Bengals 20, Steelers 10: Well, that was ugly

So this is what it’s come to. 

Two games into the 2013 season and the Pittsburgh Steelers have already put forth two unspeakably bad performances.

The good news: 14 games remain on the schedule and the AFC North, as well as the AFC in general, looks like a pile of failure. Everybody stinks (except Denver. Denver looks pretty good).

The bad news: The Steelers are not only a part of that pile of failure, they are actually somewhere near the bottom. I don’t know if this statement will prove to be true by the end of the season, but this Steelers team through two weeks looks like it might have top-five pick in the draft potential.

It just might be that bad. Given all of their success over the past two decades Steelers fans are conditioned to think that 8-8 is a bad season. This might be a bad season.

The Steelers have problems, and they are many.

1) Todd Haley stinks. I don’t mean to turn this into another Bruce Arians vs. Todd Haley tickle fight, but Bruce Arians on his worst day was never as bad as what I’ve seen from Todd Haley over his first 18 games in Pittsburgh. Maybe Bruce Arians wasn’t right for the Steelers, and maybe it was time for a change, but Todd Haley was not the change this team needed. In hindsight, we probably should have given up on this one when the Steelers opened the game by running behind a newly signed free agent center on three straight plays. That sequence was almost as maddening as the Week 1 sequence to open the second half when five of the first six plays involved Lerod Stephens-Howling touching the football (the other play involved him missing a block for a sack).

Amazingly, neither of those sequences were the dumbest thing to come out of Haley’s play sheet over the first two games. That distinction has to go to calling an end around to Jerricho Cotchery in the second quarter. That play actually happened. Try and let that sink in if you can.  The Steelers ran an end around to JERRICHO COTCHERY. Why that play is in the playbook, I have no idea. Why it is called in a real, meanginful game is an even better question. The only logical explanation for calling it is the assumption that Cincinnati would never in a million years think a team is dumb enough to run an end around to Jerricho Cotchery and that it might catch them off guard. Other than that, I have nothing.

There is not a skill position player on the roster that should get the ball on such a play less than Jerricho Cotchery. I’m not kidding, it would have made more sense to hand the ball off to David Paulson on that play.

Hell, as long as you’re giving it to Cotchery, why not run an end around (or perhaps even a bubble screen) to all-everything lineman Kelvin Beachum? Seems just as logical.

The Week 2 game plan seemed to be more of the same from what we saw in Week 1: Bubble screens, a lot of passes to Cotchery (he was targeted on nine passes, including five in the first half … none of which were caught) and no real sense of an actual game plan. A monkey sitting at a random play generating machine might have pieced together a more sensible game plan.

But for as bad as Todd Haley is, he is not the only problem facing the Steelers. Sadly, he may not even be the biggest problem.

2) The Steelers lack playmakers and depth: And for this, Kevin Colbert and the Steelers front office needs to face some blame. The Steelers have whiffed on way too many high draft picks over the past three years where they’ve either picked players that are just OK, or players that are simply not very good.

The Steelers opened Monday’s game with a starting center they just signed off the street less than a week ago. A middle linebacker that was an insurance adjustor last season. A starting running back they traded for at the end of training camp. David Paulson starting at tight end. I understand injuries happen, and there’s even been some bad luck in there with the drafting due to the injuries to Le’Veon Bell and Sean Spence. But how does a team go into the regular season and have Kion Wilson as its top backup at inside linebacker? And only one offensive lineman that they trust to back anybody up?

Even worse than the depth is growing concern that maybe the starters aren’t that good, and that again goes back to the draft and several personnel decisions.  Who is going to make the big play on offense? Or even defense, for that matter?

3) Ben Roethlisberger has to be perfect: And so far, he has not been perfect. Far from it, actually. Roethlisberger has always been the driving force behind everything the Steelers do, but the offense has now reached the point where it is almost all entirely on his shoulders as the Steelers have not only given him a terrible offensive game plan to work with, but have also surrounded him with a lackluster group of players.

I’ve thought recent years the Steelers offensive line has been better than it’s been given credit for being. This year’s group, even before Maurkice Pouncey went down, might be every bit as bad as it’s talked about being. Marcus Gilbert and Mike Adams have provided little on the outside (second round draft picks), while David DeCastro hasn’t yet settled in  as a dominant guard.

The skill positions players have taken a significant drop in quality and quantity. Antonio Brown has the big money, but he’s yet to consistently prove that he is a big-play receiver. He has talent, but the splash plays are never there. He doesn’t score touchdowns, he never seems to be open down field, and ever since his breakout year in 2011 (really, his only big year to date in the NFL) he has been rather pedestrian in every way.

