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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Post-Cleveland thoughts, part II

The Steelers offense is continuing to put up yards and Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown are rolling up stats at a record pace.

But it's added up to just 10 offensive points in each of the past two weeks against a pair of defenses that, statistics tell us are at the bottom of the NFL.

It just doesn't add up.

Ben Roethlisberger isn't playing real well right now. Of that, there is no doubt.

But the Steelers should still have enough to score points against the likes of Jacksonville and Cleveland. And it's not happening.

The easy excuse is to blame offensive coordinator Todd Haley. But that's lazy.

Did Haley suddenly forget how to coach in the red zone, where the Steelers entered the game ranked 26th in the league in scoring?

After all, Pittsburgh ranked 12th in the league in red zone scoring in 2013 and 17th in 2012. Either would be a huge upgrade right now.

Perhaps the front office underestimated just how big of a loss Jerricho Cotchery and his 10 red zone touchdowns in 2013 would be missed.

Or perhaps, it's just a bad mix right now for the Steelers, who roll up plenty of yards, but can't seem to get out of their own way in the red zone.

@ Once again, the defense was doing a decent job Sunday against the run ... until it wasn't.

The defense seemed so intent on shutting down Cleveland's outside zone runs early in the game that it completely forgot about tight end Jordan Cameron.

At least defensive end Brett Keisel had the wherewithal to run Cameron down at the Pittsburgh 4 following a 42-yard completion.

Too bad both safeties didn't keep that in mind on Cleveland's next possession, when they gave Cortez Allen no help over the middle of the field on third-and-1 and Cameron caught a 51-yard TD pass.

@ On Cleveland's next possession, the Browns lost Pro Bowl center Alex Mack to a broken leg. Unlike the Steelers, who took an entire game in 2013 to recover from the loss of Maurkice Pouncey, the Browns finished off the drive in which Mack was likely lost for the season with the first of two Ben Tate touchdown runs.

@ Last week, it was three pass plays from the 4-yard line in a possession on which the Steelers didn't score.

This week, it was three runs from the 7 that had everyone, including me, wondering what the team was doing.

Then, Tate scored on a run from the 8 on the series in which Mack was injured. So there's that.

@ Brian Hoyer only completed 8 of 17 passes in this one. But they went for 217 yards.

That, coupled with a running game that produced 158 yards on 38 carries, was too much for this Pittsburgh defense, which got absolutely no help from the offense.

Neither unit had a strong game, but can't the offense answer just one score? One?

@ The real swing in this game came when the Steelers were unable execute a proper field goal snap.

Punter Brad Wing mishandled what should have been a 35-yard field goal. A handful of plays later, Cleveland, which had minus-8 yards to that point, scored to go ahead 7-3.

And the rout was on.

It's tough enough to win when you are kicking field goals instead of scoring touchdowns. It's even more difficult when you can't even execute a field goal properly.

@ Cam Heyward, Brett Keisel and Steve McLendon were all injured in this game, Heyward and Keisel with knee sprains and McLendon with a should injury.

Heyward was especially hot, yelling at offensive tackle Joe Thomas as he was helped off the field.

After the game, Heyward called Thomas' block on him, "cowardly."


Dan said...

I was hoping for Kelvin Benjamin on draft day. I bet Ben was too. But I guess it was more important to spend yet another high pick on a LB than it was to get a legitimate red zone target. After all, at the end of the day all that matters is TOP and total yardage, right?

Anonymous said...

I can't imagine The Steelers winning another ring with Ben. He has a top five running back and a top ten receiver. The rest of the receiving core isn't awful. Brady has done more with less. So have many other QBs. There is no excuse for a guy with such a big contract and experience to not be able to get it done. Even Sanders complained about Ben's poor work ethic after he left. Ben brings nothing to the table at this point

Anonymous Brian said...

The lots-of-yards-not-alot-of-points is nothing new. It spans years and offensive coordinators. It doesn't add up and the obvious answer is really weird.

The offense is not going to carry them, apparently. Which sucks, because, on defense, I think they just don't have the horses.

I'm sticking with: Something has been off about this team since 2011. They were last in forcing turnovers, lucked out winning some close games to bad teams, Ben had almost as many turnovers as touchdown passes, yet they finished 12-4. Tebow exposed that.

Hasn't gotten better since then, and the talent (at least on defense) has eroded.

I think I'm less "spoiled" than frustrated at seeing sloppy, not-smart football the last few years. Some real head scratching coaching decisions and unexplainable losses. Down years are expected, but it looks a mess - maybe I'm just not used to the down years though?

Today was quite explainable. The Browns are a better team.

2-1 on the three-game home stand would be nice. I don't have much faith in that happening, but that's what I'm hoping for.

Dd said...

Perhaps at some point DL, u will admit this is one of the most poorly coached teams in the nfl. Across the board. Defense wd get smoked even worse than they got blown out by a good QB. Offense is a joke with Ben/Haley combo. Tomlin, for crying out loud, even Saban cdn't be a worse nfl head coach. He is AWFUL!!!! It will be 3yrs and the end of ben's career before he gets canned, but I cannot wait for that day! So terrible. Just pathetic.

