Sunday, December 04, 2011

Post-Cincinnati thoughts part II

It's funny how a game is looked at as total domination and the Steelers had just 295 yards of offense, their third-lowest total of the season.

Then again, many of the starters were pulled midway through the fourth quarter.

The most impressive thing about this victory for the Steelers was that their running game was highly effective. Pittsburgh picked up 136 yards on the ground of 33 carries against a good Cincinnati front seven.

That set up a lot of the other things the Steelers did offensively.

And Pittsburgh's domination up front was never more apparent than on its final scoring drive in the third quarter when Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman combined for five carries for 48 yards during a 93-yard drive.

If the Steelers can keep that up, they are going to be tough to beat in January.

© The Steelers have been looking for ways to get talented rookie corner Cortez Allen into their dime package and may have found it.

They brought safety Ryan Clark off the field at times in the dime in favor or Allen, giving them four corners and Troy Polamalu on the field at the same time.

That's a lot of coverage.

© It was nice to see Hines Ward get his 12,000 yards in front of the home crowd, which gave him a nice ovation for the feat.

It also didn't seem like the Steelers forced the issue, just allowing it to happen.

© The Steelers have now won seven of their past eight games and beaten Cincinnati (twice) and New England during that stretch.

That doesn't look to bad on the résumé.

The win over Kansas City wasn't all that inspiring, but there was plenty to be optimistic about following the dismantling of the Bengals.

© LaMarr Woodley told me after the game that he could wind up being a part-time player for a period of time until he gets his wind back.

That's the trouble with hamstring injuries. Unlike James Harrison, who was out with an eye injury and therefore able to keep his cardio up, Woodley's exercises have been limited to stretching and such to build his hamstring strength.

He said his hamstring felt "tired" Sunday, so the Steelers shut him down.

Having Jason Worilds prove that he can be competitive out there helps the situation.

© Steelers special teams coach Al Everest was taken aback when asked if he thought Curtis Brown had a block on in the back on Antonio Brown's 60-yard punt return touchdown at the end of the first half.

"You could call three of those on any play," said Everest. "We've had them go against us."

But not on this occasion.

In the grand scheme of things, it wouldn't have mattered. It's likely that with two timeouts, the Steelers would have gotten the ball at their own 30 and at least gotten into field goal range. But even if they didn't, this game was never in question.

65 comments:

Anonymous said...

Brown returns kicks LOL

Robert K said...

Dale,

Do you think having Legursky in there at LG instead of Kemo is improving the run game? I didn't think he would have much of an impact but in two games that he started and stayed at LG we had decent running days.

adamg said...

Didn't think there was a block in the back on the punt return, but it sure looked like there was one on Wallace's second TD on the bubble screen.

I think Legursky is more effective against DLs with smaller, quicker linemen, but Kemo is better against the behoemeths. I was surprised Essex came in at G rather than Kemo when Foster went out though.

Josh said...

After a questionable second half last week in KC, Bruce Arians deserves credit for a solid game plan today. The long scoring drive, during which the O mixed it up and looked for consistent 5-8 yard plays ate up a lot of clock and got a rhythm going. Nice to see emphasis on getting #17 the ball however possible today.

Dale Lolley said...

Still too early to make any judgments about Legurksy, especially since he played half of last week at center.

As for Essex coming in, I assume it was because they didn't want to move Legursky and Kemoeatu doesn't play RG - another reason to jettison him at year's end.

Henry said...

Haha good point, Dale.

Why do you think that is that Kemo can only play LG?

Tomlin should stick to his "positional flexibility" mantra and cut Kemo, he of 1 0f 5 Oline positions.

What a bum

datruth4life said...

Dale, what are the chances of the Steelers resigning Max Starks in the offseason? I know he isn't an All-Pro but he is a proven player at LT or RT that you can win Super Bowls with. I really love the kids the Steelers have at CB in Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown. Allen looks like he could be a starter very soon and Curtis Brown is a beast on special teams.

