Visit NFL from the sidelines on the new Observer-Reporter site:

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Post-Tampa Bay thoughts

I've been a defender of Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley because I like what he's done overall with the team's offense.

The Steelers can use multiple formations and multiple ways to beat a team.

But I was not a fan of the team's play-calling on the Steelers' next-to-last possession with less than two minutes remaining in this game.

Actually, I just wasn't a fan of the team's final play call on third-and-five, a handoff to Le'Veon Bell.

I realize that Tampa Bay had just used its final timeout after the previous play and the Steelers wanted to run some clock, but they had just thrown the ball on second down to Markus Wheaton for an 8-yard gain.

Are you telling me a team that runs at least 10 screens per game couldn't run another one in that situation? The completion percentage on those is about 90 percent.

Maybe it gets the first down, maybe it doesn't, but it would have had a better chance of working than another run by Bell, who was limited to minus-4 yards on four fourth quarter carries.

The Bucs were really biting hard on the run all day. The Steelers used that to their advantage, running a lot of play-action passes after their first couple of drives.

That, in turn, opened up the running game in the second and third quarters. But the Bucs were back to crashing the line over the final 15 minutes.

A five-yard completion would have ended the game. Heath Miller was open all day long. Are you telling me the Steelers couldn't have connected on a 6-yard game to Miller?

Instead, the Steelers punted.

@ That punt, by the way, was a 29-yarder by Brad Wing.

I umpired a fall Bronco game behind the plate by myself and saw about 300 pitches Saturday. My hamstrings are killing me today, and I'm pretty sure I could have hit a 29-yard punt.

@ I've been saying for three weeks that the Steelers are taking too many penalties. They had 13 in this game.

And there's no doubt that's too many.

The word undisciplined was thrown around the locker room a lot following the game. And there is some of that with the taunting penalties and post-play stuff.

Those are on the coaching staff, who have to crack down on guys doing dumb stuff - though much of it has been by star players, ie. Le'Veon Bell, Antonio Brown and Cameron Heyward Sunday.

But to me, focus is just as big an issue. And focus, in my opinion, falls on the shoulders of the players.

They are paid a lot of money to do a job. If they can't stay focused to do that job who else would be at fault? The coaches?

Put it this way, if you are unfocused in your job, is it your problem or is it because of your boss?

@ The Steelers have had a rash of facemask penalties already this season, including two more Sunday.

Those are a result of guys reaching to make tackles rather than being in the right position to make those tackles. When you reach, you're more likely to grab the facemask.

@ Tampa Bay quarterback Mike Glennon is about as statuesque a quarterback as you'll see.

Yet the Steelers managed just one sack.

They had decent pressure at times, but at other times, not so much.

Arthur Moats and James Harrison both drew holding penalties, but was the only time they had any kind of impact. The duo combined for one tackle, that being by Moats.

Jason Worilds had a team-high two pressures and one tackle.

So, in 64 plays in which at least some combination of Worilds, Moats and Harrison was on the field at all times, the outside linebackers combined for two tackles, two pressures and two holding penalties, one of which was declined because Heyward had a sack.

That was one more tackle and one more pressure than the much-maligned Cam Thomas had Sunday.

The Steelers rotated Moats and Harrison every other series Sunday. But they need more out of that duo and Worilds.

@ I know the Steelers say they want to use Justin Brown as their slot receiver because of his blocking, but I'm baffled why Lance Moore isn't getting more playing time, at least on obvious passing downs.

Brown might eventually develop into a decent NFL receiver. But he's not giving this team much as a No. 3 receiver right now.

@ Tampa Bay scored 10 points in the first 4:59 of this game and seven points with seven seconds remaining.

They had 10 points and did little in between. The Steelers handily won 50-plus minutes of this game. Unfortunately for them, they were badly outplayed in those other 5-10 minutes.


Anonymous said...

The Panther game was a fluke. Or maybe the Panthers are terrible, considering what happened in Baltimore today.

As for the Steelers, this has the look of another 8-8 year.

Anonymous said...

Also hard to win when you give up 5 sacks. Beachum was horrible

Anonymous said...

The 3rd and 5 run is on Tomlin. Even if he did not call it (which I doubt it), it is just such an strategic point/call for the head coach to not have any say in it.

The Fox broadcast showed Tomlin and Haley talking before the play

Anonymous said...

Louis Murphy scored 2 4th quarter TDs in the 2009 unleash hell game. Gradkowski was his QB that day

Anonymous said...

I posted on 9/26 @ 7:22PM:

“I am cautiously optimistic that the Steelers can win. Most good teams when playing poor teams are licking their chops at a chance to put a good whopping on them. The Steelers have had a recent track record of playing down to their level of competition, allowing them to stay in the game too long and eventually losing to them, think Raiders, Titan, Vikings. My guess is that it’s a motivational problem. Hoping that someone like Blount comes out fired up to play his old team and runs roughshod over them.”

This wasn’t hard to see coming, it’s par for the course as the team is a reflection of the head coach. Your responses of the offense is a little different than in the past and yards are great, leave something to be desired as most fans would rather just see a win. Why have the Steelers consistently lost to bad teams in the last few seasons? Answer that question and you’ll make the Steelers a better team. I understand that on any given Sunday anybody can beat anybody but the Steelers are letting down to lesser opponents consistently. I’ll give you a hint: Noll will be remembered for winning 4 Super bowls in 10 years, Cowher will be remembered for having hard nose defenses, Tomlin will be remembered for having teams that played down to their opponents’ level of competition and that is stating it kindly. And before you say Tomlin isn’t missing throws, dropping passes, making penalties, missing tackles, it’s all a reflection of what he allows, it’s the standard being brought to you live each Sunday. Regarding focus, Cowher was one of the most intense coaches I can think of and his defensive players were focused, in fact, feared might be a better word. There are flashes of brilliance, shades of gray, on any given weekend you can’t tell what will show up and if we could, we’d make a lot of money off it, but the consistency is not there. Scary to think that the Jags may have a chance.

