Monday, December 03, 2012

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

There is no sense in crying over spilled milk, but one can only imagine how rosy things would be in the Steelers' world if they had defeated Cleveland, Oakland, and Tennessee. 10-2 with a one game lead over Baltimore? Oh, if only. But today we focus on the realities of this season, and particularly Pittsburgh's emotional win over their archnemesis, the Baltimore Ravens.

The Good

Keenan Lewis & Cortez Allen: These two young men (Mr. Lewis is 26 years old and Mr. Allen is 24 -- barely)are playing tremendous football, and have been for about the past four weeks. Together they combined for six tackes, three assists, and four passes defended. Yes, Mr. Allen was flagged for pass interference -- a patently ridiculous call -- and looked bad in giving up the touchdown to Anquan Boldin -- but in the modern NFL those things are going to happen. Making sweeping pronouncements is a dangerous thing, but assuming that these two cornerbacks continue to enhance their skills the Steelers' secondary looks to have a solid foundation for the future.

Todd Haley: It is hard to know what the game plan was coming into the contest -- third string quarterback, center playing out of position, rookie right tackle -- but it appeared that the play calling was terrific (with one notable exception -- see below). One play that illustrates this point occurred in the Steelers' opening drive of the third quarter. On 2nd & 9 at their own 38 yard line Chris Rainey lines up as a single setback to the right of Charlie Batch, on the same side of the formation as Heath Miller. The ball is snapped, Rainey drifts into the right flat, and one can see in the replay that at least two Ravens go towards him immediately. Meanwhile, Heath Miller chips an on-coming rusher -- thereby helping Kelvin Beachum -- and streaks down the hash marks where Charlie Batch hits him, in stride, for a 43-yard completion to the Ravens' 19 yard line. The design of the play was beautiful, and the execution flawless.

Jonathan Dwyer: 49 yards on 16 carries does not typically get one a lot of shout outs, but we absolutely love the powerful north-south style of running that Mr. Dwyer brings to the offense; and we are quite certain that we are not the only ones who see a little of "The Bus" in him -- the Steelers had "JB," now they have "JD." Moreover, his ability to help in pass protection -- he hit Terrell Suggs squarely in the chest with his helmet on at least one occasion -- was both critical to keeping Charlie Batch ambulatory and a beautiful thing to see.

The Bad

Charlie Batch: Nobody is happier for Charlie Batch than we are, and the postgame reaction of Ben Roethlisberger, and others, is an indication of the respect the team has for him. But the Steelers were this close to losing a game in which they simply outplayed their opponent. Because the Steelers were victorious the enduring image will be the postgame embrace of Mr. Roethlisberger and Mr. Batch. But if things hadn't gone so well then that enduring image might have been Mike Wallace alone in the Ravens' end zone with the football sailing six feet over his head.

Larry Foote & Lawrence Timmons: So many mistakes, so little time. Larry Foote trying to make great plays, and putting himself out of position, rather than making the solid play; Lawrence Timmons getting sucked inside, so much so that when Ray Rice cutback on a 2nd and 10 carry in the third quarter there was nobody around to stop him, and Mr. Rice was able to go 34 yards for a touchdown. And let's not even talk about their ability, or lack thereof, to cover man-to-man in passing situations.

The Ugly

Emmanuel Sanders: That fumble . . . has been burned into our collective memories much the same way as the dropped pass by Limas Sweed in the AFC Championship game. Hideous.

Antonio Brown: Next training camp let's have Antwaan Randle-El give Mr. Brown some tips on throwing the wide receiver option pass, and let's begin with not throwing across the field (though, in fairness, that might have been some poor play design -- sorry Todd Haley). He didn't have to throw the ball, and clearly should not have thrown the ball.

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