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Which were the most important reasons the Steelers lost to the Ravens (pick all that apply)

Friday, September 19, 2014

Ex-Steelers in the News for Both Wrong and Right Reasons

While the NFL’s been having some its worst weeks in history, (see why Goodell should be fired) a duce of ex-Steelers have made the news for both the right and wrong reasons.

On the dark side of things, former Steelers and current Pittsburgh West aka Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer was of course arrested for domestic violence this week.

On Twitter, Walter Maselli summed up what everyone in Steelers Nation was thinking:

This is not to make light of domestic violence, which is a serious crime. But although he never had any history of off the field issues in Pittsburgh, it fits Dwyer’s history to a T.
  • The man simply doesn’t get it. 
Both his rookie and sophomore years in the NFL he showed up to came over weight and made the team due to injuries. In 2012 he had a chance to grab the starting job, but couldn’t. In 2013 he got cut, and to his credit played well.

Still, when it came time to decide on whether to keep him in Pittsburgh or not, we said this:

Steel Curtain Rising’s call is for the Steelers to bring back Jonathan Dwyer, but with the caveat that the signing bonus of any second contract must be rock bottom.
If Dwyer balks at that or if some other team is foolish enough to open the check book for him, the Steelers need to let him walk.

Dwyer left quickly in free agency to join Bruce Arians in Arizona. Apparently the Steelers didn’t have interest in even offering him a bargain basement contract. Smart move on the part of the Steelers brass.

In addition, Pittsburgh West announced that it had cut Chris Rainey. Rainey of course had been the Steelers 5th round draft pick in 2012, only to be cut after a domestic incident of his own. Bruce Arians I am sure will assure you that both roster moves were coincidental.

Kemoeatu’s Kidney Transplant

Negative news is what makes the headlines and generates the page views, but one should never allow that to define things, and the Kemoeatu story out of the University of Maryland Medical Center shows why.

The Pittsburgh Steelers of course drafted Chris Kemoeatu in the 6th round of the 2005 NFL Draft. After a year on the practice squad and another two on the bench, he broke the starting lineup in 2008 under Mike Tomlin and held it there until mid 2011.



Despite his impressive size, Kemoeatu never developed into the dominate lineman he was projected to be, and was known for his nasty temperament and penchant for holding, including one call on the Steelers final drive of Super Bowl XLIII, which earned him the wrath of Ben Roethlisberger.
  • The Steelers cut Kemoeatu after 2011, and he was out of football.
However, he had Kidney issues, and needed a transplant. His brother Ma'ake Kemoeatu, himself a former Baltimore Raven, Carolina Panther, and Washington Redskin, donated one, and the transplant was made successful.

When asked about the decision, Ma’ake’s response was simple: “It’s my duty to take care of my younger brother. If he needs blood, I’ll give blood and if he needs a kidney, I’ll give a kidney.”

Love doesn’t get any purer than that. Yes, ladies and gentleman, there are good men in the NFL.

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

How Panthers Game Bring Steelers Salary Cap Choices into Perspective

Just how heavily are the Pittsburgh Steelers to pay for their salary cap management sins? A quick look at who appears, and doesn’t appear on the injury report suggests the Sunday night game vs. the Carolina Panthers could tell us a lot.
  • The key to successful salary cap management is to get the most bang for your buck.
If every team has the same amount to spend on players then the team that invests wisely will benefit the most on the field. In theory it is simple.

But unlike baseball, as portrayed in Money Ball, football players don’t have 162 games to give the number crunchers statistically valid samples. Which makes those types of cost-benefit calculations in the NFL more of an art than a science.



Which brings us to the Steelers injury report.
  • On it we find Steve McLendon, who is nursing a shoulder injury. Off it we find Lance Moore who nursed a groin injury during camp.
Those names figure prominently because both of them are tied to cost-benefit personnel decision the Steelers made this spring.

Woods, Thomas and Pitfalls of Trading Proven Performance for "Value"

If Steve McLendon can’t play and, for the record he is practicing (thank God), the proverbial “next man up” is Cam Thomas.

Thomas however, was not the Steelers first choice to back up McLendon. Pittsburgh had invested a lot in developing Al Woods and wanted him back. Al Woods wanted back. But Tennesse offered more, and Woods is now a Titan.

