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Author Topic: Divisional Round: Sat, Jan 15 @ 4:30 ET feat. BAL @ PIT  (Read 6672 times)
jonzr
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« Reply #10 on: Jan 04, 2011 at 12:23 »

Yeah, what Manimal said.
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« Reply #11 on: Jan 04, 2011 at 13:25 »

I should say that I'd like to see us keep him on the bench in the 2H.  It's almost incumbent upon us to get a big, quick-strike lead to be able to do that though.  The problem is, as Manimal states, that we are not particularly effective at asserting the run, or any consistent move-the-chains offense.  Sometimes it would be nice to conjure that three yards and a cloud of dust offense with ol' 36 taking the handoff.  The issue with the running game is twofold, IMO.

First, BA has an odd predilection for running the ball up the gut, without varying the playcall much.  Consequently, Football Outsiders reports that 23% of our running plays are stuffed (tackle at or behind the LOS), which ranks 27th in the league.  A quick gut check would affirm that.  FO also lists the % of runs directionally for each team (Left End, Left Tackle, Mid/Guard, Right Tackle, Right End), and not surprisingly, the Steelers are 5th in the league for going up the gut, 61% of the time.  (NFL average is an even 50%.)  That means, for the 419 run plays by RB that FO tracked, we went up the gut 251 times, where the average OC would have called that 210 times -- 41 times more than average. 

The confounding part is that Mendenhall can rip off big chunks when the play bounces outside.  Our total number of runs of Left End and Right End combined was 8%, compared to 21% for most teams.  That's a rather large discrepancy.  Of 419 running plays tracked, that comes to only 34 bounced outside, compared to 88 plays if you take 21% of 419, or 54 fewer going that way.  The real kicker is that our effectiveness for each of those directions was 18th for Mid/Guard, 7th for Left End, and 5th for Right End.  We're ignoring our strengths.

The second problem with the running game is clearly personnel.  Pouncey is doing a great job with his run blocking assignments, and Flozell can flat out clear a lane.  Kemo and Foster are slow and inconsistent, although they have great strength.  Jon Scott is not dominant in any phase.  This past weekend I saw Mike Pouncey snapping for the Gators, and getting all the way to the sideline for run-blocking, effortlessly; the next day I saw Maurkice do the same thing.  Imagine if we drafted Mike P. to line up alongside his brother, or had any pulling guards with foot speed. 

Some causes for hope on offense:

*Of late, BA has seemed to find the wisdom of trying out quick-hitters to the WRs: slant and gos to Wallace, Sanders, and Brown.  Right play call, right personnel.  Take advantage of speed.  Maybe it just took a while for the young guys to execute, maybe BA was saving it, maybe he just woke up.
*The rediscovery of Miller.  FFS, if you want to move the chains with consistency, throw the ball to Miller.
*Pitching the ball outside on running plays.  OK, he hasn't done this much, but he at least dipped his toe in the water.  If we ran outside more, teams might die of shock.
*Fewer cutesy reverses and end-arounds.
*Fewer screens to old receivers.
*More passes to Mendenhall.  They worked beautifully against the practice team (Browns), and showed what 34 can do isolated outside.
*The Ben pass to Redman, FTW in the Ravens game.  OK, that was all Ben, but BA cannot fail to notice that the Big Bull in the middle can catch and, given a few yards to get some steam, roll over LBs.
*The 17 go route still works.  Even when teams anticipate, if 7 and 17 cue it up right, there's no stopping this guy.  Mike Wallace has 60 receptions for 1257 yards and 10 TDs.  Santonio Holmes's most productive season (2009) saw him catch 79 for 1248 and 5 TDs. 
*The OL has not had the chance to play as a cohesive bunch for a stretch of time.  Until now.  This current configuration is beginning to learn how to play together -- personnel weaknesses aside, it does take time to cohere.

Generally, I think the offense has moved in the right direction over the course of the season; time to put it all together.  Some of this is BA trusting the young receivers, and them earning that trust.

If we can mix it up, and keep that big-play offense mentality, but also sprinkle in an effective short passing game and a less predictable running game, then I think we can stake more TOP, especially late.

It was kinda sweet to see BA going for kill shots against the Browns when it was clear they were dead, grilled, and on the cutting board.  If we get up on the Pats via turnovers and some early offensive plays, then appear to go to the old running game but mix it up, they won't know what the fuck to defend.  The big pass will work, the run will work.  Time for this offense to take the training wheels off.
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« Reply #12 on: Jan 06, 2011 at 20:49 »

This is supposed to be the divisional round thread, not the AFCC, right? 

But since we have no clue who our opponent is, I guess it's OK to look ahead.

Offensively, i think the main thing is simply to make sure we get quality possessions.  Doesn't matter if it's in chunks or grind it out.  We won't score every time, but we have to move the ball.  No 3 and outs, no turnovers.  Keep them on the long field.

