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Author Topic: Guess I'm the Only One  (Read 1093 times)
Finnegans Wake
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« on: Jan 06, 2008 at 10:18 »

Listen, I've been through the same ringer that everyone else here just went through.  I'm upset and disappointed that we got this close to winning and moving on.  But I think everyone's over-reacting to various things -- Tomlin's decisions, BA's playcalling, Ben's performance -- and we could all use a little perspective.  Let's not judge on hindsight, and let's not forget where we started this season.

In fact, this game is our 2007 season in a nutshell: often brilliant, often horrifying, incredibly inconsistent.  I don't want to say I expected the game's outcome to be what it was, but am I surprised?  Hardly.

We have a team that I think is as talented as the Jaguars, and wound up being closely matched both times, but both times came up short by falling behind, making a rousing comeback, and then losing late.  Was it destiny?  I don't know.  But when I look at the rosters side by side, I think we're a better team than the Jags, except when you look at the trenches.  They're better up front, and it's a theme I've sounded so often that it doesn't bear repeating again.  But it doesn't matter how great your quarterback is if the line in front of him sucks, just as you can't have a great secondary without the front seven getting pressure.  So if you want a cause for optimism, I think we're a draft or two away from being great again.

This year started off on the Super Bowl hangover season having left some serious questions about how Ben would play, about the offensive line, about the running game, about coaching transitions, about how we could overtake the Ravens and even Bengals in the division, and about whether our special teams could be fixed.  Quite a few folks, myself included, thought we might go 10-6 or even 11-5 and maybe get a wild card spot, if not the division title.  But few expected us to go deep into the playoffs.  And few outsiders expected us to even do that, as evidenced by virtually no major media picking us to do better than third in the AFCN.

I think it's fair to say we are who we thought we were.  

Ben had the great year I expected, and Willie had an even better statistical year than I expected (IIRC, I predicted he'd go for 1300 in 16 games, not 1300 in an injury-shortened season).  Special teams and the offensive line sucked all year.  Tomlin had a rookie head coach season, at times masterfully in control, at times seeming a bit overwhelmed.  At times we looked great (opener versus the Browns, shutout of the playoff Seahawks, trouncing the Ravens), and many others we were awful.  We were often brilliant and awful in the very same game, as we were last night.

So why is anyone here surprised by the final outcome of last night's game?

OK, if it makes you feel better to scapegoat someone, Arians is the easy target.  I don't think any of his plays, even the duds at the end of the game or the misbegotten QB sweep, would have been out of place in the Mularkey era or the Whisenhunt era.  He's another offensive coordinator who simply has his ups and downs here.  And I'm not going to defend the dud calls, but sometimes it really is easy in hindsight or from the comfort of our living rooms to say go for the first down, not the safe runs.  But what if Rashean Mathis picks Ben and returns it for 6?  What if Ben does trot into the end zone on the sweep?  When plays work, the guy calling them's a genius, and when they don't he's an idiot.  Comes with the territory.  

I know I've called for some more scripted QB runs.  It didn't work.  Shit happens.  Coaches play safe when they have a lead, rather than rolling the dice.  Don't like it, but that's the way most coaches play it.  I'd have liked to have seen more plays to Miller all season long, and more of the types of first half plays that worked so well.  But it's easy to call for those plays over and over, and not expect teams to adjust and expect them on defense.  You can't just play rock in rock, paper, scissors ten times in a row without the other guy playing paper.  

Tomlin's call to go for two, had it worked, would have shown him to be a gutsy maverick.  Should he have reconsidered, given the time on the clock?  Given the push back due to the bogus penalty?  Yeah, probably.  But on one hand, we want some gutsy playcalling, and on the other, we want safe playcalling.  Depending on what turns out to have worked, or not.  Maybe we shouldn't have called the plays we did in the big comeback, except that they worked.  But we're not disputing those calls.  Only the ones that fucked up.

