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14 Thoughts on Steelers-Jets

Well, that was a lot more interesting than the week before, when I was complaining about a boring win. I guess I learned my lesson.

1. I cannot tell a lie: that was a tough loss for the Black and Gold on Sunday. The Steelers' biggest gaffe came on the game's opening kickoff, when Brad Smith took it 97 yards and silenced the Heinz Field crowd just seconds into the game. But after that, the team clamped down and played mostly good football. They didn't turn the ball over; they didn't commit a lot of penalties (3); they were 11-of-17 on third down; there were no more special teams issues; in short, they should've played well enough to win.

Unfortunately, the Jets chose Sunday as the day they would pull themselves together and out of their recent touchdown-scoring funk. They got better-than-expected play out of Mark Sanchez, who hit on 66% of his passes; they had a decent day running the football, considering the opponent; they got more big plays (Brad Smith TD, Braylon Edwards 38-yard catch, Jason Taylor safety); and they didn't trip anyone on the sidelines, harass a Mexican reporter, or make advances to Jenn Sterger.  Add it up and they ended up with the  slight edge in a game that could've gone either way.

2. This one continued a 2010 trend for the Steelers, the trend being their losing to a good team. They've fallen to the Ravens, Saints, Patriots, and now the Jets, and you have to wonder if that means anything headed into the postseason, as those teams will all likely be headed there as well. 

The Steelers do own victories over the Falcons and Ravens, but we're not compiling BCS points, only wondering what could and would happen should Pittsburgh meet up with any of these teams down the road. Admit it, 2-4 against playoff teams is not very inspiring going forward.

3.That being said, I think the Steelers win this game with Heath Miller in the lineup. Big Ben targeted Matt Spaeth an unusually high eight times, and they connected on only three of those eight. Whether it was simply a lack of chemistry between Roethlisberger and Spaeth or an issue of Spaeth not being the player that Miller is, sparks were just not being generated between quarterback and tight end. And I say that in spite of a nine-yard touchdown connection between the two that tied the game 7-7 in the first half.

4. Speaking of missing players, chalk up another loss for the Steelers when Troy Polamalu is out of the lineup. Although I think that in the long run, having him back for the playoffs is the right move, given that the Steelers don't freefall against two bad teams in their remaining games.

5. And speaking of missing, has anyone seen Hines Ward? It's been a real roller coaster ride for #86 in 2010. He has great weeks, then he has weeks when I wonder if he's still on the team.

The Steelers have clearly transitioned to Mike Wallace as the go-to guy, and for good reason. He's gradually rounded out his repertoire beyond deep routes and is becoming more of a complete receiver. But the absence of Ward, especially in the second half, was apparent. Hines was targeted only three times on the afternoon, and caught just two passes once all was said and done. When Spaeth is getting nine targets, Wallace is getting 10, and Emmanuel Sanders is getting 13, that catches my attention.

6. I thought the Steeler offensive line played well enough for the team to win against a very solid defense on Sunday. They rolled up 147 yards rushing, they managed to not get Big Ben killed (3 sacks, 1 hit), and they didn't rack up a ton of penalties.

Their darkest moment came on the Jason Taylor safety tackle on Mewelde Moore, which changed the dynamic of the game and required the Steelers to score a touchdown rather than attempt a field goal. I put some of that on them and some of that on Bruce Arians. I just wasn't crazy about the call.

7. Considering who they're missing, I can't put this loss on the defense, either. With seven of the Jets' points coming on special teams and two coming on the safety, that leaves the D responsible for 13. That should be good enough to beat the Jets, a team that was struggling in a big way on offense. But as the saying goes, "That's why they play the games."

8. Rarely do I agree with Phil Simms, but when he hammered the Steeler special teams after the Brad Smith touchdown, I was nodding in agreement. He was absolutely right - the Steelers always have such deep teams, and they should have one of the top special teams units in the league. Yet they looked completely ordinary and definitely not focused to start this one.

Nothing like totally handing over momentum (and a touchdown) right off the bat in a close game. Those are the kinds of plays that are absolute back-breakers in the postseason. We know all too well from experience.

9. The much-anticipated return of Santonio Holmes ended up being a less-than-interesting story as the game played out. Holmes finished with six catches for 40 yards, with a long of only 11. Compared to Braylon Edwards (8-100), Holmes was clearly not the Jets receiver who hurt the Steelers on Sunday. I know Bryant McFadden won't be forgetting Edwards anytime soon.

