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Sunday, December 08, 2013

Post-Miami thoughts

I've been cautious in calling it a season for the Steelers, but this latest loss certain did it.

And the worst thing is that they probably should have won this one on a play that would have been right up there as the greatest of all-time.

If Antonio Brown hadn't inexplicably caught the edge of the sideline as he readied to run into the end zone for what would have been the game-winning touchdown with no time remaining.

Brown is a fabulous player and the Steelers' best playmaker.

But he blew it on that one.

@ The Steelers allowed two 40-plus-yard runs Sunday and have now given up five of them this season. Not surprisingly, they are 0-4 when they give up a 40-plus-yard run.

@ If I'm Kevin Colbert, and thank goodness for Steelers fans that I'm not, I'm taking the best defensive playmakers available on the first two days of the draft.

Mike Adams played a solid game at left tackle Sunday, and the Steelers have been pleased with the play of Kelvin Beachum. There's no way I'd spend a pick on anyone who doesn't run a sub 4.8 40 unless he's a 6-5, 290-pound defensive lineman. Or a nose tackle.

@ And no, there's no way the Steelers can afford to allow Jason Worilds to walk.

There really isn't a comparison between Worilds and Keenan Lewis. Lewis made some plays last season, but nothing nearly as impactful as the way Worilds has played. Lewis is also 27 this season, while Worilds is 25 and would play an entire 4-year contract extension under the age of 30.

The Steelers might have tipped their hand with what they're planning with Worilds when they kept him at left outside linebacker and moved LaMarr Woodley to the other side.

@ Some might question Mike Tomlin's decision to go for it on fourth-and-10 from his own 10 with just over two minutes to play, but what did he have to lose?

If the Steelers got the first down, great. If not, he had a pretty good idea the Dolphins were going to play things conservative and run the ball three times because they wouldn't want to stop the clock.

A field goal kept it within two scores and nearly set the table for a fabulous finish.

As for his decision to not call a timeout before the two-minute warning, that cost all of eight seconds, which, at the end of the day, didn't matter.

@ If there was one braintrust decision I do have to question, it was the lack of use of Le'Veon Bell after the first quarter. Bell had eight carries for 32 yards on Pittsburgh's first touchdown drive.

He got seven carries after that. In fact, the Steelers ran the ball nine times on that first touchdown drive, but just 12 more times after that. And one of those was an 8-yard run by Ben Roethlisberger on fourth-and-10.

Before you start killing Todd Haley on that, realize that the Steelers were running a lot of no-huddle in the second half, which means Roethlisberger was making many of those calls.

Bell looks like a younger version of Matt Forte and it should be the goal to get him 25 touches every game, with 20 or so carries and five or so receptions.

@ I don't have a problem with Tomlin putting a guy back deep on a long field goal attempt at the end of the first half. But I don't know if I would have put Troy Polamalu back there.

If you're going to do that, why not put Brown back there. I realize that guy is also responsible for playing safety if it's a fake, but Brown would have given the Steelers the best chance to score there.

And he probably wouldn't have lateraled the ball to Steve McLendon.

@ Speaking of Polamalu, his interception and touchdown will be a career highlight lost in the malaise of a loss and a bad season for the team.


Anonymous said...

So many games that the team was one break or good bounce away from winning. Could easily have two or three more wins.
Exciting that they might get some talent to pick from. First four picks gotta be defenders.

Patrick said...

I'm too annoyed to really get into the detail of the game. But this Gene Collier article pretty much sums up everything I thought of the coaching:

I know Troy had his highlight play, but his two missed tackles were a big reason they lost the game. I hate saying this, but I don't think he is a Steeler next year.

Steve-O said...

If there was any doubt that the Steelers would jettison their senior players at the end of the season, that ended with this loss. I think you're right Dale, defense should be the priority. We need some "nasty" on that side of the ball and I for one am ready for a leader to emerge who can set the tone in the mold of Jack Lambert, Greg Lloyd, Joey Porter, and James Harrison. Hopefully this loss will put us in a position to find some of that type of talent.

Steve said...

No way should all four of the first four picks be defenders. They have to spend one pick on a WR or TE.

Troy has never been the greatest tackler. You could go back and watch a game from 2005 and find him missing tackles that he missed primarily because of his style.

