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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Post-Baltimore thoughts

The formula for the Steelers seems pretty simple this season - don't turn the ball over more than once, you win. Turn it over two or more times than the other team, you lose.

That's life in today's NFL, where even Peyton Manning can look human in his return to Indianapolis.

I wrote prior to Sunday's game between the Steelers and Ravens that there weren't a lot of differences between the two teams, and that's the case.

The Steelers have the talent to beat or lose to anyone in the NFL, as they've proven this season, in any given week. Apparently, that's the case with every team.

@ The differences between the Steelers and Ravens - at least on Sunday - was Le'Veon Bell. He ran hard and instinctively.

That was the Bell we saw in the offseason workouts and early on in training camp.

Baltimore's running game wasn't close, despite the Ravens spreading the Steelers out and running a lot of no-huddle to keep nose tackle Steve McClendon off the field.

Baltimore averaged 3.2 yards per carry, 2.8 yards when you take out Joe Flacco's two scrambles for 14 yards.

That's not supposed to happen when you've forced the opposing team to play most of the game with six defensive backs on the field most of the time.

@ It was obvious the Ravens' reasoning for keeping McLendon off the field was because Gino Gradkowski couldn't block him. McLendon owned the younger brother of Steelers quarterback Bruce Gradkowski in the handful of short-yardage plays Baltimore ran.

@ The Steelers had eight possessions, while the Ravens had seven.

That was old-school Steelers-Ravens football.

And it was the reason why Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh went for a desperation surprise onside kick early in the fourth quarter. He knew his defense wasn't going to stop yet another Steelers field goal drive. So he rolled the dice and tried to steal a possession.

Plus, he kept the Steelers from grinding another eight minutes off the clock.

@ Jonathan Dwyer isn't getting a lot of playing time, but few plays he is getting are impactful.

He had a nice run in a short-yardage situation and also threw a big block at the end of a 19-yard scramble by Ben Roethlisberger.

It's too bad it took getting cut to light a fire under Dwyer. But it seemed to work.

@ Emmanuel Sanders' potential game-winning kick return would have been one of the most exciting plays in the NFL this weekend. It would have gone down in history as one of the great plays in the Pittsburgh-Baltimore rivalry.

It would have been a lot of things - had Bill Levy's officiating crew not supposedly blown a whistle after seeing Sanders step out of bounds.

Funny thing is that nobody heard the whistle, despite Sanders trekking right past the Pittsburgh bench all the way to the end zone.

And the NFL rule states that once the whistle is blown, a play cannot be reviewed.

Sanders' return came with less then two minutes remaining in the game and would have been reviewed. For that matter, as a scoring play, it would have automatically been reviewed no matter when it happened.

Levy and company should have swallowed their whistles - which according to everyone on the Pittsburgh sideline, happened anyway - and let nature run its course.

It appeared that Sanders might have contacted the sideline - barely. But we'll never know now what a review might have said.

@ Kudos to Mike Tomlin for sticking with his game plan and not using Mike Adams at right tackle when Marcus Gilbert was unable to go.

The Steelers planned all week to use Adams, their best run-blocking lineman, as a third tight end. But when Gilbert went down, the easy thing would have been to put him at right tackle and scrap the tight end role.

Instead, he used Guy Whimper at right tackle and continued with Adams as an extra blocker.

@ Last week we saw Antonio Brown used a couple of times as a passer on end around - once for a reception to Felix Jones, the second time a sack.

This week, it was Le'Veon Bell, a former high school quarterback, running the Wildcat.

As Tomlin said after the game, whatever is needed to provide a win.

Neither of those trick plays or formations added up to a ton of yards, but they give future opponents something else to prepare for.


Greg Mercer said...

During the live broadcast, i could've sworn i heard a whistle. in fact, i was surprised when he kept running and they put the touchdown on the board.

either way, it was a great play, and the fact that he did barely step out just goes to show you what type of year it's been.

on another note...

dale, do you think Beacham's play thus far is making them re-think the need to draft a LT next year?

Sure, he will probably never be another Jonathan Ogden, but I don't see why Beachum can't be a Matt Light caliber player... a guy who is just good enough in the run game, but excels in pass pro due to good technique and hard work in the film room.

Dale Lolley said...

They haven't given up on Adams. And Beachum is also getting it done. But if a top flight LT falls to them in the draft, it would be tough to pass. Playmakers at safety or WR would also help

Greg Mercer said...

I know it's not the Steelers way, but given their cap situation, any possibility the Steelers try to save a few bucks and extend Velasco during the season?

He may not have the mobility of Pouncey, but I think he does a much better job anchoring the middle and keeping rushers out of Ben's face.

Pouncey had one Pro Bowl year, but he is going to want to get paid like a 3-time Pro Bowler.

Dale Lolley said...

I think you answered your own question, Greg. It's not the Steelers way

adamg said...

Have to credit Guy Whimper, he was respectable at RT, not the disaster everyone thought he would be.

I doubt there was a whistle on the Sanders' return since no one on either team stopped playing.

Timmons and Williams were both terrific at ILB.

Anonymous said...

