Big Lead Sports Bar

9/27/2009

THEME OF THE WEEKEND: BLOWN LEADS

BENGALS (2-1) 23
STEELERS (1-2) 20
ROETHLISBERGER 22/31, 276 YDS, 1 TD, 1 INT
PARKER 25-93

WALLACE 7-102


There was something contagious going on in the local football scene this weekend, and it was not good. First, Pitt blew separate 10 and 14-point leads in a defense-optional 38-31 loss at NC State on Saturday. Then, the nation watched as Penn State let a 10-0 first-quarter lead evaporate following five Iowa scores, resulting in a humbling 21-10 loss in front of 109,316 at a very un-Happy Valley on Saturday night. But Sunday's Steeler-Bengal game in Cincinnati would serve to be perhaps the toughest of all to swallow, with a 13-0 Steeler first-half lead disappearing before our very eyes. A few thoughts:

1. If you want to pick a drive where the offense lost the game, look no further than the third quarter, when Limas Sweed dropped a sure touchdown (surprise, surprise) and Jeff Reed followed that with a missed field goal. Skippy might be regretting the decision to pass on that contract extension offered on the eve of the regular season, because his value has definitely dipped the past two weeks.

2. You could also look to the Ben Roethlisberger pick-six in the third as a momentum-changer, cutting the Steeler lead from 10 to four in a matter of seconds. Is it me, or does it seem like the big guy has a lot of these on his watch?

3. Last week's winning points came with 20 seconds left in the game. This week's go-ahead touchdown came with 14 ticks on the clock. Talk them up all you'd like, but so far, this defense is not quite closing on a Mariano Rivera level. And yes, I'm aware that Troy Polamalu has been absent for both games. I'll then remind you that the opponents were Chicago and Cincinnati, never to be confused with Indianapolis and New England.

4. The line between winning and losing in the NFL is razor-thin. Need proof? If Rob Bironas makes two field goals in the opener, the Steelers are 0-3. If Denver doesn't pull off a miracle touchdown days later, Cincinnati is 3-0. The truth is, either of these teams could easily be 3-0, 2-1, 1-2, or 0-3 at this point. The Steelers' final scores have been decided by three, three, and....three. The difference is that the best teams are not constantly in a position to have the game go either way. So far, the Steelers have proven that they are not one of the league's best teams.

5. Was Santonio Holmes hurt or just invisible on Sunday? One catch on five throws? I expected more, Mr. MVP. Oh well, at least Mike Wallace proved that Steeler rookie receivers are capable of 100-yard games. I thought after last season that was impossible. And on that note, if anyone is still wearing a Sweed jersey on Monday, I give you credit for standing by your man, if nothing else.

6. At least Hines Ward was able to cross the 10,000 yard barrier with his four-catch, 82-yard performance on Sunday. And nice block on the Willie Parker touchdown, by the way.

7. Despite Parker's 93 yards on the ground, I'm not proclaiming the Steelers' rushing game "back" by any means. And how about the lack of action for Rashard Mendenhall? I expected much, much more out of the #1 pick at this point in his career.

8. Be prepared for someone in the media to "throw out Willie Parker's 24-yard carry" and point out that he had 69 yards on his other 24 carries. Sorry, you can't have it that way. They all count, good and bad. Get over it.

9. Also expect to hear these words uttered by the media over and over again: "Super Bowl hangover". I can't wait.

10. On the plus side, at least we got to see some Stefan Logan magic yesterday on that 56-yard kickoff return, although he has yet to make an impact on his punt returns thus far this season.

11. With any close loss, the coaching staff will be called out, so expect that in mass quantities this week. Mike Tomlin made some questionable decisions that came back to bite the team, and Bruce Arians will also have the bullseye on his back for play-calling, as he usually does. I think you can definitely see a lack of confidence in certain aspects of this team from the coach's point of view.

12. Through three games, the Steelers as a team have five sacks. To put that in perspective, Cincy's Antwan Odom has seven all by himself, and the Bengals have 10 as a team. Something is definitely missing beyond #43 on that Steeler defense. The ferocity is not there.

13. At it stands right now, the 2008 Steeler draft class could go down as one of their worst ever. Mendenhall has done nothing. Sweed has done less than nothing. Bruce Davis is already cut. Tony Hills is buried on the depth chart. Dennis Dixon will probably be a lifelong backup. Mike Humpal is gone. And Ryan Mundy was squarely on the bubble at camp this year. I hope I'm just being an impatient fan, but with each passing week it's looking more and more like "it is what it is".