Anonymous said...

My post from “Who I like”

“Real simple, if the team that showed up the last two weeks comes to play, the Steelers will get their butts handed to them. If the team that went to Carolina shows up, the Browns will be back in the cellar. My thoughts are that it comes down to who wants it more. This is Tomlin’s chance to show everyone he’s the great motivator but I don’t see the Steelers playing inspired football recently, so I’ll go Browns 24 Steelers 13.”

24-13, 31-10, what’s the difference, whose handprints are on your butt Mike? The prediction was broken down to the most basic level: Who wanted it more? Tomlin the great motivator, that’s why they’re paying him the big bucks, what an effort by your team today! I know it’s not politically correct, some may say racist, to say that Tomlin was hired to promote the Rooney rule. The good news is that they can’t fire Tomlin because that would be racist too. An example of racism is when you give a job to a person based on the color of their skin rather than selecting the most qualified person. Mike likes to talk racist too, thanks Mikey, for making it fair game.

Dan, you can campaign for a guy with only one year senatorial experience and get an ambassadorship for it, that’s politics. However, when you bring a guy with only one year DC experience to lead your football campaign, you put politics over football. While I feel sorry for Steeler fans, it’s nice to see that the Rooney’s are getting what they deserve.

I can agree that the roster may not be that talented, falls on the people evaluating and selecting the players. Who was that guy leading the Browns to victory? Brian Hoyer? Wasn’t he on the Steelers’ roster at one point? No, he’s not better than Ben, though he was today, but he is better than what’s after Ben, not a problem as long as Ben doesn’t get hurt. Just one more example of how badly mismanaged the team really is, from the front office to the field.

BTW, what ever happened to Bruce Arians after he “retired” from the Steelers? Did he have any success after he left the Steelers? Seems like they retired the wrong man.

Steeler nation is angry today and rightfully so, how embarrassing! But the standard...yada yada yada. Randolph and Mortimer Rooney need to end the experiment.

Dd said...

Fully agree anom7:53. But I am sure u will be deleted as a racist.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:53,

You are correct on so many counts and I applaud you for the courage to say things the way you do. It's pretty obvious that Tomlin is in over his head now. He needs to go. The guy who is responsible for picking talent needs to go. Colbert that is you.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Yeah anon812 it sure takes "courage" to state something that you can't back up.

Most people I know would call that kind of thing blatant idiocy.

Saying Tomlin is in over his head or that he's not a good coach can be quantified by wins and losses vs inferior teams, 0-4 starts, 8-8 seasons, etc.

But saying he got his job because he's black when you have no way of knowing if that's true? That makes you a racist troll who (of course) posts anonymously so he can hide his real identity.

Just keep posting anon 753 ... I'm sure you've barely scratched the surface of your stupidity.

Anonymous said...

Anybody see Thomas after the play acting innocent, when he ran off the field got to the sideline he was grinning and had a smirk on his face.

Dan said...

"The rest of the receiving core isn't awful"

You must be watching a different team. Excepting A. Brown, the Steelers WR corps is garbage, and the TE group is worse.

Anonymous said...

This team badly needs young talent and they waste picks on Dri Archer and Landry Jones. They deserve to stay 3 years away from the postseason

Anonymous said...

I wasn't expecting much from the defense. It's in a transition due to old age,poor drafting, and bad personnel decisions(letting Lewis go,keeping Ike,signing Mitchell and extending Allen).
The offense has an elite QB,a pro bowl WR,a rising star at RB,and a healthy line with 3 high picks. The rule book heavily favors offense in today's NFL. They should roll up 30 points a game like rolling out of bed.
I would not be surprised if Cleveland wins the North. The Steelers will finish last,miss the playoffs,and waste another year of having a franchise QB.
Tomlin would have to miss the playoffs this year and 2015 before Rooney even thinks about dumping him.

marc said...

Poor, across the board, including the coaching.

Dale, Haley is not the lazy excuse because he seems to be the obvious excuse. I see other teams doing significantly more with lesser talent (Browns). Coaching has to be part of that problem.

Simply put, this is a poor team.

Tom said...

At this point projecting the Steelers to finish 8-8 would be generous. They will certainly tease us with an impressive win over a clearly better team at some point this season, but until they consistently beat the teams that they should I wouldn't pencil in any more W's from here on out.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:38,

“I know it’s not politically correct, some may say racist, to say that Tomlin was hired to promote the Rooney rule.”

No one said Tomlin was hired because he’s black, I said that it would not be politically correct or racist to say that. This was a jab at Tomlin’s stupidity for bringing up racism for being termed a player’s coach. I would consider being called a player’s coach a compliment, the players like playing for you, how it’s racist is beyond me.

