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Monday, October 27, 2014

Post-Colts thoughts

Boy, I'd hate to be working an Indianapols Colts message board right now. I'd detest having to answer questions about how the defense stinks, the team played down to an inferior opponent and the coaching staff doesn't know what the heck it's doing and didn't have the team prepared.

I've been there and done that.

Instead, this week, we can talk about an offense that has now scored 81 points in its past two games, a defense that beat the bejeezus out of Andrew Luck and a coaching staff that came up with a great game plan and has been pushing the right buttons.

All of those things tie together.

The coaching staff has been force-feeding things to rookie receiver Martavis Bryant. Two weeks ago in practice, the Steelers attempted deep pass after deep pass to Bryant in preparation for the game against Houston.

Last week, it was working him on slants, outs and screens.

Who knows what this week will bring. Bryant is still make a mistake here or there, but his presence on the field sure does open things up for others.

Bryant had five receptions for 83 yards and two scores on Sunday, making him the first rookie to catch TDs in back-to-back games since Emmanuel Sanders in 2010, and the first to have a multiple TD game since Mike Wallace in 2009.

Did the coaching staff wait too long to play the rookie? Maybe.

But right now, it seems like they did it at just the right time.

That's seven receptions for 123 yards and three scores in the past two games.

As for the defense, it seemingly hit Andrew Luck every other time he dropped back to pass - though they did allow the Colts some big plays in the passing game.

The reason for that was because the Pittsburgh corners were jamming the Colts receivers hard at the line of scrimmage to knock them off their timing routes and the short stuff they like to run.

That was resulting in some pressure. But when the Steelers didn't get there, Luck was good enough to make them pay. Ben Roethlisberger and company were just better on this day.

Again, that was a solid coaching move.

Finally, head coach Mike Tomlin, who made the decision to get Bryant into the lineup, seems to be making some other correct moves with his lineup as well.

Sunday, it was taking rookie Dri Archer off the kick returns and then benching Cortez Allen after he allowed a third-quarter touchdown pass.

Archer and Allen both seem to be dealing with the same issue - a lack of confidence.

Allen, in particular, is in position most of the time to make a play on the ball. He's just not doing it right now.

But both he and Archer are and will be in the team's plans.

Remember, all of those people who were saying Mike Adams would never amount to anything have been proven wrong as well.

@ Speaking of Adams, how about the way he and the rest of the offensive line kept Roethlisberger clean in this one?

The Steelers dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.

@ I've seen all but one of every game Ben Roethlisberger has played as a pro live and in person.

He played the best game of his career Sunday.

Playing against other top-notch quarterbacks seems to bring the best out in Pittsburgh's quarterback.

Perhaps that's the reason for the Steelers' inexplicable losses at times to "inferior" teams.

Roethlisberger won't need much convincing that next Sunday's game against Baltimore is a big one.

@ Food for thought: Roethlisberger reached 100 career wins in 150 career starts. Only Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana and Tom Brady have also done that.

That's pretty good company to keep.

@ Roethlisberger is now 18-1 at home in his career in the month of October. Who knows why that's the case, but it's certainly a trend worth noting.

So, too, is this one. The Steelers are now 6-1-1 against the spread as home underdogs since 2005. And they've now won five of those games outright.

@ At the midway point of the season:

Antonio Brown is on pace for 120 receptions, 1,700 yards and 14 TDs.

Le'Veon Bell is on pace for just under 1,400 yards rushing to go along with 84 receptions for another 800 or so yards.

Roethlisberger is on pace for 4,700 passing yards with 32 TDs and just 6 interceptions.

Most importantly, the Steelers are on pace to go 10-6.

Yes, this is still a team that has lost to Tampa Bay - and Cleveland, though Cleveland is going to win six or seven games this season, so there's no shame in that.

But it also owns a win over Cleveland, Carolina, Houston and now Indianapolis. That's two division leaders - Carolina and Indianapolis - and two teams that don't have losing records.

Still remaining on the schedule are games against just three teams that are at .500 or better, including two with Cincinnati.

