Big Lead Sports Bar



STEELERS (3-2) 28
LIONS (1-4) 20

WARD 7-85, 1 TD

Thoughts on the Steelers' uninspiring 28-20 victory over the Detroit Lions on Sunday:

1. The NFL is a league of haves and have-nots in 2009. Five teams are undefeated. 10 teams have zero or one win. The rest, including the Steelers, fall somewhere in the middle. As of this writing, they are not a great team. Great teams blow out opponents like the Lions, especially when that opponent is starting a backup QB and is playing without game-changing WR Calvin Johnson for most of the game. The margin between the Super Bowl Champion and the 0-16 Lions should be more than eight points, with the Lions owning a chance to tie on their last possession.

2. For whatever reason, this team is having a very hard time finishing games in 2009. Whether it's a lack of focus, a lack of killer instinct, or strictly an inability to do so, it's still an issue. The 7-0 margin in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game extended the gap to 55-13 in the final period of games this year. And it's the Steelers who are sitting on the "13" side. This is an alarming trend, especially when it's still happening against teams like the Lions.

3. Rashard Mendenhall had 29 carries last week against San Diego, and responded with 165 yards - a 5.7 average. This week, he was averaging a nearly-as-impressive 5.1, yet touched the ball only 15 times. Why, Bruce Arians?

4. Somehow, the Steelers ended up with seven sacks on Sunday. But I was less than impressed with their defense, given the fact that they nearly allowed 300 yards passing to an also-ran like Daunte Culpepper and a cast of castoffs at wide receiver. Dennis Northcutt? Bryant Johnson? It wasn't like they were facing Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. I can only imagine what would've happened if Calvin Johnson was still roaming around in the final quarter.

5. Big Ben aired it out to the tune of a 77% completion rate, 277 yards, and three TDs. Impressive numbers all. But his gift of a pick six to former Geibel Gator William James (nee Peterson) kept the opposition hanging around for the second week in a row. The passing game has to clean that up.

6. Speaking of cleaning things up in the passing game, Limas Sweed met his drop quota earlier in the game, but it was the usually sure-handed Mike Wallace who temporarily crushed the ready-to-burst excitement of Steeler Nation when what would've been a 71-yard TD bounced off his hands. To top it off, he kicked the ball in frustration, resulting in a delay of game penalty. Luckily, Wallace would later redeem himself with a 47-yard TD in the third quarter. These are the roller-coaster rides Mike Tomlin speaks of when talking about rookie wide receivers.

7. As for the rest of the receivers, Hines Ward had another great day, catching all seven balls thrown his way and adding his first score of the season. Ward is on pace for a 106-catch season, which would be only six off his career high of 112 in the pass-happy days of 2002. Heath Miller continued his machine-like output with another five catches, putting him on pace for a career-high 93. And Santonio Holmes, who caught four passes, is on pace for a career-high 74 . Add in Wallace's deep-ball capability, and you can see why this unit is clearly the team's strength at this point in time.

8. Remember last year when the Steelers were holding opponents under 300 yards a week on a regular basis? No one would have believed me then if I would've told you that Detroit, behind Daunte Culpepper and Dennis Northcutt, was on their way to 400 against the 2009 version of the same team.

9. Anyone else amused when the Steelers kept sacking Culpepper in the fourth quarter and Dan Fouts kept emphasizing that the sacks weren't a big deal because they still had the ball?

10. As one could've predicted given the circumstances, there were plenty of Steeler fans in attendance on Sunday, enough to simulate a home-field advantage coming down the stretch. Emailer Chris (who was traveling to the game from Seattle) outlined the perfect storm for a Steeler fan invasion quite well:

-You have the team that travels better than any in the country
-That team is also the Super Bowl Champion
-The opponent lost 16 games. In one season.
-5 hour drive from Pittsburgh
-The local economy in Detroit has something like 30% unemployment

11. It's nice to see another solid game from James Harrison, who had as many sacks on Sunday as he did all season. And Lamarr Woodley finally got on the sack scoreboard with 1.5 in rapid succession in the fourth quarter. Woodley doubled his sub-par season tackling totals, with four against the Lions. This is a group that still has some room to improve in 2009.

