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Monday, September 13, 2010

Post-Atlanta thoughts

Kudos to the Steelers for a big, big win. There’s no reason now that they shouldn’t go at least 2-2 with Ben Roethlisberger out, which should set them up for the 10-6 season I’ve predicted.

As I’ve constantly said during training camp and the preseason, people saying the Steelers hadn’t done anything to improve themselves weren’t looking at the big picture. Getting Troy Polamalu and Aaron Smith back healthy was huge.

It also appears as if Lawrence Timmons is ready to join the team’s other three starting linebackers with a Pro Bowl trip this season.

I know it’s only one game and certainly things can fall apart - as we saw last season.

But the defense is playing with a big chip on its shoulder after faltering last season. They’ve got something to prove.

© I could say the same thing about Hines Ward. I questioned how much he had left in the tank after he had a quiet training camp and preseason.

But he stepped up in a big way against the Falcons.

© One of the unsung heroes in this game was punter Daniel Sepulveda.

Five punts with a 46.8-yard net – NET – is a pretty good day at the office.

This was a battle of field position. And while Atlanta punter Michael Koenen had a strong day as well - pinning the Steelers inside their own 20 four times – it was his 37-yard punt in overtime that only made it to midfield that was the special teams mistake of the game.

© Mike Tomlin said after the game that had the Steelers won the coin flip to start overtime, he would have taken the ball.

I think that would have been a mistake. The way the Steelers were playing defense, I’d rather have the game in their hands than in those of Dennis Dixon with a long field.

© Early word is that Tony Hills will replace Max Starks at left tackle next week at Tennessee. Hills made great strides during the preseason, but I’m not sure he’s ready for that just yet.

Jonathan Scott, who was OK filling in there Sunday after Starks went down with an ankle injury, could also be in the mix.

A better move might be to move Trai Essex from right guard to left tackle and start Ramon Foster at right guard. But they won’t want to tear up the whole offensive line.

© Imagine this if you will. If the Jets beat the Ravens at home Monday night, the Steelers will be alone in first place in the AFC North after Week 1.

© This from Atlanta linebacker Sean Weatherspoon describing the Steelers offensive line: Mammoth offensive line. Big guys up front. They do a good job firing off the ball - pretty athletic guys, and they have a quarterback who can run around.”

I’ve been saying that this is the biggest offensive line in Steelers history. They used that to their advantage Sunday.

It’s going to be a problem, especially for 4-3 teams, who are going to be giving up a lot of weight on the ends.

© I overestimated how good Matt Ryan was when I made my pick of the Falcons to win this game.

Ryan’s passes don’t have a lot of zip on them and his outs take forever to get to the sideline. Without a running game to help him, he was pretty toothless.

He was also way to dependent on one receiver. Roddy White was targeted 23 times in this game for 13 receptions.

I’ve been covering the NFL for 18 years and can’t recall seeing so many passes intended for one receiver. That made the Falcons very predictable.


Patrick said...

I really liked this game. I thought to myself before OT, that even if the Steelers lost, it would be hard to be dissappointed. The effort was there and the mistakes were few.

I've been most critical of Tomlin and staff, but I thought they put a focused team on the field with a good gameplan. Call it conservative, but Dixon was throwing at the wrong jerseys all day. Really wasn't a fan of the FG attempt before the half, but there are arguments both ways on that.

I'm also not blaming the coaches here, but their comments in the preseason about taking off too much and missing open WR's seems to have gotten into Dixon's head. He didn't seem to be playing naturally and I think thats a bad thing for a QB like him.

Hate to say I told you so, but I said well before that Lewis wouldn't be dressed this week.

Anonymous said...

"A better move might be to move Trai Essex from right guard to left tackle and start Ramon Foster at right guard. But they won’t want to tear up the whole offensive"

I'd prefer this. I like what hills did this offseason, but imo foster is good enough to be a starter. Hills could need more time. But I'll be happy with whatever they choose

Matt ryan really has to look for other receivers other than white. Douglas is a pretty good young guy, and gonzalez speaks for himself. But whatever, their problem

PTownSteelTown said...

I thought the way Vick played in the Philly game was how we wanted Dixon to play. Dixon made me nervous when he threw the ball, hopefully review of the tape and another week of practice helps him play a little more natural.

Anonymous said...


Any update on Starks or Hampton?

Dale Lolley said...

Hampton didn't look bad. But obviously, there's a lot of hamstring there.

Doesn't look for for Starks, but he's a tough guy. My best guess at this point is that they both sit this week and Hampton returns against Tampa or Baltimore.
I wouldn't expect Starks to play possibly until after the bye. But like I said, he's a tough guy. He's played through some pretty bad injuries in the past.

Anonymous said...

Hidden vigorish my ass.

Anonymous said...

I like the Essex to left tackle, Foster to right guard move.

I hated the 55-yard FG attempt. Just punt and go in up 3-0.

