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Friday, September 12, 2014

Lolley's post-Ravens thoughts

After a 4-hour drive and a one-hour nap, I've had enough time to digest what I saw Thursday night in Baltimore.

When I made my game prediction, I picked the Ravens with a couple of big reasons. Baltimore was going to rally the troops around what has been a tough week on the players - through the fault of a former teammate and the front office - and the road teams in Thursday night games have struggled.

I think we saw that to be the case on both fronts.

With Pittsburgh's loss, road teams are now 24-42 in these Thursday night debacles Roger Goodell created back in 2006. That's enough of a track record to show that there is a decided advantage for the home team in these games.

Of course, Goodell helped create the other issue, as well, by giving Ray Rice on a slap on the wrist for his elevator escapades.

@ While we're on the subject of taking my favorite Washington & Jefferson College graduate behind the wood shed, his rules on hitting have also turned the game into one that is no longer recognizable.

If Courtney Upshaw's hit on Ben Roethlisberger in the first quarter is no longer legal, I have no idea how a defender is supposed to tackle somebody.

Same goes for the hits that Troy Polamalu and Mike Mitchell were flagged for.

But somehow, the hit that knocked Antonio Brown woozy for a quarter and the one that Heath Miller took to the head that dislodged the football as he was being held up by another player are OK?

Ed Hochuli's crew should have been embarrassed to make any of those calls.

As Polamalu said after the game, "I think it's kind of funny because that is what you are used to seeing in this type of game."

Apparently, we can't see them any more.

@ Cam Thomas, I don't even know what to say about him other than I'm shocked it took the San Diego Chargers nearly a full season to put him on the bench if his play here was indicative of how he played the nose there.

I know he was signed to be a rotation guy here. The time for that has come. I don't care how many mistakes Stephon Tuitt makes, he should be seeing more time. At least he's athletic enough to not take out three teammates who are on their way to the football.

And there's the possibility he'll get better.

@ In all actuality, the defense wasn't horrible in this game. There, I said it.

The Ravens had 323 total yards and score two touchdowns. They had a first-and-goal from the 1 and didn't score a touchdown.

In fact, Justin Tucker kicked field goals from 30, 23, 22 and 20 yards in this game.

And if not for the aforementioned penalties on Polamalu and Mitchell, they might not have scored their second TD.

Everybody knew this defense was going to be a work in progress. There was, at least, some progress between the first and second games.

Prior to Justin Forsett's 41-yard run through a hole created by Thomas standing straight up and wiping out the other Steelers defensive linemen, the Ravens were averaging 2.7 yards per carry.

And four stops in the red zone isn't bad - though you'd like to get a few more pre-red zone stops.

But the offense has to live up to its end of the bargain as well.

And it just couldn't sustain drives.

Maybe that was because of Upshaw's hit early in the game. Roethlisberger just seemed to be off after that.

I still think this offense has the ability to be special, though. Le'Veon Bell again looked fantastic and Antonio Brown, despite taking what should have been a penalized shoulder to the head, came back and still produced. It would have been nice to have a nice, calming veteran such as Lance Moore out there to compliment things.

@ Once again, the Steelers are forcing no turnovers. And they now have four of their own.

Equally damning are the 20 penalties in two games. I've already said that two of those calls were highly questionable. But can somebody tell me why the Steelers seemingly thought the only way to tackle Steve Smith was by his facemask?


Anonymous said...

Is it too much to ask Tomlin to put on headsets and act like he's coaching? it's embarrassing when they cut to him and he just shakes his head in disapproval like a spectator. At least hold a play sheet and look at it every once and a while.

I always dreaded that they may be picked for Hardknocks. I would now welcome it hoping to see what the hell he actually does. I've never seen a less active game day coach in my life.

mv7267 said...

When an 8-8 team does nothing to improve the areas that brought them to be 8-8, you are left with an 8-8 team or possibly worse.

Round peg, square hole............I'm honestly glad I didn't watch.

Theosa said...

