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Sunday, October 03, 2010

Post-Baltimore thoughts

Anybody who would have taken 3-1 coming out of the first four games, raise your hand.

OK. That's pretty much everybody.

Yes, I'm sure you don't like it that the Steelers lost to the Ravens, but it gives this team two weeks to re-focus with what Hines Ward called an angry Ben Roethlisberger coming back.

That's not a bad thing.

The Steelers will still control their own destiny this season.

And Sunday's loss should shut all the idiots up who don't think the Steelers need Roethlisberger.

© Baltimore's pass defense was a little better than I gave it credit for. The front seven makes a lot of that happen with the pressure it brings.

Still, there were things that could have been exploited.

© Rashard Mendenhall should make the Pro Bowl this season. He's running hard. He's running decisively. He's been the Steelers' entire offense - for the most part - through the first four games when everyone knew he was coming.

Mendenhall will no doubt need the next two weeks off to rest his body up for the remainder of this season.

© The Steelers have made it to their bye relatively healthy.

That's good news. Chris Hoke and Trai Essex will be back following the bye.

© Everybody wanted to talk about the first four games being the make-or-break portion of this season, but really, it's the next four games.

After playing Cleveland at home in Roethlisberger's return, the Steelers play road games at Miami, at New Orleans and at Cincinnati. That's a tough stretch for any team.

The only good thing about that is that there's no way the Steelers will take the third of those three games, at Cincinnati, lightly.

That's a big thing because history shows that NFL teams don't do well in the third game of three consecutive road games.

If the Steelers can at least split those four games, giving them a 5-3 first half, they'll be in excellent shape.

Remember, Baltimore still has to play at New England, at Atlanta and at Houston. The Ravens also have home games against the Steelers, Dolphins, Saints and Bengals. That's seven pretty tough games left on the Ravens' schedule.

© I thought Charlie Batch did a good job with his hard counts against the Ravens. Were they a factor in the two false starts late in the game?

Possibly. But if the Ravens had jumped offside on those, everyone would be saying what a great move they were.

The offense knows the snap count. There's no reason for them to jump offside.

Those two offside penalties really limited what the Steelers could do.

Look at it this way, Mendenhall had two carries for five yards that were negated by the false starts. That would have put the Steelers in a third-and-five from the 8, as opposed to third-and-10 from the 3.

They may have attempted a pass from the 8 off a three-step drop. But you don't want Batch dropping back into the end zone to pass the ball. Too many bad things can happen.

And no, I'm not taking a safety in that situation. When your defense has only given up three touchdowns - to that point - in nearly four games and a touchdown is the only thing that can beat you, you have to make the opponent score a touchdown.


marc said...

steelers are in great shape. it has taken the first four games of this season to do what they couldn't the last two seasons...find a running game.

they're run blocking well, running well and with #7 back the play action pass will become very effective.

it was disappointing to see the D struggle a bit, but really, they're not going to be perfect the entire season.

and keep in mind, they nearly beat their main divisional rival with their 4th string QB.

Anonymous said...

Easy from my bar stool, but I was screaming to throw on second down of our disastrous last offensive series. Anyway, meaningless. 3rd string QB, clock, defense is probably the right call and all the penalties made it ridiculous by the time it was 3rd-and-10.

McFadden was indescribably horrible on the winning TD pass. Gay made several nice plays at the end there.

Farrior was embarrassed, again, several times in space.

It's unrealistic to expect any defense to be totally dominant all the time the way the game is played these days. The goal line stand should have been enough (i.e., Ben's back tomorrow). Flacco played well, and Baltimore's receivers are better than our secondary (with the obvious exception).

Frustrating loss, exciting game.

Hats off to Mendenhall & Sepulveda.

Reed, McFadden, rrrr...

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Ben! Think we could have used you today? Hope you had fun watching from your man-cave.

Anonymous said...

"with what Hines Ward called an angry Ben Roethlisberger coming back."

I love it!

Dale, now that you mention mendenhall needing rest, do you think at any point on the season they will activate dwyer or simple give the ball more to redman and moore to rest rashard? Seems like he will need it

I don't want another "ridden until the wheels come off"

Dale Lolley said...

Tomlin seems to be a guy who rides his feature back almost primarily. As long as Mendenhall handles it, he'll get the majority of the carries.

We all know by now that Tomlin doesn't trust rookies. Don't expect Dwyer unless it's an emergency.

Anonymous said...

I've resigned myself to the fact that Tomlin is going to run the wheels off Mendenhall. I just hope he can help us win the Super Bowl before his body disintegrates under the stress of 400+ carries.

Dale Lolley said...

He won't get 400 carries. Now that Roethlisberger is back, they'll be a little more balanced.

datruth4life said...