If I'm betting, I think he's back next year but 2014 will be it for him.

Patrick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Agreed. They need more size and speed on offense. Need at least one big fast WR or TE.
Can't blame AB. Heartbreaker but he's the only one with enough talent to even have a chance to make that play. Need more playmakers. Can Stephens-howling be back and healthy? If not, draft another scatback or a big back - somebody with speed that can break a long run.
Optimistic that Spence is healthy and adds speed to the D. They do need a couple fast, big guys in the secondary. Jarvis should be better next year too, I hope.

Patrick said...

that is true about Troy, but I usually remember him making the clutch ones. He has been a bit of a liability this year and with his cap No. and the signings they need to make, it might be time to cut him loose. I don't know the details of his cap situation though.

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah and hope they can mold current lineman. May need another OT and OG.

Anonymous said...

And let Sanders walk - let's see if Wheaton can do anything. Wasn't too exciting so far.

Robbie said...

It looked to me like Ben's "lateral" to AB was a forward pass. The play might have been called back if AB didn't step out of bounds.

Anonymous said...

Another new special teams coach would be nice too. Another blocked punt? I'm not sure the timing was ever right but even the commentators saw that Wheaton was being left alone as a gunner. Quick pass = TD

Anonymous said...

Any chance they start Landry Jones and some of the other players just to see what they have and help secure a decent draft position? Or is there too much pride and 8-8 actually means something other than a middle of the road draft position?

adamg said...

In retrospect, the biggest mistake the Steelers made with the vet cuts was Casey Hampton. I like McLendon, but he just couldn't hold the fort vs the run like Hampton. If the Steelers are going to continue to play the 3-4, they need a true, 2 gap NT. IMO, that would solve most of the problems the defense had this year.

I think the OL is actually going to be a strength going into next year. Although some were in denial, it was obvious there was going to be some painful OJT for the young guys, but now they're looking pretty good and they get Pouncey back next year.
Wallace and Velasco were revelations, Whimper improved and the young guys on the PS could compete for roster spots, too. I think the OL will be a good one next year and going forward.

I like Bell, Dwyer and Jones at RB. I don't think they need a scat back as all can block, run and catch out of the backfield.

They do need to address TE because Miller is over 30 now and the back ups are blah, but they need look no further than State College where O'Brien has about 5 TEs who will play in the NFL. In fact if the Steelers want a blocking TE for next year, Gary Gilliam would fit the bill after being moved from TE to OT this year.

The biggest priority is to finish rebuilding the secondary and to find another good DL or two. That would be my draft emphasis.

It'll be interesting to see what they decide about Woodley. He played well when he was in, but the leg injuries the past few years have to be concerning, esp given his cap hit and age. He could be the surprise draft day trade (to an NFC team).

Anonymous said...

If I'm Kevin Colbert, and thank goodness for Steelers fans that I'm not, I'm taking the best defensive playmakers available on the first two days of the draft.

That's what Colbert thought he was doing last year, giddy to get one of his top 2 or 3 defensive players on his board. Can't say he's inspiring much confidence in getting what this team needs. Besides, O gets the top pick in the even years, D gets the odds. It's the O's turn. Only time Colbert broke that pattern was in 2005 when he took Miller at 30th overall.

Anonymous said...

Too bad Tomlin got busted last week. The final play would've been a good time to stand in the white, hypnotically/aimlessly watching the jumbotron. Woulda kept Brown from stepping out. C'est la vie.

Anonymous said...

Robbie said...
It looked to me like Ben's "lateral" to AB was a forward pass. The play might have been called back if AB didn't step out of bounds.

It was. Ben threw it from about the 31 or 32 and Brown caught it from the 33 or 34. It likely would not have survived replay.

phil said...

my favorite part about bell is his patience. every time he gets the ball, he hesitates, reads the blocks, and then makes a decision all in a split second before hitting the hole. combine that with his pass catching ability and hopefully the steelers have a feature back for years to come. I don't know why they're not feeding him more.

antonio brown's return, even though it didn't count, might have been the most exciting play of the season. talk about a game of inches...

and Dale, while I appreciate your optimism, this whole season has been a down one for the steelers. the only reliable thing left is to bet against your predicitons ;)

TarheelFlyer said...

