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Monday, December 29, 2014

Post-Cincinnati thoughts Part II

There seemed to be a prevailing feeling in the Steelers locker room following this game that running back Le'Veon Bell will be OK and could possibly play in the team's playoff opener next Saturday at Heinz Field against the Ravens.

Bell was diagnosed with a hyperextended right knee and was walking fine on his own following the game. That's a good sign.

The Steelers also said there is no structural damage. It would be better for Pittsburgh if the game was being played on Sunday, since it would give Bell an extra day of healing.

But the schedule is what it is - and was announced prior to the injury - so we'll be on the Bell watch all week long.

(Editor's note): I just saw Bell at the Steelers' practice facility. He could barely walk.

@ The Steelers' DBs did a nice job on A.J. Green in this game, even though he finished with eight catches for 82 yards.

All three Cincinnati turnovers came on plays that were either intended for Green - both interceptions - or when the ball was stripped away from Green.

"We just didn't allow him to get behind us," said Steelers cornerback Brice McCain, who had both interceptions while covering Green, who had gone for over 200 yards in their previous meeting. "It wasn't anything he did the last time. We left him wide open on both plays. We didn't do that this time."

@ The Steelers didn't allow a passing play of more than 19 yards in this game.

@ Pittsburgh did allow Jeremy Hill to break off a 22-yard run early. And he had nearly 50 yards on Cincinnati's opening drive - most of it around right end. But the Steelers did a much better job on him the rest of the game, forcing Andy Dalton to beat them.

@ From what I've seen of Joe Flacco this season - and his play this season is the one that matters - he's having an Andy Dalton-type season.

@ Antonio Brown has three career punt returns for a touchdown. All three have come against the Bengals.

Did Marvin Lewis make him mad at some point?

@ The Steelers' much-maligned offensive line did not allow Ben Roethlisberger to be sacked again Sunday and allowed just 33 sacks this season.

That's not bad when you consider Roethlisberger - who finished tied with Drew Brees for the most passing yards in the NFL this season - attempted 608 passes.

It was also huge Sunday since Roethlisberger was fighting a stomach ailment that sent him to the locker room at least twice during this game to relieve himself. That could have been bad if he had taken a big hit at the wrong time.

@ That fake punt the Steelers ran has looked better in practice. Really, it has.

And they've basically run it every day since training camp.

Could have been a big moment there considering it didn't work, but Blake saved the day.

@ James Harrison said following the game that the AFC North championship "follows him."

Who was I to argue with him about what happened in 2012 when Baltimore won it?


adamg said...

Kudos to the defense for picking it up the past 3-4 games. I doubt it's coincidence that happened when McLendon came back and Tuitt got his chance to start after Kiesel got hurt. Cam Heyward looks like a man on mission and McCullers also seems to be contributing more.

The secondary is coming around also. The CBs are smallish, but they cover and tackle well and seem to be where they're supposed to be.

The OL is playing well, but truthfully, Cincy was only rushing 4 most of the game. They were concentrating on taking Brown away it appear Ped.

I don't expect Bell to play because of the short week, esp with game not finishing until late Sunday night. I'm fine with Harris, Archer and Will Johnson. History shows plenty of unknown RBs have burst on to the scene after injuries to starters.

Easley said...

I also can't imagine Bell will be well enough to play Saturday night, though I'll be praying for a miracle. I'm ok with riding Harris, he looked to have a little Isaac Redman in him last night. But there's no way I would risk having tiny Dri in the backfield for this game. Could you imagine him having to pass protect against Suggs and Dumervil? Scary.

Anonymous said...

I think every Steeler fan wants to know two things this morning: The condition of Bell's knee, and what the hell Tomlin and Reggie Nelson were jawing about.

Anonymous said...

I get the reasons why Tomlin decided on the fake punt. But someone has to check out of it when they see the Bengals laying back, playing coverage rather than trying to block it. Take a delay of game, or use a TO if Wing or the upback aren't smart enough to check out.

TOP was tilted heavily toward the Bengals going into that drive, so I get Tomlin wanting to buy his D some additional rest. But if that was such a concern, why almost no rotation up front and at OLB? Harrison shouldn't be playing nearly 70 snaps per game. Not that I'm anxious to see Jarvis Jones on the field. Just that Harrison can't be expected to hold up under that kind of load. Might be wiser to find other ways to keep the D fresh than that fake punt. Not going to dwell on it. Just seems to be a bit of an indictment against some of the front 7 backups, when a hopelessly fated fake punt is considered a better option for trying to rest up the D than playing their backups. Particularly and especially Jones. Who, if you told me he didn't play at all last night I'd believe you. But I see he did have 3 snaps somewhere.

