Big Lead Sports Bar



RAVENS (6-5) 20
STEELERS (6-5) 17
DIXON 12-25, 145 YARDS, 1 TD, 1 INT

All in all, it was a pretty horrible weekend for Pittsburgh football teams. The Panthers lost to their rival on a last-second field goal, and the Steelers lost to their rival on an overtime field goal. The difference is that the Panthers are still guaranteed a spot in their conference's championship game on Saturday. The Steelers, on the other hand, are on the outside looking in for a playoff spot, still have major injuries to contend with, and now appear to have some controversy in the locker room. There's much to discuss.

1. In my personal memory bank of Steeler history, I will not put this loss on Dennis Dixon, instead opting to go with the disappointing Steeler defense, which let Dixon's fourth-quarter lead evaporate on a crushing 10-play, 84-yard drive that resulted in the game-tying field goal. It was the third drive of 70+ yards that the vaunted D had allowed in this game alone. And the disturbing trend of fourth quarter collapses in 2009 continues.

2. What bothered me the most was poor tackling all night by the Steelers. The special teams was bailed out by Baltimore penalties a few times on long returns, but the defense did not have that luxury. I know it's his style, but Ryan Clark's human-torpedo method was ineffective for most of the contest. I know Ray Rice certainly thought so.

3. Coming out of this game, the biggest concern has to be the ongoing comments of Hines Ward that Roethlisberger should have played through his symptoms. The latest example, postgame:

"This is the biggest game of the year," Ward said bluntly. "Me being a competitor, I just wished we had all our weapons out there."

This is not good, people. The Steelers have never been known as a team that conducts a war-of-words via the media; in fact, they're one of the more secretive teams in the NFL. The fact that Ward is not letting this go can do nothing but damage the already fragile demeanor of a locker room teetering on the brink of the playoffs.

4. If you look at which Steelers were missing and at what positions, it was a miracle that they even had a lead against a desperate Ravens team, and in Baltimore no less. I thought Dixon handled himself well for most of the game, and actually made a few plays that could earn him a leg up on the #2 job next season. But to play 60 minutes and again lose in overtime for a second consecutive week is a crushing outcome.

The Steelers' losing streak has reached three games, and their record in the AFC North is an unbelievable 1-3. If Oakland traveling across the country to Heinz Field can't cure what ails the Steelers next Sunday, the season is virtually over.

5. After the game, Coach Mike Tomlin promised to "unleash hell" on the rest of the NFL in the month of December, and the Steelers have no choice but to live up to those words unless they want to live with another offseason of "Super Bowl hangover" talk. The sad reality is that this team is not as good as the 2008 model. I think the losses of Bryant McFadden and Larry Foote sting more than the front office could have ever anticipated. Combine that with the weekly target on their backs that come with the championship label and a plethora of injuries to key players, and all of a sudden the reasons for a 6-5 record start to pile up.

6. Back to Dixon: I thought his presence would signify a virtual white flag on any big plays. And while the Steelers didn't manage anything above 33 yards, they did hit on four plays of 20+. Rashard Mendenhall had a solid night running the ball and managed to not get himself physically abused in this year's game. Santonio Holmes was exceptional and made plays. Ward also had a solid, yet unspectacular game. The only disappointment was that Dixon was 0-for-4 when he looked in the direction of Mike Wallace, which would've definitely increased the big-play output, and the virtual invisibility of Heath Miller in the stats column, with one catch for two yards. But all in all, Dixon's play (and the lowered expectations of the offense) should have been enough to win the game. Unfortunately, they did not, and he threw the crucial interception that contributed to the loss. So to say he's blameless would also be incorrect.

7. Admit it, seeing Tyler Palko on the sidelines in a Steeler jersey and Flacco across the field in a Raven jersey had to be pretty interesting for any Pitt fan. I'm sure Palko would've relished the opportunity to defeat his former backup, but if Tyler did enter the game he would've been on a steady diet of handoffs.

8. Despite the three consecutive losses, injuries, and vultures circling, the Steelers are not finished. If I've learned anything from this team over the years, it's that many of their players love to play the disrespect/no one gave us a chance/back against the wall card. They've got Oakland and Cleveland coming up, and while it's been proven that no game is an automatic victory, that's as much of a gift as the schedule makers could hand this team. Sitting at 8-5 with Green Bay, Baltimore and Miami pending would seem to indicate that they would still have a shot at the playoffs. But the bleeding must stop, and that happens one game at a time. Redemption starts Sunday at 1 PM.