So the Steelers went out and signed Thomas. So far, that hasn’t worked out. Matt C. Steel of Steel City Insider went as far as to say this:
I'm seriously beginning to question the coaching staff's ability to evaluate talent. How is it that they believed Thomas was worth a roster spot, let alone a stating spot along the line? I'm beginning to think the Steelers' Defensive MVP the second half of last season was Al Woods. I bet they wished they gave him that extra million over two years now.
Steel has plenty of company. Dale Lolley has singled Thomas out multiple times for being a liability to the run defense. He and others such as BTSC’s Jeff Hartman argue that playing Stephon Tuitt would at least give the Notre Dame rookie some experience. So in pure football terms, Steel might be right.
  • But football needs don’t trump salary cap realities. 
The Steelers, forced to carry dead money from LaMarr Woodley and Willie Colon’s contract, and with multiple restructures by Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and Troy Polamalu, simply didn’t have the cap space to offer Woods an extra million.
  • The Steelers gambled that, for a little less, they could get comparable performance out of Thomas.
Thus far, that’s looking like a bad bet. Perhaps that will change with time.

Moore Cotchery Please!

Another player whom the Steelers wanted and who wanted to stay in Pittsburgh is Jerricho Cotchery. In 2013 Cotchery was a veritable touchdown catching machine, catching 10 touchdown passes out of 46 receptions.
  • Among fans and the press, Cotchery’s return was all but a given. 
When rumors surfaced about him being wood, reporters pointed out that he was on a Steelers fan cruise. As it turns out, cruise or no, salary cap realities once again reared their head. Carolina offered starting money. The Steeler couldn’t touch that.
  • So instead, they went out and signed Lance Moore.
On paper, Moore looks to provide more bang for less buck as the chart below details:

jerricho cotchery lance moore compared stats steelers receptions


The two men’s production is strikingly similar, with Cotchery getting the edge in yards per catch, while Moore has a higher percentages in Steel Curtain Rising’s home-grown amateur saber metric of “catches for touchdowns and games with a touchdown.”
  • But therein lies the rub.
Moore has missed two games already this year, Cotchery has started into. Salary cap dollars can’t deliver value while you’re on the bench. So while might have more paper value for Moore, in reality Cotchery’s actually producing for Carolina.

So if Moore does suit up Tuesday night, we’ll see if he can deliver where Justin Brown fell short, in the process open things up for Heath Miller and Markus Wheaton.

It will also be interesting to see how Cotchery holds up against Polamalu, Taylor, and Michael Mitchell – three other salary cap choices who helped force the Steelers into letting him go.

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Mirando Los Steelers, Me Hace Preguntar ¿Tacklear o Golpear?

Antes que nada quiero comentar que yo nunca jugué Football americano. Sí, en mi adolescencia, jugué al rugby.

Sólo una tarde recuerdo haber "jugado" football con unos marines que habían llegado a la ciudad donde yo vivía para realizar ejercicios navales conjuntos con la marina argentina. Nosotros habíamos terminado nuestra práctica de rugby y estos hombres propusieron que jugaramos football.
  • Rápidamente nos explicaron unas reglas que jamás entendí y allí fuimos... 
Esa fue toda mi experiencia "corporal" con el football.

Comencé a ver football con la llegada y popularización de la televisión por cable en Argentina en los tempranos ‘90. Por esa época también comencé a transformarme en un aficionado y poco después en un Steeler.

La gente que descubre mi afición por este deporte, luego de reponerse de su asombro siempre, invariablemente, quiere saber si el juego es parecido al rugby (deporte un poco más popular en estas tierras)

Y siempre obtienen la misma respuesta de mi parte: "Nada. Sólo que se juega con un ovoide. Y que es, además, un deporte de contacto".

De mis clases o entrenamientos de rugby recuerdo que los entrenadores nos hacían practicar tackles. Era la parte que menos disfrutaba del entrenamiento. Eso y correr por los médanos cercanos a la playa.

Recuerdo también la máxima: "cuanto más grandes son, más rápido caen" (yo creo que nos decían eso con la intención de infundirnos valor.) Pero entendíamos que era una herramienta central en la defensa. Por lo tanto, si el sábado queríamos ganar teníamos que tacklear. Y debíamos ser efectivos. Y para eso teníamos que entrenar.