And no, I wouldn't trade Mike Wallace for Holmes, either. Holmes might be better-seasoned, but Wallace had come a long way...and you don't have to worry about him getting arrested and missing games, either. How much did Santonio help the Jets when he was suspended the first four weeks?

10. Mark Sanchez was not fantastic on Sunday, but you've gotta give it up for that fake on his seven-yard touchdown run. He faked out the Steelers, the fans, the cameramen, and the viewers at home on that one.

While Sanchez has had some rocky spots, I think he's actually going to turn out to be a solid quarterback for the Jets. He's beaten the Steelers on the road (in December) and took down the Patriots in Week Two. That's a nice foundation for any young QB, especially on the heels of a trip to the AFC Championship last season.

11. On the topic of young players, Emmanuel Sanders really took a step forward on Sunday, with a career-high seven catches on the aforementioned 13 targets. The seven grabs were nearly half his total coming into the game (16) and included a long of 29.

Sanders has really started to distance himself from fellow rookie Antonio Brown, who has 10 catches to Sanders' 23, but Brown's going to be a good one, too. With Wallace, Sanders, and Brown, the Steelers have had some nice draft finds beyond the first round of late.

12. Around the AFCN, Baltimore held off New Orleans, 30-24, in a game that was tied with 11 minutes left in regulation. Ray Rice went for 153 yards and Bert Flacco threw two TDs passes for the Ravens, who held the Saints to 27 yards rushing on just 14 carries. Drew Brees put the ball in the air 46 times for New Orleans, who clearly went away from the strength of the Baltimore D.

Cleveland has had nine games decided by seven points or less in 2010, and Sunday's game against the lowly Bengals was their latest. After taking a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on a Colt McCoy TD pass, the Browns were held scoreless until a fourth quarter rally netted 10 points. Unfortunately for them, they came up two points short of sending the game into overtime, and the Bengals' long losing streak finally came to an end. Cedric Benson led Cincy with 150 yards rushing, and Terrell Owens sat out with a knee injury that's probably ended his season.

13. Next week (actually on Thursday), the Steelers host Carolina at 8:20 p.m. Let's all remember that this isn't the last preseason game, as is usually the case. The Panthers are 2-12 and riding a one-game winning streak, knocking off John Skelton and the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. That was Carolina's first win since beating San Fran back in late October.

Steelers-Panthers may not be the sexiest matchup (that's an understatement), but Steeler fans should be absolutely giddy at the prospect of watching their defense make Jimmy Clausen run for his life in just a few days. 

As for the rest of the division, 3-11 Cincy hosts red-hot San Diego on Sunday, while Baltimore travels to scenic Cleveland for a 1 p.m. contest next week. Wonder if Art Modell will show up?

14. Finally, 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.

I've said in the past that this is a tough award to hand out after a Steeler loss. And this was an opponent with a number of worthy candidates, from the head coach on down. 

But I'm going to give it to a Steeler, because he just won't learn his lesson. For a long, long time, Ryan Clark has passed up the chance for a proper tackle and has gone for the proverbial "kill shot". He did that yet again on Sunday, and was immediately flagged 15 yards, much to his (and Steeler Nation's) dismay. No, it wasn't helmet-to-helmet, but his intentions are pretty clear. He's made a name making big hits (Welker, McGahee, etc), but until he drops that hit from his act, he should be prepared for the flags and for the fine he will likely get in a few days. And for continuing to hurt his team and sabotaging his own bank account, Ryan Clark gets a Sad Trombone. Gotta be smarter than that, 25.

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


Unknown said...

It's mind boggling that the NFL now considers a hit like Clark's illegal. He did not hit the "defenseless" receiver in the head. He did not hit the "defenseless" receiver with his own head.

He hit the guy in the chest with his shoulder. Last season, that would have been considered a great hit. Now it is a penalty and a fine? What was he supposed to do? Wait until the receiver catches the ball, lands safely and braces himself for an arm-tackle?

I understand the need for eliminating helmet-to-helmet hits (even though most will continue to be unintentional and unavoidable given the speed of the game) but when hits like Clark's are penalized, the game is really changing for the worst.

