Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Baltimore v. Steelers: The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly

The season that began with a bang -- the bang of celebratory fireworks on the opening night of the 2006 season -- for all intents and purposes ended Sunday with a resounding thud as Baltimore dominated the Steelers for the second time in a month.
Here's some of what went right (there was very litle of that) and what went wrong.

The Good
How poorly did the Steelers play this past Sunday?, Well one of the few positives for the team was the performance of punter Chris Gadocki. Coming into the game Mr. Gardocki had a net average of 36.4 yards per kick, 20th in the NFL. In Sunday's game he managed to kick for a net average of 40.6 yards on seven punts. More than a couple of those were not necessarily asthetically pleasing, but the results were an improvement over what had been done throughout most of the season.

The other positive was the ability of the defense to take the ball away from the Ravens' offense. Granted two of the turnovers ocurred in the Steelers' end of the field, but the defense managed to show flashes of the excellent play that was the hallmark of the defense during the 2005 season. Unfortunately the defense was unable to maintain a high level of performance. That fact, combined with the lackluster play of the Steelers' offense, sealed their fate.

The Bad
As unpleasen as it is to say, Troy Polamalu was pretty bad on Sunday. Beaten for two touchdowns on the day, he alsom failed to be much of a playmaker for the defensive unit -- which brings up another, more important point.

Even worse was the coaching of Ken Whisenhunt. Certainly much of the blame must be laid at the feet of the offensive players, and given to the Ravens defense, but would trying an up-tempo offense have been such a terrible idea? Clearly executing the game plan was a major problem on Sunday (Willie Parker rushed for 29 yards -- four fewer than Ben Roethlisberger -- and Ben Roethlisberger's 47.2 QB rating was disgraceful), and there just seemed to be no response. Perhaps the Steelers' braintrust saw that their team was overmatched and simply didn't want to compund the problems they were already facing. However, short of that the lack of reaction by the offensive coaches was just as disappointing as the performance of the offensive players.

The Ugly
The offensive players are, no doubt, still hanging their heads in shame.

The Steelers offense was 2-for-14 on third down conversions (14%). The Steelers amassed a total of 251 yards (108 yards fewer than Baltimore despite having run one more offensive play) on 65 plays for a pathetic per play average of 3.86 yards per play.

Ben Roethlisberger, whose performance has already been touched upon, was downright offensive (in all the wrong ways) in the fourth quarter (5/9, 53 yards, 0 touchdowns, 2 INTs, 33.3 QB rating).

The offensive line was dominated by Baltimore's front seven, giving up five sacks to go along with the horrifyingly low rushing totals.

In postgame comments Mr. Roethlisberger said "at least you know it will be awfully hard for next year to be any worse. We're going to get better." While the optimism is surely appreciated, this season is the second consecutive season in which Mr. Roethlisberger's performance has worsened relative to the prior season -- i.e. he is getting worse, not better (look for more about this in a posting later this week).

The losing streak earlier this season made this moment -- the elimination of the Steelers from playoff contention -- inevitable. It is to the team's credit that they fought to remain a factor in the playoff battle, but their inability to genuinely compete against their old rivals is indicative of just how far the defending -- and soon to be former -- Super Bowl champions have fallen.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home