This was a great game: passionate, contested, and deeply flawed, but great.  Great entertainment.  Maybe that sort of objective assessment runs counter to fandom, but given my expectations, I think it simply highlights what we've seen all year long, and shows that we are very close to being a great team.

The only coach I think must be fired is Bob Ligashesky.  The inability to cover kickoffs and punts all year long isn't a matter of personnel, it's scheme.  Teams rendered our coverage units ineffective with regularity and ease.  I liked Bob's passion at Latrobe, but these special teams were so awful that there's no alternative.  

I've been down on Larry Zeirlein all year, too, but have tempered that with the fact that our personnel are flawed.  There have been some egregious lapses in blitz pickups and even picking up the normal rush assignments, but that was there last year, with Grimm, too.  I wouldn't be upset if we brought in Hudson Hauck, but if we keep Zeirlein and upgrade the players, we'll be much improved.

Arians is the lightning rod, but he both Ward and Holmes hurt much of the year, a shitty line to work with, and the newness not only of implementing a new offense, but of adjusting to the head coaching change.  Arians, like the entire team, was simply inconsistent, but the offense did begin to shift more to being one reliant on Ben rather than the rush, something Cowher and Whisenhunt were inflexible about embracing.  The offense showed signs of being one of the most potent in the league, but then would sputter out, and then come back to life late in games.  Much of the time that was execution, dropped balls, poorly run routes, porous line play.  Some of it was bad playcalling.  But Arians was not brutally poor all the time.  In fact, some of the playcalling was as thrilling as Whisenhunt at his very best, in the 2005 playoffs.  

So what we are really needing is not MORE turnover at the top, but more consistency.  We need Tomlin and Arians to systematically improve the personnel, especially in the trenches, to review the plays that worked and didn't work, and to adjust accordingly.  I'm not ready to throw out the baby with the bathwater on either guy.

And the way the defense played in December, frankly, we could have had a million threads about LeBeau being shitty.  No sane fan would do that, given the man's resume, and given the inherent up and down every season offers, but if the DC were a guy whose identity were unknown to us, a guy in a black box, maybe some of the same criticisms showered on Arians would not have been out of place in the discussion of the defense.  But here again, if you solidify the line play, and make a few upgrades to personnel, there's still the need to review and adjust.  Why is the PIttsburgh Cover 3 so weak against the short passing game New England favors, and how do we counter?  Why were teams running so well late in the season?  How do we improve the free safety play?  And so on.  We need to evaluate and adjust, but both the offense and defense had its inconsistency and bad coaching.  

I think it's just too easy and too predictable to complain about everything when, at the beginning of the season, we were just hoping to have a decent season.  We are who we thought we were, maybe better in some ways, maybe worse in others, but we knew this would be a season of trying things out, of creating the paradigm of the Tomlin era.  The only unalloyed failure I can see is special teams; everything else was a mixed bag.  
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mzimmerman81
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« Reply #1 on: Jan 06, 2008 at 10:45 »

I think the biggest problem people have is how much this team regressed from Game 1 to Game 17.


No improvement whatsoever, areas that were shitty got worse, areas that were good got worse.  That falls squarely on the staff.
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Finnegans Wake
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« Reply #2 on: Jan 06, 2008 at 10:48 »

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I think the biggest problem people have is how much this team regressed from Game 1 to Game 17.


No improvement whatsoever, areas that were shitty got worse, areas that were good got worse.  That falls squarely on the staff.
Was it regression, or a soft early schedule?  I think we showed inconsistency all year long, actually.  We played up and down in the soft part of the sched, in the meat of the sched, all year.  So again, it's chicken and egg in terms of playcalling and personnel.

JMHO.
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steelerfaninCO
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« Reply #3 on: Jan 06, 2008 at 11:27 »

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  Why is the PIttsburgh Cover 3 so weak against the short passing game New England favors, and how do we counter?  Why were teams running so well late in the season?  How do we improve the free safety play?  And so on.  We need to evaluate and adjust, but both the offense and defense had its inconsistency and bad coaching.  

