Big Lead Sports Bar

11/22/2009

GREAT GOOGLY MOOGLY

CHIEFS (3-7) 27
STEELERS (6-4) 24

ROETHLISBERGER 32-42, 398 YDS, 3 TD, 2 INT

MENDENHALL 21 CARRIES, 80 YARDS

WARD 10 CATCHES, 128 YARDS, 1 TD


Remember that commercial than ran a few years ago featuring the groundskeeper who screwed up the Chiefs' end zone, leading to his dejected, "Great googly moogly" line? That was a completely valid reaction to the Steelers' play in a 27-24 loss to the lowly, bumbling Chefs on Sunday. Great googly moogly indeed.

I have no answer as to why this team can lose to an opponent like Kansas City, but let me try and at least offer some thoughts on what transpired on Sunday and this season in general:

1. What's bothered me the most about this year's Steelers is that they've lost to some clearly inferior teams. Last year's Super Bowl edition of the Steelers lost four games, and they were all to eventual playoff teams: the Eagles (9-6-1), Giants (12-4), Colts (12-4), and Titans (13-3).

This year's team has already lost four games, including Sunday's loss to the 2-7 (now 3-7) Chiefs and the 4-5 Bears, who look worse and worse as the season goes on. In addition, both losses to the Bengals sting a little more due to the fact that they were completely winnable games; the first meeting featured 14 unanswered Bengal points in the fourth quarter to erase an 11-point deficit; the more recent game was 9-6 Steelers into the third quarter. It's been very frustrating to witness from a fan's point of view, so I can only imagine the feeling among those who are actually part of the organization.

The problem with this team appears to be somewhat of a lack of identity. There are days when it appears that they can run over anybody (San Diego - Mendenhall 165 yards rushing), and there are days when it looks like there are no running plays in the playbook (Cincinnati II, Tennessee). They have days when the defense looks dominant (Cincinnati II, Cleveland) and days when the defense blows leads (Chicago, Cincinnati I). And as for their special teams, it's never really had any up to go with its perennial down.

As a team, they are very inconsistent; you never know which version of the Steelers is going to show up on a given day. After the back-to-back takedowns of Minnesota and Denver, they were the darlings of the league, finally playing up to their champion label. After back-to-back losses that probably handed the division crown to Cincinnati, they should be happy to make the playoffs.

Individual criticism and praise has fluctuated wildly based on the weekly outcomes, from Mike Tomlin to Ben Roethlisberger, James Harrison to Santonio Holmes, Hines Ward to Bruce Arians. One week they're up, another week they're down. This week's hero could very well be tomorrow's goat. Consistency has not been an ally of this specific team.

To an outsider, it looks like the Steelers have still not found their rhythm. It looked like they were headed in that direction with five straight wins, but then came crashing back down to Earth in the last two weeks. It's not that the Steelers can't re-capture their mojo, it's just that time is rapidly becoming their enemy if they want to make a playoff push in earnest.

In the end, all of this hot air I'm spewing basically comes down to your expectations for the rest of the season, and what's realistic. Do you expect the Steelers to win the Super Bowl? Then they're not going to be living up to your expectations, at least not at this point. Not by losing to Chicago and Kansas City, blowing leads, and allowing kick returns to go to the house on a regular basis. Do you expect the Steelers to make the playoffs? Now we're getting warmer. But does anyone expect the Steelers to lose to a train wreck of a team like Kansas City? For some reason, I doubt it.

Expectations are what dictate our mood about sports. If the Pirates go .500, a lot of people would be happy. If the Steelers would go .500, a lot of people would be disappointed. Why? Because expectations for the Pirates are much, much lower. But what should your expectations be for the remainder of the Steelers' 2009 campaign? Sadly, that is a question I cannot answer. At least not after watching them lose to the Chiefs.

2. (Yes, there's a #2) - I've said it before and I'll say it again - the longer you let an underdog hang around, the more they believe they can win. In fact, it's not just an opinion, it's a fact. When Kansas City is taking you into the fourth quarter at 17-17, they're only 15 minutes away from an upset (or in this case, 15 minutes plus overtime).