Dale, why Pittsburgh sports writers shy away from saying the obvious about Big Ben? He was AWFUL last night! I started to think giving him a BIG contract extension will hand cuff Steelers for years from signing any good free agents, which this team badly needs. Let’s face it Ben cannot pull it without a good defense, he is no Manning or Brady. And please can somebody tell the Steelers to run the ball more in red zone? Give the ball to Bell! No matter who is the offensive coordinator Steelers seem to settle for field goals instead of scoring touch downs. Steelers best players are Antonio Brown and Bell, give them the ball, and let them make the plays. I could care less for Ben’s 4000 yards season.
How about holding some of the Steelers players accountable? Cowher would bench Gilbert; he was no non-sense coach. Jarvis Jones looks like a bust in making, the guy got a “personal coach” in Porter and still struggles, and his talent so far is not NFL calibre. Also, Gilbert and Cortez extensions look really bad for Steelers front office. I’m glad they waited on Worlids.
I agree with you on Tuit, infuse the young players and let them grow, I’m sick of Steelers “veterans” preference. Time to make McCuller the NT and move McLondon to DE where he could be more effective, he is raw but he’ll learn. Go Steelers!

Anonymous said...

Whoever decides Marcus Gilbert was worthy of a contract extension should be fired

Snarky said...

Welcome to the NBAFL. Officials are now the biggest stars of the game. No one has more impact on the outcome of the game. There have been so many new rules made in the name of "safety" that officials can almost find something to flag on every play. Defenseless receiver calls are especially confusing. As you pointed out Dale the calls in this game were neither correct or consistant. Of all the hits Ben has taken through the years that should have been penalized, Upshaws hit looked perfectly legal. I know winners celebrate and losers complain about the refs but watch a Dick Butkis highlight reel and tell me how many of those plays would be flagged in today's NFL.

Snarky said...

Today's NFL looks like arena league, minus the kick returns of course (they're too dangerous).

adamg said...

Have to disagree about the Upshaw hit. Watching it live and understanding that BR can be tough to bring down, I thought it was a late hit, not an illegal hit.

The cameras caught Tomlin on the sideline just shaking his head after the calls on Troy and Mitchell.

Easley said...

Did any Steeler lay a hand on Flacco last night? I think I counted one time. Does Jason Worilds still play for the Steelers? Couldn't tell.

The inability to pressure the QB will ensure another mediocre season.

Anonymous said...

Was it just me, or did anyone else watch #50 try to arm tackle all night? That Ravens TE carried him for 14 yards! wow.

qwikdoc said...

Why do defenders insist on continuing to hit high? They are using their shoulders more but still getting penalized. If they don't want to be penalized and fined, go for the knees. Yes, that will increase the number of season and career ending injuries but evidently that is what the league wants.

Anonymous said...

Setting the PS's problems aside, and those were many, the calls on Upshaw, Polamalu and the first Mitchell are just the kind of thing that is killing my love for the game. Upshaw, early, and Mitchell, late at the GL, made form tackles. Polamalu's wasn't form, but his timing was perfect. Each drew unnecessary roughness calls but, unless Ds are supposed to walk off, take a seat, crack an Iron and watch any O go wherever it wishes to go, each player brought it, in fact, with elemental, essential roughness. Attached to that: i could do without Nantz, Simms and Carey insisting that every goddam call made is correct, blown or no. CBS would do better imo if their crews were neither apologists nor patsies. The NFL is big business, sure, but all networks are bigger. Maybe the broadcasters ought muscle up some; commence covering the game like news, not entertainment. As is: their broadcasts can be seen either as insult or pablum for the braindead. Pick 'em

rvaccare said...

I think the guys on Sirius NFL Radio this morning hit the nail on the head - until the potential for lawsuits by former NFL plays stop, the potential of which will NEVER stop, this is the NFL football game we are stuck with. I am already losing more and more interest every year. It's already happened for MLB for me, the game I grew up loving, listening to every bit of every game on the radio, etc. Now I can't stand it because it is boring tripe. The NFL is getting closer to that status in my life.

adamg said...

Again, thought the call against Upshaw was for late hit NOT illegal hit.

Eric T said...

Adamg: Not sure how it could have been late since he was sacking Ben, who still had the ball.

marc said...

I too wondered if it were a late hit call in the case #7 was ruled in the grasp.

AZD said...

Bottom line for me is, this team is not physical on the lines AT ALL. The Ravens were clearly better in the trenches, pushing our guys aside like they were flies. Cam Thomas is absolutely dreadful, but he isn't the only one. On the sack that Ben took at the 50 yd line when gilbert got absolutely destroyed and pushed back into him shd be all the coaches need to see. This team is softer than a stick of butter sitting out in 100 degree heat. And it has been for yrs now. But, Tomlin continues to get a pass. And what about Colbert? He needs to be gone for some of these signings, draft picks and FA pickups. Just plain turrible......

