My Thoughts on the Steelers Most Recent Loss

Before I begin to talk about yesterday’s slop-fest in Cleveland, I would like to take this opportunity to extend some “Congratulations” towards the San Diego State Aztecs football team for their fantastic efforts during the 2012 regular season.  On Saturday, the Aztecs clinched a share of the Mountain West title and finished their 9-3 campaign with a 42-28 win over the Wyoming Cowboys in Laramie.  S.D.S.U.’s football team battled hard this year, and capped their 2012 campaign off with a 7 game-winning streak.  But what made the Aztecs’ 2012 season even more impressive was the fact that their starting Quarterback Ryan Katz was lost midway through the year with an ankle injury.

I tip my hat to Adam Muema and the Aztecs. Mandatory Credit: Brian Losness-US PRESSWIRE

With a 5-3 record and their starting Quarterback sidelined, the Aztecs could have just mailed it in like some professional football teams when they have had their starting signal-callers go down (*cough*cough*).  Nobody would have blamed S.D.S.U., and it seems to be all the rage in the N.F.L. right now amongst some franchises without adequate backup situations in place.  You know, in spite of some writers expressing their doubts at the beginning of the year about a team in the A.F.C. North and their inadequate Quarterback depth.

But there was “No Quit” in this Aztecs team.  They simply relied on their veteran backup Adam Dingwell and the masterful running of Adam Muema (1,355 Yards, 16 TD’s) and Walter Kazee (822 Yards, 8 TD’s) behind their stout Offensive Line.  The Defense, led by stud Cornerback Leon McFadden (please Steelers, please consider drafting him) also stepped up down the stretch to help the team reel off some incredible Wins like their 21-19 triumph over then-#19 Boise State on the “Smurf Turf.”

I understand that this team will not get any sort of recognition outside of Mountain West fanbases or Southern California.  And you know what?  That’s fine.  But lack of headlines aside, I just wanted to extend a “Thank You” to Head Coach Rocky Long and the rest of his staff and players for their hard-nosed and physical play.  As a San Diego native and long-time Aztecs fan, I just wanted to say that you guys were truly a treat to watch and follow during your adversity filled season.

 

Wallace being boxed out for the ball. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-US PRESSWIRE

Sunday’s Slop-Fest

Do not get me wrong, I knew that the Steelers would have their hands full yesterday, and I even picked Cleveland to upset them.  But yesterday’s game was downright painful to watch, and although it makes me sad to type, here are my thoughts from the 20-14 Loss:

 

  • Kevin Colbert, whatever moves you make this offseason, please allow Mike Wallace and Rashard Mendenhall to walk after the season.  From his poor ball-security, to his inability to run between the Tackles, and his recent Knee and Achilles injuries, I believe that Mendenhall’s career is at an end with the Black & Gold.  To me, there are plenty of Backs around in April’s Draft (Stepfan Taylor, Johnathan Franklin, Mike Gillislee, to name a few) who could easily make up for his loss and eventually exceed his productivity on the field, and could be had at a much lower price.

 

  • As for “Dropsy McDropsalot,” his bouts with drops and being boxed out on deep balls has become tiresome to watch.  Emmanuel Sanders (5 Catches, 75 Yards on Sunday) might not be the type of deep threat Wallace is, but he is a productive target and can catch whatever he gets his hands on whenever his number is called.  This team would be better off looking towards the Draft for another speedster to replace Wallace, receiving a 3rd Round Compensatory Pick in exchange, and allowing a team like the Cowboys or Redskins to overpay and “make it rain” for Wallace’s “Clifford Franklin-like” skill-set.

 

  • Am I the only one pleased with the way Jason Worilds played yesterday?  When healthy, Worilds is a downright force off of the edge, leads the team lead in Sacks (5.0).  In fact, I noticed almost zero dropoff in production and play from #93 all day long as he was effective against the run and attacked Brandon Weeden when he dropped back to pass (4 Tackles, 2.0 Sacks, 1 PD, 3 QB Hurries).  Heck, I would say that Worilds played a better game yesterday than LaMarr Woodley ($61.5 Million) has played over the last two years.  How or why Mike Tomlin or Dick LeBeau have not rotated Worilds (when healthy) in with James Harrison & Woodley to keep them fresh over the last two years has been quite perplexing.  And as bad as it has been to see hobbled and over-paid veterans struggle on the field this year, it has truly been a shame to watch youngsters like Worilds, Steve McLendon, and Cameron Heyward rot on the bench when they could be receiving valuable game-experience and reps.