As has been the case many times in 2009, the Steelers could not step on the throat of their opponent and finish them off. Pittsburgh had a 17-7 into the third quarter, and another touchdown would've seriously limited any chance KC had at a victory. But all of a sudden, a ball bounces off of Heath Miller and into the hands of Andy Studebaker, the Chiefs take over at their own 38 yard line, and close the lead to 17-14 just a few plays later.

That turn of events would cripple the Steelers in the short-term. Their next drive was a three-and-out capped off by Rashard Mendenhall getting stuffed for no gain on third-and-one. The drive after that was moving along fine until a Roethlisberger end-zone pass was again intercepted by Studebaker and taken back to the Steeler five yard line, setting up a Chiefs field goal that would tie the game going into the final quarter. And because of that comedy of errors, the Chiefs were very much in it and their crowd had life with just 15 minutes on the clock. Momentum can be a dangerous opponent when it's not on your side, and at that point, it was not on the Steelers' side.

3. I've become so accustomed to Ben Roethlisberger magically rallying the Steelers at a moment's notice that I'm dumbfounded when it doesn't happen. And the last two weeks, with chances to alter the game's outcome in the closing minutes, it hasn't happened. The legend of Get Me My Hat seems like a lifetime ago. If only I had lower expectations, I wouldn't be acting like a spoiled Steeler fan. As you can see, I'm sticking with this expectations thing.

4. As I mentioned in an earlier post, one person outside of Kansas City who should feel good about the Chiefs' special-teams TD is former Steeler Arnold Harrison, who was thrown to the wolves last week in hopes of ending the unit's ongoing woes. But it was evident from Sunday's opening kickoff that this is a problem that's deeper than one man. The only question is whether or not the cuts will go deeper after a ridiculous fourth consecutive week with a kick return touchdown.

Despite the epic fail on that opening kickoff, I don't know how much good it would do to let special teams coach Bob Ligasheshky go right now. It might make some people happy to see another head roll, but that's not going to improve the 11 men on kick coverage. The more likely scenario is to utilize more starters on special teams, risking injury. It's not a desirable option, but how desirable are games decided by big plays on your special teams every week?

5. Roethlisberger had 42 pass attempts on Sunday, and again I'll say that is waaaay too many. Sunday ranked third on Roethlisberger's list of all-time bests for yardage, and the Steelers have now lost two of those games. If the Steelers were using the pass to build insurmountable leads that were then protected by gratuitous second-half rushing, that would balance things out. But that's not the way things are playing out.

I'm never one to champion an ultra-conservative game-plan, but the more you throw the ball, the greater a chance exists that bad things will happen. It's simply the law of averages. It's hard to have passes bounce off of guys' chests when you're running the ball.

I've been on record of saying that the team should not have a ball-and-chain to "The Steeler Way" of pounding the ball with a Bettis/Harris/Foster-style running back, and that the strength of the team is the passing game. But the job of Bruce Arians is to use the team's strengths to their advantage, and I don't think that includes putting up 40+ passes, no matter who is throwing or catching the ball. The passing game can still be a strength even if it doesn't account for 400 yards on any given Sunday.

6. Other than heaping blame on the offense's numerous turnovers, Bruce Arians' play-calling, and the special teams, allow a moment to squeeze the defense on that list of goats. Not only did Dick LeBeau's feared unit give up the crucial 61-yard pass play to Chris Chambers in OT, but it also gave up a crippling eight-play, 91-yard drive in the middle of the fourth quarter.

If the opponent were, say, the Indianapolis Colts, I'd probably be a little more forgiving. But the problem was that it wasn't. This was a mediocre quarterback who the Steelers destroyed last year when he was surrounded by a much more talented New England team. This was a receiver (Chris Chambers) who was just bid adieu by the division-leading Chargers three weeks ago; the Chiefs didn't even have their leading receiver (Dwayne Bowe) for this game, as he was serving the first game of his league-mandated drug suspension. This was a running game that was in disarray after waving goodbye to one of their leading rushers in team history. This was a Chiefs team that hadn't won at home this season, hadn't won back-to-back games since 2007, and scored its first victory over a team with a winning record since beating Denver in week four of 2008. This was a Chiefs offense that ranked 30th in the league with a pitiful 266 yards per game, only outdone by the miserly Raiders and Browns. And this was a Steelers defense that ranked 2nd in the league, giving up 277 yards per game. I realize the greatness of Troy Polamalu, but does this team really miss him this much?

