Extra Points - Steelers vs Chiefs Post Game Wrap
*Primary Concern: The KC Chiefs success on 1st down run attempts was troubling. In the first half Kansas City dominated the game on 1st down. The Steelers knew it was coming, they knew where it was coming, and they could not stop it. The first-half first down runs went for (9,7,7,4,6,4, & 4) yards for a whopping 6.3 YPC. Not a single one of those runs went for less than 4 yards. Matt Cassel showed early on that he would go full on fetal under anything resembling pressure, but efffective 1st down runs set up play-action passes on 2nd downs and allowed him to keep clean and free of 3rd and long situations for the entire 1st half. The Chiefs who love turning the ball over more than any team in football, were never put in a position where they could be forced into mistakes.
*How to Lose Football 101 - This seems to be turning into a regular part of this column. Week after week the Steelers find ways to let inferior talent hang around with them. The lowly Chiefs hadn't led for a second in a football game all year, but the Steelers let them jump out to an early 10-0 lead. Turnovers and penalties are always the key ingredient to losing football. Willie Colon's double penalty followed by Isaac Redman's fumbled gave KC free points and a reason not to roll over and die.
*Run Game Struggles - They say an effective run game can open up the passing game, but the reverse is also true. When your QB's passes are traveling the shortest distance downfield of any QB in the league, teams can feel free to crowd the box to slow both the running and passing games. Todd Haley's complete and total abandonment of the deep passing game is starting to hurt the overall effectiveness of the entire offense. To his credit, Haley did dial up two deep passes with Leftwich after Ben was knocked out of the game.
HC Mike Tomlin - As the saying goes: Once is an accident, twice is a trend, three times is a problem. Three times this season Tomlin's teams have looked sloppy and unprepared, then failed to put away inferior opponents. This time the game was at home and they walked away with a narrow OT win. Tomlin seemed giddy after the game in his press conference as if he feels grinding out an OT win against the worst team in the league is more of a moral victory
than coming in and decidedly blowing them out. Tomlin again went for and failed to convert on a 4th down opportunity at a key spot in the game. Such is life in the NFL. It's a game of attrition, etc... (Grade: D)
OC Todd Haley: Does anyone know what the hell Todd Haley's gameplan was? The Chiefs certainly did as their players were calling out and snuffing ou Haley's plays all game lomg. KC stacked the box against the Steelers even in their 3 wide sets, and why wouldn't they? Everyone knows the Steelers refuse to throw deep. Max Starks was quoted as saying "They were calling out our plays. Sometimes they knew what was coming". Haley facing his former team ran the same plays he did at KC with little effort to disguise things or come up with a unique gameplan for this week. Instead he let Derrick Johnson call out and stamp out his predictable plays at the line. (Grade: F)
DC Dick Lebeau: Facing a team with no offensive consistency or passing game, Lebeau's defense looked like the concept of play action passing was foreign to them as the Chiefs turned a few nice runs into big play action passes on the early TD drive. They had difficulty stopping any of the zone read runs that went to the right side over and over throughout the game. Facing a game deciding 4th and 15 and a shaky QB, Lebeau got no pressure on Cassel, Harrison dropped into coverage, and the pass was completed setting up the game tying FG and OT. Despite Kansas City dominating on early downs with their run game, fortunately Cassell failed repeatedly on 3rd downs. Matt Cassel went 0 for 8 on 3rd down pass attempts which was the most attempts without a completion for any NFL QB in a game in over 5 years. (Grade: C)
QB: Ben was inaccurate and victimized by drops early on. He held the ball way to long on the play where he was injured. I counted 6 seonds from snap to hit on that play. Leftwich's long wind-up looks even more awkward in this quick, short passing system. Hopefully Batch gets the start next week if Ben can't go. (Grade: C-)
RB: Isaac Redman's running was slow and tenative. He dropped an easy pass out of the backfield, was stripped of the ball deep in his own end which gave the Chiefs free points, and was also stuffed on a 4th and 1 run at midfield. Jonathan Dwyer was far more effective, rushing 13 times for 51 yards. Will Johnson had a drop and was tackled a yard or so shy of a potential 1st down that would have sealed the game late in the 4th after a catch and run. (Grade: D+)
WR/TE: The Steelers receivers had trouble separating from defenders and difficulty hanging on to the ball. They caught only 6 of 19 passes thrown to them in the game. Sanders dropped fist ball thrown his way and it took him 43 minutes to finally beat rookie Javier Arenas, who was making his first career start, for a catch. David Paulson fumbled the ball after his first catch. Mike Wallace made a circus grab in the endzone and did little else. He was overthrown on a couple of deep balls by Ben and Byron. Jerricho Cotchery had a huge 3rd down grab late in the game. Heath Miller was again a bright spot, though he whiffed on a few run blocking assignments. (Grade: D)
O-Line: Willie Colon got caught holding which wiped out the first positive run of the night. If that wasn't bad enough he got a 15 yard unsportsmanlike flag for cursing at an official. 'Mediocre Maurkice' returned and got pushed around in the run game by Dontari Poe. Starks and Adams were so-so protcting the edges, Adams had a lot of help, but held up well. Ramon Foster's play was non-descript. (Grade:C-)
D-Line: If Steelers fans didn't aleady fully appreciate the greatness of Aaron Smith, I bet they do now. This was another instance where we saw an opponent successfully scheme to attack the left side of the Steelers defense. Ziggy Hood was only able to shake free and net 2 measly tackles despite being run at about 30 times. Brett Keisel whooped rookie LG Jeff Allen for a sack on the fist drive and continued to be disruptive against the rookie throughout the game.
