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Sunday, January 04, 2015

Post Steelers-Ravens playoff thoughts

Tip of the hat to the Ravens. They were better than the Steelers in this game.

I still feel like the Steelers are a better team, all things being equal. But things weren't equal in this game.

Baltimore had plenty of injuries to deal with this season, particularly in its secondary. The Ravens did not, however, have to deal with the loss of 34 percent of its offense on a short week.

I felt the Steelers would have enough on offense to get by in one game - at home - without Bell. But the Ravens had no respect for the Pittsburgh running game, which showed when it continually dropped six or seven into coverage.

Bell would have made the Ravens pay in some of those situations.

@ That said, Baltimore's pass rushers made a difference in this game. If I'm running the Steelers, my top priority this offseason is improving the pass rush.

@ The Steelers offensive line, which I felt would need to play one of its best games, most certainly did not.

@ Penalties didn't help. But I can't argue with any of the penalties that were called on the Steelers. They were legit.

At the same time, it seemed like the Ravens got away with some things the Steelers did not - ie. holding on the edge and a pass interference that was not called on Martavis Bryant.

I realize Lardarius Webb had his head turned around on the deep throw to Bryant in the third quarter, but the only way he was going to break up that pass was if he happened to get his feet tied up with Bryant.

@ If that was the final game for Troy Polamalu, James Harrison, Brett Keisel and Ike Taylor, I tip my hat to all four.

Those guys were key members of some great defenses.

They didn't have a major impact this season - with Harrison playing the best of the group - but their impact in the locker room cannot be overlooked.

Polamalu talked in the locker room after this game about what it meant to be a Steeler and rattled off the names of players such as Hines Ward, Alan Faneca, Joey Porter, Jerome Bettis, etc.

Players in this locker room can school future young players about what it was like to play with Polamalu, Harrison, Taylor and Keisel.

@ The schedule is more difficult next season, but with an offense that will be back in its entirety, the Steelers can be looked at as a team on the rise.

The defense will need some re-tooling, but I think we saw improvements as this season wore on.

The defensive line, with Cam Heyward, Steve McLendon, Stephon Tuitt and Daniel McCullers, looks like it has four solid pieces. McLendon and McCullers were especially good against the Ravens.

And the Steelers are heavily stocked at inside linebacker.

But Jarvis Jones is the only outside linebacker signed and Will Gay, Cortez Allen and B.W. Webb are the only corners signed for next season.

Mike Mitchell, Shamarko Thomas and Ross Ventrone are the only safeties signed.

Some work will be needed there.

@ Speaking of Ventrone, if there is a player in the NFL who does more with less, I don't know who it is. What a great special teams player he turned out to be.


adamg said...

No doubt the team overachieved this season while rebuilding.

The offense doesn't need much, just for Beachum to either get stronger or someone else (Mike Adams?) to step up at LT. They need to find Miller's replacement, too.

It's a shame that Jones suffered the wrist injury as I think he was getting better as the season progressed. He'd have provided some of that outside pass rush.

It's never fun to lose, but to be honest, this wasn't a championship roster. This was the first taste of the playoffs for a lot of guys and that can do nothing but help them grow.

Andrew said...

What happened to our O-line tonight? I realize that Baltimore is tough against the run, but for unit that seemed to be looking solid lately they were pushed around a lot tonight. With only 6 or 7 in the box for much of the game they should have found a way to get the run game going.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a sour grapes type, but they really missed a lot of calls against the Ravens. An NFL game strikes such a delicate competitive balance and when the referees don't do their part to keep it even, anything can happen.

I love what Steve McLendon was able to show in this game. This d-line is set for the future.

I would look for the Steelers to move on from Jason Worilds, unless he he decides to take less money, which isn't likely. However, I think the pass rush will improve greatly with better play in the secondary. There are some pieces there, but I'd look for them to make some upgrades in free agency.

Did that game make a case for LeVeon as an MVP? I think so.

On to the draft...

ibygeorge said...

Whats the status of Tate now? Is he done as a Steeler?

Easley said...

I have the complete opposite view of Anon 7:57--it's the secondary that would look a lot better with an improved pass rush. Example: the Ravens last night. Having guys like Suggs and Dumervil off the edge, and Ngata collapsing the pocket will mask all sorts of deficiencies in the secondary. Meanwhile, we got to Flacco ONCE, despite facing an O-line that was missing both starting tackles. Terrible.