Lastly, do you think that Casey Hampton is in his last year as a Steeler? I know his cap figure is $6M next year and he just isn't that type of player anymore.

Steve-O said...

I'm inspired by the youth on this Steeler team. The future is bright at the skill positions. But once again in next years draft I think they'll need to focus on the O-Line and Nose Tackle positions. There's room for improvement in both areas.

Dale Lolley said...

Kemo has spent his entire career at LG. He was a LG in college. And we're not talking about the brightest bulb here.
If Pouncey gets hurt, Legursky shifts over, so, in effect, Kemo is the backup at two positions. He only plays one, though.

It's going to be tough to sign Starks considering they're projected to be 15 to 20 million over next year's cap. They could ask Hampton to take a cut or be released. We'll see.

emac2 said...

Over the cap?

I'm not saying I disagree because I don't know but how many of the semi retired guys are you counting?

I figure Smith, Ward, McFadden, Kemo and Starks go which I thought would leave a good amount of room. Hampton a year early instead of a year late would be fine with me if the paycut idea doesn't fly.

With Colon back and Gilbert over at LT we should let Starks go and get a good back up tackle while spending the loot/draft choice on a stud guard.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious, where does the 15-20M over the cap figure come from?

Robert K said...

From all the big contracts to Troy, Timmins, Woodley and everyone else that we have handed out. Heath Miller gets alot of cash too for a guy we only use in half our games.

There are going to be some painful cuts next year. Don't forget Wallace wants a new deal and it won't be cheap.

Anonymous said...

I recall Kemo getting a couple/few starts at RG in place of Simmons back in 06. And the Jets made Kemo and offer a couple of years ago to make him their starting RG.

Anonymous said...

There's never enough to complain about when we win 35-7. Boring for whiners like myself.

I was certain Antonio Brown had a few broken ribs after that hit. I guess not, though. Whew...? I bet he's not feeling so great this morning.

marc said...

interesting how effective the offense becomes with a good balance between run/pass. not a ton of yards, but plenty of points. hmmm...what a crazy idea.

considering the browns were gashed by the ravens on the ground sunday, is it possible we could have two good rushing games in a row?

datruth4life said...

Dale, I'm a big proponent of resigning Starks, even if you have to make some cuts in other places. We all saw what happened earlier this year without him. I also think Gilbert can play RG/LT/RT. I'd rather have depth at one of the most critical positions on the team than to go through what we went through earlier this year. Max is still in his prime. If anything, I'd cut Jonathon Scott and draft another tackle high.

With them finding ways to get Ryan Clark off the field, could this be the last year for him also?

Anonymous said...

This game showed me 2 things:

#1) The Steelers can run the ball when they want to, even against a decent run defense.

#2) When the Steelers can maintain the credible threat of a running game they are much better in the redzone.

I really hope the Steelers saw this as well.

Anonymous said...

As far as Starks goes. Why not resign him? I don't think he has the leverage any more, there weren't many takers when the Steelers cut him. I think the Steelers could resign him at a reasonable salary and he's shown to be solid. We've seen that solid left tackles are hard to come by in the NFL.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see the cap numbers if Smith, McFadden, and Kemo are released. I'd then ask Ward and Hampton to take a reduced salary or get cut. I have to think Wallace will go to another team, he'll be looking for a big payday. Brown, Sanders, maybe Cotchery still not a bad receiving core.

marc said...

wallace will be around for at least one more year.

Patrick said...

sounds crazy, but if Wallace is going to become a DeSean Jackson situation (getting paid the minimum to be a great receiver) and the Steelers have no interest in re-signing him to a huge deal, he might be trade bait. I'm not advocating trading him and I doubt they will, but that might be the best decision in that circumstance if he became a distraction.

