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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Post-Denver thoughts

Still think Dennis Dixon is a better option to open the season at quarterback for the Steelers instead of Byron Leftwich?

Sunday night against Denver, we got a good look at some of the poor decision making that scares the Steelers coaching staff with Dixon.

Leftwich didn't look good either, but he was playing with an offensive line made up of reserves.

Yes, Dixon has potential, but this is a team that can't wait for that to develop. It needs an NFL-ready QB in two weeks.

That's why Leftwich will be the starter when the Steelers open the season against Atlanta.

Actually, what the Steelers need is a cross between Dixon and Leftwich. That proved to be Charlie Batch Sunday night, but, as the Steelers have found, when Batch plays too much, he gets hurt.

© Maurkice Pouncey did a credible job against the Broncos and more than held his own. In fact, the first-team offensive line played pretty well.

And spare me the "this guy sucks because he gave up a sack or had a false start" stuff. Offensive linemen are beaten on occasion and Denver is one of the loudest stadiums in the league.

© The personal fouls by the Pittsburgh defense for the second consecutive game were troubling.

The call against James Harrison on the opening drive was a little ticky tacky, but the others were pretty legit. Those are the kind of things that can't happen.

© Jonathan Dwyer finished with 89 yards on 13 carries, but also made a couple of mental mistakes.

Those are the things that have really frustrated the coaching staff with Dwyer. It's one thing to miss time with injuries. It's another to miss that time and not pay attention enough to know what you're supposed to do.

© Troy Aikman was making a big deal of Denver's supposed ability to establish a running game against the Steelers. But Denver had 38 yards rushing on 14 carries in the first half, a nifty 2.7 yards per carry average.

That, folks, is not establishing a running game.

The Steelers pulled a number of defensive starters long before Denver took out its offensive starters.

© Antonio Brown didn't help his cause to win the return job by fielding a punt inside the 5. But it's a rookie mistake that can be corrected.

He's still the best option for this team returning kicks.


Anonymous said...

I thought Dixon deserved a shot to prove himself with the first team. He got his shot, but he failed. I just wish Leftwich had looked better.

You see what Brown did all the time in the pre-season. Young guys don't know how many return opportunities they're going to get, so they try to return kicks they have no business trying to return in order to make an impression.

Bad game, but hopefully the team uses it as a wake-up call.

Greg Mercer said...

why was Moore in on Ben's failed third down attempt in the red zone? I thought Arians said Mendenhall was the next Marshall Faulk.

Anonymous said...

I for one and glad this game was played like it was, it shows the major work left for this week!

First off, I have heard of too many players on this team disgruntled with their contracts, or lack of starting, etc... this is NOT good for a run at another Super Bowl. I guess there is a me in team, huh!

Keenan Lewis isnt the answer at CB yet, he had 2 personal fouls and proved he still needs work in coverage and tackling.

Well, Dixon proved he is not the answer at QB either. i really thought he would play better than he did. That position scares me the most now.

Now, last year in short yardage, they would run stupid plays with Moore in at back, this year's play calling doesnt look any better. I guess this team hasnt learn form their own mistakes yet!! Put in all your big blocking bodies, your big backs, and play Steeler football, it might just work.

We could be in for another round of frustating play calling and games again this year!!

Anonymous said...

4th-and-1, just line up and pick up the darn yard. Geez. What do you expect, though? Heck, as long as we get four 1,000 yard receivers, who cares?

Timmons looked really good last night. 1st team OL I agree, looked improved for the most part.

The personal foul stuff is just ridiculous, inexcusable.

Dixon is not an NFL QB. I'd rather have him behind Batch until Batch's arm spontaneously explodes or whatever his next injury is.

adamg said...

I'll put the pick 6 Dixon threw on Sanders. He just stood there waiting for the ball to drop into his hands instead of going for it like the CB did. I don't think a vet WR lets that happen. Then he ran the wrong route on the INT Batch threw.

Pouncey definitely held his own. Hartwig played like he didn't even care. Disturbing. Tony Hills played well again. Overall, felt the first OL pass protected and run blocked well.