The other four games are against the Jets, Titans, Saints and Falcons.

Those are all very winnable games. Steal one or two of the others, and this turns into a very nice season.

28 comments:

DD said...

#7 was ridiculous today! What a stud performance! Yo, Big Ben.....you da MAN!!

Patrick said...

this is going to sound like serious fanboy-sim, but does anyone else see a better-than-slight resemblance to Randy Moss in Martavis Bryant? Watch his jump/fade td - He has the same knack for getting the ball at its highest point.

I'm not saying he is Randy Moss, but his body movements look a lot like him.

I wonder, though, did Bryant's drop cost Ben the passing yards in a game record? Potentially a completely different game with that catch, and he needs to make it, but I get the feeling the Steelers would have kept throwing anyway. It may have went for 70+

adamg said...

So BR can play well outside his preferred no huddle. He was excellent executing the plays that were called and improvising when he had to. If he plays like that the rest of the season, they will win a lot more games. I recall tons of criticism of AR II for wanting to establish a running game, but it sure is paying off now that they have 2 RBs who can run, catch and pound it. It opens up a lot of other stuff.

Lebeau's defense was in fine form, too. They were really bringing the heat. Luck took a beating. They'd have had an even better day if not for Parry's crew's preseason style enforcement of holding on DBs. I realize the Steelers had a few of those calls go their way in the second half, but really 1 crew should not be so out of sync in its call with every other crew that Tunch was making jokes about it on the radio broadcast. Even so they had a pick, a pick six and safety accounting for 9 of the 51 pts.

Loved the 4th and goal call. They caught Indy completely selling out to stop the run. No wonder there were big smiles and high fives on the sidelines afterwards.

Mike Adams gets special recognition for stepping up and the OL not missing a beat. Can't say enough about Munchak's coaching of the OL either.

All around a terrific win.

Lance Stalnaker said...

A great all around team win. This team should only continue to grow and get better. If Harrison and Kiesel continue to get more and more into "game shape" look out. Allen is the only spot hurting us right now, and Dale is right about him, it looks to be confidence. Regarding Mike Adams who I have been a fan of since his days here in Central Ohio, I have one thing to say...what a difference an great O-line coach can make.

Here's looking forward to building on this!

Anonymous Brian said...

That was an epic, G-R-E-A-T performance by Ben. If not for a few drops it would have been even more ridiculous. It's impossible to play better.

Martavis Bryant has the potential to completely elevate this offense. No, I agree, there's definitely something reminiscent of Moss.

Luck is tough, man. I think some of his throwaways should have been "in the grasp" sacks, but those were some mighty impressive heaves out of bounds. He got the stuffing beat out of him.

The defensive holding calls made it unwatchable at times.

Anonymous said...

CBS's TV crew praised Luck like he was a super qb but left off Ben
like a red headed step child. That's what it sounded like.

adamg said...

He's the designated heir to Manning/Brady. This only the beginning of the love-fest. Might as well get used to it.

marc said...

obviously, great offensive game. #7 and receivers were outstanding, o-line got the job done. with Bryant emerging and getting miller involved the offense can attack the defense with run, pass, size, speed and spread the entire field. that's tough to stop when they are clicking.

pressure on luck was great and I agree, some of those throw aways could have been in the grasp, but #7 has had plenty of those too in the past. the two picks were huge as well. blake's was just awesome.

however, I find it troubling that a defense that gets consistent pressure on the QB and has 2 INT's still gives up 34 points in the game. even worse, the colts only had the ball for 20 minutes and 57 plays. the defense played with a lot of energy and great effort, but the DB's just aren't that good, imo. with allen tanking, the steelers are now down to their 3rd and 4th string CB's from the beginning of the season.

dale, how did shazier hold up during the game?

I hope this team is mature enough to turn around and get ready for a tough Baltimore game come sunday.

adang said...

One of the TDs was a gift from DHB's fumble at Pgh's 36. The defense lost at least a couple of sacks/stops due to the defensive holding/hands to the face calls.