And this isn't a bash Wallace thread, I'm a fan, but those people who DVR and rewatch the games. Check out Wallace on the one TD run by Mendenhall - the pitch to the right side. Wallace is lined up left and literally does nothing. Its obvious well before the snap hes not going to either. I hope that was just one play and not a trend of his - I never noticed it before.

joe said...

another week and we got to see more of the young guys come through on defense, great to see.

i was yelling for a pitch to mendy on first down, i'll take it on second.

cap numbers for next season are all over the web and we are waaay over. some long time vets won't be on the roster next season.

don't see much chance of signing starks next year unless he really, really wants to stay in pitt. someone will offer him much more than we can and gilbert will go to lt.

good young qb the bengals have and another first round draft pick from the raiders.

great job by the special teams yesterday. (could 31 return kicks ?? he is getting it done on special teams)

Patrick said...

I forgot Wallace would be playing under the restricted tag next year - so he'll be making a mil or so, whatever the tags are. Not the min like DeSean

Anonymous said...

we should franchise tag Farrior or Starks

Dale Lolley said...

You're talking about Kemo here. He's already not the brightest bulb. Now you want to line him up at right guard because he did so as a rookie? He's confused enough the way it is.

Ryan Clark would be an interesting cut. Mundy has shown he can make some plays out there. And it's time for him to get on the field or get gone.

DAVE said...

"I'm inspired by the youth on this Steeler team. The future is bright at the skill positions." - Steve-O

I thought the Steelers were old and washed up with not much depth.

marc said...

hampton, farrior, clark will not be on the team next year, imo.

datruth4life said...

Dale,

I'd rather cut them a year too early instead of a year too late. With Aaron Smith and B. McFadden, I think it was a year too late. I still feel they should have kept CB Crezdon Butler over BMac. I think Tomlin loves Rayn Clark, but in today's NFL, your free safety needs to be able to make plays in coverage as well as play man coverage and the slot sometimes. What are your thoughts on Keenan Lewis, Cortez Allen, & Curtis Brown going forward?

Anonymous said...

Patrick, Wallace may not have done anything on that play (and im not really sure since I haven't rewatched it) I he's often in most plays, even yesterday. Rewatch the game and you'll see him sticking his nose most of the time. It likely is like you say, that one play and not a trend. The man was trained by Ward after all

I don't expect him to be blocking every single play, but he's no DeSean either

and to the one who said we only use Heath on half our games- Wow! Heath is basically our best (or 2nd best) lineman. Just because the ball doesn't go his way all the time doesn't mean he's not being used. Can safely say the man's better than Green and Bruener at this point

adamg said...

Who's the next safety after Mundy? Will Allen is strictly an ST'er like Battle and an emergency only at FS/SS. There's no way he's the back up to both safety spots next year and all the other young DBs are corners. The fact is Ryan Clark allows Troy to play the way he does. That's not something to be lightly brushed aside.

I thought I heard Tomlin say something about Chris Hoke having another appt with a doctor at his presser today. If so, that leads me to believe Hoke has not been an entirely healthy scratch the past few weeks and the stinger he suffered might be more serious than originally reported.

I've seen the cap numbers "all over the internet", but I, too, was wondering where the 15-20M over figure actually comes from. Somehow I doubt "the internet" knows more than Omar Khan, but maybe I'm wrong.

superfan99 said...

Not resigning Wallace would be a pretty risky move by the Steelers. Ward and Cotchery are older players. Sanders has been limited by injuries. Brown has been very effective, but how much of that is due to Wallace drawing bracket coverage and/or the top cover guy on the opposing team.

It's very different from when they traded Holmes before the 2010 season. They knew Wallace could take the top off coverage, and Holmes had too much off field baggage.

I think Wallace will be signed long-term before the 2012 season.

Tim said...

Heath is underused in the passing game and always has been. But he is used in every game, on almost every play. He pancakes defensive linemen more than any of our offensive linemen do. On most good runs this team has, he has a key block. To suggest he's overpaid is to prove yourself an idiot.

I disagree with "in today's NFL a free safety has to play man coverage and slot sometimes." A safety just has to be a good safety. How many safeties in the league are also capable of guarding a slot receiver in man coverage? Probably just the ones that are converted cornerbacks. How many starting safeties in the league would be better in single coverage than the third cornerback on that same team? That's not Clark's thing, or Polamalu's, and that's fine. They need to be good safeties, which they are. I don't mind him coming out for a play here and there if the circumstances call for that, but to think you need your safeties to have CB abilities is reaching for impossible standards. If you're lucky, your strong safety can cover the better tight ends one on one.

