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Sunday, September 07, 2014

Post-Cleveland thoughts 1.0

It's really easy to rip the Steelers defense after Sunday's second-half effort. Actually, it was more of a bad third quarter that was the problem.

Cleveland's fast-paced no-huddle kept the Steelers off-balance and, perhaps just as importantly, there was a key penalty on the first-two touchdown drives that either helped the Browns to a first down or a chunk of yardage.

In fact, penalties were kind of the flavor of the day for the Steelers, who also had a touchdown called back in the first quarter on a holding penalty on Kelvin Beachum that was indeed a hold, but ticky-tacky nonetheless.

The Steelers were forced to kick a field goal instead, otherwise their first-half lead would have been 31-3.

But the third quarter defense was clearly bad. There were too many missed tackles and defenders overrunning plays.

Those are things the Steelers should be able to clean up, at least to a certain degree.

The quick pace of the Cleveland attack, however, also caused issues in the secondary. You get the idea that the Browns saw the issues the Steelers had with Philadelphia in the preseason and decided to incorporate a little of that in their offensive attack.

It took some time for the Steelers to adjust to it, but they did finally get some stops when it counted, notably with William Gay coming up with a couple of big pass defenses.

But you'd better believe the Steelers are going to see more of that style of attack. It's a big reason why the team's offense can't take its foot off the pedal as it did Sunday.

Ben Roethlisberger said the Steelers wanted to slow things down a little and take some time off the clock. Watching the Browns score 24 unanswered points to tie the game should change that theory moving forward.

@ I really liked all of the diversity I saw in the Steelers offense in the first half of this game. Empty sets with Le'Veon Bell split wide, pistol formations, no-huddle looks, inside screens, outside screens, we saw a little bit of everything.

But again, the Steelers tried to take the air out of the ball in the second half instead of keeping the pedal on the floor.

@ The Steelers weren't the only team to give up big a lead Sunday.

Jacksonville blew a 17-0 halftime lead at Philadelphia to lose, 34-17, while the Patriots allowed 23 unanswered points at Miami to lose to the Dolphins, 33-20.

Cincinnati nearly blew a 15-0 second-half lead before rallying to beat the Ravens, 23-16.

In other words, it happens.

The good news, at least in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, is that both teams recovered to get the win.

They are feeling a little different about things in New England and Jacksonville.

@ Antonio Brown didn't purposely kick Cleveland punter Spencer Lanning in the face, but it might cost him some money, anyway.

Brown said he decided to hurdle Lanning when he saw Lanning trying to go low on him. Lanning, however, kind of pulled up at the last moment and Brown's cleats hit him right in the face.

It looked like an attempted kick, but it wasn't.

The league office might not see it that way. But Brown isn't a dirty player.

The bad thing was that Brown didn't need to attempt to hurdle Lanning. Had he just cut back to the outside, he probably scores.

@ The Steelers had to be very pleased to see Markus Wheaton have such a big day.

The Browns couldn't have been happy about the day rookie Justin Gilbert had. Gilbert, taken after the Browns traded down with Buffalo, which selected Sammy Watkins, was repeatedly victimized Sunday.

Had the Browns had Watkins instead of Gilbert, there's a good chance they would have won this game.

@ Some other area reporters bought into the preseason talk that the Steelers were committed to splitting carries and playing time between Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount.

I wasn't buying it. In fact, I went on record as saying Bell was going to get 80 percent of the carries this season and could be primed to put up 1,600 total yards.

The breakdown in this game? Bell had 21 carries. Blount got 4.

Bell had 197 total yards in this game, gaining 109 yards on the ground and getting another 88 on six receptions.

Is he going to do that every game? Maybe not. But he's certainly off to a strong start.

@ Marcus Gilbert got paid during training camp. He's going to have to play better than he did in this game to earn that money.


Anonymous said...


Any updates on Thomas and Archer's injuries?

Hoping they are not serious.

Thanks for the great coverage as always.

Dale Lolley said...

Nope. Won't know anything until Monday. Didn't see either in the locker room

Anonymous said...

Marcus Gilbert was terrible.

He didn't earn his contract extension, he only got it because they had nothing else at the position

Anonymous said...

"It's a big reason why the team's offense can't take its foot off the pedal as it did Sunday.

