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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Post-Detroit thoughts

This was the kind of win we've been waiting  for out of these Steelers in 2013. Backs against the wall - as it has been the past month-and-a-half, working against a team that looked superior on paper, the Steelers came out and dominated the second half.

Did I write dominated? Yep.

Even if Jim Schwartz doesn't inexplicably try a fake field goal and fail, the Lions were having issues stopping the Steelers from driving the length of the field. The Steelers went through a little bit of a lull at times. But so did the Lions early in the third quarter.

And when they did drive to the Pittsburgh 10, Schwartz knew he couldn't settle for a field goal. He saw that his defense was having issues stopping the Steelers and that Matthew Stafford was starting to see more pressure thanks mostly to Jason Worilds.

Worilds had four QB hits and a sack subbing on the left side for LaMarr Woodley.

Jarvis Jones had a couple of passes batted down at the line of scrimmage in the second half as well.

It all added up to a second half in which Stafford, who was 16 of 30 for 327 and two touchdowns in the first half, most of which came in an impressive second quarter, saw those numbers change considerably in the second half.

Stafford was just 3 of 16 for 35 and one interception after the intermission.

The Steelers defensive backs insist they didn't change anything in the second half, they only did a better job of disguising what they were doing pre-snap.

Ike Taylor was still matched up on Calvin Johnson for the most part, but didn't allow a single reception.

There was one little nugget from Ryan Clark, however, on how things changed. According to Clark, the Lions dipped into their playbook to try to run some of the same plays in the second half that had worked in the first half.

You know what they say, "fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me."

@ Ben Roethlisberger threw four touchdown passes in this one, but could have had six or seven. In fact, he probably should have had that many.

Le'Veon Bell, Heath Miller and Antonio Brown had drops in the end zone - though the Steelers did score their go-ahead TD after Brown's drop.

Roethlisberger also overthrew a wide open David Paulson in the back of the end zone before the Steelers kicked another field goal.

The Steelers scored 37 points, yet still only rushed for 40 yards. They also left another 12 points on the field with the dropped passes and overthrow.

@ Only five teams in the AFC currently have winning records.

The Steelers, at 4-6, are currently one game out of the sixth and final wildcard spot and play many of the teams they are tied with or chasing down the stretch.

And when you look at the race for that final spot, the Steelers might be playing the best football right now, having  won four of six.

The others? The 5-5 Jets and Dolphins, and 4-6 Browns, Ravens and Chargers.

One of those six teams is going to be in the playoffs. The bet here is that it's the Steelers, who have home games remaining against Cleveland, Miami and Cincinnati, and road games at Baltimore, Green Bay and Cleveland this week.

Wins in five of those games will all-but guarantee a playoff spot. Wins in four of them, with the right combination, could also get the Steelers in at 8-8.

They already hold a tiebreaker over the Jets, who can't win two games in a row, and one win over Baltimore.

And it says here that if the Steelers find a way to get in, they'll be a dangerous out. To get to 9-7, they would have had to have strung together a 9-3 finish after their 0-4 start.

In fact, I'll got out on a limb and predict that the two wildcards this season will win in the first round of the AFC playoffs over Indianapolis and Cincinnati, both of which are likely to win their divisions.

The only way that changes is if the Steelers somehow overcome the Bengals to win the division, which is also a possibility. The Bengals are winning some games right now in spite of themselves. Andy Dalton has really taken a step backward as a quarterback.

Roethlisberger is starting to heat up and I liked offensive coordinator Todd Haley's decision to allow the team to use the hurry-up today as its main offensive package.

I also liked how the Steelers kept trying to score once they got the ball back with just over three minutes to play up 30-27.

The safe thing to do would have been to try to run the ball three times, force Detroit to use up its timeouts, and kick a field goal.

Instead, the Steelers put the Lions away.

@ The Steelers should give serious consideration to keeping Jason Worilds at the end of this season and playing him at outside linebacker with LaMarr Woodley, with Jarvis Jones sliding to the inside.

Jones is a natural in zone coverage over  the middle and could really be a force in the middle teamed with Lawrence Timmons on blitzes.

@ The Steelers are now averaging 24.8 points per game over their past seven games. That coincides with having both Heath Miller and Le'Veon Bell in the starting lineup.

That total, over the course of the season, would rank the Steelers 12th in scoring in the league right now. That's not great, but it's also not bad.


Steve-O said...

Well whadya know? Miracles do happen after all. I have to say I was a bit frustrated by all of the dropped balls (on offense and defense) as well as the lack of push by the offensive line at the goal line but this team kept fighting on and didn't falter when momentum swung in favor of the Lions.

This is the kind of win that builds confidence and launches the Steelers to respectability in the AFC. I'm not quite ready to anoint them a playoff team but they are certainly a threat to be taken seriously. And hopefully now all those national media hypes will stop with the trade rumors. The Steelers have a special quarterback and you don't give those away.

Anonymous said...

Woodley and Worilds are both LOLBs. Do you think Woodley could play on the right side?

Anonymous said...