It's probably never gonna happen, but I still say I'd keep McFadden for the league minimum next year in Arnaz Battle's roster spot. Just because he's disappointed as a starter doesn't mean he's worthless. He's always been a good backup and is fantastic in run support and on special teams. Battle will never, ever see the field as a receiver in a non-preseason game, so I'd rather have the depth at CB than WR, where we are overflowing anyway. I can't imagine teams will be beating down B-Mac's door, so I'm hoping he signs for the minimum.

I think Wallace's attitude is getting worse by the day. I don't have a ton of evidence to support that, it's mostly just by looking at him. I never liked Brown's attitude, but at least he's moving in the right direction with it and they say he's the hardest working player on the team. Still, Wallace is extremely valuable and it was inevitible that his numbers would drop and whoever the other receiver was would look a whole lot better.

What's wrong with Mundy as his role is now? He was a 6th rounder, I don't see the need for him to "start or get out." As a backup safety for the Pittsburgh Steelers, he sees plenty of time on defense, and he's a good special teamer too. I'm happy with him. I don't want him to replace Clark unless he plays so well that he forces Clark out of a job. It's not like we have anything invested in him. In the meantime, I'm cool with a capable person playing the Tyrone Carter role.

Funny that the only knock on Curtis Brown coming out of college was that he might not be big or physical enough for the Steelers, and he's making his first mark with strong physical play on special teams. Can't wait to see this guy get his shot next year.

Patrick said...

Heath is overpaid

Anonymous said...

The Steelers have proven that they can do very well with late round pick WRs. Heck, it seems like they do better with late pick WRs than they do early round WRs.

Next year they'll draft another one or two in rounds 4 and later and we'll forget all about Wallace.

What the Steelers really need is an offensive line. They've given Ben all the weapons in the world and it hasn't made a whole lot of difference. I'd love to see an offensive line that can impose it's will on defenses and a running game to go with an explosive passing game. There's only so many WR you can have on the field at a time and drafting more of them isn't going to make the team any better.

Robert K said...

You don't pay TE's top money to block. There are blocking TE's everywhere. You pay a TE top money to be an offensive threat and our offense only uses Heath in half its games. He isn't even in the gameplan some weeks.

Of course that could be all Ben's fault for refusing to use check downs.

Anonymous said...

you don't pay TEs to block? Says who? The steelers would beg to differ. Just because most of the league uses their tight ends that way doesn't mean the steelers should too. When needed, Heath is always there. But with an average at best line they need him more blocking, and him more than excels at it. Most tight ends in the league can't even block. With a few exceptions like Witten

his contract is pretty much up to par with Bruener and Green. Kemoeatu is the definition of overpaid. As a starter and backup

I do agree Ben could use him more on checkdowns though. But he's the kind of QB always looking for the big play

Anonymous said...

I didn't say anything about playing Kemo at RG. You said he hasn't/doesn't play RG. I was just pointing out that he has before (his 2nd year), and the Jets felt him capable enough to offer him more money than the Steelers gave him. And he did play both spots at Utah, btw.

Yeah, Kemo is a dumbass. Fits right in with the rest of the dumbasses they've had on the OL since he's been here. It's as if they prefer em that way. At one point they had 4 guys with 15 or less wonderlics starting for them (Smith, Kemo, Simmons, Colon). He might be the dumbest of them all, but the gap hasn't been that great over the years.

Tim said...

You're right, guys like Heath Miller are everywhere. You should be a GM.

You say you don't pay TEs to block, you pay them to catch. You're thinking of receivers. Miller is an offensive linemen that is also a dangerous receiving threat. Yeah, that type really grows on trees.

The Steelers know what they have in him, even if NFL Network and you don't. It's one of the things they got SO right that it makes them a great team.

Dale Lolley said...