 
The cover 3 is weak against quick passing because the CB's can't press the LOS with over the top safety help on both sides. You have to be physical with the WR's and disrupt their timing routes. I think teams were running so well because of scheme breakdowns and the lack of A. Smith. We improve free safety play by getting new ones.

I mostly agree with you Finny. This season exceeded expectations and it is something to build on. Last nights outcome was not a surprise to any who have been watching the team all season. Heartbreaking yes, surprise no.

The one thing that I beg to differ on, is the OC thing. I really can't see the one who shall remain nameless improving on this season. I'm sure he won't get fired, but he has made a ton of calls that didn't need hindsight to be labeled piss poor. The OL is not going to be magically fixed in time for next season, and chances are that JV OC will once again have to take into account poor OL play, BR mentality, more injuries and most of the same shit that happened this year. Will he adapt? Will he design gameplans that take into account strengths AND weaknesses? Will he inexplicably turn from things that are working to things that don't? I just don't see him changing. You can go back to that god awful 4th and goal at NE where he ran a WR sweep. Terrible. Last night almost all of the teams success came from the no huddle where BR is more in control. What happened after the crucial Farrior pick? Drive stalls in RZ due to mindless playcalling such as WR screens. The team needed 6 there, not a FG.


I guess we will find out next season if Nameless can get his shit together, but I have my doubts.

 
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« Reply #4 on: Jan 06, 2008 at 11:41 »

good point on the consistency Finny, in fact, the main reason i was against canning Arians prior to this game was because its no good for a QB to go throw 3 OC's in three years.  Ben seems to be comfortable with Arians, so maybe that's reason enough to keep him around for one more year.  

looking back on the game, and the postseason in general, as disappointing as that game was, i dont think any of us could have honestly said we thought the team would go anywhere even if they did win this game.  they are out an All-Pro RB and an All-Pro run stopper, and an already shitty O-line festered with injuries (Essex didnt play all that bad, other than the collective whiff with Najeh that resulted in the final sack).

after the emotions have calmed down for me, i am more apt to agree with the points made in this post.  consistency is more important than another change at OC, which could just as easily result in a worse coordinator than we already have.  

that being said, O-line and ST's coaches HAVE to go, as those two facets of the team played a part in each and every loss this season.
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« Reply #5 on: Jan 08, 2008 at 16:08 »

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So why is anyone here surprised by the final outcome of last night's game?
 
Surprised?  No.  Angered by it, yes.  

And, that's because I go into each game expecting them to win regardless of whether they've been playing poorly or not; especially if we're talking about the post-season.  

Some of that is because of Big Franchise and some of that is because, well, it's the playoffs, man.  Anything can happen.  

Has '05 been erased from your memory banks or somethin'?
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« Reply #6 on: Jan 08, 2008 at 17:18 »

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So why is anyone here surprised by the final outcome of last night's game?
 
Surprised?  No.  Angered by it, yes.  

And, that's because I go into each game expecting them to win regardless of whether they've been playing poorly or not; especially if we're talking about the post-season.  

Some of that is because of Big Franchise and some of that is because, well, it's the playoffs, man.  Anything can happen.  

Has '05 been erased from your memory banks or somethin'?
Well, you can expect whatever the fuck you want.  But the way this team played down the stretch, with injuries and inconsistencies, expecting us to win out through the playoffs is, well, ridiculous.  Sorry, but it is.  Do I remember '05?  Sure, and I remember us starting strong, flagging in the midseason, then finishing strong and going into the playoffs stronger.  Thanks for making my point.  Totally, TOTALLY different team, regardless of who's under center.  

Just because Ben can mircale our asses out of some sure losses doesn't mean we're playing particularly well, and frankly anyone who thinks the '07 OL is more than a shadow if the '05 OL is being willfully self-delusional.

Fine to hope for an upset of the Jags, and we were (take your pick, an Arians series, a pair of Tomlin 2-pointers, a missed block by the third string LT, or a single shitty KO coverage) away from doing just that.  But we weren't kicking the goddamned doors down like '05.  Come on.  

