Steelers vs Titans Post-Mortem
Short Bus Special Teams: Suisham's kick-offs are going just like last year. Deep into the endzone early in the season, then by week 4 he is kicking it to the 5. If it's by design it's moronic. The coverage units are allowing returns to near the 30 consistently. And how many more penalties did we see on the return team tonight? It was at least two. The crucial one was after the Titans tied the game late in the 4th QTR. The holding call on the Steelers backed the offense up deep inside their own end. Without that disadvantage they are in better FG position given the same plays that followed. Dickmarcus Van Dyke also was flagged for holding on an Antonio Brown 7 yard punt return. I sometimes think they'd be better off fair catching every kick just to avoid all of the damn penalties. And how rarely do you see a punt blocked in the NFL? The league averages just a handful per year, and of course the Steelers had to add to that total. Where is Chris Gardocki when you need him? That block was a huge momentum swing in this game. The Steelers were starting to roll and the Titans would have rolled over and died if the Steelers gave them a reason to. Of course, Ryan bleeping Mundy blocked the wrong man allowing a free path to the blocked punt. Tomlin said in his presser on Monday that Mundy has a lot on his plate with his ST's and defensive duties. Maybe it's time to pull him from one or the other. Hell, why not both? More importantly, I would love to know the details of the Al Everest firing. Think the local media has the balls to ask that question next Tuesday? Everest had the Steelers Special Teams playing at a high level last season, then was mysteriously fired just before the start of this year. If Tomlin fired him over a personality clash in spite of the job he was doing, that is a big knock against Mike.
League Leaders: Entering the game Ike Taylor led the league in penalties for defensive backs and Willie Colon led the league in penalties for linemen. (Credit Mark Kaboly for that nugget)
That is even more impressive/depressing considering they had the early bye week. Ike was targeted like a greenhorn rookie by Hasslebeck in this game, and not respected like the season veteran he is supposed to be. Taylor's play has regressed, he'll be 33 years old next year, and he's due $9 million. I think the prudent thing to do may be to cut him and throw some of that money towards retaining Keenan Lewis, who at 26 is finally starting to string together some solid games in succession. Colon miraculously did not have a penalty in this game, but still managed to suck. He's also due $7.6 million next year. Rebuilding mode is what the Steelers will be forced into in about 5 months as their cap hell will dictate it. Fortunately they have some old dead weight around to start chopping.
Marcus Groinburt (Gilbert), ballerina?: This guy really needs ballet lessons. Or a tightrope walking class perhaps. Whatever it takes to get his balance and coordination up to the level of your average .08 drunk walking down Carson street tonight is fine by me. Gilbert has taken out 3 of his Steelers teammates thus far by being knocked off his feet. He blew out starting FB David Johnson's ACL, he blew up starting RG David Decastro's MCL, and now he sprained Pouncey's MCL as well. The guy is a blown PCL away from winning the alphabet soup trifecta of blown ligaments to his teammates. I keep wondering and fearing how long it will be until he kills or maims #7?
Speaking of Ben: Swap him for Brandon Weeden and this team is the 0-5 Browns. This offensive line sucks. The running backs are mediocre. The defensive line is non-descript and ineffective. The edge rushers are non-existent. And the secondary is a collection of nobodies. Outside of Ben and his receivers, the Steelers roster is pretty barren. If they lose Wallace to free agency, it just gets worse. I can't imagine how bad this team would be if anything happened to the QB. Pray that Gilbert sticks to blowing up other players knees.
Ice Ice Baby: Alright stop, collaborate and listen. Mike Tomlin is back with a brand new invention. Its' called the own kicker freeze. Tomlin said Suisham is mentally tough and he didn't want to hurry the FG attempt at the end of the game with the play clock winding down, so he called a timeout and effectively iced his own kicker. This is not the first time he's done this. Tomlin continually displays poor clock management and does not seem to learn from past mistakes. The late game déjà vu is never ending. I question the decision to even attempt a 54 yard FG in that situation. Do you really want to get in a long FG contest with Rob Bironas vs Suisham? That is exactly what he decided to do in that situation, and he lost. The play calling after the Miller grab on 1st down was defeatist. Instead of continuing to push for big yards to get in closer range, they turtled as soon as they were on the outskirts of Suisham's range. The draw play on 2nd and 6 into a loaded box was dumb. Losing yards there killed the drive. Icing his own kicker was unforgivable, and he should have grabbed his balls and gone for the 1st down out of that time out.
