1.20.2010

Revis Island Just Floated By The Steelers


With how salient the Steelers problems have been at cornerback this season, we probably don't need to be reminded how the team was this close to having the best cover guy in the NFL, only for him to swiped right out from under them. But Darrelle Revis ascension to that status has plunged me into a fit of sulking over might have been.

Recall that the Steelers had the 15th pick in the 2007 Draft. Lots of pundits had pegged Pitt product Revis as a possible, even likely, selection for the team. Maybe he was, maybe he wasn't. But the Jets made that speculation moot by trading up into the 14th pick to take Revis, one ahead of the Steelers.

The Steelers ended up taking Lawrence Timmons with the next selection. Timmons is a fine player who shows flashes of explosive play, but at times seems like he hasn't fully grasped all the nuances of the game. Either way, he's not Revis.

And as much as we want to gripe about losing out on a top corner, Leon Hall, who has transformed into a superior cover guy in his own right, was still on the board. He eventually went to the Bungles at 18.

Hopefully there's a chance to rectify that this year.

1.16.2010

Just a Quick Reminder

Ben Roethlisberger's second season - Wins Super Bowl after going through the AFC playoffs as a 6th seed, including a road victory over the top-seeded Colts. Despite poor performance in Super Bowl, posts three QB ratings over 95 in wins in AFC playoffs.

Joe Flacco's second season: Team gets sixth seed. Posts astounding QB rating of 10.0 in 1st round playoff win. Sucks up the joint in second round loss to hated Colts. Can't do anything but throw dump passes to Ray Rice. Flacco throws two interceptions. Ravens score three points.

1.06.2010

We May Never Be Done With Bruce Arians

After a full day of speculation, which, by the way, was touched off by a false rumor this dickhead himself leaked to a reporter, it's been confirmed that Bruce Arians is being retained yet again by the Steelers as offensive coordinator.

Those who staunchly defend Arians say he is unfairly scapegoated for the team's failings and that the offense improved this season over the previous year. Both these statements are true. Nevertheless, that doesn't mean he should have kept his job.

The Steelers were the 7th ranked offense in the NFL this season in terms of yardage. Pretty good, right? Sure is. 4,000 passing yards for Big Ben! Two 1,000 yard receivers! A 1,000 yard rusher! Great success!

That ranking, however, dips a bit when it comes to scoring points - which is slightly more important than yardage - to a just okay 12th. Which makes sense when you see that they were 22nd in the league terms of touchdown percentage inside the red zone. A primarily passing team, which the Steelers are unmistakably under Arians, is generally going to have it harder inside the red zone, simply because there is less space for defensive backs to have to defend. Also because Arians often doesn't even bother to try running once the team gets there.

Where Arians did well this season was in game preparation and play scripting. In all but a few games, they came out of the tunnel with a good offensive surge to carry them through most of the first half. The problem is, when teams adjusted to what the Steelers were doing, the attack fell apart, or the offense went into panic mode where it tried to do too much at once. Only against San Diego and Green Bay did it seem like the unit kept momentum throughout an entire game. And only against Denver did they play better in the second half than the first.

How many times did the team needlessly try to pick up huge chunks in desperation when they had ample time to work the entire field? The final drive in the second game against the Bengals is a prime example. All the receivers running streaking routes down the field while the pass rush tees off on Big Ben before any of them have a chance to get open. Or even this week against Miami, when starting with the ball around the opponent's 40, Arians calls a gimmick play that calls for Santonio Holmes to throw deep. Granted it's one of those plays that's called inspired if it works, but Miami read it out easily and Holmes was picked after chucking the ball deep into double coverage.

Too often the offense is in home run mode. This might be a reflection of Roethlisberger's approach as much as Arians', but the offensive coordinator certainly does nothing to dissuade his QB from doing that. In fact, some of the quotes from Arians in regard to Big Ben are disturbing. He's said repeatedly that he doesn't want to try to change any facets of Roethlisberger's game. Big Ben had a great year, the second time he's finished with a QB rating north of 100, but he's not perfect either. He occasionally needs someone to remind him to try to get everything on one play. That taking checkdowns on roll outs or throwing the ball away is okay.

Hopefully Larry Zierlein's successor gets improved enough play out of the offensive line that the Arians doesn't feel the need to go five-wide on 2nd and 2 or only run in the red zone as a change of pace. What's done is done and for now, we can only hope that an improved season out of Arians is part of an upward trajectory. I obviously thought not if I've been advocating for his ouster, but I trust in the organization and Mike Tomlin that he's the best option for the offense going forward.

1.05.2010

PLEASE BE TRUE PLEASE BE TRUE



Get the champagne flutes ready.

There are reports that fat goateed five-wide formation loving dipshit Bruce Arians WILL BE FIRED. There's no conformation as of yet, but I haven't been this ready for someone to leave the Steelers since Sean Mahan, so I'm just gonna go ahead and start the celebratory drinking.

I know Arians has his stubborn defenders. I am not saying they have no valid points or are dumb. Only that I disagree with them intensely. Missing the playoffs will have been worth it just to rid ourselves of this cancerous lump.

/though hearing Charlie Weis rumors will be an annoying offshoot.

1.03.2010

Help Didn't Come


Sorry folks. The stars did not align. If the Raiders were quarterbacked by anyone but JaMarcus Russell, the Steelers would still be alive for the Sunday night game, at least. Still, the Steelers have no one to blame for their ended season save themselves. Had any one of the many wire-thin losses gone the other way, Pittsburgh would be in the postseason. Or if Big Ben had not suffered a concussion late against KC, they would be in and the Ravens would not.

