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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Final Four set

The NFL's Final Four are now set with the Ravens set to visit New England in the AFC and the Giants traveling to San Francisco in the NFC.

There are a couple of interesting notes about that.

First is the fact the Steelers played three of the final four teams this season - and five of the eight final eight.

In fact, all five of Pittsburgh's losses this season came to teams that were in the final eight teams standing. Three of their five losses – and one victory - came against teams that reached the conference championship game.

Home teams went 7-1 in the first two rounds of the postseason, a far cry different than things had been in the previous four seasons when the home teams were just 21-19.

Finally, three of the final four teams employ more traditional offenses - ie. a fullback on a regular basis.

New England is the only team that uses the multiple tight end formations favored by the Steelers, though San Francisco certainly uses plenty of multiple tight end sets.

The 49ers remind me quite a bit of the 1994 Steelers. Great defense, solid running game and so-so quarterback.

Does that make Eli Manning Stan Humphries next weekend. We'll see about that.

© As I was talking about how I'd hate to see another Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh game in the Super Bowl, my wife remarked how silly the their parents were before the first meeting on Thanksgiving.

Jack Harbaugh and his wife, whose name escapes me, said something to the effect that watching their two sons coach against each other was one of the hardest things a parent could do.


Their sons are making millions to coach football teams. Every once in a while, they'll face each other.

But there are plenty of other tough things that parents go through on a daily basis that make what the Harbaugh family went through on Thanksgiving look like a day at the beach.


Greg Mercer said...

dale, do you think the Steelers should make the switch to 4-3?

with the rules heavily favoring the offense, you really need to be able to get pressure with just your front 4.

however, after watching the Texans and Giants play, it's painfully obvious that our DL is lacking in explosion and athleticism. so we probably couldn't make the switch even if we wanted to.

Hopefully, Heyward can be a good one, but i'm beginning to think Hood was a wasted pick.

Dale Lolley said...

No, I don't think they should switch to a 4-3. They finished first in the league in total defense and scoring defense. Injuries derailed this season, period.
When Woodley and Harrison are both rolling, the Steelers are as good as anyone creating pressure.

Greg Mercer said...

in your opinion, which is easier to find in the draft?

stud 4-3 DE ?


stud 3-4 OLB?

adamg said...

I think the Giants will win it all. They just seem like a team on a roll right now and also have the least flaws of the 4 teams left standing.

Balt, who is a poor road team anyway, will be destroyed by NE, but not quite as badly as Den was. If not for Hou's punt returner, they'd be home licking their wounds today.

I'd like to see the Steelers go back to a 4-3, but I at least hope they consider swtiching Hood inside to NT and McLendon to DE. Hood just seems like an inside guy plus he doesn't draw a double team like Smith did at DE. That's probably one reason the LBs might have seemed worse this season.

Anonymous said...

Texans should have won that game yesterday, definitely outplayed the Ravens until Yates pulled a Big Ben and tried to go for the long bomb instead of taking what the defense was giving him..

Giants peaking at the right time, and are healthy, I think they have real good chance to beat the 49ers.
If Brady plays lights out against the Ravens, then Pats win, otherwise it will be close, but Ravens stink on the road, so Pats should win it.

Lets hope this year we pick up a few good linemen and a CB in the draft, and Big Ben learns to take what the defense gives him...

TarheelFlyer said...

Yep we went 1-3. Had we played just .500 against those teams, we could have been the #1 seed and would have hosted a game yesterday and could potentially be hosting a game this week. We just didn't have focus week 1, so that game I will blow off, but the loss at home to the Ravens and on the road at SF with home field and the division on the line....HORRIBLE losses.

Anonymous said...

Since Ben hasn't learned to take what the defense is giving him by now, why would you think he would ever learn?

Ben is a good quarterback and he will never be an elite QB. An elite QB is one who knows that every defense has a weakness and enters the game with the strategy that he will identify that weakness and then exploit it. Ben says I play the game the way I play the game and I'll show you!!

As a fan of the Steelers since 1962, I am reluctant to say that I see a down period for this team. They have too many holes along the offensive and defensive lines, a QB too stubborn to adjust his game, and a coaching staff that is either unable or unwilling to make the necessary changes.

But I will always root for them.

Anonymous said...

If the Flacco (and Cameron) who played the Steelers this season shows up vs. the Pats, I think it will be a last-second FG type of game. If not, Pats kill them.

Anonymous said...

The Ravens, 49ers, and Texans were just better than the Steelers this season. Up front, where big fat people tackle and block each other, on both sides of the ball.

Dale Lolley said...

The way the game is changing in college, there are so many undersized linemen out there, that there are dozens of young 3-4 backers coming in every year.