Anonymous said...

I did not watch the whole game, but from what I saw, the defensive issues related to players being either out of position, or trying to make a lunging tackle instead of squaring up tackling the right way. It also seemed like some of them simply did not care.

I don't know. It's hard to watch.

Anonymous said...


Thanks. I got up this morning all ready to bitch, rant and rave about last night's game. My comments would have mirrored all the comments made and then some. Your column keeps it all in perspective.

joe said...

thursday night football is nothing but a money grab and a stupid idea imo. although nobody at work agrees.
still no turnovers, still way to many penalties.

a boring game from two mediocre teams.

Anonymous said...

McCullers to NT, McClendon to DE, Thomas to bench would be a great start to help this defensive line. I realize we have Tuitt waiting in the wings but if they don't think he can beat out Thomas then he must not ready. Tomlin is like one of those managers in baseball who stick with the starting pitcher an inning too long and then all of a sudden you look at the score and your getting your a** kicked.

Snarky said...

AZD made a good point. This team is just not that physical. Dale, do you think this is due to the new rules governing the amount of hitting in training camp?

Dale Lolley said...

They have done more live tackling in the past two training camps than at any time in the 22 years I have been covering the team, so no, I don't think the rules have affected that.

McClendon played fine last night. Again, until he 41-yarder, the Ravens were averaging 2.7 per carry.

The Ravens did a lot of short passes last night, so that limits the pass rush. I think they tried what, two shots deep, and the Steelers had good pressure on one of those. You're just not going to get there when the QB is getting rid of the ball in less than two seconds. They have rendered Torrey Smith, one of the best deep threats in the NFL, meaningless in Baltimore.

Theosa, I am pretty sure if you read what I wrote I said that Roethlisberger had a bad game. Looked like he was off after the hit. This team would be nowhere without him.

I know, after a loss, the sky is falling. But I am pretty sure that every team in the league will lose some games this season. As Bill Cowher used to say, you can't get too high with the highs or too low with the lows.

marc said...

Keystone cops...that's what pops into my head when thinking of how the steelers defenders were flying all over the place, out of position, out of control, knocking each other over and flailing at the ball carrier with their arms.

Anonymous Brian said...

My guess is that it's as bad as it looks on TV. Meaning a personnel issue. I hope it's more of a time to gel /experience problem but from my couch seat it's pretty ugly.

As annoying as Simms can be, his question - Who do you look at on the Steelers defense and think, Oh, man we better get him blocked up or else...? - is obviously true and not fixable. I mean, they can get better than last night, but no one's coming to the rescue. Would have to be Worilds and Heyward, I guess.

Any word on the McLendon injury?

Theosa said...

Dale, my bad, I missed those lines while reading your blog. And I don’t mean to inflate you but you and Ed Bouchete are the two best sports writers around here. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

My 2 cents...

The team had a couple good series, it's unfortunate that we had three turnovers. Very rare your going on the road against your rival and win with three turnovers and a couple bogus 15 yard penalties.

We need to cut ties with lumpy aka Cam Thomas and see what is out there, we have a little money we can still play with.

The sky isn't falling just yet, but I hope these men look at this tape and get embarrassed about how they tackled.

I predict we go 6-2 in the first half, I still feel good about this team and with a long week. I think this is the tell all game.


Theosa said...

Zeke, 6-2 in the first half? There you go bud, I'm drinking Kool Aid with you :)

Dale Lolley said...

In my column today, I called it the PennDOT defense. They provide a pothole or two and some orange cones, but you eventually get where you want to go. There's also five guys watching one guy work.

I had this game as a loss all along. I think they can go 6-2 as well in the first half. 5-3 at worst.

And thanks, Theosa. You are too kind.

adamg said...

EricT, watching live, it looked to me like BR was in the grasp of one or more defenders. He was trying to get away, but seemed to me he was going to be swarmed under when Upshaw came up and plowed into him. I thought right away it was a penalty anndthe flag was for a late hit, i.e.,.roughing the qb.

Eric T said...

Adamg: I see what you mean. I was going off the play by play as I did not get to see that play live.

Lance Stalnaker said...

