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Saturday, January 04, 2014

2013 Steelers: What went wrong

Since I've already touched on what went right for the Steelers in 2013, here's a look at what went wrong in the second part of this series

The Steelers scored 19 points in their first two games, then allowed 74 points in their next two to fall to 0-4.

The team also turned the ball over 11 times in those first four games, with Roethlisberger accounting for nine of those giveaways with fumbles and interceptions.

Pittsburgh went 8-4 after that start, but needed one more victory – or a correct call by the officials on two separate plays in the Kansas City-San Diego game in Week 17 – to get into the playoffs.

The biggest issue was big plays.

The defense allowed an astounding five runs of 40 or more yards and 12 passes of that length or greater. 
The defense was better in the second half, but still had some letdowns, most notably a pair of long runs allowed in a 34-28 loss at Heinz Field to Miami Dec. 8, that helped keep the Steelers out of the playoffs.

Injuries also played a factor. In addition to losing Pouncey in the season opener, the Steelers also lost inside linebacker Larry Foote for the season in that game. All told, the Steelers ended the season with 11 players on injured reserve, including Pouncey’s replacement, Fernando Velasco, and linebacker LaMarr Woodley.

The run defense was also not up to its usual stout standards. Pittsburgh allowed 115.6 yards rushing per game and 4.3 yards per carry while opponents scored 18 rushing touchdowns.

The rushing yards per game and average per carry were the teams’ worst since 1999, while the rushing touchdowns allowed were the most since the team gave up 20 during a 5-11 season in 1988.

The rushing offense, as a whole, wasn’t much better. Despite Bell’s surge, Pittsburgh averaged 74 yards rushing per game in the first half of the season and 99 yards per game in the second. The 84.2 yards per game average for the season was Pittsburgh’s worst since the 1970 NFL merger. And its 3.5 yards per carry average was identical in the first half and second half.

It helped cost offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. his job.

There were also some issues in the kicking game, particularly with the punters.

Drew Butler, the team’s punter in 2012, was released just prior to the opening of the regular season and replaced by Zoltan Mesko, a Patriots castoff. Mesko was inconsistent and had just three of his 34 punts downed inside the 20.


He was replaced at midseason by Mat McBriar, who also dealt with some inconsistences. McBriar did, however, place 13 of 40 punts inside the 20.

20 comments:

adamg said...

I noticed the Steelers signed a punter and long snapper to futures contracts.

Dale Lolley said...

They did. They didn't have a punter or long-snapper under contract, so they had to sign somebody

adamg said...

As solid as Greg Warren has been, he is probably at the contract cost point in his Steeler career that they'll be looking to bring in someone for less $s regardless.

phil said...

the sideline also went wrong

Anonymous said...

Give it a rest with the sideline crap. Big deal, not only did that have zero impact on the game itself it happens all the time in the nfl. Coaches are on the field more than they're on the sideline. And what about the no call pass interference 2 pt conversion attempt in that same game? Things happen ppl make mistakes. The steelers werent good enough this year to make the playoffs period, mike Tomlin standing on the field had nothing to do with that

Dale Lolley said...

He could have been referring to Antonio Brown stepping out of bounds. It was a rather cryptic post.

Anonymous said...

Or maybe he was referring to lousy coaching.

Anonymous said...

Tomlin once again made several clock / game management mistakes. Any chance they have the humility to look to improve this in the off-season?

Anonymous said...

I think Tomlin's clock management could improve, but Ben made the biggest clock management error of the year.
Clock management is one of the only aspects of coaching we can judge objectively, but we only notice it when we would do something different. It's hard to say if he makes more or fewer errors than average.

Zac in Tempe

Anonymous said...

With so much blame directed at the defense, my question for Dale is, “given today’s game, aren’t we blaming the wrong side of the ball?” (We can’t continue to view defense in 2013 to same way we viewed it in 2008 much to the dismay of Steelers fans and any football purist .) In this regard, I would love to see an analysis of how the Steelers compare to the rest of the league, particularly the elite teams. How much are yardage/big plays simply attributed to today’s NFL?
Offensively, Denver led the league in both scoring and yards. But every other playoff team except Carolina scored more points than the Steelers.
Defensively, only five playoff teams gave up fewer yards than Steelers. (Ironically, the Steelers gave up fewer points than Denver, Philly and GB but that didn’t matter because they were the top offensive scoring teams.)
Watching college football is indication of what is to come. Maybe not as dramatic but the NFL will become more and more of a scoring and big play league. Defenses have a substantial handicap. (The amount holding, offensive pass interference allowed, defensive pass interference and targeting called, etc. “Rubs” used to be call “picks” and they were penalized.) In the 2012 playoffs, the average points scored by the winning team was over 30…the average points for the Divisional/Championship/SuperBowl was 34.85. The old adage that defense wins championship no longer seems relevant.
In my view, offensive # of plays / offensive yardage / red zone conversation for TDs are the most important factors. So my ultimate question is, “in order to compete for championship, don’t we need to focus on scoring in today’s NFL?”

Anonymous said...