Is that a result of the offense that seems content to throw bubble screen after bubble screen with the occasional Isaac Redman dive into the line thrown in? Or is Brown just not as good as the Steelers thought?

Emmanuel Sanders is frustrating because he’s so hit-and-miss. He’ll have games like Week 1 where he can’t catch anything, and then he makes a play like he did late in the second quarter on Monday to set up the Steelers’ only touchdown.

Through two games the Steelers have already targeted Cotchery on 16 passes (and one ill-fated end around) which is probably about 12 or 13 too many given given Cotchery’s current ability. Whether this is due to a flawed game plan that desires to get him the ball or the inability of the other receivers to consistently get open is up for debate, but it’s still a problem.

Markus Wheaton seems to have the type of speed and ability to stretch the field the Steelers are missing due to the loss of Mike Wallace (and holy shit is that a big loss) but he has hardly touched the field through two games. He was on the field for seven offensive snaps in Week 1 but was never targeted on a pass. He played even less on Monday. The only time his name was called was when the Steelers asked him to rush a punt with two minutes to play in the fourth quarter. He can’t possibly be worse than Cotchery at the point. And even if you don’t trust him to run all of the routes, can’t you at least give HIM the ball on the end arounds you’re running to your slowest wide receiver?

4) No turnovers from the defense. Again: And this time, no sacks either. I wrote about the Steelers defense and its lack of turnovers earlier this week, and while I agree that some of that comes down to luck, when a team goes 34 games with the same problem it starts to become more about talent and skill than just simply writing it off as bad luck. The Steelers defense does enough at this point to keep them in the game and not allow things to get out of hand, but sooner or later they have to start contributing some splash plays of their own. Force a fumble. Intercept a pass. String a couple of sacks together. Something. Anything.

This is probably a lot of doom-and-gloom for Week 2 of the NFL season, but is it really unwarranted? The Steelers have looked about as bad as a team can look, and it’s hard to imagine where the improvement is going to come from.

Heath Miller is great, but he’s not THAT great that his return to the lineup is going to turn this ship around.

 

 

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  • Ghost_rider60

    Harrison said it in the interview: Cower instilled a work ethic, Tomlin is one of the guys and with Haley not having a clue 0-2. The players are professionals, they now the Pop Warner plays wont work. Look at the body language, no enthusiam and no confidence. They just run the play sent in and punt.

    • TheWordofFaith1

      I totally agree!

      • Steeler

        Fire Haley

        • TheWordofFaith1

          #FireToddHaley!

  • Ted

    That about covers it. Sadly, anyone who took an objective look at how this team finished last year, departures off last year’s roster, how old the stars are getting, how poor the youngsters have developed, the overall lack of talent on the roster, combined with the perpetual salary cap hell knew that this was coming sooner than later.

    But yet as Steeler fans many of us said and most still clinged to ideals that we never miss the playoffs 2 straight years, are never bad, and still have Ben and Troy to carry us.

    Honestly, though, the offense around Ben is abysmal. Haley is not good, but no OC could excel with the Steelers’ personnel right now.

    Pittsburgh does not have a RB on its active roster who would likely be picked up by another franchise if they were released. There is no No. 1 WR; not even close. Letting Wallace go ended championship hopes. They really had no choice in doing so, because they could not afford place the franchise tag on him and play hardball because of the Steelers’ perpetual salary cap due to annually restructuring salaries at a fully-guaranteed rate onto future caps. That cannot continue. Bite the bullet and understand you are going to suck for at least 2 years, but begin clearing cap space.

    The defense is still above-average. However, they are too old to create as many turnovers and LeBeau has to be more conservative to keep the Steelers in contests. But the future of this unit looks bleak. Rank its best players, and then add their experience and age:

    SS Troy Polamalu, 11th season, 32
    CB Ike Taylor, 11th season, 33
    OLB LaMarr Woodley, 7th season, 28
    ILB Lawrence Timmons, 7th season, 27
    FS Ryan Clark, 12th season, 33
    DE Brett Kiesel, 12th season, 34

    That’s clearly your six best players on defense. Read their ages again. Then factor in that the first 4 account for more than $46.8 million on the 2014 cap. As good as they have been and still are, those players are not worth that total, especially at their advanced ages. But all have had their contracts continuously restructured in this self-induced, salary-cap hell. Clark will be an unrestricted free agent, and Kiesel is an impending unrestricted free agent and may retire. He is the only above-average NFL defensive lineman on the roster.

