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

Friday, September 19, 2014

Who I like, Carolina version

The Steelers got embarrassed last week in Baltimore, just as Green Bay was routed in Seattle on Thursday night to open the season and Tampa Bay was destroyed in Atlanta Thursday night.

Actually, what happened to the Steelers was closer to what happened to Green Bay than it was Tampa Bay.

The bottom line, however, is that it's awfully difficult for NFL teams to travel and play on a short week. In fact, since the league started playing regular games on Thursdays in 2006, road teams are now 24-43 in those games. And that includes an above average 7-7 record last year.

So yes, I'm dismissing some of what I saw from the Steelers last week, particularly from the offense.

The defense? It still has some issues to be sure. But even that hasn't been as bad as the numbers suggest.

Yes, the Steelers have allowed seven runs of 15 or more yards. That's too many.

On the other 59 carries it has faced, opponents are averaging 2.9 yards per carry. That tells me this defense can stop the run - when everybody is supposed to be where they are at.

In fact, the defense was doing a good job of slamming Baltimore's running game last week until Justin Forsett broke off a 41-yard run. To that point, the Steelers were allowing, you guessed it, 2.9 yards a carry in that game.

Then they had a breakdown and the average was out the window.

But Forsett's run went to the 1-yard line. And the Steelers forced the Ravens to kick a field goal from there. In fact, Baltimore was just 2-for-6 scoring touchdowns on red zone possessions last week, showing me, again, that this defense is capable of coming up with some stops.

Will it this week?

The thinking here is yes.

I have reason to believe this. Carolina will likely come out in a traditional NFL set with a tight end, two receivers and two backs. It's how the Panthers are built. They're not built to be a team that spreads the field and tries to run out of that set.

And the Steelers have shown that they can limit teams who try to attack them in that manner.

Are they a shutdown defense? Not by any stretch.

But I think the addition of Lance Moore will make a difference for this team this week.

Nothing against Justin Brown, but the Steelers brought Moore in for a reason. They wanted a veteran as their slot receiver to replace Jerricho Cotchery.

Moore will make a difference in this game.

The Panthers are also very banged up. Seven starters were on the injury report as limited or missing practices this week with various injuries.

Pittsburgh, meanwhile, is rested, healthy and angry after its showing in Baltimore last week.

The Steelers are 3 1/2-point underdogs in this game, but I think run more of their own spread offense and Le'Veon Bell has another game of 100-plus total yards.

Take the Steelers to win a close one, 23-21


Theosa said...

Dale, I really hope your prediction holds true but I’m taking Carolina 24-13. The reason, Panthers defense will force turn overs on Steelers offense and Steelers defense won’t be able to do that. As far as Steelers offense go, I’m not sure if it is the offense we saw in first two quarters of their season opener or the last six quarters? Traditionally though, Ben led offenses does not score too many TD in red zone while turning over the ball frequently. I’m taking Cam Newton at home over Big Ben on road in a nationally televised game. Go Steelers!

Anonymous said...

I think the hit on Ben early in the game caused a lot more issues than we realized. He clearly played his worst game in a while. If he is able to hit a few passes and keep the defense off the field, that would have been a different game.

It will be interesting to see when the go to Tuitt as the primary DE. It has been like watching Hood play while knowing Heyward was the better player.

If the O can carry the team through the first half of the season, this team has a shot at the playoffs.

Anonymous said...

Carolina is flat out a physically tough team. not sure the same can be said about the steelers right now.

I think two things need to happen for the steelers to win. force at least one turnover on defense and win the time of possession battle.

if they can't do that then I see the panthers wearing down the defense and taking control with the run game in the 4th quarter.

also, I am hoping to see the play action used a bit more this game. the steelers have shown success running the ball, time to take advantage of that.

Steve-O said...

If Dri Archer is playing I think the Steelers have a chance. I don't say that because I think he's shown himself to be an all-pro, I just think he forces the defense to play him differently and I think that will keep them honest. Add in Lance Moore and it might just be enough. On the other hand, the defense...ugh! if they can get pressure on the QB (big "if") then we'll hav a solid chance.

Anonymous Brian said...

I'll piggyback on:

Panthers - 24 Steelers - 13

I think the Steelers will show up this week, but over 60 minutes, on the road against a tough front seven, I can't believe it until I see it. (Unless Ben plays lights-out and/or we get a bunch of turnovers.)

Hopefully the Panthers being a better matchup for the Steelers translates - I think it would be a huge win.

Admittedly my pessimism is based on generally being spoiled by recent success and seeing the overall 2011-present play (I remember Dale saying that the 2011 team, if it was possible, had somehow bumbled (something like that) their way to 12 wins) as being part of a downward trend. Which could be - hopefully - totally wrong, every season's different, etc.

Mrs. Haley's going to have a longer drive this week, but at least it's a night game again!

Theosa said...

It can’t be just Haley, we all drove Arians out of the town but same problems persists, maybe Big Ben ought to take some blame. When he plays well, it’s all about how well Ben played but when he stinks it up we look for reasons like it must be offensive coordinator, that hard hit, receivers were not in sync etc. He is a future hall of famer but not beyond criticism, he needs to carry this team, long gone are the days when Steelers defense was dominant and they could win games with a final score of 13-10.