12. From a Mondesi's House reader in Michigan: "I unfortunately didn't manage to get a picture of this, but I was at the Lions game and their mascot decided to stomp on and later eat a terrible towel during the 2 minute warning. This immediately preceded three consecutive sacks. If there's one thing we can take away from this, it's that YOU DO NOT STOMP ON THE TOWEL!"

14. Next week, the Steelers get the Browns. In case you missed it, the Browns won despite their starting quarterback posting this as a stat line on Sunday:

In other words, if he's picking apart the defense in the fourth quarter, I'm going to be very disappointed.

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getfreshdesigns said...

well, nothing really matters at this point, the Bengals already won the division, because they're 4-1 after week 5 and why even play the rest of the games. What's the point the Bengals are running away with the division!!

Last year the Steelers were trying to kill me by having to drive down the field in the 4th quarter to win, now this season they're trying to kill me by having a big lead in the 4th and letting teams come back on them.

Good thing is, it's still early, I'd rather this team be slightly misfiring right now than in December. They still have time to adjust. That's a good Steelers team right now trying to find their identity for the 2009 season.

Unknown said...

i wonder if anyone else kept an eye on woodley yesterday? along with troy being out, i think his play is contributing to major fall of the defense. he get's easily blocked, has no bull rush, misses tackles and watches as other players make tackles right in front of him. he got to the quarterback in the fourth quarter, but even then it was like culpepper fell into his lap...

okel dokel said...

I agree it is early in the season, but the 4th qtr trend is really disturbing. I am not sure if it is a playing down to the competition thing or we've come back before and we can do it again thing.

Other disturbing trends that continue;

*Pick sixes - cannot give up six points like this. It put Detroit and Cincinnati right back in the game
*Bruce Arian's second half play calling - he claims he, "got a little greedy." He needs to remember that keeping the other team off of the field prevents them from scoring
*The incredible "soft" zone. Teams are taking what the Steelers D is giving them and then some.

Unfortunately, it looks like the Bengals are for real, but they are beatable.

Steve said...

Until Troy comes back and is 100%, this defense will continue to give up a ton of 2nd half yards and points. If they were smart, they'd keep him out against the Browns too, so he's as healthy as possible for the Vikings and until this defense is the same one that played the 1st quarter against the Titans, don't expect anything to change. The Steelers will be fighting to hold a lead against any QB who can chuck a football 15 yards and Anderson will look like Elway come next Sunday. Hell, Elway could look like Elway next Sunday.

BurressWithButterflywings said...

When looking at the grand scope of things, we are sitting at 3-2 and will be getting arguably our best defensive player back against the Brownies.

3rd down % against the defense was atrocious, but a lot those conversions were right in the underneath soft spot Troy would be covering.

I agree the pressure wasn't great at times and made it easy for Culpepper. Getting away from the run game was also not a great decision given the way Mendenhall and the o-line were looking.

But, a win is a win. I have been wondering if Coach was too easy on them in camp this season and the conditioning is not where it should be?

AJ said...

Let's not forget the Steelers special teams that let the worst return unit in the NFL get quality field position on almost every kickoff.

Also... Ryan Mundy stinks. Seems like every time someone catches a TD reception, he's standing about 3 feet away looking confused.

Steve said...

Agreed about Mundy. In preseason I commented he reminded me of DeWayne Washington as far as his softer than Charmin pass defense skills went and when he was cut I was relieved.

You mean all you have to do is play 10 yards off the nearest receiver and be the 3rd man in on a tackle and you can get a shot at playing for the Steelers? That's it, I'm going to try out...I can do that in my sleep. I think Mundy does too.

Jonny Van Mundegaarde said...

Burress, I've been wondering the same thing about the training camp thing...but I think i've surmised that the hardest thing in pro sports is repeating championships (obvious) and maybe the reason he took it easy on them (so to speak) was because he knew they'd need their legs should they make the playoffs again.

Two years ago against Jacksonville, one of the biggest contributions (at least, it seemed, from the players perspectives), was that they were too tired in the post season because of the grueling camp that they went through that year. And they didn't even make the playoffs, let alone win the superbowl the previous year.

Winning consecutive superbowls is about talent, and lucky bounces. But it's also about who has enough left in the tank at the end of the season. I don't see us winning the division this season. But this team has the talent to repeat.

