Week 1 Recap: Mind Your Peas And W’s

The Black-Eyed Peas took center stage at Point State Park to begin a fantastic 2009 Kickoff Concert. Unfortunately, I was busy hosting a dozen freeloaders friends at my home so I could not attend the festivities. By the way, if anybody went and managed to take some good shots of Fergie, feel free to post a link. After the singing was done, the Pittsburgh Steelers began the NFL season with a fantastic 13-10 overtime defeat of the Tennesee Titans.

Last season ended with the stalwart Steeler defense rising up to stonewall their opponent and give Ben Roethlisberger the chance to engineer a thrilling last second victory. How’d this season start? With the stalwart Steeler defense rising up to stonewall their opponent and give Ben Roethlisberger the chance to engineer a thrilling last second victory.

Wash rinse repeat.

The first half of the game saw the Steeler offense do a great impression of the Detroit Lions. After the 1st quarter, they had TWO yards of total offense. Ben contributed to the misery with one horrendous INT and two sacks where he lost a billion yards because he clutches on to the football like it’s a girl in a cowboy hat. With less than five minutes until halftime, the grand total had risen to a paltry 34 yards. At about the two minute warning, Big Ben finally woke up in time to lead the team down the field, connecting with Santonio Holmes to cap a 79 yard touchdown drive.

Up until that point the only things keeping the Steelers in the game were luck and Troy Polamalu. Allow me to recap the first half defensive effort by the Steelers. Polamalu with a tackle. Polamalu with another tackle. Polamalu with a personal foul. Polamalu with a pass defense. Polamalu with a tackle. Sensing a pattern?

Troy was a one man wrecking crew. He had his nose in almost every play the Titans ran, highlighted by a spectacular one-handed interception which prevented a FG and possibly a TD. Despite Troy’s heroics, the Titans blew two golden opportunities by badly shanking one FG and having another blocked by Aaron Smith. It was on that play where Polamalu had his knee bent at an ugly angle, sending him to the locker room with what appears to be a serious injury.

The Titans answered the Steelers TD with one of their own less than a minute later. QB Kerry Collins led them the length of the field on three lousy plays. I’d like to blame the D but it looked like Troy’s injury sent the Steelers secondary into mass confusion. Ryan Clark and Face Me Ike were each caught way out of position and beaten badly on consecutive plays. Will.i.am Gay, who gets his nickname from the fella pictured above wearing the ginormous hat as my tribute to his performance at the Super Bowl Victory Parade, had a solid effort in his first game as a full-time starter.

The second half was a puntfest as neither offense managed to accomplish much. The Steelers were particularly bad when it came to running the ball. They finished the game with 23 carries for 36 yards. That’s a 1.6 average. ONE AND A HALF FREAKIN’ YARDS PER CARRY!?!?  Jerome Bettis could do better than that and he’s been eating donuts, lobbying politicians to support shady casino barons, and flirting with Tiki Barber for the last three years!

In this case, failure has many fathers. The offensive line performed shockingly well at pass protection, surrendering 4 sacks, two of which were Ben’s fault and one which was the result of a jailbreak blitz. However, they can’t run block to save their lives. I’ve seen bigger holes on I-79. Fast Willie Parker (13 carries for 19 yards) clearly has no confidence in them because instead of making cutbacks, he just dives forward as soon as he spots a glimmer of space. Rashard Mendenhall (4 for 6) showed absolutely nothing. Frank The Tank Summers, our shiny new FB, totally whiffed on almost every block he was supposed to make. He played positively CAREYDAVISESQUE! Our longest run was 8 freakin’ yards and the short yardage situation was so bad that after failing 3 out of 4 times to make a 1st down, they resorted to using the shotgun to pick it up.

Look, do the Steelers have the offensive weapons to be a passing oriented offense? Yes. Holmes (9 catches 131 yards) and Hines Ward (8 for 103) each had a huge game while TE Heath Miller and rookie Mike Wallace chipped in with some big catches. Shaun McDonald didn’t take the field and Limas Sweed wasn’t thrown at but both are more than capable of being valuable contributors as well. This team can absolutely throw the ball with any team in the league. But no team, NO TEAM, is going to be a legitimate Super Bowl contender if they only rush for 35 yards per game or fail to pick up 3rd and shorts on a regular basis.

