Week 10 Recap: Enough Is Enough

Great Game, Ben

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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.

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Tags: 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

  • toddler4372

    You’re right.  Our offense stinks.  The playcalling is not there…the timing is not there.  It just looks predictable and disorganized.  I look at other offenses out there (like Philly’s and the Giants’) and they just run so smoothly.  Sure, they make mistakes, but they’re productive and more unpredictable.

    I feel like I did in the past towards the Steelers.  I DON’T want them to go to the Super Bowl, even if they get lucky enough to.  It’ll be just another embarrassment like it was with O’Donnell. 

  • samwolfe

    I think the problem is fairly obvious.  They have a Bad Apple for an offensive coordinator.  BA or Bruce Ariens.  I don’t know what he is good at, but it’s not as the offensive coordinator for the Steelers.  His play calling is attrosious.  I’d sooner let Ben call his own plays than the way it is now.  Why or why did they let Ken go?

  • http://nicepickcowher.com/ Chris

    Um, Whisenhunt is the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals.  He wasn’t staying here unless we gave him our head coaching job.  I’m relatively happy with Tomlin so I don’t see any way we could’ve kept him here.

    Arians is definitely terrible but keep in mind he was here last year and we didn’t have these problems.  You can’t ignore the fact our O-line is a lot worse this year and Ben is just not playing well, either.

  • rich

    Do you have any clue or do you  just ramble on so you can look at what you wrote and think, “man I’m smart.” Seriously. This is arguably the dumbest post about the Steelers current struggles that I’ve read.    First, the offensive  line is a mess.  Faneca left for New York, Kendall Simmons is out for the year; and Marvel Smith is dealing with  back spasms; that’s three fifths of the starting interior line from a year ago either gone or unable to play. Second, this just in; Ben’s hurt and when he’s hurting he doesn’t play well. Gee, who does? Remember the year he had the motorcycle accident and the emergency surgery? He played poorly that year too.  Well if and when he gets healthy chances are he’ll play better, at least history-last year, rookie season, Super Bowl winning season-dictates he’s one of the best QBs in the league. Third, Willie Parker’s been out for much of the year. There’s a reason Merwelde Moore was a situational back before he came to Pittsburgh. He’s not good enough to be an every down starter in the NFL.   Parker is, when healthy, better and one of the best in the league. But he can’t stay healthy. He missed the final few games of the season last year when he broke his leg and now after a fine start to 2008 it’s been a mess for Fast Willie. Get him healthy, Ben healthy and improved line play and the offense will come around.   All teams have to deal with injuries and the Steelers have had a ton this but they’ve stayed above water so far. Hopefully some key players can get healthy or close to 100 percent and they can make a run at the post season.

    Everyone’s entitled to their opinion but instead of throwing out blame at Arians and Ben, remember the facts and you can’t ignore the physical troubles with this team.

  • http://nicepickcowher.com/ Chris

    First off, if you actually WATCH the games instead of repeating nonsense the media feeds you, you’d know the line hasn’t played that badly.  It’s not great by any means but this great “interior” line from last year you’re babbling about gave up the EXACT SAME number as sacks by this point last year.  So learn something before you open your mouth.

    Willie is hurt.  So what?  The Patriots are down to their 4th string RB and they still have a running game.  The Chiefs haven’t had Larry Johnson almost all season and still average more yards/game than we do.   Again, learn before you talk.

    Finally, if Ben is injured to the point he’s playing like shit, DON’T START HIM.  Making excuses for him is ridiculous.  If he plays, he should play well.  If not, then he deserves criticism, whether it makes you cry into your #7 jersey or not.

    Thanks for reading.  Please direct your attention to other, less intelligent blogs, so you might be happier reading stuff more on your level.

  • rich

    Start Byron? He couldn’t beat out three stiffs in Atlanta last year. He was by-passed by the entire league until Charlie Batch got hurt. If Batch doesn’t get injured he’s not even on team. One half against Washington doesn’t warrant a guy immediately being placed into the starting lineup. If Tomlin believes Ben is  capable of playing then he’s the guy. Did you conveniently forget about all the success he’s had? What about that opening drive against the Colts last week?

    I don’t care about the Pats and Chiefs. The Steelers and that beat up offensive line is killing their  passing and running games. (Interior  line by the way refers to the tackles, guards and center.)

    I’ll  tell you what genius, since you seem have the cure for the problems, why don’t you talk to the Rooneys and get on staff? There you go.  Problem solved.

    Consider this;  Don’t you think Mike Tomlin, who watches the team practice all week and has been around the game all his life, knows a little more about the team than the fans who watch the game on Sunday?  I  include myself in that group too. Yea I think so.  Let them do their job.  If they don’t win enough eventually they’ll pay for it with their job loss.  Oh, how about this instead; quit basing the ups and downs in your life over the success or failure of a football team. It’s just  a game and in the big picture means very little.

  • http://nicepickcowher.com/ Chris

    Yes, and the Cowboys decided Brad Johnson was a great backup. I guess nobody in the NFL ever makes mistakes when it comes to evaluating who should be on their roster, huh?

    Honestly, I was going to respond to your latest bit of nonsense but since you don’t bother to make anything in the way of logical points, I’m not going to bother responding. Except to say the argument “If you’re so smart, you be a [insert name of occupation blogger just criticized]” is the online equivalent of a 3rd grader saying “I know you are but what am I?”

    Perhaps you don’t understand what a blog is or what purpose it serves. I state OPINIONS. You can either agree or disagree. I don’t care as long as your OPINIONS are stated in a respectful manner. You have not shown any maturity with your little insults so let this serve as your final warning: grow up or the above comment will be your last.