Dale Lolley said...

Cowher's defenses were feared because they were good players, not because of Cowher. His teams played down to the level of opponents at times as well. Or don't those losses to San Diego and New England in the championship games - when they were double digit favorites - count?

People like to rewrite history when talking about Bill, but there were quite a few who wanted to run him out of town 90 percent of the time as well.

D said...

It is comical how people continue to give this pathetic coaching staff passes. I mean utterly laughable. There is no doubt this is one of the most undisciplined teams in the league. Not just the ridiculous penalties, but the bad tackling, awful offensive situational play calls by garbage man Haley, and Lebeau, sweet jeez retire. The talent on this team is not as bad as it is being "coached" to be. It is taboo to EVER blame the coaches, but the same problems repeat themselves over and over and over and over and over again. Not even Dale can deny the ineptitude of this staff. And if it isn't the staff, then it is the talent. And that is Colbert. Period. Either way, time for a flipping change. This nonsense is pitifull.

Dale Lolley said...

And before you say that's just two examples of Cowher teams playing down to opponents, how about losing to expansion Cleveland at home in 1999 for that franchise's first win in its return. Or how about getting beat at expansion Jacksonville in that franchise's first season in 1995. Or how about making the bonehead decision to start Maddox in 2002 against Houston at home and losing a game in which they gave up, what, 50 yards?

Don't glorify Cowher by trying to re-write the facts. It happens to them all.
Doesn't mean that either one is a bad coach. Just means they were beaten on some days.

Dale Lolley said...

It's the same old stuff. I've been doing this for 20-plus years. When they lose, the coaches stink. This coach needs to be fired. That coach needs to go. The GM sucks.

Was this a bad loss? Sure. I just wrote I didn't agree with the play calling on the last series. That doesn't mean somebody should be fired.

Patrick said...

this trend of playing down to teams has been going on for years. I am literally shocked it happened again. Poor execution, poor discipline and just overall boneheaded play.

I love AB. The guy is incredibly productive but his drop is unacceptable and his reaction to it speaks volumes about where this team's head was at this game.

If I'm the ravens, bengals, and browns and I don't have any 6'5 wr's on the roster, I am getting some because our corners clearly can't cover big guys. Don't know how the team addresses that other than technique and generating pressure.

I am one upset steelers fan. Don't have much else to say.

In other news, I have a big parlay that pays if the Saints cover. Its currently 31-17 cowboys with almost 9 min left and the saints about to get the ball. If the Saints pull it off, this sting will dull substantially.

Patrick said...

and the saints follow it up with one of the most questionable calls ever. nevermind!

Anonymous said...

I liked the offensive play calling for most of the game. We just need to score more points......MAINLY because our defense is not that good. They are young and do have some bright spots but, they just make too many mistakes.

As Dale pointed out, they got little pressure or push on a QB that doesn't move very well. I'm not giving a Cortez a pass (pardon the pun) - he just always seems out of position. #43 yes he is my all-time favorite and I am confused on what he is doing. Is he trying to make-up for other deficiencies or is he just getting beat? The size of our remaining DBs is going to be an ongoing problem.

I'm not gonna call out the coaches but, here is my take on this lack of discipline that everyone keeps commenting on - my first suggestion, stop with the celebrating after every fricking first down. It's overdone and so look at me! You made a nice play, show you belong and hand the ball to the ref. Only a matter of time when we get the first and get another taunting penalty. This needs to stop and should be zero tolerance. AB made some great plays today but, he has to know that celebration is gonna garner a flag.

I never thought I would say this - the "new NFL" is driving me away. This high offense league is getting boring.

Anonymous said...

Cowher missed in the big games, Tomlin can even get by the little games anymore but Cowher’s defenses reflected his intensity. The last two+ seasons starting with the loss to Tebow and losing some of Cowher’s players, the Steelers have underwhelmed. Wait until Ben retires, then we’ll really see the true colors of a Tomlin team. Losing to both Oak and Tenn in both of the last two seasons was pathetic, but today, at home against TB topped it all. TB didn’t beat the Steelers, the Steelers beat the Steelers. Every Steeler fan was aware of the let downs the past few seasons and they didn’t disappoint, yet one wonders if it even occurred to Tomlin that maybe some changes were in order similar to changes in how you travel for west coast teams or even London for that matter. BTW, imagine how vain it would have been for me to say “I told you so”, don’t see that too often in columns.

I still stand by the question: Why have the Steelers consistently lost to bad teams in the last few seasons? Care to give it a shot Dale? Though each loss may be different, they carry with them common themes which ultimately reflect back on the coaching.

Anonymous said...

What a ridiculous argument, Bill Cowher couldn't win with "Bill Cowher's players" until the end of his career.

Tomlin's true colors have come out every year he's been the coach? Including multiple super bowls

Also, Roethlisberger was Colbert's pick, not Cowher's.

Dale Lolley said...

They have lost to "bad" teams because they haven't been very good, either.

Now, I still think this team is pretty good. But not good enough to hand a team a gift TD in the opening minutes and 125 yards in penalties.

Tampa, I think it will be proven, is not a bad team. The Bucs have some talent. They were starting the wrong QB the first three weeks

Anonymous said...