7. So far, I've spent way too much negative energy talking about this game. There were some positives - most notably Hines Ward, who had a tremendous 10-catch, 128-yard, one-TD effort. Heath Miller (interception snafus aside) was just six yards off of his career high for receiving yards (101 in the 2006 opener against Miami, highlighted by an 87-yard TD). And Rashard Mendenhall had 116 yards of offense, with his first career rushing TD. But games are not won on stats alone, and that's why it's hard to generate some optimism from these impressive numbers.

8. Another positive from Sunday was the showing of Steeler Nation on the road. After Roethlisberger's incredible Houdini-like touchdown pass, Arrowhead sounded louder than Heinz Field on most days. Steeler road crowds draw a different kind of energy - these are fans who don't get to go to every contest and usually bring their A-game.

I know I'm not the only one to believe that the crowds at Heinz Field have been a bit stale at times. Going to a Steeler game just doesn't evoke the same kind of enthusiasm for people who've been there every week since 1975 - and some of them act like it.

9. If things weren't bad enough, Big Ben took a violent shot in overtime that brought an ice-cold Charlie Batch into the game after four quarters on the sidelines, and Chris Kemoeatu left with a knee injury. Hopefully things will turn out OK on that front, but we'll have to wait and see.

10. On a disappointment level, is this the worst Steeler loss since the infamous Oakland game in 2006? If not, it's certainly close.

11. I hate playing the "what if" game, but what if Ike Taylor holds on to that interception in overtime? Unfortunately, we'll never know, as it got chalked up as another on the lengthy list of Dropped Ike Taylor Interceptions. I think this was #721.

12. I've thrown a lot of things out there, as is usually the case after season-altering losses. That's human nature - just listen to the angry callers to talk shows this week. The losses gets dissected more than the wins.

This team clearly has some issues, but there is no reason that they still cannot overcome them and at least qualify for the playoffs. However, at this point, the season must be broken into 60-minute blocks, and the next one (Baltimore, next Sunday night) will be one of the biggest 60-minute-blocks of the remaining schedule.

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12 comments:

coreyswhite said...

don, i'll answer SOME questions, you had a lot:

1. Arians - FIRED! let tomlin or the guy in the front row of the bleachers call the plays....overtime, 3rd and four, a first down pretty much seals a victory and arians decides a pitch out to moore...A PITCH OUT!!!

this is the same guy who refuses to run the ball when it's working and the qb is not on point

2. Positives? are you kidding me? what positives are there to kicking a teams but and losing (the case in almost all of the games)- THE ANSWER IS COACHING AND IN-GAME DECISIONS (Does Tomlin do anything during the game...haltime?)!

3. Troy - obviously he is that important - hard for people to realize, but it's true.

4. cutting arnold harrison obviously wasn't the problem - AGAIN, IT'S COACHING - CUT THE SPECIAL TEAMS COACH - IT'S AN OBVIOUS DECISION. The steelers kick return is embarrassing as much as the pirates are...get rid of the guy who's teaching them to move out of the way of the returner!

5. Can ANYONE explain to me how santonio holmes can't catch studebaker? - THIS ONE IS FRICKIN KILLING ME - REALLY? DID THAT HAPPEN? HE SHOULD'VE BEEN DOWN AT HIS OWN 30-40 YARD LINE AT BEST...

6. Tomlin is starting to remind me of a good politician - took over a good situation and only looks the other way when things aren't working the way they should be (ARIANS!!!!!!!)

7. MENDENHALL - HE PRACTICALLY WON THE GAME FOR US - TACKLING STUDEBAKER (IN LIEU OF HOLMES) AND SCORING THE GO AHEAD - BUT INSTEAD OF CALLING HIS NUMBER ON A STUPID RUNNING PLAY TO BEGIN WITH IN OVERTIME (3RD AND FOUR), ARIANS pitches it OUT to MOORE...

