Steelers vs. Eagles Post Game Wrap
*RASHARD's RETURN - As dynamic as Mendenhall was today, I still get irate every time I see him carry the ball in open field. As you can see in the above photo, there is nothing resembling '5 points of pressure' on the ball when he carries it. Mendenhall carries the rock down and away from his body like he's swinging a purse. Today it merely resulted in an unforced fumble with nobody around him in open field. I've always been amazed he hasn't fumbled more in his career. You can only fault the coaching staff for this. Five years into the league and they haven't forced him to carry the ball properly. That pissing and moaning aside, today Rashard showed how explosive he is. Maybe more accurately, he showed us how completely devoid of explosiveness the other backs on the roster are. Mendenhall hit the hole like he was shot out of a cannon his runs today. I think it's safe to say that ACL is fully healed, and it's exciting to think how good this offense can be if everyone remains healthy, Decastro returns, and the O-line improves a bit.
*TIMMONS TRIUMPHS - Today you saw what makes Lawrence Timmons so dynamic. When he is told to attack, his athleticism shines bright. He's one of the most physically gifted inside linebackers in the NFL. His issues come when he has to read and react, is asked to think too much, or is forced to fight off blockers. Lebeau turned Timmons loose today and he dogged Michael Vick and Lesean McCoy all day long. Larry Foote may have let the cat out of the bag in his post-game interview when he said over the next few weeks the game plan is for Timmons to blitz and Foote to drop into coverage. Regardless, they need to continue forcing the issue with Timmons.
*COLONOSCOPY - They say the worst part is the prep. In a new weekly article we are going to use the All-22 tape to break down and evaluate every snap from a player who puts himself firmly in our in the cross hairs with his play. Last week we attempted to detail Evander Hood's pass rush skills. This week Colon will be going under the scope. Any time a guard has four holding calls in a game, you have a major problem. Like, it's time to lose your job problem. That said, Colon also kept Ben clean for the most part and opened a few nice holes in the run game. I suspect we will see some good plays and some putrid stench when we put Colon under the scope.
*TRAINING, CONDITIONING, & MEDICAL STAFFS - Are we to the point where we should start questioning these aspects of the Steelers organization? Players who get hurt don't seem to be recovering either fully or rapidly. Woodley's hamstring has now lingered for over a year. Same story with Troy's calf. Harrison's knee had all offseason to be attended to, but it still wasn't properly addressed for the first month of the season. Additionally, a handful of players seem to be playing entirely too heavy. Worilds, Colon, Foster, Starks, Gilbert, Woodley, and maybe even Timmons come to mind. Conditioning Coach Garrett Giemont, Head Athletic Trainer John Norwig, and Physician Dr. James Bradley, consider yourselves on notice.
*FOX BROADCAST - Was it just me, or did it seem to have even more technical issues than usual? The volume went up and down all game long and even switched over to the audio for the Colts game at one point. Early in the 3rd quarter the video feed went choppy. You'd expect more from a billion dollar industry.
HC Tomlin - At some point you've got to pin the excessive penalties on the head man in charge. 9 more penalties, two more were of the pre-snap formation variety, and 106 total yards in penalties for the game. The Steelers started slow coming out of the bye week as they had a sloppy 3-and-out on their first drive and allowed the Eagles to drive the length of the field before Vick fumbled into the endzone. A win is a win, the standard is the standard, if you will. (Grade: B-)
OC Haley - Many of us still have nightmares of the last meeting with the Eagles where Roethlisberger took 8 sacks and a massive beating. Those games seem to be a thing of the past under Todd Haley. Again he utilized an efficient short passing game and stayed committed to the run which kept the Eagles from teeing off on Ben. This wasn't the most efficient or flawlessly executed offensive performance, but given the quality of the Steelers O-line and ferocity of the Eagles D-line, Haley called a smart game (Grade: B)
DC Lebeau - The plan of attack with Vick was to contain him on the outside and put heat in his face with blitzes up the gut. Timmons was the main benefactor and he responded with a very good game. With the game on the line Lebeau's defense again came up small allowing a 17 play, 79 yard drive which consumed 8 minutes and culminated with the go-ahead touchdown. This drive also saw two converted 4th down attempts. The defense did a good job bottling up Shady McCoy and limited the impact of Desean Jackson. (Grade: B)
QB: Ben cooled a bit on 3rd down as he converted only 3 of his first 10 3rd down attempts into first downs. For the game Ben only connected on 56% of his passes for 5.6 YPA. He missed an open Heath Miller on a 3rd down toss inside the 5 in the 4th quarter. That said, Ben led the team to victory on the final drive and was robbed of two or three TD passes. The outlet to Mendenhall was scored as a run, Brown dropped a pass in the endzone, and Cotchery tripped himself as he was on his way for a late 1st half score. (Grade: B-)
RB: The return of Rashard Mendenhall was a sight for sore eyes. The difference in burst between him and the other backs on the roster jumps off the screen. He exploded into the hole when he ran the ball, ran over a DB to gain extra yards and pick up a 1st down, and took a swing pass to the house for a score. As I noted above, he carries the ball like a loaf of bread which resulted in an unforced fumble. Mendenhall finished with 14 carries for 81 yards. Add in the 22 yarder he lost for the illegal formation call and he had 103 yards and 6.8 YPC. Redman fit into his proper role in short yardage and relief duty. He unleashed a nice spin move to convert a 3rd and 1, and ripped a tough 13 yard gain up the middle on another carry. Rainey added his standard 1 carry for 0 yards bringing his total up to 15 yards on 7 carries for the season. If you can figure that one out, feel free to fill me in. (Grade: A-)
WR: Mike Wallace had an illegal formation penalty that erased a 22 yard run and Antonio Brown drew a false start flag. It is unacceptable for receivers to draw multiple pre-snap penalties in back to back weeks. Brown added in a dropped TD pass in the endzone and Wallace dropped a few catchable balls including the pop up pass that Ben tossed him on 3rd down. Cotchery kicked his own leg and essentially erased a TD from the scoreboard just before half on a play he should have walked in for a score. Miller grabbed four balls and Paulson grabbed his first NFL catch. Run blocking by Brown, Miller, and others was 'above the line'.(Grade: C)
OL: Maurkice Pouncey began the game by getting into a fight with a safety, then followed that up with a snap over Ben's head on 2nd down which essentially screwed the drive. He had two such poor snaps in the game. Marcus Groinburt again left injured only to return one series later. Can the man not play through pain or what? On a positive note, Starks and Gilbert were mostly excellent in pass protection against a good crew of edge rushers the Eagles threw at them. In the run game, Pouncey was able to get up field and open some holes for Mendehall and Redman. Willie Colon was atrocious at times as he racked up 4 holding calls and got walked into the backfield in pass protection with regularity. Colon was flagged for holding on a delay draw run, in pass protection in the 2 minute drill before half, the same occurred on the first play after the Eagles took the lead, and he held on a 3rd and 19 that was declined. Ramon Foster had his best game of the season, finally showing some of what he had last year.