And that’s an honest answer Dale, they’re really not a good enough team to be giving away points and be penalized the way they are, it’s undisciplined, which falls on the coaching staff. Ben’s not going to pull a miracle out every time so the Steelers need to not give the games away with penalties and turnovers.

Anonymous said...

You have got to be kidding me! Tampa is a really, really bad team. The Steelers D wd have given up 50+ to a good QB today. They are God Awful!!

Dale Lolley said...

Yeah, that's why several national writers who are well respected not just picked them as a playoff team, but to win the NFC South.
They have played one horrid game. They are not a bad team. And, they were in the same situation the Steelers coming out of the Baltimore game. They had been embarrassed in a Thursday night game. Had the extra time to prepare for the Steelers.

That's no excuse, the Steelers should have won that game. Like I said, the Steelers outplayed them for 50-plus minutes. But if you give any NFL team a cheap TD and 125 yards in penalties, you're setting yourself up to lose. I don't care who you are.

adamg said...

As I said before, I think the zone blitz has been figured out a few seasons ago. The qbs now get rid of the ball faster than an outside pass rush, save a corner/safety blitz, can't get there in time. They no longer have Hampton and Smith tying up 4 of the 5 OL. Lebeau needs to adjust to this fact of life. They could do something like dress McCullers and bring him at DE on passing downs lined up over the OT. That certainly would free up the edge for an OLB, for example.

As for the ridiculous post-play taunting and celebration penalties, well, players like playing time, so if you do that dumb stuff, you get pulled and sit for awhile - even if you are one of the best players.

Not sure why on the last play, the DBs weren't told to just interfere if their man was open. I'd take my chances from the 1 on the last play of the game.

Anonymous said...

My question about this years Steelers, four games into the season, is whether this defense is any good. I have been disappointed in both the lack of pressure and coverage. Is it the secondary killing the pressure or the pressure killing the secondary. All I know is that it sure seems like the defense has trouble getting offenses off of the field.

Another thing that I am wondering is does this defense lack an attitude guy, an enforcer? Nobody seems to stand out to me in that respect, maybe Ike Taylor. They all seem to business like, very athletic, but few if any seem angry. They look more like robots than a pack of wild dogs.

Anonymous said...

"I know the Steelers say they want to use Justin Brown as their slot receiver because of his blocking"

I've been wondering why Justin Brown gets a helmet on game days, and now I know. I can only assume that Cam Thomas is on the field because of his punting skills.

Anonymous said...

"Yeah, that's why several national writers who are well respected not just picked them as a playoff team, but to win the NFC South."

Dale: I don't know who those well respected writers are, but if they picked a team with a brand new coaching staff and no QB to make the playoffs and win the NFC South, then they were drunk at the time.

Atlanta, New Orleans, and Carolina, are all better teams. The Bucs may win 4 games all season.

Theosa said...

I think the fans sentiment and frustration regarding coach Tomlin’s team losing to inferior opponents is just. Let’s not kid ourselves this has been going on for years now, losing one game a season to such a team might be an upset but 2-3 games a year is a pattern and a problem. And the frustration also stems from the past two 8-8 seasons.
Superbowl bound teams aim for home field advantage in playoffs; the playoff bound teams try to win the division, and the bad teams try to do better than last year. Steelers are a BAD team! They will be fighting for No. 3 spot with Cleveland. Bengals and Ravens are the superior teams in the division.
And just to add to Cowher vs Tomlin, the former never had a franchise quarterback and when he did he went 15-1 the first season and won the superbowl next year. People point to the 2006 season but Ben had motorcycle accident and then his appendix removed. Coach Cowher was done with the coaching job as well. Tomlin won with Cowher team and he is one player away (Ben another Cowher era player) from running a 4-12 team.

adamg said...

The NFL system works against sustained long term success because of the inverse draft order and salary cap, both of which punish successful teams by giving them a worse chance of drafting an immediate impact player and by limiting their chances to sign impact FAs because most good teams want to keep their own good players.

I'm not a great BR fan. I think his plusses outweigh his minuses but by less and less every year. Think about how much better the team, as a whole, would be if they had the 12M BR costs them to use on retaining a Keenan Lewis instead and/or signing an Elvis Dumerville or a Jared Allen or a true LT.

Don't forget Cowher mis-managed Kordell Stewart by insisting he be a pocket passer instead of being the, as it turns out, forerunner of the Kapernacks and Wilsons of the NFL. BR was also kept on a short leash by Whisenhunt and Cowher as far as being pass happy like he is now.
I believe Tomlin stepped into a tough spot being hired after BR was signed to that 102M contract extention. The Rooneys allowed a situation where the tail has been able to wag the dog. It's why I believe, despite them saying otherwise, BR won't be signed to an extension after next season.

Anonymous said...

tough game to watch.

I could blame the offense for basically handing a TD to TB and failing to ice the game at the end. but, they also did put up 24 pts.

I could blame the defense for getting torched by freaking matt glennon in the 2nd half and failing to make a stand at the end. but, they were minus 3 starters, and made a stand in the 4th quarter to give the ball back to the offense.

special teams, ugh. the suisham debate reared its ugly head. he is an average kicker who cannot make the long ones - plain and simple. and then, of course, a terrible punt when you need a good one the most.

or you could blame another penalty bonanza, questionable play calling (offense and defense), and lack of player execution.

the problem with this game is that everything went wrong. additionally, trends are developing - penalties, long periods of poor defense, long periods of poor offense.

