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

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Where things stand two weeks in

Two weeks into the 2014 season, the AFC North looks like this: Cincinnati 2-0 and everyone else 1-1.

The biggest surprises thus far?

The Bengals' win at Baltimore in Week 1 and Cleveland's win over New Orleans in Week 2.

This is why you never take anything for granted in the NFL.

As for the Steelers, they are exactly where I thought they would be two weeks into this season, 1-1.

And as we learned Sunday, the dome teams of the NFC South aren't quite so formidable outdoors on grass.

@ Maybe I'm in the minority, and that's fine, but Cleveland's last-minute victory over New Orleans makes that win by the Steelers in Week 1 look a lot better.

After all, New Orleans' high-powered offense never really got things going against Cleveland's defense. And Cleveland's offense certainly looked decent - better than anyone expected.

That's not to forgive Pittsburgh's second-half meltdown against the Browns. It was bad.

But at least the Steelers righted the ship and won that one.

@ Pittsburgh's biggest issue right now are the penalties. The Steelers have 20 in two games. They had 80 all of last season.

The Steelers haven't typically been a highly penalized team, so I expect that to get better.

The Steelers also have not forced a turnover this season. That's nothing new. The team has an NFL-low 51 since the start of the 2011 season.

Mike Mitchell and Ryan Shazier were added to this defense to help improve that. As they get more comfortable with what they are doing, that could change.


Anonymous said...

In regards to fewer penalties and more turnovers, there's nowhere to go but up.

Anonymous said...

Colbert delenda est.

Tom said...

Didn't watch enough of the Browns-Saints game to notice but how did Keenan Lewis play??

Brownies put up 26 on 'em and Lewis can't be worse than #2 on the pecking order in that secondary (granted the front 7 didn't play well ether). Does anyone in Pitt still think he's the one that got away...?

Theosa said...

The way I see it, Steelers have the worst defense in AFC North at the moment and their offense is inconsistent and turn over the ball way too much to have a shot at grabbing the AFC North division. I believe this offense cannot carry the team on its own and until defense figures it out and comes together they’ll remain behind Bengals and Ravens in the division. So far Browns have shown more fight than Steelers so the number 3 spot is not a given either.

Anonymous said...


Do you think the Gilbert contract was a panic move because of their lack of depth (as Bouchette called it) or just incompetence in evaluating their own talent?

Anonymous said...

Panic and incompetence. This team has been giving contracts and extensions to bad players for years now.

kyle said...

Yeah, signing Antonio Brown turned out to be a HUGE mistake, right?

Every team has bad signings. The Steelers did not sign Joe Flacco to an enormous deal because they gambled and he ended up playing well above his own skill level for three games and won a Super Bowl.

The Steelers also did not sign Andy Dalton to a big deal despite an 0-3 record in the playoffs.

Gilbert looked good in camp and in preseason. He has traditionally been a good pass-blocker but not effective in the run game. He's had two very bad games. Maybe there's a reason other than "he's the worst, Colbert is the worst, fire everything" no?

I guess we'll find out.

Dale Lolley said...

Gilbert hasn't played well. But I will say this. He got beat for two sacks last week by Dumervil, who is no slouch. But that was in 40 pass sets.

Dale Lolley said...

BTW. Did Suggs play? He sure didn't do much

Anonymous said...

I'd like the Steelers to replace Left tackle Thomas with Brian would be a better to replace a scorned veteran with a good young D liner.

Dale Lolley said...

Well, considering Arnfelt isn't on the team, that would be a heck of a move

Anonymous said...

I wanted Arnfelt to be part of the team at the start of training camp, but he showed no improvement over last year and got beat out by more promising prospects. Mauro might be an improvement, but I don't know that they're ready to cut bait with Thomas just yet when he's already guaranteed a paycheck for the year.

Theosa said...

My two cents, McLondon for Thomas and McCullers at NT. McLondon could be very effective at DE and will play lot more snaps than he currently is. Tuit rotates and provide breather at both DE positions. They need to play DHB more too.

Anonymous said...

Anybody on the Stillers or in the NFL arrested yet today?

Dale Lolley said...

McCullers isn't anywhere near ready to play. And McLendon has definitely not been the issue.

mv7267 said...

McCullers will not see the field until at least the bye week unless there are a ton of injuries on the DL. The #2 pick has only seen 16 snaps, no chance the the #6b gets any. Remember, this defensive scheme is too complex rookies to play right away. Have to ease them in slowly while the BIG $$ vets miss tackles and get flagged at the same time. Square peg, round hole.

