Big Lead Sports Bar

12/17/2007

48-Year-Old Running Back Embarrasses "#1 Defense"

JAGUARS (10-4) 29

STEELERS (9-5) 22

Fred Taylor is old. Real old. He's so ancient, I think he qualifies for that retired players fund that Mike Ditka always talks about. But somehow, some way, he's always had the Steelers' number. I remember sitting in the upper levels of Three Rivers Stadium about seven years ago watching Taylor rack up an impressive "30-234-4 TD" line. And Sunday nearly topped that.

The Steelers' defense, statistically speaking, has had an impressive year up until last week or so. But the last time I checked, a Lombardi Trophy was more impressive than the trophy they hand out for the fewest yards allowed. The way the Steelers are playing these days, they won't have to worry about making room in their trophy case for either one.

On Sunday, Taylor sliced and diced the "vaunted" Steeler defense, on their own turf, no less, for 147 yards on 25 carries. I didn't know what was more unbelievable: the fact that this happened on a snowy day at Heinz Field, the fact that this happened against the Steelers (who usually are quite stout against the run), or the fact that this was done to the Steelers by a 31-year-old running back that is usually on crutches this time of year.

So why are the Steelers in a freefall? Is it the loss of Aaron Smith? Is it the continued absence of Ryan Clark, which is now being used as an excuse in some circles? How about the receivers, who seem to get worse as the season goes on? Maybe the offensive line? It's impossible to give a definitive answer, but I know one thing: if the Steelers even get into the playoffs, they probably won't go very far. Not playing like this. It's been a total team collapse, and you can't point the finger in any one direction.

I think Big Ben gave a noble effort yesterday, as he was in obvious pain. The PG gave him a C+, which I thought was WAY too critical. While he did not win the game, he certainly gave his best, and with little to no help from the professionals who are paid to catch footballs. The drops were just killers. Killers. And I know it's cute when Hines Ward does his little smile on the field, but there's a time to do that and a time to not do that. The ball hits him between the 8 and the 6, he drops it, and flashes a huge grin, like he just got a new puppy. Sorry, but that was annoying.

I've never seen Roethlisberger look like he wanted to literally choke a receiver, but I think Santonio Holmes was really testing him yesterday. Hines dropped two. Heath even dropped one in the end zone. As frustrated as we were watching the game, imagine being the quarterback in that situation. You've got an injured shoulder, it's freezing cold, and you're getting no help. I couldn't blame the guy if he did lose his cool.

At this point, the Steelers are in a dogfight (no Vick reference intended) to merely win the division. If they can't stop Steven Jackson on Thursday night, things could get interesting. Scarily interesting. And then the season ends with Baltimore, currently on an 8-game losing streak but surely planning some sort of ill-advised revenge, as ne'er-do-wells usually do. The Steelers could go 2-0, 1-1, or 0-2. Nothing would surprise me anymore.

If you're looking at the AFC playoff teams, it's pretty safe to say that as they currently stand, one wouldn't expect the Steelers to win against New England, Indianapolis, San Diego, or Jacksonville. It's certainly possible, but not probable. I'd still give them a shot against Cleveland. But that's not saying much.

The coming days and weeks will be a true test for Mike Tomlin. A man is defined by how he reacts to adversity, and there's certainly plenty of that with this team. We'll all get a lesson as to who Mike Tomlin really is in just a few short days.

Game News and Thoughts:

--Yeah, all those loyal Pittsburgh fans were taking the early exit when their beloved Steelers were down by 2 TDs. Sorry, but that's a real pet peeve of mine. They have no problem sitting in the parking lot from 6 AM-1 PM, but they can't sit still for a three-hour football game, which ultimately was tied up with 5 minutes remaining? Come on, Steeler fans. I thought you were better than that.

--Nice to see some contributions from Troy Polamalu yesterday, seeing how he was named to Don Banks' 2007 All Bust Team.

--Anyone notice how the announcers pointed out that Ernest Wilford had 36 catches and no TDs, only to watch him score his first against the Steelers shortly thereafter? Yep, yesterday really was an enjoyable game.

--Scary stuff From the PG:

"The Jaguars rushed for 224 yards on 42 carries, the most in seven years against the Steelers, and averaged 5.3 yards per attempt. Fred Taylor was the second back in five games to rush for more than 100 yards (147 on 25 carries, a Heinz Field record for an opponent)."

--I really don't like this trend of not scoring TDs in the first quarter. What are we at now, five games in a row?

--Smart move by Mr. Bill not taking the Atlanta job. Let's see: a horrible team that averages 13 points per game, no quarterback, no stud running back, few options at receiver, mouthy vested veterans like Lawyer Milloy and Deangelo Hall, a horrible GM...need I go on?

--Watching all of those Dolphins celebrating their first victory yesterday, I had to wonder: how pathetic. Imagine how sad it is to be a Miami fan. How far your standards have dropped. You're down to celebrating one win as if you just won the Super Bowl.

