Paralysis by Analysis - Pittsburgh Steelers at Houston Texans

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Friends, fellow Citizens of The One and Only Nation, I hate to be all doom and gloom after a win, but to quote Shakespeare, “Something wicked this way comes.”

If you watched the game on Sunday night from Indianapolis, you have to concede that things do not look good. I think their record belies how the Steelers are playing, and I’m starting to think the opening game against the Ravens is closer to the reality of how this season is going to be than the last two games.

I’m going to tell you why.

The Offensive Line is a Complete Train Wreck

As I said in my lead-up to the Colts game, the Colts defense is not built to stop the run. They are used to playing with a lead and stopping the pass. They were even missing Gary Brackett, the great linebacker. The Steelers should have been able to pound the ball on the ground, especially up the middle where Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis do not play.

Instead, we saw the Steelers have success through the air (one of the few bright spots of the game), while having as much success on the ground as the Kardashian sisters have in constructing coherent sentences.

Mendy was completely stoned all game. His long run was for 15 yards as he had a total of yards 37 yards on 18 carries and no scores. A 2.1 yard per carry average for your featured back is about a yard and a half less than you want against a good rushing defense. Against the Colts, he should have been able to get 4+ yards per carry. Redman and Moore only had five carries between them, accounting for only 15 yards.

The Colts were clearly ready for the Steelers rushing attack, such as it is, so you would figure Ben Roethlisberger would have all day to throw the ball. You would be wrong.

Big Ben was under pressure all day, again, and the Colts forced two fumbles and a pick. Admittedly, Ben threw for 364 yards and a very nice 67.6 completion percentage. He distributed the ball to a lot of different guys (Nine guys had catches), but he was under nearly constant pressure.

Can some of this be blamed on Ben’s penchant for holding the ball to make a play? Or on running backs not finding holes? Sure. But at the end of the day, the O line has been shown to be vulnerable.

Get ready, Citizens. It will not get any easier. The Texans’ defense is ranked higher (17th) than the Colts’ defense (22nd) in rushing yards per game. And that’s after the Colts held the Steelers to 67 yards rushing.

Did I Mention Mike Wallace is Going to be a Star?

For the sixth game in a row, going back to the playoffs last year, Wallace caught passes for more then 100 yards. Heck, he had 100 yards after his third catch which was an 85-yard touchdown. Was I the only one surprised by the fact that this was the longest catch of his career? It seems like he has been catching 90-yard touchdowns since he arrived in Pittsburgh.

Wallace is currently second in the league in receiving yards (Wes Welker from New England leads) and is second in receiving yards per game (Welker, again). Wallace has 10 fewer catches than Welker, however, so his yards per catch is better then Welker by more than three yards per catch.

Are you ready for the bad news? Not one Steelers receiver, other than Wallace, is among the top-50 in receiving yards. Antonio Brown has 156 yards which puts him 54th in the league.

This is actually kind of double-edged sword. On the one hand, it could mean that Ben is distributing the ball to more guys, like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning do. On the other hand, it could mean that the other receivers are not getting open and the Steelers’ passing attack is too reliant on Wallace’s incredible speed.

I’ll let you decide what the situation is. Here are the facts: Only two other Steelers, Hines Ward and Heath Miller, are in the top-100 in the league for receiving yards. The total number of touchdowns between Brown, Ward, and Miller? Zero. Zilch. Nada.

Need more proof that Wallace is doing the majority of the heavy lifting in the passing game? He is the only Steelers’ receiver in the top-40 of receptions in the league for the year. Hines has 12 catches, which puts him tied for 49th in the league for receptions.

Citizens, the offense is not playing as well as you might think. Don’t take too much confidence in back to back wins over teams that are not going anywhere.

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  • phisqb

    Traditionally, the Colts have been a terrible rush D. However, they have allowed only 3.3 yds/rush this year. That is 8th in the league. And the 3 teams they have played were very good rushing teams last year (Houston, Cleveland, Pittsburgh). Maybe teams think rushing is the way to beat the Colts, but perhaps they are better this year at defending the run than anyone thought. The 103 attempts against them is most in the league.