By the way, as someone who constantly complains about Bruce Arians being the worst OC in the league, I was actually happy with the play-calling until what can probably go down as the worst call ever in the team's history on that safety. He almost made it through an entire game with decent play-calling. Almost. It's too late in the season to fire him now, though. Can a SB winning team fire their Offensive Coordinator?

MJ said...

Why didn't you give the Sad Trombone to Pete Morelli and his sad sack of referees?

Morelli picked up three flags in the 1st quarter along, and even granted the Steelers a first down after a 9-yard gain.

The NFL is becoming more of a joke every week.

jerrykid said...

All our offense does is sputter like an old go kart thats running out of gas. Every other quarter it seems its ok in between the 20's, with the occasional chance to get lucky. Last 3 games offensive output...17, 9, 13.

If football were a 3 down game, i swear our D would be the greatest in NFL history. Unfortunately its not. Giving up all kinds of third and fourth downs, terrible situational football.

Ben didnt make any decent throws downfield. Wallace may have drew a PI on some of those deep balls early, if they were remotely catchable. I love Ben, but he just wasnt on today when it came to downfield passing. He missed Sanders in stride on that fake spike too.

Our best offensive day of the year statistically continues to be week 3 against Tampa Bay with Charlie Batch. Thats crazy

Its a miracle we are 10-4 considering we have not put together a "complete" effort both defensively or offensively all year. One has always bailed the other out. Today it was the offenses turn and they failed. Its all their faults, From Arians, to Ben, all the way down...i just hope they're saving that magical day for the playoffs

Borsk said...

Scared of the Panthers. So very scared. It just feels like one of those game. Good thing we already have a playoff spot locked up.

Jonny Van Mundegaarde said...

With a nod to #8 above, Simms had three observations that had me shaking my head in (almost) disbelief:

On the Jets holding penalty early in the game..."He got caught blocking Keisel" Blocking or holding there Phil?

On Clark penalized hit..."He didn't hit him with his helmet, but he did lead with his helmet"

On the potential TD toss intended for Sanders, he stated that he "just slowed down." He was incredulous that he did that. When replays showed that Sanders clearly had his jersey held well beyond the 5 yards, he said nothing.

Louis Lipps is my homeboy said...

The next two games basically amount to a playoff game for the Steelers.

Win both, and they get a week off. I don't think they'll overlook either team, although it will probably be more of an adventure than most of us would like without Troy in the lineup.

Yesterday's game was just a weird game. They got points off a kick return, a bootleg on 4th and 1, and a safety. Sheesh, how often do those stars align against you?

In the grand scheme of things, it's not a huge deal because we would've had to win out after yesterday to clinch the bye either way since the Ravens won.

BurressWithButterflywings said...


What universe are you living in that you believe we whould have gotten a PI call? Cromartie apparently gets one free PI for every illegitimate kid he has. The Jets committed 3 PI's on our final drive alone that were not called.

I also loved the 3 flags "dropped" in the first quarter and Clark getting a PF. When you watch the replay, Clark's shoulder hits Edwards in the shoulder first.

Whatever, Hines was right, it was eventually going to cost us a game and it did. We had 2 TD's that would have been had there not been PI on the play and neither was flagged. Go figure.

Bababooey said...

This team is one dimensional without the presence of Troy P.

BA's play calling inside their own territory, backed up to their goaline, is the most predictable in the league.

I hope they win out and rest up for the bye week, because right now they look like a one and done playoff team right now.

Unknown said...

Anyone notice the missed PI on Sanders on the last drive? Clearly defensive man grabbed his jersey, which kept sanders from getting to Ben's throw. Hell, even Simms said it looked like Sanders stopped running his route.... Big time biff. Steelers would have had the ball 1st and goal on the 5 with 40 some seconds left.

BurressWithButterflywings said...

Yup, that one of the many calls on their secondary that was conveniently not seen.

Had we made a few more plays throughout the game, it wouldn't have come down to that. But that doesn't mean the game should be called differently because it's late or whatever the excuse was for not calling it.

On the last play, Cromartie bearhugged Sanders in the end zone. There was also a helmet to helmet on Brown that wasn't called either. Honestly, there were 2 plays where our WR had Cromartie beat deep and he interfered and nothing was called. joke.

Bottom line is that we have a short week and hopefully Troy and Heath return because with them, I believe we win this game hands down. This is where Tomlin needs to prove himself again and get the troops ready to play.