Dale-I like following you here because we seem to think alike. I posted last night the very thing you wrote first, that this game that I love is unrecognizable. I also mentioned that the hit on Ben was a call as terrible as the two on Mitchell and Polamalu. The NFL needs to figure this out. I used to watch all games, now I only follow the Steelers since I am a life long fan, but the truth is I can not take much more. I turned the game off after the call on Mitchell...just awful. Keep up the great perspective.

Anonymous said...

The penalty on Upshaw was for leading with the crown of his helmet into Ben's chest.

Kazap said...

I agree the GM has not done well on Free Agent signings since Ryan Clark but neither have the coaches produced team fire and chemistry. Even Mike Munchak's impacts are questionable.

Dale Lolley said...

Yep, two games in, at 1-1, fire them all. Anybody remember the 0-4 start last season? What happened after that?

Or how about the 6-3 start two years ago?

It's a long season. They played a good team on the road on a short week. NFL teams are only winning 33 percent of those Thursday games as the road team.

Are there reasons to be concerned? Sure. But I still think this team is going to get better as the season goes on.

Anonymous said...

Um, they finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs? Was that a trick question?

Dale Lolley said...

The point is, it's one game in a situation where the home team has an even bigger advantage than usual. NFL teams win at a 57 percent clip as a whole in home games. That goes up to 64 percent on the short week.

Patrick said...

this Joe Greene A Football Life is incredible.

Anonymous said...

Yep, it was Roger Goodell's fault the Stillers lost because that bad man made the Stillers play on the road on a Thursday.

Bad idea, considering the whole Adrian Peterson situation, to make a reference to taking Goodell to the woodshed. Very poor taste.

Anonymous said...

Anon 249 ... Right, because Dale knew of the Adrian Peterson thing when he posted his thoughts at 9:09 AM. Making asinine statements like that just might be in very poor taste.

adamg said...

Dale, do you think the NFLPA will try and revisit the Thursday night scheduling? Of course CBS just paid big $s for broadcast rights, but seems to me the NFLPA could cite player safety, 3 days just isn't enough time for bodies to recover, and insist that teams(at a min the road team) scheduled for Thurs night games must have their bye week the Sunday before a Thurs game or that no team can appear on Thurs night more than 1 time/season or something else like that?

joe said...

that description of the defense is very funny, sad because it is true, but very funny.

the league is driven by offense now though, this team is going to have realize that and adjust, the defense has to start getting turnovers.

unfortunate, but i don't see either side calling for the end of the stupid thursday night football because of the extra money involved.

i haven't watched games other than the steelers for several years. plenty of coworkers watch only thieir team now too. after having sunday ticket every season, i haven't bothered with it the last two years. so when they win or loose, i don't get excited either way

marc said...

Interesting comments about watching games. I know several people here in Cleveland that only watch the browns versus other afc north teams and a couple that said their just done because they can't stand all the advantages given to offenses.

Anonymous said...

I for one don't think the sky is falling. I love the young players on this team who continue to show promise. The Steelers were a veteran team who had the Starters (especially on defense) locked in and primed to make a run every year. During the stretch, we weren't able to develop too many daft picks because they couldn't get playing time. And that's ok! Now we need them to contribute and there will be growing pains. However, I really excited to see what these names are doing in 3 years:

Antonio Brown, Le'veon Bell, David deCastro, Maurkice Pouncey, Marcus Wheaton, Dri Archer, Stephon Tuitt, Cam Heyward, Ryan Shazier, Jarvis Jones, Shamarko Thomas.

Remember, Steelers players take 3 or 4 years to develop. Every name listed above show Pro Bowl potential, and I think we'll get there.

My only worry is the current defensive philosophy.
Dale, can you tell me why our corners always play so far off the recievers and why we seem to never bring and "overload" type blitzes. They have been "dink and dunked" to death the last 2 years, but seem to not be making any adjustments.

adamg said...

About Cam Thomas, it might be a bit of a reach due to his daughter's pediatric cancer, but Devon Still is on the Cincy PS, avail to any team. Still went to PSU and is from NJ so he might be closer to home/family
in Pgh than Cincy and Pgh also has world class children's hospitals for his little girl.

Anonymous said...

He's now on the active roster.

Dale Lolley said...

They don't "always" play so far off. That has changed over the years. They play to keep the ball in front of them. But they will press at times.

The philosophy is to not let the ball get over your head. Flacco, by the way, threw for 166 yards last week. Torrey Smith had one catch.