Monday, November 07, 2011

Steelers-Ravens thoughts II

The Steelers locker room was as subdued Sunday night as it was after they lost the Super Bowl in February.

There were no what ifs or questioning of officials calls. There was only shock that the vaunted Pittsburgh defense had allowed Joe Flacco and the Ravens to drive 92 yards in the closing moments to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in a 23-20 win over the Steelers.

Pittsburgh's defense did a much better job of bottling up Ray Rice Sunday night, limiting him to 43 yards on 18 carries and five catches for 43 yards.

But at what cost.

While the concern about not allowing Rice to beat them as he did in a 35-7 win in Baltimore earlier this season was understandable, the Steelers, for whatever reason, couldn't seem to get off the field on third downs.

Baltimore was a ridiculous 14 of 21 on third down and converted its only fourth-down attempt.

That allowed the Ravens to run 77 plays, compared to 58 for the Steelers.

© The main culprits were the secondary.

While William Gay will get tortured because he's everybody's favorite whipping boy and he gave up the game-winning score, Ike Taylor may have been worse in this game.

If not for Torrey Smith's poor hands, it would have been Taylor, not Gay, who allowed the go-ahead score.

© If Ryan Clark had hit Hines Ward the way Ray Lewis did in the first quarter, a penalty flag would have been thrown.

That hit on Ward was clearly helmet to helmet and should have resulted in a penalty.

Clark was flagged for a hit on Smith later in the game that, while a penalty under the letter of the (new) law, wasn't nearly as vicious as the hit Lewis put on Ward.

© While we're on the subject of Ward, I apparently no longer know what constitutes a catch in the NFL.

Ward caught the ball, got hit in the head by Lewis, yet went to the ground with the ball in his possession. Once he landed, the ball was knocked loose by a defender's behind.

Ward was already flat on his back when the ball finally came loose, or at least that's the way I saw it from the replays I viewed.

© I've been a pretty harsh critic of Joe Flacco over the years. But the Steelers have seemed to bring the best out in him this season.

I still don't think Flacco is a championship-caliber quarterback. But he seems to be getting the hang of playing against the Steelers defense.

© I understand Mike Tomlin's hesitation to send Shaun Suisham onto the field to kick what would have been a 47-yard field goal into the open end of Heinz Field late in the game with the Steelers up 20-16.

With a new holder and kicking into that end, it was probably about a 50-50 proposition that Suisham would have made the kick.

But how about using a timeout? How about keeping the offense on the field and just going for it, driving a dagger into the Ravens?

Instad, Tomlin hesitated, the Steelers took a delay of game penalty and gave the ball back to the Ravens.

That said, the defense still could have come up with a stop.

55 comments:

adamg said...

Agree about what constitues a catch these days. If anything, the Ward catch was a catch and a fumble, not an incomplete pass. Sometimes I think it would be nice that if the ref saw a flagrant penalty like Lewis' helmet-to-helmet hit during the challenge replay, he could call it retroactively.

Thought Ike didn't play his best game, but that playing surface was really atrocious. I wonder how much that affected the secondary's play.

Patrick said...

how about.... knowing what you're doing BEFORE you do it.

Tomlin has not learned that yet. He doesn't think, he just does.

You have to know what you're going to do if that pass falls incomplete. If not, like Dale says, use a timeout, which as a clock management tool, were useless at that point. But don't screw around, take a delay of game and then put yourself in a situation where the only option now is punt.

Besides, that 3rd down call needed to be a run. I'm still shocked it wasn't.

I tip my hat to Baltimore, they played well. But this was the Steelers game to lose and they lost it. It's on the offense, its on the D and its definitely on the coaches.

I'm really disappointed, not in the loss, but how they lost it.

Steve-O said...

This was a really shaky game for the DBs. Our rookies held their own but they are still a season away from being ready and without Laamar Woodley in the lineup opposite Harrison the pressure couldn't quite get there at critical moments.

Given Ben's propensity to hold on to the ball for what must seem like a lifetime, I'd have to give an A+ to the O-line. On the Defensive side of the ball James Harrison was just a flat out stud. When Woodley gets back they are going to be one scary tandem.

adamg said...

