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12 Thoughts on Steelers-Dolphins

STEELERS (5-1) 23
DOLPHINS (3-3) 22

Here are 12 thoughts on the controversial Steelers-Dolphins game from Sunday afternoon, including the loudest Sad Trombone award you may ever hear:

1. Let's get this out of the way right now: that was not a game the Steelers win unless they have #7 behind center.

Ben Roethlisberger was in full sandlot-mode on Sunday, and the passing game accounted for 290 of the team's 348 yards on offense (83%). That percentage was far and away the biggest such number in 2010 for the Steelers.

In case you were wondering, here's the passing yardage percentages in relation to offensive yards in the previous five games: 

Atlanta 211 passing/354 total (59.6%)

Tennessee 21/127 (16.4%)

Tampa Bay 186/387 (48%)

Baltimore 126/210 (60%)

Cleveland 257/378 (68%)

And here's a jarring stat:

Four games without Ben: 544 yards passing

Two games with Ben: 547 yards passing

2. OK, we've established that Gentle Ben was somewhat important to the Steelers' cause on Sunday. But he also had three fumbles, losing one that directly led to three Miami points and getting bailed on another by an inconclusive replay that would've potentially cost the Steelers the game.

Being that they kept possession the final time Roethlisberger coughed up the ball enabled Skippy Reed to hit the eventual game-winning field goal, giving the Steelers the narrowest of leads with 2:26 left to play. The Dolphins subsequently failed to display a competent two-minute offense, and the Black and Gold held on for their fifth win. Drive home safely, Miami fans. There's no shame in losing to the Steelers.

There is no doubt that a degree of good luck had a hand in this victory for Mike Tomlin's team, but games are won and lost based on the accumulation of 60 minutes worth of plays. Your situation at any given point in the game is what you've made it up until that point. But I'll have much, much more on that later in this article.

And for those who think the Steelers are so lucky, they lost three starters during the course of Sunday's game, including Aaron Smith for the season - again. With that being the case, they don't look so lucky in my book right now.

3. For the second straight week, the Steelers were shut out in the first quarter despite having Roethlisberger back at quarterback. They fell into a 3-0 hole last week against Cleveland, and fumbled their way to two Miami scores in the first quarter this week, basically giving the Fins six free points.

In both cases, all turned out well for the Steelers in the end. But I think this team's recipe for success is to build a lead and guard it like an aggressive dog would guard his bone. That's not as easy as it sounds, but it should be the goal.

4. Here's a scary stat that goes back to Point #1: among play calls, the balance was exactly 50-50 between pass and run for the Steelers - 27 runs and 27 passes. So they basically got 83% of their offense from 50% of the play calls. That tells me two things: their running game was largely ineffective (true) and their passing game hit on several big plays to skew the numbers (also true).

5. Speaking of the running game, that was the worst output of 2010 so far for Rashard Mendenhall (15 carries, 37 yards, 2.5 YPC).

Mendy came into the game averaging 99 yards per contest and 4.3 yards per carry. On Sunday, his long was just nine yards. I'm sure he would gladly forget this game ever happened.

6. Like I said weeks ago, Hines Ward had to be counting down the days until Roethlisberger came back.

Ward's numbers on Sunday: 10 targets, 7 catches, 131 yards, 1 TD, long of 43. Pre-Roethlisberger, Ward had 12 catches in four games. Since Ben's come back, Hines has 12 in two games.

For someone who looked borderline-useless a few weeks ago, #86 now appears rejuvenated. Incredible what a real QB can do for a receiver.

7. Mike Wallace just keeps on keepin' on, with a 53-yard touchdown to his credit on Sunday. Each deep ball he catches moves him higher and higher on the list of home-run threats in the NFL, and he's caught a lot of them during his year-plus in the league. I don't know how a guy this talented fell as far as he did in the draft, but I'm glad the Steelers have a good scouting department.

8. Mewelde Moore had 6 yards rushing and 7 yards receiving coming into the game, having touched the ball 10 times.

On Sunday, he got four carries, four catches, and accounted for 59 yards of offense, with a long carry of 16 and a long catch of 29 yards. That was nice of Mike Tomlin to dust him off for a spin, and I'm glad to see that Moore still has something left in the tank if needed.

9. As far as questionable hits go, I think the Steelers have nothing to worry about in the Fine Department this week. Congratulations go out to James Harrison for being able to do his job and not having to retire. We were all worried about his future career plans.

All in all, it wasn't a signature effort by the defense; in fact, the 22 points the Steelers gave up were the most they've given up all year. But don't forget that six of those points were gifts from the Steeler offense and special teams, with the D forcing Miami into three-and-outs after both possession changes in the early going.

