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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Post-Cincinnati thoughts Part II

Well, that was disappointing.

Of all the things that have gone wrong for the Steelers this season - and it's been a myriad of issues - seeing Ben Roethlisberger implode in back-to-back games wasn't high on the worry list.

To be fair, Roethlisberger played a great game in Dallas a week ago before his gack in overtime cost the Steelers a win.

Against Cincinnati Sunday, he never looked like a quarterback who was in control of the game.

Sure, the Bengals did their best to take Heath Miller out of the game, but Roethlisberger was just off, forcing the ball to covered receivers and missing open ones.

The other thing to note here - for all of the Todd Haley bashers - Roethlisberger has thrown four interceptions in the past three games, all of his interceptions in the past two games came in the no-huddle, when he was calling the shots.

That's not on Haley, that's on the quarterback.

Roethlisberger had been highly successful early in the season running Haley's offense, which called for quick throws and check downs to the running backs.

But after coming back from his rib and shoulder injuries, it seemed like he was intent on doing things his way, scrambling around, making stuff happen, both good and bad.

That didn't work so well Sunday when the Bengals took his security blanket, Heath Miller, out of the game, first figuratively with double teams, later literally with a torn ACL and MCL.

Roethlisberger will have a whole offseason to digest what's happened here. And he'll have a whole offseason to digest Haley's offense once again.

Roethlisberger looks awfully silly right now for complaining about the playcalling last week and then going out and laying another egg.

@ Sure, Roethlisberger was under heavy pressure from the Bengals on Sunday, who took advantage of the inexperience on the right side of the Steelers' offensive line.

But the Bengals had four sacks - and had one was nullified by a defensive penalty. The Steelers had a season-high six sacks.

The Steelers also turned the Bengals over three times, with Keenan Lewis hobbled and Ike Taylor standing on the sideline.

Cortez Allen had a coming out game working on the outside, instead of the slot, picking off a pair of passes - and just missing a third - and forcing an A.J. Green fumble - yes, other team's receivers fumble too.

The Steelers now have three long, tall corners to work with. And if Allen can prove to be a playmaker when given more opportunity, they have to find a way for him to play more.

This team proved to be a couple of playmakers short of being a solid team this season.

Lawrence Timmons is one on the defensive side, but there weren't any others - though Troy Polamalu showed he still has it, for those who were doubting him.

The Steelers don't often dip into the veteran free agent market, but given the results this season, maybe it's time, especially if this team has to replace wide receiver Mike Wallace in the offseason.

@ Roethlisberger isn't the only one who should feel silly right now.

How about all the people who were saying the Steelers should cut Troy Polamalu in the offseason. Or that he should retire.

I've been saying for the past couple of weeks that Polamalu has been playing fine. The only issue was that his return coincided with the team losing Ike Taylor and then nearly every other corner on the roster getting banged up.

He was playing a lot of deep safety.

Sunday, Dick LeBeau changed things up and turned Polamalu loose in the Steelers' biggest game of the season.

The results were there for all to see. Polamalu still has it.

That doesn't mean that you don't have a better option at safety to back up both he and Ryan Clark - Cortez Allen anyone? - but Polamalu has earned the right to able to let the Steelers know when he's done, not the other way around.

And he's not done.

@ If you were going to put together a list of the biggest disappointments for the 2012 season, LaMarr Woodley would have to be at the top.

James Harrison had a reason for his slow start, and his play down the stretch has been solid, so much, in fact, that the Steelers have to consider bringing him back in 2013, contract allowing.

But Woodley hasn't been a factor rushing the passer at all this season and you have to wonder if his hamstring issues of 2011 have robbed him of his explosiveness.

If that's the case, the Steelers have some issues. Jason Worilds showed in limited playing time this season that he isn't the bust some thought he was, but he also might never be a star.

And the Steelers need their outside backers to be stars.

@ Keenan Lewis, hats off to you. That was a Jerome Bettis-like performance Lewis put forth Sunday, limping out of the huddle and then playing some solid cornerback.

Lewis has earned himself a lot of money this season - though he might be more valuable to the Steelers than another team due to his lack of interceptions.

I know that sounds crazy, but he's why: Lewis is just what the Steelers look for in their corners, long, strong and a solid tackler.

His speed is underrated, and as LeBeau said this week, the more he plays, the more confident he will get coming out of his breaks to get interceptions.

@ Ah, Shaun Suisham. Sorry for mushing you this week.

I wrote Saturday on this blog that Suisham was quietly having a Pro Bowl season. He then went out and missed 24 and 53-yard field goals.