    Jarvis Jones looks like a player, and I like Cortez Allen (extend him early, not Hood at all), McLendon and Heyward, although the latter has not developed as a first-round pick should have by their third season. But the young talent is minimal on this defense and they are nowhere near as good as those who are getting old.

    • Cols714

      Enough with Worilds OK. Not a good pick but yeesh it doesn’t explain everything. And yeah the salary cap situation isn’t that great but I think they made the right call on keeping most of the vets. They got to the Super Bowl in 2010 and almost won it, they went 12-4 in 2011 and were a play away from having home field advantage in the playoffs. They weren’t that good last year and this year is starting off bad, but it was still worth keeping the team together for those runs.

      As for drafting, Hood and Heyward were late 1st rounders and have looked much better this year.

  • Cols714

    Ha ha. When I saw that play I thought for sure someone on Steelers Lounge would make fun of it. Thanks for not letting me down!
    That was bad. At least the OL looked better. The defense looked good again. But the offense sucks.

    • Terribletoweler

      It’s also in the game thread yesterday I believe, lol. Awful play.

  • djanyreason

    Somehow, it seems like Adam (and Ted in comments, and JJ and Ryan on twitter) didn’t watch the same game I did last night.

    Yes, week 1 was awful. But last night the Steelers looked like an 8-8 team, not a 4-12 team.

    The Steelers lost on the road to a probable playoff team, in a game where bad turnover luck killed their two longest drives, and a dubious penalty undid one of their biggest plays. Yes, a good team overcomes these sorts of things. The Steelers aren’t a good team, but last night they looked like a merely mediocre team, not a putrid one.

    Is this loss really worse than @TEN, @PHI, or vs. NYG in 2008? And that team won a Super Bowl.

    This team isn’t good – they will probably lose more games than they win, and week 1 was panic inducing. But last night’s game wasn’t, and we shouldn’t let a week 1 hangover make us think it was.

    • Cols714

      I agree. But I would feel better if a certain OC was here.

      • djanyreason

        I mean, I agree that Haley isn’t the right fit for this team, but let’s not fetishize Arians who wasn’t so hot himself. There are worse OCs than BA, but there are many better ones too.

        • Cols714

          Yeah I get this. It just makes me angry that we are wasting our QBs best talents of throwing down field to do what he doesn’t do nearly as well, make pre snap reads and get the ball out quickly.

          • djanyreason

            More or less agree – Ben has a historically high yards-per-attempt rate, and we’re pissing that away in this offense. I don’t think its the case that Ben can’t thrive in the Haley offense – he completes all the bubble screens, they just go for negative yards – but it doesn’t play to his unique strengths. Though, to play devil’s advocate, Ben hasn’t looked as accurate on his deep passes as he used to be for the last couple years…

            And, on the other hand, as Adam’s pointed out, who exactly is Ben going to throw deep to in this group of WRs? Through two games it seems like Manny Sanders is playing the Mike Wallace deep threat role, and he’s been covered every time.

          • EasyLikeSundayMorning

            The Steelers have thrown deep a bunch of times in the first two games and the receivers have had a step or two several times. Each time, Ben has missed what would have been a big play.

            I think Ben has an unusual passing range. I don’t have any stats to back this up, but I believe my eyes on this. He is one of the best in the league, maybe one of the best ever, at throws about 12-17 yards down the field. But he doesn’t throw a good deep ball compared to almost any other elite passer or even a bunch of mediocre ones. And he doesn’t have the kind of gun that makes screens into quick strikes. There are many ways to create space in the 12-17 yard area: an elite speed WR who takes the top off of coverage, a credible running game that makes LBs and safeties cheat up, a dual-purpose TE who creates matchup problems. Heath will fix the third. If Le’Veon can come back, that would help with the second, but I’m not overly optimistic. I don’t know the fix for the first; Wheaton is the only guy on the roster who can play that role (Wallace could have last year, but Haley misused him as if he had Santonio’s skill set). To me, this is the biggest flaw that can be fixed schematically with the current roster. Ben also needs to regain the accuracy he’s had on these types of throws in the past, but he’s always had it before, so I’m not worried about that part.

          • bonairsfavoriteson

            If his deep ball is so bad, how do you explain the success of our one trick pony Wallace before he got the big head and moved on??? The very first deep throw this year to Sanders, he put the ball right thru the his hands and he missed the catch and the db had good coverage, since then every ball over 20 yards, the wr was covered like he was a floor and the db was a rug.

    • ted

      Well, if Andy Dalton did not just have a horrible night where he was badly missing guys wide open and while he was rarely pressured, I might agree with you. But I would say the Bengals should have won that game by significantly more. Defensively, we are still a playoff team if guys stay healthy, although that is likely over the course of the year, especially when you have so many key old players. Offensively, we have assembled a horrendous group of players around a franchise QB.