El diccionario define tacklear como:
  • Tackle (somebody)(in rugby or American football) to make an opponent fall to the ground in order to stop them running  (Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionaries)
Desde un principio me llamó la atención (pensando desde mi mente de jugador de rugby) que los relatores dicen "hit". Y es claro. Los jugadores de football golpean.
  • Y golpear no es lo mismo que tacklear. Tacklear incluye el “in order to stop them running”.
Yo pienso que según la idiosincrasia del jugador de football, casi culturalmente, primero piensa en golpear. Tal vez el público pide que golpee.
  • Es la cultura del football.
Tal vez, en la" cultura" del football, se diga: "el tackle es para los que juegan rugby. Acá se golpea"
Me pregunto cuántos tackles se fallan por seguir esa filosofía. Muchísimos

El tackle requiere del uso de los brazos, para amarrar al rival, trabarle las piernas y provocar su caída. Puede ir o no acompañado del golpe (nadie puede decir que en el rugby no se golpea)

Estoy hablando de pensar primero en golpear antes que en detener al rival. Eso es inexplicable para mí.
  • Si por golpear más violentamente renuncia a detenerlo es inexcusable.
El jugador profesional debe saber cuándo golpear y cuándo detener al rival.

Entonces aparece la pregunta: Cuál debería ser el orden de prioridades para un defensivo? Será acaso primero detener al rival en su avance. Si se puede, y segundo, provocar un fumble. Y tercero y último golpear (para la tribuna)?

  • O debe ir primero por el balón e intentar provocar un fumble, aún a costa de permitir un 1er Down si no lo consigue?

El objetivo último de las defensivas es recuperar la posesión del balón. Esto se consigue deteniendo el avance antes de las 10 yardas o provocando un cambio de posesión, ya sea mediante una intercepción o un balón suelto.

  • Señores: ¿es indispensable para el desarrollo del juego, golpear? Sí detener al rival y provocar un turnover.

Entiendo que sea fundamental para la cultura de la tribuna, a big hit. Pero no para el juego.
¿Puede un defensivo ir "colgado" del portador de la pelota 10 yardas intentando provocar un fumble, mientras olvida que este es un juego eminentemente territorial?

Luego del partido contra Baltimore Ravens, lancé al aire la idea de que los Pittsburgh Steelers podrían pasar un tiempo entrenando tackles con los que a mi juicio son los maestros del tackle: la Selección Argentina de Rugby, Los Pumas. Este equipo creció a fuerza de defender. Cuando carecían de herramientas ofensivas sólo les quedaba defenderse. Y lo hacían y aún hoy lo hacen de manera única.

Sin posesión de pelota, durante todo el primer tiempo del partido contra los Wallabies australianos en la última fecha del Rugby Championship, sólo esgrimieron el tackle como argumento, hasta que reorganizaron su perfil ofensivo.

Y sostuvieron el juego con un marcador muy apretado.
Obviamente no soy tan necio de pensar que la defensiva acerera no conozca la técnica del tackle.
Pero conocen la técnica de tackle según el football americano.

Sólo me pregunto si no se beneficiarían cambiando el foco desde donde “miran” la acción de detener al rival. Adquirir un modo rugbistico de tacklear.

 Este comentario es sólo un montón de preguntas y una idea un poco polémica de alguien que no está embebido de lo que se podría llamar la cultura del big hit.

 El Dr. de Acero

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Steelers Salary Cap - Was Signing Polamalu and Taylor a Mistake? Grantland Says "Yes"

The Steelers “struggles” have ignited a death watch of sorts both inside and outside of Steelers Nation. One need not Google very far to find “Fire Dick LeBeau,” “Fire Mike Tomlin,” “Fire Todd Haley,” and/or “Fire Kevin Colbert.”
  • It would seem, then, that Pittsburgh has the worst 1-1 team in the 80 year plus history of the NFL…
…Seriously, this sarcasm doesn’t dismiss the Steelers current difficulties. Going 50-9 over six quarters starts some tough conversations. But nuanced analysis instead of knee jerk reaction is in order.  warranted. And over at Grantland, Bill Barnwell attempts such a nuanced approach with mixed results.