Actually, the 24-yarder wasn't his fault. Usually reliable Greg Warren had a bad snap.

@ Brett Keisel said the officials told him he was penalized for doing his bow-and-arrow sack celebration because he was simulating a weapon.

That's insane. And if the league was going to crack down on that type of thing, perhaps somebody should have informed Keisel, who's done that same celebration since, oh, around 2005.

@ Rashard Mendenhall looked better than he has all season on Sunday, gaining 50 yards on 11 carries.

@ Just so you can start planning for next year, here's the Steelers' schedule for 2013:

Home: Cincinnati, Cleveland, Baltimore, Tennessee, Buffalo, Miami, Chicago and Detroit

Away: Cincinnati, Cleveland, Baltimore, Oakland (Again!), New England, N.Y. Jets, Green Bay and Minnesota (in London)


Anonymous said...

Home: Cincinnati (L), Cleveland (W), Baltimore (L), Tennessee (W), Buffalo (W), Miami (W), Chicago (L) and Detroit (W)

Away: Cincinnati (L), Cleveland (W), Baltimore (L), Oakland (Again!)(L), New England (L), N.Y. Jets (W), Green Bay (L) and Minnesota (in London)(W)


Dale Lolley said...

Yeah, because everything will be the same as this year for all teams involved. Silly to even look that far ahead.

Anonymous said...

I could've sworn that the ref penalized Keisel for going to the ground during his celebration.

adamg said...

Couldn't agree more with your comments on BR. After he came back from the shoulder injury he sure seemed determined to be a playground qb. IMO, the physical cost of playing that style is coming due. He can't pull off those miracle throws as often. His game has to evolve from purely athletic to more cerebral for him to keep having success and a continued career. Only BR seems not to recognize that fact. It's long past time for BR to mature and accept that Haley, Tomlin, AR2, etc are trying to help, not hurt, him.

Anonymous said...

Ref did say that, but Pompeiani read the rule on the post-game show. It said the player has to be warned first.

Easley said...

Maybe Ben just has new-dad-no-sleep syndrome. I think anyone who's been there can relate. :)

marc said...

this game was no surprise, it was their season in a nutshell. i hope miller is able to recover, he had a great year.

someone should show #7 some old tapes of how successful the steelers were when he only threw the ball 15-20 times per game. i realize offenses now are more pass happy, but many times they are just "extended handoffs." this team doesn't need him to be great. avoid the sacks, avoid the turnovers and they are playoff bound every year.

the young DB's have really stepped up as the year went along. they are a strength of this team going forward.

dale, with miller's injury, the steelers may need to bring in a good free agent TE as well.

Steve-O said...

I'm curious who you think the Steelers should pursue in free agency. I'd be interested in a pass rushing OLB but I"m not sure there is anyone of quality coming out in free agency. But the good news is that we should get a fairly decent draft choice (trying to be optomistic).

Anonymous said...

Weren't both of Ben's interceptions intended for Wallace at the end of the last two games?

I wonder if Ben's new lack of 4th quarter clutchness has something to do with his receivers. Hate him all you want but Santonio was clutch for us and Hines Ward was as clutch as they come. Wallace? Not so much.

Anonymous said...

Since this season's over, I'd suggest starting all the non starters in the Cleveland game to see what they have. Consider bringing back Hoying and start him. Why? Batch and Leftwich aren't the answer as a back up to Ben. Ben's getting older and as such, more likely to get injured. Might as well see how Hoying can operate under fire and determine if we need to draft a QB.

Anonymous said...

Troy may not be done but he is on the back nine now. They won't release him and they shouldn't because they have no one to take his place. They can draft a safety in the first round but LeBeau does not play rookies. He was useless to his team in 2012 standing on the sidelines in a hoodie.

Anonymous said...

Before I start, let me say, I did see some fire in the belly from the defense yesterday. Loved the intensity shown by Troy, Timmons, Allen. The defense allowed 6 points, they are ranked number 1 in YPG, so let’s absolve them right now. The fact that they got 3 turnovers was lost on the offense. And I apologize to AB, he came to play. Was Wallace inactive yesterday… oh wait, he did have 1 catch…. told you he packed it in long ago. On to the offense:

1. Ben is an elite quarterback. If we consider Manning/Brady as tier 1, Ben is on the second tier with Rodgers, Brees, in spite of the interceptions.

2. Wallace may be the fastest receiver in the league, wasn’t he 1 or 2 in yards per catch last year? AB is one of the best shake and bake runners in the league. Cotchery is clutch. Sanders is an excellent number 3. Heath Miller is elite and under appreciated outside of da burgh.