Do you sense any frustration?


bring it on all you people who think you're football gods and still believe cincy won't win the division...

coreyswhite said...

don, i'll answer SOME questions, you had a lot:

1. Arians - FIRED! let tomlin or the guy in the front row of the bleachers call the plays....overtime, 3rd and four, a first down pretty much seals a victory and arians decides a pitch out to moore...A PITCH OUT!!!

this is the same guy who refuses to run the ball when it's working and the qb is not on point

2. Positives? are you kidding me? what positives are there to kicking a teams but and losing (the case in almost all of the games)- THE ANSWER IS COACHING AND IN-GAME DECISIONS (Does Tomlin do anything during the game...haltime?)!

3. Troy - obviously he is that important - hard for people to realize, but it's true.

4. cutting arnold harrison obviously wasn't the problem - AGAIN, IT'S COACHING - CUT THE SPECIAL TEAMS COACH - IT'S AN OBVIOUS DECISION. The steelers kick return is embarrassing as much as the pirates are...get rid of the guy who's teaching them to move out of the way of the returner!

5. Can ANYONE explain to me how santonio holmes can't catch studebaker? - THIS ONE IS FRICKIN KILLING ME - REALLY? DID THAT HAPPEN? HE SHOULD'VE BEEN DOWN AT HIS OWN 30-40 YARD LINE AT BEST...

6. Tomlin is starting to remind me of a good politician - took over a good situation and only looks the other way when things aren't working the way they should be (ARIANS!!!!!!!)

7. MENDENHALL - HE PRACTICALLY WON THE GAME FOR US - TACKLING STUDEBAKER (IN LIEU OF HOLMES) AND SCORING THE GO AHEAD - BUT INSTEAD OF CALLING HIS NUMBER ON A STUPID RUNNING PLAY TO BEGIN WITH IN OVERTIME (3RD AND FOUR), ARIANS pitches it OUT to MOORE...

Do you sense any frustration?


bring it on all you people who think you're football gods and still believe cincy won't win the division...

Koz said...

Can't Sepulveda try kicking off? Didn't the MLS season just end? What about one of those guys (half joking). The return coverage would be improved by deeper kicks. Having said that, there's no excuse for 4 TDs. But even when they aren't taken to the house our opponents are getting good field position.

Building Blocks said...

thanks for the recap raul.

i am really irritated we didn't win today but for me this loss is no more painful than the loss to cinci last week. every game we have lost this year was by the thinnest of margins. the failing of the special teams is inexcusable but let's remember, we beat the vikings... we will still make the playoffs. this team can still win the super bowl. i used to be unforgiving of ben staying in the pocket too long, getting sacked, throwing picks, but super bowl 43 made me see him in a different light. he is an animal. let's pound the ravens into the ground...

BurressWithButterflyWings said...

Ok, at risk of garnering the " Stupid Ignorant Yinzer Homer" label, Arians, or Bruce Arrogance as I call him, needs to be corrected for his untimely play calling and lack of variety in the play calling. And for those who are going to crap down my neck: THE STEELER WAY WINS GAMES! Does anybody here think that Tomlin lets Arians have too much control over the offense but this season has had too much personal influence on the defense with that Tampa 2 garbage? I felt that on the big pass plays KC was able to complete, we were only rushing 3 or 4 and it let Cassel pick his target.

I agree with Don that I am not certain how good it would do to let Ligashesky go at this point, but something needs to be done immediately because once again 7 pts given up on special teams essentially becomes the difference in the game.

I still stand by the fact that William Gay is not ready to be a starter.

However, I'm not taking to the bridge just yet, but I must say that turnovers and special teams killed us. Did anyone else think that Sepulveda had an off day yesterday too?

Oh well, gotta lace em up for the next one, without Polamalu again. How many games has he missed since he has become a full time starter?

Chip said...

Burress, actually yours is one of the more intelligent takes on this subject. The Yinzer Homers are the fools who look at Ben putting up 400 yards and think "OUR PASSING GAME RULEZ! THROW MORE! STEELER WAY SUCKS!"

By the way, what's our most impressive win this season? Minnesota, right? Guess what game Ben had the FEWEST pass attempts?

What other notable wins do we have over potential playoff teams? San Diego and Denver, yes? Guess what? Menenhall ran for 150+ yards in both those games.

Anybody with a brain in their head can see that the over-emphasis on the passing game is killing this team. Ben is not accurate enough and makes too many forced throws which lead to killing INTs. The line gives up too many sacks. And now look what happened, you get your QB and best OL (Kemo) hurt by passing a billion times.

