I know. It's Friday and I should be writing game previews instead of looking back to last week's game. I'm running behind schedule, but last week's win might have been the best of the Tomlin era and there were lots of crazy developments.
- Big Ben doesn't look right. On the first drive, I texted my brother, "Ben looks hurt." The last two games have been nightmarish for him and have erased from our minds how he carried us through the first half of the season. Other than the bumps and bruises, and complete lack of confidence, one thing entirely missing this season is his ability to run with the football. There were several instances on Monday night where Ben easily could have picked up a first down, but refused to run. (Not to mention the fact that there is never a designed play to get Ben out of the pocket. Where are the roll outs?) I was too lazy to check the stats, but luckily our friends at PGH at similar thoughts.
The excuse we all like to make on Roethlisberger’s behalf is: “Ben holds the ball a long time because he is always looking to make big plays down field. Sure he gets sacked a decent amount, but the trade-off is that he can move around the pocket after a play breaks down and hit a homerun.” Really? How many times this year has Big Ben done that? In years past this rationale was spot on. Thus far in 2008, we’re seeing the sacks and the “holding the ball for too long” but we’re really not seeing the plays Ben was making with his legs in 2005. Evading 3 tacklers as he runs towards the sideline and launches a bomb for a TD….we just haven’t seen it. I think Roethlisberger’s ability to tuck the ball and run is something our offense is missing. Ben is more than capable of making the defense account for his running ability and he’s more than capable of picking up key 3rd downs by simply escaping the pocket and taking off.
You’ll see Big Ben is on pace for his worst season ever in terms of Rushing Attempts Per game, Rushing Yards Per Game, and First Downs via the scramble. You’d think these numbers would go up with a worse offensive line. Hmmm…
2008: 1.9 rushing attempts per game, 3.9 yards per game, on pace for 4 first downs this season.
2007: 2.3 rushing attempts per game, 13.6 yards per game, 17 first downs on the year.
2006: 2.1 rushing attempts per game, 6.5 yards per game, 11 fist downs on the year.
2005: 2.6 rushing attempts per game, 5.8 yards per game, 9 first downs on the year.
2004: 4.0 rushing attempts per game, 10.3 yards per game, 12 first downs on the year.
- I think I'm in the minority here, but I really liked the onside kick to start the game. The odds of getting the kick are more than 50/50. And after last week's let down, it set the tone that we would play this game with aggresion. Tomlin believed that even if it failed, our defense would hold. Aggression and confidence are two things that every team needs to win, especially in big games on the road. The onside kick was unsuccessful, but the tone it set was even more valuable.
- We pile on Arians nearly every week. He really is terrible and unimaginative. I truly believe if we had Mularkey or Whisenhunt calling the plays, this team would be the favorite for the Super Bowl. With Arians, our only hope is defensive brilliance. That said, major kudos to the coaching staff for not getting too conservative with Leftwich in the game. Leftwich showed the importance of having a solid back up QB. His play made this game a blowout, as opposed to a defensive nailbiter.
- What can you say about this defense? Never in my wildest dreams did I think they would be this good. Big Snack is routinely in the backfield. Aaron Smith is climbing the charts in my favorite Steelers of all time. Woodley and Harrison are unbelievable. Farrior is the QB. Timmons is explosive. Troy looks like the best safety in the league. The secondary is doing a great job, and that's with Tyrone Carter and Anthony Smith playing. But, as I have said before, the only way that we make a deep run in the playoffs is if the defense, not only stops opponents, but also forces turnovers. Our offense is sub-par. Winning teams with sub-par offenses, must dominate field position, make stops on defense, and force turnovers to score points.
- When looking at all aspects of the special teams, it wasn't a great day. Reed missed an XP. Berger was terrible. Our return teams are an embarassment. The onside kick didn't work. Nonetheless, the team has made tremendous strides in kick and punt coverage. AND, the turning point of the game came on a blocked punt. Hopefully, the coaching staff realizes that we should be sending punt block schemes much more often. If we can't return a punt, then let's go after the punter. The punt block by Frazier changed the momentum of the game that resulted in a touchdown before the half and a dominating performance after the half.
- An extremely worrying stat: Prior to this game, the Steelers were 1-8 on 3rd down and 1. 1-8! That is unbelievable bad. Several reasons: bad play calling (why oh why are we in shotgun on third and short), an offensive line that can't blow people off the ball, and a reluctance to hand the ball of to our most effective RBs. I know Najeh Davenport is big, but he is also slow and has bad vision. Some of the best short yardage backs in the history of the league, Emmitt Smith, LDT, are not big guys. Pittsburgh loves Jerome Bettis. We no longer have Bettis. Mewelde Moore is best suited to fill this role.
-Once again, Steelers fans invaded an opposing team's stadium. Rumor has it, Jason Campbell went to a silent count. IN HIS OWN STADIUM.
- Big win for Tomlin. I'm not always the biggest Tomlin fan. He's made some questionable on the field decisions, the team collapsed at the end of last season, he chose Arians as the OC, Colon and Simmons have started despite terrible play, etc... But in spite of the injuries this year, he has had the team prepared and ready to compete each and every week. He's still inexperienced and makes some mistakes (and should also take some heat for how bad the offense is performing), but the intensity, preparedness, and togetherness of the team have been outstanding.
- Did anyone see the guitar hero commercials? Holy cow. I can't believe these weren't censored. No complaints here.