Week 15 Recap: Ghosts Of Seasons Past


The Pittsburgh Steelers tasted the bitter egg nog of defeat at the hands of the New York Jets by a final score of 22-17.  “Hands” would actually be the wrong appendage.  “Feet” is much more accurate.  For it was the Black and Gold repeatedly shooting themselves in the foot which allowed the overrated Jets to steal a game they had no business winning.

It started with the opening kickoff where the Steelers special teams reverted back to 2009 form.  Brad Smith took the ball and returned it for a 97 yard touchdown, barely being touched along the way.  This was the first of several miscues on the afternoon.  When you play an obviously inferior team such as the Jets, their only hope is to steal points through field position and special teams.  It was the Ghost of Lousy Kick Coverage Past haunting Al Everest’s usually solid crew.

Case in point, the Steelers first touchdown drive began on their own 4.  Going mostly with a no-huddle/shotgun, which means Ben Roethlisberger is calling the plays and not dumbass Bruce Arians, they threw early and often.  My suggested strategy paid off as the Jets over-hyped secondary was no match for Big Ben and the passing game.  Catches of 12 and 18 yards by Hines Ward contributed to an eight minute 96 yard touchdown drive.  The capper was a 9 yard bullet to Matt Spaeth, who would display his usual tendency to make a nice catch one minute then drop an easy one two plays later.

The teams exchanged field goals to finish up the half.  New York’s boot was set up by a 38 yard pass to Braylon Edwards.  I’ve been tough on Bryant McFadden but he played an excellent game yesterday, actually covering receivers instead of backpedaling before the snap.  On the Edwards catch, B-Mac had perfect coverage and sometimes you can only to tip your cap to the receiver/quarterback for making a great play.

The Steelers field goal came after a 13 yard catch by Spaeth and a 16 yarder to Mike Wallace.  They tried a nifty bit of TRICKERATION by faking a spike and then attempting to hit a streaking Wallace but Ben overthrew him by a mile.  In fact, Wallace was wide open down the sideline earlier in the half and was overthrown.  NOBODY CAN COVER MIKE WALLACE.

If Ben could only learn to throw a halfway decent deep ball…

The second half began with Ben finally hitting the Flash deep for 23 yards.  A nifty 21 yard run by Rashard Mendenhall (17 carries 100 yards against a fairly stout run defense) where he broke it outside after the lane collapsed highlighted a nine play 74 yard drive he’d eventually finish with a 2 yard plunge.  Two touchdowns in the same game?  By the offense?   Madness!

The Jets immediately answered with their first touchdown drive in 11 quarters.  At mid-field, Mark Sanchez hit Edwards over the middle for 15 yards.  Ryan Clark did what he was supposed to do, attempt to dislodge the the ball from the receiver, and was penalized for it.  It wouldn’t be a Steeler game without a visit from the Ghost of  Bullcrap Personal Fouls Present.  Form perfect hit, led with his shoulder, played football the way it’s supposed to be played, yadda, yadda, yadda…

Clark will no doubt receive a nice Christmas card from the Ginger Grinch over the next few days.

Gifted an undeserved first down on the Steelers 16, the Jets bumbled through three consecutive plays which left them with a 4th and 1.  Desperate Rex Ryan decided to go for it.  Lining up in tight short yardage formation, Gang Green attempted their own bit of trickeration.  Except theirs worked as they even fooled the cameraman who didn’t realize Nacho was running for the border until he was practically across it.

Late in the third, a lousy punt by Jeremy Kapinos failed to pin the Jets deep in their own end.  Later in the drive, Ryan Mundy came in unblocked on a blitz and missed Sanchez, who completed another pass to Edwards for 18 yards.  The defense didn’t play bad yesterday but they just aren’t game changers without Troy Polamalu.  The interceptions and huge plays are one thing but the missed sacks, vanilla blitz schemes, and the way Sanchez was able to use the middle of the field are all things which don’t happen if Troy is playing.

That play to Edwards was key in that it set up another FG.  A couple failed drives later, the Jets pinned the Steelers at their 3.  The punt was good but rookie Antonio Brown had a brainfart by letting it bounce behind him.  Why is Antwaan Randle-El on this team if you aren’t going to use him in those situations?  Captain Faircatch would know better.

On the Steelers first play, Mewelde Moore was thrown for a safety by Woodland Hills alum Jason “Twinkle Toes” Taylor.  Classic dumbassery from Arians.  Why run straight out of your own end zone when you can run sideways?  HE IZ SMATR TEHN U!?!

The safety put the deficit at 5 which was killer because the offense was moving the ball with ease so a game tying field goal would’ve been a mere formality.

Indeed, the defense forced a three and out after the free kick and Big Ben went right to work.  A sack-fumble had the Steelers facing a 3rd and 24 which they converted with a 29 yard pass over the middle to Emmanuel Sanders.  Sanders, who caught 7 balls for 78 yards yesterday, is showing a lot of promise as a slot receiver.  Although his best play was later in the drive where he beat Darrelle Revis like a shoplifter on Black Friday and had his jersey practically torn off his back to prevent him from making  the catch.  Naturally, nothing was called.