Titans K Rob Bironas finally managed to boot a 45 yard FG late in the 4th quarter. The Steelers answered with a nice drive which stalled when Mewelde Moore got stuffed twice trying to convert a 3rd and 1. Yes, they were so desperate they turned to Double M as their short yardage specialist. *Deepbreath* The resulting Skippy Reed boot tied the score at 10-10.

Reverting to classic form, the mighty Steelers D got the ball back to set the stage for yet another of Ben’s thrilling last second comebacks. However, Hines committed one of the most boneheaded blunders in years when he caught a 30 yard strike over the middle and instead of going down in chip-shot FG range, he decided to zig-zag through an army of Titans all pawing at the football like it was a bachelor party at Club Erotica. Sure enough, the ball popped loose and Who? Stephen Tulloch pounced on it. Hines spent the remainder of the game looking like a fat kid that was told he couldn’t have ice cream for dessert.

Thankfully, fate was on the Steelers side as they won the coin toss. Against a clearly exhausted Titan defense, Ben once again led the team deep into Titan territory.  This time the rookie Wallace made the key catch to put them into position for a game-winning Skippy FG. Ben finished 33-43 for 363 yards (1 TD 2 INT), making a lot of fantasy owners really sorry they didn’t start him this week. (DAMN!) I know we expect a lot of Big Ben and we’re all getting spoiled by his comebacks but isn’t asking for two in the same game just a little bit greedy?

The Pittsburgher in me likes to see the glass as half full.  I guess that’s why I can’t shake the feeling that what we saw last night were some ominous warning signs about the rocky road ahead.  The good news is, we’re 1-0 with 15 weeks left to straighten out any issues with our defending Super Bowl champs.  The bad news is, by all rights, we should be 0-1.

Next Steelers Game View full schedule »
Thursday, Aug 2828 Aug7:30Carolina PanthersBuy Tickets

Tags: 2008 Super Bowl Parade 2008 Super Bowl Victory Parade 2009 Super Bowl Victory Parade 2009 Victory Parade Ben Roethlisberger Big Ben Big Ben Roethlisberger Black Eyed Peas Dan Rooney Fast Willie Parker Fergie Frank The Tank Frank The Tank Summers Fwp Hines Ward James Harrison Jeff Reed Mewelde Moore Mike Tomlin Mike Wallace Pittsburgh Pittsburgh Steelers Polamalu Crowd Surfs Rashard Mendenhall Rob Bironis Roethlisberger Ryan Clark Santonio Holmes Silverback Six Time Champions Sixburgh Skippy Reed Steeler Blog Steeler Nation Steeler Victory Parade Steelers Blog Steelers Victory Parade Stephen Tulloch Super Bowl Champions Super Bowl XLIII Tennesee Titans Troy Polamalu William Gay

  • alisonm87

    As brutal as last night was, it was good to have the regular season back, not least of all because once again I have your hilarious recaps to look forward to. Here’s to last night’s game being the only game this season that we see a Detroit Lions impression from the Black and Gold.

  • “O”

    I hate to say it but “Fast” Willie Parker looks like he is running scared out there. I noticed a lot of toe tapping in stead of running. Granted there were not any holes to speak of but like chris said you didnt even see any cuts or moves. But the worst part was the coaches kept going back to him with the same results. I would have liked to see more adjustments like why did we not see Logan run the ball. If no one else can get it done why not try him out? This game raised more questions then answers to me . Chris your right we need to be able to run the ball to make a run at the Super Bowl.

  • Chris Snyder

    Situation: 3rd & 1. 9 Titans defenders lined up within 3 yards of the line. 10th Titan (CB) lined up in press on Santonio Holmes. 11th Titan lined up way back as a single high safety. Ball is snapped. EVERY Titan on the field’s first step was toward the line of scrimmage. Willie Parker is not JBettis. He’s not going to get 3 yards against that kind of front. So, here’s a thought…. Play Action. If Holmes can get off the line it’s a touchdown. At worst, it’s incomplete. Which is no worse than what happened. It might even make the D back off a little bit in the next 3rd & 1. Just saying that the run game, in addition to being badly blocked, and running scared, is too predictable.

  • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

    Alison: I’m glad my recaps can serve as a source of comfort in these worrisome times. :)

    O: You’re absolutely right about FWP. On the few occasions the line created some room, he showed nothing beyond straight ahead running. The moves and elusiveness he had in previous years are nowhere to be found.

    The coaches pretty much replaced him with Mewelde Moore toward the end of the game and OT, so they did make adjustments. Better late than never I suppose. Mendenhall looked terrible so I can’t blame them for giving FWP most of the carries earlier in the game.

    As for Logan, I don’t think he’s the answer at RB. For one thing, he’s 5’6 175 pounds so he’d get killed trying to run up the middle 8-10 times per game. I would definitely like to see him used on a trick play or two but he’s not the fix for this horrific running game.

  • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

    Snyder: What you’re proposing would require an offensive coordinator who’s innovative, clever, and willing to think outside the box. Look up “predictable” in the dictionary and you’ll see a picture of Bruce Arians.

    Your point about Bettis is a good one. FWP has done great things but he’s never been the short yardage monster Bus was. The Steelers either need to come up with different ways to pick up short yardage that have a prayer of working (as you suggest) or find a RB who can do the job.

  • “O”

    Size is not an issue when your hard to tackle. Hard to tackle is what I have seen so far from Logan. You get hit just as hard of kickoffs or punts as you would running up the gut. Generally you don’t have somebody coming at you with a full head of steam. Plus I have never rated a player on his stature but of his hart. It is how you play the game that matters not how big you are. And at 5’6 175 your also harder to pick up coming out of the backfield. I just say how do you know if he is or isn’t the answer if you never try him out.

  • Coon 2

    Hey Snyder: From CA, the way the Steelers ran on Sunday and the way their passing game worked, they should shut down their running game completely except for an ocassional Willie P around the end. Up the middle, is futile. They need a pounding back like Bettis.

  • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

    Coon: Yeah, I agree with needing a new Bettis. Even though we have some talented backs, none of them are power runners. Mendenhall has been a huge disappointment in that area.

    O: I see Logan as more of a Brian Westbrook (Eagles) type RB. A guy who catches screen passes and the like. I don’t think he’s a traditional style back. And the Steelers need a power runner, as I mention above.

    Also, you are 100% correct that guys take a beating on special teams. But they also break more tackles and/or look more elusive on special teams because they have room to maneuver and usually get a pretty good head of steam themselves. I’m just not convinced Logan is an NFL-style RB, although I agree that if we continue to struggle they might as well give him a shot.

  • “O”

    Chris you are right about the type of back Logan would be. But this year in training camp I do remember that we were running alot of check downs and screen passes. Maybe a “Brian Westbrook” type back is what this offense needs to keep defences on there heels. Until we have another bruiser back like The Bus maybe we need to go in a different direction. I also agree that our play calling is so predictable that we might as well give the other team our playbook. I do know this though we do need to come up with something with some kind of balance. Big Ben is the man but you can’t pass on every down, and you have to be able to control the clock to give the defence a rest.

  • http://andbabymakesfourperrine.blogspot.com Kati

    The game was interesting no doubt. I am not technical in football.. I leave that to you.. I’m a girl.. but that fumble by Hines Ward.. literally made me cry! I could hardly believe it.

    I too like to look at the glass half full. We played a really good team and managed a win.. and even if every game of the season is played the same.. as long as we end up with the “W”.. then I’ll be okay.

    P.S. I live in Cleveland.. yes.. and we have bitter bitter Browns fans.. can you believe my neighbor stole the Steeler’s magnets off my car.. for goodness sake!

  • Fred

    Kati,I’m not a girl and I cried, too! But, who can really fault “H. J. Heinz Ward”? Given all the good he has done for the team, I think we can excuse one mistake. I was so glad that the team picked him up with a W in OT. :)

  • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

    Kati, I agree that as long as we get the “W” all is right with the world. However, I have my blood pressure to consider so I’d prefer if not *every* game played out exactly the same as this one.

    As I’ve said before, the Steelers never make anything easy. When they win, it’s a thriller. When they lose, they usually keep the score close enough that you have hope right up until the end. There are no “off weeks” for us Steeler fans.

    Hey, I guess that’s something those bitter bitter Browns fans can brag about! :)