Anonymous said...

You're grasping, Roethlisberger had one of his best seasons last year and they went 8-8.

Theosa said...

You forgot the first 4 games of last season, resulted in 4 losses when Ben fumbles 6 times with 5 interceptions; his best season wasn’t good enough. Without a stout defense Ben is 8-8 in last two seasons and 6 points is last 6 quarters is not a good effort from a team leader no matter how we spin it. The defensive leader Timmons played Ravens game sick throwing up, have we seen anyone making excuses for him?

Anonymous said...


Do you think those longs runs say something about Troy and Mitchell? Shouldn't the safeties be stopping those kinds of plays?

Dale Lolley said...

The long runs have been mostly on stretch plays. The Steelers defense has always had issues with that particular play. Not to this extent, but it has always been an issue.

Typically, the problem is guys getting out of their gap or not getting to their gap, ie. not playing their responsibilities.

But yes, the safeties have missed some tackles or taken bad angles as well. That turns what could be limited to a 5-10 yard run into a 15-20 or more.

Anonymous said...

It's true that the advantage for the home team on Thurs nights is not insignificant. But it's not like it's Mt Everest either. The home team in the NFL in general wins 58% percent of the time. Without regard to time of year, day of week, etc. Compared to 64% for home teams on Thursday night.

But, off that small sample of 24-43, if applied to normal home field advantage, it works out to 4 games over average/normal. They've played 3 games this year with the home team winning each. So, basically prior to this season Thursday night contests offered no more than home field advantage than typically experienced. Like flipping coins, this string of 3 straight wins by the home team make it seem like a bigger advantage than there really is.

Curious, if the Panthers beat the Steelers this week after an 11 day stretch between games, what will the narrative change to then? Can't get into a rhythm, routine, schedule? I just want to be prepared so I don't get caught reflexively rolling my eyes.

Theosa said...

I think better teams won this year on TNF, Seahwaks, Ravens, and Falcons were just better teams, haven't seen an upset yet but by the margin they won is something to debate about.

Dale Lolley said...

The NFL has upped the ante on the schedule a bit on Thursday nights since they are now CBS games. But Seattle, Baltimore and Atlanta also have three of the better home winning percentages over the past several years as well, so there's that.

I expect the Steelers to win this game outright, but I also expect it to be competitive. I picked them to lose in Baltimore last week. So there's your narrative.

McFadden 41 said...

Nice to hear someone talk about Ben being accountable. I was beginning to think he was Teflon.

DEL jzc said...

Good coaches will take advantage of two weeks of game film and 10 days off between games and install some new plays into the system and make adjustments to personnel.

We've seen the mistakes when Cam Thomas gets 60-65% game snaps. We've seen the mistakes with limited nickle (and no dime to date) defensive backfields.

Does this defense CHANGE under Tomlin or is he going to stubbornly not take advantage of the long week and say "everything is okay" and continue down this season's path as decided in pre-season?

This game vs. Carolina is just an opportunity to tweek things. Whether we win or lose isn't really the answer as much as whether we are getting better as a team and preparing for the long season ahead.

Patrick said...

me and del share a brain. or, at least, I share in his well said opinions.

I think Steelers actually win this game. Its a favorable match up in my opinion. Car's defense is great, as we all know, but they don't have the offense to pile up points. The key will be stopping their ground game and making Cam win in his first start against a Lebeau defense (I believe its his first start against Lebeau - someone correct me if I'm wrong).

I'll go Steelers 23-20 with the offense waking up with some authority in the 2nd half and Lance Moore having some clutch catches.

Steelers win this one and they can start to build on a good season. The next 3 games after this should all be wins.

Anonymous said...

This is no longer a team that can be counted on to "win the games it should". I lost count of the number of games this team lost that it "should" have won the last few years.

The Steelers are an average team nowadays. We can't go checking off "wins" anymore.

kyle said...

1998 7-9
1999 6-10
2000 9-7
2003 6-10
2006 8-8


Are you too young to remember that this team (and every team) has never been constantly dominant for eternity?

Who cares about "should"? Over a third of the league makes the playoffs. By definition, mediocre teams will make it. Making the playoffs is the only point of the regular season. Absolutely nothing else matters. 16-0 and 9-7 can both win the Super Bowl. A 13-3 season without a Super Bowl win is identical to 8-8 which is identical to 0-16 to me.

The worst season I can imagine is going undefeated until losing the Super Bowl. Luckily that has only happened to the Patriots so I pettily enjoyed it.

Anonymous said...


I'm confused, are you disagreeing with me? Or just being pissy cause I said the Steelers are average?

Of courese no team is dominant forever. That doesn't mean you give up and wallow in mediocrity.

kyle said...

I'm suggesting that "checking off wins" was always dumb. Assumed wins in the NFL are a waste of time. People who pick games as part of their job are rarely better than 60%.

There was never a time when the Steelers won all the games they "should." And "should" is a useless way of looking at it because it implies there are "good" losses.

Football Maniya said...

canelo vs ggg 2