After that Atlanta rant, Miami looks to be neck-and-neck as to a similarly pathetic situation. Look at their recent run: Ricky Williams; Nick Saban; the trading of all the draft picks for QBs (Culpepper, Lemon, Green, Feely, Harrington, etc., etc., etc.); getting rid of Wes Welker, Donald Lee, and Chris Chambers; signing Joey Porter to that ridiculous contract; an injury bug second to none. That's a franchise due for some good luck.

--Class act by Rich Rodriguez to tell Terrelle Pryor of his move to Michigan before telling his own Mountaineers. I'm sure they really appreciated that for all the hours and hours of hard work they gave "Coach Rod", which enabled him to get said Michigan job.

--It's the New York Giants Annual Collapse! Catch it while you can!

--Speaking of collapses, how bout them Lions? That almost takes a concentrated effort to fall that hard and fast.

--Hmm...Tony Romo...distracted? As Colin Cowherd said today, the Dallas game looked like high school football with all of the Romo-Simpson sideshow nonsense, and added that Cowboy fans have to decide whether they would rather be in the purple section of USA Today or the red section.

18 comments:

Sassy Poker said...

As I recall, when Thomas Jones sliced and diced the Steelers D in New Jersey last month, Aaron Smith missed that game ass well. The Big A seems to be an important missing cog in the Steelers defensive machine.

Kevin said...

Isn't it nice to see Ms. Simpson wearing the 'Boys official colors (pink and white)?

TheStarterBoyfriend said...

What is most mystifying to me is the defensive and offensive play-calling. Players on IR, be damned, the Colts, Pats and Chargers seem adept at filling the gaps when they need to.

While I'm all for the deification of Dick LeBeau and his amazing defensive schemes-- THE BLITZ ISN'T WORK, DICK. How many sacks have we had on the quarterbacks of opposing teams in the last 5 games? I'm guessing it's about 1 for every 7 of our own. And interceptions? NINE ALL SEASON?! All right. Maybe it's time to find some new schemes to run, instead of rushing five-to-six and hoping the pressure is enough that Garrard/Brady/Whoemever doesn't have enough time to find that receiver burning Anthony Smith down the sidelines.

And Bruce Arians should lose his job after the last five games. Against the Jets, New England and Jags, the calls have been beyond disturbing. Nothing like having no faith in your receivers to stay open and the exact routes defenses are expecting so Ben has no time int he pocket and has to improv every play in the air. And what happened to the two-running back system? I'm all for using a bruising-250lbs back for short yardage, but maybe we ought to steal a page from the Jags playbook to see how they make Jones-Drew and Taylor work in tandem with one another. (As I recall, it's the same way we used to make the Bettis-Parker duo work. Hey. I wonder where Del Rio got that from...?)

Sliding into the playoffs is beyond less than satisfying. It's embarassing. Even if we miraculously won a first-round game, we'd be the second-round teams punching bag. Everyone needs to get their heads in the game, REAL FAST. (Maybe we need a Lou Holtz-like pep talk?)

okel dokel said...

The defense is just not cutting it and this has been building for quite a while. They have had trouble stopping teams on third and long for about two years. Having personnel injured has never been an issue and suddenly having Aaron Smith and Ryan Clark injured is the cause of all the issues.

It is plain and simple; they are getting beat off the line, not making tackles and missing their gap assignments. And I am sick and tired of how the d-backs always play ten yards off the receivers.

The offense is what it is. The o-line is bad; why was Marvel Smith even playing and Sean Mahan is a joke. Hey even Santonio called the line out after the game. The receiving corps is not good; Heinz, Santonio and Heath are OK, but when they drop balls we are doomed.

I do not want to be an alarmist but things are not looking up and the physical play we have always been known for is no longer something we can count on.

The Duke from Dukes Court said...

Fred Taylor has always had our number, we can officially add him to the list of Steelers killers right behind Eric Metcalf and Eddie George.

Too bad Vinny is in the NFC, I'd love to play him 2 times a season again. Those were the days...

The Duke from Dukes Court said...

I hope Romo does a better job of picking which receivers to throw to than he does when he picks girlfriends. I know Jessica Simpson is hot, but could you imagine having an actual conversation with her?

Russell Lucas said...

Let me be the sole voice of optimism-- I've been to probably eight home games over the past three seasons, and the last time I left that disgusted after a loss was the home loss to Cincy in 2005. I thought they were headed nowhere, and wouldn't have even thought they'd make the playoffs. Of course, the next week they punch out the Bears in the snow, and the rest is history.

That said, they look awful now. That long TD pass to Dennis Northcutt was abominable coverage; I'd like to know whether Ike really was hurt then, or whether he just suffered a bruised ego. On a couple of plays they used the Hoke-Hampton combo, but not enough, obviously, as the Jacksonville O-line pushed them around most of the day.

I'm not sure why their pass protection is so much worse than everyone else's. I know Marvel Smith got run over yesterday, but is it an issue of Ben holding the ball too long?

And as of right now, their last two drafts look pretty abysmal. Take out the too-gimpy Holmes, and there might not be too much that will help the team long-term. Timmons and Woodley deserve another year and a longer look, but they're not even showing up all that much on special teams tackles.

