Monday, November 19, 2012

Post-Ravens thoughts I

The Pittsburgh defense did everything it needed to do in this one to come out of this game with a win.

Pressure Joe Flacco into poor throws?

Check.

Shut down Ray Rice?

Check.

Hold the Ravens to field goals once they got into the red zone?

Check.

Force a turnover or two to set your offense up with a short field?

OK, the Steelers didn't do that.

And that wound up being the difference between a win and a loss Sunday night against the Ravens.

Baltimore gained 200 total yards and Flacco was a pitiful 20 of 32 for 164 yards, while Rice gained 40 yards on 20 carries.

But the Steelers lost because they couldn't give their offense anything resembling a short field.

I know I'm splitting hairs here, but when the offense's average starting position is its own 19, that's tough to ask it to move the length of the field more than once or twice with a backup quarterback making his first start in three years.

This defense is playing lights out - having held its fifth consecutive passer to 174 yards or less - but the lack of turnovers continues to be the difference between this being a very good defense and a great one.

@ The field position battle was lost on the leg of Baltimore punter Sam Koch, who averaged 46.5 yards per punt and placed half of his eight kicks inside the 20.

Drew Butler put half of his eight punts inside the 20 as well, but his averaged was 44.4 yards and his net was 35.4 thanks to a 63-yard return for a touchdown by Jacoby Jones.

@ I asked Mike Tomlin after the game if Baltimore did anything special to block up that return for a touchdown. He said the Ravens doubled the gunners, which forced the Steelers to get a tackle out of their inside guys.

That obviously didn't happen, even though - with the gunners doubled - the inside guys outnumbered the Ravens, 10-6.

@ Byron Leftwich wasn't great Sunday night. Heck, he wasn't even all that good. But he played well enough to lead this team to a win next week at Cleveland.

Getting Antonio Brown back next week will help immensely.

There were, just like last week against Kansas City, several times when Leftwich dropped back to pass, had plenty of time and there was nobody open.

And when he did throw some great passes - like the one that Mike Wallace fumbled in the first quarter and the one in the third quarter that Wallace couldn't get his feet down on in bounds in the end zone - they just didn't work out.

Wallace has got to come up with that throw in the end zone and tuck that ball away over the middle before he takes off like a bolt of lightning, especially if he wants to get a big contract at the end of this season.

But the Steelers gave Brown a new contract in the training camp because he's at his best on third downs. In fact, he might be the best third down receiver - or at least in the conversation - in the NFL.

Having him back returning some of Koch's punts might've helped as well.

@ James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley showed up in this game like they haven't in some time.

Both outside linebackers were getting consistent pressure, and both recorded sacks.

They also showed up big in the run defense, which limited the Ravens to 47 yards on 23 carries.

We also saw inspired play out of Casey Hampton in this game.

If the Steelers can get that out of those guys, they will be a very dangerous team the rest of the way - especially once Ben Roethlisberger returns.

I'm hearing Roethlisberger could be back in time for the rematch with the Ravens in two weeks. At least that is what the Steelers are hoping.

35 comments:

Greg Mercer said...

do you really think the Steelers are going to give Wallace big time money?

he gave absolutely no effort to catch that low pass from Leftwich on (i believe) our second to last drive.

did he even have another catch besides the one he fumbled on?

obviously, Keenan Lewis is priority #1. and i actually think i sign Dwyer before Mendy.

Homegrown Misanthropist said...

It seemed like Cameron Heyward had plenty of playing time tonight, do you think they are considering giving him more reps due to Hood's poor play? I think he played really well and pressured the quarterback.

Dale Lolley said...

Hood got hurt in the second quarter. Lower back injury.

I have never said the Steelers are going to give Wallace anything. It will have to come elsewhere.

And yes, he had other catches.

adamg said...

Ike played one of his best games of the season as well.

Leftwich wasn't helped by his receivers who dropped a few catchable balls. Missed the play in the end zone, but Wallace not even coming back for that pass that was at his shoe tops was terrible. I agree he won't be back next year. Isn't Bowe(KC) a UFA next year and doesn't he have a pretty good relationship with Haley? If so, I wonder if Haley will try and convince Colbert, et al, to sign him?