I don't think the coaches should be absent from the criticism here. I have always believed players ultimately decide the outcome of a game, but as these same mistakes keep happening, at some point you expect the coaches to make changes. do something to stem the tide.

the season is certainly not lost, but this team is perilously close to the edge. they need to focus big time and there needs to be some accountability. if they don't find a way to improve and learn from their mistakes they will be on the outside looking in - again.

Slab said...

Adamg- agree for the most part with your post, but you lost me big time with the notion that Ben won't be signed next year. My prediction is that, barring some catestrophic injury or major off field incident, the Steelers will give Ben whatever it takes to sign him. In the NFL, a team falls into 1 of 2 categories- you either have a franchise QB or you are desperately looking for one. Take Ben away from the Steelers and you have the Browns.

Theosa said...

I agree with what you said. This is one of those transitional periods for Steelers. I’m not sure if Steelers will win another Superbowl with Ben as QB since he cannot pull it without a stout defense. If Steelers are to build for future, they can trade Ben for future first round picks; draft a QB, build defense through draft and free agent signings, and go from there. But knowing Tomlin, he’ll play it safe, keep Ben, and let this team afloat as long as he can. Heck he is still playing Polamalu, Taylor, Kiesel, and Harrison. Maybe it’s just talk after a crushing loss but this team feels mediocre at best even with Ben and all those offensive weapons.
Right on, we all expected the defense to struggle and offense was supposed to be Steelers savior. The defense kept them to just 42 yards in first half if I’m correct and offense gave up a TD in first half and scored only 7 points in second half. Defense created a turnover in second half and offense could not capitalize on it. Offense is the better bunch in terms of youth and talent and they underperformed.

Slab said...

Theosa- fans have a right to be upset when their team loses to a lesser team, but it's not a reason to legitimately knock Tomlin. Every NFL team loses to lesser teams, every NFL coach loses to lesser teams. The facts are that Tomlin has a career winning percentage of .629, .625 in the playoffs. Tomlins numbers are almost identical to Sean Payton's (Payton has one more win and one less loss in the regular season, Tomlin has one less win and one less loss in the postseason). If Tomlin is really losing an inordinate number of games to lesser teams, he's also winning an inordinate number of games against good teams.

Slab said...

This whole "Tomlin can't hold Cowher's jock when it comes to coaching" is major revisionist history. Forums and blogs were full of people calling for Cowher's head many, many times. "He can't win the big one" was a favorite among Cowher bashers- until he won the Superbowl. The reality is that outside of a select group of Steeler's "fans" after a Steeler's loss, Tomlin is recognized as being one of the top 5 coaches in the NFL. If fired, he would be immediately hired at top dollar. Same goes for Colbert. It's just way too easy for a fan to blame coaches and the GM for losses. The reality is that the players are the ones that lose games. Nobody coached the Steelers to grab facemasks. Nobody coached Wing to punt it 29 years on the last drive. Nobody coached Antonio Brown to drop the long flea flicker pass.

Slab said...

@Theosa- There isn't a single NFL GM that would trade Ben right now for draft picks. You say "trade Ben for future first round picks; draft a QB, build defense through draft and free agent signings". Sounds easy, right? Name 5 QBs taken in the last 5 years that if the Steelers had drafted, would make Ben expendable. Drafting a QB is a major, major crapshoot- see Browns, Raiders, Texans, Jags, any other team that doesn't currently have a franchise QB. The Andrew Lucks of the world come along every 20 years and are the luck of the draw. The next QB the Steelers draft is much more likely to be Jamarcus Russell or Vince Young than Ben or Aaron Rodgers. Much more likely to be Quincy Carter or Colt McCoy than Drew Brees or Russell Wilson. Not to be demeaning, but in my opinion, any argument that involves trading Ben is silly.

Theosa said...

Yes part of it is frustration after another Steelers loss to an inferior team that came in with 0-3 record and a backup QB. But I did not say Tomlin should lose his job after this loss, I was merely stating the facts. Tomlin took over Cowher’s team and he was hired when Steelers were on their peak and he did deliver a Superbowl. But that talent is gone now and Steelers are dealing with some bad contracts and some bad draft picks. It’s a coach’s job to coach the talent and build the team. Would you be ok with another 8-8 season this year? How about another 8-8 season next year? When do you call out the coach?
I know in Steelers Country talking anything against Ben is pretty much blasphemy but trading Ben would be one way to build this team and it’s just my opinion. I do not think Ben can win it all without a dominant defense. He did not after the demise of great Steelers D and at history suggests at his age very few QBs won it again. Having said that I KNOW Steelers won’t trade him.

Anonymous said...

I too do not believe the steelers will trade #7. however, there is a precedent one could refer back to. the cowboys traded Hershel walker to the Vikings for the biggest haul in nfl history and used that haul to create a great team.

now, I highly doubt anyone could ever get what dallas got (the Vikings blew it), but the steelers would get a lot, for sure. while highly unlikely to happen, it is still plausible.

Slab said...

Another comment regarding the notion that Ben should be traded and the Steelers could then use the draft picks to draft another QB and beef up the rest of the roster-

Belichick drafted Brady in the 6th round proving QB's can be had later in the draft, right? Right, but if Belichick really knew what he had, why didn't Brady get drafted in the 5th? If this drafting of a QB is something that can be successfully duplicated, the Belichick pats must have a bunch of success drafting QB's right? Here's the list of QBs-

2000, 6th, pick 199, Tom Brady , Michigan
2002, 4th, pick 117, Rohan Davey, LSU
2003, 6th, pick 201, Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech
2005, 7th, pick 230, Matt Cassel, USC
2008, 3rd, pick 94, Kevin O'Connell, San Diego St.
2010, 7th, pick 250, Zac Robinson, Oklahoma St.
2011, 3rd, pick 74, Ryan Mallett, Arkansas
2014, 2nd, pick 62, Jimmy Garoppolo, East. Illinois

How many first round picks would you have to get for Ben to think you have a better chance of winning a Super Bowl with Matt Cassell or Cliff Kingsbury as your QB? Barring major injury or incredibly embarrassing off field incident, the Steelers would be crazy to let Ben go.