Anonymous said...

First, hats off to Tomlin, Haley and LeBeau. They really took a team that looked bad at points during the season and made it into a playoff contender. I’ve never been a fan of Tomlin. The fake punt and running rather than kneeling last night continued to support that. But I have a good friend who’s a Packer fan and he’s constantly criticizing McCarthy. I realize that we’re not going to get perfection out of any coach and as dedicated fans watch every move closely. Just need to savior the moment and enjoy it while we can.

Ike who? Troy who? Just kidding, they have both given the Steelers many, many great moments. But I don’t think Ike would have caught either of those interceptions last night, so it’s nice to see a secondary with some hands.

The offensive line may have been maligned the last couple of seasons, but Munchak is another that deserves credit for getting improved play from them. Hope they can retain him for a couple more years.

I wish I felt as comfortable as you guys about the running situation. If Bell does not play, the Ravens will focus on stopping Ben and let Harris/Archer beat them. Just have to hope Bell’s injury doesn’t keep him out of the game Saturday.

adamg said...

Harris looked pretty good on that 50 yd run that got called back by the holding penalty on Foster. I didn't see the Steelers change their game plan at all when Bell went out.

They did rotate McCullers and Thomas into the DL, but I think they've only dressed 5 since they lost Kiesel. They rotated all 3 ILBs, too.

Anonymous said...

Apparently Nelson said something to Tomlin about the hit on Bell that Coach took offense to.

Anonymous said...

McCullers had 4 snaps, Thomas 6, and Williams 7. Out of 71 defensive snaps. I get the ILBs rotated and they played more nickel than base. Still, Tomlin was the one concerned about his D, not me. Well, aside from Harrison. Like I said, I don't want to dwell on it. Good win.

marc said...

harris missed a huge cutback lane when he plowed into the line for a 3 yard gain or so, I think his 2nd carry maybe. also, without bell, there is almost no threat of the RB catching the ball out of the backfield. archer can, be when he is in there you know he isn't running between the tackles. too easy to defend.

as many said, kudos to all involved. they continued to get better as the season went on. I agree, too, about the McClendon comment. he is playing well.

marc said...

on a side note, obviously rex ryan was canned by the jets. if available, would he be a good fit as a DC if Lebeau decided to retire? just curious as to others thoughts as I have always thought ryan was very good at creating good defenses.

adamg said...

Butler's been the heir apparent for years now, but I like Ryan, too. One thing Tomlin has shown is that he's not afraid to have/hire former head coaches on staff (Lebeau, Haley, Munchak). I'm not sure the Steelers have the defensive personnel right now to play the kind of defenses Ryan likes though.

Everyone's worried about Ngata, but I'd go right at him since he hasn't played or practiced for a month.

Will Johnson can catch the ball out of the backfield. Archer caught 2 and he was open a couple more times, but I thought BR just didn't quite trust him enough to throw it to him unless as the very last option.

Anonymous said...

I read where Ryan isn’t interested in a DC job, only head coach. I agree with you, he led good defenses in both Balt and NY. Not sure whether his personality would go over big here, may overshadow Tomlin. It’s interesting that while the Steelers have 3 former head coaches on staff, none overshadow Tomlin with their personalities.

ibygeorge said...

Bell being injuried reminds me of the 76 AFC championship. Harris and Brier both out with injuries after having sensational seasons. The game is different now. There's a wide reciever
named Brown that no one can cover.

marc said...

the steelers did have swan and stallworth for that game.

Easley said...

Rex Ryan has a big future...on TV. Butler has turned down DC opportunties elsewhere because he has either been explicitly told or led to believe that he's Lebeau's successor. And, yes, Swann and Stallworth played in that '76 game, but it was a MUCH different game then. DBs could pretty much mug receivers (and in case of Tatum and Atkinson on Swann, usually did). Nearly every rule change since then has been to the benefit of the passing game

Anonymous said...

hope they play will johnson more than Archer

Archer is a midget and will get destroyed and fumble

Anonymous said...

Good news, no ligament damage for Bell:

adamg said...

Well, thank Roger Dodger for the short week. It's hilarious after a full season of teams having to play Sunday, then Thurs on 3 days rest, and MNF, Goodell feels bad the Bengals would have to play on short weeks 2 times in a row if they were the Sat night game. The Bengals had the chance to control their own destiny by winning and getting a bye week. They didn't. No one needed to feel sorry for them.