 
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aj_law
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« Reply #7 on: Jan 08, 2008 at 20:47 »

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Well, you can expect whatever the fuck you want.  But the way this team played down the stretch, with injuries and inconsistencies, expecting us to win out through the playoffs is, well, ridiculous.  Sorry, but it is.  Do I remember '05?  Sure, and I remember us starting strong, flagging in the midseason, then finishing strong and going into the playoffs stronger.  Thanks for making my point.  Totally, TOTALLY different team, regardless of who's under center.  

Just because Ben can mircale our asses out of some sure losses doesn't mean we're playing particularly well, and frankly anyone who thinks the '07 OL is more than a shadow if the '05 OL is being willfully self-delusional.

Fine to hope for an upset of the Jags, and we were (take your pick, an Arians series, a pair of Tomlin 2-pointers, a missed block by the third string LT, or a single shitty KO coverage) away from doing just that.  But we weren't kicking the goddamned doors down like '05.  Come on.

 Hold the fucking phone...

Who said anything about this team being like the '05 team?  

The '05 reference was merely to illustrate that this team could look like fucking garbage one week or a stretch of weeks and then go on a sick run.  It's been done.  And, I think it's pretty safe to say that nobody saw that run coming.  Nobody.

I also don't seem to recall anybody foreshadowing this team blowing any fucking doors down when they lost 3 or 4 or whatever the hell it was in a row going into that December either.  In fact, there was an awful lot of the opposite on this board.  Most didn't even think they would make the playoffs, yourself included.

Hindsight's nifty, aint' it?

So yeah, excuse the motherfuck out of me if I was expecting (hoping for?) a win against a very beatable, one dimensional team with a QB making his first playoff start.

What the fuck was I thinking?  

Apparently, Pittsburgh shouldn't have even bothered to show up to play in the first place.
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« Reply #8 on: Jan 08, 2008 at 21:37 »

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In fact, there was an awful lot of the opposite on this board.  Most didn't even think they would make the playoffs, yourself included.

 That was a funny thread.

bamf, I'm sorry.  You can call me a whining bitch any day.  
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« Reply #9 on: Jan 08, 2008 at 23:29 »

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Apparently, Pittsburgh shouldn't have even bothered to show up to play in the first place.
Brother, they showed up best they could.  And we now know the outcome:  Maximum Grilled Suckage.

We have the draft and next season.  That's what we have.  That's all we have.

Go forth my man.  Forward, I say!
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aj_law
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« Reply #10 on: Jan 08, 2008 at 23:37 »

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We have the draft and next season.  That's what we have.  That's all we have.

 
You guys are fucking killing me!

The season's over?
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« Reply #11 on: Jan 08, 2008 at 23:59 »

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We have the draft and next season.  That's what we have.  That's all we have.

 
You guys are fucking killing me!

The season's over?
Well, if you're a fan of Beardy and the Belichump Buttpirates it ain't over.  There are four games next week but for us Stiller fans, it's ..... over.

<tangent>

BTW, did anyone catch the new "American Gladiators" the other night?  It fucking rocked.  We used to get high and watch that back in the day.  My friends and I would get drunk and/or smoke some herb and play guitars and we always had a running chess tourny.  We'd watch shit on TV like the Gladiators and ST:TNG.  Toss in a little Dr. Who, if you will.  BTW, the new Dr. Who absolutely owns up to the originals, good stuff.  Yeah, we were slim on the babes.  Ya duz what ya hasta duz 'til ya can do better.

Guess that could have been a new thread in another forum or some such.

</tangent>

But really, I don't think the season is over until training camp starts.  Or is it when the draft starts?  It might be when the draft is over and training camp hasn't yet started but is expected to end.  Hell.   When does the MF'er end?
 
