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Thursday, October 06, 2011

A week of new faces

The Steelers had another laundry list of guys missing in practice again Thursday and it's looking likely they'll have more than just a few new starters in the lineup this week.

For the fifth time in five games, you'll be looking at a new starting offensive line.

After splitting snaps 50-50 at left tackle Wednesday, Max Starks took even more snaps than Jonathan Scott at left tackle Thursday and looks like he could be in line to start there against Tennessee.

Starks has looked good in practice.

Chris Kemoeatu missed another practice Thursday with a knee problem and it appears that Doug Legursky will move over to start at left guard, leaving Ramon Foster at right guard. You'll remember that Foster started at left guard for Kemoeatu in Week 2, so it appears that Foster is going to stick at right guard for a while.

Brett Keisel should be back, so Ziggy Hood will start in place of Aaron Smith.

Casey Hampton also sat out again with a sore shoulder, but I'd expect him to play.

Rashard Mendenhall and Mewelde Moore were also out again. The Steelers are hopeful that Mendenhall should at least be able to give them limited carries - possibly as the backup to Isaac Redman. But it appears Redman will make his first career start.

And finally, we already know about Lawrence Timmons starting at outside linebacker, with Larry Foote getting the nod inside at the mack position.


Anonymous said...

Someone remind me, had Ziggy played RE before last week? He didn't look as good there as when he comes to sub in or as last year replacing Smith at left end.

Hopefully it was a matter of not being comfortable at the right side and he plays much better where he dominated almost a complete season last year

Dale Lolley said...

Matchups, matchups, matchups. Football is all about the individual matchups.

Anonymous said...

Older players are bound to get hurt alot more often. That's the chance we took...

Anonymous said...

Why even play Mendenhall at all? Give Redman and Dwyer the load. Stupid Tomlin is going to run Mendenhall into the ground

Who has Starks looked good blocking in practice? Timmons? or whoever the 3rd string OLB is?

marc said...

it would be kinda hard for starks to NOT look better than j. scott, don't you think?

i agree, sit mendy, let him heal and watch from the sidelines. that seems to help motiviate guys sometimes.

dale, you are exactly correct about the matchups. so tell me, when freeney is treating j. scott like the kitchen door why do the coaches wait until the 4th quarter to make an adjustment and get better "matchups"?

or, when the o-line is having trouble run blocking the local high school team do the coaches refuse to adjust the formations and bring in a fullback? and, i don't want to hear "there is no fullback in my offense" crap. the bears inserted a full back last week, he blocked on 23 of the 25 rushes by forte, and they racked up over 200 yards on the ground. by the way, that was mike martz's offense, who i assume arians prays too every night before bed.

Anonymous said...

Steelers offense is averaging less than 15 points per game..... yet the defense is getting the most bad press.

The defense is held to a much higher standard than the pathetic offense...who has turned over the ball how many times this year?

kelly said...

Well said marc... Well said. If there was an applauding icon, I would insert it here.

marc said...

interesting notes...

the steelers defense has not surrendered any points in the 3rd quarter since week 1.

the steelers offense has scored 1 TD in the last 7 quarters...ouch.

titans have only scored 1 time in the first quarter so far this season.

titans defense has yet to hold teams scoreless for 2 consecutive quarters this season.

steelers offense has been held scoreless for 2 consecutive quarters in 3 of the first 4 games.

Dale Lolley said...

Let me ask you this - was Scott having trouble in the first quarter blocking Freeney when the Steelers went up 10-0?

It wasn't until he drew a holding call in the second quarter that things started to go downhill. And again, not all the issues were solely on his shoulders.

As for this fullback stuff, did you watch last week's game? David Johnson was blowing people up as a lead blocker in the third quarter.

marc said...

that's right, because scott was holding freeney in the beginning of the game and the ref finally called it. i go nuts every time harrison is held and freeney was getting mauled by scott just as badly. but after the holding call, all bets were off and scott might as well laid out the red carpet.

regarding johnson as a lead blocker - great - they made a concerted effort for a quarter and a half. good for them. now if he was just consistent at it. better yet, maybe have a "real" fullback on the team whose sole purpose in life is to open up holes for the RB? i go with the latter, but that's just me.

it just amazes me. all this talk about a passing league and the steelers high potent offense. blah, blah, blah.

you can't be a passing team, or pass friendly team if you can't do what is most important - PROTECT THE QB!! which, obviously, they can't. therefore, if you can't protect the QB you better be able to run the ball. however, if you don't make a determined effort to run the ball you have a hodge podge offense with fits and starts, crazy playground plays, no plan, and you place an inordinate amount of pressure on the defense.

oh wait, that's the steelers in a nutshell.

adamg said...

I can give you 102M reasons the Steelers have the offense they do. Because that's what their qb wants and no one has the brass to reign him in.

Tim said...

