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Monday, January 02, 2012

Post-Cleveland thoughts Part II

I'm really glad Hines Ward got his 1,000th catch. He's always been a good guy to talk to and has worked hard.

But I'm also glad it's over. Now, the Steelers can just play Jerricho Cotchery, who is a better receiving threat at this point in their respective careers.

It is a shame, though, that Ward's milestone catch came on a three-yard loss on a shovel pass.

He had a couple of big catches in this game, but his final stat line read five catches, 24 yards.

© It's amazing how Josh Cribbs has his best games against the Steelers.

Ike Taylor began the game by shadowing Greg Little. He finished it shadowing Cribbs, who finished with seven catches for 91 yards.

Cribbs also led the Browns with three special teams tackles.

Yet some bozo from New England was named the AFC's special teams representatives.

If there's a better special teams player in the NFL than Cribbs, I haven't seen him.

© The final stats show that Troy Polamalu had just two tackles in this game. But if there was a defender who made a bigger impact, I didn't see him.

© The Steelers had better hope those two fumbles by Isaac Redman didn't hurt his confidence. I spoke at length with him after the game and it didn't seem like they did, but you never know until he gets back out there again.

Without Rashard Mendenhall, Redman is going to have to shoulder the load.

© The games still must be played, but I wouldn't bet against a Pittsburgh at Baltimore AFC Championship, in a reversal of 2010.

I know, that's discounting the Patriots and counts on Houston beating Cincinnati.

But New England beat one playoff team this season - Denver – and doesn't own a victory over a team that finished with a winning record.

Pittsburgh and Baltimore are the two best teams in the AFC.

© The Steelers finished with seven sacks in eight road games this season. They'll have to fix that if they hope to get to the Super Bowl.

A healthy LaMarr Woodley opposite James Harrison will help.

© Much will be made about whether Ryan Clark plays or doesn't play in Denver.

If it's me, I'm not playing.

Clark wants to play, but it could be a life-or-death situation for him. He was the Steelers' leading tackler this season with 100 and has played solid football.

But none of his teammates will think any less of him if he doesn't play - at least not the ones I spoke with.

Having seen Clark in 2007 when he had to have his spleen removed after playing in Denver, his teammates know the hell he went through.

Plus, against Denver, is the free safety really all that important - even one who has a knack for filling the holes in the run defense?

© UPDATE: The Steelers have reportedly signed veteran cornerback Anthony Madison.

Madison, a special teams ace, would appear to be a replacement for Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown, who have been the team's best special teams gunners this season.

Brown was put on IR a couple of weeks ago, while Allen suffered a forearm injury against Cleveland Sunday.


Anonymous said...

Sure, wins are the only stats that count, but I think people are just sick of having a mediocre, at best, offense, Dale.

Keenan Lewis's hamstring, too? Jeez. Hello, Bryant McFadden...

Anonymous said...

And before anyone pipes in with Super Bowl, Super Bowl, Super Bowl, Ben is a top 5 QB. All true. But. This team doesn't sniff the playoffs from 2007-2011 without having a consistently top 5 defense to carry the offense.

adamg said...

I'm not sure Ward deserves being pushed down the depth chart. Cotchery is younger and probably healthier right now, but they are the same player. Sanders has continuing feet problems. Wallace has mostly disappeared and is pretty much useless in the redzone if he has to fight for a ball.

Feel bad for Mendy, but I think Redman, Clay and Moore if he's healthy, will be fine for a playoff run. Redman and Clay are the kind of backs that defenses don't want to tackle late in games and will give Pgh a true power running game.

My biggest concern is losing all the DBs. They will be needed against NE.

Anonymous said...

Yesterdays game was UGLY, but a win is a win. You knew going into this game there was no way Big Ben was only going to play a half. Still, I agree with playing him, he needs to work on his game with less mobility.

The loss of Mendy for this offense is HUGE!! Lets hope he can be back by the 2nd playoff game, we will need him for sure!! But it doesnt look good for him, he will be missed. Injuries in this game could come back to really hurt us if we cant get healthy in 2 weeks.

Congrads go out to Hines, class act, one of the best all-around WRs this game has ever seen, and best blocking WR ever!!

