Awful Football Team is Awful

The offense is bad. The defense is worse. Special teams are anything but special. Perhaps they are “special”. The 2013 Pittsburgh Steelers are an awful football team.

Anyone holding out for a run to .500 can put those dreams to rest. Hopes that the collapse of 2012 wasn’t indicative of things to come have been thoroughly dashed. This team is bad.

Is it due to a serious of poor drafts, one right after the other? Partly. But it’s also due to unimaginitive coaching. It’s the same stuff. Even with a different coordinator, the offense is predictable, just in a different way than before. The defense is long in the tooth. Key players are slow. There is no hope for this season or even the next few. Getting better won’t happen overnight and will require consistently solid drafts. Ben Roethlisberger’s final few years will likely be wasted while the Steelers rebuild.

I hope Kevin Colbert and the scouts are up to the task.

Here’s to a great draft pick in 2014: Let’s lose ‘em all, boys!

Mediocrity

So glad I didn’t spend this season blogging about this mediocre and uninspiring team. Play for the picks, guys! Draft smarter players, please. Brainless talent is useless as evidenced by the 2012 Steelers.

Sigh.

Steelers @ Broncos, 09/09/2012

Breathe in, breathe out, repeat. It will be okay. It was only Game One. It was a Road Game. Silverback was out, Ryan Clark was out, Rashard Mendenhall was out. Ben Roethlisberger had the ball in hand and a chance to drive for the win. True, it was not pretty but it could have been so much worse. These things we will repeat daily until the next game, and we will feel better.

The receivers were waiting and twisting back for Roethlisberger’s passes all night. And passes that hit them in the hands were fought off by either Tracy Porter or gremlins. Yes, it could have been worse. Tack on a couple more pick sixes and this is downright fugly.

The running game never got on track but Dwyer, despite looking sluggish and like a person who should never take it outside, put up nice statistics. Redman had the bulk of the carries but managed a sorry 1.8 yards per.

Reminiscent of last season, the offense settled for field goals when touchdowns were needed. However, despite the ultimate result, the offense had some nice moments. There were clutch 3rd down conversions to Heath Miller. Roethlisberger targeted various personnel, his release quick facing the rush.

On the other hand, it seemed the defense failed to adjust after Manning found his groove. Even allowing for missing players the generally solid Steelers defense appears mediocre.

Once again, Coach Tomlin attempted an ill-advised two-point conversion (failed). This time with the lead and a full quarter remaining.

It was only a non-division opponent on the road. So breathe in, breathe out. It was the first game.

Denver 31, Steelers 19

Down and Out in Denver

Tebow'd (from CBSSports.com)

Tebow'd (from CBSSports.com)


The Steelers got Tebow’d. Sadly, I have little more than that.

How about some thoughts now that the off season has begun?

First, Mike Tomlin needs to make some changes.  Learn more about situational coaching.  I’m not saying he should be strictly reactionary but some display of cognizance of the game at hand would be welcome.

And he should fire Bruce Arians immediately.

Reign in Ben Roethlisberger.  There has to be a happy medium between whipped and gunslinger.

Prepare the team for their opponent.  Continue adjusting (see first point above).

Enough with the platitudes.

This was the worse Steelers defense of the last decade.

Isaac Redman is a keeper.  So is Rashard Mendenhall if the price is right.

Get a new offensive coordinator.

The offensive line needs work.  Kemo has no future on the Steelers line.

Pouncey was a great pick as evidenced by his absense.  Here’s to hoping he can stay healthy.

The future of the defensive line looks bright, but the nose tackle position needs to be addressed asap.

The secondary is still a shambles.

Ike Taylor may play hard but he’s over-rated.

Ben is darn near useless if he can’t move but refuses to throw away the ball.

Bruce Arians must go.

The season was a disappointment.

And while it may often be true that you are what your record says you are, the Steelers were no 12-4 team by any measure other than their record.

And sometimes statistics don’t tell the whole story.  Their #1 Defense was not the best in the NFL.

It can’t be said often enough, fire the guy calling the offensive plays.

It’s four long months until the draft.

