Monday, September 24, 2012

Post-Oakland thoughts

This game reminded me of on in Chicago in 1995 when the Steelers got into a shootout with the Bears. The last team to have the ball was going to win it.

Only that Steelers team had a great defense to go along with an emerging offense.

This team has established stars all over on offense and Ben Roethlisberger is playing the best football of his life.

As for a great defense, not so much - at least on the road.

As Brett Keisel said after this one, this team needs to find a way to win on the road if it is going to get to where it wants to go.

That being said, Denver and Oakland are two tough places to open. There are easier road games coming, and the Steelers had to be pleased that they put up 31 points in a very hostile environment.

But the defense allowed scores on five consecutive possessions. Can't somebody, anybody, make a play?

While the Steelers have spent some big money on offensive players in recent years, they've also dropped some heavy coin on a couple of defensive players - LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons - as well.

They're not getting their money's worth right now.

Sure, Woodley had the team's lone sack Sunday and also had a tackle for a loss. But he finished with four tackles.

That was still better than Timmons, who had three tackles. In fact, after recording seven sacks and four forced fumbles in 2009, Timmons has five sacks and two forced fumbles - in the past two-plus seasons.

At this point, he's not even as impactful on a game as Larry Foote, who doesn't have nearly the athleticism of Timmons.

Often times, tackles are a matter of opportunity. But there's something to be said about players who make their own opportunities as well.

@ If you had any question about Mike Tomlin's faith in his defense to stop the Raiders in the second half, you only needed to see him go for a fourth-and-1 at his own 29.

At that point, it was the right call. As we saw, the Steelers couldn't stop Oakland's offense.

With that in mind, I'd have given serious thought to going for it on fourth-and-9 from the 36 as well.

@ Ben Roethlisberger played an outstanding game, leading the team to 31 points while continuing his hot play on third downs, where the Steelers converted 8 of 14 for the game.

But he once again had a chance to lead a fourth quarter, game-winning drive and failed.

In the past two seasons, Roethlisberger has led exactly one game-winner, and that came against lowly Indianapolis last season.

In his first seven seasons, Roethlisberger led 26 such drives, many of which came when he was, you know, just a game manager.

@ This is still a pretty good team with a chance to get much better coming out of the bye when it gets Rashard Mendenhall, Troy Polamalu and James Harrison back.

Mendenhall has looked good in practice and has to be able to give the team something better than the 2.6 yards per carry it's currently averaging.

Polamalu is still Polamalu, while even a one-legged Harrison would give this team some kind of pass rush outside of Woodley.

The Steelers are on pace to allow more touchdown passes (32) than they have sacks (27).

You want to know what's wrong with this defense? That's it in a nutshell. The lack of pressure is killing it.

@ That was a bad fumble for Jonathan Dwyer. With Mendenhall coming back and Barron Batch showing a little something as a third-down back Sunday, Dwyer could find his opportunities dwindling quickly.

@ On the positive side, with the return of Mendenhall, this offense has a chance to be one of the more dynamic ones in the NFL. If the defense can play average football the rest of the way and the offense continues to click, the Steelers still have the look of a 10 or 11-win team.

But unless they figure out how to win a big game on the road, any hopes of another Super Bowl run are just that, hopes.

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

I will be the first one to say it. I think LeBeau's Defense doesn't work anymore and here is why:
His D was never that great against the pass, it was always pressure based. The problem is that the rules now favor the pass so much, you need a top of the line secondary AND secondary schemes.
His schemes worked a few years ago, but now anyone can dink and dunk there way against us to a win. Its what Brady always did.
Harrison and Polumalu aren't getting any younger and that isn't helping anything.

Lance said...

The defense just does not look good. I agree that the offense could become tops in the league with so much talent, but we need the defense to at least make a few stops. I am just not seeing any playmakers on D. Here's hoping Harrison and Troy can make a difference. I could also not agree more about Timmons, so much upside, so much promise, where is it? He is doing nothing right now and Woodley is not much better, at some point a play must be made.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't Arizona run the same defense as us? They can generate pressure on the qb and their d-line is filled with some very good pass rushers. I do not think the problem is Lebeau's style of defense, we just do not have the players right now to effectively run it.

Anonymous said...

That is precisely the problem. They do not have young play makers that fit this defense.

When the elder playmakers move(Smith, Farrior, et al) or get injured(Troy, Harrison) they currently have no one stepping in to those voids and providing anything.

Hood's a bust, jury's out on Heyward, Carter/Worilds look useless, etc. etc. etc.

marc said...

i think it's a combination of both for the defense. lebeau's defense is predicated on pressuring the QB, as we all know. but the offenses around the league have adjusted to that scheme (most of them anyway - except for the jets). no huddles keep the base personnel on the field. 4 WR's for mismatches and spread out the defense. quick drops and smart QB's don't give the pressure time to develop.

but it's the players too. none of the steeler's 3 down linemen are providing pressure. are they even getting double teamed? timmons is bordering on bust, imo, based on his 1st round draft spot. woodley isn't winning many battles and appears slow. it also appears the only DB that can play straight up man consistently is taylor. the other guys just aren't cutting it.

on a side note, i was beside myself when on 3rd and 3 in the 4th quarter taylor was giving a 7 yard cushion to the WR. an easy conversion for the veteran palmer on the steeler's 20 yard line. what was he thinking???

it's both, scheme and players.

