Paralysis by Analysis – Pittsburgh Steelers at Houston Texans

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The Defense is Still Not Playing to the Level We (or They) are Accustomed

Sunday was the first time the Steelers’ defense forced a turnover in a game. If Sunday had been week one, we would all be comfortable with it. Sunday, however, was not week one. Sunday was week 3! In three games, two of which were played against a horrible team in a horrible division and a team that is missing one of the greatest players in the history of the NFL, the best defense in the NFL from last year has forced one turnover.

This should have Citizens of The Nation all over the world on suicide watch.

Turnovers out of the Steelers’ offense are nothing new. We have all grown accustomed to Big Ben throwing an ill-timed pick when trying to make a play. I can accept that because that is life with Ben Roethlisberger. He tries to make a play on every snap and seemingly has never even heard of the concept of throwing the ball away. For every poor interception he throws, he seems to make half a dozen amazing plays that not many quarterbacks would even dream of attempting.

What usually offsets Ben’s occasional failure is the normally stellar play of the Steelers’ defense. For a team that didn’t lose a single starter during the off-season, this drop in defensive production is as mystifying as it is unacceptable.

Pop quiz, hot shot. Without looking, what team is leading the league in defensive passing yards this year? If you said the Pittsburgh Steelers, give yourself a gold star. But that is not the good news it appears to be. The simple fact is that the Steelers are allowing more than 30 yards per game rushing than they did last year. The reason they are good against the pass is because teams are running on them! They don’t have to pass.

That, plus in the last two games, they have played against quarterbacks who were either retired before this season or had never been consistent starters in the NFL.

Enter Ben Tate and Matt Schaub. Schaub is the 8th ranked passer in the league so far this year by passer rating, and has 274.3 yards per game through the air. Citizens, those numbers put him ahead of guys named Flacco, Jackson, Collins, and Painter. You recognize those names, don’t you? You should. The Steelers have played against all four of those quarterbacks.

Ben Tate, on the other hand, comes into Sunday’s meeting averaging 100.3 yards per game on the ground for the Texans. That is more than 20 yards per game better than Ray Rice. You know him. He was the purple-clad a-hole who put up 107 rushing yards on the Steelers in week one.

W2W4

I hate to say it, fellow Citizens, but I predict a second loss this week.

I don’t think they will get trucked like in week one, but Ben Tate is certainly capable of putting up big numbers on the Men of Steel. If, by some miracle, the Steelers manage to stop the Texans’ running game, Matt Schaub will be standing back there waiting to throw to guys like Andre Johnson. (I bet you thought I forgot about him.) Johnson is “only” 6th in the league for receiving yards per game. *sarcasm on* It’s not like he can hurt the Steelers at all. *sarcasm off*

I’m predicting a loss for the Mighty Black and Gold this week, as much as it pains me. The numbers are just not good enough to say the Steelers are playing well enough to win.

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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