Three resumes came across a desk in 2006: one man with 6 years experience in the industry but no experience with the organization, one man with 17 years experience including 6 years with the organization and the other man with 24 years experience including 6 years in the organization. The names on the resumes were Tomlin, Whisenhunt and Grimm respectively. The experience includes NFL playing experience which is invaluable if you value hands on experience versus talking about a standard you’ve never experienced. Now Whiz went to Arizona before the Steelers made a decision, don’t blame him as he was considered the front runner, but if the resumes came across my desk, I would place a greater weighting on experience, particularly within our own organization as they already understand how business is done in the organization.

Anonymous said...

If the Steelers can't make it to at least 8-8 then Tomlin and Colbert should both go. There is no excuse for this level of play when you have a good QB.

Our salary cap is a mess, young players aren't developing and our drafting is subpar.

I wish our offense was more like Seattle or the Cowboys. A great running game that sets up playaction. So fun to watch.

bruinmann77 said...

today game was a total disaster the inabilty to score in the Red Zone and they still refuse to put in Bryant instead of Archer.

bruinmann77 said...

Tomlin and Colbert need to be on the hot seat

bruinmann77 said...

ps why in the world was Ben in there down 31-3

bruinmann77 said...

I think their has to be a few people on the hot seat.

Anonymous said...


"However, when you bring a guy with only one year DC experience to lead your football campaign, you put politics over football. While I feel sorry for Steeler fans, it’s nice to see that the Rooney’s are getting what they deserve."

Who are you trying to convince here: me or yourself?

We have the proof above ... in your very own words ... to know what you said and what you meant.

"I would consider being called a player’s coach a compliment, the players like playing for you, how it’s racist is beyond me."

There it is again!

Like I said, I knew you had more in you!

bruinmann77 said...

This team Lacks differnce makers. and yes it starts with The drafts and both men should be blamed. Drafting a qb in the 4th round and tiny RB in the third is just another example of some impotant misses

Anonymous said...

If you want to criticize Tomlin for the teams play that is fair. When you go off on tangents about politics and bring up Obama then you obviously have issues with him that goes beyond football.

It drives me nuts how many times the racist fans compare Obama and Tomlin when the only thing they have in common is being brown.

Tomlin's "seat" should be getting warm but it has nothing to do with the color of his skin, Obama or the Rooney Rule. It's not racist to criticize him. When you throw in the other garbage it's easy enough to see what you really are. Which is most likely an overly polarized, tin foil wearing, nut job that most of us are just waiting for to die out.

Stop living and dying with Faux news, worrying about the liberal agenda and start thinking for yourself and join the rest of America.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1240 ...

My thoughts exactly!

Anon753/1012 can't stop bringing up racism and skin color on a SPORTS BLOG and can't quite seem to figure out what the problem is?

I'll bet he obsesses over the color of his own shadow too.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:02

Please enlighten me, how is being called a player’s coach racist, don’t see it.

Regarding Tomlin, the Rooney rule requires a team to interview a minority candidate. Why is that necessary? Why are teams not allowed to interview only the candidates that they are most interested in based upon qualifications? The players on the field are there based upon being the most capable of doing their job not race, why wouldn’t the head coach position be the same? Oh, we think we need to have more minority head coaches because…….right, that’s what I thought.

Dale Lolley said...

Enough with the race stuff already

Anonymous said...


"Please enlighten me, how is being called a player’s coach racist, don’t see it."

Yeah, I stopped there.

That's THREE times now (and counting) that you insist on bringing up racism on a sports blog.

Even the mod has now told you to knock it off.

I think that officially makes you impossible to enlighten.

Anonymous said...

I know, you didn’t understand what Dale said. Let’s change the subject. I believe that a team is molded by the coach. Tomlin never played a down in the NFL. Did the Steelers today look like a team that hadn’t played a down in the NFL?

Most fans look at the schedule in preseason and think of which teams the Steelers can beat. Anybody think the Steelers would have trouble with TB, Cleve, Jax? Anybody concerned about the Texans, the worst team in football last year, on Monday night? So much for the soft part of the schedule. The Browns were in last place and smacked the Steelers around today, the schedule only gets rougher.

My thoughts after watching the first 3 quarters today is the players are not bad, maybe average, but the coaches are not putting them in a position to make plays. Didn’t the TE get wide open in the first game, then again this game? They’re not prepared or they’re not executing or the play calling is inappropriate… or maybe they're just not as good as I thought.

Sorry for being in such a pissy mood, but I get salty after watching a performance like today’s. Sad part is, I could see it coming, but it didn’t make it any easier. The worst part is that unless something changes very quickly, the season is over.

DBR96A said...

You know what the problem with the offense is? (HINT: It's not the QB.) There's not a single WR or TE who can stretch the field consistently or create physical mismatches downfield. And as somebody on another website pointed out, Heath Miller is the only one who can even make the tough catches in traffic without being separated from the ball.