Barnwell takes a hatch the Steelers recent salary cap management, and pulls no punches in criticizing Pittsburgh for remaining too loyal for too long to veterans.

Barnwell makes many good points. In fact, on the offensive line, he doesn’t go far enough. If the Steelers set the NFL standard for stability (and they do) then the Tomlin era offensive line has been the crazy uncle locked away in the attic.
Since Tomlin arrived, the Steelers have signed six projected offensive line starters only to cut or trade each long before their contract ended. Count them: Sean Mahan, Justin Hartwig, Jonathan Scott, Chris Kemoeatu, Willie Colon, and of course Max Starks.
Of those offensive line decisions, Barnwell doesn’t go far enough he only mentions Colon and Kemoeatu.

After that point, Barnwell treads on more dubious ground. Front and center LaMarr Woodley.



He singles out the horrendous, dead weight salary cap cost that Woodley’s record breaking contract morphed into. OK. Indisputably, that’s one deal gone sour for Pittsburgh. But Woodley wasn’t an aging veteran when the Steelers reupped him. In fact, he was finishing his rookie deal and Barwell himself says he projected well into the Steelers long-term vision.
  • Yes, Pittsburgh is and will pay a high price for erring on Woodley. 
But who (other than Behind the Steel Curtain founding editor Michael Bean) saw Woodley’s demise coming? Whether the decision to cut Woodley turns into an “egregious early release” (to use Barnwell’s term) or not depends on Michael Mitchell, as it was the Steelers decision to sign Mitchell that forced their hand on Woodley.

Of Troy and Ike...

Where Barnwell’s critique really gets problematic is with Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor’s contracts. Both men were entering the final year of the deals, and both men had cap value too high for 2014. Polamalu restructured. Taylor took a pay cut. A big one.

Barnwell structures his argument like this:
Most notably, the Steelers invested heavily in a pair of veteran defensive backs who have not delivered on their deals. In 2011, the Steelers gave 30-year-old Troy Polamalu and 31-year-old Ike Taylor new contracts, deals that locked each up through the 2014 campaign. Coming off of their Super Bowl loss to the Packers, Polamalu received a three-year, $29.6 million extension that left him one of the highest-paid safeties in football, while Taylor’s four-year, $28 million deal left him paid just below the level of top cornerbacks….
Since then, the defense somehow keeps getting worse while staying the same age. (Emphasis added.)
Barwell backs up this up with a table showing how the Steelers DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) Rank has dropped form number 1 in 2010 to number 19 in 2013 while remaining the NFL’s oldest defense.

Notice, Barnwell couches his argument in saber metrics rather than traditional defensive metrics, such as yards and/or points allowed.



This is convenient, as from 2012-2013 Dick LeBeau’s defense has held up better using traditional measures. If we concede there’s a little of truth in both, there’s a problem with his explanation for the decline. First, he declares “Health hasn’t been a problem, but age has.”

Really?
But he drivers deeper arguing, “Polamalu and Taylor are at the heart of that problem.” So Barnwell think Polamalu and Taylor fueled the decline of the Steelers defense, from 2011 to 2013?

Not exactly, as he’s dismissive of Polamalu’s health issues, and concedes that Polamalu played above average in ’11 and was still one of the AFC’s better safeties in 2013.

After that, he conveniently skips over Ike Taylor’s 2011 and 2012 campaigns (and the team’s struggles when Taylor was injured in 2012) and simply states “Cornerback charting stats are shots in the dark at best, but Taylor’s numbers have gotten horrible, and they’re matched by how he looks on tape.”
  • Agreed. Taylor had a rough 2013 and is only 1-1 two games into 2014. 
But ironically, Barnwell uses saber metrics to rip down Taylor, while ignoring similar saber metrics rated Polamalu fairly well in 2013.

Immediately after the NFL lockout ended in 2011, Art Rooney II and Kevin Colbert decided to keep the core together that had taken them to 3 Super Bowls in 6 years. Yes, 20/20 hindsight, the team overspent. But that’s an easy observation. Suggesting what should have been done differently far more difficult.

Barnwell  doesn’t “go there.” Perhaps that’s because he understands full well the absurdity of suggesting the Steelers should have shown Polamalu the door after an AFC Defensive Player of the year performance.