With so much blame directed at the defense, my question for Dale is, “given today’s game, aren’t we blaming the wrong side of the ball?” (We can’t continue to view defense in 2013 to same way we viewed it in 2008 much to the dismay of Steelers fans and any football purist .) In this regard, I would love to see an analysis of how the Steelers compare to the rest of the league, particularly the elite teams. How much are yardage/big plays simply attributed to today’s NFL?
Offensively, Denver led the league in both scoring and yards. But every other playoff team except Carolina scored more points than the Steelers.
Defensively, only five playoff teams gave up fewer yards than Steelers. (Ironically, the Steelers gave up fewer points than Denver, Philly and GB but that didn’t matter because they were the top offensive scoring teams.)
Watching college football is indication of what is to come. Maybe not as dramatic but the NFL will become more and more of a scoring and big play league. Defenses have a substantial handicap. (The amount holding, offensive pass interference allowed, defensive pass interference and targeting called, etc. “Rubs” used to be call “picks” and they were penalized.) In the 2012 playoffs, the average points scored by the winning team was over 30…the average points for the Divisional/Championship/SuperBowl was 34.85. The old adage that defense wins championship no longer seems relevant.
In my view, offensive # of plays / offensive yardage / red zone conversation for TDs are the most important factors. So my ultimate question is, “in order to compete for championship, don’t we need to focus on scoring in today’s NFL?”

Dale Lolley said...

They are adjusting their philosophy. The days of "shutdown" defenses are over. It's all about scoring now. And that's the shift we saw with the Steelers this season. They opened things up more on offense.

They continued to try to score touchdowns, even when leading late in games - Detroit and Green Bay.

They will continue that adjustment by trying to get more guys in the defense who might not be the classic "Steelers" corner. Big guys who can tackle. Shift to guys who catch the ball better/create turnovers.

That's why I think they'll look for a ballhawk at safety

stealers mcescher said...

A good solid nose tackle like Hampton would allow the LBs to get back to their jobs and lessen the coverage time for the secondary. NT should be draft pick #1 if someone decent is available.

Homegrown Misanthropist said...

"a defense that not only slipped from No. 1 in yards allowed to No. 13 but gave up so many big running plays it dropped to No. 21 against the run. That's their second-lowest ranking in the past 44 seasons and the first time out of the NFL's top eight defending the run in 10 years."

From the post gazzette.

that's how bad the defense against the run was this year, second worst since 44!! They ran the ball against this team like they never had before, it had a huge impact in other areas of the defense, namely the secondary. No. 21 in the league that is how we measured against other teams.

Anonymous said...

Their year to year defensive ranking is not apples to apples. And clearly, the rankings do not translate to wins/loss. For instance, Houston had the #7 total defense. Arizona had the #1 run defense, Jets #3, etc.

Points are what matters. And in today's NFL, scoring is the game.

Anonymous said...

"The days of "shutdown" defenses are over."

You mean in Pittsburgh, right? Because the Seahawks and Panthers are playing as well as we used to play.

Anonymous said...

The defense and offense were both to blame at difference points this season. Early on during our 0-4 and 2-6 start, the offense was not scoring many points and Ben was turning the ball over quite a bit while the defense was playing respectable considering the Steelers offense left them on the field so much. Although, the defense was not forcing any turnovers either. I mean literly not turnovers for the first how many games? The defense started getting turnovers in the latter half of the season but they also started giving up a lot of plays. Luckily the steelers offense really emerges during that time with Bell getting his feet wet, Miller getting his feet under him, the OL stabilizing and utilizing the no huddle more often with Ben calling more shots. If the defense can just be a little more opportunistic, 2014 should be a good year. I don't see any reason the offense shouldn't be able to generally pick back up in 2014 where they left off this past season.

marc said...

if points are what matters, then how about we look at how many points the defenses are giving up.

9 of 12 teams in the playoffs gave up less points per game than the steelers this year. 2 of the 3 that gave up more lost this past weekend with Denver being the third.

I think what is more telling of the steelers defensive woes this season is the fact that 10 of the 12 playoff teams generated more turnovers than the steelers.

regarding the jets and Texans, they were last in the nfl in generating turnovers. regarding Arizona, while they did generate 30 turnovers, their give/take was -1. only chargers and packers were worse amongst playoff teams, and of course, the packers are out.

since 2002, only 4 super bowl champs have had a defense with double digit ranks in yards/game or points per game. and those 4 were all highly ranked in give/take ratio for the entire league.

of course you need to be able to score some points, but more importantly you need a defense that can stop the other team or take the ball away.

let's keep this discussion in mind as we see who walks away with the superbowl this year.

Anonymous said...

Offense was a problem early, then turned it around. Defense was a problem all yr long. Secondary is ridiculously slow and also can't tackle now which is completely unacceptbale in Lebeua's system. So the #1 priority in this draft shd be speed in the secondary IMO. Speed with hands would be nice too but I understand those guys are hard to find. I also just cannot buy into DL's system anymore. We played some really bad QB's and got lit up. Imagine what Manning/Brady/Rodgers would have done to this D. Our O couldn't score enought to overcome that slaughter. I'm not saying get rid of DL, just make some covergae adjustments up front. The 10 yard out and across the middle salnts are open all day, every day.

Dale Lolley said...

Got to see Brady against the Steelers, so I don't have to imagine it.

The Seahawks and Panthers live on sacks and turnovers defensively.

Carolina led the league with 60 sacks. Also had 30 forced turnovers - 20 interceptions, 10 fumbles.

Seattle had 44 sacks, 28 interceptions (the most in the league by 5) and forced 20 fumbles, recovering 11.

The Steelers had 34 sacks, 10 interceptions and 10 fumble recoveries.

What can we glean from that? The Steelers need to A. improve their pass rush and/or B. Find ways to get more picks.

They go hand in hand.