I hope to hell Jarvis Jones turns out to be a baller, but there's not much evidence yet. This was a red-shirt year for him. If he doesn't show something next season, we're screwed. Same goes for Shazier. And of course if he doesn't become a force we'll have to spend the next decade looking at that wrecking machine CJ Mosley in purple and wondering 'what if.'

As for Worilds, he was a non-entity most of the year.

Mike said...

This game was a remarkable example of a team having an off night versus a team having a 'perfect' game. The few 3rd down conversions that the Ravens accomplished were all particular damaging: long gains in critical situations. There was a serious disability for the Steelers in checking down and getting chunks of yardage (as they had all year) without Bell. The 'chuck and pray' attack for Flacco is an effective embarrassment for the league that rewards badly thrown long balls. A Harrison sack instead of a Smith TD in the 3rd for the Ravens and a TD instead of an incompletion to AB in the corner of the end zone and there is a different outcome, I believe.

Disappointed, no doubt, but a successful season. It won't feel as bad after Baltimore gets beavered by the Pats next week. Bet on it.

Anonymous said...

I agree with anon @7:57am and with what Dale said. IMO the refs won the game more than the Steelers lost it. I still thought it was an excellent season. Time to go against the grain and pay or draft a DB or two and find a premier pass rusher. Obviously... the team is on the rise

Anonymous said...

Mitchell had an absolutely terrible game as well. One of many this season.

adamg said...

The league really needs to look at the rule book and eliminate as many of the judgement calls as possible. If a rule can be black and white, it should be written that way. The facemask rule was set back to its original 15 yard penalty regardless of intent. That's working fine. Players know not to grab a facemask or it's a penalty. The league also changed the rule on recievers coming down inbounds rather than asking the refs to judge if the receiver would have come down inbounds if not hit by the defender. The rule is clear now, the receiver must come down inbounds regardless. The players adapted just fine.

Anonymous said...

My point is, if they have more trust that the secondary can lock down, then they will be able to bring more rushers. Its a numbers game and we didn't have the back half of the defense to be able to bring the extra man, so to speak.

The other recent great defenses we had, not only had great pass rushers that could win one on one (Harrison, Porter, Woodley, Gildon etc) but also had Ike who could be trusted to nuetralize the number one, and other solid CB's and safeties that could cover. We didn't have that this year.

Off season to do list:

1. Improve the secondary
2. Improve the pass rush

My final thought is that our schedule next year looks very difficult. In our division alone, we face 3 of the best left tackles in football. So that's 6 games when even the best pass rushers are not going to win consistently one on one. But we have to be able to cover in the secondary.

Anonymous said...

Well, I haven't seen every game this year, but I've seen enough. Mike Mitchell may be somewhat effective as a strong safety, but if a free safety is expected to have good ball awareness and half-decent coverage ability, he fails miserably. I used to think that Ryan Mundy's timing was always just a little off, but Mitchell's timing is consistently terrible.

Anonymous said...

If Jarvis Jones was who they thought he was when they drafted him, you let Worilds walk and fill in through the draft or FA, and/or even stopgap with a guy like Moats. But since he's not, they will now likely grossly overspend to keep Clark Haggans Jr. And their pass rush continues to suck for another couple/few years.

Anonymous said...

I'm worried that our cap situation is going to hurt us this offseason. I don't think we'll have the money to address our problems and resign our younger players.

Dale Lolley said...

Once again, they can easily get under the cap with retirements and a cut or two - paging Cam Thomas. That won't be a problem.

I wasn't blaming the refs. The Steelers earned their penalties. I thought a couple could have been called on the Ravens, but likely not enough to offset what happened.

The Ravens played their best game in weeks. The Steelers played their worst in a month.

I think there's a chance Worilds is re-signed. I think he had a better season than most realize. He spent a lot of time dropping into coverage because they didn't want Harrison dropping much.

"Three of the best left tackles in this division." Who would that "best" left tackle be for Baltimore?

Robbie said...

1. Coincidence or not that the defense totally fell apart once Troy was back in the lineup?

2. The Steelers were still in the game until Tomlin foolishly reinserted a concussed Big Ben, who threw one of the worst picks I've ever seen.

Anonymous Brian said...