The Road Forward

Barnwell closes by attacking the Steelers for resigning/restructuring Polamalu and Taylor. He’s right on the money when he raises the specter of the 6.75 million in dead money the Steelers will have to eat if this is, as it appears it will be, Polamalu’s final year.
  • Barnwell’s solution? Part ways with Polamalu, Taylor and Heath Miller.
While Heath Miller was shaky at times last year after the injury and has been shaky this year, the suggestion that the Steelers should have given up on him in 2013 was inane.

Barnwell makes it sound so simple:  “The Steelers could have moved on from either of those players without owing a dime after this season.” That’s a bold suggestion, but Barnwell leaves two other questions untouched:
  • Who would  take the place of Polamalu, Taylor and Miller in 2014?
  • How exactly would the Steelers manage all of those dead money hits in a single season? 
Again, Barnwell ignores the issue, knowing full well the Steelers couldn’t do that and pretend to be competitive.

It’s real easy to suggest that when you’re sitting there with only your lap top to answer to. When you’re actually charged with making roster and salary cap choices to stay competitive, it becomes more complicated.

Steelers Salary Cap Situation Still Sticky

At the end of the day, Barnwell has a point. The 2014 Steelers are suffering from salary cap mistakes and still have significant do have salary cap issues to manage. But his overall analysis his short sighted and overly simplistic.
  • Ben Roethlisberger still has a couple of three years of his prime left (barring, God willing, a major injury).
The Steelers are trying to thread the needle of staying competitive while reloading. They don’t have the luxury blowing up the cap and starting over. Nor does the franchise, which plays to win, operate that way.
  • That doesn’t mean the Steelers haven’t made mistakes, or that the choices their left with because of those mistakes don’t carry their own complications.
Steel Curtain Rising will address this issue in more detail, as the match up with Carolina brings one of those salary cap choices to the forefront.

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Does Steelers Late Goal Line Stand vs. Ravens Offer Hope?

The Pittsburgh Steelers Thursday Night loss to the Baltimore Ravens left Steelers Nation reeling. And for good reason, the Steelers lost 26-6 and left M&T Stadium having now gone 50-9 since opening the season 27-3 vs. Cleveland.

Outside of some outstanding efforts by Le'Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, and Markus Wheaton, the rest of the Steelers were pretty much flat across the board.
  • Worse yet, Pittsburgh suffered from self-inflicted wounds on both sides of the ball.
But late in the 4th quarter the Steelers defense might have, just might have, offered a ray of hope.

The Goal Line Stand

For those who with an appetite for drama, the world of sports provides plenty of surrogates for the High Noon showdown.

Baseball gives us star pitchers vs. superior sluggers with 2 outs and the bases loaded in the 9th. Tennis gives us match points. Soccer gives us penalty shootouts. And football gives us the goal line stand. Each of these contests combine elements of strategy, psychological subterfuge and athleticism.
  • But the goal line stand offers something more – brute force. More often than not, the goal line stand is determined by who wants it more.
And so it was that the Pittsburgh Steelers found themselves standing at their own one yard line late in the 4th quarter, after Justin Forsett had galloped through the Steelers front seven for 41 yards only stopped thanks to the efforts of Michael Mitchell and Cortez Allen.



Things were bleak. Down 23 to 6, 30 to 6 appeared to be a mere formality for the once mighty Steelers defense. Here’s what followed next:

1st Down – Forsett, off of the right guard, stopped by Jarvis Jones – no gain
2nd Down – Joe Flacco, up the middle, stopped by Brett Keisel and Cameron Heyward – no gain
3rd Down – Successful sneak by Joe Flacco nullified by a penalty, ball back to 6
3rd Down – Jacoby Jones around left end for two yards stopped by Ryan Shazier
4th Down – Baltimore kicks a field goal
  • Now let’s keep this crystal clear: Preventing a touchdown to get to 26-6 instead of 30-6 does not a championship defense signal.  
But let’s also add context.

In the same stadium, exactly 3 years earlier, the Ravens called a fake extra point while up 27-7. Baltimore had just gashed Pittsburgh's defense for 41 yards. The ball was at the 1. Flacco had enjoyed plenty of success passing, and the Steelers hadn’t touched him all night. Baltimore had already scored on a 1 yard pass and could have done it again.