Quick, when's the last time you can recall a Steelers WR climbing the ladder deep downfield or in the end zone to snag a ball out of the air over the heads of the DBs? It's been years since I can recall. The offense will continue to struggle deep downfield, in traffic or in the red zone until a WR, I don't know whom, steps up and becomes the physical mismatch downfield that every top QB in the NFL except Ben Roethlisberger has. Antonio Brown is great because of his maneuverability and YAC, but he's not going to out-jump or out-battle DBs downfield, and that hurts in the red zone where there's more congestion.

The offense doesn't even need a Calvin Johnson or a Dez Bryant. Even a Demaryius Thomas, Julio Jones or Keenan Allen would suffice. Until then, expect the WRs to get knocked around in the red zone.

adamg said...

As for the qb, Ben played his best football early under Cowher and Whisenhunt, who kept him on a tight leash playcalling-wise and allowed his ability to extend the play was an added benefit. He came into an established system with an established coaching staff and lockerroom and didn't have much wiggle room.

After the SB 40 win, Ben got a fat new contract and then a new HC. Who held the best hand then? The brand-new, young HC or the 102M, SB-winning qb? When Tomlin decided to keep and promote Arians, I think the msg to Ben was that he would be able to get what he wanted. I think Ben has taken full advantage of that since, to the detriment of his growth as an NFL qb.

Look at Haley yr 1, he bascially went to what Whisenhunt did and didn't allow Ben to audible. Ben had great stats, the offense moved, scored, gave up few sacks and they were winning. Then Ben got hurt, came back and reverted to "Ben being Ben". Concurrently came the attacks on the new OC, some of which I'm sure originated from Ben's camp or with its blessing. Then the past couple seasons, Ben has been allowed more freedom and the offense has been less and less productive.

The offense now has 2 quality RBs and an above average running game. They have a pro bowl WR in A Brown, they have two big TEs in Miller and Spaeth, they have a proven red zone wr in Moore, the OL is playing well. The offense is as set as its ever been. To me, the lack of production starts and ends with the qb.

I think the Rooneys and coaches have done everything possible to surround BR with as many tools and good players as a team in the salary cap era can. I doubt at this point Ben will change who he is as a qb and, personally, it might be the best move for him and the team to part ways. I'm sure the Steelers could get a good haul and rebuild much faster and, imho, would be fine with a game mgr type qb with Haley for a couple years.

marc said...

I agree with you to a certain extent. #7 has to put points on the board, it's his job. perfect example was the out and up on 3rd down to brown. #7 threw the ball to the sideline and led brown out of bounds instead of keeping it inside so he could catch and run. it's a small detail, but probably would have been a TD on that play. little things like that are what keep #7 from being elite.

however, I hold the coaching staff responsible for the play calling, even #7's audibles. they must be able to exert their influence over him or they are not doing their job.

they have plenty of weapons to score in the red zone. 2 good RB's, miller, brown, wheaton, moore. there is simply no excuse for continued failure in that department. if #7 keeps audibling to crap plays, then get rid of the audibles and make him run the called play.

however, make no mistake, this is one of many problems this team has. at this point, even though they are 3-3, i see no reason why they don't get tuitt, mcullers, and shamarko in there. it certainly can't get any worse on defense.

Anonymous said...

Dale, not sure what your policy is on posting from other sites, but Gene Collier’s column on Haley went nation. The comments are interesting if only from the standpoint of not being a “homer” view but a national one.

qwikdoc said...

Dale it is not lazy to place a large part of the blame for the offense's woes on Haley. Unless Ben is calling the plays or changing Haley's plays at the line, Haley's play calling is still very suspect. Especially in the red zone. Why on 3rd down at the one yard line are we throwing a pass? We have the second best rusher in the league along with a bruiser in Blount. The Steelers want to impose their will on teams with the run but are afraid to run it at the 1 yard line?
They can say whatever they want, I still think there is a big disconnect between Ben and Haley. A few more games like this and Ben will be tired of accepting the blame for poor offensive game plans. He will likely vent to the press forcing Tomlin to defend his OC and the meltdown will be official.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Dale, I love your blog and this is my last bit on this. hope you don't have to delete it.

quoting Anon "Please enlighten me, how is being called a player’s coach racist, don’t see it.

Regarding Tomlin, the Rooney rule requires a team to interview a minority candidate. Why is that necessary? Why are teams not allowed to interview only the candidates that they are most interested in based upon qualifications? The players on the field are there based upon being the most capable of doing their job not race, why wouldn’t the head coach position be the same? Oh, we think we need to have more minority head coaches because…….right, that’s what I thought."

The Rooney rule which is a great rule and if you are a Steeler fan you should be proud it is named the Rooney rule, was brought in because the NFL was and to some extent still lacks diversity in the front offices and coaching positions. Not all of it has to do with race. A lot of it just comes down to the same 30 or so people that keep getting recycled instead of looking beyond people you know. When your league is mostly black and none of the owners are it's harder to break through that wall. Not because all of the owners or GM's are racist it's about a comfort level of sticking with people you know. The Rooney rule, just like affirmative action helps people that almost certainly wouldn't have a chance to break through that wall do that. Are their flaws in either rule or law. Sure there is but we (America) are better with them than without. You're point on the players being black is the perfect example because there was a period in the NFL where coaches and owners had a whites only policy. The Redskins (doesn't that figure) who started the movement kept that policy up to 1962! until they had to be forced to allow blacks on their team.