I agree that how poorly Roethlisberger and the O-line played is as much of the story as missing Bell last night.

It's not all his fault, but BR's had the ball in his hands with the chance to win or tie a game late in three straight playoff games and come up short.

(Same as Brady and Peyton have underachieved in recent playoff losses. Ultimate team game, etc. But the narrative / myth that Ben is the ultimate in the clutch by some of his worshipers -- Peyton's a choker, Brady's a girlie man, Ben is always the tough guy when the chips are down -- ignores a lot of reality.)

Speaking of which, I can't understand the whole Flacco Sucks thing.

There's a big difference between second-ranked offense and second-best offense.

The third-and-13 and third-and-14 conversions by the Ravens are so frustrating because it looked so EASY.

If the Steelers had beaten the Patriots two out of three times in a season, including beating them convincingly in New England in the playoffs, no one would say the Patriots had the better team because they still had Brady, Gronk, and Revis. The Ravens don't match up with the premier Steelers skill players, I guess, but the interior and depth of their team are clearly better.

After a full season, my opinion is that Mike Mitchell has speed but is otherwise a borderline NFL starter.

Still, overall a good season. Came together, made timely plays in December to win the division, different parts of the team rising up at different times, etc., and a much-improved offense, and a big-time keeper in M. Bryant, Will really miss watching Harrison and Polamalu and Kiesel.

Anonymous said...

I do see some good things in the future for Pittsburgh, but alot of changes do need to be made as well. Tate may be a viable backup for next year. WRs are set. Offensive line still needs work.

The defense definitely needs a pass rush, to help get them off the field after 3rd downs. Allowing the Ravens to convert long 3rd downs time and time again is unacceptable!!

Now, the Steelers lost this game because we were OUT COACHED!!! First of all, should one player account for over 34% of any teams offense?? That being said, you do not cut a player when you do not have a viable backup for that 34% player. We carry 3 QBs (why we still have Landry is beyond me) but dont have a quality backup RB. Discipline Blount, suspend him, whatever, but dont cut him. This is coaching!

Baltimore is near the end zone, we rush 4, we get to Falco. Then on 3rd down, we rush 3, TD Ravens!! This is just one of several things you will notice about this game. This is coaching.

Offensive line is struggling to protect Big Ben, make adjustments. Penalties have been in an issue all season long, yes that falls on the players, but this is also part of teaching the players. This is coaching!!

Having a record something like 2-9 against sub .200 teams is pretty crappy. This is also all about coaching. Had we beat a couple of these teams, maybe we get a bye, and Bell plays in the game after a long rest.

The players have to play and execute. But quit giving Tomlin and this coaching staff a pass all the time. They need to be held accountable as well!!

Anonymous said...

Despite the division title Balt runs the North. They have copied the Steeler template. Newsome and Harbaugh are kicking the rear of Colbert/Tomlin. Ravens sign Dumervil,Daniels,Smith,and Forsett. Compare that to Thomas,Mitchell,Moore and Blount. And the Ravens signed those guys even after giving Flacco a big contract.
Speaking of. Flacco he is now the equal or better than Ben. Won 5 straight playoff games. No picks. Ben has lost 3 in row.

marc said...

As happy gillmore would say, "I'm a hockey player playing golf." - Mitchell is a strong safety Playing free safety.

Dale Lolley said...

I most certainly did not see the defense "falling apart" last night. We must have watched different games.

The Ravens had under 50 yards rushing and 300 yards of total offense.

They took advantage of 114 penalty yards by the Steelers.

Tate is not under contract for next season. Was signed for the playoffs. His only money was going to be whatever they got for the postseason.

And save me the "outcoached" bullcrap. The Ravens played a better game, period.

Baltimore runs the North, but got swept by Cincinnati this season. Hmm.

After being next to last in penalties after a month, they ended the regular season 13th in penalties. So it wasn't an "all-season" problem. Heck, they had 1 penalty in the win over the Bengals last week.

Anonymous said...

That's right Dale Baltimore is the best team in the north.Cincy just had their season end. That sweep by the Bengals is about as meaningful as the Steeler division title right now.On defense they are what the Steelers used to be. Physical,stop the run and rush the QB.

Anonymous said...

If nothing else, it's always interesting to see how people can watch the same game and come to different conclusions.

