Sunday, September 18, 2011

Is Everyone Off the Ledge?

Mike Wallace with an incredible fingertip grab versus the Seahawks.

Hines Ward with great footwork along the sideline to secure another Steeler first down.

Steeler fans around the world were freaking out all week long at the thought that maybe, just maybe, the dufuses, I mean professional commentators (are you listening Warren Sapp?--FYI, he won't respond to my Tweets to him.) might be right about the Steeler defense being too old.  To a certain extent, they were wrong.  The Steeler defense came loaded for Seahawks on Sunday and didn't let up until the clock hit zero.  The Steelers won the game, 24-0.  Do you realize how hard it is to shut a team out in the NFL nowadays?

The Steeler defense recorded 5 sacks and only allowed 8 first downs and 164 yards total offense.  The Seahawks were 2-12 on third downs and ran for a paltry 31 yards.  In fact, the Seahawks didn't even get into Steeler territory until 1/3 of the way through the fourth quarter.  If you just look at those numbers and that fact, you would think that this was total domination which, for the most part, it was.  For those of us who watch the game and like to pick up on the nuances, there were still a couple of trouble spots.  For example, Brett Keisel was the only defensive lineman to get consistent penetration on pass plays.  Casey Hampton, Ziggy Hood and Aaron Smith, barely got a sniff of the QB.  Also, our pass rush was not particularly effective even though the Steelers recorded 5 sacks (Tarvaris Jackson actually completed 20 of his 29 passes).  This is happening because teams are making James Harrison drop into coverage instead of rushing the passer.  When this occurs, the opposition only needs to block 1 rushing linebacker, Lamarr Woodley.  In the Baltimore game, Harrison dropped into coverage on 56% of pass plays.  This is why I am concerned about the push that we aren't getting from the defensive line.  If teams feel that our defensive line is a major threat, then they have to keep an extra blocker in the backfield which enables Harrison to rush the QB. 

On the offensive side of the ball, Steeler nation held their collective breath in the second quarter as Ben Roethlisberger was hit in the knees by Raheem Brock.  Initially, it looked like a dirty play.  On replay, it was clear that Brock was tripped by Marcus Gilbert who was making his first start at right tackle.  Gilbert was not flagged on the play although it appeared that he tripped Brock on purpose.  Gilbert's real penalty would have been served if Big Ben was seriously injured.  Ben sat out for 2 plays then returned to the game.  He limped around the field for a significant portion of the game but played all 60 minutes. 

The run game was in better form as the Steelers rushed for 124 yards.  Ben passed for 298 yards and Emmanuel Sanders even completed a 15 yard pass.  The offensive line was much less......offensive on Sunday.  Are all the kinks worked out?  Absolutely not.  The right side of the line is not very good right now.  Marcus Gilbert had some highlights and lowlights which is to be expected from a rookie in his first start.  Doug Legursky did not have a good game including a 15 yard clipping penalty (yes, it was bad) that hurt a Steeler drive.  I don't expect the offensive line to be fixed already as this is usually a work in progress but this needs to get better and fast because the Steelers play Houston (week 4), Tennessee (week 5), New England (week 8) and our friends from Baltimore (week 9) soon.  These aren't the greatest defenses of all-time but Houston and New England can score a lot of points and Baltimore and Tennessee are good, solid defenses.  The offensive line will need to play better to score enough points to stay with the Patriots and Texans and play more physically if they expect to beat the Titans and Ravens.

I am very happy to see that the Steelers showed their pride this week and played with the passion we expect from them.  Next week is a "trap" game.  It is called a trap game because Indianapolis is 0-2 and hasn't looked very good on either side of the ball.  The risk here is that the Steelers take Indy too lightly and lay another egg like they did in Baltimore.  I will have a preview of that game later this week.  Celebrate for 6 days Steeler fans, all is right with the world again.

Photos courtesy of Getty Images


  1. As folks have been saying, it's excellent overall to see that performance and score, but it is only Seattle. Teams have ways to attack the Steelers D and the question is how will the Steelers respond, both in terms of execution and strategy. I don't think they have a single takeaway yet, and the sacks they got were towards the end of the game... which speaks to Tim's posting above. If they can't figure out, as Tim says, how to put more pressure on the QB, I think a regular INT is exactly what this team will need. They ways teams are attacking the Steelers now with the quick passes seems to work. You get the occasional INT, you hopefully throw off the other team's confidence and rhythm. If this defense is on the field for several long drives every game, they won't be fresh enough at the end of the season for a SB run.

  2. It was 'hard' to pitch a shutout in '76, when the Steelers made it a weekly occurence. Today, it's damn near impossible! Great job, all around. Every game will feature a couple of mistakes, but this was about as sound a win as you can get. Pass rush is still a little tentative, but LeBeau is always cooking up an evil brew to unleash on offenses. I feel good about the season.

  3. Thanks for the feedback folks. I think the strategy coming into this game was to not blitz too much, drop more people into coverage and make Jackson read the defense. If you blitz him, he could take off running and make big plays. By keeping him in the pocket, you take away his strength which is his athletic ability. The Steelers are great at taking away the deep ball/big play and that's why you saw Jackson complete so many short passes (plus Sidney Rice was not on the field). A good win but I need to see more to be convinced that this team can make a run at the playoffs.