Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The Stache Report: Steelers vs. Cardinals

QB: It’s hard to fault Ben when he’s running for his life. You can almost see that he looks for the first sign to start scrambling, because he doesn’t trust his pass protection. Sunday, he did what he does best, making plays on the run. But, the INT in the end zone was awful. Just a terrible pass, and it brought back memories of last season. That’s the type of pass we saw too many times last year. Ben has had a tendency to make stupid throws in the red zone. He needs to stop. You have to take care of the football in that situation.

RB: I’m not going to fault Parker. You can’t run when you are continually met by defenders at the line of scrimmage. People want to place blame on Willie not being able to punch it in from inside the 5, but if you go back and look at the play on 1st and goal, you’ll see it would have been an easy touchdown if Kendall Simmons had taken care of his man. Maybe Najeh would have been a better choice that close to the end zone, but to tell you the truth I don’t think it would have mattered the way the offensive line was getting whipped.

WR: Santonio Holmes was outstanding. I remember many Steeler fans were pissed when we passed on LenDale White to take Holmes. How is that looking now? Holmes just toasted his man on his TD, kicking it into another gear. Sadly, Nate Washington and Cedrick Wilson played like shit. Both drew my ire. First, it was Nate, who on a play early in the game failed to recognize the blitz and cut off his route. The result was an incomplete pass where Ben correctly read the blitz and was expecting Nate to run a hot route. Instead, Nate ran his original crossing pattern. Then, he appeared to slow down on the attempted deep pass to him in the 2nd half. RUN FOR THE FUCKING BALL NATE! Not to be outdone, Wilson failed to adjust to a pass Ben threw purposely towards his back shoulder, and instead stupidly ran his fly route. Then, covered by a linebacker (Karlos Dansby), Wilson failed to get any separation and Dansby knocked the pass away. Absolutely pathetic for a wide receiver to not be able to shake free from a linebacker. This team desperately missed Hines Ward yesterday, not just in the passing game but in the running game as well.

TE: In the passing game, Heath continues to show up. For a tight end he runs crisp routes and knows how to find the openings against the defense. It wasn’t his best day run blocking. I didn’t even notice Tuman. Did he even play?

OL: Awful. Dreadful. Wretched. Any of these words can be used to describe the offensive line. All of them played like Jamain Stephens Sunday, save for Mahan who was okay. Parker ran for 37 yards on 19 carries, and it’s easy to see why. Marvel Smith was abused on one running play by DE Antonio Smith, and he chipped in with a false start. Faneca once again sucked in pass protection. Thank the Rooneys for not paying him the ridiculous money he wants. Kendall Simmons stunk. See the aforementioned goal line play, or just watch pretty much any play the entire game. Willie Colon didn’t fare much better, as he got dominated multiple times by savvy veteran Bertrand Berry. The average distance on 3rd down for the Steelers on Sunday was 12 yards. That speaks to two things: horrible run blocking on 1st and 2nd down, and offensive line penalties. And four of the five offensive lineman did indeed commit penalties.

DL: The loss of Hampton was huge. And then Hoke went down. The result was Eason and Kirschke getting a lot of playing time, and we saw the result as Edgerrin James was able to churn out yardage in the 4th quarter. Keisel was pretty active. He made a nice play in coverage to bat away a pass. I’m surprised at the lack of impact Aaron Smith had in this game. Going up against backup RT Elton Brown, Smith didn’t do a whole lot. The injuries to Hoke and Hampton is exactly what I feared, as now turds like Eason and Kirschke will get more playing time. Let’s hope neither Hampton nor Hoke (particularly Hampton) will be out for long.

LB: The outside linebackers were decent. Haggans beat Brown for a nice sack on Warner. Harrison, from what I saw, did generate some pressure although he never registered a sack. Where were the inside linebackers, though? Farrior was invisible the whole game, and he only notched one solo tackle. How does a starting ILB in the Steelers system have only one solo tackle? Foote was a little more active, with 5 tackles, but even then I didn’t really notice him. On the flip side, four of the five tacklers on Sunday for the Steelers were defensive backs. This might have been due to the subpar play of the defensive line, as the linebackers weren’t free to roam around as they usually are.

DB: This unit really missed Troy Polamalu’s presence in the 2nd half. Check that, the whole defense missed his presence. Ike misplayed the jump ball to Fitzgerald, which much like Ben’s INT reminded me of last season. He did have a nice strip of Fitzgerald earlier in the game though. Bryant Johnson had McFadden beat towards the corner of the end zone on one play, but an overthrow by Warner caused an incompletion. Tyrone Carter filled in for Polamalu, but I’m wondering why it wasn’t a Smith-Clark tandem instead. I know Troy plays SS and Clark and Smith play FS, but I’m sure they’re capable of playing both. It’s hard to like much of what the defensive backs did when Fitzgerald had 11 catches for 123 yards and some white guy named Jerheme Urban had 5 catches for 53 yards and a touchdown.

Special Teams: On the bright side, Sepulveda was booming his punts. Everything else sucked. The punt coverage on Breaston’s TD return was atrocious, although to be fair the guys on the field were probably gassed from the previous punt. Still, that’s no excuse. I distinctly remember four special teams penalties: two on Timmons, one on Woodley for holding, and one on Carey Davis that resulted in the re-kick and Breaston’s subsequent TD. There may have been more I’m forgetting. In short, not the best day for the special teams.