Arians reverted to form
with all the pass plays. Sending Dixon on the boot on 4th and 1 when everyone knew it was coming was a fine call.

Thought the roughing call on Timmons was kind of cheezy as was the first call on Lewis. I'm thinking the refs are using the preseason to set a tone of what kind of hits on qbs are acceptable.

I think the mind games Tomlin played with the young guys backfired. They looked tight and as if they were trying to do it all themselves instead of playing relaxed and letting their talent come out.

Anonymous said...

Yeah Tomlin really screwed up Pouncey's mind.

adamg said...

Pouncey won his job 3 weeks ago against Detroit. He seems to be a different kind of rookie animal and unfazed by anything. But, who knows how he'd have played if the coach had told him this was his make-or-break game
or played "I've got a secret" about who the starting center was like he has with the qbs.

keevin said...

my thoughts:

Arians is a horrible coach and so predictable. We would be much better off with someone else

Anonymous said...

Sorry Dale, I didn't see Leftwich do anything that says he's a better option either.
That pick Dixon threw in the endzone was a horrible decision and a horrible throw. He's not the first QB I've ever seen though to make the same kind of bad decision or the same kind of horrible throw, including Ben. The pick six I say was at least 50/50 Dixon/Sanders.
The 4th and 1 was a stupid call made by Arians.
As a matter of fact the entire team with a few exceptions looked bad last night.
But watching Dixon and Leftwich last night I wouldn't say one did anything better of worse to show they won the job. If I was basing it on the QB play on last night's game alone, I'd say Batch won it.
I'd still not be comfortable though predicting who the coaching staff chooses as the starter.

adamg said...

The pick 6 Dixon threw was on Sanders. He waited for the ball instead of coming back for it. He did the same thing earlier on a ball that was almost intercepted. I'll give Sanders the benefit of the doubt because he was playing a new position and maybe was thinking too much out there about what to do instead of just doing it.

On the end zone INT, Speath was open at the back corner. If Dixon lofts the ball, either Spaeth catches it or no one does.

Anonymous said...

When Dixon is in and plays well in the second half everyone writes...ya he played well because he was playing with the backups...when Lefty is in and plays like garbage in the second half its "but he was playing with an offensive line made up of reserves."

Anonymous said...

With all due respect to Mr. Lolley, I don't see how Leftwich is a better option at QB. Dixon made one poor decision, it happens. He also led the team down the field into the red zone on three possessions. Leftwich hasn't led this team into the red zone three times in all three preseason games combined!

I want what's best for this team for the first four games, and, to me, the uneducated fan, Dennis Dixon gives this team the best chance to score points consistently.

danpio1217 said...

Complaining about Bruce Arians is soooo 2008. Seriously, quit calling for his head every time a play doesn't work. Yes, he makes some terrible play calls, but get someone else worse and you'd all be talking about how much you miss good 'ol BA (sound familiar? you all used to complain about Colon and now that he's gone he was "one of the best RT's in the league).

Bottom line, it's still preseason, chill out. You can't reasonably get your panties in a bunch at least until week 7-8 when Ben is back and loosened up. If we're 4-4 or better at that time, I say that's a win for us.

marc said...

pouncey earned the starting job last night and hartwig earned second team last night.

essex had a big time olay on that sack. boy that was pitiful. the o-line seems to be run blocking better than last year. i still question pass protection though.

maybe it's me, but timmons seems to be stuffing the run better than before. he's looking really good.

i don't see why so many people like lewis. he continues to be out of position and miss tackles. he's not good enough to be a starting CB.

leftwich showed why he shouldn't be the starter. he is completely inept if there is any kind of rush at all. dixon also showed why he shouldn't be the starter. he short-armed several balls and made poor decisions. the pick six was not solely his fault, but still a bad decision.

nice call on 4th and 1 arians...true to form.

Dan said...

Dixon is inexperienced and you have a shortened playbook with him in there..I said it all along.

Anonymous said...