Bengals are 6-3 and So are the Ravens

It was a  Pittsburgh Steeler day in the AFC North.  The Steelers traveled to Cincinnati and beat a winning team while the Ravens found a way to lose to a terrible Seahawks team in Seattle.  Toss in another Cleveland loss for good measure.

In one day the Steelers rose from third in their division to a share of the AFC lead.  It has been a strange season so far.

The Steelers jumped out to an early 14-0 lead but anyone paying attention this season knew what was coming.  On their next possession the Bengals drove 79 yards for a touchdown.  Three plays later Ben Roethlisberger’s 3rd down pass to Heath Miller was bobbled, tipped in the air and intercepted.  The Bengals converted that turnover into a field goal which the Steelers matched to take a 17-10 halftime lead.

Unfortunately, the lead was short-lived.  After a quick Steelers 3-and-out to start the 2nd half, the Bengals drove 67 yards for a game-tying touchdown.  However, on the next possession the Steelers drove 81 yards for what would be the game-winning score to take a 24-17 lead.

I’ve been trying to figure out the Steelers all season.  Are they the team that was blown out by the Ravens in week one or the unit which just won in Cincinnati today?  This was a quality win for the baffling Steelers and without a doubt we’re due more perplexing play before the North is settled.

The Bengals are 6-2

Yes, you heard me.  They’re 6-2 and looking every bit like a playoff-caliber team.  Could they win the division?  They control their own destiny with four games remaining against rivals Pittsburgh and Baltimore.

Andy “The Ginger QB” Dalton looks like a worthy second round pick this last draft.  As does his favorite target, A.J. Green, their first round pick in ’10.  Green is pulling down 5 receptions per game for an average of 15 yards.  Dalton’s efficiency belies his inexperience  with 12 TDs to only 7 INTs.  His top four targets are wide receivers and the talented tight end, Jermaine Gresham.  These four are pulling down 75% of Dalton’s completions so we’re not talking about dump offs to the running back.

They’re also pounding it on the ground with Cedric Benson running at a 1200 yard pace.

Their defense has been stingy and at 17.5 points allowed, they’re a half point better than the Steelers.

I had no idea.  How did this happen?

The Steelers travel to Cincinnati for week 10.  They better bring their “A” game if they want to get back home in possession of a Wild Card slot.  Yes, it’s time to consider that perhaps they’ll be subletting the Division Title this year.  And it might be to these Cincinnati Bengals.

Still, hope springs eternal and the Steelers were a few muffed plays and bad decisions from victory last week.  I believe they can get it done for the first time this season against a winning team on the road.

Give me the Steelers, 20-19.

 

Loss to Ravens Disheartening

When they fell behind 16-6 late in the 3rd quarter, I held little hope for a Steeler victory.  The offense looked inept and the defense could not get off the field on 3rd down, no matter how great the distance.

But then the Steelers offense started running with no huddle.  Ben Roethlisberger called the plays and made adjustments at the line.  They moved the ball.  Two touchdowns and some stingy defense later the Steelers had a 20-16 lead with 4:59 to play.  Judging by their harassment of Joe Flacco in the 4th quarter, it looked like a done deal, the Steelers would pull it out and lead the division.

Not so fast though.  After a quick 3-and-out by Baltimore and a Steelers’ punt following a strange sequence at the end of a 6-play drive, the Ravens got the ball back with 2:24 to play and 92 yards to cover.

They covered it with 8 seconds to spare and won the game 23-20 to sweep the season series from Pittsburgh.

Thus the Steelers began their last eight games as they started their season – losing to the hated Ravens.

Keep your fingers crossed, Steelers fans.  There’s still hope for redemption and revenge in the playoffs.

 

Steelers Finally Solve the Patriots

Tom Brady was 6-1 when he visited Pittsburgh. He and the rest of the NFL-aware world likely figured he’d be 7-1 when the Patriots headed back home. But they forgot about Halloween in Pittsburgh. As in 2004, the Steelers jumped on the Patriots early. Unlike the previous game, the Patriots made it interesting in the end, despite being outplayed in all phases of the game.

The Steelers dominated the statistics, running nearly twice as many plays, doubling the Patriots yardage total and time of possession.  Yet, at the end, the Patriots were a lucky play or two away from winning the game.