Effects of Rules Changes: The Titans ran a crossing route with their TE Cook right in front of Ryan Clark. I wondered if it was possibly intentional by design. Clark lowered his target and hit shoulder to ball to break up the pass, but everyone knows his reputation as an often fined head hunter. Two years ago he would have killed the head and taken Cook out for the game. Five years ago, a veteran QB would have never led his receiver into the zone of an enforcer free safety like that. Now teams seem to be targeting plays like this. Either they complete the pass or potentially draw the personal foul call. I blame Goodell.
HC Tomlin: Poor late game coaching mentioned above. Poor decision to fire his Special Teams coach late in the preseason likely has led to all of the botched plays by that unit this year. Poor preparation and game planning for one of the worst teams in the NFL. 0-3 start on the road all vs AFC teams, and all lost on the final drive. Worst of all Tomlin deflected blame in his post game interview saying he doubts the team's preparation process was an issue at all. He is doomed to repeat his shortcomings over and over and over. because he does not learn or adjust. (Grade: F)
OC Haley: I give him a bit of a mulligan since he lost Pouncey early, had a patchwork O-line, and lost both Redman and Mendenhall during the game. That said, his play calling was passive and grab-assed at best. Facing a Titans D allowing 30+ points per game, every game, the Steelers failed to run up the score board. They couldn't gain yards on early downs 3 drives in a row during the 1st half, which changed momentum and led to the blocked punt. The end of the game play calling was defeatist and soft. Instead of attacking for more first downs, he played field position in order to secure a 54 yard FG attempts. (Grade: F)
DC Lebeau: Facing a aging and mobility limited back-up QB, Lebeau did what he does better than anyone. He called off the dogs and played soft. There was nothing resembling pressure created on the QB in key passing situations in the second half. When he saw Ike Taylor getting picked on and abused in man coverage, he left him there to get beaten time and time again. After the offense secured a 7 point lead in the 4th quarter, Lebeau surrendered an 80-yard drive for a game tying score. This was the first time in 30+ attempts the lowly Titans have driven 80+ yards for a TD all season. With the game on the line in an obvious passing situation at the end of the game, James Harrison was chasing a TE across the field instead of chasing a QB into the backfield. (Grade: F)
QB: Ben was up and down in this one. His worst offense was the forced throw for the pick just before half. That led to a Titans FG and a 6 point swing, if not more. Numerous other passes were off target or sailed high. His 3rd down play again dipped for the second consecutive week. 137 of 222 1st half yards came from the Wallace bomb and Redman catch and run. The rest of the half he was ineffective. The big 3rd down at the end of the game, he came up short again. (Grade: C)
RB: Mendenhall was hardly seen before hurting his Achilles. Redman was back in his element as a back-up. His high effort style seems best suited to a handful of touches per game where he can go all out and drag people with him without having to worry about extended snaps. Hard to believe he was the first Steelers RB to have 100+ receiving yards since Frenchy Fuqua. His catch and run was amazing, and the yards he picked up after contact were impressive.
All of that said, the backs racked up 42 yards on 21 carries. A measly 2.0 YPC against an awful defense. Déjà vu from the Raiders game. Batch was so-so in mop up duty. He had a TD run, a few nice blitz pick ups, but did little running the ball. The final carry he missed the hole and lost 2 yards. Rainey finally had a 10+ yard gain on a pass. First of his career I believe. (Grade: C-)
WR: The receivers had a quiet day against a bad secondary. Antonio Brown was shut down by McCourty. 4 catches for 20 yards and he was out-positioned on the INT. Wallace blew through the zone defense for the 82 yard score, but only caught 1 pass on 3 targets the rest of the way. Sanders caught 4 balls and Ben missed him twice more. Miller was steady and reliable as always with 3 big grabs for 1st downs. (Grade: C-)
(n)O-line: Another week of musical chairs. This is what, four years in a row Coach Kugler has had practically all of his linemen get hurt dating back to his Buffalo days? The guy is either jinxed, or part of the problem. Speaking of trends, Marcus Gilbert lost his footing, (i.e. got knocked on his ass) again. This time he blew up Pouncey's knee. Once is an accident, twice is a trend, three times and you are a clumsy asshole. Willie Colon didn't find a way to draw a flag, but he still sucked. Colon pulled on the 1st drive of the 3rd quarter, misses his man, stood in the hole and watched the resulting 2 yard loss. He literally stood in hole looking around as LB ran past him for tackle for loss. Mike Adams continues to scare the shit out of me. I really liked him coming out in the draft, but every time he touches the field he looks seriously outmatched. Make it now 4 out of 5 games this year the O-line has run blocked to an average less than 3 YPC and less that 100 total yards. Ben was sacked once, nearly strip sacked another time on the tuck rule play, and hurried a handful more times. (Grade: D-)