3. Rashard has had a couple of 1000 yard seasons. Both Dwyer and Redman are bowling balls.

4. The offensive line is average, but has the potential to be special.

With a number 1 defense and excellent players on offense, how could the Steelers have a losing record? Part of it could be injuries but every team deals with injuries, its football not badminton. The intensity level/heart wasn’t there for some games and let me expand that a little, let’s include mojo, attitude, whatever you want to call it, it wasn’t there this year, particularly for the offense. It’s the coach’s job to put the players in a position to win. One of those positions, beyond plays and skill, is psychological, give them the swagger, you know, like Ike.

What’s so ironic about this mess is that the Steelers fire Arians after going 12-4, then go 7-8 while Arians has the Colts in the playoffs. Tomlin’s not going anywhere, the Rooney’s are smarter than that. But there are issues on the offensive side of the ball that need to be worked out. Also mention to Tomlin, that football is like chess, plan your moves, don’t always go for it, like my wife who always wants to go for it on fourth down. He saw the Bengals kicker miss a long field goal and the benefit that was to the Steelers. Think cost/benefit, negative/positive of each decision before making it. Yes a field goal wins the game, but so does field position. BTW, speaking of fourth down, what was Marvin Lewis thinking, 4th and 22 and he goes for it, so Tomlin isn’t the only guilty coach.

Dale Lolley said...

Jeessus. Let's get off the blame Wallace crap for five minutes. That thrown Roethlisberger made Sunday was 15 feet over Wallace's head. He was wide open for cripes sakes. Ben made the mistake. Same thing last week. He threw and out to the inside instead of outside. Those get intercepted in the NFL.
I might add that Wallace was playing with a severe cold. I'm dealing with the same thing right now and couldn't imagine running up and down a field with it. Dizziness, tough to take a full breath, etc. So no, Wallace didn't pack it in.

The long field goal attempt didn't cost them this game. The defense held Cincinnati to a three-and-out. Roethlisberger's poor play throughout was the determining factor.

As for bringing back Hoyer, he's on Arizona's roster.

adamg said...

I've never thought BR was an elite qb. He doesn't do enough homework to go with his physical talent for that label. But, since the first time I saw him throw, my first thought was "winner". Now I'm not sure he even measures up to that label. The last 3 games, the offense was exactly "Ben being Ben" and it didn't work out too well. You figure while maybe he's not the most liked guy in the locker room, being able to win games with late comebacks and "oh No, oh Yes!" plays kept the critics at bay. Now, if he shows he can't win games like that anymore, how much longer will his teammates want have his back?

marc said...

agreed, dale. #7's poor play is the culprit. he drifted to his right, you could tell he saw something, gave a little wave of the hand to direct the WR (at this point i'm thinking someone is wide open for a big play) then short-arms a piece of crap floater well over wallace's head....merry xmas bengals.

and #7 was making poor throws/decisions all game. earlier in the game, in the redzone, he could have easily run for a first down, but instead tried to hit rainey in the endzone and made a crappy throw there as well.

while the defense started off slow, they certainly rounded into form by the end of the year. they are playoff claiber. the offense, however, for a myriad of reasons, regressed.

fortunately, the steelers organization is run pretty well. they will be in the hunt for the playoffs again next year, as they are every year. not many teams can say that.

Anonymous said...

I agree, let’s get off this blame Wallace crap. Some Wallace stats: In 2010, 60 catches on a 100 targets, 1257 yards for a 21 YPC. In 2011, 72 catches on 113 targets, 1193 yards for a 16.6 YPC. In 2012, 64 catches on 119 targets for a 13.1 YPC. In the “dink and dunk” offense that the Steelers used in 2012, less YPC would be expected, but more catches should also be expected as shorter passes are easier to complete i.e. I can throw a ball 5 yards to someone, but couldn’t throw it 40 yards. However in 2012, he’s had more targets but less catches and more drops (6). It highlights that yes, he has speed as noted, but is not the route runner or has the hands of AB. AB has 64 catches compared to 69 last year, but has played in 4 less games and has 20 less targets. Whether it’s the change in offensive coordinators or the failed contract negotiations, Wallace is having a worse year, not a bad year statistically, but not going to get a 1000 yards. Just as important as stats, his misses, drops or failure to fight for the ball have been momentum changers. I wasn’t blaming Wallace for Ben’s throwing error, just for disappearing in the biggest game of the year, but a cold is as good as any excuse.