However, the Steeler defense did allow scoring drives of 11 plays, 69 yards; 9 plays, 80 yards; 9 plays, 52 yards; and 7 plays, 52 yards. They bent, but did not break, with just one touchdown on their watch. That being said, the defense has a much higher ceiling than what they showed on Sunday. Statistically, Miami is no more than a middle-of-the-pack offense. A better team finishes drives instead of settling for five field goals. Maybe that's why the Dolphins are .500.

10. Around the AFCN, Cleveland rebounded nicely from their butt-kicking in Pittsburgh last week, beating the defending champs in New Orleans, 30-17. That's encouraging for a Steeler team headed to Louisiana next weekend.

Meanwhile, the Ravens struggled with the winless Bills, eventually prevailing 37-34 in overtime. Early word is that Baltimore was struggling with the new rules. You know, because they're so used to dishing out those kind of hits.

Finally, the Cincinnati Bengals continued their predictable slink down the standings, losing 39-32 to Atlanta after digging a 24-3 halftime hole. But Carson Palmer threw for 412 yards and 3 touchdowns, so people will continue to believe that this is a good and capable team based on fantasy football-fueled perceptions.

11. Looking ahead, the Steelers travel to N'awlins for a Halloween Sunday-nighter against the Saints on NBC next weekend. The blueprint to beating the champs was just written by the Browns, and I think that's the first time in the history of sports that line has been authored.

The last meeting between the two franchises was a 2006 game at Pittsburgh, won 38-31 by the Steelers during their first Super Bowl Hangover season. Drew Brees threw for 398 yards, but Willie Parker ran for 213 yards and 2 TDs to go along with 3 TD tosses from Big Ben. I'd settle for a similar scenario next week, but I don't think Willie Parker will have nearly as many yards.

12. It's Sad Trombone time!

As you know, the Sad Trombone goes to someone who deserves no sympathy and in turn gets mocked by internet tough guys such as myself.

Today’s recipient of the Sad Trombone: the Miami Dolphins. Listen to these quotes after the game:
"The refs called a wonderful game -- for the Steelers." -- Channing Crowder
"Y'all ain't never seen anybody handle Pittsburgh like we did today. They took that game from us. They took it from us, bottom line." -- Karlos Dansby 
"There should be a board that fines refs for making decisions like that."  -- Tony McDaniel
If I may refute those claims individually:

To Mr. Crowder: The Steelers were called for more penalties than the Dolphins on Sunday.

To Mr. Dansby: Handle Pittsburgh? Your team scored one touchdown on the day, and you were handed six points on a silver platter in the first quarter. If you handled the Steelers with such ease, then why would the swing of a call that resulted in a mere three points cost you the game?

To Mr. McDaniel: If the NFL agrees that the refs blew it, they will make it publicly known. You know, like they've done to the Steelers all those times in the past.

So to all three of these Dolphins as well as their teammates, let's award an enormously loud Sad Trombone. Enjoy it. It was well-deserved.

Mondesi's House: The Director's Cut (more links, commentary, etc):


Unknown said...

Dom.....the Dolphins have a right to complain a little on this one. I feel dirty with the way this one ended......hope its not bad karma down the road.

Brian said...

Here is the thing with that call... the refs screwed up by not watching the play all the way through (TRUE), but seeing how they didn't there is no way to know who had the ball. Yep Miami stood up with it, but that means nothing. Plenty of times the call is made well before people get off the ground and then someone else ends up with it.

It was POOR reffing, but no way can anyone say with any certainty that it was actually WRONG.

Unknown said...

When you have a QB of Ben's caliber, how do you run three times in a row in a critical situation like that and not let your QB take a couple shots to the end zone? QB draw??? You gotta be kidding me!

And how many times do we have to see Ben conduct a near perfect no-huddle drive only to see it stall after a time-out and Arians input on the subsequent play calls?

I've said it for the last few years...Arians is horrible. Ben bails him out constantly by improvising and converting a lot of third and longs.

I'd like to see a count of how many times the steelers ran on first down today....I'm guessing close to 90%.

Koz said...


Couldn't disagree more on the winning drive sequence.

Calling runs forced Miami to use timeouts.

Much safer running than risking throwing an interception. Of course hindsight is 20/20 but running still safer.

Even if you still want a pass, on the third down, are we certain that wasn't a read play where Ben could throw if he thought be had a good look?

The Steelers had trouble running all day, but considering a FG gives you the lead, it was the best call.

BurressWithButterflywings said...

Crowder must have forgotten the Pass Interference on Hines that he got away with or the unbelievable no call on the blatant holding on their only TD of the game.

Also, am I the only person who totally appreciated the irony of Sanders fumbling the opening kickoff after taking a helmet to helmet shot? Absolutely, positively, a clean football hit.

Borsk said...

The QB Draw was the right(some might say perfect) call in that situation. I was hoping they would run it there.

It was disappointing that Ben got hit and lost the ball inches before the goal-line because it was a brilliant call.