The Steelers playoffs started when we lost to NE. Hopefully we will keep up the tempo of scoring TD's. Prior to this game we had the least TD's of any team except JX and TB both of whom are basement dwellers. I attribute that to better pass blocking although our run blocking is still sub par.

Surprisingly Guy Whimper is not all that bad. Also it turns out we had our starting LT on the team the whole time in Beachem.

It is nice to see that we can get to the playoffs going 9 and 7. Unfortunately we have to play GB after Rogers returns.

Mrs. Isaac Redman

marc said...

wow, what a strange game. the second quarter was what I expected to happen pretty much the whole game, but the steeler's defense was excellent in the second half.

kudos to ike taylor for hanging in there against Johnson after getting torched in the second quarter. I think the defense did a much better job of disguising coverages in the second half and they double teamed Johnson most of the time, I believe. taylor seemed to do a good job of jumping the quick routes as well. and, we all saw why he plays defense and not WR...ughhh.

I also thought the d-line, and LB's, played extremely well in the second half. got tons of good pressure on Stafford which didn't give them time for the deeper routes to develop.

the offense was good. I didn't mind the lack of running against that d-line and #7 did a great job of looking off his receivers and moving the defense, imo. bell is a great receiving option out of the backfield.

aside from the second quarter, maybe one of the worst I have ever seen, the steelers played very well. I did not think they were good enough to hold the lions down and they proved me wrong. now a big matchup against the browns who were embarrassed at cincy. should be a good game as the browns have a very legit defense.

adamg said...

Thought BR played very smart football in the no huddle, lots of quick passes and getting rid of the ball when no one was open. That's the kind of play that will earn him a big contract, not the sandlot style he seems to prefer.

The short passes to Bell and Brown were a good substitute for the run game on a day when the footing wasn't ideal for backs to get traction as we saw on the first and goal from the 1/2 yd line failure.

Antonio Brown certainly is backing up his request for the ball. The kid just makes plays.

Worilds has been a revelation. It will be an interesting decision for the Steelers on which of the oft injured Woodley and Worilds to keep. Every week Heyward looks more and more like a #1 draft choice. Hood and McLendon seem to have stepped it up a notch, too. If Ike could just catch, Det would have had 10 fewer points.

No complaints about the OL. I think it shows the best way for the young guys on this unit to improve is just game experience.

Dale Lolley said...

There's no real savings in releasing Woodley, so that's not going to happen.
I do know that Dick LeBeau values Jason Worilds a great deal. Has a lot of confidence in him.

Dan said...

"Roethlisberger is starting to heat up and I liked offensive coordinator Todd Haley's decision to allow the team to use the hurry-up today as its main offensive package."

Is there any chance that this will continue? Will the Steelers stop dressing 5 TEs a game now that Sanders is injured? It would be nice to see Paulson take a seat and have Moye on the field every now and then.

I like your idea re: the LBs. Can Woodley play ROLB?

TarheelFlyer said...

I didn't know that about Woodley and the cost savings or lack there of. I know Worilds plays different on the Left than on the be sure.

Dale Lolley said...

I don't know that you exclusively use the no-huddle all the time. They thought they could exploit some things with Detroit's defense and keeping it from subbing. Same thing teams have tried against Steelers forever.

It also helped that the game was at home. You might see more of the no-huddle moving forward, but they've always used it a couple of times per game, not just at the end of halves.

Anonymous said...

Good game all around, the Steelers had every opportunity to throw in the towel after that 2nd qtr, I thought we would come out flat with no drive.. I'm happy I was wrong and this team showed "fight"

Amazing how the attitude changes on this board when we string a couple wins together.. It's much more pleasant..

Adamg: I still think Ben played his style of football, he has something to prove when he is making the calls on the field, plus that one pass/heap to Miller was just about as sandlot as you can get..


Lance said...

I have not posted much this year, but have followed all blogs and responses. Dale has been pretty accurate in his assessments and not getting too down on this team as it has had growing pains. Truth is they are right in this thing. Will they make it? Hard to say, but they are beginning to look like they could, and do something if they got there.

As for all those surprised at seeing players begin to step up, that is what happens to these young guys when they get the chance and the reps, don't forget we had major turnover the last two years, if this is what a rebuilding team looks like, a lot of other teams would love to have this problem.

Keep the faith, they are only going to get better over the next few years.

Noel said...

I could not agree more. The teams we look back on fondly with Bettis and Ward and Farrior - all those guys had to cut their teeth and fight through injuries and mistakes. Young Left Tackles get schooled by elite DEs, rookie LBs miss assignments - those things happen but if you come out of it stronger that's where the winning teams are forged. How would you like to be a long time Lions fan? Browns? Lots of teams struggle for long periods and this team has merely descended to looking average.

Anonymous said...

I actually think this team looked as bad as it's ever looked - going back to the late '80s Noll teams - in the 2nd quarter. Says a lot that they came out red hot to start the 3rd.

I think my favorite play was towards the end of the 2nd quarter: Polamalu crashed into the Lions O-line when Stafford was trying to spike the ball. You could see him yelling back at the O-linemen (who took exception to his play). He did this when the team, specifically the defense, was severely struggling and I think watching him go all out on a relatively unimportant play was the definition of the words "veteran leader".