Anyway, if Baltimore loses to New England next week you could just as easily say that their win against the Steelers was "meaningless". You should never discount any wins or losses as meaningless.

The Steelers were without a key player, but who knows what difference it would have made. The defense played ok, but not nearly good enough as needed.

However, I think the main problem was Ben who seemed off last night. He needed to be the Ben that beat the Ravens earlier in the season, not the one that lost to them. Unfortunately, Ben seems very hit or miss against the Ravens. He is either on fire and we dominate or he is off and we lose.

Robbie said...

But a lot of the penalty yardage was the defense's fault. I remember two personal fouls and a long DPI.

The Ravens scored on 6 of their 8 full possessions when the game was still in doubt. At least two of those drives I remember being extended with third down conversions of 10+ yards.

Flacco had a passer rating of 114.0 and was sacked once. Outside of the Forsett fumble, I don't think the defense did much that was positive.

bruinmann77 said...

the steelers need a veteran rb is Tate that guy who know. I think we seen the end for Troy and Ike at this point. Worlids is not worth what he getting paid and i would go hard at Houston if he not Franchised. I agree we got a good DL which could move to a 4-3 and enough LB too. This team need a CB and S and OLB if they stay with the 3-4

Easley said...

I agree with Robbie. Defense couldn't get off the field. Those 3rd down conversions were brutal.

Anonymous said...

I am not going to argue with you, cause like I said, give Tomlin a pass like you always do!! (Reminds me of the press with Obama lol) "The Ravens played a better game, period." Probably because they were more prepared to play a Wild Card game on the road in a hostile environment!! Last I checked, thats coaching.

How do you explain all those long 3rd downs the Ravens beat us with?? Luck?!?!? That Ravens team would beat us (without Bell & Blount) probably 9 out of 10 times.

Penalties were an issue all season, they had to address them mid-season, corrected them, and it came to hurt once again when it counted!!

If the Steelers go better than 7-9 or 8-8 next season, I will give Tomlin all the praise in the world, I have no problem giving credit where its due, esp. with that schedule we will have....

Anonymous said...

Speaking of defense, if Todd Bowles gets a head coaching job, I'm sure we all know where Arians will turn for a replacement DC. So if the Steelers really want to keep Butler for that job, it's time to ask Lebeau to step aside.

bruinmann77 said...

No matter what the Media said the Ravens especiaaly their defense came to play yesterday and punched us right in the Mouth. IT ALSO FG don't win games especiaaly in the red zoze

McFadden 41 said...

Funny, the steelers lose a game in which the qb plays terrible and the team is penalized in critical situations on some questionable calls and suddenly Blount is the savior and Tomlin is an affirmative action hire that doesn't get criticized? I guess going from 8-8 with a young team to winning the division doesn't count for anything? Or how can the team be undisciplined, but Tomlin was too harsh in his punishment of Blount?

Why can't we just say that we got out played? The other team has pride too. They have paid professionals playing too. Maybe we just got beat. I'm critical of coaches and players alike but sometimes, the other team just makes more plays. It happens. Tomlin is far from perfect. So are Haley and Lebeau. But so is Ben.

Let's take our loss like adults and look at the positives.

adamg said...

Dale, is it true Mitchell played or has been playing with a torn groin muscle? That hurts just thinking about it.

As for Blount, I do believe Tomlin would have kept him and there been less of a media/talk show feeding frenzy about him leaving while the offense was in victory formation. I'd bet Tomlin made the decision that keeping Blount would have just created too big a distraction for the rest of the season due to what would surely have been the media's "singular focus" on him.

Dale Lolley said...

You guys are making a big assumption on the decision to get rid of Blount. Did you read the quotes from his teammates. Most were done with him.

adamg said...