Anonymous Brian said...

Great. Suggs did nothing, Torrey Smith did nothing as you pointed out the other day, and - the Ravens still dominated. Now I feel worse :)

I'm assuming McLendon's shoulder injury is not major?

Anonymous said...

People...McCullers is a long term project who will get little to no playing time this year unless we are decimated by injuries.

Oh and kyle, if the FO is so good then why does a team right against the cap keep going 8-8? Something is wrong there.

Think it over.

DEL jzc said...

Exactly WHY isn't McCullers ready to play?

What crazy "assignment" does he really need to know exactly?

When he plays, I guarantee Jeremey Zuttah isn't going to push him 3 yards off the line of scrimmage by himself like Cam Thomas.

Dale, I don't believe anything this coaching staff tells me right now and neither should you. I want to SEE McCullers (and Tuitt for that matter) fail before I say he's not ready.

The run defense is embarrassing. But of course when your Tampa-2 coach is picking runner-hitter linebackers for a Lebeau 3-4 defense, this is what you get....

Theosa said...

I'm with you DEL jzc, NT is one of the least complex position to learn assignment wise, eat up the blockers and push the blocker back. He has large wing span and his height can block vision of the QBs. But Coach T prefer vets no matter how bad they are playing and let the young players rot on bench. No slight against McLondon, he is doing alright but he could be better served at DE position.

Dale Lolley said...

How in the world is Thomas, who signed a 2-year, $4-million deal, a big money vet?

Sorry, that doesn't fit the narrative.

I feel Tuitt should be playing. I don't feel the same about McCullers. Sorry, he's just not ready at this point and McLendon has done nothing to lose his job.

The Steelers have allowed seven runs of 15 or more yards - mostly around end. On the other 56 carries against them, they've given up 2.96 yards per carry.

Teams are running Thomas' side. Put Tuitt in and let him grow.

kyle said...


They've gone 8-8 twice in a row. They were up against the cap because they paid a 100 million dollar quarterback 100 million dollars. Also, they paid some vets who had earned it. I'm not a fan who yells at the team for showing loyalty to vets who showed it to them.

I'm of the mind that the FO is neither blameless nor awful. It is complex. They do good things and bad, like every other FO in every other sport. People act like 8-8 is worlds away from respectability. Who cares about respectability? I care about getting into the playoffs. 9-7 last year gets them into the playoffs. Back off the ledge.

As far as the Defensive Line, first, it's McLendon. Second, to those suggesting McCullers couldn't possibly be worse, did you watch the preseason? Did you see that mammoth, young man standing straight up and getting pushed right over? He made a few plays, enough to make the team on potential. He also has no semblance of a strong base and gets gassed after about five plays. If they put him at the nose, any team they play will instantly go hurry up to keep him on the field.

Now, I'm all for Tuitt getting more snaps. Hell, Keisel can at least get some pass rush, unlike Cam Thomas. Thomas and McCullers should only see the field on short yardage as far as I'm concerned.

Theosa said...

The suggestion of moving McLondon to Thomas position was exactly that he can run block better and I believe so can McCullers with his wing span as he did in camp. I have to see McCullers in a regular season game to see he is not ready, coaches let too many players deemed not ready in the past before their third or fourth year. I saw Bears game and Kyle Fuller (CB taken before Steelers)making two interception and pretty much played the pivotal part in Bear's victory, if he was with Steelers he will be learning the "system" on bench with Ike Taylor still as our starter.

Theosa said...

And how are Steelers performing against hurry up with McLondon and others anyway?

Dale Lolley said...

McCullers made a couple of splash plays against backups. He is not ready to play now. Period.

kyle said...


It's McLendon. Not McLondon. I normally don't care much about that stuff but you've spelled it that way like a dozen times now.

Moving on, is Shazier on the bench "learning the system"? Was Bell last year? They start rookies who are ready or who are the best option. They spent a lot of years where it was very rare that a rookie would be the best option. And Kyle Fuller was only playing starter snaps in that game because of injuries. He started the game as the nickel corner.