As for losing Bell, the RBs are now basically unknown to Balt. There's virtually no tape on them. They can game plan to stop Bell, but they don't know what Haley will do or how he will use his 2 TBs and FB. I seem to recall Isaac Redman running for 100+ yds against them a few years ago.

ibygeorge said...

Marc- the game is now made for WR. In 76 it was a running game. They lost in 76.

If the O line is doing as well as it seems it's doing it should be enough for Harris to just keep the Ravens honest and Ben to spread the joy. The secondary also looks like they are doing a fine job.

marc said...

you're right about the differences between 76 and now.

however, bell's incredible abilities as a rusher and receiver are simply irreplaceable. it makes the offense dynamic and forces the defense to devote significant attention to him. take him out and josh harris is a runner and dri archer is a receiver. the defense can then afford to double team brown.

I'm not saying they will lose if bell is out, but they do become much more predictable depending on the personnel on the field which, of course, makes it easier for the defense.

if bell doesn't play, wheaton and Bryant will need to have big games.

adamg said...

At this point, Josh Harris is an unknown. I also noticed the play where if he'd have cut his run off tackle, he'd have made a big run, but probably 99% of RBs would have done the same.

I know there's talk about Bell being like Walter Payton or Tomlinson, but he reminds me most of Franco with his similar size and upright, hesitating running style.

If I had to guess today, I'd expect a lot of 4-5 wides empty sets and quick throws. If they need pass pro help, they can also sub Adams for Spaeth at TE.

WestGaSteeler said...

Teams have been doubling Brown all year and he was able to beat it pretty consistently. And if they do there's still Heath, Wheaton and Bryant

ibygeorge said...

I'm with you about Bell. Incredible player. I don't think he plays. If he does he won't be incredible.

Dale Lolley said...

The Steelers will need to get big performances from some playoff newbies - Wheaton, Bryant, Harris, Archer and even Will Johnson.

ibygeorge said...

Plus the O line has been giving him plenty of time to shake off all coverage. I think he is one of best at getting open.

Anonymous said...

If you think this team can win against Ravens without Bell, you are dreaming. Not gonna happen. One and done.

Easley said...

^^^ Oh please. We once beat the Ravens with Charlie Batch at QB. Hell, we nearly beat them once with DENNIS DIXON. Yeah, it'll suck not having Bell, and we're definitely better with him, but the Ravens are hardly the '85 Bears. And I guarantee there's a guy just like you on a Ravens board saying there's no way the Ravens can beat Ben with the semi-pro corners they're playing with. Both teams are wounded and flawed.

Bill in DC said...

-> Annon 7:44 good to see T Suggs back on the board! Ravens db situation will make it tough for them on empty sets. Archer may be a decent addition to those.

I think munchak and haley will dial up some ways to take advantage of the coverage issues.

Anonymous Brian said...

I think "one and done" means you win one playoff game, right?

I don't like Archer even seeing the field. Since they're not going to sign the RB equivalent of Fernando Velasco in a pinch, is Will Johnson capable of spelling Josh Harris or, in effect, being the third-down back some of the time?

Have to win first down on offense, which means throwing early and often. Huge opportunities for Wheaton and Bryant?

Same thing on defense with the first downs - meaning can't give Flacco a bunch of third-and-threes or -fours. Also can't assume he'll play poorly. He's no Dalton, although he can be made to look like one. That means you, 92!

Greg W. said...

Even with Bell out, I've got a good feeling about next week (and I'm usually a pessimist). The reason is that, over the past several games, different units and players on this team are stepping up when they need to. Last night, it was the DBs getting the turnovers. Earlier in the season, it was Ben and the receiving corps putting up tons of points to cover for a struggling secondary. Here's hoping this sort of thing will continue next week.

If the Ravens aren't putting 8 and 9 in the box, I'm confident about the O line opening up holes for any RB. They were doing this consistently before teams started selling out to stop the run. If the Ravens do stack the box, Ben and the WRs should have a field day with the Ravens banged up secondary. The Bryant TD was a thing of beauty. Would love to see more of that.

Wouldn't it be great to see Troy return to harass Flacco one last time with a big strip sack or pick-6?

Go Steelers!

bruinmann77 said...

ITS going to come down to Ben and Flacco and like those chances. Josh haris will suprise

Easley said...

And for the love of God, DO NOT kick the ball to Jacoby Jones. He kills us.

Greg Mercer said...

totally agree with jacoby jones. suisham's kick-offs seemed really low on Sunday. that can't happen vs. Ravens. i think we'd be better off trying to kick line drives to the upbacks or even high pop-ups to the 30 yard line.