Thought Haley made the same mistake with his gameplan as he did for Oak, focusing too much on their banged up DBs and not pounding the ball enough. This would have been a good game to have two of Mendy, Dwyer or Redman in the backfield as RBs. All can catch better than Will Johnson and are capable blockers.

Anonymous said...

I don't see how you can blame the defense for this game. They held the Ravens offense to 6 points for Christ's sake!

The offense was terrible, Leftwich and Wallace's play is the reason we lost.

I wish we had started Batch. He fast reads and release might have made a huge difference.

marc said...

i don't see how you put any of this loss on the defense. they were lights out considering the offense could not sustain any reasonable time of possession and the ravens consistently had very good field position.

lewis played well again. i'm surprised he didn't get called for some pass interference a few times (he consistently grabs at the WR's when the ball is in the air), but so be it.

adamg is right, wish they had 2 of the 3 RB's in the backfield at the same time. i alluded to that previously.

i hope hood is ok, but i also liked having heyward in there. hope he stays.

wallace has already played himself out of the mega contract. he's got average hands, average route running and world class speed. when the speed drops by a step, he's an average WR.

finally, leftwich sucks, even for a backup. i realize he may have been hurt, but it doesn't change my opinion one bit. i have always thought he sucks. i hope the steelers bring someone in next year who is somewhat decent. then need to move on from this leftwich/batch tandem.

Anonymous said...

Redman got hurt u idiots

putting Dwyer and Mendenhall in together is a stupid idea

Anonymous said...

"wallace has already played himself out of the mega contract. he's got average hands, average route running and world class speed. when the speed drops by a step, he's an average WR."

I agree 100%. They should just franchise him next season then cut all ties with him and move on

Tim said...

Wait a sec...

"Not getting turnovers is the difference between a win and a loss."

"The Steelers lost because they couldn't give their offense anything resembling a short field."

The defense allows 200 total yards and 3 points, and it's their fault we lost because they didn't get any turnovers too?? Since when can you only expect your offense to score when they get a short field? Especially against the 27th best defense in the league.

I don't care if they had a bad play here or there, because I've yet to see a perfect performance by an NFL unit. 200 yards allowed. A shut down running game. A shut down passing game. Three points allowed. To place one shred of blame on them for last night's performance is nuts. I hope you were being sarcastic.

Anonymous said...

@9:18

I agree that Wallace is playing himself out of a big payday, however if the Steelers franchise him he still gets a VERY LARGE check from the team because he gets the average of the top receivers in the league. Let him move on.

Very frustrating game and imminently winnable. Haley called a lousy game. If the team just kept running the ball we would have had a much better chance. The play calling down on the goal was particularly bad. 3rd and two and they run a fade! C'mon, two down territory. Ram it down their throats.

Jimbo stuck in Philly

marc said...

anonymous,
we're talking about the game plan. i'm pretty sure redman wasn't hurt when the game started....idiot.

marc said...

jimbo,
i completely agree with you on the goaline play calling. additionally, if you're gonna pass it there, at least make it a play action. but, they should have run it.

marc said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kyle said...

Wallace certainly hasn't earned big money but never underestimate how small a sample size it takes for someone dumb to overpay a guy.

Jarron Gilbert jumped out of a pool on youtube and probably bumped himself up a round or two in the draft three years ago.

Larry Brown (disgusted noise) got a big contract based on catching two Neil O'donnell passes thrown right to him.

If Wallace has one big game late on a big stage, someone will come calling. With the franchise tag as leverage I don't think the Steelers would let something like this happen but...don't you think the Browns would be interested in having a wideout who has faster than TE speed? And lest we forget the Raiders, even without Al Davis they seem to pick up guys for speed above all else.

Patrick said...

No one wants to talk about the decision to keep Leftwich in when he was clearly hurt? The one "throw" to Gilreath (I think it was Gilreath) made it so obvious he was hurt.

Someone is able to make that throw and its probably a tie game. But ah, who cares, right?

And Kyle, why was it so smart to put Gilreath in on punts last week but not this week?

Anonymous said...

Dale,

Any truth to the rumors that the team is bringing in QB's this week?

Jimbo stuck in Philly

kyle said...

Hey, Patrick.

I never said the decision was "so smart" to put Gilreath back on punts last week. I explained what I believed to be the most likely reason for why they did it.