McLendon is fine against the hurry-up. They aren't doing a lot of running right at him and he gets a little pass rush from the nose, which is good. Like I said, if anyone is going to get snaps over Thomas it should be Tuitt and Keisel. You guys are too enamored of McCullers bulk. "I need to see him fail" how entitled can you get? You know who has seen him fail? The Steelers staff who watched every snap he played in college, every snap he played in preseason, and every rep he took in camp...multiple times. I know the team hasn't made the playoffs for two years so obviously they are all dummies and can't recognize that McCullers is clearly Joe Greene but bigger but could we maybe push for giving more snaps to the much more talented rookie they picked up in the 2nd round? Not that it matters either way, but come on.

Patrick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Patrick said...

"The run defense is embarrassing. But of course when your Tampa-2 coach is picking runner-hitter linebackers for a Lebeau 3-4 defense, this is what you get...."

100% agree with this. Timmons is now learning to be a different kind of linebacker too. I get the reasoning behind it but I'm not sure he is of the mold for the position.

As to McCullers, I understand he is not ready and he is not going to start and change the game. But, that said, unless another position is really being compromised, or they refuse to healthy scratch C. Thomas, why can't McCullers come in at the goalline or the FG block unit and give someone a play off here and there. I just don't see the harm unless they think a poor 6 plays in a game are going to shatter his confidence.

I suppose the counter is you don't devote a spot to a guy taking a small number of snaps, but there are guys on the 53 playing about a low amount anyway (including Will Johnson getting 1 snap last week?)

Theosa said...

Kyle, thanks for correcting my McLondon goof, I don’t pay attention to the names. Back to McCullers discussion, so you are saying believe in coach T and company and have faith in the starters and if someone is not playing he is not ready to play, fair enough and you have other valid points too. But if that’s the logic why suggest Tuit? He must not be ready to play either that’s why Cam Thomas is the starter. The Steelers run defense collapsed since the departure of Hampton and Smith and if Cam Thomas can take snaps at NT so can McCullers and YES how worse it can get? I still believe McLendon will be more effective at DE where there is an obvious problem, and at NT Steelers need someone who can take on more than one blocker. No one has seen Tuit or McCullers play full time in regular season games so what you, I, and others think of them are just opinions. McCullers might not be ready but Steelers better get him ready and that’s what coaches are paid for.

Theosa said...

And it’s the Pitt media that lead us to believe McCullers is stud in making, read below;
Linebackers coach Keith Butler, who played 10 seasons in Seattle in the 1980s, said he would come out of retirement if he could play behind him.
“He’s the heaviest guy I’ve played against,” said Cody Wallace, the Steelers backup center. “He’s so incredibly heavy he just walks you back almost every time.”
“He’s tough to move,” guard David DeCastro said. “If wants to go somewhere, it’s tough to stop him.”
“He’s like a juggernaut — if he gets moving he’s hard to stop,” Legursky said after facing McCullers in two scrimmages in Latrobe.
“He can hold his ground,” Wallace said. “Nobody’s going to push him back. We’ve had times where guys had a chance to get a clean-up shot on him and give him everything you got and he barely budges. You want to stop him before he gets started.”
“It’s awesome,” said rookie linebacker Jordan Zumwalt, who lined up behind McCullers against the Giants and was free to make a team-high six tackles. “He eats up double-teams for you all day. Coach [Keith Butler] says it all the time — ‘This dude, Dan, is going to bring me out of retirement. I wish I could play behind him.’ We can make all the plays we want.”

marc said...

Thomas/tuitt snap counts should be reversed. i think we will see the coaching staff gradually make that adjustment over the next few weeks.

the mcullers discussion is interesting. imo, he is realistically the long term answer to NT. but it was too easy for other teams to get leverage on him. he needs to fix that before he is the full time starter. however, they may be reaching the point where he needs to start getting some snaps, especially in obvious run situations. if the run defense continues its current course, then might as well give the guy some opportunities.

dale, i hear what you are saying about the long runs, etc. but i suspect every team with poor run defenses has a similar argument. they are losing one on one battles, out of position, poor angles and poor tackling. McClendon is not the sole problem, but having a NT who demands double teams certainly would help. imo, mclendon will not be the starting NT on this team next year.

I'm looking forward to the next game. if the steelers don't come out fired up and hitting hard, they will get run over by a physically tough panther's team.

kyle said...


I suggest Tuitt because if fans are going to complain that a rookie isn't getting enough snaps, it should probably be the rookie who at this point has much more ability. I assume the coaches aren't idiots and can tell which player is more capable.

Regarding your quotations about McCullers, if you go back I bet you can find quotations like that about Alonzo Jackson from his first camp. You can probably find stuff like that about Sunny Harris. People say positive things about young guys in training camp. That's part of what makes it so fun. Add in the fact that he has rare size and you end up with a bunch of hyperbole.