Had BR's pooch punt not been blocked, Indy probably doesn't score at the end of the half either.

I think the Steelers got a bad call on Luck's fumble as well because it sure looked like the ball was out before any forward motion.

I agree that BR has made plays with defenders hanging on him, but Luck was just throwing the ball away to no one and depending on the "rcvr in the area" rule to keep from being sacked and penalized. Heck, a couple times he just threw the ball straight into the ground. Ridiculous.

Greg W. said...

What a thrilling game in this roller coaster of a season. It was like the Thunderbolt, Jack Rabbit, and The Racer all rolled into one.

Just about everything that went wrong in previous games went right yesterday. The coaching staff has taken a lot of flak for not having the team prepared. But they definitely put it all together yesterday. The O-line was totally prepared for everything the Colts' D threw at them. Ben was ridiculously in sync with his receivers--loved the fade to AB and the quick slant to Bryant for the touchdowns (Dale, I loved hearing your comment about how they are scheming with Bryant). The way the D swarmed Luck made me think fondly of what they did to Manning in the 2005 divisional playoff.

The secondary is still a weak spot, but there aren't too many QBs who can make the throws Luck did under that kind of pressure. If they can fix Cortez or get someone else to step up (Blake?), they could get back to being the kind of dominant defense we expect from our Black and Gold. But maybe we also need to keep in mind that, since the NFL is legislating pass defense out of the game, offenses are going to be more effective at throwing the ball.

The only play call that had me scratching my head was the keeper by Ben with 1:02 left. My heart was in my throat when Ben took such a hard hit from two defenders, making me think of the spinal cord concussion he suffered against the Brown in '09. Your QB just showed you how you can have one of the best offenses in the league and he is put in that kind of danger in a three possession ballgame with a minute left to go? I could have done without that drama.

Here's hoping they replicate their prep and intensity for the Ravens!

Theosa said...

- Ben probably played once in a career game against Colts, he was magnificent!

- Todd Healey calling the plays is not a bad thing after all.

- Gilbert was not missed at all. Mike Adams is performing really well at his natural position i.e. RT where he won Rookie of the Year award.

- McLendon was not missed either, not sure about this game but against Texans McCullers played 10 snaps, he was double teamed 9 times on those plays and the only time he was single covered he drove the center back 10 yards to the QB.

- There is no corner in the NFL who can cover Antonio Brown, he is a beast!

- Rookie Bryant is playing BIG and taking the pressure off AB.

- Ben, Brown, and Bell are the integral parts of Steelers offense and any part missing will cause Steelers big troubles.

- Heath Miller is back to his best.

- The interception by Gay started the Steelers landslide win. Defense is creating turnovers and Keisel and Harrison are shaking the rust off each week and playing better.

- Archer and Cortez Allen are lacking confidence. Allen especially is in a funk considering he has been around for a few years now.

- The upcoming game against Ravens is critical for Steelers to stay in the race for Division title. It’s never easy to play back to back road games and Steelers have the momentum.

Anonymous said...

Ben had the best night I have ever seen him have.

Bryant has really added something to this offense. Shaking up the WR rotation has totally changed things.

On the downside. No one in our secondary can make a play. The Cortez Allen signing should be the final straw to get Colbert fired. We'll see. Total disaster of a player right now. If this is how he is this far in his career there is no reason to think he'll get better.

Easley said...

One thing that struck me from my seat in Maryland: On what seemed to be a beautiful fall day, with the Steelers playing better than they have in years, why did the stadium look half-empty in the 4th quarter?? Seems like it should've been a game to savor as long as possible. What's going on with this fan base?

qwikdoc said...

Marc - I was thinking the same thing about the defense. You're brave to point out anything negative in yesterday's game at the risk of being villified for not being eternally positive. Take away the masterpiece the offense painted and look strictly at the defense and you see a 30 point, 400 yard passing game given up. It was nice to see the Steelers blitzing to put pressure on Luck. Without pressure, Luck will devour any defense. He made some great passes to receivers that were covered well, but there were a lot of wide open receivers also.
A lot of that falls on the continued poor play of Cortez Allen. Time to give Blake his shot at earning playing time.
Big Dan was in there some, but on obvious passing downs he wasn't in there a lot. Those are the plays he should be over the center, especially if you are going to blitz. He can't be blocked one on one. He literally pushes his man straight back and collapses the center of the pocket. To effectively pass block him they have to at least double team him which leaves a lane open for a blitzing LB.