Well...its over. I guess you can say it is just par for the season. You just can't afford to lose to mediocre teams, especially at home.

Tenn 5-8
Cinn 9-4
Chi 6-6
Minn 3-9-1
Oak 4-9
NE 10-3
Balt 7-6
Mia 7-6

There is a whole lot of bad in that, and I mean a whole lot. At some point I will sit down and do an evaluation of the roster, but for today, I just want to know that it is over. I do want the team to do me one favor....don't win any more games. We could really use the better draft pick. :)

Anonymous said...

why would you even think about calling timeout before 2 minute warning to save 8 seconds when it saves you the entire play clock on the other side

Mark said...

I have a hypothetical question about Ben's lateral.

He was getting hit as he tossed the ball. How is it determined if it was a forward pass or not? Is it the arm motion, or the location of the ball?

For example, if Brady gets hit as his hand is going forward, and the ball happens slip out of his hand and land behind him, is that an incomplete pass or a lateral?

Anonymous said...

2:08 call timeout, run play, clock stops at 2:00 No timeouts left.
Two minute warning, run play, call timeout clock stops at 1:54, No timeouts left.
Either way, burned timeout, ran one play, clock stops.
Call before: clock stops at 2:00
Call after: clock stops at 1:55

-Zac in Tempe

Anonymous said...

I posted this back on October 28 after the Oakland game, it was a compilation of poster’s comments as to possible reasons for the Steelers poor performance:

1. The Steelers have done a poor job drafting.
2. The Steelers have done a poor job evaluating talent.
3. The Steelers winning record have left them with poor draft position.
4. The Steelers have extended and renegotiated contracts which have left them with cap problems.
5. As Adamg mentioned, the QB takes up more than 10% of the salary cap which affects the teams’ ability to spend money elsewhere to support the team.
6. LeBeau is past his prime.
7. The Steelers don’t have the personnel to run a 3-4 anymore, particularly at nose tackle.
8. Haley is not a good offensive coordinator for Ben’s abilities.
9. Ben’s extension of plays has good and bad ramifications, but have taken a toll on him.
10. Tomlin doesn’t bring much to the table.

Looking back on it, most of the comments are still applicable or at least have some merit, the Steelers have multiple issues. Yet, in order to blame someone for this mess, Haley will be fired at the end of the season so they’ve “done” something about the problem. I don’t know if Haley is part of the problem, but it’s hard to blame him for the cap management issues, poor drafting, the defense allowing 11 plays of 50+ yards or more this season etc. But this is what I do know: the Steelers retire Bruce Arians, who becomes head coach of the year in 2012 with the Colts, has the Cardinals with an 8-5 record after going 5-11 and is in the running for head coach of the year again in 2013. I’m not a fan of either man, I appreciate whoever can get the job done, but I sense that the problems are a little higher up than Haley.

John Kang said...

Where was Tomlin on the edge of the sidelines on Brown's run???

In all seriousness, if we had miraculously won out and won the Super Bowl, that play would have gone p there with the Immaculate Reception.

Dale Lolley said...

I like what I've seen from Justin Brown on the practice squad this year. I think he could take a big step forward this offseason.

You really think it's a good idea to have your punter trying to make a pass? Teams have changed up the coverage on the gunners throughout the season. Cover them one time, don't the next. The gunners have to come in and help block.

BTW, I don't know how the blocked punt is on the coach. The guy ran past Warren untouched. If Warren gets a hand on him, that kick doesn't get blocked.

There is no way they start Landry Jones. They don't need to "take a look at him." Been doing that all season in practice. Roethlisberger is the QB. He'll start.

Nix from Notre Dame would help solve a lot of the issues at nose tackle.

Anonymous said...

"And no, there's no way the Steelers can afford to allow Jason Worilds to walk."

Let me correct it for you Dale:

And no, there's no way the Steelers can afford Jason Worilds.

Note to Colbert & Co., offer the contract at the beginning of the 4th year, not when he's a free agent with other teams bidding for him.

Regarding Ben as the starting QB, with nothing to play for other than pride, why would you risk injury to your franchise QB behind a makeshift OL?