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bohica said...

well, all was not lost, California (PA) won.

Farrior and Gay are killing us. Thoughts?

okel dokel said...

There are many thoughts I have about this game. Namely, both the offensive and defensive coordinators need to get their heads out of their collective asses.

1. Farrior is now a liability in pass coverage. Love the guy but Marvin Lewis' and Jim Harbaugh's staffs both identified him as the guy to pick on in 4th down situations. Perhaps Dick LeBeau needs to design some different schemes..the rest of the league has the blue print and some of your top performers are aging.

2. William Gay sucks...he seems to be this year's version of Ike Taylor. Perhaps he will grow into the role, but the guy needs to learn how to tackle. That said, Ryan Clark was clearly to blame for the big play that appeared to be Gay's fault.

3. How about going back to basics and learning how to tackle. That was one of the most pathetic tackling exhibitions I have ever seen. Ray Rice is good, but he is not the second coming of Jim Brown

4. I am resigned to the fact Bruce Arians will be back as OC. However, why the need to keep throwing long with a first time QB. The last one killed the opening drive of overtime. Yes, the Ravens pass defense sucks but Dennis Dixon was playing his first game. As usual if a paly or scheme works, he limits the usage. Rollout...worked... we will use it sparingly. Running game...worked...throw a long pass to kill some drives.

5. I am a Mike Tomlin fan but enough with the rhetoric. This team is clearly lacking fundamentals and the hard ass approach you employed the past few seasons needs to be brought back.

There is still hope, But, Peter King is still picking us to go to the playoffs so I think the season is over.

Anonymous said...

I think Arians continually tries to outsmart himself. I've said this since he got here, he's not a good offensive coordinator. Tomlin needs to leave the defense alone and let LeBeau handle it. Tampa 2 is garbage. Arians needs to be gone after this season, period. He started off the game with a great gameplay for an essentially rookie QB. Keep it simple is the name of the game and for some reason he decided to have him throw it deep multiple times. They needed to utilize Dixon's legs. He ran only one time and it was for a long TD. Shouldn't that tell you something Arians?

Steve said...

Farrior and Gay (more so Gay) are bad...can't sugar coat it like Momma Tomlin is trying to by over-crediting the opposition, but so are Taylor, Carter and anyone else who's required to help out in pass coverage who's name isn't Troy.

Correction: Gay is this year's version of DeWayne Washington.

I agree with the BS long pass attempts late in the game when the Steelers could have and should have been even more conservative. Especially when Dixon was starting to make bad throws and the Ravens were jumping routes. The way he stares down receivers I'm surprised he only had the one pick.

Actually Dixon had two great runs but the first was called back.

Sorry, but the season is virtually over now, no need to let a loss to the Raiders make it official. It's that "we're still ok" attitude that's lulled the team into the predicament they're in now.

BurressWithButterflywings said...

Maybe I am a moron, but Arrogance seems to hate play action fake and rolling the pocket.

I felt that rolling Dixon gave us the best change to win, especially considering that he did not give us a very good chance having him sitting back in the pocket trying to figure out a zone which he was having difficulty with ( which any 1st time starter would probably would have trouble with).

People got mad at me last night because I said Dixon cost us the game. I meant that in the most literal sense as in the mistake he made lead to the points that ended the game.

However, I don't think the play calling was dialed up to the best of his abilities either. I am not saying run a wild cat, but maybe throw in more than one PA Boot and try to give the WRs a little more time for separation by using the PA.

I did notice a few times Heath was open underneath and Dixon was staring down his targets.

Louis Lipps is my homeboy said...

Gay has struggled, but the difference between him and past "greats" like Washington and Scott is that those guys were getting tooled when they were in their prime. Gay is still very young and very raw. Hopefully he improves over time.

Farrior is a solid tackler, but he can't be trusted in coverage anymore. Rice is a very talented young back, and Farrior's 35 years old. I thought Timmons was supposed to be a good coverage LB. Maybe put him on the RB once in awhile.