Defensively, I can't stand watching the death of a thousand cuts approach.  I get the "bend but don't break" theory, but with Brady if you bend, you break.  I simply would not allow him to sit in the pocket and throw 5-10 yard passes over and over.  No pressure=no chance.  I would bring pressure up the middle - Brady's not running anywhere, so contain isn't as big a deal - get hands in his face and hits.  Get him to start whining about contact and late hits.  Then, clamp down on the short routes with tight coverage.  If they can consistently get the protection right so Brady has time to go over the top, then hats off to them.  But it's better than watching 10-12 play drives repeatedly.
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Manimal
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« Reply #13 on: Jan 07, 2011 at 06:14 »

So who are people rooting for in the wildcard round?

I'm assuming that Kansas City is going to get blown out by Baltimore. Which means that I'm rooting for the Colts. Would rather play them than the Jets, I think. Am I crazy? Manning is obviously way better than Sanchez, but the Colts are a one-dimensional team and I think we could cope with them better than with the Jets.

Then again, a Freeney-vs.-Scott matchup is scary to consider.
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« Reply #14 on: Jan 07, 2011 at 06:19 »

Quote
I'm assuming that Kansas City is going to get blown out by Baltimore. Which means that I'm rooting for the Colts. Would rather play them than the Jets, I think. Am I crazy?

We can't play the Jets in the divisional round.
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jonzr
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« Reply #15 on: Jan 07, 2011 at 08:13 »

Brady's not running anywhere, so contain isn't as big a deal - get hands in his face and hits.  Get him to start whining about contact and late hits. 


Oh, it won't be necessary for Beardy to whine.  First time 92 breathes near him, the yellow flags will fly.  I can't imagine the fallout if 92 is able to fight through the holds to make a sack.  Instant ejection?

So who are people rooting for in the wildcard round?


Otis is correct, no jests.  But I agree, give 'em the Colts over the Ravens.  We've seen the Ravens thang enough recently.
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« Reply #16 on: Jan 07, 2011 at 11:00 »

This is supposed to be the divisional round thread, not the AFCC, right? 

But since we have no clue who our opponent is, I guess it's OK to look ahead.

True enough.  Not to take any playoff team lightly, I think the Steelers can handle any of the 3 possibilities from the 4 AFC WC permutations.

Jets-Ravens win, #6 Jets @ #1 Patriots and #5 Ravens @ #2 Steelers.
Jets-Chiefs win, #6 Jets @ #1 Patriots and #4 Chiefs @ #2 Steelers.
Colts-Ravens win #5 Ravens @ #1 Patriots and #3 Colts @ #2 Steelers.
Colts-Chiefs #4 Chiefs @ #1 Patriots and #3 Colts @ #2 Steelers.

Ravens seem to be trending the wrong way of late.  A slobberknocker, but not one we win by 3, not this time.
Chiefs seem to have little chance, but off the upset they'd be the sacrificial lamb.
Colts are not the Colts of yore, and we've dealt with the Colts of yore effectively enough.  Damaged group.

Of those scenarios, the first and third seem most likely.  And of those, the third scenario seems most possible to see the Pats downed before we meet them.  Ravens, though sputtering offensively, do seem to throw the Pats a speed trap consistently.  But I still think that the most likely AFCC regardless of the WC weekend is your chalk match, Steelers-Pats.

Now the NFC is a whole other can of tomatoes.  Much more variability there.
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Manimal
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« Reply #17 on: Jan 07, 2011 at 15:33 »

I'm definitely worried about the Divisional Round. Hate to say it, but an upset loss at home would not surprise me.

The trend on this team isn't great, either, I think. On the one hand, we've just walloped the Browns and Panthers, and that's certainly good. On the other hand, we've lost to every good team we've played since the Tampa Bay game, with the exception of the win against Baltimore, which we came damn close to losing. The blowout win of a so-so Raiders team is probably our most impressive win since TB.

We should have lost to Buffalo. Our performances against the lowly Bengals were not that great. Even against Carolina and Cleveland, our running game was a picture of inconsistency, though we could pass it very effectively.

All of this makes us like every team in the playoffs except for New England. We've been inconsistent, we've played crappy football against some mediocre teams, we've relied on some timely turnovers in some of our key wins.

My prediction is that we will get to New England for the AFCC, but I don't share the confidence expressed about this team. Would love for them to prove me wrong, though.
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pensodyssey
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« Reply #18 on: Jan 09, 2011 at 15:30 »

Ravoons it is.

Not scared.  From what I saw today KC was doing some things until Haley decided to turn a fourth and inches into a fourth and 7 by running a toss sweep.  All downhill from there for KC, with not a little help from the zebras.

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Manimal
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« Reply #19 on: Jan 09, 2011 at 16:29 »

I imagine we have a slight advantage playing on Saturday, for this and the next game (if it happens).

Baltimore has a short week of rest to get ready for us, and, if we win, we'd have an extra day of rest against New England or (ha!) the Jets.
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