The Steeler games have become just like the organization, a few good moves, but just too many mistakes to overcome. Hopefully, during the off season, the Rooney's will ask these two questions:

1. Why did we jettison Bruce Arians given the amount of success he has attained since leaving? (No, being too chummy with Ben doesn't count as an answer)

2. Are the Steelers a better team since we hired Mike Tomlin?

Anonymous said...

Tomlin deserves time to fix this mess. You can't fire you're coach every time you have a rough season. What are we, Dallas???

marc said...

i mostly agree with adamg. there were definitely some positives to take from this season. however, just too many mistakes to overcome. speaking broadly - personnel mistakes at key positions, poor coaching leading into the beginning of the year, lack of focus and preparation by the players - all culminating in an above average team when playing their best and a poor team when at their worst. unfortunately, just to inconsistent for it to be a meaningful season.

worilds is a must sign. if they have to overpay, then so be it, and jettison woodley if need be for cap reasons.

without knowing about any draftees, CB and NT should be the first two rounds in either order. they need starting caliber players at both positions. i'm thinking ike has one year left.

Anonymous said...

Didn't say they were going to fire Tomlin, they won't, he still has two years on his contract. As I mentioned earlier, at a minimum, Haley will be the scapegoat. And I agree, give Tomlin those two years to fix the mess, if he can't, then you decide what to do. But hard questions need to be asked and answered because it's not just one thing, but a number of issues and time to start holding people accountable.

Steve said...


How many players have the Steelers lost over the years that they really wanted to keep? If they want Worilds to stay, he will. Same with Heyward. And it's 20/20 hindsight at its' finest to say they should've offered him a C2 prior to this season. He'd shown flashes here and there, but not really enough to warrant them giving him a new deal.

Anonymous said...

Steve, for the most part, you're right, the Steelers have done a good job of keeping players they've wanted and been pretty good judges of when players were through. And I understand that the salary cap restraints prevent a team from keeping all of it's players, hence Wallace left, AB stayed, the correct move was made by the front office. BTW, did Wallace play on Sunday?

But I see a trend where the Steelers develop a player, start him in their fourth year and then they leave for free agency. Happened with Lewis this year and has the potential to happen with Woirlds next year. Lewis was stable and would have given the Steelers a decent CB for the future. You're right, 20/20 hindsight, so how do you solve it? Players like Allen, Gilbert, Heyward, C. Brown have 3 years of service at the end of the season. Now is the time to evaluate and make a long term contract rather than waiting until the players leave for free agency. For those players with 1-3 years of service who haven't played much, there are 3 games left this season to give some game tape for future evaluation. Playing for pride or the business as usual mantra get in the way of improving for the future.

adamg said...

I don't understand the Haley hate. He's shown the flexibility needed to get the most out of the least. Even Arians refused to let BR run his preferred no huddle offense as much as Haley has allowed it. The sign of a good coach is putting his players in the best position to win. The offense has been better the past 6 or 7 games. BR isn't and never has been an elite qb, but he has shown he can be a successful game manager in an offense with some semblence of balance and variety. When the offense is throw pass after long pass ala Arians, BR has shown he plays sandlot football, takes sacks and generally plays dumb football. You want more of that? I don't and I'd bet the Rooneys don't either.

As for losing guys like Lewis, remember the team was in the midst of making its final runs with a group of vets who brought the franchise its 5th and 6th SBs. It's a fine line to know when to keep the vets and when to move on. The Steelers erred on the side of keeping vets and not breaking in the young guys soon enough. Now they've hit a rough patch the past couple of years, but the team isn't bereft of talent, just experience.

marc said...

I agree about haley, there is no reason to fire him. I think him and #7 finally hit their stride as this season has gone on and are now on the same page offensively. while #7 is free to pretty much call his own plays when in the no huddle, by no means does that mean he can call any play he wants. I am sure there is a package available to use that is predetermined during the week.

regarding the talent level on the team, I think it is less than people realize. McClendon is less talented than they thought. ike and clark have less talent now than they thought. some could argue that Woodley is not as talented as they thought. that's just on the defense. what about adams, sanders and even pouncey on the offense?

think about pouncey for a moment. here they have an "all pro" center that everyone thinks the world of. he goes down, the steelers pick up a former starting center off the scrap heap and he holds down the fort. I would ask those who know more about lineman than me, was there that much of a difference between pouncey and velasco?

finally, with three games left to go, why wouldn't you get the younger players as much playing time as possible? if they really are talented but lack experience there really is no greater opportunity than these next three weeks.

