Grading The Steelers: Game Two Vs. Bears
Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial
|Wednesday, September 23, 2009
By Philip Barrett
Steelers Fever Columnist
So here we have it, the first loss of the season and one that's heartbreaking in a number of ways. I've reviewed what happened a number of times, and maybe it's my biased nature but I feel that game should have been ours. It's hard to not play scapegoat here as one major and one minor person or persons contributed to the loss.
I'll get to the culprits below, but for now let's take a look at what went right and wrong in all facets of the game.
First thing's first; that interception was not Ben's fault. In fact I have to credit the Bears for getting through our offensive line and pummeling Ben at the right moment to force it. Certainly if our pass protection holds up a second more, we're looking at 14-0 and the game all but in the books. Others say Big Ben was Big Greedy, but how could he not be when he's playing the best he's ever been and was virtually flawless up until that. It also brought a smile to see Ben finally start scrambling and flying to get that touchdown, living up to the 'Superman' moniker many of us have bestowed upon him.
And what did Superman's arm do? Open up our run game, and give that side of the ball something to build off of. We're no longer a run first, pass second offense and we need to start trusting Roethlisberger more to make plays than stick to the Bruce Arians "run, run outside, pass" mentality. Yet our run attack finally worked and you can't really say it was against a depleted Bears defense either. True, they weren't perfect at all but it was nice to finally see Willie Parker, Rashard Mendenhall, and Mewelde Moore all come alive. We may not be able to establish a dominant back, but throwing the three of them out there at any given time sure helped our ground game out.
As for our receivers, it's tough to debate whether or not Santonio Holmes would have caught some of those passes if it hadn't been raining. I will state though, there were a couple where Holmes was doing his best Limas Sweed impersonation. Mike Wallace as well was serviceable when he was thrown to, interception aside. Matt Spaeth and Heath Miller were as perfect as two tight ends could be and well, Hines Ward was the man we all know and love, putting last week's mishap behind him.
The offense was not at fault, and if anything has some great things to build off of, particularly in the run game. While Holmes' had passes that he should have caught and the pass protection could have been a tad bit better, the offense did more than enough to try to get us victory. But again, the winner here is our run game which may not have that one dominant back, but can be lethal if used like it was.
Am I the only one who kept getting annoyed every time Tyrone Carter missed a spot and the broadcasters kept cutting over to Polamalu? Obviously we're better if Troy's in there and I don't need to see his reaction to EVERY single blown spot. Carter though did lay a nice hit on Greg Olsen, and was otherwise alright when he wasn't missing his guys. No, he's not as fast as Polamalu but he was partially getting the job done. Yet the Bears knew this, and targeted him, along with William Gay, as a weakness and exploited it. While Carter isn't to blame for the loss regardless of his less-than-stellar coverage, he needs to step it up for the next few weeks.
Still, the pass protection or lack thereof needs to be addressed. Where is it? It has nothing to do with Troy not being there seeing as how we kept it to a minimum when he was in last week against the Titans. Maybe Chicago's offensive line did a job of keeping our backs at bay, or maybe no one was being sent. No, our secondary has never been the best, but we made up for it by getting to the quarterback and pressuring him to cause mistakes. Cutler looked like an elite quarterback yesterday, having all kinds of time and just absolutely picking apart our depleted defense. Now yes, we did hold them to only seventeen points, but we forced zero turnovers and seemed to be playing loose.
Woodley and Harrison are targets now, which means we need more rushing from Lawrence Timmons or someone who can keep the QB pressured. Yes, we were exploited without number 43 but now is the time to step up. Two weeks and only TWO sacks? Unacceptable, and if we're going to supposedly go for number seven, the defense needs to shut down teams and not put them on the ropes.
Perhaps I'm being greedy and want the complete shutdown defense we had last year, but we're better than this and those eleven men on that side of the ball know it. Bottom line, we didn't adjust to Chicago's passing game and it showed.
Special Teams: C+
Yes, I'm drinking the Kool-Aid and blaming Jeff Reed with yesterday's loss. No, the defense didn't help at all but the usually clutch Reed left six points out there. One can debate we don't depend on him, but when the game is that close and you never know if those points help, you kind of do need the guy. Maybe conditions played a part, but at the very least he should have made the 38-yard attempt. Mr. Three Million needs to start playing like it.
Stefan Logan while good, needs work. He did have some decent runs and no doubt he's better than last year, but his biggest fault was that fumble at the end of the game yesterday. But hey, he's a rookie so it'll all come with time.
On a more positive note though, how nice is it to have Daniel Sepulveda back? Almost every drive was a work horse for Chicago to drive down the field, thanks in large part to Sepulveda putting the ball way, way deep in their territory. Mitch Berger, he ain't.
I'll go C+ just because of the great punting by Sepulveda and the decent if not nice runs by Logan. Yes, I'm still mad at Reed.
I love Dick LeBeau, and think there's no better defensive coordinator in the game, but he needs to start showing his blitzes. We're attacking the receivers when we simply don't have quick enough guys to compete. I really can't believe this genius has used up every trick in the book so he needs to get on creating new schemes, or heck, ANY schemes for pass rushing would be great. Hopefully all the kinks are being worked out but let's hope it's not for too long.
Bruce Arians needs to be gone. My biggest fear when we brought home number six was that they'd keep this idiot and his playcalling and the Steelers didn't disappoint. Arians needs to let Ben or someone else call the plays while he stands there and acts important. No, nothing he called yesterday really contributed to the loss, but I just felt the need to say we need to drop him like a bad habit.
Mike Tomlin didn't seem to have a killer instinct yesterday, something he normally has. Ben's play wasn't the problem, yet we abandoned his arm after that interception and went to a run game that while has building blocks, wasn't near as dominant as Roethlisberger. I'm also going to criticize the decision to kick it on 4th & 2 rather than go for the touchdown. Maybe we get it, maybe we don't but that might just be my own quabbles with Reed taking over. Truthfully, Tomlin's coaching felt a little too much like Cowher in 2006, and we all know that's not a good thing.
Overall Grade: C+
To be fair, the Steelers usually have that one game at the beginning of the season they drop to put them at 2-1 after week three. I don't see why this will be any different, especially considering that Roethlisberger has a pretty solid record in Ohio.
That still doesn't change the fact that this was a very winnable game that we should have won. Credit is given to the Bears offense as it should be, but that doesn't change the mistakes made by Reed. Our run game can build off of this, which is the best thing to take away. In addition, the offensive line actually played well and could also build off this game.
We'll bounce back, but for now, this one stings.