The 3rd down play did need to be a hand-the-ball-off-run, but keep in mind BA considers those swing passes to the backs to be the same as runs.

The delay penalty was neither here nor there. The longest FG ever kicked at that end of the field is 50 yards by Reed only a couple years ago. Suisham was unlikely to make it. In retrospect, the best option was probably to go for it on 4th down to seal the win. The OL was moving Balt's D and you could have run something unexpected like a qb draw or boot.

Anonymous said...

Dale,

The play calling on the Steeler's drive when the had ~3 minutes left in the game, with a LEAD, was atrocious!!! First down and throw a pass to 85!! Are you kidding me!! Run the damn ball. With a Fullback I might add! So you only get a yard you burn 30-40 precious secords. Run it on second down. Same thing!

There is no way the Steelers should ever have given the ball back with so much time left. Don't you wish we could have eaten 28 seconds off!!

Ike and Gay were not the strongest but this one was on Tomlin and Arians. The Steelers better get better in the red zone offense.

Sickening

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but the pass to DJ was a good call. The Ravens were not expecting it. It was a flat-out drop by DJ which should have been completed and gone for 4-5 yards.

Anonymous said...

Probably more infuriating than the week 1 loss. I know I'm not supposed to get riled up about a bunch of millionaires playing a game but this one will have me in a funk all week. My only comfort is knowing that the Ravens will drop their first playoff game in spectacular fashion.

Anonymous said...

The first loss to the Ravens was hard to deal with, but this loss is even worse.
Last week we has a good game plan, really hard to see what last nite's game plan was. The ravens were the better team last nite, even Falco played a solid game, that sux!!

That WAS a catch by Hines. And it should have been 6-6 halftime, should have never given that FG at the half......

Anonymous said...

I had no problem with the pass on first down. The pass on third down was really bad though. The delay of game was worse. The defense should have been able to stop them, but the coaches could have really helped them out by taking more time off the clock.

TarheelFlyer said...

This game just highlights the inconsistency that BA has given this team. The offense of this game sort of reminds me of the gameplan we did against GB last year in the Super Bowl. What did we want to do?

It appears to me we wanted to pass the ball, but we had success running the ball for the most part. Yet, we didn't commit to it over the course of the game.

We didn't have a good idea of what we were going to do to kill the clock. Did we want to run the ball?

To me this is the largest problem this offense faces at any one time. What do we want to accomplish? We don't always know.

On another note, our 3rd down defense was horrible last night...HORRIBLE. That being said, we still were one or 2 plays away from winning that game. I don't see any reason why these 2 teams don't meet up again.

adamg said...

That's right DJ dropped the ball, but why even risk stopping the clock with an incompletion?

It's a shame, too, because there was a lot to like in this game. The OL was excellent in pass pro and they generally opened holes for the backs. Except for the pick, BR played smart football taking what was given. Cotchery stepped up and made the tough catches as did Brown and Miller. This despite being grabbed and held all over the field. The run defense was back to what we expect. Hampton and Kiesel were noticeable playmakers which isn't normally the case for 3-4 DL. Harrison and Foote stood out at LB.
I don't know how you cover Welker, Hernandez and Gronkowski one week and not be able to handle the likes of Pitta, Smith and Dickson. If the DBs had played half as well as they did last week, it's an easy win.

marc said...

the pass to johnson was idiotic. the whole reason you run the ball there is to force timouts by the ravens and reduce the chances of a bad play. that's not hindsight, just smart football.

same with the 3rd down play. especially considering down, distance and field position. run the ball, maybe get a few yards closer for a field goal. if you don't like the long field goal option, you still force their last timeout and then can consider going for it on fourt down if it is fourth and short. or, of course, you could punt. point is, running the ball creates a much more manageable situation for the steelers. however, arians will never learn and this was proof.

lebeau deserves criticism here too. bump and run coverage with 1 deep guy at the end of the game was poor. the steelers DB's were getting beat deep all game long. bad defensive call in my opinion.

lastly, gay does deserves all the criticism he gets. replay after replay showed him holding and grabbing constantly. maybe now it's a little more obvious why he "appears" to have been playing better.

imo, two evenly matched teams played an overall good game. in the end, coaching was the determining factor and the steeler's coaches made the most mistakes.

i like tomlin and think overall he is a good coach. but, there is a reason cowher's teams won some many games when they had the lead.