I guess pass interference does not exist on Revis Island.

It wasn’t the only near-miss on the drive.  A few plays earlier, Ben hit Flash over the middle for 18 yards to the New York 26.  Had Wallace not slipped making a cut, he would’ve had another 10-15 yards easily.  Shortly after the Sanders no-call, the Steelers had a first down on the Jets 10 with nine second left.  On their first play, Sanders broke free across the back of the end zone but Spaeth undercut the route and got in the way.  On the game’s final play, Spaeth found space in the corner but couldn’t come down with the catch after Ben scrambled to buy time.

Does Heath Miller make that grab?  I dunno.  But if I want somebody to pee their name in the snow, I’d call Spaeth.  If I want somebody to make a catch with the game on the line, I’ll call Heath.

While this loss sucked and the Saints didn’t do the Steelers any favors by some how managing to lose to the Ratbirds, not much has changed.  We still control our own destiny.  Beat the Panthers and Browns and the second seed is ours.  Get in the playoffs, get Troy, Heath, and maybe Aaron Smith back, and I’ll be more than happy to take my chances on a rematch.

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  • Smoking Tire

    Good review of the game as usual.

    You mentioned it, but it is worth repeating – Sanders had a great frickin’ game. He came up huge and hopefully landed himself even more playing time. I can’t say enough about how he played. Especially when you think about the ghost of Limas Sweed. That guy was a liability from day one, as where Sanders is showing himself to be a sure-handed, semi-clutch mini-Ward making some great snags in yesterday’s game. That alone makes me feel great about our chances in the playoffs. If we can force teams to have to worry about him a bit more, that’s only going to open things up even more for Wallace and Ward.

    You mentioned the no-call interference play on Sanders, but that cost us the game. The announcers saw it, but they downplayed it. They didn’t even show a good replay of it. Sanders got absolutely mugged. If they call that correctly, The Steelers are first and goal with plenty of time.

    No Miller yesterday killed us. Spaeth made a nice grab in the endzone for the 1st TD, and a couple of good blocks, but having Miller in there would have made a difference there at the end. That first pass to the back of the endzone went right through his hands. Granted, it would have been a tough grab, but a top tier TE brings that one down 7 or 8 times out of 10.

    I thought the O looked great. We ran all over Gang Green, a very tough run D. Ramon Foster had his best game as a Steeler. No holding calls I don’t think and exceptional protection almost the entire game. Keomatu’s missed blocking assignment caused the safety, but other than that, the line played great.

    If not for the fluke opening kickoff, and a few bad calls, we win this one. Oh well. Win the last 2 and we’re the 2nd seed. If we can’t beat the Panthers and the Browns with a few men down, we don’t deserve to even go to the playoffs.

    • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

      Good analysis as usual, Tire. I forgot to mention the line but they did do a pretty good job yesterday. Oh, I actually think Jonathan Scott was the one who missed the block. Kemo was a pulling guard. If you watch the replay, Scott just kinda falls down for some reason. Essex came in at LT the next series so I think Tomlin was pissed at him.

      Should have been pissed at the dumbass call by Arians.

      And of course the announcers downplayed the no PI. Am I the only one who thinks Simms clearly hates the Steelers? Every call against us is justified (according to him) and every one not called in our favor is also justified (according to him). If I could find a portable radio or hook my computer up to remote speakers, I’d turn off the volume and listen to Tunch and Bill.

  • Lone Steelers Fan in Boston

    Great summary and thank you for noting the missed pass interference call. Funny that Jim Nantz noticed it on-air, but there’s been no mention in any other post game write-ups. Guess the NFL got that one silenced because had that been properly called, Steelers would likely have won.
    Like other games this season, the officials did a shoddy job. Case in point – spotting the ball in the wrong place during the final drive. Messes up the Offense’s rhythm and gives the D more time to strategize and throw Big Ben different blitz looks.

    • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

      Most media outlets tend to downplay the NFL mandated screwing of the Steelers because they don’t want to run afoul of their league overlords.

      The officials were terrible yesterday. (What else is new) Although mark my words, if the Steelers had won, Jets fans would be all over them giving us a first down after Mendy gained 9 yards. It just so happens their incompetence cost us the game, not NY. Funny how that always seems to happen…

      • Bill

        Well the officials definately cost us opportunities. It did come down to a couple pass plays with time on the clock. We still could have won ‘in spite’ of the officials. We left plays on the field but still came away with a playoff birth and a good shot at the division. Thursday will come soon enough.

  • mark

    Spot on Chris; what a joke the refs were, especially on deep passing plays. Everyone knows Wallace will ghost their dbacks, so they play grabskie. I don’t know what Ben’s deal is with the touch passes lately. In the off season, he needs to get with his rxers and work on routes, he won’t be the 2nd coming of Manning or Breese, but certainly can improve the passing game a bit and use the talents of our rxers. Too bad Sweed is a bust so far, maybe he can bust his butt in the off season too and start playing like a mini-Moss.