 

  • This team has nobody to blame but themselves for their backup Quarterback situation, and deserve to reap what they sow right now.  How or why veterans like Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch were left on this roster without a young, Pro-Style, and potentially effective Quarterback also being groomed behind Big Ben over the last seven seasons is a downright joke.  Omar Jacobs?  Brian St. Pierre?  Tyler Palko?  Dennis Dixon?  Jerrod Johnson?  Troy Smith?  These guys were not the answers in the least bit, and should have never been considered viable options in the first place!  Sure, the Brian Hoyer signing is nice, but a “too little, too late” move in terms of him doing anything of relevance this season.  Even with Hoyer’s addition, I still hope this team can bring in some competition from somewhere else this offseason to really solidify the depth behind Big Ben.  Remember, Roethlisberger will be entering his 10th season in 2013, and it would be comforting to have some depth behind him that is not calcifying by the day or at the very least can lead the Offense on a scoring drive or two if they must replace him.

 

  • 8 bleeping Turnovers?!  The Steelers coughed up the ball entirely too often yesterday.  As I alluded to before, the stable of Backs on Pittsburgh’s roster are not cutting the mustard, and now that Chris Rainey looks to be out for a significant period, help must come and must come fast from talent outside of the organization.  There is no excuse for the type of lackadaisical ball-security this team put on display on Sunday afternoon, and it will continue to be a problem until better personnel is brought in, or jobs are in jeopardy because of piss-poor execution.

 

  • For those of you whining about how the Steelers did not get that Fumble around the 2 Minute Warning, STOP IT!  Does it stink that the rule is in place?  Heck yes!  Is it unfortunate that the call affected the Steelers at such a crucial time?  Heck, yes!  But you know what?  The rule is the rule, and it would not have made a difference if Pittsburgh’s Offense had not turned it over 8 times during the game!  Hey, I know, maybe the team should have rushed for more than 49 Yards.  If you want to place blame anywhere, start with the team, not the officials.

 

  • The utter lack of discipline this team has displayed throughout the year in terms of their penalties is terrible, and I really hope that Tomlin and the rest of his staff instill some discipline this week.  Tomlin has always been one to talk tough with his “Standard is the Standard,” “Excuses are for the Incompetent,” “Unleash Hell,” and “5 Star Matchup” mantras, but now that he has an undisciplined, under-manned, and under-achieving team at his disposal, it is time for him to step up as a Coach, clean up the undisciplined messes, and make the best out of his current situation.  The Steelers looked ill-prepared to go out and win a football game yesterday, and Tomlin must rally his troops to salvage an “almost lost” season.

 

Final Thoughts

At 6-5, this team still has a shot to make the postseason, and the final 5 games should be a fantastic litmus test for the players and Coaching Staff.    I want to see if some members of this team have any “fight” left in them, or if they are simply content to “mail it in” like some members did in 2009.  I am also intrigued to see some of the younger players I alluded to before (Worilds, Heyward, McLendon), as well as like Cortez Allen, Curtis Brown, and see if they can step up when they are asked to contribute.  I still have some faith in this team as there are some on the roster (Heath Miller, Sanders, Worilds, Lawrence Timmons, Ryan Clark, Larry Foote, Harrison to name a few) continuing to play at a high level.  Whether or not other members of the team can step up their play though is an entirely different issue altogether, and I hope that if the Coaching Staff begins to see some “mailing it in” down the stretch, they are disciplined swiftly and made accountable.

 

Readers:  Is the season lost?  How awful was that game?  Who deserves the most blame?  Can this team recover?  Why?