As far as being called a player coach being racist. It isn't. Tomlin obviously is feeling the heat and some of that heat from the fans is coming from overtly racist fans. Some of the things that are shouted at him on the sidelines and some of the questions he get's from reporters are racist. It's just a fact and in that moment of the interview he let those things get the better of him and took the question the wrong way. When you listen to him and the reason he said what he said it makes sense. When things are being said about how he relates to players better because of how he dresses, his age or what kind of music he listens too. I can see why he would be a bit sensitive about it. He just wants to be judged on his performance as a coach. Not a black coach or a young coach or a coach that listens to rap music.

We live in an America where my mother-in-law had to hide under her bed many nights as a kid because Klan members fired guns off and burnt crosses in her families front yard. Simply for the fact that her family had the audacity to move to a nice part of town because they had the money to do so. People that pretend that racism is extinct or that we are that far removed from an America where racism existed aren't being honest with themselves. Just like you're not being honest if you think things like the Rooney Rule and Affirmative Action are no longer needed in this country.

I was a big fan of Tomlin and Colbert but I'm losing my patience with them just like a lot of fans but it has nothing to do with their skin color and like I said above. When you start bringing these non-football related issues into the mix it makes it obvious you were most likely one of the people that hated him before he even had a chance to prove himself. Simply because he was black. Otherwise you'd find PLENTY of things to be upset with him about to not have to bring up anything to do with race.

Sorry Dale, I just felt certain things needed to be pointed out.

qwikdoc said...

Anon 10:22 - Your last paragraph pretty much sums the situation up.

I think everyone was a fan of Tomlin. He looked like a great hire at the time. I doubt he was interviewed solely to satisfy the Rooney Rule because he came across as being a great fit for the Steelers. Nobody could have predicted that his teams would have discipline problems. He may have been hamstrung by poor talent evaluation and drafting by Colbert, I don't know how much input Tomlin has in those decisions, and in my opinion, he definitely is suffering the dilemma of having a DC who is a somewhat untouchable legend and insists on running a defensive scheme he doesn't have the talent for.
Bottom line now is that everyone is getting tired of hearing MT trot out the same excuses week after week. It's been going on for three years now. I'd like to see him replace both coordinators next year and start fresh with the young roster they have.

adamg said...

marc, honestly at this point, I'm not sure how much the coaches can do with Ben. He's gotten his way so often the last 8 years, what could change that? I mean AR2 had to be the one who fired Arians.

Look at the media, excluding Dale.
Madden is leading the charge against Haley because he thinks Ben's his buddy and most of the rest of the pack is following his lead.

If I were in charge, I wouldn't be putting up with these transparent comments from Ben that are meant to undermine his coaches. The minues would simply outweigh the plusses now.

adamg said...

Hamstrung is an excellent assessment of Tomlin's situation. He was not really free to bring in "his guys" nor implement "his systems", like the 4-3 defense when he was hired. He had a veteran team and to his credit was able to adapt and take it to the SB and win in 2009 and return in 2010.

I think the Steelers made a concious decision to make 1 more run at a championship with their vets, esp on defense, and it didn't work out. Then we've had a mass exodous of the vets over the past couple years that just couldn't be overcome with a couple of drafts. The Steelers did do a good job rebuilding the offense on the fly, but they weren't able to do the same with the defense.

I think there is very little difference among NFL head coaches and coordinators. They ALL know football backwards and forward.

The Steelers are just a team in transition and fans need to accept that.

qwikdoc said...

adamg - I think the only reason Ben's comments are "transparent" is because there is still a chance, albeit small, that the Steelers can make the playoffs. It tells me Ben is getting tired of having to accept blame for Haley's poor game planning. If the poor play continues I think Ben will be more overt in his comments about Haley's scheme while at the same time accepting blame for his less than stellar play. Ben will have his teammate's backs before he will have Haley's. Heath has always been a favorite target of Ben's but has been woefully underused in the passing game this year. I doubt that is Ben's doing. Why so many targets to Wheaton yesterday? Most of them failed. I didn't get to watch the game so I don't know how many of those were bad throws vs good defense or bad route running, but the pattern just didn't look like Ben's calls.

Anonymous said...

$100 million qb has to be great. The talent around him will suffer from his salary. I dont care about the coaching or the middling defense. Ben needs to put points on the board.

Also, yay for anonymous essays. Creeps

Z in Tempe

Anonymous said...


“Hamstrung is an excellent assessment of Tomlin's situation.”

There are positives to this as well. Having never been a head coach, it probably made it easier on Tomlin at the beginning to entrust the defense to someone experienced so that he could concentrate on the overall picture. Think of Ben’s first season, they probably told him to pass only if absolutely necessary. Weren’t the results 15-1?