    Another thing to consider, is that maybe the Steelers are trying to focus more on defending the pass this year? It’s pretty clear that a lot of the teams to beat to win the Super Bowl are heavy passing teams (GB, NO, NE, previously Indy) and that Baltimore has been trying to beef up its passing game, as well. Just something to keep in mind. I think the cut blocking and Aaron Smith not having played much the past 2 seasons has a lot to do with it, too, and it affecting the whole left side of the defense.

  • phisqb

    Traditionally, the Colts have been a terrible rush D. However, they have allowed only 3.3 yds/rush this year. That is 8th in the league. And the 3 teams they have played were very good rushing teams last year (Houston, Cleveland, Pittsburgh). Maybe teams think rushing is the way to beat the Colts, but perhaps they are better this year at defending the run than anyone thought. The 103 attempts against them is most in the league.

    Another thing to consider, is that maybe the Steelers are trying to focus more on defending the pass this year? It’s pretty clear that a lot of the teams to beat to win the Super Bowl are heavy passing teams (GB, NO, NE, previously Indy) and that Baltimore has been trying to beef up its passing game, as well. Just something to keep in mind. I think the cut blocking and Aaron Smith not having played much the past 2 seasons has a lot to do with it, too, and it affecting the whole left side of the defense.

  • aceofclubs9

    @phisqb Hi, phisqb, thanks for the reply.

    You make a couple interesting points.

    I would expect the Colts to have the most rushing attempts against them considering the relative weakness of their rushing defense in the past. Going in to the Steelers game, the Colts were holding teams to 3.6 yards per carry. This doesn’t explain the relative ease with which they stopped the Steelers ground game. Pair that with the Steelers’ inability to run with any consistency against any of the teams they have played, and the problem is much greater than the Colts simply playing better.

    As for the Steelers focusing more on pass defense, I’m afraid that just doesn’t add up to me. I just can’t imagine Coaches Tomlin and Le Beau reversing their successful formula from last year, a formula that got them to the Super Bowl. Need I remind you that the Steelers were still in that Super Bowl, even with the relatively poor play from the defense in the passing game, and had a chance to win the game?

    The Steelers have faced only one QB this year with the game to put up numbers against them and what happened? Flacco put up numbers against them. Tavares Jackson? Kerry Collins? Curtis Painter? They are a has been and a couple of never-will-be’s. The combined record of the teams the Steelers have beaten? 1-5. The one team the Seahawks managed to beat, the Cardinals, is a long way from the team that played in SB43.

    The reason the Steelers are the best in the league against the pass is because they haven’t played an elite quarterback yet. It was an enormous break that Peyton Manning didn’t play last Sunday. If he had, the Steelers would have been on the receiving end of their second severe beating of the season.

    We are going to find out a lot about the Steelers this week when they play a very good offense.

    I appreciate the comment. Please keep reading and commenting.

    T

  • aceofclubs9

    @phisqb Hi, phisqb, thanks for the reply.

    You make a couple interesting points.

    I would expect the Colts to have the most rushing attempts against them considering the relative weakness of their rushing defense in the past. Going in to the Steelers game, the Colts were holding teams to 3.6 yards per carry. This doesn’t explain the relative ease with which they stopped the Steelers ground game. Pair that with the Steelers’ inability to run with any consistency against any of the teams they have played, and the problem is much greater than the Colts simply playing better.

    As for the Steelers focusing more on pass defense, I’m afraid that just doesn’t add up to me. I just can’t imagine Coaches Tomlin and Le Beau reversing their successful formula from last year, a formula that got them to the Super Bowl. Need I remind you that the Steelers were still in that Super Bowl, even with the relatively poor play from the defense in the passing game, and had a chance to win the game?