The cap numbers are based on what the cap is expected to be and looking at the Steelers' returning salaries. That's where the 15 to 20 million figure is coming from. Yes, some of those salaries aren't going to be there. But you still have to replace those salaries with others, so they will still be over.

I don't know how anyone wouldn't like Mike Wallace's attitude. He's not a prima donna. He's confident in his abilities. He doesn't demand the ball. And, he's pretty good.

The Steelers will sign him to a new contract after this season.

But it seems pretty silly to me, to be talking about who is and isn't going to be here next year when the Steelers are 9-3 and looking like the best team in the AFC.

New England allowed Dan Orlovsky to throw for 350 yesterday.

Baltimore's offense scored 17 points against Cleveland because Flacco was 10 for 24 passing.

Robert K said...

I'm not saying Heath Miller is a bad player I'm saying that given that we hardly use him a receiver its odd that we pay him so much.

Its how we use him in our scheme that is crazy. Why pay a guy all that money to throw him 2 or 3 balls a game? You don't need to pay a guy several mil to block.

adamg said...

Thanks, Dale. As I thought, the 15-20M over is a swag. But, on the off chance, it's true, the Steelers won't be re-signing Wallace or any other free agent. The team would have to cut 25-30M in salary to have enough money for their draft choices and to pay a 58 man roster plus leave room for players on IR.

Steve-O said...

The Steelers have the nucleus for another 3-6 year run, there's no way they let a talented guy, with no off the field issues (Wallace) go. He will remain a Steeler.

Patrick said...

Patrick, you are why people hate lawyers. Oh, by the way, you are an idiot.

datruth4life said...

Dale,

What did you think of the alignment where they had Polamula in the game with the 4 CB's including Willie Gay playing safety? Do you think CB Keenan Lewis is a part of the long-term plans for the Steelers?

joe said...

http://www.steelerslounge.com/2011/10/explaining-pittsburgh-steelers-2012-salarycap-quandary/

pretty interesting article on the cap issues for next year.

Dale Lolley said...

I like the quick dime - as I'm going to call it. It gets Allen on the field. He's a freak and adds to their coverage ability.

Lewis has established himself this year. But they really, really like Allen and Brown. They are the future.

Tim said...

Robert, you do NOT want to know what we pay some of our offensive linemen (blockers). Anyway, Heath delivers more and better blocking than half our offensive line (which we pay lots to block), and he's also a dangerous threat in the defensive backfield, which most of our OL is not. Before you say tight ends' blocking isn't as important as a lineman's, Miller is routinely trusted with major blocking assignments right at the point of attack. Not just cornerbacks either, like a lot of "tight ends" out there. He takes linebackers and defensive ends up to 300 pounds, and does it effectively. He's the most versitile player on our offense.

Dale, I'm glad to hear Wallace is not a prima donna. He looks the part on TV, but I know that's just appearances. My worry is that he devolves into the "demand the ball" type, or rather, the "I know you guys are doing everything you can, but that's not enough so I'm gonna bounce" type.

Anonymous said...

Dale,

In training camp it seemed as though the RG position was up for grabs maybe for anyone but Foster. Why is this considering he starter most of the year there last year? Is he just "serviceable" and they are hoping for something better?

adamg said...

Joe, no offense but that Steelers Lounge link qualifies as "Come on, Man!".

Here's the best link I've found for salary info and cap implications, but it's not on the level of capgeek (NHL salaries, cap).

http://www.spotrac.com/nfl/pittsburgh-steelers/

superfan99 said...

Yes, finding WRs in the draft is always easy for the Steelers. Remember the great careers of Willie Reid, Limas Sweed, Danny Farmer, Troy Edwards and Fred Gibson? So, forget about Wallace. Let him leave, it'll be so easy to draft a replacement.


(sarcasm)

adamg said...

