View From 522: Steelers vs. Eagles

Hi. For the six of you that still check in on this site hoping to see an update, thanks for that! But today we actually have something for you, and we hope you enjoy it. Since Adam is a Steelers season ticket holder, he will share his thoughts and observations from each home game. We call it The View From 522 (because that’s where he sits). 

Driving to the game on Sunday I told my brother that one of two things was going to happen: Either the Eagles were going to play the exact same type of game they had played over the first four weeks of the season (tight, close, and right down to the wire) and their luck would run out, or they would play their best game of the season and steamroll the Steelers.

Entering the game they were a 3-1 team that had been outscored by 17 points on the season, an accomplishment that seems almost impossible. Something had to give.

In the end they played the same type of turnover filled close game that came down to the end, and fortunately for the Steelers, Philadelphia’s luck ran out (at least for this week) on a Shaun Suisham game-winning field goal as time time expired.

For the most part it was an absolute pig of a game as both teams spent much of the day finding new and creative ways to mess up and leave points on the field. Eagles quarterback Michael Vick continued to protect the ball like it’s covered in silk, fumbling three times (including once into the end zone) while the Steelers receivers played one of their worst games in recent memory dropping no fewer than five passes (three by Mike Wallace, two by Antonio Brown). And that doesn’t include Jerricho Cotchery tripping over the five-yard and falling flat on his face when he could have walked into the end zone for a touchdown.

Both teams had to have walked out of that stadium on Sunday feeling like they should have won by at least a touchdown.

(About the Eagles for a second: why does a team with LeSean McCoy allow  Michael Vick to carry the ball near the goal line? That seems insane to me.)

On the subject of the Steelers receivers, it was probably one of the worst games they played as a group in quite some time, and easily the worst game from Mike Wallace this season as he let the aforementioned three passes slip through his hands, including one that could have easily been a touchdown had he hauled it in. Throughout the day we were debating the subject of Wallace vs. Brown with the guy next to us with the usual narratives thrown in: playoff stats, who made the big catch against Baltimore, etc.

Frankly, it’s a debate I’m tired of having. It shouldn’t have to be an either/or situation. They’re different players and different types of receivers, but they’re both valuable, and if you were to list the five best players on the team right now, as of this moment, both should probably be included (along with Ben Roethlisberger, LaMarr Woodley, and James Harrison — and yes, I intentionally left Troy Polamalu off that list, in large part because after Sunday I’d be shocked if we see him much more on the field this season).

The thing about Wallace is, even when he has an off day catching the football like he did on Sunday he’s still an asset on the field and a threat to opposing defenses. Every time he was out there the Eagles had a safety shifted over to his side of the field and were putting two people on him. This is important. The counterargument to this is that you don’t pay a guy $10 million a year to be a decoy. The problem with that is 1) That’s not the only thing that you would be paying him to do (because he’s still going to catch a lot of passes and make a lot of big plays) and 2) not just anybody can be a “decoy.” There has to be a threat of that player hurting you. If the Steelers lined Emmanuel Sanders, or just about any other receiver they could draft or sign to take that spot, in that position they would not command that type of respect. Just sending any guy down field is not going to draw two defenders because the team has to fear the possibility of a big play. And Wallace always provides that.

The two best players on the field for the Steelers on Sunday were middle linebacker Lawrence Timmons and running back Rashard Mendenhall. In the case of Timmons it was a pleasant and much needed surprise given the way he’s played at times over the previous season and three weeks. He was everywhere. Stopping the run, defending the pass, and even on the blitz. Even though he didn’t record a sack he (along with the rest of the Steelers front seven) did enough to make life uncomfortable for Vick and on more than one occasion he absolutely destroyed an Eagles running back attempting to block him. That performance from Timmons on Sunday was exactly the type of game the Steelers had to imagine getting from him when they drafted him No. 15 overall back in 2007, and especially after they gave him that enormous contract extension.

Mendenhall provided an inept running game with a boost. He ran hard, he made big plays, and about the only negative to his performance was a fumble out of bounds when nobody touched him (a play I missed because I spent the first five plays of the second half attempting to work my way through the horrible concourses at Heinz Field). This resulted in a lot of talk post-game about Mendenhall’s tendency to put the football on the ground, a myth that continues to make the rounds in Pittsburgh without any justifiable reason.

Here’s a fun fact: In Mendenhall’s career he’s put the football on the ground seven times, or once every 118 carries.

To put that into perspective, Jerome Bettis, a running back that was always praised for his ability to protect the ball, fumbled once every 95 times as a member of the Steelers. Willie Parker fumbled once every 73 carries. Just something to keep in mind.

And one final observation: More Steve McClendon.

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  • LoungeLegal

    My gripe about Mendy is more about how he carries the football. He just swings it all round and leaves it hanging out there….gets me tense just thinking about it!

    • Eric

      Agreed. I am really surprised to see that his fumble rate is that low. Maybe he doesn’t fumble much, despite carrying it like that, because the defender never knows where he’ll be swinging his arm/ball (kidding)?

  • Cols714

    I did not know that about Mendenhall. It’s funny how these stupid narratives take hold. Now we have one starting to take hold that Wallace isn’t actually very good and has a high drop rate. I’m pretty sure the stats show otherwise.

    Sometimes people just decide that they don’t like a player and the negative plays for some reason become lodged in their brains while they block out all the good plays.

  • Sarah

    I dunno – I guess 4th qtr momentum-killing fumbles in the SB count for more? Understandables how those stick in fans’ memory….

    • Cols714

      Oh come on, that fumble was more because of Clay Mathews absolutely blowing up the play than Mendenhall not being careful.

      The point is that Mendenhall fumbles just about as often as Jerome Bettis fumbled. And Bettis was never known as being a fumble machine.

      But for reasons like the Super Bowl fumble he’s known as fumble prone. He isn’t and that’s a fact.

      • Eric

        I think her point was that plays like the Superbowl stick in peoples minds and help create the narrative.

  • Eric

    It’s funny. I usually just click on new comments in the “recent comments” sidebar. When I scrolled down, I was so confused by there only being 3 comments that it took me a second to realize this was a new article.

  • Sarah

    Thanks Eric. Yes – this is why they stick in people’s minds.
    I think another example is the only Bus fumble I (or maybe any of us remember) is the one late near the goalline v the Colts…

  • Steel Magnolias Defense

    Kind of one of my favorite Steeler sites. Bummed no podcasts this year! Had the best intro music!

  • Sarah

    Well here’s hoping that our possible theory of an easier scheme for Timmons now that Harrison is back holds up tonight and he does his Search n Destroy thing again.

  • http://www.facebook.com/randy.steele.583 Randy Steele

    Just in case you missed all my glorious posts, I was at the game, too! And whevever I go to a game, I am always amazed how differently it looks in person as opposed to how it looks on television.

    I could boor you with several examples, but from my seat, one point that sticks to my mind is that Ben did not look tack sharp with his throws. That, to me at least, somewhat absolved some of the drops by the receivers, who recently seem to be only catching heat… from their critics.

    Don’t get me wrong: those passes were mostly catch-able. (That one that Antonio Brown watched sail through his hands…. yeesh.) But seeing the game in person, I thought some Ben’s throws looked… well, soft, float-y, and high–sort of souffle-like. And, consequently a tad off-target.

    But watching the game on TV only shows the receivers flailing helplessly as they try to make their catches.

    Anyway, let’s hope they break out a batch of fresh Stick ‘Em for Nashville.