Noel said...

I think in pass protection Velasco looked as good or at least close to Pouncey but not so much in the run game. Not an expert on the o-line, just my impression. I have been paying close attention to the line and I think we'll be okay on the right side. Not so convinced on the left. I really like Adams. Beachum did a great job filling in but I think Adams is the guy for the long term. Foster - meh.

Regarding the draft. I agree with everyone who thinks CB and NT are the way to go but with a rare high draft pick maybe now is the time to think about Ben's heir. Thoughts? I don't know much about this year's QB class but Landry Jones ain't the guy and I would love to see them bring someone in and groom him for the job like Green Bay did with Rodgers.

kyle said...

Rodgers is the exception though. Last season I looked up all the starters and Rodgers was the only one who sat for more than a year. Romo and Rivers sat for like a season or just over a season. First round pick quarterbacks don't carry a clipboard for four years anymore. They either start immediately or pretty soon.

The Steelers could always buck the trend but this team needs a handful of starters and plenty of depth so using a first round pick on a player who you don't want to play for at least three years who also won't be playing special teams or coming in for spot duty is a bit of a luxury.

I didn't really like them using a fourth on Jones let alone a first on someone else.

adamg said...

I think McLendon is talented, but he is not the 2-gap NT this defense requires. I think he'd be terrific as a 3-4 DE, though. The DL has the talent for a 4-3 as both Hood and McLendon are 4-3 DTs, but since they are unlikely to switch, they need the next Casey Hampton.

I think Clark and Ike are as talented as ever, but Father Time catches up with the best of them. Ike can probably start for another year or so. Clark is probably looking at being a back up/sub if he wants to continue playing in Pgh.

Woodley is a dilemna for the Steelers. He can still play, but his injury history the past 2-3 years should make them wary. BR is in the same category of when to cut loose, this year or next or keep for awhile.

marc said...

then maybe we should put it this way. McClendon is not the right fit, which imo, means they misjudged his talent. same goes for hood.

ike and clark are both getting slower and that makes them less talented and it shows.

if #7 plays similar style that he has last several weeks then I see his career extending out a bit more. I wonder if he notices not getting hit/hurt as often.

Noel said...

1-2 years might be all they have for grooming a new QB. I don't want to relive the Kordell Stewart years. If they like someone I hope they take them.

I think Ziggy played well, not as good as Heyward obviously but well enough to resign. McLendon suits us more in the same role that Chris Hoke held; backup, occasional starter. Right now CB would be my top priority in round 1 but if there's a NT who can start right away I would be happy with that too. Shutting down the run and freeing up the secondary will make the group look younger all by itself.

Also hoping they can find a decent TE. If you look around the league there aren't many in the Heath Miller mold to choose from.

Dale Lolley said...

It's a misnomer to think that the Steelers are in as much cap trouble this year as they were last. Yes, they are over the cap right now. But it's an easy fix. Levi Brown counts nearly $7 million against their cap for next year. He will be an easy cut. Couple of restructures and extensions, maybe one veteran release, and they're under the cap.

As for offering a contract to fourth-year players before the season, Worilds would have been a fool to accept an offer. He had about eight career starts under his belt at that time.

I just don't get the people who want Roethlisberger to sit out the last few games. What kind of message does that send to the rest of the guys who are out there playing?
Plus, if I'm holding a $100 ticket to those games, I expect to see Roethlisberger out there. I expect to see them trying to win.

Homegrown Misanthropist said...

I think NT should be the priority for the Steelers, Louis Nix seems like a great fit and I think he could be used - not as a starter though - right away. After that ILB Should be a very high priority, there are some good ILB's that will fall to the second round due to the amount of great WR, OLB, QB and OL that will be taken early in the draft.

So in my opinion it should be:

I think they can move on with what they have on the offensive line, if they can stay healthy they'll have great depth next year.

Frank Beans said...

Listen, we all knew there would come a point where the defense showed it's age. They successfully staved it off the last couple of seasons but the time, she has come.