Meantime, Pittsburgh did all it could today, though very much in established 2009 fashion, by storming to a big lead through three quarters only for it to all but vanish within a few minutes in the 4th.

With the exception of a bizarre (and inane) trick play where Santonio was intercepted throwing into double coverage when the Steelers already had the ball on Miami's side of the field, I thought Arians called a mostly good offensive game plan. That Santonio play can't be fully discounted. The Steelers were driving to take a multiple score lead when the team once again tried for a desperation home run call when they easily could have gotten points anyway. As had happened previously this year, that reach resulted in a costly turnover that allowed an opponent to hang around. I have no way of knowing for sure, but I imagine Arians, whatever you think of him, has probably saved his job with the team based on the play the previous three weeks. I don't agree with it, but that's my guess.

Though the secondary came away with the timely interceptions to seal the game, the pass coverage was mostly awful. The Dolphins receivers had free reign over what looked to be conceded midrange routes by the defense. It was telling how many 10+ yard plays they put together. It was, however, another huge game by LaMarr Woodley. I'm glad to see he's a first alternative to make the Pro Bowl. He certainly deserves it. It's interesting that he and James Harrison seemed to flip roles in the final few games. Whereas Harrison was the primary pass rusher early in the year while Woodley was forced into coverage, now Woodley is one beating double teams while Harrison drops back. Silverback's forearm injury is possibly to blame for that, but it's still worth noting.

Even if the Steelers fell just short of the playoffs, there's some positives to take away from the year. After it seems like the team gave up against Cleveland, they went through three decent teams to have an outside shot at the playoffs. Presumably, Aaron Smith and Troy Polamalu return next year. Mike Wallace will be that much a better option at receiver. The biggest free agent losses the team could suffer are Jeff Reed, Casey Hampton and Ryan Clark. Hopefully more help at O-line or corner arrives via the draft. Considering the Steelers didn't lose any game this season by more than a touchdown, a few fixes are all that stands between this team being a serious contender again next year. That and the Super Bowl the team won 11 months ago help to ease the disappointment.

Other observations:

- During the break while medics dealt with Pat White, Ike Taylor (he got a pick!) was shown without his helmet. Based on the giant WARD shaved into the back of his head, I thought he might have lost a bet to Hines.


Nope. Turns out it's some 9th Ward pride (check the 9TH shaved into the side of his head). I guess that's cool. I liked my bet idea better.


Also, this Big Ben hip fake made me laugh for two minutes straight.

1.02.2010

Beat Miami and Whatever Happens, Happens

Most of the publicized talk about the Steelers (or, in the case of LaMarr Woodley, from the Steelers) this week has centered on games extraneous to what will take place Sunday in the stadium named for Jimmy Buffett's second rate take on Corona.

Which would be fine if a win over the Dolphins on the road were a given. Despite blowing a pivotal game last week (even though they came back valiantly from a huge halftime deficit) against Houston, Miami is still a good team at home. 4-3 may not seem like the strongest home record ever, but bear in mind their other two home losses are against Indianapolis and New Orleans and it's not quite so middling.

Ricky Williams is likely to be consigned to his sideline hot box for this game - a boon, no doubt. Still, the Wildcat gave the Steelers fits against the Browns and was really the only reason Cleveland had any offense at all. Without Williams, it should be easier to contain, though Miami will probably give the Steelers more looks from Pat White out of the formation, which will give the defense enough pause to not stack everyone on the line.

Hines looked shaky the majority of the week, but it looks as though he's giving it a go. While Polamalu had pegged this as a game he might return to the lineup, he was already a scratch by midweek. It will truly suck if the Steelers' season ends without Troy getting another game on the field, but better for that than jeopardizing his long-term prospects. Somehow the offensive line, despite improved play most of the season has majorly regressed. The chief offender in that slump is the guy who looked to have made the biggest jump in play earlier in the year: Max Starks. Even in victory, he's been embarrassed the previous two weeks, not to mention horribly in the loss to Cleveland. The Dolphins' secondary is far from the best, but their front seven is capable of wreaking some hack, posting the fifth most sacks in the league. For the Steelers to even be alive to watch what happens later in the day, Starks needs to find his game one last time this season.

We all know the scenarios by now. The Steelers need to take care of business have either Houston and the Jets or the Ravens to lose. Or they need the Jets, Broncos and Ravens to fall. Each scenario requires at least one victory by a team with nothing to play for against one fighting for its life. Not impossible, to be sure, but not all that likely to happen either. Oakland could beat Baltimore at home, but probably won't. Belichick could be enough of a dick to want to run Houston out of the playoffs himself. But the need for a Jets loss in either scenario at home against a Bengals team that will rest players makes it highly doubtful that the Steelers will get the breaks they need. The fact remains that winning one of any of the numerous games they allowed to slip through their fingers over the course of the season and the Steelers would be in right now. I can understand Woodley's frustration but don't agree that teams are trying to keep the Steelers out so much as they're interested in resting players and avoiding injury. Even if they are trying to block out Pittsburgh, that's their prerogative. The Steelers had an opportunity to control their destiny and blew it. At the very least, wins the last two weeks allow us one more day with a vested interest in what goes on. If that's all it ends up getting us, Steelers fans can't say they were cheated.