Wednesday, December 19, 2012

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

Some losses are tougher to assess than others; to step back from the emotion as a fan in an effort to bring something approximating an analytical look takes a little longer. The loss to Dallas is exactly that -- one of several this season. But we are ready now, and here, as Peter King says, is what we think we think.

The Good
David DeCastro & Kelvin Beachum: Two rookies, with no experience working together, were fantastic, considering the circumstances. Mr. DeCastro was responsible for giving up one sack, and the two of them did struggle as Dallas turned-up the pressure during the latter stages of the fourth quarter and overtime, but the feeling here is that the offensive line is (barring injuries) set for 2013 -- assuming that the Steelers are willing to sign Max Starks for another year (Mike Adams showed no evidence of being able to handle the left tackle position). It is true that the run game continues to be a huge disappointment, but Mr. DeCastro and Mr. Beachum look to be part of the solution rather than the problem.

James Harrison: It remains to be seen if Mr. Harrison can regain his Pro Bowl form, but this was his best game of the 2012 season, by a very large margine. His four tackles, two for losses, a quarterback hit, and a forced fumble are all testament to the fact that he was the most impactful player on the defensive side of the ball last Sunday. He showed good speed (except for some man-to-man coverage responsibilities on the Dallas second string tight end late in the game) and leverage off the edge throughout; and a couple of more games like that and the Steelers will have to decide if letting Mr. Harrison walk as a free agent (prior to now something that seemed a foregone conclusion) is really such a good idea.

The Bad
Ben Roethlisberger: Obviously there is the interception, in overtime, that led to Dallas' winning score; but beyond that there were the horribly thrown dump-offs (particularly into the flats which is not necessarily a short pass), and even the whirling dervish touchdown pass to Heath Miller left us feeling exasperated -- what if Mr. Roethlisberger had been hit, and injured, rather than throwing for a touchdown? Frankly, the chances of scoring on a play like that are infinitesimal, with a sack or turnover (i.e. "never throw late down the middle") much more likely to occur. We admire his never say die approach, but sometimes discretion really is the better part of valor.

The Defense: The Steelers #1 ranked defense gave up 415 total net yards, 153 yards more than their season average. The overall lack of a pass rush left Tony Romo free to pick apart the Steelers' secondary. And, however great Josh Victorian may become in his career, he looked overmatched all day long. But the one aspect of the defensive performance by the Steelers that left us most perturbed was the tackling. THe Cowboys running backs and receivers were much more physical and determined than anyone on the Steelers' side of the ball, and all the broken tackles were evidence of that.

The Ugly
Antonio Brown: Two fumbles, one lost . . . and we tweeted at the moment that the second of those would be a back breaker. One never knows how things are going to go in a game, but that fumble gave Dallas excellent field position and they scored the tying touchdown. Then, of course, there was the subsequent punt that he allowed to hit and roll . . . and roll . . . and roll. All things considered it was an atrocious performance.

Playoff Chances: The fact that this season's edition of the Steelers not only has an opportunity to make the playoffs but controls its own ability to qualify for the playoffs speaks to the watered down quality of NFL football. 9-7 is not a record that anyone is going to feel good about, assuming that the Steelers get there, and, at this point, this team strikes fear into the heart of absolutely nobody.

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