Anonymous said...

I'm having a hard time processing that Tomlin didn't just call a timeout to make up his mind. I had no problem punting there, or even taking the penalty if you're going to do so, but for him to say that is pretty amazing.

That was a total BS holding call on Ray Rice's opening run. We were lucky there.

Anyway, there's a million calls / non-calls every game. The game came down to stopping the Ravens from driving 92 yards for a touchdown with 2 minutes left.

(Also, Ben's pick was awful. Has one of those gone back for a pick-six yet? Finnegan stole one at the end of the half in the Titans game, and you see defenders trying to jump it a few times every game because they do it so much. Got to be careful with those.)

I would think 11-5 probably gets us in the playoffs, 12-4 definitely. Division would be tough, you'd have to hope the Ravens have one more Jags game left in them. Must-win in Cincy, can't go 0-3 in the division.

Anonymous said...

Ike had a bad game tonight, got worse as the game went on.

How about that Antonio Brown catch?! On a positive note.

Anonymous said...

I've got to believe that Tomlin decided on the final series that he didn't want to attempt a field goal over 42 yards. If you look at it from that perspective then some of the calls make sense.

The throw on first and 10 made sense, the throw on 3rd down was ok if you were trying to get 5-6 yards. Even the delay of game is excusable if you knew you weren't going to attempt the field goal because it gives your punter some more field to work with.

I think, in general, the Steelers were set on remaining aggressive in their playcalls (offensively and defensively), maybe to a fault.

Joe E. said...

It will be interesting to see where the Steelers go from here. Will this loss send the Steelers into a
2009 like funk? Next weeks game against the Bengals will determine the direction of this season for the Steelers.

Anonymous said...

Lost in all this was that I remember someone predicting the final score to be 20-16 Steelers. Your version of "Madden" didn't see that final 92 yard drive from the Ravens Dale? Neither did anybody's.

joe said...

tomlin had a look on his face like he had better places to be than at that game last night.

tarheel...i agree 100% about arians and his inconsistency. but i would add ben as part of that problem too. he doesn't take the check down or shorter pass enough of the time.

the hard hitting of these two teams have the guys i work with(none are steelers or ravens fans) looking forward to these two games every year. but the nfl wants all that to go away. will not be surprised to see clark suspended by the league for next week.

marc said...

it will be an interesting hunt for a wild card spot. the win over the pats may turn out to be huge for tiebreaking purposes.

it's all in the steeler's hands. win the games they should win and they will be in the playoffs. games like this can be a primer for a playoff run, or bring a team down.

i expect some very inspired play from the steelers the next several weeks.

Dale Lolley said...

It's beyond me how anyone can blame Arians for this loss when the offense put up over 400 yards and 20 points against Baltimore. Would have been more if the helmet-to-helmet on Ward and a PI in the end zone against Antonio Brown were called, and Ben doesn't throw the pick on the wide receiver screen.

The defense couldn't get off the field. The Ravens were 14 of 21 on third downs and also allowed a fourth down conversion. Pretty sure Arians had nothing to do with that.

As for Clark being suspended, that's not going to happen.

Anonymous said...

Dale,
Why did they have Redman in the backfield on that final drive?