I thought about Ryan Clark and Denver, he really needs to sit this one out!! I really dont have a lot of respect for Denver, and am definitely not a Tebow fan, stop their running game and there goes their offense. Denver's D is OK, so lets hope Redman can hold on to the ball, and no stupid turnovers or penalties, and we should be just fine.

On another note, Cincy got hosed by the refs once again playing the ravens. In the first game, that TD that was reversed against Cincy was a BS call and cost them the game IMO. In yesterdays game, it was unbelievable the calls being made against them. Not a fan of either team, but never been one to have a game decided and influenced by the refs.... Marvin and Cincy need to let it be known the refs SUCK!!! Still, Cincy gave up 2 BIG running plays by Rice for TDs, oh well. 5th seed it is!!

Anonymous said...

1st in scoring defense.

21st in scoring offense.

But the defense has not generated a consistent pass rush or big plays / turnovers, partly due to injuries to Woodley & Harrison (& partly due to statistical anomaly?).

Time for the offense to start carrying its weight & for Roethlisberger to prove himself one more time.

joe said...

^ this offense isn't going to turn it on now, they haven't been consistent all season. something just isn't working quite right. what's the record for most turnovers in a season ?

what's up with wallace ? pouting or unfocused ? he looked uninterested yesterday

i really hope rooney steps in and tells clark he isn't playing.

nice of tomlin to give the browns more timeouts

should we beat the broncs, on paper of course, but it''s the loudest stadium in the league and obviously we have been poor on the road. and who knows what kind of offense will show up.

Anonymous said...

If anyone believes this team will get to the Super Bowl, you are dreaming.

I am sick and tired of all the excuses being accepted by people for the poor performance of the offense.

Sure we run up and down the field but when we get to the red zone we collapse.

We should beat Denver but even that will be a close game because of our pathetic offense.

It will not matter whether the next game is in Baltimore or New England. Either way it will be the end of the season for our Steelers. In fact, given the way the offense is playing,it will be a blow out for the other team.

It is time to face reality. Until Bruce Arians is replaced with someone who is willing to actually coach Ben and get him to realize it is better to take advantage of a defense's weaknesses rather than go for the big play on every snap we will always have an erratic offense.

Anonymous said...

Dale, please comment on the lack of offense. You and many others felt it would be high octane this season. The D is good enough if the offense was reliable, but it is not. Terrible in redzone etc. What is to blame?

Marshall said...

Wow. Glad to see so much excitement and optimism going into the playoffs. No, things haven't been as sparkling as we would've liked. But when are they ever?

The Steelers finished 12-4 after a Super Bowl appearance the previous season. They are a resilient team with experience. Yes the injuries are tough, but let's see what happens. How many of us really gave them a huge chance in 2005? They'd won ugly on the road, but I'll take 4 uglies gladly.

Anonymous said...

Ben's playground style of play & lack of smarts combined with Arians's mediocrity combined with o-line injuries/talent level. Stir well. Decide percentages on your own.

Or you can just blame the defense for not giving the offense prime field position by generating turnovers. (Which is a red herring. The defense generated plenty of turnovers in 2010 & 2008 and the offense was still mediocre.)

Anonymous said...

The only playoff team who averages less points per game than the steelers is the broncos.

Steve-O said...


If there's one thing I haven't heard anyone comment on (although you tweeted on it) it's Tomlin's decision to NOT accept the penalty that kept Cleveland in field goal range. To me that was simply poor game management. IF you can take a team out of scoring range you do it. Plain and simple it was a bad decision. Did anyone call him on it after the game?

On another note, I hear people bad mouthing Wallace's lack of flashy plays. I know he dropped a couple a few games back but I think his big game production is tied to Ben's ability to hang in the pocket and toss the long ball. Given Ben's injury that simply isn't an option so the underneath stuff is the bigger priority which de-emphasises Wallace's skill set, not his fault, just reality.

DAVE said...

I have very few concerns about next weeks game against the Broncos but...the one thing that does concern me is Tim Tebow running the ball. The 2 biggest Browns plays yesterday were the Seneca Wallace runs to set up FG's. For all the Tebow lacks, he is a much better runner than Seneca.

