Friday, January 23, 2009

Let's Hope the past is not prologue

Obviously all Steelers fans recall that Pittsburgh and Arizona played one another almost 16 months ago (September 30, 2007), and those same fans recall the inglorious outcome of that game ~ a 14-21 loss in the desert.

There are a couple of basic points of football that were on display that day that should serve as a warning for the Steelers and their fans.
  1. Penalties are almost as bad as turnovers: In last season's game the Steelers were flagged for 11 penalties, by far their highest total of the 2007 season, for 72 yards, their second highest total of penalty yards last season (they had 8 penalties for 100 yards on 11/18/07). Of course some penalties are more detrimental than others, and the Steelers had some that were particularly onerous:

    • A third quarter, personal foul, taunting call against Ike Taylor at the Steelers 24 yard line gave Arizona first-and-ten at the Steelers 12 yard line. Arizona scored the tying touchdown two plays later.

    • On the ensuing possession, Kendall Simmons committed a false start thereby transforming third-and-four into third-and-nine, the Steelers failed to convert and were forced to punt (there were several of this variety).

    • In the fourth quarter, on a fourth-and-fifteen punt, Carey Davis was called for being downfield prematurely on coverage, the Steelers were forced to re-kick, and Steve Breaston returned that kick for a touchdown.

  2. Special teams have to be special: During the 2008 regular season the Steelers' coverage teams performed well, with the kick coverage unit coming in as #1 in the league. However, in the meeting between these two teams in the 2007 regular season the Cardinals abused the Steelers' coverage units.

    There was the aforementioned punt return for a touchdown, but on three other punts Mr. Breaston averaged 9.3 yards per return ~ the result was that Daniel Sepulveda ended up with a Bergeresque 34.1 yard net punting average. As if that was not enough Mr. Breaston also averaged 27.5 yards on his two kickoff returns. So far this postseason the Cardinals are averaging 4.0 yards per punt return and 21.0 yards per kick return.

  3. Penalties are almost as bad as turnovers, but not quite: In the 2007 regular season game between these two teams the Steelers led at halftime 7-0. In the third quarter, thanks in part to the previously referenced taunting call on Ike Taylor, the Cardinals scored to tie the game. On the Cardinals' next possession Kurt Warner fumbled the ball at the Cardinals' own 18 yard line, and James Harrison recovered the ball at the Arizona 4 yard line. After two running plays gained a total of two yards, Ben Roethlisberger went back to pass ~ and promptly threw an interception to Adrian Wilson in the Arizona end zone.

    Need we say anything more?

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