      • djanyreason

        “rarely pressured” seems inaccurate to me. Steelers got 0 sacks, but seemed very close on many many occasions, which would help to explain the inaccuracy. Indeed, PFF notes that Dalton was 3/17 on passes 10+ yards, meaning he was 22/28 on short passes, which would support the idea that he was being rushed into his throws on longer passes.

        Also, for his career Dalton has a 60.6% completion rate. Last night he had a 55.6% completion rate overall. So he was missing 1-in-20 passes more than his career average.

        • Cols714

          Right. The D-line played pretty well. The defense as a whole played pretty well. It’s just hard when the offense can’t do anything at all.

          • Randy Steele

            The defense did play fairly well, but Kion Wilson and Vince Williams got good and schooled on those Bengal touchdown drives. You have to wonder how much the loss of Larry Foote has hurt the linebacking corps.

          • Cols714

            Yes they did. We missed Foote way more than I thought we would.

          • bonairsfavoriteson

            Can you name the last time Foote broke up a pass , intercepted a pass or got a sack, the last time he played he tore his bicep trying to make an arm tackle on a clear shot at a rb in the backfield and getting run over, for a first down.

        • bonairsfavoriteson

          Getting pressure on a passing QB is the same as being a little bit dead, no matter how ya cut it , you lose,

          • djanyreason

            I don’t know if that’s accurate. If pass pressure forces a QB to hurry his throw, if expect it to both be less accurate (since he’s rushing through the mechanics of the throw) and more likely to be thrown into coverage (since the QB is being forced to throw, rather than getting to wait for the best opportunity)

    • Terribletoweler

      I think we need to stop making allowances. Good teams don’t have their drives killed by fumbles. Since when do we look at other teams and say “ah, they could have won that game if they hadn’t unfortunately fumbled.” We say “They lost that game making careless errors.” At some point you create your own luck, and we are creating our own bad luck.

      • djanyreason

        More or less I agree. To clarify what I mean by “bad turnover luck” -
        * research suggests that fumble recoveries are a 50-50 proposition and there isn’t any measurable skill in doing so (or, at least, the ability to recover fumbles doesn’t carry over from year to year)
        * it was especially unlucky in this case because the refs blew a whistle
        * also the deflection INT – research suggests deflected picks are random non-predictive events

        In the past, the Steelers have been able to overcome bad luck like this. Also, in the past, the Steelers were a good team. They aren’t a good team this year, so I don’t expect them to overcome this sort of bad luck.

        • countertorque

          One thing that really frustrated me in this game is that a handful of Bengal passes were tipped or deflected and they all fell harmlessly to the turf. Ben gets exactly one pass tipped and it has to be intercepted. I think that’s mostly bad luck. But, I think having a really old defense makes it more likely. Youth and speed are essential ingredients in catching tipped balls.

          • Randy Steele

            I agree that turnovers (or the lack thereof) are usually the product of luck, but I think in general that the Steelers defense plays to tackle the ball-carrier, not the ball, which is the traditional way of playing. And they are usually extremely good at it.

            I’ve noticed, however, that there is a new wave of ball-hawking defenders who often seem to forget about tackling altogether and just try to rip free the football.

            You know what? These guys may whiff on a tackle now and then, which would drive your average Steeler fan like me insane, but perhaps they more than make up for that deficiency by producing more loose balls, hence more turnovers.

            Just a thought.

          • Terribletoweler

            So long as you still get average tackling from them, there’s no doubt. We could do with less sure tackling if it meant getting some turnovers. Even a ball-hawk who gets burnt in coverage is worth it so long as you hawk more often than you get burned.

          • bonairsfavoriteson

            Bingo, when a defensive player comes to the Steelers, from day one, all he hears from our defensive staff is tackle the catch, huh, why not take away the pass , which is hard to do when lining up so far from the receiver so often, Ike played pretty well but what is the purpose of lining up 10 yards off when they are throwing 4 yard patterns on third and two. , yeh your not giving up a rare bomb but you are giving up long drives and time of possession that have a good chance of ending up in scores .

          • GlennWa

            > Ben gets exactly one pass tipped and it has to be intercepted.

            Deflected by his WR down the field because the pass was terribly thrown both high and behind him– a recipe for an INT. Most of Dalton’s throws were tipped at the line of scrimmage, and usually those aren’t picked. Dalton may also have had a deflection down the field (I don’t dispute that) but Ben has just been *off* so far this season.