Keisel finished with 8 tackles, 2 sacks, and 4 hits on the QB. Casey Hampton had a mediocre game fighting through the Chiefs zone blocking, something he's sure to see more of against Balimore next week. McClendon and Woods saw the field some, but neither saw the stat sheet. Cam Heyward had to be separated from an opponent by teammates after nearly drawing a personal foul call after a play. The former 1st rounder provided zero impact otherwise yet again this week. Maybe next year? (Grade:D )
LB: Woodley struggled mightily to make plays against the run. He had a chance to stop a scrambling Matt Cassel on the first 3rd down of the 2nd half and failed as he was badly outrun and outclassed athletically. The next 3rd down play Peyton Hillis was bottled up in the backfield until he found Woodley and promptly stiff armed him to the ground. Timmons made a nice pass break up in coverage on Moeaki, got a handfulof hurries and pressure on the QB, made a TFL in the run game, and landed the deciding INT in overtime. He did however blow a tackle on Dwayne Bowe that went for a TD before it was wiped out because of a hold. The ghost of James Harrison was seen dropping into coverage over and over, including on the key 4th down play at the end of the game. He played well enough in the run game making plays from the back side, but never made any impact at all as a pass rusher. That is something you'd expect from a $10 million man. Larry Foote spent the day getting swallowed up by blockers. (Grade: C)
DB: Keenan Lewis was beat on a play action fake by TE Moeaki which set up the Chiefs first lead of the season. Ryan Clark cut off passes twice with shots at making an INT, but failed to reel either ball in. Ironically at the end of the game Clark went low to deliver a hit on a reciever which resulted in him taking a knee to the head and getting a concussion. Back in the good ole days, he'd have been the one delivering the concussion, but player safety is now key. Ike Taylor had solid coverage and broke up a potential big pass to Jon Baldwin. Will Allen was again a solid and steady presence as a replacement for Polamalu. (Grade: C )
STs: Suisham made kicks of 35, 31, & 23 yards. Not exactly long distance kicking, but he made them all and the Steelers needed every point. Gilreath was shaky returning punts. Rainey did little in his only kick return. Coverage units made stops inside the 20 twice and held the Chiefs returners to a 20 yard average. Butler had a respectable 42 yard average on his punts. (Grade: B-)
Refs: Bad officiating goes both ways. The refs blew a number of calls against KC including the offensive PI call and the holding call that wiped out the Bowe TD. KC was penalized 6 times for 76 yards and the Steelers were flag free aside from Colon's double penalty play. Did anyone know that cussing at an official is unsportsmanlike conduct? If that is the case, most coaches should get one of these calls every game (John Harbaugh). The ruling of a fumble on the Leftwich incompletion was equally awful, but it seems as though the league is set on just calling all of those plays fumbles then automatically reviewing them as opposed to blowing the whistle early. (Grade: C-)
Game Balls: Shaun Suisham's consistency and 10 points deserves to be recognized in an ugly game like this. Lawrence Timmons impact as a pass rusher and big interception coupled with the resurgent play of Brett Keisel also deserve recognition. Congrats to Timmons, Suisham, and Keisel for earning our SteelerFury Players of the Game.
Goat Balls: Steelers fans can't give away tickets to prime time games fast enough. The crowd at that game was embarrassing. Seats were empty, the stadium was quiet, and it was noticed by a national audience. I'm the first to admit the lure of the live game experience isn't what it used to be. Why get stuck in traffic, pay a small forutune for parking and food, sit in cold rain, and not get home until 1 am when you have to work the next day? You can enjoy the game at home in front of a big screen tv for a fraction of the cost and hassle. That said, if you have a ticket to the game use it. If you go, sit in your damn seat and cheer for the team. If you don;t want to do either of the above, give the ticket to someone who will.
The season is on the brink with Ben's shoulder injury. The though of potentially facing the Ravens twice minus Ben, Brown, Polamalu, and Mendenhall is just nauseating. Next Sunday night's game could decide the season. Last night's MRI perhaps already has.