To the Dolphins: waaaaaaaaa

Rewind to the Miami touchdown at the end of the first half.

Miami scores, 17-15. Instead of going for the two point conversion to tie the game, Miami kicks a PAT. Final score, Steelers 23, Miami 22. *Sad Trombone*

Spatula said...

When the ref raised his hands, indicating a touchdown, and blew the whistle, the play was over. The Dolphins could have scooped up the ball and run it back for a touchdown, and the ball would still have come back to the one yard line. It sucks for the Dolphins, but we all know (from some bad past experiences) that once the whistle blows, the play is over.

PhillyRay said...

Once again, Ben escapes due to lack of evidence.

HomeRunFromBehindTheMeatballs said...

2. They lost Aaron Smith and Flozell... who was the 3rd starter to go down? And the rule on that fumble at the goal line needs to be fixed. A win is a win is a win, but we don't really deserve to kick the FG unless we recovered the fumble... which, i guess, we'll never know since the refs blew the whistle in the name of player safety.

@Brian... it WASN'T poor refereeing... they called the play to the letter of the law. I'd agree, though, that it's not the best rule. (See Spatula comments)

@Nick - i love the QB draw call! Though, i might have rolled Ben out and told him if someone's not wide open, get it in there yourself! That play call worked too! You know, except for the fumble part. Couldn't agree more with the 'arians sucks' part though, but on THAT particular drive... you gotta run, we were trying to take the lead AND not leave much time on the clock. ...Pretty basic football.

It's pretty amazing: all these stats that show we're TWICE as good of a passing offense with Ben vs. without. I knew he was a huge upgrade over #2/#3/#4QBs, but for some reason didn't think it would be double.

7. Doesn't look like Mike Wallace is gonna catch 90 passes, but i think we can all handle a TD/game!! You said it Don, what a draft day robbery!

@BwBw - I KNOW! i thought i was the only one that saw that hold on Troy on their only TD!

@Eric - you don't go for 2 pt conversions before the 3rd quarter. ...Also, pretty basic football knowledge. Only a certain NE coach would pull that crap in the name of running up the score.

@Philly Ray - ZING!

HomeRunFromBehindTheMeatballs said...

@Eric - sorry... 'before the 4TH quarter' (typo, my bad)

Steve said...

I was fine with the draw considering they weren't able to run the ball at all in the 2nd half. I do have problem with how Ben carried the ball as he should have had both hands on it there. He and Sanders need to take Ball Responsibility 101 classes.

Yup, as far as I know you can't review, let alone overturn anything that happens after the whistle blows. I feel for Miami, but they had chances to win the game without an official’s call or questionable review deciding the outcome. Settling for 2 FG's on back to back turnovers inside the Steelers 20 to start the game is why they lost.

How about that typical Arians call of running a reverse at the end of the 1st half that took the Steelers out of field goal range. Would have made the fumble at the end meaningless even if they did loose the ball. Am I the only one who pleads "please, just don't go backwards" every time they get within FG range? They just love to $hit the bed there don't they? What...a possible 3 points?..uh oh, time for Arians to lose his F'ing mind. Never fails.

Once again the Steelers go the extra mile to make an ordinay QB look special. Thank God Brees is a good QB or we'd be in trouble. If the Saints were smart they start their 3rd string QB.

BurressWithButterflywings said...

If the Fish really handled us all day long, why couldn't they go down the field with over 2 minutes left and get at least 3 points to win the game?

We got lucky, hell effing yes. But the better team wins the game almost every single time.

Borsk said...

How is "not going for 2 before the third quarter" basic football knowledge? It's not basic football knowledge, it's loser football tactics.

When you haven't won a game at home, maybe you try something like that. There's no way you can say it's the wrong move.

The worst case scenario in that situation is you are down 2. Best case is you have a new ball game.

Steve said...

I agree that they should have gone for 2 to tie and I thought they would. Even if they fail it's just 17-15 instead of 17-16 with the extra point and they still need a only FG to go ahead. There was really no reason to play it conservative there.

Dirty Sanchez said...

It all worked out, but Ben has to know that there are two things you can't do in that situation - throw a pick or fumble. You've got a chip shot FG for the lead in your pocket, so don't go diving for the end zone with the ball extended like it's the last play of the game and you're down by 6.

That said, it's soooo nice having #7 back at QB. We're going to need him because the D is going to suffer without Aaron Smith stuffing the run.

okel dokel said...

I'll take the win. The haters hate the Steelers already so they will continue with the familiar "Steelers get preferential treatment from the refs and Goddell" meme.

Tough break for the Dolphins, but the rule is what it is and needs to be fixed.

Perhaps the Dolphins need to learn how to score. They looked great between the 20s yesterday and then choked when the games was on the line. They are developing an all-star kicker.

