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Sunday, September 08, 2013

Post-Tennessee thoughts

The Steelers didn't just lose a game Sunday, they lost two key playcallers, one on each side of the ball.

Center Maurkice Pouncey's knee injury robs this team of its anchor on the offensive line and the guy who calls the protections for that position.

The injury to Larry Foote, a torn bicep, takes away the team's defensive play caller.

@ When Pouncey went down in the first quarter with what turned out to be a torn ACL and MCL, I couldn't help but think about the conversations that had gone on in the Steelers front office over the past few weeks.

Should they place Matt Spaeth on IR and designate him for return, or should they save it for the first couple weeks of the season and see if a starter gets hurt?

It appeared at first that Pouncey might have suffered a broken leg on the hit from guard David DeCastro. Had that happened, the Steelers would have felt a little silly having to carry him on the roster during his recovery while Spaeth was designated for return.

As it is, the Steelers will have to figure out if they go with Kelvin Beachum at center the rest of the way, turn the center position over to Cody Wallace, who they signed last week off waivers from Tampa Bay, or sign a veteran.

Sunday was the first time Beachum ever played center in a game. Wallace, meanwhile, was a center in college, though he's appeared in just nine career games despite being in the league since 2008.

And no, re-signing John Malecki, cut last week, and making him the starter is not an option.

The best free agent guy available? Ryan Lilja, who played for Todd Haley at Kansas City in 2010. Lilja, 31, was talked out of retirement by Denver in the preseason after the Broncos lost starting center Dan Koppen. But he was released at the end of training camp.

@ According to Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports, LaRod Stephens-Howling tore his ACL as well. The hits just keep coming for the Steelers.

@ It's one week into the season and the Steelers already have their backs against the wall.

That was a putrid offensive performance today. But I can give the team a bit of a pass. Watching a beloved teammate such as Pouncey go down for the season on your opening drive can be a bit of a buzz kill - even on opening day.

But it's a long season. The offense won't be this bad all season. It can't be this bad all season.

In fact, a couple of receptions by Emmanuel Sanders on balls that were catchable or if Ben Roethlisberger and Isaac Redman don't mishandle a handoff, and the outcome might have been different.

As for the offensive line, I'm willing to give it a pass this week after losing its heart and soul in Pouncey so early in the game.

@ The defense played a good, not great game. Again, there were very few splash plays - one sack and a couple of big hits for losses - both from rookie Jarvis Jones.

At this point, I don't care if Jones doesn't really know what he's doing all the time. He makes something happen pretty much every time he's on the field.

He's got to become the starter, sooner rather than later.

The defense failed in a couple of key spots to get the Titans off the field as well, giving up some big conversions on third-and-short runs.

That said, some offensive help - any offensive help - would have been appreciated.

@ Don't give me the old, tired lines complaining about the offensive coordinator or the head coach not having the team prepared.

The story of this game comes down to Redman's fumble into the end zone, and Haley's play call had nothing to do with that. In fact, it appeared that particular play was going to achieve the desired effect. It was going to be a first down on third-and-1 from the 6.

You can rip Tomlin for not calling a timeout in that situation, with the team looking confused by the play call because the combination of players on the field wasn't the group the Steelers had run that play with in practice, but Roethlisberger could have called a timeout there as well. Neither did.


adamg said...

It won't be popular, but I agree about the OL getting somewhat of a pass. I can remember John Jackson's and Jon Kolb's first games when they were terrorized by Pat Swilling and Dick Butkus. These guys will get better, but it takes time and OJT.

I was at the game and thought the OL was doing fine until Pouncey got hurt and even after up to the Redman fumble. I don't think Sanders did anything to earn himself a new contract by not catching those couple of balls he could have. They might as well see what Wheaton and Moye can do.

I believe the QB and OC have different views
of how the offense should be. While I think Haley's offense is ultimately the more productive approach, BR either can't or won't operate it effectively. I guess at this point, I'd just let him run the no huddle all the time.
If it works, great; if it flops maybe he'd be receptive to a different approach.

I think with Foote's injury, the odds of Sean Spence coming back next year or sooner just got a whole lot better.

Anonymous said...

Hey Dale If you had to guess, who starts in Foote's place? I hope its #98 Vince Williams. Thanks

Dale Lolley said...

Kion Wilson replaced him today, but he was active because he's better on special teams than Williams.

It will be one of those two. Williams is listed as Foote's backup, but that could be for accounting purposes.

adamg said...

Dale, Sean Spence is on the PUP, not IR, correct? Is there any chance he could possibly be activated later in the season?

HACK said...

Worilds new nickname needs to be "BREATHER" Jones needs a BREATHER....Woodley needs a BREATHER.

Anonymous Brian said...

I think people in general have ridiculous expectations for the defense. The defense has carried the offense for years. The defense is not great anymore, fine; but it is solid, competitive.

The offense was a total embarrassment and has been too often for the past 3 seasons.

The fact that Ben did not call a timeout rather than rush the Redman handoff / fumble play is inexcusable in 10th year. Tomlin's timeout @ 2:02 wasn't quite going for two @ the twelve, but says quite a bit.