They have to have those size guys to defend the spread option.
So, no, 3-4 backers are not that hard to find any more.

Anonymous said...

Jeez you people are nuts. The Steelers went 12-4 and they did it while beat up. They were one play vs Baltimore away from 13-3 and they played only like 2 games with a healthy Woodley and Harrison starting at LB.

There will be no down turn for the team. They are and will continue to be in the mix for the Super Bowl every year. Their offense is young, and the defense, while older, has young replacements are almost every position of age (Troy being excepted).

Yeesh, you'd think this team got killed every game this season. Instead they were within one first down of kicking a FG to beat Denver and play in the divisional round. They were one play from winning the division...

Give it a rest and be happy that you root for a team that's been to 3 Super Bowls in the last 6 years.

Marshall said...

Amen! Thank you for being the rare fan who chooses to shine a little positive light amongst all the gloom. Every year I fear that we take the Steelers' success for granted. It's no little thing that they're able to be as consistent as they've been.

Anonymous said...

For all the doomsayers who think the Steelers underperformed - how do you think Green Bay fans feel? They got blown out AT HOME to a 9-7 team that needed to win the last game of the season to make the playoffs. If not for two of the worst reffing calls in the past year, they probably would have only scored one touchdown and given up at least six more points. They are one and done despite being 15-1.

Football is that way. It's not baseball, where you have a series and 162 games. You have 16 games and sudden death playoffs. One or two plays can make or break the season - ask Ryan Mundy and Ike Taylor.

Anonymous said...

Thankfully high powered offenses are still not a match for an elite defense playing with a purpose. Our defense is elite, they were just missing a purpose and kill instinct this year

Robert K said...

Our D just needs to stay healthy and have guys like Hood and Heyward get better. Those to first round picks need to start making plays.

We def need some new blood on the oline. We just can't count on the current guys to stay healthy.

Robert K said...

Our D just needs to stay healthy and have guys like Hood and Heyward get better. Those to first round picks need to start making plays.

We def need some new blood on the oline. We just can't count on the current guys to stay healthy.

bruinmann77 said...

They need to find a Guard who can step in and make the Ol better

adamg said...

So, reportedly, per his agent, BR will play in the Pro Bowl. I guess his ankle isn't/wasn't hurt as badly as everyone believed.

Joel Dias-Porter said...

@Adam-By the time of the Pro Bowl, Ben's ankle will have had three additional weeks to heal. So even if he was as injured as they first said, him playing in that game isn't an issue.

adamg said...

Seems dumb for BR to play since it's been widely reported his ankle won't even stop swelling until Mar/Apr.

marc said...

first and foremost, the 3-4 d-linemen need to eat up blockers. if none of them are demanding double teams, the LB's will not be very effective. hood needs to get better. i was impressed with heyward as a rookie - i see him being a major factor in the years ahead. but, they need a monster at NT. hampton is done, imo, whether he comes back healthy or not.

imo, smith was a phenom at DE, a sure-fire hall of famer. i don't think we should expect to fill that position very easily.

overall, the defense was very effective this season. they showed a greater ability to defend pass heavy teams while not conceeding too much against the run. they will be very good again next season, and possibly another top 5 defense if the young DL and yound DB are able to step up.

Anonymous said...

Aaron Smith is not a sure-fire hall of famer

In fact, he will not come close to making the hall of fame

Patrick said...

adamg and Joey DP,

This is exactly why people aren't sure whether BR is drama queen or tough guy. He said he gets his toughness from his grandmother, so maybe it is a mix of both.


Phil said...


Could you please give us a link to your season wrap-up?

marc said...

well, just my opinion. 3-4 DE's don't get much love because they don't rack up the stats and get pitted against 4-3 DE's that do nothing but rush the QB come pro bowl time.

but, i think smith will be remembered by his peers and the writers as one of the best 3-4 DE's that ever played.

just my opinion.

joe said...

i'm guilty of taking the steelers success for granted at times. also just want to see them get better, something the offense can't seem to do. to inconsistent.

the harbaughs ought to be proud watching their two sons coach each other, not claiming it is one of the hardest things to do. watching you child die from cancer is hard. watching them coach is a walk in the park

adamg said...

I've watched more than a few games with my binoculars trained on the DL. Aaron Smith is one of the best defensive linemen to play the game ever. He never drew less than 2 blockers every play and he was still able to stuff the run and push the pocket enough to get sacks. In an era of specialization, he was a 3 down player.

If he's played in the 50's, he'd have been Ernie Stautner. If he'd played in the 70s, he'd have been a 4-3 DT with the best of them.

He is absolutely HoF worthy, but whether or not he makes it is another story.

Tim said...

Alex Smith is better than so-so. I would take him over Neil O'Donnell any day of the week.