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« Reply #12 on: Jan 09, 2008 at 05:19 »

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But really, I don't think the season is over until training camp starts.  Or is it when the draft starts?  It might be when the draft is over and training camp hasn't yet started but is expected to end.  Hell.   When does the MF'er end?
I consider it to end/start at the strike of the clock, when the draft begins.

Unless we make major news signing a big-name Free Agent. Like Ellen Faneca or something. Then the new season starts at that point.  
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« Reply #13 on: Jan 09, 2008 at 09:26 »

Ajlawgic equates going into December with coming out of December.  As in, going into December 2005, we had some questions that the final month resolved.  Coming out of December 2007, we had myriad questions that were unlikely to be miraculously turned around in a playoff game situation.  I appreciate the abbreviated logic, which makes for more palatable board reading, but the two situations are utterly unlike.

Maybe you thought this year's model could "go on a sick run," but the time to do that is historically not when the postseason begins.  Look at how most SB winners finished the season, and you'll see that a December swoon ain't usually the path.  The '05 Steelers did in fact follow the model by finishing strong.  And I'll stand by my assertion of that '05 thread that, at that time, we had not shown the pattern of building a season from the early wins; we were just coming out that mid-season slump.  Hindsight is nifty, law, because no one here foresaw the run we were about to go on.  But the fact that we had just come off three losses (13-16 at Balty OT, 7-26 MNF @ Indy, and 31-38 to Cinci) would not typically lead to rampant optimism.  

But of course we went on to win 4 straight in December, and then ride through the playoffs.  Now, the '07 Steelers lost 3 of 4 and 4 of 6, so the idea of a clean slate is willfully ignorant of playoff trends.  Going on a "sick run" is also less likely when Ward is hurt (knee surgery this week), Holmes is hurt (IMO, was still slow vs. Jax), when you've lost your LT and his backup, when your 1300 yard rusher is gone for the season, when your Pro Bowl RDE is gone for the season and his backups are shit, when you can't stop the run versus the team you're going to face in the playoffs, when you can't stop the run versus Musa fuckign Smith and Cory fucking Ross, when you have your starting FS out and his backup is benched after being demoralized and his backup is slow as mud, when your Pro Bowl SS linchpin is playing hurt (shoulder), when your special teams are possibly the worst in memory (and that's saying a lot)... I mean, sure, maybe if the Falcons were allowed a spot in the playoffs they could go on a sick fucking run too, but chances are that ain't fucking happening.

And I realize the sniffy "apparently, Pittsburgh shouldn't have even bothered to show up to play in the first place" is for effect, but I thought that despite the inconsistencies (in all your Arians rants, did you ever mention that Ben had a Steelers postseason record-tying worst THREE INTs?) we still had our shot, and delivered a helluva thrilling game.

Incidentally, I never said Arians called a good game or had a good season.  IMO, he was part and parcel of the overall inconsistency... But then again, even LeBeau called some bad games down the stretch.  I don't think that it's so very unreasonable to say that in a year where injuries played a major role down the stretch, where glaring deficiencies were obvious on the OL, where players didn't execute well all year, and with a new HC and OC, that maybe a little patience is called for, to allow things to set up a bit.  I don't think it's unreasonable to say that Arians should be critiqued but not fired, and that we should expect continuous improvement, and for the team as a whole to be more consistent.  

All things being cyclical, I think we had an obvious down year last year, showed some improvement this year, and will be better still next year.  It's easy and reactionary to say Arians should be canned after one year, but the net effect would be more disruptive than productive.  Maybe it's a simple thing, to bring in a new HC, to revamp the playbook, install some new stuff offensively, give the QB more responsibility in calling assignments, and for the OC to be the overseer of a new WRs coach and OL coach and QB coach.  I don't see it that way, and am willing to cut just a wee bit of slack, but I guess I am in the very small minority.  

And frankly, I've spent much more time on this topic than I ever thought I would, and I'm done with it now.  So if you gots more to say, power to ya, bro.  I'm moving on to watch the Patriots (hopefully) lose, and see how we do in the draft.
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