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Friday, September 25, 2009

Cincinnati Roundtable

In place of a game preview this week and to discuss some of the issues the Steelers have going in to the Bungles game, we decided to do a roundtable. We picked five questions to tackle and each gave our opinion. Here is what we came up with.

1) Should we be more concerned for the ability of the offense to put up points or the defense playing a run of good quarterbacks without Troy?

ALEX: I think that both options are a reason for concern and both are problems as we speak, but the defense has still played well, we have only let up 27 points in two games so far. That’s almost a half point better than the average from the 2008 season. It is still very early and it looks as though that number is surely to go up because the D is letting up almost 70 more pass yards per game than the squad from 2008. The offense not only needs to start putting points on the board but needs to put up touchdowns. With the weapons this team has there’s no reason that we only have 3 TD’s this year.

JOSH: There is no doubt that our defense takes a big hit without Troy Polamalu in there, but even without him, the unit is still in the top third of the league. I'm really excited to see if a healthy Timmons can bring some explosiveness and big plays in Troy's absence. That said, the bigger concern has to be the offense. Pittsburgh fans love to claim Roethlisberger is the third best quarterback in the league (myself included), but that reputation is built more on postseason success than scoring a load of points in the regular season. We know that Big Ben will be clutch late in the game, but I'd love to see more blowouts. The way the defense normally plays, we would blow people out by scoring 24-28 points per game. The problems have been two-fold: no running game and bogging down in the red zone. Of the two, I'm more concerned about the red zone.
One item I am concerned about is the turnover margin. The Steelers defense hasn't created any turnovers that led to easy points. The team already has difficulty scoring touchdowns, so a big play that provides a short field would help to put more points on the board. Not to mention, the Steelers offense/special teams has turned it over 5 times in two games. This trend needs to stop now.

ELLIOT: Generally, I am way more concerned about the offense. Yes the D loses alot without Troy, that is obvious, but this week especially I am not too worried about Palmer killing us. As the Bears showed, short quick passes kill us. The Bengals are not built for this type of a game plan. As Josh and I discussed, the Bengals quick pass go to guy was T.J. Housh and he is gone to the great northwest. Their other receivers are stretch the field types and their tight ends are not anything special.

Our offense is healthy. We have tons of talent at the skill positions but for some reason we are not scoring points and not sustaining drives. We need more time killing possession to keep the D off the field for long stretches. Yes the D gave up a 92 yard drive last week, but that will hopefully be an anomaly. Santonio needs to stop dropping balls. Ben needs to stop taking drive halting, field position killing sacks. We currently rank 15th out of 16 AFC teams in scoring. This is to say the least disconcerting.

2) Thoughts on the offensive line play. Starting to gel or still piss poor?

ALEX: I missed a good chunk of the Chicago game because of work but from what I saw in the second half the line did play better but this is probably because they started dropping people in coverage because we can only pass the ball which then opened a few lanes. Our pass protection has been much better this year but overall our line is expensive and piss poor. This is the Achilles heel of our team and when our D took a loss, it makes it that much more important for the line to step up their game. C’mon big boys!

JOSH: There were still major breakdowns against the Titans, but I'm more optimistic about this line than I have been in two years. That's not to say they will be a good line, but if we can just have an average unit blocking up front, Pittsburgh is dangerous. The obvious concern, being beaten into us by every local and national media outlet, is the lack of run blocking. Against the better teams, that won't change. Don't expect to gash Baltimore on Minnesota in the run game. There isn't enough talent up front. But, in the passing game, the line has looked much better. And that is more important for two reasons. One - the Steelers are a passing team now. Like it or not. Two - keeping the franchise healthy.

ELLIOT: I agree with Josh for the most part. Remember, Essex is a first time starter and should improve with experience. I have been greatly encouraged by the pass protection this season. Ben, for the most part, has had plenty of time to throw. A few of the sacks he has taken are on him and not on the o-line. I also think they improved in the run blocking arena last game over the game with Tennessee and I see continued improvement coming as the season moves along. The difficulty we have running right now is a combination of a few things. I agree the run blocking has not been great, but I also think we are calling run plays in predictable situations. Ben needs to audible out of runs when they have 8 in the box. Gone are the days when we could run on whoever we wanted to whenever we wanted. We need to pass to set up the run and take advantage of situations that are conducive to running the ball.