    The Steelers have faced only one QB this year with the game to put up numbers against them and what happened? Flacco put up numbers against them. Tavares Jackson? Kerry Collins? Curtis Painter? They are a has been and a couple of never-will-be’s. The combined record of the teams the Steelers have beaten? 1-5. The one team the Seahawks managed to beat, the Cardinals, is a long way from the team that played in SB43.

    The reason the Steelers are the best in the league against the pass is because they haven’t played an elite quarterback yet. It was an enormous break that Peyton Manning didn’t play last Sunday. If he had, the Steelers would have been on the receiving end of their second severe beating of the season.

    We are going to find out a lot about the Steelers this week when they play a very good offense.

    I appreciate the comment. Please keep reading and commenting.

    T

  • RickHarmon

    SAW THIS COMMING IN THE PRE SEASON..AND DID U SEE ARIANS RESPONCE “THE PASSING GAME MUST CARRY US” HIS ASS NEEDS TO GO..ALONG WITH THE O-LINE COACH..(WHO EVER HE IS) GOOD GOING STEELER BRASS..now lets see how many Steelers fans defend what’s clearly a bad situation

  • RickHarmon

    SAW THIS COMMING IN THE PRE SEASON..AND DID U SEE ARIANS RESPONCE “THE PASSING GAME MUST CARRY US” HIS ASS NEEDS TO GO..ALONG WITH THE O-LINE COACH..(WHO EVER HE IS) GOOD GOING STEELER BRASS..now lets see how many Steelers fans defend what’s clearly a bad situation

  • phisqb

    @aceofclubs9 Yeah, I am not sold it was all about the Steelers on this. 2nd-year player Pat Angerer was all over the place with 12 tackles and Cris Collinsworth said rookie Drake Nevis’ name every 5 minutes it seemed. The Steelers started the same O-line as the end of last year for most of the game except for Gilbert instead of Flozell and, presumably, Legursky better than Ramon Foster at right guard. Perhaps Pouncey and Kemo are still a bit nicked up and Mendy definitely was dancing around rather than hitting holes. I am sure we will see that change this week. I’ll say it was a little bit of both, but the Colts have faced the Texans with Tate (a quality back-up to Fosters 1600+ yards last season), Cleveland with Hillis and the Steelers with Mendy and have faced 100+ rushes for a 3.3 yd average. I’d say they have improved some even though they have been awful for years.

    I tossed the defending the pass more idea out there was simply as a thought. I’m definitely not sold on it. But can the Steelers give up more than 62.8 yds/game (a crazy low # last year) and win a Super Bowl? They did so in 2005-6 and in 2008-9 (86 and 80). If you ask me, their pass D needs more focus than their run D and part of that can be calling defenses that focus on the pass more. I’m still not sold on it, but I think it is an interesting question. I am not saying abandon the run D, just maybe we don’t need less than 80 yds/gm worth of focus on it.

    It will definitely be interesting to see the Houston offense with Foster, as they are good at both pass and run. They have an improved D, too, but that D is giving up 4.8 yds/carry. Steelers are giving up 4.6. Gotta stop Foster and Andre Johnson. Will be a tough game, but the Steelers have been up and down (even in the pre-season) so we’ll hope for an up week this week.

    • Todd

      Hey, phisqb,
      I would never say it was all about how badly the Steelers played and give no credit to the Colts. I certainly didn’t mean that. I just think it was more the poor play by the Steelers than any significant improvement on the part of the Colts that made that game as close as it was. You make a good point, though. The Colts have faced three quality running back in the first three games. I’m willing to admit I could be wrong on this one.
      As for the D, I just think they are built to stop the run. Unless they are going to retool the personnel, changing the base defense feels like a mistake. If you are going to play more nickel or dime to try to stop the pass, who would they take off the field? Harrison? He was defensive POY two years ago. Timmons? Woodley? They both signed big deals in the off season. One of the linemen? They can’t stop the run now. Can you imagine if they took a D lineman off the field?
      In the end, they are simply not playing to their potential right now. If they don’t start, it is going to be a very long season for The Nation.
      One thing is for sure: We will find out a lot about the 2011 Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.
      Thanks, again,
      T

