Big Lead Sports Bar


Sifting Through the Wreckage

Today was the day to see what parts, if any, of the Steelers' 2006 season can be salvaged. Personally, I started thinking about who the Steelers will draft with their high pick in 2007, ignoring the fact that they are technically not yet eliminated.
Here are a few thoughts bouncing around my head after a Steeler-themed debate with Father of Mondesi this evening:
---On Roethlisberger: my dad said, "The guy's been through a motorcycle wreck, an appendectomy, and now, a concussion. His play has definitely suffered when you add all of those together."
His play has suffered, but I think you can segregate each of the injuries. The motorcycle wreck affected his preseason preparation. He did not play much, especially with Hamstrung Hines Ward, and failed to develop any serious rhythm entering the regular season. The appendectomy further exacerbated the timing issue and would explain his struggles in the earlier games. The further Ben got away from the appendectomy, his play improved. Against KC, Ben was 16-19, 238 yards, 2 TDs, and a 153 rating; against Atlanta, 16-22, 238 yards, 3 TD, 147 rating. Following the Atlanta game, I'd say you could eliminate the appendectomy and motorcycle angles from the excuse category. He had overcome both of them.
The concussion, however, is a different beast. Yes, we know the doctors cleared him. We know he looked fine in practice. But did his latest injury adversely affect the Roethlisberger we've come to know and love, the fearless, play-extending, running, throwing, 27-4 QB he was entering the season? I think that's quite obvious. Case in point: the game-ending 4th-down play. Without the concussion memory lingering in the back of his head, does Ben tuck the ball and dive for the end zone?
My dad argued that Roethlisberger seems to be a split-second off as far as his timing. He's holding the ball longer, he's not running, he's indecisive. All of these facts are true. Did you watch Tom Brady on Monday night? That's a QB running an offense in rhythm. The Steelers have lacked rhythm for all but a few quarters this season.
I think you have to stick with Roethlisberger at this point, though. Let's face it: we're not winning any championships with Batch, as good of a backup as he may be. There's no point in destroying Roethlisberger's confidence or creating a divided locker room with a benching.
One thing Ben does well, though: accepting blame for the loss. Kordell Stewart did not do this, and more recently, Tommy Maddox REALLY did not do this. This is a young man who wants to win and knows when he's let his teammates, fans, and city down. Piling on him now is like Yankee fans getting on Alex Rodriguez when he's slumping: it's not going to help. He has enough on his plate with Denver coming to town on Sunday. If he's healthy, he plays.
---On the Offensive Line: I brought up this point, which I have heard NO ONE mention: Where is the condemnation of Russ Grimm's work so far? This is the man who was allegedly the next NFL head coach in waiting. This is also the man widely regarded as the finest offensive line coach in the league. So where is the outrage? All I hear about is Cowher, Roethlisberger, the line, Kevin Spencer (special teams coach) and the inconsistent defense. Nary a bad word about Grimm has been written or spoken. If he deserves the praise he receives when the line clicks, he deserves the blame when they sputter.
---On the remainder of the season: To have any chance, I'm going to say the Steelers would have to finish 8-1, or 7-2 if Baltimore and/or Cincy trips up (which is still a major longshot, but possible). The final nine games shape up like this:
Denver (5-2)
New Orleans (5-2)
at Cleveland (2-5)
at Baltimore (5-2)
Tampa Bay (2-5)
Cleveland (2-5)
at Carolina (4-4)
Baltimore (5-2)
at Cincinnati (4-3)
Total: 34-30, 5 home games, 4 road games.
Let's look at the other 2-5 teams at this point: Tampa, San Fran, Buffalo, Cleveland, Tennessee, Houston, Oakland. Do you really believe any of those teams have a shot? Didn't think so. I'll start working on the 2007 Draft Preview very soon.


skinny said...

Let's look at the other 2-5 teams at this point: Tampa, San Fran, Buffalo, Cleveland, Tennessee, Houston, Oakland. Do you really believe any of those teams have a shot? Didn't think so.

except that this year the steelers have looked downright unstoppable for entire games. i'm not banking on the playoffs, but a reasonable turnaround and at least a winning season is still a possibility.

just sayin.

Anonymous said...

Makes me sick to be listed with this group. Being the best 2-5 team is little consolation, and considering we just lost to Oakland not even sure we can make that claim.

Too early to start thinking of the 2007 draft, but not too early to start thinking about how to wreck the playoff chances for somebody else.

The Drink said...

lets go broncos!!!


Anonymous said...

Once the play of the offensive line improves so will Ben's. The team must be able to run the football effectively in order to win football games. Ben's most effective when throwing between 20-25 passes per game.

That said, forget about any miracle comebacks. This team isn't going to run off a nine-game win streak and make the playoffs. It's not going to happen. The running game is messed up, the special teams stink and they still don't have a true number one wide receiver. Hines is a great number two and a possession receiver but he won't stretch the field.

Unfortunately there is no NFL rule that stipulates the Steelers must be in the post season every year. We'd love that but it's not our right. That's why it is so special when the Steelers make those runs to the post season. Hold on last year's success and remember there is always next year.

Andy said...

Sure doctors cleared Roethlisberger, but I think they are paid to "clear" these guys if they can remotely function. He should have had the week off. I wouldn't blame this one on him. I would just get more cynical regarding the doctors who work for teams in the NFL.

The Steelers are teh best 2-5 team in the league. How's that for the glass is half full?

It can't be so bad to trade a superbowl victory and all the karma Pittsburgh used up last year for a losing season this year (or even a winning one where they miss the playoffs). I would make that trade every time. My team just stinks every year and there's no payoff. I'm jealous.

Russell Lucas said...

There's way too much talent and experience on this team for it to be underperforming like this. Grace period, shmace period.

Andy's exactly right that R-berger was mishandled. You're playing the league's worst team-- a perfect excuse to give your franchise QB an extra week of rest and recovery. Just because he's cleared to play doesn't mean he has to play. With Batch in there they win 13-6 (or something like that) at worst.

Offensive underperforming (on a relative scale) is nothing new in the Cowher era. But what's the defense's excuse? Bad line play? Lax secondary? Did everybody else get a memo giving away Dick LeBeau's secrets? Why are they so unusually bad at stopping red-zone opportunities from turning into TDs? Got to be a lack of intensity, right?

Unknown said...

The Steelers will go 7-2 from here giving them a 9-7 record. It won't be good enough to make the playoffs but they will continue to fight through this miserable season. Cowher will retire at year's end and The Whizzenator will be named head coach ten minutes afterwards.

The mark of Cowher's tenure will be that once again, despite every reason to do so, the players will not fold the tent at the seven game mark...starting with a resounding victory over Denver Sunday. We bottomed out last week, the roll begins this week. Write it down.