I watched every snap of the preseason. McCullers showed impressive lateral agility for a man that size. He also showed that he can get knocked right over because he plays with zero leverage. You guys are all assuming he'll demand a double team just because he's big. That isn't how it works. There are small guys who demand a double team because they win one-on-ones. McCullers isn't there yet. As I mentioned above, from what I've seen of him, I don't think he'd be much help for anything other than short yardage and as Patrick mentioned, field goal blocks. And I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt on short yardage that for one play he can stay low, fire out, and not be the last player off the ball.

Cam Thomas isn't good. That doesn't mean everyone behind him on the depth chart is better.

Theosa said...

Kyle, you could be 100% correct about McCullers but again we don’t know that. We won’t be having this discussion if Steelers did not have a black and white piss poor run defense problem for past two seasons which interestingly coincides with Hampton’s departure. Something gotta give to fix it. Give McCullers and Tuit some snaps and everyone will see what they are capable of, the current lineup is certainly not working.

Qwikdoc said...

So you feel that despite the fact that we have virtually no pass rush, our lines are dominated on both sides of the ball and we continue to give receivers a 10 yard cushion even on third and 6, that penalties are our biggest issue?
Our biggest issues stem from the fact that we have for the most part missed in our draft picks in the Tomlin era and Lebeau's defensive schemes have been solved by other teams and he seems reticent to change them.

Dale Lolley said...

Players always say kind things about teammates, at least publicly. What do you expect them to say, "He's terrible. I can't believe the front office drafted that slug."

Never going to happen. Now, I didn't hear that privately from anyone, but I did hear that he doesn't do it consistently. And keeping your pads low enough one out of every four plays isn't going to get it done. He needs to learn to keep his pad level low. For a guy who is 6-7, that's tough. He could get by not doing that in college because he was so much bigger. That won't work consistently in the NFL.

As for using him here and there, the numbers don't allow them to have seven defensive linemen active on game days.

Actually, the run defense as a whole hasn't been as bad as everyone thinks. Seven runs of 15 or more yards, but on the other 56 carries, they are allowing 2.96 per attempt.
That tells me this is something they can clean up. Guys aren't staying in their lanes, ie. the new guys. Once they learn to be where they are supposed to be, it will get better.

Dale Lolley said...

And, yes, I do believe the penalties are the biggest issue. They have 20 penalties already. Averaged five per game last season.

The lines have not been dominated on both sides. That's a fallacy.

Qwikdoc said...

Guys aren't learning to stay in their lanes? What were they doing during mini camp and training camp?

Qwikdoc said...

Dale I love your writing and respect your knowledge and experience but I challenge you to look at the Ravens game and find 5 pass plays where Ben had decent protection. Gilbert was dominated by Dumervil and the rest of the line were unable to keep the Ravens D line out of the backfield.

Anonymous said...


They are coaching and evaluating 90+ players that are on the squad at that time. Rotation can make the new guys inconsistent but is necessary to see what talent they have in all players. I think it takes 3-4 games to get acclimated with turnover or new players.


Dale Lolley said...

You can coach and tell someone to do something. But once they get into the game, sometimes they lose track of what they're supposed to be doing. One or two guys getting out of their lane - or just plain not getting to where they are supposed to be - leads to the long runs.

The scheme has pretty much always worked stopping the run. That should not have changed. There's a reason why guys who have been productive here have gone elsewhere and not been the players they were here. The scheme.

Theosa said...

Steelers are not physical enough, have been awful at tackling and that’s why there’s lack of turnovers. We are blaming young players but when the defensive leaders Timmons and Polamalu misses dozen or so tackles that sends the wrong message to young players. Who else has been consistent on this team other than Bell and AB? Who is setting the tone on defense? No one! Hope this does not continue into next game.

Qwikdoc said...

Dale you say the run defense is not as bad as everybody thinks. Statistics tell a different story. They've gone from 2nd in the NFL in 2012 to 21st last year and are 29th after two games this year. That's a downward trend that is unacceptable to a Steelers fan.

Mark said...

Qwikdoc: I don't think you read Dale's comments correctly. He isn't claiming that the run defense isn't bad. He's pointing out that 8 times out of 9 the run defense is good (but that 9th time is really bad). That makes them inconsistent, which can be fixed with the players they already have. (There are quite a few commenters who are implying that the Steelers are getting gashed on more runs than not.)