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Monday, December 23, 2013

Post-Packers thoughts

Many have wanted the Steelers to open things up offensively for a number of years. They've certainly done that.

Pittsburgh is looking like an offensive juggernaut having now scored 27 or more points in six of its past eight games.

It's helped cover for a defense that has been spotty - but opportunistic.

@ You want opportunistic? How about Troy Polamalu's forced fumble with just under two minutes remaining?

That was Polamalu's fifth forced fumble of the season. That's why you don't even consider cutting him at the end of this season. He's one of the few guys on that defense that can consistently take the ball away from the other team.

Add in his two interceptions and you've got a guy basically averaging a takeaway - or potential takeaway - every two games.

@ Shaun Suisham had two more tackles on special teams Sunday and now has seven for the season.

Think about that for a minute. Suisham doesn't cover punts. He's only on the field for kickoffs. The Steelers have had 55 kick returns against them this season. And Suisham has been involved in seven tackles.

@ The Steelers had been working on that fake punt play for about the last two months and were champing at the bit to run it at some point.

I'm not so sure that fourth-and-2 from your own 44 in a 14-10 game in the snow is the right time, but it worked. Kudos to Mike Tomlin and special teams coach Danny Smith for having the guts to make that call.

McBriar had only thrown one career pass before that, and it had fallen incomplete.

@ It wasn't all good for the special teams units, though. Green Bay entered this game averaging 18.8 yards per kick return with a season-long of 31.

Michael Hyde averaged - AVERAGED - 33.4 yards per return Sunday.

The weather was a factor, but you can't give a team that has struggled all season returning kicks that many yards. And you can't give up a 70-yard return after scoring to go up 38-31.

@ Don't think the fact that Hyde had come close to breaking a couple of other returns earlier in the game hadn't played a factor in Tomlin's decision not to play for a field goal at the end.

He was trying to score a touchdown and make sure the Packers could do no better than tie the game - unless Mike McCarthy decided to score and go for a two-point conversion.

Tomlin could have had Ben Roethlisberger take a knee on second down at the 1 and ran another 40 seconds off the clock and then tried to score from the 1 again, but that would have left the Packers with some time remaining.

We can play what ifs all day long with how that game was managed from a clock standpoint. But the bottom line is that the Steelers won.

That's all that really matters.

Don't give me this could have happened or that could have happened. None of it did. Pittsburgh kept the Packers out of the end zone. Period.

Was it how I would have done things? Probably not. I would have had Roethlisberger take a knee at least once.

But it worked for Tomlin.

@ I didn't have an issue at all with the Steelers kicking the field goal on third down at the end of the first half or taking a timeout into the locker room.

They got a gift return from Emmanuel Sanders to the Green Bay 45.

After getting to the 13, Roethlisberger allowed a little too much time to tick off following a Le'Veon Bell run on third-and-1, but I wouldn't have used the timeout there.

As we've seen way too many times over the years, teams like to send blitzers in those situations. Had Roethlisberger burned that timeout and then been sacked, the Steelers wouldn't have gotten a field goal off.

I wouldn't have spiked the ball, either. Pittsburgh had some momentum there. They had the Packers on their heels. But Jerricho Cotchery couldn't come down with a short pass on first down, and Roethlisberger overthrew Antonio Brown in the end zone on second down.

The Steelers knew they were getting the ball back to start the second half. Take the gift field goal and keep playing.

@ The Steelers need to win next week and have Baltimore, Miami and San Diego lose. If that happens, they get into the playoffs.

And that's why you don't give up on the season as many suggested after a 2-6 start.

This team is gaining a lot of momentum. The salary cap issues aren't as dire as many would have you believe. In fact, it's a way easier fix than it was last year.

And the Steelers should be able to create enough cap space to sign any of their free agents that they choose.

This team is 7-4 since the 0-4 start and a couple of plays away from being 9-2 or 10-1 over that stretch. OK, it's also a couple of plays away from being 5-6 as well, but this team isn't as far away from competing as some Steelers fans seem to think.

@ Bell and the offensive line just keep on getting better. And that's a reason to look from further improvement in 2014.

Yes, Green Bay's defensive front is bad, but Bell was seeing things well Sunday and making some very nice cuts. We forget that he basically missed the entire preseason, so, in effect, he's learning this all on the fly.

His fumble Sunday - though in a bad spot - was the first of his career. That's in 267 touches.

As for the line, it allowed one sack Sunday and has now given up just six in the past six games.

Roethlisberger has been a big part of that, getting rid of the ball quickly,  but even when he doesn't, he's not getting hit.

@ With Jarvis Jones out with the flu, Chris Carter and Stevenson Sylvester rotated at right outside linebacker.

Sylvester had a sack negated by offsetting penalties and Carter drew a holding penalty with a good burst off the line that the Steelers declined when Polamalu forced a fumble. That was an OK performance by those two, neither of whom could have really expected to play until about 9 a.m. Sunday.