I could write more but at this point, what's the bother? This isn't a Super Bowl caliber team. This isn't even a playoff caliber team. This is the Tommy Gun team from earlier this decade where we threw a ton and went 6-10.

I just hope when we get a top 20 draft pick this year, we get another Polamalu out of the deal.

thebizzareone said...

i dont know about anyone else, but this feels a bit like the frustration prior to the run to XL. well i guess aside from the complete lack of special teams. still 6 games to go and anything can happen. keep the faith. 6th seeds can win.

BurressWithButterflyWings said...

@Chip, i agree about the draft this year. I love Polamalu, he is amazing and when we have him our defense is much better and more dangerous.

With that said, he is constantly injured.

HomeRunFromBehindTheMeatballs said...

Haha, great googly moogly indeed! Losing to the chiefs, especially after the week they just had, it unbelievable. Hell, needing overtime against the chiefs to win would've been rediculous!

#2 - The two uuuuuge mistakes on large ben-jammin's interceptions proved to be too much. When does heath ever, ever drop a pass? And interceptions in the red [end] zone will ALWAYS come back to bite you in the A. I'm with you coreyswhite, how santonio doesn't run down some backup linebacker is unfathomable!

#3 - I agree Don. When the Steelers have a chance to put a team away with a 4th quarter drive or by winning to coin toss in OT. I just figure that we might as well chalk this game up in the win column. When it doesn't happen 100% of the time, it's hard to swallow. Expectations are a b*tch.

#4 - At least arnold harrison gets to sleep a little bit better at night now, but clearly he wasn't the problem and something needs to be done about the horrid coverage units that are sent out each week.

#6 - Great point! Surprising weakness by our usually formidable defense. This is like the 4th quarter drives for me. When we don't win on a late drive or when heath drops a pass or when the defense breaks or when bettis fumbles it's an awful lot for a yinzer to take!!!

#9 - Any word on Kemo's status? I assume we'll have to wait until, at least, tuesday. What a crushing blow due to our lack of o-line depth/talent, especially at guard.

#11 - I thought it was ryan clark that had a better shot at that pick? Seemed like Ike & Ryan fought the ball away from each other just enough to crap on our parade.

Closing Thoughts - Something needs / has needed to be done with our kick coverage units for quite some time. The, as Don aptly says, "epic fail" that has happened the last 4 weeks has made the problems that much more prominent. We have been a horrible coverage unit for years.
I don't like Bruce Arians and i probably never will. Maybe it's because he ran Kreider out of town and erased the fullback position? (that's right, i miss the FB/6th O-lineman) He just doesn't seem to know what he has and is absurdly inept at adjusting his gameplan in game / at halftime / week-to-week. It is no coincidence that the no-huddle is so successful. It's greatest feature is that bruce arrogance (nice one BurresswithBFW) is not calling the plays. By the way, where has the no-huddle gone? Someone needs to take Arrogance's copy of Madden '10 away from him. Just because you can pass 50 times on a video game and win everytime doesn't mean it's a good gameplan for the NFL.

Steve said...

Playoffs...playoffs!? Seriously now, there will be no pounding of anyone into the ground with this team, especially the Ravens. They lost that ability when they officially became a finesse first offense with a half-hearted defense.

The big difference in the team between this season and last is they were winning those close games decided by a only few points becuase they still had the ability to manage the game they were a more focused, 60 minute team. Plus, I'd take last seasons special teams even with Mitch Berger punting any day over this limp-wristed, girl scout version.

Ultimately, I don't see anything changing until they get rid of Mullarkey and bring in an offensive coordinator with a more balanced game plan. What's that?...you say we do have a new OC...could have fooled me. Since when did they start allowing QB coaches to run the offenses anyway? Up 17-7 in the 3rd is the ideal time to start airing it out huh. I wonder how Arians next trip to Giant Eagle will go? I'd really like to hear Ron Cook and the rest of the hyperopic fool's opinions and their inability to see the writing on the wall.

bgsexyraib said...

That Jon Gruden is really full of it. Best closers, huh?

coreyswhite said...

the big difference from last year is troy played every game