As for last night, I would imagine after being on the active roster for a full week and practicing with the offense for two weeks that they felt more comfortable having Gilreath actually on the field as an option on offense. Last week they had to have him active as insurance and probably didn't trust him as much on offense but knew he could handle return duties and wanted to get something out of him.

But yeah, you're probably right, Tomlin and everone associated with him must just be stupid. Good point.

Anonymous said...

And another thing...at what point does the coaching staff realize that Mike Adams needs a little help on the right side??!!! Max Starks handled Suggs very well by my account. I think Suggs ended up with 1 solo.

Again, underscores the point that this was a 40 rush game for the Steelers.

Jimbo

Pistol said...

Dale,

Who's your money on if the Steelers have to get another QB??

Patrick said...

or its because they felt they could risk him muffing one in a game against KC but not against Baltimore. Or they realized he couldn't be counted on back there after last week, which was my whole point, and decided not to risk it.

You were convinced last week it was because they couldn't afford to lose Sanders being thin at WR. This week its because Gilreath was more involved in the offense, what with his one run and 3 other snaps? 2 of them because Cotchery was injured.

Also, if you want to know why I think Tomlin is an idiot heres another example. He basically tried to deny any injury to Leftwich in his post game. Which is ridiculous, it was clear as day he was hurt. And now theres reports Leftwich could miss substantial time. The guy is always saying something blatantly not true ("Bruce Arians retired")

Homegrown Misanthropist said...

It is not that it is the defense's fault, but one turnover on Ravens territory might have sealed the game. If you look back at the wins we had against the Ravens, 2008, 2009, 2010 most of them came thanks to the big plays the defense created. Now with your starting QB out, the only thing this team missed was the turnovers. It has been an issue all year long, you had a fumble and an intercepted pass but created no turnovers. Besides that the Defense is playing great, I think if Roethlisberger is in we simply crush the Ravens.

TarheelFlyer said...

There were basically 3 plays which defined this game for the Steelers IMO:

1. The fumble by Wallace giving the Ravens FG territory possession.
(you can argue this was the difference in the game)

2. The punt return for a TD. (you can argue this was the difference in the game)

3. Not getting a TD on 3rd and goal from the 2.

Personally, based on the way that game was going, I would have gone for the TD, but Tomlin did the correct "football" choice.

The game is made up of 3 parts, we lost 2 of those parts.

Our offense turned the ball over and they did not. They scored on special teams and we did not.


marc said...

patrick,
a coach lying (or providng misinformation) about a player's injury is nothing new. it happens quite often and even the best coaches have been known to do so in the past.

regarding gilraeth, what's your problem? he returned kicks in college, was decent at it, and they wanted to see what he could do. nothing special against the chiefs so they went with sanders against the ravens. no big deal, get over it.

regarding leaving leftwich in, it's the same decision MLB managers make when going to the bullpen. is my starter at 70% better than my reliever at 100%. obviously, tomlin and co. felt leaving leftwich in was the best chance to win. personally, i'm not sure, but i'm also not sure charlie batch can throw the ball any further than an injured leftwich.

Patrick said...

my point was at the time against the chiefs that it was risky putting a young guy back there who never did it in the NFL. If you want to say that against a team like KC it was worth the risk, then ok, I kinda see your point. But when you're down by 10 and the game continues to be a dogfight, get him out of there. Sanders was a much safer play and they still had Gilreath back there, and he damn near fumbled one. Obviously, they acknowledged that risk but not having him back there this week.

And misinformation/lying about an injury is usually when people are in the dark about it. No one was in the dark about this injury, it was obvious to everyone.

Also, do you not consider the next few games when you know your starter is out? Who knows what damage Leftwich might have done to himself by staying in the game.

Now they have Batch and someone off the street.

marc said...

keep in mind, we don't have nearly all the information they have regarding the injury status of leftwich (during the game) or #7. for all we know, tomlin may have been told leftwich strained a muscle but it's nothing serious, he just needs to handle the pain. if that were the case, any of us would certainly trot him back out there and say, 'suck it up.'

and then after the game we would say 'he is fine' because he can play.

you are so enthralled with discrediting tomlin that any time you actually have a legit argument it is drowned out by all the noise you make.

repeat after me (3 times) - "mike tomlin is a good coach who sometimes makes mistakes." c'mon, you can do it.

kyle said...