Okay Dale, in your defense of Jonathan Scott, you asked if Scott was having trouble with Freeney in the first quarter, when the Steelers went up 10-0. Here is the answer:

There were 17 offensive plays run by the Steelers in the first quarter against the Colts. In 10 of those plays, Freeney was on the field.

-In 5 of the 10 plays, I graded a "No Play", meaning the play was either run so far from Freeney and Scott, or Ben released the ball so quickly that neither one of them even had time to win the battle. Or, the player against Scott does not truly rush at all, but rather stands a few feet away from him and spies the QB. Those are meaningless. They aren't draws, they're nothing at all. That leaves 5 plays remaining.

-In 2 of those remaining plays, Scott was double teaming Freeney with another lineman. One was with Legursky, and they did a fine job. The other was with Kemoeatu, and although they blocked Freeney, it appeared obvious to me that Scott was responsible for the blitzing LB and did not pick him up. However, I am not psychic, and it is possible that David Johnson was responsible.

-That leaves 3 Scott vs. Freeney plays left. On one of them, he did a decent job run blocking, but honestly I almost graded it a No Play because it was run up the middle and Freeney jumped outside and made it easy for him. But I'm not trying to screw the guy here. He needs every point he can get... On another, he did not attempt to block Freeney, and Freeney easily tackled Mendenhall in the backfield. It appears as though the design of the play may have called for Freeney to be unblocked, so I won't blame him for that and again give him the benefit of the doubt... On the remaining play, Scott successfully blocked Freeney one on one in a pass rush. Gold star for him.

It was on THAT play that they showed a replay of the matchup, and Cris Collinsworth announced how well Scott was handling Freeney.

In the plays without Freeney (7), he managed 4 No Plays, 1 decent block on a CB, one missed block on a linebacker, and one successful pass block.

Final stats:

-2 successful solo pass blocks (one vs. Freeney -- same amount as Heath Miller)
-1 missed run block
-1 likely missed blitz pickup
-Lots of help via offensive scheme AND double teams, and very little challenge from defense


So, a couple positive plays, a couple negative, and a whole lot of muddy waters in between. Not the end of the world, I agree. But let's not lose sight of context here. This is supposed to be an example of his best work? Of why he's not so bad? Of why we're overreacting? Because he can play like THIS? Because it wasn't until the 2nd quarter that he gave up sacks and fumbles and penalties? You admit yourself it was all downhill after that. The man is NOT starting OL material. I don't hate him personally, and I'm sure he really is trying his best (when he's not out recovering fumbles). I do not blame him. But he is not good enough. He is not good. And while fans are wrong about a lot of stuff, and usually too stupid to articulate anything at all, they are right about some things. It was nothing short of foolish to expect that man to be our starting left tackle.

Tim said...


Now, I don't want to say you've lost all credibility, but do you really want to start something about David Johnson's lead blocking abilities? I've got the Houston game taped too. I'm sure I'll find a couple good blocks in that third quarter, and that will absolutely make up for the 15 quarters in which he proved himself incapable. 16, if you want to go back just a few minutes into last season. And many more if you want to go back further into last season. But oh, we can't have a fullback because they're not versitile enough and they telegraph plays. Unlike David Johnson, who is a big threat down the seam and out of the backfield and taking handoffs. I guess the fans are wrong again. Tim Lester, Jon Witman, Dan Kreider -- Carey Davis, David Johnson. It would be a waste of a roster spot to have an actual blocker in the backfield, wouldn't it? We need that for the guy who can fill in at the spot in a pinch, but also excel in other areas, such as inline blocking, receiving, and kick coverage. That's Johnson all over... Being contrary for fun is unbecoming on everyone, Dale. You should go hang out with Skip Bayless.

Dale Lolley said...

Oh, well if you graded him that way, Tim, it must be correct. You know exactly what each offensive lineman's responsibilities are on each play? I don't. Few do, who aren't in the organization.

No offense, but I have no idea what your credentials are. I'll trust Craig Wolfley, who told me Scott was holding his own until the holding penalty.

Dale Lolley said...

And, I might add, that Wolf is not great fan of Scott.

Tim said...

You're choosing who to listen to between me and Craig Wolfey? Maybe that's the problem. You said Scott was doing fine, but you were using someone else's opinion. You're wrong no matter who you trust, because then it's not you. Well, you might not be wrong if your source is correct, but either way your word will be worthless. I won't say Scott played badly in that quarter, but he was mostly unchallenged and received help. He had two quite successful plays, but that's not saying much for a guy who plays a position in which five successful plays for every one failure is unacceptable and dangerous. He's not a QB, where 75% is good.

Watch the game. The Short Cuts are great for saving DVR space. Linemen are especially easy to grade, since you can actually see them for the entire play. I don't make so many claims about DBs, because they're rarely visible.

I'm just a big Steelers fan who enjoys scouting NFL players -- especially Steelers -- and is able to evaluate everyone with what I'm pretty sure is a fair set of eyes. But I don't say anything I can't back up with tape, and I don't consider one quarter of mediocre (or even good!) play enough to offset a career's worth of subpar play.