Tomlin’s earned the right at this point in his career to implement his vision. At the end of the season, LeBeau should retire, Haley be shown the door and allow Tomlin to choose his coordinators. Give it a couple of years to jell, then make an assessment.

qwikdoc said...

anonymous 11:41. I echo your sentiments. I hold MT accountable for the lack of discipline in so many stupid penalties, and personnel decisions to a degree since I doubt he is shut out of those decisions by Colbert. I am not however, ready to send him packing. We have a young team with some quality talent and I'd like to see MT given the chance to mold his own team. That will require letting Colbert go as well, and letting Tomlin have a say in who the next GM will be.

William Smith Jr. said...

We had these same red zone issues under Bruce Arians. The problem is obvisously Ben. Ben's style works between the 20's but inside the 20"s you can hesitate for a sec or the play will not be there. Ben holds the ball to long thus the plays dont work. Ben has taken a lot of sacks in the red zone because he just doesn't let the ball go like the elite qb's. Haley cant control that.

qwikdoc said...

William Smith - I'll agree with your assertion but only partially. I think the problem is more complicated than just Ben. When Arians ran the offense, he wanted to air it out most of the time. Problem was he didn't have a good offensive line nor did he have a stud running back. Ben had to run for his life on virtually every play. He went away from traditional Steelers football and it irked the wrong person (Art Rooney). Now we have a line that protects Ben pretty well but Haley's scheme seems to make no sense at times. Dink and dunk with bubble screens. Pass when you should run and run when you should pass. Arians would be successful with this personnel. All that is somewhat moot when you take into account the defense is in the bottom half of the league. There is a lot that needs to be addressed. Haley's and Lebeau's future are definitely high on that list.

William Smith Jr. said...

qwik I see your point but I have really been thinking this for quite some time about Ben it has to irk a OC to draw up a play and for it to not work at all. Many of Bens plays happen after the play drawn up was over ( meaning after 5 -7 seconds). We rarely unless it is a below average team just methodically move the ball and score TD's its in most cases a big play there and a big play there. Followed by incosistency. Now that Ben has no Defense he is exposed for not being methodical like the others. He is a above average QB thats all. He needs a good Defense to protect him. During Arians time here we had pretty good defense. Think a

qwikdoc said...

I'm certainly not ready to give Ben a pass on the offense's woes. It just seems strange. They used to get in a rhythm offensively carving up secondaries using Heath and AB. Now they seldom seem to get in those rhythms. Cleveland scored to make it a 31-3 game. They kicked off and we started our three touchdown fourth quarter comeback with... a handoff to Bell up the middle for a three yard gain from our 20. That's the play calling that has everyone screaming for Haley's head.

Dale Lolley said...

I'm not totally absolving Haley. He has to take some of the blame here.
But the fact is, so many people were willing to give Ben all the credit last year when Haley let him make calls out of the no-huddle and calling audibles at the line of scrimmage.
Now, when they're struggling, it's all Haley's fault. That doesn't wash. You can't have it both ways.

I also think there was a directive from the head coach to run the ball inside the 10.
Again, that doesn't absolve Haley, but if the boss tells you thats what you have to do ...

qwikdoc said...

They should be running the ball inside the 10. At least inside the 5. If you're going to pass the ball inside the 10 yard line, you need some misdirection to throw the defense off. It's too easy to cover that small area. You watch Aaron Rodgers, Brady or Manning and inside the 10 if they pass the ball, they run play action or misdirection and end up hitting a wide open tight end who was forgotten by the defense. Why don't we ever do this? Matt Spaeth is known as a blocker. Have him bump the linebacker or end and then turn around in the endzone. We have the people who can execute those plays and they are quick hitters that don't put Ben in danger.

qwikdoc said...

Dale - Ben got a lot of the credit for moving the offense last year because the no-huddle was the most successful offense we employed throughout the year. Haley's play calling received poor reviews last year and if I remember correctly, people were screaming for Ben to run the no-huddle more often. Haley doesn't deserve all the blame but I think he is holding Ben back with all the short throws into the bulk of the coverage. A lot of the plays Haley calls simply make you scratch your head in wonder. No use getting rid of Haley at this point unless he and Ben just aren't seeing eye to eye.

Anonymous said...

"The easy excuse is to blame offensive coordinator Todd Haley. But that's lazy."

Really? It never seems lazy to credit Haley when the offense is playing well.

adamg said...

Ben has been in the NFL for 10+ yrs now. Teams know how to stop him, keep him from scrambling, make him step up in the pocket and take away the deep ball. He doesn't know how to counter that. I know I've seen it in person at home games where Ben passes on a receiver open short to try a long pass to a guy who's covered.

The Steelers have given Ben everything to be successful, a good OL, good RBs and receivers who can catch. This is the perfect recipe for draws, screens, play fakes and misdirections that will slow a defense and give the qb options other than holding the ball forever and taking a sack. When you give a player the tools to succeed and he doesn't get the job done, where should the blame lie?