What do you think about the play of Farrior so far this year? I know that Tomlin loves Farrior's leadership, but I think he has clearly lost a step and was terrible on that run where he had Willis McGahee one on one in the hole and whiffed. It'd be different if the Steelers didn't have options, but they do in Foote, Keyaron Fox, and Sylvester, who I think will give the Steelers two explosive, 3-down ILBs.

I have to tip my hat to Michael Oher and Marshall Yanda because I didn't hear too much from Deebo and L. Woodley most of the game. They did a heck of a job. I also think the Steelers probably have their best OL in the past 3 years. D. Legursky has done enough to me to keep that RG position. I was at the game and Haloti Gnata is just a beast. You will not move him anywhere that he doesn't want to go. What a great DT.

All in all, 3-1 is something that you will take but losing the way this team lost as well as the loss being to the Ravens leaves a nasty taste in my mouth. Dale, you think it is time to work Anthony Brown more into the offense? There has to be more than one WR on our team that can get deep. Maybe Ben will help with that.

Scott in Ratland said...

Can you please comment on Oher's quick first step on passing plays in this game. There were at least a half dozen times where it was clear to me that he was a little early. Was I seeing things?

If not, the guy gets a A+ in this game as his pass blocking kept Harrison off of Flacco. I'm just not sure how legal his first move was.

Scott said...

Sorry DALE.. It's early.

Anonymous said...

I don't know, yeah the OL should know the snap count, but having your back against the goal line probably isn't the best time to try and be tricky with a hard count. After all, the guys on the line are concentrating on making sure they get their assignments since blowing one could cost a safety or TD.

adamg said...

marc, I personally don't see Arians sticking with the run game the rest of the season. I think you saw how the offense will be except Batch couldn't physically execute the pass plays the way Roethlisberger will be able to do. IMHO, Arians and the team would be better off sticking with a ball-control offense, but BA is pretty much married to the pass happy, big play plan.
Nothing will change until he is replaced.

I can't really fault the defense. They stopped Balt on 4th and goal and got 2 turnovers pretty deep in Balt territory that the offense could not convert into any points and even managed to lose yards on the first one costing a FG since Reed's kick would have gone in from 5-7 yards closer. One first down from the offense and the game's over.

marc said...

i have never thought arians is a good fit as OC for the steelers.

this team has proved they can run the ball effectively even when the other team knows they're gonna run it. if arians goes back to his pass happy ways, then it's finally time to kick his butt to the curb.

but, we'll just have to wait and see.

adamg said...

Dale, a question on rules interpretation. IIRC, last year there was a lot of heartburn over what we football fan laymen call "face guarding" - generally meaning a DB having his back to ball and not turning around to make a play on it. Again, iirc, the DB broke up a Steeler pass in the endzone, but was facing the WR and never turned around to make a play on the ball. All the rules experts said that "face guarding" is neither a rule nor a penalty. Yet, yesterday, we see McFadden flagged for PI for doing exactly the same thing. So is this a black and white rule or isn't it? Just curious.

Vaflyer said...

One of the difficulties about watching a game on TV is not really being able to see what the secondary is doing with coverage. Dale, I would like some help here just to see if I heard things correctly.

The TV commentator said something to the effect that this is why the 2 safeties were playing so deep, because of Mike Wallace's speed. Did I hear that right? Was this accurate, were the safeties for Baltimore really playing deep? Why were we not able to exploit those intermediate routes on the field, in that gap between the LBs and the safeties? Was it the playcalling, the QB, the WRs not able to get open, what?

Darren said...

Vaflyer - There were several balls that Batch overthrew in the soft middle. Miller was open.

Batch looked to have more than enough time for the most part but he missed some open guys and generally had a poor game IMO.

He didn't lose the game though and that was basically his job. I'm thinking Ben exploits that secondary and accounts for at least 6 more points.

Speaking of which... Reed was pretty bad, not just the field goals, (it's a tough place to kick) but his kickoff after the Steelers TD was just terrible.

I can't get on McFadden for the TD play too much. He had no help and the Ravens threw out patterns all day long. He bit on the first step to the outside and that was all it took. The blitz was picked up nicely by Baltimore which is what gave Flacco time to make the throw.

With all of that, eliminate just a few of the 11 penalties and the Steelers win. Eliminate a few of the other errors (mostly mental) and they win.

It's a bitter loss but like Dale said. 3-1 is better than most people thought. They are healthy and now they get to add one of the best QB's in the game to add a top notch passing game to the now effective running game and a top-tier defense.

All teams have weaknesses, I just think the Steelers (when healthy) have a more balanced and better team than any of the other teams I've seen play this year.

3-1, the Bengals lost... It's all good.

Anonymous said...

I know Tomlin hates young players because he's afraid they'll make mistakes, but I saw an awful lot of veterans making an awful lot of mistakes yesterday. Just saying.