3) The Bengals showed signs of life last week. Is this a good team with an underrated defense? How concerned should Pittsburgh be?

ALEX: I didn’t get to see the Bungles play last week but in beating the Pack, they must have done something right. Green Bay was considered a contender coming into the year. I think their D has improved and even though the stats say they have a bad D they are normally good at taking the ball away if I remember correctly. Pittsburgh should be concerned with this team as Palmer, Ochocinco, and Cedric Benson are all playing well. The Bengals are also way overdue for a win at home against us, too.

There is always concern to face division rivals, except the Browns of course. This year's version of the Bengals is much more dangerous than the team we blew out last year. That happens when your starting quarterback is injured all year and his replacement played at Harvard. Carson Palmer makes the team dangerous offensively and Cincy has quietly made itself into a physical unit on the defensive side of the ball. Roy Williams, Tank Johnson, Keith Rivers, and Rey Mauluga are physical. Antawn Odom had more sacks in the firs two weeks than the Bengals had all last year (exaggeration, but not by much).
Despite the fact the Bungs should be 2-0, I'd still hold off on calling them a good team. Denver is pathetic and, despite the media attention, Green Bay was a 6-10 team. To be taken seriously, Marvin Lewis needs to prove it against a good team. This is their chance. Which makes me very concerned. Cincy is normally an unfocused team that plays without passion. They are focused and passionate to beat the defending Super Bowl champs.

ELLIOT: I must say I am worried about this game although recent history should lead me to believe otherwise. The Bengals are quietly the 12th best D in the league. They have 7 starters on D drafted in the 1st or 2nd round. If the Jets' Superbowl was last week, this is the Bengals'. What gives me heart is that these are still the Bengals. I don't think their offense is that great and I see our D giving them problems. The pundits picked the Bears last week and were right. They are going with the Bengals this week. I think this is a better version of the Bengals than in years past and we should be concerned.

4) Where is the Steelers pass rush?

ALEX: Teams are trying to stretch out our D and throw short and dinky pass plays, which therefore eliminate the number of sacks. I feel like we have a decent amount of QB pressure but just the sack numbers aren’t there because when our defenders get there the QB just lobs the ball over their head to the waiting RB. If teams actually start throwing the ball down field the sacks will come.

JOSH: It's no secret that to beat the Steelers defense, a short, quick passing game is needed. Not many quarterbacks can run that system with success. Kerry Collins and Jay Cutler can. The pass rush is still there - both quarterbacks were hurried - but there wasn't enough time to make sacks. Cutler made the Steelers miss a couple times. I'd like to see more pressure up the middle for teams that play us in this way - another area Timmons could help immensely - especially when James Harrison is constantly drawing double teams. I'm not worried about the pass rush. This is the week Deebo and Wood get off the schnide.

ELLIOT: I too am not worried about the pass rush, yet. We were getting pressure last week, even when we only rushed 3 guys. Some sacks were missed and Cutler made some world class throws while under pressure. We will definitely have some sacks and alot of pressure this week against Palmer. Another thing to look at is the fact that teams max protect against us constantly which makes it that much more difficult to get to the QB. We do need to get to the QB to create turnovers.

5) Big Ben is undefeated in Ohio and the Steelers have won the last 8 vs the Bungles in Cincy. Is this the week the streak ends?

ALEX: Coming off a deflating loss against da Bears, I do not see Mikey T, Ben, and the gang possibly allowing a loss to come at the hands of the Bungles.

JOSH: If so, expect major bandwagon jumpers. But I don't think this is the week we lose to the Bengals. Had we pulled out the victory against the Bears, the team might not be as focused or mad as it is entering this game. Jeff Reed ensured we would be focused. I expect to see a physical battle that is tight in the end. But unlike last week, the Steelers pull it out. 20-14.

ELLIOT: If you look at any of my predictions, I rarely go against the Steelers. I just don't see us suffering back to back losses with Tomlin at the helm. Last week was a wake up call. We can't just waltz through this season and let Ben win every game in the 4th quarter. The Steelers don't lose in Ohio. Our offense wakes up this wake and the D plays as good as can be expected without Troy. Steelers 27 Bengals 17.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great discussion guys. Not gonna lie, I'm a little worried about this game, but I like the way Tomlin responds after his team plays poorly. If there's one guy who can get a team focused, it's Tomlin. He's the ultimate motivator. I think we should hire him for an event. And maybe some midgets...