Russell Lucas said...

duke,

I dunno. I haven't really seen anything out of Romo that makes me think he'd be all that interesting to have a conversation with, either.

TheStarterBoyfriend said...

@ russell-- I like how you stated, "Let me be the voice of optimism" and then proceeded to beat down on the pass coverage and interior linebacking. Yes, that's the kind of optimism the Steelers have wrought this year.

Well, maybe in the upcoming draft we'll figure out that we need a wide receiver and about every high-level DL we can get our hands on. I'll give our O-line one more year to shape up, since there are a number of rookies still learning positions. And I'm not entirely sure it's there fault when the pocket collapses because Ben fake-throws three or four times before he actually decides to tuck the ball, run from the pocket and find someone in the open.

I'll be damned if this team is going to turn into an AFC-was-been when there is talent here to be trained and utilized.

Sky Davis said...

Are you a dolphin fan?...then no, you dont know what its like. You dont know what its like to lose 6 out of 13 games by 3 points or less..or lost your stud running back in the middle of his breakout season, who would've blown willie out for the rushing title by the way
How about your waste of a first round pick timmons steppin on ricky's shoulder and puttin him out for the season...that was a bit of setback too

When you lost 3 good backs and have to give the ball to samkon gado, or throw to a backup special teams reciever, you know you had a bad year of injuries...I hated giving away welker, but tom brady is making him a star

You're quick to mention how bad a signing porter was, but i recall him having a pretty impressive game against your steelers...you know you miss him...

It sucks to be 1-13, but i was thrilled to see the celebration on the field...they still have heart and they're still playing their asses off even thought their roster doesnt match up farely to any team...you guys couldn't beat us until the final second ticked off, so if we're that pathetic, you're not that far behind.

One thing is for damn sure though, if it were the other way around and the steelers were 0-13, there would not be one fan in that stadium to celebrate with them when you get your first win cause steelers fans lack loyalty...no heart...from leaving games early to calling for big ben to be benched last year for batch, i think thats pretty sad...

Miami still packs the house to watch cleo lemon, samkon gado, and some guy named camerillo beat guys named ray lewis, chris mccalister, haloti ngata, and ed reed

Will said...

Mr. Davis, most of the people who read this site are Pirates fans. So I'm pretty sure we have a fairly good idea of what having to root for an abysmal franchise is like.

Dirty Sanchez said...

Packed the stadium to watch their beloved Dolphins? Really? They must have been wearing empty seats because that's what I saw a ton of when watching the game. I don't want to hear about their ticket sales or "announced attendance", I'm talking about people in the seats.

Congrats on winning a game, now get back to getting ready for next April's draft. Maybe you can pick another punt returner and 40 year old QB in the first two rounds next year.

Your team sucks, your front office sucks, your owner is looking to bail, and Miami is a total shithole of a city.

I know, I know. Getting into a pissing contest with a Dolphins fan is pretty ridiculous, but I'm still in a foul mood from that Jags debacle. It's either that or kick the dog (again).

wvblueblackandgold said...

Mondesi, I'm sure those classy Michigan fans will be much kinder to The Man Formerly Known As the Head Football Coach at WVU than our much-maligned (on this page) crew if he gets spanked by the Buckeyes a few times...

Jonny V said...

This year's Steeler team isn't winning more than one playoff game, and that's if we make the playoffs. There is a big difference between the Super Bowl team and this year's. We weren't decimated by injuries and our depth was sick at every position. We've lost too much experience and haven't done a good enough job of replacing what we lost. And as much as I love him, I give Polamalu four more years at the most for his playing career. The way he throws his body around, he's going to retire due to concussions.

It's pretty sad to say that the punter is the standout of this year's draft class. Just say that out loud. "The punter is the best player from this year's draft class." Fuckin' A...

And as for this whole woe is my franchise talk, I think even Clipper fans feel sorry for Pirate fans. Or at the very least they empathize with us.

Paul Rupp said...

Anyone know if Marvell Smith has been cut yet? I sure hope so...

Louis Lipps is my homeboy said...

Hahaha, the Dolphins stadium is half-empty every week!!

When our stadium has a few empties early you can at least blame it on terrible weather (which we've had our last 4 home games).

Miami sports fans are known as the most fickle in all of sports!! Ridiculous to come in here and talk shit like that when you're in the position you're in, just plain ridiculous!

Anyways, I was at the game Sunday. Sitting through all of that cold for pretty much no payoff was really dissappointing.

Jules said...

I was at the game also and sat through it in its entirety. However, I live in Florida and going to the games is a novelty I don't often get to enjoy. My brother still has a cold from sitting through the last 2 home games. Was I still disappointed? Absolutely! But it's still pretty comical for a Dolphins fan to talk shit.

Also, an idiot in Jacksonville called Steelers Nation "a mtyh" on Monday. Pretty funny when Jacksonville is headed for the playoff and STILL cannot sell their stadium out.

Jules said...

Also, pretty funny that Jessica Simpson is dating Romo. I remember her ex begging her to watch sports on their MTV show.