Mendy was clearly having success running the ball for most of the game. I understand the game plan now revolves around Ben, but you have a RB with 1st round talent, who isn't even on the field for the game clinching drive. Three straight runs, even w/o producing a 1st down, would have forced Baltimore to use all of their timeouts and may have changed how they approached that final drive.

joe said...

i'm not blaming arians all by himself. but i think he is way to inconsistent. 400 yards means nothing, points do.

arians and ben inconsistent and poor play calling at the end.
tomlin clueless on the fourth down and stopping the clock with an un-needed challenge.
defense can't get off the field on third down

all that contributed. stunk to lose, but a good game to watch. now they need a win next week or the playoffs are in question

nothing goodell does would surprise me, especially suspending clark who he sees as a multiple offender. bad calls for and against, but overall refs who were to quick with the flag on ticky-tacky plays

joe said...

i forgot to put the interception in there. just a horrible play by ben. suggs read it perfectly and ben never even saw him. we had at least a field goal, then gave them seven

marc said...

arians deserves some of the blame in that loss. he did not throw the interception, he did not miss a wide open wallace down the field, he did not allow the ravens to convert on 3rd downs....but, he did make very poor play calls that effectively extended the game for the ravens. he deserves PART of the blame.

just like tomlin botched some clock managment and lebeua botched the defensive calls at the end.

like i said, the coaches were the deciding factor in this game, imo.

also, no one can complain about missed interference calls. the steeler DB's were tugging and pulling all night long. they are lucky they didn't get flagged more.

i still can't believe they went empty set on that 3rd down play - STUPID!!!!!!!!!

Mark said...

When the Steeler's defense gets torched, it is usually when the opposing QB is willing to throw the ball out there, and let his receiver get it. Unless it is Polamalu, there's little risk of an interception. And it seems like the DBs are trying to make a tackle after the reception, rather than try to prevent the completion.

That style of play helps stop yards after the catch (fewer big plays), but it doesn't help on 3rd-and-long when the receiver is already standing at 1st down distance.

Dale Lolley said...

They didn't give them seven, Joe, the Ravens went 70 yards to score a touchdown.

TarheelFlyer said...

Do I BLAME BA? No, but let's be honest here, BA is horrible in the redzone...Period. He always has been. My point earlier still stands, we didn't know what we wanted to do in this game. Our first 5 possessions, 3 trips to the Redzone, 6 points....6.

1st possession - PUNT
2nd possession - REDZONE(18), FG
3rd possession - PUNT
4th possession - REDZONE(4), FG
5th possession - REDZONE(14), INT
6th possession - REDZONE, TD
7th possession - TD
8th possession - At the opponents 34, we gave them the ball at the 8.

The defense was horrible, no doubt. How do you give up so many 3rd down conversions? It was sickening.

adamg said...

Agree there was plenty of PI going on by both teams, but the refs have to be consistent. Either call them all or don't, but don't call some at critical times and not others.

It continues to be ridiculous how Harrison is grabbing and tackled on just about every rush.

Dale Lolley said...

At what point do players bear any responsibility for red zone problems?

marc said...

imo, bubble screens, let alone any screen play, is not a good idea inside the 15 yard line. it's a short field, the defense is compressed, you don't get the spacing you would desire for the play to succeed.

look at it this way, if you are suggs and you see the formation, why not jump the passing lane? what's he got to lose? he knows he's got coverage behind him because no one is going too deep.

obviously, the players need to execute and #7 should have just chucked that one out of bounds. but, it is also the coach's responsibility to put players in a position to succeed.

for example, lining up william gay in bump in run coverage with no direct over the top help is not a good idea - in case you weren't aware.

Dale Lolley said...

Ryan Clark was supposed to be his help over the top. He was late getting over.

adamg said...

marc, that bubble screen was BR's call from the no huddle, not the coach's call. I agree the Steelers should take the bubble screen along with the sweep and toss sweep out of their playbook. They haven't run any of those plays well for over 40 years.

emilio said...

tomlin and caldwell must read
http://www.johntreed.com/FCM.html

Anonymous said...

Here's the bottom line: The Ravens imrpoved their team during the free agency period while the Steelers didn't fix their super weak cornerbacks problem. And, the Ravens exploited that fact all night. So, while Taylor & Gay sucked, there is no-one to blame but Tomlin & Mgt. for not fixing a known problem. Did they think there was going somehow going to be DIVINE INTERVENTION AND THOSE WEAK CORNERS WERE SOMEHOW MAGICALLY GOING TO GET BETTER?