 

 

Figures and Stats Courtesy of: Pro Football Reference.com and ESPN.com

Topics: Dick Lebeau, Jason Worilds, Lamarr Woodley, Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers

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  • IndySteelers

    I agree about Worilds, Wallace and Mendenhall. I also agree with your take on our backup QB situation. Both backups are older than Ben. I agree with your take on Tomlin as well. I would only add that at some point the coach and his staff need to be held accountable too. HECK, it is just a flat out good read! One more thing, as much as I’ve enjoyed watching Troy play over the years, if he can’t get healthy and back on the field by the end of the season, he needs to be gone. I can’t get the stars right. I wanted to rate this +10 Stars =(

    • Dom DiTolla

      Well thank you for the kind words.

  • buddytoledo

    Agree about the young guys on defense. It’s sad that the coaches can’t make tough personnel choices and wait for injuries instead.

  • Craig

    Awesome write up, Dom. Thanks for leaving nothing for the rest if us to write. J/k

    I would actually exclude Foote and Timmons from that high level list. These Steelers need to find at least ONE LB who can excel in pass coverage. During Timmons’ pick 6, if you watch the tape, his cover was wide open. Were that ball not tipped, it would have been a big gain for the Browns.

    • Dom DiTolla

      I totally agree with you on the pass coverage front (This is where I wish Sean Spence was healthy and being groomed to be the new “Mack” and Nickel/Dime Cover Linebacker), but both Foote and Timmons have been some of the few on the Defense who have forced Turnovers and made plays consistently throughout the season. Timmons actually leads the team in Picks (3) and is 3rd on the team in Tackles (69), while Foote leads the team in Tackles (78), Recovered Fumbles (2), is tied for the team lead in Forced Fumbles (2), and has even put up 3.0 Sacks over his first 11 games. Clark might be the overall Defensive MVP for this season, but Foote and Timmons have done a solid and consistent enough job in my opinion to warrant kudos.

      • Craig

        I still disagree. Foote have may have more tackles, and Timmons may have the most INT’s, BUT they are also the two biggest culprits of when ‘big’ plays happen for opposing offenses. Timmons gave up a couple of big passing plays across the middle. Foote gave up the TD on the Weeden pass. I think they are bad ‘situational’ coverage linebackers.

        • Dom DiTolla

          Agreed. Part of this however can be attributed to scheme as LeBeau sometimes leaves those two in on passing downs and in non-favorable matchup positions against athletic Backs & Ends. When I see them huffing and puffing after the Tight Ends, it makes me wish that Cortez Allen was covering them or Sean Spence was healthy to do what he was drafted to do. I still will tip my cap to Foote and Timmons for their productivity this season as the Defense has been wrought by injuries and inconsistent play.

          • Craig

            It’s like you read my post with Cortez on it or something :)

          • Dom DiTolla

            Lol. I totally agree and I am sure I speak for many when I say that I wish that the Steelers had some more effective 3rd Down Defensive personnel packages, especially in distances where athletic Tight Ends are used effectively in the passing game (3rd & 4-6), and accurate QB’s have eaten Zone coverage alive against the Steelers for years. They should not leave their best A-Gap Linebacker Blitzer, Timmons, or an Inside Linebacker going on 33 years of age like Foote, to rot & be at a disadvantage in pass coverage on a consistent basis.

            As much as I have been down on the Secondary this season, Allen has surprised me with how well he played against the Patriots during his Rookie season, and has shown in his 2nd season that he can wrap, tackle, and play physical. If I were LeBeau or Carnell Lake, I would strongly consider seeing what Allen could do at one of the Safety positions (likely Free) during the offseason workouts/preseason due to his size (6’1″ almost 200 lbs.), his ability to play physical, and the fact that he would have Corner coverage skills for that position.

            If this happens, the team could then see what they have in Curtis Brown as a full-time Nickelback, possibly give some Nickel or Dime reps to Sean Spence (if healthy), and even give a chances to Robert Golden, a former starting Cornerback and starting Safety at Arizona, or a high 2013 Draft pick being groomed to replace either the soon to be 33 year-old Ike Taylor or Keenan Lewis who is a UFA after the season.