James said...

Am I seeing things or was that a very blatant CHOP-BLOCK on Ziggy Hood at the end of the game. Not only did Ziggy get hurt, but it should have been flagged (15 yards). It probably wouldn't have mattered but the Ref was standing right there looking at it, or maybe I am just imaging things.

Anonymous said...

James,

I saw that chop block too. Very dirty and that is the kind of play that deserves a fine, and a punch in the mouth.

I don't think Lebeau's scheme is dated in any ways. We just don't have much talent on D at the moment. Keisel isn't have a great year, Hood and Heyward aren't stepping up plus all the injuries.

The FO needs to restock this defense. Their defensive picks are all failing to make an impact.

marc said...

ziggy was pissed about the chop block as he was yelling at the refs walking off the field. same goes for the non-call when a pass rusher deliberately dove at #7's knee. replay showed the ref wasn't even watching the QB and was following the ball instead...how would he ever see a late hit?

as i have said since the preseason, the replacement refs are absolutely horrible. i don't pin this loss on the refs, but their ineptitude certainly didn't help.

Pistol said...


Whats the story w the o-line not being able to run block?? I thought that would be the real strength once Colon was moved to G. They get no push at the point of attack and what the heck did they put Beachum in for he shoudlnt even be on the team.

They sure can pass block though. 7 had all day to throw the whole game. Well until Beachum came in.

Anonymous said...

Mundy was terrible. He personally gave up 2 TDs, including the McFadden run. When was the last time the Steelers drafted a safety? Polamalu is clearly unable to stay on the field, and now the organization is a year behind in addressing that problem.

The biggest problem the Steelers have right now is health. Not the scheme. We do not have access to enough information to judge the Lebeau's scheme, and even if we did, it's probably over our heads. We need our 2 defensive players of the year and 1st round RB back on the field, period.

joe said...

the new nfl. 100 passes and next to no defense....pfft

yes the defense needs to make a big play or stop. but the offense needs to get a first down at the end of the game, keisel needs to keep his head out of his rear on the five yd line. hampton needs less playing time etc. etc.

replacement officials didn't cost us the game at all, but they sucked all over the country again yesterday

polo should have realized he isn't 22 anymore and worked out for real over the off season. unfortunate, but mundy stinks

DD said...

The secondary of this defense is shockingly bad. Ike continues to get burnt repeatedly and forced into PI. Lewis is not going to amount to much. Mundy should not even be in the NFL he is so bad. Troy is Troy but he can't do it all. Clark is good but he also can't cover the short stuff. The line IS old and it is showing. Keisel and Hampton both are not doing their jobs. And Timmons is just more proof that we should never, EVER draft anyone out of Florida State again. Pitiful performancer yesterday by the Defense. If we had a bad QB, we would have gotten blown out in Oakland. West coast trip or not, the Raiders are one of the worstteams in the league and we just lost to them. No excuse.

Dale Lolley said...

"His defenses were never that good against the pass"

Uh, the Steelers have led the NFL in pass defense the past two years.

joe said...

at least we had fouts for the game...i like his easygoing style !

coaching staff doesn't need the week off, get back to work.
dale, any word on decastro's early rehad efforts ?

marc said...

uh, dale, let's consider the competition at QB they faced last year.

4 games against rookies, 2 more against the browns QB's, clemens at st. louis, jackson for seattle, collins/painter for the colts. that's 10 games against inexperienced and/or bad QB's.

flacco twice, brady, schaub, smith and hasselback round out the rest.

the "best pass defense" in the league had interceptions in only 6 games and multiple interceptions against dalton, palko and mccoy. those 3 strike fear into your eyes?

let's be honest here. a good QB with solid WR's is gonna chew this secondary up. taylor is the ONLY DB who can consistently stay with his guy. need evidence? please reference the last 2 good QB's they've played further info.

marc said...

...actually, i would say that #7 and the offense this year would hang 6 TD's on this defense if they played each other.

alexrkirby said...

The defense just doesn't have a lot of talent at the moment. All our veterans got old and there are NO YOUNG IMPACT PLAYERS.

Hood and Heyward can't make a play, Kenaan Lewis and Cortez Allen are just decent.

Woodley isn't good enough to be your #1 guy. Without Harrison drawing the double teams he can't get anything done. To be fair it's hard to evaluate the LBers because the dline is struggling so much. One feeds the other.

Lance said...

IMO, the biggest issue is with the linebackers right now. The front 3 are filling the gags as they should, but our 4 backers are getting no preasure and are no help against the short passing routes. The 3 linemen are not supposed to be getting a lot of peasure, but rather allowing the backers to get pressure by occupying blockers. Big Snack needs be on the sidelines. I will say that we really miss Troy, but the CB's are not playing terrible, without pressure there is only so much they can do. Well...our oline is better, but we have not spent a good pick on a backer in years.