Also, Pittsburgh teams were 3-0 against the color blue this past weekend...

Adam said...

Derrick Williams is awesome.

Chip said...

Let's hear another rant about "Steeler Way" or "Steeler Football." I really want to hear more about how Yinzers are stupid for wanting another Jerome Bettis and moaning about the fact we don't run the ball enough.

Arians is a freaking idiot. Mendy was tearing Detroit up. For him to only get 15 carries is absolutely atrocious. If Arians had a brain in his head, he would've ran the ball 35 times yesterday and the game wouldn't have been close.

Especially in the fourth quarter. Why was he dialing up 4 WR sets and deep bomb passes in the FOURTH QUARTER? That's fire-worthy stuff right there.

This team is the reincarnation of the Tommmy Maddox team that threw for a billion yards and ended up going nowhere. If you can't control the clock, win time of possession by running the ball, and limit Ben's passing because he takes too many sacks/makes too many mistakes, we're going to finish 8-8 this year.

tecmo said...

the d only allowed a td and 2 fgs. who cares that they put up yards...they put up yards on that last drive, too and we beat them back. with no polamalu, i can't see anyone getting mad at that squad allowing only 13 points.

Louis Lipps no longer accepts my phone calls... said...

This isn't the Tommy Maddox team.

Ben throws an interception once in awhile, everyone does, but he is FAR from Tommy Maddox. This team is much more talented than that one.

But I agree that we should've been running in the 4th. We FINALLY found our running game, and Mendenhall looks like he's running with purpose, so we don't use it to close out games and get our defense some rest?

tecmo said...

arians already took blame for getting greedy with the pass late

JB said...

I think the reason Mendenhall didn't get the ball more in the second half was because they didn't trust him. Go back and watch Hines TD, Ben turned around to give/playfake Mendenhall the ball and he wasn't there.

Steve said...

Temco - They've given up 55 4th quarter points so far this season. That's roughly 1/4 of all the points gven up last one quarter this only 5 games. Plus, they gave up 335 yards to the LIONS, compared to last season when they gave up 300 yards only once (to the Titans). You can't see being mad at that? We know Polamalu is key but that's BS defense.

With or without Troy, there's no reason that Detroit team, with Culpepper starting and Calvin Johnson on the sideline, should score more that 6 points against the Steelers and that's being generous.

Aside from that, I think Tomlin needs to keep Arians and Ben on a shorter leash as far as the play calling is concerned, especially late in games where clock management is important. With a 15 point lead and a running game that is working, you sure as sh1t don't go go pass happy in the 4th.

tecmo said...

last year's d has spoiled a lot of "fans." it was the perfect storm. in the grander scheme, it's the exception, not the rule. every team is capable of putting up yards (maybe except for cle). if your defense holds the opposition to 13 points, then what's the gripe? we're not going to shut out every team and hold every offense below 300 yards. that normally doesn't happen as often as we saw it happen last year. but even then, last year's d held teams to 13.9 ppg, and allowed less than that yesterday (save ben's pick).

Unknown said...

the offensive line isn't built to run the ball - mendy's success early probably had to do with the success in the passing game.

if we just run the ball in the fourth, it will be three and out, punt

i can see where arians would want to continue passing in the 4th - JUST NOT ON 1ST AND SECOND DOWN!

the real problem is harrison is double-teamed/held (legally i guess) and woodley is non-existent which equals pick us apart down the stretch - troy or no troy.

dan fouts got it right when he said detroit's mistake was only focusing on deep routes thus allowing us get 3 sacks in a row on that final drive.

Anonymous said...

In response to point #12: here's the pic of the mascot eating the Towel.

Unknown said...

I think everyone just needs to get over last year. You think EVERY team they play will be held under 300 yards of offense? People are stunned that they're playing softer defense because Polamalu is hurt? I love this city and its teams as much as anyone, but this Yinzer mentality of "we always have to be the best no matter what" is too much. Shit happens, sometimes our teams are going to look sloppy in wins. We're competing with the BENGALS people, the worst 4-1 team I've ever seen. That mountain some people think we need to climb couldn't be any more of a mole hill. Everyone just relax.