Week 15 Recap: Ghosts Of Seasons Past

Bah-humbug!

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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