  • phisqb

    @aceofclubs9 Yeah, I am not sold it was all about the Steelers on this. 2nd-year player Pat Angerer was all over the place with 12 tackles and Cris Collinsworth said rookie Drake Nevis’ name every 5 minutes it seemed. The Steelers started the same O-line as the end of last year for most of the game except for Gilbert instead of Flozell and, presumably, Legursky better than Ramon Foster at right guard. Perhaps Pouncey and Kemo are still a bit nicked up and Mendy definitely was dancing around rather than hitting holes. I am sure we will see that change this week. I’ll say it was a little bit of both, but the Colts have faced the Texans with Tate (a quality back-up to Fosters 1600+ yards last season), Cleveland with Hillis and the Steelers with Mendy and have faced 100+ rushes for a 3.3 yd average. I’d say they have improved some even though they have been awful for years.

    I tossed the defending the pass more idea out there was simply as a thought. I’m definitely not sold on it. But can the Steelers give up more than 62.8 yds/game (a crazy low # last year) and win a Super Bowl? They did so in 2005-6 and in 2008-9 (86 and 80). If you ask me, their pass D needs more focus than their run D and part of that can be calling defenses that focus on the pass more. I’m still not sold on it, but I think it is an interesting question. I am not saying abandon the run D, just maybe we don’t need less than 80 yds/gm worth of focus on it.

    It will definitely be interesting to see the Houston offense with Foster, as they are good at both pass and run. They have an improved D, too, but that D is giving up 4.8 yds/carry. Steelers are giving up 4.6. Gotta stop Foster and Andre Johnson. Will be a tough game, but the Steelers have been up and down (even in the pre-season) so we’ll hope for an up week this week.

  • RickHarmon

    I saw this comming in the preseason..especially after the cuts and the re-signings on the O-line and Secondary ..Arians needs to go, along with the O-line coach who’s name I still can’t remember, its bad new in The Burgh but lots of Nation fans wont admit it..lets hope the D can help erase THAT plus 10 turnover ratio..and the linebackers re-learn to tackle (FARRIOR) or its goin to be a Ravens Super Bowl win..

    • Todd

      Hi, again, Rick,
      I’m not sure the Ravens are the pick in the AFC. Something tells me that when the pressure is on, they are not going to rise to the occasion. They lost to the Titans a week after shellacking the Steelers. If they are subject to “let down” games, they could crack under the pressure of an AFC Championship, especially if they have to face guys they have trouble with, like Brady and Manning.
      That’s just my opinion. I could be wrong.
      T

  • RickHarmon

    I saw this comming in the preseason..especially after the cuts and the re-signings on the O-line and Secondary ..Arians needs to go, along with the O-line coach who’s name I still can’t remember, its bad new in The Burgh but lots of Nation fans wont admit it..lets hope the D can help erase THAT plus 10 turnover ratio..and the linebackers re-learn to tackle (FARRIOR) or its goin to be a Ravens Super Bowl win..

  • RickHarmon

    @phisqb @aceofclubs9

  • RickHarmon

    @phisqb @aceofclubs9

  • RickHarmon

    @phisqb @aceofclubs9 ..I don’t think it would hurt to go Nickle more often since teams are goin to use a lot of 3 to 5 reciever sets even on run situations (PATS & PACKERS) one thing our DBs can do is tackle..we all know the Steelers are suspect when linebackers have to cover down field..so use more nickle and dime then adjust to the run..easier then doing it the other way around.Not making excuses for a terrible O-line ..but Mendy needs to stop prancin around and hit a hole for gods sake..Miller needs more balls to him (he’s always open) Ben needs to stop watchin Fran Tarkenton videos..I’ve also been watching the route combos..Terrible (Arians) dose he ever watch other teams and their pass plays? Sorry guys I’m rambling but this is hard to watch..been a fan since78 so I’ve seen the good The bad and the ugly..and this is looking ugly.That being said its still early but were going to need a flawless October