14. The Steelers are now in third place in the AFC North, already two games back of Baltimore. It's not yet time to hit the panic button, but with a tricky San Diego team next on the schedule, things need to get straightened out - and fast.

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25 comments:

Jack H said...

Has anyone else reached a breaking point with Limas Sweed? Last year whenever he dropped a pass we all said, "Oh ha ha ha Sweed, too bad! Get the next one!" He cost us the game on Sunday, and that's not funny at all. He is in very deep trouble, especially with the rise of Mike Wallace.

Brian said...

Just a brutal loss. Why the struggles so much in the red zone? Instead of trying to pound Willie in from the 2, how about using the TE?

Hoping they can turn it around for next weekend.

Brian said...

Jack- Agree. Done with Sweed, in with Wallace. He's a great addition, looking forward to watching him for the next couple of years.

Michael T. Korns said...

You don't throw out the 24 yard gain, but if you are trying to figure out why the offense only scored 20 points the fact that Parker averaged less than 3 yards a carry on the rest of his drives certainly helps explain it (though it would be 27 if Sweed wasn't Sweed).

When you posted the link analyzing why the offense is better with Mewelde, that is the exact point the writer made. Sure the total yards are similar, but Mewelde is more consistent, rarely making big plays like Fast Willy, but also not killing drives with his negative yardage. End of the day, more import for a tailback to move the chains and not kill drives than hit home runs (both are nice, but just looking at what is available).

That was the most baffling thing about the game to me. Willy had a good day, but where was Mewelde? He never fails to contribute when given a chance. And Mendenhall couldn't even get a carry? He looked solid last week, and had better moves than Willy against a tough bears defense. How would he have done against the Bengals D? Don't the Steelers need to try to find that out, especially if this is Parker's last year? Baltimore is rolling people with a three headed rushing attack, and we are content to run Willy till the wheels come off. Great. He'll be hurt by week 7.

Corey said...

Limas and skippy = minus 10 points...

Justin said...

What's with the sudden inability of our receivers to actually, you know, CATCH THE BALL?? I expect it from Sweed and thus wasn't too surprised when he dropped that pass in the endzone, but this is the second week in a row that Holmes has dropped quite a few catchable balls. Heath had a couple of drops as well. This team just looks out of sync all around.

Scott said...

You can't fault Reed too much for missing a 52 yarder. Sweed's drop was pathetic, but they still had an 11 point lead with about 12 minutes left. What were Arians and Tomlin thinking trying to play power football to milk the clock? That was some terribly conservative play calling that allowed the Bengals to get back in the game. I thought Dave Wanstedt and Matt Cavanaugh hijacked the team.

Cornelius said...

Unfortunately the light that came on for Holmes seems to have dimmed and the light just never has come on for Sweed.

I want to know who was at fault on the pick-6? Holmes or Ben? Somehow I doubt it was Ben's fault. You can't have #2 and previous #3 receivers playing like this and expect to win. Wallace is a breath of fresh air and good ol' Hines continues to be the dependable rock he always has been.

SantoGold said...

No Polamalu is definitely a factor, as he is a playmaker against both the run and the pass. But age is also catching up with the defense. The front 3 are all in their 30's. Farrior is 34 (and if he makes that tackle at the end on 4th and 10, its game over. Is he a step too slow now?). Am I'm still waiting for proof that Timmons is an upgrade over Larry Foote. It's still a good defense, but at least until Troy gets back, its far from great.

With that said, the offense had many chances to put the game away and blew it. 1st drive, can't punch it in inside the 5 and Tomlin questionably calls for the FG. And don't get me started on Sweed's dropped TD. At least he didn't fake an injury like he did last year after a dropped TD. That's progress, right?

Koz said...

Why not go for it on 4th and goal from the zero yard line like last week?

I am concerned when any team settles for 19 yard field goals.

okel dokel said...

SantoGold hit upon many good points. Overall the team seems out of sync.

The defensive issues have been there the past three years; overall their approach seems to be too ordinary. Dick needs to mix it up.

Sweed is a POS and needs to find his way out of the organization; he is taking up a roster spot.