@ All I'm going to say about the blocked field goal fiasco is this: If that play cannot be reviewed to see if Ryan Clark had possession of the ball, then replay should be scrapped entirely.

OK, I'll say two things. The other is this: Clark should know better than to attempt a lateral that deep in his own territory.

@ One thing I forgot about last night: Green Bay called timeout with 1:25 remaining. The Steelers then ran Bell on a draw and he scored with 1:25 remaining.

Either he's really fast, or the clock never started on that play.

23 comments:

Greg Mercer said...

Dale, which game concerns you the most next week? Chiefs or Jets? i feel pretty good about the AFC North matchups.

Anonymous said...

What's up wit Dale defending Tomlin on both of his clock management blunders?

Criticizing him won't make you less of a fan, Dale.

Anonymous said...

"he bottom line is that the Steelers won.

That's all that really matters"

......

That's some great in depth analysis. Guess we can't talk about positives when they lose a game because the score is always the bottom line.

Anonymous said...

"What's up wit Dale defending Tomlin on both of his clock management blunders?"

It's a recurring theme.

Noel said...

Yeah, how dare he post his opinion on his blog?

Anonymous said...

I'd be interested in your take on the cap, with specifics related to who is on the chopping block, what the cap implications are (pre/post June 1), potential restructures/extensions, etc.

You wrote that "in fact" it was an easier situation than last year. I don't think that's the case at all, but since you stated it as a fact, I would assume there is a deeper analysis coming?

Anonymous said...

The 'blocked FG fiasco' was a mulligan for them screwing up Bell's fumble. Green Bay went from scoring a TD on the fumble recovery to getting no points at all out of that sequence. I can sit on my couch and call penalties before the play even happens in situations like that. I have no doubts the NFL has protocols for situations like that.

Steve-O said...

Dale,
On the blocked field goal I don't think Clark's lateral was a bad decision. Correct me if I'm wrong but I thought the rule stated that Green Bay could not advance the ball, only recover it to end the down. Had it not been for Hood's batting the ball, which nobody saw coming, the lateral was an opportunity for the Steelers to score a run back TD.

joe said...

it looks to me like bell out of the backfield is a huge reason the offense is picking up the second half of the season. br trusting him more each week. great pick for this offense.

i am all in on scrapping replay. takes to long, and the goal of "getting plays right" isn't met. refs make mistakes, pretty much impossible not to with all the passing in modern football. players make plenty of mistakes too.

Dale Lolley said...

Jets game concerns me the most. I think both the Steelers and Bengals are almost locks to win.

Didn't defend Tomlin on the clock blunder. Said I understood his thinking but it's not what I would have done. How is that defending him?

Dale Lolley said...

If I don't say that the coach is a complete moron, I'm defending him? Is that how it works?

Anonymous said...

This is the internet, that's exactly how that works.

Zac in Tempe

Dale Lolley said...

I understand that fans look at things in black and white and don't look into the reasons for things.

I am a reporter. I'm attempting to explain Tomlin's reasoning for doing what he did. As I said, I didn't agree with it, but I understood his reasoning.

He's on the sideline. He has a better feel for what's going on with both teams than I have in the press box or anyone sitting at home on their couch.

kyle said...

Dale,

Are you suggesting that context and nuance play a part in decision-making?

Is that radical opinion why you can't land a job with Deadspin?

Dale Lolley said...

It's easy to read a book and say that you should do A every time B happens. It's easy to say "When I'm playing Madden on the X-Box, I do this every time in that situation."

I understand that. But when you're in the heat of battle, you don't always play things by the book. Momentum plays a factor. Weather plays a factor. The condition of your own guys plays a factor.

adamg said...

I too thought the governing rule on blocked FGs is that the offense can recover the ball, but not advance it, otherwise play over and change of possession. I also thought the "Casper Rule" only applies in the last 2 minutes, but in any event Clark had the ball and pitched it backwards so it was a free ball.

Homegrown Misanthropist said...

Dale,

Is there any chance the Steelers can trade Woodley and get something out of it, say a pick (not first rounder but perhaps second) and still manage to loose his cap impact?

Dale Lolley said...

Contract is too big to get anything other than a late pick. Plus, a trade is the same as releasing him. Everything is accelerated into this year.

marc said...

it doesn't seem the steelers style to walk on a player and eat so much of the deal against the salary cap. i don't pretend to know a ton about the cap, but i expect they will re-sign worilds and only release Woodley as a last resort. clark, kiesel, brown coming off the books should be enough for worilds' contract, no?

Anonymous said...

I hate the Steelers; win, lose. or draw. Big Ben is the most worthless human being in the NFL.
Good football player he is - good person, he isn't.

kyle said...

Thanks for checking in, Yoda.

Dale Lolley said...

Nice one Kyle

Anonymous said...

No doubt - Ben is the biggest jerk in the NFL