But instead, John Harbaugh sought to drive home a point.
  • Harbaugh called four straight running plays because he wanted the Ravens to impose their will.
Mike Tomlin’s defense displayed zero intention of complying, and dominated the line of scrimmage on 3 straight non-penalty plays. At a very minimum it shows that these Dick LeBeau defenders retain some measure of pride.

Whether the defense’s ability to impose its will late in the 4th quarter of an already decided contest atrophies into an isolated incident or serves as a seed that can spur the Steelers defense into respectability remains to be seen.

But it offered Steelers Nation a welcome sight on an otherwise dismal night.

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Steelers Report Card for Thursday Night Loss to Baltimore

Taken from the grade book of a teacher who is wondering if the parental signoffs on the student’s summer reading project might just be a little fishy, here is the Steelers Report Card for the Thursday night loss to Baltimore. Remember, no other Steelers Report Cards have been consulted prior to this posting.

Quarterback
Since at least the 1970’s, quarterback has been an NFL team’s most important position. That’s more true today than ever, and the Baltimore game shows why. Ben Roethlisberger put in an off night. On the face of it, 22-27-0-1 doesn’t look that bad if you consider the interception was meaningless. But the fact is Roethlisberger missed quite a few open receivers throughout the night, and that as much as the penalties and turnovers contributed to the lopsidedness of the loss. Grade:  C-

Running Backs
Why wasn’t Le'Veon Bell drafted in the first round? On a night when the team was forced to throw and when he often had little room to run, Bell still managed 5.4 yard per carry, and was the team’s second leading receiver. LeGarrette Blount hasn’t done much, but hasn’t been given many opportunities. Grade: B+

Tight Ends
Heath Miller made a couple of key catches early on, and didn’t to much to get himself noticed, except for the wrong reasons. His fumble essentially ended the game. Matt Spaeth did not get a catch. Overall a below par night for the tight ends. Grade:  D

Wide Receivers
Antonio Brown missed large portions of the game yet still managed to make plenty of noise nearly breaking the 100 yard mark again. Markus Wheaton continued to do well in his second start, which included making a good sideline catch. Both men ran reverses which gained yardage. Justin Brown had one catch which he fumbled away, and that knocks the group grade down.  Grade:  B-

Offensive Line
Some of the stats are deceiving here. Ben Roethlisberger was only sacked twice. Rushing averages were good. But the truth is the line play was inconsistent, with Marcus Gilbert getting dominated by Elvis Dumervil. As Neal Coolong of BTSC has observed, Maurkice Pouncey was solid vs. the pass rush, but struggled in run blocking, and Ramon Foster struggled enough that coaches took him out for a few plays. The Steelers offensive line has been a whipping boy for a long time, but in this case their performance was on par with the rest of the team – in other words, not good enough. Grade:  C-

Defensive Line
Take out Joe Flacco’s 5 runs and the Ravens almost averaged 5 yards a carry. That’s not all on the defensive line, but responsibility begins there. Cameron Heyward led the group, but graded out poorly by Pro Football Focus. Steve McLendon made some plays as did Brett Keisel. Cam Thomas struggled, and appears to be the unit’s weak link. The unit failed to generate any pass rush. Grade:  C-

Linebackers
Lawrence Timmons and Ryan Shazier led the group, with Shazier giving up some big completions. Jason Worilds was invisible. Jarvis Jones was around the field a lot, but didn’t make any splash plays. Baltimore rushed the ball well and Joe Flacco tore up the Steelers with short passes. The Steelers generated zero pass rush and the linebackers need to shoulder the load for the blame. Grade: D

Defensive Backs
Ike Taylor had a rebound of sorts, holding Steve Smith in check while covering him. Cortez Allen’s play was slopping, giving up a long catch and dropping another interception. Both Troy Polamalu and Michael Mitchell were flagged on the same drive, allowing a score which essentially ended the game. In total, the defensive backs were flagged four times, all on scoring drives. Covering downfield is getting more difficult, but Seattle has shown it can be done. The Steelers defensive backs remain behind the curve. Grade:  D

Special Teams
Shaun Suisham was perfect kicking, and his kickoffs were deep with none being returned. Brad Wing continued to punt well. Neither Brown nor Wheaton did much in the return game. Baltimore did have one strong punt return, which while not a difference in this game, is nonetheless a negative. No major special teams mistakes is a positive, but the unit really failed to add anything to the Steelers chances. Grade:  C

Coaching
Mike Tomlin was animated after the game, particularly by the penalties. As well he should be. Baltimore took advantage of penalties to score two touchdowns and the Steelers turnovers robbed them of twin scoring opportunities.