The one thing I notice about other teams who transition a little better is that they throw guys in and let them play. Lebeau's defense is notoriously tough to learn so maybe that is part of the solution, developing some packages where these younger guys can get their feet wet. I don't think the Steelers have the luxury anymore of drafting guys and letting them sit behind starters for a couple of seasons before getting a chance. I hope the current Steelers brain trust recognizes that and tries to find guys who can play ASAP.

As for Ben, he'll probably still be playing into his 40's. I really don't have a problem with Haley. Unfortunately, the bigger problem may be Tomlin but let's see just what he's made out of now that the Steelers are clearly in re-building mode. There, I said it.

Greg Mercer said...

Is Nix a 3 down player? with the way the passing game has evolved, i think it would be very unwise to spend a premium pick on a 2 down player?

We desperately need a CB who can make plays.

phil said...

#1 priority is going to be replacing Ryan Clark. He's so popular, I think he gets a pass sometimes. But talk about missed tackles, talk about not adapting to the new safety rules, talk about getting burned deep. He was a damn good player, but its time.

Also it stands to reason that giving up so many 50+ yard plays in one season might rest on the shoulders of the free safety.

marc said...

Interesting you bring that up about the TE's. I don't think there are many whitten/miller types anymore. It seems the higher profile TE's now are mostly receiving threats and don't do anywhere near as much blocking in the run game.

considering the steelers may be picking from say 10-17 in the first round, they should have their choice of top flight CB's. I think nix from notre dame will be gone inside the top 10. just too many teams playing the 3-4 now.

Alex K said...

Ike has to go. We need the cap space and it's time to start grooming a younger player. Extend Cortez Allen and Willie Gay is already under contract.

Clark and Kiesel are gone.

Troy will need to take a big salary cut or perhaps be cut. He's had as many bad as good moments this year. I think he's tried to do too much and ended up causing more problems. That missed tackle for a TD in the Dolphins game is a perfect example. He tried to cause a fumble and missed the tackle entirely. Remember when he used to just torpedo guys? I hope they can work something out though. My favorite Steeler ever.

Cut Woodley. I know it won't result in much cap savings this year but it will help in the year after this one. We'll need the money to resign Heyward and some young offensive players next offseason.

Cut Heath Miller? I know that sounds crazy but he's 32. Say the Steelers rebuild and make the playoffs in 2 years. He'll be 34 by then. It's not worth it to pay him 6 million while we go 8-8 next year.

I don't think we have to focus on the offensive line in the draft. Develop the picks you have. The oline has gotten better as the year went on.

This draft will be defense heavy because of all the vets we are about to lose. I would target a free safety, OLB (again), CB or tall WR. People seem to like this nix guy but I'd be hesitant to take a run stopping player in the modern NFL.

marc said...

someday I would love to know who pushed for landry jones in the fourth round in the midst of rebuilding mode. that person deserves a healthy slap on the wrist for being a total idiot. if you aren't going to play him "at all" then the largest waste of a 4th round pick ever.

phil said...

Joe Theismann was a 4th round draft pick that didn't play for his first 4 seasons - just sayin.

marc said...

theismann's situation was unique.

he played in the Canadian league for 3 or 4 years before going to the redskins. he returned punts his first year, I think, and then started after a couple more years. the only reason he didn't start sooner was because allen (the coach) loved kilmer. once allen was gone, theismann got the starting job.

if you draft jones to be your backup, then to use a 4th round selection is stupid. if you draft him as a long term project and possible future starter, then put him in when you get a chance to get the experience and game time evaluation - that's part of player development - not just practice rep after practice rep.

Anonymous said...

Louis Nix had 2 sacks in the 2012 season and regularly came of the field on 3rd down a Notre Dame. Not the kind of player we need. Not in the first round.

Dale Lolley said...

Would have said the same thing about Hampton in 2001. A two-down player for a team that had missed the playoffs three straight years.

Anonymous said...

It was a different league in 2001.

Anonymous said...

"I don't have a problem with Tomlin putting a guy back deep on a long field goal attempt at the end of the first half. But I don't know if I would have put Troy Polamalu back there... Brown would have given the Steelers the best chance to score there."

I don't know, I thought Troy did pretty well, and always has with the ball in his hands. In fact, if we're using retrospect, don't you think Troy would have been a better option than Brown on the final play of the game? Is it really more likely that Brown would have returned that field goal, compared to the likelihood that Troy keeps his foot on the field?