Ben Roethlisberger said the Steelers wanted to slow things down a little and take some time off the clock. Watching the Browns score 24 unanswered points to tie the game should change that theory moving forward."

so Dale, do you think Tomlin and Haley are on board with this? Because it really seems like it will be the key to this season

in all honesty, our offense has the potential to score at will against anyone(ok maybe not the seahawks) but once it slows down our defensive deficiencies become obvious. In fact, they help the defense by not slowing down, making them look at least average and in the process help the young players grow

Steve-O said...

I listened to the game on satellite radio which leaves you with only a limited impression. I'm curious about Jarvis Jones and Jason Worilds. I know they each got a sack, but was their pressure a factor in the game?

Anonymous said...

My initial thoughts from Game #1:
- Offensive game plan (in the first half) was very good! Short screens worked in the first half and surprised we didn't utilize in the 2nd half - that was part of our downfall and taking our foot off the gas!
- Key offensive components looked good. LB, AB, MW and even JB played well. Heck we didn't even look to Heath very often. Nice coming out party for Wheaton and JBrown showed promise in his first game.
- Everyone in the tri-state area knew Blount was getting the ball on 3rd and 1. Need to do better!
- Love the fake punt.....because it worked!
- Wing punted well for first game.
- Now to the defense....very concerned! CLE has a great offensive line, but they let no names run all over us. Plus, they let Brian Hoyer have a decent passing game. How do we fix this?
- First, it starts up front! We need some clogging up the middle. It's only the first game, but we may need to give McCullers a shot. His job is to disturb traffic and he seems to be good at that.
- Ike looked old. A more experienced WR would have used him profusely!

A 'W' is a 'W' and a divisional game even better. We showed some promise, but we also showed some flaws. This defense really scared me...and not in a good way!

Anonymous said...

Someone give Tomlin Ray Seal's number, see if he still has any of those "60 minute men" t-shirts.

Anonymous said...

I hate to say this, but is anyone going to mention #43? Didn't notice him at all except for the times he whiffed on a few tackles in the backfield. Obviously Troy is Troy and we'll hear his name this season, but should we expect this type of hit and miss (mostly miss) year from 43 Dale?4

adamg said...

J Jones played a decent game. His biggest problem is that he overruns plays and bites a little too often on play action. He's certainly got all the tools and he I did see improvement on not taking the fakes as much as the game progressed. A good sign.

Worilds was solid, not spectacular.

The Browns run a form of the old Packer sweep where the OL just turn and all pull in the same direction. The DL needed to hold their point better.

The defense was hurt by penalties. They gave Clev at least 2 first downs by penalty that kept drives alive. Ike dropped a ball that would have stopped one TD. Allen and Gay missed picks on the same drive. Shazier and Timmons also both missed picks. But the defense just did too much falling for the play fake. Discipline
is something that should be correctable.

My pet peeve is on those 3rd and shorts. BR is a 6'5", 240lb man. Just run him up behind Pouncey and sneak it.

george said...

There is hope for the D. Hopefully the younger players will grow with experience. Cam Thomas was very weak at containing the end on his side.
I hope Gilbert isn't going to be one of those that got paid and go though the motions after wards.
Hope Munch can make something resembling an OT out of Vill on the practice squad and influence the drafting of better ones in the future.

marc said...

unfortunately, I only saw about a quarter's worth of the game due to my son's soccer game.

the offensive game plan was great. absolutely loved the wrinkles they put in there. bell is a stud.

adamg, gilbert was getting abused on the right side. browns got plenty of pressure on 3 and 4 man rushes. I'm not sure that's a good thing.

defense is clearly still a work in progress here. as many noted, way too many missed tackles, etc.

did anyone get an opportunity to pay attention to the NT position? how did mclendon play? thanks.

Theosa said...

In his rookie year Mike Adams held the right side well which is his natural position. Gilbert was more suited on the left side. Steelers tried to squeeze orange juice out of an apple by keep plugging Mike Adams on left side. Time to give him a chance at RT, yeah I’m aware of he struggled in training camp and all those stories.
Also time to give a chance to Blake over Ike Taylor, it can’t be any worse. The Steelers “Veterans” that Tomlin love and prefer over young players didn’t do a whole lot in the first game including Polamalu and Kiesel. And I do not agree that Steelers defense can correct their struggle against no huddle, hurry up offense any time soon. Ravens must be licking their chops. On a good note, Suisham played a good game, I was nervous at his form in preseason games.

Anonymous said...

Is it just me or has the 3rd quarter always been a problem for the Steelers. Even when they were doing well '04-'10.

Greg W. said...