I mean, they were essentially SHUT OUT. Zero points. (The garbage time TD was garbage & meaningless.) I can't buy the Pouncey excuse. Your center got hurt so you were too sad to perform?

Bengals game last year. Held Bengals to THREE points on offense, got THREE turnovers, up until Ben's 2nd killer int, still lost.

Defense would have had to get two touchdowns by itself today just to get to OT (minus previously mentioned garbage TD).

Could go on & include number of 13-9 type games v. bad teams in 2011 where defense held teams without a touchdown & then had to make a last stand b/c offense is godawful. (Jags, Chiefs, Browns...)

Really hard to watch.

At least tied for first / last place in division!

Did anyone ask DeCastro what he thought he was doing?

Anonymous said...

These cut blocks have absolutely got to go. Forget hits to head, aside from spearing, these cut blocks are the most dangerous play in football.

Ed said...

If DeCastro had cut the defender, wouldn't it have been an illegal chop block since he and Pouncey were locked up?

Ed said...

Oh and so now that we're down to Redman and Jones at HB, is Dwyer going to get a phone call from the Steelers?

Dale Lolley said...

That is the case with DeCastro/Pouncey. Would have been a legal play

Anonymous said...

Dale how about Titans released C Fernando Velasco. If Pouncey is lost for the season wont that free up money to sign him. Isn't he our best option now at center?

DD said...

Jeez dale. Just admit decastro f'd up! Christ. He dove directly into pouncey's knee, ending his season. Unblocked. Absolutely unacceptable. This team is awful. Haley is awful. The rb's are awful.going to be a looooooong yr. and u shd say it like it is versus providing media speak. Tomlin is garbage and we all know it. But, outside him, this team lacks talent. At critical positions. Very saD

Viktor said...

On the offensive side of the ball Sanders and Redman did not perform as NFL caliber starters.

By now the O-line should be able to know how to play/adjust w/o 1-2 starters; I mean every year it seems our o-line is in disarray.

Positives were Troy and Jones. At least it's early in the season and we can have first dibs on free agents. Gay played well also.

Unknown said...

Wow, I'll hand it you Dale, you are being very kind given what I saw of that "performance". We'll see how good Tomlin is this season, for sure. They were not prepared to play, now for three straight openers. Someone has to say it even though you may not agree. Putrid.

Anonymous said...

"the standard is the standard"

i'd like to know what that means right about now. one game does not make a season, but, imo, the opening game is always a pretty good indication of the work that has been put in the past couple months. not much to show for here.

and why would one expect them to play better? the o-line is not proven, the WR core is not proven outside of brown, the RB's are not proven, the TE's are not proven (miller still out) - doesn't matter who the QB is when everyone else is subpar.

some of these guys need to prove they belong in the nfl.

Anonymous said...

Counting pre season the Steelers are 2-10 there last 12 games. That is pre Chuck Noll levels. It is quick to write off preseason, but the stats prove that 0-4 teams make the playoffs 7% of the time. Their offense looked horrible during those games and there was a lot of opinion saying they are not showing their true offense. After yesterdays performance, it's clear that they were.

Not sure who to blame. But I can't remember the last time I felt this hopeless about their chances after 1 game. It's becoming painfully obvious that there are no easy fixes.

I now will start drinking heavily now.

adamg said...

marc, though no one will say it out loud, the team is clearly rebuilding. That's the way the NFL is designed what with free agency, salary cap, inverse draft order, etc. Look at the vets that have been released over the past two years, that's a lot of talent and leadership to lose and the replenishments are mid to late round draft choices or UDFAs on offense.

It shouldn't surprise anyone the offense is struggling.

The defense has been been better at transitioning to younger players which is why it's a better mix of vets and youngsters and still performing to acceptable levels.

There's always a risk in trying to get 1 more championship year out of a core group of vets like the Steelers did. The risk is guys like Keenan Lewis don't start and then when they do and do well, they're lost as UFAs.

The Steelers have been way above the line for a long time. We fans have gotten just a tad spoiled.

Anonymous said...

losing Foote is a positive

He is horrible

Anonymous said...

i agree with you to a certain degree. obviously they got younger upfront and they look to replenish through the draft, so that takes time. but they did so with high draft picks. those guys should be better than that. sanders should be better, he's in his 4th year. same goes for redman. it's not like they are starting rookies all over the place.

furthermore, it's appalling at the fact they have zero rushing attack. especially after the owner demands that be an area of improvement.

like i said, it's just the first game, but it's not a good sign. this game was such an utter failure, for the first time in many years i am starting to question the GM/Coaching for this team. and, for the record, i am not a tomlin basher nor did i think they would be better off without cowher.

Mark said...

The defense is reloading, but the offense has me scratching my head. They brought in Whimper (veteran with low ceiling) instead of trying to develop more of the younger linemen. And when injuries depleted the running backs and tight ends, they brought in veterans... with histories of injuries.

Anonymous said...