Coaching: Are we sure Whisenhunt wasn’t directing the offense for us on Sunday? It was a lot of the same run, run, pass bullshit we saw last year. Where was the pass to set up the run? The 4 WR sets on first down? It was obvious the Cardinals were setting up to stop the run, and yet Arians insisted on continually pounding the ball when it wasn’t working. I would have liked to see the no huddle offense as a spark to get the offense going, but it never came until the game was out of reach. LeBeau did the best he could with the multitude of injuries. The defense most definitely did not lose this game. I agreed with Tomlin’s decision to challenge Arizona’s first TD. Some say it was foolish, but I actually think it was an incomplete pass, as the rule book states that even in the end zone the receiver must maintain possession while demonstrating a “football move.” As Urban was conducting his “football move” the ball was jarred loose. The call to go for it on 4th and 1 from our own 29 was gutsy, though I may not have necessarily agreed with it.

Summary: A game that could have been won, but maybe it will serve as a wake up call for the team that maybe they aren’t as good as they think they are. The offensive line is a legitimate concern, as the Cardinals front seven isn’t that good. A much better front seven comes to town next week, so the O-line needs to step up. The Seahawks can definitely chuck the ball with Matt Hassleback, and if Hampton is out it’s going to be tough to stop Shaun Alexander. I expect a tough, close, hard fought game next week. It’s not going to be easy.

End of Post


Anonymous said...

Great analysis, as always. Someone needs to talk with the 2006 Steelers to find out what they've done with the 2007 Steelers. I liked those other guys a whole lot better.

Is there any truth to the conspiracy theory about the O-line throwing the game out of loyalty to Papa Grimm, intentionally or otherwise? Is it just a coincidence that the only starter to not commit a false start penalty was Mahan?

Next week's game all of a sudden looks like it could be a big turning point in the season. If they go into the bye week at 4-1 and alone atop the AFC North, everything will be good again in Steelerland. But if they go into the bye week at 3-2, on a two-game losing streak, and with their next game AT Denver, things suddenly start to look a lot bleaker. We'll learn a lot about this team by how they respond against Seattle.

Dave Wannstache said...

There are rumblings around the Burgh from disenchanted fans who think Faneca may have tanked it on purpose due to the presence of Grimm and Whiz on the opposing sideline. Me? I don't think he would do that. Then again, he played so awful that you almost could conceive the notion that he was mailing it in.

Tomlin says both Troy and Hampton will play, so that's good to hear. Still, I'm worried about this game. The Seahawks front seven is better than the Cards front seven, and who knows what the psyche of the O-line is after Sunday's game. And, Hassleback is the type of quick release passer that typically gives the Steelers defense fits. It's going to be hard getting after him because he gets rid of the ball so quickly. The boys need to be ready, because I think they're in for a stiff test.

Anonymous said...

I'm less concerned about the O-line versus Seattle, because at least I know they won't have any reason to tank it.

We can expect the Seahawks to copy what the Cardinals did on defense, so hopefully this time Tomlin and Arians will be able to pull their heads out of their asses and come up with an offensive gameplan to counter it. I thought this "impose our will" bullshit was supposed to go out the door along with Cowher. You have to take what the defense gives you. Sometimes you need to pass to set up the run.

Speaking of passing, I was disgusted by the play of Washington and Wilson. I knew there would obviously be a dropoff from Ward to Nate and Ced, but I had no idea the dropoff would be THAT steep. Maybe it's time to give Willie Reid some more playing time to see what he can do. I'm definitely worried by the fact that our entire offense is apparently totally reliant on a 31-year-old WR. If O-line is the #1 priority next offseason, WR might be #2.

Dave Wannstache said...

I thought the "impose our will" stuff was gone too. I don't know what happened. On the first couple drives, they were definitely attacking the Cards weak secondary. And then for some reason, they started to shift towards a ground game that wasn't working. I have no explanation for it, and Arians better get his head out of his ass.

I expected more from Washington. I knew Cedrick was worthless. The guy stinks, and if you check out my training camp battles piece you'll note that I specifically said Wilson has trouble getting separation. And he couldn't get separation from a linebacker on Sunday. I'm all for activating Reid in Wilson's place. But then, Wilson might start bitching and poisoning the locker room.

Anonymous said...

If Ced actually became a locker room cancer, they could always cut him and activate someone from the practice squad. I don't think Wilson is in their long-term plans.

What pisses me off is this: all of the coaches, scouts, GM, players, front office, etc, are being paid millions of dollars to run a billion-dollar enterprise, and they can't assemble a roster with more than two wide receivers who KNOW HOW TO FUCKING PLAY? How does that happen?

I'm just glad this game is out of the way, because the week-long Whis/Grimm/Okobi lovefest by the local media was making me ill.

Anonymous said...

I know it was just one game, but it did show our weaknesses.

In the preseason everyone was saying we needed to get a left tackle in the draft because no one but Smith could play it.

As you've said many times Wanny, we have no depth on the defensive line either.

Now it looks like we'll need to get a quality WR.

With our first round pick, assuming the players we could get for each position were equal, which would you take?

Dave Wannstache said...

I would want to focus on the trenches. Last year, we shored up the linebacker spot in rounds one and two. Now it's time to focus on the offensive and defensive line.

I would say something like OT in round 1, DE in round 2, and OG in round 3.