        • GlennWa

          > it was especially unlucky in this case because the refs blew a whistle

          The bad “down by contact” call/whistle *helped* us, not hurt. The new rule is that you play through a potential fumble recovery even after the whistle, and it appeared to me that Paulson was indeed looking for the football but just couldn’t find it. So the whistle just prevented a big return, as the Bengals were quickly all over the football and off to the races.

          • Intropy

            Paulson got up casually after a tackle because the play was whistled dead. Had there not been a whistle I hope he tries to get the loose ball and who knows what happens. You can and should get on a guy for not securing the ball, but you can’t expect him to keep playing after the play is whistled dead.

          • GlennWa

            I thought Paulson was looking for the ball and couldn’t find it, but regardless, yes I can fault a player for not going after the football in that situation. It’s the rule. Not only is it the rule, but 99% of players scramble after a loose football long after the whistle is blown (and always did, before the rule change). I don’t know, maybe we just don’t care about the rules/fundamentals any longer with this team.

          • GlennWa

            By “new rule” of course, I’m referring to the change that was made in *2006*. Not that new. A reasonable rule in my opinion, since the fumble/whistle timing was always difficult to determine, and the players always went after the football anyway (by instinct and/or instruction).

    • countertorque

      I too think the Steelers played much better in week 2 than they did in week 1.

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    I don’t usually think of myself as Pollyannish, and I’m not happy with losing two winnable games. The team has significant flaws, but so does every team in the AFC except Denver (and a few teams in the NFC).

    Reasons for optimism:
    1) Last year we were 80-202 (39.6%) on third down. This year we are 2-24 (an insane 8.3%). At the same rate as last year, we’d have 10 first downs instead of 2. When we beat Cincy last year, we converted 10 of 16 third downs. Getting even to league average on third down would make a difference.
    2) We were inside the 15-yard line in both games in position to go up two scores each time when we had crucial fumbles, neither of which we recovered. As FO repeatedly says, fumble recoveries are about luck, and both were really bad timing to have bad luck. Throw in the non-call on the attempted decapitation of Ben and the phantom trip as pivotal plays that had a big swing.
    3) Our defense has been good enough to win both games. The older players aren’t playing like they are old. A number of younger players are playing well and are on the upswing: Jones, McClendon, Hood, Heyward, Woods, Thomas, Allen, maybe Golden.
    4) Our special teams have been good enough to win both games. Suisham must have had the leg version of Tommy John or talked to Ray Lewis’s deer antler supplier, because he kicked the crap out of the KOs after he was supposedly hurt. Mesko looks like a keeper.
    5) We didn’t place 3 starters on IR after this game.
    6) The OL was serviceable on pass blocking against an elite DL.
    7) Ben was as inaccurate as I’ve seen him in a two-game stretch. Unless he’s not getting any sleep with a baby at home, he should throw better soon.

    I’m not overlooking the flaws. We are doing too little on first and second downs. We can’t run the ball. But I find the garment rending excessive. I predict the return of Heath will help free up the intermediate passing game, which in turn will help the running game.

    • Cols714

      Nice post. I was coming here to post something similar about how things are not as bad as they seem and that the defense has looked pretty good event though they are missing a starting ILB and a starting CB.

      The OL looked decent last night and as a young group with good talent they will probably improve as the season goes along.

      The real issue is the lack of offensive firepower. Well that and a gameplan that calls for your 6’4″ QB with a penchant for extending plays and throwing downfield to dink and dunk.

      • ted

        The defense has played well enough to win in both games, but they are by no means dominant anymore. The concern for the defense will be how they handle injuries, and the wear and tear of the season, because of how ridiculously old our key players are.

        The o-line looked decent? Maybe by expectations, but overall they can’t run block and probably the only one who graded well in pass-pro was a center they signed off waivers less than a week before.

        Granted they can only get better and it is the one area where that we can definitely see much better play based on individual ceilings, but the overall performance and development of these offensive linemen has been the biggest disappointment thus far.

        Gilbert is a below-average NFL tackle. Adams should be playing right tackle or guard at this stage of his career. DeCastro has not looked like a first-rounder and Foster is just a guy. And what will happen when that o-line starts losing more players to injury? After Beachum, we don’t have a reserve that should be on a roster. Why again did we ignore the o-line completely with all the picks we had in the 2013 draft? Obviously we weren’t going to take someone early, but how about a 5th- or 6th-rounder?

        • EasyLikeSundayMorning

          I agree that we need OL depth. I think we should have signed a few cheap backup OLs (either Starks, Legursky, Essex or guys like them). But we’ve used two 1s and two 2s at OL recently and drafted Beachum last year. We don’t need more rookie draftees who have never played to backup a line with some talent but very little experience. And we don’t need Guy Whimper.