BTW, our ST was absolutely disgusting yesterday. Between kick returns and letting punts drop, we kept shooting ourselves in the foot.

okel dokel said...

Some really good points. The officiating, or lack thereof, and the injuries are two things we are going to have to overcome to avoid "one and done."

Honestly though, the play call and personnel grouping selected for the play which created the safety may go down as one of the worst in Steeler history. Reminiscent of Ray Sherman or Joe Walton.

I mean, Mewelde F'in Moore! Are you kidding me? This guy has been on a steady decline for the past two years. Ike Redman has been slowly improving this year and did some nice work yesterday. I think he should have been used in that situation, or even Mendenhall.

The loss of Troy is bad in and of itself, but it accentuates the loss of Smith even more.

The ST are starting to look too much like last year's version which lost to the Browns.

Anonymous said...

"Bad" officiating can be the reason the Steelers have trouble beating the good teams. A holding call here, a personal foul penalty there with neither balanced by similar calls against the opponent and the Steelers have to overcome both the opponent and the penalties. If the opponent is not that good, then the Steelers can overcome both. If the opponent is better, aka the turnover-free Jets, it is a close loss instead.

Steve said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve said...

They are better off with a wild card but even that won't save them. Seriously, who have they beaten at home this year after week one? one and every big game at home winds up a loss anymore. This team is just not playoff caliber and it's amazing they are 4-1 in the last 5 weeks.

But hey, a wins a win and a loss is a loss, it's not how you play the game and how they're playing now will have nothing to do with future success. Mark my words, by this time tommorrow, McFadden will grow eyes in the back of his head, Mundy will learn to tackle and Spaeth will grow suction cups for fingers.

Unknown said...

Steve said:
"Mark my words, by this time tommorrow, McFadden will grow eyes in the back of his head, Mundy will learn to tackle and Spaeth will grow suction cups for fingers."


I know you're being facetious but if they win the next two games, they get a bye and will likely have Polamalu and Miller healthy for the playoffs which would take care of the "issues" you point out above. (Although I have no idea how you could put any blame on Mundy and McFadden because the defense played great enough to only allow 13 points and handed the ball back to the offense twice with a chance to win.)

Plus we get Aaron Smith back in the playoffs. As the Steelers showed yesterday they are a Championship caliber team even without some of their best players!

Bababooey said...

These next 2 games coming up are the clear definition of "trap games", given their current status playing spoilers. With that said, do you still sit Troy P. to rest for the playoffs or try and get him in these last 2 b/c how much of an impact he plays?

I can see the Steelers dropping the Cleveland game.

HomeRunFromBehindTheMeatballs said...

@ Nick (first post)- yeah but... he did 'launch' himself to make the tackle. It's just confusing how the NFL insists on calling these penalties 'helmet-to-helmet' when they clearly mean unnecessary roughness. And, yeah, the safety play call was a lil suspect, but i put that on Scott for his epic fail in execution. I mean, the guy’s just a 2-time DPOY!

I’d give the sad trombone to J. Scott for the aforementioned play.

Another awesome game by Manny Sanders. How ‘bout that 3rd & 24 conversion? …can we start healthy scratching Randle El already?

Mundy had a pretty good game I thought! Of course, my reasoning is that I didn’t hear his name much. He wasn’t a william gay-like weakness out there all day and i think that's good for him. I hope he can keep it up for the final two weeks.

@ Bababooey – I think BA’s play calling in his own territory is pretty unpredictable! Who would predict, no matter how dumb you think he is, that he’d pull the guard and leave jason taylor one-on-none against johnathan scott when in his own endzone? …I was sure surprised!

@ okel dokel – Mewelde wasn’t the problem. And, come on, “redzone” has made one play EVER! It was a helluva play, but let’s take your russian redman goggles off for a second and blame BA &/or J. Scott.

Blame anyone you want… Blame the ‘my mom says i'm special’ teams; blame the Jet’s punter who had a phenomenal game (did he have a punt that wasn’t downed inside our 10?); blame that awesome play call/execution on the mark sanchez bootleg; blame our O-line for letting Jason Taylor make a totally uncontested play to make that uphill battle a lot steeper; blame the no call for pass interference when sanders blows by the defender then suddenly slows down (stops?) and magically makes the number disappear of the back of his jersey; blame Arians for not giving Mendenhall more carries, but if this team can get healthy (even with the best 40% of our OL on IR, changing K & P after week 10, and without limas sweed!) they can be in good shape come playoff time. (assuming we hold onto the #2 seed)

Hey, at least we’re not fighting with ourselves like the Texans:

And here’s a ‘roughing the passer’ to make anyone’s black ‘n gold blood boil. Not only is the ‘roughing’ laughably gentle, but they missed a blatant PI at the same time:

HomeRunFromBehindTheMeatballs said...