It is possible that officials (unintentionally) single out the Steelers defense for aggressive play, but coaches must find a way to compensate.

On offense, Todd Haley’s game plan produced some respectable numbers, but not on the scoreboard. Overall it seemed to be more of an execution issue than a game planning issue. Despite the low grades, LeBeau’s defense did some things well, but there were also occasions where guys flat out missed assignments. Corrections must be made. That what coaching is about. But word does need to be done. Grade:  C-

Unsung Hero Award
As a rule, the unsung hero goes to the player’s making under the radar contributions. In this case, it is hard to single someone out given so many below the line performances across the board. The Steelers did have one unquestionable bright spot in Le’Veon Bell, and that earns him Unsung (or perhaps Sung) Hero status for the loss in Baltimore.

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Steelers Contra Ravens Semana 2: No Touchdowns, No Sacks, No Turnovers

Semana 2

No touchdowns, no sacks, no turnovers

Pittsburgh Steelers fueron aplastados por sus eternos rivales, Baltimore Ravens, por una diferencia de 20 puntos.

Los Acereros, luego de ganar ajustadamente contra los Browns de Cleveland en Heinz Field el domingo pasado, no pudieron demostrar una clara recuperación en ningunos de los dos lados del balón.

Luego de que los últimos partidos entre ambos rivales de división fueran decididos por menos de tres puntos, en esta ocasión los Ravens demostraron clara superioridad, más en el marcador que en el campo de juego.
  • La clave de esta disparidad fue el aprovechamiento de las oportunidades. 
Las oportunidades se fabrican o se ceden.

Pero está claro que las oportunidades en este deporte no llueven como maná del cielo.

Al igual que en la primera semana la primera marcha ofensiva estuvo bien dirigida, con un buen balance entre jugadas por tierra y por aire, pero en ninguna de las dos ocasiones los Steelers finalizaron anotando TD: en el partido contra los Browns debido a una falta por holding que invalidó un TD y este jueves el WR Justin Brown soltó el balón en el ingreso a la zona roja.

La respuesta de los Ravens fue contundente. Con la colaboración de Cortez Allen, quien cometió dos faltas que habilitaron sendos 1er y 10 (facemask y pass interference sancionada en la propia yarda 3 de los Steelers) el QB Joe Flacco lanzó un pase al TE Owen Daniels quien lo recibió en soledad llamativa dentro de la zona de anotación.

Con el marcador 0 - 10 peoducto de un FG anotado por Justin Tucker, los Steelers comenzaron su tercera marcha de manera prometedora. Alcanzaron a meterse dentro de la yarda 10 rival gracias a una corrida de Le'Veon Bell y una reversible de Antonio Brown, quien más adelante, en 3er y corto fue detenido quedando solo con una oportunidad de gol de campo que Suisham capitalizó con 3 puntos para su tablero.

La defensiva acerera detuvo a los Ravens y en la marcha final de la primera mitad volvieron a aparecer las inconsistencias de la unidad comandada por Ben Roethlisberger: el LB Elvis Dumervil arrolló a Marcus Gilbert y atrapa a Big Ben en mitad de campo. Más adelante, en 3er y 4, un false start retrasa 5 yardas a la ofensiva que tuvo que entregar el balón luego de un pase a la nada del Mariscal Acerero.

Así finalizó la primera mitad.

 De los Steelers poco...  

 La segunda mitad comenzó con una férrea defensiva acerera que negó el primer down e  hizo despejar a los Ravens, en 4 y 19 bien dentro de su campo de juego.

A su tiempo, el avance Steeler se topó con Elvis Dumerville, quien capturó a Ben Roethlisberger por segunda vez en la noche y abortó una ofensiva que había tenido como protagonistas a Brown y al cada vez más decisivo Le'Veon Bell. Suisham acercó a los Steeler a un esperanzador 6 - 10

La siguiente marcha de los Ravens expuso las debilidades que tienen los Acereros para cubrir la zona interior del downfield. Por allí fue Flacco con Dennis Pitta (quien corrió 10 yardas más luego del primer contacto), con Steve Smith Sr, con Daniels, otra vez con Smith Sr y finalmente con Daniels que fue detenido antes de que pudiera protegerse por Troy Polamalu.