          As for the age of our D, I don’t think all of our key players are ridiculously old. Of our front 7 starters and backups, which is around 15 players, only Keisel is close to retirement and he’s playing well and hasn’t been injury-prone. All of our backup DBs and Cortez are young. So you are really talking about Ike, Clark and Troy, who are all playing very well and only Troy has a history of injuries. Sure, I’m concerned about our best player and former DPOY being old and an injury risk, but no more so than the last few years.

    • Randy Steele

      Easy, as always I appreciate your level-headed commentary and optimism, but there’s one stumbling block (pun alert!) that I just keep tripping over and that’s the lack of run-blocking from our stumblebum offensive linemen.

      I don’t see how Tomlin or Haley or Ben or Y.A Tittle himself can mount any kind of offense if they can’t at least threaten the opponent with a workable running game. (Want to know why we throw so many idiotic bubble screens? Because we can’t run a decent play-action.)

      Another note: Ben’s inaccuracy was truly disturbing. I don’t know if he’s the problem, his receivers, or their routes, but he was flinging hash out there.

      I think there is one quick fix that could help the passing game and that’s the immediate substitution of Cotchery for Wheaton. If I were Haley, I would have Ben throwing to Wheaton on go-routes all this week, over and over and over again.

      But other than that–and not counting too much on the return of Heath and Bell–I don’t think there’s much the Steelers’ staff can do. The talent simply isn’t there to affect a fix.

      We’ll just have to hope that the O-linemen gradually finds their feet and get better as they work longer together, after which a competent run game might start to emerge that will allow Ben the time to work some of his magic.

      That’s as optimistic as I can get.

      • EasyLikeSundayMorning

        Randy, thanks for the kind words. You and the other regulars make it worth the dialogue. Fortunately, the unhinged and illiterate are rarities.

        I agree on the run blocking. I thought the pass blocking against Cincy was good enough to win and was pretty impressive given the Bengals front 4. It certainly wasn’t great, but it was ok. There never seemed to be many holes to run through, though. I guess my one reason for optimism is that the run and pass work together. If we can complete the 12-17 yard passes as we have for the last 8-10 years, that keeps the LBs and safeties back a bit. If Ben regains his typical accuracies and Heath is a dual-purpose TE again, this should create more running space. And it frees up other plays like passes in the flat to Will Johnson (who seemed to be on the field .

        Another reason for optimism is that we had three straight 100-yard rushers last year with similar personnel.

        One thing the coaches can do is use Will Johnson, David Johnson and Kelvin Beachum more as blockers. Steelers Depot had a chart that showed those three were in on 15 total snaps compared to, say, 47 for Cotchery. I’m not as down on Jerrico as others, but it certainly should help the running game if they balanced it out a bit between him and some blockers.

  • drobviousso

    How can you have a Todd Haley section and not mention the substitution call after Paulson’s fumble. Ben R knew he had to get a play off. I knew he had to get a play off. The color guy knew he had to get a play off. My wife, half paying attention while writing up her lesson plan, knew he had to get a play off. Trai Essex on twitter knew he had to get a play off.

    Haley knew he had to get a sub package in…

    • countertorque

      Yeah, that was infuriating. Just spike the ball if that’s all you can manage.
      Also, stop having Plaxico mentor the pass catchers.

  • David

    According to ESPN stats, Ben had 9 overthrows. Most in his career in a game.

    Also, lost in the shuffle: he tried to hurry up a snap after Paulson’s fumble, but…instead of hurrying up, a la Peyton vs. the Raisins, we sub and huddle. Are you kidding me?

    • Cols714

      Ugh. Really? Haley sucks.

    • http://www.steelerslounge.com/ ryan

      I was YELLING VERY LOUDLY at this development. I mean, absolutely unacceptable. Almost as unacceptable as Paulson getting stripped. For the life of me I’ll never understand how people playing football their whole life forget to protect the ball in the open field.

      • GlennWa

        The sad thing is, as Paulson was rumbling for extra yardage, all I was thinking was “don’t fumble”. Feel free to trip over a yard line and fall down, big fella. The fumbling at the end of big gains has become an epidemic with this team in recent seasons.

    • Terribletoweler

      I wonder if the bad line play is getting into Ben’s head. He has been hurt every season, and now he is consistently running for his life. It has to be a concern. You can’t tell me it doesn’t affect QB play when a QB does not trust his line (other than the obligatory “these guys are awesome!” to the media).