Bruce Arians prepared an excellent game plan that called for short and medium passes and plenty of them.  There were 5 yarders to receivers near the middle or sides of the field, medium ones to the flats, and slightly deeper ones to tight ends running up the middle.  For once, Heath Miller was a favored target!  Ben and the offense executed it to near perfection, save for the atrocious interception that gave life to the stunned Patriots.  The offensive line seemed to gel, they blocked well throughout the day and handled the Patriots’ massive defensive tackles Albert Haynesworth and Vince Wilfork.

On the defensive side Dick LeBeau devised a brilliant scheme to stop Tom Brady and his merry band of tight ends and midget receivers.  After years of  zone coverage and blitzes that never seemed to get there, a failing game plan to be sure, LeBeau relied on pressure from the front five while the defensive backs jammed at the line and played man coverage.  Surprisingly, Ike Taylor covered Wes Welker for much of the day.  Rather than risk the mismatch of a linebacker on Rob Gronkowski the Steelers slowed him with defensive backs.  Troy Polamalu turned in a great performance, punctuated by batting a fumbled ball out of the end zone on the Steelers’ final defensive play.

Let’s hope this season turns out better than 2004, Ben’s rookie year.  For while the Steelers beat the Patriots that October day and finished with a 15-1 regular season record, they lost the rematch in the playoffs.  The Patriots went on to win the third Super Bowl of the Brady era.

Next week is Raven’s Week.  Hell, it’s already Monday.  It’s Raven’s Week now!  Hope the boys aren’t enjoying the victory too much, Tomlin should make sure of that.  Have to be ready for the slug fest, the rematch, the grudge match, the Ravens.

Is There Such a Thing as a Bad Victory?

No, they’re all good. But Pittsburgh continued to baffle as they hung on for dear life to defeat a terrible Jaguars team at Heinz field.

The Steelers held a 17-3 lead at half time but the score did not indicate their dominance of the over-matched Jacksonville Jaguars. The balanced offensive attack gained over 300 yards while the defense stuffed the Jaguars over and over, yielding less than 70.

But the teams must have switched uniforms before the 3rd quarter because this was a game of two halves. The Steelers offense put on a display of ineptitude while the defense couldn’t get out of its own way. After a quick Steelers 3-and-out the Jacksonvilles spent 10 minutes on an 80 yard touchdown drive aided by a roughing-the-punter penalty and a 4th and 2 conversion. To answer, the Steelers punted 5 times and gained exactly 50 second-half yards.

Thankfully, the clock ran out, preserving a 17-13 victory.

Next up, a road game at Steelers West.

Overreact Much, Mr. Fan?

Yes. Yes I do. But not this week. The Steelers put a thumping on Tennessee, they of the Titanic whipping of the Ravens a mere three weeks ago. Those same Ravens who kicked the Steelers down the field, dragged them back up it and kicked them down it again, for 60 straight minutes on opening day.

It’s been a season like that so far and the Steelers have gone from bad to not-so-bad to great to suck and now to mediocre-at-best-until-they-prove-otherwise-by-beating-the-Patriots.

Yes, that’s where the Pittsburgh Steelers are right now.

Granted, the re installment of Max Starks on Big Ben’s blind side along with a quick-release passing attack (whether by Arians’ design or Roethlisberger’s sense of self preservation) seems to have fixed the offense. Add Redman’s no-nonsense running style along with Ben’s willingness to check down to said back and one senses an emergence. But the Titan’s defense is not the Ravens’ defense.

This week the Pittsburgh defense seemed to awaken from a season-long coma. They stuffed the run, keeping Chris Johnson dormant for another week, and covered receivers well enough. Most importantly, they pressured the quarterback. It’s something to build on in the coming weeks.

If a season is about peaking at the right time, the Steelers are in no danger of peaking too soon, they’re the football version of whiskey dick. Perhaps they’ll continue to slowly build through the end of the year, improving week by week until it’s time to explode into the playoffs for another title run.

I bet that’s the plan anyways. So, the Pittsburgh Steelers are a middling team and that’s just fine for now.