Anonymous said...

If the Steelers could play like this every week, they’d be unbeatable, however that’s not possible. They should be up for this week’s game against Baltimore, it’s the Jets and Titans after that, that have me concerned.

Kudos to Ben for the game of his life, Haley for keeping the pedal to the metal and Patrick for pointing out the similarities to Bryant and Moss. BTW, notice how quiet the message board is after wins? As you noted Quikdoc, winning covers a multitude of sins.

Dale Lolley said...

Bryant's drop would have gone for big, big yardage.

The stadium looked half empty because there were about 20 thousand Colts fans there and they left during the third quarter. Some Steelers fans leave at the end of three regardless of the score.

Make of that what you will. Apathy? Spoiled? I just don't know.

adamg said...

I'll point out how much better BR is when he plays in a more structured offense and with discipline. Look back on the first games of Haley's tenure when BR had to execute the calls regardless. He was on his way to his best season before he got hurt. When he came back, it was "Ben being Ben" and the offense sputtered.

Hopefully BR can now see how all these short and medium passes and having a run game and the ability of the RBs to catch the ball helps to open up the deep passing game. He doesn't have to be a sandlot qb anymore.

Dale Lolley said...

And I don't see the reason for apathy. The Steelers are 11-5 in their past 16 games.

qwikdoc said...

Adamg - You might also want to point out how much better Ben plays when he's not running for his life within 1 second of receiving the snap. The play of the O line and the emergence of Bryant helped make Ben look like the superstar he is. I used to think he couldn't check down very well. He checked down fine yesterday. Ben showed us he can be as good a pocket passer as Brady, Manning or Rogers, given the time.

Anonymous said...

Over the past three seasons, the Steelers are 3-1 when wearing the bumblebee throwback and have scored 125 points. Sting like a bee!

Anonymous said...

The KILLER bee's strike again..

Great game!!

Zeke

Anonymous said...

Dale, Mike Adams looked good at right tackle. He played there as a rookie and did well. Clearly he can't play on the left side, but has a shot on the right. Do you think they will keep him there for now?

Dale Lolley said...

No, because Gilbert has also played well. Adams is the backup. It's nice that he's played well. Should give them confidence in him moving forward. But he's the backup because the other guys earned their spots.

adamg said...

IIRC, in the TB game, CBS had the "Ben clock" showing how much time he used between getting the snap and throwing the ball. It was in the 3-4-5 sec range. That's a long time to expect the OL to hold a block. Brady and Manning regularly get throws off in around 1 sec, for example.

The OL pass pro was nearly perfect yesterday, but BR also did a much better job not hanging onto the ball for too long.

Anonymous said...

Dale,
Not saying Adams should replace Gilbert. I'm saying the coaches need to accept he's a right tackle and not a left tackle.

qwikdoc said...

It always seemed like Ben was running for his life while trying to find an open receiver at the same time. Difference between he and Brady or Manning is that they would throw the ball away and Ben refused to give up until he had a receiver to throw it too. That competitiveness has won us games and it has cost us a lot, including some injuries to Ben. Everything's better when the O line blocks right?

adamg said...

No doubt. BR holding the ball has been good and bad, but, imho, that's a big reason the offense moves in fits and starts when he does that. He's better when he makes quicker decisions and gets the ball out faster that's all.

LexingtonLegend said...

The last two games it seems they went back to what worked the second half of last year. Obviously quicker passing but also specifically the quick slant (pseudo run plays) to brown. We did that exceptionally well last year and it always worked when CBs backed off Brown at the line. Even if it doesn't always work it makes the opponent rethink backing off receivers. Seems like we didn't run it the first 6 weeks.