If we somehow lose, that will be a big reason why.

adamg said...

Declining the penalty was ok. The weather was bad and the wind was blowing every which way. Dawson deserves credit for making that FG under tough conditions.

I'm sure the Steelers could design clear out plays for Wallace on slant/crossing routes that would get him the ball short and let him run away from people. Not every throw to him has to be 50 yds down the sideline. Ever notice how often all the Steeler receivers seem to be in the same spot or near each other? You don't see that with NE's or NO's offense.

Dale Lolley said...

I forgot about that, Steve. I tweeted both times that I would have taken the penalties.
The first would have at least forced a longer field goal. The second would have put them out of field goal range.
Two mistakes by Tomlin.

Yeah, Wallace looked really disinterested when he had to back to the ball and break up that interception at the goal line. I love how people try to read things into what they think they see.

I'll repeat this again. Wallace does not have an attitude problem, is not a problem and won't be a problem.

Dale Lolley said...

Both runs by Wallace were on scrambles on pass plays. They weren't designed runs. I don't see that being an issue against Tebow, who was 6-20 Sunday. Very little threat of completions.

joe said...

i'm not seeing "what i want" so he broke up an interception. i saw him not paying attention to the ball on more than one play and not fighting for the ball on others. if you replied in another thread that he doesn't have an attitude problem, i missed it. yes i was wondering about it. thanks for the reply

as many others have noted this season it would seem smart to get wallace the ball more so he can outrun people. maybe now they use him more instead of hines on those bubble plays.

i just don't understand this offense not scoring more points. something isn't working there. coaching, ben trying for to much, rotating o-line all contribute, but i still expected more from them

datruth4life said...

Dale, any news on the injuries to Keenan Lewis, Cortez Allen and Mendy? I'm more concerned about the injuries to the secondary than I am the running back situation. Do you think that the Steelers will activate RB Spann on the practice squad?

The only right thing to do with Ryan Clark is to sit him down. I have a totally different outlook on life when I became a first-time father in September. With a family and kids to think of and life after football, he has to do the right thing for them. In this case, the risk is nowhere near the reward.

I applaud Tomlin for getting this squad to 12-4 despite all the injuries and suspensions. However, I just don't think this team with its current personnel, injury situation and, particularly if it follows the way it has played this year, can win three games on the road to reach the Super Bowl. STill, a heck of a season and could really set up well for next year. The most important thing that happened this year was the team began turning over the age on the roster and plugging in youth. It will bode well as the team tries to keep that window open for competing for Super Bowls as Ben enters into his 30's.

emac2 said...

I share the offensive concerns and can't understand why people defend them.

The bottom line is that even with the O line problems they shouldn't be so helpless. The complete lack of success in the redzone is also a concern.

I think BA has to go if for no other reason then we need to change things up to see if we can fix it. I don't think Ben is going anywhere and we have all the tools he should need for success.

My guess is that Ben needs someone he isn't comfortable with. That comfort with BA likely leads to Ben making more "decisions" then he should.

BTW - The only fear I have of Denver is the Steelers inability to put anyone away and Tebows ability to produce in the last minutes.

Dale Lolley said...

I think the Steelers match up well with Denver, NE and Cincinnati. Houston, with a backup QB, also favors the Steelers.

Baltimore is the 800-pound gorilla in the room. Is this just their year? Possibly.

Patrick said...

My worry about Denver is its going to be one of those games where Ben is harassed all day and gets sacked 6 times and they can't get going.

Denver isn't going to score more than 17, but if its one of those days, that might be enough.

I really hate the thought of Tebow having a chance with 2 min left. If the season ended that way, it would be beyond horrible.

In regards to the Cleveland game, another ugly win for the king of ugly wins, Mike Tomlin. His decisions on the penalties were terrible, but the game would have been over much earlier if Redman could hold onto the ball.

Realistically, the Steelers will likely need to beat Den, NE, Balt all on the road to get to the SB to play GB or NO. Does anyone think they are going to do that after the way they played the past few weeks?

adamg said...

Dale, I guess you saw something I didn't see on TV on that near pick on the goal line. It sure looked on replay like the DB simply dropped the ball and Wallace never made a play to "break up" the pass. However, I did see Massaquoi do that on a near Steeler INT.