I heard a whistle too during Sanders' runback, although neither announcer mentioned it. I think it's safe to say any review would have overturned the TD. Replay looked like he was out of bounds with his heel. Glad Ben had the chance to drive us downfield, he needed that.


Nate said...

It was easy to hear the whistle on the TV broadcast, because of all the sound equipment located on the sidelines. At the stadium, the whistles can easily be drowned out by the crowd noise.

Personally, I thought Sanders got a raw deal. I thought his heal was off the ground, and that the part of his foot touching the ground was still in bounds. BUT, it worked out because the Steelers set up the winning score without having to give the ball back.

marc said...

i thought he stepped out.

i liked the play calling this game. nice job mixing things up and keeping the defense off balance. suggs is a beast, btw.

nice to have a "real" RB in the backfield. i thought dwyer might be that guy the beginning of last year, but obviously he couldn't put it all together. bell is the real deal though. i know it's only a few games so far, but it's hard to overlook the fact he is very talented.

timmons was a beast in this game. i hope he keeps it going because that is what this guy is capable of. also, i think #43 is having one of his best years of his career. he might not have the picks or huge splash plays, but he is everywhere and playing extremely well.

now, will the steelers slump to the raider's level (as usual) or keep the momentum going? this is where good coaching comes in handy.

Anonymous said...

A few thoughts:
See what a couple of wins does, nobody mentions firing anybody.

How ironic, instead of the two second round picks, the Steelers play an undrafted free agent and a free agent nobody wanted at tackle and have their best running game of the season. This was against two of the better sack meisters, S&D, so it was also good game planning to run inside at an injured Ngata.

I agree with Greg Mercer, if Velasco is on a one year deal, allow the exception of not negotiating during the season. The intent of the rule is to not create distractions, but I don’t think it will and the offset is I would hate to see a good offensive lineman leave at the end of the season. It does set precedent though.

Don’t know if the Steelers are cursed with the karma of the “Immaculate Reception, but they’ve lost to some crappy Oakland teams recently. The fact that Oakland had a bye, the Steelers are coming off an emotional win with a division rival and have to travel to Oakland make it that much harder.

DD said...

Suisham is seriously the team MVP this yr. He has been money!! Cincy keeps finding ways to eeek out wins. That needs to cease ASAP!

Dale Lolley said...

Steelers won't negotiate with a player under contract during the season. Can cause hard feelings.

As for the Sanders thing, the point is not whether he was in or out - it was close - it's that the officials blew a borderline call dead knowing that it could not be reviewed. It was under two minutes. Let things play out. It will automatically be reviewed regardless of the outcome.

Easley said...

What a refreshing old-school win! I have a feeling Haley is suddenly going to look a lot smarter with Bell in the backfield. It's amazing what a competent running threat can do to keep defenses honest.

marc said...

i don't know dale. i understand your logic and part of me agrees with you. but the other part says i want refs to call what they see. i don't want them to take into consideration game situation to make or not make a call.

such as hail mary plays, if you see interference then call it. it's not a free for all, it's just like every other play in the game.

same goes for the return. if he steps out, then do your job and call it when you see it. what if the video review guys blow it and make the wrong call - it's happened before - now the ref that intentionally swallowed his whistle looks like an idiot.

i think the ref made a good call and i didn't have any problem with him blowing the play dead. personally, i thought he stepped out, so did both my sons. if coaches/players don't like the fact it is not reviewable, then that is a rules issue, not a referee issue, in my opinion.

phil said...

I thought the replay showed pretty clearly that he was out of bounds, and I heard the whistle too. I was wondering why they were all still running after it was blown. I get your point that the ref shouldn't have blown the whistle in the first place, but it's kind of a meaningless argument since the net result was correct anyway.

The Raiders and the Titans are the two bad teams that seem to give the Steelers fits lately. Thank god we took away their secret weapon in Gradkowski.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't want to be around Mrs. Isaac Redman about now.

For the record, I always pulled for him. Best of luck Redzone!

Anonymous said...

Redman still has talent, a good spin move, and he is an excellent pass blocker. I agree that Bell has a bit more speed than Redman, but our Oline was not blocking the way that it is now in game 1. Those fumbles he had were a direct result of poor run blocking and guys in his face right away and a bad hand off by Ben.

I think Redman is not done in the league yet. But he may be done in Pittsburgh if there are not any injuries. Tomlin has a big iron clad dog house.

Redman, fairly or unfairly, lost the "two dogs, one bone" fight to Bell and Dwyer.

Mrs. Isaac Redman

marc said...

your right, redman is not responsible for holding onto the ball when running and getting tackled.

and, of course, whatever the running back is able to gain in yards is solely based on the o-line blocking. i mean, how could you expect a RB to quickly determine the designated hole is not there and then change direction to a more beneficial area? crazy stuff.

oh well, i guess if it only matters how the o-line blocks then you might as well go with the younger RB figuring he will cost you less and last longer.

Easley said...

Yeesh, can't believe we lost to that Viking team.

Steve said...

Good chance the Vikings win (or at least make it much closer) last night if Cassell or Ponder had started at qb. Or perhaps if AP had gotten more than 13 carries.