    • Bill

      You mean Sweed could play for 3 teams, catch 27 passes, 375 yards and 5 touchdowns? Wouldn’t it be better to use his as trade bait?

      • mark

        Bill – I meant Moss in his early Minn. days, probably just a pipe dream, I agree with your comment to trade him.

        • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

          Who would trade for Limas Sweed? We got a 5th round pick for Santonio, a former Super Bowl MVP. We’d be lucky to get a bag of used jocks for Limas.

          Mark, Ben has always lacked great touch. It gets covered up a lot because he has great receivers like Hines and Heath out there. He could definitely work on it but I don’t think he can do much about throwing better deep balls. That’s pretty much one of those “he either got it or he don’t” type skills.

  • Bob Savage

    Stop your crying Steeler fans. Your team lost!

  • Voice of Reason

    Wow! Talk about writing with black and yellow blinders!!

    Here is a slightly different perspective from a Jets fan:

    The reason the Jets returned the kick-off for a touchdown is because they have great special teams (more kick-off returns for touchdowns then any other team in the NFL over the past 5 years). Great blocking by all 10 guys. Great running by Smith – quickly found the slot and hit it hard. Don’t kill yourself over it – happens all the time.

    The Steeler’s first, long touchdown drive was aided by an extra play – on a 2nd down with 1.5 yards to go, the refs inexplicably gave the Steelers a 1st and 10? Funny you forgot to mention that little early xmas gift from the refs. The Steelers converted a 3rd down a few plays later that should have been a 4th down.

    Big Ben’s TRICKERATION (faking a spike) and then attempting to hit a streaking Wallace did not work because the Jets were not fooled and Revis was all over Wallace.

    The personal foul on Ryan Clark during the Jets drive – I watched the play in real-time and the replay on my big HDTV. The Clark call was questionable (a lot of the helmet-to-helmet calls are now and the Jets have been dinged a bunch of times on BS calls) but Clark *DID* make helmet-to-helmet contact. Period. End of story. Regardless of whether he led with the shoulder (which I think he did). In case you haven’t figured it out yet: welcome to the new NFL – it will be called every time.

    On the Jet’s score on 4th down: great naked bootleg call, great execution *completely* fooled the Steeler Defense

    Agreed that Polamalu would have definitely made a difference. Oh well – teams must adapt to injuries. The Jets are playing without their starting (4 time Probowl) nose tackle (Jenkins), their starting safety (Leonard), and their leading tackler (LB Calvin Pace). Deal with it.

    The safety by Jason Taylor was a big play at a big moment. Quick penetration and big strength to yank back Moore like he yanking a little kid away from the subway tracks.

    You said “the safety …. was a killer because the offense was moving the ball with ease so a game tying field goal would’ve been a mere formality”. Formality??!! The previous 2 possessions by the Steelers ended in punts (2:09 in 3rd, 7:09 in 4th). Funny how memory works.

    Last play of the game was simply great coverage by the Jets. Perfect. No one was open.

    So the way this Jets fan sees it, you guys can complain about a single missed interference call against Revis. And if that is your only excuse for loosing at home in Week 15, you are in deep doo-doo come play-off time. Jets were simply a better team on Sunday.

    Merry Christmas!

    • Bill

      As with all things even reason has two sides.
      As noted by both anouncers the Steelers failed to stay in their lanes on the kickoff return. Sure it happens all the time but blocking can easily be added by players who fail to be where they are supposed to be. Had they been in their lanes would it have been a TD? Maybe, but maybe not and either way no thanks to the Jets.
      The 1.5 yards was awarded after a first down play. No reason to believe we would automatically have NOT picked it up. You just can’t assume but thanks for trying.
      Revis Island was taking bump and run (I mean grab and hold) to a new level all day. That was good coverage but the ball was over thrown. Revis had nothing to do with it. It was just a bad pass.
      Clark made shoulder to helmet contact however he did leave his feet to launch himself. Borderline call. Last year would have been considered a great defensive play even though the rules have not changed just their enforcment.

      On the last play Ward was as open as the situation would have allowed but Ben never looked in that direction. The play was called to the corner. Good defense, sure. Poor attempt at a catch, maybe. Would Miller had caught it against the same coverage? Who knows.

      In this Stiller fan’s opinion. The Jets played one heck of a game and barely squeeked a victory against a team that as you imply played poorly.

  • hottoes

    WAHHHHHHH!!! WAHHHHHHH!!! Cry me a river. Your team is highly overrated as well. How’d you fare against the Patriots? Your D with Palofukyou got ripped by UGGs man. You also “LOST” to BOTH the BILLS and the DOLPHINS!!! THE BILLS!!! Who drops that pass in the endzone in OT? The Roethlisfucker fumble in the endzone “recovery?”

    Haha- please, the Ravens are a far better team and will beat you guys in the playoffs.