Monday, November 03, 2008

Steelers @ Washington: The Good,
the Bad, & the Ugly ~ the LIVE Edition

Because of some scheduling issues ~ not the least of which is a 7:00AM flight later this week into Pittsburgh (that's right, Pittsburgh Steelers Fanatic is coming home for the big matchup between the Steelers v. Colts!), we will be offering up contemporaneous insights of the game. For the purposes of clarity we will post those insights at the conclusion of each quarter, so feel free to check back early and often!

The First Quarter
What a beginning!

The onside kick revealed what the Steelers' coaches must certainly be thinking ~ that Pittsburgh's defense can handle the Redskins' offense. The performance of the defense in that opening possession seemed to vindicate that belief; but three points is three points.

Offensively the Steelers look inept. The offensive line appears completely overmatched ~ Washington is deploying a maximum pressure approach a la Philadelphia and Baltimore ~ despite the quick-hitting pass plays being called by Bruce Arians. To that point, Santonio Holmes looks very ragged after his one week suspension; and frankly none of the receivers has looked very good ~ is Hines Ward even playing? Finally, Willie Parker has had a bit of success, mostly inside the tackles, picking up 29 yards on six carries.

Defensively Pittsburgh had a tremendous quarter. The secondary was more than up to the challenge of covering the Washington wideouts, and except for one carry Clinton Portis has been contained (6 carries, 28 yards ~ his long was a 22-yard carry; so the other five carries have netted six yards).

Special teams have been adequate, even with the unsuccessful onside kick. The new long snapper, Jared Retkofsky has done his job well but Mitch Berger's left leg continues to bother him. Also, the use of Mewelde Moore on kickoff returns seems a good idea, the the per return average is only 18 yards.

The Second Quarter
A tale of two quarters if ever there was one.

Offensively, the Steelers continued to struggle, but their 62-yard drive for a field goal was huge, even only to demonstrate that they couldpass protect a bit, and get down field. In fact, that drive netted more yards than the other seven offensive possessions combined (61 yards v. 62 yards). However Max Starks is killing the Steelers ~ i.e. he's getting beaten like a drum on passing plays, and then was called for a hold deep in Redskins territory.

Defensively . . . this defense is playing amazingly well; and are being led by James Farrior who, frankly, did not play particularly well last week. But tonight, through two quarters, he has five tackles, three assists, a sack, and a blocked pass.

Finally, when a team's offense is not playing well that team needs special teams to step up. Santonio Holmes' struggles seemingly are extending to punt returns, but there are no words to describe how big Andre Frazier's blocked punt was.

Halftime stats snapshot:

Pittsburgh Net Rushing: 46
Washington Net Rushing: 40

Pittsburgh Net Passing: 44
Washington Net Passing: 31

Pittsburgh Net Punting: 33.4
Washington Net Punting: 28.8

Pittsburgh Time of Possession: 14:03
Washington Time of Poseesion: 15:25

The Third Quarter
The injury bug is now an epidemic.

With Ben Roethlisberger out, Byron Leftwich did more than we ever believed he was capable of (we admit it, Mr. Leftwich was singled out for a fair amount of criticism during the preseason). The opening drive of the second half ~ 8 plays, 72 yards ~ was such a breath of fresh air; and despite a -5 net yards on the second possession Mr. Leftwich delivered iin key situations, converting two consecutive third downs to maintain possession.

The defense continued to dominate ~ the interception snuffed out the best Redskin drive of the night.

Special teams was the weak link ~ Jeff Reed had his first missed extra point of the season.

The Fourth Quarter
Last season, at least for most of it, some Steelers fans criticized Mike Tomlin for not showing enough emotion.

Based on Monday night's performance we say that criticism has been laid to rest.

We do not often get into discussions about the officiating, but the roughing the passer call against James Farrior, on fourth down, was utter horse****, and was followed up shortly thereafter by a ridiculous touchdown call. Weak.

Despite all that the Steelers' defense showed how an elite unit plays, with James Farrior showing the way with his diving deflection of what would have been a touchdown pass, and Lawrence Timmons delivered an exclamation point, sacking Jason Campbell on fourth down.

The pressure up front meant that the Steelers' secondary played better than at nearly any time we can remember since the AFC Divisional game in 2005 versus Indianapolis. To underscore this point, the wideouts for the Redskins accumulated 55 yards on 9 catches ~ combined.

Finally, not to be a downer, but we feel compelled to point out that the Steelers offense had two net yards in the final quarter.

We'll have a bit more tomorrow, but for tonight we're going to celebrate a great win.

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