I know it is only one game, but the thing that really stood out to me in this game that has me worried is the continuing lack of turnovers on defense. In the recent past, this has been blamed largely on lack of pressure on opposing QBs. But in this game, there were multiple times when the D was in position to make picks but couldn't bring in the ball. I've given up on Ike being able to catch balls that hit him in the hands, but it would be nice to see others be able to come up with some INTs when they are in position. When I watch teams with elite defenses, their Ds are able to catch, and it makes me wonder if this is a question of talent or practice. Do Steelers' DBs and LBs spend any time practicing catching the ball? Would more practice help? Gay's crucial pass defenses were great, but I can't help thinking that the DBs on teams like Seattle and SF make INTs on those plays. Getting to the ball and making a catch rather than just knocking it down seems like what you need to do to have the kind of dominant defense that we expect from the Black and Gold.

Go Steelers!

marc said...

greg, I totally agree and think that is one of the differences between a good defense and great defense. have to take it to the next level and secure the ball. steelers simply do not do that right now. personally, I don't think that is a practice issue, but rather something players are simply able to do or not do. seriously, I'm sure somewhere along the line they tried to get Ike to catch better...and obviously that hasn't worked out.

I was able to watch some highlights and noticed the steelers angles and positioning on D were way out of whack, #43 was pushed back too easily, alex mack was blocking mclendon with one arm. lots to work on for the D.

Anonymous said...

The Ike Taylor, the Dline and Gilbert are my biggest worries so far.

Kiesel was the only dlineman getting pressure that I saw. I know Heyward had a sack but that was the only time I noticed him all game.

Anonymous said...

You said:

"It took some time for the Steelers to adjust to it, but they did finally get some stops when it counted, notably with William Gay coming up with a couple of big pass defenses."

The last stop where William Gay broke up the passes were when the Browns were NOT running a no huddle

D said...

The middle of this defense has been a problem for yrs now. It is wide open by design, every single play. DL's schemes take too long to develop so the no huddle is a perfect weapon against it. Any QB worth his salt will have a field day back there. The Browns just took too long to figure that out. Good thing we don't play a ton of great QB's this yr.

adamg said...

I was at the game and tried to watch the line play a lot with my binoculars. Honestly, BR had plenty of time to throw. 2 of the sacks were coverage rather than on the OL. There weren't too many pass plays where even a back was kept in to pass protect.

On the DL, I did see McLendon get a good push at NT. One play I noticed he pushed both the center and guard backwards. I think Cam Thomas is the weakest link. His best position might be NT spelling McLendon, not DE.

Dale Lolley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
marc said...

wasn't blaming mclendon for the rush defense problem, just noticed he was being blocked rather easily by mack. imo, biggest problem on rush defense was the bad angles taken by defenders.

adamg said...

My guess is that real culprit was the Steelers coming out flat in the second half after dominating the first half. I've seen it before, one team gets out to a big lead and gets complacent or bored or whatever and allows the other team to get back in the game.

The good news is that when it mattered, the defense got a couple stops and the offense got the yards needed for the game-winning FG.

marc said...

see ya ray rice. good luck finding a team.

Slab said...

Maybe this is best case scenario. Got the win, both offense and defense showed some promise and then both allowed an inferior team to almost beat them. Should be lot's of teaching points in there. keep getting wins and getting better. Win enough to get in to the playoffs and round into form then.

Dale Lolley said...

Wasn't necessarily pointing at you Marc. But I've heard that all last year and into the preseason. Run defense stinks, so it must be the nose tackle.

marc said...

well, I was one pointing at mclendon a lot last year...just not this time.

Anonymous said...

Dale, Browne RAM only once against sub packages. Damage was done against the base

Anonymous said...

"Browns ran" not "Browne RAM"

kyle said...

I wasn't charting snaps or anything but McLendon defeated Mack's block to blow up a play in the backfield at least once that I saw.

Anonymous said...

The dline is struggling because the FO whiffed on Hood and Heyward.

Anonymous said...

Heyward played good. He's not a dominant player in any way but he's usually good enough to make a case for him being a late first round draft pick. Hood was awfull.

Dale Lolley said...

After watching this game for a third time, many of the run defense issues came on the quick snaps. The Browns were hurrying to the line of scrimmage and snapping the ball before the Steelers were ready. They finally adjusted after a blitzkrieg in the third quarter and came up with some stops.

They had one drive in the third quarter stopped as well, but had a defensive holding penalty away from the play that negated that.

And they actually had quite a few stuffs against the Browns, run plays that went for two yards or less. But they also allowed some chunk runs to negate that. It all added up to a bad overall day.