The steelers need to free up some cash in time for FA next year and sign some DEPENDABLE olinemen who have proven they can stay play well and stayhealthy. The FO has shown they cannot identify and develop linemen on offense.

That said the Pouncey thing wasn't his fault. Decastro looks like an idiot right now.

Anonymous said...

I know you can't realistically say it after one game, but: they're done. Prisoner of the moment maybe, but that was the ugliest game I've seen, especially the injuries to key players. I do think Pouncey is overrated, but he's still MILES better than anyone else they've got. Have to wonder how well he's going to come back next year, and if we really want to resign him when his contract us up given his injury history. I wouldn't.

Easley said...

I look forward to the standard weekly comments from the offensive players telling us how close they are to being unstoppable.

Greg Mercer said...


Are you as concerned with the run defense as I am? Even with bringing Troy down in the box, Titans were still getting 4-5 yards on first down.

Players come and go, but it really seems like Aaron Smith is one guy we haven't been able to replace. Personally, I have seen enough of Hood to know he is not the answer. He can barely hold his own when going one on one. When he is double-teamed, he gets shoved off the screen.

Due to his athletic ability, though, he manages to chase down the play from behind after a 5 yard game. I appreciate his effort, but he is not the anchor we need him to be.

Greg Mercer said...

This will probably change week to week, but right now, my gut is telling me the Steelers should do the following in the offseason.

Let Foote retire

Do NOT resign Pouncey, Hood, Sanders

Cut Gilbert, Redman

Move Adams to RT

Possibly extend Beachum on the cheap

Move up to draft a TRUE franchise LT in rd 1

Draft the biggest WR and TE they can find in rds 2 and 3

kyle said...


A few things:

Foote has to want to retire but point taken.

Redman is only signed through this year so it wouldn't be a cut. Also, not sure a team with a bad offensive line would be well served by letting go of their best player (Pouncey) and their starting RT. Typically you want to get a replacement onboard before you let someone go.

Beachum can't be extended until after his third season.

I'm fine with moving up for a LT (this coming draft is supposed to be stocked) but if you want the best one you usually have to trade up into the top 3. Are you ok with them giving up Rounds 2-4 or something to that effect?

Hmm. If you want tall guys in Rounds 2 and 3 I guess not.

adamg said...

Looks like signed Velasco, cut by TN, to replace Pouncey for a 1 yr contract.

adamg said...

marc, I think of all the units on a football team, the OL takes the longest to come together. Look at the last 2 SBs, the lines were generally bemoaned as completely inadequate in both years, but by the end of those season the OL was pretty good.

This is Gilbert's 2nd year, DeCastro's 1st and Adams' 1st. There are things you can only learn by game experience. I'll be concerned if I don't see improvement each week, but I don't expect them to be great right away. Guys like Pouncey, Dawson, Faneca who start from day 1 and are good, are more exceptions to the rule than not.

Mark, The Steelers got themselves in a fix with the contract extentions that converted salary to bonuses, then stretched out the payments creating future years salary cap issues. The fact that the cap hasn't increased nearly as much as teams/players anticipated really put the Steelers in a bind.
At first this made good business and football sense, but it also kind of created a vicious cycle by not leaving cap room and making the team cut players, who they might have otherwise kept, to get under the cap. It left little room to sign quality UFAs, their own and others, too. That's why you have players like Guy Whimper on the team.

Anonymous said...

I expect 1st and 2nd round draft picks to play better than that and none of those three you metioned are rookies.

Noel said...

I can't agree that Pouncey is overrated. He hasn't been working between much, always has had to help his guards pull their weight (which makes it extra disappointing that he goes down by DeCastro who could finally free him up). Foster is overrated. If the Steelers release him he may as well drive home and start printing resumes, he'd be out of the NFL.

I agree the game was ugly; I don't agree it's all doom and gloom. Changes will be made and games will be won. I have full confidence in that.

Greg Mercer said...


Thanks for clarifying those contract situations. I am a huge fan of what happens on the field, but I don't enjoy getting lost in the weeds of salary caps and contracts.

Regarding moving up in the draft, I am in favor of giving up multiple picks if I know (barring injury) I'll be able to pencil in my starting LT for the next 8-10 years.

Look at it this way, how many 2-4 rd picks have we wasted over the past 5 years. Why not go with the guaranteed option once in awhile?

Greg Mercer said...

we picked Jason Worilds in the second round for Christ sakes!

kyle said...


No problem. I don't spend much time on the contract and cap stuff either but when I read something interesting about it I sometimes remember.

And as to drafting a guarantee...there are no guarantees, most especially in the draft. Giving up multiple picks only decreases your chances. Jake Long was a "once in a generation, can't miss" prospect. He went number one overall. He played above average for a lousy team for the length of his rookie deal and then went on to another team. You just never know so I'm very rarely in favor of putting one egg in one basket and calling it a day.

Just to be clear, I'm not in favor of Belichick's "draft 12 guys keep 3" "philosophy" either.

adamg said...

marc, Every draft choice, regardless of round needs to learn by OJT at some point. In OL play, I think there's just no substitute for experience.