  • Ross

    Maybe it’s all for the best. Had the Steelers eek’d out wins against the Raiders, Titans, and Browns, they’d just be sticking their collective heads in the sand that much deeper for that much longer. No worries, next weekend is sure to be another reminder in case they forget this game too quickly. Yikes!!!

  • Mike

    Not only is this season not lost, I still believe it has the makings of a Super season. Why the insanity? Because the key to making a run to the SB in the modern game is to put your team in a position to get hot in weeks 13-14 and make a 6 week run to the Dance. Face adversity, have outsiders kicking dirt on your grave, begin getting key pieces back into the line up and then ride the ‘Us against the World’ locker room dynamic to immortality.

    Unlike almost any other team in the conference, this Pittsburgh team will getting better each and every week (barring another catastrophic injury). We are already seeing major red flags on the conference’s top teams: Houston is teetering on the edge of loses to vastly less talented teams; Baltimore is a joke and even they know it; New England is sporadic and has ‘the look’ of a one and done in the post season, yet again. Only Denver really scares me at this point…and as we almost saw yesterday, they are one play away from free-fall.

    My guess is this lull in November is going to serve as a motivational springboard for this team. Although I expect a loss next week in Baltimore (heck, I would manage to that outcome by resting my key injuries prepping for the stretch run–I’ll take a 1-2 record vs Baltimore this year so long as the win comes last), the home games vs. SD, CIN and CLE will be the story of this season for this team.

    • Dom DiTolla

      The Cincinnati game will be crucial as this will likely be the showdown for the final Wild Card spot. The Steelers are already in a heap of trouble though in the Wild Card chase due to some important tie-breakers down the road. If Pittsburgh does not win-out outside of Baltimore, they could be sitting at home in January because they have lost to so many A.F.C. teams already (Oakland, Tennessee, Denver, Baltimore (likely x2), Cleveland).

      Even if the Steelers make the postseason, I highly doubt that the Steelers will be able to win 3 Road Games against the likes of New England, Denver, Baltimore, or Houston. Even with Big Ben 100% healthy, winning 3 road games against these teams would be a difficult task. If this team truly wanted to prove they could win in the face of adversity, they would have closed the door in their last two winnable games (especially Cleveland). Sadly, they put on two “dumpster-fire” like and “undisciplined when it counted” performances. It’s nice to stay positive, and I tip my cap to you, but I have seen nothing from this team that would warrant them being considered “Super Bowl Contenders.”

      • Mike

        Valid points, however, the other side of the coin for Pitt playing down to their competition is that they ‘play up’ to quality teams. The tie-breakers with Common Opponents and Conference Record don’t come into play until head to head has been determined.

        If the Bengals beat the Steelers in week 16, then the common record would require Pitt to beat SD and CLE and Cinci will need to lose this weekend at SD and against the Ravens in week 17. Clearly, the playoffs start week 16 at Heinz Field.

        • Dom DiTolla

          I will start to believe that this team is in the midst of a “Super Bowl season” when they beat a quality AFC opponent on the road, something they have yet to do this season. Even mediocre teams find ways to beat teams like Oakland, Tennessee, and Cleveland when they play subpar football, especially when they need to rack up “W’s.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kevin-Davis/100000779512610 Kevin Davis

    Tomlin needs to go…He talks a big talk but does not back it up and he makes stupid decisions…He benches best players in this case because of fumbles and puts in average players at best…Case in point (putting Rainy in during the goal line and watch him get banged around like a pin ball and then get hurt instead of using a big back like Dwyer….Tomlin is incompetent at best…He inherited a great team that took him to the superbowl….Now it is his team and the results are not good….

    • BossSteelerChick

      I’m not going to say Tomlin needs to go, but coaching in anger is bad coaching… it’s sort of like parenting. We don’t punish our kids for making mistakes, we punish them when they are “bad.” The RBs made mistakes.

  • BossSteelerChick

    My sentiments exactly!! (Except I think you should’ve written the Aztec article on a different blog…I had to scroll past it to read what I care about.)