Well, Farmer went on to have a few serviceable years with Cincy and Edwards was ok until he seemed to get in Cowher's doghouse.

marc said...

the only things easy to find in the draft is backups.

joe said...

i thought the article was interesting from a "what could happen" point of view. also thought you were denying we are going to be way over the cap ? maybe not. interesting year as we are watching a changing of the gaurd. don't have many off season needs except o-line and another safety to backup mundy if clark is gone next year, or the year after.
excellent drafting by colbert to replace the "old" guys on d.
rewatched the gam and legursky looked really good.

Dale Lolley said...

You're right, Foster didn't get much of a chance in camp. They were looking to do better there. But he has also gotten better - which isn't a huge surprise for a young lineman.

As for the Heath Miller not get many pass catching opportunities argument, it really doesn't hold water, in most years, including this one, he's their third-leading receiver. He on pace to catch around 55 passes.

superfan99 said...

AdamG,

My point was, Edwards, a first round pick, was never a playmaker like Wallace or Brown (best season, rookie year - 61 catches, 11.7 ypr.)

Drafting players like Wallace and Brown is far from easy.

(Farmer's best season was 19 catches for 268 yards. His career was kind of derailed by injury)

Patrick said...

we should trade Wallace (pre-Madonna), Big Ben (raper) and Miller (overpaid) for 3 draft picks.

Then we just draft a better WR, QB and TE

problem solved!

Robert K said...

Heath Miller has the 14th most receptions among tight end in the league. The very definition of average.

Again I'm not saying he isn't talented just that he isn't being used much compared to other TE's, some not half as good and few paid as much as him.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe you are saying he's not talented, but again- you are wrong saying he's underused. Blocking doesn not mean being underused only because more than half the league doesn't use its tight ends to block. Even teams with worse olines than us use their tight ends are receivers because they cannot block, Heath is a rare specimen

Do I wish they used him more as a receiver? Heck yeah! But we would miss the damage he does on linebackers and dlinemen

Dale Lolley said...

How many blocks does Antonio Gates - attempt - to make? How bow Gronkowski or Aaron Hernandez.
Those guys very rarely block.
To say that he's not used because he doesn't catch as many passes as some other tight ends is very shortsighted.

Anonymous said...

The Steelers will be pretty happy to have Miller when they face the Patriots this year. That alone makes him worth what he is being paid.

adamg said...

My only point about Edwards was that while he might not have lived up to 1st round expectations, he wasn't a total bust for the Steelers. The Steelers have obviously had better 1st rounders, but they've had worse, too. And, they've done well finding quality WRs in the mid-to-late rounds.

datruth4life said...

Dale,

How do you like this OL for next year from left to right - Starks, Legursky, Pouncey, Colon, Gilbert.

Also, of the these three needs, which do you think the Steelers need to address in the first round next year - OL, NT, ILB?

This draft seems to be pretty decent at OL, LB, DL and CB. And yeah, I know the team is fighting for a playoff bye and the draft is months away, but I'm one of those that love draft talk. Thanks for your great blog.

Tim said...

Okay, I am won over. Whenever Heath blocks it's like he's not doing anything and shouldn't even be paid for it. Blocking is not important in this sport and should not be rewarded or taken seriously, especially by tight ends, no matter how good they are at it.

I never said he doesn't get pass catching opportunities, just that he doesn't get enough. The talent/balls thrown ratio didn't match. I remember having this same debate with you before the '09 season, and you said with so many playmakers there are only so many balls to go around, so where are the extra ones to Heath that I want going to come from? My answer's the same now as it was then, from the incompletion column. It worked out great that year, before settling back into their old ways in '10.

Of course, your '09 argument holds up much better now than it did in '09, because now we really are overflowing with explosive players, whereas before it was pretty much just Holmes (pre-trade). With Wallace, Sanders and Brown, plus some dangerous running backs who should be getting touches, 55 catches looks okay (he's only surpassed 50 once). When it's Randel El and Ward, it should be closer to 90.

Anonymous said...

Dale, to be fair, Gronkowski is a hell of a blocker for a 2nd year player. Guy really is something

Dale Lolley said...

Offensive line will continue to be an area they can upgrade. Safety, ILB and NT will also be possibilities.