Whoops, wrong link for the 'roughing':

Unknown said...

By the way, for anyone who wants to defend BA by pointing out the injuries we have had on our O-line, please note that the Patriots have had two of their starting linemen put on IR this year, and their pro-bowl guard held out half the season. Doesn't seem to affect them does it? And outside of Pouncey none of our linemen would crack their starting lineup.

Also, the Ravens have had several injured offensive lineman including a starting T who was placed on IR in the pre-season. Why bring up the Ravens offense? Because they are out-scoring us this season.

Unbeliveable. No way Arians should keep his job after this year.

Unknown said...

HomeRunFromBehindTheMeatballs said...
@ Nick (first post)- yeah but... he did 'launch' himself to make the tackle. It's just confusing how the NFL insists on calling these penalties 'helmet-to-helmet' when they clearly mean unnecessary roughness.


The rule states:

A player may not leave his feet and lead with his head or shoulder into the head or neck of a "defenseless player."

So, you can "launch" yourself provided you do not hit the receiver in the head. Clark clearly did NOT. I don't see how that was an illegal it. He did not violate the rule. Ridiculous call.

Bababooey said...

Liking the sarcasm,HomeRun. You're right, I too was caught off guard from that call! I think its safe to say anytime the Steelers are backed up on their goaline expect to see the opposing team's D go 8 or 9 in the box and unleash the hounds.

HomeRunFromBehindTheMeatballs said...

@ Nick - they sure as hell call it as though the rule says '...leave his feet OR lead with his head of shoulder into the head or neck of a "defenseless, non-steeler player".'

Ir Ryan Clark OR James Harrison make a violent hit (clean or not), there will be laundry. They're guys who made their names the way the NFL wanted players to before week 2 of this season. The officials are too damn scared to look bad and not get an invite for some postseason paychecks.

It sucks, but that's the way it is.

Koz said...

Only one sack of Sanchez?

Can't blame the officials for that.

Borsk said...

They locked up a playoff spot so there's no way Troy sees the field until the postseason. They'll ride what they have against Carolina and Cleveland. I have faith they'll rebound and make at least the AFC Championship.

The preseason expectations for this team were brutally low. A lot of people want to conveniently forget how they wrote off the Big Ben-less Steelers as no better than a .500 team and maybe as bad as 6-10.

Koz said...

Good point, Eric. I was one who thought the chemistry going into this year was going to be all bad and was bracing for a sub .500 record. I've enjoyed this year, but my hopes peaked before the Patriot game.

You never know what can happen in the playoffs, but I'm not very confident. This team has done well despite many injuries which shows their depth (above perhaps the Colts or Packers) but some of these guys are going to really have to figure it out if they want to make it to the Super Bowl.

jerrykid said...

We are just going to have to live with bad officiating, ive accepted it. Its to the point where its cliche to cry about it. Stop your incessant whining about the refs! Maybe Wallace gets a PI if the ball is on target, maybe not. I know the fact, that Ben did not throw a decent go-route ball all day, thats all im saying.

But to say "Hines is right, refs finally cost us the game", is ludicrous. We had plenty of chances to turn the game in our favor, starting with the opening kickoff, and ending with the final play of the game, and we didnt get it done. Kickoff team shoulve made a tackle. Spaeth dropped the ball. Like four times. Defense never really got to Sanchez, but they still only gave up 13, so I have to shift most of the blame to the Offense, Bruce Arians, and Special Teams.

I am of the belief that if we had Heath Miller, we win.

Anonymous said...

If it can be documented, can it be called whining?

Just for kicks, put together a highlight reel of the "questionable" hits Ben has taken this year and compare that tally with the number of penalties called for those hits. What is an "acceptable" percentage of penalties to hits? 1%? 5%? 20%? (I don't think there have been any, have there?)

Wouldn't the law of averages suggest there would be at least a handful of penalties called? Isn't it reasonable to think that in this day of overly protective officiating at least some of these hits would be flagged as against the rules?