There are other ways to score TDs than fade passes to tall WRs, but there's no end to complaints from Ben's camp about not having one.

That said, I did roll my eyes at those 3rd and 1 calls. It's like Haley sometimes gets too clever by half. I also think Ben isn't a rhythm qb, but I'm not sure what to do about that since they didn't score a lot of TDs Arians' way either. I guess the answer is to just not let Ben run anything but the play that's called with few exceptions. That's when he seems to do best.

Dale Lolley said...

And if you do that, then you have an unhappy quarterback.

Again, the anti-Haley crowd wants to credit Roethlisberger with anything that goes right in the offense and blame Haley for everything that goes wrong. So if things are going good, it's because Roethlisberger is calling the plays. If it goes bad, it's that #@$!%$@$#% Haley's fault.

Could it be that they are both culpable? Heavens to goodness, you can't criticize the QB in this town. He's not playing well. Period. His receivers aren't helping him. Period. Dropping passes. Not getting both feet in bounds on the sideline.

qwikdoc said...

Dale - You're right, Ben isn't playing very well right now but he has been our franchise QB for 10 years and has earned the benefit of the doubt whereas Haley hasn't earned anything yet in Pittsburgh. I'm not sure I believe Ben and Todd when they say they are on the same page. Just my gut feeling.

adamg said...

Dale, I think Haley is trying very hard to implement the direction the Rooneys want - to rejuvenate the run game and keep Ben from taking too many hits. I think with a qb like Ben who "had his head" for so many years under BA, it's not easy to design an offense or call plays.

I agree Ben didn't get much help from his wrs with Wheaton dropping the ball that hit him in the hands depriving the team of a 1st down/TD and also slowing down just for a second on the pass that was a bit overthrown for a TD. Ben made plenty of poor throws, too.

But, Ben's the employee here. It's up to him to adapt, not the coaches. I know I often didn't agree with things I was expected to do at work, but at the end of the day, I understood I wasn't the boss and I was professional about it.

Dale Lolley said...

Yes, Ben is the employee. But, as you just said, he's an employee who has earned quite a bit of gravitas.
It's a fine line to walk for Haley to be sure.

Remember in his first year when everyone was waiting for the Haley-Roethlisberger clash? Quite frankly, the guy can't win.

But hey, if I point any of that out, I'm just a Haley apologist.

marc said...

why do we (myself included) always look for a scapegoat?

reality is #7 isn't playing well, the play calling is questionable, receivers can do better, d-line is subpar, LB'ers are out of position, safeties are guessing, DB's are inconsistent, there seems to be a lack of preparation, where's the motivation, where's the in game adjustments.

you can harp on anyone of those issues for quite some time but fixing just one will not make this a playoff team. imo, the only way this team makes the playoffs is if each individual (including coaches) takes an honest assessment in the mirror and vows to get better every day of every practice.

Anonymous said...

Arizona is poised to win now. Any chance they make a trade for BR? The deadline is in 2 weeks, just not sure what the Cards can offer. I know it is blasphamous to trade a franchise QB, but we don't have enough talent. Same way that Dallas traded away Herschel Walker 25 years ago.

Vin Diesal

Anonymous said...

I like what you said Marc, it's not just one thing, it's just about everything. I am still of the opinion that the buck stops at the coaches, even if the players aren't executing, guess what, get players that can execute, which still falls on the coaches.

Anonymous said...

I'm not on the "scapegoat Haley!" bandwagon, but for those that are? It's funny how most people either don't know or just choose to forget that Tomlin admitted that getting rid of Arians was his call:

Mike Rice said...

I see the jets signed Johnson off of waivers. Always a risk you take hoping someone will make it back to the practice squad. He was what a 5th rounder?

adamg said...

Wouldn't be surprised if there is discussion anong the top brass/owners on trading Ben or not. He'd likely bring a good return esp given AZ needs a qb and the close BR/BA relationship.

The lack of contract extention has always struck me as meaning the Steelers just aren't sold on BR for the next 5-7 years.

Anonymous Brian said...

What Marc said: the main problem is that there is no main problem. 3-3 looks like a ceiling so far.

Re: Ben - In the back of my head there's always the fear that you end up in Jake Locker Land for the next 20 years, but on the other hand:

* The organization / team got Ben his rings (and hence gravitas) just as much as Ben got them for the organization.

* The ring in 2008 has at least as much to do with James Harrison - I would argue more - as with Ben. (Not just talking about the Super Bowl itself either, although you could make that argument too.)

* Eli is not twice as good as Peyton and Trent Dilfer was not better than Dan Marino.

If there's any chance this year, it has to be Ben finally proving he can carry the offense / team for a while. (By "carry" I mean - get to the playoffs without a tough defense.) I figures he owes something for how he played in Dec. 2012 and Sep. 2013, not to mention all those times the defense held his opponents to 9 points or whatever throughout the course of his career.

I think if they don't get Cam Thomas off the field: he's going to hurt one of the linebackers getting blown backwards. Seriously.

