Steelerfury Post Game: Blind Sided by the Ravens
Happy Thanksgiving Steeler Nation. It was the week we all sit around the TV watching teams that actually execute their game plans giving thanks to the high quality product our beloved Steelers have put on the field the previous 2 weeks. Fresh off a beat down by the lowly KC Chiefs and setting an NFL record 8th consecutive game with a return TD allowed, what else could go wrong?
For starters, a late concussion to Ben Roethlisberger in that game would limit his practice reps all week but the football gods that represent all things tough about Steeler Nation would put him on the field. Until the news broke that is, the news that Ben would not play and the question of why he’d still dress as a backup plan would never be addressed. Instead, we awoke to the wonderful news that Mr. Spread option himself, Dennis Dixon would lead us to victory over the hated Ravens. But wait, I’m not done. The topping on my holiday pie was getting to listen to a Steeler icon, Hines Ward, publicly call out his fearless leader on national TV questioning his toughness and fire for this game. At that point, I knew there was no chance for this game, or to salvage this season. It’s a clear sign of a team in turmoil when the locker room talk is put on camera.
As one problem arises, another surfaces. My advice is to back to 2-a-days and sweat out the pain and dissention that is tearing this team apart right now. Not only did I hear Hines’ rant this week, I also heard Ryan Clark call out his special teams on national radio. While both rants were warranted, there’s a time and place for this stuff and as team leaders, I thought each handled it very poorly.
Head Coach – D
In 2008, this team took on the high intellectual, lunch pail approach Mike T. likes to bring to the locker room. This year, not so much. This team is unable to overcome adversity right now and with all the mental error piling up, I don’t see an end in sight.
This is another week I won’t call out the offensive game plan. I actually liked it a lot. The intent for this game was to stay in 3rd & manageable and play field position. Don’t be the one that makes the first mistake, and I thought they did an excellent job in doing so. They max protected for
12/26 – 145 yards – 1 TD – 1 INT – 60.6 QBR – 46% CMP
I give Dennis Dixon somewhat of a pass here knowing it’s his first start against a quality defense. Early on, he didn’t make any mistakes and showed some crispness on his throws. He had a very nice 31 yard scramble called back for penalty, but did punch in a nice pass/run option keeper from 21 yards out. The Ravens did make quality adjustments and often walked a safety up over RT to take that keeper away. His identifiable mistake was sticking the slant a hair late in OT that essentially cost the game. But from halftime on, Double D struggled in his reads and was unsure of where to go with the ball.
Running Back – A-
35 carries – 126 yards – 0 TD
I thought Rashard Mendenhall had a very nice game again and continues to improve with every carry he gets. He’s already the best back on the roster in pass pro and began to finish runs a little better in this contest. He still relies on his spin move a little much, but did a great job grinding out tough yards against a quality run front.
Tight End: C-
1 catch – 2 yards
Heath Miller was largely a non factor in this game and was hit or miss in the run game. Considering his assignment, he actually did better than I expected and Matt Spaeth continues to be irrelevant. David Johnson did a solid job in a fullback role as a lead blocker for Mendenhall when called upon
Wide Receiver: C-
9 catches – 121 yards – 1 TD
Santonio Holmes was the only one that showed up to play. Hines Ward had a couple key grabs early on then became largely irrelevant himself. Mike Wallace needs to learn to position his body better on the deep throw if he wants to learn how to make a play.
Offensive Line: A
I thought the OL playing inspired football last night all the way across the board. I called them out this week by saying when this kind of adversity of being relegated to your 3rd QB happens, winning football teams can fall back on the run game. They came out and played inspired and got much more movement than I ever thought they would. Constantly blowing the Raven front 2 yards off the ball all night while keeping DD clean enough to not allow a sack. Solid effort from this unit.
Seems to be the grade of the day. They did make some key splash plays, but followed each of them up with a mental error of their own. The Steeler front 7 was uncharacteristically manhandled in the run game at times against an unbalanced line they’ve dominated in the past. The matchups the Steeler coaches schemed were poorly designed and easily exploited. It’s inexcusable to allow 17 yards on 3rd & 22 and by extension eventually allowing a first down. The icing on the cake for me was watching Ray Rice take over in OT and have his way with this beaten Steeler defense
Defensive Line: D
This may be the poorest effort I’ve seen from this group in a long time. Travis Kirscke was completely erased at the point of attack and Brett Keisel not much better. I did think Ziggy Hood provided a small spark at times when he entered the game and believe that kid is going to be a player in this league.
Although this LB unit notched 4 sacks and couple forced fumbles, they were still either a step slow or out of position too many times. There was no one to plug cutback lanes too often after over pursuing a play and the 4th & 5 slant to Ray Rice will stay with me as a James Farrior low point for me for a long time.
It’s apparent this unit misses
ST’s: As uninspired as I even am to write this article up to this point, it’s the same feeling I have about this unit. If Bob Ligashesky isn’t on the first thing smokin out of town come January 4th, we may never right the ship here. While “bunny rabbit” or “joystick controller” or whatever nicknames “the player” has these days, his returns were even OK. While he toils in mediocrity and pray for my kicking team to stop someone, all the sudden the punt team kept failing me with missed assignment after missed assignment.
Steeler MVP: Offensive Line