Monday, November 10, 2008

Indianapolis @ Steelers: The Good,
the Bad, & the Ugly

For us, being at the stadium to see the game usually makes it easier to absorb a loss (however unpalatable they might be). Certainly there have been exceptions (e.g. the drive home following the loss to San Diego in the 1994 AFC Championship game was interminable), but it usually helps.

And then there was Sunday's game against the Colts. Proximity to the game (rather than going to our seats in section 539 we stood on the rail in the end zone) has clouded our judgment significantly. But we will give objectivity a try and see how it all turns out.

The Good
  1. For all the frustration that Steelers fans may feel the team's defense performed capably. Peyton Manning had his third lowest net passing total of the season (228 yards), the two sacks the defense recorded is the most that any team has recorded against the Colts (a total that three other teams recorded versus Indianapolis), and the Colts had their season-low in total net yards (290). It is undeniably true that the Colts had a short-field to work on a couple times, thereby artificially limiting the Colts' yardage (i.e. the Colts had a 25-yard drive for a touchdown, and a second drive of 32-yards for a touchdown) but the defense certainly played well enough to win.

  2. Related to that is the performance of James Harrison: 8 tackles, 3 assists, 2 sacks, 3 tackles for a loss, and 2 quarterback hits. Whatever else happened in that game Mr. Harrison delivered an outstanding performance.

  3. The difference between greatness and being good is making the great plays ~ on Sunday Ike Taylor was good, not great. For most of the game he was responsible for covering the Colts' best receiver, Reggie Wayne, and though Mr. Wayne had a very good day (6 catches, 114 yards, 1 touchdown) our very subjective judgment is that Mr. Taylor was in a position to make plays (i.e. he covered well). That he did not make some of those plays is why Mr. Taylor is not considered an upper echelon cornerback.
The Bad
  1. Where do we begin?

    Not where you may have expected.

    One of the great advantages in being at the game was the opportunity to see the Pittsburgh wide receivers being physically dominated by the Colts' secondary. We acknowledge that we are no experts (and those who read regularly will second that) but there was very little separation between the Steelers' receivers and the Colts' players responsible for covering them. Watching the game from where we did (the picture above gives you a perspective) revealed to us what we have suspected for some time ~ that Ben Roethlisberger's issues are not all of his own making.

  2. We are officially beating a dead horse ~ the offensive line was terrible. The 55 yards rushing was the second lowest total gained against the Indianapolis defense this season (Green Bay gained 51 yards), and as a result the Steelers' offense became extremely one dimensional; and nothing was more galling than watching their offense struggle in vein to gain a yard at the goal line (at the end zone where we were standing). Moreover, Ben Roethlisberger was sacked twice and hit at least three other times.

    Another horrible performance.

  3. We pay special attention to special teams, and Paul Ernster's performance yesterday (despite doing well in his role on extra points and a field goal) was less than impressive. His net punting average (37.7) was the sixth worst (out of nine games) this season.
The Ugly
  1. Ben Roethlisberger's interception at the end of the first half was a poor decision that defies description or explanation. From our vantage point in the stadium there was no way that pass was going to be completed. We have not read any of Mr. Roethlisberger's post-game comments, and frankly we do not really care what he has to say ~ bad decision.

  2. Related to that first item is the fact that Bruce Arians called a passing play (an out pattern no less) with less than ninety seconds left in the half. The Steelers had the lead with time running out in the half. If the Steelers had called a running play what is the worst that would have happened? They punt (yes, the punter had not done especially well), and the Colts get the ball around the Pittsburgh 40 yard line ~ ten yards farther back than they actually did ~ with less time remaining on the clock (as it was the Colts had 1:18 left when they took possession). There is a time to be aggressive, and a time to play it smart. We are not sure Bruce Arians knows the difference.

  3. Losing is horrible, we know that. But those Steelers fans who think Ben Roethlisberger should be benched need to relax. He is mid-way through his fifth season, and we believe that he will develop into a Hall-of-Fame quarterback. However, growing pains are a part of that process and all fans of the Black & Gold (not the most patient group, we know) should keep that in mind.

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