Falta personal y 1er y 10 automático desde la yarda 8. Dos jugadas más tarde la misma infracción le fue sancionada al N° 23 Michael Mitchell, situación que puso a la escuadra de Flacco en la yarda 2 y con un pase corto por el centro contacta, por segunda vez en la noche, a Daniels para sumar de a 7.

Lo que siguió fue una sucesión de punts, goles de campo, dos entregas de balón más de Pittsburgh (otro fumble de Heath Miller y una INT de Ben, en zona roja cuando el destino del partido y de los visitantes estaba ya sellado)
  • Una ofensiva más horizontal que vertical
Analizemos el juego de los Steelers a la ofensiva.

El entrenador Todd Haley escogió una estrategia de pases cortos, jugadas reversibles y de pantalla que no explotaba la sorpresa ni estiraba a la defensiva local. El resultado fue un juego monótono y previsible.

Ben Roethlisberger estuvo errático. Tanto que lanzó 5 pases en donde se advirtió claramente desentendimiento con las rutas que debían correr sus receptores. Fue capturado en 2 oportunidades. La línea ofensiva, sobre todo del lado de Gilbert pudo hacer poco para proteger el pase.

Le'Veon Bell corrió tantas yardas por tierra como por aire. Es un jugador extraordinario, paciente en la espera del hueco por dónde correr, explosivo, gran receptor de pases en jugadas de pantalla o como vía de escape.

  • Si logra mantenerse sano dará mucho hablar a la Nación Steeler

.Por supuesto que las 3 entregas de balón y las capturas fueron determinantes para el desarrollo del juego y en el ánimo de todos los jugadores.

 Una defensiva sin chispa

 El desempeño de la defensiva también fue decepcionante.

Coach Bill Cowher comentó que ambas defensivas estaban construidas o diseñadas para no permitir grandes jugadas a las ofensivas rivales. La defensiva local lo demostró pero la de los Steelers, no. Más aún. La defensiva de Baltimore generó sus propias grandes jugadas.

Siempre bromeo con KT, @steelCurRis, diciéndole que la defensiva de los Steelers debería pasar un tiempo de la temporada baja aprendiendo a tacklear con la selección argentina de rugby, Los Pumas (al momento de escribir estas líneas acabo de ver cómo los Pumas sostuvieron el partido que casi empatan con Australia, sin tener posesión de la pelota en absoluto y a base de puro tackle durante todo el primer tiempo)
  •  Ya no lo digo más en broma.
Detrás de la línea de golpeo de los Steelers existía un corredor por el que Joe Flacco lanzó pases, es cierto, también cortos a discreción sin que los linebackers ni los profundos llegaran a tacklear ni a desviar. Los corredores acarreaban también sin mucha dificultad.
  • Se vió una defensiva anodina y lenta, incapaz de acosar al QB Flacco (no recuerdo una situación en la que Flacco debiera correr por su vida). 
Pero sin dudas el déficit más importante de esta defensiva fue la incapacidad de generar turnovers y la comisión de faltas, todas ellas muy costosas.

Mucho se podrá discutir si el juez Hochuli debió o no cobrar las faltas personales (yo creo que estuvieron bien cobradas). Pero hubo de todo: agarrones por la máscara, interferencia de pase, y las citadas faltas personales.
  • Lo cierto es que los pañuelos estuvieron en el césped. No hay nada más que se pueda agregar.
Ahora queda bastante tiempo para la recuperación antes del partido contra los Panthers.
Es cierto que recién van dos juegos en esta temporada. 1 - 1 no es para apretar el botón de pánico. Pero hay mucho trabajo por delante.

La tarea es lograr conformar un equipo sólido y confiable.

Nada de esto se vió en ninguno de los juegos, excepto en la primera mitad del primero.

Hacia allí hay que ir.

Dr. de Acero

Para leer mas sobre los Pittsburgh Steelers en español, escrito por el Dr. de Acero, clicen acá.