I don't know too many fans clamouring for Dixon to be given the starting job. I think most just wanted him to have a real chance of earning it. Last night he got that chance, and failed. So it goes. Good to know,and better to know than not.

Like playing youth at the end of a losing season to find out what you have, rather than sticking with vets who won't be on the team the next year out of some silly duty to the fans, then making FA and draft moves because you don't have a clue if the answer is already on the roster.

I have no problem with Tomlin giving Dixon a real and hard look last night. Good to know where he stands at this point in time. Obviously has more upside than Leftwich, but to date, considerably more downside too. I don't think Leftwich will win them any games, but I don't think he'll lose them any either. If the D and STs had played much better last season, all this would've been a no-brainer giving the reigns to Leftwich to caretake the O. But going with Leftwich adds more burden on a D and ST to help win them some games. As shakey as they were last year that's a tall order, and why I think it was important to give Dixon a hard look, since he has potential for high production and to win some games. But now we know that potential to lose them some games is still there. Glad to know.

With Leftwich, I don't think he'll lose them any. But the D and ST will have to help win them some. And that's a scarey thought, particularly with STs.

Anonymous said...

Um, what makes you think Brown is teh best option for returning kicks?

Logan posted the highest return avg. numbers in decades last season...Logan is overlooked to easily, and if we want a good returner, we need to keep him somehow.

Patrick said...

Thank god its preseason. But that was the most pathetic preseason showing I think ever saw. Go team Tomlin.

Dale, any comments on Keenan "I'm too immature for the NFL" Lewis? I know keeeeeeevin had a monster hard on for him, but all Lewis showed last night was that he is isn't ready for the NFL yet. First he gets beat repeatedly, and responds with 2 personal fouls. Then he shatters some glass, in the opoosing team's stadium?

Besides the fact that Lewis' play was awful between the lines, last night shows he doesn't have the mental capacity yet. As a CB you're going to get beat. Grow a set, saddle up, and get ready for the next play.

My guess is he watches the opener in street clothes.

marc said...

lewis isn't the first athlete to break something in the locker room out of anger. at least it shows he cares. it doesn't appear he is ready to be a starter, but i am interested to see how he responds. often times players trying to redeem themselves can bring out the best in them.

adamg said...

I think there were some positives out of the game. The first OL gave good pass protection when they were in for both BR and Dixon. The RBs had creases to run through and the OL seemed to seal off the corners for the backs to bounce outside.
Mendenhall and Redman both ran well. (Dwyer, too, once he got warmed up.) I like it that Arians isn't afraid to put both in the backfield at the same time and to call either one's number making the defense have to account for both backs.

I would attribute some of the problems in the pass game to Sanders being asked to play a new (to him) pro position and was probably thinking instead of playing instinctually.

Smith, Hampton and Keisel look ready for a great season. I'm still a little concerned about the 2nd DL, though.

Overall, it's just preseason, no need to get overly excited.

Patrick said...

I'm all for some passion. But that is just dumb. If he cut his hand, he's easily released. What has Lewis done to get any kind of pass?

I'm curious how Lewis responds, but I'm more interested in how Tomlin responds. If Mendenhall is benched for a game for blowing his quiz, Lewis should get something as well. He needs a serious kick in the ass.

keevin said...

Lewis did have a bad night but he stays ahead of Gay on the depth chart as our 3rd corner most likely.

keevin said...

and atleast Lewis isn't afraid to hit something unlike that pussy Gay. Anyone see Denver's TD run where Gay had a clean shot at the RB and just stood there? Gay sucks

adamg said...

marc, I agree about Lewis. I watched the sideline discussion Tomlin had with Lewis and Tomlin really didn't go crazy on him.
(I remember a game in Miami where Noll grabbed Bradshaw by the facemask and screamed at him.)

I recently re-read "Paper Lion" and remember a passage where Plimpton wrote that if the coaches aren't yelling at you when you make a mistake, it's a sign you're not long for the team.

WestGa Steel said...

