Monday, December 17, 2007

The Stache Report: Jaguars vs. Steelers

Pat covered quite a bit in his post, so fewer points this week, although a little more in depth look at the offensive line.

- I hate to sound like a broken record, but the offensive line stunk again. Doesn’t it seem like a different culprit every week? One week, it’s Sean Mahan struggling with the opposing nose tackle. Last week, it was Willie Colon getting manhandled by Mike Vrabel. Pretty much every week, it’s Kendall Simmons showing once again how pitiful he is. Well, this week it was Marvel Smith, who might have played the worst single game by an O-lineman this year. It was that bad. He gave up four sacks, and god knows how many pressures. Back pain, which Mike Tomlin characterized as “immense”, probably contributed to the lackluster performance by Smith, but it was jarring to see your supposed best offensive lineman thoroughly beaten down. Look, I’m tired of this. I’m tired of seeing Ben drop back to pass and have a defender in his face roughly .01 seconds after he has received the snap. I’m tired of throwing fades and calling reverses near the end zone because we don’t have faith in the offensive line to get some push for a running back to punch it in for a TD. I’m tired of writing the Stache report and talking about another garbage performance by the offensive line. This needs to stop. It needs addressed this offseason, and it needs addressed aggressively. Yet the real problems probably won’t be, as I will explain in the next point.

- With that said, let’s summarize what we have on the offensive line. We have an inconsistent left tackle who decides to mail it in every few games. We have a left guard who is dreaming of free agency, and, while he once was a dominating force at the guard position, is no longer that. We have a center who lacks the strength to handle a nose tackle one-on-one, something that is absolutely paramount for the Steelers offense. We have a sack of shit right guard who should be starting in the CFL, not the NFL. And we have a right tackle who is wildly inexperienced and who’s probably better suited at right guard. But, he can’t move to right guard because the aforementioned sack of shit right guard just received an extension in the offseason. Oh, and the weak center is in his first season of his newly signed deal in free agency. You know what that means? Our two worst offensive lineman are the ones signed to long term deals. They’re the ones we will have to put up with for the foreseeable future, because to release them would mean the front office admitting they made massive mistakes, and they won’t do that. Meanwhile, the guy who has been the most impressive the past few weeks, Max Starks, will likely draw too much interest in free agency from other teams for the Steelers to re-sign him, because they have too much money sunk in between Mahan and Simmons. To summarize, our offensive line situation sucks.

- In my post about Aaron Smith’s injury, I mentioned how Travis Kirschke and Nick Eason may be okay to fill in for spot duty, but likely would struggle when having to undergo the rigors of playing a full game. Want proof? In the first half, Taylor and Jones-Drew were mostly bottled up, as they managed only 16 carries for 52 yards, save for Taylor’s one long 38 yard jaunt. In the second half, Jacksonville started gashing us more consistently, as the combo rushed for 126 yards on 20 carries. The Jaguars had carries of 17, 13, 11, 9, 13, 20, and 12 yards in the 2nd half.

- I think it’s time that a bigger deal is made of Woodley and Timmons not getting significant playing time in the defense. Woodley was getting some time early in the season and responded with three sacks. Even before his hamstring injury, though, his playing time was decreasing. To put it bluntly, what has Clark Haggans shown these past few games, other than the fact that his ability to rush the passer has taken a sharp decline. Would it hurt to put one of your best pass rushers on the field, especially when you’re having so much getting to the quarterback? As for Timmons, the guy is a first round pick and has flashed great speed in the little time he has gotten on the field. Give the guy some more time. It couldn’t hurt, not with the way this defense is playing. Woodley and Timmons represent the best options if Dick Lebeau wants to go back to applying significant heat on the opposing quarterback.

- Good to see Troy back. He had a couple of big plays, flying across the field to knock down a potential 3rd down converting pass and closing in to stop Garrard short of the sticks on a 3rd down scramble. Still, he had his share of missed tackles. One guy who continued to disappoint was Anthony Smith. He misplayed the ball badly on Northcutt’s TD, and while the INT he had was nice, let’s be honest, it was right to him. Way too early to write him off, though. I still have high hopes for him, and believe he’ll be a good safety once he gets the mental game in order.

- Yes, I’m worried about the Rams game. I don’t care if they’re 3-11. They finally have a healthy offense. Steven Jackson is still one of the best running backs in the game, and Bulger, Holt, and Bruce represent one of the best passing offenses in the NFL when they’re in sync. Add to the fact that Ike Taylor left yesterday’s game with a knee injury, and the prospect of facing this offense without him doesn’t get me excited. That said, the Rams defense is subpar. It’s one the Steelers should be able to move the ball on at ease, provided the O-line gives Ben some sort of time. This is a game teams with playoff aspirations win. They can still make the playoffs if they don’t, but between you and me, a team that loses to the Jets and Rams has no business making the playoffs.

End of Post

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