Monday, December 22, 2008

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

We have always tried be "half glass full" kinds of observers, but sometimes the Steelers make it very difficult. But in an effort to stay positive we offer up this tidbit: four turnovers and a missed field goal, and Pittsburgh only lost by 10? Good job guys!

However, as we do each time the Steelers lose, we also want to give credit to Tennessee. Accepting the largesse of Ben Roethlisberger (i.e. his turnovers) is one thing, doing something with that generosity is quite another. The Titans used the turnovers to put 21 points on the board, and that is the hallmark of a good team.

A couple of other notes before getting into the meat of things: The Steelers lost their first game of the season in which their opponent scored first, and the Steelers' defense surrendered more than 300 yards of total offense (323 to be exact) for the first time in their last fourteen games.

But those things will seem minor once we have finished with our rant.

The Good
  1. The best player in a Steelers uniform on Sunday was Mitch Berger. Yes, that is how bad Sunday's performance was. But we do not want to take anything away from Mr. Berger ~ he had a 44.0 yard gross average on five kicks, a net average of 39.4 yards (by way of comparison, his counterpart on Tennessee ~ Craig Hentrich ~ could only must a net average of 33.7 yards), and his long kick on the day was 50 yards. As a result of his effectiveness, and despite the fumbles and interceptions, Tennessee, on average, began their drives from their own 29 yard line. Well done Mitch!

  2. We were not impressed by much else, but the performances by James Farrior, Ryan Clark and Ike Taylor did stand out. Those three combined for more than half of the defense's tackles (i.e. 23 of 44), and nearly half of the assists (i.e. 8 of 20). Additionally, Mr. Clark and Mr. Taylor played reasonably well in pass coverage. On what was arguably the worst day the Steelers' defense has had this season these three players were the closest thing that unit had to a bright spot.

  3. For the second consecutive game Hines Ward had a very good game ~ this week it was seven catches for 109 yards and a hard fought touchdown (last week he had eight catches for 107 yards, and no touchdowns). His fumble was recovered by Santonio Holmes, so even his lone miscue did not hurt the team. To reiterate our point from last week, in the four games leading up to the Baltimore game Mr. Ward had 18 receptions (and 11 of those were in the game against San Diego) for 200 yards. Compare that with his two most recent games: 15 catches for 216 yards. Like John Fox said ~ people remember what you do in December. So far, Hines Ward is having a December to remember.
The Bad
  1. Dick LeBeau is a defensive football genius, we believe that with every ounce of our being. However, it seems pretty obvious to us that teams have figured out how to shut down James Harrison ~ his sack on Sunday was the result of sheer determination ~ and LaMarr Woodley. Kerry Collins had ridiculous amounts of time to throw the football; and while we acknowledge the great play of Tennessee's offensive line, we also have to tell it like it is ~ Coach LeBeau got schooled by the Titans' offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger.

    Also, as if the passing of Kerry Collins was not galling enough, for the fourth consecutive game the Steelers' defense surrendered at least 95 yards rushing (on November 30th the Patriots rushed for 122 yards, on December 7th Dallas rushed for 95 yards, on December 14th the Ravens rushed for 112 yards, and Tennessee rushed for 117 yards, with 80 of those yards coming in the second half). This trend is a eerily reminiscent of last season when the Steelers were #1 in average yards allowed per game and #2 against rush. Then they played Jacksonville in week 15 only to give up 224 yards on the ground (and gave up another 135 yards of rushing against the Jaguars in their Wild Card matchup). Perhaps it was one bad game, but the trend is a concern.

  2. We do not know if the blame rests with a single player, but the inability of the Steelers to consistently generate some kind of positive yardage of punt returns is becoming something of a joke. Mr. Holmes managed to gain a grand total of two yards on two punt returns. His longest return was for six yards. The punt return unit has been a disappointment throughout the season, and Sunday was definitely no exception.
The Ugly
  1. Jeff Reed's missed 33-yard field goal was, arguably, the key to the whole game. Yes the turnovers were devastating, especially Ben Roethlisberger's first fumble, however if Mr. Reed had made his field goal attempt (and everything else had remained exactly the same) then the Steelers would have had the football, in the fourth quarter, with 2:26 play, looking for a touchdown instead of two scores. Maybe the interception return for a touchdown does not happen. Maybe. But, given the abysmal play of the Steelers on Sunday it probably would not have mattered, but it still would have been interesting to see it play out.

  2. In an interview with Jim Rome on Thursday, Ben Roethlisberger indicated that he and his teammates would be able to player "looser" by virtue of having clinched the #2 spot in the AFC with their win against Baltimore the previous Sunday. If by "looser" he meant two interceptions and four fumbles (two of which he lost) then, mission accomplished!

  3. Thank goodness Albert Haynesworth did not play on Sunday or else Ben Roethlisberger might have actually been killed. The offensive line of the Pittsburgh Steelers ~ specifically Max Starks and Chris Kemoeatu ~ was overmatched by rooking defensive tackle Jason Jones? Mr. Jones, a rookie, entered the game with 1.5 career sacks and finished the game Sunday with 5.0 sacks and three forced fumbles. Not to mention that the Steelers running backs accumulated a grand total of 57 yards rushing. With the playoffs fast-approaching, the Pittsburgh offensive line is running out of time to elevate their play; and if this is the best the can do against a depleted defensive line then it is hard to envision a playoff scenario in which the Steelers will go very far.

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