"and atleast Lewis isn't afraid to hit something"

Yeah after the whistle, out of bounds and glass in the locker room. Real big contributor. It was bad enough that he got smoked on those plays giving up the yards from the play. Then he gives 30 more total for immaturity.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad someone pointed out Aikman talking about the Broncos 'establishing a running game'. All night he kept yammering about that and all night they were getting nowhere with the exception of two runs.

Dale Lolley said...

For the first four games of the season, this team needs a caretaker at QB, not somebody who is going to lose the game.

It needs somebody who is not going to turn the ball over, manage the game and let the defense set some things up. The defense is going to be pretty good.

That guy is Leftwich, period.

Again, Dixon may have more upside, but you don't want the mistakes a young QB is going to make that give an opponent excellent field position or, even worse, an easy score.

The plan all along has been to lean on the running game, which it appears they'll be able to do, and the defense to keep them in games.

As for going 0-4 with Leftwich at QB, there's no way. Tampa Bay is on the schedule in Week 3. Even down there, the Steelers should tear young Josh Freeman apart.

Take a look at Baltimore and Cinci's first four games as well. The entire division could be at 1-3 or 0-4 after the first month. None of these teams are jumping out of the gate at 4-0 or 3-1.

Anonymous said...

This D was the league's oldest last year. They're a year older. They were near last in turnovers forced and 3rd Ds. They were 45 minute men. And they haven't looked all that great this year in 15-20 minutes of action per game. Banking on this D 'setting things up' just because Troy and Aaron are back is wishful thinking. It's silly to bank on leaning on the D to carry them and just asking O not to screw it up.

And STs cost them big last year. More wishful thinking assuming they'll help to. To have a caretaker cranking out 13pts per game and not putting the D in a bind with turnovers is not a winning edge. This O with a caretaker needs the D and STs to provide that winning edge. I've seen no harbingers of that. Last year Ben was the best in the league at overcoming negative plays. This OL provides a lot of opportunities to overcome negative plays. I don't think Leftwich has got it like that.

This team's best chances is with a QB who can provide a winning edge by being productive, making big plays, keep the chains moving, and not screw them with turnovers. That's why they needed to take a hard look at Dixon. Because he was their best hope of providing that. And I'm guessing that's why Tomlin gave him the most prime real estate of preseason.

I was hoping to see a guy with a firm grasp/command of the offense, who could make things happen and not turn it over. Unfortunately, he failed. And in a way that I think he played himself out of any hope of a specially designed package for him. Too bad, but there it is. Now they have to turn their sights to that caretaker and hope the D and STs can create the difference. But I don't blame Tomlin for wanting to find out about Dixon. They had to find out, because he provides the most potential. Now they know for sure, at this point in time, he also provides the most downside. So it goes.

Anonymous said...

When I hear "caretaker" I think "3 and out." Maybe the D sets up the O in the red zone or gets a return TD, maybe the O hits on one big play or mounts one good drive, but the Steelers can't expect to put 13 points on the board and win any games.

Dale Lolley said...

There's not a team out there that can count on 13 to win a game every week.

They need Leftwich to get them 17 to 20 every week and they'll have a good chance to win.

This defense is much, much deeper than the one from a year ago. If you don't see that, then there's no help for you. That defense had the likes of Tyrone Carter and Andre Frazier serving as key backups.

Anonymous said...

What exactly has Leftwich shown that says he can provide 17 or 20? What evidence is there that he won't lose games?
I'm not saying Dixon should start, but I don't have anywhere near the confidence in Leftwich you seem to have.
If Charlie could stay healthy I'd have a lot more confidence in him "not losing" the game then I would Leftwich.

Dale Lolley said...

Ah, I watch a lot of practice. I also watch and re-watch the games.
As I said, I would have more faith in Batch as well, but they know he can't stay healthy.

marc said...

as devil's advocate, who cares if batch can't stay healthy. play him anyway and see how long he lasts.

and, while this may be a little off the wall, what's wrong with having a package with leftwich under center and mendy and dixon split in the backfield.

Anonymous said...