I'd still prefer Batch vs. Tenn. I'm boring.

Electing not to receive in sudden death OT, I am just fundamentally against this, even if Flozell was playing QB.

adamg said...

What a difference a coach makes. Sean Kugler should've gotten a game ball for the way the OL played. I think there was only 1p re-snap penalty on the OL the entire game. It didn't appear there were any blown assignments, which is probably a big credit to Pouncey, too. They were opening holes for the run game all day. It was only a matter of time before a run like Mendenhall's OT winner happened.

Saw Leftwich throwing during the warm ups. Looked like he only had his knee wrapped, not braced. I won't be surprised if he suits up vs Tenn.

Not sure what the Steelers will do if Hampton can't play. I don't think they want to try and stop Chris Johnson with just 5 DL to rotate.

Oh, and the field was just terrible. It's embarrassing that million dollar athletes
play on a surface the quality of a high school practice field, if that.

Anonymous said...

What are you talking about? The field was fine. I much prefer our real grass field to that plastic fake turf that so many teams play on.

Every team that plays in a dome or on turf just seems to be taking something away from the game. Football should be a tough sport puncutated by character and dirty jersies.

Anonymous said...

field would be a lot better if they didnt let the scub Pitt panthers play on it

Anonymous said...

Dixon was very nervous and it showed in the first half, but he did get better as the game went on. IMO he just needs more confidence in himself that he can make throws and using his talent instead of thinking and guiding his throws.

Of course he missed reads, people seem to think just because he's been on the team he should be able to read defenses like a seasoned veteran. Game reps is how to learn to read defenses, not holding a clipboard.

I have never questioned the coaching staff, but if they pull him down and insert Batch or Lefty at this point, I will have to question them. They will totally destroy this kids confidence and might as well cut him now. I don't think Tomlin is stupid, so I don't see that happening at all.

This team regardless of QB is going to miss Santonio, Wallace has speed, but he's not getting open like Holmes and Randle El certainly is not Holmes.

adamg said...

You missed seeing the grounds crew out at halftime scurrying around trying to replace all the divots in the field. Or Sepulveda having to do yardwork on the 40 yd FG Reed missed at the end of the game.

It is the first game of the regular season and the field is already nearly threadbare. I want to see pro athletes play on a surface that allows them to play to their best ability, not be worried about slipping and falling in a patch of dry dirt.

If only the Steelers played there, maybe grass would be okay. But with Pitt, concerts and other activities, Heinz Field need an artificial surface.

marc said...

i didn't get to see much of the game until the 4th quarter. but the o-line looked angry and johnson seemed to make some real good blocks.

i hope big snack is ok. on the radio they said he was refusing treatment on the sideline he was so upset.

datruth4life said...

Dale, I think inserting Hills into the LT spot would cause the least amount of upheavel on the OL. I say give the kid a shot to see if he can do it. If he can't, you still have J. Scott active and you have an option of having R. Foster active too since Big Snack will not be playing. However, if T. Hills can do it, you could have a starting LT for the future.

Special teams was a real asset against the Falcons. I was a little disappointed that A. Brown was the prime returner active for the game, but Sanders did a good job yesterday on special teams making a couple of tackles. And if Tomlin wants to feel better by having Randle-El return punts, then fine.

If this D is back and the special teams play like it did yesterday, then this team will be in a lot of games and have a lot of chances for victory. I hope that Arians will keep the run ratio as it was yesterday, 32 runs to 26 passes, I think. Impressive win with our 3rd string QB. Hopefully, next time Dennis Dixon will just turn it loose and play football instead of thinking so much.

datruth4life said...

I meant to say that I was disappointed that A. Brown "wasn't" the prime returner. I think he is the best and most natural on the roster at doing that. I also think that Randle-El and M. Moore aren't legitimate threats house anything on returns.

Greg Mercer said...

Do you all think Adams is better than Colon? Like Dale has said previously, Flozell has problems with speed rushers, but they don't call him the hotel for nothing. when he gets his hands on you, you're done. i think he is a huge upgrade over Colon in the run game.

i also feel he is craftier than Colon. I wasn't a Willie hater, but I never thought he was our best lineman. I think Starks is a much better LT than Willie was a RT.

adamg said...

The Steelers did not offer Colon a contract extension before he was hurt. IMHO, Colon isn't in the team's future plans. I do think Kugler would have made Colon a better player had Colon not been injured.

Anonymous said...

Greg - Flozell is not a big upgrade over Colon in the run game. Colon is only good at running blocking

Greg Mercer said...

agree that Kugler has been a huge upgrade. i don't think that every coach needs to be an in-your-face, rah rah guy, but i do think the OL coach needs these characteristics.

Dale Lolley said...

I like Adams better in the run game. I think he has a real nasty streak to him that I like. Not that Colon didn't as well.

Greg Mercer said...

Adams is just so big. I can't imagine there are many DE's who can hold the point of attack against him.