      • countertorque

        Ben looks slower to me. He seems to be getting sacked more often when he used to get away and get the pass off.

      • Intropy

        I’ve been concerned with this too. I’m seeing shades of Philip Rivers.

  • Cols714

    Two more positives
    1. Ike Taylor was awesome and shut down AJ Green who is probably a top 5 receiver
    2. The DL continues to be impressive.

  • http://www.steelerslounge.com/ ryan

    Greetings fellow chumps! I come to you from my garage, where I sit in my car, windows up. Just a programming note: we’ll be firing up the podcast Wed. AM so feel free to leave (more) angry messages here.

  • http://www.steelerslounge.com/ ryan

    ANNOUNCEMENT: I haven’t shaved since late July because I’m a lazy sack, but I will not shave until the Steelers win. If that doesn’t motivitate the troops all hope is lost.

    • Randy Steele

      You’re scaring me now, Ryan.

  • Cols714

    I didn’t notice the new center at all so he must have done OK. I think if Pouncey comes back next year maybe they can make him a LG and keep the new guy at center. That would upgrade the LG position and it doesn’t seem like having Pouncey out hindered the pass pro at all at center.

    • Mike G

      yea… Velasco (sp?) did a good Job in my opinion… who sucked? DeCastro… Atkins had his way with him… he looked like a 6th rounder, not a first!

      • Randy Steele

        Hmm… I agree that Velasco held his own pretty well, all things considered, and it didn’t surprise me. He’s a seasoned pro who lost his job for cap reasons. I think the Steelers got real lucky with this guy.

        But let’s see how he performs the rest of the season before we decide to jettison yet another high-profile player. (Yeah, I don’t know if Pouncey will be worth the money he wants either, but I’m tired of losing talent.)

        And I’m going to wait until I see the performance breakdowns of the offensive line, but I didn’t see Geno Atkins flashing a lot last night.
        That doesn’t mean DeCastro has proved anything yet.

        The pass blocking wasn’t consistently horrible last night.But on the other hand, the run blocking was putrid. And that is a big problem.

  • Mike G

    this is exactly ALL the same points me and a friend talked about last night. This Staff is retarted, TOMLIN is a joke of a coach. You hear his halftime quote? He was happy how the game was going in the first half, and it was going as they thought. UNREAL. That right there shows you how clueless this guy is… along with Haley’s horrible plays and calls. There is no light at the end of this tunnel. NO skill… and a coaching staff that has no clue, how or when to use the personnel it even has.

    • djanyreason

      At the half, the game was tied. The Steelers had 14 fewer rushing yards, and 41 fewer passing yards (not counting a 24 yard DPI against the Bengals). The Steelers had a big punt return in the first half, and Ben had only been sacked once. The Bengals were averaging less than 5 yards per pass attempt, and more than a third of their pass yards had come on one play.

      On the road, against a playoff team – I was happy with how the first half was going too. It was the second half, and especially the third quarter, where the wheels came off.

      • Mike G

        you wach the same game, or jsut spouting out halftime stats? The Steelers didn’t do JACK SQUAT until the final drive that got a TD on. 5 out of the first 6 drives resulted in FIVE 3 n outs… and a fumble that was overturned because Ben wanted to quickly run a play… and the Coaches decided it was better to waste time and sub people in. Yea… that’s EXACTLY something to be happy about. It wasn’t the second half when the Wheels came off. GET A CLUE… this team 4 years ago would been up 24-7 with the way CIN was playing. DENILE (look it up)

        • djanyreason

          Edited reply:
          * Steelers had 4 3-and-outs in first half, not 5
          * “jack squat” ignores 40 yard punt return, large drive aborted by bad fumble luck
          * Steelers had 2 productive drives after the first 5, which were, in fact, part of the first half

          I stand by my original assessment.

          • Cols714

            Yep and you are correct. They started moving the ball and continued that into the beginning of the 2nd half.

          • Mike G

            yea, because they ammassed a grand total of -12 YARDS in the 3rd quarter LOL… (i do see your sarcasm Cols… no worries)

          • Cols714

            No it wasn’t sarcasm. At the end of the 1st half they had a good drive and they would have had a good drive at the beginning of the 2nd but it was wiped out by a phantom tripping call.

          • Mike G

            Ahh sorry yes.. just looked at play by play.. you are right we had 4 3n outs out of 7 possessions. 1 of the 3n outs resulted in a FG after the good punt return or this woulda been a PUNT as well. Yes, that makes it sooooooo much better… DENILE! So lemme see, 2 Good possessions outta 7, and of those 2…one of them was a Turn Over (mind you, any Turn over is not a good possession), that woulda have been, had the Staff not been idiots about it, and let Ben run a play? HAHAHA… Now i see Where Tomlin can actually be happy about the first half, if he thinks like you!