Anonymous said...

After 0-4 debacle in 2013... Last 16 matches Steelers are 10-6. And ppl want to fire Tomlin.

This is just a match where they played good for lot of time.. but turnovers and bad special teams (punting) play changed the result.

GM did a mistake by sticking to Brad wing when they knew he wasnt good during the training camp. They should have gotten some veteran.

Last drive tomlin/haley should have been aggressive and should have gone for 1t down. Only if they had known that Wing is gonna punt 29 yards...

Field position is important, everyone knows it, and one bad punt can kill a game, again everyone knows it. Last 5 games will be really important for steelers... Will they keep trusting Wing, who didnt really show any great potential or consistency?? i think thats the question.

Slab said...

@ Theosa-
I understand and share your frustration with the Steeler's loss to the Bucs yesterday. but it's just what happens every week, every year in the NFL. The Pats opened the season with a loss to the Dolphins. Miami lost to Buffalo. Oakland is 0-4 but 3 losses have been by less than 1 score. It's the NFL. the margin between winning and losing is very small. every team is going to lose to an inferior opponent. Have you ever played those elimination leagues? it's crazy. I consider myself a pretty smart NFL fan and I'm still amazed at how hard it is to pick one guaranteed winner every week. Straight winner, not even points. This year, I thought there was no way the Bills could get a win on the road in Chicago....

For me, the key to not overreacting is to look at the other teams and coaches. How does Tomlin compare to the best? Amazingly well. Go look at the other coaches seasons. Look at the games they lost that they theoretically should have won.

Theosa said...

Maybe I should have that “drink of optimism” you had this morning so my Monday morning blues will go away :) Not too many teams with a franchise quarterback would go 8-8 two seasons in a row and third in the making. I really hope they can turn it around but the reality is they are the third best team in their division behind Bengals and Ravens and I just don’t have high hopes for them, maybe a wild card entry at best. I’ll give it you though; it’s tough to be positive after such a loss. I’m not for firing anyone on Steelers coaching staff including Haley but if the discussion was Cowher vs Tomlin, I sided with Cowher. Tomlin as a coach will be defined this season and a couple of seasons after this.

qwikdoc said...

Tomlin is not as good a coach as his supporters say, neither is he as bad a coach as his detractors say. The worsening trend of lack of discipline by his teams over the past several years is on nobody but Mike Tomlin. How many stupid penalties do we have to see stall drives or give new life to opponent's drives before someone will hold Tomlin accountable for having one of the most penalized teams in the league? Does he deserve to be fired over it? Not yet, but he certainly needs to do more than give us the same post game drivel about how his team can't commit so many penalties if they want to win games. Enough talk Mike. Get your team in order or admit you can't control them and move on.

Slab said...

After Tom Brady, the other QB fans like to point to as evidence a QB can easily be solved later in the draft is Russell Wilson. 2 issues with that- 1. it was 12 years between Brady going in the 6th and Wilson in the 3rd, it's just chance. How many GM/Head Coaching combos will you go through in a 12 year search for a QB? 2. This was Pete Carrol's 2nd stab at selecting his QB. His first choice was Charlie Whitehurst. He actually gave up more for Whitehurst than Wilson.

Seattle is very good right now because they have a good QB with a ton of talent around him. But what happens when it is time to give Wilson his 2nd contract? Once he's accounting for $15-20 million of cap space, the Seahawks will be like the rest of the league- having to shed talent to pay the QB. I would dare say they are unlikely to try and swap Wilson for some picks so than can keep the non-QB talent and take another Whitehurst/Wilson gamble.....

Look at both Belichick and Carroll's NFL careers. Both flopped in their first NFL gig- Belichick failed in part in Cleveland due to QB play- Vinnie Testaverde, Carroll in New England- Drew Bledsoe was hurt and then struggled in his last 2 years. Both found a QB and have ridden them in their second go arounds. If you find a QB in the NFL, you hold on to him and count your blessings.

Anonymous said...

We have veteran players on this team who have no fear of benching - because there is absolutely no one on the bench that can push them. Terrible drafting for several years put us in this position. Tomlin has no idea how to get the most out of his players. Undisciplined and unprepared, that is all on him. Time to clean house, top to bottom.

Slab said...


"The worsening trend of lack of discipline by his teams over the past several years is on nobody but Mike Tomlin. How many stupid penalties do we have to see stall drives or give new life to opponent's drives before someone will hold Tomlin accountable for having one of the most penalized teams in the league?"

Stats don't really back up your assessment.
Most penalized team last year- Superbowl champion Seahawks with 128, Steelers were 27th with 80. Steelers were 26th in 2012 (interesting the Superbowl champion Ravens were 2nd most penalized with 121)

this year the most penalized team so far is the Harbaugh led 49ers with 46, Steelers are 2nd with 44, Eagles at 3-1 are 4th with 36.

There were too many penalties but the stats don't indicate high penalty numbers equates to losses. As a matter of fact, the last 2 Superbowl winners were first and 2nd in number of penalties.

I don't think you can hold a Coach accountable for a player grabbing a facemask. Exactly what should Tomlin have done differently?

Anonymous said...

The face mask penalties are due to players not being where they should be to make the tackle, they are reaching. Coaching issue. Period.

