Cincinnati v. Steelers:
The Good, the Bad, the Ugly
Normally we utilize a very standard template ~ good stuff, bad stuff, ugly stuff ~ but for this game we are turning the whole thing upside down; and would like to begin by highlighting a portion of Mike Tomlin's post game press conference:
(This may end up reading like the "All Redemption" team)
- Question: It seemed like the punting was a problem tonight . . .
Mike Tomlin: It was horrible.
Question: Will you look at that situation?
Mike Tomlin: We'll address it.
Now we would like to repeat a portion of our post game analysis from last week:
"Paul Ernster has to go.
Four kicks, a 31.0 yard average, and a net of 30.8 yards. His average is tied for lowest so far this weekend (with only the Monday evening game remaining), and his net is the second lowest (Indianapolis punter Hunter Smith had a single punt with a net of 16 yards). He has done a good job holding for field goals, but his fourth quarter, 20-yard punt from the Chargers' 38 yard line was horrific."
Thursday evening's performance makes that look spectacular:
4 kicks, 28.4 yard average, 28.4 yard net.
We checked the position list for punters at NFL.com, and there are any number of players available, including Zac Atterberry who had a good training camp with Chicago.
- Having tall receivers may be something that Ben Roethlisberger wanted, but if Limas Sweed cannot ge away from a punted football then please keep him on the bench. Obviously that play could have been disastrous, and would have been if they had been playing a team with a better offense.
- Ben Roethlisberger completed 17 of his 30 passes, and we believe that receivers dropped fourteen of those incomplete passes. For the second game in-a-row Nate Washington dropped a ball that hit him square in the hands. Santonio Holmes, after having his jersey grabbed by a defender, had the ball hit him in the chest before he dropped the pass. Hines Ward and (the usually reliable) Heath Miller each dropped at least one pass. The next five opponents have a combined record of 32-18 (a winning percentage of .640), and missed opportunities like that simply will not do.
- Why is it that the Steelers' offense will not take a knee when they should? After dodging a bullet following the Limas Sweed miscue Bruce Arians called a pass play? What good could have possibly come from that? Feel free to run out the clock, and head to the locker room next time.
- Despite a good performance we want to remind Mewelde Moore that, with time running out in the game and the Steelers in possession of the ball, it is preferable that he remains in-bounds. This is not the first time a Pittsburgh running back has done that this season (as we pointed out following the game against Cleveland), and we would like to think that running back coach Kirby Wilson is delivering the same message.
- We love the defense but Ryan Clark had what (we hope) was his worst game as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Missed tackles, poor coverage ~ he has had a Pro Bowl caliber season until now. We are sure (*fingers crossed*) he will bounce back.
(This may end up reading like the "All Redemption" team)
- We have openly questioned Troy Polamalu. His physical ailments, we argued, were talking a toll that few others were willing to acknowledge.
We stand corrected.
Whether defending the run by launching his body like a missile into running backs, or tackling receivers in the open field, or picking off another pass he is back, and a force to be reckoned with.
- A quick tip of the hat to Aaron Smith for his three deflected passes. Always one of our favorites, he continues to amaze us with his versatility
- We have been unrelenting in our criticism of the play calling of Bruce Arians, but Thursday evening he showed us how good he can be. Sure we would like to see 100% running, but 37 rushes and 30 passes is a good mix; and more importantly the Steelers seemed more willing to stay with the run when it was working (we recall only one drive in which a relatively effective running play was followed by two unsuccessful passing plays, and a punt). Despite meager first half numbers the Steelers stayed with the run, and wore down the undermanned Bengals defense. Additionally, the short passing plays worked well, which leads us to item #2.
- He has been roundly criticized, and some called for his benching, but Thursday night Ben Roethlisberger looked very good. With time to throw and receivers getting open he had a passer rating of 94.2 ~ his second highest such rating in his last five games (last Sunday's game was his highest in that stretch ~ 96.4). We especially liked the short passes to receivers in space who were then able to make big plays. We believe that that approach ~ i.e. get the ball to playmakers and turn them loose ~ is what good quarterbacks do. Making perfect, downfield passes should be the exception not the rule. Which leads us to item #3.
- Yes, we criticized the receivers, but we also recognize that when they were able to hold onto the football (his second quarter catch, a completion that went for 27 yards, in which he grabbed the back end of the football was spectacular) they made things happen.
- Last, but not least, a big shout out to the offensive line! Yes, the Bengals have a pass rush that is largely ineffectual, and yes the Cincinnati defensive line was horribly depleted, but the Steelers controlled the offensive line throughout. We were especially pleased with a play in the fourth quarter.
Facing 3-and-10, Ben Roethlisberger dropped back to throw and was immediately pressured, and hit by a Bengals' defensive lineman. Mr. Roethlisberger escaped, and as he did Darnell Stapleton was there to drive that defensive lineman to the ground. That play enabled Mr. Roethlisberger to escpae to his left, and throw a 14-yard completion to Limas Sweed.
We loved the determination and the refusal to quit on the play that Mr. Stapleton displayed. It really was indicative of how all the O-linemen performed Thursday; and gives us hope for the remainder of the season.