Dale Lolley said...

It's amazing to me how one loss suddenly means guys are struggling.
Nobody has had a problem with James Farrior, Jeff Reed or others until they lose a game to the Ravens in which they give up 17 points.
They gave up 17 POINTS!
If they don't give up more than 17 points in a game the rest of this season, they won't lose again. With Roethlisberger in the lineup, this offense doesn't score fewer than 17 the rest of this season.

I thought Oher timed his snap count well. There were a couple of times it looked like he might have gotten off early. But, it wasn't called.

As for the deep threat, Randle El got free for a 30-plus yard gain yesterday and Heath Miller was missed on another deep ball over the middle.

Yes, the Ravens did play some cover-2, but they mixed things up quite a bit. Baltimore's pass rush makes its secondary look way better than it is - though I like the way their linebackers cover. McClain can run and Ray Lewis is Ray Lewis.

There were three field goals missed yesterday. All were missed to the open end of the field. Anything over 40 yards in that direction at Heinz Field is a 50-50 proposition at best. And, on Reed's second miss, the snap was high. I don't know if that was a factor, but it couldn't help.
Reed's kickoffs have also been good all season. I'm not going to tear him up for one bad one. The defense still allowed the Ravens to drive 70 yards before stopping them.

As for Harrison and Woodley, they were getting cut a lot and the Ravens were getting the ball out quickly for the most part.

Greg Mercer said...


do you think the Steelers should have ran on the third down before Reed's second attempt, allowing the clock to run out in the quarter so Jeff would be kicking towards the closed end?

my friend does, but i think the Steelers were right to pass considering it was only 45 yards and Reed hit his first kick solidly.

marc said...

even though dale is perpetually overly optimistic regarding the steelers offense, they did score 17 points or more 12 times last year.

separately, i have an issue with the late game defense. not being critical of the players, but the coaches. follow my logic and tell me where i'm wrong (i must be wrong since i'm not an NFL coach):

1 minute left in the game and the two options are 1. pressure the QB or 2. try to cover everybody. the steelers opted to apply a small amount of pressure and then cover everybody. however, if you're gonna try to cover everybody, why not just rush 2 guys and drop 9? A FG was obviously meaningless and they weren't close to the goal line wher a run play could possibly score. why, when teams go to the "prevent" do they rush 3 or 4 players?

it just doesn't make any sense to me. my tiny little mind is struggling.

Dale Lolley said...

That would have been playing for a field goal. As Herm Edwards famously said, "You play to win the game."

If the Steelers run the ball there, everybody is complaining right now about how they played for a field goal.

The Steelers blitzed Polamalu on the final play. At the very least, he's usually very disruptive, even if he doesn't get to the QB. He forces the QB to get rid of the ball before he wants. Heap did a good job of getting over there.

adamg said...

marc, I agree with you, but then I'm not a coach either. Baltimore has been max protecting Flacco since he became a starter. I didn't count, but I guess they had 7 in to block - that's 8 guys including the QB behind the line of scrimmage. Rush 3 and the defense has every receiver double covered and 2 more players to be alert for the dump pass or run. Even if Flacco scrambles, he's probably kept in bounds and the clock keeps running.

OTOH, if Polamalu beats his man, Flacco is sacked and the game is likely over.

John#21 said...

So...did an easy week of practice play a role in our most penalized week of this young season?

Anonymous said...

Nothing like Steelers fans blaming their coaching staff for a loss. So predictable.

Anonymous said...

Dale, are you talking about the same Ben Roethlisberger who last year scored 13 vs TEN, 14 vs CHI, 12 vs CIN, and 6 vs CLE? And that was WITH Santonio Holmes.

Dale Lolley said...

No, I'm talking about the Ben Roethlisberger who threw for 4,000 yards last season. You stay smart, though.
If you don't think the Steelers offense is better with Roethlisberger at QB, there's no talking sense to you.

adamg said...

Throwing for 4,000 yards is irrelevent (except in fantasy league football) when your team loses games it should win, finishes 9-7 and sits out the playoffs.

Darren said...

You guys realize that last year the o-line couldn't block well enough to pick up 1 yard on 3rd or 4th down and was consistently blown up in the middle right? To me, besides the defensive injuries, that was probably the biggest factor in their many losses to inferior teams.

Ben is coming back to a much better offensive situation where he will not HAVE to throw as much but when he does throw, he will get better looks because teams have to respect the run game.

New O-line coach plus a much better center and right guard (?) means that Ben will have all the tools to be successful. Something he didn't have last year.

I can see that Dale realizes it. Adamg not so much.

adamg said...

Wrong. I agree the OL is better and having to rely on the running game made it better, too.

I just don't believe citing a stat like last year's total yards passing is predictive of anything or meaningful in the context of the current season.

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