When Shamarko's healthy I hope he gives Troy a breather for a few series.

LexingtonLegend said...

Ben was horrible and his wideouts didn't help much with those drops and wrong routes. Can't really see how Haley was at fault in this one. The defense was even worse.

Patrick said...

lets talk logically about some things

Tomlin isn't getting fired, this season or after. I wish he would have never been hired (nothing to do with race - though people here have called me racist) and I find some humor in everyone calling him out now for the same problems he has had almost his entire tenure but which was masked by the talent on both sides of the ball (but mostly the D). Haley is also very unlikely to be fired mid-season. So we can all stop talking about that.

Ben also isn't going anywhere - this season or beyond. Who the hell would replace him? I can't believe people even discuss this. Its not Favre-Rodgers. Its Ben-Gradkowski-Jones. So we can probably stop talking about that too.

Instead, what can be done to fix this mess to try and salvage the season? I'd start with the strengths of the team, which I think are actually the o-line, the RBs, and Ben (yes, Ben!). Its time to run the ball and try to set up some "splash" plays that we all know Ben loves. L. Moore, to me, has been horrible. Markus Wheaton looks like hes practicing with the Jags and playing with the Steelers. He needs to be demoted and let him have time to work out the kinks. Put those two thoughts together and I think DHB needs to get worked in along with Justin Brown. This team has no legit deep threats. AB is great and hes got speed, but I think DHB could add a dimension similar to the way Wallace did. After the last two games, could it really hurt to try?

On D, are there really any strengths? Lawrence Timmons, maybe? The problems start with the d-line and trickling down from there. Why does this team have so much trouble against outside zones and cut blocks? Are they not being taught certain techniques or are they incapable of executing those techniques? Due to the injuries and Cam Thomas being a waste of a waist, I think we'll see Tuit and McCullers. Can't imagine that would change it all though. I think they need to try to vary up the blitzes and be more aggressive. The play calling seems complacent because they are so scared of getting burnt for huge plays if anyone screws it up (which is happening anyway).

I'm disappointed as a Steelers fan. I dislike the coach, but I've beat that horse enough. The way this team is playing though, is just infuriating. I still think if the offense can get rolling, the talent is there to be a 10-6 team in this division.

adamg said...

Teams are taking away the deep ball, so forget that idea.

The offensive game plan appears to be based on the ability to run and use it to open up the short passing game, then ultimately the long passing game. The problem is BR is not a qb who has shown an aptitude for this kind of patient offense unless he has no choice (i.e., not allowed to audible).
Let's remember Todd Haley nearly beat the Steeler defense in 2009, when it was still pretty good, with a broken down Kurt Warner. He also nearly beat the Steelers with Tyler Palko(!) at qb. I suspect Gradkowski would do ok if called on because he is a rhythm qb.

deljzc said...

The team and front office have been terrible at self-evaluation for years. They bounce around from problem to problem and never really "fix" anything. Every problem we saw on Sunday has happened before and will happen again.

In my opinion, you have to make a change at the top to truly EVALUATE where the problems are (because they are all over the place). That's getting rid of Kevin Colbert as soon as realistically possible. Colbert is too much of a yes-man to really evaluate for the owners whether this is a sinking ship or can work itself out (not just this year, but for the next 5 years). Colbert has never been strong-willed enough to be the General Manager this team desperately needs right now.

If you demote Tomlin's power, bring in a capable and more intelligent General Manager (not just a glorified scout) to truly evaluate this roster and coaching staff, MAYBE we can make a change that will actually accomplish something and turn the current trend of this franchise around.

There are so many things wrong right now, we need someone a lot smarter than Colbert or Tomlin (and not so connected to the hip) to determine the correct path going forward.

Greg W. said...

On Ben: he was certainly not at his best but he got little help from his receivers. If balls are hitting receivers in the hands, they should be caught. This is the NFL after all. If Lance Moore is going to complain about lack of snaps/targets, then he needs to make plays and not drop balls (even tipped ones) to show that he deserves more. He certainly didn't do that on Sunday. Here's hoping Ben and Wheaton can get back on the same page.

The thing I don't get is that, in the second half of last season, Ben seemed to buy into Haley's offense emphasizing the quick/short passing game, which was a big help in turning the season around and keeping Ben clean. They seemed to have gone away from that and Ben is taking more sacks. I don't doubt that Ben is somewhat bull-headed, but he also likes to win more than anything, and the experiment last season showed that the Steelers can win with a scheme that doesn't require Ben scrambling and throwing deep balls. It's puzzling. I thought Ben learned that he can't keep taking tons of sacks if he wants to keep playing well into his 30s. And now he has a family to think of!

The other thing that really worries me is how the defense keeps giving up the big play. Either offenses have figured out how to beat Lebeau's schemes or he simply doesn't have the players to execute those schemes effectively. Either way, changes need to be made before this defense will get back to the level that we've come to expect from the Black and Gold. Cortez Allen really needs some help...

Go Steelers!