Keenan Lewis was supposedly challenging B-Mac for the starting LCB job, but now Gerry Dulac is reporting he might get cut? What the heck is Tomlin up to?

Dale Lolley said...

I'm sure the coaching staff is trying to light a fire under the young man after a bad game. He's not getting cut.

Anonymous said...

So the Steelers are now using the Post-Gazette to light fires under players? This is the second time it's happened, the first being when Bouchette reported that Antonio Brown might get cut. Real journalistic integrity there.

Anonymous said...

Keenan Lewis was never challenging BMac's starting spot, and he's not getting cut. Quit making up dumb crap u idiots

Patrick said...

he shouldn't get cut, but he shouldn't dress for a regular season game after completely losing his head.

Just can't have that in this secondary, killed them last year.

keevin said...

LOL Patrick, you're such a tool. All of preseason, Lewis has been 3rd on the depth chart at corner and I dont see that changing because of a couple of plays. Let's see how he responds on Thursday.

The Steelers typically dress 7 DB's on gameday I believe. Polamalu, Clark, Taylor, McFadden are the starters then you figure Allen will definitely dress. Along with 2 corners, most likely Lewis and Gay. Although I wouldn't be surprised if they started leaning towards Burnett over Gay. Unless Lewis has another 'meltdown' he will be dressing most games and getting significant playing time

marc said...

keevin, i hope the only playing time lewis gets is in ST's. he's not ready to be a contributor on defense.

Dale Lolley said...

It has nothing to do with journalistic integrity. They don't go to these guys and say, "Hey, report this so I can light a fire under this guy."

They tell them something and they report it. It happens all the time, otherwise, there would never be anything reported except cliches.

Hell, Tomlin did the same thing at his press conference, calling the young man out.

Greg Mercer said...


Why do you think Dixon got such a long look on Sunday if the team was already leaning toward Leftwich?

On SCI, Jim Wexell couldn't believe Dixon started the second half, and neither could I.

thanks for the great work you do.

Dale Lolley said...

Tomlin said Monday that he wanted to give Dixon a shot at leading the team coming out of the locker room.

Honestly, I don't know. I think he's really bungling this thing. He seems to be flying by the seat of his pants on this rather than making a decision and sticking with it.

If it works, he'll be a genuis. If it doesn't, he'll be crucified.

Dale Lolley said...

genius, I should say.

And I'll have a column in Wednesday's OR giving my thoughts on the whole thing.

Greg Mercer said...

great! can't wait to read the column.

i was a huge Tomlin backer his first two years. Last year after the "unleash hell" comment, I started to have my doubts. Granted, Ben's suspension has put him into a bad spot, but it seems that his failure to name a starter has only made things worse.

do you think his indecisiveness (whether it is intentional or genuine) has had a negative impact on the offense? when he was interviewed during the Broncos game, Ward acted like he had no idea who'd be lining up under center on opening day. And he didn't seemed to thrilled about it either.

marc said...

tomlin has botched the whole QB situation. if he wanted to give #7 playing time, it should have been no more than 1 series with the #1's. lefty or dixon with #1's then the other plays rest of the game. this gives plenty of playing time to both QB's that will ACTUALLY BE PLAYING the first month of the season. not to mention a basis for evaluation.

instead, tomlin's philosophy has been let's play a suspended QB the majority of the time with the #1's and the other 2 QB's who will actually be needed to fill in the rest.

marc said...

yeah, and ward also said that was the first time he had worked with dixon. how can that be!!??

keevin said...

good points marc

also, why the hell didn't we just sign Bulger in the offseason? he's a pittsburgh native and much better than Leftwich. Could have signed Bulger to a 2-3 year deal

Dale Lolley said...

Look at Bulger's recent history and you'll see two things:
A. He's not what he used to be.

B. He's got a lengthy injury history.

Now, A may have something to do with the receivers he's been playing with - though the Rams had one of the best running backs in the league, which should have made throwing the ball a little easier.

B, however, there isn't a lot you can do about.

Patrick said...

Tomlin bashing? I thought he was some messiah figure who no one could blame.