Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Stache Report: Steelers vs. Jets

- This was a disconcerting loss, for obvious reasons. Championship caliber teams do not lose to opponents who are 1-8. More alarming are the road woes this team has experienced this season. A couple of years ago we would pray for road playoff games, because we all knew of our subpar home playoff record. 2005 came, and we steamrolled three teams, on the road, to get to the Super Bowl. Now? This team can’t play away from Heinz.

- The offensive line was shitty. I’m sure you’ve all read enough about it, so I won’t cram more down your throat. What is alarming is that last week, I wrote the following: “This has been a recurring theme, but the pass protection needs to get better. The Browns had seven sacks all season prior to Sunday's game, and they were able to register four against the Steelers. Not good.” So here goes, again. This has been a recurring theme, but the pass protection needs to get better. The Jets had nine sacks all season prior to Sunday’s game, and they were able to register seven against the Steelers. Not good.

- I’m not sure if many noticed, but the Steelers played most of the 4th quarter without Santonio Holmes, and his absence was glaring. Put simply, the WR corps without him is mediocre. His ability to stretch the field opens things up for Ward and Miller. Take away that vertical threat, and your left with a gimpy Ward, Nate Washington, and Cedric Wilson as the only three remaining active receivers. Nothing scary there. In terms of offseason priorities, I would say wide receiver is third, behind offensive and defensive line.

- The first offensive drive for the Jets highlighted the risk aspect of starting Anthony Smith. I’ll preface this by saying I like Smith a lot, and prefer him starting to Ryan Clark (which will continue to happen, now that Clark was placed on IR). Smith is an aggressive player who’s looking to make the big play. That’s why he started charging towards the line of scrimmage when Thomas Jones took what looked like a routine handoff. Only problem was it was a flea-flicker, and Smith was way out of position and had no chance to make a play on Coles, who was streaking down the middle of the field. You’ll get some big plays out of Smith, but you’ll pay the price every now and then for that aggressiveness with plays such as this one as well.

- Behind the shoddy play of the offensive line, the next culprit responsible for this loss is the tackling, or lack thereof, by the defense. When you talk about tackling, you’re talking about fundamentals. So it’s a little surprising to see a team led by a coach who was heavy in preaching fundamentals all offseason be deficient in that area. Maybe it was his flying hair, but Troy seemed like one of the biggest offenders. Someone tell him it’s okay to wrap up the ball carrier. His primary tackling method should not be lunging at a guy’s legs to take him down. Larry Foote also drew my ire a couple of times, getting steamrolled by Jones on more than one occasion. Seems like this is a common occurrence for Foote every game.

- All around, the coaching could have been better. They came out flat on the road again, and that falls on Tomlin. Arians pissed me off to no end on the final Steelers possession in overtime. I’ll put it bluntly. That 3rd and 14 draw play to Carey Davis in OT was one of the most chickenshit calls I’ve ever seen. You are basically conceding victory here, because Carey Davis is not picking up that first down and you are going to give the Jets the ball in Steelers territory. Why not give Ben a chance to get the 1st down? You’re talking about a guy who converted a ton of clutch third downs last week against the Browns, and now you won’t even give him the opportunity to do so in overtime? Lebeau also went back to the prevent D we saw against Denver. Clemens picked it apart, driving down the field in under two and half minutes against the supposed #1 defense in the NFL.

- What a surprise. At the most critical moment, the special teams fucked up. First off, Sepulveda’s punt was garbage, a short, low-liner with no hang time that didn’t allow the coverage teams enough time to get down the field. Still, the coverage team had a chance to limit Leon Washington and make the Jets earn their field goal a bit, but instead they handed them the game on a silver platter. The lone bright spot this season has been Jeff Reed, who has been solid and who I’m sure the Doubt About It crew will see this upcoming weekend at some Pittsburgh drinking establishment.

- While watching yesterday’s game, Pat’s dad was of the opinion that Willie Parker could do more in the running game. While I respect his stance, I don’t agree. When the right side of the line consists of Kendall Simmons and an inexperienced Willie Colin, and the middle is anchored by Sean Mahan, who seems like he wouldn’t be able to get push against a toddler, it’s actually quite amazing to me that Parker has been able to rush for 873 yards.

- There is absolutely no excuse for another let down this upcoming Monday against the Dolphins. This loss should only serve as a reminder as to what can happen when you take an opponent lightly. I anticipate a blowout. John Beck will be starting his 2nd game. If we do not shut him down than there is a deep problem with the defense. More importantly, this game is at home. Dolphins over Steelers would qualify as the biggest upset this NFL season. I’ll be disappointed with anything less than a 21-point win.

- Just to throw this in there, my prediction for the rest of the season: vs. Dolphins (win), vs. Bengals (win), at Patriots (loss), vs. Jaguars (win), at Rams (win), at Ravens (loss)… 11-5 record, #3 seed in the AFC. At the end of December we’re going to look back at this Jets loss as one of the main reasons we didn’t get a bye.

End of Post

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