Anonymous said...

Yepper, the Ravens built their team for the sole purpose to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers.

I was unsure who would win this game, but I did believe the defense would play better after the good game they had against the Patriots.
They had some good stops, but when the game was on the line, and a field goal wont tie it, they let themselves down.....

Now Cincy doesnt look like such any easy win, does it?!?!?

bruinmann77 said...

There was a few things
1 Tomlin still has not mastered the art of game time management.
2 we really need a healthy Woodley and Harrison.
3 Gay is nothing more than Nickel back.
4 The OL is starting to look good and whomever was at fault for not even giving Foster a shot at RG at the start of the season needs to explain himself.
5 Everyone who questioned if Starks can handle a quality pass rusher should have gotten there answer last night.
6 If Mendy a true #1 back then why is he not on the field on the most important drives?
7 the steelers need to find a K they have faith in
8 Go to Cinny and Win

Steve-O said...

This is a Steeler team with a lot of good young players, a few solid veterans and yes a few aging stars but they continue to improve week by week and the season is only at the midpoint. I'll take 6-3 and given the rest of their schedule this season I think there's a solid chance the Steelers will make the playoffs if they don't win the division. If they get healthy the have the ability to beat any team in the conference.

There's a lot of season left and I still believe the Steelers have what it takes to beat the Ravens in the playoffs (on the road if it comes to that).

Madelyn said...

Anyone, including this poster, can see the absolute inconsistency in play. It started out terrible (Ravens) went back and forth between bad and okay; then great against the Patriots (the Steelers I love to watch) then again up, down with the Ravens again.

What is going on? Can't blame it on the players, they have have taken the public and media abuse during the inconsistent game plans, and the physical punishment.

Maybe 'blame; is not the word to use here. Maybe just responsible is. Who is responsible for the Jack in the box changes? Who calls these plays? Who is really coaching the Steeler team?

One more thing: I think the Steeler organization owes it's fans more that the disorganized pay. Millions are spent to watch these Steeler games. Millions make millionaires for franchise owners.

Yeah. I know but something is wrong here.

marc said...

dale, that's why i blame lebeua for poor defensive calls at the end.

he decided it was better to put gay in a position he doesn't excel at and only have one guy (clark) provide over the top help when the ravens were lining up with WR's split wide to both sides. clark can't help on both sides. the players were not in a position to succeed, imo.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the defensive calls late in the game were overly aggressive. Man cover with 2 safeties deep is aggressive, but not overly so.

I'd rather they err on the side of being too aggressive on their calls. They needed to get pressure and that's what they were trying to do. That is the Steelers' strength, I'd rather play to a strength.

The fact that Tony Dungy thinks he was being overly aggressive doesn't sway my opinion. I've seen Dungy get beat way too many times by playing it safe to take his opinion on the matter.

Patrick said...

anonymous above makes very good points

(can't believe I just typed that)

joe said...

of course the players take blame also. ben's stupid interception..johnsons drop...clark not getting over. all very bad plays on the field

this offense has had plenty of weapons the last few years and is not consistent. stats are for fantasy. they haven't scored enough touchdowns for a few years. a lot of people are down on mendy, but we have not used him like we should of have since he came out of college. run out of a spread evry now and then and let him use his speed, use him to catch passes every week. he did that over and over at illinois

i realize it is the nature of the beast to get a little complacent at the top and teams like the ravens look at us and build to beat us. i think harbaugh is a douche, but he has done a good job with his team. we have plenty of talent to not take a complete beat down from them and then a loss we easily could have won

as i said, it was a good football game to watch, but harder to take a loss like that, than the utter anhillation of week 1 for me. now we are looking at the possiblity of not making the playoffs, that is unacceptable with the talent on this team

marc said...

first of all, they didn't have 2 safeties deep if i read what you wrote correctly.

secondly, let's keep trying to fit a square into a round hole. pressure, pressure, pressure...blah, blah blah. how about taking into consideration the game situation. roughly 15 seconds left on the 26 yard line with 1 timeout remaining, need a TD to win. hmmm...think they're going for the endzone or darn close to it?

wait, could we be "different" or "unpredictable?" 2 DL, 2 LB and 7 DB's (did we dress that many?)? do you think flacco could complete a pass of any substance against that? i don't.

it's a short field and there is no threat of a run. drop back and fill it with defenders.

