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I’ve had it.
I’ve seen more offensive coordinators than I can remember. I’ve seen every quarterback from Cliff Stoudt to Bubby Brister. I’ve seen good teams. I’ve seen not so good teams. I thought I’ve seen it all.
But the 2008 incarnation of the Pittsburgh Steelers is quickly establishing itself as the most maddening offense I’ve ever seen.
When we had bad offenses before, it was understandable. Maybe our talent at wide receiver wasn’t so good. Or there were the days when a knock-kneed scrambler with a porno ‘stache was taking the snaps. I even remember Mike Malarkey and his ingenious strategy of throwing screen passes 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage or running 5 yard outs when it was 3rd and 15. That was bad.
However, the level of offensive ineptitude on display this season is all the more frustrating because there are no excuses. The talent is there. The schemes are there. Somewhere in between is a breakdown which is holding this team back. Because make no mistake, there is a championship caliber defense in place. If only the other side of the ball would get their act together.
Obviously, the source of this venomous post is yesterday’s 24-20 defeat at the hands of the Indianapolis Colts.
Once again, the defense played fairly well. I know some people are going to point to cement-handed Marvin Harrison and the two easy TD catches he dropped. I point to two key catches by Reggie Wayne, one for a TD and one for a crucial first down, both of which were deflected off CB Ike Taylor and bounced into his greasy mitts. Luck, both good and bad, balanced out in the end. Sure it would’ve been nice if Butter Fingers Ike or Troy Polamalu could’ve held on to the sure INTs that hit them between the numbers. And it would’ve been nice to get a bit more pressure on Peyton Manning. Once again, I can’t fault a unit which only surrenders scores when the ball is gift-wrapped to the other team so every scoring drive begins on our side of the field.
Don’t start with O-Coordinator Bruce Arians. I’ll get to him soon enough. Or the O-line. I’m sick of hearing about them. They share a measure of blame for the poor offensive play, no doubt. But the one player single-handedly dragging the team down with a series of terrible decisions and sub-par performances is none other than Ben Roethlisberger. Ben is supposedly one of the top QBs in the game and he hasn’t played like it this year. In fact, watching the G-Men manhandle the Philly team that crushed us, I’m starting to think maybe Eli and Ben were drafted exactly where they should’ve been.
Roethlisberger had a statistically decent game as far as completions and yardage is concerned but the only number any of us should care about is his 3 picks. The first INT was just an absolutely atrocious and inexcusable throw. With 1:30 left in the half and facing 3rd and short from deep in his own territory, Ben forced the ball into double coverage trying to convert a meaningless first down. What was he thinking? Was he even thinking? Even Rex Grossman was slapping his forehead over that one.
INT #2 was an equally Favre-ian bit of gunslingery where he rifled a pass late (mistake 1) down the middle (mistake 2) on a slant (mistake 3). The announcers pointed out Santonio Holmes appeared to break off his route but I honestly don’t see how you can blame him. The pass appeared to be a good 4-5 feet away from him so even if he had continued through, the S coming across the middle would’ve been in better position to make a play on the ball. Again, why was he attempting this risky pass in his own territory nursing a slim lead? Why?
I don’t mean to dump this entire loss on Big Ben. Bruce Arians is hand-down the worst offensive coordinator I’ve ever seen. He seemingly has no plan or strategy when it comes to his playcalling. Some teams use the run to set up a pass. Or use play action to free up the run. Or use a no-huddle to prevent a defense’s substitutions. Everything is done for a reason and with a purpose in mind.
Not so with Arians. He appears to be pulling plays out of a hat. His choices are totally random. For example, every drive in the first half began with a run. Every drive. Unless that run broke for big yards, the next two plays were invariably passes. If a short route worked, he’d try a long route. If a post worked, he’d try a fly. He suddenly remembered you could throw to the TE, which he forgot when Heath Miller was still healthy. Still, he threw to Matt Spaeth, who appeared to be open all day, then would promptly ignore him and keep trying to hit the double covered Holmes. It’s like he’s calling plays while completely ignoring the results.
The Colts are weak against the run. Even with S Bob Sanders back, they still give up a decent chunk of yardage per game. RB Mewelde Moore ran the ball effectively on the first Steeler drive, ending with a TD. He also ran well on the 2nd TD drive. Otherwise, he was given a token carry here and there with no real commitment to the ground game. And when there is a situation, such as at the goal line in the 3rd quarter, where you need some play action or a bootleg or something tricky because the defense is stacked against the run, what does Arians do? Has Moore run straight up the gut three times in a row, then settles for a FG. Those four points were the difference in the game, bonehead.
I’m not trying to sound like an alarmist “the sky-is-falling” more excitable member of Steeler Nation. Honestly I’m not. But it’s better to panic a little while problems can be fixed than to panic a lot when a situation is totally out of control. We have to be honest with ourselves and admit there is something wrong with Ben and something wrong with our offense. The only time we look reasonably decent is when we play horrible teams like Jacksonville or Cincinnati. Against good teams like NY or Philly it’s almost embarrassing and even in the games we wind up winning (Washington, Baltimore) those are due more to our defense saving the day than our offense pulling their weight.
We’re 6-3 and have fallen into a virtual tie with Baltimore for first place. Our schedule only gets harder with San Diego, New England, and the undefeated Titans on the horizon. Coach Mike Tomlin has got to put away the jockspeak and platititudes and get to work hammering these problems out. This team needs an identity. It needs a focus. It needs to figure out what it wants to do and then impose their will on other teams in that regard. Our defense already has that mentality. Now our offense must follow suit or not only is a championship in doubt but the playoffs might not even be in our future.
Topics: Arians, Baltimore, Ben, Big Ben, Bruce Arians, Bubby Brister, Chargers, Colts, Dungy, Eli, Fire Arians, Gilbride, Holmes, Indianapolis, Indy, Jacksonville, Jaguars, Manning, Mark Malone, Mularkey, New England, Nfc, NFL, Patriots, Peyton, Ravens, Reggie Wayne, Roethlisberger, Super Bowl, Taylor, Tomlin