    • Todd

      Hi, Rick,
      Thanks for the comment.
      I have to agree with you on Mendy dancing around in the backfield as if he has a selection of holes to choose from and he just can’t seem to decide which one he wants. Run where the play is drawn. If it is executed correctly, the hole should be there. I would be willing to accept one bounce from the point of attack when the hole closes before he gets there, but that prancing in the backfield has to stop.
      As for the playing more nickel/dime, I see what you are saying, but I think that would be a mistake. I can’t see replacing a proven player like Farrier or Foote (No way Harrison, Timmons, and Woodley are coming of the field for most plays) with a third-string defensive back. Besides, the problem right now isn’t stopping the pass. It’s stopping the run. The Steelers played in the Super Bowl with the best rushing defense in the NFL and a suspect pass defense. Were they exposed during the Super Bowl? Yes. But as the late, great Harvey Pennick used to say, “If I tell you to take an aspirin, I don’t mean take the whole bottle.” Instead of focusing the defense on stopping the pass and allowing Ben Tate or Arian Foster (who is expected to play this Sunday) run for a buck fifty and two scores, they need to play they way they have been built. They are built to stop the run and bring pressure on the quarterback. So far, they have show very little of that this year.
      By the way, it’s nice to have some older readers. I’m in my 40s and remember the glory days of the late 70s, when we thought the Steelers would go to, and win, every Super Bowl. Most of the people who write for and read this site only know the Steelers’ history from reading about it or watching grainy videos on Youtube. We lived it, brother! Welcome to the site. (Sorry Craig, Adam, Brandt, Dom and Kim)
      T

  • RickHarmon

    @phisqb @aceofclubs9 ..I don’t think it would hurt to go Nickle more often since teams are goin to use a lot of 3 to 5 reciever sets even on run situations (PATS & PACKERS) one thing our DBs can do is tackle..we all know the Steelers are suspect when linebackers have to cover down field..so use more nickle and dime then adjust to the run..easier then doing it the other way around.Not making excuses for a terrible O-line ..but Mendy needs to stop prancin around and hit a hole for gods sake..Miller needs more balls to him (he’s always open) Ben needs to stop watchin Fran Tarkenton videos..I’ve also been watching the route combos..Terrible (Arians) dose he ever watch other teams and their pass plays? Sorry guys I’m rambling but this is hard to watch..been a fan since78 so I’ve seen the good The bad and the ugly..and this is looking ugly.That being said its still early but were going to need a flawless October

  • dcmille290

    If you look at the way the offense has been played and coached int he last couple of seasons a lot of it just doesn’t make sense. Some of the calls from the sideline are awful. Nicked up O line, yes. Last season we only had one player to start every game on the line, Adams. So we can get it done, I just think Arians time is up and the O line coach needs to go too,

    DCM

    • Todd

      Hi, DCM,
      Thanks for the comment.
      It’s hard to say it’s all about Arians when the line has been riddled with injuries. Coach Tomlin likes to say every man needs to be ready to play, even if he is not a starter. That’s easy to say, but the reality is if the backups were good enough to start, they would start. Injuries are part of the game that everyone has to deal with, so no excuses there, but there is a drop in production when you lose a starter.
      That having been said, the Ravens’ line had not played a single snap together before Sept. 11, 2011, so clearly there is something to be said about the play calling and the coaching. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of Arians. I feel like he calls games too predictably most of the time. Sometimes it feels like he only knows how to call running plays on first down and passing plays on third down.
      The simple fact is that the Steelers’ offense seems to be struggling, especially running the ball. There is a lot of blame to go around.
      Thanks, again.
      T

  • dcmille290

    If you look at the way the offense has been played and coached int he last couple of seasons a lot of it just doesn’t make sense. Some of the calls from the sideline are awful. Nicked up O line, yes. Last season we only had one player to start every game on the line, Adams. So we can get it done, I just think Arians time is up and the O line coach needs to go too,

    DCM