Anonymous said...

I think you're underestimating New England. There's no reason to think us playing at Foxboro in January is going to be a replay of Halloween in Pittsburgh.

I don't expect the defense to shut down Brady twice in a season, nor do I expect the offense to completely dominate (even if I think they should) the way they did a couple of months ago (and still somehow managed to make the defense put the game away with the safety).

The C. Allen & C. Brown injuries could be big factors.

Not that the Steelers can't beat them, but I don't think the week 8 game has flipped the tables so that all of the sudden the Pats are some great matchup for us.

Anyway I think it's us at Baltimore in the divisional, we win, and then off to Foxboro after the Pats score 45 on the Bengals.

Anonymous said...

Can't help but agree with Patrick, Denver could dominate our O-line at the line of scrimmage. There's a reason Tebow has all those chances to make comeback wins because the Broncos D keeps games close. With everyone pretty much writing this game off and predicting whether we will play NE or Baltimore next, I say we worry about the Broncos first. We will be without our leading tackler Ryan Clark playing on the road against a team who will be pounding the ball at us 35-50 times between Tebow and the RB's. Therefore this becomes a potential "trap" playoff game IMO. Ben cannot afford to turn the ball over.

Tim said...


Did you catch Ben -- AGAIN -- wanting to spike the ball at the end of the first half? You might not have seen if you were watching the field live instead of a tv screen, but he was hurrying everyone up to the line and signaling for a spike instead of calling timeout. Timeout was apparently called from the sideline.

Here is the exact situation: Antonio Brown makes a first down and is tackled at the one yard line with 15 seconds left. If a timeout is called instantly, the clock will stop with 13 or 14 seconds on the clock, and the Steelers will have three throws into the end zone before kicking a field goal, if necessary.

As it happened, no one on the field called timeout, and whoever finally did (I'm assuming it was on the sideline but it could have been a player. All I know is it wasn't Ben since the camera was on him and he looked surprised to see TO had been called) waited until there were 7 seconds left. SEVEN. That means two throws into the end zone and a field goal on third down.

People act like this stuff doesn't matter. We cost ourselves a very, very good chance of scoring an additional 4 points in a game we almost lost. And why? I have no idea. Because Ben doesn't have instincts for time management at all, because if anyone else on the offense does, they aren't allowed or don't have the guts to override him, because when Tomlin DOES make the right decision to override, he is too slow... In other words, for no reason at all.

There are clear solutions to the team's repeated blown opportunities (unnecessary losses of downs and/or lots of time off the clock, resulting in fewer points in games -- always overlooked because we usually win anyway). The most obvious solution is to get smarter, but that's probably not going to happen. So instead I suggest appointing the most intelligent guy out there (Heath? Brown? Starks? ANYBODY who will be out on the field and knows their stuff) the specific task of calling timeout when necessary. If none of them are up for it, pay me $1 per game to stand next to Mike Tomlin during our two-minute drills and tell him when to do it. Okay, I might be busy, but surely I'm not the only one who is mortified by this. Get someone to be in charge so we can eliminate these retarded mistakes. It happens 4 or 5 times every year and we're lucky it hasn't cost us a game or season. I don't think that luck will last forever.

Dalton did the same thing at the end of his game yesterday and cost them a better chance of winning. In his case, he should have spiked it and instead ran a play. It continues to blow my mind how so many people over the age of 12 could make these simple mistakes on a regular basis -- never mind the fact that they are in their 20s and 30s and getting paid millions of dollars to not blow it. Not knowing this entry level stuff is like not knowing how to throw, so the "they have other things to think about" excuse doesn't fly.

adamg said...

Denver lost their best OL yesterday to a nasty leg injury (broken tibia and severly dislocated ankle). That puts a big dent in their running game.

steelcan said...

I just love how fans love to pick on a call here or there when criticizing coach Tomlin. You can watch ANY game, and after the fact criticize the coach, and be right. Btw, this W was coach Tomlins 60th. (Reg season & playoffs) any one out there nknow how many coachs have reached that # in there first 5 years before the age of 40? I bet the list isnt very long. Bottom line I wouldnt trade for ANY other coach in the NFL.

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