D-line: Evander Hood blew another Blutarsky. 0.0 0 tackles, 0 pressures, 0 sacks, 0 impact. He rarely left the field however. You still aren't good enough to have a nickname, Ziggy! Woods and Heyward at least netted a tackle a piece in limited action. Brett Keisel played on roller skates again in the run game. He did get pressure against LG Leroy Harris a few times, but was swallowed up in the run game far too often. Casey Hampton continues to be a shell of his former self. If Steve McClendon saw the field much more than a few snaps, I missed it. Playing against a beaten and battered Titans O-line featuring a back who hasn't been able to crack 25 yards rushing per game most of the season, this unit got embarrassed. The consistent positive rushing gains on 1st down fueled the Titans offense.(Grade: D-)
LB: Once what was one of the greatest and most consistent units in all of sports has become a shadow of its former self. James Harrison got a few early pressures and landed a sack, but as the game wore on he disappeared and looked very slow in space. Jason Worilds' play improved a bit early on as he also got a few pressures and beat some blocks. When the team needed these two the most, they were invisible. No pressures on obvious passing downs came from these guys in the entire second half. Timmons had a gift pick and a pressure or two, but he weakly got run through on a few arm tackle attempts including the one at the goal line that resulted in a TD run. Foote was workmanlike and reliable, but unspectacular as is his standard. (Grade: C-)
DB: Ike Taylor was burned deep by Nate Washington early in the game. Rookie Kendall Wright burned him in 4th QTR for big gainer. He was flagged for holding 3rd and 10 in the redzone late in 4th which gave 1st down and goal. He topped that by being beaten by the gimpy Kenny Britt for a TD. Taylor was targeted by the Titans and ultimately exposed, badly. Keenan Lewis and Cortez Allen were bright spots, however. Keenan Lewis had nice tight coverage on the Titans 2nd trip into redzone on 3rd down. Again on a Britt crossing route, he broke up a pass and displayed good tackling near the line in the run game. He had a lot of tight coverage on Nate Washington, but dropped an easy 4th QTR INT in his hands that would have ended the game. We all had Joe Burnett flashbacks, I'm sure. Cortez Allen also had solid coverage and made a few tackles including a key 3rd down stop a yard shy of a first down. Ryan Clark played another solid game. He had 11 tackles and broke up a pass. Clark is pretty much the best and most reliable Steelers defender over the past two season. Not bad for an undrafted safety with no spleen that many wanted to run out of town. Will Allen seemed like an upgrade to Mundy, though he made no impactful plays. At least he didn't give up anything huge. (Grade: D+)
ST: Punt blocked, multiple penalties in the return game, shitty kick offs/coverage, and a missed FG that lost the game. You suck! At least Tomlin fired Al Everest for no specific reason... (Grade: F)
Game Balls: Isaac Redman ran hard and carried the ball with authority. He became the first Steelers back in 3 decades to go over 100 receiving yards. Many of the yards he gained were after contact, and he may have been the only player on the field to play the way you'd envision a Steelers player to play. Congrats to Isaac Redman for earning our SteelerFury Player of the Week.
Goat Balls: Ike Taylor gave up 6 completions, multiple penalties, and a TD catch. 5 of those completions went for 10+ yards. His pass interference in the end zone cost the team 25 penalty yards and set up a 1st and goal. His worst play was the holding call on 3rd and 10 in the redzone which gave the Titans a 1st down and eventual TD. Ryan Mundy got benched and still managed to find a way to fuck the dog by blowing a blocking assignment and allowing a rare blocked punt. Hang your heads in shame gentlemen.
April 25th 2013 is the date of the NFL draft. With 3 road losses to teams with losing records in the AFC, and 7 combined remaining games against Cincy, Baltimore, San Diego, Dallas, and the New York Giants, the draft might be the next big thing to look forward to for this club. Barring a massive and immediate turn around, this team is going nowhere, fast. With the aging stars on this team and cap hell around the corner, it may be a while before we see another playoff win for the Steelers. 2014, 2015 perhaps? Just hope they can rebuild while Ben is still in his prime.