I don't know, the quotes I read/heard after the game seemed to be that the players interviewed didn't even know Blount had left. When they were told that, what I heard was guys saying if he didn't want to be there, fine, they'd move on. Personally, from what was quoted, I didn't really get the impression he was a big problem or bad influence in the locker room. OTOH, I do have the sense Blount is excitable and emotional, traits that can lead to poor decisions. Either way, a strong locker room deals with that before it gets out of hand. Just my 2 cents.

marc said...

imo, the ravens are the healthiest team in the north right now, not the best. bengals lost without green and Gresham. steelers obviously lost without bell. yes, the ravens o-line was banged up, but they weren't difference makers for their team.

regarding blount, the steelers management/coaches have historically handled personnel issues (locker room problems, etc) pretty well. if they felt blount needed to go, then so be it. they know better than we do.

it was disappointing to see the penalties. thought they got past that after early in the season. but, I don't think it has plagued them all season, they certainly improved until the last game.

imo, three things lost that game. no bell, couldn't get off the field on 3rd down, and penalties.

time to move on though. with retirees and another increase in salary cap, I hope they bring in a high quality defensive FA at DB or OLB. I don't think worilds will be a steeler next season unless he takes much less than what he's making right now. I know they got Mitchell last offseason, but I'm not sure he has bought into the system yet. he keeps his nose too close to the line of scrimmage. I am happy though with the idea that the strength of the defense next season will be the d-line. they are clearly a bright spot moving forward.

adamg said...

Behind the Steel Curtain had an estimated breakdown of the 2015 salary cap, assuming the cap goes to 140M. The Steelers have among the least number of players signed for 2015 and BTSC estimates they'll have 20M left after accounting for an extention for Cam Heyward, the rookie pool, Woodley contract, etc.

One guy I'd love to see the Steelers bring in is Jared Odrick.
He was a beast at Penn St and always reminded me of Aaron Smith by the way he went about his business. Plug him into a DL of Heyward, McLendon, Tuitt and McCullers and that's a pretty strong 5 man DL rotation. Terrance Cody is a UFA, too, but he seems not to have lived up to his billing.

Mitchell, imho, was hurt by 2 things. First, the groin injury had to have robbed him of speed and agility. Second, I don't think it's easy to play with Troy. Lebeau allowed him to freelance so much, the other safety had to be on the same page. Troy had a mind-meld with Chris Hope, then Ryan Clark, but he and Mitchell never seemed to click like that. I don't think it was a coincidence Mitchell's play improved when Will Allen, who didn't freelance, played.

Pistol said...


Whats the word on Jones??? Were they ok w his progress this year before the injury?? The guy hustles his butt off but constantly gets manhandled in the run game.

marc said...

imo, jones definitely has a great motor, but still lacks strength and leverage. he really needs to learn how to use his hands and position himself to make a play. as an example, suggs is exceptional at keeping a blocker from getting "into him" then shedding the block to make a play. same goes for james Harrison in his day.

datruth4life said...

Dale, I say let Worilds walk, sign Jabaal Sheard or Pernell McPhee to play OLB, resign Arthur Moats as depth and draft an OLB in the first or 2nd round this year while also hoping that HoJo can develop. Just not high at all on Jarvis Jones. I agree with Tunch and Wolf, he needs to live in the weight room this year.

Pistol said...

Also what is Zumwalts future?? They must have liked him quite a bit to hang onto him all year even being injured.

Easley said...

They've definitely gotta kick the tires on Brian Orakpo. He's had a lot of injuries, so they need to proceed cautiously, but if he gets a clean bill of health he might just need a change of scenery from the factory of sadness that is the Redskins.

Anonymous said...

Orakpo = Woodley

No thanks!!

Anonymous said...

Is there any possibility of moving Vince Williams to OLB? He is a beast in the middle, but I have no idea if that transfers to the outside (it didn't seem to with Timmons). We have three great ILB working with Timmons and can't get them all on the field at once. Moving Williams to OLB in the event Worilds leaves might get him on the field to be a difference maker without taking the others off the field. He's the biggest of the Williams/Spence/Shazier trio and most likely to make the move.

Speaking of position moves, have read elsewhere the idea of moving Cortez to Safety. He seems to cover well, is in the right place to make a play, but fails to get his head turned around when covering. As a safety he would line up deeper and keep the plays in front of him. Is that a viable possibility if he can't turn it around at CB?

adamg said...

I think the thing to remember with Allen is that he started playing football relatively late and played at The Citadel, not exactly playing against the highest level competition. He usually has good position on wrs, so I think it's really just a matter of experience, practice and confidence.

marc said...

at this point, cortez allen is reminding me of limas sweed. he had good speed, good size, no problem getting open, but just couldn't make the play. lost confidence, became a head case, and was done. is allen heading down that same path?

I hear in Cleveland that jabaal sheard wants to stay. browns have plenty of cap room.