Overall the offense has to stop trying for the home run ball in situations where "dink and dunk" would work. The short passing game works and we seem to abandon it when we really need it.

Also, Skippy and 52 yards = punt the ball. Too much arrogance on the part of this team. They need to be smarter to protect leads.

Unfortunately I predicted this loss and do not feel real good about next week.

The Mad Bubbler said...

This was a rough weekend, with Pitt and the Steelers. But it's always great to see Penn State go down in Crappy Valley. That's what happens when you warm up with Temple, Syracuse, and Shaler High School, then try to play a halfway decent team.

Steve said...

Almost everyone jumps on the offense when this team loses, but even though the offense blew a couple good scoring opportunities and Ben threw a pick 6, the ultimate blame -- just like in last weeks loss -- still goes to the defense. The offensive woes are the same as they has last season (minus the Reed implosion) and they still won these kinda games. Simple fact is the defense can't hold a lead anymore and to allow 2 TD drives in the fourth quarter with a 11-point lead is complete BS. Farrior and Timmons are doing nothing to help a secondary that is obviously not even close to good without Troy playing. Aren't the Steelers supposed to be 600-1 when leading by 10-points or more going into the 4th quarter? I guess that's no longer Steelers football either.

I noticed not once did they mention, or put the camera on Lebeau yesterday. I guess only when the defense is playing well does he get the credit. Well, if he's going to get the praise, then he should be able to get the jeers too for a defense that can't pressure the QB, can't stop the big play and can't get themselves off the field late in games while allowing offenses to chew up big chucks of yardage on 3rd/4th downs.

Super Bowl Champs my ass...road warriors my ass. Already looking a must win game coming up only 4 weeks into a season with the softest schedule in the NFL? Tomlin better put that cocky smile away and get back to work. If anyone looks complacent out there it's him.

Adam said...

Dear Mad Bubbler,
Penn State could have played the Archangels in all three of their first games and it wouldn't have mattered in this game.

This one was classic JoePa ball. Get a lead, hold on for dear life. We were playing it well until the blocked punt changed everything. We lost our composure under the pressure on both sides of the ball and let it get away from us in the end. We got beat playing our own game, simple as that.

Iowa isn't all that talented, but they know when to take advantage of mistakes. We made a big one (the punt block), and it snowballed from there with the funbles and picks.

I'll be the first to tell you this team was overrated, but hopefully now, they can settle into the spoiler role, and who knows, maybe Iowa will make some mistakes themselves, and we'll be in the thick of it for the Big 10 title again.

If not...at least we get a Florida bowl game while ya'll enjoy scenic Louisville or Charlotte.

Steve said...

It's Yinz, Adam...Yinz.

okel dokel said...

The Steelers team is repsonsible for the loss; offense, defense, special teams and coaching.

Yes, the defense needs to be better in the 4th quarter, but they have been giving up the 3rd/4th and long for three or four seasons. IMO the scheme the last two weeks has sucked. Nothing to create pressure.

Also, on 4th and 4...punt the f'in ball. That gave the Bengals 3 points. Arrogance is the only way to describe that call.

I believe Yinz is accurate for State College. I was their recently and they speak perfect Pittsburghease...no central PA or Philly twang was noticable.

Adam, Louisville? That is rather optimistic, try Toronto.

okel dokel said...

*there not their. Damn Pittsburgh upbringing.

Josh said...

Sorry, my hatred is squarely on Santonio Holmes right now. He can't get open, he can't catch balls thrown his way, and last night he didn't recognize the blitz and adjust his route giving Cincy the easy pick-6.

I don't know what he did, but he's the opposite of what he was last year...

For the record, I live in Cincy, and don't like mornings like this one. It's hard being a Steelers fan in Cincy, but worse when they actually beat us...

HomeRunFromBehindTheMeatballs said...

@ Steve... the stillers are/were 600-1-1 when leading by 10+ in the 4th quarter. Lest we forget the Vick fueled comeback from 17 down for the tie!

@ all... Tough week for all. Pitt blows 2 leads, PSU has 3 pts & 4 turnovers after their first play from scrimmage, & the beloved stillers have blame all around for their latest wrong-end 4th quarter comeback.