          • djanyreason

            I sat on this point last time because I thought it was childish, but, seriously dude – De Nile is a river in Egypt. The word you’re looking for is denial.

        • David

          I hear what you’re saying. And I think everyone can agree that we played like crap, our coaching staff had some brain cramps, and our D couldn’t get a 4th Q stop or a takeaway. And it infuriates me even more to see that petter-ass Whitworth or whatever his name is try to make a name for himself and tangle with Troy way after the whistle.

          But I think we can also agree that if we can bury Mr Grumpy, aka: you-wanted-Peyton-over-me-so-I’m-going-to Chicago, about six times in the Heinz turf, we’ll most likely be happy campers Sunday PM. Wishful thinking.

          Hey, was it over after the Germans…OK, I’ll save that quote until later, if we’re (knock on wood hope not) 0-4 at the bye.

    • EasyLikeSundayMorning
  • Cols714

    I get the critique of the Steelers defense having a lot of their best players that are older, but these supposed “old” guys are still some of the best at their positions. Just going from Ted’s earlier list:

    SS Troy Polamalu, 11th season, 32
    CB Ike Taylor, 11th season, 33
    OLB LaMarr Woodley, 7th season, 28
    ILB Lawrence Timmons, 7th season, 27
    FS Ryan Clark, 12th season, 33
    DE Brett Kiesel, 12th season, 34

    Troy is one of the best safeties of all-time and still one of the best in the leauge. Should we replace him with someone younger who cannot possibly be as good?
    Same with Ike. Judging by his blanketing of AJ Green, he’s pretty great
    LaMarr Woodley, 28 since when does 28 mean old
    Lawrence Timmons = same
    Ryan Clark – still one of the better safeties, will probably be replaced by Thomas next year
    Kiesel – old, but still good. They drafted his replacement in Heyward who looked pretty good last night.

    I just don’t see the criticism of the team on defense being old. The old guys are playing at a pretty high level still. There’s no reason to replace them until they slip.

    The rest of the defense in Cortez, Jarvis, Hood (who’s looked good so far), and McClendon, are young enough.

    I really think the defense is good enough to be a top unit. It’s the offense that is the real problem.

    • countertorque

      Cols, I generally agree. The thing that bothers me is that 3/4 of the starting secondary is 32+. I feel like that has to play a part in the lack of turnovers. I know Troy very nearly made an impossible play to get an INT in game 1. But, these are the guys who have to cover large amounts of ground every play. And they have no speed demon to recover if a receiver gets loose.

      • Cols714

        Yes but who would you replace? Ike is still very good. Troy is still very good. Clark is still very good. They upgraded Lewis to Allen.

        I see this being a problem in 2015, but right now it’s not a problem at all.

  • GlennWa

    I actually didn’t feel all that badly after last night’s game, because as opposed to Game 1 the Steelers showed some fight and signs of competence, especially on defense. No, we can’t run the football, but I thought that the pass protection was decent. (I don’t understand the claim that Ben was “beat up”. Compared to what? Not compared to past seasons, in my estimation. Ben’s just not holding up his end, so far.) Don’t turn the ball over twice and don’t get screwed on an imaginary tripping call, and it’s a likely upset win on the road against the division favorite.
    This is all relative of course. My expectations were already low, so last night’s performance was almost relieving– we may not be an atrocious football team (I’m not the selfish type that can’t live with a 6-to-8 win team for a couple seasons after many years of success). Couple years ago last night’s game would have really ticked me off, but not right now.

    • Cols714

      This is a good point. The other point is that the NFL is really a strange league. We put all sorts of narratives based on who won and lost when that is really only the result of a few random plays.

      For example, Joe Flacco is a superstar because a Denver defender lost his brain at the worst time. There are a lot of little moments like this in every season and we make them seem to be more than they are.

  • Eric

    Is it Sunday yet?

  • Cols714

    Mike Wallace had a pretty good day for the Dolphins on Sunday.

  • http://www.steelerslounge.com/ ryan

    ANNOUNCEMENT, PART II: The podcast will be delayed a day or two (completely my fault), but you can listen to me talk about Steelers’ MNF effort in the CBSSports.com podcast I do with Will Brinson: http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/eye-on-football/23694527/eye-on-football-podcast-steelers-are-done-recapping-rest-of-week-2

    • Cols714

      As long as it’s not the year long delay like the last time the podcast went on hiatus, then no problem!!!!!!

      Thanks!