And I felt our biggest advantage going into the game was the Ravens weren't going to be prepared for such an athletic QB. Why keep him in the pocket to pass on every 3rd and 5+ yards?

The one time they let him run it was a touchdown.... and that was it. It seemed pretty obvious that the Ravens would have trouble with him if he took off once in awhile, but instead they sat him in the pocket like he was a seasoned expert at reading NFL calibre defenses. He should've been told to run if he didn't see anything, he's fast as hell!! It would've worked for one game.

VERY frustrating that they didn't utilize the one advantage they had with Dixon. We were running well, play action passes, bootlegs, and QB draws should've been the order of the day.

I hope that the defense being unable to close late in games is just an experience problem with Gay and Timmons in there and that they both grow as players and help put a stop to that.

As for Arians, there's no hope for the guy. He's just clueless.

Unknown said...

I love how people are blaming everything on Arians... you know, the guy that helped the Steelers win a superbowl with a below average offensive line. Yeah, he passes it too much, but he showed yesterday that he can establish the run. I don't like the calls for 3 straight passes for Dixon in OT... would have liked to see more running and play action, but even if he did that and they lost, everyone would be bitching about how he just didn't let Dixon throw!

William Gay needs removed. Put Townsend in there instead. Gay is picked on and exposed every week. He isn't the physical corner that is needed in LeBeau's system. The loss of McFadden has hurt.

I'm not against Farrior. I think he does superbly. He made a bad decision on a pass route and got nailed. It was his only bad play that night.

Running Tyrone Carter around like Polamalu isn't a good idea. Left Clark by himself, and when he has a poor tackling day like last night, we get gouged.

The one thing that REALLY pissed me off, though:
Hartwig gives RayRay a little tug and draws a hold. The Ravens LT grabs and PULLS silverbacks facemask? Oh that's perfectly fine!

Ed Hoculi should know better!

Steve said...

I was actually surprised Dixon took off those 2 times. From what I saw in pre-season, they had him stay in the pocket even with painfully clear running lanes in front of him.

That's Arian's and Tomlin's meddling and idea to turn a scrambling, running threat of a QB into a pocket passer and looking at his ridiculously low release, the pocket is the last place Dixon should be. It also makes drafting him in the first place idiotic.

okel dokel said...

Look, Arains deserves credit for last year, but the fact is he sticks with his favorite types of plays too often. I give him credit for committing to the run game, but opting for the long pass, his call not Dennis Dixon's call, was wrong. Dixon was awaful in the second half and yes he did not see Heath open, but he did check down to Mendenhall and it was a good play.

Also, Farrior is a stud, but three times this year he has been forced into single coverage at a critical juncture in the game and all three times he has been burned. Dick LeBeau has done a great job over the years of making sure his players are put in situations to succeed. They have to realize by now that certain defenses they are using in 3 and 4th down and long situations are being exposed. I am hopeful by now they will make the necessary adjustments.

Steve said...

Sorry Josh, but Ben helped the Steeler win the Super Bowl. If you want to give Arians credit for letting Ben do his thing by calling his own plays at the line in the hurry up, then that's as far as I'll go in giving him credit.

Contrary to some opinions (those by the likes of Ron Cook), football fans, especially the ones who have been watching for a few decades, are not clueless and when the majority of them key in on something that's out of whack and needs addressed, most often than not they're right.

This was probably Arians best called game this season and he still had to go to the well and F it up with needless deep balls late in the game by an inexperienced QB that could have ended this game even sooner than it did.

I'm not saying that it's his fault they lost, since there we're many other issues that contributed, but he didn't do as well as he could have either.

Seriously, how many of us were sitting there thinking on 2nd and 10, midway through the 4th quarter: "Ya know, what we need here is a 40-yard bomb to Mike Wallace." Uh huh, that's what I thought...and how many of us cringed and looked away when he did it? Yup. me too.

JeremyT said...

Josh: You're 100% right about the everything is okay." However, you are terribly wrong about this season being over. Let's not even talk about the "season." This is a one-game season at this point. After we beat the fuck out of Oakland, we will play someone else in another one-game season the following week. That's all of the thought process that is allowed if this is going to get solved. No looking back or forward at this point.

JeremyT said...

Umm, that would be the "everything is okay" thinking that got the Steelers in this mess. Sorry about the type-o!