Anonymous said...

players need to be held accountable for the stupid penalties. a face mask every once in a while is understandable, there's a lot of movement going on out there. but what's happening now is ridiculous. if you can't tackle without grabbing the facemask then sit the bench until you figure it out. maybe I'm wrong, but has anyone on this team been benched for a stupid penalty instead of being told, "don't do that again" or "you need to be better". playing time is what makes these guys tick. take that away and maybe they will finally get the message.

adamg said...

I'm a believer that teams can win with a "game mgr" type qb. In fact, that's how the 15-1 season happened and that's how they, as the 6th seed, made it to and won SB 40.

Look at Seattle and SF. Neither Wilson nor Kapernack are franchise qbs, but they manage the game well for their respective offenses.

I believe Haley's offensive philosophy is tailor-made for a game mgr type qb. Heck, he nearly beat the Steelers with Tyler Palko when he was at KC.

I think BR has taken a lot of hits over the years (some on him and some on the OL) and I think at least a few people in the Steeler organization are watching for a precipitous decline in his play and that's why his contract hasn't been extended.

adamg said...

marc, I agree about cutting playing time. That's what these guys want and taking it away will make them think.

I noticed after he took that stupid facemask penalty, the next time Troy had the RB for a loss, he wrapped him up around the waist.

I also agree with Dale that some of the flags are due to players being out of position and having to reach to make a tackle.

I do also think the refs are more apt to throw flags against the Steelers since Goodell made Pgh the poster team for the kind of tough, hard hitting plays he wants to rid the NFL of. A good ex is the Balt game where Troy and Mitchell got flagged for hits, but neither were fined by the NFL for illegal hits. Upshaw, otoh, got both flagged and fined.

kyle said...

I liked Bill Cowher and I like Mike Tomlin. Overall, I think coaches get too much credit and blame. But the suggestion that Cowher rarely or never lost to bad teams is revisionist history.

In 1998, the Steelers went 7-9. Among those 9 losses were:

2 losses to the Bengals, those accounted for 2 out of the 3 wins the Bengals had that season.

2 losses to the Oilers who ended up 8-8.

1 loss to the eventually 5-11 Lions.

1 loss to the eventually 8-8 Bucs.

And the rest were to teams who finished with records above .500.

When you are at or below .500, you are going to have losses to "bad" teams.

In 2008, the Steelers had 4 losses, all to teams that finished above .500 and made the playoffs.

Ditto 2010.

I don't think it's a matter of "playing down to an opponent." I think it's a matter of having a defense that has kept things close and a QB who takes chances. This team, since 2006 has lived or died with Ben. If he's on, they can beat almost anybody. If he's off, they can lose to almost anybody. They went 3-1 without him in 2010 and I think they would have been decent without him but not good enough to get to the Super Bowl.

Maybe I'm not the best one to make this argument though, because I wouldn't feel any better today if they had lost a nail-biter to the Broncos. A loss is a loss and they all suck. That's how I feel about it anyway.

Slab said...

1. Ben is a top 10 QB this year. No evidence of " a precipitous decline in his play". Steelers would be crazy not to resign him.
2. Do you really thinking sitting Troy, Hayward, Cam Thomas, Robert Golden, Bell and Antonio Brown would have contributed to the Steelers beating the Bucs? Those were the players with 15 year penalties.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the steelers are really targeted by the officials. I see a lot of browns games (living near Cleveland) and they get bogus calls just like the steelers. I think every team has to deal with the fact the refs are rather inconsistent and trying to enforce a "way too complicated" set of rules. the steelers were the early "beneficiaries" of the new rule set due to their style of play.

qwikdoc said...

I am referring to the trend of undisciplined play which is worsening via your own stats, and I didn't equate that play with the losses although they certainly contribute.
Ben getting sacked 5 times is on the O line, and to a degree, Ben.
The DB's allowing the receivers to catch everything in front of them which allows the opposing QB to get rid of the ball quickly, negating any effective pass rush, is on Lebeau and his frustrating bend but not break scheme. Facemask penalties are rarely intentional and hopefully rarely happen. Taunting, celebrations, false starts, encroachment, illegal formations, etc... are penalties from lack of discipline and fall squarely on the coaching staff and thus, Mike Tomlin. You don't see the Patriots commit a slew of undisciplined penalties because their coach won't stand for it and will hold them accountable, not just talk about holding them accountable game after game after game.

Dale Lolley said...

Lot's of good, clear debate going on today. I like it. Nobody name calling, just discussing the issues.

McFadden 41 said...

A refreshing day in the blogosphere. Lots of great points made today. I'm personally on the side that blames that loss on Tomlin. I am a fan of his. But I don't wear a cape for anyone. The decision to not be aggressive and go win the game was inexcusable. I understand trusting the defense, which played better than most people realize, but the offense use the strength of this team. And when it was time, he chose to play it safe. Now, I don't support firing him. But he has to address that and must address the lack of discipline. The players have to learn to control their emotions. That falls on his shoulders.

Unknown said...

My biggest issues with this game was the play calling on the final drive and that horrific punt at the worst possible time..

Hell, I'm a disabled vet, and I've never punted a ball in my life outside of back yard football, and Im pretty sure I can punt at least that far.

Very disappointing loss, but not the end of the world, unless it breaks their spirit and they go into a spiral. I agree with Dale, I think this team has talent on both sides of the ball. It's just taking longer than us spoiled fans would like to see for it all to come together. It is what it is.. on to the next one

qwikdoc said...