Since we’re not blaming Wallace, what can we blame for the poor play this year? Turnovers? Get over it, the defense had 3 yesterday, but it didn’t matter. Averaging less than 3 yards a carry isn’t going to get many first downs. While the long field goal didn’t cost them the game, trying to kick a 53 yard field goal, which isn’t that close to the Heinz Field record, in cold weather where the ball doesn’t carry as well, is sort of like trying to win the powerball, nice thought, but the odds are against it. Tomlin should have learned his lesson from the Tennessee game, but didn’t. BTW, someone should teach Butler about the coffin corner or the back spin Supuelvada used, it would have helped in the Dallas game.

So the question is, with such a good defense, many excellent players on offense, how could the Steelers have a losing record and more importantly, what can be done to correct the problems before the 2013 season starts? Not us, but someone in a position of authority at the Steelers might want to try to figure out why. There is disappointment/anger from the Steeler Nation at a team that underachieved this year.

Tom said...

Is it too early to draft a QB this offseason?

ibygeorge said...

Tomlin said BR had recovered from his injuries. What's the name of those drugs?

Viktor said...

The defense did play well but not on third downs.

If it's possible I hope they trade Wallace for a 3rd rounder.

Well at least we will get a better draft pick for the draft.

Dale Lolley said...

Can't trade Wallace, he's not under contract.

As far as the field goal attempt, that's not the reason they lost the game. Cincinnati went three-and-out after that.

Agree on the punting.

D said...

It's not a point of contention but it can't be under-estimated just how good the defense looked against an above average Bengals team.

Not only were they at their most depleted, but they looked their best. It was easily their best all season. Part of it was vintage Polamalu, timing the snap count etc etc but the entire secondary was amazing. Even underachiever Ziggy Hood has been showing up with a play or two over the past few games.

Strangely enough, that game has made me very optimistic for the future. If the defense can turn it on like that, when their top corner is out and their #2 is playing hurt, good things can happen.

Patrick said...

I wish I had the time and energy to go through that game. I'm too disappointed.

Tom;in's decision to kick that FG wasn't why they lost the game, but come on folks, it very well could have been. The fact it didn't affect the outcome doesn't make it smart, when it was so obviously dumb. The guy couldn't make a clutch 54 yarder at Ten, why was he setting the Heinz FG record, into the open end? Its just stupid, but that is the coach.

And that is the season. Mental blunder after mental blunder.

So if the mistakes are the players' fault, then ok, but its the coach's fault not to fix them. And he couldn't fix them all year long. But then again, could he fix his own?

Hampolwoodtay said...

Since the Steelers are not going to the playoffs, and they know it. I wonder if Tomlin will stop his "respect the players on the other side of the ball crap" this week. If anything I believe that is the reason why we play both down and up to the opponent's level so often. I hope Tomlin is preaching "the Browns are terrible, destroy them like they destroyed you earlier this year". Let's beat up on inferior competition at least once this year. gah

Anonymous said...

These two should not be allowed to talk about the Steelers ever again.

Anonymous said...

Dale sighting!!!

Anonynous Brian said...

Defense, while "No. 1" in name only, was playoff-caliber.

Offense, again, wet the bed from the KC game on. Got three Super Bowl trips out of Ben but what gives?

Maybe Tomlin can unleash his 2-point conversion plays this week, finally :)

Lance said...

Always hard to put one play out there that cost the game. The "O" has been a huge disappointment, IMO. The "D" played well enough all season to be a playoff team, period. Dale, I have to disagree about the field goal not costing us due to the 3 and out. It is another bad decision on a year full of them. 3 and out from the 10 yard line (or a turnover from a fired up D) gives us better field position and maybe we are looking at a 35 yard field goal at the end. Just because you get the ball back does not mean it did not cost you, having said that, it was just another bad play and bad call to go with a lackluster year. This team will be back and better next year, but IMO, they need to get their heads right, i saw NO hunger or sense of urgency this whole year with the exception of the "D" performance this last game.

Woodley needs to give some money back. One other thing I have been hearing a lot of people saying we need to go NT in round one...why? Big Snack was back to good form the second half of the season and we have 2 promising guys behind him. We need a difference making OLB, and please can we get a back up QB and let the two worthless back ups ride off into the sunset?

marc said...

patrick, i agree with you. i knew tomlin would try to kick the FG, but it was a stupid decision.

instead of taking a low probability/high risk shot at the FG and, if you miss, hope your red hot defense about putting the bengals, at worst, on their own 20 and hoping your red hot defense holds. that would give you better field position for an end-of-game FG try.