Monday, February 02, 2009

Six the Hard Way: The Good,
the Bad, & the Ugly

Now begins the most dangerous time of the year ~ the offseason. Remember, it was following the win in Super Bowl XL that Ben Roethlisberger decided that riding his motorcycle without a helmet would be a good idea, and of course a couple of Steelers ended up being arrested.

We can only hope that every behaves themselves this offseason.

But of course the matter at end right now is Super Bowl XLIII, who performed well and who did not. We want to preface our observations with this: Ben Roethlisberger and Santonio Holmes have managed to elevate their respective statuses to something approaching a deity, at least in the Steelers' Nation. We, like all fans of the Black & Gold, recognize that fact but have decided to use this space to highlight some other members of the team.

The Good
  1. We get many things wrong but we do want to point out that in our preview we pointed out that if the Steelers' offense had the ball for "something approaching 34:00 . . . they will win the game ~ perhaps by only three points." The Steelers ended up keeping the ball for 33:01.

  2. James Harrison was a one man wrecking crew. The 100-yard pass interception is going to end up on par with the Immaculate Reception (along with Mr. Holmes' touchdown catch) for greatest single play in Pittsburgh Steelers history. But he also dominated the Cardinals' offensive left tackle, Mike Gandy, who was called for holding calls (and could have been called for three more), had three tackles, one assist, and two quarterback hits. It was the type of performance one would hope for from the NFL's Defensive Player of the year.

  3. Heath Miller may have played the best all-around game of anyone on the offense not named Ben Roethlisberger. Mr. Miller's four catches in the first half led the team, his first reception (a 21-yard reception) on the Steelers' opening possession moved the ball to the Arizona one yard line where they eventually kicked a field goal.

    In the second half Arizona's defensive adjustments largely neutralized Mr. Miller (he had one reception and one dropped pass), but his blocking was the best ~ bar none ~ along the offensive line. Mr. Miller's ability to contribute in different phases of the game, and his continual improvement in all phases, makes him one of the most valuable players on the team.

  4. Despite a shaky start on punt coverage (i.e. Steve Breaston's 34-yard punt return) the Steelers' special teams were pretty special in Super Bowl XLIII. After that first punt return the Cardinals gained zero yards on Mitch Berger's other punts (two others, to be exact). Meanwhile, coming into the game Arizona had been averaging 21.0 yards per kick return during the playoffs, but this past Sunday they could only average 18.2 yards on five kick returns (13.4% below average).

    On return teams the Steelers' statistics do not look that impressive ~ 2.5 yards per punt return and 20.0 yards per kick return ~ however Mr. Holmes' performance on punt returns was quite good if only because he was able to catch all but one of the kicks (and that one was downed inside the five yard line) thereby saving field position. As for the kick return team, they had only been averaging 18.0 yards per return during the playoffs, so this was a net improvement. Moreover, we are big fans of the straight ahead style that Pittsburgh used, and has used on those returns.
The Bad
  1. Ike Taylor had a nightmarish second half, and we cannot understand why he has such a difficult time reading the receiver's eyes and turning his head around so he can see the football while it is still in the air. The Cardinals' first touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald was almost a perfect replication of a play that Baltimore scored on in the AFC Championship game two weeks ago. Of course, the second touchdown pass to Mr. Fitzgerald was hardly Mr. Taylor at his best (though, in fairness, the design of that play was terrific, the execution by the Cardinals flawless, and the decision by both Steelers' safeties to bit on outside routes by other receivers ill-advised).

    Then there is the matter of the unnecessary roughness foul he committed in the fourth quarter as the Steelers' defense tried desperately to hang on to the lead. Getting beat physically is one thing ~ in the NFL it happens ~ but beating yourself because of mental mistakes and poor judgment are the difference between winning and losing. Mr. Taylor should be very grateful tonight that consequences of his mental mistake were not more substantial.

  2. The Steelers are World Champions, and we all feel great about that. However, this team is so far from being the best team in the NFL it is testimony to the coaches that they got as far as they did. More specifically, the offensive was overmatched for much of the night.

    Sixteen yards rushing in the second half.

    On the final, game winning drive the Steelers' offense gained 78 net yards. Other than that they gained 47 yards in the entire second half.

    Both sacks of Ben Roethlisberger were in the second half, and he was hit five other times on passing plays during that same half.

    Whether by the draft, free agency, or both the Steelers need to dramatically improve the offensive line if they hope to entertain a realistic opportunity at defending their Super Bowl crown.
The Ugly
  1. Three words: Red. Zone. Offense.
    It nearly cost the Steelers the game.

  2. We know that if we thought long and hard enough we could come up with some more of ugly aspects of Sunday's performance (e.g. Matt Spaeth appeared to miss every one of his blocks) . . . but the Steelers just won their sixth Super Bowl and we do not want to ruin the mood!

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