@ Steve - completely agree about 'ole #7 needing to learn how to protect the ball.

Also, what is up with Randel El? That drop yesterday was bad. He is not the old 'Twan.

Steve said...

Everyone should seriously consider that this may be the end of the line for Smith. He'll be 35 if he returns next season and this will be the third season ending arm related injury in the past 4 seasons. He signed a 5-year deal in 2007 and no doubt won't be extended a new contract offer at the end of next season going on 36 years old regardless of if he can play an entire season.

Are the Steelers prepared to make either Hood, Eason or Hoke his replacement this season and going forward, or will they need to bring in a veteran?

getfreshdesigns said...

To this day it amazes me that fans of football don't understand the rules of this game. For instance.

Once the ball breaks the plane of the goal line, you know when the tip of the ball crosses the white chalk line that is the goal line. It's a touchdown at that very point. Whether the player is 15 feet up in the air or 1/2 inch off the ground.

The refs don't have the luxury of slowing the play down as it happens. If you watch that play in real time and from the angle of the sideline ref who had the best angle on the play it looked as if Ben crosses the goal line with the ball and then loses control.

okel dokel said...

Very good point about Aaron Smith Steve! Defensive End is a real position of need for this team. Kiesel is starting to show some wear and tear as well.

I am guessing they will have to look at the draft as well as free agent vets to fill the holes.

Short term they will bring either McLendon or Harris off the Practice Squad. Worilds did OK yesterday so they may put a different scheme in with him.

Regardless their rush defense will suffer.

Steve said...

@ Get Fresh - Problem is, the replay that showed the ball jarred loose as soon as the defender made contact but is at a bad angle to show the ball in relation to the goal line, when combined with the sideline angle that doesn't show the ball in his possession clearly enough but shows the contact happening before Bens arm got to the goal line, makes is clear he lost possession before scoring.

I wish it was close enough to be on the side of the Steelers in thinking it was a score, but I can’t lie to myself and it wasn’t. I’m just glad it was close enough for the officials to signal a TD; therefore blowing the play dead and nullifying the obvious turnover.

getfreshdesigns said...

@ Steve, that's my point, the replay may have showed that when you watch in slow motion.

Watch it in real time, game speed, whatever you want to call it from the angle of the ref who called it a TD, he had the best angle to see the play. Which isn't saying much since I don't think any referee could clearly see what happened considering all the bodies in the way.

It looked like a TD until they showed the angle from above (probably on from goal post) when that clearly showed it was knocked loose before he crossed.

BurressWithButterflywings said...

I think that people prefer not to let the facts get in the way of their opinions. Clearly, after reviewing the replay, the ball was loose before he got in.

HOWEVER, the ruling on the field was a TD and the play is dead at that point. That is the rule, Steratore (sp) didn't make it up while he was underneath the hood. If the whistle wasn't blown, it's a whole different animal.

The Dolphins and their fans have a right to be ticked off and maybe they will even get a lette from the league apologizing for correctly enforcing the rule. If not, the Steelers have plenty of those letters sitting around that we can lend to them.

Steve said...

@ Get Fresh - You make a good argument for abolishing replay, but the reality is they do use it and slowing plays down to get the right call even though it looks different viewed at game speed is a part of the game now just like any other rule.

Plus, I think if it was close enough, they would have sided with call on the field anyway, so it's not like they are breaking it down to the nth degree, they do allow the human aspect of an official’s call to over-rule the technology once it reaches a six of one/half-dozen of the other situation.

It never got to that point though because even after viewing the play at full speed a few times, I could tell he fumbled before scoring, didn’t even have to go to slow-mo.

getfreshdesigns said...

@ steve you know what, I went to and watched the replay, there was a ref standing right there looking at the play. Not sure what he was watching but he had the best vantage point of that play. the ref from the sideline who called the TD saw what most saw on TV. something that looked like a TD until the replays.

still, the dolphins had plenty of time to get into FG range and blew it. Good teams overcome adversity.

Louis Lipps is my homeboy said...

I'm not sure if he's a Steeler fan, or an Eagles interloper, but PhillyRay's comment wins!

Jonny Van Mundegaarde said...

That was a good comment by PhillyRay...

I was listening to the morning show on DVE, and I forget exactly who they were talking to, but they were saying that the reason the "However..." part of the penalty call happened is because Legursky and Scott both pretty much had the ball covered but one of the refs tapped them on their shoulders and told them the play was dead and they scored a touchdown. That was when you saw the Miami player emerge with the football.

marybods said...

The ref's may have made that one call in the Steelers favor, but how bout when Ben threw one to Ward in the end zone and Ward was held. The ref's didn't call the penalty. It would of been an easy 7 pts for the Steelers. Ref's r part of the game, and they do make mistakes. Live with it. It was a clean win.