D. C. said...

I won't say it is a Super Bowl hangover, but this season is starting to look eerily similar to the 2006 XL-Hangover season. The Steelers opened up the season with a good win (over the Dolphins with Batch at the helm). They then proceeded to drop the next two, including one to the Bengals in Week 3. They then went on to lose to...wait for it....San Diego in prime time.

I don't think that they look half as bad as they did in 2006. In fact I think they are playing fairly well. They are just not finishing games.

I used to hate how Ben and the Steelers would wait until the fourth quarter or the final drive to win games which seemed to me to be every frickin week. It was so nerve wrecking. Now I think I am more worried about having a lead in the fourth quarter.

Jack H said...

Josh
I live in cincy too, and it's not a good day to live in Cincinnati as a fan of the black and gold.

Half our receiving corps played poorly, but right now the blame is squarely on the defense, as much as Sweed and Santonio played badly. There was virtually no pressure on Palmer, and without Troy we have one takeaway all year. And we have faced Cincinnati, the Bears offense, and Kerry Collins. Yikes.

AJ said...

I am jumping on the dress Shaun McDonald/bench Limas bandwagon. The Steelers 4th receiver is lucky to get thrown to more than once or twice a game. They need somebody who can make those catches. I'd rather see a veteran who knows how to get open rather than Captain Drops-a-lot.

Justin said...

Steelers: Sweed cannot be in the line-up next week. Now way, no how. There's keeping a guy in there and hoping he builds some confidence and then there's recognizing when that guy just isn't getting it and is only a liability. Sweed is absolutely the latter. I hope Tomlin FINALLY recognizes this. I don't care how fast he is, I don't care how well he runs routes and I don't care that he gets open. HE DOESN'T CATCH THE BALL.

And since we're on the topic of offense, I'm pretty sure if me, Joe Everyfan, can tell with 95% certainty what play we're about to run, every single defensive player and coach does as well. Arian's offense is about as predicatble as a sunrise.

Pitt: A lot of similar problems with the Steelers if you really look at it. Maybe that comes from practicing in the same facility. The problem with Pitt though is they don't have a QB I have any faith in to get it done at the end of the game.

Bottom Line: Steelers will still make the playoffs but I'm not banking on a repeat. Pitt will get the whocares.com bowl. At least the Pens get it started this week.

BurressWithButterflyWings said...

Steelers defense has not been up to snuff, even in Polamalu's absence they can still make plays.
The outside pass rush is being held up (literally) so maybe attack the middle? Palmer had all day to throw.

I am not certain who the culprit was on the pick-6 but that was the backbreaker much like the INT last week. Hines Ward is making some plays, but he is having a tough year with the officials. Seems like he is getting flagged for everything? Interesting thing to me about blocking while the ball is in the air, is that 'dynasty' up near Boston makes their living off of that.

Pitt- what can i say? Double digit leads how many times and blew it? That zone was pathetic. 31 points should be enough on the road, but that doesnt mean you pack it in once you hit 31 and get conservative. Stull cannot play under pressure IMHO, but that loss is on the defense and coaching.

Where in the hell was the MLB on those underneath routes?

As for PSU- it just seems Iowa has their number. Mistakes kill and that many turnovers in the 4th is hard to come back from.

Daniel said...

What's this lying around shit? Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl...!

All of the above moping is making me sick! The Steelers will be just fine. This start is being compared to the Super Bowl XL hangover? I'd say more like the 1995 season: "After losing their star defensive back off their top-rated defense in the first game of the season, the Steelers struggled to find the right mix of players to help cover that deficiency.
Meanwhile, an offense previously built to run the football struggled while adjusting to a more pass-friendly system.

Sounds a lot like the 2009 Pittsburgh Steelers.

But, in fact, it was the 1995 Steelers who saw All-Pro cornerback Rod Woodson suffer a torn ACL in a 23-20 win over Detroit before losing four of its next six games - including one to Cincinnati.
The offense, meanwhile, became more wide open, as Neil O'Donnell and company set a team record for passing yards in a season with 4,093 en route to winning the AFC Championship."

Troy will be back soon enough and Ben will be Ben! Santonio is no slouch and will pick it up also. Our Three Rivers will never lose to Philip Rivers!

To continue: Neidermeyer...dead! Sweed...dead! San Diego Chargers...dead!

Out of the blocks a little slow, but once again, "Here We Go!"

Get Ready Again Pittsburgh!
http://www.steelcactus.com/STEELERPARADE.html