head coaching job.I've said this before that the best coaching staff for this team is in Arizona. Art the second needs to swallow his pride and take the steps to correct this mess. Dale first and formost Tomlin cannot evaluate talent his coaching staff and secondary are prime examples of this weakness.I gotta let this go or it's gonna ruin my day Thanks for everything as always.

Scotty said...

Yeah it shouldn't come down to Burnett making the INT. They should have stopped them before. And how do you not score after an 83 yd return. Parker did run hard in the 2nd quarter.

And Lebeau isnt the problem. Its the players not making plays. Come on...Getting juked by Gradkowski. Steelers made him look like Peyton and Vick combined.

Lets finish the season on a strong note.

steelerark said...

Some of you people are complete idiots. It amazes me how fans of this team can turn so quickly. You want to fire a coach who just won the Superbowl 10 months ago?!? Yeah, that's what smart, successful teams do.

Patrick said...


They wanted to fire Cowher, too, before the team won the SB. Remember the photoshopped picture of him working at Wal-Mart?

Steelers fans are loyal to the team but very demanding.

That other Patrick is very proud of telling us all season that the defense sucks and implying Tomlin should be fired. I believe he also recently mentioned that LeBeau's head should be considered for the chopping block.

The Real Patrick

Mapod said...

Grant it the Defense have given up the 4th qtr lead, but how many points did the offense leave out there. This is not the first time thatthe Offense did anything help the D. 4 time in the red zone and come away with 3 points. 53 yard fg what about Ben taken the sack? This team is not that good or that bad. Maybe only a play or two away from making the playoffs.

Patrick said...

I never said anything about LeBeau and I also said the D wasn't playing as well as last year early in the season and was blasted for it.

Patrick said...

^^^^ This Patrick without a picture is a total fraud.

the moron changes his stupid opinion every week

matt in dc said...

Dale -- I agree that Mendenhall should have gotten carries in the 2nd quarter, but when you say he had 67 carries in the first quarter shouldn't you note that 60 of those came on one play? Take that run away, and his average rushing on all other carries was pretty abysmal. I say this not as a Mendenhall basher in the least, but your use of stats here makes it sound like he was was picking up 10 yards every time he touched the ball.

matt in dc said...

Meant to say 67 YARDS in the first, not CARRIES....

Joe E. said...


Relax a little. All of the blame can't be placed on Tomlin. Even the
best coaches have had years where things just did not work out.

If you want to blame Tomlin then you also need to direct some blame at Colbert, Omar Khan, and Art II.

I am sure if they would have known
how this season would play out they
would have extended McFadden instead of Farrior.

I don't want to see LeBeau retire. For all we know this season may have been his "one more year" last season coaching. I hope he stays.

I didn't like the Arians hiring from the start and I still don't.
I'd like to see a change in OC just to have a new coach to challenge Ben. The Steelers have a reverse Bradshaw situation here.
Bradshaw struggled early in his career where Ben has had a successful start to his career. I liked the Whisenhunt/Ben relationship. Ben didn't like Whisenhunt sometimes but maybe that tough coaching was what made him into a championship QB. I am not sure Arians is good for Ben long term.

marc said...

i wonder if arians realizes that a pass play when ben has to shrug off a DL, scramble to his right and hit a WR over the middle for 15 yards IS NOT a good sign.

that means one of the following happened.

1. pass protection was poor.
2. ben missed an open receiver.
3. the receivers couldn't get open.

i believe arians (and ben) are enamored with those types of plays and it gives them a false sense of confidence. fact is, ben would be an elite QB if he learned how to throw the ball away and take advantage of what the defense gives him.

that's called knowing how to manage the game and based on his play calling, arians clearly does not grasp that concept and it should not be expected he will teach ben how to do it either.

it's time our franchise QB got an offensive coordinator that can take him to the next level.

adamg said...

It's possible the Steelers could demote Arians back to QB coach to keep BR somewhat happy and hire a different OC.

Joe E. said...


I don't think they would demote Arians. Maybe they could promote him to Assistant Head Coach and look for a new OC.

Dale Lolley said...

William Gay wasn't a sudden downgrade. He played a lot at that position in 2008. Even after McFadden came back from the arm injury, Gay got more snaps. But teams had an entire offseason to look at him.
Interestingly enough, had a stat that coming into this weekend, Ike Taylor had given up the most completions in the league. Now a lot of that is because he's shadowing the other team's best receiver. But the fact is there.

As somebody mentioned, Bobby April isn't coming back to Pittsburgh. And no, they're not going to fire assistant coaches during the middle of the season.

Henry said...


as much as CB is an issue right now, Ryan Clark's porous play has been a problem as well. Compound that with the fact Troy is dealing with injuries, Carter is 33 yrs old, and Mundy doesn't know what he's doing.

My question is do you think that Keenan Lewis not seeing action this season might have to do with the fact that he's making a position change to FS? He's tall, rangy, and was an academic all pac-10 (good decision maker)

Have you heard anything about this or seen him line up at safety at all whether or it be practice, Training camp, or OTAs?


DaveW. in Las Vegas said...

To Joe E. thanks, Your'e right, I do need to calm down. It is just too painfull to watch these players fail to live up to the standard that us fans have come to expect year after year.But thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Fire tomlin? force lebeau to retire? cut ike?


We steelers fans really are the most spoiled ******* in the nfl. Bad games happen, get over it!

Dale Lolley said...

Haven't seen Lewis at safety. I asked about that in camp and they said they wanted him to learn corner duties first.

Greg Mercer said...

do you think Clark is back with the team next year?

Dale Lolley said...

I think the rest of the league is seeing that he's not the most athletic free safety and bidding for his services will not be great.
He plays well next to Polamalu so he's got more value to the Steelers than other teams.
I'd rather keep him than Tyrone Carter.

Anonymous said...

"marc said...
my uncle was friends with april when he was down in atlanta and said april hates the cold weather. that's why he left pittsburgh previously."

HELLO! He's the S.T.'s coach for the Buffalo Bills. Buffalo is far more snowier and just as cold as it is in Pittsburgh.