DL: Evander Hood danced like fool after picking up a gift sack on a play where Timmons flushed and tripped Mike Vick, and Hood cleaned up the mess. He actually picked up his game a bit this week and was better against the run. Casey Hampton took the bulk of the snaps at NT and clogged the lanes pretty well, even though he made 0 tackles, hits, or pressures. In very limited snaps again, Steve McClendon got a strip sack on Vick. Keisel was silent and Heyward and Woods did little in limited relief duty reps. (Grade: B)
LB: Timmons was the story of the game. Lebeau repeatedly turned him loose on A gap blitzes and he responded by flashing his athleticism and harassing the Eagles QB all game long. LT was credited with 2 tackles for loss on McCoy, forced the sack that Hood was credited with, and had a handful of pressures and hurries. Larry Foote dropped into coverage a good bit and was tooled badly on the Shady McCoy TD catch and run. Jason Worilds got a scheme sack as he and Ryan Clark came on an overload blitz, the back picked up Clark, and an unblocked Worilds recorded the sack. He did have 2 hits on Vick, a pass defended, and played the run pretty well. James Harrison's return netted no sacks or forced fumbles, but he hurried and destroyed a number of plays that didn't register on the stat sheet. Harrison had 3 hits on Vick that surely took a toll. (Grade: B+)
DB: Ryan Clark forced a fumble on what should have been an easy Mike Vick TD plunge. He also got a ticky tack personal foul call when he drilled TE Celek as he fought for more yards. They called unnecessary roughness, I have no idea why. The whistle hadn't blown, and the Celek was a runner fighting for more yards. He wasn't a QB or defenseless receiver who is protected against head shot. Ike Taylor drew a big PI call that set the Eagles up in scoring range, but otherwise kept Desean Jackson in check. Cortez Allen was beat for a TD pass TE Celek. Keenan Lewis was solid yet unspectacular recording 7 tackles and tipping 1 pass. Ryan Mundy missed more tackles (again) and Polamalu blessed us with his presence for about a quarter. Will he play significant minutes this season? I'm starting to wonder. (Grade: B-)
ST: Slow clap for the kickers? Suisham quietly goes about his business and nails 3 kicks including a game winner. Butler blasted all of his punts high and long, even when he was forced to re-kick twice after more idiotic ST's penalties. He pinned the Eagles deep when it mattered. Rainey finally busted a 44 yard kick return and the coverage units held the Eagles from any meaningful returns. Penalties on Sylvester & DVD lower the grade. (Grade: B)
Refs: Suck. The real refs are every bit as bad and controversial as the replacement guys, they just don't get all of the excessive media scrutiny. The pass interference calls were applied inconsistently in this game. Some players got grabbed, spun, and mugged with no flags thrown while others got touched and drew a flag. Ben took more late shots without any penalties called, which is par for the course. (Grade: D)
Men of Steel: Rashard Mendenhall returned from a serious knee injury and single handedly breathed life into a dead running game. His explosive burst through the line gave balance to an offense sorely lacking it. On the other side of the ball Lawrence Timmons had his first outstanding game in a long while. Timmons made multiple big plays in the Eagles backfield and was a disruptive force. Congratulations to Rahsard Mendenhall & Lawrence Timmons for earning our SteelerFury Players of the Week Award.
Man of Steal: If I had any grudges I'd get Willie Colon to hold them for me. I can't figure out if I prefer Colon at Guard, Tackle, or Injured Reserve. Willie Colon, hang your head in shame as our Goat of the Game (again).
A short week and a very poor Tennessee Titans team are in the cross hairs for Thursday night. This is a game the Steelers need to go for the kill early. They can't afford to let a bad team hang around with them deep into the game. The Titans are looking for a reason to quit, and the Steelers need to give it to them early. Don't let the crowd become a factor. Just get in there, get your win, and get out healthy. The Polamalu and Woodley injuries are likely going to linger for a few weeks, if not the whole year. A big divisional showdown with Cincinnati also looms two weeks from today. The meaty part of the schedule is about to approach. Hope this team is ready, and healthy.