We are all Steelers fans and want the same thing so hopefully there won't ever be name calling.
I like Mike Tomlin as our coach and I don't think he should be fired, but he has to do more to address the lack of discipline than to just talk about it. Discipline is a very correctable area. Lack of it hurts a team greatly and even more so when that team is young and trying to gel and build a cohesive unit. Mike Tomlin doesn't block anybody nor tackle anybody. He doesn't throw or catch balls. I don't hold him accountable for those things.
The problem Tomlin has with Steelers fans is that we have been spoiled and aren't used to seeing undisciplined play from the Steelers. I'm glad they've spoiled me for the past 40 years. We've had our rough stretches but overall we've been lucky to have the most respected organization in the NFL as our "team". Mike Tomlin has to uphold that standard.

Slab said...


I'm not sure we are on the same page with regard to the use of the word trend. I don't see a trend toward an increase in penalties. I see a history of having very few penalties and this current 4 game blip of an inordinate number of penalties. if we continue to see penalties this year and on into next year, that would be a trend to me. Semantics I guess.

Anonymous said...

BREAKING NEWS @ 1:13PM CT ... Steelers just signed a guy with no legs to replace Brad Wing.

Slab said...

I'll go along with the "Tomlin needs to take some of the blame" thought. But no more so than any other loss. I didn't see anything egregious in the playcalling. I personally would have passed the ball on the last drive in an attempt to run out the clock, but geez. it's 3rd and 5 at their own 19 with 1:35 to go. If you run a pass play and get a sack or incompletion, you probably leave almost 1:30 on the clock. If you throw a pick or strip sack, it's probably game over. the run took the time down to :50. I think it's reasonable to figure the odds favor the defense being able to prevent a TB touchdown if you get a decent punt and decent defense. Instead, the punter fails to do his job. He was averaging over 40 years a punt, coaching didn't result in a 29 yarder. The defense gave up a 41 yard pass to a WR that wasn't even on a team last week. That's not a coaching issue, that's a not making plays issue. Add to that the 15 yard penalties and you have a loss.

One thing I'm at a loss regarding- how exactly is Tomlin supposed to adjust his coaching to prevent the "undisciplined" penalties? I think the players themselves should be policing this. Ben should be all over the offensive players and Troy should be all over the defensive.

DD said...

Nearly every single thing that could have gone wrong in that game, did. Penalties not just in general, but at the WORST times. I was actually surprised TB did not get a few PI calls on their 2nd to last drive of the game in the end zone. Hindsight, I wish they had so Ben wd have gotten a shot to tie it up. Drops, drops, drops at the wrong time by even our most trusted players. AB dropping that flea flicker....c'mon. That doesn't happen. But it did. Even Heath, who continues to be the best player on this team from a "this is how you play the game" perspective, dropped one. side note on it me, or do you notice anyone who tries to tackle him dive at his knees every time? That is going to hurt him at some point!. Anyway, and TERRIBLE situational play calling when the game mattered most. Ben was visibly angry when he got the last 3rd and 5 call from Haley. He knew it wd not work. He knew their best chance was a screen or heath over the middle. Game over if it is converted. Didn't happen. And then...then the punt. WOW. I still cannot believe how epically bad that was. Wing shd hang his head in shame for that. Tho, with our DB's, wd it have mattered? I am not so sure. The good news, for me anyway, as the putrid odor of this game begins to dissipate, is that before the yr began, I tht to myself, I will take 2-2 to start. So here we are. 2-2. Problem is, we just don't take advantage and excel....EVER. That is the definition of a mediocre team, which this is. Flashes of brilliance followed by drudges of ineptitude. I have zero faith Tomlin will actually correct what he can actually control since this is a perpetual shortcoming. But, maybe we catch a break or 2? Jacksonville is an AFC team so we must win that one. And I believe we will if 98% of what can go wrong actually doesn't this time!!

Anonymous said...

"I think it's reasonable to figure the odds favor the defense being able to prevent a TB touchdown if you get a decent punt and decent defense"

Not if it is the Steelers defense ... and the Steelers secondary in particular ... who has a nasty, reoccurring habit over the years of giving up the go-ahead score on the last drive of the game.

Anonymous said...

Dale sighting!

qwikdoc said...

Tomlin himself says he is responsible for the lack of discipline shown in penalties like taunting and celebrations. You better send him a note letting him know he's off the hook. That will be a load off his mind going into what will be a stressful week!
What exactly, in your mind, is Tomlin accountable for as coach of the Steelers?

Anonymous said...

regarding your comment about sitting players. I do think you sit a stud player for a taunting/stupid penalty. send the message to the whole team and doing so with arguably your best players is even better. sit brown for a series and see how he feels knowing he is letting his team down. do you think he, or anyone else, will be apt to taunt the other team after that?

also, a few stats about penalties (because I was curious):
- 42 penalties in first 8 games last year, 44 in first 4 games this year.
- greater than 7 penalties in a game last year only twice.
- in Wins, 39 penalties for 270 yards last year.
- in Losses, 41 penalties for 407 yards last year.

while penalties league wide are slightly up this year over last, the steelers are WAY up. further, in their losses last year the steelers accumulated 50% more penalty yards than during their wins. even though teams like the 49ers and seahawks accumulate a high number of penalties, maybe they are good enough to overcome those penalties. regardless, I don't think the steelers are good enough to consistently overcome their own. finally, I do consider 4 straight games of at least 9 penalties a trend in the wrong direction.

Anonymous said...

If you sit starting players for dumb penalties? You lose.

If you don't sit starting players and they continue committing dumb penalties? You lose ... like you did yesterday.

Either way you lose. But if you sit them to screw their head on straight, you're at least attempting to correct the problem so that in the long run you don't continue to lose MORE games because of that problem later on.

adamg said...