Dale Lolley said...

As I said, I don't pretend to know what the assignments were on any given play. Nor do I care. I ask people who have a much better idea than me. A wise man once told me, I may not know all the answers, but I do know who to ask to get them.
I ask questions of those who are more informed about things than I am.

As for Johnson, I saw him be effective against Houston with my own eyes. Didn't ask anyone about that. The statement that was made was that the Steelers couldn't run because they didn't have a fullback. That's ridiculous. Where was Houston's true fullback last week? They didn't have one. They lined up an H-back in Casey and ran the ball.

Tim said...

My point was Johnson's blocking in the 3rd quarter of one game doesn't mean anything. It means the same as if he blocked poorly for one quarter of one game. My issue with him is that he consistently misses blocks with both bad form and mental errors (you don't need to be an OC to see when a lead blocker misses a block). That's been going on for a long time now. He also offers the bare minimum as a receiver and less than that as a runner.

He made a good block? Great. We had a 15 yard run while he was on the field? Or without a fullback at all? Great. To point to THAT as evidence for why we don't need a fullback, or for why this guy is good (enough) is oversimplifying to a silly degree. I could show you some great plays and quarters made by Jamarcus Russell. Does that mean he's an NFL quarterback? To a lesser and perhaps more parallel extent, we've all seen Chris Hoke hold down the running game (he's 16-2 as a starter!). In fact, sometimes we stop the run just fine in our nickel, with only two defensive linemen! Should we have ditched Hampton years ago? That would save us loads of cash AND a roster spot! We don't need a nose tackle since we've proven you CAN stop the run without it. That's what you're saying. We don't need a fullback, Johnson is fine. We ran the ball successfully in the third quarter of the Texans game.

As a side note, I wonder why Arians says he doesn't ever need a fullback, and then lines Johnson up as one all the time. It implies that Johnson both functions as a fullback, but can also do other things a fullback can't (catch, run). But of course, he can't. He's got a handful of catches in his career, zero carries, probably averages one YAC, and none of those catches were one any fullback couldn't make.

By the way, you don't want to watch the Indy game. I'm done now. I don't think I can talk like this anymore.

kyle said...

I don't think Dale is saying that since the steelers ran well in one quarter of one game that it means DJ is a great blocker or even that the system works well. You don't think he's saying that either. I don't mind DJ, I think he's a good lead blocker, he's a decent inline blocker though. What I would say in Dale's defense however, is that with basically the same personnel Mendenhall was a top ten rusher last season. So maybe a "dedicated" fullback isn't the panacea so many fans seem to think it is.

kyle said...

I DON'T think he's a good lead blocker, that should read.

Tim said...

I don't think Dale really believes that. No one could really be that wrong about anything in the world. But it's what he's saying. That's why I said he's being contrary for fun. Defending the indefensible.

Mendenhall is definitely one of the top 10 backs in the league. He has elite talent. But he averaged 3.9 yards per carry last season, which is pathetic for an elite talent. I don't mean to say it's all DJ's fault, or it's all because we don't have a FB. The line is weak, we know that. I agree with your assessment of Johnson. I also think he's a decent in-line blocker. But the team's position that you don't need a fullback is not only ridiculous, but completely contradicted by the team itself! It uses the FB position all the time! It only doesn't have a FB on the roster. That can only mean one of two things:

A) they think Johnson is "good enough" at lead blocking and don't want to waste a roster spot on someone who would perform what they consider to be only slightly better. Or,

B) they think Johnson is "good enough" and think he also offers more than a FB would in the rest of the offense.

I think that since he is SO marginal in the rest of his game, that option B is ridiculous. And because of that -- because he offers nothing as a receiver, and because he can block decently as an in-line blocker but certainly not better than any other TEs out there -- that A is the only option left. But wait a minute. By using Johnson as FB and "saving" a roster spot, what are you gaining? A TE that can't really run routes, or catch, or run any better than any FB out there or any other TE out there. He also offers nothing on special teams that we couldn't get from anyone else. We gain nothing in other phases of the game, but we DO sacrifice lead blocking. And my depressing opinion is, this coaching staff does not realize how steep the dropoff is from a true FB to an "H-Back" like Johnson.

With a guy like Kreider, you ELIMINATE one member of the defense. Every. Single. Time. With a guy like Johnson, that happens maybe 20% of the time. He'll do a decent job another 30%, and absolutely blow it another 40%. The other 10%, he does worse than blow it; he looks like he's going to make the block, and then completely changes his mind/whiffs at the last moment. This is worse than anything, because it leads the RB to believe a player will be blocked, and then he isn't. It completely destroys the play, and Johnson is getting very good at that.

Having Johnson out there does not fool defenses at all. It's either a run, in which case he's going to block significantly worse than a true FB would, or it's a pass, in which case he is no more threat to a defense than a FB would be, and will be covered with the same defender. It's not like he's Delaney Walker back there.

I just don't get it.

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