Anonymous said...

Marc,

You are absolutely correct. With the down, distance, and time on the clock the defense should have looked at it like a Hail Mary Situation. The goal was to KEEP THEM OUT OF THE ENDZONE!!! Flood the freaking backfield with DBs.

The Steelers should never have gotten to that situation in the first place. They had the ball at the Balt. 29 yd line with 2:37 (third and 5). Right there it is a 44 yd FG. Run it again, get positive yardage and BLEED the clock. Say they set up Suisam for a 42 yarder (very doable). Tomlin has to trust a pro kicker to get a 42 or so yarder. Stupid!!

Jimbo

Anonymous said...

Ummm...yes there were 2 safeties deep. Troy took half the field and Clark took the other half. Go back and watch again.

Either way it makes no difference, the play was double covered and Clark was in the right position to make the play...he just didn't.

Blame the coaches all you want, but in the end the players have to execute.

marc said...

don't know what you were watching. clark lined up deep middle. he didn't break to his left until the ball was in the air and he was a good 2 steps late. clark was far from being in the right position.

Anonymous said...

Marc is correct. Watch Chalk Talk on Steelers.com. Tunch lays it out. Clark was late getting over because he was cheating in the middle of the field. Watch the tape. No way can that defense be described as prevent. Prevent meaning flooding the backfield and preventing a touchdown. Remember the time left on the clock. Blame Gay and Clark all you want but the coaches screwed up.
Jim

Patrick said...

does everyone remember when we used to cry all the time about the D running a prevent facing similar situations?

am I crazy or was that not the #1 complaint in 2009?

marc said...

patrick, you've got to consider the situation. you don't want prevent when the other team is starting the drive on their own 8. but when they're knocking on your door with 26 seconds left what makes it harder for them to score?

bump and run coverage on the outside or 9 guys dropping into coverage in a 26 yard piece of field?

marc said...

i'm sorry, i meant to say on the 26 yard line with roughly 15 seconds left.

Anonymous said...

marc,

I watched Chalk Talk on the Steelers.com and it turns out that I was wrong, but you are even more wrong.

The Steelers had 3 safeties in the game on the final play. Mundy, Clark, and Troy. Mundy and Clark split the field deep and Troy was playing center field.

Clark should have been deeper, but wasn't.

Not the most conservative call in the world, but not really all that aggressive.

marc said...

not sure why i'm more wrong. it's obvious in the chalk talk (i just watched) that clark wasn't deep middle, but he certainly wasn't even close to being in position. basically he was forced to play overtop 2 WR's (inside guy and outside guy).

and it still doesn't change the fact they were playing bump and run coverage. one could argue if clark hadn't cheated towards the middle boldin may have been open down the middle.

fact remains, they played the defense that gave baltimore the greatest chance of success in that situation. bad call.

Anonymous said...

The Steelers have recently changed to playing more man coverage because their cornerbacks are much better playing man than they are at playing zone.

So, in my mind, the coach was putting the players in the best position they could have been to be successful. Play to your players strengths:

1) Man coverage
2) Pressuring the QB

Oh well, we can debate this all day. But, in the end it comes down to either being conservative and hope that the other team makes a mistake or being aggressive and hope that someone on your team makes a play.

I'd opt for the latter, you'd go with the former.

marc said...

one last thing before i agree to disagree.

i would not say my thought is conservative and hoping the other team makes a mistake.

rather, by putting 7 DB's and 2 LB's into coverage, forcing flacco to do something he is not very good at -- making a very accurate throw.

ok - on to cincy.

KT said...

Interesting thread.

While I don't excuse the defense for the let down, I do think that Tomlin's hesitation set the tone for what came next.