Rainey is a young guy who had never returned kicks in the NFL. Sanders and Brown were young guys who had never returned kicks in the NFL their rookie year. You give a young guy a shot, particularly when the other option is your number 3 receiver when your number 2 receiver is down. Like I said, Gilreath had a full week of practice on the active roster and they figured they could get something out of him if they had to, like when Cotchery went down. They tried him at punt returner last week and he didn't do much so they went back to Sanders. I don't remember seeing Sanders light it up last night in the return game, should they take him off of it now too?

The trainers were looking at Leftwich late in the 4th. Do you honestly believe Tomlin had no idea? Or is it more likely that Tomlin knows what the deal is with Leftwich but prefers to keep injuries under wraps, at least until he's no longer speculating? Tomlin has made it clear he doesn't like dishing on injuries, it just happens with Leftwich he has a QB who will say "I'm ok." after a game instead of one who will say "I was playing with broken toes."

And like Marc said, do you keep your starter in if he's not 100% or do you go to the guy who barely took any snaps? It's not a clear cut decision. Seems to me Byron got banged up on his touchdown but he still made plays after that. Each time he got hit he would make some bad throws and some decent ones. I don't think there was as clear a consensus that he couldn't get it done as you would like to think. Take away Wallace bad play on the ball in the endzone, a few other drops, and (as Dale mentioned) guys not getting open and it seems like Byron was doing ok.

Dale Lolley said...

Look, the defense played great. But it still isn't forcing any turnovers. With the backup QB in the game, those are game-changing plays.
Backups QBs are backup QBs for a reason. This defense is playing good football right now, but for this team to be great, it has to force turnovers.
Baltimore's defense set its offense up with short fields twice. Its offense turned those into six points.
If the Steelers forced one turnover in Baltimore territory, the Steelers win that game. Their offense played better than Baltimore's.

As for Leftwich, he didn't lose this game for the Steelers. Rewatch the game. Did he throw some bad balls? Sure. Was he victimized by some drops and breakups by the Ravens? Absolutely.

As for the throw to Gilreath, Batch on his best day can't make it. Gilreath was 50-plus yards downfield.

marc said...

if you can't win a game when the defense holds the opponent to 6 points, the problem anything but the defense.

Josh said...

I'm just not getting the knocks on Batch. He can't throw 50 yards - so what? Haley's offense doesn't call for it. All Batch does is lead the team to victories. 5-2. He should've been starting yesterday.

marc said...

additionally, one could argue the steelers offense did not outplay the ravens offseason considering the fact the steelers offense had 2 turnovers that led to 6 points.

if they don't turn the ball over, they win the game.

Anonymous said...

batch may be 5-2 as a starter, but those two losses have also come against the ravens (2007 and 2010)

Dale Lolley said...

Would you have rather had Baltimore's defense, which gave up 311 yards but forced three turnovers, or the Steelers, which allowed 200 yards with no turnovers.

The game is about splash plays, especially these games. The Steelers D, while playing very well, made no splash plays.

I'm not saying the offense isn't to blame, but expecting much of the offense with the backup QB playing against the Ravens is expecting a lot. Every player on defense that I talked to was upset that they didn't force a single turnover. Every one pointed to that being the difference in the game.

As for the comment about Batch, it was brought up that another QB could have gotten the ball to Gilreath. That quarterback would not have been Batch.

marc said...

are you actually counting the fumble on the last play of game? c'mon dale.

i want the defense that gives up the fewest points. that will give you a chance to win every game.

as we all know, football is the ultimate team game and when 2 out of the 3 phases of the game fail, then you're not going to win.

the defense was great and in no way responsible for this loss.

Dale Lolley said...

Even if you don't count that, it's still two turnovers that led to scores. That's two more than the Steelers forced.

Tomlin said as much today as well. And the Steelers offense outplayed Baltimore's. It actually scored 10 points. So it was actually, two out of three phases that the Steelers won.

Nowhere do I say that the defense was responsible. I am just pointing out that it could have won this game with a turnover. It didn't.

marc said...

10 points, to me, is a failure by the offense. they should have scored more and blew their chances.

your logic seems to assume a turnover would have led to points for the offense, which is a mighty high assumption.

yet, take away the punt return TD and that is automatically points off the board.

one turnover for the defense doesn't mean they win that game.