I'm with marc on sitting down players, especially star players, when they do stupid things like taunting or excessive celebrations. It sends a message that no one is above discipline to the rest of the team and causes the player sitting out to think about what they did and the consequences to both the player and the team.

BTW, high school and college coaches do this all the time.

Slab said...


Of course Tomlin is going to take the blame. It's his job as head coach. But what is he actually going to do to from a coaching standpoint to fix grabbing a facemask? Practice form tackling? OK, but shouldn't these professional athletes have it pretty ingrained how to tackle by the time they are in game 4 of an NFL season? years of peewee, high school, college, preseason.

I think it's Tomlin's job to manage. He is essentially an executive. He needs to hire good teachers and keep everyone on the same page and motivated. He should look at this last game and go to his staff and say "OK, here's what went wrong, tell me how each of you are going to fix it." He's a leader of professional football players. He shouldn't have to micromanage how everyone should behave when they make a play other than direct his coaches to make sure everyone knows the rules and sticks within them.

qwikdoc said...

Nobody on here except you have categorized facemask penalties as undisciplined penalties. Go back to my earlier comment and you will see exactly what I consider undisciplined penalties. You're obviously looking for argument vs intelligent debate so I'll move on.

Slab said...

@ qwikdoc

That's not fair. Don't get all huffy and play the "you can't have an intelligent conversation" card. Give me a break. There were 3 facemask penalties for 45 yards. They were over a third of the penalty yardage and a huge part of the game.

I actually think you have a fairly balanced viewpoint especially compared to the Tomlin haters that come out of the woodwork every Steelers loss.

However, I cited the stats. Until this year they were one of the LEAST penalized teams. I honestly don't know what you mean by "The worsening trend of lack of discipline by his teams over the past several years is on nobody but Mike Tomlin. How many stupid penalties do we have to see stall drives or give new life to opponent's drives before someone will hold Tomlin accountable for having one of the most penalized teams in the league?" how are this year's penalties proof of this "worsening trend of a lack of discipline...over the last several years" if until the last 4 games they were NOT one of the most penalized teams? How would you like Tomlin held accountable for leading the league in penalties through the first 4 games? If you were head coach, what would you do this week in practice and Sunday during the game?

Not trying to look for an argument just an intelligent debate.

Slab said...

@ Marc

I don't think I agree that the solution is to sit a star player for a series after a penalty. Case in point- Antonio Brown- penalized for taunting after catching a TD, next series- Brown catches a 27 yd TD

If Tomlin had sat his best WR after the penalty and the Steelers lost the exact same game, I can guarantee you this would not have been used as evidence of Tomlin's great coaching.

I don't know the answer. maybe a fine. I think that kind of thing is best handled by his peers, the people he is hurting are his teammates and they should let him know that.

Anonymous said...

2 Things:
1. I don't see this brought up much but one of the main problems I see with this team that makes too many mistakes and penalties, etc... Is they are just not the brightest group. The Steelers rarely get the top athletes (blue chip so to speak.) So they get guys who have good physical skill sets, but aren't the sharpest knives in the drawer. Tomlin and Lebeau aren't necessarily the issue, I think they need to go after more high IQ guys.
2. Cowher never had to deal with a true franchise QB taking up too much of the cap until Ben and they he split. He was able to get and keep talent around until they didn't need them, now the Steelers can't keep talent they need. Not that its just Ben. Ike and Troy were kept far too long.

Snarky said...

The difference between Cowher and Tomlin is that I don't see Tomlin make changes to correct problems. Cowher was criticized for making his assistants scape goats but Tomlin does'nt give up soon enough ( Zierlien ). Tomlin's "standard" is not high enough. Also when players are showing up to team flights stoned there is obviously a discipline problem.

kyle said...

Cowher kept on trotting Kordell out there like he wasn't getting worse and worse. I'd say that's a pretty big uncorrected mistake.

Also, Bam Morris had 4 kilos of weed in his car.

If you coach a professional sports team for long enough, some of your players are going to do dumb things. Your team will be bad at some point too. Unless you are Belichick and you get all of your bad seasons out of the way with the Browns and then decide to start cheating.

Noel said...

As bitter as this loss was this is still a team doing more things right than they are wrong. Convert one more third down and we'd be in a very different mood here. The biggest problem is the lack of QB pressure which I think is due to the play of the Defensive Ends. McClendon looks fine to me. Thomas and Keisel not so much. As excited as everyone was to see Keisel return I still think of him as a downgrade from Kimo back in the day. He isn't good enough and neither is Thomas. I'm sure if Tuitt were ready he would be out there already but I'm pinning a lot of hope on his arrival. Heyward can only do so much and McClendon has played well but doesn't own the interior like Big Snack did. Fix that problem and the secondary will magically improve.

Anonymous said...

i don't thin anyone else has mentioned it, (70+ comments is hard to read), but, I firmly believe the Steelers win the last SB if Mendenhall doesn't fumble. They were driving in to score and take the lead, I believe. So, Ben can wil with a poor defense. He needs more freedom to call his plays, IMHO. And again, I believe if Mendenhall doesn't fumble at that key moment, Big Ben has another ring!

Anonymous said...

2001 special teams were a disaster all season. Cowher did diddley about it until after the AFCC. With and after a litany of turd QBs, Cowher was again content to roll with a 34 year old journey man and a 400lb guard than address the one position that plagued him his entire tenure. And he didn't fix his mouth antlers/spit shower until after he retired. He's as slow to change as the Rooneys are. Went through assistants like the came from a Pez dispenser though.