I guess next year we are looking at backers and safety in the draft...oh, and a RB.

Dale Lolley said...

At the end of the day, they allowed 209 yards passing to the Raiders. But it all came in the second half.

To me, it all comes down to pressure. How many times have you seen the Steelers in a passing mode and Roethlisberger is constantly under pressure because the opposing D knows he's throwing?
We didn't see that from the Steelers, despite the fact they knew the Raiders would be putting it in the air.

ibygeorge said...

Someone needs to light a fire under the linebackers. Why can't we show the bump and run late in the game. What, is everyone tired? These passers are just throwing under our coverage until they score. Taylor only gets called on half of his interferences and that's too many. They may as well rush 3 and go man to man.

Anonymous said...

We need to draft a young pass rusher first round next year. Someone who will pin their ears back and get consistent pressure from Harrison's side. Carter has looked very underwhelming. Worilds hasn't developed anymore than what he was last year. Time to start looking for Troy's replacement, who will more immediately be Mundy's replacement.

On another note, Brown's second fumble was about as crucial as Kiesel's offsides and even more crucial than Dwyer's fumble given the circumstances of the game. Ben would have had his 5th TD on that drive. The entire game they were hawking for the ball, I wish the Steelers would do the same.

Anonymous said...

Carter cannot seal the edge in the run game like Harrison can, which is why I think Harrison's return will help the defense in more way than one.

Anonymous said...

Harrison has not done anything since last season. His coming back will be more painful until he gets back to speed unless he gets hurt again,...more pain.

Anonymous Brian said...

The current front seven seems to have a major talent/age problem. I like to blame the D-line first b/c it snowballs from there.

Regardless of who was primarily at fault on McFadden's long TD run -- Kiesel says it was his gap, Timmons blitzed via the scenic route, Foote overran, Mundy whiffed, Ike was held, etc. -- watch what happens to Kiesel, Hampton, & Hood on that play. It looks like the Raiders O-line were moving blocking dummies. (Or like the opening drive from last year's Texans game.)

Can't stop much with that, or its equivalent on a pocket push / pass rush.

As far as the linebackers, Foote went from being our fourth or fifth best linebacker in 2008 then, after being allowed to leave in free agency, is now our…second best linebacker, at least for the time being, in 2012?

If Mundy got cut tomorrow, would another team pick him up?

Speaking of Ben, assuming these two things are true, what is the point of talking to the media about them:

1.) He & Haley had an "incident" in Denver & Ben walked away
2.) He called plays from the "old playbook" (Arians) in Oakland

Anonymous said...

I think the sky is not falling. Our team will look better after the bye. We have time to reflect and we will be getting a lot of players back and a lot more rested. We are a banged up team right now and having the bye is the best medicine. One thing that won't improve until DeCastro returns is our run blocking. Mendy won't help. Our backs have no time at all. They are hit before they get the ball.
We are cursed in Oakland and I dread the next time we have to play there. Maybe it is Franco Harris's fault. :-)

Mrs. Isaac Redman

Anonymous said...

http://www.steelersdepot.com/2012/09/breaking-down-the-long-touchdown-run-by-darren-mcfadden-against-the-steelers/

Anonymous said...

From PFF

D-Line Needs Reinforcements

I routinely wonder what some Steelers fans see in Ziggy Hood (-2.4), to the point that I’m actually checking plays more times than I normally would just to make sure I’m not missing some extremely subtle and under-the-radar level of dominance from him. It’s just not there. I was actually shocked in this outing when he made a good play in the run game–and even then he was beaten to the tackle by Timmons. Despite 36 snaps rushing the passer he failed to generate any pressure whatsoever.

I understand that might not be his specialty in this defense (though given his college background it probably should be), but if he’s out there for 36 snaps against the pass he needs to be able to make himself a factor. Otherwise he is just dead weight, because he rarely commands more than one blocker. In the end it was another poor performance from Hood and, as Casey Hampton (-1.3) isn’t getting any younger, Pittsburgh need to find some linemen going forward.

marc said...

dale, i agree with you, it's about the pressure. but, when no one on the d-line commands a double team there are plenty of blockers to pick up the extra rushers. add to that a good QB and quick throws to the WR's and DB's who can't play man-to-man, you have games like denver and oakland where the offense rattles of 5 straight scores.

this defense was at its best when hampton and a. smith were commanding double teams because of their ability to push the pocket. that left a RB to pick up a steamrolling LB on blitzes, or a free shot at the QB for #43. teams then had to bring in the TE for extra protection.

that hasn't been the case so far this year and the secondary is lost because of it.

Anonymous said...

Very good point Mark

Anonymous said...

Ryan Mundy had the most missed tackles (5) of any defensive player in week 3. I'll say a different way this time, not having Troy Polamalu cost us that game because Mundy had to fill in for him.

ReplacementRef said...

In all honesty, I do not think any good predictions can be made about the rest of the season without the ref debacle getting figured out.

http://replacementref.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

heck, not having a real backup safety back there even!

marc said...

btw, that great defensive game against the jets looks less and less impressive as we see the jets offense getting shut down yet again.