Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Stache Report: Seahawks vs. Steelers

Feels good to be writing about a win again. Oh, and thanks Buffalo for playing soft prevent defense on the last two drives. Thanks for not being able to recover an onside kick. Thanks for ruining my money line bet. How do you get 6 turnovers, score 2 defensive TD's and a special teams TD, and still lose? On to the report.

QB: Big Ben was magnificent. He was 18-22 for 206 yards and a TD, and he consistently shook off defenders to make plays outside of the pocket. Ben learned his lesson last week on the TD pass to Miller. Rather than focusing on Heath from the outset, he looked left and then moved his eyes over to the right side of the field. This was efficient football from Ben, and if he plays like this every week we’ll be in good hands.

RB: A two-headed monster this week. Willie is showing much more of a desire to run the football in between the tackles this year. His performance on Sunday (28 carries for 102 yards) was a grind-it-out type of style, a Jerome Bettis performance if you will. Not to take anything away from Willie, but more impressive this game was Najeh Davenport. He rumbled his way to 2 touchdowns and 58 yards on seven carries, and he even caught a pass out of a 5 WR set on an out pattern that netted a big gain and a first down. Now tell me, how many times would you see a runningback lining up wide in a 5 WR set during the Cowher regime? The new offense is refreshing.

WR: Maybe Washington and Wilson heard the chatter from last week, because they stepped up on Sunday. Already without Hines Ward, the Steelers learned they would be without the services of Santonio Holmes only an hour before kickoff. Wilson was the primary target, playing pitch and catch with Ben. He did a nice job coming back to the football on the 3rd and 17 conversion, and he finally got separation from defensive backs. Nate was limited in the passing game, but chipped in well in the running game, including a key block on Parker’s sprint to the Seahawks 1 yard line. Willie Reid was involved in a key play himself, shaking off a defender on a 33 yard reception that got the Steelers out of their endzone.

TE: Miller continues to be a focal point in the passing game. His TD reception was a thing of beauty, on a post play that it seems the Steelers run all the time. Unlike last week, though, this play was a much better playcall. Rather than having the WR’s run routes near Heath, and thus drawing defenders, this play involved Heath isolated on the right side with trips receivers on the left side. The result was Heath matched up on Marcus Trufant one-on-one, and the big tight end was able to use his size to get to the inside of Trufant, rendering him helpless. Miller was also great on Najeh’s 2nd TD run, sealing off not one but two defenders to the outside to pave the way for Davenport.

OL: A better effort than last week. The left side of the line, and Mahan, were fine. Willie Colon was okay. Kendall Simmons was awful. Simmons is a sack of shit. There, I said it. He continually gets beat in pass protection, and usually doesn’t offer much in the run game. It saddens me that we poured money into an extension for him, based on the fact that we needed some sort of continuity on the offensive line (since Faneca and Starks are likely gone at the end of the year). I’m thinking the Steelers didn’t want to lose three offensive lineman, so they re-signed the one that they could agree to a contract extension with. Simmons was on his ass too much in this game, as is usually the case.

DL: Playing without Casey Hampton, it didn’t matter. This group was great again. Aaron Smith in particular was awesome, especially on a 1st quarter play where he knifed through the offensive line to drop Shaun Alexander for a loss. Keisel went up against one of the best offensive tackles in the game in Walter Jones, and held his own. He still doesn’t have a sack, but continued with the pressure on the quarterback. While Hoke doesn’t clog the middle like Hampton, he is quicker which allows him to penetrate the backfield better. They didn’t allow the Seahawks offensive line to get any push, which resulted in an 11 carry, 25 yard day for Alexander.

LB: Good game by this crew. Farrior had a superb game, notching 2 sacks and providing good coverage against Seahawks tight end Marcus Pollard when needed. Foote was nowhere to be found again, however. He didn’t even show up on the stat sheet. A goose egg for Foote. He needs to do better than that. Haggans provided good pressure, and was a man on a mission on the last Seahawks drive, as he lost his helmet but continued his effort on the play to register half a sack. Harrison tied for the team lead in tackles, with four. Haggans and Harrison have exceeded my expectations. They’ve played well enough that Woodley has been seeing less time with the defense. Does anyone actually miss Joey Porter?

DB: Wow, what a game for the defensive backs. Ike Taylor may have been the Steelers defensive MVP this game. He was all over the place, blanketing whichever Seahawks receiver he was tasked to cover. He had a chance at multiple INT’s, but only came up with one due to his stone hands. I’m nitpicking though. Looks like the old Ike is back, and that’s a very good thing. Deshea had great backside pursuit on an early running play, grasping at Alexander’s ankles and causing him to trip up for little gain on the play. The Steelers started one of the hardest hitting safety tandems in Anthony Smith and Ryan Clark. Clark showed why, absolutely destroying WR Bobby Engram on a 1st quarter pass. William Gay saw extensive action in the nickel package and played well. The defensive backs flustered Hasselbeck all day.

Special Teams: Still needs some cleaning up. Rossum fumbled a punt late in the game. Luckily, it was over by then. Carey Davis took a terrible angle on one Seahawks punt return. Sepulveda did his thing. Jeff Reed didn’t do much, except kick extra points. I should mention that PiSoNC was back in the Burgh this weekend, and him and myself were at McFadden’s on the North Shore Friday night. Lo and behold, we once again ran into Mr. Reed there for the second time this year.

Coaching: Great all around. Tomlin got the team fired up after the lackluster effort last week. Arians went run-run-pass a bit early in the game, but loosened up and began mixing it up. You’ve got to hand it to Tomlin and LeBeau for coming up with a great defensive game plan. The Seahawks were expecting the Blitzburgh defense, but instead the gameplan called for mostly 3 or 4 man rushes and heavy coverage. Playing a lot of cover 2, Hasslebeck didn’t know what to do, and the Seahawks never adjusted.

Summary: I’ll admit I was worried about this game. Minus Hampton, Polamalu, Ward, and McFadden, I thought we’d lose. Shortly after learning of Santonio’s injury, I thought we were definitely toast. I’m extremely happy I was wrong. An all-around outstanding team win. Now, let’s get the above injured players healthy for an important Sunday night tilt with the Broncos approximately two weeks from now.
End of Post


Anonymous said...

Welcome back to the 2007 Steelers! I've missed those guys. Luckily for us, the 2006 Steelers decided to stay behind in Arizona with their daddies Whis and Grimm.

My only concern is that if we make the Super Bowl this year in Arizona, the 2006 Steelers might decide to take the field again, since they'll be in the neighborhood.

Dave Wannstache said...

Ha, I wouldn't worry about that.

Making the Super Bowl means playing against an inferior opponent. Comparing the AFC to NFC, it's not even close. The NFC flat out stinks.

Ask yourself this question. If the Cowboys were in the AFC South, and had to play the Colts, Titans, and Jaguars twice, while playing mostly other AFC opponents, what would their record be? I would say 10-6, 11-5 at best.

In the NFC they're positioned to probably get to 12-13 wins. That's life in the NFC.

Anonymous said...

I don't know, the 2006 Steelers were capable of losing to anyone, such as Oakland.

Dave Wannstache said...

Yes, but the 2006 Steelers were led by a man who had clearly checked out and was biding his time until the end of the season when he could leave.

The 2007 Steelers are led by a man who looks like Omar Epps, and who is thus far looking like the type of coach who is going to be here for 15 years at the minimum.